A/N: The world belongs to Tolkien, the words alone are mine. Written for the HASA New Member's Challenge, Prompt 2: The unsung messenger: from its own perspective, write the tale of the flight of the thrush to deliver Bilbo's message to Bard. Thanks to Altariel, Starlight, Avon, Klose and ErinRua, who gave feedback and encouragement.
Well. The walkers will tell stories of their heroes in their language, rather simplistic, really, more like unto the twittering of sparrows than thrush-talk or raven-speak. Easy enough to understand, if one can be bothered. Not that we can expect them to do much better, stuck down in the mud. Not the sense the Valar gave a finch between the lot of them, in my humble opinion. I said that to Gwaihir once, I said – what?
Well of course I know him, we being Lords of Birds and all that. Right gentlebird, that one. Most polite, lovely chap. And I'll tell you, I once found a snail up in those mountains – twice the size of my head. No jest. Took me a good hour to crack the damn thing open…
Well, confound it all, now I'm hungry. What? Yes, if you could get your grandfather a snail, that would be lovely. Not that one, youngling. The one next to it, that looks nice and plump.
Where was I? Oh yes. Well I can tell you, that although Men, and Elves, and Dwarves --and that little round thing the dwarves brought with them, never was really clear on what that was – seem quite predisposed to concentrate on their own kind, forgetting all that we do for them - not that I ever asked for anything, although a few plump snails would never go amiss, you can't go wrong with snails, really – and therefore it is my solemn duty to make sure the records are kept straight and credit is given where credit is due.
Namely to me. For yes, younglings, I was the one. I was the dragon-killers accomplice; I was the Thrush that Saved Laketown.
It all happened during the last days of the Time of the Dragon. It must be said that Smaug never bothered us too much, given that a thrush would be less than a mouthful to him. He might not even have noticed, had he eaten one of us, unless it was to puzzle at the feathers he'd have to pick out of his teeth.
Well, yes, I should imagine I would have noticed, although not for very long. Still, the ways of dragons are the ways of dragons, and most of the time are little or none of our business. Every now and again some Man or Dwarf would take it into their heads to go stirring him up and causing trouble, and that was where all the fuss began.
Some dwarves had managed to get themselves half-way up the side of the mountain – funny creatures, dwarves are. Like magpies for gold, they are – then again, though I've met some fairly idiotic magpies in my time, I can't think of one that would be willing to go stirring up trouble with a dragon.
Still, dwarves are great ones for sticking their beaks in where they don't belong, and this lot were no different. They'd brought another little creature with them – a wee round walker, like nought I'd ever seen in these parts, and like nought we're likely to see again, I'd imagine. I'd been up there hunting for snails when I'd found them, and thought I'd better keep a good watch on what was happening. Gather knowledge as a sparrow gathers crumbs, as the saying goes. That little round one turned out to be a most ill-tempered fellow – threw a stone at me, cheeky fellow. Not that it hit, of course. One of the dwarves scolded him for it, which goes to show that dwarves are smarter creatures than they look, for walkers, that is.
As it happened, the little round one had been in to see Smaug. In to see Smaug! Indeed, dragons are not the sort of creatures whom one visits socially, or that one visits at all, if one wishes to keep ones feathers intact. Come to think of it, I do wonder if that creature's mother had tossed him out of the nest as a fledgling – it would have explained rather a lot, in my humble opinion.
No matter. The little one was talking away, about this and about that – dear me, they don't half like the sound of their own voice, do the walkers – but within all that muddle of opinion I discerned two important pieces of information. Firstly, the little round fool had managed to let Smaug know they had come from Lake-town – and more fool the Lake-men for helping them! – and secondly old Smaug was not as clever as he thought he was, even for one of the Great Winged Ones, for though he was armoured up and down with gems and metal, he had a bare patch in the hollow of his left breast – a flaw, a weakness.
Now the Lake-Men at that time were mostly foul-breathed, stupid creatures, egg-eaters they were. But among them were yet those of the blood of Dale – Dale! Indeed it is rebuilt now, and nicely so, but nothing could compare to those stories of my fathers youth, of a land of walkers – Kings among men, capable of understanding the Thrush-speech, courteous to sparrow and eagle alike. And for the sake of Dale, I could not sit still, preening my feathers while Smaug roasted men left and right with no-one to stop him!
And yes, it is true now, as it was true then, that Men throw stones and mark us with their arrows at times, out of foolishness or malice, I cannot say which. Some may remember, and many will not. But a good deed is a deed worth doing; better a virtuous finch than a miserly eagle – and that is my own saying, and you may quote me on that.
So it was that at dusk I set off from the side of the Lonely Mountain. The night air was chill, and the journey was far, but the smell of smoke in the air drove me onwards. As I drew ever closer to the Long Lake, a great glow could be seen – Lake Town aflame – and I knew that it was dragon-work.
I had to hurry. The wind now turned against me, and the smell of smoke and burnt meat grew stronger. As I struggled onwards, I could swear that every part of me ached, from my beak right down to my last tail-feather. But at last I came to the Long Lake, and indeed Lake Town burned, while Smaug soared overhead.
I am not ashamed to say that he was a glorious sight; there is a beauty in dragons, even though they are more want to destroy the beauty of others than to create any of their own. He glowed as bright as any flame, and twice as deadly, as the men fled into their boats – folly, for now they were trapped, and Smaug had more patience than they had time. Yet he dared not approach too close to the lake, lest his own fire be quenched.
I circled the town, looking for any signs of life. There were yet some archers left, although most now fled, as the flames encroached upon their position. One remained true; as I came closer my heart leapt, for I could see in him the blood of Dale. Tall and dark he was, hair black as raven-feathers, and he held himself like a Lord of Men, even amongst the flames.
He had but one arrow left, a great dark bolt, black-fletched. Before he could reach for it, I landed upon his shoulder. A Lord of Men and a Lord of Birds regarded each other.
"Wait! Wait! The moon is rising." I said. Wonder was in his eyes; perhaps he had forgotten the old stories, forgotten the Thrush-tongue, but he understood me. "Look for the hollow of the left breast as he flies and turns above you!"
So it was my words that sealed Smaug's fate. As he turned, the moon glittered off his great belly, armoured with gems; but not in one place. The black arrow flew true – the dragon let out a cry of anguish, even as he tried to rise up into the skies – perhaps that is the nature of all things, to try to reach the stars, even in their last moments – and then fell, from that great height, fell to ruin, fell upon Lake Town.
I was glad that I had left the shoulder of Bard – for that was the Man-Lord's name – even as he had drawn the arrow to the bow I had been fluttering on tired wings for the shores – and not a moment too soon, either. I landed upon one of the boats that dotted the lake – the people were too busy whimpering about their lost town to notice me – and wondered what had happened to Bard.
Surely, I thought, he had been lost when the dragon fell, and I raised my voice in the mourning-songs of old, as my father had taught me. The songs of Dale, though I would doubt my tired croak did much credit to them. But Bard had been of that line, and had been a good creature, as walkers go. I felt I owed that much to him.
But low and behold, even as the men-folk gathered on the western shore, in mourning themselves - although I think it was the loss of their houses, more than the loss of Bard, that bothered them – a figure stepped from the shadows. I recognised him before any other – indeed, it was the Man-Lord himself! Bard, of the line of Girion, lord of Dale!
Already the starlings were abroad, crying the news far and wide; soon after they had a war, an altogether messy business, although I never figured out why they wanted to do that for. The ways of the walkers are strange, and even the best of them have these lapses at time – they will do the oddest things for other walkers, or for the sake of gold or gems. In that matter they are no better than magpies – and we all know what magpies are like.
But for the moment, none of that mattered. I was so tired I could barely fly; I hopped my way over to Bard, and fluttered onto his shoulder. The men, I think, took this as A Sign, although I can't imagine what a thrush could be considered a sign of. He smiled at me, and bent down to turn over a great rock that lay in the grass. When he stood up, he held something in his hand. He offered it to me, almost reverently.
Well, I knew that he was a good sort since I first laid eyes on him. And I swear to you now – no lie – that snail, that snail was as big as – well, you see that rock? No, not that one, the one next to it. Yes, that one. That big, plus some. Of course I'm not lying! Why would your old grandfather lie to you? You break my heart, little one…
Damn thing gave me indigestion.