An account of one of Kirin’s recent adventures in dealing dragons and trying to influence historical events. Fortunately, the official record has managed to clear most of his interference from sight, but here is his own account of what really happened when Bilbo met Smaug.
“Well, thief, come along into the light.” The dragon’s deep rumbling voice echoed through the great cavern as I crouched in the shadows of a far arch. “I smell you, feel your movement, hear your breath—”
I clapped one hand over my mouth.
“…help yourself again, there’s plenty to spare.”
I relaxed slightly even as a quick voice piped up from the opposite end of the cavern. “I’d rather not, if it’s all the same to you, Smaug the Tremendous. I’ve seen how you give your gifts and besides, I only wanted to see if the tales of your greatness were founded in reality.”
So Bilbo was finally here. Watching for an invisible burglar was trying work on the eyes. I focused and stepped into the nethermist, reappearing some feet behind where I assumed the hobbit was standing. Coins chinked under my boots and I dove for the cover of a great chest even as glowing eyes spun in my direction.
“Thanks a lot.” A voice hissed in my ear. “Trying to kill me, are you?”
I started and blinked. “You’re…I thought…”
“You’ve nice enough manners for a thief and a liar,” Smaug growled. “Even if you aren’t very quiet. But since you know my name, it’s only fair you tell me yours. I don’t remember smelling you before.”
“Probably because I wash regularly, unlike some dwarves I know,” Bilbo muttered under his breath. “As for you,” though I couldn’t see him, I’d the uncomfortable feeling he was glaring at me. “Not a sound. It’s difficult enough being a burglar when one isn’t a burglar without having to deal with men who appear from thin air.”
“You’re one to talk,” I retorted.
Bilbo was already replying to Smaug, his voice moving away from me. “I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths have led. And through the air, I’m one who walks unseen.”
“The latter being obvious to anyone with eyes,” Smaug grumbled. “Though that’s hardly a proper name.”
“Not really,” I agreed out loud. “Nothing like the Greatest and Chiefest of Calamities.”
“That’s Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities to you.” Smaug snarled, his claws raking thought the loose coins. “So there are two of you!”
“He’s not with me!” Bilbo protested. “I swear, I don’t know where he came from and I don’t want him here any more than you.”
“That I doubt, but still…” he gaze turned in my direction. “You should know better than to interrupt a dragon. And you’ve not even earned the right to speak like the unseen walker here.” He let loose a stream of flames and I sprang back into the nethermist, reappearing to his left.
“Name’s Kirin. Realm Leaper. And Stealthmaster.”
“Stealthmaster?” Two incredulous voices demanded.
“That so hard to believe?” I scowled. The hobbit might be quieter than me, but the dragon definitely was not.
For a reply, Smaug let loose another stream of fire. I ducked into the nethermist, but heat singed my back a split moment before I landed in the shadows on the other side of the cavern. This time I remained silent.
“So, now that he’s dealt with, back to who you are.” The dragon’s voice smoothed as he turned to where Bilbo had been. “You were telling me your name before the Stealthmaster appeared, I believe.”
“My name?” Bilbo inquired innocently. The cold-blooded hobbit didn’t even have a touch of emotion in his voice over my apparent death. “Ah yes. I am the clue-finder, the web-cutter, the stinging fly and…and I was chosen for the lucky number.”
“Titles, titles,” sneered Smaug. “Anyone can have those. What can you do besides steal from my horde?”
I pushed myself up as my breathing slowed to a more normal rate and pulled a small camera from my pocket. It broke about every realm leaper rule to have it in that time and place, but I’d not be able to return.
“I bury my friends alive and drown them, then draw them alive again from the water,” Bilbo continued.
The dragon grunted appreciatively. Turning, I held up the camera and snapped a shot of myself with Smaug in the background
“And I came from the end of a bag, but no bag went over me.”
“Oh, not that one,” I spoke out loud as I turned before I could catch myself.
“Too obvious?” Bilbo inquired without surprise. I blinked and could only summarize he’d already seen me in the shadows. Smaug hissed in irritation.
“No, it’s just…it’s just wrong. I’ve always detested that wording.”
“That wording? Like you’re the one facing a dragon!”
“I don’t believe anyone invited you to this conversation.” Smaug’s voice was dangerously low.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize it was invitation only.” My gaze swept up Smaug’s great body to his face, though I avoided looking into his eyes. I slipped my camera into my pocket. “I’m just recording the event. You know, for other dragons who want to follow in your clawsteps, O great destroyer of men.”
“I’ve heard worse,” Smaug said. A few rolling coins betrayed Bilbo shifting his position and Smaug swung away. “Come on, burier and riser of friends, any more titles up your sleeve.”
“A few.” Bilbo’s voice was noticeably closer. “I am a friend of bears and guest of eagles. I’m the Ringwinner and Luckwearer…”
“Or perhaps, not-so-luckwearer,” I muttered under my breath.
“Quiet!” Smaug snapped.
“How about Barrel-rider?” I pressed.
Silence. I could feel the heat of Smaug’s glare.
“Can’t you just flame him again?” Bilbo finally demanded.
Smaug growled. “Flames are not worth wasting. Why don’t you have a go this time? Do you have an invisible weapon on you?”
“Hey, wait!” I protested, leaping back a step. Flames I could doge but my mind blanked as I tried to remember if Bilbo’s weapon would become visible if he drew it.
“Perhaps we could take turns,” Bilbo compromised brightly.
“Wait!” I netherleaped as Smaug loosed another stream of flames, but his head swung to my new position and a faint rattle alerted me to Bilbo’s swift approach. “I’m just…oh, whatever. Nevermind. See you all later maybe; or earlier.” I chuckled then gasped as a calloused foot slammed into my legs and my knees buckled. “I’m leaving! I’m leaving!” My vision was filled with glowing eyes and the glimmer of flames lighting the back of Smaug’s throat.
It was enough.
Rolling to the side, I plunged back into the nethermist, this time letting it carry me far away to another realm.