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Trapped. Trapped in the dark, the stench of dragon all around them. Bilbo listened to the grumbling of the Dwarves, and found himself growing angry. He knew that if he listened long enough, all the blame would fall on him. He heard them, "We are trapped! This is the end! We shall all die here!"
"That's enough!" Bilbo said. "'Where there's life there's hope,' as my father used to say, and ‘Third time pays for all.' I am going down the tunnel once again. I have been all that way twice, when I knew there was a dragon at the end, so I shall risk a third time when I am no longer sure. The only way out is down. Follow me or not, as you please." He turned and left, not looking behind to see if any were with him, though he could hear the Dwarves whispering and bickering behind him. They had not followed yet, and truthfully he did not expect them to, yet. They would come sooner or later though.
Down, down he went, deeper and deeper into the tunnels. The stench of dragon grew stronger and stronger-- he began to worry that perhaps the dragon had indeed returned. He steeled his resolve, however, and kept going-- but he carefully slipped on his little ring and when he came to the end of the tunnel, he looked carefully. There was no sign of the dragon. He slipped off the ring and held up his torch and looked over the treasure hoard.
Just then he heard the Dwarves who had finally followed him: their loud whispers and hobnailed boots echoed loudly, and not for the first time he cursed their Dwarvish racket. Then he heard their gasps as they saw the treasure, gleaming in the light of his torch.
They lost all their caution and scurried towards the pile of gleaming gold and gems. "Mind you," called Thorin, "keep an eye out for the Jem of Girion!"
Bilbo shook his head as the Dwarves lost theirs to blind greed. He followed more slowly. They all began to load themselves down. "Take as much as you can carry," said Thorin "back up the tunnel for now!"
"Thorin!" said Bilbo angrily, grasping at their leader's arm, "what if Smaug returns? How will you get all this away from the mountain?"
Thorin shook his hand off impatiently. "He has not returned. Perhaps he won't. And all this is ours!"
Something is wrong, thought Bilbo. Something is not right. He watched the Dwarves stagger away with their burdens, ignoring him completely.
"What can they do with the gold?" he wondered. He shook his head. "Burglary is no good-- I suppose I'll end up a warrior in the end after all..." He turned his own attention to the hoard. He'd know soon enough if Smaug came back. He picked through the treasures-- here was a mail shirt, shimmering and sparkling like nothing he'd ever seen before and on impulse he slipped it on, it was as light as silk. There was a golden bowl, a match to the cup he'd stolen earlier, but this one big enough to be a bathtub for a hobbit. He tipped it over, and it clattered alarmingly, echoing over and over in the dark. But there, beneath it-- a globe of pallid light. It shone before his feet of its own inner light that fell upon it and changed it into ten thousand sparks of white radiance shot with glints of the rainbow. It was the Jem of Girion, of which Thorin had spoken so passionately. Without even thinking, Bilbo reached down and took up the great jewel, and thrust it into his deepest pocket. He felt his ears burn red with an unaccustomed sensation, but he shook it off.
"I must be canny," he thought. "Surely the Dragon will return." Why? Why was he so sure of that? Something was very odd here...
Finding a spot near the end of the tunnel, yet not close to the spot from which he had first spoken to Smaug, he hunkered down, slipped on his ring, and glanced at the torch. With not a little trepidation, for he dreaded being plunged into the deepest darkness, he put it out.
It was not a bit too soon. He had scarcely had time to become restless in the dark, when he heard the sound once heard never forgotten, the storm of the Dragon's wings. There was the glow, and the heat, as Smaug entered. He took one look at the disturbed pile where his lair had been and let out a thunderous roar. "Dwarves! They DARED!" Bilbo was glad he had decided to be at one side of the tunnel, for Smaug sent a great gout of flame shooting up it, and then roared once more, making the mountain itself tremble. A few rocks tumbled down, one of them narrowly missing Bilbo.
Like a great cat, Smaug turned round and round upon his heap of metal and jewels. Exhausted by his rampaging, the great beast finally succumbed to slumber.
It was now or never, thought Bilbo. There would never be another chance for this-- if he did not do something, he would never get to go home. Loosening Sting in its sheath, with hobbit stealth, he crept closer and closer to the glowing form of the worm. There-- there was the patch on his left breast, unprotected. He drew Sting silently.
Smaug woke, but it was too late. Had it been an ordinary blade, no doubt it would have been of no use on a Dragon, but this blade, forged by the High Elves for the wars of Gondolin had an enchantment about it, and it plunged in more easily than Bilbo had expected.
A fountain of gruesome hot blood sprang forth, drenching the hobbit. It burned and stank, and he staggered back, away from the death-throes of the Dragon. Stumbling, he tumbled down the heap of treasure and landed in the large golden bowl he had found earlier.
There was so much blood. It kept pouring and pouring, a deluge of Dragon's blood; it lifted the golden bowl, and he found himself floating down a river of red...floating away, he felt a tiny tremor of a thrill within his heart, increasing with every beat. He was a warrior, a mighty warrior, hard, wicked and bold!
NO! NO! This isn't right! This isn't right! His heart was hammering in his chest so hard he thought it would burst... NO!
"Uncle Bilbo! Uncle Bilbo! Wake up, please wake up!" Arms enfolded him, a comforting embrace. The disturbing feelings of victory faded away…
Bilbo shuddered awake. Breathing heavily, he swallowed. Cold sweat ran down his brow. He heaved a great breath of relief. "Oh, Frodo, my dear lad! It was dreadful!"
"What were you dreaming, Uncle Bilbo? I could hear your shouts away down the hall!"
"Ah, Frodo! I was dreaming of my old Adventure, of Smaug the Dragon! But it was all wrong, all wrong! It could never have happened that way!" Never, he told himself. I could never have been like that…
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