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About Varied / Hobbyist Alicia DonovanFemale/United Kingdom Group :iconheartoffiredonovan94: HeartofFireDONOVAN94
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Chapter 5 ~ Best Interests ~
Chapter 5 – Best Interests -
"With me, you will never know reason. I will blind you to everything else and drive you to kill your enemy. What am I? You are Rage"
    Kathryn ran. She had never run so fast in all her life, desperate to keep her feet moving as fast as they could, ignoring the tattered rags of her dress as it caught around her knees and threatened to trip her at any second.
    It only took her twenty minutes to find her way out of the fortress. When Smaug had invaded the Lonely Mountain so many years ago, he'd carved a direct path through the mountain kingdom. Doors had been smashed open, walls had buckled and cracked to fit the monster's great girth. He'd practically made an easy access tunnel. Thror, in his treasure-induced madness, had greedily wanted his precious vault of riches close by his throne. From the doors to the central chamber, it was almost a straight line forwards and upwards past the ancient throne room and through the
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Chapter 4 ~ A Dangerous Game
Chapter 4 – A Dangerous Game –
"No man has seen it, but all men know it. Lighter than air, sharper than any sword. Comes from nothing, but will fell the strongest armies. Of what do I speak? – Hunger"
A week passed in the mountain, and Kathryn was very much regretting her decision.
    Smaug was nothing if not a tyrant; he demanded his every wish and desire be met exactly as he wanted when he asked for it. He made sure that she knew he was the undisputed "King of the Mountain" here. The days were rather simple: in the morning Kathryn would awaken and do her best to occupy herself, mostly by exploring her new… "Living arrangement". She had known that the chamber she was in was massive, but by exploring she realised that it was absolutely enormous! If she didn't know any better, then she would say that the mountain had been hollowed out and this was the result, but despite this massive chamber she knew that there was so much more both above and
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Chapter 3 ~ An Unlikely Arrangement
Chapter 3 – An Unlikely Arrangement
"She wields the broken sword, and separates true kings from tyrants. Of what do I speak? Mercy"
Kathryn slowly came to as the light behind her eyelids vanished for a moment, replaced by darkness. She could hear a thunderous, rhythmic beat, like that of wings, and she could feel air whip her hair abound her face. A squeezing presence encased her body, pinning her arms against her sides, making it slightly difficult to breathe. She tried to move, tried to push against her confines, her eyes still closed as her mind still stayed in the land of slumber. As if in response to her protests, the pressure around her constricted slightly, like the coils of a snake tightening its grip on its victim.
    Panic made her heart flutter. She wanted to snap herself awake, to jump up, shake off the dream, but her head was pounding with pain. Her hair twisted and knotted around some sticky substance at the back of her skull.
    There was
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Heart Of Fire ~ Chapter 2 ~ The Ruined City
Chapter 2 – The Ruined City –
"What has roots that nobody sees; is taller than the tallest trees; up, up, up it goes and yet never grows? A Mountain"
    The city was an utter ruin: buildings lay crushed, forgotten, defiled and broken. Bones and dust laid scattered along every street and in every doorway. Even after all these years, ash still fluttered down through the air, the only remnants to what was once here. Kathryn walked  as silently as she could, pushing her way through the shell of buildings and debris that remained. She coaxed her mule onward, holding the reins as she guided the beast quietly through the wreckage. She tried to make as little sound as possible, as if the faintest whisper could stir the wrath of the beast that lived in the solitary peak above. The mule was a calm animal though, and followed her without question, carrying what little food and possessions they both had.
    Kathryn led them for ages as they wan
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Heart Of Fire ~ Chapter 1 ~ An Unexpected Visitor
Chapter 1 – An Unexpected Visitor –
"People speak through me, yet I do not make a sound. People can sell me, yet I have many clones. I can bring you laughter between breakfast and tea, Yet I can also break your heart easily. I cover the earth like trees of old, Whose leaves can blind and yet enfold. What am I?
- A Book"
    The wind howled and the rain poured down. She sat by the fire, her thoughts lost in the flames: thinking of times long ago and dreams yet to be dreamt. The storm raged outside, and she pulled the shawl tighter around her thin shoulders. She closed her eyes, waiting for sleep to claim her, and with it, the new agony but also the sweet release it would bring. She was so heavy, down to her bones… perhaps this would be…
    She was jolted awake when she heard an awful banging. She leapt in her chair, and spun towards the door of her little cottage. Eyes wide, she tried to still her frantic heart. Cautious, she s
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Chapter 5 – Best Interests -
"With me, you will never know reason. I will blind you to everything else and drive you to kill your enemy. What am I? You are Rage"

    Kathryn ran. She had never run so fast in all her life, desperate to keep her feet moving as fast as they could, ignoring the tattered rags of her dress as it caught around her knees and threatened to trip her at any second.

    It only took her twenty minutes to find her way out of the fortress. When Smaug had invaded the Lonely Mountain so many years ago, he'd carved a direct path through the mountain kingdom. Doors had been smashed open, walls had buckled and cracked to fit the monster's great girth. He'd practically made an easy access tunnel. Thror, in his treasure-induced madness, had greedily wanted his precious vault of riches close by his throne. From the doors to the central chamber, it was almost a straight line forwards and upwards past the ancient throne room and through the entrance hall and she was out!

    Kathryn hissed and covered her eyes against the bright sunlight. Her eyes stung as she struggled to adjust from the days in the dark with nothing but artificial light of the treasure and Smaug's fire. Blinking rapidly, she managed to clear her vision enough to gather her bearings and recognise her surroundings.

    The Ruined City wasn't that far off, maybe an hour or two. She could probably make it if she ran and hid amongst the buildings. No. She remembered how well that one worked out for her last time. Besides, it was the first option and also the first place Smaug would look when he awoke. What about if she made it to Laketown? She could follow the River Running to the huge lake and make her way there. No. That would take far too long, during which time Smaug could find her and pick her off in the open terrain; and Laketown was made of wood – kind of a bad idea to draw a Dragon's attention there.

    Looking off to her right, she saw a small woodland a small distance off from the mountain. It was a little to the west, perhaps a mile or so off. Just a sparse sprinkling of trees at the mountain base. The trees might offer her shelter and camouflage, the branches and thick trunks would make it difficult for Smaug to land or get low enough to snatch her up. And it was heading west, far away from here, perfect! Kathryn ran again, skirting around the gigantic statues of dwarves that flanked either side of the front gates. Cutting over the hills that could lead to Ravenhill, Kathryn hoicked up her skirts to enable her to run as fast as possible. This was when her life on the road came in handy: her endurance was enough to keep her going at a steady, brisk pace as she trekked ever closer towards the woods.

    She wasn't far from the shadows of the trees when she began to tire. Her arms felt heavy, her bones like iron, the muscles in her calves and thighs screamed with renewed burning pain with every step. Her breathing was shaky and laboured as her mouth grew dry. She needed to stop, but her instincts kept screaming at her to keep going! Until she was within the midst of the trunks she wouldn't be safe enough to rest, and maybe not even then. She even doubted she would be safe if she went as far as the Grey Havens of the elves. An hour had passed since she'd made it through the front gates. How much longer would she be afforded before the hunt began?

    That was when she heard it.

    Smaug's blood curdling scream of fury and outrage blasted across the landscape, echoing off out into the horizon. Kathryn felt her heart seize as she heard the vengeful roar that thirsted for blood – her blood. Suddenly finding her motivation once again, Kathryn sprinted the rest of the way, crying out with relief as she reached the treeline, her arms grasping onto a nearby trunk in an attempt to keep her standing. The sting of splinters in her arms was a welcome sensation if it meant she'd made it. 

    With another thunderous roar, Kathryn saw Smaug erupt from the mountain in a ball of smoke and fire, even from this distance she could see his flame yellow eyes glowing with seething rage. He roared again once he realised that his prey was not in his immediate vicinity. Wings spread, tail lashing, claws gouging into the earth, a torrent of fire streamed from his jaws towards the heavens. He launched himself into the sky, driving his wings down, creating a powerful shockwave of air that battered the earth below him as he soared upwards. As Kathryn had predicted, Smaug went first to the Ruined City, thinking that that would be the first place she would go. It would take him a while to realise that she wasn't there, but not long. Then he would return to the entrance of the mountain and force himself to calm down in order to track her properly.

    Kathryn didn't think she had enough time to get away. Mirkwood might be the safest place for her now, but it was too far. She needed days to reach it. A hiding place had to make itself available now. She was seriously starting to regret her decision. Perhaps it would have been better to stay in misery than face the horrors that would surely await her come her inevitable recapture. It had been a rash and desperate decision made by a rash and desperate woman. But now she had to deal with the consequences, she couldn't go back and just apologise; she needed to make the most of what she had.

    Turning around, Kathryn took a deep breath to try and steady her heaving sides as she began to walk deeper into the forest. Autumn had fully set in now, a bitter chill running through with the wind, the trees bare to only leave the branches like hooked claws reaching for her. Kathryn trudged through, ignoring the shiver down her spine as she went, she just had to keep going, pushing herself further and further in.

    And then she realised how quiet it had become.

    Even though most animals would have migrated or been in preparation for hibernation, Kathryn had still heard the noise of the woods as she had entered. Winter birds had called to one another, squirrels and chipmunks scurried about, owls hooted as the late afternoon sun drew into evening. But now, everything was deathly silent, as if the whole forest were holding its breath.

    Then she heard the distant sound of wing beats.

    Terror seized her heart, and Kathryn ran through the trees, jumping over roots, swerving around trunks, tearing up the ground in her wake as she ran for her life.

    She looked around her, her tired body already soon wearing down as she pushed herself to run, but adrenaline could only get her so far. She needed a place to hide. But there were no caves, only a rock formation to the south of a small pond in a clearing up ahead. The only thing that she could see for shelter were trees, trees and more bloody trees!

    Kathryn looked over her shoulder to see how close her pursuer was. She managed to see him just in time as a gigantic dark shadow came shooting towards her, coming closer and closer. On the long snake-like neck, Smaug's head swivelled this way and that as he searched the ground. Brilliant white flashed inside his mouth when he bared his fangs. He hadn't seen her yet, she still had a second or so to hide before he did.

    Having no other choice, Kathryn sprinted forward with her last reserves of energy, and clamped her mouth shut as she leapt into the air over the pond. She straightened her body in the hopes of creating as little resistance between her and the water possible. With hardly a splash, she plunged into the water.

    Searing cold almost made her freeze instantaneously. Kathryn would have cried out but kept a firm hold of her jaw so as not to drown. She sunk lower into the water, going to the slope of the back and holding onto the exposed roots of trees to anchor her under. Already her fingers were going numb, and she could feel the pain in her limbs where her blood was so cold. She looked up, eyes open and squinted to see through the murky water. Her hair wavered in the water all around her, partially obscuring her already poor vision in this underwater world. She kept her eyes trained on the surface above, waiting.

    Aware of the resemblance of this reality to her vision, Kathryn did a quick check of the depths to make sure Smaug wasn't lurking below her, but she could see nothing.

    She saw the light of the overcast sky above as a grey blotch on the water. And she saw a shadow pass over it.

    Kathryn waited a few moments longer, her lungs screaming for air until they burned. Black spots dotted at the edges of her vision and her brain began to hurt from the pressure of the air inside her. Then with a huge release, Kathryn kicked off of the bottom of the lake, surging towards the surface. the breath she'd been holding pushed out of her in a fountain of bubbles.

    She surfaced with a huge gasp, coughing as stray droplets of water were sucked down her throat with her eager breath. Lips turned blue, and already shaking, Kathryn used her stiff limbs to paddle to the shore, dragging herself onto land. Mud sucked at her limbs, the grime of dead leaves and rotten wood splinters sticking to her wet flesh. Kathryn paid it no mind as she collapsed. She lay there, heaving to regain her lost breath, her soaking hair now a brown-rust colour from the water. The rags of her dress clung to her body, making her more aware of the cold that seemed to be all around her. She felt so tired…

    Suddenly sharp pain yanked on her scalp. Head jerked back, she hissed, reaching a hand to her head to find a hand clenching a fist around her long locks. Before she could react, Kathryn felt more hands on her arms as she was hauled roughly to her feet.

    Opening her eyes, kicking and struggling, Kathryn came face to face with three armed men in leather armour. The one that held her hair – Kathryn assumed him to be the leader – was bald with a square jaw and rusty eyes. The one holding Kathryn's arm in one hand and the other around her waist in order to keep her standing, had greasy black hair coming down to his shoulders, stubble on his chin and a hooked nose. The one on Kathryn's left had hair as red Kathryn's – although greasy like his companion – and had a long scar that cut through his cheek and down his jaw on the left side. From the dirt that seemed to be smeared into their pours, the low standard armour and being armed to the teeth with an arsenal of different weapons, an unsettling realisation came to Kathryn.

    Bandits, she thought with a hiss.

    The leader studied Kathryn, his rusty eyes studying every inch of her face. She didn't like the way he stared, as if he were looking at a piece of meat, and his grip on her hair tightened.

    "You're a long way from home, girl," he said in a cracked voice as if it had had years without use. "What ya doin' 'ere?"

    "None of your damned business," Kathryn hissed, although she was cut off when the bald leader pulled her hair a little tighter, making her wince. "Let me go!"

    "I reckon it is my business seein' as we pulled your sorry, shivering ass from the lake,"

    "To which I thank you sir," Kathryn muttered sarcastically. "But you must let me go! Now!"

    "I don't know love," the bald man leered at her. "Don't you know there's a dragon flyin' round these parts? A woman such as yourself might get hurt, best to stay with us for a little… protection," 

    "I doubt that," Kathryn scowled.

    "What do you want done with her, Karst?" said the black haired man, his voice thickened by a stiff accent.

    "Bring her back to camp," the bald man – Karst – muttered as he removed his hand from Kathryn's soaking hair. "Would be nice to have a little womanly company for a change," he added with a raised eyebrow as he evaluated her body with his eyes.

    Katryn steeled herself against an involuntary tremble.

    "She could be trouble Karst," the black haired man said.

    "What's the matter Bensen? You scared of a little girl?" Karst eyed his companion with disgust. The black haired man – Bensen – shifted a little but said nothing. "Bensen, take the girl. Cutter, watch our backs for that flyin' lizard,"

    The red haired man – Cutter – nodded, releasing Kathryn's arm to retrieve his bow. He watched the sky, arrow already notched and at the ready. Bensen took both Kathryn's upper arms in his big, strong hands and pushed her forward, directing her as they followed Karst with Cutter bringing up the rear.

    They came to the rock formations that Kathryn had seen earlier, a small cliff formation pushed up from the earth. Kathryn's eyes constantly shifted from the Bandits around her to the sky above, her ears straining for the slightest sounds of wing-beats or a distant roar. But nothing, the forest was oddly quiet. As they approached the rock, Kathryn saw a thin crack in the wall, barely large enough for a man to walk through. Kathryn wouldn't have noticed it before at all if she didn't watch Karst walk through it into a form of cave, and then she noticed the flickering light from inside as if from a fire. Feeling the cold in her body again suddenly return at the thought of warmth, Kathryn began to shake and eagerly allowed Bensen to take her through the opening and into the small cave.

    A man with short, scraggly blond hair sat by a fire, he couldn't have been no more than sixteen. He looked up as the group entered, and grinned to reveal crooked teeth and an angled jaw.

    "Karst," the boy said, almost heartily. "I was beginning to think you'd been carried off,"

    "Not bloody likely, Lesk," Karst chuckled as he came to sit leisurely by the warm fire.

    "Where do you want the girl, Karst?" Bensen asked grumpily. At the sound of the word 'girl', Lesk looked up and locked his eyes on Kathryn, a grin spreading across his face as he beheld her.

    "Oi-oi-oi! What's this then?" he called out.

    "Little fish we pulled out of the water," Karst chuckled. He then looked at Bensen with a bored expression. "Put her in the back, tie her hands."

    "Nothing followed us," Cutter said as he entered the cave.

    "Cutter," Lesk sneered, an almost disappointed tone entering his voice. "I was beginning to hope you'd been gobbled up."

    "Only by your mother," Cutter grinned when Lesk turned purple with outrage, standing as he withdrew a knife and –

    "Enough, both of you," Karst barked. Both men glared at each other before sitting on opposite sides of the fire.

    But Kathryn ignored them as Bensen took her to the back of the cave, placing her against the wall. A whimper escaped her when she realised she would receive none of the delicious heat of the fire from this far away. Bensen held both her wrists in one of his hands and wound a rope around her wrists with the other. When she was secured, he merely left her, pausing only to kick a huge bundle of leather in one corner. Kathryn stared as the bundle began to move, grumbling and growling as it began to sit up, so tall it's head almost brushed the ceiling. It looked around, almost sleepily, until it turned its face to Kathryn and –

    "Shit!" Kathryn gasped, kicking herself away from the huge creature that sat not a few feet from her. The troll-like creature growled at her, baring its fangs from its black, slobbering mouth, its beady eyes fixed on her with hate.  She squirmed to be as far away from the troll as possible. The others snickered but otherwise did nothing.

    Everyone was silent as they watched the fire, and Kathryn dared to scoot a little closer. For the briefest moment, it allowed the warmth of the flames to seep into her body slowly but surely. Over time the smoke dried her hair somewhat and took some of the moisture out of her clothes. She then noticed that no one was paying attention to her, and so quietly shifted so that her hands were between her knees in an almost casual manner, making her seem relaxed, but hiding her hands from view as her fingers silently worked at the knots that bound her.

    Knowing that they might discover her, Kathryn looked about for something to distract them. She was going to try and provoke another argument between Cutter and Lesk, but suddenly caught a whiff of a dreadful stench that seemed to underlay the scent of the smoke of the fire. Looking over to the corner by the monstrous Olog-Hai, she noticed a thick sack with a large round bundle that Kathryn couldn't quite make out the shape of. But she could guess it was something rather awful. A black smear stained the bottom of the bag, and as she her stomach twisted in repulsion when she realised it was blood.

    "What's in the bag?" Kathryn asked, wrinkling her nose at the smell.

    "Troll head," Cutter answered. "Customer in Framsburg wants it. Found it down near the Mountains of Mirkwood,"

    Ah. So they were mercenaries. "Strange," Kathryn thought aloud. "Trolls haven't been down from the mountains for an age,"

    "That's what I said," Bensen muttered.

    "Shut up, the pair of you," Karst snapped from where he'd tried to lay down and catch some sleep.

    They were silent, but after a while, Kathryn asked: "You're going to Framsburg?"

    "Cutter is," said Bensen quietly. "He'll get the reward money whilst the rest of us head to the Iron hills; heard there's work there for security in the mines,"

    "What?" Kathryn felt her blood run cold. "We're heading back east? N-no! That's the wrong direction!"

    "We know the way, girl!" Karst growled at her. "Now shut it."

    "No, you can't take me with you! You can't!" Kathryn felt her blood pumping in her ears with fear. If she headed back east towards Erebor, then she would just be heading straight back into Smaug's waiting claws!

    "I said SHUT IT!" Karst bellowed at her.

    "I will not!"

    On his feet now, Karst stormed towards her, until he drew so close, he leaned his face into hers. The rotting food between his teeth overpowered her nose and she could see every stinking, greasy flake of skin on his face. "Shut your mouth or I'll find something to shut it with!"

    She spat in his face.
    Karst recoiled, and then glared at her with murder in his eyes. The woman had only a moment to realise what she'd done. With all the power he possessed, Karst hit her across the face. Kathryn felt her cheek erupt in pain as she was knocked to the ground. She could feel her bonds were coming loose, but she needed just a little more time! Her face stung from the blow and she felt a little dizzy as she tried to push herself up with her elbows. She heard Karst mutter something although she couldn't understand what he –

    Kathryn gasped as she felt a huge hand wrap around her throat and lift her into the air. Her purple eyes went wide as she saw the Olog-Hai standing beside Karst, his grip on her throat light but firm enough to constrict the air she breathed. Kathryn clung to his fingers with her bound hands, trying to dislodge him.

    "Drop her," Karst demanded. The Olog-hai did as instructed, dropping Kathryn. The rocky floor scrapped the skin off her knees and palms when she hit it. She tried to scramble away but a boot kicked at her stomach. Breath from her lungs exploded out of her mouth. She couldn't scream, could barely remember how to breathe. The blow rolled her onto her back. Karst's hand gripped her hair and pulled her head back, exposing her throat to him. He pinned her with his knees on either side of her hips, the other hand holding her wrists as he glared down at her.

    Kathryn froze. Her blood turned to ice, her body went stiff and her breathing becoming erratic as she realised how vulnerable she was at this precise moment.

    "You got spirit on you girl," Karst whispered in her ear, and Kathryn's skin crawled as she felt his breath lick over her neck as he leaned in close. "I like that. But some girls need to know their place."

    Releasing her hair, he used his now free hand to try and lift the tattered remains of her skirts –

    Realising what he was doing, Kathryn erupted into a panic attack. Feet kicking out madly, she struggling against him, trying to keep out of his reach as he made to grab her. She bucked and writhed, horror making her sob in denial for the evil he was about to commit. One of her knees connected with his groin, and he groaned, but held her wrists tighter as he seethed. Releasing her skirts, he slapped her across the face again, igniting new pain in her as she was knocked aside. Her head hit the wall, causing a flash of blinding pain across her vision.

    Dazed, she absently felt something warm and sticky trickle down her temple. Disorientation passed, and she was aware of laying on the floor, and Karst had her properly pinned. When she tried to extract herself from his loathsome touch, nothing happened, and panic began to engulf her as she felt something build up in her throat. Karst hoisted up her skirts and air hit her inner thighs. Terror took hold. Hyperventilating, she struggled and writhed and –

    Finally, she screamed.

    The answering roar was so loud that trees outside creaked and cracked in the hot, dry wind that was created as if from nowhere, blowing into the cave and whipping at the flames of the fire, making it flicker and almost go out. A deathly silence filled the cave as everyone looked to the opening, not daring to breathe, not moving a muscle.

    But Kathryn knew that roar, and prayed to the Valar that it was him!

    A huge shockwave passed through the earth as something landed heavily in the clearing by the lake not too far off. Then, they heard the heavy footfalls of giant feet as they struck the ground, walking slowly. The sound of deep inhales echoed as the creature outside scented the air. A gigantic, red reptilian foot passed by the opening crack. It walked on slowly, the thunder of a growl vibrating the air as the great dragon searched for his prey. Seeing that flash of familiar brilliant crimson, Kathryn felt something dawn inside her – hope.

    "Sma–!" her quick cry for help was suddenly cut short when a pale faced Karst covered her mouth with his hand.

    But outside, Smaug heard the little noise, and he froze upon hearing the first part of his name on that unmistakable voice. Head whipping back around, his fiery gaze fell upon the small crack in the rocks that he had not noticed before...

    Inside, Kathryn could only hear the silence, she couldn't even hear the massive creature breathing. She hoped and prayed that he had heard her, that he had not left to search somewhere else. Though mere minutes ago she had been desperate to be anywhere that the dragon wasn't, the truth was ultimately made clear to her now that he was her best chance of survival now. Smaug was horrid and egotistical and selfish, but he would not violate her body or other unspeakable horrors. The worst he could do to her was give her death. And there were far worse fates than that.

    They all waited on baited breath as the silence outside grew.

    Finally, unable to stand the tension, Karst motioned to Lesk, jerking his head towards the cave entrance. Lesk turned a paler shade of white, licking his suddenly dry lips as he shook like a leaf. Karst glared at him, and that seemed to awaken something in the boy. A tremble in his hands, he slowly withdrew a slingshot and grabbed a rock off the floor. Held taught in his sweaty hands, Lesk dared to move forward.

    They all watched him as he slowly shuffled forward, eyes searching out into the darkening world beyond as much as the entrance would allow. He looked back at Karst pleadingly, but Karst just jutted his chin forward for him to go. Lesk swallowed loudly, knees knocking together, before stepping out into the light. He looked around, wide eyed with fear. Nothing appeared. Bolder, he took another step out from the cliff's shadow. The dark and barren trees held nothing. Slowly, Lesk's shoulders began to relax. Smaug was gone. Kathryn felt her heart sink at the prospect. Lesk turned back towards the cave, a relieved smirk upon his –

    With a blur of red, giant jaws descended upon the boy from above the cliff. Large teeth punctured through his chest and ruptured his insides. Lesk screamed and was suddenly lifted into the air and out of sight of the others. A loud "SNAP", and Lesk's screams were cut short. Half of his body fell to the ground with a wet SPLAT.

    "LESK!" Karst screamed, leaping off of Kathryn and charging for the opening, sword at the ready. Cutter and Bensen were hot on his heels, screaming their war-cries as they charged out, weapons drawn.

    Kathryn scrambled to her knees, quickly untying the last of her bonds and running for the opening. The Olog-Hai had to suck in his bulging gut in order to squeeze through the crack that was too small for him. But the Seer managed to jump through it ahead of him before he could block the entrance. 

    The sight before her made her gasp. Smaug was standing in the clearing, his tail and wings flattening the trees on either side of him, but even then he didn't have much room to manoeuvre. That didn't matter though, with his long serpentine neck, he struck out at his attackers like a cobra, little more than a flash of red and gold scales and white teeth. He tossed Bensen into the air, catching the screaming man with a snap of his powerful jaws, severing the man's spine and killing him instantly. Smaug allowed the body to fall to the ground with a disgusted snort.

    Suddenly, the Olog-Hai was through the opening and sprinting across the small battlefield, its roar bellowing out as it charged. Smaug had been about to blast his remaining enemies with his fire, but turned in time to see the Olog-Hai charge at him, a massive two-handed sword in its hands. The Olog-Hai swung the blade, aiming for Smaug's neck that was close to the ground where the dragon had been leaning forward to attack his next victims. Smaug lifted himself out of the way just in time, and snapped at the troll with a growl which the Olog-Hai blocked easily with a swing of his sword, batting the Dragon's jaw out of his way.

    Smaug chuckled darkly, a condescending look in his eyes. Kathryn knew that look, his arrogance reigning supreme. He thought this to be amusing! His ego would be telling him that nothing could harm him, that there was no one worthy enough to slay him. But he still turned to solely face the Olog-Hai, giving it his full attention, ready for battle.

    Kathryn saw movement, and noticed that Cutter was moving off to the side as the Olog-Hai challenged Smaug, the archer trying to get a better angle as he readied his bow. Without thinking, Kathryn ran to the body of Bensen, ignoring the urge to vomit at the sight of what was left of him. She quickly picked up his light mace, snapping the chord that tied it to his belt. A part of her was screaming as to why she wasn't running already! She couldn't answer it. Hurrying back towards the small stone cliff, she did her best to climb up the incline until she was directly above Cutter. The archer aimed his arrow at the dragon's left eye. Smaug had not noticed, for his attention was focused on the Olog-Hai that was doing its best to evade and deflect the dragon's blows. She saw the moment when Cutter tensed, preparing to release –

    "HEY!" she shouted, and jumped.

    She collided with Cutter's shoulders, the mace in her hands catching the back of his head. The pair of them went tumbling, sprawling to the ground. Kathryn rolled over, but as soon as they came to a stop, she jumped to her feet. Cutter lay in the dirt, winded, dazed, possibly flittering in and out of consciousness. Good. If he could play dead for long enough, he might live long enough to regret this fight. 

    The Olog-Hai was suddenly sent flying over her, landing heavily beside Karst. Although wounded with a bad gash along its ribs, it slowly got to its feet. The mercenaries looked battered and broken, but such hate and loathing filled their eyes, it was a painful reminder of every superstitious fool that had ever blamed her for their woes. No pity could be found for the rapist and murders, not even when faced against a gigantic fire breathing monster. Kathryn now stood in between them all, and she could feel the burn of Smaug's eyes upon her back. And without looking back at him, she took a very big deliberate step backwards, walking back until she was standing between his front legs, protected within his shadow as she glared at Karst.

    "Witch," he hissed.

    "I prefer the term 'seer'." She snapped dryly.

    Without another word, Smaug roared, and, with his enemies in the exact same spot and no one else to stand in the way, he let loose a belly full of fire. Kathryn couldn't see past the thick flames, only the faint silhouettes of the two figures within as they screamed and writhed in agony. She turned away and closed her eyes. Yes, she felt no pity for them. Yet that didn't mean she wanted to see such a horrible death. But soon, even their screams were eventually silenced as they became naught but ash.

    Kathryn sighed, her shoulders slumping as she felt exhaustion overtake her. Her hand cradled her head, and felt the wetness of blood and wondered –

    With a cry she was suddenly pushed to the ground, the breath knocked out of her lungs as a huge pressure was placed on her chest and body. The weight threatened to crush her ribs, sandwiching her between it and the unrelenting earth beneath her. Kathryn looked up, eyes bulging, to see Smaug stood above her, his hand pinning her to the ground. Though he only allowed a tiny fraction of his weight onto her, it was enough to nearly pulverise her. Yet that fact didn't seem to dissuade him, his eyes burning into her soul.

    "S-Smaug!" Kathryn strangled out, trying to remove his hand from her but it was obviously useless. "Smaug! Please! I – ARGH!"

    She cried out in fear as Smaug deliberately pushed a little harder, forcing the air out of her body until she couldn't breathe and her bones began to protest from the pressure. The dragon's eyes glinted with malicious intent as his lips quivered to reveal his teeth in a silent snarl.

    "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't crush you!" he growled, the words barely recognisable through the blood-thirsting rage in his tone. "Give me: One. Good. Reason!"

    Kathryn struggled to choke out the words with what little breath she had. "I-I…I… chose… you!"

                                                                                         ~~ *** ~~

Smaug flew through the sky, his blood boiling inside of him with his rage. Smoke curled out of his nose and from between his teek, making him itch to blast something. Fire gurgled in his gut, making the scales on his chest shine ominously. He held the human in the harsh grip of his hand, not even remotely concerned by the fact that he might have been holding her a little too tightly.

    They came to the Lonely Mountain, and Smaug didn't say a word as he snarled upon landing just outside the gates and stormed his way into the fortress. When he came to the central chamber of the lower halls, not even the sight of his precious gold was enough to calm the raging storm inside him. A quick glance with his incredible eyesight and he knew that no one had been here and taken anything from his treasure. He snorted to himself; as if they would dare. Like all dragons, Smaug knew his hoard so well he could tell if even a single gold coin was missing.

    But he drew himself away from the hoard. Stomping through the chamber, he came to the cage hanging from the ceiling, left open and neglected ever since he had released its prisoner. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, Smaug threw the human woman inside it, and slammed the door shut behind her. She crumpled on the floor, slowly picking herself up. Withdrawn, almost sad, she huddled on the floor. Yet her behaviour was not like before, now she seemed… regretful?

    Smaug huffed, allowing the smoke from his nose to wash over her. A warning of his temper that he was barely controlling. He then turned away from her, determined not to allow his anger to overcome him and harm her, although she deserved it. She'd drugged him and then made her escape when he had forbidden it! In a sense she had stolen a part of his hoard, stealing her voice from him… and people knew very well what he did to thieves.

    Frankly, Smaug was more outraged at the fact that she had drugged him! He'd gone to sleep as he always had, and had felt nothing amiss. Deep slumber had been so inviting and so easy to fall into, despite the fact that he'd known he should keep his guard up. Yet he'd found himself unable to care. Through the half-sleep before real darkness had overtaken him, he'd heard her leave, and something in him had been furious, battling against the fatigue to wake up. And again, he'd… not cared. True-sleep had claimed him for a short time, and perhaps it was the adrenaline, the instinctive knowledge that something wasn't right, that had fought against this lethargy. When he'd finally shaken it and awoken, the feeling of unease grew. Throwing aside the tiredness that had consumed him, he'd only been out for a short while. But even awake, his vision was blurred, his limbs heavy and his mind fuzzy. It took too long to get himself alert, to remember what was so important. Searching around the chamber, he found that indeed, the human was gone. A red haze had descended over his vision as he had realised what she'd done, and nothing had been able to calm him as he roared his rage and erupted from the mountain in a blaze of fury, smoke and fire.

    But when he had finally found the woman, he found her in the company of filthy, stinking humans. Some part of him had believed they had stolen her from him, as it was evident that she didn't want to be with them by the bruises that had suddenly appeared on her arms and face. And then she had fought against them, had come to him. Even when given the chance to escape, to run further from him, she'd stepped towards him instead. That part still dumbfounded Smaug, he hadn't believed she'd done that… Although he had to admit… he felt an odd sense of satisfaction when she did. But then his rational thinking had remembered that she had been the one to drug him, to run off, she had merely chosen him because he was there, because he would "protect" her. Well, he had shown her how untrue that had been. He'd been so angry with her that once his enemies were dealt with, he'd been more than willing to crush her for the insult of what she'd done. He'd almost meant his question rhetorically about if she could give him a reason not to kill her. Because he'd thought that none would satisfy him. But then she'd said the words:

    "I chose you."

    Smaug snarled, the sound echoing off of the walls of the chamber as if a thousand blood-thirsty dragons were all around him, crying out with him. Laid down upon his bed of treasure, Smaug growled to himself. Something odd was in his stomach. Perhaps it was the filthy human he'd accidentally swallowed. He hadn't meant to eat half of the filthy boy – revolting as he was – but he hadn't complained. But no, this didn't feel like simple indigestion. No, his stomach felt heavy, twisting as something sour plagued his being, making his lip curl, the feeling intensified when he thought about what the human had done. And then it dawned on him, was he feeling… betrayed?

    The dragon-dread snorted in disgust. Don't be ridiculous! He scolded himself. How could he feel betrayed? He had known that the human would take the first opportunity she would get to escape, he had known it all along. But, for some reason he thought of the pig and bag of vegetables he had stolen for her, the whole "meeting her half way" had been her idea, had it not? And after he had conceded to it, she had betrayed him, turned traitor and ran from him. Smaug shook his head, he was acting like a filthy mortal creature, why should he feel anything other than rage for what she had done?

    But that was in the past now, and she was back in her cage where she belonged. He would now make sure she never escaped, and he would now make her life a misery so that she would remember not to cross him again. Never before had Smaug taken a mortal into his hoard, and honestly he was considering never doing it again once this human had expired. None of them were worth the trouble. Inferior vermin - the lot of them! 

    "Smaug…" came a small voice from the cage, and Smaug opened one glowing eye to glare at her. She was sitting up next to the bars, looking at him, her face almost calm if not a little… sad. "Smaug, I know that this perhaps means nothing to you, but… I wish to apologise for what I did,"

    He growled, loud, low and menacing as he turned his head to face her. His lips quivered to exposed his fangs to her, smoke curling from his nostrils. To her credit, the human did not back down, she only looked from his mouth back to him, the only sign that she was a little uneasy.

    "I should not have drugged you. I admit it was desperate and foolish, but I was a desperate fool. I couldn't stand to be cruelly treated." She said. "Escaping was pointless, and I am sorry for running, for going against your orders. But I want to thank you… yes, thank you for saving me."

    "You're right," he said, and saw a flicker of hope enter her eyes. "Your lies mean nothing to me."

    "Smaug," she sighed, her eyes sad as she pleaded with him. "Are we to go back to the beginning? Are we to go through this dance again?"

    "No, there will be nothing. You will be in that cage until I decide to let your body die, and long after I watch your soul wither and burn," he growled. She flinched, but quickly recovered herself.

    "Smaug, please, I give you my word, I won't try to escape, I'll stay here of my own free will, I'll –"

    "I already gave in to your words once, and you turned traitor to them!" he hissed, rearing up to glare at her with one piercing glowing eye. "You have done nothing to show me that you will honour anything you say!"

    "I chose you," she murmured. Ah, and there it was again, the bane of his existence it seemed. Smaug, snarled again, snapping his jaws close to the bars of the cage threateningly.

    "Your whining is useless human, so be quiet and accept your fate!"

    Silence. Smaug turned away, roaring his anger and frustration, smashing his tail against the side of the chamber, causing a shock wave that almost collapsed part of the ceiling under its strength. With another roar Smaug unleashed his fire, belting it out onto the wall, charring it black and melting the stone beneath its heat.

    He stood there heaving, his little burst of anger complete. He suddenly didn't know what to do with himself.

    "I'm sorry…" came a small, regretful voice.

    Smaug snorted, returning to his bed of gold as he settled amongst his treasures, willing himself to go to sleep and ignore this human's pathetic attempts to satisfy him. He coiled around himself, getting comfortable as he tried to get himself to sleep. But no matter what he did, his mind would not rest. Thoughts plagued him like insects buzzing around inside his skull, not letting him be. He thought of the human, of her words. Had she meant them? Was she truly sorry? Smaug doubted it, all the while thinking about those filthy humans in the woods, knowing that she had only come to him to escape their grasp. But Smaug had smelt their scent all over her, could practically taste the aftermath of her fear, and thinking that they had done something to her, he felt his stomach boil as an uncontrollable rage filled him again. At the thought he wanted those pests alive once again so that he might punish them a second, slower, more torturous time. Despite her actions, the woman was still a part of his hoard, and Smaug never allowed anyone or anything to tarnish his treasures.

    But what if she was right? Had she chosen him? During the fight, she had had plenty of time to make her escape, running once again – although Smaug would have caught her before she could have made it a mile – but instead she chose to stay and… defend him. He snorted at the insult, as if he, the mighty Smaug, needed defending! He was worth an entire army all by himself, for none, not dwarven armies, not human heroes or elven magic had slayed him yet, and none ever would. And yet, she had known he would win the scuffle, and still fought for him. Somehow, Samug felt something uneasy as he considered the weight of that decision. She had not fought him as he had brought her back to the mountain and imprisoned her once again. There had not been any kicking or screaming. She had accepted her punishment. And then he thought of her words, of her promise to not escape, to stay of her own free will. Why would she offer such a thing? He knew it was because she desired another opportunity to run. Even when she wanted to be 'not treated so cruelly' and met half way, it was all a ruse. 

    The human was a puzzle if nothing else.

    And then, Smaug heard a beautiful, melodious voice…

"Moon and starlight guide my way,
Wash away my tears today, 
Lead me back to where I came,
Lead me to his arms again,
Till that time I'm incomplete,
Till then, in dreams we meet...
Banished come break of day,
I await the night to take the pain away.
He promised to meet upon the dawn
Till then, I'll always hold on,
With love, both bitter and sweet,
Until in dreams we meet..."

    As the song died away, Smaug was left with food for thought. Kathryn had never sung such a song before. In fact, he had never heard of such one before. It was only a fragment, she hadn't even made it past a single verse. Something had choked in her and she wouldn't continue. Though he had heard her sing many time… this felt different. Personal. A secret she had sung more to herself than to him. 

    Smaug sighed, and didn't bother trying to force himself to sleep, and allowed himself to think. He thought of everything, of the past, of his hoard, of why he had kidnapped the girl, of why he imprisoned her, of her words, meeting her half way, of what she had done, and then… of her choosing him. He thought for so long he wasn't even aware of the night coming in full bloom and passing over as the dark shadow of night yielded to the light of the morning sun. It almost shocked him that he had thought the whole night away. Looking up at the cage hanging from the ceiling, he heard the muttered curses as the human dreamed her restless dreams – not another vision but merely nightmares – Smaug knew that his mind had been made up.

    Without considering to be quiet or considerate of the ungodly hour, Smaug went to the cage and opened the door. Reaching inside, he plucked the human into his grasp and brought her out. She awoke with a start, her heart beating so wildly he could feel it through her bones on the pads of his fingers. He saw the confusion across her face as he put her down upon the gold. When his fingers unwound themselves from around her body, she made not a single move. Not a step, or a twitch of her finger. She did not try to run. They stared at one another, and Kathryn didn't move as he let his eyes fix on her, although he didn't try to put his dragon-spell upon her.

    "You would give me your word that you would stay here, of your own free will," Smaug stated, his eyes narrowing as he allowed a subtle hint of a challenge to enter his voice. "You would not leave, you would not try to escape and you would do as you're told?"

    Kathryn was not stupid, he could see it. She knew that if ever there was a time to not lie to him it was now. But she still answered straight away.

    "If you would provide me with food and protection, then yes. Yes, I will stay."

    "And I'm to just take your word for this like a fool?" he hissed, lips quivering in a growl. "How do I know that this promise will be kept?"

    "Because I have no where else to go," Kathryn murmured simply, sadly.

    They stared at each other, Smaug's eyes narrowing as he watched her, looking for any form of deceit or traitorous intent. When the silence seemed to have gone on for a while, Kathryn spoke up.

    "Truce?" she offered.

    Smaug growled a little as he looked at her. "So long as you keep your word."
Chapter 5 ~ Best Interests ~
I know this is a little late. But RL been really busy you guys. 
Anyway, I thought you might like this chapter. I'm nearly completely rewriting the 'In Dreams We Meet' song. Simply because looking back at it, I realise how absolutely awful it is :P 

Smaug and the Hobbit (c) Tolkien
Kathryn and plot (c) Me
I was tagged by :FateMagician:

Post these rules
Post 8 facts about your character(s)
Tag other people along with the characters you want them to write about (which leads to rule 4)
Post their avatars and write their character's name next to them

Warning for spoilers to my fanfictions "Heat Of Fire" "Heart Of Ashes" and "Heart Of The Inferno"

1. Kathryn was born in a little village in the province of Enedwaith, to poor and superstitious parents that abused her after she came into her Seer abilities with her first vision: Orcs battling Dwarves outside the gates of Moria. 
2. Kathryn met the great dragon Smaug of the Lonely Mountain in the year TA 2881 of the Third Age, 60 years before the events of "The Hobbit", and some time after fell in love with him.
3. She once held the position of Court Songbird for the King and Queen of Dorwinion 
4. When leaving the Lonely Mountain, Kathryn was gifted with a single scale belonging to Smaug the Magnificent. The scale helps to anchor both his magic on her and focus her own magic should she wish to summon incredible amounts of Raw Magic.
5. Despite her nightmarish visions (or perhaps BECAUSE of them) Kathryn has a keen secret interest in learning History.
6. Due to her abilities as a Seer, Kathryn has the God Irmo (god of dreams and visions) as a patron, and subsequently can travel the "Path of Dreams" if she chooses - It is why she has been targeted to potentially be able to find the Door of Night, and free Morgoth.
7. Currently, Kathryn is around 140 years old (technically) but due to dragon-meddling, she hasn't aged since she was 20
8. Kathryn's favourite food is hot apple pie ;) 

:Whispers-Gargoyle: Audrey!

:Boxjelly1: Captain Treta!
Chapter 4 – A Dangerous Game –
"No man has seen it, but all men know it. Lighter than air, sharper than any sword. Comes from nothing, but will fell the strongest armies. Of what do I speak? – Hunger"

A week passed in the mountain, and Kathryn was very much regretting her decision.

    Smaug was nothing if not a tyrant; he demanded his every wish and desire be met exactly as he wanted when he asked for it. He made sure that she knew he was the undisputed "King of the Mountain" here. The days were rather simple: in the morning Kathryn would awaken and do her best to occupy herself, mostly by exploring her new… "Living arrangement". She had known that the chamber she was in was massive, but by exploring she realised that it was absolutely enormous! If she didn't know any better, then she would say that the mountain had been hollowed out and this was the result, but despite this massive chamber she knew that there was so much more both above and below her. She had been curious to say the least: a chance to explore the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor? Who wouldn't? But she was no fool, Smaug would never let her go wandering off, it would give her too much of an opportunity to escape.

    The Dragon himself usually slept for most of the day. At first Kathryn had thought that odd, that he would trust that she wouldn't run off whilst he slept. But she was soon proven wrong: Smaug didn't trust her at all, he was simply completely confident that she wouldn't dare, and that if she did then he would stop her. His presence alone was enough to deter her. Whilst he was physically there she would never be so stupid as to even try.

    When he did awaken however, Kathryn was almost shocked senseless to see him leave! She had at first thought it was some sick, twisted sense of humour: that he would go to see what she would do once he left her alone. Perhaps that was true the first time, and Kathryn hadn't moved from her spot in case it was. He had only been gone an hour, perhaps less, when she heard his thunderous wing-beats somewhere close by – perhaps at the front gates where he could easily come in and out. Not five minutes later he was back in the central chamber of the hoard with her, his jaw set slightly ajar, and Kathryn had wondered suspiciously what on middle earth he was doing. One more settled down onto his precious gold, he'd opened his mouth to reveal a plump deer. Huge holes punctured its sides where his teeth had almost torn it apart with one bite. It was barely more than a mouthful for him, but he had picked and chewed at the meat regardless. Kathryn shivered and cringed when she heard the bones grating painfully and then snapping like twigs under his strength. She had looked back to see Smaug's eyes glitter maliciously at her. He'd caught her watching, had seen her reaction, and therefore did it on purpose, enjoying the uneasiness he placed upon her. Once he was done, he had then tossed her the scraps.

    Absolutely disgusted, shocked and confused all at the same time, Kathryn was frozen, unable to function as she tried to wrap her head around this. Smaug had only given her a few rib splinters with meat still clinging to them; the heat of his breath alone had been enough to cook the meat to an acceptable degree.

    That's when Kathryn understood: he'd hunted that day not to satisfy his hunger – for surely he would need something substantially larger to fill him – but to provide for her. He could perhaps go weeks without eating, months probably. Kathryn didn't have such a luxury. So this was him making sure the latest addition to his hoard was well enough to be of use to him. He had eaten first – the alpha male demanding that he take the spoils and she was left with the scraps.

    She'd eaten gratefully, mumbling a little thanks, though the dragon gave no indication that he had heard her. He simply cleaned his scales of blood and filth, checking from every angle to make sure that they were perfectly clean. And then cleaned the gold around him of blood so that it shone brightly. The meat didn't fill her, but it was enough to keep the bite of hunger away. After Smaug finished, he would demand that she sing to him, and she would comply, as was their agreement. After all, he had said so himself, her voice was the only reason she was still alive, so if she wanted to survive then she had to sing. She tried to sing a different song every time, hoping that he wouldn't easily get bored with her. When she finished a song he would then sleep, snores echoing around the massive chamber like the roar of the sea. He wouldn't wake again until the next day when the cycle would begin again; unless Kathryn disturbed him.

    That was only done once, on the first night. Realising as the night drew in, that she would need to sleep eventually, she calmed herself to try and go through her usual nightly routine. Although in her current circumstances… she would have to improvise. She'd gone to one of the massive columns that helped to hold up the ceiling, and found heavy chains that once held up old chandeliers long out of use and other cages like the one she had been held in. Her time on the road had made her nothing if not inventive. Taking a hold of her sleeves, she tugged on them as hard as she could, gritting her teeth until she felt the seams tear at the shoulder. She'd done the same with the other arm, and as she used to do, she tied the rags securely to the chains, tugging on them to test and make sure that they wouldn't come undone or tear apart. She then made a noose in each; this would secure her hands, but she'd have to make do with her feet being free. But as for her mouth, she picked up the hem of her ugly travelling dress and tore at the bottom - the wear and tear of the last two days was enough to make it easy to break apart. She then gagged herself, once again not too intrusive to make her uncomfortable, but enough to silence her. She then put her back against the column and put her hands through the nooses, pulling on them until they were tight.

    The sounds of tearing clothes had alerted Smaug, making him open one glowing eye to regard her with disdain as he watched. When she got into the familiar bonds, she felt the familiar fear spike through her body as adrenaline was dumped into her bloodstream, the feeling of entrapment making her panic. Smaug could smell her fear, but not of him, and it interested him as he watched her pathetic little show as she settled herself in her home-made shackles. Feeling his gaze upon her, she'd looked over to see him staring at her, watching suspiciously and with bewilderment as if to say "what in the world are you doing?" She'd ignored him, trying to get herself comfortable as she readied herself for sleep.

    But she never did get much sleep, only short fits and spurts. Her nerves were constantly on edge, the last vision that had assaulted her had completely shaken her up. That vision was more metaphorical, it unnerved her that she not only had to watch out for the visions of the past, present and future, but now also the symbolic? She still couldn't figure out what that vision meant, and she didn't want to dwell on it in case she was brought back to it. Not only did she desperately not want another vision, but she was never comfortable, the stonework of the column was hardly good for sleeping, and she constantly had to wake up in order to shift again.

    Her lack of sleep may also have had something to do with the gigantic, deadly, fire-breathing DRAGON sleeping somewhere not far off. His snoring was a constant reminder of his presence, the heat of him, and the stink of his breath kept him constantly on her mind. One might expect a giant lizard to stretch out when he slept as if basking in the sun, or curl up on his treasures like a cat. Instead, Smaug liked to bathe himself in his gold, burrowing into the deep dunes of coins and jewels until he was almost completely submerged - only the spines along his back sticking out like dorsal fins. A part of her dared not sleep just in case he should decide to have a midnight snack at some point – even when she knew he wanted her alive for his own reasons. Not that she could do anything to stop him if he tried.

    And then she would awaken the next day and the cycle would begin again.

    But the lack of decent food, water, sleep and the ever present danger was wearing down on her stability. And soon it came down to two options: either her body would break, or her mind would.

    On the third day, Kathryn had been driven almost to the point of insanity by thirst. Though the Dragon-dread provided her with enough food to keep her sustained, it would seem he had overlooked a mortal's most precious need of hydration. She hated the sight of the beautiful gold coins, precious jewels and other treasures gathered around her, for there was nothing among them that could keep off her hunger, her thirst, her fatigue and her loneliness.

    But then she heard a sound, a sound that she at first almost attributed to her slow decent into madness. Yet still it persisted. It was the constant tap, tap, tap of water.

    Kathryn felt her mouth salivate and the thirst in the back of her throat made her voice feel like sandpaper. It was raining outside, and the water had travelled down through the wreckage of the fortress and was gathering somewhere close by… water! She was no longer able to think clear, coherent thoughts, the only thing that she knew was that there was water and she had to reach it!

    Stumbling and tripping over her own feet, she walked across the dunes of gold and treasure that shifted slightly like sand under her weight, but held enough for her to walk. She was half falling, half running for the back of the chamber. It seemed to take forever until she finally saw a set of huge stairs that led to massive double doors, the once-grand entrance to the treasure-room. She could see the water dripping into a puddle just outside the door, sliding off of broken timber, debris and even the formation of the rocks. Trickling in a zig-zag formation, it came slowly down until it collected in a puddle just beyond the threshold. Without a care, Kathryn hurried towards it, joy in her heart at –

    With an almighty "BOOM", a huge reptilian tail smashed down onto the paving stones two feet in front of her. The force was so great it actually cracked the thick stone of the stairs. Kathryn shrieked and skidded to stop before she could hit the monstrous appendage, tripping over herself and falling to the floor heavily as she tried to scoot away from her assailant.

    A crushing force clamped around her body, gigantic talons wrapped around her middle and lifted her into the air. Kathryn screamed as the ground left her, and she was tossed carelessly back into the room. She bounced on the gold, the pain searing her side as she rolled to a stop. Gasping for air from her winded lungs, she felt the room shake when Smaug walked to stand over her, his eyes blazing with cold anger.

    Desperation and fear made her reckless. Kathryn slowly got to her feet, breathing heavily through the dull ache of the pain down the right side of her body. "Why did you do that?!" 

    "You will not leave!" he growled at her, before turning away dismissively.

    Watching him in confusion, Kathryn shook her head, not in the mood to try and understand her captor now. She walked past him, going back towards the stairs –

    With a roar of fury Smaug spun around, moving his head to directly intercept her path, so that she came face to face with his mouth, lips peeled back to growl viciously. Long teeth glinted in the small light, only a foot away from her face. Smoke emanated from nostrils threateningly. Kathryn froze, her eyes flashing to Smaug and then back to his maw in front of her. Her heartbeat hammered in her chest as she beheld what could very possibly be her death.

    "Do you think me a fool?!" Smaug snarled. "You dare?!"

    "I w-wasn't, I was just –" Kathryn stammered, but was cut off by Smaug's furious roar.

    "I am KING UNDER THE MOUNTAIN!" he seethed. "I commanded that you were not to leave! I am the only –"

    "I wasn't trying to leave!"

    They both stood there in silence. Smaug narrowed his eyes at the human woman before him, his growl deepening, as if he were daring her to lie to him now. When the tense silence began to weigh on Kathryn like a physical presence, she decided to speak.

    "I-I was only getting the water," she stammered, the mention of it making her mouth go dry.

    Smaug snorted disdainfully, his lip curling as he looked down his nose on her.

    "Please," she pleaded in a whisper. "I can't continue like this,"

    "I beg to differ," Smaug snipped haughtily.

    "Oh I have no doubt that you could work whatever powers you have to make my body live," she said, her heartbeat drumming loudly in her ears, every instinct screaming at her to just stop talking! What was she thinking?! But she ignored it, and continued on perilously, if only to at least try and get her point across. "But you need to meet me half way with this –"

    "Do not presume to command me, Human," he spat the last word as if it were a disgusting taste in his mouth. "I do not need to do anything,"

    "No but… just please," Kathryn begged. "If I carry on like this, then yes you may make my body live, but my soul and my sanity will die!"

    Smaug snorted. "And why should that matter to me?"

    Kathryn was rendered speechless, surely if there was any empathy in him he would have –

    She stopped herself there. Of course there was no empathy in him. Why would there be? He was only concerned with what directly affected him.

    "You wanted me here to sing didn't you?" Kathryn heard herself say. She was confused by her own words, not because they were wrong, but because… they made sense. When she sang, she put her soul and emotion into her voice, without one she would simply… not be what Smaug wanted!

    She saw him process the same information. She saw the gears turning in his brilliantly cunning mind, and saw him reach the same conclusion as she had. Not even Smaug had the power to keep one's soul and sanity whole – although she would never directly challenge his power like that to his face.

    Smaug sighed suddenly with exasperation, and tentatively, as if this were some signal, Kathryn took a step forward. When Smaug did nothing, she took another. And then she was off, walking briskly back towards the doors, stepping over the large cracks in the stairs. Constantly was she aware of Smaug's eyes burning into her back as he watched her go, testing her, to see if she would run, and then his fury would be bearing down upon her. Kathryn reached the puddle of water, and fell to her knees in front of it. Eagerly, she cupped the water in her hands and brought it to her face to slurped it.

    Oh sweet joy! She thought as the cool liquid trickled down her throat. Thank the Valar!

    But cupping the water was even proving to be too time consuming, and she ended up bent down and putting her face in the puddle to slurp and gulp the water down. She heard Smaug snort with disgust but she didn't care, in that moment she had never tasted water as good as that in all her life.

    Something was digging into her leg in a most uncomfortable way, and frowning, she reached into the pocket of her ruined dress and felt something round. Confused, she pulled out her hand slowly, shifting her body so that Smaug couldn't see and it looked like she was merely getting into a better position. She stared down at the objects in her hand.

    The poultices.

    She remembered: the herbs that would knock her unconscious in the blink of an eye and allow her to have a dreamless, deep sleep. She had put them in her pocket the morning before she had been taken by Smaug.

    Deftly, she put the poultices back in her pocket. If Smaug hadn't found them yet, he wouldn't notice them now. Her heart began to race, and a small flicker of hope dawned in her chest.

                                                                                          ~~ *** ~~

The human was proving to be difficult.

    Smaug could swear that he had never had his patience tested to such an extent as during those first seven days. It was as if she was trying to push him, to make him so angry that he would kill her in a vicious rage. And considering her behaviour when she had been in that cage, he wouldn't put it past her. The woman confused him: one moment she acted terrified of him as she should, other times she acted as if he were her equal – the audacity!

    After the third day when Smaug had mistook her going for water as an escape attempt – he still wasn't completely sure she was telling the truth about that – they had fallen into an almost numb routine. The human would merely keep to herself, she wouldn't bother him – or at least try to – yet her persistent shuffling did not cease to grow on his frustration. Keeping a human in his lair went against everything Smaug had ever thought, and he had to keep reminding himself that she was here for his entertainment, she was a part of the hoard now; or else he would have killed her merely out of principle. Smaug himself mainly slept, though he was always half awake, always watching, listening, even when she thought he wasn't. He hunted her even when she thought she was safe. The moment she would try to escape, he would pounce.

    The only times that they ever directly interacted with one another was when Smaug brought back food and gave her the scraps – he had conceded to the fact that he would have to provide some sort of nourishment for her as her pathetic mortal body would waste away before he would even feel a pinch of hunger. The other time was when she sang for him after the meals, this was the only time when Smaug forgot that she was an annoying, pathetic, insignificant little human. In those moments, all he knew was that beautiful voice… and that it was his.

    But since that third day with the water, Smaug couldn't get her words out of his head:

    "You need to meet me half way with this… If I carry on like this, then yes, you may make my body live, but my soul and my sanity will die… You wanted me here to sing didn't you?"

    He hated the fact that she was right, that without her precious "soul" she would cease to be of use to him, he might as well have not bothered with her. And always Smaug came back to the thought: he always took exceptional care of his precious gold, keeping his hoard in brilliant condition so that it was the envy of all those of Middle-Earth. So if she was part of the hoard, then what about her? He growled to himself, his frustration boiling within him until he felt the need to blast something with his fire until it was nothing but ash in front of him.

    He cast his gaze over to said human as she knelt by the scraps of his daily catch, picking at the meat between the bones he had left her. Her cheeks had become hollow, her body seemed thinner, her ruby red curly hair was dirty and scraggly, her eyes were sunken and dark. Smaug had to admit that she was in poorer health, malnutrition getting the better of her. He could faintly hear her breathing: it was a little more irregular than usual, and she was trying to keep herself quiet so that her silent weeping would not make him alert enough to hear. But even if he couldn't hear her quiet sobs, he could smell the salt of her tears that washed down her cheeks.

    "Cease your whining," he growled, making her jump – that would never stop to be amusing – before she stilled her body and looked down at the floor. Smaug settled himself on his bed of treasure as he always did every evening. "Now sing," he commanded.

    He heard her shaky breath as she prepared herself. When she hesitated a second too long, Smaug opened an eye to glare at her again, watching in case she were about to defy him like before. But just as he was about to snap at her, she began to sing.

"Lay down...
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling...
You've come to journey's end
Sleep now...
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling...
From across the distant shore.
Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping.

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass...

Hope fades...
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say: "We have come now to the end"
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again
And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping...

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West..."

Smaug did not know the song, he didn't particularly care for it, but the way this human sang it did interest him. Her voice was as beautiful as always, but he heard the longing in her as she sang, the sadness, the yearning, the plea. The song was meant to be almost a lullaby, Smaug thought from the lyrics, but she sang it almost like a reassurance to herself, a prayer.

    As if she were dying.

    Smaug shook his head with snort, his frustration returning anew.

    Half way… he thought.

                                                                                          ~~ *** ~~

The next day, Kathryn sat there, staring blankly at a wall, lost in thought. She thought of times long past, her past, the world's past; of the choices she'd made, and she wondered, could she have done anything differently in order to avoid where she would end up, here in this prison, slowly dying of misery? She found it odd that she had not had a vision in order to warn her of this moment. But then, she never had visions of herself, the only time she did was that stupid symbolic one she had when she had first been brought here to the Lonely Mountain.

    Her thoughts were interrupted as she heard Smaug returning from his daily hunt. She only looked over fleetingly to see him come back into the chamber. She turned away, her mind already closing off as she prepared for the day's usual routine.

    But unlike any normal day, Smaug did not settle down to eat first. Instead he threw the contents in his mouth to Kathryn. She practically jumped as she felt the heavy thud of a carcass hit the ground beside her. The coins around her rattled at the impact. She looked down to see a pig half cooked by Smaug's hot breath, and beside it was a sack filled with a few vegetables and herbs. Obviously stolen but…

    "What's this?" Kathryn heard her voice croak as she looked up at Smaug, wide eyed, her mind unable to comprehend what he was doing. Was this another trick? A jest?

    "Meeting you 'Half Way'," the dragon grumbled before lowering himself to the ground and resting his head on the piles of gold, his eyes shutting although she knew he was still awake.

    Kathryn stared from the dragon to the offering before her, blinking stupidly as she realised that her words had sunk in. Diving into the bag, Kathryn pulled out tomatoes and onions and corn! Biting into them, ignoring the bitter taste, she just enjoyed the way her body felt almost revived at the sweet nutrients that she greedily swallowed. She found a knife in the sack, and immediately set to work cutting off the meat on one of the back legs of the pig. She ate it gratefully, enjoying the tender meat, the sweet juices. She ate until her stomach was full. By the Valar! No more having to eat scraps, to have a proper meal – sort of.

    Noticing when she was finished, Smaug reached forward, his long snake like neck uncoiling and stretching out as he went to pluck the carcass up –


    Smaug growled, his eyes becoming sharp on her. Kathryn held up a hand quickly to yield. She slowly reached forward into the bag and took out several herbs and spices, her hands moving slowly as she craftily picked up the poultices from her pocket as well. She sprinkled rosemary onto the skin of the pig, and with her knife quickly made a small hole in the belly as she stuffed sage and thyme into it, discreetly putting the poultices in as she went. She struggled to keep her heartbeat and breathing under control; her nerves began to get the better of her. If this plan didn't pay off… then not even the direct intervention of all the Valar would save her.

    The task done, she leaned back when she'd finished, and prayed this would work. Smaug looked from her to the pig carcass suspiciously. He raised a scaly eye-ridge at her, eyes narrowed.

    "Meeting you half way," she murmured.

    The dragon blinked, not expecting that answer. But he reached forward and grabbed the carcass between his teeth, lifting it into the air and swallowed it whole, meat, bones, skin, hooves and all. He almost purred appreciatively as the herbs flavoured the meat for him.

    Sitting there holding her breath with anticipation, Kathryn watched Smaug as he settled down onto the gold. Just like any other evening, he commanded her to sing for him as he got comfortable. Kathryn sang, but her mind was only half focused as she watched the dragon. She knew that those poultices would have knocked her unconscious for half a day if she got even a sprinkle in her tea. To have one whole would surely overdose and kill her! Not even the whole things would put a dragon like Smaug out to the same effect, but as she watched, his eyes grew heavy and he relaxed to her song as if the poultices were helping him into a deep sleep.

    By the time the song had ended, Smaug was snoring loudly. Not daring to believe her luck, Kathryn took a small step forward, the gold grating together ever so slightly under her weight. She froze, and looked to Smaug who hadn't even stirred at the sound. Usually his eyes would have snapped open and he would have been glaring at her. Yet now... nothing. A small smile spread across her features as she began to walk away, she knew that those poultices wouldn't hold him asleep for long, she would have a very small window to make this worthwhile.

    She ran.
Chapter 4 ~ A Dangerous Game
Preview: Kathryn experiences life as Smaug's prisoner, and though she attempts to make him more sympathetic to her plight for basic food and hydration, she anxiously plots her own escape...

Hope you guys enjoy this! I won't be updating these chapters over the weekend, as it is my mum's birthday and we're all going away to celebrate! Please give me your comments though - I love them! 

Hobbit and all things in it belong to (c) J.R.R. Tolkien
Kathryn and any AU-ness belong to (c) ME
Chapter 3 – An Unlikely Arrangement
"She wields the broken sword, and separates true kings from tyrants. Of what do I speak? Mercy"

Kathryn slowly came to as the light behind her eyelids vanished for a moment, replaced by darkness. She could hear a thunderous, rhythmic beat, like that of wings, and she could feel air whip her hair abound her face. A squeezing presence encased her body, pinning her arms against her sides, making it slightly difficult to breathe. She tried to move, tried to push against her confines, her eyes still closed as her mind still stayed in the land of slumber. As if in response to her protests, the pressure around her constricted slightly, like the coils of a snake tightening its grip on its victim.

    Panic made her heart flutter. She wanted to snap herself awake, to jump up, shake off the dream, but her head was pounding with pain. Her hair twisted and knotted around some sticky substance at the back of her skull.

    There was a cacophony of sound as something crashed, like a shockwave going out. The thing that held Kathryn gave slightly to take the force of the blow, jarring her and making her bones rattle. That, if not anything else, awoke her fully.

    She opened her eyes and was assaulted by a golden glow, at first she couldn't make sense of anything, just yellow light all around her, overcast by a deep shadow in which she was in. But –

    Suddenly she was moving, a pounding all around her, making the golden mass ripple from the force of each strike. Kathryn was jostled about and her teeth rattled. With a glance down, the woman realised how high up she was. She prayed that whatever was holding her would keep a tight grip. Though confused, she knew one thing for certain: she certainly didn't fancy her chances of coming away whole should she fall from some twenty feet in the air! There was a deep, pulsating growl which shook the very air around her. Frightened, Kathryn looked up to see what had made the noise –

    She only got to see a blur of red and black and gold as with a lurch, she was lifted up and tossed carelessly. For a horrifying moment, she felt nothing but the pull of gravity around her body. Before she could open her mouth to let out a startled scream, metal clanged beneath her body. Pain winded her, her left ribs blooming with a familiar burn she knew to be a bruise now about to form. Hair pushed out of her face, she tried to gain her bearings. She sat in a giant bird cage, dark metal iron bars on all sides. It hung from a heavy thick chain that disappeared to somewhere up in the high ceiling, so far away it was obscured in shadows.

    Kathryn hissed, the metal cold, hard, and unyielding to her soft flesh. Scrambling to her knees, Kathryn gripped the bars and stared out beyond her prison…

    … And stared in wonder…

    She was in a huge cavernous chamber, perhaps several hundred feet high, so high that it was too dark for her to see the very top. So long and massive was this cave, Kathryn could not even see the further edges, like it stretched on for miles. Yet the wall closest to her was mostly circular, although it had many different odd angles that cut jagged edges from the rock face. To hold up the far off ceiling in this huge cathedral of a room, were massive stone pillars, possibly carved from some form of granite, if their greenish tinge was any indication. From her estimate, they must've been at least ten feet thick, and each one sculpted into the eroded faces of bearded men. But that was not what took her breath away: the chamber floor was flooded with gold. There were mountains of it, so much that she couldn't see the actual floor, piles and piles like the dunes of a desert. A glow seemed to emit from the vast treasure below, giving the chamber a warm light enough to just barely illuminate the vast cavern. Kathryn was utterly bewildered by what she saw, her mouth open in a state of awe: amongst the gold were precious gems of diamond, emerald, ruby and sapphire; fantastic shining suites of armour stood proudly, glittering without a single dent or scratch, tapestries sewn with every colour known to man, and everything and anything else that glittered and sparkled. It all adorned the vast hoard, the likes of which went beyond any mortal's wildest imaginings. 

    It quite literally took her breath away.

    A blur of darkness passed her, and suddenly, Kathryn was met with a huge glowing eye right in front of her face. She shrieked and scooted back until her spine was pressed into the bars of the cage behind her. She stared in wide eyed horror at the gigantic reptilian head that leaned back on a long neck so that it could peer at her with cold slit-pupil eyes. A great dragon was poised before her, its scales the crimson red of blood, its underbelly as gold as the treasure around it.

    Slowly, the memories filtered back through into Kathryn's mind: the ruined city, the dragon attack, hiding in the temple, and then the dragon breaking apart the city as it hunted her. That meant... she must be inside of Erebor! This vast treasure before was the lost gold of King Thror and the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain! But then that meant that her captor was Sm–

    Kathryn inhaled sharply as her sight suddenly blackened. Searing pain struck across her skull. She saw flashing images of – hungry eyes, – of black talons and blood red scales, – of a heavy chain –

    Just as quickly as it came on, the vision faded, and Kathryn was back in her body, her brain aching and throbbing from the force of the vision. It didn't seem to be that any time had passed, and thankfully the dragon hadn't noticed her moment of weakness. This puzzled her, her visions were never that short, flashing images such as that could take several minutes in realty. But this had lasted only a few milliseconds.

    The dragon studied her, its burning eyes piercing into her soul.

    Oh Valar… she thought with a sickening lurch on her heart, this is where I die…

    "So," the dragon spoke, its voice deep and powerful like the thunder, but he articulated his words almost perfectly. The growl in the back of his throat added ferocity, even as his teeth snapped together as he spoke. "The Songbird has finally awoken,"

    Kathryn felt herself quake at the sound of that enormous voice. Her knees trembled and she pushed herself harder into the bars of the cage, as if she could melt away from the creature's sight. As quick as her panicked mind would allow, she tried to recall every superstition, rumour, and bit of knowledge she had ever heard about dragons.

    Do not look completely in their eyes - you could fall underneath the dragonspell and be at their mercy. Don't give them your name - it gives them power over you and those you love. They are extremely intelligent, able to outwit any opponent, but they love solving puzzles, which was why they loved deciphering riddles - for when they solved them it gave their ego a boost like none other. This meant they were ultimately vain creatures, who enjoyed the play to their ego. And most of all, dragons covert gold with a dark and fierce desire, and will guard their hoard with a deadly ferocity for as long as they live.

    Kathryn didn't know if any of these were true or if they were superstitious nonsense, but at that moment it was all she had to go on. But this was Smaug the Magnificent, Smaug the terrible, Smaug the Golden, Smaug the Mighty. One of the greatest dragons of the age, and Kathryn had a feeling that he would not be categorised as simply as that.

    There was a long silence as they both stared at each other. Smaug studied the creature before him and Kathryn, unable to break the silence, almost choked on the growing emotion weighing heavy in her throat like a scrunched up rag.

    "You are human, female," the dragon said, that voice booming around her, sending tremors down her spine. "But you are new, I have never smelled you before..." the way he looked at her, as if she were a hunk of meat left in the sun for him to feast upon, it made her heart falter with terror.

    "F-f-forgive me, oh mighty Smaug," Kathryn said, her words stumbling as she tried to control her chattering teeth. "I did not mean to trespass upon your territory, I meant no offence to your almighty glory,"

    "You have nice manners for one so stupid as to come so close to my lair," the dragon's lips distorted as he formed the words, and Kathryn found herself staring at his teeth. He narrowed his gaze, trying to get her to look into his hypnotic fiery eyes to come under his spell. "You know my name but I am not acquainted with yours,"

    "I-I have none," Kathryn mumbled.

    "Liar." Smaug hissed, he could practically smell her deceit from the spike in her scent, and he could hear the flutter of her heart. He growled menacingly at her, his breath hot and fuming with his anger. Kathryn jumped out of her skin, her hands shaking as she tried to think of something to say, but her mind went blank, this creature inspiring such awe-inducing-terror in her soul.

    "No - please!" she stammered. "Please forgive me! What I meant... was that none have called me by the name of my birth for so long it has faded from the minds of others," she hoped that would be truthful enough to satisfy him, but vague enough to not give herself away.
Smaug watched her, his eyes narrowing as he tried to detect if she were lying to him again, but could not sense it about her. Instead he focused his glowing eyes back onto her, still trying to make her catch his eye though she kept on dodging his direct gaze by respectfully looking at his shoulder or at his mouth. Oh, what a wonderful game this was turning out to be…

    "You do realise that anyone else who has even come half as close as you were to my mountain, were punished greatly for the crime," he allowed his voice to dip back into the growl, revelling in the way her body shook with the vibrations.

    "Oh Smaug the Magnificent," Kathryn whispered reverently, doing her best to play to his ego as she knelt before him, although still as far away from him as the cage would allow her. "Please, I know that my mortal life is nothing compared to your superiority, ask me any payment to how I have wronged you so, and you shall have it,"

    "You will sing," the dragon commanded, leaning back to look at her with lazy smile.

    "What?!" she squawked, unable to control herself. As the dragons eyes bulged in outrage at her protest, she quickly hurried to cover her mistake. "F-Forgive me, oh great Smaug. You merely surprise me by asking such a trivial task of me, surely I am… unworthy? This voice cannot compare to that of a dragon such as yourself,"

    The dragon snorted dismissively, but seemed to be soothed by her flattery. "You words are meaningless," Smaug said. "If I wanted to sing to myself, then you would not be alive – your voice is the only reason you are breathing," his eyes practically glinted as he watched her shiver with fright.

    "Surely you can't mean –"

    "As you can see, I am a… collector of all things precious and surround myself with nothing but the best," he smirked as he gestured to his vast hoard with a sweep of his long tail. "To have the greatest voice in Middle-Earth, one that shall be mine alone until the end of days…"

    "N-no," Kathryn mumbled, almost too low for him to hear, all the blood suddenly draining from her face as Smaug told her of her fate: to be trapped in this pit for eternity. The terror that seized her being was enough to make her reckless and stupid. "No! you can't –"

    "I can't?! I am SMAUG!" the dragon roared suddenly, so loud that Kathryn was knocked back and covered her ears as the sound assaulted her hearing. Smaug sneered down at her, his eyes alight with blazing glory. "I kill where I wish, and NONE may stand against me. And now," the dragon added with a sneer as he leaned closer to the bars. "You belong to me!"

    Kathryn lay there, huddled on the floor of her cage, unable to breathe as she watched the monstrous head leering above her, pinning her to the floor with his gaze.

    "You exist because I allow it, and you will sing because I demand it," Smaug then came even closer, until his scaly cheek was almost touching the bars of the cage as one eye peered down at her. "Test my patience human and I will alter that fact,"

    Kathryn stared into nothing, tears stung her eyes, and her lips trembled… Her life, her freedom, even her identity, it had all been smashed away by this… this…

    Taking advantage of her shocked stupor, Smaug positioned his head so that she had nowhere to look but his eyes. Instantly she felt her will completely leave her. Spine stiffened, her muscles tensed and aquiver. She could feel something inside her being twisted in an almost painful way. Her soul bent, and her mind completely overtaken by the force of the dragonspell, subjecting her to the dragon's whims.

    "Now," Smaug purred as his victory was almost assured. "Tell me your name…"

    "Kathryn," she murmured in a voice that sounded hollow and devoid of any life at all.

    "Kathryn…" the dragon smirked as he chewed the word over in his mouth, as if he were savouring the taste of his dominion over her. Suddenly he turned away, and Kathryn could no longer see him, ending the effects of the dragonspell upon her mind. Left to crumble to the floor of her cage, Kathryn curled up into a ball and wept silently.

                                                                                           ~~ *** ~~

A day passed and Kathryn remained in her cage suspended from the ceiling, hung above the hoard and the dragon below. In that whole time Kathryn simply stared at the floor of her prison, her breathing slow and deep. She wanted to break, she wanted to tear herself apart, to cast away her sanity so that she would no longer be in a state of mind to care about herself or anything else.

    Smaug merely slept, burrowing himself deep into his hoard. His growling breath almost turning into a satisfied purr as he allowed the gold and jewels to cascade over him, almost concealing his massive bulk from view. He left Kathryn alone for the whole night after their little "introduction", and surprisingly slept through the whole of the next day. Kathryn didn't move, didn't make a noise, she just sat and watched. Last night she had thankfully been too exhausted to dream. After she'd sobbed and wept her heart out as quietly as she could, she'd simply fallen unconscious from the stresses of the day. But she didn't know how she would survive if she had to face her visions here, when she needed to be on alert for as long as possible. She could already feel the throbbing in her skull, much like the headache she had had in the city, the only precursor to the vision. Where that had taken days to gather momentum for just those few flickering images, this one was only taking hours, quickly gaining speed, and Kathryn was oddly frightened about what would happen when it did come.

    Her stomach gave a loud rumble but she ignored it. Her body clock told her that it was coming up for sunset, she'd gone a full day in this blasted cage, and already she was sick of it. How long had she run from this very situation? The one time she'd grown careless, had let her guard down for just a second, her worst fears had come true. Trapped, imprisoned, forced to stew in her own madness. What arrogance had overcome her to think she could live in Dale without the dragon noticing? She heard a sudden break in the soft snoring below her, as Smaug began to stir from his slumber. Quickly turning away to the floor so that the dragon couldn't make her look in his eyes, her heart fluttered briefly with fear and then… oddly calmed.

    Smaug lifted his gigantic head, a confident sneer on his face as he leaned in to look at his prisoner.

    "Sing," he commanded, his voice so loud at such a deep frequency it made the bars of the cage rattle. Kathryn closed her eyes, feeling her shoulders shudder slightly with the threat of tears from the reminder of the paralysing fear inside of her. But she managed to breathe just enough, closing her eyes for good measure so that she could not look at him.

    "No," she murmured.

    Smaug blinked, stunned for the briefest moment that someone had dared to defy him so openly. And then a rage came over him, he growled, lips peeled back over his teeth, smoke curling from his nostrils threateningly.

    But Kathryn felt oddly calm. She had once promised herself that she would never again be imprisoned for her curse, she'd suffered enough of it at her parents hands, she wouldn't be put through that misery again. And yet, here she was. And to know that it was either this or death, to know that she would die anyway… somehow that felt oddly freeing. If this was her only chance to escape the monster, to escape her pitiful existence... then so be it.

    "No," she said again, still not even lifting her head to acknowledge he was right there in front of her.

    "You will do as I command!" Smaug snarled, his eyes practically glowing like molten fire with rage.

    "How can a bird that is born to fly sit in a cage and sing?" Kathryn remarked dryly. Smaug hissed and snapped his jaws together just a hair's breadth from the bars of the cage. Kathryn couldn't help but tremble as she felt his breath roll over.

    "The bird will sing because I will break her legs if she doesn't – she does not need to walk to sing!"

    "Then kill me," she spat.

    Smaug snarled savagely at her, but then stopped. Kathryn peeked out from between the strands of her red curly hair, to see that Smaug was simply staring intently at her, as if he could force her to obey him with the sheer power of his gaze alone.

    "Kathryn," his voice was so deep, it was more like the rumble of thunder over the hills. Kathryn felt her spine shiver, her body going stiff as the dragon worked his magic over her name. "Sing..."

    Kathryn's mind protested for a moment, she couldn't give in, she wouldn't have her freewill taken from her, she wouldn't! And yet she had no choice, the dragon's magic worked over her with a mere memory of the dragonspell in her mind. It pulled on her strings like an expert puppeteer with her unable to contradict the direction. But she wouldn't let him have the satisfaction of ruling over her, and an idea came to her head…

"You granted me creation. You gave me tools of destruction.
The choice, the path lies there behind you. Please let me by.
You knew we'd turn almost anywhere, now you let me kneel beside you.
We released our minds, we laughed at time.
Let's not stop now, our emotions are running high – "

    She sang the words, barely going along with the tune, but it wasn't the same. No emotion was allowed into the song, she denied her heart, she refused to let her soul soar with her voice. It was difficult, to deny something that had been such an intricate part of her since her childhood. To her own ears it sounded awful, merely her singing the words mechanically. There was no life.

    The first verse had only barely left her lips when Smaug roared in rage. He knew what she was doing, and she felt the heat of his furious stare upon her, she almost felt it burn her! He smacked his snout against the cage, making it shake and swing. Kathryn was thrown to the iron floor at the violent act, could feel the vibrations in the metal around her like a gong. She pushed herself up, leaping at the bars of her cage, her eyes stinging with tears, her teeth bared as she wished she would rile him up just enough. Mandos, lord of the dead, she wished, please may it be enough – let him kill me!

    "Go ahead!" she screeched.

    Smaug watched her, his eyes glaring at her, his lips quivering as he struggled to remain in control of himself. He wanted to hear her pathetically plead for his mercy. As soon as this little insubordination was over he would remind her why he was King under the Mountain and she would beg for his forgiveness!

    "Kill me!" she hissed at him, "You're not – ARGH!"

    Suddenly the woman screamed, falling back away from the bars landing heavily on the floor. Her hands clawed at her head, pulling a few strands of hair from her scalp as she writhed in agony. Needless to say Smaug was a little taken aback by the quick change in events. He watched with curiosity as she thrashed on the floor, her sides heaving as she hissed out every breath, smashing her hands down upon the floor of the cage, the bones grinding together from the impact. She pushed them down away from her face so that they wouldn't hurt her. Tortured screams of agony exploded from her throat, back arched into the air as her body contorted.

    Then she no longer screamed, she froze, her body as rigid as a bow-string. Smaug saw her muscles tremble to keep her suspended, but he saw her face… Her head kept twitching into a different angle, though her eyes were constantly on the same spot. Her eyes, they were now merely orbs of violet, practically glowing as power coursed through her. Smaug could nearly smell it pour off of her in waves. Her lips kept moving, racing over words that she barely managed to say, her voice no more than a whisper. But he heard her. His eyes slowly widened as he recognised the language with which she spoke. It was an ancient tongue, far older than the many speeches of men or elves. It hailed from the ancient days, days that only creatures of magic knew. The language of magic itself. Only a select few knew such a tongue now, those that were infused with the power; mainly dragons, spirits, perhaps even the creator of the Rings, the only other thing that could speak such was…

    … A Seer…
    At the realisation, Smaug couldn't help but grin. By the void… he couldn't possibly be so lucky. What were the chances that the one human life that he allowed to live and possessed was a seer? The practise was all but gone, those born with the gift were extremely rare indeed. This was extremely fortunate, with a seer Smaug could see into the future, he could know how and when his enemies would come – if they ever had the backbone – he would become almost invincible!

    So he waited patiently as he watched the human. Her mind scrambled through the vision, completely unaware of the new plans the dragon had in store for her. The smirk on his face widened, a rumbled of satisfaction echoing out from his chest.

    Despite just asking for her death, the human had just increased her chances of survival…

                                                                                          ~~ *** ~~

Kathryn's mind whirled as she was assaulted on all fronts. Her head felt like someone had cracked open her skull. Whispers surrounded her in a hurricane, images flashed before her eyes so fast it made her eyes ache. It was like she was falling through space and time, different pieces of history zooming past her, not their time yet to reveal themselves to her. Fragments made her dizzy, but something inside her knew they were not what she was looking for; as if she were flipping through the pages of a book until she landed hard in the right place.

    A cold floor pressed against her cheek, her breathing coming hard and fast as she tried to make sense of her world. Her mind physically ached from the battering it had taken. Half of her knew it was a vision whilst another part accepted it as truth, the two realities clashing together until she was almost succumbing to the pain. All around her she peered. For some reason, this seemed different to what she'd expected. In previous visions she was dumped at a specific moment, either it be the past, present or future, a part or place or person specifically recognisable. But this…

    The impression of a large space gapped all around her, yet there was nothing to see, nothing for miles and miles. Infinity stretching out beyond the horizon, yet she felt confined as if she were in a small dungeon. The sky was dark, only just allowing the barest light through the storm clouds that rumbled overhead. And she was on water, icy liquid squelching between her toes. But no, it couldn't be, she was standing on the water, she could feel it. The water reflected shards of light back at her, rippled and parted at her footsteps, yet seemed to harden into glass beneath her feet and she did not fall through it.

    Suddenly, she felt a cold grip around her throat, and looked up with a gasp, her breath short. Her hands clasped around a thick heavy chain made of gold that threatened to drag her down. A heavy shackle around her neck made her nearly double over under its weight. Feeling panic begin to engulf her, Kathryn tried with desperate fingers to pull it open but it would not budge. Something pulled against the chain, causing Kathryn to stumble slightly to regain her balance.

    Her mouth fell open when she noticed a man stood before her, completely naked. He was almost seven feet tall, his body well defined, his tanned skin hard as rough leather, his muscles corded and ready to strike. The golden chain bound to her shackle was held in one of his large hands. Kathryn felt herself begin to hyperventilate when she saw that his right hand was distorted! His nails were thick black talons and rough red scales bloomed along his fingers and knuckles, his hand was bent out of shape and twisted to form a reptilian claw. As she looked up, Kathryn saw more scales bloom like veins across his skin as they grew up his arm, onto his shoulder, crawling across his chest and up his neck to meld with the right side of his face. The cheek bone became more angular, the jaw became much thicker, the eye socket distorted. She couldn't see his eyes as his short black hair cast them in shadow. Then he looked up at her, and Kathryn gaped as she saw eyes like molten fire blazing at her.

    Her mouth opened to scream, but nothing came out other than a squeak. Kathryn clawed at her chain, and amazingly she managed to get a grip on it and with all her strength she tore it off of her neck.

    There was an explosion of light as she was suddenly set free, and then Kathryn heard a blood curdling scream. She looked over, frozen as she saw the man bent over, his arms wrapped around himself as if he were holding himself together. Guttural screams of agony and heartbreak erupted from him,  those eyes fixed on her. The look that passed over them… Kathryn felt herself hold her breath, her heart doing a flip.

    A single tear rolled down the man's cheek, slipping onto his bare chest and Kathryn saw a deep wound upon his left breast, closest to his heart. She looked at him, suddenly moved to pity as she watched him scream. Tears streamed down her face, though no matter how hard she tried, she could not look away from him. He watched her, eyes pleading with her, begging her… but for what she did not know.

    With another cry of anguish, a drop of the man's blood slipped from his chest and touched the water. Immediately fire blazed, racing across the surface of the water like lit oil, creating a web of flames that separated Kathryn from the man. She wanted to help him, she couldn't stand to watch him burn! She saw him go down, writhing from the pain, and she went to help him, holding a hand up to shield herself from the flames as –

    As soon as she took a step, Kathryn felt the solid standing beneath her feet vanish, and she plunged into the water.

    She couldn't see the light, couldn't seem to reach the surface, it was as if she had suddenly forgotten how to swim. The way up was lost to her and she floundered as her lungs ached for air. She kicked against the heavy water, flailed her arms, water spurted up her nose and burned her throat - she couldn't stand it! The darkness began to seep into her vision, and Kathryn was screaming for something to allow her to emerge from this inky blackness. Movement became difficult and lethargic, her heartbeat began to slow…

    Before she lost consciousness, she took one last look to the depths...

    The form of a gigantic dragon rose up from the darkness to swallow her whole.

                                                                                          ~~ *** ~~

Kathryn gagged, spluttering and coughing as she came crashing back into her body. Rolling over onto her side, she heaved and gasped down air as if she had just actually drowned. Her eyes were wide with fear as her body quivered with exhaustion. It took several minutes before her heart would finally slow down and she managed to form some semblance of calm.

    That was when she noticed her strange flooring.

    Looking down in confusion, Kathryn saw that she was lying on a bed of gold coins, the hard metal pushing up into her body uncomfortably. She didn't understand, she had been in a cage of iron, the gold had always been far below her. If she was now on that gold then that meant… that meant…

    Oh shit.

    A warm puff of breath hit her back, and flipping around, Kathryn saw Smaug stand above her. His eyes gleamed through the darkness as he watched her with a smirk. Scrambling back away from him, she raised an arm to shield herself automatically, cowering away from him.

    But Smaug didn't make a move. He just stared at her.

    Peeking between her fingers, Kathryn spied him, although careful not to look into his eyes. Though Smaug didn't actually try to pin her gaze either. Her thighs shivered as she waited for something to happen. Surely he must wish to kill her, why else would he…

    "What are you going to do to me?" she asked, her voice low and hoarse from the exertion, whether from the burn of the water down her throat in the vision or the fact that she spoke in tongues when succumbed to one, she knew not. Smaug chuckled, the sound seeming to come from everywhere, quaking like an avalanche. It was not a humorous sound.

    "'How can a bird that is born to fly sit in a cage and sing?'" he quoted her, deflecting from her question. Kathryn found it increasingly unsettling. The dragon leaned his head in closer to her, until his face was all that she could see, and all that she could comprehend. "Except, you're not just a bird... you are a Seer."

    "Y-yes," Kathryn whispered dejectedly, sure that he had sought an answer from her.

    At her reply, Smaug smirked again triumphantly, his teeth glinting, just visible behind his scaly lips.

    "What are you going to do with me?" Kathryn asked again, not wanting to go through this farce. If she was going to die, then so be it. Just let her know her fate and have it done. And if not…

    "I offer you a bargain," Smaug raised an eyebrow at her, his look almost condescending as he watched her arrogantly. "You will stay here, as my... guest. You belong to me, you will obey me, and you will not leave. In return, I will not put you back in that cage,"

    Kathryn stared at him, wondering if she could believe this. She knew she couldn't trust him, he could lie to her so easily and she would never know the difference. Dragons were crafty, after all. She wanted to defy him, to make him angry again, to make him so furious he killed her in an uncontrollable rage. Wouldn't that be preferable? Surely this was only swapping one form of imprisonment for another? This cage was large and spacious and rather glamorous, but a gilded cage was still a cage.

    She was about to refuse, but something made her stop. She saw those eyes from her vision, like liquid fire that burned with need, with agony, with heartache. Kathryn was sure that the vision she had had, had somehow related to her current situation, but she was unsure how those eyes could ever belong to Smaug. But something made her wonder, made her pause… something about that vision linked her to this mighty creature, if not the chain of gold, then those eyes…

    And if ever the saying "curiosity killed the cat" was right, then it was probably true of her. For to sate her own curiosity, she bartered away her soul.

Chapter 3 ~ An Unlikely Arrangement
Kathryn awakens to find herself in an impossible situation and to make matters worse, a vision is soon to be set upon her... 

The Hobbit and all its characters belong to (c) J.R.R Tolkien
Kathryn and any AU elements belong to (c) ME
Chapter 2 – The Ruined City –
"What has roots that nobody sees; is taller than the tallest trees; up, up, up it goes and yet never grows? A Mountain"

    The city was an utter ruin: buildings lay crushed, forgotten, defiled and broken. Bones and dust laid scattered along every street and in every doorway. Even after all these years, ash still fluttered down through the air, the only remnants to what was once here. Kathryn walked  as silently as she could, pushing her way through the shell of buildings and debris that remained. She coaxed her mule onward, holding the reins as she guided the beast quietly through the wreckage. She tried to make as little sound as possible, as if the faintest whisper could stir the wrath of the beast that lived in the solitary peak above. The mule was a calm animal though, and followed her without question, carrying what little food and possessions they both had.

    Kathryn led them for ages as they wandered through the city, searching for the right spot. The sun moved above her, and the more it did so without incident, the more relaxed she grew. Perhaps the dragon-dread did not have the supernatural power some claimed he did. For he had not swooped down upon her yet. And even if he did, there were so many places here for her to hide. This was perfect! Not a soul in sight and spoils from a forgotten age ripe for her to pick. The loneliness was a price she would gladly pay if it meant that she could be free.
    Eventually, she found what she was looking for. A building had collapsed onto its side, yet had miraculously managed to stay mostly intact. Tiles and brickwork had managed to be dislodged in the fall, but whatever fires had raged here centuries ago had done little to hurt this place than a few scorch marks. In the building's fall, it must have crushed a fountain that had laid in the centre of the courtyard. Water spurted out from burst pipes to trickle in a steady stream through to other parts of the city. Where a garden used to be, a patch of dried out earth remained, large enough to grow a decent vegetable patch perhaps. Maybe she could build a shelter a few goats and pigs out of the skeleton of a garden shed, if she was ever lucky enough. 

    She led the mule to their final destination, tying it to a fallen beam just outside. Kathryn ducked her head and squeezed through a small hole which was once a window on the toppled building's side. It was just big enough for a person to squeeze through and call it an entrance. The collapsed building was domed on the inside, but was just large enough for a bed, a fire and even a cool corner in the debris that she could use for a larder. She smiled briefly. It wasn't a palace, but she was going to make it a home.
    Home. Funny how such an ordinary word, a word that many others took for granted, could bring her such excitement? Quickly unpacking her bags from the mule's back, she rolled out her sleeping mat, and set her provisions inside her new den. Placing an ancient wooden board (that perhaps a long time ago served as a piece of a door) in front of the entrance. She then came back out into the open air, and began to explore.

    Going through all the nearby houses, buildings and halls, she found some interesting things among the ruins. Iron pots that were rusted slightly but still useable, fire wood and kindling, broken blades and weapons that could serve as farming tools, she even found a hidden crate that was mostly intact filled with garments and clothing, moth and rat-eaten mostly, but still good enough to serve as bandages, blankets and other uses.

    Constantly watching the sun, Kathryn monitored her time – she didn't want to be caught out after night fall. Should the monster of the mountain decide to come hunting he would not find her wandering the streets.

    Heading back to her home (again, the use of such a word drew out such bliss in her after so long as a nomad, even if the use of the word was rather strained at this moment), she fed her mule and put it under another fallen house that would serve as shelter for now. She lit a fire and began to cook her dinner – only a small field rat she had caught that morning before arriving in Dale. Eating at her meagre feast, taking extra care to lick off all the dripping juices on her fingers, the woman settled down for sleep as the sun began to set. The fire was built and stacked up nicely to allow her some warmth through the night.

    Huddled close to the flames, Kathryn's mind began to race through the possibilities of what she would have to do in the weeks ahead in order to make her stay liveable. Summer was waning, so she would need to get her vegetable patch ready and start to grow some winter vegetables. Then, come the spring, she could start to be more adventurous. A relationship with the merchants of Lake-town was her best bet to stay alive, she would need to buy seeds from them, at least for the first year. She could catch vermin to eat with her traps, but that always came with the risk of disease and it wouldn't sustain her forever. What she needed was to buy goats for milk, pigs for meat and perhaps even a sheep if she was lucky, for wool to make warm winter clothes for herself. But none of this would come cheap. She could steal it, but then the locals would eventually find her and chase her away… No. She couldn't run anymore, she was tired of running, she just needed to rest… Lords of the Valar - Nienna, lady of mercy, please, she prayed, just give me some peace!

    No, she wouldn't risk this one place of refuge that she had found, it was the only place on Middle-Earth where she could be free to live with her curse, uninterrupted and unbothered. No, surely there must be something here in these ruins that she could sell, there had to be. Over the next few weeks she was going to look around and take anything she could salvage.

    As the sun's light faded, the black darkness of night covered the earth like the shadow of a god. Kathryn felt dread fill her as she huddled close to the fire, as if its light could keep away the nightmares, the screaming, the trauma that clung to her, the curse that she encountered every time she closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, trying to steady her nerves. Now, now, she scolded herself, You've dealt with this for years, just go through the steps like any other night.

    Briefly, she wondered what it would be like if she were still home, with her mother and father. Would it have been a lesser evil to have them constantly drug her, to be in a sickly haze rather than face the horrors of the visions?

    No! She spat icily in her thoughts. Nothing is worse than that. I would rather die in the cold than go back to that… that… She didn't have the words for it, she wanted to hate it, hate them. But the terror she relived most nights… some nights, when she was so exhausted she collapsed onto her sleeping roll, she would have sleep without dreams, without visions, without horror… and she would wake weeping tears of joy, just for that one moment of peace. Sometimes she even wondered if death would be a final rest, or would it just be an eternal plague of visions assaulting her soul?

    Shaking off such morbid thoughts, Kathryn went to her saddle bags and removed four thin wooden posts and leather rags. She drove the posts into the ground where she would sleep, pushing them down until they were firmly in, unable to wriggle out or be lifted easily. The leather straps were then wound around her ankles and secured to the foot posts. No room was left for her to struggle and kick out. Next, she wound two loops around the hand posts, making small nooses. Then she placed the last in her mouth, tying it at the back of her head beneath her wavy ruby locks. The gag was enough to silence her, but not so intrusive that she would heave and vomit, and it wouldn't hamper her breathing. Lastly, she laid down and looped her hands through the nooses and pulled them tight.

    Her breathing became shaky, just as it always did. The feeling of entrapment, of utter shame and terror of her situation burned through her. She looked out of a hole in the wall, and saw the faint silhouette of Erebor, the Lonely Mountain, with the moon rising behind it. She tried to use the peaceful image, the calm it gave her, to settle her mind. Steeling herself, she closed her eyes, and braced against the dreams to come.

                                                                                            ~~ *** ~~

He growled as he snored, his thunderous voice echoing throughout the chamber. He was only dozing, his double lidded eyes only half closed, his inner lid obscuring the world around him so that he could rest but still be partially awake. This state was always the one he returned to after a good hunt, and earlier that day he had hunted well. He had feasted on a rather large Spider Queen from the Mirkwood, more for the challenge than the meat. It made his victory all the sweeter when his prey fought back, knowing that there was nothing that could stand against him. He was Smaug the Mighty after all, the conqueror and undisputed King of these lands.

    Burrowing further into his hoard, he allowed the coins and jewels and treasures to pour over him, revelling in the glory of his treasure, basking in its glow. He settled for true sleep, wanting nothing more than to sleep for several weeks until he would need to hunt once more. Spiders of that size were good for a challenge but not for good eating. Perhaps a troll, or maybe even something from the plains close to the Iron Hills. Nothing in these lands offered the same challenges to him as they used to. Sometimes he even missed his days in the north, hunting and battling for supremacy, revelling in the fury of his fire. When he was young and impulsive, doing what he pleased. Now he was a full male in his prime, strong, and with a hoard that could rival that of any drake in all of Middle-Earth and the wastes beyond! He was a collector by nature, he prided himself with the fact that he had everything: the finest jewels, gold and riches untold, works of art both mortal and immortal, and even his home was a thing of magnificence all to itself.

    Smaug snorted, spraying gold everywhere from his nostrils as he settled for sleep. A happy rumble gurgled through his throat, the precursor to a snore as he felt oblivion creep into his consciousness. And then he heard a sound...

    It was an echo, faint, but he could hear it, it was… a song.

    Confused, Smaug opened one eye, blinking away the jingling coins, and listened.

"… Having gazed afar at the distance
from tree-tangled lands of Middle-earth
on this side of the ocean, here, great ocean
Fanuilos, I will sing to you
On this side of the ocean, here, great ocean…"

    That voice… Smaug had never heard anything like it. It was angelic, as if something from Aman itself: purer then any elf, stronger than any human, and utterly enchanting, as if magic was fused into its very being, calling to him, speaking to him. The pitch-perfect tune rang in his ears like the clinks of gold. The emotion stirred within the bearer made Smaug think of a menagerie of dazzling colours. Smaug knew that this was perhaps the greatest voice he had ever heard, and he had been witness to many a song from Elf, human and dwarf alike, for he had had his fair share of all over his many centuries. But none could compare with this, the way mere sound could reach into his being and summon forth an urge he couldn't ignore. 

    And he knew in that instant, that he had to have it.
    After all, he was a collector by nature, and to have a voice such as that, a trophy that none other could have but himself... It would be an excellent addition to his hoard.

    And then he realised that it was close… very close indeed. His interest was very much piqued now, for if the voice belonged to one of those miserable Lake-men he may not have heard it at all over such a distance. But this, with his excellent predator's hearing, he could faintly make out the echo of it just outside the mountain.

    Smaug decided that his day was not through with the hunt just yet.

                                                                                           ~~ *** ~~

Kathryn heaved as she struggled to rake a mace through the hard, scorched earth. The spikes on the mace caught on every stone, every burned and dead root, and it was hard work. She'd spent the morning trying to plough, to make a start on her vegetable-path. Pulling up the earth, she'd tried to let it gain some goodness from the elements before she began to sow her seeds. She was sweating profoundly, and the only reason that she didn't use her mule to help was because the mace would just bounce along the ground, not plough it. Next year, she definitely planned on building a sodding plough if she had to.

    But that job was almost done, and then she was going to go searching through the buildings again in an attempt to find anything of value. Then she could go to Lake-town tomorrow and sell what she found.

    She'd been in this desolate ruin for over a month now, and… and life wasn't as perfect as she'd imagined. Living within a corpse was tough, gruelling, and utterly difficult beyond comprehension. But, she hadn't survived as long as she had by giving up. It was either stick to this or be on the run for the rest of her life.

    As she finished her work, she went over to the stream that leaked from the broken fountain, and washed her face and hands in its cool waters. She sighed in relief, calming herself as she did so, not allowing her mind to wander to anything in particular.

    She'd had a headache all day, she'd had it for the past week, in fact. It was like a miner pounding with his pickaxe against the inside of her skull, trying to smash his way out. A headache of this magnitude usually meant a vision was due. Normally, warnings were an afterthought with her, but sometimes, with a particularly intense vision, her brain would complain under the stress of it. Hence, the headaches. Kathryn wanted to avoid it all costs, and so made sure to keep her mind as unfocused as possible. 
    Her feet guiding her there, she found herself in front of the satchel that held her buys from the other day. She'd managed to sell whatever junk was around and had found herself buying… sedatives. Shivering with revulsion, she'd come to terms with the fact that she may or may not need the drugs for the immediate future. They were powerful, able to knock her out instantly with a mere whiff if handled incorrectly. But they weren't like what her parents used to force down her throat; she wouldn't be a walking, dribbling husk living in blurry world. She'd be knocked out, that was it.

    Manwë help her, she didn't want to use them, it was for an emergency only. But this headache was the precursor of something far worse – she could feel it in her gut – as if something was coming, it was going to be the mother of all visions. Deciding to be safe rather than sorry, she picked up the poultice , and shoved them into her pocket. Walking out, she went about her duties.

    Kathryn wandered for a few hours, going through the rubble of the lost city, exploring through any house or building that was safe enough and wouldn't collapse on top of her. Her mule followed without the need for her to guide its reins, it was merely for company she thought now. Either that or it was looking to be petted – this girl seemed to like affection, and was more than content to stay for hours under Kathryn's gentle fingers.

    And as she wandered, Kathryn began to sing.

    It was a simple tune, one she'd learned a few months ago from a travelling merchant who claimed he'd dealt with the elves of the Mirkwood, and had learned one of their songs.

"… Having gazed afar at the distance
from tree-tangled lands of Middle-earth
on this side of the ocean, here, great ocean
Fanuilos, I will sing to you
On this side of the ocean, here, great ocean…"

    Kathryn allowed the song to easily flow from deep within her, the notes sliding along her throat, her mouth forming the sound as it echoed around her ears. Singing was her last great joy. The one thing she had inherited from her family that she neither resented nor cursed. She had sometimes sung on the corner streets of towns in order to earn a little money for her supper. There was something about creating music that utterly calmed her mind and body, making her forget the visions, as if it were putting them away in a drawer in her mind. It made her spirit soar, allowing her very nature, her soul, to be weaved into the words.

    As she sang she gradually forgot about her headache.

    Looking through the burned, crumbled buildings, one after the other, Kathryn's spirit slowly began to sink as her search repeatedly resulted in nothing. It was as if anything of any value at all had already been picked clean of the waste, for all she could find was ash, rags, broken pottery and dull rusted weapons left to turn to dust.

    Slumping against the side of a building, Kathryn allowed her exhaustion to fill her, the headache back with renewed strength. Her shoulders slumped and her head rolled forward to sink on her chest. A soft snort puffed against her ear, and then there was a sharp tug against her hair. Kathryn looked up into the face of her mule as it bumped her head with its nose affectionately. Lips twitched in a smile, she reached up to pet the animal fondly.

    "Okay girl," she murmured soothingly. "Let's go back home," the word didn't seem to carry the same ring to it these days...

    A small breeze drifted past them, unusually warm and dry for the late year weather.

    The mule's eyes went wide, her ears pressed flat against her neck, and she screeched in panic, stamping her hooves upon the ground. Kathryn gave the beast a startled look, climbing to her feet and taking hold of the reins. She tried to sooth it with strokes down its neck, nonsensical whispers and meek body language. But the animal would not be stilled, its nostrils flared and its eyes widened impossibly, until white could be seen around the whole eye. It bucked and brayed, pulling against its harness as it tried to escape. Kathryn fought against it, beginning to be a little frightened herself at the animal's odd behaviour.

    The wind was picking up around them, still hot and dry, making the ash and small debris around them whirl in the air. Kathryn looked around in uncertainty, stomach heavy with dread.

    And then a shadow fell over the broken city. Slowly, Kathryn turned her eyes towards the heavens.

    A dragon soared above Dale.

    Kathryn felt a feeling build up inside of her, something she had never felt before. It filled her whole body, making her insides shake. Her mind went white as all other thoughts were banished save for this thing inside her. Terror. It was absolute, undeniable terror: the kind of mind-rending fear that overtakes one when they see something so totally beyond their comprehension, that it leaves them quaking as they gaze upon their own certain death. The force was so strong in Kathryn it made her physically shake, her knees wobbling and going weak; it pushed against the walls and confines of her body, it had to escape, she knew it, or it would make her explode.

    She screamed.

    The answering roar shook the very foundations of the remaining buildings around her, sending dust into the air and bricks and timbers to come crashing down. It deafened her, until she could hear a high pitch whine as her eardrums threatened to break. And unable to stand it any longer, Kathryn turned and ran.

    The monstrous form from above descended upon the city.

    Kathryn ran through the streets, turning and twisting through the alleys, leaping over fallen rubble, she was numb to everything around her except the one goal in her mind: to escape the creature hunting her. She tried to lose him by ducking through buildings, trying to keep out of sight but constantly moving, keeping to the small thin places where it could not reach her.

    It didn't matter, for always she heard the boom of its wings as it followed her.

    Another roar blasted through the sky and Kathryn screamed again as she switched in the opposite direction, almost tripping herself up in her attempt to evade the dragon.

    Suddenly the very ground shook, the shockwave so powerful that it literally sent the woman flying. She tumbled through the dirt until she came to a halt. Scrambling to her feet, Kathryn did her best to ignore the fact that the world was still shifting around her as her head spun. She sprinted into an alleyway, going in so deep until the walls pressed against her on either side.

    A rhythmic boom, and then the accompanying shake of the earth as the creature walked. It was now on the ground, and stalking towards her.

    Panic threatened to completely consume her, crawling up her throat like bile until it was on the edge of her tongue. With a gasp, she forced it back down beneath the surface; it would only get her killed if she lost control of herself now. But the footsteps were closer than ever before, and then saw that her alleyway was about to come to an abrupt end, opening out into what might have once been a town square. Skidding to a stop, Kathryn pushed herself against the wall, her chest heaving as she struggled to regain her breath, her heart pounding in her ears, the blood rushing through her veins until her head was throbbing and it almost hurt.

    The boom of footsteps stopped as well, and Kathryn clasped her hands over her mouth to try and stifle the noise of her breathing. She looked up as a shadow blocked out the sun; the gigantic head of the dragon was poised high above the buildings, the sun right behind him casting the only side of him that she could see into darkness, a black mass against the world. The dragon arched its neck, eyes obviously peering across the courtyard and surrounding roads and buildings. She heard his nostrils flaring as he scented the air, trying to sniff her out. Kathryn felt her heart quaking inside of her; tears threatened to burn her eyes with terror.

    She looked out from her hiding place over the square, quickly evaluating what she should do. She saw one building off to the right, it was mostly intact, its great walls seeming to look thick and strong. The domed roof seemed to indicate it as a place of worship. Perhaps it would have a trapdoor to a cellar? It wasn't much, but it was her only chance.

    The dragon continued to scan for any sign of movement. Kathryn knew she only had a matter of moments, maybe minuets if she was lucky, before it found her. She waited… watching him move until his head was twisted to the left just enough…

    She ran.

    At the sound of her footsteps, the dragon snapped his head back to her, and roared as he gave chase. Kathryn had never run so hard in all her life. It was as if in a dream, when one felt like their legs were not moving anywhere at all. A scream slowly built up in her throat with each frantic step, she was going so fast she almost ploughed straight into the wall.

    Doors thrown open, the woman launched herself inside, slamming it closed behind her as the dragon came up to the building.

    Sprinting through the rows of pews, Kathryn heaved a breath as her legs began to feel like lead, the muscles in her thighs burning against the sudden use. She heard the dragon roar outside, the building quaking from the sheer power of his voice. Crumbling by the alter, Kathryn threw up tables and shrines until she found a small trap door in the floor. Praising all the Valar one by one, she took the iron ring and heaved, but the door wouldn't budge. Eyes wide in panic, Kathryn pulled with all her might, trying to force the thing open but it wouldn't –

    With an explosion of sound, the whole front of the temple caved in on itself, bricks were sent flying, timber and roof tiles rained down as the great dragon tore the building apart with a mere flick of his powerful tail.

    Kathryn screamed as more of the roof came down around her, debris pelting her as she dove for cover under one of the tables, dust heavy in the air until it made her cough, her lungs begging for air as if she were underwater. She could hardly see through the smoke and dust, but heard the dragon growling, could hear the building coming apart around her, the crashing of brick and wood falling to the ground.
Then, a final piece of the roof gave way and fell onto the small shelter Kathryn hid under. The beams and blocks hit her table, with a force hard enough to make its legs snap. The top fell onto the poor woman, the weight not crushing her, but pinned her to the floor as she felt the weight on her back, grinding her bones as she groaned and cried out in pain.

    A stone fell from the rubble, hitting her in the back of the head; she felt pain flash across her skull and then, she was sent into the darkness of oblivion.

                                                                                           ~~ *** ~~

Smaug snorted, his hot breath clearing the dust from his nose. Such a pathetic display of fortitude, to think that this building could stand up against him? He who had destroyed this city once already, this was past its prime, it had snapped like a twig under his strength. It had been a serious error on the part of his quarry to hide in here, it had only stopped him for but a moment.

    Speaking of which…

    With a growl still rumbling through his chest, Smaug snorted again, the wind driving off the dust as he stepped over the debris, timber cracking under his weight, stone crumbling beneath his claws. He could smell his prey: a human, female, young, somewhere within the waste of the building.

    He followed his senses to the back, his eyes scanning the debris for signs of pathetic mortal flesh, perhaps cowering in the corner, weeping for whatever good it would do, he was almost curious as to why she wasn't screaming yet, as her kind always seemed to do when threatened. Screaming was a pointless show of weakness for mortals who couldn't understand their own insignificance.

    He heard her breathing, faintly, as if in slumber. He flicked the talons of one forepaw over the rubble, brushing aside beams and bricks until he found her. He saw her hand and the side of her face peeking out from underneath a collapsed table with debris scattered around her, her eyes closed, he could smell the blood from a wound on the back of her head which had knocked her unconscious. He sometimes wondered how mortals ever survived with how frail they were. With a lazy flick of a talon he cleared the debris off of her, gazing down at her petite form: a dress in rags, her feet bare, her ivory skin and red hair were dirtied and smeared with dust, dirt and soot. But he did not care for her mortal beauty, it was the voice she possessed that had called him down from the mountain, and it was this voice that he hunted.

    He scooped her up, encasing her in a cage made by the talons of one forepaw, even his fingers dwarfed her in comparison. He had to almost remind himself not to hold on too tight encase he crushed her in his grasp, but no matter.

    Turning around, he stretched his giant wings, casting a black shadow over the world as he blocked out the sun. he launched himself into the sky, the beating of his wings cracking like thunder, the wind beneath him like a hurricane as the only sign of his passing.
Heart Of Fire ~ Chapter 2 ~ The Ruined City
Here's chapter 2! :D

As I've said to a good friend, this is going to be a sort-of-rewritten version of the original Heart of Fire. Might add an extra chapter here and there, might not. All I know is that I will DEFINITELY be sorting through the chapters and looking for inconsistencies and mistakes and what not.
ALSO so we all remember, I originally wrote this story before I saw the Desolation of Smaug movie. So in this story, Smaug has four legs, not two. So don't be confused by it.

Hope you enjoyed it, please leave me a comment! 

Hobbit and all its characters belong to (c) J.R.R. TOLKIEN
Kathryn and any AU plot (c) ME
I was tagged by :FateMagician:

Post these rules
Post 8 facts about your character(s)
Tag other people along with the characters you want them to write about (which leads to rule 4)
Post their avatars and write their character's name next to them

Warning for spoilers to my fanfictions "Heat Of Fire" "Heart Of Ashes" and "Heart Of The Inferno"

1. Kathryn was born in a little village in the province of Enedwaith, to poor and superstitious parents that abused her after she came into her Seer abilities with her first vision: Orcs battling Dwarves outside the gates of Moria. 
2. Kathryn met the great dragon Smaug of the Lonely Mountain in the year TA 2881 of the Third Age, 60 years before the events of "The Hobbit", and some time after fell in love with him.
3. She once held the position of Court Songbird for the King and Queen of Dorwinion 
4. When leaving the Lonely Mountain, Kathryn was gifted with a single scale belonging to Smaug the Magnificent. The scale helps to anchor both his magic on her and focus her own magic should she wish to summon incredible amounts of Raw Magic.
5. Despite her nightmarish visions (or perhaps BECAUSE of them) Kathryn has a keen secret interest in learning History.
6. Due to her abilities as a Seer, Kathryn has the God Irmo (god of dreams and visions) as a patron, and subsequently can travel the "Path of Dreams" if she chooses - It is why she has been targeted to potentially be able to find the Door of Night, and free Morgoth.
7. Currently, Kathryn is around 140 years old (technically) but due to dragon-meddling, she hasn't aged since she was 20
8. Kathryn's favourite food is hot apple pie ;) 

:Whispers-Gargoyle: Audrey!

:Boxjelly1: Captain Treta!


ADONOVAN94's Profile Picture
Alicia Donovan
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United Kingdom
I am a small town female student in the UK, and an aspiring actress and writer. Nothing is more important to me then family. I am in love with Dragons, crazily so. I'm a Cumberbatch fan. And just want to make friends, support the arts at every opportunity and be creative


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Bengtzone Featured By Owner Mar 3, 2018
Hello there; I am Bengtzone!
How do you do?
ADONOVAN94 Featured By Owner Mar 4, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I am very well, Bengtzone. I hope you are well also!
Bengtzone Featured By Owner Mar 5, 2018
I see!
Do you have a FanFiction account?
ADONOVAN94 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Of course, DONOVAN94
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MidnightTheInsomniac Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Happy Birthday :party::cake:
ADONOVAN94 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you! 
GLAMBERTMUZICLOVER21 Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
Happy Birthday
ADONOVAN94 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you!
GLAMBERTMUZICLOVER21 Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
No problem
lilgrimmapple Featured By Owner Edited Jan 27, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ME DARLIN'~~~~!!! MenInASuitcase Sini Birthday birthday cake Birthday cake  icon Day128 - Happy Birthday :happy birthday: Fox emoji - birthday Happy Birthday (3) Happy Birthday (2) Llama Birthday Birthday Cake (1) 

...why did I imagine myself saying this in an outrageous Scottish accent? 
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