The whole team was now standing in front of the gigantic door. Ingerman said, breathless, "The runes on the door match the rest of the artefacts. I think we've just found their main stronghold." Jorgenson turned to Reidun and said, "I guess you guys are going in." Reidun smirked, "Nope. We send one of these babies in." She lifted a small, dragonfly-shaped probe and smirked, "This is going to scan whatever's behind that door and transmit it to us". Climbing to a crack in the rock face surrounding the door, she released the probe, which buzzed off into the cave.
The probe entered the cave and scanned down a long corridor; a great hallway of the ancient stronghold. On the walls were carvings; some depicting mines and treasure, others depicting monsters and battles. As it headed through the ruined city, it came upon a chamber full to the brim with gold, and moved down to get a sample. Suddenly, the mounds of gold began to move, revealing one gigantic eye. That was the last thing the probe noticed, before it was crushed in a pair of gigantic jaws… Meanwhile, above the ground, Reidun noticed the screen go black, "Damn it. We've lost contact with the probe". Astrid sighed, "Looks like we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way…"
She gestured to her team, "Tordunn, Gobber, you lot are with me." Astrid turned to Reidun and Ingerman, "Reidun, Ingerman, you stay up here in case we need you." Reidun and Ingerman sighed, with Reidun muttering "The techies always get left behind." Tordunn, her brother, walked up to her, a smirk on his face, "Don't worry, sis. I'll bring you back a carving…" Reidun gave him a stare and huffed. Haddock walked forward and said, "I'm accompanying you." Astrid gave him a look, "Why?" Haddock shrugged, "I want to see this discovery for myself." Jorgensen then stepped forward, "If Henry's going, I'm going too; it's my job to make sure nothing happens to him." Westergard stood forward and said, "Actually, I'd like to come along as well." He smirked, "I really want to see this."
The team clambered through a gap in the rock face and entered the cave, torches at the ready. They shone their torches across a large hall. Astrid sighed, breathless in awe, "This wasn't just a stronghold. This was a kingdom." Suddenly, she heard Jorgensen sigh, "Wow" and they all turned to look at him shining his torch at the ceiling. Jorgensen turned to them all and said, "Look."
They shone their torches up to the ceiling to look at the ornate carvings. The carvings depicted an army standing against a huge, winged monster, but to no avail. Other carvings depicted the monster tearing down the door and destroying all in his path, and another depicted a man riding a smaller winged beast flying towards the monster. Gobber looked at the carvings and said, "Looking at these carvings… I've heard of this story before." Haddock looked at him, confused, "Well, tell us then."
Gobber turned and dramatically addressed the assembled, "Right, the mines of Erebor were the stronghold of the Dwarf civilisation, ruled over by King Thror. However, King Thror's love of gold grew into greed; he sequestered it all in a hoard in his throne room. This attracted Smaug, greatest of all the Lloigor, due to his coveting of gold. Smaug burnt down the city of Dale, which separated him from his prize. After decimating Erebor and forcing the dwarves into exile, Smaug wreaked havoc on the surrounding land. In particular, the survivors of Dale were living in constant fear of the dragon."
"The ruler of Dale, Girion, had been killed defending his city from Smaug, as had half of his people. His daughter, forced into leadership, tried to keep the remainder of her people safe, but they were losing hope. They were living in fear of Smaug's wrath and cowered in terror of him."
"However, their salvation soon arrived, in the form of a brave warrior and his companions, from a land far off, astride mighty dragons. Their leader was said to be carried upon the wings of the offspring of lightning and death itself and wielded a sword that blazed with the power of dragon's fire. Sympathetic to Dale's plight, the riders vowed to stay and help the people; they would not leave until the monster was defeated. So, the rider and the princess formulated a plan. They journeyed to the ruins of Dale and the rider challenged Smaug to single combat. If Smaug was defeated, Smaug would leave Erebor and the surrounding land in safety. If the rider was defeated, Smaug would keep Erebor and the survivors of Dale would leave. Smaug's considerable pride being what it was, he accepted."
Jorgensen raised his eyebrow, "Well, what happened next?"
Gobber shrugged, "That's kind of a mystery. Some say a great battle took place, a battle that tore the land asunder, with the rider eventually defeating Smaug. Others say that the rider was tricking Smaug into a trap; he had a troll ally who used ancient and powerful magic to best and seal Smaug. Whatever the case, Smaug was bested; the duel was hard fought, but the rider and his mount won."
Haddock chuckled, "And what happened after that? They all lived happily ever after?"
Gobber shook his head, "Sadly, no. Dale was still left destroyed; its people could not return to their old home. So, the people of Dale left; to find a new home, somewhere else." Astrid looked, curiously, "And the riders? What happened to them?"
Gobber shrugged, "Opinion's heavily divided on the matter. Some say the riders simply went home; the battle was won and they had no interest in staying to lead. However, the Princess of Dale, having fallen in love with their leader, left with them, delegating leadership to her cousin. Other versions say the rider and his mount sacrificed themselves to slay Smaug once and for all, whilst some say the rider was victorious, but both he and his mount died from their wounds in the battle. But the legends always say one thing; the rider and the princess promised themselves to each other, if they met again in another life." At this, Haddock rolled his eyes, "Don't you just love happy endings? Well, thank God we won't be able to test the veracity of this tale. Well, anything in here'd be dead by now."
Unbeknownst to the explorers, somewhere, beneath the mountain, there was a gigantic and vast chamber filled with a huge treasure hoard. Mounds and mounds of gold were everywhere, with gems, jewels, rubies… every treasure one could think of. This treasure had belonged to Erebor, once. Now, however, it belonged to someone else.
Smaug, the greatest and deadliest of the Lloigor, the monster who had burned Dale and taken Erebor. His powerful claws and teeth had sliced and swiped away the dwarven soldiers, his massive tail created an earthquake that shook the mountain and his fiery breath was so hot it had reduced all to dust and ash. Now he lay, sleeping, imprisoned by that accursed spell all those years ago, sleeping amongst the hoard he had taken as his trophy.
Smaug slowly lifted his head, freeing himself of the gold fully. After thousands of years, his rest had been disturbed. He growled angrily and sniffed the air, trying to take in every scent. He let out a low growl; he could smell humans in his domain. Someone had broken into the ruins. Had they stolen his treasure? Looking about him at the mountains of gold, Smaug assessed each piece; he knew his hoard down to the last coin and saw that nothing had been taken.
However, Smaug's mind drifted to other matters. Among the human scents, there was a scent he remembered. A scent he hadn't smelled for thousands of years. His eye narrowed in rage at the memory. Finally, the day had come; a day he had dreamed of for millennia. The ones whose deaths he had fantasised about for thousands of years had returned. Were they here with the intention of stealing from his hoard, as a trophy to their victory? Or were they there to finish him off and complete the battle they had begun? It didn't matter, of course. They would still pay.
His eyes narrowed in satisfaction.