Bain quickly shut the front door behind him, and leaned against it to catch his breath.
"What happened? Where's Da?"
Sigrid immediately asked him, noting the absence of their father. Fili, Arya and Oin also turned to look at him, seeking explanations.
"I don't know. The Master's guards were there and we had to part ways, but I'm sure he'll be back."
He replied, moving closer to his sisters. The older one nodded and decided to go out for a breath of fresh air and wait for her father, while the younger one held her brother tightly in a hug. Arya gave Fili a worried look, then changed the damp cloth on Kili's forehead.
Suddenly, they heard a scream of terror coming from the entrance. Sigrid ran inside and tried to close the door behind her, but an orc pushed her back violently, making his way into the house. The girl immediately took refuge under the kitchen table, while Fili parted from his brother to jump on the creature with his bare hands, in a desperate attempt to cast it out. At that moment, two other monsters entered the room, breaking the roof tiles and lowering themselves from above. The first collided with Oin, who started throwing dishes at him, while the second approached Bain and his sister menacingly. The little girl screamed in terror as her brother pushed her under the table to protect her.
Arya therefore moved away from Kili's bed, took the two swords she was holding on her back and thrust one into the orc's neck, before it could do any harm to the child. A fourth beast then fell from the ceiling and overturned the table, beneath which Bard's three sons were hidden, but was immediately stabbed in the chest by one of Arya's blades.
Three monsters descended from the roof shortly thereafter, while two more entered through the window and the main door. The latter, however, was stopped a moment after setting foot in the house: an elven-made dagger had pierced his back. The woman turned and saw the elf who had saved Kili from the spiders in Mirkwood enter the room, and then take care of the two beasts fallen from the roof. At the same instant, another elven blade pierced the orc that, passing through the window, had now reached her back. Legolas had lowered himself from one of the holes in the ceiling and had nimbly eliminated the creature, before it had the chance to hit the woman. Arya whirled around and gave the elf a surprised look.
"Are you all right?"
He asked hastily. She nodded, then looked over his shoulder and noticed another monster silently enter the window. The girl leaned forward, removed the sword from the scabbard attached to Legolas' belt and thrust it into the orc's abdomen. This time it was the prince's turn to widen his eyes in amazement. Arya pulled out the weapon, which she recognized as Orcrist, Thorin's blade, seized from him when they were in Mirkwood, and handed it back to its new owner with a smile, before turning to check the situation. There were no more beasts, at least not alive, and both the dwarves and the sons of Bard seemed to be fine, which allowed her to indulge in a sigh of relief.
"You killed them all!"
Bain exclaimed stunned, shifting his gaze from one elf to another.
"There are others."
Legolas asserted resolutely, glancing out the window to see a group of orcs moving away from the house.
"We must stop them before they reach your friends at the Mountain."
He then murmured, turning to the girl, who nodded gratefully: those creatures wouldn't get very far with two fighters like them on their heels.
The prince said, turning to the elf, before heading for the door. She followed him without a word, but stopped after a few steps, her attention drawn by a desperate scream from Kili. The young dwarf was slumped on the floor, between Fili and Oin, in pain.
"We're losing him!"
Exclaimed the company's doctor in a worried tone. Arya immediately knelt beside him and tried to call her friend's name, but in vain. Kili seemed to have entered a trance state, continuing to wriggle in spasms, and nothing would have calmed him.
Legolas called her again, then left the house without looking back. The elf, however, stood still, starring at the dwarf on the floor with wide eyes. Her state of shock was interrupted only by the arrival of another member of the company.
A breathless Bofur rushed to the entrance of the building, holding some Kingsfoil in his hands.
The elf murmured, taking the plant and observing it, amazed.
"What are you doing?"
The dwarf asked, looking at her curiously, with his hands still stretched out in front of him.
"I'm going to save him."
She replied smiling, and then headed towards the group gathered around Kili.
"Let's move him on the table."
Arya said, giving voice to the elf's thoughts, and starting to lift her friend with the help of Fili, Oin and Bofur, who had joined them.
"Come on, quick!"
Intimated the blond, who kept giving his brother worried looks as they tried to place him on the kitchen table.
"Keep him down."
Tauriel ordered, once Kili was in position, starting to prepare a mixture with Athelas in a bowl, while Arya untied the knot of the now putrid bandage around the dwarf's knee. She then stop to stare at the wound in concern. The elf was soon beside her, fear was clearly visible in her eyes, as in Arya's.
She murmured to the woman, who nodded, moving slightly to the edge of the table and pressing hard on Kili's arm, in an attempt to keep him still. Tauriel wasted no more time, sprinkled the wound with the misture obtained from the Kingsfoil and began to repeat an old elvish formula.
"I eliad annen annin, hon leitho o ngurth. Menno o nin na hon i eliad annen annin, hon leitho o ngurth. Menno o nin na hon i eliad annen annin, hon leitho o ngurth. Menno o nin na hon i eliad annen annin, hon leitho o ngurth."
The cry of pain gradually subsided and Kili relaxed. The young dwarf looked at his saviour in amazement, a mixture of awe, gratitude and love could be seen in his eyes. Noting his improvement, the elf raised her hands from his injured knee and let out a sigh of relief: there was no longer any trace of the poison, only a scar remained to mark the entry point of the arrow. She then began to wrao his leg with clean bandages, while the dwarves, the woman and Bard's two daughters, who had helped them keep Kili down, moved away from the table to give them some privacy.
"I've heard tale of the wonders of elvish medicine. That was a privilege to witness."
Oin stated, talking to Fili and Arya in the corner of the room. The girl nodded, smiling, and then positioned herself behind her beloved and passed her arms over his shoulders, tying them in front of his chest and hugging him. He relaxed under her touch.
"Those words, what did they mean?"
He asked quietly.
"May the blessing that was given to me be sent from me to him, may he be released from death."
She murmured, leaving him a sweet kiss on the head.
Suddenly their attention was captured by a roar which, albeit distant, struck the air. The woman moved away from Fili, heading to the window, immediately followed by the elf.
"It is coming."
Arya heard Drogon's voice in her mind. She knew what she had to do.
"Then we will face it. Together. Come get me."
She replied decisively to the dragon.
"We have no time, we must leave. As fast as we can."
"Get him up."
Bofur then ordered, turning to Fili, who was already approaching his brother to help him.
"I'm fine! I can do it myself."
He complained, refusing any kind of support. Arya looked at him apprehensively and then turned to the elf.
"Tauriel, take them away, take them to safety."
She looked at her in surprise but nodded, then hurried to help Bard's children get ready.
Hearing those words, Fili lost a heartbeat and whirled towards the woman.
"What on Earth does it mean? You're not coming with us?!"
He asked her, terrified at the thought of losing her. She shook her head.
"I must stay. You know I must. Drogon and I will face Smaug."
Fili stared at her in bewilderment. Those words pierced him like so many blades in his chest. He knew she was right, he had always known it, but he had never quite realized it, until now. The woman he loved was about to face one of the cruellest creatures to ever set foot on Middle Earth and he, for the second time that day, could do nothing to help. The dwarf nodded and took her hand, squeezing it softly in his.
"Please be careful. Kill that beast and come back to me."
He said softly, and then touched her knuckles with his lips. Arya put her free hand on his cheek and gave him a sweet kiss on the forehead.
She whispered to him, before breaking free from his grip. The woman quickly recovered her two swords, placing them in their scabbards behind her back, and left the house.
"Where is she going?"
Sigrid then asked him, having watched the scene behind Tauriel.
"To kill the dragon."
Fili answered seriously, before following his brother towards the stairs that led to the lower level of the house, where they would have found Bard's boat to escape.
Arya, meanwhile, had climbed with agility on the roof, from which she could observe the black silhouette of Smaug moving quickly in the direction of Laketown. A dark and powerful roar suddenly tore through the air, striking the wood of the buildings and the water of the lake, and instilling greater terror in the inhabitants. But that sound was much closer than Smaug was. Arya didn't need to look up to know who it belonged to: Drogon had arrived. The animal was gliding over the city to reach the spot where the woman was. Citizens watched in panic as they tried desperately to escape, as quickly as possible. Not one, but two terrible beasts flew in the dark sky over Esgaroth that night, many wondered if they would ever survive.
Drogon intimated to Arya, as soon as he was close enough to the house. The girl did not have it repeated twice, she took a running start and jumped into the void, clinging shortly after to the animal's leg, from which she was able to easily climb up on its back.
"We must try to move the fight away from the city."
"We can try. Maybe I have an idea."
The dragon replied, then roared a second time in the direction of their enemy.
Smaug didn't expect to find itself having to face another of its kind, they had taken it by surprise and infuriated it. The one that believed itself to be the most terrible calamity of the Third Age, now saw another dragon flying in its direction, even larger than itself! No, it would not be intimidated, it would never be defeated! It would have killed that beast and destroyed the city!