The silence of the fifteen fellows was interrupted by a threatening howl.
"We're out of the frying pan..."
Thorin said with concerned.
"...into fire. Run! Now!"
Gandalf finished the sentence.
Fili, holding tight his grip on Arya's hand, ran alongside his brother and the other dwarfs, immediately followed by Bilbo, who had to slow down to kill a warg and thus avoid a certain death. The fugitives soon arrived at the edge of the forest, which coincided with a deep cliff, and, on the advice of the sorcerer, they began to climb trees, hoping to be safe from the wargs.
Arya settled between Kili and Fili, holding on to a quite thin branch above her head and, as a result, worrying both brothers, terrified that something might happen to her.
The whole company was concentrated in remaining in balance when, suddenly, their feat was interrupted by the arrival of a pale orc, astride a white warg.
The girl murmured with a voice full of resentment. Fili and Kili looked at her in shock: how did she know the Defiler?
Thorin then added.
Azog immediately noticed the young dwarf king and addressed him in black speech, reminding him of the terror his father had felt when he had faced him, the same terror he now could see clearly in his eyes. The Pale Orc incited his warg without ever taking his eyes off Oakenshield. The beasts began to beat the trees, breaking them one by one, so that the members of the company found themselves jumping from one trunk to another, until they reached the last tree, right on the tip of the precipice. But as strong as that trunk could be, it eventually tilted too, almost breaking. That sudden movement caused Arya to lose her grip, she was about to fall when Fili grabbed her by the arm and held her to himself, letting go a sigh of relief in knowing she was safe, at least for now. The young dwarf didn't want to lose her, he couldn't lose her, he would do everything in his power to protect her. He didn't know why he felt those feelings, but he was certain that he would never be able to separate from her: had he fallen in love with her? The girl, for her part, mentally thanked him for that sudden rescue and tied her arms to his neck, feeling safe, even if for a moment.
Soon after, it was Ori and Dori's time to fall, but fortunately, they managed to cling to Gandalf's stick. The sorcerer, worried by the situation, understood that there was only one thing to do.
"Arya, you must ask for help! You're the only hope we have!"
The young woman, still Fili's arms, nodded, closed her eyes and cleared her mind. She hadn't done it for a long time, but once learned, it was hard to forget. Arya focused on trying to clearly visualize in her mind the only ones who could help them at that moment: her dragons. The girl was quick to realise that the closest to them was Saphira, so she mentally called her name and, fortunately, was listened.
Thorin, meanwhile, had risen from the trunk and headed proudly towards Azog. His run wasn't stopped even by the screams of his companions, who begged him to come back. The young Dwarf King attacked the Defiler and his warg, but he got the worst of it. The wolf took him between his jaws and, ignoring his groans of pain, threw him against a rock. Then Bilbo came down from the trunk, ready to step in, immediately followed by Arya.
"Arya wait! Come back!"
Fili screamed in panic.
"Arya what on earth are you doing?! That's a terrible idea!"
Kili continued, seeing the situation. The other dwarfs also tried to stop her, without noticing the absence of the hobbit. The girl turned to her friends and smiled.
"You need to trust me! Whatever happens, just trust me!"
She said at last, then she turned around and continued in the direction of Thorin. Meanwhile, Azog had ordered one of his servants to bring him the head of the dwarf king, but this last one was stopped by Bilbo, who threw himself at him, killing him. Before any other orc could intervene, a mighty roar pierced the air and shook the ground.
"I know this sound."
Balin stated in a low and worried voice.
Arya stopped running and everyone, on both fronts, looked up. A huge dragon, with streaks of bright blue, was flying over their heads. Azog the Defiler then turn his attention straight ahead, noticing the girl. He recognized her.
She, who was then only a child, was now a strong and determined woman and hold his gaze without any fear, but only with the anger and rancor of those who had lost everything. Arya concentrated and pronounced clearly in her mind a word in ancient Sindarin: "Naur"*.
Saphira didn't need to be told twice and huge tongues of fire struck the orcs and their wargs. Then, taken by an incredible courage, the dwarves ran to support the flames of the dragon, beating blows and repelling enemies. Arya joined in with them.
Soon after, the company raised its head and realized that the dragon had not come alone, but had brought the eagles with her. They didn't waste time: an eagle glided on Thorin, taking him gently between its claws, then another flew to Bilbo, grabbed him by the arms and dropped him on the back of another yet; continuing in this way the birds rescued all the members of the company. Only Arya, Fili and Kili remained on the ground, still defending themselves from the wargs. One of the eagles reached Kili and took him, while the dwarf shouted his brother's name out loud. At that point Saphira touched the ground, beside the girl. The dragon spread its wings, as if to protect Arya, and, at the same time, bent forward to make her climb on its back. The young girl approached the animal, then turned back, seeing Fili still struggling with a beast.
"Fili hurry! We need to get out of here!"
She shouted to him, a note of sincere concern in her voice. The blond looked at her with a mixture of amazement and terror in his eyes.
"Saphira won't hurt you! We must go, now! Do you trust me?"
The dwarf nodded and ran towards his companion. They climbed up on the animal: Arya stood in front and Fili immediately behind her. Then Saphira took to the air and quickly reached the eagles and the rest of the company.
Fili glanced forlornly at his uncle's body and called his name, but in vain.
After a few hours of travel, the birds and the dragon left the members of the company on a rock spike and returned to the air, but remained always nearby.
Gandalf, the dwarves and Arya clustered around Thorin's body, which was lying unconscious on the ground. The sorcerer then put a hand on his face and, pronouncing ancient formulas, managed to wake him up.
That was the Dwarf King's first question.
"It's all right. Bilbo is here. He's quite safe."
Gandalf immediately answered calmly. Then Thorin stood up and headed towards the hobbit, who had remained at a distance.
"You! What were you doing?!"
The young dwarf said with arrogance.
"You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say you would be a burden?! That you would not survive in the wild?! And you had no place amongst us?!"
Thorin went on, always with the same arrogant and accusatory tone, scaring the poor Bilbo to death.
"I have never been so wrong in all my life!"
He finished, embracing the friend under the amazed gaze of all his companions. He broke away from Bilbo to look him in the eye, then spoke again.
"I am sorry I doubted you."
"I would have doubted me too. I'm not a hero, or a warrior, or even a burglar."
The halfling answered, then turned to Gandalf, who smiled.
"You don't owe your life only to Bilbo Baggins, my dear Thorin Oakenshield."
The wizard suddenly added. The young dwarf king turned around and gave him a confused look.
"You must also thank our Arya here, but, above all, you might want to say thank you to Saphira!"
He then clarified, just before the dragon landed with all its massiveness beside the girl, forcing all members of the company to move worried. Saphira lowered her neck, allowing Arya to gently caress her snout. The girl then turned to Thorin, smiling to reassure him.
"See, Thorin, not all dragons are the same: fierce, ruthless and heartless, there are also good and kind dragons in Middle Earth, such as Saphira, and if you're really going to face Smaug, maybe you could use someone like her on your side."
The wizard continued. The dwarf, then, surprising again all his companions, approached, a little bit fearful, the dragon, looking at her with wonder in his eyes. Then he turned to Arya.
"May I touch her?"
The young woman nodded and Thorin stretched his arm towards the snout of Saphira, whom, after a few moments of mistrust, bent forward to be caressed.
The dwarf whispered to her, though he was not entirely sure that he had been understood. When he interrupted contact, Saphira pulled back, folded on her legs and, having obtained the green light from the girl, flew away.
"She'll come back when we'll need her."
Arya eventually said. Thorin then approached the young woman and smiled at her, thanking her too for saving his life but, above all, for having decided to join the company. Having said that, he turned to his companions and his smile became even greater and more sincere seeing, behind them, the peak of the Lonely Mountain. The dwarves, the hobbit, Arya and Gandalf followed his gaze and were also dazzled by that sight.
"Is that what I think it is?"
Bilbo then asked.
"Erebor, the Lonely Montain. The last of the great dwarf kingdoms of Middle Earth."
The wizard affirmed solemnly.
Thorin said proudly.
"A raven, the birds are returning to the mountain."
Oin exclaimed enthusiastically.
"That my dear, Oin, is a thrush."
Gandalf then replied quietly.
"We'll take it as a sign...a good omen!"
The Dwarf King continued, smiling at Bilbo.
"You're right! I think the worst is over!"
The hobbit stated with conviction.
*Naur = fire