6. The Dragon's Lair
Glorfindel talked little about his past in Gondolin, but Khamul hadn't expected him to say much. He would just be talking to a sworn enemy after all.
Two months after the revelation that Glorfindel was a reincarnated elf from the First Age, Khamul looked into the east and saw mountains rising in the distance.
"It seems there's something in these lands after all," she muttered.
"You think it is wise to head toward them?" Glorfindel asked.
"I don't know if it's wise or not, but we're going there," Khamul said. "I've never held much stock by wisdom anyway."
The flat lands of the east deceived the true distance to the mountains, and it took the pair a week to reach them.
"I have never heard of such mountains," Glorfindel said, gazing at the towering behemoths.
"We've traveled farther than any mapmaker," Khamul said, glancing into cracks in the mountainside for water or plants. "Although I don't think these're any different from the rest of the land. There's no food or water here."
"This land is desolate," Glorfindel said. "We should return to the west."
"In time, in time," Khamul said. "Ah! Here's a cave!" she said, grinning.
Glorfindel approached it warily, glancing into the dark mouth. "It does not seem safe," he said.
"There isn't an animal for a thousand leagues," Khamul said. "Likely this is just another wasteland, only underground this time."
"There are dangerous things in the deep places of the world."
"So I've heard," Khamul said, walking into the cave, hand on her sword. "But I don't see anything."
Glorfindel followed her into the cave, looking around with apprehension. "This is a very ancient place," he said. "It has stood since the First Age. I fear it is part of the Iron Mountains, though how it escaped the great destruction you say was wrought, I do not know."
"And maybe there's gold in here then," Khamul said. "The Iron Mountains were part of Morgoth's realm, and he wasn't a poor Vala, I think."
Glorfindel sighed. "Can we not turn back? Do you not wish to know what happens in your world?"
"This is my world," Khamul said. "All of it. From the furthest reaches of the east to the uttermost west. It all belongs to me and mine."
Glorfindel muttered about the arrogance of humans, but did not argue with her.
They descended for many days, following the cave through the utter and complete darkness. To Khamul's great amusement, Glorfindel gave off a faint golden glow, rendering a torch unnecessary.
"And the best part is," she said, "you'll attract any monsters in here. They'll eat you and not me."
"I would appreciate it if you killed them before they devoured me."
Khamul shrugged. "Maybe," she said. "If you're still an asset."
"And if I am a liability?"
"Then you'd be dead already."
The tunnel eventually widened into a mammoth cavern. Even Glorfindel's glow couldn't pierce the darkness of the cavern's roof, so Khamul could only guess how high it was. And, for that matter, how large it was. It could have been as much as half a league in diameter.
"We should leave," Glorfindel said abruptly.
"It would take days to get out of here," Khamul said. "Besides, what's the problem?"
"I can smell dragon here."
"Eh?" Khamul asked, sniffing the air. "Do dragons smell like dust?"
"You are a mortal, you would not know. We need to leave! Listen to me, Haradrim!"
"Say that again as an insult, and I'll break your neck!" Khamul threatened.
A creaking noise stopped the growing argument.
The two whirled around and stared in horror as Glorfindel's light bounced off red-gold scales as an immense snout emerged from another tunnel emptying into the cavern.
"I smell elf-flesh," the dragon hissed in glee. "And I smell flesh of darkness. Not as tasty, but not powerful. Your master has fallen, little servant. I can eat you now!"
Khamul didn't waste another moment staring at the creature before racing back the way they had come. Glorfindel wasn't far behind her.
"Balrog slayer, ha!" she snorted.
"There is a difference between a balrog and a dragon," the elf gasped.
"What's that then?
"Dragons are much larger."
The dragon gave a great roar and thundered down the tunnel after them, breaking off stalctites and stalagmites alike. Huge chunks of rock rained down behind Khamul, and she dared not slow down for a moment.
"Is it going to flame us?" she asked.
"Probably," Glorfindel said.
"Ever fought a dragon before?"
"How do you do it?"
"Usually they have a soft underbelly," Glorfindel said. "Ah! I have an idea!"
"What is it?"
"I shall distract the dragon while you dive beneath it and stab it."
"Where's it's heart?"
"Left side, same as all things."
Khamul nodded. "Good plan," she said. "You get incinerated, I get crushed."
"It is already gaining on us. In a matter of minutes it will catch up with us, unless it decides to flame us instead."
"All right, fine, we'll do it your way," Khamul said. "Distract the great scaly bastard then!"
"Ai! Over here!" Glorfindel shouted, waving his arms. The glow seemed to intensify, catching the dragon's eye.
"I see you, little elf!" the monster roared, lunging towards him.
Khamul ran beneath the dragon, surprised that she had no need to crouch or crawl. The distance from the tunnel floor to the dragon's stomach was at least six feet.
"Aha!" Khamul muttered, running along underneath the dragon. She was now positioned squarely below the dragon's left breast. "Take that you monster!" she snarled, plunging her sword upwards.
The dragon snarled in irritation, but continued. To Khamul's horror, she saw that her strike had only knocked off some gems that had been stuck to the wyrm's skin. Again and again she struck, but when she had finally cleared a patch of bare skin, a flick of the dragon's claws threw her away from her target.
"I shall eat you alive for this!" the dragon snarled.
"No, wait!" Khamul exclaimed. Dragons are intelligent creatures, she remembered. Perhaps we can bargain with it. "Do you not want more wealth and gold?" she asked.
The dragon stopped its advance. "Yes," it said warily. "What is it you offer?"
"Wealth, all the food you can eat, and people to terrorize," Khamul said.
"I like the sound of that. Tell me more."
"Far, far in the west there are mountains called the Misty Mountains," Khamul said. "They hold many dwarf-realms full of vast riches."
"But no doubt they are strongly guarded," the dragon said.
"Well, yes, but that would be no trouble for a beast such as you."
"Tell me of other dwarf realms."
"There are some in the Blue Mountains. They are wealthy as well."
"I find I like that one even less," the dragon said. "Prepare to die, insolent creatures!"
"Wait! Wait!" Khamul exclaimed. "Bid your time, great dragon! All things must fall, and the dwarves are not immune by any means. The great halls of Khazad-Dum will crumble into ruin, and the Blue Mountains will be decimated. Then you can strike!"
The dragon considered this. "You have given me the opportunity to claim my rightful position as king of the dwarves," it said. "I like this. I shall, indeed, keep my ears open for news."
"And you'll let us go?" Khamul asked.
"Do not interfere with the realm I shall create," the dragon warned. "Give me your names, both of you."
"Khamul," Khamul said. "And this is Glorfindel."
"Ah, of the First Age," the dragon said, chuckling. "Were it not for the deal I have made, I would slay you where you stand. But I shall abide by these terms. Leave now, and when I am a king neither of you shall bother me."
"We agree," Khamul said. "But we must know your name, too, great dragon, or else we may think to defeat a dragon, only to find it is you."
"I am Smaug the Magnificent," the dragon said. "My name will be a sound of terror among the dwarves. Now leave! I grow tired of this deal already!"
"That was a foolish thing to do!" Glorfindel hissed as they fled down the tunnel. "Dragons are double-dealing creatures!"
"It was the only way out and we're both still alive," Khamul said. "I call it a fine deal indeed."
"And what now? Do we seek out more dangerous creatures until we are, at last, slain?" Glorfindel asked bitterly.
"No," Khamul said. "Now we go back to the west."
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.