How we think the fight will go
Detecting treasure-bound intruders was as easy as taking to the sky once each day – great, swooping patrols of the local mountains and valleys – but most days Smaug couldn’t be bothered. It was so rare that any creature dared to approach his lair (and rarer still that it would be one that posed any threat whatsoever) that the great worm found it difficult to summon the energy for such vigilance. Let them come, he purred to himself. It gave him the utmost pleasure to wait, to forestall the incineration of their very bones until after they’d actually seen the great treasure he’d amassed. Their awe and covetousness whetted his appetite.When the bearded man appeared one day on the threshold of the treasure chamber, Smaug was hardly surprised or impressed. It seemed these days that there was a wizard nearly anywhere one dropped dung, and most of them didn’t have anything terribly interesting or particularly magical to say. Occasionally they turned up on the Lonely Mountain to survey Smaug’s wealth or ask inane questions – probably, the dragon speculated, just to be able to brag about it later and build a name for themselves. They never stayed long enough or drew close enough to arouse his ire, and in any case, when the greybeards returned home with their observations it contributed to Smaug’s own notoriety in a way that satisfied him.
This one was different. He made no effort to conceal himself, nor did he bow and beg the dragon’s pardon or ask for an audience in a trembling voice. Instead the wizard began calmly picking through the nearest pile of relics with infuriating detachment. Occasionally, he held an item up to the light for a better look, but instead of appearing awed he always seemed disappointed, setting the item off to the side and continuing his search. Smaug was so insulted that, in order to save face, he felt he had no choice but to pretend not to notice the man at all.
Finally, after the strange bearded man had already picked his way through several mounds of treasure, the dragon made a big show of detecting his presence. Spraying fire across the ceiling and shaking the cavern with his screams, Smaug wheeled around to confront the old gentleman, half-expecting to discover that he’d already run for the hills or fallen dead of terror. Both of these reactions were quite common. To his horror, however, he saw that his pyrotechnics had elicited no reaction whatsoever. The wizard seemed to have not even interrupted his search, and death from fright hardly seemed forthcoming.
Without looking up, the old man spoke: “I pray you will pay me no mind. I won’t be long, and I shall not reduce your wealth. After all, the component I seek has no value to you whatsoever.”
Howling in rage, the dragon lunged forward to snap the greybeard’s soft body in half with a single bite. When his jaws connected, however, it was not the top meeting the bottom. Instead, their joining was disrupted by a shimmering pillar of stone. Where seconds ago a pensive old man had stood, now there was a glittering white stalagmite six feet in height, the ground at its base littered with tooth fragments. Smaug recoiled in shock and anguish, his mouth throbbing and drooling black blood.
“See? I’ve already added to your wealth considerably. This diamond is yours to keep in exchange for any inconvenience my visit has caused you. In the meantime… ah, yes! Here it is.”
Merlin produced a shining medallion from a heap of common gold pieces, examining it only cursorily before vanishing it into his robes. Bowing deeply – perhaps a bit ironically, the dragon noted with wounded pride – he began to fade from sight. Within moments, the diamond spike and Smaug’s sore jaw were the only evidence that he’d ever been there at all.
Heaving a caustic sigh and carefully curling his lips over his jagged tooth-stumps, Smaug heaved himself to his feet and wriggled toward the entrance to his lair. It was beginning to seem as though a more rigorous patrol schedule might be in order after all …
Predicted Winner: Merlin
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Friday, March 15th, 2013, AT 5 PM, EST
Smaug is a character from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien; Merlin is a character from Arthurian Legend.
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”