The day grew lighter and warmer as they floated along. Then far away in the distance Bilbo saw the Mountain! All alone it rose and looked across the marshes to the forest. The Lonely Mountain! Bilbo had come through many adventures to see it, and now he did not like the look of it.
Those lands had changed much since the days when dwarves dwelt in the Mountain. Great floods and rains had swollen the waters that flowed east; and there had been an earthquake or two. The marshes had spread wider and wider on both sides. Paths had vanished. Only the river offered a safe way from Mirkwood to the plains beyond the Mountain, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves’ king.
At last, late in the day the shores grew rocky, the river turned into rapid flood, and they went along at great speed.
The sun had set when the forest-river rushed into the Long Lake. The Long Lake! It was so wide that the opposite shores looked small and far, but it was so long that its northerly end, which pointed towards the Mountain, could not be seen at all. At the southern end the waters turned into waterfalls and ran away to unknown lands.
Not far from the mouth of the Forest River was the strange town. It was not built right on the surface of the lake. A great wooden bridge led to huge piles made of trees on which a wooden town of Men was built. They throve on the trade.
As soon as the raft of barrels arrived, it was drawn out of the Forest River and taken into the little bay of Lake-town. Now the barrels were left afloat while the elves of the raft and the boatmen went to feast in Lake-town.
In the night, after they had gone, Bilbo pushed the barrels to the shore and opened them. Groans came from inside, and out crept the dwarves. They were shocked but happy to be alive.
«Well! Here we are!» said Thorin. «And I suppose we should thank our stars and Mr Baggins. No doubt we will feel properly grateful, when we are fed and recovered. But what shall we do next?»
«I suggest going to Lake-town,» said Bilbo. So leaving the others Thorin and Fili and Kili and the hobbit went along the shore to the great bridge. There were guards at the head of it, but they were drinking and laughing by a fire in their hut, and did not hear the noise of the unpacking of the dwarves or the footsteps of the dwarves and the hobbit. Their astonishment was huge when Thorin Oakenshield stepped in through the door.
«Who are you and what do you want?» they shouted.
«Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain!» said the dwarf in a loud voice. «I have come back. I wish to see the Master of your town!» Then there was great excitement. The captain of the guard came forward.
«And who are these?» he asked, pointing to Fili, Kili and Bilbo.
«The sons of my father’s daughter,» answered Thorin, «Fili and Kili of the race of Durin, and Mr Baggins who has travelled with us out of the West.»
«If you come in peace lay down your arms!» said the captain.
«We have none,» said Thorin, and it was true: the wood-elves had taken their knives, and the great sword Orcrist too. Bilbo had his short sword, hidden as usual, but he said nothing about that. «Take us to your master!»
«He is at feast,» said the captain.
«So take us to him,» said Fili. «We are hungry after our long road and we have sick comrades.»
«Follow me then,» said the captain, and with six men about them he led them over the bridge through the gates and into the market-place of the town. This was a wide circle of quiet water surrounded by the tall piles on which the greater houses were built. From one great hall many lights shone and they could hear many voices. They passed its doors and stood in the light looking at long tables filled with folk.
«I am Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain! I return!» cried Thorin in a loud voice from the door, before the captain could say anything. All leaped to their feet. The Master of the town sprang from his great chair. But the raft-men of the elves were surprised most of all. They cried:
«These are prisoners of our king that have escaped, the dwarves that didn’t want to explain what they were doing in our forest and why they frightened our people!»
«Is this true?» asked the Master.
«It is true that we were imprisoned without cause by the Elvenking when we journeyed back to our own land,» answered Thorin. «But this town is not in the Wood-elves’ kingdom. And I speak to the Master of the town of the Men of the lake, not to the raft-men of the king.»
Then the Master hesitated. The Elvenking was very powerful in those parts and the Master didn’t want to make him his enemy. But others were of different mind. The news had spread from the doors of the hall really quickly. People began to sing an old song about the return of the King under the Mountain:
«The King beneath the mountains,
The King of carven stone,
The lord of silver fountains
Will come into his own!
The streams will run in gladness,
The lakes will shine and burn,
And sorrow fail and sadness
At the Mountain-king’s return!»
There was great excitement. The Wood-elves began to be afraid. They did not know of course how Thorin had escaped, and they began to think that their king made a serious mistake. The Master gave to Thorin his own great chair and set Fili and Kili beside him. Even Bilbo was given a seat at the high table.
Soon the other dwarves were brought into the town. They were all fed. A large house was given to Thorin and his company; and crowds sang songs all day.
Indeed within a week they were in good health again, wore fine clothes, and their beards were combed and trimmed. Thorin looked and walked as if his kingdom was already regained and Smaug chopped up into little pieces.
Meanwhile the Wood-elves had gone back up the Forest River, and there was great excitement in the king’s palace. In any case the king knew now the dwarves’ plan, and he said to himself: «Very well! We’ll see! No treasure will come back through Mirkwood without my help. But I expect they will all come to a bad end!» He did not believe in dwarves fighting and killing dragons like Smaug. He sent out his spies to the shores of the lake and as far towards the Mountains as they could go, and waited.
Two weeks later Thorin spoke to the Master and his councillors and said that soon he and his company had to go on towards the Mountain.
Then for the first time the Master was surprised and a little frightened; he didn’t believe that Thorin was really a descendant of the old kings. He had never thought that the dwarves could approach Smaug. He was wrong. Thorin, of course, was really the grandson of the King under the Mountain, and nobody knows what a dwarf could do for the recovery of his own. But the Master was not sorry to let them go. They were expensive to keep, and their arrival had turned things into a long holiday in which business stopped. So he said,
«Certainly, O Thorin, Thrain’s son, Thror’s son! We will help you, and we hope for your gratitude when your kingdom is regained.» So one day, although autumn was now getting on, three large boats left Lake-town. There were rowers, dwarves, Mr Baggins, and many provisions. Horses and ponies had been sent round by circuitous paths to meet them at their appointed landing- place. The Master and his councillors said good-bye. People sang songs. The white oars splashed, and they went on the last stage of their long journey. The only unhappy person was Bilbo.