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Chapter 14: Fire and Water
The plot goes backward in time to the day when Smaug sets out for Lake-town to wreck his vengeance on it inhabitants. The people of the town are excited to see a fiery light over Lonely Mountain and begin to celebrate, believing that Smaug is dead and Thorin has become the King under the Mountain. Their joy turns to dread and then utter panic when they realize the light comes from Smaug's approach. When the dragon arrives, he finds the bridge to the town destroyed. Since he has no easy entry to Lake-town, he flies over the village, setting fire to the houses and sending the people into a state of panic. Luckily, one of the citizens decides to fight the Dragon and encourages the others. The brave man is Bard, a descendant of Girion, the last Lord of Dale. As Smaug devastates the town and Bard's companions flee, the old thrush flies to Bard and tells him about the bare spot on the dragon's breast. With his last arrow, Bard succeeds in shooting the weak spot. Smaug falls down dead, destroying more property in his death throes.
The people of the town wish to make Bard their king and depose the Master. The Master is wily, however, and tries to blame the dwarves for the town's misfortune. He also says that any that want to follow Bard to the "cold shores" of Dale can do so, but that it is time to rebuild Lake-town. Bard diffuses the tension, saying that he still serves the Master, and takes the lead in the rebuilding efforts, always careful to act in the Master's name. The Elvenking, having heard of Smaug's death and hoping to claim part of the treasure, arrives in Lake-town with his troops on the way to the Lonely Mountain. The elves help the Lake-town people in their recovery efforts. When they set out once again, Bard and a few men from Lake-town join them on their march to the Mountain.
Filled with drama, violence, and action, this chapter portrays a dark mood while the dragon assaults Lake-town. Things brighten considerably as Bard shoots Smaug in his weak spot, causing him to fall down dead. The rising action is still building towards its climax, but this episode serves as a mini-climax. It also shows the grouping of forces, all of whom hope to claim the treasure or some part of it. Conflict over the treasure seems inevitable.
Tolkien also digresses upon the nature of crowds in this chapter. In the scene where the Master debates with the people, he suggests that people in crowds are more easily swayed by the well-spoken words of a good orator than by their own common sense or wisdom. His lofty words and Bard's agreement convince the people of Lake-town to let the Master stay in office and inspire them to rebuild the town