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Chapter 17: The Clouds Burst
The next morning, a messenger comes to the dwarves to ask them to hear from a representative of the elves and Lake-town people. Thorin believes that the enemy has heard of Dain's approach and comes in fear; therefore, Thorin is willing to hear him. At midday, Bard arrives and offers Thorin the Arkenstone in trade for some other treasure. When Thorin asks how he came by it, Bilbo admits to giving it to him and tells Thorin he can consider it his claimed share of the treasure. The enraged Thorin nearly throws Bilbo off the mountain, but agrees to trade the Arkenstone for Bilbo's one- fourteenth share. Bilbo leaves with the party of men and elves, and Thorin tries to plan how, with Dain's help, he can regain the Arkenstone without giving up any of the treasure.
The next morning, Dain and his forces arrive, only to be denied access to the mountain by Bard and the Elvenking. Bard sends messengers to Thorin to collect his promised share of the treasure, but his messengers are shot at with arrows. Though the elves and men are reluctant to attack the dwarves, the dwarves feel no such hesitancy and eagerly attack. Before the battle can begin in earnest, Gandalf stops it and points out to them a black cloud approaching from the north. The goblins of Bolg have joined with the Wargs and are riding toward them under a cloud of bats. Still bitter over the death of their chief in the Misty Mountains, they have heard of Smaug's death and come to take control of the entire region. Dain's dwarves quickly join forces with the elves and men to fight the goblins and wolves, thus beginning the Battle of Five Armies.
The elves attack first after luring the goblins into the valley between the mountain's arms, but the goblins manage to scale the mountain and fall upon them from above. The armies of good are driven back and things look grim, until Thorin suddenly joins the fight and leads a renewed assault upon the goblins and wolves, directing his attack at the bodyguards surrounding Bolg himself. As Thorin's men spread out, the goblins launch a counterattack and cut them off. Bilbo, who has been watching the battle from Ravenhill, fears that defeat is certain and begins to despair for his friends. Suddenly he sees the eagles approaching. As he shouts out the heartening news, he is struck by a falling rock and knocked unconscious.
The novel finally comes close to its grand climax, with the start of the Battle of Five Armies. At the first of the chapter, Thorin is once again portrayed in a negative light. His treatment of Bilbo and his refusal to honor his promise to Bard show how truly greedy he has become. It is only after the battle has been going on for a while that Thorin is able to shake off his obsession and join in the fight on the side of the good forces.
Bilbo, having done his best to win peace, goes off with the elves and men. He soon has his first taste of real battle. Though basically courageous, he dons his ring so that he will not be a noticeable target and can become an observer of all that goes on. The battle makes him miserable, and looks with gloom and misery at all the violence and bloodshed around him.
The battle itself causes the forces of good (the elves, the men, and the dwarves) to unite to fight the forces of evil (the goblins and the Wargs). The mood of the ensuing battle is dark, gloomy, and depressing. Tolkien seems to be commenting on the foolishness and cruelty of war, especially one brought on by greed.