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71
Questioning

Written for the LOTR Community Dialogue Challenge. For Niriel Raina for her birthday. Beta by RiverOtter.


~~~

Questioning


“But it’s a thief--a filthy, little thief! He took it, he did--my Precious--he took it and kept it! He wouldn’t tell us what was in its pocketses!”

“And what did he have in his pockets? Do you know?”

“My Precious! He had that in his pocketses! Had my birthday present!”

“Then you guessed it?”

“Too late! We guessed it, yesss! Oh, yess, we guessed, but by then he knew, the thief! He had it then.”

“How did you come by it? By your--Precious?”

“Not its business!”

“But we need to know.” A pause. “We need to know!”

Softly: “From the Grandmother. Lots of nice things in her hole.”

Skeptically: “A magic ring? Your grandmother had a magic ring?”

“Lots of nice things! She had lots of nice things!” Muttering: “Why does it wants to know, precious? Not its business! Not its business what the Grandmother had.”

A heavy breath. “You said that there were lots of nice things in her hole? Your family lived in a hole?”

“Decent folk lives in holeses.”

“Holes? Are you a Hobbit?”

“What is it asking, gollum?”

Urgently: “Where was your grandmother’s hole?”

“Not its business!”

“I rather think it exactly my business! Did your folk live in the Shire?”

A snort of disgust. “Not there! No Shire, not there by the river!”

“So, you lived by a river, did you? Did you catch fish in the river?”

“Oh, yess--lots of nice fishes in the river. We caught them, we did--with lines and hooks, or nets, or sometimes with poles and points. But I could tickle them, I could--he taught me, Déagol did.”

“And who was Déagol?”

Agitated muttering: “Not its business! Mustn’t ask us--mustn’t ask us about him!”

“Is Déagol dead, then?”

“Mustn’t ask us! Gollum, gollum! Mustn’t never ask us!” A stifled sob.

Softly to self: “So, speaking of this Déagol is not allowed. Interesting.” A pause. “Your grandmother--did she have a name?”

“She was the Grandmother! It was her hole. We all lived in it.”

“Did you love her?”

“What?!”

“Did she make special dishes for you?”

Softly: “Fissh! She would make white fissh for us--for us when she knew it would make us happy.” More softly still: “I like fish.” Then defensively: “We will eat fissh--lots and lots of fishes, whenever we wants them! He’s promised!”

“Who has promised?”

“Our friend! He’s our friend now! Made them stop hurting uss; made them let us go, oh, yess, he did!”

“So, you went to Mordor, did you? But we could guess that by the fact you were found within the Dead Marshes, moving away from the Black Gate.”

“Don’t say it! Don’t speak of it!”

“Why did he let you go?”

“Didn’t let us go--we gots away on our own! But we have friendses! We have friends now--strong friends! They hurt you, you hurts us! Gollum!

“Oh, enough of this foolishness! Gollum, I don’t intend to hurt you!”

“You talk about there! We doesn’t want to speak of there! Gollum!

A shuddering breath.

“We are lost--lost without our Precious! The thief, he took it from us! The thief--the Baggins--he found it and took it! Put it in his pocketses and took it!”

“So, you went in search of it?”

“Yess, but we couldn’t find it, could we, precious? Oh, we looked--we looked! But we didn’t find where the thief went.”

“So, you left your home under the mountains and tried to follow the thief, did you?”

“Oh, yes, we did, didn’t we, precious? We came down the mountains, all the way to the river. We looked, but we couldn’t find which way the thief went! But there was a house, and they were talking, and we heard them--about the Dwarveses and their friend, and how the friend was not a Man, and not a Dwarf, and not an Elf or such a one as they’d seen before. It had to be the thief! It had to be the Baggins! The one who said he came from the Shire! Gollum!

Slowly: “Did he remind you of when you were younger?”

Muttering: “And why does it ask? Why does it wants to know?”

“You were kind to the Baggins, after all.”

Softly: “Yes, we was kind to it.” With rising anger: “Oh, yes--we was kind to it, but it was a thief back to uss! It took our birthday present, it did! Oh, the filthy thief! We wanted to catch it, we did, and wring itss nasty neck! It tricked us, preciousss! Wouldn’t tell us what was in its pocketses!”

Half under his breath: “So you’ve said!” After a moment: “And who gave it to you? Was it your birthday, or someone else’s?”

“It was my birthday!”

“Ah, it was your birthday. So, the one who gave it to you must have been a close relative. Your grandmother, possibly?”

A rude noise. “No, not the Grandmother!”

“Oh--not the grandmother? Didn’t she love you enough to give you such a precious thing?”

“Of course she loved us! Who said she didn’t love uss? Gollum, gollum!

“Then who did give it to you?”

Angrily: “Mustn’t say such things about the Grandmother, must it, precious? Nasty thing, this one! Won’t answer it again!”

“Gollum, who gave it to you?”

“Not talking no more. Not to you!”

“Shall I have to compel you?”

“Can’t make us say!”

“Gollum, I must know!”

“Not its business!”

“Don’t say that again!”

“Curse it! Curse it! Gollum!

“I call upon fire as my witness----”

“No! No, mustn’t hurt us, it mustn’t! No! Please, don’t hurts uss! Not with nasty fire! It burns us, it does!”

“If you won’t tell me who gave you your--birthday present, then I must. Now, speak!”

“It was Déagol who gave it to us! It was Déagol--there on the riverbank!”

“And where did Déagol come upon it?”

“In the water!”

“In the water? There in the river?”

“There was a fish--a big fissh! So big a fish, it pulled him from the boat!”

“He was in a boat? Upon the river?”

Sobbing: “Yes, in a boat. He fished from the boat, and the big fissh, it pulled him over the side, into the river. Gollum! He had it--he had the Precious, in his hand when he came up again! But he lost the fish, the big fissh--it swam away, and took his line.”

“He found it, the magic ring, there in the river? In which river?”

Impatiently: “In the river--the great river!”

“Was the great river near where you lived?”

“Of course!”

“Was the river deep where he went into it?”

“Deep? Deep? No--not deep, not there. It is shallow, there near the Gladden Fields....”

A gasp. “The Anduin--you lived along the Anduin, there near the Gladden Fields?”

“That’s what they are called, you see. Yesss, yes, the Gladden Fields. The Men--the horsemen who live there--that is what they call them--the Gladden Fields.”

“The Valar defend us! And this Déagol--he gave it to you?”

“I wanted it, you see. It was my birthday----”

“And so he just gave it to you?”

Whispering: “No, no--mustn’t ask more, it mustn’t! We doesn’t want to talk about it, does we, precious?” More fiercely: “He gave it to us, I say! It was my birthday present!”

A long period of indecipherable hissing and grunts of “my precious” and “my birthday present!”

At last, more kindly: “So, it was your birthday, was it? And what did you give him for your birthday?”

“Gave him three new hooks--hookses to fish with.”

“I see. Did he like them?”

“Of courssse! He used one--caught the big fish with it, he did, didn’t he, precious?”

“And what did you give your grandmother?”

“Gave her a wooden spoon. Carved it ourself, we did.”

“I’ll wager she was very proud of it.”

“Oh, yess! Yes, she liked it very much!”

“And what did you give your mother?”

Half crooning: “Didn’t have no mother--not then. She died--died long ago, long ago when Sméagol was little, she did.”

“Oh, but I am sorry. And your name was Sméagol?”

“She left Sméagol long ago. ‘Didn’t want to leave you, my precious lad--your mother; she didn’t want to leave you, my little Sméagol.’ That’ss what the Grandmother told us. No mother now, no father. Only the Grandmother and the uncles and the cousins and all. But them--they didn’t like Sméagol, they didn’t. Only the Grandmother and Déagol--only they liked uss! Gollum! Gollum!

“And you and Déagol--you were fishing together?”

“No--Déagol, he was fisshing. Sméagol was on the riverbank, looking for blue stones. Sméagol liked blue stones, so we looked for them when we went to the river, we did. Looked for things what were losst, and sometimes we found them.”

“Only this time--this time it was Déagol who found something--something you wanted.”

“‘I wants it, Déagol, my love. I wants it. It’s my birthday.’ ‘No--I already gives you something, Sméagol. I gives you that--you said you wanted it before, so I give it to you--more than I could afford. No, I wants this!’ ‘But I wants this now! Now, give it!”

“Heavens!”

“‘Give it to us!’ ‘No! You can’t have it! It’s mine--I found it, and it’s mine!’ ‘I’ll make you give it to us!’” A gasp.

“And you made him give it to you?”

No answer.

“And he didn’t complain to the grandmother when you returned to the hole?”

Defensively: “He never went back, not Déagol, did he, precious? Gollum, gollum! No, didn’t come back. Now there was only the Grandmother that liked Sméagol.”

“Why didn’t Déagol go back to the family hole?”

“He hid him, didn’t he, precious? Hid him good! No one ever found where he was hiding.”

“Did you show the grandmother your new birthday present?”

“No--not the Grandmother’s business.”

“So, you kept it a secret, did you?”

“It was mine--my birthday present! My cousin--he gave it to me, gave my Precious to me, for my birthday! Oh, my Precious--it was my birthday present! Now, when we wanted something, we took it, and no one could see or blame us. Only they did. So they treated us bad, they did!”

“Your grandmother didn’t defend you?”

“She was looking--looking for Déagol, she was. Only she didn’t find him--he was hiding--hiding too good to find. She asked us about Déagol, she did. Didn’t want to believe him was gone, gollum! Wouldn’t believe he left. Wouldn’t believe he ran away after he gave us the Precious for a birthday present. She wouldn’t listen to the others, not for a long time. But at last she did, and she made us go away, didn’t she, precious? Made poor Sméagol go away! Only them--they didn’t call us Sméagol any more. Called us the other--called us Gollum. They said as we murdered Déagol, they did. But they couldn’t know--they never found him--never found where Déagol hid after he give us the birthday present. They didn’t know about the Precious--we never showed them, never told them.”

“I see.” A deep breath. “I think that is enough for now, Sméagol.”

“Mustn’t call us that! No, it mustn’t call us that! Not that any more.”

“Guards--please take this one back to his room, and see to it he has fish and water. Thank you.”

“Gladly, Mithrandir. You, come with us.”

Whining: “No! No, don’t make us go back where there is no air moving!”

“Go on, Gollum.”

After a time: “Well, Mithrandir, did you learn from him what you wished to know?”

A shuddering breath. “I learned far too much today for my own comfort. Not all I wished to know, perhaps. Certainly not as much as I need to know. But far too much for comfort, Thranduil.”

“What would such a wretched creature know that would be of interest to such as you?”

“Wretched, you called him? Oh, he’s that--far more so, I fear, than I’d ever dreamed. And he didn’t know what he held. Tell me, friend, when was the last time you were aware of Pheriannath here east of the Misty Mountains?”

Pheriannath? Oh, not for a very long time. Over ten yeni ago, I’d think. They left, long ago. I’ve not seen any among the Fallohides for at least that long.”

“But what of the others--say, the Stoors, who lived right alongside the river itself?”

“Perhaps four or five yeni past. They were gone for a very long time; and then some were there, along the river itself. I think some once lived there near the Gladden Fields, but they have not been seen for quite some time. They traded with the folk of the Eotheod, I believe. They never trusted Elves, as I remember it.”

Murmuring: “Some came back across the mountains from Eriador, about the time the Dúnedain were moving their settlements westward toward Bree. That must have been the source of the settlement in which Sméagol lived.”

“Sméagol? And who was that? Some ancestor of this creature?”

"What? An ancestor?” A mirthless laugh. “One who once lived there near the Gladden Fields, a long time ago. Nay, I very much fear that until today Sméagol himself hasn’t been seen,” More briskly: “A thorough bath, I think. That is what I need right now. And tomorrow----”

“You must question him again?”

Another sigh. “I fear so. I must find out what his--birthday gift--did to him.”

“Then come. I will have a bath prepared for you. How much more do you need to learn from this Gollum?”

“I very much fear I won’t know that until I hear what else he might be able to teach me.”

“I shudder to think about what such as this might be able to teach anyone.”

“As do I, friend. As do I.” And as he walked within the doors to the palace of the King of Mirkwood, he looked westward, as if his gaze might pierce the distances and somehow locate the place where he was certain the long-missing Déagol was still hidden.

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