Theme: Two Sides to Everything
Elements: Was it Frodo’s fault that Gollum fell in the Cracks of Doom?
Author's Notes: I couldn’t fathom anyone in LOTR arguing that it was Frodo’s fault, though certainly such short-sighted/ill-informed people did exist, so this is what I came up with instead. Hope you enjoy!
Summary: Sméagol comes to a new understanding.
Word Count: 2311
Gollum looked around the darkness. Much to his surprise, his wide eyes, so well-adapted to seeing in the darkest of dark after half a millennia at the bottom of the Misty Mountains, could see nothing at all. There was not a trickle of light nor a hint of shadow anywhere. He did not even know where he was.
The last thing he remembered was holding his Precious in his clasped hands and dancing for joy. Triumph at last! It had been stolen from him, stolen away by Baggins. He should have known, he had known, that the other Baggins would be just as tricksy. But Sméagol, for all his contempt and cunning, had believed the Baggins. He had thought the master kind and trusting, and so trustworthy, at least enough to keep his word in treating Sméagol kindly, but it was all a ploy, yes it was, Precious.
And where was the Precious now? Gollum looked in vain but could not find it. Always, even in his lake cave, he had been able to see the Ring, for it seemed at times to shine with a light of its own. Sighing in frustration, he sat up and stretched out his hands. He felt all around himself but something wasn't right. Something felt off, wrong. Something was different.
Not only was his Precious nowhere to be found, felt or sensed, but neither was there anything else. Slowly he came to the realization that there was nothing at all surrounding him. He sat not upon the ground, for there was no ground to sit upon. He stretched out not his arms, for as he attempted to clasp his hands together, he realized that he had no form, no substance, no body.
Panic set in. What new trickery was this, Precious? He attempted to run, for what little good it would do him, but he could not do even this. With nothing to set foot against, and no feet to carry him, he was stuck where he was, in the absolute and complete darkness of the ether.
‘Tricksy Master. He did this to us!’ he said though he had no voice to speak. And yet he had heard... something.
He paused, surprised. His thoughts here in this place were louder than his voice had ever been in life. They echoed out in all directions, rippling through space. The ripples created an unusual sound, an odd sort of music, full of malice and rage. He found he liked it quite well.
‘RAAAAAHHHHHHHH!’ he thought, and the ripples grew more wild. ‘We hates him, we do!’ Plinks, as pebbles in the pond. ‘He told us he'd take care of us, he pretended to be kind, only to tricks us. Isn't that right, Precious? He made us swear upon the Precious, and when we gets it back, he puts us here!’ The plinks and plunks sounded like rain against metal, hard, high-pitched, and unrelenting, a constant droning.
Gollum raised his hands to his ears, or thought to do it, would have done it had he still a body to follow his command. He could not escape the maelstrom of sound and music he had created.
‘RAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!’ he thought again. The malice returned, cold and quiet, waiting. Gollum relaxed and looked around again. Still, despite the music and sound - he was certain he really had heard it and not merely imagined it - there was still nothing to be seen. Nothing smelled here, nothing breathed or grew. What an odd place.
‘Where are we, Precious?’ A wooden sound, sullen and hollow.
Gollum felt Sméagol stirring within him, the old curious grubber. Always on his hands and knees, looking, examining. Gollum had no use for him. Sméagol's hope had caused this. After five-hundred years of exile, Sméagol had forgotten. Too eager he had been to see another creature similar to himself, what he once had been. Too eager he had been to be treated with kindness.
‘And look where that got us, my love,’ Gollum thought. Pling! Plink! Plank!
‘Not my fault!’ Sméagol insisted. The rain turned to hail. ‘We swore, we did, on the Precious! Master was kind. Master was fair. But Master lied. He tricked us, let those ugly men capture us. He betrayed us!’ An avalanche. ‘HE BETRAYED US! So we betrayed him.’ A long slow rumble. ‘We betrayed him.’ A soft wind, morose.
‘We paid him back,’ Gollum thought. ‘We needed the Precious. He knew it. He used it against us.’ The rumble returned.
‘We swore on the Precious,’ Sméagol thought. ‘We swore not to betray him, and betray him we did.’
‘Because he betrayed us! We only wanted the Precious back. We wouldn't have hurt him had he just given it to us.’ The rumbling became a roar. ‘We would have let him and the other one go.’ Thunder sounded, and the rain turned to hail. ‘RAH!’
‘You wanted them both dead, for taking the Precious from us,’ Sméagol thought, and was surprised when instantly the maelstrom of sound ceased. ‘But they didn't take the Precious. The other Baggins did. It was him whose neck we needed to crack, not Master's.’ The rain returned accompanied by a howling wind.
‘All of them needed to crack,’ thought Gollum. ‘We could have done it, my love. Be done with them in the marshes, throw their bodies in the water. No one would know, and we'd be home with our Precious.’
The crack they heard though was that of lightning. This was the most maddening sound so far, for no light accompanied the sound. The dark prevailed, as though in mockery of them, even as they mocked each other.
‘Instead, you wanted Master to like you. You wanted to Master to trust you. Now look at us! We are nowhere. We are nothing!’ Another crack of black lightning. ‘And the Precious is nowhere to be found. He stole it from us!’
‘No!’ Sméagol thought, though what he was denying he could not be sure. He wanted the deafening noise to stop, to go away. ‘We betrayed him.’ It had worked before, and it worked again now. The soft, wistful wind returned. ‘We betrayed him. He... did not betray us?’ The calm continued.
‘He did! Gollum! He lied to us! He took the Precious from us and used it against us! He hated us!’ Thunder, crack of lightning, hail and howling wind returned in an instant. ‘We did everything he asked, showing him secret ways into Mordor, and still it was not enough to please him. He... He... We fell with the Precious.’
Memory came suddenly to Gollum. He recalled it all. Biting off the master's finger, dancing with joy, the Ring in his hands, and the fall... not to the ground, but into the lava! Into the fire!
‘RAH! He waited, he did. He waited for us to take the Precious back and then he pushed us into the fire! He killed us!’
The racket was so loud now that not even his shouted thoughts of accusation could be heard over the torrent. The storm filled the space entirely, pushing against the fabric of the ether, trying to get out only to be pushed back, back onto them, a blanket of suffocating contempt.
‘NO!’ Sméagol thought. ‘We betrayed Master.’ Silence followed and Sméagol sighed with what was left of his being. ‘We promised not to hurt the Master, on the Precious we did this. Master was kind. Master trusted us.’
‘He let the men take us,’ Gollum thought.
‘They would have killed us,’ Sméagol returned. ‘Master was... saving us.’
‘To kill us later.’ Crack!
‘No. Not to kill us, never to kill us, my love,’ Sméagol said. ‘He wanted to save us, Precious. And we betrayed him. We were warned, my love. The Precious warned us not to betray him, that It would destroy us if we tried to take It from him.’ A humming began beneath the whisper of the wind, low, almost indiscernible but ever present. It seemed to confirm this thought, to approve of this connection made far too late.
‘So the Precious wanted to be thrown in the fire, my love?’ Gollum scorned. ‘No, my love. Master tricked us.’
‘NO!’ Sméagol thought before the roaring could return. ‘No! You tricked us.’
‘You tricked us. You came to us after the Precious. You told us to do things we shouldn't have done. You got us kicked out of our home!’ The humming stopped and howling wind returned. ‘No, no! No, we tricked ourselves!’ Silence returned, waiting. ‘We tricked ourselves. We thought if no one could see us, then we weren't really doing tricksy mean things. Only they saw it anyway. They saw us and threw us out. It was our fault. My fault.’
The humming grew louder, but not unpleasantly so. Sméagol bathed in the warmth of the sound, low and long, a slow ripple of understanding.
‘The master-’ Gollum tried to think.
‘Master was kind. We betrayed him. We were the tricksy ones. We brought ourselves here. From the moment we saw the Precious, and all because of our guilt. We killed Déagol, my love. We had to think we were better, clever, stronger, or we'd be crushed under the guilt. I was lonely. I didn't have my friend anymore. And it was all my fault. My fault, precious.’ The wind seemed to lift Sméagol, to carry him, though he was aware that there was nothing of him to carry anywhere.
‘No!’ Gollum thought, anguished. ‘You can't leave us!’ He too seemed to sense the shift, the change in Sméagol. ‘We are tricksy, but only because others were tricksy with us.’
‘No,’ Sméagol thought. ‘Others were kind to us.’
‘The smelly ranger dragged us through the marshes. That crotchety old wizard asked too many questions. Those mean, nasty elveses kept us locked up.’
‘Because we deserved it, my love,’ Sméagol thought. ‘We couldn't answer their questions. We tried to be tricksy. We couldn't come with them nicely. We had to fight them. The elveses let us outside, let us climb the trees.’
‘We hates the trees.’
‘YOU hates the trees. I always liked them, before. And Master was kind to us, and we betrayed him. We let Her bite him, and then we bit him, and stole the Precious from him after It warned us not to. It is our fault! Our fault! Can Master forgive us?’
The humming seemed to chuckle, though not cruelly. It was gentle, unassuming.
‘You would ask Master's forgiveness?’ Gollum thought, flabbergasted.
‘Master's and his friend's, for hitting him and trying to strangle him. He didn't trust us, he didn't hide it, and he shouldn't have. He was honest with us always, but even when he'd rather strangle us he was kind. His words were harsh, but his actions gentle. He did not tie the rope very tight at all, my love. He could have killed us on the mountain, but he didn't.’
‘Because Master wanted us to do it for him.’
‘Master only wanted us to show him ways into Mordor. We could have left then. He said so. Please, Master, forgive us. Forgive me.’
‘Not that it matters,’ Gollum thought. ‘He can't hear you here.’
‘Forgive me,’ Sméagol pleaded. ‘Forgive me, Master. Forgive me, Grandmother. Forgive me... Déagol. I am sorry.’
Gollum began to sneer but at that moment something amazing happened. A light, a pinprick in the unfathomable distance, appeared. After so long in the absolute darkness of this space, the light should have been blinding, but it was as soft and gentle as the humming wind. Sméagol's heart filled with the sight of it. Too long, the light had hurt his eyes, even the moonlight had been too harsh for him, but he had now no eyes to see and yet he saw more clearly than he ever had in life.
The light came closer, glowing soft, flickering with a playful radiance that filled Sméagol with joy. True joy! Oh, how could he have forgotten that feeling!
Sméagol tried to move towards the light and found that he could not. He stopped, wondering why this was.
‘No one will forgive you,’ Gollum thought, gloating.
The light began to fade as Sméagol doubted himself. Could that be true? Could no one forgive him? Or... ‘But I forgive you,’ he thought of Gollum.
Gollum gasped in astonishment, and the light enveloped them.
When next he woke, he was lying in a wide open field of greenest grass. At his head and feet and all around him were fragrant and brilliant wildflowers, filling the air with their sweet scent. He looked down and shouted for joy. He had a body again! His own body, young and spry and tanned with long exposure to the sun, not shriveled and bedraggled from hiding under the mountain. He jumped up and delighted in the feel and crunch of grass beneath his feet, his lovely, fur-covered feet. He jumped up and down and sprinted down the field, singing wildly and freely, laughing with astonishment. At last he came to a stream, and he dipped his hands into the cool, clean water. He drank deep, though something told him this was not necessary here, for he would never know thirst again. Still he drank, for the sheer pleasure of the cool kiss of water upon his lips, for the refreshing trickle as it washed down his throat.
A long-forgotten voice, kind and loving. Sméagol stood and turned around.
They stood there for a long time, or perhaps mere seconds, before Déagol laughed. “I've been waiting for you. It seems like forever! What took you so long? Welcome, friend!”
He held open his arms and after only a breath’s hesitation, Sméagol stepped into them. They hugged and Sméagol knew he was home. He was forgiven.