Sméagol woke on the day of his thirty-third birthday to see Déagol standing over him and smiling.
“Congratulations, my love,” he said. “Today you are officially grown up. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”
Sméagol wasn’t surprised when he discovered that his friend was the only one who had remembered. Both his mother and grandmother acted as if it was no different to any other day, but Déagol paid even more attention to him than usual.
They began the day by hunting as usual, but all the time Déagol was leading the unsuspecting Sméagol to the grove where he had left the dog.
After slaying two rather large deer, (with less than usual horridness from a certain member of the party), and enjoying the fresh meat of one underneath a large oak, Déagol spoke to his friend.
“When did you want your birthday present?” he asked.
Sméagol, who hasn’t received anything other than small birthday presents from his friend since he was twenty, was surprised by the question.
“You got me a birthday present?” he asked. Déagol laughed good-naturedly at the look of happy surprise on his friend’s face.
“Of course I did, Sméagol!” he said. “Honestly. It’s your day today. Of course I got you a present! Come on, I’ll take you to it.”
“You mean it’s not here?”
“It’s near here.”
Sméagol got to his feet, and began to look around the woods that surrounded them, as if trying to guess where Déagol had hidden the present.
“You’re not going to get it that way,” said Déagol, who now rose to his feet beside Sméagol. He approached Sméagol from behind and covered his eyes.
“Déagol, my love, what are you doing?”
“Blindfolding you. I’ll guide you to where it’s hidden.”
“What about the other deer?”
“Leave it here.”
“You won’t let me run into a tree, will you?”
“Of course I won’t!” Déagol said with earnest surprise. “Sméagol, why don’t you trust me?”
Sméagol relaxed slightly under Déagol’s hands, but was still tensed as Déagol led him through various patches of forest.
Déagol was incredibly glad that the dog hadn’t barked yet. As he entered the glade he realised the reason for the canine’s quietude. The dog lay down, silent as a lamb, deeply asleep. For a split second Déagol thought the dog was dead.
“Déagol, where are we going?” Sméagol asked.
“Nowhere now, my love.” Déagol lifted his hands from Sméagol’s face, allowing him to see his present.
Sméagol stood staring at the dog for a moment, before turning back to his friend and grabbing Déagol’s hands in his own.
“What is its name?” he asked, dragging Déagol closer to his new pet.
“It is your’s to name, Sméagol,” he answered.
Sméagol gently pushed the dog, causing it to wake and growl angrily at the two halflings.
Sméagol giggled in delight at the dog’s reaction.
“It growls like an orc, it does,” he said, remembering how the goblins had similarly expressed displeasure.
“An orc!” Déagol squealed. “Yes. Look, it’s face even looks like it might be one!”
The dog was some sort of variety of pug, and its squashed nose, and black lips did, in fact, cause him to resemble a small, four-legged orc.
“Goblin then,” settled Sméagol. “The dog’s name shall be Goblin.”
They took Goblin back to where they had left the deer, and fed him some of what remained of their lunch. They kept the other deer though. Déagol insisted they should sell it.
After lunch they settled beneath the tree and chatted idly. Goblin fell asleep beside them.
“Where did you manage to find a dog?” Sméagol queried, “and how did you ever manage to pay for it?”
“Don’t trouble yourself with whatever it cost,” came Déagol’s reply. “You said once that you wanted a dog, and an opportunity presented itself. Like I said a few years back. You want something and you only need to ask me. If it is within my power to give it, then I will.”
“Oh Déagol, my love,” said Sméagol, reaching down and grabbing his friend’s hand again.
Déagol spent the rest of Sméagol’s birthday fishing, but because of Sméagol’s cold, both Deanör and Careth refused to let him go out in the boat, so instead he rummaged around the banks, sometimes watching his friend fishing, other times exploring the little cracks in trees or digging around in the mud for small crabs.
Déagol had rotten luck, until a particularly large bite caught him off guard, and before he knew what was happening, he had been pulled under the water.
Sméagol, who was currently investigating a tree, didn’t notice his friend’s misfortune, and continued on like before.
Déagol, now underwater, saw something shining amongst the mud at the bottom of the pool. He was wearing the cloak Sméagol had given him for his birthday, and it was dragging him down, making it harder to swim. He usually would have done nothing, except try and struggle back to the surface, but something called to him, and he swam down deeper, and grabbed the shiny thing out of the mud. It was a golden ring, and even under the water he could see how it glistened in the waning light.
He swam to the surface, holding the ring in his hand.
He dragged himself onto the shore, not taking his eyes off his find.
Sméagol, now realising what had happened, called to his friend. “Been swimming have we, precious?”
Déagol shot a hateful look at Sméagol and turned back to the ring in his hand. Sméagol, now curious as to what had Déagol’s attention, crept up behind him. It must be very special, Sméagol thought, if Déagol is to ignore me, merely to look at it.
Upon seeing the ring, something came over Sméagol. It was almost as if the ring spoke to him.
See how I shine, it said to him. Don’t you want something that is as beautiful as this?
Sméagol was caught up in the ring’s power, and he desired it, although he knew not why. He could only think that it was beautiful.
“Give us that, Déagol, my love,” Sméagol asked, thinking about his friend’s promise. You want something and you only need to ask me. If it is within my power to give it, then I will.
Déagol had promised. He would have to give the ring.
Sméagol was startled by Déagol’s answer.
Sméagol’s mind was racing. Why do I need to give an answer? You said… and we wants it.
“Because it’s my birthday, my love, and I wants it,” he snapped back at Déagol, furious that his friend might break his promise.
“I don’t care,” snapped Déagol. “I have given you a present already, more than I could afford. I found this and I’m going to keep it.”
He looked back up at Sméagol, his eyes a dark grey, like a thunderstorm.
Sméagol felt his heart break in that moment. He felt torn in two. Part of him, Sméagol could only think that the ring was controlling it, wanted to kill Déagol. Throttle him, it said, Take the ring. He should have given it to you. He broke his promise. A small part of Sméagol screamed back. But he’s our precious! We can’t hurt him!
Why not? He pretended that he cared for us, and now when it suits him, he goes and sacrifices everything we had with him, and what for? A ring. No, he’s not our precious. We should make the ring our precious. It would probably give more love than he ever did…
NO… Part of Sméagol’s mind still insisted that Déagol cared, but soon he realised that he had thrown his circlet into the mud.
“…I’m going to keep it.” The words echoed in Sméagol’s ears.
Sméagol looked back into Déagol’s eyes. He saw not the sky in them any more, but the wild eyes of a fierce beast.
“Oh, are you indeed, my love,” he said, so that he could barely be heard.
He placed his hands on Déagol’s shoulders, as if he was about to embrace him, and looked deep into his eyes for a moment, as if searching in him desperately, to find a good enough reason to change his mind. Try as he might, he could no longer see his love in Déagol.
KILL HIM! screamed part of his mind.
Sméagol snapped. His hands closed around Déagol’s throat, and pressed a point in his neck that Sméagol knew would kill.
Déagol’s eyes widened. Sméagol let go of him, and he fell into the reeds by the side of the river, dead. The ring fell from his hand as he fell, and was quickly caught by Sméagol.
Sméagol’s `gollums’ had started again, but when he held the ring, he could not care about Déagol.
He placed the ring on his finger, and laughed as he held it up to the sun.
By the time it was dark, Sméagol had finished digging Déagol’s grave.
He placed the dead body in the hole, and not sure whether he should laugh or cry at his friend’s burial, chose instead to stay silent. He placed what had been his circlet on Déagol’s head, and bowed down to kiss his friend’s forehead.
He then placed Goblin’s limp body on top of Déagol’s.
“Here, precious,” he said, laughing. “Have your `birthday present.’ I have no need for it any more. It’s been throttled it has, just like you.”
He piled the dirt back on, with many a `gollum’ in his throat, then stood back as if to survey his work.
He thought that he’d chosen a wonderful place to bury Déagol. In the fading light, the grove where he had first met Goblin lit up bright red, almost like blood.
He returned to Deanör’s hole late that night, when everybody was asleep. Careth’s snores came softly from her bedroom.
Sméagol debated whether he should kill her too, but decided that he was far too tired, and fell asleep on the floor, in front of the fireplace.
He woke the next morning to the sound of Careth’s worried chatter.
“I don’t know where he is!” she said frantically to her husband. “He should have come back last night, but he hasn’t!”
“Don’t worry, dear,” said Daen, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Déagol hasn’t come back either. They’re probably off on one of their adventures again.”
“Whatever has happened,” came Deanör’s voice from the kitchen. “I don’t like the feel of this whole thing. Even when they went on that goblin-hunt they weren’t gone this long. I seriously doubt we’ll see Sméagol and Déagol ever again.”
“Don’t say things like that mother!” screamed Careth.
“What in the world are you talking about?” asked Deanör, unfazed by her daughter’s fears. “Pretending as if you care about the poor boy. You haven’t done a thing for that child. Not once. Did either of you even remember that it was his coming of age yesterday?” Both Careth and Daen shook their heads. “I didn’t think so. Fine parents you two have turned out to be. Maybe nature had a reason to turn one of you barren. Only now, once you’ve lost him do you care at all.”
“We’re not lost!” yelled Sméagol on the floor. “We’re right here, near the fireplace.”
“I thought I heard something,” said Deanör, looking straight at where Sméagol was sitting. “Did either of you?”
“Yes…” Daen responded hesitantly.
“Can’t you see us?” shouted Sméagol.
“Sméagol?” Careth questioned.
“We can’t see you.”
Sméagol thought for a second before pulling off his ring.
“What?” Deanör was puzzled. “How did you…”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Where’s Déagol?” asked Deanör. “You usually aren’t seen without him.”
Sméagol scowled. “He’s dead.”
The next day, the whole tribe was chattering about Déagol’s sudden death. Some, once again, blamed Sméagol.
“But why?” was the common response to this theory. “They were best friends.”
Deanör had trouble believing that Sméagol would kill his friend. She once said to Retelle “Remember the goblin thing? I’m sure Sméagol had killed Déagol he would have been boasting about it to anyone who would listen.”
One thing could not be denied though. Since Déagol’s death, Sméagol had changed for the worse. He was almost permanently golluming, not in an effort to stop tears, but it was probably now a habit that he refused to break.
He had also become incredibly nasty, especially to Careth. Once, when wearing the ring, he had sneaked into Deanör’s hole and stolen a particularly nice brooch of hers. Careth had caught him in the act, but being invisible, she could not see him.
Once she had worked out were he was, she kicked where she thought his had would be in an effort to stop his thieving. The brooch was dropped to the floor, and broken, and Careth was awarded a nasty bite on the leg for her troubles.
A time came when the tribe would no longer put up with Gollum, as they had nicknamed him. His continual thieving and destroying was taking its toll.
“He hasn’t done anything to deserve banishment though,” argued Deanör.
“So then,” agreed Retelle. “Prove that he killed Déagol and there’s plenty of reason to be rid of the wretch.” The penalty for murder of a member of the tribe was death. Deanör was well aware that many wanted Sméagol dead, not just banished, and her husband not the least. The most she could do for Sméagol was probably save him from the rest of the tribe. She would be doing him a favour by banishing him, before another member of the tribe managed to inflict their won idea of punishment on him.
Deanör as Matriarch called for Sméagol to be brought to her. One of Daen’s friends eventually found him wandering near the mountains, and dragged him to her hole.
“Sméagol,” Deanör started by saying. “There has been some concern that you killed Déagol. I have brought you here today, to establish the cause of his death, partly so your name might be cleared.”
Retelle looked over to her, angry that she should attempt to save him.
“He’s dead,” was all that Gollum would say. “Yes precious. Dead.”
“What did you do on your birthday?”
Gollum was startled that Deanör had remembered that it had been his birthday.
“We went fishing, we did.”
“Why didn’t Déagol come back with you the next day?”
“He fell in the water. His cloak weighed him down.”
“Are you telling me that Déagol drowned?”
Gollum remained silent. Deanör looked worried.
“Where did you get that ring from then?”
Gollum looked shocked.
“How did you know about the precious?” he hissed.
“That’s not important, Sméagol.”
He hissed again at the use of his correct name. He suddenly pulled the ring, which he had been holding tightly in his hands closer to his heart.
“It’s ours! My precious! My birthday present!” He growled at Deanör, who was looking more and more worried as the trial went on.
“You can’t take it from us, no precious. It’s all we has. No Déagol.” In a moment he opened his hands again, and looked at the ring, muttering to himself. “Should have given it to us, he should. My precious, oh yes. He brokes his promise, he did. He should have given it to us!” He turned back to Deanör. “His own fault, yes! He brokes his promise. After eggses and orcses he made a promise! He brokes it! We throttles him for a reason, yes!”
Through all this jabbering, Retelle had been talking quietly to his wife. Now he said “I think he just confessed. Isn’t that evidence enough? He must be banished.”
Deanör shook her head in frustration, then stood up, and looked at Gollum.
“GOLLUM!” she said, using his nickname as a form of denouncement. “The penalty for murder, especially of a sort like this, should be death, but there is insufficient evidence, and I don’t want the unjust death of my grandson on my conscience. Right now I doubt that you are even my grandson any more. In fact, from this moment, I am sure you aren’t. Your penalty is exile! You are no longer a part of the tribe.” She was shaking as she pointed to the door of her hole. “Go and never come back!” she commanded, “or you will serve the correct sentence for murder.”
Retelle half-chased Gollum out the door, and watched until he was out of sight.
Sméagol sobbed to himself as he ran alongside the river.
He looked down once more at the ring in his hand.
“Horrible precious,” he muttered. “MAKES US KILL OUR DEAGOL FOR IT! WE LOSES EVERYTHING!”
He moved to throw it back into the river, but stopped as he felt it speak once more.
Why get rid of us? it said. You have nothing but us. If you get rid of us, then you killed Déagol for nothing. You killed him for us, remember.
“WE HATES YOU!” Sméagol screamed.
Yes, you do, and you always will, but you will learn to love us, until we are your whole life. WE ARE YOUR PRECIOUS!
Sméagol looked down at the ring in his hand for a second, wondering if he should try and throw it back into the river, then gave up.
He slipped the ring onto his finger, and headed towards the mountains.