Once, when the youths were thirty, Déagol suggested that they both climb up the mountains, to raid the nests of a particular sort of eagle that lived there. The mountainside in question was incredibly steep, and a fall would surely mean death, or at least a couple of broken bones, but the two friends endeavoured to climb it nonetheless.
On approach of the mountain, it appeared that Déagol almost regretted his decision to go egg-snatching.
“It’s awfully high,” he said, turning back to his friend, who was walking a step or two behind, and stopping every now and then to have a look at some fascinating tree or animal. “Are you sure that you wont fall,” Déagol continued.
“I’m sure, but what about you, my precious,” he said, smiling mischievously. “You’re not having a change of heart are you? Not scared are we?”
At the age of thirty both halflings were growing well into their bodies, especially in the eyes of the younger female members of the tribe. It was a startling sight to see Sméagol and Déagol together. One was the darkest member of the tribe in a century. His long black hair fell over his dark shoulders and dark-as-night eyes. The other’s skin was pale compared to his friend’s, but had developed a golden quality to it, and his skin had become almost identical in colour to his hair. People had remarked on the lightness of Déagol’s hair, and that of his eyes, which appeared to change colour. On some days they seemed as blue as the clear sky above. On others they resembled grey clouds.
Sméagol knew how much most of the members of the tribe loved Déagol, and he himself was no exception. Déagol knew little of his friend’s adoration, and it never occurred to him that he was really the only one in his tribe who cared for Sméagol. Careth had grown sick of playing the mother almost as soon as Sméagol had entered his tweens, and apart from an occasional order from Careth, such as when she had forced Sméagol to continue with his studies, he had little to do with his adopted mother. His father had never cared for him, and his grandmother made no secret of the fact that while she would care for him, she would never love him nearly as much as Déagol did. In Déagol’s eyes Sméagol could do no wrong, and while the rest of the tribe would praise Sméagol for Déagol’s sake, every good word Deagol said to his friend was completely sincere.
“Not scared?” Sméagol repeated when Deagol stayed silent. He jogged up to Deagol, and rested a hand on his shoulder, intending to make some smart comment, but all thoughts of jesting with his friend disappeared when he saw the look on Déagol’s face.
“I’m serious,” he said instead. “If you’re scared we don’t have to do this.”
“Well, I’m serious too,” Deagol replied. “I’m going to climb that mount. Besides,” he said cheekily. “Thrush eggs are all well and good, but they are certainly no match for the taste of a big, crunchible eagle egg.”
Sméagol was the first to start climbing the ragged mountainside. He quickly scampered up, and was soon almost fifty feet high. Seeing the ease with which Sméagol climbed, Déagol was soon determined to follow. He awkwardly reached a hand up to the nearest hold the mountain offered, and attempted to climb as quickly as Sméagol did. Deagol soon found that it was far harder than his friend made it look.
Sméagol, who was still climbing at a rapid pace, looked down behind him to see Déagol’s vain efforts at climbing. Deagol had barely made it up twenty feet, and was already struggling. Sméagol climbed down to his friend, and offered him his hand.
“Come on Deagol,” he half laughed as he spoke. “You can’t climb for nuts.”
Next followed about an hour of mishaps and jokes about each other’s skills in climbing, as Sméagol very patiently helped Deagol climb up the mountain.
An occasional “put your foot here,” from Sméagol meant that Deagol finally managed to follow his friend up to a small overhang of rock, where the two discovered a nest containing three large eagle eggs. They had passed a cave in the rock face about fifty feet down the mountain, so they climbed back down to enjoy their findings.
Sméagol had crept quite easily into the cave, and Déagol was carefully climbing down the last few feet, when suddenly the rock broke from underneath Déagol’s foot, and he found himself sliding down the mountain. He was vaguely aware that he had slipped past the cave and that it was more than likely that he was falling to his death, when he felt a hand grab a hold of his own.
He looked up to discover that Sméagol had caught him, and was carefully pulling him up into the cave. When they were safely inside the cave, Déagol realised that the egg he had been carrying had fallen, and splattered all over the side of the mountain.
“I’m sorry Sméagol,” he said. “I lost part of our lunch.”
Sméagol however, couldn’t care about the lost dainty. He was already embracing his friend, and asking frantically if he was okay.
“Lunch? Who cares about lunch? Are you all right?”
He then began to inspect his friend’s limbs, only to discover that Déagol was not all right as far as he was concerned.
“Oh no precious,” he said as he was inspecting Déagol’s ankle. “You’ve gone and broken it, you have.”
“You’ve got a broken ankle.”
“How in the world are we going to get down the mountain then?”
“I might carry you.”
“Let’s have lunch first. We can think then.”
They both crept to the back of the cave, looking to find a nice comfortable place to have lunch, where, to their surprise, they discovered a small tunnel.
“Where do you think it goes?” asked Déagol.
“There’s rumours of goblins living in these mountains, there is. Perhaps it leads down to their caves and treasures.”
“You always did have an overactive imagination Sméagol, but at least it might lead to another way out of here, apart from climbing.”
It was soon fixed firmly into both halflings’ minds that after lunch they were going to go exploring through the tunnels, in an effort to find a less risky way for Déagol to leave the mountains.
They both cracked the eggs open and slurped them up hungrily, before crunching the shells between their teeth.
“Mmmm…” said Sméagol contentedly. “I loves eggses, I does.”
Déagol giggled at Sméagol’s choice of language.
“Eggses?” he inquired.
“I like that; eggses.”
They wiped the traces of `eggses’ of their faces, and made their way to the back of the cave, to the tunnel.
After walking through various tunnels, Déagol started talking. “I can’t see a thing, Sméagol. Where are we going?”
“What do you mean, `can’t see’? I can see everything.”
“Really? Well then, you can tell me where you think we are going.”
“I’m not sure, but I’m trying to go down deeper into the mountain, and then back o the outside, and out into the sun.”
“Well, I’m gld that you’re not sure where we are going,” Déagol responded sarcastically, “but I would like it if you didn’t keep going on ahead of me.”
At this complaint from his friend, Sméagol dropped back, and grabbed Déagol’s hand in his own. They travelled along the dark corridors for what seemed to Déagol like ages, before Sméagol suddenly announced that they were lost.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE’RE LOST!?!” Déagol screamed.
“I mean I don’t exactly know where to go.”
“It looks like there’s a bit of light coming from that corridor over there,” Déagol said, pointing to a small tunnel off to the side fo that they were taking.
“Yes, but I think it’s in the wrong direction to where we want to go.”
“Maybe you’re wrong. Maybe we’re not where you thought we were, and if we follow that tunnel we’ll come back out into fresh air and sunlight.”
“Maybe, but I don’t think so,” Sméagol said as they headed along the corridor.
The light grew brighter as they went along.
“Just around this corner…” said Déagol hopefully.
But when they turned the corner, their hopes were dashed. The light had not been coming from the sun, but from hundreds of lighted torches, which were placed around what appeared to be a giant hall. It was just as well that Sméagol had stopped just before he had fully turned the corner, because the hall was packed with orcs. Some where eating greedily, others playing some sort of game that involved tackling, and whacking the other contestants over the head with a club.
“Sméagol, I think we’re in very big trouble,” said Déagol once he had seen the orcs.
“Not if we just stay quiet, and sneak out,” Sméagol said, turning to leave. He met face to face with a rather large and especially ugly orc that had realised their presence, and had been watching them for some time, unbeknownst to the halflings.
Déagol screamed, but Sméagol quickly grabbed the orc by the neck, and twisted it in an angle that was certainly not natural.
Déagol heard a snapping noise, and the orc fell to the ground, dead.
“What did you have to scream for?” asked Sméagol, grabbing Déagol by the arm and beginning to run. “Now the whole lot of them will know we’re here.”
Sméagol was right. After a couple of seconds the orcs began to charge after them. They ran as fast as they could, and for a while Déagol managed to forget the pain in his broken ankle. The orcs were gaining however, and by the time the halflings entered another large hall, they had to turn and fight. This room wasn’t as brightly lit as the last, but it was still bright enough that ever Déagol could see the fierce orcs approaching. He trembled, part with fear, and part with the return of pain in his ankle, and shrank behind Sméagol.
The orcs drew closer to the two halflings, but didn’t attack. The halflings soon realised why. The orcs were shrinking to either side of the room, allowing the largest of them through. For a moment the warrior-king orc stood surveying the halflings. Sméagol in particular watched his every movement. He stared with greed at the circlet that the orc wore on his head. It appeared to be black, beyond even the blackness in the surrounding tunnels, but sparkled like gold.
Sméagol, not taking his eyes off his opponent, whispered back to his friend, “Wait until he attacks, then I’ll cleave through the middle of them, and we’ll be free.”
The orc took one step towards the halflings, and drew his sword. It was almost larger than Sméagol, and both it and the orc’s circlet glinted in the half-light. The orc stepped forward again, and then swing his sword down to attack.
The halflings were too fast for the orc chieftain though. Sméagol grabbed Déagol, and ducked under the sword, then through the orc’s large legs. Sméagol quickly snapped another orc’s neck, and grabbed its dropped sword. He swung around with his new weapon, and sliced another orc’s head clean from its shoulders.
He turned to Déagol, who appeared to he turning back, heading straight towards the orc chieftain. His eyes were fixed on the orc’s black circlet.
“RUN!” Sméagol shouted, as he stabbed another orc in the gut. Sméagol had almost made his way to the end of the hall now, but Déagol hadn’t turned from his course. Déagol and the warrior-king orc were now on the ground, wrestling. Déagol had managed to fling the orc chieftain’s sword away from them, but now the orc had become angry because of Sméagol’s escape, and was taking it out on his friend.
Sméagol, seeing Déagol in trouble, turned back into the fight, slashing and stabbing his way into the middle of the throng.
Déagol, meanwhile, was struggling against the orc king, trying to reach up and grab the circlet off his forehead. Déagol kneed the orc in the stomach. It growled, and punched him in the head, causing a trickle of blood to roll down Déagol’s cheek. The orc reached over and grabbed the sword he had lost during the beginning of the tussle, and was about to stab the halfling, when, out of nowhere it seemed, Sméagol appeared, and sliced the orc’s arm off at the shoulder. The orc screamed, and turned towards his new adversary. Sméagol stabbed him in the gut, and the warrior-king fell down, dead. Sméagol sliced the king’s chest open, reached in, and pulled out the still beating heart.
The orcs now ran around, helpless without their leader, and if they wanted to, the halflings could have made an easy escape then. Indeed Déagol urged Sméagol to, but Sméagol was lost in a game or gore and killing.
He would chase one orc down, then another, and kill them heartlessly. Déagol had heard tales about orcs that made his blood curdle, but it was nothing compared to witnessing his friend destroy countless orcs, in ways that seemed to be more and more creatively disgusting for each of Sméagol’s victims.
After an hour of slaying, Sméagol stood, holding the orc chieftain’s sword above his head, triumphantly, the remains of almost a hundred orcs lying around him.
Déagol looked up at his friend, unable to comprehend the change that had overcome Sméagol.
Sméagol’s ears pricked up at a distant sound.
“They’ll come back, and with greater numbers Sméagol,” pleaded Déagol, who had also heard the noise. “We must leave now, while we have a chance. You may be a good fighter Sméagol, but you’re not invincible, and I don’t want you to get yourself killed.”
Sméagol lowered the sword, and looked at his friend.
“Fine,” he agreed, smiling. He dropped the sword and walked out of the room with Déagol behind him. He kicked some of the orcs’ bodies as he went.
“Nasty goblins,” he said.
The two halflings travelled along in silence, guessing which way to go. Sméagol claimed that he knew where he was again, and directed Déagol along a path that Déagol could only assume led them almost directly out of the mountain.
They soon received another glimpse of sunlight, much to Déagol’s joy, when a noise surfaced from deep in the mountain.
“War drums,” muttered Sméagol. “We’d best not be here any longer.”
They emerged from the mountain into sunlight, barely ten feet above the ground. A scream emerged from the tunnel below them, which caused both halflings to run as fast as they possibly could back home.
They both ran for almost an hour, and didn’t stop until they were both well out of sight of the small cave. Finally, they both flopped down onto the grass in a patch of daisies.
Sméagol landed half on top of his friend, so that when Déagol finally sat up Sméagol’s head lay in his lap. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, and now that they were away from the danger, it seemed to Sméagol hardly any different to when Déagol and he had knocked down a particularly large deer. He began to laugh.
“Did you see the look on that goblin’s face when I…” Sméagol managed to say while laughing.
“Yes, I did,” came Déagol’s solemn reply. He was not smiling, let alone laughing as his friend was. “That was disgusting Sméagol!”
Sméagol was boasting of how he had slaughtered ten almost at once, but stopped when he heard the tone in Déagol’s voice. His friend was clearly very disappointed in him, so he quickly stopped smiling, and it was soon plain that Sméagol was upset by his friend’s disgruntlement with his behaviour.
Seeing Sméagol’s sorrow, Déagol quickly attempted to smile.
“But,” he said, watching as Sméagol’s face brightened slightly, “you did save me, and for that I thank you.”
“That’s fine,” Sméagol said, smiling once more. He chuckled, as if to some private joke. “We could have been out of there in half the time if it wasn’t for you and your fancy for little trinkets,” he jested.
“My fancy for little trinkets!” Déagol retorted. “It was you that wanted the circlet in the first place.”
“I never said nothing about wanting that circlet!”
“No, but you were practically drooling when you looked at it! I was getting that circlet for you Sméagol. I never wanted it for myself.”
“For me…” Sméagol’s voice trailed off.
“Yes, for you,” Déagol said, smiling down at his friend. “And if you would like to know, I didn’t come out of that fray empty-handed.” He reached his hand into his jacket, and pulled out the circlet, black as the night, and shining even brighter in the sunlight.
“For you, my love,” he said as he placed the circlet on Sméagol’s head.
“Why…” Sméagol said, choking back tears. A small noise in the back of his throat betrayed his emotion. It sounded like `gollum’. He leaned into his friend’s chest, and wrapped his arms around his neck, almost succeeding in not showing how touched he was. The `gollums’ were beginning to fade when Déagol began to speak.
“Sméagol, I would die if you wished it,” he said, embracing his friend. “If there is anything that you want, ask me, and if is in my power, it shall be yours.”
They held each other for a few minutes more, before Sméagol said something. It could have been, “promise?”
“I promise,” answered Déagol.