Gnawing Doubts

by Lothithil

“Precious, we’re hungry…” Sméagol mutters softly.

“Yess, we are, my love… famisshed… and nothing for uss to eats in this cold hard land, nothing but dusst…”

“Let us go to the soft places, precious… find juicy fish in the green lands away north.” He places a hand on his shrunken belly; the gnawing hollowness is a torment to him. Always he feels the terrible aching emptiness, even when he has eaten well. But it has been days since his last meal.

“No, my love… not yet. We musst get the Precious back firsst."

Sméagol glances covertly toward the hobbits. The brown one is starting to slouch, unable to keep his eyes open. Master is dreaming; his lids are not quite closed, yet he sees nothing but his darkest fears, parading before sightless eyes. Sméagol looks upward to where the rising stair climbs, winding away toward the place where Gollum’s blackest thoughts harbour the hope of retrieving his Precious. He looks away quickly, not wanting to even consider the sin of breaking his promises.

“Let’s go back, my love. Back down, to find some soft food… there is not even any wormses here to eat, in the rocks and wind...”

“No time, my love… gollum! gollum! … we musst climb… wake them, precious! Make them climb…”

Sméagol starts toward the sleeping hobbits, but he stops and shrinks down on his haunches. “We promised… not to harm the Master.” Pale eyes rise again to the summit of the stairs. “She… won’t hurt him? Binding him with strings and murky dreams… he won’t feel any… pain?”

“What difference?” The response comes through a snarl. “He betrayed uss firsst! He tricked uss, when we was earnest and true… as honest as ever we have been! Filthy, treacherous hobbitsess! They deserves to die… both of them, yesss…”

The volume of his argument rises, and Samwise stirs slightly, a frown creasing his smudged face. His hands move protectively to cover his master, asleep across his lap. Sméagol waits, holding his breath, until the curly head nods again, chin falling to his chest.

Sméagol creeps away silently. “She’ll be hungry; she always is… and she’ll move quickly. No pain and only a little fear… and then it will be over.” Sméagol snuffs, rubbing at the strange moisture leaking from his eyes. “Less horror than going over into the Dark Land. Suffering we will spare him… master will feel nothing.”

He repeats this mantra to himself as he climbs, ever cautiously, for the stink of orcs is fresh along this trail, a scent reinforced by the nearness of the garrison behind and below them.

“He keeps the Preciouss from uss, my love -- suffer he should, for what he hass done!” Unforgiving and unrepentant, Gollum taunts Sméagol for his compassion. “You are the one who is soft! Climb, my precious. We will be rewarded for our trials. Let uss go and visit Her, and kneel as once we did. She will hear uss, and help uss. Fresh treats for Her Ladyship… and a Present for us after!”

The silken voice speaks, and Sméagol listens. Some time soon the waiting would end; Time -- and a dark terror from another Age -- was on their side.