[personal profile] tlvop

I wrote a fic in Lord of the Rings fandom about a year ago and posted it on AO3 (here), but I figured I should post it here as well in case anyone would like to read it :). It was for a class, and basically explores Smeagol's early life with the use of his people's stories/history.


Title: The Days Before The Days After
Fandom: Lord of the Rings books pre-canon, based mostly on the appendices and other sources.
Characters: Young Gollum (as Smeagol), brief appearance of Aragorn/Strider.
Rating: G
Summary: Young Sméagol watched, and he listened; he paid attention to the words people spoke and the clothes that they wore and the places they came from. He held them all in his mind, and thought upon them when he had chance to daydream in the shade of the willow-trees.
Wordcount: 1,845
Note: Thank you to Becca (bookelfe) for the beta after the class :)

 

By the shores of the river Gladden, things would come. Strange things, foreign things; seeds and stories, fabrics up from the south-kingdoms and strange devices from the north-kingdoms, all of them passing by on the great Anduin, turning into the lesser-river to take respite in the more peaceful waters and to visit the river folk also.

The banks of the river were of a deep soft soil, where grass and bushes and trees clung and reached deep roots, growing tall and growing strong, giving shade and gold flowers which floated in the waters in the spring. Seeds were not the only things that flourished by the houses of the river folk, though. Young Sméagol knew this; he watched and he listened, he paid attention to the words people spoke and the clothes that they wore and the places they came from. He held them all in his mind, and thought upon them when he had chance to daydream in the shade of the willow-trees.

In the days before the days after, when the world was cold and cruel and there were the tall Men and their kingdom still, the Stoors were all one people, were not spread from here to the wind-blowings. Cousins' cousins all lived near and close in the heart of the Angle-land, tucked between the Hoarwell and the Loudwater, not safe—never safe—but close and comfortable as could be in those days.

But then they came, the loud ones from the coldest North; cruel they were, and nasty, and harsh. They killed the tall Men, though they made the battles terrible; Stoors went to join the tall Men, with pikes and bows, but they did not come back from their battles with the iron-Men of the North. Soon the tall Men did not come back either, and the Stoors did not have anything to do.

All of the strong ones were gone; all of the young ones were too young and the old ones too old and the others too weak to fight off sorcery and iron.

"So," said the chieftains of the families. Because they did not know what to do; no one knew what was South and what was West—no more tall Men, but maybe no more iron-Men either, yes? But others said, "No, we came here to be safe and it is not safe; let us go back to the lands we know over the Mountain."

So those ones came over the Mountain, and found homes and houses and new families; that is how we are here, not long later, my fourth grandfather was not yet twenty when they settled here where the flowers bloom.

Of those who stayed there and left whither-on we do not know and we do not ask anymore. They are not here, and we are safe; that is enough.

The home in the hills framing the river was warm and expansive, travelling deep into the clay-earth. Old parts were laid with oaken wood brought across the Great River from the Forest, in the days before the shadows darkened it deep and nasty; newer parts were not so nice, laid with willow instead of oak and river stone instead of beech, but they were well-cared for. The big hall, where family ate and talked, was half-old and half-new, though the new was still from before Sméagol's time. His grandmother was very old, and she had been young when the room was first expanded and his parents were young when it was expanded again to fit the family. She was the one who had made the trade-agreements with the people in the south, and with those across the river, the horse-masters from beyond the forest, who trade with the men of Gondor.

The people of the river did not care for Elves and their Woods, or for the Dwarves who didn't live in the mountains anymore, or even much for the Men; but Sméagol's grandmother had treasures she had found buried in the deeps of the hills, left by unknown people long ago, and drifting in the river from the dwarf-stores that had been lost and swept by the Gladden-river from the mountain places. She had treasures, and she loved them and the respect they brought her family from the Men who called them only fishers and half-folk when she was young. She would tell them this, in the great room, before they told the stories of the Men who once thought little of them, and of the other folk that they knew, and the Elves that the river people knew only from the stories of the Gondor-men, and of the places even further on in the world and earlier even than the times before the mountain-crossing.

In the days before the days after, when the Dark One was growing and eating and growing, before the Men and the Elves drove him back and away, the Gondor-men built towers and towers and towers. They were white as fish-scales in moonlight, and tall enough to make the tallest trees look like sproutlings. They built them high and large because they liked to see: the Dark One's lands, yes, but also the rest of it—the far mountains and the sea.

The sea is like the great Anduin-river, like the River but bigger and bigger; if all the Forest was water and all the trees in it fishes it would not be so big as the sea. It is not good for drinking, though, it is full of salt and nasty, but it is prettier than jewels and prettier than rings. That is what the Men from Gondor say, and they should know because they can see it. The Elves like the sea so much that they go to it and never come back; they go across it to places only Elves know, only Elves care about.

Elves are foolish; they are not fish. They mustn't go where it is all water forever.

When the fish were swimming in the Gladden, in the spring-time rush to get up the river to their home-grounds, Déagol and he would sit in their boat and snatch through the golden flowers to capture them. The fish were too dedicated to their journey, too fat and thick with delicious roe, to take bait off a hook in the spring. Déagol would use his woven basket to capture them, but Sméagol used his hands because he was fast and he could see the silver fish-shapes moving. They used his basket instead to hold the fish after whacking them, stunning them so they would not knock the basket over in their wicked wriggling and escape before they could be taken home.

The fish were so eager to get to their goings, to make fry in the shadow of the mountains, that sometimes Sméagol wondered what could be there. Over the great tall peaks, cruel and nasty, his ancestors had gone, and back they had come not many generations later. No one lived in the mountains now that the Dwarves had left, except maybe goblins of stories.

Except fish bred there, and died there, when they were not dying to feed the river creatures and the folk on the banks.

Sméagol caught another.

In the days before the days after, when the Sun and Moon were young and bright, fish were not so clever as they are now. They thought that all the world was water and cress-plants, not just their river lives. They were very easy to catch in those days, before they knew better, because they did not ever look up.

There was one fish, though, who was much cleverer. He did not know better, either; he did not look up because what was up? Nothing was there. But he was caught by a man and he did not flop and flip but rather he cried out "Stop!"

And the man did, and you would too if a small fish told you to stop in voice as clear as pebbles in the river-lappings.

"Let me go," said the fish, "I am small and I will teach you things if you let me go."

The man was not very smart either, but if he had never met a talking fish before neither had he ever met a lying fish; that is why he trusted him when he said ‘I will teach you things if you let me go'. The man thought the fish was too small for eating anyway, and it would be strange to eat something that spoke to you.

"What will you teach me?" he asked anyway, because he was curious as to what the fish would say.

"How to move in water," the fish said, hopefully, "and how to find watercress to eat."

The fish thought to himself: perhaps if I teach this man how to find watercress he will not even eat fish anymore; sweet cress is better.

The man agreed, and the fish showed him watercress. But when the man put him in the water so that he could show him how to swim like a fish, the fish swam off instead.

The fish taught the other fish to look up and avoid fishers, and so the fish got clever.

The man learned that watercress is good to eat, and especially good to eat with fish. And so we got clever, too.

The nasty Man with the long legs took Gollum on and on and on for days and weeks up from the Dark One's land, and only stopped to rest and eat when the sun was brightest and cruelest. The rope haltered around his neck scratched and scraped, but he didn't dare try to break free anymore, not now that he knew how fast and angry the Man was; how tricky and sly.

Gollum's nose smelled deep as they travelled along the great Anduin and turned slowly west, as his toes spread in the soft mud that grew worse and worse as they went. He knew this spring-smell; he knew this land. Gollum hissed to himself, following along as best he could the Man's long strides.

They stopped in the shade of a willow tree sitting on the Gladden, and the Man tied the end of his rope to one of the sturdy-strong taproots. Gollum could only stand in the very shallowest of the river-lapping.

"I will fetch us food," said the Man, turning his burning Elf-eyes on Gollum. Gollum crouched and turned his head. He muttered violently. "What is that?" asked the Man, half-wary and half-tired.

"He doesn't know," said Gollum, viciously, not looking at him. "He can'ts know how to fish during roe-time. Juicy, soft and delicious, yes, we like it. But no! Doesn't know, doesn't try, doesn't have himself a baskets. What's he going to do, precious? What fishes are going to lets him catch them? None, --gollum! Gollum!"

The Man sighed and left, and Gollum tried to stretch his legs deeper into the river. He watched, with lidded eyes, the golden flowers that drifted as they always had beneath the shady trees.

 

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