The hills west of the Anduin were tall and white. On its east side there were low shrubs and thin grass and no trees and rocks and stones and dirt near the road which led north and south alongside Mordor. Here they set camp with a small fire and pot simmering skinned conies for a poor stew. The Hobbit and the creature with him sat on a flat stone in the small shade of a drooping, dry shrub. The heat caused the Hobbit to grip at his sweated shirt and the golden burden that lay just under the thinned nap. The other Hobbit, larger in size for Little Folk, would return in an hour, then they would press on to the south to Doom.

“It’s hot,” said the Hobbit.

“Will the fats one comesss back soon, Master?” the creature asked.

“Yes, he scouts ahead. South.”

“We’s close.”

The creature’s gaze followed the Hobbit’s hand and watched him fondle the front of his shirt. The Hobbit caught the creature’s eye and its stare darted back to the view to the west, as though not a thing was out of place.

“The hillsss look like white oliphaunts, precious. Gollum! Gollum!” the creature choked.

“I have never seen one,” the Hobbit said.

“Silly Master, you would not have.”

“I may. I have heard tales. You may not say what I know or don’t know.” The Hobbit pulled his waterskin out and sucked down a gulp.

“The water’s nice and cool,” said the Hobbit.

“Yesss, precious.”

A pregnant pause settled between the two. Over the pot, a whisper of wind stirred an eddy of steam into a vortex.

“It’s really an awfully simple mission, Sméagol,” the Hobbit said. “It’s not a mission at all, really. More like a walk.”

The creature stared at the lick of the flames and fire lapping at the pot.

“I know you won’t mind it, Sméagol. It’s the getting there that is tough, but even then, it’s just a walk and a climb and a drop. To let the light in.”

The creature sat silent, scratching at the dirt.

“We go as one. You, me, Sam. We go. We drop it. We let the light in, we will be free. It’s natural. It’s good.”

“Then, Master, what… what do we do after?”

“We go home.”

“Home, preciousss? Home?”

“Home. Where you were before this thing made us unhappy. Without it, we can have everything. With it, everything is impossible.”

“No, we can’ts. We needs the precious–”

“We can do anything! Go everywhere! The world is ours.”

“No, we can’ts! It’s not ours anymore! Master doesn’t listen.”

“I listen. It’s ours, and the hills look like white oliphaunts.”

The creature, with its orb-like eyes, stared at the Hobbit. “No! NO! Once it goes, we don’t gets it backs! Gollum! Gollum! Gollum!” The creature thrashed in a circle, kicking the dust up into the stale air.

“Don’t be upset. This is what we wanted. To destroy it.”

“No, precious, no! Stop! I neeeeeedssss it!”

“I care for you,” the Hobbit said. “I want to save you. Save us.”

“Preciousss, I’ll scream! I’ll scream, again!”

The larger Hobbit came down through the bush, carrying two fresh filled canteens and foraged potatoes. “We get going in the morning. We’ll need the taters for energy.”

“What’s… what’s the fat hobbit say?” the creature asked.

“We need food to carry on our task,” the smaller one said.

The creature bared its teeth in conceit.

“We’d better get these taters to boilin’,” said the fat one.

“Taters, precious,” the creature mused.

The smaller Hobbit rose from the stone where he sat and walked around the area, shifting their knapsacks. Drums and low horns from a far ways off thrummed through the air, though the Hobbit could not see the source yet, he knew it was close. When he came back, the creature, smiling at him, sat near the pot next to the larger Hobbit.

“Are you feeling better?” the small Hobbit asked.

“Fine,” the creature said. “We is good for the Master, preciousss. We feels fine!”