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The Prisoner and The Hobbit  by Dreamflower

Chapter 9:  Lord of Gifts

The driver slid out  of the golf bag as smoothly as a skillfully forged steel blade from a scabbard. Sauron ran his fingers over the polished wooden head, rounded on its backside, flat on the striking surface.  The workmanship was beautiful, and perfectly scaled to the size of a hobbit.

As it should be, he thought.  One of my best students made these.

Sámaril had clearly studied the texts on golf that Sauron had recommended, and more besides.  As he examined the clubs — brassie, spoons, mashies, niblicks, and cleeks — he admired the care that his former apprentice had placed into each club.  There were other hints of another's influence.    The precise balance of the hobbit-scaled golf clubs surely had been due to Aulë's input.  Then there were the balls:  most were leather and stuffed with feathers, but several were white and dimpled.  Now those were definitely from Aulë, who could not resist applying his otherworldly knowledge to his craft.

The golf bags, studded with brass, were exquisitely constructed, too.   The leather was embossed with brass studs, and engraved with an unfamiliar but distinctly botanical motif of swirling leaves and stylized flowers.  He looked up at Olorin, who answered before Sauron could even get the question out of his mouth, a habit that never failed to vex him.

"Hobbits love green, growing things, and so they often use the designs of nature.  Sámaril not only studied your suggestions about golf, but also mine on the nature of hobbits."

"Well, you're more of an expert on them than I am or ever will be."

Olórin just grinned and puffed on his pipe, sending interlocking smoke rings into the gentle autumn breeze.  They were sitting together on wooden chairs in a woodland glade, overarched by the boughs of ancient oak trees whose leaves were turning to russet.   Golden sunlight dappled the green grass floor.

Woody End,  that's what this place is, or was, called, Olórin had said.  Gildor and his company sheltered Frodo and his companions that night when Khamûl had been hot on their trail.   So close, so close.  If those Elves had not happened along when they did...

Sauron shook off the thought when the dark emptiness within himself threatened to gape open, as it always did when he thought about the loss of the Ring.  No need to throw me into the Void.  I carry it within myself.

"So, what is your verdict?"  Olórin's voice pulled him back from the brink and into the sunlight.

"They pass inspection.  I'll let Sámaril know straightaway."

"Very good, and timely, too."

"How so?"

"Bilbo Baggins will celebrate his one hundred and thirty-third birthday in a week's time.  These will be perfect gifts."

"I thought you said the hobbits generally give others gifts on their birthdays."

"Oh, they do.  But they receive them as well."

"Then he shall receive these.   One hundred thirty-three years old.  Isn't that quite old for a hobbit, being mortal and all?"

"It is.  You see, your Ring extended Bilbo's life.  Then his aging picked up where it left off once the Ring went to Frodo.  That and living on the Lonely Isle has sheltered him from the maladies of Middle-earth that so swiftly carry off elderly mortals."

Sauron sat in silence, fiddling with a leaf that had fallen onto his lap.  Bilbo's long life once again reinforced the resilience hobbits possessed, yet he wondered about Frodo and how he was healing from his trials. Does he look into the same emptiness that I do?  He glanced up at Olórin.

"Right then.  I suppose I ought to compose a note to him to go with the gift.  It has been a frightfully long time since I last wrote.  I hope he can forgive me, but all the materials that Manwë's archivist has sent have occupied my time."   

"I understand.  I am hard-pressed, too, with the same studies."

Sauron's brows raised. "The very same?  We ought to talk about that."

The barrage of materials was practically flooding into his tablet these days, with so many strange revelations.  He could hardly process it all, and he felt a kind of empathy with Olorin for experiencing the same.  It couldn't be easy for either one of them, and still, neither of them knew the full purpose of it, or at least the wizard had said nothing.

"We should and will.  But I am here only for a short visit at Sámaril's request."

"So you think Bilbo will like them?"

"I do."

"And Frodo?"

"I hope so."

Sauron's good mood clouded at that.  He did not want this to seem like a gift to soften Frodo toward him, yet at the same time, he had to admit that he harbored both guilt and anger when he thought of Bilbo's kinsman.  He knew he needed to work past that.  How was another question entirely.

"Then will you deliver them?"

"I will, and I will have a helper."

"Who would that be?"

Out from beneath the shadow of the trees stepped a tall elf-man with golden hair that shone in the light.  He smiled when he saw Sauron, who stood to greet him.

"Finrod!  What a pleasant surprise!"

"It's good to see you, too.  You're looking well."

"Thank you.  They treat me decently here.   Far better than I treated you and your companions, I am ashamed to say."

"True enough, but we've been through this before.  I have put it behind me.  You should do the same."  

Finrod's generosity continued to confound Sauron.   Had he been thrown into a dungeon as werewolf-food, he would never have forgiven his tormentor, and given half-a-chance at revenge, he would have taken it.  

And that is why I languish in this prison.  I am irredeemable.  The Valar know it.  I know it.  However, he did not want Finrod to guess just how despondent he was, so he responded cheerfully.

"I will take your counsel under consideration.  So you'll visit Master Baggins to give him the golf clubs?  When did you take an interest in the hobbits?"

"You are not Bilbo's sole correspondent."

"You are writing to him?"  Finrod nodded his acknowledgment.  The little jolt of jealousy surprised Sauron.   He pushed it aside.  It stood to reason that the inquisitive old hobbit would strike up a correspondence with someone like Finrod, and that the elf-man would be equally interested in Master Baggins.

"Let me dash off a note to him," said Sauron, "and you can take it with you.  I intend to write a longer letter to him, too, and that will follow.  Can you give me a few minutes?  And perhaps paper and a pen?"

Olórin lifted his hand, and within moments, an iron-scented guard brought in a lapdesk with the requested materials.  Sauron took the lapdesk from the guard, pulled a small piece of ivory-colored vellum from a packet of paper tied together with a red ribbon.  He clicked the pen and wrote:

{Dear Mister Baggins,

Please allow me to extend my congratulations on the occasion of your one-hundred and thirty-third birthday.  I offer you and your kinsman these gifts.  From our correspondence and also based on what Olórin has told me, I thought you might enjoy a game of golf or two.   Thus, my former apprentice, Sámaril, has crafted these golf clubs for you at my request, and from the looks of it, my former master (Aulë) has made contributions, too.  Sámaril has, in my opinion, done a splendid job, as good as if I had made them myself.  I hope you and Frodo will find enjoyment in them.


D.L. Sauron}

He leaned forward to hand the note to Olórin, but Finrod intercepted it.  He read it, then tore it in half.  Sauron stared at him, astonished by the rude action.  At the first flicker of anger, the shackles around his ankles burned.   He dampened his temper when Finrod returned the halves of the letter, and the shackles cooled.

"Re-write it, but sign it with your other name."

"What?  Gorthaur?"

"No, and not Annatar either, although that would be accurate enough.  Your first name."

"You have a lot of nerve!"

"So I do, and I have also enough nerve to tell you it is no good to keep up with this self-flagellation by insisting that you are called by a name that you hated."  Finrod pointed to the golf clubs neatly arranged in their bags, propped up in the grass.  "Besides, this is a generous and admirable act on your part.  Worthy of the name you were first known by.  Rewrite it and sign it...properly this time."

Sauron extracted another piece of vellum, duplicated his words, and signed as Finrod demanded.  He caught the approving smile that Olórin shot toward the elf-man. He gritted his teeth, and the shackles warmed.  Both wizard and elf were incorrigible.


Bilbo paused after dipping his pen and smiled at the objects in the corner of the room, then he chuckled, and placed the nib to the parchment.

{My dear Mr. Sauron!

(First, I must ask you about the matter of address: I noticed the change in your signature, and wonder if this signifies a change in the way you would have me address you. For now, I am keeping the form to which we have been hitherto accustomed, but will most certainly change to the new one if that is what you desire. Please let me know of your preference!)

And now to the meat of this note: Thank you! Thank you very much! Thank you more than I can possibly express! I could not have been more surprised or more astonished at anything ever than I was at your most generous gift! To have a set of such beautiful golf clubs, and all of the accoutrements was beyond my wildest imaginings!

And apparently you enlisted the aid of most of my acquaintance. Frodo awakened me this morning with the reminder that we'd have guests today! Gandalf had told us that it was nearly the date of our Birthday almost a week ago, and so we had planned a small gathering at luncheon today (the day before, of course) for our closest friends and of course another less intimate gathering tomorrow for our actual Birthday Party. We bustled about preparing our quarters for our guests--of course they are well-kept, but as hobbits, old habits die hard. And one must always prepare for guests!

Luncheon was simple enough, a light vegetable and mushroom soup, salad, newly-baked loaves, and a fruit trifle for afters. Our guests today were Adamanta, Elrond and Lady Celebrian, Lady Galadriel, Gandalf and Lord Finrod.

All brought gifts, mostly small things, though Elrond informed us that he would give his later after luncheon as it was too large for our home. I could not begin to imagine what it might be, since he had generously given us ponies long ago. Gandalf said he'd wait to give us his as well, though his gift was a small one. And he then informed me that after the meal, he had another gift to present on behalf of someone else! Believe it or not, I did not guess that it would be from you--I do not know why, for Gandalf's always been our go-between.

After luncheon, Gandalf and Finrod stepped out the door, and then returned with the Gift! As Frodo and I stood there speechless and dumbfounded, Finrod handed me your note. Once more THANK YOU! I do believe Frodo was even more speechless than I.

Gandalf reached into his pocket and handed each of us a small bundle, each tied up in a white napkin. He presented each of us with half a dozen tees. He was beaming with pride--he had, after all whittled them with his own two hands. What's more, both Frodo and I had seen him at it from time to time and never guessed that he was making anything in particular; we thought he was just passing the time with one of the many skills he'd picked up in Middle-earth. They were very well done, and he seemed glad that we liked them.

In the meanwhile, I must say that both of us were removing the clubs from their bags and exclaiming over the remarkable workmanship and beautiful balance of each one. I was wondering if we might be able to construct a small putting green on our little terrace, when Elrond reminded us that we had yet to see his gift to us. We returned the clubs reluctantly to their homes and stashed the bags beside the door as we followed our guests out of our apartment and into the main part of the House. I had begun to suspect that the gift might be in the library, but no, he led us right past it and outdoors.

We followed him through the gardens on the North side. We seldom frequent that side, since our own rooms face South and West. Now I wondered if he had not created a little garden for our very own--yet still we continued on to a gate in a wide hedge, quite over our heads though not all that high for Elves.

He opened the gate, and gestured before him. Why, he had a golf course built for us! It consists of ten holes, which means a round of eighteen, playing the first and last hole once and the remaining holes twice--once up and once coming back. It's a beautiful little course, not too difficult really, for a couple of hobbits one of whom is fast getting up in years!  

I confess to being moved to tears by this display of friendship from so many! It's clear that most of our friends and a goodly number of mere acquaintances had been in on this little conspiracy of a gift. And Gandalf confided that it all originated with you, and that you had set it all in motion with your interest in our Shirish pastime of golf!

Most of all, I was moved by your inclusion of Frodo in the gift. I am aware that you were probably thinking of me, and that golf for one would not be much fun, but it was still very well done!

Please, once more, accept my profound and delighted thanks for your most ingenious gift!

Sincerely yours,

Bilbo Baggins, Esq.}

Frodo sipped his tea, and brushed the last crumbs of seedcake from his fingers. He'd done several notes already: to Adamanta for the delightful basket of wild mushrooms; to Finrod for the bottles of Elven mead; to Lady Galadriel for the celebeloth bulbs; and of course, rather more effusive thanks to Elrond and his Lady for the golf course and very warm thanks to Gandalf who had not only made his gift with his own two hands, but had facilitated all the rest. He took up his pen once more.


I do not know how to address you; I have never been privy to any of the details of my dear uncle's correspondence. But I would be remiss indeed not to offer my profound thanks for your amazing gift.

I am quite aware that the gift to me was given on behalf of Bilbo, to increase his own pleasure in his gift, and to give him someone with whom he could use the clubs. Yet I confess my own joy in the having of them, and of their beauty even aside from their purpose.

I know that I spoke hot words of anger at our one and only meeting. I understand some things better now than I once did though I do not believe that the two of us could ever feel comfortable in a correspondence in the way that you do with Bilbo.

Still, please know that not only do I feel genuine pleasure and gratitude for your thoughtfulness towards the person whom I love so dearly, I also no longer feel the same bitterness I did in the past. And I hold out a real hope (and belief) that your time with Gandalf and your letters with Bilbo are not wasted, but will bear fruit.

I do not expect you to answer this, but I hope that it will not offend you to receive it.


Frodo Baggins }

There. Aunt Dora could never find fault that he had not written all his "thank you" notes promptly. What he'd written was absolutely true--he now felt more pity than anger for the maker of the Ring, and he was grateful to the interest he'd shown in Bilbo and how it had enriched Bilbo's life here. But, he couldn't help a little smirk--he wished he could see the expression on Sauron's face when he read the note. He was only a hobbit, after all.

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