Disclaimer: Hobbits and Middle-earth belong to JRR Tolkien, but I can dream, can't I?

Summary: Pippin-13, Merry-21, and Frodo-35 all play a round of golf. After some research of the game, instead of "Caddie", I used the word, "Laddie". Caddie is derived from the word, Cadet.

Your Challenge 14 starter: At least part of your story must take place in a graveyard.

The 19th Hole

By Pippinfan

"Why do I have to be the Laddie? I want to play, too!" Pippin flung away his wee straw. He was not happy at all with drawing the smallest one. If he didn't know any better, he would have sworn that it was all arranged beforehand.

"Because you drew the smallest straw, fair and square," said Frodo. He eyed the youngster, "You're not thinking that I fixed it, are you?"

Pippin firmly crossed his arms over his chest. He didn't answer aloud, but behind those impish green eyes, the answer was a resounding yes!

"Well, are you?" demanded Frodo.

The thirteen year old glanced sheepishly at his close friend. "No."

"That's a good lad--or should I say, Laddie?" Merry teased his younger cousin. Pippin whirled around, glowering at him.

"You're not helping, Merry," laughed Frodo. "You may use my clubs on a few turns, Pippin."

And so began the most interesting game of golf that Pippin would ever remember. The day started out a bit cool as they walked from the Smials to the Shire Greens, the local golf course. It then gradually grew warmer as luncheon drew near. Eglantine had packed a lovely picnic for the boys to enjoy while spending the day outdoors.

"I shall have to thank cousin Tina for her excellent provisions--they were simply delicious!" said Frodo, then shovelled the last bit of his strawberry pie into his mouth.

Having finished his meal, Pippin sat nearby in the shade of an elm tree. "Will I be playing this hole?" he asked.

"Hole number seven? Don't be ridiculous," replied Frodo. "It's surrounded by a multitude of rabbit holes and briar patches. The best hole for you to join in the game is number eight."

Reluctantly, Pippin picked up the bag of clubs, following his cousins up the hills, down the hills, across the stream and back again…under trees--and even once within the nook of an old chestnut's trunk. Those colourful little feather-stuffed balls could get stuck just about anywhere, but their favourite spot of all was deep inside the rough parts of the brush and tall grasses.

It was now Merry's turn to take a swing, so Pippin hefted the bag to where his cousin stood gauging the midsummer breeze against his wet forefinger. The young teenager was weary, sweaty, and dirty--his furry feet growing hotter by the minute as the time slowly went by. Pippin wiped sweat from his forehead and his throat felt dry when he swallowed. He was thirsty; they should have been at the Oak Leaf Inn by now, however, Frodo's ball landed in the thickets--and the player had to play the game from wherever the ball fell. It took forever for Frodo to manoeuvre his way out of the underbrush and back onto the fairway. "I suppose I'm a tad over par," Frodo commented nonchalantly--dismissing the fact that he just spent a good fifteen minutes on the task.

As he continued holding the bag of clubs, it seemed to Pippin that his friends took no notice of the time that passed--or how miserable he was. "I'm tired!" he complained, letting the heavy bag to fall on the ground with a thud. The bag didn't feel very heavy at first, but grew so over the past couple of hours while dragging it to every hole on the playing course.

Merry swung his club then watched where his ball landed. He winced at the results then turned to scowl at his young cousin, "Yell a little louder next time, Pip--perhaps then I'll actually land one on the putting green."

"Don't blame Pippin for your terrible aim," Frodo said a bit smugly, sliding his club into the bag. "If you practiced your swing as much as you say you do, then your aim would be fine."

"Speak for yourself, cousin," said Merry while grinning. "I didn't swat my golf ball into the thickets."

Frodo ignored Merry's jest, walking in the direction of the thirteenth hole. "Ah…I can see the 19th Hole already!" he teased his young friend. Frodo had fond memories of ordering his first beer at the establishment. Winner of the game got to choose where the next round of beer came from.

"Everyone knows there are only eighteen holes in golf," said Pippin.

A look of mutual understanding passed between Frodo and Merry, then Frodo put in, "No, there are nineteen on this course!"

Pippin shrugged at Frodo's comment. Perhaps the sun was starting to take affect on his friends. He watched Merry and Frodo walk on towards the putting green. "You both said that I should get a turn at hole number nine, but we've played twelve holes already! When am I going to get a chance?"

"In a few more turns," said Frodo, carefully choosing one of the putting clubs from the bag. "Number fifteen is one of the easier holes to play."

"Do I look daft?" Pippin asked, his voiced tinged with sarcasm. "I've played golf before--more than either of you two gooseberries! There are only two fairways to be found in the Shire--and the other is in the Northfarthing."

"Just because one is situated close to Great Smials does not mean that you have played nearly as much as you claim," Frodo responded. "Your family only moved here a year ago--or is there a golf course in Whitwell? Perhaps I missed it--was it beside the potato patch?" Merry could be heard snorting a laugh; Whitwell was a small farming village where Pippin grew up, and everyone knew everybody. Frodo added, "I would be completely surprised if you played even once before today."

Fire grew inside those Tookish green eyes. Frodo was on the mark, however, Pippin wasn't going to let him know it. Pippin argued back, "When will I get to play?"

"Be patient," said Frodo. "Unless you can aim a ball between those trees up ahead, then I should say you might want to wait." Grudgingly, Pippin took up the heavy bag of clubs bringing up the rear behind his cousins.

Sometime later…

"Come on, lads," Pippin complained again. "It's my turn now--I've waited long enough."

"I suppose he's been a good fellow," said Frodo. "Besides, it's the last hole. Let him use your club, Merry."

"Why my club and not yours?"

"Because mine is too heavy for him."

"Don't break it." Merry handed his club to Pippin.

"I won't," said Pippin, who stepped up to the spot where his cousins teed their golf balls. He fumbled in his breeches pocket for the wee ball, covered with bits of sewn leather then stuffed with a small rock and goose feathers. It was a ball made special for golfing. Setting it down, Pippin checked the direction of the wind…then heard his cousins snickering behind him. He reared back for a swing…

WHACK!

Pippin's ball sailed over Merry's…then over Frodo's,….then sadly veered to the left by the miscalculated breeze….towards the Took family's ancestral graveyard.

Merry kneaded Pippin's upper arm. "You've got quite an arm there, cousin," he said with a bit of a chuckle. "However--now you have to go find your ball--in the graveyard!"

Pippin's cheerful spirit flagged a bit. He frowned, "Who's coming with me?"

"No one," said Frodo, walking off. "Merry and I are going up to the putting green; we shall wait for you there. Hurry up now--and don't break any of the gravestones with your club!"

"My club, you mean," Merry put in. "And I'm going to need it for the next time we play golf."

In the graveyard…

Pippin looked around warily as he approached the ominous site. Large old trees with gnarled branches surrounded the small meadow where the graveyard was situated. It seemed to Pippin that the graveyard had darkened; even the sunny blue sky was now replaced with grey, puffy clouds that threatened to rain upon him at any moment. The air felt stifling. Entering through the gate, the teen looked down at the first gravestone he passed by. By the looks of it, it was almost as old as the Shire itself: Isumbras Took III, 1066 - 1159, 11th Thain of the Shire read one, and Bandobras "Bullroarer" Took, Warrior - Battle of Greenfield, 1104 - 1206. Underneath the epitaph was added, Inventor of Golf.

Pippin startled at reading the last part. "I've got some cheek!" he muttered to himself. "Probably landed my ball on top of the very one who invented the game…," he mumbled, looking over the tombstone. Pippin got a creepy feeling; the hair on his arms and the back of his neck stood on end. "Just find the ball and hit it--then get the blazes out of here," he said, making a sad attempt to calm his nerves down.

He spotted his small, whitewashed ball partially hidden by dead leaves--right next to the Bullroarer's gravestone. "Oy!" The lad squatted on his haunches to measure out the foot of the club from the grave so he could properly hit the ball and not the deteriorating stone--more specifically, Bandobras' deteriorating gravestone. Even while in the seclusion of the graveyard Pippin held to his honour. He took his golf ball and placed it one length of the club's foot away from Bandobras' tomb. "Of all the graves to choose from…," he grumbled, "it had to land here." Beads of nervous sweat formed on Pippin's brow. He heard Frodo's warning echo in his head, '…don't break any of the gravestones with your club!' "I'm trying not to!" Pippin said aloud, replying to the echo. He wound back to swing; any swing would do--just to get the ball out of this strange place!

Both of his eyes were on the ball… He swung, but something went wrong. Afterwards, Pippin had to rethink exactly what occurred because it all happened so fast. His club first hit the gravestone, chipping it badly, then bottom part of the club broke off, flying up towards his face….and then…

"Hullo!"

Simultaneously, Pippin screamed, jumped, and nearly wet his breeches. "Who are you?" he demanded--that is, once he caught his breath again. For a brief moment, Pippin's eyesight was a tad blurred and his ears had ringing in them.

Once his eyesight cleared and the droning noise in his head softened, Pippin noticed the translucence of the stranger-hobbit. The lad fell back, flinging himself behind Isumbras' gravestone to hide. Pippin gasped, imagining he could see the old fir trees as clear as day on the other side of the graveyard--through the very tall hobbit. "I-I-I'm sorry," stammered Pippin, getting up the gall to head towards the gate. "I'll leave right now!"

"Not so fast, boy," said the apparition, grabbing the small teen's breeches from behind on the waistband. "I can see you're in a bit of a fix, here. Bandobras is my name," he said.

Pippin was able to wriggle out of the creature's grasp, once again hiding behind Isumbras' gravestone--where he was much too frightened to make another move to escape. Pippin clamped his eyes shut, figuring the being would go away if he ignored it.

Not one to be put off so easily, Bandobras squatted down much like Pippin did just a few minutes ago to get a better look at the ball. "Golf, isn't it? Yes, yes, yes…of course it is," he said absentmindedly, eyeing the trajectory of the ball. He was assessing the distance the ball needed to clear the trees and land on the other side. "You can move the ball over a wee bit further from the stone to get a fair swing," he said, then looked at the frightened teenager. "It's in the rules," he smirked. "I should know--I wrote them myself." He stood up to his full four foot-five inches of height. "Are you all right, laddie?" Pippin said nothing, merely nodding his head vigorously. It wouldn't do well to anger the Hobbit-Wight.

Pippin used to beg Frodo and Merry to tell him ghost stories as a young boy--but after today, not any more! After listening to more nonsensical speech, Pippin heard Bandobras cackling. "You had to be there, I suppose," he said. "There was more than one gross of those evil things! Imagine them--trying to threaten my family and the rest of us respectable Shire hobbits. What else was I to do? I cut down that leader of theirs is what I did! 'Always start at the top' is what my old Dad used to say--but he wasn't speakin' of Orcs, mind you. The whole lot of us took to playing golf after that. I wanted to make a nineteenth hole, but--"

Suddenly there was nothing; the ranting had ceased. Pippin remained motionless, hunkered down behind his great-great-great-great-great grandfather's gravestone with his eyes shut tightly and fingers in his ears. After a moment of further silence, Pippin unplugged them. All was indeed quiet with the exception of some old, dead leaves stirring in the breeze. Pippin slowly opened his eyes, easing himself around Isumbras' gravestone to see a little better. The area that Bandobras previously occupied was vacant.

Pippin's fear abated long enough for him to spring up out of his hiding place. His honour went out the window…so to speak; taking the small ball in his hand, Pippin flung it out over the trees, towards the eighteenth's putting green. He then grabbed the broken club…and bolted.

Back with his cousins…

Merry was first to spy Pippin running up the hill with the broken club in his hand. "I should have known!" he said. "You rarely return my things to me undamaged," he said, then noticed the expression on his young cousin's face. "You look as if you've seen a ghost."

"I did!" Pippin shouted back, out of breath. He stopped just short of slamming into Frodo. "I did see a ghost! It was Bandobras of all hobbits…he was tall…and he gave me instructions in how to play golf and…and--"

"What happened to you?" asked Frodo, brushing aside the curls that hid a small knot on the boy's forehead. The skin was a tad broken and bleeding a little. "Sit down on this stone, Pip," he said. Pippin gasped sharply when Frodo examined the wound. The elder cousin bit his lip in concern. "How did this come to pass?"

"I was telling you," Pippin replied. "I was in the graveyard and then--," he hesitated. "And then…" That was rather strange--how did he obtain the injury? "I don't know," he answered after a pause. "All I know is that the Bullroarer's ghost came to visit me in the graveyard."

"Most likely in your head--or on it," said Merry holding his broken club in his hand. "This club may have had a hand in your seeing old Bandobras." He handed Frodo a clean handkerchief from his pocket to clean Pippin's wound.

"He was really there, I tell you!" Pippin said emphatically. "He even taught me how to play the ball from his gravestone."

"Right," said Merry, winking to Frodo. "Perhaps I ought to lose my golf ball once or twice in the Took's graveyard."

Frodo laughed at his cousin's jest. "Maybe he'll tell me how to keep my ball out of the briar patch!"

Pippin sighed; these two would never believe him. "Forget it."

"Pippin," said Frodo, growing serious. He sat down next to the teen, "I think your injury holds the answers to some questions I have. Did you fall? Did something hit your head?" Pippin made no comment. Frodo gently squeezed the lad's shoulder, "I think the latter happened."

"And I agree with Frodo," said Merry, holding up his broken club. "Look, Pip--why don't you go ahead and finish the hole? Frodo and I already have."

Pippin slowly stood up, looking around for his ball. He saw that it was on the putting green near the hole. "That isn't where it should have landed," said Pippin, careful not to divulge that he actually threw the ball from the graveyard. "My umm…my aim was reckless."

"It was lying there when we heard you running up the hill," answered Merry. "It's your turn so hurry up. We still have the 19th Hole!"

Pippin looked up, "The 19th hole?" Pippin wracked his memory for any reference that Bandobras could have made to a nineteenth hole in golf. "What are you two talking about? There are only eighteen holes, I tell you!"

An hour later…

"Ah! Beer in a dry throat!" said Merry, then took a draught from his mug.

"This is the 19th Hole, Pippin," said Frodo. He, too, tipped his mug for a healthy drink.

Still too young for beer, Pippin sipped on his dandelion and burdock. "I suppose there are nineteen holes in golf--and I believe I like this one the best!"

In the blink of an eye, Bandobras' spirit sat beside Frodo while drinking a mug…he winked at Pippin and then he was gone.

The End