'Sold?' Gandalf screamed, his face draining of so much colour he could have turned into Gandalf the White on the spot, 'What do you mean, sold?'
'You heard,' Frodo muttered sulkily, 'I had a bit of a cash flow crisis, so I flogged it.'
The two of them were standing - or, in Gandalf's case, stooping - in the kitchen at Bag End. The wizard had just returned from a long journey, the quest to confirm his suspicions that the ring Bilbo had bequeathed to his nephew was, indeed, the One Ring. Years he had travelled, scouring the archives of Gondor and Rohan, enduring the hospitality of those drippy elves at Rivendell, being mugged by a band of desperate dwarves whose mine had been closed down by the Health & Safety Commission, put up with the company of that 'I just can wait to be King' loser Aragorn on a fruitless mission to track down the appalling Gollum... and for what? To return to Hobbiton and find that this wretched little hairy-footed drunkard had sold the damn thing.
'You sold it,' Gandalf moaned, hardly daring to believe the words that were passing his lips, 'The One Ring to rule them all. You sold it.'
'On eBay,' Frodo added, trying to be helpful.
Suddenly feeling his many years, Gandalf sat heavily on one of the kitchen chairs. A little too heavily, it seemed, as the chair promptly collapsed beneath him. The Grey Wizard sprawled ungracefully on the floor.
Frodo bit his lower lip to prevent a sudden burst of laughter, and helped the gently swaying sorceror to his feet.
'Okay,' Gandalf said, thinking fast, 'I tell you, young Baggins, if we don't get that Ring back there'll be fireworks that'll make Bilbo's party look as tame as a pixie lighting a fart. Now - why exactly did you feel the need to sell it, after I specifically told you to keep it safe?'
'Because of Bilbo,' Frodo admitted, 'A few days after he left, I found out how he financed that trip of his. Turned out he re-mortgaged Bag End. Took every penny with him, and the bank told me if I couldn't repay the money - with interest - they'd come and repossess me. The only way I could do it was by selling off a few things I didn't need, like my footwear, all my spoons (which went to the Sackville-Bagginses), my collection of Atomic Kitten CD's, and that Ring.'
'On eBay,' Gandalf nodded, 'and, pray tell, to whom did you sell it?'
'It was bought by someone calling himself SexyWhiteRobe. His address was Tower of Orthanc, Isengard.'
'Saruman!' Gandalf spluttered, 'You sold the Ring to Saruman The White! Perhaps all is not lost.' He suddenly bolted through the front door.
'Here,' Frodo called indignantly, 'Next time, have the patience to actually open the door first.'
He sauntered to his wrecked doorway and regarded the scene in bemusement. Gandalf had halted by the garden gate and was whistling frantically into the wind. 'Gandalf, what are you doing?'
'I'm calling my friend Shadowfax, Lord of Horses. He will carry me to Isengard in a matter of days.'
Frodo frowned, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. 'This Shadowfax... he wouldn't be that white nag who's been hanging around Hobbiton for the last couple of weeks?'
Gandalf fixed him with a relieved expression. 'That's him! Where is he?'
'Well... he was just hanging around the neighbourhood making a nuisance of himself. Ate all the carrots Samwise Gamgee planted in the back garden. Eee, Sam went mad. Dragged the horse down to the knacker's yard, had him turned into dogfood and glue.'
Gandalf nodded wearily and started to search through his deep pockets for some loose change. 'I don't suppose you could call me a taxi?'