The sun sets on the hollow. The hobbits leave off their chores, kicking silver orbs into black sacks, donning their fleece. From the wide tunnel emerges a dark, diminutive Wizard. He stops in mid-field and casts his eyes, flashing like two chips of blackest charcoal, ’round the field. The hobbits draw closer to him.
The Wizard turns towards the gaggle of Young Ones, jostling and elbowing each other. “What are you all doing here?” He quizzes. “This is the Clásico. It is no mere Champions League knock-out round. Go home.”
”Oh please,” cry the Young Ones. “Please, míster, let us go, oh do. We’ll be ever so good, we will.”
The Wizard sighs and waves them quiet. “Well, actually that is what I wanted to speak to you about. As you may know, the Iberia pilots are threatening to strike this month.”
The young hobbits’ eyes grow wide as porridge saucers. The others snort like Clydesdales, pawing the turf with cleated feet.
“And,” the Wizard continues. “It is a puente, this weekend.”
The Elder Ones groan. Curses are muttered. Mothers are condemned as loose women. Holy sacraments are debased.
“That will make traffic impossible,” complains Xavi. “The A-2! We shall not pass.”
“How are we to arrive, then?” cries a Young One. “One does not simply walk into Morbor!”
“We run!” shrieks Dani, jumping up and down, but not one hobbit pays him heed.
“I would offer a skitch on my motorbike,” an assistant Wiz calls from inside the tunnel. “But somebody set it on fire.” Gerard guffaws into his sleeve. Lionel squints upward at a passing cumulus cloud.
“Zaragoza came on the AVE,” Busquets points out.
“Oh, yes! Let’s take the AVE!” chirp the Young Ones. “Choo choo!”
“Look, fellows, it’s not so bad,” frowns the Wizard. “We’ll take a bus. A nice, comfy bus.”
“I’ll rent a movie. We liked Matt Damon, didn’t we? Or another gladiator flick? Whaddya say?” The Wizard rests his gaze on each hobbit, who stares at his lacéd feet and blushes at his own insolence. “It’s settled, then. Now, onto serious matters.”
The Wizard clears his throat and begins:
“My dear Cescs and Seydous, Alexises and Andreses, Piqués and Puyols, Messis and Mascheranos, Adrianos and Abidales, Valdeses and Alveses, Xavis and Davides, Thiagos, Maxwells, and Pedro Rodrigueces!”
“Do you know how the wicked Mouron first came into being? An elf himself, taken by dark ambitions that torment his executive board and twist his tongue in post-match pressers. Now purged of all that is més, perfected in Orctasy, he comes for silver with a great army that presses on the counter with speed.” (The Young Ones shudder.)
The Wizard continues. “La Liga standings on the edge of a knife. Prevail and we shall head even into the High Holidays. Stray but a little, and we will fall six points. Yet hope remains while the Club is true.”
(The Elders frown. Puyol rips off his captain’s band and presses his lips against it.)
“He that plays this Saturday will stand tip-toe when the day is named,
or the match is replayed on GolTV’s ‘Clásico Highlights Reel’.
“He will go to the tabernilla and have a copa with his neighbors and say, ‘This is the puente de la Concepción!’
“Then he shall roll up his sleeve and show a tattoo, perhaps in Chinese, perhaps in Arabic, and say, ‘I got this tattoo — this one, right here, between this one and that one, on the Clásico de la Concepción.'”
(Alexis and Cesc flex their ornamented arms.)
“And he’ll tell of the feats he did that day. The tackles, the tarjetas, the tiki, the taka.
“And our names, familiar to all as household words, be they catalá or castellano, in their cañas and chupitos freshly remember’d. This story shall the good man teach his son … or daughter, Andrés, sorry;”
(Andrés smiles generously.)
“From this puente to the end of La Liga!” The Wizard raises his voice to the Heavens.
“We shall remember and be remembered likewise,
We happy hobbits few, we Men of la Masia.
“And he that gets clipped or elbowed or head-butted shall be our own blaugrana brother;
Be he A-Squad forever, or ever so B.
“Let those that chose to play for Mouron believe themselves accursed they were not here among us, from bus to Bernabeu, and hold their manhood in the defensive wall before our ferocious free-kicks.
“For those that fought with us,
This brotherhood, this fellowship,
We are més que un club.”
Tito Villanueva strides onto the pitch and claps the Wizard on the shoulder.
“Well, Boss,” he says brightly. “I’m back.”
End of Book III