"You're dead," Sauron said quietly. He wasn't going to open his eyes. He didn't want to see where he had ended up. The Ring had been destroyed. How? How was this possible?
"No," Melkor said. "The Witch-King of Angmar is dead. I am back in the Void, with you. How amusing!"
"Oh yes. Open your eyes."
Sauron grudgingly opened his eyes and stared at his former master, his former slave. And now his very much real, very powerful lord and master.
"If I apologize profusely for everything that occurred, what would happen?" he asked warily.
"I would cut out your tongue and feed it to the dogs. Or whatever lives around here. I've never been very clear on that."
Sauron nodded slowly. "Then I don't regret a moment of it," he said.
Melkor threw back his head and laughed. "Don't worry," he said cheerfully. "We have eternity. I'm sure you'll regret it eventually."
"I say, that was a bit odd," Sam said as they walked back from the party.
"Odd wasn't the right word," Merry said. "Downright eerie, I'd say. If you lot hadn't seen it, I'd've sworn that I'd had a mite too much to drink."
"A mite?" Pippin exclaimed. "I'd've sworn that I'd had two barrels too much to drink!"
There was general laughter at that.
"Imagine not knowing about good old Mister Frodo," Sam said. "Or Elessar."
"Or Eowyn," Merry said.
"Oh yes, or her. She's a good lady."
"I was thinking of going to visit," Pippin said. "I've spent too long in the Shire."
Sam shook his head. He couldn't imagine spending too much time in the Shire.
The three hobbits left the main dwellings of their kinsfolk behind as they walked out into the night. They walked for over an hour before they saw a faint light in the distance. A house, out here in the middle of the green rolling hills under the bright blue sky.
It took them another ten minutes to get to the house, and they knocked when they arrived.
"You'll never guess what we saw," Pippin said.
"What was it?" the man at the door asked. He was a tall Man, no hobbit. And yet he lived here, in the depths of the Shire.
"I know what they saw," someone else inside the house said.
"Really?" Merry asked.
"It was pretty strange," Pippin said. "You know, for a moment, we thought it was –"
"Me." The woman stepped into the doorway. She had aged well and looked only a little over thirty. The man looked older because of the scars that covered his face, but they were starting to fade away and become little more than spiderwebs.
"Yeah," Pippin said, nodding. "That's who we thought it was."
"You know the funny thing?" the woman said.
"What?" Merry asked, grinning.
"It was what?" Pippin asked.
"Me." And with that the woman smiled and shut the door in the faces of the three hobbits, but not too harshly.