In the far distant land of Mordor, where the shadows lay, the reconstruction of a building of ultimate evil was underway. Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower. Somewhere, in an overhead high chamber of unspeakable detail, a single screeching voice could be heard.
Smoke, fire, ash, and lava erupted from Mount Doom in response to the tortured cries. From the fortress of Minas Morgul, nine fox riders on nine black horses emerged, exiting the gates at a furious, desperate, and hurried gallop.
Meanwhile, the gates of Minas Tirith, the capital of the realm of Gondor, were open to Gandalf. The Grey Wizard walked around with a guide heading to the city’s libraries. Removing his hat and lighting his pipe, he sifted through sheaths and piles of old papers. The guide later returned with a mug of tea. At last, came what Gandalf had been searching for.
_"The year 3434 of the Second Age. Here follows the Account of Isildur, the High King of Gondor, and the finding of the Ring of Power.
It has come to me, the One Ring, and it shall be an heirloom of my Kingdom. All those who will follow in my bloodline shall be bound to its fate, for I shall risk no hurt to the Ring. It is precious to me. Though I buy it with great pain. The markings upon the band begin to fade. The writing, which at first was as clear as red flame, has all but disappeared.
A secret now that only fire can tell."_
Back in the Shire, Farmer Maggot chopped up firewood in the evening light. Something approached, and Maggot’s dog barked, to which his owner looked up frightened. His dog backed up and disappeared into the Hobbit hole, in reaction to a black muddled red-eyed horse. Upon it sat a fox wearing metal gauntlets, spiked boots, and a flowing robe and hood in black. One of the Nine Riders from Minas Morgul: Khamûl the Easterling.
"There’s no Dugginses ‘round here. They’re up in Hobbiton! That way!"
The fox rode off in haste whilst Maggot retreated, but not before seeing eight others like it follow after.
In Hobbiton, Frodo took up four mugs of ale from Rosie Cotton, and danced over to Merry and Pippin, who were standing on a table and singing.
_"Hey, ho, to the bottle I go!
To heal my heart and drown my woe.
Rain may fall and wind may blow.
But there still be…
Many miles to go!
Sweet is the sound of the pouring rain,
And the stream that falls from hill to plain.
Better than rain or rippling brook –!"_
"There’s a mug of beer inside this Took!" Pippin proudly interjected.
Cheers and laughs exploded from the proud Hobbits, and Merry and Pippin climbed off the table, continuing to drink. A table away, Sam and a crowd of other Hobbits sat discussing current events.
"There’s been some strange folk crossing the Shire." The Gaffer began. "Dwarves, others of a less than savory nature.”
"War’s brewing.” Noakes agreed. "The mountains are fair teeming with goblins."
"Wives' tales and children’s stories, that’s all that is!” objected Sandyman. “You’re beginning to sound like that old Bilbo Duggins. Cracked, he was!"
Gaffer simply laughed, taking no offense and looking over at Frodo bringing the ale. "Young Mr. Frodo here, he’s cracking! And proud of it! Cheers, Frodo and all!"
"Well, it’s none of our concern what goes on beyond our borders." Sandyman settled the discussion, then turned to Frodo. "Keep your nose out of trouble, and no trouble will come to you!"
The night wore on, and the Green Dragon emptied. Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin were one of the last out the door. One of the other mice knelt down before Rosie Cotton as she bid them goodnight.
"Good night, sweet maiden of the golden ale!"
"Oi, mind who you're sweet-talking!" Sam said under his breath.
"Don't worry, Sam!" Frodo reassured him. "Rosie knows an idiot when she sees one!"
Sam smiled uncertainly. "Does she?"