"Well, children," said Samwise Fairbairn, settling himself down in front of the fire, "would you like a bedtime story?"
"Something from the Red Book!" said five-year old Rolo, jumping up and down in his excitement.
"Naturally something from the Red Book," his father said, lifting the heavy volume onto his knees. "But which bit?"
"The King and Queen visiting the borders?" asked Daffodil, at fifteen feeling herself a little above bedtime stories but wanting to listen anyway.
"Frodo and Sam in the spiders lair!" suggested her younger brother Hamfast. "Please, Dad, we havent had that part for ages. I like Sam best, Dad. You were named after him, werent you?"
"Yes, Hammy, I was," said Sam.
"I want Lórien," said Marigold, twisting her hair-ribbon between her fingers. "The Mirror."
"How about a new bit?" their father said, flicking through the yellowing pages to the back of the book. "Have I ever told you about Meriadoc and Peregrins last ride?"
"Perhaps once," Daffodil said, thoughtfully, "when I was very little."
"I never heard it!" shouted Rolo.
Sam smiled and put Rolo on the seat next to him.
"So, Meriadoc and Peregrins last ride it is." He cleared his throat. "In the year 1484 of the Shire-Reckoning, a messenger arrived at the Buckland Gate, his clothes stained from long travel, bearing a scroll with the green and white arms of Rohan on the seal. He brought summons from King Éomer for Meriadoc Brandybuck, the King being desirous to see his sword-thain before his death, which he knew was imminent.
Master Meriadoc and Thain Peregrin took counsel together. In the late Spring they both handed over their homes and offices to their sons, Sadoc Brandybuck and Faramir Tookwhose wife was your great-great-grandmothers sister, childrenand they rode off together from Buckland; over the Sarn Ford and on to the North-South Road upon which they kept through the Gap of Rohan. Many people saw them as they passed and saluted these two heroes of legend, dressed in the liveries of Rohan and Gondor as was their habit. As autumn was drawing into its fullness they arrived in the Golden Hall of Meduseld, in Edoras in Rohan.
King Éomer was in the twilight of his days, but he had a son, Elfwine, called the Fair, who was the apple of the kings eye. The years of battle and the free air of Rohan had kept Éomer hale and hearty, but on the arrival of Meriadoc and Peregrin the halflings could see that he had not long to live. Meriadoc was much grieved, however he hid his sadness so that Éomer might enjoy the more his last weeks on Middle-earth, before his soul went to the everlasting home of Men.
They talked and sang of the Great Years, remembering with joy tinged with sadness their friends who had passed Over Sea. As the golden leaves of Fangorn Wood were falling from the trees, in the late autumn of 1484, Éomer Éadig, King of Rohan, passed away into an endless sleep. Much was the grieving in both Rohan and Gondor at the end of the King; who many said was the greatest leader of the Rohirrim since Eorl the Young first flew the white horse at the Field of Celebrant, though his deeds mayhap were not as great as that last of Théoden Thengels son who fell on the Pelennor Fields.
Meriadoc and Peregrin remained at Meduseld until the green mound had been raised over Éomers body, first of the tombs of the Third Line, and until Elfwine the Fair had been crowned King. Then they took leave of the household of Edoras and rode south again across the plains to Minas Tirith.
In the White City the two were acclaimed and greeted with great joy. King Elessar and Queen Arwen made free for them fair apartments in the Citadel and they had the freedom of the City and lands of Gondor. Elessar sent gifts to King Elfwine in recognition of his assumption of the throne of Rohan, and also in memory of his friend and companion-in-arms Éomer, and great was his sadness at his passing; for Elessar and Éomer had drawn swords together on the Pelennor Fields at the liberation of Minas Tirith, and since that day had fought many a glorious victory for Gondor and Rohan together. Elessar himself had many years yet to live in glory.
The halflings spent many a day walking and singing on the high walls of the City, remembering their youth, and Peregrin pointed out to Meriadoc the place where he had seen the Darkness fall on Gondor, and they went together to the Houses of Healing and recalled those who had brought Meriadoc back to health following the fall of the Nazgûl. The Men of the City delighted in their presence and called them, as of old, the Ernil i Pheriannath. Their companions from the War of the Ring, Legolas the Elf and Gimli the Dwarf visited Minas Tirith from their dwellings in Ithilien and the Glittering Caves of Aglarond and spent several weeks with the aging halflings.
But halflings, unlike Elves, cannot live forever, and three years after Meriadoc and Peregrin had ridden away from the Shire, they died within a day of each other. The City mourned them for twenty days and their bodies were laid in the Hallows of Rath Dínen by Elessar himself, amongst the great of Gondor. Next to the bed of Peregrin was a great empty bed, waiting for the long reign of Elessar to end. Elessar and Arwen commanded that Meriadoc and Peregrin should be remembered with honour, and thus are they still.
Elessar laid down his life at last two hundred years after his birth in the North, and there do three of the Fellowship of the Ring lie together, to be gloried in the history of all Free Peoples until the Sun should fall into the Western Seas at the end of Time."
Sam closed the book. "And that was the last riding of Meriadoc and Peregrin, children. Now, bed!" He put the book on the shelf where it belonged and carefully picked up Rolo, sleeping on the sofa next to him. "You can have another story tomorrow night."