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In the year S.R. 1418
Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin wake, for a second morning, in the house of Tom Bombadil, and depart to continue their journey after breakfast. As his house lies on the eastern edge of the Old Forest, they by turning north hope to pass safely along the west edges of the Barrow-downs and so reach the East-West Road that will take them to Bree. Instead they stray too near a standing stone on a hilltop, and as night falls are ensnared by a barrow-wight and trapped in one of the ancient graves.
Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford one week behind the Black Riders and, crossing the Baranduin, enters the Shire from the south.
Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin wake in the house of Tom Bombadil; deep rains pour upon the valley of the Withywindle as his wife Goldberry does her “autumn-cleaning.” They pass the day listening to his songs and tales, which draw them deep into the secrets and counsels of the Forest, and open out into remarkable vistas of the ancient lands lying to the east of the Shire. They spend a second and final night at his house.
Gandalf upon Shadowfax crosses the river Greyflood at the ford of Tharbad, passing from the Enedwaith into Hinhiriath. He will spend little more than two weeks west of the river before crossing back east across its tributary, the Mitheithel, at a point more than three hundred miles to the north.
At daybreak the journey of the Ring begins in earnest, as Frodo leaves his new house in Crickhollow and together with Sam, Merry, and Pippin passes under the Hedge that separates Buckland from the Old Forest. They hope by avoiding the roads to pass out of the Shire undetected by the cloaked Riders that have been pursuing them.
Through the day the trees of the forest force their path to bend southward toward the valley of the Withywindle where in the afternoon a great Willow traps the Hobbits. They are rescued by Tom Bombadil, who is passing up the river-valley on his way home from gathering some of the last of the season's water-lillies for his wife. The Hobbits follow him and are treated to dinner and warm beds at his house.
Gandalf for a second day rides upon Shadowfax across the Enedwaith.
Frodo, Sam, and Pippin set out cross county from the Elf-camp above Woodhall, just in time to see a Black Rider arrive on the hilltop behind them. After lunch they first hear the signal-cry of the Nazgûl. In the late afternoon they dine with Farmer Maggot, whom a Black Rider visited earlier today; he drives them to the river hidden in his wagon, where Merry meets them and ferries them across. From the eastern side of the river they glimpse a Black Rider searching the shore they left behind. After reaching the house at Crickhollow, bathing, and dining, the younger hobbits reveal their knowedge of Frodo's quest. Frodo accepts that Merry and Pippin will accompany he and Sam, while Fatty Bolger remains behind to sustain the fiction that Frodo is indeed living Crickhollow.
Gandalf upon Shadowfax rides across the Enedwaith between the rivers Isen and Greyflood.
Frodo, Sam, and Pippin continue along the road towards Woodhall, and in the afternoon are passed by a Black Rider who pauses briefly while they lie concealed. Another encounter occurs in the late evening — on both occasions Frodo resists the temptation to put on the Ring and disappear — but this second time the rider dismounts and approaches their hiding place, withdrawing only at the sound of approaching Elves. The Elves recognize Frodo as a friend of Bilbo, and when they learn that Black Riders are pursuing the Hobbits their lord, Gildor Inglorion, invites the Hobbits to lodge at their camp above Woodhall. In conversation later at night Gildor shares begrudging council with Frodo, names him an Elf-friend, and leaves provisions for the Hobbits.
Gandalf upon Shadowfax crosses the Isen and passes out of Rohan and into the Enedwaith of southern Eriador. He rides in the wake of the Black Riders who passed six days earlier.
Four Black Riders enter the Shire at dawn, while the other five pursue the remaining Rangers into the Wild and then return to keep watch on the Greenway. Frodo and his friends pack one last cart, which Merry and Fatty drive toward Buckland; Sam and Pippin remain to hike with Frodo across the Eastfarthing to his new home. The Sackville-Bagginses arrive and take inventory before the sale of Bag End goes into effect at midnight. At dusk Frodo departs, and overhears the Gaffer turning away an inquisitor; and although Sam learns the visitor is a stooped horseman cloaked in black, he will not mention this to Frodo until tomorrow night. The three Hobbits walk for several hours along the road to Woodhall before making camp.
Although the great horse Shadowfax cannot be broken and indeed will never accept tack, he reaches an understanding with Gandalf and permits the wizard to mount. They ride northwest from the fields near Edoras.
Frodo and his friends celebrate his fiftieth birthday, and his last night as the owner of Bag End. They toast old Bilbo, who departed the Shire on this night seventeen years ago. Gandalf does not return — the first time the Grey wizard has missed an appointment.
The Nine Riders reach Sarn Ford on the southern border of the Shire and find it guarded by several Rangers. Some of these flee north to warn Aragorn, while the others hold the Ford until they are overpowered by the Witch-king after nightfall. It is probably through this delay of only a few hours, which these Rangers purchase with their lives, that the Ring-bearer will avoid being captured before he leaves Bag End tomorrow night.
Gandalf overtakes Shadowfax upon the fields of Rohan, into which he fled yesterday after the horse's release from the stables of Edoras. The wizard begins working with the great wild horse.
As King Théoden of Gondor yesterday offered Gandalf any horse from his stables if only the wizard would depart, the wizard today chooses Shadowfax, their greatest stallion; the king is enraged at his insolence. As the horse has never been broken, he flees wild into the fields with the wizard in pursuit.
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In the year S.R. 1419
Bilbo Baggins turns one hundred and twenty-nine, and his birthday is celebrated by Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin who have all returned just yesterday to Rivendell after leaving Rivendell with the Ring nine months ago.
The wizard Saruman reaches the Shire, having left his ruined fortress of Isengard more than a month ago. While for many years he deployed only spies into the Shire, he recently has been employing wealth and, finally, open violence in order to impose his own rule on the district. They have cut off access to the Tookland, since its Thain is opposing them and his Hobbits are shooting Men on sight; but the Tookland itself is alone in still remaining out of Saruman's power.
After eight final days of riding north, Gandalf and the Hobbits return to Rivendell accompanied by Elrond, his sons, and many Elves of his household. It has been more than four and a half months since Elrond and his advisors rode from Rivendell with Arwen, bringing her south to her wedding in Minas Tirith; at least seven months since the sons of Elrond departed Rivendell to ride south with the Dúnedain to fight alongside Aragorn; and only four days shy of nine months since the Hobbits and Gandalf left Rivendell on a cold night of late December bearing the Ring southward toward its destruction.
After a week of rest in Eregion among the ruins of the ancient Elven city, the time comes for the Elves to part. Celeborn and Galadriel head east with their companions over the Redhorn pass toward their forest of Lórien on the other side of the Misty Mountains, while Elrond, the Elves of his household, and Gandalf and the Hobbits continue north along the west side of the mountains toward Rivendell and the House of Elrond which lie slightly more than a week's ride to the north. It took the Hobbits a full two weeks to cross the same distance on foot when they marched south from Rivendell with the Company of the Ring, more than nine months ago.
The Hobbits and Elves riding north with Gandalf toward their homes reach Hollin and the trace ruins of the ancient Elven city of Eregion. They linger among the stones for a week, the Elves communing together one last time; for Celeborn will remain in Middle-earth, while his wife and Elrond and most of the other High-elves will soon take ship and pass into the West.
The Hobbits and Elves who ride north with Gandalf toward their homes come upon the wizard Saruman, who is also passing north. After a vicious exchange of words on the part of the ruined wizard, they continue north while he moves off to the northwest.
Aragorn and the Hobbits and Elves riding north come finally to Isengard. From Treebeard they learn that the wizard Saruman is no longer imprisoned in Orthanc. The Hobbits make their farewell to Treebeard, as do Celeborn and Galadriel whom he has not seen since more ancient times.
Legolas and Gimli bid the other riders farewell, and accept the invitation of Treebeard to ride north through Fangorn forest as they ride toward their homes in the northern Mirkwood (now named the Wood of Greenleaves following the victories of the Elves against Dol Guldur, as they will learn upon their return) — Legolas toward the city of the Wood-elves where the father reigns, and Gimli toward the great caves under the Lonely Mountain where he will find the old King Dáin Ironfoot has fallen in battle and his distant cousin Thorin III Stonehelm now reigning.
At sunset they approach the Gap of Rohan, the westernmost border of ancient Gondor, where Aragorn bids them farewell so that he may ride back to his Queen who waits in Edoras for both of them to return to Minas Tirith and being in earnest their reign. Aragorn and his knights do not turn immediately, but sit awhile upon their horses to watch the travellers disappear into the sunset, who in return see behind them the sunlight gleaming upon the harnesses and a final flash of green from the Elfstone.
Aragorn continues to ride north toward Isengard with the Hobbits and Elves who are now returning to the North following their involvement in the War of the Ring or, in the case of many of the Elves, their long ride to the south to see his wedding to Arwen. They come to Helm's Deep, where Gimli is finally able to show Legolas the beauties of the Glittering Caves that lie behind the Deeping Coomb, of which he became enamored when forced to flee there during the Battle of Helm's Deep more than five months ago.