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In the year S.R. 1418
Frodo becomes alarmed that Gandalf has not returned after leaving the Shire in late June; at the latest the wizard had promised to return for tomorrow's birthday and farewell party.
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.
With the help of his friends, Frodo empties most of his belongings from Bag End, sending two cartloads east toward his new home in Crickhollow. Gandalf has been gone since late June but is due back in two days at the latest.
Gandalf abandons disguise and enters openly the Golden Hall of Meduseld. He is rebuffed by King Théoden of Rohan, whose mind has grown dark with suspicion after months of whisperings from his deceitful counsellor Gríma. Théoden offers Gandalf any horse in his stables if the wizard will depart.
Gwaihir the Eagle deposits the wizard Gandalf in the land of Rohan, whose lords are (falsely) rumored to give horses as tribute to Mordor. Disguised as a beggar, the wizard cautiously approaches the royal stronghold of Edoras, and is denied entrance.
The Black Riders reach and cross the Fords of Isen, passing out of the western marches of Rohan and entering Eriador for perhaps the first time since their defeat by Círdan and Eärnur more than one thousand years before.
Early in the night the great eagle Gwaihir reaches Orthanc, bearing reports of the Enemy's movements that Radagast has gathered at the behest of Gandalf. Finding the Grey Wizard himself atop the fortress, imprisoned by the treacherous Saruman, he bears Gandalf south toward Rohan.
Gandalf reaches the fortress of Orthanc late in the evening. Twelve days ago he received a message from the White Wizard Saruman that the Nazgûl were searching for the Shire, but that Saruman could offer aid if Gandalf came quickly. But once Gandalf enters the fortress, Saruman reveals that his own desire is to either ally with Mordor or possess the Ruling Ring himself. He imprisons Gandalf on the platform atop his fortress, where the Grey Wizard will remain imprisoned for more than two months.
Boromir leaves Minas Tirith to journey north in search of the legendary valley of Imaldris, where dwells the lore-master Elrond Halfelven from whom Boromir hopes to learn the meaning of a dream. His father, the Steward of Gondor, has entrusted the long journey to Boromir despite the fact that the dream came first — and most often — to his brother Faramir.
Gandalf and his horse leave Bree at dawn, and begin the several-hundred mile journey down the Greenway to the fortress of Isengard, where the wizard Saruman has summoned him.
The innkeeper in Bree, Barliman Butterbur, cannot find anyone to take Gandalf's letter to the Shire, and he will soon forget about it entirely; the letter will sit at the Inn for three more months until Frodo himself arrives in Bree with the Nazgûl nearly upon his heels.
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In the year S.R. 1419
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.
The four Hobbits and the Elves who arrived in Edoras a week ago for the funeral of King Théoden bid farewell to King Éomer and ride north from the city. Arwen stays behind at Edoras while Aragorn her husband leaves to ride with them as far as Isengard; thus she is parted for the last time from her father Elrond 2,778 years after being born to him and his wife Celebrían.