September of S.R. 1418
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Phases of the Moon
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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, 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.
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 wakes inside of a barrow, one of the ancient hilltop crypts that line the downs east of the Old Forest; his companions Sam, Merry, and Pippin are unconscious beside him. He calls on Tom Bombadil and the four Hobbits are rescued from the Barrow-wight who ensnared them when darkness fell last night. As Tom empties the barrow of its treasure, and thus of its curse, he arms them each with a dagger from the hoard — and thus provides Merry with the blade with which he will strike the Witch-King at the Battle of the Pelennor Field in five and a half months, the same enemy whose servants killed the men buried in the barrow, and the enemy against whom the blade is imbued with spells.
The Hobbits ride north to the East-West Road and then east along it to Bree where they lodge at the Prancing Pony. They meet the Ranger called Strider, and Butterbur the proprietor of the inn finally delivers to Frodo the letter which Gandalf wrote to Frodo three months ago; and they become convinced that Strider is the “Aragorn”, son of Arathorn, whom Gandalf's letter tells them to trust. When they hear that Black Riders have been seen in Bree, Strider has them spend the night in a lighted parlor of the inn which they hope is less susceptible to attack than the first-floor Hobbit rooms in which they would otherwise have slept.
Reports that Gandalf gathers after entering the Shire indicate that only some of the Black Riders entered the district. Upon reaching the Hill, the wizard learns from Gaffer Gamgee that Frodo departed with the Gaffer's son Samwise six days ago, not two months earlier as urged in Gandalf's letter; and that a Rider arrived later the same evening, seeking the whereabouts of ``Baggins.'' The wizard fears the worst as he rides for the Eastfarthing.
In the cold before dawn the Black Riders attack the two locations to which they have traced Frodo: the house at Crickhollow to which he has moved, and the Hobbit rooms at the back of the inn at Bree. Fredegar Bolger has been watching the house at Crickhollow and flees as three Riders attack; for the first time in more than a century the Horn of Buckland is blown, and the only casualties by morning are the Buckland gate wardens who are trampled while attempting to impede the Riders' escape. At the Prancing Pony in Bree the Hobbits' rooms are ransacked, but they are not harmed as they passed the night with Strider in the parlour. As their ponies are missing, they must purchase Bill Ferny's underfed and overpriced pony, and depart Bree around ten o'clock in the morning before a crowd of onlookers. And after following the Road's course south and east around the Bree-hill, Strider leads them off the road toward the north.
By morning Gandalf reaches Buckland and finds the Hobbits in arms and the house at Crickhollow ransacked; in his haste he fails to interview the eyewitness Fatty Bolger, who alone could have told him that Frodo entered the Old Forest days before. Discovering one of Frodo's cloaks on the doorstep, he assumes that the Hobbit and his Ring have been captured and immediately sets out in pursuit. The Riders have dispersed but Gandalf follows the trail leading to Bree, arriving in the evening and learning from the innkeeper Butterbur that Frodo departed that morning in the company of Strider. Gandalf expects his first night's rest in more than a week.
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