Disclaimer: All Star Trek related characters belongs to Paramount; all Lord of the Rings related characters belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien. I am merely borrowing them.

Author's Note: Writing this is probably a huge cliché. But the idea refuses to leave me alone, so I decided to go ahead with it anyway. I am not using either the movie or books exclusively. Rather, this will be a combination of genre, since I feel both ways to tell the tale have their own separate merits. I also assume that the reader is somewhat familiar with the Lord of the Rings. I will not explain the story over again; if there is something that you do not understand, I suggest either reading the books or watching the movie. You have been duly warned.

************************

THE SHADOW RIDERS

Chapter One: A Long Awaited Leave

Rain may fall and wind may blow, And many miles be still to go, But under a tall tree I will lie, And let the clouds go sailing by.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

************************

When Captain Archer announced that they were approaching a planet of similar size and composition of Earth, there was a good deal of excitement among the crew of Enterprise. The planet, despite being uninhabited, provided a perfect opportunity for a little shore leave and recreation. Traveling through the Expanse, they had hardly any rest time, and the strain had begun to show. On the day of arrival, it was too late in the afternoon to begin shuttling down, so Captain Archer decided that the shore leave shifts would start early the next morning.

Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, upon receiving his lottery number, was quite pleased to find he was on the first shift. Though he was a noted workaholic, of late even he had begun to feel the stress of the hunt for the Xindi and could definitely use the few days off.

"What day did you get?" asked Trip jovially as they left the mess hall, where the lottery results had been announced.

"Tomorrow morning," Reed replied, holding up the padd. "Four days of rest and relaxation planet side. It will be quite nice, I think." He sighed with pleasure. "Quite nice indeed."

"It's too bad we couldn't find an inhabited planet to take shore leave on," Trip said, elbowing his friend in the ribs and grinning.

"After what happened on Risa, I think it's a bloody good thing that we didn't find an inhabited planet," Reed muttered. "Anyway, there are ruins. It was inhabited at one point, just not anymore."

"I wonder what happened," Trip mused. "To the people who lived here, I mean."

Reed shook his head. "I don't know. But every scan shows perfectly good atmosphere, nothing harmful to humans at all. Most of those ruins look thousands and thousands of years old so whatever happened, happened a very long time ago." He tapped the padd with one finger, staring into space. "Maybe they just all died out, or maybe they left and went wandering the stars."

"Maybe we can look around when I get down there," said Trip. "I have the second leave shift, so I'll be down there for two days of your leave. We can go camping and exploring."

"I'll look forward to it," said Malcolm, coming out of his reverie. "It's only ruins, after all, so there's very little chance of you picking up women that aren't actually women!" Thank God, he thought to himself. With Trip's record.....

"Hey, I didn't hear you complaining," Trip said over his shoulder as he went into the turbolift. "Have fun, I'll see you in a few days."

"See you," said Malcolm, and went off to his quarters to pack, wondering if he should bring a phase pistol just in case there were some mysterious women down there. You never knew with Trip; better to be prepared.

******************

He was quite amused the next morning when Hoshi Sato showed up with her backpack slung over her shoulder, panting slightly as she heaved it into the shuttle bay. "Hello, Lieutenant! What are you going to see down there?"

"I haven't decided yet. You?" he replied, lifting her bag off her shoulders and onto the floor. "Oof! What on earth have you got in here?"

"Camera equipment," she said innocently. Malcolm looked at the petite communications officer and wondered how the hell she had managed to pick up the bag in the first place. "I'm going to look at some of the ruins down there."

"How many cameras did you bring?" Reed said in amazement, hefting the bag once more as the shuttle pilot nodded to them. Hoshi scornfully raised an eyebrow at him.

"Just one. Plus a Universal Translator in case I find something to translate and I need it, and some padds to store all the information. And clothes and a sleeping bag and a tent."

Reed looked at the bag, then looked at Hoshi (who was smiling innocently) and back at the bag. "You've got to teach me how to pack someday," he said. "Which ones are you going to look at? Trip and I were going to hike around when he came down, but I could get an early start frolicking around the ruins if you'd like some company."

Hoshi cocked an eyebrow at him again. "Sure, Lieutenant," she said, grinning; Reed's cheeks heated slightly as he realized what he had just said. "You can carry the camera!"

"Hmm, perhaps this isn't such a good idea after all," Reed grumbled, picking the heavy backpack up once more and slinging it carefully over his shoulder next to his own. "Frolicking..... good one, Malcolm."

He didn't realize he'd said it out loud until every single occupant of the shuttle started snickering loudly.

*********************

The pilot dropped them off last, since most of the others had wanted to go to the beaches on what equated to the western edge of the continent. Malcolm and Hoshi were much farther inland, out on the plains slightly north of a long, high mountain range running east to west. Scans of the planet had shown an extensive set of ruins some miles south of them at the very edge of the mountains. Hoshi and Malcolm planned to hike in, arriving a few hours before sunset, and then spend a day examining the ruins before Trip met them at the site.

The wind howled around their ears as the shuttle ascended; Malcolm shivered and was glad he had thought to bring a heavier jacket. It was not cold, really, but the wind made the temperature feel a good bit lower than it actually was. "Well, let's get moving, Hoshi," he said, shouldering his pack.

If he squinted, he could actually pick out the ruins, shadowed against the mountainside. Such a clear country---pity that there wasn't really anything like it left on Earth. Maybe New Zealand, he mused, having hiked there once on a half-term holiday trip. But pollution and war from earlier centuries had destroyed the absolute purity of the air, and nothing quite this unspoiled remained.

"Are you coming, Malcolm?" said Hoshi, punching him in the arm.

"Just looking at the view," he replied, rubbing his arm. When had Hoshi turned into Madeleine? "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"I never would have figured you for the type to gaze romantically into the distance," Hoshi giggled, reminding Reed even more of his sister.

"I'm full of surprises," he said absently, picking his way down the steep slope of the hill. Hoshi giggled again and shook her head.

"You certainly are, Lieutenant," she said with a mischievous glint in her eyes. "Let's go frolic, shall we?" Malcolm simply groaned as she flitted past him, laughing merrily, light on her feet despite the heavy pack on her slim shoulders.

They walked all the morning, weaving to and fro among the foothills of the mountains. Such strange country it was, Reed mused. Extremely open and flat in places, and then suddenly extremely steep and hilly. They went up when they had to, checking their bearings from the tops of the round hills, and down again into the waving grasses. When the sun was directly overhead, finally warming the air a little, they stopped at the side of a meandering stream for a quick lunch.

Malcolm, biting into a sandwich, tramped around the sandy banks, testing the water with one hand and shivering when the chill bit into his bare fingers. Hoshi sat on a log, eating her own sandwich and watching him idly wander. Suddenly the lieutenant's brow furrowed as he looked across the flowing water. Carefully he picked his way from stone to stone and went striding into the tall grasses.

"What'd you find?" called Hoshi when she saw him bend down, half-obscured by the grasses.

"Foundations!" he called back, adding something else that was lost in the noise of the wind. Hoshi jumped down from her perch and splashed right through the water, trusting to the Starfleet-issue waterproof boots to keep her feet dry and swearing when she discovered the stream was deeper than it looked. Cursing with enough vehemence to make Malcolm straighten and stare at her in shock, she fought through the grasses to his side.

"I didn't know you knew words like that," he said.

"I'm a linguist. It's my job to know words," Hoshi retorted.

Malcolm grinned, a rare expression on his face. "You'd make a good Royal Navy officer with a mouth like that. Look, there used to be a building here. You can see a bit of the wall still." He pointed the stones out, barely half a meter high in the tallest places. "There are some chests half- buried here. Help me get them out," he said, kicking at the corner of a wooden box.

The sandy soil came away easily, and in a few moments they had the box up from the dirt. Malcolm brushed the dirt off and pounded at the latch; the metal did not break, but the wood around it splintered, and after a minute of furious wrenching he managed to get it off. "What have we here?" he said, lifting a bundle of cloth out of the box. "Something heavy in this."

The cloth, rotted with age, shriveled and fell away in shreds, revealing a round glass globe, swirling with smoke. Malcolm shook the last bits of cloth away and gazed at it; without warning he choked and fell backwards onto the grass. Hoshi gasped and tried to pull the black globe away from him, but as soon as she touched it her mind seemed to explode with fire and darkness.

A pair of withered hands clawed at them through the fog, burning, burning!-- -and she tumbled backwards onto the grass, hearing an ancient, maleficent voice growl at them in a language that sounded familiar and yet absolutely foreign at the same time.

Visions raced through her head and she screamed, and heard Malcolm's cries of anguish beside her, though she could not reach him. The groping hands flickered and puffed away like smoke. A pair of eyes gazed at them, a pair of eyes full of ancient wisdom and kindness, framed by snow-white hair and a long beard.

He spoke to them, but neither understood his words, and they fell away from him, straying through fire and deep water, out of thought and time, while the stars wheeled over, wandering on roads that they would never after remember but as a brief but eternal dream, each moment as long as a life- age of the earth.

Hoshi came back to herself with her cheek pressed against the wet ground and mud plastered in her hair. A deep twilight had fallen around them; carefully she looked up and saw fire over her. Screams echoed through the night, and the clashing of swords.

"Malcolm?" she whispered, throat rasping, and turned her head from side to side looking for him. Feet rushed past her, booted feet with cruel iron spikes, and a throb of pain shot through her head, and she knew no more for a long while.

**********************

Malcolm woke and saw the hefty end of a spiked club swishing down at him. He rolled out of the way with a gasp and sprang to his feet, ignoring the dizziness that swept through his mind. He met the eyes of his attacker, glinting cruelly in the depths of a crude iron helmet. A white handprint shone from the top of the helmet, as if a child with finger paints had patted the grotesque thing on the head.

Mind racing dimly, he saw the glint of metal on the ground nearby and dove for the sword, wresting it from the grasp of a dead man's fingers. The monstrous creature laughed and swung the club again, and this time Reed was not quick enough. It caught him full across the chest and he staggered backwards, gasping in pain as his ribs crunched and blood dampened his shirt. Getting his footing again, he lunged forward and caught the thing in the arm, which served more to make it angry than actually hurt it.

Half crouching, he followed the angry creature with the tip of his blade as it circled around him, obviously readying itself for the kill. It darted in and struck; Malcolm dodged but the spikes slashed down the length of his thigh. With a cry he fell, dropping the sword and slipping to the ground.

The monster---alien? Reed didn't know---raised the club with a sickening grin. Reed closed his eyes as the deadly spikes began to fall toward him. But the blow did not come; instead a hissing noise raced through the air and the creature fell backwards with a grunt. Malcolm, struggling to breath, opened his eyes and saw the monster lying on the ground, a black- fletched arrow protruding from its throat.

A hand gripped his shoulder and turned him over. Reed stared at his rescuer, who was to all appearances human, trying to make sense of the green cloak, leather breastplate, and silver, crested helmet. The man spoke to him, looking worried, but Reed did not understand the words. He thought of Hoshi's Universal Translator, safely stowed in her pack, but looking around he could not see it anywhere.

A crumpled figure in the mud, not far off, drew his eye. The warrior pressed him back down to the ground with a gentle admonition when he tried to move toward Hoshi. Reed pointed and croaked, "My friend! Help her!"

The man understood Reed's words no more than Reed had understood his, but he followed the pointing finger and went at once to her side. Malcolm turned over, his chest burning as he watched the man examine Hoshi. Lifting her out of the mud, the man looked at him, nodding and smiling. Malcolm smiled back briefly, relieved.

He called out in the strange language, and several more of the green- cloaked figures materialized out of the rain. The first warrior nodded to where Malcolm lay in the mud, and the others came over to the lieutenant. They grasped his shoulders and lifted him. Malcolm stayed conscious for a few minutes as they carried him through the rain, and then slipped into blackness to the sound of horses snorting and whinnying, and a voice comforting him in a language he did not understand.

********************

Reviews always welcome!