Disclaimer: I own nothing in this story. When the first word appeared upon the page, the story then belonged to the hearts and minds of the reader.

A/N: My thanks to everyone who helped with the correction of the spelling. I hope I got them all!

Thanks to Professor Tolkien for starting it all!

8-) 8-) 8-) 8-)

Chapter 1

The Black Rider

Riders were approaching, and from the sound of it, they were coming at a dead run. With his keen elvish senses, Legolas had been the first to sense the riders and shortly thereafter, Aragorn also felt the impact tremors beneath his feet. Both man and elf hid themselves behind the nearest boulder, not because they were afraid, but because they were being cautious, and considering the times, exercising caution often kept people alive. Though not more than 50 feet from the roadway, the elvish cloaks they wore made them invisible to any eyes other than those of elves. A few moments later, the sound of rapid hoof beats could easily be heard and not long after, the first rider came into view.

"Nazgûl!" Aragorn hissed quietly. Legolas put a hand on his friend's shoulder, silently telling the man that he agreed. The lead rider wore a billowing black robe with a deep, concealing hood that effectively hid the rider's identity and rode a giant black stallion that easily stood 17 hands in height. Aragorn felt Legolas shift his position to get a better look at the two. Not far behind the first rider rode the Nine, their horses foaming at the mouth, flecks of lather flying from their straining bodies as their riders beat their mounts with whips and raked their sides with hideous spurs, brutally driving the exhausted animals onward in their attempt to overtake the first rider. The lead rider was keeping just far enough ahead of the pursuers to encourage the pursuit although neither looked as if they were in any particular hurry a fact which was puzzling human and elf alike.

Aragorn and Legolas began to rise from where they had hidden themselves; both thinking of going to the aid of the lead rider though neither yet knew how they would do this. As the big black horse came abreast of their position, its rider's head turned towards them as if he knew exactly where they were hiding and both the man and elf then heard words, but knew that the sound of the voice was only in their minds. The voice said, "Stay down you fools!" Then mere seconds later, all riders had passed them and had disappeared into the night.

The two were silent for a few moments. "Who was that?" Aragorn asked quietly. "It was no Nazgûl."

"That stallion was a Mearas."

Aragorn looked at Legolas in surprise but the elf spoke no further on the matter and continued to stare into the darkness after the disappearing riders.

"How do you know?" Aragorn inquired after some time had passed. "I thought the Mearas were always white and Shadowfax was the only Mearas left in Middle Earth. I am not disputing you, my friend, only inquiring how it is that you are so certain."

"The horse was speaking to his rider, Estel."

As the two friends walked farther away from the roadway to make their night camp, Legolas explained his remark. "I am sure that you are familiar with the history of the Mearas and how at one time there existed a race of horses that was brought to Middle Earth from Númenor, and that these beautiful animals understood the language of man. The first King of Rohan rode such an animal and it became a tradition among the Rohirrim since that time that only a king should ride one of these noble horses. Although their blood runs in the veins of many of the horses that exist in Rohan today, Shadowfax, until this evening, was the only Mearas that I knew of."

They were silent for a time, each thinking of what he had seen. After some time had passed, a conversation began about their trip to Lothlórien and why Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel had summoned them.

"So, Estel, why do you think the Lady has summoned us?"

"Legolas, I have no idea, but from what Lord Elrond said, I got the impression that we are supposed to meet someone of importance and escort them back to Imladris." He shrugged his shoulders. "Other than that I know nothing of the matter although I do suggest that we try to get some rest, for dawn comes soon and with Nazgûl in the area, our journey must be swift. So I think it would be prudent to rest while we can, my friend."

With that the two friends curled up in their blankets and quickly fell asleep.

TBC