Yet another of my strange ideas. The Lady Death rides out on her pale horse, collecting the souls of those who have passed on. This night, she comes to take the hobbit who slew a great troll-chief at the Black Gate of Mordor, and paid dearly for his bravery.

Disclaimer: I do not own Lord of the Rings, but Lady Death, instead of Lord, is mine.

And behold a pale horse, and he that sat upon him, his name was Death

She came here often. She strode through the deserted battlefields and walked the camps, offering relief from pain and an end to suffering. Many welcomed her coming, some feared it, some tried to fight against her. But she was always ultimately triumphant. It was fated to be so.

This night she had saddled her pale horse and rode forth, clad in a cloak that covered her tall robed form with a blue deeper than infinity and a veil that hid her face from sight. Guiding her beloved steed through the shadows, none stirred at her coming. She breathed the chill night air of Ithilien and rode to the tent where her night's mission lay. She halted her horse and slipped off his back, patting his pale neck and silently asking him to stay. He snorted in agreement and she pulled her dark staff from its place on his back. The staff was six feet long and curved into an 'S' shape- it was topped with a broad curved blade that seemed to shimmer on the edge of reality. A scythe.

As she turned back to the tent, a figure clad in white stirred from its apparent sleep and Gandalf the White stood, bowing respectfully. "Hail Lady. You are abroad late."

She smiled at him. "Thou art mistaken- tis early for me. Hail Olórin, greatest of the Istari." Her voice had strange undercurrents, strange chords and echoes resonating under and over her words. If the sea had a voice, it would be like this voice.

"What is your purpose here, Lady of the Night?" Gandalf asked, inconspicuously shifting his grip on his long white staff.

The Lady gestured with her blade-capped staff to the tent whose entrance the wizard blocked. "Thou knowest my business, White Wizard. I come for the one within. That is my night's purpose."

"I cannot let you take him."

The Lady lifted the veil and gazed at Gandalf with eyes that were nothing but black holes in her gaunt pale face. "None may stand against me. Even one such as thee, servant of the Secret Fire, Wielder of the Flame of Arnor," the last words were mocking.

Gandalf stood straighter and held his staff before him. "I have faced you before. And I was sent back from our struggle."

"For a purpose! 'Twas fated for thee to return!" The Lady's ocean voice, before as calm as a millpond, now became a violent hurricane turmoil. "Thy hand cannot stay me, White Wizard. Thou hast no power over me!"

"No. No I don't." Gandalf's voice was weary- he suddenly seemed so old. He had walked the forests and plains of Middle Earth for thousands of years and had never seemed this tired, this beaten, this…ancient. "But I would propose a bargain with you, my Lady."

"A bargain," the Lady replied, her tone softening once again. "Dost thou offer me the deal that has been offered so many times before? A life for a life? When thine is so much greater than his? No, Istari- thou knowest I cannot. I do not bargain. I do not meddle. If I tried to deal some sort of justice, where the evil died and the good remained, than this world would be a terrible place. There is no ultimate justice. There is just me and the end I offer to pain. I do not rule Fate. I simply do His will. This thou knowest also."

Gandalf sighed. "Yes, Lady, I know. But come with me." He turned and entered the tent. The Lady, curious, followed. Inside the tent was a single cot, surrounded by several chairs. On the cot, bruised beaten and battered, a hobbit lay in fitful fevered sleep. By his side in one of the chairs sat another hobbit, keeping his death watch vigil over the tortured body of a loved one. He did not heart or see their coming- they remained invisible to his senses.

"Why hast thou brought me here, Olórin? What dost thou wish to show me?" the Lady asked, her voice sounding a little edged.

Gandalf gazed at the two hobbits. "Would you know the name of he whom you seek?"

"I know it. Peregrin, son of Paladin of the house of Took."

"That is not all," Gandalf gestured at the side of the tent, where a stained and ripped uniform was draped carelessly over another chair. "He is a Knight of Gondor, a Guard of the Citadel. They had to cut that uniform from him when they brought him from the field." The wizard's voice was sad and distant.

The Lady began to speak again but was cut off by the wizard.

"My Lady, there is another whose soul you will have to take- Meriadoc, son of Saradoc of the house of Brandybuck." The Istari pointed at the inert form of the second hobbit. "If you take Peregrin tonight, then you will take Meriadoc with you."

"I do not understand."

"Look at them, Lady. Read them."

She turned her dark-night eyes on the pair and did as the wizard asked. Peregrin's life thread appeared before her- a faded lifeless green fibre that dimmed even as she looked at it. She turned her gaze to the other. His bright blue thread was duller than it should be- faint with misery and fatigue. She looked harder, trying to find what was special and gasped in shock. A shimmering silver cord bound the two together- a bond of true love and friendship that held them, superseding all claims that fate or the world had on them. Olórin spoke the truth then- she could not take one of these lives without utterly destroying the other. It was her duty, but sometimes a duty cannot be done.

The Lady stepped out of the tent and tied the scythe tight to her horse's tack with meticulous care. She looked at the White Wizard, who had followed her out. She smiled at him. "Thou art wise and cunning, Istari. And thou spoke the truth- this life I cannot take- tis not fated for yon Knight to be mine."

Gandalf bowed to her, his face suddenly alight with joy. "Thank you, my Lady."

"Do not burden my with thy gratitude. There will be a price," she warned.

"Have you any knowledge of it?"

The Lady mounted her pale horse and looked down at him. "Let me sat only this thy former leader, Saruman, still has some power and your debt may repaid tenfold with other lives. Fare thee well, Olórin."

"Farewell, Lady." Gandalf said, his brow beginning to furrow with worry at her last cryptic words.

Death bestowed a last smile upon him and, with a single word to her pale steed, galloped away into the night. Inside the tent, Pippin's restless sleep eased and he relaxed, his hand unconsciously seeking out the cousin who slept next to him, keeping guard over him even in slumber.

Thanks for reading.