"Blackriders" by Alan Lee
On September 22, TA 3018, Tolkien ratchets up the action and the tension considerably. The Nine have reached the Shire. For so long they have wandered Middle-earth searching for 'Baggins' and 'Shire', and now they are within a hare's breath of their goal. They must also have had a good hunch that they were close to something important because the Rangers were guarding the borders.
The Rangers, however, are no match for them. Indeed, it is said that even if Aragorn had been present, they could not have withstood the Nine all together. It should be remembered that at Weathertop, Aragorn was only able to temporarily drive away the Nazgul, and there were only five.
I have always wondered how Gandalf was able to 'overtake' Shadowfax with all the speed that the Meara had attributed to him. It must have been the way of the wizard, but the timing while not perect, certainly makes for a wonderful tale.
The Nine have reached the Shire. The Enemy is at hand, and at least Gandalf is on the way.
Artwork: "Blackriders" by Alan Lee