Summary — A Knife in the Dark
Back at Frodo’s house in Crickhollow, Fatty Bolger sees dark shapes approach the front gate. He flees out the back door just before three Black Riders break into the house and find it empty. He sounds the alarm, and the Riders flee.
Meanwhile, at the inn, Strider wakes the hobbits up early. Going to their bedroom, they see that their beds were thrown apart and slashed during the night. Furthermore, all their ponies were let loose overnight as well. The hobbits are forced to buy a half-starved pony at a high price, from the suspicious Bill Ferny. They leave with the whole town watching.
A short way down the road, Strider leads the hobbits off into the forest to avoid pursuit. Unfortunately, this path takes them to the Midgewater Marshes, which means three days of bug bites and soggy feet. Still, they are safe until they come out of the Marshes and see the large hill Weathertop ahead in the distance. Strider says that a great watchtower once stood on Weathertop, built by the Men of Westernesse. Now only its ruins remain. After another day, the band arrives at Weathertop. They find signs of a camp, as well as a rock with an Elven rune symbol carved into it. Both signs lead them to suspect that Gandalf passed through the camp recently, in great haste. Strider thinks Gandalf may have been attacked while he was there.
The group rests in a hollow on the side of the hill, and they light a fire. Frodo suddenly thinks he senses five black specks moving on the road far below—the Black Riders. Strider decides they should stay where they are, as trying to move would only make them more vulnerable. To keep up their spirits, Strider tells them old legends and sings them a song of Lúthien Tinúviel, the most beautiful Elven princess, who fell in love with a Man and chose mortality so that she could join him in death.
Suddenly, Sam, who has wandered away, runs back from the edge of the dell and says he feels a strange dread. The group gathers around the fire, facing outward, and watches as several dark shapes come over the lip of the hill. Merry and Pippin throw themselves to the ground in panic, and Sam shrinks to Frodo’s side. Frodo suddenly feels a terrible desire to put on the Ring, and he does so.
The black shapes suddenly become clear to Frodo, and he can see through the Black Riders’ cloaks. He sees that they have deathly white faces and terrible eyes, and that they are robed in gray and carry swords. The tallest wears a crown, and it springs toward Frodo with a knife and sword. Frodo cries out the Elven names Elbereth and Gilthoniel and stabs at the feet of the Black Riders’ king. Frodo feels an icy pain in his shoulder and then suddenly sees Strider leap forward with a burning log in each hand. Frodo takes off the Ring just as he falls unconscious.