Merry’s back, with troubling news: it’s not Gandalf’s boat.
Really, Merry was out for a walk, and about to return, when he felt like he was being watched. He saw a dark shape a ways off, and followed it east along the road through Bree. He lost it, and heard whispering in the bushes. He suddenly felt something behind him, and collapsed. Nob found him shortly thereafter, lying on the ground with two men standing over him. Nob yelled, and they vanished. He roused Merry, who then ran straight back to The Prancing Pony. Aragorn says that he’s been set upon by the black riders.
-the Black Breath: Attack used by the Ringwraiths. An aura of fear extends, incapacitating anyone caught nearby.
Merry’s story actually provides quite a bit of information. The black riders have entered Bree, and were seen outside Bill Ferny’s house, likely meaning that they’ve heard of the night’s events at The Prancing Pony. It sounds like they were already staking out the inn.
Here’s what might be bad: Merry bolted right back to Frodo. If anyone was tailing him, they would know right where to go. Part of the plan? I wouldn’t doubt it.
In his agitated state, Merry almost doesn’t notice Aragorn, though Frodo tells him that everything will be explained later. Need any more proof that Aragorn’s been accepted into the group? One letter from Gandalf goes a long way.
So, these guys need to move fast. Everything is basically working against them now, but they have Aragorn. Faster decisions can be made, since Frodo isn’t going to take the time to waffle for page after page. Because of that, things of all kinds are going to come flying at us. Hooray!
We can haz action? Oh, we CAN HAZ action.
“‘They will know all the news now, for they have visited Bill…'”