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The Tale of Years runs to what might be a record seven sentences in trying to describe the events of this busy day.
- Frodo comes to the end of the Marshes. Gandalf comes to Edoras and heals Théoden. The Rohirrim ride west against Saruman. Second Battle of Fords of Isen. Erkenbrand defeated. Entmoot ends in after-noon. The Ents march on Isengard and reach it at night.
As with yesterday, we start with Frodo, Sam, and Gollum whose escape from the Dead Marshes happens ‘when day came’.
By dawn, Gollum has brought Frodo and Sam out of the Dead Marshes. Only a wide, dry waste now stands between them and the mountains of Mordor that rise dark along the southern horizon. Gollum insists they hide from the daylight and wait until dark to start walking again.
At sunrise, Edoras is a bright speck of gold against the snow-tipped mountains. Aragorn chants a song of the Rohirrim as they ride toward it.
“Where now the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk
and the bright hair flowing?…”
On the threshold of Théoden’s hall, Aragorn must place his sword, Legolas his bow, and Gimli his axe before they enter. The doorward Háma turns to Gandalf. ‘The staff in the hand of a wizard may be more than a prop for age.’
Gandalf will not yield it.
Háma relents. They enter.
Gandalf brings King Théoden out of his dark hall, into the sunlight. The king releases Éomer. Gandalf tells Théoden to lead his folk to the Hold of Dunharrow.
‘Nay, Gandalf…I myself will go to war, to fall in the front of the battle, if it must be. Thus shall I sleep better.’
The Second Battle of the Fords of Isen begins: the wizard Saruman’s forces, advancing south along the road from Isengard, attack the Fords from the west. The simple earth-work forts are defended by foot-soldiers under Grimbold of Westfold.
With a signal from his raised hand, King Théoden starts the last host of the Rohirrim riding west from Edoras. The Fords of Isen are 120 miles away. With them ride Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gandalf—to whom the king has now granted Shadowfax as his own.
There’s a sudden silence: the Entmoot has ended. Treebeard picks up Merry and Pippin and carries them along as the Ents march toward Isengard.
“We go to war,
to hew the stone
and break the door.
For bole and bough
are burning now,
the furnace roars—
we go to war!”
It’s nearing sunset. Though Grimbold’s men have held the Isen’s west bank through the whole afternoon, heavy losses now force them to abandon the earth-forts. Grimbold leads them across the Fords and they dig in to make a final defense of the east bank.
After a ride of five hours, night has fallen. King Théoden and his éored stop and make camp. They are still more than sixty miles from the Fords of Isen.
The wizard Saruman sends a vanguard of his main army marching south—not only along the road to the Ford, but also down the Isen’s east bank. By attacking on both sides of the river, he hopes to overwhelm the forces of Rohan that still guard the Fords.
In the darkness, the Ents and Huorns reach the edge of Fangorn Forest and crest the ridge that overlooks the ring of Isengard. They begin to quietly fill the valley all around Isengard’s ring of stone.
The vanguard of Saruman’s army reaches the Fords of Isen. Using torch-light, they resume the attack on Grimbold and his men where they hold the east bank.
Late at night Elfhelm and his cavalry, guarding the Isen’s east bank to the north of where Grimbold holds the Fords, are attacked in the dark by wolf-riders. They are forced to retreat eastward away from the Isen.
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