The darkness of night blanketed the vast plain that was the Wold of Rohan -- a darkness intensified only slightly by the thinning edge of Mordor's gloom. SauronŐs might was great and his fog of war stretched for many miles, but it could not stretch forever, and so it was here on the plains of Rohan that it began to dissipate and lose its potency.
The Orcs of Dol Guldur did not, however, require Mordor's darkness in order to travel without losing their strength in the light. The night was enough for them, and the waning moon that shone out from time to time from above the murky shreds did not hinder them.
Their attack upon the hated wood of the Elves had been repelled and they had been forced to retreat. But they still had work to do, for their purpose had been twofold. There was other prey to the south; prey that went unsuspecting while the king of the land was away to war. The horse lords were weak and unprotected now and could be easily overpowered. Thus the Orcs would have their revenge for their recent defeat at the hands of the Elves; they would take out their anger and frustration at their losses in battle with Rohan. Men were no less hated by the Great Eye, so perhaps his wrath at their earlier failure would be lessened by a successful slaughter in the country of the horse lords.
Yet even as the Orc horde crossed the Limlight and headed south across the upland grasslands, they met with an obstacle they did not expect. What was this dark forest of wind-stirred trees that blocked their path? There should have been no wood here, according to the reports of spies from Dol Goldur who had scouted the land thoroughly while plans for battle were being laid. Whence came the trees that threatened them now? The wind in the branches was loud and persistent, seeming to speak of a rising wrath and anger that gave even the Orcs pause. The army hesitated in its march forward, ill at ease. But fear of failure and the punishment it would bring was greater than any other fear, even of the strange trees. So they pressed on...
...until it was too late to turn back.
Treebeard stood patiently waiting while Quickbeam approached as swiftly as he could without seeming hasty.
"So, then," Treebeard rumbled as Quickbeam drew nigh. "Is all well? Have those burrum, those vermin of Orcs been routed?"
"They have been thoroughly routed," answered Quickbeam, bowing low before Treebeard. "Those who escaped our wrath will go no further than the River, I expect. Those who did not escape are no more."
"Hoom.... Hom!" Treebeard hummed, satisfied. "Very good, very good! Rohan will be safe now, and the king of the grassland will be free to ride to the aid of the Stone City. Hom, hoom! That is well, he will be needed there. What of the Huorns, then? Tell me, did any trees come to harm?"
"No great harm," answered Quickbeam. "No harm that will not mend in time."
Treebeard nodded, content. He inclined his head slightly, as if listening to sounds on the wind. "Hoom, huummm... I sense their anger is lessened now, but they are not yet at peace."
"Not yet at peace, no," sighed Quickbeam in reply. "They were slow to awaken, but now that their awakening has come, they wish to continue the fight."
"Ahhhhh! Hmmm..... Well!" replied Treebeard thoughtfully. "Perhaps that can be arranged...."
In spite of the sense of urgency he felt that a swift return to Minas Tirith was imperative, Boromir knew there was little use in wasting his strength in fretting. It was unwise to continue his journey until he could join the Muster of Rohan, and it would be at least a day or longer, before Thoden and his Rohirrim passed by the Nardol outpost. So he resigned himself to the wait and determined to take full advantage of the time to spend a restful day of conversation with the men at the way station. Boromir made certain to spend time with each one of them, inquiring about their families and questioning them about their day-to-day tasks, as they in turn begged for stories of his adventures. Grithnir had flatly refused to let him climb the hill to greet Urthal and Talaven who were on beacon duty, so Larnach and Thorvel went to relieve them in order that they, too, could sit with their Captain-general.
Boromir was engrossed in relating the details of a battle with wolves he had encountered on his journey to Rivendell when Gwaeron pulled Grithnir aside.
"I am concerned for Lord Boromir's lack of armor," Gwaeron replied in answer to Grithnir's inquiring look. "He is going into unavoidable battle and he must be better protected! Leather will not turn the swords of Orcs from Mordor or the spears of the Haradrim."
"Well I know it!" sighed Grithnir. "But his wounds are such that he cannot bear anything but the lightest hauberk...."
"I can provide him with that," interrupted Gwaeron with a smile. "We have all manner of armor and weapons stored here for the needs of errand riders who pass this way. Their duties are not always free of incident or danger! We have often seen a rider stop here whose mail is damaged, or whose weapon needs repair, and it is far easier to switch it out than to repair it when the rider is pressed for time. All our armor is lightweight so as to not burden the horses or slow the rider -- nor is it so heavy that a wounded warrior will find it burdensome."
"You ease my mind greatly!" Grithnir replied in relief. "I will tell our lord Boromir of this immediately. I am certain he will not refuse your offer of armor for the battle to come! I do not know if he cares one way or the other whether he is better armed or no, but we will all fight better knowing he is protected and less vulnerable to harm or hurt."
"Indeed!" answered Gwaeron. "He will not want you who accompany him to endanger your own lives by being forced to shield him in battle for lack of armor -- that, if nothing else, will be reason enough for him to accept our offer. I will go open the store now, and lay out anything that might be of use to him. We will see him armed and ready for battle before day's end!"
The garrison at Cair Andros stood valiantly against the army of Orcs and Easterlings sent from the Black Gate, knowing that every hour they held out was one more hour of opportunity for the Lord Denethor to prepare his defenses in the City; one more hour for Captain Faramir to fortify the garrison at Osgiliath; one more hour for allies from Rohan to arrive in support of Gondor. Once the isle was taken, the enemy would have passage across the River, both Minas Tirith and Osgiliath would be threatened on two fronts, and the Great Western Road would be blocked.
But against an enemy six thousand strong, they were far outnumbered, and it was only a matter of time before the island fortress fell. When Hathol came to report that the inner wall had at last been breached, Captain Beregar knew the time had come to give the order for retreat. It pained him mightily to abandon the garrison that had protected the river passage for so many long years, but he knew well that the need now was to bring as many men as he could alive to Minis Tirith and to expand the defenses there.
This is but a small sampling of what Mordor has ready to fling at us, Beregar lamented as he led his men in an orderly but hasty retreat along the shortest road to the City. Captain Faramir will be hard pressed to hold the line at Osgiliath. May the Valar protect him, and may they bring Rohan swiftly to our aid!