TTT: Bk 3, Ch 8
The Road To Isengard
Standing together along the Deeping Comb, Gandalf, Theoden, Aragorn and Legolas look to the woods in wonder when out of the Deep comes Gimli, Eomer and Gamling. Fresh from their victory, Gimli declares to Legolas that his count is 42 which surpasses the Elf's count by one. Theoden asks Gandalf if the forest that was now before them was his doing. Gandalf replies that it is the result of a power far older than he. And to find out the answers to that and many other questions, he tells them they must now ride to Isengard. Theoden points out that they are weary from battle, but the wizard says they have time to rest for they are going to a parley, not a fight.
"'To Isengard?' they cried.
'Yes,' said Gandalf. 'I shall return to Isengard, and those who will may come with me. There we may see strange things.'"
Erkenbrand commands the captured Dunlendings to dig graves for the dead. When their work is done, he tells them that they are free to go as long as they swear an oath to never again cross the Fords of Isen. Later that day, the party sets out and as they approach the forest, it parts for them. Gandalf and Theoden enter with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas and twenty men of Rohan following behind. There is no sign of Orcs. As they ride, Gimli tells Legolas of the beauty of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond that lay in the mountains behind Helm's Deep. He speaks of them with such reverence that Legolas is moved to promise to visit them one day as long as Gimli first accompanies him to revisit Fangorn so that he may appreciate the beauty of that forest in a time of peace.
As they exit the woods, they are surprised to see three Ents who joined the Huorns on their journey, and were now leading them back to Fangorn. Theoden is surprised to see such creatures as he had heard of them only in legend. They followed the northwestern road, passing the Fords of Isen and they see that river bed is almost dry. Something has altered the river's flow out of the Misty Mountains. As they camp that night, a mist gathers about them and they see a great shadow moving past them. Gandalf advises them to stay where they were and not to worry. It was the herd of Huorns traveling back northwards from whence they came.
The next morning, they continued on and soon they were in sight of Isengard. Smoke and steam seemed to drift out of the valley ahead. The river was now rushing again. It had resumed its course. They saw a great stone on which was set a carved likeness of a white hand, its finger pointing north. As they got close they could see that it was stained with blood. Surrounding Isengard was a great thick wall; a ring of stone. It had one entrance through a gated tunnel in the wall.
"One who passed in and come at length out of the echoing tunnel, beheld a plain, a great circle, somewhat hollowed like a vast shallow bowl: a mile it measured from rim to rim. Once it had been green and filled with avenues, and groves of fruitful trees, watered by streams that flowed from the mountains to a lake. But no green thing grew there in the latter days of Saruman."At this point, one might wonder what exactly Saruman was doing living in this fortress. He did not create it and he was not the original tenant. The fortress of Isengard and the great pillar of Orthanc was built by the Numenoreans in the early days of the South-kingdom. It was formed by the Dunedain as the northernmost bastion of Gondor's power, protecting the strategic passage of the Gap between the Misty Mountains and the White Mountains. In the tower was placed one of the four Palantirs of Gondor. However, as the events of the Third Age unfolded, Gondor abandoned the fortress and locked up the tower. Dunlendings sometimes occupied the Ring of Isengard though they weren't able to enter Orthanc. In the end, they were driven out.
In the year 2759 of the Third Age, Saruman asked permission of Gondor and Rohan to live there and, being a friend of these lands, was granted the keys to Orthanc. It was here, locked away in the tower, that he poured himself into gaining whatever knowledge he could about the Rings of Power, especially the One Ring. He desired to make himself a great lord of Men and later he discovered the seeing-stone that was left there. Eventually Saruman abandoned all pretense of custodianship of Isengard and claimed it for his own. Within the confines of the Ring of Isengard, he constructed pits and armories where his servants, Orcs and Men of Dunland, built a great army. He greatly misjudged the situation, however, and allowed Isengard to go undefended at exactly the moment that Treebeard and the Ents arrived.
When the riders reach the gates of Isengard they see that the inside is filled with water, the iron doors are twisted on the ground and the crumbling wall had many breeches. They come upon Merry and Pippin, lying on a heap of rubble and serving as gatekeepers awaiting the arrival of Theoden's party. The Men of Rohan are amazed to see the little hobbits for they had never seen one before. But there they were, enjoying the spoils that they discovered, stored in the rooms within the interior of the wall. Gimli cannot contain himself and calls out "Hammer and tongs! I am so torn between rage and joy, that if I do not burst, it will be a marvel!"
Gandalf wishes to see Treebeard and the hobbits direct him to the northern side of the wall. Saruman is locked away inside Orthanc and Quickbeam sat watch outside the stairs to see that he didn't escape. But before he is dealt with, the reader needs to be caught up on all that has happened, which is done in the following chapter.
[Chronology: March 4th - March 5th 3019 T.A.]
Next: Flotsam and Jetsam