Over the wall and under the wall the last assault came sweeping like a dark wave upon a hill of sand. The defence was swept away. Some of the Riders were driven back, further and further into the Deep, falling and fighting as they gave way, step by step, towards the caves. Others cut their way back towards the citadel.
A broad stairway climbed from the Deep up to the Rock and the rear-gate of the Hornburg. Near the bottom stood Aragorn. In his hand still Andúril gleamed, and the terror of the sword for a while held back the enemy, as one by one all who could gain the stair passed up towards the gate. …
Even as they spoke there came a blare of trumpets. Then there was a crash and a flash of flame and smoke. The waters of the Deeping-stream poured out hissing and foaming: they were choked no longer, a gaping hole was blasted in the wall. A host of dark shapes poured in.
‘Devilry of Saruman!’ cried Aragorn. ‘They have crept in the culvert again … and they have lit the fire of Orthanc beneath our feet. Elendil, Elendil!’ he shouted, as he leaped down into the breach; but even as he did so a hundred ladders were raised against the battlements.
Aragorn looked at the pale stars, and at the moon, now sloping behind the western hills that enclosed the valley. ‘This is a night as long as years,’ he said. ‘How long will the day tarry?’
‘Dawn is not far off,’ said Gamling, who had now climbed up beside him. ‘But dawn will not help us, I fear.’
‘Yet dawn is ever the hope of men,’ said Aragorn.
‘But these creatures of Isengard, these half-orcs and goblin-men that the foul craft of Saruman has bred, they will not quail at the sun,’ said Gamling … ‘…They will not give way now for dusk or dawn, until Théoden is taken, or they themselves are slain.’
‘Nonetheless day will bring hope to me,’ said Aragorn. ‘Is it not said that no foe has ever taken the Hornburg, if men defended it?’
‘So the minstrels say,’ said Éomer.
‘Then let us defend it, and hope!’ said Aragorn.
‘Twenty-one!’ cried Gimli. He hewed a two-handed stroke and laid the last Orc before his feet. ‘Now my count passes Master Legolas again.’
‘Good!’ said Legolas. ‘But my count is now two dozen. It has been knife-work up here.’
Gamling the Old looked down from the Hornburg, hearing the great voice of the dwarf above all the tumult. ‘The Orcs are in the Deep!’ he cried. ‘Helm! Helm! Forth Helmingas!’ he shouted as he leaped down the stair from the Rock with many men of the Westfold at his back.
The men of Rohan grew weary. All their arrows were spent, and every shaft was shot; their swords were notched, and their shields were riven. Three times Aragorn and Éomer rallied them, and three times Andúril flamed in a desperate charge that drove the enemy from the walls.
Then a clamour arose in the Deep behind. Orcs had crept like rats through the culvert through which the stream flowed out. There they had gathered in the shadow of the cliffs, until the assault above was hottest … Then they sprang out. …
Down from the wall leapt Gimli with a fierce cry that echoed in the cliffs. ‘Khazâd! Khazâd!’ He soon had work enough.
’Ai-oi!’ he shouted. ‘The Orcs are behind the wall. Ai-oi! Come, Legolas! There are enough for us both. Khazâd ai-mênu!’
… Against the Deeping Wall the hosts of Isengard roared like a sea. Orcs and hillmen swarmed about its feet from end to end. Ropes with grappling hooks were hurled over the parapet faster than men could cut them or fling them back. Hundreds of long ladders were lifted up. Many were cast down in ruin, but many more replaced them, and Orcs sprang up them like apes in the dark forests of the South. …
’Two!’ said Gimli, patting his axe. He had returned to his place on the wall.
’Two?’ said Legolas. ‘I have done better, though now I must grope for spent arrows; all mine are gone. Yet I make my tale twenty at the least. But that is only a few leaves in a forest.’
I apologise for the distinct lack of posts. NaNoWriMo has taken over my life.
Please forgive me.
When all were safe within, Éomer turned: ‘I thank you, Gimli son of Glóin!’ he said. ‘I did not know that you were with us in the sortie. But oft the unbidden guest proves the best company. How came you there?’
‘I followed you to shake off sleep,’ said Gimli; ‘but I looked on the hillmen and they seemed over large for me, so I sat beside a stone to see your sword-play.’
‘I shall not find it easy to repay you,’ said Éomer.
‘There may be many a chance ere the night is over,’ laughed the Dwarf. ‘But I am content. Till now I have hewn naught but wood since I left Moria.’