2. The Battles of the Fords of Isen
The battle didn't go well. The Fords were held, and invasion of the Westfold was stopped, but with the death of Theodred, son of Theoden, King of Rohan, it all seemed so hollow. It seemed too easy, and talk went up that it was the death of the King's son that was sought over outright invasion. But I think otherwise. I think that it was the will of Isengard to cause Theodred's death and create havoc in the leadership of the armies of Rohan. It would have sped Sarumann's victory, but for the arrival of Elfhelm and the valor of Grimbold and his men.
How is that I, Hanasian of the Dúnedain of the North, know of these things? I was there. Yes, I fought along side my mother's kin. I had come south to visit my mother and sister when my journey was delayed by troubles at the Fords. There I met my twin cousins, Folca and Frea, who were soldiers of Westfold. They were well armed and skilled in the craft of war, and had orders to allow none to pass the Fords without first meeting with Prince Theodred. It was they who were posted west of the Fords to watch the approach. I was greeted as family, but was led unarmed to see Theodred. I told him of signs of a Dunlanding army marching toward Isengard. He accepted me as Friend of the Rohirrim, and immediately sent me with some of his best scouts to approach the fortress to see. After much stealth, we managed to get a glimpse of them. They were joining a larger army massed and ready to march. We decided to return with word as fast as we could. Little did we know that they started their march from Isengard not long after we left the watch, so when we reported to Theodred all that we saw, the information was indeed already outdated.
With the news, Theodred rode west of the river with 8 companies to prepare in haste a forward defence. I was granted leave to stay at the fords to help fortify the crossing. There was not enough time to properly prepare, for no defense was ever thought to have been needed against one who was considered friend and leader of the White Council. But much was amiss for too long in Isengard, and sign was noted and sent to Edoras, yet the King never ordered any preparation.
But I digress in my grim thoughts. The armies of Isengard came in the morning mists, and Theodred was forced to fall back with heavy losses. A determined stand was made on the Eyot of the Fords, and with much brutality and death, the men of the Rohirrim held fast for a time. But with our men attacked on the east side of the river ford, we had to give way, leaving Theodred isolated on the eyot. We could hear his voice calling out,
"To Me Eorlingas!"
And his remaining men circled in defense on the knoll in the center of the eyot. Grimbold saw that they could not hold, and redoubled our effort against the orcs that stood between us and the Fords. With hard fighting, many were slew, orcs, Dunlandings and Rohirrim. But Grimbold had the battle, and managed, with my cousin Folca and a company physician, to come to Theodred. But as they fought their way to him, Theodred, and also his Standardbearer, fell. To his credit, even in death the Standardbearer refused to let the Standard fall. Folca took it, and held it high. Finally, Elfhelm with more horsemen sent the remaining enemy east of the river to scatter and be cut down. He pressed more men from the east side of the river to now cross to reinforce the eyot, and to battle with the last of the great axe-men. Men of the Rohirrim crushed against the Uruks in determined assault, and the Uruks broke into a disorderly retreat. Several were cut down by sword or felled by arrows as they fled, but only discipline kept them from pursuit into a trap. With victory at hand, some of the soldiers pressed to the west side of the Ford to hold defense should the attack be renewed.
For reasons unknown, the assault seemed to falter. The "victory" came at a high cost. Many veteran soldiers lay dead or dying, on the eyot and on both banks of the river. Many more were wounded but would live. But worse of all was Theodred. He had led the valiant defense of the Ford, and the enemy came at him in droves. Though the bodies of the Uruks were stacked like cordwood, they did not cease their assault until they saw Theodred struck down. Theodred, as he lay dying, held his spear and sword up and to the west as if in defense. Grimbold and Elfhelm lifted him, but Theodred said with his last breath,
"Let me lie here-to keep the Fords till Éomer comes!"
They lay him back down and there he remained while the company physician tried to save his life. But alas it would not be so. He bled out and died. As night fell over the field of blood. Men moaning, horses crying, and weeping aloud from those living....
After Theodred was slain, morale sagged heavy. Losses of comrades were heavy on the east side of the River. Dunlanding horsemen and warg riders, backed by heavily armed Uruks had come down upon us. Fierce was the battle, and with our horses mostly scared off, we fought as infantry. But we held for the most part, despite being pushed from the Fords for a short time by Dunlanding light horsemen and Orc Warg-Riders. Had we been able to hold this flanking attack that came down the east side of the river, could we have come to Theodred on the eyot sooner?
After the battle, time was short to relieve the dead, and the horses were gathered as many as could be found. Word from Erkenbrand came that he was assuming overall command. Yet, leadership was unclear in the wake of Theodred's death, with Erkenbrand, Grimbold, and Elfhelm not agreeing on how to best defend against attacks from both sides of the river. Add to this no clear word from Edoras, and so council between the three went long. Grimbold set men about the Fords, and the defenses were shored as well as could be. When battle again came, I, along with my cousins was engaged at the Fords. But we were worn down, and with fresh Uruks engaging us, we broke. We retreated the best we could, but Elfhelm fared not well against the eastern force of Isengard. No help could be looked for from him, and the order was given to break and make for the south and retreat to Helms Deep.
I did not make it to Helms Deep, for I found my cousin Frea wandering aimlessly in the folds. An orc club has shattered his helm, and he was not in his right mind. I got him to lay low in a crevice of a rock, and we stayed there through the darkness. I think we were farther east than we should be. The cloud-obscured moon was a friend in keeping our movement hidden from the night eyes of the orcs, but the darkness too caused us to mis-direct. When day came, sign of battle and where armies had moved could be seen in the grasses, but nobody could be seen. So Frea and I made our way toward Helms Deep on foot.