Eomer arrayed his men along the wall and in the Hornburg. Legolas and Gimli could see the torches of the orcs crawling slowly up the valley. "This is to my liking," said Gimli. "There is good rock here. This country has tough bones."
Suddenly they heard the cries of battle from the dike below. The rearguard of the Westfolders had been driven in. "The enemy is at hand!" they cried.
The valley was crawling with dark shapes. Arrows as thick as rain came whistling over the battlements. The assault on Helm's Deep had begun. Some of the enemy surged towards the walls, while a force of the hugest orcs and wildmen pressed towards the gates of the Hornburg with great rams.
Aragorn and Eomer heard the thudding against the gates. They gathered a handful of swordmen and crept out through a side door. Their swords flashed from the sheath as one, and they hurled themselves upon the hillmen.
Dismayed, the rammers dropped their tree and turned to fight, but they were soon swept away.
"Two!" said Gimli, patting his axe after he had killed two orcs.
"I make my tale twenty at the least," said Legolas, "but now I have spent all of my arrows."
The orcs kept trying to take the walls with ladders and ropes, but the men of Rohan held them back. Gimli leapt down from the walls to repel a group of orcs who had crept through a gap in the wall.
"Twenty-one!" he told Legolas when he had returned to the battlement.
"Good!" said Legolas, "but my count is now two dozen. It has been knife work up here."
There was a crash of flame and smoke. A gaping hole was blasted in the wall, and a host of orcs poured in.
Some of the defenders were pushed back towards the caves in the narrows of the canyon, Gimli among them, while others took refuge in the Hornburg.
"I wish he had come this way," said Legolas, "I desired to tell Master Gimli that my tale is now thirty-nine."
"If he wins back to the caves, he will pass your count again," laughed Aragorn. "Never did I see an axe so wielded." Aragorn went back to the wall to look out over the battlefield.
He shouted out to the enemy, "Depart, or not one of you will be spared! You do not know your peril!"
So great was his power and royalty that many of the wild men were frightened, but the orcs laughed and let loose a hail of arrows. Aragorn leaped down.
With dawn, the great horn of Helm was blown, and Theoden led his forces out, with Aragorn at his right hand and the lords of Rohan behind him. "Forth Eorlings!" with a great cry they charged, driving though the hosts of Isengard as a wind among grass.
The valley had changed in the night. Where there had been a green dale before, now there was a dark silent forest. The orcs cowered between the forces of the king and the trees.
Suddenly, a rider appeared on the ridge above, clad in white. Behind him a force of a thousand men on foot came down the slope, led by a tall man.
"Erkenbrand!" the Riders shouted.
"Gandalf is come!" cried Aragorn.
Trapped between two forces, the orcs and wildmen dropped their weapons and fled. Wailing they passed under the waiting shadow of the trees; and from that shadow none ever came again.
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