Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Fords of the Isen, part I (War of the Ring)

"Saruman's attack was not unforseen, but it came sooner than was expected. Theodred's scouts had warned him of a mustering of troops before the Gates of Isengard, mainly (as it seemed) on the west side of the Isen. He therefore manned the approaches, east and west, to the Fords with the sturdy men on foot from the levies of Westfold. Leaving three companies of Riders, together with horse herds and spare mounts, on the east bank, he himself passed over with the main strength of his cavalry..."
J.R.R Tolkien - The Unfinished Tales

Herewith the first part of an account of the mighty and bloody clash that took place recently on the banks of the Isen River, on the borders between Rohan and the realm of Isengard. The White Wizard Saruman sent his mighty host to engage a small force of Oathsworn bowmen and militia that guarded the fords across the Isen. Against him stood a scratch army of the Rohirrim, for many warriors still slept at Edoras, under orders from Grima Wormtongue not to interfere with the White Wizard's schemes...

The Rohirrim were commanded by Theodred, son of Theoden, who rode into battle with four companies of royal knights. Theodred determined to cross at the south ford and take the battle to the enemy, for forsooth, he was young and full of confidence. He left a small company of royal guard with bows to guard the ford itself.

Theodred and the royal knights - Uruk pikes in the background

In the centre massed the Oathsworn militia under gallant Grimbold of Grimslade, taking up position on the west bank of the river. Behind them, on the other side of the ford, stood two companies of royal guard. Many were the warriors who had slipped quietly away from Edoras to aid the young prince in his endeavour, but many more had stayed behind to guard their king.

On the right, guarding the northern ford [see below], stood more Oathsworn archers and militia, although they lacked a commander, something that would prove fatal to them.

The north ford, with militia companies on both banks

Thus, amidst the clouds of drizzle on that fateful day, did Theodred sound the horns of Rohan to signal the advance. His knights crossed the Isen with but a sideways glance at the pillar of skulls, an evil totem of the Dunlendings, which they had left there as a warning. Ahead were two companies of Uruk hai pikes. Theodred ordered the charge, and his household knights thundered forwards. Much carnage was there, with warriors on both sides falling, but the knights had the better of it, and some of the uruks dropped their pikes and fled. Others stood, however, and sought to rally in the face of the enemy.

In the centre Grimbold led his men forward with some more Uruks approaching to his front. These were commanded by one amongst them counted high in the counsels of Saruman and renowned already as a warrior and eater of man flesh. They lacked armour, but made up for this with their ferocity. Behind these came more orcs from Isengard, four companies strong with the banner of the White Hand of Orthanc flying in the rain.

Grimbold and the Royal Guard take on Uruk hai and more orcs

The clash here was great and bloody - the Uruks were caught in the flank by Grimbold and in front by the royal guard. The Uruk leader sought to fight his way through to Grimbold but failed, instead laying about himself with great wroth upon the heads of the militia. Many fell to protect Grimbold.  Behind the Uruks came more orcs which ploughed into Grimbold's flank. The Uruk ranks shook with consternation, even as more of their number started to fall and their leader sought to rally them.

On the right flank, however, a company of reckless militia surged forward to occupy a hill dominating that side of the battlefield. They did not reckon, however, with the goblins of Moria, under their leader Guburz, who stormed the hill with three companies. The militia unit disintegrated, with men fleeing in all directions, being hunted down and slain by goblins, who scampered up and down the crimsoned slopes shouting with glee. From this hill the goblin archers now sent a volley against the royal guard, even as they joined battle with the Uruk scouts, although their wicked black arrows did little damage.

Trolls attack the islet, wild wargs on the left of picture

A single company of Oathsworn held the small island in the middle of the north ford, and it was they who were the first to hear the howls of wolves on the wind, as a huge pack of Wargs, supported by two trolls of Isengard, came thundering into the battle along the east bank, entering the field from the north. With them, on the west bank, came more armoured Uruk hai, biting their shields and howling for blood.

The two trolls turned aside and stormed across the ford against the militia. Many Rohirrim quailed and threw themselves into the fast-flowing waters, from which they never emerged. Those that didn't sought to hold their ground, but alas, the creatures were too strong for them, and cleared the islet of men within a few minutes.

Thus stood things on the rain-drenched sward when again the sound of horns was heard on the wind. In the east, in the far distance, came the sound of hooves and horse. Elfhelm was approaching...

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