کتاب سوم - فصل 08-01

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کتاب سوم - فصل 08-01

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Chapter 8:

The Road to Isengard

So it was that in the light of a fair morning King Théoden and Gandalf the White Rider met again upon the green grass beside the Deeping-stream. There was also Aragorn son of Arathorn, and Legolas the Elf, and Erkenbrand of Westfold, and the lords of the Golden House. About them were gathered the Rohirrim, the Riders of the Mark: wonder overcame their joy in victory, and their eyes were turned towards the wood.

Suddenly there was a great shout, and down from the Dike came those who had been driven back into the Deep. There came Gamling the Old, and Éomer son of Éomund, and beside them walked Gimli the dwarf. He had no helm, and about his head was a linen band stained with blood; but his voice was loud and strong.

“Forty-two, Master Legolas!” he cried. “Alas! My axe is notched: the forty-second had an iron collar on his neck. How is it with you?”

“You have passed my score by one,” answered Legolas. “But I do not grudge you the game, so glad am I to see you on your legs!”

“Welcome, Éomer, sister-son!” said Théoden. “Now that I see you safe, I am glad indeed.”

“Hail, Lord of the Mark!” said Éomer. “The dark night has passed and day has come again. But the day has brought strange tidings.” He turned and gazed in wonder, first at the wood and then at Gandalf. “Once more you come in the hour of need, unlooked-for,” he said.

“Unlooked-for?” said Gandalf. “I said that I would return and meet you here.”

“But you did not name the hour, nor foretell the manner of your coming. Strange help you bring. You are mighty in wizardry, Gandalf the White!”

“That may be. But if so, I have not shown it yet. I have but given good counsel in peril, and made use of the speed of Shadowfax. Your own valour has done more, and the stout legs of the Westfold-men marching through the night.”

Then they all gazed at Gandalf with still greater wonder. Some glanced darkly at the wood, and passed their hands over their brows, as if they thought their eyes saw otherwise than his.

Gandalf laughed long and merrily. “The trees?” he said. “Nay, I see the wood as plainly as do you. But that is no deed of mine. It is a thing beyond the counsel of the wise. Better than my design, and better even than my hope the event has proved.”

“Then if not yours, whose is the wizardry?” said Théoden. “Not Saruman’s, that is plain. Is there some mightier sage, of whom we have yet to learn?”

“It is not wizardry, but a power far older,” said Gandalf:”a power that walked the earth, ere elf sang or hammer rang.

Ere iron was found or tree was hewn,

When young was mountain under moon;

Ere ring was made, or wrought was woe,

It walked the forests long ago.”

“And what may be the answer to your riddle?” said Théoden.

“If you would learn that, you should come with me to Isengard ‘ answered Gandalf.

“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.”

“But there are not men enough in the Mark, not if they were all gathered together and healed of wounds and weariness, to assault the stronghold of Saruman,” said Théoden.

“Nevertheless to Isengard I go,” said Gandalf. “I shall not stay there long. My way lies now eastward. Look for me in Edoras, ere the waning of the moon!”

“Nay!” said Théoden. “In the dark hour before dawn I doubted, but we will not part now. I will come with you, if that is your counsel.”

“I wish to speak with Saruman, as soon as may be now,” said Gandalf,”and since he has done you great injury, it would be fitting if you were there. But how soon and how swiftly will you ride?”

“My men are weary with battle,” said the King;”and I am weary also. For I have ridden far and slept little. Alas! My old age is not feigned nor due only to the whisperings of Wormtongue. It is an ill that no leech can wholly cure, not even Gandalf.”

“Then let all who are to ride with me rest now,” said Gandalf. “We will journey under the shadow of evening. It is as well; for it is my counsel that all our comings and goings should be as secret as may be, henceforth. But do not command many men to go with you, Théoden. We go to a parley not to a fight.”

The King then chose men that were unhurt and had swift horses, and he sent them forth with tidings of the victory into every vale of the Mark; and they bore his summons also, bidding all men, young and old, to come in haste to Edoras. There the Lord of the Mark would hold an assembly of all that could bear arms, on the second day after the full moon. To ride with him to Isengard the King chose Éomer and twenty men of his household. With Gandalf would go Aragorn, and Legolas, and Gimli. In spite of his hurt the dwarf would not stay behind.

“It was only a feeble blow and the cap turned it;” he said. “It would take more than such an orc-scratch to keep me back.”

“I will tend it, while you rest,” said Aragorn.

The king now returned to the Hornburg, and slept, such a sleep of quiet as he had not known for many years, and the remainder of his chosen company rested also. But the others, all that were not hurt or wounded, began a great labour; for many had fallen in the battle and lay dead upon the field or in the Deep.

No Orcs remained alive; their bodies were uncounted. But a great many of the hillmen had given themselves up; and they were afraid, and cried for mercy.

The Men of the Mark took their weapons from them, and set them to work.

“Help now to repair the evil in which you have joined,” said Erkenbrand;”and afterwards you shall take an oath never again to pass the Fords of Isen in arms, nor to march with the enemies of Men; and then you shall go free back to your land. For you have been deluded by Saruman. Many of you have got death as the reward of your trust in him; but had you conquered, little better would your wages have been.”

The men of Dunland were amazed, for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan were cruel and burned their captives alive.

In the midst of the field before the Hornburg two mounds were raised, and beneath them were laid all the Riders of the Mark who fell in the defence, those of the East Dales upon one side, and those of Westfold upon the other. In a_ grave alone under the shadow of the Hornburg lay Háma, captain of the King’s guard. He fell before the Gate.

The Orcs were piled in great heaps, away from the mounds of Men, not far from the eaves of the forest. And the people were troubled in their minds; for the heaps of carrion were too great for burial or for burning. They had little wood for firing, and none would have dared to take an axe to the strange trees, even if Gandalf had not warned them to hurt neither bark nor bough at their great peril.

“Let the Orcs lie,” said Gandalf. “The morning may bring new counsel.”

In the afternoon the King’s company prepared to depart. The work of burial was then but beginning; and Théoden mourned for the loss of Háma, his captain, and cast the first earth upon his grave. “Great injury indeed has Saruman done to me and all this land,” he said;”and I will remember it, when we meet.”

The sun was already drawing near the hills upon the west of the Coomb, when at last Théoden and Gandalf and their companions rode down from the Dike. Behind them were gathered a great host, both of the Riders and of the people of Westfold, old and young, women and children, who had come out from the caves. A song of victory they sang with clear voices; and then they fell silent, wondering what would chance, for their eyes were on the trees and they feared them.

The Riders came to the wood, and they halted; horse and man, they were unwilling to pass in. The trees were grey and menacing, and a shadow or a mist was about them. The ends of their long sweeping boughs hung down like searching fingers, their roots stood up from the ground like the limbs of strange monsters, and dark caverns opened beneath them. But Gandalf went forward, leading the company, and where the road from the Hornburg met the trees they saw now an opening like an arched gate under mighty boughs; and through it Gandalf passed, and they followed him. Then to their amazement they found that the road ran on, and the Deeping-stream beside it; and the sky was open above and full of golden light. But on either side the great aisles of the wood were already wrapped in dusk, stretching away into impenetrable shadows; and there they heard the creaking and groaning of boughs, and far cries, and a rumour of wordless voices, murmuring angrily. No Orc or other living creature could be seen.

Legolas and Gimli were now riding together upon one horse; and they kept close beside Gandalf, for Gimli was afraid of the wood.

“It is hot in here,” said Legolas to Gandalf. “I feel a great wrath about me. Do you not feel the air throb in your ears?”

“Yes,” said Gandalf.

“What has become of the miserable Orcs?” said Legolas.

“That, I think, no one will ever know,” said Gandalf.

They rode in silence for a while; but Legolas was ever glancing from side to side, and would often have halted to listen to the sounds of the wood, if Gimli had allowed it.

“These are the strangest trees that ever I saw,” he said;”and I have seen many an oak grow from acorn to ruinous age. I wish that there were leisure now to walk among them: they have voices, and in time I might come to understand their thought.”

“No, no!” said Gimli. “Let us leave them! I guess their thought already: hatred of all that go on two legs; and their speech is of crushing and strangling.”

“Not of all that go on two legs,” said Legolas. “There I think you are wrong. It is Orcs that they hate. For they do not belong here and know little of Elves and Men. Far away are the valleys where they sprang. From the deep dales of Fangorn, Gimli, that is whence they come, I guess.”

“Then that is the most perilous wood in Middle-earth,” said Gimli. “I should be grateful for the part they have played, but I do not love them. You may think them wonderful, but I have seen a greater wonder in this land, more beautiful than any grove or glade that ever grew: my heart is still full of it. “Strange are the ways of Men, Legolas! Here they have one of the marvels of the Northern World, and what do they say of it? Caves, they say! Caves! Holes to fly to in time of war, to store fodder in! My good Legolas, do you know that the caverns of Helm’s Deep are vast and beautiful? There would be an endless pilgrimage of Dwarves, merely to gaze at them, if such things were known to be. Aye indeed, they would pay pure gold for a brief glance!”

“And I would give gold to be excused,” said Legolas;”and double to be let out, if I strayed in!”

“You have not seen, so I forgive your jest,” said Gimli. “But you speak like a fool. Do you think those halls are fair, where your King dwells under the hill in Mirkwood, and Dwarves helped in their making long ago? They are but hovels compared with the caverns I have seen here: immeasurable halls, filled with an everlasting music of water that tinkles into pools, as fair as Kheled-zâram in the starlight.

“And, Legolas, when the torches are kindled and men walk on the sandy floors under the echoing domes, ah! then, Legolas, gems and crystals and veins of precious ore glint in the polished walls; and the light glows through folded marbles, shell-like, translucent as the living hands of Queen Galadriel. There are columns of white and saffron and dawn-rose, Legolas, fluted and twisted into dreamlike forms; they spring up from many-coloured floors to meet the glistening pendants of the roof: wings, ropes, curtains fine as frozen clouds; spears, banners, pinnacles of suspended palaces! Still lakes mirror them: a glimmering world looks up from dark pools covered with clear glass; cities. such as the mind of Durin could scarce have imagined in his sleep, stretch on through avenues and pillared courts, on into the dark recesses where no light can come. And plink! a silver drop falls, and the round wrinkles in the glass make all the towers bend and waver like weeds and corals in a grotto of the sea. Then evening comes: they fade and twinkle out; the torches pass on into another chamber and another dream. There is chamber after chamber, Legolas; hall opening out of hall, dome after dome, stair beyond stair; and still the winding paths lead on into the mountains’ heart. Caves! The Caverns of Helm’s Deep! Happy was the chance that drove me there! It makes me weep to leave them.”

“Then I will wish you this fortune for your comfort, Gimli,” said the Elf,”that you may come safe from war and return to see them again. But do not tell all your kindred! There seems little left for them to do, from your account. Maybe the men of this land are wise to say little: one family of busy dwarves with hammer and chisel might mar more than they made.”

“No, you do not understand,” said Gimli. “No dwarf could be unmoved by such loveliness. None of Durin’s race would mine those caves for stones or ore, not if diamonds and gold could be got there. Do you cut down groves of blossoming trees in the spring-time for firewood? We would tend these glades of flowering stone, not quarry them. With cautious skill, tap by tap - a small chip of rock and no more, perhaps, in a whole anxious day - so we could work, and as the years went by, we should open up new ways, and display far chambers that are still dark, glimpsed only as a void beyond fissures in the rock. And lights, Legolas! We should make lights, such lamps as once shone in Khazad-dûm; and when we wished we would drive away the night that has lain there since the hills were made; and when we desired rest, we would let the night return.”

“You move me, Gimli,” said Legolas. “I have never heard you speak like this before. Almost you make me regret that I have not seen these caves. Come! Let us make this bargain-if we both return safe out of the perils that await us, we will journey for a while together. You shall visit Fangorn with me, and then I will come with you to see Helm’s Deep.”

“That would not be the way of return that I should choose,” said Gimli. “But I will endure Fangorn, if I have your promise to come back to the caves and share their wonder with me.”

“You have my promise,” said Legolas. “But alas! Now we must leave behind both cave and wood for a while: See! We are coming to the end of the trees. How far is it to Isengard, Gandalf?”

“About fifteen leagues, as the crows of Saruman make it.” said Gandalf:”five from the mouth of Deeping-coomb to the Fords: and ten more from there to the gates of Isengard. But we shall not ride all the way this night.”

“And when we come there, what shall we see?” asked Gimli. “You may know, but I cannot guess.”

“I do not know myself for certain,” answered the wizard. “I was there at nightfall yesterday, but much may have happened since. Yet I think that you will not say that the journey was in vain - not though the Glittering Caves of Aglarond be left behind.”

At last the company passed through the trees, and found that they had come to the bottom of the Coomb, where the road from Helm’s Deep branched, going one way east to Edoras, and the other north to the Fords of Isen. As they rode from under the eaves of the wood, Legolas halted and looked back with regret. Then he gave a sudden cry.

“There are eyes!” he said. “Eyes looking out from the shadows of the boughs! I never saw such eyes before.”

The others, surprised by his cry, halted and turned; but Legolas started to ride back.

“No, no!” cried Gimli. “Do as you please in your madness, but let me first get down from this horse! I wish to see no eyes!” “Stay, Legolas Greenleaf!” said Gandalf. “Do not go back into the wood, not yet! Now is not your time.”

Even as he spoke, there came forward out of the trees three strange shapes. As tall as trolls they were, twelve feet or more in height; their strong bodies, stout as young trees, seemed to be clad with raiment or with hide of close-fitting grey and brown. Their limbs were long, and their hands had many fingers; their hair was stiff, and their beards grey-green as moss. They gazed out with solemn eyes, but they were not looking at the riders: their eyes were bent northwards. Suddenly they lifted their long hands to their mouths, and sent forth ringing calls, clear as notes of a horn, but more musical and various. The calls were answered; and turning again, the riders saw other creatures of the same kind approaching, striding through the grass. They came swiftly from the North, walking like wading herons in their gait, but not in their speed; for their legs in their long paces beat quicker than the heron’s wings. The riders cried aloud in wonder, and some set their hands upon their sword-hilts.

“You need no weapons,” said Gandalf. “These are but herdsmen. They are not enemies, indeed they are not concerned with us at all.”

So it seemed to be; for as he spoke the tall creatures, without a glance at the riders, strode into the wood and vanished.

“Herdsmen!” said Théoden. “Where are their flocks? What are they, Gandalf? For it is plain that to you, at any rate, they are not strange.”

“They are the shepherds of the trees,” answered Gandalf. “Is it so long since you listened to tales by the fireside? There are children in your land who, out of the twisted threads of story, could pick the answer to your question. You have seen Ents, O King, Ents out of Fangorn Forest, which in your tongue you call the Entwood. Did you think that the name was given only in idle fancy? Nay, Théoden, it is otherwise: to them you are but the passing tale; all the years from Eorl the Young to Théoden the Old are of little count to them; and all the deeds of your house but a small matter.”

The king was silent. “Ents!” he said at length. “Out of the shadows of legend I begin a little to understand the marvel of the trees, I think. I have lived to see strange days. Long we have tended our beasts and our fields, built our houses, wrought our tools, or ridden away to help in the wars of Minas Tirith. And that we called the life of Men, the way of the world. We cared little for what lay beyond the borders of our land. Songs we have that tell of these things, but we are forgetting them, teaching them only to children, as a careless custom. And now the songs have come down among us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun.”

“You should be glad, Théoden King,” said Gandalf. “For not only the little life of Men is now endangered, but the life also of those things which you have deemed the matter of legend. You are not without allies, even if you know them not.”

“Yet also I should be sad,” said Théoden. “For however the fortune of war shall go, may it not so end that much that was fair and wonderful shall pass for ever out of Middle-earth?”

“It may,” said Gandalf. “The evil of Sauron cannot be wholly cured, nor made as if it had not been. But to such days we are doomed. Let us now go on with the journey we have begun!”

The company turned then away from the Coomb and from the wood and took the road towards the Fords. Legolas followed reluctantly. The sun had set, already it had sunk behind the rim of the world; but as they rode out from the shadow of the hills and looked west to the Gap of Rohan the sky was still red, and a burning light was under the floating clouds. Dark against it there wheeled and flew many black-winged birds. Some passed overhead with mournful cries, returning to their homes among the rocks.

“The carrion-fowl have been busy about the battle-field,” said Éomer.

They rode now at an easy pace and dark came down upon the plains about them. The slow moon mounted, now waxing towards the full, and in its cold silver light the swelling grass-lands rose and fell like a wide grey sea. They had ridden for some four hours from the branching of the roads when they drew near to the Fords. Long slopes ran swiftly down to where the river spread in stony shoals between high grassy terraces. Borne upon the wind they heard the howling of wolves. Their hearts were heavy, remembering the many men that had fallen in battle in this place.

The road dipped between rising turf-banks, carving its way through the terraces to the river’s edge, and up again upon the further side. There were three lines of flat stepping-stones across the stream, and between them fords for horses, that went from either brink to a bare eyot in the midst. The riders looked down upon the crossings, and it seemed strange to them; for the Fords had ever been a place full of the rush and chatter of water upon stones; but now they were silent. The beds of the stream were almost dry, a bare waste of shingles and grey sand.

“This is become a dreary place,” said Éomer. “What sickness has befallen the river? Many fair things Saruman has destroyed: has he devoured the springs of Isen too?” “So it would seem,” said Gandalf.

“Alas!” said Théoden. “Must we pass this way, where the carrion-beasts devour so many good Riders of the Mark?”

“This is our way,” said Gandalf. “Grievous is the fall of your men; but you shall see that at least the wolves of the mountains do not devour them. It is with their friends, the Orcs, that they hold their feast: such indeed is the friendship of their kind. Come!”

They rode down to the river, and as they came the wolves ceased their howling and slunk away. Fear fell on them seeing Gandalf in the moon, and Shadowfax his horse shining like silver. The riders passed over to the islet, and glittering eyes watched them wanly from the shadows of the banks.

“Look!” said Gandalf. “Friends have laboured here.”

And they saw that in the midst of the eyot a mound was piled, ringed with stones, and set about with many spears.

“Here lie all the Men of the Mark that fell near this place,” said Gandalf.

“Here let them rest!” said Éomer. “And when their spears have rotted and rusted, long still may their mound stand and guard the Fords of Isen!”

“Is this your work also, Gandalf, my friend?” said Théoden. “You accomplished much in an evening and a night!”

“With the help of Shadowfax - and others,” said Gandalf. “I rode fast and far. But here beside the mound I will say this for your comfort: many fell in the battles of the Fords, but fewer than rumour made them. More were scattered than were slain; I gathered together all that I could find. Some men I sent with Grimbold of Westfold to join Erkenbrand. Some I set to make this burial. They have now followed your marshal, Elfhelm. I sent him with many Riders to Edoras. Saruman I knew had despatched his full strength against you, and his servants had turned aside from all other errands and gone to Helm’s Deep: the lands seemed empty of enemies; yet I feared that wolf-riders and plunderers might ride nonetheless to Meduseld, while it was undefended. But now I think you need not fear: you will find your house to welcome your return.”

“And glad shall I be to see it again,” said Théoden,”though brief now, I doubt not, shall be my abiding there.”

With that the company said farewell to the island and the mound, and passed over the river, and climbed the further bank. Then they rode on, glad to have left the mournful Fords. As they went the howling of the wolves broke out anew.

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