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The Return of the King
Book V
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Book VI
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Book V - Chapter 2
The Passing of the Grey Company

The story returns to where Gandalf is just rushing off to the west with Pippin, leaving Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Merry with Théoden. . .

Twenty-four horses ride eastward through the night headed for Meduseld but soon stop when they realize they are being overtaken by other riders. They wait until the darkness reveals a band of Rangers of the North led by Halbarad and accompanied by Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond. The strangers seek Aragorn, bringing him a message from the lord of Imladris, 'The days are short. If thou art in haster, remember The Paths of The Dead.' Halbarad also carries a gift from Arwen - a tall standard wrapped in black and for now still unfurled. And they have Aragorn's horse - Roheryn.

The two groups continue together, arriving at Helm's Deep as dawn approaches. There, they rest awhile in the Hornburg, thinking of the recent battle. And there in the stone Keep, Merry swears fealty to Théoden. Meanwhile, Aragorn climbs the fortress tower and reveals himself to Sauron using the Palantir of Orthanc. He descends the tower and explains that now that the Dark Lord is aware that an heir of Isildur yets lives, he will surely hasten his war plans. Aragorn reveals that he and the Rangers will ride the Paths of the Dead, as was fortold. He intends to intercept a fleet of Corsairs that he saw approaching Pelargir when he gazed into the Palantir.

Aragorn explains how long ago Isildur set a great black stone upon a hill in the valley of Erech, south of the White Mountains, and upon it the King of the mountains sword allegiance to him. But when Sauron returned and Isildur made war on him, the people of Erech refused to aid Isilidur. So Isildur cursed them, dooming them to forever haunted their land until they fulfill their oath. The Paths of the Dead, a great tunnelled passage through the mountains, were part of their long-lasting spirit realm.

Legolas and Gimli agree to ride with Aragorn, but Merry, now bound to the King of Rohan, stays with the Rohirrim. So, Aragorn and his 'Grey Company' pass quickly through the hills and arrive at Edoras the next afternoon. There they rest only shortly, and Éowyn greatly bemoans their seemingly doomed choice of road. But they next morning they take leave of the Lady of Rohan and ride up into Dunharrow and come finally to the Dark Door. And they pass into the Paths of the Dead.

In the dark way under the mountains, the Company is assailed by the invisible, oppressive spirits of the cursed people of the King of the Mountains. But they finally pass out into open air again, high in the uplands of the Blackroot river. With the ever-growing host of ghost following close behind, Aragorn rushes the Company to the great black stone of legend and calls the dead King to fulfill his oath.

At dawn, the Grey Company rides quickly toward Pelargir with a great army of the dead behind them.


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