This installment of Re-telling Tales of Middle-Earth summarizes the story of Book Three of The Lord of The Rings, which is the first half of The Two Towers. Book Three dwells solely on the happenings with the part of the Fellowship that heads to the west side of the Great River, after Frodo and Sam head east, toward Mordor. Book Four will take up Frodo and Sam’s journey. In this summary, I endeavor to put as many of the cards from Magic: the Gathering’s Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-Earth in narrative order as possible, incorporating both the main and commander sets, so that the enjoyment of both the cards and the story may be as full as possible for everyone. As with any summary, I’ve made certain omissions – much from the story and many cards – for the sake of brevity.

Check out Book One, Book Two, Book Four, Book Five, and Book Six!

Chapter One: The Departure of Boromir

Bitter Downfall” by John Di Giovanni

An uncertain and troubled Aragorn is pondering their next move when Boromir’s horn is heard through the woods. Aragorn rushes to his aid, but finds Boromir pierced with with many arrows from  Orcish Bowmasters. As he dies, Boromir tells the truth about why Frodo fled, reveals that the orcs took Merry and Pippin alive, and urges Aragorn to go to Minas Tirith to save Boromir’s people. Boromir dies, and Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli send his body down the Anduin on a “funeral boat.” After some deliberation, the “Three Hunters” deduce that the orcs must be in the service of Saruman, and set out west, toward Isengard, Saruman’s Fortress, to track the Uruk-hai who had captured Merry and Pippin, rather than pursuing Frodo and Sam, who were making their way to Mordor.

Chapter Two: The Riders of Rohan 

“Éomer of the Riddermark” By John Di Giovanni

The Three Hunters follow the orcs’ trail, and find clues—footprints and a discarded Lórien Brooch—that give them hope regarding the hobbits’ fate. Unable to keep up with the orcs, the three are met by the Riders of Rohan, led by Éomer of the Riddermark. After Aragorn reveals his identity, Éomer tells them that the orcs were destroyed and none were left alive. He loans them two horses so they may continue their search, and rides off. The Three search through the devastation, but find no sign of the hobbits. As they camp near Fangorn Forest, they catch a glimpse of an old man in robes and a hat, and the horses are seemingly startled away.

Chapter Three: The Uruk-hai

Mauhúr, Uruk-hai Captain” by Javier Charro

Meanwhile, Pippin awakens. He recalls Boromir’s valiant final stand, his and Merry’s ultimate capture by orcs, led by Uglúk of the White Hand, a servant of Saruman, and Grishnákh, a servant of Sauron. The two are led on a forced march across Rohan, back toward Isengard, where Saruman awaits to question the hobbits. The orc factions dislike one another, and in a struggle, drop a knife which Pippin uses to loose his bonds. To keep the hobbits moving on the forced march, their captors give them Orcish Medicine. As they march, Pippin breaks the line and runs off, dropping the Lórien Brooch for Aragorn to find later. He is then recaptured.

As the orcs near Fangorn, the Riders of Rohan come over the horizon and surround the orcs. When night falls, Grishnákh attempts to carry off the hobbits to search for the Ring, but is struck down by a Rohirrim arrow. As the Rohirrim slay the orc band, Pippin cuts Merry’s bonds, and they escape into Fangorn Forest.

Chapter Four: Treebeard

Treebeard, Gracious Host” by Campbell White

Merry and Pippin flee into the forest, and stop to drink at a stream. Feeling refreshed, they climb a tree to get their bearings, and express their appreciation for the forest. The tree they climb happens to be Treebeard the Ent, who talks to them, and learns of their adventures and of the doings of Saruman and Mordor. Realizing the danger these forces pose, Treebeard moves to Assemble the Entmoot, a gathering of Ents, to discern what must be done. The hobbits meet another ent, a young one named Quickbeam. After three days, the Ents, moved to anger by the recounting of what Saruman’s orcs have done to their forest, march against Isengard.

Chapter Five: The White Rider

Gandalf the White” by Leonardo Borazio

“The Three Hunters” find clues about Merry and Pippin’s fate on the edge of Fangorn. As they enter the forest, they encounter an old man resembling the one they had seen the previous night. Thinking him Saruman, they attack, but find their strikes turned away by magic. The man is Gandalf, now clad in gleaming white. After telling his story, he summons Shadowfax, who returns with the horses that Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli had borrowed from Eomer. The four set out from Fangorn, making for Meduseld, Golden Hall of Edoras.

Chapter Six: The King of the Golden Hall

Edoras, depicted on “Clifftop Retreat” by Wei Guan

The four of them reach Meduseld and find Théoden, King of Rohan in the thrall of Gríma Wormtongue. Gandalf breaks Wormtongue’s spell, awakening Théoden. The King of Rohan resolves to ride against Saruman, and frees Éomer, who had been detained at Wormtongue’s prompting.

Envigorated by Gandalf’s words of hope, Théoden calls for the Riders to make ready, and takes up his sword, Herugrim, Sword of Rohan which Wormtongue had hidden away. Wormtongue is exposed as a traitor, and is banished from Edoras. Éowyn, Lady of Rohan is tasked to rule while Théoden is away, and the Riders head west toward Isengard.

Chapter Seven: Helm’s Deep

The Battle at Helm’s Deep, as depicted in panorama by Jason Rainville

As the Riders go forth, a horseman approaches, reporting that the orcs of Isengard are on the move. Gandalf advises them to make for Helm’s Deep, and departs on an unknown errand. As night falls, battle preparations are made. Legolas wishes for a hundred good archers of Mirkwood,” but indeed, the archers or Rohan shoot down the first lines of orcs with a Shower of Arrows. As the hosts assault the fortress, Aragorn, Éomer, and Gimli fight together on the walls, and Gimli and Legolas begin their Friendly Rivalry.

As the battle on the walls turns against them, the orcs creep into the culvert with explosives, the Fire of Orthanc, and redouble their attack, splitting Rohan’s defenses and forcing a retreat deeper into the Rock. Rallying the defenders, Aragorn takes to the walls to Taunt from the Rampart. Just then, the sound of the great horn of Helm rings out, and the King of Rohan rides out with spear in hand, Aragorn beside him.

“Forth Eorlingas!” he cries, piercing the orcish lines as wind through the grass. Then, from the ridge behind, Gandalf, White Rider arrives with reinforcements led by Erkenbrand, Lord of Westfold. The orcs, cowed by this show of might, flee into the encroaching forest, but never emerge.

Chapter Eight: The Road to Isengard

Pippin, Warden of Isengard” by Viko Menezes

In the wake of the battle, the hillfolk of Dunland, who had been aiding the orcs, surrender to Erkenbrand and are shown mercy. Gandalf, Théoden, Éomer, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and many of the riders of Rohan head toward Isengard through the strange woods that’s grown up near Helm’s Deep. As they traverse the wood, the trees’ anger toward orcs is palpable.

Along the way, Legolas and Gimli converse, and Gimli tells him of the caves under Helm’s Deep, the Glittering Caves of Aglarond, and the two agree that at the end of this quest, they will return to visit Fangorn and the Caves.

As they travel through, the strange forest withdraws, almost like a mist blowing away. The company rides down to Orthanc, and find the gates hurled aside, twisted and wrecked. They are greeted by Merry and Pippin, Warden of Isengard, who let them know that Saruman and Wormtongue are holed up inside the tower, and that they have had the run of the place, alongside the Ents.

Chapter Nine: Flotsam and Jetsam

The Assault on Isengard, depicted in panorama by David Rapoza

While Gandalf and the Rohirrim go to meet with Treebeard, Merry and Pippin tell Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli about their strange journey: of Boromir’s brave last stand, of the orc-march, their escape into Fangorn, the Entmoot, the assault on and flooding of Isengard, and the return of Gandalf. They explain that the “strange woods” around Helm’s Deep was the doing of the Enraged Huorns.

Aragorn notes that the pipeweed that the hobbits have been smoking inside Orthanc is from the Shire, which means that Saruman has had agents and almost certainly spies there for at least a couple of years.

Chapter 10: The Voice of Saruman 

Saruman of Many Colors” by Marko Manev

The company reunites and resolves to confront Saruman. Gandalf tells everyone to be wary of Saruman’s spellbinding voice. At the door of Orthanc, Gandalf beckons Saruman, and Saruman’s enchanting voice answers, nearly enchanting Théoden. Théoden resists, and Saruman becomes wrathful, and tries instead to enchant Gandalf. While the Riders of Rohan seem affected, Gandalf easily resists the spell, and with a word, dispels Saruman’s magic.

Speaking with authority, Gandalf casts Saruman from the order of wizards and the White Council in front of all gathered, and shatters Saruman’s staff with a word of power. At that moment, Wormtongue hurls an orb at them, which cracks the ground. Pippin rushes to pick it up, and Gandalf takes it from him.

With Saruman chastened, Gandalf and the rest of the company leave Orthanc to the care of the Ents and the “Watchwood” they’ve grown around the fortress.

Chapter 11: The Palantír

Commander’s Sphere” by Justina Dura

Pippin’s encounter with the orb has imprinted on his mind, gnawing at him and driving him to have another look at it. In the dark of night, he creeps up to Gandalf while the wizards sleeps, and steals the orb away. Gazing upon it, he suddenly cries out and faints. When he is roused, Pippin reveals that “he”—Sauron—came and questioned him, and then spoke his intent to come and reclaim the orb from Orthanc.

Gandalf explains that the orb is the Palantir of Orthanc, an ancient seeing-stone from the treasury of Elendil, which allows scrying and communication over long distances. Saruman must have been using this one to report to Sauron, who has another. Gandalf suspects there may be another in Minas Tirith, but gives this one to Aragorn for safekeeping.

Just then, the shadow of a Nazgûl on its winged steed passes in front of the moon before wheeling northward, prompting the company to ride with haste: Gandalf and Pippin toward Minas Tirith on Shadowfax, and Aragorn and the rest toward Helm’s Deep.

Looking East…

So concludes Book Three of The Lord of the Rings. In this book, we saw Tolkien developing the themes of resistance and hope, as exemplified in the hobbits, Aragorn, and Gandalf, as well as growing friendship between people from different worlds in Legolas and Gimli. In my next article, I’ll summarize the beginning of Frodo and Sam’s journey into Mordor from Book Four, which is the second part of The Two Towers. Until next time, “the road goes ever, ever on…”

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