'Let me lie here - to keep the Fords till Éomer comes!'
The last words spoken by my beloved prince echo in my mind, adding fuel to the debate. Elfhelm would have us abandon the Fords to set an ambush on the eastern shore, convinced as he is that this is the route the forces of Isengard will take.
There is merit to his plan, yet I am loath to give way. I would Erkenbrand was here, for he is a man of the Westfold, as am I. Well he understands the reasons I seek to hold the Fords, and his powers of persuasion are greater than mine - and he carries the weight of command. Yet he has assumed no authority over the Marshal of Edoras.
'You must stand together.' So his message to me had proclaimed, for he would not leave the Deep unprepared, knowing the Dwimmer of Isengard will not allow the stronghold of Helm's Deep to stand unassailed.
'Tis known that Elfhelm is my friend, and I respect his judgement, as I know he does mine. Therein lies the problem, for neither of us wishes to gainsay the other's opinion. In the end it may all be for naught, for we know not how great is the strength gathered against us. Yet as we end our debate each of us knows what must be done.
My friend goes to position his foot-soldiers some few miles north of the Fords, for any approaching army must be slowed by the rough terrain, giving Elfhelm's forces the opportunity to engage the enemy before they reach the Fords. His calvary will stand ready to flank Saruman's forces and drive them into the icy waters of the Isen. I must admit it is a good plan, one which should succeed if no enemy attacks from the western approach. This is my great fear: Saruman will guess how we have set our defense and will send a great force down the road from Isengard to cross the Fords unhindered, and so come between us and those we would defend at Helm's Deep.
And so it is that the greater number of my foot-soldiers man the earth-forts guarding the western approach to the Fords. I will remain with the rest of my men on the east bank; with me will stand those of my Lord Théodred's cavalry who survived the first battle. There is fire in their eyes, unquenched by the tears they have wept for their lord. The enemy will pay dearly; this they have vowed, even as they render him one last service.
The waters of the Isen are chillingly cold as I cleanse my hands. Grim satisfaction I find as I survey the results of our labours; sightless eyes stare into the gathering darkness, mute testimony to the fate of those whose murderous intent had stolen our prince's life. Now in death they will guard the ground he refused to yield. There is but one thing which remains for me to do ...
From the eastern shore I look back across the waters which for now run red with naught but the light of the setting sun. Silhouetted by its bright rays, a standard floats on the evening breeze; the white horse, nostrils flared with the scent of battle, charges across the field of green, heralding the scion of the House of Eorl.
"That will be defense enough."
note: both Théodred's and Grimbold's quotes are taken directly from The Battles Of The Fords Of Isen - Unfinished Tales. Hence the British variant of the word defense was originally used in Grimbold's statement: 'It is told that he set up on stakes all about the eyot the heads of the axemen that had been slain there, but above the hasty mound of Théodred in the middle was set his banner. "That will be defence enough," he said.' For the sake of consistency, however, I have changed it to the American spelling in the story.