The Muster of Rohan
The Muster of Rohan is the third chapter of the fifth book in The Return of the King.
Meanwhile, Théoden and the Riders reach the outer hills of Rohan after a hard three days’ journey. Éomer, Théoden’s son, urges his father not to go further east, but Théoden insists on going to war. Gathering the remaining Riders of Rohan, Théoden decides to ride to the Hold at Dunharrow, where the people of Rohan have taken shelter in anticipation of war. He finds Éowyn, the Lady of Rohan, waiting there among her people, and he orders the host to rest for the night.
At dinner, Merry waits at Théoden’s side, fulfilling his duties as the king’s new squire. Théoden further explains to Merry the legend of the Paths of the Dead, speculating about whether or not Aragorn will survive. A messenger from Gondor enters the tent. Merry is startled by the man’s armor, as it reminds him of Boromir. The stranger brings a Red Arrow—a summons, sent only in times of great peril—from the Steward of Gondor. Théoden states that six thousand Riders will set out for Minas Tirith in the morning, but that they will not reach Minas Tirith for a week.
There is no sunrise the next morning; a great Darkness has descended, and all the land is buried under a terrible gloom emanating from Mordor. As the host prepares to leave, Théoden asks Merry to stay behind when they pass the city of Edoras. The ride to Gondor will be hard and swift, and none among the Riders can afford the burden of carrying the hobbit along. Merry is sorely disappointed, but the king has made up his mind. Éowyn, however, escorts Merry to a small booth and outfits him as best she can in the armor of the King’s Guard. She bids Merry farewell and returns to her tent.
In Edoras, Merry loses all hope of going to Gondor until a young and slender Rider offers to carry Merry with him secretly to battle. The Rider introduces himself as Dernhelm. Merry gratefully accepts, and soon Théoden’s host departs for Minas Tirith.