A pair of battles fought seven days apart for the vital Fords that guarded the western borders of Rohan, and stood between the Rohirrim and their enemies at Isengard. The Fords formed where the River Isen split into two streams, and so ran around a river-island, or eyot. Thus, there were two Fords at the crossing, to both the west and the east of the eyot.
To complicate the strategic situation, Isengard lay near the sources of the river. Saruman thus had the opportunity of sending his soldiers down the western or eastern bank, approaching the Fords from either side. The road running southwards along the western bank made this the easier route, but the slower eastern route allowed his armies to bypass the Fords and come directly into Rohan.
Though Saruman's ultimate goal was to invade the Westfold of Rohan, his main target in the First Battle was the King's strong heir, Théodred son of Théoden. This first battle saw Théodred's forces attacked by Saruman's Wolfriders and Uruks. Falling back to the eyot itself, Théodred was felled by an axe-wielding Half-orc. Grimbold took command in his place, and was soon reinforced by Riders under the command of Elfhelm. Having achieved their main aim - the death of Théodred - Saruman's troops were content to withdraw.
After the loss of Théodred, Erkenbrand took general command of the forces of Westfold from the Hornburg, but left Grimbold to command at the Fords. A week after the First Battle, Saruman's forces assaulted the Fords in real force, and Grimbold's attempt to hold the forts on the western bank failed. He was driven east to join Elfhelm, and so the eyot fell to the enemy. Soon the two commanders were driven apart, and Grimbold's forces were surrounded. Through skilful tactics, Grimbold was able to save most of his Men, but the Fords were left in the hands of Saruman.
The loss of the Fords in the Second Battle left the road open from Isengard to Helm's Deep, and Saruman's armies passed by the Fords on their way southwards. Thus they came to Helm's Deep in the evening of the day after the Second Battle, and the Battle of the Hornburg began.
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