Pippin awakes on the way to Minas Tirith with Gandalf. As they near, Gandalf warns Pippin to be careful of what he reveals. Denethor, the leader, is Boromir's father. News of his son's death is bound to cause some reaction.
Sure enough, Denethor is upset that Boromir died when a mere soldier like Pippin lives. Eventually, Denethor accepts Pippin and sends him off with a man, Beregond, to learn about the city and the upcoming war. Pippin and Beregond become fast friends, and Pippin finally feels like he has found a friend (since he has parted from Merry). When Pippin returns to his quarters after the Gate closes Gandalf tells him to rest while he can, because soon there will be no time for rest.
The friendship between Pippin and Beregond is important, as later it will lead to some important sacrifices on the part of Pippin.
The story turns now to the remaining members of the company who are at Isengard. With them are Theoden and his men. They are joined some time later by Halbarad Dinadan, a Ranger like Aragorn. He has been asked to join them by Lady Galadriel. Thirty men and Elrond's sons, Elladan and Elrohir accompany him. Elrond's daughter, Arwen, sends a staff for Aragorn.
Merry, meanwhile, lays his sword at Theoden's service, just as Pippin did in Denethor's. He is accepted as Theoden's esquire and given a pony of his own. They are ready to return to Rohan and fight to defend Gondor, then travel to Minas Tirith to fight Sauron. Aragorn tells them that he must part with them, taking his group of men across the Paths of the Dead as quickly as possible in order to reach Minas Tirith and defeat Sauron with haste. Aragorn tells them that he has revealed his position to Sauron in the hopes of frightening him into a hasty misstep. Legolas and Gimli opt to go with him, as do Halbarad and his men.
The Grey Company, as they are called, travel swiftly through the plains. Theoden and his riders go over the mountains. On the way Aragorn's company meets Lady Eowyn, who asks to come along. Aragorn says that without the King her brother's permission, she cannot go. Eowyn laments her fate, saying that being a women she has to remain behind only to hear news of death and destruction. She must govern them especially well, since all may be lost and only she will remain. The next day they part, painfully bound by duty.
The next day the Grey Company comes to the Haunted Mountains and to the Path of the Dead, where no mortal has ever lived to travel through. Aragorn summons the dead to fulfill an oath sworn to his ancestor, Isildur. It seems that long ago the dead promised to aid Isildur in fighting Sauron, but betrayed him. As a result, they have been cursed to remain in the Paths of the Dead. Aragorn tells them that they will be free only if they follow Isildur's heir to battle when called upon. This is that time. The king of the Dead summons his men to follow Aragorn in battle against Sauron and so be free forever.
Two themes of interest are restated here. First, Eowyn must act in the interest of a greater good. Selflessness is the most heroic code by which Tolkien's characters live. Second, true leadership qualities are destined in man. Aragorn slowly proves his birthright and works his way toward reclaiming a throne that is rightfully and legally his. Thou he will no doubt meet with some resistance by the seated leaders of Gondor, his claim to the throne is unquestionably obvious, especially in this chapter.
Theoden and his men are met by Eowyn, who tells them of Aragorn's departure to the Paths of the Dead and who asks once again to be permitted to join them. Again, she is refused. The Lord of Minas Tirith, Denethor sends a messenger to Theoden asking or assistance at once in defending Gondor. Theoden then promises that he himself will ride with six thousand to Minas Tirith.
During the course of the night a great cloud of darkness engulfs the land. As the riders from Rohan prepare to enter Gondor, Merry is told he must not go. He hitches a ride with a desperate soldier named Dernhelm and makes his way in to the battle regardless.
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas have gone to Minas Tirith. Gandalf and Pippin are already there. Frodo and Sam are off on their quest. Merry, who feels all along like a burden to others, feels even lonelier.
Plot twists begin to merge and characters come together after many pages of separation. As a character, Merry emerges more thoroughly. He is excited, loyal, and ready to prove himself. But no one gives him the chance. The mysterious soldier is a welcome opportunity for Merry, and an exciting and mysterious diversion for the reader.