Pippin meets Beregond in the chaos of the upcoming battle and the two watch as the horizon is devoured by the Darkness coming from the Black Land. Just as the two talk of the creeping shadow, they are struck dumb by a shuddering cry uttered by "fine bird-like forms horrible as carrion fowl, yet greater than eagles, cruel as death". The Nazguls sweep down upon some men who are trying to reach the gates to safety. Beregond recognizes Faramir just as he is attacked by one of Sauron's formless demons. Just in time, Gandalf appears and saves Faramir, delivering him safely to his father's throne.
Faramir tells his father Denethor that he has met Frodo. Further, he tells him that Frodo is on his way to Cirith Ungol to dispose of the Ring. Denethor is angry because he had wanted the Ring to destroy his enemies. He tells Faramir he would have rather him died than Boromir. The king dismisses his son, displeased and feeling betrayed.
The next day Faramir is sent an extremely dangerous post, Osgiliath, to defend the walls of the city against the enemy. He goes to please his father, knowing that Denethor feels he has been let down. A messenger comes to relay the news that the leader of the Nazguls, the black captain, is leading his followers to Osgiliath and is being joined by a regiment of men from the south, the Haradrim. Gandalf warns Denethor that the Black Captain will not die at the hands of a man, and that his son Faramir is in trouble on his post. Gandalf tries to help Faramir, but the latter is hell-bent on doing right by his father; he refuses to leave.
The battle is fierce and Faramir's troops are decimated. The deadly dart of a Nazgul seriously wounds him. For a while, it appears the good troops are losing to Sauron's evil forces. They thrown dead and disfigured soldiers over the walls of the fort, and the Nazguls circle overhead with their relentless screeching. The reinforcements have not arrived, and those trapped inside the city begin to fear their own deaths.
As Faramir lies dying, Denethor is overcome with guilt and despair. He loses all hope and interest in the battle, deciding to take his own life as he buries his son on a giant funeral pyre. Pippin manages to postpone this while he runs to find Gandalf. He tells Beregond to stop the king from doing anything mad.
Pippin goes down to where he can see Gandalf, but is stopped by the sight of a huge battering ram called grond hammering away at the Gate. It breaks open and the Black Rider enters. He faces Gandalf. He takes off his hood and reveals his evil formless body. A red fire shines between the shoulders and the crown, no head is visible, and he tells Gandalf that he is death.
At that moment, a cock crows. The sounds of reinforcements can be heard. A true battle is about to occur.
In this chapter, Tolkien has shown remarkable knowledge of father son relationships. An angry father dismisses his errant son because his ego is hurt and then repents and goes mad with grief. Since Boromir's death, Faramir is the only one on whom the father's hope and lineage rests. The resulting near-tragedy is full of complicated ethos, another testament to Tolkien's ability.
This chapter backtracks and traces the arrival of the riders of Rohan, Merry and the Rohirrim. They meet with the Woses, the Wild Men of the Woods, who have agreed to lead the Rohirrim into Gondor by a back way in order to help stave off the Dark Years of Sauron.
The headman leads the Riders under cover of darkness and forest and leaves them when it is safe. The riders come to the destroyed walls of Denethor's kingdom and move forward. Theoden blows upon his horn and the Riders of Rohan burst forth into song as they attack the surprised enemy.
Once again Tolkien layers the narrative by backtracking and covering another perspective of the same event. This time Merry grows bored with his non-role in the battle and thus becomes the bearer of important narrative information.
In the battle, Theoden is knocked from his horse and mortally wounded. The Nazgul swoop down to claim their prey when the mysterious young soldier called Dernhelm challenges the Lord of the Nazgul. Merry cowers with fear nearby.
Dernhelm tells the Black Lord of the enemy to leave or be sorry, to which the ringwraith replies that he cannot be harmed by any man. At this moment, Dernhelm throws off his cape and reveals himself to be none other than Eowyn, whom all had forbade to come on account of being a woman. Eowyn, being a woman and not a man, advances and stabs at the creature. In the battle, she is wounded. As the master of the Nazgul stands over her, ready to kill her, Merry strikes him. The Nazgul cries out, giving Eowyn the time she needs to cut off his head. The Nazgul wails and disappears.
The Black Lord is reduced into nothingness and only his clothes and crown remain. His body vanishes into thin air. Merry realizes that Theoden is dying. The king names Eomer his heir. Eowyn is taken away to be tended. Theoden dies not knowing that Eowyn had come to war and killed the Nazgul.
A cry goes up across the city as Aragorn and his men come from the Paths of the Dead just in time to help. The new leaders of Gondor then ride to the city, triumphant.