Return of the King Book 5, Chapter 2
After Gandalf leaves with Pippin, Merry speaks privately with Aragorn. Aragorn remarks that their company has dwindled to four. Legolas, the elf and Gimli the Dwarf still remain with them. At Edoras, Theoden plans to muster his army and then ride off toward Gondor. Aragorn knows that he must go to Minas Tirith, but he does not yet know if it is time. Merry asks only that he not be left behind like baggage but Aragorn admits that he thinks Merry's real place will be with Theoden. They ride swiftly to Edoras but soon find out that they are being followed by a group of horsemen. They turn to face them and Eomer calls for them to halt. The leader of the group is Halbarad. They are a group of the Dunedain and are searching for their kin Aragorn at the advice of Elrond. Aragorn is elated to be reunited with his people. Only thirty of them could come so quickly, but more will be coming. A son of Elrond tells Aragorn to "'Remember the Paths of the Dead'" Book 5, Chapter 2, pg. 51. Halbarad is carrying a tall staff with black cloth wrapped at the top. It is a standard for Aragorn that was woven by Arwen.
They ride into Helm's Deep and make camp for the night. Legolas and Gimli tell Merry a little about their journeys without him. Before long, Merry is worn out and he misses Pippin. Aragorn is in a tower speaking with the Dunedain. Legolas thinks that the Rangers are like Elven lords. Both Gimli and Legolas wish that their kindred would come with armies to help them, but they know that their own homelands are troubled by Sauron's growing shadow. They walk over the battle ground from a few days before. They reenter the hall of Helm's Deep and Theoden tells Merry that he is to come with him to Edoras. Merry is to become his esquire. The king accepts the hobbit's oath.
Eomer says that they should leave soon, but Aragorn is not to be seen. Word is sent, and all the soldiers remaining at Helm's Deep are prepared to ride. The Dunedain brought Aragorn his own horse. They gather together and Aragorn says that he wishes that Rohan could muster faster. He tells Theoden that he and his kindred must pass through the Paths of the Dead. Eomer is amazed that he is going to try such a journey but Aragorn assures them that they will meet again. Theoden is troubled but knows that Aragorn must do this. Aragorn watches the army pull away. He tells Legolas and Gimli that they are free to come with him if they desire. Both elect to follow him.
Aragorn tells them that he looked into the palantir and had barely enough strength to survive. He revealed himself to Sauron. This caused Sauron to doubt himself and feel fear. Aragorn hopes that Sauron's fear will cause him to make a mistake. He knows that Gondor will fall if they do not stop the armies coming up the Anduin River. To get there fast enough to stop them, they have to navigate the Paths of the Dead. An old seer foretold that Aragorn's family would go through here and rouse a dead army. The army of dead made an oath to help Aragorn's ancestor fight Sauron but they broke it and paid tribute to the dark lord. Because of this betrayal, they were cursed to linger in the dark tunnels of a mountain until another of the same family came to lead them out.
They ride away and come to Dunharrow where Eowyn waits to meet Eomer and Theoden. She is happy to see Aragorn but gets upset when he says that he will only stay until dawn. She was hoping that he came to see her. He tells her that he must travel the Paths of the Dead and she begs him to remain in Rohan. When he refuses, she asks to accompany him. Aragorn tells her that she is needed by her people and cannot go off to war. She replies "'All your words are but to say: you're a woman and your part is in the house.'" Book 5, Chapter 2, pg. 62. She says that she is capable of fighting in war. She tells him that the others ride into such a perilous place out of love not duty. She would follow for the same reason.
The next day Eowyn comes to them to say farewell, but she is dressed as a soldier. Aragorn again refuses her pleas to accompany him and she falls to his knees. He denies her and she watches them leave. It is early dawn as they ride to the face of the haunted mountain and even Gimli is nervous. They halt before the door, but then enter with Aragorn in the lead and Gimli last. Some of the Dunedain bear torches. Gimli is amazed by Aragorn's lack of fear and his own desire to run. He bends down and sees a skeleton in full armor on the ground. He yells into the darkness and tells the dead to follow him out the other side of the mountain. They hear nothing but later Legolas tells Gimli that he can feel the dead following them. They ride out of the caverns into the daylight. Aragorn yells that they must ride to a certain spot as quickly as possible. They make it to the stone where the King of the Dead pledged to Aragorn's ancestor. Aragorn yells for the oath breakers to approach. He tells their leaders that they may depart to peace once the war is over. Halbarad unfurls the standard and they ride towards the Anduin with the great army behind.