While Gandalf and Théoden are off talking to Treebeard, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli remain behind to chat it up with Merry and Pippin.
The hobbits lead the way to lunch.
Gimli notices that Merry and Pippin are in the bloom of health. In fact, they seem to have grown somewhat. Legolas agrees: they must have drunk the waters of the Ents.
Merry and Pippin have found a barrel of Longbottom Leaf in Saruman's stores. It's pipe-weed straight from the Shire.
Merry and Pippin have no idea how it got here, but they share it with Gimli.
They settle in outside for a smoke and a good talk. They seem to be having the time of their lives.
It is now March 5th.
Once Aragorn returns the two sheathed knives and the brooch from Pippin's Lothlórien cloak, the hobbits start their tale:
After beginning with Boromir's fall, they skim briefly over their time with the orcs because it is too painful to recall.
Five nights before, the Ents were roused to come to Isengard (props to Treebeard).
As they walked, they sang a song: "Though Isengard be strong and hard, as cold as stone and bare as bone,/ We go, we go, we go to war, to hew the stone and break the door!" (3.9.60).
They arrived at Nan Curunír, where Merry realized that the trees were moving behind them.
These are the Huorns—the Ents that have grown tree-ish.
When they reached Isengard, they stood quietly, watching as Saruman sent all of his troops marching away, in the hopes of finishing off the Riders of Rohan in one blow. There were ten thousand troops at least.
As soon as the gates shut behind them, the Huorns began to move south, following the orcs.
But the Ents stayed behind to deal with Isengard.
Treebeard hammered on the door, calling for Saruman.
All he got in reply were a few arrows. Well that's no way to have a conversation.
He was so angry that the Ents started to pull down the gates, with a "clang-bang, crash-crack" (3.9.72). Seriously, Saruman, you should know not to mess with Ents.
When the Ents broke down the southern gate, Saruman fled back into his tower, where he used some of his machinery to burn several of the Ents.
Treebeard raised his voice to get silence, to stop the furious Ents throwing themselves pointlessly against the indestructible walls of Orthanc.
So they decided to keep a watch on the tower, but they did not show themselves to Saruman.
Merry and Pippin spent the day looking around the tower, and saw Ents digging these big old pits.
Treebeard explained that their plan is to flood the place temporarily by diverting the waters of the Isen. They want to clean away the filth of Saruman.
Suddenly, a rider appeared: it was Gandalf. We're betting Merry and Pip were pumped to see him.
But Gandalf had more urgent business than reunions on his mind. He wanted to see Treebeard at once.
Gandalf consulted with Treebeard about the problem of 10,000 orcs descending on Helm's Deep that he had to deal with.
That's when Treebeard sent the Huorns to help. Oh, so that's what devoured all the fleeing orcs at the end of the battle.
Then, the waters of the Isen came rushing into Wizard's Vale.
It sent up great clouds of vapor as it quenched all the fires of Saruman's evil industries.
After washing away Saruman's works, the Ents returned the Isen to its riverbed, and since then, the water has been draining away into underground caverns.
Awesome, right? Gimli asks about Wormtongue.
Pippin tells them that Wormtongue arrived just that morning, and apparently, when he saw the wreckage of Isengard, his face went green. Ha.
When he clapped his eyes on Treebeard, he almost rode off, but Treebeard caught him just in time. He plucked the sniveling little jerk right off his horse and told him to go join his master, Saruman.
Meanwhile, Aragorn is still troubled by the news of the hobbits finding the Longbottom Leaf. There has never been any trade between Rohan and the Shire, so what's it doing there?
But, having much bigger fish to fry, he puts the thought out of his mind. It's not like Saruman can do any more damage, can he?