The story is about how they brought the good news from Ghent to Aix.
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At Aerschot, the sun rises again and the narrator notices the cattle watching their gallop. He also refocuses on keeping his own horse, Roland, at top efficiency. Near Hasselt, one of the riders, Dirck, is left behind when his horse dies and unseats him. The third rider, Joris, insists they continue onwards, and they do until they finally see Aix in the distance. At this moment, Joris's horse also dies and it is left to the narrator and Roland to carry the news onwards.
The narrator rids himself of his guns and some of his clothing to lessen the weight, and they make it into Aix. There, they are surrounded by gracious citizens while the narrator sits with Roland's head between his knees. The town gladly allows Roland to drink their "last measure of wine" in thanks for having carried the news.
The stakes are high and time is of the essence, so the narrator does not allow himself license to characterize anything except for the mission itself.
The one exception to this is his characterization of his horse, Roland. Other than the anxiety that permeates the ride, the only emotion he shows is a subtle admiration of the horse's dedication. Roland's "resolute shoulders," the "black intelligence" of his eye, and his "fierce lips" all distinguish his strength in a way that justifies the celebration that closes the poem.