A Leader of Men

Title: A Leader of Men

Author Name: Linda Hoyland

Prompt: "There came a time of winter, when night was dark and without moon; and the wide plain of Ard-galen stretched dim beneath the cold stars, from the hill-forts of the Noldor to the feet of Thangorodrim. The watch-fires burned low, and the guards were few; on the plain few were waking in the camps of the horsemen of Hithlum." (The Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin")

Write a story or create art from the point of view of the foot soldiers or horsemen who participated in any of the battles in Middle-earth.

Summary: A young soldier fears to march to Mordor

Rating: PG

Warnings: none

Beta: none

Author's Notes: OC-centric. Some lines are taken directly from Tolkien from whom I've borrowed the canon characters and settings.

Túrin had always considered himself a brave enough man. Had he not volunteered to join the Lord of Lossarnach’s Guard when he was fifteen and fought courageously in countless battles against the Enemy?

This time, though was different; before when he had marched into battle, he had always cherished some hope of returning home to his family, however small that hope might be. This time there was no hope of defying the odds and surviving. All he could hope for that he would die bravely with his sword in his hand.

This place too, chilled his heart. Never had he thought he would be told to march boldly into Mordor. Surely, his commanders had taken leave of their senses? It was madness to attempt to defeat the Dark Lord with a force of a mere seven thousand or so when Sauron had so vast a host at his command.

Once they left Ithilien behind, some of his comrades quaked with fear when they beheld the desolation before them. Horses refused to go forward while men froze in their tracks seized with dread.

Túrin knew little of the Captain from the North, or was he a King, as some were saying? It was all very confusing. He, together with the White Wizard, was leading them. Maybe he would feel better if Lord Furlong had not been slain or Lord Boromir? Lord Faramir was a leader he admired too, but he was still recovering from his wounds. He knew and trusted them, but what did this Northerner know of Gondor? Túrin did know that the stranger carried the emblems of Elendil and had helped turn the tide of battle a few days before, but he was not one of them like Lord Forlong or the Steward's sons.

The nearest captains tried to urge the stragglers onward. “Come on,” cried one. “Do you want to be hung for desertion?”

“Better to hang that to fall into the Dark Lord’s clutches,” muttered one man nearby .

A hush fell over the group as the Captain from the North rode towards them. “Let there be no talk of hanging,” he said. “Any man who wishes can leave. Now.”

Túrin’s spirits soared. Could he really go home to his wife and baby son and abandon this futile death march?”

A murmur broke out amongst the men. Some looked up hopefully while others shuffled their feet and stared at the ground.

The Northern Captain raised his hand for silence. “I know and understand the horror that has seized your hearts,” he said. “You are young men and far from home. To many of you, Mordor was but a whispered name in dark tales. You now feel as if you are in some evil dream from which there is no awakening. I Aragorn, son of Arathorn tell you go! Keep what honour you may, though, and do not run! And there is a task which you may attempt and so be not wholly shamed. Take your way south-west till you come to Cair Andros, and if that is still held by enemies..., then re-take it, if you can; and hold it to the last in defence of Gondor and Rohan!”

Many of Túrin’s comrades turned about and prepared to depart in joyful amazement at this unexpected turn of events. Túrin was about to thankfully join them when he looked up and met Aragorn’s gaze. He saw stern features and keen grey eyes, but there was such compassion and understanding in those eyes too. He had much admired Lord Furlong, but never had he looked at his men like this Captain from the North did. This Aragorn was a great leader of men, the like of which, Túrin had never seen before. This was no reckless seeker after glory, but a leader who truly cared about his men.

His courage returned and with it his hope. He noticed that some of the men around him had turned about again. For an instant, Túrin wavered. He could win honour at Cair Andros and not be shamed in the eyes of his comrades or his family. He need never set foot in the dread Black Land. Then he knew he no longer wanted to turn back. He wanted to follow this Aragorn, even if meant following him to his death. Túrin could think of far worse ways to die that at this man’s side.

A/n. Written for the 2014 BTMEM Challenge.

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