The familiar characters and the setting belong to Tolkien. I make no money from this story.
A group of soldiers await a new leader.
The men raised their tankards. “To the memory of Captain Amraith, may he journey in peace beyond the circles of the world!” they chorused.
“He was a good man who gave his life as a sacrifice for Gondor,” said Hallas, the youngest of the group.
“More like another sacrifice to the enemy,” said Derufin, a grizzled man with a scar over his right eyebrow.
“Such talk is bad for morale,” said Hirgon, the sergeant. He looked warily around the inn. It was filled with his comrades drowning their sorrows after the burial of their captain., One man, though, he had never seen before, a tall lanky fellow, who was sitting in the inglenook sipping his pint of ale. “Who’s that?” he asked in a low tone.
“He looks like the Captain General!” Hallas almost sprang up in alarm. His colleagues pushed him back on his seat.
“It’s Lord Denethor!” gasped Egalmoth, a man distinguished by his large nose. “We will be in trouble!”
“For what?” asked Hirgon, calmly sipping his drink. “We are breaking no rules toasting a fallen comrade. It can’t be Lord Denethor. What would he be doing in a lowly tavern?”
“It’s not Lord Denethor,” said Derufin. “I saw him a few years back when he addressed the company I was serving in. That fellow could almost be his brother, though!”
“I’ve received a letter from the Captain General,” said Hirgon, reaching inside his tunic.
“What does it say?” asked Hallas.
“I was waiting till we were all present to break the seal,” said the sergeant. He beckoned the men at the other tables to gather round then held up the letter and began to peruse it. “It is simply condolences to our company for the loss of Captain Amraith,” he began. Then his eyes widened and he swore under his breath.
“What’s wrong?” asked Derufin.
“I will read you what he says. He begins by offering condolences then continues ,Your Steward, the Lord Ecthelion, has appointed a new Captain for you, Thorongil, lately a Captain of Rohan. I am certain that your company hoped for a good man of Gondor, but we must all make sacrifices in these difficult times.”
“What?” gasped Derufin. “They are putting a Rohir in charge of us?” He banged his tankard down on the table.
“It seems like it,” said Hirgon grimly. “A Rohir! Doubtless, a brave man and an excellent rider, but what can he know of the way we do things in Gondor?”
“We are doomed,” said Egalmoth gloomily, “doomed!”
“To think we’ll all be led to our deaths by a clod hopping rider!” cried Derufin. “It’s all very well the Captain General saying we must all make sacrifices, but why sacrifice us in particular?”
“The Lord Steward must wish to please King Thengel of Rohan by appointing one of his officers,” said Hirgon. “The fellow will know nothing of fighting on foot, they are helpless as babes in arms without their horses!”
“He will speak only their unpronounceable tongue,” said Derufin. “How can he give orders? No doubt we’ll be punished for failing to understand gibberish!”
“Maybe we should see what he is like first?” said Hallas.
“And what do you know of the Rohirrim, boy?” said Derufin.
“My aunt is married to one of the Riders, he is brave and honourable man. Thorongil is not a name of Rohan, though.”
“You’re right,” said Hirgon. “He must have been born elsewhere. Maybe in the North?”
“So they they send us a savage from a frozen wasteland as our officer?” Derufin snorted. “I know the Steward likes to give men from foreign lands a chance to serve here, which is all well and good for common soldiers, but to place a foreign captain over us!”
“We should give him a chance,” said Hallas. “Maybe he is a good officer.”
Derufin snorted. “You won’t say that when you’re dead, sacrificed to please our betters!”
The men were so engrossed in their discussion that they failed to notice that the tall man had risen from the inglenook. He now towered over their table. Hirgon was the first to notice him. “What do you want?” he asked.
The man gave a strange smile then bowed. “To introduce myself,” he said. “I am Captain Thorongil.” With that, he turned away to speak to the tavern keeper.
The men stared at him dumbfounded. They shifted uneasily in their seats.
“What have we done?” said Derufin.
“We’ll be flogged for certain,” said Egalmoth, “most likely our pay will docked too.”
“Our leave will be cancelled for insulting a senior officer most like,” said Hirgon. “We’ll be drilled till we drop!”
They looked expectantly towards Hirgon, but the sergeant had nothing to say.
Thorongil approached the table again. He towered over them as he spoke.”Gentlemen, I suggest you note that I do not idly sacrifice my men. Victory is hollow when the price is paid in blood. You may tell me in a year’s time if you wish another had been appointed your captain. Today, though, is for toasting Captain Amraith. Landlord, bring more ale for my men!”