Worth of a Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fan Fiction  |  House: Arron's View
At the start of the Fourth Age of Middle Earth, three young men debate starting a life of excitement and adventure in the western lands. Their dreams of glory are interrupted by an Old Man with a lifetime of experience. The old man gives the three younger men a large dose of reality. In short he shows them what is the worth of a life and how is it measured?

This story is taken mostly from the cinema version of Lord of the Rings: Lord of the Rings was written by J. R. R. Tolkien and copywrited by him and his estate. The Lord of the Ring movies are copywrited by New Line Cinema and Peter Jackson.

Submitted: April 03, 2016

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Submitted: April 03, 2016

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"I just heard from my Uncle that they will be forming a militia unit to take care of the Orcs in the north."

The rest of us all looked on in excitement at Galnic. All of us were thinking the same thing. Here at last was a chance to go out and do something other than build boats, mind shops, run errands, do chores, and take care of the livestock. We can go out and have a real adventure. Seek our own fame and own fortune instead of wasting away in the drudgery of our seemingly pointless lives.

"When are they going to start training?" Snarlan wanted to know.

"Next Market day, and every Market day and Wenselday afterwards," Galnic answered. My Uncle says the House Guard will be teaching sword and shield along with bow and arrow. The training will go on all winter on these days. Uncle says they want an army ready by early summer."

"Yea" I thought out loud, "but will our parents approve? They have to approve and I know my Da won't do it."

'Doesn't matter," Galnic said with glee. "The Duke says all men between sixteen and thirty five must turn out for training by law. Our parents have to let us train. The Duke will then take the best two thousand and they will become the militia."

"Forgive me for sounding like a poor sport," I broke in. "Have any of us ever trained with a sword other than what we did at the academy?"

"Who cares," Snarlan said dismissing my comment with a wave of his hand. "They are only Orcs, we will murder them."

"More than likely be murdered by them," a voice next to us spoke up. We looked over and saw Old Tom shaking his head while holding his wooden pipe. He leaned over looking at us with utter distain.

"I don't know where you three babies got the idea that Orcs are useless with a sword. I assure you they are not. Two good Orc leaders could come in this tavern right now and skewer everyone in it from what I have seen of your training. None of you are ready to fight Orcs and you still won't be ready after a winter of half-hearted training provided by the Duke. You need daily, close quarter combat training with instructors who know what they are doing. That is if you are planning on coming back from this little adventure with your heads still on."

I was going to speak up and then remembered what my Da told me about Old Tom. He said he had survived the siege of Minus Tirith and the battle outside the Black Gates of Mordor before coming here.

"And what do you know about it old man?" Galnic sneered.

"I know enough to have survived half a dozen fights with them, boy," he sneered right back. "I also know enough to have lived to my eightieth year. That is far longer than you three will get to live if go out next summer."

"Very well, then what should we do?" I asked politely.

'Stay home, grow up, find wives who love you, and raise children who will respect you," came the abrupt answer.

"And if we don't go, who will there be to respect us," Snarlen spat out.

"I don't have the foggiest idea who will respect you," he said sarcastically. "If you do go, I know exactly who will respect you; NO ONE! It is hard to respect someone whose bones lie face down in the mud."

"So we are just going to sit here and let the Orcs run loose in the north," Galnic went on.

Old Tom shook his head no. "I didn't say that. I said if you go out half prepared you are going to end up dead like most of the militia the Duke will take. That is what the Militia is for; to soak up the damages, before the well trained, well equipped, and very expensive house troops engage and kill the Orcs. House Guard troops cost about two gold each to train and equip, militia are silver a piece, and so who cares what happens to them."

He got up and took his stool and brought it over to our table. "Look, fools, if you three really want to fight, my suggestion is go down tomorrow to the House Guard and sign up for a year. They will train you, equip you and you will have some chance of survival. Afterwards you will be a solider and have a leg up when it comes to getting an apprenticeship with a good trade. Guild masters are always looking for people who can help defend them. You are all past the age of sixteen; you don't have to ask permission from anyone."

I had to admit it sounded like a good idea, but spending a year away from the family, that I wasn't sure about. My Da is a tinker and the family has known almost from birth I will follow him. Still it might be worthwhile to look into. However that did bring up something I was curious about.

"Tom, they say you fought at Minus Tirith. May I ask how you ended up here?

He laughed out loud. "That is a long story, but there might be a lesson in this for you three, so I will tell you, but first something for the thirst."

He reached into his pocket and took out a coin. "Sark," he called to the tavern keeper. The tall burley men turned as he tossed the coin up. It landed flat on the bar directly in front of him. The toss was perfect. I could see it was double silver. "For my young friends and me, bring us another round of the good stuff."

The tavern keeper nodded and went to the expensive ale cast. While that was happening old Tom leaned back in his chair.

"How I got here," he repeated." Well that started after the fight outside Mordor when Sauron was destroyed by Frodo Baggins. I had been in Osgiliath when the Orcs came and we got chased out. I actually missed most of the battle outside of Minas Tirith. I and about fifty guards followed behind the charge of King Théoden that scattered most of the Orcs. Aragon then arrived with an army of something that looked dead and finished the rest. When I got back to the city I found my father's blacksmith shop was destroyed in the siege. My parents, brothers and sisters were all killed. That broke any connection I had to the city. I mostly went to Mordor because at that point I really didn't care if I lived or died. Everyone I knew was dead. All of us who went knew we would not be coming back from that battle, but Frodo Baggins came through, Sauron was destroyed, and most of survived much to our amazement."

"How many Orcs did you kill?" Snarlan wanted to know.

"More than I care to remember Son," he said almost sadly."In any case after the battle we all went back to Minas Tirith. I watched Gandalf the White crown Aragorn King and then I attended the wedding between him and that Elf princess Arwen. I will tell you there was a wedding to remember, if I could. I don't think there was a sober guard in the city for four days. I still can't remember half of it."

He then stopped for a second; I could clearly see his eyes were moist. "It wasn't a bad place to live, but I didn't feel at home there anymore. I stayed with the guard even because a troop leader. A year later Aragorn send a delegation to the west to the human kingdoms over here. I volunteered to go with escort. We came over, did our job, and I deserted. I kind of think they knew I do it. I wondered around here until I came to this city. I was broke and asked around and found a blacksmith shop that made nails for the ship builders. I hired on with the old man and within a year he made me a partner. I got to know his daughter real well, a nice girl that had most of her brains in her chest and between her legs. She snared me and got pregnant. I married her and for the next forty five years worked as a blacksmith taking over after the old man died making nails and iron chains. I raised three children, two boys and a girl. My oldest boy took over my shop, after my wife died when I was seventy-three. My youngest is a Captain in a trading vessel. My daughter married a wool merchant's son. I now have eight grandchildren."

"Sounds like a great life," I told him, "especially when you were younger. You had adventure. We got nothing here."

Old Tom shook his head, by then the Tavern keeper's daughter came back with four pints of ale. She served the four of us and then walked away without a glimmer of expression on her face.

"See, look at her," I said in a low voice. "She did not even notice we were here. Yet look at her around that Guard Captain over there. You see how she smiles and flirts with him. To her we are no better than the furniture. Now if we had deeds to our name, then she notice us."

"Son," Old Tom said almost sounding like my Grand Da before he passed on. "She notices the Guard Captain because he has gold in his pocket and not for much else. You don't have gold in your pockets so she knows it is a waste of time to try and impress you. Besides, I know that guard. The only thing he has been noted for is how to stay out of harm's way. Let me tell you something else, being dead doesn't get you money either. If you want fame, you want riches, being in the Guard is your best way to do it. It is also the best way to stay alive long enough to enjoy both."

"Yes," Galnic cut in. "That is obvious, but you had your life. You had the riches, you had the fame. Even today people respect you for what you did. People don't give us a second look. You had a life of worth. You had adventure, you had a wife who loved you, you have children who respect you, you may not be rich like the Duke, but you are comfortable. We have none of that, nor are we likely to get it."

"And you think beating the crap out of some Orcs will get you that," Old Tom's face scowled not even trying to hide the contempt.

"It is a start," Galnic added. "It is more than we have now."

"Look at me, boy and listen," he said his voice starting to show some anger. "I have the money, but is has nothing to do with my deeds. It has to everything to do with hard work and standing 45 years in front of a hot forge. That was never my idea of a fun life. My wife, while pleasing to look at and I must admit fun to bed, never cooked a meal in her life, and couldn't sew on a button if her life depended on it. Her interests were in flowers, and gossip with other women who like her that had more idle time than brains to use it. A mother to my children she was not. We had to hire governesses to take care of my kids. My children occasionally come over and say hello, but mostly they have their lives and those lives don't include me. The respect I have was not because of what people thought of my deeds, but because I could beat the snot out of all of them until I reached 60. The last time I was called in for a council meeting at the palace was when the Old Duke lived, and that was before any of you were born. As for a having a life of worth, here is the worth of my life."

He reached into his pocket and threw something metallic on the table. I looked at it and saw it to be a nail shipwrights use to hold a hull together. "That son is the worth of my life. Now you heard my advice; you know what I think you should do; from here on out it is up to you."

He stopped and took a long drink of ale then wiped his mouth clean with his sleeve. "One final nugget of wisdom if you will allow me? Think long and hard about what you are going to do over the next few years. You entire life, long or short, will be defined by it. It will make the difference between having just a worth of a life, or a true life of worth. It is your choice lads."

With that he drained his mug, got up and walked out the front door.

I sat and thought about what he said for a long while before I went home.

The End


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