Legolas and Captain Roland: to Khand and Beyond
1. Legolas on the Road To Khand.
Once upon a time in the first years
of the realm King Elessar of blessed memory, it chanced that the Elf
Legolas Greenleaf undertook a great journey. Legolas, though bold
and equal to anything, did not travel alone. No, for he was not
seeking adventure only, but was undertaking a task for his friend the
King. With him he took some men of the Palace guard, among whom
were the gallant Captain Roland and Sergeant Daeron, and they began by
sailing down Anduin to Sardara in Far Harad, lately devastated by a
In Sardara the travelers from Gondor
did what they could to relieve the sufferings of the folk, but when
that task was accomplished Legolas and the others went out into the
countryside . In this they were joined by men of the Sardaran
Cavalry, men chosen by the Duke Askelon, cousin to King Darius.
They rode here and there but found that the folk of the countryside
were in need of nothing they could do, so they decided to go on to the
Empire of Khand in the East.
Much adventure befell them in the
first part of this journey. But all that is told of
in an earlier tale.We are going now along the Great Caravan Road
to Khand in the Spring of the year 1437 SR, some days after they left
the Blue Kingdom...........
Some days passed after leaving the Blue Kingdom before Legolas
Greenleaf was able to put aside the melancholy he carried from that
place. He knew that the painful memories would never completely
leave him, but he buried them as deep in his heart as he could, and
took up his old carefree ways as best he might. The men
looked to him to show the way, and while he took on the role of leader
reluctantly, he could not now shed it.
The men who rode with him were still the mixed company that had
set out from Sardara in February. Some were young and reckless
and some were seasoned and wary, but all felt their spirits lift when
they were free of Lord Luinil's vale. Captain Roland put
his sorrow away and put a brave face on his troubles. Lady Nienna
was not more lost to him now than she had ever been, and he began to
see that his worship of her had had less to do with love than
longing. That fragile Elven beauty, the sweet sadness in her dark
eyes-these had awakened his heart, had made him burn with the desire to
protect her from pain. It would always be a sorrow, but
time would press it into memory scented with regret, as a pressed
flower holds yet some of its perfume.
They rode now through wild country indeed. The Great
Caravan Road for some way paralleled the River, now known as the
River Ulana. It was become a great river, no longer bound by the
walls of the Great Chasm and some leagues nearer its outlet; it was
broad and deep and could not be forded safely. Yet the Great
Caravan road crossed it and turned somewhat to the North and they rode
in expectation of coming to the crossing. They encountered
several Westbound caravans, but were unable to learn just where they
could cross the Ulana, directions were vague and given in languages
none of them understood very well.
Before they had entered the Great Chasm they had ridden across desert,
but this land, despite the river, was wilder and more savage. The
rocks were stacked up like decks of playing cards and often they had
been turned on edge by some unimaginable power. Such vegetation
as there was grew close to the ground, for the wind was constant and
fierce. And about midday on the fifth day from the Blue Kingdom
the sky darkened, the wind grew more savage, and suddenly they were in
the midst of a tremendous hailstorm. The hailstones were the size
of walnuts, and stung hotly when they struck.
All dismounted quickly and sought what shelter there was. An
overhanging rock offered enough space so they led their horses under it
and prepared to wait it out. Never had any of them seen such
hail. Within minutes the ground was white, and still it came
down. It had become bitterly cold, they could see their breath,
and the horses steamed. The men sat with their backs to the rock,
but Legolas stood just under the edge of the overhang and watched the
furious storm. He was always enchanted by any manifestation of
the power of Nature, and never did he seem to feel fear.
What had begun wildly grew wilder still, the hailstones became larger
and struck so hard they burst apart, and the black sky was rent by
great lightnings, and the roar of thunder could be heard even over the
sound of the falling ice.
Sergeant Daeron swore and closed his eyes. "This is more storm
than I have ever seen, " he said. "I pity anyone caught out in
it. We are lucky to have found this overhang."
Doubtful it is that anyone heard him. They sat in stunned silence
until finally the storm had passed. The black clouds raced
Westward, the Sun returned and the glare of it on the ice was
blinding. They looked out on winter it seemed; as far as they could see
the ground was fetlock deep in hailstones. Now a white mist
rose and they could hear the shifting of the hailstones melting,
innumerable little settling noises that gathered themselves into a
strange hushing murmur.
Legolas laughed and all joined him. Such a fury of noise and
storm, so soon blowing over, and to end with this soft
whispering! After taking their midday meal they rode
on, and soon they were sober enough. No growing thing was left
unharmed, and they saw a number of dead beasts as well. The air
was still cold, despite the Sun, for the cold seemed to seep upwards
against the rule of nature and all were glad when finally the ice
In these regions the darkness fell quickly. There were no long
twilight hours such as there were in the North, and as the Sun neared
the horizon they made camp while it was still daylight. Often
they did not put up tents, but this night they did, and as well most of
them put their saddle blankets over their bedroll. Legolas seemed
never to feel the cold, but even he sat close to the cheerful fire,
holding his hands out to the warmth. His face bore its usual
expression of serenity, but his eyes held as always that look of calm
alertness. The horses stamped their feet, the flames crackled,
some nightbird called.
Captain Roland busied himself with writing one of his letters to his
brother Ronceval in Minas Tirith. He wondered what Ron made of it all,
or for that matter, what King Elessar thought of the reports Legolas
had sent. They had rather exceeded their original intent of
surveying the damage done to the countryside of Far Harad by the great
Earthquake, but none of them was ready to turn around and ride homeward
on the Great Caravan road. Their intention now was to make Khand,
and its capital city on the shores of the Eastern Sea.
None in this party had ever been so far to the East, not even Sergeant
Axelder of the Sardaran Cavalry, There was little known in either
Sardara or Gondor about Khand, but there were plenty of wild folk
stories and old wives' tales. One in especial made the men laugh
and that was the notion held by some that there were no women in
Khand. Captain Roland had seen the queer little Ambassador from
Khand who had been at King Elessar's court the Fall before, but that
poor man, Amsat Khan, had died in the great Influensa epidemic of
January. True enough that he brought no women with him, but Sergeant
Axelder maintained that he did not doubt that Amsat Khan and all the
other men of Khand were got and born in the usual fashion, and that
Khand was as likely to be full of beautiful women as any other land.
Khand is where the Tea comes from, they knew. And the fabulous
Tea cups that Lord Luinil had served it in. The Land of Tea and
Spices. But here on the barren plateau above the River Ulana
there was no perfume of exotic spices, there were no Princes dressed in
scarlet and gold, nothing but the night wind and the white stars above.
Near Midday the next day they came to the place where the Great Caravan
Road crossed the River Ulana. Here was no ford, but a ferry.
It fell out that the loaded ferry was coming toward them from the
opposite shore and they watched as the heavily laden vessel crossed the
great river. It was drawn by ropes attached to it fore and aft,
and the ropes ran through pulleys attached to posts on each shore;
mules walked in endless circles to move the ferry. The clumsy
craft drew up to the landing spot and then the whole of the end of it
fell open to make a gangway.
Men led Dromedaries and horses ashore, and up the steep bank to the
place where Legolas and the men waited. The ungainly dromedaries
grunted and wheezed and the men shouted and ran beside them to get them
moving, but all the drovers stared at Legolas sitting upon his grey
horse, his fair hair lifted by the river breeze. The Khandians
drew up a space beyond and sat on their heels in the shade of their
Meantime Sergeant Axelder rode down to the ferry landing and engaged in
some parley with the ferryman. He turned, waving Legolas and the
others on and they led their horses up the gangway onto the ferry.
"Three gold Rabats is his price," Axelder said. "I think it a
high price to pay for being put in danger of drowning, but we wish to
cross and that is his fee."
Sergeant Daeron opened his pocketbook and counted out the coins and
handed them to the ferryman. He took them warily, each one was
examined carefully by his one good eye, each coin was bitten by his
evil-looking teeth. His other, wandering, eye seemed to follow
Legolas as he stuffed the coins into the purse he wore around his
neck. He muttered something, and made a sign with his right hand,
as if he was dropping something in the water. But when he saw
that he had been observed, he did something even stranger. He
drew out the purse again, picked out one of the gold Rabats, and
dropped it into the river.
Legolas moved nearer to Sergeant Axelder. "What a curious thing, Sergeant. Did you see that?" he asked.
Axelder nodded and said, his voice low, "He was making an offering of
some kind. Maybe these folk here think the River is a god, or
somewhat of that nature."
"So I thought," Legolas said. "But you saw that the first time he dropped nothing?"
"Aye," Axelder laughed. "But you saw that his hand was
empty. He knew you saw. I think the coin in the river had
something to do with you, Legolas." Axelder went on, "Do you
remember how the sight of those Elf ears of yours worked on the folk of
the Mines? Maybe there is another evil Elf lord in the river."
Legolas laughed. "Nay, Sergeant. Elves do not live in the
water, not that I ever heard. Like as not he thought I saw him
cheat the River, that's all."
When they reached the far shore they saw that there were still many
Dromedaries and Horses to be taken across. Sergeant Daeron
counted 50 packhorses and dromedaries, and over a dozen men on
horseback.; it would take another two crossings at least to get that
many beasts and men to the other side. As they rode up the bank
they saw the splendid gear of three horses in particular and one of
those riders moved forward to greet them.
He put up his hand and smiled at Legolas and the two Sergeants.
He said something, smiling, his voice friendly, and waited for a
Axelder shrugged and said, "I cannot make it out. Perhaps he will understand me-"
But the man shook his head, laughing. He gestured to the
other two horses dressed as his was. As they came up, it was seen
that there were women riding them, although their faces and hair were
covered with scarves. Their robes were rich and trimmed with
masses of gold braid, and their hands, which could be seen, were
heavily be-ringed. As had been true with the nomad's daughter
Larissa, their lovely dark eyes were enticing above their veils, it was
easy to imagine their beauty. Upon seeing Legolas their eyes
widened and they spoke to their companion excitedly, their voices
charming and musical, but not a word could anyone with Legolas
They moved off, and rode down onto the ferry, looking back over their
shoulders as they reached the gangway. Meanwhile Trooper Ephaz
and Trooper Gardaz finished retying the packhorses and remounted, and
they all took to the Road.
Within two hours of riding the nature of the countryside changed from
savage desolation to grassland studded here and there with clumps of
trees. They were riding Northeast, away from the River Ulana, and
now and again they crossed streams flowing South to join it. It
was rich grazing country and just now in the full bounty of the late
spring. The road was straight and well used, but there was no one
else on it.
Though it was early, they stopped and made camp by a stream overhung
with willows. The horses were unpacked and offsaddled and put on
long pickets. Ephaz, ever the careful horsemaster, ran his hands
over all the horses and tended to their feet. The other men
groomed the horses and cleaned their gear, sprawling on the lawn that
sloped down to the stream.
Gardaz dug out his fishing pole. "I fancy some trout for dinner,"
he said. "Did anyone else nabble one of that Blue Lord's fishing
Anborn had, and they two moved upstream a bit. The other men
stripped and bathed in the clear water and washed out some of their
linen. A few took the opportunity to shave, as well,
heating water in the camp kettles and taking turns at the one looking
glass hung on a tree trunk. The air was warm and soft, birds
could be heard in the branches overhead. Soon trout were frying
over the campfire. Legolas sat on his haunches tending to the
trout, using one of his long knives to turn them when
needed. Sergeant Daeron, who was a capital cook,
mixed up some of the bread he called bannock, and baked it in his
They sat long after their dinner, telling tales by the fire. Now
again some of the doings of the Blue Kingdom were discussed, but at
first neither Capain Roland nor Legolas took part. They sat
somewhat apart, both writing by the firelight. Legolas was done
sooner than Roland, and he wrapped his journal up and put it in his
saddlebag, then joined the men.
They kept watch, as always, turn and turn about. Nothing happened
to disturb the night. The next morning they were on the road
early. Still damp clothes were draped over the packhorses, drying
in the morning sun.
All that day they rode without a sight of anyone, but just as they were
thinking of stopping they came upon a hamlet beside the road, and one
building was evidently an Inn. They did not wish to stay at an
Inn, but they knew they had better ask where they might be allowed to
set up camp. And all were looking forward to some ale, and
perhaps learning somewhat of what lay ahead of them.
The place was small, but the folk in the road were prosperous looking,
and the houses and byres were sturdily built and well kept. A
great sow with a dozen piglets wandered across the road, and a couple
of dogs ran barking beside the horses. Two women were gossiping
over a bit of fence, and the Innkeeper was sitting on the stone step of
his inn with a mug of ale in his hand.
Once again Sergeant Axelder did the talking. The innkeeper spoke
some Haradlin, enough to welcome them. He stared somewhat
at Captain Roland and the other Guardsmen from Minas Tirith, and a
little more at Legolas, but it was his business to sell ale to
travellers and he was not about to be rude. They were able to
camp on the greensward behind the inn, and picket their horses there,
too, and soon their evening camp was laid out.
"What say you," Sergeant Daeron said, "shall we try the ale in this place? Play off the dust of the road?"
Sergeant Axelder nodded. "I am fair parched, friend Daeron.
Let us set a couple of these lads to guard duty, and then we'll have
that innkeeper open his tap."
It was nearly dark in the taproom, but their eyes adjusted to the dim
light soon enough. The innkeeper drew mugs for all and indicated
that the first round was on the house.
"Ah," Ephaz said, after a draining half his ale in one swallow. "That goes down a treat, doesn't it?"
Legolas nodded. "It is good ale, indeed. A pleasant
room, too." He leaned back on the bench and looked around
appreciatively. "Look you at those hangings, Roland. They are
very fine, are they not?"
Roland peered at the picture nearest him. "It is needlework,
Legolas, and as good as any I have seen. Let's see, what is
this? Yes. A man on a horse, and a maiden picking
flowers.....yes....look at the butterflies, how neatly they are
done. It puts me in mind of the tale of Luthien and Beren."
"You look at pictures? My daughter make," the innkeeper said, in halting Westron.
"They are lovely," Roland said.
The innkeeper shrugged. "Yes, she clever with fingers, my
girl. So. Now, gentlemen. My girl, she sew. My
wife, she cook. You eat here?"
"What say you, men?" Legolas asked. "Shall we have our dinner in here?"
It was decided to do so, and it proved to be a happy
choice. The landlord's wife put a good meal before them, very
welcome after days of camp cookery. As they sat about after, over
another round or two of ale, the locals began to come in. They
kept to one side of the room, not unfriendly exactly, but not too
forthcoming. Travelers were no novelty here. As always,
Legolas drew all eyes, but soon enough they were caught up in their own
Captain Roland wandered about the room and spent some time gazing at
another picure on the far wall. Sergeant Axelder came up to
see what fascinated him so, and saw that the picture was in three
panels, and each panel told a tale. The first one showed two
maidens swimming, and beside them a great fish, and on the fish's back
was a man with a three-pronged spear in his hand. The maidens
were lovely, and they were naked, but where their legs should have been
they had fish's tails. Roland smiled and said, "I should like to
meet one of those maidens, I think. But I reckon they would be as
slippery as a fish, eh?"
Axelder laughed. "Aye, very likely. This is an old tale,
Captain, of the maidens who live in the sea-kingdom. We have it
in Sardara, too, and sailors at the docks swear to have seen these
"Are not sailors famous for their tales?" Roland said. "And here,
you see, in this panel, the great dragon spewing fire, and a the poor
knight in danger of more than just a bit of scorching."
Sergeant Axelder leaned closer. "And in the tower? A
maiden, simpering. Did those maidens never think of sticking a
spear into the dragon on their own account?" He took Roland's
mug. "Here, Captain. Let me get you another."
Roland peered at the third panel. Here was a knight ahorse, a
maiden riding pillion. They were racing ahead of a great many
legged monster in the form of an enormous spider. The spider had
most natural looking golden eyes gleaming with malice, her jointed legs
ending in vicious claws. The knight had his noble gaze
fixed on the road ahead, but the maiden was looking back at the spider
and she managed both to simper and look terrified. Roland
smiled. This was an old tale in Gondor, too.
Two weeks of easy riding through the pleasant weather brought them to
the city of Haikan on the 10th of June in the year 1437 SR. The
Great Caravan road met the Cheechako River and then followed it to the
coast, where the sprawling city sat several leagues upriver from
the Sea. The men of Gondor and Far Harad both called this water
the Eastern Sea, but to the folk of Khand it was the Cerula, or
From the journal of Captain Roland, Guardsman of Minas Tirith, 10 June 1437 SR.....
We came upon the city Haikan near midday. For several days we
have seen much river traffic of small Boats, and we passed through a
number of fishing villages. But as we drew near the City proper the
river banks became like sloughs, it is easy to see the Road must often
be flooded if there is high water. At about this Point the
road turned somewhat to the North onto drier land, so that we came down
into the city from that direction.
Haikan is a very large city, much spread out. We rode through
rich farmland given over to Green crops in such black earth it steamed
in the Sun. There were Guardposts on the road just here,
and we had to stop and state our business. Axelder managed to do
the thing, and we were allowed to pass, I suspect that Word of our
coming had reached them before we did, anyway. I wondered
somewhat that Legolas did not make himself known here, I think it is
his intention to seek admission to the Court of the Emperor. But
when I asked him he said he wished to look about himself for a Time
first, and that is just like Legolas, he never wishes to act in Haste.
My first impressions are a great jumble. It is so foreign to
anything I have ever seen, even in Sardara. The land being very
flat makes the city's size hard to gauge, until you realize how long it
takes to ride to the Centre. The oldest part of the city is
nearest the River, of course, and since it has no harbour, the
Sea-going craft come up here for anchorage. We rode slowly
through very crowded streets, and few seemed to mark us. Since it
had come on to Rain, we all had our hoods up and so Legolas must have
seemed like any other traveler to the folk, and no one stared at him.
Sergeant Axelder was of the opinion that we ought to make for the
waterfront, he says such places are ever more welcoming than where
land-dwellers rule. It is his conviction that Sailors and such
folk are more tolerant of Strangers. Since we had no notion of
where else we might find lodging, we agreed to follow his Advice.
As we drew near the Water, the horizon showed a forest of masts, and as
we rode down the slight incline to the Dock area, we saw that there
were indeed scores of ships at anchor. Naught like these have I
ever seen, but it is True that I have not seen much in the way of
Ships. They sit very high out of the water and they are big,
bigger than any three or four ships of Gondor or Far Harad. There
seem to be six or seven floors, or Decks as I must properly call them,
in each ship and I would guess they are manned by two or three score of
Men at least on each. Another thing that much struck me was that
there are no Oar-ports, and I suppose that they are not rowed, but
depend always on the Winds.
However, we had to find an Inn or Lodging of some kind, and we began to
look about us for such a place, the ships and the docks could be seen
later. Inns here, as in Minas Tirith, are shown by
the signs hanging out front, which is just as well as none of us can
read anything in Khandese. Axelder can make out to be understood
in talk, but I feel like laughing often, his moustache seems fairly to
bristle with the Effort it takes. One Inn stood back some way
from the street and from the size and style of it I guessed it to be
the Upper sort of place, and since we are not Purse-pinched yet, we
decided to go in. There was an Hostler who took charge of the
horses, though of course good old Ephaz went along, and the rest of us
went up the brick Steps to the entrance.
We went into the place, and since there was no one about Sergeant
Daeron rang the bell on the Counter. No one came and so he rang
it again. Upon a third ring a woman burst in from another room
and she was scolding before she got properly in.
Well, she read us our Sins for quite a space of time, but since we
understood not one Word, we stood unprotesting, hoping, or at least I
did, that she would run herself out of Breath. She is a plump,
motherly looking woman, very comely though well on in years, her
white hair spilling out from under a Cap, her roundness enveloped by an
apron over a black gown, and her sleeves turned up, showing sturdy,
muscular arms. She finally stopped her scolding and stood with
her hands on her Hips, regarding us with suspicion and annoyance, and
evidently waiting for someone to say something. Axelder stepped
forth. Leaving him to arrange matters, the rest of us backed
Cowardly away into the open Taproom. No speech was necessary to
get Ale, and so we sat at a table facing the Entrance and watched as
Axelder tamed the Virago.
It took some time. He came in at last and sat down and wiped his
brow. "Ale!" he said. "I have had heavy work, men, to get
Mother there to let us stay in her House!"
"Why did she scold so?" I asked.
"Oh, she was scrubbing somewhat somewhere or other, I gather, and
objected to being taken from her work," Axelder answered. He drew
deeply on the Ale and set the mug down and looked about him.
"This is a fine place, for a Dockside inn. She keeps things
shining, at any rate! Look at those brasses."
"She brews good Ale, too," Sergeant Daeron said. Then he stopped and I turned to see what had drawn his attention.
Two women had come into the taproom. They were as like as Peas in
a pod, and though past their first youth, they were both very
Beautiful and enough like the Landlady that I knew them for her
daughters. They were tall and dark-haired and had somewhat of the
features of the folk of Khand that we had seen, although we had
truthfully seen few women. They regarded us with interest and
came over to our table and both Axelder and Daeron leaped to their
feet, as if it had been arranged that they should.............