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7
The Legend of Lady Khorsheed

Young Lord Herumor is “played” by Stuart Townsend, in all my stories that are related to Halabor.

The Legend of Lady Khorsheed is based on the legend of the lady Carcas, which tells the story behind the name of the medieval French town Carcassonne. Khorsheed is Persian and means Sun; as I made the lady a Haradric princess, she needed a name that sounded foreign enough. Besides, I have based one of the largest Haradric realms on ancient Persia, so it would be fitting.


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CHAPTER 07 – THE LEGEND OF LADY KHORSHEED

Faramir blushed a little. Not that he was ashamed of his own bookish nature – ‘twas something his brother often teased him about – but he was by his very nature shy with people he did not know well. He turned around, just a little self-consciously, to see in whose company his brother had caught up with him. He saw a young man, mayhap of Boromir’s age, mayhap even a little younger; yet where Boromir was solid and powerful like a young oak, this other young man was slender and long-limbed like a birch-tree. He seemed almost fragile next to Boromir’s strong frame, but Faramir had been often enough in the company of trained warriors to know that there was steely strength in that slim body.

The young man wore the usual blue of Dol Amroth but without the white belt that would distinguish him as a knight – he most likely was not one, at least not yet. His long, slightly coarse dark tresses had not been shorn above his shoulders in knightly fashion yet, either; they framed his oval face like curling dark flames.

‘Twas a fine young face that still had something of the softness of a child left (he had to be very young indeed), and the large hazel eyes that seemed to change between green-grey and brown, depending on the light mirrored in them, sat a bit too close to each other over the fine, patrician nose, while his lips were softly curved like those of a girl. Only the very high forehead and the surprisingly thick brows added the necessary hardness of a warrior to that pretty face.

The neck of the fine silk shirt he wore under the blue surcoat was open, allowing a glimpse at his smooth, sleek chest and the silver pendant he wore on a thin, black leather string. It was shaped like a four-leaved clover, with a triangular shield upon it, displaying a rampant dragon. Upon all four leaves of the clover, stylized gladden flowers were depicted. The pendant was apparently the emblem of his family, but it was not one that Faramir could recognize.

Boromir laid a friendly arm around his companion’s shoulder and smiled at his brother.

“May I introduce… my brother, Faramir,” he said to the stranger. “Brother, this is Herumor son of Orchaldor, soon a Swan Knight, and perchance one day the Lord of Halabor.”

“May that day not come for many years yet,” Herumor added fervently and offered Faramir the traditional warrior’s greeting. “I still have much to learn about how to be a leader of Men; our town shall need the strong guiding hand of my father for a long time yet.”

Faramir found the modesty of the young man very appealing. As a rule, young knight-probationers were just a wee bit haughty, even those who were to become Swan Knights. Something made him wonder, though.

“Why has your father given you that name?” he asked. “The name with bad memories lasting upon it? The name of a traitor?”

At the same moment, he regretted his question already, realizing just a beat too late that he had been inexcusably rude. The warning look Boromir gave him promised a thorough dressing-down later.

But young Herumor took no offence. Perchance he had been asked the same question before; or else he was not easily offended. Faramir could not tell, but in any case, he showed no anger at all.

“’Tis an old and honourable name that hails back to before the fall of Númenor,” he answered with a shrug and a smile. “I intend to make it a proud one again, no matter who might have besmirched it in the distant past.”

He glanced up to the Tower of Rollo, where a huge sun-clock was embedded into the thick stone wall and frowned, seeing how late it had become already.

“’Tis almost time for the midday meal. We should better go back to the Caste; Uncle Forlong does not like people coming to his table late. I have spent many an afternoon hungry as a child when I failed to appear in time. And while I do not believe that he would do the same to honoured guests, ‘tis better not to annoy him.”

“Should we not seek out the others?” asked Faramir, realizing for the first time that he had lost sight of his original company quite some time ago.

“There is no need for that,” replied Herumor. “They are with Madenn, are they not? She knows what time they ought to be back.”

“Aye, but what if they are looking for me?” asked Faramir anxiously. “I cannot remember when or where I got separated from them… I wish not for anyone to get in trouble because of me!”

“That is very kind of you,” said Herumor with an open, almost infectious smile that showed that he meant it indeed. “Where did you see them the last time?”

“At the toy-maker’s booth,” answered Faramir. “I did not mean to slip away from the guards, honestly…”

“You just could not resist the siren song of the books and got lost in the crowd,” added Boromir, grinning.

“It matters not,” said Herumor. “We should return to the toy-maker’s booth and ask for Madenn. Everyone in town knows her – and she is not easily overlooked.”

As he was the one who knew the place best, the Steward’s sons followed him as he weaved his way through the crowd and among the booths with ease. The toy-maker then pointed out for them the direction in which Madenn and the children had left, and they picked up the trail at the wool merchants again. That led to even more asking and searching, ‘til they finally ran into one of the guards near the bridge.

“Lady Madenn has taken the children back to the Castle,” the man explained to Herumor’s question. “She left us behind to look for young Master Faramir and take him safely back home, too. Venec is looking among the stalls and I decided to wait here, should the young master try to return on his own.”

“You had the right hint, it seems,” said Herumor. “Go and fetch your fellow guard, then; Lord Boromir and I shall guide the boy back to the Castle.”

The guard saluted smartly and left, relieved that he and his fellow would not get in trouble for losing sight of the young lordling. Boromir, Faramir and Herumor crossed the Bridge and were allowed into the upper town, choosing the shortest way to the Castle.

Halfway there, they came upon a wide, open square that often served as the local flower and herb market, according to Herumor. In the middle of the square the stone figure of a strange creature lay: it had the body of a lion, with the head and the upper torso of a woman, whose thick hair was ordered in numerous thin, interwoven plaits, similar to ancient Haradric fashion. Her face, too, had foreign traits, with hawkish features and almond eyes, and her brow was adorned with a string of strange coins – well, the stone images of strange coins anyway.

Faramir came to a halt before the statue and stared at it in surprise. He had not noticed it in the excitement on their way to the fair, but now he wanted to learn more about it.

“What is that?” he asked in bewilderment, for never before had he seen such a strange thing, not even on the shields of the various knights visiting Minas Tirith.

Herumor, familiar with the statue since his early childhood, gave it but a cursory glance.

“That? Oh, just a statue to honour the Lady Khorsheed,” he said with a shrug.

The Steward’s sons exchanged identical blank looks.

“She looks… strange,” Boromir commented carefully. Herumor grinned at him apologetically.

“Sorry. I forgot that you might not be familiar with the legend. ‘Tis a local one and not known beyond the walls of the town, I deem. I heard it from my mother when I was very little.”

Considering that the Lady Humleth had died when Herumor had been less than four, it had been a long time ago indeed.

“There is a legend?” Faramir’s eyes brightened in curiosity. Boromir shook his head, amused.

“You just had to mention the legend to him, had you?” he said to Herumor. “Now you will have to tell him the whole tale, or he will not be able to sleep tonight.”

“Well, we cannot have that, now can we?” laughed Herumor. “Anyhow, ‘tis only a legend, and perchance not even true, but the people of Carvossonn believe in it faithfully, and who am I to question it? The Lady Khorsheed is said to have been a Haradric princess who came to Lossarnach as a prisoner of war during the Kin-strife but fell in love with the Lord of Lossarnach and became his wife. There are ballads about their love; you should ask Uncle’s minstrels to sing them for you.”

The excitement in Faramir’s eyes told them that he would, indeed, ask the minstrels for those ballads.

“Years later, though, when the Corsairs of Umbar sailed up the Anduin and the other rivers, a strong army of them besieged Carvossonn,” Herumor continued. “At that time, only the upper town existed yet, and it was called Carvinock back then, the ‘rocky fort’. The Lord of Lossarnach was away to fight in the Battle at the Crossing of Erui. The Corsairs tried to persuade Lady Khorsheed to open the gates for them – after all, they were her people – but out of love to her husband and the people of the town, she refused. Thus the Corsairs decided to starve the people within the walls, as they knew all too well that there were but a few men to protect the town; most of them went away with the Lord to the great battle. The Corsairs hoped that the Lady Khorsheed would give up as soon as the women, the children and the old people hiding in the town ran out of food, rather than let them starve.”

Herumor paused, as if he wanted to see whether Faramir was still listening to him. He needed not to worry; the youth, always a lover of ancient legends, hung on his words with rapture.

“What happened then?” asked Faramir impatiently. “Did the Lady give up?”

“Nay, she did not,” replied Herumor. “Instead, she had the last pig they still had within the walls be fed with the last ounce of grain from the Lord’s pantry and ordered the pig to be thrown out to the Corsairs.”

“Why would she do such thing?” asked Faramir, his eyes wide with astonishment. Herumor smiled.

“Well, ’twas a risky decision, but it proved a wise one. For tidings from the Battle at the Crossing of Erui were not good for the Corsairs; and she made them believe the defenders of Carvinock still had food in abundance, if they could afford to throw a well-fed pig out into their rows. Thus they broke camp and retreated in a great hurry, so that they would not get caught up in the aftermath of the great battle fought further South.”

“Twas a smart move from the Lady,” Faramir admitted; then he glanced at the statue with a frown. “But why does she look like a woman above and like a lion below?”

“’Tis an ancient custom among the Old Folk to show the virtue of a person symbolized by a noble beast,” explained Herumor. “This statue tells us that the Lady Khorsheed had the beauty of a princess and the fierce bravery of a lion. Besides, some Haradric tribes do carry beasts on their banners that look like a lion with a face of a man, so mayhap this should give us a hint about her origins, too.”

“Was she truly a Haradric princess?” asked Faramir doubtfully.

“That I cannot tell,” admitted Herumor. “I asked Master Andrahar if his people have heard about her, but he could not remember. Mayhap she came from a different Haradric realm, although her name is one used in Master Andrahar’s old home. Mayhap she never existed outside of the legends – who could say for certain after such a long time? But we would better hurry up now, if we wish to be on time for the midday meal. Come with me, you can visit the Lady another time again.”

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