The Chronicles of Khand - Part B: The Ninth

<p>The Warlord of Urig Urpof <em>S.A. 1988-1999</em><br /> <br /> After his exile to Sturlurtsa Khand in 1988, &Ucirc;vatha Achef, son of Kionid, had joined the army of the new Emperor, Earvun&ucirc;hki son of Ginnur&ucirc;k. Showing great swordsmanship and almost preternatural skills with a bow and on horseback, he was promoted to the elite guard of the Emperor, and men began to call him &lsquo;the Horseman&rsquo;. During the conquest of Kom&ucirc;l, &Ucirc;vatha fought bravely in defence of the capital of Sturlurtsa Khand, and permitted further scorn to his traitorous uncle Mionid, who had let the enemy walk in with barely a fight. Nevertheless, the son of Kionid saw his land burn, his fellows cut into rags, and his own Emperor fall at the hands of the Black Easterling. Consumed by hatred of Mionid, and of Kom&ucirc;l, he vowed to not permit such men to have dominion over his people again.<br /> <br /> When Urig of the house of Urpof, former General-Regent of the city of Ammu Khand, became the client King of Lower Khand, &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s prowess in the war was recognised, and he was promoted to become the Warlord of Urig Urpof. His first test as the sole commander of an army came when Urig, under instructions from Sauron&rsquo;s vassal Kham&ucirc;l, ordered Warlord &Ucirc;vatha to take the greater part of Lower Khand&rsquo;s army and attack the Dark Lord&rsquo;s enemy King Ard the Vain, who now controlled much of Near Harad. However, in a swift battle, &Ucirc;vatha turned against his allied army from Mordor, destroying those loyal to Sauron. Winning the support of Ard, and the trust of the Variag army &ndash; who were still wrathful against what Mordor had done to their land, &Ucirc;vatha returned with an army dedicated to him alone. When they were received back into Sturlurtsa Khand, &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s forces slew those loyal to Urig, and left the client King&rsquo;s head on a spike before the city gates. In usurpation of Kham&ucirc;l&rsquo;s power, &Ucirc;vatha had become King of Lower Khand.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Battle of the Achefs <em>S.A. 1999-2000</em><br /> <br /> Like Earvun&ucirc;hki before him, &Ucirc;vatha wielded a sword, in honour of his fallen Emperor. In gratitude for his allegiance, King Ard &ndash; in secret, the Lady Ad&ucirc;naphel of Westernesse, gifted her new ally with ancient and deadly blades of the Numenoreans &ndash; one of her own valuable assassin&rsquo;s knives, and the sword <em>Bragohortha</em> &ndash; &lsquo;sudden speed&rsquo;. With it, &Ucirc;vatha resolved to destroy his uncle Mionid, and reunite Khand under one ruler once more.<br /> Promising to his people that the Variags would never be slaves again, many rallied to his banner. His most notable ally was Lord Alvr&euml;valan, a master swordsman rumoured to be one of the heroic Zham&uacute;ras, who had recently settled in Lower Khand. Against such forces, the coward client King Mionid Achef would have surrendered to his nephew &ndash; if he had not been threatened by the servants of Mordor. Bolstered by his old enemies, the N&ucirc;riags, under the command of Mordor, the hosts of Upper and Lower Khand rode against one another, seeking open battle rather than a costly siege. Below the Steppes of Khand the forces of the enemy Achefs engaged in the battle for the fate of their land.<br /> <br /> Wielding the weapons of Ad&ucirc;naphel, and dressed in black as if in mourning for their dead Emperor, &Ucirc;vatha closely followed the vanguard and drove into the army of Upper Khand. As the battle waxed fiercely, he fought against the brutal warriors of N&ucirc;rad, and defeated their King in combat; his own wayward cousin. As the fighting drew on, Lord Alvr&euml;valan and his party of reconnaissance riders rode about the enemy, sowing chaos and confusion until the whole army was demoralised. Mionid was captured, and &Ucirc;vatha had won the Battle of the Achefs. <br /> <br /> <br /> The High Variag King <em>S.A. 2000</em><br /> <br /> It was said that immediately after the battle, &Ucirc;vatha took Mionid and personally tortured him for over three days. The agonies that the old client King must have suffered can only be speculated at, but it was rumoured that &Ucirc;vatha brought Mionid&rsquo;s wife and children before him and forced him to kill them. When Mionid finally died, &Ucirc;vatha re-emerged to his victorious army. After being lost for so long in his own vengeance, a different man came out of his tent than the one who went in. <br /> <br /> Ejecting the vassals of Kham&ucirc;l and closing the border against reprisal ensured the final victory of &Ucirc;vatha. This act not only solidified Khand&rsquo;s independence, but ensured the collapse of Kham&ucirc;l&rsquo;s entire extensive Kingdom. With the Black Easterling&rsquo;s knowledgeable cousin Aon attempting to claim the throne of Womaw, coupled with N&uacute;menorean-induced uprisings across his lands, Kham&ucirc;l&rsquo;s strength could not prevail against the third matter of &Ucirc;vatha the Horseman&rsquo;s rebellion, which proved to be the catalyst for the dissolving of his reign. Although he had gained immortality, he had lost all he had worked to achieve, and vowed to destroy &Ucirc;vatha &ndash; the man he held responsible.<br /> <br /> In 2000, the same year of his victory, &Ucirc;vatha took his throne at Sturlurtsa Khand and crowned himself the Kh&ucirc;driag &ndash; the High Variag King, taking the bat at his symbol, due to his great speed. Learning from the lessons of his family, he did not make General-Regents, but divided Khand into lesser provinces, each to be ruled by their own King &ndash; but all answerable to him. This would ensure that no one man had enough power to challenge the high throne; but in times of war three Generals would be chosen from these Kings to represent Upper, Greater and Lower Khand, respectively. Taking the wise Lord Alvr&euml;valan as his chief counsellor, &Ucirc;vatha ensured that his kingdom, the first Khaganate of Khand was once again safe against outside threat. That was, until, the Dark Lord chose to play his game of dominion in Khand with more subtlety.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Tutelage of Dardarian S.A. 2000-2002<br /> <br /> After establishing his Khaganate, &Ucirc;vatha decided to extend the dominion of Khand&rsquo;s might. First he threatened to invade the southern kingdom of Amr&ucirc;n &ndash; however, their wise King instead sought to retain the neutrality of the lands by giving a &lsquo;peace tax&rsquo; of tribute to &Ucirc;vatha. The High Variag King accepted, and turned his gaze to the north. Resolving to bring the N&ucirc;riags into his grasp, he rode out from Ginn&ucirc;gamr in 2001and made battle &ndash; slaying the King and all his family, but reinstating one of their chosen chieftains to become their leader, loyal to him and to defence of the newly expanded northern borders of Khand. <br /> <br /> However, towards the end of the battle, &Ucirc;vatha was caught alone by a shadowy shape. The figure called himself Dardarian, and said that he was a great sorcerer in need of an apprentice. The High Variag King refused him, but after the sorcerer gave a show of his power, desire crept up in &Ucirc;vatha, and he accepted. Taking Dardarian back to Sturlurtsa Khand, he spent the next year training in the arcane, and in particular, developed the skill to sap the very fortitude of enemy commanders. Lord Alvr&euml;valan, who seemed to vaguely recognise Dardarian, warned his King against meddling in such magics, but the power-hungry &Ucirc;vatha did not listen. Although Dardarian truly sought to develop his student&rsquo;s knowledge of sorcery, he had a much greater motive. In his serpentine speech, he insinuated words every day that made &Ucirc;vatha wish for eternal life. When he could no longer bear it, the Horseman asked how he could achieve such a thing. And so Dardarian told him.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Ninth Ring of Power S.A. 2002<br /> <br /> Dardarian was, in fact, a chief servant of Sauron, who had brought other Kings selected to bear the Nine Rings into Mordor&rsquo;s grasp. When the shadowy sorcerer first informed &Ucirc;vatha of how he could grant himself immortality, the High Variag King initially refused &ndash; something that the other members of the Nine did not do. This was because of the guilt he would have towards his people by becoming a servant of the power he had cast out in Khand. However, very soon &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s wife died in childbirth, as did the infant. Seeing how imminent the threat of death could be, and Khand&rsquo;s lack of an heir to the crown, he begged Dardarian to oversee the creation of this alliance. Perhaps it was indeed Dardarian that killed them in this way, as a final act of manipulation; but nevertheless, a secret alliance was created, and a rendezvous was established. After this was done, Dardarian mysteriously disappeared from &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s court &ndash; his mission apparently succeeded.<br /> <br /> In 2002, at the caves of Olbamarl where he had been born, &Ucirc;vatha came to claim the last of the Nine Rings from the Dark Lord&rsquo;s emissaries. However, both his and an old adversary&rsquo;s final test of loyalty was to begin. For the emissaries of Sauron were two other chosen bearers of the Nine &ndash; Er-M&ucirc;razor, the self-styled Witch-King, and Kham&ucirc;l, the Black Easterling. Before the ring could be given, &Ucirc;vatha and Kham&ucirc;l recognised one another in grudging wrath. Yet, M&ucirc;razor, bearing the command of Sauron, informed the two that in order to retain their rings, they would have to put their old hatreds aside in the service of their new master. Although &Ucirc;vatha subdued himself, fearing that immortality would be plucked from him before he could attain it, Kham&ucirc;l would not listen, and attacked. And so, the Witch-King knocked him unconscious from behind, and granted Alaks&ucirc;l, the Ninth Ring, to &Ucirc;vatha. Although Sauron had attained Khand at last, the Black Captain and the Easterling bore one another an undying grudge ever since.<br /> <br /> &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s prize, Alaks&ucirc;l, the Ring of Rushing Wind, was a golden ring, set with a smooth triangular amber-coloured sunstone flanked by two dots of steel. Its close counterparts were Kham&ucirc;l&rsquo;s ring Dagort&ucirc;r and the Seventh Ring, Ergw&acirc;th, for they also made their bearers much swifter. However, whereas they were primarily for combat and seclusion, respectively, Alaks&ucirc;l&rsquo;s power of speed worked specifically for running or when riding a mount. This was ideal for Sauron&rsquo;s planned use of the Horseman &ndash; to become his chief messenger. To the bearer of the Ring of Rushing Wind, it seemed as if the whole world spun before them, or that a strong gale propelled them forwards. It&rsquo;s embedded material, sunstone, created a desire for action &ndash; which apparently gave &Ucirc;vatha a higher temptation to wear Alaks&ucirc;l more often, but also a contradictory longing for freedom from it.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Blood of Lord Alvr&euml;valan S.A. 1997-2006<br /> <br /> &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s chief advisor, Lord Alvr&euml;valan, was in truth an Avari Elf of the Kindu &ndash; a race whose greater power had been stripped long ago. Scattered to the winds, their warriors had become the legendary Zham&uacute;ras &ndash; wandering heroes of outmatching skills with sword, bow and horse. After Kham&ucirc;l&rsquo;s invasion, he had come to Khand in search of adventure &ndash; but had instead found a home in the peaceful plains between Haram&acirc;r and the southerly Dunes of Khand. <br /> <br /> Following his aid in &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s unification of the land and his post of chief advisor, Alvr&euml;valan had married a Variag wife and begun his own bloodline. However, he had suspected the shadowy figure of Dardarian since his arrival in Sturlurtsa Khand, and although &Ucirc;vatha did not heed his warnings, the Zham&uacute;rai Lord took to investigation. After glimpsing a token of the sorcerer, he recognised him to be an infamous, fallen member of the Zham&uacute;ras, and had resolved to rid Khand of him. Yet, by the time he had discovered his origins, the fallen Avari had disappeared from the court of the High Variag King, and &Ucirc;vatha had returned from an &lsquo;errand&rsquo; with a strange ring. Instantly recognising the taint surrounding the object, Alvr&euml;valan began to organise steps to halt the evil of his fallen companion against the well-being of the Kingdom. However, with the ring&rsquo;s power of invisibility, &Ucirc;vatha discovered his advisor&rsquo;s plots, and in his last descent into darkness, had him assassinated. Acting innocence, he made Alvr&euml;valan&rsquo;s son a King and gave him a province &ndash; which was named Alvr&euml;v-Khand. However, the corrupt High Variag King never truly discovered the Elven lineage of his betrayed friend.<br /> <br /> <br /> Descent Into Darkness S.A. 2002-3259<br /> <br /> After his retrieval of the Ninth Ring, &Ucirc;vatha was well and truly a puppet of Mordor, and his murder of his closest friend and ally, Alvr&euml;valan, completed his journey into becoming Sauron&rsquo;s pawn. Lady Ad&ucirc;naphel &ndash; or, to her subjects, King Ard the Vain, had been chosen to bear the Seventh Ring &ndash; Ergw&acirc;th, the cousin of &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s ring Alaks&ucirc;l &ndash; after Sauron&rsquo;s continued defeats at her hands humbled him to respect. As she was an old ally of the High Variag King, it was the rational choice for &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s forces to aid in her continued rise to power. Crossing the southern border, the Variag armies preyed on both the Haradrim and N&uacute;menorean forces that spoke against the rule of Ad&ucirc;naphel. In the year 2066, the Lady and &Ucirc;vatha met once more at her citadel of Vamag &ndash; the Variag bearing the sword <em>Bragohortha</em> she had granted him before his rise, finding it fit that her gift would be the tool of her salvation. However, both had changed since their last meeting &ndash; they obscured themselves in encompassing armour and cloaks to hide the physical changes brought on by their rings. Indeed, in the same year, &Ucirc;vatha finally ceased to exist in the physical realm and became one of the Nazg&ucirc;l.<br /> <br /> For around the next twelve-hundred years, the Variags continued their growth of power, vying with the powerful N&uacute;menoreans to coerce Haradrim Kings into their vassals. As their influence spread, so did Sauron&rsquo;s over their hearts and minds. Because of Khand&rsquo;s past hatred of the Dark Lord, his touch was not at first noticeable, due to &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s secretive changes to the Khandish religion. Using the acolytes of Haram&acirc;r as preachers, the sun-god Tengri was made subordinate to the creator god Mulkh&ecirc;r &ndash; a Variag form of Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. With him came the fertility goddess Umay &ndash; whose presence influenced the Khandish women to have many children (to grow into warriors); and the god of death, Erlik &ndash; who made &Ucirc;vatha, by &lsquo;defeating&rsquo; the god of death, a much more god-like figure in the eyes of his people. Sauron&rsquo;s influence came in at the creation of many lesser war-gods &ndash; all of them monstrous and cruel, and all of them secretly spreading the teachings of the Dark Lord. Over time, however, the Variags took these new changes in their own fashions. The acolytes of Haram&acirc;r, wishing only to worship their dragon-god Niov&iacute;adon, passed their religious authority to the Priestesses of Mulkh&ecirc;r, who would be chosen by their respective provinces. The Khandish also became surprisingly tolerant to the religions of other races &ndash; for they viewed themselves as a &lsquo;chosen people&rsquo;, and had no care for the concerns of their spiritually lesser peers. Yet, no matter of the Variags&rsquo; personal reactions to their religion, they honoured it furiously &ndash; and so, in turn, honoured Sauron furiously.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Alliance of Chey Sart S.A. 3259-3262<br /> <br /> Although the eastern boundaries of Khand were dictated by the mountain spine of the Ered Harmal, upon the other side of the mountains laid the lands of Chey Sart. Though his client-land of N&ucirc;rad lay upon its bounds, &Ucirc;vatha knew little of the region other than that it was ruled by another bearer of the Nine Rings, and so was a potential ally-kingdom. This was proven true when, in 3259, &Ucirc;vatha the Horseman and the Fire King of Chey Sart, Ren the Unclean, convened upon the borders of N&ucirc;rad. This was due to Sauron having asked the Variags to join the Chey in their expansions. Glad of the greater influence he would gain, &Ucirc;vatha joined his fellow Nazg&ucirc;l to crush the unbent land of Khargagis Ahar.<br /> <br /> For the next two years, the Variags and the Chey fought side-by-side in conquest. When they were victorious, and the Fire King had control of Khargagis Ahar, &Ucirc;vatha&rsquo;s forces were rewarded half the substantial amount of plunder, and, satisfied with their new allies and their winnings, returned home. However, even as the army of the Horseman returned to Khand, the grand N&uacute;menorean armada of Ar-Pharaz&ocirc;n arrived at Umbar. <br /> <br /> <br /> The Horseman Hidden S.A. 3262-3319<br /> <br /> With the overwhelming forces of N&uacute;menor poised against him, and his various forces barely manageable after his Variag and Chey vassals&rsquo; disjointed invasions, Sauron surrendered to Ar-Pharaz&ocirc;n. N&uacute;menorean forces were sent to occupy the Khaganate of Khand, and so it fell into a client kingdom once again. For fifty-seven years &Ucirc;vatha hid himself from his powerful enemies in the caves of Olbamarl, in a form of simple terror rather than in his regal guise. <br /> <br /> As the (Black) N&uacute;menoreans established themselves as the new rulers of Khand, the Variags cried out for their rightful king to return. This he would not do yet. Spreading his command through agents and influence from his hidden position, preparations and tactical uprisings were made across the land. The N&uacute;menoreans whispered to one another of an unspeakable presence hiding around the Gap of Khand &ndash; a terrible phantom that preyed on any Men of Westernesse who happened upon the area in the darkness of night.<br /> <br /> <br /> The Culling of Khand S.A. 3319-3429<br /> <br /> In the aftermath of N&uacute;menor&rsquo;s drowning and the return of Sauron to Mordor, &Ucirc;vatha came from hiding and revealed his full wrath at last. His servants were now in full uprising against the isolated N&uacute;menorean client kingdom of Khand, and in due time the exiled High Variag King returned with his most trusted and able soldiers to Sturlurtsa Khand. Rather than fall over a belief of power that had died with Westernesse, the Black N&uacute;menoreans who ruled there surrendered to &Ucirc;vatha, and swore their allegiance to him as his protectors and vassals of the capital city. This was not a hoax for survival, but in genuine awe of the Nazg&ucirc;l&rsquo;s dark majesty &ndash; so far had they fallen from the light of the Valar that they were easily susceptible to corruption to his will. Therefore, ever after they became mingled into the kingdom of Khand &ndash; they were the Sturlurtsa Guard, the Homeless Wardens, protectors of the High Variag King and his throne. &Ucirc;vatha was crowned as Ovatha, the Returned &Ucirc;vatha, and begun the second Khaganate.<br /> <br /> Supported by the armouries and the Priestesses of Mulkh&ecirc;r, over the next one-hundred and ten years &Ucirc;vatha increased both the soldiery of his people and their fervour to aid both him and Sauron. As the rival kingdoms to the Dark Lord, Gondor and Arnor, were established and grown, these works in Khand only increased. Although he removed to Mordor in the same year as his return, to convene with his master and the other Nazg&ucirc;l, the Horseman retained his tight grip on Khand through loyal vassals, whilst acting as courier for Sauron &ndash; earning the title; &Ucirc;vatha the Messenger. <br /> <br /> In 3424, &Ucirc;vatha made a visit to his kingdom to choose three generals that would be subordinate to his command, in anticipation of the oncoming War of the Last Alliance. In mimicry of his own master, the Horseman gave each general a ring. However, the General of Greater Khand, King Jotaen, slew his two peers in duels and took the rings for his own prize. After himself disposing of the King through a duel, &Ucirc;vatha nonetheless saw the might of Jotaen&rsquo;s blood, and made his son Jotaeseimu the Lieutenant of Khand &ndash; having the power of all three generals. Although Jotaeseimu was a cunning, strong and loyal student of the High Variag King, the armies of Khand were so great in number that it cannot be considered wise for such a large amount of power to be deemed capable for one man&rsquo;s control. This theory would be put to the test in the ensuing war.</p>
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