The Chronicles of Khand - Part C: Utarb e Amir al-Umara
The Ravaging of Rhovanion S.A. 3429-3434
Entrusting his Lieutenant Jotaeseimu with marshalling the Variag forces into Mordor, Ûvatha, under instruction from Sauron, took many mounted Sturlurtsa Guard, cavalrymen of Alvrëv-Khand and other skilled horsemen of his realm north. This swift army passed out of Khand, around Mordor, and through the land of Sagathavul between the Dark Land and the Sea of Rhûn. Their purpose was to assault the northern allies of the Last Alliance – the Elves of Greenwood, Dwarves from the north marching south, and Gondor’s new associates, the Princes of Rhovanion.
For five years the Horseman blighted the eastern bounds of Wilderland. Using swift, blunt charges, hit-and-run attacks and infiltration terror tactics, the Princes of Rhovanion were scattered and columns of the Dwarves were harassed. It was by the fear of his presence among the Men of Rhovanion – the ancestors of the Rohirrim – that Ûvatha forever remained a horrific reputation among them. To him they asserted his most well-known title in the lands west of Mordor – the Dwimmerlaik – a word that remained among common use of the Rhovanion peoples as a name for spirits and sorceries. However, for all of his evil, Ûvatha aided in his own downfall. For, with his assault becoming a great threat to Greenwood, Oropher the Elvenking marched to join the greater case of Gil-galad; and the divided Princes of Rhovanion gathered to one banner in defiance of the Dwimmerlaik. They rallied to Prince Valaguvia, friend of Anárion and Bane of the Easterlings, who fought against the Variag raiders with travelling Dwarves of the Iron Hills. Outwitting his foes, Valaguvia drove the invaders back into the Brown Lands, before marching to join the gathering Alliance.
The Ride of the Horseman S.A. 3434
With Valaguvia, Oropher, and the other commanders of the Last Alliance convening in the newly-liberated Gondor, the Nazgûl and their servants amassed at the Black Gates. Sent into the western wastes of Rhûn with his defeated army, Ûvatha’s coming to the Morannon was blocked by his enemies, and the eastern way around the mountains would take too long. Rather than this apparent retreat, the Horseman opted to still play a part in the Battle of Dagorlad. Rallying his wearied men, he rode south, seeking to serve as unlooked reinforcements for the forces of Sauron.
Lieutenant Jotaeseimu and the greater Variag forces, on the other hand, were amassed with Sauron’s forces at the Black Gates. A large and mighty army, Jotaeseimu’s warriors were among the first to be loosed against the Alliance. At first, they excelled, taking the brunt of Amdír of Lothlórien’s undisciplined charge and sending it reeling, but the unmanageable size of the Khandish turned to be their downfall. When the phalanxes of the High Elves and Dúnedain came against them, the Variag command became chaotic and over-stressed, and Jotaeseimu himself perished.
As the final blow of Elendil and Gil-galad commenced, the cavalry of Ûvatha arrived. Arrayed in his full glory, the Horseman and his riders came in time to support the disintegrating rearguard, and their counter-attacks against the Alliance vanguard prevented the retreat becoming a rout. Doubtless, this gave the besiegers a greater obstacle in their occupation of Mordor, whereas they could have inflicted many more casualties. Although the Dwimmerlaik was both lauded and cursed, the armies of the Dark Lord were still forced into Barad-dûr.
The Dwimmerlaik and the Dragon S.A. 3434-3441
In the War of the Last Alliance, all living creatures were embroiled in battle. Although Sauron’s influence whilst wearing the One Ring had spread to the dragons of the Forodwaith, they were unavailable to Mordor, save for a few, as they were in conflict with the Eagles upon the peaks of the Misty Mountains. One of the few present at the Siege of Barad-Dûr was a winged Uruloki fire-drake, similar but less in power to the also present Smaug the Golden. His name was Malpheridon the Crimson, of the same brood of Niovíadon, yet his skill was in fire and not in magic. It was said that unlike most dragons he did not desire gold – instead, he hoarded the blood of his victims, and so was named the Blood Dragon.
Seeing the might of Malpheridon, Ûvatha – renowned as able to tame any mount – desired to ride the Blood Dragon into battle. The proud beast did not approve, but after a year of work, Malpheridon came to respect the Dwimmerlaik, and agreed to ride into battle with him. In a sortie, the two flew from the spires of the Dark Tower – the Blood Dragon sending searing flame into the besiegers, and Ûvatha – calling himself the Blood Archer – sending poisoned arrows and malignant terror below him. Grasping great rocks in his claws, Malpheridon flung them from Barad-Dûr, slaying Anárion, King of Gondor. Although the dragon quit the field after the archers of Thranduil wounded him, a partnership was founded that would greatly affect Khand, and give Sauron an influence that would culminate in the creation of the winged fell beasts centuries later.
Into the Shadows S.A. 3441
The final sortie to be sent from Barad-Dûr was unleashed upon the Last Alliance. Against the gathered command of Arnor and Lindon, the vanguard of Sauron fell. With his Nazgûl about him, the Dark Lord slew Elendil and Gil-galad, as their friends and guardsmen bitterly fought against the Nine. Alongside Adûnaphel the Knight of Umbar and Ren the Tainted, his allies of old, Ûvatha slew many of the royal guard and heralds. Yet, even before Isildur cut the One from Sauron’s hand, the Nazgûl began to fall against the white fury of their enemies, who grieved the loss of their kings even as they fought. Come to slay his old foe was Prince Valaguvia of Rhovanion – avenging the hurts of his people and the death of his friend Anárion by the hand of the Dwimmerlaik. Although he thrust his great spear through the phantom form of the Nazgûl, Ûvatha slew the Prince before fading into the shadows himself. With the rest of the Nazgûl, the High Variag King disappeared with their Dark Lord, wandering the wildernesses as powerless shapes for many years, until they could take form once again.
The Dawn of the Third Age S.A. 3400-T.A. 100
After the catastrophic loss of Khandish warriors in the War of the Last Alliance, coupled with the disappearance of their High Variag King, the Khaganate of Khand was broken; dissipating like shards into the fiefdoms ruled by Ûvatha’s elected Kings. The throne of Sturlurtsa Khand was left empty – guarded still by the Homeless Wardens, waiting for a worthy successor to take the place of the Horseman. In-fighting broke out amongst the satraps in a vicious bid for power. And yet, none could attain it. For if one King garnered too much strength, the others would unite to defeat him, only to disband their loyalty years later. This inward conflict not only left the throne of Khand empty, but removed the Variags as a threat to Gondor, Harad, Rhûn and Amrûn. Without Ûvatha on the throne, the conquered Nûriags, the sons of Rharnûz, broke away from Variag control and became independent once again. Khand’s descent had also brought about the ascent of the Kingdom of Amrûn.
After having become part of an Alliance of Free Peoples in the East, dedicated to blocking the Easterlings from reinforcing Mordor, Amrûn had sent a great battle force into Khand in 3430. With Ûvatha gone to Rhovanion, and the rest of the Variags ordered to march into Mordor, the Lieutenant Jotaeseimu had to spare a third of his men to defend Khand and defeat the Amrûn army. In the Battle of Ovathrac, the warriors of Amrûn won the day – although they did not invade Khand after their victory, but only held their advantage to construct more northerly defences, such as the watchtower of Kruk Boyadla. For their true purpose was to disrupt the Khandish reinforcements going to Mordor. This resulted in the Dark Lord’s – and Ûvatha’s – overall defeat, freeing Amrûn from the threat of the High Variag King. This Alliance of the Free Peoples in the East was orchestrated by two of its newest denizens, who had landed in Middle-earth in 3400. They were called the Blue Wizards.
The Asdriag Confederacy T.A. 100-300
At the end of the first century of the Third Age, the province of Ashina-Khand seized control of both Kyzilkum and Ammu Khand, whilst Udo-Khand obtained Sturlurtsa Khand. The King of Udo-Khand, Begûlakaris, demanded the throne of Sturlurtsa Khand; however, its guardians, the Homeless Wardens, said that though he could sit in his chair, he could never be the High Variag King whilst Ashina-Khand controlled the north. Although Begûlakaris was ready to fight and die for his ambition and his right, the King of Ashina-Khand, Asdrionid, was more diplomatic. Rather than fight over the title of High Variag King, he proposed to split the crown into the respective dominions of Upper and Lower Khand – as Khamûl had done during his control. Begûlakaris consented – and though a peace had not been formed with Asdrionid, an agreement of rule had. The Kingdom of Upper Khand was turned into a Confederacy of Kings, and their people became the Asdriags.
Whereas the Asdriags were less warlike – save from their defence of Ginnûgamr against the restless Nûriags – the remaining Variag provinces continued their warmongering. The monarchy of Begûlakaris was not respected, and he was killed in battle shortly after his negotiations with Asdrionid. The control of Lower Khand was left open – but it also left open the possibility for ambitious Kings to carve out their own names, free from an oppressive, singular control.
The Employ of Lurmsakûn T.A. 300-490
In the early centuries of the Third Age, the Kingdom of Amrûn – which, following the end of the Second Age had won much of Lower Khand – splintered into four kingdoms. This was because the King Boyadla, whose wife had quadruplets, did not name his successor before he died. And so the four children split Amrûn into Lurmsakûn, Arysis, Ammu Baj and Siakan. The King Sakûn of Lurmsakûn, slightly the elder of his siblings, having the most right to the dominion of Amrûn, was therefore the most incensed to claiming it all for himself. Gathering his own followers in arms, he also looked abroad for aid. As Lurmsakûn was the northern divide of Amrûn, the neighbouring Variags entered his mind.
With the realm of Lower Khand split, King Sakûn had no difficulty in having to persuade but one King – he had many lesser ones to deal with, who were all much more susceptible to the promises of gold and plunder. Very soon, almost all the Variag provinces were under the employ of Lurmsakûn, and with their aid the fortunes of the land had increased greatly. Striking from his capital of Enmahdah, King Sakûn swiftly conquered his sister Queen Ysis’ land of Arysis, which became his client in 330. Seeking to gain more allies against the staunch defences of Ammu Baj and Siakan, the promises of King Sakûn extended eastwards, across the Bay of Bulchyades to the Chy domain of Ananiké, the Land of Spice. Seeking to have no part in the troubles of Amrûn, the Chy refused. However, King Sakûn’s mind was made, and the Chy would serve him one way or another. In 350, his Variag followers crossed the narrow passages through the Ered Mikarin and into Ananiké, bringing it too under Lurmsakûn’s sway. Although Sakûn untimely died that same year of apparently natural cause, the soldiers of the Chy and the south Variag armies continued their service under his son.
The Khandish Mercenaries T.A. 490-900
Towards the end of the fifth century, an Overlord of the Shay of Wom Shryac politically married a daughter of a great king of the Easterlings of Agasha Dag. Their son, Khamonarlion, was tasked with leading the warriors of Agasha Dag against Rhovanion and Gondor. This was because the Overlords of the Shay were descendants of the Mercenary Princes – descendants of Kulphalos, the lost half-Khandish son of Khamûl. Their ties were ultimately to the Dark Lord, and his enemies were their enemies. After having been blocked from reinforcing Mordor in the War of the Last Alliance by the designs of the Blue Wizards, the Easterlings of Agasha Dag were now ready to invade.
Word had spread even to these races of Rhûn of the Variags’ prowess as mercenaries under Lurmsakun, and Khamonarlion, remembering his Khandish descent, thought that they would be greatly useful in his assault. Sending word to Lower Khand, and with even greater promises than the lips of King Sakûn could offer, scores of Variags journeyed up to join the Easterlings. The Variag wargear had now taken on a different style – with no-one king, but many, they carried sashimonos on their backs. These banners showed the heraldry of their house, and the king they served. Yet the Variags that came up to aid Khamonarlion were unique in this. Unlike their kinsmen, their sashimonos were blank, and their cloth neutral. This was the beginning of the Khandish mercenaries – bought warriors who carried the emblems of no masters, for their only master was greed.
Although the invasions of Khamonarlion, called the Crimson Prince, eventually failed with his defeat and death at the hands of the Gondorian King Turambar in 550, the reputation of the Khandish mercenaries had been sufficiently spread. The time had come when the victor of a battle could often be due to him being the highest bidder.
Utarb e Amīr al-Umāra T.A. 900-1050
The conquests of Lurmsakûn had reached their zenith. Although it was still the strongest of Amrûn’s four kingdoms, its rival lands of Ammu Baj and Siakan had joined in mutual defence, and the client peoples of Arysis and Ananiké were in revolt. The Variags under its employ were now under the general command of King Balun of Udo-Khand, who had won all of Lurmsakûn’s recent victories, and captured the respect of the Khandish people. Balun recognised that the only obstacle left in his life was that he fought for a people who were not his own.
In 1011, as the civil wars of Arysis and Ananiké began to be less containable, King Balun rallied his loyal followers to him and quit the battlefields of Amrûn. Renouncing the gold he had been paid, he beseeched his subjects to do the same, asking them to fight for honour, and not for wealth. This speech affected the culture of Khand greatly; for, after the teachings of Balun, a line was drawn between the Variag warriors and the Khandish mercenaries – the former would only fight for their martial honour-code, and the latter would only fight for gold. Both were regarded with contempt by the other forever after.
Marching upon Lurmsakûn, King Balun took the Ered Mikarin, and though he did not have the audacity to crown himself the High Variag King, or the King of Lower Khand for that matter, he said the words which would define the rise of his bloodline, proclaiming himself: Utarb e amīr al-umāra – ‘king of kings and commander of commanders’. Backed by the entirety of Lower Khand, he began raiding deep into all the four kingdoms of Amrûn. This not only equalised the separate power of the divided lands, but gave them a long vendetta against the Variags – especially in Lurmsakûn, where Balun was scorned as a betrayer.
The Alliance of Gondor T.A. 1050-1055
After Balun’s death, his son Köngjü took the Kingship of Udo-Khand – and took the great admiration that his father had gained. For Köngjü rode at Balun’s side in all of his battles, and was even trusted with a plundering raid on Ananiké. Köngjü excelled beyond all doubt, bringing scores of booty back to Lower Khand. Although he had earned his place as an accomplished leader, Köngjü had tasted the promise of wealth in Ananiké that his father had so warned against.
In 1050, Lower Khand received the news that Gondor was planning to retake Umbar and utterly conquer the Haradrim. Köngjü, knowing the influence he would gain if he sided with the Dunedain, sent messages to their King, intriguing into whether he would require aid. The King Ciryaher sent back words of disregard, saying he had no need for the work of hired hands, especially those of Gondor’s former enemies. Köngjü thought long and hard on what he would do in light of this. In his greatest doubt, the words of his father came back to him – that he would fight for honour, and not for wealth. Genuinely seeking to heal the rift between Khand and Gondor, Köngjü took his forces to the border of Harad, where its land of Pezarsan lay. Although the Variags were sceptical of siding with their historic enemies, they trusted in the son of Balun. And so, in a great victory, Köngjü rode to the Battle of Pezarsan, simultaneously with the march of Gondor. Against the two hosts, Harad fell into the dominion of the north. The King of Gondor, calling himself Hyarmendacil, spoke with Köngjü. He apologised, seeing that he had misjudged the Variags, and made Köngjü a vassal and ally of the South Kingdom. A marriage between Hyarmendacil’s daughter and Köngjü’s son Tarkhan was even considered, but never enacted. True to their King’s prediction, the Variags garnered great influence for their friendship. However, in the same year of the Battle of Pezarsan, an archaic entity returned to the caves of Olbamarl, and was not pleased with his old kingdom’s new allegiances.