Great Khaganate of Khand

Land of Khand

Lower Khand. Semi-nomadic khaganate of Khand became rich and prosperous by taxing caravan trade. At their height they and their tributaries controlled much of the central Middle-earth. Variags of Khand have been important if unreliable allies of Gondor against both Easterlings and Haradrim.

Variag camp.
Khandish warrior and prisoner.
Nûriag lady.
Mistrand besieged by Variags troops.
Lower Khand.
Upper Khand.
Khandish Kataphrakt by Jan Pospisil.


Khand is an arid region southeast of Mordor which straddles the east-west trading routes. Because of the altitude and availability of water, the natives of Khand are relatively numerous. Khand stretches between the southeastern flank of the Ephel Dúath and the northwestern edge of the Ered Harmal. It occupies the semi-arid plateau bordering northeastern Harad and thus commanded the strategically all-important Gap of Khand, the hundred mile wide pass facing southern Rhûn and eastern Mordor. Nûrad lies in the hills to the northeast.

It is the home of the Variags, fierce and numerous people of Talatherim stock. Realm and Khaganate of Khand serves as the western anchor of the caravan trade routes running through Middle-earth. Almost every kind of commodity must someday pass through Khand: Silk and porcelain from Palisor, pottery and glass vessels from Gondor, furs and cattle from Rhûn, mead, honey and timber from Rhovanion, exotic herbs and spices from Chyan Empire, gold, ivory and luxuries from Sirayn, Raj and the Yellow Mountains.

Khaganate of Khand is an unusual phenomenon. It is a realm originally built by savage, nomadic tribes; but in their heyday they had all the advantages of the developed countries: structured government, vast and prosperous trading, and a permanent army. In the 17th century, Khand is a major buffer state between east and west, north and south. Initially a confederation of Ioriag tribes with the good fortune to be situated in the crossing of important caravan routes, the Variags evolved from their closed nomadic society into a militaristic, urban and agrarian society. In the process they absorbed Black Númenóreans escaping Gondorian and Umbarean persecution, Haradrim fleeing Dúnadan conquests, Chey from the east, Ulgaths from the north, and other nomadic tribes.

Khand is ruled (at least symbolically) by a Khûdriag (Va. "King of All the Tribes"), or khagan. Current khagan, Ovatha VI, is of powerful Ito clan. Actual power is often wielded by the Beg (V. "general-regents"), who are senior generals and statesmans of the empire, chosen by proven success on the battlefield to serve as the supreme leader of the standing regular army, and who also manages all diplomatic relations, as well as internal governmental administration. Power is also wielded in varying degrees by the various tribal chieftains.

Variag cities are large and orderly, mostly built of bricks. Their rural dwellings are circular round-houses, symbolizing the transition from the nomadic to the settled, or rather semi-settled, existence. The whole khaganate is surrounded by elaborate chain of fortifications, robust and square in appearance.


The meanings of 'Khand' and 'Variag' are not known and ever explained in any extant chronicles. One possible explanation lies in that several interrelated southeastern languages khand means 'realm' or 'land'. Ancestors of the Variag nation was a confederation of savage warriors and horse-nomads called Ioriags, which inhabited the land during the Second Age. The Ioriag empire was united by legendary king Ûvatha I Achef, who later received one of the Nine Rings directly from Sauron. In height of his power, the Deathless First King Ûvatha I ruled over most of the central Middle-earth from Mordor to Palisor.

With the collapse of the Ioriag empire due to defeat of Sauron and internal conflict in the first century, the western half of the Ioriag empire split into a number of tribal confederations, among whom were the Variags, led by the Udo clan, and the Asdriags, led by the Ashina clan. It is likely that the Variag nation was made up of tribes from various ethnic backgrounds, as steppe nations traditionally absorbed those they conquered. They started as mercenaries fighting for Varjev dynasty of Lurmsakûn in Near Harad, as the Haradrim were always in short supply of efficient cavalry. Kingdom of Lurmsakûn controlled most of the land later known as Lower Khand. Control of the caravan trade routes enabled its rulers to mount successful invasions to Arysis and Chyan lands. Victories made Variag mercenaries progressively sought-after.

By the 10th and 11th centuries thousands of free Variag mercenaries were drifting south and west in search of military employment. Qarakhid dynasty of Lurmsakûn which succeeded the Varjevs became entirely dependant on foreign Variag troops. Haradan emirates, which had been in steady decline since the 9th century, fragmented in civil wars and foreign invasions by Gondor and beduin nomads of the Dune Sea. Reduction of Haradan power created a political vacuum which the Variags eagerly filled. As early as III 1011 a Variag general called Beg Balun took over the foothills of Ered Harmal and borderlands of Lurmsakûn and adopted the high-flown haradaic title of utarb e amīr al-umāra, 'King of kings and commander of commanders', and started raiding deep into Haruze territory.

The first appearance of the Variags in Western history is their aid to the campaign of Gondorian king Hyarmendacil I against Muargizid Haradrim. The Variag ruler Beg Köngjü aided the Gondorians in overrunning Pezarsan. A marriage was even contemplated between Köngjü's son and Hyarmendacil's daughter, but never took place. A new Variag nation slowly formed around the control of important trade routes. What had started as bare plunder slowly turned into legitimized taxing. In 1055 the most successful of Variag warlords, clan leader Tarkhan Udo, was anointed as Ovatha II, the Khagan of Khand. By 1070, he had broken the Asdriag confederation, causing various tribal groups to migrate and leaving two remnants of Asdriag rule in southern and southeastern Rhûn. From his capital of Ammu Khand, Ovatha II fought a series of wars against Haradrim and Ahar-Chey nomads beyond the Ered Harmal, continuously expanding his influence into east and south.

Soon Khand became a veritable nation full of trading posts, toll points, caravan organizers and suppliers, and bustling cities. Confederation of Variag nations was loosely united under one Khagan, but in reality the power was often wielded by Begs, generals and tribal chieftains. Khagans of Khand saw their lot as arbitrators between east and west, rulers of a realm totally independent from others, enriched by trade and defended by highly mobile and professional standing army. Khagan Ovatha III Udo conquered Lurmsakûn in 1101 and in 1158 Variag capital was moved to newly founded Sturlurtsa Khand by the confluence of the rivers Noz Peka (V. "Knife") and Medlóshad Peka (V. "Gold-horse"). By acting as a buffer state, Khaganate of Khand prevented numerous Easterling tribes from spreading south of the Ephel Dúath or east from the Sea of Rhûn. Southern Rhûn was subjugated in series of conflicts called the Odhriag Wars.

Between 1158 and 1447, all of Lurmsakûn, Chelkar, Nûrn, Pustrava, Gathod and the plains east of Ered Harmal fell under Variag rule in form or another. They did not, however, forget their former profession as mercenaries. Khagans of Khand gave entire regiments of Variag cavalry as gifts to his friends and allies, including the twenty-second king of Gondor, Castamir the Usurper. It was the heyday of Variag influence, and at the same time, a turning point. Great Khagan Kundaj IV Itakh, over-confident of his position, tried to mediate between Eldacar and Castamir. His meddling in Gondorian domestic politics ended in 1448 with the defeat of the Traditionalist League at the Crossings of Erui. Eldacar, true to his Northman roots, was overtly hostile to Khand and its "hordes", as he contemptuously called its inhabitants.

Variag general Tarkhan Itakh, relative of the Great Khagan and conqueror of Lurmsakûn, staged a coup against elderly Kundaj IV in 1449. After series of star-crossed and short-lived Itakh Khagans, the Variag empire started to fragment into semi-independent Clan Holdings. Power of the Khagans diminished until they became mere figureheads dominated by powerful Begs and priestesses of the Variag cult. Revolt of 1622 in Lurmsakûn was followed by even more destructive Nûriag Rebellion in the wake of the Great Plague in 1635. Plague ended the era of weak Khagans and endemic civil strife. The powerful Ito clan claimed the throne; in 1652 beg Ovatha Ito was anointed as Great Khagan Ovatha VI. It seems that Khand is on its way to rapid recovery - something which has caused justifiable anxiety in all her neighbours. Relations with Gondor have been cordial. Khaganate of Khand has become an indispensable if unreliable ally of Tarondor against rebel lords of Umbar and other principalities of Near Harnen.


At its maximum extent in III 1661, the Khaganate of Khand includes the geographical regions of Upper and Lower Khand, the Gap of Khand, Nûrn, and parts of southern Rhûn. Several other lands pay her annual tribute: Chelkar, Lurmsakûn, Arysis, Siakan and Relmether. Other Ioriag groups such as Nûriads have been independent after the Great Plague, but Khagan Ovatha VI has been planning their subjugation ever since.

While all positions of power are held by the Variag warrior caste, inferior and menial labour is largely on the shoulders of the subject peoples: Haradrim, Nûriads and Nûrniags. Most of the traders are either Haruze or Chyan stock; Nûriads and Nûrniags are kept as slaves in the mines and fields to provision the hungering Khandish war machine.

Native Variag religion is somewhat a mystery. It is strictly confined to Variags class; ethnical minorities and slaves are forcibly excluded as heathens. Originally, the Variags practiced traditional Ioriag shamanism, focused on the sky god Tengri, but were heavily influenced by philosophical ideas imported by Sauron, notably that of the Mandate of Heaven and the Lord of the Dark. Their religious apparatus is overseen by a collective of high priestesses; their gods are myriad and terrifying. Knowing this, variags are surprisingly tolerant to other beliefs. They consider themselves as a "chosen people" and are not interested in the observations of lesser races. Known Variag deities, subordinate to the Creator God Mulkhêr, are fertility goddess Umay and Erlik, the god of death.

List of Variag Khagans

1055–1077 Tarkhan Udo Beg, Ovatha II
1077–1090 Busir Udo
1090–1115 Ovatha III Udo
1115–1120 Barjik Udo
1120–1132 Bihar Udo
1132–1136 Böri Udo
1136–1139 Tuvan Udo
1139–1158 Ovatha IV Udo
1158–1167 Köngjü Udo
1167–1189 Köngjü II Udo
1189–1214 Arslan
1225–1230 Baghatur Itakh
1230–1249 Kundaj Itakh
1249–1285 Baghatur II Itakh
1285–1289 Bulan Itakh
1289–1311 Kundaj II Itakh
1311–1322 Kundaj III Itakh
1427–1449 Kundaj IV Itakh
1449–? Tarkhan Itakh
1550 Ovatha V
1644–1652 Mänär Kundaj
1652– Ovatha VI Ito



Khand is an arid region southeast of Mordor. Because of the altitude and availability of water, the natives of Khand are relatively numerous. Khand stretches between the southeastern flank of the Ephel Duath and the northwestern edge of the Ered Harmal. It occupies the semi-arid plateau bordering northeastern Harad and thus commanded the great Gap of Khand, the hundred mile wide pass facing southern Rhûn and eastern Mordor. Nûrad lies in the hills to the northeast.

Hot, dry, and windy, Khand is an unforgiving locale. Its flat, lowland areas afforded few means for stable settlement. Scrub and desert abounded throughout Lower Khand. Here, horse herders moved their lightly-encumbered bands around a circuit of periodic shelters and encampments, their routes dictated by the location of springs, seasonal pools, and intermittent streams. The only permanent settlements were lying along the broad, shallow Knife River, a tributary of the Harnen. Sturlurtsa Khand - the traditional capital of Lower Khand and the largest city between Umbar and the Talathrant - stands by the confluence of the rivers Knife (V. 'Noz Peka') and Gold-horse (V. 'Medlóshad Peka').

Upper Khand, which comprises the eastern and northern quarters of the region, enjoys a bit more rainfall and cooler temperatures. The more numerous tribes of the area are generally richer and more settled than their brethren to the west and south. Upper Khand's principal city, Ûbésêsh-ûta-Pavéter (V. 'Refuge from the Flailing Wind'), stands only about 170 miles east and upstream from Sturlurtsa Khand; however, it receives twice the precipitation and a lot less heat than its larger and more important counterpart.


Economy in Khand turns around taxing the north-south and east-west caravan trade, mining exports and herding. Among the things traded along the Khand trade routes are silks, furs, candlewax, honey, jewelry, silverware, coins, and spices. Radhanite traders of Chey pass thru Khand on their way to western Endor, Rhûn, and other locations. Sirayn also makes use of the Silk Road trade, and their method of writing has become well known in Khand. Khagan's subjects trade with the people of Kargagis Ahar (in central M-e) and also with port cities in Bulchyades and Lyneria.

The staple foods in Khand are corn and fish. Barley, wheat, melons, hemp, and cucumbers are also harvested in Upper Khand. There are many orchards and fertile regions around the Noz Peka, which the variags depended upon due to the infrequency of rain.

Example of Khandish writing.


See: Warcraft in Khand

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