The Widow Harun
Founder of the Tuigan March, first Great Khan and patriarch of the Golden Family (1357-1417)
Jebe Khan was a short, ugly and barrel-chested Tuigan man, his skin nut-brown from sun and wind and his hair sparse even in his younger years. He dressed at all times in the simple leather clothing of the nomads, and even after gaining great power and wealth his only concession to vanity was a few pieces of jewelry. On his weapons, however, he spared no expense. The gleaming steel of his lance and scimitar were polished to a mirror shine every day, and bards eventually sang of the beauty of his handmade bow, a Tuigan style recurve of horn, wood and laminate. But his mithral shirt was modestly hidden beneath his fur-lined Tuigan coat, and even the many magic items he wore could scarcely be distinguished from ordinary handmade items until they were examined. He always rode an unbarded horse, even into battle, and preferred mounts that he caught himself on the steppe, even as an old man. Jebe was never seen without the company of a trusted hunting hound, though in truth there were many of these, because the dogs would give their lives to protect the Khan just as eagerly as his human followers eventually did.
No likeness of Jebe Khan exists, nor is the location of his tomb known to any living man.
Jebe Khan was born in 1357 DR in the midst of The Endless Waste, traditional territory of his nomadic Tuigan tribe, to nameless parents of little influence. The whole region would soon suffer a precipitous decline in the aftermath of the death of Yamun Khahan, would-be conqueror of the northern Realms, as part of the Horde invasions. Upon reaching adulthood at the age of 15 in 1372 DR, Jebe had already distinguished himself as a great fighter with the Tuigan lance, and married Subedei, a very skilled archer in the nomadic style. The young couple was soon joined by their cousins Rurik (a talented young wizard), Ansgar (a fighter of middling renown) and Amairgen (a promising druid). Their ordu was quite unusual for the Tuigan in that it also contained a dwarf, Gur, a gambler who had the misfortune to fall indebted to Rurik. The wizard compelled the dwarf to indenture himself and travel with the ordu as his servant and retainer.
Led by Jebe and Subedei, the small ordu began migrating south in 1372, passing through the region of Almorel before eventually leaving The Endless Waste completely, passing down the vale of The Clearflow River through the mountain gap into Mulhorand, where they found work as mercenaries in the city of Murghyr. For many years the ordu travelled far and wide on the errands of the Pharaoh. Jebe’s deeds in those days earned him the friendship of the Dwarves of The Great Rift, who became his most reliable partners for the rest of his life. The Cheetah tribe of The Shaar became his lifelong allies when the ordu assisted them in exterminating many Gnolls on the plains. Later, he established good relations with the stone Giants of The Uthangol Mountains.
Prior to 1377 Jebe Khan was bitten by a werewolf. Unlike other afflicted lycanthropes, he did not fall prey to insanity. The young Khan learned about his new condition and taught himself to control it, and eventually to see it a gift. Soon afterward, he shared his gift with Subedei, and later with many of his followers who also wished to embrace the power of the wolf. Their children would be natural lycanthropes. In time, almost half the ordu would consist of lycanthropic individuals, and to this day there are vast numbers of natural Werewolves in his empire, living openly, often in powerful positions.
Jebe had a son, Jochi, in the year 1377. By this time the ordu included many followers, mostly Tuigan who joined the Khan after leaving the poverty-stricken steppe for new lives in the south. Some were non-Tuigan humans, including many slaves the Khan freed from Thay and elsewhere, who choose to join the nomads instead of returning to their own lands. There were also several Ogres, traveling with the ordu ever since Jebe freed them from slavery in Rethild, who eventually found ogre wives and raised children, their descendants becoming Jebe’s loyal bodyguard.
At age 2 Jochi was sent south into The Shaar, to be fostered by friendly Cheetah tribesmen while the Khan was at war. This pattern would later be repeated with his younger brother Batu, born in 1381 and sent to The Shaar in 1383. In this way both boys grew to be ‘more Shaaran than the Shaarans’, becoming famous warriors and taking their wives from the most eligible royal women of the various tribes.
Great events were changing The Eastern Realms in the 1370’s, though their causes would only be known later. The dark disaster that had reduced Unther to a shell of its former glory appeared to be ending, since a charismatic prophet named Richelieu had appeared there to rally the people against the Mulhorandi occupiers. Jebe’s ordu became involved in the spying and fighting that accompanied Unther‘s meteoric rise back to power and the subsequent renewal of war with Mulhorand. During this time the young Tuigan emigres fell in love with the emptiness and sparse beauty of the desolate border region through which they fought. By the time the war ended in 1380 with the decisive defeat of Unther at the Battle of The Green Lands (during which Jebe Khan’s riders and Werewolves encircled and annihilated an Untheric force many times their size), the Khan had decided to settle his people there in perpetuity.
The land was theirs de facto but not de jure, so Jebe negotiated with the victorious Pharaoh the creation of a Tuigan buffer state between his own empire and the occupied territory of Unther. Simultaneously, he paid the Pharaoh an enormous amount of cash to buy the southernmost Barony of Unther, whose former ruler was killed and his land despoiled after he unsuccessfully rebelled – a destruction in which the Tuigan played the largest part. The young Rurik was made Baron, now a vassal of the Pharaoh but entitled to run his demesne under the same Tuigan law that applied in Jebe’s lands. In the southeast of his realm, at the southern tip of The Dragonsword Mountains, Rurik and his personal followers built their yurts on the plain beneath the ruined castle and have remained there ever since. By 1381 their camp had grown into the tent city of Rurikan, by which name the whole realm eventually came to be called.
The buffer state created for Jebe Khan was named The Tuigan March. The Khan began receiving large numbers of emigres from The Shaar and The Endless Waste, who raised horses and livestock and founded large families. In 1382, in the high valleys of The Uthangol Mountains, his stone giant allies dammed the source of The River Angol, creating a sheltered valley and large lake behind a fortification that was eventually called Demonblood Dam. This was the fortress and redoubt of Jebe Khan for the remainder of his life. That same year his third son and first daughter, Ogedei and Borte, were born.
But in fact the events in Unther, specifically the rise of Richelieu, were fueled by more ominous causes. The young prophet had been dominated by one of a foursome of powerful demons of chaos, natives of an alternate cosmology, who had forced their way into Faerun in 1372. They now attempted to supplant the Faerunian gods by establishing powerful new cults. The other demons were found to be behind other catastrophic events: a global pandemic plague with its origins in the swamp of Rethild; a cult of seduction operating throughout The Eastern Realms; waves of physically mutated berserkers crowding out the Tuigan in The Endless Waste; and the mystifying rise of Thulgrim, a petty Thayan provincial official who single-handedly supplanted the Zulkirs and became dictator of that land, launching a war that nearly destroyed both Mulhorand and The Tuigan March. In 1382 a number of paladins of law from the universe where the demons originated were able to follow them to Faerun, leading a small but fearsomely destructive force. The paladins and the Tuigan were distrustful of each other and almost came to war, but were eventually able to make common cause against the demons. The battles of Jebe Khan and his companions against the demons and their henchmen lasted until 1398, a conflict known as The Demonwar, which remained mostly out of sight of those in The Western Realms. Throughout this period the Khan was often away from his ordu at war, leaving Subedei Khatun to rule in his place, but he returned in 1384 to father his fifth child, Kublai, and again to The Shaar in 1392 to witness Jochi’s marriage.
During the Battle of The Green Lands, the Khan had crossed swords with one of the demons, which nearly killed him. Playing on the creature’s pride, the Khan convinced it to leave Richelieu and return in 1398 so the two could fight a single combat. In 1393, Jebe Khan entered the Raurin desert and lived as a hermit for five years, training his mind and body for this duel.
The combat occurred in 1398 on the plain beneath the great dam at the source of The River Angol. Jebe Khan spitted the creature on his lance and pinned its corpse to the masonry, where its bright green blood flowed over the stones, staining them. To this day the edifice is called Demonblood Dam, and every year on that date the Tuigan pour an enormous cauldron of green paint down the front of the dam to commemorate Jebe’s victory.
Life in the Ordu
Throughout this period, ever since leaving The Endless Waste, the ordu contained large herds of livestock, including hundreds of horses. Jebe and his companions were not only skilled at capturing wild herds, but they became horse breeders, and continued to drive their herds to the closest horse market every year even during the darkest days of war. Jebe even captured a few dire horses, which he bred into his stock, increasing their value exponentially. In this way the ordu began to grow wealthy after entering Mulhorand, and their assets continued to grow. In addition every man and woman in the ordu was a craftsman, able to construct strong weapons and useful items of steel, leather, wood, horn and wool. Many also learned magic, and used the cash of the ordu to purchase laboratory supplies, with which they began to manufacture small magical items for their families and simple scrolls for export. Thus by the time the war ended many of the Tuigan, and those of Rurikan in particular, were quite wealthy.
This wealth was used to outfit the Khan’s warriors with extensive gear, including masterwork weapons, poisoned arrows and magical tack for every man’s mount. The archers and lancers of The Tuigan March became feared warriors throughout The Eastern Realms, and Jebe himself was still a powerful adventurer. He began to consolidate his rule. The Tuigan expelled all settled people, both city-dwellers and farmers, from the territory they controlled. With the exception of Rurikan and nonhuman allies such as the stone Giants, they leveled every village and burned every farm, pulled down fences and walls, and tore up roads. By 1398 all the land between The River Angol and The River of Spears, south as far as The Shaar, had become an empty plain where Tuigan herds grazed.
Expansion to Empire
Then Jebe began to expand the borders of his land. In 1399 he obtained permission from the Pharaoh to seize the remnant of Unther. The Mulhorandi occupiers swiftly withdrew from northern Unther, leaving the disarmed and leaderless populace defenseless. The Tuigan drove north through The Green Lands and into the heart of the ancient kingdom, causing famine as they destroyed farmland behind them, and putting the people to the sword by the thousands or driving them in flight into Chessenta. They pulled down the cities of Unthalass, Shussell, Messemprar, and many others. When the killing was over, everything between Threskel and The Chondalwood, from The Winding River to the sea, belonged to Jebe Khan.
Meanwhile Jochi had not allowed his father’s absence to deter his own dreams of glory in The Shaar. His son Arigh Boke had been made a chief over the Cheetah tribe at birth, in 1393, which scholars today mark as the birth of The Tuigan Empire. The Golden Family, as they were soon to be called, now ruled a multi-ethnic, multi-national empire. By 1395 the Cheetah warriors, and many Tuigan from his mother’s land to the north, were sufficiently numerous to go to war. Jochi led them, his two-year old son propped in the saddle, on the first of The Great Raids against the cities north of The Shaar. Hardcastle, Torsh, Innarlith, Derlusk, and much of The Border Kingdoms were sacked and looted, their skilled inhabitants carried off to service for the nomads.
By 1397, one year after this campaign concluded, the Khan’s second son Batu gave him another grandchild, Mongke. The next year, the Khan’s daughter Borte would be wedded to the Pharaoh of Mulhorand, Horustep III, who shared a deep bond of war with Jebe Khan. Their son Ilderim was born in 1399, the same year the Khan attacked Unther.
In 1408 Jebe Khan became a great-grandfather with the birth of Yakub in The Shaar. Two years later the teenage Mongke followed his cousin into a chiefdom, becoming leader of the Hyena. Once again, there would be a Great Raid, as father and son gathered a large horde of Tuigan and Shaaran riders for a ride around the southern border of The Shaar. This time, however, the Khan was present to make it three generations.
By this time The Tuigan Empire consisted of three realms. The Tuigan March, ruled personally by Jebe Khan or, in his long absences, by Subedei Khatun, remained at the core physically and politically. Rurikan was now extremely wealthy. Raurin was being developed.
The Khan would live another seven years, during which time he again became a great-grandfather with the birth of Drasna in 1416. In 1415 the Empire added another realm when Jebe’s youngest son Kublai was elected Khan of Khans in The Endless Waste. Movement between the northern and southern halves of Tuigan land now became heavy, and it was no longer possible for the hidden land of Gezer, which lay across the migration route, to remain aloof. In 1416 Tewodros, Emperor of Gezer formally submitted to Jebe Khan in a meeting later known as The Dragon Embassy. A sixth and a seventh realm were added in the year of Jebe’s death, 1417, when Yakub was elected Khan of all Shaarans and Mongke became Regent of Ulgarth, the latter only weeks before the Khan died peacefully in his camp, Jebekhanbalik.
Jebe Khan’s long absences from home, whether at war or simply adventuring, established Subedei Khatun as the de facto ruler of Jebekhanbalik and forced all the Noyan, the warriors, and The Golden Family to defer to her. The respect paid the Khatun prevented any strife from erupting after the Khan’s death and held the family together during the further expansion of the Empire from 1417-1426.
Jebe Khan’s willingness to accept non-Tuigans and non-humans among his followers and his Noyan made the Empire much more secure than it might have been otherwise. The Ogres, Giants and Dwarves in particular repaid his kindness many times over. The Khan also adapted new technology and magic to a nomadic way of life. In particular, his mobile artillery of magically enhanced bombards, copied from Shou and Thayan designs, made his warriors extremely effective at siege warfare. His embrace of magic allowed the nomads to equip themselves with great amounts of magical weapons and gear, making even an ordinary Tuigan rider the superior of a soldier of any other nation. His armies also relied on monsters to a greater extent than others, especially elephants, Wyverns, Dragons, and the few Soarwhales found in the mountains.
Jebe Khan was survived by the large, sprawling and quarreling ranks of The Golden Family. The Khan’s Spirit Banner is still kept by the lamas of an Ogre monastery behind Demonblood Dam, but the location of his tomb was never recorded.