At night the wasteland is dotted with towns that light up the darkness. Each one is some settler’s attempt at rebuilding civilization. The wasteland holds endless wonders and mysteries and you’ll never see them from within the walls of one village. Life on the road doesn’t leave time for growing crops or herding brahmin, so some people survive by taking what they need. Such predatory behavior is hardly commendable, but it does take strength to live the life of a raider, and who doesn’t respect strength?
Every few miles there’s some new group of raiders on the prowl, always certain that their strength gives them the right to prey on the weak. And every damned one of them has a theatrical name and flamboyant heraldry. The Fiends, the Jackals, the Yakuza. Every pack of chem-addicts that stumbles across a history book just decides to play dress-up and terrorize the nearest village.
Fortunately, most raider gangs don’t last long. Entire groups can be exterminated in one fight gone wrong, or the whole lot can overdose on a batch of Med X that’s been cut too pure. But a few of the raider gangs have managed to stick around for generation after generation, and the most resilient by far is the Khans.
A long time ago, many years before even the Great War, there was a place called Mongolia. Home of the Khans, some of the toughest warriors the world had ever seen. They were led by a man called Genghis, and under his rule they came closer to conquering the world than anyone else. Even a thousand years later people still know the name.
The Khans of the modern wasteland aren’t actually descendents of the originals from Mongolia. They came out of Vault 15 in 2121, along with a few other raider gangs, and the people who founded the village of Shady Sands. The folks that settled down in Shady Sands couldn’t wait to start rebuilding civilization, but the rest – they took a liking to the wasteland just as it was.
Some of those survivors from Vault 15 formed a gang called the Vipers, a band of kooks that worship snakes. They’ll be remembered in the holotapes because one of them managed to kill the High Elder of the Brotherhood of Steel a century ago. But the Vipers are nothing compared to the most infamous raider gang that came from Vault 15. The Khans.
The Khans value strength above all other qualities. When that vault opened they knew that the world had become a place where the strong would thrive while the weak became prey. For years they ranged through the remains of Arizona and California, stealing what they could carry, razing anything left behind. Under the leadership of a man called Death Hand they thrived in an age where other bands barely managed to survive at all.
In time Death Hand grew old, his body covered in scars from a lifetime of battle. Even then there was only one person who had the might to best him in a fair fight, his own son Garl. The Khans would only accept leadership from the greatest warrior among them, and there is no truer test of a person’s strength than a fight to the death. Garl killed his own father for the right to lead the Khans and took the title of Death Hand as his own.
He led the Khans in their raids against Shady Sands and other towns in New California for years afterwards. Many settlers considered him nothing more than a bullying low-life brute, but others suspected that Garl Death Hand was merely seeking a worthy foe.
If Garl had played his cards right, he might have lived long enough to have a son of his own and one day pass on the title of Death Hand but, before he could produce an heir, he met his end. In 2162, Garl and his gang had kidnapped a girl from Shady Sands, and she turned out to be the mayor’s daughter, Tandi. That was a step too far for the people of Shady Sands, and it wasn’t long before some do-gooder in a Vault 13 jumpsuit showed up at the primary Khans camp demanding that Garl release her. The legend of the Vault Dweller had just begun, and the Khans couldn’t have known just what they were up against, but Garl had finally found a true equal to face in combat.
The Khans were hardly the greatest threat that The Vault Dweller had to deal with, and they weren’t even mentioned in the dweller’s memoir. Once a damsel in distress, Tandi went on to become president of the New California Republic, where she turned the NCR into a powerhouse the Khans could never hope to match. Only one Khan managed to survive the camp massacre, a boy named Darion who hid during the ruckus. Darion spent the rest of his life trying to atone for his act of cowardice. He created a gang called the New Khans and spent eighty years harassing Tandi and the people of her New California Republic.
What Darion lacked in courage, he made up for in leadership. His New Khans were a bunch of real bruisers, maybe even tougher than the gang from the old Death Hand days. These new Khans were such terrors that they even took control of Vault 15, right under the NCR’s nose. Tandi couldn’t let that stand, so she sent an operative to deal with New Khans.
That operative just happened to be a direct descendant of the Vault Dweller who had slaughtered the original Khans… The old bird probably got a laugh at that.
By that time Darion was a half-crazed old man, but he went down with a hell of good fight. The Vault 15 security system recorded his final battle, and he would have made Garl Death Hand proud.
Even though Darion was dead, the Khans lived on. A handful of raiders away from Garl’s camp survived and carried the legacy of the Khans with them. The largest group lived away on the fringes of the NCR under Papa Khan, called the Great Khans to honor their illustrious heritage.
In 2267, Papa lead them East where they discovered the ruins of Vegas; that was years before Robert House had unleashed his army of robots. The Great Khans found a home among the hardened tribals that inhabited Vegas back then. There the Khans could test their mettle against the other warriors, and they wouldn’t have to worry about the Vault Dweller’s great grand kids showing up to kill them all.
The Great Khans had a few good years there, until Mister House decided to send out his Securitron army and “Civilize” the inhabitants of his town. About the same time the NCR had begun to spread East into Nevada too.
The Great Khans know more than anyone that annihilation is an ever-present threat in the wasteland, and they suddenly faced a war against two armies, so they chose to abandon Vegas rather than tempt fate. Outside of Vegas they were of little interest to House, but they still fought NCR troops at every opportunity.
The New California Republic had grown increasingly ruthless in its efforts to acquire new territory, and there are those in the Mojave who saw the Great Khans as victims of NCR hegemony. The two groups had been enemies for generations, and their battles were fought with little mercy from either side. The NCR eventually won a decisive victory though, at the Battle of Bitter Springs. Although most people around the Mojave call it The Bitter Springs Massacre.
Bitter Springs was identified by NCR intel as the Khans’ base of operation. The NCR cornered the Great Khans and invaded the camp. That’s when the Khans started evacuating the camp down a nearby canyon. 1st Recon troops stationed there opened fire and killed most of the gang. They thought they were shooting raiders flanking their troops, but they ended up killing women and children, old folks too. Almost anyone who was at Bitter Springs has a different account of what happened. It might have been a mistake, some miscommunication between the NCR commanders, or bad reconnaissance at the site. Or it could have been a deliberate act of genocide.
More than a few NCR troops just walked away from the army after that. Even if the massacre can be blamed on bad intel, the soldiers who pulled the triggers still had to hold themselves accountable for their own actions. Some of them have taken jobs as mercenaries protecting towns in the Mojave. Get them drunk enough and they might talk about what they did at Bitter Springs. Though most of them are drinking just so they can forget.
The Khans of course can never forget Bitter Springs. The massacre left the Great Khans a broken people. The ones that survived limped away to the West, way out in Red Rock Canyon. There the Great Khans are out of the way of the NCR and New Vegas. They lack the brute force and numbers to survive as raiders like in the old days, and now they make a living by manufacturing chems, and selling them to other raider gangs.
Papa Khan is aware of just how far his people have fallen, and the NCR bears the full weight of his wrath. He has even accepted envoys from Caesar in the hope that joining the Legion will allow him some final act of revenge against the NCR in the coming war. A fool’s hope, but that might be all that the once great Khans have left.
They have little choice but to hide in their canyon, lamenting their lost power. Still, even a group of broken down chem-dealers have it pretty good when compared to some people in the wasteland. If you can call them people. There are wretches out there who’d be happy just to have skin that isn’t rotting off their faces.
But that- is a story for another day…