Әдебиет - ұлттың жаны. Ұлттық сана, тағдыр, жан жүйесі - көркемөнердің басты тақырыбы. Таптық жік арқылы әдебиет жасалмайды...
Жүсіпбек Аймауытұлы

20 қазан 2014 1982

Yesenberlin Ilyas «The Golden Horde»

Негізгі тіл: Ilyas Yesenberlin The Golden Horde

Бастапқы авторы: Ilyas Yesenberlin The Golden Horde

Аударма авторы: not specified

Дата: 20 қазан 2014



BOOK ONE
The Six-Headed Aydakhar

CHAPTER ONE

Batu Khan lifted his head to look into the sky. Amazingly clear, a little bland with the midday sun in it, it was bottomless and vast like the sea, which he had seen in his youth past and gone. It was then that his fearless tumens  <A tumen is an army of ten thousand people.> stopped their horses near the City of Trigestum… 
It was long before. Such a long time had passed that it seemed a distant, half-remembered dream. Life is fleeting. Time had proven swift as an arrow sent by a tightly strung Mongol bow. 
Batu Khan narrowed his slanting eyes. In the azure spate of the sky, a tiny point of darkness was hovering – an eagle looking round for prey. His eyes watered with exertion, and the khan lowered his head. No. He could never love the sea as much as he loved the steppe. Spanless and beautiful, it lay at his feet, and there was a great silence over it. Its breath was the gentle wind sweet with the freshness of springs and the tangy scent of sagebrush. At the foot of a hill, the youngest son of Batu Khan, the five-year old Barak, was chasing grasshoppers, sinking in the high feather-grass to surface again from time to time. Wearing a red Bukhara velvet chapan and an otter fur trimmed borik hat, also red, he resembled a living drop of blood when seen from afar.
Batu Khan released a quiet sigh. Lulled by the noonday heat, the steppe was lying still under the cerulean cup of the sky. “What can the eagle see from as high as he is?” he thought, “What kind of prey is he looking for?" With his whole body, Batu Khan turned heavily to face the river. Here, on the bank of the great Itil <Itil is a name of the Volga.>, his quarters lay. The City of Saray Batu was beautiful. <Saray Batu is the first capital of the Golden Horde which lay on the left bank of the Itil, about 140 kilometer north of Khoji Darkhan (Astrakhan). Nowadays, Selityarny Settlement is located in the area.>.
The gilded roofs of the palace shone in the sun with a solemn and festive radiance.  Saray looked much like the city of the Orusuts, Kharmankibe <Kharmankibe is the Mongol name of Kyiv.>, only just it was a little smaller, and it was the best workmen brought from the Orusuts’ land that built it, while the khan’s palace was erected by the Romans. The glorious Batu Khan built his capital of white marble brought from the land conquered, of oak as hard as stone, and crisp bronze pine rafted from the upper reaches of the Itil. 
The city rose with power of gold and kamchas was growing sweepingly. It was a source of mere joy and price for Batu. Son of a nomadic tribe, which was used to destroying and not building, he had an exciting feeling which was subject to no explanation at seeing what the crafty workmen’s hands produced. The feeling was the thing urging him to be lavish, to do whatever he could so that his city could grow more and more beautiful every day. Wasn’t it him, the glorious Batu Khan, who ordered that the fancy curved roofs of Mongol shamans’ tabernacles be overlain with pure gold? What would he spare for his capital? Gold of peoples bent to submission? Blood of slaves? His hand lavished it all on the city to provide it abundantly.
But every year, as soon as the first silvery veins of springs showed on the steep sides of steppe ridges and pike-sharp green small stalks pierced put of the reddish brown felt of the grass remaining from the previous year, Batu Khan would leave his palace.  A different city would sprout in the vastness of the steppe – one of white tents. He would not spend a single night within the walls of his palace till late autumn, till wild geese in the creeks of the Itil started chipping the jingly young border ice with their red beaks to swallow them.
People called those temporary quarters of the great khan the White Horde. The whole of the land north, west, and south of the Kypchak Steppe reached by the hoof of the Mongol horse has gone under the name of the White Horse Khanate since then.
In the year of the Mouse (1240), the year when Batu conquered and destroyed Kharmankibe, he set up his capital – the City of Saray...
It was seventeen years ago... And today, looking at his quarters, Batu Khan for the first time did not feel the usual excitement. His eyes were looking at the world blandly and joylessly. The glorious Batu Khan, the very mentioning of his name awed tribes and nations and set half the world trembling, was ill.  Since the very moment he first mounted a horse, Batu Khan had never been ailed. The wounds he suffered in his campaigns used to heal as soon as those of a steppe wolf. But this year, the year of the Snake, when he turned fifty six, the glorious Powers of Heaven. In Croatia, Batu was wounded severely, and his heirs began giving each other sidelong glances, ready to cross their swords for the right to be Khan of the Golden Horde. 
But he defeated death. It seemed to his me had done so till he realized that there was no deceiving one’s destiny. An unknown ailment settled in the body of Batu Khan. Nobody could tell its name. Helpless, the most famous sorcerers of the steppe, bakhsys, would retreat in its face; tabibs and healers invited from China, Iraq, Iran, and Rome were all helpless.  
No longer than a year ago, robust and fresh as paint, Batu could easily stop a young pull to throw him down to the ground, but now his body is drying, his muscles have grown flaccid, and his hands lack the strength they used to have.  Who could say, just a while ago, looking at the awful Batu Khan, that time would come for him to sit alone on a hill, aged and stooping, resembling a saba, that is, a leather sack, which has been emptied of kumis? Who of the great was aware of such a horrible and unfathomable illness?
Batu Khan was withering slowly, and as his body was melting away, the world was growing drearier and drearier to him. Whatever others knew as fascinating, whatever was joy to them, came to evoke nothing but apathy in him as something totally unnecessary. His soul craved nothing anymore, neither victories, nor blood of his foes, nor far reaching campaigns.
Beads of perspiration appeared at the khan’s pale forehead. With a heavy effort, he lifted his hand to wipe is away. A sudden remembrance of the distant past, of what happened thirty years ago, when his far-famed father, Dzhuchi Khan, ruler of Desht-i-Kypchak, Khorasan, and Ibir-Sibir,  <Ibir-Siberi is Siberia.> departed from this world, came to him. Back then... Back then, his heart had a sound and thumping beat, and the blood running in his veins was hot and swift-flowing. Life seemed festive, and horizons were growing more and more distant over the land which he intended to have under the hoof of his horse.
Dying, Batu’s father devised him nothing but the ulus of Desht-i-Kypchak.  In two years, they lifted him up on a white blanket, and he became the khan of the Horde.
Could thirty years have passed since then? The years of the past seemed as short as days to Batu Khan. Back then, he would celebrate each victory proudly, and each land he subjugated was like a high mountain just conquered.  He wanted to be like his glorious grandfather, Genghis Khan, and he would do whatever he could to be so.
Batu Khan tried to wake the fury he once used to fell, but he could not – his soul was silent.  A bitter thought came to him – he thought that the whole of the land he owned were less than a copper coin of a poor dervish unless he could bribe death to go away or at least wait some time. A beastly fear of the unknown seized the khan, and he closed his eyes.
Somewhere in the sky, the eagle was still soaring, strong and free, and little Barak, as carefree and happy as before, was chasing grasshoppers. So Batu Khan asked himself a question. Could he, glorious and fearless as he was, be afraid of what Heaven destined him for? He turned his eyes to where his son was playing. A wan smile appeared on the khan’s anemic lips, and there was a sparkle of light in his dull gray eyes. Barak was Batu Khan’s last joy. The one who ruled the White Horde had four sons – Sartak, Toktu Khan, Ayukhan, and Ulakshi.  Three of them had grown to be warriors, and Ulakshi was the only one who still did not participate in campaigns or govern an ulus; but even he would take part in horse races and call at slave girls every once in a while.
The mother of his eldest son, Sartak, was a daughter of a noble bek of the Oirots. The rest of his wives belonged to various clans, mostly to the Kypchak community, and were Muslims.
He would mostly marry girls of the tribes and nations conquered. The Khan believed refreshing one’s bad to be exhilarating and recreative. When he turned fifty and his visits to the tents where his wives lived grew rarer, a miracle happened. In his last campaign, in a mountain valley, he met a girl from the Croat tribe. She appeared from the bushes, slender, carrying a basket full of mushrooms.  The girl happened to be so close to the khan that he could see himself in her eyes, wide with fear, deep as lakes, as if they were mirrors. 
Batu had chanced girls from that tribe before, but they had never evoked anything but the desire to enjoy them, just like all other girls. There was something special about this one, which the khan still could not explain.
He ordered that she be caught and sent to his quarters. After that, his soldiers found the girls’ parents, and the khan permitted to save their lives, which he considered as a pay for their daughter. 
Something odd happened to the ruler of the Golden Horde. Batu Khan, who had never loved anyone, suddenly realized that something was changing inside him. An unfamiliar sentiment was pushing him tyrannically to her, even though her response was hatred. The girl tried to escape, she used poison, but the guards and servants, women specially ordered to attend to her, wouldn’t let her die. Batu Khan took her by force.
After nine months and nine days, the new wife gave birth to Batu Khan’s son Barak. It was then that she came to feel like she wanted to live. She was not wooing death any more. But she was destined elsewise. One of the concubines, who had never experienced the happiness of maternity, bribed the midwife, and she arranged for the mother to die.
Batu Khan was grieved deeply. Infuriated, he ordered that the guilty ones be cut into pieces and for their bodies to be thrown away into the steppe.  But Batu could not be called Genghis Khan’s grandson if he had let himself go. He knew that there was nothing less true in the sublunary realm than fate. It is like heapy clouds always curling, and you never know whether sun is going to shed light on you or shadow will be cast upon them.  Barak’s future was also dim and obscure. There was no telling whose indulgence and hatred would be cast upon him. Steppe is very unpredictable in the steppe – it has plenty of envy, betrayal, and guile. Numerous conflicts can only be settled with the poison and the knife here.
The most faithful and reliable guards attended to the young khan. The boy grew to be robust and healthy. Time came for him to utter his first words, and Batu’s visits to him had grown more frequent since then. The khan would take the boy onto his lap, and his face, rough, sunburnt and scarred by the wind of far-reaching campaigns, would grow lighter. The feeling was new to him, too. Being always indifferent to children, always suspicious and cruel, busy with wars and feud, Batu was totally transformed at seeing Barak.  As years passed, the boy came to bear a greater resemblance to his mother. He resembled her in his anger, obstinate and furious. Batu would embrace him and, as was the Mongol custom, smell at his forehead when patting the child. The intense smell of childhood excited the khan. The thought, yet obscure, of Barak’s being the heir, the ruler of the Golden Horde he had created in due time, would occur more and more often. Batu could not explain what the source of this believe might be, but there was something about the young khan that made him think so. The idea grew especially certain when he realized that he was living on a borrowed time. But he knew that his dream was to never come true. Barak was too little and vulnerable to resist the cruel world full of guile, in which one will never hesitate to spill his brother’s blood in pursuit of power.
It occurred to the Khan that it might have been better to give his son the name of Kypchak or Orusut – that was the name of the nations he had conquered. It was an ancient Mongol tradition to give the name of one’s enemy to a newly born baby. It was a good omen, as the boy would get the years the enemy had lived in addition to what he was destined for, and his life would be long. If only he could live a little longer, for his son to grow stronger, open his wings; to harden his will and teach him to be merciless to enemies. If only...
Batu Khan lifted his face to the sky again. The eagle was still soaring in the cloudless blue, but he was closer to the ground now, and his giant wings, which looked like powerful hands with fingers splayed out. Suddenly a horrible thought struck the khan. He understood what it was that the blood-thirsty bird was looking for in the thick feather grass. Batu Khan flashed his eyes at the foot of the hill, where his son was playing, carefree and happy. With a wild, coarse shout he sprang to his feet, but the eagle was swifter.  With its wings folded down, the bird rushed to the ground, where Barak’s red chapan was gleaming, like a falling stone.
- Here! Here!..- Batu Khan roared. Panting and stumbling over stones, he was running towards Barak with his arms spread wide. 
The black bird took off heavily with a little living lump of red in its claws, and his son’s scream filled with anguish, despair, and terror, struck Batu Khan. He could not run any more. With delirious eyes he watched the eagle flying higher and higher with the tiny body of his son, who looked like a small drop of blood now that he saw him from the ground, beating convulsively in his iron claws.  
Batu Khan, the iron Batu Khan, who had never had mercy for a living being since he was born, was crying silently. He, who was used to sending thousands of people to death, who used to enjoy the sight of the ground painted red with blood, came to understand that death was anguish, that death was a pain which was beyond comparison. Flames of conflagration, screams of people defeated and now dying of the merciless Mongol swords, scenes capable of making one’s hair stand on end had always been a source of joy to him. That moment they seemed to pass before his inner eye, and a violent tremor seized his whole body. Could the death of his son had been destined by fate, the fate one cannot escape and which will inevitably creep up on you, regardless of who you are – a soldier or the ruler of the Golden Horde? A slightest movement of Batu’s hand was enough to destroy cities and conquer countries. Today, there had not been a simple bow and an arrow to save his son. For the first time in his life, Batu Khan felt love and affection for a living being, but his fate had been following him hard on the heels and finally caught him up disguised as a black eagle and took his bundle of joy away.  Fate is merciless, and there is no force to stop it.
Batu thought of the eagle’s crooked claws tearing his son’s body into pieces, and ground his teeth in helpless rage. What could he do, a glorious and powerful khan, against the fate?
All of a sudden, he thought back of what happened twenty years before. His tumens, which consisted of keshiktens <Keshiktens means guards (Mong.).>, besieged the small fortress of a little mountain tribe. Their men had fallen in the losing battle, and the fortress was only defended by women. They were dying of injuries, hunger, and thirst, but they would not open the gate. Fall came to the mountains, it was time the tumens were sent back to the steppe, but the fortress remained impregnable. Then Batu Khan resorted to cunning. He ordered that its defenders be told, “Give up. We’ll kill you, but we’ll spare the lives of your children!” 
There were only one hundred of them, women defending the fortress,- heavily wounded, hardly alive, they were invincible, for the love they had for their children had given them power. For the sake of their children they trusted the khan. But Batu was not as good as his words. Right before the mothers’ eyes, his soldiers cut the children into pieces with their crooked Mongol swords. Batu’s heart did not soften at that moment. He was watching the blood spilt, listening to the scream, and the flame was reflected in the pupils of his eyes. Even the Mongols were struck by his cruelty. The soldiers would whisper, “Genghis Khan is still alive. His spirit now resides in Batu Khan".
Indeed, Batu Khan had always been cruel and merciless. Back then, a hundred women were helpless in the face of Batu, their fate, and today he, the invincible ruler, was helpless in the face of his fate disguised as an eagle.
Khan believed life to be a battle, so he thought it was fair that the strongest one defeated the weaker ones. Yesterday, he was the strongest one, but today the black eagle had the power. So it has been and so it will be forever. Batu could not think of a different life, so one of the first ideas which occurred to them was that of revenge. Since he saw the sun and the steppe, Batu had known that one should have no mercy for one’s enemy. Sometimes he thought that he might have taken it in with his mother’s milk, so Batu had always been merciless to those who happened to stand in his way or endanger his reputation. Only blood could redeem blood. He could not think of a different solution. Only when Batu has killed the black eagle with his own hands and drunken his hot blood out will Barak be avenged. The Khan had grown up in the steppe, so he knew the habits of eagles well. The unholy bird will eventually come back to the place where it has once found its prey.
Batu Khan did not tell anyone about the horrible death of Barak. The people, who had got used to his glory and come to think that Heaven favored their Khan, must not know that Batu Khan’s grandson was susceptible to the same things as common folks. His enemies would celebrate the terrible news and spread it all over the world, too.
In his quarters, nobody dared to ask what had happened to the boy. A hundred of the khan’s personal guards, who had seen the scene at a distance, were poisoned with a sorcerer’s brew that very night. Batu was following the will of Genghis Khan, No living being can know what the secret of the Khan is”.
As he did before, he devoted each day to the affairs of the Horde by receiving ambassadors and giving orders. He seemed to have no fear of the approaching death. However, everyone who was not blind could see Batu Kahn’s body growing more feeble with each day.  His unblinking slanting eyes, which resembled those of his grandfather, always fierce, had now become dull and glazed.
It was only in the afternoon that Batu, having finished dealing with the business, would put on his red chapan and an otter trimmed hat, just the same as those which Barak had worn, and go to the steppe, to the secret hill. His guards would follow him at a respectful distance for fear of bothering the khan. Dried out by his ailment, small and feeble, he ride slowly through the steppe, and there his disturbing black thoughts would come back to him, for no one could see his face. With each day, his fear of the death was dying out, and he was beginning to cherish each moment of life. A month ago, a Tibetan healer sent by the Great Khan of Karakorum Mengu to cure Batu said, “Honorable Khan of the Golden Horde, there is no cure in the sublunary realm to heal your ailment. The man departs from this world when only one part of the twenty parts of water which are present in his body remains. The man cannot help it. The blood grows thick, and no worldly pleasures can make it run down the veins. I do not know how much more you are destined to live. It is all in the hands of Heaven”.
They were alone in the tent, and Batu Khan was listening to the healer’s soft speech, his eyes covered with his heavy eyelids. And nothing but bitterness was in his soul at that moment. He never told anyone about this conversation, but he always bore it in his mind.
The way was very familiar to the horse. It would take Batu Khan to the top of the hill easily. The khan would let the horse go, and it would go away to the steppe, where the guards would sit hidden in the high grass within an arrow’s flight. Only Batu knew why he came here every day. The khan was waiting for the eagle. That was the reason why he would wear a red chapan and hide a sharp sword in the flap of his dress.  Batu believed that the birds would eventually be deceived and take his body dried by the disease for that of a child.
Having inspected the sky, the khan would sit on a stone to wait patiently. His ailment had deprived him of strength completely, but his mind was still sound. The thought of his soon departure was disturbing to Batu Khan. He did not dream of a miraculous healing; he thought of the future of the Golden Horde, which he had created. He was to leave a testament to his descendants which they would follow - and each of them would help so that they would not ruin the core of the great khanate. He was to teach them to remain the fate, the punishing sword for the nations conquered, despite everything.
Descendants... The man comes to life and leaves it.  His descendants have a fate and a way of their own, so maybe one should not worry about them? His glorious grandfather Genghis Khan once told him, “For my whole life, I had only dream of two things.  The first was for my fame to grow infinitely; the second was for my fame to remain with my descendants and for them to always rule other nations.” 
The memory of his grandfather talking to one of his commanders, Borakul, suddenly occurred to Batu Khan.  
- What is precious to you in this world? – Genghis Khan asked.
- Life,- Borakul answered.
- How can you prove it?
- Owing to the most glorious Genghis Khan I have now become one of the nine pylons which support the upper circle of the Golden Horde frame, - Borakul said.- I am wearing an ermine fur coat stitched with gold, which the Great Khan used to wear, I am married to thirty girls, each of whom is more beautiful than the others, I rule an ulus and countless herds of cattle... But I am old. My tomb is closer to me than the place of honor now. And if god Almighty asked me, “Would you agree to return to the summers of your youth, when you was nothing but a shepherd, giving up all the glory and happiness achieved? – I would agree without moment’s hesitation.” 
- Right you are,- Genghis Khan said.- There’s nothing more precious than life in the whole world...
- But could you do so? – Borakul asked him.
Genghis Khan pondered for a long time before he could respond:
- No. I couldn’t. It’s easy for you to give up your glory, happiness, and honor, as you don’t have children. I have four sons, and all of them are kings, and each of my grandsons is a khan, and even my great-grandsons have started to ride their horses on their own… I owe them my sail winged fame. If god gave my youth back to me, who knows, maybe I would be unable to give them all they have again? It’s not only for my own sake that I have lived, fought, and spilled blood of the unsubmissive. No. I’ll never be able to start it all over again. I’d prefer the days of my descendant to be long and prosperous. Only then will I be reborn again and again – in each victory of theirs, in each step forward. My children are the continuation of my life. If their glory is immortal, I shall never die. Isn’t it the greatest thing a human being can desire?
So spoke the great and wise Genghis Khan to Borakul...
A heavy fatigue crept on Batu Khan’s body, he felt sleepy. He hunched and seemed to be dozing. But he was not. Batu Khan did not come to the hill to doze...
Batu Khan was the most powerful of the seventeen Dzhuchi’s sons. In status and glory, the eldest brother, Ordu, and the youngest one, Berke, were next to him. The rest ruled ordinary aymaks, that is, districts.
Back when Batu raised the banner of the Golden Horde over the land of Desht-i-Kypchak,  he helped his elder brother turn the ulus of Ibir Sibir onto a khanate. It went under the name of the Blue Horde. The rest of Dzhuchi’s sons ruled nations they had conquered and owned countless herds of cattle as well, but none of them had won the title of a khan. Out of all Genghis Khan's grandchildren, only the khan of North China - Kubylay, and that of Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Rhum, Iran, and Bagdad, - Kulagu were at least nearly as powerful as Batu Khan. But none of them had conquered so many nations and lands as Batu Khan. Their reign resembled a sheepskin next to the skin of a bull when compared to those of Batu. In the distant Karakorum, Ugedey and Guyuk had ruled the Mongol Khanate alternately after Genghis Khan’s death, and Mengu had just been lifted on a white blanket. Batu Khan was indifferent to the homeland of his ancestors. He had created the Golden Horde on his own, and his thoughts remained there.
What was the reason of Batu Khan’s good luck? People attributed it to Batu’s strict observance of his ancestors’ will, which he had exercised since a very young age. While other descendants of the Rocker of the Universe often preferred giving orders for their raids and campaigns from their quarters, Batu had always been in the very front of his tumens. Being the ruler of the Golden Horde, he had never worn silk clothes or decorated himself with gold; his living was just as simple as that of his glorious grandfather.  In summer, he would wear a camel hair chekmen, a Kypchak boric trimmed with squirrel fur on his head, and protect his body with a lamb skin chestplate. As winter came, Batu would wear a dark brown sheepskin coat or a wolf fur one and a tymak hat made of thick corsac fox fur.  
So the fact that the khan suddenly began to wear festive clothes was a shock to everyone. His viziers, noyons, and henchmen believed his ailment to be the cause.  Everyone realized that Batu was living his borrowed time, but no one dared to mouth it, no one dared to ask what would happen to each of them. But Batu Khan was to utter it sooner or later. He remembered this, as once he took his younger son, Ulakshi, who was born by his wife from the Tayzhigut clan, to the hill. In spite of his young age, Ulakshi was tall, had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, and looked rather like an Irani than like a Mongol.
Certainly, Batu ought to have talked to this eldest son in those days, which were so dark to him, as he was the one to inherit the power over the Golden Horde according to the law of Genghis Khan, so he was the support to Batu Khan.  But Sartak was not in the quarters. Feeling unwell, Batu Khan had sent him to take part in the great kurultai in Karakorum.
As was the custom, Ulakshi, being the younger brother, was to be the fire keeper in the house of Batu Khan. That was the will of Genghis Khan. But it had not been always followed. His descendant had inherited wolfish habits from their grandfather, so the strongest often defeated those who were righteous. A legitimate heir would sometimes become a victim to a more guile, cunning, and stronger one.
Batu Khan was well aware of that, but till the age of seven he grew in the Mongol Horde of his grandfather, so he acted as Genghis Khan had ordered to act. Sartak was to fight for power, which was not going to be easy, and Batu sent him to Karakorum on purpose, hoping that he would learn many things to come at hand when he would be the khan of the Golden Horde. 
Ulakshi is not Sartak, and still he is the closest to the khan now. Who knows if the days of Batu will last till the time his eldest son comes back? Only Heaven knows it.
They got onto the top of the hill, and Batu, narrowing his slanting eyes, looked thoughtfully into the steppe for a long time; then he said: 
- Since a khan’s successor is able to ride a horse on his own, he is not considered a child anymore. You have grown up, son, so I have to talk to you,- Batu was silent for a while. Will Ulakshi understand him, can he retell what he is going to hear to his brothers? – I’m old and ill. Time has come for me to look back and see what I have done and what I haven’t done. If everything has come out the way I thought or I have failed. You are to be the fire keeper. Sit closer to me and listen.
Ulakshi sat down onto a stone slab near his father’s feet.
- The eagle always hunts what it saw in its childhood. This is what happened to me. I lived seven years with my grandfather, Genghis Khan. Once, he placed me onto his pommel and brought me to a battlefield. As far as my eye could reach, the steppe was covered with the bodies of our enemies fallen under the blows of clubs and sabers of Mongol soldiers. Genghis Khan didn’t say anything. The only thing he did was look me in the eyes to see them glisten. And I was dreaming of becoming as brave and merciless as out bagaturs and learning to kill enemies like they do. Grandfather would give me advice from time to time. Three pieces of it have become a radiant star to light my way in the dark of the night called life. In blood-spilling, devastating campaigns, the advice of Genghis Khan would warm my heart, give me confidence and power. 
Once he said to me, “If a tiger happens to rule a pack of dogs, the dogs will eventually turn into tigers. If a dog happens to rule tigers, the tigers will turn into a pack of dogs with time”.
For a long time I made little of his words, till the great steppe of Desht-i-Kypchak fell under the hooves of Mongol horses. We conquered the people of it, but it suddenly occurred to me that my soldiers were developing a habit of marrying local women, more and more with each year, and adopting Kypchak traditions.
That’s when I came to understand the words of Genghis Khan, and I felt an urge to be a tiger to avoid turning into a dog. There were few of us, Mongols, and I began to bring the best of the Kypchaks closer to me. They had a lot of courage, but they had to become as cruel as the Mongols to be victorious. 
People are right when they say that all diseases but for broken bones are contagious. I managed to do what I wanted. Now the Kypchaks helped us rule their people. Fear had given the Kypchak soldiers courage, and we destroyed those who wouldn’t take out way. I had a bog army arranged in a way similar to that of Genghis Khan, and I could sent it against the Bulgarians, the Karluks, the Guzes, the Alans, and other nations… 
- But the dog turned into a tiger with a whip could bear a grudge secretly. What would prevent it from showing its teeth when it felt like a tiger?..Ulakshi said thoughtfully.
A tiny smile appeared on Batu Khan’s lips. He admired the fact that his was giving what he had heard a thought. Who knows, maybe Ulakshi would be lucky and make a fairly good khan one day.
- You’re right... It can happen. But there is one more way to make things remain as you want them to be. Think of the words Genghis Khan said to Noyon Dzhalme, who had been faithful to him since his early youth: 
- When I was born, you were born,
As I grew up, so did you.
Noble in a dog’s cradle,
My lucky, my wonderful Dzhalme!
Apart from these words, he presented his noyonwith the right to commit ten misdeeds without being punished for them.
What did my grandfather Torgan Shire say to the man who had saved him from his enemies when he was young? He said, “May the land of the Merkits along the Selenga River be yours. From now on, it shall belong to your descendants and the descendants of our descendants”. Genghis Khan could not only conquer; he knew how to find a way to the hearts of people who were true to him. He would thank and praise them generously and never spared a reward.
I did the same. My best soldiers would get large pieces of silk from me, and I would pour more gold into their hands. A clan or a tribe distinguished by its merits in the face of the Horse would get the best land for settlement and cattle grazing. – Batu Khan grew thoughtful.- The man is helpless against violence only. He will eat out of your hands as long as you can get hold of his well-being.
Batu Khan broke off to get his wind and wipe the perspiration away from his forehead. It was hard for him to speak.
- Another time, Grandfather told me, “Common folks respect and praise the one they are afraid of. If you want the whole world to know your name, have no mercy – destroy and kill. The more people die at your discretion, the greater your fame will be.
Ulakshi lowered his head. Batu smiled:
- Why are you averting your eyes? Are you thinking of what Bukenzh Kazi responded to this wise saying of my granfather?
The boy nodded.
Everyone in the Golden Horde knew the story. The year when the Mongol tumens first arrived at Khorasan, they captured a kazi <A kazi is a Muslim clergyman, a judge.> Bakheddin Bukenzhi. Astonished by the his broad knowledge, Genghis Khan granted him life and left him to be one of his men. He enjoyed listening to what the kazi told him about traditions and customs of other countries and nations. Once, the Rocker of the Universe said to his friends, "”I have slaughtered many nations completely; that’s why the whole world knows me. My glory will be even greater if I don’t leave any living being”.
At hearing those words of his, the kazi asked: “Glorious Khan, if you grant me life, I dare object to you.”
Genghis Khan was in a hilarious disposition, and he promised not to put Bukenzhi to death.
“Glorious Khan! – said the Kazi.- If you and your army destroy all nations, who will glorify your name?”
Genghis Khan stared at Bukenzhi with cold fixed eyes and suddenly burst out laughing, “I have only conquered half the world, and there are some people to glorify me yet.” 
- My grandfather was wise,- said Batu.- He always knew perfectly well what he was talking about. I added new land to that conquered by him, but I was unable of destroying all nations. There will be enough far-reaching campaigns and bloody battles for you.
- Father, but you haven’t always acted as Genghis Khan’s will was.
- Yes.- said Batu.- Not always. I have never presented a friend of mine with my wife. This is the thing in which Batu Khan could not be the way his glorious grandfather was...
In his time, the Rocker of the Universe conquered to clans, that if the Merkits and that of the Naimans.  The heads of the clans were decapitated. Only the Kereis avoided their sad portion. His ruler Zhakha Gombu agreed for his beautiful daughter Ibakhan Begim to marry Genghis Khan. Herds of horses, caravans of costly silk, silver and golden dishes, and two hundred slaves arrived with her to the quarters of Genghis Khan. It seemed like they had make peace to lastBut Zhakha Gombu only needed a pause, and after a short time he attacked the Mongols. NoyonZurshatai, who was true to Genghis Khan, trapped him by deception and cut the traitor’s head off.  He also helped defeat the Kereis and saved the life of the glorious Genghis Khan in a battle against them by covering him with his own body. 
Genghis Khan was pleased with Zhurshatai’s act and gave him his wife Ibakhan Begim.  At doing so he said, “If your enemy attacks you, meet him with a pit dug out. If your friend is near, don’t spare a piece of your own body for him.”
That was what the father and the son were thinking about.
Ulakshi shook his head with obstinacy.
- It’s not only those whom the glorious ancestor owed his life to whom he gave his wives. Katai Noyondidn’t do what Zhushatai did, did he?
- No. It happened. Your ancestor was the ruler of the universe. Thus, any act of his would only embellish him. I know the story... It was like this. During the struggle against the Kerei and Taizhigut tribes, Katai Noyontook the side of Genghis Khan. That was his only merit. Even in a battle against Van Khan, when my grandfather turned to him for advice, he kept silent, stroking the mane of his stallion.   That was the only merit of that man.
But soon Genghis Khan had a horrible dream of an enormous spotted snake embracing his body. The snake spoke to him in a human’s voice, “I’ll swallow you unless you give up your wife.”
Genghis Khan trusted in healers and could read dreams. In the morning, he saw Abike Begim, beautiful as a swan, lying next to him. Little time had passed since he turned her into his wife. The Khan woke her. “Since I married you, my soul had rested in peace and joy. But you shouldn’t bear grudge against me. I’ve had a bad dream, and I have to give you to somebody”.
Abike Begim knew that the khan would never say the same thing twice. She said sadly, “Let it be as you order. Let the joy of the days we have spent together remain with us. Let me take only the golden cup from which I drink kumis and my faithful servant named Konatai.” 
Genghis Khan agreed and called for the guard.
"Who is stand guarding today?" – he asked.
“I am”, Kaktain Noyonanswered.
“I’m giving my wife, Abike Begim, to you.”
Those words of his made the noyontremble.
“Don’t you be afraid. – Genghis Khan said authoritatively. – I only speak once, and I always tell the truth.”
Obedient to the khan’s imperious look, Abike Begim threw her braided hair onto her bosom. It was a Mongol tradition for a woman to divide her hair into two equal parts after getting married. It meant that one half of her life would belong to her husband from then on. If a woman did as Abike Begim did, it meant that she would part with her beloved one forever.
- Our fearless ancestor was afraid of bad dreams... That’s odd... He conquered half the world, and his heart never faltered him.
Batu Khan shook his head sadly:
- How little you understand yet, Son. If a person has a great aim, he doesn’t think of death in his youth. When his dream finally comes true, and his age is old – each remaining day becomes precious to the man. People only value what they lack.
All of a sudden, Ulakshi realized that his powerful, fearless father was afraid of death. Horribly afraid. He was at a loss for words, and a heavy, dismal silence fell onto the hill.
Batu Khan was the one to break it.
- Our grandfather taught us to conquer countries, and you are to learn how to rule them from us,- he said.- Only then will the descendants of Genghis Khan  have  different nations in a tight leash and throw the whole world onto its knees. 
- So our grandfather didn’t learn from anyone, did he? – Ulakshi asked.- Are we following the path he had cut on his own?
- Yes. It is he who cut the way. - Batu said firmly.- He wanted to destroy cities down to the ground, trample down crops and gardens to turn the whole of the land into a huge pasture for Mongol horses. That was his superior dream. Genghis Khan had no mercy on anyone when achieving it, drowning the world in blood. He disregarded those who lived in cities. Only Mongols were true people. They are to own the world be submitted to one man only. For this purpose, Genghis Khan brought all Mongol tribes together with his iron had and had no mercy on those who stood in his way.  You ask me if my grandfather ever learned? He did. He wasn’t ashamed to do so if others’ experience could help him achieve his purpose. 
- Who was the teacher worth him?
- Wise Chinese men would tell him of how Iskander Zulkarnayn, who had conquered half of the world like Genghis Khan, fought his wars < Iskander Zulkarnayn is Alexander the Great.>. The army of Iskander had no akhuruk as ours does <An akhuruk is a family caravan following troops.>, but to mark the lands conquered as his property, he would assign soldiers older than forty years in each of the countries defeated. The soldiers would marry and have children, build houses, and establish the order Iskander wished for to be established.  Our grandfather learned from this. Conquering cities, he would leave his soldiers in them as well, but, unlike Iskander, he left them with wives and children, who would follow the troops in a wagon train. Having established themselves in the new land, they imposed the Mongol law on the bent nations and turned the vast space conquered by Genghis Khan into Mongol lands.  And another thing... Like Roman rulers, he established the High Council of the Horde, which he called Ten Orliks <Ten orliks means ten great men.>. While Genghis Khan was the golden pylon supporting the tent of the Horde, the orliks were nine silver pylons, on which its dome rested. The council consisted of the cream of the cream. Everyone was well aware of their wisdom and gallantry. Apart from the day meant secially for the council to meet, a day and a time was assigned to each orlik for him to talk to the Ruler of the Universe. Genghis Khan would not admit a single relative of his to the council. His belief was that a man who shared blood with him could not be more intelligent than he was. Our grandfather was never on enmity with those who was inferior to him in property of glory. If such a man happened to bother him, he would order a noyonof his to put the unsubmissive one to death, but more often he tried to turn him into his friend. “If you don’t do violence against a man who is less noble than you are, he’ll be willing to be friends with you and not enemies”, Genghis Khan said...
Batu shrugged. His sharp eyes could discern a tiny dot against the blazing background of the steppe. He could not be mistaken. It was the eagle which he had been waiting for so long coming back to the hill.  Batu’s heart felt faint within him for a moment to beat hard and fast. The moment of revenge was approaching...
- Ulakshi,- he asked softly,- what do people in the Horde say about Barak?
The son gave his father an expectant glance, but there was no sign of possible rage on the face of Batu Khan.
- People say that an eagle took Barak away...- Ulakshi broke off for a moment.- People say thw holde world couldn’t defeat Batu Khan, and only the bird dared cause grief to him...
Batu went pale. Deep in his heart, he had felt that people in the Horde knew what had happened to his son, but he had been reluctant to believe it.  So his order to put to death the hundred guards who had witnessed the eagle take Barak away was to no avail, and the people were right to say that truth is a dagger, and there is no bag in which one could hide it. It suddenly occurred to him that the death of his son could have been a comeback of the innocent blood spilt. The thought flashed to die out immediately like a sparkle in the dark of the night.
- Go on...- Batu Khan said, turning his face slightly towards Ulakshi.
- People say the death of Barak is Heaven’s revenge for Batu Khan’s violation of the law of his glorious grandfather.
Batu was silent for a long time.
- Yes, it is...- he said finally.
There was a sparkle in Ulakshi’s eyes.
The khan did not seem to have noticed it.
- My fault is not that I wanted to live till Barak grew up to substitute me, though it was Sartak who was entitled to be the khan of the Golden Horde... I thought it didn’t matter which of the sons took the throne as long as the glory of the Horde could grow and the sublunary world still was in tremble for the fear of the Mongol sword... I wasn’t mistaken about that either... My fault is an absolutely different thing...
- What is is? – Ulakshi asked with impatience.
Batu Khan  ignored the abruptness of his son’s speech. There was no time left for grievances and edification. “The future belongs to him,” the khan thought, “I have to tell my son what he will need tomorrow. He mustn’t make the mistakes of those who are to depart now.”
- My fault is different... We, descendants of Genghis Khan, must think of a way to make the great Mongol Khanate created by our grandfather constantly grow to be larger and more powerful. And if we want the aruakh, that is, the spirit of the Mongols and that of Genghis Khan, to stay with us forever, we mustn’t give the khan’s throne to a son to whom his birth was given by a daughter of a conquered land. - Batu Khan  paused.- A khan fed on the milk of a woman belonging to a defeated country can once take sides with the nation his father conquered. And if Heaven intends to destroy the Horde, its ruination will start this very way... I know it, I can see it... My fault in the face of the glorious Genghis Khan’s spirit is that of breaking his will and, yielding to my paternal love for Barak, intending to entrust the Golden Horde to my son born by a daughter of our enemy.  But now the awful force, which goes under the name of justice, has corrected my mistake disguised as a black eagle...
Ulakshi tilted his head in a gesture of obstinacy.
- If the great khan believes the death of Barak to be fair, then why...- he broke off for the fear of his father’s rage, which he eventually overcame to ask: - So why are you trying to get the attention of the blood-thirsty bird by wearing colorful clothes?
- Who said I defended justice? – The skin pulled up on Batu’s wrinkled face, and a tiny smile dwelled on his lips.- As long as you want to impose your will on the world, you shouldn’t think of justice. It is dishonorable to a descendant of Genghis Khan. If you want to rule the world, you must bear it in your mind that there is only one true power in the world, which you should cherish inside you and keep glowing, like a fire which warms your house. The name of this power is revenge. A man to whom revenge is unfathomable resembles a piece of clay easy to shape. You mustn’t leave things unavenged. It doesn’t matter who your foe is – a man, an animal, or a bird... One’s capability of taking revenge suggests one’s power and nobility...
Ulakshi gave a sigh of relief:
- I am sorry for raising my voice, Father...
- I don’t care about your tone now... It’s not for this that I’ve brought you to the hill today.
Ulakshi was all attention.
- I’m going to die soon,- Batu said mercilessly.- From the day of my departure, your brother Sartak shall be on the throne of the Golden Horde, while you are to be the host of the khan’s house and keep the fire of the entire Horde. Sartak is now far away, and I want to talk to you...
His son grew pale and averted his eye.
- Don’t speak like this, glorious khan...
- Don’t you agonize for nothing...- Batu Khan said wanly.- Everyone has his own fate, and happiness is more valuable and closer than one’s father. So is it to you... I want to give you three pieces of instruction, for, who knows, maybe you’ll come to rule the Golden Horde one day...
Blood rushed to Ulakshi’s face.
- I am listening to you, glorious khan...
- I think you know what a wit named Mangutau once told to Genghis Khan, don’t you?
Ulakshi shook his head in negation.
- Then listen. Long ago, there lived two dragons. One of them had a thousand heads and one tail, and the second one had one head and a thousand tails. Once upon a time, a horrible storm broke out, and winter came to the steppe earlier than expected. The dragon who had a thousand heads intended to get into a hiding place, but the heads had an argument of where to go. They never struck a compromise, so the dragon died. The other one, who had one head, hid from the disaster in time and survived, as his thousand tales obeyed to his only head. Common folks are like a thousand tales. As long as they have one head, a khan, nothing can possibly defeat them, and they can achieve whatever they want. However, the descendants of Genghis Khan resemble a thousand-headed dragon. Unless they manage to stay united and keep from squabbling, they’ll soon face their death in the hands of their enemies. My first instruction to you is as follows, “Do keep all Mongol clans and descendants of the glorious Genghis Khan united. Only then will you be strong forever.”
Ulakshi suddenly reached for the bow lying near them. The black eagle was gliding down smoothly.
- Don’t...- said Batu Khan .- Let it live for a while... If it’s here, it has a reason to be here...
The eagle seemed to have heard the khan’s voice and swept back up.
- Listen to my second instruction,- Batu said, still watching the bird.- My father Dzhuchi conquered the steppe of the Desht-i-Kypchak at Genghis Khan’s order. Grandfather gave the land to him, permitting to exercise his power all over it.  The people of the Desht-i-Kypchak have a proverb: “Clever is not the one who has obtained cattle but the one who has grown it.” Genghis Khan created his created khanate by uniting a hundred Mongol clans and conquering forty nations. We, his grand- and great-grandchildren, offspring of his four glorious Dzhikhangir sons: Dzhuchi, Dzhugatai, Ugedey, and Tuli, have expanded the boundaries of the great Karakorum and multiplied his fame.  My kinsmen Mengu, Guyuk, Ordu, Aryk Bugi, and Kaydu have accomplished countless glorious deeds. I stepped out of the boundaries of the Desht-i-Kypchak, conquered the land of the Orusuts, North Caucasus, and reached the Magyar capital.
Ulakshi was listening to his father with his eyes sparkling.
- But for Ugedey’s death, you’d have reached even farther – the German land and that of the Francs...- he said fervently.- What a pity that you have to turn your horses back...
Batu Khan  gave a quiet laugh. His flaccid skin was tight on his face again, showing the shap cheekbones.
- So you see it as the reason of my return? If it is all about the death of the glorious khan Ugedey, then why didn’t Kulagu, who had reached Bagdad by the time, send his tumens back? As a head of a small army, he set off for Karakorum, leaving his major force where they were under the command of Kit Bugi Noyon. I could do so as well.- Batu broke off. Old time rushed back on him.- No. I couldn’t go such length,- he said thoughtfully.- The death of the glorious Ugedey was merely a pretext. Neither his friends nor his foes have found the true reason now. It lies with a very different thing.
Ulakshi grew strained. His father was about to reveal a secret to him which nobody knew.
- So what is the reason?
Batu Khan  seemed to have failed to hear his question. He was still pondering and thinking back of the things which were only known to him.
- Many people believe that it was to conquer the Magyar land that I crossed the Itil. No, it wasn’t the limit of my ambitions. But first I wanted to defeat the Magyars and turn their vast steppes into a place for my tumens to have rest, then to attack the Germans, the Francs, and other nations living in the West. My ambitions were bold, and my desire was violent. I chose the ancient way of nomadic conquerors, which was cut back during the rule of Attila the Hun <Attila the Hun was the ruler of the Huns>. I knew that the lands I was to go through were inhabited with numerous nations, so to avoid a guile stab in the back, I sent an army headed by  Siban’s grandson Baidar Sultan to Poland, the eighteen-year-old grandson of glorious khan Ugedey Kaidu Sultan to the Chech land, and the grandson of my father Dzhuchi, who was not less glorious, to Bulgaria. I gave each of them a tumen. This time I did the same as when I was attacking the Orusuts,- I sent ambassadors to go in front of the army and tell the people of the land, “Bend your knees to the great Batu Khan voluntarily.” I knew that nobody would choose for the Mongol sword to cut his neck, but that was not the most important thing to me. Do you remember what our glorious grandfather Shigi once said to Khutuch Noyon? He said, “Be the eye to see the whole world. Be the ear to see the whole world.” That’s why I needed the ambassadors. They did what I had expected them to do. Soon I knew everything I wanted to know. Back in the year of the Hen (1237), the Kypchak khan Kotian after fleeing from my army with forty thousand wagons to seek asylum with the Magyar king Bela IV. Together they could make a tremendous force. But the spirit of Genghis Khan stayed with the Mongols. The ambassadors told me that the Magyar noble men put the king on oddbs with Kotian, being afraid of his growing more powerful. A cruel fate was meant for those who escaped – in a single night, more than a half of the Kypchak soldiers were slaughtered, Khan Kotian was  murdered, and those who survived headed for the Balkan Mountains, robbing and incinerating whatever happened to be in their way. Bela IV turned out to be a poor warrior.  His sight did not reach farther than that of a common shepherd. It seemed to him that no force could possibly dare encroach on his land, so he refused to ally with the Orusuts. When my army of one hundred fifty thousand warriors headed by Subedei, Mengu, Guyuk, Ordu, Kadan, Baydar, Bori, Peshek, Nogay, Burunday, and Kaidu entered the land of Kharmankibe, the pricne of Chernigov, Mikhail, sent people to the Magyar kings, asking  for her daughter to get married to his sin Rostislav. Being relatives, they could ally against us. But Bela IV would not agree on this alliance. He acted the same towards the prince of Galicia. The Magyar king must have believed his daughter’s head to be fine gold, and her backside pure silver.- Batu Khan’s lips twisted to form a playful grin.- But in all of this I saw the will of Heaven. What could be more favorable than disunity between the Orusuts and the Magyars? The Germans could turn out to be a powerful enemy, but as my emissary merchants had told me, they wouldn’t believe that the hoof of a Mongol horse could ever touch their land. They didn’t expect us to be Muslims and even hoped to use us against the Arabs. In the meanwhile, the Germans started preparing for a campaign against the Northern Orusut Principalities, Novgorod and Pskov.  We adhered to the will of Genghis Khan – we were fearless and merciless.  The king’s attendants failed to support him, so my valiant tumens would turn his troops to flight, no matter how countless, and the ground would be crimson with blood. I was ruining one city after another, down to the ground, the black smoke of the incineration obscured the sun. Before the middle of the summer came, we had won the Magyar capital of Estergom. Ten thousand soldiers and thirty battering rams destroyed its walls. The braver the Magyar soldiers were fighting, the moe furious was our attack – blood was running in streams down the city walls. At that time, Mongol tumens headed by Baydar, Nogay, and Kaydu drowned Poland in blood.  Fortune favored Ugedey’s middle son Kadan as well. He conquered kingdoms of the South one by one. The fortresses of Slovakia were shaking and falling under the blows of battering rams. Having conquered Poland, Baydar and Kaydu, drunken on success and blood, sent their tumens to the land of East Czechs. That’s where fortune seemed to have turned its back on them – they had to take each single monastery, each single church by storm. To know how many enemies were dead, Mongol soldiers would cut off the right ear of each fallen one. They were moving forward, and they were getting fewer and fewer. As soon as I found out what was happening, I ordered Baydar and Kaydu to stop. Without coming to blows with the army of forty thousand soldiers defending the King of the Czechs Vaclav, they were back under my banner. It lasted till a messenger brought the dreadful news of Khan Ugedey’s death in Karakorum. All representatives of Genghis Khan’s clan were to arrive on the great kurultai to elect a deserving successor. That’s when I ordered my tumens to go back to the Itil banks.
- If you had entrusted your army to some of your valiant noyons...- Ulakshi whispered.
Batu Khan  was silent for a long time, watching the eagle soaring in the sky. His thoughts were far away from here. He seemed to be back in the days of his youth, feeling the ravishment of battles; cities engulfed in flames were brought back to his mind.
- I couldn’t do that,- the khan said firmly.
- But why?..
- The lands and countries we had conquered were countless, but the dictates of reason demanded discretion. I could see that the lands were ours till we turned our horses back. We had conquered those countries but not overmastered them. The kings and tsars who had survived the battles had sworn allegiance to us, but their people wouldn’t obey them, and they couldn’t speak in their name. Starting that campaign, I thought that the valleys of Magyar rivers would be turned into pastures for Mongol horses. That would be a place for us to take a rest and muster all strength before we set off for the West. But the plan failed. There was no peace in the land conquered. There was no day without troops hidden in the woods attacking my soldiers. Blood was still being spilt; the tumens were fewer in numbers. There was one more reason, which I couldn’t forget about...
Batu Khan  brought his hand up to cover his eyes, as if bringing the long forgotten events and memories back to his mind. Hardly gulping down his impatience, Ulakshi was waiting for his father to speak again.
- The reason lay with the Orusut land... Before setting off for the place, I did as my grandfather had done, that is, I sent merchants and emissaries there. Soon, I knew everything I needed – I knew what kind of an army the Orusuts had, what kind of rulers their princes were, and what had the people been like before.
The Orusuts were living in separate principalities but remained one nation, and no one had ever conquered them. They had been defeated in battles against other countries, but they had never lost their freedom.
I knew that it would be hard to bend them. I wasn’t mistaken. It took me three years and a half. It only took me one year to throw the rest of the land under the hooves of Mongol horded.
- And still you conquered them! – Ulakshi said fervently.
- I did. They couldn’t resist my fearless tumens, as each prince believed himself to be wiser and more powerful than the others. I’m not going to talk about small principalities, but if the Principality of Vladimir and Suzdal and that of Galician and Volhynia  had been united, who knows what would the end of our campaign be ... But we are the descendants of the glorious Genghis Khan, and the Mongol god of war Sulde stays with us... Having set the cities of the Principality of Galicia and Volhynia, we entered the land of Poles, Magyars, and the Ugric people. I’ve already told you what happened then. Certainly we could have stayed in their land much longer, but I never forgot about the Orusuts, who has been left behind our back. One who has been defeated dreams of vengeance, and I was waiting for it to come, I was waiting for a stab in my back, for I had seen how the Orusuts can fight. It was easy to rule in Desht-i-Kypchak and in Khwarezm, as the locals were nomadic like we are. But here, in the Magyar, Polish, and Bulgarian land, it was very different. Having seen that all I realized that if I lingered for a little time, the people of the lands conquered would unite into an alliance which our tumens would be incapable of defeating. The Golden Horde was behind me, and I couldn’t risk its power and glory. As if in witness of my apprehension, the Bulgarians and the Moldovans rebelled against Nogay.  When Ugedey was dead, I sent my troops back to the Desht-i-Kypchak.
- So the Mongol sword, which had set the whole of the East in terror, evoked no fear in other nations? – Ulakshi asked.
Batu Khan  gave his son a look of surprise:
- Who told you the whole of the East was afraid of us? Indeed, the Mongol warrior terrified the people conquered with his cruelty, but as time passed, some appeared to prefer death to slavery. The rulers, princes, and the noblemen of the conquered lands had yielded submission to us. They were trying to force their people to do the same, but you know from soldier tales how common folks defended their cities and settlements. It happened everywhere, in Khwarezm and in Rus, in the Desht-i-Kypchak and in the Caucasus. – Batu looked Ulakshi in the eyes. - I guess you’ve heard of the Kypchak batyr named Boshpan? His impudence was immense. Accompanied by his dzhigits, who hated us, he would attack Mongol troops and drive their cattle away. He stirred the Horde greatly. Then I ordered Mengu to take as many soldiers as he considered necessary and bring Boshpan to me dead or alive. Mengu fit out two hundred sailing ships. He went along the Itil, from its mouth to the head, and finally his soldiers captured the unsubmissive batyr. “Bend yout head! Kneel down!” Mengu ordered. “I’m not a camel to fall down on my knees, and my head won’t bend in the face of enemies”, Boshpan replied. Being outraged at his impudence, one of the noyons cut the batyr in two. All of his dzhigits were slaughtered like sheep. Boshpan is dead, but I know that a rebellious ember is still glowing in many souls. Now back to the Orusuts. If they manage to unite, they’ll make a single army, and you’ll see what happens! Now their power is disintegrated, but there’s no fear any more. I remember Yevpatiy Kolovrat from Ryazan, which we burnt to ashes.  I’ve seen him dead.... Once he gathered one thousand seven hundred brothers-in-arms. They came from different principalities, slakelessly hungry for revenge, and resembled panthers, brave and swift.  Thousands of my soldiers were staying in the Orusut woods bound with snow. The Mongols made up a legend about Yevpatiy Kolovrat and his men. It claimed the Orusuts to have wings, and each single soldier of them to be capable of fighting against a hundred ones.  That’s the way it was... Don’t you think that by conquering a land you can defeat its people? Stay vigilant. Very recently, Prince Andrey of Chernigov changed the place where his horses were kept just because he was reluctant to give them to our army. His guilt couldn’t be proven, but I ordered that he be batted to death to prevent other princes from doing that. And Prince Danilo Romanovich of Galicia... As his boyars dared help the Mongols, he devastated their estates, took their land away from them, and tied them to the tails of horses yet untamed… The lands we’ve conquered are boiling like water in a boiling pot... A rebellion in Tver, the grumbles of the Bulgarians wandering along the Itil headed by Boyan and Zheku... Ten thousand Mongol warriors laid down his lives to bend the rebellious Burkhara to submission. You don’t remember, as you were just a twinkle in your father’s eye... But my soldiers happened to withdraw, having failed to bring to heel the Caucasian Lezgins and Circassians... My children, you are to rule the Golden Horde in a rough time. The Horde is enormous and powerful, but the land of it is turbulent. Your mind has to be insightful, and your hand has to be strong... Now tell me if I could do otherwise in a circle of my enemies. It was only me and the most loyal noyons who realized that there was no retaining the land we had conquered. The enemy was everywhere. Even women became soldiers to die without a trace of fear. The Magyars seemed to be defeated, their cities had been burnt down to the ground and their crops tramped waste, but those who had escaped the Mongol sword – soldiers, craftsmen, corn growers,- seemed to have lost sanity and didn’t care about staying alive any more. They would appear from the thick woods like ghosts to take their revenge and disappear without a trace. The troop commanded by a girl named Lanka caused a great deal of sorrow to us. The Mongols called her the Beautiful Kuralai. It was near the city of Chernkhaze. I entrusted the fight against this troop to my very best noyonSubedey Bakhadur. You knew Subedey to be smart and artful as a fox and brave and blood-thirsty as a tiger. His tumens surrounded Lanka’s soldiers, and she threw herself onto the Mongol spears to avoid getting in our hands. Subedey Bakhadur brought her head to me. Indeed, Lanka was beautiful, even dead. Then I thought that a woman like her could give birth to a mighty and fearless warrior, but war is war, and the enemy is the enemy… People loyal to me reported that the states conquered and those whom the Mongol sword had not yet reached were negotiating about allying against us, as they had seen the true power of the Golden Horde. Do you understand now why I turned my tumens back on the pretext of Ugedey’s death?
- I do,- Ulakshi said.- But you forgot to give me your second instruction...
- No, I haven’t,- Batu Khan replied.- The one sitting on the throne of the Golden Horde must remember everything till his last out has come.
Ulakshi noticed that his father had been watching the soaring eagle  all the time and that his eyes, already dulled by the approaching death, were sparkling with astonishment at the stately bird every once in a while.
- Now,- Batu said,- I’m going to give you my second instruction. As you remember, I’ve already mentioned the Kypchak proverb which goes as follows, “Clever is not the one who has obtained cattle but the one who has grown it.” Thus, clever is not the one who has attacked the enemy and defeated him, but the one who has compelled him to obedience and got him on the leash of submission. My second instruction to you is as follows, “The enemy defeated must become yours. Do achieve the aim completely”.
Suddenly an insolence rose in Ulakshi, and he felt like asking his father why he had not done what he had just mentioned, but he guessed that khan had not finished his speech yet. Batu understood what his son was thinking about:
- Are you going to ask me why I didn’t do that? I had to, and I was trying as hard as I could. So many nations and lands have been conquered by now. Could my father Dzhuchi with the four thousand Mongol warriors given by Genghis Khan have possibly done that? Karakorum soldiers participated in my campaigns, but I would have never created the Golden Horde with them. For my whole life, I’ve been striving to turn the power of the nations conquered into that of my country. I succeeded in Maverannakhr <Maverannakhr is the interfluve area of the Amur Darya and the Syr Darya.> and Khrasan, in Khwarezm and in the Desht-i-Kypchak.  The men of many other nations, who were less numerous, were turned into my soldiers as well. The Golden Horde of today reposes on them. I gave them my noyons, and they came to be like Mongols.
- But can it be us who are getting similar to them? We’ve traveled so far away from the land of our ancestors...
- Maybe...- Batu Khan agreed thoughtfully.- Deep water sucks one down... They are numerous... But we, the Mongols, still remain the rulers of the Golden Horde, and our hand is still tight around the rein. As long as it is, we’ll make them follow us wherever we go by doing good or by setting them in fear. To win, one needs power and arms, and to rule one needs guile and craft. As the Kypchak saying goes, you can get a snake out of its hole if your speech is sweet enough. If your speech is rough and bitter, even a Muslim will abnegate his faith.   You should be able to smooth over violence with delicacy, and the country conquered shall be as humble as a woman taken by force who comes to be your wife. My third instruction appears in the second one.
Ulakshi bent his head down.
- I’m listening to you, glorious khan...
- Before heading for the Orusut land, the Mongols went to war against Ibir-Sibir, North China, Central Asia, the Kypchak steppe, and the Caucasus. Since the day it was created, the world had not seen such cruel treatment as that given to nations which stood in the way by the great Genghis Khan. His brave warriors had no mercy for anyone. Everyone was treated as an enemy – women, old men, children. No living being could be spared. My grandfather was cruel. But if it had happened otherwise, I don’t know if I would have been unable to bring together the Mongol clans scattered all over the vast mountains and steppes, to exterminate their feud, which had lasted for centuries, and to turn them into a single nation, all-mighty and free.  Genghis Khan’s descendants will always remember what he did. Being his grandchildren, we wanted to be like our grandfather – we destroyed, and killed, and incinerated. A wolfling can’t but do what the pack has taught it to do.
Batu Khan  broke off, closing his eyes wearily. Speaking was trying to him. His chest, hollow with the disease, was rising and falling spasmodically as he panted.  Having finally overcome the weakness, he said:
- I’ll speak a lot before giving you the last instruction. I’ll take my time for you to understand what the source of my experience is. Wise words can only sink into one’s heart when they are supported by examples. So listen. In the year of the Hare (1219), Genghis Khan’s courageous noyons Dzhebe and Subedey, having drowned Azerbaijan and Georgian in blood and illuminated the sky of those states with flames,  got to the steppes which lie at the foot of the Caucasian mountains through gorges. There Alan and Kypchak tribes stood in the way of the Mongol tumens. Dzhebe and Subedey resorted to cunning. They sent their ambassadors to the Kypchaks to tell them, “We are blood brothers. Both the Mongols and you are nomads. Give up the Alans, and we won’t do you any harm.” The Kypchaks followed the advice and left, thus betraying the Alans. Our tumens wiped the Alan army off the earth and, having caught up with the Kypchaks, perpetrated a massacre.  The road to the vast steppe of Desht-i-Kypchak was unobstructed. That was the land which my father Dzhuchi described as follows, “The air is fragrant here, the water is as sweet as honey,  and the lush grass is enough to hide a horse completely.” Racing after the scattered Kypchak troops, the Mongols first encountered the Orusuts at the South border of the steppe. The Orusuts and the Kypchaks were allied intimately back then. In was not untypical for a man of the steppe to marry an Orusut girl, and for princes to marry Kypchak’s daughters. Khan Kotian, who was trembling in awe, sent a loyal man to his son-in-law, Prince Mstislav the Bold of Galicia to say, “Today the Mongols taken our steppes, and tomorrow they’ll have our cities.” Kotian asked Mstislav for help. Orusut Princes met as a council of war in Kharmankobe. They didn’t know us, they were unaware of the power we had. The princes responded to Kotian’s pledge and decided to march against us. But the guile Subedei knew what their plans were before they gathered an army. And he decided to do just as he did before the first battle. He sent a messenger to the princes to say, “It’s not you who we are going to fight against but the Kypchaks. They have raided your land more than once. They are foe to us and to you. Don’t you interfere with our taking avenge on the Kypchaks.” But the Orusut princes didn’t fall for it. Their troops deployed near Kortuk Island < Kortuk Island is Khortytsia> crossed the Dnieper to join the Kypchaks. The first battle seemed to be unfortunate for the Mongols. Dzhebe and Subedey withdrew their troops. The Orusuts and the Kypchaks started in pursuit of them, but the tireless Mongol cavalry flung them off easily. After severn days, Dzhebe and Subedey left their tumens by the Kalka River.  That’s where the battle much celebrated in legends took place. The warriors of the great Genghis Khan were victorious, for they knew that there was no place for them to retreat, there was wasted land behind them, in which hostile people lived. Besides, we were numerous and we were one, while princes of the Orusut army were always squabbling, and the Kypchak soldiers still had a very clear memory of the Mongol slaughter against them. Khan Kotian and the rest of his army fled to the land of the Magyars. Only one of the Orusut warriors returned to his motherland. The city of Kharmankibe alone lost ten thousand men in the battle. Elated with victory, Dzhebe and Subedey sent their tumens against the Itil Bulgarians.  But they wouldn’t accept an open battle, preferring raids and ambushes. The Mongol army, exhausted after the endless battles, had to retreat to come back to the Itil banks in a while. The very essence of the intelligent guile is to avoid walking on red hot coals but to step on them when the heat is down. By that time, Dzhuchi had already won a part of Maverannakhr and the East of the Kypchak Steppe.  Now the whole of the Desht-i-Kypchak Stepped belonged to the Mongols. The white nine-tailed banner of Genghis Khan was secure at its western border.  Dzhuchi Khan was wise. His ambition was to win the land forever. Dzhuchi placed his quarters on the banks of the Sary Kengir River and stopped extirpating the Kypchaks needlessly. While another son of Genghis Khan, Dzhagatay, was slaughtering the nations conquered completely, Dzhuchi resembles a leech – he was feeding on blood without harming his victim. The Kypchaks, who had seen Dzhagatay raze Otrar, Bukhara, and Samarkand to the ground, who has seen the streams of blood spilt by him, came to eat out of their ruler’s hand, believing him to be wise and fair. The nation deceived artfully grew incapable of resistance. It resembled a large fish knocked senseless against a stone. The Kypchaks were growing more and more accommodated to the Mongols. When Genghis Khan heard of his son’s practice, he failed to understand him. The Rocker of the Universe found his guile to be an uttermost weakness. Being used to ruling by means of fire and sword, he thought Dzhuchi’s deeds to be a violation of his will. As the rumor holds it, Genghis Khan ordered that his son be killed. I still don’t know if it’s true. But it could be true. Genghis Khan wouldn’t spare anyone for the sake of the Mongol state he had created. Dzhuchi was dead, but there was no undoing what he had done. What he left us was a nation that used to be so hostile and had taken over so many of our ways. After my father was dead, the Rocker of the Universe divided Dzhuchi’s land into two parts.  He gave a half of Khwarezm and the whole of the Desht-i-Kipchak Steppe to me, and my elder brother Ord got the vast Ibir-Sibir covered with thick woods and rich in rivers and lakes.  With some assistance from me, my brother declared the city of Shangi Tara to be his quarters and created the Blue Horde after ten years; I raised the victorious banner of the White Horde… 
The day was dying. The sun was drooping, and the vastness of the steppe was hidden in blue haze. The surface of the great Itil was shining crimson and gold, and the gilded roofs  of Sarai, the Horde’s capital, were aglow with a hot radiance.
- Our White Horde has turned into the Golden Horde...- Ulakshi broke the silence.
Batu Khan  nodded:
- Yes. The Orusuts call it the Golden Horde. Only the eastern nations – the Kypchaks and the Bulgarians still believe it to be white.  I like the second name, too... Whenever I hear it, I think of the sacred nine-tailed white sulde <A sulde is a banner (Mong.).> gleaming to my country. And it’s beautiful... Betrayal and guile attend gold. It’s always been this way. Sometimes I’m apprehensive to call my Horde the Golden Horde, for the word seems to bring about evil and feud… And death...
Ulakshi knew that both Mongol noyons and common soldiers believed in evil spirits, believed in omens and presentiments, but it seemed to have nothing to do with his father, the great Batu Khan, in whose face he had never seen doubt nor fear. He was no excpetion...
- In the year of the Horse (1235),- the khan started speaking again,- the Mongols bent the whole of the Caucasus to submission, defeated the Itil Bulgarians, conquered the Bashkir and Mordvin lands, and won control over the lower reach of the Dnieper River as well as the Itil. The great kurultai decided to send the tumens farther to the west, to the Orusut land.  I was chosen to be the lashkarkashi <Lashkarkashi is the commander of a campaign.> According to the kurultai’s decision, each branch of Genghis Khan’s clan was to send one son and two soldiers of each ten they had at their disposal for the campaign.  One hundred forty soldiers gathered under my banner. The following descendants of Genghis Khan joined me with their tumens: Ordu, Guyuk, Bori, Baydar, Kadan, and Kaydu.  That day twelvemonth we started the campaign, and after another twelve months we entered the Orusut land...
Batu Khan  was thoughtful. He was lost in the visions of the past. For a brief moment, he forgot about his son sitting next to him and waiting for the story to be continued.
- Those were happy days,- he said suddenly in a coarse voice.- The land we covered would be salty with the tears of the defeated, and the wind smelt of blood. When starting the campaign, I divided my troops. Having crossed the Itil, one of its branches headed for Suzdal, another one made way to Ryazan, and the third one was to conquer the Principality of Voronezh.
Within three years, we won control over South and East Orosut lands. Their greatest cities – Kharmankibe, Ryazan, Voronezh, Vladimir, Suzdal, and Chernigov were ruined…  Only Novgorod and Pskov remained unconquered. Woods and marshes prevented us from passing and bringing out battering rams there.  I didn’t give up the idea of conquering the land, but I decided to let my tumens rest for a while before it, as the victory had cost them a lot. Several fortresses remained untaken. Smolensk would bend to us either. So we did as Genghis Khan taught us to do in such situations. We skirted the surrounded city, knowing that one day it would be ours anyway. I had an old Roman slave in my troops. As I was later told, he was taking notes on the campaign. So listen to what the Roman wrote, “How could the heart of Mongol soldiers, who committed so many murders, take it without failing? The way the army took was covered with dead bodies. The Mongols would set fire to churches and extirpate every living being...”
Batu Khan  burst into soft laughter. His face wrinkled, hiding his eyes under the heavy eyelids:
- How could the heart of Mongol soldiers take it without failing?.. why would it fail if we were desperate for blood and well aware of the reason why we were going to strangers’ land? The way which leads to victory, no matter how cruel, is always the right way. Why do we need strangers’ churches? We have gods of our own, and they help us defeat our enemies. Why do we need strangers’ cities, which lack space and the walls of which fail to protect their dwellers against the bold and the strong? The great Genghis Khan believed that all nations should live like Mongols do, for there are no better traditions and customs than ours. Just as animals, men should know what freedom is, live as Heaven and earth want them to live, and submit to nobody but the sole person who has been chosen to be their lord... Yes. That’s what my glorious grandfather taught us... So when our campaign was over and we were having a great feast before heading for home, Guyuk and me burst into a rage of enmity. Guyuk’s father Ugedey is a glorious khan, but he himself is self-conceited and jealous. Heroic deeds and fame have always kept away from him, as he has been neither distinctively intelligent nor fair. Being the head of the whole army, I was to raise my cup of wine first at the feast. That’s when Guyuk and Bori, being devoured by envy, started to say, “Can Batu speak and drink wine before us? Isn’t it time we threw him and all of his bearded women onto the ground and gave them a good tramping?  For them to know what is what and who is who!” Argusun, son of Yelochidey Noyon, who deserved well of Genghis Khan, supported the two of them. Can you see, Son, what descendants of the great Genghis Khan can be like? We attack the enemy together, but when time comes to go shares in fame and success, no one can think of anything but himself, and everyone can go any length. I had been wise, and I had not done any harm to them. Their fathers, Ugedey and Dzhagatay, gave Guyuk and Bori a sound punishment afterwards. Argusun got his comeuppance as well. But... May your eyes stay watchful forever... I told you this for the sake of the future, and now I’d better stop, for some of them have already departed from this world. Their merits and demerits are gone as well...
This time, Batu Khan  was silent for a long time, and Ulakshi did not dare to speak. He could see the khan’s feautures were growing even more pointy than usual, and his eyes were watching the soaring eagle devotedly.
The fierce khan thought back of an old sailor captured in the Crimea and what he told him of the distant lands. The old man said that if someone aboard was to die, man eater sharks could feel it and would not let the ship go until they got their food.  It suddenly occurred to him that the reason why the black eagle had not come to the place for such a long time was that the bird knew that Batu’s time was not over yet. But today... Isn’t it because the last hour has come that it won’t fly away nor attack? The sinister birds that had taken his son away from him could probably feel his death approaching...
His heart startled painfully. No! It can’t be this way! Only ravens feed on carrion, and that is an eagle... It takes its prey alive... He wished he could be strong enough when the moment came...
Batu Khan  drew a deep breath and looked round. The evening scene was beautiful, and the vastness hidden in a blue-gray haze was mysterious and enticing.
It appeared to the khan that he had hardly ever noticed the beauty of the world. His ambition of defeating his enemies and ruling the world had always dominated his mind. He had always been afraid lest somebody should stretch out a hand for his throne...
At last Ulakshi couldn’t take the silence any more:
- Father, you have added to the fame of Genghis Khan. You have done so much good...
Batu Khan  glanced at his son with a stratle:
- You say good? Was it good of me to kill people and burn cities?.. I, who has got so many countries and nations rebellious due to my cruelty...- the khan broke off. And suddenly there was a gleaming of flame in his eyes, which were as dull as water in fall.- You’re right,- Batu said firmly.- What I have done is a good deed. It’s pleasing to heaven. It’s pleasing to the state my glorious grandfather created. My deeds have glorified him and the Mongols. And that’s good... I’ve got very little to tell you now. My speech is approaching its end, just as my life is... Soon your brother Sartak will ascend to the throne of the Golden Horde... At my discretions he became an anda  <Anda means a sworn brother.> to the Prince of Novgorod Alexander Nevsky. Not it’s the most powerful of Orusut princes. He is brave, he has courage, and he can see what others cannot see. Heaven favors him, and the others submit to him. Are you going to ask me why I got them made andas? I’ll tell you. After that campaign against the Orusuts, I had been at enmity with Guyuk, and when he took the throne of his father in Karakorum, he wanted to dispose of me. He had more than one hundred thousand fearless Mongol soldiers at home. Then I realized that I shouldn’t sour Orusut princes, for I found myself to be between a rock and a hard place. One bent by force, they were merely waiting for the right moment to attack the Golden Horde. When Dzhebe and Subedey started their campaign against the Orusuts, Alexander Nevsky happened to be in the same situations. On the one hand, our tumens were threatening Novgorod and Pskov; on the other hand, there were Livonian Knights. The Germans had conquered the nations inhabiting the woods by the Baltic Sea and intended to do the same to the Orusuts.  But Alexander appeared to defeat them by the Neva River, while our tumens beat Polish-German militia men and the German knights whom the Polish Prince had hired by the city of Lepnice. After another year had passed, the Germans attempted to conquer Novgorod and Pskov once again, and it was again Alexander who was victorious in the Peipus Lake battle. A defeated one won’t stop fighting. The crusaders were at the Orusut boundaries, so the princes of Novgorod had to seek help. Of two evils, one chooses the lesser. We had already stopped any campaigns to the Orusut lands and imposed a tax on them, while the Germans seemed to be inclined to turn them into slaves. Alexander Nevsky’s father, Prince Yaroslav, went to Karakorum for negotiations with Guyuk, hoping to get some aid. I’ve already mentioned Guyuk’s poor judgement. As one of the boyars of Prince Turakin Khatun informed, Ugedey’s widowed wife had ordered that Yaroslav be poisoned. That was when his two sons, Alexander Nevsky and Andrey Yaroslavovich, arrived in the Horde. The alliance was beneficial to me. Sartak became Alexander’s anda.
- Sartak was converted into Christianity...- Ulakshi said in a tone suggesting disapproval.
- What is faith? It helps control people and keep a tight rein in them. As long as you see that faith helps you maintain and multiply the power of your khan, adopt whatever you need. Our glorious grandfather was a wise man. He would say, “I don’t know whether it’s Allah or the Christian god who is more powerful. But if both of them are, let them both support me.” I don’t mind Sartak’s becoming Christian and Berke’s adopting Islam. Let it be. It’s not what I’m apprehensive of. . The two religions are too different, and if my sons  grow too devoted to remember the reason why they adopted them, they may turn into enemies. That would cripple the Horde ...
- Father, can it really happen? – Ulakshi asked worriedly.
- Yes it can. But it mustn’t. Religion must be nothing but a vizier by the throne. Sartak is to rule the Horde. This will happen in Heaven saves the life of Mengu, who was lifted in a white blanket in Karakorum not without out help. But sitting on the throne is one thing, and ruling the country is a different thing. Intending to conquer the whole of the world, our grandfather Genghis Khan believed in three things. The first thing was that a single pair of strong hands was enough to bring the scattered Mongol clans together, while the countries where he would send his tumens could not possibly come to an agreement. The second thing was there were no soldiers stronger and braver than the Mongols in the whole world, and not a single nation could resist them. The third thing was that there was no wiser ruler in the world than he was and that the others were nothing but ashes in his feet. I don’t know to what extent Genghis Khan believed in what he said. He would often be as cunning as a steppe wolf and utter some words just for the others to believe in them. But our allies and enemies still fail to explain how the innumerous Mongol people could conquer the whole of Asia, China, and hundreds of other nations. Some attribute it to unheard-of military skills, while others believe it to be the result of the iron discipline in Genghis Khan’s army. It sounds right. How could the Mongols have defeated the brave Orusuts and Gudhiyans, who outnumbered them, otherwise? I’ve spent a lot time thinking over it to find that the reason was that the nations at whom the threatening sword of Genghis Khan had pointed were not ready to fight against us. We were young, and Heaven sent us a man to make a whole of the Mongol clans. He set the aim and turned cruelty into the greatest merit of a warrior. The states which happened to get the attention of Genghis Khan were old, and they were old by people who were hungry for power but incapable of ruling. Their squabbling resulted in more feud and discord. Somehow the tendency is for a young state to be like a tiger, who is a bully, while an old one resembles a  decrepit lion whose only concern is keeping his own skin whole.
- Father, aren’t you exaggerating the courage of the Orusuts and the Gudhiyans?..
- No,- Batu Khan said firmly.- Life has taught me to respect my enemy as long as he has courage. I have never declared it, but I have always born it in my mind. If your enemy is a coward, what is the cost of your victory and will you be glorified by extirpating heirs trying to escape? We, the Mongold, have always been most cruel in the land where people preferred death to slavery. For the sake of our greatness and future security, we couldn’t spare them.  Son, you must know the past and the truth behind all of our conquests. The taller a tree is the deeper roots it has. You are to take care of the Golden Horde’s power in the future, which requires you to fathom the past. One who raises a whip against it shall be batted by the future. Bear it in your mind. You can go at every length for the sake of victory. Time has come for you to be given the third instruction. Listen to it and remember. Before starting a campaign, find out whatever you can about how powerful the enemy whole head you are going to sever from the neck might be. If you realize that the time hasn’t come yet for you to defeat him, resort to deceptions, get to be friends with the nation, but don’t forget it’s your enemy.”
- Do you mean...- Ulakshi gave his father a confused glance.- Is this the reason why you arranged it for Alexander Nevsky to be Sartak’s blood brother?
Batu Khan’s eyes narrowed:
- Yes. We haven’t got to Novgorod and Pskov yet... The time hasn’t come... I know that Prince Alexander is our enemy. But every way in which you can achieve your purpose is the right way. Stay vigilant and don’t give your enemies a possibility to unite. When I heard of Sartak’s decision to become Alexander’s blood brother, I wasn’t opposed to it. Alexander Nevsky is a powerful prince... He’s not tightly bound to the Horde, and other princes will treat them wither with suspicion or with envy. They won’t be able to unite for a long time. 
- But Prince Alexander is smart...
Batu narrowed his eyes. They showed cold sparkles of spite:
- Did I say he wasn’t? It’s a desperate need that made him do this. The prince wants to be sure that the crooked saber of the Mongols won’t come crashing down on Novgorod and Pskov, at least before he feels safe in terms of the German knights. Sartak might be unable to understand the whole situation, but Alexander looks below the surface. We’re afraid of each other, so the alliance of the Horde and the prince resembles that of a wolf and a trot escaping from a fire. As soon as the danger is over, each of them can jump down the other’s throat... True friendship between the victorious one and the defeated one is impossible. The only reason why the Orusuts are seeking out protection is that they have no other solution. There are some princes who won’t scruple anything for their own sake, though... I’ve always despised them, but I’ve never turned my back to them – for the sake of the Horde... Let them wreak havoc, let them spill blood – it doesn’t matter who wins. I’ll tell you once again – be watchful whenever you look in the direction of the Orusut land and don’t forget that your battle horse must always be saddled. The people who live there will never be friends with those who brought them swords and fire.
Batu Khan  broke off, running his hands across his face.
- I’ve given you three pieces of advice. The first one goes back to our glorious ancestors Genghis Khan. The second was the principle of your grandfather Dzhuchi. The third one belongs to me. Each of us did whatever the time commanded to do, and the glory of the Mongols wasn’t tarnished; it grew to be as high as heaven. It means that we have done the right thing. As long as you treat my instructions as a rule, the tent of the Golden Horde will never be ruined.
Batu Khan  gave his son a glance full of hope but did not see his eyes.
- Go away,- he said softly in a while.- Go. I’ve told you everything I could...
***
How could Batu possibly know that nothing was eternal under the eternal heaven? He lived like his great grandfather Genghis Khan did, and he thought the same way. The shadow of his ancestor obscured the vast distant land to him, and he was like a rider in the steppe which was wrapped in the dusk of the dying day, for he could see nothing but what was next to him. 
Batu believed the steppe to be eternal and the defeated to be meant for never-ending submission. Even being a khan, he hated and despised what a common nomad would hate and despise, which prevented him from reading the message of the future to the Golden Horde. Being aware of his approaching death, he believed that he had bequeathed wisdom to his descendants, but it was merely the tricks of a steppe rogue. Batu's belief was that other nations were to plough soil, sow and grow crops, make silk, produce iron and gold, and build cities forever, while his descendants were  meant to come and harvest the ample yield with the help of their crooked sabers. In his disdain for the people conquered, the Mongol did not want to know what their thoughts were. But who was there to teach Batu and reveal to him the great secret of the man who earns his bread by the sweat of his own brow? How could he know that it was not just bread but their future that people thought of bending over their ploughs or crushing a warm crop spike in their hands? Building towns and striking roots deep into the ground, the man creates his tomorrow and takes care of his children, which also means the whole nation. And time will come when the nomad’s horse will freeze facing an unheard-of obstacle, the name of which is creation and  of understanding and fathoming which his owner is incapable, and on turning back in confusion, he will see the steppe reddish with the wind and sunlight, as empty as a thousand years before, with few shabby yurts, which all of the ancestors won’t have drowned in treasures, for whatever they bring here does not belong to them and has the smell of blood on it.  Proud as he was of the Golden Horde, his dearest creation, Batu couldn’t even think of the inevitable death which was hidden in its very basis.
The sun touched the horizon. It was time Batu Khan leave for the Horde and the black eagle headed back to its nest to spend the night in it. But they both were waiting for something. In the light of the setting sun, dressed in red, the khan seemed to have blood poured onto him. He was sitting on the top of the hill, stooping, head tucked in, and seemed to be dozing. The eagle was soaring gracefully in the sky and coming closer and closer to the ground with each circle that it made.  
Batu didn’t see the bird flying, but his body was trembling and crouching with the anticipation of a fight.  He was ready for his final battle, but suddenly he was seized with a feeling resembling that of fear. The khan had never experienced it before.  He, who had often marched ahead of his tumens against the enemy and felt the breathing of death, felt desperately afraid. Only his overwhelming desire for revenge helped the khan get hold over himself. In his mind he thanked Heaven for facing his death not in bed but with a sword in his hand, as a Mongol warrior was supposed to die.
Suddenly a flat black shadow swirled over the ground, and a heavy gust of wind blew the khan in the face. Batu tossed his head. His ash-pale face grew deadly white. He saw the eagle’s brindled belly, its clutching feet with steel colored claws on them… and on one of them there was a plate of gold with a silk tie. Batu Khan  couldn’t be mistaken. That was his eagle, which he had tamed about two years before and with which he would go wolf hunting.
The khan was watching the black bird with haunted eyes as it was getting higher for another attack, and the image of a vast steppe covered in first snow and distant mountains with dark sinking chines appeared in his mind. The horse was racing swiftly, the ice-cold wind was beating his face, and that very eagle was sitting on his saddlebow with its eyes covered with a leather cap.
Batu Khan  remembered how his blanchers rattled a huge grizzled beast, and it tore the cap off the head of his favorite hunting bird and threw it right into the silken blue sky. One of the henchmen accompanying the khan at the back, beat his leather dauylpaz drum several times.
Then the wind was blowing into his face, and he felt the winy joy of frantic racing.
The eagle got the wolf, but when Batu Khan ran up to the wounded animal, having left his horse aside, to stab him in the heart, it was too late. The bird had already torn the wolf’s heart open and got the heart.
Batu was furious. An eagle wasn’t supposed to be ahead of its owner. Outraged, khan raised his whip...
He never forgot the bird’s cold fixed eyes, its enormous black wings spread on the snow, and the animal’s torn chest, which was giving off steam into the cold. , With a strident squawk, the eagle soared into the sky. It never returned to its owner.
“No enemy is more dangerous than a friend who came to hate you”, Batu Khan whispered. It even occurred to him that he wouldn’t be able to tell his son what he felt. “Be friendly to your friend and hostile to your enemy, don’t treat your friend with hostility, and don’t be friendly to your enemy…” With his wings folded together, the eagle rushed down as heavily as a stone.
Batu Khan  managed to give a blow... The eagle collapsed to the ground with one of its wings severed. The khan made a step towards it to see its merciless blood-shot eyes and unappeasable fury in them...
Batu raised his sword to sink it into the chest of his friend who had turned into an enemy, for he wanted to feel the joy of avenge  for the last time in his life, but his body grew lame, and the sky drowned in blood of the setting sun was bearing down on him. An unknown force threw the great Batu Khan onto the ground mercilessly...
The fierce Batu Khan departed from this world next morning, at daybreak, without regaining consciousness. Tears of grief and misery bleared the eyes of his courageous noyons and common soldiers.  
The descendants of Genghis Khan observed the Mongol customs scrupulously regardless of their faith. Wherever a khan died, he was to be buried in the land of his ancestors. But the way from Sarai to Karakorum was too long and trying, so his relatives, being reluctant to break the traditions, decided as follows: two black coffins were made; the khan's clothes and weaons were placed in one of them, and two hundred noyons dressed in black went to the steppe on black horses, this raking the spirit of the great conqueror of nations to the land of his ancestors. They put the body of Batu Kha, costly weapons, and golden cups out of which he would drink wine and kumis into the other coffin, which was gilded. 
Late at night, those who were closest to the khan took the coffin containing Batu’s body to the high bank of the Itil River covered with thick woods so that no one should be tempted by the gold or wrong the tomb. That was the place where he was buried. Then again, no stone was placed to indicate Batu Khan’s tomb, for that would violate the tradition.  Young trees were planted in the mellow soil. For several years, selected tulengits guarded the sanctuary forest, killing each living being that attempted to come close or fly over it, till trees grew on the tomb of Batu and nobody could tell where the glorious khan of the Golden Horde rested.
***
The sad news of his father’s death found Sartak on the road. Being a Christian, he ordered an Orusut soldier of his army to pray for the deceased one day and night, but he didn’t turn his horse back.  
The great khan of the Mongol steppe Mengu, being satisfied with the fact that Sartak came to Karakorum for the kurultai in spite of his father’s death, confirmed him to be the khan of the Golden Horde.
CHAPTER TWO
I
In the year of the Hair (1255) – the one when he became the khan of the Golden Horde, Sartak spent winter in the Gulistan Palace in the city of Sarai Batu. His demesne was unruffled; in the autumn the new khan set everything aside to deal with religious matters and cement his relations with Orusut princes.
Since Sartak and Prince Alexander Nevsky became blood brothers and the latter was converted to Christianity, he had changed a lot. On his trips to Novgorod, he visited churches and cathedrals, studying the Orusut way of life with greatest care.
Christianity appealed to the young khan due to its fancy clothes and solemnity. The Kypchak nation, which was subject to him and was a crucial support for the Golden Horde, were Muslims, but Sartak was not opposed to it. He believed that one day he would convert the nomads to Christianity. A German captive craftsman named Gosste built a church in the low reaches of the Itil, near the town of Sumerkent, at his order.  Contrary to the khan’s expectations, the Kychaks remained indifferent to it and seemed reluctant to undergo the rite of baptism. Only some noblemen and members of the khan’s family decided to walk in Sartak’s footsteps.
The young khan found it confusing but nor really aggravating. He believed everything to be good in its proper season. Sartak did not force anyone. He liked Eastern Christianity, but one could not call him a steadfast Christian. Sartak, who, like every Mongol, had grown on horseback and believed in shamans and healers since childhood, was incapable of making up his mind to the numerous conditions and duties which his faith imposed on him and which he found impossible. For example, being a Christian, he had six wives at the age of thirty. Two of them came from Mongol clans, three were Kypchak, and one was Alanian. All of them brought him children, but none of the offspring stayed alive. His eldest son Ulaksha fell off his horse and died aged seven, the year when Sartak was baptized. The rest of the children died of an unknown disease at the age of one to two years.
The Kypchaks already started whispering that the khan’s clan must be cursed. It couldn’t be otherwise, as two of his wives were Buddhists, three were Muslims, and he was Christian. How could children of parents who worship three different gods live? It has been known since long ago that is two camels start rubbing against each other, a fly will die between them, and if gods argue for an infant’s soul, the curse of one of them will surely bring death to the child. 
The rumor reached Sartak, and he decided to take a seventh wife, who was to be a Christian. That was the first time he had to face the peculiarities of his new religion.
Once, during one of the khan’s stays in Novgorod, a sixteen-year old girl Natasha, who came from a noble Orusut clan, caught his attention. Sartak’s heart faltered. White-face, slender, with a long golden plait and a ludic pair of sweet blue eyes, she charmed the khan at once. Her parents gave her consent, though not very happily. Who could deny a son of the great Batu Khan?
But church stood in their way. As was the Christian custom, Sartak and Natasha were to undergo a wedding ceremony. The Metropolitan of Novgorod Daniil said, “Son of the glorious Batu Khan, we appreciate your intention. Tower of strength for the Golden Horde, we cherish you, but a Chistian cherishes his faith more than anything. One who believes in Christ can only have one wife under our law. And if you love Natasha and want to marry her, abandon the rest of your wives. Only then will I make you man and wife".
Sartak begged the stubborn metropolitan, he threatened, but the priest held his ground. The khan wrapped Daniil’s shoulders in a costly sable fur coat, presented him with a silver-saddled horse and heaped gold to him. 
The metropolitan accepted the gifts and said, “Let everything that you have given me be your donation to the holy church, but god curse me if I perform the wedding ceremony for you before you have given up your previous wives.” 
The young khan lacked courage to do as the metropolitan insisted. Though all-mighty, Sartak did not want to undermine the Horde’s unity, so he decided to wait, otherwise relatives of his wives could seek avenge.
Reason seemed to be stronger, but the passion evoked by the Orusut girl was still bruning his heart. 
Feeling dubious about his future actions, he once went to the Roman Koyak who ran errands in the quarters. 
- Tell me,- Sartak asked him,- did the saints who created the Christian religion spend their whole lives with one and the same woman?
It was clear to Koyak why the khan turned to him. Cleaning the artful smile off his face, he said:
- Yes. The saints observed the law rigidly. Besides, no Christian was allowed to have a new wife as long as the first one was alive and they weren’t divorced. But those whom god had granted the power to rule people... Hasn’t the khan heard of the argument which took place between Imam Nuriddin Khwarezmi and East Christian priests?
Sartak gave the Roman a questioning look.
- The argument took place in the palace of Khan Guyuk when he decided to  fight against your father, the glorious Batu Khan.
- I’m listening to you, Roman.
Koyak closed his eyes as if to bring back the memory.
- It was like this... Everyone knows that Guyuk, just like you, was once baptized. But he was hot-tempered and would not tolerate Muslims, so he prosecuted everyone who was not Christian. The argument I am talking about was meant to defame Muslims. I won’t tell you the detail – it was a competition in wisdom, knowledge, and wits. The debates were long and complicated like a fox trace. Well... The Christians asked the imam, “What kind of a man was Prophet Muhammad? Tell us about him.” Nuriddin Khwarezmi replied, “Mohammed was the last prophet who Allah sent to us. He is the head of saints. Prophet Isa said, “God Almighty, don’t spare a thing for the prophet who comes after me…”  Then Christians asked, “Only one who is innocent in his soul and averts his eyes from women can be called saint…But Prophet Muhammad had nine wives… How can you consecrate him a saint?”  Imam was up to the task, “Prophet David had ninety nine wives; Solomon had three hundred of them and a thousand. What is your response to this?” The Christians protested, “David and Solomon aren’t prophets – they are kings.”  The debate was getting too long and it seemed as endless as a steppe road on a long summer day. Then, the Christian priests resorted to cunning. They asked khan Guyuk to order the Muslims to read out their namaz prayer according to every canon.
Imam Nuriddin  Khwarezmi and one of the ishans present at the debate started to read out the prayer. The Christians were doing their best to distract them – punching, hitting on the head whenever they bent over their prayer rugs. But they who were saying namaz were firm in their faith, and the words by Prophet Muhammad saying that nothing should prevent them from finishing what they have started, otherwise they could be taken to hell, were the last surah to finish the prayer. That’s how it was... Next morning, Khan Guyuk took his army of one hundred soldiers to attack his father in the Kypchak steppe... In three days, he got an unknown disease which caused blood vomiting and died. Muslims said, “Khan Guyuk allowed for our faith to be derided. Prophet Muhammad punished him…” Of course, the argument wasn’t the reason of the khan’s death...
Sartak ignored the last words. The artful Roman had brought an important thought to his mind. Indeed, if David had ninety nine wives and Solomon had three hundred wives and a thousand concubines, why wouldn’t he, the ruler of the Golden Horde, have another wife? Metropolitan Daniil would most probably consider the Roman’s words and make the Orusut girl his wife.  And if he refused again...
There was an evil glimpse in Sartak’s eyes, and his hand felt for his dagger.
- Go away,- he told Koyak,- tell Commander Syrmak to get ready to set off...
But Syrmak entered himself. It was a swarthy, broad-shouldered and broad-chested warrior. His boric decorated with a skin of corsac fox skin, his short greay camel hair chapan with otter fur trimming the collar, comfortable boots with felt stockings suggested his Kypchak origin. 
Syrmak was accompanied by a yellow-faced sinewy man. Just as the commander’s dress suggested his being a Kipchak, the stranger’s clothes indicated the low reaches of the Itil. 
Sartak was so lost in his thoughts that he did not notice the stranger.
- Saddle horses,- he said.- We’re going to Novgorod to get the Orusut girl Natalya.
The commander waited for a while.
- Oh Lord...
It was only now that the khan came to see the stranger:
- I’m listening to you...
The commander grabbed the man by the collar, and the letter fell onto his knees in front of Sartak. He was all fear and submission.
- Who is this?
- The man who escaped Berke Khan.
On the brink of death, the great Batu gave his relatives who had accompanied him in campaigns much land of his, as was the will of Genghis Khan. They ruled their uluses on their own and were at the same time subject to the khan of the Golden Horde. They were traditionally called ulus owners, but after Kulagu conquered Iran and Iraq, they went under the name of emirs. Only Turkic tribes still called them khans.
Batu’s younger brother Berke was a khan of that kind. His quarters lay in the highland of Aktube, on a bank of the Itil, not far from Sarykum town - <Sarykum is a settlement not far from today’s Volgograd>.
Severe winter frosts made it necessary for Berke to build a palace. His noblemen took suit – wood, brick, and stone houses appeared. A town appeared in the highland of Aktube which was given the name Sarai after the central quarters of the Golden Horde.
Berke had a powerful army, and he had always been considered the second most important man of the Horde  after Batu Khan.
- Why did you escape? – Sartak asked, drawing his eyebrows together in a fierce gesture.- Who are you and what is your name? 
– I am Sary Bugi,- the soldier said hastilyI belong to the Mongol clan of Baruts. My father Yesu Bugi was the head of the guards serving to the fearless Subedey Baakhadur.  My duties were those of a sulgishi <A sulgishi is a servant water and a towel for the khan to say namaz.>, and I served to Khan Berke...
- We don’t need a slave!..- Sartak interrupted him impatiently.- Tell me, why did you run away?
The soldier dropped his head.
- Berke Khan, son of the great Dzhuchi and my lord... I am his slave...And I must obey  him…  But he is Muslim, and I am Christian... It must be the influence of his faith, for he was getting more and more furious and blood-thirsty with each day. The name of Allah was always on his lips, and blood on his hands. I couldn’t take it... Especially his last deed...
- What did he do?
- A week ago he took an Orusut girl from Novgorod to be his fourth wife on the pretext of Allah’s will...
Sartak’s heart faltered apprehensively.  
- What is the name of the girl? – he asked loudly.
A furrow appeared on the soldier’s forehead.
- -Na-ta-lee-ya...- he said stumbling through the strange word.
Khan grew pale, but the soldier went on, not noticing Sartak’s condition:
- She was brought to the palace, Berke ordered to whip her and forced her to adopt Islam. The girl was crying and screaming so terribly... I couldn’t stand the violence of Muslims and ran away to you...
- Take him away! - Sartak shouted to the commander.- Out of my sight!..
Sartak, who had never favored Berke, came to hate him since that day. He sought for ways to take avenge on his father’s soft-tongued guile brother.
Back in the 7th and 8th centuries, the first centers of Islam began to appear in the South of Maverannakhr and in the Deshti-Kiphak Steppe.  People of such Central Asian cities as Samarkand and Bukhara exercised numerous religions, so Islam was not seriously opposed to. It gradually developed into the dominating religion, and all people of different faith were prosecuted mercilessly.
By the 13th century, when the Mongol came to the land of Khwarezm and Desht-i-Kipchak, Islam had established there completely. Little Christian communities still existed, but their life was approaching its end.
Having taken the lead from Genghis Khan, the Mongols treated people of different faith equally. As had been ordered by the Rocker of the Universe, ministers of all religions were exempted from taxation.
Christianity was quite widely spread among Mongols even before the world came to hear the terrifying name of Genghis Khan. There were Mongol clans who were Christian. Many of Genghis Khan’s descendants would marry girls from such clans, and their children would be brought up in accordance with the Christian law. That was the reason why the Christians of Khwarezm and Desht-i-Kipchak obtained support from the Mongols.  
During the rule of the Karakorum khan Guyuk, whose mother belonged to the Kerey clan and who learned the Christian law art his mother’s knees, the support turned into fierce and blatant prosecution of Muslims. Guyuk only ruled for two years, but that was enough for the Christians of Central Asia, Armenia, and Georgia to ally intimately.
Mengu, who was his successor on the khan’s throne, had no preferences in religion.  Both Muslims and Buddhists could feel safer during his rule. Mengu totally ignored the fact that Batu Khan’s son Sartak was Christian. He gave his consent to Sartak’s enthronement in the Golden Horde without hesitation. 
Blind with his hatred for Berke, the young khan decided to fight against him. Christians were numerous in Samarkand, and Sartak knew that, belonging to the same religion, they would support him. He sent his people there to prepare a joint campaign against the Muslims. His ambitions were bold - Sartak dreamt of turning Samarkand into his Christian quarters with time.
But the Muslims weren’t idling either. Their number was growing greater, though slowly. Religious feud was spreading across the land of Khwarezm and Maverannakhr, getting more violent.
But it was not only the land of the South that claimed the khan’s attention. His mind would stick to Orusut principalities. The thought of the land lying to the west and to the north from the Horde was occurring more and more often to him...
The Mongol’s attack on Russia was more ruinous than plague. The people fallen were countless, cities were ruined, pastures were saltbush and sagebrush, moans of those enslaved was hanging in the air.
Russian principalities were not a part of the Golden Horde. The Mongols imposed heavy taxes on them, which was like long and painful dying, as they had nothing to pay with – their fields had lost their fertility, the Mongols had taken their cattle away, their bread winners had fallen in battles. 
But it was not only sorrow and despair that the Mongol raids of robbery and rape evoked. People in Rus realized that there was no other way to save their lives than fighting. The Golden Horde did not only collect taxes; no year passed without a raid on a city or a principality.
As soon as craftsmen and crop growers got settled, their huts would be set to fire again, blood would be spilt, and the miserable land would me groaning. The only way out was to defeat the enemy or to die.
It was not only the Mongols who had set their eyes on the Orusut land. The Germans and the Swedes were waiting for a miracle or a good opportunity. The land of Pskov and Novgorod were the sweet pot to them, as that was the place where the roads connecting North Europe to the East lay.
The circle surrounding the Orusut principalities which had not yet been conquered by the Golden Horde was getting tighter and tighter. Asking neighbors for help was pointless, as they were in a tight corner, robbed by the Mongols.
That was the time Sartak took the throne of the Golden Horde. Prince Alexander Nevsky sent his ambassadors to his blood brother to make use of the situation.  Boyar Danil headed for the Golden Horde. He had been entrusted with a challenging task; he was to get a written assurance from Sartak saying that the Golden Horde would not sent its tumens to the North of the Orusut land. That would give them a possibility to engage all of their power in their fight against their Germans, as there would be no need to watch another neighbor. Another demand of Prince Alexander was to exempt Pskov and Novgorod from the taxes which the cities were paying to the Horde, at least temporarily. 
In mid-winter, the ambassadors of Novgorod set off to the Golden Horde with costly gifts. After a snowstorm which lasted several days, they found themselves drowned in waist-high snow in the woods. Being covered in snow, lowlands turned into planes. A short period of thaw was replaced with hard frost. The sleet hardened so that neither a man or an animal could crack it. The ways cut by messengers between Russian cities and the Horde were covered with an ice crust.  
The ambassadors were eyeing the ground bound with a snow-white shroud sullenly and with apprehension. Their errand was far from easy – was it possible to get the khan do what the prince wanted him to do? Would they ever come back to their native land? What did the khan’s being the prince’s blood brother mean? Russian ambassadors had vanished on their way more than once, as if the ground had opened to swallow them. The Tartars are cunning, and nobody can tell what they have on their mind.
The Horde gave the ambassadors a warm welcoming. Tulgenits of the khan’s personal guard surrounded the Orusuts in the steppe, far from the city. They were furious and wore fox fur malakhais drawn over their eyes, and they would whip everyone who just dared come close to the ambassadors’ caravan.
Khan Sartak came out of the Gulistan Palace to welcome the noble boyar. He was wearing a bushy otter tymak and had on an expensive beaver fur coat. The khan met his guests unarmed, which showed great respect and trust. Only a small ivory-handed dagger was handing down from his belt in a sheath of gold. The khan never parted with it.
Among the guests, Sartak recognized the prince’s relative at once. Danil was tall, heavy-set, and his blue eyes were intent.
The khan went down the palace steppes to the horsemen unhurriedly. Seeing him, the ambassadors got off their horses hastily.  The agile tulgenits caught the reins silently and took the horses to a tethering post.  Having come closer to the khan, the Orusut ambassadors made a low bow, as was the custom. 
Sartak greeted Danil according to the Mongol tradition, that is, pressing his chest against that of the guest. 
- Welcome to our city, Boyar,- the khan said.
- Thank you, Glorious Khan of the Golden Horde.- Danil made a bow.- We have covered a great distance to bring you the message of your blood brother, Prince Alexander Yaroslavich of the Great Novgorod.  
Sartak smiled.
- I don’t think the prince’s message is short enough to listen it out in the open. Come in, be my guest...
The khan took Danil by the arm and headed for the palace, accompanied by the ambassadors and his guards.
An odd sick feeling seized Sartak for a moment. He could feel somebody’s spiteful glance at the nap of his head. The khan turned his face round abruptly. He saw those eyes at once. There was a man whom khan had known since long before and whom he knew well in the young boyar’s escort.  He couldn’t mistake anyone for him. Time seemed to be very merciful to that man – tall and sinewy, with a deeply furrowed face, he was the kind of a man to remember at first sight. Sartak couldn’t be mistaken. That was Svyatoslav. The memory of a distant past hidden behind a veil of time was suddenly brought back to the khan’s mind. That was the beginning of what brought the two of them together after some years. The events did not have to do anything with Svyatoslav, and still they did...
The year when Genghis Khan’s hordes invaded in the blossoming Khwarezm, Kadyrkhan Ulanshik, cousin of Khwarezmshah Muhammad was the naib, that is, the ruler of Otrar. Otrar was a formidable strong fortress. Twenty thousand soldiers were subject to the naib.
As Genghis Khan always did before sending his army against a powerful enemy, he sent a trade caravan to the land.  Over forty disguised soldiers were accompanying the Muslim spy merchants.
Terrible rumor ran through the bazaar. The stranger merchants were setting people in fear with stories of Mongols, whom they had never heard of, claiming them to be utterly merciless and just on their way to the land of Khwarezm, which they were allegedly intending to drown in blood. “There’s no force to oppose to them,” – merchants and vendors were whispering.
Kadyrkhan Naib soon realized that the caravan was not quite an ordinary one. His soldiers slaughtered all the merchants one night. Only one of them escaped.
Having heard the news, Genghis Khan grew furious and ordered that a messenger be sent to Khwarezmshah Muhammad to demand Naib Kadyrkhan to the quarter with his arms and legs bound".
Muhammad did not give his relative away. The noble man of Khwarezm, which was simmering with endless squabbling, would have disapproved of such an action, moreover, Kadyrkhan, who commanded a powerful army, would definitely have resisted. It would have been unfair of the ruler to punish his subject for being loyal to him.
The Khwarezmhshah ordered that the ambassadors be put to death. Genghis Khan responded by sending his tumens forward. He ordered his sons Dzhagatay and Ugedey to ruin the city of Otrar and the eldest one, Dzhuchi, to conquer the cities lying in the lower reaches of the Seykhun River.
In the autumn of that year, the Mongols stopped facing the walls of Otrar. Naib Kadyrkhan knew that neither he nor city dwellers would be spared, he decided on fighting till the very end. 
The besieged city stood for six months, and who knows what would have happened than but for a betrayal. One night, nomads headed by Karash Batyr, being sent by the Khwarezmhshah to help the city before a siege, opened the fortress gate and went into the steppe in anticipation of death.
The Mongols took advantage of the betrayal. Now murderous battles were happening in the city, in its narrow streets, in the market, and on squared. The local fought desperately. Each single house, each single yard turned into a fortress. 
It was a losing battle. Defenders of the city were growing fewer and fewer, and Mongol soldiers seemed to be countless. Driven by their iron discipline, they moved forward steadily, drunken on blood, and their eyes were glowing as they expected a good take.
Those who knew how to handle weapons hid in the palace of Naib Kadyrkhan.  The city was aflame, as it had been set to fire on every side. Black curling smoke obscured the sun; leaves were falling off the trees furled by the intolerable heat, and aryks were drying. 
When they had ran out of arrows and their swords were blunt, the dwellers of Otrar ran to the palace roof to fight.  Female servants were bringing them heavy raw bricks, which the soldiers were throwing at their enemies’ heads. 
Finally the Mongols managed to capture Kadyrkhan, who was exhausted and dying of wounds.  They dragged him to Ugedey’s elder son, Guyuk.
- You’ve proven to be a true warrior,- he said.- The Mongols appreciate courage. Before you die, you can ask for whatever you want.
- I have no desire but one,- the naib replied.- I want to die so that I can’t see your pig snouts.
Guyuk took his sword out of the sheath and severed Kadyrkhan’s head.
At a supreme order by Genghis Khan’s sons, the soldiers were entitled to rod the city conquered for ten days. Everything which could not be taken away was set on fire. The priceless books of the Otrar library, the fame of which was spread all over the Orient, were aglow; the wisdom of centuries was dying, turning into ashes and cinder. The wind and water completed the ruination, and the city once beautiful, prosperous, and powerful was razed to the ground. 
When Otrar had been conquered, the Mongol army was divided. It was like two black wings spread over Khwarezm. One of them was a terrible shadow over Samarkand and Bukhara, while the second one obscured the Kypchak city of Syganak. 
The Mongol tumens were death to all living beings, turning oases which had just been in bloom into deserts. Palaces and churches decorated with fancy ornaments were ruined; clear streams which used to give their water to thousands of people were blocked by dead bodies. The wild steppe was merciless and deaf to agonic screams.
The fortress city of Syganak blunted the attack for seven days and seven nights. The Mongols, who were outrages at the city’s resolute resistance, slaughtered all of its citizens.
Yes, that is the way it was... His father and some old soldiers, who had been lucky enough to participate in the campaign and live to be very old, had told him.
Sartak gave Svyatoslav another glance. The soldier’s face was imperturbable, only his eyes, calm and cold, were staring at him from under his bushy brows. 
Who could have thought that the star of a man named Kara Budi would rise over the ruined Khwarezm to set in the Orusut land after his encounter with Svyatoslav. Indeed, nothing is impossible in the sublunary realm; everything can happen.
It was in Khwarezm that the star of Kara Bugi rose... He was only eighteen back then. Squat and heavy-built, he was suddenly distinguished among the other soldiers. It was not about his wonderful strength or courage; it was about his mercilessness and cruelty. He would rape girls in their parents’ sight and jump on anyone who interfered with the fury of a jackal. Kara Bugi had a special way of breaking their neck bones, which only Mongols knew, and he would put his cupped hands under the neck of his victim and drink the blood streaming from it.
After some time he happened to be in Batu Khan’s army; he participated in the khan’s campaign against the Orusuts and fought against the Germans.  Even Mongol soldiers lowered their voices to speak of his cruelty. Batu Khan  distinguished him and appointed him to command a hundred warriors.
Sartak liked his whole-hearted devotion to his native land. Kara Bugi had grown to be the shadow of the great khan, his right-hand man. When the khan was baptized, he followed his master into Christianity. However, the new faith did not change Kara Bugi. He was still cruel and blood-thirsty.
But one deed which Kara Bugi committed set even experienced soldiers and noyons in tremor.
It happened in spring, after the countless herds of Mongol cattle had tasted the young grass geese and swans, who has just come back to their country, seemed to be playing a golden or silver trumpet. Having stood the famishing winter, the Orusuts started sowing crops. A little Mongol army was coming back to the Horde after they had collected the taxes from Orusut country rulers.  
Kara Bugi was riding a black stallion in front of them. He was wearing a black iron armor and a helmet to match. Kara Buti, who had got fat, resembled a piece of rock at a distance. Heavy two-wheeled arbas, loaded with what they had stolen or taken away from people in the land conquered were following the caravan. The load was mostly fur. Wolf, hair, fox, beaver, and squirrel fur was packed thoroughly in bags to protect them against the capricious nature.
The road was familiar, there was nobody to be afraid of, and the soldiers relaxed, they even put off their heavy fox fur tymaks for the warm spring of the sun to pour some light onto their heads. 
When the troops had walked round the lake, there was a small village at a little distance, at the margin of the forest. Once could see Orusut men and women ploughing the black soil in their canvas shirts. The scene was rather regular and not at all unknown.
All of a sudden, Kara Buti brought his horse to a halt. A band of children, namely a boy and girls aged from 7 to ten, had jumped out of the bushes. Like adults, they were wearing long simple thoughts. A cheerful chatter broke the silence. The children were carrying something in their hams. That must have been birds’ eggs collected by the river.
But then some of them noticed the Mongol troops, and there was a desperate, unnerving scream. Having left their yield, the children rushed into the forest. A thin girl with long legs and thick golden hair ran first.
Kara Buti was staring after the children blandly when there was a spark of interest in his eyes. He spurred his horse and rushed after them, clinging to his saddle bow.
The boy was running as fast as her exhausted body could can. She turned back every once in a while, and Kara Buti could see nothing but terror in his huge blue eyes. He was grinning crazily, trying to grab the girl by the hair, but she dodged several times, after which he had to start the chase again.
Finally, the runaway was weakened. She fell down once and twice. When Kara Bugi caught her and turned her onto her back, having jumped off his horse, the girl’s body began shaking fitfully, she threw her head back and suddenly grew slack and limped.  
When the field workers heard the children scream, they realized at once that something horrible had happened. Grabbing whatever came at hand, people rushed to help the children. The girl’s father was the first to arrive. His prophetic hard seemed to have given him the energy. But it was too late. He saw nothing but Kara Bugi’s death, and still he recognized him. The horrible young man was too well known in the Orusut land.
There was nothing to talk about. People stood over the dead child in a solemn silence. The crime wanted revenge. But can you chop blocks with a razor? His heavy feasts were clenched, and his eyes were glowing with hatred.
Taking off his shirt, Svyatoslav wrapped his daughter’s dead body. Then he just looked at the circle with obscured eyes:
- Go away... Do your work... I shall turn to Batu Khan.
Noone stood in his way, no one dared interfere. He did not give him any instructions either. Everyone had the same thought and the same wish, but time had not come for them yet to come true.
When performing the wrongful act, Kara Buty did not know that the glorious Batu Khan  had come to the lake with his company to hunt birds.
It took the warrior a day to reach the khan’s quarters. As if aware of his greef, the enormous sun froze by the horizon and poured worryingly red light onto woods and valleys. And the tents of the khan’s quarters seemed to have blood spatters on them when Svyatoslav finally saw them. 
The warrior only stopped for a moment. “Rather than daily dying,” he thought bitterly, “I prefer it to happen at once”. Svyatoslav felt for the knife hidden in the wrinkles of his pants, brought it closer to his hip so that he could take it out quickly when needed, and stepped forward.
Having surrounded Svyatoslav closely, the khan’s henchmen brought him to Batu.
The khan, who had just returned from hunting, was standing by his tent.
Svyatoslav approached him fearlessly with a child’s body in his outstretched hands. Looking at khan with his dry eyes full of despair and grieving, he told him what had happened. Batu Khan’s face froze, and his hand felt for the dagger.  He gestured his tulengits away to find and bring to him Kara Bugi. 
The henchment put the khan’s traveling throne by the tent in no time. Waiting for Kara Bugi to be brought to him, Batu ordered to call a Tibetan lama called Sakiya, who was attending to the great Karakorum Khan Ugedey while staying in the Golden Hordе. When the man, who looked as old as the hills, came up to him, he asked:
- Find out and tell us the reason why the girl brought by the Orusut is dead.
The lama bowed low to show respect.
Four tulengits brought Kara Buti to the khan’s tent, pushing him forward with their spears. The Mongol warrior was glouting. His dark face had grown black, and only his teeth forming a malicious and wolfish grin were white.
- Truss him up,- Batu ordered.
The henchmen threw Kara Bugi onto the ground, wringed his hands to behind his back and bound them tightly together by the wrist using rawhide strips.
Lama Sakiya and Svyatoslav came out of the tent. People had gathered around the khan’s palace and were looking breathlessly at Batu and at the back-thrust head of the girl whom the Orusut was holding, waiting for what was to come.
- So why did the girl die? – the khan asked fiercely, drawing his eyebrows together.
- Her heart ruptured, oh Great Khan.
Batu turned his gaze to the kneeling Kara Bugi. It appeared that the khan had treated his soldier unfairly. Was a dead Orusut girl was worth disgracing and punishing him, one of his most loyal men? 
Batu turned to the lama:
- So the Orusut is telling lying about his daughter having been abused?
The khan’s unblinking eyes narrowed, and his look now resembled that of a snake. People froze with their heads low; only Svyatoslav was still looking аt Batu with a bold and daring stare.
- No. He is telling the truth,- the lama uttered in silence.- It is the dead body that has been abused...
There was a soft sigh in the crowd which sounded like wind blowing. Under the Mongol tradition, what Kara Budi had done was considered to be a deadliest crime.
Even Batu Khan, who had never had mercy on anyone, who would feast on the dead bodies of those he defeated and  listen indifferently to the cracking noise of their bones breaking, grew pale.
His eyes were fixed on Kara Bugi:
- Is the great healer Sakiya telling the truth?
- Yes,- Kara Bugi wheezed. His face twisted in a grimace of fear.- But I didn’t harrow the child’s soul, oh Glorious Khan! It is all the same to a dead body...
Sartak thought of the feeling of disgust which seized his whole being back then. He remembered his father turning to his brother Mengu to ask:
- What punishment for this man would you call fair?
Mengu, who was renowned for his cruelty, said after a moment’s hesitation:
- It is a crime to casts slurs on a Mongol warrior. But Kara Bugi has contributed greatly to the conquering of the Orusuts, so we could mitigate the punishment. One hundred birches...
Batu Khan  looked at his younger brother Berke:
- What would you say?
- As the Muslim faith holds it, such a man shall burn in flames forever after his death, for he has taken advantage of a dead child’s body. Such a crime must not be forgiven. Sentence him to a thousand birches.
Batu gave a glance around the crowd. The noyons and warriors standing around his throne were used to people dying, they were not afraid of blood, and there was no sympathy with other people’s suffering in their hearts. But what had been done by Kara Buti was far beyond permissibility.  And everyone regardless of his faith and of the god he worshipped realized that it was a crime. People had dark faces.
- What would you want? - Batu asked Svyatoslav suddenly.
- Give him to me,- the Orusut said with his eyes still glues to the khan’s face.
Batu fell to thinking. Mengu was right. Was it reasonable to take the life of a warrior who had been loyal to the Horde for many years because of a child belonging to a conquered nation?.. Indeed, he had committed a dreary crime. Would it be better to follow Berke’s advice – to give him a thousand birches and let him hope for the better? If Heaven saves him, he will stay alive. But will the crowd find such a decision to be fair? Judging by their faces, the warriors were expecting a death sentence. Common folks are naïve and foolish. One can destroy millions of innocent people, but as soon as you act fairly, just once, they will readily forget and forgive it. They would call him Sain Khan, that is, the Fair Khan. Isn’t the life of a minor commander worth the opinion of a hundred thousand people?
Batu sat up and lifted his head to stare at Svyaloslav:
- Let it be as you want it to be, Orusut.
The crowd roared.
- Glory to Batu Khan! Batu Khan is the fair khan!
- Sain Khan! – people were shouting.
Kara Bugi darted, trying to get closer to Batu Khan on his knees, but the tulengits’ sharp spears nearly pierced his chest. He was rolling on the ground by the throne in rage and terror, screaming out pleas, but one could not hear his screams because of the noise of the crowd praising their khan.  
Svyatoslav put the girl’s body onto the ground and headed toward him. The guards stepped aside to let him go. The Orusut grabbed Kara Bugi by the hair” a knife flashed in his hand. The Mongol’s gigantic black head tumbled onto the ground…
Svyatoslav sheathed his knife, took the body of his daughter and went away without looking at anyone. The crowd of soldiers made way for him to show their respect.
Batu Khan  turned to his chief vizier Sauk, who was a son of  his father’s younger brother.
- Stop him! – he ordered imperiously.- Give him a horse and a compensation for him daughter.
Tulen Bagadur, Batu’s son-in-law, one of the Horde’s bravest commanders, who appreciated the khan’s decision, bowed his head approvingly and said in a soft voice:
- Sain Khan! The fair khan...
His words were heard, and the crowd of warriors shouted again:
- Batu Khan! Sain Khan!..
Being firm about his decision and incapable of mercy and sympathy, Batu could pretend to be a fair man for the sake of his reputation in the army. He had been reluctant to lose the courageous Kara Bugi, but there was nothing to do to it; it was the will of Heaven.
Sartak remembered that day very well. And now, seeing Svyaloslav, he thought that time had had no impact on that man. Fifteen years had passed, but he was still strong and robust, only his hair and beard were grizzled heavily. Since Svyatoslav had come with the ambassadors, he obviously belonged to Prince Alexander’s men. More and more Orusuts were willing to stand under the banner of the unconquered Novgorod.
Thinking of Svyatoslav, Sartak was unaware of the fact that there was another man in the crowd meeting the ambassadors who remembered those distant days by the lake just as perfectly well as he did. That was a younger brother of the black Kara Bugi. He was serving as a Bakaul at Sartak’s court, that is, he was responsible for food and drinks.  He remembered everything and recognized Svyatoslav as well, but no muscle twitched in his bronze face with high cheekbones, only his eyes flashed with menacing wolf-like sparks for a second.
Having entered the palace, Sartak said:
- Dear ambassadors, we won’t talk business today. You are guests of the Khan of the Golden Horde...
The Orusuts bowed to indicate that they with the khan’s will.
Sartak turned his head toward a man whose face was rough and bitter:
- I think my chief vizier doesn’t mind, does he?
The latter nodded his head. That was the notable Sauk who used to serve as a vizier during the rule of Batu Khan. He had long turned sixty, and his face which used to be smooth and round was now wrinkled. He was the oldest of the glorious Genghis Khan’s descendants and so had a special influence on the affairs of the Golden Horde. During the Mongol campaign to the land of the Orusuts Sauk’s father Kulgan commanded a separate army. His tumens got hold of the city of Kolomna, but an Orusut arrow killed him in the battle. 
The custom of the Chingizids provided for a dreary revenge in case a man of their clan fell during a siege. They would not depart from their rule. All citizens of Kolomna including infants and antediluvians were slaughtered.
For his whole life, Sauk had been guided by an urge to take avenge for his father’s death. Since he became Batu’s chief vizier, Sauk had been repeating in all sharp and flats that the only language which the Orusuts could understand was that of crooked Mongol sabers. “Bakhadurs won’t unite as long as they are at enmity. A state you’ve robbed will never be your friend. One can only seek friendship when one feels strong. Unless you want them to wage war on you, gain power, be cruel and merciless”,- Sauk would keep saying.
A young mare was slaughtered for the Orusut guests, wine and leather bags called sabs full of white frothy kumis were brought. The famous Kypchak tayshi, that is, storyteller, Sulunguk told the guests the story of the glorious Genghis Khan to the music of his dombra.
He sang the song of Torgan Shire, who saved the young Genghis Khan from Taizhigut people who wanted to kill him, in his throaty hoarse voice. He sang about the ordinary Mongol man named Temujin, who, having become the great Genghis Khan, presented the latter the Merkit land, which lay from the Mongol steppe to the Selengi River, and the title of darkhan, permitting him to wear a chain mail <Genghis Khan’s warriors wore neither chain mails nor brigandines.> and eagle feathers on his head <Eagle feathers on somebody’s head dress were believed to indicate his power>.
The Rocker of the Universe was a man of great lavishness, and he granted Torgan Shire nine times’ forgiveness for his future crimes.
The storyteller was plucking the dombra, and his eyes were shining with inspiration and faith. It was for the Orusut ambassadors that he was telling the story of Genghis Khan, Sartak’s great-grandfather, telling about the way in which the Rocker of the Universe would pay for good deeds.
The storyteller told them about the submission and loyalty of all tribes and nations for the great Genghis Khan by telling about the vow which the warriors Altay, Kuchir, and Sechey Begi gave when he was enthroned:
- If we march against our enemy,
We’ll bring the prettiest girls
And his beautiful wives to you,
Paragon argamaks with fine necks,
The swiftest in the whole steppe.
If we go hunting, we’ll go around the world,
To get and bring in our saddles
The brightest animals and black-furred sabers.
If we break out vow
Leave us, ungrateful slaves,
By the dead fire,
Take our beloved wives and children from us.
Having finished, the storyteller gave the ambassadors a glace of pride and dignity. He seemed to advise them to be loyal and faithful to Sartak Khan, a descendant of the glorious Genghis Khan, like people were many decades ago.
Everyone present understood what the message was.
While Sauk thought approvingly of the storyteller’s words, Svyatoslav grew even more sullen. The entertainment made him feel uneasy, and the very air of the khan’s quarters was ghastly to him. Hardly concealing his hatred, Svyatoslav looked at people wearing wolf and beaver fur coats, fox fur malakhai hats, whose faces were glossy with fat. The Mongols, who wore costly fur and had gilded weapons, had arrogant and self-conceited manners.  Their treasured had been taken away from those who were famishing in their stuffy huts and moaning under their intolerable burden on the Russian land racked with pain.
Svyatoslav could not eat a morsel and remained sober in spite of all the kumis and wine that he drank.
Not only Sartak  but also the observant Sauk noticed his condition. “The Orusuts hate us just as much as I hate them,”- he suddenly thought with an odd anxiety, “It looks like our ways are to cross some day…”
The feast arranged to celebrate the Orusuts’ arrival was approaching its end. The Kypchak storyteller Sulungut took his dombra again to sign the reply of Genghis Khan to the vow of his faithful noyons:
- Don’t you bring me what you take from you enemy –
Keep it. Don’t you give me
Wolves and sables you hunt. 
Keep them.
Midnight came. The torgouts, that is, the day guards, were replaced by kopteguls, who were to watch over the khan’s family at night.  Till the first rays of sunlight touches the ground, no living being dared approach the palace. A saber or an arrow of a keshikten guard would take the life of anyone who dared disobey the ruler of the Golden Horde.
Forty years had passed since Genghis Khan’s death, but his descendants still adhered to his instructions religiously. A special keshikten tumen was created to guard the palace and maintain due order in the Golden Horde. Genghis Khan’s instruction was as follows, “We used to have eight hundred kopteguls and seven hundred torgouts at our disposal.  We ordered that a keshikten tumen be created. A noyon’s son and that of one commanding a thousand, a hundred, or ten warriors, or any common man who is a soldier can be a guardian. He should be good at military art and have a handsome face. A son of one who commands a thousand soldiers is to bring ten friends and a younger brother with him; a son of one who commands a thousand soldiers is to bring five friends and a brother with him, a son of one who commands ten soldiers or a common man is to bring three friends and a brother. Everyone willing to be a keshikten is to obtain a horse and weapons at his previous job.  Nobody shall prevent warriors from becoming keshiktens.”
Everyone who decided on becoming Genghis Khan’s guardians assumed great duties, but he was also granted great privileges. The Rocker of the Universe said, “Nobody has the right to sit higher than a keshikten. Nobody has the right to pass one without telling his name. Nobody has the right to enter a house or a ten guarded by a keshikten without the latter’s permission. It is forbidden to talk to a keshikten on any subject when passing by him. It is forbidden to ask a guardian about the number of people present at the place where he keeps guard. A man walking around without a keshikten’s permission may be seized or even killed by him in case of disobedience. Common noyons and commanders of a thousand warriors must sit at a due distance from а guardian.”
The army was always the basis of Genghis Khan’s Horde, and keshiktens were the best of it and the most faithful warriors. They were khan’s most reliable weapon against domestic and foreign enemies.
“My descendant who are to be enthroned after my death and the children of their children should cherish keshiktens like the apple of their eyes as long as they want to put up a monument of gold to me, for they have always cherished me more than their own life,” Genghis Khan said.
When Batu became the khan of the Golden Horde, he acted according to the will of his glorious grandfather. His throne was surrounded by faithful guardians. Only their name was not keshiktens but tulengtis.
The Orusut ambassadors, who were exhausted after the journey and the feast arranged by Sartak  to honor it were taken to their chambers. A tulengit with a bare sword stood near the room where Danil was to spend the night. The boyar undressed and was about to go to bed, which was arranged on an enormous tiger skin, when the door opened and Sartak’s counsellor, the Roman Koyak, came in carrying a torch. The carpets hanging on the walls of the room were aglow with reflected flame, and their fancy ornaments were sparkling, glaring with color and then fading.
The Roman made a silent bow.
Danil was looking at the guest expectantly, waiting for what Koyak was to say.
- A girl will be brought here for you at the khan’s order.
The boyar lifted his head in surprise.
- A girl?
- It is a Mongol custom to do so when receiving an honorable guest...
- But the Christian faith forbids it. Isn’t Khan Sartak Christian?
A vague smile appeared on the Roman’s thin lips, but he hid his face in the shadow immediately.
- No,- he said.- The Khan is Mongol...
How would the boyar had known that Sartak steel kept to the Mongol custom after being baptized? The new khan of the Golden Horde was a mixture of all kinds of things. He combined a profound adherence to Genghis Khan’s pagan rules with a good knowledge of Christian dogmata. He did not always follow them in his affairs and deeds...
Danil was going to ask Koyak for more detail about the khan, but the Roman had already vanished; only the door closed with a tiny noise.
Soon, a tulengit of gigantic height pushed a girl of about twelve or thirteen years, soft as silk and tender as a flower, into the room.  
Under the order implemented by Genghis Khan, the palace guard was to do not only military service. It was the responsibility of tulengits to arrange all kinds of celebrations in the Horde and even supply food for the khan’s quarters.  The lives of men and women at court except for the khan’s family were in their hands. That was why, having received an order from Sartak, the chief guard disposed of the only daughter of a widow who worked at the khan’s kitchen at his own discretion.
Having pushed the girl in, the tulengit bowed silently to the boyar with his hand pressed against his chest and disappeared behind the door. 
The girl was astonishingly beautiful. As thin as a blade of grass in spring, she had a white face and eyes as huge as those of a little camel, and her hair was as dark as the night. Her eyes, in which tears were welled, were looking at the boyar with terror.
Danil approached her quietly and put his hand on her back. The gracile body of the girl shuddered. She covered her face with her hands and burst into sobbing.
Pushing the girl gently on the back, the boyar brought her to the door.
- Don’t be afraid. I won’t touch you,- he said, picking the Kypchak words laboriously.
But the girl did not seem to hear him. She was still weeping.
Danil opened the door and said to the tulengit:
- Let her go to her room. I don’t need a woman.
Khan Sartak did not hold any negotiations on the following day either. He was eager to show the Orusut ambassadors his swift ambler and hounds impress them with his keen bowmen. That is why he decided to undertake a hunt.
The Orusuts were woken at dawn. The winter was frosty, and snow was abundant, and packs of wolves seemed to have come to the khan’s herd from every corner of the steppe.
Soldiers who were specially employed to protect the cattle could not do anything to the predators. Snow sank under horses’ hooves, allowing wolves to escape. Only swift and light hounds and keen bowmen could help against the gray robbers.  
The hunters returned to the Horde late at night, feeling exhausted. Success had attended them – the kill was large. Having agreed with the khan that negotiations were to start on the following day, each ambassador went to him room.
As soon as Danil went to be, the same tulengit as yesterday pushed the camel-eyes girl into his room again.
She did not cry as she did the previous time, she only looked back at the door apprehensively. The boyar understood that the girl wanted to tell him something. He gestured for her to come closer.
Overcoming her fear of the Orusut, she came up to him on tiptoe, bent down to his very face and whispered fervently:
- Don't drink the rashiya wine they'll serve you tomorrow.
Danil only understood that rashiya meant wine. He knew that was the name of the wine which Mongol khans usually drank. His heart told me that the girl was trying to warn him. The boyar froze apprehensively.
- What did you say? Repeat it...
The girl was surprised to find out that the Orusut did not understand her language. Her eyes were dark with desperation, but then there was a sparkle in them, and she started to whisper again, making gestures to match her words:
- Tomorrow, they’ll give you wine - rashiya,- the girl pointed her finger at the boyar’s chest.- Don’t drink it.- She shook her head, pretending to be pushing a cup away with her hands.- If you drink it...- the girl put her palms together and brought them to her mouth as if to drink.- You’ll die! Be dead...- the girl mimicked a dying man.
Danil understood.
- Wine, rashiya...- he repeated, looking intently at the girl’s feverish face.
- Yes! Yes!
The boyar gave her a thankful smile.
- Thanks...- and he patted her on the hair.- Now leave...- Danil gestured her to the door.
The door rushed to it swiftly and quietly.
Wine has always played a role of certain importance in the life of individuals and even nations.  There are some historical examples of states turning into ashes and vanishing from the map just because its citizens were too fond of wine. Conquering the land of their weaker neighbors, powerful states brought to them not only the violence of weapons but also wine. Having failed to get what they wanted with the help of weapons, the conquerors used religion, custom, and, again, wine, to achieve other nations’ submission. Wine was a true disaster for people whose states were underdeveloped. Genghis Khan understood that perfectly well. He knew that one had to have an iron discipline to defeat one’s enemy. Besides, one needed another thing to warm up the warriors of his multi-national Horde, to obfuscate them and slake their feelings. So the Rocker of the Universe allowed them to rob, rape women, and drink. He liked the drink a lot, too, and often kept no measure with it. Once, after a drunken orgy of many days had nearly resulted in the khan’s death, his counsellor Shigi Khugut said bitterly:  
- Oh, Great Khan, I didn’t know there was a force in the world higher than you...
Feeling nettled, Genghis Khan took off his boric, put it onto the throne, and bowed low to it. 
- It is only my hat what is higher than I am.
- No,- Shigi Khugut objected,- it is wine.
Maybe it was that conversation that altered Genghis Khan’s habits or the effect was caused some other events. He came to be abstinent in terms of wine and punished those who lived differently in a most cruel way.
After Ugedey and Dzhagatay defeathed Khwarezmshah Muhammad, their troops nearly perished.  Having got hold of the capital of Khwarezm and found spme wine cellars in the palace, Mongols soldiers hit the bottle. Genghis Khan’s son, their noyons, and soldiers drank for one, two weeks, they drank till they fainted. Those of Khwarezm citizens who had survived were slaughtering hundreds of inebriated Mongols.
Having found out the fact, Genghis Khan flew into a rage. He sent a special unit to Khwarezm to blow up the shah’s wine cellars with the help of a Chinese powder, which consisted of crushed sulfur and cotton <Chinese gunpowder>.
The Mongol army was saved
Historians claim that Genghis Khan was angry at his sons for having pocketed all of the plunder. But that must have been not the only reason. The Rocker of the Universe was scared to know that his children, having fallen for wine, had been unable to catch up with the Khwarezmshah’s army and destroy it completely. It was immediately after that that he ordered that his words be put down, “A drunken man is deaf and blind, he has no reason. His knowledge and talent aren’t worth a thing. He won’t get anything but disgrace. A ruler susceptible to wine is incapable of glorious deeds. A commander with his mind obscured by wine can’t lead his army. A drunken noyoncan’t understand where he has just sent his arrow and whether he has hit the target.”
If it is impossible to refrain from drinking, one can indulge no more than three times a month. It would be good to drink once, it is even better to never drink. But people who don’t are hard to find...”
Descendants of the Rocker of the Universe tried to live as closely to his instruction as possible, but they did not forbid people of countries they conquered to drink. On the contrary, they would encourage wine drinking to obscure their minds.
The following espisode took place during the rule of Khan Gayuk. The khan aske Imam Nuriddin Khwarezmi:
- Wine helps the tired rest, mitigates the woe of the grieving, raises one’s spirits. It is made of pure millet and wheat grains and sweet grapes. If Prophet Muhammad really loves people and is concerned about their happiness, why does he forbid his adherers to drink it?
And Nuriddin Khwarezmi replied:
- A very long time ago, one of the disciples of the sahib, that is, of the prophet, feeling tired after a long journey, decided to stay for a rest with a lonely woman.  The young widow did not let him come into the house. She said, “If you want to spend the night at my house, fulfill one of the conditions. Either sleep with me, or kill my five-year-old son, or have a cup of grape wine.”
The prophet’s adherent thought, “By sleeping with a woman I’ll commit a sin, by killing an innocent child I’ll commit a crime. I shall have a cup of wine, and it shall bring me joy and pleasure.”
He promised the woman to fulfill her last condition. The woman let him into the house. But when the prophet’s disciple had drunk the wine and was inebriated, he got into the woman’s bed and killed her child. Is there anything a drunken man cannot possibly do?
It is since than that Muhammad has forbidden Muslims to drink wine, for he loves people
That is how it was.
***
On the following morning, negotiations with the Orusut ambassadors started in the Horde.  Taking into consideration the dire situation of the Novgorod Principality, Khan Sartak agreed not to collect the shulen <Shulen is a cattle tax.>, the yaman <Yaman is a water tax imposed considering the number of people and cattle heads.>, and the undan<Undan is the lasher allowance tax>, as well as the avariz, that is, the yield tax, from the Orusuts for two weeks. The other princes who supported Alexander Nevsky were also released from taxes.
Sartak spoke very vaguely on whether the Golden Horde would assist the prince if the Germans attacked Novgorod.  
He had reasons to do so. The elders of the Chingizid clan did not approve of his relations with the Orusuts. He had to beware of Nogay, Sauk, Bakhadur, Mengu, and Temir… The latter believed it impossible for the Horde to assist those who had just fought against it.
There was no need to hurry to take a final decision concerning assistance to the Orusuts. If German knights marched against Novgorod, it would be easier to persuade the non-content of the necessity of allying with the Orusuts. Having conquered Novgorod, the Germans could face the Golden Horde; they were a most powerful enemy, and there was to be a clash between their interests and those of the Mongols. Khan Sartak decided to keep the argument for the future, in case he was to fight against his opponents.
He had to think of the Horde’s tomorrow. The khanate still seemed to be powerful and stable, but the land of Caucasus and Azerbaijan had already separated from it, and another of Genghis Khan’s offspring, Kularu, was ruling the territories. Sartak was well aware of the fact that many people would like to grab the Crimea and Khorasan. What was to happen, what was it to be like after five, ten, twenty years? The Golden Horde shouldn’t refuse to ally with North Orusut principalities. The country might need them to fight the domestic enemy.
During the negotiations with the Orusuts, Sartak noticed that Sauk and Bakhadur were not the only ones opposed to his alliance with Novgorod.  Svyatoslav disapproved of it as well, but the old warrior was doing everything possible to avoid revealing his feelings. It was not so hard to understand him. Could a man who had seen the destruction the Mongols bought to his land be willing to ally with them? It was only a desperate need that forced Orusuts to do so – German nights were at their borders, and they had to choose the least horrible variant.
His people had informed Sartak of the fact that Svyatoslav was greatly respected by common folks in Novgorod and had a great influence on Prince Alexander.
That made Sartak feel uneasy.
The glorious Genghis Khan instructed his descendants, “If you think that your enemy might become your friend and your enemy might become your friends, give them up before it happens so that your friend can be your friend and your enemy can be your enemy.”
That is a wise thought. But his grandfather was the sole ruler of all the land he had conquered, and he did not have to be afraid of people close to him, who can cut your throat and put poison into your cup any time now.
After the negotiations, a feast was organized to honor the ambassadors. Low round tables were placed in the rooms with whatever the Golden Horde could be proud of piled on them.  Hills of mountains were giving off smoke on wooden plates, kumis and torosun wine were showing froth in their cups – wine and rahiya were being served in silver.
On the khan’s right left, on the place of honor, his counsellor Sauk was sitting, and on his left hand was boyar Danil..
According to the custom set by Genghis Khan, the court bakaul came up to Sartak and tasted a piece of meat from the plate served to it and sipped from a cup the khan had been offered. The khan had to be sure that his food and drinks were not poisoned.
Sartak was the first to raise his golden cup and drink it to the last drop. His men did the same. Only the Orusut ambassadors put their cups onto the table without even making a sip.
The khan was surprised. The Orusuts were eager to drink wine a day before, they could drink much without getting drunk, but now they did not want it... Were they just being cautious? Or was it because the bakaul had only tasted his wine? But it was just the same in the previous day... There definitely was a reason to it. It is bad of guests to mistrust their host.
- What’s wrong? – Sartak asked with a frown.- Why didn’t the guests try our wine?
Khan looked at Boyar Danil. He didn’t answer, for Svyatoslav lifted his cup slowly and placed it before Sauk carefully not to spill the wine.
The vixie, who preferred torosun like most of Mongol warriors, understood the intention of the Orusut soldier. He took the cup unhurriedlу.
It occurred to Sartak that the Orusut’s scheme was correct. If the wine was poisoned, Sauk could have done that. The vizier never tried to conceal his disrespect of the Novgorod citizens.
But Sauk lifted his cup with an absolutely still face
- Since my youngest age, I’ve been used to the Mongol drink named torosun, and I have never enjoyed Kypchak wine,- he said.- But if the gust wants it...- the vizier brought his cup to his lips.
All of a sudden, the khan stretched out his hand.
- Hold on... We know that you don’t drink rashiya...- Sartak’s eyes were jumping from once face onto another.  Sauk must be innocent, judging by his fearless manners when he took the cup... He could order to take the wine off the table, but it would let the citizens of Novgorod think that they had been right and there had been poison, even if it was told to contain none. And the khan would be the one most suspicious.
If Sartak sartak had seen the face of his bakaul back then, he would have understood everything. The latter was frozen behind his back, and his face was whiter than snow.
The khan’s gaze stopped at a tulengit who was standing by the door. He gestured to him to come closer.
- Come here. Drink it.- Sartak looked at the cup.
Feeling happy to be taking it from the khan’s hands, the embarrassed warrior took the cup delicately with both hands and brought it to his mouth.
Nobody in the Horde dared disobey the khan’s order, but the tulengit stopped drinking. His face looked confused.
- Great Khan,- he said. – Please let me stop drinking, for I am Muslim and...- the tulengit did not finish his utterance. His face was distorted by pain, the cup fell out of his trembling hands, and he collapsed onto the floor clumsily.
The khan’s palace grew fearfully silent. A hundred eyes were watching Sartak, waiting for what he was to say and do. The khan’s nostrils were twitching, his eyes were narrowed, and his head reached for the dagger to hide its tremor. 
Sartak did not utter a word. Standing up abruptly, he left the hall. Now it was clear to the khan that someone wanted to put him at odds with the Novgorod ambassadors.  Perhaps he was not the only one who remembered Turokin Khotun, Khan Gayuk’s mother, poison Alexander’s father Prince Yaroslav in Karakorum several years before.  That was the time Alexander as well as his father Andrey turned their back to Gayuk and started to seek alliance with Batu Khan.
Somebody remembered it all and wanted to make it happen once again.  But who?
All of the palace guardian, everyone who could somehow had come close to the wine bottles were examined. The search resulted in nothing. The girl named Kunduz and her mother, who had seen the court bakaul pour the juice of a poisonous flower named poison nut into the water were silent, for they were afraid of losing their lives.who had poisoned the wine and who had warned the Orusuts? It was clear that there was no unity in the Horde, and people who could wish him death any time could be found even in his palace. “Can Sauk have something to do with it? He detests the Orusuts, but can he mean harm to me? Knowing that the wine was poisoned, Sauk wouldn’t have dared to drink it. The vizier is as artful as a fox, so he would have found a pretext to refuse the fatal cup...”
The young tulengit who had tasted the wine was unconscious for the whole day and the night. The court doctor, who had been pouring herbal infusions and milk into his mouth, said, “He’s lucky to have drunken so little. His death was near.” A spiteful and guile enemy was very close. And a someone was hiding in the Horde to fulfill his will some day. The one who rules the Golden Horde had always had enemies. The Horde is powerful and rich, and it has always been a tasty morsel to the enemy.
Sartak thought for a long time and decided that the only one who could possibly hope to replace him was Khan Berke. Perhaps the conspiracy could be traced back to him. But there seemed to be no men of his in the Horde, except for the Barakul, who had once escaped from him, but he hated Berke; moreover, he had had many opportunities to poison the khan during the years which he had spent in the palace. 
The fact that Berke had been maintaining friendly relations with Alexander for a long time was suspicious. If the Horde had a falling out with the Orusuts, that would be very beneficial to him.
***
When spring came, Khan Sartak and his men left the city of Sarai and moved to their dzhailau. When the ground had dried and rivers had returned to their banks, Sartak headed for Karakorum to greet the great khan Mengu and get his advice on the affairs of the Golden Horde.
According to an ancient tradition, he visited the quarters of Genghis Khan’s descendants as he passed by the uluses which they ruled. The only one whom he chose not to see was Berke.  Hatred for his father’s brother had replaced distaste in his soul, and suspicion had turned into certitude.
Having found out that Sartak had ignored his real, the furious Berke with a hundred henchmen caught up with the caravan of the khan of the Golden Horde by the Yaik ford. 
- I am the oldest of Dzhuchi’s descendants in the Horde! – he said, hardly concealing his rage.- Why do you disgrace me in the face of the others, why don’t you visit me to talk on what you are going to talk with the great khan Mengu in Karakorum?
Sartak stared at Berke.
- Indeed, you’re the oldest of Dzhuchi’s descendants... But you’re Muslim, and I’m Christian... I would be a dreadful sin to look in the face of a Muslim like you...
- Oh, all right! – Berke squirmed with hatred.- Then good bye!
He brought his index finget up to the sky, and a ring with a large brilliant in it shone on his hand. Sartak’s baraul covered his eyes with his fingers in a gesture of terror.
- Good bye! – Berke repeated menacingly and jumped onto the ambler his henchman had got ready for him.
Sartak did not answer. He looked at Berke’s back for a long time till his soldiers vanished in the trembling haze of the steppe.
On the same day, the khan’s caravan and the thousand brave tulengits who were accompanying him crossed the Yaik River, and Sartak turned his horse toward the Irtysh steppe.
After two days, they reached Irgiz and decided to stop for a day rest. Sartak got sick, he had bloody diarrhea. Khan regretted not taking his doctor with him. With each single hour, his condition was getting graver. After two days, the khan of the Golden Horde, Christian Sartak, passed away without regaining consciousness.
Khan Berke, who had returned to his quarters after meeting Sartak, had a face as black as thunder. Having dismounted and thrown the rein to a henchman, he entered his tent, unfastened his belt decorated with gold and gemstones, put it onto his shoulders to symbolize grief, and started lamethin:
- Aaah! Allah! If the faith of Muhammad is fair, may your rage and your revenge strike the infidel Sartak who inflicts disgrace upon it!..
The khan shouted out curses loudly for a long time so that people in the nearby could hear him. 
Allah did not seem to be willing to make his wish come true. One, two, three days passed... And finally a messenger galloped around the quarters at dawn, holding a black hand. He was shouting:
- People! The khan of the Golden Horde Sartak is dead! Woe!..
Muslims who had heard Berke’s lamentations would say to each other:
- Our shah truly adherent to our face. Allah heard him and punished Sartak. It was retaliation!
From then on, Berke was strongly assured that it was time he took the throne of the Golden Horde, but the great khan of Karakorum Mengu deprived him of his due title again by appointing Batu’s younger son, Ulakshi, to be the khan again.  
Less than six months passed before the young khan died on a feast after drinking poisoned wine.
CHAPTER THREE
Khan Sartak’s former bakaul Sary Bugi was standing on the steep bank of the Itil. Deep down, the river was flowing, majestic and unruffled, weaving its waves tightly. As far as the eye could see, the steppe was colorful flowers under the azure of the sky. The cool wind was bending the feather-grass to the ground. Swallows as swift as black lightnings were rocketing into the deep blue of the sky to drop to the water. Sary Bugi was watching the waves of the great Itil intently. Deep inside he was jubilating, but looking at the Mongol, nobody could think of the storm of emotions which was roaring inside him.
A week before, the most noble and well-respected man lifted Berke on a white blanket – he became the khan of the Golden Horde.  His long cherished dream came true.
The new khan sent a man of his to Sary Bugi at once. Having come to the bakaul, the tulengit whispered respectfully:
“The great has said that his brother Batu once ordered that the bakhadur Kara Bugi, who was a brave and faithful warrior of the Golden Horde, be put to death, for he was in rage. Time has come to instill peace in his spirit, and may our grace turn to the deceased one’s younger brother, his only brother – Sary Bugi.  I think that the tulengit’s eyes were glowing with jealousy - the khan will appoint you to rule an aymak or command a thousand warriors.”.
The memory brought a smile onto Sary Bugi’s thin lips, his slanting eyes were now tiny, a wolfish smiled showed his teeth, and he broke into a coarse laughter.
...Batu gave Kara Bugi to the Orusut, thus dooming him to death... No, Sary Bugi had not forgotten anything – he wasn’t an old lunatic. It was Berke who wanted his brother to be given a thousand birches and said that Kara Bugi was to burn in eternal flames of hell for what he had done, as he was a Muslim. And isn’t a thousand birches hell? No, what Berke showed was far from mercy... And the way Sartak was staring at his brother back then, that disdainful look of his? Could one possibly forget it?
He had to wait for more than a decade for the hour of revenge to come... No, it was not due to Kara Bugi’s merits that the khan had called for him. His brother’s heroic contribution to the seizure of Otrar and Kharmankibe were long forgotten… Genghis Khan’s descendants have a firm memory for bad things only. It’s not the past what makes them kind... Whatever was being said about Kara Bugi’s heroism was meant for the tulengit to spread the idea of the khan’s kindness among common people. Berke Khan was to reward his faithful slave for his service of today. Having got the Golden Horde, which is too vast for a six days’ trip, can the khan but appoint him to rule an ulus as big as the distance of a six day’s trip? He can’t. Because Sary Bugi knows the great secret of the khan...
The former bakaul’s face suddenly grew pale, smile vanished from his lips, and fear seized his being. Sary Bugi heard the ground shaking and an ominous booming sound in the steppe. He turned his head abruptly. The noise was growing, and his ear of a Mongol discerned the familiar sound of hooves. Sary Bugi’s eyes grew wide with terror. A countless herd of horses was galloping right toward him from behind a sharp bend of the Itil.
The former bakaul rushed to the lowland where tethered horses were grazing and his tent stood. His wife and two little sons were there. But the way turned up to be blocked. An avalanche of living beings was rolling from that direction as well, shaking the very air with its disturbing neigh. Sary Bugi noticed Berke’s dark mottled stallion, which had never been reined or noosed and could easily cope with a wolf, in advance of the company...
In an attempt to save at least his own life, Sary Bugi rushed back to the ravine, but the horses were close in their mad gallop and there was no salvation. The Mongol fell down onto his knees and hid his face in his hands...
Berke’s wide-chested long-made stallion hit him with his iron hooves. Sary Bugi’s body fell rolling under the herd’s feet...
Two half-tamed herds of horses belonging to khan Berke met to resemble the conflux of two rivers where the Mongol had just stood. They were countless. Stallions were neighing furiously, biting each other and hitting against each other’s chests. Mares were roaring, and the steppe was filled with the plaintive voices of lost colts.
After that, both herds calmed down and headed westward in a slow stream. Their migration took a long time. It was only by the time of sunset that the wranglers met. They dismounted, greeted each other, and exchanged hugs.
The ground trampled by the herds was turned into dust, and nothing was left to remind one of a tent which used to stand there and people who used to live in it. 
Only the khan’s chief wrangler Samilgerey noticed what the others ignored.  The moment when the horses appeared from the curve of the Itil like an avalanche, it seemed to him that there was a tiny human silhouette on the high river cliff.
He did not tell anyone, but he went to the cliff on the following morning. His sharp eyes of an eagle had not failed Salimgerey. The wrangler saw a small dagger on the destroyed ground where he had seen the figure. He dismounted to take it. The hooves of wild horses had not damaged the fine Damask steel of the blade and the handle spangled with small diamonds.
An idea of why Berke khan ordered that his countless herds be driven along the very bank of the Itil suddenly occurred to him.  
Admiring the sparkle of the diamonds embellishing the handle of the dagger, he thought bitterly, “Berke Khan must have been greatly afraid of you to order that your owner be trampled dead under horses’ hooves. The khan is cunning, guile, and cruel to have thought of a death like this for a disagreeable man. As the saying goes, the khan is always smarter than forty wise men”.
After several days, Salimmgerey brought the dagger to Berke Khan. “It is a costly thing, which is only meant for khans,” he said, “I found it on the bank of the Itil, where the herds traveled...”
Narrowing his slanting eyes, the khan gave his wrangler an intent look. He recognized tha dagger he had put into the hands of Sary Bugi several years before, explaining why he might need it.  So the bakaul did not exist anymore. Berke’s sescret was gone with him. Forever. For everyone! Allah is almighty! Everything is in his hands!
The khan thanked the wrangler for such a costly present, and then he called his vizier and ordered to appoint Salimdegey commander of a hundred soldiers. 
***
Having become the khan of the Golden Horde, Berke decided not to move to the city of Sarai, to Batu Khan’s palace. His quarters was still within the aymak he owned, in the town of Aktube, which was situated nine parasangs <A parasang is a unit of length measure which is equal to six meters.> away from Sarykum. Taking after the creator of the Golden Horde, the khan ordered to call his quarters Sarai, too, though  Sarai Batu formerly remained the capital of the country. One of his first actions after the enthronement was his order to erect mosque with gilded minarets.
Just like Batu, Berke was not especially heavy-set – he was of an average height, lean, and agile.
Like the majority of Genghis Khan’s descendants, he inherited malice, jealousy, cruelty, and the ability to take bold decisions from his grandfather. Just as his glorious ancestors, he was good at hiding his feelings and thoughts. Unlike his brother Batu, Berke would not take revenge openly, preferring to do his business with other people’s hands and stay in the shadow.
It was on his prompting that Menge ordered that seventy five Mongol noblemen including Dzhagatay’s eldest son Bori be slaughtered within a night in the year when he became the ruler of the Mongol khanate in Karakorum. Nobody knew what part Berke, who was apprehensive of the growing authority of Ugedey’s and Dzhagatay’s descendants.  
Berke believed that time had not come for overtly actions. Why would he need that? People say that as long as Allah wants to hear you he can hear even whisper.
Berke’s cunning schemes were far-reaching. He was only waiting for a good opportunity to destroy all of Ugedey’s and Dzhagatay’s descendants and cut off the two huge branches of the tree of Genghis Khan forever.
But Batu Khan confused his plans completely. Starting a campaign against the Orusuts and in the western land, he took the young Alguy born of Dzhagatay’s middle son Baidar with and the eighteen-year-old Kaida born of Ugedey’s son Khashi with him.  
Berke felt special hatred and fear toward the fearless and daring Alguy, whom he could see to be his principal rival of the future. He wanted his death desperately, but the fear of becoming Batu Khan’s enemy made his put aside the implementation of his place.
Berke had always enjoyed the respect of the great khan Mengu’s. Once the khan even ordered that the kurultai be opened with a Muslim prayer at his request. That was meant to symbolize great trust to his relative, for Mengu had no religion at all, worhippin what his ancestor Genghis Khan had.
Berke’s circumspection and cunning allowed him to always remain one of the first among the descendants of the Rocker of the Universe.  He was distinguished due to the seizure of Khwarezm and the Kypchak Steppe as well Orusut campaigns.  He would never plunge into the battle in advance of his tumens, but he would also never stay behind. Nobody had seen fear in his face. To tell the truth, the Mongols had not known him and his heroic deeds as much as they knew Nogay, but he had always managed the army entrusted to him in a mist sensible way.
And now that Berke had turned fifty he finally was enthroned in the Golden Horde. His long cherished dream came true. The whole thing seemed to have been schemed, and still… What was he to start with? It is a common fact that getting onto a throne is one thing and actually ruling is another.
Sitting on the throne of the Golden Horde is like sitting on a dragon’s back. As soon as you happen to be careless or negligent, it will throw you down to the ground, and its greedy mouth will gulp its yesterday’s ruler.
Batu and Berke had the same root, but they still had little in common. While the former resembled an eagle, the latter looked more like a falcon. They had different ways of flying and would not share their prey. Batu knew how to conquer other nations, while Berke’s only dream was of holding them in leash. He seemed to have the feeling that whatever he was holding firmly would be ruined in a moment as soon as he separated his arms to reach out for something to add to the Golden Horde.
The exterior was very similar to what could be found there during the rule of Batu Khan – there was peace in the land of the Horde, and the people conquered were quiet. But that was an illusion. People opposed to the order introduced by the khan were appearing here and there. Strange to say, they were not alone – their adherents were constantly growing and gaining power. The people’s submissiveness turned out to be illusory. Berke had a clear understanding of what danger such riots implied for the Horde. What one has once seen is better remembered than what one has heard a thousand times, so he was being deliberately cruel to the rebels, and none of them could expect the khan to have mercy on him.
A never subsiding anxiety and apprehension seemed to be in the very air of the Golden Horde, great and powerful as it was. Fe could feel it back then, but everyone could see the nomad getting poorer with each single year after he ceased to embark on campaigns and stashing other people’s things into his saddle bag; everyone could see Orusut cities rise again and grow to be crowded after the horrible devastation. Neither the taxes collected in the conquered land nor those imposed on the merchant caravans traveling through the Golden Horde were capable of consolidating the state created by Batu, as everything was sent to the khan’s treasury and spent for the sake of his army. Even the Muslim face, with all its dogmata of servility to one’s rulers was incapable of uniting the dog poor people who were only used to taking but not to giving.  
And it was not his generosity that made Berke limit himself to taxes collected from the Orusut land, but he did it voluntarily. Being a nomad, he could not fathom the spirit of a nation which did not fall, did not turn into a tramp after it was deprived of everything but continued to build cities and sow crops with unthought-of perseverance. The Orusut land, the boundaries of which were lost somewhere in the north behind black woods and impassable marshes in which Mongol horses sunk seemed to him mysterious and gloomy. His nomadic sense told Berke that he had better keep away from what he could not understand – raids were enough to prevent the enemy from ever gaining power, and feud between princes was welcome, but the rest was in the hand of god Almighty.
After the death of Batu Khan, there was a stirring among the heads, who could feel the weakness of his successors and started to drag Khwarezm and Khorasan to the descendants of Ugedey and Dzhagatay. And Azerbaijan appropriated Kulaga stealthily.
Berke Khan was terrified to think that pathetically scattered pieces of the previous splendor could be the only thing to remain of the Golden Horde. One could only stay on the back of the dragon provided that there was a new rein for each head to replace the worn one and that the hands holding its rein were iron. And the hands stretched out to the land of the Horde were to be cut off. It was not an easy thing to do, but there was no way out. It was not because he wanted to be a powerless khan what made him to fight for the khan’s throne for so long.
That was the thoughts of Berke who was standing on the hill and watching a new mosque being built to fascinate Muslims and guests of his new capital with its splendor.
A famous architect, a Roman named Kolomon built it. Long before, back when the valiant army of Kulagu entered the Armenian land, he was captured.  Berke persuaded his relative to give the man to him. He was dreaming of having a magnificent mosque built back then, but Kolomon would not obey. “I am Christian”, he said, “and it would be a sin if I built a house for a strange god.”
The architect was stubborn and made numerous attempts to escape, so Berke ordered to chain him.  Only now that he was the khan of the Golden Horde did Berke think of him; he ordered that Kolomon be brought to him. 
- If you build a mosque unparalleled in the whole world of Islam, I’ll set you free,- the khan told the architect.
- Is Khan telling the truth? – Kolomon asked.
- Yes. Khan does not say anything twice and does not go back on his words.
The Roman, who had been missing freedom greatly, grew thoughtful.
- Alright,- he said finally.- I cherish my faith, but I cherish freedom even more...
Berke thought of that conversation at seeing Kolomon. With his upper body naked, the muscular, bronze tan, the Roman was looking at a drawing on a black board with his ginger beard sticking forward. Slaves were bustling around like ants, bringing bricks and bars.
Kolomon turned his body a little, and the khan could see chains on the architect’s feet and hand. An unkind smile appeared on Berke’s lips. He had to do so, otherwise the bloody giaour could make another attempt to run away. He was only thirty and lusty, and nobody knew what was on his mind.
Berke stood still watching was being done down. His face was indifferent. His men were standing behind her back just as motionlessly and quietly, daring not interfere with the khan’s pondering.
The new khan did have something to ponder about. He knew that a new mosque would not save the Golden Horde, and still he thought that he was doing the right thing. A mosque symbolizes power, which common folks like a lot.
Berke had an insular mind. Even his dearest and nearest knew nothing of his plans and intentions. What he had on his mind was horrible, and the khan had nobody to entrust his secret.
The Golden Horde is a giant. It covers one third of the kingdom created by Genghis Khan, but it is still dependent on it and must agree each single step of its own with the khan who sits on the throne of Karakorum.
In due time, the Rocker of the Universe worked out an elaborate structure of the Mongol kingdom. He divided it into uluses and gave each of them to one of his four sons to rule.  Each ulus was further divided into aymaks, which belonged to sons of his sons. As the great chagan had ordered strictly, aymaks were to be subject to the uluses, and the whole structure was to be ruled by the great khan of Karakorum.
Long time had passed since the glorious Genghis Khan departed from the world, but his descendants were still preserving the order established by him with a religious assiduity. Each year the uluses would send the taxes collected in the conquered land and whatever they obtained in their campaigns to Karakorum. It was only the great khan of Karakorum who was entitled to apportion trophies and to decide who deserved what. With support from the kurultai, he could take the whole lot or give it to a single person so that preparations for a new campaign could take place.
The one lifted on a whit blanket in Karakorum was mighty and powerful.
Having become the khan, Genghis Khan’s third son Udegey failed to do what his father did. But he managed to preserve the Mongol kingdom and  expand its boundaries by sending the brave wolflings of his – Batu,  Guyuk, Bori, Kubylay, Kulagu, Baydar, Mengu, Kaydu, and Nogay on campaigns. 
When Guyuk had been enthroned in Karakorum, fortune turned its back on the Mongols again. Feud, hostility, and cunning replaced the glorious battles for land.
Now, Mengu is considered to be the great Mongol khan, but he lacks the iron will of his ancestor. Thus, his two brothers, wolflings of Genghis Khan’s youngest son Tuli, Kubylay and Kulagu, are already showing their teeth. The former has conquered North China and the latter Iran, and Kuladu is about to be the ilkhan of the whole of Iran, while Kubylay is definitely going to declare himself the emperor of China when the right time comes...
The time is approaching for the great Genghis Khan’s kingdom to fall apart. Is it not high time the Golden Horde became independent? How long do the treasures of its land have to feed Karakorum? If it goes on any longer, will the Horde manage to stay grand and powerful?
A snake which is not growing cannot become a dragon; a throne which is not reinforced with gold is sure to totter sooner or later, and everyone who wants it will be able to make use of it.
Berke Khan was thinking about the independence of the Golden Horde, the ruler of which he was, and that was the most private and burning of his thoughts. Being aware of Mengu’s hot temper, he did not date to share it with anybody.
He had to wait till some of Genghis Khan’s descendants was the first to venture, and then...
The pupils of Berke’s slanting eyes suddenly grew wider and darker, and blood rushed to his yellow face with high cheekbones. He turned to his men,“Bring the slave Kolomon here.”
One of his henchmen rushed down the hill.
Being hurried by the henchman, the Roman started climbing the hill deliberately. The heaviness of architect’s moves made the khan’s blood boil, but he did not let it show.
Kolomon’s manners suggested independence. He suddenly stopped about ten steps away from the khan to lift his head.
“Berke Khan,” he said, “my chains are too heavy for me to be swift and agile. A lot of time will pass before I have approached the place where you are standing to fall down to your feet. Consider this to have already been done. I am listening to you...”
The stubborn Roman would never call the khan great. He had been birched a number of times and thrown to a deep pit called zindan for that, but there was nothing to bend the architect to submission.  
Berke was silent, staring at Kolomon with his eyes, which were dark with rage. The Roman said, “Christians believe suicide to be a dreary sin. If your sword kills me, I will think of myself as a lucky man, for death is the best way to stop being a slave...”
The khan did not reply to his speech, refusing to accept the bold challenge. He asked, «I ordered you to make the base of the mosque of stone. Why do you disobey and make it of brick? The mosque can fall apart...”
A sparkle of laughter flashed in the Roman’s blue eyes.
“It’s all in Allah’s hands. Why would he ruin what was built to honor him..?”
Berke’s voice was suddenly very soft, which indicated that he was gibbering with rage.
“A mosque built by the khan of the Golden Horde must never be ruined.”
Kolomon shook his head pretending to ignore Berke’s rage.
“It is not because churches and mosques are built at rulers’ orders that they last long but because they are built by experienced people. Baked bricks laid in ganch is more durable than stone...”
“Does it mean that you don’t want to fulfill my order?” the khan asked suavely.
“Even a fool will fulfill an order of the wise, but the words of a fool can confuse the smartest one,” the architect said impudently.
“Do you mean that you are more intelligent than I am?”
If Kolomon had been standing next to the khan, he would have surely lost his head. Henchmen, counsellors, and noyons backed away in terror. They knew their ruler to be capable of striking whoever happened to be near with his sword in a fit of quiet fury. 
The khan calmed down as quickly and unexpectedly as he got engraged.
Kolomon smiled.
 “Your curses made me think of a parable told in my motherland...”
“Well, tell it to us,” the khan permitted graciously.
“Once a goat started cursing a wolf from a steep rock. There was no word he wouldn’t say. But time passed, and the goat calmed down. Then the wolf started to speak. He said, “It is because I can’t get you that you’re so brave, but it may happen to be different…”
Berke hardly suppressed the rage which was burning inside him again.
“Go to the Roman,” he told one of his henchmen, “and severe his head.”
And suddenly the khan saw the architect pale and his eyes glow with terror.
Berke burst out laughing, “Are you ready to die, Roman?”
“I’ve been ready since the very day I was captured. Death will put an end to my suffering... But who will finish your mosque?”
Berke was thoughtful. Sauk bent down to him.
“Glorious khan, spare the life of this impudent giaour. The mosque is worth it. Its splendor will carry your name to the lips of your descendants…”
Khan lifted his hand to stop the henchman who was already aiming a blow.
“Roman, I saw fear in your eyes for the first time. It is good... I grant you life. Give him a hundred birches.”
Berke turned away and departed. He did not see the architect’s face brighten and his chest release a sigh of relief. The khan walked away thinking that the Roman must be a lunatic. Death would have really saved him from slavery. He is Christian, so why did he mention the mosque in his last words? I need it to brace the spirit of Muslims and to glorify my name. The Roman is well aware of the fact that I won’t tolerate his impudence and he will die no matter what after the mosque is built. The khan failed to understand the architect. Having grown up in the wild steppe, the very air of which smells of blood and passion for destruction, how could he know that there were different people in the world, whose soul could be in exuberant bloom while their bodies were moaning with pain? He had not experienced the state of fascination of a man who has a great purpose which enables him to be creative...
Salimgerey approached the khan hurriedly, making low bows to him.
“Great khan,” he said in a whisper with his eyes down, “Barakshi Khatun and ten henchwoman have crossed the Kumbel.” 
 The khan thrust his head up. He was still lost in his thoughts of the Roman. And though Berke Khan understood perfectly well where Baakhi Khatun was heading, he asked hopefully, “Could he go for a walk?”
Salimgerey bowed even lower.
“My men thought so too till her troop started descending from the passage. The women are armed and must be heading for Iran to see Khan Kulagu.” 
Barakshi Khatun was Batu’s widow, the mother of the latest khans of the Golden Horde Sartak and Ulakshi, an Alshin Tartar, and she was Christian.  She was quiet and hardly noticeable to others, but she was violently hostile to Berke, as he was to her. Their faith was a stumbling block for them, but the main reason of their feud was power.
After the death of Sartak, Ulakshi became the khan of the Golden Horde as was the will of the Mongol khan.  He had not even turned seventeen, and Barakshi Khatun was appointed his warden for her intelligence and shrewdness.
But when the young khan suddenly died and Berke was finally lifted on a white blanket, Barakshi Khatun realized that things looked very black. Being well aware of Berke’s temper, the previous khan’s widow was waiting for death to come any moment, for she knew that her life would not be spared.  The Mongols did not forgive offense or put up with their enemies. She regretted not convincing Batu Khan to kill Berke many times. The urge to take revenge for her sons and regain the power over the Golden Horde required action. 
Barakshi Khatun sent a faithful man of hers to Iran to see Khan Kulagu. Detesting Berke and realizing him to be a rival and an enemy, the latter agreed to give protection to the old khatun.
And now Barakshi Khatun had escaped. Berke would not have been Berke if he had not anticipated such a possibility; the khan’s widow had been constantly spied on. Salimgerey’s message did not take him by surprise.
“Fine...” the khan said, and there was a strain about his face. “She wants to seek help with her coreligionist Kulagu…”He turned to Salimgerey abruptly.  “Take your hundred soldiers and catch her. I want to see her head...”
Sauk shuddered.
“She is a widow of Sain Khan, Batu the Fair... She is a relation of yours. How can you kill her? Let her go away... How can a woman harm you?..”
Berke did not consider the old counsellor to deserve a look of his.
“If I spare her life today, she and Kulagu won’t spare mine tomorrow... Go and do what I tell you!..”
Saul said nothing. He knew the khan too well, and the memory of his cunning was too bright – at Berke’s instigation, Mengu slaughtered nearly one hundred descendants of Ugedey and Dzhagatay in Karakorum. The new khan of the Golden Horde had a heart of stone, and Barakshi Khatun was nothing to him.
Suddenly, Berke broke the uneasy silence, “I want the people to know me not only as a kind khan who builds mosques... I want them to know that I am strict and that I ordered that the head of my brother’s wife, a wife of the great Batu, be severed for the sake of justice... We must remember the will of Genghis Khan, “People only respect their rulers when they are afraid of them.”
The following night a broad-faced Mongol who had no eyebrows stretched a hand out to the khan, bowing low to him, in which he had a silk kerchief with the head of Barakshi Khatun in it...
Having cast a glance at the dead woman’s face, Berke told his beads and said a prayer as a true Muslim was expected to do and ordered that the head be buried with due honor as the khan’s relative. Revenge had been taken upon another enemy...
Time came to think of different things, different worries seized the khan. He had to prop the tottering Golden Horde, make it powerful and awful as it used to be during the rule the great Batu. Berke envied his brother’s fame and tried to understand how the latter had managed to accomplish whatever he had started.
Conquering Maverannakhr, Genghis Khan did not encounter serious resistance. Samarkand and Bukhara fell one by one, and many fortresses opened their gates without even trying to fight against the Mongols. Otrar and Syganak were rather tough, but the city of Khojent was the only one to obstruct the wild horde’s was with its own body like a valiant warrior.
When the Mongol tumens were in the upper reaches of the Seykhun River and had seized Khojent,  the city’s emir Temit Melik did not open the fortress gate.  It was a perfectly well-built man with a handsome swarthy face, bold and brave. There were few people in the fortress; the nomadic cavalry sent by the Khwarezmshah had betrayed them and left the city that very morning, but the emir put his faith in the courage and loyalty of his people. Along with the warriors, he spent most of the time on the city walls, shooting his bow and throwing stones at attacking army.
After several failed attempts to win the city, the Mongols stopped the onslaught to wait for some backup to arrive.  It is that very Temir Melik whom the Irani historian Juveyni meant when he wrote after many years, “Temir Melik was a true hero. And if the hero named Rustem from the Shakhname poem had lived back then, he would be his horseman.”
It was a losing battle for those who were defending the city. When the fatal hour came, Temir Melik and the soldiers who had survived hid in their stone citadel named Khasar.  The palace was situated on a small island in the middle of the Seykhun River. Arrows of their enemies and stones thrown by Chinese catapults could not reach it.
Enraged by their failure and the obstinacy of Khojent citizens, the Mongols brought there fifty thousand prisoners from Otrar, Bukhara, and Samarkand and ordered them to build a bring to the island.
Stones used for the embankment were found three parasangs away from the river. An endless chain of exhausted, famished, and shabby people were moving from the mountain to the bank day and night.
But Temir Melik prevented the Mongols from fulfilling their plan. Every night twelve boats brought his soldiers to the ford to destroy what had been built. The Mongols’ fiery arrows could not damage the boats wrapped in clay-soaked blankets.
Famine started on the island, and Temir Melik ordered his warriors to get into boats and decided to go down the Seykhun River.
That was a horrible trip. Mongol cavalry was chasing them on both sides of the river to volley them with arrows in places where the river corridor was narrow.
Temir Melik’s warriors were getting fewer and fewer, and there was a new challenge waiting for them by the fortress of Dzhent. At Dzhuchi’s order, the Mongols had inflated ox skins, connected them with tree trunks, and blocked the Seykhun with a reliable boat bridge.
Having landed, Temir Melik with a small troop of soldiers headed for the Kyzylkumy sands. But the chase was still on. Enemies caught up with the wounded, bleeding batyr. There were three of them, and he was alone. Lying under a saxaul bush incapable of moving, Temir Melik shouted to the Mongols, “There are three of you, and I have three arrows. If you want to stay alive, go away!”
The warriors left after a brief discussion, astonished at his courage and sure that he would die anyway.
But Temir Melik did not die. He managed to get to Khwarezm. As was Muhammad’s will, he headed the army defending Ugrench. The city came to tell legends of his courage as well.
When it was clear that Khwarezm was doomed, Temir Melik along with the shah’s son, the fearless Dzhalal Al Din, accompanied by three hundred warriors, left for Khorasan.
This is the way it was back in the distant years. Dzhuchi gave Khojent, ruined and drowned in blood of the defeated as it was, to the firteen-year-ol Berke. He and his brother Berkezhar was brought up by one of Dzhuchi’s wives, Khanikey Begim Bekrinka, whi had converted to Islam.  Being always surrounded by learned ulems, they grew to be stedfast adherents of the Muslim faith there.
Time passed. Berkezhar was made the ruler of Suzak, while Berke, having left Khojent to his stepmother Khanikey Begim at his father’s advice, accompanied him on his way to the Kypchak Steppe.
And now that Berke was the khan of the Golden Horde, his thoughts were returning to Khojent, Burhara and Samarkand more and more often. 
Berke, who dreamt of making the Golden Horde powerful and splendid again, uniting all of its lands and nations under the banner of Islam, had plans of his own.  He believed Islam to be the only thing which could help him settle accounts with his enemies like Kulagu. 
He could not delay. But what was he to start with? The Horde’s basic army consisted of Kypchaks, Tartars, Bulgarians, Ghuzzes, Alans, and other nomadic tribes conquered by the Mongols. Those nomadic nations could hardly be claimed to belong to truly Muslim ones. They had neither mosques nor madrasas. People who said the namaz five times a day, as the faith obviously required, were very few among them. To turn such people into defenders of the faith would be difficult, almost impossible.
No. He should start with the cities of Maverannakhr. Most of the citizens were true Muslims there. Mosques and madrasas were built there, and the ulems, murids, and imams held people in a leash. 
Berke wanted to glorify his name and to prove that he was the only hope and of Islam and its tower of strength.  The khan was hoping to win the clergymen to his side, call them to Desht-i-Kipchak to carry their services in the mosques he would build all over the Golden Horde and teach the laws of Islam to the nomads.  
To conceal his true intentions for the time being, Khan Berke announced that he was going to Burhara in order to meet the famous religious scholars of that city and extend his patronage.
There was another reason for the trip, but the khan would not mention it yet.
After Maverannakhr was conquered, Berke apportioned captured craftsmen between his sons and grandsons.  Dzhuchi got his share as well.
About five thousand jewelers, smiths, builders of houses and mosques lived in Bukhara belonging to the Horde. There were such men in Khojent and Benakent as well. All of their products and whatever they were paid for them was to be sent to the Horde’s treasury. But the flow of gold had shrunk recently, and Berke had a feeling that Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s offspring had something to do with it, namely by pocketing some part of what was to belong to him. That was a thing he could not forgive.
The following spring, Berke arrived in Bukhara accompanied by ten thousand soldiers.  
Musabek, the city’s dargushi who resembled a Persian, met him by the western gate with all due respect. Syrnais and karnais were roaring. Being unaccustomed to the sound, Kypchak horses were snoring and kicking over the traces.
After the words of greeting had been uttered, Musabek made another low bow to Berke to say, “Great Khan, let me take you and your valiant warriors to the quarters which we have arranged for you out of the city walls…”
Berke frowned.
“Is there no place for us in city palaces?”
The dargshi broke into laughter.
“The city does have palaces, but, Great Khan...”
“Say it!” Berke ordered authoritatively.
Musabek lifted his head to look in the khan’s face with his intense dark eyes.
“The city is unquiet... Having found out that you were about to come, the people started simmering like water in a pot. Especially craftsmen and workmen, who belong to the Golden Horde.”
“What are they dissatisfied with?”
“People say that whatever they earn goes to the Golden Horde… They have nothing to feed their children and wives with... They say, let the khan either have mercy on us or order that we be slaughtered.”
Berke’s face was distorted with fury.
“They’ve been missing slaughter..!” he whispered angrily, “They’re trying to scare me. And you recommend me to stay out of the city..?”
“Why vex dogs?”
“No!” Berke said, “I won’t turn my horse back! I’ll teach them how to welcome their ruler!” and he ordered, turning to Salimgerey, “Bring the caravan it!” 
Rage was seething and bubbling in the khan’s throat.
The caravan was filing into the city gate slowly. Warriors who were surrounding the khan, wearing shiny mail armor, on dark red horses, prepared their long spears.
The city was wrapped in deep twilight.  Prattling aryks smelt of damp freshness, and nightingales were singing in gardens. Large fluffy starts were lit against the black velvet of the sky.
Dargushi Musabek and Commander Salimgerey were in advance of the train.
The warriors were surrounded by a sinister, unusual silence. A sick feeling crept over Berke. Having grown up in the steppe and detesting cramped cities, which he had only seen as they were during furious battles, shuddered. Perhaps he should have followed the dargushi’s advice and postpone entering the city till the following day?
The street leading to the city square suddenly took a turn, and Berke even startled with surprise, pulling hard at his horse’s rein. People were numerous in the city. They were standing there in silence, and thousands of reeking reeky torches were burning in their heads. The flames were reflected to their faces and clothes, due to which the crowd seemed to we swaying in a heavy and sinister movement.  The khan found that scene extraordinary and eerie.
The guards encircled Berke, taking their crooked swords out of their sheaths to lift them over their heads. The crimson flame was now dancing on their blades.
The crowd was silent, and there was no way back. It was only their self possession what could save the men who had come from the Golden Horde, for the narrow streets of the cities would not allow them to have a proper battle. They could only keep moving toward the unknown, and Berke forced himself to pull at the rein, thus sending his horse forward.
The crowd stepped apart silently to make way for the khan. The horses were roaring disturbingly with their large wet eyes asquint, the blood red light of the flame was dancing in their pupils.
Now Berke’s whole being was not just uneasy; it was seized with terror. He realized that a cry in the crowd was enough for the living river to crush both him and his henchmen with their bare swords. 
But the people were silent. The caravan entered the central square, and when it looked like it was all over, another fiery stream appeared from a side street to block their way.  
Salimgerey and Misabek stopped their horses, looking back at the khan apprehensively.
Suddenly, a tall man dressed in white and wearing a light blue turban around his head stepped out of the crowd. 
Panting with the fear he had just overcome and rage, Berke moved toward him.
“What do you need? Who dears stand in the way of the khan of the Golden Horde?” he asked menacingly.
“Great khan!” the man in white was looking him in the face without a trace of fear, “The people has three requests to you…”
“Speak…”
“Khans are not gods to keep people in life long slavery. Even a murderer is sentenced for a certain term or decapitated... There must be a limit to everything... Many craftsmen captured by Mongols and given to the Dzhuchid clan have grown old and cannot do what they used to do. The first request is to set them free. They were born free, so let them not die as slaves.”
Berke had already collected himself. The request was trivial. Indeed, old men were no use...
“Alright,” he said, “I’ll set them free...”
“The second request of the people…” the man broke off for a moment, “There are nearly five thousand smiths, caulkers, and leather dressers belonging to the Golden Horde here. Many of them were young when you grandfather Genghis Khan turned them into slaves. They have made families long ago, but they are desperately poor because your men take everything they earn. They are undernourished and badly dressed. Great Khan, the people's request to you is to order that only one third of their earnings be taken away from them...”
Berke narrowed his eyes,
“And what is the demand of the craftsmen who belong to different khans?”
“The same...”
Berke looked at the crowd. Many citizens had clubs.
“Is that the way they stand for it – with sticks in their hands?”
The man wearing a blue turban did not avert his eyes, “In life and death matters, a stick is not the only thing one can take...”
Khan looked at the crowd again. The reflected flames were dancing on the people’s tan faces, in their dark eyes. “Men like these can do all kinds of things”, Berke thought, and his heart faltered with fear again. 
In his life, Berke had seen many rebellions against the Golden Horde and contributed to their suppression, but that was the very first time he had found himself facing the people’s rage. He felt like refusing them, but he did not feel as confidently enthroned in the Golden Horde yet as to be too daring. He had to gain time, recover, and then...
- The third request of the people shall be the following... Let your slaves’ children be entitled to go madrases and be taught to read and write like children of free Muslims do.
Berke had expected all kinds of things but not that. The Mongols had no alphabet. But when the great Genghis Khan created his invincible state, he ordered that Mongol words be put down in Uigur letters. That was how “The Golden Book”, the story of the life and heroic deeds of the Rocker of the Universe meant for his descendants was created.  Only the Chingizids and Mongol noblemen were entitled to be taught reading and writing. But there, in Burkhara, those rabble lunatics wanted to be equal to those who had blue blood in their veins.
“Over my dead body!” the khan said firmly.
It seemed to him that the crowd suddenly moved on. The horses gave a neigh of anxiety.
“We will think about it...” Berke suddenly uttered, “Tomorrow you are to come to the palace, and we will announce our decision,” he said to the man wearing a blue chalma and hit his horse with a kamcha lash.
The horse reared up and rushed into the crowd, obedient to the will of his owner...
***
On the following morning, the man wearing a blue turban headed for the palace. People were coming up to him in the street, persuading not to go there alone and not to trust the steppe wolf. His answer was, “Everything can happen. It is in the hands of Allah... But nothing will change as long as the khan is after no good, no matter how many of us come. He has ten thousand warriors, and nothing will make him change his decision. Why do we need more victims? I am to fulfill my duty, and I will...”
The man wearing a blue turban knew life well. It is hard to appeal to cowed, miserable people. They are like a great ocean, but you need wind to swing it. The arrival of the khan of the Golden Horde seemed to have stirred up the people. But the khan, no matter how much they hated him, promised to grant them their wishes, and people grew calm, quite assured of his infallibility; their anguish seemed to have subsided.
And still it was the first time that the people of Bukhara had manifested their unwillingness to submit. Everyone saw fear in Berke’s eyes the previous night, and they were sure that the khan would never forgot it as well as the people’s austere faces and the intimidating glow in their eyes.
For forty years, Mongols horses had been trampling the ground, and the people of that land had been bending their heads to the conqueror’s lash. The events of the night showed that the people would stand their ground, even though they were not fearless yet, but well aware of what they needed. The Golden Horde is powerful, but not powerful enough to defeat people united by a shared idea.  They needed nothing by time.
The man wearing a blue turban was walking to the palace in which the khan was staying with no fear. He knew that he could neither hide nor flee from the city after what had happened. The dargushi’s men were watching his house for the whole night, keeping an eye open for each single step of his. But what is to happen will happen no matter what...
The man wearing a blue turban was long awaited in the palace. Several tulengits searched him quietly and took him to the room where Berke was sitting.
The khan gave the visitor a long intent glance. Suddenly he asked, “Are you Christian?”
The man made a mental note of Berke’s appearance, which was very different from what he looked like the previous day.  There was no fear in his eyes, his face looked imperious and firm, and his voice was calm. It was no surprise. He had the power that day. The warriors who had arrived with the khan surrounded the palace; Musabek’s cavalry troops were moving about on the street and forcing people to their houses.
“No. I am human.”
“Perhaps you are Muslim?”
“No.”
“Fine. If you are neither Muslim nor Christian, be human. Berke said with a grin, counting his pearl beads slowly. It was obvious that what had happened was not yet forgotten and was burning his mind, demanding to be released. “You said yesterday that khans are not gods. As long as you mentioned god, you believe in him, don’t you?”
“I do…” the man wearing a blue turban said, “Truth is the name of my god.”
Berke’s face was shaking with quiet laughter.
“Maybe you can tell you where your god is?”
“Cream is in the milk... So is the truth. It is everywhere – in heaven and on earth, in me and in him...” the man pointed at a tulengit standing behind the khan’s back.
“Do I have some in me? What do you think?” the khan gave the man wearing a blue turban mocking glance.
“I don’t know...”
“But I do... My truth is in my power, in my face... And there is no god on earth but for Allah, and Prophet Muhammad is his messenger. I am the prophet’s adherent and advocate...
The man wearing a turban gave a quiet laugh. His wet pearl-white regular teeth shone from under his beautifully groomed black moustache.
“If the Great Khan is telling the truth,” he said, “He’d better choose Jesus or Moses. They’re more powerful than Muhammad.” 
The migration of Berke’s pearl beads was accelerated.
“Who told you this, giaour? There is no saint more powerful than Muhammad. He’s the messenger of god on earth. Moses is another prophet, but he’s Muhammad’s younger brother. Where Moses put his foot, the sea bottom would appear. Jesus could raise a dead man, but where Allah prayed, mountains were turned into stones, and stones were turned into ashes.  It happened because Allah wanted to see the face of his saint child. He is the most powerful prophet. Nobody dares be more powerful than he is...”
The man shook his head.
“Nothing is impossible in this world... If Jesus had been powerful, he wouldn’t have been crucufied.”
“You wear a turban,” the khan said meaningfully, but I guess you haven’t read the Quran or talked to learned ulems. I know that Jesus was a son of god too, and I know that it was not he but a very different person who was nailed to the cross.” 
“Was it?” the man gave another scarcely noticeable smile.
Berke failed to see his grin. He liked to be didactic, showing his adherence to Islam and his knowledge.
“Listen to me, giaour,” the khan said, “The infidels believed Jesus to be equal to god because of the miracles that he had done. Moses’ adherents, Jewits, were chasing him, burning with jealousy. Once, as he was hiding from his enemies, Jesus stayed at a house. Feeling that Jewits were approaching, the saint was raised to heaven. His enemies managed to get hold of a person who looked like him. That was the man whom they stoned and crucified.”
The man wearing a turban said with a mockery hidden in his glance, “Does it mean that Jesus let them murder an innocent man instead of himself?.. Of course, if you are like god, you can do whatever you have on your mind... Can it be the reason why Jesus drank wine?”
“No. He drank some accidentally,” Berke said in a dignified manner, satisfied with the impression he had presumable made on the man. His hands were counting the beads deliberately. “On his way to Jerusalem, Saint Jesus felt thirsty. He entered a vinery and started looking for water. Finally, he saw a clay jug. It contained a liquid which looked like water, and Jesus drank it. The liquid turned out to have a slightly bitter and sour taste. Then Jesus asked the jug why it was that way. The jug replied that someone had stolen a needle and sold it for a copper coin. The owner of the vinery happened to get that coin, which he gave to the vendor from whom he bought the jar. That was the reason why water turned bitter in that jug. You see, giaour, a slight sin of a stolen needle turned water into deceitful wine. Prophet Muhammad was wiser than Jesus, so he left some instructions for us – we mustn’t harm each other and drink wine, and the rich should always pity and help the poor. This is what the fifth surah of the holy Quran says...
The man wearing a turban bent his head down low.
“Now I do understand, Great Khan, why you agreed with the people’s requirement yesterday. You adhere to the rules of Prophet Muhammad in everything...”
The beads seemed to have frozen in the khan’s hands. He felt as if he was finally back to earth. The flame of rage was glowing in his slanting eyes.
“No!” he shouted. “I didn’t promise a thing to anyone yesterday!” 
“But people heard your words, oh Great Khan.”
“What people are you talking about! The crowd! They are no people, they are my slaves! You know, giaour, the Quran says that a promise given forcedly or under a threat is invalid!” 
The face of the man wearing a turban grew deadly pale. He said in a calm and soft voice,
“So you were scared yesterday? Does it mean there is a force which instills terror even in the khan of the Golden Horde..?” 
Berke gave a spiteful laughter, “It is my name what shall instill terror! Forever and ever!”
The khan grabbed a silver bell and shook it hastily. The door was flung open, and Berke’s personal guard, commander of a hundred tulengits Salimgerey appeared at the threshold.
The khan pointed at the man wearing a turban.
“I sentence him to death for stirring the holy city of Bukhara and encouraging rabble to disobey me! May the blood of this giaour not befoul this palace! Take him out of the city and severe his head! Let his body feed jackals!”
Berke was eyeing the man wearing a black turban, but his face was unruffled.
It suddenly occurred to the khan that during their conversation he would take out a fancy deer horn chakcha every once in a while. 
“For me not to forget our conversation, bring me his chakcha...”
Salimgerey bowed silently, took his sword out of its sheath and used it to hurry the man wearing a turban towards the door. 
Berke closed his eyes and sat motionless for a long time. Gradually he calmed down – his fingers stopped trembling, and his rage subsided.
The khan clapped his hands. A vizier appeared at the threshold.
“Let the Muslims who have come from Samarkand enter…”
The vizier backed into the door. After some time, people wearing white turbans came in. Bowing low, they approached the half-pace on which the khan was sitting and sat down onto the floor with their legs tucked in in the Oriental manner. One of them, a corpulent ruddy man, started reading out a prayer in a beautiful velvety voice.  When he had finished, all of them drew their folded hands across their face. Being a true Muslim, Berke repeated the gesture.
“Amen!”
After a short pause, the one who read the prayer said in a sad voice, “Excellent Khan of the Golden Horde, you have lost two people who were dear to you in the recent year – Khan Sartak and Khan Ulakshi. May they rest in peace... Accept our deepest condolences...”
“Thank you, honorable men. Everything happens by the will of Allah Almighty... How can we complain about our misfortunes?”  He was silent for a while. “Is it on business that you have come to me?”
A black man resembling a knotty saxaul tree growing in sand spoke.
“Dearest Berke Khan,” he said in a low, strident voice. “We have come to you with hearts filled with sadness. Your Muslim adherents are suffering dreadful violence committed by the infidels of Samarkand. We have been humiliated in every possible way!.. Not long ago, they committed a young man who had converted to our faith to flames. The city’s dargushi supports the Christians and has deprived us of every right. Knowing you to be a fair khan and a true Muslim, we have come here to seek you protection. Save us from the infidels.”
Berke frowned.
“Are you not powerful enough to cope with the infidels? Have the Muslims of Samarkand forgotten how to defend their faith?”
“We are numerous…” the Samarkand citizen said, having got at the hidden meaning of the khan’s question. “But what is the opinion of the Golden Horde? Nobody has said a word of approval to us or attempted to aid us so far...”
He was telling the truth, of which Berke was aware.
Christianity gained a foothold in Samarkand long before the Mongols came to conquer it. It was patronized by descendants of the Samanids and the Karakhinids.  Besides, the decay of Knoresm, in which Muslim had always found support, resulted in Islam’s losing its adherents. The Mongols who came favored neither of the two religions.
That all gave a power of good to the Christians, and their community built up its strength considerably. The strong likes to mention past injuries and take revenge on the defeated foe. With the support of Genghis Khan’s descendants, many of who had at some point been baptized , the church began a prosecution of Muslims.
Seeing the khan silent, the citizen of Samarkand went on, “The young Christian abandoned his faith and came to a mosque… The rite of circumcision was performed with his consent, and he swore on the Quran that he would be a steadfast adherent of Prophet Muhammad… Christians complained to the city’s dargushi about our alleged forcing him. The dargushi ordered the young man to convert back into his previous religion, but he would not do so, for Allah had enlighted his soul with truth... Then Christians caught him and committed to fire...”
The khan made a wry face. He had no interest in such detail.
“What kind of words are you waiting for?” he asked impatiently. “What kind of aid?”
“The Christians are numerous…” the citizen of Samarkand answered obliquely.
Berke grew thoughtful.
“In the name of Allah, may there be forgiveness for everything… My warriors dressed up as common people will be with you...”
“May Allah help you, oh Great Khan... The best time to do it shall be on Sunday, when the infidels gather in their churches...”
“Amen!” the khan said.
The citizens of Samarkand echoed him, “Amen!..”
On that very day, Berke received all noble men, learned ulems, murids, and karis of Bukhara mosques, in his palace. Having presented them with costly gifts which had been brought from the Golden Horde, the khan retired to rest, believing the day to be over.
***
When night descended upon the city, Salimgerey and several tulengits took the man wearing a blue turban out of the city to execute what the khan had ordered. 
 The city’s narrow pitch dark streets looked mysterious and uncanny.  Not being used to lack of room, the men of the steppe felt scared. But Salimgerey was walking confidently, finding his way in the labyrinth of blind ends and streets resembling fox holes as if intuitively. Soon, the warriors found themselves by the city gate.
Salimgerey stopped for a thoughtful pause and spoke to the tulengits, “Alright. You needn’t accompany me any further. I’ll get rid of the giaour myself. Go back.”
A tiny sickle moon appeared from behind the high city wall, and clay houses soaked in its mysterious radiance looked like tombstones. In the narrow streets, the darkness was even thicker.
Enchanted by the ghostly moon light, the tulengits stood there hesitating. They were afraid of returning on their own, but it was even scarier to go out of the city gate, where jackals were weeping and barking with coarse sobs on overgrown ravine slops.
“We agree to go back... But how can we find our way?...”one of the tulengits said.
Salimgerey smiled encouragingly.
“Look here… You can see the minaret of the mosque. If you go along the street, you’ll come to face it. There are our warriors there. They’ll show you the way to the palace.
The guardians, who knew the khan’s personal bodyguard, opened the wicket door for him and let him out of the city.
When Salimgerey and the man wearing a blue turban were far enough from the city walls so that nobody could hear them, they stopped as if it had been previously agreed on.  
“Why did we have to go so far, Salimgerey?” the man wearing a blue turban said bitterly. “It’s it easier to slaughter me on a dark street?” 
“You’re a famous scientist, Tamdam. The khan knows it. If we killed you somewhere in the city, the people would be talking the very next morning. The khan wants nobody to know where you have died.”
“The khan is wise...” Tamdam smiled sadly. “Who knew that two wolflings, two adherents of Muhammad Tarabi <Muhammad Tarabi was the leader of the Samarkand rebellion which took place in the year of the Dog, that is, in 1238.  The Mongols’ casualties in its suppression counted to as much as ten thousand soldiers.> would meet some day like this? And that one of them would cut the throat of the other...
Salimgerey did not answer. The friends stood silently watching the tremulous moonshine float over ploughed fields and deep ravines. 
“Where have you been all the time?” Salimgerey asked.
“At first I fled to Bagdad, but the Mongols came there as well. The urge to avenge would not let me lead a peaceful life, so I came back here, to Bukhara...”
“You haven’t been wasting time... People say you to have embraced the wisdom of many books, learned the Quran by heart, and studied the law of Sharia...”
“I have…”
“I fled to the Kypchak Steppe as well. Who could recognize me there? I guess birds of passage could. I was a wrangler and spent many years grazing horses. Today I’m the yuzbashi of the hundred tulengits who guard the khan...
“You have many accomplishments...”Tamdam said mockingly. “How much blood of your brothers did you have to spill to earn such honor?”
Salimgerey trhust his head up.
“Why are you saying this? My hands are clean; time hasn’t come yet to bathe them in blood. And you know whose blood it will be.
The friends were silent for a long time. Salimgerey suddenly stretched his hand out to Tamdam, “I’m not going any farther. Take this, you’ll need it. You’ll have to go a tough and long road.” There was a dull luster of gold in the moonlight.
Tamdam hesitated for a while before he took the coins, “Thanks…”
“Hold on,” said Salimgerey, bringing his face closer to that of his friend, trying to see his eyes. “Don’t you think I’ve come a wolf… I do remember how much Kypchak and Uighur blood the khans spilled... Could I possibly have forgotten our teacher and his instructions?.. Well, good bye!”
“Hold on...” Tamdam put his hand on Salimgerey’s shoulder. - Here’s the chakcha. Take it to the khan; otherwise he won’t believe I’m dead. A very long time ago, an old Kypchak prisoner gave it to me in Bagdad. A very long time ago... He missed his motherland so much...
The friends embraced, and soon Tamdams silhouette dressed in white vanished in the ghostly moonlight. 
***
Tidings of bale have wings of birds. Soon, towns and cities came to know that the Muslims of Samarkand had slaughtered all the Christians. People had different opinions on it. The most devoted believers were glad to find it out; those whose minds were not obscured by their faith bemoaned the dead ones, for Muslims and Christians were the same blood. The Mysyr Khalif, believing Berke to be a true adherent of Prophet Muhammad, sent his ambassador to the latter with costly gifts.
Khan Berke lay low. He would not praise the Muslims of Samarkans openly, but he never uttered a word of disapproval. The khan was waiting to see the outcome.
Having spent another week in Bukhara, he decided on going back to the Golden Horde. The trip failed to bring him satisfaction. He felt uneasy. What he had found out was rather upsetting. The great empire of Genghis Khan was unstable. Whatever descendants of the Rocker of the Universe did was shaped by malice and rivalry. In Maverannakhr, Khorasan, and East Turkestan, those who advocated the separation of Dzhagatay’s ulus from Karakorum were  getting more and more powerful, which meant that they were to rebel against Tule’s offspring some day.
After Menge became the great Mongol khan in Karakorums, the feud among the Chingizids grew more violent.  It was especially dreadful with Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s children and grandchildren.  Under the will of Genghis Khan, one of his offspring who did a wrong act or committed a crime was to be judged by all the Chingizids. But the will of the Rocker of the Universe had been forgotten. The one who had power was the judge. Thus, Ugedey’s descendants put Genghis Khan’s younger daughter Altan Begim to death; and they were the ones who lifted Guyuk on a white blanket instead of Shiramun, who was to inherit the title of the great Mongol khan in Karakorum from his deceased father. When Batu Khan  helped Mengu become the great Mongol khan after his death, Dzhagatay’s son Yesu Monke was opposed to him.  But a grandson of Dzhagatay, Kara Kulagu, born of his son Mutigen, took Mengu’s side. Ugedey’s grandchildren born of his sons Kadan and Kutan supported the new khan again. 
In the year of the Pig (1252), when Genghis Khan’s descendants gathered for a noyoncourt, Mengu massacred his opponents in a most cruel way. The only one whose life he spared was Shiramun, whom he did not fully trust.  After three years, Shiramun was drowned in a river at his order. Mengu put Shiramun’s mother Barakshi and Khan Gayuk’s widow Ogil Gaimash to desth without any court decisions. The ulus which used to belong to Dzhagatay was given to Kara Kulagu, and the latter ordered that Yesu Monke’s wife, who was managing the ulus,  be trampled to death by a herd of horses.
Right after the great Genghis Khan died, a slaughter began in his offspring. Khans and rulers were replacing each other quickly. In the competition for power, poison and daggers were the man instruments. But the clan of Genghis Khan was large, and the feud would not subside for decades, for there was always someone to poison and stub.
The conquered nations suffered most. They were the ones whom the Chingizids kept pitting against each other, trying to establish themselves in this or that ulus.
As soon as Khan Berke returned to the Horde, a black horse rider from Karakorum brought the news of the great Mongol khan Mengu, who closed his eyes forever in the year of the Sheep (1259). Forty thousand people gathered for his funeral, and two thousand white yurts appeared in the Mongol steppe. The funeral was arranged in strict accordance with the rules introduced by Genghis Khan. Mengu was committed to earth secretly, and everyone who participated in the internment was murdered. Thousands of horses ran over the tomb to disguise the place where the khan had been buried forever.
While the death of Ugedey’s triggered the feud among the Chingizids, Mengu’s death prompted a partition of the empire created by Genghis Khan. 
In the year of the Monkey (1260), an unheard-of thing happened.  For the first time ever, there were two great khans at the same time. They were sons of Tuly – Kulybay in China and Arik Bugi in Karakorum.  
One pot is too little room for two lambs. The new khans were at deadly feud with each other. Two most powerful representatives of Genghis Khan’s clan, Kulagu and Berke, were not present at the kurultai where they were elected.  They had their reasons to miss it.
Tule’s middle son, Kulagu, being obedient to the order of Mengu, had conquered Iran and Iraq within that period, and Mengu declared him ilkhan of all the land conquered. Being Christian, Kulagu was expected to support Arik Bugi, but Karakorum could not rely on his help due to certain circumstances. The Mamluks of Beybras defeated his troops and started a campaign against Syria. That was the time Great David the King of Georgia initiated a rebellion against the ilkhan.
Kulagu massacred the Georgians.
But there was no peace in his land. He had to think and look for a devoted ally to rely on for the rough years.  It was not Georgia that the khan was afraid of. The Mamluks of Egypt were getting more and more powerful. Their leader Beybars had been fighting against the crusaders successully and would not give up Syria, which Kulagu was striving for.
The ilkhan came to turn his eyes full of hope to the ulus of Dzhagatay, and he was doing so more and more often. Being afraid of Kulagu’s growing power, the Golden Horde was trying to reinforce its connections to Beybars.  Berke did not want to lose Azerbaijan, but he did not dare to make an open stand against Kulagu yet. The latter was obviously aware of the risk, so he did not scruple to poison some of Berke’s relations, who were staying in Iraq.
Berke’s mind was dominated by a single idea, which was of bringing its lapsed power and glory back to the Golden Horde. And, waiting for a good opportunity to get rid of his foreign enemies, he decided to turn to domestic affairs for the time being.
As envisioned by Berke, the capital of the Golden Horde was to be strikingly beautiful to friends and enemies and suggest abundance and strength.
Berke was angry to see the Roman’s progress. Construction was initiated long before, just after the khan obtained full control over the Horde, but the mosque was only half built. Kolomon seemed to be deliberately slow. Punishment would have been appropriate, but Berke was pleased to see what had been completed. The mosque was astonishingly beautiful. The architect had used marble, glass-like blue stone from Armenian mountains, the cerulean blue Samarkand paint, and white ganch with carvings. The walls of the mosque resembled a Persian carpet due to their fancy multicolor ornaments.
The khan was looking forward to seeing the mosque finished. It would help him unite all Muslims and glorify him as a defender of Islam. Berke could see the shine of the golden minarets in the sunlight, which was to inspire the idea of the Horde as a powerful ruler of half the world.
How could he make the stubborn Roman hurry up? His homesickness might have abated, and he most probably realized that Berke would not let him go after the work was done; no, he would not be granted freedom.  
Kolomon did not seem to be in a hurry to finish the construction, though it was strange. Is there any architect who does not dream of seeing his dream come true? Kolomon was no exception. But he had his reasons to do otherwise. How could the khan of the Golden Horde know what a common Roman, a prisoner, a slave had on his mind...
Having left his palace, Berke directed his horse toward a small steppe lake surrounded with a green wall of reeds. His swans lived in it.
The khan would come there every morning to admire the birds’ beauty. Berke, who would spill blood of any living being easily, adored his swans. Contemplating them instilled peace and confidence in him.
The swans were tame. When the weather got cold, they were kept in a special warm room to be released into the lake in spring. Nobody dared to shoot or scare the birds. There were men specially employed to watch over them. Once who violated the will of khan would be sentenced to a dreadful punishment.
Once in late autumn the boy who was to keep his sentry by the lake went home. Who knew that it was going to snow that night, and that it would be frosty?
The swans could not fly. When the khan came to the lake in the morning as part of his routine, he found the swans half-dead and embedded in ice. Berke’s rage was wild. He ordered two henchmen of his to undress and take the swans out of the lake, breaking the eyes with their own bodies. The henchmen brought the birds to the palace wrapped in their own clothes. Warmth brought them to life, and they received food from the khan’s hands. The boy who was to stay vigilant over the swans was beaten to death that very night.
People of the Horde knew Berke to like birds, but nobody could think that he adored the swans. His very soul belonged to him.
Berke was eleven when his grandfather Genghis Khan presented his grandson with those tamed swans after conquering a Chinese city. The birds were nearly nestlings. Genghis Khan told Berke, “Swans are sacred birds. Let them stay with you forever. Don’t you allow anyone to hurt them.”
His Grandfather’s words had a tang of mystery, and Berke adhered to his instruction religiously, being enticed by it. When he had to depart for a campaign, his most reliable man was to watch the swans. The khan, who had never paid anyone for his service, would give the guardian most generous gifts...
A long time had passed since Genghis khan ceased to exist, and Berke’s father Dzhichi was long deceased. He was already sixty, but time seemed to have no impact on the birds, and their cries which sounded like silver trumpets could still be heard by the lake.  With each year, the khan’s affection for the swans was growing deeper. He had always marveled at the birds’ long life.
Once the khan invited a kusbegi, a bird catcher famous all around the Horde, and asked, “Tell me, how long do swans live?”
“One hundred seventy to one hundred eighty years,” the old man replied.
“And the golden eagle?”
“Its life is as short as that of a man – seventy to eighty years.”
Berke looked at the kusbegi suspiciously.
“Why does the strong golden eagle live less than feeble swans?”
The old man said with a grin, “The golden eagle is cruel and thirsty for blood. The weak is his prey. But swans feed on flower petals, herbs and white roots, which they get from the bottom of clear ponds…”
The khan did not like the kusbegi’s answer.
“So maybe you can tell us why swans die?”
The old man looked at Berke with his eyes bleached with the long years which he had been living.
“The reason may be an arrow shot by the man, an animal’s teeth, a bird of prey, grief…”
“What kind of grief can a bird have?”
Kusbegi shook his head, “Doesn’t the khan know that a swan cannot live without his partner? People have even composed a song… Listen to it, Greak Khan.”
The old man started to sing in his coarse cracked voice,
“A swan can live a long life
Being part of a happy couple.
If it happens to lose its friend,
It shall be doomed to a miserable death.”
Nearly fifty years had passed since his grandfather gave Berke those birds. In recent years, he had felt as though he had uncovered the secret which Genghis Khan would not reveal to him. The swans were not just a present. The two white birds had grown to be Berke’s very fortune. As long as they were alive, there was nothing for the khan to be afraid of.
Whatever happens, everything will be over one day, and woe will not strike him. The more Berke thought of it, the firmer his belief in the miraculous connection between the birds and his life of a human was growing.
Feasting his eyes on the swans, the khan could forget about war, about enemies, about revenge... Who knows, maybe they brought him back to the time in his childhood when his soul was clear and innocent, and his mind was not intoxicated with the blood he had spilled.  Perhaps it was the birds’ eternal youth that was so reassuring and managed to fool his approaching senility, promising a long life with every wish accomplished no matter how unrealistic it might seem. Who knows?.. 
Today, Berke was going to the swan lake at an unhurried pace with his rein down. His faithful henchmen were apace with him at his back. Suddenly the khan saw a horseback rider. Straining his eyes, he saw something he could not believe in. A young girl wearing a satin sable fur trimmed boric hat and a red velvet camisole was riding a finest ambler.
The girl did not recognize the khan. She was obviously in a hurry and did not even look at the henchmen. The khan saw her young clear face and her eyes of a little camel, large and dark. There was a smile on her scarlet letters – the girl seemed to be thinking of a very pleasant thing.
Women had lost most of their power over Berke, but the young rider’s beauty made the khan’s heart beat violently.
“Whose daughter is this?” the khan asked, irritated by something he would have been unable to define.
One of the henchmen said reverently, approaching the khan, “This is the daughter of a woman who used to serve at the kitchen of Khan Sartak’s palace. Her name is Kunduz.” 
“A servant’s daughter?” the khan’s frown got even deeper. “Then who gave her the ambler and such clothing?”
“It happened a very short while ago, oh Great Khan. Khan Hogay did. Kunduz’s mother is a distant relative of one of his wives.”
Berke gave an unkindly smile. Distant relatives of khans’ wives were starting to behave as though their blood were blue.
“Why would her mother let a young girl wander about? Is she married?”
“No, Great Khan. But she is engaged.”
“Who is to be her husband?”
“She is engaged to Danil, a boyar of the Great Prince Alexander Nevsky.” 
The khan stared the henchman in the face with a frown, “Are you sure you haven’t confused anything?”
“No, I haven’t,” the henchman bent over his saddle, lowering his voice. “I used to serve at Khan Sartak’s palace.  Danil came to the Horde the year he was lifted on a white blanket...”
“I know it…” Berke interrupted him impatiently.
“At the khan’s discretion, I took the girl to the boyar’s room every night. She was thirteen back then. Perhaps Danil came to like her... On his departure, he asked Khan Sartak to let him marry Kunduz...”
How would the henchman had known that it had happened in a very different way. Danil decided to do good to the girl who had saved his life. Without revealing the true reason to Khan Sartak, Danil asked him to invite her to Novgorod as soon as she was old enough. Thinking that the girl had caught the khan’s fancy, the khan gave his consent. That was the reason why Sartak would deny everyone who asked to marry Kunduz after Danil’s departure.
The Golden Horde had been losing its power after the death of Batu Khan, and each of Dzhuchi’s offspring, anticipating a feud which was obviously to start in the nearest future, was striving for the support of the stronger ally, which was Novgorod the Great. 
That was the reason why Nogay thought of his distant relation to the girl’s mother, and that was the reason why he gave her presents. Kunduz could become the wife of a Novgorod boyar and thus happen to be of service.
Listening to the henchman, Berke was lost in his thoughts. An alliance with Novgorod could contribute greatly to the accomplishment of his plan. So a Kypchak girl, beautiful as she was, was still not worth soured relations with Prince Alexander.
“That’s why she has so many airs...” Berke said with a grin. “But if she runs about like a red fox, a gyrfalcon is sure to get her...” The khan turned to his henchman. “Make sure jealous ravens don’t pack her to death. We have to cherish her like the apple of our eye. The Horde must stand by its word, even if it’s an Orusut prince whom it was given to...
“If it’s not too late yet…” the henchman said humbly.
The khan thrust his head up.
“Go on.”
“People say that she comes to visit Kolomon the Roman, the ones is building the mosque, every morning…”
“Why?”
“I don’t know…”
Berke did not ask more questions. Was it proper of the great khan to be asking questions to a common henchman? He had people in his palace to tell him everything related to Kunduz and Kolomon that very day, to tell him of what had happened and what was going to happen.  For a moment, he saw the image of the girl’s happy face.
That time Berke approached the mosque under construction from the Itil direction. Hundreds of slaves were bustling on the bank, battering clay and cutting stones. The khan brought his horse to a halt, struck by what he saw.  The wall of the mosque was a splendid rainbow of tints. Patterns of various colors were woven together into a captivating ornament which. There was something astonishingly radiant and festive about that creation of Kolomon the Architect. The khan was racking his memory for a similar image but failed. Then he suddenly thought of a spring meadow on a bank of the deep Kerulen Lake, in his ancestors’ motherland, which he saw as a young child. The very ground was a rainbow of sparkling colors back then, and here he could see one created by a man. It was breath-taking...
“Oh glorious Allah, let the architect finish that miracle in time!” Berke thought. “No mosque in the whole world can equal to this one in beauty!”
- “Berke Khan! Do you like the wall painting?”
The khan turned to the one speaking with a startled. Kolomon the Roman was sanding very close and staring at him. His hair and beard had grown to be so long that they nearly hid the architect’s face. He was think, his constant exposure to the sun had made him dark, and only his blue eyes, clear and radiant, were emanating a glaring and eerily light.
Berke could not disguise his feelings, and he said, “I do.” 
“If you do, it’s a good one.”
The khan heard a hint of mockery in the Roman’s voice.
Being displeased by his own failure to conceal his feelings, the khan frowned and asked in a dry tone, “When will you finish you work?” 
“This autumn...” Kolomon said calmly.
“Fine...”
Berke pulled at his rein, but he could not resist taking another glance at the mosque after a few paces. 
What he saw struck the khan dumb. He could see Kolomon’s face getting dreadfully pale.
Berke dismounted hastily, made a few steps towards the mosque, and returned to his previous stand. As if being unable to trust his eyes, he passed his hands over his face. No. His eyes did not deceive him. The vision was not gone.
In the intricate ornament on the wall, he could discern a girl riding an ambler. The khan could not be mistaken. It was Kunduz. He strained his eyes to see the same smile, the same expression of happiness, and even the clothes she was wearing was the same as he saw when he encountered the girl by the lake.
Berke was coming to the charmed place and leaving it time after time. The image of Kunduz was vanishing and appearing on the wall again. It had just been a girl riding an ambler, and then he could see nothing but a lustrous shine of paint.
The khan was moving his lips silently. He had heard a lot about miracles. He knew about a wonderful Irani mosque which had seven domes. If one stood right under the central dome and uttered a word, it would be echoed in all the rest of the domes, but as soon as one changed his stand, he would hear nothing but dead silence even if he shouted wildly.
Mysteries and miracles are numerous, but he had never ever heard of something like what he saw that day. 
The architect had been hoping that a long time would pass before his secret was discovered. Otherwise he would not have ventured. It might have been the will of god for the khan to be there on that day. Berke was seized with a secret awe. “Everything is in the hands of Allah,” he thought with a superstitious feeling…
Kolomon was standing still, and only his eyes, the pupils in which were dark with disturbance, was watching every step of the khan. Not uttering a single word, Berke slowly came up to the horse and got into the saddle laboriously...
***
...No feeling is stronger than love. A coward can turn into a hero for its sake, and an illiterate man can compose beautiful verse. 
Kolomon saw Kunduz for the first time the spring sun was melting the sky and the ground, and the aromatic herb of the Desht-i-Kypchak steppe had grown to bee knee high, and the wind was carrying their headiness in its blows.
Two tulengits on horsebacks were hurrying Kolomon along the streets of Sarai. As usually, the architect had spent the whole day constructing the mosque and was now returning to his prison.
The Roman was tired and was walking slowly in spite of the tulengits’ shouts. He was indifferent to the appeal of a spring night – the cheerful winkle of stars in the wet dark sky, the ghostly moonshine which cast shadows on the dusty narrow streets.  Kolomon was lost in his thoughts. He was making a list of what he had done within the day in his mind and pondering over the mosque under construction. Chains were producing a soft and melancholic clinking around the architect’s feet.
The Roman failed to notice the appearance of two women, who were now walking from the opposite direction. Thoughtful, he only gave them a glance of indifference. The clinking sound of his chains was suddenly accompanied by a musical jingle of silver coins braided into the girls’ hair.
“Good afternoon, Agay.”
Kolomon lifted his head in surprise. The voice was deep and sweet.  The Roman stared at the passers-by. In the bright and clear moonlight, he did not have to strain his eyes too much to see their faces. One of them was not young though bore a trace of former beauty, while the second was obviously the one to whom the voice belonged; it was beautiful and youthful. The architect’s eyes could not fail him.
The girl was tall, slender, and had large eyes. Strands of silver coins were braided in her two plaits, long, heavy, which she wore behind her back; and there was a melodious jingle at every step she made.
“Hello…” the Roman said confusedly.
The women passed by, and he kept looking back at them till one of the tulengits gave him a lash with his kamcha, “Go, go.”
Kolomon moved forward, but the girl’s face in the twinkling moonshine, her boric hat with a birds’ feather plume, her heavy braids would not vanish from his mind... The Roman thought that he had seen some admiration in the glance cast on him by the girl...
Peace left Kolomon that night, the interest he used to take in his work vanished, and the ornaments which appeared in his mind during sleepless nights were tarnished and seemed to be a cheap fake. He would sit for a long time staring at what had already been done, and the flames of dissatisfaction were burning his soul. The paint looked bleached to the architect, and his creations seemed insipid. It lasted for a long time, and the construction of the mosque was sometimes paused, for Kolomon’s fits of despair had grown to attach him more and more often.
The summer was approaching its end. Cold wind from the dark Orusut was now blowing on the banks of the Itil River. Its water grew thick, and one could not see through the deep pools under bluffs. Kolomon the Architect was as gloomy and sorrowful as the approaching fall. 
Once the Roman came to the mosque at daybreak, which was his common practice. What he saw there seemed to be a dream. The girl whom he encountered that unbelievable moonlit spring night was sitting on the back of a gray horse in a saddle flourished with silver.
Kolomon could not take his eyes off her. With the handle of her red spirea propped against the saddlebow, she had thrust her head with a sable fur boric on it back and was looking at the ornaments on the mosque wall fascinatedly. The girl was so engaged in her contemplation that she did not even hear chains clinking around the Roman’s feet. He was struck by her beauty and stopped, unable to bring himself to make a step for the fear of disturbing or frightening her away.  
An insight suddenly flashed across Kolomon’s mind like a swift. Now he knew what he had been missing and what he was to do. His heart nearly died within him at the defiant thought, but he could neither ignore nor forget it. The architect realized the meaning of his venture and its risk to him, a prisoner of the powerful Berke Khan, and still… 
“Hello, sister…” he said softly.
“Hello…”
Kunduz turned around with a startle. She blushed with embarrassment. She recognized Kolomon.
“Who made this wonder?” she asked.
“I did.”
Kolomon was looking Kunduz in the face intently, as if trying to memorize her appearance forever.
“When will you finish your mosque?”
The Roman suddenly burst out laughing, and there was a sparkle of his white regular teeth under the thick black beard.
“Whenever you order me to…”
Kunduz was looking at the architect with suspicion.
“It’s impossible,” she suddenly shook her head abruptly in a most resolute manner, making the coins woven into her night-black hair ring like tiny silver bells. Do it today, right now!..”
“You’re right. It’s impossible,” Kolomon said sadly, but at that very moment his eyes flashed with a frantic merriment.  “But if you really want me to finish my work soon, keep coming here every day at one and the same time.”
Kunduz shrugged her shoulders to suggest independence.
“Why?”
“I can’t tell you yet. But you want to see the mosque finished as soon as possible, don’t you?”
Kunduz had a calm expression on her face, and it seemed to Kolomon that she was about to give a lash to her ambler and gallop away from the Itil bank, out of his life forever.
“Do come!” the Roman implored passionately, “I need it so much! Come when the rest of Sarai sleeps and only slaves take to work!..”
A mystery was obviously hidden behind the architect’s words, but there was something about them that made the girl trust him. She saw the thick, heavy chains around his feet, she saw his hot eyes, which had the color of the cerulean spring sky, and said, “Alright. I’ll grant you the wish…”
***
Since that very day, the Roman architect had looked as though he had drunk some life-giving. He felt an urge of inspiration, and there was a gentle twinkling of joy in his eyes. Kunduz was now coming every day.
The heart does not obey commands, and the girl’s affection towards Kolomon was growing with each single time. She had not experienced love yet, so she did not resist the feeling which was seizing her being.
But once Kunduz came to understand that she was in love, and she was scared to know that. She felt as though her horse was carrying her along the very brink of an abyss, and she was incapable of poising herself in the saddle.
Kolomon is a wonderful person, an outstanding architect, but he has a god of his own and a different religion. Can they possibly let him marry her? Besides, he is a slave, which is not a human being under the law of the Golden Horde. The life of a slave costs less than that of cattle. No Muslim can possibly say a word of approval to her, and her mother will never give her consent. What can be more dreadful than to break the law of one’s ancestors?
Kunduz was afraid to think of the whole thing, she was trying to dismiss the thought of the Roman, but it would come uninvited and haunt her, preventing her from living the carefree life which she used to live.
It suddenly occurred to the girl that her frequent seeing Kolomon might be dangerous to both of them. If someone happened to discover their mutual feelings, they could find themselves in trouble.
But her heart would not listen to what her ancestors’ customs claimed to be right and wrong, and it kept calling her to the bank of the Itil night and day. Kunduz could not think of living a day without taking a look at the ornaments created by her lover’s hands.
Love and beauty have always been stronger than reason. She would swear to never see the architect again, but as soon as it dawn, Kunduz would hurry to get in her saddle. She was terrified to admit that she could not imagine her life without Kolomon, that strong kind-hearted man who was jerky in his gestures. 
The day when she came to the mosque earlier than usual felt the same. The sun had not risen yet, and nobody was on the bank but for slaves and tulengits, who were guarding the former.
Kunduz jumped off her saddle nimbly, tethered her abler to a thin tree, and flashed a happy smile to Kolomon.
The architect took her hand with great care and brought her to the mosque. The painting on one of its walls was nearly complete, and the scaffolds had been taken away. Kunduz could see that the Roman was greatly agitated. He let go of her hand, agile and rattling, walked along the wall, and came to stand at a distance far enough to for the eye to take the whole of it.
“Come here!” he called to Kunduz.
Kunduz came to stand next to him obediently.
The first rays of sunlight hit the wall, and it showed an effervescent splendor of color.  She had seen the painting for a dozen of times before, so she turned to the Roman, perplexed, failing to understand what he wanted of her and why he had brought her there. 
“Look!” the Roman whispered impatiently, “Look!.. A miracle is about to appear!..”
Kunduz stood watching. All of a sudden, the sun seemed to have brought its rays together tight – the color grew dull and bleak, and in the mysterious patterns of the ornamentation she saw something that made her feel dizzy, and a she gave out a cry of astonishment.
Kunduz could see herself on the back of an ambler. The painting covered the whole of the huge wall, and the girl could not have mistaken anything for it. For the first time, she could see herself as she appeared to others – a happy face, a head with heavy tight braids on it lifted proudly, and the ambler, who looked very much like the living horse about to step onto the ground.
Kunduz could not resist making a step forward to touch it with her hands, but the miraculous image was gone in a moment’s notice, and there was nothing on the wall but for the radiant shine of paint. She stepped back confusedly to see the painting again.
The girl turned her face to Kolomon. Her voice sounded astonished and suppliant.
“What is this?” she asked faintly.
The Roman put his hand on her shoulder,
“Hush, girl! Hush! Pull yourself together… Nobody but you should find it our...” Kolomon’s speech was hasty and muddled. I’ve been dreaming of making a wonder like this for my whole life... I used to nurse the idea for the future... But then I met you… Do you understand now why I asked you to come here every morning? One can only see the painting from this stand when the sun is rising... As soon as the sun changes its position in the sky, nobody will see what you have seen even from this very place!.. It’s only the great and gracious sun that gives people heat and light that discovers the invisible hues of color with its rays, bringing them out to the world.
Kunduz was still unable to sober.
“How did you do such a thing?”
“The human mind has no boundaries. What I did was very little, for I discovered a secret of a scientist who lived in the time of Iskander the Doublehorn…” Kolomon broke off abruptly. One of the tulengits who were guarding the slaves was approaching them. “I’ll tell you the whole thing later,” Kolomon looked the girl in the eyes as if to pierce her, “Kunduz! I want to see her! Tonight, as soon as the first stars are lit in the sky, come to the lake! I have a couple of golden coins, and I’ll bribe the guardian for the night!.. I’ll be waiting!..”
“Alright. I’ll come,” the girl said in a voice which was soft but firm.
After returning to his palace, Berke ordered that nobody be let in and spent a long time all alone. The thought of what he had seen was haunting him. The shock was over, and he could finally give it a thorough and deliberate thinking.
He had to take some measures. But what kind of them? Being well aware of the fact that Islam did not allow to picture human beings, animals, and birds, the cunning Roman still had managed to deceive him.
If somebody discovered what he had just seen, Muslims would turn their back to the khan for letting a giaour commit a sacrilege like that.
The mosque was beautiful. Berke had never seen such ornaments and colors, though he has been to the lands of many nations in his long life. He suddenly got a sneaking feeling that everybody might fail to see the human portrait behind the ornament, and was hesitant about the necessity of destroying the Roman architect’s creation. He also thought that it might be appropriate to have something built on the place from which it could be seen.
But suspiciousness replaced his hesitant mood in no time. What if was not the only secret of the architect? Who knew what the giaour had on his mind?
The khan grew drearily pale at the thought. No! There was only one solution – to destroy the painting made by the Roman on that wall and to make him submit to the khan. 
The image of a beautiful ambler rider suddenly appeared in his mind. It would be hard to lay his hand on q thing like that. But what made that lunatic of an architect venture to do that? A tulengit had given the khan a hint, but he just showed him the head of the snake, while its body was hidden in water. So what was the true reason?
While Berke was thinking about the Roman, the image of the girl kept haunting him. His heart had nearly forgotten the yearning for a young body. He could order his henchman to find her that very moment and bring her to the palace, but something prevented the khan from doing so...
So what should he do to the architect? A slave dares love a free girl, young and beautiful as the day star named Sholpan… 
The khan grabbed a silver bell and shook it vehemently.
Commander Salimgerey entered the room hastily.
“Bring the Roman architect to me.”
“Your wish is my command, Great Khan!”
After some time, warriors with bare swords came dragging Kolomon, whom they pushed into the khan’s room. 
“Leave us alone,” Berke ordered.
The warrior departed. The khan was studying the architect closely for a long time, as if trying to read his thoughts. The Roman’s face was still and pale. Beads of perspiration were glistening on his high forehead.
An evil smile appeared on Berke’s lips.
“Tell it,” he ordered.
“What, Berke Khan?”
“Well, let’s start with when you are going to finish the mosque.”
“I have already told you. This fall.”
“Good. Now tell me why you painted this girl on the wall.”
Kolomon thrust his head up.
“I love her!”
“Does she love you?”
“She does.”
There was a twitch in the khan’s face, but he overcame his rage and replied in a voice which was still calm,
“Don’t you know she’s engaged?”
“I do. But does it matter if people love each other?”
The Roman’s impudence, his stubborn and bold replies annoyed Berke.
“Your faith differs. The girl is Muslim…”
The architect did not avert his eyes.
“The greatest religion, which all people in the world worship, is love.”
The khan’s face grew pale, and his features peaked. He felt the familiar state of wild rage creeping on him. As soon as he relaxed, it would seize him, bringing a blood-red haze to his eyes, and then...
“You know... that our religion… prohibits depicting men…” Berke was pushing the words out of his spasmodic throat laboriously.
“I love her... And I could not express it in a different way. He would not understand my words and was afraid of them because words can lie.” 
“Go on.”
“On? When she saw the painting of her, it told her everything. Kunduz is well aware of the danger it implies for me. If fear did not prevent me from doing it, my words don’t lie. Under your religion, I have committed a dreadful thing. The girl learned that I loved her more than my own life. And she did agree…
Foam appeared at the corners of the khan’s mouth, and his eyes were tiny.
“Did she?”
“Yes. She agreed to be mine forever,” Kolomon suddenly went on his knees. Great Khan, I have never made any requests in my life... I went on my knees for the sake of my love... I’m only asking you for one thing... I don’t need freedom... Let me be your slave forever, I’ll build you a thousand beautiful mosques, but let me marry Kunduz...”
Berke’s hand slid towards his dagger, which was lying next to him.
“Will the girl agree to be a slave’s wife?”
“Yes, Greak Khan, this is her request to you as well…”
“So will you finish your mosque as you’ve promised?”
“I’ll keep my word, Great Khan.”
Berke’s face cleared up. He rang the silver bell, and Salimgerey appeared at the door.
“We agreed with Kolomon the Architect...” The khan’s lips were suddenly twisted in a smile, but his eyes were not laughing – they remained still and cold. “I decided to let him marry the girl he has mentioned, of course, provided that he keeps his word and finished the mosque this fall. Am I right, Roman Architect?”
“Yes,” Kolomon darted forward.
“Now listen to my order,” Berke’s face was white again, “for the painting he made at the mosque wall, give him a hundred birches. For his intention to marry a Muslim woman, I order that him be castrated. This shall be done in the presence of the girl and all slaves. Then, as we have agreed, the Roman shall marry the girl.
Kolomon tottered. He knew the customs of the dreadful world in which he lived;  the khan of the Golden Horde never altered his decision.
“I’d rather you ordered that I be slaughtered right here! Why would I live?..” the Roman implored in a coarse voice.
“No,” Berke said authoritatively. “I still need your life. You are to finish the mosque…” 
It was a dreadful night. Berke ordered that nearly ten thousand slaves be brought to the maydankhanu – the main square of the city. Horseback tulengits holding bare swords encircled the slaves closely.  Kolomon was standing in chains on a high platform surrounded by guardians; everybody could see him.  Enormous fires as high as a man were burning in the corners of the platform, and their flame was reflected disturbingly in the slaves’ dilated pupils, on the narrow blades of the tulengits’ swords.
The night seemed to have come close to the main square, and the sky, which was black and heavy, came to hand low above the ground, above to collapse onto the heads of the gathering. 
Two guardians brought Kunduz and dragged her onto the platform. There was a low murmur which sounded like a moan over the square. The girl was beautiful. White face, closed eyes, and raven wavy hair which swept her shoulders...
“Listen! Listen! Everyone must know this!” the khan’s crier, a gigantic Mongol resembling a bronze statue, shouted. “At the discretion of the Great Khan of the Golden Horde, Honorable Berke, the Roman slave shall be punished with a hundred birches for desecrating the wall of a mosque, which is Allah’s home.”
The executioner, a tall lean man wearing a fox fur malakhai hat as low as his eyes were, raised his hand. 
The tuengits guarding Kolomon threw the architect onto the platform floor...
“One, two, three…”
The whip was whistling over the square, over the heads of the audience, who was frozen dumb. It was only the crier’s even and indifferent voice counting the birches that broke the silence, “Four, five, six…” 
The platform was lit by crimson flames, in which slaves’ austere faces and eyebrows drawn together could be seen. The blood of the slave Kolomon looked black in the disquieting gleam.
“Fifty... sixty one…” the crier kept counting.
Suddenly there was woman’s shriek. It was Kunduz.
“People! Dear ones! Save him! It’s the great architect Kolomon!”
The crowd swung toward the platform to swing back and freeze in grievous silence. 
“Ninety, ninety one…” indifferent words were being poured onto the heads of slaves.
Holding the Roman by the arms, the tulengits put him standing on the platform. The skin was handing in tatters from the architect’s back. He was bleeding hard.
“Listen, listen!” the crier shouted again, “At the discretion of the Great Khan of the Golden Horde, Honorable Berke, the infidel Roman shall be castrated for his intention to marry a Muslim girl, a Kypchak named Kunduz! Let the khan’s wise decision be implemented!”
A mullah wearing a white turban ascended onto the platform. A knife was glistening in his hand.
“Tear the slave’s clothes off, put him onto his back, and fix him properly!” he ordered to the tulengits.
Kunduz tottered and dropped her head.
“Lift the whore’s head!” the executioner cried to the tulengits holding her head. “Let her see her husband-to-be become a eunuch!”
Suddenly an authoritative and powerful voice broke the dismal silence, “People?! How can you tolerate with all this outrage? Have you forgotten that you are human?”
Everybody’s head turned to the owner of the voice. A tall man dressed in black was standing at a small distance from the platform. He was wearing a kerchief which covered his face up to the eyes. Nobody could even think of his probable being the commander of Berke Khan’s personal guard Salimgerey.
The crowd was stirred and started to roar, “Free the Roman! Death is better than such living! Free the Roman!”
That was the beginning of a slave rebellion in the capital of the Golden Horde, Sarai Berke, which took place in the year of the Khan (1261). Blood was being spilled and houses were burning for three years. Hiding in his palace, Khan Berke called the tumens of Lashkarkashi Nogay, which were dislocated in the steppe, for help.
The slaves were maintaining a violent resistance. They knew that they could not hope for mercy, that is why each of them was well worth ten warriors in that battle. Each house, each clay duval turned into a small fortress.  The berserk people, mostly unarmed, were throwing themselves furiously on mounted soldiers from roofs.
Being oppressed by Nogay’s soldiers, the slaves hid in the unfinished mosque on the bank of the Itil. They had no more arrows, so they started taking the walls apart to have some bricks and stones to fight back with.
During their third night, realizing that they could not defeat the khan’s army, the slaves were breaking into the steppe in troops to escape along the Itil.
The khan’s revenge was dreary. He ordered that every survivort be taken out of the city, and his warriors cut the prisoners with their swords, and their horses trampled their bodies...
The khan celebrated his victory, but the fear which had crept upon him would not subside. For the first time it was not somewhere in the remote Bukhara or Samarkand that the rabble rose up but here, in the heart of the Golden Horde, which had been unshaken since the time the glorious Batu Khan established it. What was going on was beyond Berke's understanding, and he did not know what to do next.
After the massacre was over, the khan sent his henchmen to the lake to find out whether his swans were intact and to get the Roman architect and the girl named Kunduz. 
The stirring did not affect the swans, but neither the girl nor the Roman could be found dead or alive.
...Hiding in the woods at daytime, Kolomon and Kunduz with a small group of runaway slaves were moving towards the Tan <The Tan is the Don river.> at night.
CHAPTER FOUR
IV
Nogay, the only son of Tatar born to Dzhuchi’s youngest son Bual, turned twenty when Batu Khan started his campaign against Europe. He was brave and hot-tempered.  Neither his grandfather Bual nor his father Tatar were famed through their campaigns or had earned the title of the khan. As was the practice established by Genghis Khan, they participated in all affairs of the Horde but would always return to their ulus after each campaign to indulge in peaceful life. The Crimean land became Tatar’s last ulus after he returned from East Europe.  He arranged his quarters in the city of Qafa.
Nogay commanded tumens which consisted of Khadarkin Mongols and Mangit horsemen in his campaigns against the Orusuts and the Ugric people.  
Both groups were renowned as excellent warriors and bow shooters. Besides, the Khadarkin Mongols were notable for their religious adherence to the will of Genghis Khan and maintained the iron discipline introduced by him. Munir Quran, the head of their clan, used to be an emir and command the right wing of Genghis Khan’s army.
Nogay’s tumens were undefeatable. That was the reason why Batu Khan appointed him to be his naib <A naib is a vicarious ruler.> in Bulgaria and Moldova, which he had conquered. But after the most of the Mongol army was back from the banks of the Itil, Nogay, who only had two tumens left, failed to keep control over the nations conquered. He happened to bring his army, which was much fewer now, to the Crimea, where his father’s ulus was situated. Tatar was already dead, and Nogay owned the ulus rightfully.
But the great Batu Khan decided otherwise. He ordered Nogay to come to Sarai and appointed he lashkarkashi of the entire army of the Golden Horde.
Nogay followed the order, but his natural cautiousness and ability to foresee the future made him leave the greater part of his Khadarkin warriors, who were very loyal to him, in his father’s ulus. He left everything that they had taken by robbing during their campaigns and rewarded them from his treasury.
It was after many years that Nogay felt the benefit of his deed, as he decided on fighting against the khan of the Golden Horde Toktay.  The Mongol warriors had not forgotten his kindness. They came to fight under his banner unanimously and made a reliable support. The Khadarkins and the Magnuts inhabiting the Crimea were already called the Nogais back then. It was not the one who was sitting on the throne of the Golden Horde but his true ruler, Nogay, whom they accepted as their khan.
After the death of Batu, one khan was replacing each other in the Horde for some time, while Nogay remained the lashkarkashi of the entire army, for he was unparalleled in courage and sagacity. Common soldiers appreciated his generosity and fair judgment and were prepared to go through fire and water for him.
Power always attends to one who has a large and loyal army. Berke was not like Batu Khan. The latter managed to establish the great Golden Horde, while Berke was trying to at least preserve it, preventing others from robbing the land which his brother had conquered. Deadly arrogance and his secret, far-reaching plans brought the thought of a feud with Ilkhan Kulagu, Dzhagatay’s descendants, Kubylay, and Arik Bugi, which was obviously approaching. 
Unable to understand that he was incapable of doing what Batu Khan had done, Berke was haunted by the idea of an enormous state to comprise all the land which his glorious grandfather Genghis Khan owned.  It was not Karakorum but the Golden Horde where the power was to lie.
Thinking over his plans for a long time, all alone, Berke started to feel apprehensive about Nogay.  What did it matter that neither his father nor his grandfathers were khans? It was Dzhuchi’s elder sons who were meant to be khans. That was the Chingizid law. But who followed the order established by the Rocker of the Universe? Everyone who felt that he had the power was dictating his own will. Kubylay was just the case. Was not he the first of Genghis Khan’s descendants to get separated from Karakorum with the support of his army and venture to create a khanate of his own? During the rule of his glorious grandfather, he would have been sentenced to a cruel death, but now there was nobody to punish traitors.
Who would guarantee that Nogay, believing himself to be Genghis Khan’s descendant deserving to be the ruler of the Golden Horde, would not claim the throne someday? He had every control of the army, and it was faithful to him.
No. He had to get rid of Nogay. The sooner the better. Berke realized that to remove him from the position of the lasharakshi and to poison him would be equally hard and dangerous.  Nogay was too powerful, and he was afraid of waging war on him.
What if he sent him of a campaign against Kulagu’s khanate to bring Azerbaijan and Shirvan back to the Horde? War is war. Nothing is impossible. If Nogay wins the victory, the Golden Horde will get more powerful, and it will not be too late to think of a way to get rid of his rivals. If Nogay was defeated, it would make a pretext for depriving him of the lashkarkashi title.
Berke dreamt fervently about defeating the powerful and cruel Kulagu and at the same time hated Nogay. 
 It was to prevent the two eyes from defaming each other than god created a nose between them. Allah forgot to put a barrier between brothers Kubylay and Arik Budi, which led to a huge pit appearing between Tule’s sons. Jealousy was the name of it. Other descendants of Genghis Khan, who also dreamt of power and glory, of their grandfather’s throne were digging the pit laboriously to turn it into an abyss on the pretext of Kubylay’s being the first to break their ancestor’s law  and announcing himself the khan without holding a kurultai.
The eternal world was all confusion. The offspring of the Rocker of the Universe, having forgotten about the blood they shared, turned into enemies.
Kubylay got the support of Ugedey’s son Kadan and the son of Temuge Ochigan, Genghis Khan’s younger brother, Togushar. He appeared to have a courageous army used to submission and tried in numerous battles, who once defeated North China.
***
However, Arik Bugi had reliable and powerful allies of his own – a descendant of the famous Baydar, Dzhagatay’s son, Alguy. He had taken part in the seizure of Kharmankibe and conquering of the Polish land.  Ugedey’s grandson Kaydu happened to support Arik Bugi. He was a brave soldier who had participated in numerous campaigns. He owned Mekrinsk Aymak in East Tien Shan back then. 
They seemed to be equal in power. But that was inly an illusion.
Arik Bugi, who was sitting on the throne in Karakorum, understood too well the Golden Horde which was formally subject to him to be an unreliable ally. Khan Berke had been dreaming of separation for a long time and was merely waiting for favorable circumstances.
The army of Tule’s older son, Kubylay, and the youngest one, Arik Bugi, crossed their swords on the banks of the Ongin River.  Heaven turned away from the youngest brother – his tumens were defeated, and Arik Bugi fled to the Yenisei, where Kyrgyz tribes lived.
Having conquered Karakorum and left a small army there, Kubylay returned to China, where in the city of Shandu his main quarters were situated, encouraged and victorious. Soon, Arik Bugi’s messenger arrived to report of the latter’s admission of his guilt. Being aware of his brother’s quick temper and his susceptibility to gossip and rumors, Kubylay forgave Arik Bugi.
But other descendants of Genghis Khan, who hated the lucky Kubylay and had turned Arik Bugi into the symbol of their struggle against him, gathered an army and attacked Karakorum, as a result of which they got control over it.
Forgetting about his recent plea, Arik Bugi sent his tumens to the south, towards the realm of his younger brother, hoping to defeat him this time. Kubylay’s well-known cavalry, which consisted of most select kekshitene warriors, stood in their way at the burden of the Godu Desert to beat Arik Bugi’s army hollow.
Kubylay could have got rid of the Mongol great khan in Karakorum, but he did not allow his cavalry to chase his brother’s escaping tumens, for he did not want Mongol blood to besprinkle the ground on which the glorious Genghis Khan had raised his banner and the Mongol might had been born. Instead, Kubylay prohibited sending victuals to Karakorum. The area which had just walked on bread and butter got famished.
Shortly before those events took place, Ergene Begim, a widow of Kara Kulagu who was ruling the ulus which used to belong to Dzhagatay, arrived at Arik Bugi’s quarters.  It was not for the sake of idle curiosity that she covered the long and tiring way from Karakorum.  Ergene Begim was eager to ally with Arik Bugi. She had a clear realization of the tendency according to which the flames of feud were to keep getting more and more violent till there was no descendant of Genghis Khan unaffected. She was willing to pay any price to stay in possession of the ulus. But there were two bloody rivals, Berke and Kulagu, casting their glances of avarice at it and waiting for the favorable time to come.  She needed a reliable and powerful ally, but the neighboring rulers were either hostile to her or nearly dying of heart attack waiting for a stronger neighbor to ruin their lives.
Striving for the support of Karakorum, Ergene Begim promised Arik Bugi to send her son Alguy to East Turkestan with his army to stand in the way of Berke’s and Kulagu’s tumens aimed to help Kubylay. 
But Kulagu seemed reluctant to get engaged in the feud of the two brothers.  Knowing that he was to do it sooner or later, he was contributing to his reputation as an ilkhan, in which he succeeded.  His experience told me that the Golden Horde would turn into his enemy very soon, and he was doing his best to put Berke at odds with Alguy. 
However, while Kara Kulagu’s widow was holding negotiations in Karakorum, Alguy sent his tumens to Kashgariya, where he had many reliable and faithful men of his, without waiting for the situation to develop any further, and announced himself khan of East Turkestan.
The actions of the new khan were intense and energetic. At his order, his cousin Nikpey Oglan with an army of five thousand warriors invaded into the interfluve area of the Seykhun and the Dzheykhun. The major cities of Maverannakhr, Bukhara and Samarkand, hardly tried to fight them back before they surrendered. 
Alguy, who had long before developed a strong dislike for Berke, ordered that everyone who had something to do with the Golden Horde be slaughtered at Kulagu’s recommendation. Those who escaped fled fearfully from Maverannarkhr, forgetting about their belongings and cattle. This lay Berke under the necessity of seeking for an ally in the person of Arik Bugi.
The alliance of Berke and Arik Bugi appeared unreliable and far from being long-term to everybody who was not blind. The distance between them was great, and the Golden Horde was obviously waiting for a good opportunity to become separated from Karakorum forever. 
Feeling powerful enough, Alguy ventured to take a step further and manifest his lack of intention to support Karakorum with his actions. Having conquered Maverannakhr, the new khan ordered that all emirs of the cities seized be put to death and took the treasury away from tax collectors, though it used to be sent to Arik Bugi. Unintimidated by the prospect of revenge, Alguy sent his tumens towards Kwarazm and to Afghanistan after he obtained Kulagu’s promise not to interfere.  
The events happened so rapidly that the Golden Horde did not manage to lift up its head, confused by the petrifyingly impudent actions of Aluy, who used to be absolutely unobtrusive among the rest of the Chingizids.
Khan Berke was mad. He realized that it was not the end of the Golden Horde, but he also realized that the outcome was around the corner. The time was approaching for an enormous bull skin, as he imagined the Horde, torn and snipped by other Chingizids, to turn into that of a sheep. If its land was limited to as little as the Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe, the decline would be inevitable. The steppe was vast, but nothing but grass grew from its soil, and it would not yield any bread, gold, and silk. When abundance was gone, power would be gone as well.
They needed new allies, and the Orusuts were the only solution. They had been rather obedient so fat, but who knew what the sedentary people of the woods, who are beyond the nomad’s understanding, were brewing?
The khan could feel the impact of his old age getting heavier and heavier with time, and an incongruity between what he wanted and what he was capable of was not infrequent any more.  He had no time to think of the distant future. He had nobody to consign the Golden Horde, for the throne of which Berke had waited so long, to. Berke had no children.
After several days, Berke gathered the khan’s council. The stirring at the borders of the Herd was getting more and more violent, while the disturbing news brought by messengers sometimes contradicted each other, which made them sound even more terrifying.  
Berke had taken after his glorious grandfather in every aspect of his life and would only summon the council to announce a decision which he had already taken. Batu had always adhered to the rule as well.
The khan’s council gathered in the new palace.
Berke was sitting on a golden throne which stood on a platform with a crimson Persian carpet on it. Hid dress of yellow Chinese silk with golden embroidery all over it made the sallowness of his face look even more dramatic. He looked like a pure gold Buddha at the place of greatest honor in a pagoda.  
The audience was reverently silent. The Chingizids were sitting closest to the throne  - Sheybani’s son Barkhudur, Lashkarkashi Nogay,  Kulki’s son Sauk, and a grandson of Genghis Khan’s younger brother Khasar Zhontagbay. Noyons, emirs, and other noble men whom then khan had been pleased to invite for the council were sitting at a larger distance.
Berke gave the gathering a long searching look.
“At the will of Allah, I, the Ruler of the Universe, open the council. Amen.” He passed his folded hands across his face.
The gathering froze in anticipation. The khan said, “The Golden Horde has a lot of essential and urgent tasks today. In the South, Kulagu Khan has poisoned Dzhuchi’s descendants, Berkenzhar Oglan and Bolgutay Oglan and came to own the entire Iran and Azerbaijan by slaughtering their men.
In the East, the situation is not any better. Since Arik Bugi and Kubylay waged war on each other, circumstances have been weighing not in our favor in Mverannakhr, Khorasan, and Kwarazm. Alguy, a descendant of the celebrated Baydar, who never demonstrated any disrespect of the Horde, has sent Ergene Khatun away from Dzhagatay’s Ulus and announced himself to be the khan. He has seized Maverannakhr and Khorasan, and now his tumens are about to throw Kwarazm to the feet of Alguy.  He dared slaughter our naibs and tax collectors in Bukhara and Samarkahnd,” Berke broke off, staring at the gathering with his sharp eyes from under his swollen eyelids. “What will you say, the best of the best, the bravest of the brave, shall the powerful Golden Horde put up with the insults or bare its sword for the rebels? Maybe some of you can show us a different way to punish out enemies?”
Before anybody could answer, the door was flung open, and Salimgerey entered the door. To interfere with the council’s procedure was considered to be a dreadful crime. Only the head of the personal guard dared so if the khan was in danger or if a messenger had arrived with news of special importance.
Everyone was waiting for the commander to speak.
“Do speak,” Berke’s eyebrows were low at his nose as he was eyeing the face of Salimgerey.
The latter gave a bow, “I have brought you tidings of bale, Great Khan…”
“I order you to speak!” Berke said once again. “Those who have gathered here can know everything.”  .
“The great Mongol khan in Karakorum Arik Bugi has sent his troops headed by Shelkene Baskak to the Orusut land without informing us in our quarters.  The soldiers demanded the Orusuts to give them the taxes which they usually send to the Horde. The Orusuts refused to submit and surrounded the army of Shelkene Baskak.  The messenger said that the soldiers could perish.
“So the old wolf Shelkene is still alive?” Barkhudur interrogated in an agitated voice.
“Apparently he is,” Salimgerey said, “For he is tormenting the Orusuts.” 
Barkhudur was about to take the messenger up short. He was not supposed to interfere with a Chingizid’s speaking, but Berke suddenly lifted his arm in an authoritative gesture.
“No tribute to Karakorum,” the khan said firmly. “Let the messenger tell the Orusuts that they can slaughter the whole of the army. Shelkene Baskak is the only one I want alive. Take care of it, Commander. Shelkene Baskak has contributed a lot into the glory of the throne, and I want him to return to the Mongol Steppe alone.
The council was silent. Berke’s order meant a complete severance from Karakorum. Everybody had been anticipating it for a long time – a breach was inevitable, and still what had happened seemed unexpected to many.
Taking advantage of his right of the eldest out of Dzhuchi’s offspring, Bakhadur said, “Great Khan, by taking this decision, you break the fundamental rule established by Genghis Khan...”
“I do know and remember the fact,” Berke said in a dry voice.
“Do you have to do this?”
“Yes. It is necessary for the prosperity of the Golden Horde.”
Berke’s eye caught the sight of the twenty-year-old Ukketay Noyon.  He was a grandson of the Dzhalairs’ emir, Atabek Kadan, who used to rare Ugedey, a son of Genghis Khan. His father Alzhetay served faithfully to Ugedey and was granted the title of emir for his honesty and straightforward manners.  The year when the kurultai lifted the brave son of Tuli Mengu on a white blanket to make him the great Mongol khan in Karakorum, Alzhetay, neglecting the risk of being taken revenge on, told the Chingizids, “Each of you once swore to adhere to the will of the glorious Genghis Khan and make any living being belonging to Ugedey’s offspring the khan.  You know that a cow won’t dare eat the grass onto which that living being steps, and a dog won’t dare smell at his trace. Today you have broken your oath.”
Kubylay’s response was as follows, ‘Indeed, we have given an oath… But the offspring of Ugedey were the first to break the law of our grandfather. Genghis Khan said, “If any of my descendants commits a crime or ceases to respect the law, only a gathering of my descendants can judge such a man”. The clan of Ugedey killed Altalu Oglan, a grandson of Dzhagatay, without asking for anybody’s permission. If it’s not enough, I’ll tell you more... Wasn’t it Ugedey who asked for his youngest son Sharamun to be made his successor as he was dying? Again his offspring broke the law by lifting Guyuk on a white blanket.” 
That was the strict truth, and Alzhetay had nothing more to say.
This is the way it happened back then. So now, looking at Ulketay, Berke thought that the Chingizids had ceased to adhere to the order established by their glorious grandfather since long before and that they interpreted the law in a way which was the most favorable to them.  Well, one’s own ulus, khanate, or benefit come first.
Berke suffered neither regret nor remorse after he decided on severing his relations with Karakorum. On the contrary, having taken and announced the decision, he felt a relief.  There was no more secret anguish and hesitation. The Golden Horde was to take all decisions on its own from then on, without taking into consideration or asking for the permission of the great khan. There was no need to send part of the trophies and tribute paid by dependent nations to the central quarters now.
Feeling quite confident about his decision, Berke turned to the members of the council, “Tell me who the great Mongol khan is now. Is it Kubylay or Arik Bugi? Even they can’t answer the question. So maybe it’s time we paid tribute to both? No From now on, the Golden Horde shall never share its trophies. We are to raise our sword to Kulagu and Alguy; thus, we are going to need cattle and bread, which we get from our dependent nations, to feed our warriors. We need gold and money to equip or tumens and reward the brave and the valiant.
The majority of the council started nodding their heads approvingly and talking to each other to praise the khan’s wisdom. Only Barkhudur and Sauk did not utter a word. They were the oldest of the gathering and still had a clear memory of the splendid and powerful empire created by the Rocker of the Universe; they remembered the time  the Chingizids were leaving peacefully, united by a common aspiration.  The old warriors did realize that now that the Golden Horde was separated from the Mongol Khanate in Karakorum, the very frame of the Mongol state was unstable, and the white nine-tail banner of Genghis Khan would never gather a strong and united army. The air was vibrating with presentiment. The Golden Horde, being Karakorum’s principal reliance, turned away from it in the roughest time. But it must have been predestined this way, for everything which happens on earth is in the hands of Allah. 
The council sat for a long time that day. They decided on sending twenty thousand warriors commanded by Nogay against Kulagu, and Berke was to lead a ten thousand army against Alguy on his own.  Messengers rushed to the auls and camps of the Descht-i-Kypchak Steppe to announce the khan’s decision to people, to summon Kypchaks, Manguts, Bulgarians, and dzhigits of other nations conquered by the Great Horde
The same evening, a henchman ran into the palace, fell to the khan’s feet, and shouted, “Oh Great Khan! I have brought you tidings of bale!” 
“When are you going to bring good ones?” the khan spat with menace, and his face grew dull and pale, while his heart sank with presentiment. “Speak. What’s happened?”
“One of your swans has been killed!”
Berke, who was superstitious, shuddered and winced as if at a blow.
“Search! Search for the guilty one! I’ll put them to the dreariest death one can think of!
But the search was in vain.
With the swan’s death, a feeling of restlessness started wrenching his nerves. It felt much like anticipation and prevented him from living a normal life, thinking, and acting. That was an omen, but what kind of it, and what was it means to warn him against? Perhaps Heaven was trying to tell Berke that, as long as one of the swans was dead, a campaign of his was going to be a failure? Then he should think of a solution.
And the khan found one. He appointed the young noyonnamed Ulketay to command the army against Alguy instead of himself.
The wise Barkhudur tried to warn the khan in a most delicate way, “Ulketay is too young. He is only twenty… Can he manage an errand like this?”
Berke protested, “How old were you and me when our fathers let us be heads of tumens? Ulketay is young, but he is strong and willing to be distinguished through a battle. I trust in him…”
Preparation for campaigns in the Horde was a procedure established long before, so everyone knew what he was to do and fulfilled every assignment with diligence and without delays.
Berke was still coming to the reed lake every morning to listen to the solitary swan’s wailsome screams for a long time.
His feeling of an approaching disaster would not subside. People were watching every steppeof their khan with greatest attention and failed to understand him. Like every Chingizid, he had never had mercy for anyone, but why was the khan so upset and why did he miss the dead swan so much? Was it his age that had softened Berke’s heart?
No. The khan’s hearth was just the way it used to be, and nobody knew that it was Berke who was most desperate for violence of all the Chingizids. He merely lacked the military aptitude which Batu had possessed, otherwise he would have turned the land into a desert with rivers of blood flowing over it.
A week after Nogay and Ulketay started the campaign  with their tumens, a ginger-haired henchman who was acting as Commander Salimgerey for the time of his trip to the Orusut land brought ill news to the khan.
“Great khan!” he said. “A messenger from Maverannakhr informed us that as soon as Alguy and Kulagu learned about the campaign which we had started against them, they ordered that all craftsmen belonging to the Golden Horde be taken out of the walls of Bukhara and slaughtered them along with their wives and children.”
Indeed, it was bad news, but there was a vindictive gleam in Berke’s eyes. He thought of his trip to Bukhara, thought of the night, the unsettling, disturbing torch light over the heads of thousands of people, who dared  make demands on him, the khan of the Golden Horde. He thought of the fear which seized him back then in the streets narrow as loamy coombs... The retaliatory blow finally reached the rebels. He only regretted not being the one who arranged the massacre.
Seeing the khan silent, the ginger-haired henchman thought that he did not realized the importance of the even and said, “Perhaps they did it for the Golden Horde to have nobody to pay taxes?”
“This is true,” Berke agreed indifferently. “It was Alguy who controlled the craftsmen, anyway. They had been of no use to the Horde recently... Soon, we’ll have a lot of new slaves... Very soon…”
At that very moment, Salimgerey was getting farther and farther from the Golden Horde, exhausting horses completely.  He had fulfilled the khan’s assignment by preventing the Orusuts from killing Shelkene Baskak. But it was not to let him live that he saved him. Ageing, but still strong and broad-shouldered, the baskak with sullen-looking bushy eyebrows remained the dread for the nations conquered. His cruelty was outstanding even against the Mongol background. Wherever tax collectors serving to Shelkene Baskak appeared, huts burned, women and children screamed, and every living being which was reluctant to obey was reduced to ashes. Salimgerey believed that a man like that was not entitled to live. But he had to play for time.
When the Orusut land, where he could encounter Mongol troops prowling about, was left behind, Salimgerey sent one of his soldiers to Sarai to inform Berke of the successfully completed errand. 
That very night, the commander took Shelkene to the woods and cut him dead with his sword. At dawn, Salimgerey’s group of people loyal to him, directed their horses to the mountains. The commander knew that it would take Berke, deceived by his message of return, long to realize what had happened and to send somebody after them, so they would have enough time to go quite deep into the woods.
Salimgerey only ventured to flee only after hesitation. But it would be risky to stay in the Horde some more under the circumstances. The khan’s men were searching for the man dressed in black who stirred the slaves to provoke a rebellion. Nobody suspected Salimgerey yet, but the loop was getting tighter with each day, and he, being the head of the khan’s personal guard, was more aware of the fact than anyone else.
Rumor of a community opposed to mullahs, ishans, and khans who deceived and robbed common people which had allegedly appeared in Samarkand had reached Salimgerey. The name of the rebels’ leader was Tamdam. Salimgerey did not need any explanation to understand who it was.
The only regret of the commander was not implementing an old plan of his, that is, not killing Khan Berke. But it was obviously in the hands of Allah.
Salimgerey did not know that the face that he was to bring Shelkene Baskak was not the only reason why the khan was waiting for him. Both ends had finally met to form a circle. The khan’s men had already pointed him to the commander and found people to prove that he had participated in the slaves’ rebellion and the escape of Kolomon and Kunduz.
The land eastward from the Golden Horde was ablaze.
Having been defeated by Kubylay and realizing that he could not possibly cope with his brother, the great Mongol Khan of Karakorum Arik Bugi sent his tumens against another traitor, who was Alguy.  Kara Bugu and Asutay, a son of the late Mengu Khan, were commanders of the troops.
Alguy, who had been warned beforehand by emissaries, attacked Kara Bugi unexpectedly by the Lake of Sum. The noyonfell during the battle, and his troops were scattered around the steppe.
Satisfied by the easy victory, forgetting about precautions, Alguy ordered that his field tents be put up for a long rest by the muddy and rapid Il River. 
Alguy was punished severely for him carelessness. The second with of the Karakorum army headed by Asutay came upon Alguy’s camp like a mountain torrent after a swift night passage. The khan might very well have died. With a small army, he fled to East Turkestan.
Feeling encouraged due to his first success in the long struggle against his  enemies, Arik Bugi arrived to the Hollow of Il in late fall with a new army, intending to stay there for the winter and finish ruining Alguy as well as to win the land just lost back for Karakorum.
Arik Bugi was quick tempered, that is why his decisions were sometimes ill-thought. Here, on the bank of the cantankerous Il, he initiated a trial for those of Kara Bugi’s army who were alive. He took the life of many noyons mercilessly, blaming them for every failure.
Seeing the great Mongol khan to be so cruel, emirs of the nomadic tribes who had joined them at the beginning of his campaign, started finding various pretexts to abandon him after winter came.
That year showed a harsh winter. The Il Desert was bound with deep snow, and even Mongol horses, which were used to getting food under any conditions, started getting too thin. Keen frost and storm wind replaced the period of thaw. The condition of Arik Bugi’s army was getting graver with each day. Whatever the Mongols could need had been taken away from the locals, but it did not work. By the time spring came, he had lost most of his horses. A horseless Mongol is not a warrior – he is an easy catch to anyone who wants to get him.
Never, never since the glorious Genghis Khan gathered all Mongols under his nine-tailed white banner had the Mongol army been in a deadlock like that. Arik Bugi had to ask Kubylay for quarter and passed under the yoke.  
It was the second time that Kubylay granted quarter to his brother. He spared the life of Arik Bugi and Asutay, a son of the great Mongol khan Mengu, while the rest of the noyons who had been commanding the army were slaughtered. 
Alguy, who fled to East Turkestan, gathered a new army, married Ergene Khatun, the widow of Kara Kulagu whom he himself had sent away from Dzhagatay’s Ulus, and manifested his submission to Kubylay, thus admitting the latter to have power over him.
The time  the new ruler of Dzhagatay’s Ulus was being greatly favored by good luck, Ulketay’s army, having spent the winter in the Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe, appeared from the low reaches of the Itil and headed towards the cities of Syganak, Otrar, and Suzak.
From the opposite direction, Alguy sent his tumens to attack, feeling the support of his patron Kubylay…
***
The tidings of bale reached the khan in the morning, when he, having performed the rite of ablution, has finished his prayer.  A wounded messenger black with fatigue informed him that after a three days’ battle the army of the Golden Horde had been defeated, and the brave Ulketay had fallen in the battlefield.  In revenge for their impudence, Alguy had seized and ruined the city of Otrar, which belonged to the Golden Horde.
Ulketay’s defeat was a heavy blow to Berke, for it set back his ambitious plans. The start was very different from what he had expected. He needed at least a tiny victory to raise the morale of the warriors, to prepare them for hard battles.
Perhaps it was the will of Heaven? The swan he loved so much was dead. Was it divine guidance?
Berke knew that baleful news was going to attract a caravan of ill tidings. He was not mistaken. 
Soon he learned that Alguy had conquered Zhetysu, East Turkestan, Maverannakhr, a half of Kwarazm, and North Afghanistan. 
After Arik Bugi and Asutay surrendered, after his independence from Kubylay was announced, the entire territory of Genghis Khan’s empire but for the Golden Horde and Kulagu’s ilkhanate belonged to him. Kubylay was not the true great khan of the Mongols.
Grievous thoughts were haunting Berke. The number of his enemies was reducing, but the ones who remained were getting stronger and more powerful. There was Kubylay in the East. Kulagu in the South. They had many foreign enemies, but the Golden Horde was the sweet spot as well. To tell the truth, it was not the way it used to be in the time of Batu, it lacked the splendor, for its neighbors had already taken their bits, which happened to be the most lavish and densely populated areas, but still… Berke was sure that he would be able to gather an army once again. A mouth used to abundance and a hand used to generosity will never tolerate deprivation.
Another thing was worrying Berke. The rumor of Kubylay’s intention to announce himself Emperor of China had reached him. Who would prevent him, the great Mongol khan in China, from claiming himself to be no less that the glorious Genghis Khan, in which case every piece of land touched by the hoof of a Mongol land would be his realm? What would he do if it really happened?
Kulagu was a strong and cunning wolf as well. He was merciless and resolute in getting rid of the rebellious Georgians. If he defeated the Mamluks of Egypt headed by Beybars, the whole world would be divided between Kubylay and Kulagu. Then time would come to decide on the Golden Horde.
It was only now that the Golden Horde was darksome that Berke understood how hard it was to be a khan. Being arrogant and dreaming only of glory, he thought with a fearful feeling of what the future generations could say if the dropped the banner of the Golden Horde, of what the Chingizids, that is, descendants of the Rocker of the Universe would say to it.
One who takes a club which is too heavy is sure to get hit on the head with it. Could this happen to him? Should he regret ever getting onto the throne.
His mind, which had grown sophisticated in the long years, was looking for a solution, for a tiny loophole to discover, but everything was to no avail.
Berke had been coming to the lake of intimacy more frequently than usual in recent time. There was nothing to distract him from thinking, and nobody dared break the atmosphere peace and privacy. The khan disliked people, that was shy he had thought neither friendship nor advice. He knew that there was nobody to trust completely in the steppe. If you have achieved prosperity and glory, be careful, for you are surrounded by jealous enemies who pretend to be your enemies. 
Once, having come to the lake, the khan was astonished. There was not one swan swimming on the hyaline of the lake but three. Berke could not think of their probable origin. Could they be the younglings of the previous year who did not want to abandon the bird? If it was true, could there have been no people among the Chingizids, who were related to him by blood, to support him in the rough time? No, he had to look for a reliable ally. Even though Khan Tuli had three sons, the descendants of Genghis Khan were numerous, and some of them would definitely disapprove of the brother’s deeds as Berke did.
He thought of Ugedey’s grandson Kaydu at once. Why would it matter that he did not belong to Dzhuchi’s clan? He used to accompany Batu Khan in his campaigns against the Orusuts as a young man. He was a brave and intelligent warrior. Recently, he had been in possession in the land which lay between China and North Uigurstan. Kaydu was trying to refrain from getting engaged in the Chingizid’s feud, but he was nevertheless watching what was happening closely, for the ulus of Dzhagatay was close to his, and Alguy’s coming into greater power would be jeopardizing.  The basis of Kaydu’s army was the Bekrins and the Kypchak clans traveling around the land in his realm – the Uysyns, the Dulats, the Albans, and the Sybans. 
Kaydu was unlikely to show submissiveness towards Alguy, which would be inevitable if he felt that he had no deserving rivals.
He had to send a reliable man to Kaydu immediately and try to convince him to take his side.
Berke had always been superstitious. Those three swans… Perhaps it was a direction of his fate? He needed an alliance to last. He, Kaidu... But who was to be the third one?
Berke had been thinking of the third one since long before; the though first occurred to him even before he was enthroned in the Golden Horde. Dreaming of turning into a symbol of Islam, he had been following the events in Egypt with great care. The Mamluks could be the major support for him. They were Muslims and were in the state of a permanent feud with Kulagu, who supported Christians. 
If he managed to strengthen his relation to Beybars, neither Kulagu nor Alguy would be able to fight against the Golden Horde and the Mamluks.
The day when Berke saw the three swans in the lake brought him joy. As soon as he returned to the palace, Kaidu’s ambassadors arrived. Their head was the eighteen-year-old daughter of an ulus ruler named Kutlun Shaga. Her courage and military heroism had become legendary. Since she learned how to sit in the saddle and shoot the bow, Kutlun Shaga had been always accompanied his father in every campaign of his. She was beautiful, and the Mongols called her Angriam, that is, lucid as the moon.
Kutlun Shaga was not married, and malicious gossip had it that Kaidu’s love for her was not merely paternal.
After the feast, when Kutlun Shaga and the khan were left face to face, she named the purpose of his visit. Kaidu was asking for help in his struggle against Alguy.
In the morning, Berke called a zhaurynshy <A zhaurynshy is a fortuneteller who reads fortune with the help of a mutton shoulder.> to come and read the fortune of Kaydu. He said that Ksaydu’s campaign against Alguy would be successful.
After a week, Kutlun Shaga departed from Berke’s quarters with the right to gather a tumen of warriors in the land of the Golden Horde at the border to Dzhagatay’s Ulus.  Aygirim headed for his father’s ulus as the head of the army and a caravan loaded with costly presents. 
Less than a week had passed since the departure of Kutlun Shaga when Egyptian ambassadors arrived at Berke’s quarters.
As the result of their negotiations, they came to an agreement according to which Beybars was not only fight against Kulagu but also announce jihad – the sacred war of the entire Muslim world against the infidels. Berke Khan, being a steadfast Muslim and protector of the faith, would be its symbol in Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe.
The entire situation appeared excellent. Berke felt confident again, and the Golden Horde did not look trapped to him any more. It was time he considered not only foreign enemies but also domestic ones. The khan ordered that the announcement be made that anyone who brought him the head of Salimgerey, Kolomon, or Kunduz, would be rewarded generously.
At the same time, the runaways were getting farther and farther from the territory of the Golden Horde.  They were getting more numerous with each single day – runaway slaves of various nations were joining them.
Baleful tidings kept coming from Alguy’s domain. Having learned that the Mamluk had sent their ambassadors to the Golden Horde, the knew khan initiated a cruel reprisal against the Muslims. It had been long since a Chingizid last arranged a massacre like that – not only grown men, but also women and infants were slaughtered.  
That was the time  Alguy’s wife Ergene Khatun died, and he blamed the Muslims for her death.
The tidings were sad, but Berke found them encouraging. The more evil Alguy’s deeds were the more Muslims would seek protection from the Golden Horde, believing the khan to be their sole tower of strength.
But Alguy should not have been so sure of his power. Even strong wind will change its direction in the face of a storm. Kaydu, who had been lying low and waiting for his time to come in the mountains of Tarbagatay, was the storm.  He did realize that he had to take action, otherwise he would lose his ulus.
Kaydu was a courageous and forward-thinking warriors.  His joint campaigns with Batu had not been to no effect; he had learned many from the great khan.  Besides, his long-term service in Karakorum during the rule of Khan Mengu taught him how to analyze events and unravel the Chingizids’ schemes. Kaydu was well aware of the face that the greedy hands of Alguy and Kubylay would definitely stretch out for his ulus after some time if he did not take any preventive measures.  .
Long before, many warriors and noyons who still remembered the golden time of Genghis Khan, the glorious campaigns of his son Ugedey, and the sensible ruling of Khan Mengu, when the Mongol were one and descendants of the Ruler of the World would not dare  initiate a feud, got settled in Kaydu’s land. The sight of the Great Mongol Khanate decaying аnd previously united through an iron discipline Mongol clans taking sides with this and that Chingizid were vexatious to them. 
When Kaydu, preparing for his struggle against Alguy, turned to them for help, everyone who could hold weapons rushed to fight under his banner, and those who could not sent their children and grandchildren. Berkins, Uigurs, and Kypchaks joined the troops. Within a short time, he gathered an army quite capable of fighting against Alguy and Kobylay.  Largely consisting of old warriors, the troop exercised strict adherence to the law of Genghis Khan and were prepared to follow their leader no matter what. 
Kaydu had a smart and sensible way of managing tumens. Short, wide- and dry-face, still in rude health in spite of his age, he seemed to have taken nothing after his mother and had the typical Mongol appearance. Kaydu had neither a beard nor a moustache. There were only nine hairs on his bronze-colored chin, and he would constantly stroke them.
His father Kashi died of wine, being an addict. Kaydu did not even drink kumis. It was a rare case in the clan of Ugedey, whose children and grandchildren were drinkers. His temper was similar to those of Genghis Khan. His mind was always clear, and he would take his time to consider each single issue soberly, not trusting inspiration.
Just like his grandfather, he divided his army into camps and appointed a son of his to be the head of each camp.  The lager which stood in Kubylay’s way was headed by his second son Orus; his third son, Baykagar, had his troops dislocated at the border with the Golden Horde; the fourth son, Sarban, was to fight against Kulagu. Kaydu along with his first-born son Shapar and younger daughter Kutlun Shaga started his preparation for the first battle against Alguy’s army.
Good news were like wind driving cloud away from the south and east horizons of the Golden Horde. Berke Khan, feeling thankful to Allah for his grace, ordered that a large sacrifice be made – many heads of various cattle were slaughtered, and a toy <A toy is a celebration.> unparalleled in the Horde’s quarters was arranged.
The life is very much like the sky. It can be azure and radiant, but then clouds appear and obscure the sun, and the wind gets cold, and lightning flashes over the horizon, and thunder mutters. 
As soon as the celebration of Kaydu’s victories and Nogay’s accomplishments was over in the Horde, a messenger galloped his horse into foam to bring the intimidating news of a rebellion in the Orusut cities of Rostov, Yaroslavl, Suzdal, and Velikiy Ustyug. Their people would pay tribute neither to Karakorum, nor to the Golden Horde, nor to Khan Kubylay from Khanbalyk <Khanbalyk in the Mongol name of Beijin.>
The messenger said, “The fire can spread all over the Orusut land.” 
Perhaps he was right. It was not the first time that Berke had to face the Orusuts’ insubmissiveness, and he had always done his best to break their will so that it would last. But he had never seen four cities rise up at the same time. It did imply a risk of an enormous fire, and it would be hard to put it out.
Who of the Horde hates the Orusuts with all his heart? Whom should he send to their land with his Mongol sword to punish? Berkenzhar? But he was ill, and he could not cope with an errand like that. Perhaps it would be reasonable to do as Batu had done, that is, to set the princes at enmity? Being rather arrogant, some princes had found themselves trapped like that more than once.
No matter what khan was ruling, an Orusut rebellion was the thing that the Golden Horde had always feared most. With each year, more people were appearing who dreamt of uniting the disintegrated land and shaking off the abhorred yoke. Common folks would notserve  those princes who were inclined to serve  the Golden Horde.
The life of the Orusuts was hard and hardly bearable. Baskaks would come after devastating raids. The Horde would appoint the cruelest, the most merciless warriors for the position. Apart from head tax, the dependent princedoms were to give away one tenth of their yield and a half of the fur they produced. If somebody failed to provide what was required, the tax collector would bring the necessary things to the Horde’s treasury in order for the indebted one to return him the whole amount with some interest. If the debtor failed to pay off after the period of time agreed upon, he was to become a slave. Sometimes tax collection was performed with the help of trusted men of the local population. The Orusuts called such men besermens, while the Kypchaks gave them the name of kyrmans <Kyrmans is a name of an unclear origin. It could have been derived from the Kypchak word kyre, meaning to slaughter, or imply the fact of the tax being collected right on the field (kyrman means a field ).>
During the rule of Great Mongol Khan Mengu, a man named Pysyk Berke was sent to the land of the Orusuts to develop a proper procedure for tribute and tax collection. Guile and spiteful, he used to work for the Chinese named Elui Chutsai, Ugedey’s principal counsellor.
Pysyk Berke decided to arrange a population census as well as that of cattle around all Orusut principalities.  He demanded Novgorod, which was independent, to do the same. Its dwellers, who had been relieved from tribute and taxation during the rule of Khan Sartak, protested. But the circumstances were not favorable for them. German knights were still there at their borders, and it would be dangerous to spoil their relationship with Karakorum and the Golden Horde. Under pressure from the boyars, Novgorod decided on having a census.
Osurut cities were simmering with protests. A baskak named Kitak, having arranged his quarters in Yaroslavl, had been using Izosim, previously a monk, who had converted into Islam, was constantly tightening the tax and tribute loop around the Orusuts’ throat. Caravans of slaves had been sent to slave markets of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Istanbul. 
And now the cities were rebelling. It took Berke a long time to choose the one to harness them. Sauk was chosen. The khan was aware of his hatred for the Orusuts and this was sure that the old counselor would do everything in the proper manner.
***
An army of five thousand soldiers faced the walls of Rostov the Great at dawn.  It was the first city on its way where it was to show the power of the Mongol sword to the Orusuts.
Having ordered that field tents be put up, Saulk took a nap; when he came out of his white ten, the sun was shining against the gold of church domes.
Sauk did not look like a seventy year old man at that moment. His movements were agile, and the look of his eyes was clear and young. The day for him to take avenge on the Orusuts had finally come.
-“Call Kablan Noyon!” Sauk ordered.
An adroit henchman rushed to carry out the command with his crooked sword sheathed.
Sauk was lost in the contemplation of the city view. He had been waiting for this day for a long time. He had just been the quietest and least renowned man in the Golden Horde. Many people thought that Sauk might have become the title of the khan’s counselor accidentally. When advising the khan, he would never raise his voice if Berke disagreed with him or was displeased, in such case he would break off immediately. People thought that Sauk did not care for the decision which the khan made, but it was not true.
He had learned to conceal his thoughts perfectly well, but a tiny ember of hope had been smoldering in his soul.
Saul belonged to the offspring of Genghis Khan, of which everyone dreamt of power, of ruling nations, conquering new lands, and basking in glory. 
Saul realized that his purpose was hardly obtainable when he was sixteen. His father Kulkan fell in the battle to seize the Orusut city of Kolomna. His mother, Kulan Khatun, was Genghis Khan’s concubine. She had no memory of her clan or nation. It was clear that neither of the Chingizids whose mothers were wives and not concubines would yield to him; moreover, he had no maternal relatives to rely on in his future struggle for the throne in the Horde. If only his father was alive...
Little time had passed before Sauk realized that he had no special aptitude to distinguish him among the Chingizids. But his secret dream still haunted him, burning his heart down. He would think of his father again and again, believing that his life would have been very different if the Orusuts had not taken his life. His father had been a fearless warrior. At such moment, Sauk felt a savage hatred for the Orusuts and considered them to be the only ones to blame for his ruined plans and expectations. 
A new feeling set up in his mind after years – it was the wish to revenge his father and himself.  For the sake of this purpose, he never missed a campaign to the Orusut land.  But, lacking the natural gift of commandeering, he could not develop it. Sauk had headed troops three times, but the star of good luck had never been lit over his head. Three times, it was only his fast-running horse that saved him from seemingly inevitable death.
Batu and the rest of the Chingizids, seeing that Sauk was not ready for wars and raids, taking into consideration his morose and taciturn nature, decided to appoint him counsel so that he could stay at the quarters.
That was another defeat which ruined his hope for glory and power. Rage and despair seized Sauk. He was simmering and boiling, feeling a mocking undertone about every word and act of other Chingizids, but, being master of himself, pretended to feel very satisfied about the new appointment. However, he could not conceal his hatred for the Orusuts, kept recommending the khans to exterminate them on every pretext.
Now that could see an insubmissive Orusut city, a clear memory of Novgorod ambassadors coming to the Horde to see Khan Sartak occurred to Sauk. The bloody giaours had killed his father and were now hunting for him. It was then that he might very well have drunk the cup of poisoned wine offered by the ginger-bearded Svyatoslav.  If Sauk had known the wine to be poisoned, he would have never touched it. But it was the Orusut, his eyes, who was to blame. How spiteful his look he cast on the Mongols was! There was a challenge about his manners, and Sauk, who was seized with hatred as a result of it, overcame the fear which had never subsided in him and took the cup.
Today it is very different. There is no fear. He has five thousand bravest soldiers with their eyes shining with the anticipation of a battle to be fought soon and trophies to be obtained, ready to obey every single gesture of his, behind his back. Even though he was old, he had lived to feast on blood in commemoration of his father, who fell in the land of the Orusuts. He will trample down the cities unwilling to submit, reduce them to ashes, and they will never rise again to confront the Golden Horde.
It suddenly occurred to Sauk that it would be beautiful to get the ginger-bearded Orusut Svyatoslav some day. He would get him tell the reasons why he hated the Mongols so much. He would bring the poisoned wine to his mind...
Panting after running fast, clanking with his crooked sword, the corpulent Kablan Noyoncame up to the tent.
Sauk said, “Sending us on the campaign, the great Berke Khan ordered us to ask the Orusuts what they want before ruining the city. Take a hundred soldiers and go to them. If you feel like their desires contradict ours, call the Orusuts to fight us out of the fortress walls. If they don’t agree, tell them that we will ruin the city and put them to death.”
“Your wish is my command…” Kablan Noyonwent hurriedly to his soldiers.
He only came back at noon.
“I did fulfill your request…”
“Go on. I’m listening.”
“The Orusuts will come out of the city tomorrow at this time.”
For a moment, Sauk felt scared. Deep inside, he wanted the battle to happen and was afraid of it, for the bitter lessons of his youth had been kept intact in his memory.
“Didn’t they opt for submitting to us?”
“No,” Kablan Noyonbent his large heavy head down, “I couldn’t find out where the prince is. His men have been captured and thrown into a pit. The rabble is rebellious. The leader is a priest named Rostislav, whose council is an old man Svyatoslav who comes from Novgorod. They say they’re brothers. The rebels have put Kitak in chains, and Izosim, who converted to our face, has been put to death. The city dwellers said, “If you need Kitak, take him, but we won’t give you either tribute or taxes.” 
“What else did they say?”
“They demanded that we never send besermens to them.”
“What did you answer?”
“I said that they would never get what they wanted. I ordered them to free Kitak and stop the rebellion… Unless they do so, we will put them to death.”
“What was the response?”
“To die is better than to live a life like that,” Kablan Noyonwas silent for a moment. “I think that there is nothing to stop them?” 
“Are the enemies numerous?”
“No. Only dwellers of the city and those who have come from the nearest villages. Poorly armed...”
“What is your suggestion? What shall we do?”
“Why postpone what we can do now? We have to starts storming the city. If we don’t, who knows if there is any help from other cities? The Orusuts of today are not those of yesterday. I’ve seen it. One who has undressed won’t be scared to come into the water. The Orusuts have no variants, so we can’t beat about the bush.
“Let it happen,” Sauk agreed in an arrogant tone. “You have read my own thoughts.” 
There was a throaty scream over the Mongol’s camp. People started running about in a fuss. Horses were neighing in a disturbing and ear-shattering way.
“Go!” Saul ordered, “May the aruakh of the glorious Genghis Khan help us!” 
The storm was fierce and took little time. When the crimson moon rose over the black Orusut woods, the city was ablaze like an enormous bonfire. But the iron-to-iron clatter, the shriek of arrows, the neighing of horses, and the furious speech of those crossing their swords were being carried away to the distant stars even at night, which was lightened by the vermillion flames.  
Seeing that they could not resist the Mongols, the citizens killed Kitak and other hostages. They fought till the very end, feeling no fear for their lives, for they knew that death was their own chance to stop being slaves.
At dawn, Mongols drove everyone captured to the central square of the city. Black heaps of logs were smoldering around where huts used to stand, and the reeking smoke was rising to the albescent morning sky.  
Wounded, bleeding people were standing cuddled up, and Sauk failed to see anything but a savage, outrageous fatigue in their faces. 
He was sitting on the back of his horse and trying to find an indication of fear in the Orusuts, but there was none, which annoyed the Mongol greatly. 
Sauk was eyeing two old ginger-bearded men. Their bare gray-haired heads, heavyset and strong bodies, and postures suggested their not being common citizens. 
Saul strained his eyes. One of the men seemed familiar to him, and he pulled at the rein to come closer. He used the end of his whip to push his face up.
No, Sauk could not be mistaken. It was Svyatoslav, the one whom he thought about just before the battle began. A smile wrinkled his pale lips of an old man:
“You see, Orusut, we meet again.”
Not a muscle moved in the warriors bruised, swollen face.
“I know. This is our destiny…”
Sauk could not stand the heavy resentful look of Svyatoslav and averted his eyes. 
“Now you are to see what you have done. You have stirred the Orusuts. They are to pay their lives for that. This shall happen to everyone who dares fight against the Mongols.”
Svyatoslav did not answer. Sauk turned his horse round abruptly and came back to his previous stand from where he was going to retaliate.
Brawny soldiers were dragging captives out of the crowd, whoever came to hand.  Samuk was deciding on the kind of punishment himself.
“Slaughter him”, he was saying negligently. 
The mounted executioner, an old but sturdy Mongol was taking his crooked sword out of its sheath and rising in his stirrups to split the captive from a shoulder down to the waist with a slow blow. 
Kablan Noyonwas narrowing his eyes with a tut-tut of pleasure to manifest his approval after each artful blow.
Sometimes Sauk ordered for a change, “Kill him the Mongol way.”
In such case, other warriors were acting as executioners. They were grabbing the sentenced ones, throwing them onto the ground, and bending their spines so that the touched the nape of the heads. A short cry, the crackle of a broken spine – and they were dragging their dead bodies away.
“Slaughter him.”
“Kill him the Mongol way…”
Sauk’s short and calmly voiced orders were falling onto the doomed.
Sauk felt triumphant. Here it was, a proper revenge for his father, for his ruined life. Bloody Orusuts! He had only watched Mongol khans sentence people to death before, but on that day he was the one to do it. Let them tremble! Let the ones he was going to spare deliberately tell the others of his revenge and pass the name of Sauk to their descendants. The Orusuts had to submit, they had to remember for the rest of their life that they were destined to be slaves by Heaven and that they were to pay their lives for any kind of recalcitrance. 
The heap of dead bodies was growing higher and higher. The reek of burned houses and the smell of hot human blood filled the air over the square.
When the turn of the old brothers came, Kablan Noyonbent down and told Sauk, “These are the initiators of the rebellion. Rostislav ans Svyatoslav…”  
“I know,” Sauk seemed hesitant. “How many of our soldiers fell during the assault of the city?
“Two thousand.”
Sauk made a wry face, “Who of them is younger?”
“Rostislav… He’s sixty seven…”
“Put them next to each other…”
The warriors followed Sauk’s order. He stood for a long time staring the brothers in the face. “Do you love your younger brother a lot?” he suddenly asked Svyatoslav”.
“I do…”
“Good…”
Sauk grew thoughtful. He was thinking of an incident that took place twenty years before in Bishbalyk.
The Uigur emir Baurchin, being Christian, obeyed the order of Ogul Gaymysh, one of Ugedey’s wives, so he was to arrange a large massacre of Muslims in the land inhabited by Uigurs. Seyfutdin, being the head of Prophet Muhammad’s adherents, found out the fact. But what could he do? Only a miracle could save the Muslims.  At the will of Allah, it did happen.
Baurchin decided to go to Karakorum for another confirmation of the order received from Ogul Gaymysh herself, but Mengu was announced the great khan at that very time. Being aware of the new Mongol ruler’s tolerance in religious matters, Seyfutdin happened to be in advance of the emir and persuaded the khan to provide the Muslims with his protection.
Hardly had Baurchin arrived in Karakorum when he was arrested and thrown into a zindan. Emir kept denying his plans till Ogul Gaymysh admitted them. He was doomed.
Khan Mengu was the one who sentenced Baurchin to death. He ordered tha he be put to death in Bushbalyk, which he had ruled, so that the public could see it.
Oh! Sauk still had not forgotten the scene that he saw there. Only a Mongol, being a brave and merciless warrior, can think of such a thin.
Baurchin, handsome, slender, and swarthy as he was, was brought to the place of execution in chains. The crier announced the will of Khan Mengu to the people,
“The Uigur emir Baurchin shall be put to death for his criminal intention to slaughter the Muslims of Bishbalyk, who are utterly faithful to the great khan Mengu. His dearest person shall do it with the help of a knife. The one who does this shall be his successor.”
Two warriors placed Baurchin on the platform where the execution was to take place. That very moment, a young warrior with a black moustache, whose face resembled that of the emir greatly, came out of the crowd. He was his younger brother Urkenzhem. The crier who had shouted out the khan’s words gave him a knife. Executioners threw Baurchin down onto the platform and bound his arms and legs.
Urkenzhem, looking as if he was to slaughter a lamb, went on one knee next to his brother and gave the crier an expectant look. He nodded. Bending down to Baurchin’s face slowly and deliberately, Urkenzhem cut his throat with the large knife. Then he rose to his feet, sprinkled with blood, and looked at the crier vacantly again. He took a red chapan to symbolize the power of an emir from servants and put it around the killer’s shoulders, while on his head he put a borik trimmed with marten fur.
Being used the Mongols’ cruelty, the people had never seen anything of the kind. The crowd was struck numb, and only several tremulous voices tried to shout, “May your glory grow, Emir!” 
The new emir gestured to the executioners to take his brother’s body away and rode a black ambler with silver-ornamented harness to the city in advance of his henchmen.
Indeed, one cannot forget a scene like this. Sauk felt as if he had been through it again.
“We have already met,” he said to Svyatoslav, “Do you remember out sitting at the same dastarkhan back when Khan Sartak was alive? I would like to spare your life in memory of this time. But your guilt is heavy, and I cannot but punish you, - Sauk broke off for a moment, eyeing Svyatoslav. “You will have to strangle your younger brother with your own hands. He’ll be killed anyway. If you do as I tell you to do, you’ll stay alive – you can trust me...”
The old warrior dropped his head and was silent for a long time. A muddy tear went down his weather-beaten face.
“Let it be as you wish,” he said in a low voice. “Order your warriors to release my hands.” 
Sauk was triumphant. The Orusuts had never seen anything of the kind. Let them remember the day forever. Can it be any other way in the sublunary realm? Who will want to give his life instead of someone else, especially if the latter is doomed? One’s fear for oneself is stronger that the feeling of shared blood. Even the Chingizids, being chosen people, observed the law.
The revenge which Sauk invented for Svyatoslav was dreary. People would never forgive him for killing his brother, and that once strong warrior was doomed to wander about as an outcast for the rest of the years which he was to live.
Only disgrace can be more dreadful than death. There is nothing to wipe it out; neither deeds nor words can help. So let Svyatoslav live after he has fulfilled the stipulation, but the light of day will turn into the dark of night to him, and the lowest murmur will make him run deep into the woods like a wild animal, fat from people, roads, and pathways. The living dead will wander around the Orusut land, terrifying everyone who dares think of rebelling.
Sauk’s eyes were glowing vindictively.
“Let him loose!” he ordered to the henchmen.
They hurried to carry out the order.
The old warrior stood facing Sauk as he had been standing, head down, rubbing his hands, which had grown blue under the pressure of hairy rope.
“Come on!” he said impatiently.
Svyatoslav thrust his head up. For a moment the eyes of the two old man, the Orusut and the Mongol, met. Suddenly Svyatoslav darted forward. The red Chapan of Sauk flashed in the air like a bird’s wing as he fell off his horse.
It happened so rapidly that none of the henchmen had time to bare their swords or at least move. When they finally rushed to tear the Orusut away from Sauk, it was all over. What had been done was awful. The Mongol was lying on the damp ground pitted with horses’ hooves, and his Adam’s apple was crushed and all crumpled.
“Out of my way! Out of my way!” Kablan Noyonshouted, pushing his enormous wide-chested stallion at Svyatoslav.
The henchmen shrunk, bringing their hands up to cover their faces in terror. There was a furious shriek, and the morning sun saw a crooked Mongol sword gleam sharply...
***
The great khan of the Golden Horde was triumphant. Nogay’s tumens, easily overcoming the enemy’s resistance, had been moving deeper into Azerbaijan. It took Kablan Noyonseveral weeks to teach the Orusuts a lesson – he burned the rebellious cities down to the ground and poured blood onto their ground.  The most welcomed Kutlun Shaga came to the quarters from the upper reaches of the Il River. 
Who should jubilate if not the khan whose courageous warriors glorify his name with their victories?
The khan was not supposed to ever be in ill humor, for Heaven had given him all the joy that was in the world. Let blood be spilled, let slaves cry over their burned homes! Why would he care? The heart of the true Mongol must jubilate at seeing blood and tears!
Casualties never matter. What does the death of those who won him the victory mean? Why would one think that there is someone to lament for the fallen ones? The will be replaced by other people, young and strong, and they will serve the khan with all faith and loyalty and obey  any wish and order of his. 
“The dead ones will be forgotten, but victories will live through centuries,” said the glorious Genghis Khan, who was never afraid or hesitant. If it was otherwise, the Mongols would have never become the most powerful of the nations.
Berke was waiting for new accomplishments; thus, Kutlun Shaga’s visit was both pleasing and frustrative to him. His feeling for the young woman, which were burning him again and more destructively,  clashed with his intention to send her to her father’s ulus with a new army so that she could help him against Alguy. 
But this time Kutlun Shagu seemed to lack her cautiousness. By the time she reached the upper reaches of the Il River with the army which Khan Berke had given her, it was too late. Many things had changed while she was indulging in passion.
The vain and hot-tempered Alguy, who had once been defeated by Kaydu, could not accept the fact. He gathered a new army, which he sent against his army commanded by Musabek, the emir of Samarkand and Bukhara. 
Again the battle took place by the yellow Il River. The opponents crossed their swards on a slightly hilled plain red in the violent sunlight.  The landscape seemed to favor Kaydu’s Kupchak cavalry, but the latter was no more as powerful as it had been, for the warriors had grown much fewer in previous battles, and Kultun Shaga still was not coming back after visiting Khan Berke to bring some back-up.
It was too late to retreat. Relying on the mere will of Allah, Kaydu sent his tumens to meet those of Alguy… 
The battle was short but violent. Kaydu along with what remained of his army had to flee.
That was the time  chance interfered with the Chingizids’ controversy. On a hot day, Alguy died suddenly of heart rupture.
The violent fight for power in Dzhagtay’s Ulus took a new turn. Those who had just won the victory could not care about Kaydu any more. A son of the late Ergene Khatun, Mubarekshah, announced himself to be the new khan after having gathered an army and massacred his relatives. 
At the same time, Kaidu, who had finally received the long-awaited aid from Berke, used it to upgrade his army and set to the final conquering of Zhetysu.
The caravan of life was moving forwards without a break. The caravanbashi mysterious and unfathomable to people, whose name was Fate, was always taking new roads and new directions.
In the year of the Pig, in the year of feud and enmity between the descendants of Genghis Khan’s son, Yesen Tyube, born to Mutigen, Dzhagatay’s son, was murdered.  His children – Barak, Momun, and Basar, were reared in China with Kubylay Khan. Barak was the smartest and the boldest of them.
Great Khan Kubylay, being displeased at the fact that Mubarekshah had obtained Alguy’s throne willfully, without his consent, ordered Barak to head for Dzhagatay’s Ulus, which he was to rule jointly with the self-announced khan.   When Kybulay’s messenger arrived at Mubarekshah’s quarters to see that the new khan had set himself up and would not consider the idea of joint ruling, he chose the wise way – he concealed the true reason of his visit and, disguising his emotions, asked Mubareshah humbly to let him rule the former aymak of his father, which lay on the banks of the Seykhun River.
The new ruler of Dzhagatay’s Ulus granted the wish to his relative. Having arrived at the ulus, Barak did as the wise Kaydu had done – he was making considerable efforts to gather people loyal to him, his dearest and nearest, under his banner.
He was secretly growing his power, drawing influential noyons over to his side. When Mubarekshah, whom found Barak’s actions intimidating, sent his army against him, the latter met his warriors near Khojent; the rough battle brought him victory. Mubarekshah was taken prisoner Having been the khan for less than a year, he was deprived of his power and had to yield the throne to Barak.
Barak now owned the entire treasury and power of the ulus. Just like the rest of the Chingizids, he would not share it with anyone. That was the reason why he treated the one who had so recently been his patron without a trace of fear or respect.
Kybulay, who had been keeping an eye open for Barak’s actions, decided that it was time to take down his relative, for he had obviously crossed the line and forgotten to whom he owed his unexpected and rapidly obtained success.
The great Khan of North China, which included a part of Mongolia as well, had keep the land of Dzhagatay’s Ulus in leash to make his most cherished dream come true. Kubylay was hoping to be another glorious Genghis Khan, that is, to unite all pieces of land conquered by the Mongols and rule them with his strong and powerful hand. That was the reason why he sent an army of six thousand select Mongol warriors against Barak.  
But the new khan remained unintimidated and headed his thirty thousand army against them. The troops sent by Kubylay did not accept the challenge and retreated to their domain. Kubylay decided to postpone the revenge. The events in China claimed his attention, distracting him from the western borders for some time. And Barak, feeling triumphant about his accomplishment, defeated Khotan completely and sent his tumens to Maverannakhr.  
Life seemed to him carefree, sheer joy and victory. The largest and the most powerful of his neighbors was the Golden Horde, but Khan Berke did not seem to be going to interfere with the affairs of Dzhagatay’s Ulus. Neither Kubylay nor Kulagu, who were lost in their own business, had apparently left Barak to himself. But the tranquility was merely external.
While the race for power was shaking the ulus, Kaydu conquered the entire Zhetysu and went as far as the bank of the Talas River, which was in immediate proximity to Barak’s land. That was a proper threat. Encouraged by his easy-won victories, the new khan sent his army against Kaydu’s tumens.
In the middle of Zheltoksan <Zheltoksan is December.>, their armies crossed their swords on the banks of the Talas River. Kaydu was ill, and one of his sons was directing the battle. Suffering a reversal of fortune, he lost many warriors of his and had to retreat. But Barak failed to pursue his defeated enemy as well. The wind grew unexpectedly heavy and cold, the weather grew freezing cold, and his tumens, being used to the favorable warm winter od Maverannakhr and Kwarazm, had to leave Zhetysu. 
As Barak returned to his ulus, he was strongly assured that he would face Kaydu again next summer and get rid of his dangerous neighbor. But his plans never came true. Being concerned about Barak’s daily growing power, the Golden Horde sent an army of fifty thousand warriors to help Kaydu. Kypchaks and Alans, who made the most of it, set off for Dzhagatay’s Ulus; they were accommodated to the severe climate and had sturdy steppe horses. They were headed by an experienced commander, Berkenzhar, the brother of the khan of the Golden Horde. 
Nogay had nearly finished conquering Azerbaijan. Snow-bound Orusut cities were silent in the woods, and they seemed to have given up the very idea of rebelling against the Golden Horde. And still Berke was not to taste the winy fruit of victory.
While his tumens were preparing for a battle against Barak, the khan’s middle wife died, and he married the young Akzhamal, a beautiful woman with large eyes which resembled those of a camel.  He was born to an Argyn bay who owned all the countless herds of horses wandering about the vast Kypchak Steppe. Berke was waiting for glad tidings.
But he already had a misfortune making circles above his head like a bird of prey, and the khan of the Golden Herd was not aware of its being so near. 
***
Kolomon was only ten years old when he first heard about the Mongols. He was living in the land of Armenians, where his father, a famous Roman architect, was building one of his monasteries.  
Terrifying rumors could be heard in cities and villages. People at the market would listen to the stories of wild horseback riders who came galloping on short-maned horses from where the sun rises, and their jaws would drop with astonishment. 
The rumors were rapidly spread and vague as if it was the wind that had brought them. People would open their eyes wide at hearing them, but nobody believed that the much-feared warriors would ever come to their country with its deep gorges and valleys. 
Kolomon’s father kept working on the monastery, and the boy would spend most of the day with him. He would marvel at the miraculously sparkling paint which his father used for his frescoes, and he could sit for a long time watching stonemasons do their work with surprising craft and knack. Father taught his son the harmony of lines and reveal whatever the boy wanted to know to him. 
But once the enigmatic Mongols appeared in the foreland of the Caucasus. The rumors ceased to be rumors and turned into an awful truth.
Mongol tumens commanded by Subedey and Dzhebe Noyonheaded for North Iran via Kwarazm. The cities of Khar, Zendzhan, and Kazvin were set ablaze one by one. Terrified at the sight of their conquerors’ cruelty, people of Khamadan bribed the Mongols with a load of gifts.
Having spent the winter near the city of Rey, which had something for the cavalry to feed on, the Mongols invaded Azerbaijan as soon as spring came. They did not encounter any significant resistance there and soon directed their horses to Georgia. The Georgians united with the Armenians to send a twenty thousand army against foreigners. They were commanded by Lasha the King of Georgia and Atabek Ivane.  
Near the city of Ani, a horrible battle took place. That was the time  the Mongols resorted to their much-favored trick. While Dzhebe was ambushing with five thousand soldiers, Subedey took the main blow.  The outcome was seemingly obvious – the Mongol troops were retreating. It was only when the battle array of the Armenian and Georgian army was broken that Subedey’s cavalry turned to face them again, while Dzhebe attacked the rear part. 
Having suffered great casualties, Lasha and Ivane had to retreat. But neither the Georgians nor the Armenians had been bent yet.
The god of war Sulde had not turned away from the Mongols yet, but misfortune was approaching. Then the wise Subedey, as if anticipating it, ordered his troops, who were carrying the heavy burden of trophies, to head for the north.
Having ruined Shemakha, the Mongol tumens stopped facing the walls of Derbent. The unassailable fortress standing on a mountain obstructed their way to the Kypchak Steppe.  Derbent, which had been founded in the 5th century during the rule of the Sasanids, now belonged to the Shirvan Shahs.  The fortress was thoroughly secured and went under the name of the Iron Gate. There was no single man who could pass it either northwards or southwards.
The Mongols, whose rear rows were under pressure of the Georgians and the Armenians, were trapped. 
Then they sent an ambassador to the ruler of Derbent. Subedey and Dzhebe were asking for peace and alliance and offering to pay generously for the permission to pass through the Iron Gate.
Derbent felt hesitant. Ten most noble men of theirs went to the Mongols to hold negotiations. Sugedey ordered that they be captured, and one of them was slaughtered right in front of the others’ eyes. 
Those who survived were ordered to take the by-road. Otherwise they would all be put to death.
Having avoided a total defeat, the Mongol tumens reached the North Caucasus through steep mountains and trails which were barely visible.  The way of Subedey and Dzhebe’s army was long and washed in blood spilt till they finally returned to their Mongol steppe, to the banks of the Onon and the Kerulen… 
The invasion did not affect the young Kolomon. His family was hiding behind the reliable walls of Ani, which the Mongols failed to conquer. But few years had passed before he was to witness dreadful events; blood was being spilt again, and the sun was black with smoke of incineration.
Kolomon was as old as eighteen back then. The disaster did not spare him that time. His father was prisoned by Kwarazm warriors and turned him into a slave; his mother died. 
Kolomon was left alone, but he had already embraced the secrets of architecture and knew how buildings should be constructed. He built monasteries and churches just as his father used to do.
There was no peace at the borders of the Georgian and Armenian land. Vehement battles interrupted periods of peace, and the evidence of a storm approaching was growing more and more obvious. People felt constant fear; the shadow of the disaster had already spread its wings over the Caucasian Mountains. 
Soon after Subedey and Dzhebe returned from the Kypchak Steppe, the glorious Genghis Khan died aged seventy two.  Realizing that his days were numbered, the Rocker of the Universe expressed his desire – he wanted his third son Ugedey to be his successor.
In the year of the Horse (1235), the new Mongol khan summoned all descendants of Genghis Khan for the great kurultai.  
The decision was to carry on Genghis Khan’s engagement and send the fearless Mongol tumens to the Orusut land and to East Europe. Batu Khan was commanding the major part of them. Another branch of the Mongol army headed by Zhurmagun was to conquer back the Caucasus.
According to the kurultai’s decision, Batu was appointed to be the lashkarkashi of the entire army.  Zhurmagun became the laskarkashi-tama.  He was to stay in the conquered countries forever after the campaign was over. That was the reason why soldiers belonging to his troops took their families along. A huge train of arbas and heavily loaded camels was following Zhurmagun’s troops.
He commanded forty thousand warriors, that is, four tumens.  Genghis Khan’s concubine Altynay Begim participated in the campaign along with Zhurmagun. 
The great khan Ugedey’s instruction for the lashkarkashi-tam was as follows, “Always send us pure yellow gold, gold-embroidered silk, moonlight pearls, red corals, long-necked horses, brown nar camels, thick-haired Khachidet camels, load-carrying asses, and Luusit donkeys which are capable of carrying light weight.” 
The following year, which was the year of the Ape, Zhurmagun accompanied by the large caravan, women, and children, reached the Caucasus.
Near Atrpatakan he defeated the army of Dzhalal ad Din. The Kwarazm commander was killed.
It took Zhurmagun six long years to fully conquer the Caucasus. Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Alans, Osetins, and Circassians were resisting the invasion violently. Each city was turned into a fortress, to conquer which took the Mongols a long time.
One of such battles changed Kolomon’s life abruptly. He was twenty three when the invader’s noose tore him out of the saddle.
According to the law established by Genghis Khan, all prisoners were apportioned between his descendants. Kolomon happened to be propriety of Mengu Temir, and he was to go to the Golden Horde. According to the will of the Rocker of the Universe, the North Caucasus was to belong to the Golden Horde.
The Mongols directed their horses to Lesser Asia. In one of the battles, Zhurmagun was wounded, lost the ability to hear, and soon died. Karkorum appointed Baizhu to be the new lashkarkashitam. He was just as resolute and cruel as his predecessor. The tumens galloped against the Seljuks of the Sultanate of Rum at his discretion.
Emir Key Khosrov II cooperated with the king of the Cilician Armenians to gather an enormous army of two hundred thousand employed soldiers, among whom there were Greeks, Arabs, Franks, Armenians, and Kurds. The enemies crossed their swords between the cities of Karin and Yerznka.  Thirty thousand Mongol cavalrymen did what had seemed to be impossible – the emir’s army was defeated, and the Sultanate of Rum ceased to exist. Its capital, the prosperous Xeria, which lay on an ancient caravan route, was plundered and ruined.
The Cilician King Getum I, having witnessed it and willing to save his people, manifested his submission to the Mongols voluntarily, gave them a big guy-out, and promised to provide troops for Baizhu at the latter’s order.
In the year of the Pig (1256), Tuli’s third son Kulagu was appointed to rule Caucasus and Iran, the third biggest ulus in the empire of Genghis Khan.
Soon, tidings of bale were brought – Khan Mengu had died in the distant Mongol steppe. The instruction of Genghis Khan held it that Kulagu was to go to Karakorum immediately and participate in the funeral. He did. He chose Kit Bugi Noyonto command his army for the time of his absence. 
The Mamluk Kutuz, commander of the Egyptian army, found the time to be favorable and defeated Kit Bugi’s army in Ayn Zhumit.
He never tasted the wine of victory to the full. After coming back to Egypt, he was stabbed dead by his former slave, the Kypchak Beybars, who announced himself the sultan.
The khan of the Golden Horde, Berke, sought alliance with the new sultan. Beybars was a Muslim and treated the infidel in a most cruel and merciless way; besides, he was Kulagu’s enemy, which was the key factor.
Kulagu’s rule was an age of cruelty. He was always at war, the burden of which rested on the shoulders of subject nations. Taxes beyond toleration and the necessity to take part in his campaigns brought about constant stirrings and rebellions against the Mongols. He had to send troops to oppress the rebels every once in a while. The situation at the borders of his new ulus was disturbing – Beybars was waiting for a good opportunity to attack.
That was the time  Berke, claiming that the Caucasus was to belong to the Golden Horde under the will of Genghis Khan, ordered Nogay to enter Azerbaijan with an army of twenty thousand soldiers.
Khan Kubylay of North China sent thirty thousand warriors to help Kulagu, for he realized that his brother was in a tight corner.  
How would Kolomon, Kunduz, and Salimgerey have known it? Their horses were carrying them towards Azerbaijan, and they were absolutely sure that the distance between them and the Golden Horde, which they hated with all their being, was growing larger. It seemed to them that the land which Berke Khan could not reach was very close. How would they have known...
***
Ilkhan Kulagu, who was the ruler of the Caucasus, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, had seen many beautiful cities, but he had never felt a slightest desire to settle in any of them. He was Mongol to the bone. In winter, he would go to the steppe with his men, and in summer he would go up to the blossoming mountain valleys to choose a place by a river where the yurts of his headquarters were to be put up. 
Among the descendants of Genghis Khan, he was the only one to follow his grandfather’s instructions religiously. None of Kulagu’s offspring owning Iran dared violate the Mongol custom. It was only senior wives of their rulers who could be given the name of Khatun, and only children born by them could inherit the power. Starting with Genghis Khan, his descendants would only take Tatar women of the Konurat, Nayman, Kerey, or Oyrat clans to be their senior wives.  Children born to such families were unusually quick-witted and brave. Genghis Khan’s Konurat wife gave birth to Dzhuchi, Dzhagatay, Ugedey, and Tuli. Ordu, Batu Khan, Mengu, Kulagu, Kubylay, Arik Bugi, and Mengu Temir also had the blood of those clans running in their veins. 
Ergene Khatun, a sister of the Nayman Noyonnamed Buka Temir, was Dzhagatay’s dearest daughter-in-law. She ruled the ulus long after her husband Kara Kulagu died.
***
In early summer of the year of the Mouse (1264), Kulagu ordered that the Horde’s tents be put up near the city of Tebriz, for there were numerous clear creeks with cold water.
The ilkhan was going through a rough time. Beybars and Khan Berke were stretching their strong hands to strangle him. Both of them had a long-cherished dream of getting rid of Kulagu.  There was a certain turbulence in the land subject to him as well. People’s discontent was growing, and the flame of rebellion would claim the khan’s yurt every once in a while.
Kulagu was far from being timid. He had fought for power his entire life. He came to know that there was nobody and nothing to get the Khanate really unsteady as long as he had his most reliable club – a powerful and faithful army. The club would save anyone who knew the art of using it. The latest events had showed that the ilkhan still remembered it.
The ilkhan felt sick. It had been more than a year since the illness claimed his body, but he had been trying hard to resist it and avoid spending his days in bed with his axe hung up.
In early spring, Kulagu visited the army which was preparing to fight against Nobay, who was approaching from the North Caucasus. It largely consisted of warriors whom Kubylay had sent to him. He assigned his army to Toguz Khatun’s brother. They were to fight against Beybars.
The lashkarkashi of the Golden Horde Nogay did not choose the road once taken by Sudebey and Dzhebe to reach the land of Azerbaijan. Nogay sent his swiftly galloping tumens along the northern bank of the Khazar Sea, which eventually led them to Derbent. 
Kulagu had not expected the lashkarkashi of the Golden Horde to take such risks, for the Iron Gate had one very nearly turned into a cemetery for the Mongol army, which could have fallen there under the pressure exerted by the Georgian king.
But that was exactly what Nogay did. Making use of the frosty winter, he led his troops across the Shirvan Clove, crossing the Derbent River on ice, and defeated the unintimidating first troops of sent by the ilkhan.
Nogay’s actions did strike a warning note to Kulagu, for only an experienced and decisive warrior could have taken such a bold plan; he sent a large army against him.
But Nogay seemed reluctant to engage in battles after he had conquered Derbent. What was preventing him from doing so remained obscure. It occurred to the ilkhan that the lashkarkashi might be waiting for some aid to come from the Golden Horde, and made another mistake. He sent a part of his army, that is, Georgians and Armenians, who were used to fighting in the mountains and possessed every skill, to help his father. That was the time  Nogay sent his tumens against Kulagu, as if he had been waiting for the opportunity deliberately. While staying in Derbent, his warriors had learnt the art of dismounted action and city wall assault, so Nogay did not have to make any great efforts to break the neck of the small fortresses on his way.
The realization of his mistake made ilkahn, who had not expected Nogay to go any further without additional troops, feel bitter. He hurried to stand in his enemy’s way, but it was too late. The lashkarkashi’s swift tumens had already reached the Shirvan piedmont plainsm which meant that Nogay’s cavalry was again in advance of Kulagu’s army, which mainly consisted of dismounted warriors.
Experienced as he was, Kulagu still lost the first battle, and only the additional troops which arrived in time spared him a total defeat.
The ilkhan returned to his quarters, exhausted and infuriated. It was the first time he was defeated so badly, and the realization of it suggested the bitter thought that his army was not as strong as it used to be. It used to consist of nomadic nations: Mongols, Kypchaks, Turkmen Seljuks,  and other Dzheykhun tribes. They were reliable soldiers. The locals, though bent to submission, could never make a true support for the invaders.
Kulagu’s anxiety concerning the future was growing. He thought of every noyonhe knew. There was none to match Subedey and Dzhebe, who once taught him to conquer nations and countries, in terms of military talent.
He had Saridzha, Buralgi, Zagan... But they were not nearly as good as Genghis Khan’s or Ugedey’s noyons. The latter had the power of destroying mountains and turning stones to dust. Zhirmagu was dead, and Baizhu had departed from that world.
Baizhu the Noyon... It was his own tongue what killed him. Once he sent his tumens to Bagdad, and then he got the entire Iraq tremor. He made a cat’s paw out of Georgians ans Armenians but wanted to be the one to enjoy the glory.
It assaulted the honor of Kulagu and the rest of the Chingizids.
The ilkhan tried to take the noyondown, but it was to no avail. Then Baizhu’s words reached Kulagu, which held that the entire army would follow the former at his sole discretion, leaving nothing of the ilkhan’s Horde. That was the last straw. Kulagu ordered taht the noyon be killed.
It was only now that the absence of evidence struck him. Perhaps those who envied him belied him.  But he had no time for thinking back then since the warriors did love Baizhu, he was the laskarkashi-tam and knew generosity to be the key to his noyons’ hearts.  He was punished.
How badly he needed Baizhu now that each single day could bring Nogay to the walls of Shemakhi, which would mean his controlling the greater part of the Caucasus, and nobody would dare say if there was a possibility to ever get if back.
The army of forty thousand soldiers which once came with him from the banks of the Kerulen had got fewer in campaigns and battles. Many Mongols had married local women and got accommodated to the local custom.
Khan Kubylay gave him three additional tumens, but how many of the warriors were truly Mongol? Even the few of them who were had to be separated – some were sent against Nogay and some against Beybars. 
The symptoms of his disease were growing more and more disturbing, and Kulagu was thinking of someone to appoint the commander of the troops to resist Nogay.
He would consider each noyonlying awake at night, comparing their metirs. The commander had to be experienced, cunning, quickly reacting, and confident regardless of the circumstances.  Baizhu would have been a great help...
Suddenly Kulagu thought of his son, the temnik Adak. He was hesitant, for he did not know whether the young man’s heart was being incinerated by a desire to revenge for his father’s death. Was he waiting for the moment when he could give the ilkhan tit for tat? But Kulagu reassured himself at once, since he knew that a brilliant career and the ruler’s favor could tame of fire in the mind of one who dreams of respect and glory. Genghis Khan’s descendants had a gift of finding the softest spots of peoples’ minds, turning their bitterest enemies into their faithful servants.
Kulagu’s favorite wife, Tiguz Khatun, entered the tent.  The ilkhan could not help admiring her smooth gait and her fresh brown face. Toguz Khatin was only thirteen when his father Tulli chose her to be his concubine. Thirty years had passed, but Toguz Khatun’s beauty and charm remained untarnished.
Having come up to the ilkhan, she went on her knees at his feet and looked him in the face worriedly, “Great Khan, do you feel unwell?”
Kulagu passed his hand across his face in a weary gesture. Indeed, the disease had been increasingly disturbing recently. He felt light-headed every morning, and a disgusting languor crept upon his body. He gave Toguz Khatun a gentle glance and smiled wryly, “I don’t think I’ll ever feel good again…”
Toguz Khatun was looking at the ilkhan with anxiety.
“If I could take your illness from you, I would do it without a moment’s hesitation…”
Kulagu trusted that woman. She had never lied to him. They had always shared their joy and grief.
“It’s the wrong way for you to be ill,” the Ilkhan said softly. “You’d better tell me the Horde’s news.”
“Time has been merciful to us so far,” Toguz Khatun said. “Everything is the same. Your troops have captured some Kypchaks who escaped from the Golden Horde in the mountains. They say there is a famous Roman architect among them. He can build palaces and churces. And his wife...”
“Who said? He did?”
“No. People who know him did.”
“Why did they run away from Khan Berke?”
“It’s quite clear with the Roman – he’s missing his motherland; the same with the woman. Love can take you anyone. As for the Kypchaks, ask them yourself…” 
“Alright. I’ll come out to them.”
Toguz Khatun smiled in a sly manner.
“The Great Khan is getting older… He did not ask a question about the woman…”
“The time is over,” Kulagu said with a frown.
The ilkhan had always had a reserved and brief way of talking, but today Toguz Khatun saw his sunken eyes and hollow cheeks, and she realized that Kulagu was severely ill and hardly cared for worldly pleasures. She felt a deep compassion for her master.
Kulagu flung on his chapan and left the tent.
The prisoners were standing very close to each other, and the henchmen guarding them forced them to go on their knees with heavy blows of sword sheaths as soon as the khan’s foot stepped onto the colorful carpet spread by the entrance. Though Kulagu did not enquire about the woman, she was the first one whom he saw, since she resembled a white swan surrounded by geese. The ilkhan cast an indifferent glance on the others and rested his eyes on the Roman. The Roman had unusually wide muscular shoulders and a finely shaped face, though he was wearing Kypchak clothes like the rest of the prisoners.
Kulagu was suddenly seized with fury. He had hated people who ran away from their khans for his whole life. They were not the kind of man to trust in anything. The fact that they had betrayed their previous owner only proved that they would easily turn their backs on the new one.  The ilkhan believed runaways to be unworthy of life. He did not care about the reasons which made them leave their khan, whether it was unbearable living, homesickness, or anything else.  
Kulagu hated Berke, but he still was the khan. What can be more dreadful and degrading than to betray one’s khan? Who can be sure that the runaway will not bear grudge against the one who gives him food and protection and plunge a dagger into his bosom? Prisoners of war must die. All of them. That was the will of Genghis Khan.
The more severe Kulagu’s disease was getting, the more sullen he felt and the less tolerance he had for others. Now he would give orders to kill people oftener than before. It felt as though by killing others the ilkhan was obtaining more days for himself. No Chingizid has ever felt an urge to do good to anyone who would stay to live in this world or ask the god which he used to believe in to forgive him knowing that his days were numbered. The ilkhan was no exception. He was obviously trying to bribe the death which was standing at his bed by killing others.
Kulagu looked at the woman again. Her astonishingly long raven braided hair onto the trampled ground and looked like two shiny straps of silk.  The ilkhan had never seen even a Persian woman – the long-necked nation was renowned for its beautiful women - have such hair.
For the first time in the long time of his being ill, a salacious thought struck him, “I wish I could wrap that hair around my hand!..”
The sudden attack of desire made the khan narrow his eyes. His heart faltered, and he turned away and headed for the tents, where he usually addressed the Horde’s affairs, without giving any order as for what was to be done to the prisoners.
The henchman who was standing by the entrance opened the ivory-inwrought carved door to the khan. Kulagu went through three interconnected tents quickly and sat down on a carpeted raised platform. But then, seeing his vizier El Eltebir, he ordered, “Call Adak Noyon.” 
The henchman who was standing at the passage from the third to the second one shouted, “Let Adak Noyonin!”
Guardians were passing the ilkhan’s order on, “Let Adak Noyoncome it…”
Adak was a true Mongol – short, nearly square-shouldered, he had a sparce beard on his flat. He commanded a thousand warriors in Kulagu’s army.
He was afraid to learn that the ilkhan wanted to see him.
Only three years had passed since Kulagu ordered that his father Baizhu be put to death. However, the young noyoncould not think of anything he could be guilty of. He had been exercising a faithful and honest service appropriate to a noyon, like his father had taught him. A very short while ago, when the army had lost its courage and was about to flee in disorder from the battlefield, he was charismatic enough to instill in them confidence and make them believe in victory. The ilkhan, who saw it with his own eyes, presented the noyonwith a gold handle dagger.
And still it would be difficult to tell what was on Kulagu’s mind. He used to be friends with his father, which did not prevent him from killing the latter. The ilkhan’s mind was like a foxhole. It had many turns and curves, and nobody could tell where his thoughts would lead him.
Approaching the platform on which Kulagu was sitting with brisk walks, Adak fell onto one knee and bent his head, pressing his hand against his chest, “Great Khan, I have arrived at your order...”
Kulagu was studying the young noyonsilently. His head was still bent, and he could see his suntan neck, as if it was meant for a sword to cut if.
Kulagu’s vizier El Eltebir and his scribe holding a large open book in his hands froze expectantly at his sides.
Finally, the ilkhan broke the silence, “Adak Noyon, do you bear resentment against us?”
“No, Great Khan.”
Kulagu shook his head thoughtfully, “This is the way it should be. There have always been many people in the world who don’t know what to do to their own head. Who needs them? Your father, Baizhu, happened to be one of them…”
Adak was silent, unable to understand what the ilkhan meant. The latter went on with a sigh, “You don’t seem to have taken after your father. In the last battle, you proved to be fearless and truly faithful to us. For such loyalty…”
Kulagu suddenly broke off. His feet were burning as if they had been put into a pan of hot coals. His disease was about to attack again. It always started that way. The ilkhan knew that the heat would have reached his head by noon, seizing his whole body, and his mind would be obscured. He collected himself, which cost him an effort. He still had some time to mind his affairs, so he went on in an unchanged voice, “For such loyalty, I decided to appoint you commander of a tumen. Now you are responsible for ten thousand brave warriors.” The ilkhan turned his head first to the vizier and then to the scribe, “I order you to write it down.” 
Adak Noyon’s eyes shone. He hurried to bare his sword and kissed the blade, still standing on his knees.
“I can’t think of the words to express my gratitude to you, Great Khan! I swear to serve you honestly and faithfully forever.”
Kulagu looked at the young warrior intently. No, he was not mistaken. He was really the kind of a man to serve him truly. What is the death his father to a young Mongol as long as he is entrusted a tumen? This means an absolutely different live. It means respect and glory, and the sweet, incomparable feeling of having power over people.
Akdak Noyonwas blushed with happiness.
Kulagu lifted his hand.
“Alright,” he said, “now, Emir Adak Noyon, listen to our second order.  You shall take a tumen consisting of Mongol and Kypchak soldiers and go to fight against Nogay. Having brought our troops together, you shall wait him to appear near Shemakha and make him flee from the battlefield.”
Adak looked the ilkhan bravely in the eyes, “I have fulfilled your order, but I have a request.”
“Speak.”
“Let me take local warriors instead of Kypchaks.”
The ilkhan frowned, “Why?”
“Kypchaks are Muslim. I have seen them conquer Bagdad and fight against Beybars. They lose their courage and lack assiduity. Nearly all Nogay’s soldiers are Muslims...
“I understand you,” said Kulagu. –Let it be as you want it to be. Now go away. May the god of war Sulde be with you.”
Accompanied by henchmen, Adak left the tent, and Kulagu sat there brooding long after his departure, straining his senses to feel the heat get higher and higher from his burning heat, slowly and inexorably. 
Time was fleeting. The time was approaching when the heat would seize his whole body and obscure his mind. The ilkhan cast a glance at El Eltebir.
“Bring the runaways here.”
***
There was much room in the tent, and the prisoners, begrimed with dust, with their clothes torn and their hands bound with a noose, were put by the entrance. Silent and unapproachable henchmen with bare swords surrounded them. 
Only Kunduz had her hands free. She entered the tent holding her wonderful plaits. Neither the ilkhan nor the noyons present could take their eyes off the girl.
The time she spent in wandering had made her bony, her face looked dark, but this could not hide her magnificent natural beauty.
Toguz Khatun appeared quietly from a side entrance hidden behind a silk curtain and stood aside.  Her intent eyes were studying Kulagu and the young woman’s face interchangeably. A sparkle of jealously lit them for a moment to die out at once. A soft smile stirred her plump, beautiful lips.
“Great Khan,” Toguz Khatun said reverently, “I would like to talk to this runaway girl before you determine her fate. If you please, I’ll take the girl to my tent...”
Kulagu smiled. Toguz Khatun had something on her mind, and there was no reason to refuse her.
“Let it be the way you want it to be…”
“Let’s go,” said Toguz Khatun, taking Kunduz by the hand.
The girl seemed glued to the ground and was looking at Kolomon in despair.
He gave a barely noticeable nod.
“Follow me,” Toguz Khatun ordered imperiously, and there was an impatience about her voice. 
“Go,” whispered Salimgerey, “What is to happen will happen…”  
Right after the end of their free living, when they found themselves in the Mongols’ hands after encountering an ambush, the runaways agreed to fully obey Salimgerey.
Supporting her heavy braids with her hand, Kunduz followed Toguz Khatun.
The silence in the tent was chilling, and the light getting there through the hole in its dome-shaped roof suddenly grew heavy and dim.
Th ilkhan gave Salimgerey an intent look, intuitively understanding that he was the leader.
“Tell me. Who you are? Where did you come from?”
Salimgerey bent his head down to show respect.
“I used to be a commander of a hundred soldiers in the Golden Horde,” he said softly. “I belong to the Kerey clan. Having found out that the head of our clan, Saidzha, serves you, oh Great Khan, I felt a desire to be a soldier of him.
Kulagu started nodding as if approving of what he was saying.
“This man,” Salimgerey nodded at Kolomon, “is a Roman. He is an unequalled craftsman, an architect. When Zhurmagun Noyonconquered the city of Gyandzha, he was taken prisoner; then he was given to Mengu Temir and sent to the Golden Horde as a slave. Who of slaves doesn’t dream of being free? So he ran away. People say that the church he was building in Gyandzha is not finished…”
The ilkhan was suddenly agitated.
“It’s true. I’ve seen the church.”
Suddenly there was a sparkle in Kulagu’s eyes. He was thinking of his recent idea – to unite Chirstians and turn them into the main support for his throne.
The ilkhan narrowed and gave Kolomon an examining look, “Could you finish it?”
“Yes, Great Khan.”
“I will grant you life. You must keep your promise.” 
After a pause, during which he seemed to have forgotten about the Roman, Kulagu frowned again and asked, “Why did the others escape?”
“They are people of the mountains and were taken prisoners too,” said Salimgerey.
The ilkhan looked closely at the prisoners’ faces. Thought they were wearing Kypchak clothes, he easily recognized some of them as Armenians and Georgians.
“But I can see Kypckaks here as well.”
“Five warriors of the Golden Horde have joined us. They did not want to serve Khan Berke any more.”
Kulagu’s face was twisted by disgust.
“So they were having a rough time, weren’t they? And running away to Ilkhan Kulagu, they were expecting to grow a fat belly and slouch on soft carpets with fair-skinned women?
Salimgerey had no time for replying or protesting. Kulagu thrust his head up.
“Let everyone hear my decision. You,” he looked at Salimgerey, “have been in a hurry to be Saidzha’s soldier. Let your wish come true.” Kulagu was now looking at Kolomon. “You are to finish the church. There are many Christians in Gyandzha. Let it be our present for them.  Take the Gerogians and Armenians along. Teach them to work with clay and stone.
The ilkhan broke off, feeling the heat spreading all over his body. It had already reached his lower back, and he was expecting a stinging stomachache.
“The Kypchaks shall be killed!” he said abruptly. “Let it be a lesson for you.  Those ungrateful to their khan will sooner or later betray the one who gives them shelter.”
“Great Khan!” shouted Salimgerey. “They are good warriors! Let them go with me, and they will distinguish themselves in battles and glorify your name!” 
“Don’t kill them,” added Kolomon. “Let them join me to build the church!”
Kulagu’s face was distorted by either a grin or a grimace of pain. The heat seizing his ill body was driving his mad.  He, an ilkhan who had hundreds of thousands subject areas, was to die, but why would those five Kypchaks stay in the world? He wanted them to die before he did. If he could put off his own death by taking the lives of others, Kulagu would have destroyed the entire humanity without a moment’s hesitation.
Suddenly a gentle, suave voice broke the silence, “Does the ilkhan ever say things twice?”
It was his vizier, El Eltebir. It was now clear to everybody that the Kyphaks were doomed.
Kulagu asked suddenly, “What was the girl who came with you?”
Kolomon stepped forward, and daggers glistened in the guardians’ hands. The Roman could not help backing.
“She’s Kypchak. My wife.”
“Alright,” the khan was pondering. “The girl shall stay at the quarters. You’ll only see her after you’ve finished the church.”
“But why, Great Khan?”
“You managed to run away from Berke. What will prevent you from running away from me if she is with you?”
Kolomon dropped his head. Khans do not repeat things twice...
***
In Tiguz Khatun’s tent, slaves and servants surrounded Kunduz. The khan’s wife ordered them to bring her some food, but the girl would not touch it.  
Tonguz Khatun was studying her.
“You left the steppe where you were born and escaped with that Roman architect... Why?” she asked. 
Kunduz looked up. Tears had welled in her eyes, and they looked like melting pieces of clearest ice.
“He loves me! I love him!”
Toguz Khatun said with a knowing smile, “No wonder he does… Any man will love a girl who has such hair. They’re so seducible when it comes to something extraordinary... I know it well...”
The khan’s wife suddenly stretched out her hand, and a slave, knowing her intention, put a knife into Tonguz Khatun’s hand.
The blade flashed once and once more, and the heavy black braid fell onto the floor, on which a carpet as bright as a spring meadow was lying.
Kunduz, the slaves, and the servants – everybody froze shocked.
An old slave came up to the braids with quiet steps, picked them up and took away from the tent.   Her wrinkled hands were stroking the silk of the hair as if it was a living being.
“Why?” Kunduz asked in a soft choked voice. “Why did you do this?” 
There was a set evil smile on Tongus Khatun’s lips.
***
When Genghis Khan was alive, his entire army was divided into the right wing and the left one. The right one included warriors who lived in the west, while those who came from eastern aymaks belonged to the left one.
The army of the Golden Horde was arranged according to the same principle. The Chingizids and their warriors on the right bank of the Itil River made the right wing; the whole of the left bank and the land up to Maverannakhr constituted the left one. Nogay was leading the former, while the latter was headed by Berke’s younger brother Berkenzhar and Tuki’s son Mengu Temir.
Conquering new land would mostly engage only the wing which was the closest; it was only in very large-scale campaigns that both wings participated. Since the death of Batu Khan, the Horde had never undertaken a big western campaign. That was the reason why Kulagu was faced by the right wing headed by Nogay when the decision had been taken to conquer back the Caucasus.
The Golden Horde had no cleverer noyonthan Nogay back then. Under the law established by Genghis Khan, he was not entitled to inherit the throne, though his influence was extremely significant among the Chingizids.
After the death of Batu’s sons, when the new ruler of the Golden horde was to be appointed, Nogay took Berke’s side, which determined the outcome.
The noyonwas aware of Berke’s lacking numerous qualities which a khan need to have, but the merits of the other candidates were even scarcer. That was the factor which shaped his choice.
As soon as Berke became the khan in spite of the discontent of Karakorum, a conversation which neither Nogay nor the new khan ever forgot.
They were both concerned about the future of the Golden Horde, but their concerns were different.
They were sitting alone in a yurt, drinking kumis and holding a conversation.
“What are you planning to do to the Orusuts?” Nogay asked. “Shall we keep setting their princes against each other and collecting people’s fox and hare skins? Have you gor any other ideas?”
Berke kept quiet, admitting the rotation of golden pieces of dust in rays of sunshine falling through the hole in the dome of his yurt.
“Watch out,” the noyonsaid in a slightly menacing tone, “The Orisits are not nomads like the Kypchaks are. Their customs and way of living, everything is different.  The Orusuts are numerous, they are used to being settled, and it will be hard to   keep them in leash. If they get someone to unite their principalities, the Golden Horde may be their first victim. 
“Do you have something to tell me?”
“You are the khan, and I would like to hear what you say…”
“I haven’t thought of it. Speak first…”
“Alright,” Nogay narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. “Like Kubylay, who invaded China, you should enter the Orusut land to rule in it.”
“Do you want me to go there and lose the Golden Horde?” Berke asked suspiciously. “Do you want what happened to Kybulay to happen to me? He has China today, but he has no Great Mongol Khanate... Besides, the Orusuts will be opposed to our scheme as soon as they learn about it.
“The Horde has never been afraid of sending its warriors to battles...” Nogay said fervently. “You can do it in another way. You should divide the Orusut land into aymaks for Mongol noyons to rule.  Let our warriors travel about the land along with their families.
“It would be difficult to do so… They can easily decimate our troops…”
“Blood will be spilled. But Mongols know how to conquer and rule. You’ll send new warriors there. The nine-tailed white banner of our great ancestor Genghis Khan has brought glory and happiness to Mongols,” Nogay said firmly. “So each of them will think himself to be lucky If he happens to die under that banner.” 
Berke could hardly choke back his fury.
“What are you thinking about? You forget what Argusun Khuurchi once was brave enough to say to Genghis Khan’s face.” 
Who of the descendants of the Rocker of the Universe could have forgotten the story? Nogay knew it as well.
During one of his eastern campaigns, having conquered the Korean and taken the daughter of the overmastered ruler, who was an astonishingly beautiful girl, for pleasure, Genghis Khan completely forgot about the Mongol camps. That was the time  the signer Argusun rushed to him from the steppe.
“Are my wives, my sons, and the rest of my people in good health?” Genghis Khan asked the messenger.
Argusun Khuurchi’s response was a song, “Your wives and sons are in good health! But you do not know what happens to your people! Your wives and sons are in good health! But you do not know what your people’s thoughts are! What they put in their hungry mouth is peels!  But you do not know how your people live! They drink water and snow with their thirsty mouth! You do not know the custom of your Mongols!”
Looking in Nogay’s eyes, Berke understood that the lines by Argusun had been brought to his mind, and so he savored his sarcastic words, “What our great ancestor gave us was not given to all Mongols. You know nothing of life and cannot tell whether Mongols will feel like dying again.”
What the khan said was heavily insulting, and Nogay went white in the face. “Beware, Khan!” the noyonsaid furiously, not even trying to control his emotions, “If you choose not to do it, it can be too late tomorrow. They will come here to be our rulers.”
Berke both believed in Nogay’s words and did not. This was making him even more irritated, and it appeared to him that the reason why Nogay was speaking like this was because every Mongol dreamt of battles. 
“It’s impossible to do what you suggest.”
“So what’s the solution you find best?”
“I’m no smarter than Batu,” Berke said vaguely, “I’m going to take the trail which he blazed. Even if I marched against the Orusuts, that could hardly give the Horde more power...”
Nogay was staring at the khan with surprise and suspicion. He was not used to seeing Berke so depressed and irresolute.
“I don’t understand you, Khan.”
There was an evil glare in Berke’s eyes, and his dilated pupils grew dark as he said, “Look around! Can’t you see that the Mongol sword is not shining as dazzling bright as it used to when Batu was the ruler! A lot has changed since he departed from the world. The nations conquered by us are still afraid of our spowerful army, but they have no fear of us, the Mongol, anymore. When Genghis Khan and Batu were the rulers, the Mongol used to be awful and unfathomablebut now the Orusuts and other nations know everything about us – our way of living and our ways of fighting. An enemy whom one understands is not awful or capable of breaking one’s will. He is only feared as long as he is stronger. Was it not the reason why Orusut cities – Rostov, Suzdal and Tver, Yaroslavl and Ustyug rebelled? It hasn’t been long since Ugedey and Dzhagatay destroyed Bukhara, but the common folks did not scruple to rise up. If you had seen it as closely as I did… Nighttime... Grim faces, looks of disobedience, and crimson torchlight...” Berke broke off as if to feel what he was describing once again, “And the Georgians’ rebellion against Kulagu headed by David the Major and David the Minor in Tbkhis?.. And the recent events in our quarters? I ordered them to slaughter the rebels like sheep, no quarter!..”
“You were right,” said Nogay, “Dead enemy is the best enemy.”
“I agree with you. But why is one rebellion followed by another? Why are they spreading more and more? You’ve heard the story of my former commander Salimgerey… One might think that he would be terrified, for he had seen me order for ten thousand rebellious slaves to be killed. But people faithful to me have informed me of Salimgerey’s gathering enemies of the Horde…” 
“Order them to get him! Let everyone see his head under the hooves of your horse! It is only feat that can make people submit.”
“That’s what I will do…” Berke said thoughtfully. “But how do I stop the time with fear?” 
Nogay was eager to understand what the khan meant. He was staring at his face, but Berke’s face was imperturbable.
“Aren’t you thinking too much instead of being concerned with the welfare of the Golden Horde?”  he said impatiently.
Berke shook his head, “It’s god who gives us our thoughts…Time…I sometimes think it to be like a stormy sea. A sea can break the hardest rock and destroy the hardest shore…  There are any things which I fail to understand…And there are even less things which I can explain... The fearless tumens of Genghis Khan conquered a vast number of nations with the crooked Mongol sword, with sharp arrows, heavy soils, and kamchas which sting like wasps. We take whatever we need from the defeated and rule them without even dismounting… But instead of going weaker and dying, they keep rebuilding what we destroy, pasturing their cattle, and ploughing soil, producing iron to make swords. Tell me, my gallant noyon, have the conquered ones grown any weaker since we were young and trampled them down riding our when Batu was the ruler? They haven’t, have they? Rebellions are growing more and more frequent, and doesn’t their unwillingness to submit an evidence of their strength? Sometimes I think that time is going to come when both the Orusuts, and the Bulgarians, and the citizens of  Maverannakhr refuse to give us what we are used to taking from them. Will the Golden Horde be able to trample them again, will it always have the power which it has now? 
“It was to take care of the Horde’s power that they made you the khan,” Nogay said irritatedly. He did not quite like the way the khan was thinking. “Injustice and violence attend to human beings always. They are eternal. Be wise, be sly, and they’ll prevent the tent of the Golden Horde from collapsing.” 
“Even the sharpest sword gets blunt if you keep striking stone…”
Nogay could hardly resist showing his fury. But he had already taking too much liberty during the conversation with the khan. Some other man would have already been slaughtered for being so impudent, but Berke had always been more tolerant with Nogay than with others, and no strangers were present. Nogay had his reasons to be infuriated.  For the first time he happened to notice the two persons that seemed to live in Berke. One was ruling the Horde  in full accordance with the Mongol custom – he was merciless, bloodthirsty, and nobody dared ask him for quarter; the other one, whom Nogay suddenly chanced to see, was irresolute, scared, and was saying things which a Chingizid was expected to never say.
“How can you rule the Great Horde without trusting in its might!” Nogay shouted furiously. “If I were the khan!.. I would show the whole world what the Golden Horde needs to live forever!” 
Berke gave a sly sounding laughter. His look was intent and cold again, and his face grew firm. Indeed, he had his reasons to treat Nogay with suspicion. “If I were the khan…” Isn’t the noyonto bold about his dreams?  It might be said in the thick of arguing, and still... He knew that he was not the only noyonwho thought that way. All Chingizids dream of power...
Berke had a suspicion than Nogay might be scheming secretly, but neither he nor the noyoncould know back then that the feud between descendants of the Rocker of the Universe, who were to keep fighting for the throne, was to claim many lives, drown the steppe of Desht-i-Kypchak in blood, and be one of the reasons because of which the tent of the Golden Horde was to collapse forever, killing everybody who believed in its immortality.
“You mentioned your possible being a khan...” Berke uttered slowly in a firm voice, “I’ll have it live as well. There’s no force to make me give up the aspirations of my glorious grandfather Genghis Khan. I’ll spill as much blood as is necessary for a Mongol name to instill awe in conquered nations.”
When Berke and Nogay parted on that day, they were dissatisfied with each other.
The khan was bearing a grudge against the noyon, and Nogay realized that Berke was a khan who would never dare commit a really bold deed. As the noyonsaw it, they had to find a Chingizid who deserved to be the khan of the Golden Horde. 
Nogay was happy to learn that he was appointed commander of the army which was to march against Kulagu. It was time they showed their neighbors that the Horde was as powerful as ever and would stand for its land. Besides, he was thinking secretly of gathering reliable Chingizids in case he had to fight against Berke. Nogay himself could not possibly become a khan. But why not make the one who would always obey you and seek your advice the khan? He felt especially hopeful about Tuday Mengu and Tuli Buka, who were Batu Khan’s grand – and great-grandchildren.  Tuday Mengu, who was quick-tempered and sometimes rather careless, admired Nogay greatly and followed him without hesitation. The reserved Tuli Buka, who was more intelligent, was also loyal to the noyon...
***
On the day when the decision was made on the runaways, Ilkhan Kulagu fell ill. As it always was during his attacks, his mind was obscured, and he lay down in his tent. Nobody dared enter or even approach it apart from doctors and henchmen, who were guarding ilkhan.
Till Kulagu regained his strength, Yel Yeltebir was to rule the Horde. According to the ilkhan’s order, he ordered that Kolomon and his comrades be sent to Gyandz accompanied by guardians immediately. The Kypchaks sentenced to death were thrown to a black yurt with their hands and feet bound. They were to wait for the ilkhan to get better. He did not mention the way of killing in his sentence. It was important to the Mongols, so they wanted the ilkhan to choose it.
The vizier felt a certain interest in Salimgerey. Yel Yeltebir could feel that he was not quite a common man – there was something both suspicious and attractive about him; thus, thinking of possible ways to treat him, he ordered Salimgerey to stay in the Horde for the time being. 
Salimgerey knew that Kunduz was staying in the aul of the khan’s wife, and he knew that he could not possibly get there. The aul consisting of several dozen yurts was situated near the quarters at a small blue lake, and the ilkhan’s personal henchmen were guarding it, for this was the custom. Whoever approached it would certainly be killed. Besides, wrinkled-faced peevish eunuchs were always wandering about the aul.
But it was not the ilkhan’s wife but a common slave, Kunduz the Kypchak, whom Salimgerey needed to see. So he tried to try his luck and got to the lake. He lay low in the reeds hoping for the better. He could see slaves come there for water quite often.
Time took a languish pace. The sun had already rolled down across the sky and ceased to be hot, but there was nobody approaching the lake. 
Having lost every trace of hope, Salimgerey decided to get out of his ambush and go back to the Horde. It was quite possible that they were looking for him, as his long absence was suspicious.
But that was the very moment when he saw an old woman carrying a jug down the bank. Unwilling to startle her, Salimgerey spoke to her softly, “Apa…Mother… Don’t be afraid of me… Just listen to the few words I’ll tell you…”
The slave froze. Her face was bearing an expression of fear and confusion.
“Mother, help me see my little sister and say goodbye to her! Today, Toguz Khatun got a new slave, you saw her! A long-haired Kypchak girl!..” Salimgerey was speaking incoherently and in a  worried voice.
The woman’s lips twitched, “I know her, but I can’t think of a way to help you…”
“Bring her here! I’ll just tell her a couple of words…”
The slave shook her head, “Don’t you know what will happen to me if I do?”
“I do, Mother! But I’m begging you! Haven’t you ever had a brother or a sister? Haven’t you grieved enough to understand my grief? I might never happen to see her again...”
The woman was silent for a long time, and her expression was said. However, her fear and the habit of obeying would not let her make the decision.
She finally said unconfidently, “I’ll try… It’s all in the hands of Allah…”
Having got her jug full, the woman headed for the aul at a tiny pace.
The old slave overcame her fear and brought Kunduz.
The girl nearly rushed to the reeds where Salimgerey was lying still, but he prevented her from doing so with his authoritative voice, “Go to the water. Pretend to be washing the jug and don’t look in my direction…”
Kunduz did as he said.
“Now listen. Ilkhan’s requirement is as follows. He won’t let Kolomon have you till he’s finished a church in Gyandzh. Kolomon promised to do it quickly. I’ll try to set the Kypchaks sentenced to death free, and we’ll go to the mountains. We must have been predestined to never lead a normal life. It feels equally bad everywhere – in the Golden Horde, in Kulagu’s ilkhanate…” Salimgerey said bitterly, “It’s the same if you hit an owl against a stone or a stone against an owl. The owl will be dead. Neither will we save our lives if we are caught. Like Tarabi or Boshman, I’ll have free people gathered around me to take avenge on the khans.
“What about me?” Kunduz asked with anguish about her voice. “Why do you abandon me here?”
- You should stay in the Horde till Kolomon is free. Perhaps Ilkhan will keep his promise, and you will have a decent life... But my way is unknown and dangerous. Who knows what can happen to me on the road? Stay here. We won’t abandon you. If everything goes according to my plan, we won’t be far away. I’ve got business to do here...
Indeed, Salimgerey had business there. When Kulagu was questioning them in the khan’s tent, he saw a man. He seemed very familiar to Salimgerey. Suddenly, memories of a distant but unforgotten past were brought to his mind, as if a lightning striking far away shed light on a piece of his life.  
Salimgerey was thirteen... One of Genghis Khan’s squadrons was persecuting his clan. Trying to escape from the Mongols, the clan left for East Turkmenistan mountains, but there was no saving from the black cloud. The Mongols took their cattle and yurts away and slaughtered many people. Salimgerey could have been one of them, but he managed to escape. 
He remembered running to the salvational woods on a mountain slope, panting, and the heavy sound of horse hooves trampling behind him. Terrified, Salimgerey was looking back to see a large black horseman with a crooked sword over his head. It was Taybuly, the head of the Mongol squadron, who was chasing him.  
But for the thick woods, his death would have been inevitable... But even time and the ordeals which Salimgerey had been through could not prevent the Mongol’s face from haunting him.
It was Taybuly whom he recognized in Kulagu’s tent, and the voice of his blood demanded revenge.
Wherever Salimgerey was, whatever battles he participated in, his eyes would always search for the enemy. He seemed to be close to his target now.
Banishing the unwelcomed memories, Salimgerey finally noticed that Kunduz did not have her beautiful hair anymore.
“Why did you cut your hair?”
“I didn’t… She did…” the girl was shedding big teardrops.
“Who?”
“Toguz Khatun… She said that men liked girls with long hair…”
Salimgerey uttered a curse.
“Time will come for me to throw that slut across my saddle!” he said furiously. “Don’t be sad. Your head is where it belongs, and your hair will grow again.” 
Wiping the tears off her face, Kunduz tried to smile, “Will it?”
“Of course. At the toy you will celebrate with Kolomon, you will have your wonderful hair again.” 
“When will we have it?”
“You will some day. Your hair will grow long soon, and KOlomon will finish his church in no time…” 
“May god hear your words.”
“Goodbye, Kunduz…”
***
In the south, the day dies fast. Hardly had the sun touched the horizon when darkness fell onto the world, and stars the size of an apple started to shine in the abysmal sky.
Salimgerey lay in the cheegrass for a long time, listening to the hustle of the Horde fading away. One by one, fires near yurts for cooking dinners were being put out; dogs began to bark; every once in a while, he could hear soldiers guarding herds of horses  give guttural shouts. The warm air was gusty. Cheegrass tips were whispering in a dry and mysterious voice.
Salimgerey was patient. The black yurt where the imprisoned Kypchaks were kept stood in the very preiphery of the Horde, and he could see its dome clearly, even though there was no light but the dull twinkling of stars. The ground tortured by horse hooves was going to sleep. When the silent was absolute, Salimgerey started crawling from one bush to another. Pressing his ear against the ground, he could hear the soldier who was guarding the prisoners walk around the yurt. 
“Who is that man?” Salimgerey thought. “Perhaps his mother’s only son? But that’s the law of wartime.  Unless I kill him, my five comrades will die. Obedient to the orders of his ilkhan, the soldier treats people he does not know as enemies. To me, he is the enemy, and it is because he is used to obeying instead of thinking.” 
The road to Kulagu’s Ilkhanate was long. Salimgerey thought about all kinds of things while warming himself by fires arranged secretly at the bottom of ravines. Was it right of him to stir slaves in Saray Berke? Was the death of ten thousand slaves a price to match Kolomon’s salvation? 
It suddenly occurred to Salimgerey that it was not about Kolomon. The Roman only provided a pretext. When Makhmud Tarabi encourages people to follow him in Bukhara, he was guided by his conviction that the people bent by foreign conquerors had to be reminded that they were not slaves and that such notion as freedom did exist. One who forgets it turns into a slave; one who remembers is remains a human even when enslaved.
Visions of the terrible night in Saray Berke suddenly were brought to Salimgerey’s mind. He saw an elderly slave, whose chains had just been taken off. He was standing atop of a duval clay fence with his hands up high, and his wrinkled face was beautiful in the flickering torchlight. The man shouted, “Peopl! Look, I am free! To live a single night like a human being is better than live in chains to be a hundred years old!”
Salimgerey often dreamt about that night. He would see the streets blocked with corpses and hear death cries and clinking swords. 
And then the happy face of the slave he did not know would appear...
Salimgerey grew alert at hearing horse hooves patter at a distance. He was very close to the black yurt, so he pressed his body against the ground in awe of making a tiny move.
The horseman who arrived shouted to the watchman, “Hey, are you sleeping?”
“No.”
“Watch yourself! Don’t you dare fall asleep. If something happens to the prisoners, you’ll have your head severed…” 
“I know…” the soldier heaved a sigh. “What can happen to them? Their arms and legs are bound…”
“The night is dark,” said the horseman. “As soon as the moon rises, I’ll send someone to replace you.” 
“Who are they, those people?” the soldier asked.
“Kypchaks. They’ve betrayed their khan, and our ilkhan is akin to them…Descendants of the great Genghis Khan never forgive traitors, even when they hate each other…” 
“Indeed, their guilt is dreadful. They won’t be spared…”
“Watch out. There are many Kypchaks in the Horde, who knows, maybe the prisoners have relatives here. Everything is possible.”
The horsemen turned his horse round and slowly rode away. Soon the patter could not be heard any more.
Salimgerey slowly took out the knife and dashed to the yurt, silently taking his body away from the ground.
After several minutes, six people, looking like shadows in the starlight, vanished in the dark. The wind was still blowing, and thin cheegrass stalks were rubbing against each other; their rustle muffled the runaways’ cautious steps.
***
After a few days had passed, gossip began to be spread among the nations inhabiting Kulagu’s ilkhanate that free people had appeared in the mountains and that they attacked Mongol troops. They did not hurt common people but had no mercy for the khan’s tax collectors. 
When the news reached KInduz, the girl was overjoyed. It meant that Salimgerey was alive and had achieved what he had planned, which promised an end to be put to her degrading status of a slave soon.
Only Ilkhan Kulagu was unaffected by the news about the few people. Why would he, great and powerful as he was, be afraid of a band of vagabonds? He just ordered his vizier to send a group of soldiers to catch the disturbers and forgot about the whole thing at once.
The Horse was living is usual life. The great number of yurts scattered across the steppe could seem to be placed arbitrarily to a stranger. But those who upheld the traditions established by the great Genghis Khan knew that whenever the Horde changed its dislocation, leaving a piece of steppe reduced to black dust, it placed its new felt town according to a strict procedure.
Trains of heavy two-wheeled arba carts were squeaking, and endless caravans of noisy and ill-tempered camels carrying massive loads were passing by. Women and children were sitting between their taut, springy humps.
After a very short period of time, the seemingly chaotic hustle produced the first row of yurts. They were the largest and were meant for the ilkhan – a palace yurt, one for receiving ambassadors, and ones in which viziers stayed in the daytime.  Behind the khan’s row, the row for viziers was placed, followed by the one meant for the khan’s wives. Behind it, the tents of henchmen, noyons, and warriors were placed. The camp of the Horde consisted of ten rows.
If the khan was Christian, there was enough space for a church yurt and yurts in which priests resided. If the Ruler of the Horde practiced Islam, a mosque yurt was put up...
There was one aspect in which Kulagu departed from the steppe rules – he placed his wives separately from the Horde and allowed them to set up an aul of their own.  
The order was the same that year. The ilkhan’s wives chose a place not far from the headquarters, in the wider part of a little green valley by a lake. 
The largest and the most beautiful yurt was that of the senior wife Toguz Khatun. It resembled a white mountain, and it was decorated with a wonderful red velvet ornament. At a stone’s cast from it, the yurt of the second wife, decorated with blue velvet ornament, was placed, and even farther, the third wife’s yurt ornamented green stood...
Unlike Kypchak auls, in which yurts were placed where the owners wanted to place them, the Mongols put them in a single line from west to east. 
Men were infrequent in the women’s aul. Only once in a rare while did a eunuch run from one yurt into another, giving orders to one of his slaves in his high-pitched voice. Even at nights when the ilkhan accompanied by his guard appeared there, the aul was in perfect order. While Kulagu was indulging in the flesh of one of his wives, the henchmen were looked after by eunuchs and had no right to make a step away from the place prescribed to them. One had to be mad to make attempts to get into the woman’s aul.
There was nothing to disturb is on those days. As usually, a big herd of horses would rush to the watering-place at the lake before sunset, raising a cloud of dust which looked golden in the evening light. In the silence of the night, one could hear the animals drinking greedily with a snort and a stallion neighing furiously in shrieks to impose order on the herd.
Kunduz was listening to the noise with anxiety, and her heart swelled with yearning for Kolomon, for the freedom which she lost so suddenly. Fall was coming. Though it was high time day grew colder, it was still very hot, and the wind blowing from the steppe brought scorching heat and the fragrance of pristine herbs. 
Kunduz felt sick. She was lying in the slaves' yurt, thinned, quiet, and indifferent to whatever was going on. Her mind was obscured by a marshy drowsiness. If she knew what was going on in Toguz Khatun’s yurt, she would have gathered enough strength to spring to her feet and rush there like a bird.
Аt that moment, Toguz Khatun was sitting surrounded by the rest of the ilkhan’s wives. The black groundwater was burning flaring in lamps, and a bloated eunuch was telling the ancient legend Sal Sal in his high pitched voice, rocking his body with his eyes half-closed.  
The monster was riding an elephant,
And its legs were touching the ground...
All of a sudden, the door was opened quietly, and warriors rushed into the yurt with their swords unshiethed.
Some of the women shrieked quietly.
“Hush! Everybody should stay where he or she is,” a warrior with a black moustache commanded authoritatively. 
Toguz Khatun fell onto the carpet with her face down, pressing a satin cushion against her chest. The warrior made a step towards her.
“Where is the Kypchak girl whose hair you cut off?”
The khan’s wife was either too scared or too stubborn to answer.
“It’s the last time I’m asking you!”
There was a high-pitched whish behind the felt yurt wall, and an arrow got through it to land at the warrior’s feet. Somebody was shouting outside, steel was clinking.
He bent down and jerked Toguz Khatun’s hand, “Get up. You’re going with us.”
The khan’s wife was standing before him pale, scantily clad.
“Get dressed!” the warrior shouted, listening to the noise outside with anxiety.  
Toguz Khatun suddenly burst out laughing. She realized that the guard had already discovered the strangers and that her liberation would come soon.
“I thought you mostly order to get undressed…”
“Perhaps time will come for you to hear those words. But now – move…” the warrior grabbed her rudely and held a knife to her throat, “Come on!”
Toguz Khatun realized that the warrior was desperate enough to do all kinds of thing and that the help was yet too fat.
“I’ll give you the Kypchak girl,” she said in a coarse ways, slanting her eyes to see the blade.
“Too late. You’re going with us.”
Suddenly, Toguz Khatun obeyed. She was seized with a desire to survive at any cost.
Two warriors dragged the khan’s wife to the exit, holding her by the arms.
The one with a black moustache turned to the rest of women, “Next time will be your turn… We are leaving now, but if any of you screams, you will never see the light of day again!”
Shrieking, the eunuch was rolling on the floor in terror, looking like a slab of dough.
The warriors disappeared. The loud patter of hooves vanished in the steppe, and only the echo of the guttural shouts and the iron clank was brought there from the dark of the night when the chaser and the chased were fighting their short battles.
Salimgerey’s warriors were going to the mountains, to dark ravines, in which they could hide from the chasers. They had committed an unheard-of and daring deed.
Salimgerey thought of possible ways to set Kunduz free for a long time. The solution dawned on him all of a sudden.
The khan’s horses that were usually driven to the lake for watering would spend the day in foothills, and Salimgerey’s warriors chose the best opportunity to pin the herders down and, having changed their clothes into those of the herders, drove the horses to the watering place in the evening.
When the animals had quenched their thirst, it was not too hard to make them change the usual route and head for the aul where the khan’s wives were residing. The worried sentry rushed to them to prevent the semi-wild herd from throwing the yurts down and trampling their inhabitants to death in the dark. Salimgerey took advantage of the situation.
He failed to set Kunduz free. His warriors were discovered, and he had to leave hurriedly. That was the time  Salimgerey, seeing no other possible solution, decided to take the ilkhan’s beloved wife, Toguz Khatun, as a hostage. 
Such things had never happened in the Horde before. The group of henchmen who rushed to the women’s aul was helpless. Night put its veil around Salimgerey’s impudent warriors. And the wind blew away the dust their horses’ hooves had raised. The outraged khan was ordering for heads, guilty or not, to be severed. 
After a week, a heavily wounded Mongolian warrior came to the Horde. The sentry took him to Kulagu at once. Groveling at the ilkhan’s khan and begging him to spare his life, the warrior said that their troops had been robbed in the mountains. He was the only one whom they spared, ordering him to tell the ilkhan that they would return Toguz Khatun to him in exchange for the Kypchak girl named Kunduz in a certain place. 
Kulagu was choked with rage, but he had no choice. He trampled on his pride. He was missing Toguz Khatun badly; besides, the ilkan could not afford to act in a way which could provoke his subjects to spread rumors about his being helpless and weak. Time would come for him to punish those who dared dishonor him cruelly.  Now he had to agree to comply with the bandits’ demand.
At the ilkhan’s order, two henchmen took Kunduz to the place appointed.
***
Before letting Toguz Khatun go, Salimgerey said, “You are free because you are not guilty to us; but tell ilkhan that time will come for him to pay the price; you need blood to make redemption for blood spilled…”
The khan’s wife, beautiful, slightly plump, was standing before him. A smile appeared on her ripe crimson lips. “I’ll tell the ilkhan…But isn’t it too early to let me go?”
Salimgerey turned his back from her in disdain.
“You shouldn’t hurry. Your warriors should be offended. They’ll be bored…”
Salimgerey looked at the warriors standing around. One of them suddenly blushed and averted his eyes; another one moved his black moustache, showing his large teeth in a smile. 
“Go away!”
“Well… It’s up to you… Here you are the ilkhan…”
Toguz Khatun came up to the horse and rose to the saddle with a flying movement, hardly touching the stirrup.
The horses of the two women met halfway on the path, and they looked into each other’s eyes. The look of Toguz Khatun was bold and cheerful, while that of Kunduz was marked by fatigue and sadness. 
Salimgerey took the rein of Kunduz’s horse and helped her descend. 
Kunduz pressed her face against his chest, and her shoulders began to tremble. 
“Don’t cry,” the warrior said softl, “Don’t you cry. It will be alright… Soon we’ll be back in the Kypckak steppe.” 
Kunduz made a step away from Salimgerey and looked into his eyes with fear and hope, “What about Kolomon?” 
“Don’t you cry, girl,” Salimgerey repeated, “It’ll be alright…”
***
How could Kunduz know what Salimgerey knew. Love and the occupation to which one gives one's entire being give one wings. The wings serve the man reliably, no matter what happens to him.
Long years of slavery did not break Kolomon’s will. He used to keep himself busy before, and it helped him live on, but now that love had come to him, the world was full of wonderful color, and the time seemed endless, as if he could start things over and over again.
When Kulagu said to him, speaking of Kunduz, “You will see her only after you have finished the church,” it was like a knife cutting his hot, living hear. 
What could one who had been a slave just yesterday do is that was the ilkhan’s will? To disobey would mean death. But Kolomon had love, and it was worth living. He had to work, believe, and wait. 
Whatever he was occupied with, whatever business Kolomon had since the khan’s henchmen brought him to Gyandzh, the image of Kunduz haunted him. He could see her face in the gray of the dawn, in the fog coming from mountain gorges; she came to him in his dreams. 
The Roman worked devotedly; each moment wasted seemed to be eternal to him. He could make the long-awaited reunion closer by finishing the work sooner only. 
His sensitive heart tried to warn Kolomon, “Don’t you believe the ilkhan, but there still was a lame flickering hope, his beacon in the dark.
He liked building churches. Unlike the Muslim mosque, in which walls could be decorated with ornaments only, it allowed much. 
Kolomon had always enjoyed painting human faces. Even the saints appearing from under his brush sometimes bore a shocking resemblance to real people, whom he had once met on the roads of his life and remembered.
Kolomon was seized with the idea of painting Kunduz again, as it was in Saray Berke. Though the Roman was not mad, he could not resist the temptation which attacked him so suddenly. 
He knew that it would be a sacrilege to place a Muslim girl under the dome of a Christian church. The punishment would be dreadful. The ilkhan would surely come to have a look at the church, and of course he remembered Kunduz, and then...
Kolomon had already started doing the altar. He was painting the saints quickly in his usual manner, and it was only the place where the Mother of god was to be which was still vacant. 
The Roman’s mind was trying to warn him, picturing to him scenes of punishment, but his hand, in which he was holding a brush, would obey nothing but his heart, and it was forcing him to touch the prepared wall.
With each day, the time  the work was to be completed and the time  he had to take the final decision were getting closer. Once, his heart was over his mind, and his hand touched the primed surface.
The ilkhan was present at the consecration ceremony. He was sullen and absent-minded; the disease was showing more and more, and Kulagu could feel the end of him approaching. Having cast a quick glance at what the Roman had made, he ordered that he to rewarded with a handful of golden coins.
Sitting on horseback and about to pull the rein, he suddenly turned to Kolomon, as if something had suddenly occurred to him, “Is there nothing you want to ask me about, Roman? I remember what promise I gave you, and I’ll keep it...” Kulagu gave a twisted smile. “Your wife is safe and sound, but you won’t see her yet. Soon my valiant tumens will enter Mecca. When you have built a Christian church in the nest of Islam, nothing will prevent you from being with your beloved one any more. 
The ilkhan turned his face away from his and pulled the rein. Kolomon rushed after him, shouting, but the henchmen accompanying Kulagu threw the Roman into the road dust. 
The faith by which Kolomon had been living was ruined and replaced by despair. He did not want to live. The ilkhan’s words left him no hope. Only his friends with whom he escaped from the Golden Horde prevented him from dying.  
Kolomon did not know what to do next, what measures he should take.
However, less than a wekk had passed after Kulagu’s departure when Nogay’s swift tumens hit the walls of Gyandzh like a hurricane, destroyed them, and entered the city. The battle claimed many lives but was short. The citizens fought desperately, but the enemies were numerous. An avalanche of horseman wearing clothes covered with steppe dust was spreading along city streets, murdering, robbing, and raping.
Kolomon hid among slaves and common citizens in the church he had built. 
The Roman, who had lost weight and whose eyes were sunken, fought frantically. He was driven by despair. Sending another arrow at the enemies surrounding the church, Kolomon did not think about defending the house of the god whom he had worshipped his entire life. The Roman was now defending himself and Kunduz, who was by his side, just as the used to be on their happy days.  She was looking at him from the altar with her radiant, faithful, and pure eyes.
A black-fletched arrow penetrated Kolomon’s chest. He did not feel any pain, only the resounding dome of the church was suddenly spinning before him, and he, lying on the marble floor, saw the god’s fierce eyes, and light white-wings angels were lashing under the blue dome like scared swallows.
Kunduz suddenly came off the wall, approached Kolomon, went on her knees, and put her hands over his eyes.
Mongol rams were hitting the metal-covered oakwood door of the church monotonously, producing cadent booms. Horses were neighing raucously and scarily...
Berkenzhar, who has brought the fifty thousand army of the Golden Horde to help Kaydu, was severely ill.
The laws of Genghis Khan had certain provisions for cases like that. To avoid wasting the precious time, representatives of the tumens were to gather and entrust themselves to fate by drawing lots. The most fortunate one was to be the lashkarkashi of the entire army.
But they did not have to draw lots that time. Mengu-Temir, who was wandering in the lower reaches of the Seychun, arrived with an army of a thousand horsemen as soon as he heard about Berkezhan’s illness and took the responsibility from the ailed brother of the khan of the Golden Horde. 
The battle took place near the city of Sayram, and Barak, defeated by the joint forces Mengu Temir and Kaydu, escaped to central Maverannakhr.
But the winners chose not to chase him. Having reached Otrar, they stopped and decided to let the army have a rest. 
Having got settles in Khodzhent, Barak started to gather a new army feverishly. He needed weapons, which they did not have. Then, following the recommendation of the Muslim priests, Barak demanded the craftsmen of Bukhara and Samarkand to make everything necessary under the threat of being slaughtered.  
Tired of exaction and plunder and seeing no alternative, the craftsmen consented. 
Forge fires were burning in the yards and streets of the cities. They were working day and night, hammers were dinging when hit against the anvil, and red hot iron was hissing, producing clouds of steam over water, before turning into steel.  
The name of Tamdam was widely mentioned in the cities again, like in the previous years. Bukhara and Samarkand were growing anxious. Sometimes, whisper is drearier that shouts.
***
Having stopped his tumens by Otrat, Kaydu temporized persistently, reluctant to enter Maverannakhr. The noyons hurried him, saying that now that Marak had lost his army, it would me the most convenient opportunity to put an end to them. 
Kaydu kept silent. When Mengu Temir joined in, he said, “Let the ruler of the Golden Horde Berke Khan tell us what we should do next.” 
Kaydu seemed to have guessed Berke’s intentions. He was both eager of conquering Maverannakhr and afraid to do so.
No Chingizid had disapproved of the wars he had fought before. Berke had only adhered to the instructions of the Rocker of the Universe, that is, won back the land which belonged to Dzhuchi’s ulus according to his will. But to claim Maverannakhr was to usurp the ulus of Dzhagatay. It could bring many grievances to the khan.
North Caucasus, Shirvan, and the land down to Otrar had been won back by him and belonged to the Golden Horde.
Berke realize that he would never do what Batu Khan had done. But to save the grandeur of the Golden Horde was not easy either. He had succeeded in that. The land belonging to the Horde was vast again, and the khan’s heart had a reason to beat happily.
The Orusut cities were also quiet. The people still could not come to life after the cruelty shown by the Mongols. Anyways, if the Orusuts dared look up again, the Horde’s horses were still quick, and the warriors had not forgotten how to use their swords and taught bows.
The Khan was pleased by the quietness, but deep inside he was inexplicably anxious. The mysterious deed of Batu Khan haunted him. He was looking for an answer to the question why the wise and experienced warrior had not dared to stay in the land of Kharmankibe forever but failed. The land had lush grass and clear water, and everything was enough for the Mongol horses and the brave warriors. But Batu Khan did not put up the white nine-tailed banner of Genghis Khan in that land and returned to the Kypchak steppe instead. 
The Mongol tumens were the winners, and there was no force to resist them back then. What if Batu was concerned about the future of his Horde, what is he saw what nobody could see?
When Berke thought about it, he felt uneasy. The deed of Batu suggested a poignant secret.
Nogay says that they should enter the Orusut land, make it theirs, and turn the Orusuts into Mongols. It is easy to say. But is Nogay smarter than Batu is? He is not. Berke was sure that he was smarter than Nogay at least because he kept to the way outlined by Batu Khan without departing from it.
Batu’s instruction was to rule the Orusuts at a distance, which was expected to be don mercilessly. That was the right way to act. 
Faithful people coming to the Horde with merchants’ caravans were informing him that the German knights were intending to march against Novgorod and Pskov to conquer the West and North Orusut land. Are the princes unaware of that? If they are not, why are they keeping quiet? Are they so confident, and are they not afraid of their old enemies?
The quietness seemed suspicious to the khan. Well, if the Orusuts eventually turned to him for help, what would he do?
Berke did not hesitate about that. He had to help the princes, for what hunter would yield a red fox to another hunter; who would refuse a tributary without being forced to? 
Nogay was looking at the emissary sullenly, with a frown. The latter stood in front of him dressed up like a rugged dervish, with ashes smeared across his face, thin and black, bowed down reverently, saying, “The runaways are hiding in the mountains. Each of them is a good archer, and everyone is as brave as a snow leopard. They never touch poor men and keep their eyes open for tax collectors… I do not know how numerous they are, but judging by the hoofprints there must be many of them.”
“Go away. I’ll order them to give you a reward,” Nogay said.
When the emissary was gone, he sat pondering for a long time, not knowing what to do.
Noday, who had defeated the artful and brave Kulagu, had no fear of the bandits. But some measures had to be taken. It was not the first time the warrior faced a thing like that, for he had been living for a long time. Nothing could shake the order established by the Mongols in the land conquered, but when rebels appeared, they were like a splinter in a hand holding a sword. They had to be disposed of to avoid constant irritation and itching.
From his previous campaigns, Nogay knew that the punishment had to be awful enough for terror to seize whoever saw it. Thus, he decided on sending five hundred warriors to catch the rebels.
Nogay did not know that Salimgerey was merely having a rest in the land conquered; the runaways were moving towards the Kypchak steppe. 
The brave warrior had carried through what he had been intending to do. The man he had seen in Kulagu’s tent turned out to be Taybuly. It was he who once slaughtered the family of Salimgerey. The latter had been searching for the hated noyonfor a long time before he got him by a river, where the noyonhad just put up his yurts, intending to indulge in hunting.
Having enlisted the help of only forty warriors, who were the most loyal and the bravest, Salimgerey attacked Taybuly’s camp at night. 
The battle was short. The noyon’s warriors, who had not expected to be attacked, rushed out of their yurt half-dressed to face swords and arrows.
Salimgerey noticed what he had been looking for. Taybuly, with dim moonlight enveloping him, was standing by his yurt and shouting something, brandishing his sword.  
Salimgerey attacked the noyonat full gallop and dropped his shokpar, a short club with a knob on its end, onto his head heavily.
He did not hear the noise, but, turning round, he saw Tabuly’s large body collapse softly onto the ground.  
Avenge had been taken, and Salimgerey shouted to his warriors, ordering them to retreat.  They had nothing to do there any more.
Before the noyon's warrior had found and mounted their horses, Salimgerey's horsemen had covered a long distance.  
After several days, the group passed the mountain range and entered the land of the Golden Horde, where Nogay’s tumens were dislocated.
Like rivers attract brooks, Salimgerey’s army was growing every day due to Ossetians and Circassians hiding in the mountains.  
Warriors who had lost their Motherland, people for whom either death or slavery was waiting everywhere, were desperate fighters when they encountered Mongol troops. The runaways turned into a powerful menace; wherever they appeared, the locals would offer them bread and meat and show secret paths to them.
Having learned about Kolomon’s death, Kunduz stayed with the troop. One could hardly recognize the gentle and reverent girl she used to be now. Wearing men’s clothes, she rode her horse no worse than any warrior, was a good archer, and participated in all battles against the Mongols.
Kunduz did not have her beloved one any more, so Salingerey’s troop was her home.
Her heart was turning into stone with each day, and he desire to take avenge was growing more and more violent. Kunduz blamed Khan Berke for all the suffering she had to endure and for taking her lover from her. 
Salimgerey was the only one with whom she was frank; he was the only one who could understand Kunduz, for he had seen her happiness. Salimgerey would do his best to comfort her.
He did not know that the disaster was at their back. The warriors sent by Nogay were searching for the warriors, and there was no avoiding the encounter. The opponents were equal in terms of courage and skills, but the chasers were more numerous, and one force was breaking the other.
The troop managed to escape from their ring several times. But Samilmgerey’s warriors were getting fewer and fewer with each time. None of them hoped to be spared, so they preferred dying to putting themselves in the chasers’ hands.
Once, when everything seemed to be over, the troop fell into an ambush. Salimgerey and Kunduz were fighting the warriors pressing upon them shoulder to shoulder, but suddenly the girl’s horse got on its hind legs. The last thing Salimgerey could see was an arrow in the horse’s throat and the black snakes of nooses entangling Kunduz. He failed to fight his way to help her.
The Mongold were shocked when they saw the warrior caught to be a woman. 
Tuday Mengu, the head of the troop, would look Kunduz in the face, astonished by her beauty, and say with a tut-tut, “And such a beauty could have died! Pay-pay! A batyr girl! I’ll take her to be my fifth wife. She’ll give me sons, fearless warriors…” 
However, when Nogay heard about the extraordinary prisoner, he took her away from Tuday Mengu. “I’ll send her to Khan Berke,” he said. “Everything which is of some value belongs to our ruler. Such beauty is worth a thousand gold coins.”
 “Give me the girl,” Tuday Mengu would beg him, “I’ll pay that thousand to whomever necessary.” 
But Nogay would not listen to him.
Berke recognized Kunduz. Desire rose in his mind again, just as it did the first time he saw her at dawn, riding a beautiful ambler. 
Looking at the girl with oily eyes, he said, “Great is Allah! Wherever you are, wherever you try to hide, he will bring you to me. Forever and ever…”
Kunduz did not say a thing. If Berke had known how much hatred for him had welled up in the girl’s heart, he would have ordered that she be put to death immediately.
The Khan ordered to call his concubine Akzhamal, an Argyn bay’s daughter, and commanded, “Take the prisoner to your home, and let her be your sister. Her wandering has coarsened her. Teach her the things a woman should know...”
“The time will come,” Berke thought, “and I will marry her. Why should I care if she doesn’t want it? The great Genghis Khan taught is, “If your enemy is exhausted, do not kill him but abuse him.” Any woman will submit to the one to whom the Golden Horde is subject. Let her have her fling and put up with the thought that there’s no way out for her. It used to be the same with Akzhamal. Now she has submitted…” At the thought of Akzhamal, the khan’s hear swelled with a sweet languor.
Pretty is her concubine. Ruddy is her face, and her body white and flexible as a reed. She was reluctant to be his wife too.
She was the youngest in the family of the Argyn bay, who owned innumerable herds of horses. Akmazhan used to be spoilt and joyous… But time came…
The girl’s life resembles that of a colt. When a colt becomes a yearling, he is haltered. When a girl grows up, she has to put on a kimeshek, a white headdress. From then on, her pranks and giddiness seem to be gone with the wind. 
Akmazhan was sixteen when she had to put on her kimeshek and become Berke Khan’s wife.
There was no use in her resisting and crying. Being afraid of provoking Berke’s rage, her father noosed her and sent Akmazhan to the one who wanted to have her. 
Berke had a clear memory of his first encounter Akmazhan. He was staying at the home of his brother Ordu, the ruler of the Blue Horde. Returning home after hunting, he made a detour to go to a rich Argyn aul and quench his thirst by having some kumis. That was where he saw the girl.
“Give her to me,” Berke asked his brother.
Ordu said to the bay, “Have you heard the request of the khan of the Golden Horde? Do what he wants. If you don’t give your daughter to him…”
The last phrase was unnecessary. Who dared contradict the will and desire of two khans?
So Akzhamal became Berke Khan’s fourth wife.
Time was passing, but she could not come to love the khan. Her body belonged to him, but her mind remained rebellious and free.
Berke could feel that, and he was sometimes seized with irritation, but he could not help admiring the tragic beauty of Akzhamal. 
Entrusting Kunduz to his young wife, Berke did not expect Akzhamal to feel any better. The khan’s intention was different.
He remembered that back when he brought her to his home, other wives, who used to be in peace and be friendly towards each other, suddenly started quarreling with each other, feeling jealous because of his admiration of Akzhamal. Now Berke wanted her to burn with jealousy. Akzhamal was a woman, and her heart could not be indifferent and cool when her place was taken by another woman. As soon as she grew jealous, she would be attracted to the khan, seeking his love and affection, before she could notice. 
Days were passing by, but Berke’s hopes would not come true. His vizier inferior, who informed the khan of the situation in the women’s yurts every morning, told him that Akzhamal and Kunduz not only did not quarrel but even were friends.
The khan knew that the vizier was not lying to him, and still he was reluctant to believe him. A beauty could not but be jealous when seeing another beautiful woman. Akzhamal must be pretending to be unaffected when it came to Kunduz’s becoming another wife of the khan.  
Once, the khan came to the reed lake, as usually accompanied by his henchmen. The summer had been rainy, but the fall was calm and warm, clad in colorful dresses.  The woods in the distance were shiny gold and crimson, and even the steppe did not look dry and brown, resembling a soft colorful carpet. Only silvery cobweb was glowing in the golden morning light.
A solitary swan was swimming in the shiny water of the lake. Sometimes it craned its long neck towards the bottomless sky faded after the summer, and a sad scream flew over the water, over the fluffy reeds rustling mysteriously. 
Birds which used to appear at the lake near the solitary swan had flown to the South. They were wild and free and had strong wings.
Berke was not worried to see his sacred bird alone any more. The Horde was doing well, and everything he had planned had come true. All the Chingizids who had looked at him with jealousy and avarice now saw that the Golden Horde was still powerful and capable of punishing whoever dared raise a sword against it.  
Strangely, the swan’s sad screams evoked not sadness but a sense of satisfaction and quiet joy in Berke. 
The Khan grew wary. He could hear people talking in low voices behind the reeds.
Berke rose in his stirrups, trying to make out those who were hidden by the thin reeds. They were Akzhamal and Kunduz. 
The women were walking straight to him, and girl slaves were walking along at a considerable distance. Henchmen guarding the khan’s wives were following them in the rear. 
Akzhamal was holding her head low, but the khan could see Kunduz’s face clearly. Her cheeks were radiant with a soft blush; she was telling something to her companion in a lively manner. He could not resist admiring the young woman’s slender figure.
“What makers her so happy? Berke thought with a sudden irritation. “I’ll tell her it’s tome she became my wife and see what’s on her face.”  
The khan pulled at the rein of his horse lightly and stood in the walkers’ way. Surprised, the women stopped with a shudder. 
Berke laughed quietly and sardonically. Keeping his cold glare glued to Kunduz’s face, he said, “I want you to become my wife tomorrow.”
The large and beautiful eyes of Kunduz shone with either happiness or pride. She lowered her head, “I submit to your will, of Great Khan…”
Berke cast another glance at her gracile, fragile body. He desired Kunduz. “Return to your yurts,” the khan said in a snobbish voice. “Let those who are expected to do all the necessary preparations…” 
Berke’s heart was leaping with happiness and pride. The body and mind of rebellious Kypchak girl belonged to him from now on.
***
The small, dry mufti Sharafutdin was sitting at the place of honor, at Berke’s feet, wearing an enormous white turban around his head.
“Time has come to ask about the bride’s consent,” he said servilely.
Two Kypchak warriors ran up to Kunduz, bending low. 
She was sitting in the right part of the yurt, surrounded by young women, and she had a white silk shawl decorated with pearls around her head. 
The words prescribed for the rite were chanted by the warriors in the same breath, “We testify, we testify. We deserve it. At the dawn of the future, the Khan is waiting for what he desires...”
One of the warriors stretched out his hand with a silver cup in it to Kunduz, and when she had taken it, the warriors went on in one voice, “Moon-faced Kunduz, are you agree to be a wife to the ruler of the Golden Horde Khan Berke?” 
Kunduz touched the cup with her lips, nodding silently.
Berke was watching the woman with his savage eyes glowing. He was admiring her submissiveness more and more.
The warriors backed to the place where they were expected to stand.
Mufti Sharafutdin started rustling through the pages of the Quran unhurriedly; having found the seventeenth surah to fit the occasion, he read it out in a howling voice.  After that, he closed the Quran, passed his glance around the yurt, and, pressing his hands together, passed them across his wrinkled yellow face.
Everybody taking part in the celebration repeated the mufti’s gesture.
The time for the toy feast came. Till late night, bonfires were burning, heaps of fragrant beef were boiling in pots, and white kumis smelling of withered autumn herbs was foaming.
Only Akzhamal was absent at the toy. Looking at the guests, Berke thought with a vindictive joy that he had been right to think that her heart would suffer and break to pieces with jealousy.
After midnight, the khan’s wives and henchmen accompanied the khan to the yurt, which had been put up for Kunduz in the same row as the yurts of Berke’s other wives. The snow white yurt was decorated with colorful Chinese silk and Iranian carpets as radiant as a spring meadow.
The khan entered his new wife’s home. Kunduz rose to greet Berke with a bow of reverence.
They could hear two henchmen stand by the yurt with their swords unsheathed to guard the life of the Great Khan of the Golden Horde and his new wife, a beautiful Kypchak woman, till dawn.
Kunduz took Berke’s brocade chapan off his shoulders with a reverent gesture, took off his boric trimmed with black sable fur, and hung them by the entrance. She freed the khan’s feet of his boots in silence, without saying a single word, looking like a statement of submissiveness.
He was watching the woman with joy and, at the same time, suspicion.
Making quiet steps, Kunduz made a snow white bed of down on the place of honor, tool the girdle from Berke’s hands, and put out the fire in the lamps.
“I have done everything, oh Great Khan. Please lie down.”
Kunduz’s voice was trembling and cracked.
The khan was suddenly seized with an inexplicable anxiety and fear. He heard the door being flung open; he wanted to shout, to call the sentry, but somebody’s hands grabbed him from behind, and a callused heavy hand was put over his mouth.
In the dim light falling through the opening in the yurt dome, he could see the shine of the dagger held to his throat.  Mad with fear, Berke made a dart with his entire body, but he was thrown down onto the carpet. 
The fight was silent. Only the people’s panting could be heard. Soon Berke could not move under the heavy weight of the bodies on him. He was gagged, and a kerchief was put tight over his mouth. 
“Do start,” somebody said in a soft woman’s voice, “The sun will be rising soon…”
Berke was terrified to recognize the voice of Akzhamal.
The khan could feel somebody’s hands undo the lace of his pants deftly, and a scornful voice whispered, “You mustn’t hurry when it comes to such thing. I can cut off too much...”
Berke felt awful pain creeping over him. He darted as hard as he could, but the people invisible in the dark were holding him firmly. The khan’s mad eyes could see nothing but the face of the man bent over him, which looked pale in the moonlight.
Finally, the man asked in a coarse voice, “Give me blanket ashes. I need it to stop the bleeding.” He rose to his feet. “Done. It won’t take too long to heel; I know how to do that. One is enough to sit at the place of honor. You can give the other to dogs.”
“I’m not sure dogs will eat that,” somebody invisible in the dark said laughingly, giving the man a cloth of white fabric.”  
“Now pin him down,” Akzhamal ordered.
Suddenly Berke saw a woman’s face bent over him and recognized Kunduz.
“We’re going to take your gag out. But if you dare scream, we’ll slaughter you. It was a just retribution. Was it you who ordered to castrate the young man who loved Akzhamal; was it you who intended to do that to Kolomon the Roman? We chose not to kill him so that you can get a better understanding of pain. Listen... We won’t tell anybody what we have done to you,” Kunduz said mockingly. “If the people find out that it is not a stallion but a gelding on the throne of the Golden Horde, they can somehow turn their back to you…” 
Somebody undid the knot of the kerchief and took the gag out of the khan’s mouth. The soft hair of the carpet muffled the sound of footsteps, and it took Berke, whose entire body was writhed in pain, some time to realize that he was alone in the yurt.
When he finally realized that, he gave a terrible scream.
Silence was the answer.
***
Having taken their awful revenge, Salimgerey’s warriors were whipping their horses in their hurry of getting as far from the quarters as possible. Kunduz and Akzhamal were there. Kunduz could have run away from the Horde long before, but her hot temper demanded retribution, and she overcome her desire to join Salimgerey’s troop, which was hiding in the woods on the banks of the Itil, straightaway.
For most of warriors in the Horde, Berke was a ruler possessing god-given power, and to assault him was believed to be a dreary crime. But it was possible to take avenge on him.
Kunduz and Akzhamal became friends very soon after the slave servant told Kunduz about the girl’s grief. Once, when the latter told her about what Berken had done to the young man who followed her to the Horde, the plan of the revenge was worked out. 
There is no man on earth who is not blinded by the shine of gold. As the saying goes, a saint will get off his straight and narrow way at seeing it. 
Akzhamal succeeded in bribing the warriors who were to guard Kunduz’s yurt on her wedding night.  The rest was done by Salimgerey’s people.
Now they were returning to the troop. The warriors who had turned their backs to Berke Khan were accompanying them. Some hid the gold Akzhamal had given to them and mounted their horses, which had been saddled beforehand, and left the Golden Horde for Kharmankibe and Irbit, trying to find a peaceful and free life there. 
That was the life of Mongol warriors in the uluses; perhaps that was the reason why treachery and tumult had always been so common in the land conquered by Genghis Khan. Khans, noyons, and beks were quite reluctant to do good.
In their constant campaigns and raids, death was always at the warriors backs. Hostile arrows and spears were always waiting ahead, and those who retreated would be put to death by the noyon’s personal guards. All trophies won in campaigns eventually came to belong to them. Even if you were courageous and fearless in a battle, the weapons of the enemy killed by you and his horse would not necessarily belong to you. It was up to the noyonor the khan to decide.  
The life of warriors’ families, which stayed in their native uluses, was no easier. Those in power had the cattle and wealth. Can a camel, a mare, and a dozen of sheep feed a family drained because of constant exaction for the khan?
Many Mongol soldiers failed to find their enemies at returning from a campaign. The khan’s people would sell them as slaves or take the children away for tax debts. The Mongol warrior brought slavery to other nations and was a lave himself.
Thus, many betrayed their khan’s for gold or just escaped, getting together as bandit groups to rob the guilty and the innocent, for they could not withstand the  hardships. 
Unlike the wandering bands, Salimgerey’s troop attracted vindicators, who were well aware of the source of the grievances. They were people who hated khans and dreamt of living a free life.
The troop consisted of nearly a thousand people, but what could it do to the Golden Horde – a little cloud in the enormous vault of heaven?  The time for the clouds to cover the sky and for fiery arrows of lightning to sting the ground drowned in blood and tears was yet far ahead. But Salimgerey kept fighting...
CHAPTER FIVE
V-
The tradition had somehow existed since the people of the steppe have remembered themselves: all squanders and arguments between clans and tribes had been caused by pasture lands. Where herds felt good and well-fed, the nomadic owner was happy.
Genghis Khan, who sent his tumen away from the Mongolian Steppe, dreamt of turning the universe into an enormous pasture. He would destroy cities and exterminate nations who knew how to grow crops and embellish their ground with gardens because of that. 
Having conquered new land, he would divide it into aymaks and uluses and allot them among his children, grandchildren, and faithful noyons. 
It brought about feud and squander every time. However, nobody dared complain openly or raise his voice in the time of Genghis Khan. It had been different since the fierce ruler died. According to his will, only the khan could allot aymaks and uluses, and what each of the Chingizids was to get depended on the one on the Mongolian throne.  That is what made the struggle of the numerous groups of Chingizids for “their khan” so cruel.
Everyone given an aymak and an ulus was also given enormous power. Every living being was to venerate him, and cities and settlements were to pay tribute.
Any noyonwho had demonstrated valor in battles and claimed the khan’s attention could be given an aymak, but only a man from Genghis Khan’s family could be given an ulus, regardless of the branch of the clan to which he belonged. 
That was the practice adopted to elect the khan in Karakorum after Genghis Khan’s death.The decease rulers’ children and the other members of his clan seed to have equal rights to be enthroned. But the winner was the most powerful one, that is, the one who had the greatest number of adherents among emirs and noyons and the greatest number of loyal warriors.
The constant rivalry prevented all branches of the Chingizid clan from gaining strength; at the same time, it made the new khan take the opinion of his environment into consideration, as a result of which he was dependent on emirs and noyons, on those who managed uluses. All Chingizids seemed to have equal rights in the state created by Genghis Khan and take care of its wellness by means of joint effort. But it was only an illusion.
The situation was the same in the uluses. With each year, they were growing less conscious of their being subordinated to Karakorum and taking less and less notion of the great Mongol Khan in their affairs. The Golden Horde was no exception.
If one of the sons of a deceased khan was about to occupy the throne, his brothers and even their children were sure to take up the struggle.
After the death of Batu Khan and his sons Sartak and Ulakshi, the latter’s mother, Barakshi Khatun, decided upon making his grandson Tuday Mendu born by Batu’s son Tukan  the khan.
But the noyons who owned the aymaks belonging to the Golden Horde and Muslim Merchants, who had acquired great authority in the state by the time, had their own opinion on that. They supported Batu Khan’s brother Berke.
The struggle was short but fierce. Barakshi Khatun tuend to Kulagu for help , but he was war away, and even the words of the Great Mongol Khan Mengu were not heard in the Golden Horde by those who did not want to hear. 
Having gathered the kuraltay, Dzhuchi’s offspring raised Berke on the white blanket.
The new khan acted just as all Chingizids did. Heads of his yesterday's opponent, including Barakshi Khatun and many of those who had helped her were severed.  
Berke remembered that days clearly. Patient and fierce like a steppe wolf lying low for his desired prey, he covered a long way to the throne.
Though he envied his brother greatly, he did as Batu had once done.  Being a proper nomad, he did not want to have his quarters in any of the previous cities within the Golden Horde, for emirs and dargushi, who upheld the non-Muslim custom, were more influential there. He did not want to reside in Saray Batu, where everything reminded him of the successful brother, either. Berke Khan ordered that the headquarters be placed in the lower reaches of the Itil, in the aymak which was the nearest to him. 
It was here, where the caravan roads leading to the Orusut Land, to the Caucasus, Iran, West Europe, and Karakorum crossed that he decided to have his city, Saray Berke, built.
The land around was lavish. The grass was lush each spring, and radiant lakes in necklaces of reeds reflected the cerulean sky. The place had enough space both for humans and for the innumerable herds of the khan’s horses.
Berke Khan had been a successful ruler. Sartak and Ulakshi died quickly to make way for him. He had won so much land back to make the Golden Horde stronger. Karkhan workshops, in which craftsmen manufactured beautiful textile, costly carpets, crockery, and smithed weapons had been built in new and old towns. More and more merchants had been coming to the Golden Horde. And now that happened...
Just thinking about the awful night, the khan would grind his teeth in rage.
Berke loved the banks of the magnificent Itil. Even in the old times when his aymak was in North Caucasus, he used to come there for summer. Now, Berke could hardly wait till spring.
An odd anxiety was haunting the khan. He could not stay at the same place for a long time, and the colorful steppe seemed to him dull and gloomy, as if clouds always hung law over it and it was constantly raining.  
His caravan consisting of two hundred Turkmenian nar camels and numerous heavy squeaky arba carts was wandering around the steppe pointlessly, always changing its location.
Alarming news were being brought from the Orusut land – both Novgorod and Pskov were tumultuous.  The Livonian Order was active again, preparing to march against the Golden Horde’s tribute givers.
Berke realized how important what was going on was, but his oppressing indifference prevented him from acting.
Only once did his eyes shine vividly, which was when a reliable man informed him of Salimgerey’s troop. 
The emissary, an elderly Kypchak with a heavily pitted face was speaking softly, averting his eyes, “There are a thousand soldiers in the troop. Their head is, oh Great Khan, your former commander Salimgerey. I recognized him. Among the runaways, of Great Khan, there are your wives Akzhamal and Kunduz…” 
“Go away…” Berke ordered. His heart was leaping, and he failed to make it calm down.  
Now the khan knew who had done the violence to him, which was half the success. What was a band of a thousand soldiers to the Horde? If he just wanted it to happen, the wind would blow the ashes of the rebels across the steppe.
Berke was about to give his command for a tumen to be sent to search for the troop, but he was terrified to think that the runaways would reveal what nobody knew to the people before dying, which prevented him from doing so.
Both Akzhamal and Kunduz, and everything who had participated in the events of that night, had kept their words, and no single human being knew about the khan’s having been castrated. If it had not been so, the rumor would have reached Berke, and it would be passed on around all the Chingizid uluses by word of mouth. 
So he should not hurry. Everybody he knew about his being castration had to die immediately, without opening their mouth. The true Mongol can be patient and wait for his time to come.  
The fact that Salimgerey’s group was so close could stir slaves, so the first thing the khan ordered to do was enhance security.
Slaves were numerous in the Golden Horde. Conquering new and new land, the Mongols not only sell prisoners to foreign countries but also leave them within the Horde. They needed slaves to do the building, to pasture cattle, and to do household work. 
When Batu Khan was the ruler and during the first years after Berke took the throne, slaves were mostly kept all together in special clay fortresses called khizars.  There were special guardians to take them to work in the morning and lock them up in their homes at night. 
But after the rebellion, when ten thousand slaves had to be put to death so that the Horde could be peaceful again, Berke altered the order. 
Berke came to be afraid of slaves concentrated in one and the same place. That is why he ordered that everybody who had survived the stirring be allotted between noyons and his faithful people and for the khizars to be destroyed. Now slaves lived with their owners. They slept, dressed leather, and made felt shoes and yurt blankets in their households. 
The news of Salimgerey’s troop being close to the Horde reaches the slaves as well. Many of them remembered the previous rebellion and were eager to join the troop to set themselves free.
Berke was aware of that due to him people. His intuition told him that Salimgerey would try to set the slaves free sooner or later to get new people. He only had to know when the commander was intending to do that. The slaves could be a good bait. If everything happened to meet the khan’s expectations, a single blow would be enough to put an end to the rebels. The secret which Berke dreaded would be buried with them forever. But no single man of the troop was to stay alive. Not a single one...
The thoughts of his disgrace haunted the khan day and night. He would often wake at hearing himself scream before dawn, covered in clammy sweat, and fail to go to sleep again, staring into the dark with his mad eyes open wide.
On the night when Salimgerey’s soldiers disappeared from the yurt after doing their violence to him, nobody heard him scream, and nobody came to help him. It was not before dawn that Berke managed to get rid of the nooses with which he arms and legs were bound. 
When people came, Berke ordered them to call for a doctor without explaining anything. None of his confidants dared ask the khan where Kunduz, Akzhamal, and the sentry had disappeared.
Having examined Berke and avoiding looking the khan in the eyes, the Arab doctor said, “What was done was done masterfully… Only a doctor or a mullah can do that… I am afraid to think...”
Berke beaconed to doctor and, as he had come close to the khan, grabbed his throat and said in a fierce, sibilant whisper, “Don’t think! Try not to think! No living being should know about what happened! If your tongue betrays you, I’ll think of a death to make heaven shudder! You got it?” 
The doctor’s white lips were whispering something inaudibly.
 “But if you help me be healthy again, my generosity will be enormous...” Berke said ingratiatingly.
The doctor would not leave the khan alone for several days, giving him remedial herbal and root decoctions and changing his bandage. 
Once, when the khan felt better and was able to sit, he called the Arab. “Have you told anybody about by grievance?” he asked.
“No, Great Khan. I can swear on the Quran…”
“Don’t…” Berke said. “I believe you… What do they say there?” the khan nodded to the door. 
“Nobody has a clue. They think you have an ordinary ailment…”
“That’s good,” Berke said absent-mindedly. “Well, I promised to be generous to you… I’ll keep my word…” 
The khan stretched his hand to a carpet bag decorated with colorful embroidery and got a handful of gold coins out of it. “Take it… The khan’s hand is generous…”
Berke dropped the coins to his feet.
The doctors eyes dilated, he bent down over the gold hurriedly with his thin crooked back up.
A knife shone in Berke’s hand, and its blade pierced the unprotected back of the Arab back easily, getting under its protruding shoulder blade resembling a broken wing… 
***
After several days, Berke was ruling the Horde again. Everything seemed to be the way it had been before; nobody noticed any changes.
Only Berke knew that his mind had been turned upside down. It suddenly occurred to him that earthly delights were not available to him any more. His heart would not be excited at seeing a beautiful woman, and his cool blood would not run in his veins. It was the end to his hope for a successor. The point of his living was to keep the position of the khan as long as possible, ruling people and indulging in the power. The braced the spirit of Berke Khan, helping him preserve his appearance.
Only once in a rare while, involuntarily, his imaginary world was invaded by the previous, living life, and the khan grew restless, his soul lashing about, incinerated. 
To prevent people from understanding that he had been castrated, Berke would sometimes stay with some of his wives.
Once, he came to one of her for the night. The woman was young, and her body was robust; the khan used to like her caress, which awoke his desire.
But now the very memory of it provoked annoyance and disgust.
“I am tired,” Berke said, “and I do not want you.”
The woman did not say anything. The world of the ruler was the law. She only thought that he had told her the same thing the previous time and was likely to repeat it the following time.
The khan woke up before dawn. The bed was empty, and instead of a warm living body his hand touched a cooled cloth.
He got up silently and left the yurt, making no noise. The full moon was shedding its magic light on the steppe, and he could see far around him. Blows of soft and warm wind reached him from the Itil.
All of a sudden, Berke heard inaudible hurried whisper and low muffled moans. He rushed to behind the yurt quietly to be petrified.
Between two camels, right on the ground, his wife was lying. The khan could not see the woman’s face, only her hips, white in the moonlight, were moving and rocking before his eyes. Perched like a young bura camel, a henchman who was expected to safeguard the khan was bent over her.
Berke was watching them with mad, still eyes till he saw the warrior’s spear propped against the yurt. He took it slowly, raised it high over his head, and sent it where he wanted with an accurate and heavy blow. 
There was no hiding from life. It would remind the khan about itself every day, making him take care of the Golden Horde with more zeal than ever. 
Berke sat on the throne, looking calm, while fury was tormenting his mind on the brink of madness, and the decisions the khan took were both quick and cruel. On such days, many people were sentenced to death.
Power... Glory... They helped Berke cling to life, but the memory would bring the awful night back to him again and again, and his tormented heart wanted revenge. There had been Chingizid in the sublunary realm who did not think of ways to take avenge on his enemy till his last hour came. The khan dreamt of the revenge every night...
The Mongols brought great changes to the Kypchak steppe, breaking and ruining the order which had been established in centuries. Neither nomadic routes, not summer pasture lands, nor winter camping lands could belong to a family or an aul before they came. Each clan wandered where they wanted to. Nobody dared stand in the way of a caravan.  The steppe was vast and boundless.  When the Mongols appeared in the steppe, it became too small. The conquerors divided it into aymaks. From then on, the clans who used to be free had to submit to their new rulers, for their bodies and minds as well as their families and cattle belonged to them. It was up to the manager of each aymak to set wandering routes, winter camping lands, and summer pastures. At his command, the clan was expected to provide a certain number of warriors for the khan’s army.
The rulers took the best lands and gave them to their servitors. According to the Mongol law, ulus boundaries were to be adhered to, and if a clan tried to preserve the previous order, refusing to submit, they would be punished severely. 
Years were passing by, but instead of peace and calm, which the Mongol rulers had expected to be established in the Desht-i-Kypchak, the steppe was as tumultuous as it was when the hoof of the Mongol horse had just touched the ground.
Being reduced to poverty because of constant exaction, people would run away from their rulers, hoping to find a land in which the crooked swords and the noose could not get them. But Mongols were everywhere, and the runaways started gathering in troops like that of Salimgerey. Together, there was some chance of defending their life. Hatred for those who were robbing, raping, and killing united people.
***
Having decided on putting an end to Salimgerey’s troop, Berke returned from his quarters in Saray earlier than he used to after summer camping. There tidings both happy and sad reached him.
Ilkan Kulagu was dead. One of the enemies of the Golden Horde was gone. He had been the smartest of the enemies, always dangerous. Once could expect Berke to be happy, but he was suddenly seized with a sinking feeling. He realized that everything came to an end sooner or late. The time would come when he would have to die. He and Kulagu had had much in common. Both had been walking over dead bodies and spilling blood, living to make their uluses powerful, to conquer as much land as possible only. But the end was sad as that of every living being. The crown to your aspirations was a patch in the steppe, where your body and brains would be turned into ashes, and your vain plains would be gone forever with you.
Kulagu had at least left his offspring. Whom would he, Berke, pass his throne over to? Who would come after him and where would he direct the strong horse of the Golden Horde?
An overwhelming force was bringing the khan to the reed lake more and more frequent now.
The first half of summer was over, and the overripe grass was bowing to the free wind of the steppe, and it was rolling green waves to the horizon hidden behind a lilac haze, warm and winy. 
Berke wanted to live more than ever before. He was not used to thinking about it. He used to merely live his life and be sure that the years allotted to him would last long.
That year, young swans did not come to the old and solitary bird. It suddenly occurred to the khan that he in fact was alone in the world too.  Others were born to beget children, but he seemed to have been born to sit on the throne in the Horde for a while and depart from the world without leaving a trace.
O own the throne is bliss, so why was his soul so restless, why did it long so much for what a common warrior could have, a son to whom he could give his word and his hopes at leaving? 
Berke was looking at the lake with still eyes. Quiet waves were running on the bank, rustling the reeds, and rocking their long flexible stalks. 
The solitary bird was swimming directly towards the khan, plowing the waves with its white salient bosom.
As far back as Berke could remember, swans had never approached him. He was waiting for what was to come with fascination. 
Indeed, the bird was not afraid of him at all. It swam up to the bank and, stretching its snow white neck, put its head on the wet sand.
The khan made a step towards the bird, stretched his hand out, and froze in astonishment. The swan’s eyes looked very human, and Berke could see sadness and anguish in them.
Suddenly, the bird beat its wings against the water surface violently, and its silvery throat released a screech.
The khan sprang back. The swan’s body was lying still at his feet. 
He covered his face with his hands and started to say a prayer hastily, confusing words and stumbling...
On that day, Berke spent more time than usual at the lake. The death of the last of the birds which Genghis Khan had given to him was a shock. 
“Can it be the end?” he thought in despair. “Is it a sign of Heaven to warn me that the thread of my life will be torn soon?”
Then despair was suddenly replaced with fury. The khan did not want to stoop to fate. Even though his days were numbered, he was still the khan of the Golden Horde, and if nothing else could please him, that should be his greatest pleasure till the very end.
He still had power and the right to rule dozens of thousands people, his enemies were still enjoying the sun and the blue sky, his revenge untaken. 
Everything was in the hands of Allah, but as long as he was alive, the Horde was to live by his words, and whatever the khan wanted would be done. 
The spite and fear been eating up Berke’s mind were also drying his body. The yellow skin on his sharp cheekbones was stretched heavier than before, and a feverish twinkle appeared in the khan’s eyes. 
Even though nobody would remember him after his soul departed from his body, he had to square his accounts with Salimgerey, Akzhamal, and Kunduz. He would put them all to an awful death by ordering for them to be flayed alive.
Once, Berke ordered that Tuday Mengu be called to his tent. 
The squat broad-chested noyonstood before the khan reverently. Looking at him, Berke thought that he resembled neither his grandfather Batu nor his father Tukan.  Being a brave warrior, Tuday Mengu was at the same time occasionally hot-tempered, vehement in his speech, and sometimes simply talkative.
Having exchanged the traditional greeting, the khan said, “Too many runaway slaves have gathered in the woods higher up the Itil. Their head is our former commander Salimgerey. The girl named Kunduz, whom you caught in the Caucasian Mountains, is with them...
A smile spread over Tuday Mengu’s face, “I know them both well. But who can swear that Kunduz is a girl…”
Berke frowned discontentedly, “I don’t want to speak to you about that…”
The noyonlaughed, narrowing his slanting eyes and ignoring the khan’s irritation. “Of course she is not, but she is still a proper peri… Delight for the eye… Of, why did I listen to NoyonNogay… 
“Listen to me,” Berke interrupted him harshly, “the slaves are becoming too dangerous for the Golden Horde. You will take an army and fight them. Our emissaries will show you the way to their lair. You will make sure that none of the enemies is alive...”
“What shall I do to Kunduz?”
“Kill her,” the khan ordered cruelly. “My concubine Akzhamal is with the rebels too. Kill her as well.” 
Tuday Mengu uttered with a sad tut-tut, “Why kill two beauties? If you do not need them, oh Great Khan, give them to me…”
“Kill him,” Berke repeated. “If you need women, you can take all my wives...”
Tuday Mengu shook his head in denial, “What do I need the old women for? My grandmothers are enough.”
Berke would not allow anybody speak like that in his presence. But he knew the noyonwell and knew that his words were empty. Nobody what do what the khan wanted better than Tuday Mengu. It would be rather hard to cope with the slaves.  They knew what would happen to them if they were caught alive.
“Don’t let the beauties carry you away,” Berke repeated.
Tuday Mengu suddenly grew serious, “I’m not mad; I won’t lose my mind because of a woman. I’ll tie each of them to a horse’s tail…”
Not mad... That was what the Chingizids considered Tuday Mengu to be. Nobody could think of such cruel and sophisticated ways of killing enemies as he did; nobody had spilled as much blood as the man had. 
Tuday Mengu’s army was to march against Salimgerey’s troop at the sunset of the following day, but loyal people had already warned the slaves about the attack to be made by the end of that very day.
Salimgerey decided on facing the noyon. He was well aware of what the Mongols’ practice had been since the time of the great Genghis Khan. Even if they tried to go away and hide somewhere, Tuday Mengu would not go back; he would follow them wherever they went.
The night which came ruined Berke’s plans completely. An embassy headed by the boyar Danil suddenly arrived from Novgorod. The ambassadors had arrived to address an urgent matter, so the Khan received them at once. 
The sky over Novgorod and Pskov was clouded again - the German knights were intending to try their luck again.
“If the Golden Horde remembers the promises given by Khan Sartak,” said Danil, “it should send an army to help us.” 
Berke was prepared to receive the Orusuts. Long before he had started thinking about what he should do if the Germans claimed Novgorod and Pskov.  To yield to them would mean to lose the Orusut land, which had been paying him a considerable tribute. The Horde was not week enough to let anybody take the honeypot from it.
The Khan called for Tuday Mengu. “I have altered my decision,” he said. “Another man will cope with the slaves. Your way should bring you to the Orusut land.”
The Noyonwas glad, “I am at your command, oh Great Khan. Let somebody else deal with the slaves. The beauties could dazzle me and soften my heart…”
Ignoring Tuday Mengu’s idle talk, Berke went on, “You are to go to the land of Novgorod and Pskov and help the Orusuts defeat the Germans’ iron cavalry…”
Seeing that the khan was not in the mood for telling jokes, the noyonasked, “When shall we match off?”
“At dawn.”
“Your wish is my command.”
***
Hardly had the morning star named Sholpan faded in the gray sky when Tuday Mengu's army, alarmed, marched off towards the land of the Orusuts. 
Salimgerey was confused by the noyons actions. He had been expecting them to attack and preparing for the battle, but the Mongols were going farther and farther away from the Itil banks. 
Being afraid of a possible trap, he sent a small group of warriors headed by Kunduz to follow Tuday Mengu. He had to know what the noyon’s intentions were.
At noon, a warrior arrived at Salimgerey’s camp. Kunduz was telling him that Tuday Mengu’s army had stopped to have a rest at a lake surrounded by a pine wood. The enemies’ horses had been watered and sent to the opposite bank for pasturing, which meant that the noyonhad decided on staying by the lake till the following morning.  
Salimgerey was not eager to fight, for it would be a losing battle, but the idea of attacking the enemies at night, while the army was resting, was enticing. He ordered his troop to get to the pine wood as close to the Mongols’ camp as possible in small groups. 
The warriors hid in the thick covert so that the sentry appointed by the noyoncould not guess that they were near. The people were checking their weapons and adjusting their horses’ girth for the last time before the battle. 
Salimgerey went to the wood margin to find out what way they could access the Mongol camp. 
Being a former commander, he understood that the battle was not going to be easy straightaway – Tuday Mengu had at least ten thousand warriors at his command. A tumen of matured, experienced horsemen was opposed to his thousand consisting of recent slaves, who were new to their swords. 
The noyon’s camp could be attacked unexpectedly for the soldiers, but what was the point of it? The fury and hatred of those poorly armed could not defeat such a force anyway. The Mongols could not be defeated as long as they held together.
But what was on TUgay Mendu’s mind? Why was his behavior so strange; why would he prepare for a distant passage towards the Orusut land instead of looking for the troop? 
The thought was haunting Salimgerey. He could see that the army did not have carts or a caravan loaded with portable yurts, which were usually carried along during campaigns, but each warrior had two spare horses. The only condition under which the Mongols could make such arrangements was when they were to have a light and…long passage.
Suddenly, Salimgerey heard a low rustle behind his back and turned round with a shudder. Kunduz was approaching him, bent down low, trying to hide in the thick bushes. 
“What has happened?” he asked anxiously.
“A man of ours has arrived from Saray Berke. He says the khan has altered his intention. Tuday Mengu is going to Novgorod to help the Orusuts defeat their enemy, who is about to attack their land.” 
Salimgerey gave a sigh of relief. “Look,” he said, pointing at the Mongol camp, “we cannot cope with them even if we attack them unexpectedly. There are too many of them...”
Narrowing her eyes, Kunduz looked at the low sandy bank of the lake, where hundreds of fires were smoking and people were walking. “It’s a pity,” she said. “If they divided themselves at least into two camps. I would tie Tuday Mengu to his horse’s tail - ” there was a revengeful glow in 
Kunduz’s eyes. “How much misfortune he has brought to people… Now we have to wait for another opportunity…” 
They were silent for a long time. The sun was setting behind the pearl-edged wall of the wood, and the bronze pines cast long shadows onto the ground.  The wood grew quiet and gloomy. The Mongol fires were giving off blue smoke, and the wind was blowing it in gray tousles over the lake towards the Orusut principalities.
“I know what we should do,” Kunduz said suddenly. “Even though we have bad luck today, we are alive, and we must act.” She put her hand on Salimgerey’s shoulder. “Let’s go, and I’ll tell you my plan...”
At dawn, Tuday Mengu’s army, undisturbed, marched away. Its movement was as fast as a flying arrow.  The Mongols were marching to the Orusut land day and night, replacing their horses and  stopping only to have rest and to let the animals eat something.
Salimgerey was occupied with quite a different thing. On the same night, his troop returned to their previous camp, and Kunduz told what her plan was. It was both simple and reliable, so Salimgerey approved of it and began the implementation.
After several days, he sent a soldier of his to Berke, ordering his to say to the khan, “We have a big army. If you don’t set all the slaves free, we will march against you and destroy your city.”
They took the right opportunity for such impudent actions.
When Nogay was the lashkarkashi of the Golden Horde, there always was an army of thirty thousand soldiers near the headquarters. Berke, knowing the noyonto be both cunning and resolute, always felt apprehensive because of the latter’s possible ambition to take the throne from him. After Nogay had returned from the campaign against Kulagu, he removed him from the position, giving him a large new ulus in the West of the Horde, where he sent him.  
Saying that the time of peace had come, Berke did not appoint a new commander and forbade locating a temporary army near the quarters. From then on, the city had been guarded by an army consisting of warriors who were sent from uluses interchangeably for a term of three months. 
Now that the Orusuts needed help, Tuday Mengu took that very tumen.
Berke had already sent his messenger to the noyonTok Bugi, ordering him to immediately bring a new army to guard the quarters, but no warriors were left in Saray berke apart from his personal henchmen while he was away. Following Kunduz’s recommendations, Salimgerey decided to take advantage of the situation.
The news about Salimgerey’s requirements stirred the slaves. Remembering their previous rebellion, Khan Berke was forced to agree and set the slaves free, blazing with anger.
New warriors came to the troop. Salimgerey took his people up along the Itil, and soon his trace was lost in the vast Kypchak Steppe. 
Then a gray, cold autumn came and brought about blistering, violent wind. Once a snowfall happened, and the snow would not melt. Salimgerey’s troop encountered another troop of the same kind headed by the free batyr Zhagan. They decided on staying in the middle reach of the Itil, where there was good pasturing land for horses and they could bet by till winter by hunting.
In early winter, Salimgerey and Akzhamal became husband and wife… 
***
The Kypchak Steppe was lying in its slumber, windswept, wrapped in a white shroud.
At the same time, Barak Khan was gaining strength in the warm Maverannakhr, where the winter was never long. 
The craftsmen of Khodzhent, Bukhara, and Samarkand were making weapons for his army. Being scared by the prospect of the Golden Horde’s growing stronger and afraid of new raids of the nomads, the people were doing their best to help Barak get new tumens armed. Their own ruler seemed to be more merciful than the other one.
Testing the army, Barak sent his troops to Otrar but did not venture to start the big struggle against Kaydu’s tumens .
He had every reason to hesitate. Fifty thousand cavaliers of the Golden Horde commanded by Mengu Temir were lying low in the middle reach of Seykhun like a large dragon. 
Barak dreaded the army more than he dreaded Kaydu, for he did not know what the Golden Horde was intending to do. 
Everything changes in the sublunary realm, and caution is always an advantage.
Suddenly, ambassadors headed by the noyonKypchak born to Kudan, Ugedey's son, were sent by Kaydu. They said, “We all are Genghis Khan’s descendants, and it is contemptible for us to squander with each other. The Kypchak Steppe and the vast Maverannakhr is enough for all of us. Let us not tear the land into pieces.
Trying to conceal his joy, Barak consented. They agreed not to attack each other and to gather the kurultai at which all Genghis Khan’s descendants would be present to find a peaceful solution. 
Berke learned about the collusion in early autumn. The alliance of Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants did not bode well for the Golden Horde. 
Having called his noyons to the palace, the khan said indignantly, “What is Mengu Temir doing?  What did I give him five tumens for? He was to set the wolflings of Dzhagatay and Ugedey against each other to weaken them and conquer Maverannakhr with a single blow. But he, the paltry coward, is idling in the sun like a cat!
Berke decided on sending a troop to Mengu Temir’s quarters urgently to remind the noyonwhy the latter had been sent to the banks of the Seykhun and pass the words of the outraged khan of the Golden Horde on to him. 
That winter was unusual. Heavy snowstorms would not stop, making the ground and the sky merge, preventing even Mongol horses, which were used to such weather, from walking, for they fell onto their knees, unable to resist the wind.
Spring came, early and friendly. The sun melted the snow mountains brought to Desht-i-Kypchak from all across the world by the wind within several days. Being flooded with the spring tide, the ground turned into a sea. Such steppe rivers as the Yaik, the Irgiz, and Turgay were burst their banks as well. 
When the water had run down the steep slopes and the rivers had nearly returned to their beds, it suddenly started to rain incessantly, and everything turned into a bod, in which horses were drowning. 
Berke’s messengers hardly reached Mengu Temir’s quarters. They were greatly frustrated to find out that the alliance between Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants was quite strong and that there was no way in which they could break it in the nearest future. They did not know that it was not careless of Mengu Temir to be sitting in his quarters without taking any measures. The noyonhad his reasons to do so, and his aims were far-reaching.
***
Being frustrated by Mengu Temir’s slackness, Khan Berke spent the entire winter in anxiety. 
He would hardly wait for the ground to dry a little and the banks of the Itil to be pale green with the first silky blades of grass. With each day, the steppe full of life-giving water was blooming more. The sky was high and bottomless over it. The innumerable flocks of birds appearing by lakes and river arms made the scenery hardly visible, and nightingales, who had lost their mind because of love, were singing away in the osier bed tousle of the Itil banks. 
On one of such days, Berke ordered that Tuday Mengu, who had returned from the Orusut land, and the latter’s son Toktay be called into his tent. When the noyons arrived, the khan could not resist admitting them. They both were young, well-shaped, and fast in movements. They were wearing simple clothes, which had been common for Mongol warriors since the time of Genghis Khan. Each was wearing a simple girdled chekmen with a sword hanging on it; on their feet they had soft Mongolian boots, and on their heads, boriks trimmed with yellow fox fur.  
Berke knew that the two noyons loved weapons and horses more than anything. The sheathes and handles of their swords and daggers were decorated with gold, silver, and shiny gemstones. The appearance of their black high-mettled horses was embellished with saddles, reins, stirrups, and girdles decorated with pure white silver. 
The young noyons were rather noisy and often argued; the Chingizids believed them to be teases.
Having exchanged greetings, the khan offered Tuday Mengu and Toktay to sit down.  
The noyons sat onto the fluffy Persian carpet spread at the throne with their feet tucked in in the Oriental fashion and prepared to listen.  
“How many warriors does each of you have now?”
“According to the order, each of us has brought five thousand here,” Toktay answered, looking the khan in the face suspiciously. 
“Good. I want them to be ready to start a campaign on amy day and at any time. I will be their commaner…”
Tuday Mengu drew his entire body forward, “How long will out way be?”
Berke frowned. He did not like to be interrupted.
“It will take us only two days to see the enemy’s face. As we have found out, a troop of runaway slaves is now on the right bank of the Itil, in the Black Wood.  We are going to  surround them  and set the wood to fire...”
Tuday Mengu burst out laughing merrily, “So we’ll have to fry the two beauties!”
Toktay did not respond to the noyon’s words. His countenance was serious, “Why burn the woods for nothing? There are no more than two thousand slaves, and out brave soldiers will cope with them easily.”
Berke shook his head, “Out warriors are used to fighting on horseback; the woods is not the right place for them to demonstrate their art. Among the slaves, there are many Orusuts and Bulgarians. They are used to living in the woods, able to fight dismounted, and can sneak by any block if necessary. We’ll do as I have said. Fire will help us do what the warriors are unable to do.
“Let it be,” the noyons agreed.
“Go and get ready for the campaign. Arbas carrying thirty leather bottles full of Chinese inflammable mixture should be sent towards the Black Wood today.”  
Tuday Mengu and Toktay bowed to the khan. 
***
The Black Wood was stretched wide along the Itil bank. Strong oaks, slender pine trees, and snow white birches had their branches intermingles, forming an impassable thicket.  
Salimgerey’s troop, hiding in the dark of the forest, was raiding Mongol troops and caravans passing by, which were carrying the tribute paid by the Bulgarians and the Orusuts. 
The warriors had cut a narrow path, on which only two horsemen could stand, in the woods, and it brought them to the vast steppe and back to the camp. 
Salimgerey was not intending to linger there. The place was convenient but rather assailable, for the wood belt was not too wide. He was waiting for the steppe to dry completely and for the rivers to return to their beds.
The young batyr who headed a troop of free Kypchaks Zhagan, with whom they had become friends in winter, suggested to Salimgerey that they should do deeper into the steppe, to the banks of the Yaik, father away from the khan’s quarters. Kypchak people, who were akin with him, were wandering there, and they could rely on those people in terms of keeping their secret.
Salimgerey knew that neither he nor his people could expect to live a peaceful life from now on. Sooner or later, the khan would be informed of where they were hiding, and the Horde’s long and merciless hand would be stretched out to get them. 
Still his people, who were tired of constant fighting and being chased, needed to have at least a short rest. They also indulged in a secret though – perhaps they could attract new warriors to the troop and turn it into an even greater force. 
Berke’s noyons chose the right time.
Guided by the emissaries, ten thousand Mongolian warriors reached the Black Wood after midnight. The runaways were encircled.
Berke’s Chinese officers who knew how to use the inflammable mixture defined the wind direction and did their job quickly, pouring the contents of the bottles where necessary. 
All of a sudden, thousands of fire snakes were wriggling in the forest, illuminating the thicket. Red tornadoes reached the tops of the curly pine trees. 
Fed with the life-giving juice of spring, the trees did not want to die, but the fire was stronger. The wind started howling and blowing, and ash flakes resembling a flush of black crowns rose to the sky. Burning branches were flying down like torched thrown with a strong hand. 
It was the sentry who saw the reflected fire first. They rushed to the camp. Waves of fire were rolling at their back, and birds deprived of their nests were flying over tree tops with screams of anxiety. 
The fiery shoe horse was approaching the camp. It was only very close to the Itil invisible in the dark, that no noise could be heard. At Salimgerey’s command, a part of the warriors had taken the women and children to the river. Before the remaining warriors found their hobbled horses on wood margins and saddled them, the pungent smoke had already enveloped the camp. The way leading to the Itil was the only unobstructed way. The silent over there was disturbing and scary, but they had no choice, so Salimgerey ordered to retreat to the river. Scorching wind was drying their faces, the smoke was attacking their eyes and making them smart, and high flames were licking the black sky.  The starts were not shining any more.
“Dive!” Salimgerey shouted. “Dive everybody! Whoever is alive, we’ll meet on the opposite bank!” 
The slope of the bank was bold, and horses, whose eyes were glowing with reflected fire, were falling into the water, neighing loudly. People were diving after them, leaving their weapons and clothes on the bank. Only Salimgerey and thirty more warriors stayed on the bank to cover the troop’s withdrawal.
Clinging to their horses’ manes and tails, people were struggling against the water flow. White froth of broken water was appearing here and there around the horses’ heads held up high and stretched towards the opposite bank. The Itil was as light as in the daytime, and only the distant bank of salvation was enveloped in darkness.
Berke knew how to avenge. At his command, a thousand of soldiers commanded by Tuday Mengu crossed the Itil before dawn and lay low opposite to the Black Wood, hidden by the high osier bed thicket. 
“Not a single slave must get to the steppe,” the khan said to the noyon briefly. He was sure that Tuday Mengu would do his best to meet his requirement.
As soon as the runaways’ feet hot the bottom and they, still unable to believe they were saved, started coming out of the water, heavy shokpar blows were poured on their heads. Piercing the fallen bodies with their spears, the Mongol warriors dumped the corpses into the river.
***
Accompanied by his henchmen, Berke was standing on the high Itil bank. When the forest was ablaze, set on fire by his warriors, the khan saw a shocking view.
He could see people lashing about the bank insanely, horses falling down the bluff with ear-shattering neigh, and blood and reflected flame gradually painting the water of Itil red.
The khan’s face was still and pink in the light of the close fire reflected. He was triumphant. What he had been dreaming of so long and so painfully on sleepless nights had come true.
His enemies were defeated. What can bring one greater happiness than knowing that the one was wanted to take avenge on is treaded to pieces?
Those who had witnessed and caused his disgraced were killed in his sight.
Grabbing the whorled saiga horns hanging down from his belt, the khan was looking at the fire with his eyes still, trying not to miss a thing and to remember the moment forever. 
A distant memory which seemed forgotten was suddenly brought back to him. Berke was a little older than twenty back then, and he was standing on a bank of a big river just as now, watching people flounder in fire and smoke. It was not a forest which was burning then but the beautiful Orusut city named Kharmankibe.
Since then, the gleam of fire had always appeared in Berke’s mind, giving his a feeling of joy and greatness.
It suddenly occurred to the khan that the fire could be the last fire in his life, that perhaps his heart was to never leap in the happy anticipation of a victory.
His still face twitched. A golden earring with an eight-faced brilliant swayed in his left ear, strewing spiky sparkles, his toothless mouth was narrowed and wrinkled to produce a mimic of smile, and his sloping shoulders stooped under the brocade chapan – death was at his back. But the khan could not see himself and was unaware of it.
Till the very dawn, till the flames ceased to dance where the Black Wood used to be, Berke stood on the high bank. 
The great Itil washed blood off the sand and took the dead bodies, and Berke started to feel uncomfortable, as if suppressed by the gray dawn. If he could make fire burn forever; if he could sset the world ablaze forever and make people scream! But even the great khan, the ruler of the Golden Horde, could not do that.
The warriors who had with Salimgerey wrapped wet cloths around their faces to prevent themselves from being choked by the pungent smoke and started  walking laboriously along the narrow edge of the bank, leading their horses by the rein, to get out of the woods and find open steppe. The black shadow of the bluff and clouds of black smoke were hiding the runaways reliably. They finally thought that the coast was clear and climbed the bluff up a rockslide. Salimgerey shuddered with surprise – he saw a small group of horsemen right before him, within the reach of an arrow, y the edge of the woods.  Salimgerey easily recognized one of them as Berke Khan in the gray light of the dawn. He was accompanied by no more than a dozen henchmen from his personal guard.
The decision was taken instantly. His fate had arranged their encounter, and he could not let the prey escape. Salimgerey knew that the henchmen who were safeguarding the khan were masterful warriors, but his people were more numerous. “Mount!” he shouted. “Let’s revenge the death of our comrades!”
The ground shuddered with the patter of hooves, and the hoarse shouts of those attacking were one furious howl.
Salimgerey had expected the opponent to resist, but Khan Berke shouted something to his guards and, giving his horse a lash, galloped to the steppe, pressing his body against the animal’s neck. How could the chasers have known that the khan decided to take no chances and to lure them to the place where the Mongol army was to gather after the battle in the Black Wood. 
The horses of Salimgerey’s warriors were not as exhausted as those of the soldiers of the Golden Horde, who had covered a long distance at night, so we were catching up with the khan’s henchmen easily and throwing them out of their saddles by hitting them with their heavy clubs. Only Berke’s horse, Aktanger, famous all over the steppe, was taking his owner away from the danger rapidly. Salimgerey and the Bashkir batyr Galimzyan chased the khan with great perseverance. The batyr had a marvelous horse; people call that kind of horses ushkur. He could catch a bird within a short race but could not cover long distances. So, forcing the horse do nearly his maximum, Galimzyan almost caught up with Berke. Throwing the rein aside, he took his bow out of his sadak.
“Don’t shoot!” Salimgerey shouted. “We should try to get him alive!” 
The Bashkir was confused, and the time was lost, while his horse’s pace was growing slower and slower. Soon, Salimgerey was in advance of the batyr. Now he was the only one still chasing the khan. His desire to capture him alive at any cost gave him energy, and the horse, a wonderful Turkmen argamak, seemed to feel his owner’s impatience and gusto. He was galloping through the steppe, hardly touching the ground.
The distance between the chased one and the chaser was growing smaller, slowly but steadily. The wind of chase was making them cry. Salimgerey stood up in his stirrup to throw a noose around the khan’s neck, but Berke looked back and shot his bow, bending in his saddle like a young warrior. The roasted arrow capable of breaking through mail armor, penetrated Salimgerey’s chest deeply and threw his body back. He threw back his head, trying to catch the cold wind with his pain-twisted mouth, and the last thing his eyes open wide could see was the crimson streak of the dawn across the sky marking the place where the sun would rise.
***
Sitting at a festive toy to celebrate the victory, Berke was still thinking about the frailty of life.
He had everything – glory, gold, and power to rule people, but on that morning, the khan sensed especially deeply that it was all elusive and fugitive. What he had been proud of, the things he had thought to be the essence of his living were fading, and the soul tired of the years which had passed it was growing dumb to the worldly joy and grievance. He could only live by force of habit, acting according to his habit, and doing the habitual things. 
Could everything that had happened to him have been meaningless, and could the world be empty and merciless?
The alarm he was seized with on the night when the rebellious slaves were punished never left Berke. It was the year of the Hare (1255)...
Messengers were bringing unsettling news from Iran. Kulagu was dead, but his offspring would not put up with their losses in the Caucasus. Then Berke, having summoned Nogay, ordered him to lead his tumens to the Mugan Steppe again to remind the enemies how strong and mighty the Golden Horde was.  However, Ilkhan Abak was not intimidated and sent a big army against his.
The battle took place on the Kura bank, and Heaven did not favor Nogay that time. He was defeated and ruined, wounded in his head, and one of his eyes grew blind.
The remnants of the Golden Horde’s army hurried to retreat to Shiran.
Berke was shocked to learn about the collapse of his tumens. Commanding an army of three hundred thousand soldiers, he marched to help his noyon. However, it failed to make Ilkhan Abak to opt for wrapping up a truce. Providence must have guided him. No battle took place that time. The Great Khan of the Golden Horde died of heart attack on the road.
Berke’s body was brought to the quarters. For the first time ever, a Mongol khan was buried not as the custom prescribed in the steppe of Kerulen and Onon in his distant motherland. Berke, being a protector of Muslims who had himself adopted the religion of Prophet Muhammad,   was buried west of the City of Saray, on a plain. Innumerable herds of horses did not trample down his grave; instead, a black stone mazar was erected, and his name and the burying surah from the Quran were carved in golden letters on a black tombstone.
Berke’s ailed and sick brother Berkenzhar became the temporary ruler of the Golden Horde.
Deep mourning was declared all across the Horse and its subject territories. 
In the following spring, Dzhuchi’s descendants gathered for a kurultai in Saray Berke. Alfter long disputed, Mengu Temir was lifted on the white blanket as the new Khan of the Golden Horde. 
The noyon Nogay was not favored by luck again. The grand and great-grandchildren of the great Genghis Khan preferred the softer and more concessive Mengu Temir for the sake of their peace, being afraid of his authoritative nature and hot temper. 
New times were impending the Golden Horde, and its future was obscure.
Khan Berke failed to commit the deeds which Batu had committed – he did not conquer new land for the Horde, but he kept what he had inherited throughout the period of his reign, which he did masterfully. 
Being a proper Mongol, he adhered to the Great Yasa of Genghis Khan strictly, and none of Dzhuchi’s offspring dared claim his golden throne when he was alive. 
Just as his grandfather, Berke solved all controversies between noyons and emirs on his own. Nobody dared outflank him and pursue his or her goals by means of the khan’s confidants. Those looking for devious paths would be put to death.
Genghis Khan’s will was as follows, “Only those who are fully subject to their khans can command tumes, thousands, and hundreds of soldiers.  In the beginning of each year and in the end of it, each is obsliged to report on his actions. Those who dare act arbitrarily or indulge in rest, or conceal their actions, hiding like a stone in water of an arrow sent to thick reeds, must disappear. Such commanders cannot be heads of the army.”
Berke Khan did not violate his will. Everybody obeyed him, and the army of the Golden Horde was renowned for its iron discipline, as it was in the times of Batu.  Even Nogay, being stubborn and hot-tempered, denying anybody’s authority, dared not contradict Berke.
Being not a valiant warrior, Berke managed to multiply not only the power of the Golden Horde but also its treasures. He promoted trade and crafts and made sure that no single person living in the land subject to him could evade paying taxed of hide.
The cunning, artful, and sagacious Berke was dead. There was no visionary who dared foresee the future of the Golden Horde and its new khan...
***
The kurultai at which Kaydu and Barak reached consent took place in the year of the Pig (1269).
Not only Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants but also Dzhuchi’s son Berkenzhar, who was to pass the words of the Khan of the Golden Horde Mengu Temir on to the Chingizids who gathered there arrived on the bank of the Talas to take part in the kurultai.  
The toy feast lasted seven days. On the eights day, having gathered in Kaydu’s yurt, the descendants of Genghis Khan started discussing the issue which had made them come there. 
Just as it was in the previous years, when peace was established among them for a short time, the Chingizids were saying that it was time they forgot about their quarrels and ruled the conquered land together, loving each other and helping each other about everything.
“When six people are quarreling, each of them will lose what he wants. When they are tight-knit, there is no force able to ruin them,” Kaydu said.  
Everybody agreed with him.
No khan was lifted on the white blanket at the kurultai, which by no means made the decisions taken less important. Nobody was opposed to the fact that Kaydu was to rule the entire Cetral Asian from now on. Two thirds of Maverannakhr were given to the rule of Dzhagatay’s ulus. As they unanimously agreed, Mengu Temir and Kaydu were to rule the third part jointly. 
The Golden Horde won back the cities which used to belong to it – Almalyk, Tokmar, Merke, Kulan, Aktyrtobe, Taraz, Saudkent, KUmkent, holak, and Kurgan. 
So, the land which used to be divided between Genghis Khan and his two elder sons was owned by their descendants again.
Besides, the kurultai decided upon allotting the slave craftsmen living in Bukhara and Samarkand, and each was to appoint a tax collector of his on.
The kurultai ended in an unusually peaceful way. Everyone gathered was swearing to be true to each other and decided to become andas, that is, blood brothers, by blending their blood.  The descendants of Genghis Khan drank wine from one and the same cup and ate meat from one and the same plate.
It was not before then that people realized how wise it had been of Mengu Temir to not send his Kypchak cavalry of fifty thousand warriors against Maverannakhr two years ago.  On that day, he obtained what he had wanted without spilling blood and taking the risk of getting out of Heaven’s favor.  
Somehow mistrusting Kaydu and Barak, the khan of the Golden Horde ordered one of his tumens to get settled not far from Bukhara and Samarkand, at the border of Dzhagatay’s ulus, to provide protection for himself just in case.
It was at that kurultai that Barak mentioned his being eager to turning the land of Khorasan and Afghanistan into a part of his ulus delicately; most of the Chingizids were not opposed to it – the new battles were to be fought far from their land, which meant that there was no reason to be worried. 
Kaydu supported Barak enthusiastically. He was hoping that the latter would drain his army while fighting Kulagu’s descendants, to whom the land belonged. A strong neighbor, even a blood brother, is always dangerous.
The following year, Barak, feeling encouraged due to the support, sent his tumens against Khorasan. But the Kypchak warriors which Kaydu sent to help him left his camp just before the battle began.
Ilkhan Abak defeated Barak, and he hardly managed to retreat to Bukhara for protection with five thousand soldiers.
Barak’s retreat was so fussy and hasty that he fell off his horse when trying to shake off the pursuers; his spine was damaged, and he lost his legs.
Realizing that things looked blue for Barak and that he had not managed to gather a new army yet, Dzhagatay’s descendants, who used to keep silent, started acting. Barak was defeated heavily. He turned for him blood brother Kaydu again in despair.
The latter again claimed to be ready to help and led twenty thousand soldiers to the middle reach of the Seykhun. However, he was moving so slowly as if his warriors were riding not horses but sluggish oxen. Kaydu was waiting. It was all the same to me whoever was going to win. He had a fresh army used to fighting at his command. 
The impossible happened. Barak, unable to walk, commanding a freshly raised and unskilled army, won the battle.  .
He did not need Kaydu anymore, and he asked him to send his tumens back.
But Kaydu had not come to go back, and his intentions were not to go home. Time came for his to act. His profit was so close to him, and no Chingizid can give it up even if he has to lose a kinsman. 
It was easy to find a pretext for being outraged.
Кaydu accused Barak of preventing his people from collecting taxes from the craftsmen of Burhara, who belonged to him according to the decision taken at the kurultai. 
On that very night, Kaydu’s tumens surrounded Barak’s army, which was tired after the battle. Barak failed to see the daybreak – he died. 
People had different versions and interpretations. Some claimed the emir’s heart to have failed him, unable to stand the treachery, while others said that he was poisoned by a man sent by Kaydu. 
Who could give the true reason? The only thing people knew for sure was that the Chingizids always died fast and unexpectedly. Everybody was used to it...
***
In spite of the rumor, Kaydu ordered that Barak be buried in luxury, which everybody belonging to the clan of the great Genghis Khan deserved. Having completed what was to be done according to the Mongol custom, Kaydu acted the way he wanted. 
All Dzhagatay’s descendants who came to turn themselves in or to complain about any oppression by the deceased one were given a part of his property. Mubarek Shakh’s wife tore golden earrings from the ears of Barak’s wide in Kaydu’s sight, but he did not want to put an end to the insult on the woman which used to share her bed with his blood brother.  Only a year had passed after Kaydu’s chest touched the chest of Barak and their blood was mixed in a golden cup as a symbol of infinity...
By adding Barak’s army to his tumes, Kaydu became enormously powerful. Not being elected to be the khan yet, he became mighty and menacing. From now on, his realm included the land from Kubylay’s Chinese Khanate in the East, the land to the border shared with the Golden Horde in the North and in the West, and from Kulagu’s Ilkhanate in the West.
Kaydu treated the Golden Horde, which had helped him many times on a rough day, with indifferent contempt.
After Berke was commemorated and Mengu Temir showed his fair attitudes, his status grew higher among his mainstay, the Kypchaks. However, the khan new that he was not worth much. The Kypchaks were the main force, but they should not forget that they were a nation conquered by the Mongols, so they should be ready for any kinds of surprise. Mengu Temir remembered the words of Nogay, who once gave Khan Berke the following advice: enter the Orusut land and turn the Orusuts into Mongols. Can the smart Nogay fail to understand that the nations conquered were an enormous lake, in which the Mongols were a handful of salt? As soon as the fist was unclenched, they would dissolve completely.
The khan thought with a grin that is he had followed Nogay’s recommendations and got settles in the Orusut land with his army, who knows, perhaps he could have found himself to be baptized after a year and his and his warrior would have had to wear Orusut clothes.
More than Kaydu’s growing power, the events taking place in the land lying west of the Golden Horde worried Mengu Temir. If the Kypchaks were beginning to lift up their head and realize that they were one nation there in the steppe, what was most probably going on in the Orusut land, where people could do much more than merely pasturing cattle?
Nearly forty years had passed since the Mongol cavalry rushed through the Orusut land, trampling down fields and setting fire to cities. The Ourust principalities still could not unite; their princes were still quarreling, which was good for Mongols.  Tver and Moscow Principalities had been mentioned quite often recently. But they were not seeking association either, carrying on their ancient arguments and polemics.  
Daniil, son of Aleksandr Nevsky, was ruling the Moscow. Who knew what was on his mind? Could Daniil unite the Orusuts in the name of his father? Other principalities seemed to be hiding Moscow, obstructing the Golden Horde’s access to it with their land, and Moscow was growing more powerful with each year; the numerous trade ways going through that city had caused its treasury to grow.
If Moscow and Tver Principality unite, will the others join them, and will the Golden Horde be forced to forget Kaydu and send its tumens against the Orusuts again? It worried Mengu Temir The time was different, and the struggle against them could be more challenging than it was in the time of Batu Khan.
But not only Chingizids craved gold and glory. Orusut princes still would not be reconciled with each other, and their eyes often glowed with avarice and jealousy. Till that was gone from the Orusut land, the Golden Horde was safe. It just needed to have some eyes and ears there not to miss the right time to interfere. 
Dzhuchi, Batu, Berke... Each khan believed himself to be smarter and long-sighted than his predecessor. Each searched for his own way but failed to get off the deep track laid by Genghis Khan’s horde. Mengu Temir realized very soon that the road was the only right way for his as well. The only way to rule the nations conquered and to keep a tight rein on them was by following the great ancestor’s instructions. It required a powerful army and gold.
Intending to conquer half the world, Genghis Khan took whatever he needed for his tumens from the nations conquered. He deprived the Tanguts of Xi Xia of their iron and ordered to make swords for his warriors using it; he took gunpowder, battering rams, and catapults from the Chinese. So his army became the strongest.
The Golden Horde was quite powerful as well. But for the army to obey the khan, the latter needs to be rich, generous, and lavish presents on everyone who has shown courage in a battle or deserves it because of  faithful service.
Genghis Khan took everything in his battles, plundering the prosperous cities which had not experienced ruinous raids since long before. But the wise counselor of Khan Udegey, Yeluy Chutsay, said, “You cannot rule the land you conquered on horseback if you stay in your saddle.”  It was impossible to keep robbing those who had been robbed many times without harming the Golden Horde
Mengu Temir believed that time had come to address domestic issues of the Horde.
He increased the taxes to be collected from the nations conquered, craftsmen, and merchants. From now on, everybody was to pay for what he lived by – for cattle and for fields under crop, for game killed and for fish caught, for trees cut and for horseshoes forged.
However, it was too inconvenient to receive the tribute in the natural form. Money was necessary. The money of all states and lands once touched by the hoof of the Mongol horse were used in the Horde, but their price was different, and the reason why people took them was because they were made of silver and gold. 
Mengu Temir knew that only a state having its own money could be called a state. That os why he decided to uphold Khan Berke’s undertaking.
The first gold coins of the Horde were made in Bulgar. Berke was a Muslim, so he ordered to decorate them with the profile of Caliph An Nasiritdin Allah, who had died thirty five years before he became the ruler and had been able to win back the power of the Bagdad Caliphate. Paying money bearing the image of An Nasiritdin to merchants, Berke believed that he was thus glorifying Islam.
Everything changed, when Kulagu led his tumens to the walls of Badad in the year of the Horse (1258).
The Chinese battering rams did their part. Kulagu’s soldiers entered the city through the holes in its walls and became spread across it like ants. They started murdering and plundering.
The citizens of Bagdad would not give up. Caliph Mustasim, who had refused to open the city gates to the Mongol on the previous day, was the first to beg for mercy.
“I’ll spare you if you manage to persuade the citizens to stop fighting back,” the ilkhan said. 
Mustasim obeyed. He spoke to the faithful Muslims, “It is the will of Allah. Stop resisting, and the Mongols will not touch you…”
The citizens of Bagdad believed their caliph.  When they were unarmed, the Mongols approached them as they had always approached the nations conquered. A merciless slaughter took place in the suburbs, in the open steppe. 
Hardly had the ground soaked up the blood when KUlagu said to Mustasim, “We are guests visiting your clan. Show me how rich you are.” 
Shaking with fear, the caliph led the Mongols to a door armored with black iron. Kulagu’s warriors broke them open to find a great number of gold-embroidered dresses, bags filled with dinars, pears, or gemstones.  
The warriors brought the trophies to the ilkhan’s feet, but he did not even look at them. Kulagu’s eyebrows were frowned menacingly. He said to Mustasim, “Now show us the caliphate’s gold.”
“I swear…”
“Don’t swear!” Kulagu shouted furiously. “I’m asking you, where does the gold which Bagdad caliphs have been collecting for ages lie?”
One of the noyons held his sword to Mustasim’s throat.
“Come on! Tell us… Otherwise, my warriors will find it. They know the smell of gold. If they do it without your help, you’ll have nothing to pay for your life.”
The caliph’s face was whiter than his turban. “There…” he said, pointing to a small blue pond by the palace walls.
Having taken leather bottles, the Mongol warriors surrounded the khauz and started bailing out the water. When they could see the bottom covered with white sand, the most impatient ones started digging. Soon, a mountain of gold bars was at Kulagu’s feet, and the warriors kept taking them out of the pond.
The ilkhan’s face was as still as a stone; only the hot reddish gleam of gold could be seen in his narrow slanting eyes. 
Having learned about the fall of the Bagdad Caliphate, the great Mongol khan Mengu ordered Berke to melt the rest of the coins bearing An Nasiritdin’s portrait.  From now on, the Golden Horde could coin money with his permission only.
Pretending to obey, Berke ordered the Muslims who were loyal to him to keep making coins decorated with Caliph An Nasiritdin’s profile. It was done in absolute secrecy in Almalyk, Khodzhent, and Otrar.  Now they were made of silver and copper.
It had been long since the Golden Horde was separated from Karakorum, so by deciding on coining his own money, Mengu Temir wanted to emphasize the fact that he was the ruler of an independent state.
The Great Mongol Khanate did not exist anymore. Its last ruler Arik Bugi was dead. In the year of the Sheep (1271), KUbylay proclaimed himself the Emperor of China, transferred the capital to Khanbalyk, and called the new state Yuan.
Kulagu formed his ilkhanate. Kaydu was ruling Central Asia. Mengu Temir owned the Golden Horde.
It took the khan of the Golden Horde long to decide what his money should look like and whose face should embellish the new dinars. Perhaps that of Batu Khan, the creator of the Horde, of Berke, who had multiplied its power?
Now. The gold of the Horde should glorify the name of its rulers, so let everybody see the face of the great khan Mengu Temir on the coins.  
***
Mengu Temir was in a sullen mood. His chief vizier Katay had just left his yurt, and the words uttered by him had muddled the clear spring of the khan’s geniality.
The vizier brought unpleasant news. The rumors had reached Mengu Temir before, but he would not believe them. Katay said that the khan’s concubine Ulzhatay was cheating on his with Abash, one of his sons, who was born by another wife, Kubun Khatun. 
It was never preternatural for a Mongol khan’s family if the son married one of his father’s former wives. Sometimes the father married his daughter-in-law after his son’s death, but adultery was always disapproved of. 
Mungu Temir was not young, and still the vizier’s words infuriated him.
Being used to exercising self-control, the khan remained calm outside, but his eyebrows were drawn together, and there was a menacing glow about his eyes.  
For a moment, he imagined Ulzhatay and his father Abash. Black fury obscured his mind. No, he could not tolerate it!
Mengu Temir tried to get rid of the vision, but he could see it in his mind: the white body of his beautiful wife spread on the ground and Abash, short-armed and wide-chested… 
The khan clapped his hands. A henchman appeared in the door aperture. “I want the muzalim to come to me.”
The henchman disappeared to be instantly replaced by a swarthy warrior who served as the muzalim, that is, the one to execute khan’s special orders, in the quarters.
Mengu Temir’s hands were trembling. “Come closer,” he ordered to the warrior.
Making quiet steps on the soft carpet, he approached the khan and bent down in a bow, waiting for a command. 
“Abash Oglan must not see the dawn of tomorrow,” Mengu Temir said in a low but authoritative voice, keeping his eyes on the muzalim’s face. “Do you understand me?” 
“Your wish is my command, Great Khan!”
The warriors face was unemotional.
“Go away.”
He backed away from Mengu Temir.
No khan has ever explained the reasons which motivated him to give this or that command to the one executing it. Nobody was to know the khan’s innermost thoughts. The khan’s secret was an unsheathed sword handing over the muzalim’s head. As soon as he drops a word which he had better not say, the sword will punish him even if he goes over the hills and far away to hide.
Mengu Temir was not interested in the way in which his order would be executed. The muzalim would take the decision and do what he found necessary. But he would fulfill the khan’s order under any circumstances.
A henchman’s deft hand threw the carpet covering the entrance open, and Ulzhatay entered the yurt. Mengu Temir shuddered. The concubine seemed to have been overhearing; she seemed to have guessed that something had happened there. The light falling through the aperture in the top of the yurt illuminated it, and the khan could see the woman clearly. 
Slender, delicate-featured, and high-bosomed, she was standing before Mengu Temir and smiling. 
A daughter of the Oyrot emir Buka Temir born by Genghis Khan’s youngest daughter Chichigan, she had always behaved the way she wanted and taken liberties which other wives of the khan were not allowed to take.
She had given Mengu Temir two sons and two daughters, and the khan loved Ulzhatay greatly. 
So now, looking at her, Mengu Temir could feel his heart thumping. A spiteful thought occurred to him, “Let Abash die. Apart from him, I have nine sons, and I’ll always have somebody to pass my throne to.”
Unlzhatay’s face suddenly grew angry and capricious, “Great Khan, do you think you are old and I can trade gold for copper?”
“What do you mean?” Mengu Temir asked her in a hoarse voice.
“Your vizier Katay. The man does not walk as all people do; he wriggles like a worm…” 
“What had he done to you?”
“He wants to sow discord between us. His soul is full of black plans...”
The khan smiled suspiciously. How could he know what Ulzhatay knew?
Unwilling to hurt the vain khan, the vizier merely said that his wife was cheating on his, but he did not tell that he had caught Ulzhatay and Abash making love at dawn. 
Mengu Temir did not know that his wife had spent the whole day in anxiety. She hoped that Abash would be able to get rid of the vizier before the latter could inform the khan, but when she saw Katay coming out of Mengu Temir’s yurt and the muzalim entering it after him, no hope was left for a happy end. She had to act. That was the reason why she came to the khan.
Ulzhatay’s eyes grew imperious and demanding.
“I was reluctant to tell you because I did not want to muddle the spring of our joy... Tell me, have I ever lied to you?”
Mengu Temir was waiting silently.
Suddenly Ulzhatay smiled sadly, “I think the Kypchaks are right to say that there is no man who does not look at a beautiful woman with lust and drink kumis…”  
The khan felt alerted. Could Katay be one of those who could not resist a beautiful woman? He was old. Why would he think about that? But what if he belied Ulzhatan and Abash out of spite?
“Since I have been your wife, I have not dared to think of casting aspersions on your name... I want to ask you again, Great Khan, have I ever lied?”
It occurred to Mengu Temir that the woman was right. He could not blame her for anything. However, he left Ulzhatay’s question unanswered again, staring at her face with narrowed eyes on t. 
“Then I want you to know. Yesterday your vizier, that worm, told me to warm him up and share my bed with him. If I refused or told you about his harassment – “ Ulzhatay suddenly smiled, opening her full crimson lips, under which her pearl white teeth shone. “I was not afraid.  I knew that nobody could affect your trust in me. I did not believe in the vizier’s threats. Nobody dares say a bad thing about the khan’s wife, even if she is guilty of something. The khan’s secret and that of the khanum are sacred. Is one who casts aspersions on the Great Horde pathetic and commiserable?
Ulzhatay broke off for a moment; then she threw her head up, and a happy youthful smile appeared on her face.
“The reason I have told you this, Great Khan, is because I want you to know that I keep no secrets from you. Let’s forget the conversation...” she came closer to Mengu Temir, and she felt her hot breath on his face and heard her whisper, “I’ve been missing you!.. You have not come so long!.. Don’t forget me, my emperor!..”
Not waiting to hear the answer, Ulzhatay rushed to the exit and disappeared as rapidly as she had emerged in the yurt. 
When night came, Mengu Temir went to the concubine’s yurt. 
She was hot; her hands were gentle; her body felt as taut and silky as the wave of the Itil.  
It occurred to the khan that he had been missing his beloved concubine.
The khanum’s secret is that of the khan. The khan’s secret is that of the Golden Horde...
At dawn, when Mengu Temir went to sleep, exhausted by love and caress, Katay the vizier was strangled in his yurt instead of Abash.
Since that day, none of the khan’s attendants had ill thoughts concerning Ulzhatays, and nobody’s eyes saw and ears heard anything to inform the khan of. The former peace and order were brought back to the quarters of the Golden Horde.
Ulzhatay would take any chance to see Mengu Temir, and the khan would think how beautiful she was whenever he watched her secretly, and the desire to have her, to feel her body would awake in him, blearing his mind.
Perhaps the wise Katay was unaware of the fact that women’s charm is stronger than any wisdom.
Once, Ulzhatay came to the khan when he wanted to be alone. It happened infrequently, so Mengu Temit understood that the concubine wanted to tell him something. 
Ulzhatay’s thin white hands offered a cup of kumis to the khan. 
“Do you want to tell me something?” Mengu Temir asked. 
“Yes,” the woman smiled. “Matchmakers have come from my father’s aul. They ask our daughter Kurt Fudzhi to be the concubine of my brother Tautay.
Mengu Temir narrowed his eyes. Tautay, the eldest of Ulzhatay’s brothers, had become the emir of the Oyrat clan since his father Buka Temir died.
Stroking his thin frosted beard, the khan said, “It is good to have matchmakers coming to you. If the yew has no koshkar, the cow has no bull, the mare has no stallion, and the camel has no bura, where do we get lambs and calves, colts and baby camels?  If the Mongol girl does not get married, where do we get new warriors? Tautay Emir had nice thought in his head. But he cannot make a koshkar, a bull, a stallion, or a bura, He is too old for a Mongol to be born by him. That is why I will not allow him to marry Kurt Fudzhi. She will be a wife of Korman Soyurgotmysh.  
“They say the sultan is ill,” Ulzhatay objected cautiously.
“Let it be. I’ll find another husband for Kurt Fudzhi.” Suddenly, Mengu Temir broke out laughting. “What will you say if I marry her to an Orusut prince and take wives for my sons from the Orusuts?” 
Ulzhatay was looking at Mengu Temir in surprise. It was hard to understand whether the khan was joking or he had expressed a secret thought of his by accident?
Mengu Temir did not know that the fate would have its own concerns in respect of his daughter. She would not be married to an Orusut prince; instead, she would be a wife of Korman Soyurgotmysh. The sultan would die after a year, and Sabylmysh, a son of one of Ulzhatay’s brothers, would marry Kurt Fudzhi. After three years, death would claim his too. Then the heavenly destiny would be fulfilled – the daughter of the khan of the Golden Horde would become a wife of the sixty-year old Tauyat, whose matchmakers Mengu Temir once refused.
Kurt Fudzhi would give birth to three boys, three Mongols. However, rumor will claim young warriors from Tautay’s aul to have helped him become a father.
CHAPTER SIX
VI
Time and death had no mercy on common soldiers, but neither were descendants of the great Genghis Khan unaffected by times, and death claimed them just as if once took the Rocker of the Universe. The tree of Genghis Khan’s clan was strong and many-branched – hundreds of his grand- and great-grandchildren ruled the nations and lands they conquered.
By the time Mengu Temir became the khan of the Golden Horde, the only Dzhuchi’s great-grandchildren still alive was Nogay. 
Since the great campaign against West Europe of the year of the Mouse (1240) headed by Batu, Nogay had participated in every war, and his tumens had never been defeated.  
He had always upheld the order established by Genghis Khan, and it had helped him hold his multilingual army in least and turn it into an undefeatable force, as his grandfather had done.  
Nogay preserved the order of the Rocker of the Universe. The head of ten soldiers was subordinated to that of a hundred soldiers, the latter, to the commander of a thousand soldiers, who was in turn subordinated to the head of a tumen. Three noyons managed the tumes, subordinated to the lashkarkashi, that is, the commander-in-chief of a wing. 
Genghis Khan taught the Mongols, “If at least one out of ten flees from the battlefield during a battle, every soldier of the ten must be put to death. If a hundred soldiers appear valiant, but the ten soldiers subordinated to their head are found to be cowards, all the hundred soldiers must be put to death. 
If one out of ten is surrounded by enemies and the remaining nine do not try to help him out, they all deserve death. If it happens to ten soldiers, and the remaining ninety warriors do not do their best to save the ten warriors, they all must be put to death.” 
That was Genghis Khan’s will expressed in his Yassa. 
His law was even crueler to those whom he entrusted his warriors. If the common warrior could lose his head for his cowardice or failing to help his comrades, those heading tens, hundreds, and thousands were to be put to death along with their families for being unable to give commands and setting an example. 
Death had been the only punishment, always and everywhere.  Genghis Khan’s warriors were born to kill others. If they did not do that or did that badly, they died themselves.
Having finished the campaign against West Europe and the Orusut land, many warriors got settled in the lower reaches of North Caucasus rivers, the Itil and the Tan.  
The head of each ulus always beat up soldiers from those inhabiting the land at command. Nogay was lucky, for there were many Mongols in his ulus. They did remember the times of Genghis Khan and teach his children and grandchildren the things to which they were used, which seemed both natural and necessary.
During the Crimean Campaign, a brother of one of Nogay’s wives, the son of a Khadarkin emir Makur Kurana died. The Khadarkin people were true Mongols renowned for their courage and ability to be obedient. 
Having a powerful army, Nogay felt independent and knew how to let the rest of the Chingizids understand it. His three sons commanded three tumens united by iron discipline and were ready to execute any order by their father.  
Nogay never called himself the khan but solved all problems concerning the administration of his ulus on his own, seeking neither advice nor help in the Golde Horde. 
He acted in an especially independent way when Mengu Temir was the tuler. The new khan did not show his dissatisfaction; he rather did the contrary, that is, pretended that nothing was happening, because Nogay’s ulus was still believed to be a part of the Golden Horde. 
Mengu Temir was occupied by a different issue at that moment. A new town called Saraychik was being built at his order within one day’s passage from the Yaik mouth up the river. Here, in the Horde’s heart, far from the boundaries, where domestic feud was so common, the khan decided to arrange the coining of his money. 
There was one more reason why Mengu Temir did not want to quarrel with Nogay. Kaydu had gained strength in Maverannakhr and Khorasan, and he had already taken the liberty to take a part of the money which belonged to the Golden Horde and were obtained from slave craftsmen belonging to it.
If that had happened in the time of Batu or even Berke Khan, the Golden Horde would have been unable to tolerate the insult and sent its tumens against the one who dared act like that. But Mengu Temir was afraid of Kaydu. The fear of being defeated and losing even the scarce treasures of the Horde prevented khan from doing so.
Having betrayed Barak and put him to death, Kaydu enforced his alliance with his former enemy, the Iranian ilkhan Abak, and created a new powerful khanate in the land subject to him. Willing to feel even safer in terms of surprise from the South, he promised to marry his famous daughter Kutlun Shaga to Abak’s grandson Gazan. 
Mengu Temir did realize that if he sent his tumens against Kaydu, Abak would not sit idle. The ilkhan would definitely took advantage of it and stab the Golden Horde in the back through Azerbaijan and the Caucasus.  
Feeling apprehensive about Kaydu, Mengu Temir was still watching Mogay anxiously and with great attention.
No winter passed without a big hunting for the entire army arranged by Nogay. It lasted for three to four month and covered a great space.
Since the time of Genghis Khan, such hunting had meant preparation for a campaign, for further battles. The hunt was a challenge to test the warriors’ endurance and their ability to put up with deprivation, that is, sleep on the ground when it was raining and snowing, get by with no food for a long time, be vigilant and observant, and obey completely to their commanders. 
Sometimes it seemed to Mengu Temit that Nogay was intending to get separated from the Golden Horde and proclaim himself an independent khan. However, Nogay had always been a severe and steadfast advocate of Genghis Khan’s instructions, so he was unlikely to infringe the unity.  
If that was true, what did Nogay want? Could he have aimed higher; could he be willing to become the Khan of the Golden Horde himself? 
These thoughts made Mengu Temir sullen and uneasy for a long time.
Indeed, none of the Chingizids had avoided being the khan and denied the throne if there was a slightest possibility. But Mengu Temir was mistaken to think that Nogay had the same purpose. 
Nogay was not only a wise a successful commander; he was also far-sighted. Nogay was well aware of the fact that it would be not too easy to get Mengu Temir off the throne. He had too many people behind his back, who would undoubtedly support him. To raise one’s had to a khan elected by the kurultai would mean to violate the most sacred rule of Genghis Khan’s Yassa/. Not only enemies but also friends would rise against one who dared think of it.
No, it was not the title of the khan what tempted Nogay. He wanted to remain strong forever so that not only the right wing hung on his words but the entire Golden Horde. Whoever sat on the throne, he shout think of his first in taking any decision and seek his advice or consent. Nogay believed himself to be fully entitled to that. Who had done more to glorify the Golden Horde and multiply its treasures than he? Besides, he was the oldest of Dzhuchi’s descendants, thus, each of his words was a word of gold.
Could anyone of Genghis Khan's offspring sit on the throne of the Horde without his consent and blessing? In Nogay’s opinion, it must not happen.
But Nogay knew that wishes were not enough to command khans. It was only a powerful army and support from the majority of Dzhuchi’s descendants would give him the opportunity to rule the Golden Horde without being a khan.
For this purpose, he took constant care of his army and carried over those who could be useful. Nogay could go any length. He deceived some and flattered others; some were scared, and others were charmed with his generosity.
Dzhuchi’s descendants often come to stay in his ulus.
In the year of the Cow (1277), Nogay invited Tuday Mengu, with whom he had participated in the campaign against Ilkhan Kulagu in the land of Azerbaijan. 
His ulus was not so close. He had to cross the great Tan and Uzi Rivers before he could enter the fertile valley of the Kekhreb River with its waters flowing though the Moldavian land, where Nogay’s quarters was situated. But is it important for a Mongol warrior who was born in a saddle whether the road is long or short?
The summer was scorching hot; it hardly rained at all, and the grass in the land passed by Tuday Mengu’s caravan yellowed to early.
The Kekhreb Valley welcomed the guests with cool weather and green meadows. There were low mountains covered in thick woods, and spring water appearing when the Uzi was overflown was enough for the ground to save it from the scorching sun.
Nogay owned bountiful land, where winter never came. It only snowed a little in November, and the snow melted under the breath of warm wind. Both people and cattle felt good and free there.  
Having been given the ulus, Nogay, as a proper nomad, did not build cities. The Mongols lived in yurts placed in strict accordance with their ancestors’ order in summer and in winter.
Two days before the day when Tuday Mengu was expected to arrive at the quarters, Nogay sent a group of people headed by his Kypchak concubine Gibadat Begim to meet the guest of honor. The group included young men and girls riding fast race horses decorated beautifully.
Tuday Mengu shocked Nogay. He did not look like the ho-tempered warrior, always cheerful, ready to say a witty word, and humorous whom he had seen before. 
Now he saw a very different man. Perhaps he had the same appearance as the one Nogay knew, but Tuday Mengu’s restless eyes were gleaming with an ill-looking, dull eye; his cheeks were hollow, and his hands were constantly moving as if looking for something..
Nogay understood that something had happened to Tuday Mengu, but he did not asked him questions and ordered that the guests be showed to the yurts put up for them. 
Tuday Mengu made the impression of an insane man. It was only Kebek Tashi, who was accompanying him, who could reveal the awful secret to Nogay. 
Tuday Mengu’s middle wife was a daughter of the Alshin-Tatar emir Ture Kutluka, who was akin with Batu Khan’s senior wife, the renowned Barakshi Khatun. 
In due time, the smart and artful Barakshi Khatun, will to enforce her blood connections to Chingiz Khan’s descendants, married her to the fifteen-year-old Tuday Mengu. 
For many years in a row, the daughter of Ture Kutluka would give birth to stillborn children. The hot-tempered Tuday Mengu threatened to send her back to her parents, and when he had nearly deciding upon fulfilling his threat, he gave birth to a son looked just like him.
Wishing his heir to have good luck, Tuday Mengu gave him the number of his grandson,  Batu.
The boy was merry and healthy. Heaven gave him courage and resoluteness. He easily defeated his peers in archery and sword games and always was the winner. 
Tuday Mengu was overjoyed. Dreaming of his son’s once repeating the heroic deeds of his great-grandfather, he started taking Batu along during all campaigns in which he participated since the boy turned seven. That time, heading for Nogay’s ulus, he took his son along as well.
The misfortune happened after Tugay Mendu’s caravan had crossed the deep Uzi on floats and stopped for the day.  
“Father,” Batu said, “They say wild boars live here. I have never seen them, and I would like to have a look.” 
“Is it appropriate for my son?” Tuday Mengu disagreed. “You are too little to participate in such hunting, while it is dangerous to merely meet one of a path. The boar is strong and easy to infuriate.” 
“I want it, I’m not afraid of anything,”  Batu said stubbornly with a  angry frown
The boy’s atabled, that it, teacher Aydzhu, a tall swarthy warrior and a sun of the Tangut emir Li Shidrugu, supported him, “Let his have a look. We’ll be close. A warrior-to be must have no fear.”
 Tuday Mengu hesitated for a long time. A foreboding seemed to resist his intentions. He even scolded himself for having mentioned the danger of wild bores to his son.  He should have thought of another reason to refuse. Now the boy, being brought up with the idea that a true Mongol never feared, would stand his ground.
“Alright,” Tuday Mengu said petulantly. “Go.” Addressing Aydzhu, he added, “Take care of Batu. Make sure the animals you bolt pass round you.
The Atabek bowed.
The young Batu and the warriors accompanying him went forward, where the dark wall of thick reeds began.
Very little time had passed when Tuday Mengu was suddenly seized with wild, inexplicable hear. He jumped onto his horse and galloped towards the place where his son had gone. 
It was astonishingly silent over the endless reeds. Thing green dragonflies were flying over its fluffy stalks, and a bird was twitting silently. He could hear neither Batu nor the voices of the warriors accompanying him.  
Tuday Mengu rose in his stirrups, trying to guess where they were by the movement of the reeds, but suddenly he was struck by a scream, loud and desperate. He whipped his horse as hard as he could...
What Tugay Mendu saw when the horse brought him onto a small margin, making his way with his chest, was blood-curdling. Batu was lying on the tramped ground dug with boars’ hooves with his stomach ripped open, and an enormous tusker was standing over his in a menacing position, with his scruff stubble set on edge and its yellow tusks aimed to hit the boy. 
Hearing the cracking sound of trees broken, the boar turned round abruptly and attacked the horseman with his heavy head down.
Tuday Mengu turned out to be nimbler. Bending over his saddle, he hit the tusker on his head with his sword, which he did with a heavy ooh sound.  The animal’s head rolled aside, and its powerful body ran a few tiny steps on it short legs and fell in the thicket.
Mad with fury and woe, biting his lips to blood, Tuday Mengu kept cutting the giant defeated. 
He did not hear the warriors who had been sent to guard Batu run up to him; he did not hear their muddled speech to justify themselves, which claimed the boy to have run away from them to test his courage. 
When his heart failed and Tuday Mengu started choking, he turned his white face twisted with pain and despair to the warriors. 
Seeing the face of his ruler, Aydzhu the atabek threw his sword aside and hid his face in his hands. 
Tuday Mendu did not ask the warriors any questions. He slaughtered them right over his son’s body, and none of them tried to save himself; none of them screamed and begged for mercy.  
Nobody from Tuday Mengu’s caravan found their death unjust. What did it matter that the boy ran away from them to play a game and they went in a different direction to find him? 
Perhaps the death of Batu was accidental – if they had not come across the sleeping tusker and scared him, the animal would have never attack first. What does it matter that the one who is to drown runs to the water? The warrior guarding a descendant of the great Genghis Khan must raise his sword even against the all-mighty Heaven if necessary.
Since that day, Tuday Mengu’s mind seemed to be deep in a dark well. He would not talk to anyone, sitting all alone in his yurt, and his eyes would be covered hazed with a fog of slumber to light up again, becoming cool and clear. 
On the third day, the young Batu was buried on the high bank of the river, and the caravn set off for Nogay’s ulus again.
In the morning, after a day since Tuday Mengu came there, Nogay, who had learned about his grief, shared the woe with him and said words of consolation.
The noyon nodded as a response, but his soul was dumb, and what he heard did not help him warm up. It was not before a week after the event that he regained consciousness fully. But it was a different person. The previous Tudan Mengu, cheerful and funny, was dead, and a new one, sullen and indifferent to the world and its delights, was born.  
He rather listened to Nogay than spoke, agreeing with everything, and started back soon. 
Having given Tuday Mengu a great number of presents, Nogay suggested as a possible consolation, “Take any girl in my ulus whom you like.”
But Tuday Mengu shook his head, “I am going to do that next time.”
Nogay grew sad. Tuday Mengu’s situation was very grave. By refusing, he did what no toher Mongol would do.
***
Soon after Tuday Mengu had gone to Nogay, the khan’s son Toktay came galloping rom the Golden Horde. 
The great khan wanted Noday to be ready to start a campaign against Kaydu Nogay welcomed Tktay as a guest of honor, lavishing presents on him and people accompanying him.   Having heard the message, he said, “Tell the great khan that I am always ready to obey his words. But the right to undertake campaigns against Maverannakhr and Khorasan has been given to the emirs and noyons of the uluses which are the closes to the land. I have another idea. If the great khan Mengu Temir decides to send his tumes against Kaydu, Ilkhan Abak will surely interfere. Kaydu had promised to marry his daughter Kutlun Shaga to his grandson Gazan. That is when the Golden Horde will need me. As soon as winter comes and rivers are frozen, I will march my tumes against Abak through Berbent and Shirvan and stab him in the back. If the Sky helps me and my warriors win, will it fail to cool Kaydy’s hot head and make his search peace with the Horde.”
Toktay was surprised by the noyon’s words, and he agreed with the wise Nogay. On the second day, Taktay headed for the Desht-i-Kypchak to tell is father everything he had heard.
“I won’t be Gazan’s wide,” Kutlun Shaga said. A smile appeared on her lips, and her eyes were fearless and cheerful.
“Why do you think so, my Angiar?” Kaydu asked in confusion. He had hardly ever called the girl by the name she had been given, for he believed that Angiar, that is, Heavenly Gift, suite her more.  
“Gazan is younger than I am. I don’t want to live in a foreign country. You know that I am used to being free…” 
Kaydu shook his head disapprovingly.
“Why do I have to go to Iran if you gave me a wonderful ulus when you became the ruler? The Chu river giver it water. The cattle feels good here, and the Kypchaks subject to me grow gardens and sow crops.
“I gave you a rich ulus…” Kaydu agreed. “But we should think about tomorrow. Your brother Urus, whose tumen in standing by the Tarbagatay Mountains, on the bank of the radiant Zaysan, tells us that Kubylay’s warriors have been coming more and more frequently to take the cattle which our subjects own. It is not accidental. Kubylay is getting ready for war, and it will not be easy to withstand it. I have not come to you for fun; I came to take a part of your ulus’s army and give it to Urusu…”
“Why are you afraid, Father?” Kutlun Shaga’s eyes twinkled. “Haven’t we defeated enough enemies? If somebody dares assault your domain, we’ll win again!”
Kaydu did not answer anything to his daughter. He was silent for a long time and then said, “Iran is not so far away… You know that the land where I was born is many times as far. Even a fast falcon will need several days to reach the banks of the blue Kerulen… But I was not afraid to go to strange land and make it mine.  Besides, Gazan is Ilkhan Abak’s grandson, and when he dies, Gazan’s father Argun will replace him. How soon it will happen depends on chance...”
“But who is my father?” Kutlun Shaga laughed impudently. “Is not he the ruler of Maverannakhr, the land of Zhetysu, Khorasan, and East Turkmenistan?!”
Kaydu repeated stubbornly, “This is why you must be Gazan’s wife.”
“This is why I am not going to be that,” Kutlun Shaga protested. “There is one more thing I wanted to tell you…”
Kaydu threw his head up and stared at his daughter. She did not avert her eyes.
“I am pregnant…”
The news was a heavy blow to Kaydu. He was seized with rage, “By whom?”
“By Emir Abdekul.”
The khan was grinding his teeth. Abdekul was an Uygur who had recently arrived from North China. He was a son of an Uygur idikut, was literature, and could talk to foreigners, for which Kaydu made him one of his attendants.
So that was that man’s return! Six months before, Kaydu sent him to KUtlun Shaga to take the census of the people inhabiting her ulus and put taxation straight-.
Kaydu was totally unaware of what the trip of the handsome and well-built Uygur’s trip would result in.
“Years are passing by, Father.” Kutlun Shaga said sadly. “How long should I stay in bed, not knowing the bliss of being a mother? It just happened…They say that Gazan has adopted Islam, and I have sinned according to its law – I have conceived a child without being a wife…”  
The khan lowered his head and said after pondering for a long time, “Do you think your deed will embellish my Horde?”
“Give me to Abdekul,” Kutlun Shaga said resolutely, “and nobody will dare talk scandal.”
Kaydu knew that even if he agreed to his daughter’s request, they could not avoid rumor and scandal. Everybody would be surprised to know that the strong and mighty Kaydu had married his only daughter to an unknown idikut.  No. Only Gazan could be a decent husband for Kutlun Shaga.  His clan was currently ruling Iran, Azerbaijan, Irak, and Rome. Gazan could possibly become an ikhan soon.
Kutlun Shaga had called Abdekul an emir. If Kaydu just stirred his finger, he would disappear without leaving a trace of ashes.
Kaydu was haunted by oppressing thoughts. He was to face Abak. How could he tell him that his daughter was pregnant by a Chinese stranger? Descendants of Genghis Khan agonized over possible solutions in such cases. Kutlun Shaga had to die. Nobody marries dead women, and he would not have to explain anything to Abak. The khan’s name and his clan would not be disgraced. Death had always helped the Chingizids find solutions to most complicated problems. There was only one solution.
The thought of his daughter’s possible death made Kaydu shudder.
No! That could not happen. He was believed to be the smartest and the most cunning of all Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants.  Time would show him what to do, but now...
“Alright,” said Kaydu, “I will do what you want…”
Kutlun Shaga hugged her father, “I knew you would tell me this.”
“Could I act differently, my Angiar, my Heaven’s Gift?” he responded with a sigh. 
“Do not be sad, Father,” Kutlun Shaga’s face was radiant with joy. “I have prepared a wonderful present for you.” 
Kaydu looked at his daughter expectantly.
“Do you remember Berke Khan’s ordering to kill ten thousand slaves when they refused to obey?” 
“Yes.”
“You know that the reason of the stirring was a Roman building master, don’t you?”
Kaydu nodded his head.
“A Kypchak girl named Kunduz ran away from the Horde along with the Roma.”
Kaydu frowned. “I have heard that too. They say she was a beauty, right?”
“Yes. Both her face and her body are beautiful. But the most beautiful thing about her is her hair. I have never seen such hair… You will see it now.”
Kultun Shaga clapped her hands. A servant woman entered the yurt. 
“Bring the long-haired woman and her son here.”
She bowed silently and backed away.
Kutlun Shaga turned to her father, “Time deprives women and flowers of their beauty. Kunduz is not young anymore, but the hair is the same. It must be because of her hair that men have always loved her. Being jealous of Kulagu’s attraction to the Kypchak girl, Toguz Khatun cut her hair, but it grew long again. Perhaps it was the same when she was caught by Berke Khan. But he could not enjoy her beauty. On their first night, runaway slaves stole her from him. Do you remember Berke’s ordering to burn down the Black Wood on the Itil bank, where the runaways’ troop was hiding?   Kunduz was there, but she and her son managed to survive.
“But how did you get her?”
“My warriors found her in a caravan heading from the Golden Horde to Almalyk. You can ask her the rest of your questions. I have been keeping her for you...”
Kutlun Shaga was telling the truth, but she did not know that the seven-year-old Akbergen was not Kunduz’s son. The boy was born by Akzhamal and Salimgerey, but they were put to death by Tuday Mengu’s soldiers on the dreary night of fire. 
It was not Almalyk where Kunduz was heading but Bukhara. After Kolomon was gone, the world grew colorless to her. Other women who happened to survive soon started wandering across the vast Desht-iKyochak in search of their destiny. Kunduz stayed in a little poor aul on a bank of the Zhaik.  She called Akbergen her son, wore rugged clothes, helped people keep their cattle, and milked mares. People believed her to half-witted; they did not tell her to go away and gave her food.
But it could not last long. One who has tasted freedom will never exchange it for a life like that. Lying in a shabby poor yurt on long winter nights, Kunduz would think of her previous life and the future.  She had to wait till Akbergen grew up, matured a little, and learned to ride on horseback.  There was no place to go back then.
The steppe was calm. Only sometimes the rumor about a new band of barymtach bandits reached them. They were said to rob everybody, take cattle away both from the rich and from the poor. Kunduz despised such people.
She was eager to know the news which dervishes staying in the aul for a rest sometimes brought. 
Caravans from distant lands passed by, but everything was calm and still. Only khans squabbled, trying to win as much land as possible. Akbergen grew to be old enough to help Kuzhuz by pasturing lambs in spring. 
But once she heard what she had been waiting for so long. Whispering, being afraid of being told on, caravanners told her that there was a stirring in Bukhara again. Ulem Tamdam had appeared and was encouraging the people to oust the Mongols.
Kunduz knew the name well. She remembered Salimgerey’s telling about the fearless Makhmud Tarabi and his comrade Tamdam who were setting the craftsmen of Bukhara against the Mongol rulers and baskaks when sitting by a fire at night. She also knew the story of Salimgerey’s saving Tamdam. 
She could not stand to stay in the aul anymore. So Kunduz asked the karavanbashi heading for Bukhara to take her along.  
It was a long way. It started in Desht-i-Kypchak, passed by the Mongolian Mountains, went around the Aral Sea, and the path led to Bukhara. The caravan could not but go through the Chu Valley.
The land had just been the domain of the Golden Horde, but now Kaydu was the ruler. He knew that Mengu Temir would not put up with the loss and would sooner or later take his army there. Being afraid of emissaries, Kaydu ordered that all caravans passing by be inspected.  
The karavanbashi was aware of the stirring in Bukhara, and he resorted to cunning and said that he was going to Almalyk.  
Kutlun Shaga had never seen Kunduz, but she easily understood who she was.  Yet again, her hair was to blame. Kunduz had been cutting it all the time, but it grew fast and remained beautiful and thick.  She wrapped her braided hair around her waist so that it did not disturb her on the road.
Kutlun Shaga was not only a warrior but also a woman, so Kunduz claimed her attention at once. 
If a person has something special – valor or treasures, intelligence or extraordinarily beautiful hair, rumor about it is soon spread across the nomads’ steppe.
Sitting on the back of her ambler and studying those who were crowding before her, waiting for her to decide on their lives, Kutlun Shaga was looking at Kunduz with concentration. The woman’s face bore a trace of her past beauty, but her hair was more important... It told the ruler of the ulus who the woman was...
“Let your hair loose,” she said authoritatively.
Kunduz was silent.
Then Kutlun Shaga ordered to one of her henchmen, “You do this.”
A short crooked-legged henchman rolled off his saddle and ran up to the woman.
As soon as he stretched his hands to her, Akbergen, who was standing near her, jumped at the Mongol. He threw him aside easily. The boy fell down but sprang back to his feet easily. The henchman gave him several heavy blows on the head and the face with the handle of his kamcha lash. Akbergen’s eyes were obscured with blood.
Kunduz darted to him, went on her knees, and hid him with her body. Then, looking at the mounted Kutlun Shaga from the ground, she shouted, “Tell your dog to stop! I’ll do what you want!”
Kunduz jerked the tight braids loose, and they fell onto the dusty ground like two black snakes.
“So you are Kunduz, aren’t you?”
“Yes. But what are my son and I to blame for? Why do you order to treat me like a slave? Is my long hair the reason?”
Kutlun Shaga grinned. She knew everything which was passed by word of mouth.
“If that was your own guilt...” Turning to her henchmen, she ordered, “Take the woman and her child to the Horde and entrust them to reliable people…”  Kutlun Shaga gave the karavanbashi a suspicious glance, “Who are you and where are you wending your way?” 
“I am a merchant,” he said ingratiatingly. “I have a permission to trade. Your father Kaydu knows it…”  
“What do you have to prove it?”
The karavanbashi felt for something in his bosom hastily and took out a silk kerchief. His hands were shaking with excitement, and, having made great effort to undo the tight knot, he produced a silver paytsza plate.  
“Great Khan Ugedey once gave me this paytsza…” he said, looking Kutlun Shaga in the eyes.
First paytszas appeared in the time of Genghis Khan. They were made of gold, silver, copper, cast iron, and wood. They had different images on them – a grinning tiger’s head, a tiger sitting still, a falcon flying... Each paytsza gave certain privileges to its holder – either the right to pass all the land controlled by the Mongol freely, or the right to pay no taxes for the goods sold, or the right to be the first to get replacement horses at pits through which messengers went in a hurry...
Paytszes had different meanings, and every Mongol had to know them.
“I know,” the karavanbashi said, “my paytsza is not made of gold, it’s only silver, and I am ready to pay for the good which I am carrying via your ulus.”
Kutlun Shaga’s countenance grew less menacing. “Alright,” she said, “my henchmen will inspect your goods and take what they are to take… Then you will be able to go on.”
Kutlun Shaga turned her ambler round abruptly and galloped to the quarters. Raising clouds of dust, the guarding henchmen followed her.
After some time, two warriors were driving Kunduz and Akbergen through the steppe. The sun was already setting, but they did not hurry – the quarters of the ulus was not far away; it was just behind the low hills.
Kunduz knew the custom and law of the steppe, and it was easy for her to foresee her further lot. The new day and the meeting with Kutlun Shaga boded no good. She could hope for the better, but Kunduz did not believe in miracles. She had had too much grief and too many tears in her life, and her happiness had been too short – Kutlun Shaga knew a lot, and there was no deceiving her.
Suddenly Kunduz felt that she was tired of living. It was all the same to her whatever Kaydu’s daughter would do to her. It was only Akbergen, the boy whom she had long let into his heart and whom she believed to be her own son, who made her think of possible solutions feverishly.
It was no use groveling and begging for mercy. Kunduz knew that the heart of Genghis Khan’s offspring turned to stone at seeing somebody humiliated, and their eyes wanted to see more. She decided that, as long as there was no possibility to help herself and Akbergen out, she should at least face her death decently.
In the morning, sullen silent henchmen took Kunduz and Akbergen to a white twelve-winged tent. Kunduz heart was thumping so hard that her vision darkened, and she could not see anything for a long time after she was pushed into the cool gloom of the tent.
Finally her vision returned to her.
Kutlun Shaga was reclined on the place of honor called tor, which was covered with white felt, leaning against a large downy pillow.  
“Sit down.”
“Somebody jerked Kunduz’s hand from behind, and the sat down on the reed carpet spread by the entrance.” 
She slid her indifferent eyes across the luxurious interior of the tent, the enormous chests with colorful ornaments painted on them which stood by the walls with heaps of colorful pillows near. There were many women and girls in the tent.
Keeping her eyes on Kunduz’s face, Kultun Shaga ordered, “Give them some Kumis. They must be thirsty after yesterday’s fat kuyrdak,” Kaydu’s daughter was obviously mocking. 
An elderly woman with a tired face stirred kumis in a saba, filled two large tostagan cups with a wooden ladle, and gave them to Kunduz and Akbergen.
“Thak you, Apa,” said Kunduz. She took a sip and placed the cup before her.  
“I see that you are not thirsty,” Kutlun Shaga rose abruptly and sat like a man with her feet tugged in. “Now tell me, why you run away from Berke Khan and why would not you be his wife? Is it not a great privilege for any girl?”  
Kunduz threw her head up.
“My heart loved another man. Berke Khan parted us. Could I be his wife after that?”
“But he is the Khan of the Golden Horde.”
“A heart cannot be forced to love,” Kunduz said stubbornly.
“Such a heart must be torn out and thrown away.”
Kunduz smiled ironically. She had to be silent, but her soul was oiling with rage, and she could not suppress it, “Indeed, I did nit love the khan. But there are women who did. Even dogs would not eat their hearts.” 
Kutlun Shagi’s beautiful face went pale, and her nostrils were trembling rapaciosuly.
“Maybe you can tell me who the women are?”
“The great Kaydu’s daughter should be more aware of it than I am…”
“You should be blinded for such words!”
Kunduz gave a quiet laughter, “You’d better order to cut my hair as Toguz Khatun did.”
Kutlun Shaga’s eyes narrowed, glowing with a revengeful sparkle. “No. I am not going to spoil your beautiful hair. Tomorrow my father will come, and I’ll give her to him. If I cut your hair…”
“He will take me anyway,” Kunduz interrupted her. “There is no Mongol who would refuse even an old woman…” 
“Watch your tongue!” Kultun Shaga suddenly shouted. “Or I will order to spill your blood! If I encountered you in the steppe!..”  
“I am ready!” Kunduz said impudently. “Let them give me a horse and weapons.”
The henchmen, the girls, and the women, everybody present in the tent were breathless.  The Kypchak woman was scandalously insolent to wage battle on the khan’s daughter.  What would be the response of the fearless Kaydu’s daughter, a warrior who had no fear?
Кutlun Shaga closed her eyes and suddenly asked in a soft voice, “Is this your child?” 
Kunduz’s heart leaped with a foreboding, with a misfortune, which was to come soon.
“Yes.”
“But you have no husband? Whom did you get pregnant by?”
“I told you… I had a man whom I loved…”
Kutlun Shaga suddenly opened her eyes, and red spots appeared on her cheeks, which were visible even through her bronze tan.
“So you cherish your son like the apple of your eye… Either you go down at my feet and apologize for your impudence or I’ll order my henchmen to slaughter him right in front of your eyes!”
There was a quiet oh, and the tent rang with silence. Kutlun Shaga was waiting for the answer.
It suddenly became awfully clear to Kunduz that Kaydu’s daughter would fulfill her threat. She was not afraid of death, but Akbergen had to live. His life had been trying since his very first day, but Kunduz had a woman’s heart, and she wanted the boy to be happy once and believed that he would be.
“You’ve been thinking too long,” Kutlun Shaga whispered. She darted like a snake ready to attack. 
Kunduz was crying silently. She pressed the boy’s body against her own, understanding that there was no way she could defend him but for humiliation.
“May god make you cry like I am crying once...” Kunduz said, sobbing. 
Kultun Shaga sprang of the tor. “Down! Down!” she screamed, choked with rage, and ran up to Kunduz. 
“Kiss the boots of the great Kutlun Shaga…” the elderly woman who had poured them kumis said in a barely audible whisper. “Kiss!.. She will forgive her, and her son will live!..”
“Don’t, Mother, don’t!”  Akberged shouted suddenly. “I’d rather die!” 
A whisper rustled in the tent like a blow of wind.
Kutlun Shaga got her act together, the veil of rage did not obscure her sight any more, and she looked at the boy with interest and surprise, “So that’s what you are… a wolfling!” 
***
Kaydu and Kutlun Shaga were waiting for their henchmen to bring Kunduz and Akbergen. 
“I’m giving her to you, Father,” Kutlun Shaga said. “But I’ll keep the boy.” 
“You are wise, Daughter,” Kaydu smiled. “Such a wolfling can make a good warrior if you teach him to eating meat out of your hand…”
The curtain covering the entrance to the tent was slid aside, and a henchman rushed into it, fell on his knees, and crawled to the place of honor, where the father and his daughter were sitting.
“Woe!.. The prisoners are gone! The henchman who was guarding them is lying in the yurt with his throat cut!”  
Kutlun Shaga’s eyes grew wide. “Chase them! Get the runaways! I want them at my feet dead or alive!” 
After two days, the troops sent to the steppe in all directions returned empty-handed.
Kunduz and Akbergen disappeared like small pebbles thrown into a deep black well. 
***
In the year of the Sheep (1271), when Barak died, the cities of Maverannakh were having a hard time. Citizens of small and large towns, impoverished by endless wars between khans, exhausted by taxes and the permanent fear of being killed or losing their family and home, were starting to murmur.
When the news of Barak’s death reached the craftsmen of Bukhara and Samarkand and they found out that the land was now ruled by Kaydu, they started enforcing their towns and preparing to resist, for they were expecting another slaughter.
But Kaydu demonstrated great mercy. He did not spill blood of his new subjects, which gave the people help. The sparkle of desperation, which could set people’s fury to fire, was suddenly put out. Hopelessness was replaced by hope, though tiny and faltering. 
That was the moment when Tamdam appeared in Bukhara again. He and his adherents told people that their hopes were vain, that there were no kind rulers, and that it would be the same – plunder, exactions, and blood. 
With the passage of time, Ulel Tamdam turned out to be right. His adherents were growing more numerous in Bukhara, Samarkand, Khodzhent, and other cities. Maverannakhr was stirred again, and rumor was spreading across the dusty market squares again, unsettling people. 
It took Kunduz and Akbergen great energy to reach Bukhara. Thei way was long and rife with dangers. It was only there, surrounded by Tamdam’s friends, that Kunduz finally felt happy. 
***
Having conquered the Chu Valley, which belonged to the Golden Horde, Kaydu was waiting for Mengu Temir to respond. But the khan was quiet and did not make any attempts to fight the land back.
Feeling encouraged, Ilkhan Abak attempted at conquering North Caucasus from the Golden Horde.  Several small battles took place, but neither party won.
Mengu Temir’s calmness was skin-deep. Nogay had grown even more powerful, which was worrying the Khan of the Golden Horde. Asking for no permission, Nogay was negotiating independently with neighboring states and nations with increasing frequency.
Mengu Temir dreaded the growing influence of Nogay among other nations more than he dreaded Kaydu and Abak. 
The Orusut land was restive. He had to send troops there to curb the rebels here and there all the time.
The princes kept quarreling and, willing to destroy each other, they were seeking the Golden Horde’s help, asking for soldiers to settle their accounts for older and newer insults. 
Mengu Temir did not say no to those who asked. When Vasiliy Yaroslavovich, the Prince of Novgorod, was intending to march against Lithuanian, he gave him two tumens commanded by the noyons Turaytemir and Altyn. 
Not only Lithuania but also the Orusut land through which the Mongols marched suffered. Black clouds of smoke were raised over towns and pogosts again, and again screams and cries could be heard over trampled fields. 
In the year of the snake (1281), Mengu Temir’s throat grew swollen. At first he ignored the fact. But soon everybody understood that death had come to take the khan of the Golden Horde.  What was destined happened. In the fall, when the heavy sky resembling a gray blanket hung low over the Desht-i-Kypchak and it started to rain incessantly, he was gone.
Through the effort of Nogay, Tuday Mengu was proclaimed the new Khan of the Golden Horde. Nobody dared contradict the old noyon, the only of Dhzuchi’s great-grandchildren still alive who had a powerful army to support him. 
The Golden Horde had been unshakable for nearly forty years, starting with Batu Khan and till the death of Mengu Temir, domestic feud had never made it shudder; nobody had raised his arm against the khan or rebelled.
The wise Nogay did not know and was totally unaware of the fact that the Golden Horde had a different destiny from then on when he ordered that Tuday Mengu be lifted on the white blanket. Till its last day, as long as it stood, the feud between the great Genghis Khan’s descendants struggling for its throne would not stop. Their main weapon will be merciless slaughter, secret murders, and poison… 
***
Tuday Mengu took the throne of the Golden Horde in the year of the (1282). The toy feast lasted seven days. Rivers of kumis were running, and everybody present at the toy ate as much meat as he or she could eat. 
Family calls of Mongols and Kypchaks were flying over the steppe like birds, and the hooves of the race horses taking part in the bayga were beating a crazy tattoo...
On the eighth day, the Chingizids, emirs and noyons, gathered in a tent to hear the khan’s fist words. 
It was short and vague, and each could interpret it as he wanted. 
Frowning to the people gathered, Tuday Mengu said, “It was good of you to lift me on the white blanket. We have too many boars no, but I will spare none.”
The great khan revealed nothing else to the gathering, and they went each to his ulis and aymak, thinking that the “boars” mentioned by Tuday Mengu meant the enemies of the Golden Horde, thus, he was going to be a firm ruler and ruin everybody who would infringe the state’s interest. 
After six months, the khan adopted Islam and sent messengers all across the Horde to order emirs, noyons, and descendants of Genghis Khan to arrive at his quarters.
Only Nogay did not come.
“Shall we wait for him?” some of the noyons asked. 
Тuday Mengu looked gloomy; his face was lean, and his eyes were glowing feverishly. “Is he still alive?” the khan’s lips were spread in a smiling grimace, showing his large yellow teeth.
The old Nogay would have been ulikely to forgive him if he had come at Tuday Mengu’s invitation.
“Listen to me,” he ordered. “I have gathered you to say that the long-awaited time is coming. Next spring, by the time the swine living in the reeds give birth to their younglings, each of you will have arrived at my quarters with an army of fifty thousand soldiers.”
“Tell us, Great Khan, what is on your mind? Against whom are we to unsheathe our swords?”
Tuday Mengu looked at the one who asked the question suspiciously. “Only I know that,” his face was as still as a stone, and nobody dared ask again.  
Those who were to execute the khan’s order in spring were wrecking their mind and arguing.
What was on Tuday Mengu’s mind? Perhaps another campaign to the Orusut land?
Everybody could think about it, for something extraordinary was going on in the Orusut principalities. 
Shortly before Mengu Temir died, the Prince of Pereyaslavl Smitruy Aleksandrovich  obtained an army from the Golden Horde and defeated the Prince of Gorodets Andrey Aleksandrovich with the help of his retinue.
Prince Andrey came to the new khan, complained to Tuday Mengu about his offender and, having been given several thousands of Mongol warriors, set fire to Prince Dmitry’s cities and pogosts in turn.
The news of the khan’s insulting words reached Nogay very soon. The old Chingizid could not forgive a thing like that, so he headed for the quarters of the Golden Horde at once.
Nogay was guile, and he did not want anyone to see the fury of his mind. Thus, he asked Tuday Mengu with an unemotional countenance, “Why did you appoint the army gathering for spring?”
“I’m going to kill boares,” spreading his face in a smile and staring insanely before him, said the khan. “They are unholy creatures. Prophet Muhammad forbade us to eat their flesh. I became a Muslim to kill them…” 
Shocked, Nogay was silent, while Tuday Mengu kept explaining, “I mean the dirty creatures that live in the reeds of the Itil, the Tan, and the Uzi… - he brought his face closer to Nogay’s and asked him in a conspiratorial tone, “Do you think the Golden Horde has enough soldiers to kill all of them?” 
The fearless Nogay who had faced death many times before was slowly backing out of Tuday Mengu’s tent. 
“Batu-u-u! Batu-u-u!” the khan moaned suddenly, and a grimace of anguish distorted his face. “Bloody boars!.. They killed my son!.. Оh Batu!..”
***
The Great Khan of the Golden Horde Tuday Mengu had lost his mind. Now everybody understood that. It was the end to the peace among the descendants of Genghis Khan.
Nogay wanted to make Mengu Temir’s medium son, Toktay, the khan, but the rest of the Chingizids were opposed to the noyon’s intentions and supported Tuday Mengu’s son Tuli Bugi. 
Knowing that it would be hard to obtain what he wanted through open struggle, Nogay pretended to put up with the will of the majority. It did not matter to him what would be the new khan, but the khan had to remember whom he owed his success and be obedient. That was the way Nogay saw Toktay.
No, Nogay did not accept his defeat. He just decided to wait for a good opportunity, and the means by which he could get what he wanted did not matter. If he needed blood, it would be spilled. 
Having become the khan, Tuli Bugi did not forget that Nogay was his enemy. A quiet struggle which was invisible to the public started between them. Only chance was needed to make the secret come out. It happened.
Back when Tuday Mengu was sane, he appointed the Mongol Akhmet to be the baskak of the Orusut city Kursk. 
That man was drearier than a wolf. There was no mercy or pity in his heart. Runaway thieves from different principalities and Kypchak barymtaches who had fled from the Golden Horde gathered around him. He appointed them to collect tribute and taxes. They were faithful to Akhmet. The group would spare no smerd, boyar, or prince’s bodyguard.
The Prince of Kursk Oleg and the Prince of Lipetsk Svyatoslav asked the Khan of the Golden Horde Tuli Bugi to defend them against Akhmetka’s violence humbly.  
In a different period, the khan would not listed to the princes and would order to send them away, but the baskak was Nogay’s man, so he was given the opportunity to show the great-grandson of Dzhuchi who was the real master of the Golden Horde.
Tuli Bugi gave the princes an army and allowed them to kill the thieves gathered around Akhmet.  
The baskak was defeated twice, and he had to escape to Nogay’s ulus.
Now they had a pretext for open hostility. Nogay sent five thousand warriors headed by his sons Kete and Zhokte against the rebellious princes. 
Refusing to fight, Oleg fled to the Horde to Tuli Bugi, while Svyatoslav hid in the woods of Voronezh. 
Nogay’s troops were plundering the land of Kursk for twenty days and put many people to death; many were taken prisoners. They fought to the last drop of blood. Heaven favored Nogay. Within two years, he exterminated his opponents. Toktay’s brothers Alguy, Mulakay, Togarshi, Kadan, and Kudykan were willed, and Khan Tuli Bugi encountered his death in a battle.  The others died of different reasons – somebody fell of his horse while hunting, somebody departed from the world because of stomach ache after drinking some kumis, and somebody was stabbed in his bed. 
Toktar was lifted on the white blanket to be the Khan of the Golden Horde, and people shouted with joy. 
***
Kaydu saw the cities of Maverannakhr which used to be rich and prosperous decline. Workshops were growing empty, craftsmen were wandering around the world in search of something to get by on, fields were overgrown with weeds, and aryks were drying. The land was becoming empty. 
It was not human lives what worried Kaydu but the fact that his income was growing less and less. The time of Genghis Khan was over, and the nations conquered had to be controlled in a different way. A poor state meant a poor khan. Who would be afraid of him and obey his word?
To somehow rectify the situation, after long hesitation and pondering, Kaydu appointed the son of Barak, whom he had killed, Tubu to be the emir of Maverannakhr.
The khan did not err. Tubu turned out to be a successful commander. And a wise ruler. He sent away extortioners, put the taxation system straight, encouraged craftsmen and merchants, and forbade to rob the dekhan. 
Less than ten years had passed when Maverannakhr’s economy picked up, and the khan’s income increased.
Тubu was occupied not only with reformation; he was constantly at war with Chine and the Blue Horde. 
The Blue Horde was considered to be an independent state, but it fact it depended on the Golden Horde. Its ruler was Bayan, whose father was Tokay Temir, Dzhuchi’s middle son.  His ruling had been peaceful before his second cousin Kuyrchuk expressed his wish to be the khan. Having enlisted Kaydu’s and Tubu’s help, he defeated Bayan and forced his to flee to the Kypchak Steppe.
The dethroned khan turned to the Golden Horde for help. Toktay was occupied with his own affairs, but still he gave him an army.
Now it was Kuyrchuk’s turn to flee. He hid in Kaydu’s Horde. Khan Kaydu refused to Toktay’s request to give him the usurper.
Bayan Khan began to look for a reliable ally. In the year of the Horse, after Kubylay’s death, he sent his ambassadors to offer friendship to the new Emperor of China Temir. But it was not before six years had passed that Temir was able to send him a big army. In the year of the Cow (1301) a major battle took place, in which Kaydu was killed and Tubu severely injured.
Significant changes took place in Kulagu’s ilkhanate. Abak died, and his grandson Gazan took the throne. 
The beginning of the 14th century brought anxiety to Genghis Khan’s empire. The most valiant of his descendants, Batu, Mengu, Kubylay, Kulagu, Ordu, and Kaydu were dead. The state created by the Rocker of the Universe had fallen into four enormous lumps of rock – the Golden Horde, the Chinese Empire, Kulagu’s ilkhanate, and Central Asia. The seventy-eight-year-old Nogay was the last of Genghis Khan’s descendants who remembered him and was alive.   
Toktay betrayed Nogay. Feeling safe in the Golden Horde, he refused to obey to the senior Chingizid who had extolled him.
Then, for the first time in his life, Nogay wanted to be the khan himself. Now that he was the only direct descendant of Genghis Khan, Nogay was entitled to that.  
The old Chingizid had to hurry. He had too little time to do what he was used to doing, that is, to wait and get rid of his enemies little by little.
The fury which had been accumulated in his for decades seemed to have broken free. Nogay started preparing his tumens for an open war. The first thing he did was plunder the Crimea, where Toktay’s brother Tok Bugi had been ruling. 
But Toktay also understood that the battle would be crucial and the loser could expect no quarter.
The first battle took place in the year of the Mouse (1300) on a Tan bank. Nogay defeated his enemy, and it encouraged him greatly. He knew that the victory was not final, but he had made the first step towards the throne of the Golden Horde.  
It was not before a year had passed that they faced each other again on the banks of the Tan, in late summer, when grass was withered in the steppe and birds were getting ready to fly to the land where summer is endless.
When the sun as red as blood rose where the land of their ancestors was, the tumens of Nogay and Toktay fought their final battle. Even the great Genghis Khan did not see a battle like that, with so many soldiers. The whole of the steppe was covered with horsemen. Horses were neighing insanely, swords were clinking, striking sparks, and crowns, messengers of woe, blinded by the dust which rose up to the sky, were falling onto the ground into pools of blood. Once could not hear the moans and screams of the wounded. The battle lasted seven days.
According to a Muslim chronicle, sixty hundred warriors fought the battle on Toktay’s side. Nogay had three hundred fifty thousand adherents.  
Having returned to the Horde, Toktay arranged a great toy, as if trying to forget the bloody scenes of the recent battle.  
What was to happen happened – the fastest horse came first, the strongest wrester defeated his opponents, and the best archer cut the thread to which a silver plate was tied on the top of a pole with his arrow. 
When all competitions seemed to be over, the time came for the main thing, for which thousands of people with fiery eyes gathered on the nearest hills. 
Since time immemorial, since the time the Kypchaks were unaware of the Mongols’ existence and did not worship Allah by turning their heads towards the holy Caaba Stone and saying a prayer, and every clan had gods of its own and worshipped them only, there was a tradition of arranging a contest between the most beautiful girls of the Desht-i-Kypchak.  
Now all beauties could take part in it. The council of the oldest representatives of each clan chose the deftest and the most courageous one. On the day for which the toy was appointed, people came from all across the steppe to enjoy the sight.  
One by one, girls stripped naked would come to the center of a large circle formed by the people gathered. They were to complete three tasks, for which they were entitled to ask the khan to fulfill three of their wishes. According to the steppe tradition, the ruler was obliged to fulfill the requests no matter how hard it was.
When the preparations were over and people who had come from all across the Desht-i-Kypchak froze on hill slopes, waiting for the spectacle, Khan Tokay came out of his tent and sat onto his portable throne decorated with ivory, gold, and other costly materials, looking imperiously. Three chief judges sat at the foot of the throne, on a podium – a ninety-year-old tube biy, the senior judge; a seventy-year-old sube biy, the middle judge, and the forty-year-old bala biy, the junior judge. 
The khan waved his hand, thus permitting to start the competition.
One by one, naked girls started coming out of a yurt specially placed there. Long-legged, slender girls of white complexion, with heavy black hair, they were utterly beautiful. Charmed by their beauty, the gathering seemed petrified. It was so silent that they could hear a skylark singing in the sky. 
All the girls were truly beautiful, but even among roses one can be unrivaled. That was just the case. People’s eyes were glued to one of the beauties. But for her long black braided hair, which was nearly touching the ground, the girl could be mistaken for a white seagull. As she was walking round, her white body looked unearthly radiant, promising bliss.  Only the large, bottomless eyes of the girl shone with the dull light of sadness, and she was holding her long black eyelashes down to conceal it. 
The tasks made up by the judges that time were not easy. The girls were to untie a horse tethered to a pole stuck in the ground with a thin hair rope; shoot a skullcap with a stone in it with a bow when the target was in the air, and stay sitting on the back of an unsaddled fast horse running around on a long rope held by a dzhigit.
The girl who coped with all the tasks would be the winner.
Since the very first moment, the public sympathized with the girl resembling a seagull. The steppe roared in a thousand voices, celebrating each success of hers. Even Khan Toktay could not take her eyes off the beauty. Leaning forward, she was watching her with fiery eyes. 
Nobody knew and nobody thought about who the girl was, to what clan she belonged and what her name was. The beauty of her naked body deprived the people of their reason. The steppe was moaning.
The name of girl who looked like a seagull was Inkar Ayym, and she was Nogay’s youngest daughter. After Toktay’s victory, she was prisoned by one of the Kypchak clans and was living with them as a slave.  
Inkar Ayym was the only girl who completed all the three tasks, and when the chief administrator of the occasion took her to the khan, he asked impatiently, “Tell me, beauty, what are your three wished that I must grant you?”
The girl threw her head up and looked at Toktay without fear. The crowd froze, waiting for what she was going to say. “My first wish…” A sly smile appeared on Inkar Ayym’s lips, “is to be married to Khan Toktay.”
A sigh of surprise was heard over the steppe.
The khan licked his lips, which were dry with excitement, and said, “Let it be. I cannot break the sacred tradition of my ancestors. What is your second wish?”
“Tell me, your Highness, can a man share the bed with his wife if he has her father’s blood on his hands?”  
“No,” the khan said firmly.
“So may Khan, the winner, my husband, grant me the life of my father… Nogay, if he has not been killed by his enemy’s arrow yet.” 
The people were silent, waiting for what the khan would say. Toktay passed his eyes around the gathering. “Let it be,” he said loudly. “Now tell me what your third wish is.”
“I do not have any wishes left!” Inkar Ayym said.  
On that very day, the khan fulfilled the beauty’s first wish – she became his wife. But the second wish of Inkar Ayym was not to come true. Nogay’s life had its own way. 
After many years, when Toktay died, Inkar Ayym became a wife of his younger brother Togyrylshy, which was the law of the steppe. It was he who was the father by whom she gave birth to the celebrated Khan Uzbek of the Golden Horde, whom she fed from her breast. 
***
For the first time in his long life, Heaven turned away from Nogay, and the go of war Sulde would not help him. He fled to the Bashkir land with seventeen warriors.
If luck betrays one, it betrays one many times.  On the second day, when Nogay’s troop had crossed the Itil, the Orusut retinue fighting for the Golden Horde, who were now getting back their land, encountered him.
The battle was short. The gray-haired head of the valiant Nogay, the last true Mongol who had come to that land at the command of Genghis Khan, fell down to their horses’ hooves. 
Nothing could interfere with Toktay’s ruling the Golden Horde now. As a powerful and wise khan was expected to do, he divided all the land into uluses and allotted them among those who had helped him win at his sole discretion.
After eleven years, when Khan Toktay passed away in the year of the Pig  (1312), the golden sun was standing over the Golden Horde, promising power and strength to it. But black clouds were already gathering behind the flat horizon of the steppe, and silent arrows of lightning were piercing them, promising a storm.  

 Ilyas YESENBERLIN
 AYDAKHAR’S SIX HEADS

THE GOLDEN HORE
BOOK TWO

 CHAPTER ONE

 An enormous cloud resembling a black dragon with its wings spread across the sky was rising rapidly behind the horizon. The sun stopped, terrified; birds stopped twitting; flowers and grass withered, seared, and a heavy blow of wind rolled across the steppe with a sinister murmur.
Tiny ripples appeared on the lake, which looked like a dull silver bullion.  The dragon cloud hit its chest against the golden disk of the sun and started tossing about, giving off slate-gray smoky fog.  Wolves started howling and sobbing in distant forest hollows.
 A buzzing, rocking whirlwind rose to the sky from the surface of the earth, the dim water moved apart, and Uzbek Khan suddenly saw himself and heard his voice.
 Holding his hands open before his face, he was reading a prayer in a low voice. Next to him, on his right, on the place of honor, the tor, the new khan of the Golden Horde, a son of the recently perished Toktay Yelbasmysh was sitting, followed by Kutluk Temir; a little lower, the khan’s chief vizier Kadak was sitting.  
 A great grief had brought Uzbek and his relative Kutluk Temit to the Horde from the distant Urgench. In the year of the Pig  (1311), Khan Toktay passed away, and they had to cover any distance to say words of consolation to the family of the deceased one, as was the ancient custom.  
When Uzbek had uttered the final word of the prayer and everybody was to say “amen”, Kutluk Temir suddenly made an abrupt movement. There was a short shrill whistle, as if a fast swift crossed the cool gloomy yurt, and Vizier Kadak’s head fell onto the red Persian carpet.  
 Uzbek saw it very close to him — the vizier’s dilated wet eyes and moving lips of an old man, looking as though they were trying to say something. Uzbek’s hand darted to his left hip, feeling for his crooked Kypchak sword. Yelbasmysh shrank back, but it was too late. The thin steel blade sparkled, and the khan’s head fell onto the carpet.
 Uzbek sprang to his feet and gave the decapitated writhed body of Yelbasmysh more blows, unable to control himself, his teeth bare. He passed his insane eyes around the yurt. The white felt of its walls were bloodstained. Uzbek looked at Kutluk Temir. The emir wiped his sword with a blue silk kerchief very calmly and sheathed it.  
 It seemed to Uzbek that somebody’s sticky strong hands suddenly grabbed his throat, and he made a dart with his entire body, trying to get out. His mouth opened for a scream, and nothing but an awful, constrained wheeze escaped his throat.
 The khan woke up at hearing the wheeze. His eyes were looking around feverishly, trying to see the enemy. His body was shaking, and his hand was feeling for the dagger, which was hidden under the carpet at the head of his bed. But there was nobody in the yurt. Golden dust was floating in rays of sunlight, as thin as arrows, which were falling down through the opening in the dome of the yurt, and he could hear the tulengits guarding the Great Khan of the Golden Horde moving behind the thin walls.
 Uzbek wiped sweat off his forehead, said a prayer in a whisper, and passed his hands pressed together across his face.
 Bloody dream. Over ten years had passed since that day. How much more time did he need to forget the events? Storms had covered the Desht-i-Kypchak with snow, the furious sun had burned its grass down to the ground, but the memory was still keeping everything clear, as if time had no power over it, as if it had happened yesterday.
 Why did he hackle the decapitated body with his sword? Yelbasmysh was dead. They had never been enemies. If it were not for the throne! If only!..What bone did cousins who had known each other since childhood have to pick? But the time came, and the throne of the Golden Horde divided them. Both were Chingizids, and they were meant to lead their lives in wars and feud, in suspicion and hostility. 
Uzbek had never regretted what happened back then since the time he killed Yelbasmysh cunningly. He had wanted it, and he had known what he was doing. A different thing worried him. He could not explain what made him so scared and what forced him to lay his hands on the dead khan.
 Uzbek wanted to get rid of the memories, but his brain, agitated by the dream, would not obey. Like waves of feather grass in the wind, time started to flow back, and distant memories of what was carved in his mind forever were brought to his mind. It was childhood, when the sky, the earth, and people looked big… 
Once in early spring, the auls of Mengu Temi’s middle son Toktay and the youngest one, Togyrylshy, choosing a place for their summer camps, met on a bank of the powerful Itil. Toktay was not the khan back then, and nobody knew what his destiny was, so the brothers and their auls lived in peace, and the sun was equally gentle to them. Uzbek and Yelbashysh were peers, they both had turned six. They would spend the whole day together – race on yearlings, catch birds with nets.  They dreamt of becoming warriors, as courageous and merciless as their great ancestor Genghis Khan was, so they put to death everything they caught in their nets. Each of them would try to show how fearless he was. One, a common sparrow became their prey.  Uzbek was the first to run up to it, and he tore the bird’s head off with a triumphant cry and threw the bleeding lump of feathers into the sky.  
It was a miracle – the decapitated sparrow suddenly started beating its wings very fast and flew over the steppe. Shocked, they were watching it till the sparrow disappeared in the cheegrass. Uzbek and Yelbasmysh were looking for the bird for a long time but never found it. 
What they saw was a shock to them. There was something mysterious about what had happened. Where did the bird vanish? Why, if it was its destiny to die, did it live even after it was decapitated?
 Through the fear which seized the young Uzbek, another idea, not quite clear, was showing – one must finish one’s enemy and refuse to believe in his death till his body has been cut into pieces. Perhaps that distant memory, which was nearly forgotten but still lived deep in his mind, forced Uzbek to keep cutting Yelbashymsh’s breathless body.
 Uzbek Khan believed in fate and was not haunted by doubts. If Heaven had wanted it, the sword would have fallen out of his hands when he raised it over his cousin’s head, and Yelbasmysh would be living a happy life and ruling the Horde. Everything is in the hands of Allah. Only his will shapes the life of each of those who inhabit the earth. Why disturb one’s conscience and make up excuses if everything was predestined?  
Peace descended upon Uzbek Khan. Fate! Who dares resist it?  Was it not fate who prepared what happened with Karabay the warrior? 
 It was long ago. Uzbek had grown to be a young man and was participating in campaigns and battles just like any Chingizid. Nogay’s fearless tumens besieged a Caucasian fortress. The army of Ilkhan Gazan was defending it.  The fortress lay on a steep mountain slope, and it was hard to reach for the warriors of the Golden Horde. The stones thrown at the attacking army from behind the high walls with the help of Chinese catapults were huge.
The warriors found a cave on the mountain slope, and Ugedey along with the tulengits who were accompanying him hid in it to have a rest for a while. The cave was spacious, high-ceilinged, and an aperture in its upper wall made it look like a yurt.  The tulengits made a fire to cook meat, and Uzbek took a nap on a blanket by the wall. The noise of the battle hardly reached him under the ground. He could hardly feel the blending shouts of the Mongol warriors storming the fortress, and the ground was shaking every once in a while, each time large stone fell near the cave.  
 All of a sudden, something round and black fell through the aperture in the cave roof, hit the floor, rolled down it, and rolled out. Uzbek rose to see a human head. One of the tulengits came out of the cave to have a closer look at it. Soon he came back.
“It is the head of the black-bearded Karabay,” the tulengit said. “I think a stone thrown with a Chinese machine broke his neck, and the head fell into the roof through the hole…” 
“I do recognize Karabay,” Uzbek said. “He was a brave soldier. May his soul rest in peace.”
 The tulengits nodded in consent. Many of them knew the dead warrior too.
 The cave roof shook, and small stones started falling on them. Uzbek rose from the floor, intending to come out of the cave to see what was going on by the walls of the fortress. He was about to make the final steppe, but suddenly a huge stone fell down by the entrance to the cave, right where the head of the late Karabay.
 The tulengits had an expression of surprise and fear on their faces. They had never seen anything like that. Death found one and the same man twice. “Only fate could arrange it,” Uzbek thought with a superstitious awe.  Was he not an instrument of fate when he killed Yelbasmysh? If he succeeded, was not Heaven assisting him? Indeed, only fate can decide who will have the throne of the Golden Horde. Everything, everything is predestined!
 Uzbek Khan thought back of the days when he decided on killing his cousin.
 It was Kadak the vizier who made Yelbasmysh the khan. They only had to commemorate Toktay, and then they could summon the kurultai to confirm that everything had been done according to the Yassa of the glorious Genghis Khan. What is the kurultai for a man sitting on the throne? Who dares protest? Both his friends and his enemies will be throwing their boriks into the sky unanimously, for everybody who dares do otherwise will not live to see the new moon. The khan has long legs, and he always have those who are eager to execute his will. The rebel or grumbler will be strangled, or he will fall off his horse while hunting, or he will be found in the steppe with his back broken. That was the way in which the Chingizids settled their conflicts.
 So Uzbek did not show his dissatisfaction. Hiding his envy of his cousin deep inside, he came to the Horde with Kutluk Temir, who was loyal to him, and a big troop of warriors to express his condolences to the new khan. That was the custom of the steppe, and Uzbek deviated from it in a single thing – he did not take the troop to the Horde, ordering the soldiers to hide in ravines near the quarters.  When what Uzbek and Kutluk Temir had come for was done, when Yelbasmysh’s and Kadak’s head fell down to their feet, that was when their adherents surrounded the Horde. After three weeks, all the emirs, beks, and noyons expressed their submission to the new khan and lifted him on the white blanket according to the tradition. 
The time started fleeting like the water of the great Itil, once rapid and fast, and then majestic and calm.
 After seven years had passed since Uzbek took the throne of the Golden Horde, in the year of the Horse (1318), he undertook his first campaign against Iran. The khan prepared for it meticulously; he took his time. Due to that, the movement of his tumens looked like a rapid stream sweeping everything in its way. Each horseman had two spare horses. The warriors, who had been hardened in long hunts, never got tired. They were changing horses, covering great distances within a day. Many were wearing mail frocks and iron helmets, and the horses belonging to beks, emirs, and noyons were decorated with silver and gold. 
In advance of the army, under the black banner of the Golden Horde, he, Uzbek Khan, was galloping. He felt easy and happy on the back of his thick-maned chestnut ambler. Blood was boiling in his young clean-limbed body, and his dry aquiline face was handsome and  firm.
 Uzbek’s tumens were swift. Soon the yellow vastness of the Desth-i-Kypchak was left behind and, having crossed the broad and quiet Tan, they reached Derbent.
 The Iron Gate opened to welcome the khan. The local Muslim noblemen did not resist their coreligionist. Uzbek Khan had been expected, so the appearance of the army of the Golden Horde was a complete surprise for Emir Taramtaz, whom ilkhan had appointed to defend the boundaries of the state.
 Uzbek’s tumens rushed through the Iron Gate to the Shirvan Plain like a mad torrent, sweeping the few troops of the enemy on their way. Heaven favored the khan in his first campaign, and good luck held. After several days, the white banner of the Horde was already fluttering on the Kura bank, and the warriors, encouraged by the easy victory and valuable trophies, were putting up their tents in the cool green valley.
 Like Berke, Uzbek Khan was a steadfast Muslim. Having learned that a khanaka, that is, the lodge of dervishes from the powerful Muslim Sufist Order, was situated not far from the place where his tumens got settled, the khan sent his attendants headed by Kutluk Temir’s brother Saray Kutluk to them. The dervishes welcomed the khan’s messengers with great honor. The sheik of the khanaka said a prayer to Allah, asking for a long life for the mainstay of Islam Uzbek Khan and victories over disbelievers for his valiant army.
 It was not before the guests had enjoyed an abundant treatment and were going to return that the sheik complained matter-of-factly about the offenses by the Horde’s warriors against the order to Saray Kutluk. His words were decent, and his face was radiantly kind, but his eyes hidden deeply under bushy eyebrows were glowing with evil flame. Bent in a half-bow, the sheik said in a low whisper, “The valiant warriors of the great Uzbek Khan prisoned many of our people and reaved thirty thousand rams. Some forgot the instructions of Prophet Muhammad tempted by the property of the church and Allah’s servants. Let the great khan be just and help us get back what his warriors have taken from us. Allah will award him and make the happy days of his rule longer.
 “I will pass your words over to my ruler, oh wise sheik…” Saray Kutluk said. 
He did pass them over to Uzbek Khan. The Khan of the Golden Horde was outraged.  He, who knew how many wars the Horde had fought for the land of Azerbaijan, needed a reliable support there, and who could give it but the dervish lodge, whose cobweb had spread across the cities and settlements of that area? The community was truly all-mighty. Both common dekhans and noble merchants would listen to the silent, smooth speech from the khanaka reverently and with awe. 
Uzbek Khan ordered that the cattle be returned to the community and sent a silver bullion the size of a horse head to the sheik as a token of admittance of his guilt and redemption. The warriors who had dared to enter the mosque and the homes of Allah’s servants with selfish intentions were founds too. One of them was decapitated; they put a hair rope through his ears and hung it onto the other’s neck.  Tulengits from the khan’s personal guard took him between the tents, and each of the many thousands Mongol warriors could see what would happen to him if he did what the two of them had done.  
Not finding it sufficient, Uzbek Khan sent messengers to deliver an order to the commanders of the left and right wings of the army. The order stated, “One who steals or takes by force cattle or possessions belonging to the Muslim dervish community will be caught and given to the sheik’s Murids for punishment. Nobody shall dare do violence to dwellers of the khanaka or those who have taken refuge there. If one who knows about a crime committed by any of the warriors does not inform of it and conceals it, he will be put to death as an accomplice.” 
The year of the Horse was hard for Iran. Awful storms were raging over it, and torrents of water were falling from the sky, and rivers were flooding their banks, washing away and ruining homes. The crusaders started moving too. Emir Chopanber of the Suludzu clan could hardly keep his army, for his casualties were enormous. Other boundaries were tumultuous too.
The situation was favorable for Uzbek Khan. But, being encouraged by his initial success, he ceased to be cautious, forgetting that he was dealing with a strong and experienced enemy who was able to collect its power and maintain resistance even in the hour of need.  The khan did not think about the reasons which made the brave Nogay return to the land many times so that he could keep it as a part of the Golden Horde.
 The khan’s army were enjoying themselves in careless amusement on the Kura banks till they found out that Gazan’s grandson Abuseit was marching against them with ten tumens.  The news that the enemy’s troops, which were rather powerful, had appeared out of the blue in the land passed and conquered was even more unsettling. Afraid of being entrapped, the khan ordered his army to retreat without even trying to harness his will.
 Leaving their plunder and herds of cattle, Uzbek Khan’s tumens were retreating hurriedly to Derbent. Thei retreat looked more like a panic escape, and everybody who is brave and resolute enough defeats one who flees. 
Uzbek Khan’s unexpected defeat was a heavy blow to him. Black with rage and steppe dust, returning to his native Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe, he whispered, “My time will come! I’ll retaliate for my disgrace! My time will come!”


* * *

“Disturbance is asleep; may Allah curse one who awakens it!” a legend telling about prophet Muhammad reads.  Disturbance slept in the Golden Horde in the last years of Toktay Khan’s rule, and Uzbek Khan, who came to replace him, kept it asleep till the end. With his eye of a hawk, he watched the numerous Chingizids and eradicated every sprout of mutiny with his merciless hand. The Golden Horde had never enjoyed such prosperity, power, and unity either before or after Uzbek Khan. Its land was immense. Southeast Europe west of the Dnieper including the Crimea and Bulgar, the Central and Lower Volga Region, North Caucasus up to Derbent, North Khwarezm, the land in the lower reaches of the Seykhun, and the steppe lying north of it and the Aral Sea up to the Ishim and Sarysu Rivers belonged to the Golden Horde.
Just as before, as it had been since the first day, wars for boundary land, pastures, and watering places were constant in its periphery, but the Horde itself was utterly calm and peaceful. Merchants going through Uzbek Khan’s domain would say, “It is so quiet in this land that skylarks make their nests on sheep’s backs.” 
The Golden Horde had a powerful army; thus, the nations subject to it did not dare to merely think of disobeying the khan’s order and paid their tribute regularly. The Horde’s endless roads were quiet – the bands of barymtaches, who used to rob merchants’ caravans and occasional travelers with impunity, were gone.  In the time of Uzbek Khan, a caravan which started its journey in Urgench could reach the Crimea within three months. Merchants were not afraid to go on a long journey with nobody to guard them, and they would be given bed and foot at pits if they paid the fee to the Horde’s treasury.
But it was not solely the military power what guaranteed peace to the Horde. Crafts were developing in it cities, dekhans were not afraid to go to their fields, and nobody ruined their aryks, where the live-giving water ran, in those years. It was not because Uzbek Khan introduced lower taxes for craftsmen and dekhans. They were still high, and most of what was earned in workshops or grown on fields was still going to the khan’s treasury, but the life was very different not that the man felt that there was no sword of a trophy-craving and thus merciless warrior over his head. The fear for one’s life was gone, and the people felt happy and thankful for small favors. 
Still, trade made most of the Horde’s prosperity. Peace was established, and merchants from the West and the East were attracted to the Horde. The Great Silk Road lay through the Desht-i-Kypchak. It brought merchants from all across the world to the Horde.
Back in the times of Khan Toktay, who appointed his relative Emir Yanzha to administer the Crimea, the cities of Kaffa and Sudak turned into large trade centers.  The artful Genoese merchants could live in peace with the rulers of the Golden Horde. Caravans with Chinese silk, Indian gemstones, pearls, and corals came to Kaffa and Sudak, and Orusut merchants brought skins of sables and beavers, martens and squirrels; honey and wax there;  the nomads delivered skins and fur to the ports of the Black Sea. They would send textile, porcelain, dressed leather, glass kitchenware, and costly gold and silver jewelry.
 It is hard to overestimate the meaning of the Great Silk Route for the Golden Horde and for the countries which is connected to each other. Not only good for which people paid with hard money were carried by it; the Arab algebra and works by Abdimansur al Farabi, a great scientist who lived in the city of Otrat in the 9th century and wrote Commentary to Aristotle’s Logic, the medical canons of Ibn Sina from Bukhara, the knowledge obtained by such scientists and philosophers of the Orient as Al Biruni, Ar Razi, and Ali ibn Abas were brought to the West due to it.  The East came to know the philosophical and scientific treatises of Democritus, Plato, Aristotle, Ptolemy, Archimedes, and Euclidis.
 Not only merchants traveled along the Silk Route. People who wanted to see the greatness and vastness of the world with their own eyes would also undertake long and dangerous journeys. They would spread information about other countries and nations, collecting knowledge scattered around the world little by little. 
The Venetian Marco Polo served to Khan Khubilay for 17 years, and due to him, Georgia, China, and Derbent appeared on the map created in the year of the Sheep (1247) by M. Sanudo. According to his information, the Sumatra Isle and Bengali were included into the map created by P. Medici in the year of the Leopard (1254). The book written by the great Venetian to tell about his journey along the Silk Route helped Christopher Columbus after twenty years in his journey, which resulted in discovering America.
 The Great Silk Route started in the fertile Chinese valleys. One of its branches led to the short of the South Chinese Sea, to Quanzhou, then to Saba by sea. From there, it led through the Andoman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to Malaymur and Kyilonm, then to the Iranian city of Ormuz through the Arabian Sea. 
 The other branch, which began in Khanbalyk, took one through the mountains and deserts of the great Mongol khan and the Desht-i-Kypchak to Iranian seaport cities. Like a big river, which is divided into channels when entering a vast valley, the rout had a sole beginning, the city of Khanbalyk, and four branches. The first led from the great Mongol khan’s ulus through Kashgar and Kerman to Ormuz; another one led to Kabul, Sultania, and Tebriz.  But the two last caravan paths were of extreme significance for the Golden Horde. Just as the others, they started in Khanbalyk; one of them passed Almalyk, Urgench, and Saray Berke to arrive in Azak Tana; the other led through Khwarezm and the waterless Usturt Plateau, leading one to the Iranian Mountains on the shore of the Khazar Sea.
Before Uzbek Khan, few merchants ventured to take the tracks. Lack of water and peace in the land where they had to travel made karavanbashis take other routes. 
But the more peaceful the Golden Horde grew, the more widely used the roads of the Dilk Route were growing. The blessed period seemed to be endless, and one could thing that the endless chains of camels would never cease to walk slowly across the vast Asia and that the guttural shouts of camel drivers would be muffled and lost in the trembling scorching haze, mixed with the steppe dust.
But everything has an end. In the year of the Horse (1354), the Osman Turkey conquered the Strait of Dardanelles, thus obstructing the only gate to the Mediterranean. 
Several more decades passed, and the Lame Timur, having defeated the tumens of the khan of the Golden Horde Tokhtamysh, blocked the second branch of the Silk Route. The great tree was dried. Caravans used to walk by, and human voices could be heart a short time before, but now the place was surrounded by dilapidated housed and ruined settlements.  The powerful and rich capital of the Horde, the city of Saray Berke, was dying in ashes and cinder. The Lame Timur had no mercy on it.  
 The sea states of the epoch, such and Spain and Portugal, started looking for ways to obtain the treasures of China and India. They found them, and the previous greatness of the Silk Route was gradually forgotten.  Only chronicles and stories have preserved the legend for us, astonishing and controversial, full of deep meaning and colorful imagination. 
However, as long as two hundred years were too pass since the time of Uzbek Khan till the death of the Silk Route, and no prophet could foresee its lamentable perish. Back then, caravans were traveling endlessly along it, and fabulously rich merchants were burying treasures on its sides to conceal their actual income from tax collectors of the Golden Horde.
As the merchants were growing rich, so was the Horde. Uzbek Khan specially favored Muslim merchants. It was not about the gold which was added to the treasury due to them. The reason why he encouraged the merchants in many ways and made the noblest of them his attendants was different. They were the khan’s ears and eyes. Who but the eternal travelers knew what was going on in this or that state, ulus, or city? The merchants did not spare money and gifts when they had to draw somebody out, for they knew that Uzbek Khan would pay generously for each important piece of news.  
In times of peace, Muslim merchants were the khan’s emissaries; when it was necessary, they provided his army with weapons and riding horses.  They had the right to supply ornamental stones for houses and mosques under construction, food and clothes for slaves; they supplied the costliest carpets, gold and silver jewelry from all across the world, Indian tea, and Chinese silk.
 …Throwing his dagger aside, Uzbek Khan rose from his feet and walked around the yurt, making quiet steps  on the carpet.
 He could not forget the dream. It was not scary, but the khan felt uncomfortable. Could the world be so unjust that the man could never be able to feel truly happy?
 It suddenly occurred to the khan that the distant memory had not been brought to his mind accidentally. Throughout the twelve years he had been imagining his tumens galloping across the vast Shirvan and his enemies flee, shocked and scared by the Kypchak cavalry. 
He was a Chingizid, and the clan never forgave anybody for their disgrace. Can one forget the humiliation of Chopanbek’s tumens chasing his army, retreating in disorder, in the land of the North Caucasus, which belonged to the Horde. The emir plundered settlements, killed people, and took their cattle away from them, and Uzbek Khan did not resist and fled to the center of the Kypchak Steppe without fighting.
 The Golden Horde had obtained the power necessary to take avenge for the insult of the past long before, but something had prevented Uzbek Khan from implementing the vindictive plan. At first Maverannakh was stirred by a Kypchak, and the khan had to postpone his campaign, feeling that the tumult could spread to his land. Then, the Orusut Principalities grew restless. Years had passed like that.
 The great Genghis Khan taught his descendants to forgive no insult. It was time they thought of possible ways to fulfill his will. Uzbek Khan was wise. Time had taught him that one could not expect success possessing nothing but a strong army. He had to get well prepared for the campaign, learn everything about the enemy and make the blow, strong and merciless, when the situation was favorable. 
The khan threw a warm robe around his shoulders and walked out of the yurt indolently. It was early morning. The son had risen over the low ridge of sharp-peaked white mountains. Their wrinkles were in deep shadow, and their illuminated tops and shelve rocks looked whiter.
 A little gust of wind blew, and the khan’s nostrils started to quiver at feeling the smell of seaweed and salt — the Black Sea was very close, behind the low hills. A wave of nippy shiver ran down Uzbek Khan’s body, and he wrapped the robe tighter across his bare chest. 
Seven days had passed since he arrived in the Crime to have a look at the construction of his new palace and mosque. The khan was satisfied both with the place chosen and with the way in which two brothers, Sauyt and Dauyt, the Muslim merchants whom he had entrusted with the important errand, were managing the process. The brothers had chosen a good place. Uzbek like it/ The sea was near – when one closed his eyes and strained his ears, one could heart its powerful breathing and the commotion of wavers on the murmuring pebbles. Mount Kara Dag stood in the south like a dark blue stone, and if one directed one’s eyes to the east, one could see the large trade city of Kafa. 
 It was tome the khan returned to Saray Berke, but he was delaying his departure. The caravan of the merchant brothers carrying silk from Khanbalyk was expected any day now. His agent was to go beyond the sea as a merchant. He was to reach Egypt and start negotiations with the Mamluks in the khan’s name.  
Uzbek Khan put great hopes in his secret ambassadors. His agent was to speak about uniting the Muslims of the Golden Horde and those of Egypt rather than about trade. Just like Berke, Uzbek dreamt of becoming the flagship of Islam in the Desht-i-Kypchak and in his domain. It would be hard to do so without support from a powerful Muslim state, which Egypt was back then.  
Alliance with the Mamluks would make khan confident that in case Iran ventured to send its tumens against the Golden Horde, it would be stabbed in the back. The country united with religion, the Golden Horde, which he ruled, would become even stronger.
 Perhaps Uzbek was the only khan who realized that collecting taxes with merchants leading their caravans through his land was not quite reliable. Iran could block one of the branches of the Golden Horde, thus depriving the Horde of most of its gold. To prevent that from happening, the khan wanted to get hold of the Iranian seaside land and towns. Nothing would infringe the wealth of the Golden Horde then, and the khan’s throne would be unshakable. That was why he needed a triumphant war against Iran, and who could be faithful allies but not that Mamluks, who were awfully hostile to Ilkhan Kulagu’s descendants?
The dream of controlling sea connections was ambitions as for a nomadic khan.  But Uzbek believed in his success. If he managed to form an alliance with Egyptian Mamluks, there would be no force to contest against it. The Golden Horde and Egypt would terrify the nations and states of the sublunary world. Uzbek realized that the time  all problems could be solved by means of wars and cruelty was gone. The khan believed Islam, which was becoming wide-spread in his domain, to be an enormous force capable of uniting nations and forcing them to submit. Thus, he did not follow the pattern of the great Genghis Khan, who had treated all religions equally. He had hesitated little before he adopted Islam as a young man, and when his sons Tanybek and Dzhanybek were born, he ordered that the rite of circumcision be performed.  Uzberk sent his children to a medrese, where gray-bearded ulems taught them the Arab language and forced them to read the Quran. 
Having chosen his way, Uzbek Khan made all emirs, noyons, beks, and even henchmen do the same. Those who violated the law established by Prophet Muhammad were treated as infidels and had to die. Only those who said namaz five times a day and kept fast could expect the khan to favor them.
Seeing Uzbek Khan to be a steadfast Muslim, imams, muftis, karis, murids, and merchants started glorifying his deeds everywhere, calling him a decent upholder of Propher Muhammand’s tradition.
The fact that Islam was wide-spread in the steppe made the Mongols and the Kypchaks even closer to each other. The sacred customs and laws, which had been established centuries before, according to which the Mongolian noblemen lived, were violated. Sometimes one had to give up the will of the great Genghis Khan to save ones heart during the rule of the Muslim khan.
 New culture came to the Desht-i-Kyochak along with Islam, affected by the Arabs and the Persians greatly. 
 In the vast steppe, where people knew nothing but what their Saka and Sarmatian ancestors had left to them, where stone obatas idols stood on grave hills, guarding them sleeplessly, and people decorated their clothes with ornaments which resembled the whorls of arkhar mountain goats, Arab and Iranian carpets, savage in their choise of colors, and costly weapons appeared along with the Quran, beads, and turbans. Along with the Arab alphabet, books, legends, and tales, such as Arabian Nights, Four Dervishes, Zarkum, and Sal Sal were brought to the steppe of Desht-i-Kypchak. . 
The Muslim custom dealing with marriage and funeral, fasting, and circumcision was making its way to the Kypchaks’ life was penetrating the Kypchak’s life slowly but surely. Mosques with exotic blue domes and high minarets, with walls decorated with fancy Arabic script were being built   in the cities of the Golden Horde. Medreses were being opened for common steppe dwellers’ children and those of the nobility.
 The Commentary to the Quran, which was written by an adherent of Prophet Muhammad, Caliph Osman, reads, “However strong a national ruler is, he will not be able to make the people he rules follow the way of Prophet Muhammad if he keeps the commandments of the Quran poorly.”
Uzbek Khan became the most adamant Muslim in the Golden Horde. He did everything according to the prophet’s guidance. The khan built a harem for his four wives and numerous amanat kum, that is, concubines. Five times a day, as was the commandment of Prophet Muhammad, he said namaz, and if time came to prey, the khan would order his warriors to stop fighting.
 Throughout May, when the Nowruz holiday came, Uzbek fasted, which a steadfast Muslim was expected to do. Having had some food at dawn, he would not put a single seed into his mouth till the sin had set behind the horizon and the first shy star had started twinkling in the sky, and the muezzin had shouted three times in his sad and plaintive voice from a high minaret, “Allah akbar!”, that is, “Allah is great!” 
How could his people be disobedient to their khan, whose word was the fairest and the most previous if not his.
 Uzbek Khan’s keen ears made out a distant clatter of hooves. Someone was riding along the stone road leading to his quarters. The khan narrowed his slanting eyes and began to wait. Soon, a horseman clad in white and wearing a white turban over his head appeared from behind a corner. His was blocked with the spears of two tall tulengits at once.
 Uzbek Khan did not say what the tulengits stepped aside to let him in.
 The khan looked closely. Now he recognized him. The imam from late Sultan Zhadiger’s quarters was approaching his yurt. 
Being farther from Uzbek than a spear could cover, the imam dismounted and, bending his broad spine in a bow, started to come up to the khan. 
“I am greeting you, oh Great Khan, your Highness!” the imam pressed his hands against his chest. His smart eyes were looking at Uzbek from below, trying to guess what mood he was in.
“Be my guest,” the khan said, smiling with his lips only. “It must be an important business that has brought you here, for the sun has just begun its journey across the sky.”  
“You are a clairvoyant, oh Great Khan…”
 “It is time we said namaz for the first time. Let us do what Prophet Muhammads teaches us to do, and I will listen to you.”
 Servants brought a silk rug for the khan, and imam took his out of his saddle bag.…


* * *

The two of them were sitting in the yurt. The servants had already made the bed, and the imam was telling the khan why he had come to him, the Muslim mainstay, taking his time and telling his beads.  It was truly a matter of great significance, for it dealt with the Chingizids.
When Tok Bugi’s middle son Sultan Zhadiger took Azhar as his concubine, she was fifteen. The woman was still dormant in the girl, pure and gentle.  She saw the world with simplicity and trust. But sultans do not marry girls because they want to merely admire their beauty.
The broad-chested, fat Zhadiger threw her onto the carpet on their wedding night, crushing and breaking her fragile body till dawn, indulging in love.  After that night, wild fear seized the girl’s mind. She had fever for a whole month; she grew thin, and her family were preparing to mourn for her. But her young age helped her survive. 
Azhar did not happen to share the bed with her husband anymore. On a cold fall day, when wolf-hunting, Zhadiger fell off his horse and broke his back. The humble Azhar did not know is she should be happy or sad.  
 The mourning year passed; the winter was over, and the time  the ground starts feeding the steppe grass with its life-giving juice generously came, and Azhar was blooming like a flower that lifted its tiny head from under the previous year’s withered grass.  Her eyes did not have the humble look anymore, they shone and twinkled quietly as if the moon was reflected in her pupils. Azhar, who used to be as thin as a cane, became rounded, and now she looked unmistakably feminine.
The late Zhadiger’s elder brother Adilkerey was the first to notice her mature beauty. He was in his late fifties; and the ash of time seemed to hide the old warrior’s feelings, his soul seemed to be like a decadent fire, but what happens when an old man forgets about the years past did happen. Spring breeze seemed to blow onto his hollow cheeks and furrowed forehead. Adilkerey wanted to be young again.  
Then he came to the imam and said that he desired his younger brother’s wife. He had the Sharia law on his side. According to the levirate provision, the Muslim was entitled to marrying the wife of his late brother.
 Adilkerey was generous. Before starting to talk to the imam, he presented his with a sable fur coat and a handful of gold coins. The imam accepted the gift with dignity but flipped through the Quran with an air of importance.  
“Yes,” he finally uttered. “According to the Sharia law, you have the right to marry your sister-in-law. I am ready to join you in marriage…But her consent is also necessary. Osman’s Commentary to the Quran claims that the widow decides which of her deceased husband’s relatives to chose… If Azhar does not want any other of her husband’s brothers, she is your.”
 “She must not want anyone else,” Adilkerey said angrily. “I am the oldest of the family, and I shall decide.”
“It is reasonable,” the imam agreed. “But Sultan Zhadiger has five more brothers... They are younger… I think they will not stand in your way.” 
A menacing smile appeared on Adilkerey’s lips, “They’d better not!..”
“Right…” the imam remarked vaguely. “They know how powerful you are, and your hand is strong…  Yet, you have to ask the widow so that we comply with the prophet’s commandments and laws…”  
“But what if she doesn’t agree?” Adilkerey asked stubbornly.
“Why should she not?” the imam responded with a question.
 Adilkerey paused for a moment, looking round, and said peevishly, “Let them call her.” 
The man sent by the imam failed to find Azhar. Adilkerey returned to his home disappointed and annoyed. His heart, aglare with desire, was thumping and would not put up with any delay.   How could he know what misfortune he inflicted on himself because of his desire for Azhar.
At that moment, the young woman was sitting far from the palace, in a blossoming garden, and Zhadiger’s younger son Yerke Kulan was sitting near her. The dzhigit was handsome and well-built, and his eyes were shining with the happy light of love and youth.  
Many days had passed since Azhar’s and Yerke Kulan’s lips met and they were united by their intimacy. The moonless night hid the lovers, and the wind was rocking the trees so that even birds could not hear their passionate whisper and panting. 
 The lovers forgot everything in the heat of their passion. She forgot that she was kissing the son of the man who had been her husband, and he forgot that he was caressing his father’s wife. Love is all-mighty, but it cannot keep secrets, and it makes it weak and helpless.
The day when Adilkerey returned from the imam, the secret of Azhar and Yerke Kulan was revealed to him.  Shaking with fury, he ordered his henchmen to find the lovers. The henchmen were good at executing their ruler’s order. Soon, Azhar and Yerke Kulan were bound with hair nooses and thrown to the sultan’s feet. 
Adilkerey sent for the imam. When he had arrived, he said, “The people are accused of adultery! They have been caught in the act! I want their death, for they have violated the Sharia law! Let me put them to death, for they do not deserve to live because of what they have done! I will order them to tie the abjurers to a horse’s tail!..”  
The imam closed his eyes to conceal fear and confusion. His beads were flowing slowly between his dry fingers. 
He bent down to the sultan, “Yerke Kulan is a Chingizid,” he said in a low voice. “Will my word be just… and will Uzbek Khan, the mainstay of Islam and its hope, approve of it? The Great Khan of the Golden Horde will be in the Crimea soon… I know that your heart is filled with rage, but shall we wait a little? Only Chingizids can decide upon the life of other Chingizids…”
 Adilkerey gave the imam a close look. The latter’s eyes were unemotional, and, though his desire to avenge was strong, the sultan thought that he should probably follow his advice. The khan’s thoughts were always obscure and not clear for people. It would be better to wait for him to mouth them…”
 Gulping down his rage, the sultan said through clenched teeth, “Throw the criminals into the zindan; we’ll decide what to do to them.” 
The silent henchmen with impenetrable faces hit Azhar and Yerke with their sheathes to make them get up and dragged them out of the palace. 
The wise imam who had experienced many things knew that one had to be cautious when it came to Chingizids. They had blood of the cruel and cunning pagan Genghis Khan running in their veins. What did it matter that they were now pinned down tightly by Islam? Azhar and Yerke Kulan had committed a crime. According to the Muslim law, it is an unforgiveable sin for a son to have an affair with his mother-in-law, and the punishment must be death, but how long ago was it an ordinary thing in the Mongol land?  That is why it was important to find out Uzbek Khan’s opinion on what had happened.
The imam was old. Throughout his life, he had been following Prophet Muhammad’s commandments strictly and had no mercy on abjurers.  But now a foreboding made him act cautiously. The powerful Uzbek Khan’s arrival to the Crime could not be accidental. It was not just to have a look at the construction of his new palace that the khan had covered the long distance. Would it be appropriate to exercise death penalty on a Chingizid in his presence? Shall he try and put out the fire before it burns somebody’s wings?
 Hesitating obsessively, the imam sent a man of his to Azhar. He ordered him to tell the young woman, of course in such a way that strangers could not hear, “If you want to stay alive, agree to be Adilkerey’s wife. I will make up a way to cover up your sinning with Yerke Kulan, and I will persuade the sultan to relent.”
 The answer brought by the messenger was frustrating for the imam. Azhar had said, “My love for Yerke KUlan is strong, and I cannot abandon him even for the sake of my life. We have taken the burden of misfortune, and let what is predestined for us happen.” 
That was what made the imam visit the khan after several days since he arrived to the Crimea. That was why he was sitting before Uzbek Khan now.
Having finished, the imam looked up at the khan. The latter’s face was dark and intimidating. The old man thought that he had been reasonably irresolute in sentencing the loversKhans are like eagles. They can see what is hidden beyond the horizon for others, so their decision is always wise. 
Uzbek Khan rose from the carpet and started walking around the tent. Then he stopped before the imam, and the latter hurried to bow to the khan. “You can go, honorable Imam. It was right of you to come here. We will send a man to tell you our decision and give you instructions as for what to do with the abjurers.” 
The old man backed out of the tent.
 Uzbek Khan sat staring at one spot for a long time, but he was not thinking about what the imam had told him. The khan’s mind was far away. He could have given the answer to the imam straightaway, but he postponed it. Of course, both Azhar and Yerke Kulan deserved death, even though the young man was a Chingizid. He, Uzbek Khan, the imam’s tower of strength in the Golden Horde,   must not condescend. If his son broke the prophet’s commandments, he would act according to the Muslim law. Uzbek was going to pass his decision over to the imam on the following day, but now he wanted the people to wait for his word reverently. The longer they had to wait, the more significant the khan's words would sound to the people.
Uzbek clapped his hands. A tulengit slid silently into the tent and stopped there, waiting for an order. 
 “What is the road news? How far is the caravan?”
 “We’ve had no messenger, Khan…”
 The khan gave a wave of his hand, and the tulengit disappeared. Uzbek put on a girdle with a sword and a dagger hanging on it and left the tent.
 The sun was high. The sea invisible from there was murmuring heavily and intimidatingly behind the hills.
 Uzbek Khan stood for a while, waiting for his eyes to get used to the dazzling light after the gloom of the tent, and went towards the see slowly. As soon as he got onto a ridge, he saw it very closely – enormous, shoreless, clad in shiny silvery scale.  The sea was rolling its greenish blue waves onto the sand monotonously.
 The khan drew a deep breath of the salty wind and sat down onto a gray limestone block. Squinting his eyes, Uzbek discerned distant white spots – seagulls were flying over the sea, rocketing into the blue cerulean of the sky to fall down to the water shining in sparkles of light.  Uzbek Khan was watching them, but his thoughts which had haunted his at dawn, after the nightmare, came back to him.  
The Golden Horde. Whatever he did and thought was for the sake of it. There seemed to be nothing to worry about – he, Uzbek Khan, had made it the strongest and the most powerful of states. Nobody dared raise his sword against the Horde, for everybody dreaded its awful rage. It was unshakable, and it was to last forever.
Uzbek Khan smiled sadly. Nothing is eternal on earth – he knew that well. Even the golden sun rises at a certain time to fade beyond the edge of the earth, having covered the way meant for it by the creator, glowing a sinister red at the end. There is no force to make the celestial body freeze overhead at least for some time. It was the same with states. Uzbek Khan thought about the Persian King Darius, Iskandarnamah, and his ancestor Genghis Khan. They had been outstanding commanders who had created powerful states. But time had come for their states to drop after reaching the peak of their glory, after a moment of shining, breaking into tiny pieces and burying the former might under the burden of domestic feud. Time would come when the same would happen to the Golden Horde.
Uzbek Khan knew that it would happen; that was why he was afraid of the future. It is a sin to murmur against the Lord, but he gave the man too little time. It seemed to have been short after the khan raised his sword against Yelbashysh and occupied the throne of the Golden Horde, but his final purpose was as distant as it used to be when he was first proclaimed the khan. His state was powerful, and faithful warriors guarded its borders, but he was not satisfied, for the main purpose had not been achieved. Uzbek Khan could not be sure about when it was to be achieved. 
Deciding on murdering his cousin, Uzbek dreamt of spreading the Golden Horde from the Kypchak Steppe to Bagdad and Sham and annexing rich cities of Maverannakhr. But the only thing he had succeeded in was preventing the enemies of the Horde from uniting. There were about a dozen rulers in East Asia, and it was not as powerful as it used to be with Kaydu. The throne of Maverannakhr was occupied by Khan Kebek, that of Khwarezm, by Kutluk Temit, and Dzhagatay’s descendants were ruling in Khorasan. Besides, Afghanistan, the Caucasus, Iran, Irak, and Syria were living their own lives nearly independently from those to whom they were expected to be subordinated to.
 Uzbek Khan’s eyes grew transparent and cold. He was staring at the stormy sea. It occurred to him that life resembled the sea. There was much mystery and vagueness about it, and the life of each person resembled a wave heading for the shore, which was the end of it. One wave would be replaced by another. Forever.


* * *

 The square in front of the new mosque was extensive, but it was too small for everybody willing to be there. People were pressed against each other, breathing each other on the nape. They were staring at the high wooden platform with two gallow nooses handing over it. The executioner with a drooping moustache, a fat face, and dull eyes was pacing the platform languidly, checking the straps with his strong hairy hand.
Both the executioner and the crowd were waiting. The square was humming softly. People were trying to speak in low voices, but there were so many of them that it sounded like blows of heavy wind. 
A great event was about to take place in the Crimea. Late Sultan Zhadiger’s concubine Azhar and his younger son Yerke Kulan were being sentenced. The two of them had broken the Sharia law and stepped over the commandments which Prophet Muhammad had given to Muslims so that they could live a righteous life. Everybody knew that the criminals were to die for their dreary sin, but it was the Great Khan of the Golden Horde Uzbek who was to mouth the final decision. Was the event not significant for Muslim believers? Was it not a feast for minds longing for justice?
 Opposite to the platform where the execution was to take place, another platform had been put up. A portable throne, on which Uzbek Khan was sitting, stood there; on its right, the khan’s councilors and noble warriors were standing, and on the left, the Muslim clergy, ishans, mullahs, murids were standing, headed by the Imam of the Crimea.
 Tulengits brought Azhar and Yerke Kulan and threw them onto their knees before the platform on which the khan was sitting. The young people had their hands bound behind their backs with hair rope. 
 Uzbek Khan was studying their faces with anxious curiosity. Both Azhar and Yerke Kulan knew what was waiting for them, but strangely, he could see no fear in their eyes. Even at that moment, right before their death, their faces were beautiful, and they remained clam. What was the force that supported them, helping them stay proud before their dying hour? Was love all-mighty?!
 The imam spoke softly at a distance, “Everything is ready, your Highness Khan…”
 Lost in his thoughts, Uzbek nodded absent-mindedly. The lines which he had once read in an old Arab book suddenly were brought to his mind, “The joy experienced by the man makes him younger, while spiritual suffering makes him older and his life shorter.”  It seemed that he, Uzbek, could never be old, for since his very youth, he had experienced nothing but joy, and his wishes had always come true. He had had the most beautiful woman and girls; he had easily get rid of those whom he hated; he loved falcon-hunting for foxes; proud and happy, he had rode his horse in advance of his tumens many times. What did one need to be eternally happy, eternally young? Uzbek was twenty when he took the throne of the Golden Horde… So why was he old? He was, for he was haunted by thoughts concerning the sense of living.
It suddenly occurred to Uzbek Khan that is was not his body what had decayed but his soul. Perhaps his joy had been false? But what was true and real if not glory, veneration, the golden throne, women, or power? 
The imam’s distant voice reached the khan again, “I have said everything… Azhar and Yerke Kulan have committed a dreary crime, and according to the law established by Prophet Muhammad, they will be put to death. The sentence has been decided upon in adherence to every law of the Muslim faith, which we ask you, your Highness Khan, to confirm…”
Still seized with his thoughts, Uzbek Khan looked at the imam. His eyes were twinkling and watching the khan expectantly.  “The sentence is just,” Uzbek thought. “Law must never be condescending, only then will people be one and Islam immortal.”  
Uzbek raised his hand to say the word for which the entire square was waiting with baited breath, but then he heard Sultan Adilkerey’s furious and coarse voice, “I disagree with the sentence… Azhar is a bitch… But I have the Levirate law with me. My brother paid a kalym for her… Let Yerke Kulan, who seduced the woman, be hanged, but the wife of my brother must belong to me under the Sharia law…” 
Uzbek Khan grinned and gave Adilkerey a close look.
 “Lie is strange,” the khan thought. “The man demands death for his brother’s son just to have his wife. What is the sultan's major motivation – lust or revenge? Perhaps by letting her live, the sultan intends to torment and humiliate the woman till the end of her life? Things like that happen.”
 Uzbek looked at Azhar and Yerke Kulan once again. Having heard the sentence, they remained calm. The khan was curious to know what the young woman would say if he cancelled the execution and granted her life but alone, without Yerke Kulan. “Did you hear, woman, what your husband’s brother said? If you agree to marry Sultan Adilkerey, only Yerke Kulan will die…” 
The woman shook her head in neagation, “What does it matter that we haven’t been joyed by a mullar? We have been husband and wife since long ago. I have sworn that I will abandon Yerke Kulan.” Azhar’s face twitched. She closed her eyes. “We have a request, Great Khan… If we were not to live together on earth, let us be buried in the same grave after the sentence has been executed…” 
 The square was buzzing softly again. Nobody had expected a reply like that, and nobody was ready to hear a request like that.
“I protest!” Adilkerey shouted hoarsely again. “I am to own the woman! If she won’t be my wife voluntarily, I’ll use force to tame her as I do with unbroken mares!”
Something made Uzbek Khan keep playing his own game, and he said, “What shall we do to your brother’s son? Maybe we should grant him life?”
 “No!” the sultan shouted, and dark blood rushed to his face. “He has broken the Sharia law. He must die. He must take his death from my hands, for he has inflicted disgrace upon me, casting dirt at his father!..
 Uzbek Khan felt like asking Adilkerey once again if he was really capable of killing his brother’s son with his own hands, but suddenly the awful memory was brought to his mind, and the words got stuck in his throat. The khan realized that the khan would do what he was speaking apout. For he had been able to kill Yelbasmysh, his cousin. 
Trying to conceal his confusion, the khan turned to face the imam, and the latter realized that Uzbek was waiting for a response.
“The request of Suldan Adilkerey conforms to the Shari law…” 
The people were silent; they were not breathing. They were waiting for the khan’s decision.
 Uzbek closed his eyes and said to himself, “I must be firm! Firm till the very end!” But such death did conform to the requirements of the Sharia law as well, and he would not violate the Muslim tradition by referring to the sultan’s request. People had to see that the khan’s hand was hard and he had no mercy for those who betrayed their faith, but people needed to see how wise their ruler was more often. Did the criminal’s death matter?  Years would pass, and Uzbek Khan’s wisdom would be celebrated in tales and legends.
The solution came out spontaneously, “The sentence by the high court must be executed… It is true… But we should also take into consideration Sultan Adilkerey’s request.” Uzbek Khan broke off. His face was imperious and calm. “Let Yerke Kulan take his death from Sultan’s handsThe guilty one shall ride a horse before the sultan three times, and the latter shall be able to shoot him with a bow three times. If Adilkerey’s arrow kills Yerke Kulan, he shall take Azhar according to the levirate law. The woman will not have to break her oath, for at seeing the death of her lover she will understand that it is Allah’s will. If the sultan’s arrows do not hurt Yerke Kulan…” Uzbek broke off for a moment, and the crowd could hear the heavy and intimidating tossing of the sea behind the hills in the dead silence.
 Suddenly somebody was unable to stand it anymore and shouted, “What will happen then?!”
 The people started arguing noisily, “He will not stay alive!” “Adilkerey is a wonderful archer. He can shoot a running antelope in the eye at a hundred paces!” “The first arrow will hit Yerke Kulan’s heart!”
Somebody’s voice was louder than the rest again, “So what will happen to Yerke Kulan then, Great Khan?”
 The crowd grew silent, and the people seemed to be getting closer to the khan’s platform.
“Then?” Uzbek asked. “Everything is in the hands of Allah. If he wants the sinner to survive, nobody dares hurt one favored by Allah. Yerke Kulan and Azhar will be husband and wife.”   
 The square shouted in surprise, “Oh wise khan!”  “Oh fair khan!” “May Allah grant you a long life!”
Uzbek turned to face Adiklerey, “Are you agree, Sultan?”
 His face was pale; his cheekbones were sharp and protruding. “Yes, Khan, your decision is fare, and it will please Allah…”  
“Is there anything you, Yerke Kulan, want to say?”
 Yerke Kulan’s eyes were glued to those of his lover, but then he turned his face to Uzbek Khan. “I have a request, oh Great Khan! Let them place Azhar in my way. When putting my life in the hands of Allah, I want to see her before me…” 
 “Let it be,” the khan consented graciously.
 Not waiting for the command, the audience moved aside, thus clearing a part of the square. Some of the young warriors gave his horse to Yerke Kulan hurriedly. “Take him,” the dzhigit said. “Perhaps he will bring luck to you. My horse is as fast as a bird, and who knows, perhaps it can outdo your fate. If you are lucky, the horse is yours…” 
Two tulengits took Azhar to the end of the square, and Yerke Kulan’s hands were unbound. Some of the sultan’s bodyguards gave Adilkerey a taut Mongol bow. Uzbek Khan raised his hand, “I haven’t finished. The guilty one shall ride the horse at a distance of a hundred paces away from the archer.” 
 Adilkerey’s face twitched, “I’ll kill that dog even if the distance is twice as big…”
 “Start…” the khan ordered.
 Having jumped onto the back of the white horse just given to him nimbly, Yerke Kulan rode out of the square slowly, and the people were watching him quietly.
When he was quite far away, Yerke Kulan pulled his horse to a halt and waited for a signal. Finally, the administrator threw his borik up. 
After a short hesitation, Yerke Kulan hit the horse with his heels, and the animal darted. The horse was wonderful. It resembled a white hawk flying like a lightning just over the ground.
Narrowing his slanting eyes and frowning his bushy eyebrows, Adilkerey was waiting. When the horseman was passing by the sultan, an arrow with an iron octal head was released by the string with a high-pitched whish. 
The crowd gave sigh which sounded like a wave hitting the shore, “Hi-i-i-it!” 
 But the horseman was riding on, and then the audience could see that the front saddle bow was split but the dzhigit was intact. 
Having rode up to his lover, Yerke Kulan bent down and gave Azhar a kiss. 
The square was not quiet anymore. The audience was rampant. Excited shouts of those arguing were reaching the sky, and birds were avoiding the square as they were afraid.
 The administrator threw his borik up again, and the fast horse was carrying Yerke Kulan to his destiny again. 
The second arrow squealed, and white splinter of the rear saddle bow were scattered in all directions. 
The people were shouting not listening to each other. Those who could attribute what had happened to the Providence claimed Adilkerey to be doing that on purpose, to show what a great archer he was, and that there was no way for Yerke Kulan to escape the third arrow.
 The sultan was silent. His face was pale with spite, and beads of perspiration were showing. For his third attempt, he chose a pigeon-feathered arrow and waited with his eyes frowned.
 Uzbek Khan was fascinated by the spectacle. Grasping at the elbows of his portable throne with his whit finders, he stretched his entire body forward, waiting for a bloody climax. The square heard horse’s hooves trample insanely, and at that moment, a scream of despair full of unbearable pain and grievance slammed against the people’s ears. Nobody heard the arrow sent by the sultan’s trembling hand. The scream seemed to have awakened the people, and many eyes grew wet with tears of compassion. 
Suddenly, it was quiet again. The people could not believe their eyes – the dzhigit had disappeared, and the young woman with her hands tied together was gone. The white horse was galloping across the steppe like a white bird. Having thrown Azhar across his saddle, Yerke Kulan was galloping away from the khan’s quarters. Soon the quivering haze of heat hid the runaways.
Pale-faced, Uzbek Khan rose from his throne, not looking at anyone, and said softly, passing his hands across his face, “Allah akbar! Allah is great!”
“A horse! Give me a horse! Chase the runaways!” Adilkerey was shouting furiously.  
“Stop, Sultan,” Uzbek ordered authoritatively. “Are you going to contradict the will of Allah, madman? I grant life to those who he favors…”
 The square was roaring with delight. The trampling feet and the shouts raised a cloud of dust, the blue color of which turned into dull and muddy.
 Uzbek Khan ordered to send the people away and went to his tent.
 At the daybreak of the following day, the caravan for which the khan had been waiting do impatiently arrived at his quarters. 

* * *

 Khwarezm played a major role in the life of the Golden Horde. It was especially influential when Uzbek was the khan. Like soil dried by the sun, the Horde would absorb the best of what the nations conquered by it had. New, unusual traditions were being introduced to the ancient custom of the steppe dwellers year by year. The nomad was astonished at seeing luxuriously decorated palaces and blue-domed mosques in cities. 
 Merchants and craftsmen came to the Horde from many states, but it had the tightest connection with the Crimea and Khwarezm. The cultures of Roma and Iraq, Egypt and Sham were blended in the Crimea. Khwarezm was a melting pot, where those of China and India, Iran and Maverannakhr were melted together.  Besides, it lay closer to the Horde, thus, the nomads had more frequent and closer contacts with Khwarezm. 
However, Saray Batu and Saray Berke were erected by architects brought from Rome, from the Caucasus, from Egypt, and from Rus, but Khwarezm citizens from Urgench directed the construction
Having become the khan, Uzbek made Saray Berke his capital, giving it the name of Saray ad Dzhadid (the new Saray).  Following the pattern which originated with his successor and willing to glorify his name even more, Uzbek Khan ordered to build a new palace, mosques, and medreses.  He wanted his capital to resemble Urgench.  The paint and the unparalleled decorative tiles were brought from Medina and cities of Khwarezm. 
 Rabats, caravansarays, and khanaks for traveling craftsmen and merchants appeared in Saray Berke. Merchants came on their trade business, and craftsmen had the possibility to do what they could do. Now it was not imported items but domestically produced ones that dominated the market. Taking into consideration the nomads’ taste, craftsmen made crockery, gold and silver jewelry, tin mirrors, and copper jugs for them.
But the public which was attracted to the Horde by Uzbek Khan was not limited to craftsmen and merchants. Learned people and those possessing the necessary knowledge and capable or governing the state came there from Khwarezm.  Uzbek Khan trusted them and appointed them administrators of cities of the Golden Horde. For instance, the city of Azak Tana [1] was ruled by Emir Al Khorezmi, who came from Urgench. Beks, emirs, and noyons from the Golden Horde were frequent guests in medreses and khanakas kept by Muslims immigrants from Khwarezm.  Talking to learned people, they found out many things that were surprising and helped them see the world differently. Uzbek Khan would also visit people from Khwarezm often. He enjoyed visiting the learned sheik Nomodan most of all.
 The governor of Urgench appointed by Uzbek Khan Emir Kutluk Temir contributed significantly to the mutually growing rapport between the Golden Horde and Khwarezm. Being resolute and brave, he not only helped Uzbek become the khan in due time but disposed of twelve emirs and sultans mercilessly when other descendants of Genghis Khan started fighting for the throne.  Kutluk Temir permanently encouraged Uzbek’s religion feelings and, being illiterate, made a point of providing new books by the best men of Urgench and foreign countries for the khan. The emir sent the best of the best to the Golden Horde. Uzbek Khan, who generally mistrusted others, admired Kutluk Temir sincerely and was always glad to see him. 
In the previous year, the emir was ill and could not attend the Horde as he had usually done. Besides, the rumor reached Uzbek claiming that Kutluk Temir’s domain was tumultous. The khan ignored the rumor, for he knew the emir well and was sure that Kutluk Temir would find a way to dispose of rebels and establish full order in the land of Khwarezm even if something was wrong.  However, Uzbek was constantly worried for no visible reason. The khan disliked letters. The karavanbashi who was to arrive today was one of the few people whom Uzbek trusted. His word was as valuable as gold. 
 There was another reason which made the khan wait for the caravan to appear so impatiently. He was hiding it deep in his heart, but the thought was always emerging in his mind, though he did not want it, spoiling his disposition and annoying him. It happened soon after he had become the khan. Uzbek came to Khwarezm for a short stay. Once, as he was returning home after hunting on the banks of the Dzheykhun, he spent a night in the Tama clan’ aul. 
The khan was young, hot-tempered, and unable to resist his desire. At night, he slid into the yurt of a daughter of the auk’s aksakal, whom he liked a lot, and took advantage of her, though she resisted. The young khan was glad to think of the night and promised to send his matchmakers and make the girl his concubine after a short time as he was leaving at dawn.
It was the time of stirring. The khan was not yet quite firm on the throne, and the Golden Horde was shaking with insinuations and squabbles between the Chingizids.  He had to think more about ways to save his head and keep the throne rather than about love affairs. In campaigns and battles Uzbek forgot his promise. 
Only she did not. Soon the girl was found to be pregnant. She was waiting for matchmakers patiently, unwilling to disturb the khan, and believing that he would send his people for her. 
But time was passing, and the whole aul came to know that the girl was pregnant. Her family was immensely outraged, for the disgrace was dreadful. The father could kill his daughter in the heat of his fury, but as his rage had subsided, ordered his daughter be sent to her mother’s aul.
 The period of pregnancy was over, and a boy was born. His body was sound and his voice loud and demanding. Having found out that the babz had been conceived by the khan, the girl’s family did not dare to kill him. They put up a separate yurt for the young woman and arranged a fireplace for her. The woman was beautiful, and many people were willing to marry her in spite of her having given birth without a husband, but she would not have anyone near her.
 Uzbek found it out after three years. His heart was unsettled, and he regretted failing to keep his promise. But the all-mighty khan could not possible marry a woman who had had a baby without having a husband. Even though Uzbek knew whose son he was. There was no way to explain the past to people. The khan’s name should be kept pure, and his subjects should utter it with awe and not with a cunning smile.
 Uzbek told Kutluk Temir what had happened and ordered him to take care of the woman and the child. The emir arranged it for the khan to see his son secretly. The boy bore an astonishing resemblance to Uzbek, and he, being moved by the sight, ordered to tell his mother that the child would be taken to the palace as soon as he was old enough to make bring him up as a noble man and a valiant warrior.
 The woman’s response to the khan’s words was a bitter smile, but, as the saying goes, a promise given is the thing half done. She could not but wait and hope that the khan would probably keep his word that time.
 Due to Kutluk Temir’s care, the mother and her son lived in abundance. The boy was healthy and sturdy, and the time came when people became to call the teenager a dzhigit. 
That fall Uzbek was going to take him to the Horde, but said news came from Khwarezm telling him that the boy had died suddenly. Kutluk Temir reported that an illness was the reason of his death. For the first time, the khan did not believe the words of his emir to be true. He could not explain what made him doubt it. It seemed to him that there was a mystery behind what had happened. 
 Uzbek had never taken the boy in his arms, for his son had been too far away, but call of blood demanded him to find out the cause in a way that made it impossible to resist. After the khan saw how much the boy’s appearance resembled his, he had dreamt of his growing to be like his father in other aspects too. 
 Uncertainty unnerved him, and Uzbek sent a faithful man of his, a merchant called Zhakup. to Khwarezm. That was the other reason why the khan was waiting for the caravan impatiently.  

* * *

 Having passed Kafa, the caravan, which consisted of three hundred camels loaded with Chinese silk, Indian tea, dried plums and amber sultana grapes from Khwarezm, headed for Sudak, when merchants’ ships were waiting for it, ready to set the sails with the goods delivered.
 Having ordered the caravan to follow the usual route, Zhakyp along with three warrior turned his horse towards the Old Crimea, to Khan Uzbek’s quarters. 
He was a long-awaited guest, and everybody welcomed his decently.
Having done everything necessary according to the steppe customs and helped himself to the khan’s treat, Zhakup chose not to wait for Uzbek to ask him and started telling what the latter was interested it.
The khan had a good reason to trust him. The merchant’s sharp and smart eyes had seen many of what was hidden from others’ sight, and his ears had heard more than was said loudly. 
He took her time and gave a detailed account of the stirring in to Khwarezm to Uzbek. Craftsmen, dekhans, and vendors on the market were speaking of Kutluk Temir with constantly diminishing respect. A short while before, the slaves, whom the emir’s man had driven to despair, rebelled.  A proper battle took place in Urgench, and it took Kutluk Temir great effort to cope with the rebels. An ulem called Akberen was the slaves’ leader. 
The khan interrupted Zhakup impatiently, “Was he caught?”
 “No. Such people are never caught. The slaves helped him hide.” 
Uzbek frowned with vexation.
“Kutluk Temir is ill…” the merchant said delicately. “But for his illness, it could have been different.”
“I know he’s ill,” the khan said abruptly.
 “The emir is ill,” Zhekup said hastily, “but he is preparing the army for your Iranian campaign…” 
“When is he going to start?”
“Kutluk Temir is waiting for your command.”
 “Good. But is he going to take part in the campaign?”
“Is it becoming for an ill man to lead an army during a campaign?” Zhakup was speaking in a mild tone, trying not to irritate the khan. “There is a stirring in Khwarezm. The people are as somber as the sea before a storm. In a period like this, the emir cannot be far from the land subject to him…” 
 Uzbek was quiet for a long time. His face grew gloomy. Finally, he said, “You must tell me the truth. Why did my son die?”  The merchant cast his eyes down. “Why don’t you say anything?”
“I have nothing to say… I know nothing… But the boy’s death is unusual. People have made up a zhoktau, that is, a lamenting song. They don’t do it without a reason. They only sing about venerated people or people who die of a wrong reason, an illness or a sword…” 
The khan leaned forward, “Sing it to me!..”
  Zhakup did not dear look in Uzbek’s face.
 “I remember the beginning only,” he said cautiously. “One of my camel drivers knows it…”  
“I want to hear the beginning at least,” the khan demanded.
 Perspiration covered the merchant’s forward, and his face grew pale. “Alright…” he said after a moment’s hesitation. “The beginning of the song is a conversation between a mother and her son…” 
“Sing it!” Uzbek ordered abruptly.
 Zhakup started singing in a trembling voice choked with anxiety, 
  “Mother 
  Tell me, my dear cold, what shall I do? 
  How can I violate the order of fate? 
  god wants to take my only son from me,
  And he wants you toserve  him only. 
  Son 
  Has god not taken many? 
  He has enough to serve him. 
  I do not want to leave this world
  And my family and friends. 
  Mother 
  Do not be offended, my dear. 
  god chose you of all people. 
  He will give you a heavenly beauty 
  When you appear before him, innocent.
  Son 
  One who is innocent loves this world. 
  His soul cannot have enough of the world.
  The paradise girl might be beautiful,
  But she is not as beautiful as my peer. 
  Mother 
  Lord is mighty, wise, and fair, 
  He will not do wrong to my son. 
  Go and don’t aggravate him. 
  He will open the door to paradise for you. 
  Son 
  How can I go there, Mother, 
  When my family is to stay here… 
  Why do I need any heaven 
  If I am to part from you forever? 
  Mother 
  My dear, what shall I do, what can I do 
  If my star is black in the sky? 
  I will follow you, Dear,
  So that you are not lonely! 
  Son 
  Do not speak so, dear mother. 
  Stay here, invent something… 
  Maybe Lord will have mercy on me 
  And I will stay here with you…” 
 Zhakup broke off with his head lowered in submission to the khan. The sly merchant could not but know the whole song.  His fear of Uzbek forced him to pretend.
 The khan did not seem to notice that Zhakup had finished the song. His face was frowned. Now he knew for sure that there was a mystery about his son’s death. The song was strange, vague… Why should the son go to heaven and why is he reluctant to do so? What makes him resist what Allah has prepared for the righteous Muslim? Why would he rather live a sinful worldly life than go to paradise? Uzbek put questions to himself, but he did not know the answer. There was something behind the song… “Who composed it?” looking at the merchant suspiciously, the khan asked.
 “People sing the song…” Zhakup answered obliquely.
 “People?” Uzbek’s eyes gleamed menacingly. “Can decent people who believe in Allah and follow Prophet Muhammad sing it? It is a song of rabble, and it has an author… There must be one…” The khan was waiting for the answer, staring at the merchant. His face was mortally pale. “Nobody knows everything, Great Khan… As the rumor has it, it was Ulem Akberen, the one who headed the slaves’ rebellion in Urgench, who composed it…”
Uzbek clenched his fists. “Catch him! Catch him at any cost! And decapitate him!..”
“He does deserve death,” Zhakup said. “One who dares stir up slaves…” 
 “The fact that he has composed a song like this is enough… It is a good reason to give his flesh to jackals!.. People who sing his song may think that Prophet Muhammad’s words are lies! A Muslim must understand that either Heaven of hell await him after death. He should dream of Heaven, treating his earthly life like a road to Heaven. It is one of the pylons supporting Islam, and nobody shall be allowed to undermine it!”
 “Your words are wise, Great Khan…” Zhakup hurried to agree. “That miserable man cannot escape your revenge…  Kutluk Temir has long arms…” To interrupt the unpleasant and dangerous conversation, the merchant added, “Would you like to have a look at the gifts that I have brought to the quarters?”
 “No!” Uzbek said abruptly. His mind was occupied with different thoughts. “I’m going to the Horde tomorrow. It is time we started to prepare for the war against Iran, against the red turbans…” 
 Glad to change the subject, Zhakup remarked cautiously, “It would be nice if Iranian shoreline cities belonged to the Golden Horde. I have heard a saying, “I’d rather Kandybay eats it than someone else is sate.” It is the same with us merchants. Why give our gold to Iran is it can be yours, Great Khan? We never feel calm when we leave your domain with our caravans. Even a high fee for ware transportation does not help prevent violence.”
Uzbek smiled with his lips only. His eyes remained cold.
“Iskander Zulkarnayn said, “Where the whole army will not get, by asses carrying gold will.”  
 “We have to pay too much… Muslim merchants wish you luck in your undertaking, Great Khan…” 
 “Good,” Uzbek said. “Is your man ready for further journeys and is he faithful?” 
 “Yes, Taksir…”
 “Let him come in for a talk, and I will give him the letter for the Egyptian Mamluks.”
 Zhakup bowed low to the khan and backed out of the tent.  

* * *

 In the year of the Pig (1335), when severe January frost bound lakes and rivers, Uzbek Khan’s plan was implemented – his tumens reached Derbent. 
Each warrior had two spare horses and was ready for a rapid campaign. Being reluctant to waste time to seize the fortress, the khan ordered his soldiers to wrap felt around their horses’ hooves, and his tumens crossed the frozen river successfully. 
The winter of the year of the Pig was unusually severe. The Iranian troops, who were to defend the Iron Gate, did not resist the warriors from Desht-i-Kypchak, who were used to frost, properly.   
Heaven favored Uzbek. Just before he started his campaign, the Iranian ilkhan Abusent died. According to the tradition established in the times of Genghis Khan, his heirs started squabbling and fighting. It helped the khan achieve his purpose too.
 Unhurriedly, encountering no violent resistance, Uzbek was leading his tumens towards the center of Shirvan. He got settled on by the Kura. On the right bank of the river, the Iranian army commanded by Lashkarkashi Arpakuan was waiting for him.
Spring came to the fertile land, and there was no use thinking of crossing the river before the high water in the Kura receded. They had to wait patiently.  
The furious muddy torrent was rolling stones the size of a human head on the bottom, and warriors on both sides entertained themselves by threatening each other with shokpar clubs and shooting lonely arrows once in a rare while. The main battle was not to come soon, and spring was advancing in the land…
 The position turned out to be rather inconvenient for the army of the Golden Horde. Uzbek realized that soon. The Kypchak cavalry required a lot of space, which the place lacked. Each day of waiting increased the Iranian’s force, as more soldiers kept coming to them. Iranian troops descending from the mountains were constantly bothering them like irksome flies.
 Uzbek was pondering. But for the spring flooding of the Kura, he would have conquered Arran long before, and of course he would not let the enemy collect his strength for the crucial battle. Now the situation was not favorable to him. But fate interfered. The sad news about Kutluk Temir’s death came from Khwarezm. That was a good pretext for retreating.
 Showing his people that the emir’s death had stricken him with grief, Uzbek ordered his tumens to return to the Desht-i-Kypchak.  The fear of being surrounded and defeated like during his first campaign against Iran forced the khan to hurry. There was another reason to retreat – Uzbek was afraid that a man willing to separate the wealthy land from the Golden Horde could appear in after Kutluk Temir’s death. On days of disorder, an emir who obtains power over others always appears.  It is sometimes quite hard to remove such a person from one’s way.
 The noblemen of Khwarezm had been looking awry at the Horde for a long time. Only the cruel and strong Kutluk Temir had managed to govern the disaffected hold them on a firm leash.
 Nothing is permanent under the sun. Who knows, perhaps the Horde will lose Khwarezm by hankering after Iran?
 Uzbek realized that Khwarezm was the Golden Horde’s tower of strength, so was it the right time to chase the onager across the steppe, or they had better have a colt tethered?..   
In mid-summer, Uzbek’s tumen passed Derbent without complications and headed for their native steppe. 


 CHAPTER TWO

 During the years of his rule, Uzbek was following the events in the Orusut land with great care and secret anxiety. There was no unity between the Orusut princes, but something made the khan feel suspicious anyway. 
In the year when Uzbek was enthroned, the Grand Prince of Vladimir was Aleksandr Mikhailovich, the Prince of Tver. He was casting baleful looks at the Golden Horde and waiting for a good opportunity to spin out of the khans’ control.  In the year of the Panther (1327), as Uzbek was preparing for another campaign against Iran, Tver rebelled.  He had to postpone the campaign.
 In that period, which was full of anxiety for the Horde, the Prince of Moscow Ivan Danilovich, who was later given the name of Ivan Kalita, took its side. Moscow regiments marched against Tver along with the khan’s tumens. As a token of his gratitude, Uzbek granted Ivan the title of the Grand Prince of Vladimir and entrusted him with tax collection in all Orusut territories after a year. Since that time, seemingly peaceful and kind relationships were established between the Horde and the Orusuts.
 Perhaps there was nobody who realized that time had not come yet to shake off the abhorrent yoke better than Prince Ivan Danilovich. Before doing that, one had to make Rus strong and rich and collect all of its power in one hand. Taking advantage of Uzbek Khan’s trust, Prince Ivan started to enforce  the Moscow Principality, using endearment and, more often, force to make the neighboring principalities submit.  His people collected taxes from peasants without mercy or sympathy, for they had to both cajole the khan of the Horde and take care of their treasury.
 Moscow was gaining strength, and the other princes, seeing how powerful it was, smothered their pride and searched protection and alliance with the rich neighbor. 
Though the prince’s exactions were troublesome, the army of the Golden Horde was marching against the land of Rus more rarely; cities were not burning, and blood was not being spilled. Rus was relatives peaceful. Ivan Kalita was holding his head low to the Horde, but he was firm in following his line.
 The quiet situation in Rus gave Uzbek a possibility to watch what was happening in Dzhagatay’s ulus closer. After Kaydu’s death, everything he had been putting together for many years fell apart like a lump of dry soil. Maverannakhr, Zhetysu, East Turkestan… Each had a ruler of its own now and would not obey.
 In the year of the Hare (1303), Kaydu’s eldest son Shapar became the khan of Dzhagatay’s ulus with Tuba’s help.  However, his son Kynzhek proclaimed himself the khan after his years. His rule was not long either. After two years, he died as unexpectedly as most of the Chingizids died. The star of Toluy’s, a grandson of Bori who had once been put to death by Mengu Khan, expired soon as well. He was killed by Tuba’s son Kebek.  
 Taking advantage of the domestic feud, Shapar, who had once been dethroned, decided on becoming the khan again. He gathered an army and marched against Kebek. The battle took place by the Ili River and resulted in Shapar’s utter defeat.
 Being ruined by endless wars, Maverannakhr and East Turkmenistan were decaying. The people were murmuring.  Bandits were prowling on the roads, robbing local dwellers and taking their last possessions not yet taken by mutually hostile Chingizis from them. 
Then Kebek, being hesitant as for whether he should become the khan, summons the Chingizids for a kurultai. Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants met. They proclaimed Tuba’s eldest son Yesen Bugi the khan. From then on, the land belonging to Kaydu was returned to the descendants of Dzhagatay.  
Yesen Bugi turned out to be a man with a firm hand. He managed to bend the rest of the Chingizids to submission. Besides, they could not afford the time for squabbling. The Chinese were raiding the eastern part of the ulus more and more often. 
Yesen Bugi needed allies to fight against the Yuan Empire, so he sent a man of his to Uzbek Khan, who had just taken the throne of the Golden Horde. But Uzbek did not hurry to answer. He was not interested in the war with the Chinese, who were far from his boundaries. It was not before several years had passed that he agreed to undertake a joint campaign against Iran with Yesen Bugi.
But the campaign failed because of the treachery of the noyon Yasuar.  The unstable alliance of the Golden Horde and Dzhagaty’s ulus fell asunder.
 In the year of the Horse (1318), Yesen Bugi passed away. He was replaced by Tybu’s second son, Kebek. The first thing he did was to transfer his quarters from the Tien Shan foothill to Maverannakhr.  He ordered to build the city of Karshi and started ruling the land subkect to him from it. 
Remaining a Mongol in his way of living and faith, the new khan still did not oppress the Muslims. He was not interested in religions.
Uzbek Khan had a very different attitude to them. In the year of the Khan (1321) he was given a new Muslim name, Sultan Muhammad Uzbek. Willing to glorify it even more with godly deeds, he undertook to convert the nations that still did not believe the way of Prophet Muhammad to be the only appropriate way into Islam at the request of the great Sheik Zengi Aga. There were many such people in Maverannakhr. That was why Uzbek gathered his army and started his campaign, warning Khan Kebek in advance why he was going to Maverannakhr.  
Kebek had to yield to Uzbek. He lacked strength to resist the mighty Golden Horde. 
Encountering warriors of the Golden Horde in battlefields, the Iranians called them Uzbekians by the name of Khan Uzbek. His warriors gradually got used to the name. Khan Uzbek’s intentions were being fulfilled easily – he had the army behind him, so new Christians in Maverannakhr were also called Uzbekians, and later just Uzbeks.
One of Kebek’s brothers, who professed Buddhism, did not forgive him his concession to Uzbek and strangled the khan in his bed. Kebek was replaced by Yelshigitay.  It was the time  the connection between the East and the West grew stronger. Catholic missionaries had been traveling along the caravan routes of the Silk Way since ancient times.  It was due to them that information about the distant and mysterious Oriental countries and their cruel rulers had been reaching Europe, which were not marked by the hoof of the Mongol horse.
 Back when Kebek was the ruler, the Venetian ambassador in Tabriz Maro da Molin informed his doge in a letter that the caravan routers which led through Iran were becoming dangerous and Muslims were growing less tolerant to merchants of other religions. The Roman Curia, being worried about the situation, decided to enhance its influence in the Golden Horde and Dzhagatay’s ulus. To achieve that, new eparchies were to be created in the Kingdom of Iran, Inner Hindustan, Maverannakhr, Khorasan, and Turkestan. A torrent of missionaries headed for the East.
 Knowing that the new khan of Maverannakhr Yelshigitay was not adherent to the uslim faith and was more attracted by the Christian religion, Pope John XXII appointed Tomaso Mangasolo, who had been to the East more than once, the bishop of Semiskant (Samarkand). 
At that time, Zhetysu and East Turkmenistan, where Durra Temir was ruling, were nominally subordinated to Maverannakhr bit had in fact spinned out of is control. Dzhagatay’s ulus dwindled. Tomaso Mangasolo soon won Yelshigitay’s heart. The Christian community of Maverannakh was given privileges again and started attracting new adherents.
  Having learned about the abjurers, the Sheik of the Golden Horde Seid Aga, demanded Uzbek to punish Yelshigatay. However, Yelshigatay departed from the world before the punishing hand of the khan of the Golden Horde found him.
 Tarmarshin, who came to replace him, the Buddhist who had just strangled his brother Kebek for being yielding to the Muslim Uzbek, asked god to forgive his sins and was converted into Islam. The mosque forgave his killing his brother and gave him a new name – Alladin. Things were resuming their natural course.
 Alladin craved glory. He seemed to forget that Zhetysu and East Turkmenistan belonged to his ulus, and he never came to the land during his rule. However, he undertook a campaign against Hindustan, planning to become famous as a military commander.
 The vain Alladin, who was desperate for attention, was deviating more and more from the Mongol traditions and the law of the great Genghis Khan. Taking advantage of the murmur among common people and the nobility, Durra Temir’s son Bozan stirred up a rebellion against Alladin. The latter fled to the city of Gazan but was caught by the Balkhin emir Dzhagi, who gave him out to Bozan hurriedly.  The leader of the rebels did not hesitate much as for what he should do to the crime. He decapitated him with his own hands and proclaimed himself the khan of Dzhagatay’s ulus.
 Bozan was a Muslim, which did not prevent his from disposing of all his opponents, who were Chingizids and thus were akin to him, in a cruel way. The new khan’s rule was short. In the year of the Dog (1334), he drowned in the Ili water, and Tuby’s grandson Zhenkishi took the throne. Wanting to protect his life, he decided to stay at a distance from his family and transferred the capital to Almalyk. The khan dreaded and hated Muslims, so the door of his palace would open wide to Christian missionaries. After many years, the Bishop of Bazignan Giovanni Marignolli wrote the following in his chronicle, “Then we arrived in the empire’s center named Almalyk. We bought a piece of land, made a well, and built a church. Even though a bishop and six of his adherents had taken martyrs’ death in the name of Christ there a year before, we sang mass for them openly, not fearing anyone.”  
The Catholics felt perfectly comfortable in Almalyk under the protection of Zhenkishi, but Muslim sheiks were not asleep either. The struggle was frank and cruel. Mutual massacres, secret murdering were the usual practice. Archbishop Nikolay stayed in Almalyk on his way to China. The people’s emissaries Francisco Raimondu Ruf and Laurence, having cured Zhenkishi of an illness talked the khan into baptizing his young son and gave him the name of John after the rite was performed.  
The religious feud was violent in Almalyk, but the struggle for power turned out to be even more cruel and bloody. Dzhagatay’s and Ugedey’s descendants seemed to have lost their mind. They were killing each other, always waging wars. Maverannakh, Zhetysu, and East Turkestan were plundered. Crafts were declining, and crop fields were becoming overgrown with grass. The people did not know who was their khan and what religion they had to adhere to if they did not want to lose their head and household. 
 In one of the battles, Zhankishin was taken by death, and Ugedey’s great-grandson Ali Sultan took the throne to be soon killed by Kenzhek’s brother Muhammad Bold, who was to be killed in turn by Yasuf’s son Kazan… 
 The cruel struggle for the throne of Dzhagatay’s ulus between the Chingizids lasted for many years. Nobody knew that the one who was to bend the heads of rebels down to the ground with his iron head and make them utter his name reverently was lying in his cradle, and his name was Timur. 
 A long tile would pass before the Limping Timur drowned the earth in blood, and now Genghis Khan’s descendants were spilling great amounts of it; sultans and beks were dogging each other’s steppes and exterminating each other, and cruel battles under the colors of religion were breaking out like storms in the miserable land of Dzhagatay’s ulus… 


* * *

Everywhere when the crooked Mongol sword ruled, people were murmuring. They had been accumulated their fury for many years  and merely seemed to be submissive, but the time  each nation suddenly went on its hinder legs like an unbroken tulpar had come, and their hatred was directed against everybody standing in the way. The people ceased to obey the khan or hear the permanently flattering words of beys, that is, judges. The people were requiring fairness and revenge for the previous humiliation and the constant fear of losing their head. 
Rulers had different ways of pacifying their rebellious people. If they had the army on their side, a general massacre took place; if the khan felt that he lacked power, he was generous in promising and guaranteeing. 
 In the year of the Pig (1335), slaves and craftsmen rebelled in Khwarezm.  In contrast to Maverannakhr, life was tolerable there. Kultuk Temir was a firm hand, but he would not tolerate the Chingizids’ domestic feud.  Yet, the khanate was boiling with rage inside. As everywhere where the Chingizids rules, the sun and the moon only shone to those who were rich and noble, while the life of craftsmen and dekhans was barely warm.
 Khwarezm has been famous for its slave trading for a long time. One Urgench market squares, one could buy slaves from all the territories touched by the Mongol horse’s hoof. Red-bearded Orusuts and black-bearded Kypchaks, dekhans from Maverannakh wearing colorful skullcaps, and Turkmen alamans wearing high fur hats were sold there… From Urgench, the human commodity was sold to China and Egypt, India and Rome. 
 In the year of the Pig, especially many slaves appeared on the markets of Khwarezm. Because of the tumult, merchants from Egypt, Iran, and Rome did not come for the human commodity. Chinese and Indian merchants chose young men and beautiful girls only. Those who had not been sold were kept hungry. Tens and hundreds of former craftsmen, dekhans, and warriors were dying of famine and illnesses. Within that year, the number of slaves not sold in the market of Khwarezm nearly reached ten thousands. Some of them were so helpless that they could not get up from the ground.
 It was in that time that a swarthy man wearing a striped robe and a blue turban, who resembled an Iranian, appeared on the slave market of Urgench. It was hard to recognize him to be Akberen the Kypchak. Nobody knew his past, nor his present.  As a boy, he left the country in the rough time of disorder. His children’s memory stored scenes of fire smoke and dead bodies on the streets of the rebellious Bukhara. His foster mother Kunduz also died then. His father’s friend, the slaves’ leader Tamdam, managed to escape the khan’s revenge and save the boy. After long wandering, they found themselves in Bagdad.
 Life in a foreign land was full of hardships. Tamdam managed to become a teacher in a Muslim medrese. Claiming the boy to be his son, he taught him to read and write. 
Akberen turned out a quick learner – studying came natural to him. Years passed, and he obtained the title of tulem, that is, a theologian scientist. Dying very old, Tamdam told the young man about the events that had taken place in the Golden Horde many years before and the reason why they had fled.
 “When I die,” Tamdam said, “you must return to your motherland. This is the predestined order of life – one cannot but return to the place where one saw the light for the first time. You have been studying industriously and reading many wise books, so you belong not in Bagdad but in your motherland, in the Desht-i-Kypchak. Promise me that you will fulfill my request.
 Akberen was true to his word. After three years had passed since his teacher died, he was in the domain of the Golden Horde.
As the young man was traveling around the cities of Khwarezm, his mind was filled with dismay, and his face was growing gloomy. He saw chaos and deprivation of rules. Like when he was a child, the people were poor and did not know what justice was.
Akberen was especially shocked by the slave market in Urgench. He saw dead slaves under the walls of clay duvals; he saw that those whom death had spared yet looked rather like shadows than like human beings. But did he have any possibility to help them? Being poor and carrying his possessions along, Akberen could not either give the people food or give them clothes instead of their rags. Then, seized with resentment, he went to the summer quarters of Kutluk Temir, the ruler of Khwarezm. 
Just like other descendants of Genghis Khan, the emir would leave his palace and live in a yurt in summer.  A picturesque place with motley herbs and a clear mountain river or translucent springs was chosen for his camp. Everything was done according to the old Mongol tradition.
 The rootless ulem would have never been able to see Kutluk Temir if he had not occasionally said mysterious words to the sentry head, “I came from Bagdad…I have something to tell to his Highness, the Ruler of Khwarezm…” 
Emir was in a bad mood. His liver had ached throughout the night, preventing him from getting enough sleep. Even hot tabanan flatbreads, which the doctor put on his swollen right side, did not help. In the morning, the emir drunk some stiff oak bar tea, but it made the bitter taste in his mouth even more violent.
 Kutluk Temir would not have received anyone at a different moment, but now that he was tormented by waves of pain in his side, which was constantly fading and then increasing again, having heard from the sentry head that the visitor came had come Bagdad, he thought that a conversation might help him forget about his ailment at least for a short while.
 The guardian threw the colorful curtain hanging on the entrance to the yurt open and let the ulem in.  
Having crossed the threshold, Akberen bent down in a low bow. When he lifted his head, he saw two warriors standing on his right and left with their swords unsheathed. His eyes, which had not got accustomed to the dark yet, saw the thick wooden pole supporting the dome of the yurt. Dull silver snakes had wrapped their bodies around the pole. Only after that could the ulem discern the emir.
 Kutluk Temir was reclining on the place of honor, that is, the tor, covered with a fiery red carpet, and his elbow was resting on snow white pillows. His face with a long drooping moustache on it was yellow and unfriendly. 
Though Akberen was trying hard to keep calm, his heart started thumping hard. The ulem overcame his excitement and looked around the yurt again, now coolly.
 Apart from the emir, his concubine Sakip Zhamal and a man whom Akberen did not know even from rumors were present there. 
The man was a Muslim. Ulem defined it straightaway. As he was expected to do to be polite, he was sitting a little lower than Kutluk Temir on a satin pillow, and he was holding beads of large black pears of wonderful beauty.
 One thing was beyond any doubt: even if that man was not of a noble descend, he was extremely rich and intelligent. Akberen felt his attentive glance which was studying his face. “Assalam agaleykum…” the ulen uttered.
“Aga;eykum assalam…” the man responded to the greeting.
 The emir did not say anything.
 The yurt was silent. Nobody could tell what is promised, the emir’s kindness or his rage.  
They could only hear Sakip Zhamal, who was sitting on the left from Kutluk Temir, stirring kumis quietly with a silver ladle in a large wooden cup. 
Looking at her face and clothes, Akberen realized at once that she was a Kypchak. The young woman was wearing a red camisole with spangles on it and a long white dress with a double frill on its bottom. Her head was covered with saukele, a women’s headdress, also red like the camisole, decorated with pearls and corals. On her feet, she had red leather ichig boots with a blue ornament on them. Her fingers were studded with gold and silver rings with gemstones glowing dimly in the gloom of the yurt.
 But it was Sakip Zhamal’s face was struck Akberen most of all. It was astonishingly clear, fresh, and it seemed to the ulem that it resembled a steppe flower which had just come out. Having collected his will and preparing to talk to the emir, Akberen could feel the woman cast shot, quick glances on him. 
“So tell us who you are and where you come from,” Kutluk Temir broke the long silence. His eyes were studying the ulem’s face coldly, and his hand was stroking his right side, as if of its own accord, trying to relieve the pain. “What storm made you come to our parts from Bagdad?”
 “I am not tumbleweed driven by the wind…” a tiny smile appeared on Akberen’s lips, “The Kypchak Steppe is my native parts. I was born here. When I was a child, merchants took me to Bagdad, and now I am back… My name is Akberen.” 
 Sakip Zhamal threw her head up abruptly and looked the dzhigit in the face.” 
Whn in Iraq, Akberen had heard the emir being called the mainstay of the Golden Horde. Looking at his powerful figure, his still sallow face now, the ulem thought that Kutluk Temir was God’s punishment for his subjects. One could not expect any good or justice of him. It occurred to him that even his concubine must have a rough life, though her fingers were studded with gold fingers.
 The emir’s face was pain-twisted, and he started to give his right sight hasty rubs with his trembling hand. After some time, his face cleared up.
 “Your family is Kypchak… So I must be your nagashi, your uncle. I have some Kypchak blood in my veins too. Perhaps this merchant Zhakup is your close relative too?” Kutluk Temir  pointed at the unfamiliar man.
 Akberen shook his head and said humbly, “I cannot say anything about the merchant… As for you… The common Kypchak has never been akin with khans’ offspring…”
“Now that’s how you can talk!..” the emir frowned, “Time will come for us to see who is family and who is not… Now tell what has brought you here.”  
Sakip Zhamal gave a silver cup with frothy kumis in it to Kutluk Temir.  The emir took a sip languidly.
 “Two things have brought me here…” Akberen broke off for a moment to pluck up his heart. “If you please, I would like to open a medrese in Urgench or another city to teach Kypchak children to read and write, to teach them the word of God…”
 “Go on…”
 “The second thing is…” Akberen’s voice sounded hollow. He could hardly cope with the excitement that had seized him. “I was at the slavery market in Urgench yesterday. MY heart was filled with pain...”  
“What did you see there that upset you so much, honorable ulem?” there was a mocking tone about Kutluk Temir’s voice, and his eyes grew spiteful and cold.
 Akberen pretended to fail to notice the emir’s mockery.
 “Nearly ten thousand slaves were kept on the market… Since merchants of many countries have been afraid to undertake long and dangerous journeys recently, the price for slaves has dwindled. Those owning them are beginning to say that slaves aren’t worth what they eat… They are not given food or clothes… Allah has already taken many, and many are waiting for their death hour to come. But slaves are human beings…”
 “So what do you want of me?!” Kutluk Temir asked abruptly. “Shall I order my soldiers to kill all the slaves?!”
“Why kill them?” Akberen disagreed in a sad voice. “They’ll die on their own soon… It is up to us to give them freedom… Those who used to be slaves will grow crops and forge iron… Some of them are good warriors, and they could serve  the Golden Horde…”
“Judging by what you are saying, you seem to be one of them. Why are you wearing a blue turban then? Maybe you belong where they are?”
Pain would not leave Kutluk Temir’s body, and inexplicable annoyance and anger were obscuring his mind.
“I have come to you as the ruler of the people of Khwarezm…” Akberen said in a firm and calm voice. He had already realized that he should not have come to the emir’s yurt, but it was too late to retreat. “Prophet Muhammad taught us to have mercy others. If you cannot grant freedom to your slaves, order those who own them to have mercy on the miserable people and give them food and at least some clothes every day. Otherwise…” 
“What were you going to say?!” Kutluk Temir’s eyes gleamed.
“I was going to say that the poor men would die.”
“It seems to me you meant something else…” the emir shook his finger to Akberen. “But as long as you have come from a distant land, I forgive your unreasonable talk for the first time. It will be good for our ways to never cross again... Those who own the slaves know what to do with them.”
Akberen realized that it was time he left. His hopes would never come true. The wolf has no mercy on the sheep, and the latter’s pain is unfathomable to the former. He rose to his feet and made a low bow.  
“Wait,” Kutluk Temir stopped the ulem, “why do you leave without asking what my answer to your first request is?”
 Akberen was silent, waiting for him to go on.
 “So listen to what I am going to tell you. One who is concerned with slaves’ wellbeing must not be entrusted with children. Kypchak children must grow up to be as cruel and merciless as wolves. Only then will they be true warriors capable of glorifying the Golden Horde. Knowledge softens human minds. Now and always, happiness attends to those who have no mercy on others like wolves.  Those who dare speak for slaves are weak people. If I let you open a medrese, what will you teach the children? Do you understand it, Ulem?
 Akberen’s face grew morbidly pale. He left the emir’s yurt with a low bow.
Being aware of Kutluk Temir’s hot temper, neither Sakip Zhamal nor Zhakup uttered a single word.  


* * *

 Unable to see his way, Akberen was wandering through the dusty steppe. The emir’s quarters was left far behind as well as the silent henchmen with long spears to defend his life and peace. High in the sky, a skylark was singing, as if dropping grains of silver onto the dry ground. But the ulem could not hear the bird. He was choked with fury and hopelessness, and a crimson veil obscured his vision. 
When Akberen was preparing to visit Kutluk Temir, his heart told him that he was wasting his time, but deep inside a tiny sparkle of hope was glowing, and he wanted to believe in miracles. Khans were no fakirs, and they did no miracles. Had not Tamdam taught him that during long conversations? Had not the wise old man told him that each man had his happiness in his hands?
 He cooled down gradually, and he seemed to see a new light – the world full of wonderful color and heavenly sound was spread before him. Akberen realized that he could not achieve anything without fighting and that he could either win or die. There was no alternative. But to defeat the strong, one has to make the weak gather and make them undefeatable. How many of them were wandering across the vast Golden Horde! He should start with the slaves. The craftsmen of Urgench could not but support them. The people were moaning about the emir’s injustice and exactions. If the two forces merged, they could rise up against Kutluk Temir, and if Allah helped them, they could probably win the victory. From here, from the cities of Khwarezm, the fire would spread to the great Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe, Maverannakhr. If only he could make the fire. However strong the Golden Horde was, it could not resist its people if they were seized with rage. The people were tired, they had suffered a lot, and they resembled dry reeds now.  With the help of a sparkle and the wind, a fire would surely start.
 Akberen suddenly thought of the emir’s concubine Sakip Zhamal. Something about the beautiful young woman seemed familiar to him. The ulem was absolutely sure that he had never met her before. So what made him think about her, why did she throw he head up so abruptly and why did she look embarrassed at his mentioning his name? He might have dreamt about the woman once, for he had never seen her in the real world. He was twelve when Tamdam took him to Bagdad. Perhaps his memory had forgotten their encounter but his heart still remembered it? So when had he met her?
 Sakip Zhamal’s eyes, big, pure, and gentle, were brought back to Akberen’s mind. He could swear that he had seen the pair of eyes before. Maybe he remembered the eyes of his foster mother Kunduz to be like them?  No. There was a mystery about it.
 Akberen had a vision of standing in a vast steppe, the sun over which has not risen yet, and milk-white fog was floating over the lowland, and cranes were screaming with anxiety.  
 Sakip Zhamal… How could he forget the name?! The fog grew thinner, and a clear memory of what had happened twenty years before was brought to Akberen’s mind. The past seemed to have been revealed to him…
 A little swarthy girl with thin short braid… Akberen new her well. Back then, after the slaves’ rebellion had been repressed, Tamdam, trying to escape Khan Berke’s revenge, undertook to go to Iraq. It was a long way to go, and they stopped to spend a night in an aul in the lower reaches of the Seykhun.
The Kypchak aul gave them a sad welcoming. Woe had come to its people. Their chief’s seven-year-old daughter had been stung by a snake, and the veil of death was already covering her eyes.  Having found out what happened, Tamdam went to the chief’s yurt and took Akberen along. Like any man who had traveled and wandered much, he had broad knowledge and many skills. He did know what herbs could cure one stung by a gray sand snake.
 Tamdam would not leave the girl for a moment for three days, and on the fourth day she finally opened her eyes to see the world as it had been before. Her body was not shaking in contractions, and she wanted to live.
 The caravan could not wait for the man who had joined it accidentally on the way. It set off and went its way. 
 Happy to know that grief had passed by his yurt without a trace, the girl’s father persuaded Tamdam to stay in the aul for three more days, promising to give him horses and several men to help them catch up with the caravan. Tamdam and Akberen stayed in the aul.
 Akberen spent three days with the little Sakip Zhamal. She was still bed-ridden, and he was telling her funny stories and tales. The chief of the aul swore that he would join the children by marriage as soon as they were old enough, for he believed the happy outcome to be Allah’s will.
 That was when Akberen memorized the look of Sakip Zhamal’s eyes. He had born it in his mind that he had a bride-to-be somewhere, but the past years made the girl appear more distant to him, and the events that had taken place twenty years before seemed to be a dream of his.
And today… The past was brought back by Sakip Zhamal’s  embarrassed look. So she did remember what had happened in their childhood. But what could they alter, how could they rectify what had been done if the wife of Kutluk Temir, the ruler of Khwarezm, was his promised bride? Who will deny the khan, who will stand in his way and refuse to fulfill his order?
 Akberen was choked with hatred for the khan. His body shivered. His mind demanded revenge.
 The day was dying; the sun had already set when the ulem reached Urgench. On that very night, he met the leader of the slaves, and they talked till morning…
 Sakip Zhamal did not get a wink of sleep on that night. She was lying in her bed with Kutluk Temir, but her mind was far away. She was thinking of the past, and her heart was beating fast. Kutluk Temir could not fall asleep and was tossing and turning, sighing heavily and sometimes moaning with pain through clenched teeth.
 Knowing how suspicious he was, Sakip Zhamal was lying quietly, pretending to be asleep, while scenes of the past were passing in her mind. She had a vague memory of her childhood and had nearly forgotten the face of the boy who was to be her husband, for he had never come to their aul since that meeting. Her parents had told her something about him, but she still had been unable to picture him to herself.  The only thing Sakip Zhamal remembered well was his name - Akberen.
 If that was the Akberen whom she was thinking about or he just had the same name, the woman did not know. But the encounter brought her past to life and made her grow thoughtful. However, everything was in Allah’s hand. No hair would fall off a man’s head without his wanting it. It meant that what had happened was predestined.
 Sakip Zhamal became mature at once when grief came to their house – her father and mother died of cholera, which swept the steppe and cities of Khwarezm like heavy wind in that year. Allah spared her life. Then Kutluk Temir, who was passing by their aul with a group of henchmen, noticed her and expressed his desire to marry her.
 Who would be opposed to the khan’s desire?! Should one be? Nobody asked is Sakip Zhamal would consent, and common people believed what had happened to be great luck for the poor orphan.
 But to Sakip Zhamal everything seemed to be a nightmare. She dreaded and hated Kutluk Temir, gigantic, bloated, and old. But his men’s power had not left the emir yet, and Sakip Zhamal did not notice the moment when she came to enjoy the nights she spent with him. He did not look scary to her anymore, for she knew the way he could be in his moments of passion. 
The woman had not even attempted to change something about her life. She had lived up to her husband’s desire and fancy.
 Kutluk Temir treated her differently from the rest of his wives and had developed a great affection for her. He had dressed her in silk, decorated her with gold, and spent nearly each night in her tent.
 Sakip Zhamal did not give him a child, but the emir was not upset by the fact too much. He had enough children born by other wives, and Kutluk Temir even liked the fact that his concubine would not get pregnant, thus preserving her beautiful figure and gentle complexion.
 Everything had been fine till the emir fell ill. He was in his early sixties, and time and his ailment had made him irritable and deprived him of energy.  He was not so passionate about lovemaking anymore, and Sakip Zhamal, healthy and pretty, full of desire, with her body craving love and caress, felt empty. 
 Their bed of marriage grew cold. They had different desires now, and they became alienated from each other. Kutluk Temir mostly thought about who would inherit the throne of the Golden Horde after his death; he thought about the children whom he would leave in that merciless world full of beastly hatred. Sakip Zhamal realized that the best of her life was behind too. Kutluk Temir would be gone, and she would have nobody to caress her body, and he did not even have a child for the sake of which she could put up with the loneliness. Sakip Zhamal realized that her happiness was elusive. Neither gold nor costly dresses could give her what she could have if her life had been different. Like that of her friends from the aul. What was there between her and Kutluk Temir was not love. Passion had hidden the most important thing from her, the thing for which she should and had to live. 
 That was the reason why her heart leaped at hearing the name of Akberen. It sounded like the voice of the past to remind her that there was a different life.
 When he was young, Kutluk Temir often suffered from wounds of battles, and the pain seemed to have been stronger than it was now, but why then was he so eager to get over it and live again then and why was he so indifferent now? He turned his back to his wife and prayed to Allah, asking him to grant him peace and sound sleep… 
 In the morning, as she was left alone, Sakip Zhamal called Adilsha into her tent. The young man a bastard of Uzbek Khan born by a Kypchak called Bubesh.  At the khan’s order, Kutluk Temir took the son and his mother to his quarters.  
 Sakip Zhamal had known Bubesh since she was young. Their auls used to meet every year on the dzhailau, so she treated her friend’s son like a younger brother. “Aynalayyn! Dear! You are old enough, and you need to be able to keep secrets. You have turned fifteen…” Sakip Zhamal said.
 The boy looked her in the eyes faithfully, not interrupting her and waiting for what his protector was going to say. Sakip Zhamal was silent for a while. She was suddenly hesitant as for whether she should entrust anyone with her secret. But there was no other solution – the woman knew that nobody would do the errand better than Adilsha.
 Sakip Zhamal lowered her voice to a whisper, though they were alone and there was no one to hear them, “Did you see the man wearing a blue turban yesterday in the quarters?” 
Adilsha nodded his head, “Yes. I had seen him before, at the market in Urgench. They say he’s come to us from a distant city. He’s an ulem, a learned man…”
 “Right…” the woman nodded. “Tomorrow you are going to Urgench with your henchmen. Try to see the man again… I’ll give you a letter for him… But remember, nobody must know it… If anyone finds out, we will be doomed to death…”
 Trying to keep a serious look, as a grown-up warrior was expected to do, the boy nodded, “I will do what you order…”
 Sakip Zhamal heaved a sigh of relief. Let it be. She had no choice. She could find Akberen in the noisy motley fuss of Urgench only by confiding in someone.  


* * *

 Adilsha felt unrestrained and comfortable at the market — he only saw what he wanted to see, and his ears heard nothing but what he wanted to hear. Having fallen behind the henchmen unnoticed, he went to the craft shops where he had once saw the ulem. His intuition served him well. Soon Adilsha saw the one he had been looking for.
 The ulem was sitting at the chiseller’s and drinking green tea with the owner of the shop. His hand was holding a white cup covered in small cracks indicating its old age nimbly by holding his fingers apart.  Beads of perspiration were glistening on his high tan forehead.
 “Assalam agaleykum!” Adilsha greeted him, looking the ulem in the eyes excitedly. 
He gave a look of surprise to the stranger and was about to return his greeting when a piece of paper slid into his hand. Without asking any questions, Akberen turned his back to the human flow and looked through the letter, which read as follows:
 “There was a boy named Akberen, who has been my promised husband since childhood. Who are you?” 
There was no signature, but the ulem was stung by a guess – the letter had been written by Sakip Zhamal; nobody else could have written it. Akberen’s face grew white. He looked at the chiseller, and the latter, obviously understanding what the ulem needed, nodded to a small low door in the far end of the shop. 
 “Wait for me, dear boy…” the ulem said. “I’ll be back in a moment…” Akberen disappeared behind the door.  
On a low table in a tiny room big enough for two persons only, he saw an inkstand and a kalam, that is, a reed pen. Akberen wrote two words on the letter brought by Adilsha, “It is me!” 
Having returned to the shop, the ulem put the letter into the boy’s hand secretly. “Give it to the one who sent you…” he said, and his voice was breaking with agitation. “If she wants to say something else, come here. If I am not here, this man will take the letter,” Akberen pointed at the bald owner of the shop with slanting eyes. “You can trust me as much as you trust me.”
 “I will, Agay…” Adilsha whispered reverently and dived into the crowd, hiding the letter at his bosom, in the lapels of his robe.  
When the henchmen saw Adilsha, they were in a peevish mood. “Where on earth have you been, lad?” a dark-faced warrior who looked as if he had been smoked asked angrily.
.”I lost you,” Adilsha apologized with a guilty look. His face was still blushed excitement. “There are so many people…”
“The market is not the right place to gape…” the henchman grumbled. “We’ll leave without you next time…” 
When Adilsha returned to the quarters and gave the letter to Sakip Zhamal, she read the phrase written by the ulem, and the young woman nearly fainted.  She collapsed onto the carpet, hiding her face in her hands. Sakip Zhamal did not know if she should be happy or sad. She had been expecting an answer like that, and still it was a surprise.
“Come here…” she called Adilsha. When he approached her timidly, she hugged the boy and stroked his head as if he was a little child, stroked his wiry hair. “Thank you, Brother! You’ve brought me joy.”
 Adilsha cast down his eyes, “I am ready to fulfill any order of yours…”
Since that day, Sakip Zhamal was finding more and more pretexts to send the boy to Urgench, and it was more and more difficult for the latter to explain why he was constantly falling behind the henchmen at the market.  The dark-faced warrior, who was the henchmen’s head, was especially suspicious. “You will suffer a misfortune once,” he said to Adilsha threateningly. “The emir’s rage is terrible…”
 The fact that the boy hurried to the tent of Kutluk Temir’s concubine each time he returned from Urgench had not escaped the observant henchman.
 Sakip Zhamal could not stop. Her feeling to Akberen was swallowing her progressively, and it was increasingly hard for her to wait for her lover’s letters. 
Nobody could think that a disaster was very close. The dark-faced henchman already knew whom Adilsha had been searching for at the market, and he knew that he had been doing it at the command of the emir’s concubine.  However, he had to find out more to inform the emir, for the latter would not believe in words, and he would lose his head instead of being awarded. 
Everything has an end. The time came when letters could not satisfy the lovers anymore, and they met in the suburbs of Urgench in a poor clay hut, despising their fear of the cruel punishment.


* * *

 Akberen could not believe what he saw. The moon was peeping into the room through its tiny window, and in its ghostly silvery light he could see Sakip Zhamal’s beautiful naked body. The woman was lying on the floor, on a plain gray blanket, and he breasts, small and taut, looked like buds of white roses.
 The ulem was watching Sakip Zhamal’s wide heaps moving with desire unslaked, and she thought that he had never felt such bliss and passion within his life of over thirty years. He had had women. But they were just women whom he met occasionally on his way.  But that woman had charmed him, and it sometimes seemed to him that there was nothing but the poor hut and the enormous happiness filling his soul. 
 Akberen bent down to her face and saw her huge dark eyes, in which moonlight was reflected. She stretched her arms towards him, and he could feel them wrap around his neck.  He could barely breathe, and again he saw nothing but her eyes, insane with passion and felt Sakip Zhamal’s body beating and shaking. 
“How could I live without you?..” Sakip Zhamal said after some time, and her voice was breaking, her breath choking.
 “I have asked myself,” Akberken answered after a pause, “I’ve asked myself and got no answer… I would not believe that two people could make each other so happy…”
“If only the happiness was eternal!”
“What prevents us from keeping it? Kutluk Temir has the power, but your heart does not belong to him...”
 Sakip Zhamal sighed, “If you asked me to follow you, I’d abandon everything; I would not be afraid of the longest and the hardest way…”
 Akberen passed his hand across his face tiredly. “I believe you. But you know that it’s not easy. The khan is to blame for the death of my parents. His sword interrupted my foster mother Kunduz’s life; in a foreign land, far from his native parts, Tamdam died…  Can I forget it? Thousands of miserable people are waiting for me to show them the way that will help them feel free. Only when my dreams come true will I be happy.”
 Sakip Zhamal embraced Amberken, and he felt her hot breath on his chest and heard her confused, begging whisper, “Is our happiness not enough? Let’s run away!.. Neither Kutluk Temir nor anyone else will be able to find us!.. Everything’s ready for a long journey!..” 
Avoiding looking the woman in the eyes, Akberen shook his head, “The slaves are waiting for me… I promised… It’s too late to retreat…”
 Sakip Zhamal darted away from Akberen, and the low-ceilinged room grew silent. The moon was not looking into the window anymore, and it was very dark. The dawn was very close...
 As soon as dusk came, the dark-faced henchman hid behind a wide-branching peach tree. He had a clear view of the emir’s palace and the paths leading to it. Nobody going to the palace or leaving it could escape the sharp eye of the steppe warrior. He had ordered the sentry not to let anyone into the palace on pain of death.
 It had been three days since the dark-faced henchman came to Urgench from the quarters. Kutluk Temir ordered him to attend to his concubine, who wanted to visit the palace in which the emir and his attendants mostly spent winters.
Sakip Zhamal explained her intention to Kutluk Temir by stating the necessity of checking the state of carpets and warm winter clothes maintained by slaves.  In a different time, the emir might have grown suspicious, but now he was seized with total indifference, and he consented easily.  As was right and proper, the concubine was given a group of soldiers to guard her, and Kutluk Temir appointed the dark-faced henchman to be the head of it. Having relieved the palace sentry, the henchman ordered his soldiers not to let anyone into the palace without permission. 
Evening came, and everything was silent. The citizens of Urgench kept away from the palace, looking at the sentry frozen by the gate apprehensively. The dark-faced henchman did not forget Adilsha’s mysterious outings to the market, and something made him think that he would find out the secret of the emir’s concubine right there, in Urgench, on those days.  If there was a connection between her and the man wearing a blue turban, the latter would try to sneak into the palace. He could hear the girls and women who had come along with Sakip Zhamal laughing and playing the dutar loudly behind the palace walls. Everything was calm and ordinary.
 The henchman thought of the well-built dzhigit who had come out of the palace not long before, when the sun had set, and disappeared on the streets of the city behind the square. Looking at his back, the emir thought that he might be one of those whom emir appointed to maintain order in the palace in summer. He should have told the warriors not only to let nobody in without permission but also to let nobody out.  
Having found nothing unusual, the henchman decided to check the sentry at midnight. The warriors, who were used to maintaining perfect order, were where they were expected to be. The henchman stopped by the door that led to Sakip Zhamal’s room. Behind it there was silence.
“Is the mistress sleeping?” he asked the warrior who was guarding the room of the emir’s wofe.
 He shrugged. “Khanum has not come back yet.”
 The henchman startled. His eyes narrowed, indicating fear. “Where did she go?!”
 “How do I know? Do the khan’s wife report to a common warrior what they do? She dressed up as a man and left the palace when it was still light.” 
 The henchman jumped at the warrior madly, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
 He flinched, hiding his face behind his hand, “I thought you knew… When Khanum was leaving, you were looking at her… I thought…”
 The henchman kicked the warrior in the stomach. “You dirty dog!.. You thought!.. I’ll have you skinned!.. You’ll pay for that!..”
The warrior bent down and was moaning lowly, holding his stomach.
“Was there anyone else?”
“No… She was alone…”
 The henchman wanted to set up an alarm, but he knew that to look for the emir’s wife in the night Urgench was the same as to search for a certain hare in the steppe. Besides, if people in the palace learned what had happened, the rumor would reach Kutluk Temir, and the emir would not forgive him his mistake. If he was only reduced to a common soldier, it would be good, but it was more probable that Kutluk Temir would order to decapitate or bate him. 
The henchman’s most terrible suspicion turned out to be the reality. Of course, Sakip Zhamal had gone to see the man wearing a blue turban. But she could not have left forever. The mistress would certainly return to the palace. Then.... 
“Listen to me, you stinky jackal…” the henchman said coarsely to the moaning warrior. “If someone in the palace finds out what’s happened, I’ll kill you.” 
“Let my tongue fail me forever…” 
 The henchman’s face, which was naturally swarthy, grew black. Holding his sword on his side, he ran to the outer gate of the palace. 
Sakip Zhamal came at dawn. Trying not to look her in the face, the henchman asked her in a voice trembling with fury at thinking of what he had experienced, “Where have you been, Madam? We have been looking for you in the whole palace…”
 Sakip Zhamal through her head up proudly. Her face was pale, and green shadows lay under her eyes. “What’s that to you? How dare you ask me?”
 The henchman was scared. Yes, he was to guard the emir’s wife and attend to her, and still she stood higher than he. Women were endlessly cunning, and who knew what the outcome could be. He has seen a woman persuade her husband that the black was white and the white was black many times. What if the same happened to him? “I did not mean to hurt you… But the emir ordered us to guard you; what if something had happened…”
 Sakip Zhamal suddenly thought about what would happen if the dark-faced warrior informed Kutluk Temir about her affair… Fear frosted She knew the emir, his temper, and his nature too well. He would not stop till he had achieved the truth. He would go any length for that.  
The solution came unexpectedly. “I’ll tell the emir where I was,” Sakip Zhamal said. “Go away and order them to saddle horses. We’ll go to the quarters.” 
 “Your wish is my command,” the dark-faced warrior bent his head down and hurried towards the palace stables, where horses were standing ready.   
Sakip Zhamal was watching the henchman thoughtfully. As soon as he disappeared from her sight, he turned round abruptly and disappeared in the narrow and dusty streets of the city.
For the whole day, warriors of the palace sentry were running around the streets of Urgench, breaking into merchants’ and craftsmen’s houses, but Sakip Zhamal was nowhere to be seen. Nobody had seen her or heard anything about her.
 In the evening, realizing that there was no use searching, the henchman arrived at the emir’s quarters on a leathery horse. Prostrating himself before Kutluk Temir, he told what had happened and what he knew about the affair of Sakip Zhamal and the man wearing a blue turban. 
The emir was listening to the henchman without interrupting him. The yellow skin on his thin face was stretched, and his frozen eyes were looking still, and one could read nothing in them.  Even when the henchman had finished, Kutluk Temir did not move. The silence was becoming dreary. The henchman was watching the emir’s hand constantly. It seemed to him that he would grab his sword and… the most terrible thing would happen. But Kutluk Temir was silent. The henchman’s body started to shiver; his eyes were dull, and his mouth was distorted spasmodically.
 All of a sudden, the emir spoke. His voice was monotonous and low, “So you not only have missed my wife but also don’t know where to look for her?”
The henchman wanted to save his life at any cost. With a terrified chatter of his teeth, he uttered laboriously, “Only one person can know where the mistress is…” 
Kutluk Temir darted forward, “Tell me who he is.”
“Your nursling Adilsha.”
“How can he know?”
“He acted as a mediator between the mistress and the man wearing a blue turban…”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wanted to know what the connection would lead to… I didn’t want to come to you empty-handed…”  
Kutluk Temir was working his jaws. “I don’t want to see you anymore…” he clapped his hands. Two warriors entered the tent. “Take him. Let them give him five hundred lashes. This is my reward…”
The henchman screamed terribly.
“Take him away,” the emir said disgustedly. “One who can’t set traps properly gets trapped.”  
As soon as the screams of the dark-faced henchman could not be heard anymore, the khan called for Adilsha.
The boy’s answer to all questions was, “I don’t know.” Neither words of encouragements nor threads could make his speak. 
 “Alright,” the emir said in a tired voice. “You think there’s no force to get you speak? My henchmen will tear your clothes off and put you into the deepest well with the coldest water in it. Perhaps it will help you remember what you have forgotten. I want to know just a little – what was the connection between Sakip Zhamal and the man wearing a blue turban? And, which is more important, where can I find them now?
 Adilsha was crying, but he did not speak. So Kutluk Temir ordered to execute the threat. 
They did not keep the boy in the well for a long time. The emir did not forget that Adilsha was Uzbek Khan’s son, but when they took him out, it was too late. The boy fell ill and died after several days without either regaining consciousness or saying anything. His mother, Bubesh, lost her mind with grief, and she was chained to an iron pole in the ground so that she could not make a mess in the quarters.
 Kutluk Temir ordered that Adilsha be buried with all the solemnities expected to appear at the funerals of noble people. But he could not hide the truth. At the markets of Urgench, in the cities and towns of Khwarezm, people started to spread rumor about the emir’s cruelty.  The song of lamentation called The Falcon’s Death appeared out of the blue and was soaring above craftsmen’s and merchants’ clay houses.  
It was that song what Zhakup the merchant started to retell to Khan Uzbek in the Crimea, but he stopped in time, being afraid to provoke the khan’s rage. It is always better to have nothing to do with bad news. Why be the first about a bad thing? Zhakup knew the whole song through and through, but he only dared to sing the beginning to Uzbek Khan. The miserable mother lamented, 
  “Tell me, my only one,
Why did lord part us so early?
  Maybe he wants to take you to paradise. 
  They say he is endlessly just.”
  The son replied, 
  “It was not the god of heaven who parted us.
   An earthly emir ordered them to kill me.
   The mullah said that heaven is paradise,
   So why doesn’t the emir hurry to go there?”  

 The lamentation told the story of Adilsha’s death on his behalf; it told how much he wanted to live and how much he enjoyed worldly pleasures and the sun. 
 Having heard the song, Kutluk Temir was outraged. He promised an enormous reward to the one who would bring the ulem wearing a blue turban who had composed the song to him. But nobody in Urgench betrayed Akberen and informed the khan of where he was hiding. 
The Urgench slaves’ rebellion resembled a lightning bolt in clear sky. Kutluk Temir, who was too busy with his ailment, would not believe his spies who kept reporting growing discontent.   He had been ruling Khwarezm for many years, and nobody had ever dared lift his head and look him in the eyes impudently; nobody had ventured to say a word he would not approve of. The rabble was murmuring, so what? It was not the emir who was created for them but they were created for the emir. Rabble was meant to obey and do what the ruler, who was graceful enough to let it live, breathe, and see the light, ordered.
 That was what Kutluk Temir thought. That is why he was absolutely sure that there was nothing to be afraid of. One word would be enough to tame the slaves immediately. Their blood would put up any fire, preventing it from spreading. The citizens of Khwarezm would shudder at seeing his cruelty and hunch their shoulders, and their eyes would be directed to the ground, and each would understand that his life was dust on an endless caravan road.
 Feeling confident, Kutluk Temir armed his army and sent it to help Uzbek Khan, who had undertaken to march against Iran. The amount of soldiers that stayed in the city was merely enough to maintain order and patrol the quarters. The slaves seemed to have been waiting for that moment.
 At dawn, as soon as the sky grew gray in the east and even water carriers, who got up earlier than other citizens, did not appear on the streets of Urgench, the solid gate of the khisar shook under axe lows.
 A roaring furious torrent of people broke through the hole to the narrow streets. Those who lacked patience were climbing the clay dual walling off the khisar to fall into the road dust, cool after the night, from there. 
The sentry tried to stand in the slaves’ way, but hundreds of arms stretched to the mounted warriors, and they disappeared in the human torrent, gasping with screams, with their swords still sheathed, as if it was a whirlpool of an overflowing river.
 The slaves, exhausted, barefooted, dirty, and ragged, the slaves were merciless. They had been waiting for a long time. Akberen’s people had brought them files, forge tongs, and knives the day before. Having released themselves from chains and iron boots, the slaves felt like human beings again. Hot blood was running in their bodies plagued by hunger and diseases, and they were willing to live and be free again. What could stop, obstruct the way to those who could finally see light after a long night?
 The trampling of thousands of feet raised choky yellow dust above the city. The crows armed with sticks sharpened on ends and chains, roaring and screaming, was rolling to the square in front of the emir’s winter palace. 
The people who used to dream of dying so that their suffering could be relieved had won their freedom back. They did not know what would happen to them soon and whether they would see the sun rise, but joy filled every heart, and the slaves were ready to sacrifice their lives to freedom. Many of them did remember that they used to be warriors and craftsmen before they were imprisoned and that they, like anyone else who was born free, once had families and dear people. 
 Awakened by the noise, citizens were hurrying to the square. Nobody could tell what had happened for sure. A crimson dawn was aglare above Urgench. The crowd on the square was growing bigger. A group of horsemen appeared from a lane, and the people made way for them. One of them, wearing a blue turban to indicate a scientist, that is, and ulem, and a warrior’s belt with a crooked sword on one side, raised his hand. 
The crowd murmured, “It’s he!..”, “Akberen!..”, “He and his friends helped the slaves!..” , “Kutluk Temir will have his skinned!..”, “The emir’s got no army!”
The noise was subsiding. Everybody was looking at Akberen.
“People!” he gave a glance around the square. “Friends! Each of once comes into this life only once! Did not Allah, who created all living beings, separate the man from cattle and give him reason? So why did the khan and the emir turn us into dumb cattle? Why did they take your homes away from you, deprived your of the few thing you had, and take you to the market to sell you like lousy sheep? You, who used to be free people just yesterday, are standing on this square today, half-dead with hunger, and you have pathetic rugs on your shoulders? Can the man stand that? Was it the life the Allah meant for you?”
A shout of fury rolled above the square, “You are right, Ulem!..”, “The life of a slave is unbearable!...”, “Tell us to do, what actions to take!..”, “Be our leader in our struggle against Kutluk Temir!..”
Akberen waited for the shouts to stop.
 “I spoke to the emir. I asked him to save you from starvation and give you freedom. Kutluk Temir sent me out of his white yurt, saying that he would order his shoulders to severe my head if I dared to bother him once again.  We are all human beings! We are brothers! But each of us can turn into a slave due to our emir! Can we out up with this?! Can we live in constant fear?! To have no fear, we should remind the emir Kutluk Temir and the khan of the Golden Horde Uzbek that we are human beings and we need to stick together like fingers of the same hand, like children born by the same father and mother. But nobody will hear our voice unless we take long spears, sharp swords, and taut bows…”
 Akberen’s eyes were glinting; his chest was rising irregularly. The square was stirred up again, “Lead us!”, “Tell us where to get swords!..”, “We want to be free!..” 
 Akberen raised his hand, “I’ll tell you where to get arms. After that we will speak to the emir. I’m sure that he will be willing to speak to us, for we are many… and we are strong!.. Follow me!” 
Akberen jumped off his horse. Tall and slender, he seemed to be higher than the crowd, and each of the slaves could see his blue turban.
The powerful human torrent flooded the streets of Urgench. Ulem was walking fast, and soon the slaves were running after him, being afraid of falling behind and losing the one who had brought them relief. 
 Akberen was leading the rebels to the place where food and weapons meant for Kutluk Temir’s tumens were stored. 
 The sentry was running away in terror without even trying to stand in the way of the infuriated people. Who could resist to those who could see the dawn of freedom, still unsure, after a long night of despair and suffering?


* * *

Life was mysterious, strange, and unfathomable. Oh Allah, if you are truly the creator, why did you make it so complicated? Why do love and treachery sometimes take the same path, and why do joy and sorrow never part?  You did not give the man enough reason to solve the tangle, so he spends his short life running into extremes, looking for something he has not lost, and finding thing he does not look for.
 Having run away from the dark-faced henchman, Sakip Zhamal returned to Akberen. The ulem’s friends hid her reliably from the chasers. The young woman was seized with enormous happiness and endless anxiety. Akberen often disappeared at night for secret meeting with the slaves and citizens who supported him. Sometimes he left Urgench for several days.
 Sakip Zhamal was worried about him, she was afraid, but her fear was soon replaced by irritation. Why should her lover belong to anyone but her? Why was the slaves’ life more important to him than their own lives? The woman’s heart felt a foreboding.  Sakip Zhamal did not believe in what Akberen was going to do. She was trying to instill the thought in him, to make him take the way she had chosen, being absolutely sure that they could be happy only by going that way. Women are sly in their minds. Willing to achieve what she wanted, Sakip Zhamal lavished affection on her lover. Embracing Akberen on sultry short nights, she would whisper to him storied of their future life, trying to talk him into fleeing from Khwarezm. Sakip Zhamal said that she had buried gold enough for them to live their entire lives in a secret place, and they could live happily in abundance.
 Akberen would listen to her with his mind somewhere else, and his eyes would see something very different from what Sakip Zhamal saw. He tried to explain to her why he could not quit without completing the undertaking. But Sakip Zhamal was blinded by worries about both of them and kept repeating the same things.  Their desire was still attracting them to each other, but an intersection was beginning to be visible behind the veil of affection, and they were to part their ways. Sakip Zhamal’s love for Akberen was born suddenly and, glaring in the fire of love like a saltwort bush, was reduced to a handful of light gray ashes.
 Sakip Zhamal was brooding about her future more and more awful. At first she tried to choke off the bad thought, but they, heavy and cold, found tiny cracks and sneak into her soul, depriving her of peace and joy, against her will.
 Once she realized that she regretted the past and what she had sacrificed to her love. Her yesterday’s life seemed to resemble the Imran, that is, the Garden of Paradise. It used to be fun, it used to be easy, she used to hear music and see costly iridescent clothes. Now she had a shabby clay house with a clay floor covered with a gray blanket and a smoked fireplace…  
Sakip Zhamal knew that Akberen loved her. But what did it matter? She imagined their future and was terrified to realized that solitude was awaiting them. Could it be other way? The way chosen by Akberen would lead him to an abyss sooner or later. What would happen to her? Who would neеd her and give her shelter?
 Sakip Zhamal’s entire being was opposed to such an outcome. She craved love and happiness, but the road she had taken led to suffering and gloom. The woman was looking for a way out feverishly but found none. Then she decided on talking to Akberen for the last time in despair.
 The conversation took place on the night before the slaves’ rebellion. The clay hut was silent. They could hear the snappy sound of the lamp wick, and deep sinister shadows lay in the corners.  
Sakip Zhamal knew that Salimgerey’s plan was to be fulfilled at dawn. She shuddered at every sound. She brought her face closer to Akberen’s; her eyes glistened with tears. “So you love me?” 
“Yes.” Akberen put his arm around Sakip Zhamal’s shoulders and embraced her. She felt cold metal and guessed that he had a mail arm under his clothes.
 “I conjure you in the name of our love!” Sakip Zhamal said sobbingly, “For the last time I beg you, don’t go there! My heart tells me that you will die! I know Kutluk Temir and his warriors well…”  
 “It’s too late,” Akberen shook his head. “There’s no way back…” 
 “For my sake!.. For the sake of our happiness!..” Sakip Zhamal’s voice was rising to a shout and then collapsing into a whisper.  
Akberen pushed her aside and rose to his feet.  The room was cramped and had a low ceiling, which he nearly brushed with his head. Akberen came up to the clay lamp hanging on the wall and looked closely at the fire. It rocked, disquieted by his movement. A thin black thread of soot hung in the air. Vague sinister shadows were lashing on his face. 
“There are thousands of people there…” he said in a hollow voice. “I cannot betray them… Is it possible to live after a betrayal?!”
Sakip Zhamal saw that Akberen was firm, and she was seized with despair. “You have made me miserable!..” she shouted. “I gave up the emir’s palace, gold and silver, and wealth for you!.. I love you! But today you are leaving to die. You are taking the last of what I have from me…”
 Akberen dropped his head. The room was silent again.
“If I had a palace and gold, I would not hesitate to give it up to have your love…” 
“You’re lying!”
“I am not… It’s time to go…”
 Akberen went to the far corner of the room, rolled up the blanket and took a wide leather belt with a crooked Mongol sword attached to it from a hiding place. Then he came up to Sakip Zhamal, bent over her and stroked her hair, “wait for me… I’ll be back…”
She threw her head up, and he saw her pale face with eyes glowing with hatred, “I knew you would go… May Allah punish you for what you have done to me…”
When she was alone, Sakip Zhamal collapsed onto the blanket and was hitting it furiously for a long time. Then peace came to her. She suddenly thought about Kutluk Temir, his huge body, his large, strong arms.  He had absolutely forgotten that she used to hate the emir and feel disgusted at merely seeing him. A hot wave of hatred for Akberen struck Sakip Zhamal suddenly, obscuring her mind. She got dressed hastily and ran out.
 Sakip Zhamal did not know where and why she was going. The black star-spangled sky above her looked like the bottom of a huge pot. She was overshoe in dust, and the clay duvals warmed during the day were giving out dry heat. She did not hear the horse sentry as it caught up with her. It was not only before the horseman surrounded Sakip Zhamal and one of them bent down to her face that she understood that they were Kutluk Temir’s warriors.
“Oy-boy!” the warrior said in a voice which sounded surprised or happy. “This is the runaway, our emir’s concubine…”
He grabbed her rudely, lifted her, and threw her across his saddle. “Come on, dzhigits!” the warrior shouted. “We’ll bring the costly present to our emir! Our ruler is generous; he won’t forget to give us the promised reward!..”
Raising a cloud of choky dust, the horseman rushed through the sleepy streets of Urgench.  
Soon, a cool wind blew Sakip Zhamal in the face, and she realized that city streets were left behind. The warriors were carrying her to the emir’s quarters.
 Kutluk Temir was not asleep when the warriors threw Sakip Zhamal to his feet. She was lying with her face down on the fluffy carpet, paralyzed by terror.  Sakip Zhamal knew the emir’s temper better than anyone else. Kutluk Temir was merciless, and she thought that he would spring off the podium where he was sitting with his sword unsheathed, and that would be the end.
 But the emir was looking at the runaway lying at his feet silently, and the noyons and henchmen who happened to be in Kutluk Temir’s yurt were silent too. 
“She’s back,” the emir’s voice was unemorional.
Sakip Zhamal’s entire body was shaking.
 “If a mare lost finds her hers, she’s not to blame for that. Are you in good health?”
 The woman’s body was shaking harder and harder.
 “Get up and come to me…” Kutluk Temir stretched his arms out to her. “Don’t be afraid.” 
Those present in the yurt were shocked. The emir received the woman who had inflicted disgrace on him by running away as if nothing had happened. They would not believe their eyes and ears.
 “Come on, get up…” Kutluk Temir said in a slightly impatient tone. 
 Sakip Zhamal rose to her wobbly feet and made an unsure step towards the emir… He embraced her with his large hands and smelt his forehead according to the Kypchak custom.
 “Go away…” looking up at the noyons crowding there in embarrassment, Kutluk Temir said calmly. “I’ll call you when I need you…” 
 The noyons left exchanging whispers and shrugging in surprise. The runaway deserved to die – that was the way it had always been. Kutluk Temir should at least weal her with a lash. There was something odd and mysterious about the emir’s ways.
 When the last of those present in the tent had disappeared behind the carved door, Kutluk Temir lifted Sakip Zhamal easily and took her to the bed without even putting out the lights.  
She could not believe that she had got away with escaping; she could not believe in her luck. It was not before the emir started to do what she remembered from the time  he was not ill and exhausted that Sakip Zhamal decided that it was a miracle. Choking with joy at being alive, she returned Kutluk Temir’s caress, and it seemed to her that she had never left the yurt and that everything that had happened was a nightmare. 
However, the emir was weal and ill. Soon he was tired, and Sakip Zhamal heard him breathing rasping intermittent breathing. 
Then, they were lying together for a long time. Sakip Zhamal was beginning to be afraid again, Kutluk Temir embraced her and started stroking her shoulders, her body. “Not tell me where you were. I missed you.”
 The simple words said in a soft voice moved the woman. Now she fully believed that the emir had forgiven her. Oh Allah, who clouded her mind when she decided on running away?! Thinking that everything would resume its previous course and that she would have a peaceful life full of joy, shiny gold and the powerful Kutluk Temir near her, Sakip Zhamal cried with pity for herself. She told her husband everything about Akberen and the slaves’ rebellion prepared without concealing anything.
 The emir listened her out without interrupting with sympathetic tut-tuts, and Sakip Zhamal came to trust him immensely. How could she know that Kutluk Temir had decided on putting her to death as soon as he saw her lying at his feet? The emir was not the kind of person to forgive even those whose guilt was a thousand times less heavy than that of Sakip Zhamal. He knew that if he tried to learn something from you and she did not want to tell, the stubborn Kypchak woman would be silent even when whipped. The emir deceived her by showing affection.


* * *

 Sakip Zhamal’s treachery was a stab in the rebellious slaves’ back. When they came to the emir’s quarters in the morning, having plundered the place where food and weapons were kept, the army was waiting for them.
 The quarters was surrounded with a double row of carts, behind which the army remaining at Kutluk Temir’s disposal hid. Clouds of arrows were sent at the attacking party. Losing their people, they had to retreat.
 At the same time, the emir’s messengers were galloping to the aymaks, overworking their horses, along the roads of Khwarezm to order the noyons to send their troops to Urgench immediately. 
 Akberen realized that there was no use in besieging the quarters. More soldiers would arrive to help Kutluk Temor soon, and the slaves would be doomed to death. He ordered the rebels to return to Urgench. He had to let the people have a rest, divide them into hundreds and thousands so that they could march against different cities of Khwarezm and Maverannakhr in the morning. Akberen knew that there were sympathizers who would join the rebellious slaves without hesitation everywhere. Craftsmen and dekhans could not stand the government of the local rulers. Being exhausted by the outrageous exactions and constant struggle for power among the Chingizids, they would support the slaves.
 But Sakip Zhamal had told Kutluk Temir a lot. If the rebellious troops divided, they would soon make a menacing force, gathering their power like an avalanche, and who knew what the consequences for the Golden Horde would be. 
The emir had lived a long life, he had faced danger more than one, so he could keep cool under any circumstances. His brain was cruel and cunning. Kutluk Temir thought of the elephants which were kept in Urgench for celebrations and feasts. Six gigantic animals were looked after Indian elephant drivers. The emir ordered that the drivers’ head be brought to the quarters immediately.
 The well-built Persian man, who was not very old, listened to Kutluk Temir attentively without showing any surprise.  His bulging eyes looked calm and imperturbable.
“I will do what you want, my ruler. I will only need six buckets of warm water; I’ll cook the brew myself…” 
“I will pay for your industry generously,” the emir said.
The Persian man bowed low


* * *

 After minding, the Persian and his men brought the elephants to the khizar where the slaves were hiding. Kutluk Temir’s warriors were carrying warm water silently. Before giving it to the animals, the Persian poured some brew which only he knew from a leather bottle into each bucket. 
The khizar was silent. Tired after the long day, the people were sleeping, and only the guards armed with long spears and standing by the gate were straining their ears to make out the sound brought from the city. After some time, the elephants grew anxious, and the Persian ordered the warriors to drive the animals right to the khizar gate, stepping aside. 
The elephants’ enormous bodies appeared to the sentry like phantoms of the night, resembling iblises – creatures from hell. Somebody pierced the side of the monster with a spear, screaming in a shrill voice. The chief threw his trunk up and blew it. There was pain and fury about its coarse roar. Dozens of arrows were released from the dark and stung the animals’ bodies. That was done by Kutluk Temir’s warriors.
 The elephants grew mad. Constantly screaming with pain and because of the brew which the cunning Persian had given to them, they rushed forward.
The khizar gate shook and collapsed. Destroying everything in their way, trampling down the slaves sitting on the ground, the six giants were lashing about the room formed by the clay duval.
 Screams of terror, moans of soldiers dying, and the crackling sound of bones broken merged with the animals’ roar. The smell of blood inebriated the elephants. They were trampling those who were lying on the floor to death and wrapping those who were trying to escape with their trunks to throw them onto the ground. 
 It dawned on somebody that he should open the escape gate, and the slaves rushed outside, But death was awaiting them even there. Kutluk Temir’s troops, who had been hiding in the narrow streets of Urgench, were shooting thousands of arrows at them and slaughtering them with crooked swords. But they could not stop the insane people. To escape their death, they were walking against bare swords fearlessly, throwing the emir’s warriors off their horses, and going to the city.
The new dawn of Urgench was awful. The citizens still remembered the Mongols’ plunder and massacre, but they had never seen such cruelty. The enormous khizar ground was covered with squashed human bodies, and the fine yellow dust mixed with blood had turned into black mud. Among the corpses, dead elephants with their trunks cut off, their stomachs cut open with spears, and studded with arrows like hedgehogs, were lying like soft gray lumps.
 Of the ten thousand slaves who were hiding in the khizar on that night, hardly a half survived the night.
 Having gathered in the suburbs, fighting back Kutluk Temir’s troops, who were after them, the rebels moved towards Maverannakhr. 

* * *

 After Kutluk Temir left and Sakip Zhamal was left alone, she tried to go out, but the henchmen standing by the entrance to the yurt blocked her way with their spears. 
“Emir ordered Mistress to stay in the yurt,” one of them said gloomily.  
Sakip Zhamal was about to get angry and insist, as she used to do before, but her shock was too heavy, and she said nothing. She could not believe in miracles. She could expect anything but the odd kindness, mysterious and thus scary, which her husband had showed her. She wanted to know what had happened in the quarters while she was away. Perhaps it would help me understand many things and decide what to do next.
 “Tell me,” Sakip Zhamal asked the henchman, “is Bubesh, the miserable Adilsha’s mother, still alive?” 
“Of course she is, old witch,” he replied, twisting his mouth in a spiteful grin. “I think Allah had mercy on her and gave her wits back.  But she’s changed… I guess they dragged her in a noose after a horse for a long time and then abandoned her…”
 “Call her here,” Sakip Zhamal ordered imperiously.  
The henchman was confused, “I don’t know… The emir didn’t order…”
“I order you!” Sakip Zhamal’s voice rang with tension. She realized that it was the only way to make the guardians execute her order. “I obey your ruler and stay in the quarters. You are obliged to obey me, for I am the emir’s wife. Or maybe I’m wrong?” the woman’s voice grew sinister and insinuating. 
“You are right, my mistress.” The henchman was flailing around in confusion. Beads of perspiration appeared on his forehead because he was still hesitant about whether he should obey the emir’s wife or not. Finally, he made up his mind, came up to his comrade, and said, “Go…bring the insane Bubesh…” 
“Our ruler will severe our heads…”
 “Do what you’re ordered to do!” the henchman shouted angrily. He was probably thinking about the same things, but how could he refuse the emir’s wife? Even though she had run away from her husband, the latter had not put her to death yet, and who knew what would come out of that. “What harm can a lunatic do?..” 
Bubesh had changed beyond recognition. She, who used to be a girl in the prime of her life, had turned to an old woman — patches of gray hair stuck out of her kerchief, falling onto her hollow yellow cheeks, and her eyes were dull and abstracted.
 She recognized Sakip Zhamal. The women exchanged hugs.
 Sitting on the carpet and swaying her body slowly, Bubesh told what had happened to her son. The woman’s eyes were gleaming drily, and Sakip Zhamal realized that the many days which had passed since Adilsha’s death had not make her grief even less.  Kutluk Temir had better send her out of the quarters, for who knew what plans the insane woman’s charred mind could produce. But emir was obviously afraid of Uzbek Khan. 
 Sleep would not come. In the sky, the Silver Scoop was wrapped around the Iron Pole, and dawn was going to come soon, but she had not got a wink of sleep yet. 
Sakip Zhamal grew suspicious. She could her odd, vague sounds. She opened the gilded wooden door. A fretful and seamless murmur of human voices. The murmur sounded like heavy groaning. Then she could discern the noise of a battle, clash and the whiz of signal arrows. 
 Sakip Zhamal’s face grew white. She did not know what was going on in Urgench, but it was not hard to guess.  Akberen was brought back to her memory, not the way she saw him before he left but the way he was when she undertook to run away to have him. Was she to blame for everything happening in the city? So that was the reason which had made Kutluk Temir ask so many questions about the slaves and their leader while caressing her body! 
 Sakip Zhamal was sure that Akberen would die inevitably, and she would be to blame for his death. But Allah knows that he did not want him to die! She had merely realized that they could not possibly be together and abandoned him!  She felt like bursting into a fit of bitter crying. Sakip Zhamal hid her face behind her hands, but her eyes and cheeks were dry. Her tears seemed to have dried out like a spring in the parched steppe. Her body was shaking.
 “You see it, blood… blood again! It’s flowing like a river!” 
 Sakip Zhamal took her hands off her face and looked around in fear. Nobody was in the yurt apart from her and Bubesh.  So the voice belonged to the insane woman.
 “Why do you speak about blood?” Sakip Zhamal asked in despair. “Don’t…”   
 “I can see blood,” Bubesh’s little hand was toying with a tiny suede sack hanging on a thin strap on her neck. “You’ll see it soon too…”  
* * *

 At sawn, Kutluk Temir returned to the tent. His face was burning with excitement; his deep-sunken eyes were gleaming, and his silk robe was bespattered with blood. It seemed as though the emir had forgotten about his ailment.
 Kutluk Temir shook off his blood-stained clothes, a henchman took off his boots, and the emir went to the place of honor. He sat down onto the soft white felt.
“Why are you silent, why don’t you welcome properly, by smiling and giving me a cup of kumis?” he asked insinuatingly, looking at Sakip Zhamal. The reddish lamp flame was reflected in Kutluk Temir’s cold and observant eyes.
 “What have I done!.. What have I done!..” Sakip Zhamal came up to her husband on wobbly legs and stretched her arms to him in despair.  
Kutluk Temir gave her a painful push in the chest, “Give me kumis!”  
Sakip Zhamal started sobbing.
 With a low bow, Bubesh stepped out from behind her shoulder, giving a silver cup to the emir. 
“What are you doing here? Who let you in?” he asked menacingly.
Bubesh did not have time to answer. Kutluk Temir jerked the cup out of her hands and drank its content greedily.
“Your wife called me…”
 “Go away and keep out of my sight forever!” 
 “At your orders, my ruler.”
 Something made Bubesh linger. She was fidgeting from foot to foot.
 Suddenly Kutluk Temir’s eyes popped out, and he collapsed off the soft felt silently. 
Bubesh’s lips were whispering something.
 “What, what are you saying?” Sakip Zhamal shouted. 
 “I’m saying a prayer. Asking Allah to forgive me…” the woman said softly, in a menacing voice, turned around and left the tent, austere and upright.
 Sakip Zhamal looked around helplessly. On the low table where the silver kumgan with kumis stood, she saw the tiny suede sack that used to hand on Bubesh’s chest. The red silk thread on its top was undone…


* * *

 After several days, having learned about the death of his faithful emir, Uzbek Khan hung a girdle on his neck as a token of mourning, ordered his tumens to make their horses face the Golden Horde, and returned to Saray Berke again without having defeated Iran. 


 CHAPTER THREE


 In the year of the Pig (1335), when the last Iranian ilkhan Abuseit, Kulagu’s direct descendant, passed away, awful feud and disturbance came to the state. Like wild manul cats, the emirs and noyons fought furiously for the throne. As if had always happened in the land belonging to the descendants of the Rocker of the Universe, it was not water but blood what fed the soil, making fields grow empty, and wormwood and prickly thistles ran riot instead of crops. 
Caravan routes were empty, and one could hardly ever hear bells ring on the Great Silk Way – merchants did not venture to pass the land which was not peaceful and had no ruler to protect them against bandits’ raids. People were afraid to meet each other in the steppe or in the mountains, and each men put an unsheathed sword at the head of his bed when going to sleep. Taut bows and sharp arrows were valued more than bread and cattle.  
The state stopped trading with western countries. The Genoese and the Venetians started looking for avoiding routes, seeing that the domestic feud in Iran was going to last many years. 
Now caravans went to China and India through the land of the Golden Horde, Dzhagatay’s ulus, and passages of Pamir and the Hindu Kush. The way was challenging. Maverannakhr was also turbulent. No merchant could be sure that he would not be robbed and murdered on his way home after covering the way successfully once. 
 Only the Golden Horde remained powerful and united. But could it compensate for the silk of China and the luxury items of India with its fur, honey, wax, and canvas imported from the land of the Orusuts and the Bulgairans and from Ibir, that is, Siberia?  
Christian missionaries were coming to the Desht-i-Kypchak less and less frequently, and the Pope’s ambassadors were visiting Uzbek Khan’s quarters more and more rarely.
 There were certain disturbances in the Crimea too. The Ottoman Turks were gaining strength and becoming confrontational. After the Byzantine Campaign, they held the Bosporus and the Strait of Dardanelles. The Turks charged merchants high fees and threatened to close the straits to the trade ships of states which they did not approve of.
Uzbek Khan returned to Iran in his thoughts over and over again. The stagnation of the Silk Route was a heavy blow to the Horde’s treasury.  The river of gold turned into a tiny brook, and the ring of coins was growing quieter; the sight of costly good from faraway lands pleased the khan less and less often. With each year, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the connection to the Egyptian Mamluks, while Uzbek Khan needed their help and support so badly.  
 He was impatient and hoped to get some help from Iran. The emirs were tearing the ilkhanate created by Kulagu into pieces like hungry dogs tear lamb skin.  Uzbek Khan realized that the time for him to fulfill his long cherished dream and conquer Arran and Shirvan.  
It was time he interfered with the struggle and made the Silk Rout the principal trade route again. If he succeeded, he could put it straight with the Ottoman Turks. And foreign ships would run through the sea again, endless caravans would be attracted to Saray Berke, which was called Saray ad Dzhadid (New Saray) now that Uzbek Khan was the ruler.  


* * *

 Kutluk Temir was committed to earth in a most reverent way. People from all across Khwarezm came to the funeral, wanting to make sure that the abhorrent murderer was dead. Suddenly, a rumor appeared out of the blue claiming Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh to have poisoned Kutluk Temir. 
The rumor reached Kutluk Temir’s children, and the two women were thrown to the zindan at their order. They were to defend stand before biys soon, and if the latter proved that they had poisoned the emir deliberately, a dreadful execution awaited Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh.
 People were murmuring, as they felt sorry for the women. Having found that out, Uzbek Khan sent a messenger to Urgench immediately, ordering him to get Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh released. Imams and mullahs started praising the fair khan.
 But it was not about fairness. Even if the women were really to blame for the emir’s death, what danger could they imply for the Golden Horde if they were released? People hated Kutluk Temir, believing him to be Allah’s scourge, so they were happy to know that the Khan of the Golden Horde had set the women free.
 According to the Sharia law, neither Sakip Zhamal nor Bubesh were entitled to live. A woman who laid her hands on her husband or merely intended to do harm to him was to be put to death. That was what Prophet Muhammad taught us. But who could prove that Sakip Zhamal were guilt? Let Allah decide whether they were guilty or innocent, but he, the Khan of the Golden Horde, would grant them freedom, and people would bless his name, believing in his justice. 


* * *

 One to whom Allah foreordained a great way and whom he enthroned to have power over people must possess three qualities, intelligence, willpower, and knowledge. The first two qualities were granted to Uzbek Khan by god, while knowledge was obtained by him on his own. As a child, the khan mastered Arab alphabet and Iranian and Turkish. When he was young, lived in Urgench, and was no khan, he read many books and learned whatever was known in the Orient about the way the Earth and the sky worked. Ulems who had been to many countries would tell him about it and about the ways rulers governed their people in various countries. Perhaps Uzbek was the most learned person among the descendants of Genghis Khan.  
Unlike the other khans, the ruler of the Golden Horde dedicated much time to organizing his state, ordered to build medreses and mosques, and invited learned people to Saray ad Dzhalid. He often summoned the emirs and noyons subordinated to him for a taganak meeting, especially when they were to address an issue of great importance for the Horde.
 That time was no exception.


* * *

 That year, Uzbek was spending the summer in the lower reaches of the Itil, staying close to his capital. His quarters consisting of six white yurts was placed on the bank of the river. He ordered that his wives’ yurts be put up at a distance which could be easily covered by a yearling without getting short of breath; his sons Tanybek and Dzhanibek were living even farther, and behind them emirs’ and noyons’ auls were put up. 
In that spring, the lower reaches of Itil looked unusual. As far as the eyes could see, yurts stood under the blue sky and innumerable herds were pasturing. The grass was as high as the horseman’s saddle.
 The life was monotonous and calm in the summer camp. In evening, when the sun touched the tops of the far hills and the waves of the Itil became pink, one could see groups of horsemen returning from the mountains along with hunting birds or packs of hounds, tazy, long-legged, rangy, and narrow-headed.  Herds of horses with glossy cruppers returned from the Itil after their evening watering, picking juicy grass on the run. 
Far from the yurts of the khan and the noblemen were the auls of those who pastured cattle, cooked kazy, zhizhuk, and zhaya [2], soured milk for qurut [3], and milked mares so that emirs could drink kumis as white as snow and as balmy as a brew of steppe herbs while indulging in peaceful conversations.
The yurts of those taking care of the welfare of the khan, his emirs, and noyons, are made of gray felt, but they are full of life, and people are happy in them in their own way.  Grayish smoke of the manure fires made before the yurts ascends to the sky; women fuss over black sooty boiling pots, and girls laugh loudly.
 The sun sets behind the horizon, and the gray yurts of the poor become invisible. But the white tents of the khan, resembling seagulls resting on the waves of the vast grassy sea of the Desht-i-Kypchakm, were illuminated till late at night.  
In Uzbek Khan’s yurt, his dearest and nearest were gathered. On the following day, troops and caravans from all across the Golden Horde would arrive at his quarters; emirs, noyons, biys, and batyrs would come to take part in the khan’s great taganak.  There would be even more people in the steppe, and the common people would have more work to do. They would have to give everybody something to eat and to drink, for the khan’s generosity had to be as vast as the great Itil. 
But that would be tomorrow… 
 Uzbek is sitting on soft felt covered with blue silk. Reflecting the fire in lamps, amber beads are sparkling with gold in his hands. The khan is wearing a light green chapan with silver ornaments on it. On the left of Uzbek Khan, a dark-faced brown-eyed man with a large drooping moustache is sitting. It is his elder son Tanybek.  He is in his late thirties, and his portly, large body resembles a Kypchak bay. Tanybek is wearing expensive clothes – a ferret fur coat, a wide belt decorated with silver, and on his feet he has winter boots.
 Next to him, the khan’s younger son Dzhanibek is sitting. He is in his early thirties, but he is dressed like a young dzhigit – he is wearing a light beshmet girdled with a piece of silk, velvet pants with large planted ornaments, light gutul boots, and a red boric hat. Dhzanibek’s clothes suggest his cheerful and light-minded disposition.
 Dzhanibek’s elder son, Berdibek, is leaning against his father’s knee and resembles a little ferret. He is six or seven years old. He has red hair like his great ancestor Genghis Khan; his face is restless, nervous, and his eyes stare at people without even blinking like two pieces of green eyes.  
On the left of Uzbek Khan, the merchant from Khwarezm named Zhakup is sitting. He is lean and sinewy; in contrast to the Kypchak bays siting in the tent, who are gigantic and well-fed, he looks exhausted.
 An old slave is pouring kumis into silver cups by the entrance, and a handsome and slender servant boy is serving them to the khan’s guests.
 Zhakup is speaking. His speech is smooth and deliberate. He is telling what he has seen and heard in his long life, visiting faraway countries, and the news recently brought to him by his agent traveling to Egypt and to the Ottoman Turks by ship along with cargo.
 “People who know it tell that awful events happened in the Serbian land [4]. Back in the ancient years, they king undertook to wage war on the Bulgarian king. Two enormous armies faced each other on the banks of the Isker River, which meets the bid Tunadarya River in the south [5]. Seeing that their power was equal and nobody was going to win, they agreed to make peace. As a token of being true to one’s promise, each had a church built on his bank and took the warriors back.  Time passed, and the kind’s son Stephen Dusan, who had inherited the throne of his father, attacked the Bulgarians and defeated him. His warriors took the Bulgarian king prisoner. The father was extremely upset and ordered them to bring the prisoner to his palace. He told him to sit down onto the place of honor, saying that it was not becoming to a king to sit elsewhere. The son was angry with his father and came to the palace…” Zhakup broke off, took a sip of kumis, and closed his eyes as if to have a rest.”
“So what happened next?” Uzbek Khan asked. The beads were lying on his knees – listening to the merchant, he forgot them.  
“Next, my ruler… Next… The son shouted to his father that he could not render honors to his defeated enemy and broke the Bulgarian king’s head open with his club…
The tent was silent. Everybody was thinking over what he had heard. 
Dzhanibek Sultan happened to cast a glance at Berdibek. His son’s eyes were shining with joy and excitement. 
“What happened then?” someone asked impatiently.
 “The king ordered that the murdered king be buried in Saint George’s Cathedral. Being afraid of his father’s revenge, the son moved to a different city. The old king was not going to avenge, but the son thought that his father was scheming against him, and, having returned to his palace secretly, he strangled him in his bed at night. 
There was a series of shocked tut-tuts.
All of a sudden, Berdibek spoke in his silvery voice, “Father, why did he strangle him? He’d better kill him this way…” the boy stretched his right arm forward rapidly, “with a dagger…”
 Dzhanibek’s eyes grew dark. He slapped his son on the face, “You are a bad boy! Can a son kill his father?!”
Berdibek did not cry, he only lowered his head stubbornly, as if preparing for a fight, “Why do you beat me?! If he had not killed his father, who would have taken the throne?!”
 “Just listen to this puppy?”
 “Don’t touch him…” said Ture Biy, looking the boy, whose hair was tousled, thoughtfully. “How can the child know that to kill a fellow man is a sin?”  
One of the Kypchak bays sighed heavily, “That’s the time… Many people don’t know what is right and what is wrong…”
Uzbek Khan interfered, “You say time? It’s we who should explain to the young that it’s a sin for a father to kill his son and for a son to kill his father.
 It seemed to the khan that a mockery flashed it Ture’s eyes. Was it him whom the biy meant, did he think of Yelbasmysh? It had happened long before, but nobody had forgotten it. Trying to get rid of the memories and change the subject, Uzbek turned to Zhakup, “Go on. Did god punish the murdered or did he manage to obtain Lord’s forgiveness?..” 
 He had a vision of Yelbasmysh, his cousin’s severed head rolling on the carpet again. A disgusting cold crept on his back. How much he had prayed to God, begging him to forgive him, to help forget the past, to how many guilty people he had granted life, hoping that Heaven would notice his deeds. Finally, it happened when he was young, and if people knew how often the shadow of the killed one had come to him, no matter if he was awake or asleep, they would have forgiven him long before, and nobody would even think of reprimanding Uzbek.
 Zhakup was a merchant, It god had not given him cunningness, he would be holding not gold dikhrems but horses’ manure. Zhakup knew what to tell whom.
 “Perhaps it’s not about whether the king killed his father or someone else. Everything happens in our fussy life… I am not an ulem, and I cannot fathom lofty truth. I tell people about what I’ve seen and what I know. Having obtained the throne, the king failed to pull the leash hard and direct the cart of his state onto the right way. It either rumbled on stones or got stuck in a bog. The people realized that god was punishing the king for what he had done; they understood it and started to murmur. The king felt that god was angry and that whatever he was doing was doomed to be a failure. Believing in his idea, he ordered all churches and monasteries to pray for him and to ask the Lord to grant him absolution. The king granted a lot of gold to the priests, gave them new land, and started to have churches built. He would often go to his father’s tomb to pray…” 
 “So god didn’t forgive him?” some of the Kypchak bays interrupted Zhakup.
 “I think he did,” the merchant said firmly, looking at Uzbek Khan. “It happened long ago, and he is still alive. He has undertaken many campaigns against the Greeks and the Albanians and has always returned triumphant.”
 The khan sighed with relief. He seemed to have found the answer to what had been haunting him in the story told by Zhakup. Through his entire life, Uzbek had remained an upright Muslim, adhering to the Prophet’s laws strictly, thus, Allah would forgive him too. “Tell us about the Ottoman Turks,” the khan asked. “What makes them powerful and where do they get their strength?” 
 The merchant stroke the peak of his thin frosted bears with his broad hand. “Those in the know explained to me… Their power is obedience to their ruler. Everyone living in their land, Muslim or not, must observe the same law. They make the nations conquered live in the way they do.”
 “Tell me about it in detail,” Uzbek Khan commanded. “Who know, maybe we’ll have to cross our swords one day.”  
 “At your commands, my khan. I’ll be trying not to miss anything… The Ottoman Turks have many warriors, and it is most surprising that their tumens never grow fewer, no matter how many campaigns they undertake. Everybody knows that even successful campaigns claim people’s lives, but the Turks have been at war for many years in a row, and their land should have become barren. Being aware of it, they learned to be wise. When they conquer foreign countries, they think not only about cattle, gold, silver, and costly textile, but also about making their army more numerous. They don’t kill their prisoners; instead, they make them adopt Islam. I’ve seen many foreigners who had become more steadfast adherents of the Prophet’s religion that some Turks.  It happens to most of the nations. Only the Georgians and the Armenians have still managed to preserve their faith. They have obey the Qizilbashes [6], but even the latter cannot force them to turn to the true faith of our fair-faced Prophet. According to the Turkish law, if one of them falls in a battle, those who survive convert two prisoners into Islam.” 
 “You have a very interesting manner of telling this,” Uzbek Khan said. ‘But how do the Turks govern the land subordinated to them?” 
 Making quiet steps on the carpet, the servant came up to Zhakup and gave him a cup of kumis. The merchant took several sips and went on, “When Osman, the chief of the Oghuz Turks, defeated the Seljuks, he kept all the land conquered. He awarded the most prominent beks with large lots of allowed them to use water and pastures, woods and hunting land free of charge.  But as soon as the bek committed an offence, the sultan took the allotment away from him and gave it to another. Sons do not inherit land from their fathers; land does not belong to the clan that used to live on it.  A bek in disgrace is obliged to live at the sultan’s court, and the ruler gives him a monetary allowance enough to provide him a life of ease. The bek can get his or any other lot any time by proving his loyalty to the ruler with faithful service to him.  The sultan keeps the sparkle of hope glowing in his subjects’ hearts. Up to two hundred beks and other noble men live at his palace, hoping to be favored by the sultan. Such people are called mazuls. Everybody who takes the throne after Sultan Osman does like this. This is why the Turks’ state has come to be so powerful. Their army has been undefeatable because it has always followed Osman’s wise instructions. Besides, Sultan Osman did something that nobody had done before. He did not give the boys caught during campaigns to his soldiers. Mullahs performed the tire or circumcision on them, and children of different faith became Muslims. Then the sultan entrusted them to experienced warriors, who taught the boys military art in specially built khizars. After some time, the sultan received a faithful and fearless army [7], where no soldier knew what nation or clan he belonged to and believed Sultan Osman to be his father. Clothes, weapons, and food were given to warriors from the sultan’s treasury. The noble men possessing the title of dizars headed the troops guarding the fortress. A bulnu pasha commanded ten warriors. Everybody serving in the army was paid money. A dizar was given one gold coin a day; a chikhan, one for four days; a bulnu pasha, one for eight days; a common soldier, on for ten days. Thus, the wellbeing of everybody, rich or poor, depended on Sultan Osman, which made the Turkish army as united as a fist clenched hard. Who can defeat such a force?”
 “I like the way you’re telling it,” Uzbek Khan remarked thoughtfully, “but that’s what used to be in the rule of Sultan Osman; what is the Turks’ life like now?” 
 “Little has changed since the time  Sultan Osman had the throne. Now his son Orkhan is the ruler. The son is never identic to the father. Orkhan started giving lots of land to certain beks, not temporarily but forever, but his state is still powerful, and his neighbors are afraid to speak impudently about the new sultan.
 “The Turks would have to be very rich to have their army this way,” Dzhanibek said.
 Zhakup closed his eyes dreamily. He imagined heaps of gold dirkhems. He licked his lips and sipped at the kumis.
 “When I was there, a merchant who visits the palace quite often and whose words are trustworthy said that there is so much gold in the sultan’s treasury that it would be enough to maintain an army of three hundred thousand soldiers for five years.”
 “Gold is like a black snake…To always have something to pay the warriors for their service, one has to undertake endless campaigns, to find and defeat an enemy,” Ture said. 
Uzbek Khan did not seem to have heard the biy’s words. His forehead was frowned, and his eyebrows were drawn together. “Tell us, merchant, what holds the Ottoman Turks together but for gold? We know that the man needs gold as long as he is in no danger, but as soon as you hold a sword above his head, he will abandon everything to save his life. Tell me what you would prefer – to die on a sack of gold or to save your head by giving it to your enemies?”
Zhakup sighed. His cunning brain of a merchant could not accept such extreme statements. He was looking for something in between, a solution to help him both keep the gold and save his life. At last he made up his mind and shook his head, ‘Perhaps I’d give it away, Great Khan…”
 “Here you are… You say that the gold which the sultan gives to his warriors makes them undefeatable…” 
“I haven’t finished…”
 “Go on, we are listening to you…”
 “There’s one more force that holds the Turks together, which is the faith of Prophet Muhammad. They divide all people into Muslims and giaours, that is, the faithless. It is not only to conquer other land and get trophies that the Ottoman Turks undertake their campaigns but also to exterminate giaours.  They are brave and reckless in battles, for they believe that the more disbelievers they kill the more pleased Allah will be and that the gate of Heaven will be opened to each of them in due time.
The Turks are not afraid to die. That is why their cavalry tumens are called akndiv agus, that is, a rapid stream. Their infantry, sarakharam, have no fear either. One who breaks the order during a battle or shows his back to the enemy will be put to death by his comrades.”
“But it’s impossible to think that there’s no disbeliever in the entire Turkish land, isn’t it?” Ture Biy asked, looking at the merchant suspiciously. ‘Our khan is the tower of strength of Islam, but even he allows those who worship spirits and believe in Christ to live in the Golden Horde.”
 Zhakup nodded to indicate consent, “Did I tell you there are no disbelievers there? There are some, for common people are often steadfast about their mistakes, and evils spirits won’t let them see the light of truth which comes from the prophet’s faith. The sultan imposed high taxes on everyone who worships another god. If such a person is a craftsman or deals in trade, he is to pay for that to the treasury too. Sultan Osman tried to be fair and showed great tolerance to the misguided. He required his beks to do the same. If the army trampled down the sowings of giaours who lived on the sultan’s land when starting a campaign, the giaours were given full compensation for the damage. Having tasted the fruit of justice, many disbelievers came to see the light and went of the way that leads to the true faith with their hearts pure. Sultan Orkhan adheres to his father’s law too. People told me about an incident. Once a giaour woman turned to him with a complaint about a warrior’s drinking her milk and refusing to pay for it.  Then, to find out the truth, the sultan ordered that the soldier’s stomach be cut open to see whether there was any milk in it. The woman turned out to be right, and she they let her go. Who will dare to deviate from the way of justice along which the sultan goes?  Who will refuse to obey him? Both the common people and the army are ready to face their death at the sultan’s command…”  
Uzbek Khan frowned, “You’ve told us too many edifying stories, but you haven’t said a words about what can happen next yet.”
 “Great Khan, how can I, a teardrop on Allah’s eyelash, judge about it?” Zhakup cast his eyes down, avoiding looking the khan in the eyes.
 “So tell us what those in the know in faraway lands say about the Ottoman Turks.” 
The merchant perked up. Now nobody would find his words impudent or interpret them as an attempt at mentoring to the khan, no matter what he said. To look more important, Zhakup was silent for a moment, rallying his thoughts, and said, “Those in the know say all kinds of things, but they all believed that, unless Allah rearranges the order established in the Turks’ land and turns his face away from the people, Sultan Orkhan will send his army against Iran sooner or later and then send his ships to the Crimean.
 Uzbek Khan looked around the people present menacingly. He seemed to be asking them whether they understood what the increasing strength of the Ottoman Turks meant to the Horde. If everything happened as the merchant said, the Great Silk Route would never be great – wind would even out the deep furrows left by heavy carts, and steppe wormwood would hide the trace of caravans. They could not delay their campaign against Iran. They had to be in advance of the Turks.
 In the morning, the great khan’s council, taganak, took place, and emirs, noyons, biys, batyrs, and other noblemen who had arrived from all across the Golden Horde decided unanimously on starting a campaign against Iran.


* * *

Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh, who had been lucky to escape death, were wandering along the roads of Maverannakhr, looking for Akberen. As the rumor had it, the leader of the rebellious slaves along with a troop of a thousand people, who had escaped the persecution of Kutluk Temir’s army, was hiding somewhere in piedmont valleys.
 Looking for Akberen, Sakip Zhamal did not want to think about how he would treat her. For she, only she was to blame for what had happened to the slaves. Being aware of Akberen’s nature, Sakip Zhamal could not hope to be forgiven, but a mysterious force made her search for him, and she was looking for the fire to burn her like a night fly. The instinct of a woman who was to become a mother soon forced her to drag herself along the dusty roads of Maverannakhr.
 In the Jizzakh Steppe, they came across Kypchak and Mangit auls. That was where the girls were told the sad news that Akberen’s troop had been destroyed and those who had survived had fled. Nobody knew whether the rebels’ leader was alive.
Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh stayed in the Kypchak aul for two years. The boy born by Sakip Zhamal saw the sun for the first time in that aul, and there he made his first steps. 
Steppe people value kinship and always spend a lot of time inquiring into each other’s family tree up to the seventh degree. Sometimes a thin thread connecting people who live at a distance of a two or three months’ journey appears. That was what happened there.
 Due to travelers who stayed at the aul for the night or to have a short rest, Bubesh learned that she had maternal relatives in the Uysun clan wandering near Almalyk. 
When a caravan heading there was passing by, the two women begged the karavanbashi to take them along and succeeded. Their way was hard and seemed endless, and each night when the caravan stopped for a rest could be the last for the people undertaking the dangerous journey, for bands of robbers were prowling for prey all around. But Allah saved the caravan. Besides, the karavanbashi was kind – he gave a camel to the women, and they were traveling on it, rocking Sakip Zhamals two-year-old son to sleep between its two humps. 
 Once, when they were to travel three more days to reach Almalyk, a group of horsemen attacked the caravan at dawn. They trampled and cut the caravaners’ tents and killed those who were trying to resist. Sakip Zhamal, her son, and Bubesh survived. They spent the whole day in the reeds by a little lake, and when the steppe was quiet and dust raised by the bandits’ horses was gone, they went away in search of a place to live in. 
 Yet again, a poor aul gave shelter to the women. The people, who lived in constant fear of the bandits, shared their roof and whatever they had with them. 
 The thin, hollow-chested old man who let them into his yurt, told them, stretching his knobby dark arms towards the fire, “It’s scary to live. Neither khans nor Allah need people now, otherwise why would they let us kill each other? The alignment of stars was favorable to you, and that’s the only reason why you escaped. Those whom the bad people caught will be sold on the markets of Khwarezm, Bukhara, and Samarkand. It can happen to any of us…” a bitter smile appeared on the old men’s pale lips. “However, they won’t probably catch and sell me. I’m old… They’ll just slaughter me with a sword or pierce me with a pike. If I were young…” the old man broke off for a long time. Tiny flames were flashing quietly in the fire, and anxious, sinister shadows were moving on the felt walls of the yurt. “If I were young…” the old man repeated suddenly, “I’d go to the people who wash the sand of Altyn Emel and the Ili River for grains of gold to give to our ruler…”
“Is their life any easier?” Sakip Zhamal asked softly.
The old man looked up to her with his eyes bearing the fatigue of long years, “It’s not, but a rumor reached us claiming them to have killed everybody appointed by the ruler, so they must be free. I would like to live a free life without being afraid…”
 “Who is the leader of those people?” Sakip Zhamal asked excitedly.
 “Daughter, I haven’t seen that man. But they say him to be a smart and brave dzhigit. It was he whom the slaves of Urgench followed several years ago.”
Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh exchanged glances.
 In the morning, they started packing their belongings, and the old man did not say anything. One who has no yurt of his or her own can go wherever he or she wants.  He gave the women a little dried cottage cheese, that is, qurut, and wished that Allah should attend to them on their way.
 In late summer, when the steppe grass was withered and bleached, the blue stalks of wormwood became brittle, and skylarks were not singing their songs high in the sky anymore, Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh found themselves to be close to the place which they had been trying so hard to reach. 
Much water had flown in the yellow Ili River. Yesen Temir has stabbed Zhekishi Khan, lost his mind, and suffocated in the chest where Ali Sultan had put him. Sad news about the massacres of the unwanted in Maverannakhr reached Zhetysu.  Those in the know said Muslims to be destroying Christian churches in Almalyk, beating those who did not adhere to the faith of Prophet Muhammad on market squares and on the street, taking their houses and possessions,   at the order or Ali Sultan. The missionaries who had come from Avignon had been slaughtered in the city.
 Their destination was very close, but the women’s legs would not move – their exhausted bodies dried by wind and hear demanded at least a short break. Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh found shelter in an aul they came across on their way again.
 The owner of the yurt in which they were staying, a hunch-backed man who was not too old, asked his wife to cook some meat for the guests. His generosity was unparalleled. The women saw meat for the first time during their journey, during long days of walking, after eating dried qurut cheese and sour ayran milk, which compassionate shepherds had been giving to them. 
“Help yourselves, dear guests,” the hunchback said. “I’ve got three sheep, and today I’ve slaughtered one of them. Too many warriors from Ali Sultan’s army have been appearing in the steppe recently, and my heart tells me that it’s a bad sing. Once, they are going to take everything away, and if I try to prevent them from doing so, I will be called an enemy of our ruler and slaughtered where I stand. So isn’t it better to eat the sheep on my own and share their meat with the guests whom Allah has sent to me?” 
 Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh did not know whether they should be delighted by the abundant treat or share their host’s sorrow. They ate the meat, trying not to show how hungry they were. They wanted to ask what was going on in Altyn Emel, but the cautiousness they had acquired in the long months of their journey made them wait for a good opportunity.
 The hostess of the yurt poured some fat, rich chorba soup into wooden kise bowls for them. Sakip Zhamal saw sorrow and the sadness of a person who has suffered deprivation and rough treatment a lot in her eyes. “Help yourselves, dear…”
 Suddenly, the man lifted his head and listened hard. His face grew tense and worried. Then everybody heard a distant and vague patter of hooves – unknown horsemen galloped through the steppe away from the aul.  For some time, it was silent, but then they discerned a barely audible roar, as if a lazy and slow thunderstorm was tossing behind the end of the earth.
 The host of the yurt grabbed a soil, that is, a heavy club with a knob on its end, which hung by the entrance, and ran out. The noise they could heard from the steppe now could tell too much to the nomad, who was used to constant danger – enemies were moving towards the aul.
 White with fear, the women followed the man. But it was not a raid. Soon they could make out sheep’s bleating, horses’ neighing, and camels’ guttural, angry moans. Unsettling and hysterical human voices could be heard – women were screaming; children were crying, and men unknown in the dark were swearing.  The unknown nomads seemed to have divided into two sleeves to go round the aul. All of a sudden, a gigantic black horseman moved out of the dark towards the people standing by the yurt.  
 “Good people,” he said in a hoarse voice. “Give me some water.  My throat is burning with dust and shouts…”
The hostess rushed into the yurt to appear immediately holding a large wooden ladle.  
The man bent down in his saddle, took the ladle with great care, and gulped the water instantly, as if at a swallow. “Thank you, good people…”
“Mister,” the hunchback said, still holding the soil, “tell me how it happened. Where are you running away from, as if trying to escape an enemy?”
 “Don’t you know?” the stranger was sincerely surprised. “Haven’t Ali Sultan’s henchmen come to your aul today to say that plague was discovered among those who produce gold in Altyn Emel? The hencmen have already ordered those who live in the nearby auls to go towards the Kegen and the Narynkol on pain of death. They slaughter those who won’t obey right where they stand. They also said that if at least one person from Altyn Emel joined our group, we would die of that dreadful disease.  We were ordered to kill any stranger. This night, the auls of Altyn Emel will be set on fire so that the earth can be cleared of Allah’s scourge with flames. 
“Why didn’t you tell us straightaway?!”
All the few dwellers of the aul had gathered around the hunchback’s yurt.
“How could I know that you don’t know it?” the horseman said confusedly. “Am I Ali Sultan’s henchman to distribute bad news?.. The henchmen will be here soon. They’re following our group. They’ll tell you…”
 As evidence to his words, several horsemen approached the yurt. One of them raised a whip above his head and give the hunchback a heavy blow. “Why haven’t you removed the yurts?!” he shouted. “Is the word of our Ali Sultan like dogs’ barking to you?! Plague has come to Altyn Emel, and if you don’t go away immediately, there’ll be nobody to mourn for you tomorrow! Hey!” the horseman turned to the warriors accompanying him. “Help those lazy cows, put their dirty yurts down! Maybe this will make them quicker!”
 Without waiting for their leader to repeat his command, the henchmen galloped around the aul, cutting the yurts with their swords and piercing them with spears. They could hear the frames of those poor tents break with a dry crackling sound.
 Sakip Zhamal and Bubesh helped the host and his wife pack their unsophisticated possessions and load the camel. They made a big fire to illuminate the aul. The noise became quieter.  The aul was preparing to travel.
 Someone touched Sakip Zhamal on the shoulder; she straightened back and looked around in fear. A dismounted young henchman was stood near her, peering into her face.
 “Sakip Zhamal Apay, I recognize you,” he said softly, “do you remember…” 
She did. Kutluk Temir’s quarters.
 The dzhigit’s mother was a servant in the quarters, and she, Sakip Zhamal, would often treat the boy to dried peaches and prunes, give him sheep’s asyks… Then his mother died, and the child was taken to his relatives in Bukhara.
“I recognize you too,” Sakip Zhamal said sadly.
 “You’re so thin…Has evil befallen you?” the henchman’s voice grew anxious and sincerely sympathetic.  
 “It would take me too long to tell you… You’d better say what has happened in Atlyn Emel. We were heading for the place, but now people say there’s plague there.”  
The dzhigit took her by the hand and took her away from the yurt, behind the line where the night and the light of the crimson flame met.
“You needn’t be afraid… There’s no plague in Altyn Emel… But what is waiting for its dwellers is worse than plague. People who used to wash sand for gold rebel and must die tonight.  That’s the order of Ali Sultan. People from the nearest aul who have been giving them food will be killed. They’re sending you away so that nobody can see what is to happen and help the miserable people…”
 “Of God, why do you crush people with your fury?!”
 “People in Altyn Emel don’t know of what is to come,” the henchman said hastily. “At dawn, the warriors will surround them and set their homes on fire, and those who try to escape…”  
“Why didn’t you warn the people?! Don’t you have a heart?!”
The dzhigit dropped his head, “I couldn’t do that… Our commander is watching every step we make…”
 Sakip Zhamal’s face grew pale, and her features sharpened.“I’ll do it myself," she said. “Can you get me a horse?”
 The dzhigit was glad, “Of course! But I’ll have to commit another sin. I’ll take it from someone in your aul and tether it in the bushes, two hundred paces away from the brook…”
 “Go,” Sakip Zhamal said, “May Allah bless you for your kind heart…”  
 Having returned to the fire, she called Bubesh and retold the conversation with the dzhigit to her.  
“Sister,” Sakip Zhamal said softly, “our bitter lot has been binding us together and leading us along the same way. I want to help the people in Altyn Emel… Akberen’s there… Be my mother’s son… Go with the aul. If Allah helps me, I’ll find you wherever you are.”
The women embraced. Bubesh cried quietly.


* * *

The sunrise was gray and slow. The heavy red sun resembling an enormous swollen eye rose laboriously from behind the edge of the earth to freeze among the lumps of stone black clouds. The sun could see black, burnt ground, and perhaps it could not venture to start its common journey across the sky. Besides, it could see two tiny human figures dragging themselves along on the charred ground which looked as if god had cursed it. One of the human beings was big, and the other was small. Each step of their was raising a tiny cloud of light gray ashes from the burnt grass, and the dull quiet wind was taking it aside.
Bubesh had no idea of where she was going. Sakip Zhmaka’s little son was dragging himself along, clenching on the bottom of her dress. At night, when the koshes of different auls set in motion by Ali Sultan’s henchmen started bumping into each other on the narrow caravan path, when everything was confused and mixed up, Bubesh and the child fell behind the aul that had given shelter to then.  Other koshes would not admit them, being apprehensive of their possible being dwellers of the cursed Altyn Emel.
So before dawn, the woman and the child were all alone. At night they saw the steppe aglare from end to end and fiery whirlpools rising over it. Then the fire was blown away by the wind, to unknown land far away, and only sour blue smoke was streaming lairs and lowlands, which used to be overgrown with bushes, and the dying fire was still hiding in their roots and reeking, as if hoping to get some food and dance gleefully in the wind again, waving its red cloths. But bare land, stripped till the next spring, lay around. The boy never acted up, cried, or asked for bread. He was walking near Bubesh quietly, moving hid little feet slowly, and thinking about something just like a grown-up. 
Bubesh thought about Sakip Zhamal. Where had she fallen? Has she succeeding in getting through the fences put up by Ali Sultan’s warriors, in warning the rebels, or had the hot flames of the night fire already touched her breathless body? Neither the sky nor the wind could tell her.
 At that moment, Akberen was taking the rebels and their families towards East Turkestan. Sakip Zhamal had warned the dwellers of Altyn Emel, and Ali Sultan’s warriors got nothing but empty abandoned yurts.  The rumor about the dreary disease, plague, which had appeared in the Ili Valley, traveled among the people long after that, but, strangely, nobody had seen any dead body.  Just in case, the Kypchak would not drive their herds there for many years, and Ali Sultan’s warriors, who had been entrusted with burning the rebels of Altyn Emel, did not tell anyone that they had burnt empty yurts. 


* * *

 As soon as the land of the Golden Horde was covered with tiny spear-like sprouts of young grass, crows and vultures, griffons and fernwrens started flying in the sky, and following them, stretching from one end of the earth to the other, an impossibly huge snake was wriggling, shining with the heads of sharp spears as if they were scales.
 The long-tailed, short-maned horses, which were used to covering long distances, were trotting tirelessly, and the horsemen were careless and merry — triumph, abundant throhies, and beautiful Iranians were awaiting them. Nobody doubted that they would succeed, for it was Uzbek Khan, the mainstay of Islam, who was leading his fearless warriors, and he had four hundred thousand soldiers at his command. The khan was riding a long-necked chestnut horse in advance of his army, and the white banner above his head was fluttering in the wind. 
 The khan had a damask steel sword in its sheath attached to his belt on the right; on the left there was a long knife with a yellowish ivory handle. His saddle was decorated with golden dragons and silver plates. On the left, an iron shield was attached to it, and a sadak full of red eagle feather arrows hung behind the khan’s back.  A short-sleeved mail enveloped his body, and his head was embellished with a black iron helmet with gold inlays.
 The khan was dressed and armed like his soldiers and ready to fight at any moment. He even refused to have a khurshi, that is, an armor-bearer. He was carrying all his arms. What did it matter that Batu Khan and Berke had not done it? He, the current ruler of the Golden Horde, did what he found necessary. The previous khans had never marched in advance of their army, preferring to stay aside and admire its power and strength. He was leading the warriors, and let everybody see a special meaning behind that deed and know that the Muslim tower of strength was by their side. 
 Each warrior marching had good arms from the khan’s treasury, habergeons over his clothes, and a spare horse. What could stop such warriors, fearless and quick, ready to obey each single gesture, each word of their khan, whom they loved?
 The snake-like army is wriggling on plains and ridges, getting closer and closer to the foothills of the Caucasus, and evil be to him who stands in their way. It will embrace him with the coils of its body, strangle and crush him. Behind Uzbek Khan, on both sides, his two sons, Tanybek and Dhznibek, are fast riding white-legged horses, followed by the emirs, noyons, and batyrs who are the most dedicated to the Golden Horde.  In the year of the Snake (1341) the snake-like army is wriggling to attack Iran. That year has been always believed to be menacing and hard for nomads ever since the time of Mongol khans. But Uzbek Khan was so resolute that he feared nothing. Let that year be hard for his enemies. 
Indeed, Allah seemed to favor the khan. His faithful emissaries informed him that Iran had seen not a single drop of rain since the very beginning of spring, while the month of Nawruz, that is, March, had been like Shilde, or July, and the grass was scorched without blossoming and producing seeds.
 Besides, an unheard-of thing happened – in April, the permanent snow cover in the high Caucasian Mountains melted away, vanished, and mudslides had been plaguing the fertile land of Shirvan and Arran; then the rivers grew shallow, showing their dry white bottom. People had not water for their gardens and fields, leaves on the trees were curled and then fell off, and crops got withered and lay on the ground.
 Uzbek was preparing for the first battle with secret fear and hope, sharing his thoughts with nobody. Perhaps the land of North Iran would become subject to the Golden Horde forever from now on! How many campaigns they had fought! They had had battles and victories!  But when he won back then, he could not keep his trophy. The time eventually came when he had to order his tumens to go back to the Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe. But now it was not only Shirvan and Arran that Uzbek was going to conquer. To make the slow brook of the Great Silk Route into a deep and wide river again, he had conquer all cities and fortressed on the south coast of the Khazar Sea.  
Iran was growing weaker with each day. The ilkhanate used to be young and powerful, it would face any enemy and stand its ground. But now its emirs, noyons, and beks had torn the land collected by the great Kulagu in battles and wars into pieces like stupid children. 
The Egyptian Mamluks were showing less and less respect for Iran, and the eyes of the Ottoman Turks glowed with the wolf-like fire of avarice. Uzbek Khan had to hurry to get what he wanted. His cavalry easily crossed the rivers which used to flow rapidly and threw Shirvan and Arran to the khan’s feet within ten days.  The enormous army got settled on the Kura bank, and Uzbek ordered them to praise Allah for the successful campaign. Thousands of sheep were slaughtered, and a feast was arranged for the army.
 But god must have denied the sacrifice and turned his deaf ear to the praise. The warm and muddy water of the Kura River caused stomach ailment in the warriors, and Allah started to take many of them. The Kypchak horses that were used to the thick grass of their native steppe were growing thinner with each say, finding no food on the parched plain. Even the grain which Uzbek’s soldiers took away from the local dwellers and tried to give to the animals would not help. 
Uzbek Khan ordered his tumens to head for the Georgian plains, trying to find some shadow there, but the sun was as hot as an overheated gold bullion, and instead of grass, the warriors saw hot gray stones under the hooves of their horses.
Even nights brought no chill, and the stout Uzbek Khan was sweating all the time, and his body was clammy. He was haunted by the feeling of foreboding, and once the khan’s heart could not stand it – at dawn, as he was tearing about in his soft white felt bed, his heart stopped.
 The mainstay of the Golden Horde was ruined – the cruel khan who had been ruling it for as much as thirty years was dead.
The Horde was waiting for a new khan. He came. The dead eagle was replaced by a red-footed falcon – Uzbek’s elder son Tanybek took the throne of the Golden Horde. 

* * *

 Tanybek’s way to the throne was not easy. Among the descendants of Genghis Khan, every seemingly ordinary event had always been attended by long bloody struggle. Shortly before then new khan was appointed, all the noblemen who could somehow influence the choice divided into two hostile camps.
 Once, Uzbek had obtained the throne in a seemingly easy way, but before he made up his mind to kill Yelbasmysh, he hаd made sure he had somebody to support him. An ordinary murderer with nobody to back him up would be punished severely and cruelly straightaway. But Uzbek had some people who knew how to make the rival keep quiet, so he ventured to do what he had been thinking of doing. Emirs with their warriors, batyrs, chiefs of Kypchak clans, and Muslim merchants supported him back then.
 Tanybek took the throne of the Golden Horde without spilling blood, but he was supported by those who shaped the law of the Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe. 
Time had passed, and the epoch when a kurultain had to gather to elect the khan according to the will of Genghis Khan had sunken into oblivion. Now only the things which could help the stronger party make the appointment of the new khan look legitimate were adhered to. It happened that time too. Tanybek, Uzbek’s elder son, had a prerogative right for the throne among the rest of the family. Besides, people loyal to him had been spreading gossip in the army that Uzbek had expressed his will to the kadi saying his prayer before dying – the khan had allegedly ordered that Tanybek become his successor.  The khan’s will was sacred, and who dared mistrust the oath given by the kadi in public when retelling the khan’s last words to the people?
 Tanybek was mostly supported by Iranian immigrant. In recent years, cunning sirenesque Persians, rich merchants, Genoese people, who were in fact ruling the Crimeas, princes of the Alans and the Circassians, and Bulgarian and Oghuz noblemen were had been constantly fussing around him. They had different reasons to stick to Uzbek Khan’s elder sons, but together they were a menacing force.  
 In the year of the Sheep (1331), Uzbek married his elder son to Anushirvan Khatun, a daughter of Emir Sheyali, who was a son of the Iranian emir Khuseyn.  The peace between the new relatives did not last long. Uzbek’s Iranian campaign turned them into enemies. According to the Muslim traditions, if the families of spouses are at war, the husband must send his wife to her father or she must take the side of her new family completely.  Anushirvan Khatun did not want to send Iranian muzalim scientists and merchants, due to whom she did not miss her distant Motherland. Tanybek did not want to lose his beautiful wife and the son born by her. Those supporting Dzhanibek and willing to affect his brother took advantage of that.  
Then, Genoese merchants interfered with the feud. They would find it disadvantageous if the connection between the Golden Horde and Iran was broken – the route along which slaves were delivered to Eastern markets still passed both states. It was not only the Genoese who was worried - the Bulgarians and the Circassians did not want their relations with Iran to deteriorate.
 People whom Uzbek Khan trusted informed him of how perilous complete cessation of trading with the East via Iran would be to the Golden Horde. Hating the Persians with his entire being, he ordered everybody to stand aside from the problems of his son and daughter-in-law. Tanybek’s connections with Iran and the Crimean Genoese grew even tighter.
 The peace which seemed to have been established between the adherents of the khan’s sons was an illusion. They knew that Uzbek was not immortal and that death was already behind his stooping old shoulders, which meant that time would come for a new ruler to take the throne of the Golden Horde. Who would it be, Tanybek or Dzhanibek? 
Uzbek’s unexpected death brought about total confusion, and the Muslims of the Desht-i-Kypchak and Khwarezm took advantage of it to declare Tanybek the khan. The calm and reserved Dzhanibek did not show his being defeated and uttered to spiteful words talking of his brother, though desperation was forcing him to quarrel. He knew that nobody believed in his having put up with what had happened. What man of the steppe will scruple to sacrifice the best of what he has, even his own brother, for the sake of power? Dzhanibek was a Chingizids, and descendants of the Rocker of the Universe had never given up the throne voluntarily. But the situation required him to be patient, look calm in public, and pretend to be unaffected.
The thought about the throne, which was hidden thoroughly from the public, was haunting Dzhnibek, and it was only his love for his concubine, whom he had married in the previous year, what helped him control himself. The Circassian Zhanbike Khanum had been brought to him from the Caucasus. Being young and hot-tempered, she fell in love with Uzbek Khan’s youngest son Khizyrbek at once.  It was hard for her to oppress her own heart, for her husband’s younger brother was a handsome and merry dzhigit, and Khizyrbek did return the young girl’s love.
 They both sinned awfully, but love was stronger. Since then, Khizyrbek, who was burning with jealously, started avoiding his brother, and gradually the sense of guilt developed into hatred for the latter.
 Dzhanibek was totally unaware of that as well as of the fact that his both brothers had always disliked him for being more intelligent and having more self-control. 
Only one man knew that Khizyrbek and Zhanibe Khanum were seeing each other secretly – a henchman from Khizyrbek’s personal guard. He had helped the lovers in due time, but now he was thinking of revealing the whole thing to Dzhanibek. The price which Khizyrbek was paying for his service seemed too little to him


* * *

 In that year, Dzhanibek chose a place on the bank of the lucid Yaik for his summer camp. The winter had been snowy, and the river was deep and fast. Khizyrbek did not want to go too far away and placed his aul next to his brother’s. In previous years, he had mostly followed Tanybek.
 The steppe was vast, and could two brothers disturb each other? There was enough space for everyone under the sky of the Desht-i-Kypchak, which was as blue as Chinese silk. The brothers’ auls were separated by a distance which was enough to arrange a horse race. At some distance, in the quivering steppe haze, several auls belonging to the influential biy Ture were put up.  It was he who invited Dzhanibek to the Yaik bank.
 As soon as the spring water entered the mouth of the river and the low bottom-land was released, thick green grass appeared on in within a night, and the steppe looked like a fluffy colorful carpet. Osier bed ceased to blossom and threw off their brown aglets into the fast-flowing muddy river water, and the sticky, taut birch buttons burst to unroll their tiny shiny leaves and face the sun.  When Dzhanibek’s aul reached the summer camp place, the first tulips could be seen through the green grass. They were growing more and more numerous with each day, and soon the whole steppe was aglow with an unheard-of fire — low flames were rolling in waves and running behind the horizons
 There were innumerable lakes looking like broken glass in the flood plain. Birds who had come from all across the world were twitting above them, and flocks of geese were flying above the auls, nearly touching the tops of the yurts with their wings. Herds of huge animals were pasturing in the vastness – the cattle was getting fat rapidly, its hair was growing smooth and shiny, and high white clouds were reflected in its undisturbed eyes. Life was kind and benign to people, and nobody could even think that blood was to be spilled again in that world of carelessness and peace.
 Every morning, before the aul woke up, Dzhanibek accompanied by a kusbegi, that is, a person who tamed hunting birds, went to the lakes.  The world was enveloped in silence, and only skylarks in the high sky could see the golden sun getting up and preparing for its long journey in the cerulean sea of the sun.
 The horses paced unhurriedly in the grass as if it was green water, and their legs grew dark and glossy with beads of cold dew. A light-colored falcon with a leather cap on its head and its feathers raised sat on the bow of his saddle decorated with silver and ivory, which merchants from faraway land had brought from the distant India.
 On that day, Dzhanibek went to the lake for a hunt too, accompanied by two kusbegis. He had not taken any guardians along and was glad to hear that the patter of his guard’s horses did not break the silence of the dawn. The sun had not risen year. The pure crimson dawn was spreading its petals wider across the sky like a flower, promising a sweet day.
 The lake had already woken up and welcomed him with a noise of many voices – ducks were quacking; gray brant geese returning from the night’s feeding in the steppe were gabbling, snow white swans were blowing their silver trumpets, and flocks of fast teals were whooshing  above his head.
 Having left his attendants on the bank, Dzhanibek directed his horse to the reeds. Soon his hands and face felt cool, and he could hear a large fish splashing the water very close. Dzhanibek knew that the reeds would be left behind soon, the horse would take him to a gray sandspit, and he would see the unruffled surface of the lake.
 Suddenly something set him on the alert. He could not understand whether he had really head the reeds rustle very close, as if drawn apart by a cautious hand, or it was his imagination.
 Dzhanibek pulled his rein, and the horse stopped at once. “Ture, don’t be scared…” somebody said in a faltering voice. He could not resist feeling for the handle of his sword. “I want to talk to you…”
 Straining his eyes in anxiety to see who was there in the thick reeds, Dzhanibek commanded, “Come out and let me see you; then I’ll talk to you…” 
 “I obey your order, Ture…”
 A tall dzhigit with a dark tan face appeared from the reeds. His eyes hid below his heavy protruding eyebrows were shifty. It seemed to Dzhanibek that he had seen the dzhigit in Khizybek’s retinue. “Speak!” he ordered.
 “I am nit your enemy but your friend…” the dzhigit’s voice was trembling and faltering. “I’ve been waiting for you here to reveal an awful secret to you…” Dzhanibek was watching the dzhigit anxiously. “I don’t have the heart… But I have to do it… Your concubine deceives you… She…”
 Blood surged to Dzhanibek’s face. “Who’s that man?!”
 The dzhigit hesitated. He obviously regretted venturing to say what he had said. “I can’t tell you… You’d better see it with you own eyes… Tonight, a horseman dressed up as a horse herder will come to the aul… He’ll enter your concubine’s yurt… The moonlight is bright at night, and you’ll recognize him easily… Goodbye, mirza…” the dzhigit bowed low to Dzhanibek. 
“Wait!” he said impatiently, having collected himself. “Who knows about it besides you; who could confirm your words?” 
 “Nobody, mirza… Not a single living being. I haven’t told anyone, for I respect you, and I never will.  My tongue is not used to blabbing.”
 Dzhanibek acquired a thoughtful countenance, “Oh, I see…”
 “I know,” the dzhigit said, “that the news I have told you is not the kind for which one receives a suyunshi gift, but maybe you’ll remember me and the service rendered by me for the sake of your honor…”
 “If you are telling the truth, I’ll pay you decently…” Dzhanibek said, staring the dzhigit in the face. “Go…” 
 He bowed low and backed into the reeds.
 A crooked blade flashed vaguely, and the dzhigit’s head fell to the hooved of his horse, and his large body collapsed onto the ground heavily. 
Dzhanibek sheathed his sword slowly. His face was calm, and his eyes were looking at the body lying prostrate on the ground regretfully.
 Scared by the noise, flocks of ducks stood on their wings. Dzhanibek jerked the cap off the falcon’s head and threw it up, “Come on! Go!”  
The bird darted into the sky like a black lightning. Dzhanibek spurred his
 Dzhanibek spurred his horse, and the latter brought him to the sandspit, trampling down the tall reeds. 
 Dzhanibek's eyes narrowed and were lit by hazardous sparkles. He was watching the flying falcon fascinatedly. Dzhanibek seemed to have forgotten what the dzhigit had just told him, to have forgotten about the blood of the man he had just killed.
 When the sun was as high as a spear above the ground, Dzhanibek, satisfied with the successful hunt along with the kusbegis accompanying him returned to the aul. By his behavior, nobody could guess that mirza felt restless. As usually, he ate the meat served to him by a quiet servant on a silver plate and had several cups of tea.  He had to get ready and head for Ture’s aul. The biy was expecting him. But he did not feel like going there anymore, and he ordered that a messenger be sent to the biy to tell him that their meeting was delayed because of his sickness.
 When in the yurt, Dzhanibek thought about the dzhigit’s words. He would not like to believe them. But what if he had told the truth? It was good if nobody else was aware of Zhanbike’s cheating on him. The secret of a descendant of the great Genghis Khan must be sacred.
 There was only one solution – under the tradition, he had to send Zhanbike to her parents, thus showing that he did not want her as a wife anymore. If nobody was aware of her cheating on him, nobody would dare think and speak ill of Zhanibek. Uzbek Khan’s son could do what he wanted. But what is the dzhigit had bad-mouthed his beloved wife?
 The mirza stayed in the yurt for the whole day, and it was not before the evening came that he had found a clearly defined solution. What was the use of agonizing in endless doubts? The dzhigit had said that something would happen on that very night. Was it not better to see it once with his own eyes than to listen to other people’s gossip?  
 When thick darkness had enveloped the earth and the cool wind had brought the smell of wormwood from the steppe, Dzhanibek ordered that his horse be saddled and left the aul, taking no guardian along and trying to be unnoticed. 
Large starts were twinkling in the bottomless black of the sky; then the night grew lighter, and the crimson ball of the moon appeared from the distant ridges. 
Having reached the lowland, which was not far from his wives’ aul, Dzhanibek stopped, hobbled his horse, loosened the girth, and let the animal graze. He took the sadak with his bow and arrows in it, which was attached to his saddle, and started climbing the ridge at the foot of which the aul lay. When atop of it, Dzhanibek lay onto the ground in low spirea underbrush. He took out his bow, checked whether the string was tight enough, and took an arrow with a quadrangular damask steel head which could break through iron mail. 
Zhanbike’s yurt, which looked like a white hill when illuminated by the moonlight, was within a bowshot. No living being could approach it and stay unnoticed.
 Now he was to wait patiently. The night was passing slowly. The wind brought a flock of dark fluffy clouds from the Khazar Sea, and they were hiding the golden disk of the moon to scatter in every direction every once in a while. It was quiet at the foot of the ridge – the aul was sleeping.
 Suddenly, Dzhanibek got alarmed. His keen ears made out a distant patter of hooves. He pressed his ear to the ground. He could not be mistaken – the horseman was approaching the aul, and his horse was galloping fast. A vengeful grin appeared on Dzhanibek’s lips, and he reached for his bow. He was a brilliant archer, and if it was the one Dzhanibek was waiting for, he was hurrying to face his death.
 The horseman stopped suddenly and very close to the place where the mirza was waiting for him. Against the background of the moon descending to the ground, he seemed to Dzhanibek to be gigantic and heavy, as if carved of black stone. 
The horseman was looking at the aul for several seconds; then he jumped off the saddle, gave the horse a light pat on the crupper, setting it free, and started going down to the aul, stepping cautiously on small stones.
 Dzhanibek could see the man’s broad back clearly. No dog in the entire aul barked, and the mirza realized that the visitor was not a stranger. But who he was and was he really heading for Zhanbike’s yurt?
 Dzhanibek’s heart was pounding madly. Even now, he was reluctant to believe that his wife was cheating on him.  Were there no young girls in the aul, to one of whom a desperate dzhigit could come at night? When there was no doubt, Dzhanibek calmed down, rose to one knee, and put the arrow on the string.
 The man stopped by the concubine’s yurt and looked around. The mirza could see clearly that he was wearing a plain chapan and a peaked hat. There was no doubt that it was a shepherd. Do could Zhanbike prefer a poor man to him, the mighty Uzbek Khan?!  The mirza was choked with furу. Dzhanibek started pulling the string slowly. He had a faint hope that as soon as the stranger threw the curtain open to enter the yurt, he would hear Zhanbike’s furious scream. Indeed, somebody threw the curtain open impatiently, and the mirza saw his wife. Her hair loose, she stretched her hands forward and made a step towards the shepherd. The silvery light made the woman astonishingly beautiful, otherworldly; she reminded a heavenly peri.
 The peasant and the woman did not embrace. There was a whish of the arrow, and Dzhanibek heard either a choked moan of pain or a death cry. The man teetered and collapsed facing the trampled grass.  A woman’s shriek filled with terror redoubled in the predawn steppe. Dogs started barking furiously, people stamped their feet, clashing with weapons – the sentry hurried to the place at hearing the scream. People were rushing out of their yurts, undressed.
Narrowing his eyes vulturously, Dzhanibek was looking at the disturbed aul resembling an anthill for several more minutes, working his jaws under his grey skin stretched tight.
 He descended to the lowland unhurriedly, unhobbled the horse, bridled it, adjusted the girth, and, having climbed into the saddle laboriously, headed for his Horde.
 The moon was shining him in the eyes; then it fell behind a distant ridge, and a thick predawn darkness came. 

* * *

 Uzbek Khan’s rule lasted long, and many things changed in the Golden Horde within the period. While in previous times litigations between clans, cases of robbery, rape, fight, and murder, used to be decided upon by the clergy, that is, sheiks, kadis, ishans, and kazis, now they were entrusted to judges appointed by the khan, who were called biys.  
 Life is slow in the steppe; it takes time to change it; good and bad things often travel across the steppe like tumbleweed without lingering too long, but even the great Desht-i-Kypchak is affected by time, and neither the ancient order nor the human soul can resist it.
 Emirs and khans began to take biys into consideration; each was trying to draw them over, for every biy had his clan and an army, though little, behind him. 
 Ture Biy had a large body and a soft voice. Nobody had ever heard him shout or insult a man who came to him for help with a bad word, but he was firm and even cruel about his decisions. Ture Biy laughed a lot, and at such moments his face became unrefined and kindly, and a person who did not know him would never think that he was a strict and merciless judge. Nobody had ever succeeded in reading his thoughts and telling his intentions as he was looking at his interlocutor. If Ture was going to take revenge on somebody, there were no obstacles for the power-seeking biy. Hearing a case or declaring his decision, he was focused on his profit, on what that was going to give to his clan and tribe. Allah had given him enough eloquence, and he always succeeded in persuading the khan that he was doing the right thing. 
Ture Biy knew the world and always acted according to the situation. When facing the severe Uzbek Khan, he was softer than a downy pillow, more loyal that a watch-dog, and nobody could be more agreeable to the ruler of the Golden Horde. Like a water snake, he sneaked into the khan’s heart unnoticed and became his minion. During the last life of his life, Uzbek Khan needed people who said flattering things to him and praised his greatness constantly. Ture Biy knew that and could say the necessary word just in time.
 Shortly before his sudden death, the khan appointed him to be the sube biy. It was a great success. From then on, Ture was the second biy of the Golden Horde. Only Mangili, who enjoyed the title of tube biy, that is, the prime judge, was superior to him. One of the reasons why Ture was appointed was the fact that the clans and tribes inhabiting the Desht-i-Kypchak had to some extent become one of the primary bases of Uzbek Khan’s power.
 But nothing is eternal in this world. As soon as Uzbek Khan died, luck turned its back to Ture. He could feel it at once. However, the biy was not the kind of man to reconcile himself to the circumstances. A new khan took the throne of the Golden Horde, and he had to seek for ways to win his heart. Ture sent a caravan of gifts to the quarters and promised to marry the tribe’s prettiest girl to the khan’s son. Tanybek accepted the presents and approved of the idea of marrying his son to a beauty but did not change his attitude to Ture.  
The biy realized that he was unlikely to find common ground with Tanybek; he would not possibly follow his recommendations. But what was a biy not favored by the ruler of the Golden Horde? After a short time, even his own tribe would feel the loosened rein and get out of control, which could bring about the loss of the usual lifestyle.
 That was the reason why the biy invited Uzbek Khan’s son Dzhanibek to his acres in spring, trying to save himself. The steppe summer is long, and who knows what the mirza would turn out to be like – Ture had not met a single Chingizid who could put up with the loss of the throne easily. Dzhanibek was unlikely to be any exception. If he helped Dzhanibek, could he become the khan?.. The idea was daring, enticing, and scary. If Tanybek found it out, the biy would be doomed. But a coward never gets what he wants.
In the morning of the same day when Dzhanibek took revenge on the shepherd who had been intending to inflict disgrace upon him, Ture and the mirza met. The biy ordered that the guest dastarkhan be spread on the top of a green hill away from the aul so that nobody could overhear their conversation.
 Observing the law of steppe hospitality, Ture did not hurry to talk. He treated the mirza to juicy and fat dry mare flesh, poured kumis smelling of steppe herbs into his cup with great care, and told the news which the steppe uzunkulak had been brining to his aul.  .
 The subject shifted to the Horde’s affairs inconspicuously. Ture knew how to touch the strings of a man’s mind which he chose. They day that is one touches an open wound with soft silk, it will hurt anyway. The biy spoke about the throne, about Tanybek, and regret and disapproval appeared behind his voice alternatingly. His words did reach Dzhanibek’s heart. Listening to Ture, he came to believe that the throne was to belong to him solely and to no other son of Uzbek.  Only one who does not scruple to cross the line of kinship and will overcome any obstacles in his way should rule the Golden Horde.  
Parting with the mirza, Ture Biy said in a meaningful voice, “If somebody treats you badly, my brave dzhigits will be by your side.”
 It was not even a hint but a sure promise of support in case Dzhanibek ventured to make a stand against his brother.


* * *

 Dzhanibek returned to the Horde in the evening. When at a considerable distance, he discerned a pole with a black horse tail on it before each yurt. It was a sure sign indicating that a well-respected person of the khan’s clans was dead.
 Traditionally, an old aksakal was the first to meet him by his yurt to tell the sad news, “Woe!” the aksakal said, “At night, someone shot your younger brother Khizyrbek with an arrow near the yurt of your tokal Zhanbike!..”
 Dzhanibek grew pale. He threw his head up and asked with his teeth clenched, “What was my brother doing near Zhanbike Khatun’s yurt at night?”
 The aksakal closed his eyes with his heavy wrinkled eyelids. He understood the hint about the mirza’s words – indeed, what could one do near the yurt of his brother’s wife at night? The old man sighed. “They say Khizyrbek was returning from the herd… He might be thirsty, and his brother’s wife could well give him a cup of kumis, for her yurt was right on the way.”
  Dzhanibek understood that the aksakal realized what had happened, but if he agreed with him, the murder of Khizykber would look like a deliberate crime rather than like revenge. “Has the guilty one been caught?”
 “No.”
 The old man’s eyes, faded like the sky in fall, were looking Dzhanibek in the face with a silent reproach. Even the seniors were not allowed to interfere with the Chingizids’ affairs. Could mirza not understand that his arrow had been identified at once and that Khizyrbek’s family had already sent a messenger to Khan Tanybek, ordering him to tell the name of the murderer? 
“When is Khizyrbek being buried?”
“Tomorrow morning.”
 With a gesture of his hand, Dzhanibek let the aksakal go and, watched by dozens of people, straight, with his face imperturbable, headed to his yurt. It was not before he was left alone that the mirza gave rein to his feelings. Dzhanibek had loved his younger brother. Perhaps he would have never laid his hands on him.
 The following morning, the mirza went to his brother’s aul to attend his funeral, accompanied by faithful henchmen. None of the people he came across dared look him in the eyes, and nobody uttered a word of reproach.
 While the rite of internment was being performed, the mirza’s face remained calm and gloomy, and his eyes never sparkled with tears. 
Having returned to the Horde, without seeing Zhanbike, he ordered that his concubine be sent to her parents with great honor. 
Days of anxiety came. Dzhanibek knew that his elder brother would not forgive him for killing Khizyrbek. He would surely take an opportunity to equal their accounts, but he could only try to guess the way in which he would do that. Perhaps the khan would send a killer, but maybe he would send a troop of soldiers to wipe the mirza’s aul off the ground and break his back.
 After a seven days’ commemoration of Khizyrbek, everything was clear.  A faithful man of his who had just returned from the khan’s quarters said, “Tanybek is awfully angry. He has sworn to wash the blood away. The khan has sent messengers to each of his camps and ordered to summon the army. Prepare for a battle, Mirza.”
 Dzhanibek realized that his retreat had been cut off. He was either to fight till the end or to die. Tanybek was not going to take avenge for his brother; he had merely found a pretext to get rid of the possible rival.  Who would support a murdered? Everybody would take the avenger’s side.
Then Dzhanibek sent his messenger to Ture Biy to say, “You promised to give me your brave soldiers. I need them.” 
The uzunkulak had already spread the news about the brothers’ conflict around the Desht-i-Kypchak, and Ture Biy knew why Dzhanibek needed his soldiers.
 Before a new moon was born, the armies of Tanybek Khan and Dzhanibek Mirza faced each other in a fierce battle in the sloping hills of the interfluve of the Itil and the Yaik.  
Allah favored Dzhanibek, and he won before the day died. The wounded, bleeding Tanybek was caught by the mirza’s soldiers. He asked for mercy, but the gray snake of envy had already lifted its head in Dzhanibek’s soul, spit poison into his eyes, and he ordered his henchmen to finish his brother.
So, a new khan took the throne of the Golden Horde in the year of the Horse (1342), and nobody in the Desht-i-Kypchak was surprised to know that he had done so by spilling his brothers’ blood.  People called the khan Az Dzhanibek, that is, Dzhanibek the Wise.



 CHAPTER FOUR
 Having become the khan of the Golden Horde, Dzhanibek failed to become the sole master of the throne and add new deeds to its glory. 
 While in previous times it was the descendants of the great Genghis Khan and the nomadic noblemen who had control over the affairs of the Horde, the latest decade was marked by increasing influence of cities. Like steppe tribes, each city had an army now. Citizens not only provided steppe dwellers with all necessary things but told them the best way to act increasingly often. Decisions taken according to the recommendation of the city noblemen mostly were more used to the Horde than the previous campaigns which were aimed solely at trophies. Trade became more profitable than war.
 During the rule of Dzhanibek, the capital of the Golden Horde, Saray Berke, or Satay ad Dzhadid, thrived again. The khan ordered that many workshops, mosques, medreses, and palaces be built there. People said, “Our Az Dzhanibek has carved the city in stone.” Islam won all across the Golden Horde. The Mangits and the Kypchaks, the Bulgarian Tatars and the Mordovians from the Itil banks, the Baskirian from the upper reaches of the Yaik, the Caucasian tribes of the Circassians, the Avars, the Lezgins, the Ossetians, the Chechens, and the Alans, and  the Oghuzs from Khwarezm professed it now. The Konyrat and Kangly nomadic clans from the lower reaches of the Seykhundarya, the Argyn, Kerey, and Nayman clans from the banks of the Ishym and the Tobol, and the Uysuns, the Dulats, and the Zhalairs from North Zhetysu became Muslims.
 Tobylgy idols, gibratkhanan prayer houses, churches, and monasteries had been destroyed in the cities. From then on, the nations of the Golden Horde followed the way of Prophet Muhammad and erected mosques on the ruins of churches belonging to other religions.  Beautiful legends, tales, and fables came to the Kypchak Steppe from the Orient, from the Arabs and the Persians along with the prophet’s faith. Yesterday’s nomads who had turned to city dwellers were taught not only to read and to write in medreses and read not only holy books but also sceintists’ works in astronomy, medicine, and geography. 
One could often see a khoja, mullah, or scientist from faraway lands and cities of Egypt, Sham, Zhezira, Diyarbakru, Rome, Persia, and Bagdad on the caravan paths of the Desht-i-Kypchak during the rule of Dzhanibek.
 The white banner of the Golden Horde with a golden crescent moon on it was stood up high. Nobody dared even think of doing any harm to it. The noblemen would bow to Dzhanibek, saying, “You are wise! There is no khan more powerful than you are!” When everybody says such things, it is hard to believe that everyone lies. They khan enjoyed basking in glory, and words exalting and praising him please him greatly.  
But the word is arranged in such a way that of a common man starts putting on airs, he will be the only victim; if a khan does, the entire nation will be in danger. Holding his proud head high, Dzhanibek failed to notice that a pit had already been dug for him and that there were enemies waiting for the time he would make a false steppe and fall into it, right onto their spears.
Ture Biy, who had once helped Dzhanibek become the khan, set a cunning trap for him. He had expected many things when giving his warriors to the ruler, but he got few of them. 
After Tanybek was defeated, Mangili, appointed by Uzbek Khan to be the tube biy, remained the chief judge of the Horde. Dzhanibek did not remove his father’s chief vizier Makhmud either. Ture seemed to have regained his power due to the new khan; the latter was always eager to follow his advice and seemed to appreciate him more than others, but the biy was not satisfied. It was not to remain the third in the god-blessed Golden Horde that he had once chanced his arm.
Ture did all kinds of things to prove Dzhanibek that he was the only one deserving the title of the tube biy, but the khan did not seem to notice his efforts. He would wriggle his tail like a puppy grown at his owner’s feet, prostrate before the khan like a cloth of gray blanket, but it was to no avail. Then the offence blended with anger in his soul. He remained slavish. Nobody could guess that black thoughts were obsessing Ture. He drew the biys Zhagaltay and Tayshi over gradually, little by little. Following Ture’s advice, the khan appointed one of the Kypchak batyrs who were loyal to biy to command a thousand soldiers.
 An invisible cobweb was being weaved around Dzhanibek, and Ture started thinking about who could take the khan’s throne. Dzhanibek’s son Berdibek seemed to be the best candidate. The biy won his way to the man’s heart easily. Berdibek was as cowardly as a hyena but craved glory.  Playing up to his ambition, Ture taught him that it was not necessary to fight for what he wanted openly and that is was better to have everything done in the dark of the night, and that there was nothing to be ashamed of about giving one’s enemy a stab in the back.
 The wise Dzhanibek listened to the sweet praise, getting more and more inebriated. He came to turn his blind eye to the issues of the Golden Horde, entrusting them to the emirs’ council.  The council consisted primarily of Ture’s people. Deciding on cases of interclan conflicts, the emirs did what he wanted them to do. The tube biy Mangili, who had grown very old, could not resist Ture’s people and often yielded. The sube biy was gaining control little by little. 

* * *

 Once, Dzhanibek summoned the emirs’ council. Swarthy, aquiline-nosed, resembling a Persian, wearing a brocade chapan, he sat on the golden horde. At the foot of the throne, on a soft carpet with a bright flower pattern, those whom he believed to be his reliable tower of strength were sitting with their feet tucked in – the tube biy Mangili, as gray as a badger the broad-faced, fat Ture, the lean and sinewy Zhagaltay resembling a tazy hound, the portly vizier Makhmud, and the pale-faced emir Kutluk Buka, who was constantly on the alert. They were wearing expensive, colorful clothes, and an expression of grandeur and arrogance was frozen on their faces.  
Dzhanibek had long before fallen out of the habit of consulting his attendants, but that time he summoned them to say that time had come to meet the requirements of the treaty signed with the Venetian and Genoese merchants from the Crimea. In the year of the Pig (1347), the Golden Horde promised them not to let Chinese and Russian caravans into Iranian land via Mangyshlak.
 Stirrings in Iran were permanent, and merchants were turning their caravans towards Azak Tana or the Crime with increasing frequency for the fear of being robbed or even killed. The Genoese did not mind, and they had talked the khan of the Golden Horde into making the route the main route for everyone. From now on, silk and tea, sable and fox fur, honey and wax were shipped in Azak Tana and Sudak, and the shops headed for the Mediterranean countries via the straits, avoiding the Ottoman Turks.  It brought significant income to Genoese merchants, and the Golden Horde was not out of pocket either.
 The gathering listened to Dzhanibek respectfully, and as soon as they started expressing their admiration of his wisdom and approval, a servant sneaked into the room and said to the khan in a soft voice with his head down, standing on one knee, “Takhsir, the great zhirau Asankaygy has arrived in the Golden Horde…”
The gathering was stirred and started exchanging glances. There was nobody in the whole Desht-i-Kypchak who did not know Asankaygy — Asan the Sorrowful. Being a renowned story teller, he was the conscience of the steppe dwellers and had always lived by their joy and sorrow, dreams and aspirations. His legends and colorful phrases were passed by words of mouth, and dzhigits rode their horses to death at hearing them, for they hurried to bring the great zhirau’s wise thoughts to others.  
 Ture Biy was probably the only one of the gathering who was not happy to learn about Asankaygy’s arrival. The great man could see through people, guess their thoughts and wishes, and an eerie feeling seized the biy. What of the zhirau read his intentions and told the khan about them?  
“Where is he now?” asked Dzhanibek.
 “He’s here, near the palace. He’s just dismounted his camel Zhelmay.”
 The khan’s face was lit up by a smile. “The wise man is alive… Bring him to the guest room. I’ll come soon…” with an authoritative gesture, Dzhanibek indicated that the meeting was over and everybody was free.
 A long time had passed since he last saw the zhirau. It was right when he started to have Saray Berke rebuilt. Asankaygy said then, “Why do are you building your city so close to the Orusut principalities? Woe awaits you…”
 The khan laughed at hearing that, “What can the Orusuts, who pay tribute to the Horde, do?”
 The zhirau shook his head, “I, a traveling story-teller, must not teach khans, but you are sitting on the gold throne and should be more far-sighted. You are assumptive and proud-minded. The bird of misfortune always nests nears these birds…”
 Dzhanibek did not take the zhirau’s words into consideration, and the latter left offended. Though he respected the story-teller greatly, he could not imagine that the Orusut would gather the power enough to endanger the power of the Horde someday. 
So now, preparing to see Asankaygy, he thought of the address song which he had sung at the toy before going deep into the Desht-i-Kypchak Steppe:
  “Hey, Khan, if I do not tell you,
   How will you know… 
  You won’t accept my advice.
  Blushing, you drink kumis 
  And sweat, your body heated. 
  Be calm and listen. 
  You are building your city carelessly 
  Between the Chinese and the Orusut.
  Can’t you see? 
  Follow my advice — 
  Choose another place. 
  I’ll find you one
  Riding my fast Zhelmay.
  Let the people go there. 
  If you ignore my words 
  And do not do so, 
  The Orusuts will conquer your city. 
  Women and children will cry bitterly. 
  It will be not a dream but the truth. 
  I see, Khan, that you don’t believe me… 
  Remember that all kinds of things happen. 
  Once the pike used to come out of water 
  To make its nest of a pine tree. 
  That’s what old people say… 
  Listen to me and believe me. 
  If you are deaf to my words — 
  I’ll forget the way that leads to you… 
 Dzhanibek did not argue with the great zhirau, for he respected him. Even wise old men can be mistaken, and it is they who have bad dreams and nightmares most often.  
Then he said with a scarcely disguised cunning, “Let it be the way you want, Asankaygy. If you find a river more beautiful than the Itil and a land better than Sakistan [8], I’ll order my people to go where you say.
 Now the great zhirau was back. That time, he had not come along – he was accompanied by the ridiculist Zhirenshe Sheshen, who was famous in the steppe. He was in his early sixties, but he looked like a young falcon in comparison with Asankaygy, who was as gray as a badger.  
 Dzhanibek welcomed the people well-respected in the steppe with great respect. He bowed to them first and inquired after their health. Later, when the besbarmak cooked from the flesh of a young mare slaughtered specially for the honorary guests flesh had been eaten and the khan’s concubine Taydolla Khanum had poured luscious kumis into silver kises, Dzhanibek said, “Aksakal, you have come back to Saray Berke. So you have achieved what you undertook the long journey for? Have you found the place for me to have a new city built? So there are rivers more beautiful than the Itil and land more generous then Sakistan?”
 The great zhirau cast his eyes down; his face was thoughtful and sad. “Don’t be in a hurry, Khan; don’t ask me. I’ll tell you where I have been and what I have seen.” Asankaygy was silent for some time. His pale old lips were moving. He seemed to be whispering something or saying a prayer.  Right from your beautiful city, I set off to meet the sun. After many days on the road, I saw a river which looked like a wide blue silk ribbon. The name of the river is the Irtysh. The people living on its banks have never heard the word “hunger”, for the soil produces high, lush grass and cattle breeds as fast as mosquitoes do in wet summers. The land is beautiful, but the Chinese live near it, and they have been our enemies since your great ancestor Genghis Khan raised his nine-tailed banner above the world. The zhirau took a sip of kumis and went on, “Then I turned my horse to where the Iron Pole is beaten into the night sky and seven light-colored mares walk around it perpetually [9]. There I saw the wonderful Yesir River [10]. One can have feed one’s thin horse fat in six days there, and the grass is so high that sheep look lie bugs on a bear’s skin. But you cannot have your city built there, for there are neither mountains nor woods there, and the land is accessible to every enemy. Turning my horse to the south, I gave the Yesir, the Heady River,  I called it the Yesil – the River of Regret. That’s the way I saw it.” The khan and everybody present at the toy were listening to Asankaygy with fascination. Each of them had been to the places about which the zhirau was telling – they had seen both the blue Irtysh and the Yesir banks, but the old man’s manner of describing the familiar places resembled a song or a tale. “To the south from your domain, I saw another river, the Seykhundarya… Its flow is both rapid and terrible, and its yellow waves resemble herds of horses galloping recklessly. And I saw that I would be possible to live there if you went to the Black Mountains for the summer… But you cannot have your city built there.”
 “Why?” Dzhanibek asked. “How can dangerous enemies appear there?”
 The zhirau shook his white head. “Enemies have always come there, as if somebody had cast a spell on the land. The legends tell us that the powerful Huns used to live there in ancient times. The great conqueror Iskander Zulkarnayn did not fail to take advantage of the Seykhundarya either…” Asankaygy broke off for a moment. “Besides, it was the place from where your ancestor Genghis Khan sent his tumens to the Desht-i-Kypchak.
 The gathering nodded their heads approvingly.
 “So there’s no land where I can have a new city built to make it a glorious city of the Golden Horde in the east, in the north, and in the south?” the khan smiled. “I’ll have to stay in Saray Berke…”  
“If there is a beautiful place washed by the water of the great Itil and the lucid Yaik, why should the khan search for a better place?” Ture Biy said frowningly. I’ll tell you a riddle, and if you solve it, I’ll believe that your wise and listen to what you say.”
The Zhirau looked at him intently. “Don’t hurry…
The biy smiled scornfully. But Asankaygy did not seem to notice that. He rose to his feet laboriously and came out to the center of the room covered with a huge carpet. Looking around, the zhirau places his silver kise from which he had been drinking kumis on the carpet near his feet and returned to his back indolently. Everyone was watching, impatient to know what would come next.
 “Look, bey. The fluffy carpet is the land of the Golden Horde, and the silver kise is Saray Berke, from which the wise Dzhanibek Khan rules his people. So can you get the kise without stepping on the carpet? Think, Biy. If you tell me how to do it, I’ll listen to you.”
 The gathering was looking at Ture Biy expectantly. The eyes of some of them expressed anxiety for their protector, while others indicated gloat.
 His low forehead sweated, and his small eyes grew shifty. The pause was beginning to linger. After a little more waiting, the zhirau sighed and said, “No, you can never solve the riddle…” he looked around the room, “Perhaps some of you can do it?” Silence was the response. The biys and emirs averted their eyes. “I am waiting,” Asankaygy said and looked at the khan.
 Suddenly, Dzhanibek rose resolutely, “I’ll get the kise…”
 The khan came up to the wall quickly, picked the end of the carpet, and started rolling it up. Soon he was holding the silver kise, which he gave to the great zhirau.
 Asankaygu’s face lost its severe expression, “Do you understand now why I recommended you not to build your major city at the edge of the state?”
 “Yes.”
 Dzhanibek took his place, and the zhirau turned towards Ture Biy. He was sullen and angry, and red spots were burning on his cheeks. The biy had never experienced such a disgrace.  
“The city from where the khan rules his people must not lie at the boundary of his land, no matter how beautiful it is, for an enemy will appear sooner or later who can attack unexpectedly on a good occasion, and who apart from Allah can tell that will happen then? If the people lose their leader, they will perish. If the center of the Horde in the heart of the Desht-i-Kypchak, the enemy will be unable to pass unnoticed, and he will have to conquer the land in his way before getting the city, but the khan will be able to summon his army and march against him…”
 “So the great Batu Khan,” Ture interrupted the old man, “was not thinking about the future of the Golden Horde, which he had created, when he raised his banner on the Itil bank and started to have his city Saray Batu built?
 “Why?” the zhirau flashed a forgiving smile, as if it was not a biy but a foolish child who had said that. “He knew it. But Batu hoped that little time would pass before the city of Saray Batu built for him turned into the center of the new khanate. He failed to implement his plans to the full, but you know how far the Mongol tumens commanded by his valiant noyons reached. Somehow it happened so that both Saray Batu and Saray Berke are now at the very edge of the huge plate and resemble two grains about to fall. Asankaygy broke off; his face grew dark, and his wrinkles deeper.  The Orusut land is very close, hidden in the woods. The time will come when the helpless nestling will turn into an erne. Who knows if the Orusuts will be willing to do to us what we have done to them someday,” turning to Dzhanibek, the zhirau said, addressing him, “You still have time, Great Khan; think over what I have told you…” 
“But you said you hadn’t found a place where my city would be protected reliably against the enemy.”
 “I didn’t say that, Great Khan. I just told you about the rivers that feed the land of the Golden Horde in the east and the west, in the north and the south. I found what I was looking for.  Raise your banner at the foot of the Ulytau, where the quarters of your ancestor Dzhuchi used to be. The mountains lie in the very heart of the Desht-i-Kypchak, in the Saryark Steppe, which resembles the magic fertile land of Zheuyuk.  There are the mountains where you can stop your enemy there; there are rivers and lakes for you to water your innumerable cattle.
 Dzhanibek grew thoughtful. How could he explain it to the old zhirau that the khan of the Golden Horde could not hide in the wilderness and seek for a quiet life like a wolf? It was not only on the bank of the milky Itil that his capital, Saray Berke, lay; there was another river, the banks of which he could not leave – the Great Silk Route. What would happen to the Golden Horde is its khan transferred his quarters to the remote Saryarka?  Indeed, the enemy was near, but due to the Silk Route, by which not only costly goods but also news were delivered, Dzhanibek knew what was going in China and the Crimea, what Iran had on its mind, and where the Ottoman Turks had sent their horses. 
 The zhirau was threatening him with the Orusuts. But now they were near, and he could tame there with fire and sword at any time. If they moved away, they would feel the khan’s hand holding the rein growing weaker at once. An arrow shot from a great distance often loses its power halfway or even fails to hit the target.
 No. If he followed Asankaygy’s advice, the Orusut princes could really unite. Having no more fear, Iran could conquer the land of North Caucasus, and the Ottoman Turks would take the Crimea. Grazing in the steppe, a horse is not afraid of snakes, for it has strong hooves as hard as flint.  The Golden Horde is strong and powerful, so why should it be afraid of anyone? Its tumens would trample down anyone who dared stand in its way. 
Could he possibly hide from life? When the time came, one states died so that new ones could rise on their ruins. The strong became weak, and the weak became strong. The old zhirau was naive. Who can make the time pass more slowly, and who could resist the will of Allah? The time is not a horse that can’t be bridled, and Allah is not a man who can be persuaded or trampled down with one’s tumens. Everything would be the way it was destined to be.
 The silence lingered, and he had to answer to Asankaygy.  Then Dzhanibek said, “Thank you for your kind advice, Ata. It has touched my heart, and I will think it over…” 
It was obvious that the old zhirau was offended by the khan’s cagy rely, and his face darkened. He loved Dzhanibek and meant well on him.
 Constantly traveling around the Desht-i-Kypchak, Asankaygy