Stuyvesant- All this, and more, will be revealed soon. And Tacchotan's happiness would still be tempered with a little sadness; her son may be alive, but is mutilated and far away from his home.
The Whisperer's Tale.
The Whisperer took another swig of wine, and sighed heavily.
Affonso's eyes were narrow, but not with suspicion; more a kind of curiosity, tempered with a little confusion. "So, what happened next?"
The Whisperer grinned. "All hell broke loose."
Mongolia, 26th June 1105 (3 days later).
It was just as the sun began to set that the ground began to shake.
Bagatur looked up from the fire, and stared, along with the rest of the clan, to the hazy vision of horses, running across the steppes. There were not too many of them; only about fifty or sixty, powering towards the camp in a ragged gallop.
The other men around the fire were leaping up, shouting at one another and raising their spears, swords and bows. It was impossible to tell who the riders were, or their intention.
Bagatur walked forward, slowly, to the outskirts of the camp, to get a better view. He ignored his mother's pleas for him to come back to the fire, to the safety and warmth, behind the wall of men.
The riders were close enough now to be identified. "It's Altander! he cried. "They're home!"
In an instant, the atmosphere changed. The tribesmen ran forward, shouting and whooping. But Bagatur, stayed still, not sharing in their happiness. Over a hundred had ridden out to the west; so why were there only twenty or thirty returning?
The horses came closer, and Bagatur saw Altander's face. It was haunted, sad, solemn. And in his hands was a bundle of...something. Bagatur could not tell what.
As they entered the camp at a trot, the others fell silent. Altander's face was stained with tears, and he dumped the bundle in front of the fire. Bagatur could hear a strangled sob from Tacchotan, and felt Bayarmaa's hand clasp his own tightly.
Ogadei moved forward, as the others stared grimly. He tentatively approached the object, and turned it over. It was the body of Mongke Khan.
Altander suddenly changed, pulling himself together amongst the wails and screams, and snapped into action. "Men! We have been betrayed. Our blood-brothers turned traitor, helping the Tatars to maul our own forces. They are hot on our tail and we must escape, now. Do as I tell you if you and your womenfolk want to live another night."
There was no questioning his orders. His voice was iron. Bagatur turned to Bayarmaa, and saw the frightened expression on her thin, flat face, the fear dancing in her eyes like wildfire.
"Come on," he muttered, as the fire was doused and the others began to scramble to rip down the gers. "We have to get out of here."
For a second, he looked around; and saw a thousand little specks charging across the plains. Tatars. Bagatur swallowed down a little gulp; they were too late. They would not escape in time.
To be continued...