Author Topic: Darkest Dawn - a random story about the mongols  (Read 758 times)

justatoady

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Darkest Dawn - a random story about the mongols
« on: January 14, 2019, 10:18:21 PM »
this is an older story  i went back to again, and i feel like it fits here quite well : )

(it also kinda sounds like the twilight sequel that never made it, so there's that)

very happy for any sort of feedback, especially about the language and the calrity of the dialogue, though i probably won't do much more with this, because the message just feels terribly confused...

@jubal: i really tried with the formatting^^


Darkest Dawn

The Merkit camp slept beneath a silvery crescent, and the prisoners no longer fought their restraints. Yazad hated the noises. She could hear the dwindling flame crackle and the tent flap in the wind and, worst of all, the mumbled prayers of her fellow captive. Yazad glared at the other woman, whose own eyes were fixed rigidly upon the low ceiling. Though the shackles weighed heavily on Yazad's wrists, she lifted her arms and rattled her chains against those of the pious nuisance. The woman flinched as though woken from a trance, lowered her head, and grew still. 'Imbecile, you do not behold Tengri, who is of the heavens. Your prayers go out to fur and leather and wool!' Yazad scoffed. 'I will be heard,' the woman said. Her voice was small, while she herself was plain and plump, her face round and simple, and her belly grown large with child. Her name was Borte, though Yazad did not know her as anyone of consequence.

'And what is it that fills you with such hope?' Yazad spat. 'The great fortune that led you here?' There was no reply and Yazad heaved a well-practised sigh. 'Perhaps, you have the right of it,' she went on. 'What can we do, but pray? It is our place to wait and hope and pray to our wardens, our men, and our gods.' Borte looked at her for a long time. 'Surely, your husband would crush a hundred lesser men to see you returned safely to his arms?' she asked. Her rosy lips had curled into a faint smile. 'The Khan would offer a dozen wives for a single night with a stranger and a hundred if he thought her comely,' Yazad said and laughed. 'He loves me no longer, child, not in his heart nor in his loins.'

'Yet you have no fear?' Borte asked, and her smile did not fade. 'Ha!' made Yazad. 'The fear of death is reserved for those who value their lives, but please, return to your prayers. Perhaps, the heavens care for our lives. Perhaps, my husband shall consider the theft an insult and slay our captors in retribution. He is nothing if not in love with his precious honor,' Yazad's fists were trembling as she spoke. Borte absorbed the words silently and her gloved fingers were calm as she ran them over her belly. Staring at the other across the flame, she had glowing orange embers for eyes. 'How sad,' Borte said. 'Well, what of your man?' Yazad demanded, twitching under Borte's gaze. 'Is he no warrior? Why look to the Khan for your rescue?' 'You are right,' Borte replied. 'I do not know. I do not know that Heavenly Tengri still cares for our lives. In truth, I doubt it, nor do I believe he would hear my prayers.' 'You have wasted your breath, then,' Yazad told her. 'I would have, yes, had I prayed to Tengri,' said Borte, and Yazad shook her head. 'Oh?' Yazad sounded intrigued now. 'You believe that Jesus Christ loves you, that you are safe with the Tao's guidance, that Allah watches over your spawn? Be mindful of your prayers then. You should know that the Khan frowns on beliefs other than his own, and yet they all sound rather alike to me.' 'You misunderstand,' answered Borte. 'My gods are the Khan's, but it is not Tengri who brought us here. Tengri is great. He has bestowed life upon us, sent his children, the Sun and the Moon to watch over us. His is the love for all things, but we have not been loved. We have been stolen, hurt and had our lives endangered. It is the work of no loving parent, but of a beast, a formless spectre shrouded in death and blackness, one who carries rot and decay and the underworld in his wake.'

'Erlik,' Yazad only whispered the name and flinched as the shadows danced across the tent walls, stretched and distorted by the flickering blaze. Borte nodded with sudden excitement. 'You say that we can do nothing but pray. Well, that can be the greatest power of all in the hands of the bold. Our path has led us into darkness and no god of light shall set us free.' Yazad shivered despite her heavy furs, and she felt her body move away from Borte as far as the chains would allow. 'It is a silly conflict between tribes,' Yazad insisted. 'We shall be free soon enough and need not strike bargains with demons or monsters.' 'And yet, you will not be free,' Borte told her. 'You will return to your Khan, reduced to praying, to Tengri and to him.' 'I am sworn to my husband, my Khan, your Khan. You owe him your obedience too!' Yazad was shouting now, but Borte remained calm. 'He is a small man and an utter fool,' she said.

'What?' 'They all are, a thousand tribes, a thousand Khans, each with a hundred wives. Pathetic splashes that break at the walls of the empire. They look up at Tengri, who loves them no matter what and think their little lives please him, but a god who loves all, loves no one and a man's love is worth nothing if you share it with his broodmares. Under Erlik, we would be a tidal wave and drown the empire and swallow up their cities of gold and stone and grain. He would give us the world, if only we were worthy.' 'Your words are treason,' Yazad said. 'If my husband heard of this, if even yours did...' Borte's laughter filled little world in the little tent. 'I keep no secrets from him. I have chosen my path. I know where my loyalties lie, Yazad.' With startling swiftness, she moved and grasped the older woman's hands. 'The time for change has come,' she went on. 'Do not stand against the tide, lest you be swept away and dragged down into the depths.' 'What are you-'

Outside the tent. A heavy thump. Shouting. 'Intruders! Intruders in the camp!' Wood burst, metal clanged, bodies fell. More screams followed. The flame squirmed under a chill gust, as a single hand pulled back the curtain. Two men barged in. A third held the entrance open and his blade raised. Yazad's heart sank when she realised. They were Merkits, their abductors' men. All three looked strong and burly, armed and armored. One took her roughly by the shoulders and pulled her to her feet. Yazad was ready to fight and struggle, but cold metal bit softly into her throat, the sharp edge a turn away from spilling her heated blood. 'Keep quiet,' the man said uncaringly. His eyes did not move from the entrance. With a cautious glance aside, Yazad saw Borte in much the same position as herself, though with none of her panic. 'Fools!' Yazad's haughty facade cracked and crumbled, her voice was shrill, trembling. 'The Khan will not forgive my death, he will not forget, you throw your lives away!' No one paid attention, not until Borte's laughter returned, bright and youthful and innocent. 'But, Yazad,' she said. 'They are dead already. They have left the shore behind and ventured out into the open sea and now, they tremble before a storm.' The man at the entrance shot her a venomous glare, but he turned and called out into the night. 'Young warrior! We have blades to your women's throats. Lay down your weapons if you value their lives.' With one last flicker, the flame yielded to the wind, and the five were plunged into darkness. A spear pierced the heart of the man who held Borte. Yazad screamed, her own heart pounded, and she cowered down, feebly raising her arms trying to shield herself from the gushing red fountain. The man guarding the entrance stumbled over his feet as he fled into the tent, fled from a shadow.

A figure approached, neither tall nor broad of shoulder and who no longer carried a weapon. Young Temüjin's eyes were dark and narrow, his features crude. An impassive face turned to Borte and the unborn child. 'You are alive,' he said. 'He is safe.' 'Yes!' Borte said and tore at her chain. Realising that their remaining hostage was worthless, both men lunged at Temüjin and swung their scimitars. Their deaths were quick and simple. The Merkits slashed at nothing, Temüjin appeared where they did not see, and one corpse fell upon another. Temüjin crossed the tent, without so much as a glance for his Khan's wife. He embraced Borte and kissed her brow before laying coarse hands on her stomach. Borte was still pulling at her chains, but Temüjin's presence had calmed her. 'They stole us for their Khan,' she said. 'They are small and stupid, but...' 'I know,' Temüjin said. 'Their friends can serve us.' 'Yes!' Borte let go of the restraints. 'We will show them a new way. We will bring them change.'

The tent flapped open once more, and Yazad hadn't been so happy to see her husband in many, many years. 'My love,' she said without affection. The Khan nodded at her, then turned to Temüjin, who had acquired the blade of a slain foe. 'You fight well, young warrior,' the Khan said. 'You have saved your woman? Good. Come now. This insult can only be paid in blood. We have the numbers, we have Tengri, they shall not have the morrow.' Temüjin and Borte shared a glance. She laughed, and he smiled and lopped off the Khan's head.

The servant draped a fine silken cloak across the empress' pale shoulders and fastened a jade broach in the shape of a Chinese guardian lion over her breast, before presenting her with an ebony box. On a bed of satin lay treasures from all corners of the empire, heavy rings set with Indian diamonds, long strings of Iranian pearls and even a Russian carcanet of bright silver and black onyx. The empress lazily indicated a simple golden diadem, and her attendant began to weave it into shiny, dark curls. 'Thank you, Yazad. You are excused,' Borte said graciously and Yazad bowed her head. 'Your Highness.' Borte could only take small steps in her full regalia, but then again, she was rarely  in a hurry these days. The people had quickly learned patience. She stepped out onto the palace's balcony and, with a broad smile, faced her subjects. The Khans and their tribes were no longer. There was only the empire, there were only Borte and Temüjin, Borte, who stayed and ruled and Temüjin, whose conquest would not end while he lived. This was the fate she had chosen, Borte knew, and it would be the fate of her children and her children's children, a fate of war and greatness, of power and duty and sacrifice, the fate of the Empress of Genghis Khan.

Jubal

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Re: Darkest Dawn - a random story about the mongols
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2019, 11:54:18 PM »
Yes, it's a pity that "The Khan" (one of our long standing members) doesn't turn up much nowadays.

This was good fun, a fairly straightforward blood and swords type lark :) Are the other names/words beyond the famous ones (Yazad, Merkit, etc) actually Mongol, out of interest?
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

justatoady

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Re: Darkest Dawn - a random story about the mongols
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2019, 03:28:10 PM »
thanks : )

yes, the characters and deities are all real,
it's all from a guided reading i did some time ago now,
i did conflate a lot of events from genghis khan's life into one though, and made the whole abduction business much more pulpy and much (!) less grim...