Shike – Day 123 of 306

“Indeed,” said Bourkina. “I should have recognized from your imposing stature that you are from the Land of the Dwarfs.” Several women snickered, and Taniko glared at them. She wanted to rush across the courtyard to the old monk and throw herself at his feet, but she dared not even speak to him directly.

The monk said, “Last year a small band of our dwarfish warriors succeeded in holding off a huge army under Arghun Baghadur equipped with siege engines, elephants and all, at the city of Kweilin. When the Great Khan Mangu died, the siege was lifted, as you know. Since Arghun is no friend to your newly elected Great Khan, I’m sure Arghun’s lack of success will please all the ladies. But what may especially please the lady from my land in this. Were she to read a list of the dead, she would recognize none of the names.”

Bourkina eyed Taniko narrowly. “Once one has become a subject of the Great Khan, she leaves old attachments behind. Is it not so, Lady Taniko?”

“Oh, certainly,” said Taniko, her heart beating furiously. “But I would like to know the name of this monk who has been kind enough to pass on this interesting news.”

“I am Taitaro of the Order of Zinja,” the old monk replied. “I was once abbot of the Waterfowl Temple.”

The Waterfowl Temple. Jebu’s temple. He had said once that the abbot was his stepfather. This was the man who had raised Jebu. Dangerous or not, she had to talk more with him. But the old monk was gone.

Her head reeled. She thought she was going to faint and put her hand on Seremeter’s arm to steady herself. Jebu was alive. He was alive, and she had just talked to his father. It was as if Jebu had just reached out and touched her himself. In this land where she felt so far from home, forsaken by the gods, Jebu and his father had been able to find her. The surge of joy and longing within her made her gasp for breath. Bourkina was still looking at her. She had to hide her feelings.

She managed to smile at Bourkina and they started walking again towards the palace of the women.

Bourkina said, “I told you once that we are making a new world. The world you came from will only cause trouble for you.”

Seremeter said, “She has a lover among those warriors from her country, is it not so, Taniko?”

“Certainly not,” Taniko said, angry at Seremeter for harping on a subject she wanted dropped. Didn’t any of these people know the value of silence?

“She’d best put him out of her mind if she does,” said Bourkina. “She belongs to the Great Khan now.”

“Along with how many hundred other women?” said Seremeter. “At the last count, four hundred and fifty-seven. When the Great Khan spreads his attentions so widely, a woman can’t be blamed for at least thinking of a former lover.”

“I wonder who will receive his attentions on this night of nights,” said Taniko to change the subject.

Bourkina chuckled shortly. “I wouldn’t want it to be me. These Golden Family men, when they win a victory, they’re like bulls in springtime. His father and grandfather were that way.”

“Do you speak from personal knowledge, Bourkina?” said Seremeter sweetly. Before Bourkina could answer she went on, “Bulls in springtime. I think I’d like to experience that.”

Bourkina shook her head. “He’d tear you apart.”

“Taniko, I really do believe Bourkina has bedded all three, Genghis Khan, Tuli and Kublai Khan. Tell me, wouldn’t you like to see our lord like a bull in springtime?”

Taniko was embarrassed to admit that Kublai had yet to take her to bed. “I’m thoroughly pleased with him as he usually is.” Bourkina looked at her shrewdly. She probably knows, Taniko thought.

They had arrived at the women’s palace. Guards admitted them and they went up to their chambers. Music, shouts and laughter from the hall of the kuriltai reached them even here. Taniko undressed with the help of a maidservant and lay down to rest. The events of the night had been so exciting that she found it hard to drop off to sleep. Her last thought before drifting into dreams was, Jebu is alive.

Bourkina awakened her suddenly.

“Is it morning? How long have I slept?”

“No, you’ve been in here just a few hours. You must get up, my child. He has sent for you.”

“For me? Why me?”

“It is not your place to question. You are to attend the Great Khan in his chambers. Don’t keep him waiting.”

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)