Shike – Day 142 of 306

“If we had followed the dream of Jamuga, all Mongols would be equal but poor,” said Kublai with a smile. “Because we followed the vision of my Ancestor, all Mongols are unequal but rich.” There was a rumble of approval from the assembled officers.

Arghun continued. “When Temujin held a kuriltai and was proclaimed Genghis Khan, Jamuga gathered the tribes who resented Temujin and had himself proclaimed Gur-Khan, Universal Ruler, of Mongolia. He raised a civil war against Genghis Khan and drew powerful enemies, the Merkits, the Keraits and the Naiman, into war with our new nation. Temujin had not been in so much danger since the days when his father was poisoned and he himself forced to wear the wooden yoke of a slave.

“Genghis Khan and the forces brought together by Jamuga fought a great battle at Koyitan. The horde of Jamuga was destroyed, but he escaped. Genghis Khan sentenced Jamuga and all his family to death, down to the tiniest infant. Jamuga’s wife and children were slain, his uncles and cousins, his brothers and their wives and children. The Khan decreed that all the men of Jamuga’s tribe be slain, and all the male children higher than a cart wheel. All the women and smaller children were sold into slavery. That tribe ceased to exist.

“For years afterwards Jamuga fled from nation to nation, doing what he could to turn them against Genghis Khan, warning them against the power of the Mongols, urging them to make war against his blood brother, fighting in their armies when they did. He went among the Kin of Northern China, the Black Cathayans, the Khwaresmians, the Hsi-Hsia, always hoping that at last he would find a power strong enough to defeat Genghis Khan. He never did. All those nations were conquered. Several times we learned that Jamuga had sired children in the lands to which he had fled. These were found and slain.”

Taitaro knelt beside Jebu and whispered, “Now you know what sort of man your father was.”

Jebu felt a lifting at the very core of his being. No one here thought well of his father, that was plain enough. But Jamuga the Cunning was indeed the sort of man Jebu could admire, one who believed that the shepherd was as good as the horse breeder and was willing to give his life to that belief. One who could not be crushed, but who tenaciously fought back against a power that seemed invincible. Were his body not so broken and exhausted, Jebu would have rejoiced.

His mind wandered with the pain and fatigue. He saw once again his initiation vision. Now, at least partly, he knew what it meant. He had seen this land of China, the Great Wall, the Mongol hordes sweeping over it. And he knew, now, who the giant was who had welcomed him as “little cousin.” It was the one Jamuga had spent his life fighting, the one who had decreed death for both Jebu and Jamuga, the one Kublai Khan called his Ancestor—Genghis Khan.

Arghun went on. “After the conquest of northern China, Genghis Khan got word that Jamuga had fled to Korea. I was by this time a young man. I had served since boyhood in the armies of the Khan. I came to his attention for deeds in battle. In his generosity he honoured me with the title Baghadur, Valiant. He laid the task on me, ‘Slay Jamuga and all of his seed. Let none survive.’ He sent me to Korea, where I searched for Jamuga and found he had sailed to the eastern island kingdom which we call the Land of the Dwarfs. I embarked for Kyushu, the southernmost of those islands, which is nearest to Korea. Disguised as a wandering Buddhist monk, I followed Jamuga’s trail. He was not an easy man for people to forget. I caught up with him, fought him and slew him. But I found out that in the five years he had been living among the dwarfs he had taken a wife and fathered a son.”

Arghun’s words made Jebu think of Nyosan. In those days she had been known as the loveliest young woman in that part of Kyushu. Now she was dead, burned to death by the Takashi. A stab of anguish went through him and a sob almost escaped his lips. He rubbed his eyes with his right hand. His left arm was nearly paralysed. He was so tired. If only this would end.

“Jamuga had put the son in a monastery of Zinja monks. I went there and that old man, the one standing beside the monk Jebu, had taken the infant under his protection. I was alone, and the warrior monks drove me off. I took Jamuga’s head back to Genghis Khan.

“In the reign of the Great Khan Kuyuk, son of Ogodai, I went back to the eastern islands and tracked Jamuga’s son, the monk called Jebu, to that same Zinja temple on the island of Kyushu, where he was staying with his foster father. We fought, but he escaped.

“The Great Khan Kuyuk died and I returned to the homeland. In his war with the Sung empire your brother, the Great Khan Mangu, made me tarkhan over the army in the south. I found the city of Kweilin defended by a contingent of the dwarf warriors, among them the monk Jebu. I believed that sooner or later the city must fall, and I would have my opportunity to kill him. Again Eternal Heaven decreed otherwise. Upon the death of the Great Khan Mangu the siege had to be ended.”

“Yes,” said Kublai Khan dryly. “You were in great haste to march your army back to Karakorum to persuade my brother to declare himself Great Khan and deprive me of the title. This is an amazing story, Arghun. For over thirty years you have been trying to carry out this command of my grandfather’s with no success. Lucky for you my Ancestor has gone to the next world. Imagine what he would do to an officer who took thirty years to carry out an order and still failed.”

All the officers laughed, including Uriangkatai, Yukio and Taitaro. Even Jebu painfully managed a smile. Arghun stood still, bearing the ridicule with set face.

Kublai turned to Uriangkatai. “Now that you know of my Ancestor’s command to Arghun, do you feel he was justified in attacking your foreign troops?”

Uriangkatai held his hands out, palms up in appeal. “My Khan, my father, Subotai, was said to be Genghis Khan’s greatest general. I rode at his side for many years. One rule he drilled into me was never to waste the lives of your men. If Genghis Khan thought a general was throwing men away needlessly, he would break him down to the ranks. Arghun claims he had the right to attack and kill hundreds of your warriors. Many of his own men died in that attack as well. He wasted Mongol lives as well as foreign ones.”

“Do you say that a yarligh of Genghis Khan may be neglected, Uriangkatai?” Arghun roared.

Uriangkatai hesitated, frowning. “All commandments of the Conqueror must be honoured. But the price we have paid today—” He shook his head. “It is high. Too high.”

In a calmer tone Arghun said, “The price is almost paid.” He turned to Kublai and held up a finger. “One more life. Let me kill the monk Jebu, and your Ancestor’s spirit will be appeased.”

Jebu felt Yukio and Taitaro, standing above him, tense themselves. He himself had barely been able to follow the argument, but it seemed to him that Arghun had won his point. To the Mongols, what was one foreign life, more or less? Doubtless, to settle this dispute, Kublai would decree his death.


  1. Dean Identiconcomment_author_IP, $comment->comment_author); }else{echo $gravatar_link;}}*/ ?>

    Dean wrote:

    This is one of the best stories i had come across, my all time fav. which was written 10 years before i was born!

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