"You have writing?" Genghis asked, sitting forward with interest.
The messenger nodded without pride. "For many years now, lord. We have collected the writings of nations in the west, whenever they have allowed us to trade for them. Our khan is a man of great learning and has even copied works of the Chin and the Xi Xia."
"So I am to welcome scholars and teachers to this place?" Genghis said. "Will you fight with scrolls?"
The messenger colored as the men in the ger chuckled. "There are four thousand warriors also, my lord. They will follow Barchuk wherever he leads them."
"They will follow me, or they will be left as flesh on the grass," Genghis replied.
For a moment, the messenger could only stare, but then he dropped his eyes to the polished wooden floor and remained silent.
Genghis stifled his irritation. "You have not said when they will come, these Uighur scholars," he said.
"They could be only days behind me, lord. I left three moons ago and they were almost ready to leave. It cannot be long now, if you will have patience."
"For four thousand, I will wait," Genghis said softly, thinking. "You know the Chin writing?"
"I do not have my letters, lord. My khan can read their words."
"Do these scrolls say how to take a city made of stone?"
The messenger hesitated as he felt the sharp interest of the men around him.
"I have not heard of anything like that, lord. The Chin write about philosophy, the words of the Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu. They do not write of war, or if they do, they have not allowed us to see those scrolls."
"Then they are of no use to me," Genghis snapped. "Get yourself a meal and be careful not to start a fight with your boasting. I will judge the Uighurs when they finally arrive."
The messenger bowed low before leaving the ger, taking a relieved breath as soon as he was out of the smoky atmosphere. Once more he wondered if his khan understood what he had promised with his words. The Uighur ruled themselves no longer.
Looking around at the vast encampment, the messenger saw twinkling lights for miles. At a word from the man he had met, they could be sent in any direction. Perhaps the khan of the Uighurs had not had a choice.
Hoelun dipped her cloth into a bucket and laid it on her son's brow. Temuge had always been weaker than his brothers, and it seemed an added burden that he fell sick more than Khasar or Kachiun, or Temujin himself. She smiled wryly at the thought that she must now call her son "Genghis." It meant the ocean and was a beautiful word twisted beyond its usual meaning by his ambition. He who had never seen the sea in his twenty-six years of life. Not that she had herself, of course.
Temuge stirred in his sleep, wincing as she probed his stomach with her fingers.
"He is quiet now. Perhaps I will leave for a time," Borte said. Hoelun glanced coldly at the woman Temujin had taken as a wife. Borte had given him four perfect sons and for a time Hoelun had thought they would be as sisters, or at least friends. The younger woman had once been full of life and excitement, but events had twisted her somewhere deep, where it could not be seen. Hoelun knew the way Temujin looked at the eldest boy. He did not play with little Jochi and all but ignored him. Borte had fought against the mistrust, but it had grown between them like an iron wedge into strong wood. It did not help that his three other boys had all inherited the yellow eyes of his line. Jochi's were a dark brown, as black as his hair in dim light. While Temujin doted on the others, it was Jochi who ran to his mother, unable to understand the coldness in his father's face when he looked at him. Hoelun saw the young woman glance at the door to the ger, no doubt thinking of her sons.
Excerpted from Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden Copyright © 2008 by Conn Iggulden. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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