Hoelun jerked out a hand and caught the shaman by his thin wrist. Her strength surprised him.
"He has wrenched his gut, shaman. I have seen it many times before. Even on ponies and goats have I seen it, and they always live."
Kokchu undid her shaking clasp with his other hand. It pleased him to see fear in her eyes. With fear, he could own her, body and soul. If she had been a young Naiman mother, he might have sought sexual favors in return for healing her son, but in this new camp, he needed to impress the great khan. He kept his face still as he replied, "You see the darkness of the lump? It is a growth that cannot be cut out. Perhaps if it were on the skin, I would burn it off, but it will have run claws into his stomach and lungs. It eats him mindlessly and it will not be satisfied until he is dead."
"You are wrong," Hoelun snapped, but there were tears in her eyes.
Kokchu lowered his gaze so that she would not see his triumph glitter there. "I wish I was, old mother. I have seen these things before and they have nothing but appetite. It will continue to savage him until they perish together." To make his point, he reached down and squeezed the swelling.
Temuge jerked and came awake with a sharp breath. "Who are you?" Temuge said to Kokchu, gasping. He struggled to sit up, but the pain made him cry out and he fell back onto the narrow bed. His hands tugged at a blanket to cover his nakedness, and his cheeks flushed hotly under Kokchu's scrutiny.
"He is a shaman, Temuge. He is going to make you well," Hoelun said. Temuge broke into fresh sweat and she dabbed the cloth to his skin as he settled back. After a time, his breathing slowed and he drifted into exhausted sleep once more. Hoelun lost a little of her tension, if not the terror Kokchu had brought into her home.
"If it is hopeless, shaman, why are you still here?" she said. "There are other men and women who need your healing skill." She could not keep the bitterness from her voice and did not guess that Kokchu rejoiced in it.
"I have fought what eats him twice before in my life. It is a dark rite and dangerous for the man who practices it as well as for your son. I tell you this so you do not despair, but it would be foolish to hope. Consider him to have died, and if I win him back, you will know joy."
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.
Blood at the Root
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