THE CHILD OF VIOLENCE
Just as the physical universe is the masterpiece of divine creativeness in space, so is the history of any “Cycle” the masterpiece of the same impersonal Artistry, in time. No man knows the importance of certain events until they have taken their place as unavoidable details of a historical pattern. But once one can see them in their proper perspective, — however insignificant they may appear, outwardly, when isolated, — one cannot but admire the consistency of the implacable Force which binds cause and effect and compels decaying humanity to hasten to its doom in perfect order.
Some eight hundred years ago, in the country east of Lake Baikal, along the border of the River Onon, a man of the Merkit tribe was taking home his pretty, newly wedded bride, a girl of the Olhonod clan, round-faced, slit-eyed and dark-haired, adorned with heavy silver jewelry and beads of bright blue turquoise. The girl was called Hoelun. She did not know herself what an exceptionally strong, masterful woman she was, nor what a staggering destiny awaited her. She did not know that the “dwellers in felt tents” — the men of the steppes — were to praise her name for all times as the mother and grand-mother of conquerors; the ancestress of dynasties. She merely knew that she was following her husband, for whom she was to work and bear sons, like any other wife. And she was happy. In her complete ignorance of immediate distress and ultimate glories, she smiled to the sweet present. She watched the reflexion of the Sun in the rapid waters of the river, or played with the blue beads of her necklace.
But suddenly her blood went cold. She saw three men on horse-back ride towards her, and she at once understood their purpose. She knew that her one man could not overcome three, and she herself urged him to flee and save at least his own life. She would be lost to him anyhow. So the Merkit fled. The three men galloped nearer and nearer until they reached the girl, seized her and dragged her off. As they carried her away, she wept and lamented. But along the
borders of the Orion and from the endless grasslands over which her ravishers rode with her, no answer came to her cries. The bright sky shone above, and the wind swept the green immensity all round her. One of the three men roughly told Hoelun to stop lamenting. “Though thou shouldst weep, thy husband will not turn his head. Seek his traces, thou shalt not find them. Stop thy cries, then, and cease to weep!”1
And on they went — the three brothers, on horseback, and the sullen girl in her kibitka, drawn by one of the horses — until the day faded over the grasslands without end and the ragged rocks here and there and the burning dust of the barrens; until the hills in the West grew dark against the fiery background of the sky, and the dry air became suddenly cold. The men talked little. A flight of wild birds crossed the sky, far above their heads, and they watched it pass, with sharp, hunters’ eyes. The wheels of the kibitka creaked at regular intervals. Hoelun had ceased weeping. And she did not speak. Resigned — for there was nothing she could do, — she was already beginning to adjust herself to the circumstances that were to mould her life. Unknowingly, she was preparing to make the best of them, as a wise girl she was. The creaking wheels were carrying her nearer and nearer to the tents of the Yakka Mongols, amidst whom she was to fulfill her glorious destiny. The silent and robust young man riding the horse that drew her kibitka was the chieftain of his tribe. His name was Yesugei.
She watched his darkening silhouette that moved before her above that of the horse.
* * *
The Sun had set when, at last, they reached the young man’s ordu. Above the western horizon, still glowing crimson, layers of unbelievable hues — limpid gold, and pale, transparent green, and pink, and violet, — succeeded one another, abruptly. The mountains in the east were the colour of lilac. But Hoelun, to whom the splendour of the moistless Mongolian sky was an everyday sight, paid little attention. She only saw the camp into which the men were driving her: the round
1 Ralph Fox, “Genghis Khan” (edit. 1936), p. 56.
felt yurts; the evening fires; the forms of herdsmen and warriors, before the fires. She heard voices of men and women; children’s laughter; the neighing of horses, the barking of dogs — the voices of life. There were not as many yurts as she had expected. This was a poor ordu. Yet, it was her new home, now. Not the one her father had planned to give her, but the one the Kings of the invisible world — the spirits of the Eternal Blue Sky, who rule all things visible, — were giving her, because such was their pleasure, and the world’s destiny.
She looked at the strange faces of the new, strange place, with childish curiosity mingled with apprehension and the vague feeling of something momentous. She was being driven. Towards what? For a second, she recalled the familiar countenance of the young Merkit warrior to whom she had been wedded, and she was sad. But she was given no time to ponder over the past. Joyful shouts were already greeting the return of the chieftain Yesugei and of his two brothers, who had dismounted. Women were gathering round her kibitka to have a look at her. And, as many were commenting upon her fair appearance, she felt pleased.
She was given to Yesugei, and there was a feast at the camp, that night. The warriors ate and drank a lot, and minstrels sang. Hoelun’s new life had begun. She was assigned a yurt of her own, and serving women. And Yesugei now spent his nights in that yurt.
She neither lusted after him nor loved him as she had the young husband for the loss of whom she had wept. But she knew that it was her fate to be his wife — to bear sons to the strong man who had stolen her away from the one who had fled. And she submitted to her fate. She worked for Yesugei by day — cooking his food; making felt; dressing skins, and splitting cords from sinews.1 And at night, when he came to her, she hid her fear of him and her reluctance. She submitted to his passion as the cool, passive, ageless earth submits to the fury of the devastating and fertilising thunder-storm, and she kept her feelings to herself. He was drawn to her by a direct and elemental force like that which gathers together the heavy restless clouds, and loosens rain upon the earth,
1 Harold Lamb, “The March of the Barbarians” (edit. 1941), p. 51.
a force that was beyond him and beyond her, and beyond all men, and that merely used their bodies in order to fulfill the inexorable, hidden logic of evolving history: the superhuman command of Destiny.
During one of those nights, the spark of life was kindled in her womb. And she conceived the son who was to render her name and that of Yesugei immortal; the Child of lust and violence and of divine, irresistible purpose; the future Genghis Khan. But Hoelun did not know it. Nor did Yesugei. No man knows what he is doing when he soothes the fire of his loins in a woman’s belly.
In the camp of the Yakka Mongols and in the wide world outside the camp, everything was — or seemed — the same as on any other night. The bitter wind howled over the barrens, and the River Orion rushed on to mingle its waters with those of the Ingoda and, finally, those of the mighty River Amur. Now and then, the howling of a jackal or of a wolf could be heard within the howling of the wind. But, although no one noticed it, the position of the stars in the resplendent heavens was an unusual one, full of meaning.
And while Hoelun busied herself with the monotonous everyday tasks of life — while she tended her new husband’s yurt and cooked his food, or slept at his side — the child of Destiny took shape within her body. He was born in the year of the Hare according to the Calendar of the Twelve Beasts — the year 1157 of the Christian era, — clutching a clot of blood within his right hand.