The Golden Horde

The Golden Horde by Peter Morwood Read Free Book Online

Book: The Golden Horde by Peter Morwood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Peter Morwood
Besides kill him? I’d have thought that was enough.”
    “Funny. You know what I mean. Tactics, strategies – which did you use? Or was it magic after all?”
    “Only the magic of defeating superior numbers in open battle, and you don’t need to be told to know what that feels like.” Mar’ya Morevna looked thoughtful. “It wasn’t much of an open battle. We drew the Tatars onto a prepared position like this one, and when they started to hammer the walls of the gulyagorod , we closed the wings of the host around them and shot them off their horses from three sides. And we kept shooting, because they kept coming, until there were no more left.”
    “Obliging of them.”
    “It was all their khan knew to do. Manguyu Temir wasn’t one of the Great Khan’s great generals, just a brigand commanding brigands.”
    Ivan laughed at that. “Did you see Manguyu Temir?” he said. “Meet him, even?”
    “No. Why?”
    “Because I did, at a banquet almost five years ago. In Khorlov.” Mar’ya Morevna raised her eyebrows, but Ivan shrugged dismissively. “It was a political thing and he was better invited than ignored. That way we knew where he was. I remember my father said exactly the same thing: that he was a brigand. But I wonder about this present gang, because brigands don’t normally raid in winter.”
    The point was well made, and Mar’ya Morevna wondered why she hadn’t considered it before. A raid was a raid was a raid, and she’d given little thought to its background, just as someone confronted by a wasp didn’t pause to think before swatting. But it was true enough. Tatars and the various other tribes of nomadic bandits usually came raiding between late spring and early autumn, choosing their time carefully so that their horses and the livestock they hoped to drive away wouldn’t be wallowing in the mire created by thaw or rain at either end of summer, or wasting their time during the icy season when everything worth stealing was locked away from harm.
    Her mind jumped to the last enemy who attacked the Rus lands in winter. “The Teutonic Knights could have made some agreement with the Tatars, after what I did to Grand Master von Salza.” Ivan looked dubious, and after a moment she nodded agreement. “No indeed. Why wait? Even though he wouldn’t dare come back himself, an arrangement like this could have been made at any time …”
    When Hermann von Salza and the Knights of the Teutonic Order failed in their attempt to take possession of the rich border country, von Salza had been taken prisoner. Before releasing the German knight, Mar’ya Morevna laid a soul-rending on him, an enchantment that would strike the Grand Master painfully dead if he ever set foot in Russia again.
    That should have kept him and the Teutonic Knights out of the Rus lands for the rest of von Salza’s life, because the Order, still busily conquering – they called it crusading – along the Baltic coast, required their leaders to lead from the front. Any leader who deputized such a responsibility, never mind handed it over to dubious outsiders like the heathen Tatars, would find himself replaced as Grand Master by whichever ambitious deputy acted first and lucky to avoid an accusation of heresy for working with the enemies of Christendom. There had – so far – been no further incursions under von Salza. But rumour had him ailing, and there was no reason for the soon-to-be Grand Master Konrad von Thuringia to hire Tatars for his dirty work when he could do it himself.
    “This is nothing to do with the Teutons,” said Ivan. He sounded almost sorry to grant the German knights that much back-handed innocence. “It’s the damned Tatars, trying to catch us off guard. I said so when we first heard about the raid.”
    “I still wonder how much of what we heard was true, and how much was exaggeration.”
    “About the Kipchaqs and the Volga Bulgars?” Ivan snorted. “What I heard sounded like men trying to justify why

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