Christian Short Stories
By Web Ruble
Web writes: "Perhaps being of vague Russian ancestry, I have researched and learned that the blood-thirsty Mongols were tolerant of religion, travel and way of life once they had made their conquest. This fiction story is of one example."
Everything is burning. The acrid smell of ash, fire and blood is everywhere.
Screeches of terror that have filled the air are dying.
I am dizzy, racked with searing pain. I have burns and a dripping-crimson sword slash. However, I am now out of death’s grip momentarily.
Somehow, I had plunged over the side of a hill unseen. Soft dirt cushioned my fall, but my sword is gone. I have no horse. The blood bath is above me. Not only is the village burning. But I can tell from the screams that the Tartars are torturing people.
Horrible. Such terrors and carnage I have never imagined. These eastern horsemen from the Steppe are the cruelest I have ever contemplated. Rumors were downplayed that the devil’s cavalry, a mix of nomadic Mongol and Turk, was coming. The terrible things they might do to us were not exaggerated. If anything, they were understated.
I am glad to be out of sight. But a new horror grips me. Where oh where is Rozianna? She is my 5-year-old daughter. Surely these devil men would not kill her. Or would they? The Mongols usually do not kill children. But Tartars? I don’t know. Hopefully Rozi’s mother got out of the village in time.
I creep up to the brow of the dirt hill and peer over. The scene is monstrous and blood eerie. Despite seeing death and destruction everywhere, the Tartars -- or the Mongol-Turks -- have sacked Griteshka village and are leaving. That is almost a relief
I look to the right, however, and I see a woman’s bloody body -- at least it looks like it is that of a woman -- on the ground without a head. She has been decapitated. I also see a fierce-looking horseman. His tassle-topped metal helmet glinting in the muted sunlight -- now a brown-orange from the fire and the fading sunshine – and he has raised a battle axe as if to strike something. He pauses. I look below him and there stands (gasp! Horrors!) Rozianna. She is clutching a rag doll and staring at the horseman.
He continues to pause. His horse is twisting and jerking as if it wants to go.
Finally he reaches down and plucks Rozianna and puts her on his red-padded horse behind him. Maybe it was because a couple of young female horsewomen arrive, also wielding scimitars. These teen-aged equestriennes sometimes come to pillage after defenders are dead or incapacitated.
In the melee, the horseman – with Rozianna -- gallops away. Then, as I try to avoid screaming in relief (he spared Rozi’s life) and new terror (she is captive), I check my position at the brow of the small hill. I look back and the Mongol has vanished into the horde of horsemen and horsewomen who seem to be riding west towards Kiev.
Oh! If Kiev and all the rest of Rus only knew what was coming -- pillage, murder, burning, rape, disembowelment and torture -- the inhabitants would flee immediately. Because nothing can even delay these godless visitors.
I don’t know whether Kiev’s defenses -- including its great gate -- could withstand the fierce onslaught. These horsemen not only are blood thirsty, they are clever. They use catapults – sometimes launching not only boulders and burning objects but dead bodies over fortress walls. Disease then spreads quickly.
Defenders sometimes chase the invaders away. The Mongol horse soldiers lead their pursuers on a chase. Their reserves in the rear trap the Rus in fierce ambush. It is over quickly. After annihilating these counter-attackers, the quick-hitting Mongols launch a lightning counter-counter attack. The strategy works. Nothing seems to stop these invaders. They offer no quarter. Death is the Slav’s only way out of pure agony.
However, I – the poor Christian Slav (slave) that I am -- remain agonized. I feel powerless and terrified. What will happen to Rozianna?
I know that these devil horsemen under a fierce leader called Batu Khan last year burned to the soil Vladimir-Suzdal. Moreover, a few days ago word reached us that these warriors sacked Chernigov and that Pereyaslav is their next target. They probably stopped here on the way.
Nothing, including determined resistance by western armies such as the Teutonic Knights and Knights Templar, can stop them. ‘Tis evident that these mysterious nomads from the east are organized and are top military strategists: They will let the enemy think they have them on the run. They’ll allow the resisting force to chase them across the Steppe right into an ambush by waiting, flank-enveloping mounted archers. The carnage is awful and total.
The village whence the pursuers came is now wide open. The tartars enter in a blood orgy.
That’s the pattern. Repeated here.
Woe is far reaching as I try to determine were the warrior might take my daughter. “You’re crazy!” says bandaged friend Yuri Tomasovich, who somehow managed to survive the village pillaging. He lost his whole family, and was referring to my intention of shadowing the tartars in hopes of rescuing my daughter.
I have to admit, the plan is beyond wacky. First of all, who would dare get near the murderous horsemen? Secondly, how would I ever find Rozianna? And If I did, how would I ever rescue her and get back without being captured, disemboweled or tortured to death?
I have lost my mind. For weeks now my only thoughts have been to get Rozianna back without her suffering harm. Impossible they say? Yes, most probably.
Yet I proceed. Nothing more matters to me. The decapitated woman lying amid the carnage of Griteshka was probably my wife. I have nothing more to live for. But God -- my family became Christian converts two generations ago along with thousands of other Rus – spurs me on. Why I can only guess.
I learn that the invading murderous army is headed west for Kiev and then probably Lithuania and Poland. However, in talking with survivors of Griteshka I learn that that certain horseman with Rozianna may have gone in another direction.
Vassili Kovalenko, who was just arriving up a ravine as the pillaging tartars were leaving, asks me, “Was that mounted devil man riding a horse padded with red blankets?”
“Yes, “ I say, adding, “Did he have a child with him?”
“Yes, I think so. ‘Twas a girl, perhaps. She was dressed in blue and brown robes, clutching a doll and sprawled over the rear of his horse on her belly and kicking and wiggling.”
Several exclamations of disbelief and questions followed.
Finally Vassili says, “The horsemen were riding west, for Kiev I guess, but that man packing the child turned and headed east.”
“Huh?” I whimper. “S-s-s-surely this is all conjecture.”
“Yeah, but I saw it. I remember clearly.”
“Oh my! Where would he be going?”
“I have no idea.”
However, through more conversation, Kovalenko says the horsemen come from the east – probably a strange place called Ongolia. He adds, however, that it is vast and the Mongols are nomadic. “Perhaps he took your daughter for a bride, left the other horsemen, and was going home. But who knows where that man comes from . . .or where he is going.”
I shudder and marvel in disbelief. I all but abandon the plan. Where would I be going were I to “head east”?
Then something peculiar happens. The next year, 1240, the Mongols abandon plans for sacking more cities, as they retire mysteriously eastward whence they came. Something must’ve happened at home and the Mongols are going back.
That, however, leaves the terrible tartars. But the latter apparently are relatively disorganized and do not have the military discipline or know-how for invading further west. They settle in Russ.
We also learn that the Mongols -- from the legacy left of now many-years-deceased Genghis Kahn -- have set up a code of laws (Yassa), and, after initial invasion, if locals obey them they will not be disturbed. We also become aware of travel routes horsemen use to go from Mongolia to Kiev, and that the Mongols have set up Yam, a mail system (like the pony express in America six centuries later).
I decide to ride east and at least try to find Rozianna. However, I am now in my late 30s and have doubts she is still alive. If she were, she’d be a teenager or a young woman by now. And who knows what her attitude would be?
I ride for Karakorum, which I hear is the Mongol capital. The trouble is, it keeps moving as the Mongols are Nomadic. I pass others on the route. They let me pass and seldom ask questions. I don’t understand the language anyway.
I stop at vague but established yurt stations. I live off the land and have my own bedroll. People here are reasonably hospitable. God has been with me so far.
At noon I pause outside a yurt to consider vague new directions to Karakorum. Something tells me to check the yurt.
I find it hard to believe: a red padded horse blanket is drying on a wooden wicket. What’s more the flap to the huge octagonal tent is open.
With more guts than sense, I approach. I haven’t been detected. I peer in.
In the middle of the yurt is a 6-foot, crude wooden cross! Sitting on the floor is a young woman and an older man. Oh! I can’t believe it! She looks like an older Rozianna. They are reading something together out loud -- in Greek! Wind blows one of the loose parchment sheets out the door. I pick it up.
It must be -- yes, it is! Christian scripture.
Overjoyed, I retreat.
God is great. Oh, thank you, Lord. My Rozianna is safe.
(© 2011 Web Ruble – All rights reserved. Written material may not be duplicated without permission.)
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