Chapter 1 — A Mother’s Farewell
Mongolia, Year 603.
It was a cold moonless night.
The usual silent night was now filled with screams that reflected pure terror and helplessness.
Clouds of smoke permeated the air, the raging fire spread over like a canopy consuming the entire lands of the Shono tribe which stood in its path.
Decapitated bodies lay sprawled on the ground while the blood oozing from their bodies served as a red carpet on the ground. The mournful cries of the living men who as they were enveloped in blazing flames, reverberated in the silent night.
In the midst of the sea of fire, Maral scrutinized her surroundings to find the hiding locations of her enemies, if any. With heightened senses, she trained her ears to detect any sounds in her surroundings.
The faint sound of the rustling leaves caught her attention and Maral abruptly turned around towards the source, while tightening her hold on the twin swords.
“You detestable woman, die!” A man dressed in animal skins charged towards her, while brandishing the saber towards the bundle fastened against her waist.
Noticing the man’s actions, Maral felt her heart go cold and she felt a surge of anger burst in her heart. She could let go if they only wanted to harm her, but, she would never forgive those who thought of harming her children.
After all, which mother can bear to see her child being harmed?
Wrapping one arm around the tiny bundle protectively, Maral blocked the incoming attack with the sword in her left hand. Not giving any time for the man to react, she kneed his groin hard making the man to go down on his knees.
“You b*tch!” the man cursed, while howling in pain. He had expected the Queen of the Shono tribe would be a sheltered woman, but, he never imagined the woman as a tigress in disguise. He had seriously underestimated her!
Not giving any time for the man to strike back, she knocked his head hard with the hilt of her sword using all her strength, making the man faint dead.
Without any hesitation, Maral sliced off the man’s throat in a clean and practiced way. After making sure that no enemy was left alive, Maral sprinted off towards the woods, while holding the bundle securely.
She had managed to kill the first troop of the enemy soldiers who managed to infiltrate in. It would not be long before the entire horde of them rushes in, and, how could she, a single woman defeat them?
Maral had always been a realist and knowing that death could knock at her door at any moment, she did not dare act reckless. She was not scared of losing her life, but, her daughter deserved to live. Her baby daughter was not even a day old, and, she had not met her father yet.
Will she ever meet him?
Will she ever get to know me, her mother?
Will she ever know that she had two elder brothers?
Will they even meet again?
Maral felt a solitary tear trickle down her cheek as various thoughts assaulted her mind. Shaking her head, she lifted her hand to her mouth and whistled hard, following which the echoes of the hooves reached her ears. Tilting her head to her side, Maral saw a regal black Mongolian horse rushing towards her, leaving a veil of dust behind it.
“Windbreaker, hurry!” Maral shouted, her voice clearly strained.
She gave birth to her daughter at the first light in the morning and her body was weak. She exhausted herself entirely in defeating the enemy troops earlier and, now she was as good as a dead man. Maral was sure that she had no strength left in her and she was aware that she could not protect her daughter on her own if she hesitated any longer.
I have to protect my girl at any cost! After coming to a decision in her heart, Maral leaped onto the horse. Grabbing the reins, she shouted “Go, Windbreaker!”
Letting out a neigh, the horse dashed into the woods at the sound of its owner’s command.
On the other side of the woods, a silhouette covered in a hood moved around anxiously. From time to time, she peered into the woods, as if waiting for someone. A carriage rested by the side, where a young man watched the pacing silhouette with a helpless gaze in his eyes.
“Sister Tsetseg, do not worry. Nothing bad will happen to the King and Queen. They will be here soon.” Gao Ren consoled, his words making the pacing silhouette stop in her tracks.
“Merchant Gao, I am not so optimistic about this war. I saw many wars, but, this time I am truly afraid.” Tsetseg sighed, the faint trace of nervousness in her voice acting as a testament to her inner fears.
“All your people must have reached the Central Plains by now. The King and Queen saved everyone in the tribe.” Merchant Gao spoke, his speech failing to make any sense to Tsetseg.
Wanting to hear what his conclusion was, Tsetseg remained silent as Gao Ren continued.
“They even saved me, a complete stranger and a foreign merchant who had no ties with your land. They are good people and Buddha will always protect kind people. Sister Tsetseg, do not worry.”
Gao Ren’s words really calmed down Tsetseg’s turbulent heart for the time being. She prayed for the King and Queen to be safe, and for her husband and her sons to stay safe and sound.
On seeing the woman calm down, Gao Ren felt at ease. His earlier words had not been a lie and he really believed that nothing would happen to these kind people. He was a trader from the Tang dynasty and he would have been dead by now, if not for Queen saving him. In the days, where the blood-related kin are backstabbing each other, saving someone unrelated out of goodwill is rarely seen. Having tasted such kindness, Gao Ren vowed to help these people in their escape even at the cost of his life.
The sound of the hooves snapped both Tsetseg and Gao Ren from their respective train of thoughts. They could see a blurry image rushing towards them, closing the distance between them rapidly.
Tsetseg’s eyes widened as she saw Queen Maral on the horse with a bundle in her arms.
On the other hand, Maral sighed in relief as Tsetseg came into her view. She pulled the reigns, bringing the horse to a halt. Holding the cloth bundle carefully in her arms, Maral got down the horse slowly. As soon as her feet touched the grass, Maral felt a wave of dizziness was over her.
On seeing her sway dangerously, Tsetseg rushed over to support the frail woman, as she exclaimed “My Queen! You are bleeding, we need to stop…”
“Tsetseg…” Maral lifted her hand, silencing her personal maid with her gesture and a single word.
“I don’t have much time, listen to me.” Maral began, in a shaky voice she continued “I don’t know if my sons are alive or not, I don’t want to lose my daughter too. Take my daughter with you and leave this place.”
“I cannot leave you alone, my Queen. Please reconsider your idea.” Tsetseg pleaded.
Maral closed her eyes for a moment as she let out a deep breath. Opening her eyes, she ordered with a resolute expression on her face.
“Tsetseg, I order you to leave this place with my daughter. Do you dare disobey this Queen?!”
“This servant does not dare.” Falling to her knees, Tsetseg bowed as she apologized.
“This servant will always comply to my Queen’s wishes.” Tsetseg declared.
“Rise, you committed no offense.” Maral sighed softly. After hesitating for a bit, Tsetseg got to her feet, awaiting for the further instructions.
Maral stared at the sleeping infant in her arms, with a complicated expression in her eyes, she said, “Take my daughter with you and promise me to keep her safe.”
Turning towards Gao Ren, Maral requested “Sir Gao, please escort my maid and my daughter safely out from here. I would be eternally grateful for your help.”
“It would be my honor, My Queen. I will bring them safely out, even at the cost of my life.” Performing a kowtow, Gao Ren pledged solemnly.
“Thank you Sir.” Maral bowed her head in gratitude before she addressed Tsetseg ” Go with him and be safe.”
“I vow to protect the princess with my life and keep her safe from all the dangers. Let the heavens and the Gods be the witness of my oath.” Tsetseg vowed solemnly, while her heart decided on this day to protect the princess even at the cost of her life.
“I trust you.” Maral had always believed in Tsetseg and there was no need for a vow between them.
Tsetseg’s lips curved up faintly at the Queen’s words, but, the smile soon faded as she saw Maral staring at the child with remorse and guilt. She can understand the Queen’s feelings, as, she herself was a mother of two. But, parting with a newly born child was truly sad.
Wanting to ease the gloomy atmosphere, Gao Ren inquired “Such a beautiful child! What is her name?”
Maral stared at her daughter’s face intently, as Gao Ren said she was truly a beauty. It was not known when, but the girl had woken up and was now staring at Maral with her large peach blossom eyes, the eyes which she inherited from her father. On seeing her mother, the girl smiled, a smile so gentle and pure that clenched Maral’s heart in pain.
She did not know if her sons and her husband were alive or not, and,now she was about to part with her daughter.
A cruel fate indeed…
The girl in her arms grabbed the edges of her deel, making Maral smile gently.
She tilted her head and stared at the moonless sky. This day had been the day of the downfall of their tribe, the day which might witness her burial.
She lowered her head and stared at the bundle of joy in her arms.
But, the same day witnessed the birth of her daughter, the only light on this dark night.
Let this smile be the one which uplifts the veil of darkness, Maral mused in her heart.
“Sarangerel…” Maral whispered, “Her name is Sarangerel.”
“Farewell Sarangerel…” Dropping a last kiss on her daughter’s forehead, Maral removed the tiny hand that was clutching her clothes gently.
Handing the child to Tsetseg, Maral climbed onto the horse. As if sensing her mother abandoning her, Sarangerel started to cry loudly.
Without taking a last look at her crying daughter, Maral gave a kick to her horse, before galloping away.
Hugging the wailing child to her bosom, Tsetseg patted the child’s back as she stared at the Queen’s disappearing form with wet eyes.
“Sister Tsetseg, let’s go. The sooner we leave, the safer we are.” Gao Ren advised, to which Tsetseg nodded in agreement.
In the veil of the silent night, an inconspicuous and a plain wooden carriage escaped from the Shono tribe territory in a stealth manner.
As the carriage crossed the border, Gao Ren who had been silent, suddenly spoke “Sister Tsetseg, what is the meaning of Sarangerel?”
Staring at the dark moonless sky from the window of the carriage, Tsetseg replied “Moonlight, Sarangerel means Moonlight.”
NEHA: Hello guys, this is my first novel in Isohungry translations. For all those who are willing to join me in this novel, I say a huge welcome and a big thank you.
deel- A deel is an item of traditional clothing commonly worn since centuries ago among the Mongols and other nomadic tribes of Central Asia. Just click on this link to know how the dresses look like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deel_(clothing)#/media/File:Mongols_clothes_man_and_woman.jpg