He sits with both hands relaxed on the throne’s armrest, like an old lion in repose. His position high on the dais allows him to regard the entirety of his court, to see how each of his subjects react as he orders the construction of trade routes, and the deaths of thousands. It is here he plays the game of Kings. It is here, he tries to shape an empire that will outlast his great grandchildren. He spends his time listening to reports from every corner of his growing empire. He responds with terse commands after long minutes of contemplation. Sometimes he seeks the counsel of the Taoist monks who now serve him along with their Buddha. Always his commands are followed.
G.K. on his throne
Described by his scribe
He has taken a liking to Chinese tea. Ever since Emperor Xun Zhang sent that vast cargo of goods in surrender, the Khan has had a steaming cup beside him at every court session. Some say that he does it to mark his conquest, to shame his enemy. I think it just helps him relax.
G.K. listening to a report
His face is unreadable for the most part. A mask of focused contemplation. When the royal scribe announces the number of allied casualties a flicker of emotion crosses his face. His questions are short, the answers are swift. Every third man among the captured is beheaded, the rest are conscripted to the front lines. He makes a sharp gesture with his hand and the audience is over. Musicians from Samarkand file into the chamber and soon the room is filled with soothing strings and haunting chimes. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply.
G.K. at a revel
He reveals a small smile in the light of the bonfire as his generals dedicate toast after toast in his honor. The wine from the freshly sacked city flows freely in his encampment. The men clear a space for wrestling as is tradition. Muscle bound warriors throw each other to the dirt as leather drums beat out a rhythm to their struggles. As one man falls the shouts and cries of the crowd swells. One man wins honor, the other wins another cup of liquor. Both laugh as they leave the ring. He watches from his simple throne with pride in his eyes.
On his conquered subjects
“To rule by the sword is but the first step in a long and winding journey towards a unified empire. It is a simple thing to kill a man, but to gain his loyalty is an art. The first step is to establish strength of rule, to make even the idea of insurrection seem foolish, but no conquered people are loyal at first. Rebellions are inevitable, and should be welcomed to some extent. The bones of rebels make for sturdy foundations. The next step is to draw from the conquered populace. Do not be prejudiced towards these foreign men for they are your people now. Fight and bleed beside them until your victories are theirs, and they go into battle gladly for their honor and yours. Only a fool discards good fruit simply because it is foreign.”
G.K. in the royal gardens
He paces down the length of the stone path in afternoon light. The garden is constructed in the latest Chinese fashions. He pauses to admire a water feature; a tranquil brook stemming from a collection of carefully selected Japanese bonsais. Its path meticulously planned by the most renowned Taoists to ensure harmonious feng shui. He continues along his path, taking a cup of tea from the tray of a waiting servant, she is as beautiful and still as the other ornaments in the garden. He sips the tea as he regards the pair of swans swimming in his man made lake; another gift from some minor Indian prince. The walls of his garden are built low so as to not obstruct the sunset, and the swans had easily flown over them when they were first released. They were recaptured by his trackers in quick order, of course. Their wings then skillfully clipped, rendering them useless but retaining their beauty. Now they swim in the small man made lake, as intended.
G.K. shot by an arrow
The defeated enemy soldiers stood before him, coaxed into ragged lines by spear tip and bow point. Some of the enemy soldiers stare into the distance with their backs straight, others direct their gaze to the ash covered ground. None dare to look at the black arrow jutting out from his left shoulder, two thumb spans from his heart. Pain radiates from the wound like a small sun but his expression remains serene. He asks for the man who had almost pierced his heart to step forward. He makes no threats. Threats are seldom necessary for someone of his reputation. Long minutes pass, the crackling of burning corpses fills the silence. Eventually a tall man steps forward from the ranks of the defeated. His quiver contains black arrows. G.K. explains to him his options; pledge his bow to the Khanate, or die in slavery alongside his men. The man kneels and rises with a new name, Jebe, Arrow. Jebe is welcomed among the ranks of the officers, and rides beside G.K. onto the next field of conquest.
Wing Fung Ng is a writer based in Los Angeles.
Taizu, better known as Genghis Khan, 14th Century. Public Domain.
In the spring of 1206, Genghis Khan ascended the throne in the Yeke Quriltay in the source region in the Onan river. Public Domain.
Bonsai Maple Trident. Public Domain via the USDA.
Death of Genghis Khan from The Travels of Marco Polo. 1410-1412. Public Domain.