Genghis Khan stood within his gher with Subutai, Muqali, and Temku nearby. Xin knelt before him, her gaze following his every move. A heat haze floated off the central fire stove keeping the night’s chill at bay. Five carved, ivory bowls of salted tea rested on a wooden stool, one for everyone present.
‘You would say you are a powerful mystic?’ Genghis addressed Xin.
‘Magic runs deep and strong in my family’s blood.’
‘Where is your family?’
‘Dead and gone thanks to your warriors.’
‘So, you are the last?’
‘She seeks retribution, Kahn,’ Temku muttered. ‘Now I see why she leads you along the wrong path.’
‘I wish only that my family name lives on,’ Xin said. ‘But as you see, I am too old to bear any more children. By helping you claim your world, Kahn, perhaps my family’s name will too go down in history.’
‘Honouring your ancestors,’ Genghis said. ‘Most worthy.’
Xin bowed her head. ‘May I ask you a personal question, Kahn?’
Genghis grunted approval.
Subutai loosened a dagger strapped at his waist.
Xin stared at Subutai’s blade, her dark eyes glittering beneath hooded lids. ‘What did your mother do with the blood clot you carried into this world?’
‘You know of this?’ Genghis frowned.
‘Such a rare event is great news, Kahn.’
‘I carry it within a small ceramic vial,’ Genghis said.
‘You hold great magic then, Kahn. A key that opens a portal between worlds.’
Genghis glared at Temku.
‘The blood clot was a sign, Khan,’ the shaman spluttered. ‘A powerful sign from the Great Blue, but it is not magic.’
‘Well, we all know signs are double-edged,’ Genghis said. ‘This one must be both a sign and a key.’
Temku sighed. ‘You use my words against me, Kahn.’
‘Just as you taught me.’ Genghis raised his chin. ‘So, mystic, what does the blood have to do with the harnessing the Fire Horse?’
‘Mix your blood-sign with the blood of your most prized stallion.’
‘How much blood?’
‘All of it.’
‘Kill Ganbaatar?’ Genghis struggled for words.
‘If that is your best stallion, then yes,’ Xin said. ‘Use his blood to paint the Fire Arrow. Make sure you paint the most prominent stars as they appear around the Arrow. That locks this time and place within the canvas. When the spell is complete, the power of the Fire Arrow will be yours. The power will remain in the picture until the great Fire Arrow shoots across the heavens once more.’ She went on to describe the rest of the ceremony.
‘I may be Khan of Khans,’ Genghis said, ‘and the Flail of God, but I am no artist.’
‘You do not need to be a gifted artist, Khan,’ Xin said. ‘The ritual does not require skill with a brush.’
‘No, only the death of Ganbaatar.’
‘A tragic loss,’ Xin said. ‘But if it means capturing the Fire Horse’s spirit, isn’t that a worthy sacrifice?’
Genghis listened then growled, angry at himself for even thinking of such a thing. Ganbaatar, with his large head, thick, strong bones and legs. His long mane and tail blowing in the wind. Never trimmed, never tamed. Genghis had sworn never to cut Ganbaatar’s mane or tail. His spirit dwelled there. Cutting them would release his spark of life back up to the Eternal Blue. He was worth more than all other horses combined.
‘So, I make a handle from one of Ganbaatar’s bones,’ Genghis said. ‘And the brush from his mane and tail. The canvas from his hide.’
‘Just so, Kahn.’
‘And recite the spell you taught my shaman.’
‘Three times while walking around the painting.’
Muqali seized the mystic, dragged back her head and cut her throat.
‘Let us see how much power flows in your blood, mystic,’ Genghis said as the light faded from her eyes. He glanced at Temku. ‘Did you see this in one of your dream journeys?’
Muqali collected Xin's blood in a wooden bowl while Subutai shaved her head. The fine, grey hair fluttered to the woven grass matting.
‘I fear you created this path alone, Khan,’ Temku said.
‘Would the Eternal Blue give me the world if I followed the word of a woman? A foreign woman who wishes me ill?’
‘I do see the wisdom in your choice, Khan, but I fear you have chosen a dangerous route.’
‘When faced with a fork in the road and you can’t decide, take the third path even if it frightens you.’
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