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Country : Russia
Behter has been taught from an early age to listen to him and to obey him and did not contradict him before. Although in the recent years Temujin started to feel the undisclosed anger in his seemingly indifferent, detached eyes. Such anger happens with tamed wolves: they seem to obey the master, but still hide eternal bestial thirst for will and disobedience in their shimmering eyes. However, Temujin knew about the lawfulness of his seniority over his half-brother. “I’m older by clan, and he must resign with me, – he kept repeating to himself, – If I were in his place, I would have to resign – everything is fair”.
He was lying with vague thoughts about this, listening absently to the boy from oronar clan. He came to visit the geniges clan and stayed here to work at Yesugei’s.
“On the reed lakes we have more geese than mosquitoes, – he was bragging,- Sometimes you can hit two or even three with one arrow”.
“So much? – the other boys were looking at each other scornfully, – These are not lakes but pots with meat. Burn the reeds and you’ll get a soup.
“The entire tribe can feed on such a lake with soup”.
“And we’ll steal your cattle”.
“Why do they need cattle near such lakes!”
“Only a burden”.
“On which lakes can one shoot like that?” – Nohoi came from a neighboring fire, the boy that helped Temujin keep away the pacers on the first day.
“Behind Agaza, – oronar turned to the voice readily, – They begin right when you cross the river”.
“But this is not your land, – Nohoi looked at him with a puzzled smile, – I know those lands well, my mother comes from buhunod clan”.
“Have you been there a long time ago?”
“In the year before last”.
“The land, as you truthfully say, is not ours, – the oronar answered politely, showing his respect towards the senior, – The buhunods used to always spend summers there, but we have taken those lands for three years”.
“We haven’t heard about such thing”, – the boys around the fire began to move excitedly, no longer smiling.
“Won them in a bet”, – said the oronar with dignity, pleased that he’d succeeded in drawing attention to himself.
“Come on, tell us”, – Nohoi, never taking his curious eyes off him, sat by.
“When was it?”
Boys from other fires started to approach them. The oronar, seeing that he captured the attention of many, made an important face, then looked around the circle.
“A month ago we came from the spring pastures and met the buhunods, our summer camps stand next to them, across the river. They came to us for a festival, we’d always meet the beginning of summer together. When the competition had began, we agreed as follows: the winning side takes away half of the pastures from the losing side for three years. The elders came up with this while drinking. Buhunods won the horse race, we won the fighting. Only the archery was left. Well, there was no hope for us, everyone knows about their Bulchiru-mergen: he sends one arrow ahead and splits it in half with another one from behind. That day though we didn’t shoot, it was growing dark so they postponed it for the next day. In the morning, when the sun had risen, the shooters stood at the line. Mehalkhu-mergen went to shoot from our side, he was gloomy – he had a long way to compare with Bulchiru. They measured seven hundred steps for them, stuck three rods in the ground, put three arrows in their quivers. Our Mehalkhu was the first one to shoot, he got only one out of three rods. “Well, – we thought,- now Bulchiru will hit all three rods with his eyes closed and they’ll take away our pastures. Our grandmother did not even stay till the end, went to pack up. Bulchiru took his yellow bow, shot the first arrow… – oronar opened his eyes wide, looking at the boys, made a surprised face,- And missed! No one believed it, everyone thought that he wanted to play with us. We kept looking and he missed the second shot too. We immediately felt better at heart, we thought the guests showed their respect to us. He’ll surely get the third one, we thought, so neither our side, nor theirs wins. Just as we’re looking: he doesn’t seem as cheerful as he was at first. As if some shadow had fallen on this face. He’s trying not to show it to us, coughing in his fist but we can see. Our guests also bit their tongues, stopped quipping. Bulchiru was standing for a long time and kept quietly looking at his bow as if couldn’t recognize it. And here he raises it, pulls up to the edge…- oronar looked at everyone wide-eyed again,- And misses again! We can’t understand what will be of this miracle, good or bad.
Maybe, we’re thinking, there’s some trick? But here the buhunods jumped up, yelling at their Bulchiru, accusing him of indulging us. That’s how we got this land. Later, when we’d sent off the guests, we found out what the deal was. There was one slave of the Tatar captives, just another woman, no different from others. We put her to serve the guests. In the evening, when all buhunods went feasting, she snuck into their tent and perfomed a ritual: took Bulchiru-mergen’s quiver and swished it under a pregnant black bitch three times. That’s why his arrows kept missing, – oronar laughed scornfully and immediately chased away the smile,- The slave didn’t tell anyone anytning right away, she happened to be smart, because there were many drunk people on the festival, they could tell on her. She opened up only after the guests’ departure. Our elders immediately transferred her from slaves to free, married her to one of the harachus, gave them milking mares and sheep. That’s how we took this land! – oronar looked around the circle victoriously, taking the bowl of soup.
The boys remained silent.
“You’re living by lying and dare bragging about it,”- Temujin said, looking at the oronar with contempt,- Witches like her should be tied up to horses’ tails by their hair, yet you award them with cattle.
“Who lives without lying these days?”,- oronar tried to argue cautiously, looking at him with conciliation, – If you don’t lie, you’ll be outwitted by others, because everyone lives like that. It’s better to do so then lose the pasture.
“Even in war it is not always acceptable to deceive, and the competition cannot be dishonest!- Temujin didn’t in give in,- Even more so, lying to your guests – what a shame!
“That’s right!”- said several voices.
“The son of Yesugei is right”.
“Even fighting without deception is considered a noble cause”.
“The son of Yesugei said the right thing”.
Temujin felt pleasantly warm at chest: his voice suddenly had this much weight in a conversation! Glancing at Behter accidentally, he saw his face cringing in a fierce grin.
“The son of Yesugei, the son of Yesugei!” he scorned the boys in a nasal tone, staring at them hatefully.
“Why are you all fawning over him!”
Everything turned quiet. Confused faces were looking at him blankly. He himself lost his composure for a moment, realizing his mistake, but it was too late to stop.
“Looking into his mouth like misbehaved dogs, nearly wagging your tails! – he was shouting, red lights flashing in his angry eyes.
“What are you doing?”- Temujin, taken aback, looked at him in astonishment and, after glancing back at the boys, raised his voice,- “Shut your mouth!”
“You shut your mouth! At home you got used to shouting from beneath your mother’s hem but here you can’t do anything to me!”
Temujin stood up slowly, clenching his teeth and trying to hold back the rage.
He took a deep breath, feeling the gazes from all sides. Not yet decided how to respond, he walked around the boys that were sitting near the fire. Approaching Behter, he took out a twisted belt lash from his boot. Behter rose, his head thrown back, looked at him scoffingly from a half-turn.
“So, what are you going to do?”
Temujin, not waving, hit with a sharp withdraw. The braided belt clicked loudly, twining around Behter’s head, as if someone splashed cold water onto a molten stone. A crimson line appeared across both his cheeks, flushing instantly, leaving a thick streak across his face.