Gateway to the Classics: Genghis Khan by Jacob Abbott
Genghis Khan by  Jacob Abbott

Temujin in Exile

V ANG KHAN gave Temujin a very honorable position in his court. It was natural that he should do so, for Temujin was a prince in the prime of his youth, and of very attractive person and manners; and, though he was for the present an exile, as it were, from his native land, he was not by any means in a destitute or hopeless condition. His family and friends were still in the ascendency at home, and he himself, in coming to the kingdom of Vang Khan, had brought with him quite an important body of troops. Being, at the same time, personally possessed of great courage and of much military skill, he was prepared to render his protector good service in return for his protection. In a word, the arrival of Temujin at the court of Vang Khan was an event calculated to make quite a sensation.

At first every body was very much pleased with him, and he was very popular; but before long the other young princes of the court, and the chieftains of the neighboring tribes, began to be jealous of him. Vang Khan gave him precedence over them all, partly on account of his personal attachment to him, and partly on account of the rank which he held in his own country, which, being that of a sovereign prince, naturally entitled him to the very highest position among the subordinate chieftains in the retinue of Vang Khan. But these subordinate chieftains were not satisfied. They murmured, at first secretly, and afterward more openly, and soon began to form combinations and plots against the new favorite, as they called him.

An incident soon occurred which greatly increased this animosity, and gave to Temujin's enemies, all at once, a very powerful leader and head. This leader was a very influential chieftain named Yemuka. This Yemuka, it seems, was in love with the daughter of Vang Khan, the Princess Wisulujine. He asked her in marriage of her father. To precisely what state of forwardness the negotiations had advanced does not appear, but, at any rate, when Temujin arrived, Wisulujine soon began to turn her thoughts toward him. He was undoubtedly younger, handsomer, and more accomplished than her old lover, and before long she gave her father to understand that she would much rather have him for her husband than Yemuka. It is true, Temujin had one or two wives already; but this made no difference, for it was the custom then, as, indeed, it is still, for the Asiatic princes and chieftains to take as many wives as their wealth and position would enable them to maintain. Yemuka was accordingly refused, and Wisulujine was given in marriage to Temujin.

Yemuka was, of course, dreadfully enraged. He vowed that he would be revenged. He immediately began to intrigue with all the discontented persons and parties in the kingdom, not only with those who were envious and jealous of Temujin, but also with all those who, for any reason, were disposed to put themselves in opposition to Vang Khan's government. Thus a formidable conspiracy was formed for the purpose of compassing Temujin's ruin.

The conspirators first tried the effect of private remonstrances with Vang Khan, in which they made all sorts of evil representations against Temujin, but to no effect. Temujin rallied about him so many old friends, and made so many new friends by his courage and energy, that his party at court proved stronger than that of his enemies, and, for a time, they seemed likely to fail entirely of their design.

At length the conspirators opened communication with the foreign enemies of Vang Khan, and formed a league with them to make war against and destroy both Vang Khan and Temujin together. The accounts of the progress of this league, and of the different nations and tribes which took part in it, is imperfect and confused; but at length, after various preliminary contests and manœuvres, arrangements were made for assembling a large army with a view of invading Vang Khan's dominions and deciding the question by a battle. The different chieftains and khans whose troops were united to form this army bound themselves together by a solemn oath, according to the customs of those times, not to rest until both Vang Khan and Temujin should be destroyed.

The manner in which they took the oath was this: They brought out into an open space on the plain where they had assembled to take the oath, a horse, a wild ox, and a dog. At a given signal they fell upon these animals with their swords, and cut them all to pieces in the most furious manner. When they had finished, they stood together and called out aloud in the following words: "Hear! O God! O heaven! O earth! the oath that we swear against Vang Khan and Temujin. If any one of us spares them when we have them in our power, or if we fail to keep the promise that we have made to destroy them, may we meet with the same fate that has befallen these beasts that we have now cut to pieces."

They uttered this imprecation in a very solemn manner, standing among the mangled and bloody remains of the beasts which lay strewed all about the ground.

These preparations had been made thus far very secretly; but tidings of what was going on came, before a great while, to Karakorom, Vang Khan's capital. Temujin was greatly excited when he heard the news. He immediately proposed that he should take his own troops, and join with them as many of Vang Khan's soldiers as could be conveniently spared, and go forth to meet the enemy. To this Vang Khan consented. Temujin took one half of Vang Khan's troops to join his own, leaving the other half to protect the capital, and so set forth on his expedition. He went off in the direction toward the frontier where be had understood the principal part of the hostile forces were assembling. After a long march, probably one of many days, he arrived there before the enemy was quite prepared for him. Then followed a series of manœuvres and counter-manœuvres, in which Temujin was all the time endeavoring to bring the rebels to battle, while they were doing all in their power to avoid it. Their object in this delay was to gain time for re-enforcements to come in, consisting of bodies of troops belonging to certain members of the league who had not yet arrived.

At length, when these manœuvres were brought to an end, and the battle was about to be fought, Temujin and his whole army were one day greatly surprised to see his father-in-law, Vang Khan himself, coming into the camp at the head of a small and forlorn-looking band of followers, who had all the appearance of fugitives escaped from a battle. They looked anxious, way-worn, and exhausted, and the horses that they rode seemed wholly spent with fatigue and privation. On explanation, Temujin learned that, as soon as it was known that he had left the capital, and taken with him a large part of the army, a certain tribe of Vang Khan's enemies, living in another direction, had determined to seize the opportunity to invade his dominions, and had accordingly come suddenly in, with an immense horde, to attack the capital. Vang Khan had done all that he could to defend the city, but he had been over-powered. The greater part of his soldiers had been killed or wounded. The city had been taken and pillaged. His son, with those of the troops that had been able to save themselves, had escaped to the mountains. As to Vang Khan himself, he had thought it best to make his way, as soon as possible, to the camp of Temujin, where he had now arrived, after enduring great hardships and sufferings on the way.

Temujin was at first much amazed at hearing this story. He, however, bade his father-in-law not to be cast down or discouraged, and promised him full revenge, and a complete triumph over all his enemies at the coming battle. So he proceeded at once to complete his arrangements for the coming fight. He resigned to Vang Khan the command of the main body of the army, while he placed himself at the head of one of the wings, assigning the other to the chieftain next in rank in his army. In this order he went into battle.

The battle was a very obstinate and bloody one, but, in the end, Temujin's party was victorious. The troops opposed to him were defeated and driven off the field. The victory appeared to be due altogether to Temujin himself; for, after the struggle had continued a long time, and the result still appeared doubtful, the troops of Temujin's wing finally made a desperate charge, and forced their way with such fury into the midst of the forces of the enemy that nothing could withstand them. This encouraged and animated the other troops to such a degree that very soon the enemy were entirely routed and driven from off the field.

The effect of this victory was to raise the reputation of Temujin as a military commander higher than ever, and greatly to increase the confidence which Vang Khan was inclined to repose in him. The victory, too, seemed at first to have well-nigh broken up the party of the rebels. Still, the way was not yet open for Vang Khan to return and take possession of his throne and of his capital, for he learned that one of his brothers had assumed the government, and was reigning in Karakorom in his place. It would seem that this brother, whose name was Erkekara, had been one of the leaders of the party opposed to Temujin. It was natural that he should be so; for, being the brother of the king, he would, of course, occupy a very high position in the court, and would be one of the first to experience the ill effects produced by the coming in of any new favorite. He had accordingly joined in the plots that were formed against Temujin and Vang Khan. Indeed, he was considered, in some respects, as the head of their party, and when Vang Khan was driven away from his capital, this brother assumed the throne in his stead. The question was, how could he now be dispossessed and Vang Khan restored.

Temujin began immediately to form his plans for the accomplishment of this purpose. He concentrated his forces after the battle, and soon afterward opened negotiations with other tribes, who had before been uncertain which side to espouse, but were now assisted a great deal in coming to a decision by the victory which Temujin had obtained. In the mean time the rebels were not idle. They banded themselves together anew, and made great exertions to procure re-enforcements. Erkekara fortified himself as strongly as possible in Karakorom, and collected ample supplies of ammunition and military stores. It was not until the following year that the parties had completed their preparations and were prepared for the final struggle. Then, however, another great battle was fought, and again Temujin was victorious. Erkekara was killed or driven away in his turn. Karakorom was retaken, and Vang Khan entered it in triumph at the head of his troops, and was once more established on his throne.

Of course, the rank and influence of Temujin at his court was now higher than ever before. He was now about twenty-two or twenty-three years of age. He had already three wives, though it is not certain that all of them were with him at Vang Khan's court. He was extremely popular in the army, as young commanders of great courage and spirit almost always are. Vang Khan placed great reliance upon him, and lavished upon him all possible honors.

He does not seem, however, yet to have begun to form any plans for returning to his native land.

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