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

The Death of Yemuka

I N the mean time, while these events had been occurring in the country of the Naymans, whither Vang Khan had fled, Temujin was carrying all before him in the country of Vang Khan. His victory in the battle was complete; and it must have been a very great battle, if any reliance is to be placed on the accounts given of the number slain, which it was said amounted to forty thousand. These numbers are, however, greatly exaggerated. And then, besides, the number slain in such barbarian conflicts was always much greater, in proportion to the numbers engaged than it is in the better-regulated warfare of civilized nations in modern times.

At all events, Temujin gained a very grand and decisive victory. He took a great many prisoners and a great deal of plunder. All those trains of wagons fell into his hands, and the contents of many of them were extremely valuable. He took also a great number of horses. Most of these were horses that had belonged to the men who were killed or who had been made prisoners. All the best troops that remained of Vang Khan's army after the battle also went over to his side. They considered that Vang Khan's power was now entirely overthrown, and that thenceforth Temujin would be the acknowledged ruler of the whole country. They were accordingly ready at once to transfer their allegiance to him.

Very soon Temujin received the news of Vang Khan's death from his father-in-law Tayian, and then proceeded with more vigor than before to take possession of all his dominions. The khans who had formerly served under Vang Khan sent in their adhesion to him one after another. They not only knew that all farther resistance would be useless, but they were, in fact, well pleased to transfer their allegiance to their old friend and favorite. Temujin made a sort of triumphal march through the country, being received every where with rejoicings and acclamations of welcome. His old enemies, Sankum and Yemuka, had disappeared. Yemuka, who had been, after all, the leading spirit in the opposition to Temujin, still held a body of armed men together, consisting of all the troops that he had been able to rally after the battle, but it was not known exactly where he had gone.

The other relatives and friends of Vang Khan went over to Temujin's side without any delay. Indeed, they vied with each other to see who should most recommend themselves to his favor. A brother of Vang Khan, who as an influential and powerful chieftain, came among the rest to tender his services, and, by way of a present to conciliate Temujin's good will, he brought him his daughter, whom he offered to Temujin as an addition to the number of his wives.

Temujin received the brother very kindly. He accepted the present which he brought him of his daughter, but, as he had already plenty of wives, and as one of his principal officers, the captain of his guards, seemed to take a special fancy to her, he very generously, as was thought, passed over the young lady to him. Of course, the young lady herself had nothing to say in the case. She was obliged to acquiesce submissively in any arrangement which her father and the other khans thought proper to make in respect to the disposal of her.

The name of the prince her father was Hakembu. He came into Temujin's camp with many misgivings, fearing that, as he was a brother of Vang Khan, Temujin might feel a special resentment against him, and, perhaps, refuse to accept his submission and his proffered presents. When, therefore, he found how kindly he was received, his mind was greatly relieved, and he asked Temujin to appoint him to some command in his army.

Temujin replied that he would do it with great pleasure, and the more readily because it was the brother of Vang Khan who asked it. "Indeed," said he to Hakembu, "I owe you all the kind treatment in my power for your brother's sake, in return for the succor and protection for which I was indebted to him, in my misfortunes, in former times, when he received me, a fugitive and an exile, at his court, and bestowed upon me so many favors. I have never forgotten, and never shall forget, the great obligations I am under to him; and although in later years he turned against me, still I have never blamed either him or his son Sankum for this, but have constantly attributed it to the false representations and evil influence of Yemuka, who has always been my implacable enemy. I do not, therefore, feel any resentment against Vang Khan for having thus turned against me, nor do I any the less respect his memory on that account; and I am very glad that an opportunity now occurs for me to make, through you, his brother, some small acknowledgment of the debt of gratitude which I owe him."

So Temujin gave Hakembu an honorable post in his army, and treated him in all respects with great consideration. If he acted usually in this generous manner, it is not at all surprising that he acquired that boundless influence over the minds of his followers which aided him so essentially in attaining his subsequent greatness and renown.

In the mean time, although Sankum was killed, Yemuka had succeeded in making his escape, and, after meeting with various adventures, he finally reached the country of Tayian. He led with him there all that portion of Vang Khan's army that had saved themselves from being killed or made prisoners, and also a great number of officers. These broken troops Yemuka had reorganized, as well as he could, by collecting the scattered remnants and rearranging the broken squadrons, and in this manner, accompanied by such of the sick and wounded as were able to ride, had arrived in Tayian's dominions. He was known to be a general of great abilities, and he was very favorably received in Tayian's court.

Indeed, Tayian, having heard rumors of the rapid manner in which Temujin was extending his conquests and his power, began to be somewhat jealous of him, and to think that it was time for him to take measures to prevent this aggrandizement of his son-in-law from going too far.

Of course, Tayian held a great many conversations with Yemuka in respect to Temujin's character and schemes. These Yemuka took care to represent in the most unfavorable light, in order to increase as much as possible Tayian's feelings of suspicion and jealousy. He represented Temujin as a very ambitious man, full of schemes for his own aggrandizement, and without any sentiments of gratitude or of honor to restrain him in the execution of them. He threw wholly upon him the responsibility of the war with Vang Khan. It grew, he said, out of plots which Temujin had formed to destroy both Vang Khan and his son, notwithstanding the great obligations he had been under to them for their kindness to him in his misfortunes. Yemuka urged Tayian also to arouse himself, before it was too late, to guard himself from the danger.

"He is your son, it is true," said he, "and he professes to be your friend, but he is so treacherous and unprincipled that you can place no reliance upon him whatever, and, notwithstanding all your past kindness to him, and the tie of relationship which ought to bind him to you, he will as readily form plans to compass your destruction as he would that of any other man the moment he imagines that you stand in the way of the accomplishment of his ambitious schemes."

These representations, acting upon Tayian's natural apprehensions and fears, produced a very sensible effect, and at length Tayian was induced to take some measures for defending himself from the threatened danger. So he opened negotiations with the khans of various tribes which he thought likely to join him, and soon formed quite a powerful league of the enemies of Temujin, and of all who were willing to join in an attempt to restrict his power.

These steps were all taken with great secrecy, for Yemuka and Tayian were very desirous that Temujin should know nothing of the league which they were forming against him until their arrangements were fully matured, and they were ready for action. They did not, however, succeed in keeping the secret as long as they intended. They were generally careful not to propose to any khan or chieftain to join them in their league until they had first fully ascertained that he was favorable to the object of it. But, growing less cautious as they went on, they at last made a mistake. Tayian sent proposals to a certain prince or khan, named Alakus, inviting him to join the league. These proposals were contained in a letter which was sent by a special messenger. The letter specified all the particulars of the league, with a statement of the plans which the allies were intending to pursue, and an enumeration of the principal khans or tribes that were already engaged.

Now it happened that this Alakus, who reigned over a nation of numerous and powerful tribes on the confines of China, was, for some reason or other, inclined to take Temujin's side in the quarrel. So he detained the messenger who brought the letter as a prisoner, and sent the letter itself, containing all the particulars of the conspiracy, at once to Temujin. Temujin was greatly surprised at receiving the intelligence, for, up to that moment, he had considered his father-in-law Tayian as one of his best and most trustworthy friends. He immediately called a grand council of war to consider what was to be done.

Temujin had a son named Jughi, who had now grown up to be a young man. Jughi's father thought it was now time for his son to begin to take his place and act his part among the other princes and chieftains of his court, and he accordingly gave him a seat at this council, and, thus publicly recognized him, for the first time, as one of the chief personages of the state.

The council, after hearing a statement of the case in respect to the league which Tayian and the others were forming, were strongly inclined to combine their forces and march at once to attack the enemy before their plans should be more fully matured. But there was a difficulty in respect to horses. The horses of the different hordes that belonged to Temujin's army had become so much exhausted by the long marches and other fatigues that they had undergone in the late campaigns, that they would not be in a fit condition to commence a new expedition until they had had some time to rest and recruit. But a certain khan, named Bulay, an uncle of Temujin's, at once removed this objection by offering to furnish a full supply of fresh horses for the whole army from his own herds. This circumstance shows on what an immense scale the pastoral occupations of the great Asiatic chieftains were conducted in those days.

Temujin accepted this offer on the part of his uncle, and preparations were immediately made for the marching of the expedition. As soon as the news of these preparations reached Yemuka, he urged Tayian to assemble the allied troops immediately, and go out to meet Temujin and his army before they should cross the frontier.

"It is better," said he, addressing Tayian, "that you should meet and fight him on his own ground, rather than to wait until he has crossed the frontier and commenced his ravages in yours."

"No," said Tayian, in reply, "it is better to wait. The farther he advances on his march, the more his horses and his men will be spent with fatigue, the scantier will be their supplies, and the more difficult will he find it to effect his retreat after we shall have gained a victory over him in battle."

So Tayian, though he began to assemble his forces, did not advance; and when Temujin, at the head of his host, reached the Nayman frontier—for the country over which Tayian reigned was called the country of the Naymans—he was surprised to find no enemy there to defend it. He was the more surprised at this from the circumstance that the frontier, being formed by a river, might have been very easily defended. But when he arrived at the bank of the river the way was clear. He immediately crossed the stream with all his forces, and then marched on into the Nayman territory.

Temujin took good care, as he advanced, to guard against the danger into which Tayian had predicted that he would fall—that of exhausting the strength of his men and of his animals, and also his stores of food. He took good care to provide and to take with him abundant supplies, and also to advance so carefully and by such easy stages as to keep both the men and the horses fresh and in full strength all the way. In this order and condition he at last arrived at the spot where Tayian had formed his camp and assembled his armies.

Both sides immediately marshaled their troops in order of battle. Yemuka was chief in command on Tayian's side. He was assisted by a young prince, the son of Tayian, whose name was Kushluk. On the other hand, Jughi, the young son of Temujin, who had been brought forward at the council, was appointed to a very prominent position on his father's side. Indeed, these two young princes, who were animated by an intense feeling of rivalry and emulation toward each other, were appointed to lead the van on their respective sides in commencing the battle; Jughi advancing first to the attack, and being met by Kushluk, to whom was committed the charge of repelling him. The two princes fought throughout the battle with the utmost bravery, and both of them acquired great renown.

The battle was commenced early in the morning and continued all day. In the end, Temujin was completely victorious. Tayian was mortally wounded early in the day. He was immediately taken off the field, and every possible effort was made to save his life; but he soon ceased to breathe. His son, the Prince Kushluk, fought valiantly during the whole day, but toward night, finding that all was lost, he fled, taking with him as many of the troops as he could succeed in getting together in the confusion, and at the head of this band made the best of his way into the dominions of one of his uncles, his father's brother, where he hoped to find a temporary shelter until he should have time to determine what was to be done.

As for Yemuka, after fighting with desperate fury all day, he was at last, toward night, surrounded and overpowered, and so made prisoner. Temujin ordered his head to be cut off immediately after the battle was over. He considered him, not as an honorable and open foe, but rather as a rebel and traitor, and, consequently, undeserving of any mercy.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Death of Vang Khan  |  Next: Establishment of the Empire
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.