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What will follow is the back story to my current clan on Shadow Dynasty (shameless plug: http://shadowdynasty.co.uk/) I hope you all enjoy :)
Posted Dec 15, 17 · OP
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Part 1 - The Covenant

A warm breeze kissed the dry grey land of the Harkynian steppes that stretched out in front of the clan as they trod along the road that would take them to Sekamdurdan, the wagon city of the Kurultai. At the front of the caravan was the Khan, Alagh, proud and tall on his steed while the rest of the clan walked behind. In a neat pillar behind the Khan, the men walked with their horses and a few camels, heavily laden with goods, next were the women pulling carts of household items. They might be a small poor tribe but they were proud and strong. In the distance could be seen a line of upset dust, a tell tale sign of another clans approach that was clouded in grey mystery. As the cloud of grey dust grew closer, sneers crossed the faces of the men. It was the rival clan of Suukh that approached and the men readied their bows but the Khan signaled a halt. Instead he ordered camp to be set up as well as skins to be put down, a table brought forth, and wine and food was laid out a little way outside of the camp.

When Khan Suukh was close enough, Alagh alone rode out to meet him and an invitation was offered and accepted. As Suukh sat at the table, our Khan, keeping with traditions, offered him all our food and Suukh, also keeping with tradition, accepted it and gave half back in return. As the guest, Suukh offers Khan Alagh a bowl of milk after first taking a sip. Tradition satisfied the two Khans begin their talk while the clans eyed each other with distrust. "This has gone on to long, Suukh" Alagh says with candor. "Longer than the two of us." Suukh returns with a nod. Alagh looks out to the slowly darkening horizon, not wanting to look his counter part in the eyes, before continuing "The Khanate has become weak, but we are strong. Together we are stronger." His piercing eyes make contact with Suukh with these last words and the khan knows that Alagh speaks in earnest. Suukh crosses his arms, leaning back in his chair, his eyes narrows in thought. After a brief period of thinking Suukh finally nods buts says nothing, only motions for Alagh to continue. Alagh gives a curt nod and leans over the table close to Suukh and speaks in more hushed tones so that the prying ears of the clan won't overhear and Suukh does the same, "My daughter, Narantseteg, has fallen in love with one of the young horse men. A boy really, yet to prove himself with blood in battle. Narantseteg, swears she will marry him and no other and this cannot be. To seal our new covenant I will give you my daughter, if you prove yourself a worthy man. I would rather see her as a worthy mans concubine than a wife to an inconsistent child."

Suukh leans back in his seat again and rubs his dark mustache as he thinks. After years of bitter rivalry, it has come to this. The pact would certainly make them both more powerful in the Khanate. Over the last decade the Khanate has weakened itself with the acceptance of other cultures and ideas brought in from conquered lands. Tradition. The old ways must be remembered and honored. Leaning forward once again, Suukh nodded and simply stated, "A daughter for a daughter and our covenant is sealed." Once again he raised the bowl of milk to his lips and sipped before handing it over to Alagh to finalize the offer. Long lasting suspicion is not so easily turned away and Alagh narrowed his glance as Suukh as he accepted the bowl and sipped. Placing the bowl down the Khan motioned for Narantseteg to be brought forward. She isn't wrapped in fine silks like a richer khans daughter might be, but she has clean bright skin and her dark satin hair drapes down her willowy body. In her slow stately walk forward she chances a glance at Shirkuh, the young horseman of her hearts desire. The two exchange a longing look as they know what's about to happen but, in their pride, they show no hint of the sadness and anger they feel.

As Narantseteg approaches the two Khans a small dirty girl with tangled hair comes from the other side, she obediently adverts her eyes but that did not hide the defiance behind them. "This is my only daughter and youngest child, Selma." Behind Suukh there is a commotion as Totolak angrily steps forward to grab at Selma, he won't see his sister traded to this dishonorable clan. Suukh does not look behind him but with a single hand motion, Totolak is stopped in his tracks. No one else from Suukh's clan seemed bothered that the khan only daughter was just traded away or that the daughter of a hated khan was joining them except Enebish, the wife of Suukh. Although there is no action that betrays her feelings, there is a deep and burning hatred for Narantseteg that burns in Enebishs eyes. While Suukh was grey with age and had many sons, in a poor clan, you could never have too many sons because there was always a risk of death. Enebish could no longer bear children for Suukh and she knew this day had been coming for a long time now. The daughter of Alagh did not need to be useful mate the way she was. Narantseteg was young and beautiful, surely she was fertile and would bear many strong sons for Suukh.

Alagh was still young with no children save Narantseteg. His love for his first wife was so great that Alagh never remarried when she died, but it was time to think of sons to lead the clan after his death. A murmur of discontent rippled though Alagh's clan at the sight of the wild girl matted with dirt. The Khan turned toward his clan and with one look order was reestablished and with a wave of Alagh's hand the girl was taken away to be cleaned. Oyunbileg, who had been Narantseteg's nurse maid, takes the dirty girl in rags by the hand and leads her toward what was Narantseteg's yurt. Staring angrily at this scene, Toryouk crosses over to where the old woman is leading the young girl and raises his hand. Oyunbileg protectively steps in front of the child and Toryouk strikes her on the face with the back of his hand. Toryouk raises his hand to strike the unflinching woman again when a large, strong hand gently tugs his shoulder. Spinning around, Toryouk's angry eyes met with the soft gaze of Khaishan. The imposing figure of Khaishan looks Toryouk in the eyes and slightly leans over to whisper in his ear, “My friend we should trust our Khan’s decision on this, I do not trust them, but this will make the Khanate strong.” Toryouk pulls Khaishans hand away without looking him in the eye but turns to spit at the feet of the filthy girl and storms away.

Oyunbileg continues to lead Selma into the yurt as if nothing happened and orders hot water to be brought. She, peels the dirt crusted and rancid rags away from the child and orders them to be burned. Selma protests but the old nurse orders her not to answer back as she directs her into the water. The hot water stings at her skin and Selma squirms away but Oyunbileg is much more agile and quick then you would think a woman of that age would be and easily wrangles the girl back into the water. Sounds of cries, wailing and moans erupt from the tent but, despite the loud protests, the old nurse doesn't stop till Selmas skin is pink and clean. Oyunbileg shoves clean clothing into Selmas arms and orders her to dress. Selma standing tall and defiant drops the clothing onto the floor. The nurse simply chuckles and says, "If you want to go out there in front of everyone naked, be my guest. If not, I suggest you get dressed." Selma eyes the woman coming at her, comb in hand, and quickly grabs the clothing and gets dressed. She had never had such fine clothing and these had been spiced in some sort of scent that Selma couldn't identify. Getting dressed did not save Selma from the combing of her hair though. Oyunbileg tired to gently tease the knots from Selmas hair but in the end, she had no choice but to simply cut the girls hair short. When she was done, the old woman looked Selma over and gave a nod of approval. No longer was the a dirty child but a young woman of at least nineteen seasons.

While this transformation was going on a wave of discontent crashed through the khans Iron Circle, his horsemen and trusted advisors. The general consensus of, "This is not right." weaved it's way around them and more than a few spit curses. Toryouk festered alone in his yurt, bitter at the loss of the fair Narantseteg. He had seen himself as the companion to the khans daughter but Shirkuh had to play the peacock and took his chances away. Shirkuh only stood numb amoungst the others, in his minds eye he could only see Narantseteg being lead away. Alagh did not approve of his relationship with his daughter, Shirkuh knew, but to give her to the most lousy and devious chieftain who exists! Even with his eyes closed Shirkuh recognized the sound of Toryouks footsteps approaching, he was not going to miss an opportunity to taunt the heart broken lover. Toryouk does not have long to taunt his rival as Oyunbileg leads Selma to the yurt of the khan and they circumvent it three times before entering. After entering, the clan Elder recites a traditional poem of compainionship and marriage. After the poem is finished Khenbish toasts the couple with "Who cleans up the dirt washes away happiness". Everyone looks at the warrior woman unsure what to do but, Batu, being a supportive husband cheers and drinks and the rest follow suit.



Part 2 The Kurultai

The next morning, the clan continues their journey to the Kurultai without further event. Over the course of the Kurultai, Alagh meets with several other with other khans and always at his side is Selma. As the other khans renew their pledges to Alagh they also pledge to his new wife, Selma. At first she is a bit unsure of these pledges but after the first few, with Alagh's coaching, she becomes more confident. Alagh's Iron Circle is not overly happy with his choice of companion but they begin to see the larger picture at play, peace with Suukh is not easy to accept but it had made Alagh stronger in the eyes of the khanate. By the end of the Kurultai, Selma has visibly relaxed and no longer feels the need to walk around with defiant pride. She is often seen on the arm of the Khan laughing and smiling, the two had formed an obvious bond of affection. Selma was not in love with Alagh but he was the first person to ever show her care and she let herself slip into the warmth of that feeling. It was obvious to her that the clan, for the most part, did not like her and only just barely tolerated her. It didn't matter that much to Selma that the others did not like her as long as Alagh cared for her.

During the feast Selma notices Alagh picking at the high collar of his kaftan. "What bothers you my Khan?" she asks. "Something bites at my neck my Khatun." Alagh replies while scratching at his neck again. Folding down his collar and pulling Alagh down into the light, Selma notices a faint glint in the light and pulls out a needle stuck there. "It seems you need a word with your seamstress, my Khan." Rubbing at his neck, Alagh smiles down at his wife and gently kisses her forehead. In the early morning sunlight of the next day, Selma sits up in the bed she has shared with Alagh. Leaning down she caresses his face and gives a look of confusion and worry. Alagh lets out a pained groan, "I must have slept like a horse that lays down." Selma pulls down the furs to see Alaghs neck and shoulder laced with a black web of poison. Selma covers her mouth with her hand and shakes her head, tears glisten at the corners of her eyes. Jumping up and running for the door, Selma continues to shake her head with a chorus of, "No no no no" running from her lips. Still naked she yells to the women to bring warm water, honey and herbs but they do not listen, they scoff and defiantly stare at her. Hearing Selmas hysterical state, Khaishan comes to investigate. He sees her naked and screaming to the woman but they do not listen. Backhanding the nearest woman he exclaims, "Obey your Khatun woman!" but it was too late, the poison had already reached Alaghs heart.

For three days Selma stays at the khans side and seen often to caress his brow and murmuring, "Don't leave me, don't you leave me here alone, I need you." Alagh knew that his time was near so he called for his Iron Circle. Once they had gathered Alagh reached into his shift and pulls out a key. Giving the key to Selma he weakly motions toward a locked coffer. Cocking her head she wonders what this is about as she obediently opens the box. Inside are beautifully colored silks and instantly knowing their meaning Selma quickly turns yelling "No!" and fall by his side crying. She had never wept so hard in her life but they were not tears of grief as much as they were selfish pity for herself. Selma gently picks up Alaghs hand and kisses it as the rivers flow down her cheeks. There are no words needed, the Iron Circle understands the full meaning of this act by their khan, and Khaishan leads them out of the tent to allow events to happen as they should. Before long, Selma emerged from the yurt dressed in the silks. The women of the clan let out their mourning wails but Selma continued her slow walk forward with her red rimmed eyes looking out onto forever. Voices of anger erupted from the Iron Circle and fist punched the air, some stood in Selma's way and someone slapped her. Selma held her face, red from the slap and, once again, it was Khaishan the intervened. Walking forward Khaishan put an arm around Selmas shoulder and guided her forward. As he did, the voices died down and only the wind dared to make a sound. Lifting Selma up, Khaishan puts her on Alaghs horse and bows saying, "My Khatun"



Part 3 - The Exile

One year on...

Once more the clan makes it slow journey to Sekamdurdan for the annual Kurultai. Still the same neat pillar of woman and children following the caravan, the same warm breezes kiss the grey land, the same road stretches out in front of them. The only difference is this time there is a khatun instead of a khan at the head of this poor band. The clan was still divided over Selma's rise to Khatun. She was young and inexperienced in the ways of diplomacy and leadership and couldn't unite the clan and the clan was rife with infighting. Recently there was a fight over slaves during a Khitain raid that ended in one raider killing another and letting all the slaves escape. When the raiders turned up empty handed with nothing but a dead clan mate all Selma could do was shake her head and return to her yurt. Watching the young Khantun, Ganzorig follows, only stopping a moment at the tent door and asking permission before entering. Selma, in one smooth hand movement, beckons Ganzorig in and motions for him to sit. The two stare silently at each other for a few moments before Selma breaks down into sobs, "I have failed him." she croaks out between sobs. "Training is what they need, my Khatun." Ganzorig says in his emotionless way, the way of a hardened soldier. Sniffling, Selma replies, "I have tried discipline, I have tried mercy, nothing works, they will never accept me." Ganzorig kneels in front of Selma and take her hands, "That is exactly the problem, they need consistency. You will find your way, my Khatun, we will help you." She looks into his eyes with one last sniff and nods. Clearing his throat, Ganzorig, returns to his disciplined form and sits back in his chair and they talk business of the forthcoming Kurultai.

On the horizon, Sekamdurdan shines in the sun; a city on wheels, a frantic cluster of color, smells, and sounds of the many gathered clans. This city of caravans, wagons, and tents was carefully planned out chaos. A community of neighborhoods, markets and districts with roads of concentric circles were connected together like the spokes of a wheel. During the Kurultai, clans have a rare chance to create or reaffirm alliances, exchange merchandise or women. Most importantly, that Kurultai is for the Khans to make their voices heard in Khanate, the clan council. The Khanate was chaired by the city's four most powerful Khans who would hear out grievances, and thus, settle quarrels between the khans, some of which go back for several generations. Those found guilty of crimes were hung on crosses, downwind of this ephemeral city, where the stench of death mixed with that of the burning garbage pits. Soon enough all but a few traces of wagons, colorful pennants, the back and forth of thralls carrying water from the rive, the concert of voices, the sounds of horns and drums, and pastures rife with grazing yak and horses would all be gone as the Kutultai ended. All that would be left behind was the lamination of the sad wind over the tortured greyish moor.

Their small group trundled though the south district, the poorest area of Sekamdurdan, to set up their slave stall. The clan, itself, was camped just outside the city. The past year of internal dissension in addition to the famine had almost got the better of the clan and it was hopped that a good slave trade would ease some of the poverty of their current situation. Selma sat cross-legged on a traditional wooden carved trunk as she watched a thrall get its teeth examined by its potential buyer. Once the deal was over, Ganzorig took the money and slipped it into the slot of the safe throne Selma sat on while Toryouk pulled another hungry thrall out from the makeshift enclosure behind the platform. Selma felt the a gaze upon her from the bustling crowd. When she looked out her eyes met with that of Suukh, her father. He seemed to look on her with a mixture of astonished pride and disgust all at once. From behind him, Narantseteg stepped out with a babe slung across her chest. From beside Selma, an incoherent sound burst from Shirkuh's throat at the site that his former lover, Narantsetag, bore a child to a hated enemy. The crazed warrior rushed at Suukh with the cutlass raised and the motley crowd moved aside as the sand lifted by the storm. The old khan did not have time to pull out his blade entirely from his scabbard before Shirkuh's curved blade plowed through his throat and out between his shoulders.

Holding the baby in a sling on her belly, Narantseteg let out a scream of desperation as one of Suukh's sons, Tula, tries to make his way through the compact crowd with his cutlass drawn. Suukhs second son, Oglük, was already fighting with Shirkuh in the middle of the circle of excited onlookers who were moving with them. Toryouk pushed Khaishan, who was still in shock, and barked at him, "Get her out of here!" while pointing at Selma. Snapping to action, Khaishan grabbed the small wagon with Selma and the chest and ran back to the camp. At the sight of Khaishan dragging the cart at full speed toward them, with Selma tightly clinging to it, Batu and Nergui look at each other and rush out to guide them to the safety of the Khatun's tent. Sometime later the rest of the clan makes it's tattered way back to camp with a limping and beaten Shirkuh protectively supported in the middle of them. Selma could not even look at him, all she could do was let out a shriek of rage and retreat into her yurt. Toryouk burst into the yurt after Selma and grabs her with a shake and screams at her, "You must face this, they will come for him soon. Get out there and be Khatun!" Selma slaps his face and freeing herself from his grasp yells back, "Let them take him!". Shaking his head, Toryouk storms out mumbling, "You never care for this clan." Stopping at the opening of the tent he turns to say, "Your dishonorable clan now stains this one. You're the reason our Khan died." and disappears out of the yurt. Standing with clenched fists and breathing slow angry breaths, Selma storms out like a banshee, "You're the reason this clan fails." She waves her hand out in front of her, "You are all the reason this clan fails and you dishonor Alagh!" Before Selma can continue the imperial guard handing her an official summons to the Khans court and they take Shirkuh away.

The next day Selma paces nervously as she waits alone to be heard in the Kanate, she knows the clans fate will be tied closely to Shirkuhs. Hearing a ruffle of the curtain behind her, she turns to leave but shocked to see the figure of her eldest brother, Totolak, standing there. He stops her before she can say anything, "I have convinced the Khanate to return you back to your clan. We will leave as soon as the trial is over." and then leaves before she can reply. Suddenly a rage grow in Selma and her face grows hot with anger, the old defiance shines in her eyes once more and she stands tall with her head raised. When she is finally lead before the Khanate she slowly walks tall a proud. The words of the Khanate seem to pass over her till the words, "You may returned to the care of your brother and now Khan Totolak..." Looking up with fire in her eyes she addresses the Khanate with a strong voice, "Do not dishonor me with these words. I am Selma, khatun of the Iron Circle and I stand with them and not conniving cowards who make back handed deals." Looking at her brother with absolute disgust with the last words. Totolak raises his hand to strike Selma but Makaio and his cat like reflexes are too fast, with quick and graceful moves he grabs Totolaks hand and stands between him and Selma.

Hurakian, the most venerable of the khans in this region, presided over this assembly. He remained motionless and impassive as he sat, legs and arms crossed in his ample yellow silk kaftan. With an impatient gesture, he made Totolak sit down again. Suukh's son prostrated himself before the elders and then returned to his place in the assembly of the Khans. Hurakian turned his head slightly to the right and then nodded with gravity before continuing. With a wave of his hand, he invited the young woman, who stood proudly among the circle of warriors, to come forth and stand in the middle of the assembled khans. Selma had not put on a mourning dress and the mask used to hide the tears that was traditionally worn by women who recently lost family members. Instead she wore a scarlet tunic, tight at the waist, with a sash and her riding boots. Selma held a bow in her hand and her quiver was empty like other Khans. "You dishonor our father and our clan! Totolak, burst out as he stood up to point an accusing finger at the defiant young woman- "We have already heard the eldest son of Khan Suukh who spoke a lot and loudly." Hurukain interjected. "Sit down and listen in turn as a real Khan and the daughter of Khan Suukh expresses herself!" Totolak curtsied and sat down heavily. "I speak as Khatun of the Iron Circle," she began harshly as murmurs buzzed in the crowd "and I stand with pride among them and their honor."

Hurakain looked down with all seriousness at Selma who stood in defiant pride "So you refuse to wear the traditional mourning clothes and you tie your destiny to one whos fate is already sealed. Think, Selma," continued Hurakain, "We offer you the opportunity to return to the clan of your family at the express request of your brother Totolak. He has promised to forgive you and to treat you well." Her eyes did not falter as Selma shook her head, "I would rather die than to see myself live with dishonor." With that, the assembled khans broke to confer. Because of Selmas honorable actions, it was the decision of the Khanate to show mercy and banish Khatun Selma and her Iron Circle to the exiled lands. The woman, children, and all other livestock and goods of the clan would be granted to Khan Totolak to compensate for the loss of his father, Suukh. Not satisfied with this ruling, Totolak shot Shirkuh in the back as they entered the exiled lands. "Only blood would satisfy blood" he was heard to say as he killed the man who killed his father. After Suukh was entombed in the kurgan, Narantseteg became more and withdrawn into herself. Guilt hung heavily on her soul because she was the one who planted the poison needle in her fathers kaftan. Her selfish ambitions had caused so much death, including the life of lover, Shirhuk. Narantseteg poisoned her father to be with Shirkuh and now he was dead. One morning Naraseteg walked out onto the lonely grey steppes never to be seen again.
Posted Dec 15, 17 · OP
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