As they neared the cliffs,
shrubs started popping up. “Elspet, Callum, you two are the plant people.
What sort of plant is this?”
“I don’t know,” Callum said. “It’s a woody shrub, not
many leaves and it has the ability to live in these rippling sands. Look
over there. They are all growing together in a forest. I bet there are some
creepy crawlies in there.”
Elspet touched the bark and examined the shrub. “It’s a
saxaul bush, or tree, if you like. They grow here and help with erosion and
the bushes probably provide firewood for some of the nomadic people.”
“How do you know that?” Callum’s eyes bulged with
“I don’t know. It just came to me. I must have heard
about it sometime in the past. If I am correct, there are all sorts of
animals in the Gobi Desert; bactrain camels, bears, wild sheep, ibex,
crickets, grasshoppers, hedgehogs and antelope. They have a native horse
called a takhi and a musk ox called a meu and Asiatic wild ass.”
“Is that all on your list?” Callum chuckled. “I can’t
believe you know all that stuff.”
“Usually you are the one who knows it all. It feels good
to know something you don’t,” Elspet said, sticking her tongue out again.
“It proves I listen in school too.”
“You’d better watch that tongue of yours or that eagle
will swoop down, thinking it’s a snake,” Callum retorted.
“What pretty flowers. They look like the irises that
grow in my mum’s flower garden. I love the blue ones, but the pink and
yellow are gorgeous too,” Fiona said.
“These hills are sure rocky. Everything here is scary
looking. We’re so isolated. At least in Tierra del Fuego there was a town.
There’s nothing here. What are those round white things in the distance?”
Callum sat and dangled his legs off the edge of the hill.
“They look like a couple of tents. There must be some
nomads living in them. I see goats too. They’re so far away though. Can you
imagine living in a place like this? I can’t.” Elspet sat next to Callum.
“At least there are other people around. Is this safe sitting here at the
edge of the cliff?”
“I don’t know.” Callum felt his bottom vibrate. “Do you
feel that, Elspet?”
“If you mean is my bottom tickling, yes. It might be an
earthquake,” she said.
Fiona saw a cloud of dust in the distance. “Something’s
coming toward us. It might be a stampede of musk ox. I can’t see a thing
because of all the dust.”
“Let’s hide. This doesn’t feel good to me,” Callum said.
They grabbed their things and hid among the boulders.
The ground shook harder, vibrating and bouncing them around. The cloud of
dust grew thicker.
“What is it? Can you see?” Elspet pushed at Callum,
urging him to peek.
He raised his head for a look and then pulled it back
down, collapsed onto his bottom and went pale.
“Well? What did you see?” Elspet grabbed Callum’s
collar. “Tell us.”
“It’s an army of barbarians.” Callum gulped. “I think
“Mongols? Don’t be silly. Do you mean Mongols as in
Genghis Khan-type Mongols?” Elspet didn’t need to hear the answer.
“That’s what I mean. I
remember my history. The Mongol Empire began in the year 1206, when the
founder and father of the Mongol nation, Temuchin, took the name Chingis, or
Genghis Khan. He was the leader of all people living in felt tents. They
beat every army they fought. He was able to unite all the tribes into one
people who were brave, fierce and unstoppable conquerors.” Callum remembered
the words he’d written in an essay paper a few weeks before. “The word Khan
is his title. Genghis is his name.”
“Thanks for the history
lesson, Callum,” Fiona chuckled.
“Are you saying that an army
from the 1200’s is riding towards us right now?” Elspet pulled her knees to
her chin. “That’s impossible. That’s over 800 years ago and Callum, how do
you know all of this?”
“Remember, Elspet, we’ve had
to deal with Vikings and other people who came from the past. Why not
Genghis Khan and his horde of Mongols? It seems King Kegan’s men had some
sort of way to call people from the past. The orb has powers we can’t
understand. Let’s leave it at that. We need a plan. I can only presume that
they are trap number two, sent by the last of King Kegan’s men to protect
the alexandrite. Nahimena told us not to trust anyone; only each other, so
we have to accept that they’re out to hurt or destroy us.” Fiona peeked over
the rock. “They’re getting closer.”
The men on horseback
surrounded the boulders. Silence filled the air, aside from an occasional
“Uh oh. They’re here and
they know we’re here. We might as well give up. They’re not going to let us
go,” Fiona said.
“Wait. We can’t just give up
without a fight. These men are known to be barbaric,” Callum said.
“We’ve no choice. Do as I
say and trust me,” Fiona said. The three of them stood.
“Hello. Which one of you is
Genghis Khan?” Callum watched as a man raised his arm. “I like your clothes.
They’re bright and colorful. Cool shoes.”
Genghis looked at Callum,
confused by his lack of fear. He burst out laughing, mumbled some words in
Mongol and the rest of his army laughed.
“What did he say, Fiona?”
Elspet gave Callum a leer. “Keep quiet, Callum. You’ll get us into trouble.”
“We’re already in trouble,”
“He told his men that maybe
he should let Callum lead the army since he seems so brave.” Fiona nudged
the boy with her elbow. “Keep quiet or he’ll have your throat slit.” Fiona
tried to think of something to say to Genghis Khan. “Hello Temujin. I know
about you, when you were a little boy. Your mum raised you and you were
poor. I have a mum too and so do Callum and Elspet. My father died, like
yours did. He didn’t die in the same way yours did, but he died in an
accident.” She spoke in Mongol tongue.
Genghis and another man rode
their horses closer to them. “How did you learn to speak our tongue? Are you
spies? You must be from the north; your hair is fair. I will take you and
the other one as wives. I will call you Altan, which is our word for gold;
and the other one, will be called Oyunchecheg, which means turquoise flower.
Perhaps I will also name you Gho'a, because you are a beautiful lady.
The other man leered at the
children. His gaze made Fiona tremble inside. “Whoa,” she said. “He’s ugly.
Look at the scar on his face.”
“What did he say, Fiona?”
Elspet grabbed her arm.
“He wants us to be his
wives,” she answered, shaking her head. “He’s even got new names picked out
for us.” She spoke to the Khan. “I thought you made a law that no woman
could be forced, sold, or slave traded into marriage. Doesn’t that apply
with us, or do you change your laws whenever you want? We marry nobody
except who we choose to and when we choose to.”
The general hit his spear on
the ground and roared. Genghis grabbed the other man’s arm. “General Khasir,
stand back,” he snapped and turned his gaze to Fiona. “You have a strong
spirit about you. All three of you show no fear. I am the Khan and as so, I
am free to do whatever I please.”
“Oh, so it’s do as I say,
not do as I do,” Fiona said.
Genghis Khan snickered. “You
amuse me, Altan. Come with me back to our camp.”
“He wants us to come to his
camp. I don’t think we have a choice.” Fiona stepped out from behind the
stones. “We will come with you, but call me Fiona, not Altan.” The Khan
“Fiona? Did you just tell
him we’ll go? We can’t trust him. He’s one of the most bloodthirsty warriors
the world ever knew.” Callum wiped his forehead.
“We’re going. I’ll think of
something on the way.” Fiona bowed to Genghis.
A man brought three horses
forward. Each wore a blanket of red and gold woven fabric that glittered. A
saddle was provided for them, though none of the warriors used one. They
climbed onto the steeds. Genghis shouted something and they took off, riding
towards the sunset.
“This is kind of cool. We’re
riding horses with Genghis Khan. You know, he doesn’t seem to be as bad a
man as the history books make him.” Callum held onto the reigns.
“Did you see his sidekick? I
think it must be his highest general, Khasir. He gave us some cruel stares.
I don’t think he wants to be kind to us,” Fiona said. “Be on guard at all