By Khadaajin Bayar
Greetings unto the people of the tents and of the stone houses. This humble trader bows before the audience and asks for mercy upon this story.
So it happens that this winter has been harsh and bitter for the people of my land. Cattle have died in the snow banks and the rivers have frozen. Food is hard to come by. Eagles come down from the mountains and take what little is left. My family’s reserves ran low and so they bade me ride to the west to trade for food.
I took my best horse, the snowy one, and my sturdiest yak, and went off early in the morning. After a ride into unknown lands not yet under the rule of the Khan, I stopped at a traveler’s inn, owned by a man called Berus.
It seems winter had been equally hard for these people, for plenty of them had sought refuge at the inn, and were quite busy engaging in trade and merriment. The inn was packed, so I searched for a seat at a table, to catch my breath and regain strength before trading. I was joined by other gentle persons: a man of the far North called Eirik, and a couple of gallant Franks, decked in splendid clothes, called Berend and Mahault. We made our introductions and were soon fast in friendly conversation. While I went around the inn, they engaged other friends in conversation and games with square bits of dark bone that they call “dice”, much like our knucklebones.
All through the day, merchants arrived at the inn and displayed their wares, and several illustrious ladies set out their wares, being offered in aid of their Kingdom’s coffers. I was amazed at the display of generosity that these ladies and the guests showed, for by the end of day, nine thousand offers were made for these goods!** I myself offered some silver and received a group of finely spun yarns and a set of spindle, needle and case made by a local artisan. These gifts will surely become a family treasure, for their workmanship is great.
Business was very brisk that day, for all kinds of wares had been brought from all corners of this land. Such was the enticement, that I walked among the merchants to and fro, until hunger got the best of me, and I noticed a group of ladies from the lands of the cliffs, offering tasty fares not known in the land of the tents. These ladies, Sof’ia, Naja and Jean-Margaret, were such great cooks that, without doubt, they must be married, for I was tempted to pass the word on to the men of my clan to come and steal them.
During my trade with these foreigners, I noticed a gang of ruffians had collected in the back room and had started scuffling amongst themselves. Other gentles soon joined this brawl, which grew to alarming proportions. On occasions, bands of gentles decked in finery and capes fought with very slender swords, with such flowery movements that reminded me of Chinese sword dances. Other times, groups of heavily clad men sparred and fought with axes, daggers, swords and shields, with much bravery and boasting. This I must report to my peoples, for it is good to know these things if we come to conquer these lands in the future.
At times, the air inside the main room got so heavy and noisy, that I sought calm in the halls outside. I found groups of gentles gathered around musicians, who sung of their land and their princes. Sweet music did they make, and so was it, that Her Majesty, Lady Susanna, appeared and bade them to sing some more. They sang rousing songs of battle and honour, of courtly love and land, and my heart yearned for my steppes.
I decided to start loading my yak with the goods I obtained this day. I must make my way back home to retell the things I have seen and heard to my people, happily in front of the fire, with a cup of mare’s milk, in the comfort of my ger. Much would I have to tell, and many the questions I would have to answer, about this people with great hearts, the inn-keeper Berus, the fighters, traders, royalty and musicians, to satisfy the curiosity of my clan.
*Whoever provides the funniest ending to this phrase, will be awarded a “Green Bison” token of esteem (and its not fermented milk!)
**Raffle held by the Daughters of the North in aid of the Kingdom travel fund. Of 10, 000 tickets brought, 9, 000 were sold by the end of the evening.