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: You want Mongolia? You come and take it!
: General Aruka advised retreat. I gave the order that we turn and fight like Mongols. Kublai Khan
: Mongols do not lose. Prince Jingim
: I have thought of nothing else these past days and nights. Kublai Khan
: A ride preceded by victory is much shorter. Empress Chabi
] True words such as these can only be drawn from a well of personal experience.
: Ariq believes he can pleasure your women better than you. Kublai Khan
: Does that excite you, Empress? Empress Chabi
: Ariq should be trampled by 1,000 horses and left on a steppe to rot. That would excite me.
: I do not want to be Emperor of China. I do not want to be Ruler of the Face of the Earth. I want to be Khan of Mongolia. Kublai Khan
: They are one and the same, brother.
] Kublai Khan
: [standing victorious on the battle field
] Men of Karakorum, it is over! This fight between Mongols is done! We stand together now! We ride together! Every corner of the land beneath this Blue Sky is ours for the taking! Go back to Karakorum. Prepare for war. For soon, we ride toward the south.
: [on their knees
] We are still new to the ways of your kingdom. Yusuf
: Value is the first thing you seek. Risk, the second. The silk worm is sacred, more valuable than gems and gold, Master Polo. Its theft is punishable by death. Niccolò Polo
: Please, we did not know... Kublai Khan
: Enough! What is their origin? Niccolò Polo
: They were not procured by us. A man in our caravan acquired them. Kublai Khan
: Where is this man now? Maffeo Polo
: He did not survive the journey, Lord Khan. Kublai Khan
: And I'm quite confident neither shall you.
: I grew hearing tales of the Great Genghis. I knew him only as a small boy, but the man my eyes saw was not big enough. Genghis of my mind he was a giant. Marco Polo
: Our imaginations outrun us, Sire.
: It's the cocoon that gives the silk. Comes out like sweet milk, then hardens. Ugly worm turns into an ugly moth, but leaves such treasure behind. Then some child somewhere crushes the moth, but the silk is still mine. The worm, the silk, the child, all mine. You will be spared. Your father and uncle will be sentenced. Artful color will not alter their character. Marco Polo
: What is their punishment? Kublai Khan
: It is on this that I dwell.
: [about wriggling silk worm
] Such an ugly little creature. Kublai Khan
: Yet men will kill for it. Risk my wrath. Betray their blood. Because to them it is fortune, not legacy, that changes a life.
] Kublai Khan
: Amends must be made for your father's crime. Marco Polo
: I understand. Kublai Khan
: *You* will decide his fate. Marco Polo
: My Lord? Kublai Khan
: Left to my vice regent, Yusuf or myself, your father's punishment would be certain. His thief heart would now be still. I know the pain this will cause you. I know compassion. And you know our laws our customs. You will choose your father's punishment. And then you shall find sleep.
] Old Orlak
: On this day we gather all princes of the blood and chieftains of the hordes, and all descendants of Lord Genghis Khan. We pray to the Blue Sky and seek blessings for the decision that will be made this day. Bless the sacred spirit banner of Lord Genghis that stands before the white banners of Kublai Khan
: [under his breath
] The white banners of peace? Watch over us, Tengri You've taken a piss on peace. Bring out the black banners, I say. The war banners. Finish what you started. Kaidu
: You're disrespecting the proceedings. Kublai Khan
: You've disgraced these proceedings with your acts of war. Old Orlak
: ...Khan of all Khans. Thus we begin the Kurultai. Kublai Khan
: It's a shame Nayan couldn't be here.
: "An action committed in anger is an action doomed to failure." So said our grandfather, Genghis Khan. Kaidu
] We are nomads. Have we not gall in our livers? Fire in our blood? When our people, and our land and our way of life are threatened we are not afraid to incite war. "If my body dies, let my body die. But do not let Mongolia die."
: For all the blood spilling all the backstabbing all the deal-making, whispers can subvert it all. My daughter received this dispatch from your Vice Regent concerning Princess Kokachin and your heirs to the House of Tolui. Should I read it to you? Better I let the Empress explain it to you. Kublai Khan
: [looks over at Chabi who seems nervous
: You have until the sound of the horn for the start of the vote. If the people of Mongolia have not received your abdication of the throne, I will walk into the pavilion and whisper it for all to hear.
: I did it. How you wanted me to. Begged, bartered, I played by the rules. And now I must go out there, give it all away. Give it to him. All because of you! Empress Chabi
: We deny it. Kublai Khan
: Four wives. Nothing to show for it until just the right time!
: I've always known, or hoped to know if I'm being forthright, that a price existed I could not pay to satisfy my attainment and influence. That price, it seems, is my son.
: A Mongol without a horse is like a hawk without wings! The bodies of those mighty mares may burn in the fire below. But their noble souls look down on each and every one of you from the Eternal Blue Sky above. They look down, and they demand their sacrifice was not in vain. Ride down there and prove it! Attack! Hyah!
: You are a man of many faces, Kublai. But to mope and moon with self-pity is not the Kublai I know. Or wish to. Kublai Khan
: Forgive me for not knowing the proper remedy. My first sampling of betrayal by a son. Empress Chabi
: Try this for remedy. Tend to your other son. The one on the brink of fatherhood himself. Wash up, get dressed. Pretend if you must but go to Jingim, and show him you still care about the future of this family.
: Fatherhood is nothing to take lightly. And yet there are few joys in life as complete as the welcoming of your first child. Even a girl. Of course, if it is a boy life is far more blessed. The future secured, everyone happy. But, son or daughter that baby is born of you. Your seed, your blood, your heart. Prince Jingim
: Thank you, Father. Your words give me strength. Kublai Khan
: Kaidu understands this. Love of one's child is sacred. Kaidu understands many things. The world gets bigger you open your arms wider. Is that not the Genghis way?
] Kublai Khan
: You let in the outsiders, with their sad eyes and wounded hearts. The orphaned, the abandoned. Let them in your home. Learn from them, yes but raise and love them. Offer them all the magic the whole world has to offer. Then they fuck you. Oaths? Meaningless. Love in their eyes, worthless. Heart they promise you will never be.
] Kublai Khan
: [to Jingim
] Now you must go, my son. Empress Chabi
: What is this? Kublai Khan
: Ahmad. Empress Chabi
: Has been found? Prince Jingim
: Father... Kublai Khan
: [to stunned Marco
] Your service is complete. Your service is complete. Blood only! Marco Polo
: [baby crying as he departs
: Crush the foot and the body will fall. We take the city. Sidao will dirty his knees before me.
: You ask for parley as you stand with an army outside my city walls. How am I to take this? Kublai Khan
: On bended knee, if you're wise. Jia Sidao
: I have a wall. Kublai Khan
: I will obliterate your wall. I will take your fraudulent crown. I will spike your corpse to the gates of my new palace. Or, I will walk through the wall after it is freely opened, accept your surrender, and offer gracious terms for the deposed Chancellor of Xiangyang, and his rebel army. You have power yet to save your people, Sidao. Jia Sidao
: [clicks tongue
] It's unfortunate that it has come to this. So deep into war that we make attempts on each other's lives, and those most sacred to us. I've heard of your favored wife's beauty. Such luminescence should not be taken from us this way. So repugnant. Even your own Vice Regent is against this war. This tactics. Jia Sidao
] When an honest man says nothing, you see his heart. I don't question his loyalty to you, but an absence of words speaks loudly. Perhaps he sees something we do not. Jia Sidao
] I trust I'll find you on the field, Jia Sidao.
: My fierce Mongol warriors, so many will perish tomorrow. Empress Chabi
: Yes. You must rest, Kublai. Kublai Khan
: Mmm. Genghis said, There's no good in anything until it's finished. Tomorrow the wall that turned back the Mongols for 80 years will fall. Empress Chabi
: Your men are prepared. And behind them, Mongol women ready to fight if needed.
] Prince Jingim
: We advanced, slaughtering every rebel who crossed our path. We reached the wall and pushed towards the weakness, the one the Latin described. We breached the wall with little more than battering rams. But our men were wedged into a dead end. Death rained down upon us. Oil, fire, arrows. Men died. Mongols died, because Master Marco pointed our army into a trap. Marco Polo
: [on his knees
] It was bait, Sire, the weakness in the wall. Jia Sidao drew us into a trap. I am sorry, Great Khan Prince Jingim
: Why do you feign contrition, Latin? Why are you not at the breast of your master, Jia Sidao? Huh? You delivered us to the devil! You betrayed us! You brought us to our knees at the wall! Prince Jingim
: Father he has brought us nothing but ruin. You can see it. You can all see it! Marco Polo
: I devote myself to you, Great Khan. Prince Jingim
: [drawing his sword
] Enough of your twisted talk! You would protect him? Byamba
: [deflects Jingim's sword
] Prince Jingim
: He is not one of us, brother! He is the rot within our bones. Byamba
: He reported what he saw as he was asked to do. Prince Jingim
: Father what shall we do? Kublai Khan
] Marco Polo
: [riding up
] Eight keshig dead. And ten horses. Kublai Khan
: My son's horses? Marco Polo
: No sign of Jingim or Ahmad. Kublai Khan
: How close to Karakorum? Marco Polo
: Close enough. Kublai Khan
: Kaidu... Marco Polo
: Who else? Kublai Khan
: To harm my sons... Marco Polo
: An act of war. Kublai Khan
: We ride for Karakorum!
: You'd take the word of a round eye over blood? Kublai Khan
: Sad, isn't it? But his words have proven true.
: [sitting at her pot of potions
] Great Khan. How you've grown greater and greater with each passing year. And you, Cousin Shabkana more and more delicate. Kublai Khan
: Your skin brings to mind fine parchment, or the rose petals I use to clean my ass. Old Woman
: Your words no longer cut me, Kublai. That is the great gift of age. Kublai Khan
: Nor yours me. The great, great gift of sovereignty. Old Woman
: You speak as you rule, like a bull-yak. Your mother's blood has proven unyielding. Kublai Khan
: [to Byamba
] To be mothered by a yak or a nagging witch? Which do you prefer?
: What is it about progress that makes you squeal like a pig in heat? Kaidu
: Sight of my origins. Purity of my ancestors' intent. Lose that and I lose my soul. Kublai Khan
: Purity is cried by those who follow. Leading is putting your soul on the line, so others may have the freedom to ponder theirs. It's an onus like no other. Kaidu
: If you so resent it, why not relinquish it? Kublai Khan
: So that you could tear down everything I built? You really want to be remembered for ruining an empire on the cusp of ruling over all? Kaidu
: I want to be the one remembered for saving it. From you. Kublai Khan
: Rhetoric is easy. But it masks envy, lust, greed. Or is just a desire to finally still your old mother's nagging? Kaidu
: Spoken by the son of a murderous, thieving bitch!
: My suspicion of Marco has waned, but for now. To be safe, those whom lack your trust, kill. Kublai Khan
: There would be few left living if I heed that counsel. Should I trust *you*, Yusuf?
: You slayed Ariq single-handedly. Kublai Khan
: Why was that necessary? Why did my brother challenge me? He saw me as weak. Despite what I did, people still rumor of my decline and they worry for succession. Prince Jingim
: The line is clear. Kublai Khan
: But not guaranteed, Jingim.
: It is time for Jingim to take a new wife, I think. Kublai Khan
: A more fertile bitch, I hope. The rest are barren as my Gobi. I trust you have someone in mind?
] Young Kublai
: [birds chirping
[birds chirping loudly
] Young Kublai
: Birds? The great Genghis Khan demands a tribute of birds from our enemy? Kublai Khan
: Not birds, young Kublai. Chinese swallows. Ten thousand. You question your grandfather? Young Kublai
: No, Lord Genghis. Merely Kublai Khan
: [carries littlest boy by his collar, kneels in front of him with the bird
] Nesting birds and well-fed dogs always return to the walls of their master. You understand, don't you, Kaidu? Young Kaidu
] Kublai Khan
: Live by the laws of the Blue Sky and you will follow in the steps of your father, who follows in mine. You will one day be Khan of the Mongols, child.
[lights the string attached to the bird
] Kublai Khan
: Release it.
: Any man who rises to greatness will face envy from his brothers, his relations. You stand above them all, because you know compassion is the greatest shield. Have compassion for these smaller men smaller minds. Kublai Khan
] I once drowned my own dog when he would not stop killing sheep. Is that not compassion? There will be no Kurultai. Only war.
: [wedding ceremony
] As it is said of man and woman, the hunter is ours, the sable weaver is yours. But if the sable weaver has no mother and father to stand with her, what does this mean? It means only this she, too, is now ours. I take this child into my house as my daughter.
: You are a Taoist monk. Permitted to eat meat, drink wine, enjoy a woman. Yet you have never taken a wife. Hundred Eyes
: I devoted my life to the service of the Great Khan and his empire. I only have so much time on this earth. I have never taken a wife because I do my best to avoid disappointment.
: [his advice rejected
] You do not listen, do you? Kublai Khan
: Oh, I do listen. Then I hear what I want to.
: The Great Genghis, he of the wolf, dreamed of a Mongol empire stretching throughout all of China. I have sought to realize his dream without spilling Mongol blood. I have been patient. My patience has been rewarded with the severed heads of men who have marched beside you. My scholars, ministers advised me to choose peace over war. But I am a proud Mongol. At times peace can only be achieved through cruel war. We begin the expedition to fulfill our destiny. Kublai Khan
: You noble men willing to die for a cause greater than yourselves, return not with wealth, nor slaves, but with honor. Those of you who do not return will have your names carved in the Secret History of the Mongols. Your wives, children and parents will hold their heads above other Mongols, because in their hearts they know their husbands, fathers, their sons, gave their lives in pursuit of the last dream of our Great Genghis! Soldiers
: [all chanting
] For Genghis! For Genghis! For Genghis! Kublai Khan
: If the gods are always watching, we might as well put on a good show. The inability to sleep is the curse of the aged and the guilty. Kublai Khan
: And the gout-stricken. Hundred Eyes
: Pardon me. I foolishly assumed you were dreaming about your brother's head rolling in the dirt, his body, a feast for vultures. Kublai Khan
: Do they hate me? Hundred Eyes
: It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for what you are not. Kublai Khan
: You're a drunken fool. Hundred Eyes
: So, kill me. Kublai Khan
: I have thought about it. Hundred Eyes
: But you wish to sleep. Kublai Khan
: I know you want to tell me one of those endless stories from that infernal Chinese teacher of yours. Hundred Eyes
: No stories tonight, Sire. Kublai Khan
: No Zen riddles? Hundred Eyes
: I will offer a truth instead. Had you spared Ariq you would have encouraged other traitors. Kublai Khan
: His execution was just. Hundred Eyes
: No. But it was necessary in that moment, to preserve your Empire. Kublai Khan
: You ease one worry, but aggravate one greater. Hundred Eyes
: As life is wont to do.
: Do you have brothers? Marco Polo
: I wish I had. Someone to play with. Kublai Khan
: Someone to conspire with. Brothers sometime blessing, sometime curse. Like those in your holy book. Cain and Abel? Tell me of them. Marco Polo
: Sons of Adam. Cain was the first man to be born. Abel, the first to die. Kublai Khan
: By the blade of his brother, yes? Marco Polo
: Envious of God's love for Abel, Cain killed his brother, concealed his body and lied to the Lord above. Kublai Khan
: What became of the murderer? Marco Polo
: He bore the mark of Cain and was cursed to roam the Earth, endlessly. Kublai Khan
: To this day? Marco Polo
: No. He wandered until he could wander no more. So he took a wife, built a house and lived there until it collapsed and crushed him dead. Some say this is an invented story, nothing more. Meant to impart a greater lesson. Kublai Khan
: Which is? Marco Polo
: The scholars and historians of Venice are superior to all others across the land. I have not the studies to begin to explore such questions. Kublai Khan
: Try. Marco Polo
: It is in our nature to seek our brother's possessions. And be willing to destroy to obtain them.
] Kublai Khan
: [having killed an innocent servant rather than Marco
] If I let him walk away, he will have his wine six nights from now and say "Khan was lied to by a lowly foreigner and gave that liar his leave." He shares your sin now. He is your scapegoat. Go, Latin. Sleep off the drink.
: [to Ahmad
] You are stubborn. Ahmad's Mother
: Which is good. Kublai Khan
: And clearly care nothing of the comforts I have provided you. Ahmad's Mother
: Which is good as well.
: Father, if you just... Kublai Khan
: What's done is done. We throw a banquet, have a hunt. Smack the chieftains into line, return home, victory in hand. Prince Jingim
] Very wise, Father. Kublai Khan
: Don't. Don't do that. I want to be bitter.
: [thinking back
] Sire, if you would still consider it, I would like to accept the position you offered previously in the Finance Ministry. Kublai Khan
: Ah, your nose has been opened, huh? Ahmad
: I learned much about the lives of your subjects. I realize just how much more effective I can be by your side. Kublai Khan
] You know what this means, son? You finally feel worthy of the power I offer you. Ahmad
: I believe I do.
: They drowned themselves. Hundreds. That was one bend of one river. There are hundreds more who'd rather meet their God than fall to you. The South is not secure. Kublai Khan
: You're ruining my lunch.
] Kublai Khan
: [sits down on the step
] When I was your age I'd seen men die. Boy Emperor
: Did you kill them? Kublai Khan
: At the time I'd only killed a rabbit and an antelope. Boy Emperor
: Did they cry? Kublai Khan
: The rabbit and the antelope? Boy Emperor
: The men you watched die. Kublai Khan
: Some of them, yes. Boy Emperor
: I've seen bad men die. Am I bad? Is that why you want me to die?
[running to him
] Boy Emperor
: I don't want to! Kublai Khan
: It's all right. Sssh. It's all right. Sssh. All right.
: Emperor of China? Emperor of Mongolia? I will be Emperor of the World!
: [abort previous visitor having been dragged out
] A man found in possession of a stolen horse must return it to its owner, add nine horses of the same kind. If he is unable to pay this fine his children must be taken instead of the horses. If he has no children then he must be slaughtered like a sheep. That man has no children.
: The troops are quartered. Burial preparations are underway for those we were able to retrieve. I have ordered scouting parties to sweep the grasslands, a week's ride away in case Sidao is audacious enough to siege Cambulac. Finally, we are conscripting new troops from the north. I have begun preparations for training. I fear they may be less compliant now, but we shall do what is necessary to bend the willful. My Lord. Kublai Khan
: Is that truly all? Do you not wish to discuss your counsel? And my disregard of it? Yusuf
: The Polo matter, are you prepared to proceed?
: [in chains
] Respectfully, Lord Khan we reap what we sow. Kublai Khan
: You speak recklessly. Marco Polo
: I speak honestly. You deserve honesty. You believe I should not conquer the West? On the contrary, Lord Khan. The most common law of nature and of man is to take what has been mandated by God or by the swords and arrows you command. You claim both. But you must be prepared for the resistance of the lionhearted. And the West is not weak.
] Kublai Khan
: [wakes suddenly panting
] Empress Chabi
: Genghis... Empress Chabi
: [both rise and walk to different parts of the room
] From death Genghis travels to your dreams to voice his great displeasure. Kublai Khan
: He does not. Empress Chabi
: Then why visit you night after night? To laud your actions?
] Empress Chabi
: And now, the people riot. They shut down your Chinese streets. Kublai Khan
: It is the Song that riot from grief over their Emperor. I have torn from them their last remaining hope. Exactly as I wished to. Empress Chabi
: We'll see how your brothers cast their votes. Kublai Khan
: Kaidu could die as well. Die very easily. Empress Chabi
: How many elections will you run off with? How many opponents murdered? And all for what? That you may kill children with impunity? Kublai Khan
: Think, my Chabi, think. When was the last time? Empress Chabi
: Last time what? Kublai Khan
: Last time you did something hard? Something that made your delicate stomach turn? Something that you did not think could ever, ever be forgiven? Empress Chabi
: Kublai... Kublai Khan
: You did not. Because it is only I. I, I, I. I took the wall, I executed my brother, I do what must be done for our empire.
: [to Marco about growling wolf
] He shows himself. Don't move. Don't blink. Don't show your teeth. You can't retreat. You can't attack. You have to stare down the wolf.
: What do we owe? The Doctor
: Oh, thirty-five elephants with ceremonial bridles, trappings, brocades and pavillions, four thousand white stallions and twenty-five tigers. Khan
: That's not too bad so far. The Doctor
: And the sacred tooth of Buddha which Polo brought over from India. Khan
: Oh... that?What else, what more? The Doctor
: I... I'm very much afraid all the commerce from Burma for one year, sire.
: The I Ching says this: Attempt to seize all of China and destruction will follow. The Silk Road you once opened will be overtaken by a black cloud from the West, leaving nothing but weeds and nettles. Kublai Khan
: You speak any more poetry, Priest, you'll be growing weeds and nettles out of your dung hole. Empress Chabi
: Mind your nature, husband!
] Kublai Khan
: You defended me courageously even in the face of death. Marco Polo
: I was one of many, and it pleases me greatly to return and find you well. Kublai Khan
: Mmm. Have you made your decision regarding the fate of your father and uncle? Marco Polo
: No, Lord Kublai. I thought - I hoped you might pardon them. Kublai Khan
: Is pardon punishment? Marco Polo
: I wished you would spare them. Kublai Khan
: Why would I do that?
: We have grown too accustomed to amazing things. We, whose feet lost form from walking the steppe, whose noses grew flat from punishing winds. We now have more food than our stomachs need. More warmth than our skin can bear. And so if you ask, "Why, then? Why do we need more?" I will tell you because that is what comes next.
: In another time under any other circumstances I might have made her a wife. I used her in ways that probably didn't sit well with you. Ahmad
: I own nothing in this life. Nothing which you cannot take from me, whenever you wish.