Chapter 10 – Khujaa
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The Kerait had never had a Khujaa before, and with how prestigious the title of khujaa was I would hold major influence over the Kerait for the foreseeable future. This was not what my uncle had been hoping would happen, and I was sure that if I got through this round I would have an even bigger target on my back. I took a deep breath and began my run, I felt sluggish as I began to draw my arrow and nocked it. Almost as if the air around me had become viscous and thick as butter. I was beginning to panic wondering if I would fail to hit the target this time, and as I began to aim at the target and gave way for the wind, it all seemed to clear up. The moment seemed to freeze and all my sluggishness and nervousness went away. It was just me and the target, like it had always been. Everything else was outside of my control and unimportant. Right here, right not, this moment was just for me. So I shut out everything else and so I let go of the arrow with a satisfying ‘twang’ when I was happy with my aim, and I completed my run satisfied with my shot. I didn’t look back at the target, but the crowd raucously broke out cheering telling me the result without my needing to see it myself, all the tribes regardless of their beliefs and their enmities cheered at that moment, for a khujaa was a person that had surpassed the limits of what Centaurs considered ordinary. While before this I was just the son of Jirandai and a promising young foal of the Kerait with a bright future ahead of me, I had now become a person that would enter the records of the Kurultai and be immortalized amongst the history of the Centaurs. I walked back to the beginning of the run and as I reached the back I was congratulated by the veteran archer from the Olkhunut, “You’re the first Khujaa from the younger generation, a good showing for your first-time boy.”.


The crowd quietened down soon enough, while I had indeed achieved something worthy of note, the competition hadn’t ended just yet. The two Olkhunut archers remained and everyone was wondering just how much more dominant the Olkhunut would be. Would the final two, perhaps even the final three participants be from the Olkhunut Tribe? That would not sit well with the other Khan’s. To be that far behind would be embarrassing, however, the Khan’s were bound for disappointment in this round as the weight of the audience’s expectations wasn’t enough for the Olkhunut contestants to falter. Kachuin and the other Olkhunut youngster both hit the target but were received with tempered applause. The expectations that came with being one of the Olkhunut weren’t easy to escape. I knew that the likelihood of me going through the next round wasn’t high and sure enough after the 25o mark run was over only Kachuin and the veteran remained. Both the other Olkhunut participant and I were eliminated and it was indeed an all Olkhunut shoot off to end the archery competition. The winner ended up being the veteran khujaa, it turns out his name was Olar, I didn't bother remembering it, who knew when I'd meet this guy next? I didn’t stick around after being eliminated, and went to grab something to eat. Participating in competitions was tiring work, I had no interest in witnessing the saber duels so I just went back to my ger and caught up on all the sleep I’d missed out on this morning.


 It was well into the evening when I woke up and as I exited my ger, I ran straight into my father who was talking to my uncle. “Ah, Tsubodai, perfect timing. I was just discussing with your father about how I felt you should lead the expedition this time. You are of my blood and have already proven yourself capable as a warrior. What do you think?”, my uncle queried. While it seemed like a very sincere suggestion, the reality was that it was the only thing my uncle could do at this point to somewhat reduce my influence from spreading within our tribe. Not to mention if anything bad were to happen during the expedition it would be laid at my feet, and my uncle could use it as an excuse to show that I made for a poor leader even if I was a talented archer. My father was hesitant to agree now that I had already gained such influence, there wasn’t any reason for me to go on the trip.  My father’s initial plan had been for me to try my luck at achieving some merit during our expedition, but all that wasn’t necessary now that I was a khujaa. My uncle had me in a bind. If I declined he could easily let others within the tribe know that I was ungrateful to the tribe and wasn’t willing to help the tribe and only knew how to leech off others. “I would be glad to lead our tribe members during the expedition uncle.”, I replied humbly, accepting that I had no other choice in this scenario. I walked over to my father and convinced him that I wouldn’t take any unnecessary risks and would come back home safe before asking him how the saber duels went? “As usual we were trounced by the Borjigin, only one of our warriors had a good showing and it wasn’t either of your cousins. Togrul was mortified, for one of the two great clans to have only one promising warrior is never a good sign.”, my father pointed out sighing deeply. “It’s the reason why he is pushing this issue now, he has no other option if he wants either Güyük or Kaidu to succeed him.”.


Güyük son of Togrul, was arguably the most arrogant warrior I’d ever come across. Now that wasn’t a problem in and of itself, the problem was how inflated his opinion of himself was. It wouldn’t have mattered much if Güyük was a good warrior as the Kerait had always been a tribe that used the fact that we lived by the iron mines to our advantage, thing is Güyük was at best average. He was decent, but nowhere even close to the great warrior he proclaimed himself to be. However, no good merchant was ever arrogant, and for a tribe that was known for its trade, Güyük was too flawed to ever become a Khan. Which was why Togrul had pinned most of his hopes on Kaidu! Kaidu, unlike his brother, was a humble, good-looking, and charismatic young centaur. While he wasn’t a skilled warrior either by any means, his attitude was much better, and most importantly he was a kind enough person if somewhat narcissistic. I got along decently enough with Kaidu, though I did try to avoid him unless there wasn’t any other option. There was only so much of that peacock I could take at a time. “Will they be coming along for the expedition?”, I asked my father. As it turned out only Kaidu would be coming along, a smart move. Güyük tended to cause problems wherever he went and Kaidu might be able to do what my father wanted for me initially. “You’ll learn more about the plans and the other expedition members in the next couple of days.”, my father told me as he began to walk away still not entirely convinced that this was a good idea.


We'll be exploring China on our expedition South comrades, and slowly introducing some internal politics.