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- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 52, Part 1

"I don't understand it. Why does that idiot refuse his freedom?"

"I don't know sir," replied Supreme Marshal Kirghiz Jagatai.

Bleda shook his head and looked out at the race track. Everything was a hazy blur of colors. Could those be the horses?

"Why do you continue to offer him absolution if he keeps refusing it?"

"Because I feel I owe him a deep debt. I wronged him horribly, even though I know I was doing what was best for all of Mongolia. Damn it, I can't see anything. I'm putting on my glasses."

He was close to blind without his glasses. He had an astigmatism and was near sighted. It was only compounded by the fact that it was blackest night, and the light came from flickering torches.

"Sir, I'd warn against that," said Jagatai with an edge of warning in his voice, "You know how the public hates weaknesses."

"I'd rather look weak than miss the national games."

Bleda Khan pulled out his sorely missed spectacles and put them on. Everything finally came into focus. It hurt his eyes for a moment, but quickly subsided with the excitement of the annual Nadam Festival.

Both Metzger and Igoumensita had come, as they had for the past three years, at Bleda's request. As a matter of fact, this year Igoumensita was going to participate in the games. But that was later, during marksmanship. Right now was horse riding for speed.

The horses took off, all at spectacular speeds. Most of the jockeys were very young. Younger jockeys meant lighter weight, which meant better speeds. Mongolian children were trained from infancy to ride.

"Fantastic, simply fantastic," said Bleda, clapping his hands together slowly, "An excellent show. You know, Jagatai, it's a shame cavalry is so outdated. I can't imagine a better mounted army in the world than the one Mongolia would have."

"Well, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan proved that point a long time ago, sir. There were cavalry troops at Irkutsk."

Bleda snorted in contempt.

"Not even a battalion. If I had my way, we'd have army groups of mounted soldiers. Damn, it's just not feasible. You send a tank up against a legion of rough riders, and I'd bet on the tank every time."

A second wave of horses took off from the starting gates. Bleda leapt up from his seat, his anticipation growing with every moment. The lead horse finally passed the finish line.

"Did you see that? Did you see it, Marshal?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why are they all leaving the track?" asked Bleda, suddenly noticing it.

"Pistol shooting is up next, sir."

It was the middle of the night and the horse racing had only just finished. The rest of the Nadam Festival would go on until well into tomorrow morning.

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