Near the heart of Persia a Mongol (Caucasian by birth) horseman’s pony fell against the onslaught of the sun. Once-sturdy mallet head ankles buckled and dove into the sand and fragrant scrub. He made an oath towards Tengri-Mishiqa above and pulled his equipment and himself off the steed’s sagging spine. They struck the ground in a clatter of wood and silk.

He had not trod on foot for a fortnight and a half, so ardent was the reconnaissance vanguard of which he was a sergeant. He propped himself up, gripping the smoothed topside of his composite bow by the neck. The bottom end dug into the sand. He opened his collar and fanned himself.

The horizon to the west, towards the ocean, was dominant blue straddling a bare, tan strip signifying the rest of Mesopotamia and Palestine beyond. He was aware enough of grander strategy to know somewhere in that direction lay in wait a clutch of Frankish exarchates surrounded by Egyptians, Turks and the salt waters. This was the army’s destination.

To the north was the faint angular darkness of the mountains where the Seljuqs held sway. They entered combat on horseback like he did.

The rest of the vanguard would sweep back across the sands soon and cross his position in their backwards sweeps back toward the tumen. He did not wander far nor long.

– May, 2008

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