Genghis Khan rode over the battlefield. The fighting was over; there were the victors, and there were the dead and dying. The Khan glanced at the fallen as he passed.
One of the enemy lay twisted, staring upward. As the Khan looked down, his eyes met those of the fallen man, and the conqueror saw that the man was not dead. The man recognized him and smiled slowly. His lips moved; his voice was hoarse and faint and the Khan only just made out the words: “I am what you will be.”
The Khan rode on. He did not bother to dispatch the man. That was the work of his army, and the man was dying anyway. Around him his captains discussed the stupidity, the senselessness of the dying man’s words. What had he meant? Conquered? Their Khan would never be conquered!
But the Khan had understood. “I am what you will be”—dead. Not even the greatest conqueror who had ever lived would escape death, the conqueror of all.
The memory of the dying warrior still nagged at him months later. The Khan did not accept that anything he wanted done could be impossible. But he looked at his wives, and his army, and his conquests, and thought, I will die, and all will be unmade.
One night he sat in his tent, hearing the reports of some of his officers who were recently returned from conquest. After the reports came food and drink and stories. “…And on one of the mountains in this land,” said a captain, Liu Chunglu, “there is a sage whom the people say is three hundred years old. He has the secret to immortality, and will never grow older than he was when he made the discovery.”
“Bring that man to me,” said the Khan.
A party of men departed the next morning, led by Liu Chunglu. The journey to the immortal’s dwelling place was not a short one. But time and distance were nothing when measured against such a reward.
Nor was the man easy to find. Liu’s party was directed to one mountain and then another by people who had heard of the immortal, and who knew generally where he was to be found, or thought they knew, or whose father or uncle or cousin had seen him years ago, yet could no longer say exactly where it was. In spite of all difficulties, however, the searchers slowly drew closer, and finally they had good fortune. They found the immortal, living in a hut on a mountain.
He was old and white haired and he had a long white beard that reached his waist. He was carrying two buckets of water to put on his garden. His eyes were alert and he still had strength and vigor in his body.
“Greetings, old man,” said Liu. “Are you Changchun, the sage whom the villagers below say has lived for three hundred years?”
“I am,” said the man, smiling.
“They say you have discovered the secret of immortality.”
“Indeed, they do say that,” said Changchun.
“We have come here in search of you,” said Liu. “The great Khan wishes to have you visit him.”
The old man stopped smiling. “I have no wish to leave my home.”
“That does not matter,” said Liu. “You will be taken to the Khan whether you wish to go or not. He has commanded that you attend him.”
“What would the great Khan want with me?” Changchun asked, dismayed.
“He wants to be immortal,” said Liu. “And we all want the same for him, for then we will always have a great leader, and no other people will ever defeat us. You will give him the secret, and we shall always glory over all the people of the earth.”
The old man suddenly regretted that he had allowed people to speak what had until now amused him. “I cannot give the Khan immortality.”
“Nevertheless, the Khan has ordered us to bring you to him and we will do so. He will not be pleased if we return without you.”
And so it was: Changchun made the journey. He and his escort set out in February and headed west.
I write fantasy, mostly, in various parts of history and non history.
I have too many stories that I’ve started and that have gotten stuck at some point in the story’s development. I’m trying to improve my ability to finish stories. As I’m sure other writers know, this is a complex of many different skills plus commitment.
I have a recently-begun YA novel. Since June 1, I have written from 0 to 550 words per day (there were 2 days of 0 words), thus averaging 180 words per day. My goal is to reach an average of 750 words per day by the last week of the Write-a-thon. I might not be able to do this. But I don’t like setting a goal that I know I can reach. This way, it’s a challenge.