Sunday, May 4, 2008

Chapter 5 (1.5.01)


The next day, both nobles of Bogdaniec, went with Powala to the morning mass in the cathedral, out of devotion and also to see the court and the guests who had arrived at the castle. In fact, on the way Powala met many acquaintances, and among them several knights famous at home and abroad, at whom Zbyszko looked with admiration, promising himself that if he escaped death for the insult to Lichtenstein, he would try to rival them in gallantry and in all knightly virtues.

One of these knights, Toporczyk, a relative of the castellan of Krakow, told them that Wojciech Jastrzembiec, a scholar, had returned from Rome, where he had been sent with a letter to Pope Bonifacius IX with king's invitation to the christening at Krakow. Pope accepted the invitation; and although it was doubtful whether he would be able to come personally, he authorized the envoy to stand godfather for the coming child in his name; and he asked that the name Bonifacius or Bonifacia be given to the child as a proof of his particular love for the king and the queen.

They also spoke of the possible arrival of the Hungarian king, Sigismund. They expected him, because he always came, invited or not, whenever there was an opportunity for feasts and tournaments, because he desired to be famous the world over as a ruler, a singer and the first among knights. Powala, Zawisza of Garbow, Dobko of Olesnica and others of the same rank fighters, recollected with a smile that during Sigismund's first visit, King Wladyslaw requested that they do not attack him too fiercely, but to spare "the Hungarian guest," whose vanity, known throughout the world, used to make him cry in case of defeat. But the knights were most interested in Duke Witold's affairs. They told marvelous tales about the magnificence of that cradle, made of sterling silver, which the Lithuanian nobles and boyars had brought as a present from Witold and his wife, Anna.

People waiting for a mass were talking the news and latest events. Macko was talking about big expedition against the Tartars. The expedition was almost ready, and great armies had already gone eastward toward eastern Russian lands. If it were successful, it would extend the king's supremacy over almost half the world, to the unknown Asian countries, to the frontier of Persia and to the shores of the Aral Sea. Macko, who formerly served under Witold and knew his plans, could tell about them so accurately and even so eloquently, that before the bells were rung for mass, a large circle of curious people had formed around him. He said that it was simply another crusade. "Witold himself," he said, "although they call him a grand duke, rules over Litwa by Jagiello's authority; he is king’s regent, therefore all the credit will be given to the king.

What fame it will be for the newly baptized Lithuanians and for the might of Poland, when their united armies carry the cross to those countries where, if they mention the Saviour's name at all, it is only to blaspheme! When the Polish and Lithuanian armies restore Tokhtamysh to the throne, he will acknowledge himself "the son" of King Wladyslaw, and he has promised to bow to the Cross with the whole Golden Horde."

The people listened to Macko with full attention, but many did not understand whom Duke Witold intended to help nor against whom he intended to fight, therefore some one asked:

"Tell us exactly with whom is the war to be?"

"With whom? With Timur the Lame!" replied Macko.

There was a moment of silence. It is true the eastern knights often heard the names of Golden, of Blue, and of other Ords; but they were not familiar with the civil wars of the Tartars. Nevertheless there was not one man in Europe, who had not heard about the terrible Timur the Lame, or Tamerlane. This name was repeated with no less fear than in the past the name of Attila. He was "lord of the world" and "lord of ages;" the ruler over twenty - seven conquered states: the ruler of Muscovy Russia; ruler of Siberia and of China as far as the India; of Baghdad, of Ispahan, of Alep, of Damascus - whose shadow was falling over the sands of Arabia, on Egypt, and on Bosphorus in the Greek empire; he was the exterminator of mankind; the terrible builder of pyramids composed of human skulls; he was the victor in all battles, never defeated in any, "lord of souls and of bodies."

Tokhtamysh had been placed by him on the throne of the Golden and the Blue Ords, and acknowledged as "the son." But when his authority extended from Aral to Crimea, over more lands than were in the rest of Europe, "the son" wanted to be an independent ruler. For this he was deposed from his throne with "one finger" of the terrible “father”; he escaped to the Lithuanian governor and asked him for help. Witold decided to restore him to his throne; but to do this it was necessary to challenge the world-ruling Timur.

For these reasons his name made a great impression on the audience, and after a short silence, one of the oldest knights said:

"A difficult business!"

"And for a trifle," said the prudent Mikolaj of Dlugolas. "What difference will it make to us, whether Tokhtamysh or some else rules over the lands at the end of the world?"

"Tokhtamysh will turn to the Christian faith," answered Macko.

"He will or he will not! Can you trust those, who do not confess Christ?"

"But we are ready to lay down our lives for Christ's name," answered Powala.

"And for knightly honor," added Toporczyk, the relative of the castellan; "there are some among us however who will go. The Lord Spytko of Melsztyn has already joined Duke Witold."

"No wonder," added Jasko Naszan; "no matter how hideous a sin you have on your soul, pardon and salvation are sure for those who fight in such a war."

"And fame for all ages," said Powala of Taczew. "If there is going to be a war it will be better if it is a great war. Timur has conquered the world and has twenty-seven states under him. It will be an honor for our nation if we defeat him."

"And why not?" said Toporczyk, "even if he possesses a hundred kingdoms, let others be afraid of him, not us! You speak wisely! Let us gather together ten thousand good spearmen, and we will ride pass entire world."

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