The China of this tale was no longer the China of the Han dynasty, nor was it yet the China of the Tang or Yuan dynasties. This was the time of the Northern and Southern dynasties. This was the time of a China divided. This tale concerns the Tuoba Wei Khanate, the first and greatest of those Northern dynasties, a dynasty founded by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei, ancestors of the Mongols.

To the north of the Tuoba Wei Khanate was the Khaganate of the Rouran, ancestors of the Mongols just as the Xianbei were. Ever since the founding of the Tuoba Wei Khanate by their khan Liwei, the Rouran had raided their northern frontier, looting, and pillaging to their hearts delight and so in the sixth twelvemonth of the reign of Tuoba Buri, Third Khan of Tuoba Wei, did the beginning of a great campaign commence to push back the Rouran raids.

Many a famed war hero would be summoned to serve the Khan from the battalion captain Mulan Hu to General Tuyuhun, who had been a member of the Khans guard. Alas, when the Khans messenger reached the village where the Tuyuhun clan dwelt, he found the once great general and guard of the previous khan to be wounded.

Laying within his house, General Tuyuhun slowly rose to look upon the messenger from the Khan. His blue eyes stared at the messenger and with a white hand he stroked his reddish-blond beard. For a moment he looked at his cane before slowly reclining and closing his eyes.

The messenger stared at the General for a moment before looking to a woman, his wife no doubt and most constant companion during his service to Mumo Khan. Next to the woman was a boy, barely looking thirteen twelvemonths of age, a son of theirs perhaps. It was known that General Tuyuhun was a father of four, a brace of sons and a brace of daughters.

”General Tuyuhun… ” uttered the Messenger, his hoarse voice causing the General to open his blue eyes. ”Our Khan Tuoba Buri has summoned you to join him on the campaign against the Rouran raiders. I see that you are wounded and would wonder if your eldest child will take your place. ”

”My eldest child… My firstborn son… Is dead… ” Stated General Tuyuhun, attempting to keep a stoic expression. ”Killed by the Tufa clan across the river in the same attack that threw me from my horse… My daughters are even now seeking to avenge him… All I have left here to send the Khan is this boy… my youngest son Chuo and I will not risk losing him. If my daughters do not return, he will be all that I have left. Besides Chuo there are five other able-bodied young people in this village who can serve the Khan in his campaign. You may take four of them, but none of them shall be my son! ”

Clearing his throat, Chuo caused all in the house to look to him. A reflection of his father just as his late brother had been, the lean boy looked to his patriarch and said: ”Father, a member of our clan has been serving in the campaigns of the Tuoba clan since the time that Liwei Khan ruled Dai. It is our honour-bound duty to serve Buri Khan in his campaign. With you injured, my brother dead and my sisters seeking to avenge him, mother and I are all that remain. As has been your custom, the two of you have always gone to war together and would always remain here if one was unable to go, thus it falls to me to represent the Tuyuhun clan. I know I am not the equal of my siblings, but I am all that remains and with or without your blessing, I will go. ”

General Tuyuhun did not give a verbal response. All he could do was close his eyes and lay his head back, thinking that this would be the last time he would ever see his youngest child.

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