The Wheel of the Sun

“What are the children of men, but as leaves that drop at the wind’s breath?”

— The Illiad

 

Sing then of the year of Our Lord 1237, when the godless Batu Khan did come in his wrath to the fields of Rus and did fall upon the people of that country as a wolf among so many sheep. With his panoplied hosts, geared for war, did Batu bring untold woe to the city of Ryazan, where Eustathius, the keeper of the icon, did come driven by Saint Nicholas.

 

Riches immeasurable did Grand Prince Theodore of Ryazan pour out at Batu’s feet, for having been abandoned by Prince Vladimir the great men of Ryazan sought to placate the wicked Batu. And did not that godless ruler pledge to spare Ryazan from his bloody hate? Shameless then did Batu demand of the princes of Ryazan to taste the beauty of their wives and daughters. And Theodore did chastise Batu for his impiety and lechery and rebuke him, saying: “Only when you have conquered and killed us, may you do with our wives and daughters as you please.” And so did Batu cut him down. And Theodore died in his blood in the waters of the Voronezh.

 

But did not Saint Nicholas tell the Prince Theodore that his wife and son would gain the Kingdom of Heaven? And so it came to pass, for after Theodore was slain by Batu, the scourge, upon the banks of Voronezh, did Eupraxia and Ivan her son leap from the high palace tower to their deaths and so find their grace.

 

Then did the brave and daring men of Ryazan rise up against Batu’s host and full well did the nomads remark upon their strength, for each man of Ryazan did fight against ten thousand and still was Batu hard pressed to subdue them. And yet for all their valor did it come to pass that by the end of five days not a living soul was left alive in Ryazan and the cup of death was drained to its last dregs and silence came upon the plain for there were none left to lament the dead.

 

There did at this time live in Chernigov a certain nobleman of Ryazan called Evpaty Kolovrat, who did come in full haste when he heard of the plight of his country and the villainy of Batu. One thousand and seven hundred men did he then gather, whom god had preserved, and in their wrath and thirst for revenge did they set upon Batu’s rearguard and slaughter them to a man.

 

Batu then did send his kinsman Khostovrul to bring the full might of his host upon Evpaty, to break his men, and bring him bound as a prisoner. So did Khostovrul stand forth from the countless multitude and challenge Evpaty to a duel. And did not Evpaty then, in all his strength and rage, split the impious Khostovrul in twain with his bloody sword? And did he not then carry death to the greatest men of war in all Batu’s host so that they did flee from him and think him an angel of death and a fearsome giant as he did cleave them from their saddles?

 

Having driven the flower of Batu’s host before him, Evpaty did stand unconquerable upon the field. And his enemies did fly from his blade and from the drunken fury of his comrades and contrived to slay him by throwing stones through the air so that his bones did break and life fled from him. This unquenchable foe at last undone, Batu did ride to gaze upon the body of so mighty a hero. And as he did look upon his broken form Batu did weep and exclaimed: “Would that such a one had served me, I would hold him close to my heart!”

 

And Batu and his generals did then remark that neither in their lives of war nor in the tales told by their fathers had they heard of any such feat of bravery and prowess. And so in his love for Evpaty did Batu allow his men to go free, to bear his body home to Ryazan, where the body of the great hero was presented to the Grand Prince Ingvar and when that sovereign saw what had come to pass he did hear a sound alike to a great trumpet and he fell to the earth as though dead.

 

Loving of god were those sovereigns of Ryazan, fair to their kin, bright eyed, dread of countenance in their wrath, brave at arms beyond measure, gentle in heart, kind to noblemen, generous to guests, dutiful to the church, ever ready to feast and entertain, skillful in feats of war, majestic in the eyes of all. Of valorous mind were they, who dwelt ever in truth, kept body and soul free from sin.

 

 

 


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