The Widow Harun
Glossary of Unfamiliar Terms
Del. The knee-length leather tunic, typically padded with furs for warmth and toughness, that is a core component of a Tuigan nomad’s attire. Even when he is not expecting trouble, a Tuigan often wears a chain shirt beneath it. If he is expecting trouble, he’ll dispense with civilian clothes entirely and put on splint or banded armor, or a breastplate.
Great Khan. The elected leader of a confederation of nomadic tribes including non-Tuigan, or the elected leader of a number of Tuigan ordus who later conquers non-Tuigan. Jebe Khan became Great Khan only after the Shaaran Cheetah tribe was dynastically united with The Tuigan March, creating a multi-ethnic empire of nomads. Later Great Khans were each elected by a kuriltai consisting only of The Golden Family.
Khahan. The title taken by Hoekun Yamun after uniting all the ordus of the Tuigan. This is an old form, no longer used. Contemporary Tuigan would use the phrase ‘Khan of Khans’ instead. Both usages refer to the elected leader of a large body of Tuigan comprising many ordus. Conquest is not sufficient to create a Khan of Khans. The individual in question must be elected by a conclave known as a kuriltai, at which the individual khans of his domain gather to accept his rulership. The khans vote by showing up or staying away. If the ordus ruled by a Khan of Khans include non-Tuigan, the ruler is likely to be called a Great Khan instead.
Khan of Khans. See Khahan.
Khan. The leader of an ordu. Note that a khan is not necessarily an important person. When Jebe Khan left The Endless Waste in 1372, his ordu consisted of exactly six people. On the other hand, a man might remain a khan for some time, no matter how powerful he later becomes. It was only in 1393 that Jebe Khan took a new title, even though at that time he already ruled The Tuigan March and all of Unther. In general, any leader of men might refer to himself as a khan, whether he is a herdsman, a bandit or a military commander. Western travelers occasionally refer to khans and khatuns as kings and queens, but this is false. Since the foundation of The Tuigan Empire, some of the Great Khan’s subjects in settled areas such as Shaarmid and Dhaztanar have begun to use Khan as a surname (ex. Ansar Khan, merchant of Shaarmid) or even a given name (ex. Khan Singh, wizard of Ulgarth).
Khatun. The female equivalent of a khan. All the same rules apply, with the difference that rules of inheritance for women in The Tuigan Empire are unsettled. In traditional Tuigan law an ordu can be led only by a man. An ordu led by a khatun, most often a widow but also possibly a female survivor of warfare, can become the property of any man who compels her to marry him. To prevent violence, the dead khan’s family will usually marry her to one of his brothers if there are any. If there are no brothers, or the dead khan’s family disavows his widow for any reason, then the ordu is in great danger. Bride-stealing is a common fate for widows, in which case her companions are also liable to kidnap or even death. This is still the case among the most traditional Tuigan of the Empire, but many others have adopted a variety of other practices from their settled neighbors and subjects, such that any woman in a leadership position might be called a Khatun. For example, Subedei Khatun was so known from 1372 until 1393, regardless of whether she or Jebe Khan was actually leading the ordu at the time.
Kumiss. The preferred alcoholic drink of the Tuigan nomads, kumiss is a liquor made from fermenting milk. It tastes better than it sounds. Skins filled with this mildly alcoholic beverage are typically passed from hand to hand around a fire when herders or warriors are gathered at the end of the day.
Kuriltai. See Khahan.
Noyan or ‘Loyal Noyan’. A Noyan is the Tuigan equivalent of a baron or noble. A friend or companion, most often someone who has proven him or herself useful in battle, is rewarded with this title. Someone who calls himself a Khan typically has several Noyan in attendance who act as councilors. In more formal settings, such as the camp of a Great Khan, the assembled Noyan are a powerful consultative body. ‘Loyal Noyan’ is the peculiar term for the Noyan of Jebe Khan, to distinguish them from those of any lesser family member.
Ordu. The basic unit of Tuigan society. An ordu typically consists of one or more extended families plus retainers, followers or servants, and perhaps one or more unmarried young men traveling with the ordu for protection. An ordu could be as small as two yurts or as large as a tent city, but always includes horses and livestock. Each ordu must be self sufficient in peace and war. Accordingly, the herds are usually vast, as large as possible for the number of hands in the ordu, and every man, woman and child helps out. All adults, and even most children, are capable of wielding arms in battle, always including a bow but often also a lance or scimitar. When at war, an ordu might compose a military unit by itself or be considered part of a larger unit. The component parts of an ordu (and the most common way for strangers to estimate its size) are yurts, not individuals. Jebe Khan began his career with an ordu of only four companions plus his wife, but by the time of his death his ordu was the enormous tent city of Jebekhanbalik, roving capital of The Tuigan Empire.
Yurt. The tent and home of a Tuigan. Tuigan ordus are measured by the number of yurts, not the headcount. Made of thick felt carpets drpaed over stout wooden poles for floor, walls and ceiling, yurts are round, typically 10-15’ wide or larger, and as tall as 10-15’ at their peak, where there is typically a smokehole. They can be luxurious, with solid wooden doors, rich furnishings, and many cushions and other amenities, or sparse, with nothing to rest on but rugs. A single Tuigan never has his own yurt. The inhabitants are invariably either a group of bachelors, from two to five or so, or a family of husband, wife and children. Grown children live together as siblings or separately with their own spouses. All of a Tuigan’s personal property is expected to be either on his person, on the back of his mount, or inside his yurt; he has no other personal space anywhere in the ordu. Personal mounts are always tethered or hobbled at the threshold of each yurt, though other livestock owned by the occupants might be grazing miles away. The main feature of a yurt is its portability. It can be erected or taken down in a few hours by two people and carried on the backs of two horses.