February 1405

"Thus I come as I must

As in past I always have

And as I always will

And not of choice or its lacking

Or with malice or benefit

But universal bondage."

The waves of Snorri crash no more. The thrashing wine-dark sea merging into silent crystal. The sounds of wind and storm transform back to howls upon a universal tree. Carolin stands before a glowing rug, its lights dimming to normality.

And high above her head is Baldr, his howl joined by countless others each with its distinctive pitch. Her mind is attuned to his sound and she feels the words wracked out of his suspended torment. The nearness of another spirit is sensed, close to him she knows as Baldr. She feels the union of their purpose, linked despite the lonely ordeal each must endure. And through this linking she feels a voice, purposeful, entwined as part of a lover’s agony shared.

"Seek out the Great Tatar at his dying. Seek out the first of the first. Fulfil the task of history. Bring to me astronomy."

And from Baldr "Go back to halls where threads were bright. Match the runes to your purpose. Choose from Mannaz, Sowelo and Gebo. Also Hagla, Algiz and Pertho."

Upon these commands Carolin reacts. She turns into the adjoining hall through a tiny door. The chamber of the hall is musty as though the Norns would prefer some other task than maintain these people’s tapestries. Within them there is terror, terror of the Khan. Carolin can feel the strength of threads that gave this people power. The Great Silk Route across the north from China to the Mediterranean was the basis of this thread. Above the massive mountain barrier of Asia, across the vast northern plains where fierce, nomadic horsemen rode, lay this ancient path. A path broken by a millenium of disorder of squabbling tyrants and marauders. And at the time of Snorri, the Mongol Ghenghis forged his claim, sweeping along the ancient route building back its strength by uniting undisciplined peoples.

Carolin could feel the growing strength of the silken thread.The thread was stronger and she sensed its reason, Ghenghis made it so. He built stations, hostels and forts to feed and speed the messenger. But that strength began to ebb as she entered further. Ghenghis was now dead, his divided empire beginning to crumble. The rise of assassins and disorder were returning the Silk Route to the land.

Despite its weakness this Silk Route thread was now glowing stronger in harmony with her runes. Carolin could feel she was close now to the weavings that she sought. But there was a new darkness, blackness linking to the thread. The terror of the Khan was now displaced by terror of the plague, and the plague and the silk route shared that thread, one carried by the other.

The terror of the Khan has faded and with it the thread grows continually weaker but now part of the thread once more grows strong. A new binder of men forges nations out of terror. Carolin sees within the weavings sights of unforgettable horror. Heads piled one upon the other in columns and pillars mark the passing of the unifier, the Amir Tamerlane. Tamerlane, Timburlane or Timur recasts the empires of the southern Khans and binds into it the Khanate of the Golden Horde. From middle Russia to India and the Mediterranean he has swept all before him, never losing any battle. Timur has once more taken back the central lands of Ghenghis Khan, making one out of the hostile parts.

The terrible, earthshaking Timur, who shook the cities to the ground, is no vandal bent solely on destruction but rebuilds according to a self made plan. A land of domes emerges from the conquest as seen within the weavings. Domes based on the mountains of his beloved home, Transoxania and Samarkand.

North of India, South of Russia, East of Persia, West of China, directly on the ancient silk route, his Green City Samarkand becomes a city worthy of an illustrious Amir, a domed city, model for much of future time.

Carolin’s progress now slows for she is near her goal. Tamerlane is old and back home in Samarkand. There is a foreign presence here, a Spaniard seeking contact with this fearsome man whose name now strikes fear throughout all the world. It is many months since Timur’s last battle and winter draws near. It is three months since he returned victorious from the edge of the Mediterranean.

Timur, the impetuous, lacking the strategic skill of Ghenghis but who by his commanding presence wins against unreasonable odds. Timur who leads each battle in defiance of reason, inspires his men to victory. Timur the Lame is a much loved man at home, but greatly feared by those to whom he has no alliance.

Within this aged tapestry Carolin can feel concerns. Concerns of the people for their future, for Timur wants to take back China, to embark on one more campaign. For three months he has courted knowledge of the distant empire and, now impatient, will not be restrained. Despite the approach of winter he orders five hundred wagons to be assembled. His people are instructed to concentrate on food production for a four-year war. And at the start of winter his army sets off to reach the northern part of the route forged by Ghenghis two centuries before.

As Carolin places fingers on the thread around her stirs a storm. A storm of bitter icy blasts, freezing-cold winds that chill to death. Winds that blast from low angles making breathing a hard fought task. Winds that sear the lungs. Cold hail, ice, rain and snow that bites off ears and nose. Against these odds the army moves fighting, dying, struggling north. The harshest winter takes its toll but makes rivers more passable. And the harshness of this winter stops the mills from turning and makes impossible his demands for food, adding hunger to this malevolent winter’s ills.

Through all of this Timur leads, a proud leader kept warm by extra clothing, leading men whose unquestioning obedience and reverence are inspired by him. Timur leads and as he has always done survives the elements pitched against him.

This struggling, depleted band of men feels the force of nature crying out against their task but struggles on until at last the town of Atrar is neared, three hundred kilometres from Samarkand. For once the early night is clear, the wind still blasts across an icy crystal land. The planet Mercury shines in glittering strength against the western sky. The Bear lies low on its incessant wheel, the near-full, waning moon is yet to rise.

Carolin feels the gnawing cold biting into frozen men. She feels their state of mind, she sees and knows the fitness of this time and place within the howling crystal palace. The palace and the country are now one, the people no longer confined to the rugs of history. They are either here with her or she is there with them.

And Tamerlane is aware of her in the corner of his mind. She joins with them as weary horses clatter behind wind breaking walls. Weary men drag needed fuel and food from icy snow-laden carts. At last a semblance of warmth exists inside coalsmoke- ridden rooms where braziers burn amongst close clustered men.

Amongst the smoke and clatter of disarmament, beverages brew to thaw the internal freeze that lies upon the breath.

Timur has a more potent brew, laced with stronger herbs and spices. Fungi and roots are added to bring more fire to the fermented milk and under his instructions its strength is doubled to blast away the ice within him. Whilst this is prepared he is alone and Carolin takes her chance. She has watched and listened but the strangeness of the tongue defeats her, so now she takes the thread bearing the rune of Mannaz and places it on her tongue. Mannaz, the speech rune now gives her the power to hear and speak to this assorted collection of warriors.

She asks the question she has felt from within his men " Why are you here at this awful time? Why did you change your mind? Why not wait or go as you originally planned along the coastal lands?"

He looks in her direction without fear, despite his recognition of her place within the history of his life. "I brook no waiting. The core, the heart is where I thrust. The risk is greater but it brings swifter victory. If I must pay the penalty for rashness then it is overdue."

He now questions her, "Why are you here at this awful time? What do you seek from my mind? Why have you waited to possess the secrets of Timur’s desecrated lands?"

Carolin replies, "The time is long appointed. I seek to know the place of plundered scrolls. I need to know the secret cache of all the cherished knowledge."

Tamerlane recognises the meaning of her words as from within he speaks his own new dreadful knowledge "Then the time has come."

Two of the high Amirs and several of Timur’s men now return to his smoke filled chamber, the glittering flame of coal filled brazier dulled by the swirling blackened air. The outside howling still clearly heard, the coldness but a roof away. Nur-ad-Din speaks first for he is concerned at the low quantity of food within the town. Timur takes his goblet and responds "I have sent ahead. Allahdad is near. That cursed man who spoke ill of me upon the completion of that accursed mosque. His meagre stores will be ours before I wreak his end. His fate shall be even worse than that of he who sought to overshadow my lofty palace."

But suddenly Timur chokes, the burning liquid’s fiery spirit consuming ice within but taking with it the fabric of his body. With alarm his men attend but to no avail. They lift him on to his cushioned couch where the greyness of his face sits ill below the long but thinning whitened hair. His body now does not feel of ice but of a fiery burning. Even here, knowing of his end, he leads, instructs his men but the commanding strength is diminished to a whisper.

"Keep your swords valiantly in hand. Keep agreement among you, for in disorder there is ruin. Do not turn aside from the march to Cathay.

"Do not rend your garments and run to and fro like madmen because I have left you. That will announce my death and will breed disorder."

Tamerlane gestures drawing the two high Amirs Nur ad-Din and Shah Malik to his side. He raises his voice so that all can hear.

"I appoint Pir Muhammed, the son of Jahangir as my successor. He must reside at Samarkand and have in his hands absolute authority over the army and civil affairs. I command you to devote your lives to him, and support him. He must rule the distant provinces of the world as well as Samarkand, and unless you obey him utterly, there will be conflict."

The other high Amirs had now entered the chamber and amongst them was consternation. Only one of Timur’s grandsons had accompanied the army. Pir, the nominated successor was in far off India. Ulugh Begh, the first son of Timur’s eldest son was not far away for he was travelling with the supplies. He was only twelve years old but already it was apparent he was not inclined to war, preferring the pursuit of science and arts. His father Shah Rukh also preferred not to be a warrior and was far away governing the vast, rich lower lands near the Aral Sea. Timur’s favourite son, a proven military campaigner, would have been the logical successor but he had been killed in the battles of the previous year. The order of succession was therefore most unorderly, with Timur on his deathbed abruptly choosing one who could not impose his claim.

The Amirs urged that Timur wait for other grandsons to arrive so that the order of succession could be clearly understood. Tamerlane’s eternal dislike of hesitation and delay sparked his response .

"This is the last audience. God will have it so."

After a while he said as if to himself, for the others were unaware of Carolin, "I would like nothing, except to see Shah Rukh again. But that is---impossible."

Tamerlane, Earthshaker was dead and Carolin was unsure what she had learned. The only things that she was able to conclude were that Timur had preserved the documents of the towns he had razed, that he had brought them back and that in some way the eldest son, Shah Rukh, held the key. Her mission was not complete.

Carolin took up the course of the silken thread allowing the cold of Atrar to fade back into dreams. Once more she passed along the musty chamber. She released her touch on Timur’s tapestry but remained aware of history’s progress as she traced along the thread.

It did not follow as Timur had wished. The Amirs had tried to obey and marched in stiffened columns along the Great Silk Route but events behind them forced them back. Opportunism reigned, with those immediately available taking upon themselves the power of supreme command. Ill suited usurpers and disorder followed until a succession of deaths in battle compelled Shah Rukh, first son of Timur, father of Ulugh Beg, to mount his claim for the throne. With him went Ulugh.

It was at this point that Carolin paused and wove her runic thread into the fabric. She would not pause at this place within the weaving for she sensed it was a future time that she must observe, but she paused to add the charm that strengthened their historic claim. Sowelo the victory rune she used. She wove it into their rug to protect these men inclined to peace and let them benefit from war. Against hardened warriors and Amir generals they would wage their war and win. Carolin, in empathy with a just cause, placed a rune that supported victory, but perhaps success needed no such aid. In history we can never know whether such acts are essential to the time.

With victory won Shah Rukh bestowed the governance of Samarkand upon his son. The city was bereft of all the finery it held under Tamerlane, squandered by profligate rulers and invaders. Its libraries empty, its buildings victims of neglect and war, it was a city awaiting the true successor of Tamerlane. Waiting for enlightened rulers to rebuild a greater splendour from that which had been razed.

Carolin slowed her progress though the hall and touched upon the thread for detail as son and father set in progress the restoration of Samarkand. She watched and listened as the father detailed where the secret cache was stored. Those books of learning feared and revered by Tamerlane that had been stored out of the reach of ravaging men. From these books Ulugh would gain much learning and to this store add his own strong contribution. A secret store based on ancient books known only to the Timurid kings.

Carolin now followed slowly knowing the import of what she did. She observed, she noted those who passed into Ulugh’s life. She looked for strangers, European men, wise seekers of knowledge. She noted their names, the towns from whence they came, the nature of their quest and those documents they were given. All this she stored for the man upon the tree, the one that hung beside her Baldr.

She followed Ulugh through his career, saw a great city reemerge, felt the power of astronomic instruments and buildings created by this intellectual leader. She stayed with him as he wrote and observed the interest in his published documents. Throughout his life she was there, traced in quickly passing thread beyond the time his father died, when he took charge and wisely reigned. Up to the time three years later, the time of his assassination.

Now armed with knowledge she turned to the sky, her answers flowing to questioning, crystal-tormented men.