By Douglas E. Gogerty
The crossing of the Caucus Mountains was very difficult. They did not wait for the way to be clear, and thus they ran into harsh conditions. Some of the Mongols did not survive the trip, and some of the equipment had to be left behind.
Further, on the other side, a formidable army was waiting for them. Several groups on the northern side of the mountain range united to meet the Mongols. Neither army was ready for the battle. Both withdrew without many casualties. However, another battle was inevitable.
The Mongol generals sent The Messenger to negotiate with one of the groups in the alliance. The Cumans, a group well known among the Mongols, was the group The Messenger was sent to meet.
They at first laughed at the young man bringing a message from the Mongols. He came alone and had only his pike with him. They threatened him. They taunted him. Eventually, they attacked him.
After killing about 15 of the Cuman soldiers, they listened the presented message. The agreement was for the Cuman to leave the battle in exchange for a share of the plunder obtained from the other tribes. Naturally, they agreed.
The Messenger returned with the tale of his treatment. Clearly, the Mongols could not trust the Cuman. Any group that would mistreat a messenger, or betray their allies for money was not to be counted upon for alliance.
With the observed Cuman withdrawal, the Mongols attacked the remaining army. The volley of arrows and the charging horsemen did their job as the alliance collapsed. The opposing army was routed.
It was during this disarray that the Cumans halted their retreat and attacked. However, their raid was disorderly. The well trained Mongols easily repulsed the raid and the Cumans were in full retreat. However, this time the Mongols were in pursuit.
In an effort to survive, the Cuman army split into two groups. One group headed northeast, and the other headed northwest. The two Mongol tumens once again separated. Jebe took his army northwest, and Subutai pursued the army to the northeast.
During his pursuit, General Jebe needed provisions, so he entered the trading outpost called Soldaia. They were not responsive towards his request, and thus he had to take the city.
General Subutai continued his skirmishes with the Cuman who were now traveling along the Dniester River. They were in no hurry, thus they temporarily broke off the chase and held a great hunt. Once the Jebe's siege ended, they would reunite to continue the pursuit of the Cuman.
General Jebe learned that the Cumans and a large army of Rus were setting to attack General Subutai's position. Hence, he sent an envoy to the Prince of Kiev. Unfortunately, The Messenger was with General Subutai. Thus, when the peace offer was rejected, the entire envoy was executed.
Nevertheless, the slight delay allowed General Jebe's tumen the opportunity to join with the remaining Mongol forces. When they learned the fate of the first envoy, a second was sent led by the Messenger.
While they had no previous quarrel with the Rus, one was provided by the Prince of Kiev. In fact, they were headed away from those lands. Nonetheless, the second envoy was to declare a state of war between the two peoples.
The Prince attempted to execute this envoy as well. However, he lost 50 soldiers before deciding the let The Messenger go free. With the return of The Messenger, valuable reconnaissance was gathered by the Mongols. They learned that they would be out numbered by a 3 to 1 margin. Thus, they would have to use strategy.
Generals Jebe and Subutai agreed that a rear guard would be left to slow the Rus army as the main force found a spot to their advantage. The Messenger would not be part of the force, but would have the task of harrying the advancing Rus soldiers.
In this way, the generals hoped the army would become spread out. Thus, the Mongols would not face the entire army at once.
When the Rus and the Cuman attacked the 1000 Mongols protecting the retreat, The Messenger aided the rear guard. However, the numbers were too great for any hope of victory -- even with The Messenger killing 175 men. His orders were to retreat, and he followed the strategy and reluctantly left his comrades.
His occasional skirmishes with the Rus army as they advanced upon the retreating Mongols worked to the desired effect. The army became spread out.
When the Mongols ended their retreat at the Kalka River after nine days, the Rus were not prepared for the attack. They could not gather their full forces when the Mongols advanced. They did attack with the forces they had, but they were ill prepared.
Once the front line broke under the Mongol charge, the rear was still moving forward unaware that a battle had begun. Thus, the one army was moving in two directions at once causing a confusion, which the Mongols used to their advantage.
The rout was on. The Messenger stacked another 500 men upon the 250 he had killed during the previous 10 days. He even met the Prince during the chaos and returned the hospitality the Prince had offered him. Thus, the Prince was quickly beheaded.
Some allies to this prince escaped. However, the Mongols were in hot pursuit. Eventually, this army found a spot to fortify its position. The Mongols began the siege of this encampment, but sent an envoy to discuss terms.
At first, they refused to speak with The Messenger. However, he was insistent. Eventually, they agreed to hear the terms. As usual, they were not happy with the proposal and attempted to kill The Messenger. They were unsuccessful. He fought his way to the fortified exit, and let the Mongol army in.
Immediately, the leaders surrendered, but their remaining army was dismantled. They tried to explain that there was some sort of misunderstanding. They had completely agreed to the terms presented. Nevertheless, there would be no mercy for this group. However, they would be granted a bloodless death. They were placed beneath the celebration platform and suffocated.
Other principalities were concerned with what the Mongols would do next. However, they simply headed East towards home. Thus, other Rus armies were spared. Further, no aggressive moves were made towards the Mongols. They did not want to lose another 1000 men to The Messenger.