Cold Sands Epilogue
In the latter half of September in the First Year of Yan Xing, the emperor returned to the capital and announced the treaty signed with Yan.
The Yan cavalry retreated three hundred li to the opposite side of the Ye River. Five thousand soldiers were stationed on the north shore and a protectorate general was erected.
The two countries, Yan and Rui, made the pledge of upholding the border and not initiating warfare.
What was most surprising was the fact that the two rulers both instituted the border area to be a land for many peoples, moving the large amount of Yan herdsmen who had lost their herd in the war south to the Ye River and the Rui farmers who had lost their farmland and gardens in the war north to the fertile lands, instructing them on farming and how to open up wasteland, constructing cities, inducing commercial growth and allowing the different peoples to intermarry. The northern lands that had once been barren due to warfare gradually began to flourish and change for the better.
The ruler’s sword can divide the land and bring upon it endless pandemonium but it cannot separate the common blood that flows through the peoples of the North. The same, sharp sword can also provide a world of peace for the tens of thousands of struggling civilians.
In the years of Yan Xing, one of the most popular stories that was told in the tea houses and bars was the Blood Pledge of the Two Emperors at Rope Hill Creek. The storyteller would pull exaggerated faces and speak dramatically as though through his movements the audience could witness the thousands of Blood Mounts charging to their graves, the two armies clashing at sword’s point, the two emperors wielding their majestic swords and making a lifelong pledge with their blood.
The children also enjoyed the epic tale. They liked to listen to the two emperors, tall on their horses, looking at each other without a word and swearing to never meet again. One of them turns his steed around with determination and leaves behind him a cloud of dust.
However, this pledge is rather insignificant in the historical records left to the world. The historians were extremely displeased with the cowardly actions of their emperor and with their brushes, easily eluded the pledge that altered the fate of ten million people and the lands of the North. It is noted as such in the History of Rui: The Basic Annals of Emperor Rui An: “The twenty-first day of the Ninth Month in the First Year of Yan Xing, He formed a pact with the Emperor of Yan before the two armies. He ceded four hundred li of grassland. The Emperor of Yan agreed, withdrew his sword and left northward. Since then, the land north of the river, Ye, has belonged to Yan.”
In the Fifth Month of the Second Year of Yan Xing, the emperor married, bestowing upon the daughter of Shen, a family of academics, the title of Empress; upon the daughter of Gu, a family of nobility in the capital, the title of Consort Shu, for Benignity; and upon the younger sister, Heng, of the Duke of Huai Nan the title of Consort De, for Virtue. Furthermore, the emperor made a special decree against all voices of dissuasion to take the capital’s famous courtesan, Wang, as Consort Yuan, for First.
The romanticism of the emperor became a fairy-tale in the training schools and bordellos. Meanwhile, the Confucian disciples, utterly disgusted and bitter towards this, called the emperor unrestrained and immoral for allowing a lowly woman into the palace as a proper one, taking charge of the inner palace and disrupting order.
In the Sixth Month of the Second Year of Tian De, the Emperor of Yan announced a decree naming the daughter of Xiao, the Duchess of Zhaopeng, the empress, and selecting daughters from each of the four noble families of Yan, Yuwen, Tuoba, Dugu and Helou, and bestowing titles upon them in order to populate the inner palace.
The marriage of the Emperor of Yan was made public and many tribes and smaller kingdoms rushed to Yongjing to present their wedding gifts. When the emperor heard, he was silent in contemplation. After some time, he took out a top quality xiao from the Treasure Chamber and handed it to the Ministry of Rites’ diplomat who was headed for Yan. He instructed solemnly, “You must personally deliver this to the hands of Empress Xiao and say, ‘I thank her very much.’”
The diplomat took the instrument and left anxiously.
The emperor stood at Tai Qing Palace, regarding the north in silence. In the end, all that was heard was a faint, nearly inaudible sigh.