Harold Lamb’s Thrilling Cossack Adventures – quick summaries, Part 1

Harold Lamb wrote more than forty stories of the Cossack adventurers. Luckily for us, all his stories are back in print, thanks to the efforts of Howard Andrew Jones.

In this bibliography, I want to give a flavor of the stories, the exotic locales and the different people that Khlit and others meet on their adventures, but still keep enough unknown that you’ll want to read them.

This is the first post of a four post series. Wolf of the Steppes: The Complete Cossack Adventures, Volume One

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1.         Khlit Khlit’s stepson is about to enter the war camp of all the Cossacks, sited on an island in the river Dneiper. Khlit bets all his wealth on the manner of his entry, claiming “The son of Menelitza will come to the siech as no other before him has come.” The rising floodwaters of the Dneiper allow no boat to cross. Will Khlit lose his bet?
2.         Wolf’s war Khlit has to rescue his stepson’s bride to be, Alevna, from Khan Mirai Tkha, Khlit’s mortal enemy. Khlit takes the fight to the Khan, harassing the Khan and keeping out of reach, as the Khan’s camp journeys across the steppe. Harassed, the Khan makes a deal with Khlit, who swears on his cross, to ride into the Khan’s camp if the Khan releases Alevna. He keeps his bargain, but things don’t work quite out the way the Khan thought they would.
3.         Tal Taulai Khan The Cossacks decide to retire Khlit, thinking he is too old to fight. Khlit does not take this meekly, and heads off to Tatary. He believes that the Tatars will go to war with the Cossacks, and heads towards the camp of the chief of the Black Kallmarks, Tal Taulai Khan, hoping to gain an ally for the Cossacks. He does not know that the Krim Tatar chief, enemy of the Cossacks, Mirai Khan, is already there and plotting against him. One man against an army, Khlit uses his wits and his sword to get out of this one.
4.         Alamut Khlit enters Turkestan, looking for new adventures, and finds Berca, a Persian lady, and her escort Toctamish, the Tatar. Berca is looking for revenge on the chief of the Assassins, the Master of the Mountain, for her father’s death. Khlit agrees to kill the Assassin chief, but what can two men and one women do against a man who commands a thousand daggers from a mountain fortress?
5.         The Mighty Manslayer Khlit meets a merchant, Mir Turek, in Samarkand. Mir Turkek asks Khlit for his protection on a quest for the treasure of Genghis Khan, the spoils of a thousand cities, which was buried along with the Khan, in his tomb in the Gobi desert. Khlit and Mir Turek find the treasure, but are betrayed by the merchant’s slave to the Chinese general who is besieging the Tatar city of Altur Haiten. How will Khlit escape certain death?
6.         The White Khan After breaking the siege of Altur Haiten, Khlit finds that some of the jealous chiefs of the Tatar clans do not want to recognize him as their leader. The Chinese demand revenge for their general’s life. Khlit rides away from the Tatar clan and decides to hide with his companion, Chagan the sword bearer, in Shankiang, the city that the army commanded by the Chinese general Li Jusong is marching on. Trying to escape from Shankiang, Khlit and Chagan fall into the hands of Li Jusong, who grants Khlit his life if he betrays the Tatar khans…
7.         Changa Nor The Kallmarks are attacking the Tatars. The shaman, Lhon Otai, prophesises that the Tatars can only be safe if the treasure of Changa Nor is handed over to the Kallmarks. Khlit takes the Tatars to Changa Nor, but on the way he is met by Gurd the hunter, who takes him to Changa Nor, where he learns the secret of Changa Nor. Khlit, a Christian, has to choose between defending a church treasure or aiding the Tatars. At the same time, Changa Nor is attacked by the Kallmarks….
8.         Roof of the world The Dalai Lama sends an envoy to the Tatars, offering them help in their fight against the Kallmarks if Khlit, the Wolf, will come to the citadel of Talas, near Jallat Kum on the border of the Taklamakan desert. Khlit decides to go alone, and leaves the khans behind. Chagan, the sword bearer follows him and they reach Talas together, where they meet Shellil, a Kirghiz dancer, and Azim, a shepherd. The Dalai Lama’s messenger meets them at Talas and takes them to Kashgar, where the Kirghiz chiefs Iskander Khan and Bassangor Khan are coming. The head of the lamasery, Dongkor Gelong, is playing both ends against the middle. Caught between the lamas and the Kirghiz, in a hostile place where he is a prisoner in all but name, what will Khlit do?
9.         The Star of Evil Omen Khlit gives up the position of Kha Khan, the chief of the Tatar chiefs, and rides out, promising the chiefs a gift in winter. He rides to Mongolia, where the emperor of China wants to go on a hunt after visiting the tombs of his ancestors. Khlit hides his true identity and joins the hunt as a huntsman from the provinces, and finds his friend, Arslan the archer, among the company. The imperial chief eunuch Li Yuan and the Lady Li are plotting to overthrow the emperor and grab the throne. How does Khlit manage to keep his promise to the Tatar chiefs and save his life?
10.     The Rider of the Gray Horse Khlit rides south from China, towards India, and meets Nur Jahan, the lover of Prince Salim, the son of Akbar, the emperor of India. Nur Jahan is running away from Akbar’s death warrant, signed when the emperor thought that she had too much influence on the prince. The priests of Bon are hunting for Nur Jahan to slay her. When Khlit and Nur Jahan reach Khoten, the priests have them in their power. The only way out is to offer themselves as human sacrifices, committing suicide by going into the mountains without any food, supplies, transport or weapons…

To be continued…

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