C. P. Lesley is the pseudonym of Carolyn Johnston Pouncy ’74. A specialist on 16th-century Russia, she is the managing editor of Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. Her The Domostroi: Rules for Russian Households in the Time of Ivan the Terrible won the Heldt Prize for Best Translation by a Woman in Slavic Studies in 1994. The Golden Lynx is her first novel, volume 1 of a five-part series. For more information, see www.cplesley.com. She would like to thank Lyon Review editors Anna Isozaki and Sandi Sonnenfeld for all their help in preparing this excerpt for publication.
Kasimov, Sha’ban 940 A.H. / February 1534
Nasan, warned by her brother’s shriek, stuck out a foot, sending him somersaulting over the snow. She pelted him with snowballs, taunting him. “You forgot again, silly! How can you take me by surprise if you yell like that?”
He rolled on the ground, cursing, which made her laugh. Girei got so mad every time he spoiled his own sneak attacks, but more often than not, he forgot to save his war cries for battle.
He soon recovered. Most of the snowballs bounced off Nasan’s quilted overcoat or hit the birch trees that bounded the clearing they had chosen as their private playground.
But a few better-aimed missiles sent icy shivers across her cheeks, reddened by the cold. One smacked Nasan on the forehead, knocking her hat to one side.
She pushed the sheepskin cap into place and aimed another snowball at Girei, who yelped when it broke over his neck. While he scooped ice from inside his coat, she leaped in celebration, bending her legs almost double behind her and shouting, “Ura!”
Her moment of exultation cost her. Girei hurtled forward, grabbed her round the waist, and tossed her into a drift.