A 9th-century Russian peasant, fancying himself a physician, crosses the steppe together with a fugitive woman and two Greek holy men in pursuit of an elusive rendezvous. While the physician awakens to the Greeks' advanced culture, the holy men discover the rudiments of what is now the Cyrillic alphabet. 

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excerpt

The ravine in which we’d spent the night was not yet out of sight to our rear, the sun burning into our scalps while our feet fought for purchase in the soggy grass, when the roar of hoof beats spun us around to look back. All right, Euthymios, I said inside myself. You wanted to be found by the Khazars; now here they are.

    Forty horsemen draped in skins and rags, with daggers flapping at their sides, long with beards and streaked with dirty sweat, whipped their little horses and circled our straggling group. We had been walking four abreast in a wide line, and as the earth shook under our feet we all simply stood still. The horde looked us over and then rode a distance ahead of us. There they turned toward us and convened on stamping steeds in a terrorizing pause, and then all rushed on us again from the front. The first few rode between us, and then one farther back, white-haired and with a wide white grin, slowed just enough to lean far off his horse and sweep Shemya from the ground, scattering her pack of food.
    He clutched her before him and veered the horse at an angle behind the brothers and me. As he passed before us once again he threw his arm behind Shemya’s head and pressed her face into his in a prolonged, filthy kiss. Shemya was barely being held in the horseman’s grip, her feet flopping loosely beside the animal’s belly. What the others of the horde were doing I did not know. I was vaguely aware, finally, that I had been knocked to the ground, but still I watched my wife thrashing alongside the forelegs of a tawny stallion. After a minute of this, the horseman who held her wheeled and galloped across before the brothers and me. He slowed only a little and lowered Shemya’s feet until they almost touched the ground. Then he let her go, and she tumbled loosely before Simonos and me. I rushed to her, and the terror in her face told me she was hurt, but how much I could not guess.
    The horsemen were slowing their game of riding among us, but first practiced jumping our sprawled bodies, circled, and then milled about as if to break into another performance. Shemya struggled against unknown agony to attain her full stature, and then, her body convulsing with spasm, her voice racked with anguish, she let fly in rapid Khazar a torrent of derision and reproach, most of which we three non-Khazars failed to comprehend. As she shouted at them, they reined in and some listened. Her last words were: “In the name of God I command you to stop!”
    I shook off the rage that burned the back and sides of my neck and regained my wits. Shemya was turning toward me now, and, on my feet, I seized her by the shoulders while she bent toward me and wheezed and cried. Her side had been crushed again, I concluded. She coughed, and I drew her down to her knees. As much for the drama of it as to make an assessment, I tore open her robe and found the wound over her ribs. The horseman who had taken her on the wild ride dropped to the ground and yanked me to my feet. Shemya lay halfway back and twisted her neck to look at her chest. The lumpy pink skin remained as before, un-pierced and tender, but around it grew a purple circle which my hand could not span.
    Shemya promptly fainted.

Available edition: PDF (suitable for iPad and other ebook readers) at this direct order page.