In the troubled times during the reign of King Béla IV, the king’s brother, Voivod Coloman was the Lord of Spish Castle. Then in the year 1241 the Tatar hordes broke through the Russian gate in the Carpathian Mountains. With devastating force they stormed into the kingdom, leaving behind them only scorched earth and fields sown with corpses. Coloman set out to help his brother Béla, and entrusted Spish together with its castle to his steward Arnold and Arnold’s son Mikuláš.

The day of reckoning arrived. Already from a distance they could see columns of smoke rising above the burnt settlements along the river Hornád. Just before the Tatars managed to reach the castle, a messenger from the Voivod Coloman galloped up on an exhausted horse. ‚The Voivod is mortally wounded and the King is fleeing before the Tatars with a group of faithful retainers to the Dalmatian coast. The King’s army was scattered to the last man along the banks of Slaná River. The country has been abandoned to the mercy of the Tatar tribes.‘

One of the foremost Tatar commanders, Sha’ban Khan camped with his army by the river Hornád, in the country of Spish. The khan arrogantly believed that he would surmount the walls of Spish Castle in a single assault. He sent his entire army to attack the stronghold, though he and his daughter climbed Dreveník, the hill standing opposite, in order to observe his forces at work. But it was not to be so easy. The castle garrison put up a strong resistance. When the attack was already into its second day, the garrison forces decided that the enemy would attack from behind.

Mikuláš with a small detachment shot out from the castle like an arrow, and with a group of Tatar trailing behind, he disappeared into the deep forest of the Branisko Hills.

The conquest was not turning out as the Khan had imagined. As evening drew on, the exasperated Sha’ban gave a signal to withdraw, and his troops pitched camp for the night. Only the Khan’s daughter Shad, who rode a horse and shot from a bow better than many soldiers, ignored her father’s orders and set off into the forest. Just as she was resting in a clearing and watering her horse, riders pounced upon her. As soon as Shad saw them, and without knowing how, she fainted upon the ground. She later came to her senses in a luxurious chamber within the castle. The steward’s son, Mikuláš, and his detachment had taken her from the forest and transported her into the castle using a secret entrance.

On the third day, when the Tatar army once again arrived at the foot of the castle walls, Arnold the steward stood with Shad upon the castle ramparts and held a knife to her throat. As soon as her father the khan saw this he instantly knew what it meant, and he sent negotiators to the castle. The Spish terms were clear, that the jhan withdraw with his army from Spish lands and leave only a small force beneath the castle. When the army would be 10 days ride away, they would release the beautiful Shad, and she, with the small force of men, would return to her father. So that the Tatars would have some guarantee that this would really happen, Mikuláš volunteered to go with them as a hostage. And so it happened.

Only fate plays strange tricks on the lives of mortals. From their first meeting in the forest, Mikuláš had been unable to tear his gaze away from the beautiful Tatar princess. Shad too had not been unmoved. They had fallen in love with one another, and though they both came from different worlds, their love was stronger…

On the tenth day, Shad was released from the castle and she returned with the small force back to her happyfather. The Tatars too released Mikuláš as promised. The freed young man did not, however, gallop back to the castle, but waited that evening at an agreed place for the beautiful Tatar, and they returned to Spish together.

Before long, all the bells of Spish were ringing. The story of the great event travelled to the very borders of Hungary, that a Lord of Spish was marrying his son, and that the bride would be the daughter of a Tatar khan, the beautiful Shad. A long and bedecked procession of coaches full of wedding guests were returning to the castle from the wedding ceremony in the nearby provostship. At the head of the line was a coach drawn by four pairs of white horses, in which sat the king’s steward Arnold, his son and the bride, beautifully arrayed in the finest garments, flushed with the passion of a great love. Through the air whistled an arrow and pierced Shad right through the heart. ‚That’s a wedding gift from her father, the mighty Sha’ban Khan,‘ cried a Tatar rider before he was lost in the thick forest.

Shad groaned and fell dead into the arms of Mikuláš. Crushed with grief, he cried out loud until his voice echoed far and wide… He buried her in her Tatar clothes at the place where they had first met – at the clearing in the nearby hills of Branisko.

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