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In the twelfth century, feared but respected Mongol leader Temujin intercepts a Merkit caravan crossing the Gobi Desert and questions Targutai, the Merkit's chief, about his business. When Targutai, who has long been the Mongol's enemy, smugly introduces Temujin to Bortai, his beautiful bride-to-be and the daughter of the Tartar chief, Temujin responds with insolence. After riding off, however, Temujin confides in Jamuga, his "blood brother," that he desires Bortai and will take her by any means necessary. Fearing an all-out war, Jamuga advises Temujin against pursuing Bortai, but Temujin orders a raid on the Merkits. During the raid, the cowardly Targutai tries to flee, but is caught by Temujin and brought before the captured Bortai. To humiliate Targutai, Temujin rips off Bortai's dress and gives it to him as a "souvenir," then releases him. Later at the Mongol encampment, Temujin's mother Hunlun becomes enraged when she learns that Bortai is the daughter of Kumlek, her husband's murderer, but Temujin is unmoved. That night, after Bortai ignores Temujin's order to dance for the men, Temujin drags her to his tent and repeats his demand. When Bortai again refuses and insults him, Temujin angrily sends her to her own tent. In the middle of the night, Bortai meets secretly with Jamuga and offers herself to him in exchange for help in escaping. Still loyal to Temujin, Jamuga refuses, but moments later, the camp is stampeded by Targutai and his men. After Temujin kills Targutai, he grabs Bortai and hides with her in a ravine. While waiting for the Merkits to retreat, Temujin forcefully kisses Bortai, and she gives in to his passion. Sure that Bortai's father will seek revenge, Temujin tells Jamuga his scheme to trick Wang Khan, his Karkait ally, into joining forces with the Mongols by claiming that the Tartars are planning to attack Urga, Wang Khan's walled city. Temujin leaves for Urga with Bortai in tow, and while camped, informs her that she is sleeping in his tent and giving her dowry furs to Wang Khan. Furious, Bortai tries to stab Temujin and insults him until, fed up, he slaps her. Later, at Wang Khan's palace, Temujin makes Bortai jealous by loudly praising Wang Khan's seductive dancers. After performing her own dance, Bortai grabs a sword and hurls it at Temujin, narrowly missing him. Temujin again sends Bortai away, then confers with Wang Khan about Kumlek. In turn, Wang Khan seeks advice from his trusted shaman, who consults with the "spirits" and endorses Temujin's plan. The next day, however, the shaman informs Temujin that Wang Khan has grown weak and that Urga needs a new, strong leader like Temujin. On his way to the Tartars' encampment with Wang Khan's warriors, Temujin is ambushed and wounded by Kumlek, but flees into a cave. After the Tartars retreat with Bortai, Jamuga rescues Temujin, and later, enters the Tartar encampment, claiming to be a deserter. Although Kumlek believes Jamuga, Bortai is not fooled and, that night, has him followed back to Temujin's cave. There Temujin is captured by the Tartars and, tied to a heavy yoke, forced to pull an ox cart to their encampment. Temujin is jeered at and taunted by the Tartars, and Kumlek orders his slow, torturous death. During the night, the bound Temujin knocks his sleeping guard out, then is freed by Bortai, who embraces him and admits she loves him. When Temujin finally returns to the Mongol camp, he learns that Jamuga has taken over as chief and accuses his friend of betraying him to Kumlek. Jamuga convinces Temujin of his loyalty and agrees to go with strong man Kasar to Urga. There, Jamuga and Kasar inform Wang Khan that Temujin and his warriors are expecting to meet Wang Khan's troops during the next full moon. The shaman, however, tells Wang Khan that Jamuga is plotting against him and suspects Temujin is dead. Jamuga and Kasar are imprisoned in their room, but that night, Kasar bends the iron bars of the room's window, allowing Jamuga to escape. Although Kasar is discovered and killed, Jamuga flees the encampment on his horse, but is captured by Kumlek. Later, at the Mongols' rendezvous point, Temujin is visited by the shaman, who advises him to take over Wang Khan's troops and assures him that the gates to Urga will be opened so that the Mongols can easily storm the city. As the siege begins, the shaman sneaks into Wang Khan's bedroom and stabs him, unaware that Temujin is nearby, spying on him. Before dying, Wang Khan denounces the shaman, who then is killed by Temujin. With their leader's death, Wang Khan's forces join Temujin's, and together they head for the Tartars' encampment. Kumlek, meanwhile, tries to torture Jamuga into revealing whether Temujin is alive, but Jamuga bravely resists. Jamuga is rescued by Bortai just as Temujin and his troops rush into the Tartar camp, and Temujin sees Jamuga in Bortai's tent. After a bloody battle, Temujin defeats the Tartars and kills Kumlek, but again believes that Jamuga has betrayed him. Later, at Bortai's urging, Temujin puts his suspicions aside and embraces his blood brother. Jamuga, however, knows that Temujin, whom he dubs "Genghis Khan," or "perfect warrior," will never again trust him and asks to be executed. With a breaking heart, Temujin agrees to honor Jamuga's request.