Joy operated so effectually as a stimulus, that the prince, who had been stunned, but not seriously wounded, mounted his horse and rode over the hard-fought field. Though thousands of the Russians were silent in death, the prince could count more than four times as many dead bodies of the enemy. According to the annals of the time, a hundred thousand Tartars were slain on that day. Couriers were immediately dispatched to all the principalities with the joyful tidings. The anxiety had been so great, that, from the moment the army passed the Don, the churches had been thronged by day and by night, and incessant prayers had ascended to heaven for its success. No language can describe the enthusiasm which the glad tidings inspired. It was felt that henceforth the prosperity, the glory, the independence of Russia was secured for ever; that the supremacy of the horde was annihilated; that the blood of the Christians, shed upon the plain of Koulikof, was the last sacrifice Russia was doomed to make.
But in these anticipations, Russia was destined to be sadly disappointed. Mamai, the discomfited Tartar chieftain, overwhelmed with shame and rage, reached, with the wreck of his army, one of the great encampments of the Tartars on the banks of the Volga. A new khan, the world-renowned Tamerlane, now swayed the scepter of Tartar power. Two years were devoted to immense preparations for the new invasion of Russia. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Dmitri was informed that the Tartars were approaching in strength unprecedented. Russia was unprepared for the attack, and terror congealed all hearts. The invaders, crossing the Volga and the Oka, pressed rapidly towards Moscow.
Dmitri, deeming it in vain to attempt the defense of the capital, fled, with his wife and children, two hundred miles north, to the fortress of Kostroma. A young prince, Ostei, was left in command of the city, with orders to hold it to the last extremity against the Tartars, and with the assurance that the king would return, as speedily as possible, with an army from Kostroma to his relief. The panic in the city was fearful, and the gates were crowded, day and night, by the women and children, the infirm and the timid seeking safety in flight. Ostei made the most vigorous preparations for defense, while the king, with untiring energy, was accumulating an army of relief. The merchants and laborers from the neighboring villages, and even the monks and priests crowded to Moscow, demanding arms for the defense of the metropolis. From the battlements of the city, the advance of the barbarians could be traced by the volumes of smoke which arose, as from a furnace, through the day, and by the flames which flashed along the horizon, from the burning cities and villages, through the night.