The Sword and the Scimitar by David W. Ball

The Sword and the Scimitar by David W. Ball

Author:David W. Ball
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781788635004
Publisher: Canelo Digital Publishing Ltd
Published: 2019-03-19T16:00:00+00:00


* * *

The young page stood before Iskander, his arms folded across his chest, his gaze downcast. “I have spoken with Asha as you required, my lord,” he said.

“You did so discreetly?”

“We were at archery practice. The matter came up as if by chance, as you ordered me to arrange it. He suspected nothing.”

“And what did you learn?”

“I am… not certain, my lord,” the boy said. He was hesitant, not wishing to subject himself to the wrath of his lala, but neither wishing to betray a kardesim, a fellow page.

“Become certain, quickly,” said Iskander coldly.

“As my master knows, my youth was spent in Venice, before my new life began under the Sultan, praise his name.”

Of course Iskander knew this; the newly arrived page was the first from Venice since Asha, and it was for that reason Iskander had chosen him. “Proceed.”

“Sire, if Asha is from Venice as he says, he surely must have spent his life in a hole. I asked him to tell me of his life in la serenissima repubblica, and at first he did not even know what I meant. It is the name by which all Venetians refer to their city, just as all men here know they reside in the Abode of Felicity. And he could not answer even the most simple question. He knows the waterfront and the guilds and can describe the arsenal in detail, yet apart from that he could name no quarter, describe no square or plaza. He seemed to know nothing of the Basilica di San Marco, or the doge, and his palace.”

“I myself am from Pescara, not so very far from Venice, and I know little about the doge,” said Iskander impatiently. “Why is that important?”

“The doge, sire, is liege lord of the republic. His palace is as well known as the rising sun or the stars in the sky. All who live in Venice have seen it. Yet not Asha. He could tell me nothing of it. He seemed not to know it existed. It is the same as if one asked a man here, in Kasimpasha or Galata or any other quarter of Istanbul, to name our sultan or describe the serai he inhabits. Only a very blind and weak-headed man could fail at such a task.”

Iskander pondered that. Asha, of course, was neither blind nor weak in the head, and his memory was well known. Perhaps it was nothing, yet something about Asha had always made Iskander uneasy. His devotions to Allah certainly met the forms. The page could recite entire passages of the Koran at a time when other pages still had trouble reading it, and yet to Iskander something was missing. Perhaps, he knew, it was nothing in particular about Nico. All pages who came to the palace other than through the devshirme, the levy, were regarded with somewhat more suspicion than others. As men, after all, these pages would sit at the pinnacle of empire, discussing state secrets and holding sacred posts of power and trust.



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