The Son of Selim
Edirne, northern Turkey, near the Greek border
September 21, 1520
Selim, Yavuz. Selim, the Grim.
Selim, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, slept fitfully in his tent. He lay under a pile of silk brocade coverlets. As he rolled onto his side, a piece of parchment fell to the carpeted floor. Piri Pasha, his Grand Vizier, knelt to tuck in the sides of his masters covers. He reached down and picked up the parchment. Leaning nearer the light of the brazier, he unrolled the document. He immediately recognized the distinctive calligraphy of his master. He smiled as he realized that even in what could certainly be the last hours of the Sultan Selims life, there had been time for yet one more poem. Piri had made sure to leave the gilded box of writing materials always close to Selims bedside, for the master liked to write late into the night when the pain woke him.
Piri unrolled the parchment. The words were written in Persian, the language of the poets. The Sultans hand had shaken badly. Though spatterings of ink had stained the parchment, the writing was fully legible. Piri held it closer to the warm yellow light, and read:
The hunter who stalks his prey in the night,
Does he wonder whose prey he may be?
As the Sultans Grand Vizier, Piri Pasha was the highest-ranking official in the entire Ottoman Empire. As such, he was arguably the second most powerful man on Earth. He sat on a low divan in the darkened tent, watching the Sultan sleep. The coal brazier gave off a red glow that carried its heat deep into the body of his master. But, Piri himself could not get warm. The Sultan made low noises as he breathed fitfully. Now and again, Selims eyes would tighten as a grimace of pain crossed his face.
Outside the tent, the Janissaries stood guard; two of them flanked the door, while seven more surrounded the tent. Another ring of twenty Janissaries stood at attention in an outer circle, creating a formidable wall of warriors. The young men were dressed in dark-blue jackets and baggy, white pants. Their caps were tapered white cylinders, each holding a tall, white herons feather in its band. They wore high boots of soft, brown leather, and were armed with jeweled dirks in their belts; in the left hand some carried sharp pikes on six-foot wooden poles. All wore long, curved scimitars, inscribed in Arabic with the words "I place my faith in God."
Piri dragged the heavy brazier closer to Selims body. The tent was warm, but still Selim shivered in his broken sleep. His body had been racked with pain for the last several months, and the Sultan now spent most of his time asleep. His doctor had given him ever-increasing doses of opium so that now his sleep was disturbed less and less by the lightning jabs of pain. Still, he would awaken suddenly and cry out in the night, as the cancer ate him from within.
Piri knew that the end was near, and had made all the appropriate arrangements. Many lives would hang upon Piri Pashas judgment. An empire could fall with a single mistake.
Piri Pasha was the Grand Vizier of the House of Osman, rulers of the Ottoman Empire since 1300 A.D. For eight years, he had been the ear and the right hand of the Emperor. He was both friend and confidant to Selim Yavuz. He had, from the very first day of his duties, kept absolute faith with the trust Selim had placed in him.
Selim had named Piri Pasha the "Bearer of the Burden," for so great was his load that a lesser man would have faltered long before. In the eight years of service, Piri had no thought but for the welfare of his master, the Emperor; and of the Empire. Now that Selims death was near, Piri had much to do.
Copyright 2002 by Anthony A Goodman. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form - except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews - without written permission in writing from its publisher, Source Books, Inc. www.sourcebooks.com.
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