Next, he laid a hand upon the skin of Selims abdomen, trying to determine a decrease in his body temperature. He lifted the Sultans lids again. An expression of shock passed across his face. Now the Sultans pupils were fixed and dilated. He turned to Piri Pasha, with resignation in his eyes.
Piri moved toward the bed and knelt down upon a cushion. "Well?"
The doctor cast his eyes to the ground. "I am sorry, my Lord, but our Sultan is dead."
"Youre certain?" His voice was flat; devoid of emotion.
"I am, my Lord."
Piri rose so suddenly that Hamon reflexively backed away. For a second, he thought that the Grand Vizier was going to draw his long scimitar and strike him dead for bearing this terrible news.
But, Piri Pasha merely stood over him, his fists clenched. His body and his face were entirely calm. He knew exactly what had to be done, and was relieved that he could now begin. His Emperors suffering was over, and now there wasnt a minute to lose.
"Stay with the body of the Sultan. Do not allow anybody to enter the tent, nor even view the body from the doorway." He spoke now as if to an underling; as master to servant. Hamon listened impassively. Piri went on. "Help me to put out the fire, and move the brazier away from the body, so the light of the oil lamp will be the only light in the tent."
Piri poured sand into the brazier. Hamon crouched, struggling with the heavy brazier and its still-hot cargo of coals. Together the two men dragged it to the side, away from the body. Piri looked around the tent, and moved several small articles of clothing. He arranged Selims personal effects, so that the tent would appear as if all were in order; that Selim were alive and merely resting.
"I will leave orders for your food to be brought here by the Sultans own Janissaries. They will leave it for you outside the tent flap. Nobody must know that our Sultan is dead. Nobody! Not for ten full days! Do you understand?"
Hamon nodded, but said nothing. His position as the respected physician in the service of the Sultan had given way to little more than that of a watch dog. He had grown used to restraining his anger, for he knew how precarious a place the Jew had in the Muslim court, and how important his position of influence was to the Jews of the Ottoman Empire.
Piri went to the side of the tent where the possessions of the Sultan Selim were stored in ornately carved wooden chests. Each was sealed with the tuùgra, the royal crest. Breaking one seal, he carefully opened a long, slim box, and placed the cover on the carpet. Next, he unwrapped the silk cloth that swathed the Sword of the House of Osman. The weapon was encased in a silver scabbard encrusted with precious jewels. The smallest of these could keep a man and his family living in luxury for several lifetimes. He pulled the sword partially from its sheath, and held it aloft. The red glow from the lamp caught the polished steel blade and reflected the color onto the walls of the tent. Piri resheathed the sword with a loud snap, then polished the silver scabbard with a piece of silk. Here is the power and the authority of the Empire, he thought. Who wears this sword at his side, rules the world.
Piri carefully wrapped the sword again, and tied the cloth tightly with the woven silk cords. He closed the box and stood, placing the sword into his waistband, covering it with his outer robes. The Sword of the House of Osman would not leave his side until he had delivered it to Selims only living son and heir to the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman.
Piri left Doctor Hamon in the tent and walked out through the door flap. He stopped to speak with the two Janissaries guarding the door. Both men snapped to rigid attention, and stared straight ahead. Neither looked at Piri Pasha.
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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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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