“How is my midnight vagabond? I trust you didn’t depopulate the entire city tonight?”
Mehmet smiled. “I was recognized only twice.”
“Good thing, because we’ll need people for our armies and this habit of yours is thinning the population too quickly. I can’t say I entirely approve and in any case, why kill them?”
Mehmet flushed in irritation. “I don’t need to be recognized. That is my time, the only time I have to myself. It is not too much to ask that I be left alone.”
“Well it would seem at some point the population would get the message. Just remember, we may need some of those people for our army.”
“I heard more talk this evening. More talk of my father.”
“Random killings aren’t my only problem with your evening wanderings. Listening to this gossip is no good for you. You are the Sultan, it doesn’t matter what these people think or say about you. You are their ruler by Allah’s will. You should kill a few of the people spreading such rumors. And quit listening to them.”
“Ah my friend but they speak the truth. Why should I punish those who simply speak what everyone is thinking? The people have no love for me. That much is very clear. They only remember my father, and they remember my past failures. They think I’m a child. They think I will bring them to ruin. I need to do something that will unite the people. Something extraordinary. I know what that something is.”
Zaganos stared at Mehmet for a moment before responding. He breathed heavily, clearly weary of a topic they had discussed too often.
“Constantinople? You make my head ache with this talk. Over and over you go on about taking that city. Constantinople is a curse to Islam. The cursed city has not fallen in eight hundred years despite our faith’s many attempts. Your father and his father tried again and again. How would failing again before the city’s subjects improve your position? You will give Halil all he needs to usurp your position, or replace you.”
“That city is a thorn in our side. It sits in the middle of our empire. The Greeks are through. Their empire now consists only of the city. Why should we allow a separate state hundreds of miles within our empire? A state of despicable infidels? We can never be a true empire while Constantinople remains in the hands of the Greeks. We must take it! I was born to take it! It is Allah’s will. Did not the blessed Prophet, peace be upon him, predict its fall, and that the people who captured the city would be blessed?” Mehmet could feel himself growing angry and his hands shook.
“It is true. But remember that your ancestors have built their empire step by careful step. Osman began in Anatolia with just a few hundred warriors, a leader among many leaders. He carefully built your territory up, as did each Sultan one after the other. Your father Murad shored up the empire’s power against Hungary, and in Anatolia. He would have taken Constantinople if he could, but he could not.
Your father was powerful, beloved by his people, with the full confidence of all his advisors and in the prime of his life. Still he could not take the city. You must place yourself in the same position if you wish to try. You are not ready for that task yet Sultan. You have so many summers ahead of you. I advise you to take your time. Win some small victories against the Serbians, or the Bulgarians. Build up your forces. Win the confidence of the people slowly. Then you can try Constantinople. Too many empires and armies have died at those city walls. Do not add yours to the tally.”
Mehmet stared hard at his friend. “You have known me all my life Zaganos. Do you think I am less than my father? Do you think I cannot take Constantinople if I want to? I will not waste my life under Halil’s boot. Every day he questions my authority. I see him whispering among the elders. I know he works against me. I will not continue to tolerate this. I must act decisively. I will take the city and then I will end that traitor’s life!”
“You’ll never get to the city. As you know, these sieges require months of preparation and the full resources of the empire. You cannot simply order the attack. I know that Murad could and did, but if you do, you risk Halil making a move against you now, when you are the weakest. He would have far too much time to maneuver against you.”
“Then I will call a council and win the full approval of my advisors.”
“A council? Nothing could be worse my friend. They won’t approve the plan, and you give Halil power to voice his concerns in public. He can defy you openly, while acting as if he simply is trying to give you advice. Please do not do this. Please follow my advice and start with less ambitious projects. You know I will follow you no matter what my friend. You are my Sultan, I am your servant, but I am afraid you try too much too quickly. Remember the lessons of your youth!”
“I remember them well.”
In 1453 Constantinople is the impregnable jewel of the East. It has stood as the greatest Christian city for a millennium as hordes have crashed fruitlessly against its walls.
But Mehmet II, the youthful Sultan of the Ottoman Turks, has besieged the city. His opponent is Constantine XI, the wise and capable ruler of the crumbling Eastern Roman Empire. Mehmet, distrusted by his people and hated by his Grand Vizer, must accomplish what all those before him have failed to do: capture Constantinople. To prove that he deserves the throne that his father once took from him, Mehmet, against all advice, storms the city. If he fails, he will not only have failed himself and his people, but he will surely lose his life.
On the other side of the city walls, the emperor Constantine must find a way to stop the greatest army in the medieval world. To finance his defenses, he becomes a beggar to the Pope, the Italian city-states, and the Hungarians. But the price for aid is high: The Pope demands the Greeks reunite the Eastern and Western churches and accept the Latin faith. If Constantine wants aid for his people he must choose between their lives and their souls.
Two leaders, two peoples, two faiths battle for their future before the mighty walls of Constantinople.
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Genre – Historical Fiction
Rating – PG