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CHAPTER 5: LOOSE ENDS
"It occurred to me that I may not live much longer. I am a much older man, and I must think about tying up loose ends." Bayezid said, keeping his voice low as he paraded through the streets of Jerusalem. His bodyguards held their pike high in the air, studying the streets before them laboriously. The streets were filled either side with people, all smiling and cheering, fists in the air.
"Hail to Bayezid!" came the cry from a Christian priest, from the balcony of one house. The peeling walls in this part of town only added to the small bubble of melancholy surrounding Bayezid, and his current Grand Vizier, Hersekli Ahmed, on his left, and the man who would replace him, Candarli Ibrahim. To them, through the crowd of cheering people, something was wrong. It seemed Bayezid knew, but of course, he didn't. This otherwise perfect day was spoilt by this, as the sun came to the bottom of its massive, daily arc in the sky, and the mists spilling over the mountain tops miles to the North of Jerusalem. Beautiful.
"Bayezid the kind, son of Mehmed the tolerant!" came another cry from a Jewish stall assistant, just one of a growing number of European Jewish immigrants.
"You are only fifty-eight, many men live for a long time after that." Came the reassuring reply to Bayezid from Candarli. "You should not worry so much. You have done much for the empire, and you will continue to do so for decades..."
"Yes, but my brother Cem is growing wearing of only having dominion over Egypt, I fear that he may rebel. He was a strong contender for the throne. Had it not been for the direct decree from my father on his deathbed, he may have been sultan. And he knows that. I only wish I had... Eliminated him, before he could have become trouble. It was my fathers views that clouded my judgment on the issue." Bayezid said, his breathing becoming heavy and forced as he forced his legs to carry him up the increasingly steep street. The deafening noise of the crowd was too loud for him just to whisper, he had to cut himself off from this conversation, in case he talked too loud and he would be overheard.
"Hah! Did you hear about that Cristobal Col'on? The man who thought he could find the route to Asia westward?" The Priest said, in thick Italian.
"Yes, why would we need to go West when we can go East? We have a perfectly tolerant nation in a pivotal place. Imagine if they had stayed as zealously Muslim as they used to be. Then we'd be in trouble!" The farmer laughed, his long grey hair spilling over his shoulders. "I heard they are setting up a caravan route, that traders can pay money into, and they'll take their goods from the Egyptian coast at Sinai or Suez or where ever, and deliver them to the Red Sea, where you can rent a merchant ship to take goods to India, or China!"
The priest smiled, interested. "That Col'on man must feel stupid. We don't need to sail West. Now even the Silk road is obsolete! We can carry ten times as much by boat than by mule, and is twice as fast! Sailing East, who would have thought? Anymore interesting stories?"
"Ah ..." The farmer replied. "Col'on drunk himself to death with the last of his own funds, on the West coast of Africa. Apparently, the only monarch he got the attention of was the Danish king, and even he backed down when he knew he hadn't the funds. I mean, come on. Westward? Those Ottomans are doing wonderfully, opening up trade routes anyone can use, regardless of faith."
The priest grimaced a little. "I agree with their tolerant policies, but the Pope doesn't want us talking about them, or doing any dealings with a Turk, Muslim, Arab or Jew. I would keep quiet from now on."
"The Alhambra decree, remember that? Spanish idiots, rejecting people that made their nation stronger. No matter, they have benefited me in the long run. Anyway, I have a meeting with local rabbi tomorrow morning, and I need an adequate gift. I'm considering canceling, unless, of course, my flu clears up." The latest in a long line of Grand Viziers, Mesih Pasha, was there to offer assistance. He held the sultans arm and helped him to his feet. The royal chamber was mustier than normal. It smelt a little like death. "I will fetch the doctor, I believe he has got some soup from the chef." Mesih said. "Anything to help my dear sultan."
Moments later, Mesih reappeared in the door with the doctor. Bayezid had reseated himself, this time in wooden stool by the bedside. Once the soup had been passed to him, he lapped it up heartily. "I feel much better now, thank you." He said, a thankful smile on his face, the wrinkles creasing the skin either side of his eyes.
"I take it that the poison has been properly positioned? By which I mean in the Sultans soup?" Cem said, the excitement pouring from him. "Yes. You will be sultan by tomorrow!" Came the triumphant cry from Hadim Ali Pasha, the man he intended to make Grand Vizier earlier. "And what of Selim and Ahmed?" Hadim stopped. His smile now looked more eager than that of Cem. "Dead!" He laughed. "There is no one to contend against you for the throne of the empire!"
"Good. I will be undoing some of the "good" work done by previous sultans. I mean, letting heathens through our new trade route? Jews even?!?"
The palace of Osman. Now it was his. As Mehmed and Bayezid had done before him, he now wandered its halls. But he loved the fountain most of all. He loved the view it gave through it's massive windows. All of Constantinople lay before him. Come to think of it Constantinople was a clumsy name. He'd need to change that. Now he had more pressing issues to attend to.
"He shouldn't have let me live." Cem smirked, as he sat down on the edge of the fountain. "No, he shouldn't have." Hadim smiled back.
"Come now, sultan, the tailor is here to fit you ..."
Selim sat on the hillside. A past Grand Vizier, Hersekli Ahmed, who had served with his father, sat beside him now. "How is our army doing?" He asked him. The vizier looked back at him. Selim was not sure what to make of the expression. "A week, and it will be on the move. We must hurry, your uncle Cem has just found out you escaped, and raised a pretender army. He had his Grand Vizier executed, Hadim. A treacherous bastard, if I ever knew one."
The army below them were drawing lines in the landscape below them, as they prepared for the long march. Rather depressed looking, Selim finally asked; "And when do the generals say our two armies will meet?"
"We need not worry, Selim. Hatay province, two months from now." He answered, watching their advancing armies. "You know that Cem is trying to expell the Jews and Christians, and trying to close the Suez trade route? Which is in our favor, as about ninety percent of this army before you is Christian or Jewish of some description. We have the numerical advantage. Now, come, we must get to our horses."
The thumping of the horses hooves was deafening. With every thump, the horses stride brought them closer to Cem's army, waiting about fifty meters out, now. Selim was somewhere in the middle of this cavalry charge. He drew his sword. He lifted his sword. And just as he expected to smash into a wall of enemy infantry, they scarpered. The were too late now, of course, and as the horses trampled men underhoof, Selim slashed out with his sword. It tore everything, flesh, bone, teeth, foreheads. This was going far too well. They had torn a huge hole in the line, and were now eating up the Cemian advance from the inside out.
Suddenly, Selim was alone. The rest of the cavalry had charged behind the Cemian lines, and out to either side. Now he could get a clear view. So many regiments had been lain waste to. How many by one cavalry charge? Five? Six? Seven? No way.
Just up ahead, through the misty gloom, he could just see ... The sultan's guard. "You there! Someone!" He called to his own cavalry. "Oh for..." But just seconds later he noticed a further infantry regiment had forced it's way past the lines. He lifted his sword and pointed it at Cem, before charging towards him. The sultan's guard were already in the process of fleeing, but seeing Selim charging towards him, for now alone, he ordered his Guards back. Just as they were going to catch Selim, Selim turned and led them in to the hands of a hundred war-hungry pikemen.
"Well done, men. Well done."
The following years were spent tying up his father's loose ends, by reading over his memoirs. He annexed the Crimean Khanate, and made sure that the former Mamluk Sultanate would never regain its power. He stripped it of its treasury, and its Mediterranean coastline. The Egyptian coastline was demilitarized.
Selim, the keenest sultan yet to see the empire expand, and prosper put in place a "Council of Successionaries" to make sure that all successions would pass more smoothly in the future. This would soon develop into a rudimentary parliament as more and more power was handed over from the sultan.
END OF CHAPTER 5