The Ottoman railway line built in 1760 during the reign of Sultan Mustafa III was not only a symbol of Ottoman ingenuity and progress. It also facilitated the flow of people and commerce throughout the Ottoman territories and the surrounding Muslim regions. There were plans of establishing connecting branch lines into Arabia, Africa, and the Mughal Empire. This was to become a titanic undertaking requiring funds, manpower, and the involvement of the best engineers in the Muslim world. In its present state however, it connected Sarajevo to Kars, an Ottoman city bordering the Caucasus. This region over the years had become the theatre of an ongoing bitter struggle between the Ottoman Porte and the Russian Empire.
Every city traversed by the railway built massive stations in a bid to stimulate their local economies. Izmir’s train station was always crowded. It was constantly animated with a continuous stream of human activity and filled with an array of travelers either visiting the city, or simply passing through on their way to some other destination. Built in 1766, the station represented a fusion of numerous styles and influences showcasing the intrinsically heterogeneous nature of Muslim civilization. Opulent stained glasses, lavishly designed arches, a ceiling decorated with intricate geometric designs and arabesques, a splendid vault, and a colossal mechanical clock marking the passage of time gave Izmir’s palatial train station a distinctive style.
Musa khant Ali was seating at a food stand near the arrival gate enjoying a cup of Sentetik, a bland and cheap imitation of coffee. The ongoing conflict with the Habsburg Monarchy, and the ramblings of the war to come with the rapidly expanding Russian Empire had led the Ottoman State into a period of economic stagnation and financial strain. The exorbitant cost of living made the simple pleasures of life, once so easily attainable, almost impossible to enjoy. The coffee houses of the city, previously overflowing with every imaginable blend of the popular elixir, were now reduced to serving the bulk of their clientele a mixture of synthetic caffeine and colorant. This must be what swamp waters taste like, Ali thought as he took another swig of Sentetik. Buying real coffee was still possible of course, but it was now a risky venture capable of very quickly taking a toll on a public servant’s purse. During his last travel to Baghdad, he received a small stash from a dear friend. He cherished that gift for almost a year, only enjoying the brew occasionally. But now that he finally ran out he had to rely on this swill just like everyone else. He kept his eyes trained on the panel announcing the newest arrivals from Istanbul. As a swell of newcomers entered through the gate, an automated service-bot approached him.
“Salamu aleikum Beyefendi . You are Musa khant Ali currently employed at the War Ministry?” asked the three feet and seven inches tall grey bot.
“Yes,” Ali answered.
“Your presence is requested in the customs area. Please follow me,” instructed the bot.
“I am waiting for someone. What is this about?” he asked.
“Your presence is requested in the customs area. Please follow me,” reiterated the service-bot.
He expects me to just follow him through the station like a lost puppy, thought an irritated Ali. But since decorum dictates that a public servant must never disparage the authority of a fellow public employee, even an automated one, he had no other choice but to comply.
“Uh-huh, you guys are always such paragons of clarity,” he said sarcastically. “Alright, lead the way.” He took one last gulp of his drink before following the bot.
His automated guide led him to an entrance marked authorized personnel only. The door opened immediately as if his arrival had been anticipated. The bot quickly entered the room followed by Ali. He found himself standing in the middle of what appeared to be a storage area for unclaimed luggage and packages. Perplexed as to why he was led to this place, Ali called out to the bot standing silently near the door.
“Excuse me, why did you bring me here? I have to get back to…”
Before he could finish his sentence, he heard coming from behind him an all too familiar click. He turned around just in time to watch the clock mechanism of a seeker perched on one of the shelves counting down to the last few seconds before the inevitable. The ensuing blast was strong enough to shatter the beautiful stained glasses of the station’s main hall. Almost nothing remained of the room where previously an aghast Musa khant Ali met his untimely death.
A shadowy figure walked hastily through Izmir’s back alleys, hugging the walls to avoid the dim light emanating from the street lamps. The city was crawling with soldiers in high alert. The explosion at the train station earlier that day reawakened the fear of sabotage by foreign agents seeking to weaken the Ottoman Empire through fear and chaos. Merchants and street sellers were ordered to close their shops early and comply with the curfew now in full effect throughout the city. Stragglers who found themselves outside were to be searched and questioned by patrols.
Their brisk walk through the city brought the cloaked figure to Izmir’s small but well serviced port. They quickly hid behind a cargo waiting to be loaded, desperately trying to avoid a passing guard performing his nightly rounds. Small droplets of blood stained the ground where they hid trembling with pain. Retrieving a tiny light-producing device from their belt, the lone trespasser proceeded to flash a small beam of light toward a dhow anchored on the harbor. The pain was now unbearable, forcing the mysterious visitor to bite their lower lip and close their eyes to keep the dizziness at bay. In the darkness of the night illuminated solely by moonlight, the seeker’s needle firmly lodged in their badly bleeding palm glistened. The sharp hooks lining its sides were designed to burrow the needle further into the flesh with every single movement. Its poisoned tip had already released its deadly venom into the blood and it was now only a matter of time before death claimed its prize. Three flashes of light emanating from the dhow prompted the figure to shamble as quickly as possible toward the small boat.
Lost in his own musings, Suleiman Pasha walked endlessly throughout the imperial garden of the Caliph’s summer palace. He finally sat on his favourite bench in the opulent garden, and longingly gazed at the majestic Mount Uludag towering over the city like a vigilant sentinel. The vibrant green of the forests surrounding the city gave Bursa a unique tranquility that always appeased Suleiman’s heart. You are truly God’s gift my beloved Bursa, he thought smiling to himself. The feel of the parchment still in his hand broke his reverie. He closed his eyes and made a silent supplication to God for wisdom and patience. His heart was troubled as his mind once again conjured up the dreaded word: betrayal. He squeezed the parchment as anger gripped his heart.
He was slowly rising from the bench when he felt a sting in the back of his neck. Feeling suddenly feverish and weak, he fell back on his seat, unable to hold his own weight. The world was tilting before his eyes as a dark curtain fell over his vision. The soothing sounds of the nearby water fountain now reverberated in his ears with the magnitude of a thousand mighty cascades. Numbness spread throughout his body, while an unseen hand squeezed his heart. Suleiman fell to the ground, eyes wide open, and the parchment still clutched in his hand. A palace page watching the scene from behind a large Cypress tree approached the Pasha a few moments later. He was holding a small modified pistol equipped with a crossbow trigger mechanism that he quickly tucked under his caftan. Knelling beside the body, he looked for signs of life before forcing the parchment out of the dead man’s grip and hiding it under his own sash. He retrieved a barely visible dart from Suleiman’s neck and quickly rose to his feet. He hastily walked away before anyone could see him standing beside the deceased Suleiman Pasha.
News of an assassination at the Caliph’s palace spread throughout the city like wildfire. The initial shock quickly gave way to suspicion. Rumours, from the most improbable to the more lascivious, were now swirling around. The entire city was ablaze with a nervous energy feeding into the collective paranoia now gripping Bursa. The Janissary regiments stationed in the city were asked to double their street patrols and increase the number of soldiers tasked with guarding government buildings and public spaces. The city was holding its breath.
Three women wearing long coats and face veils strolled through Bursa’s heavily guarded train station. Moving with purpose they headed toward the main platform where passengers were boarding a transport train to Istanbul. They presented their tickets to a steward who immediately stepped aside to let them in. The women quickly moved toward the passenger compartments located in the rear-end of the train. The interior of the carriages resembled that of a standard transport train: cramped and a little worn out. They silently took their seats at the very back of the compartment, being as inconspicuous as possible.
Two figures wearing black cloaks lay on the roof of a house watching intently a small residence located near Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The darkness of nightfall battled the brightness of the street lamps casting their radiant tentacles into the pitch black veil of the surrounding tenebrosity. They could hear hurried footsteps echoing on the cobblestone street as a man wearing a simple black caftan approached the residence. He discreetly looked around before knocking on the house’s elaborately carved wooden entrance. A few moments later, someone answered the door. From their position on the roof, the two figures couldn’t make out the words being exchanged by the two men. Once the visitor was let into the house, they both got up from their position and gracefully leapt into the street without making any sound. They approached the home silently and took their positions on opposite sides of the door.
Noises of a great tumult soon rose from inside the residence followed by the scream of a man crying out in pain. The door suddenly swung open and the visitor pursued by a third cloaked figure burst through it while holding his clearly injured stomach. The two sentinels immediately took hold of the fleeing man and dragged him back into the residence’s main hallway. He struggled against their hold and eventually succeeded in freeing himself from their grip. Before he could reach the door however, the third pursuer retrieved a rod from under his cloak. When the thin black instrument came in contact with his back a high voltage electric shock coursed throughout his entire body. Every single one of his muscles started spasming violently. He was no longer able to move or hold his own weight. He crumbled to the ground, and unable to break his fall hit the back of his head on the stone slabs of the hallway. He continued to convulse while the three cloaked figures stood over him. Somewhere in the back of his mind as he started to drift into oblivion, he noticed the face veils and soft voices of his assailants.
Suleiman Pasha’s funeral was held at Bursa’s Grand Mosque with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire. Ulu Cami was not only the largest mosque in Bursa, it was also an impressive feat of Ottoman architecture. Called the green mosque by the locals, its construction was commissioned by Sultan Bayezid I in the early days of his reign. Built in a distinctively Seljuk style, the mosque showcased twenty domes methodically arranged in rows and two impressive minarets. Breathtaking Islamic calligraphy executed expertly by some of the best calligraphers in the Empire adorned the interior walls of Ulu Cami, while a large fountain for ablutions stood in the heart of the prayer hall.
A heavy janissary presence could be felt throughout the city and on the mosque’s grounds, since the entire Imperial Council was in attendance at the funeral. Once the Janazah was performed, Suleiman Pasha’s body was escorted to his final resting place in Bursa’s main cemetery, followed by a procession of dignitaries, family members, and locals. The clearly bereaved young Caliph, surrounded by members of his Imperial council, walked stoically behind his mentor’s corpse. Suleiman Pasha had faithfully served his family for more than four decades. As Grand Vizier, he had weathered many perils threatening to engulf the Empire, and all the while displayed unparalleled wisdom and courage. None more than you, my dear Suleiman, deserves to be accepted by Allah into the highest levels of paradise. Who shall I turn to now for guidance? though the grieving Caliph.
Mehmet Pasha, the Agha of the Janissary, discreetly broke away from the other members of the Council making their way to the summer palace after the burial. He found his way to a small path leading out of the cemetery, and eventually reached a small private garden manned by two service-bots. He approached them cautiously, allowing the automated sentinels to complete their initial scan from a distance.
“Salamu Aleikum,” said Mehmet.
“Wa aleikum salam,” replied the first bot.
“Leave the path and you will never find the treasure,” said the second bot.
“Remain faithful and you will attain Allah’s pleasure,” responded the Agha. He had carefully memorized the answer to the riddle as instructed.
“Welcome Beyefendi,” said the bots in unison. “You are expected, please enter,” added one of the sentinels, before moving aside to let him into the garden.
He went into the labyrinth and promptly navigated through the maze of greenery leading to the heart of the garden. When he reached its gorgeous centrepiece, he found four women standing over a pond feeding the little fishes swimming lazily around the waterhole. Mehmet Pasha approached them and stood at a distance waiting to be acknowledged. All four women simultaneously turned toward the Agha. Placing their right hands on their chests, they nodded their heads as a sign of respect. Mehmet reciprocated in a similar fashion, smiling warmly.
“Salamu Aleikum, Agha. Thank you for coming. May Allah honour you in this world and the next,” said the old woman who was clearly the leader of the group.
“Wa aleikum salam, Safiye Hanim. May Allah reward you with goodness,” replied Mehmet Pasha. “May Allah grant our sister martyrdom, and give you strength and patience. Shahida Inshallah,” he said addressing the other three women whose sorrow was plainly etched on their faces.
‘’Ameen,” they replied in unison.
They silently moved away from Mehmet Pasha and Safiye Hanim, choosing instead to stand under the shade of an old Turkish pine atop a small hill. While to most people they would appear to be nothing more than young maidens strolling through the garden, Mehmet’s long military experience allowed him to detect the alertness in their stance. From where they stood they could surveil this entire section of the garden and intercept any unwanted visitors. They wore long dark coats over their modest robes and hijabs. Nothing about them was ostentatious or striking, they could easily blend into any background. Despite their different origins, revealed by the contrasting shades of their skin color, they moved as a single body.
“You have trained them well Safiye Hanim,” said a deeply impressed Mehmet.
“They are like daughters to me Pasha. Losing Maryam has hit them hard. They all grew up together. Little orphans finding a family in each other and purpose in serving their Ummah,” said a mournful Safiye.
“Were you able to speak to the Shahida before she returned to her Lord?”
“No. She knew the exact nature of her mission and accepted her fate before she left for Izmir. Being poisoned by a seeker’s needle is certain death, but Maryam by the grace of Allah survived long enough to be debriefed by another one of her sisters. Her sacrifice was crucial in putting our plans into motion. May Allah reward our Shahida for her efforts.”
“We had to force their hand, Agha. It is unfortunate that we’ve lost so many good people in the process, but this could be disastrous for the Ummah if we do nothing,” said Safiye Hanim in a taut voice.
“I know,” replied a pensive Mehmet Pasha.
He slowly opened his eyes, blinking repeatedly to clear his blurred vision. He could feel his aching body gingerly resting on the lumpy mattress atop the sturdy wooden bed frame that came with the small room he rented near the Galata Tower. His body was in such pain that he could barely move it an inch. In the distance, the melodious voice of the Muezzin calling for the midday prayer could be heard. He slowly pulled himself up to the head of the bed and came to a semi-seated position. From this new vantage point, he could finally see what his latest brush with capture had cost him.
His legs and hands were covered with bruises, while a big laceration ran across his right flank, to his abdomen, and all the way to the midsection of his left flank. The cut looked deep and had bled profusely overnight, soaking the mattress and forming a massive red stain. He was shocked by how deep and big the gash seemed. He instinctively brought his hand to the nape of his neck, carefully running his fingers over a small injury stinging fiercely. It had an odd shape to it as if a small flower had been cut into his very skin. How did I get this, he thought. But the pounding wound on the crown of his head soon grabbed his attention. He proceeded to touch it trying to assess the damage. His hair was caked with blood, and he could only remember bits and pieces of last night’s events. He could recall the ambush at the rendezvous point and having to fight for his life against well trained agents. He vaguely remembered running through a house, trying to shake his pursuers. His memories past that point however were nothing more than a jumble of images, voices, and sensations; a loss of memory he attributed to his throbbing head wound. He couldn’t recall exactly how he found his way back to his lair, but he was glad he did. His eyes fell upon the caftan of a palace page, immaculate and well maintained, dangling from a hook on the door. Now that his cover was blown, he had to leave the city quickly with the precious information he had uncovered.
A simple Troika driven by a rugged Russian coachman moved at a steady pace toward the bridge leading to the winter palace. The horses pulling the carriage galloped with ease in the snow-covered roads of Saint Petersburg. The weather was surprisingly mild for this time of year, and the inhabitants of the imperial city milled about in the streets delighting in this pleasant break from the usual harshness of the Russian winter. The city gleamed with the kind of beauty befitting the capital of the Romanov dynasty. The sumptuous winter palace housed the State Council; the powerful advisory body to the Tsar. The carriage approached the entrance to the castle and came to a complete halt in front of the main gate manned by heavily armed guards. A sharply dressed man exited from the Troika and walked toward the sentinels, handing them a letter stamped with the distinctive seal of the Romanov Emperors.
A few moments later, the man found himself traversing the long hallway leading to the Council chamber. He was escorted by a page wearing the usual livery of imperial servants. Resplendent double doors guarded by two servants led into the chamber where the Tsar and his advisors were holding their usual meeting. As the doors unlocked both he and the page entered the room. His anxiety spiked immediately as he listened to the servant announcing his arrival in accordance with palace protocol. His latest mission, completed against all odds and with great success, had elevated him both in status and reputation amongst the members of the advisory body. The Tsar himself had requested his presence, which to a loyal servant of the Russian Monarchy was the epitome of honour and recognition. His head started throbbing again as a myriad of colours and sounds suddenly assailed him. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves. Get a hold of yourself for God sake’s. You are meeting the monarch, he scolded himself. He bowed and kept his eyes trained on the ground to show his deference to his Emperor. The elaborate protocol and etiquette of the Romanov court forbade someone in his position to directly address the monarch. His head was now spinning as he continued to bow waiting for the Tsar to acknowledge him. Pressure was building in his ears and his head was growing heavy. The wound on the nape of his neck was stinging fiercely and he had to fight the urge to touch it. The Tsar’s intermediate who was tasked with conveying messages to and from the monarch approached him.
“Please rise,” the servant said.
He rose to his full height, trying to remain as dignified as possible despite his increasingly painful headache, making it difficult for him to concentrate on his interlocutor.
“His highness is pleased with your extraordinary work on behalf of the Empire. He realizes how difficult it must have been for you to remain so far away from your homeland for so long. Your work and diligence have given the Empire a chance to once and for all eliminate the Ottoman threat. You shall be richly rewarded for your courage and commitment toward Mother Russia.”
His eyes drifted toward a massive table in the middle of the room. Spread on its smooth surface, he saw the blueprints of the Ottoman’s secret weapon he obtained at great personal risk and peril. For the past week, the advisory body poured over the intricate and detailed plans of the late Musa khant Ali, chief engineer of the Ottoman War Ministry. No one outside of the State Council knew of the existence of these plans. This was to remain a tightly kept secret for the moment. The Ottoman Empire was decades ahead of Russia when it came to automation technology. They developed over the years a slew of automated tech; from the mostly benign service-bots to the terrifying spider-like seekers used exclusively in surveillance and assassinations. When a source within the Ottoman State warned their agents in Istanbul of plans pertaining to the development of a new and devastating weapon capable of tilting the balance of power forever, he was sent to sabotage the endeavour in question. Stealing the only existing blueprints not only effectively sabotaged the Ottomans’ plans, but also gave Russia a possible lead over its enemy. What kind of devious mind could come up with powerful flying machines capable of destroying vast swaths of land and people in one single strike, he knew not. But he was glad Russia could now create mechanical monsters of its own. Breaking with protocol, the Tsar approached the agent, indicating to his intermediate that he intended to conduct the discussion in person. The servant bowed his head and discreetly moved away to stand at a distance, while remaining close enough to reprise at a moment’s notice his role as an intermediate.
“You have delivered quite a blow to the Ottomans by bringing us these plans. You have shown courage, determination, and a rare genius for infiltration. The Council is extremely pleased with your performance. We are as well. Well done Alexei.” The Tsar extended his hand as he congratulated his agent.
Alexei Lebedev slowly rose his head to meet the piercing eyes of his monarch. His ears were now buzzing as his head grew heavier than ever. His headache seemed to have doubled in intensity the moment the Tsar got closer to him. He was fighting with every fibre of his body the growing urge to run away from the room and put as much distance as possible between him and the Tsar. The small wound on the nape of his neck was now burning in earnest. A fine sheen of sweat covered his body as he struggled to maintain his composure. He grabbed the Emperor’s extended hand and squeezed it with a force he didn’t know himself to possess. He could feel the bones of his monarch’s hand breaking under his grip, but found himself incapable of releasing the Tsar. His entire body was now taut like the string of a bow. He could no longer hear any other noise than the frantic beat of his own heart. He was lost in a memory that emerged from deep within his mind.
He was chained to a cold table trembling with pain and fear. Looking down his body, he saw that the big gash running across his right flank was still bleeding profusely. It is only a few seconds later that his mind registered the full horror of his predicament. The cut that previously ran from his right side to the middle of his stomach was extended to his left flank. It came to a stop below his left armpit. The flesh was flayed leaving his ribcage exposed. His sternum was cut open straight down the middle and all the way to his abdomen. The cut halves of his chest were being held apart by instruments affixed to both sides of the table. Inside the gaping hole he could see that where his heart was previously nestled, there was now a copper-coloured machinery mimicking the movements of his missing organ. Shocked and paralyzed by fear, he turned his head to the side and starred at a window located on the other side of the room. Catching a glimpse of his face on the window’s glass surface, Alexei started shrieking in horror and fighting against his restraints.
“Cover those windows at once,” yelled a commanding voice.
Alexei continued to scream and struggle against his chains. He was operating on pure instinct and was caught in a fight or flight dilemma. The more he struggled, the tighter his restraints became. He was breathing heavily and between bouts of ear-piercing shrieks would plead in Russian to be released. Lost in his terror filled mind, he barely took notice of the figures approaching the table. One of them extended his hand toward Alexei and lightly pushed on the nape of his neck. The screaming and fighting stopped immediately. His body laid on the table completely still, as if he was nothing more than a puppet whose strings had been cut. Like a fish gasping for air, he continued to open and close his mouth, but no noise came out of it. Tears slowly rolled down his cheeks as he frantically looked from side to side unable to recognize any of the faces staring back at him.
“Is he aware of our presence?” asked the old lady.
“Yes and no Safiye Hanim. He can see us but by the time we are done with him, he will recall nothing of this. Nevertheless, seeing his face without the mask of humanity is enough to induce terror. We certainly don’t want to fracture his mind beyond repair,” replied the man.
Alexei’s mind was still reeling from the shock of realizing that the monstrous face looking back at him in the glass was his. Gone was the bearded human face he knew so well. The creature he had become held nothing of his former warmth and beauty. In the absence of flesh, he clearly saw the array of rotating mechanisms, springs, and hard copper metal intertwined with the tendons and muscles of his face. He was no longer a man, but a machine.
“What will be the trigger?” she asked as she touched the restraint clasping Alexei’s left hand.
“He must get a visual and tactile confirmation of the Tsar’s presence to trigger his program.”
“Will he be aware of what is happening?” asked one of the three young women standing at the foot of the table.
“Once his program is triggered, his consciousness will fade into the background. Fear will naturally occur, but his body will be unable to comply with any attempt at escaping or stopping the program. The small flower-like seal on the nape of his neck is a fail-safe intended to prevent any premature triggering,” replied the man diligently.
“When will he be ready?” asked Safiye Hanim.
“In three days. We shall then return him to his lodgings. To him it will be as if only a few hours passed. He will be unaware of his capture thinking that he instead escaped the ambush.”
“Mashallah. Excellent work Murad Effendi,” said another man who entered the room just in time to hear his explanation.
“Shukran Agha,” he replied deeply moved by the compliment.
Alexei’s eyes fell upon the Tsar crumbled in pain at his feet. He was still holding his hand and squeezing it painfully, breaking further bones in the process. Several members of the council and the Emperor’s servants were desperately trying to rescue the monarch from his deadly grip. His body was no longer his to command. Much like a spectator he was left to watch in horror his enhanced body attacking his Tsar. He could feel the last strands of his consciousness slipping into oblivion as the previously dormant program took control. He looked one last time at his Emperor and said, “I’m sorry” before his eyes rolled back in his head. The seal on his nape shined faintly and Alexei immediately opened his mouth. What looked like the barrel of a gun emerged from his maw and a split second later one could hear the sound of a bullet striking the Russian Tsar’s head. Now dead, the monarch continued to dangle by the limb still in his killer’s grip. The Flesh on Alexei’s face rapidly receded to the sides revealing his new visage to terrified advisors and servants. He produced a loud strident sound shattering almost every window throughout the castle. A few seconds later a powerful explosion rocked the Romanov winter palace obliterating the dead Tsar, his family, and his entire advisory body in the process.
Sultan Mahmud stood silently at the window of his personal chamber facing the gardens of Topkapi Palace. The young man assumed the throne to the Ottoman Empire when his father passed away suddenly a year ago. He took a deep breath and straightened his spine to project power and authority. It was unbefitting of a Sultan to show hesitation or weakness, when the moment called for decisiveness and fortitude.
“Now that the Russians are destabilized, what are your plans for the war Agha?” he asked as he turned away from the window to face his war minister.
“Elite troops fitted with Musa khant Ali’s armour suits are ready to be deployed throughout the Caucasus and the Crimean Khanate, with your permission Sultan. These armours will protect our Janissaries against much of the Russians firepower, while increasing their ability to strike back with deadly force. This is the moment to draw a line in the sand and show the Russians what a war with the Ottoman Empire will cost them,” answered Mehmet Pasha.
“The death of the Grand Vizier and the arrest of the Chancellor for treason leaves the Imperial Council weakened. Suleiman Pasha and Orhan Pasha were the only substantial voices within the Council against the war with the Russians. They were the only ones opposing your calls for an all-out war with the Romanovs…. but you already know that,” said Sultan Mahmud staring at the Agha of the Janissary; trying to catch glimpses of a reaction on the man’s inscrutable face.
“It was indeed shocking to find out that the plot to undermine the Empire landed right at Orhan Pasha’s feet. The Grand Vizier and so many more sacrificed their lives to untangle this web of deceit and safeguard the Ummah. They gave us, at their own peril, an opportunity to address a clear and present danger to our civilization,” responded the Agha.
“The Chancellor was as devoted to the Empire as was the Grand Vizier. I find it difficult to fathom that such a man could conspire against the Muslim Ummah and leak vital information to our ennemies.”
“Sometimes good men make wrong decisions my Sultan,” replied Mehmet Pasha.
The young man was keenly aware of his inexperience. Without the guidance of his late Grand Vizier he was out of his depth and felt overwhelmed. Deprived of the voices of wisdom and reasonableness within his Imperial Council, he could not help but feel that his hand was being forced. Looking at the impassive face of the Agha, he remembered what his late mentor told him once. There are those, my young prince, who live and work in the shadows. A good Sultan seats at the confines between the light and the darkness.
“You have my permission to deploy the new troops. And see to it Agha that the Chancellor remains alive while he awaits for his trial. I will hold you personally responsible for his untimely demise,” said the young Caliph before turning away from Mehmet Pasha, and back to his window.
Featured image by: Almacan
Agha: Honorific title for a military officer in the Ottoman Empire. An agha was essentially a commander.
Agha of the Janissary: Chief commander of the infantry.
Beyefendi: Ottoman male title akin to Sir/gentleman.
Grand Vizier: Prime minister of the Ottoman Sultan.
Hanim: Ottoman female aristocratic title akin to Lady.
Janissary: Elite infantry units of the Ottoman army.
Pasha: Title given to a high ranking Ottoman officer.
Shahida: Female martyr.
Seljuk: Medieval Turko-Persian Sunni Muslim Empire.
Ummah: Concept referring to the Muslim community at large. This term transcends ethnicity and nationality and instead reiterates the importance of religion in binding Muslims as a unified community.