Speaking as someone living in one of the most multi-cultural cities in one of the most multi-cultural countries in the entire world, I agree with you. I mean, within walking distance, I can have some food from almost ever continent, and a short drive to any type of food imaginable!
I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing
Cogito Ergo Sum
Chapter Forty Five: Quid Pro Quo
Constantinople was a city in disrepair. Two years of occupation left it gutted, looted, ravaged, burned and collapsed. The nobles of the Roman Empire had been unwilling to pay the ransom for Emperor Stephen I. It was likely that they could not afford the ransom, but it was also as likely that Cenwig or some other noble had attempted to usurp the throne and was unwilling to see the old Emperor return. Eventually, in a strange reversal of fortune, the Prussians began to fight to install Stephen as Emperor. Stephen had agreed to some harsh terms, but thought that they were for the best for his Empire. So now he was a Prussian ally fighting against the remnants of Roman resistance. He would go down as a traitor, but at least he had spared the Empire years of occupation and large territorial loss. In the spring of 1378 Emperor Stephen I was restored to the throne in Constantinople and soon the Empire put down her arms and accepted Stephen's previous agreement with the Prussians. The jewel of the agreement was a city called Galata, known as Ţráŝigrád in Prussian. It lay across the Golden Horn from Constantinople and was seceded to Prussia as an assurance that Rome would not attempt to cut off trade in the future. Rome also ended up paying a great deal in raw coinage for Prussia's trouble. But there was a flip side: Prussia had to stop interfering with the Wallachia/Bulgaria conflict. This essentially meant trading Galata and gold for a Bulgarian victory over Wallachia. King Doyvát was more than happy to accept. Wallachia was a backwater and the support of the Grand Duke of Wallachia meant nothing to the greatest Christian King.
May 16th, 1378
Peer Txomin closed his eyes, probably for the last time. The pain that had flooded his senses was dying down, draining from his body. What sort of person would kill an old man; especially a frail and sick one. He tried to open his eyes and see his killer, but his strength had already failed him. Darkness closed in around him. Even with his eyes shut he could sense the light around him dimming. A falling sensation. Was this it? Was this the end? Would he land in Charon's boat and be ferried off to a better world? He felt himself slowing and he became upright. His feet felt the ground and he lowered himself onto a perfectly flat plain. Still darkness prevailed all around him. In the distance: a light. He felt himself drawn to it, but he knew what it was: the end, the end of his time on earth and an entryway into the gardens of paradise. There he could feast on the ripest figs and dates forever. Behind him, behind him was a black void. He turned. Stretching before him forever was nothing. Very fitting, he thought, fitting that everything he was leaving behind meant nothing now. He faced the light. It gave off an inviting warmth and he walked toward it.
"Is he dead?" one man asked. He wiped his blade clean of blood and sheathed it. The other stooped down and put a finger in front of the Peer's mouth and waited to feel labored breaths. When none came he looked up and nodded. "Good," the first answered. The two men began poking around the in the Peer's personal things. They took some rings and medals; a finely crafted Arabian sword; and the Peer's last will and testament. The second assassin took the piece of paper and put it into the fire. He crouched and waited for it to completely burn up, and when it did he stirred the remains into the ashes.
A gentle cough and the two men were quickly standing with weapons drawn. They turned to the source, the failing body of the Peer. "I thought you said he was dead!" the first said in a strong whisper.
"He wasn't breathing! What more do you want from me? I am no doctor!" the second whispered back. They took a couple steps toward the dying man and put a hand on his back, causing him to cough again.
"Can I at least know why?" a raspy voice asked, painfully.
"No," the first assassin answered.
"Can I at least know who?"
"No," was the answer again.
The two men hung around while Txomin slipped away, and when they were certain that he was dead they left, disappearing into the dawn's twilight. Their only trace was a small cross they left beside the Peer.
Sunday's prayers were filled with quiet sobbing. Caliph Ramon III Mohoma bin Abbas too was shocked when he heard that Txomin had been killed. The Peer had touched the lives of many, but was best known as a staunch ally of the crown. He left no heirs. Now some distant relative of his would take the throne of Navarre and the title of Peer. The Caliph could help but feel as a little bit of his power had dissolved. Now the cry was for blood, but who to blame? The French? The Germans? The Christians? The new Peer of Navarre?
Fermintxo of the House of Jiménez approached the Caliph, "My lord. I want you to rest assured that I plan to uphold my uncle's loyalty to you as a fellow Iberian and Frandist. Anything I have or can do to help you is at your disposal."
Ramon relaxed slightly, letting out a deep sigh. "Thank you, Fermintxo. It is appreciated."
The new Peer sat down beside the Caliph he was quiet during the prayers but as the Mosque began to disperse he stopped the Caliph, "I must be up front, my lord. But do you have any idea who has done this to my uncle? Is there no clue to whom has done this?"
"We found this at the scene," Ramon answered after a long pause. From his cloak he produced a small cross that once would have hung from the neck of a Revisionist priest. "But it doesn't really mean anything. If it were a German or a Frenchman it would have been easy to place this at the scene and get away unnoticed."
"B... but it is a sign as clear as day!"
"No, Fermintxo, this was not dropped or forgotten, it was very deliberately placed. Why would the Christians willingly bring our anger on themselves?"
"Why would they be so willing to accept the end of Christian rule in León, something that Peer Txomin was instrumental in orchestrating?"
Caliph Ramon beckoned Fermintxo to walk with him as the shuffled out of Barcelona's Grand Mosque under heavy guard. "Peer, I will not deny that they have reason and probability... but we are at the verge of a Christian revolt in Iberia. What would you have me do? Crack down on nearly a fifth of Iberia's population?"
"What about his Grace, the Bishop of Baiona? What does his Holiness command?" Fermintxo asked.
"His Holiness does not fully understand the situation, though I assume as soon as he hears of Txomin's untimely death he will support an all-out inquisition."
"Would you reject his Holiness' ruling? Would that be wise?"
"Peer, I have no idea. I am technically not bound to him as a secular ruler... and he is only supposed to be a spiritual guide of the Frandists, not their liege and master. It would cause a crisis if I were to so publically denounce his ruling so I will have to speak with him personally on the issue," Ramon said carefully.
"And what of Txomin's killers? Are they to escape justice?"
"I don't know what to say. I was not there; I don't know who killed anyone."
"So you protect the Christians?"
"I do not like your tone, Fermintxo. If you'd rather: I am protecting my own realm against collapse. If it means the Christians are spared, then so be it. I am a King too... I need to watch out for myself. If the French want to start a Christian uprising, or the Germans want an all-out revolt... so be it. I will not stop them; I will not protect the Christians. I would love to watch Paris engulfed in flames once again, or to see Germany torn by war again. If it would mean I was better off. But inciting a revolt here, in my own lands, is foolish at best and disastrous at worst. Do you seriously take me for an idiot?" Ramon asked rhetorically.
Fermintxo was left standing on the spot as the Caliph marched off. He had been told that things would fall into place quickly. But Ramon's self-control had been under-estimated. Even the Revisionists would be hard to whip into a frenzy, but Fermintxo decided to fall onto his backup plan.
An excellent post, Mr. C! It appears the pot is starting to come to boil.
I prefer politics played straight to this scheming. I can't wait for some Peer or Caliph to cut through all the scheming in the Caliphate with a burning torch of honesty.
I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing
Cogito Ergo Sum
Chapter Forty Five: Quid Pro Quo
Bulgaria was eventually able to achieve victory over Wallachia now that Roman and Prussian meddling had been removed. The Bulgars took the coastal region of Dobruja leaving their northern neighbor landlocked and dependent on their neighbors for access to trade. This played favorably to the Hungarians who were still the major power in the Balkans. Since Prussia had retreated from the Balkans, the Bessarabians had risen to power in many of Prussia's former provinces. Bessarabians are usually hard to classify. Originally they represented Prussians who lived outside of the core Prussian territories, named after Bessarabia in the Moldau region. Usually Bessarabians were wealthy merchants and princes that ruled over the different Balkan peoples. The King of Hungary and the Voivodes of Carpathia, Moldavia and Wallachia were all so-called Bessarabians. However, with the exception of the tiny Principalities of Carpathia and Moldavia, the vast majority of lands ruled by Bessarabians were not settled by Bessarabians. The foreign rulers often banded together for protection, especially after Wallachia's defeat at the hands of the Bulgarians. This created a powerful block in the Balkans and prevented a serious Roman recovery as the Hungarian sphere of influence expanded to include the Serbians. Moreover, as the Bessarabians began to entrench their authority and power, they began to resent the Prussians who lorded over them as masters despite very little actual influence. Christianity was the only thing holding it all together. In 1378 there was still a mentality of them versus us. And as the Qurati would have said: "My brother over my cousin, my cousin over a stranger."
May 18th, 1378
Caliph Ramon III Mahoma bin Abbas was the most powerful man in all of Europe but there was nothing he could do to bring back his most beloved friend and advisor. The title of Peer had been selected for him and him alone... stolen by the French and Germans and then given to the Italians for balance. Txomin's funeral had been postponed so that the Prussians could send a delegation as well. The Peer had been friends with everyone, and was a welcomed guest at many of the powerful homes in Prussia. Trouble was brewing. Many in his court sought to blame the Christians, including Txomin's heir Fermintxo. They were mostly those under the influence of the Bishop of Baiona, the highest ranking religious authority in Frandism. The Bishop was a well-known hater of the Christians, who still made up a large minority of the people in Iberia, Gaul and Italy and were still the majority in Germany.
The Caliph knew that he was essentially choosing between a religious war and a civil war. If he chose to defend the Christians the Caliphate would implode, regardless if they were innocent or not. If he chose to stand alongside his countrymen, he'd be resigning thousands of innocent people to death. Somehow he felt that he had been trapped at this impasse. He could feel the forces of ruin working behind him, in the shadows. For the first time he truly felt impotent. He heard footsteps outside his office and a light rapping on the door.
"Enter," the Caliph said. His voice hid his internal struggles under a mask of authority. It did not waiver, or at least he hoped so.
The door opened and revealed Carme, his wife, and Prince-Bishop Iñaki, the Bishop of Baiona. "Why do we wait for the Christians for the funeral of a martyr?" Iñaki asked very bluntly. Carme showed her husband a look of exasperation and silently apologized for letting the Bishop in and then hurried off not to be seen, though probably hiding near-by.
"Lord Iñaki, the Prussians were close friends of Peer Txomin's, I only wish to honor his memory and service in bringing our nations together by allowing them to pay their respects. It is a diplomatic thing, I doubt you'd understand," Ramon, too, was very blunt. The Prince-Bishop was born in Germany and elected to the post of Prince-Bishop of Baiona by the clergy of the Frandist Mosque in Baiona. His dislike for the Iberian circle was not unknown, though few would understand the depths of his distrust.
"Are you calling me undiplomatic?"
"Well, you did scare the host's wife into showing you to her husband's private chambers and then without even so much as a greeting began to blurt out thinly-veiled threats. Peer Fermintxo has already made it clear to me you wish to start an inquisition against the Revisionists. It is easy to think that it would be a simple task when you live in a cloistered Mosque in a city inhabited only by Frandists. But outside Baiona's walls... in the slums and ghettos of all the great cities of Europe... there are still Christians and Sunnis and Shiites. Here in Iberia they are a significant minority... every fourth or fifth man is a Christian... What would you have me do?"
The banner of the Prince-Bishop of Baiona. It is one of the oldest flags in the world and still used today. The symbolism is often debated but the stars usually refer to Baiona, Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina; while the Frandist cross is shown lording over Sunni, Shiite and Ibadi Muslims.
"I will have you dishonored! Expelled! Expunged! There will be no happy memories of the traitor Ramon, lover of Christians and betrayer of his people. Crush the Christian uprising! Crush them under the righteous heel of the true faith."
"When I was young, I was able to speak with his Holiness, the great prophet Ferran... he sounded nothing like you; did you ever speak with him? Before he died? I only got to meet with him once, almost in passing. My father took me to Baiona as the man sat on his death bed. I was four. And he said to me, 'Hate not those who deny your faith as their own, enjoy their company and debate and grow stronger in your own faith.'"
Iñaki was silent. Ramon tapped slightly on his desk and stood up.
"Nothing? You have nothing to say? Then I shall continue. I understand why you think it was the Revisionists; they have motive, they have the means, there is evidence pointing to them. But even if the man with a knife was a Revisionist, it was not every Revisionist holding that knife. We could face an all-out religious war in Western Europe. It might be enough to provoke the East and it might mean the end of the Caliphate as we know it."
"But that is not all you have to say, is it?"
"No. What if the Revisionists were framed? What if someone is trying to instigate that religious war? What if the whole thing is a red herring?"
"Ramon, it makes me sad to think that you distrust your countrymen like that."
"I am Caliph... I outrank you, refer to me properly. Hermann, you don't stay Caliph long if you trust everyone. I trusted Txomin and now he is gone. I. Trust. No one. Not you, not my barber, not my wife. No one. I live in constant fear that tomorrow is the day that Germany rebels or France invades or Italy breaks away to join Egypt. You live in a cloistered little Mosque in an idyllic city where you can dismiss enemies and appoint friends at your every whim. I don't. I live in Barcelona. I am Caliph and everyone under me wants what I have. I did not build a massive ring of walls around this city because I had extra money making my wallet untidy. It is because this city is mine and everyone else wants it. I. Will. Defend. My. Empire. Don't question my faith, don't question my allegiance."
Iñaki smiled, he had certainly been defeated. Hearing his old name made him shiver a bit, like when Elijah heard the names of Lilith. "Then what will you do about Txomin's death?"
"I will mourn the loss of my mentor and my friend... and then I will move on, because I don't have a choice."
Awww, poor Caliph. I like him.
I know I believe in nothing, but it is my nothing
Cogito Ergo Sum
Ah, so our Caliph faces great opposition in his bid to keep the Christians from being slaughtered... I hope he succeeds, although he seems to have some formidable opponents...
That Frandist cross looks like something altogether different when you turn it upside down
Baghdad in the Sky with Diamonds (last updated 27/08/13)
So Long Mom, I'm Off to Drop the Bomb - A Fallout 2 AAR (last updated 08/06/14)
Update soonish, going to shift away from the Caliph briefly for one update and then he gets more or less the rest of the chapter.
Ugh. You had to end it right there! I eagerly await the conclusion of this plot line. Good stuff, Mr. C.
Chapter Forty Six: Loss and Inheritance
While the Caliphate suffered from an inefficient government and divisions within its own structures, another Empire to the east was at an end. At long last; after years of civil war and revolt; cultural differences and bloody purges; religious pogroms and the dissolution of many of Asia's great kingdoms... the Yuan Empire came tumbling down. In the years approaching the end, the Yuan Empire was ruled more and more through so-called Imperial Proxies. These Proxies were legally vassals of the Emperor but increasingly acted like independent states. The Empire's power bases were concentrated in several cities scattered in the Empire, usually referred to as "Favorites". This list included Delhi, Beijing, Nanjing and Chongqing. As Imperial authority waned, more and more Imperial Proxies were appointed to rule from more and more Favorites. Eventually the Empire ran out of lands to give up and money to feed the Imperial Army. With no food and no loyalty to a ruler who could not pay, the Imperial Army began to operate independently of the Empire. It went around and charged its own taxes, conducted its own invasions all independent of the Crown. As the Indians south of Delhi and the Assamese and Burmese states began to revolt, the numbers of the Imperial Army were whittled down. The Turkic revolts that spread through the Kazakhs and Uyghurs of the West were the straws that broke China's back. The Imperial Army was defeated in 1377 outside of what is today Ürümqi by a combination of Kazakh and Perso-Turkish mercenaries. By 1378 the Imperial Army had dissolved into Cliques led by warlords. These Cliques seized the control wielded by the Imperial Proxies and installed their Warlords and Kings or Emperors of large regions. Then they began to fight each other for control over all of China. All the while they faced invasion from the Turks and the Manchus. Asia was laid waste to by the greed of lesser men. In spring of 1379 the last Yuan Emperor was unceremoniously deposed and executed in front of the population of the then-capital Nanjing.
The Chinese Successor States.
July 9th, 1379
More than twenty-one years ago Timur had watched his father die at the hands of petty tax collector. Now he was a bandit king. Not even thirty yet; he commanded a decent sized force of Persianized Turks. The Turks were not a unified people, nor where they ever in the past. The Seljuks had risen and fallen leaving a deep connection between the people of Persia and the Steppes. Sometimes it was hard to draw the line between a Turk and a Persian. At the center of their camp, Timur's people erected a post and hung from it the image of Şri Vişnu and the Hindu symbol of the Om. There they conducted that day's prayers.
What really divided the Turks was not just language, but religion. Turkish tribes often adopted the religion of their lords. The Seljuks eventually turned to Shia Islam, while the vast majority of Turks turned to Sunni Islam. For the Kwihzihri and Uzbeki tribes, once mercenaries and subjects of the Yuan Empire, Hinduism was the religions of their forefathers and so it remained.
Persian and Turkic Peoples.
"Lord Timur, your bride approaches with her followers." Timur looked at his scout and the scout bowed slightly, crossing his right arm over his chest. "She appears more beautiful than we were told, my lord."
Timur grunted, it was his duty to remain gruff and aloof, he was known as a warrior not some Persian writer or thinker. "I shall use this to forge an alliance with the Uzbekis."
"I shall use this marriage and any children from it bring the Uzbekis under my rule. So once I unite the Kwihzihri with the Uzbeki tribes, Persia will have a new master." The heralds grew nearer and Timur turned and walked into his tent. It was all about image. He would not be found waiting patiently for this woman; inside he quickly hid his writing and his poetry and replaced it with maps and treaties. Few really understood the layers to the man called Timur; for he was a general wrapped around a poet wrapped around an emperor and wearing the armor of a soldier. Only a hand-chosen few saw any deeper than the first layer.
Outside he could hear the horses coming to a stand and his herald talking to the different guards and musicians. After a few moments, he heard his bride being led off to her own tent and then the herald stepped inside to speak. "My lord, I assume you are aware that your bride has arrived."
"They have left her dowry here for you to look through before making a final decision. She also brought cooks and performers to entertain you on the night before your wedding, if you so choose to go through it."
"And of my bride-to-be? Do I not get to see her before making the decision?" Timur asked, sounding slightly annoyed.
His herald smiled, "You don't have to play your games... no one is outside of your tent right now that can hear you. Relax; she is as beautiful as you were promised. You can spend whole seasons writing poetry about her."
"Bah, not good enough!"
"Not good enough, my lord?"
"If she is half as beautiful as I have been told petty words are not enough."
"Then what is, my lord? If you don't mind me asking?"
"A crown and worshippers... people who put their faith in me and in doing so, in her as well. I will conquer a Kingdom so that I might be worthy."
"And what Kingdom might that be?"
"Persia. I will conquer Persia and I shall bring the light of Şri Vişnu to all of her peoples. And beyond; for once I have the allegiance of Persia I shall be unstoppable."
"Sir, you don't sound like you are talking about impressing the lady anymore."
"What?" Timur asked, turning around quickly and putting his hands on the table. He glared at the herald who suddenly went white.
"Um... uh... my lord, just a moment ago you were talking of impressing her ladyship... now it sounds as if you plan to conquer the world..."
Timur face quickly changed from anger to humor, "It does sound like that, doesn't it? The steppe people are powerful, but we are disorganized and pathetically left to fight amongst ourselves. United, though, united we are powerful. And she is part of my plan in that. She is the daughter of the post powerful chief of the Uzbeki tribes. I am the post powerful of the Kwihzihri chiefs. Separately we are strong enough to challenge any other tribe... together we are strong enough to conquer the Turks. With all the Turks we are strong enough to conquer the Persians."
Humor? Timur should have lopped off the head of that impertinent herald!
"As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella!"
Former Forever Supreme Grand Master of the now defunct Grand and Magnificent Order of Prestige
Timur shall rule the World! Can't wait for the Hindu enclaves in the Balkans.
Chapter Forty Six: Loss and Inheritance
By 1380 Iberia's Christians were in trouble. Waves of Xenophobia and Christophobia washed over the people and sent them into hysterical fits. This led to witch hunts, pogroms and vigilante justice all over Western Europe. Frandism, despite the teachings of its only recently deceased prophet, had already fallen to the whims of the masses. In lands of Caliph Ramon III Mahoma, Christians were generally safe. A whole state, the León protectorate set up in Galacia, was made so that Christians can live under a Christian ruler as citizens of the Caliphate. But this was no longer working. In the 1370's there were so many converts to Islam and Frandism in León that the Christian ruler was downgraded so that a secular ruler could be installed. The signs pointed to a total take-over by the Caliph. After the death of Peer Txomin of Navarre, the new Peer of Navarre under the influence of the Prince-Bishop of Baiona (the highest spiritual authority in Frandism) demanded the expulsion and persecution of the Christians in Navarre. He accused them of plotting to assassinate his uncle and lead a Christian rebellion. Despite his attempts to keep the Christians safe from indiscriminate persecution, the Caliph had to relent or risk being over thrown. The few remaining Christians in Iberia were rounded up and forced into León's southern territories along the border with Porto. A puppet regime, supposedly lead by a Christian count, would rule over the Christians as a vassal of the Prince of León. Ramon thought it was a suitable compromise and hoped he had spared many people from a gruesome death at the hands of the mob or worse: the inquisition. But it was too little, too late. Frandists already living in the southern provinces of León were not happy with the idea of so many Christians being forced into the area. And Christians were not happy with the idea of being herded onto new homes. The whole thing exploded into a bloody series of revolts and small-scale wars as the Christians called upon their God to protect them in a long and losing series of Crusades.
The plight of the Christians in Iberia.
March 18th, 1380
"I don't think I fully understand these 'Revisionists.'" Peer Fermintxo said. The way he said 'Revisionists' was similar to the way many other people would refer to unwanted guests or a parasite in their intestines. The very word dripped with his ignorance and hatred. The Peer watched as a Revisionist clergy man was hanged for leading a revolt. "Their holy men pick up swords more readily than their military leaders."
"That's because their holy men are their military leaders, Peer," the Caliph said. "Have you ever heard the phrase 'know thy enemy'? Revisionism preaches that its followers must either die free or die resisting all authority they see as illegitimate. It is a religion literally based around struggle and war. They call themselves The Church of Jesus Christ, Warrior. Their symbol is a cross that comes to a point and pierces a still beating heart. This is a religion and mind set forged in the fires of the Infinite War. I am actually rather scared that I have to explain all of this to you."
Ramon looked away; he did not approve of the killing. All he heard was a cry of "Christ Victorious!" in the Leónese dialect of the Christians and then a thud as a body reached the end of its noose.
"How is it scary?" Fermintxo asked.
"Because a man should at least know why he hates another man," Ramon responded.
"No, I mean why can you not watch a hanging?"
"It is not that I cannot watch it, it is just that I do not want to be thought of as giving my consent to it," Ramon said rather angrily. Fermintxo rolled his eyes and sneered, returning his gaze to where the holy man was being cut down from the gallows.
"Why do you defend them, Caliph?" Fermintxo asked, almost rhetorically, as they led the next Christian to the noose.
"I don't defend them because I feel compassion for them, if that is what you are really asking. I defend them because in doing so I defend myself. I know what the Prince-Bishop is up to. I am not stupid."
"Funny, I didn't think you'd be one of those pesky humans... you know, with flaws and selfishness."
"I do what I can," Ramon answered flatly. "I was blind for a while. Confused by you and Hermann... but I can see clearly now. I know what is going on behind my back. I see you for the weasel you are," there was a slight pause and a significant drop in volume in Ramon's voice, "murder."
Fermintxo tried to hide a smirk, but could not, instead he turned and watch yet another Christian hanged with the cry of "Christ Victorious!"
"They should come up with a more suitable cry... Christ isn't particularly victorious if they are on the wrong end of a noose... forgive my... gallows humor."
"Fuck off," Ramon said. He lowered his head and looked down at his feet.
Back home, sealed away in a chest that only he had the key to, was a passport to freedom. "If the tide were ever to turn," the Lord-Protector had said, "Please except this gift. Show it to any of my merchants and they will get you to safety. You are an ally, and as a friend of Txomin you are a friend of ours." The paper had lied there in the chest for almost two years; Ramon could still remember having it handed to him discreetly by the Prussian heir. He paused to think now, had Txomin considered Fermintxo a friend? Had the Peer trusted his nephew? Had he seen through the mask and saw the evil plotter behind it? All answers beyond his powers now, the Caliph thought.
"So when do you suppose you'll try to depose me?" Ramon asked.
"Why do you ask?"
"I want to keep the date open, wouldn't want you to spoil a party or anything."
Fermintxo smiled and put an arm around Ramon, "To be honest, Caliph, I was going to ask the same question to you. Let us be honest. You don't trust me, you don't trust the Prince-Bishop... the shadows seem to grow darker; who knows who or what lurks in the dark recesses of Barcelona?"
"And what of Biscay, my dear Peer. What of your own capital city? Do you sleep well thinking that Hermann's prayers protect you? Or do you too keep guards to stand watch while you are most vulnerable?"
"Why would I answer such as question, Caliph?"
"O, I already know. I wanted to see if you'd lie." The blood drained from Fermintxo's face. "I know that you sleep with four guards outside your door at any time, one three hour shifts replacing one guard every forty-five minutes. I even know the name of that toy bear your mother gave you before she died and you have beside you every night."
"Alfonzo..." Fermintxo said quietly.
"Yes, that was his name. Now, I told this to Hermann and now I shall repeat it to you. You don't stay Caliph long if you don't sleep with your eyes open and have a spare set in every court in the Caliphate. Fermintxo: I see all, I hear all. I. Know. All. I have spent two years digging through your past: your education, your nannies, your bastards, your claims. I even found out about the maid you fucked and killed for sport."
Fermintxo's face continued to whiten and he took his arm off Ramon, but the Caliph continued, "O yes. You think that no one else knew? You thought the secret of poor little Lorea was safe? What was she? Eight? Nine?" Ramon took a step away from the Vasque and with a knifing look said, "Watch out, little man." And with that the Caliph walked away, his cape swooshing behind him as it tried to keep up.
The Peer swallowed and felt his heart race. What had he gotten himself into? Hermann had said that it would all be easy, that the Caliph would fold like a house of cards and then he would be the sole power in Iberia. This is not at all what he had bargained for. But there was no turning back. He'd just have to keep following the Prince-Bishop's orders and hopefully everything would work out once everything had settled down in Germany.