The Shadow Without a Name
6th September 1362
The next morning Ximene arose early. When John awoke she was fully dressed, looking out the window. It was as if she sensed his return to consciousness. She shivered slightly and turned. ‘Good morning John. There is much you need to know. We will have breakfast with the Emir.’
The terrace looked completely different in the early morning light.
The table was set with a variety of sweet, spiced and plain breads and a waiter served a light ale from a jug.
The Emir made no attempt to eat anything.
John was unable to avoid a questioning look spreading across his face. The Emir’s eyes sparkled and he spread his hands in a gesture of surrender. ‘In my country only pregnant women and invalids eat at this time of day. When Ximene initially asked for breakfast I assumed that she must be pregnant’
He looked from Ximene to John and back to Ximene. “Perhaps that may soon come to pass”
He laughed, but his voice changed immediately. ‘To business…Sir John, I would very much like you to visit Karaman, so that you could make an assessment of my defensive arrangements. Ximene has already identified that we have nothing to compare with your longbow, so we have arranged for two craftsmen who have the required skills to set up a small factory whose only purpose is to manufacture longbows.
We now need someone to train my men in how to obtain the distance and accuracy which apparently your army can achieve and of course the battle tactics to use massed archers most effectively.’
The Emir nodded his head towards Ximene. ‘You do in fact have a competitor in your role as a military strategist. Ximene has told me about a battle she was involved in, how the archers were used and what the result was. I am most impressed. However Ximene informed me of you the fact that your Prince requires your presence in Castile, so clearly that must take priority.’
Ximene broke in somewhat hurriedly ‘The Emir has come to accept that the training of the core of his army, his guards, can take place in Castille and Grenada if they were to accompany us.’
She glanced at the Emir, seeking approval.
‘Yes Ximene, but even more importantly I have come to accept that what is happening in Castile and Grenada.. is more threatening to our trade than any threats in Karaman, which in the short term, I can manage… I want you to have a secure route to carry products from the orchard of europe , Murcia directly to northern Europe
John kept a straight face, clearly Ximene had reached agreement with the Emir before he himself had come to know what was expected of him.
The Emir continued. ‘Therefore, I have brought ten of my more senior guards here to Venice.’
‘They all are able to understand commands in Lange d’Oil and their commander, Alexan speaks it fluently, They are not Turks, not Islamic but mercenaries, Armenian Christians.’
John glanced at Ximene and then back to the Emir. ‘I don’t mean to be insensitive, but the significance of that is?’
‘To send Muslims to a remote battlefront would be asking for trouble. Our religion places great emphasis on protecting our menfolk from temptation.’
John smiled and shook his head, ‘Sorry I still don’t see the significance’
The Emir sighed. ‘No probably you wouldn’t and yet you need to know. Will you indulge me and let me give a complete explanation.
‘Islam regards promiscuity and homosexuality as heinous sins publishable by death. Therefore as a safeguard against committing these sins it is usual for a man to take a wife with him to provide an outlet for his sexual urges even on the edge of the battlefield.
Captured houses are allocated for use and captured women are allocated as either wives or concubines depending on wether they convert to Islam or not.
Before long this gathering becomes a new community, often a community committed to self promotion and expansion. It is not unusual for such communities to find a totally different interpretation of the Quran or Hadith.’
I do not want this to happen in Grenada… or Seville for that manner and for that reason I am sending Mercenaries, with the promise that they will be well rewarded when they return to Karaman in possession of new skills .’
He leaned across the table.
If they have a fault it is that they are irrationally courageous. They no no fear, please use deploy them with discretion… and please do not teach them to eat breakfast.’
The day after Tomorrow I would like you to meet the commander of my guard, Alexan, and here is as good as anywhere.. It would be useful for you to meet him. I have told him that you are my cousin and a Prince of Islam and that you will be freeing Grenada from a usurper. How much else you tell him is completely up to you. I recommend you share everything with him as he is very intelligent. He will reward you confidences with loyalty.’
Now another matter. Tomorrow I have been given an opportunity, to visit the Arsenale and to be conducted from there to a seat on the grand canal where we can watch the regatta during which the river craft of the various islands of Venice are demonstrated. At the Arsenale, even though there will be a carnival atmosphere, it will still be useful for you to see the effort the Venetians use in constructing their fleet. They can if necessary build two galleys in a single day!
It is done through superb organisation. The spars and ribs, sails ropes and pulley are all prepared in advance to the most rigorous specifications, making the final assembly very efficient.
The preparatory work is carried out away from Venice making it possible to use an enormous number of people.’
John’s interest was immediately aroused ‘Yes I would like to accompany you, but isn’t this something Ximene would like to see?’
‘It will be impossible to keep her away.’ Wear eastern dress Sir John , the presence of an advisor is expected.’
He smiled. Oh! One other matter. When you visit Grenada. I will give you a letter of introduction. You will play the part of my cousin, a prince of Islam. I have a house in Grenada , Carmen Yasmine, one of my favourite places. It will be put at you disposal.’
He rose and stretched his arms.
‘That just about covers it. When will you leave?’
Ximene also stood. ‘As soon as possible, say two or three days. If we are going to transport the guards. It will crowded on the first leg but at Brindisi you and your entourage will break away to return to Karaman. ’