Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 15

Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 15

“You’re very dispassionate about it,” said Eberhart, impressed despite himself. His brief had been to teach Manfred something of diplomacy and statecraft on this journey to the Holy Land. At first he’d thought it hopeless…

Manfred shrugged again. “She said princes need to be.”


Erik said nothing, but he knew Manfred well enough to know that his charge was still a little hurt by Francesca’s departure. Manfred was deeper than he let people guess. And his armor was more complex too. Perhaps Francesca and Manfred had not been soul-mates, as he and Svan had been, and God knew how it still burned him even now to think of her, but Manfred had stuck almost faithfully to Francesca for longer than Erik would have thought possible. In a way he was comforted that Manfred was a little wounded. Dispassionate might be what princes had to be, but it was not what a man must be. And a prince needed to be a man, first, or he might become a monster like Jagiellon. Maybe errors in love were a small price to pay to avoid that.

But all he said was: “Time to ride before it gets too hot again.”

“To think I longed for warmth in Ireland,” said Eberhart, looking out at the cloudless sky.

“Too much of anything is a bad idea.” Manfred speared another piece of meat from the wooden platter on the table.

“Tell your stomach that also applies to breakfast,” said Erik. “The sooner we go, the sooner we’ll get there.”


The sea was near to mirror flat when they came in sight of Ascalon, gleaming as if some knight’s poor squire had just polished it, with reddish tints from the setting sun. Erik saw how the new horse boy — who had possibly the worst seat of any rider Erik had ever seen, bar Benito — gaped at it, his mouth wide open. For once, the scrawny foxy-eyed boy didn’t look like a thief looking for a target. He just looked stunned and very young.

“What is it?” asked the horse boy.

“The Mediterranean. They call it a sea,” said Kari, sneering, “but it’s hardly worth it.”

“But… what is it?”

“Salty water. The tear of the giantess Ran.”

“Can’t be….” The boy swallowed. “It’s even bigger than Jerusalem.”

“And has more fish too. Some big enough to eat a man whole.”

The foxy expression returned to the boy’s eyes. “I’m not some stupid Frank.”

Kari grinned. “You just thought you were a horse boy. Really, we’re keeping you for bait.”

“Kari,” said Erik.

“Well, he’s not much good as a horse boy,” said Kari with a shrug.

“And too scrawny for good bait,” said Erik. “Now, someone who hasn’t come to drill for the last few days is more likely to have a bit of fat on him for the sharks.”

David decided that they were all crazy. He ignored them. But he wanted to get to that “sea.” It called to him. He wanted to touch it. Tears… ha. There was not that much salt in the whole world. But to see it and touch it! The stories he would tell his older brothers…

The world was a bigger place than he’d realized. Bigger even than Jerusalem, although he would never admit that in public. Ascalon itself was barely worth calling a town, though, he thought, with a lofty sniff. They rode on into the gathering dusk, towards the port. The air smelled very strange. He recognized the garbage and horse-dung scent of Jerusalem. But it was overlaid with fish, tar, and a smell that he’d never come across before.

It smelled salty.


“The bad news is that going on to the Black Sea, let alone chartering a vessel to take Borshar there is simply a non-starter,” said Eberhart. “The Mongols are not welcome in Byzantium — with good reason, to be fair — and word is out that the Venetian traders on the Golden Horn are virtually under siege again. Alexius is not going to allow Venetian vessels to pass through the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. He may let the eastern trade convoy that has gone to Trebizond back out because to try and trap them again would mean war, but it’s going to take a fleet bombarding his palace to get the Byzantines to let Venetian vessels sail up the Bosphorus.”

“Get hold of the fleet in Trebizond and get them to transport these Mongol gentlemen to the lands of the Golden Horde first,” said Erik. “The Mongols have this very admirable system of pony-messengers.”

“It won’t work.” Eberhart shook his head. “I suggested that. It appears the eastern convoy did not make a long stop in Trebizond. Normally they stay for months. But this time… well, Venice may know something we don’t. The vessels unloaded, took on what cargo was ready, and put to sea. Ahmbien had them watched, and used that system of riders to keep him informed.”

“Then,” said Manfred, standing up. “I think we need to sail for Venice. I suspect Alexius’s capital is about to feel the weight of Venetian bombards. The question is what do we do with this Borshar Tarkhan?”

“I suppose we need to ask him.”

They found the Ilkhan delegation on the balcony. Borshar Tarkhan rose and bowed. “Greetings. I gather your endeavors have not met with much success,” he said in perfect Frankish.

He was expecting that, thought Erik. Their spies must make Francesca envious. “Yes. We plan to go to Venice itself…”

The Tarkhan interrupted. “I am ordered to accompany you if that is the case.”

Erik wondered why Eberhart looked as if he had just swallowed something really nasty. As they walked back to their quarters in the Inn Erik decided he’d better get on with learning some Mongol. It made him uncomfortable not to know what these people were saying among themselves. And he was, first and foremost, Manfred’s bodyguard. Anything that made him uncomfortable was a warning sign.

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6 Responses to Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 15

  1. alejo says:

    This is shaping up to be a truly wonderful book. I’m
    wondering how Byzantium survived
    Ottomans. Did the unpleasant business in 1204 not happen in this time line? When was the Crusade or Crusades that gave the “franks” that appelation? At risk of offending someone (please don’t, it’s not intended), how did Islam come about in this time line and get so strong? Did the Mongols take the Levant from the Byzantines or from the Seljuks? So many questions.

  2. robert says:

    Let’s see. Manfred was born in 1520 AD and the first book (Shadow of the Lion)starts in 1537. I assume that this book takes place in the 1540’s. Islam must have been around for at least 800 or 900 years. The map in Shadow of the Lion shows Spain as part of Aquitaine, so the Reconquista was either completely different, or Aquitaine is Islamic, or the conquest never happened (so what happened to Visigothic Spain?), or what? Clearly the conquest of Byzantium never happened. In fact it sounds as though it was attempted and failed with lots of bloodshed: “The Mongols are not welcome in Byzantium — with good reason.”
    I agree, alejo. A bit of historic background would help–help, help, Eric, Drak, somebody.

  3. Geoff says:

    Must. Have. e-Arc.


  4. James says:

    Everything is different.

    First i dont think the conquest of spain ever really got off to a good start. Instead of scattered princes of europe they met the holy roman empire.

    I believe the mongols took care of the ottomans. And didnt byzantium accually fall because the crusaders sacked it before the muslims got there?

  5. robert says:

    But from the map we see that Spain is not part of the Holy Roman Empire, and appears to be part of Aquitaine. And from what was briefly mentioned in an earlier snippet, it sounds like there is something odd about Aquitaine.
    Yes, the Crusaders sacked the city in 1204, which weakened Christianity in the East, but we don’t even know if there was a Fourth Crusade, much less a first one, in this alternate history. If Islam did not conquer Spain, perhaps they did not conquer the Holy Land either. It sounds like the Venetians are more of a threat to the Byzantines than Islam is.

  6. alejo says:

    Other questions opened up are:

    The levant and Egypt. Up until the middle of the 7th century, these were part of the Eastern Roman Empire and wre taken by the Muslims at a time when Byzantium was weakend from constant warfar with the Sassinad Persians. The border with the Persians was the Euphrates if memory serves.

    The Sassinad Persians.

    This lot controled a sizeable piece of land in the middle east including Mesopotamia, modernday Iran and land farther east. It was a Zoroastrian kingdom (boy wouldn’t that be interesting in this book!) and, when the Muslims conquered them when they were weakened from all their wars with Byzantium (see above), refugees from this land fled eastward into central Asia which is why there are Persian-speaking peoples such as Dari in Afghanistan,and in other places.

    It was their conquest of part or the whole of these two great powers that gave the muslims the wherewithall to sweep westward across north africa and thence northward into Europe in 737 until they were stopped at the Battle of Tours by Charlemagne’s forces. If all this didn’t happen, how did they ever get out of Arabia? Proselytizing? That takes much more time than military conquest followed by forced conversions.

    The church
    The Crusades beginning in 1095 had a lot to do with the treatment of Christians by Muslims in Jerusalem over the centuries. Without the muslims controling the Levant, no excuse for the crusades could’ve been engineered to keep the fractious nobles from being at each others’ throats and launch them at the saracens. With the Petrines and the Paulines cohabiting more or less peacefully, this church doesn’t appear prone to the schism that drove the Orthodox and Catholic churches apart as well.


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