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– PROLOGUS –
6 April 1453
We are coming, Greek.
Climb your highest tower, along those magnificent walls. They have kept you safe for a thousand years. Resiste...
– PROLOGUS –
6 April 1453
We are coming, Greek.
Climb your highest tower, along those magnificent walls. They have kept you safe for a thousand years. Resisted every one of our attacks. Before them, where your fields and vineyards once stood, are trenches and emplacements. Empty, for now. Do you expect them to be filled with another doomed army of Islam, like all the martyrs that came and failed here before?
No. For we are different this time. There are more of us, yes. But there is something else. We have brought something else.
Close your eyes. You will hear us before you see us. We always arrive with a fanfare. We are people who like a noise. And that deep thumping, the one that starts from beyond the ridge and runs over our trenches, through the ghosts of your vineyards, rising through stone to tickle your feet? That is a drum, a kos drum, a giant belly to the giant man who beats it. There is another…no, not just one. Not fifty. More. These come with the shriek of the pipe, the seven-note sevre, seven to each drum.
The mehter bands come marching over the ridge line, sunlight sparkling on instruments inlaid with silver, off swaying brocade tassels. You blink, and then you wonder: there are thousands of them. Thousands. And these do not even carry weapons.
Those with weapons come next.
First the Rumelian division. Years ago, when you were already too weak to stop us, we bypassed your walls, conquered the lands beyond them to the north. Their peoples are our soldiers now—Vlachs, Serbs, Bulgars, Albanians. You squint against the light, wishing you did not see, hoping the blur does not conceal—but it does!—the thousands that are there, the men on horseback followed by many more on foot. Many, many more.
The men of Rumelia pass over the ridge and swing north toward the Golden Horn. When the first of them reach its waters, they halt, turn, settle. Rank on rank on the ridgeline, numberless as ants. Their mehter bands sound a last peal of notes, a last volley of drumbeats. Then all is silent.
Only for a moment. Drums again, louder if that were possible, even more trumpets. Because the Anatolian division is larger. Can you believe it? That as many men pass over the hilltop again and then just keep coming? They head to the other sea, south toward Marmara, warriors from the heartland of Turkey. The sipahi, knights mailed from neck to knee, with metal turban helms, commanding their mounts with a squeeze of thigh and a grunt, leaving hands free to hoist their war lances high, lift their great curving bows. Eventually they pass, and then behind them march the yayas, the peasant soldiers, armored by the lords they follow, trained by them, hefting their spears, their great shields.
When at last the vast body reaches the water, they turn to face you, double-ranked. Music ceases. A breeze snaps the pennants. Horses toss their heads and snort. No man speaks. Yet there is still a space between the vast divisions of Rumelia and Anatolia. The gap concerns you—for you know it is to be filled.
It is—by a horde, as many as each of those who came before. These do not come with music. But they come screaming. They pour down, and run each way along the armored fronts of Anatolia and Rumelia. They do not march. They have never been shown how. For these are bashibazouks, irregulars recruited from the fields of empire and the slums of cities. They are not armored, though many have shields and each warrior a blade. Some come for God—but all for gold. Your gold, Greek. They have been told that your city is cobbled with it, and these tens of thousands will hurl themselves again and again against your walls to get it. When they die by the score—as they will—a score replaces them. Another. Each score will kill a few of you. Until it is time for the trained and armored men to use their sacrificed bodies as bridges and kill the few of you who remain.
The horde runs, yelling, along the ordered ranks, on and on. When at last it halts, even these men fall quiet. Stay so for what seems an age. And that gap is still there, and now you almost yearn for it to be filled. Yearn too for the hush, more dreadful than all those screams, to end. So that this all ends.
And then they come. No drums. No pipes. As silent as the tread of so many can be.
You have heard of them, these warriors. Taken as Christian boys, trained from childhood in arms and in Allah, praise Him. Devoted to their corps, their comrades, their sultan. They march in their ortas, a hundred men to each one.
The janissaries have arrived.
You know their stories, these elite of the elite that have shattered Christendom’s armies again and again. In recent memory alone, at Kossovo Pol, and at Varna. As they swagger down the hill, beneath their tall white felt hats, their bronzed shields, their drawn scimitars, their breastplates dazzle with reflected sunlight.
They turn to face you, joining the whole of our army in an unbroken line from sea to sparkling sea. Again a silence comes. But not for long this time. They are waiting, as you are. Waiting for him.
He comes. Even among so many he is hard to miss, the tall young man on the huge white horse. Yet if you did not recognize him, you will by what follows him. Two poles. What hangs from one is so old, its green has turned black with the years. It looks to you what it is—a tattered piece of cloth.
It is the banner that was carried before the Prophet himself, peace be unto him. You know this, because when it is driven into the ground, a moan goes through the army. And then the second pole is placed and the moan blends with the chime of a thousand tiny bells. The breeze also lifts the horsetails that dangle from its height.
Nine horsetails. As befits a sultan’s tug.
Mehmet. Lord of lords of this world. King of believers and unbelievers. Emperor of East and West. Sultan of Rum. He has many titles more yet he craves only one. He would be “Fatih.”
He turns and regards all those he has gathered to this spot to do his and Allah’s will. Then his eyes turn to you. To the tower where you stand. He raises a hand, lets it fall. The janissaries part and reveal what you’d almost forgotten—that square of dug earth right opposite you, a medium bowshot away. It was empty when last you looked. But you were distracted by innumerable men. Now it is full.
Remember I told you we were bringing something different? Not only this vast army. Something new? Here it is.
A cannon. No, not a cannon. That is like calling paradise “a place.” This cannon is monstrous. And as befits it, it has a monster’s name. The Basilisk. It is the biggest gun that has ever been made. Five tall janissaries could lie along its length. The largest of them could not circle its bronze mouth in his arms.
Breathe, Greek! You have time. It will be days before the monster is ready to fire its ball bigger than a wine barrel. Yet once it begins, it will keep firing until…until that tower you stand on is rubble.
When it is, I will come.
For I am the Turk. I come on the bare feet of the farmer, the armored boot of the Anatolian. In the mad dash of the serdengecti who craves death and in the measured tread of the janissary who knows a hundred ways to deal it. I clutch scimitar, scythe, and spear, my fingers pull back bowstring and trigger, I have a glowing match to lower into a monster’s belly and make it spit out hell.
I am the Turk. There are a hundred thousand of me. And I am here to take your city.
“Overall this was an excellent book and a extremely interesting topic. If you are fan of the genre you will not be disappointed, and if like me you are new to it, you couldn't ask for a...
“Overall this was an excellent book and a extremely interesting topic. If you are fan of the genre you will not be disappointed, and if like me you are new to it, you couldn't ask for a better introduction; especially with such a great writer like Humphreys.
” - Book Him Danno!
“Humphreys' skill with historical fiction is apparent on every page, and his ability to handle the large cast without tripping up readers is impressive. While the conquest is a foregone conclusion, Humphreys creates suspense and empathy for both sides of the conflict. Readers will enjoy reading a little-heard tale.” - Publishers Weekly
“Definitely recommended for historical fiction lovers (those love reading a good battle, or two. Or three). It’s worth the read, with rich interesting characters, with a fantastic setting.” - Okbo Lover
“Even knowing the outcome of the battle I kept feeling as if it might change as I turned the pages. And I was turning them very quickly. Mr. Humphrey had a way of getting inside the heads of his characters so the reader was there too. His descriptions allowed for a true feeling of place which was good - until the battles started and then I was right in the middle of it. I didn't want to be there but I had Gregoras with me and he was a good man to lead the way through a fight.” - Broken Teepee
“The author did a great job of researching and accurately writing about the events leading to this place in history. Even though the book was long it didn't feel like it because it was fast paced and very interesting.” - Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews
“Oh man, Humphreys has me by the first page of the prologue!... Overall, it's a sad story with its Cain and Abel, youthful love versus mature, life's dramas that will twist the path you follow.” - Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My!
“A great historical fiction for those that like seeing history through those that were there!” - A Bookish Affair
“The storyline grips the audience as we learn why some from side come to fight (or defend) like Venusians, Achmed the farmer and John Grant the Scot....each character adds depth to a vivid picture in which armchair fans will believe they are witnessing the siege of Constantinople from within and outside circa 1453.” - The Mystery Gazette
Length: 9 in
Width: 6 in
Weight: 24.32 oz
Page Count: 480 pages