5. Successor to the Throne (ii)

(notes)

The capital of Ecbatana, like its resumed bazaar, began to recover some semblance of order under the Lusitanian occupation, and yet blood continued to flow unstemmed.

The city was a bedlam of rioting ghulam; the slaves who had cooperated with the Lusitanian invaders naturally expected their just rewards, but everything remained completely within the grasp of the Lusitanians.

“These spoils are to be presented entirely to His Majesty, the honored King Innocentius VII of Lusitania. How could we possibly leave them to filth such as you?”

For some time the slaves had, in gleeful vengeance, been living it up in the mansions of the wuzurgan and the wealthy; the Lusitanians now put this to an end, chasing those wretched souls back to the pens where they had previously been confined and chaining them back up. Protests were countered with lashes and curses.

“Fools. What reason have disciples of glorious Ialdabaoth such as we to share the fruits of success with lowly heathens, much less slaves like you? Such conceit!”

That wasn’t the deal — had it not been said that when the city fell under Lusitanian occupation, the slaves would be emancipated?

“There is no need to keep promises made with heathens. Would you lot strike deals with the likes of pigs and cows?”

Thus was the future of the ghulam snatched away much as their pasts had been.

For those blessed with prosperity it was perhaps unavoidable: this storm that had come sweeping over Pars from northwestern Lusitania, utterly fair and impartial. Those with much to lose, lost much. The aristocracy, the priests, the lords, rich merchants — all the luxury they had accumulated for themselves through ruthless lawful authority were seized now through equally ruthless violence. For them, the night had only just begun.

“Kill! Kill! Kill the wicked infidels!”

Calling for blood as if he were parched sand was the archbishop Jean Bodin. His intoxication grew deeper by the day.

“The glory of God grows more brilliant with every drop of heathen blood. Show no mercy! For each infidel who lives on to eat his share represents a lost share for a true believer of Ialdabaoth.”

But of course not all of the 300,000 Lusitanian soldiers shared the same passion for “heathen extermination” as Archbishop Bodin. The military command and other bureaucrats who took part in governance all knew their own goal was to shift from conquest and destruction to administration and reconstruction. The royal prince Guiscard had exhorted thus. The average soldier too was by now sick of blood and the stench of death, and some had even begun accepting bribes to plead for Parsian lives.

“This person along with his family all wish to convert. I wonder if it might not be good to spare them, so that they may enter the service of God.”

“A false conversion!” Bodin would leap up and shout. “Those who request conversion without undergoing interrogation cannot be trusted!”

That was what Bodin was like, and so his view of the Parsian queen Tahmineh was just as intolerant.

“That is the consort of the Parsian king Andragoras; of course she cannot receive the grace of Ialdabaoth, accursed infidel that she is. Why do you not throw her to the fires already?”

Because he pressed the king thus, Innocentius VII exhausted all his efforts dodging polemic and was unable to bring up the matter of his marriage to Tahmineh.

“Perhaps even God Himself may find offense in this, but before that, Archbishop Bodin had better be persuaded, brother mine.”

What the royal prince Guiscard said was reasonable, but faced with his brother’s beseeching gaze, he feigned ignorance, having no intent of persuading Bodin himself. Guiscard had long felt bitter about his brother’s weakness and the way he immediately depended on him to take care of any difficulties he encountered. This marriage was his and his alone. Was this then not his obstacle alone to overcome?

Of course, for Guiscard to think this way was not for his brother’s sake. It was in anticipation of the arrival, before long, of the day his brother’s hatred for Bodin surpassed his devotion.

.

One of the vast courtyards of the palace was blanketed in decorative tiles, with lion fountains and orange trees and gazebos of white granite arranged all around. This place had been only recently stained with the blood of Parsian nobles and court slaves alike, but at the moment all traces of blood had been wiped away, and even if the splendor of old could not be recovered, it was no longer unsightly.

This was the result of strict orders from King Innocentius VII of Lusitania — apparently unbeknownst to Archbishop Bodin. This was because, in one of the blocks facing this courtyard, a single lady had been placed under house arrest. Although she was officially under confinement, even the most notable noblewomen of Lusitania could scarcely hope for the luxury afforded to this heathen lady; she was, after all, Queen Tahmineh of Pars.

Innocentius VII called upon this block facing the courtyard every day without fail, all in order to seek out Tahmineh. Not a peep could be gotten from Tahmineh, who kept her face covered with a black veil; meanwhile, this supposed conqueror of a Lusitanian king would ask only whether she was suffering any inconvenience and other such silly nonsense before hastily slinking away as if dreading Bodin’s scrutiny. However, when the twelfth month arrived, Innocentius VII arrived one day with his chest puffed out in the air of a man hoping to be praised.

“Upon the new year We shall no longer be King, but Emperor.”

He would no longer be the sovereign of the former kingdoms of Lusitania, Maryam, and Pars, but Emperor Innocentius of the newly formed Lustianian Empire. No longer would he be simply “the Seventh” of a single nation.

“And accordingly, Lady Tahmineh, dost thou not agree that, as the public believes, an emperor requires an empress? We, too, believe this proper.”

She did not reply.

Whatever meaning Tahmineh’s silence held, the king of Lusitania was unable to decipher. Refusal? Acceptance? Or was she waiting for something? Innocentius VII did not understand. He had until now been a simple man living in a simple world. Good and evil had been as clear to him as summer day and winter night. That there were some things utterly beyond his comprehension, so to speak, now dawned vaguely at last upon the no longer young king.

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