|Constantinople was a thorn in his side.
The tent's flap opened, and a man entered. Judging by bearing, clothing and his face features, he was a westerner. He carried a large book under his arm and performed a deep bow, fit for a king. For Mehmed, the Sultan of the Turkish Empire, it showed recognition of his status among the most powerful rulers of his time.
"Enter, Master Chiriaco di Ancona. Please proceed." The Sultan motioned at him pointing to a low chair a short distance from his bed.
Master Chiriaco opened the book and started where he left the day before. For Mehmed, the readings from Laertius and Livy were a daily ritual he followed with the same precision as his prayers.
"If I were not Alexander I should like to be Diogenes." Master Chiriaco recited.
Mehmed shared Alexander's dream to unite the whole world under a sole ruler. He admired Alexander greatly, and his ambition was to achieve what no other man had done before. He channeled his every thought toward building an empire greater than Alexander's and Caesar's.
There were the crumbs of their empires he gathered now to achieve greatness. He looked at the rich carpet laid on the ground in the center of the tent. The other day he gathered his warlords and asked them to pick up the apple in the middle of it, without stepping on the carpet.
The deep, monotonous voice of Chiriaco kept him in the trance of his thoughts. That's why he alone could achieve this great feat. The lords shrugged and talked and frowned. However, they couldn't solve the riddle. Then he rolled the carpet little by little until he reached the apple.
This is how he rolled his armies and conquered most of the land of old roman province of Europa. Only Constantinople stood, alone, guarded by its strong walls.
A setback would show weakness, and this would be disastrous as it would embolden all the conquered kauri, the infidels, to revolt.
Even now, as he besieged the city, the Pope rounded the Christendom to march over him. Mehmed rolled his shoulders to relieve the tension and chase away the seeping fear. He heard it for so long that if the Pope were riding on a pig, he would have been here long ago.
Chiriaco stopped reading, and this woke him up from his musings. Mehmed motioned at him to leave with a grateful flick of his hand and watched him slowly back away. He breathed in the cool breeze the palm leaf made with its slow movement.
The thoughts about the tomorrow's invasion returned. The battle plans and the tactic to employ to conquer Constantinople have been constantly on his mind. He thought of little else, night and day, whether he was lying in bed or standing on his feet, in his courtyards or out on the field of battle.
Constantinople controlled the Straits, and this throat of water, greater than the Nile and mightier than the Danube was of such beauty that it brought relief to a man's heart.
Most important, it controlled the money. Every small step he took in growing his empire needed money and lots of it. He would deal with the infidels if it meant padding his coffers.
He smiled and didn't try to hide his shrewdness. Rumor was he had been a wolf putting on sheep's clothing since before he was born.
Paraphrasing Alexander, if he wasn't Mehmed, he would have been Diogenes. He was pleased with himself, as it took wit and shrewdness to match the Genoese's own. For what he knew, they prayed for his success while making money from both sides. He was aware they asked for help from the Genoese ruler and supported the besieged town. He glanced it over as it allowed them to slip him details about his enemy's plans to attack his fleet.
Indeed, he would spare the infidels' life as long the money was flowing to his coffers.
Just last week he sent Zaganos in a rush to the Christian enclave of Galata. Its inhabitants trickled on the barques and rowing boats bridge to leave the city. His income would also leave with them.
He was pleased with Zaganos, his most trusted adviser.
"Do not leave! I swear on the head of our beloved Sultan Mehmed you have no reason to be afraid. He is your friend, and your city would suffer no injury. Stay and you would receive better treaties than you had before." Zaganos told them.
Zaganos was as shrewd as him as he quickly added.
"Leave and the wrath of Mehmed would be upon you."
He was besieging Constantinople for 50 days and his cannons, made by the best German masters would topple its walls.
Taking a secluded city from a decaying empire might not be what the posterity would remember him for. After all, it wasn't a bigger feat than the eight-year siege of Thessaloniki more than twenty years ago.
What mattered tomorrow was that, just like Alexander, he would continue the uninterrupted string of victories.
He stretched on his luxurious bed and puffed his hookah with satisfaction.
"Tomorrow, the Waters of Europa would flow for me."
Mehmed was wrong about only one thing. Few would remember the power and the cruelty of one of the largest empires of the world.
The one feat Mehmed is remembered for is the conquest of Constantinople.