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1636: Mission to the Mughals: Prologue

       Last updated: Monday, January 16, 2017 11:23 EST




February, 1634

Lyon, France

    Salim let the door to Baram Khan’s sickroom close before addressing the man who walked out. “Any change?R#8221;

    The physician started and wheeled to face him. “I didn’t see you there.”

    Salim stepped into the light of the candle the man held, quirking an eyebrow.

    The local man shook his head. “No, no change. I must be going. A — another patient, you understand.”

    Salim did not blame him for being frightened. Knowing the fate of physicians who failed to save the lives of powerful men in his own nation, Salim could forgive the man thinking Salim might attack him.

    Waving him away, Salim turned to look at the door.

    Beyond it, surrounded by a very few of his remaining loyal servants, the emperor’s envoy was dying a slow, painful death. A week, perhaps a bit longer, and the man would breathe his last and go to his final reward, whatever it might be.

    Taking his prayer beads in hand, Salim said a prayer in the darkness to speed Baram Khan’s passage to Paradise. Just because one thought little of another man’s deeds did not make them unworthy of Paradise; it only showed the unworthy state of one’s own soul.

    Hearing a horse in the courtyard below, he stepped to the window at the end of the hall in time to see the physician ride out of the torch-lit courtyard.

    Good riddance. The man had proved almost worthless, failing, even, to see what was plain to Salim and anyone else with even the slightest experience of court life: Baram Khan had been poisoned.

    It wasn’t even entirely the pompous courtier’s fault he was dying, since Baram Khan’s tasters had all died in various mishaps before the envoy even entered the Germanies. Then, understandably angry at being robbed by Grantville’s mercenaries — which the Mughal noble could only see as confirmation of the histories Salim was translating for him — Baram Khan departed the wonders of Grantville before new tasters could be found.

    No one knew who had killed Baram Khan but, like everyone else in the man’s entourage, Salim had an idea who it might be.

    Salim shook his head. Regardless of the who and the how of the current situation, decisions had to be made.

    Rehan Usmani, Baram’s first servant, would want to return immediately to Agra and report events to Nur Jahan, Baram Khan’s patroness.

    Fear seized Salim’s heart at the thought. Little could be worse for the Empire and Mian Mir’s hopes than that woman possessing proofs that Aurangzeb would, in his hunt for the throne, imprison his own father and murder his brothers. She would certainly seize the opportunity that any conflict in the family might offer to again attempt to place her own choice on the throne.

    Baram Khan’s exile on what the court had believed a fool’s errand had led to this much, at least: Salim had the books from the future, he had the pictures.

    He could return to Mian Mir and ask the living saint what to do, couldn’t he?

    Finding his answer in the question, Salim turned from the window and started for his chamber.

    Grantville’s mercenary company might have stripped Baram Khan of everything of value he’d carried on his person, but his servants had passed largely unmolested. Salim still had several small pouches of fine gemstones, and knew where to sell a few.

    At least five hours remained before morning prayers. He would pack quickly, walk a couple of the pathetic excuses for horseflesh from the manor and, once out of hearing, be on his way.

    A long, dangerous journey lay ahead.

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