An Excerpt from The Lion of Cairo:

Al-Hashishiyya!”  Caliph Rashid al-Hasan recoiled from the false Sufi, from the man who called himself Ibn al-Teymani of the Hejaz.  Blood drained from the young man’s features.  “You’re . . . You’re an Assassin!”

Assad laid his disguised salawar across his knees.  “I am, but I mean you no harm, my lord.  I come in peace with offers of aid and friendship from my master, the Lord of Alamut.”

At first, the Caliph did not respond.  All he knew of al-Hashishiyya came from the lurid stories his father’s ministers had told—tales of wild-eyed daggermen, fanatics who sprang upon their unwitting victims and sliced them to ribbons even as they themselves paid the ultimate price.  From their near-legendary fortress of Alamut, agents of al-Hashishiyya sowed terror across the Moslem world, exacting tribute from princes and kings and silencing any opposition with the threat of sudden, gruesome death.

Now, an emissary of that reviled sect sat beside him, presenting a strange contrast to the tales Rashid had heard.  This man, this Assassin, had nothing of the fanatic about him; his eyes were as clear and reasonable as those of a trusted jurist, his manner no less calm.  Still, as his disguise sloughed away, the Caliph sensed an undercurrent of violence in him, a savage and pitiless nature held in check by the slender bonds of civility.  I come in peace, he had said, with offers of aid and friendship.  And, by Allah, Rashid al-Hasan believed him.

“I do not understand,” the Caliph said.  “Why would your master wish to aid me?  The Fatimids broke with al-Hashishiyya in my grandfather’s day.”

“Must that always be the case?  For his part, the Hidden Master would prefer to see the animosity between Cairo and Alamut come to an end.  Too long have our true enemies united while we have done nothing but revel in our division, fighting a war for succession that no longer holds any meaning.  My master believes enough is enough, my lord.  You and he are akin in age, and he fancies your goals are not too dissimilar from his own: to cast down the Sunni pretender in Baghdad, to drive the Turks back beyond the Black Sea, and to reclaim Jerusalem from the Infidel.  Is he wrong in this, my lord?”



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