「剣の将太子」 (Ken no Shou Taishi)
“The Prince of Swords”
Rocks and hard places, a pretty good statement for any sticky situation, but one which certainly fails to describe the level of trouble Mahmut now finds himself in. Altair can be criticized for a few things (notably its wicked pacing), but there’s no denying it has an excellent grasp of politics and how to squeeze every last drop of intrigue, suspense, and entertainment out of an arguably boring topic. Assassinations, oncoming armies, and a political marriage gone wrong—I think I like this show.
On the surface Mahmut definitely has the right idea regarding his strategy. While rightfully wanting to restrict the rapidly oncoming war to the ruling class, such things are impossible if the people do not agree with it. Sure Mahmut and friends could kill all three sultans, but without public backing the new sultans will be seen as nothing more than puppets, figureheads to cement control under a power hungry Turkiye. In an environment where the matter of sovereignty and freedom of Turkiye’s dependencies is being openly questioned, such a move is dangerous—and potentially deadly. Our history is littered with numerous wars and revolutions fought over matters of legitimacy and rightful rule, which makes Mahmut’s propaganda scheme involving the lovely Shahra (was wondering when she would return) important. Convince the people their leaders are morally wrong, and replacing them will be seen as the correct choice. Succinct way of showing how far our pasha in training has come.
The problem Mahmut missed, however, was forgetting the other pieces in play. He never considered someone would leak the scheme (if only partially) to the enemy, or that Zaganos had a second plan in mind. Mahmut may be smart, but he still cannot think ruthlessly like his fellow pashas. Zaganos’ move to literally starve the dependencies’ armies out is a brilliant move for example, but one which deliberately ignores public opinion. Openly seizing control of the dependencies will enrage their populaces (it’s annexation and hostage taking in all but name), but Zaganos likely figures such hate will fade with time—and selective application of the stick. Plus there’s Mahmut who makes for a great scapegoat should the need arise. It’s vicious, but effective thinking, and something Mahmut must learn if he is to chase his dream in any real capacity. Of course the kid first needs to live through the battle of the
five four armies, but I imagine it won’t be too hard. Orhan after all just made a perfect stage for the matter vows to be discussed, and we all know Balaban has made one with Balt-Rhein. Turkiye might be seen as problematic, but nothing unites people faster than a ruler seemingly selling his country out to an actual foreign power—especially if that ruler has made his name on loyalty. All it will take is for a fellow ruler to make the claim, and Balaban will find himself facing both enemies without and enemies within.
With one new sultan, an siege in sight, and one hell of an occupation forthcoming, it seems Altair is gearing up for the good stuff. Obviously Mahmut will come out of it all doing fine and dandy, but how he does (and in what position) remains a tantalizing mystery. With over a season of Altair left to witness, I think the fun and games are just getting started.