Oh yeah…it’s on!
The little boy leaning on his windowsill is Ahmed. He’s the son of Sultan Mehmed and Sultana Handan. He was born 24 years after the death of Suleyman The Magnificent. He spent the first five years of his life in Manisa before they brought him to Istanbul. His father had just taken the throne, which little Ahmet thought was pretty cool…
At least until he and his brother got sent to the tower. When a sultan takes power, he kills all his brothers to avoid any trouble. Ahmed learned there’s no brotherly love that can interfere with law, although his brother swore he’d never kill him. They looked out the tower window to watch the procession of 19(!) coffins.
Later, an older Ahmed witnesses his father killing his older brother Mahmud. He learned there’s no worse pain than feeling the death of a sibling.
So he mourned for three months. His grandma, Safiye, felt sorry for him. She wanted to see him smile again.
Ahmet notices a painting of a girl holding a lamb in his grandmother’s room. She says it was done by a prominent artist, but he’s more interested in the girl…Anastasia. He guesses she’s beautiful, but says it’s not what he was attracted to.
So now we meet Anastasia, on the island of Cephalonia in 1603. She’s with other girls her age stomping on grapes and singing.
Ahmed was obsessed with the painting. Sure, she was pretty, but what he saw were three things he’d need for his entire life…sosiego (calm), which he was filled with every time he looked at the painting…the joy of living, which would help him forget his pain…and innocence, that no one or anything would take from him again.
Ahmed wakes up suddenly, with a strong vibe that something’s wrong. Reyhan Ağa snuck into his room to summon him to the Sultan’s aposentos (chambers). Reyhan hands Ahmed a robe and Ahmed asks if this is it–his father’s ready to kill him.
Actually it was Safiye who summoned him. Mehmed had died. She watches the sun rise and tells Ahmed this is his day. From now on the throne of Osmán belongs to Ahmed. Everyone gathered on the balcony bows while Ahmed tries to process. He tells us he was ascending to the throne when he least expected to.
Back to Cefalonia…
Anastasia’s singing to a lamb when she’s interrupted by her dad. She’s upset that he’s going off to Venice and he won’t take her. But like he says, someone has to look after her mother and sister and the family business.
He takes his leave of “Nasia.”
Or at least, he’s about to when the bells in town start ringing. Nasia and her dad peek over the wall to see two ships approaching. The townspeople head for home and lock doors and windows. The panicking chicken was a nice touch, though I’m still waiting to see random cats!
Nasia’s mom is praying for protection as the newcomers burst into her home. They don’t introduce themselves. The one who seems to be in charge asks Nasia’s father if he’s Enzo the merchant. Since she’s not in plain sight, he asks where Enzo’s daughter Anastasia is.
Enzo says he sent her to Venice last week. Anastasia’s mom tries to run interference, but it gives away Anastasia and her sister’s hiding place…which someone really should have thought to throw a rug over.
So this is it. They’re here to collect Anastasia for Ahmed. The guard carrying Anastasia over one shoulder looks bothered by her screams and the screams of her mother who’s still running after them.
The guy in charge tells Enzo they’re taking his daughter to the center of the world and drops a bag of coins at his feet.
At the center of the world…
The woman in the pink dress is Safiye’s daughter, Fahriye–Ahmed’s aunt. The fabulously dressed people in this room are here to watch Ahmed ascend his throne. I don’t know who this line of women are with their unhappy faces and sparkly tiaras.
Outside, Mehmed’s coffin sits to one side while a bunch of gossipy dudes with what look like very squishy hats are standing there commenting on how young Mehmed was. One tells them Mehmed received a prophecy after he killed Mahmud, saying he wouldn’t survive the accident he’d suffer in 56 days and he should be careful. Sure enough, 56 days later Mehmed was dead.
An older guy tells him to pipe down and quit gossiping and causing trouble. A younger guy whose face seems familiar says this is just the kind of case where trouble happens. A young sultan ascending the throne and he hasn’t been circuncidado (circumcised) yet. *uncomfortable looks all around* First gossipy guy prays for Allah’s protection.
Safiye takes charge of getting Mehmed dressed and invoking the memories of his father, uncle (I think), and grandfather. Mehmed’s busy being distracted by his little brother Mustafá. Safiye tells him not to call Mehmed that–he’s “Your Majesty” now.
Mehmed remembers his mother telling him he has the right to sacrifice his brother once he’s Sultan. (That sounds optional to me.)
And now for the main event. Ahmed’s got his puffy hat and the men are all waiting for him to come outside…but instead he has them shut the doors again. He’s having an anxiety attack.
Grandma and the other women are wondering what’s going on while the woman in black is holding Mustafá nervously. He complains she’s hurting him.
Behind the closed doors, Ahmed gulps a glass of water. The guy over his left shoulder starts pumping him up. Ahmed is the shadow of Allah in this world. He’s the sovereign of seven climas (climates?). The Sultan of three continents. He is Sultán Ahmed. He’s the day, they are the night. He’s the lion, they are the lambs. And like the sun he needs to shine. Like a waterfall going to the river, like the lion, he needs to rugir (roar). (That was one hell of a pep talk.)
Ahmed gives that guy a “let’s do this” nod and the doors open again. Hail to the Sultan.
Ahmed walks out, looks over at his father’s coffin, greets some people and says he’s Sultán Ahmed Khan and on this blessed day there will be no blood shed. Other than the woman in black, nobody else looks relieved. They’re probably all thinking about the princes they had to kill…or watch die…. Ahmed’s not into fratricide. His brother Mustafá is officially pardoned. More shocked faces. And Safiye displays no emotion whatsoever…she just stands there looking fierce.
The guy who looks like he’s in charge of all the soldiers (is that our Elmer?) shouts his wishes for the Sultan’s long life and that Allah will guide his sword. The others take up the chant.
OK, the guys in black muttering to each other. The snarky, cranky one teases the quieter one, Mehmed (Mehmed like the old Sultan? Oh, this is gonna be rough) about the paradox of there being two warrior princes here, descended from Genghis Khan. Mehmed tells Şahin to shut it if he doesn’t want their heads to roll. “Only Allah knows the head that will roll. It won’t be ours.”
Safiye is not pleased. Didn’t Handan teach their customs to her son? Has a Sultan ever talked during his ascension?
Handan begs forgiveness. He’s a young man. He gets excited. Surely, he’ll reconsider and do what must be done.
Safiye tells the woman in black, Halime, to take “their” (she’s using the royal “we”) grandson back to his room and return to her chambers. Safiye acts like this was calculated on Ahmed’s part–that he’s preserving their family’s claim to the throne by not killing his brother today. He’ll get circumcised and start sleeping with beautiful concubines and once one of them presents him with a prince, Mustafá’s sentence will be carried out. Got it? Handan gives her a nod.
Not in the center of the world
Anastasia’s trying to escape from her captors and no one in this inn(?) seems to care that she’s been kidnapped. Until she says her captors are the Sultan’s men. Then it’s swords all over the place and the dude with no name telling his second-in-command to get Anastasia out of there.
So Anastasia runs, screaming, for the exit and some unspecified distance away, a cute young soldier hears her scream and stops to go see what the sitch is. He sees Anastasia getting dragged off by some guy in a cloak, throws his red felt hat as a distraction, and whacks the guy upside the head, knocking him out.
But Anastasia’s not entirely sure Cute Boy is to be trusted. And guy in the black cloak pops up and goes after him. And another guy in a black cloak comes running up and pulls a dagger. Cute Boy throws a rock the size of his fist and knocks second black cloak guy completely over, with an added acrobatic twist.
Before Cute Boy can deal with First Guy in Black Cloak, he’s dead. Second-in-command from the kidnap crew shoots him with an arrow.
So now they’re all back with Cute Boy’s unit and the guy in charge of the kidnap crew is pissed at Anastasia because three of his men died. Second-in-Command won’t let him smack Anastasia. He tells them both to get ready–they’re going with the jenízaros (Janissaries) as far as Edirne.
(I just figured out Ahmet’s mother is being played by the woman who played Olimpia in Secretos. If that helps any. She’s not, so it doesn’t.) Anyway, she’s stressing about him sparing his brother’s life and warns him that he’s surrounded by hyenas that work for Safiye. She tells him there are three things he needs to do immediately if he wants to be powerful:
Order Mustafa’s death; exile Safiye to the old palace; and become a father.
Halime visits Pasha Musa. She’s still worried about Mustafá because even if Ahmed’s a good guy, she knows his mother wants her son dead. So OK, now it dawns on me, Halime and Handan were both concubines of the old Sultan? Musa addresses her as Sultana. He offers to find her a good place to hide, but Halime snaps that she’s not a rat. Either they’re going to die or ascend to the throne.
She wants him to go to the leader of the Celali, Kalenderoglu. She’s got an offer for him.
Princes Şahin and Mehmed present Ahmed with a lion. In a cage. Ahmed’s startled when it growls at him and he laughs. Mehmed says there’s a lion in every brave man and if you subdue it you become the lion, but if you don’t you just become cruel.
Ahmed’s down with that. Şahin assures him it’s possible to subdue the lion by looking in its eyes and showing it who’s the master. Şahin asks where the strength of a lion comes from and Ahmed answers “His claws and his teeth.” Şahin smirks. Or maybe that’s just his face.
Şahin says it’s fear. The lion gains strength from fear and terror of its enemies. The lion will approach its enemy and look them in the eye. The victim won’t see the lion, they’ll just see their tiny, poor, and desperate reflection. And they’ll succumb to fear.
The lion growls again and Ahmed’s assistant tells him they’ve got a meeting to get to.
Sultaning ain’t easy. Ahmed’s advisors talk taxes and paying the soldiers a bonus. Ahmed didn’t realize it was such a large bonus that his treasury can’t cover it. They’ve been busy fighting wars against the infidel Austríacos (a Germanic people who came from the region of modern Austria) and the Celali in Anatolia.
Not the center of the world…or is it?
Anastasia’s begging her soldier boy to find her in Istanbul. She gives him her hair ribbon and tells him to think of her when he sees it and remember he promised. (Yeah, I didn’t hear him promise.)
The next part of her journey, Anastasia makes by carriage sent from the castle at Edirne. They’re setting off fireworks when she arrives at…?
Inside, Anastasia gets fairly invasively checked out by some woman who I’m guessing is supposed to prepare her for her arrival in Istanbul and make sure she doesn’t look like an urchin? Anastasia’s pissed at the hands-on examination of her boobs, legs, and teeth. This woman doesn’t think Anastasia is adequate for their needs, but if the Sultana Madre wants her….
Anastasia asks who she is, where they are, and what they want from her. She gets a cryptic answer, “You’re where the heart of the universe beats.”
A man who’s been sitting in the shadows assures her this place has a name, but everyone calls it something different I’m just going to cheat and drop this link here because it pretty much echoes all the names he lists and why. He’s basically saying she’s in hell. But beyond that door is Eden. She’s in the palace of the Ottoman Dynasty.
He walks off and tells Bülbül Ağa to let the Sultana know she’s here, whenever he deems convenient. Guy in the shadows was Reyhan Ağa, the one who woke Ahmed up the night his father died. And the bossy woman is Cennet. Bülbül tells her to assign the girl a name. Cennet picks “Hatice” and Anastasia starts screaming that it’s not her name.
Cennet drags her down the hall and leaves her in a bedroom, which she locks from outside with a key. Anastasia tries the windows, but they’re not opening either.
Party time! Blindfolded musicians play while women dance to entertain other women and Safiye pets a gorgeous fluffy white cat. I guess we’re in the harem?
I don’t know if we’ve met these two young women in pink and green, but this is apparently all part of Ahmed’s circumcision ceremony. And once he’s recovered he’s going to pick his favorite.
Handan’s arrival is announced. Almost everyone rises to greet her. She was announced as “Reina Madre Sultana” and she addresses Safiye as “Madre Sultana.” Safiye plops the cat down on a chair next to her and it yowls at Handan and plants itself firmly in the chair. Safiye asks Bülbül to take Elizabeth (the cat) back to her chambers.
And we’re back to dancing. Fahriye hopes Ahmed is well. Halime looks grumpy. Safiye starts talking about the cat being named Elizabeth after Elizabeth Tudor, her deceased RBFF. People so important, especially women, are rare and should be treasured. Like Handan should treasure her Madre Sultana. So she’d better not have herself announced like that in Safiye’s presence again or Safiye will take it as an insult.
Some guy comes in and whispers to a woman standing by the door. He hands her a scroll. Handan notices the exchange.
Ahmed is having a mock sword fight with his little bro. A guard announces the arrival of the Reina Madre and after Safiye’s scolding hell if I know who that is! Ahmed takes the helmet off his little brother’s head, calling him an ardillita (little chipmunk)
Handan is horrified to see Ahmed giving him a hug and a kiss. She sends Mustafá back to his room with one of the servants. She asks Derviş, Ahmed’s assistant, to stay and turns on a faucet in the room before handing Ahmed the scroll from Hadji Ağa in Egypt. He says Mehmed didn’t die of natural causes. (And he would know that how?) Hadji will explain it all when he arrives.
Ahmed’s not concerned. The head physician said he died of natural causes. Handan and Derviş agree people would have reasons for wanting Mehmed dead. Handan suspects Safiye, but Ahmed says there’s no way–she was his mother!
Handan reminds him Safiye also encouraged Mehmed to kill Mahmud, and didn’t he? Halima could be in on it too–when they killed her son she grew hostile. If they killed his father it was so Ahmed would replace him. And now Mustafá can replace Ahmed.
Ahmed figures this is all a ploy to get him to kill Mustafá. Handan seems genuinely worried they’ll kill Ahmed.
Pasha Musa meets with Mehmed Kalenderoglu, the leader of the Celali to present Halime’s proposal.
Ahmed meets Halime and his sister Dilruba in a hallway and asks where Mustafá’s at. Dilruba says he’s sleeping. Halime bags him to spare her son’s life, but have we not already had this conversation?
Ahmed goes down to the dungeons, currently housing his captive lion. He’s trying to prove to himself that he’s not afraid of it, I guess, and it nearly knocks him over before Derviş pulls him back. Seriously, man, just because some snot gives you a bunch of BS about facing a lion you think that makes it true? Ahmed thinks he’ll become a tyrant.
Derviş is like “Either way, you’ve gotta learn how to stay alive.”
We’re talking La Sultana on the forums.