“Not very pretty for a whore.” The soldier behind her tugged on a strand of her hair. She ducked under his arm, grabbing his wrist and twisting it behind his back to pin him. It was a trick she had learned under the harsh tutelage of Mircea and perfected by practicing on Bogdan and Radu. The soldier shouted angrily and tried to pull away, so she twisted harder, pushing up against the joint. He yelped in pain.
“You are prettier than I.” She put more pressure on his arm.
“Perhaps you could offer yourself as a whore instead.”
“Good. In the spirit of friendship, I must tell you that I am bitterly jealous of time you spend in the janissaries’ company. I want you to stop training with them.”
“And in the spirit of friendship, I must tell you that I do no care the slightest about your petty jealousies. I am late for my training.” She hooked her foot behind Mehmed’s ankle, then slammed her shoulder into his, tripping him and throwing him to the ground.
He spluttered in outrage. “I am the son of the sultan!”
“No Mehmed, you are my friend. And I am a terrible friend.”
“It is the way of the world. You can be the aggressor, you can fight against the crusaders on their
own land, or you can stay at home and wait for them to come to you. And they WOULD come. They
would come with fire, with disease, with swords and blood and death. Weakness is an irresistible lure.”
“These are lives, Lada,” Radu said, “How can you speak of them like they are maters of simple mathematics, a problem to be solved?”
“Because thinking like that is the only way to keep from losing our minds.”
“What about our souls?” Mehmed whispered.
Before Lada walked out, she paused at the door. “Souls and thrones are irreconcilable.”
“How is my sister?”
“She breathes fire and pisses vinegar.”
“So, the same.”