“Shehezada Aurangzeb, a moment of your time, if you please?” The Mullah asked, approaching the young prince as he strode along the gallery leading to the stables.
Aurangzeb stopped but motioned for his retinue to continue without him. “Of course, Mullah Mohan.”
As a relatively young man, Mullah Mohan had been given responsibility for Aurangzeb and Roshashana’s education. And since he had left the care of the Harem and such teachers, Aurangzeb still found the imam’s strict orthodoxy aligned well with his own designs for the future. Especially as that orthodoxy carried with it a core of believers who could very well prove the deciding factor when he and his brothers began the inevetible contest for the throne.
“Peace be upon you, Shehezada,” the mullah said with a nod.
“And upon you, peace.”
“Forgive my lack of manners, but there is a matter I want to broach with your father, but I am told the Emperor is not available.”
“That is true. He is overseeing one of his projects.” Which you very well know.
“I see. Perhaps, as one of his councillors, you might be able to advise me…”
“This is most unlike you, Mohan. I must say I am disappointed. Never before have you come to me in an attempt to gain access to my father.”
“Again, I ask forgiveness for my lack of manners. The matter is very important.”
“Perhaps I can hear it, and better judge what is to be done?”
Was that a look of satisfaction? Aurangzeb thought as the other man made to reply, “There is a man here in Red Fort, one who has turned his back upon God’s holy message and made mockery of our faith by engaging in worship before false idols.”
“Surely the determination of such is the purview of the learned religious courts?”
And therefore entirely under your thumb?
A sharp nod, “Normally, yes. However, this man, he is…favored by certain parties at court and, having been absent the court for years, the case against him has languished because of a lack of complaining witnesses.”
“What is it you would have of me?”
Mullah Mohan edged closer and said, voice tight with emotion, “A death, Shehezada.”
“I would see a sinner dead.”
“Who is this man?”
“Amir Salim Gadh Visa Yilmaz.”
“I have never heard of him.”
“He was sent into exile while you were still in the care of the harem.”
“He returns, despite exile? Surely that is sufficient grounds to have him executed and explain your actions later, if necessary?”
“I misspoke: he, specifically, was not exiled.”
Silently wishing for a better breed of ally, Aurangzeb responded carefully: “Mis-stated details lead to unintended deaths in such matters, Mullah.”
“Apologies, Shehezada, in my zeal to do God’s work, I overstep.”
“Yes, you do. Who is it that favors this man?”
“Your siblings, Shehazada.”
“Jahanara and Dara Shikoh, Shehazada.”
“I see. I take it, then, that this amir is also servant of Mian Mir?”
“He was once, yes.”
And therein lies the true reason you wish him dead.
“But no longer?”
“Truthfully, I do not know.”
“Yet you would have his head.”
Eyes glittering with intensity, Mohan nodded. “God wills it so, yes.”
God? Or your own pride? Aurangzeb had to turn his head to hide his incredulity. “Take no precipitous action. I will consider what to tell Father,” Aurangzeb said, turning to leave.
Mohan laid a hand on his arm.
Aurangzeb covered the offending hand with his own, pulled it from his arm and rolling Mohan’s fingers back and to the outside of the man’s shoulder, twisting fingers, hand and wrist.
Mohan, eyes wide, went to his knees.
Shifting his grip and pushing down, Aurangzeb thrust his face into the older man’s, “You dare lay hand upon me?”
White with pain and shock, Mohan struggled to speak, “I forget myself, such is my desire to do God’s work: please, the man must die.”
“Because G–“ Aurangzeb cut him off with more pressure. He had to lean over, he had bent and twisted the man’s arm so far.
“Your true reason. Tell me.”
Beads of sweat popped from beneath the mullah’s turban, “He refuses G–” the words were halted behind a cage of pain-clenched teeth.
Must I break his arm to get the truth?
“That may be, but there is something else. Answer.”
“Mian Mir always favored him.”
“Favored him over me. Loved him, not me…”
Aurangzeb released the man’s hand. Mohan pitched forward, cradling his arm.
“The truth will win you what you desire of me, Mohan. Remember this as you take what you want.”
Aurangzeb straightened, “Do what you will with this man, just be certain the act cannot be placed at my feet.”