So, continued work on the third of the Mughal tales today, after a week’s worth of further reading into saltpeter production of the era and Jos Gomman’s Mughal Warfare.
Here is some of what I’ve done so far:
“Where is this man you spoke of, daughter?“ the question was quietly voiced, but Jahanara recognized the ill-concealed impatience.
“I sent people into Agra to search him out, Father,” she answered, careful to keep her eyes directly on Shah Jahan. He hated the appearance of dissembling in his children.
They were alone but for a few of his body slaves, as he had summoned her to his private chambers to read to him from the Akbarnama. She had welcomed the opportunity for private time with him this morning, when it seemed they might discuss Salim’s interpretation of the writings he’d brought to Agra, but now…
“Trusted servants, Father.” Ones I pray were not stopped by Nur Jahan’s agents.
“Yet he has not come.”
“No, Father. He has not.”
“Perhaps tomorrow I shall send for the Englishmen. They are always sniffing about, hoping for some scraps from our table, are they not?”
“That is so, Father, but I hardly think they will provide accurate translation of the texts.”
Shah Jahan waved a hand, “They will, given proper incentive.”
“Still, is it prudent to ask the tiger what it prefers to eat?”
The Emperor snorted. “Ruler of The World is my title, daughter. I am the tiger, not these red-faced water nomads from the west.” He leaned forward, looking at her closely, “From your words, you trust this Amir. Why? He is no one, not even one of my commanders of horse, and not beholden to our house.”
“Because he is a friend to Mian Mir, Father, and because he did not have to bring us news of what happened in that place.“
Shah Jahan sat back on his cushions, “Who else would he have brought it to, then?”
Not yet ready to reveal all she knew and suspected, Jahanara answered: “Those who would do you mischief, Father.”
“Their contents are not mischief enough?” he asked, gesturing at the foreign-looking book and slim folio he’d not let out of his sight since Jahanara had given it to him.
“We have long sought to read the future in the stars, Father. That it, or a portion of that future, may be revealed in these foreign texts should not be so great a surprise, I think.”
“Perhaps.” A faint smile, then: “The mullahs who will surely pull their beards and wear out their prayer beads with consternation when they learn that the future was revealed first to those not of the faith.”
“That is also a concern, Father.”
“The reaction of certain mullahs.”
“I am nothing like the equal of your learned mullahs, but if all this,” she gestured at the documents, “came to pass, then it was because God willed it.”
Shah Jahan pulled at his beard, then pointed at the heavens, “And if it came to pass, who are we to try and shift God’s will from the path He has chosen for us?”
She nodded, “I have given this quandary some thought, Father.”
“Oh?” he asked, gesturing her to proceed.
“If it was God’s will, then it was surely also God’s will that these facts come to us in the now, so we might learn from the experiences of those others who bent to His will in that future that was?”
Father cocked his head, again tugging at his beard in thought. After some time he sighed and released his beard. “Such weighty thoughts are best picked up in the morning, after much prayer to strengthen the soul.”
Disappointed, Jahanara bowed her head obediently. Just please don’t ask them of the learned Mullahs. I don’t want Mohan getting wind of what Salim brought us, bigot that he is.
He looked her in the eye as she raised her head. “I am very proud of you, daughter. You are a thoughtful and bright ornament to the throne, entirely worthy of your mother.”
Flushing, she bowed her head again, “Thank you, Father.”
He lay back on the low bed, making himself comfortable. “Read to me of our forebear’s doings, daughter.”
“Yes, father.” She took up the tome recording the life of Akbar and opened it where the silken ribbon had been left when one of her stepmothers had stopped the night before. She read ahead slightly, then began reciting the words of Abul Fazl: “So it was, that when Akbar gave Bairam Khan the choice between continuing on to Hajj or returning to favor with the court, Bairam chose the pious course and went on to Mecca instead of becoming a person around which further rebellions might form.”