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«The Sheen of the Silk», Anne Perry

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В© 2010

Dedicated to Jonathan

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Chart of Characters

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Giuliano Dandolo

Pietro Contarini




Anna Lascaris (Anastasius Zarides)

Justinian Lascaris (her twin brother)

Bishop Constantine

Zoe Chrysaphes

Helena Comnena (Zoe’s daughter)

Emperor Michael Palaeologus

Nicephoras (palace eunuch)

Bessarion Comnenos

Andrea Mocenigo

Avram Shachar

Eirene Vatatzes

Demetrios Vatatzes (her son)

Gregory Vatatzes (her husband)

Arsenios Vatatzes (Gregory’s cousin)

Georgios Vatatzes (Arsenios’s son)

Cosmas Kantakouzenos

Leo (servant to Anna)

Simonis (servant to Anna)

Sabas (servant to Zoe)

Thomais (servant to Zoe)

Charles, Count of Anjou, king of Naples and the Two Sicilies and younger brother of the king of France




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Enrico Palombara

Niccolo Vicenze (both papal legates)


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THE YOUNG MAN STOOD ON THE STEPS, ADJUSTING HIS eyes to the shadows. The torchlight flickering over the water’s surface made the aisles of the great underground cistern look like some half-drowned cathedral. Only the tops of the columns were visible, holding up the vaulted ceiling. There was no sound but the whispering of damp air and the faint echo of dripping somewhere out of sight.

Bessarion was standing on the stone platform a few feet below him, near the water’s edge. He did not look afraid; in fact, his handsome head with its wavy black hair showed the calm, almost otherworldly repose of an icon. Was his belief really so all-consuming?

Please God, there was a way to avoid this, even now? The young man was cold. His heart was pounding in his chest and his hands were stiff. He had rehearsed all the arguments, but still he was not ready. He never would be, but there was no more time. Tomorrow it would be too late.

He took another step down. Bessarion turned, fear narrowing his features for an instant, then the ease again as he recognized the intruder. “What is it?” he said a little sharply.

“I need to speak to you.” He walked down the steps until he was on the level by the water, a couple of yards from Bessarion. Hands clammy, he was trembling. He would have given everything he possessed to avoid this.

“What about?” Bessarion said impatiently. “Everything is in place. What else is there to discuss?”

“We can’t do it,” he said simply.

“Afraid?” In the wavering light Bessarion’s expression was unreadable, but the confidence in his voice was absolute. Did his faith, his certainty of himself, never falter?

“It’s not about fear,” the young man answered. “Hot blood overcomes that. But it won’t make us right if we are wrong.”

“But we’re not wrong,” Bessarion said urgently. “One swift violence to save an age of slow decay into barbarism of the mind and the corruption of our faith. We’ve been over all that!”

“I’m not talking about moral wrong, I understand sacrificing the one to save the many.” He nearly laughed, then choked on his own breath. Could Bessarion understand the impossible irony of that? “I mean wrong in judgment.” He hated saying this. “Michael is the right man, you are not. We need his skill to survive, his cunning, his ability to deal, to manipulate, to turn our enemies against each other.”

Bessarion was stunned. Even in these changing shadows, it was clear in every line of his face and the angle of his head and shoulders.

“You traitor!” It was a snarl of disbelief. “What about the Church?” Bessarion demanded. “Would you also betray God?”

This was as bad as he had feared. Bessarion saw nothing of his own incompetence to lead. Why had he not seen it sooner himself? His hopes had blinded him, and now he had no choice left.

His voice shook. “We won’t save the Church if the city falls, but if we do what we plan to tomorrow, then it will.”

“Judas!” Bessarion said bitterly. He swung out wildly but stumbled when he met no resistance.

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