By Harry Turtledove
In a universe within which Constantinople by no means fell, the Byzantine Empire has flourished through constructing expertise and spreading its impact yet reveals itself on the mercy of its jealous enemies.
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Extra resources for Agent of Byzantium
The spirit dwells in here,” he said. From one of his many pockets he drew out a disk of clear crystal—no, it was not quite a disk, being much thinner at the edges than in the center. It was about half as wide as the callused palm of the shaman’s hand. The Roman expected an invocation, but all Orda did was to stoop and hold the piece of crystal a few digits in front of the dry grass, in a line between it and the sun. ” Argyros asked. “I don’t need to,” the shaman answered. Blinking, the Roman came around for a better look; this was like no sorcery he had ever heard of.
Then he realized he had slept half the day away. He breathed a prayer of thanks that the nomads had not come upon him unawares. There were freshwater mussels attached to several stones near the edge of the stream. He smashed them open with a flat rock and gobbled down the sweet orange flesh. That helped his hunger a little. He tried to scoop a fish out of the water with his hands, but he did not have the knack. Some of the trees bore plums—hard, green plums. He sighed. He would have to hunt soon.
The Roman could not read the shaman’s flat, impassive face. He knew he was not lying; he hoped Orda did too. Apparently he did, for at last Tossuc fell silent. The khan reached over his shoulder for a jar of wine, another bit of plunder from the Empire. He drank, belched, and passed the jar to Orda. The shaman took a pull, then belched even louder than Tossuc had. He offered Argyros the wine. The Roman drank in turn, saw both nomads intently watching him. The belch he managed was paltry next to theirs, but enough to satisfy them.