The Polo's are conversing with the Papal Legate in Acre. Young Marco asks,"Do you really think the Great Khan will become a Christian"
The Legate sighed,"Such things have happend before. Who knows? Have faith young man, always have faith. However I will confess to you that I have temporal reasons"
Marco asked, "What are they?"
The Legate said, "It is only just that you should know seeing as you will be in more danger then I. Your father says you are a young man of discretion and I trust his judgement. The Saracens are pressing us sorely and we need aid."
Marco said,"Why not go to the nearer Tartars."
The Legate said, "Should the lamb seek ask the lion to deliver him from the wolf? People talk blithly of seeking alliance with them: they know not what they ask. The Tartars might be a greater threat to Christiandom then even the Saracens."
"Then why seek the Great Khan's aid", asked Marco.
The Legate said, "The Tartars prowess in arms is great, but they are still mortals. It takes a mighty king to conquer, it takes a mightier one to hold what is conquered. Soon the Tartar princes will be fighting among themselves, and I wish one of them allied to us. It is a well-known principal of statecraft that those who are near are likly to be foes and those far are allies. The Great Khan gives pause to both the Tartars-in-Persia and the Saracens by being behind them but is to far to betray us or fear we will betray him. The Khan is far away and that is why I seek to talk to him."
Marco said, "But there is a great Christian prince there too is there not?"
The Legate said,"We have heard about the story many a year but we have not found Prestor John yet and he may turn out to be a petty hill-chief with a hundred goats as his birthright. You know how caravaneers tales are, present company excepted".
Marco said, "All this is fine, but we are only merchants."
The Legate said "Your father already has connections in the Khan's court from his previous journey. Besides should we send a grand embassy I should have to persuade the lords of Christiandom to cooperate with me(when they cannot even cooperate in keeping the roads in good order). No one will ask questions about my talking to you. And if we send a grand embassy it will likly be "attacked by bandits" and never mentioned again. You can pass unnoticed"
Marco asked, "And what if we are 'attacked by bandits' as you put it?"
The Legate said,"Then it will 'pass unnoticed' "
Marco grimaced, "I understand."
The Legate sighed,"In a way I wish I could go with you. The wiles of statecraft are for the old but valor and glory for the young ."
Marco said, "Glory is fine, but shall we have much profit along the way?'
The Legate grinned, "Spoken like a true son of Venice."
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