Sorry for the long delay. This isn't an official restart or anything but an idea I wanted to get down and put out before I could talk myself out of it. Might make some normal posts this weekend, maybe not. For now....
December 1551, Smyrna
Izmir had declined in the last decade, everyone knew that, but the loss was always sharpest when Selim took up his nightly vigil. He shifted slightly, leaning his spear against the palace’s alcove while he pulled his coat tighter, and scanned the abandoned road for anything interesting. A slight wind kicked up, blowing a few specks of snow through the window of a dilapidated house. Somewhere further down the road a hunched figure staggered out of one of the ruins, crossed the street and then vanished into another, followed a few minutes later by the flicker of firelight from the second building. Selim looked away, pretending not to see. Officially, the buildings were to be left untouched so they could be taken down for scrap. Unofficially, the bey could shove it up his ass. God only knew he wasn’t getting paid enough to roust out some poor bastard from the only warmth on this side of the palace doors.
He shivered as the wind kicked up again. It carried with it faint laughter, so fleeting and distant that he might’ve ignored it as a delusion if it had been the only time it had happened. Inside, through three layers of doors and guards such as himself, Kizilsakal Bey, was living it up with however many whores and cooks he could afford. Did the whores get paid better than he did? Maybe, he couldn’t be sure. And it wasn’t like he had much grounds for complaint. At least he was fed, that was more than most in Izmir could say. Really, he should just try and get along as well as he could until the next jackass with an army took over, or Cairo sent some new jackass to run things or at least stir the pot back up--
“Good evening, brother.”
Selim twitched, taken by surprise, then forced himself to adopt a casual pose as his mind leapt into action. A man stood rigid against the wall a few paces away, dressed in plain clothes and with no notable features on his shadowed face. If the stranger had meant to kill him, he would’ve been dead by now--nice, really nice, wasn’t he just the crack soldier in the caliph’s armies?--so he would be best off trying to act normal and pray this wasn’t some rich jackass trying to start shit or get him in trouble.
“I’m not your brother.” he said, hoping he sounded aloof. Please let this be some random beggar who would--
“Are you not a follower of the Prophet? A true follower?”
A sufi, of course. Why did it have to be a sufi? Selim glanced around, desperately looking for an excuse to make the man someone else’s problem.
“I am, but I--”
“Then we are brothers, or at least should be brothers.” the sufi said, sidling up beside him with an air of quiet confidence. There was something strange about the man’s lilting tone of speech, but he didn’t want to hear anything more.
“Listen, sufi, I’m on watch. If you don’t leave I’ll have to call my captain, and if the Bey in there’s feeling pissy you might end up in irons or dead.”
“I am not a sufi.” the man said, something resembling anger rippling through his voice. “I am nothing of the sort. I do not consort with demons, nor profane myself with the abominations of intoxication. Indeed, I am a true follower of the law.”
The man’s speech was stilted in a way, but seemed as fluid as the river Selim was born beside. He blinked, wondering if he should call for reinforcements or try and run the man off again, but before he could decide the man continued.
“Selim, what do you think God thinks of us?”
Selim blinked. “How do you know my name?”
“Your comrades do not guard their tongues. Answer the question.”
There was something strangely melodic about him, almost hypnotizing in a way.
“I don’t know….” he said. “I suppose that He cares for us at least a bit, or He wouldn’t have sent Muhammed His message and left us to whatever fate we would’ve had otherwise. But if He--”
“If God cared for us enough to send the Seal of the Prophets centuries ago, why does He now turn against us and allow the infidels to drive us out of Konstantiniyye, savaging countless innocents in the process and causing countless appostasizations?” the man replied.
Selim paused, the words having been stolen out of his mouth like a bird out of the sky. “I....yes, I guess.”
A bitter smile flickered across the man’s face, then vanished as quickly as it had come. “You are not alone in wondering, brother. It is simple, we do not follow God.”
He turned to face Selim, and the dim flicker of the torches cast his face in yellow half-light. Selim guessed he was in his late thirties, with dark hair, a full beard and sharp features, and most of all dark eyes that glittered with a strange energy in the fire. Any uneasiness he might have felt vanished, replaced with a strange mixture of relief and concern.
“The first generations followed the will of God completely, trusting only in the uncreated body of His word in the Quran and the carefully chosen sayings of his messenger. They conquered the infidels, driving them out in all directions and spreading out to encompass all the peoples in the world who believed, and the greatness that God bestowed upon us and our ancestors knew was unimaginable. But it was only because they kept to these ways that He gifted them thusly. Once they began to turn against the true ways, to abandon the eternal truths provided from heaven that allowed them to live in the correct way and provide for themselves in both this world and the next, He withdrew his favor and an era of darkness and evil fell over the House of Islam. Corruption and indecency ran rampant, and the faith in its true form was almost destroyed. Poisonous hearsay was collected and taught that gave the people freedom to do whatever they wished, not what God wished for them, and with these false hadiths they justified even the most immoral acts and allowed the most degenerate of the caliphs to hold power over them. The great demons of the steppe came forth and slew the so-called faithful in such great numbers that they realized what great peril they were in, and they threw themselves at the feet of God and begged for forgiveness, and He stayed His hand and allowed the khans to be driven back onto the steppe. Ibn Taymiyyah….do you know who he is?” the man paused with a slight frown.
Selim felt a sudden shame, like when he had messed up in front of his grandfather. “No, I’m not an educated man. But God used him to help restore the true ways, didn’t he? Or else the old Osmanoglu wouldn’t have driven out the Romans.”
The man grinned. “You are a quick one. Yes, Ibn Taymiyyah helped reform the morals of the people, and because of this God once again looked upon His righteous in all their favors and looked over them with ease. The Farangs were driven into the sea and thence hell, the pagans of India in all their numbers and with all their great cannons and warbeasts were defeated and conquered, and of course the degenerate Romans were conquered in turns, and all the other nations of Rumelia that paid homage to the Osmanoglu.”
“But they didn’t stay righteous,” Selim interjected, the truth flashing before him in one instant. It all made sense now! “They grew haughty, and thought that they had done all they had done without God’s support, and they abandoned the true ways to take up the same customs which had made the Romans fall before them. The sultans started drinking, and raping and murdering and preying upon the child slaves and adulterating and all other sorts of evils, and they turned God away from them.”
“Exactly!” the man replied. “The Osmanoglu destroyed themselves through their corruption and their refusal to listen to His warnings. That is why the Farangs defeated them twice before they were destroyed, both attempts to turn the hearts of the people back to the true ways. God’s wrath fell upon them with such force that even some of the innocents were caught up with the evildoers, although their souls were redeemed, like my--.” he cut himself off. “That is why the Romans were allowed to return from the edge of the abyss for one final test, so that they might finally be defeated and cast out. But do you realize what this foretells for us.”
Selim paused for a second, then realized. “By God,” he breathed, “The fall of the Osmanoglu was also a warning, this time to us. We still live like they did, and that means that His wrath his still building up against us. The horrors that they met will be put upon us many more times over….” The horrors that had followed the Fall of Konstantiniyye flashed through his mind, children boiled alive and their parents savagely raped and then hacked apart, the sharks that had turned the sea red with the blood of the fallen for days, the gnawed child’s hand he had found washed up on the shore beside his village, fleeing in the night into the hills as the Romans burned his village behind him and so much worse.
“What must we do to stop it?” he asked, voice hollow.
“Live in the way of the first generations.” the man said, equally grave. “Smash the idols to the sufis, burn the vineyards and the grape-presses, silence the blasphemous music and all that follows once and for all so that His wrath might not be stirred up against us once more. And countless other acts of purification must be done in all things so that this fate might be spared. Once all of this is done, we shall avenge ourselves against the infidels and so-called Muslims, Romans, Farangs, Mongol and Turk alike. The fate of Konstantiniyye will be visited upon Trapezous many times over, I am sure of it. God would not forsake his people.
“And you, Selim, will be needed most dearly of all. This purification must come swiftly lest all be lost, and we cannot undertake our own Hijrah to a more righteous country. We must act here as soon as we can, and for that we will need men from the palace and the garrison. Can you bring them to the rightful path?”
“Of course,” Selim said, “But I am not sure that I am….worthy, I suppose, and I’m definitely not a cleric. I’ll need your help.”
“And I yours.” the man said, reaching out and clasping his hand. “My name is al-Sirozi, and I will return to you as quickly as I can. I must find others, and once we are ready we must act before God turns his wrath against us once more.”
“Go in peace.” they said in unison.
With that, Alexios Doukas Philanthropenos, known to history and theology as Iskas al-Sirozi, turned and vanished into the night. It was a meeting that countless millions would curse or die for in the coming years and centuries, yet all Selim felt was a strange sense of peace.
 Most proper nouns are rendered in their Turkish forms.