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Finely incised on the outside were the figures of cherubim and a six-winged seraph. They're supposed to be eternal flames.' 'That's what they say,' said Brother Fabian, now struggling with the wick of one of the lamps. Then, in the late August of that year, Theobald was elected to the papacy.

Gregory realized that the only possible hope for the crusaders was to make some sort of pact with the Mongols with whom they shared a common Egyptian enemy.

By the time Polo came to the Levant ten years later he had made himself the most feared and most powerful figure in the Middle East, defeating the Mongols and driving them back east of the Euphrates.

A goatskin flask, perhaps.' 'He'd be a bit old fashioned then.' 'A bit.' Fabian put the finishing touches to his new wick, put it back in the oil then lit it from the one remaining ungunered lamp. Since then, the city had passed into the hands of the Mameluke Sultan, Baibars I, an upwardly mobile ex-slave who had once been returned to the market place by a dissatisfied buyer on account of his excessive ugliness.

On board were two Venetian brothers, Niccolo and Maffeo Polo along with Niccolo's seventeen-year-old son, Marco.

Two years previously, in the spring of 1269, the two elder Polos had suddenly appeared in Acre.

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