Well, things certainly went all cattywampus quickly there…
Even going into this knowing he was going to be set up as a potential sacrifice, Mahmut had to be a little surprised by just how quickly his plan blew up in his face. it wasn’t as if he’d done anything wrong, really, or that he had much choice in the matter. But when his own allies back home (under Zaganos’ de facto leadership) are already enacting a plan designed to use the one he’s engaged in as a decoy, Mahmut is effectively hung out to dry. The best-laid plans, indeed – but no plans are totally insulated from the potential impact of emotionally-driven human decisions (see: Stark, Robb).
The politics of all this are convoluted enough, but when the personal passions are weighed in, it becomes a tangle as messy as a Gamers relationship chart. Turns out that Ayşe and Beyazit are in love with each other (see: Aegon and Daenerys Targaryen). Both are willing to sacrifice their personal happiness for the sake of their nation, but Prens Orhan is none too pleased when he overhears the two musing over their (kinda skeevy) feelings for each other. Fortunately Orhan is not a psychotic – he’s simple, but ultimately a decent fellow who would like to do what’s best, if only he can figure out what that is.
Mahmut’s plan is actually a pretty good one. He’ll have the three visiting sultans assassinated at the wedding, and to pre-empt the potential ill will that will engender among their subjects he solicits Shahra and the Ember Island Players to perform a touring play that glorifies loyal Beyazit and Ayşe, and demonizes the traitorous sultans. But that’s all mooted when the naif pasha Saluja – who believes peace and good will among the federation is achievable through open dialogue – goes straight to Balaban and spills the beans.
The Divan fully expected this, of course, and Zaganos is ready to implement his real plan – have the sultans march their armies on Kiliç after they learn of the plot, and send the Sultan’s own armies in to take over their capitals while they’re engaged in Kiliç. This too is a pretty good plan – unless of course you happen to be sacrificial lamb Mahmut or anyone in Kiliç. Zaganos’ orders to Mahmut are simple – take over the local militia and engage the invaders for as long as possible while their capitals are seized. And he’d be prepared to do that, too – Mahmut’s loyalties are to Turkiye, not to himself.
The final wrinkle in this preamble, though, is that Selim decides to offer Ayşe and the other “traitors” heads to the invaders and switch sides. It’s a cold, practical decision – but Orhan is the least cold and practical person in the room, and has other ideas. In the end this leaves Selim dead and Orhan in charge – tears and all – and he decides to be loyal not just to his betrothed but to Mahmut as well. No question this scenario is better for Team Mahmut than being arrested and handed to Balaban and his allies, but it still leaves them right where Zaganos intended – mired in a hopeless battle whose conclusion is basically irrelevant, even if it ends in Mahmut’s death.