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The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Saturday, December 7, 2019 16:02 EST



How Are We Getting There?

Location: Pucorl’s Garage & Happytime Motel, Netherworld

Time: 8:50 PM, August 23, 1372

    Roger McLean lifted the Sword of Themis from his back where it floated. It was five feet long with a foot and a half of hilt. It was also light as a feather in his hand. He laid it in the rack that Pucorl installed in his room, then sat on the bed to take off his boots. He opened Sun Tzu, his laptop, enchanted by a muse of war. “Sun Tzu, where are we?”

    The map function came up. There was no GPS in the fourteenth century, but Pucorl could and did record each rotation of each of his wheels, giving them an accurate mile count. His internal systems also had a compass, adding direction to the mile count. That combined with some fairly primitive surveying equipment — made in Paris by local smiths to designs that were developed between Wilber, Annabelle Cooper-Smith, Jennifer Fairbanks and Jennifer’s physics textbook chapter on optics, gave them location data and allowed the mapping programs to fill in the gaps.

    So Sun Tzu had a detailed map of where they had been and a basic map of the rest of the world. Well, it was fairly detailed for France, but not truly accurate in terms of fourteenth century roads and structures.

    Still, the planned route to Constantinople was, in Roger’s opinion, stupid. Especially now that everything but Pucorl, the horses, and people could be stored here in Pucorl’s lands. It would be better even now to turn south to Marseille, and take ship from there. Surely there was a ship large enough to carry Pucorl. A galley, maybe. He used the touchpad to draw a route to southern France, then by sea around the boot of Italy and Greece, to the Bosporus Straits.

    “It’s seventeen hundred miles,” Sun Tzu said in Chinese-accented English. “But the real issue is that we know that Pucorl can come here and return to the same point of land he left from. A boat moves all the time and at sea it will be miles away by the time Pucorl gets back to this world. Will he reappear over open ocean or on the boat? We don’t know. And Pucorl isn’t going to take the chance.”

    “I know, but what about the Danube?” Roger asked, drawing lines on the screen with his finger. “We can hit the Danube at Donauworth in not more than five hundred miles. Then we buy or make a barge to carry Pucorl. After that we can stop once a day while Pucorl does his jump home for supplies and maybe drops us at the hotel to spend the night in comfort.”

    “Time is still different in Pucorl’s lands when Pucorl is not in residence.”

    “Not that different. A few minutes a day shorter or longer.”

    “Yes, but that is without the distorting effect of mortals left here. Remember, time in our realm is somewhat subject to the will of the individual. And you humans have an unfortunate tendency to insist on a few more hours to sleep or study or play. When Pucorl is in residence, he keeps time fairly constant using his onboard clock and the pendulum clock we bought in Paris and shipped to Pucorl’s lands.”

    Pendulum clocks were an invention of the seventeenth century, but that was before the twenty-firsters had arrived in Paris in February of 1372. They had all seen grandfather clocks, and between Annabelle, Jennifer, and the local craftsmen they managed to make pendulum-based clocks, one of which was bought by Pucorl and placed in the lobby of the Happytime Motel. Several others had been built and now resided in Paris. King Charles had three and there was a big one, recently finished, at the cathedral of Notre Dame.

    They knew that because one of the phones and one of the computers, as well as an enchanted crystal radio set, had been left in Paris. Which, with Merlin’s place being located in the netherworld analogous to the ÃŽle de la Cité in Paris meant that they had an indirect radio connection. The network went from Pucorl’s van to Pucorl’s lands, to Merlin’s place, to the enchanted crystal set on the ÃŽle de la Cité, to the phone in the royal palace, or to the king’s computer that His Majesty had loaned to the University of Paris. In spite of being unofficially banished, they had friends in Paris.

    “Besides,” Sun Tzu added, “you are neglecting the politics. You know that most of the religious contingent refuses to set foot in Pucorl’s lands.”

    The excuse for getting them out of France was for the twenty-firsters to act as escorts for a papal mission to the Patriarch of Constantinople to consider the possibility of reuniting the Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church, in light of the introduction of the netherworld into the mortal world with its demons and old beliefs. That meant they had a cardinal from Avignon with three priests, not including Monsignor Giuseppe Savona, papal nuncio to the twenty-firsters. Monsignor Savona had a room in the Happytime, but didn’t welcome the dryads to his dreams. However, Cardinal Pierre de Monteruc refused to enter Pucorl’s lands, even refused to ride in Pucorl, and the three fathers that accompanied him followed his lead. Other than that, he wasn’t particularly belligerent. He would speak to Pucorl, Merlin, and the rest. He was simply unwilling to put himself in any way at their mercy.

    That included Raphico, the “angel” that inhabited the phone that Monsignor Savona carried. It was not owned by Giuseppe Savona but, in theory, by God. Cardinal de Monteruc was not convinced that the being which owned the phone was literally the God of heaven and Earth, but instead suggested that it might be the god, or a god, of that other realm where the demons came from. In other words, not the one true God, only a being of great power and uncertain motivation.

    “I know that, but that too argues for using the Danube. Get other river barges for the horses, men, and priests that are coming along.”

    “Eighty men at arms, one hundred and twenty horses, ten wagons. That is a lot of barges.” Not all their gear was stowed in Pucorl’s lands. But most of it was.

    “I know. But however we do this, it’s going to be a lot of something.” Roger looked at the computer on the screen. Sun Tzu, a small man with a Fu Manchu mustache and wings, sat in a chair looking at a three-dimensional map of their projected route. He was scratching at his chin. “What’s really bugging you, Tzu?”

    “The river is a line, not an area. It will make us much easier to find and not everyone in the netherworld is on our side. It seems an invitation to be ambushed.”

    “Sure,” Roger agreed, then countered with, “but on the river we will be moving twenty hours a day. On land we’re stopped sixteen to eighteen hours every day, and where we’re stopped is predictable to bandits who know the territory we’re traveling through.”

    “Good point.”

    “Call Bertrand,” Roger said, referring to Bertrand du Guesclin, the former Constable of France, who was in charge of the military contingent of their not-so-little caravan.



    The phone rang. It was new to Bertrand, and existed only in this place of Pucorl’s. The phones were from movies and books brought by the twenty-firsters, and the infrastructure that made the connections was completely magic. Tiphaine was in the shower, so he didn’t turn on the camera, but instead picked up the headset.


    “General, I think we should make for the Danube. It’s only five hundred miles from Paris to Donauworth and we’ve already covered two hundred. We could be there in another week, or perhaps a bit more. Then we stop, prepare barges and move downriver to the Black Sea, and from there to Constantinople. It’s a little farther that way, but we avoid the Alps, or at least most of them, and we can travel more than four hours a day.”

    Bertrand considered. It was better than Roger’s notion of going by the Mediterranean Sea, but he wasn’t sure how much better. Then Tiphaine came out of the bathroom, wearing only a smile. “We’ll discuss it tomorrow, Roger.” He hung up.





Location: Kitten’s Tree, Dryad’s Grove, Netherworld

Time: Late Evening, August 23, 1372

    Leona looked around the grove and wondered. Why humans did things was always a mystery, and here she was with a human. At least, a sort of human she could talk to. “Why were you in my village, Kitten?”

    Kitten yawned and curled up next to the tree. “We were going from Paris to Constantinople. Your village was on the way.”

    “And why are you going to Constantinople? Is there good hunting there?”

    Kitten’s eyes opened, then she giggled. “No, silly. Humans don’t have to hunt to eat. We’re on a mission.”

    Leona was offended by the “silly” comment, but she was also curious. And, as usual for her, the curiosity won. “What sort of mission?”

    “We’re looking for the cause of the rifts in the veils.”

    “What are the rifts in the veils, and why should you care?”

    “Because Wilber and Dr. Delaflote say that if the veils aren’t fixed, both the mortal world and the netherworld could be destroyed.” She yawned again. “I’m sleepy, Leona.”

    Leona let her sleep, but Leona wasn’t a sleepy kitten and this news was disturbing. She didn’t know exactly what it meant, but if the world was destroyed, her grove back next to the village and this grove with the magic would be destroyed too. She needed to find out what was going on.



Location: Farming Village, Lorraine, France

Time: Early Morning, August 24, 1372

    Kitten was worried. Leona was missing. She had spent the night in Kitten’s tree and wandering the dryad’s grove, but this morning she was missing and there wasn’t time to find her. They transported back to the field next to the village, and then they were off. Kitten rode in Pucorl, since Paul had his horse now and rode it most days. Roger, Liane Boucher and Wilber were also riding horses, but Mrs. Grady, Lakshmi Rawal, Jennifer Fairbanks and Bill Howe were in the van, along with Tiphaine de Raguenel, her personal servant Jolie, Dr. Gabriel Delaflote, and Monsignor Savona. Kitten’s tail came up and over her shoulder while she nibbled on the tip.

    “What’s wrong, Kitten?” asked Mrs. Grady. In the time since they started traveling, Mrs. Grady and Kitten’s mom, Catvia, had come to an understanding. Catvia watched out for Paul in the netherworld, keeping him from getting an advanced education from the dryads, and in the mortal realm, Mrs. Grady looked after Kitten, since her mother lived in a computer when they were in the mortal world.

    “Nothing,” Kitten insisted, without much hope.

    “Kitten, do you really want me to call your mom?” Mrs. Grady asked.

    “It’s really nothing. It’s just, well, I can’t find Leona.”

    “Leona? Wait. You mean the stray cat that visited us yesterday? Surely it’s back at the village.” Something must have shown in her face because after a moment Mrs. Grady continued. “Kitten, what did you do?”

    “She wanted to visit the grove.”

    “You know that animals go nuts in the netherworld.”

    “Only in the bad bits. And you know that Pucorl’s lands are almost as civilized as Themis’ lands.” Themis was a titan, the goddess of proper behavior that Philip the Bold had forced into a sword and who Roger had freed to return to her own realm. Roger still had the sword and there was a pentagram in Pucorl’s garage that connected it to Themis as there was one that linked to Merlin’s lands. “She was doing fine when I went to sleep last night.”

    “So she is still in the netherworld?”



Location: Forest of Dean, England

Time: Before Dawn, August 24, 1372

    Leona felt the shift even here. She grabbed the fat field mouse by its broken neck and slipped through the gap in the veil back to Pucorl’s lands, arriving where she had left, in the grove of the dryads next to the babbling brook.



Location: Brook, Pucorl’s Lands, Netherworld

Time: Early Morning, August 24, 1372

    Leona settled on the bank, eating her field mouse and chatting with the brook. It was the first time she had ever encountered a babbling brook, and she was finding it interesting and frustrating at the same time. She knew there were fish in the brook, but the brook babbled on about the dappled sunlight and how she had been forced to change her course when Pucorl moved in to the area. But the brook said not a word about where Leona should pounce if she wanted fish for lunch.

    “Anyway, when Chevalier Pucorl’s lands floated up from the netherworld –”

    “I thought this was the netherworld.”

    “No, silly. This is the Elysian Fields which reside between the netherworld and the crystal spheres. When Chevalier Pucorl got knight –”

    Suddenly the whole place got weird. The hairs on Leona’s back stood up all on their own, nothing had changed, yet everything was different. “What?” Leona meowed.

    “Oh, that. The chevalier is not in residence. Like I was saying, Chevalier Pucorl got knighted. These lands are him. The lord is the land and the land is the lord. Since Chevalier Pucorl got knighted, these lands are a part of him and he is a part of them. They respond to his presence or absence. Did you know that Themis herself confirmed the Chevalier’s knighthood? That’s much better than being knighted by a mortal king. She also confirmed his eating Beslizoswian.”

    “Wait a second. How can she confirm his eating this Beslizoswian? Either he did or he didn’t, right?”

    “Well, no, silly. He defeated Beslizoswian, subsumed him, but Beslizoswian was a demon lord. Its lands were a monstrous cavern below Themis. I don’t care if he was in the body of a van and wearing a cold iron cow catcher, a puck doesn’t eat a demon lord. Beslizoswian would have re-formed in a few years from the stuff of the cavern, or Themis could have cut Pucorl open and pulled Beslizoswian out right then, like Zeus pulled Saturn and his other siblings out of Cronus. Instead, she confirmed Pucorl’s victory, so all the land that was Beslizoswian is now part of Pucorl. It’s still moving from under Themis to here. And it’s been pushing other parts of the Elysian Fields out of the way as it moves in. And land doesn’t like to move.”

    “Never mind that. You demons eat each other?”

    “Sure, fish and deer, foxes and cattle are drinking me all the time.”

    “And that doesn’t bother you?”

    “Not especially. In a few days I’ll be swallowed up by a river then the river will be swallowed by the sea. But it all comes back around. Go ahead, have a taste.”

    Leona did. The water was cool and clear. It tasted of forest glades and fruit trees. Leona was almost used to the change in the land since Pucorl left, but the difference was still there. Not so much that the place was more magical, but more that the restrictions on that magic were loosened. This glade out behind Pucorl’s garage and next to the dryads’ grove was a tricksy kind of place, full of wonder, but not at all safe. She could feel it.

    But she was more interested in the fact that demons ate other demons, and that she could drink a demon. At least, she could drink from a babbling brook and the brook didn’t get mad about it. It was a different way of thinking about the world than she was used to. It offered all sorts of possibilities, so for the next little while, she asked about how this whole demon eating demon thing worked. “So does a wiloklisp own the land like a demon lord?”

    “No, silly. A wiloklisp is more like a puck, except they are posted as guards, used to delay enemies, or draw them into traps.”

    “So if a wiloklisp got eaten, it wouldn’t have to be confirmed? It would merely be eaten?”

    “It depends.” The brook was bright, a bit flighty, tumbling over rocks and dancing in the sunlight. “Most wiloklisp are owned by a lord of some sort. So if one gets eaten, then the eater should have the permission of the lord. Unless it has a protector of its own.”

    About then, the change that took place when Chevalier Pucorl left was reversed. And a moment later, the brook said, “You need to go back to the garage. Pucorl wants to talk to you.”

    “I don’t see why.” Leona yawned in indifference that was only partly feigned. She was, after all, a cat.

    “These are Pucorl’s lands. Piss him off and you’re going to spend a lot of time getting rained on and getting burrs in your fur.”

    “Well, if you’re going to be that way about it.”





    A few minutes later, Leona strolled onto the parking lot of Pucorl’s garage and Pucorl opened his side door. “Kitten is worried you got lost and Mrs. Grady . . .” Pucorl sighed heavily. “. . . insisted I come pick you up before the magic of my world drove you crazy.”

    “I’m fine.”

    “I don’t doubt it, but let’s keep them happy. I’ll arrange for some smoked fish for dinner.”

    Leona strolled over to the van and leapt in. The door closed and suddenly they were back in the mortal realm. Leaping up to the back of one of the seats, Leona saw that the humans were packing up. She watched as Wilber walked around the campsite, gathering little flicks of light as he went. “What’s he doing?”

    “Picking up the wards he put out last night,” came Merlin’s voice. Then the door opened and Kitten climbed into the van. “Bad Leona,” she said in cat.

    Leona looked back at the kitten and growled low in her throat. “You don’t own me, little kitten. Behave, or I’ll box your ears.”

    “I’m sorry,” Kitten said meekly, “but I was worried.”

    “It’s all right.” Leona forgave her and jumped down into Kitten’s lap to be petted.

    The others climbed in and Pucorl drove off, following several horsemen.

    For the rest of the morning they rode, taking a break every hour and travelling about twelve miles an hour the rest of the time. Around noon, they stopped and set up camp. They would spend the rest of the day and tonight here while the horses grazed and slept. That left plenty of time for Kitten and Paul to be educated in their school on the road. They practiced sword play with wooden swords under the tutelage of Bertrand du Guesclin’s guardsmen, reading and writing, math and physics, from Mrs. Grady and Jennifer Fairbanks, magic from Dr. Delaflote and Wilber, aided by Merlin and Archimedes, and that began the cycle. Mornings were spent travelling, afternoons studying, evenings and nights in Pucorl’s lands, while half the guards kept watch on the campsite within the wards that Wilber set.



Location: On the Road, France

Time: 9:37 AM, August 24, 1372

    Wilber sat astride Meurtrier, the war horse that only allowed Wilber to ride him. He wore a saddle, but no bridle and Wilber wore riding boots, but no spurs. He mostly guided Meurtrier by voice, with an occasional movement of his knee. Roger McLean, on another war horse, rode up beside him.

    “What’s up?” Wilber asked.

    “I want to take the Danube across the Germanies and all the way to the Black Sea.”

    “Why all the way? I can see following the Danube until we get to, say, Belgrade, but after that it starts going out of the way.”

    “You don’t understand. I don’t want to ride along the banks. I want to buy boats and boat down the river.”

    “You think they have river boats big enough for Pucorl? Or do you want him to drive along the banks while we ride boats?”

    “If we can’t buy one that’s big enough, we have one built,” Roger said. “Look, boats aren’t faster than horses, but they travel all day and all night. We can stop when we need to pick up something from Pucorl’s lands, and spend the rest of the time traveling. Heck, Wilber — ” By now they were all used to avoiding words that invoked the beings of the netherworld, so heck replaced hell and darn, damn. ” — even traveling ten full hours a day at eight miles an hour would double the miles we cover in a day.”

    Wilber took a moment to run the numbers in his head. Not that he doubted Roger, but the guy did get enthusiastic about things. His numbers were good, though, and since people and horses could rest on boats while the boats traveled, they would be better rested.

    “We can use the birds, Archimedes, Carlos, and the rest to scout while we travel, so we don’t get ambushed.”

    “Carlos, maybe. But Archimedes is Dr. Delaflote’s familiar spirit. He has better things to do than flap around trees. This isn’t Dungeons and Dragons.”

    “Fine. Archimedes can lecture Gabriel on the proper way to boil an eye of newt. By now half of Bertrand’s men at arms have some sort of familiar. Even Louis has that glider Jennifer made for him.”

    The glider in question was bat-winged, made of sticks and lacquered cloth, and was halfway between a triangular kite from the twentieth century and a model of a bat. It would fly like a kite if you tied a string to it, but it was enchanted and could fly for hours after Louis tossed it into the air. It had three eyes, two looking forward and one looking down, a small speaker, and two bats ears, so it could even do echolocation. Louis had paid Wilber a goodly amount for enchanting it.

    Wilber looked up. Ariel was flying right now. He could barely see it, because it was painted blue gray on the bottom. “We need to talk to Bertrand.”

    “Right. I called him last night, but we didn’t get into it,” Roger agreed. “Whose phone is he using today?”

    Bertrand didn’t own a phone. Only the twenty-firsters, the King of France, and God owned phones. But Bertrand usually borrowed someone’s phone so that he could be reached if anything came up. Annabelle’s or Wilber’s most often. After all, Annabelle was in Pucorl most of the time and Pucorl had his own phone. Roger pulled his phone from his pocket and said, “Clausewitz, find Bertrand would you, and see if he’s busy. Wilber and I want to talk to him.”



    As it happened, Bertrand was carrying Annabelle’s phone. Enzo said, “Phone call from Roger, General. You want to take it?”

    Bertrand looked around. He was riding with the scouting element, ten horsemen who were riding a quarter mile ahead of the main party, scouting the trail as much for deadfalls and trees that would need to be cut to let Pucorl and the cardinal’s wagons through as for bandits.

    They were in a grove of trees, but it was a small one and Bertrand could see the fields of a village ahead. “I’ll ride back, Enzo. Tell Roger I’ll be there in a minute.” He turned his horse and put it into a trot with a squeeze of his knees.



    By the time he got back to the main body, Roger, Wilber, and Jennifer Fairbanks were all riding next to Pucorl, with Mrs. Grady leaning out of the passenger side window.

    “What brings about this conclave of twenty-firsters?” Bertrand asked.

    “Noah, here,” Amelia Grady hooked a thumb at Roger, “wants to build an ark.”

    After that, they explained the plan as they rode along the path. Bertrand had the same basic concern that Sun Tzu had. Bertrand was fond of Roger’s computer. It was teaching him Go and chess. Pucorl was in favor of the idea. He had a good bit of biodiesel stored in his garage, but didn’t like wasting it.

    They spent the rest of the morning discussing the possibilities of enchanted river boats and what sort of demon would be best to enchant them.



Location: On the Road, France

Time: 2:14 PM, August 24, 1372

    As they drove along, Pucorl was playing music over the stereo system. It was quiet music, and at first Annabelle didn’t notice. Then Paul started singing along.

    “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Oz.”

    Annabelle rolled her eyes. “This is hardly a yellow brick road, Pucorl. And we aren’t headed for Australia, anyway.”

    “Besides,” Amelia Grady said, taking hold of Gabriel Delafolte’s arm, “We have the best wizard on Earth right here with us.”

    “You want to play something a bit more grown-up?” Annabelle asked.

    “Pucorl and grown-up don’t belong in the same sentence,” Paul announced. “That’s what Mom says.”

    Pucorl sniffed loudly over the sound system. “I am most profoundly displeased.” Then he giggled.

    Amelia’s phone Laurence said, in the voice of Laurence Olivier, “Well, we could be on a yellow brick road. At least in Pucorl’s lands.”



    And so it proved. For that night, when they returned to the netherworld, the blacktop road that led to Pucorl’s Garage had been replaced by a two-lane-wide yellow brick road.





Location: Pucorl’s Garage, Netherworld

Time: 9:37 PM, August 24, 1372

    Roger stepped into the pentagram in a room off the mechanic’s bays in Pucorl’s garage. This was a special pentagram. It went from Pucorl’s lands to the land of Themis. He bowed and sat in the chair.

    A moment later the titan Themis appeared in the pentagram, sitting on her throne. “Hello, Roger,” Themis said. “What can I do for you today?”

    Themis was a friend. Normally mortals didn’t count titans as friends, in the same way that peasants didn’t normally think of kings as friends. Only more so. But this was a special case. Roger McLean had, for a short time, owned Themis and had freely given her to herself, freeing her from the bondage that Beslizoswain, a demon lord, had forced on her. It was partly that Roger gave her freedom, but mostly that he did so not out of expectation of reward, but because it was the right thing to do. And Themis was the titan of right behavior. It was a bond between them.

    Besides, as a titan and the parent of a god or two, Themis could be in as many places at once as she needed to.

    “Mostly some advice, Themis. We were wondering who we should recruit to enchant a river boat.”

    “That’s an interesting thought. You know I extend out to sea some way. Well, partially. My nephew Poseidon shares, ah, I guess you would say sovereignty of the coastal areas with me.” Themis was referring to the fact that she was both the queen of her lands and the land itself. Her body, as it were, was the entire land of Themis, which was roughly analogous to the Thrace of the ancient world, and included most of the remaining Byzantine Empire. And apparently she mixed with Poseidon on the coast.

    “Before I was stolen from my place and forced into the sword, I had a lovely sea monster locked in the Bay of Athyra. It would have been a thousand years ago. When I was forced to enchant the dead for –” Her voice became as cold as a glacier on Pluto. “– that creature Philip, I used the more powerful, but not necessarily brighter, of my servants to enchant those who were to serve that creature personally. The kraken I am thinking about wasn’t all that thrilled to be locked in my bay in the first place, and it’s one of those who declined to return after you allowed me to free them. It’s residing in a rock at the bottom of a creek in France at the moment. I can ask it if it would like a change of residence.”

    Which she certainly could, since she knew the creature’s full name to the last accent on the least syllable. Demonic kind were controlled mostly by the invoking of their name. The more of their name you knew, the more control you had over them. The kraken wasn’t in that rock only because it chose to be, but because Themis, who had learned to love freedom, allowed it to stay in that rock.



Location: Happytime Motel, Pucorl’s Lands, Netherworld

Time: 9:45 PM, August 24, 1372

    There was a meow and the door to Wilber’s apartment in the Happytime opened enough to let Leona in.

    “Pucorl, in the future, wait until I invite someone in, please.” It was Pucorl’s lands, and he could control things like doors at will.

    “Why? You weren’t doing anything important. Reading your books.”

    “Meow,” Leona said. It meant “I need to talk to you.” And Wilber decided that the discussion of manners with Pucorl could wait. It would be an utterly useless discussion anyway.

    “What do you want to talk about, Leona?”

    “Is the world going to end?” As she meowed, her body sank to the floor, ready to pounce or jump out of the way. Which was cat for “intensely concerned,” which made sense.

    Wilber was intensely concerned himself. He sighed. No matter how important the issue, you couldn’t spend all your time waiting to pounce. “I don’t know. It could happen if the veils aren’t repaired. As long as they were in place, the netherworld slid right by the natural world with little interaction in either direction. But now it could be that as the netherworld moves, it will rip apart our world and vice versa. Honestly, I think that the vice versa is more likely, that the netherworld will be destroyed. But that doesn’t mean that the side effects won’t knock down mountains and shift Earth’s orbit so that we fall into the sun, or are thrown right out of the solar system. The planet will still be in basically one piece, but everyone will be dead.”

    And because of Wilber’s magic, Leona understood every word. They talked into the night and Leona learned that the threat to the universe wasn’t that bad, or might be even worse. Time in the netherworld wasn’t the same as time in the natural. In the netherworld, it was cyclic. In the natural world, linear. So when this destruction would occur was hard to calculate. It might be a million years in the future or a million years in the past, but most likely would be right around the time when the veils were ripped. So, if they failed to fix the problem, they might well cease to exist.

    “That makes no sense,” Leona meowed.

    “I know. It’s because we aren’t sure how the two timelines will interact. But Themis is concerned, and her calculations add up. We have to stabilize things, and that means we have to figure out what caused the rifts in the first place.”



Location: On the Road, France

Time: 8:40 AM, August 25, 1372

    Roger slid the black charger up alongside Bertrand’s huge gray and said, “I talked with Themis last night. She knows a kraken that might want to be a river boat.”

    “We will need more than one.” Bertrand glanced at Roger then went back to scanning the fields and hedges around them. “If we are going to enchant river boats with demons, we will need at least half a dozen. Nor am I convinced that a kraken is the best option.”

    “Kraken are based on cephalopods, and aside from whales are the brightest things in the oceans,” Roger said. “Besides, one of their means of locomotion is their legs.”

    “And what good does that do us if we are putting it into a boat? The last time I checked, boats didn’t have legs.”

    “No, but river boats have poles to push against the land or oars to move through the water. Perhaps those can double as the kraken’s legs.”

    Bertrand shrugged shoulders so wide as to make him seem almost dwarfish. “Talk to Annabelle.”

    “I think better Jennifer,” Roger said. “Annabelle is more of a mechanic. I don’t know how much she knows about boats. Jennifer has a better background in physics.”

    “Consult with both then, but consider whales if the netherworld has them.”

    Roger turned his horse and headed back to the van.



    “How they bouncing?” Pucorl asked as Roger rode up.

    Roger ignored the quip. Pucorl had been a puck for millennia before he got the van for a body. It was in his nature to be a smart ass. “Annabelle, you know anything about boats?”

    “Not much,” Annabelle said, leaning out Pucorl’s driver’s side window. The van was only traveling about eight miles an hour. “And nothing at all about the ships of this time. Engine girl, here.”

    “I was afraid of that.” He pulled out his phone “Jennifer, you got a minute?”

    “I guess. What’s up, Roger?”

    Roger could see her bay gelding pull away from one of the priest’s wagons, and canter up to the van. “I need to know about boats.”

    “What kind of boats?”

    “Riverboats.” He explained about his plan to use the Danube to get them to Constantinople faster.

    “Bertrand okay with that?”

    “Yes, reasonably. Assuming we can find a riverboat big enough to hold Fatso here.” He hooked a thumb at the van, which was twice the size of the cardinal’s carriage, which was the second largest vehicle in their caravan.

    “Not Fatso,” Pucorl insisted. “The Incredible Van. You know, like the Incredible Hulk.” The van, as it happened, was painted dark green. It was one of the standard colors that the van came in, and Pucorl’s body had started life as a school van. “And assuming you can find a river boat suited to my –” Pucorl honked a haughty sniff. “– grandeur. What are you going to do for the rest of the party? That’s a lot of riverboats and I ain’t dragging them all along behind me.”

    “We hire some. Even if they don’t have anything big enough for you, they ought to have some that will hold horses and wagons.”

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