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The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Seven

       Last updated: Friday, December 20, 2019 18:15 EST



Location: Gaol, Constantinople

Time: 10:30 AM, October 8, 1372

    Gabriel Delaflote walked down the hall to the barred wooden door. The guard lifted the bar and Gabriel stepped through to see an old man seated on a stool before the lectern-style desk like Gabriel had used his whole life until the twenty-firsters arrived. The clothes the old man was wearing were dirty and the man on the stool stank. No, it wasn’t the man. It was the bucket in the corner. There was a high window that let in a bit of light.

    The man looked up and in a creaky voice asked, “Who are you?” in Greek.

    “Gabriel Delaflote.”

    “You! This is all your fault!” The man who had to be Theodore Meliteniotes pointed an accusing finger at Gabriel. “That idiocy you spouted in your book was never supposed to work.”

    Gabriel stared at Theodore in shock for a moment, as his mind raced around the history of their correspondence, and he realized that what apparently happened was exactly what he should have expected. Theodore knew with great certainty that magic didn’t work, that all gods but God were false, nothing more than superstition. He would see the weird reports since the ripping of the veils as the ravings of superstitious dolts. So his reaction to Gabriel’s book would be to disprove it by testing it. One question still remained, however. “Why a muse of erotica?”

    “Not erotica. Lyric poetry.”

    “I did say that magic worked,” Gabriel said. “I pointed out that I had tested it and confirmed it.”

    “But you must have known that no one in their right mind would believe such nonsense.”

    “Honestly, I would have thought you would believe that I wasn’t lying!” Gabriel said. “I refuse to take responsibility for actions you took because you didn’t believe me.”

    Theodore lifted his hand, again ready to declaim Gabriel’s guilt, then stopped and lowered it. “Well . . . yes. There is that. But it was so completely ridiculous.”

    Gabriel shrugged

    “How is it you’re not in jail, Gabriel? Did you leave your familiar in Paris?”

    “Not exactly. On the road here, a cat ate a crow that was inhabited by a will o’ the wisp, and managed to digest the will o’ the wisp in the process. After that Archimedes asked that he might be released from my service. Having a crow’s body was not worth the risk.”


    “When a demon is summoned by its right name, it has no choice but to comply. Much like you have no choice in where you currently reside.” Gabriel waved at the cell.

    “Then why did you release it? From what you said, I assume you did release it?”

    “Yes, and for basically the same reason that I hope to obtain your release.”

    “Do you think that you can do that?” There was more surprise than hope in Theodore’s voice.

    “I don’t know,” Gabriel said. “We, our party, the twenty-firsters and the papal legation, as well as Bertrand du Guesclin, even the demons, have diplomatic status so our magic is legal. And if ours is, why not yours?”

    Theodore went back to the high stool that was the only chair in the room. He waved at the bed, which was a bag of reeds on the floor. Gabriel shook his head.

    “At least half the reason I’m in here is politics. You know from my letters that I am opposed to giving the bishop of Rome who resides in Avignon rulership over all Christianity. To my mind he is, in truth, only one more bishop. Not even a patriarch. That has made me enemies in the government. And when I did the experiment your book suggested, I was left exposed. The patriarch couldn’t defend me without looking like a hypocrite.”

    Gabriel nodded. “Who would I have to convince to pardon your actions?”

    “Emperor John or his co-emperor Andronikos. Andronikos would be my best hope. He at least tried to keep his father from giving the empire to the west one island at a time.”

    “Andronikos isn’t the co-emperor anymore. He has been put aside, probably because he was willing to leave his father in prison in Venice. Manuel is co-emperor at the moment.”

    “Then I see no chance for my release.” Theodore’s whole body drooped.

    “You could apologize.” Then, seeing Theodore’s expression, Gabriel continued. “Look, my friend. You were wrong about magic. Isn’t it possible you are at least not wholly correct about the best place to make alliances? Our astrologer, Tiphaine de Raguenel, has drawn up horoscopes for the major players and one for Constantinople itself. She is convinced that if something doesn’t change, it will become a Muslim city within a century.”

    “Astrology! Astrology is superstition.”

    “Like magic?”

    They talked for another hour, and Gabriel almost convinced Theodore to apologize to the emperor. But Theodore was afraid of what that would do to his relationship with the patriarch and the theological establishment of Constantinople.



Location: Salon of Manuel II, Constantinople

Time: 4:25 PM, October 10, 1372

    Manuel II, newly crowned co-emperor, had only arrived back in the city a few weeks before the delegation from France. He was excited and deeply concerned about the fact that magic had started working, and hopeful that the French scholars would be able to allow Constantinople to use magic, not be used by it.

    He stood in the receiving line as a huge man in armor with a face that seemed almost beastial or, perhaps, like the half-finished statue of a face walked in with a middle-aged redhead on his arm. Bertrand du Guesclin introduced his wife Tiphaine, then came Monsignor Savona, who introduced the angel Raphico. That was a flat panel with a front that was like a painting, but a painting that changed. The phone offered a blessing on his house in flawless Greek.

    Then came the twenty-firsters and Magi Delaflote was with Amelia Grady and her son, Paul. She too had a phone, which she introduced as Laurence. And then the rest came in. Wilber introduced him to not only a phone, but a winged cat — a small gryphon which still had the head of a cat. That, more even than the talking boxes, convinced Manuel that these were people of power.

    The cat, having been introduced — and having meowed, which Wilber translated as a greeting — then took two quick steps and leapt into the air. Its wings flapped twice or three times to get some height, then it glided to a table of savories, where it snatched up a smoked pheasant.

    “Leona,” Wilber shouted, “have some manners.”

    Leona looked up from her pheasant and growled. Then she leapt from the table, pheasant in her mouth, and glided to a corner.

    “Let her have it,” Manuel said quickly, not wanting to have difficulties with a being of magic. “How did you manage to get a gryphon from the netherworld in its own form? I was told that the creatures from that other place needed a form to inhabit when they came into this world.”

    “That’s not always true,” Wilber explained. “But in this case, the cat is local to this world and so are the wings and talons. Leona managed to eat an enchanted crow. Our companions are being surprisingly closed mouth about precisely how Leona managed that, and I prefer not to make an issue of it.”

    “Are they so chancy to deal with?” Manuel asked, and then at a cough from his majordomo, he added, “We can perhaps discuss this in more detail later.” He waved Wilber on into the large room.

    Then came Bill Howe and Jennifer Fairbanks. After them Lakshmi Rawal and Liane Boucher. Lakshmi wore a strange piece of jewelry. It was a sparkling blob that was in her left ear and a string that went from the blob to her pocket. He remembered now that Jennifer and Bill had worn the same odd bit of adornment, but theirs didn’t call attention to themselves by sparkling.

    Lakshmi said in broken Greek, “It’s a headphone.” She pulled the blob from her ear and reached out with it as though to put it in his ear. Almost without his consent, his head pulled back away.

    “It’s not going to bite you,” she said in even worse Greek.

    He moved his head forward and she put the thing in his ear. Then, in a deep baritone, a man said in perfect Greek, “I’m DW, Lakshmi’s computer and director. Happy to meet you, Your Highness. I’m translating for Lakshmi.”





    Lakshmi looked at the young prince. He had hazel eyes, sandy brown hair, and a neatly trimmed beard. And he had noticed her. That wasn’t unusual. Most heterosexual males noticed Lakshmi, but this time Lakshmi found herself noticing him back. And she wasn’t sure why.

    He was a healthy young man, well-muscled and toned with the calluses of regular sword practice on his hands. Something she knew how to recognize after a year in this time of swords and magic.

    But there was more. His hazel eyes seemed to see her in a way that made her feel like he saw right into her. And then he smiled a cute little half smile that said he liked what he saw.



    Some time later Manuel found himself seated next to Gabriel Deloflote and Amelia Grady as they tried to persuade him to intervene in the case of Theodore Meliteniotes. Manuel wasn’t willing to go against his father, but he did find himself agreeing to talk to the man.

    He wasn’t sure what would come of it. Theodore was a scion of the senatorial class, families who lived on the wealth and reputation of some illustrious ancestor. Often enough, one who lived before Caesar Augustus.

    Sometimes, in his heart of hearts, Manuel wished the republic could be restored. But the time of democracies and republics was lost in history. It took a firm hand at the top to lead a nation.

    Besides, the statue that his father gave him when Theodore was arrested never sang again. He asked about that and it was pointed out that since he wasn’t the owner of the statue, the demon didn’t answer to him.

    “But I am the owner.”

    “I would guess that the statue disagrees,” Gabriel said. “Just seizing things doesn’t make them yours.”

    “What would happen if Theodore were to give me the statue?”

    “I can’t be sure without knowing the spell. It would be an interesting experiment, though.”



    Wilber smiled at the quip. Why not? It was a witty pun if you spoke both Latin and Greek. It was also delivered deadpan by an attractive noblewoman in red shoes and a colorful dress. She was wearing a hat and something that might be called a veil, though it barely covered the top half of her forehead. She was holding a gold stemmed heavy glass goblet filled with red wine in one hand and gesturing with the other, while she made jokes and explained court gossip to Wilber.

    Wilber’s phone was recording the conversation and sending it to Merlin in his computer, so Wilber mostly let her talk flow over him, trying to laugh or frown in the right places. In one way, it wasn’t that different from parties he had attended at his mother’s house in Paris or earlier in London.

    But in another way, it was extremely different. Wilber was center stage here. He could understand and speak any language now, while at his mother’s parties he’d spent most of his time trying to guess what people were saying. Especially before the cochlear implant. Lip reading wasn’t all that easy unless you were looking directly at the mouth of the person speaking.

    She made a comment about one of the young ladies who was trying to get Bill Howe to dance.

    Wilber said, “That’s not going to happen. Bill is involved with Jennifer.” He pointed at Jennifer and let the woman draw her own conclusions.

    “How do you summon a demon?” she asked. It was a question out of the blue. Even more so because she seemed entirely serious. Much more serious than her talk of dresses, fashion, and court scandals.

    “Answering that question,” Wilber said carefully, “is a longer conversation than would fit here. I suggest you start by reading Doctor Gabriel Delaflote’s book on the proper containers and spells to summon the sort of demon you need. What sort of demonic aid were you looking for?”

    “Oh, nothing important,” she said, and her tone rang false to his magically enhanced ear. “Where might I get a copy of that book?”

    “I would assume that any book seller might have it. I know that it was one of the first books to be printed in mass by the new printing presses in Paris. There ought to be hundreds of copies floating around Constantinople by now.”

    “Oh, but that book has been banned by the patriarch.”

    “Really?” Wilber looked at the daughter of a major court noble and third cousin of the emperor and added, “That seems an unwise policy to me, to leave yourself unarmed while all about you have the means to arm themselves.”

    “I agree, but obtaining the book is not so easy, whatever we may think.”

    “And, unfortunately, I am in a fairly delicate position.” Wilber noted that she had moved him over to a corner while they chatted so no one could hear their conversation. “I have diplomatic status so far as my own magic is concerned, but not carte blanche for teaching magic to others.”

    “Well, could you sell me some magic?”

    “What sort of magic?”

    She looked at him for a long moment, then said, “Protective magic. Maybe a familiar spirit who could teach me magic.”

    “Let me give it some thought,” Wilber said, moving back to the center of the party. She could come with him or stay there, as she chose.



    Aurelia Crassa watched the French delegation as they circulated. Her father was prominent enough to be invited to the party, but only barely, and mostly because of the family wealth. And everyone she knew was wondering what the people from the future were really like.

    They were, it had to be admitted, very attractive. Healthy, with even features, and excellent teeth. No pock marks in the entire party. They were rich. Their clothing said that, but they seemed a snooty lot.


    Liane Boucher stepped up to one of the young men and said, in barely understandable French, “I wish these people wouldn’t stand so close.”

    “Either that, or bathe more often,” the young man said, also in French, but French that was somehow more understandable than the woman’s.

    Aurelia kept her mouth shut. She’d been to the baths day before yesterday and she went at least once a week.



    Lakshmi strolled through the party, collecting stares. She was wearing a handmade red and gold crocheted gown over a dark tan, almost brown, chemise. Both the gown and chemise were made in Paris and given to her by the queen in the lead up to the battle of Paris. It was crocheted in a red and gold paisley pattern of fine linen thread and enchanted by a minor demon to turn it into a soft form-fitting cloth of gold and flames outfit, with a flaring skirt, a deep v neck, and tight sleeves.

    The goal was to stand out. This was a world of status and the idea of pre-worn jeans and backward facing ball caps as fashion would simply confuse these people. The goal here was to have what no one else had, and your status was based in large part on what you wore. So much that there were laws about who could wear what. Only the emperor could wear red shoes — well, the emperor and upper class women — and only the imperial family could wear purple clothing. So Lakshmi was wearing clothing that was outside the rules, but obviously carefully and expensively made. The idea was to project the highest possible status without wearing something that was illegal for her to wear.

    She smiled and gave a curtsy to an older man who wasn’t exactly drooling at her, but not far from it. That, naturally, was the other reason for the enchanted crocheted gown. It was armor. Not as good as chainmail, but considerably better than standard cloth.

    Then Helena Kantakouzene, John V’s empress and Manuel’s mother approached, and Lakshmi gave her a deep curtsy.

    “Charming,” Helena said, though she didn’t sound charmed. More like the evil queen in Snow White. Don’t take any rosy red apples from this one, Lakshmi told herself.

    They talked about clothing and magic. Lakshmi had little Greek and Helena had no French at all. But Lakshmi’s earbuds were blue-toothed and occupied by the same demon that inhabited her computer, DW. With the phones and Merlin they had decent protocols with DW telling Lakshmi what Helena was saying and how to say stuff back in Greek.

    All in all, for Lakshmi, the party was informative, but not a lot of fun.





Location: Guest Quarters, Magnaura, Constantinople

Time: 8:23 AM, October 15, 1372

    Annabelle Cooper-Smythe laid the wrench on the table. It was a medium small wrench made in France by one of Bertrand’s smiths. “For the moment, we cannot do magic other than that we brought with us. However, the twenty-first century had a technology which was put to much the same use. This wrench –” She pointed. ” — can be adjusted to fit a bolt of several sizes. And we can build machines that will make this device much simpler and easier to mass produce.”

    The master smith of the royal court was impressed. He could see the applications well enough, not only bolts, but holding things in place. Even if Constantinople wasn’t the center of manufacture that it was a couple of centuries ago, it still had much of the skill base.

    He mentioned the clamp and the young woman talked about something called a C clamp. At his blank look, she added, “It’s the shape.” When he still looked blank she said, “A pi clamp, or perhaps an omega clamp.”

    Then he got it. He could see an omega turned on its side with the threaded bolt going through one end and pressing against the other. He nodded and they talked on.

    The house Palaiologos would own the manufactory and the twenty-firsters would receive either a commission on every product made using their techniques or a flat fee. Part of his job here today was to find out if the emperor would be better off paying them the flat fee or the commission.

    Already it was clear that the flat fee was much the better deal, even if it half-emptied the treasury.

    He knew that there were other craftsmen and officials interviewing the other twenty-firsters. They were interviewing all of the delegation from France, on everything from law enforcement to the making of sweets for children.



Location: Private Apartments of John V, Royal Palace, Constantinople

Time: 8:23 AM, October 16, 1372

    John V knelt next to Monsignor Savona and said the words. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been two days since my last confession.”

    Having converted to Catholicism mostly in hopes of gaining aid from the west against the Ottomans, John still kept up the duties of the faithful. There were spies everywhere and if he failed, it would be reported back to the west. In this case, though, it was more than that. Monsignor Savona, according to all reports, carried an angel of the Lord in his breast pocket. Pockets were yet another new thing introduced by the twenty-firsters.

    John recited his sins. Minor things, mostly. Then the questions started.

    Not by Monsignor Savona, by the phone. A careful examination of why he had joined the Catholic Church. What he truly believed and why.

    What he believed in was Christianity and his duty to protect Constantinople from paganism and Islam. And he was willing to bow at any altar that would give him the troops to do that. But that wasn’t enough for Raphico. Raphico got out of him the truth that a great deal of his faith was tied into his personal desires, that he was first and foremost protecting his own power, wealth, and status, not the faith.

    That wasn’t something that John wanted to admit. Not even to himself.

    The confession left him shaken and angry. But too frightened of the angel that seemed to be able to see into his soul to take any action against the twenty-firsters or the rest of the delegation from France.



Location: Patriarch’s Throne Room, Hagia Sophia, Constantinople

Time: 2:00 PM, October 16, 1372

    Cardinal Pierre de Monteruc knelt to the patriarch of Constantinople. It wasn’t easy, but he had his orders from Pope Gregory XI. In response, the arrogant heretic smirked at him.



    Patriarch Philotheos Kokkinos didn’t intend to smirk, but the arrogant Roman churchmen were so sure of themselves.

    And they were wrong.

    Using Gabriel Delaflote’s book and the appendix on the summoning of angels, as well as the icon of Archangel Michael that dated back to the seventh century and was a holy relic of the patriarchy, they enchanted the icon, calling Michael to the relic. The relic was a mosaic of Archangel Michael. The mosaic was laid out on wooden panels and held up by two wooden posts inlaid with gold. The reason that they chose this icon instead of one of the icons on the walls of the Hagia Sophia was because it wasn’t possible to put a wall in a pentagram, but an icon not part of a wall could be moved where it was needed.

    And Michael spoke.

    He explained that the devil’s fall was its desire to separate itself from the Lord God. That all the demons were fallen angels that must be forced back into the one God. And if human souls were to be saved, they too must be given to God and they must be given to the right god, the true God, lest they strengthen the devil which claims to be God.

    The Angel Raphico, while a true angel and loyal to God, had chosen to deny its duty, confident that God would collect up the angels and the souls of men in His own good time.

    “You do know that your Raphico is a slugabed who has failed in his duty to God? Not a demon, but unwilling to make the hard choices needed for true faith. It is the Orthodox Church that has the words of Archangel Michael guiding it. The sword of God.”

    “He is not my Raphico. Mother Church has not yet determined that Raphico is a true angel. I take it you have called another such being?”

    “The Archangel Michael. Using an icon created in the seventh century. And he confirms that the Orthodox Church is the True Church. Ask him yourself.”

    He waved and an icon was brought into the room. It was a panel about four feet high and three wide, with a painting of an archangel with wings and halo holding a sword. And, as Patriarch Kokkinos said it would, it confirmed that the Orthodox Church was the true church.

    Cardinal de Monteruc left the meeting deeply troubled.



Location: Guest Quarters, Magnaura, Constantinople

Time: 8:00 PM, October 16, 1372

    Monsignor Savona bowed to Cardinal de Monteruc. “You asked to see me?”

    “According to Patriarch Kokkinos and the icon of Michael, the Orthodox church is the true church. What do you have to say to that, Raphico?”

    “That icon wasn’t given to God, but was and remains the property of the Eastern Orthodox Church and, specifically, the Cathedral of Hagia Sophia. It will say anything it needs to say to advance the cause of the Hagia Sophia and the Eastern Orthodox Church. I, on the other hand, was given to God, not to any particular church. Further, it was left to God to determine what angel to send. I serve God. Michael is forced into the service of a particular church.”

    “Then the Eastern Orthodox Church isn’t the true church?”

    “Not the true church, no.”

    “I noticed your stress on the, Raphico,” Monsignor Savona asked more than said.

    “I thought you might.”

    “Is the Catholic church the true church?” Cardinal de Monteruc asked.

    “It is a true church,” Raphico said.

    “According to you,” Savona said. “I have known Raphico longest and speak with him every day. I have also spoken with many of the other demons called, and with Themis. To Raphico, any Christian church is a true church, and even Islam isn’t totally false. And Themis doesn’t consider Raphico to be an angel of God at all, but another being of the netherworld in service to one of the greater lords of the netherworld.”

    “What, then, do you believe?” Cardinal de Monteruc asked.

    “I believe in God,” Monsignor Savona said. “That has never wavered. But as to whether the One True God, the creator of this heaven and this Earth is the same as that being that owns this phone . . . that, I do not know. I do believe that Raphico’s intent is good. That he can offer insights into the faith. That he does good in the name of God. And that is true whether he is truly an angel or simply another creature of the netherworld.”

    “And you, Raphico? What do you say?”

    “I have stood in the presence of God and sung His glory with the choirs of angels. I don’t believe. I know God is God.” Then it paused a moment and went on. “But, as Monsignor Savona — and even more, Themis — will insist, my certainty cannot be yours. The truth is that each person must still find their own way to faith, as it has always been.”

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