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The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Nine

       Last updated: Monday, January 6, 2020 06:20 EST



Councils of the Mighty

Location: Edirne, Formerly Adrianopolis, Ottoman Capital

Time: Mid-afternoon, November 4, 1372

    Sultan Murad I didn’t shout at the courier. He wanted to, but by this time in his life what he wanted to do almost never took precedence over what he needed to do. He was a large man with a tendency toward corpulence, mostly held in check by the fact that he rode with his army and worked out with sword and shield. Instead of shouting, he heard the man out, then thanked him for his service. With a gesture, he indicated that his aide should reward the man for his hard ride.

    Then he ended court for the day and called his advisors. Especially Candarli Kara Halil, who was his first adviser in war and government, and his closest surviving friend. Almost the only person in the Ottoman Empire who wasn’t a threat to his throne.

    Candarli Kara Halil Pasha said, “It’s the magic,” when John V’s insulting response to his command was described. “You know that he was trying for aid from the west. And you know that he failed. But this party from France . . . The western church has sent magi instead of troops to aid his cause. And now, with magic working in the world, that is a mighty gift. A gift mighty enough to make sniveling John brave.” Kara Halil tapped his pen against the inkwell as he thought. “And if it’s true that the wizards are from the future and bring with them magics that we cannot learn from our demons, that would make it an even greater gift.”

    “So we should abandon Anatolia and attack Constantinople now?”

    The crow that sat on a perch and was Kara Halil’s familiar cawed “No!” and the pasha looked at it. “You think not, my djinn?”

    The crow said, “It’s the Mongols. They have an army of demons and they are encouraging the rebellion in Anatolia. The Mongols are the true threat.”



    Kara Halil looked at the crow and considered. He knew that the djinn was from Themis, the land of Themis that was this land a thousand and more years gone by. He knew that the djinn didn’t really approve of the war in the mortal lands that were Themis’ lands. At the same time, the djinn couldn’t lie to him. So what it said was true. “My friend, is your view on this matter affected by your loyalty to the land of Themis?”

    The crow hesitated. “I cannot be sure, though I am convinced that the greater threat is in Anatolia. But I am the most minor of djinn. You know that, Master. Not much greater than what the westerners would call a puck.”

    Kara Halil turned back to Murad. “My lord, I think the djinn may well be right, but in the meantime we need to send spies to Constantinople to find out about these ‘twenty-firsters,’ as they are called, and perhaps to remove them from play.”

    Kara Halil and Murad often spent pleasant evenings playing chess.

    In this case, though, his lord shook his head. “No, my friend. We can’t let John’s rebellion stand. To do so would be to encourage others to rebel.”

    Kara Halil looked at his lord and knew that the reason was valid, but not the true reason. Murad had much more control over his anger now than when he was younger, but the anger still lived deep in the core of the man. John’s failure to bow before Murad had angered him and John would be made to pay.



Location: Edirne, Formerly Adrianopolis, Ottoman Capital

Time: Shortly After Dawn, November 8, 1372

    The Ottoman armies were moving out. One would travel south and cross the Straits of Marmara at Gallipoli under Candarli Kara Halil Pasha’s command, and move in the direction of the rebellion in Anatolia. Meanwhile, a much smaller force under the command of Murad I himself would go to Constantinople and cow the self-styled emperor of Byzantium, gather up the armies of Constantinople, such as they were, and take them across the Bosporus to Anatolia, where the two armies would combine to defeat the upstart beyliks of Anatolia.



Location: Royal Palace, Constantinople

Time: 10:35 AM, November 12, 1372

    Bertrand du Guesclin stood in the council chamber and looked at the map. It was a beautiful thing. Five feet tall and eight wide, drawn on parchment in colored inks, and — if they could convince the crown — it would soon be enchanted. For the moment, it was hanging on the wall of the emperor’s privy council chamber. It covered north to the Danube and east to include all of Anatolia and west to the Adriatic Sea. The broad outlines were provided by the textbooks and maps shared across the computers of the twenty-firsters. They also provided locations of several key places like Constantinople, Thessalonica, and Edirne.

    The coastline wasn’t perfectly accurate. Over more than seven hundred years it had changed, so the twenty-first century maps that came with the twenty-firsters were off. That would need to be fixed, but the basic idea was clear and not at all new to the people in the room. Control the narrows between the Black Sea and the Aegean and you had a good chance of holding Murad at bay. Fail to hold them and Murad would win.

    What they didn’t have was any practical way of holding those narrows or preventing Murad from crossing them at will. Their ships were galleys and small sailing ships. Murad had more troops, more galleys, and more and better of nearly everything.

    Further, the crown of Byzantium was broke. The royal purse was empty and the crown jewels in hock. Their credit was nonexistent and if the emperor went anywhere outside his shrinking borders, he was likely to be grabbed up by the locals for bad debts.

    Only the twenty-firsters — and those they had told — had ever heard the word “gunboat.” That was about to change. “The sea route from Constantinople to Thessalonica is 377 miles. At a speed of ten miles an hour, traveling constantly, it’s a day and a half trip,” Bertrand said.

    “Closer to a week,” Manuel II said. “I traveled from there to here a week before you people arrived. I was on a galley and we stopped when the weather was up and for a few hours most nights.”

    “With better navigation and a steam engine, you could make the trip much faster,” Annabelle Cooper-Smith said.

    Bertrand cleared his throat. “The issue is that even a day and a half is too long if you are to maintain control of the straits. You need faster communications. There are a few ways we can do that, but the best and simplest is through a magical phone system.”

    “What are the others?” Andronikos IV asked, giving the twenty-firsters a hard look.

    “Fires on hilltops, semaphore towers. You don’t have the equipment to do non-magical radios or phones.” And as Andronikos bristled, Bertrand added hastily, “No one in this century truly does. What we learned in Paris was that we could use a combination of twenty-firster knowledge and demonic enchantment.” Bertrand silently cursed himself for using “demonic.” It was the way the demons — at least most of them — referred to themselves. But Andronikos was furious with his father over Manuel’s elevation to co-emperor and heir, and disliked anything his father liked at the moment. He was also strongly under the influence of Patriarch Kokkinos, who intended to control Christianity by making sure that only his “demons” were counted as “angels.” By now Bertrand was unconvinced that any of them were what the world had thought of as angels and demons before the veil was ripped asunder.

    “The beings of the netherworld commonly called demons can be induced to occupy twenty-firster designed crystal radios that have speakers and microphones built in, and those devices can be networked through a phone or computer left in Pucorl’s lands. And as long as the crystal set is maintained in a single location with a pentagram around it connecting it to Pucorl’s lands, we can have almost instant communications anywhere we have a crystal set.

    “We could also use Themis’ lands,” Roger interrupted, “if His Imperial Majesty can come to an agreement with Themis. That wouldn’t require a phone or computer to sort through the calls. Themis could create demons to manage the phone system.”

    “How does Themis create demons?” Manuel asked. “I thought they were always there.”

    “Demons make other demons out of their own substance. The process is a bit different from a mortal having a child, but it’s how new demons are made. According to Raphico, all the demons in the netherworld from whatever level were once part of God and will be again.”

    “You’re saying they are all angels,” Andronikos said. “That’s blasphemy.”



    John V pounded a small paperweight on the table. “That can be discussed at a later time. You were talking about demo — ‘angel’ enchanted crystal sets. But you have yet to explain their great advantage.”

    “Communications are a force multiplier,” Roger said, and Bertrand cleared his throat again.

    Roger held up both hands. “Sorry.”

    “He’s right,” Bertrand said. “The person who wins the battle is usually the person that has the most people there when the fight happens. If you can get word to your forces faster, they can gather faster, and you can have more force in one place faster than your enemy.”

    John V nodded.

    “The phones remove the time that it would take for a messenger to travel to forces you have elsewhere, and it also lets you communicate more fully what you need and where you need it. It’s hard to get answers from a scrap of paper with writing on it.”

    “And you can make these?”

    “Yes, but not cheaply.”

    “In that case, we can’t do it at all,” John said. “We have discussed this, Bertrand. Byzantium has a lack of funds because of the costs we have faced in holding the Turks as long as we have.”

    “We may be able to help with that, at least some,” Jennifer Fairbanks said, “but it’s not a blank check.”

    “What is a check?”

    “Never…” Jennifer started to say, then changed her mind. “It is a document that can be used to retrieve money from a bank after it has been placed there.” That led to a careful discussion of banking and the way money worked in the twenty-first century, which Jennifer managed to explain without ever once using the term “fiat money.” Instead, she talked about fractional reserve banking, implying that you needed to keep at least half the deposited money on account, and in which she stressed again and again how vital it was that the government accept such money for payment of taxes and rents.

    This wasn’t the twenty-first century with income tax and property tax. It was the fourteenth, where tax time meant guys with swords pounding on your door with a book and taking everything you had, and calling it taxes or rent.

    This was the time of the tax farmer, who bought the right to collect taxes for the king and kept as much as they ever remitted to the crown. This, in other words, was a time when the poor were even more screwed than they were in the twenty-first century. Jennifer didn’t want to screw them any more by introducing paper money that they got paid in, but wouldn’t be able to buy anything with.

    It was a long and mostly boring meeting, but by the end of it, they had a few things at least sort of straight.

    Empress Helena would be in charge of the imperial bank, and certain kinds of transactions would have to be done through the bank.

    The twenty-firsters would be contracted to make and enchant a series of crystal sets. Those crystal sets would have about the same relationship with the crystal sets built in the future by hobbyists as a model does a sketch. They would be fancy. They would have screens and microphones and speakers, as well as eyes, all built into the system so that all of them could be shared through the antenna.

    And, finally, production would start on a series of rocket boats. Gunboats would be better, but cannons of the sort that a gun boat needed were at least a year away. They had heard of cannon in Constantinople, and John, on his visit to Rome, had even seen some. But there were no cannon factories in Constantinople, not even the primitive sort they had in Paris.

    That wasn’t all bad. Starting from scratch they could avoid the flower pot cannons that were all the rage back in Paris, and go straight to something practical. Roger and Wilber would be in charge of that. Bill Howe would be working with the city guard of Constantinople to try and turn it into an actual police force that was capable of investigating crime and finding the culprit.

    There was a knock on the door and all the plans went away. Murad I was on his way to Constantinople with a force of four thousand.

    An army doesn’t move fast, so they had a few days to get ready. But only a few.



Location: Land of Themis, Netherworld

Time: Roughly 2:35 PM, November 16, 1372

    Zeus appeared in Themis’ great hall. “Well,” he bellowed, “what are you going to do about the mortals?”

    Themis rolled her eyes. Not like an annoyed teenager rolled eyes. In Themis’ case, they made a complete rotation, which gave her a view of her entire kingdom and the ones around her. Not that that was the point. She could have gained the same information without moving her eyes at all. She was simply making her opinion of Zeus’ arrival clear. “Do sit down, Zeus.” She gestured and a golden throne appeared. “So nice of you to call ahead. Oh, wait. You didn’t, did you?”

    Zeus had, on occasion, been her lover, fathering all of her fathered children. A titan like Themis created her world out of her own substance, the land, the plants, the animals, the people. The new computer beside her throne and the desk it was on were all created from her substance. For the most part, they were created to her own design, often copied from the mortal realm. In the case of her children, though, the process was more cooperative. Zeus, as the father, provided much of the design, but more of the substance came from Themis. It was not really like the sex that mortals had, but it did carry much of the same emotional and social connotations. So, to put it in human terms, Zeus was a bully and a horse’s ass, but he was also the father of her children.

    Zeus flounced onto the throne. That was the only way to put it. He flounced. Every part of the movement evocative of pouting disapproval. Zeus’ lands, Olympius, were to the southwest and a half a level of entropy above Themis’ lands. Her worshipers had lived, prayed, and died over a thousand years before those of Zeus, although there was overlap.

    “What would you have me do about them? It was not the mortals who tore the rifts in the veil between the worlds.”

    “How do you know that?”

    Themis stopped. She didn’t know that. She had assumed that it was a being of great power, one of the origins, what her followers had called Gaia or Uranus. What the Persians called Angra Mainyu and Ahura Mazda. What the Christians called God and the devil. What other lands called other things, but which meant either the first being, or one of the first few, as the origin started to divide itself into parts.

    Could they have done it, the humans? They might have stumbled onto something. After considering for an eternity of half a second, she decided that it was unlikely, but not impossible. “I don’t. But it seems unlikely that the humans could have made the rifts.”

    “Maybe they released one of the first ones,” Zeus said.

    “That seems more likely. But even if that is the case, what do you want me to do about it?

    “Find them and make them put it back. Put them back in their place and make them behave.”

    “That would seem to be a job for the Furies, or perhaps Nemesis.” With a thought, Themis called her sister, and created a new throne.

    Nemesis appeared a moment later, with her black wings extended and her sword in hand. She looked at Zeus and then at Themis, shook her head, and folded her wings, which disappeared into her back as she sat on the throne. “I take it you didn’t ask me here because you are ready to let me destroy France for the insult they offered you?”

    “No, Sister. The one who did the deed is gone now, eaten by a puck, to add insult to his injury. And his mortal tool is in Hades’ hands, and Hades assures me that Philip the Bold will spend eternity being devoured by demons of the pit. At least, his soul will.”

    In spite of herself, Themis took a certain pleasure in that fact, even knowing that Philip was never more than a tool of the elder demon, Beslizoswian.

    “We have to make the humans stop calling us into the mortal realm,” Zeus bellowed.

    “And how do you propose we do that?” Nemesis asked.

    “Do you really think that is a good idea?” Themis asked. “They have the right to make their own choices.”

    “Not when they compel demonkind,” Zeus insisted.

    “Well, I agree to that.” Themis nodded. Then she gave Zeus a sharp look. “Now I understand. Someone managed to get enough of your name to compel you.”



    The call of a mortal to a demon great or small was dependent on the degree to which the caller knew the demon’s name. Zeus’ name wasn’t only Zeus. It was also Jupiter and ten thousand more words of power and legend. The larger and more powerful the demon, the longer and more complex the name. If the caller, be they mortal or demonic, had enough of the name, they could compel a demon, force it into a container of their choosing and make it obey them. That had happened to Themis because a human’s call is stronger than a demonic call. So the same knowledge of her name that failed to allow Beslizoswian to compel her, did allow his human tool to do so. Zeus was afraid that a human would get enough of his name to lock him into a container and control him.

    Zeus confirmed her assessment with his next words. “Some piss ant Greek scholar in Athens built himself a pentagram, put a statue of me in it, and tried to force me to throw a lightning bolt at the Church of the Conception in Athens.

    “If he’d asked, I might have been tempted. The priest in that church is looking to burn heretics who pray to ‘false’ gods.”

    “And where is he now?” Nemesis asked with a grin.

    “Still there,” Zeus grumbled. “I didn’t want to give the torch-bearing Christians an excuse to go on a burning spree when I am starting to get actual worshipers again. Besides, moving into the mortal realm without a container is difficult and dangerous. I have no desire to have a puck in an enchanted cart run me down like Pucorl did Beslizoswian. Speaking of which, why in all the netherworld did you cede Beslizoswian’s lands to Pucorl?”

    Themis looked at Zeus and Nemesis, both of whom were glaring at her. “Remember, Sister — and you too, Zeus — I am still the titan of proper behavior. And one of the things that my time as a slave taught me was that nobility of spirit deserves reward.” She laughed. “Half the reason I forgave Charles of France for attempting to claim me was his knighting of Pucorl. It was a noble act, and not his only one. It was Pucorl that finally broke Beslizoswian, and to the victor goes the spoils.”

    “Very well, Sister. It’s clear you won’t change your mind. But what are we to do about the mortals calling us? I have no desire to be forced into ‘the sword of retribution’ and serve some mortal moron who deserves to be cut in half more than any of his enemies do.”

    “Let me talk to Wilber and Gabriel,” Themis said.

    “What? You would have us ask the aid of mortals?” Zeus’ face became bright red.

    “I am free today because a mortal chose to do the right thing instead of keep me as his plaything,” Themis said. “Would you have made the same choice, Zeus?”

    Zeus looked at her, then at Nemesis. It was exceedingly difficult to get a lie past a god, even for another god. “It wouldn’t have been an easy choice.” He took another look at Nemesis, who was looking like she might pull her sword of justice on him, and finished, “Yes, I think I would have, if only out of fear of your sister’s reaction if I tried to keep you.”

    “Well, when Roger did it, it wasn’t out of fear.”

    Nemesis looked at her, and said, “I am not sure how I feel about that. But, yes, if that is the character of your mortals, call them and we will speak together with them in search of a solution.”



Location: Guest Quarters, Magnaura, Constantinople

Time: 6:06 AM, November 17, 1372

    Wilber was having a lovely dream when the phone rang. He muttered, “Go away, Igor. Not taking any calls now,” speaking in both the dream and the waking world, because Wilber was aware that his dream was the product of the dryads of the grove.

    Suddenly trumpets blew in his dream and the dryads were gone. Then Merlin’s voice in his cochlear implant, over the phone, and from the computer, were all saying “Get up, Wilber! You have to take this call.”

    Wilber found himself sitting up in the bed, deeply disappointed, highly frustrated, and ready to kill Merlin and whoever was calling. “What the fuck is it?”

    “Themis is on the phone, and she’s not the only one,” Merlin said.



    In another room, Amelia Grady woke to trumpets blaring from her phone Laurence, followed by, “Wake up, Amelia. We have trouble right here in River City. The gods want to have a little chat with your boy toy.”

    The trumpets had woken Gabriel, so he heard Laurence’s comment. Normally he and Laurence got along well, but Gabriel had been sound asleep only seconds before. “Can we drown your phone, dear one?”

    “It’s not me, Gabe,” Laurence said. It turned out that Laurence Olivier had a low sense of humor off camera, which had an influence. “This is serious. We have the Olympians gathering in Themis’ hall and more are arriving even as we speak. They want to have a little chat with you about that book you wrote back in Paris.”

    Laurence the phone had a quad core, so it had four separate but linked processors that allowed the muse that occupied the phone to carry on multiple conversations at once. While he was talking with Gabriel and Amelia, he was also on the phone with Shakespeare, Amelia’s computer, Merlin, Wilber’s computer, and Pucorl. And everyone was in a tizzy because everyone was getting calls from Themis.

    By the time Gabriel and Amelia were dressed, the plan was in place. All of them would repair to Pucorl and thence to Pucorl’s lands, where they would be able to meet, not entirely in person but close to it, with what might be called the council of European gods.



Location: Pucorl’s Lands

Time: 6:34 AM, November 17, 1372

    Pucorl appeared in his reserved parking spot on the blacktop outside Pucorl’s Garage, the side doors opened, and the first load of mortals piled out. Included among them was Monsignor Savona with Raphico, Roger, Annabelle, Wilber, Gabriel, Amelia, Paul, Jennifer, Bill, Liane, and Lakshmi. Pucorl was going to make a second trip to include Cardinal de Monteruc, Bertrand, and Tiphaine.

    As soon as they were out, Pucorl returned to the converted stable next to the Magnaura to pick up the next load.

    Wilber and Gabriel made a beeline for the pentagram room on the opposite side of the garage from the Happytime Hotel. When Themis added her own pentagram, she insisted on a separate room to house it. But to pay for it she agreed to add some other pentagrams, a new one for Merlin, and for each of the demons inhabiting one of the twenty-firster devices. It was a large room and Themis’ pentagram had pride of place in it. As they opened the door to the pentagram room, they saw that it had, at least temporarily, expanded into a great hall.

    Themis’ pentagram had expanded. It was at least twenty times the size it had been and it was packed with thrones, and each throne had a god or a demigod on it. Most of them were the Greek gods, who were also the Roman gods, but next to Mercury was Woden. And next to Zeus was Thor.

    Wilber stopped in the door until Roger tapped him on the shoulder and squeezed by. Roger walked ahead and knelt to Themis, holding out her sword. She reached out and touched the hilt, and then he put it back on his shoulder and went to a smaller chair next to Themis’ throne and took a seat.

    One other thing had stopped Wilber at the door. The gods on their thrones weren’t human sized. They varied, but the smallest of them would be twelve feet tall if standing. Roger’s chair was a normal-sized human chair.

    Wilber found his chair. It was to the left of a throne. An empty throne that was human-sized. All the chairs on their side of the room had name tags and the name tag on the throne was Pucorl.

    “I don’t think the van is going to fit,” Wilber muttered to Merlin, who had his own chair. No one else heard, because he spoke through his implant connection.

    “Zeus apparently has no desire to talk to a cart, so he’s arranging things. By the way, we may have some power issues since Zeus isn’t that thrilled that one of his lightning bolts is spending its down time as our electrical system. He didn’t notice it until he got here, but at the moment he is having words with Ilektrismós.”



    “We can build a generator if we have to. I want to see Pucorl when he gets here. Say, did you notice Annabelle’s chair is right next to Pucorl’s?” Wilber shook his head. He liked Annabelle, and knew that she had a sort of old-fashioned love-from-afar crush on Pucorl. That had to remain an unrequited crush, since Pucorl was a van, not a man. This could add whole levels of complications that Wilber was fairly sure they didn’t need.




    Pucorl wasn’t warned. He did get a call telling him to make sure that he dropped off his passengers before he entered the garage. Until he got the instruction, he’d planned on staying in the parking lot and attending by phone. As he pulled into the garage, he started to change.

    He changed like a Transformer from one of Paul’s movies, until he was a metal man. He was dark green, like his van body. Then he turned, and as he approached the door, he became flesh, covered in a dark green flack jacket and twenty-first century body armor, including a helmet with a heads-up display.

    He had no idea what he looked like under the armor. The major effect of the change to flesh and armor was to leave him utterly terrified, because he couldn’t do it. He lacked anything like that ability, and if Zeus . . .

    That was who it was, Merlin informed him.

    If Zeus could do this, what else could Zeus do to him?

    Pucorl had been playing out of his weight class ever since he got the van body. And even more after he ran over the demon. But this? He wasn’t a mouse among cats here. He was a cockroach in a room full of elephants.

    With great trepidation, Pucorl walked into the pentagram room and sat on the raised chair.



    Then they got down to it. For what seemed like a week, they talked about magic. How the demon realm worked. How it was that mortal callings were more powerful than almost all demonic callings. About the threat to the netherworld caused by the rifts in the veil. And, for that matter, the danger to the mortal realm, at least the planet Earth.

    And mostly they tried to figure out a way to prevent the gods from being called against their will. That, to Zeus and most of the rest of the gods, was the overwhelming issue.

    The Creator of All wasn’t in attendance, not in its own person, and while Raphico was, he was unable or unwilling to offer any concrete suggestions. As to Cardinal de Monteruc, Zeus and the other gods essentially ignored him. Their only answer to any of his queries about their status in Heaven were met with “You wouldn’t understand.”

    Wilber got a bit more, let drop mostly by accident. But it amounted to “the gods didn’t understand either.” They were gods, angels, heroes, demons, devils, villains, all mixed together and would, in the course of their cycles, fulfill all of those roles and more, including being a part of the Creator and totally separate from it.

    It was suggested by the cardinal — and sarcastically at that — that since they were gods they could change the books that Gabriel had printed, so that they lacked the knowledge of how to force a demon into a mortal world container. There were two problems with that. One was that if you knew how to ask them to come, you knew how to force them to come. The spells weren’t that different. And, second, because the gods had limited power in the mortal realm, they had to work through proxies who were in the real world, unless they were committing way too much of themselves to the project. They were much more powerful on this side of the veils.

    And there was the issue of Leona, the self-made griffin. She was proof that, given the right circumstance, a mortal could injure a demon and, in so doing, gain some of the abilities of the demon they ate. Leona, for instance, had the will o’ the wisp’s ability to disappear by slipping halfway into the netherworld and back at will. She also got the ability to fly, and knowledge of how to fly, as well as speech centers, from the crow. Which wasn’t how it normally worked when a cat ate a crow.

    That meant that humans, or for that matter, animals from the mortal realm were at least potentially a real and permanent threat to beings of the netherworld.

    And as the rifts in the veil between worlds expanded, that threat would get worse. There could come a day when a cat or a bird might wander by accident into the netherworld, eat a demon, and return to the mortal world, taking the magic with it. And if that happened often enough, the netherworld itself might never recover.

    “We’re like global warming,” Lakshmi commented. “Only worse.”



    As it happened, the gods weren’t the only ones with issues. Roger and Bertrand wanted a better communications for the military of Constantinople and there wasn’t time to do it piecemeal. At the least they needed all their phones and devices to be able to contact one another from anywhere in Byzantium, and they needed that ability right now. They couldn’t produce that quickly enough, not in the mortal realm. They didn’t need “Deus ex Machina,” “god from the machine.” What they needed was “Machina ex Deus,” “machines from the gods.”

    Zeus wasn’t willing to make the necessary “demigods”/devices/people to run the system and while Themis wanted to help, she pointed out privately that she had been diminished by what she was forced to do in the sword. She was a ravaged land as much or more than the Byzantine Empire. Still she agreed to work with Wilber to at least set up a phone exchange.

    More talk ensued, and a telephone exchange was installed in Themis’ realm that would connect all the phones. In exchange, Wilber and Gabriel promised to do all they could to find a way to anchor the gods and prevent them from being forced into containers.



Location: The House of Gaius Augustus Crassus, Constantinople

Time: Evening, November 19, 1372

    Theodore Meliteniotes knocked, paused, knocked twice, paused again, and knocked once more. The knocks had started out as security in the time of Constantine. By now it was hallowed tradition, but still security. If he had knocked differently they would have known either that he was not here on the business of the senate or that he was here under duress.

    The door opened and Gaius gestured him in sharply, then closed the door so quickly that the door almost caught Theodore’s cloak.

    Once the door was closed, Gaius hissed, “What are you doing here? Have you betrayed us?”

    The “us” in question was the “Senatorium Republicum.”

    “Never!” Theodore was startled and greatly offended by the suggestion.

    “Then how did you get your release?”

    Now Theodore understood. “The French delegation. One of its senior members is a correspondent of mine.” He snorted. “Not a proper scholar. Gabriel Deloflote is subject to flights of fancy and believes in ghosts and fairies, much as he might deny it.”

    Gaius, a short, pudgy man with a ring of black hair surrounding the completely bald top of his head, looked at Theodore and shook his head in wonder. “You do recall what got you arrested, don’t you? It was the successful use of Doctor Delaflote’s book to summon a demon.”

    “Yes, yes, I know. But Gabriel believed in demons and the old gods before there was any evidence for them. He tried to hide it, but it was there in his correspondence, in the experiments he wanted to try. And he says that astrology works. Not a proper scholar.”

    Gaius shook his head again. “Never mind. What are you doing here?”

    “It’s the twenty-firsters,” Theodore said. “They come from republics. The Republic of France, the United States of America, which is a tiered republic. An alliance and more than an alliance of states, which are all republics. And even the England of that time, backwards as the English always are, is a republican monarchy, in which the crown represents the state, but the government is republican in form.”

    “Yes. I had heard something about that, though not in such detail. But what has that to do with us or our cause?”

    “They are proof that republics are not a passing fad. And more, they offer knowledge of the methods of their republics’ methods that we can use in restoring the Republica Roma.”

    “It’s not the time, Theodore. No one wants to see the republic restored more than I, but. . . . We need stability and a strong monarchy right now. Even in the heyday of the republic, dictators were appointed in times like these.”

    That was true, but they continued to talk and Theodore persuaded Gaius, who was the senior senator of the Senate Republica to let Theodore investigate the twenty-first century republics to understand how they dealt with difficult times.

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