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The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Ten

       Last updated: Monday, January 20, 2020 09:42 EST



Attack on Tzouroulos

Location: Happytime Motel, Pucorl’s Lands

Time: 6:35 AM, November 17, 1372

    Pucorl stepped through the door and his body changed. He was still humanoid but definitely no longer human. His armor was again part of his body and his body was now filled with oil and electrical systems, no longer blood and nerves. And he couldn’t remember how that change was made. As a landed knight Pucorl had greater control over his form than most pucks, and his make-up was much of earth, because the demon whose lands he took was a system of caves. But caves aren’t only earth. They are air, water, and fire too. He should be able to take any form he chose, even if his default body was that of the van. He had the power. What he lacked was the know-how.

    “Hey,” said Annabelle, “Why’d you change back?”

    “It wasn’t my idea,” Pucorl said. “Zeus changed my form and changed it back. If I’d been running things, I would have waited until we had a chance to talk.” Pucorl leered the last word, trying to make it sound like one of his usual off-color jokes. But he couldn’t carry it off. He really did want to “talk” with Annabelle, and now that he knew it was possible, he wanted it even more. And he thought, believed . . . wanted to believe, that Annabelle felt the same way.



    Roger interrupted. “Sorry, kids. We don’t have time for that. We have to get back and we need you to be a van again.”

    “How am I supposed to do that?” Pucorl complained.

    “Step outside the garage,” Wilber offered. It was a guess, but an educated one, and it worked. As Pucorl approached the bay doors, he transformed into the van.



    As he was leaving the garage, Wilber got a phone call from Themis, one that neither Merlin or Igor were privy to. That was both a feat and an act that was out of character for Themis. In essence, she forced Merlin and Igor temporarily out of their bodies. Well, Wilber owned the phone, the computer, and especially the implant, but still. It wasn’t something that the titan of proper behavior ought to be doing. Her first words explained why.

    “I need your help. I was weeks gathering the dead for Philip’s army, but only had days to put things right. A twentieth of my substance was left in the mortal world when I returned to the netherworld, and left me too weak to fight off the other gods should it become necessary. Nemesis, my sister titan, still supports me, but even she is not fully comfortable with the other changes my manumission made in me.”

    Wilber knew what she meant. Themis had been a slave and because of that she now understood how evil the institution was. As the embodiment of proper behavior, she was the law giver of the gods, but the other gods were probably not overly thrilled with the notion that freedom should be held as a thing of such value. “What can I do to help?”

    “I need a way to restore myself.”

    “Mass equals will,” Wilber muttered. “Not E=MC2 but E=W, probably with a conversion factor analogous to C squared in there.”

    “What does that mean?” Themis asked, sounding utterly confused.

    Wilber, deep in his heart of hearts, felt a bit proud of himself over that. How many people could honestly say they had confused the heck out of a god?

    “More than can say they have survived doing so,” Themis informed him tartly.

    “Oops. Sorry about that. What I am struggling to understand myself is the correlation between what happens in the netherworld and what happens in the natural world. In the natural world, mass and will are unrelated. A mountain has great mass, but no will. But in your world, the two are related. When Pucorl got knighted it changed him, and for that matter changed the shape of his lands. When he defeated Beslizoswian, that changed him again. Not only the land, but his personality. He’s still a scamp of a puck, but he is more mature and more serious than he was. He’s no longer the eight-year-old brat lying for the heck of it and giggling when he gets away with it.

    “Mass and will are almost different aspects of the same thing in the netherworld. Like mass and energy are in the natural world. This is something I’ve been thinking about ever since Pucorl grabbed the van out of the twenty-first century, and I still don’t have a solid handle on it.”

    “It’s not mass alone. It’s the kind of mass,” Themis pointed out. “Water is different than earth, which is different from fire or air, and aether is different from all of them.”

    “Well, what did you lose the most of?” Wilber asked.

    Themis paused only a beat if she paused at all. “More of earth, but a greater part of fire.”

    It took Wilber a moment to parse that. Themis was mostly earth. He was guessing, but his guess was that eighty plus percent of Themis was earth, ten percent water, eight percent air, and only a couple of percent fire. So even if she lost a lot more earth than she did fire, she still lost a higher percentage of her fire than her earth. What Wilber didn’t have a clue about was what would happen if they tried to make up the loss by natural world mass-energy. But that seemed to be their only option. There was, at this point, no way to get back the part of herself she had left in the natural world.



    “I want to try something,” Wilber said. “But I am going to need Pucorl’s permission. Can you tell me why you didn’t want Merlin or Igor in on this call?”

    “Because Merlin is a muse of a god that existed in France in the time of the Neanderthals. That god sleeps and is ignoring Merlin, and will continue to do so unless Merlin learns something that will aid it. If Merlin does learn something from you or your experiments that would be of great value to his creator, he will be obligated to inform it. I don’t know that that is a thing I wish to avoid, but it might be.”

    “Makes sense,” Wilber agreed. “Let me see if I can come up with an excuse for what I want to try. By the way, what about Pucorl? Who does he owe fealty to?”

    “After he gained Beslizoswian’s lands, Pucorl became a special case. He is independent . . . no, that’s not right. He is more powerful now than his creator was. His creator sleeps, and if it tried to force him to serve it, it would be subsumed. Pucorl is as close as the netherworld has to a truly independent being.”

    “Right. I will do my best to restore to you what was taken, or at least replace it with something that will work. In the meantime, we need the phone system.”

    At which point Themis was gone and Wilber was on the phone with Iris who immediately said, in Lily Tomlin’s operator voice, “Is this the party to whom I am speaking? Please hold.” And Muzak started up. Wilber was about to hang up when Iris came on and — still in Lily Tomlin’s voice — explained that she was really busy at the moment organizing the phone network. They were going to need to put pentagrams on their phone cases. “But everything will be up and running by tomorrow.”



Location: Near Tzouroulos, Byzantium

Time: 11:50 AM, November 20, 1372

    As Pucorl approached the city of Tzouroulos, now called Corlu, there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth within the city. The Ottomans had taken Tzouroulos in 1355, renamed it Corlu, and torn down its walls, because Murad was a lot more concerned about Tzouroulos rebelling than he was about John V being able to do anything about his conquest of the city. Tearing down the walls was his none-too-subtle way of telling the people of Corlu that he would much prefer to see them dead than in rebellion.

    The people of the city were unsure who they were more afraid of. Murad I and his army, who were approaching from the northwest, or the magical monster that was on the road from Byzantium from the southeast.

    The Greek Orthodox Church was still allowed to operate and was profoundly concerned that if they in anyway supported John V, that forbearance on the part of their Ottoman overlords would cease.

    Still, there was no attempt to build any sort of barrier. Murad had made it clear that if the walls returned, then he would tear down the whole city, sow it with salt and cast the entire city into slavery. Since most of the young men of the city were now Janissary slave soldiers in Murad’s army, the city fathers didn’t doubt the claim.



    Pucorl twisted his front and rear wheels so that he shifted left while still keeping his windshield facing the city. A delegation of horsemen was riding out to meet them. They were wearing turbans and the sort of flowing clothing that went with the notion of an Arab warrior, but they were also wearing what looked to be perfectly functional breastplates and their turbans seemed to be attached to helmets.

    Pucorl wasn’t alone. He had an escort of ten of Bertrand du Guesclin’s men at arms under the command of Charles de Long, who still didn’t have a replacement for Carlos. The demons, having heard about Carlos, were now anxious to avoid occupying anything, ah, edible.

    There was also a company of some twenty knights of Byzantium, each with his retinue of squires and servants, so it was a fairly large group. Wilber, riding Meurtrier, and Leona were off to their left about fifteen miles, scouting. Leona was happy enough to scout as long as no one tried to claim any sort of ownership of her.

    Roger was leading another group about fifteen miles to the right. And the largest part of the army, the rest of Bertrand’s riflemen, and almost two hundred Byzantine knights, were about four miles behind Pucorl. The reason for the placement was that they wanted the Ottomans to think that Pucorl was all there was, with maybe a couple of small scouting forces.



    At about twenty yards out, the Ottomans pulled up and one raised a hand in the universal symbol for “stop where you are.”

    Pucorl didn’t stop. He wasn’t under these people’s orders. Instead, he continued forward until he was about ten feet from the leader, who by now had a bow out, loaded and drawn.

    There were, in this time, no guns that a cavalryman could wield while in the saddle.

    Well, that wasn’t strictly true. The French army had flintlock breech-loading carbines. And Bertrand’s force had demonlock carbines. And, oh, yes, Annabelle, as well as the other twenty-firsters, all had six-shot demon-lock revolvers. Plus the long rifle that Roger had used to kill Philip the Bold and an arrogant elf lord.



    But these guys were a solid half-century away from that sort of thing. There was a flash in Pucorl’s dash cam.

    That arrow was enchanted.

    “Behave,” Pucorl said in demonic. But the arrow didn’t seem to understand. For that matter, Pucorl didn’t recognize the sort of demon that was in the arrow.

    That was when Pucorl used the new phone system. He called Wilber and asked who or what it was.

    Wilber spoke in demonic and the arrow glowed. “I’m not entirely sure, but I think it’s a djinn. An extremely minor fire djinn.”

    “What are you doing, consorting with djinn?” Pucorl asked the soldier in Greek. “You being a good Muslim and all.”

    In fourteenth-century Turkish, which Pucorl didn’t understand, the man answered, then a moment later Wilber told him, “I believe you have been consigned to the Pit of Hell there, Pucorl. You being a demon and all.”

    Pucorl gave the guy a honk that would have done a Paris cabby proud. The horse reared in fright.

    And the arrow came out of the bow at a forty-five degree up angle. It landed in a tree which immediately started to burn.

    “Say,” shouted Annabelle, “Someone want to put that out before we start the forest on fire?”

    Several of the riders rode over to the tree and started splashing it with water.

    “Grab the arrow! You won’t put the fire out as long as the djinn is embedded in that tree,” Pucorl shouted. Then he started forward again and the troop fled.



    There wasn’t much out here, Wilber noted as Leona flicked from tree branch to tree branch scouting ahead of them. It looked like the Ottoman force was still treating John V as a scared child hiding in his room, which wasn’t a totally unreasonable position to hold.

    He looked over at the scout. “Murad seems to be marching on Tzouroulos with no scouts out. That doesn’t strike me as the canny military commander that Murad was supposed to be.”

    “Why should he put out scouts? These are his lands, and they have been for over ten years. What does he need with scouts?” The man, one of Bertrand’s picked men, grinned.

    Wilber got on his phone. “We’re coming in,” he told Pucorl. “We should be at Tzouroulos in around an hour.” The only reason that Wilber was here was because Igor was needed to stay in contact with the main army.



Location: Army of Emperor John V, Southeast of Tzouroulos, Byzantium

Time: 12:02 PM, November 20, 1372

    As Bertrand rode out of the trees, he saw Pucorl at the edge of the city, stopped and waiting.

    A moment later, Andronikos rode out and started complaining. “Why didn’t your tame demon stay here as he was told to? Your forces have no discipline. Someone should take a whip to that van.”

    “You’re more than welcome to try,” Bertrand said. “But I would point out that Pucorl is the lord of his own domain and in no way under your authority.” As Bertrand knew perfectly well, the burr under Andronikos saddle was that Bertrand, not he, was in command of this expedition. Partly because of Bertrand’s reputation, freshly polished by the siege of Paris, but mostly because John V was still pissed over his son’s refusal to pay for his release from Venice in 1369.

    “Meanwhile, let’s get inside the city. Walls or not, it’s still the most defensible place in the area. And with us in it, not a place that Murad can bypass.”

    It took them the rest of the day to establish themselves in Tzouroulos. Which Andronikos, with arrogant ceremony, renamed back to Tzouroulos from Corlu.



    The next day, the first of Murad’s scouts came in sight of the city, took one quick look, and rode hell for leather back to Murad’s army.

    Meanwhile Wilber inscribed a pentagram in a vacant lot next door to an Orthodox church that had been converted to a mosque when Murad took over the first time. In the pentagram he placed a small statue of Themis and a model of a phone.

    The phone was a piece of wood carved into the shape of a landline phone, headset, and base, with little depressable buttons on the base. It didn’t connect to anything except that it was inside the pentagram. There was a matching pentagram in Themis’ lands.

    The phone wouldn’t contact Themis. Instead, it contacted Iris, who would listen to the request and decide if she would bother Themis with it.

    Neither the priests nor the mullahs were happy to see the thing. But Wilber made it clear that they got to keep their altars only so long as Themis got to keep hers.

    Wilber was working on a theory. One that he wasn’t at all sure was valid. His idea was that prayer from the mortal realm acted as energy in the netherworld. He was working under the theory that if the worship of Themis could be reinstated, then her energy level would increase. The few hundred followers that Themis now had, mostly in France, weren’t enough of a sample to truly test the theory. She would need hundreds of thousands of followers to produce any real change in her energy level.

    The other reason for the pentagram large enough for a small building with an altar was to give Wilber a route into Themis’ lands.

    He used that route to take earth, oil, grain, and nightsoil into Themis’ lands from the mortal realm in an attempt to rebuild her. Her agents took the stuff and “plowed” it into the soil of Themis’ lands.





Location: Outside Tzouroulos, Byzantium

Time: Three Hours After Dawn, November 22, 1372

    Murad I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire, sat his horse outside Corlu and examined the tactical situation while in his hidden heart, he raged. How dare they? Could they not see that he was the Chosen of Allah? Destined to found an empire the like of which the world hadn’t seen since Alexander?

    In less hidden places in his mind, he determined that though there was a slight rise, there were no walls protecting the city, that the enemy placed on rooftops along the edge of the city would damage him before they were overrun, but they would be overrun.

    He called his staff together and prepared for the battle.



    In Tzouroulos, Roger McLain, Bertrand du Guesclin, and Andronikos IV stood on a rooftop and watched as Murad arrayed his troops.

    “Well, he’s not an idiot,” Bertrand said.

    Roger grunted. Murad was arraying his troops into three columns, a large central column, and two smaller flanking columns. It was clear that he wasn’t going to try and be clever. He was going to come straight in and roll over them. An idiot would spend weeks working out a clever plan while the defenders fortified the town. “Still, he’s not considering Pucorl. Pucorl’s cow-catcher front armor is going to turn that central column’s charge into a disaster.” Roger looked over at Bertrand and lifted the long rifle. “I should go with Pucorl and we’ll repeat the trick of the last day of the siege of Paris.”

    “It should work,” Bertrand agreed, “but you’re going to get a reputation if you keep offing great lords. People will start to think you’re some sort of republican, trying to put the plebes back in power.”

    Again Roger grunted. “As it happens, I am. Both my parents were Republicans. And the more I see of kings, the better republics look.” Roger was looking right at Andronikos IV when he said it.

    Andronikos looked back at Roger and didn’t say anything, though his knuckles were white on the hilt of his sword.

    Bertrand continued. “As we discussed, Andronikos will command the right, I will command the left. Lord Demetrios, you’re mostly a reserve. Let Pucorl and Roger hammer the front of Murad’s central column. All we need from your contingent is to keep any cavalry that breaks free away from our people on the roofs.”



    Pucorl sat ready as Roger climbed onto his roof, lay down behind the wooden frame work, and strapped himself in with the canvas straps. The framework was about six inches high and completely surrounded Pucorl’s roof. It had two functions. One was to act as an anchor for the van’s side armor, and the other was to provide a rest for firing a rifle while lying prone on Pucorl’s roof. In that position, Roger would not only be secure in case Pucorl had to make sharp maneuvers, he would be mostly out of sight of archers. Not completely safe, but as good as they could reasonably manage. Then they waited, while Murad started his forces forward at a walk.

    It took Murad’s central column almost ten minutes to get close enough to start their charge, but the moment they did, Pucorl pulled out from behind the building, made a sharp right turn, and charged right at them, horn blaring and speakers screeching dire threats. Not to the soldiers. To the horses. Wilber provided the horse, and what the horses heard was warning that a massive predator was coming for them, and it was time to run.



    In Murad’s army, the horses heard, and many of them bolted. But by no means all of them. Murad’s mount, for instance, was made of sterner stuff. Horses don’t think the way people do, but Murad’s mount was a war horse, trained from early age to fight in cooperation with humans. Its reaction was to charge forward to meet the threat, confident in itself and its rider to defeat anything that threatened its herd, which included the grooms back in camp, as well as the other horses and riders with them.

    So while some ran, others charged. And Pucorl drove into a charging mass of horsemen.

    They tried to get out of his way when he got close, but they were too packed together, and the cow catcher knocked them aside like a bowling ball through pins.

    If you didn’t count the blood and broken bodies that smashed against Pucorl’s windshield.



    Roger saw it. Then he felt it, as Pucorl jerked with each horse thrown aside. Pucorl was still moving, but the simple mass of horses was slowing him.

    Then it happened.

    With no intent at all, a horse trying to leap aside, tossed his rider up onto Pucorl’s roof. He landed on Roger.

    Roger was strapped in. There were quick releases on the straps, but Roger had to get to them. Before he could, he felt the dagger bite into his right arm.

    Roger bellowed in rage and pain as he tried to undo the straps with his left hand.

    He bucked under the weight of the man to no effect at all, then Pucorl reversed course, backing out of the mass, and the man on Roger was rolled forward almost off of Pucorl’s roof. Roger got one strap loose, and tried to get up on his knees. And the Turk, now lying on his back, holding onto Pucorl’s armor with one hand, kicked Roger in the face.





    In the van, Annabelle heard what was going on, and pushed the down button on the power windows. They didn’t move.

    “Pucorl! You open that window unless you want me to shoot through your roof.”

    “Shoot through my roof then. Better holes in me than in you,” Pucorl shouted back.

    “I can’t see through the roof. Open the window.”

    The window opened to Pucorl’s pleas for her to be careful.

    With nothing really approaching care, Annabelle grabbed the upper edge of the window frame and pulled herself half out of the van. Then, with her right hand, she grabbed her pistol, pointed at the Turk who was less than two feet away, and shot.

    And missed.

    Pucorl had twisted his front wheels and his rear wheels, and turned to keep her door away from the Turkish army. Not easy, since they were surrounded.

    Annabelle would always insist that was why she missed.

    She fired again. And missed again. This time it was close enough to singe the Turk’s beard. And now she had all of his attention. Well, all the attention that he could spare from riding a bucking van.

    A third shot punctured the Turk’s breastplate, and he forgot all about holding onto Pucorl’s armor. Half a second later, he was on the ground.

    And a second after that he was roadkill.

    Annabelle slipped back into the van and with no buttons pushed at all, the window went back up.



    Roger was almost out of the straps when the Turk went over the side, but he was bleeding from a wide gash in his right upper arm and a thoroughly busted nose. He flattened back onto Pucorl’s roof and pulled out his med kit, cursing a blue streak all the while. He was effectively out of the battle for now. There was no way he could shoot with this arm, and using Themis left handed wasn’t going to be easy.



    While they were fighting the Turk on the roof, the rest of the central Turkish column had turned into a raging mass of men and horses.

    Almost from the beginning, the front of that column wanted nothing so much as to get away from the armored monster and out of the rain of fire from the rooftops of Corlu. But they were blocked by the troops behind them. With the front pushing back and the back pushing forward, the whole column ground to a stop.



    On the rooftops of Tzouroulos, eighty men equipped with breech-loading demon-lock carbines laid down continuous fire on the writhing mass of Turkish cavalry. Most of them were good shots, and all of them were veterans of a kind of “up close and personal” warfare that left men completely inured to the horrors of killing. They aimed and fired, and not a one of them closed their eyes or aimed over the heads of the enemy.

    They still hit more horses than men, but that was because the horses were bigger targets. Actual misses were rare because when shooting into that sort of mass you almost had to hit something.



    Gradually, as the realization reached the rear that things were not going well, the pressure on the front of the central column eased up and people started running. First a trickle, then a flood. Because, to the uninitiated, rifles really are a terror weapon. A loud noise and death from the sky that you can’t fight against. Skill doesn’t matter, courage and toughness don’t matter, the only route to safety is getting the hell out of there. And, unlike arrows or spears, you can’t even see it coming.


    You’re dead, or a cripple.

    Murad’s army, tough and savvy soldiers in sword to sword warfare, simply couldn’t face it.



    Bill and his horse were in demon-enchanted armor. The enchantment made the steel breast- and backplate and the chain mail light as a feather and flexible as silk. Which, as it happened, was a good thing for Bill, because the left flanking force of the Ottomans was coming right at him and Andronikos. While Bill was on the phone to Bertrand to get instructions, Andronikos shouted, “Charge!” and five hundred Byzantine cavalryman rode out with lances high and pennants flying.

    Bill, perforce, went with them. Bill didn’t have a lance. Instead, he had a shield, his phone under the breastplate of his armor, and a six-shot demon-lock revolver.

    The two forces met and more of the Byzantines went down than the Turks.

    Bill, a couple of ranks back, wasn’t in the brunt, but he did take a few shots. He never knew if they hit anyone. The upshot was that the charge, after the initial clash, turned into a melee. Most of the lances on both sides were lost, and more of the Byzantine knights went down than the Turkish ones. They were getting pushed back and Bill saw that Andronikos was up against two Turks. He raised his pistol, but then a Turk was riding at him, so he turned his gun that way and fired. The Turk’s horse reared. Bill didn’t know if he hit the horse, the rider, or if it was the noise that caused the horse to rear, but he was pushed back and by the time he looked again he couldn’t see Andronikos.

    “Sherlock,” Bill shouted to his phone. “Get me the general. We’re being forced back.”

    Moments later Bertrand was on the line. “Try to delay them a little, Bill. The Turkish center is broken and we’re holding on the left. If you can keep them occupied for a little, I’ll get Pucorl to hit them in the flank.”



    “Right, General,” Bill said. Then to Sherlock, “Amplify. Pucorl is coming, men. Hold them a little longer and they’re toast.” Bill said it in French, but Sherlock shouted it in Greek.

    It seemed like it would work. The defenses stiffened. But they were still being pushed back.




    On receiving the new instructions, Pucorl made a sharp right turn and, external speakers blaring “Ride of the Valkyries” at full volume, he charged to the right.



    Jennifer’s phone, Silvore, shouted, “Pucorl’s going to Andronikos’ aid. Bill says they’re being pushed hard.”

    “Lord Demetrios,” Jennifer shouted in turn, “we need to help Bill.”

    Demetrios Palaiologos looked at Jennifer, then at the situation, and proved himself to be more competent than anyone had any real right to expect. He knew that if he didn’t go to Andronikos’ aid and the emperor’s son died, he would be in a lot of trouble, but he also knew that with Pucorl charging off to the left, the center was open if the Turks could recover from their rout.

    “No!” he said, “What we need to do is keep the pressure on Murad’s center.” He stood in his stirrups, waved his arms, and shouted, “Follow me!” then rode after the routed Turks in the center. His force was smaller, much smaller than the Turks, but it was fresh and not terrorized.

    Jennifer almost abandoned her post, but she knew that she and her six-shooter would be of little use to Bill’s force. She also briefly considered shooting Demetrios in the back, but that wouldn’t do any good either. Instead, cursing a blue streak, she rode along behind him.



    Murad I saw his death approaching. Not in the enemy, but in his routed central column. Such a loss right now might shatter his still fragile nation, because it was held together mostly by his reputation. He already had a rebellion in Anatolia and if John Piss-his-pants Palaiologos could stop him here, his reputation was dead and gone. He was already in full armor. After all, he was the commander. He wasn’t in the front because that wasn’t where you commanded from. He mounted and in moments was charging with his personal guards at that routed column, swinging his sword, and bellowing at his troops to stop running and follow him. Surprisingly, some of them did. Not all of them, and he would deal with the cowards later. Right now, he needed to restore his troops to something like organization, and prepare to meet whatever was coming.

    That was half his problem. He’d seen some of it, and heard more. Even gotten a good view of the monster as it hared off to flank his left wing. He’d heard the crackling thunder and seen the puffs of smoke from the tops of the buildings. But he didn’t really comprehend what had happened. He only knew it was bad.

    By the time he had something that almost looked like order restored to what was left of his center, he saw them coming. A contingent of over a hundred Byzantine knights. Coming straight for him. His forces outnumbered them, but they were fresh and solid. Standing in his stirrups and swinging his sword over his head, he ululated to call everyone’s attention, then charged right at the oncoming Byzantines.

    He was almost surprised when what was left of his army followed.



    Demetrios saw Murad, lowered his lance, and spurred his horse into a charge. He was going to face Murad I alone on the field of battle and, if he lived, he would be safe from whatever befell Andronikos.



    Three ranks back in the Ottoman forces, Omar put an arrow into flight. It flew high and straight. He wasn’t the only one shooting, but it was his arrow that came down on the neck of Demetrios Palaiologos’ mount. The horse stumbled, fell, and rolled on top of his rider. Demetrios’ neck was broken, along with his back, four ribs, one arm, and both legs. He was dead in moments.



    Jennifer almost came out of the saddle as her gelding leapt over Demetrios’ horse, and when she came down, she was facing Murad I, with his scimitar looking about fifteen feet long, as he lifted it up in preparation to take her head off.

    Not every panic shot misses. Once in a while, pray and spray works.

    This was one of those times. Jennifer fired six times, as fast as she could pull the trigger. Two of them hit, one the horse, and the other punched right through Murad I’s breastplate. It didn’t hit anything vital, but that didn’t matter. Between the horse’s stumble and the pain of his wound, Murad came out of his saddle and was trampled under the hooves of Jennifer Fairbank’s gelding.

    The men who were following him, not knowing she was out of ammo, scattered in any direction they could find, as long as it was away from the demon on the grey gelding, who threw thunder and lightning like some ancient god.



    Meanwhile, back at the right flank, Pucorl charged into the rear of the Turks and the charge that was pushing Andronikos’ forces back faltered, then failed. Bertrand was still holding on the left, and then they heard it from the Ottoman camp. The drums changed their beat to a particular staccato rhythm, and then Wilber called, “It’s retreat.” But they already knew it. As soon as the Turks heard it, they didn’t retreat. They ran.

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