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The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Eleven

       Last updated: Wednesday, January 29, 2020 06:45 EST



Battle Damage

Location: Inn Converted into Hospice, Tzouroulos

Time: 4:15 PM, November 22, 1372

    Andronikos had a broken arm. Which to hear him tell it was because of Bill Howe’s cowardice in failing to support him. He had lost almost ten percent of his knights, again the fault of the twenty-firsters, their cowardly demons, and Bertrand du Guesclin. This time because Pucorl was late in coming to his defense. His cousin Demetrios was dead because Pucorl had abandoned his duty and because, instead of defending him as was her clear duty, Jennifer had run off seeking glory. And Roger, with his famous Sword of Themis and almost as famous longrifle, had proved completely useless. Yes, they had won, but it was in spite of the French contingent with its twenty-firsters and its demons. It would have been a much greater victory with much less loss on their side if he had been placed in command as was his right by virtue of his birth.

    Roger, who was in the next bed having his arm and his nose looked after, heard it all for about the fifth time, and said, “You remind me a lot of Philip the Bold.”

    Andronikos looked at Roger in shock for a moment. “How dare you threaten me? You . . . you . . . peasant! I’ll have you whipped through the streets of Constantinople.”

    They were both in the hospice, not having been magically healed because their wounds weren’t severe and could wait. The triage imposed by Raphico and Monsignor Savona had much to do with severity of wound and gave short shrift to rank of the wounded. Raphico might have made an exception if Roger had asked. Roger had not only failed to ask, but had insisted that he be treated no differently than any other soldier in the army.

    Either army.

    The Turkish wounded were also being treated, without regard to their religion, through a combination of magic and modern knowledge of germ theory. There wasn’t enough knowledge of modern medicine among the twenty-firsters to produce much of anything like modern medicine in the here and now. The good news was that they were no longer strictly limited by the information brought back in the heads and the computers of the twenty-firsters. The University of Paris School of Medicine was a phone call away.

    Yes, it had only had the modern notions of medicine for less than a year, but it wasn’t one man studying on something for less than a year. It was hundreds, some clever, some not, some innovative, some hidebound, some trying to adopt all the innovations and find more, and others trying to justify throwing it all out and going back to bleeding, bad air, and balancing humors.

    All of which made for an often volatile mix, but one that was self-selecting toward the more accepting of modern concepts when consulting on the phone about wounded Turkish soldiers.



    In another room in the same hospice, six Turkish soldiers lay in bunked pallets with various injuries. Mohammed ben Sahid, born in Italy under the name of Giuseppe Caldrone, groaned under the pain of the compound fracture of his left humerus. The bone had been set, the wound treated with sulfur, sewn up and wrapped. The heathen healers insisted that it wouldn’t putrefy, but he had his doubts.

    They also said he was no longer a slave. For Mohammed was a janissary. He was taken as a slave from a trade ship out of Genoa, but that was fifteen years ago. For seven of those years, he had been a dockworker in Bandirma, then he was taken for taxes and made a janissary. The janissaries were a new unit introduced by Murad less than ten years ago. Mohammed was one of the first. They’d almost killed him, forced his conversion to Islam, and whipped or beaten him for the slightest infraction. You got tough or died, and a lot died. Mohammed got tough. So tough that he was one of those janissaries who was made cavalry.

    Mohammed wasn’t sure how he felt. By now he had fought in several battles and he was a tough man. Murad and his captains had done that. Mohammed was a janissary and that was a thing to be proud of. He wasn’t at all sure that he wanted to go back to being a Genoese sailor. And it was hard to concentrate with the pain in his arm.

    Then the priest came in. He was a tall, ascetic man with dark hair starting to go gray. He was wearing an alb and stola with fringes, but his alb had a pocket sewn onto its left breast, and in that pocket was the thing Mohammed had been warned about. One of the demon-enchanted slates.

    He made a warding away gesture and the slate spoke in Turkish. “You have no need of warding against me. I will do you no harm, neither your body nor your soul.”



    “Allah protect me!”

    “That will be up to Allah, I would imagine,” the slate said. “I am simply here to examine your wound and see if it is becoming infected.”

    That was a whole other fear, to be without his left arm. It would end him as a janissary, probably end him period. Fear for his life warred with fear for his soul, and it was fear for his life that won. He let the priest examine his wound with the phone.




    “There is a bit of infection, but not much yet. If we treat it now and seal the wound, he should be all right,” Raphico said, and Monsignor Savona nodded, looking at the screen that showed a colored transparent image of the arm that showed torn muscle, blood vessels, and damaged bone.

    “You should bond the bone as well. Not fully heal it, but something to hold it in place while it heals.” He pointed at a bone chip that was away from the rest of the bone. “If you can put that back in place, it will speed the healing.” By now, Giuseppe Savona was familiar with the internal workings of the human body, and he had learned triage in more than one sense. He knew that he could spend every moment of his life healing the sick and still not make a dent in the problems of illness and injury. He knew that he, and even Raphico, needed to pace themselves and spend part of their time on other things. So they didn’t heal the Turk, but treated him enough so that he might, in time, heal himself. Then they went on to the next patient.



Location: Prisoner Camp, Outside Tzouroulos

Time: 4:25 PM, November 22, 1372

    After the rout, a lot of Murad’s army had surrendered. It was that or be ridden down, and most of Murad’s baggage train and camp followers were captured. The janissaries included cavalry. Murad’s entire force was mostly cavalry, but once your horse is shot out from under you, an armored cavalryman is only another foot soldier, and no more capable of outrunning a horse than any other. And the point of Murad’s central column was almost entirely janissary. They were his toughest, most disciplined troops, and the ones he could most afford to spend in forcing an objective. So more than half the captives were janissaries, and most of the rest were mercenaries. There were only a sprinkling of noble knights in his army.

    In a way, the mercenaries were the greater problem. They were willing enough to change sides, but they expected to be paid and John V didn’t have the money to pay them.

    The janissaries, as a relatively new Ottoman force, were not paid. Not in money. They were fed and equipped, trained and treated, even paid a sort of allowance, but that was the largess of their owner. The discussions among the prisoners were ongoing, and the discussions about how they were to be handled were ongoing as well.



Location: Constantinople

Time: 4:35 PM, November 22, 1372

    Pucorl was doing sixty kilometers per hour as he drove through the outer gates of Constantinople. He was then slowed by traffic, but he was still out-speeding a galloping horse as he pulled up in front of the royal palace.

    He opened his side door and Bertrand du Guesclin, general of the armies of Byzantium, hopped out and strode up the steps to the palace entrance to cheering crowds. Byzantium hadn’t had a victory against the Turks in a long time. After the reconquest of Tzouroulos and, more importantly, the defeat of Murad, Bertrand was the golden boy of the Constantinople mob. And the golden girl was right behind him.

    Jennifer Fairbanks, the girl who killed Murad in mortal combat. The fact that she was a woman delighted the mob. Not because of what it said about her, but because of what it said about Murad and his whole line. If he could be defeated by a mere slip of a girl on the field of battle, God must truly be on their side.

    Bertrand spent most of the trip here convincing Jennifer to let that part of it go, and not to go around explaining that she could defeat Christian nobles and kings as easily.

    Jennifer saw their glee as an insult to her. But they needed that glee and the adulation that came with it, to make the rest of their program more acceptable to the people of Byzantium.



Location: John V’s Apartments, Royal Palace, Constantinople

    When Bertrand and Jennifer entered the emperor’s private apartment, they found a mob. A small mob, but a mob. Aside from John, there was his wife, who doubled as the royal treasurer, Manuel II, the co-emperor of Constantinople and a slightly larger chunk of what used to be the Eastern Roman Empire than they’d been emperors of a few days ago. Tzouroulos was back in the fold, and if they kept pushing they ought to be able to get back a lot more. That was why he was here.



    Bertrand wanted to keep pushing. Partly because it was the right strategic move. But politics were involved too. His king, Charles V of France, wanted the Christian powers to push the Turks back across the Bosporus. So did Pope Gregory. And because of the phones in Paris, they could tell him so. The pope was in Avignon again, but Avignon wasn’t Rome. It was only a few days away for a fast rider. And besides, the pope had a crystal set enchanted by a cherub in Avignon.

    The effect of these things was to allow the royalty, secular and ecclesiastical, of Western Europe to stick their oars into the management of Eastern Europe, completely bypassing Venice, Rome, and Genoa — which wasn’t calculated to make them happy. The phone in Vienna was a major coup for Austria because it put them in the same club.

    “If we are to have any hope of continuing this campaign,” Helena Kantakouzene, John V’s wife, said before Bertrand could get his mouth open, “we must have more money.”

    “I understand, Majesty. However, I can’t provide it. And if you are to generate more revenue, you must recapture at least some of the territory that you lost to Murad and to the Bulgarians,” Bertrand pointed out. “And if you are to defend what you have, we must recapture and fortify Gallipoli and control the Sea of Marmara.”

    It was a long afternoon. Phones were brought out, phone calls were made to Paris and Vienna. Money was promised, and an embassy arranged from France to Venice, in an attempt to get Venice to return the crown jewels without giving them the island of Tenedos.

    At the moment the Turks controlled the Sea of Marmara, to the extent anyone did. The introduction of cannon or rockets and the ships to carry them would change that. But that wasn’t going to happen fast, and in the meantime the Turks needed to be distracted.

    Bertrand’s plan for that was straightforward. Take back the Byzantine Empire north of the Sea of Marmara. To do that he would need Roger, the janissaries captured from Murad I converted into a standing army paid for out of the royal purse, and the ability to recruit more. An army that was loyal to Byzantine, not its paymaster or the noble who called them up from his lands. They could use the janissaries as a core because all of the janissary cavalry had been with Murad I at Tzouroulos.



Location: Prisoner Camp, Outside Tzouroulos

Time: 8:30 AM, November 24, 1372

    Wilber walked along the camp street outside Tzouroulos. He heard a meow and turned in time to catch Leona, who landed on his shoulder. Four kilograms of gryphon landing on your shoulder is something you need to be braced for.

    “You can walk,” Wilber complained in Gryphon. Gryphon, it turned out, had aspects of cat and crow but was neither. At least Leona’s Gryphon. Wilber imagined a lion-eagle gryphon would have a different dialect.

    “Indeed I can,” Leona said in gryphon-accented Greek. “But that’s what humans are for. To carry us, pet us and, most of all, feed us.”

    “Why don’t you go visit Roger?”

    “Roger doesn’t speak Gryphon.”

    “Well, you’re heavy,” Wilber said. “So you can walk or fly.”

    Suddenly the weight on his shoulder lessened. He turned this head to find himself facing a sharply pointed cat face that was translucent. “How did you do that?”

    “I’m not sure,” Leona said. She became heavy again, then light, and as she did her transparency varied in sync. The lighter, the more transparent. Now, on the edge of invisible, she looked around. “There’s a djinn over there.” She pointed with her nose.

    Wilber couldn’t see anything, but he was experienced enough to make a good guess at what was going on. A big part of a will-o’-the-wisp’s power was its ability to appear and disappear, and the way it did that was to slip back and forth from the natural world to the netherworld at will. It didn’t need a rip in the veils to slip through, and it could exist in both the netherworld and the natural world at once.

    Wilber decided to try something. His voice, like his hearing, was magically enhanced by the little bit of Merlin left in his cochlear implant. He was now, at least in small part, a magical being. What the limits on that were, he didn’t know. Pitching his voice to pass into the netherworld, he spoke Djinn. “Hello. What are you doing here?”

    He didn’t see anything, but suddenly Leona was off his shoulder, and she disappeared.




    Leona was watching the djinn as Wilber spoke. She saw it look around and see her floating in the air of the netherworld with her wings folded and sitting on something it couldn’t see. It was a minor djinn, nothing more than a zephyr. It gave a little squeak of fright and took off running. At that point instinct took over. Both cat and crow were active hunters, and if the will-o’-wisp part of her was less active about it, it was still a hunter. Leona was off Wilber’s shoulder and flying after the little creature in an instant. Almost, she dined on djinn, but she wasn’t all that hungry, and she thought Wilber would be upset if she killed it before he could talk to it. So she grabbed it in her talons, and slipped back into the natural world.




    The being that suddenly appeared in Leona’s talons was the size of a puck, bright orange as though it was made of fire, and it rested on a smoky tail, like a cartoon Aladdin’s lamp-style genie. He was also pissed and clearly frightened.

    “Hello,” Wilber said again. “Now will you behave if Leona lets you go?”

    The djinn looked desperately around, then gave Wilber a crafty look, and said, “Yes, yes, master.”

    Wilber could hear the lie. Apparently djinn weren’t held by their given word like European demons. “Hold him for a few, Leona.” Wilber picked up a stick and started to draw a pentagram around the djinn. It took less than two minutes and it wasn’t particularly powerful, but it should hold the thing.

    “Let it go, Leona.”

    Leona flicked out of the natural world, leaving the djinn in the pentagram.

    Meanwhile, Wilber had drawn a crowd. He took a moment to explain what had happened. Then he started questioning the djinn. It turned out that he was from a tribe of djinn to the southeast. From what he said, Wilber guessed it was somewhere around Syria, and he was here because one of Murad’s wizards had grabbed his wife and stuck her into a sword. Both he and his wife were the most minor of djinn, and all he wanted was to get his wife and go home.

    “Which sword?” Wilber asked. There was something wrong about this, but Wilber wasn’t sure what.

    Again with the shifty eyes. After a bit of hemming and hawing, he identified the tent that held the sword, and described it. It was a scimitar. Not Murad’s, but one of his lieutenants, who had been injured in the battle and captured.

    Baqir wasn’t thrilled with the sword in the first place, and sold it to Wilber. Again, Wilber wasn’t convinced that that was going to be enough to get the truth out of the djinn, but it was a start. The first djinn wanted Wilber to give him the sword and let him go, promising on a stack of Koran to be Wilber’s willing slave if he did.

    Wilber wasn’t buying. Another pentagram, and then he released a fetching top half of a young woman, also orange, but with more yellow, and dressed in veil and harem outfit. She looked at Wilber, looked at Orange, and started cursing a blue streak. Apparently, Orange wasn’t her husband. Orange was a low class djinn who wouldn’t leave her alone. She wasn’t thrilled about being in the sword, but better the sword than that little freak Omar.

    Wilber translated this for the Turks, and some laughter ensued. Not all the prisoners were celibate janissaries, and not all the janissaries had always been celibate.

    “What do you want then?” Wilber asked.

    “I want my freedom! It’s not right that a mere human should hold any djinn, even that one.”

    “Well, at least you’re being honest,” Wilber said. Meanwhile he was getting warning from all around that letting djinn loose without protection was unsafe. Wilber suspected they were right. At the same time he wasn’t thrilled about holding this young woman against her will. It wasn’t gentlemanly, not by Wilber’s standards of gentlemanly behavior.

    Wilber pulled out his phone and called Merlin, who was in his room in Tzouroulos. Then he listened as Merlin spoke to the female djinn, who proved to be a minor ifrit. Then, having gotten a fair piece of her name as a surety of protection, Wilber released her. In a moment, she was gone, and a moaning Omar was released and fled.

    The effect was mostly to convince the Turks that Wilber was a powerful wizard.

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