Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

The Demons of Constantinople: Chapter Twelve

       Last updated: Saturday, February 8, 2020 05:30 EST



A Pause to Breathe

Location: The House of Gaius Augustus Crassus, Constantinople

Time: 3:34 PM, November 25, 1372

    The afternoon sunlight pouring through the glazed windows was augmented by candelabras along the walls of the hall. The ladies in their gowns and the gentlemen in their tunics, which were shorter gowns, made a glittering display. Or would, if you hadn’t grown up with twenty-first century Paris fashions, materials, and techniques. The silks from China didn’t shine and the dyeing was sometimes like unintentional tie-dyed.

    Someone should mention buttons to these folks, Wilber thought, then remembered “someone” had. He was wearing a buttoned up jacket. So were the other members of the French delegation in attendance, even Dr. Delaflote.

    It wasn’t the pretension that bugged him. Wilber’s mom could, and often did, look down her nose at the world about as thoroughly as anyone he’d ever known. What he found increasingly irritating was that these people seemed to think they were the real deal.

    “You’re not dancing,” Liane said in twenty-first century French which now had a bit of a fourteenth century accent.

    “Neither are they.” Wilber pointed at the dancers with his chin. “They’re almost strolling to the almost beat.”

    “They’re not that bad.”

    Wilber looked at her and said, “What? The French fashionista is suggesting that I put a bone in my nose and bay at the moon with the local street gang that thinks it’s a civilization?”

    Liane laughed. “Well, maybe not the bone through the nose. Something tasteful, like a diamond stud.”

    Wilber snorted.

    “Hey, at least some of the girls are good looking.”

    “Not so you’d notice,” Wilber said. “Too much rice pudding and too many sweets for most of them.” That was true. Constantinople was apparently the father of the western world’s obesity problem.



    Aurelia spoke French. One of the family maids was French and she had learned it. Besides, for some reason the man’s French was more understandable than it should have been. She looked out at the dancers, then at the man. He was wearing a . . . something. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it had sleeves that went down to the wrists, and she couldn’t imagine how he had gotten into the top or the pantaloons. It was a style of clothing that her father couldn’t buy, that the emperor couldn’t buy, because no one knew how to make it in the first place.

    What a haughty disagreeable man, she insisted to herself. It was true that he was attractive. Tall and slim, with sandy blond hair and clear blue eyes. He was clean shaven, which gave him an exotic look.



Location: Guest Quarters, Magnaura, Constantinople

Time: 8:30 AM, February 25, 1373

    After the battle of Tzouroulos, things started getting organized, at least a bit. Bertrand and Roger got stuck with Andronikos and were raising, training, and using a small but growing army to take back Byzantium. Their efforts were aided by the fact that the Turks were in disarray after the death of Murad because Savci Bey and his brothers were locked in a desperate battle with each other to determine who would be the next sultan of the Ottoman Empire, even as the rebellion in Anatolia was growing.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the twenty-firsters and most of the French priests were back in Constantinople, trying to start the industrial revolution.



    Jennifer Fairbanks, Annabelle Cooper-Smith, and the master coppersmith all leaned over the wide sheet of papyrus, looking at the design of the tube boiler. It was a modification of a design developed at the University of Paris. Steam power was a technology that the twenty-firsters knew existed, but not a lot more. They did know a little more. They had all seen pictures of steam locomotives and they all knew about internal combustion, including the fact that they had cylinders that pushed pistons. Between that and experiments in France, and the memory that there was such a thing as a tube boiler, they were trying to decide if the coiled bronze tube would hold enough pressure to run a steam engine.

    “The only way to learn is to try,” Jennifer said.

    “That’s an awfully expensive test.”

    “Maybe we could build a scale model, one-tenth scale. That would use a lot less bronze.”

    “But we don’t know if the cube square law applies,” Jennifer insisted.

    “What is the cube square law?” asked the mastersmith.

    They tried to explain and got nowhere fast, until Annabelle mentioned that it was why puppies have such big feet. “They have feet in scale to the adult dog they will be.”

    The coppersmith still didn’t really understand, but at least now he mostly believed.



Location: Harbor, Constantinople

    Joe Kraken tightened his “guts” and squirted a jet of water out his stern. Squid don’t have a front and back the way that people or boats do. They go this way and that, depending on circumstances. And Joe wasn’t a squid anyway. He was a kraken, a sea monster, bigger by far than the largest giant squid. Joe was in a designed body. A body whose primary design function was to act as the transport for Pucorl. His “mantle,” for want of a better term, was the body of the barge, the part that Pucorl sat on. He could move most readily in that direction, but his tentacles, mouth, and jet were in the stern and his underwater eyes were on the sides. Close to shore or in shallow water, he mostly moved using his tentacles, walking along the river or sea bed. But out in the bay he used his jet to push himself and his tentacles as fins, or sometimes as though he was swimming.

    Joe was much more maneuverable than a normal boat, but still more directional than his kraken body back in the netherworld. Which, along with the fact that he was stuck on the surface of the sea unable to sink to the bottom, was something he’d had to get used to after he got his new body.

    Not that there weren’t compensations. His new body didn’t require any concentration to maintain so all his will could be focused on strength. While smaller than his body in the netherworld, his body here was much stronger. One of his tentacles flashed out and nabbed a large grouper. A quick motion and that grouper’s spine was snapped by Joe’s iron beak. Joe liked mortal fish. His artificial body didn’t need food, but his magical self did absorb the fish’s body, and that was making it more solid and stronger.



Joe was out today, almost on a day off. He was patrolling the Bosporus Straits and grabbing some snacks, instead of sitting at the docks of Constantinople, waiting for Pucorl to need a ride. As part of the deal, he had a crew of five officials of the Constantinople bureau of tariffs.

They were approaching a galley showing a Genoese flag. And Joe had a bad feeling. Suddenly a rain of arrows shot from the galley and three of them hit his decking. They hurt.

Squid aren’t particularly aggressive. In truth, they are shy and retiring creatures. But Joe wasn’t a squid. Joe was a kraken. And, as of this moment, Joe was a pissed off kraken.

As the customs agents made for his cabin, Joe, using jet and tentacles, maneuvered his stern to face the galley and reached out with his tentacles. Grabbing oars and jerking, he pulled and used that pull to lift his stern out of the water, and then reached up with his tentacles and grabbed the port sidewall of the galley and pulled it down.

The galley wasn’t designed for that. It flipped, pouring sailors into the drink, and shoving Joe’s bow below the surface. Then Joe had to work to keep from sinking himself.

Joe knew he wasn’t supposed to eat people. But it did seem a horrible waste, watching the crew of the galley sink into the Bosporus and drown. He’d be eating if he could, but he had specific orders on the subject, and demons are under the control of the owner of their vessels. So, however much the waste, he could not eat the crew of the galley. He did use his built-in crystal set to call Pucorl and complain about unreasonable restrictions.



Pucorl got Joe’s call while he was in his netherworld lands, and he had a thought. Two ideas. First, he sent back to Joe Kraken, Grab a couple and put them on the deck. See if you can revive them.

Once Joe had done that, he called Joe to him.

Pucorl’s lands were on the edge of the Elysian Fields, which — among other things — meant that Pucorl had a coast. It wasn’t much of a coast, a few hundred yards long, over on the other side of the garage from the dryad’s grove. But Pucorl had reshaped the land into a dock after he got Joe. Until now, he had never had any cause to call Joe to his part of the netherworld.

Annabelle was in her office with Royce, looking at a steam cart design. It wouldn’t be anything like Pucorl, but Annabelle insisted that it would be better than the ones they were making in Paris. More importantly, this one would be designed based on the US Army WWII jeep, and it would be used by Bertrand’s army.

It wouldn’t be like it was back in the world. Mass production didn’t exist. Each jeep would be handmade, and each and every one would need a demon to make it work, because they couldn’t make spark plugs or distributor caps, at least not yet.

If they got ten of the things built this year, they would be pulling off a miracle. That wasn’t the only thing they were working on. The twenty-firsters were introducing as much as they could of the tools to build the tools to start an industrial revolution.

Not only steam engines. Steam hammers and drop hammers, powered by wind and water. There was a master ironsmith working with the twenty-firsters to build a Bessemer forge as soon as they figured out what a Bessemer forge was.

Bill Howe was working with the Constantinople city guard on developing a department of detectives, who would investigate the rare crime where the perpetrators weren’t known from the outset, and finding the perps when they went to ground. Something that was mostly not done in this day and age.

“Annabelle, we have guests,” Pucorl told her.

 She came out of her office with its drafting table and asked, “What’s up?”

Pucorl opened his driver’s side door. “Come have a look.”



Sergios looked up in shock. They were no longer in the sea off Constantinople. They were in hell. A quiet corner of hell, but hell nonetheless. Looking out from the quiet little cove they had arrived in, they saw waves seeming to raise a mile into the sky, shifting from blue to green to blood red, then to some color that no human eye should ever see. And within the water, Sergios could see monsters of every imaginable shape. Worse, the monsters didn’t stay one shape, but shifted in the blink of an eye from fish to bird to crab to something that looked like it was wearing its stomach on the outside. 

“Calm down,” Joe Kraken said over the speakers in the cabin. “Pucorl will be here shortly, and these are his lands. The waves will not enter his cove. I know they are strange to you, but they are quite orderly and pleasant by netherworld standards.”

This is orderly? Sergios thought in horror.

Then the magical van drove out onto the dock and a door opened. The young woman they knew to be Pucorl’s friend, mistress, or something, got out and quickly leapt across to Joe’s deck. She ignored the customs agents, and went to the two men who were lying on the deck. Quickly checking the first, she flipped him onto his stomach and started pressing on his back. Water poured from his mouth and more, then he started breathing and coughing.

She moved to the next, and though she got the water, at least some of it, from his lungs, he didn’t start to breathe. So she flipped him on his back and started CPR. She kept it up for two minutes before finally giving up.

Several dryads came to the dock, picked him up, and took him away.



It took awhile to get everyone calmed down, especially the Genoese sailor who was the second officer of the galley. He was convinced that he was dead and in Purgatory.

“Not so. You’re not dead, and you’re in the Elysian Fields, not Purgatory. You can even return to the world of the living . . . if you tell us what we need to know,” Pucorl told him.



The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 42

Pucorl had to call Wilber to get the words, as no one there spoke Italian. So from then on, Wilber was in on the talk.

“Why did you attack us?” asked one of the customs officials.

“It’s a sea monster,” the panicked sailor shouted.

“Well, yes,” Joe said, “But that’s no reason to attack me. I was only bringing these fellows to inspect your ship.” A tentacle lifted out of the water and pointed at the customs officials.

The Genoese sailor shrank back on the pallet where he was sitting.

“Ah, Pucorl, you should probably not use Joe as a customs boat,” Wilber suggested.

Sethos Kotos, the leader of the Constantinople customs officers, looked at the sailor, then said, “I don’t know about that. Letting the world know that assaulting a customs boat has consequences might be useful.

“What were you doing, sailing a military galley into Byzantine waters?”

That started an argument and Annabelle, Pucorl, and Wilber listened as they argued about who had the right to do what in the sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Genoa wanted, and claimed to have, control over the trade, which was why they had pressured Andronikos IV not to give the Venetians Tenedos when they were holding John V for bad debts.

The fact was, that chunk of ocean was mostly controlled by the Turks and even their control was weak. Legally, Byzantium had the best claim. But it hadn’t had the power to enforce it since before John V became emperor. Their claim of control was even more threadbare in terms of real force than the Genoese claim.

It would all bloom into a nice diplomatic incident with nasty letters flowing back and forth between Constantinople and Genoa. And the notion that attacking Pucorl’s barge was a bad idea would be introduced.

Location: South Coast, Wales

Time: 11:30 AM, February 27, 1373

Leona slipped almost by accident from Pucorl’s lands to the mortal realms “closest” to them, and found herself in a field next to a small fishing village. The field was covered in frost. With two quick steps and a leap, Leona was flying. She got some height and flew over the town to shouts and consternation. Some rude human shot an arrow at her. He missed by a large margin, but it bothered Leona enough so that she flipped back to Pucorl’s lands, calling for Wilber to do something about it.

Wilber, as it happened, was in Constantinople. And Leona lacked a phone. She headed for the dryad’s grove, looking for Coach.

The faun who had been Jeff Martin’s sports watch and now was his own being sauntered up to Leona. “What has you in a tizzy, my young friend?”

Well, young she was, in comparison to a creature that existed before men wore clothing. Besides, Coach was a good friend. She got Coach to call Wilber. But Wilber was busy, and wasn’t of a mind to travel all the way to England to let some farmer know he wasn’t supposed to shoot at the flying cat.

Leona was not going to let that stand. She was, after all, a cat. She slipped from Pucorl’s lands to Wilber’s apartment in Constantinople, leapt onto his lap, and yowled her annoyance.

“I am not taking you to England. It would take months.”

“Don’t be silly. I was there minutes ago.”

“Yes, well. I can’t go from the natural world into the netherworld on my own.”

“Surely you can. I’ll show you.” She jumped to the floor and flicked back to Pucorl’s lands.

Wilber didn’t follow her.

Most disappointing. Back to Wilber’s rooms. “What’s taking you so long?”

“I’m not a will-o’-the-wisp,” Wilber said. “I can’t flip from the natural world to the netherworld at will. I told you that.”

Leona tilted her head and considered the possibility that the supposedly powerful wizard Wilber Hyde-Davis couldn’t go where he wanted to go. He was, after all, only a human, while she was a cat.

“Okay. I’ll take you.”

“Are you going to pick me up and carry me?” Wilber asked.

“No. That wouldn’t work.” She leapt and flapped, then landed on his shoulder. “Stand up.”

He looked at her for a moment, then clearly his curiosity got the better of him. He had to have some cat in his nature. He stood.

Digging her claws in, Leona tried to shift them both. It didn’t work.

“Walk forward.”

He did, and as he stepped she shifted them so that his foot landed in the grove of the dryads in Pucorl’s lands. Another step and they were in a small grove of trees on the coast of England.

“I hope you can do that in the other direction,” Wilber muttered.



Wilber realized that he was in some trouble if Leona couldn’t, or decided not to. Which she well might. She was, after all, a cat.

Partly, anyway. So he pulled Igor from his pocket. Igor now had a case with a connecting link to the network. Two links. Pucorl maintained a network of minor demons. Most of them tiny little water demons drawn from the babbling brook that traveled across his lands. They liked talking, but weren’t bright enough to have anything to say, so they made an excellent relay system. Whatever Igor told them would be transmitted to the other demons in the network. Themis, being the god of proper behavior, maintained a proper network system with proper circuits made of gold, and properly integrated with proper operators and ten digit phone numbers, in spite of the fact that even with the crystal sets built in this world there probably weren’t enough phones to need four digits. 

Having access to a titan or a god was a bit like having access to a super computer. One that could not only calculate, but act. The problem was that you needed the programs — the knowledge to get it to do anything. The reason the gods didn’t have a phone network before the twenty-firsters arrived was because it never occurred to them to want one, and they had no idea how to go about making one anyway. Now he pulled his phone and checked his bars. It now had three sets; one to Themis’ phone system, one to Pucorl’s, and one to any phone that might be in range. Themis gave him four bars, Pucorl five, and he even had two on the direct phone. “Who’s nearby, Igor?”



“Green Lantern. Paul and Kitten are in Pucorl’s lands today, studying basic magic with a puck of Pucorl’s acquaintance.”

“Yes.” Wilber grinned. “I’ve met Pucoransis. Well, at least the kids will be entertained. I don’t know how much they’ll learn. Put me through to Pucorl, would you? I would like to arrange a pickup, in case I need it.”

“I’ll take you back,” Leona insisted. “As soon as we are done talking with the locals.”

Wilber called Pucorl anyway. A cat was a cat, netherworld or not. 

The veil between the worlds was still in shreds, though Themis was working on repairing it in her lands and several of the other gods were doing the same. But Themis was leaving intentional holes in her repairs, so that she and hers would have access to the natural world.

Pucorl’s lands were small and while he was now more powerful than Merlin, he was still minor in comparison to even a demigod. His ability to repair the veil was almost nonexistent. But he could “see” it and the rifts in it where his lands touched the natural world. He assured Wilber that he would be able to find locations where Wilber could simply step back through. Given that assurance, Wilber, with Leona perched on his shoulder, walked boldly over to the village.

He was wearing his pistol. It was a habit by now.

Location: The Village Pendine, Wales

Time: 12:04 PM, February 27, 1373

Maud saw the stranger walking out of the village woodlot with the thing on his shoulder. She turned and ran screaming into the village. She was, after all, only sixteen years old, recently married . . . and her new husband was the one who shot the arrow at the thing. Right now, she was afraid that if Willum got stubborn, the wizard might burn him to the ground.

By the time she got to the town square, the village was gathered. All fifty-five adults. The men were led out to meet the wizard by the village headman and Father Robert, the village priest and school master. 



Wilber saw the mob and shouted, “Calm down. I only want to talk.”

“What are you doing in our woodlot?” shouted a large man carrying a scythe. Carrying it like he was itching to use it.  

“Your woodlot is . . .” Wilber had the — unusual for him — experience of struggling to find the right word. Mostly because there wasn’t a word in fourteenth-century English for “in the next dimension,” or “across the veil between the worlds.” So he went with twenty-first century English, and counted on his communication magic to get the meaning across. “Across the veil between worlds. In the other world are now the lands of Chevalier Pucorl de Elysium, of whom you may have heard.”

“You mean that prince of Underhill who aided the king of France against his traitorous brother and the army of the dead?”

“That’s the one,” Wilber agreed. “But he’s not from Underhill. He got promoted. He’s from Elysium, or perhaps Camelot. Also he’s a knight, not a prince.”

“We already have a knight,” the priest said. “We don’t need another.”

“Nor does Pucorl claim your lands. But you are neighbors of a sort, and he would appreciate it if you were to refrain from shooting at his folk.”

By now Wilber was close enough so that he really didn’t need to shout, so he asked, “May I know your name, Father? I am Wilber Hyde-Davis, originally of London in the twenty-first century.” 

“You’re one of the twenty-firsters?” the big man with the scythe asked. “I heard the king of France threw the bunch of you out. Don’t you expect King Edward to welcome you.”

Sheesh, this fellow is belligerent, Wilber thought. “Look, Father, is there somewhere we can sit and have a chat? You, the headman of the village, and me? I’m not here to start a war. I’m here to prevent one. I’m not here to take anything from you, or your village, either.”



It turned out that Mr. Belligerent was the headman of the village. His name was John Hywel. He, his wife, Father Robert and Father Robert’s housekeeper/companion/concubine were the ones who ended up in the headman’s hut over small beer and bread, discussing the arrangements in dealing with Pucorl’s lands and the beings who resided there.

Surprisingly enough, it was John who brought up the possibility of buying goods from Constantinople to sell in Bristol. It was Father Robert who pointed out that Sir Thomas, who held the rents  on this village, was going to want his portion of any such trade, and he would find out about it.

Sir Thomas lived some five miles away in Wenvoe Keep.  It wasn’t much, in truth. More a two-story stone cottage than a true fortress. But it had a barn for the knight’s horses and its own blacksmith and armorer. He wasn’t a particularly bad lord, but he was poor, only having the rents from two small villages to support his household and pay for his part in his lords campaigns. Which, in the last year or so, had mostly been dealing with wild hunts and the mischief of leprechauns who somehow ended up here instead of Ireland where they belonged.

In the meantime, they did manage to get the villagers to agree to leave Leona alone. Mrs. Hywel endeared herself to the gryphon by feeding her a bowl of milk. And Wilber explained that it wasn’t thanking the demons that caused them to stop helping. It was giving them things to act as their bodies without their prior agreement.



Over the next few weeks, word of Pucorl’s lands went up the feudal chain from village to knight, to lord, to duke, to prince, to king. And word came back down. Sir Thomas was compensated for the loss of the village, which became the direct fief of Prince Thomas of England, Edward III’s fifth living son and something of a magic aficionado. Besides, contact had been made on his birthday, so it was sort of a belated birthday present.

A pentagram of transport was placed on the edge of the village and a matching one on the edge of Pucorl’s parking lot. Together, they formed a route from the natural world to Pucorl’s lands and back. Since Pucorl’s lands were now following the local time fairly closely, you could go back and forth and not have to worry about meeting your grandpa when he was a wee lad.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image