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.
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?”