Much Fall Of Blood — Snippet 08
“Magic is not some cheap fairground trick, for the entertainment of fools, easily done and cheap in the price it asks,” said Eneko Lopez, calmly but firmly. “And you know we do not act for earthly thrones or powers.”
“This isn’t exactly an earthly power,” said Manfred wryly.
“It still means mixing in the affairs of governments, princes and kings, to say nothing of Emperors.”
“And what are the alternatives, Eneko?” asked Manfred. “That we should all sit on our hands waiting for the lightning to fall? You know as well as I do that Jagiellon has motives which reach far beyond mere geographical conquest. At least you should know that, seeing as you have told me so.”
Lopez lowered his heavy brow and peered at Manfred from under it. “Don’t play your semantic games with me, Manfred of Brittany,” said the cleric grimly. “God gave us responsibility, so that we might use it. Not so that we could rationalize doing just what we wanted to do.”
“Well,” said Manfred, “At the end of the day it is your decision.” He turned and walked out.
Eric followed, looking rather bemused. “I thought that you were going to make sure that he sent a message to the Emperor?” he said, once they were outside.
“I have,” said Manfred grinning, showing his large square teeth. “You cannot force someone like Eneko Lopez to do something by telling them that they must.”
Eric raised an eyebrow, “So you tell him that he must not? That’s Kari-level logic.”
Manfred shook his head. “I set it out with impeccable logic and then leave it him to sort it out with his own conscience. I am pretty sure that in the next few minutes he will be consulting with those brothers of his, and will be in magical communication with Rome. Word will spread very rapidly from Rome. We have a good network that picks up information from there. I can pretty well guarantee that word will be carried both to Mainz and to Venice within the next two weeks if not sooner.”
“Where did you learn to be so devious?” said Eric, shaking his head, “The right knightly behavior is to have threatened to knock his head off and then to have a good half an hour argument and shouting match about it.”
“Would that have achieved anything?” asked Manfred, grinning. “I mean, it sounds like a lot of fun and very traditional, but Eneko is really not someone you can force to do anything. What we really wanted was for him to contact Mainz magically. He’s not going to do that, no matter how we try, but this way we might get him to at least tell Rome.”
“If it catches on, we could have the development of a new age of reason,” said Erik dryly. “But I don’t think the Knights of the Holy Trinity are quite ready for this.”
“It’s the weight of all of that armor,” said Manfred. “It weighs down on their heads…”
“And stops the brain from working,” finished Eric. “It’s an interesting theory, Manfred, but I know as many hidebound warriors on the plains of Vinland as I do among the Knights of the Holy Trinity, and they don’t wear armor.”
“A good thing too,” said Manfred easily. “Next thing I know you’ll want me out of my armor. And I’m built to carry it. I must admit I really feel more comfortable in it. But I thought I’d beat you to your favorite argument about steel affecting our brains.”
“I detect the fell hand of Francesca,” said Erik with a wry smile. “I wonder how long the effects of her training will go on affecting you?”
“She is not someone that I am going to forget in a hurry,” said Manfred, quite somberly.
“True,” agreed Erik. Privately, he thought that his task was going to be considerably harder now. But there was also no doubt that Manfred was considerably wiser than he had been when he had first encountered Francesca, both about intrigue and in dealing with people. Much to his surprise, he regretted that she was going to be going to Alexandria and would not be continuing to journey with them. He had come to accept that she was an ally, and in her strange way, a kind of friend. But all he had said was that they had better tell the knights of Manfred’s escort that they would be leaving Jerusalem quite soon.
Manfred nodded. “Eberhart is just waiting for some letters that will accredit the Mongol Tarkhan as a diplomatic emissary of the Ilkhan. The Mongols are very stringent about the way that diplomatic missions are treated. I gather that the protection afforded to him would even extend to us if we were caught up in some fracas in their territories.”
“Mighty generous of them,” said Erik sardonically.
“It harks back a long way,” said Manfred sententiously. “Apparently some minor emperor sent back the head of a Tarkhan to Genghis Khan. Genghis declared war and hunted the emperor down, finally killing him on some remote island in the Black Sea. Believe it or not, I actually read about it. If they knew about the reading back in my father’s court I would be a laughing stock. It’s all the fault of you and Francesca. You have rotted my brain and kept me from the strong drink that would have preserved it. I need some wine to set this right.”
“Any excuse,” said Erik, “but I must admit that I am fairly dry, and the water in this town would give a camel the flux.”
“Excellent,” said Manfred. “Let us go and find Falkenberg. That way we can combine drinking with telling him that Eberhart is going to have us escort a party of Mongol diplomats.”
“I am sure that will delight him,” said Erik, grinning wryly.
“Well,” said Manfred. “I suspect the drinking part will.”
In the cell that he had been assigned in the Hypatian monastery, Eneko Lopez might well have guessed that he was being manipulated. He was an astute man and had much experience of the ways of the world. However, Manfred’s predictions were quite correct too. Eneko had very little option but to warn the Grand Metropolitan in Rome that the earthly arm of the spiritual evil to the East was going to threaten the entire Mediterranean.
Soon he and his brothers were busy setting up the candles for the wards. In reality, this was neither the most demanding nor the most difficult of magics. However, he did believe that magic should not be used lightly under any circumstances. Kings and princes seemed to have trouble understanding that every little thing they wanted done was not of the greatest urgency.
The monks chanted in unison, raising the wards. Eneko wondered whether this development should change the way that he saw his future duty. Perhaps Rome would see it that way. On the other hand, Alexandria was as much a city of the Mediterranean as was Venice or Rome. Unless he misread the intentions of the demonic force that had possessed Prince Jagiellon, it only sought geographical dominion in order to gain control over other things which were not of this world. What it sought could as easily lie hidden in the myriad scrolls and ancient books of magical lore in the great library at Alexandria. Eneko did understand that power left its mark on the very stones of places. It was almost as if the magic leached out into the surroundings, polluting them and changing them. Sometimes for the better, or, depending on the nature of the magic, the worse.
He shook himself away from these thoughts. It was his turn to perform the rituals. He could ill afford to be distracted. Even thus protected by Angelic wards the practice of magic reaching across great distances was still a very dangerous pastime, in which the practitioner was at great risk of interception and harm by hostile magic workers.