The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 05

Location: Kitten’s Tree, Dryad’s Grove, Netherworld

Time: Late Evening, August 23, 1372

Leona looked around the grove and wondered. Why humans did things was always a mystery, and here she was with a human. At least, a sort of human she could talk to. “Why were you in my village, Kitten?”

Kitten yawned and curled up next to the tree. “We were going from Paris to Constantinople. Your village was on the way.”

“And why are you going to Constantinople? Is there good hunting there?”

Kitten’s eyes opened, then she giggled. “No, silly. Humans don’t have to hunt to eat. We’re on a mission.”

Leona was offended by the “silly” comment, but she was also curious. And, as usual for her, the curiosity won. “What sort of mission?”

“We’re looking for the cause of the rifts in the veils.”

“What are the rifts in the veils, and why should you care?”

“Because Wilber and Dr. Delaflote say that if the veils aren’t fixed, both the mortal world and the netherworld could be destroyed.” She yawned again. “I’m sleepy, Leona.”

Leona let her sleep, but Leona wasn’t a sleepy kitten and this news was disturbing. She didn’t know exactly what it meant, but if the world was destroyed, her grove back next to the village and this grove with the magic would be destroyed too. She needed to find out what was going on.

Location: Farming Village, Lorraine, France

Time: Early Morning, August 24, 1372

Kitten was worried. Leona was missing. She had spent the night in Kitten’s tree and wandering the dryad’s grove, but this morning she was missing and there wasn’t time to find her. They transported back to the field next to the village, and then they were off. Kitten rode in Pucorl, since Paul had his horse now and rode it most days. Roger, Liane Boucher and Wilber were also riding horses, but Mrs. Grady, Lakshmi Rawal, Jennifer Fairbanks and Bill Howe were in the van, along with Tiphaine de Raguenel, her personal servant Jolie, Dr. Gabriel Delaflote, and Monsignor Savona. Kitten’s tail came up and over her shoulder while she nibbled on the tip.

“What’s wrong, Kitten?” asked Mrs. Grady. In the time since they started traveling, Mrs. Grady and Kitten’s mom, Catvia, had come to an understanding. Catvia watched out for Paul in the netherworld, keeping him from getting an advanced education from the dryads, and in the mortal realm, Mrs. Grady looked after Kitten, since her mother lived in a computer when they were in the mortal world.

“Nothing,” Kitten insisted, without much hope.

“Kitten, do you really want me to call your mom?” Mrs. Grady asked.

“It’s really nothing. It’s just, well, I can’t find Leona.”

“Leona? Wait. You mean the stray cat that visited us yesterday? Surely it’s back at the village.” Something must have shown in her face because after a moment Mrs. Grady continued. “Kitten, what did you do?”

“She wanted to visit the grove.”

“You know that animals go nuts in the netherworld.”

“Only in the bad bits. And you know that Pucorl’s lands are almost as civilized as Themis’ lands.” Themis was a titan, the goddess of proper behavior that Philip the Bold had forced into a sword and who Roger had freed to return to her own realm. Roger still had the sword and there was a pentagram in Pucorl’s garage that connected it to Themis as there was one that linked to Merlin’s lands. “She was doing fine when I went to sleep last night.”

“So she is still in the netherworld?”

Location: Forest of Dean, England

Time: Before Dawn, August 24, 1372

Leona felt the shift even here. She grabbed the fat field mouse by its broken neck and slipped through the gap in the veil back to Pucorl’s lands, arriving where she had left, in the grove of the dryads next to the babbling brook.

Location: Brook, Pucorl’s Lands, Netherworld

Time: Early Morning, August 24, 1372

Leona settled on the bank, eating her field mouse and chatting with the brook. It was the first time she had ever encountered a babbling brook, and she was finding it interesting and frustrating at the same time. She knew there were fish in the brook, but the brook babbled on about the dappled sunlight and how she had been forced to change her course when Pucorl moved in to the area. But the brook said not a word about where Leona should pounce if she wanted fish for lunch.

“Anyway, when Chevalier Pucorl’s lands floated up from the netherworld –”

“I thought this was the netherworld.”

“No, silly. This is the Elysian Fields which reside between the netherworld and the crystal spheres. When Chevalier Pucorl got knight –”

Suddenly the whole place got weird. The hairs on Leona’s back stood up all on their own, nothing had changed, yet everything was different. “What?” Leona meowed.

“Oh, that. The chevalier is not in residence. Like I was saying, Chevalier Pucorl got knighted. These lands are him. The lord is the land and the land is the lord. Since Chevalier Pucorl got knighted, these lands are a part of him and he is a part of them. They respond to his presence or absence. Did you know that Themis herself confirmed the Chevalier’s knighthood? That’s much better than being knighted by a mortal king. She also confirmed his eating Beslizoswian.”

“Wait a second. How can she confirm his eating this Beslizoswian? Either he did or he didn’t, right?”

“Well, no, silly. He defeated Beslizoswian, subsumed him, but Beslizoswian was a demon lord. Its lands were a monstrous cavern below Themis. I don’t care if he was in the body of a van and wearing a cold iron cow catcher, a puck doesn’t eat a demon lord. Beslizoswian would have re-formed in a few years from the stuff of the cavern, or Themis could have cut Pucorl open and pulled Beslizoswian out right then, like Zeus pulled Saturn and his other siblings out of Cronus. Instead, she confirmed Pucorl’s victory, so all the land that was Beslizoswian is now part of Pucorl. It’s still moving from under Themis to here. And it’s been pushing other parts of the Elysian Fields out of the way as it moves in. And land doesn’t like to move.”

“Never mind that. You demons eat each other?”

“Sure, fish and deer, foxes and cattle are drinking me all the time.”

“And that doesn’t bother you?”

“Not especially. In a few days I’ll be swallowed up by a river then the river will be swallowed by the sea. But it all comes back around. Go ahead, have a taste.”

Leona did. The water was cool and clear. It tasted of forest glades and fruit trees. Leona was almost used to the change in the land since Pucorl left, but the difference was still there. Not so much that the place was more magical, but more that the restrictions on that magic were loosened. This glade out behind Pucorl’s garage and next to the dryads’ grove was a tricksy kind of place, full of wonder, but not at all safe. She could feel it.

But she was more interested in the fact that demons ate other demons, and that she could drink a demon. At least, she could drink from a babbling brook and the brook didn’t get mad about it. It was a different way of thinking about the world than she was used to. It offered all sorts of possibilities, so for the next little while, she asked about how this whole demon eating demon thing worked. “So does a wiloklisp own the land like a demon lord?”

“No, silly. A wiloklisp is more like a puck, except they are posted as guards, used to delay enemies, or draw them into traps.”

“So if a wiloklisp got eaten, it wouldn’t have to be confirmed? It would merely be eaten?”

“It depends.” The brook was bright, a bit flighty, tumbling over rocks and dancing in the sunlight. “Most wiloklisp are owned by a lord of some sort. So if one gets eaten, then the eater should have the permission of the lord. Unless it has a protector of its own.”

About then, the change that took place when Chevalier Pucorl left was reversed. And a moment later, the brook said, “You need to go back to the garage. Pucorl wants to talk to you.”

“I don’t see why.” Leona yawned in indifference that was only partly feigned. She was, after all, a cat.

“These are Pucorl’s lands. Piss him off and you’re going to spend a lot of time getting rained on and getting burrs in your fur.”

“Well, if you’re going to be that way about it.”