The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 07
Location: Pucorl’s Garage, Netherworld
Time: 9:37 PM, August 24, 1372
Roger stepped into the pentagram in a room off the mechanic’s bays in Pucorl’s garage. This was a special pentagram. It went from Pucorl’s lands to the land of Themis. He bowed and sat in the chair.
A moment later the titan Themis appeared in the pentagram, sitting on her throne. “Hello, Roger,” Themis said. “What can I do for you today?”
Themis was a friend. Normally mortals didn’t count titans as friends, in the same way that peasants didn’t normally think of kings as friends. Only more so. But this was a special case. Roger McLean had, for a short time, owned Themis and had freely given her to herself, freeing her from the bondage that Beslizoswain, a demon lord, had forced on her. It was partly that Roger gave her freedom, but mostly that he did so not out of expectation of reward, but because it was the right thing to do. And Themis was the titan of right behavior. It was a bond between them.
Besides, as a titan and the parent of a god or two, Themis could be in as many places at once as she needed to.
“Mostly some advice, Themis. We were wondering who we should recruit to enchant a river boat.”
“That’s an interesting thought. You know I extend out to sea some way. Well, partially. My nephew Poseidon shares, ah, I guess you would say sovereignty of the coastal areas with me.” Themis was referring to the fact that she was both the queen of her lands and the land itself. Her body, as it were, was the entire land of Themis, which was roughly analogous to the Thrace of the ancient world, and included most of the remaining Byzantine Empire. And apparently she mixed with Poseidon on the coast.
“Before I was stolen from my place and forced into the sword, I had a lovely sea monster locked in the Bay of Athyra. It would have been a thousand years ago. When I was forced to enchant the dead for –” Her voice became as cold as a glacier on Pluto. “– that creature Philip, I used the more powerful, but not necessarily brighter, of my servants to enchant those who were to serve that creature personally. The kraken I am thinking about wasn’t all that thrilled to be locked in my bay in the first place, and it’s one of those who declined to return after you allowed me to free them. It’s residing in a rock at the bottom of a creek in France at the moment. I can ask it if it would like a change of residence.”
Which she certainly could, since she knew the creature’s full name to the last accent on the least syllable. Demonic kind were controlled mostly by the invoking of their name. The more of their name you knew, the more control you had over them. The kraken wasn’t in that rock only because it chose to be, but because Themis, who had learned to love freedom, allowed it to stay in that rock.
Location: Happytime Motel, Pucorl’s Lands, Netherworld
Time: 9:45 PM, August 24, 1372
There was a meow and the door to Wilber’s apartment in the Happytime opened enough to let Leona in.
“Pucorl, in the future, wait until I invite someone in, please.” It was Pucorl’s lands, and he could control things like doors at will.
“Why? You weren’t doing anything important. Reading your books.”
“Meow,” Leona said. It meant “I need to talk to you.” And Wilber decided that the discussion of manners with Pucorl could wait. It would be an utterly useless discussion anyway.
“What do you want to talk about, Leona?”
“Is the world going to end?” As she meowed, her body sank to the floor, ready to pounce or jump out of the way. Which was cat for “intensely concerned,” which made sense.
Wilber was intensely concerned himself. He sighed. No matter how important the issue, you couldn’t spend all your time waiting to pounce. “I don’t know. It could happen if the veils aren’t repaired. As long as they were in place, the netherworld slid right by the natural world with little interaction in either direction. But now it could be that as the netherworld moves, it will rip apart our world and vice versa. Honestly, I think that the vice versa is more likely, that the netherworld will be destroyed. But that doesn’t mean that the side effects won’t knock down mountains and shift Earth’s orbit so that we fall into the sun, or are thrown right out of the solar system. The planet will still be in basically one piece, but everyone will be dead.”
And because of Wilber’s magic, Leona understood every word. They talked into the night and Leona learned that the threat to the universe wasn’t that bad, or might be even worse. Time in the netherworld wasn’t the same as time in the natural. In the netherworld, it was cyclic. In the natural world, linear. So when this destruction would occur was hard to calculate. It might be a million years in the future or a million years in the past, but most likely would be right around the time when the veils were ripped. So, if they failed to fix the problem, they might well cease to exist.
“That makes no sense,” Leona meowed.
“I know. It’s because we aren’t sure how the two timelines will interact. But Themis is concerned, and her calculations add up. We have to stabilize things, and that means we have to figure out what caused the rifts in the first place.”
Location: On the Road, France
Time: 8:40 AM, August 25, 1372
Roger slid the black charger up alongside Bertrand’s huge gray and said, “I talked with Themis last night. She knows a kraken that might want to be a river boat.”
“We will need more than one.” Bertrand glanced at Roger then went back to scanning the fields and hedges around them. “If we are going to enchant river boats with demons, we will need at least half a dozen. Nor am I convinced that a kraken is the best option.”
“Kraken are based on cephalopods, and aside from whales are the brightest things in the oceans,” Roger said. “Besides, one of their means of locomotion is their legs.”
“And what good does that do us if we are putting it into a boat? The last time I checked, boats didn’t have legs.”
“No, but river boats have poles to push against the land or oars to move through the water. Perhaps those can double as the kraken’s legs.”
Bertrand shrugged shoulders so wide as to make him seem almost dwarfish. “Talk to Annabelle.”
“I think better Jennifer,” Roger said. “Annabelle is more of a mechanic. I don’t know how much she knows about boats. Jennifer has a better background in physics.”
“Consult with both then, but consider whales if the netherworld has them.”
Roger turned his horse and headed back to the van.
“How they bouncing?” Pucorl asked as Roger rode up.
Roger ignored the quip. Pucorl had been a puck for millennia before he got the van for a body. It was in his nature to be a smart ass. “Annabelle, you know anything about boats?”
“Not much,” Annabelle said, leaning out Pucorl’s driver’s side window. The van was only traveling about eight miles an hour. “And nothing at all about the ships of this time. Engine girl, here.”
“I was afraid of that.” He pulled out his phone “Jennifer, you got a minute?”
“I guess. What’s up, Roger?”
Roger could see her bay gelding pull away from one of the priest’s wagons, and canter up to the van. “I need to know about boats.”
“What kind of boats?”
“Riverboats.” He explained about his plan to use the Danube to get them to Constantinople faster.
“Bertrand okay with that?”
“Yes, reasonably. Assuming we can find a riverboat big enough to hold Fatso here.” He hooked a thumb at the van, which was twice the size of the cardinal’s carriage, which was the second largest vehicle in their caravan.
“Not Fatso,” Pucorl insisted. “The Incredible Van. You know, like the Incredible Hulk.” The van, as it happened, was painted dark green. It was one of the standard colors that the van came in, and Pucorl’s body had started life as a school van. “And assuming you can find a river boat suited to my –” Pucorl honked a haughty sniff. “– grandeur. What are you going to do for the rest of the party? That’s a lot of riverboats and I ain’t dragging them all along behind me.”
“We hire some. Even if they don’t have anything big enough for you, they ought to have some that will hold horses and wagons.”