The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 08
Chapter 3 — Donauworth
Location: Field Outside Donauworth, Germany
Time: 2:25 PM, September 1, 1372
The mayor of Donauworth wasn’t thrilled to see them. After one look at Pucorl, he refused any of them entrance into the city, even the cardinal.
Bertrand looked at the city that Paris made into a small town. He looked over at Pucorl and his cavalry, and wondered if he could take this city. That would be an extremely bad idea, starting a war between France and the Holy Roman Empire, so he bit down on his irritation and agreed to camp outside town.
As they were setting up camp, he asked Monsignor Savona to see about negotiating with the city’s burgers for entrance into the city. Only during daylight hours, and only to arrange to buy boats, barges, and food, for which they would pay in good French silver.
Monsignor Savona, Cardinal de Monteruc and the priests were refused entrance, but the senior local priest came to the gate and explained. “Since whatever it was happened, the city has been beset. The kobolds are spoiling the milk, the wild hunts run most nights, and the nixes are dancing naked up and down the river and singing in voices that tempt our young to debauchery and death.”
“There are wards, Father,” Monsignor Savona said. “Wilber Hyde-Davis is becoming adept at their use. And so is Doctor Delaflote.”
“Why would you accompany those who traffic with demons?” the priest asked. “Especially after your experience with the demons raising the dead to grim war.”
That brought on discussion of what happened in Paris and it was admitted that they were using demons to fight demons. Monsignor Savona introduced Raphico and when the priest held out his cross as though to ward off the phone, the phone’s screen lit with a golden cross on a field of white. Monsignor Savona mentioned that among the functions of the angel-enchanted phone was one of healing. And that even if the townsfolk wouldn’t let them in, they were still willing to heal the sick.
The priest promised to consider it.
Location: Field Outside Donauworth, Germany
Time: 10:15 PM, September 1, 1372
They came through the night, blowing ghostly horns that sent terror straight into the bones. They rode around the town, over the water as though it was firm land, then straight at the camp.
Bertrand was wakened by the howl of the trumpets and came out of his tent, sword in hand. Tiphaine was at the Happytime Motel, but after the warnings Bertrand, Roger, and Wilber had decided to spend the night in camp. Just in case.
Wilber was outside his tent, making magical gestures and intoning something in demonic. Roger had the Sword of Themis riding on his back, and as the wild hunt rode into view, Pucorl appeared in the middle of camp.
Leading the hunt was a tall man in armor that glowed silver. The man had long hair so pale it was white in the moonlight. He had no beard and his eyes were slanted up. He had pointed ears and his laugh was cold and evil. He rode straight at the wards with his companions and his hounds all about him.
As he reached the barrier, Roger drew the Sword of Themis, which lit with fire. And then the wild hunt hit the wards . . .
. . . and splashed.
First the dogs hit, and were ripped to bloody mist. And though the elf lord tried to turn, he wasn’t in time. He ran into the wall of magical force and his front half was turned into mist. There was a pause as the rest of the wild hunt diverted around the wards, some of them riding right through the walls of Donauworth as they tried to avoid the wards. They went around the wards, rode on, and then turned around. The wild hunt came back. By now, the elf lord was re-forming. His horse was still half bone, but he himself was almost back to his form, save for his right hand, which was bone with flesh starting to re-form on it.
In a voice like a banshee, he shouted, “Who dares interfere with my hunt?”
Roger looked at Bertrand. Bertrand looked at Roger.
In a loud voice, Wilber said, “That would be me. Now what are you doing in the mortal realms?”
“I go where I wish, mortal. These are my lands, whether mortal or fairy. Mortals are mine to hunt.”
“I’m right here. Hunt away.”
Suddenly a woman stood in the clearing. She held a book in one hand and scales in the other. It was Themis, and divinity glowed from her. She looked around, walked the wards, and while she did so everyone was held motionless. Within the wards, outside the wards, mortal and elf in the field and on the walls of Donauworth, no one could move but to look at her. She examined Wilber’s wards and clucked her tongue, pointing at flaws. Wilber blushed.
She looked at the elf lord, and he said, “This is not your place.”
“As justice is everywhere, I am everywhere. As decency is everywhere, I am everywhere.”
Then she went over to Roger. “But, Roger, there is also freedom. Theirs as well as yours. So this I lay upon you. You may use my sword to defend yourself and your companions.” She looked around, saw Leona sitting on Pucorl’s dashboard and smiled. “Even to the cat who has joined your company. However, you may not use my sword simply to strike those you dislike or disapprove of.” The book became a torch and she held it high. “For they too have freedom.”
Roger looked at her, then he looked at the elf lord who was starting to smile. “What about my rifle?”
Themis laughed. “You too are free, Roger. But don’t use my sword for this.” She looked around again and then faded away.
Roger put the Sword of Themis over his back, and turned to his tent, but one of the squires was ahead of him. The lad, perhaps seventeen, had the rifle in his hands and was running over to bring it to Roger.
“Thank you,” Roger said, taking the rifle
“Husband,” said a beautiful elven woman with flaming hair and glowing eyes, “will you let the night’s sport be spoiled by this rude interruption and these mortals who think themselves our equals?”
Until that moment, Roger noted, there was at least a chance that the wild hunt would pack it in for the night. But not now. He sighed, and lifted the rifle.
“Coward!” roared the elf lord. “Hiding behind your wards while you attack me from afar.”
Roger looked at him, then at Bertrand.
Bertrand shrugged. “He has a point. But, at the same time, if he’s after a duel, it should be between you and him.”
“The thing that I’m worried about,” Roger said quietly as he walked over to Bertrand, “is the town. Those people have no defense against the wild hunt and the way the powers that be are reacting, they aren’t going to have one either. They won’t even let us help them unless we demonstrate that we are on the side of the angels, so to speak. If we do nothing but sit here in our camp, those folk –” He hooked a thumb at the wild hunt. ” — are going to take their frustration out on the town.”
“If you desire a duel, elf lord, then face him one on one!” Bertrand shouted.
The elf lord waved away his fellows. He sheathed his sword, and gathered up an elven bow, then dismounted and walked to stand a ways off. Roger opened the rifle. It was a breech loading weapon that opened like a shotgun. He loaded it with an iron bolt that had a lead sabot around it, then with a block of shaped black powder. That last wouldn’t work without the demon that resided in the firing chamber.
Roger closed the weapon and carefully stepped over the glowing wards without touching them. He could feel the magic flow around him.
The elf lord watched the mortal step out from the wards and let the rage take him. How dare this flyspeck consort with titans and embarrass him before his lady? But there was calculation in his heart as well as rage, for the fool brought the Sword of Themis with him. And to the victor goeth the spoils. He smiled and laid the elven shaft into the bow. He waited.