The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 09
Roger moved slowly, rifle held ready to fire. The rifle was a distance weapon. It had rifling and enchanted sights. That would let him see where the bolt would go. But that wouldn’t matter much today, because there wouldn’t be time to aim. This was more a Wild West gunfight than a formal duel. It would start when one of them started to move.
Roger watched, right hand on the trigger, left hand holding the barrel. Roger was a good shot, and before they were brought here, he had hunted birds and shot skeet with his father.
He was never sure what it was that brought him to decision, but in a moment he was moving, and so was the elf lord. As the elf lord lifted the bow and pulled the bowstring, Roger lifted the barrel of his rifle with his left hand and pulled the trigger long before the rifle reached his shoulder.
The hammer struck the home of the salamander and the little demonic creature of flame was released. It consumed the charge of black powder in a tiny fraction of a second, then retreated back to its home as the bullet sped across the field.
The elf lord’s bow came up and as the bowstring touched his cheek, he heard the crack and felt the iron bullet rip through him, and it ripped him in a way that bronze or wood could never do. It ripped and twisted the connections that made him what he was. The bow was a part of him, the arrow was a part of him, as was his horse and to an extent the whole wild hunt. All were a part of him.
No more. All those connections were ripped asunder as the cold iron bolt ripped through him.
The elf shot bolt was bereft. In the normal course of things, it would be guided by its master to the target. But now it was loose, with no guidance. It went looking for a target, flying in random spirals.
It saw the strange cart that stank of magic, decided that was a target worthy of its attention, and flew at it.
It never got there.
It hit the wards and was broken and shattered into nothingness.
This cannot be, the elf lady thought in shocked horror. My lord is a being of magic. He cannot be harmed by a mortal. This was sport, nothing more. The worst that could possibly happen was that he might be forced back underhill to the netherworld, to return on another night. But truly damaged . . .
In horror, she ran.
And the wild hunt ran with her.
Location: Outside Donauworth, Germany
Time: Dawn, September 2, 1372
As the sun peeped over the horizon, the gates of Donauworth opened and the townspeople came out. Not all of them, but a goodly number. First were the poor and the sick, who came to see if the healing that Monsignor Savona promised was as real as the wild hunt and the fight seen by the city guard last night.
Then there were merchants and boatmen who, whatever the town fathers said, came to see if they might make a profit dealing with these people.
Liane Boucher pointed her camera, DW, at the child and the camera saw, but it saw with magic as well as integrated circuits. It saw — with advice from Raphico and knowledge from high school health and biology texts — how to see illness and what the things it saw in the little girl’s body meant, and then it sent that knowledge to Raphico by bluetooth connection.
By the time the little girl got to the angel-enchanted smartphone, Raphico knew what was wrong with her. She had tuberculosis, and Raphico went through not only wiping out the tubular bacilli, but explaining to the little girl’s body how to recognize them and fight them on its own.
With the images from DW, it took little energy.
The next patient had tapeworms. He was a man of thirty-five. And after him came a man with an infected jaw, the result of a decaying, impacted wisdom tooth.
It went on all day, with Raphico and DW having to take cooling breaks, for even with demonic help, each healing used the circuits of the camera and phone to direct the energies of the demon and angel, and that use heated the CPUs.
As it went on, several of the priests of the town watched. Finally, around two in the afternoon, one of the priests asked, “How can you believe that is an angel if it is so willing to talk with a demon?”
Cardinal de Monteruc said, “I have asked the same question many times. Raphico insists that the politics of Heaven are more complicated than mortals realize, or want to realize. For myself, I am skeptical of Raphico’s true allegiance. At the same time, I know that he is healing the sick and doing so in God’s name. And that I cannot condemn, not while I am not certain he is evil.”
Several of the local priests nodded as a man with a broken hand was healed.
The barge maker, after getting permission, went to Pucorl and grabbing his front bumper lifted. Well tried to lift. Pucorl didn’t help and weighed over four thousand pounds even empty. After grunting a bit he stood, looked at the van, shook his head and said. “It’s too big, too heavy. The water is shallow in many places this far up the Danube. The cart will make the barge sink three, maybe four, feet into the water and that’s too much draft. Better you go downriver to Ingolstadt.”
The barge he was talking about had thick walls of wood and would weigh a considerable amount even empty. Jennifer had a better — or at least different — idea. She wanted a thin-walled flotation chamber made from a wooden structure wrapped in cloth which would then be painted with boiled pine resin. The idea was to produce something between the doped canvas wings of a WWI airplane and a fiberglass boat body.
But as long as she was the one bringing it up, the bargeman was uninterested. When Bertrand demanded that he listen, his attitude changed. Mostly that was because Bertrand was a large, scary man, not an attractive teenage girl. But, in large part, it was because he assumed that Bertrand was in charge of the money, which wasn’t true.
As it happened, the biggest part of the twenty-firsters funds were owned by Mrs. Grady and her son Paul, who had sold a phone and a computer to the king of France. The next largest part was owned by Liane Boucher, because the pope, after a long, private talk with Monsignor Savona, had decided that she should be paid for her phone by the church. Even if she did give it directly to God, and not the church, it was given to God in care of the church.
More surprising than the church paying was that it stayed with Monsignor Savona instead of returning to Avignon with the pope. Raphico, however, had insisted. Cardinal de Monteruc had his own funds, and Bertrand had a chest of silver for expenses, but the people who would be paying for the barge — at least Pucoral’s barge — were going to be the twenty-firsters. So after two days of negotiations, Jennifer got her way.
Wilber didn’t have much in the way of cash, but he was in an excellent position to work his magic with the aid of Merlin. With Archimedes the crow, Doctor Delaflote and Wilber were fairly capable wizards.
“We,” the mayor, a fat man with an ermine cloak and a wide leather belt, said pompously, “will consider letting your party enter the city.” He looked around the tent. There were two rickety looking tables and six chairs. Seated in the chairs were Bertrand du Guesclin, his wife Tiphaine, Wilber Hyde-Davis, Gabriel Delaflote, and Mrs. Amelia Grady.
“Don’t trouble yourself,” said Wilber Hyde-Davis in excellent German. “It’s no trouble at all for us to stay here while we do our business. After all, Pucorl’s lands are only a moment away.” He waved at Merlin, who was open on the table, and the screen changed to show Pucorl’s lands with the dryads’ grove, the Happytime Motel, the garage and shop, and the little brook that wound its way around behind the garage and through the dryads’ grove.