The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 10
It was, in its — to Wilber’s mind — tacky way, a nice place and much better than sharing a bedbug-infested canvas sack filled with hay in one of the local inns. But Wilber knew perfectly well that that wasn’t what this was about. This meeting was about kobolds and wards to keep the wild hunt out of Donauworth — and for that matter, off the backs of the peasants harvesting the grain that would feed the region for the winter into next spring. Mayor Fats was trying for bargaining points. “On the other hand, if you want to talk to Cardinal de Monteruc, I’m sure he will be pleased to know the town is now open to him.”
Wilber hid a smile as the mayor’s face congealed before his eyes.
The mayor looked around at the rest of those present, and Bertrand spoke.
“Well, I thank you for your city council’s forbearance. My men will be better for the occasional night in a tavern.”
“There are conditions.” The mayor jumped back on script like a starving dog on a steak.
“I’ll instruct my men to be on their best behavior,” Bertrand offered airily.
“It’s not that. It’s . . . well, it’s the elves and the kobolds. You have to get rid of them for us.”
“That’s easier said than done,” Gabriel said. “And it may not be possible at all.”
“But they’re demons! Fey creatures! And you’re wizards. You have to be able to get rid of them.” The mayor went from bluster to begging in a moment, and in spite of the way they had been treated, Wilber felt for the guy.
But that didn’t change the facts. The veil was in shreds, and kobolds didn’t live far below the surface in places like this. Donauworth had been here for centuries and its echoes affected the netherworld. On the other side of the veil was a fairly close copy of Donauworth, and that copy was the home of kobolds, one for every structure in the town. They lived there and were affected by the actions of the inhabitants of Donauworth for the simple reason that the netherworld, that other universe that impinged on the imperial plane, had little structure of its own. The netherworld got imprinted, and by now the beings in that other realm were mostly converted into what the people living here for the last thousand years or so thought was there.
And now they could cross from their copies of the houses of Donauworth right into the real world houses. Usually at the hearth, because that was the center of most homes.
“We can’t make them leave,” Wilber said, “because they live here too. Always have. It’s only that their ‘here’ is a half a beat to the side. Out of the corner of your eye. And they had nothing to do with the ripping up of the veil that separates our world from theirs.”
“Then you can’t help us? But you fought off the wild hunt.”
“That was different,” Bertrand said. “While the fey are local to the region, the wild hunt participants aren’t local to Donauworth, and they are from a couple of levels farther away. It was Roger and his rifle that did for the elflord. But at least for the town proper, Wilber and Doctor Delaflote should be able to produce wards to keep the wild hunt away.”
“And,” added Tiphaine, “with the aid of Pucorl and the twenty-firsters, if you are willing and reasonable, we should be able to negotiate some sort of rapprochement with the kobolds and other fey creatures that inhabit your town. Back in our lands in France, we managed fairly well with simple courtesy.”
The discussion went on. Ways and means, what the town wanted, and what it would accept. Then, after they had a rough idea of what the powerful in Donauworth wanted, it was time to find out what the kobolds wanted.
They would open the gates and Pucorl would drive to the central square, and then slip across into the netherworld. Not back to his place, but to that part of the netherworld that matched this place.
The sun was bright as Pucorl, with Annabelle, Roger, Wilber, and Doctor Delaflote shifted. The sun dimmed as though it was behind a cloud, but it wasn’t. The sun was still there, glowing yellow in a blue sky, but a bit dimmer. The town too was dimmer, and the houses were shorter, to suit the size of the people who were mostly kobolds. There were others of the magic world here, some with names of legend, some with no name that any living human would know. The arrival of Pucorl in their midst was a shock for them and the LanddÃsir of Donauworth. In truth, she was the LanddÃsir of Donauworth before Donauworth was Donauworth, back when it was a fishing village and a crossing point before Christianity got to this part of the world. Her name was long since forgotten by any living person, but she was the mistress and mother to the kobolds of Donauworth and the other fey of the area. Her name was long and complex and not something she was willing to share, but a thousand years before, when the villagers offered gifts at her shrine, she was called Mareike ves Landdisir
Talks with Mareike were complicated by the fact that she was miffed that she had been forgotten, and not at all pleased with the Catholic Church, which had enforced the forgetting. Her priestesses had been murdered by Christian mobs.
“I think we are going to need Raphico for this,” Wilber told Roger a few minutes in.
“I think we are going to need Tiphaine,” Roger said.
“Let’s wrap this up and go get them both.”
There was also the fact that while the kobolds were Mareike’s children, they weren’t the most obedient of children. There was some question as to whether she could command them to behave, even if she wanted to.
Even with the inclusion of Tiphaine and Raphico, the negotiations took the rest of the time they were in Donauworth and were still ongoing when they left. What was in place was more like a framework for the individual households of Donauworth to make their own deal with the kobold of their house or the river spirits for fishermen, that sort of thing.
What the twenty-firsters, and especially Pucorl, got out of the deal were several barges, including a large purpose-built, flat-bottomed enchanted barge for Pucorl. They needed the enchantment for two things.
One because the barge without enchantment wouldn’t last the trip down the river. It was too flimsy and, as it turned out, a lot of fish found the resin-soaked cloth that was its skin absolutely delicious. The demon who inhabited the barge managed to make the little fishes leave it alone by making the barge seem a large hungry predator, which was what the spirit they called to the barge was — a kraken from the sea next to Themis’ lands. It had gotten caught up in the battle for Paris, and was looking for a new body.
The first thing the kraken, who chose to be called Joe Kraken, did was demand that the poles that pushed the barge along the river be replaced. Not good enough, not flexible enough, according to Joe Kraken.
Instead . . .
“That’s kind of creepy,” said Jennifer, as she watched the workmen attach the leather and canvas tentacles with their leather suckers to the bottom rear of the barge. There were ten of the things, eight that were ten meters long and a half meter thick at the base, and two that were fifteen meters long and a meter wide at the base.
“That’s not the half of it,” Roger said, pointing at the back of the kraken barge where they were installing — also at the kraken’s insistence — a beak made of wrought iron, a leather tongue embedded with “teeth,” and a gullet that went into the body of the barge. The kraken would be able to eat.
Once the new tentacles, mouth and so on were added, they re-did the enchantment. As they had learned with Pucorl, repeating the enchantment process let the kraken migrate into its new additions to its body.