The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 18

In the Byzantine Empire they had two emperors as a sort of a holdover from the two consuls of the old Roman republic. And John V’s son and former co-emperor Andronikos IV was no fan of his father or his father’s decisions. Especially John V’s conversion to Catholicism. So it was a safe bet that he wasn’t thrilled by a bunch of Catholic wizards with diplomatic immunity. Manuel, the recently crowned co-emperor, was something of a cypher.

“As you say, Majesty. Please excuse the ingrained caution of an old soldier.” As Father Dalpozzo translated, Bertrand turned to Roger and said, “Give Pucorl a call and let him know we have confirmed our diplomatic status with His Majesty.”

Roger pulled Clausewitz out of his inside pocket and checked. “No bars, General. We are too far from Pucorl, and will be until we can install a pentagram link or until he gets closer.” They were a bit over fifteen miles from Pucorl, and without a network to go through, that was too far.

Again the emperor said something abrupt in Greek.

“He wants us to explain about the phones,” Father Dalpozzo said. “I told him we were out of range.”

Roger explained with Father Dalpozzo translating. “It’s like having a bunch of people standing some distance apart, yelling one to the next until the message gets to where you want it, or using signal fires. But when you add in the netherworld and the fact that distance and location aren’t constant there, it can get confusing. In this case, the issue is that we are too far from the nearest signal fire. If we had a link to Themis here, we could do it, because these are all her lands.”

“What?” John V shouted and the guards near the door turned to them. John waved them away, but his mouth was now almost firm. His lips pressed together in anger. “Does your titan ally claim my empire?”

When Roger got Dalpozzo’s translation, he tried to explain. “No, Your Majesty. Themis’ lands are in the netherworld, and a couple of energy states lower than here. She doesn’t claim any earthly lands.” That last wasn’t, Roger thought, entirely true. She didn’t claim direct rule over any earthly lands, but she — like any titan — could affect the luck of the king of a land. Especially a land that corresponded to her own as closely as this place did. And with the veil between the worlds in tatters, she could have even greater effect with less effort.

“I was simply pointing out that once we have a connection from the natural world to Themis’ lands, she will be able to facilitate communications all through ancient Thrace and Macedonia, since Themis is the land as well as its queen. That sort of sympathetic magic works consistently in the netherworld.”

“Can you contact this titan of yours?” John V asked, getting what Roger could only call a crafty look in his eyes.

“Yes. I carry her sword. I can contact her at any time.”

“Do so. I would have words with her.”

After consulting with Bertrand, Roger agreed. He drew the Sword of Themis and laid its point on the marble floor of the throne room. Then, beside him, holding the hilt of her sword, was Themis. Roger released his hold, and stepped back while Themis grew until the sword became little more than a short sword in her hand.

She spoke in Greek, but the Greek of Achilles and Homer. “What do you want of me, John?” She gave him no other title. Nor did she need to. The crafty look was gone from John’s eyes, and Roger thought the old guy was going to climb off his throne and prostrate himself.

With a lift of her hand, she stopped him. “Do not fall on your belly before me. I abhor slavery in all its forms.”

“It is true,” John murmured. “Themis, she of the lovely cheeks, she of the good counsel. Counsel me, Lady. Advise me.”

“Hm . . .” Themis sat on a golden throne that hadn’t been there a moment before. “No, I don’t think so. At least not in any detail. I would not have you the slave of my counsel any more than a slave in chains. I will not tell you all. Speak to your astrologers and counselors. Listen and consider, but consider first not what is best for you, but what is best for the land. I will make a request . . .” She held up a hand. “A request only. Not a command. Find a place in the city and build a temple for me, so that those who wish may come to lay what offerings they choose before me and ask what boons of me they seek.”

“The church would never allow it,” John said. And both Father Dalpozzo and Monsignor Savona nodded agreement, while Raphico said, “You got that right.”

Themis smiled — well, smirked — then handed the sword to Roger and disappeared.

Location: Pentagram in Gari

Time: 8:50 AM, October 2, 1372

The pentagram glowed and Pucorl got a phone call from Themis. “I’m having a chat with John V Palaiologos. You have your guarantees. At least, so far as the emperor is concerned. I wouldn’t count on its preventing the church from getting involved.”

The remaining twenty-firsters and their company started packing up and getting ready to travel along the Bosphorus to Constantinople.

Location: Docks of Constantinople

Time: Mid-afternoon, October 4, 1372

The crowd was large as the not so little flotilla of riverboats docked on a pier of the large port of Constantinople. Joe Kraken pushed out his ramp and Pucorl drove onto the stone pier. Then, down the pier to the streets of the city, where Roger met them with Clausewitz in hand.

“The emperor is putting us up in the Magnaura,” Roger said as he turned his horse to lead them to the large building. Aside from being a school, it also had fairly luxurious quarters for diplomatic guests.

“So, any word on Gabriel’s friend?” Amelia Grady asked.

“Unlike Gabriel, Theodore Meliteniotes doesn’t have anything approaching diplomatic immunity. Negotiations are still under way to get us in to see him. On the upside, John V would like to have Tiphaine run up a detailed horoscope for him and one for each of his family.”

“I already have,” Tiphaine said. “And after reading them, I did one for Savci Bey.”

None of this was really news. They had been talking on the phone since Pucorl got within range. That was how they knew which pier to use.