The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 26

Chapter 9 — Councils of the Mighty

Location: Edirne, Formerly Adrianopolis, Ottoman Capital

Time: Mid-afternoon, November 4, 1372

Sultan Murad I didn’t shout at the courier. He wanted to, but by this time in his life what he wanted to do almost never took precedence over what he needed to do. He was a large man with a tendency toward corpulence, mostly held in check by the fact that he rode with his army and worked out with sword and shield. Instead of shouting, he heard the man out, then thanked him for his service. With a gesture, he indicated that his aide should reward the man for his hard ride.

Then he ended court for the day and called his advisors. Especially Candarli Kara Halil, who was his first adviser in war and government, and his closest surviving friend. Almost the only person in the Ottoman Empire who wasn’t a threat to his throne.

Candarli Kara Halil Pasha said, “It’s the magic,” when John V’s insulting response to his command was described. “You know that he was trying for aid from the west. And you know that he failed. But this party from France . . . The western church has sent magi instead of troops to aid his cause. And now, with magic working in the world, that is a mighty gift. A gift mighty enough to make sniveling John brave.” Kara Halil tapped his pen against the inkwell as he thought. “And if it’s true that the wizards are from the future and bring with them magics that we cannot learn from our demons, that would make it an even greater gift.”

“So we should abandon Anatolia and attack Constantinople now?”

The crow that sat on a perch and was Kara Halil’s familiar cawed “No!” and the pasha looked at it. “You think not, my djinn?”

The crow said, “It’s the Mongols. They have an army of demons and they are encouraging the rebellion in Anatolia. The Mongols are the true threat.”


Kara Halil looked at the crow and considered. He knew that the djinn was from Themis, the land of Themis that was this land a thousand and more years gone by. He knew that the djinn didn’t really approve of the war in the mortal lands that were Themis’ lands. At the same time, the djinn couldn’t lie to him. So what it said was true. “My friend, is your view on this matter affected by your loyalty to the land of Themis?”

The crow hesitated. “I cannot be sure, though I am convinced that the greater threat is in Anatolia. But I am the most minor of djinn. You know that, Master. Not much greater than what the westerners would call a puck.”

Kara Halil turned back to Murad. “My lord, I think the djinn may well be right, but in the meantime we need to send spies to Constantinople to find out about these ‘twenty-firsters,’ as they are called, and perhaps to remove them from play.”

Kara Halil and Murad often spent pleasant evenings playing chess.

In this case, though, his lord shook his head. “No, my friend. We can’t let John’s rebellion stand. To do so would be to encourage others to rebel.”

Kara Halil looked at his lord and knew that the reason was valid, but not the true reason. Murad had much more control over his anger now than when he was younger, but the anger still lived deep in the core of the man. John’s failure to bow before Murad had angered him and John would be made to pay.

Location: Edirne, Formerly Adrianopolis, Ottoman Capital

Time: Shortly After Dawn, November 8, 1372

The Ottoman armies were moving out. One would travel south and cross the Straits of Marmara at Gallipoli under Candarli Kara Halil Pasha’s command, and move in the direction of the rebellion in Anatolia. Meanwhile, a much smaller force under the command of Murad I himself would go to Constantinople and cow the self-styled emperor of Byzantium, gather up the armies of Constantinople, such as they were, and take them across the Bosporus to Anatolia, where the two armies would combine to defeat the upstart beyliks of Anatolia.

Location: Royal Palace, Constantinople

Time: 10:35 AM, November 12, 1372

Bertrand du Guesclin stood in the council chamber and looked at the map. It was a beautiful thing. Five feet tall and eight wide, drawn on parchment in colored inks, and — if they could convince the crown — it would soon be enchanted. For the moment, it was hanging on the wall of the emperor’s privy council chamber. It covered north to the Danube and east to include all of Anatolia and west to the Adriatic Sea. The broad outlines were provided by the textbooks and maps shared across the computers of the twenty-firsters. They also provided locations of several key places like Constantinople, Thessalonica, and Edirne.

The coastline wasn’t perfectly accurate. Over more than seven hundred years it had changed, so the twenty-first century maps that came with the twenty-firsters were off. That would need to be fixed, but the basic idea was clear and not at all new to the people in the room. Control the narrows between the Black Sea and the Aegean and you had a good chance of holding Murad at bay. Fail to hold them and Murad would win.

What they didn’t have was any practical way of holding those narrows or preventing Murad from crossing them at will. Their ships were galleys and small sailing ships. Murad had more troops, more galleys, and more and better of nearly everything.

Further, the crown of Byzantium was broke. The royal purse was empty and the crown jewels in hock. Their credit was nonexistent and if the emperor went anywhere outside his shrinking borders, he was likely to be grabbed up by the locals for bad debts.

Only the twenty-firsters — and those they had told — had ever heard the word “gunboat.” That was about to change. “The sea route from Constantinople to Thessalonica is 377 miles. At a speed of ten miles an hour, traveling constantly, it’s a day and a half trip,” Bertrand said.

“Closer to a week,” Manuel II said. “I traveled from there to here a week before you people arrived. I was on a galley and we stopped when the weather was up and for a few hours most nights.”

“With better navigation and a steam engine, you could make the trip much faster,” Annabelle Cooper-Smith said.

Bertrand cleared his throat. “The issue is that even a day and a half is too long if you are to maintain control of the straits. You need faster communications. There are a few ways we can do that, but the best and simplest is through a magical phone system.”

“What are the others?” Andronikos IV asked, giving the twenty-firsters a hard look.

“Fires on hilltops, semaphore towers. You don’t have the equipment to do non-magical radios or phones.” And as Andronikos bristled, Bertrand added hastily, “No one in this century truly does. What we learned in Paris was that we could use a combination of twenty-firster knowledge and demonic enchantment.” Bertrand silently cursed himself for using “demonic.” It was the way the demons — at least most of them — referred to themselves. But Andronikos was furious with his father over Manuel’s elevation to co-emperor and heir, and disliked anything his father liked at the moment. He was also strongly under the influence of Patriarch Kokkinos, who intended to control Christianity by making sure that only his “demons” were counted as “angels.” By now Bertrand was unconvinced that any of them were what the world had thought of as angels and demons before the veil was ripped asunder.

“The beings of the netherworld commonly called demons can be induced to occupy twenty-firster designed crystal radios that have speakers and microphones built in, and those devices can be networked through a phone or computer left in Pucorl’s lands. And as long as the crystal set is maintained in a single location with a pentagram around it connecting it to Pucorl’s lands, we can have almost instant communications anywhere we have a crystal set.

“We could also use Themis’ lands,” Roger interrupted, “if His Imperial Majesty can come to an agreement with Themis. That wouldn’t require a phone or computer to sort through the calls. Themis could create demons to manage the phone system.”

“How does Themis create demons?” Manuel asked. “I thought they were always there.”

“Demons make other demons out of their own substance. The process is a bit different from a mortal having a child, but it’s how new demons are made. According to Raphico, all the demons in the netherworld from whatever level were once part of God and will be again.”

“You’re saying they are all angels,” Andronikos said. “That’s blasphemy.”