The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 31
“I want to try something,” Wilber said. “But I am going to need Pucorl’s permission. Can you tell me why you didn’t want Merlin or Igor in on this call?”
“Because Merlin is a muse of a god that existed in France in the time of the Neanderthals. That god sleeps and is ignoring Merlin, and will continue to do so unless Merlin learns something that will aid it. If Merlin does learn something from you or your experiments that would be of great value to his creator, he will be obligated to inform it. I don’t know that that is a thing I wish to avoid, but it might be.”
“Makes sense,” Wilber agreed. “Let me see if I can come up with an excuse for what I want to try. By the way, what about Pucorl? Who does he owe fealty to?”
“After he gained Beslizoswian’s lands, Pucorl became a special case. He is independent . . . no, that’s not right. He is more powerful now than his creator was. His creator sleeps, and if it tried to force him to serve it, it would be subsumed. Pucorl is as close as the netherworld has to a truly independent being.”
“Right. I will do my best to restore to you what was taken, or at least replace it with something that will work. In the meantime, we need the phone system.”
At which point Themis was gone and Wilber was on the phone with Iris who immediately said, in Lily Tomlin’s operator voice, “Is this the party to whom I am speaking? Please hold.” And Muzak started up. Wilber was about to hang up when Iris came on and — still in Lily Tomlin’s voice — explained that she was really busy at the moment organizing the phone network. They were going to need to put pentagrams on their phone cases. “But everything will be up and running by tomorrow.”
Location: Near Tzouroulos, Byzantium
Time: 11:50 AM, November 20, 1372
As Pucorl approached the city of Tzouroulos, now called Corlu, there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth within the city. The Ottomans had taken Tzouroulos in 1355, renamed it Corlu, and torn down its walls, because Murad was a lot more concerned about Tzouroulos rebelling than he was about John V being able to do anything about his conquest of the city. Tearing down the walls was his none-too-subtle way of telling the people of Corlu that he would much prefer to see them dead than in rebellion.
The people of the city were unsure who they were more afraid of. Murad I and his army, who were approaching from the northwest, or the magical monster that was on the road from Byzantium from the southeast.
The Greek Orthodox Church was still allowed to operate and was profoundly concerned that if they in anyway supported John V, that forbearance on the part of their Ottoman overlords would cease.
Still, there was no attempt to build any sort of barrier. Murad had made it clear that if the walls returned, then he would tear down the whole city, sow it with salt and cast the entire city into slavery. Since most of the young men of the city were now Janissary slave soldiers in Murad’s army, the city fathers didn’t doubt the claim.
Pucorl twisted his front and rear wheels so that he shifted left while still keeping his windshield facing the city. A delegation of horsemen was riding out to meet them. They were wearing turbans and the sort of flowing clothing that went with the notion of an Arab warrior, but they were also wearing what looked to be perfectly functional breastplates and their turbans seemed to be attached to helmets.
Pucorl wasn’t alone. He had an escort of ten of Bertrand du Guesclin’s men at arms under the command of Charles de Long, who still didn’t have a replacement for Carlos. The demons, having heard about Carlos, were now anxious to avoid occupying anything, ah, edible.
There was also a company of some twenty knights of Byzantium, each with his retinue of squires and servants, so it was a fairly large group. Wilber, riding Meurtrier, and Leona were off to their left about fifteen miles, scouting. Leona was happy enough to scout as long as no one tried to claim any sort of ownership of her.
Roger was leading another group about fifteen miles to the right. And the largest part of the army, the rest of Bertrand’s riflemen, and almost two hundred Byzantine knights, were about four miles behind Pucorl. The reason for the placement was that they wanted the Ottomans to think that Pucorl was all there was, with maybe a couple of small scouting forces.
At about twenty yards out, the Ottomans pulled up and one raised a hand in the universal symbol for “stop where you are.”
Pucorl didn’t stop. He wasn’t under these people’s orders. Instead, he continued forward until he was about ten feet from the leader, who by now had a bow out, loaded and drawn.
There were, in this time, no guns that a cavalryman could wield while in the saddle.
Well, that wasn’t strictly true. The French army had flintlock breech-loading carbines. And Bertrand’s force had demonlock carbines. And, oh, yes, Annabelle, as well as the other twenty-firsters, all had six-shot demon-lock revolvers. Plus the long rifle that Roger had used to kill Philip the Bold and an arrogant elf lord.