The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 34
In the van, Annabelle heard what was going on, and pushed the down button on the power windows. They didn’t move.
“Pucorl! You open that window unless you want me to shoot through your roof.”
“Shoot through my roof then. Better holes in me than in you,” Pucorl shouted back.
“I can’t see through the roof. Open the window.”
The window opened to Pucorl’s pleas for her to be careful.
With nothing really approaching care, Annabelle grabbed the upper edge of the window frame and pulled herself half out of the van. Then, with her right hand, she grabbed her pistol, pointed at the Turk who was less than two feet away, and shot.
Pucorl had twisted his front wheels and his rear wheels, and turned to keep her door away from the Turkish army. Not easy, since they were surrounded.
Annabelle would always insist that was why she missed.
She fired again. And missed again. This time it was close enough to singe the Turk’s beard. And now she had all of his attention. Well, all the attention that he could spare from riding a bucking van.
A third shot punctured the Turk’s breastplate, and he forgot all about holding onto Pucorl’s armor. Half a second later, he was on the ground.
And a second after that he was roadkill.
Annabelle slipped back into the van and with no buttons pushed at all, the window went back up.
Roger was almost out of the straps when the Turk went over the side, but he was bleeding from a wide gash in his right upper arm and a thoroughly busted nose. He flattened back onto Pucorl’s roof and pulled out his med kit, cursing a blue streak all the while. He was effectively out of the battle for now. There was no way he could shoot with this arm, and using Themis left handed wasn’t going to be easy.
While they were fighting the Turk on the roof, the rest of the central Turkish column had turned into a raging mass of men and horses.
Almost from the beginning, the front of that column wanted nothing so much as to get away from the armored monster and out of the rain of fire from the rooftops of Corlu. But they were blocked by the troops behind them. With the front pushing back and the back pushing forward, the whole column ground to a stop.
On the rooftops of Tzouroulos, eighty men equipped with breech-loading demon-lock carbines laid down continuous fire on the writhing mass of Turkish cavalry. Most of them were good shots, and all of them were veterans of a kind of “up close and personal” warfare that left men completely inured to the horrors of killing. They aimed and fired, and not a one of them closed their eyes or aimed over the heads of the enemy.
They still hit more horses than men, but that was because the horses were bigger targets. Actual misses were rare because when shooting into that sort of mass you almost had to hit something.
Gradually, as the realization reached the rear that things were not going well, the pressure on the front of the central column eased up and people started running. First a trickle, then a flood. Because, to the uninitiated, rifles really are a terror weapon. A loud noise and death from the sky that you can’t fight against. Skill doesn’t matter, courage and toughness don’t matter, the only route to safety is getting the hell out of there. And, unlike arrows or spears, you can’t even see it coming.
You’re dead, or a cripple.
Murad’s army, tough and savvy soldiers in sword to sword warfare, simply couldn’t face it.
Bill and his horse were in demon-enchanted armor. The enchantment made the steel breast- and backplate and the chain mail light as a feather and flexible as silk. Which, as it happened, was a good thing for Bill, because the left flanking force of the Ottomans was coming right at him and Andronikos. While Bill was on the phone to Bertrand to get instructions, Andronikos shouted, “Charge!” and five hundred Byzantine cavalryman rode out with lances high and pennants flying.
Bill, perforce, went with them. Bill didn’t have a lance. Instead, he had a shield, his phone under the breastplate of his armor, and a six-shot demon-lock revolver.
The two forces met and more of the Byzantines went down than the Turks.
Bill, a couple of ranks back, wasn’t in the brunt, but he did take a few shots. He never knew if they hit anyone. The upshot was that the charge, after the initial clash, turned into a melee. Most of the lances on both sides were lost, and more of the Byzantine knights went down than the Turkish ones. They were getting pushed back and Bill saw that Andronikos was up against two Turks. He raised his pistol, but then a Turk was riding at him, so he turned his gun that way and fired. The Turk’s horse reared. Bill didn’t know if he hit the horse, the rider, or if it was the noise that caused the horse to rear, but he was pushed back and by the time he looked again he couldn’t see Andronikos.
“Sherlock,” Bill shouted to his phone. “Get me the general. We’re being forced back.”
Moments later Bertrand was on the line. “Try to delay them a little, Bill. The Turkish center is broken and we’re holding on the left. If you can keep them occupied for a little, I’ll get Pucorl to hit them in the flank.”