The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 40
Chapter 12 — A Pause to Breathe
Location: The House of Gaius Augustus Crassus, Constantinople
Time: 3:34 PM, November 25, 1372
The afternoon sunlight pouring through the glazed windows was augmented by candelabras along the walls of the hall. The ladies in their gowns and the gentlemen in their tunics, which were shorter gowns, made a glittering display. Or would, if you hadn’t grown up with twenty-first century Paris fashions, materials, and techniques. The silks from China didn’t shine and the dyeing was sometimes like unintentional tie-dyed.
Someone should mention buttons to these folks, Wilber thought, then remembered “someone” had. He was wearing a buttoned up jacket. So were the other members of the French delegation in attendance, even Dr. Delaflote.
It wasn’t the pretension that bugged him. Wilber’s mom could, and often did, look down her nose at the world about as thoroughly as anyone he’d ever known. What he found increasingly irritating was that these people seemed to think they were the real deal.
“You’re not dancing,” Liane said in twenty-first century French which now had a bit of a fourteenth century accent.
“Neither are they.” Wilber pointed at the dancers with his chin. “They’re almost strolling to the almost beat.”
“They’re not that bad.”
Wilber looked at her and said, “What? The French fashionista is suggesting that I put a bone in my nose and bay at the moon with the local street gang that thinks it’s a civilization?”
Liane laughed. “Well, maybe not the bone through the nose. Something tasteful, like a diamond stud.”
“Hey, at least some of the girls are good looking.”
“Not so you’d notice,” Wilber said. “Too much rice pudding and too many sweets for most of them.” That was true. Constantinople was apparently the father of the western world’s obesity problem.
Aurelia spoke French. One of the family maids was French and she had learned it. Besides, for some reason the man’s French was more understandable than it should have been. She looked out at the dancers, then at the man. He was wearing a . . . something. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it had sleeves that went down to the wrists, and she couldn’t imagine how he had gotten into the top or the pantaloons. It was a style of clothing that her father couldn’t buy, that the emperor couldn’t buy, because no one knew how to make it in the first place.
What a haughty disagreeable man, she insisted to herself. It was true that he was attractive. Tall and slim, with sandy blond hair and clear blue eyes. He was clean shaven, which gave him an exotic look.
Location: Guest Quarters, Magnaura, Constantinople
Time: 8:30 AM, February 25, 1373
After the battle of Tzouroulos, things started getting organized, at least a bit. Bertrand and Roger got stuck with Andronikos and were raising, training, and using a small but growing army to take back Byzantium. Their efforts were aided by the fact that the Turks were in disarray after the death of Murad because Savci Bey and his brothers were locked in a desperate battle with each other to determine who would be the next sultan of the Ottoman Empire, even as the rebellion in Anatolia was growing.
Meanwhile, the rest of the twenty-firsters and most of the French priests were back in Constantinople, trying to start the industrial revolution.
Jennifer Fairbanks, Annabelle Cooper-Smith, and the master coppersmith all leaned over the wide sheet of papyrus, looking at the design of the tube boiler. It was a modification of a design developed at the University of Paris. Steam power was a technology that the twenty-firsters knew existed, but not a lot more. They did know a little more. They had all seen pictures of steam locomotives and they all knew about internal combustion, including the fact that they had cylinders that pushed pistons. Between that and experiments in France, and the memory that there was such a thing as a tube boiler, they were trying to decide if the coiled bronze tube would hold enough pressure to run a steam engine.
“The only way to learn is to try,” Jennifer said.
“That’s an awfully expensive test.”
“Maybe we could build a scale model, one-tenth scale. That would use a lot less bronze.”
“But we don’t know if the cube square law applies,” Jennifer insisted.
“What is the cube square law?” asked the mastersmith.
They tried to explain and got nowhere fast, until Annabelle mentioned that it was why puppies have such big feet. “They have feet in scale to the adult dog they will be.”
The coppersmith still didn’t really understand, but at least now he mostly believed.
Location: Harbor, Constantinople
Joe Kraken tightened his “guts” and squirted a jet of water out his stern. Squid don’t have a front and back the way that people or boats do. They go this way and that, depending on circumstances. And Joe wasn’t a squid anyway. He was a kraken, a sea monster, bigger by far than the largest giant squid. Joe was in a designed body. A body whose primary design function was to act as the transport for Pucorl. His “mantle,” for want of a better term, was the body of the barge, the part that Pucorl sat on. He could move most readily in that direction, but his tentacles, mouth, and jet were in the stern and his underwater eyes were on the sides. Close to shore or in shallow water, he mostly moved using his tentacles, walking along the river or sea bed. But out in the bay he used his jet to push himself and his tentacles as fins, or sometimes as though he was swimming.
Joe was much more maneuverable than a normal boat, but still more directional than his kraken body back in the netherworld. Which, along with the fact that he was stuck on the surface of the sea unable to sink to the bottom, was something he’d had to get used to after he got his new body.
Not that there weren’t compensations. His new body didn’t require any concentration to maintain so all his will could be focused on strength. While smaller than his body in the netherworld, his body here was much stronger. One of his tentacles flashed out and nabbed a large grouper. A quick motion and that grouper’s spine was snapped by Joe’s iron beak. Joe liked mortal fish. His artificial body didn’t need food, but his magical self did absorb the fish’s body, and that was making it more solid and stronger.