The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 04

The Demons of Constantinople – Snippet 04

Chapter 2 — How Are We Getting There?

Location: Pucorl’s Garage & Happytime Motel, Netherworld

Time: 8:50 PM, August 23, 1372

Roger McLean lifted the Sword of Themis from his back where it floated. It was five feet long with a foot and a half of hilt. It was also light as a feather in his hand. He laid it in the rack that Pucorl installed in his room, then sat on the bed to take off his boots. He opened Sun Tzu, his laptop, enchanted by a muse of war. “Sun Tzu, where are we?”

The map function came up. There was no GPS in the fourteenth century, but Pucorl could and did record each rotation of each of his wheels, giving them an accurate mile count. His internal systems also had a compass, adding direction to the mile count. That combined with some fairly primitive surveying equipment — made in Paris by local smiths to designs that were developed between Wilber, Annabelle Cooper-Smith, Jennifer Fairbanks and Jennifer’s physics textbook chapter on optics, gave them location data and allowed the mapping programs to fill in the gaps.

So Sun Tzu had a detailed map of where they had been and a basic map of the rest of the world. Well, it was fairly detailed for France, but not truly accurate in terms of fourteenth century roads and structures.

Still, the planned route to Constantinople was, in Roger’s opinion, stupid. Especially now that everything but Pucorl, the horses, and people could be stored here in Pucorl’s lands. It would be better even now to turn south to Marseille, and take ship from there. Surely there was a ship large enough to carry Pucorl. A galley, maybe. He used the touchpad to draw a route to southern France, then by sea around the boot of Italy and Greece, to the Bosporus Straits.

“It’s seventeen hundred miles,” Sun Tzu said in Chinese-accented English. “But the real issue is that we know that Pucorl can come here and return to the same point of land he left from. A boat moves all the time and at sea it will be miles away by the time Pucorl gets back to this world. Will he reappear over open ocean or on the boat? We don’t know. And Pucorl isn’t going to take the chance.”

“I know, but what about the Danube?” Roger asked, drawing lines on the screen with his finger. “We can hit the Danube at Donauworth in not more than five hundred miles. Then we buy or make a barge to carry Pucorl. After that we can stop once a day while Pucorl does his jump home for supplies and maybe drops us at the hotel to spend the night in comfort.”

“Time is still different in Pucorl’s lands when Pucorl is not in residence.”

“Not that different. A few minutes a day shorter or longer.”

“Yes, but that is without the distorting effect of mortals left here. Remember, time in our realm is somewhat subject to the will of the individual. And you humans have an unfortunate tendency to insist on a few more hours to sleep or study or play. When Pucorl is in residence, he keeps time fairly constant using his onboard clock and the pendulum clock we bought in Paris and shipped to Pucorl’s lands.”

Pendulum clocks were an invention of the seventeenth century, but that was before the twenty-firsters had arrived in Paris in February of 1372. They had all seen grandfather clocks, and between Annabelle, Jennifer, and the local craftsmen they managed to make pendulum-based clocks, one of which was bought by Pucorl and placed in the lobby of the Happytime Motel. Several others had been built and now resided in Paris. King Charles had three and there was a big one, recently finished, at the cathedral of Notre Dame.

They knew that because one of the phones and one of the computers, as well as an enchanted crystal radio set, had been left in Paris. Which, with Merlin’s place being located in the netherworld analogous to the Île de la Cité in Paris meant that they had an indirect radio connection. The network went from Pucorl’s van to Pucorl’s lands, to Merlin’s place, to the enchanted crystal set on the Île de la Cité, to the phone in the royal palace, or to the king’s computer that His Majesty had loaned to the University of Paris. In spite of being unofficially banished, they had friends in Paris.

“Besides,” Sun Tzu added, “you are neglecting the politics. You know that most of the religious contingent refuses to set foot in Pucorl’s lands.”

The excuse for getting them out of France was for the twenty-firsters to act as escorts for a papal mission to the Patriarch of Constantinople to consider the possibility of reuniting the Catholic Church with the Eastern Orthodox Church, in light of the introduction of the netherworld into the mortal world with its demons and old beliefs. That meant they had a cardinal from Avignon with three priests, not including Monsignor Giuseppe Savona, papal nuncio to the twenty-firsters. Monsignor Savona had a room in the Happytime, but didn’t welcome the dryads to his dreams. However, Cardinal Pierre de Monteruc refused to enter Pucorl’s lands, even refused to ride in Pucorl, and the three fathers that accompanied him followed his lead. Other than that, he wasn’t particularly belligerent. He would speak to Pucorl, Merlin, and the rest. He was simply unwilling to put himself in any way at their mercy.

That included Raphico, the “angel” that inhabited the phone that Monsignor Savona carried. It was not owned by Giuseppe Savona but, in theory, by God. Cardinal de Monteruc was not convinced that the being which owned the phone was literally the God of heaven and Earth, but instead suggested that it might be the god, or a god, of that other realm where the demons came from. In other words, not the one true God, only a being of great power and uncertain motivation.

“I know that, but that too argues for using the Danube. Get other river barges for the horses, men, and priests that are coming along.”

“Eighty men at arms, one hundred and twenty horses, ten wagons. That is a lot of barges.” Not all their gear was stowed in Pucorl’s lands. But most of it was.

“I know. But however we do this, it’s going to be a lot of something.” Roger looked at the computer on the screen. Sun Tzu, a small man with a Fu Manchu mustache and wings, sat in a chair looking at a three-dimensional map of their projected route. He was scratching at his chin. “What’s really bugging you, Tzu?”

“The river is a line, not an area. It will make us much easier to find and not everyone in the netherworld is on our side. It seems an invitation to be ambushed.”

“Sure,” Roger agreed, then countered with, “but on the river we will be moving twenty hours a day. On land we’re stopped sixteen to eighteen hours every day, and where we’re stopped is predictable to bandits who know the territory we’re traveling through.”

“Good point.”

“Call Bertrand,” Roger said, referring to Bertrand du Guesclin, the former Constable of France, who was in charge of the military contingent of their not-so-little caravan.

***

The phone rang. It was new to Bertrand, and existed only in this place of Pucorl’s. The phones were from movies and books brought by the twenty-firsters, and the infrastructure that made the connections was completely magic. Tiphaine was in the shower, so he didn’t turn on the camera, but instead picked up the headset.

“Yes?”

“General, I think we should make for the Danube. It’s only five hundred miles from Paris to Donauworth and we’ve already covered two hundred. We could be there in another week, or perhaps a bit more. Then we stop, prepare barges and move downriver to the Black Sea, and from there to Constantinople. It’s a little farther that way, but we avoid the Alps, or at least most of them, and we can travel more than four hours a day.”

Bertrand considered. It was better than Roger’s notion of going by the Mediterranean Sea, but he wasn’t sure how much better. Then Tiphaine came out of the bathroom, wearing only a smile. “We’ll discuss it tomorrow, Roger.” He hung up.

 

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