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Chapter 4—Vienna

Location: Danube River, Approaching Vienna, Austria
Time: 7:25 AM, September 22, 1372

Two and a half days after leaving Donauworth, Joe Kraken saw the walls of Vienna. He stopped the barge and grabbed a couple of rocks on the riverbottom to hold him in place.

Joe Kraken didn’t own his body. Roger was the kraken’s master—his pilot, it might be better to say—but the creature itself was owned by Pucorl. The twenty-firsters had received payment from Pucorl before the kraken was invited into the barge. That meant that Pucorl could land on it, even if it was slightly out of place.

Over the last couple of days, Joe Kraken had experimented with his bladder and was learning to use it to propel himself through the river water. But it was easier to use his tentacles to hold himself steady.

Pucorl said, “I see Vienna.”

Annabelle answered, “Yeah, me too.” She was sitting on Pucorl’s roof, enjoying the cool breeze as they floated down the river. The rest of the party were on fifteen river barges, enchanted partly by sea spirits that Themis introduced to them, and partly by Danube River sprites. They carried the cargo and some of the horses. Other horses and their riders rode along the banks on either side of the river, scouting their path. Having the barges to rest the horses meant that they could switch off and keep their horses fresh. It still delayed them, but not nearly as much.

After the brief stop, Joe Kraken pushed off and used his jet to shift out to the center of the river as Pucorl used his speakers to let the outriders know they were in sight of Vienna.


Wilber Hyde-Davis looked up, then back down at the computer screen. The spell he was working on could wait. He closed Merlin and climbed out of Pucorl, but his mind didn’t let go of the spell. It was to enchant a printing press, but spells were more complicated than simply calling a demon into a thing. The shape of the thing mattered. The demon mattered. And, finally, the way it was called mattered. It was the combination of all three things that made a spell work. And that last one, the manner of the calling, was subtly important to the results. It was also something that demons did to each other, on what amounted to an instinctive level. They did it automatically, like people breathing, or the beating of their hearts, or eating and digesting. And that made it difficult for the demons to understand why what they did affected the magic.

The spell in question was an example of that. It used a rope to hold a bag of ink, and the demon was supposed to move the rope like an arm and ink the press after each page was printed. But making a rope into an arm involved more than tying the rope to the press and calling a demon. The demon had to be fitted into the whole contraption in the right way, because the rope by itself lacked the definition needed to become an arm or tentacle.

The spell was for a printer in Paris. Wilber would receive a sum of money deposited in the new Royal Bank of France. He still wouldn’t be able to spend that money anywhere but France, since as of now there was not much in the way of international banking. But the twenty-firsters had—without wanting to—introduced the concepts of fiat money, fractional reserve, and so on. They didn’t have any of the details, but they did know that Banque de France was the national bank of France in the twenty-first century and that it controlled monetary policy and was part of the European Central Bank, sort of. They knew that the money wasn’t gold or silver, but paper notes that weren’t even backed by gold or silver, and they knew that printing too much money was a bad thing. That information was enough to get things started. So Wilber and all the twenty-firsters had accounts in the Royal Bank of France. They weren’t the only ones. Bertrand had an account, and so did Pucorl and several other demons.

It wasn’t important in the here and now, but like the other seeds of knowledge the twenty-firsters dropped in their time in France, it was continuing to have an effect even after they were gone. And they were seeing that effect because of the communications link provided by Pucorl, Merlin, and especially Themis and the links she provided.

“What’s up?” Wilber asked Joe.

Jennifer had her eyes shaded with a hand. “I can see what I think is the tower of Saint Stephen’s cathedral ahead.”

“What’s going on?” Leona meowed.

“We’re apparently in sight of Vienna,” Wilber told her in cat. Then he climbed the ladder to the landing on the roof of the cabin. Halfway up the ladder, he turned and saw the tower. “Yes, I think you’re right.”

Location: Archducal Palace, Vienna, Austria
Time: Two Hours Past Dawn, September 22, 1372

The scout had dust on his boots and dirt on his cloak as he burst into the throne room. “They’re here! We spotted that enchanted barge of theirs.”

“Good.” Archduke Albert III of Austria looked to Karl von Richter, his new chief counselor. “Do you think we will be able to succeed?” By now the events in France were well known from one end of the Danube to the other. Bargemen had brought the news that the twenty-firsters were building a new kind of river barge that would be enchanted by a tame demon almost a week ago. The plans were in place.

“I don’t know, Your Grace. We can but try.” The counselor looked at the starling on his shoulder.

It looked back and said, “Remind them.”

The counselor laughed. “Swift is unimpressed by royalty and wishes me to remind you again that these are people of great power, with strong alliances. We must be careful of them. Don’t offer them insult!”

“Human royalty,” Swift clarified.

“Shush. Don’t be rude.”

“We remember, Swift,” Archduke Albert told the starling. He shook his head. Karl was his favorite teacher at the university of Vienna. The university was started by Albert’s older brother Rudolph the same year that Rudolph died.

After the veil between the worlds was rent and demons started appearing in the world, the interest in magic in the university had increased. Then, with the news out of Paris—especially the paper by Gabriel Delaflote on the proper means of summoning an informational demon or familiar to teach one magic—Karl summoned Swift to a starling. Since then, they had been studying magic and picking up rumors from the netherworld.

The lands of Themis in the netherworld were fairly near Austria, so the rumors of events in Paris were transmitted to Vienna more quickly by way of the netherworld than by land or sea in the real world.

“Very well. We will remember. Call out the guard. I want them greeted as royal guests. After all, aside from Roger McLean who bears the Sword of Themis, there is Bertrand du Guesclin, the former constable of France, and there is also a cardinal of mother church.”


The docks were festooned with banners and the city guard were lined up in rows with their pikes held in salute as Joe Kraken pushed up against the dock. Four huge tentacles came up out of the water and seized various posts and such on the dock to hold the barge in place. Seeing that, the city guard did an impromptu rearward scuttle before their officers held them steady.

Unfortunately, the dock was wooden and a bare eight feet across. Getting Pucorl onto it and down it to the shore was impossible.

For the other barges, it wasn’t so bad. The horses could be guided and the wagons could be manhandled. Still, the first impression was not what Albert III was hoping for.

“It is no great issue, Your Grace,” Tiphaine de Raguenel offered with a curtsy. “Sieur Pucorl, Chevalier du Elysium, is large. The more so now, with his armor. A little later, Joe Kraken will move over next to the beach and run out a ramp for Pucorl to use.” She waved at Bertrand du Guesclin. “My own dear husband has similar difficulties, albeit on a smaller scale.”

Bertrand was a big man and so broad that he almost seemed deformed. The twenty-firsters were all tall and comely, even—perhaps especially—the lovely dark-skinned young woman with the shiny black hair and glowing black eyes, introduced as Lakshmi Rawal, whose family, he was told, were diplomats from far off India.

His guests were nobles. That much was certain.


The banquet hall was well lit with torches and lamps. The tables were covered with cloths, so the diners could wipe their hands between courses. Wild boar and fruit compotes, as well as other savories, filled the tables, and there was conversation throughout the room as the minstrels played in the corner.

Albert looked over at Lakshmi again. His eyes found her of their own accord. He dragged them away from her. The twenty-firsters were not peasants, to be taken at one’s pleasure. They were nobles with an armed retinue of considerable size, and magic beyond any he could bring to bear. Lakshmi did not look back, but continued her conversation with a musician.


Johann of Vienna was nervous after the woman called him over. She asked him about his lute and the song he was playing. She seemed to know a lot, and if she were a servant girl he would be enjoying himself. But she wasn’t, and he wasn’t. The ballad that he played was old and well known but not, apparently, to her.

“Let him go, Lakshmi,” said a young man, “before you ruin his life. This isn’t the twenty-first century. Entertainers are not considered royalty of any sort.”

“Well, we should be, Bill. This guy is good. I’d like to have Liane record him.” Lakshmi was a drama student whose dream was to be a movie star before they got pulled into this century. She was also a good singer.

“I don’t disagree, Lakshmi, but you’re going to get him in trouble if you keep ignoring the other people at the table.”

The other people at the table included the archduke, his brother, Leopold, and his wife, Elizabeth, who was even younger than Lakshmi. And who was looking daggers at Lakshmi everytime Lakshmi looked up. Keep him, kid, Lakshmi thought. I’m not interested in your archduke.

Still, she let the minstrel go back to his playing. And the dinner went on.

Location: Ducal Palace, Vienna, Austria
Time: 10:20 AM, September 23, 1372

The guest quarters in the ducal palace were grand, if not as comfortable as the Happytime Motel, but politeness required them to stay here. It wasn’t going to be for long. There was no reason for them to stop in Vienna more than a day or so. There was a knock on the door, and a man in scholar’s robes with a starling on his shoulder came in.

“Lord Wilber, my respects. I was wondering about your ability to speak with animals?”

“What about it?” Wilber asked. He knew Counselor Karl von Richter from last night.

“I wonder how you acquired it. Were you born with the knack? Is it a thing common in the time you come from?”

“No. It comes from Merlin.” He waved at the computer which was sitting open on a table.

“Yet Swift doesn’t let me speak to horses?”

“The abilities a demon companion provides are dependent on their strength and the vessel they are placed in. A bird or a cat doesn’t give—No, that’s not the right word—affect the demon that occupies it the way that a more specialized container does. With the starling, your familiar can speak to you aloud. If it was a cat, you would hear the meaning in your mind. But Merlin was called into a device that was designed for one purpose and one purpose only, to let me hear and understand speech.” Wilber needed to be careful here. He didn’t want to tell this guy all the effects on Merlin and, for that matter, on him, but at the same time uninformed magic use was bloody dangerous. “Also, Merlin is a good bit more powerful and intelligent than your average puck. He was an adviser to an ancient god. One that was subsumed by a later god that was itself converted into an unnamed Christian angel sometime later.”

“That is one interpretation,” Merlin interrupted. “But it is not universally shared. Whether my begetter is converted or temporarily imprisoned depends on who you ask. I would say she is simply biding her time until she may again walk free.”

“Oh, boy. Here we go,” Wilber muttered. While he personally agreed with Merlin’s interpretation more than Raphico’s, when the two got into it, it was like a Baptist and a Scientologist trying to convert each other. Raphico insisted that since Jennifer had given her phone to God; i.e., ipso facto, and squaring the circle, the one who owns it must be the one true and absolute God. Merlin argued that the netherworld being who received it, was the one that happened to fit the Christian mythology best. If she’d given it to Allah, it would have gone to a different god. The one that got it was one of the “all powerful” gods of the netherworld.

However, Merlin surprised him. “But that isn’t really what you wanted to talk about. Is it?”

“Not exactly,” Karl said. “We have some magic and we are learning more at the new university, but you have a good head start. I would like to convince you and Doctor Delaflote to stay here and head up our faculty of magic at the university of Vienna. We can offer you an excellent stipend, good quarters, servants, and with your phone, you won’t even be out of touch with your companions.”

“Thank you for the offer, but at least for now I think I prefer to stay with my companions.” Wilber shook his head. “In a way, we are on a mission from God, or at least the powers that be in the netherworld. We are trying to discover the cause behind the rift between the universes. And at least some of the gods and angels of the netherworld agree that discovering the cause is necessary if there is to be any hope of repairing the rift.”

“Do we really want it repaired?” Karl asked. “After all, magic makes many things possible that were unthinkable before. I know that there are bad things as well, but might the good outweigh the bad?”

“It might,” Merlin agreed, “but there are also the natures of the two universes to consider. Our universe is a place of cycles, where everything comes back around to its beginning. It has done so many times, and our time is not like your time. I remember your world before there were humans and after your species had gone extinct. I don’t remember everything. I am not a god. But I remember many futures of your universe.”

“What he doesn’t remember,” Wilber added, “is this. The ripping of the veil between the universes to tatters. Themis being forced into a sword and used by a spoiled brat of a king’s little brother. He doesn’t remember us, the van, the twenty-firsters, any of what has happened since our arrival in this time. At this point we can’t be sure that our two universes can survive this more intimate contact. Whoever, or whatever, did this could have doomed two universes. We have to find out, and we have to discover if it can or should be fixed.”

“I agree that is a most important mission. But why can’t you do it from right here in Vienna? Why go to Constantinople?”

“Partly because Doctor Delaflote knows a scholar in Constantinople who he wants to talk to. Partly because Raphico has been ordered to Constantinople to deal with something he won’t talk about. Partly because Roger wants to return the Sword of Themis to its proper place.”

“Its proper place?”

“The lands in the netherworld correspond loosely to the lands of our world. The Elysian Fields are ‘far to the west,’ England as it turns out. The land of Themis in the netherworld corresponds roughly to parts of Greece and Thrace in our world. Turns out it’s close to what’s left of the Byzantine Empire.

“And, finally, because from what we hear from the demons, the rifts in the veils are centered somewhere to the east of Constantinople. So we are hoping we will be able to find out more once we get there.”

This whole conversation was bothering Wilber, so the shout of “Knock, knock!” in Coach’s voice came as something of a relief.

Wilber went to the door and opened it, only to have Leona stroll in like she owned the place. Around her neck was Jeff’s sports watch, its strap expanded into a collar. “Hello, Leona,” Wilber said in cat. “What’s Coach doing around your neck?”

The collar answered in Austrian. “Leona, the lovely little pussycat, has consented to give me a ride and since I have an internal mic I can translate for her.”

“That sounds like an equitable arrangement,” Wilber agreed while Karl looked on in surprise. “So what brings you here?”

“Leona has a few questions about magical creatures and dietary habits,” Coach said, like it was a joke of some sort.

“Are you saying that the magical device is owned by that cat?” Karl stared at the cat and watch.

“No,” Coach said. “Thanks be to Jeff, glorious lad, no one owns me but me. I am a free sports watch, I am.”

“Would you be interested in staying in Vienna then?” Karl asked quickly.

This guy is sharp, Wilber thought.

“An interesting question. For myself, I think not. I prefer the netherworld. I can’t walk in this one, while in the netherworld I am a faun of great athletic prowess.” The leer in Coach’s voice made the type of athleticism he was talking about obvious. “I may know someone who might be interested, but you would have to make a good offer.”

“Who?” Wilber asked.

“Asuma,” Coach said. “She’s a bit bored with the talent of the troops. I’m not sure she’d be interested, but she does own herself and she could stay here if she were to receive adequate recompense.”

“What sort of recompense?” Karl asked.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We haven’t agreed to anything,” Wilber said without thinking.

“I don’t see how we have anything to agree to,” Coach corrected. “Asuma doesn’t need your permission to do anything.”

“I didn’t say she did,” Wilber backpedaled quickly. He knew enough of demonic politics to realize that having been given the phone and the sense of solidity and freedom that came with it, Asuma would be as belligerent as Coach was on the matter of her freedom.

“Well, what were you saying then, boyo?”

Wilber thought fast. “I was thinking of the technical difficulties. Asuma’s tree is in the dryad’s grove in Pucorl’s lands. I’m sure Pucorl would allow her to remove her tree from his lands if she wanted to, but that’s a long way for a single dryad’s tree to migrate. And who knows what might happen to it on the way? Besides, it’s going to need a matching tree in the mortal realm to tie to. This isn’t something that is safe for Asuma to do on her own, and I’m not sure that the rest of us have the time to help her.”

Leona twisted her head to look at Wilber and meowed, “Nice save” in cat. Clearly she wasn’t convinced.

Wilber shrugged his thanks.

“I am sure something can be arranged,” Karl said. “Surely we can find an appropriate tree.”

“If—” Wilber held up a finger. “—Asuma wishes to stay, we’ll do what we can to facilitate. But we need to discuss the technicalities among ourselves. So please excuse us.”

“Couldn’t I listen?” Karl asked. “I’ll be quiet as a mouse, I promise.”

Leona stuck out a small pink tongue and ran it around her mouth.

“After we have had some time to consider, Professor,” Wilber insisted.


As soon as Karl was gone, Wilber turned to Merlin. “Merlin, contact Pucorl and Roger, please. No, first contact Asuma and see if she’s truly interested in Coach’s ridiculous scheme.”

“I already have,” Merlin said, then continued. “Well, I forwarded Coach’s contact to her through Pucorl and, as it happens, if we can do it in a useful and safe way, she is interested.”

“In that case, we need to bring Roger in on this.”

“Why Roger?” Merlin asked. “I like the lad well enough, but he’s hardly a magical scholar?”

“Themis,” Wilber said. “Remember who did the pentagrams that connect your place to Pucorl’s lands. And, for that matter, the link between Pucorl’s lands and Themis’. If Asuma wants to stay here, we want a good, solid link between her tree here and Pucorl’s lands.”

As it happened, Roger was busy, so Leona took the opportunity to bring up her questions about demons eating demons. “I was talking to the babbling brook that runs between Pucorl’s garage and the dryad’s grove, and it said it was fine with people drinking it.”

“Did it ask you to drink?” Wilber asked.

“Yes. The water was good.”

Wilber sighed. If the veil was still in place, drinking or eating anything in the netherworld would keep you there until it was all out of your system. Possibly the rest of your life. But clearly that wasn’t working in this case. That was even a bit true of the food in Pucorl’s garage, even though the base food was brought in from the natural world. It had its form modified by the magic of the netherworld, which made the effect much less than eating or drinking something that was wholly of the netherworld, like a babbling brook. And Leona was a cat.

Wilber stopped. Cats . . . the legends and stories about cats abounded. Cats having nine lives, cats being able to walk between this world and the next, cats being independent and not following the rules. Did the beliefs about cats affect how a real, natural cat interacted with the netherworld?

“What’s wrong with drinking the water?” Leona asked in worried cat.

“Apparently nothing, at least for a cat,” Wilber said. “Merlin, are cats immune to the whole eating thing?”

“It appears that this one is,” Merlin said. “I can’t be sure whether it is the nature of cats or the damage to the veils. But, for whatever reason, Leona appears to be able to eat demonic fare with no ill effect.”

“So I guess you’re fine, Leona. What was your question about demons eating demons?”

“It’s not that important,” Leona said, and Wilber was convinced that she was hiding something.

Then Merlin said, “I have Roger on the line,” and they started talking about how Asuma might be able to stay here.


Leona slipped out as they discussed ways and means. “Well, Coach, what do you think? I can eat a demon.”

“Yes, you can,” Coach agreed. “And I can’t think of a demon more deserving of your appetite than Carlos.” Coach was around Leona’s neck not only for transport, but for protection. In his watch form, the only one he could assume in the natural world, he was vulnerable to being picked up by a crow and dropped in a privy hole. Which Carlos had done.

“The trick is going to be to catch him,” Leona said. “That will-o’-the-wisp has the power to disappear.”

“You will need to do it in a pentagram.”

“Will that help?”

“It will keep Carlos from simply disappearing. We need Catvia’s help.”

Coach contacted Asuma, and Asuma contacted Catvia, and the issue of how they were going to get someone to create a pentagram for the trick was brought up.

“No. I don’t want Kitten involved in this,” Catvia said. “The mortals aren’t going to be all that happy, especially Chevalier Charles de Long. Whatever his other faults, Carlos is an excellent scout.”

“You don’t think we should do it?” Coach asked, but by his tone he wasn’t going to be swayed, even if Catvia disapproved.

“Not at all. I think it’s important for the demons who accompany us to know who is who in the zoo.”

Coach laughed.

Location: Dryad’s Grove, Pucorl’s Lands
Time: 4:55 PM, September 23, 1372

Roger lifted the sword from his back and placed its tip into the rich soil around Asuma’s tree. He felt the presence of Themis, released his grip on the hilt, stepped away, and she was there. Glowing with golden light in a gown of green, she began to trace an intricate dance of tunes and lines around the tree. The “pentagram” did have points, but not five. There were nine hundred and ninety-nine of them, enough so that it looked almost like a circle. As she was finishing, Leona the cat leapt into the pentagram, and curled up next to the tree. She scratched her ear and the collar that was Coach came loose and slipped off her neck onto the soil.

Themis looked at the cat and her lips twitched in an almost smile. She turned to Roger and said, “You will need to take me to the tree in Vienna.”

He stepped up and took the hilt of her sword as she passed it to him, disappearing as its hilt touched his hand.

Location: University of Vienna

The campus of the university of Vienna was still a bit amorphous at this time. Luckily, since on this day Albert III expanded it to include a small grove of trees right next to the Danube. That grove included a small ash tree.

Joe Kraken used his tentacles to pull and push his bow up to the shore, then let down the ramp so that Pucorl could drive off onto dry land. Roger climbed out with the sword in hand, to see Albert III, Archduke of Austria and his brother, Leopold, also Archduke of Austria, standing there.

Albert looked pleased and interested, Leopold looked resentful. Roger thought of the evening before when Tiphaine had run horoscopes for the royal family using Jennifer’s computer and a spreadsheet. Roger shook his head. He still wasn’t convinced that astrology worked, but he wasn’t going to argue with Themis, who had helped with the astrology calculations. Themis was a god. All the titans of ancient legends were. She didn’t claim to be all-knowing, but she could look into a soul easily, and that included being able to examine Wilber to learn programming and Jennifer to learn the use of spreadsheets. And she knew the orbits of the planets to the microsecond, so Tiphaine’s astrology file was spot on accurate. Plug in the date, time, and location of birth, and out poured all the signs and degrees.

He watched the point of Themis’ sword as it traced intricate patterns in the grass around the tree, and thought about Elisabeth of Bohemia’s horoscope. It predicted she had become pregnant and if the pregnancy wasn’t handled properly she would miscarry and die next year. Raphico confirmed that she was pregnant, but only barely. No more than two weeks. The angel in a phone also determined that the placental bond was not solid and a miscarriage was likely. After consulting with the principals, Raphico fixed the issue so that Elisabeth of Bohemia’s future was changed. Maybe.

Themis was finished with the pentagram now. She made a gesture and the pentagram started to glow. The glow faded, and Asuma in her anime form appeared in the grove of her tree for all to see.

“She still won’t be able to manifest outside the pentagram, save in dreams,” Themis said as she walked over and handed her sword back to Roger.


In the grass around Asuma’s tree, Coach appeared in sports watch form. He tried to transform into his faun form, but failed and Carlos cawed a sneering laugh. Carlos looked around. No one else seemed to notice Coach’s difficulty.

Carlos leapt from Charles de Long’s shoulder and in a fast glide, he stooped and grabbed up the watchband with his talons. He flapped his wings to clear the grove, but they were returned to the netherworld and the pentagram around the tree hardened to a wall of force that might as well have been made of iron.

Coach became a faun and reached for Carlos, who let go and flapped away. Carlos’ flapping took him under one of the limbs of Asuma’s tree.

And from that limb, Leona leapt, catching the crow in flight.

Landing on the ground, Leona bit down hard, breaking the crow’s neck. It died and the will-o’-the-wisp tried to escape the body, but it was restrained by the pentagram and by Leona’s will. For she, with malice aforethought, had bit not only the crow but the will-o’-the-wisp that inhabited it.

Over the next few minutes, Leona ate the crow from beak to tail feathers. And as she did she ate the will-o’-the-wisp as well.

She didn’t know exactly what effect it would have. All she really knew was that among demon kind, eating a demon gave you its powers. The power she was after was the ability to appear and disappear.

She got that.

But she got more, for the crow was part of her meal as well, and it was soaked and marinated in the will-o’-the-wisp’s magic.

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