The Problem With Demons

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This is an introduction to the world of The Demons of Paris, a novel written by the three of us that will be published this month by Ring of Fire Press. This will be the first novel in a series. Like 1632, the Demons of Paris universe has modern people who've come back in time, though a much smaller number. And like 1632, the concepts that they introduce will have long-term effects on the late fourteenth century. In the Demons of Paris universe, however, the entry of demons into the world makes things… complicated. Not to mention problematic.


Farm Outside Paris, March, 1373


David Willeson carefully painted the ground around the steam car.

The non-functional steam car.

He picked up the bucket of paint made from egg yolks mixed into sacramental wine, walked forward again and went back to painting the lines of the pentagram. As he painted he considered again, which sort of netherworld creature he wanted to call.

The problem being that they all seemed to have nasty reputations. From the leprechauns to the bannik, the minotaur to the puck, demons were chancy to deal with. Yes, in theory, they could be controlled by humans. And there was the now famous—in many circles, notorious—example of the demon Pucorl, whom the time-travelers from a future Paris had successfully harnessed to their incredible chariot.

But you had to know what you were doing, when you summoned a demon. Exactly. Or the results could be . . . unpredictable. And for all the excellent training he'd gotten at the university from Doctor Delaflote, David was not so young and foolhardy that he didn't understand that he still had much to learn.

Well, not so foolhardy, anyway. He was still awfully young to be doing something like this.

The one thing David was confident about was that he could choose the level of the netherworld the demon came from. At least he knew enough not to wind up inadvertently summoning one of the greater demons from the lower levels, like a demogorgon.

And he had a list of the partial names that would call specific sorts of demons from the safer levels. He could call a puck, for instance. The problem remained that he had no way of knowing which puck he would get. So, some control, but not as much as he'd have preferred.

David put those thoughts aside as he drew a circle of protection a few inches from the second point of the pentagram. Then he went back to his musing as he drew the next line.

An hour later, David stepped back from the completed pentagram and looked at the steam car. It was now completely enclosed by the pentagram. David shook his head. He doubted the heavy pile of junk would work, even if it was occupied by a demon. Especially a weak demon. It was a farm cart with a steam kettle and a fire box on the back and bent copper tubes in what the blacksmith Andre insisted were condensers. The engine itself was a set of four cylinders little more than iron pots with plugged tops and valves that were supposed to open and close as the steam flowed through.

Were supposed to.

The steam car didn't work. But it had two finely crafted eyes, a nose carved from ivory, a speaker based on Pucorl's woofer, four wooden wheels with iron rims, and a complex of other bits and pieces that almost fit together.

"David?" Perenelle Flamel called. "Are you finished? Come in and have some dinner."

David turned away from the pentagram hidden from the road by hedgerows, and walked to the old stone farmhouse. In the farmhouse, Marie, the Flamels' maid, was serving beet and rabbit stew with good bread and cheese.

He went to his chair and Madame Flamel asked, "Well, what do you think, David? What sort of spirit will you try to entice into Andre's steam car?'

"Our steam car, dear," Nicolas Flamel corrected gently. "Andre may have done most of the work of building it, but we own it. We bought the cart, the parts, and paid Andre for his labor. Just as we are paying David here for his labor in calling a spirit. We don't want any question of ownership. You know how important that is in dealing with demons."

"Yes, dear, I do know. And for that reason I think you ought to own it outright."

Nicolas looked at Madame Flamel in a way that made David blush just to see. "No. You and I, my love, together in all things."

David looked over at Andre, who was shoveling the stew into his mouth with a will. Andre was a big man, nearly six feet tall and about sixteen stone in weight, heavily muscled from his work as a blacksmith. Blond hair and eyebrows over gray eyes, a bulbous nose over a day's growth of blond beard.

Andre's eyes came up and looked at David. He sniffed disdainfully, and went back to eating.

"Well, David?" Madame Flamel asked.

David realized he had no idea of the question. "Ma'am?"

"What sort of spirit? Another puck like Pucorl?"

"No, ma'am. I don't think a puck would be the right choice." He gave the big blacksmith a wary glance. Andre was thin-skinned, when it came to anything touching on his skills. "The chariot the up-timers arrived in was already a functioning vehicle, which . . . ah . . ."

Andre's eyes came back up from his bowl. A glower was beginning to form.

David hurried on. "I think, perhaps, a bannik or maybe a griffin. We want something strong if we expect it to move the steam car."

"Not my fault," grumbled Andre. "The strangers didn't know merde about steam. Why the good Lord didn't see fit to send us an engineer, I don't understand. Instead we got a teacher—of drama! Nothing useful—and a bunch of children."

"Well, they're gone now," Nicolas said, pacifically. "So it's up to us to take what we learned and put it to good use.' He turned back to David. "What is a bannik? And why are you considering one of them?"

"It's from up north, maybe Russia. It's a bathhouse spirit that should at least be familiar with steam. Besides, it's supposed to be able to tell the future. Maybe it can tell us how to make the steam car work." David avoided looking at Andre. But all the blacksmith came back with was another disdainful-sounding noise.

"Not a griffin," Perenelle insisted, with a sidelong glance at Nicolas. "I am on my third husband, and I have no intention of giving him up."

David coughed with soup in his mouth, but managed not to spray the table. Griffins supposedly mated for life and didn't even look for new mates if their first mate died. So they were the symbol of the church's opposition to remarriage.


Next Morning


They were all standing around outside the pentagram, David in one of the three circles, Nicolas Flamel in another, and Perenelle Flamel in the third. Andre and Marie were in the farmyard, watching. David started the invocation, summoning the demon into the pentagram.

A glow filled the pentagram, then slowly took on the aspect of lighted steam and mist so thick that it filled the pentagram and obscured the steam car.


Netherworld, Time Not Very Applicable


The invocation pulled the bannik from his steaming cave in the far north of the netherworld. His beard was made of mist and his skin of sweat. And his name, the core of him, was twisted and modified to include the words Stanley Steamer. That same process pulled him into the steam car, making it his body. He blinked and the steam car's eyes blinked. He looked out through those eyes to see two men and a woman standing in circles of protection.

As it happened, the bannik Stanley had never, in all his many cycles, been called to the mortal realm. But he knew about it, since demons gossiped and the symbology of the netherworld was generally much the same.

Stanley explored his body. He had an engine that was full of water and steam. He had a fire box that had a fire in it. That much was right, for fire and heated water were very much part of his nature.

What bothered him was that he didn't work.

The steam car that was now his body wasn't made properly. It leaked steam and the valves didn't open and close quite right. Stanley was a creature of water, steam, and fire and now he was a creature of metal and wood as well.

All that knowledge was part of him now. The valves hurt the way a wrenched muscle or a belly ache might. He twisted his front wheels left and right, trying to work out the kinks. He honked his horn, then lit his headlights, which were located over his eyes.

Then there was a voice. "Stanley, you are our magic coach.'

Stanley turned his eyes to look at his captor and saw the widow's peak on the clean-shaven man. He seemed a mayfly to Stanley, who knew the history of the world he came from many cycles into the past and the future. He blinked again and then shifted his eyes to look at the woman. She had chestnut hair, mostly hidden by the veil she wore. She too seemed a mayfly, a thing that would pass away in moments.


Nicolas Flamel looked at the steam car, then over at David Willeson, the young Englishman who'd done the enchantment. "Is it working? Did it work?"

"It certainly seems so, Monsieur Flamel. It moved its wheels.'

"Well, why didn't it answer me? It has speakers. As well as that awful horn."

"Ah, sir . . . you didn't ask it a question."

"Oh! Yes, of course." Nicholas rubbed his chin. "Stanley, how do you feel?"

"My valves hurt," came from the steam car. Its voice was somehow reminiscent of steam escaping, but deeper.

"Your valves?" Nicolas looked over at Andre and lifted an eyebrow.

The big man hunched his shoulders, and his red face got a bit redder under the dirty blond hair. "I told you from the beginning that the strangers didn't provide enough information to make a working steam car."

"I know." Nicolas raised his own hands in a gesture of peace. Nicolas had already been quite prosperous before the people from the future came into the world, and he was wealthier now from what he'd learned from them. Today, he was a publisher with his own printing presses, not simply a scribe. He'd provided the money, both to have the steam car built and to have it enchanted. So he was the boss—but he wasn't a large man, and he had no intention of getting into a pointless quarrel with a blacksmith. Nor did he need to.

He looked back at the car. "Stanley, can you tell me how your valves hurt?"

What followed was a five-way conversation between Nicolas, his wife Perenelle, David, Andre, and Stanley, as they tried with limited success to figure out how to make the mechanical part of the enchanted car work.


The Next Day


Stanley strained and a tiny bit of steam rose from the cold water in his tank. It leaked out of the fine gaps in the tube joints leading to his radiator, then it settled back.

And Stanley felt it all. The leaks were like little cuts. It was also very tiring.

"What are you doing?" asked the young human called David.

Stanley almost didn't answer, since he didn't have to. David wasn't his owner. That was Nicolas Flamel and his wife Perenelle. But he decided to answer anyway. He was feeling lonely, and maybe David could help. "My water is cold. I can't make it steam right."

"Well, of course not. You need a fire in your fire box." David walked over to a pile of wood next to the stone farmhouse and started picking up pieces of wood. Stanley tried talking to the wood, but it didn't answer. Neither did the wall or the thatched roof of the farmhouse. He tried talking to them in the way demons spoke to another, then again out loud in the French of this place.

"They aren't enchanted," David said.

"But everything is . . ."

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