Aksinya has called the Lady Natalya to her. She desperately tries to get the lady to leave. The demon produces a temptation that Aksinya will not ignore.
Aksinya frowned, “I don’t want you for my lady-in-waiting or my apprentice.”
Asmodeus waved his hand. The world seemed to stop outside the magic circle. He glared at Aksinya, “I will only tell you once. I can destroy this girl. You will accept her gladly as your lady-in-waiting and your apprentice.”
“You swore not to harm her.”
“I will not harm her.”
“Plus, she is innocent. You cannot kill her.”
“I said I will not harm her.”
“You can’t make me do anything I don’t wish to do while I am inside this circle.”
“You are so naive. I did not set all this up for you to be able to reject her. Look.” The demon strode over to the unmoving girl. He turned her around, pulled off her light cloak, and ripped open the back of her dress. Whip scars crisscrossed the girl’s back. He lifted her skirt at the back. Her thighs and buttocks were covered with new whip cuts. They were still raw and oozed blood. “Didn’t you wonder why it took so long for her to respond to your call? You are the greatest sorceress on the face of the globe. She should have come running, but she couldn’t until the Lady Andronikov finished this work. The girl could barely walk here much less run. The prince’s wife and lady well knows this girl is his child. She never intends to ever let him forget it. The Lady Natalya believes she is punished for her frequent mistakes. Countess, she never makes a mistake. She goes over things in her mind again and again, certain she has done each step correctly, and the lady of the house punishes her every day for false errors.”
Aksinya sighed, “You tempt me again, demon.”
“Yes, this is indeed temptation.”
“Make time run right again. I will accept her. Get me a great cloak worthy of the lady-in-waiting to a countess.”
Asmodeus turned Natalya back around. He went to his chest and pulled out a warm long cloak. He raised his hand, and suddenly the girl was released. Natalya took a deep breath. She fell forward on her face. She cried again, “Please, Countess, accept me as your lady-in-waiting. Anything. I would do anything…”
Aksinya called out a couple of Latin words. She struck her dagger against the ground and a spark rose up. She spoke again and the world was filled with light.
Natalya jerked up from the ground. She raised her head. Aksinya stepped out of the magic circle. She clasped Natalya’s arms and lifted her up. Asmodeus held out the cloak. Aksinya took if from his hands and draped it around Natalya’s body. Aksinya embraced the girl. They were almost the same height. She held her and kissed her cheeks. Aksinya stated clearly, “Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska, I Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna accept you into my household as my lady-in-waiting and as my apprentice. Welcome, Lady Natalya.”
The girl began to shake. She clasped Aksinya, and her tears fell hot and wet against her neck. They stood together for a long time.
Acceptance was inevitable. The demon created a situation and choose a lady-in-waiting that Aksinya could not and would not reject. The question at hand is the culpability of Aksinya in everything.