We move very simply from Russia into Hungary. There is no east and west--yet. The world is war torn from WWI, and I will likely add much more in description to this section and the next. I don't want to make this a travelling novel, and I don't want to draw attention away from the main storyline, plot, and theme.
Zάhony was a city being rebuilt. It was war torn and weary. The people looked at anyone who was different with suspicion. Asmodeus, Aksinya, and Natalya exited at the station. Asmodeus led them back toward the Russian side and behind some buildings. There Aksinya said her words and suddenly she and Natalya were again in their normal forms and their clothing. The counterspell was very simple. After the change, they were completely bedraggled, and they stunk. Aksinya could smell herself. She was very uncomfortable, and she wanted a bath.
Asmodeus led them back to the station. The Russian and Hungarian guards stared at them, but here the revolution was still an event in Moscow and well away from this place. Here the old order of White Russia still reigned. They allowed Aksinya, Natalya, and their courtier an escort to cross the boarder. The Russian and the Hungarian guards bowed to them as ladies and gentlemen and to Aksinya as an aristocrat. Aksinya spoke French. The men nodded politely but did not understand her. Asmodeus spoke to the Hungarians in Hungarian. Asmodeus led them into and through the town to a very fine inn on the other side.
He engaged them an apartment with a sitting room. The very first thing Aksinya did was tear off her clothing. While Natalya drew a bath, Aksinya stripped off everything. She entered the tub before it was half full and let Natalya continue to fill it with hot water from the stove in the bathroom. She let Natalya scrub her. She didn’t dally, but stepped out before the water was cool and started to help Natalya remove her clothing.
Natalya held Aksinya off. She hung her head, “I’ll take care of my clothing myself, countess.” She blushed, “It is unseemly for my mistress to help me.” She gave Aksinya an imploring look.
Aksinya didn’t say anything—she returned to the bedroom. The demon had placed a selection of clothing there. Aksinya put on a warm gown and pulled on a heavy robe. Almost before Aksinya was clothed, Natalya entered from her bath. She carefully kept her back turned away from Aksinya and pulled on her old nightgown and robe.
When a knock came at the door, Natalya answered it.
A woman and two kitchen girls stood there. Natalya nodded at them. Aksinya addressed them in French, “Good evening.”
The lady and the girls curtsied and ducked, but didn’t say a word. They filled the small sitting room table with many dishes and fine food. They laid out very nice china and silver. When the table had been set and filled, they all curtsied again and left.
Aksinya took a deep breath. She sat at the table. Natalya stood at her elbow. Aksinya tugged on her sleeve, “Lady Natalya, please sit with me and eat.”
“It would not be proper, countess.”
“It might not be proper, but it would please me. We ate together all the way across Russia from Minsk to here, and you didn’t complain.”
“There is no need to be embarrassed. You will be my lady and my friend both. It would please me if you would eat with me.”
“Only in private, please mistress. I would never want to embarrass you.”
“And I would never desire to embarrass you.”
“Thank you.” Natalya guiltily slipped into a chair and tried to make herself a little lower than Aksinya.
Aksinya served Natalya a plate of food and placed a fork in her hand, “Please eat and converse with me, Lady Natalya. You are very pleasant company and a very fine lady-in –waiting.”
“Thank you,” but it was slightly muffled as Natalya demurely filled her mouth with a bite of meat.
Did you note how I showed you Natalya's desire to hide her scars from Aksinya. I didn't tell you anything--I just showed you. Did you note that Aksinya called Natalya her friend. This is a revelation I need to make stronger from the beginning. Aksinya has had few friends. Her friends were here books of sorcery. She was estranged from the family she loved. The reason will become obvious later. For Aksinya to have a friend is a new thing for her--even her approach is awkward, but notice, not unplanned or unthought. She is not embarrassed, but rather approaches friendship like a demand.