I haven't answered questions for a while. Here are some comments from a reader. I'll include the next installment at the end. My comments are in italics
Enjoyed your recent installment on Daemon. Though wondered a few QS about the story's timeline, travel to Záhony, dev of 2 women's relationship, and Q's about the demon... lurking in the background: observing, orchestrating, manipulating, etc.
Q's regarding timeline:
Based on your hint,"The old order of White Russia still reigned", and, your winter scenery, I'm wondering about about the story's exact date (month). Is the rail travel to Hungary occurring in late Feb/early March 1917, after February Revolution of 1917, or, 8 months later, after the October 1917 revolution. (Can't remember; maybe you provided clues already.)
I originally set the story in the summer/fall of 1917. I later moved it to November 1918. The reason was to put the story in the middle of the Russian civil war and just after WWI. I didn't want the characters to have to travel during WWI. Plus, this gives me an opportunity to tell a little more about the Russian civil war--it lasted longer than many think.
Also curious about travel to Zohony? As I recollect, is that the small town in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, in north-eastern Hungary, bordering modern Slovakia, Ukraine and Romania...which back in WW1, was bordering the Russian Empire?
Yes, according to my maps and research, it was a major railhead at the time and a natural triple point of the three nations.
I'm guessing it's late Feb/early march 1917; ie, after abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, still in early stages of 1917 progressive collapse of Imperial Russia..ie, pockets of White guard loyal to Tsar N. out in the countryside;Tsarism, yet be replaced by the Russian Provisional Gov under Prince Georgy Lvov, yet to be see political fighting/drama/massive bloodshed in Russia, in October 1917.
A little later--see above.
Regarding train travel:
Enjoyed your descriptions of rail travel westward across part of Russia to Hungary; seemed very authentic. Particularly liked the physical dialogue, and descriptions of rail car & environment.
I had a chance to ride the rails in Europe. I take my experiences and project them. The rest is based in research on travel during the time.
Also thought the dialogue/relationship btwn women was very interesting....excellent character & plot development. Liked the underlying tension, with demon lurking in the background; listening, planning, conniving.
Liked the way you employed the 'prayer beads' & old lady prayers, in A's travel disguise, to hint at the power of the spoken prayer, which both girls voiced w/out full comprehension, and the impact on the demon; prayers, which he sought to stifle, silence, etc. But A cleverly described as part of her costume; I suspect, feigning ignorance on the affect it has on the demon.
Thanks for pointing that out, so I didn't have to. I miss some of the revelations. I'm glad you pick up on them. That is a good sign for the basic writing.
Q's regarding Zohony & Hungarian reception of travelers:
You said: "Zάhony was a city being rebuilt. And, indicated the town was war torn and weary. And, said the old order of White Russia still reigned.
This is obviously something I need to clarify. I meant that the Russian side was where they left the train and went through customs. Both sides were rebuilding, but the Hungarian side is where the city is.
Is that 1st part, "city being rebuilt", accurate? And, why would the 'old order' of White Russia still reign in Hungarian town? A metaphor for (local Hungarian society) deferring to (old) tradition, ie, Russian aristocracy. Or, does White Russia actually have political/juristicional influence in that railway border town, in Hungary, And, why would they be afforded a reasonably good or safe reception...in consideration of their inbound travel from Russia?
Sorry need to clarify in the writing. The Russian customs and "White" Russia is on the Russian side. Russia is in a civil war and neither side is winning--at the moment.
My recollection: after the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, when the dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary was in effect, large parts of the backward Hungarian economy (probably including around Zohony) were being rebuilt; maybe extending into early 1910s +/-.
But, than, WW1 comes around. And, the situation changes. Remember, it was with great difficulty, that the Central Powers (German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Bulgaria) stopped and repelled the attacks of the Russian Empire.
Now, I'd think that means, that there would be heavy WW1 fighting along the front lines where Hungary bordered Russia; and, especially fighting for control of the rail-lines btwn Russia/Hungary.
Further, my understanding, circa 1917, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was busy withdrawing from all defeated countries; not rebuilding cities, or towns...especially along the Russian border.
So than, if Zohony is indeed a small railroad town right on the border region of Russia (Ukraine), and the characters in the story are arriving there in 1917, near end of WW1, shouldn't it be more impoverished, destroyed; certainly not being rebuilt.
I need to clarify. This is why I reset the time to November 1918.
And related question, shouldn't we expect to have more tension between the Hungarians soldiers & local citizenry, and arriving travelers (heading westward) from inside the Russian Empire? Whether dressed in disguise as gypsies or poor Russian folks (under spell) or, later, dressed as Russian aristocrats? Pretty clear, they are inbound from Russia. Just curious?
Same as above.
Is it an important or unimportant railway town? A layover, only? Can't recall hint in earlier postings; are you heading towards another Hungarian town, (modern) Romania, or Western Europe...for girls to integrate w/ aristocracy, and practice their sorcery? FYI, I did like the use of 'French' as spoken language, very clever hint of aristocracy, etc..
Thanks. French was the official language of the Russian aristocracy. That's why I used it. One of the characteristics of my writing is to use language as an indicator of culture.
Regarding neighborhood/environment they travel thru:
As previously said, like your descriptions of their travels; but, wondering about the historic authenticity, ie, post WW1, Hungarian town, probably part of the front, in Hungarian fight against Russian Empire. And, are you going to delve further into the circa 1917 historic context (in Hungary, and Russia). ie, era's economic, social, military & empire upheavals? Is that central to the story, or not?
For example, why didn't you have an episode with them directly encountering a revolutionary, or another person on the train? Could have added interesting tension, and plot or character development. Now that they are into Hungarian territory (Central power) will they encounter any retreating Russian White troops along the border? Or, any Austrain-Hungarians, or Germans? Could such an encounter be useful, in developing your storyline, or ancillary?
This is a good point. I may add this in the next edit. I really wanted to downplay the travel and give only a taste of it. The reason was to not detract from the main storyline. Sorry, because of the time, the war had been over for a few months and longer if you count the Russian pullback.
Regarding dialogue between N & A:
Also, very fascinated by depiction/dialogue highlighting t the 'class' distinction' and evolving relation btwn Natalya & Aksinya...the former, holding Aksinya off (imploringly), and the latter, wanting (demanding) a friendship. Is, or has Aksinya already decided, she needs to confederate w/ Natalya, against the demon...or, just her desire for friendship? Also, looked the way you had Natalya keep her back away from Aksinka, too....to hide the shame of scars from past whippings, etc. Can't figure out yet if Natalya is (truly) beaten down, or playing a role...with ambition of her own.
Finally, Regarding Demon:
Very surprised the Demon hasn't sought to use Natalaya's shame (of her whippings) to directly manipulate her; but, instead is concentrated on working thru/on Aksinya. Any reason why?
Thanks, yes, the demon is slowly playing them because he has no need to press Aksinya yet. Notice, he doesn't go after Natalya directly or obviously. The focus of the demon is Aksinya. We will see how he uses Natalya in the future. I do plan to use the whipping threat, but mostly against Aksinya--she fears the idea of hurting Natalya. This is an important revelation.
Here is the next bit:
Just as Lady Natalya finished dressing Aksinya, the demon pulled open the door again, “Countess, lady, if you will follow me, I have everything prepared for you.
Aksinya raised her eyebrow, but she stood. She stumbled and Natalya steadied her, “Thank you, Lady Natalya.”
The lady smiled. She placed the wonderful green hat with a slight black veil on Aksinya’s head. It masked her poorly cut hair. Natlaya picked up her sewing and the dress she was working on. Asmodeus reached out to take them both from her. He touched the shoulder of the dress and his expression changed. He almost dropped it.
Aksinya took a startled breath.
Natalya yanked the gown away from the demon’s hand, “Only I handle the countess’ clothing. It is my duty.” She stopped a moment to tuck the dress away with the sewing. The demon grasped the sewing case and it disappeared into his chest.
Aksinya slowly let the air out of her lungs.
Asmodeus turned toward her, “Is there something wrong, countess.”
Aksinya shook her head.
The demon smiled slyly but continued out of the compartment. The ladies followed him.
I thought you would like this short piece where we see Natalya's automatic reaction to her small responsibility being taken by the demon. Does the demon suspect anything. I leave it open.