Aksinya and Asmodeus are engaged in a very important conversation. Aksinya wants answers, the demon doesn't want to tell her anything except that which he can use to manipulate her. We have an argument of lies that comes to Pilate's question in the mouth of Aksinya...
“Then what is the truth?”
“Ah, that is the question. Isn’t it? What is the truth?”
“Tell me, demon.”
“But, Countess, I cannot. The truth is a trade secret.”
Aksinya made a depreciating sound and turned her head, “Just tell me, where is my book?”
“I don’t know. That is the truth. I suspect it will turn up. Why don’t you seek it yourself—you have the skills?”
“I have no desire to trade more of my virtue for so trivial a reason.”
Asmodeus voice rumbled oddly, “That is the rub, isn’t it? You have traded a great deal of your virtue for so little. You knew that to make such a great enchantment without protection would greatly harm you. You knew that without the items as symbols and the proper sacrifice, your body would have to bear entirely both the symbol and the sacrifice. You knew that mixing those new spells with the old would be dangerous. You defied me and that in itself was foolish. You almost died, you know.”
“I almost died. But, I traded all to save my friend, and...” She turned her gaze back to the demon, “I still think you are lying. I want my book. It is dangerous in the hands of others.” Aksinya put her hands down at her side, “Now, why did you disturb my rest?”
“I tried to come late enough that I didn’t disturb your own personal perversions.”
Aksinya just stared.
“Ah, so you have realized that also have you.”
“Your temptation is little more than a discomfort.”
“Because you have surrounded yourself with crosses,” the demon spat.
Aksinya allowed herself a tiny smile. She plucked at one of the petite crosses Natalya had sewn into her nightgown.
“I came to see how you fared. I’m glad you didn’t die. I have not completed all the evil I intend through you.”
“So, why did you come here tonight?”
The demon’s lips slightly rose over his fangs.
Aksinya tapped the covers under her fingertips, “I have another question for you.”
“Ask all you wish, Countess.”
Aksinya snarled, “Because you will not tell me the truth anyway.”
“What happened to the men at the tavern?”
This time the demon did smile. Aksinya could detect his humor before he spoke, “They are all dead.”
Aksinya's question is ours as well--and I don't mean just in this novel. This is the question Pilate posed to Christ. You might find it interested as well as illuminating that Aksinya asks it of the demon: “Then what is the truth?” The demon's flip response is characteristic of him--it is a trade secret. Of course it is, how would a demon know truth--he can't even swear on anything. Aksinya realizes this, thus her response and she returns to her important question--where is the book. The demon half-heartily tries to tempt her into more sin (sorcery).
Then, bang, we get a bit of truth from him. From the very beginning, Aksinya has traded her virtue for very little. She lost her family. She has involved herself in great sin. You know the demon's words in response are true--that is, the words about the great enchantment Aksinya made. Additionally, can't you feel the anger of the demon. She defied him and is still defying him. She goes back to her question about the book. She hopes he will answer her in truth this time, but she is mistaken, so she gives up on it and moves to the true point--why is Asmodeus here now. You knew no matter what he says, he has something to tempt her with. The demon turns the conversation to Aksinya's perversions--again typical of him, but Aksinya has figured this out. She doesn't bite, but the demon does. He is irritated about the crosses--they do protect her in some measure. Just like the crucifix around her neck. The demon has not finished the evil he desires through her, but he is not ready to reveal all, yet.
Aksinya brings up another point that bothers her. This is about the men from the tavern. We will have to wait until tomorrow to see what may come out of his response: “They are all dead.”