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Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Novel, Part 149 An Undefendable House

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

You know the drill.  This is the beginning of chapter 13 so it is time to transition and set the scene.  The transition comes first...

The invitations from Ernst continued every week. During that time, Aksinya and Natalya had an unwelcome break from school for Christmas and New Years. It was unwelcome because Natalya wanted to study and Aksinya liked the privacy of her own house—the Freiherr and Freifrau insisted they stay at Grossbock during the holiday. Ernst came to collect Aksinya and Natalya at Grossbock for their outings. Occasionally he ate dinner with them. During the holidays, he escorted Aksinya to dinner and a concert, opera, ballet, or a play every other day. The Freiherr and Freifrau encouraged Aksinya, and Aksinya was certain her aunt and uncle encouraged Ernst. She had her own suspicions that Asmodeus also encouraged him. She hadn’t seen Asmodeus for a while and that worried her very much. Natalya simply went along with Aksinya and carefully watched Ernst.

Aksinya made it her practice not to drink as much as she had the night of Die Zauberflöte. She still enjoyed the wine and Champagne Ernst served her, but she was just a little more cautious. She loved to drink but she did not enjoy the aftermath, and she wasn’t certain of what she did or told Natalya in the privacy of her room when she was not sober.

Ernst invited Aksinya, Natalya, and the Bockmanns to the Graff von Taaffe’s New Years dance and party. Because of the distance to the estate, they were invited to remain over until the next day and brought their small trunks and nightwear. They rode in the Bockmann’s coupe for more than two hours into the country until they arrived at the Graff von Taaffe’s estate. The way to the house from the main road was down a long tree-lined carriage path. Aksinya would have continued to read her German novel except that Natalya pointed out their approach to the house. They caught occasional glimpses from the enclosed cab of the great house as they cut back and forth in the gentle climb to the mansion.

The house was large and very old. From a distance, it looked like a schloß, but had a little more modern appearance close up. That is, on closer observation, it appeared to be from the eighteenth century, which it was, rather than from the fourteenth century, which it wasn’t. The front was stone with a generous fresco of marble, and all three floors displayed a similar exterior. The access to the heavy oaken front door was from a set of modern marble steps, but in contrast, the lower floor showed tiny windows and the top floor a crenulated roofline. Aksinya could spot the iron roofing that poked above the tops of the decorative crenulations. The second floor windows were larger and more numerous, but still gave an impression of medieval depth, and the top floor windows were the largest, but the thickness of the stone facade prevented any visibility into them. Tall constructions at either end of the face of the mansion appeared like towers, but they were encompassed at the walls and not separate structures.

The mansion reminded Aksinya a little of her house in Russia. The outline and much of the ornamentation were similar. In Russia, however, the purpose was protection and defense. Her house had been defended many times in the past by the Counts Golitsyna. She, on the other hand, had abandoned it instead of defending it with her life. She shook her head. She wondered why that thought had suddenly stolen into her mind. The von Taaffe estate, on the other hand, gave no impression that it had ever been defended against any real foe.

You need to ask yourself this question: does Aksinya appear like a woman in love.  If she does, I have failed miserably.  On the other hand, if Ernst doesn't appear like a love-struck puppy, I have messed up the writing entirely.  If you didn't get it before, you should now.  The details in this transition give you many details about Aksinya and Natalya and, of course, Ernst.  We knew about the relationship pushing from the Freiherr and Freifrau.  We could have guessed that Natalya loves to study and Aksinya loves her privacy.  I hope you are suspicious too about the interaction of Asmodeus in the whole affair.
We also see that Aksinya is trying to moderate her own behaviour.  She hasn't been successful in the past and we know where this kind of thing goes anyway.  I suspect she won't be successful now, but we shall see.  Note, that Aksinya is concerned with what she might reveal to Natalya while she is drunk. 
Now on to the main point of the chapter:  Ernst invited Aksinya to his father's estate for New Years.  He also, quite properly, invited Aksinya's aunt and uncle.  This is the scene setting for the chapter.  This occurs following the transition.  I give you a bunch of information in a tight format.  Notice that Aksinya doesn't care about the house, Natalya points it out to her.  It is through the eyes of Aksinya we see the house of Ernst's father.  The mansion is on a mountain top.  I don't tell you this, I show you this through the travel on the road.  I also use comparison and other techniques to describe the house to you.  This description is a metaphor for the Taaffe family.  So lets look at the details of that.
The house is large and very old.  Likewise the Taaffe family.  It looks like a castle (that's what a schloß is).  It is more modern close up.  So Ernst is like his father's house.  It has the appearance of age and the past, but close up, he is modern (in terms of a noble).  The other details likewise relate to the building and the family.  The contrast between modern and ancient between old and new.  The description of the house also shows the windows are tiny on the bottom with thick walls and wider with the same thick walls at the top.  This indicates the potential secrets and privacy of the family.  You know there is a depth and many secrets here, but I don't reveal any of them.  There are secrets especially about Ernst, but I haven't shown them to you.  You might ask about how Ernst became involved in sorcery.  You might wonder about his mother--we'll see that later, and his father.

The next comparison is between Aksinya's house and Ernst's father's house.  It reminds her of her house in Russia.  Take this metaphor to the full point.  Ernst's house is a facade; Aksinya's house was used for defense.  This is a foreshadowing to what I mentioned before.  Do you think Ernst can release Aksinya from her curse?  What do you read from his father's house.  Akinsya tells you that in spite of her power and her desires, in her well protected and defended house, she could not defend or protect it.  The end tagline about the Taaffe's estate is this: The von Taaffe estate, on the other hand, gave no impression that it had ever been defended against any real foe.  So what do you think?  Tomorrow, the arrival. 

A New Novel, Part 148 To Me Love is Desire

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Ernst took Aksinya to dinner and the opera.  Aksinya is depressed and suffering from her temptation that Ernst supplies.  She was drunk and spoke a truth he could not fully understand.  In the morning, Natalya and Sister Margarethe force Aksinya to face the world...

In the morning, Sister Margarethe and Natalya would not allow Aksinya to sleep late. They woke her and poured strong coffee down her and dressed her. With one on the left and the other on her right, they half carried her to chapel where she lost the coffee and breakfast they had fed her. They both took her to the dining room and served her tea and a half a roll. Aksinya slept through her classes. She and Natalya finally arrived at dinner. Aksinya did not look very well. She ate listlessly.

Fraulein Trauen couldn’t remain quiet, “Well Countess, how was your evening? Did you drink too much again?”

Aksinya played with her soup, “I was provoked.”


Natalya didn’t look up from her bowl, “Herr von Taaffe declared his undying love to her and announced his challenge against any other suitor.”

The women around the table stared at her. Fraulein Trauen swallowed.

Fraulein Pfaff sighed, “Right in the middle of the opera? How romantic.”

Natalya nodded, “At intermission.”

Fraulein Pfaff stretched her arms toward Natalya, “How did she accept it…?” She immediately thought better of her address. She turned toward Aksinya, “Did you accept his love, Countess?”

Aksinya rolled her eyes and gave Fraulein Pfaff a disdainful scowl. No one spoke. Finally, Aksinya stated in unequivocal terms, “I took Ernst’s confession under advisement. For now, I will allow him to continue to court me.”

Fraulein Pfaff’s mouth hung open, “Do you love him?”

Aksinya ran her fingers through her short hair, “Love him? I’m not certain I desire him.”

Fraulein Trauen cried out, “What a shameful thing to say. To desire him? What are you thinking?”

Aksinya pushed her soup out of the way and lay her head at her place. She plucked at the tablecloth, “What would I want with a man. I have everything I need right now. The only reason I would want one is to satisfy my desires.”

Fraulein Trauen’s ears reddened. Her mouth opened and closed a couple of times finally, she choked out, “There is certainly much more to a man than to satisfy your desires. No proper woman should have any desires at all.” Fraulein Trauen glanced around, “At least that’s what my mother says.”

Aksinya glanced up at her, “Your mother is a fool and so are you. The purpose of men is to fulfill a woman’s desires. That is the only reason I would have one, and Ernst von Taaffe must prove his willingness to meet my needs before I will consider anything else.”

Fraulein Pfaff asked, “Is that what love means to you?”

Aksinya smiled. She sat up so the fish course could be placed in front of her. When they were served, Aksinya picked at the small piece of salmon on her plate and answered, “Yes, truthfully, that is love to me. A man should meet my needs and desires—to me that is love. What else could love be?”

Fraulein Pfaff surveyed the table. Fraulein Trauen wouldn’t meet her eyes. Fraulein Vogt stared at her plate. Natalya’s gaze was steady, but she remained silent. Only Aksinya would look directly at Fraulein Pfaff, and Aksinya’s opinion was the last one she wanted to hear. Finally Fraulein Pfaff asked, “How would you love a man then?”

Aksinya smiled a very broad smile, “I would meet his every need and desire myself.”

Fraulein Trauen’s hands moved up to her mouth, “You don’t mean every desire, even those…”

Aksinya grinned, “Even those. That’s what I’d expect from him.”

The nun at the table finally took notice of the women in her charge. She raised her head in time to catch Aksinya with a very smug look on her face, Natalya with a bored look, and the others with their hands over their mouths.

Aksinya’s appetite improved considerably, but the conversation at the table didn’t continue at all that evening.

The morning events for Aksinya are a transition.  I want you to see the repetition of her worst days because I don't want you to forget who she is.  Luckily, Aksinya has Natalya and Sister Margarethe to pick up the pieces for her.  Again we arrive at dinner, where I have an opportunity to give you more information through the mouths of the characters--plus these conversations are always fun.  Aren't they? 

This evening Fraulein Trauen has the courage to speak up first.  Aksinya must look defenseless or at least ill.  It is obvious that Aksinya drank too much.  The girls likely note that when they see her.  It ruffles their mores, but they are usually cautious of their criticism.  Note, even Fraulein Trauen speaks around the issue.  Aksinya gives an answer that is surprising.  She said she was provoked.  This is half true and half a lie.  Ernst didn't intentionally provoke Aksinya, but the entire situation did provoke her.  The touch of Asmodeus was all over it.  This is what Aksinya means, but she can't say that out loud.  Did you notice, I like to develop situations where as much is said as left unspoken?  In my opinion, this is just like real life.

Instead, Natalya answers for Aksinya, and even Natalya's reply is a boiled down rendition of the most flattering statement of the evening.  In case you missed it in the excitement, Ernst declared his undying love to Aksinya and promised to fight off any other suitor.  Natalya didn't miss this very important point.  I didn't want you to miss it either--that's why I repeat it here.  The response of the other women around the table tells you how big a deal this is in this culture.  They have seen the progression of Ernst's relationship with Aksinya.  It is like a fairy tale to them.  The wicked witch is about to make an appearance. 

Natalya gives a few more details, but then the important question is voiced by Fraulein Pfaff.  We know the answer: Aksinya got drunk and had a wonderful one sided argument with Ernst.  This obviously can't be said.  Plus, look at the writing technique in Fraulein Pfaff's question.  She begins by addressing Natalya--the wrong thing to do.  Something, likely Aksinya's appearance, makes her change her address and question to Aksinya. 

Aksinya's answer to the question is typical of her.  We could have guessed this.  Fraulein Pfaff's next question is ours too.  Does Aksinya love Ernst?  This was the wrong question to ask Aksinya.  Look, if you haven't figured it out already, Aksinya is a really screwed up young woman.  It is unlikely that she understands anything about love at all.  Aksinya loves luxuria and sorcery.  People are out of her concept of love.  We aren't certain she loved her family although she gave up everything (except her life) for them.  The except her life part is important.

To Aksinya at this point, love equals desire.  She desires luxuria.  She desires sorcery.  She desires herself.  These are love to her.  But love comes in many colors.  You might ask yourself just how Aksinya loves Natalya.  Aksinya might not be able to answer that question.

You can count on Fraulein Trauen (Trauen means marriage in German, by the way), to bring the conversation into a moral sphere.  I want you to see this because it was the social and cultural view at the time.  Not every woman thought this way or held to this view, but it was very common.  To many, desire itself was considered evil or at least a temptation.

Aksinya's answer reflects her view of the world.  She has everything she needs right now.  The only reason she would want a man is to satisfy her desires.  We have seen how Aksinya satisfies her desires, by herself.  Asmodeus tried to get her to seduce Sister Margarethe to awaken Aksinya's desire for sex.  That hasn't happened yet, but there is an inkling here.  She does not love Ernst, but she is contemplating using him to satisfy her other desires.

Fraulien Trauen's response is exactly what I was referring to before--the view of the culture about a woman's desire.  Aksinya has another view entirely.  She is a countess and an aristocrat.  You might also wonder about her upbringing.  Her statement is scandalous.  She is testing Ernst to see if he meets her requirements (desires).  So far, Ernst has done so--he has provided her luxuria.  What he has held back is the sorcery books Aksinya desires.  Did you forget about the books and this part of Aksinya's desire.  She hasn't.

Fraulein Pfaff is our little romance infatuated woman--you knew that.  She can't believe her ears--is that love to Aksinya?  Aksinya's answer is straightforward.  She caps it with: "What else could love be?”

They can't answer her question.  Can you?  Aksinya just blew all their notions about men and love out of the water.  Fraulein Pfaff's half hearted question is important to all of them: “How would you love a man then?”  The response to Aksinya's answer shocks them.  This is only logical, if love to her is desire then the love from a man is one of desire.  The response of the young women is very important here.  Look at Natalya--she is bored.  Aksinya has won, at least philosophically.  The others are shocked--you just don't say these things in polite society.  The sister at the table finally catches a piece of the conversation, but she can't correct a countess.  Thus Aksinya brought temptation to those around her.  She confounded the innocent ideas of her schoolmates.  She is definitely not a good example.  She is not a good girl or person.  Her actions bring her happiness and others unhappiness.  You should understand what this means.  She has gone from winning the conversations with grace and levity to shocking the sensibilities of others, and this is the end of chapter 12.  The kicker is a gentle one.  It has importance in the broad scheme of the novel.  The answer to the question of what is love is an important one in the theme, but you knew that.  Tomorrow, the beginning of chapter 13.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A New Novel, Part 147 From the Queen of the Night to Pamina

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Once again, Ernst is entertaining Aksinya.  They go to dinner first...

They arrived at Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz and were greeted again by the bright lights and Herr Leichter. Once more, Aksinya thought she spotted Asmodeus in the mirror over the mantel in the foyer, but she did not spot him a second time so she counted it her imagination.

They ate in the Red Room again. This time, Aksinya’s dress didn’t clash with the décor. After a wonderful dinner, Ernst’s landau delivered them to the Wien State Opera. The Die Zauberflöte held Aksinya enthralled.  A faint scent of sulfur touched Aksinya’s nose for a single breath, but she didn’t see the demon.  Although she had drunk a little too much at supper, her mind wasn’t fuzzy at all through the opera.

At the intermission, an attendant delivered Champagne and caviar to the box. Ernst served Aksinya and then Natalya. Aksinya thirstily drank her first glass of Champagne, “Ernst, is this another comedy?”

“Yes, Countess.”

“It is all about marriage…”

“It is indeed about marriage and magic.”

“Yes, I couldn’t miss that part too. So who am I cast to be?”

Ernst poured Aksinya another glass of Champagne. Natalya frowned.

Aksinya raised her glass, “It’s all right Natalya. I’m thirsty and it matches the opera and my mood. So, who am I cast to be in this opera by Mozart?”

Ernst smiled, “Who do you wish to be?”

Aksinya took a deep breath, “I wish to be Pamina, the heroine, but I think I am The Queen of the Night.”

Ernst grinned, “If you are the Queen of the Night, then I must be the traitorous Monostatos.”

Aksinya raised her eyes to his, “You can’t be Monostatos—that role has already been cast.”

Ernst stared at her, “You aren’t kidding, are you?”

“I’m not kidding at all.”

He tried to take her hand in his, but she pulled it back at the last moment. Ernst’s appearance was very serious, “Then, I do have a rival in love?”

Aksinya giggled, “Only if I am truly the Queen of the Night.”

“I beg you not to play with my heart, Countess. I love you. I am serious…”

Aksinya sobered immediately, “I am also serious. If you wish to be my Tamino then you must find a way to transform me from the Queen of the Night to Pamina.”

Ernst grasped her hand, “Listen to me, Countess. I don’t intend to lose you to anyone in this world.”

Aksinya laughed. She couldn’t stop her laughter. It was slightly wild and uncontrolled. The other guests in the box seats next to and above and below them became silent. The audience close to them silenced. The conductor stepped across the stage and still Aksinya’s sweet laughter sang out in the suddenly quiet opera house.

Finally, Natalya put her arms around Aksinya. She whispered in her ear in Russian, “Please mistress, be quiet. You are embarrassing yourself.”

Aksinya immediately sobered. Her lips turned down. She appeared like she might cry but that lasted for only for only a moment. She turned her face to the side and pushed Natalya away.

The music started and the lights came down.

Aksinya held out her empty Champagne flute, “Ernst fill my glass and continue to fill it.”

Ernst poured the remainder of the bottle into Aksinya’s glass. He moved a little closer to her and whispered, “I’m terribly sorry. What did I say that so upset you?”

“It was nothing you said.”

“There had to be something.”

“Are you arguing with me, Herr von Taaffe.”

Ernst shut his mouth.

Aksinya sipped on her Champagne, “I will tell you this, Ernst von Taaffe. You have no idea what you desire from me or what you ask of me. You may never learn what you ask or the danger you run, but I will tell you this, nothing in this world competes against you. You have put yourself up against powers and evil that you can’t begin to imagine.”

Ernst stared directly into her eyes, “That may be so, Countess, but I swear I will overcome anything for you.”

Aksinya put her hand against his lips, “Do not swear anything in regard to me.” She turned back to the opera and held out her glass to be refilled.

In the end, Ernst had to carry Aksinya into her house. Sister Margarethe frowned at him the entire time. Ernst said nothing at all and after he placed Aksinya on her bed, he simply glanced around her room and quickly left. Sister Margarethe stepped after him to speak to him, but Natalya took her arm, “Sister, it was not his fault. He simply accommodated the Countess. She could not be reasoned with tonight.”

Sister Margarethe nodded.

Natalya continued, “See him out of the house and then come help me undress and put the Countess to bed.”

Natalya began to work the buttons on Aksinya’s gown.

You are already familiar with the Palais Coburg Hotel.  I gave you a detailed description when Ernst took Aksinya there before.  Therefore, I use some writing tricks to make your mind reenvision the place.  Do you remember the lights, the mirror in the foyer, Herr Leichter (whose name means light).  Aksinya is watching for Asmodeus.  I don't have to tell you she is paranoid.  She seeks him everywhere and may catch sight of him when he is not cautious--or perhaps the demon wants Aksinya to spot him. 

They ate in the Red Room again.  I don't have to tell you all about it a second time.  I remind you through Aksinya's dress and the name of the room itself.  These are details, but not important details.  The important ones will soon come.  Aksinya drank too much at dinner--we knew she would.  At the opera house, Aksinya catches the scent of sulfur.  We guess Asmodeus is around.  Ernst knows the way to Aksinya's heart--he has Champagne and caviar delivered to their box again at intermission.

Aksinya asks if this opera is a comedy.  It is and it is about marriage.  The reason I express this point from Aksinya's lips is that you must make the connection between the conversation in the landau about Ernst's intentions, this opera, and marriage.  Additionally, this opera is about magic.  I couldn't have designed a more opportune opera that matches the incidents in Aksinya's life.  Who might have suggested Ernst take Aksinya to this particular opera?  Aksinya then throws a bomb: "So who am I cast to be?”  I have given you an analogy of Aksinya within the opera.  It is Aksinya's analogy.  She wants to know how she stands in Ernst's mind.  Aksinya has been drinking a lot.  This could be dangerous in itself.  Ernst doesn't answer her question immediately and that is wise.  He is thinking and pouring wine.  This is a very dangerous Aksinya.  We have seen her in this state before.  Ernst, only a little.

Still, Ernst makes a wise and suave turn to Aksinya's question:“Who do you wish to be?”  The bomb starts ticking.  Aksinya wishes to be Pamina (the woman who is loved and who will be married in the opera) but she knows she is the evil "Queen of the Night."  Ernst's answer is humorous and again attempts to turn Aksinya's question.  If Aksinya is the "Queen of the Night," then Ernst will be Monostatos.  Monostatos isn't exactly a demon, but he might as well be. 

That's when the bomb explodes.  Aksinya makes the statement to Ernst that there is already a Monostatos in her life.  The lover of the "Queen of the Night" is cast.  We know exactly what she means.  We know Asmodeus is Aksinya's Monostatos.  Ernst takes this very seriously.  To him, Aksinya is declaring she has another lover.  Aksinya is trying to dissuade Ernst about marriage.  Aksinya is drunk.  She states exactly what she means and means exactly what she says, but her mind is free and her thoughts are free.  Aksinya is the "Queen of the Night."  She can't be any other.  She already has a lover--Asmodeus.  If you remember how Asmodeus treats the lovers of the woman he guards--think of Tobit, you will realize the problem here.

Aksinya gives Ernst the complete and true answer: "If you wish to be my Tamino then you must find a way to transform me from the Queen of the Night to Pamina.”  This is the thesis of this entire Novel in the setting of an analogy of Die Zauberflöte.  Ernst can't know any of this.  His answer "I don’t intend to lose you to anyone in this world,” is naive and to Aksinya's drunken mind childish.  But she is so desperate to become Pamina, she is near mental collapse.  She is losing control.  We've seen evidence before, these are more bread crumbs.

Natalya brings Aksinya back from the edge.  This is not a first, but only a progression of times when Natalya had to save her mistress.  For one moment, we think we might get a bit of human emotion from Aksinya, but no, not this time.  This time, Aksinya recovers completely to herself.  She demands more Champagne from Ernst, and Ernst tries to apologize.  There is no need.  He can't stop loving and worshiping her.  She cuts him off--it was truly nothing Ernst said; it was the truth. 

The truth embodied in Aksinya's next statement is critical in this work.  It is so critical, I'll repeat it: “I will tell you this, Ernst von Taaffe. You have no idea what you desire from me or what you ask of me. You may never learn what you ask or the danger you run, but I will tell you this, nothing in this world competes against you. You have put yourself up against powers and evil that you can’t begin to imagine.”  This is a statement directly in regard to Ernst's desire to marry Aksinya.  He makes another mistake when he tries to swear to her.  The obvious question we are left with is this: could Ernst von Taaffe have the potential power and ability to release Aksinya from her curse?  That is, from her contract with Asmodeus.  If you can answer this question, you will not be surprised later.

Aksinya drinks herself into unconsciousness.  This is new for her but expected.  This scene is not a turning point in the novel, we are still building to that.  This is a strong scene where I get to use metaphor, allegory, and analogy to show you about the theme of this novel.  You can see how much work I have gone to to be able to get to this point.  The knowledge imparted would be nothing without all that has gone before.  The revelations here are meant to prepare you for the revelations to come.  The ultimate question is whether Aksinya will always be "The Queen of the Night" or will she be transformed into a Pamina?  Tomorrow, Aksinya gives a lesson in love and desire.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A New Novel, Part 146 What are Your Intentions?

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Ernst has invited Aksinya to go to dinner and the opera on Christmas Eve...

On Wednesday evening, Ernst’s landau drove up to Aksinya’s front door. Ernst brought another bouquet. It included a red rose in a nest of small blue flowers. Aksinya wore her mink cloak when she stepped out of her house, but Natalya hadn’t tied the collar very tightly so Aksinya’s brilliant red silk and pink lace gown showed at the opening. The dress fit her perfectly and showed off her status and limited figure to best effect.

As Aksinya stepped out of her house, Natalya touched her arm and pointed at the windows of Sacré Coeur that overlooked the street. The faces of their classmates were pressed against the tall windows. Aksinya raised her bouquet and waved. Fraulein Vogt and Fraulein Pfaff waved back. Fraulein Trauen stepped quickly away from the window and out of sight. A host of other younger girls waved back vigorously.

Ernst glanced up and laughed. He didn’t wave—he placed his finger at the side of his nose and winked at the girls. Ernst and his driver helped Aksinya and Natalya into the landau. The driver snuggly tied down the leather sides.

After the landau began to move, Ernst laughed again, “Your cheering gallery was out in force tonight. I didn’t notice them before.”

Aksinya kept her head forward, “They weren’t there before.”

Ernst stroked his chin, “Why not?”

“I told them the other time, but I don’t think they believed me. Plus, the fact I had a house was somewhat a secret at the time.”

“It isn’t a secret now?”

“It is still a secret, but such things are nearly impossible to keep quiet in a school for girls.”

He laughed again.

Aksinya frowned, “Where is my book?”

“It is safe. I promise you, Countess.”

“When will you return it to me?”

Ernst sat back and turned more toward her, “Perhaps, Countess when I have my way with you.”

Aksinya blushed but smiled behind her hand.

Natalya also colored, “I warn you Herr von Taaffe, my understanding of German is improving and your comment was most unbecoming.”

“I apologize to both of you. I did not intend my words to be taken as innuendo. I simply don’t want to give up my surety until I am certain I have achieved my goals.”

Natalya squinted through the darkness in the landau at Ernst, “I would like to know just what your intentions are toward my mistress.”

“Shouldn’t her uncle ask me that?”

“I protect her, so you must answer to me.”

“Very well. I am obviously wooing her with the intention of marriage.”

Natalya sat back, “I gathered as much, but I wanted to hear that from your lips.” Natalya had a very thoughtful look on her face, but it was mostly covered by the deep shadows in the landau.

I don't need to use many words to describe the scene.  You already know Ernst's landau.  You already know Aksinya's house and the street where the school and the house lie.  Those parts that have changed are the most important.  Those details are necessary. 

Ernst brings a bouquet with a red rose and blue flowers.  You already know about red roses and their meaning in Germanic cultures.  Now, take a look at the way Natalya has dresses Aksinya.  Aksinya has on her mink cloak (of course she does).  Natalya has left Aksinya's cloak open slightly.  That reveals Aksinya's dress and body.  Natalya is obviously framing Aksinya for Ernst.  She is like a red rose in a nest of a mink cloak.  This is a parallelism using description.  It is an advanced writing technique.  I use it extensively throughout my writing.  There are many examples, most are not as obvious as this one.  Note, the dress shows off Aksinya and her status.

The attention and status of Aksinya at Sacré Coeur are revealed in the next paragraph.  The girls are watching for Aksinya to go out on her date.  Fraulein Vogt and Pfaff are excited for Aksinya.  Fraulein Trauen not so much.  Ernst gives a romantic response to the girls in the school.  They admired him.  Now, they love him too.  Then Aksinya tells Ernst a little about the situation at the school and with the girls.  This is intended as a bit of entertainment.  Aksinya's response: secrets are hard to keep in a girl's school.  Still, she isn't taken in by Ernst, her first question: "Where is my book?"  This simple question gives Ernst an opportunity to make a statement of questionable pedigree.  It is an completely inappropriate statement, but we aren't certain how innocent it is.  Aksinya really is warming to Ernst.  She isn't offended at all.

Natalya is offended for Aksinya.  She calls Ernst on his statement.  Ernst apologises and shows us that he isn't as intentionally inappropriate as his words might seem.  Ernst has goals and Natalya wants to know what those goals are.  Ernst's answer is straight forward.  We could have guessed that this was Ernst's purpose.  He is wooing Aksinya with the intention of marriage.  Natalya's response seems ambivalent, but she did prepare Aksinya as a bouquet for Ernst.  Tomorrow, dinner and the opera.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A New Novel, Part 145 He Worships Me Too

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Ernst invited himself to dinner on Saturday evening at Grossbock.  We join Aksinya on Sunday morning...

Aksinya felt a little better at the Ecclesia on Sunday. The younger priest, Father Dobrushin’s piercing glance seemed to linger too much on her face, but Aksinya wasn’t certain if that was just her imagination. She didn’t speak to either of the priests that morning. Asmodeus did not make an appearance the entire weekend.

Aksinya and Natalya had a good beginning week at school. Natalya spoke passable German with a Russian accent. She was fluent enough now that she could keep up with her classes. Natalya still tutored her, but expended more effort on her own work. Her teachers were pleased. Natalya was pleased. Sister Margarethe was pleased. Aksinya was somewhat pleased with herself.

On Tuesday during dinner, Fraulein Pfaff again engaged Aksinya in conversation, “Well Countess, did you hear again from Herr von Taaffe?”

Aksinya grinned, “He came to dinner on Saturday.”

Fraulein Trauen dropped her fork, “At Grossbock?”

“Yes, at Grossbock.”

Fraulein Vogt asked, “Did you invite him?”

Aksinya sat up straight, “No, he invited himself through the Freiherr and Freifrau, but he informed me first of his intentions.”

Fraulein Pfaff clapped her hands together, “That is soooo suave. He is obviously a well bred gentleman.”

The elder sister at the table snapped her fingers at Fraulein Pfaff’s clap and loud response.

Fraulein Pfaff put her hands at her side and lowered her voice, “Sorry sister.”

Fraulein Vogt spoke excitedly, “Still that is very polished of him. I am more and more impressed by this gentleman. Has he asked you to accompany him again, Countess?”

“He has invited me to the opera and dinner on Wednesday.”

Natalya nodded.

Fraulein Trauen grinned over her glass, “That’s Christmas Eve. I hope you don’t intend to drink as much that other evening.”

Aksinya’s lips turned up in a grin, “I intend to drink and eat as much as I like. I shall not drink so much I will miss any of Ernst’s advances.”

“Ernst?” Fraulein Trauen dropped her knife.

“Yes, he asked me to call him by his given name.”

Fraulein Trauen’s eyes widened, “And you do?”

“Of course I do. Why should I not?”

Fraulein Trauen was breathless, “What does he call you?”

Aksinya put her chin on the back of her hand and batted her eyes at Fraulein Trauen, “He calls me, Countess, of course.”

When I want to indicate to you Aksinya's spiritual condition, I show you how things go at the Mass.  In this case, the Freiherr and Freifrau take Aksinya and Natalya to the Orthodox Ecclesia.  There is a writer's trick here.  I do not want you to forget about the Ecclisia, and I don't want you to forget about Father Dobrushin.  He bothers Aksinya--this in itself should be an indicator.  Asmodeus hasn't made an appearance in a while.  Do you remember Aksinya's realization that the demon might be in the room with her and she wouldn't know?
The world is happy.  Aksinya is content.  Natalya is content.  Natalya is progressing--Aksinya not so much.  Remember, study was the thing Aksinya loved.  She gave it up somewhat for Natalya.  Still, everyone seems pleased with the world.
We transition to the Tuesday dinner conversation.  I hope you enjoy these conversations as much as I enjoy writing them.  When I set up the entire existence of the girl's school, I intended these conversations to enlighten you about many incidents around and within Aksinya's life.  As I wrote before, one of the reasons for the setting was to allow this kind of information flow.  I think this writing technique is effective and entertaining.  If you want to use this technique, you must set up a situation that requires it.  I recommend at least three or so adversaries.  You must describe them and delineate them by their personalities and descriptions.
For this dinner conversation, the purpose is to communicate Aksinya's thoughts about Ernst.  That is generally the purpose of all these kinds of dialogs.  They allow the author to convey information to the reader without telling you what the character thinks.  In every case, there is also some degree of unsurity about the true thoughts of the characters.  Just like in real life, the reader should not know more than they can see or perceive.  This is a critical rule in good writing. 
The topic of conversation is announced immediately by Fraulein Pfaff.  She is the positive character and the curious one.  She is positive in her approach to Aksinya.  Fraulein Trauen is the negative character.  She is adversarial toward Aksinya.  Fraulein Trauen's reaction tells you a lot about her thinking.  She knows the name of the Bockmann's estate, and she knows Akinsya and Natalya go there for the weekends.  Perhaps this is common knowledge in the school.  I never told you it was.  You assume it from the Fraulein's statement, but there is more.  Fraulein Trauen's reaction also shows you that for a gentleman to come calling at the house of a lady is a big deal.  You know in this culture that is true.
Fraulein Vogt is the neutral figure.  Her father is also the politician.  She asks the obvious question.  The answer to such a question will give much information to the ladies at the table.  That Ernst invited himself and it was accepted by the Freiherr is a big deal.  This shows them that he is pursuing Aksinya with the blessings of her uncle.  To Ernst's credit, he also told Aksinya he was coming to dinner on Saturday.  He really didn't have to.  Thus Fraulein Pfaff's reaction.
The Sister at the table has not had much input at all before.  I didn't tell you she was a little deaf, but you might figure that out.  Fraulein Pfaff's loud reaction gets a reproof.  We get a reaffirmation from Fraulein Vogt about Ernst's gentlemanliness.  Plus, Akinsya can then tell them Ernst asked her out again.  Natalya is not unhappy with the invitation.
Fraulein Trauen takes the opportunity to get in a jibe at Aksinya's expense.  She also gives me the opportunity to remind you of the scene setting in time--it is approaching Christmas Eve.  Aksinya's reposte' is to the point and repeats the last kicker in this setting.  She adds a little piece of information in her response, however.  For her to call Ernst by his first name is a great intimacy in this time and social setting.  It indicates very much to these ladies.  Fraulein Trauen shows you that with her reaction.  The important question from all the ladies around the table is what does Ernst call Aksinya?  If he uses her given name, that means they are lovers.  This is the response they all expect.  If he calls her Fraulein, that means they are equals in relationship, but not intimate.  Aksinya's answer floors them, it shows that she has not given over any intimacy from her degree of aristocracy.  The fact that Ernst holds to that shows both his respect for Aksinya and the degree of difference between them.  Aksinya might as well have said Ernst is her lapdog.  Her response shows her degree of control over the relationship and puts the respect of the ladies at a new level.  We will observe this new level of respect tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A New Novel, Part 144 Read to Me this Evening

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Aksinya and Natalya are at Grossbock.  This is their usual weekend hangout.  Ernst with the acceptance and help of Aksinya's aunt and uncle, has invited himself to dinner...

When Saturday evening came around, Aksinya did not greet Herr von Taaffe at the door. She read a book in the family parlor, and Natalya sat with her. Freiherr Bockmann wanted to use the formal greeting parlor, but Aksinya liked the large fireplace in the family parlor with its very warm wood and coal fire. She remained facing the fireplace when Herr von Taaffe entered.

Ernst came around to the blazing fireplace and stood in front of Aksinya, “Countess Golitsyna, good evening.”

Aksinya made a wry face, but didn’t look up from her book, “Good evening, Herr von Taaffe.”

“Sweet Lady, I told you, you may call me, Ernst.”

“Very well, Ernst.” She glanced up from her book. “Do not neglect my lady-in-waiting. She is not your servant, and you have been introduced.”

“I’m sorry, Lady Obolenska. Good evening.”

Natalya nodded.

Freiherr Bockmann pulled a chair over for Ernst. He put it close to the left side of Aksinya’s seat. Ernst sat down. Aksinya opened her book again, and Ernst pulled it out of her hands. He laughed, “You didn’t intend to neglect me, did you?”

“No, I did accept your invitation to dine and to the opera next week.”

“I received your post.”

“Then, you see I have no intention of neglecting you. In fact, I shall give you all my attention on Wednesday evening.”

“What about tonight?”

Aksinya scowled at him, “You did not ask my permission about tonight. You came to entertain my aunt and uncle. I certainly don’t want to get in your way.”

Ernst laughed again, “I warned you I was coming. I invited myself to your aunt and uncle’s for the purpose of seeing you again. Will you let me entertain you?”

“What? Entertain me in my own relation’s home? That is certainly pretentious.”

“With your and their permission, I will attempt to engage you in a pleasant evening’s conversation.”

“I intended to read this evening.”

“Then I shall read to you.”

Aksinya’s eyebrow rose, “You would?”

Ernst nodded.

Aksinya took the book from him and stuck it between her hip and the chair, “Perhaps after dinner.” She stood, “Ernst, you may escort me to table. Uncle, I am ready for dinner.”

They went together into the family dining room.

Aksinya was pleasant to Ernst during dinner and the rest of the evening. He left before the Freiherr and Freifrau retired for the evening. Ernst did not read to Aksinya that evening, they were all too busily engaged in polite conversation.

Aksinya is being a real stinker, but in the culture, her actions are considered reasonable.  Ernst wants her attention.  She is not ready to give it so readily.  You can imagine Aksinya's mind.  She wants her books.  She is just getting comfortable with Ernst, but she would never admit that.  She snubs him, but he treats her as a friend.  Aksinya, at this point, is without any help.  The Freifrau and Freiherr, and Natalya are all happy to see her a friend with Ernst.
Ernst places himself where he can't be ignored.  Aksinya snubs him, but acknowledges his precense.  In this culture, that is a step ahead.  Ernst announces before the "family," Aksinya may call him by his given name.  That is very intimate.  Because she does would be a reason for her aunt and uncle to rejoice.  Aksinya bursts Ernst's bubble by reminding him of his manners.  She does it in a very strong way that lifts up Natalya.
The Freiherr is encouraged by Aksinya's intamacy and brings a chair for Ernst.  Ernst, likewise, acknowledges his closeness by taking the book out of Aksinya's hands.  He reminds her of her responsibility as a member of the host's family, and she turns it around at him.  We also get that Aksinya responded to Ernst's letter.  I don't show you the letter, but let you know it was.  Then, we get to the whole part that is iritating to Aksinya--tonight.  Ernst didn't ask her about this evening.  She's right, Ernst used his influence on her uncle.  Aksinya is quite proper in her response.  We get a dialog give and take about this very point.  It is a verbal contest that Ernst wins by giving everything to Aksinya.  Aksinya likes this in a man.  She does want a man she can control.  The evidence of the action is that Aksinya places her book away--it doesn't get taken out again that evening.  She allows Ernst to escort her to dinner.  This is a huge change from ignoring him to taking his arm to dinner.
The end is a small kicker--he didn't read to her because they were engaged in polite conversation.  Aksinya is indeed warming to Ernst von Taaffe.  Tomorrow, a small transition and dinner at Sacré Coeur.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A New Novel, Part 143 Ernst von Taaffe is Coming on Saturday Night

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Aksinya is recovering from her evening with Ernst.  She had a hangover, and Natalya assured her that Ernst would ask her to dinner again...

Indeed, a letter came to Aksinya’s house the next day.

Ernst Franz von Taaffe
Stal Straße
Wien, Austria

19 December 1918

Dearest Lady Golitsyna

Thank you for attending the ballet and dinner with me last evening. Your presence was dazzling. You lit up my evening the same way the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz lights up the night sky. You made me so happy, dear Countess, I would like to see you again this weekend, and I wish to invite you next week to dinner and the grand Christmas performance of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. We shall work out the details when I see you at Grossbock on Saturday. Until then,

Ernst Franz von Taaffe, heir to Graf von Taaffe”

On Friday evening, Aunt Brunhilda greeted Aksinya and Natalya when they arrived at Grossbock. She curtsied and took Aksinya’s hands. Her first breathless words were, “Dear Countess, Ernst von Taaffe has asked to dine with us on Saturday night…”

Aksinya frowned, just a little, “Did you accept?”

Aunt Brunhilda stared as though Aksinya had lost her mind, “Of course we accepted.” She smiled and shook Aksinya’s hands, “He is the perfect match for you.”

Aksinya rolled her eyes, “I’m cold. Could we retire to the family parlor?”

“Even better, we can have aperitifs in my sitting room until dinner.”

Throughout dinner and Saturday, Aunt Brunhilda wouldn’t stop talking about Herr von Taaffe. Aksinya wondered if she would be able to put up with her Aunt for the rest of the weekend. Ominously, Asmodeus did not make an appearance Friday evening. Aksinya had not seen him for a long time. She had not attempted to contact him, and she had not called him. She had a very bad feeling about his lack of appearance and speculated that the demon was either preparing something very unpleasant for her or that she was accomplishing everything he desired her to do. The later worried her the most.

Ernst is a gentleman although a gentleman who could use a little more polish.  He sends a note to Aksinya the next day.  The letter is a little overwrought and a little romantic, but that's Ernst.  It is obvious he invited himself to Grossbock for the weekend.  If you remember that Ernst and the Freiherr have an arrangement about Aksinya, then you know Ernst won't be turned away.  The Freiherr and Freifrau are very must in favor of Ernst and his suit.  All this is confirmed to us when Aunt Brunhilda greets Aksinya and Natalya.  Aksinya does everything she can to deflect it, but the Freifrau won't let thoughts about Ernst go.

The real issue troubling Aksinya is while she is embroiled in this wonderful little love affair, Asmodeus is nowhere to be found.  She hasn't tried to call the demon for obvious reasons.  Aksinya knows things are not right, but she doesn't want them to stop.  She loves everything that is going on.  She is warming to Ernst and falling into the temptation before her.  Aksinya knows what is going on, but she won't admit it to herself.  She is willing to let everything play out in spite of the possible tragic ending, because she can't imagine any tragedy.  Not at this point.  Tomorrow, Herr von Taaffe.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A New Novel, Part 142 I Wouldn't Want to Miss Any Untoward Advances

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Aksinya came home drunk last night.  She revealed her soul (or a small part of it) to Natalya.  Natalya promised to never deny or betray Aksinya.  The next morning, Aksinya has to pay the price for her luxuria...

Aksinya was impossible the next morning. Natalya had to shake her for ten minutes to wake her. She had Sister Margarethe bring coffee instead of tea and made Aksinya drink a whole cup while she bathed and dressed her.

Aksinya protested the entire time. Natalya had to request help from Sister Margarethe. Together, they finally dressed, bathed, and fed Aksinya. Then they walked across the street to Sacré Coeur. Chapel was a chore. Aksinya fell ill from the very beginning and had to leave before the blessing of the elements. She was sick, but afterwards, Natalya found her a cup of tea. Sister Margarethe joined them until it was time for class.

When they entered the classroom together with Sister Margarethe, Aksinya stepped directly to her seat by the window and fell into it. She lay her head down on her arms and closed her eyes. The rest of her classes didn’t go much better for Aksinya. She was behind in everything and didn’t seem to care. Natalya kept better than an average pace.

At dinner, Aksinya was listless and ate little.

Anna Pfaff started the conversation at their table, “So, Countess, did Ernst von Taaffe escort you to the ballet?” She would not look Aksinya in the eyes. They darted all around the table.

Natalya sat a little straighter, “Yes, he did escort her. He was a very pleasant gentleman.”

Frieda Trauen glanced over her glass, “I understand our sweet countess was a little under the weather today.”

Aksinya didn’t move much, “I had too much to drink, but the evening and the gentleman were pleasant.”

Fraulein Trauen smirked, “I hope for your sake, he wasn’t too familiar during your drunken state.”

Natalya glared at her, “My mistress was in no way imprudent during the evening.”

“She was drunk.”

Aksinya snarled, “I just drank a little too much. By the way, Herr von Taaffe did not ogle the ballerinas.”

Fraulein Trauen cocked her head, “Oh really, then were did he keep his eyes?”

Aksinya stared at her, “He kept them on me the entire evening. I’m not certain he looked at anyone on the stage. He took me to the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz for dinner in the red room and to the ballet. We had caviar and Champagne at intermission.”

Dieter Vogt sucked in her breath, “The red room—ooh.”

Fraulein Pfaff shook her head, “You have totally ensorcelled Herr von Taaffe.” She bent her neck toward Aksinya and blinked her eyes, “You should strike while the iron is hot.”

Fraulein Trauen was shocked, “Whatever do you mean? She should strike while the iron is hot?”

Fraulein Pfaff scowled, “You can’t be so naïve, Fraulein Trauen. The Countess should use her every womanly wile to entice Herr von Taaffe.”

Fraulein Trauen rose in her seat a little, “What do you mean Fraulein Pfaff? Are you suggesting the Countess act in some imprudent way?”

Aksinya’s laugh startled them all. She didn’t sit up, “It is only the first evening, but Herr Taaffe pleases me very much. I shall see what will come of it. Perhaps he will ask me out again.”

Natalya touched her lips with her napkin, “He will certainly ask you out again.”

Aksinya laughed again, “Do you really think so, Lady Natalya?”

Natalya smiled. Her brow rose, “It is certain.”

Aksinya smiled, “Then, Lady Natalya, you must ensure I don’t drink so much I miss Herr Taaffe’s untoward advances. I would surely not wish to miss something like that.” She glared at Fraulein Trauen who didn’t dare squeak out a reply.

Aksinya's slow descent into decadence is showing effects.  Already, her teachers don't expect much from her.  She is enjoying her luxuria and sorcery.  She is being tempted by Ernst.  She is like a slow motion train wreck, and Asmodeus is in control of it all.  Natalya is there to pick up the pieces.  She truly loves Aksinya and enjoys taking care of her.  Natalya couldn't do it by herself--she had to get Sister Margarethe.  The spiritual results of Aksinya's binge is evident when she goes to chapel.  The result of her neglect for her schoolwork is evident in the classroom.  Natalya is progressing--we know much of that is due to Aksinya.
Dinner wasn't much better for Aksinya.  Fraulein Pfaff wants to know how the evening went.  She won't look Aksinya in the eyes because of how Aksinya appears--she looks dangerous.  Still Anna wants to know.  But look at this, Natalya answers for Aksinya.  She understands German well enough now to converse.  Fraulein Trauen just makes fun of Aksinya, but that's Frieda.
Aksinya responds this time.  She doesn't move much because she is still feeling the effects of her drinking.  She admits she drank too much--she isn't ashamed of it at all.  Did you note that?  Fraulein Trauen won't let it go.  She can't let go of the sexual innuendo about Aksinya and Ernst.  Natalya defends Aksinya, but Fraulein Trauen just states her insinuation again as if drunkenness itself would results in the loss of a woman's virtue.
Aksinya turns everything around with her pithy statement about the object of Ernst's attention during the ballet.  This statement by Aksinya is powerful on many levels.  If you remember, not long ago, Fraulein Trauen attacked Ernst's integrity with the comment that he would give inordinate attention to the ballerinas.  Instead, Ernst gave inordinate attention to Aksinya.  This is a direct slam-dunk against every arguement Fraulein Trauen made about Aksinya's virtue, appearance, and nobility.  Aksinya goes further to tell them where Ernst took her and about the expensive snack during intermission.  The romantic Fraulein Pfaff advises Aksinya to go for Ernst.  Ernst is such a good catch, any girl would want him for her husband.  Note, that Anna tempts Aksinya to act to seduce Ernst.  Fraulein Trauen realizes this and that she has lost this exchange.  That is why Aksinya laughs.  Aksinya is as good as the demon at influencing others.  Aksinya gives the coupe de grace--she will entertain Ernst next time too.  Aksinya finalizes it with a barb against Fraulein Trauen.  Tomorrow, another invitation and an intrusion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A New Novel, Part 141 I Love You; I Won't Deny You

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Ernst returned Aksinya and Natalya to Aksinya's house.  Aksinya is inhebriated, but not yet asleep.  Natalya prepares her for bed...

Inside Aksinya’s room, Aksinya lay across her bed. Natalya undid the buttons and hooks on her dress. Aksinya was still awake, but her eyes were closed. Natalya pushed against her side, “Roll over Aksinya.”

Aksinya rolled with Natalya’s help. Natalya undid the rest of the buttons. She pulled the dress up and over Aksinya’s head. That was a struggle. The petticoats and underclothes came off more easily. When Natalya tried to put on Aksinya’s nightgown, Aksinya fended her off, “I’m hot. I don’t want to wear anything.”

“That’s the wine. You’ll be cold soon enough.”

“Just wait a bit. The room’s spinning.”

“That’s the wine too. Put your feet on the floor.”

“I’m dizzy. Why did you let me drink so much?”

Natalya snorted, “I didn’t have any say in it. You may remain like you are for the time being.” Natalya washed Aksinya’s face while she lay on the bed. She tugged Aksinya to sit and leaned against her back so she couldn’t flop back down. Natalya began to brush Aksinya’s hair, “Your hair is finally growing out a little.”

Aksinya clumsily brought her hands to her face, “Are you certain?”

“Yes, it is almost to your shoulders at the very back. It is beautiful hair—why did you cut it? You never told me.”

“I thought I did.”

“You didn’t. Was it part of your sorcery?”

Aksinya trembled, “Is it that obvious to you?”

“It was cut with a very sharp knife, snick-snack. Your aunt told me your hair once reached down to your waist. She said you used to put it in a long single braid and that it was the most beautiful hair she had ever seen.”

“My mother would brush it for me every night. She kept her hair short—I was never certain why. She loved to let my hair cascade through her fingers.”

“She loved you very much.”

“She loved my hair—me, not so much.”

Natalya tugged a little harder on the brush than she needed to, “Why would you say that?”

“Because I think it is the truth. Why do you brush my hair?”

Natalya smiled, “Because I love you.”

“Do you love me because of who I am or because of what I did for you?”

Natalya brushed a little harder.

“Ouch, you don’t have to be so rough.”

“If you weren’t drunk, I’d hit you with this brush.”

Aksinya didn’t turn, “Why are you crying?”

“Why does love have to be like a contract with you?”

Aksinya didn’t reply.

“I do love you because you rescued me, but there is much, much more. I love you because you were the first to look at me as if I was a real person.”

“Then you should not love me at all. Asmodeus found you. He convinced me to take you as my lady-in-waiting and… and… as my apprentice.” Aksinya clutched her hands to her small breasts, “He forced me to take you into my household. I would not have done it without his temptation.”

Natalya leaned her face against Aksinya’s back. Her hot tears trickled down Aksinya’s cooling skin, “But you did. You made me your friend. You let me go to school with you. You told me you loved me. I can offer you nothing, but still you do love me.”

Aksinya’s response was a mumble, “Yes, I love you, Nata.”

“Then why do you think I love you with any less love?”

“I’m sorry, Nata.” Akisnya’s voice was slurred, “There is a time when I know everyone will deny me.”

“I will not deny you.”

Her speech slowed a little more, “If you don’t deny me, then you will betray me. You see, I am not allowed love, and I am not allowed friends. I am only allowed suffering.” At the end, Natalya had to strain to hear her.

Natalya clasped Aksinya around her naked shoulders, “I will try my hardest not to deny or betray you, Mistress.” She held her tightly for a while. Aksinya’s breathing came slowly and regularly. Aksinya sagged in her arms. Natalya realized Aksinya was asleep. Into Aksinya’s lengthening hair she whispered, “I love you. I will never deny or betray you.”

Aksinya is in a state we have never seen her before.  All her defenses are down.  She doesn't care abut what she is saying.  She doesn't care what she says.  Natalya has taken control again.  The indication of this is that she easily uses Aksinya's name while she undresses her. 

Remember how embarrassed Aksinya was about her body.  She is at the point that she doesn't care.  She lays naked on the bed.  This is a clear indicator.  Do you see how experienced Natalya is with drinking and drunkeness.  She knows all about it and all about what to do: put your feet on the floor.  We learn more about Natalya.

Aksinya blames Natalya for her drinking.  Aksinya knows that isn't true.  She is out of control, and she realizes it, but like all of us, she grasps at someone else to blame.  Natalya knows it is just the wine.  She washes Aksinya's face and gets her ready for bed.  Then...the hair.  Did you catch that?  Natalya says that Aksinya's hair is finally growing out.  This goes directly back to the contract with the demon.  Aksinya's question is our quesiton--does that mean she might be able to break her contract with Asmodeus.  Look at Aksinya's reaction.  Natalya has no idea the scab she is picking right now.  She blunders directly into the place even the inhebriated Aksinya will not go.  Aksinya lies--she knows she never told Natalya about her hair.  Natalya rips the scab right off--she talks about what Aksinya's aunt said about Aksinya's hair in the past.  This is a double slap to Aksinya: her aunt and her sorcery.  Rembember Aksinya's hair was the thing she thought was the most beautiful part of her.  Her aunt thought so too.  This rubs everything in Aksinya's face on so many levels: her beauty, her sorcery, the contract with the demon.

Aksinya does the only thing she can, she can't let the idea of her hair go.  She can only remenisc about it.  She speaks about her mother.  And Aksinya reveals another scab to us and to Natalya--her mother.  Natalya knows all about mothers who desert you, but Aksinya's mother seemed to love her.  Natalya's reaction is predictable.  Aksinya doesn't know when to keep quiet either.  Then the absolute truth.  Natalya will not be able to handle it.  Aksinya can only do one thing attack.  She attacks her friend.  If Aksinya doesn't attack, she will have to face the truth about herself.  Natalya's reaction is the only way she can fight back.  She threatens and she weeps.  She fights back: “Why does love have to be like a contract with you?”  We know the reason.  We know how Aksinya thinks--Natalya doesn't.  Natalya's whole life is centered around Aksinya.  She has nothing else in life.  She literally worships Aksinya, but Aksinya is denying her and all her trust.  Aksinya absolutely rejects the entire salvation of Natalya.  Yet, in spite of everything, Aksinya does love Natalya.  This truth has never been a secret.  This has always been part of Aksinya since she took Natalya into her household.  She loves Natalya, and Natalya loves Aksinya with all her soul.

Then we get the full revelation--Aksinya knows exactly what Asmodeus has planned for her.  The truth can only come out when all her defenses are down.  She can only admit it to herself under these circumsatnces.  Aksinya knows what will happen, but Natalya can only deny the facts.  Natalya has no idea what she faces.  She has no idea a demon is in control of Aksinya's life and being. 

Aksinya is right, she is not allowed love and she is not allowed friends.  She is only allowed suffering.  At the end, I give you a kicker.  Into Aksinya's lengthening hair, Natalya weeps: “I love you. I will not deny or betray you.”  We know she will.  We know eventually everyone will deny and betray Aksinya.  Tomorrow, a hangover, of course.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A New Novel, Part 140 Coppellia and Caviar

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

We know about the ballet Aksinya and Ernst are about to see.  We see it parallels Aksinya's life.  Now, to the ballet...

The curtain rose and the ballet began. Throughout, laughter from the audience punctuated the performance. Natalya and Ernst both chuckled under their breath. Aksinya didn’t laugh. She had never laughed in the theater. Her lips did turn up many times in a gentle smile.

During the very delightful ballet, Aksinya remembered the words of Fraulein Trauen. She took surreptitious glances to see where Ernst’s eyes dwelt. Every time she looked, his eyes were focused on her profile. She couldn’t help but blush. She wasn’t certain he ever glanced at the very beautiful ballerinas who danced on the stage.

At the intermission, a butler delivered caviar and Champaign to their box. Ernst served Aksinya, “Countess, would you rather have vodka?”

“I do like vodka, but Champaign with caviar is my favorite.” She inclined toward him, “Plus, I’m not sure how much vodka I should drink. The wine at dinner went a little to my head.”

Ernst refilled her glass. Natalya watched closely. She barely sipped at her still filled glass.

Aksinya watched the second Act with greater enjoyment. Ernst thought he heard a giggle from her a couple of times. Natalya frowned.

They returned home late. It wasn’t too late, but still late. Aksinya leaned sleepily against Natalya the entire trip back to the house. Aksinya could not stand without help. Natalya wouldn’t let Ernst sit next to Aksinya. When they exited the landau, Natalya did let him help her on one side while she held Aksinya on the other.

Sister Margarethe met them at the door. She took one look at Aksinya and pulled both her charges into the house. She was wary of Ernst this time—she partially closed the door and stood directly within the opening, “Thank you, Herr von Taaffe for your attention to the Countess this evening. I will help the Lady Natalya see her to bed.”

“Please convey my thanks to the Countess.”

“Next time, don’t ply her with so much wine so you may convey your own sentiments.”

Ernst bowed, “Yes, sister. I shall. I’m sorry.”

When Sister Margarethe turned around, Natalya and Aksinya were already gone. When she climbed up to Aksinya’s room, she found the door already shut and locked. It was much too late for tea, so she returned to her room.

I own a wonderful modern style oil titled, Theater Goers.  The painting depicts a group of people who are attending some kind of performance.  You see them from the vantage of the performers.  You don't know anything about the performance, but the theater goers are enough to drive the theme of this painting.

Aksinya, Ernst, and Natalya are the theater goers.  We have the benefit of knowing something about the ballet they are watching, but in the end, the ballet isn't as important as the conversation (or lack of conversation) and actions of our players. 

At first Aksinya doesn't understand that she might show some emotion during the performance--she is typically emotionless.  She does allow herself a smile, but perhaps that is the wine.  Aksinya's mind is indeed lacking her typical control.  She remembers Fraulein Trauen's silly words and checks to see where Ernst is watching.  Both we and she are surprised that he only has eyes for Aksinya.  Aksinya's blush indicates her emotions and her state of inebriation.  Ernst's eyes tell us much about the man and his intentions.

At intermission, Ernst supplies Champagne and caviar.  You should wonder at Ernst's question: does he ask Aksinya if she wants vodka because he is trying to get her more drunk to take advantage of her, or is he truly trying to cater to her desires--or both.  The fact that Aksinya reveals she drank too much tells us about her state.  She would never confess something like that to someone like Ernst.  She is usually in much more control of herself. 

Watch Natalya.  She is keeping a close eye on Ernst and Aksinya.  Aksinya's giggles, and her enjoyment of the second act only emphasize her lack of control.  Natalya frowned.  Natalya has good reason to frown.  Aksinya fell into the temptation of luxuria Ernst produced (and certainly Asmodeus suggested).  She perhaps felt safe enough to allow herself to accept the temptation because she knew Natalya would be there to watch over her.  Natalya realizes this.  She just doesn't like to see Aksinya dependent on anyone.  Natalya doesn't see Aksinya dependency on herself.  She only sees Ernst becoming important in Aksinya's eyes.  This is a very important point in the novel, and one we will see more than once.  We are building right now to the critical pivotal point of the novel.  The ultimate crisis of the entire work.

Sister Margarethe waited up for her charges.  She is not happy with Akisnya's condition.  She is wary of Ernst now.  He can't use his trick to get inside the door again.  She takes out her anger on Ernst.  Sister Margarethe is concerned for many reasons.  The primary is that she can't control Aksinya at all.  Aksinya is not within anyone's control.  Asmodeus even despairs at controlling her.  Sister Margarethe believes very rightly that she could never stand up against Aksinya.  This means she is not capable of protecting Aksinya.  But we know no one can protect Aksinya.

Sister Margarethe, like any woman, mother, or girl's friend, wants to know what happened during the evening.  Aksinya and Natalya are already up in Aksinya's rooms--they have locked the doors.  I don't tell you she is disappointed, but you know it.  Tomorrow, the aftermath of the evening.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A New Novel, Part 139 Coppellia and the Dower Russian Girl

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

Aksinya, Ernst, and Natalya finished their dinner at the Palais Coburg Hotel.  I didn't end the last chapter with a kicker--I just gave you a partial transition.  The rest of the transition and the setting for chapter 12 begins...

The landau drove them only a few blocks away to the Wien State Opera. The building was large and classical. It wasn’t as brightly lit as the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz. The gaslights flickered in the chill breeze. Ernst escorted Aksinya into the building. When they entered, Aksinya wobbled a little shakily on her feet. She held tightly to Ernst’s arm, and almost fell when she entered the enormous foyer. She almost lost her feet again near the center of the large entranceway. Aksinya whirled when she thought she spotted Asmodeus in the crowd, but immediately lost sight of him. Ernst clasped her arm tightly under his and kept her from falling. Natalya steadied her. She followed right behind Aksinya. Ernst took care of their coats. He led Aksinya to a box seat. She finally concluded that she was unsteady on her feet from the wine at supper, so she held even more tightly to Ernst’s arm so she wouldn’t stumble. Ernst seated her and then Natalya. He took the chair between them both.

As though the ballet master waited just for them, at that moment, the lights dimmed and the conductor walked across the stage and climbed into the orchestra pit. Aksinya leaned forward and held the side of the rail. She kept a tight grip on her flowers.

The music started. It was bright and melodic. Aksinya was entranced. Ernst propped his elbows on the top of the rail. His face was close to hers, “I didn’t tell you the ballet we are going to see. It is Coppellia and a comedic ballet.”

Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage, “A ballet that is a comedy. I didn’t know there was such a thing.”

“Ah, you Russians are so dower. I can’t remember a Russian comedy.”

“Do you think I am dower?”

“You are entirely too serious, but I find that engaging in you. I have never met a serious woman before.”

Aksinya’s eyes moved toward his face, “I would indeed like to be taken seriously. I am a serious woman.”

“Also a dangerous woman.”

“I don’t wish to be thought a dangerous woman.”

“But you are. That makes your seriousness necessary.”

“Or, I am just dower. What is this Coppellia about?”

Ernst turned his face toward hers. Aksinya kept her eyes on the stage and orchestra. He laughed, “It is a story about an old man, Dr. Coppellia, who tries to use magic to give life to a mechanical woman.”

“Does he succeed?”

“No. He believes he has, but in the end it is all a trick. At the conclusion, the young fool does marry the wonderful and smart heroine. A match between a serious girl and a frivolous boy.”

Aksinya mumbled, “I am like the old man. I have made a terrible thing.”

“You said, Countess?”

“Nothing. I said nothing…”

Ah, I love contrasts--especially those that we find in real life.  I like to point them out.  In my writing, I hope you find them like pearls.  I don't need to describe the landau to you again.  I do describe the Wien State Opera, but I do it through contrasts and comparison.  The building is large and classical (so was the Palais Coburg).  The difference is the lighting, and in the night, that is the only real difference that matters.  I give you the sense of the gaslights because that is a little creepy and you can feel both the chill and the darkness.
Then, we get to Aksinya.  At dinner, she was becoming happily drunk.  I don't tell you this--I show you this.  I show you just how drunk she is and then drop a grenade into the group.  She spots Asmodeus again, this time at the State Opera house, but then quickly loses sight of him.  She didn't notice the smell of sulphur.  We are left unsure.  We are as uncertain as Aksinya--is Asmodeus really there or not?  Aksinya is so tipsy, how could she be certain of anything.  She even held more tightly to Ernst after she finally figured out she had drunk too much.  I'll bet Ernst loved that.  Ernst is quite the gentleman to gently handle a slightly tipsy noble woman.
The ballet starts and Aksinya can't hide her excitement.  I don't tell you any of this--you see it in the character.  Look at how she leans forward and clings to the bouquet.  Ernst moves to come closer to Aksinya, then he finally tells her the name of the ballet--Coppellia.  I don''t have to tell you about the ballet, Ernst does that for Aksinya, and you get to listen along.  All the ballets and operas that Aksinya and Ernst attend are very important to the theme of this novel.  The ensuing conversation about the seriousness of Russian entertainment is spot on.  In all the world, there are few comedic ballets.  The Russians have only one of note--the Nutcracker, and that one isn't all that encouraging.  At least the heroine doesn't die.
The undercurrent of Aksinya and Ernst's conversation is very important.  Remember Aksinya is slightly drunk.  She is uninhibited.  The tongue in cheek conclusion from Ernst is that she is a dangerous woman.  This can be easily deconstructed.  Aksinya is dangerous because of her sorcery.  She is also dangerous because she tempts Ernst--and she is drunk.  We know all about how dangerous Aksinya really is, but Ernst really has no idea how dangerous this young woman is.
Coppellia is a fun, romantic ballet.  I know a lot about it because I've played Dr. Coppellia more than once.  Each of the ballets and operas Ernst takes Aksinya to parallel the problems in her own life.  I don't need to tell you, Ernst is being coached by Asmodeus.  I don't tell you this directly anywhere--I hint at it.  Ernst's knowledge and choices are too close to home every time. 
The plot of Coppellia is just as Ernst explains.  In it, Dr. Coppellia tries to use magic to bring the doll Coppellia to life.  In this novel, Aksinya used sorcery to give life to a demon.  Coppellia is almost an exact parallel to Aksinya's life.  The difference is that Coppellia is a farce, and Dr. Coppellia fails to bring forth useful magic or a mechanical woman.  Aksinya, on the other hand, succeeded too well.  The parallel between Coppellia's serious girl and frivolous boy shouldn't surprise you.  Aksinya is the serious girl and Ernst, the frivolous boy.  The parallels are not lost on Aksinya--in her inhibition, she mumbles the truth: "I have made a terrible thing.".  Tomorrow, Coppellia and caviar.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A New Novel, Part 138 Versailles Will Lead to Something Worse

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Austria.

The soup course is served.  This gives a natural break in the conversation.  Can you imagine Aksinya.  She isn't very happy, but still she is not entirely unhappy...

The waiters appeared to take away the soup and serve the fish. They brought out a fish knife and a small fork. They placed a small trout fillet before each of them. It was covered with a cream sauce. Aksinya turned a little away from Ernst and took a bite.

Ernst ate a forkful of the tender fish himself. He wiped his lips, “Countess, there are many more events that touch this world and Austria right now.”

Aksinya whispered, “None is more important than my sorrow.”

Ernst made a serious face, “That may be true, but the end of the war has placed a great burden on the Austrian and German people. You see the beggars in the street even in this freezing weather. The usual restaurants can barely keep their doors open. We have coffee and tea—they drink hot barely water. And I see little improvement in the future. For example, the treaty of Versailles in itself may cause suffering for all of us.”

“What is this treaty of Versailles?”

“It is the agreement the allies forced on Germany to conclude the war.”

“Is it onerous?”

“It is indeed onerous. It calls for reparations the German people will never be able to afford. Their aristocracy is in collapse. It is not yet certain who will lead them forward.”

“A man who is noble, forthright, and courageous must lead them.”

“I would that there was such a man. I expect they will be led by an egotistical commoner and fool. The people there have rejected their nobility.”

“And I understand your people here have decided to reject your nobility too.”

“Ah, so you have heard?”

“At school.”

“It is true. The parliament intends to dissolve the aristocracy.”

“If you hold no true fealty, then there is no purpose for an aristocracy in Austria.”

Ernst smiled, “There you have found us out, Countess. We have no reason to exist, and the parliament will erase even the slight nobility left us.”

“Nobility is not a question of birth, but rather how a man carries himself.”

“What did you say?”

“It is something my father often reminded me.”

“Yes, well…”

The waiters brought the main meat course. It was wiener schnitzel with puffy potato croquettes in a demi glace sauce. Aksinya was delighted. Although she and Ernst made a few additional remarks about the meal, their conversation after that wasn’t very remarkable. They completed their dinner with a salad, a cheese course, and a desert. The courses were a little larger than those at Sacré Coeur, but much smaller than those before the war. Desert was an apple strudel with whipped cream. The whipped cream was not sweet, but the desert more than made up for it.

When they finished eating, Ernst stood and helped Aksinya and Natalya out of their seats. The maid who held their coats and gloves came to them. She assisted Aksinya first with hers and then Natalya, finally Herr von Taaffe. With a deep curtsy, she reverently handed Aksinya her bouquet. They had been placed in water the whole time and still were fresh. Ernst led them both back out of the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz and helped them into his landau. The carriage headed off down the cold and damp streets of Wien.

The conversation continues as I continue to show you a meal typical of this class and time.  Ernst unwisely turns the conversation from the nobility to current affairs.  Aksinya's first answer is very revealing.  We understand it completely, Ernst does not.  We know the true depths of Aksinya's sorrow.  Ernst gives us a little more information about the times.  He brings up the treaty of Versailles and notes it may cause worse suffering.  This is historical grandizing that I use to show that both Aksinya and Ernst are very knowledgeable.  The point, we know, is the treaty of Versailles led directly to WWII.  Aksinya hopes for a courageous man of noble character to lead them.  Ernst rightly predicts an egotistical commoner and fool (it was Hitler, an Austrian) who ended up leading the German people. 

The German's rejected their nobility following WWI.  The Austrians are in the process of doing that too.  In the late spring of 1919, the Austrian parliament voted out the aristocracy.  Aksinya heard this from the girls in school.  Aksinya notes there is no purpose for an aristocracy if they don't hold people in their fealty.  She follows this with a statement we know is her expression of self.  It is so important to her, I'll repeat it: “Nobility is not a question of birth, but rather how a man carries himself.” Aksinya's father often told her this.  From the lips of a nobleman, it is likely not very meaningful, but in the context of who Aksinya is, we know this is very important to her.

We see the meat course.  This dish is a favorite in Germany and Austria.  I give you a list of the remaining courses with some comment on the size of them.  The chapter ends with Aksinya, Natalya, and Ernst retrieving their cloaks and Aksinya, her bouquet.  The hotel took care of them--they realize their worth.  Then back to the laudau and away.  Sorry, I didn't end the chapter with a kicker.  This chapter became too long, and I just decided to break it here.  Tomorrow, we begin chapter 12 at the ballet.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A New Novel, Part 137 Don't Try to Negotiate with Bolsheviks

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a wondrous sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Wien, Austria.

Aksinya and Ernst are in the Red Room of the Palais Coburg Hotel.  Aksinya just finished grilling Ernst about his military service and his service as a noble.  Now Ernst wants his turn...

After he had taken a couple of spoonfuls, Ernst dabbed his lips, “I told you a little about me. Now, I would like to know something about you.”

Aksinya leaned a little over the table.

Natalya cleared her throat and made a sign with her fingers.

Aksinya scowled and sat up straight, “Why would you want to know about me? I am nothing.”

“Ah, but you are not nothing. You are a Countess from Russia and a very intelligent woman.”

Aksinya lifted her chin, “Then I will tell you, I am perhaps more worthless than you. My family and people were everything to me. Now, my family is dead, and I abandoned my people. How am I supposed to be a countess when I have no one to look to me?”

“Indeed,” Ernst smiled, “I am willing to apply for that position.”

Aksinya snarled, “Don’t make fun of me.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. How did you escape alive from Russia? Your aunt and uncle told me a little.”

“My father knew the Bolsheviks would visit our estate. He chose to confront them. He thought he could talk to them, negotiate with them.”

“He was wrong?”

“He died because he was wrong. My mother, sister, brother all died with him because he was wrong.”

“And you?”

“I was at the guesthouse.” She took a deep breath, “I didn’t trust them.” She glanced up, “The Bolsheviks. I knew it wouldn’t work out well. I was so afraid my family would die. Afterward, I escaped with the Lady Natalya to Wien.”

Ernst put his hand over hers. His eyes bore into hers, “There is much more to this than you are telling me.”

Aksinya pulled away her hand, “And I will not tell you any more.”

Aksinya and Ernst are eating the soup course.  Aksinya was in control of the conversation before--Ernst preempts her now.  The fact that Ernst wants to know something about her and she believes he is not going to ask about sorcery, excites her.  She leans over the table, and Natalya reminds her of her manners, and possibly that in her dress she is overexposing herself.  I wanted you to see this about Aksinya.  Her decorum is perfect, but she does have her moments.  Ernst likely thought her indecoroum was wonderful--not just because she might be overexposed, but because she showed interest in his question.

Natalya's correction puts Aksinya off--so she answers tartly and deprecatingly.  In the theme of the nobility, Aksinya evaluates herself with the same harshness she applied to Ernst.  Ernst is smitten--his response is heartfelt, but Aksinya can't accept it.  He applies to place himself under her fealty--that could only be a joke to Aksinya.  She is angry already.  Ernst should hold his tongue.  Instead, he asks about Aksinya's escape from Russia.  That is the last subject Aksinya wishes to discuss.  She is agitated enough to answer, and we and Ernst learn much more about Aksinya than we knew already.

I took this situation right out of the history books.  Aksinya's mother is based on a real member of the Russian nobility who was murdered by the Bolsheviks using exactly this ploy.  They came to the house and asked to talk to the head of the house.  The family came outside where they were shot to death.  The lesson--don't try to negotiate with Bolsheviks.

In response to Aksinya's information, Ernst tries to comfort her.  He places his hand on hers.  Since she does not have a glove on, this is a very intimate gesture.  She appropriately pulls her hand away.  Ernst doesn't realize the minefield he stepped into.  He gets out thankfully alive.  Tomorrow, Ernst bravely keeps up the conversation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A New Novel, Part 136 You have so Little Purpose

For those who haven’t been following this blog, let me introduce it a little. I am currently blogging my 21st novel that has the working title Daemon. The novel is about Aksinya, a wondrous sorceress, who, to save her family from the Bolsheviks, called and contracted the demon, Asmodeus. Her family was murdered anyway, and she fled with the demon from Russia to Wien, Austria.

Ernst has taken Aksinya to the Palais Coburg Hotel for dinner.  They are in the Red Room, a very exclusive place in the very exclusive Palais Coburg.  Ernst has asked Aksinya to call him by his first name.  Aksinya remains in command of the conversation and addresses Ernst...

“In any case, Ernst, am I to understand that you didn’t participate in the war?”

“Ah, but I did, Countess. I marched off with the first wave and served honorably until my father caught me. At his insistence, the Army sent me back and assigned me as an adjutant to a General in Wien. I would still be there except for the end of the war and the reduction of the military. They didn’t need a half Graf who was a lieutenant at full pay. So I am back to my old habits.”

“And what are those?”

“In general, I read. I study Latin. You understand why. I go to breakfast, luncheon, and dinner at my favorite restaurants in Wien. I visit my friends and my father’s friends. It is a pleasant existence.”

Aksinya pressed her lips together again.

“You disapprove?”

“A nobleman should be about a nobleman’s business…”

“And what is that?”

“Managing his estate. Keeping his horses and property. What about your people? Who holds court over them and judges their problems?”

Ernst laughed, “The aristocracy in Austria is much different than you imagine. My estate is not made up of lands and people. Although my father does have some property, and I keep a house here in town, our family’s wealth is in stocks and bonds. We hold industrial agreements and own factories.”

“And your people?”

“No one looks to us.”

“That is sad, you have so little purpose.”

The waiters poured them another glass of wine. This was just a little sweeter than the last. They removed the plates and utensils and exchanged them for a spoon and a small bowl of soup. The size of the spoon was petite and matched to the size of Aksinya’s mouth. She was very pleased with it. The soup pleased her as well. It was a buttery consume of some kind of squash and little bits of bacon. The wine matched it well.

You can count on Aksinya to pounce on the very singular issue that might be a problem in Ernst's life.  She choses the subject that no one will speak of here in Austria right now--the war.  Austria lost the war.  Austria is in ruins because of the war.  The war took food from the people and life from the society.  No one speaks about the war, and Aksinya knows this.  She wants to know about Ernst.  This is her way of testing the man.  She finds out that he was an officer.  She also discovers what he does for a living--nothing.  He is absolutely useless.  That really angers her, but she is willing to let it slip--for now.  She does admonish him.  That is when we learn about the shape of the Austrian nobility.  It is very different than the nobility Aksinya is used to.  She can only judge based on what she knows.  Her judgement is very harsh because she disapproves of Ernst's casual approach to his life.  All of this conversation per their culture is couched in gentle terms and gentleness. 

Still, now we know a lot about Ernst.  We know he fought in the war.  He is not a coward.  He is a wealthy man who doesn't desire to work.  He doesn't hold his nobility as very important.  Aksinya wants more, but she is happy with her luxuria for right now.  In the transition, we get a serving of the soup with more wine.  Tommorrow, Ernst grills Aksinya.