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.
We have learned a great deal about Ernst's information sources and those who helped him conspire against Aksinya. This is indeed a conspiracy... of temptation, but one that only Asmodeus fully understands. Aksinya knows a lot that is going on, but she is bewitched by it as much as the others. Isn't this like temptation? They arrive at the place Ernst has chosen for dinner...
Ernst’s voice changed slightly, “Here we are. This is my favorite restaurant, the Palais Coburg Hotel Residenz. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do.”
They heard the driver climb from his perch, and the leather flap on the right side raised. Bright light filled the landau. Ernst stepped out first and lifted his hand to Aksinya. She shaded her eyes with the hand that held her flowers as she grasped his proffered hand and exited the carriage. Ernst guided her foot to the step and helped her down. He placed her hand on his arm and held it there. The driver helped Natalya from the landau.
The hotel was sparkling white marble in two grand floors. It was brilliantly lit by bright new electric light bulbs. The yellow of the bulbs made the marble shine like aged stone. The building was designed in a classical style with rounded arches below and triangular ones above. Its roof was flat with a balustrade and ornamental steps above that. Colonnades encircled the front entry on both levels, and wonderful, but half hidden marble statues perched at the top of the roofline. The center sculpture looked like the Austrian Eagle, but Aksinya couldn’t tell in the evening light. The statues seemed like the muses or graces, but there were too many of them. She didn’t get a chance to count them before Ernst escorted her between the row of bowing doormen into the building. As they entered, Ernst leaned toward Aksinya, “They only just started to light it like this. It was so dreary during the war.”
They entered into the main foyer. There, the floor was blue stone gilded with elegant designs. The walls were white plaster ornamented with raised golden scrollwork. They were greeted at the very end of the foyer by an open fireplace filled with a bright wood fire. Above it was a large mirror. The foyer was slightly congested with the evening dinner crowd. The moment Aksinya glanced in the mirror, she thought she caught a glimpse of Asmodeus. She picked up a whiff of sulfur. She almost turned around, but stopped herself at the last moment. When she looked again, he was gone—so she wasn’t certain if that had been her imagination.
Ernst flipped off his hat and motioned to the majordomo. The man came running, “Good evening, Herr von Taaffe.”
“Good evening, Herr Leichter.” He paused a moment to pull Aksinya forward a step, “This is the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna. She and her lady-in-waiting are my special guests tonight.”
“Yes, Herr von Taaffe. I’m glad you alerted us about her Ladyship’s arrival.” The majordomo bowed very low. The foyer became immediately silent. When the majordomo stood straight again, he spoke very loudly, “Countess Golitsyna and Herr von Taaffe please follow me. Your usual accommodations have been prepared for you and the countess.”
As Aksinya and Ernst stepped beside Herr Leichter, people on either side of them bowed and curtsied toward Aksinya. She held her head high.
Ernst smiled at her and whispered, “I must say, you are ravishing and appear every bit a Russian Countess.”
Aksinya didn’t look at him, “But I am a Russian Countess.”
They have arrived at the Palais Coburg. This is one of the finest places to stay and dine in Wien. On the outside, It has obviously not been much affected by the times. The aristocrats still have money to spend and though the cost is dear, the Palais Coburg keeps them living in the style they are accustomed to.
The Palais Coburg was blacked out, like most of the buildings, during the war. Now, it is lighted with electric lights. Note how dear the flowers are to Aksinya. I give you a description of the Palais Coburg as it appeared in 1918. It is not much different today.
At their entrance, Aksinya notes Asmodeus in the mirror. Yes, she can see him via a mirror. Likely any spiritual being that can be seen with human eyes can be seen through a mirror. It simply reflects light. She catches a glimpse and a whiff of his sulfurous scent. That should warn her, but since when does any warning really push us away from temptation. We know Aksinya's temptation--it is luxuria and sorcery. The Palais Coburg offers luxuria in heaps.
The majordomo recognizes Ernst that means he obviously comes here often. You don't introduce servants, but you do announce royalty. Ernst does so for Herr Lichter (name means light). The Major Domo's response is a deep bow and that alerts the other diners and patrons. We learn that Ernst eats here often enough he has usual accommodations. We know he has little experience with women, at least that is what he said. This perhaps puts a lie to that statement.
Ernst complements Aksinya on her bearing and her appearance. She doesn't get it. Aksinya can be so slow about such things. That is the reason for Ernst's sigh. He is beginning to understand her. Tomorrow, the dinner.