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.
“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.