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.”
“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.