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?”
“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.