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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. 

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