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.
The time has come for the climax of this novel. We had a rousing beginning, a long series of rising action that foreshadowed and hinted toward this very moment. Now, we are here. I hope this is as much a surprise to you as it is to Aksinya...
Monday after school, Aksinya and Natalya awaited in the parlor for Herr von Taaffe’s arrival. A wood and coal fire warmed the room. Natalya sewed and Aksinya read a Russian novel. Sister Margarethe sat in a servant’s chair at the side of the room near the door to the hall. Aksinya kept glancing up from her book. She hadn’t turned a single page in an hour.
When they heard hooves outside, Sister Margarethe stood. The two novice nuns must have waited just outside the door, they rushed into the parlor.
Aksinya smiled. Her face filled with joy.
Natalya glanced at Aksinya then bent more diligently over her sewing.
When the bell rang, Sister Margarethe and the novice nuns ran into the foyer. Aksinya heard the door open and Sister Margarethe greet Ernst. She heard the rustle of Ernst’s great coat as they took it from him. In a few moments, Sister Margarethe led Herr Ernst von Taaffe into the room. Aksinya rose to greet him, and she almost fell backwards into her chair. Just behind Ernst stepped Asmodeus. The demon grinned at her, but he didn’t say anything. A whiff of sulfur followed him into the room. Natalya glanced up at Ernst and the demon. She colored, but immediately lowered her eyes back to her sewing.
Ernst’s face was radiant. He stepped to Aksinya and embraced her. His lips touched hers in a light but fervent caress. Aksinya returned his kiss for a moment, then thought better of her response and pushed him slightly away. Ernst didn’t seem put off at all. Sister Margarethe took a step forward as though she was about to intervene, but then she stepped back again.
Ernst pulled Aksinya closer, “Dearest Aksinya, I know your answer before you speak it, and I’m here to take you home with me.”
Sister Margarethe gave a gasp. The novice nuns gasped.
Aksinya pushed him back again, “My answer? You know it before I even speak it? You are a bit too forward and presumptuous, sir.”
“Today, I received your letter in response to mine, and the joy of my heart knows no bounds. But your attentions the other evening spoke more strongly than any letter or any words you might say.”
Aksinya’s voice raised, “My attentions?”
Ernst stared at her with a puzzled look, “Yes, your attentions.”
The ladies form a sweet circle of friends and servants to the Grand Countess Aksinya. This should be her greatest moment. She is about to make her decision known to the famous and handsome, Ernst von Taaffe. Aksinya has reached the pinnacle for an unmarried woman in this culture and society: she is sought after and she is treated like a true princess. Who might imagine that in a single moment she should fall from that pinnacle. Or that her fall should cause the fall of many, many, many others.
So it begins, in this small circle that we know is a circle of secrets--the ladies await the arrival of Ernst. The wealth of Aksinya's household is indicated by the coal and the wood in her fireplace. Natalya sews. Aksinya reads or tries to read. Sister Margarethe looks after them both. Aksinya is excited--notice, I don't tell you that she is excited, I show you--she hasn't turned a single page in an hour.
What do you think the answer Aksinya will make to Ernst? It should be obvious. The moment they hear Ernst's arrival, everyone begins to act. Sister Margarethe and the novice nuns move to greet Ernst. Aksinya's face is filled with joy. Watch Natalya--what's with Natalya?
We hear the sounds as the Sisters greet Ernst--the excitement is building. These are advanced writing techniques to allow you to experience the moment, the excitement. You hear the entry and movement with the expectation of Aksinya and the ladies. You experience with Aksinya, your desire, Ernst von Taaffe will soon be here.
Aksinya rose to greet Ernst. This is a great boon. The Countess rises for her love (remember how she treated him before), but just behind Ernst, comes Asmodeus! The demon doesn't speak. Why could he be here. Watch Natalya, something is up.
Ernst's appearance is like Aksinya's--he is full of joy. He goes directly to Aksinya and kisses her. This is a huge cultural issue. Only a husband would kiss a woman like this--and maybe not a husband--a lover and not a discrete one. Ernst is intoxicated with love. Aksinya is intoxicated with desire.
Aksinya realizes she has made a mistake. She pushed Ernst away, but it is too late. Sister Margarethe has already seen it. The novice sisters have already seen it. Everyone knows her answer--it has to be, yes. Ernst's actions are certainly something Aksinya didn't expect. Natalya's reaction was to stiffen--what does she know?
Ernst brings more mystery into the situation. He pulls her closer, possessively: “Dearest Aksinya, I know your answer before you speak it, and I’m here to take you home with me.” You can't misunderstand this statement. Even if you don't understand the culture, you can't misunderstand Ernst's statement. The response of the nuns should tell you--they gasp. Ernst is here to take Aksinya to his house where they will live together. He knows her answer already--how could that be?
Aksinya is getting angry now. No one knows her mind before she speaks it. She uses very strong language for the times. She calls Ernst forward and presumptuous, which he is. Ernst gives a reason for his actions--he received a letter, oops. Remember the post? Then we get the coupe de gras: "But your attentions the other evening spoke more strongly than any letter or any words you might say.”
Your attentions the other evening? Aksinya knows nothing about this. Can you guess what attentions means in this culture. The demon grins. Tomorrow, we see more about these attentions.