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.
We have arrived at the climax of this particular novel. This is the climax I envisioned from the beginning. Because this is a commentary about the writer's craft, I will not be shy to tell you what you don't fully comprehend yet. This incident will lead to the degradation of many in Wien. It is just as the demon wished and predicted. Already we see the beginning of the end for a couple of characters. Aksinya is confronted by a letter she supposedly wrote to Ernst concerning the night they spend together...
Aksinya was suddenly breathing hard, “I did not write this letter. After the opera, I did not spend Wednesday night with you.”
Asmodeus laughter filled the parlor.
Aksinya stared at him, “What do you have to say about this demon?”
Asmodeus’ lips rose over his fangs, “Ask your handmaiden where she was on Wednesday night.”
Aksinya’s voice rose in volume, “Natalya, what do you know about this?”
Natalya cringed. Then she raised her eyes and met Aksinya’s angry glance, “I could not give you to this man. He would take away your virtue and your sorcery. So I gave him mine.”
Aksinya rushed forward and threw the letter at her, “Did you write this?”
Natalya jerked her head to the side and shook her head.
Asmodeus laughed again, “I wrote it. I wrote it in answer to the impassioned missive from this stupid young man.” He glared at Aksinya, “It is all true.”
Aksinya pressed her hands over her ears, “It is not true. None of it is true.”
Asmodeus wrinkled his nose at her, “This evening, you were about to answer Herr von Taaffe that you would wed him. You were planning to give up your virtue to him. You would have gladly lain in his arms and moaned out your every desire. You would have pleasured him already if you had the courage. You would have loved him just as he foolishly loves you. Do you think I could allow that?”
“Don’t you want me to sin?”
“I want you to do evil. That is your purpose and my purpose, and the evil you created in your wake is truly breathtaking. Can you not appreciate it? I would help you bed him now, but you realize he has already been taken.”
“What do you mean?”
“Didn’t you hear your lady-in-waiting? Ask her again. She already told you.”
Aksinya’s hand slipped to the side of her face, “Natalya, what did you do?”
Natalya wailed, “I could not let you do this thing. So I did it for you.”
Aksinya spat at her, “You did what for me?”
“I seduced him for you and gave him myself in your place.”
Ernst stepped beside Aksinya and grasped her arm, “What does she mean? I slept with you, Aksinya. I did not sleep with her. I saw your face. I touched your body. I heard your voice.”
Asmodeus cackled, “The Countess herself made the Lady Natalya appear like her. While she was in a drunken stupor, the Countess made her favorite enchantment. She made the Lady Natalya appear exactly like her and befuddled the Sister Margarethe’s thoughts. I sent the Lady Natalya to your bed. You did not sleep with the Countess.” He crossed his arms, “You had her maid.”
Aksinya shook off Ernst’s hand. She moved away from him—toward the demon, “You did this horrible thing?”
The demon sneered, “I didn’t do it—you did.”
I don't know what else I can tell you here. I wrote this section to be exact and precise. I didn't want you to miss any of the details. I want every single point to be out in the open. Still, I don't tell you everything, so perhaps there is some benefit in showing some of the rich details and to explain the writing techniques.
Do you see the piece of evidence. There is hard evidence that Ernst has in his hands--it is the letter. We will discover more. The accusation or rather the testimony of the letter says that Aksinya spent the night with Ernst. This, in itself, would be a terrible thing in this culture, but if Ernst married Aksinya, the indiscretion could be easily forgotten.
This is an era and an age preoccupied, as most of human history, with sexual purity. The demon stands in directly contrast to this. He tempts into sexual sin and luxuria. Whether you agree with the opinions of the culture is immaterial. The culture is as it is and this makes this scene even more ironic and tense.
We might have guessed who spent the night with Ernst. The demon almost tells us. We had hints. We knew Natalya brought back the books from Ernst. We know she was missing until Thursday morning. There was a certain smell about her. There was a certain air about her. Do you remember Thursday morning--the scent of sulphur and incense in Aksinya's room? We know already the outcome of that event. Aksinya might have guessed, but she is overwrought and overcome. Her world is crashing around her. It is out of control and she is losing any control she had left.
Listen to Natalya's words: “I could not give you to this man. He would take away your virtue and your sorcery. So I gave him mine.” Aksinya completely ignores Natalya's speech. She is more concerned about the writer of the letter. The letter impugns Aksinya--that her pride can't abide. But Natalya didn't write the letter--Asmodeus did. He was taking the post. He was checking and reading the letters between Ernst and Aksinya. We fully realize that now.
Aksinya is right, the letter is not true, but the demon is also right. Aksinya wishes it were true. If Akisnya had more courage, she would have seduced Ernst. She doesn't love him, but she desired him. She was about to answer "yes" to Ernst this evening, but she didn't love Ernst, she only desired him.
The demon's point is very specific. He is Asmodeus, the demon of luxuria (lust) and also the demon from Tobit who murdered Sara's husbands one by one before they could consumate their marriage with Sara--therefore Aksinya is in the same situation. The demon will murder anyone who attempts to comsumate a marriage or sex with her. In the ancient world sex is marriage and marriage is sex. I have not told you before, you might have guessed it, but this novel is a semi-allegory of the Apocryphal book of Tobit. I won't go any further right now with this information, but get out your Book of Tobit and see what I am talking about.
Aksinya asks the demon: “Don’t you want me to sin?” His answer is very important: “I want you to do evil. That is your purpose and my purpose, and the evil you created in your wake is truly breathtaking. Can you not appreciate it? I would help you bed him now, but you realize he has already been taken.” There is much in the demon's statement. This is a foreshadowing. The later is the point about the culture and about the demon. He is lying. If Aksinya attempted to bed Ernst, the demon would murder him. The demon's point is cultural. The man has lost his sexual purity and this is evident to everyone there.
Aksinya missed the point about Natalya before. Aksnya doesn't think much about others, the demon rubs Aksinya's face and mind in the ideas he wants to convey.
Get this, this is very important. To protect Aksinya and Ernst, Natalya seduced Ernst. Natalya offered herself in the place of Aksinay. This is an important redemtive idea in Natalya's actions, but it is twisted. The demon and Aksinya have twisted the mind of Natalya. Natalya was not tempted by Ernst, she was tempted by Aksinya. She did it for Aksinya. Natalya's words: “I seduced him for you and gave him myself in your place.”
This is news to Ernst. He thought he slept with Aksinya. Then everything is made clear by Asmodeus. The events of Thursday morning--everything becomes clear. I prepped you for this very moment from the beginning of the book. Remember Aksinya's favorite great enchantment--it was the changing of appeaances. Remember the ease Aksinya made this sorcery. The sorcery Aksinya trusted came back to cause her all this misery. That is the great irony here. Aksinya trusted in sorcery and the sorcery not only failed her, it betrayed her. This is a very important point--sorcery betrayed Aksinya.
The demon cruelly baits Aksinya, Natalya, and Ernst: "I sent the Lady Natalya to your bed. You did not sleep with the Countess...You had her maid.” Then, the coupe de grace: “I didn’t do it—you did.” Indeed, Aksinya did cause it. Aksinya was the one who made it all possible. Natalya, Ernst, the demon all had major roles to play--it is all their sin together, but Aksinya was the catalyst. She did it. We ultimately can't forget that Aksinya tried to fight against the demon and this is his revenge. Tomorrow, more of this revelation--could it get worse? Oh yes, much worse.