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 day of Aksinya's ecclesiastical trial has arrived. Aksinya is acknowledged as a Russian Princess. Now the Archinquisitor is pursuing the other charges against Aksinya. He claims there are witnesses to her sorcery...
“This is also a sin of grave consequence. Inquisitor, call the first witness to her sorcery.”
Aksinya plopped down in her chair.
The Inquisitor stepped to the door and brought in a middle-aged man with a heavy face and the clothing of a merchant. Inquisitor Esposito swore him in as a witness and ended, “State your name for the court.”
“If it please you, Father. I’m August Mueller.”
The Archinquisitor looked the man up and down, “Herr Mueller, you stated that you saw an act of sorcery caused by this woman, the Princess Aksinya. Please describe it.”
“Yes, Father. One evening last December, my friends and I were drinking, begging your pardon, at the Golden Adler Gasthaus on Sacré Coeur Straße. That Lady,” He pointed at Aksinya, “said some strange words and pointed at us, and when we woke up we were on the street more than a block from the Gasthaus.”
“Where there any other people around at the time?”
“There were my mates. You already talked to them all. But there was also a nun and another Lady. This one,” He pointed at Aksinya again, “was dressed in the uniform of Sacré Coeur. The other lady was also dressed like her.”
“There was a gentleman.”
“Do you recognize the nun in this courtroom?”
The man paused a moment, then pointed, “That nun, there.”
“Sister Margarethe, will you stand.”
Sister Margarethe grabbed the seat in front of her and stood.
Herr Mueller nodded, “That’s the one.”
Archinquisitor Gallo smiled, “I’d like you to look at a couple of other people and see if you can identify them. Inquisitor.”
Inquisitor Esposito went to the door and Ernst Taaffe followed by Natalya entered. Natalya held her head up high, but she was slightly stooped on one side. Tears covered her face. Aksinya started. She stood, “Lady Natalya.”
Lady Natalya wailed, “I’m so sorry, Mistress. They forced me to come here.”
The Archinquisitor snarled, “Quiet. Herr Mueller, do you recognize this man and woman?”
“Yes, Father. That is the gentleman I mentioned, there, and the other lady.”
Aksinya cried out, “Why don’t you ask Herr Mueller what he was doing when this sorcery occurred.”
Herr Mueller colored.
The Archinquisitor snapped, “Herr Mueller is not on trial here.”
“Then ask the Lady Natalya or Sister Margarethe what was happening at the time.”
“That is neither here nor there.”
“I insist. Inquisitor, your job is defense, then defend. Ask them what was happening.”
“I must swear them in.”
“Then do so.”
The pattern of the Archinquisitor's prosecution becomes quickly obvious. He brings as his witness one of the rapists. This man can identify Aksinya, Natalya, Ernst, and Sister Margarethe. The implication is first that there are many more witnesses (all attempted rapists), and second, that those identified were accomplices in the act of sorcery. Note that the claims of the witness are dubious: “Yes, Father. One evening last December, my friends and I were drinking, begging your pardon, at the Golden Adler Gasthaus on Sacré Coeur Straße. That Lady,” He pointed at Aksinya, “said some strange words and pointed at us, and when we woke up we were on the street more than a block from the Gasthaus.”. The important thing isn't the claims, Aksinya herself has already confessed to sorcery, the important issue to the Archinquisitor is the accomplices.
The witness identifies Aksinya and Sister Margarethe. Then we get our first glimpse in a long time of Natalya and Ernst. We see for ourselves that Natalya is alive. She was injured--she walks with a stoop now. Ernst is with her and we are not certain what that means. Natalya makes a surprising announcement: “I’m so sorry, Mistress. They forced me to come here.”
Natalya believes Aksinya is still her Mistress. She has not rejected her.
Aksinya has now turned her attention to the important issue at hand--how to protect her friends. She never was interested in defending herself--she only demands the Inquisitor Esposito defend because it will help Natalya, Ernst, and Sister Margarethe. Herr Mueller doesn't want to answer because he was in the act of rapine when Aksinya stopped him. The Archinquisitor knows what was going on, he will do everything to prevent the whole truth from coming out. Plus, in this day and age, for a woman to testify that a man was about to rape her is tantamount to social ostracism and condemnation. Tomorrow, the trial continues.