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.
Aksinya is in a cell under the Rathaus in Wien. She is awaiting her secular trial. Father Dobrushin and Ekaterina have come to visit her...
Aksinya clenched her jaw.
“Listen to me. Did the demon give you a surety? Think…it would be something to bind the contract to you.”
“He gave me a locket. I detested it from the beginning and hid it in my jewelry box.”
“What did it look like?”
Aksinya thought for a moment, “It was shaped like a heart and silver colored, with a tarnish that couldn’t be cleaned. On the outside were strange marks like words of an odd language and in the center a fish. It couldn’t be opened, and it had a chain connected to it of the same material with links that were also heart shaped. It wasn’t large and could be worn as a necklace.”
“Where is it now?”
“Likely in my jewelry box and sold with everything else. I couldn’t stand the sight of it. I hid it under the drawer inside.” She pressed her lips together, “Do you think it could help?”
“I think it is a key to ending your contract with the creature.”
“Then I was a fool to lose it. It is like everything I have done—thoughtless and harmful.”
Ekaterina pulled Aksinya close again, “When is your trial?”
“In three days, but please don’t come to it. I would prefer you not have to hear anymore that is bad about me.” She tried to smile again, “I shall gladly face all the punishment I deserve and then some. After that, I will feel like I have atoned for a portion of my evil.”
Father Dobrushin was thoughtful, “How did they get the jury together so quickly?”
Aksinya rubbed her nose and smiled, “Ah the problem of my peers. I waived a trial of my peers and accepted a four judge panel. They called it the Schöffengericht.”
Father Dobrushin sighed and frowned, “That might not have been wise, Princess.”
Aksinya squinted, “I don’t care if it is wise. I want to get all of this over with.”
“The repercussions of rushing through these very important details will potentially be your incarceration in a workhouse or prison. Have you thought that what happens to you might be important to others?”
Aksinya’s mouth fell open. When she was able Aksinya choked out, “Why would anyone care about me?”
Father Dobrushin’s voice rose, “Don’t you care for anyone?”
Aksinya cried out, “I care for many, many people. I love them all, but my existence causes them all pain. No one should love me. No one should give me a second thought.”
His voice softened, “Just as you can’t stop your affection for those you love, they can’t halt their love for you.”
“I don’t understand. Why should anyone love me?”
“Why should they not?”
“The reasons they should not love me, Father are too many to count.”
“You don’t want to win at your trial, do you?”
“No, I don’t. I want to be punished.”
Father Dobrushin’s face displayed great anger for a moment. He turned toward the wall then back toward Aksinya. She picked at the bandage on her arm. Father Dobrushin asked, “What happened to your arm?”
Father Dobrushin has been investigating the demon, Asmodeus. He asks Aksinya a very important question. The question concerns the surety the demon gave Aksinya to complete the contract. We know about this--the fact that Father Dobrushin knows this should not unduly surprise us, but it should alert us.
Aksinya gives the details of the locket and where it was the last time she saw it. Do you remember this from the very beginning of the novel? Listen to Aksinya's confession. There is great truth in the fact that she realizes this point: “Then I was a fool to lose it. It is like everything I have done—thoughtless and harmful.”
Ekaterina changes the subject. She asks about the secular trial. Aksinya tells them she wants to be punished. That is when we learn about the trial. We find that Aksinya accepted a trial by judges. This is allowed in Austrian law for trials that are not capital. As I wrote before, everything about the law is historically accurate.
Father Dobrushin thinks this may be a bad idea. Father Dobrushin's point to her is the fact that Aksinya might go to prison or the workhouse might be important to others. Aksinya can't understand this. She doesn't believe that the outcome of her trial might be important to others. Aksinya's answer is important: "I love them all, but my existence causes them all pain. No one should love me. No one should give me a second thought.”
Listen to Father Dobrushin's response. Who might he mean. Surely he includes himself and Ekaterina.
Aksinya wants to be punished. Watch Father Dobrushin's reaction. Is this a normal reaction to such a response. You might wonder what this portends. Tomorrow, we get more of this conversation.