Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon

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Chapter 18

After Secretary Schwab, Otto, and Frau Becker departed, Frau Mauer took her position again beside the door. The moment Aksinya finished praying her rosary she felt better, she called to the Frau, “Frau Mauer, may I borrow a needle and thread?”

Frau Mauer took a quick glance at Aksinya. Aksinya sat on the bench wrapped in the blankets, “Of course you may not have a needle and thread. What would you want with something like that anyway?”

“I must put crosses on my dress.”

“Crosses on your dress? You are a strange one.”

“If I don’t he’ll just take it off me again.”

Frau Mauer stared at Aksinya and nervously fumbled her sewing, “Did you lie to the secretary and Frau Becker? Did some man molest you?”

“The demon took off my clothing to punish me.”

Frau Becker’s eyes widened, “I think Frau Becker is right, you are crazy.”

“I may be crazy, but I need to put crosses on my clothing and on these blankets.”

“You shan’t get any needles or thread from me—not unless the Secretary himself instructs me.”

Aksinya sat back and pouted. She felt much better, but she knew that wouldn’t last long if the demon returned and took her dress and the blankets from her again. She only knew one way to fight Asmodeus. She thought for a while about how she might put crosses on her clothing and the wonderfully warm blankets. After a long time, there was only one thing she thought she could use. Under the cover of the blankets, she began to prick at her hand with a sharp point of her rosary. After a few minutes she drew some blood and made a couple of satisfactory crosses on the hem of her dress. At that point, she couldn’t get much more blood without going deeper into her hand than she wanted to. She thought for a while then began to prick at the large vein at the side of her wrist.

She cut through and gave a slight gasp. She glanced up to see if Frau Mauer heard her. The old woman didn’t stop sewing. Aksinya was surprised at the amount of blood the little nick drew. With blood, she marked the collar and sleeves of her dress. Then quickly put crosses at the corners of the woolen blankets. When she was finished, she held the place on her wrist she nicked, but it wouldn’t stop bleeding. She had nothing to use as a bandage, and she was becoming a little faint.

Since she had marked everything, she thought it was safe to say something to the Frau. Aksinya cleared her throat and tried to speak. She couldn’t say anything at first and her sight began to dim. Finally, she forced out, “Frau Mauer.”

The old woman didn’t turn, “I’ll not give you any thread or a needle. You needn’t ask again.”

“Frau Mauer, I don’t need them anymore, but I might need some help.”

Frau Mauer leaned over and clucked her tongue. She turned toward Aksinya. Aksinya held out her arm. A bright drip of blood ran down her hand and dropped to the stone floor. It spattered into a growing puddle of blood on the ground.

Frau Mauer screamed and jumped up. Aksinya’s eyes closed and she slowly lay on the bench. The release of the pressure on her vein let the drip become a slow stream. Frau Mauer screamed again and ran toward the kitchen.

Frau Mauer grabbed Frau Becker’s arm, “The sorceress has committed suicide. She is bleeding everywhere.”

Frau Becker’s face clouded and her eye twitched, “Get the Secretary, immediately.”

“What will you do?”

“Just get the secretary.”

Frau Mauer nodded vigorously and ran off.

Frau Becker grabbed the kitchen axe from the wood pile and ran to the corridor that held Aksinya’s cell. The guards didn’t attempt to stop her. She glanced at Aksinya and the growing pool of blood and chopped at the lock on the door. The old wood splintered satisfactorily under the axe and the door swung open. Frau Mauer grabbed Aksinya’s wrist and immediately the flow of blood stopped.

Secretary Schwab followed by Otto stopped at the entrance to the cell. Frau Mauer didn’t wait for them to say anything, she yelled at them, “Get the doctor now. I’ve stopped the blood, but she may be dying.”

They almost trampled Frau Mauer as she hobbled down the corridor toward them.

Aksinya awoke in a bed. It was warm and comfortable, but she felt light headed. Someone held her hand. She turned her head and expected to see the Lady Natalya or at least Sister Margarethe. She tried to focus on the face near hers.

A weary voice spoke before Aksinya could identify the person, “Why did you try to kill yourself?”

Aksinya still couldn’t focus, “I didn’t try to kill myself.”

“But your wrist…”

“I had to put crosses on my things so he couldn’t take them again.”

“So who couldn’t take them again?”

“The demon…”

Frau Mauer’s voice came from the side, “You see, Frau Becker, I told you that’s what she said. She begged my thread and a needle to make crosses on her dress and the blankets.”

Frau Becker’s voice hardened, “And you wouldn’t lend them to her?”

Aksinya still could not focus her eyes well, “Frau Becker was the kind woman who gave me the blankets. I marked them well.”

“You almost bled to death.”

“Still, now the demon can’t take them from me.” Aksinya moved her free hand around under the covers. Frau Becker stroked her other hand. It felt numb and heavy. Aksinya gave a worried cry, “My dress and my blankets.”

Frau Becker’s voice was soothing beside her, “I dressed you in a nightgown.”

“Does it have crosses?”

“Yes,” Frau Becker lied.

“My blankets…?”

“Are you warm enough now?”

“Yes, thank you.”

There was a slight choke in Frau Becker’s voice, “Before you return to the cell, you will have your blankets.”

“The ones with the crosses.”

“Yes, the ones with the crosses.”

“Thank you. I feel very sleepy. As long as there are crosses, I will be safe.”

“Yes, you will be safe. I’ll sit right here with you.”

“Thank you, Frau Becker. I am gratefu…” Aksinya’s eyes closed.

“Frau Mauer,” Frau Becker hissed softy, “Sew crosses on her nightgown.”

“But.”

“No buts, do it. Do it now and don’t wake her.”

“But she’s crazy…”

“I don’t care how crazy she is. She is in the Archbishop’s charge. Sew the crosses on her nightgown.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Frau Mauer gently pulled the edge of the nightgown from under the covers and carefully embroidered four crosses evenly spaced around the hem. Then she sewed them on the sleeves. By the time she was done, Aksinya was stirring and Frau Becker sent Frau Mauer down to the kitchen for food and tea.

Aksinya finally woke again in the early afternoon. Frau Becker and Frau Mauer both stayed with her and kept a close eye on her. The moment Aksinya woke, she tried to get up, but she didn’t have the strength. The room was bright and warm. A coal fire burned in the fireplace. The bed was large and beautiful. Aksinya couldn’t see much more of the room than that at first. Frau Becker had food and tea for her. The two women helped Aksinya sit with some pillows behind her. Then Aksinya could see the rest of the place. It looked like a guest room in a fine house.

The women fed her and gave her tea. Aksinya tolled her rosary and then recited part of Matthew in Greek. Frau Becker and Frau Mauer didn’t know what to make of that. By the late afternoon, Frau Becker thought about calling for supper for them all when a knock came at the room’s door.

Frau Becker, at Aksinya’s side nodded toward Frau Mauer. Frau Mauer went to the door, “This is a private room under guard. Who is at the door?”

“This is the Inquisitor Esposito. I’m here to speak to the prisoner about her defense.”

Frau Becker nodded, and Frau Mauer opened the door.

The stocky priest inquisitor entered the room. He wore his usual priestly robes. Frau Becker stood. The priest walked up to the bed and cocked his head and observed Aksinya for a long moment.

Aksinya turned her face away, “Please, Inquisitor Esposito, I feel very uncomfortable under your scrutiny.”

He smiled and sat in the chair Frau Becker had left. “Sorry,” he didn’t sound sorry, “I just wanted to take a careful look at you.”

“Why?”

“I’ve never seen a sorceress like you.”

Frau Becker snorted, “Have you ever seen a sorceress at all?”

He glanced annoyed at Frau Becker, “Actually, no. Might I have a private discussion with the Fraulein?”

Frau Becker brought a chair from the small table and put it on the other side of the bed, “Actually, no. Frau Mauer and I will chaperone the Fraulein while you are here.”

Aksinya smiled, “Thank you very much, Frau Becker.”

The expression of the priest’s face didn’t change, “Very well, but if she must confess, you will have to move far enough away not to hear.”

Inquisitor Esposito took out his briefcase and pulled out some papers and a fountain pen, “Now Fraulein Golitsyna, you must realize the charges of the Church against you are very serious.”

“That I am guilty of sorcery, I confess.”

“You confess it?”

“Yes, I freely confess this. I already confessed sorcery along with all my acts against God to my Orthodox priest, Father Dobrushin.” Aksinya rushed ahead, “I would like to speak to Father Dobrushin.”

“That is not possible.”

“Why not?”

“He is Orthodox and not permitted at your trial.”

“I am Orthodox—does the same rule apply to me?”

The inquisitor ignored her, “There are other charges.”

“These are?”

“The first is that you impersonated a member of the nobility. Do you have any proof that you are noble?”

“My passport.”

“Do you know where it is?”

“No.”

Inquisitor Esposito cleared his throat, “Can anyone vouch for you?”

“My aunt and uncle, the Freifrau and Freiherr Bockmann. The Freiherr is my mother’s brother. I am related to the Herzog Bockmann of .”

The priest’s expression turned bleak, “They have both declined to testify either for or against you at trial. They are in the process of legally disowning you because of this incident.”

Aksinya lowered her head. Her voice was soft, “I understand.” She spoke more loudly, “What of the other charges?”

“There is a charge that you kidnapped and kept an apprentice to your sorcery, the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska.”

“That is true. I did. I am confessed. I harmed her soul and mind.”

Frau Becker and Frau Mauer gasped.

Father Esposito cleared his throat again, “Yes.” He turned away his head, “There is another charge that you seduced the mind and soul of a Herr Ernst von Taaffe, a member of the Austrian nobility.”

“I did that also. I am clearly at fault.”

The Frauen couldn’t hold back their gasp again.

In inquisitor continued, “The other charges relate to your use of sorcery. They are that you used sorcery to murder your family, steal the goods from the estate of Count Golitsyna, to cheat merchants in Wien, and to escape Russian justice.”

Aksinya’s eyes widened, “I did not murder my family, the Bolsheviks did that. I did not steal the things that belonged to me already, although I did use sorcery to bring them here to . You can lay the charge of cheating on me. I did not know that was the case at the time. I am still culpable. Of Russian justice, I cannot speak. I’m not certain who rules , the Bolsheviks, the nobility, or the Parliament.”

The inquisitor chuckled at the last. Then his face turned serious again, “There is much to recommend these charges.”

“There are witnesses?”

“Yes, there are, but I am not privy to the case against you. I act as the advocatus reorum in your trial. I am to represent you and defend you from the charges of the inquisition. Both the promotor fiscalis and the judge is the Archinquisitor Gallo. He does not have to share this information with me, only the charges.”

Aksinya shrugged, “That doesn’t seem to make it a very fair trail.”

“Perhaps it is not.”

Frau Becker sneered, “It is not at all fair. What might be the punishment for such charges?”

“Excommunication and death could be the punishment, but death cannot be levied by an ecclesiastical court—it can only be recommended to a secular trial.”

Frau Becker wrung her hands, “You would kill her for this?”

“If she is guilty.”

Aksinya cocked her head, “You have not touched the most egregious sin I committed through sorcery.”

Inquisitor Esposito sat back, “And what would that be.”

“I called a demon from the depths of hell to be my servant.”

Frau Becker involuntarily scooted her chair back a little. Frau Mauer brought her hands up to her face.

The Inquisitor wrote on his pad, “Who was this demon?”

“It is the demon Asmodeus.”

“You have seen him?”

“He was the one who took my clothing from me in the cell. He was the reason I had to mark my clothing and the blankets with the crosses. He still torments me.”

“But he is your servant?”

“No one can control a demon. I brought him out of hell to protect my family. He ensured that they all died. He tempted me to take the Lady Natalya and to seduce Herr von Taaffe.”

“You called this demon into the house of the Cardinal?”

“I did not call him here. I can’t be rid of him. He comes and goes as he wills, but I am guilty for bringing him back to the world where he can tempt and harm others.”

“You also tried to kill yourself. That is a very grievous crime as well.”

“I did not try to kill myself.” Aksinya’s voice was low, “I tried to protect myself from the demon.”

“Yes. This will be very difficult to defend Fraulein.” The Inquisitor placed his papers and pen back into his briefcase.

“I have no intention of defending myself at the trial.”

“Yes. I see. I am still called to defend you.”

“I will not hold it against you because you will fail. I am guilty.”

“I see.” The inquisitor stood. He started for the door. He stopped and called over his shoulder, “We expect the trial to begin tomorrow. Do you have anyone who might speak in your favor?”

“My priest, Father Dobrushin, Father Makar, the Matushka Ekaterina. They might speak in my favor.”

“They are Orthodox. They will not be allowed to testify.”

“Then there is no one who will speak for me. But it doesn’t matter because I am guilty.”

The Priest went to the door. Frau Becker pursued him through the opening. In the hall outside, she called to him, “Inquisitor Esposito.”

The priest turned, “Yes, Frau.”

“You know this girl is not fully sane. No one can really do sorcery. No one can do the things this child has been accused of.”

“She has confessed to them, and I don’t see much that I can defend.”

“Listen to me, Father. For the love of God, you must not allow them to harm her. Since she has been here, I have not seen anything in her but an honest and contrite woman. I hear the papers are following everything. I know there are reporters outside the gates every day. This trial will ruin her and many others. It will not help the Church. It will not lead to anything good.”

“The Pope himself sent us to seek out a resolution to this matter. It is not in our hands. It is in the hands of God. For better or worst, the result will be what it is. Additionally, Archinquisitor Gallo is a driven man. He will not let this go until it reaches the bitter end. The scourging and discipline of the Church and its members is a critical function that we provide.”

“But this will not scourge and discipline. It will lead to much harm.”

“So you say,” he frowned down on Frau Becker.

“Let me testify in her favor. I am a member of the Church and can speak to her sanity and her goodness.”

“That will not be allowed. You are not a witness to any of the charges to which she has been accused.” The inquisitor turned on his heel and left Frau Becker standing with her mouth hanging open.

In the morning, Frau Becker dressed Aksinya in her thin black dress and brought her breakfast in the room where she had been convalescing. Just before nine, she led Aksinya to the chapel within the Cardinal’s house. Aksinya heard the sounds of a crowd outside the building. Through the windows, she caught a glimpse of men with cameras and writing pads. Guards stood at the inner doors. Inside the chapel was an altar on a slightly raised platform. Just ahead of the altar sat a bishop’s chair on the platform. A second smaller chair sat below the platform and about ten feet from the edge of it. The other seats for spectators where arranged behind this. They were already filled with many officials of the church. Aksinya could tell by their robes. Aksinya recognized the Reverend Mother, the Abbot, and Sister Margarethe near the middle of the crowd. Some of the higher ranking sisters from the convent, Sacré Coeur, were also there. Aksinya remembered them from her classes. A few secular spectators were seated at the back. Aksinya could tell since they were the only ones without ecclesiastical robes.

Frau Becker led Aksinya to the smaller chair and pointed toward it, “You are to sit there, child.”

As she sat, Aksinya grasped Frau Becker’s hand, “Thank you for your kindness to me. I shall not forget it.” She smiled.

Frau Becker covered her face with her free hand, “You are welcome. I’ve been instructed to help you as you have need. I’ll sit just behind you.”

“Thank you.”

Frau Becker reluctantly let go of Aksinya’s hand and moved behind her.

After a few minutes, Inquisitor Esposito entered. He did not sit. He nodded toward Aksinya. Moments later, the Archinquisitor Gallo came in from the door at the side of the altar. Everyone stood. The Archinquisitor glared at Aksinya then bowed to the altar and immediately began an ascension prayer in Latin. He led the court in a general confession and absolved them. He led them in the Apostolic Creed. Then he sat down and signaled for everyone to be seated.

The Archinquisitor brought out a paper, “Alleged Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna…”

Aksinya interrupted, “I am not an alleged Countess. I am the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.”

“You are not allowed to speak until you are called upon.”

“I am not an alleged Countess. I am the Countess Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.”

“Little girl, you are already prejudicing this court against you.”

“That may be so, but I insist that you address me by my proper title.”

“Your identity is one of the questions before this court, but if you fail to hold your tongue, I will have you bound and gagged.”

“That is your prerogative, but I also have the right to be addressed properly by this court.”

The Archinquisitor turned to Inquisitor Esposito, “Instruct the Fraulein in the proper decorum of the court.”

Aksinya glared at him, “This is the first issue before the court. If you can’t identify me properly then what kind of trial can this be?”

“I warned you once, little girl. I will have you bound and gagged.”

Inquisitor Esposito stammered, “If it pleases the Archinquisitor, the promotor fiscalis should first establish the identity of the accused.”

The Archinquisitor frowned at him, “Very well. This is not the usual procedure, but I will take the advice of the advocatus reorum and first prove the identity of the accused.” He faced Aksinya, “Little girl, what is your baptized name? I know it is not Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.”

Aksinya nodded, “What you say is true. My baptized name is not, Aksinya Andreiovna Golitsyna.”

The courtroom let out a sound between a gasp and a groan.

The Archinquisitor smiled, “Then what is your baptized name?”

“My baptized name is Aksinya Georgovna Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.”

The Archinquisitor glared at her, “Preposterous.”

Aksinya stared him down, “My father was Grand Duke George Alexandrovich Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov. He died of tuberculosis before I was born. My mother was Princess Nina Vladimirovna Golitsyna, nee Bockmann. She later married my adopted father Count Andrei Nikolaevich Golitsyna. I was given my adopted father’s name and all rights to the name by him.”

A whisper started in the courtroom, “She claims to be a princess.”

The Archinquisitor half stood, “Quiet in the courtroom. Preposterous, I say. You claim first to be a Countess and now to be a Romanov Princess.” He slowly lowered himself back into the Bishop’s seat.

“I am a Romanov Princess and a Countess and I insist on being addressed properly.”

The Archinquisitor stood, “Inquisitor Esposito, are the Bockmanns here?”

“Yes, Archinquisitor. They begged not to testify unless absolutely necessary.”

“It is necessary. Right now. Bring Freiherr Bockmann into the courtroom.”

The inquisitor bowed. He went to the door, and after a few minutes, Freiherr Bockmann reluctantly entered the chapel.

The Archinquisitor sat in his chair, “Swear the Freiherr in.”

The Inquisitor held the Gospel book before Freiherr Bockmann, “You do swear by Almighty God, the searcher of hearts, that you shall speak the truth as you know it to this ecclesiastical court. And this as you shall answer to God at the great day.”

The Freiherr looked uncomfortable. He mumbled, “I do so swear.” He kissed the book.

The Archinquisitor took a deep breath, “The question, Freiherr Bockmann is the lineage of this girl. Whose child is she?”

The Freiherr turned toward the Archinquisitor, “I did not wish to testify in this proceeding at all.”

The Archinquisitor glared at the Freiherr, “This is a simple question, and we must know the answer to if we are to proceed.” He pointed at Aksinya, “I ask you again, whose child is she?”

The Freiherr wrung his hands, “She is the daughter of my sister, Princess Nina Vladimirovna Golitsyna, nee Bockmann and the Grand Duke George Alexandrovich Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov.”

The whispers began again, “She is a princess.”

“Quiet!” The Archinquisitor’s eyes snapped open wide, “You swear to this?”

“It is the truth.”

Aksinya smiled, “Archinquisitor, I insist that you address me as Princess. That is my right.”

The Archinquisitor colored and stood, “I ask your pardon, Princess Aksinya.”

The rest of the courtroom stood.

Aksinya didn’t lower her head, “Am I not owed an obeisance?”

The Archinquisitor bowed. The courtroom bowed. Aksinya stood and stepped onto the platform. She moved to the Archinqusitor. She put out her hand. The Archinquisitor dropped to his left knee and touched her hand. Aksinya continued, “It is not proper for you to sit above me, Father. May I take your seat?”

The Archinquisitor glanced at her then lowered his head. He choked out, “You may have my seat, Princess.”

Aksinya sat in the Bishop’s chair. She smoothed her soiled dress, “We may now proceed. Please continue, Archinquisitor. I am ready to hear your accusations against me.”

The Archinquisitor hid his face for a moment. He stood and stepped off the platform.

The inquisitor bowed toward Aksinya, “Princess Aksinya, may I approach?”

“Please do, Inquisitor.”

Inquisitor Esposito stepped beside her and whispered, “You are not wise to infuriate the Archinquisitor. You have embarrassed him before his own court.”

Aksinya whispered back to him, “The verdict of this trail is already known. I simply settled the first point.”

“Yes.” He stood.

Aksinya waved, “Please proceed.”

The Archinquisitor returned to his papers, “Very well, Princess Aksinya. We have established your rank.” He cleared his throat, “The first accusation is therefore moot. The court acknowledges your right as both a Russian Princess and a Russian Countess.” He paused just a moment to take a deep breath, “The next charge is that you did commit sorcery and by this sorcery did murder your own family, steal the goods from the estate of Count Golitsyna, cheated merchants in Wien, and escaped Russian justice.”

Aksinya rested her elbow on the arm of the chair and laid her chin on the back of her hand, “I admit to sorcery. I am guilty of that great sin. I have confessed it and am forgiven. I have not paid the price for all the evil I committed because of it.” The Archinquisitor was about to speak. Aksinya raised her hand, “I did not murder my family. I did not steal the goods that already belonged to me. I did not intentionally cheat the merchants in this city. I am not certain there is Russian justice. As a Princess, I am Russian justice. Do you have any witnesses to any of these charges?”

“To the charge of cheating, there are witnesses, but if you acknowledge them, they are also moot.”

“I will accept that and any secular punishment. I believe that is well beyond this court.”

“Yes, you are correct Princess. Then let the court record read that the Princess Aksinya is guilty of theft and that shall be left to the secular courts. There are other charges.”

“Then proceed, Archinquisitor.”

“This court wishes to establish your guilt of sorcery.”

“I admit it. What more is there to say?”

“The proof exists, and I wish to establish it. The other charges related to this are that you did kidnap and seduce the mind and soul of the Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska and that you did seduce the mind and soul of Herr Ernst von Taaffe.”

“I admit those grave sins. Pronounce your judgment.”

“That is not enough. This court wishes to establish their guilt in this great sin also.”

Aksinya cried out, “They have no guilt in this at all. It was all my doing. Punish me, not them.”

“There is also the question of the school, Sacré Coeur, the Reverend Mother Kluge, Abbot Father Abend, and Sister Margarethe.”

Aksinya half stood, “That is enough. They are innocent of any wrongdoing. I am the sorceress. They knew nothing of my evil deeds. I will tell you, I called a demon from the pit. They committed nothing wrong. It was all my own actions.”

The Archinquisitor stroked his chin, “You called a demon.” He turned to the inquisitor, “Did you know this Inquisitor Esposito?”

The Inquisitor danced from foot to foot, “She…the Princess confessed this to me.”

“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.”

“Anyone else?”

“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.”

Sister Margarethe and Natalya stepped forward, and the Inquisitor swore them in.

Ernst stepped up beside them, “I insist on answering also.”

The inquisitor swore him in too.

Aksinya demanded, “Ask them now. What was happening outside the Golden Adler?”

The Archinquisitor spat, “Tell us, then, what was happening?”

Ernst held his head up high, “This man along with about ten others were about to rape the Lady Natalya and the Sister. The Countess stopped them.”

“Using sorcery.”

Ernst continued, “I don’t know what she did. All I know, is that she stopped them from violating the ladies.”

The Archinquisitor continued, “And what she did caused those men to find themselves in the street later more than a block away.”

“It saved the Lady and Sister’s virtue from rapists.”

Herr Mueller clenched his hands together, “Father, may I go.”

“Yes, go.”

Aksinya’s voice rang clearly, “I did use sorcery to save them. Those men were tempted by the demon. My demon is Asmodeus, the demon of lust and luxuria. It was his doing. He tempted those men and caused them to act as they did. As you can see, Herr Taaffe, the Lady Natalya, and Sister Margarethe are innocent. I can’t vouch for the innocence of Herr Mueller.”

Herr Mueller ran to the door and was let out.

The Archinquisitor tapped his paper, “The innocence of these three is still in question. I wish to question them. First, Herr Taaffe, did you know the Princess Aksinya was a sorceress?”

“Princess…?” He glanced at Aksinya, “I knew the Countess was a sorceress. Yes.”

Aksinya groaned, “You need not confess to such a thing. I will not lie, but I don’t wish them to lie on my account.”

The Archinquisitor grinned, “Herr Taaffe are you lying?”

“No, I knew she was a sorceress. That is why I sought her out.”

Aksinya collapsed in her chair, “I am guilty and not they.”

“We shall see. How about you, Lady Natalya Alexandrovna Obolenska. Did you know the Princess Aksinya was a sorceress?”

“Yes, I became her apprentice for that reason.”

Aksinya cried, “I tricked them. I forced them.”

“And you, Sister Margarethe?”

“I knew. She never harmed anyone. This I swear.”

“But you knew and never informed your Reverend Mother or your priest, the Abbot.”

“I never told them.”

“Why?”

“Because I love the Countess. I would do anything for her—to protect her.”

Aksinya let out a great cry.

Archinquisitor Gallo smacked his lips, “Herr von Taaffe, you affianced, the Princess Aksinya, yet you knew she was a sorceress.”

Aksinya yelled, “He never affianced me.”

The Archinquisitor wheeled toward her, “Why did you not?”

Natalya spoke quietly, “Because I seduced, Herr von Taaffe to protect her.”

Aksinya roared, “Shut up, Natalya. You…you. Please don’t do this. I already told you I am a sorceress. What do you gain by smearing my friends?”

The Archinquisitor smiled, “I think the guilt of all these individuals can be attributed to the Princess Aksinya. Therefore, I am ready to pronounce my verdict on all of them. This verdict shall stand unless revoked by .” He paused for a moment then continued, “If I had the authority, I would ask that you,” he pointed at Aksinya, “be burned at the stake. I don’t have that power, therefore, I pronounce the Princess Aksinya guilty of necromancy and sorcery. She is not Catholic and therefore cannot be excommunicated. She shall be denied communion and succor from the Holy Catholic Church all her life long. She is a notorious sinner who has brought many to ruin. She will not be allowed in any building or property owned by this Church. She shall not be acknowledged by any leader of the Holy Catholic Church as nobility nor aristocracy. She is to be shunned by commoner and noble alike until her life ends. This edict with a similar recommendation shall be sent to the Orthodox Church and to all other official Christian bodies. They shall judge her themselves.”

Aksinya smiled and nodded.

“As to these others.”

Aksinya growled, “I accept your punishment. It is just. Do not judge these others. I renounce any association with them.”

The Archinquisitor chuckled, “They must answer for their own sins. It is not up to you to judge, little girl. Herr von Taaffe, you are allowed communion after proper repentance and penance to be determined by the Cardinal of Wien. You are accused and guilty of seduction and acquaintance with sorcery. Repent of this, and you shall be freely given the succor of your . Equally, you, Sister Margarethe, are guilty of acquaintance with sorcery. You shall not be allowed to teach for the rest of your life. After proper repentance and penance, you shall be allowed to continue as a novice of your community until such time as your Reverend Mother and Abbot shall accept you into the Holy Orders again.” He took a deep breath, “You, Lady Natalya are a victim of this woman. Upon repentance and penance and if you are confirmed within our community, I allow you to join with our Holy Catholic Church.”

Aksinya’s lips turned slightly up. That quickly became a frown.

The Archinquisitor continued, “Reverend Mother Kluge, you allowed this sorceress to enter Sacré Coeur and bewitch your sisters and your students. You shall be reduced to a sister of your order and not hold the position of Reverend Mother again. The Abbot, Father Abend, is equally guilty of this sin and shall also be reduced to a priest without authority until properly elevated. I pronounce the school, Sacré Coeur, to be closed until a full accounting of the evil that was committed within it is determined and purged. It shall open again only under these conditions are met.”

The Reverend Mother gave a cry. The sisters around her held to her.

“The convent shall be under a full review and shall accept penance until the time the Cardinal of Wien shall lift that penance. No new novices shall be accepted nor sisters elevated until that time.”

Aksinya panted, “You already had planned all this before you heard anything, didn’t you?”

“You, little girl have nothing to say to me. You are meaningless now. You will soon face your accusers in another court, a court of secular law, and you should pray they are as lenient as I.”

Aksinya stood, “I accept the just punishment for my sins. I admit to them and confess them all to you.” She dropped to her knees, “I beg your pardon for any and all suffering I have caused. I have no excuse for my actions. I only wish I could take your suffering on myself. Forgive all these. Please, in the name of God, forgive them and only punish me.”

The Archinquisitor made a dismissive motion with his hand and signaled for the guards, “Your penance and pleas come much too late, little girl.”

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