Aksinya, Natalya, and Asmodeus are traveling across Russia in 1918 by train. I don’t want to make this a travel novel, but I did want to give you a flavor of the times and the danger. Many of the changes came as recommendations from my readers. I really appreciate them. I think I’ve caught some of the flavor I was looking for…
Still, the days and nights of travel engulfed them. The ladies slept in the night, read during the day, and ate when food became available. Within the towns and cities, they heard numerous gunshots and angry cries. Many times the train didn’t stop at its normal stations. More than once, the demon woke Aksinya and Natalya to lead them through a dark station to another train. Each time, they found themselves in a similar dreary closed low-class passenger carriage. During the daylight, they read. When it was too dark to read, they slept or spent time in light conversation, but all of that was whispered.
After six long days and nights, Asmodeus, gained their attention, “Countess, Lady Natalya, we are about to cross the border into Hungary. We will have to change trains there. The city is Chop on the Ukrainian side and Zάhony on the Hungarian side. In Chop, you may return to your usual attire and forms. We will spend the night in the city on the Hungarian side and continue on to Wien the next day.”
Aksinya curled her lip, “We both stink. I hope you have some plan to get us to a place where we can bathe and rest.”
Asmodeus shrugged, “I care little for your comfort or your needs.”
“Our comfort and our needs make this trip necessary.”
“I will find a suitable place. You will be required to make the change.”
“I will do my part. It is time for us to return to our proper positions in life.”
“I will remind you, a great war has just come to an end. The aristocracy of the Austria-Hungarian Empire is held in much greater respect than the aristocracy in Russia.”
“They will not attack us in the streets, I hope.”
“They will likely not attack you in the streets, but Russia was one of the enemies of this empire. You should use caution when you speak.”
“We should not speak Russian, you mean.” Aksinya turned toward Natalya, “Lady Natalya, can you speak German or French?”
Natalya stammered, “I speak French.”
Asmodeus laughed, “She should not speak her French. A Russian accent might end her life.”
Aksinya scowled, “Why are you being so helpful, demon?”
“I will soon require your cooperation again to aid in your temptation. I don’t wish any entanglements with the authorities at this time.” The demon sniffed.
Aksinya’s lip lifted, “Your concern is delightful to hear. Do you know just how much I hate you?”
The demon smiled, “I have a general idea. It is nothing compared to the hate you will feel in the future.”
I changed the names of the train cars to their European terms–so there are goods wagons and passenger carriages. I tried to get the feel of the times by some conjecture about the types of passenger accommodations there might be for the lowest fair class. I did a little detective work to find that modified goods wagons were used for the lowest class of transport. It is as described. No windows, only doors at one end. Open vents at the top of the cars to let in light and air. This was an improvement from using a goods wagon by itself, but not much better. I’m not sure how good my sources are, but hey, it sounds reasonable and it’s pretty ugly. In another unpublished novel about Russia just after WWII, I have my characters in better train passenger conditions, but not much. They still have to get off at the stations to find food, etc.
The three are finally approaching the border with Hungary. Russia and Hungary were at war, but have been at a degree of peace since 1917. Hungary will soon dissolve in some civil war and anarchy, but that hasn’t fully happened yet.
They have been on a stinking dirty passenger train for days. Even when they change back to their normal appearance, they will look, smell, and seem terrible. The demon goes on to give you some information about the war and its results. He also gives warnings. This also allows me an opportunity to tell you about the languages Natalya speaks. This will be important to the novel. It is also a small foreshadowing. At the end of the scene, we get a fun dialog about how much Aksinya hates the demon. His reply is also a foreshadowing: “I have a general idea. It is nothing compared to the hate you will feel in the future.” Tomorrow, through the border.