386. Seeds

A day of resting and restoring after that first Christmas eve with Jay, thinking about how my mother is doing, and all the things I still have to do – soon – in business, in everything.

Such days, however, are a good opportunity to test my new approach to creativity, by thinking a lot about the Hammer and Magic-story, making myself really excited about writing the next segment down.

(And sketching a little … only a little. But still.)

But humble beginnings, as they say, right? Here is what came out of it, written down several days later.

I have all the pictures in my head, although only one little sketch, as said.

However, that is another good form of beginning, I suppose: To constantly imagine what I will draw, even if I don’t have time yet to draw it. Or have even decided how ambitious I am going to be, and can possible be, about it.

But these are seeds, and they are nurtured at times when I am slogging through the winter rain to get some thing or other for Jay’s dinner from one of the few super markets open.

And thus they grow.

Chapter 2: The Enemy

Smolny Institute
9 AM, 8 November 1917

Leon Trotsky was in an unusual situation before an important meeting – he was being late.

There were few things in the world that could incite Trotsky to prioritize lateness, especially when slated to meet with the Troika which he himself was a part of, and which also consisted of Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. News about koldun’ya infiltration of Petrograd was one of them.

Trotsky looked at Igor over his spectacles once again:

“You are absolutely sure?”

“Yes, comrade.”

“And just this … girl?”

“That is what my sources tell me. And they have never been wrong.”

“So far,” Trotsky added.

“They have never been wrong,” Igor just repeated. He was a small grey man with a face chiseled in stone. Former Okhrana – Tsarist – secret police and just the kind of man the Revolution needed to flow a little … smoother.

“Very well,” Trotsky said and folded the little piece of paper Igor had given him with the details and then hid it away in his jacket. “Let me know when you find her, which I trust you will do before she can carry out that treacherous mission of hers.”

“Is she to be … dealt with, the same as the others?” Igor asked. He had specialized in koldun’yas – which few people realized or even accepted the existence of. And if Igor Kavanzinsky had his way there would not be any sorcerers left to accept.

Such hatred was sometimes counterproductive, but in this case it could made good use of, Trotsky had mused on more than one occasion, when he had considered whether or not to keep Igor around.

All for the Revolution, of course …

“I want to see her,” Trotsky then said. “Before anything else … “

For the first time, Igor hesitated: “But what if she resists and … ?”

“I know you have ample means to neutralize her … special skills and capture her alive. Do so. That is an order.”

“Yes, comrade.”

Igor turned and left.

Trotsky walked briskly now. The Smolny Institute was not a small building and he did not like coming in last while Lenin and Stalin had been there alone for some minutes or more … But this case was too important to ignore, and Igor had come to him with the news right as he left his impromptu office.

Despite his urgency, Trotsky did not run, nor did he push aside any of the many men and women who crossed his path, all buzzing around feverishly to coordinate the shift of power.

I can’t believe this wisp of a girl is supposed to assassinate Ulyanov, Trotsky thought to himself as he moved with determination up the stairs to the top meeting room, thinking of the man the world knew as Lenin in more familiar terms. The two men – Lenin and Trotsky – had come to know each other quite well in the years leading up to this pivotal moment, and although Trotsky fancied himself more the intellectual than Lenin, he still had tremendous respect for Lenin and for the importance of his leadership at this hour.

I wish I could tell him, Trotsky mused as he opened the door to the meeting room (a former history professor’s office, fittingly enough).

But he would not believe it and it would undermine my position immediately. No, those witches are incredibly powerful and dangerous, he thought. For all we know this ‘girl’ could be someone older and more lethal and more experienced, in disguise …

“You are late,” Stalin said.

Trotsky ignored him and sat down at the small table in the middle of the room, pulling out a slew of papers from a briefcase he had carried with him all the way. Lenin was already sitting at the table, while Stalin was standing. Lenin had a steaming mug of tea and nothing else in front of him, but it did not look as if he had touched it. He looked tired and … old.

“Report,” Lenin simply said, and as he said it Stalin slowly sat down in the last chair.

“The Petrograd Soviet is fully committed to form the new government,” Trotsky said and he knew that he spoke the truth at least for himself, as chairman of that body. “However, the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries are still in disagreement with us on some … of the finer points of the transition.”

Stalin’s dark eyes narrowed: “What a surprise. The Petrograd Soviet needs to be purged of all reactionary elements soon.”

“A surprise indeed,” Trotsky replied without hiding his sarcasm, “like your suggested solution to a political conflict.”

“You want it as much as I do,” Stalin said, and a brief, icy smile crossed his lips.

Trotsky ignored that, too.

Lenin just nodded wearily, then produced a piece of paper which had been stashed away in a bag at the side of the chair:

“I have here the public proclamation that the Petrograd Soviet is now officially replacing the Provisional Government. New cabinet appointments will come shortly, but the people need to know.”

“As regards the internal Soviet disagreement with the Mensheviks and -“ Trotsky began, but Lenin brushed him off.

“It can’t be helped. We will … settle with them later. The Bolsheviks have led the Revolution and made it come true. Now we must follow up on that. And we are ready to do so, correct Joseph Vissarionovich?”

Lenin looked at Stalin, having just addressed him by his first name and patronymic. For the first time, actually, while in Trotsky’s presence. Trotsky did not like that. Not at all …

I wonder what you truly are, comrade … he reflected as he looked Stalin straight in those coal-black eyes. Neither man blinked.

It would be illogical if little girls sent to kill are the only ones of those sorcerers that can change shape …

Trotsky’s brief, dark reflection was broken off as Stalin’s deep voice answered in the affirmative:

“All key locations in Petrograd are secured by the brave men and women directed by the Military-Revolutionary Committee,” he said, “including the Winter Palace.”

“And you have the provisional cabinet in custody?” Lenin asked.

“Yes,” Stalin replied. “All of them … “

“Except Kerensky,” Trotsky added, leaning back on the hard chair which suddenly felt more comfortable.

A dark fire burned in Stalin’s eyes. This was not the first insult Trotsky had hurled at him and it would not be the last. Both men knew that.

“He escaped,” Stalin said matter-of-factly, “in a motor vehicle which, regrettably, was allowed to pass our picket lines. I will see to it that the Red Guards in charge of the locations are purged from the ranks of the true revolutionaries.”

“Yes, yes,” Lenin said, still sounding much older than his 47 years – “but never mind him. He is unimportant.”

“He may rally loyalist troops at Pskov. For a counter attack on Petrograd or Tsarskoe Selo at least … ” Trotsky suggested.

Now that the knife was in he might as well twist it a little …

And all the better that I planted that little story, Trotsky added to himself. My informant at the Palace tell me of a most unusual occurrence at Kerensky’s office. But a story about Red Guard incompetence will serve its purpose in not calling any more attention to that … and other purposes as well.

“Kerensky will not succeed,” Stalin said with steel in his voice. “The majority of troops in the region who are not loyal to the revolution already have been … “

“ … purged,” Trotsky ended for him. “Yes, I am sure of it.”

“A necessary measure if we are to have any success defending the capital from reactionaries as well as the imperialist Germans,” Stalin said, his voice dangerously level. “As for the latter threat,” he continued. “It is only a precaution, of course. I am certain that you in your new role as Foreign Commissar will come to an agreement with Germany.”

“Yes, well – ” Trotsky began, temporarily taken aback. He had had some good indications Lenin would appoint him to this post in the new, Bolshevik cabinet, but this was the first time he heard it confirmed. Had Lenin told Stalin first? It seemed inconceivable …

“Congratulations on your new appointment,” Lenin said. “I would have told you sooner, Lev, but … there has been so much, you know.”

“I know,” Trotsky said, a sour taste growing in his mouth despite his excitement about the post. He had been craving it, after all …

“I look forward to your proposal for how to deal with the German imperialists, once the control of our country is fully secured,” Lenin added.

“Well, I have had some thoughts … “ Trotsky began.