Great news! The Countess is now available as an Audible audiobook, in an unabridged edition read by the amazing Leslie Bellair. Now you can hear the proper pronunciations of the Hungarian names and cities in the book.
Ignore the artwork on the Audible page--I have a call into them about changing it.
Here's a third deleted scene from The Countess, in which Erzsbet's son-in-law comes to tell her the news after her arrest:
That morning a visitor came to me: My son-in-law, Gyorgy Drugeth, was suddenly outside my wall. I recognized the rasp of his voice as his personal thumbprint—the injury he received to his throat as a young man when playing soldier with his cousins deepened his voice and gave it a dry edge, like chalk, that distinguished his speech from that of all other men, young and old. He greeted me as his mother and asked if I was well, if there was anything I needed. I told him no, I was well enough, but I was glad he had come, if surprised to see him in my tower so soon, since I had dispatched my letter to my daughter Kata, his wife, only the day before.
“I was halfway to Bicske, madam, when I heard of your arrest. I came as soon as I could.”
Heading to Bicske, the palatine’s court. Strange news from my own son-in-law on the eve of my arrest, but it explained why he was able to reach me so quickly, and it meant that he might have been present when my servants were brought in. Was there any word of the trial? I asked. Had he seen anything he might be able to tell me?
“Not yet, madam,” he said. “The servants were still being examined when I left.”
“Examined”—a loaded word. “And the judges, how long before they arrive?”
“They were already assembled when I left for Csejthe. The proceedings may be beginning even as we speak.”
“Then Thurzo has been planning his raid for some time.”
“I would imagine so.”
A wily enemy, the palatine. How long had he been planning my demise? How many times had he smiled in my face, knowing that one day he would put me between stones for the rest of my life?
Thurzo had been known to be ruthless in annexing his neighbor’s lands when the opportunity arose. Perhaps I had been blinded by my former love for him, by the love we once bore each other. I had not expected that he would move against me, of all people. That he thought he could find such an advantage.
He would move against me now. He thought he could. The question was where.
There was the estate at Sarvar, so long our family seat, but Pal was there with Megyery, whom the palatine had bought. He would almost certainly leave Sarvar alone while my son lived, and not take the boy’s birthright. Varanno was too far, Leka too remote, Csejthe too small. But the house at Kerezstur might tempt him, so near his estate at Tokaj, with its excellent vineyards and the white four-sided kastely with its graceful courtyard where once I had stood as a new bride for Count Nadasdy. Kerezstur was vulnerable.
“There is something you must do for me,” I said. “I will give you Kerezstur, to hold against the palatine’s greed.”
“Do you thnk the palatine covets Kerezstur?”
“He covets everything the Nadasdys have. My son is too young to protect the estates. But you will take it, and give me something in return.”
“What would that be?”
“Send me some money for food, and clothes, and to pay the servants to remain here while I live. Kerezstur brings in a good deal of forints every year. A few to Csejthe, to pay for my comfort here, and you may keep the rest.”
He promised he would. I wrote the paper and signed it with my name, and my deal. Gyorgy Drugeth promised too that Kata would come to me in a few days, but now more than a month has passed, and my daughter has not come. My son has not come. I am alone here, waiting.
I was sorry to see him go. Even the guards are gone for the moment. It must be dull work for them now that I’m shut up inside my tower, for they have grown lax about keeping their place outside my door. I suppose they are downstairs someplace, watching the workmen at their task, or else getting drunk on the good wine I have had stored in the castle cellars. Or perhaps they are down at the castle gate to make certain no one comes inside without the palatine’s permission, for I still have friends and family who might come to my aid.
No matter. The guards will not leave me alone for long.
Not in nearly the decent shape that Sarvar is in, Csejthe (chey-tey) castle is a ruin, infamous as the site of the tower where Erzsebet was walled up for the last 3 1/2 years of her life. The entrance and wall are still standing, but much of the castle itself was destroyed by the Rakoczis in the early 18th Century. Locals say the place is haunted, either by Erzsebet or her victims, and apparently people like to visit on Halloween and listen for the wails of the bloody lady. It was even the subject of an episode of Ghost Hunters International, though I find it infuriatingly sloppy when television shows and other "official" outlets like this repeat fiction as if it's fact (see Erzsebet's fictional 650 victims and blood-bathing, etc). Could they not do even the tiniest bit of research? Wikipedia has better sources than they do.
Here's what it looked like back in Erzsebet's day:
Whenever I see these photos I always think of Jennifer Egan's novel The Keep and wonder if this was the castle that inspired her story.