Telling Tales 3
The Comrade’s Revenge
The soldier quaked in fear. Even were he the best shot in the regiment with the fiercest knife and the strongest punch, he was no match for the spirit. Furthermore, it must be noted, our soldier was none of those things.
“Ha ha,” said the spirit. “Just kidding. You should have seen your face.”
“You’re not going to kill me?” asked the soldier.
“Kill the man that freed me from my thirty-year captivity?” cried the spirit “Kill the man that gives me the chance to eat and drink once more? No, my friend, I am in your debt, and in your debt I shall remain.”
“Oh,” said the soldier, who wasn’t sure what having a spirit in one’s debt might mean and was mostly very pleased to not be dying. After all, the spirit was large and foul-smelling and had horns and tusks where horns and tusks ought not to be.
“I must be off,” said the spirit, “for I am hungry and thirsty.”
“Very well,” said the soldier.
“Ha ha,” laughed the spirit. “I have not forgotten. When you are in dire circumstances, simply call upon me and I shall come to aid you.” The spirit vanished in a cloud of sulfurous and debilitating gas.
When the soldier’s comrade was able to stand guard again, having recovered from the lashing he received for gambling while on duty, he began scheming for a way to punish the soldier. He believed it was our soldier’s fault that he had been beaten, and while our soldier certainly knew that the beating was a possibility, had the first soldier not tried to get out of work, none of this ever would have happened in the first place. Let this be a lesson to you and do the work to which you are assigned in the future and save everyone a great deal of trouble. The first soldier’s patience was at last rewarded when the tsar issued a proclamation. His daughter, the tsarevna, was being tormented by a dragon, and he promised great reward to any man that could save her.
This man got our soldier drunk on vodka while abstaining himself, which was no small feat, let me tell you. In his drunken state, he had our soldier say any number of things, boastful things, brave things, dashing things. All our soldier remembered was that there were people clapping him on the shoulder, his captain congratulating him on his bravery promising to deliver him straightaway. When he awoke, our soldier’s head suffered him mightily and his mouth was like paste and his stomach was empty. This last fact was just as well, for reasons which we need not elaborate.
The soldier was in the back of a sumptuous carriage that traveled at speed down a well-made road. The soldier was wearing his dress uniform. He found himself quite at a loss. “Good sir,” he called out of the window to the driver. “Whence do we travel? Where is my regiment?”
“By your own oath, you are to face down the dragon that terrorizes the tsarevna,” answered the coachman.
“Oh,” said the soldier, and retreated inside.
The next day, with great pomp and fanfare after a meal the likes of which the soldier had never before seen, and the likes of which he would probably never see again, the soldier was set out by himself at the foot of the tsarevna’s tower. “Don’t you want weapons?” they asked, shocked. The soldier knew he could not best a dragon with any weapon. Instead, he asked for some walnuts and a hammer with which to open them, and it was thus that he sadly waited for his doom.