Telling Tales 20
In Which Not Much Happens Beyond a Great Decision
Of course, you can imagine how they ran! Like the leaves on the wind before the storm! Like the animals on the prairie before the fire! The soldier at the front of a triangle, screaming, “Now, go, run!” While behind him in a perfect pair ran the prince and princess in a line, nearly as fast, cooing, “Ivan!” and “Vasilisa!” over and over. Behind them, at a distance but gaining closer and closer, ran the Whirlwind with his mighty flail.
I see I have jumped too far ahead.
You see, very little happened from the bottom of the tower until the running. Prince Ivan ran up the steps to the tower room where the princess was kept prisoner, yelling, “Vasilisa!” with every other step. Halfway up, he was forced to stop and rest and catch his breath, and if his volume in shouting her name decreased, his eagerness did not. The princess, captive in her room called, “Ivan! Ivan!” The soldier, for his part, only caught up with Prince Ivan at the landing, but by then the prince had proceeded on again. He burst through the door like a man possessed, and while it was an impressive feat of strength, it must be admitted that his actions bore very little upon the actual story. The prince and princess embraced and they might have even kissed had not the soldier, in his new and latest role as chaperone, uttered a discreet cough.
Before aught else could occur, there sounded a great and terrible wind. “It is Yumni, the Whirlwind,” cried Vasilisa. “He will strike you down with his flail that billows lightning and thunder before it! We are surely doomed!”
“Never fear,” said the prince bravely, “for we have a plan!”
“Run!” yelled the soldier, pushing them through the door.
“That’s your plan?” asked the princess.
“Run faster!” said the soldier.
Behind them, they heard the Whirlwind storm his fury. “Suit of Armor!” howled Yumni. “Raise your sword and strike them dead!”
“Not I,” clanked the armor, moving its arms and stretching experimentally, “for this man has oiled my rust and restored me to my full health.”
“Dogs!” shrieked Yumni. “Rend them to pieces!”
“Not us,” grunted the dogs as the three fugitives fled past them, “for this man fed us good bread and we are sleepy.”
“Oh, Gate!” commanded Yumni. “Do not let them escape, but crush them between your halves!”
“Not I,” answered the gate, “for this man has oiled my hinges and I work as smoothly as if I were new,” and with that the three fleeing persons escaped the Diamond Castle back on to the sand, heading for the jungle.
“Oh, Ivan!” gushed the princess.
“Oh, Vasilisa,” swooned the prince.
“Oh, brother,” panted the soldier, who was not in nearly as good condition when he was not wearing his enchanted ring. Behind them, Yumni with his swirling gray eyes and swirling gray flail gained on them with every step.
So you see, very little of actual import happened between when I last left you with the soldier and Ivan in the courtyard, and now pick them up, complete with Vasilisa, fleeing from the Whirlwind.
“It’s die now or die later,” thought the soldier. “Return home without the princess and be killed by her father, or let her escape and be killed by Whirlwind here and now. At least in the second case, my friend Prince Ivan will get away with his betrothed.” And so, with a great sigh, he let the prince and princess pass him, cooing all the way, and stopped to face the Whirlwind head on.