Telling Tales 62
Difficult to Say or Describe
Ivan and Vasilisa looked at one another over the remains of the fish that their host had generously provided to them. His leather boots were soft and worn and was lean with long hours of work, yet obviously well-fed. The squirrel’s advice rang in both of their ears.
“Would you like to travel with us?” asked Ivan.
“Only,” Vasilisa added, “we may never come this way again.”
“You mean that if I leave with you I may never see my home again. I wondered. No matter. I am sure that if I want, I can find my way back. Equally, if not, there is always life before me. Yes,” he decided, “I will come along. It will be a marvel. My name is Ipiktokiyakovik.”
“Oh,” said Ipiktokiyakovik, “those are terribly difficult to pronounce. You won’t mind if I call you ‘I’ and ‘V,’ will you?”
“Um,” said Vasilisa.
“Well,” said Ivan.
Ipiktokiyakovik laughed. “I am joking. You northerners can never pronounce our names, but it is easy. Ipiktok means ‘sharp’ and Iyakovik means ‘eyes.’ Ipiktok-iyakovik. It is the name I took for myself once I became the best hunter, Sharp Eyes.”
“Sharp Eyes! I will call you that! An excellent name!” said Ivan.
“No,” said Ipiktokiyakovik, “it is Ipiktokiyakovik.”
“Oh,” said Ivan. “I am sure my friend the soldier knew someone like you in his regiment, or if not like you, someone with a long name and he would have told us a story about that person that lasted into the night and led from one story to another.”
Before Ipiktokiyakovik could ask about this mysterious soldier, however, Vasilisa asked, “Do you have anything that you would like to bring with you?”
“Only myself and my tools and this this thing that I caught with some fish. It is as mysterious to me as your boat that flies through the air.” From the bag at his side, with infinite care, he took out a pillow-like thing, the size of one outstretched palm. “Be very gentle. It bruises easily.” Indeed, where his fingers touched the cloudy-white surface, there arose soft black marks that fogged into blue and purple, spreading across the surface. “It is best to hold it with your palm. Have you ever seen anything like it before?”
Vasilisa took the object from him. It settled in her hands and made her think of sorrow, longing, and grief. Although it left not a drop of moisture on her, if she were not looking at it, she would have sworn that it wept great tears across her hands. She passed it to Ivan, gently. “It is the saddest thing I have ever seen,” she said.
“Do you think so?” asked Ipiktokiyakovik. “Because when I hold it, I can only think of the stars and of all of the world that I have not yet seen.”
Ivan added, “Indeed, and I see no bruises on it at all. It is firm in my hands, and resolute, and forward-thinking. I would say, if I had to give this feeling a name, that it makes me feel that it is determined.”
“Curious,” said Ipiktokiyakovik as Ivan returned the strange pillow to him. “I hope I live long enough to learn what it is. Well, where is it exactly that we are going?”
“That is a long story,” said Ivan.
“It begins with my father,” continued Vasilisa, and began the story of her betrothed, the dragon.