Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 97

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Of Course, the Wolf

“You should not be so arrogant as to think that the world will vanish around you,” growled a voice. “There is more to life than you and your concerns.”

Ivan looked to the side where the gray wolf lay. At this point, he felt her arrival had only been a matter of time, so he was not surprised to see her lying there in the fading light of the afternoon. “Are you going to help me next?”

“Indeed I am, and for more reasons than you know,” the wolf answered. She stood up and stretched and shook her body all over from her head to the tip of her tail. It seemed to Ivan that she had grown much larger in that brief moment. At least, he hadn’t remembered her being the size of a horse when he had held her head tightly to keep her from biting Vasilisa in her pain. “Climb upon my back.”

As though she were a horse without a saddle, Ivan pulled himself up, doing his best not to yank at her fur. Her jaws had been impressive back in the forest. Now they were more than twice that size. He glanced down at her side. “Do I need to worry about your wounds? Have they healed enough?”

“I am well, and thank you for asking,” she said, and in fact there was no sign of the cauterized cut on her side. Her fur was as full and thick on one side as the other. Ivan checked both flanks, in case he had forgotten which one was originally hurt. “Clasp with your legs and grab hold of my ruff. That will provide you the best purchase.”

He would have asked “For what?” except that no sooner had she felt the pressure than she had leapt straight toward the wall, moving as quickly through the air as the flying ship. The claws on her footpads clicked against the hard surface. That was the only thing that matched Ivan’s expectations. “Where did it come from?” In front of them was a magnificent golden palace. Bejeweled spires adorned crenelated battlements (that seemed, to Ivan’s eyes, to be entirely decorative to begin with). Polished and gleaming doors stood atop a wide staircase.

“There is no time to waste. The tiding orchestrated your boots better than I could have expected, but it means that we are playing catch-up nevertheless.” Ivan understood the individual words but he was used to things not making sense. He made to dismount, ready to enter the palace, but the wolf stopped him. “I will take us to the far side.”

“I have to know what they are doing by order of the tsar! Where they are and what they do, he demands full accounting.”

The wolf snorted. “He already knows, but to sate your curiosity I will explain as we run. Hold on.” Ivan gripped with both hands as she exploded in movement around the side of palace. “Every night, the twelve princesses descend here to these lands where they dance with twelve princes.”

“The giant eel said that this is the land of Fairy.”

“If she said so, she is mistaken, although I suppose it is an understandable one as time does not move at the same rate in either as it does above and below. They will dance the night away here, this place’s night, and return by dawn to your world.”

“Dancing?” He thought about what the birds had said and considered the sword at his side. “Is that all?”

The wolf panted, “No. Their father is killing them.”

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Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3     Chapter 4     Chapter 5

Chapter 6     Chapter 7     Chapter 8     Chapter 9     Chapter 10

Chapter 11

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