Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 180

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It Turns Out…

“First things first. We need to get you a horse,” declared Ivan.

“I could use the walk,” suggested Bulat, whose time in the stocks had made him stiff and sore.

“What if our journey takes us beyond the thrice tenth kingdom?”

“I could use a horse.”

So Prince Ivan bought the soldier Bulat a horse, outfitted them both anew with supplies for a long journey, they went to a barber for proper shaves (only keeping their luxuriant moustaches), and they made their way back into the world.

“Didn’t we rescue Vasilisa once already? You haven’t gone and lost her already, have you?”

*     *     *

“What do you mean they rescued Vasilisa once?”

Dmitri’s face went even darker still. “Did we or did we not spend all last night listening to the story of the flying ship and Ivan rescuing Vasilisa from the Whirldwind, whatever his name was, and then her sorcerous father?”

“You can’t remember his name? You’re so good with that Ipikot…” the other man trailed off, his mockery lost in his uncertain tongue.

“I-pik-tok-i-ya-ko-vik! How many times do you have to hear it? And the Whirlwind’s name is Unole.” Dmitri shoved back his seat and towered over the other man as though challenging him to a fight.

Yevgeny laid a hand on Dmitri’s shoulder, but he spoke to the rest of the company and let his calming touch alone speak to Dmitri. “No harm in letting one story drift into another one. If he hadn’t said anything, someone might well have objected to the omission. Go on,” he encouraged the other man.

*     *     *

“It’s a different Vasilisa,” explained Ivan. “Vasilisa Kirbitievna.”

“You’re going from Vasilisa to Vasilisa? Does that mean – “

“Don’t say ‘vacillating,’ ” interrupted Ivan. Bulat looked downcast. “As you know, all princesses worth the title are named Vasilisa.”

“The Russian ones, anyway,” agreed the soldier.

“Yes, indeed,” said Ivan. “That being said, the Vasilisa that you met – “

“Didn’t you and she spend a lot of time saying one another’s name over and over? Chant-like, it was.”

“IT TURNS OUT,” Ivan said, silencing the man with a glare and greater volume, “that that Vasilisa and I realized that our love was rather immature. It was a very complicated situation, in fact. There were some problems with her father -” again, he staved off an interruption – “who turned out to be the man who had turned me into a dragon in the first place, another sorcerer as well, another enchantment, I met a number of friends -“

“Yes, you mentioned something about a flying ship?” Bulat’s insertion was successful this time.

“There was a very helpful talking jackrabbit involved,” said Ivan by way of explanation, and it is a testament to the marvels of their lives that Bulat nodded in understanding, whereas a person like you or I might have been confused by the statement. “My friends all went on their own adventures and Vasilisa off to discover her own as well.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right,” said Bulat.

*     *     *

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

For once, Dmitri did not glower. In fact, he looked as puzzled as Sergei, who’d asked the question. “I don’t know. I’ve always wondered about that part in the story, but the way my grandfather told it, Bulat always says, ‘Oh, yes, that’s right,’ and then Ivan says exactly what you did, ‘What’s that supposed to mean.’ But that’s not the only parts of this story I don’t understand, just wait and see.”

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