Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Teling Tales 181



Déjà Vu All Over Again

“It’s Vasilisa Kirbitievna we’re off to rescue, then?” asked Bulat.

“That’s right,” said Ivan.

“From Koschey the Deathless.”

“That’s right.”

“You’re sure?”

“I never said Koschey last time. It was Tsar Pyotr, Vasilisa’s father, who told us that Koschey had take his daughter away.”

“That’s right,” echoed Bulat, “but instead we traveled the length and breadth of the world, crossed the kingdoms of Copper, Silver, and God -”

“Turns out there are more than one of each of those,” said Ivan, enjoying his own chance at an interruption.

“I noticed your sword and boots.”

“I’ve a gold chalice, too .”

“Really!” This went on for some time as the two friends caught up as old friends do, jumping from one topic to another and back again, letting the words flow into rivers of sentences and sitting in the pleasant sun of companionship. Eventually they circled back around, and if time was lost, warmth was gained. Bulat went on, “The thing is, the reason I asked that question in the first place, we were mistaken about the princess’s captor.”

“You’re suggesting that we’re about to make that mistake again? What makes you say so?”

“You’re correct in believing that Koschey is a presence in these lands. He’s more dangerous on account of it, but the thing about this Princess Vasilisa… She’s not so much captive in the sense of being held prisoner as she is captive in the sense of not being able to go outside.”

Ivan failed to see the difference.

“Largely a matter of semantics, I suppose,” said the soldier, whose vocabulary seemed to have improved in the time they’d spent apart, “and I’m not saying I agree with what I’m about to say, certainly not about the principles, or the style, or even whether it’s a good idea…”

“Out with it!” said Ivan.

The soldier heaved a sigh. “Vasilisa Kirbitievna is not held captive by Koschey the Deathless. She is under indefinite curfew by her father, Tsar Kirbit.”

“Not Pyotr?” asked Ivan, momentarily surprised by the unexpected name than he was by the fact that the man was her father. “I suppose, if she’s Kirbitievna, it stands to reason that her father is… Wait. Koschey’s not involved at all?”

“I never said that!”

“How is it that you know so much about this?”

Bulat hemmed and hawed and allowed that he’d been working in the various neighboring kingdoms lately and had even been in Koschey’s employ once or twice, “But mostly only to gather information, and besides, a man has to eat,” but he looked rather embarrassed and ashamed as he admitted it.

Ivan clapped him on the shoulder. “If we all acted only with people we knew were purely good and with no ill will for any other, we would all live shorter, harsher lives. Let us do what we can with what you know and press onwards.”

The soldier smiled his relief. “I know a great deal, in fact, and I can guarantee you that we can free Vasilisa from her father, who is a cruel tyrant and deserves no less. Also, he employs only people like himself, which is one of the reasons why working for Koschey was a better situation. His daughter has fallen far from his particular tree, which is another of the reasons why she is forbidden outside. Now as I say, I can accomplish a great deal, but it will take a great deal of confidence in me from you and you will not like the journey, though I promise you a happy ending. Can that be enough for you?”

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