Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 192

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The Many and Detailed Objections of Prince Ivan

Although the prince insisted that he was not bother by being made a shepherd, he certainly raised a number of objections to Bulat’s plan. “There were six shepherds and there are only two of us. How are we going to be able to do all of this work and control the flock? You know, it’s not like these men didn’t know other people. You said so yourself! They’ll be missed! How long will we even have before someone puts together that they’re gone? Since Koschey’s a wizard, won’t he simply know what we’ve done? Assuming that Koschey doesn’t notice, which is inconceivable, and assuming that we can get these sheep back to their pens – do you even know where their pens are? – it will be immediately apparent to these men’s colleagues that something has gone amiss. We will be seen as imposters at once, their bodies will be discovered, and we will be killed.”

“Put on the shirt, Prince Ivan.”

After that the problem was lice or other forms of infesting vermin. After that it was the smell of the sheep, who had yet to be sheared and whose wool seemed to collect all of the bad odors of the the outdoor world, including, curiously, wet dog. Next it was the problem of where they would put their own clothes, their boots, and their weapons, which Bulat insisted they could not take along.

“The weapons are the one thing that would give us away. We will leave everything on our horses.”

Naturally enough, Ivan wanted to know what Bulat intended for the horses if they were not to bring them. There were wolves to consider, or thieves, or simply men who might come along and decide that the roan and the gray looked too appealing, too without ownership, to be left alone. They would not get their horses back if they left them, and without their horses they would not get their things, and without their things how could they be expected to succeed in their goals? Money didn’t grow on trees, Ivan pointed out, and they had to eat and buy supplies and if their tents and shelter were gone they’d have to figure out a place to sleep.

“I did say you wouldn’t like my plans.”

To which there was not much practical that Ivan could say. Bulat was correct. He had agreed, it was true. However, there were a great many impractical things he could and did say, worrying himself into deeper and deeper contortions.

“Prince, shepherds use dogs to herd. The men are there to control the dogs and the dogs are there to control the sheep. The dogs will obey us because they have been trained to obey commands, not to obey a single man. That will allow us to return with the sheep. Koschey’s lands are vast and these men do not always return to the same fields every night. We will travel as they did until we get close enough to wherever Vasilisa Kirbitievna is held that we can find her. As for Koschey noticing us, no doubt he could if he were looking, but as powerful as he is, he cannot be concerned with us all of the time. Did you notice the birds flying behind you just now? No. Thus it is with Koschey. As for the horses, they will follow because they are also trained and we will hide them were we must. This part of our plan is fine. There is, however, one crucial flaw that I believe I have overlooked until now.”

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