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Tales of the Steppes, a Trilogy - Vasilia the Fair

 

Vasilia the Fair sat on his wooden porch, facing North toward the Great Russian Steppes. As Vasilia sat smoking his pipe, the local children started to gather around. Ah, schools out, Vasilia thought, here they come again.

“Vasilia, Vasilia, Vasilia the fair”, chanted the children.
He was known as Vasilia the Fair, as he was the town mayor, judge and Policeman, an honest man, thus his name and received the affection and respect of all who knew him. The town was called Baba-Yaga, meaning small hill, which, this typically Russian village was built upon a Baba-Yaga.

The buildings were of traditional wood construction, with wood shingle roofs, ornate carvings on the eaves and doorways. Being built of natural materials, they were cool in the heady heat of summer and cosy in the bitter grip of Siberian winter.

"Vasilia Vasilia”, the children of the village called to him. “Tell us a story, tell us a story and show us Babooshka”.
So Vasilia would gather the children around him. He would tell them wonderful stories, of when he was a soldier of the Czarina, Catherine the Great. He would tell them lavishly embroidered tales of his battles all over Mother Russia and faraway countries. Finally he would take Babooshka off the wall, it was his old rifle he used in many battles. The children looked in awe at the magnificent, shiny wood and polished metal of the gun. The children then would go home happy and chattering about the tales told. Vasilia would put Babooshka back on the wall, knowing he had only enough gunpowder for one shot of the rifle, but in these peaceful days that did not seem to matter.

This one day Vasilia was sitting on his porch, it was a beautiful early summer morning. Very peaceful, too peaceful. Vasilia felt a shiver down his aging spine, old instincts stirred in him, just like before his battles of old. A dot appeared on the horizon, as Vasilia watched the speck grew larger, it was a horseman approaching fast. The gasping horseman and his foaming mount pulled up sharply in front of Vasilia. Vasilia sensed the horseman’s fear. “The Bursurkars have razed Rendle ‘, he gasped “When?” Asked a startled Vasilia.

“Last night, they are led by an evil chieftain called Tyror, a merciless man”, the messenger gasped. “They are headed in this direction; I would say you have at most two days. Flee, flee, they spare no-one. I have got to warn as many villages as I can good luck”. With that the rider had gone. Vasilia was stunned; the Busurkars were a warlike band of ruffians. They called themselves warriors, but were nothing but bandits. They left children orphans and wives widows, they abducted young men and women and forced them into serfdom. They took all livestock, burnt what they could not plunder, no little wonder they were called the scourge of the Steppes.

Vasilia the fair had to decide what course of action to take. On his decisions rested the fate of 100 villagers, a great responsibility indeed. Vasilia needed to talk to his longtime friend Ellya. Ellya may be able to help him formulate a plan, some form of resistance, but, Vasilia vows, we will not be taken without a fight. Ellya a woodsman of many winters earned his living chopping wood and selling the wood faggots to the townspeople. He lived half way between Baba-Yaga and the enchanted forest, a place where elves roamed, a forbidden place. Vasilia set off walking to meet with Ellya, for he had no horse. Two hours later he arrived at Ellyas small farm, thirsty, weary and tired. As he turned the corner of the barn, he halted in surprise. There in front of his eyes, were a group of elves unloading Ellyas cart, Vasilia gasped and fainted. Ellya saw his friend, bade the elves to go and ran over to tend the prostrate Vasilia. Ellya sprinkled water on Vasilia’s face, his eyes opened.

“Ellya my friend” said a confused Vasilia. “The sun has got to me, my long walk has made me hallucinate, I swear I saw elves on your cart. “Come inside Vasilia”, beckoned Ellya, helping his comrade to his feet. “Rest and then tell me why you at your age walked all this way” Vasilia explained to Ellya, about the horseman’s warning. Ellya thought and then he said. “We need help to defeat these butchers. There are not enough men in the village to defend against this horde. “I think I can get help”, Ellya says looking straight at Vasilia. I will tell you a story Vasilia the Fair, and I will ask you to believe me. You did see elves at my farm; the elves are my friends now. Two years ago they were my enemies but by cunning and good luck I entrapped them with my guile in the enchanted forest and in order to gain their freedom, they had to chop wood for me in the enchanted forest, thus you seen them today delivering the bounty Vasilia gasped.” But, you never mentioned this”. Ellya continued. Now the elves and I are firm friends, I dine with them in the enchanted forest. More to the point, if we can persuade the elves to help us fight Tyror, we will have a much more formidable force. “What could the Elves do? Why should they help the villagers?” Vasilia exclaimed. “Because, Vasilia, do you think the Bursurkars would leave the enchanted forest intact, they burn everything, the elves know this and I shall do all in my power to enlist their help. As for a plan you Vasilia the Fair, once the greatest soldier in the Czarina’s army, can design a strategy that will use our strengths, against the Bursurkars weaknesses.

“Agree, and we will go together to the elves meeting place in the enchanted forest”, explains Ellya. “I have sworn never to show this place to another human but, this desperate situation demands it. Aye, agreed”, sighs Vasilia. “War makes strange bedfellows indeed”. An audience is arranged. Dragonfly, leader of the elves, is sitting with 12 other elves in a circle made of tree stumps, Ellya and Vasilia stand in the middle of the group.

 

“Why, Ellya have you betrayed your vow of silence?” Asks Dragonfly firmly. Ellya knows his words must be honest and persuasive to gain the elves trust again. “Dear friends I can only say that to break my word, also breaks my heart. But a danger so great has come about that the whole way of life we have enjoyed is in great jeopardy. A ruthless band of cut throats and villains are due to descend on our peaceful land, they are led by Tyror a ruthless villain”.

A gasp went up from the elves; Tyror was obviously a name they had heard of and feared. “Ellya, Vasilia”, said Dragonfly slowly. “We have heard from our kinfolk in other forests, of these bandits. They have burnt elves forests and human villages from the Urals to the Steppes. I am sure that I speak for the elves council, we are prepared to help Baba-Yaga to fight this pestilence”.

The council of elves shouted in agreement. Vasilia the Fair, now thought deeply, even with the elves help it would not be an easy fight. The village fighters were few in number and the elves were small in stature although wiry and strong. The Bursurkers on the other hand, were on horseback, well armed and aggressive. Plan to the enemies’ weakness and our strengths, Vasilia kept thinking, soon, the old soldier had decided a strategy, this was their only chance. The Bursurkars were only a day away, Vasilia ordered the villagers to take all valuables, livestock, anything of value to the Bursurkars and to follow him. The villagers trusted Vasillia the Fair, men, women and children, followed him. He led them to the enchanted forest, they were scared and wary of this mythical place. Ellya met the band of villagers and assured them. Then Dragonfly appeared, the villagers were terrified, but soothing words from Vasillia, Ellya and Dragonfly made the villagers realize their salvation was in co-operation with the elves. The villagers entered the forest with the elves and prepared position, under instructions from their leader Vasillia the Fair.

Vasilia waited in the deserted village, dressed as a beggar with a bundle of sticks tied as a faggot on his back. Vasilia could hear the Bursurkars before he could see them, their horses hooves drummed like thunder in the still air. A dust cloud high as a mountain and wide as a prairie fire blanked out the sun. The panting, wide-eyed warhorses stopped in front of Vasilia. The dust covered faces of the warriors, looked threateningly at him. The leader a giant of a man in an iron helmet, a tunic made of black chain -mail, on his mighty arm a huge shield with a winged serpent striking, painted on it, he spoke, a growling, deep, cruel voice. “I am Tyror”, this human demon spat the words. ‘Tell me fool, where are the villagers, where are they hiding, tell me or your head will be in the point of my lance’. Vasillia shook and murmured. “Oh great warrior, all the villagers have gone to hide in the forest yonder. They have taken all their valuables and livestock with them”. Tyror and his band of cutthroats, storm past Vasilia, racing toward the enchanted forest,Vasilia waits until the last man has gone then quickly follows the horde.

The villager’s and the elves wait in the enchanted forest. Stomachs churning, mouths dry they await battle in silence and trepidation. But not one has a thought of fleeing, their trust in their leaders is absolute. Ellya and Dradonfly also wait, the timing of the battle plan is their responsibility, the beads of perspiration, borne of this great responsibility, glisten on human and elf brow. Then the silence is broken the enemy has arrived. Tyror surveyed the forest, he knew the dangers of horsemen in a wooded environment. Negotiating through woods, split men it made a wall of horsemen break up into piecemeal groups. But, there were only two score or more of able bodied men he thought. “Icor”, he shouts to his second in command. “Take 50 men and bring out that rabble with their riches”

50 of the fiercest warriors ride boldly into the forbidden forest. As they reach the tree line they have to split into small groups to negotiate the trees. Deeper and deeper they penetrate, thicker and thicker grow the trees, smaller and smaller grow the groups of horsemen, slower and slower become their progress. Ellya senses the time is right, he signals Dragonfly, a horn is blown, one blast. The elves hiding in groups of four, under logs, in undergrowth , behind bushes, leap out. The elves bravely each grab a horse’s leg, they hold on in a vice like grip, as they know their lives depend on it. The horses are panicked, they rear and run and buck and jump, but the elves hang on for dear life. The horses cannot bend their legs at the knees they stumble, trip, and fall. Their riders unseated, thrown frontward, backward, sideways, all is chaos and panic.

Ellya now gives the second signal, two blasts of the horn. The villagers signal, all able, men women and children rush forward, using axes, scythes, old weapons, even lumps of wood, set upon the stunned horsemen. The element of surprise is with our friends and the carnage is terrible and complete, not one Bursurker escapes his fate. Tyror sat on the edge of the enchanted forest, can hear the battle, he smiles, only a matter of time now. He waits, silence, where are my men? An object flies through the air and lands at Tyror’s horses’ feet, it is the bloodied head of Icor, his men gasp in horror. Tyror rage holds no bounds, he bellows, “Not one villager to be left alive, man woman or child”.With blood curdling yells, the rest of Tyrors warriors ride boldly into the green black depths of the enchanted forest. Soon Tyror, now seated on his horse alone can again hear the sound of battle. Again Vasilia the Fairs plan works, the Bursurkars are being annihilated. A familiar voice makes Tyror spin round in his saddle.

“Found your treasure, I see Tyror”, it was Vasilia speaking, still dressed in his beggars garb and carrying the bundle of wood. “You”, Tyror spits the words in hate filled anger. “My men have died because of your, treachery, a beggar has beaten the Burrsurkars. “Not a beggar” says Vasilia proudly, standing straight as a ramrod. “I am called Vasilia the Fair. That is as maybe”, retorts Tyror. “You Vasilia will not live to celebrate your victory. Tyror spurs his steed, lifting his battle sword above his head he started to ride toward  Vasilia. Quick as lightning, with the reactions of a campaigned soldier. Vasilia pulled his Babooshka hidden in the bundle of wood. Vasilia had but one bullet, but a good soldier only needs one bullet and Vasilia was a great soldier. "Bang”, trusty Babooshka roars, the last bullet flies. Tyror, galloping, sword high in the air, is hit right between the eyes. Tyror the scourge of the Steppes is dead before he hits the ground. All is well, the villagers and the elves, cement their friendship with big celebrations. Things will never be quite the same though, now trust has built up between human and elf, life will be fuller and more prosperous as the two peoples trade and cultivate the natural resources of he land and forests.

Ellya goes back to his woodman’s duties, being pleased to have created the bond between man and elf. Vasilia the Fair sits on his porch facing the Steppes, smoking his pipe. “The children are due from school soon”, he says. “Babooshka we have tales to tell”.
 

Tales of the Steppes, a Trilogy -  Ellya and the Elves | The Watergate

Contributing Story Teller:   Terry Voyle - ex bricklayer - disabled now writes short stories to fill in long days.


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