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
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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 -
and the Elves |
Contributing Story Teller:
Terry Voyle - ex bricklayer - disabled now writes short stories to fill in