Fairy Tale Fuss
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Vanya pulled the hatch one time than another. It did not accede at once, but after all opened unwillingly with a nasty squeal. A fresh wind could be smelled inside.
"We must check what's in there," Vanya waved at the darkness of the hatch. "I'll check quickly, and you wait me here. OK?"
"No way, I will not stay here alone!"
"OK, let's get in there together. I'll be the first, and you follow me!"
"Why is that?" Masha opposed. "Why will you be the first? Maybe, I want to be the first?!"
"No problems," the brother replied calmly taking out a flashlight brought to be on the safe side from the backpack. "Be the first. Only it's tight, dark and fearsome in there, and if you meet a horde of fat hungry rats or man eater spiders, you'll fight them yourself."
"Yuck!" the girl made a wry face. "No, I've changed my mind, I'll follow you."
"That's it," Vanya looked into the dark tunnel, sighed and put his backpack on his shoulders again. Then he switched on the flashlight and crept into the mysterious tunnel.
"Keep up!" he told disappearing in the dark. Masha rushed after him.
The tunnel was neatly lined with wine-dark flat stones. When light beams fell on the stones, they reflected moonlight gleams, and then like charged with their heat, the stones continued to gleam by themselves.
The corridor was long and often twisted, so the children had to take one turn or another. That way they covered a distance of several tens of meters.
"Ah, when will it come to an end?" Ivan heard girlish grizzle again behind his back. "Ouch, I've already skinned my knees and torn my favorite dress. What if there is a dead end ahead?"
"Then we turn back, it's not that we've already crept ten kilometers. Not a big deal! And now we…"
Bam! A bump against something hard sounded. This was Vanya who being carried away by a conversation with his sister bumped against another hatch. The flashlight fell out of his hand.
"What is it? What's happened? Rats? Spiders? Va-a-nya!" Masha madly pulled he brother by his pant leg.
"Nothing special," he said sadly scratching his bruised head. "It's just that I found… found another door."
"Well, come on, open it," the sister whinged in impatience. "Why are you so slow? Now, I should have been the first to go."
"The door stuck!"
"Pull the handle," the girl advised weightily.
"And what do you think I am doing, baking pancakes with jam?" Vanya really tried his best to open the hatch.
"I can't believe a girl is trying to teach me," the brother thought with anger and took a strong poke at the hatch, which did not even notice that poke.
"Maybe this door is magic? Then you have to say a magic word!" Masha suddenly voiced her theory.
"What?" Vanya asked ironically. "What magic door, what magic word, trah-tibi-doh, abracadabra, you mean? Hah!
"No, for example, Open Sesame!" Masha said as an expert.
"Aha! Maybe you want also to say…" Ivan was struck dumb with amazement.The door, which he tried to open anyhow for five minutes, opened just by a simple command.
On the Other Side
Dull light entered the tunnel. The children saw a large room with various burning candlesticks. The walls were decorated by unusual portraits and intimidating stuffed wild animals, among which the most innocent were a stuffed small mouse and a stuffed fat black cat in the moment of chasing the mouse.
In the middle of the room there was a long table covered with a painted tablecloth and a gold chandelier on the ceiling decorating the strange room. The chandelier had hundreds of burning miniature candles. The room had no windows or doors, as if the hatch was the only exit from there.
Vanya put away the flashlight, poked his head inside and wanted to have a better look around, but just stumbled into the room instead. It was Masha who pushed him in, as she also wanted to see where they got.
"Hey, why are you pushing me? the brother asked his sister as he hopped up from the floor.
He thought that somebody could already be there, somebody who did not like uninvited guests. But there was absolutely nobody in the room.
"I also want to see! Masha told selfishly as she hopped off the tunnel. Wow, what a strange room. And how dirty it is!"
"But then, no predator will approach you now, as it will be afraid!" Ivan giggled looking at a wall-size portrait with some important man wearing armor. His yellow face had rich red brows and long, down to shoulders, thin moustache. In his hands he was proudly holding his heart shining with bright light. He had such sly red eyes that momentarily made the boy sick to his stomach of this painted person.
"Beh-beh-beh!" Masha proudly stuck out tongue at her brother. "But then, daddy says that I'm the most beautiful girl in the world! He doesn't say that to you."
"It would be very strange, if our dad told me that I'm the most beautiful girl in the world!" Ivan snapped.
"You are not any better!"
"I will now…"
"Stop sparring," the boy interrupted her in mid sentence. "Let's better find an exit here."
Having thought a little and, apparently, agreed, the girl began examining the room with the brother. They looked behind the closets and inside them, even under the table, but they did not find anything.
Vanya got tired of useless search, took one of the chairs with a comfortable carved back standing near the table, and said:
"We're trapped! It's a dead end!"
"Oh, how hungry I am!" Masha rubbed her growling stomach. "Vanya, I'm hungry!"
"Well, where will I find food? Look, there's nothing here except the tablecloth, even no plates."
"Maybe the tablecloth is also magic?" the girl hopped in place. "Tablecloth, tablecloth, please give us something to eat. Please!"
"Well, you see, it is an ordinary one" Vanya told and tried to find something in his backpack. "But I must somewhere have mom's sandwiches with sausage and cheese. Here they are! Help your…self!" the boy could hardly finish his phrase, he looked amazed.
"No, thanks, leave your sandwiches for yourself," his little sister, who was already chewing something, replied.
The table that only seconds ago was empty now had so many dishes on it that it seemed it would break under their weight. Gold cups with tasty salads, ripe fruit, spit-roasted turkey, shashlik and cups full of kvass.
"How is it possible?" the surprised managed to say only.
"And the tablecloth also turned out to be magic!" Masha told joyfully. "So, maybe you'll eat with me? After all, you couldn't have known."
Ivan already decided to have some kvass from a cup, when he started to have doubts. "And what if all the food is poisoned?" he thought. "Maybe the tablecloth is specially left here not to let anybody exit the room?»
"Stop, you cannot eat this food! It can be poisoned!" Vanya told as he was snatching a spit with juicy shashlik out of the hands of his sister.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Masha opposed grabbing another spit. "Who would need that?"
"Me!" suddenly sounded somewhere from the hole. The next second a big red fox hopped in the room.
Vanya rubbed his eyes.
"Who me?" the boy asked as he still did not believe that an animal was talking to him.
"Me!" the fox repeated calmly rising up on its hind feet. It clapped it paws three times and instantly turned into a human – the man from the painting, who was now not in armor, but in a grey suit. "Koschei the Deathless in the flesh! Please give me a warm welcome!"
"What?" Ivan was struck dumb.
"What, what! Koschei is my name!" the man told smoothing his shabby suit. "Haven't you ever heard about me?"
"Y-yes, I have!" Vanya confessed. "But that were just fairy tales!"
"So, now you see that I'm wholesome and alive!" the man said and smiled, as he pompously took the most beautiful chair opposite to his painting. "In fact, you boy almost broke my nose today. It aches even now!"
"What do you mean your nose? Which nose?" the boy was totally confused about what was going on.
"Do you have a short memory?" the old man gave a light smile again. "Do you remember the bear by the roadside?"
"So was it you?" Ivan looked at him with surprise. "Wait a little! I got it, you are a crazy wizard! The only thing I don't get is what you want."
Koschei sat back with arms across and began his story:
"You know, I am so old, so old that I don't even remember my age. In my youth I tried to marry princesses, the most beautiful girls in the kingdom, fought with brave lads, who thought mistakenly that they could defeat me. But then I got bored even of that. Yes, I'm evil, I've already done a lot of filthy things, and I will do an uncountable number of them in the future.
All my life I've made different traps and fought with the Good. Well, I hate to see, when people are happy. It's so disgusting for me. And only recently I suddenly came to know a thing, for which I hated myself. It turned out that all my deeds are just a child's play, and I am just an ordinary fairy tale character on the side of the Evil, who is deprived of the opportunity to defeat the Good forever. I was created by somebody to frighten small children, who believe in fairy tales, at nights. You don't believe already, don't you?"
"It is noticeable! So what is your name?" the old man asked as if by chance.
Having heard that, Koschei pulled a wry face.
"Oh, I don't like this name. It brings only woes. One Ivan – troubles, another Ivan – problems. But those Ivans were bigger, so I don't think I'll have any difficulties with you. Well, then… After all that, I disappointed in everything and started to think what I could do to get into your world, the real one, where the Good does not always defeat the Evil. After numerous unsuccessful attempt I nearly gave up, but once I was lucky to get an interesting book. In that book I found answers to many of my questions. I found out how to make a hole between the fairy tale and the real worlds, and how to make this hole a constant passage into the real world. By the way, you came here to me along this passage. The book also told that fairy tale characters cannot just come into the real world. They lose their fairy tale features quickly and turn into ordinary people. Still, there is an opportunity to get around this negative moment. I found a remarkable recipe of a magic potion, which can be prepared only on a full moon light. It is so forceful that it allows you to get into the real world and retain your fairy tale features. However, apart from other multiple rare ingredients, this potion requires blood of a living creature, for example an animal. Then a fairy tale character can come into the real world as this animal without being afraid to lose its capabilities. To tell you straight, I cooked this potion many times and added blood of different animals there. The potion really works. I've been visiting the real world as animals for several months already. But that was not enough for me. I suddenly wanted more," after these words Koschei sprang to his feet and walked to his portrait. "I wanted to live in the real world, to be a man, do really evil things and stop being a character of an ordinary horror story for children. So, according to the recipe, for that purpose I need to add in the potion blood of a child, not a fairy tale one, but one from the real world, moreover, one who genuinely believes in fairy tales. I couldn't find a suitable child for a long time. And I'm very glad that today it happened, and during another walk I met you."
"So you put it all up on purpose?" Vanya cried out and felt he was itching with anger. "The stone on the road? The bear? Everything? But I must upset you I don't believe in fairy tales."
"You're no use to me," Koschei replied calmly turning to the boy. "I need the girl! Since the beginning I've been trying to prevent you from leaving that iron wreck, but, unfortunately, you turned out to be smarter and quicker!" Koschei touched his swollen nose again.
"No, old man, now my sister and I will get back to our parents. Masha let's go. Masha!" Vanya looked at his little sister and only then he noticed that she was sleeping heavily at the chair.
"She will not go anywhere!" the voice of the old man changed. "She will stay here. And you can get back to your parents."
"I will not go anywhere without my sister" Vanya said and walked to Masha. He took his sister onto shoulders and headed to the hatch. "We're leaving."
"No!" Ivan bumped into Koschei, who suddenly appeared in his way. "You've had an opportunity to leave. If so, you'll never leave the fairy tale. I'll feed you to Zmey Gorynych. He will be really glad."
With these words, Koschei put out the other hand, opened his palm and blew some green powder into Ivan's face. The boy reeled and dropped on the spot.
The only thought he had, when he was falling, was "What is going to be next?". The boy fell asleep, and his little sister was snoozing nearby.
"So stupid you are, boy! Stubborn and stupid," the evil old man smiled walking around Vanya. "Well, like all other Ivans the Fools!"
Masha hardly opened heavy eyelids, which seemed to resist and deny what their master wanted.
The room was mysteriously semi-dark. The walls had torches burning with red fire and hardly visible paintings hanging on them. The girl was lying on a soft bed under a warm blanket. Somebody stirred very close to her, and she decided that was her mom.
"Mom," she said rubbing her eyes. "You can't even imagine what I saw in my dreams. First we got into a car crash, then there was a bear, then Vanya and I got into a pit with a passage. From this passage we came to… to… I don't know who we came to, but there we found a magic tablecloth, which fed us with tasty food. And what happened next, I don't really remember."
Somebody began to purr in reply. At that moment the girl finally woke up and took a look around. She instantly understood that her mom was not there, and the one she thought to be her mother was a sleeping grey cat, which reclined at ease near her legs. It purred its melody and, probably, was dreaming of something.
"What is it? the girl thought. "What kind of cat is it? Where am I?"
Masha carefully looked under the blanket and saw that she was wearing a torn dress, the same as she wore in her dreams.
"It means that all this was real!" the idea flashed across the girl's mind.
With the same care Masha got out of the bed on the floor, which was stony and very cold. Jumping from foot to foot, Masha found her shoes and quickly put them on. Then, very silently, on the tips of her toes she reached the gridded window, through which she saw all signs of night.
With a great number of big and small stars, the sky was really shining and seemed to gleam with colors. Small clouds were slowly drifting. The moon was so large that it looked like a huge round cheese with wrinkles, dimples and craters.
Masha looked down and reflexively held her breath. She found herself on top of a high tower with a very long distance to the ground.
The girl looked round, but did not find anything that could attract her attention. Suddenly, she heard a clatter and a heated argument below. Masha looked there and saw the following picture.
Some old man in a striped night-gown and a red cap hooted in the yard after a huge green Zmey Gorynych, who apparently had made him very angry.
"You, three-headed lizard! You, useless animal!" the old man shouted brandishing a strange stick and trying to whip Gorynych at his back. "I told you not to speak with him. I told you not to listen to him!"
"What have we done? We haven't done anything!" poor Gorynych only excused and dodged the zinging stick. "This Ivan got us round!"
"It's a sin not to get you round, fool," the old man, who got tired to hoot after Zmey, sighed with disappointment. "You will be punished for that."
"How?" Gorynych asked with fear. "Will you turn me into stone again?"
"Why? You are exactly like an over-grown chicken, stupid and dupable!" with these words the old man turned Gorynych into a fat spotted chicken.
"Cluck-cluck! Cluck-cluck!" the chicken clucked something indignantly waving its wings.
The old man laughed and told:
"A good chicken I've made! I'm tempted to roast you for lunch, it'll be more use. Maybe I should do it?" enchanted Gorynych, having heard such words, made several steps back, then rushed to hug the legs of the wizard.
"OK, OK then!" Koschei soothed him immediately. "You'll live like this a month or another, then we'll think what to do with you."
The chicken calmed down and slowly made its way across the yard looking for something to eat on the ground.
"Did they really spoke about Vanya? Why did he escape from them at all, and where did we get?" Masha said quietly.
Suddenly Koschei, as if he had heard the girl's words, looked at the tower, trying to see if anybody was staying at the window or not. But Masha managed to hunker down and hide.
Having waited a little, Masha with one eye then with another looked out of the window again and only noticed that the old wizard was leaving and muttering something under his breath.
The girl went to the bed and sat down but rose sharply because somebody began to move and groan under her.
"Who is trying to squash me here?" she heard somebody grumbling.
"I'm sorry, it was not inten…" Masha did not finish, as she saw she was talking to the grey cat, who looked at the girl sleepily. "Who are you, talking cat?"
"I am Puss in Boots," told the animal pompously.
"I am Masha. Where am I?"
"At the same place with me, the tower of some Koschei," the grey cat started his story. "I've been sitting here for a month already as a punishment. It all started when I went bathing in the river. When I dove, it was morning and warm; when I came up, it was evening, chilly and raining. Then I wandered the wood hungry for several days: not a mouse, not a rabbit there. In the end, I came to this castle. I thought, "Aha, the ogre is living here. I'll go and steal something from the kitchen."
"But how did you get in the castle? I don't think he meets everybody with open gates, does he?"
"I climbed to the top of a tree, then jumped into an open window and… got into the kitchen. There, in the fridge I found several juicy franks and smoked sausage. But before I managed to eat a half of the frank, the horrid old man came. He yelled at me and closed in this tower warning that he would turn me into a neckpiece if I tried to escape from this room."
"Didn't you try it?" Masha wondered.
"I'm not ill-minded, and my mind tells me that it's silly and no use," the cat, who obviously valued his skin, told and added, "Besides, he's taken away my boots."
"Here you're wrong!" the girl disagreed. "I will not just sit here. At least, you were punished for a reason, while I'm sitting here for nothing. Besides, nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Masha walked around the room looking for anything, which could help her escape. She looked into the nightstand in the corner of the room, but it was empty. Then Masha examined the table with a pile of books of various width and color, which were of no interest for the girl, who could not read.
Soon the girl understood that there was nothing useful in the place of her imprisonment.
"Will you run with me?" she asked the cat almost with no hope.
"No! I'll be waiting for you here. I think you will return very soon," she heard quite an expected reply.
"All right then, I'll go alone," Masha approached the door and quietly pulled the handle. The door did not open.
"In vain you think they left the door open. I tried, it doesn't open."
"You had a bad try," Masha rebelled and said, "Open Sesame!"
The door went forward with squeaks. To show that she was right, Masha gave a hum to the grey cat, who could not believe his eyes and looked at the disappearing girl in surprise.
Behind the door there was a steep and well-lit stairway. The girl listened if there was anybody below, then went down on the tips of her toes.
At the first floor, Masha saw an empty corridor, which was like all other rooms she had already been in tastelessly decorated with stuffed animals.
She headed that way. Masha did not suspect at all, what the consequences her walk around the castle could have.
Suddenly, she heard shambling steps somewhere afar. That was Koschei, who was returning to his bedroom deep in his thoughts. Masha quickly whisked into the first available door, where, in fact, the wizard's bedroom was. The steps approached and became more and more distinct. Masha could only hide in the wardrobe filled with different clothes. A minute later Koschei entered the same door.
He walked across the room, closed the open vent window, from which whoops of wise eagle owls were heard, and closed the window blinds. Then the old man came to the table with drinks, poured something and took a sip.
He stood at the bed and talked to himself:
"When will this all be over?! I'm so tired of different troubles. But OK, another couple of days and I'll be in another world. There I'll have another life. I'll show them all what real fear is…
Masha watched Koschei in an uncomfortable position through a small hole between the doors. She was so uncomfortable among that large number of clothes left by the old man in a mess that she had to stand almost on one foot. But when that foot went dead so that became a tingle, Masha decided to change the position.
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