Arkady couldn’t believe that his father would refuse to get him a dog after all of his promises. He had done his chores without having to be told; he had saved up all his money buy a collar and a leash so that that dog would not run away into the woods and get lost like the last one (which wasn’t his fault, by the way, because it was his dad that had left the door open)n and he had made the best marks in school that he ever managed. And still his father had refused.
Fuming from the unfairness of it all, Arkady stormed out of the house,with tears streaming from his eyes and the collar and leash gripped tightly in his fists. Behind him, he could hear his mother calling after him, as though nothing had happened – as though no promise had been broken. Well, a promise HAD been broken, and he would make them see that that was important.
In the early morning light, the snow on the ground glowed softly, but Arkady hardly noticed. In fact, his eyes could have been shut tight and it still wouldnt have mattered. He knew these woods behind their home like the back of his hand. When the snow wasn’t too bad, he spent countless hours here, exploring every hollow and every clearing. This was his kingdom!
There, just past that tree stump were the stables where he kept his war horses, fierce and massive creatures standing seventeen hands each. Here, on the shoulder of the dirt path stood the Marjorie Tree, grown from a branch of Yggdrasil that had splintered off after it was struck by Woden. And beyond the rise were the soaring birches where the skushno birds nested, bringing peace and prosperity to the land where Arkady was King.
But today, none of that distracted Arkady from his tears. So he made straight for the clearing, sheltered on the wind side by a massive outcropping of rock, where -in more pleasant days – he woud sit on his throne and make kingly decisions all afternoon. Today, there were no kingly decisions. Just tears coming in ragged sobs as he thought about how little he was loved.
Eventually,all the crying exhausted Arkady. Curling up into a ball, Arkady was soon fast asleep. He awoke with a start when a loud noise exploded in the wood behind the rising rock which he slept against. He rubbed his eyes to clear them, realizing, when the fog wouldn’t lift from his vision, that the entire clearing was enshrouded in gray smoke, which could mean only one thing … FIRE!
Living so close to the forest, Arkady had been taught well about the dangers of fire in the wood. Without a second thought, he dropped to his knees and elbows and began crawling out of his hollow. He had been crawling for a while, in the direction that he hoped would take him back home, when he started hearing noises in the shadows. Afraid that he might miss rescuers, while wondering how they could possibly have known to look for him, he stopped crawling and listened intently.
It was only then that he realized that he wasn’t hearing any of the noises that normally accompanied a raging fire. No crackling, no whooshing, nothing. Except that in that silence, he could hear murmurs. Then, “Arkady!”
It was not a voice that he recognized, but it was his name and he immediately stood up and yelled “HERE!”
The word was hardly out of his mouth when he heard the noise of someone crashing through twigs and fallen leaves, coming at him. “He’s here! He’s here!” someone yelled. Still, it was a voice that Arkady knew, but at the precise moment, he hardly notice. All he could hear was the distinct tattoo of hooves hitting the ground. Horses? But before he had time to puzzle that out, a face appeared from the gray smoke and Arkady fell back onto the ground.
There, in the midst of the swirling smoke was a face he had never seen before but which was intimately familiar at the same time. Made from what appeared to be rough marble, craggy, with moss hanging like a beard from its square jaws, and deep green eyes which at that moment seemed filled with a mix of fear and relief, the face belonged to a man Arkady knew for certain couldn’t exist.
“Lesovik,” Arkady whispered in awe.
“My lord,” the man replied, bowing low – which for a man that height seemed to involve him folding nearly in two at the waist.
Arkady felt his head spinning. “How…”
“A fire fell from the sky, Lord. And sundered the Marjorie Tree,” Lesovik replied, his voice grave and filled with sadness. Around him, emerging one by one from the mist, came the riderless war horses, their noses flaring at the smoke and their hooves impatiently stamping.
“Me? My mother …” Arkady stammered, his eyes wide and staring at the magnificent animals.
“The fire, my Lord,” Lesovik said. “has made it nearly impossible for us to find anyone. The skushno birds have flown and not even Baba Yaga can find them though we have made sure that she tried.” Tears spilled out of Arkady’s eyes as the import of that statement sunk in.
“Some say it is Koschei returned. But we do not know for sure,” Lesovik continued, averting his eyes.
“Then we must find him, Lesovik, ” Arkady said, in between drawing ragged breaths. The tall man held the boy’s hand as he stood up, brushing dirt from his clothes. “You know that he has my mother.”
“Yes, my lord.”
At that, Lesovik drew himself up to his full height. Looking around, he slowly raised the gigantic club that had been hanging at his side. Then, in a voice that sounded like gravel being poured on a tin roof, he bellowed: “We search for Vasilisa!”
Moscow (CNN) — A meteor streaked through the skies above Russia’s Urals region Friday morning before exploding with a flash and boom that shattered glass in buildings and left about 1,000 people hurt, authorities said.
Described by NASA as a “tiny asteroid,” the meteor’s explosion created a blast in central Russia equivalent to 300,000 tons of TNT, the space agency’s officials said Friday, adding that the incident was a once-in-100-years event.
The injured included more than 200 children.