A Girl and her Doll Series
Young Adult Fantasy
Vasilissa Dmitrevna Jones travels Beyond the Veil once a month to serve the legendary witch Baba Yaga. With the help of a house sprite bound by oaths to protect and mentor Vasilissa, she accomplishes the impossible tasks and fabulous food-preparations demanded by the prehistoric cannibal hag. Vasilissa hates the time she spends Beyond the Veil. She would rather live a 'normal' life in her hometown of Mount McKinley.
One Saturday, Vasilissa accidentally frees the notorious Koschei the Deathless from his imprisonment in the Baba Yaga's wardrobe. The witch gives Vasilissa one month to learn the skills, collect the tools, and bring back Koschei—or his deathless heart. If Vasilissa fails, her cannibal good-mother promises to eat her.
With help, luck, and training, Vasilissa has one chance to bring Koschei to justice. Can she stay focused on her goals, or wWill her crush on the a letter carrier ruin her aim? Will Is the talking fox she meets along the way prove to be a true friend, or is he up to something else altogether? Can Vasilissa overcome the forces of evil and still be back in time to walk the neighbors' dog?
On either side of the gate, lions stretched upward balanced on their hind feet. The lions appeared to help the gate monster keep its mouth opened wide. Those solar felines enjoyed the oversized proportions depicted on the rest of the wall. They were less shiny than the other story elements. Instead, their glazes employed subtle colors. The shading on their coats and manes showed virtuosity. As we flew closer, I could almost see them breathe.
I stopped playing the teeny-weeny recorder. The carpet set us down far enough from the Peri-e-Disa to allow us to enjoy the panorama effect of the wall. I stood, stretched, flexed, and tried shaking the cramp from muscles too still for too long. It felt good to twist and bend. The kitsune took his cue from me and stretched through a full downward-dog cycle.
I stepped off the carpet. A roaring so loud and deep it registered as a thunderous vibration rising from the ground itself started. I stepped onto the carpet again. The roaring ceased.
I refocused on the lions. They looked twice as big as any lion I'd seen at the zoo or on TV. Every detail was completely lifelike. They moved, too, running at a tremendous, ground-eating gallop. The big cats bounded straight for us.
I stumbled onto the carpet, picked up the recorder, and started back into Mary Had a Little Lamb for all I was worth. The carpet hovered. It didn't go anywhere. The lions closed on us in ten yard increments. The vivid red of their gaping maws contrasted with the striking white of their inches long teeth.
I needed to focus on somewhere for the benighted rug to take us. Focusing on not getting eaten by lions didn't register as a location. "Anywhere else in the Worlds" contained too little specificity for my raggedy old flying carpet.I went with the only idea to pop into my head. For a wonder, we moved. The carpet recognized "back the way we came." Three cheers for running away in the face of certain doom.
The lions never caught us. They gave up the chase instead. As a so-called polyanitsa, I usually preferred performing feats showcasing my bravery and cleverness. I felt nothing but relief when the gigantic felines slowed to a walk, turned around, and returned to the gate.
I stopped tootling on the teensy recorder. We rested at a distance from the Peri-e-Disa. I still had a view of the colorful figures on the wall. Great. No chance of using the old element-of-surprise gambit.
"Tell me, Mr. Fox, do you know of other entrances to the Garden of the Faerfolk?"
He knew all kinds of things and found out what he didn't already know. He might come up with an alternative.
"Fair polyanitsa, I know of only the one way into the Garden."
"Could we go over the wall, do you think? Not near where the lions are, but it's a big garden. We could look around the back."
"I heard a rumor at best that the warlike characters on the wall may step into the realm of dimensions to defend the Peri-e-Disa when necessary." Mr. Fox rubbed one of his ears with a paw. "Having seen the Garden's wall, I take the rumor for fact. Shall we try and see what happens, Vasilissa Dmitrevna?"
"Uh…no. I don't think we need to do that." I did not want to get into it with eighteen-foot high, many-armed demigods. I possessed neither the skills nor the desire for the kind of trouble the wall could make. "Waiting 'til dark won't change anything, lion-wise. I bet they don't need sleep. Maybe they take turns napping and keeping lookout."
"No, polyanitsa, nightfall creates no strength for us here." The kitsune shook his golden head in regret.What else? Where was Marinka Poppinevya when a body needed her? She stayed cool, followed up, figured out, and…
What did I smell? No, not the vanilla, musk, and allspice of the Garden. It smelled like freshly baked bread. Was I crazy? If I was, why hallucinate bread baking, especially?
"Do you smell bread baking?" I asked Mr. Fox.
"I do smell bread baking, polyanitsa. Look behind you there"
I spied a thin plume of gray smoke hanging in the air.
"Should we go look?" I asked because I didn't know. In this part of the Worlds, ogres might bake bread for their evening meal. I wanted to skip preventable rookie mistakes. I needed a streamlined side-trip and no unnecessary delays.
"I believe we should, polyanitsa of my heart."
It wasn't easy to read someone's face when it always wore a smile. In fact, it unnerved me. Oh, well, maybe my round pupils creeped him out, and he avoided showing it. Hang out Beyond the Veil; learn tolerance.
I strapped on my sword, leaving the bow and quiver rolled up in the carpet with my pack. We headed in the direction of the smoke. In a minute or three, we arrived. On the featureless steppes sat a handful of beehive-shaped structures almost as tall as me. They were made of the same pinkish-red clay as the walls of the Peri-e-Disa.
A large cart with a gray, felted tent stood a little way off. Farther away, a pair of oxen grazed. In the midst of the clay domes, a woman pulled bread loaves from the ovens with a long-handled peel. She placed them to cool on a grid set across stacked oversized bricks.
"Hail, good-mother. Blessed be the evening, and blessed be the bread you bake to nourish yourself and your loved ones." If nothing else, Marinka Poppinevya ground into me to err on the side of being too polite rather than otherwise.
"Hail, young warrior. My loved ones rest in the cold ground. Please join me in breaking your fast with a loaf or two. A pan of stew simmers on the fire. Dine with me this evening."