Well, after a couple of weeks I’ve finally finished this short story. I decided to base this story on some Russian folklore due to my interest in Russia, so all those familiar with Russian history-or from Russia itself-should be familiar with this. Enjoy!
“What a day,” I yawned, scratching my beard. The sun had barely begun to set but time seemed all the same to me recently.
Days upon endless days, and nights upon sleepless nights melded into one endless stream of time that showed no sign of ending any time soon.
None of that mattered, though. All that time spent in motion was time well spent, and not a single moment was wasted on stagnation or hesitation. Terrific as they were, adventures had a way of weighing a man down, and despite the theme of constant motion they followed, a well-earned rest was in order.
I wandered further and further away from the camp until I finally came upon a solitary tree on a nearby hill overlooking the field below and slumped down at its base. My eyes were too heavy to take in the view; my cap descending upon my crown as if it were a mountain.
I yawned again and placed the cap in my lap, its texture feeling unusually soft. None of that mattered, either-sleep had claimed me in a matter of moments.
It was the cold that woke me only moments later. I patted around for my coat but remembered that I had left it at camp. I placed my cap back on and walked back to my tent.
The setting sun crept seductively away beyond the graying horizon, as if it were calling me out for one more ride before it vanished.
And why not? I thought with a smile. The ride would help me sleep soundly. I gathered my coat and saddle, mounted the beast and rode towards the sun.
My casual ride suddenly turned into a race against the approaching clouds that moved to smother the sun; by the looks of things a storm was approaching. My horse, though merely an animal, somehow had more sense than I and kept trying to turn back to the camp, but I would have none of this and urged the creature on towards the field.
“Enough!” I hissed to the beast, but it continued to buck and bray, desperate to escape the field.
The wind was certainly no friend, as it tore the cap from my head and cast it away into the distance. I cursed and urged my horse forward to retrieve it, but still it continued to resist, causing my quiver and bow to fall from my shoulder.
“Enough, you damned creature!” I shouted, but it would have no more of my demands and sent me crashing to the ground.
I rose slowly, dazed by the shock and pain, only to find the horse charging away and my arrows scattered across the ground. Huffing, I collected as many as I could and stumbled my way back to camp, cursing bitterly along the way. I noticed some of the men there preparing for the evening watch and called to them for help. They both started towards me asking why I was away from camp, but exhaustion fell upon me with the weight of a mountain, and sent me headfirst into a black and bottomless ground.
My eyes shot open and darted from side to side as a voice somehow brought me back from the pit. They finally settled on a large, bearded figure standing before me with a look of worry upon its face.
“Why aren’t you at camp, Stenka?” it asked, extending a hand to pull me to my feet.
“I thought I would enjoy the sunset, captain,” I began. “It’s been a rough couple of days and some beauty was needed.” The captain huffed.
“What if some imperial spy or sympathizer had gotten to you, eh? Would you have snored them away?”
“If I had to, yes,” I said laughing.
“Ah, yes. The mighty Stenka Razin strikes fear into the heart of his enemies even in his dreams!” He laughed heartily at his joke, but the mention of the dream made me pause. The captain turned back to me.
“Stenka?” he asked with a worried look upon his face. I hesitated.
“Stefan, what’s the matter?” He demanded again. He never addressed by my real name unless it was serious.
“I will tell you when we return to camp,” I replied, and with that we continued the hike back without speaking a word.
The captain nodded silently as I recalled the dream to him in his tent; his face grew grimmer with every word I spoke, and his breathing had seemed to have slowed with the progression of the story.
When I finished, he stared deep into one of the canvas walls for what seemed an eternity, frozen, as if a statue, by my words. With a deep breath he finally spoke,
“I’m afraid your dream bodes ill for us, Stefan Timofeyevich,” his voice grave and heavy.
“What does it mean?” I cried. The captain held up a hand to quiet me.
“When you fell off of your horse,” he began quietly, “and lost your bow and quiver, it was a sign of betrayal-those you thought once faithful to you and the cause, will shun you, and you will be left weak and vulnerable and for the taking.”
“But what of the wind and my cap?” I asked.
“That, my boy-” he said slowly before pausing. “That wild head of yours? You’re going to lose it.” The air inside the tent grew thick with the fire’s smoke and the heaviness of his words. We both stared silently into the fire between us for another apparent eternity, until I rose and turned to leave.
“I appreciate your assistance, captain. But I fail to see how, especially after our success at Astrakhan, we would be left vulnerable and open for the taking.”
“Your dream did not foretell when, Stefan-only what would happen,” The captain replied, still troubled by the exchange.
“Tell me, Esaul, if God were to warn us of defeat, would he not have the courtesy or generosity to tell us when?”
“He works in mysterious ways, we both know that. That the time was not revealed means that we must be on our guard.”
“Then we’ll be extra careful. Goodnight, captain,”
“Stenka,” I quietly scoffed with a smile as I walked to my tent to retire.
What folly, I thought. We’ve tested and driven two empires mad with fear. What could possibly stop us now?