A retelling of a Russian myth. Critique is greatly appreciated!
| All of his features were rigid and his walk was firm. Being short in height and stout in stature, Pavel was an stern old man. He lived just north of Kamchatka in the coastal city of Palana, renown for its fishing and architecture. There he labored as a well respected stone mason. Despite his lack of acclaim most of the stone work throughout the city was crafted by him. Many of the walks and piers were of his design. The ashar he sculpted was geometric in nature but smooth and neoteric in character. Fine incisions were carved along the form of the stone giving it the same grain-like texture as the fibers in felled timber. Each brick was perfectly measured and pressed against each other in a dense and compact fashion. A select few of the bricks were adorned with golden decorative pattern work. Most of the gilded work was merely arranged markings and attractive ornaments but some made out figures of men and women moving about their lives. At work, in their homes, and even in battle, his figures illustrated all aspects of life, both mundainity and strife. Present in all of his work, however, was depictions of a serpent. Massive in size and beautiful in craft, he always made sure that of all of his golden embellishments this was the most prominent.
His work was nothing short of magnificent. Such a quality of work was a major attraction for patrons and gentry alike. All of which were madly in love with the mastermind behind such gorgeous work. Pavel was a proud man and believed that one's legacy was made through his work not through his title. As a result he ensured that his name would never be present in his masonry as to steer clear from such distastefulness. Those that knew of his identity as the famed mason worker couldn’t understand why he would choose to be so secretive. Most saw it as a waste of his gifts, except for his grandson, Fedor. Despite being so young and ignorant to the realities of the world his grandon understood his him the most. Fedor was a quiet boy who took an interest in traveling and exploration. Although he hadn’t gone very far out of the village as he was too young to travel alone and his grandfather was too weak to take him anywhere.
Still, the concept fascinated him. Pavel picked up his chisel in readiness to carve when his grandson stepped into the door with the bothersome loudness of a child.
“Fedor please, quiet down,” Pavel said
Fedor nodded, grabbed his satchel, and stepped outside the door again. Today he was determined to go on his own grand adventure and since Grandfather Pavel had often spoken of the woods on the outskirts of town, Fedor had decided that would be the destination of his journey. He trekked for about an hour through fields of tall grain and fog until he came upon the edge of the forest. He hesitated, staring into the thicket. This was it, the odessy he had been searching for. With a audible breath of anticipation Fedor stepped foot into the wooded brush.
His Grandfather has told him many stories of these woods. How the villagers spears cleaved monsters like swine during the legendary battle against the dreaded Black Capes. His Grandfather never truly explained as to who the Black Capes were but supposedly they had the oblique eyes of a hawk and the skin of chameleons, able to blend into any environment. Fedor enjoyed it when Grandfather Pavel told stories. He found them to be engrossing and overall thrilling. Although lately the stories have been becoming a bit disorganized as his Grandfather often has to pause to step away and rest.
As Fedor strided further into the forest he came across a strangely familiar smell. The same smell that emits from the house of his neighbor, Efim. Efim was a gunsmith and would often store large wooden kegs of black dirt in his home. Fedor knew that the dirt was a component of what makes a rifle fire but he had forgotten the name of it months ago. Now all that remains is that scent. Metal mixed with sweat. A forewarning of death. Suddenly Fedor was feeling restless. The thought of a rifle wielding Black Cape terrified him. He turned quietly as if not to disturb the trees and proceeded to stalk his way out in a forlorn attempt to escape. Nevertheless, the fog prevailed, and with it, his path home was lost. No matter how far he moved he couldn’t escape the smell. It trailed him as a hunter trails his prey.
Eventually Fedor calmed himself and stopped his movement to try and recollect his memories in an attempt to find his way. He saw no landmarks. No monuments to guide him back. Just spotted white trees surrounded by the irritatingly thick fog. As he scouted the surroundings he noticed something in the distance. A shape that was drastically different from the repeating silhouettes of the trees. Fedor, in his distraught state of mind, immediately believed it to be one of the horrendous Black Capes. Frantic, he began to run. Sprinting, baring his teeth, glancing back at his pursuer. The figure was a demon as it plagued after him from left to right, carving the ground beneath it. Fedors shoulder cracked against an unseen tree. He slid on gathered leaves and the shadow still followed. Fedor tried to stand and let out a blood-curdling screech of pain. His legs stiffened and his body dropped like stone. With his other arm he managed to shove himself on to his back with his head now facing the muddled sky. Unready for what was to come his eyes welled up and he wailed. He wailed for his grandfather, who could come and carry him away from the beast. He wailed for Efim, who could slay the beast with his rifles. Soon enough the black monster had come upon him. It loomed over him, just watching. He saw the creatures massive physique and could already tell that it was no man. It had to be a Black Cape, it just had to be. Fedor used his uninjured arm to wipe away his tears so he would get a better look at the monster. It was a giant with the head the size of a fishing ship. It flicked it’s tounge out for an instance to taste the air. It had an ebony underbelly and a gilded scaley spine. It inspected Fedor with its large yellow eyes tipping its diamond shaped head in curiosity. It drew closer to Fedor then reeled back to taste the air again.
“My apologies, young one, by the way you stalked the trees before, I was certain you were a straddling doe.”
There was a pause in his speech as he flicked his tongue to taste a few times.
“You see, I happen to have a liking to doe so I started to hunt you.” “Hope I haven’t given you too much of a scare,” laughed the beast.
He chuckled with the back of his mucus filled throat.
Fedor was too afraid to speak.
“Well,” the beast said, “allow me to give you this to compensate you for your troubles.”
The beast reached back and removed a large scale from his body and then promptly placed it onto the chest of Fedor. It was gold, and a large some of it too, akin to the kind Grandfather Pavel uses in his masonry. The beast then nods his head as a sign of acknowledgment and slides away into the fog. Once again digging a path into the dirt as he goes. This time however, he left behind small golden nuggets in his wake. After this, Fedor just layed there, unmoving. His thoughts go blank and sight goes black. Black like the dirt in Efims home, black like the Capes, black like the underbelly of the beast. Just black.
Fedor awakes to the sight of his Pavel. He’s delighted to see his grandfather's tattered wrinkles, stern face and familiar squared jaw. Fedor immediately leaps up and hugs him with his good arm. Pavel is taken back for a second but then hugs Fedor back in relief.
“It’s alright my boy,” Pavel softly spoke.
“It’s all alright.”
That night Grandfather Pavel told an amazing story of when he was a younger man. He was traveling south to Kamchatka when he ran across an enormous serpent like creature with its head stuck in a crag. Pavel spoke to the serpent and learned that it’s name was Poloz and that it had gotten its head stuck a few days ago while chasing a doe to eat. Pavel took pity on the now stuck and starving creature and began to carve at the rocky formation that entrapped it. After many days of cutting away stone Poloz was finally freed and as a payment it gave Pavel a large golden scale and left him dozens of tiny golden nuggets as it slid away. Pavel had used the gold in his work ever since. Fedor was captivated by this story. It was beautifully told, alluring, and most of all, coherent. Unfortunately, Grandfather Pavel stopped telling stories after this day. He went to rest after his long winded tale and never woke up. Fedor thought this was strange as his grandfather always awoke from his resting breaks but Pavel was as still as a stone. Once others found out about his Grandfather's condition Fedor was taken to live with a distant relative far from the coasts of Palana, far from the forest, and far from his sleeping Grandfather. Fedor knew Grandfather Pavel would wake up because he always did before. He waited and waited to hear his stories once more. To hear his shabby old voice once again speak of Poloz the Great Snake.