in Koshchey's palace
After the long walk to get to Baba Yaga’s and the excitement of persuading the ants to separate the poppy seeds from the earth, I was ready for a little light refreshment. Baba Yaga put before me mouth-watering toasted teacakes, freshly churned butter and wild crab apple jelly together with a glass of elderflower cordial, but I had no sooner finished them than my head began to nod. Seeing this, Baba Yaga suggested it was perhaps time for me to get a little shut-eye.
She showed me into a minute room with a sloping ceiling , leading off the main room in the cottage. There was a small truckle bed almost hidden beneath a huge and colourful patchwork quilt. I climbed in eagerly and in minutes was sound asleep and dreaming.
Visions of trees softly blowing in the wind came to me and I seemed to float out of the casement window. A huge and ugly face peered into mine. “Got you at last” its owner growled. “I wanted you as soon as I saw you walking at the edge of Crypt Lake”. (Anita was right, I would have done better to have steered clear of that place but it was too late now). “And just who do you think you are and where are you taking me?” “I am Koshschey. You may have heard of me”. “I hadn’t, of course, not being familiar with slavic fairy tales”. I felt Melita dig me in the ribs to indicate I should keep my mouth shut. “As to where I’m taking you, you’ll see soon enough. I intend marrying you three days hence”. This time I ignored Melita. “Marry me!” I spluttered. “You can’t possibly do that. I am married already”. “I care little that you may or may not be married already. That’s in your world, a thousand light years away from here and you’re in my world now and will do as I say”.
He spoke no more on the journey. I have no idea how long it lasted nor indeed by what method we travelled. I was aware of buildings in the far distance and, as we approached, I could see the onion domes on the tops of the buildings. We must be somewhere in Russia I thought, still in my dream. I’ve always wanted to visit Russia.
We landed in front of a huge palace and he led me through vast doors into a marble floored room and then into the famous amber room. This is crazy I thought.
This can’t be happening, this room doesn’t exist; it was destroyed years ago. Yet the room seemed real enough. The walls were a warm golden yellow with intricate carvings everywhere. I have always loved the warmth of amber and I touched one of the carvings. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in my life. “I can see that you like this room. You will have plenty of time to admire it, this will be your home from now on, so you may as well get used to it” Koshchey said. “In the meantime” he continued,”you can make yourself useful.” “Nikita” he called and a young peasant girl came into the room. “Give my future bride a golden spindle, some gold thread and some golden beads and show her how to weave a story.” With that, he turned and left the room, leaving me staring stupidly at Nikita.
“Weave a story?” I repeated, still dreaming, or so I thought.
I woke, burning with heat and threw off the bedclothes. But it wasn’t the patchwork quilt that I had had the night before. This was some fine soft golden fabric. I looked around me, appalled, as I realised that I was in the amber room of my dreams. “Melita” I called, “what has happened to me?” Melita’s soft voice answered me” you are in the palace of the four winds. You are to be married to Koshchey in three days unless we can find a way out of here. You had better do as he said and start weaving. It will take your mind off our predicament and it may turn out that what you weave will weave a magic of its own”.
I had never woven with a spindle, but Melita, who knows how to do such things, showed me what to do. She suggested I start to weave a picture of the golden apples of the sun and the silver apples of the moon as they have magical properties.