Published: February 21, 2019
The Soldier and Death
This is a work fiction, inspired by a Russian folk tale, originally written by Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasyev, and later translated into English by both Leonard A. Magnus, and Arthur Ransome. Any resemblance to actual persons, dead or alive, or real life events, is strictly coincidental.
Part One: The Three Beggars
Many ages ago, there was a soldier who was very devoted to God, and The Great Sovereign, for two decades, and five years. Today, the soldier was coming home from a great war, which The Great Sovereign won. However, the soldier was worn out from battle, and all he had left over, was three separate food rations he saved for days.
“Mmmgh! I am so famished...So tired....” The soldier thought to himself, as he wandered the land, making his way back home.
But just as the soldier got ready to settle down and eat his rations, he was greeted by three beggars. The beggars were a young boy, an adult man, and an elderly man. They all look like they have seen much better day in the past, which made the soldier feel sorry for the poor souls.
The young boy said to the soldier, “Dear soldier....Please? Do you have a bite to eat?”
“Yes indeed my boy.” The soldier said in remorse, as he gives the young boy his first food rations. “Here, eat up little one.”
“Oh! Thank you kind sir! Thank you very much!” The young boy cheered happily, as he was feasting on the food rations the soldier gave him.
Once the boy finished the food, he hands a small package to the soldier, telling him, “Thank you for your kindness dear soldier. Here, take this as a gift.”
The soldier opened the package the young beggar boy gave to him. Inside the package, was a sickle made of pure silver, bathed in holy water. The beggar boy told the soldier, “It is a holy sickle, that once belonged to my father. Now, it belongs to you kind sir.”
“Thank you my dear boy.” The soldier said, grateful for the gift the beggar boy gave to him. “This will come in very handy.”
Now, the soldier went over to the grown man beggar. The adult beggar asked the soldier, “Dear soldier....Please? Do you have a bite to eat?”
“Yes indeed.” The soldier said in remorse, as he gives the man his second food rations. “Here, eat up. This food will do your body good.”
Once the grown man finished the food, he hands a small sized package to the soldier, telling him, “Thank you for your kindness. Here, take this as a gift.”
The soldier opened the small box, and was pleased with what he received. It was a golden ring with a citrine stone embedded in it. The beggar told the soldier, “This ring is used to ward off evil auras and negative energy. It will come in very handy on your way back home.”
“Thank you kind sir.” The soldier said, as he puts the citrine ring on his right ring finger for luck. “I shall be on my way. God bless you on this fine day.”
Again, the soldier went on his way, and met an elderly beggar. “Dear soldier....Please? Do you have a bite to eat?”
The soldier got his remaining food rations out, and thought to himself: “If I give him all of the rations, I shall have nothing left...If I give him half, why, this old man will come across other fellow beggars, will see they have a whole ration of food, and be offended. Better let this old man have it all, and I shall get back on my feet somehow.” So he gave the old man his last remaining rations, and was now left with nothing.
The old man then asked the soldier, “Tell me, my good soldier, what do you wish? I shall her you out here.”
“God bless you kind sir!” The soldier answered. “How should take anymore from you? You are old and poor.”
“Please don't think of my poverty,” the old beggar replied. “Just say what you desire, and I shall requite according to your own goodness.”
“I want nothing but a deck of cards.” The soldier told the beggar. “Just for a keepsake, that is all.”
To the soldier, it seems like the old man was Christ himself, walking the earth in the guise of a beggar. The old man puts his hand in his vest's pocket, and drew out a pack of cards, saying, “Take them please. With whomever you play against, you will always win the game...”
The old man then pulls out what appears to a potato sack with a draw string on top, made to tie the bag shut. “Here kind sir, you can have this enchanted sack. Whatever you meet on the way, whether it is bird or beast, you can say to it: 'Jump in here, bird or beast!', and your wish will be carried out.”
“Thank you kind sir, and God bless!” said the soldier, as he took the cards and enchanted sack, while he fared forth.
The soldier went on and on, maybe far...maybe near....maybe short...maybe long, and he finally arrived at a lake. On the surface of the lake, three wild geese were swimming peacefully. The soldier now remembers the enchanted sack, pulls it out, and opens it, saying to the geese, “Hey, you wild geese! Fly into my enchanted sack!”
Just as the soldier uttered those magic words, the geese flew straight up from the lake and into the sack. The soldier grabbed the bag, tied it up, and went on his merry way.
The soldier travels onward, and finally came to a quaint little house. He entered an inn, and told the inn-keeper, “Take this goose, and cook it for my supper, for I shall also give you another goose for your pains. Change me this third one for vodka.”
So the soldier sat like a lord in the inn, at his ease, drinking his vodka, and feasting on roast goose glazed with fruits and honey. While eating his fine meal, the soldier looked out the window, and saw opposite, a huge palace that looked like it has seen better days in the far past. The windows were all broken, and some bricks had moss growing on them.
“What is this?” The soldier asked the inn-keeper. “What is this palace? Why is it so ruined and empty?”
“Why do you know sir?” The inn-keeper replied. “Our Tsar built himself this palace many ages ago. It used to be a place of parties, fine banquets, and ballroom dancing. But now, those days are long gone.”
“Why? What kind of tragedy took place at that palace sir?” The soldier wondered.
“An unholy power makes its home there now a days.” The inn-keeper responded in a solemn tone. “Every night, an assemblage of demonic beings meet there, make a row, party, gamble, and perpetrate every sort of sinfulness.”
The soldier looked at the ruined palace in bemusement, and faces the inn-keeper once more, wondering, “Why hasn't anyone tried to exorcise the palace?”
“Oh....ohhh...There were people who tried banishing the demons back to their maker....However....” The inn-keeper explained. “Once the people head in to exorcise the demons, they never come back, ever!”
“Well....Still....a Russian soldier such as myself cannot drown in water, or burn in a fire. I served God almighty, and the Great Sovereign for two decades and five years. If I am willing to fight in a war, then, I am willing to banish those wretched demons to meet their maker!” The soldier said in a confident tone of voice.
“You are crazy dear sir!” The inn-keeper gasped in shock. “Once people enter the ruined palace, they never return!”
But the soldier stood firm, he just cannot let the demons have their way forever.
“Well,” said the inn-keeper. “Go, and God save you. I shall pass the news to our Tsar, telling him to check up on the palace during the day, to see that you are alive and well.”
“Very well, I shall be on my merry way.” The solider said, as he left the inn. “Farewell, and God bless!”
So there, the soldier sets off, heading to his destination that is the ruined palace. He prayed, hoped, that God will protect him on his way, and for that the palace exorcism will be a success.
Once he gone, there was no looking back, for the soldier was to meet his destiny, with only his holy sickle, citrine ring, deck of enchanted playing cards, and his enchanted sack to keep him company.