It befell when the Tsar had been three months absent that three babes were born to his Tsaritsa-such lovely little sons that their like cannot be told or described, but can only be imagined, and each had legs golden to the knee, arms silver to the elbow, and little stars in his hair set close together. And Tsaritsa Marfa sent to her husband a fleet messenger to tell him of their birth.
Her sisters, however, kept back the messenger and sent another in his place with this message: “Thy Tsaritsa, our sister, who boasted that she would bear thee Princes of gold and silver, hath borne thee now neither sons nor daughters, but instead, three wretched little kittens.”
Then they bribed the nurses and attending women, took from the Tsaritsa, while she slept, the three boy babies, and put in their jeweled cradles three kittens. As for the beautiful children, they gave them to a Baba Yaga [Witch Grandmother], and the cruel old witch put them into an underground room, in a forest, under a crooked oak tree, whose entrance was closed by a great flat stone.
When the Tsar heard the words of the messenger, he was greatly angered. He sent orders to throw the kittens into the sea-ocean, and was minded also to kill his wife. This, however, he could not bear to do, so much did he love her. “I will forgive this fault,” he said to himself. “Perchance she may yet give me sons fit for a Tsar.”
He returned at length to his Tsardom, and lived with his wife happily as before, till there was held a great hunt on the open steppe [plain], and he rode away to kill wild geese and swans. And scarce had he been gone three days, when two more sons were born to his wife, the Tsaritsa Marfa-such lovely babes that one could not look sufficiently at them- and each had legs golden to the knee, arms silver to the elbow, and little stars in his hair clustering close together.
The Tsaritsa sent in haste for a nurse, and the servant, as it happened, met on his way the old witch. “Where dost thou haste so fast?” she asked him.
“Not far,” he replied.
“Tell me instantly,” said the Baba Yaga, grinding her teeth, “or it will be the worse for thee!”
“Well,” said the servant, “if thou must know, I go to fetch a nurse to the Palace, for two hero-sons have just been born to our mistress, the Tsaritsa.”
“Take me as nurse,” commanded the witch.
“That I dare not,” the servant replied, “lest the Tsar, on his return, strike my head from off my shoulders.”
“Obey me,” snarled the Baba Yaga, “or meet a worse fate this instant!”
The servant, trembling for his life, returned with the old witch, who, as soon as she came in to the Tsaritsa Marfa, took from her, while she slept, the two lovely babes, put in their place under the sable coverlet two blind puppies, and carried the children to the underground room in the forest. Having done this, she told the two sisters, who, hastening to the Palace, bribed the serving-women and despatched a messenger to the Tsar to say: “Our sister, thy Tsaritsa, who boasted that she would bear thee Tsarevitches of silver and gold, hath borne thee now neither sons nor daughters, but instead two miserable little puppies.”
Ivan Bilibin’s art:
During a time of civil war, Karasu Hinata is born the son of a powerful warlord. When he is still a child, his family castle is taken by a rival clan. His father and mother are murdered right before his eyes.
Barely escaping with his life, he is spirited away by the king of the tengu. The shape-shifting raven leads him to the hidden mountain retreat of a sect of mystic warriors. Mountain priests who practice the magic of Shugendo.
Ten years have passed. The time has come for Karasu to leave the mystic’s protective lair and face his demons in the world beyond. But the fiend that haunts his nightmares is also the one that shattered his life. More than a bad dream, it wants him dead.
In Legend of the Tengu Prince, nothing is as it seems. Shape-shifting creatures, both good and evil, populate the magical world of feudal Japan. And a young man will pay the ultima
te price for a deadly rival spawned in the mists time. This riveting first volume of a epic fantasy adventure will leave you stunned and begging for more.