A MUTANT FAIRY TALE

BY MADRIPOOR ROSE

Disclaimer: These Characters belong to Marvel Entertainment, Kids WB, and The Cartoon Network. This is a work of fanfiction, no copyright infringement intended.

Author's Note: For Jeremy Harper, for recommending Russian Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Afanas'ev.

Kitty stared at the blank sheet of paper. She picked up her pen, tapped it against the wire spiral binding of her notebook, and put it down again. She stared at the paper some more, then picked up the pen and wrote, Cinderella After Happily Ever After. She stared at that sentence for a long moment, and then crossed it out.

It was a silly creative writing assignment anyway. Write an original fairy tale.

Kitty had read a lot of fairy tales and fantasy novels...but she'd never tried writing one before. It was harder than it looked.

Kitty wrote, Pirates And A Princess Under An Evil Spell, Genies And Monsters. She thought about that for a little while, and then crossed it out. "Arrgh," she sighed. "I obviously need an energy boost. Snack break!"

She capped her pen and headed down to the mansion kitchen. She brightened a little, spotting Piotr at the stove, stirring something. A rich starchy smell filled the air, all beans and onions.

"Making soup?"

"Da. I would offer you some, but," he waved the wooden spoon over his shoulder at the counter. Kitty looked at the empty cans of chicken broth and the butcher's paper wrapper from a ham hock and wrinkled her nose. "it isn't vegetarian. And I thought you said you were saving the last of your tofu stir fry?"

"Ooh!" Kitty opened the fridge and checked her tupperware container. "I almost forgot I had this!" She grabbed a can of soda before shutting the fridge, and snagged a bag of Doritos from the cabinet. She paused, leaning against the fridge, and took a moment to drink in the sight of Piotr Rasputin at the stove.

Those broad shoulders and tight buns.

'Mn, all this and he cooks too,' Kitty thought to herself. 'A regular Prince Charming...hey now...Piotr...fairy tale...'

Kitty ran back upstairs to her room and set her snack on the floor by her desk. She turned to a fresh sheet of notebook paper and began to write.

In Siberia, there is a farm tucked between the banks of Lake Baikal's bright and blue waters, and the dark and deep pine forests, and on that farm there lived a man who had two sons. He had a wife, and a little daughter as well, but everyone knows that only princesses and goose girls are important in fairy tales, or think they know.

One fine day the peasant Nikolai Rasputin was driving his wagon to the village, when he spotted a little old lady walking along the road, carrying a basket piled high and heavy with beets. Her dress was gray, her hair was gray, her face was as wrinkled as an old apple, and she walked slowly, as though each step pained her greatly. She wept and she wailed as she walked.

"Good mother," Nikolai called out to her. "Why do you walk with such a heavy burden?"

"I must sell these beets at the market, and I have no horse and wagon to carry me there."

Nikolai nodded, then asked, "Good mother, why do you weep and wail?"

"I am afraid. These are fine fat beets and they will earn many kopeks at market, perhaps even a ruble. I must walk home again after sunset, when bandits will beat and rob me."

Nikolai stopped the wagon and climbed down. "Then, good mother, let me lift that heavy basket into my wagon, that you may ride to market to sell your beets, and should any bandits seek to rob you after, I will thrash them with this stout oak stick!"

And Nikolai staggered back, for the old woman was gone, and in her place a shining maiden in silken robes. He dropped to his knees, blinded by her beauty. She gathered his face in her hands and spoke in a voice like silver bells.

"You are kind and you are brave, and so I give you a gift fit for such a noble heart," and she kissed him on the forehead, and like that, she was gone.

When Nikolai tried to rise, he found he was wearing fine plate armor, chased and enameled with beautiful designs, and had a jeweled sword at his side. It would be hard to drive a wagon to the village in such armor, so with some difficulty he removed it, and packed it into the wagon, with his load of potatoes and milk jugs, and went along his way.

The wagon went along the road a little way, and Nikolai thought, "Ah, I am but a poor old peasant, I cannot wear such heavy armor."

The wagon went along the road a little way further, and Nikolai thought, "Ah, I am but a poor old peasant, I cannot wear such fine armor. People will ask where it came from, and will think me a liar when I say it was a gift from the Great Witch of the Woods."

The wagon went along the road a little way further, and Nikolai thought, "Ah, I am but a poor old peasant, I cannot go off to fight for the Tsar."

The wagon had just reached the village, and Nikolai thought, "Ah, I am but a poor old peasant, now my brother in law, he is the village blacksmith! I will give the armor to him and see what he can make from it. Surely the Great Witch of the Woods did not mean for her gift to rust away unused."

And so Nikolai gave the armor to his brother in law, who melted it down and made a fine plowshare, all but the sword. And Nikolai was greatly pleased. He took the plowshare to his farm, and hung up the sword on the mantle over the fire.

Days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months, and one fine day the peasant's oldest son Mikhail was going into the forest to chop firewood. He had split enough logs to fill his barrow, when he saw a little old lady gathering up twigs and tying them into bundles.

Her dress was gray, her hair was gray, her face was as wrinkled as an old apple, and she bent slowly, as if each step pained her greatly, and she wept and she wailed as she gathered her twigs.

"Good mother, " Mikhail called to her, "why do you gather so many little twigs?"

"I must burn a fire to bake my bread, and I have no axe to split logs."

Mikhail nodded, and then asked, "Good mother, why do you weep and wail?"

"I am afraid. It will take me til sunset to gather enough twigs to feed my oven, and then I must walk through the forest alone and wolves will eat me."

Mikhail split one more log and put down his axe. "Then, good mother, you will have this barrow of split logs to feed your fire and bake your bread. Come, I will push it to your cottage and if any wolves seek to eat you, I will kill them with my axe and you will have their pelts for rugs."

And Mikhail staggered back, for the old woman was gone, and in her place a shining maiden in silken robes. He dropped to his knees before her, blinded by her beauty. She gathered his face in her hands and spoke in a voice like silver bells.

"Mikhail Nikolievich, you are as kind and as brave as your father. How fares he with the armor I gave him?"

And Mikhail cowered, fearing the Great Witch's wrath. "O Lady, my father is but a poor old peasant. He cannot wear such heavy armor, so he bade my uncle make from it a plowshare, a very fine plowshare that plows the turf as deep as you please and as straight as an arrow. And he has hung the jeweled sword on the mantle, where the firelight shines and sparkles on the gemstones."

The Great Witch of the Woods sighed and shook her head at her folly. "I am a fool, to give heavy plate armor to an old man. Mikhail Nikolievich, I give you a gift fit for such a noble heart," and she kissed him on the forehead, and like that, she was gone.

When Mikhail tried to rise, he found he was wearing fine silvered chain mail, with a warm woollen surcoat. It would be too hard to push a barrow of firewood home to the farm in such chain mail, so Mikhail removed it, and bundled it on top of the wood, and started back.

But chopping wood is hot and sweaty work.

And pushing a loaded barrow is hot and sweaty work.

And Mikhail came to a river that flowed to the lake. He looked at the cool rushing water and thought, "I will bathe and refresh myself before I go on."

But alas, as he swam and splashed in the water, the sunlight dappling down through the branches of the trees shone brightly on the silvered chain mail, making it glitter and gleam. It attracted a flock of ravens flying by. The ravens cawed, and they fought, and they pecked, and they tore at the chain mail. Until two ravens carried off the tunic and four ravens carried off the leggings. Mikhail came out of the water shouting, but it was far too late.

So Mikhail went home to the farm with the warm woollen surcoat, which his mother cut into a blanket for little Illyana's bed.

Days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months, and one fine day the peasant's younger son Piotr was going up the mountain, driving the goats to pasture.

He took them to a mountain meadow that had good grazing, even though there was a cliff to one side. He liked to sit at the edge and draw, for it gave a lovely view of the lake and the farm. And also, he could shoo away any kid that ventured too close.

As he settled down into the thick grass, he heard a cry, and he carefully leaned over the edge. A little old lady was on the ledge below, cradling a lamb in her arms. Her dress was gray, her hair was gray, her face was as wrinkled as an old apple, and as she huddled on the narrow stone ledge, she wept and wailed.

"Good mother," Piotr called out to her, "how did you find yourself on that ledge?"

"I was herding my sheep to graze and followed after this poor lost lamb."

Piotr nodded, and then he asked, "Good mother, why do you weep and wail?"

"I am afraid. I will fall off this ledge and dash myself to pieces. All my sheep have strayed, and if I do not fall, there will be no fleece to spin to yarn, and no mutton for my cookpot."

Piotr climbed down to the ledge. "Then, good mother, pass me the lamb and then give me your hands, for I am very strong and I will carry you to safety, and then we shall look for your sheep."

And this he did, carrying the lamb up to the field, the woman riding on his back.

He set the old woman down safely on solid ground, and he staggered back, for she was gone and in her place a shining maiden in silken robes. He dropped to his knees before her, blinded by her beauty. She gathered his face in her hands and spoke in a voice like silver bells.

"Piotr Nikolaievich, you are as kind and as brave as your father and your brother. How fares he with the armor I gave him?"

Piotr was ashamed. "O Lady, Mikhail stopped to bathe in the river on the way home, and while he did so, ravens carried off the chain mail. It was lost before he ever had a chance to wear it. But Mama made a blanket from the warm woollen surcoat for our little Illyana's bed, and each night she sleeps and dreams sweet dreams."

The Great Witch of the Woods sighed and shook her head at her folly. "I am a fool, to give chain mail so light it may be carried away by ravens. Piotr Nikolievich, I give you a gift fit for such a noble heart, and this I promise you, this armor is neither too light nor too heavy, this armor you can use, and will never lose." and she kissed him on the forehead, and like that, she was gone.

When Piotr rose to his feet, he found that nothing had happened.

"The Great Witch gave armor to my father, and he had it made into a plow. The Great Witch gave armor to my brother, and he lost it to the ravens. She wouldn't want to squander another gift of armor, but I have done a good deed, and earned her blessing, and perhaps a little bit of luck in it," Piotr said to himself, and settled down to watch his goats graze until they were full and fat, ready to go back to the farm.

Days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months, and one fine day the whole of the Rasputin family was working on their farm. Nikolai was plowing a new field, his wife was in the dairy making cheese, Mikhail and Piotr were digging potatoes, and little Illyana played by the side of the road, gathering wildflowers.

A Cossack came riding along, and he spied Illyana kneeling amongst the weeds. He thought it would be great sport to cleave the head off a peasant child from his horse, so he spurred his mount into a gallop and he drew his sword.

Mikhail saw and shouted, but he was too far away.

Piotr saw and shouted, he dropped his pitchfork and began to run.

He reached Illyana just before the Cossack, scooped her up into his arms, and turned away from the horseman, raising one arm to shield himself from the coming blow.

Piotr stared in wonder as his arm turned to metal. Not just his arm, but all of him from the hair on his head to the toes of his feet.

The Cossack struck, and the saber shattered against Piotr's armored wrist. The force of the blow knocked the Cossack from his horse, and in his rage Piotr grabbed him up and threw him with such a mighty heave that the Cossack flew right across Lake Baikal to the opposite shore. He landed on a surprised she-bear, who ate him all up for her supper, and that was the end of the Cossack.

The family gathered to marvel at Piotr's metal flesh, and he told them of his meeting the Great Witch of the Woods while herding the goats, and as he spoke, he transformed back to flesh from metal.

Mikhail laughed. "That is what the Great Witch meant! She gave you armor that would not be too heavy or too light. Armor you could wear and never lose! Piotr, you ARE the armor!"

They all agreed that it was a very clever gift, and how wise of the Great Witch. They put the Cossack stallion in the barn, and all went back to their work.

Days passed into weeks, and weeks passed into months. Piotr used his armor on the farm, it was good for clearing thorny brush. But he was growing restless.

And so one fine day at breakfast, he told his mama and papa and brother and sister, "I love you all, and I will miss you all, but I am going to seek my fortune. I have this armor from the Great Witch. I have the Cossack stallion. And I am the younger son. One day Mikhail will have the farm, one day Illyana will marry a village boy. But I must make my own way in the world."

They loved him, and they would miss him, but they knew he spoke the truth. So they hugged him and kissed him and said their goodbyes.

His father gave him a little money and the jeweled sword. His mother gave him a loaf of bread and a slab of cheese. Mikhail gave him a bottle of strong vodka, and little Illyana gave him a lock of her golden hair, plaited into a braid and tied with ribbons.

Piotr rode off to seek his fortune, and found it. He became known as the great hero Colossus, but that, my children, is another tale for another winter's night.

Kitty reread what she'd written and nodded, satisfied.

"Definitely B Plus material. Cool. Study break!" She carefully tore the pages out of her notebook, cleaned up the spiral notebook confetti edge, and stapled the pages together neatly. She picked up her untouched snack and headed back to the kitchen, to put it away, hoping Piotr was still there.

The End