Sunday, April 10, 2011


"Bees!" quoth Afanasy. It was obvious from his entire face and physique that he was in love with the colony of bees here in the depths of the birch stand. They swarmed around him and he gestured, slowly, allowing the bees to coagulate around him. When a Queen approached, he knelt and prayed for her fecundity.

I was less enthusiastic. I felt around for a window control, so as to roll up the windows. Barring that, I tried to seem as unlike a flower or a hive as possible. The air was thick with vigorous bees. I saw Foma burying himself in the mud, which I had seen him do at various points in our voyages. Now, at last, it did make sense. I remembered a disc of cinnamon gum in my pocket from before I fell into Tver, and I tossed it into the middle of the sledge. Afanasy turned to me and signalled his gratitude. He was in the bee network.

A raven descended from the treetops and alighted on the post at the head of the sledge. It groomed its wings and waited for acknowledgment. Afanasy moved to the head, standing in the mud, and crooked his head as the raven crooked his. There was a brief, forgettable exchange of verbal sounds, but Afanasy's demeanor changed immediately.

"We must to the Kreml! Post haste!"

He seized upon a canvas sack of honey and drew a ceramic urn of pollen from his sledge, which he shattered on a stone and left for the bees to enjoy. They all quieted to a clear "bow" to him, then we shipped off to the Kreml.

He reached into the canvas sack of honey and drew out a handful of amber wax, which he tossed at Plyed. For the first time, I saw both eyes open, and Plyed's generous tongue extended to drain the honey from the wax.

Foma, who had disappeared into the birch stand, appeared when Afanasy rubbed two coins together. He took up the reins and dragged the sledge, honey, bear, raven and all, Kremlward.

Until we reached the sad orphan beneath a tree.

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