Katya And The Crow
Once, a long time ago in a country far beyond the western hills, there lived a young girl named Katya. Katya lived on a farm with her parents and her brother and sister whose names I don’t remember. Katya had the ability to talk to animals. It isn’t clear how she acquired this ability but it gave her much pleasure. Her parents would often find her in deep conversation with horses, pigs, chickens and any other creature she encountered. “What do you speak to them about?” asked Katya’s mother who worried about the effect such a strange power might have on her daughter.
“Oh,” said Katya, “they tell me about their aches and pains. Sometimes they tell me about their dreams. The chickens speak of their chicks, the horses brag about their foals, and the cows go on and on about their calves. It isn’t all that interesting, really.”
One day a big flock of crows passed through the farm. They landed in the trees and proceeded to make a racket. Katya went outside to speak with them. “What’s all the excitement about?” she asked the Senior Crow.
“We are going to the city,” said the crow. “There is going to be a great festival. They are crowning a new king. Everyone is going. There will be food and music and dancing. Why don’t you come with us?” asked the Senior Crow.
“I would love to go to the city. But it is far away and I cannot fly like you.
“Well, maybe I can fix that,” said the crow. “Stay right here, I’ll be back in a minute.” And with those words, he flew off. He returned a few minutes later with a small blue green stone in his beak. He dropped the stone at Katya’s feet. “Put that stone in your mouth and you will become a crow like us. Then you can fly to the city.”
Katya was very excited by this but she was also a little afraid. She asked the crow, “Would I ever be a girl again?”
“Of course,” said the crow. “Just spit out the stone and you’ll be human again.”
“I should tell my mother I’m going,” said Katya, “She’ll worry.”
“No time,” said the crow. “We are leaving right now. Come or stay, it’s up to you.” And with that, the crows jumped into the air as one and flew off in the direction of the distant city. Katya had no time to think. She popped the magic pebble into her mouth and with a flash of light and a puff of smoke, she was transformed into a sleek black crow. She jumped into the air and was tickled to see she could fly. She flew off to join the other birds leaving her family and farm far behind.
Katya loved flying. It was the most exciting thing she had ever done. When she arrived at the city she soared high over the rooftops. She flew around the castle which stood at the highest point in the town and was the biggest, most beautiful building she had ever seen. She landed on a window sill in one of the castle’s many towers and looked inside. There in a small room she saw a handsome young man about her age. The young man was crying. He looked up and saw the crow perched on his window and spoke to it.
“Hello crow,” said the young man. “How lucky you are to be outside and free. I am kept prisoner in this tower while my cousin steals my crown. I am the true prince and the rightful heir. My wicked uncle locked me in this tower and intends to make his son king. Can you help me?” Having said these words, the prince resumed pacing and crying and cursing his fate. Katya wished she could help the prince escape but she did not know how. If she gave her magic stone to the prince, then she would be trapped in the tower and that wouldn’t do her any good. So she flew to a place under a great oak tree where she could sit and think.
Katya dropped the blue green stone on the ground and was immediately transformed back into her human form. As she sat beneath the tree thinking, there was a rustling in the branches over her head. It was her friends the crows. “Well, well,” said the Senior Crow, “I see you have arrived in good shape. But why the long face? Why are you sad? Don’t you like flying? Listen, hear the trumpets? Soon the festival will begin. There will be dancing and feasting and merriment the likes of which you have never seen. Become a crow again and join us.”
“Oh,” said Katya. “I do love flying and I love being a crow. But you see they are crowning the wrong prince. The true prince is being held a prisoner in the castle’s highest tower. I want to free him. Can you think of a way we might do that?”
“What if I find another magic stone and he becomes a crow? Couldn’t he fly out between the bars?”
“Yes,” said Katya excitedly. “But I can’t carry two magic stones in my beak at the same time?”
“I will carry one,” said the Senior Crow, “and I’ll leave it on the window sill where you can reach it. Give me a few minutes to find another magic stone.” And with that, he flew off in search of a second stone. Sure enough, a few minutes later the Senior Crow was back with another blue green stone almost identical to the first.
Katya popped her stone in her mouth and together she and the Senior Crow flew to the castle and landed on the window sill of the prince’s cell. When the prince saw two crows at his window, he said, “I see you have returned with a friend. But even if there were a hundred of you, it would be no use as I still could not fit through these bars. Katya’s hopped through the bars in the window and dropped her stone on the floor. With a flash and a puff of smoke she was once again a young girl. The prince was completely amazed. “Why what magic is this?” he cried. “Oh that I could be a bird and fly from this cell.”
“You can,” said Katya. And she took the stone from the Senior Crow and handed it to the prince. “Just put this stone in your mouth and you will become a crow like us. Be sure not to drop it while you are flying or else you will turn back into a boy and fall to your death.”
So the prince did as he was instructed. He popped the magic stone into his mouth and became a crow. He easily fit between the bars on the window and he followed the others twice around the castle and down to the bench beneath the great oak tree.
When they were both human again, the prince bowed low and introduced himself to his rescuers. “I am Prince Oren Lightflower and I owe you my everlasting gratitude. When I am king I shall reward you with anything you desire.” Katya blushed crimson and told him her name. In the distance there was the sound of trumpets. “I must hurry away,” said the prince. “I must prevent my cousin from being crowned king. Time is short. I will find you when I am king, goodbye.” And with those words he popped his magic stone into his mouth and flew off.
Katya wondered what was happening with the prince and the coronation so she changed back into a crow and flew high over the town until she saw a large crowd of people. She flew down and landed in a tree to watch.
She saw the two princes dueling in front of a golden throne. She recognized her friend Prince Oren. She assumed that the other prince was his cousin, the pretender. From the look of things, it seemed that Oren was doing pretty well. The false prince was trying to defend himself but Oren was the better swordsman. Back and forth the fight raged. It looked like Oren was going to win the duel when out of the crowd the a man appeared. It was the wicked uncle, the father of the false prince. The uncle rushed up behind Oren and smacked him with a stick. Oren was dazed. He tripped and fell. The false prince rushed in to finish him off.
It was at that moment that Katya, still a crow, swooped from her branch and flew directly into the false prince’s face. The boy tried to swat the crow away but Katya was persistent and would not be deterred. Oren got to his feet. He had lost his sword but he charged into the fray. The false prince was stunned by the ferocity of Oren’s attack. He opened his mouth to call to his father for help. Oren had no weapon but he had the magic stone and, without thinking, he shoved the blue green stone into the false prince’s mouth.
There was a flash of light and a puff of smoke. The false prince was transformed into a crow. Bewildered and confused he leaped into the air and began to fly. Up and up he flew. He flew so high he became frightened. He opened his mouth to call for help. As soon as he opened his beak, the magic stone fell out and he became human once again. Only now he was three hundred feet in the air. He fell like a stone back to earth, landing with a smack on the hard ground. The wicked uncle rushed to his side but it was too late. The boy was dead.
Oren addressed the crowd. “I am Oren Lightflower the rightful heir to the crown. I have been imprisoned in the tower while my uncle schemed to steal the throne from me. With your permission I will mount the throne and be your king.” The people cheered loud and long. Oren was crowned king. No one was cheered louder or longer than Katya. When the cheering stopped, Oren again addressed the crowd. “As your king, I would like to issue a proclamation. I would like to proclaim that I owe everything to this young woman. Her name is Katya and, if she’ll have me, I would like her to be my queen.”
When the people heard this, they cheered even louder than before. Katya could not believe how things turned out. She was embarrassed and confused. Oren took her hand and asked if she would be his bride. From a nearby tree she could hear the crows calling, “Yes, say yes.” She looked into Oren’s eyes and saw that he was an honest and good man so she agreed. That evening there was the biggest party anyone had ever seen. Just as the crows had promised.
And that is how Katya became a queen. She married Oren and together they reigned over the land with peace and love for many years. And the crows were always welcome in their yard.
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of several novels and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, Fried Fiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and several other publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobiasfiction.blogspot.com/
Links to his books: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/harris-tobias
A small bit of recognition for one of my collaborations.