Wednesday, September 1, 2010

YAFF MUSE: The Place Where Beauty Lies

YAFF Muse is a weekly blog series featuring some YA Fiction Fanatics members. In this series, we'll post original short stories created from an image meant to inspire our Muse. Hope you enjoy! And don't forget to check out the other YAFFers participating in this series (links below).

Photo Credit: playingguitar2 by:trublueboy

The warm scent of Jasmine hung in the dense air the night he came. Grains of sand seemed to move in slow motion around his feet. His dark hair and eyes were black against the light of the moon. A song played in the distance, but the wind’s tongue deceived me and I could not understand.

Iz-za ostrova na strezhen’, Na prostor rechnoy volny, Vyplyvayut raspisnye, osterogrudye chelny.

“I have won my prize, my bride,” he said. His large outstretched hands ripped me from my only home.

Na perednem Sten’ka Razin, Obnyavshis’, sidit s knyazhnoy, Svad’bu novuyu spravlyaet, Sam veselyi I khmel’noy.

The cool water splashed through my sandals as I walked the creaky length of wood onto the ship. Great men covered in thick furs and beards as dark as shadows stood, weapons ready at their hips.

Pozadi ikh slyschen ropot: Nas na babu promenyal! Tol’ko noch’s nej provozilsja, Sam nautro baboy stal…

The rush of water beneath the ship was the only hush against the men’s laughter. The arm of the man who calls me his bride encircled my waist. Jasmine clung to the air around me, but we sailed so far, it's unable to hold on. Spices I do not recognize replaced the scent of home. Yet still the wind sang its song.

Etot ropot I nasmeshki, Slyshet groznyi ataman, I mogucheju rukoju, Obnjal persijanki stan.

He pulled me tight, wrapped me in furs. His breath was hot and stunk of death as he pressed his lips to mine. I squirmed beneath his grip and he pressed down harder.

Brovi Chornye soshlisya, Nadvigaetsya groza. Buynoy krov’yu nalilisya, Atamanovy glaza.

Commotion on the deck drew his attention back to his men. The boat rushed on, cutting a line in the deep cold water blow. I sat huddled in a corner, bow at my back shivering in furs, wishing for the sweet scent of jasmine.

“Nichevo ne pozhaleyu, Bujnu golovu otdam!” – Razdayotsya golos vlastnyi, Po okrestnym bergam.

The men began to argue, their swords drawn, gleamed in the moonlight. Their voices a danger to the wind’s ghostly song. My arms burned when he grabbed me from beneath the warmth of the furs.

“Volga, Volga, mat’ rodnaya, Volga, russkaya reka, Ne vidala ty podarka, Ot donskovo kazka!

He yelled to the men, fist to the sky, me at his side. The freezing air cut at my exposed skin.

Shtoby neb lo razdora, Mezhdu vol’nymi ljud’mi, Volga, Volga, mat’ rodnaja, Na, krasavitsu voz’mi!

My bones rattled beneath my flesh as he shook me. With one hand my feet left the solid ground of the boat and flew into the air, suspended above him. The men cheered but their delight was dampened by the wind’s song.

Moshchnym vzmakhom podnimaet, On krasavitsu knyazhnu, I z abort eyo brosaet V nabezhavshuyu volnu.

Weightless I flew into the depths of the river below. The bite of freezing water cut through my center like a sharpened scimitar. I gasped for air but my lungs burned with the crush of ice. Darkness crept into my vision, though I did not struggle when I smelled the jasmine.

“Ssto zh vy, bratsy, priunyli? Ej, ty, Fil’ka, chert, pljashi! Grjanem pesnyu udaluyu, Na pomin ee dushil..

Blackness retreats as I gasp to a cold slap of water to the face.

“Amira, wake up.” Cinda’s panicked voice reaches my ears and I realize it’s her hands violently shaking me.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m here,” I say opening my eyes to my friend’s concerned look.

“What happened to you? One minute you were ordering a pop at the bar and the next, you’re out like a light.”


“Iz-za ostrova na strezhen’, Na prostor recnoy volny, Vyplyvajut raspisnye, Ostrogrudiye chelny.”

“That song…”

“Yeah, Sebastian Razin is a damn hottie. So hot you passed out?”

“I guess so.” I glance from my friend to the stage where a young guy sits. His lips pressed against the mic, a shadow beneath the hazy green lights of the coffee shop.

“Thank you,” Sebastian says, in a thick Russian accent then steps down from the platform, heading toward the bar. And us.

“Don’t you remember anything? He asked you to have a pop with him after the concert?”

“I remember, now go away,” I say, turning and wiping of the water she drizzled on my face.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I swear. I’m fine.”

“Okaaaay. But I’ll be right over here, if you need—”

“Hi,” Sebastian says, his black hair partially concealed beneath a ball cap.

“Hi,” I say.

“Did you like my song?”

“It was in Russian, right?”

Thick fingers clasp onto the cap as he lifts it, running his other hand through his hair.

“Um, what is it about?” I ask.

The brown of his eyes deepen. “A sailor who takes a Persian princess as his bride only to have his crew ridicule him for giving up country for the love of a woman. To prove his allegiance to his homeland, he throws her overboard into the River Volga.”

My skin erupts in goose bumps and I blow out a lungful of air. “Tragic.”

“Nyet,” he says grasping my chin between his index and thumb.

“I… um…”

“Not to worry, Amira, my princess. Song is meant to be romance.” He presses his lips against mine. The scent of death finds me once more.

Lyric credit: Stenka Razin - traditional Russian Folk Song written by Dimitri Sadovnikov circa 1883

(c) 2010, MB
I normally don't give a reason behind the inspiration, but this week I think it needs it.

Traditionally, this song is based on a folk hero who falls in love with a Persian princess and marries her. But his crew teases him about having found a woman and then turning into one himself. He says he'd give up everything, including his own head for his homeland and as a testiment to his loyalty, throws his new bride overboard into the River Volga.
For some reason this song popped to mind for me when I saw this picture and I started to consider what the Persian princess might have thought of the whole situation. She wouldn't have spoken Russian, and would likely have been frightened by the all male crew, being a prize and then being thrown into the river. Amira means princess in Persian. So I thought it was a fitting name for her.
Don't forget to check out my fellow YAFFer's stories based on the same photo:


  1. Min,
    Loved this and I love the folklore you brought into the story. And I liked the twist at the end where they were really in the "modern" world. Awesome as always!!

  2. Amazing!! The old world coupled with the new, great story.

  3. Wow! That was great. I love the switching back and forth between the lines of the song and what's going on. It makes you feel like you're right there with her, not understanding what's being said...

  4. Aww. Thanks ladies. :) I wasn't sure if the Russian song would work out, but what the hell. I liked it. hee hee

  5. Great idea Min. And I loved the mingling of the Russian song in there. It was fantastic, to have the song 'played out'. Way to get creative. *high five.

    Also, liked how you made it current.