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Just Like Budapest

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What? You want a story? What kind of story?
Hmm. Okay. You want to hear about how your Mama and Papa met?
No, she didn’t win me in a round of poker! Who told you that?
Hmpf. Well, that’s not how it happened.
You need the bathroom? Okay. You got your Teddy Bear? Of course, I’m sorry, Bucky Bear.
Okay, so here’s how it started. Long ago and far away.


The Archer


Once, a long time ago in a far away land, there was an Archer.
Now, he was pretty brave, and bold too. But he wasn’t all that bright. But still, his heart was pure. Well, kind of… true. His heart was true. Also he was lost.

I mean, it wasn’t the dog’s fault, right? He saw a bird and went charging off into the Forbidden Forest. And no amount of ‘Come back here you little sh - uh - here, Lucky!’ would bring him back. So the Archer went after him, getting scratched by thorns and snagged on branches as he went deeper and deeper into the trees.
So of course by the time he found the dog, he was lost.
It wasn’t like he could shout for help. Well, he could shout, but he couldn’t hear anyone answer. Yeah, like Papa.
So he kept walking through the forest, round and round in little circles until he found a path, Lucky chasing after wood pigeons and getting underfoot.

So the Archer couldn’t hear the wind in the trees or the the Firebird singing. If he’d heard the song, he probably wouldn’t have done something so damn stupid.
Or maybe he would, I don’t know.

He saw a flash of her tail feathers, red and orange and gold among the green leaves.
So he pulled out an arrow from his quiver, drew back his bow and sent an arrow after it.
Yeah, well Papa was an idiot.
He didn’t hear the bird crying out, but he saw the arrow hit its mark, and the Firebird fell like a stone.
It crashed into the trees, and every branch that it touched, every leaf and twig and clump of moss, burst into flames.
“Aww, Firebird, no,” the Archer sighed, and followed Lucky through the trees in search of the fallen bird.

Most of the flames licked out after a few moments, but on the higher branches the fire caught hold. The Archer looked up and saw a bird’s nest up in the topmost branches, and said several bad words. He took off his cloak and wrapped it around his arm, and started climbing the tree, patting out the flames as he went until he reached the nest.
There were four baby birds huddled up in there, their Mama flying overhead, calling for them.
So the Archer picked up the nest, tucking it under his arm, and climbed back down to the forest floor.
He carried the nest to a nearby tree where the Mama bird was waiting, and went off to find the Firebird.

The Archer followed the smell of burning and found the Firebird in a clearing, lying on a bed of smouldering moss, Lucky running in little circles around her.
“Aww, fu - uh - fudge,” said the Archer, and shook out his cloak. It was torn and still smouldering in places from where he’d climbed the tree, which was really annoying because it was new, you know? And good cloaks don’t come cheap.
The arrow was buried deep in the Firebird’s side, so the Archer wrapped her up in his cloak, even though she squawked and pecked at him, and picked her up. She was much too big to carry in his arms so he took off his bow and positioned her on his back, using the cloak as a sling and tying it in place before picking up his bow again.

“Okay, this looks bad,” the Archer said to himself as he carried the Firebird through the charred and blackened trees.
“Bro,” the trees seemed to whisper in his head as they smoked and crumbled to ashes.
“Bro,” they crackled. “You f***ed up, bro.”
“Shut up,” the Archer told the burnt out trees.
“Bro,” they rasped. “You in so much s**t, bro.”
The Archer kept walking through the Forest, the last of the fires burning out around him.
“Bro, the Rusalka, bro,” the trees laughed. “Rusalka gonna get you, bro.”
Lucky barked at the trees, leading the way back to the path.
“The Rusalka gonna kick your ass, bro.”

The Archer reached the path at last. “Alright, bird. Just… try not to die, okay? I’m gonna fix this,” he promised. “I’m gonna take care of this.”
Lucky’s ears flattened against his head and he let out a low whine, and the trees started to shake.
Something screamed, low and piercing. It flew right past the Archer’s ears and sliced straight through his heart like a burning arrow.
“Aww, crap,” the Archer sighed, and started running.