The girl stands there watching me, dumb as a post. I command her. “Speak to me!”

“I’d like to ask you something,” she says.

“Fine. Go ahead, but not every question has a good answer. If you know too much you will soon grow old.”

She asks about my horsemen. I tell her they are my faithful servants. My bright day, my red sun, my dark night. “What else?” I want to know. “You’ve asked me about what is outside, not inside. Mind you, I do not like to have my dirty linen washed in public. So I will ask you something. How do you manage to do the work I set out for you?”

“I am helped by the blessing of my mother,” she says.

“Blessings! There will be no blessings in my house!” I drag her out and push her through the gate. Then I grab a skull with burning eyes from the fence, and stick it on a spike. “Here’s the light you came for. Give it to your stepsisters.”

Baba Yaga Giving the Burning Skull in Vasilisa the Beautiful, Russian Fairy Tales (Afanas’ev).
Illustration by Adirenne Segur.