Book 1. Anastasia (1996)
A forest bedroom
I wasn’t at all equipped to spend a night in the wilds of the forest. Anastasia put me to bed in some kind of cave hollowed out of the ground. Exhausted after my wearying trek, I quickly fell fast asleep. When I woke up, I felt a sense of bliss and comfort, as though I were lying in a magnificently comfortable bed.
The cave, or dugout, was spacious, appointed with small feathery cedar twigs and dried grass which filled the surrounding space with a fragrant aroma. As I stretched and spread my limbs, one hand touched a furry pelt and I determined at once that Anastasia must be something of a hunter. I moved closer to the pelt, pressing my back to its warmth, and decided to have another little snooze.
Anastasia was standing in the entranceway to my forest bedroom. Noticing I was awake, she said at once:
“May this day come to you with blessings, Vladimir. And you should, in turn, greet it with your blessing. Only, please, do not be frightened.”
Then she clapped her hands, and the 'pelt’... I was horror-struck at the realisation that this was no pelt. Out of the cave a huge bear began to gingerly crawl. Receiving a pat of approval from Anastasia, the bear licked her hand and began lumbering off into the forest. It turned out that she had placed some belladonna herbs under my head for a pillow and made the bear lie down beside me so I wouldn’t get cold. She herself had curled up outdoors in front the entranceway.
“Now how could you do such a thing to me, Anastasia? He could have torn me to shreds or crushed me to death!”
“First of all, it is not a he, but a she-he&t. She could not possibly have done anything to harm you,” Anastasia responded. “She is very obedient. She really enjoys it when I give her tasks to carry out. She never even budged the whole night — just nuzzled her nose up to my leg and just kept blissfully still, she was so happy Only she did give a little shudder when you waved your arms about in your sleep and slapped her backside!”