Tom Kirby Visits Pavlovsk (Cossack Village)
The sun was shining through the aspen trees as Tom Kirby sprinted across the pasture towards the Cossack Village. He had just received the message one of Kristov's mares was giving birth to a breached foal. Tom's mind flew over the possibilities - was the foal turned around, upside down, or was some other type of mal-positioning involved. Either way, if the mare was already in labor, the foal's time would be running out.
Ahead, Tom could see a man riding towards him, leading a second mount.
The man didn't seem to be in much of a hurry, so Tom slowed down to wait.
As the man pulled up before him, Tom was thrilled to finally see his first
Russian Don - the famed horse of the Cossack Cavalry. The breed was
noted for it's incredible endurance and even temper. A trait the
flashy chestnut displayed by standing still and calm as his rider dismounted.
The second horse was a deep, blood bay. Their straight necks and
deep chests gave hit to their incredible powers of
"Judging by the bag you carry, you must be the Horse Doctor. Greetings, I am Vassily."
Tom studied the Cossack. Vassily was nearly as tall as he was, which put the Cossack over six feet. His mahogany hair had a slight wave to it as it fell to his shoulders. His eyes were a glittering green, and his features had a lean, chiseled look to them. The Cossack was not overtly muscular, possessing a more lithe, swordsman's build. He moved with an easy strength and self-possession. Tom suspect there was nothing this Cossack was afraid of. Tom was pleased to see a warm smile spread across Vassily's face, changing the Cossack from a fierce warrior to a friendly neighbor.
"Kristov asked me to come pick you up. The walk is longer than most assume - you can ride, dah?"
With a minimum of fuss, Tom mounted the bay and turned to follow Vassily
back to the village. Along the way through the forest, Vassily explained
that the mare was not actually in labor yet, but that she had been through
several false labors in the past week. Now today, the mare's teats
had waxed. Kristov was fairly certain she would go into labor tonight,
and that the foal was not positioned
correctly. The mare was excessively fretful and agitated. This foal was meant to be a gift, and Kristov wanted Tom on hand to help with any problems that may arise.
As Vassily finished his explanation, he and Tom emerged from the forest at the base of the valley. The Cossack Village lay nestled at the bottom of a large Valley between two small mountains. The sides of the valley sloped up before them, with the village in the center. The main road through the village wound its way through the wood and stone shops and houses before meandering up the hill to the Gate at the head of the valley.
The Gate could be seen from all points in the valley. Its tremendous size was as impressive as its stark shape. It consisted of a series of four double columns supporting a tiered span topped by Russia's Imperial Double Eagles. Made entirely of cast iron, the structure was severe and austere - and completely out of sorts with the serene valley and quaint village. The Gate cast a sinister feeling to the woods behind it. Tom could not help wondering of the Gate was designed to keep people out of the woods, or to keep something in.
As they rode through the village, Tom was impressed with the friendliness of everyone. Children raced their ponies through the street or staged mock battles in the fields. The women smiled and waved, particularly at Vassily. Tom noted with amusement the numbers of women that sought to catch the Cossack's attention.
Once they had passed under the Gate, Tom was surprised at the refined architecture. The road leading up to the castle was lined with flowering shrubs. Tall, thin white birch trees, their leaves flashing bright yellow in the slight autumn breeze, marched off in either direction. They rode through a series of parks before coming through the trees to the palace proper.
"Welcome to Pavlovsk." Vassily said with a wave. "I will have someone show you to your rooms later. Right now, I think Kris is in the brood mare barn."
Without pausing, Vassily rode past the structure and around to the side.
Behind the palace, stretching up the mountain, was a series of paddocks
and small barns. Various breeds of horses could be seen grazing in
the afternoon sun. The facilities were magnificent, and Tom could
not wait to see the rest.
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