“It was a war injury,” said Piotr. “You’ll have to get in closer children, so you can hear him. I know, I know, it is usually the other way around for one so old!” The large man laughed as the little ones crowded around his grandfather.

“My boy’s boy doesn’t believe me,” croaked the old man, Mikhail. “He never has. That thick skull squeezes his brain, makes him slow.”

“It wasn’t a war injury?” asked little Izbel.

“I tell you child, I speak this way because of the war, but it was no mere injury. My comrades and I were hopelessly lost in the woods. We set up camp for the night. The other men fell asleep and I was keeping watch. It was then that I heard loud steps in the dark. Massive, louder than the largest elephant at the Moscow zoo! I tried to rouse my men, but they could not awaken. A magical sleep had befallen them. I looked and saw, there, a hut standing on two huge chicken legs. The Baba Yaga had come!”

The children all gasped.

“Yes, and she traded directions to safety for my voice! She said she needed her stew to be bold and it was exactly the ingredient she needed! Fortunately, she did not need it all. And I led my men out of the woods and to safety.”

“But what about your scar?” asked Dimitri.

“Well, she had to get my voice out somehow,” smiled Mikhail.

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