Once upon a time, there was a crazy old woman who worked in the castle kitchen. Crazy Sasha is what all the other servants liked to call her when they spun their tales of gossip about her. They would say that Crazy Sasha liked to go on walks late at night around the back of the old church where the priest keeps his horse. They would say that Crazy Sasha liked to talk to that old horse, but not the playful way that people liked to talk to animals. They would say that Crazy Sasha would go to that horse and listen. They would say she believed the horse knew powerful secrets that could change the balance of power in the kingdom should they get out.
In reality, Crazy Sasha was a smart old woman and a competent chef, but it was the gossip that kept her from ever becoming more than a simple dishwasher who was sometimes sent into the pantry to retrieve cooking supplies. And she did go and talk to that horse but only during daylight hours on her days off, and she only talked to it because the horse was the only one around who didn’t make faces at her and call her names.
The Queen’s chambermaids really loved to make up the worst of the gossip about Crazy Sasha. And one day the Queen walked in on Olga and Vera making up her bed. They had been in the middle of one of their most salacious stories about Crazy Sasha and the horse. The Queen had walked in right when Olga had mentioned something about Crazy Sasha reaching for something between the horse’s legs.
Vera was facing the door when the Queen walked in, and her face went white. She waved at Olga and told her to shut her mouth. Olga quickly looked over her shoulder to see the Queen standing in the doorway with a mischievous smile on her face. Olga’s face had gone red, and she was looking at her shoes. The Queen said, “No, no. You two keep talking. I want to hear this.” The Queen listened and Vera and Olga told her all their worst stories about Crazy Sasha and the horse.
That night after dinner service instead of telling her to scrub the kitchen, the head butler, Pavel, told her to get dressed in her best dressing gown. He told her she was being asked to attend desert with the Queen. He told Crazy Sasha she was going to be thanked for her part in the wonderful night’s meal. Sasha knew that she was being set up for something, but she also knew she did not have the right to refuse an audience with the queen. She got dressed knowing that nothing good was going to happen. But she had no idea how bad it would actually be.
When she was dressed, she was escorted to not to the dining room, but to the throne room. The whole court was attending, and the double doors were open to the larger hall. Even the servants were attending although in the back and not in direct sight of the court. Crazy Sasha was escorted straight down the carpet leading through the center of the room to the foot of the throne where the Queen was waiting wearing crown and scepter.
As Sasha approached the throne, the Queen stood up raised her scepter over her head and shouted, “Here comes the Lady of the evening, Crazy Sasha the horse fucker!”
Sasha froze in shock and was shoved forward by her escort, and she stumbled to her knees. The whole court started laughing and the court jester came out of the wings dressed as a horse with a long pink dong hanging between his legs. Then, the Queen said, “Crazy Sasha, take off your clothes and show us all what you like to do with the horse.”
Sasha was still on her knees and stunned. Her escort lifted her back to her feet. And the Queen ordered her again to take off her clothes. Sasha had never even thought to question the commands of the queen, and she didn’t know what to do. Everyone was staring and laughing at her. And the jester danced a circle around her in his horse suit with his pink dong swinging in wide arcs. Sasha caught herself with her hands on the top button of her blouse. Out of embarrassment and simple subordination she had nearly obeyed the commands of the Queen. She could feel the tears streaming down her cheeks, and she did something she never thought she would. She disobeyed the Queen. She turned and ran out of the throne room fully expecting to be run through by the guards for her disloyalty. But the guards were too busy laughing and pointing at her to remember to kill her.
Sasha just ran not knowing where to go, knowing she could not stay in the castle if she wanted to live. She ran out into the night under the full moon. Without thinking she had found herself at the stable behind the church sobbing into her hands in front of the horse, her only friend. At least she had imagined that he was her friend because up until that point, the horse had never spoken. But the light of that full moon had some magic in it that loosened the horse’s tongue.
Sasha started when the horse began to talk. She was sure the guards had found her, but when she looked up from her hands, she only saw the horse. The horse said, “Sasha, my love, I have been waiting so long for you to come to me under the moon. Please don’t think me forward, but I feel like I know you after the countless days you spoke to me of your hopes and dreams.” The horse saw the horrified look on her face. Sasha was almost sure the horse was in on the joke and only trying to humiliate her further. The horse said, “Don’t worry, Sasha. I know you could never love a horse. But I am a man. I have only been put under a spell. Have you ever thought it funny that the priest got a new horse the same night the king disappeared so many years ago?”
Sasha shook her head. She said, “I vaguely remember us having a king long ago, but I don’t remember what happened to him.”
The horse said, “No matter. I am sure that is just another part of the Queen’s spell. You see, she hired and evil witch to put a charm on the royal scepter. Whoever was hit over the head with it would become a horse until the curse has been transferred to another.” Sasha nodded this time there was something in the horse’s voice that was soothing and regal, and bit by bit it was removing the clouds from her memory. There was something to what the horse was saying. She could almost remember the night they had to cook for the old crone. Something horrible like rats and toads. And she was fed in the kitchen so nobody important had to watch.
The horse said, “Sasha, my dear.” This time Sasha believed the sincerity of his love for her. “I need you to sneak into the castle and steal the scepter from the Queen. I will use what power I can muster under the light of this full moon to draw in a fog and everyone in the castle will be asleep. The Queen will be lying in her bed fully clothed holding the scepter in her hand. Grab it from her hand and bring it to me, and we will try to find someone suitably evil to transfer the curse to.”
Sasha believed what the horse had told her and believed that she might grow to love the man inside the horse the way he loved her. She said, “Yes, king horse. I will do this for you.” The horse pulled back his lips trying to smile and let out a happy neigh. He took a step back in his stall and began to prance and kick and groan and grunt horsey sounds. And the fog began to roll in from the field glowing with the full moon’s light and the castle looked strange in the unearthly glow.
When Sasha arrived back at the castle the doors were all open and the guards were asleep at their posts. The whole castle was strangely silent, and the sounds of her footsteps didn’t even echo off the stone walls. She made her way up the stairwell, down the hallway, and into the Queens chamber. The Queen was on her bed, just like the horse said, fully dressed and holding on to her scepter. She reached out for the scepter but the sound of her heart beating in her ears stopped her. Sasha had always thought the Queen beautiful when she had ever seen her in passing, but lying there in the strange light, she looked like she was dead or decaying into some kind of ghoul. Sasha clenched her jaw trying and failing to silence the sound of her heart. Then, she grabbed the scepter, but the Queens hand was grasped tight around the handle, and Sasha could not pull it away.
The Queen awoke in a rage and grabbed Sasha by the hair. The Queen said, “I knew someone would come for my scepter, but I didn’t know it would be you, horse fucker!”
Sasha screamed and struggled to get the scepter away from the Queen. The Queen pulled Sasha onto the bed with her and ripped out a handful of her hair. Struggling for the scepter the queen yanked it high over her head, and Sasha was able to grasp it with both her hands. Then, they both tumbled from the bed to the floor. Sasha was on top of the Queen as they fell. And putting her hands out to break her fall, the scepter came down hard against the Queen’s forehead. The blood gushed from the gash in the Queens head, and she began to spasm and shake. The Queen began to groan and grunt like a horse with a broken leg. And Sasha ran out of the castle with the scepter in hand. When she returned to the stable, the horse was gone, and there stood King Pavel in the horse’s stall. Sasha and King Pavel gave in to the heat of passion and spent the night behind the church in the hay.
The next morning when they returned to the castle, all of the guards and servants were ranting about the wild horse with the long red mane that they found in the king’s bed chambers, and nobody seemed to be able to remember anything of what happened the night before. But more than that, the people were excited to see the return of King Pavel and Lady Sasha, and the arrangements were made for their marriage that night. King Pavel and Lady Sasha lived happily together for many years. And despite their old age, they bore many healthy children together. And on the day of their death the royal scepter was handed down to their first-born son who swore to keep it safe. And there was the horse in the Priest’s stable out behind the church. It was the wild horse with the long red mane that never seemed to die.