©Jane H.

Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
Tanya Grotter
and
The Hammer of Perun

Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian

by

Jane H. Buckingham

Translation edited by

Shona Brandt

Cover designed by

Eva Elfimova

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
Titles in the Series
Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass
Tanya Grotter and the Vanishing Floor
Tanya Grotter and the Golden Leech
Tanya Grotter and the Throne of The Ancient One
Tanya Grotter and the Staff of the Magi
Tanya Grotter and the Hammer of Perun

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
1

Chapter 1
Pipa the Terrible

Chronicle of a January morning

The Durnevs’ apartment. Somewhere on the brink between light sleep and deep
senility.
6:50. Outside the window is a dreary wintry dark-blue.
6:51. The latch opens by itself. The door to the balcony swings open. The glass in
the frames endlessly rattles something virtuoso in the spirit of Liszt. 1
6:52. Pipa Durneva is cold. Her excessively chubby leg, with a heel of tomato
colour, pulls in under the covers.
6:53 – 6:57. Someone walks stealthily across the room, tripping over the gold tigers
and the non-gold Teddy bears diligently gutted with a curved sword. A crumbly shadow
jumps along the wall, its hand clutching something sinister, like a spear of the invincible
Macedonian phalanx...2
6:57. Pipa Durneva begins to experience a vague unease, but she is too lazy to open
her eyes and only buries herself deeper into the pillow.
7:00. The alarm clock’s persistent beep, exactly like a trumpet, suddenly catches up
with Pipa. She hangs her legs off the bed, looks around, sees a dark figure, stares, and a
moment later, a scream splits the silence of the front of the government building.
7:01. Light flares up – rushing to the door, Pipa half-consciously flips the switch.
The uncertainty of the night yields to the gloomy certainty of the morning.

***

From the hallway, Pipa looked around again and her inhuman scream shifted to a
surprised and even ecstatic shriek. Gury Puper was sitting on the edge of the sofa
trampling on the oak parquet with crooked but trustworthy black legs. He looked
depressed. He sported on his nose a pair of taped-together glasses – the first of the
unique Puper collection of broken glasses. A long broom stood in the corner, dripping
melting snow.
Crouching from curiosity, Pipa returned to her room and hastily slipped under the
covers. She did not want Puper to have the opportunity to contemplate her pyjamas.
These were flannel election-propaganda pyjamas, decorated with a portrait of her papa
and the slogan I toil for humanity! on the back.

1 Franz Liszt (1811-86), renowned Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist.
2 The Macedonian phalanx is an infantry formation used by Alexander the Great (356 BC – 323 BC) to
conquer the Persian Empire and remained dominant until the Roman Empire. Each phalangite carried a
long double-pointed spear called a sarissa as a primary weapon.
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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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2

But Gury did not have time for the pyjamas. He was suffering. His lower jaw was
trembling. His gaze wandered wildly along the wall, tripping over the colourful pattern
of the wallpaper.
“This is the end! She dumped me!” Gury said wistfully. Squinting a lilac eye, Pipa
looked sympathetically out from under the blankets.
“It’s forever, I know! My aunt who dreams of maglawyers was right: we cannot be
together!” Puper said even more hysterically. A cold drop of vague origin slid along the
noble English nose, caught in the nasal crease, and fell onto Pipa’s foot.
Pipa swallowed. She could not control her voice very well this morning. “Poor
thing! Who dumped what?” she asked hoarsely.
“Tatiana... Your sister.3 She has returned to her old boyfriend!” Puper exclaimed.
“Who is her boyfriend?” Pipa eagerly asked, passionate about such details.
“Oh, I barely know him. He has a horrible Russian name! Vailyalkin! John
Vailyalkin!” Gury uttered with disgust and dropped his head into his hands.
“Look, something new. See, she also blew off that chubby with a vacuum! Who
would have thought that Grotty would turn out to be such a bitch! She was always so
small-town!” Pipa concluded, after thinking about it. On Pipa’s lips, as on her mama’s,
the word “bitch” almost sounded like praise. It was an unmistakable acknowledgement
of virtue.
“Vailyalkin is a goof. He isn’t worth a finger of Tanya... He bewitched her with
voodoo magic and will now wreck her life. He will drink vodka and then force her to kiss
a slobbery old man in order to get bagel holes,”4 Puper stated with conviction.
“How do you know?” Pipa was surprised.
“Aunt Nasturtia told me! She studied psychology. Her dissertation was called The
World is like a Big Dumpster. She read it to me before bedtime when I was a child,”
Puper said despondently. He first wilted, falling into the abyss of despondency, then,
like an awakened volcano, began to spew reproaches and curses.
The fairly clever Pipa realized that Gury could now stay in this mood indefinitely. “I
wonder why he flew to me. To complain about Grotty? Well, only one step from tears in
the vest to new love!” Pipa cynically decided to herself, masking a yawn under the most
charming of smiles. Puper noticed nothing. The smile missed the target.
“Vailyalkin is simply a hick! He doesn’t look after his appearance! His horrible
yellow rag smells like harpies! How could Tanya choose him of her own free will and
with a clear head?!” Gury said.
“Spot-on! Well done, Gury! But, strictly between us, Tanya has never had any taste.
For example, she never liked me,” Pipa purred.

3 In Russian customs, a cousin with the same grandparents is considered a brother/sister.
4 The Russian phrase dyrka ot bublika literally means the space in the centre of a ring-shaped bread. It is
an idiom for “nothing”. It can also be used as a joke, denoting something that is devoid of all content.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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3

With his finger, Puper thoughtfully rubbed his scar in the shape of copyright and
wilted again. A contented Pipa understood that she had hit the target, confirming Gury’s
hidden fears. Now it was worthwhile just to wait till the poison of her words began to act
on the positive part of the Englishman’s brain.
After wedging herself deeper under the blanket, Uncle Herman’s daughter pulled
out from under her pillow the portrait of GP smothered with kisses and started to
compare it meticulously with the original. While she was comparing, the original sighed
and, suffering, gnawed his nails. Scratchy stubbles, which journalists persistently called
peach fuzz, clearly having been touched by a razor more than once already, pushed
through Gury’s chin and cheeks. Yes, regardless, the boy had grown up – no wonder he
was drawn to marriage.
A moment later Pipa had finally established the opinion that the actor playing GP
in the movies was, without a doubt, better looking. However, this Puper differed from
that GP in that he was real. There was no more magic in the one in the movies than in a
can of shoe polish.
“Everything’s clear with the client! We’ll strike while the iron is hot!” Pipa
concluded and carelessly shoved the photo under her pillow. The photo had lost its
value. The young Durneva had set her sights on the original.
“Gury,” she cooed, “let’s talk seriously! Why do you want Grotty? She’s as hard as a
sole! You need someone who understands your complex inner world: broom,
dragonball, comics, and candy with the smell of cream gone sour! Besides, you’re
already seventeen! How will this stupid Tibidox hussy satisfy your intellectual needs?
She doesn’t even know how to use deodorant! Have I told you how she sprayed
deodorant on her hair, confusing it with hairspray?” Pipa fell silent and rolled her eyes
at Puper, checking whether this detail shocked him.
However, Gury had barely even heard her. His mind was doing its own race.
Suddenly he leaped. A demonic fire burned in his eyes, testifying to either the presence
of dark wizards in the family or a fish diet rich in phosphorus. “I’ve got it! I’ll challenge
him to a duel! Poof-poof from the ring, and no John Vailyakin!” he shouted in a terrible
voice.
It was a miracle that Aunt Ninel and Uncle Herman did not wake up now, nor
earlier, when Pipa had screamed. It must have been the merit of Uncle Herman ’s cotton
earplugs and Aunt Ninel’s headphones.
It was a separate story with these headphones. Not so long ago Madame Durneva
bought the hypnosis sound track Lose Weight Along with Music. All night an
instrumental chimed in her headphones, against which a persuasive male voice
passionately whispered at a frequency of four hundred words a minute, “What a
beautiful figure you have, my dear! I haaate starchy foods... I haaate fats and carbs! I’m
sick of cutlets!” In the morning, a hypnotized Aunt Ninel thought hard before sticking
the fork in the first turkey of the day. A nervous shiver hit her. She somehow felt that the
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
4

chicken in the broth was moving its leg reproachfully as if trying to say, “Why? Where
are we going with all this?” Aunt Ninel even began to fast from lunch to teatime, which
had never happened to her before.
“Watch out, John Vailyalkin, voodoo warlock! I’ll reduce you to ashes!!! My ring
has never known a slip-up!” Puper shouted again.
Responding to his call, the dachshund One-and-A-Half Kilometres started to howl
from under the sofa. From the back room, Gratis immediately responded to it. Yes,
exactly Gratis... The werewolf did not want to return to Transylvania, even after the loss
of the staff. He liked it much more in the moronoid world. The grandson of Granny
Ryukha even intended on building a personal life and demanded that Uncle Herman put
an ad in the newspaper:
Man with rare, memorable appearance and unique moral qualities seeks full-
blooded middle-aged woman for walks together in the moonlight. Call 8-916-XXX-XX-
XX, except full moon and midday.
Gratis was especially proud that the ad did not contain a single lie. His appearance
was definitely memorable and his moral qualities unique. As for full moon and midday...
“During the full moon I... can nag unintentionally. At noon I go crazy,” Gratis explained,
embarrassed.
“He didn’t even hear me!” Pipa thought miserably, looking at Puper, who
continued to challenge Vanka with such energy, as if Valyalkin was hiding in the closet
and flatly refusing to come out.
Penelope energetically threw back the blanket, jumped up, and almost forcibly
began to stroke the raging Puper’s coarse black hair. A surprised Puper was about to pull
away, but suddenly went limp and, his back shuddering, buried his forehead in her
shoulder. To do this he had to stoop considerably. Pipa was half-a-head shorter but
twice as wide as Gury. The Englishman’s hands and forehead were cold and moist, like
those of a mermaid, but then Pipa was burning like a radiator. In general, this couple
could remind one of Uncle Herman and Aunt Ninel, but at the same time bring someone
to some ideas.
“Ohh! The bird has come to roost!” Pipa rejoiced, ceasing to be concerned about
her pyjamas. Puper clearly had no time for them.
Pipa was already triumphant, but then Gury pulled away and brusquely called out,
with the accent on the last syllable, “Pipa!” The daughter of the chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. was
startled. She was not used to such an alteration of her name in the French manner.
“Pipa, I want to ask you for something from Tanya’s childhood!”
“Why?” Pipa asked hostilely.
“I beg you! At least something small!”
“What, do I look like a piggy bank? We’d be keeping all sorts of junk! Mama threw
out Tanya’s duds a hundred years ago,” the upset Pipa snapped.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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5

“What if at least something was left? Anything suitable... It’ll help me endure being
apart,” Gury pushed. In him, as in many foreigners, naivety miraculously combines with
practicality, and sentimentality with shrewdness.
Pipa bit her lips. It had become clear to her why Gury had actually reappeared in
Moscow on the fifth day of the New Year. A vest is a vest, but business is business – a
very prudent approach. The boy with a bank account knew what he was after.
“Pipa, I implore you! I’m so miserable! At least some bib, a bottle, or a rattle!”
Puper again pleaded.
Uncle Herman’s daughter crossed her arms on her chest. “Indeed, I never thought
that it’s possible to make the great Gury Puper happy with a rattle! Yes, certainly! If we
find something, it’s all yours!” she said with the coldness of a Bosch fridge.
Turning away, Pipa jerked open the wardrobe and angrily began to rummage
through the things. Wringing his hands, Puper annoyingly hung around behind her.
After a long and fruitless search, Pipa thought of standing up on a chair and looking on
the top shelf, where Aunt Ninel kept all kinds of family treasures: the tiny boots in which
Pipa once took her first step, her first Panama hat, and a piece of Sweet Cement gum
with Pipa’s first milk tooth forever stuck in it. And here... here fortune smiled on Pipa.
She looked around at Puper, quickly glanced at his face, and, shrugging her shoulders,
said, “You’re out of luck. Ran out of bibs. But here’s a onesie... Will it do?”
“Yes!” Puper replied excitedly.
“Good. Then catch!” the young Durneva said, tossing Gury the onesie decorated
with ladybugs.
Gury jumped up and intercepted the onesie in the air with the agility of a
professional dragonball player. His face instantly became heroic, his shoulders widened,
and even his chin became enlarged, hardened, and acquired a manly cleft. “Well, John
Vailyalkin, you’re not the only one who can use voodoo magic! So you know, I’ll take
Tanya back, whether you like it or not!” he exclaimed, shaking the onesie.
Having said goodbye hastily and inattentively to Pipa, Gury had already set off for
his broom, but then... the dachshund One-and-A-Half Kilometres suddenly barked
shrilly at the window. It tucked in its tail and, thumping its claws on the parquet, ran
with determination to hide under the sofa. Pipa watched it anxiously. She knew the old
boot never panicked for nothing.
The door to the balcony flew open, letting in the frosty air. Two magnotists broke
into the room, jumping off their carpets. One was short and podgy with greasy hair. The
other, young and fidgety, with all the signs of a great womanizer, for some reason had a
piece of paper stuck to his cheek. Behind them, fingering beads on his belly, a
maglawyer was hovering on a broom. His big, hook-nosed face seemed to express
extreme generosity; however, his eyes clearly betrayed something hypocritical and
cunning.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
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6

“Phew, sank se Ancient One! Sere you are, Guwy! Aren’t you ashamed? Well, you
forced us to wowwy!” the maglawyer said good-naturedly, threatening Puper with a
skinny finger.
“Darn, they tracked me down! This is Hudson, our family maglawyer!” Gury
whispered to the petrified Pipa and quickly hid the hand with the onesie behind his
back. “I didn’t call you, Hudson! Please fly to where you came from!” he said loudly.
“Ah, Guwy, when will you stop being a child? Your aunts sent us: Aunt Nasturtia
and se oser aunt, whose kindness knows no bounds. Sey’re suffewing so... Aunt
Nasturtia has even given up sleeping after bweakfast. She bought poisonous ink and
wites se paper Ingwatitude and Its Wole in the Education of An Individual.”
“No!”
“Yes, Guwy, yes... I’m afwaid you have to come wis us! Be a man and have se
couwage to look se aunts in se eye! Better if we can manage wisout violence,” the
maglawyer said gently but forcefully. His eyes flitted over Pipa appraisingly and
immediately lost interest in her. He had little interest in moronoids.
“No way! You don’t have the right to use combat magic in this world!” Puper
became stubborn, backing away.
“GUWY! Don’t force me to get mad! Twust me, we’ll manage even wisout combat
magic!” The maglawyer raised his voice, giving a sign to the magnotists.
Puper was about to rush to his broom, but the magnotists turned out to be quicker.
Closing around Gury, they politely but very firmly seized him by the arms.
“Look us in the eye, sweet little Puperchik! Relax, nothing interests you! The boy
wants to go home to Aunt Nasturtia and the other aunt whose humanity is as big as the
ocean and generosity as huge as an elephant...” the magnotists droned on, playing with
glass spheres.
The maglawyer condescendingly stroked Gury’s cheek. “My fwiend! Twust me, sis
will be better for you! A small cowwection of your memowy and you’ll again be ours –
dear, pwedictable Puperchik, meek like a puny lamb!” the maglawyer said sweetly.
“NOOOOOO-O!” With his last effort, Puper kicked one magnotist in the shin,
pushed the other away, and, weakening from the hypnosis, collapsed on the carpet.
“Don’t let them take me, Pipa! I don’t want to forget Tanya, don’t want to forget you,
don’t want to go to nasty aunts!” he pleaded, extending his hands to Pipa.
The young Durneva, not yet completely recovered after the sudden appearance of
three grown men in her room, pulled herself together and stepped forward.
“Stay out of it, twash, or you’ll wegwet it! I can easily turn you into a Moscow pig!”
the maglawyer hissed. The pupils in his previously kind eyes disappeared. Now hellfire
was blazing there. Penelope cringed.
“Pipa, for me! I know I’m dear to you!” Gury pleaded again. With titanic effort, he
tried to stand, but was only able to get up slightly on his hands, groaning. He could not
keep his eyes open – the hypnotic magic was already doing its job.
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7

The triumphant magnotists leaned down, intending on lifting Gury up and putting
him on a magic carpet. The young magnotist with the piece of paper was already
carefully brushing snow off the carpet so that, The Ancient One forbid, Puper would not
catch cold and upset his aunts.
Uncle Herman’s daughter had decided. All her love, all the kisses with which she
had covered the frame with a photo for several years, everything yearned for retribution
now. “Hang On, GP! I’m coming!” she shouted, in this most decisive minute resorting to
the beloved name more familiar to her.
In a brilliant salmon leap, the analogy of which could be found only in the Poetic
Edda,5 Pipa grabbed Gury’s hand and pulled him to herself. Exactly the same way her
mama Ninel had once won Uncle Herman back from his secretary, who had the figure of
a goddess and the eyes of a Persian cat. Aunt Ninel had neither figure nor appropriate
eyes, but Uncle Herman, bruised but alive, remained in her full control. The secretary,
however, mmm... anyway, I will restrain myself. This is precisely the case when one says
either something good or nothing at all about people.
In surprise, the magnotists were about to let go of Gury, but almost immediately,
on coming to their senses, they grasped his feet and pulled him to themselves.
“What is sis twick? A competitor? Out of se way, girl!” Hudson said, disgusted, and,
with an unpleasant smile, raised his hand, clearly calling a spell to mind.
Pipa felt Gury’s wet palm slipping from her hands. She lacked the strength to hold
it. After all, two adult magnotists and a maglawyer were stronger than a fourteen-year-
old girl. “GP, no, GP! You’re mine! You people go away before I kill you!” Pipa yelled
through tears. With her last strength, she grabbed Puper’s hand, slipping away.
The magnotists calmly pulled Gury to themselves and efficiently began to put him
on the carpet. Pipa clenched her already empty hand and suddenly felt something hard
and cool in it. Puper’s ring had slipped off his finger, the ring of GP!
Pipa’s head was spinning. Rage, exactly like Aivazovsky’s ninth wave,6 rose in her
chest. She could hardly stand, feeling some unknown force emerging inside. The force
was so powerful that it was bursting from inside Pipa.
“Steamus releasus!” the maglawyer Hudson shouted, being the first to suspect
something was wrong.
A red spark rushed towards Pipa. But for some reason Uncle Herman’s daughter
did not see a spark but four clashing streaks. Not thinking about what she was doing and
why, Penelope mentally rolled them up and tossed them aside. Then, thrusting out her

5 Poetic Edda, or Elder Edda, is an unnamed collection of Old Norse anonymous poems, distinguished
from Prose Edda (13th c), or simply Edda, written by Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241), Icelandic historian,
poet, and politician. In one poem, Lokasenna, Loki, a shape shifter, turns himself into a salmon and
makes a bold leap to escape the gods, though unsuccessfully.
6 The Ninth Wave (1850) is a painting by Russian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900).
The title refers to the nautical tradition that waves grow larger and larger in a series up to the largest
wave, the ninth one, at which point the series starts again.
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http://emets.olmer.ru/
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8

fist with the ring clutched in it, she yelled in a terrible voice, “You all go away! Clear off!
My sweet GP! I won’t give him to anyone.” Something so terrible appeared in her voice
that even the brazen magnotists recoiled timidly, frightened of a fourteen-year-old girl
for the first time in their lives. One of them even dropped his glass sphere.
Hudson stared at his ring and shook it, not understanding why the spell had not
worked. “What did you do to my magic? Why, you fweak!” he exclaimed, surprised and
frightened at the same time.
Pipa finally went nuts. She regarded her appearance fondly. One might even say,
hyperbolically. The maglawyer, with his contempt for moronoids, had crossed the line
which must not be crossed. “OUUUT! AWAY, I SAID! Go back to your aunts!” the
daughter of the chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. shrieked.
The bloated black cocoon of hatred, accumulated in Penelope towards the
kidnappers of “sweet GP,” burst. A red beam, as bright as a lighthouse searchlight, broke
free from the clenched fist of Uncle Herman’s daughter. Neither the magnotists nor the
maglawyer even had time to jump away.
“Oh, Se Ancient One, no! She’ll kill us!” Hudson only managed to shout. A moment
later, only the magic carpet with Puper buried in it, three piles of clothes, and Mr.
Hudson’s dentures remained on the floor.
Gury sat up with a jerk. He looked no less scared than Mr. Hudson did a second
before his disappearance. “No, Pipa, that’s enough! Please, enough! No need to
anymore!” Gury shouted in horror. Pipa came to her senses. Her hand relaxed. The ring
rolled onto the floor.
Puper got up from the carpet and stared wildly at Pipa. Then he suddenly burst out
laughing, so much so that the taped-up glasses were bouncing on the bridge of his nose.
“Tremendous!!! You possess intuitive dark magic! How much of it is in you, if you
manage without spells?!” he exclaimed.
“What?” Pipa asked quizzically.
“Yes, yes... Of course, I’ve heard that magic can be awakened at any age in
moronoids or those considered moronoids, but with such force! In magic practice, such
cases are very rare, they’re entered in references, they become legends!” Puper
continued marvelling.
Penelope looked at her own ridiculous pyjamas, wiggled her big toes, and
snickered. “I possess dark magic?” she asked hoarsely.
“What did you take them down with? Not a birthday cake! Did you at least feel
something?”
“Nah... I was outraged, and then it was as if I saw four silver streaks in front of my
eyes. I mentally spun them and threw. Like nothing to throw here, not at home,” Pipa
reluctantly muttered.

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http://emets.olmer.ru/
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9

“Wow! You reflected Hudson’s attack magic, and then tossed a chaotic magical
wave of incredible power. Here look, guillotines instead of flowers appeared on the
wallpaper! Wretched magnotists!”
“Did I reduce them to ashes?” Pipa was worried.
Puper began to laugh again. “Oh, no, fortunately! Although you could have! You
yelled, ‘go back to your aunts.’ I’m sure for intuitive magic this came through as a signal
to teleport. Poor Hudson! If he hadn’t made you angry, maybe magic wouldn’t have
awakened in you... And then there’s my ring! Hudson! For such a specialist to get into
such a mess! Imagine what’ll happen when he appears in front of Aunt Nasturtia in his
birthday suit! Aunt Nasturtia, who even takes a shower in a wet suit! Let’s see!” Gury
took his broom and raked the pile of clothes with the broomstick. “Here are anti-evil-eye
vests – nothing helped. And you don’t know a single spell! Oh, Pipa! You’re wonderful!
If not for you, I’d have been sent off to my aunts, but let them catch me again! I’ll
certainly return to them, but return victorious, and that’s a big difference! See you, Pipa!
Thank you so much!” he said, picking up his ring from the floor.
Gury said goodbye, this time very warmly, gratefully pecking his wet lips on Pipa’s
cheek, and flew away on his broom, clutching the onesie with ladybugs to his heart.
“Tanya! Tanya! You’ll be mine! I feel your aura, so hot, so dear!” he whispered, already
thinking of someone else.
Pipa stood at the window, watching Gury with a look full of emotion and feeling his
kiss on her cheek. Suddenly, Uncle Herman’s daughter chuckled, extremely pleased.
Naive Puper! Did he really think that Aunt Ninel would keep pathetic Grotty’s onesie at
home? Needless to say, Pipa had shoved her own at him!

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
10

Chapter 2
Stunning Magnews

Tanya Grotter was sitting at the farthest little table in the genie Abdullah’s library.
Sensing her disappointment, the table jumped up now and then and turned one of its
fragile legs. According to rumours, all the tables in the library were enchanted princes
who once had unsuccessfully tried to marry Princess Doleful. 7 Considering that the
mentioned princess had passed long ago (her death was absurd: after laughing for the
first time in her life, she choked on crumbs), it would be worthwhile to lift the spell and
let the princes be on their way. However, the mercenary Abdullah procrastinated and,
maintaining that the library would be left without furniture, appropriated a dozen
tables.
On the table in front of Tanya lay her letter to Academician Sardanapal, in which
she requested to be transferred back to the white department. The letter had just been
delivered to her in the teeth of the angry golden sphinx. At the bottom of the letter, the
resolution of the for-life-and-posthumous head of Tibidox was featured. Sweeping
letters with old-fashioned curls, rippling like waves, informed her: Premature.
Chernomorov.
“Okay, fine! Big deal, whites! Don’t want it very much! Release green sparks, pose
as great scientists!” Tanya said loudly.
Sardanapal’s signature wiggled sternly with a stroke and melted. Tanya snickered.
She had achieved what she strove for: she had demonstrated to the academician that she
was okay with it. Now, only did she feel any better?
The first week of winter holidays was ending in Tibidox. The holidays, it seemed to
Tanya, turned out to be unusually senseless. Even New Year’s gifts were not pleasing.
Vanka continued to be mad at her. Everything seemed to be all right on the outside – he
greeted her and sometimes even smiled, but on the inside – Tanya felt this particularly
acutely – he still had not forgiven her.
Tanya fiddled with a feather: the most ordinary, almost not magical feather of
Finist the Bright Falcon.8 Many used these feathers. They could be easily detected
around Tibidox. Finist the Bright Falcon did not search for easy paths. He preferred to
fly through glass and even through knives, even if there was an open window nearby,
just a floor above. By the way, they still had not figured out to whose attic room he flew.
Some hinted vaguely at Medusa, some, more tactfully, at some mysterious maiden
incarcerated somewhere in the Tibidox labyrinths.

7 Princess Doleful, or Princess Unsmiling, is a Russian fairytale character. Her father the King promises
her hand in marriage to whoever can make her smile or laugh.
8 Finist the Bright Falcon is a Russian fairytale character, a handsome young man that turns into a falcon
during the day. His beloved’s jealous sisters stick knives in the frame of the window through which he
enters and leaves the room, thus injuring him.
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11

Tanya still persistently resorted to the inconvenient Finist feather, although she
had the former Firebird feather again. Vanka had returned it, but Tanya simply could
not touch it – the feather reminded her of her own stupidity.
Serves me right! she quickly wrote in her diary. The only time I was lucky, and I
was simply afraid to be happy. I suspected him, expected trouble every second – and
that’s it! Why did I not appreciate what was? Or have the Durnevs taught me to live
tensely all the time, to see only the bad in everything and expect a snare? Although
what do they have to do with this? I myself am to be blame for everything! Now,
holidays, and I’m sitting like a fool in the library, as if punishing myself for something!
When will I be able to finally relax and stop biting my nails?
And now Zalizina twirls around Vanka, ever so thoroughly troubled and
unhappy. Everything goes wrong for her, and, naturally, she goes nowhere without
Vanka. Her cuckoo twists a foot, she dreams of some sinister hammer, then suddenly
the wardrobe falls apart. And, of course, she must immediately run to Vanka – Vanka
this, Vanka that! I’m fine with it, I just wonder, with what spell did Zalizina manage to
smash the wardrobe? And if I also break all the furniture so that everyone will see how
I’m suffering? Well, here I am, mad at her again, and it’s stupid!
But how can I not be mad? I indeed know Vanka so well! He just wants to feel
sorry for someone. First, he feels sorry, and then he gradually becomes attached and
sort of takes on the responsibility. Maybe he also felt sorry for me then because of this
stupid birthmark on my nose and didn’t really love me? Here, I’m starting to suspect
again, what is it?
Happy isn’t the person who has grounds for it, but the one who has enough zest to
be happy with everything that happens to him, and not be tense every second, waiting
for a stab in the back. Such a person seems to be glowing from the inside! The whole
world is for him, even if he has some dead flies and breadcrumbs in his wallet instead
of money!
Okay, I’ll try to think of something pleasant. I’ll enjoy every moment of life and
everything. After all, I’ll be fourteen soon – the twenty-fifth of January... There’s a
huge difference between thirteen and fourteen. What if for some reason everything
isn’t going well with me now, that it’s unlucky for me, but when fourteen comes, then
suddenly everything comes tumbling down, huh? I wonder what gifts I’ll get. Maybe a
little happiness, for example!
“That’s it, time to cast a spell on the diary, before someone reads what I’m writing
here. Heelus partridgus.”
Tanya put down the feather and, flexing her fingers, looked around. In the genie’s
library, in spite of the holidays, life was busy. First- and second-year students huddled
in the corners – they were young, amusing, and at the same time awfully important.
Tanya could not believe that she was like that not so long ago. Some were whispering,
writing little notes to each other, drawing caricatures of teachers, or were red like
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tomatoes, nudging each other with their elbows and barely holding back from the
laughter. One was not supposed to laugh aloud in the library, but the younger students
somehow always particularly wanted very much to do something that they must not do
under any circumstances.
Other, more serious, foreheads wrinkling from effort, were studying simple spells
like Briskus-quickus or Hab-grab, trying to achieve synchronization of spell and spark.
It is not so simple, if you look at it. A second early or a second late, and everything goes
down the drain.
The fifth-year students, the elites of the school, walked around proud and puffed
up, paying less attention to students of the first four years than to evil spirits. They at
least needed the evil spirits for experiments, but the younger students were of no use to
them. The fifth-year students were no longer studying in the second semester. Before
graduation, they had to write their thesis. Of course, they should already be doing this
now, but the majority, as usual, waited until the last moment.
The most cunning and the laziest, predominantly the dark wizards, had already
begun to besiege the genie Abdullah since the end of autumn. They brought him
presents and begged him to give them a thesis already defended in the past. Maintaining
secrecy, the genie clammed up; only his warts pensively drifted, like croutons in soup,
from his cheek to his forehead and from his forehead to his chin. His asymmetrical eyes
hid indiscernibly under half-closed eyelids.
Having enjoyed to his heart’s content the torment of the poor dimwit, Abdullah
appointed the hour – usually late at night when there was already no one left in the
library but he and the applicant. The genie lit a twisted candle, the bleakest and most
suspicious form, and cast a spell – by his standards a small curse, all of a hundred
rhyming stanzas. As the verses followed one another, the floor in the library began to
shake. The tiles separated, and the inattentive graduate, whose heart was beating like
that of a sparrow caught, saw the beginning of a long staircase receding into the
darkness. Abdullah, like a ghost, rose from the floor and slowly floated along the
staircase, beckoning the fifth-year student after him.
There, in a huge dry basement under the library, thousands of coffins stood in ten
rows. The genie, in whose hand a yellowish candle light was trembling, smiled
unpleasantly, viewing his property. Then he floated to the nearest coffin and tapped the
echoing lid.
“A good thesis is, above all, a well-seasoned thesis! Isn’t that so, boy? But then,
your strong nerves are falling by the wayside, perhaps?” he asked maliciously. The
willies started to hit the underachieving student. The student paled, turned blue, but
bravely stayed in place.
“Not holding your nose? Okay!” Abdullah waited, enjoying the effect, and started to
efficiently throw back the lids. The student, already half-dead, breathed with relief. In
the coffins, theses bound in dragon skin and snake skin lay spine to spine.
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“Tsk, we’ll immediately discard those rows – too old, even before The Ancient One.
Jam-packed with forbidden spells, he-he... Here are theses on Evil Spirit Studies from
1789 to 1801. Better not use them – full of Medusa’s remarks, besides, there’s not a
chance she has forgotten something... In that black coffin with tassels are theses on Evil
Eye Removal from 1607 to 1659. It’s still possible to deal with Deni, she doesn’t go after
theory, but she’s too fond of technique. She jinxes anyone on the thesis topic with triple
evil eye – just try to wiggle out of it! Indeed, such befalls the lazy bums – they quickly
rewrite but clearly don’t read through their theses... Deni turned one into a pig, then the
whole school ate bacon – but what to do once grunted to the end? There’s no longer a
way back, if one is wrong with a spell three times...” The genie smiled insidiously, which
looked particularly ominous, because his mouth managed to crawl to his forehead, and
then to the top of his shaved head.
“Let’s move on! There, in the big oak one, Practical Magic over seven hundred
years. And still room left – there were few interested to yield to Stinktopp... Don’t touch
the board – everything’s cursed! Oh, how I miss Professor Sigmund! I don’t take into
consideration that little runt who now responds to his name... Worthless, absolutely
worthless, although sometimes something of old flickers in the little eyes. Recently he
asked me to repeat something, sheer BS, then later I spent three hours peeling myself off
the ceiling...”
Abdullah sighed and sailed farther into the depths of the basement. The student,
looking fearfully at the vaguely whitish stairs, obediently trailed behind the trembling
flame.
“Over there are seven coffins on Theoretical Magic – many defended with
Sardanapal, mainly from the whites. Though he finds fault and looks stern, everyone
knows that the academician seldom messes them up in earnest... See that huge coffin
over there? Come, pull the tassel, bravely! Didn’t work? That’s because the tassel is
phantom! And the coffin too, by the way. Here are theses on the History of Beyond
Worlds... Don’t shake like that: Eyeless Horror especially doesn’t chop anybody,
moreover if one manages and delivers it in the afternoon. I don’t advise close to
midnight. Then he not only slaughters, but also hacks and drills, and blood spatters, he-
he. And when he rattles chains – I don’t advise... Not Horror, no? For some reason I also
thought so. Then we move on – there in those rows are theses on Veterinary Magic.
Every year a new coffin has to be started. That’s because Tararakh passes easily. He
never remembers previous theses, only wonders sometimes – he-he! – about the
sameness of scientific opinions. At least he learned to read, otherwise one immediately
feels guilty fooling him! Even for me, although I have my shame having lost in dice a
thousand years ago as Lord of the genies.”
Abdullah caught his slippery nose at the back of his head and returned it to its
place. He was a gambler like most of the genies, and was willing to bet anything. He only
had little interest in gold, toad warts, bagel holes, and green corns. These are useless to a
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genie woven from fog. The soul, love, peace, and maternal tenderness served as wagers
for genies. The genies willingly played for these until The Ancient One, after winning a
victory over them and receiving the ring from the disgraced Lord of the genies, bound all
genies forever to an ironclad oath.
“Give your soul as collateral, no? Well, okay, so take it. You dark wizards’ souls are
some rotten stuff, second grade. And what to do with them now, since nothing is
possible?” Abdullah sighed and the lazy one got the coveted thesis after all.
However, the majority of the fifth-year students still wrote theses themselves
without resorting to tricks. Shurasik, though only studying in fourth year, intended on
immediately writing five theses – on Evil Spirit Studies, Theoretical Magic, Evil Eye
Removal, History of Beyond Worlds, and Veterinary Magic. In addition, he had gotten in
touch with some tiresome professor at Magford, who, according to rumours, had passed
no defending student after Leonardo de Vinci and Mendeleev, 9 and asked him for a
topic.
The surprised professor, convinced that Shurasik would not cope, gave him a topic
with a name barely fitting the page and containing no normal words understandable to a
wizard. Shurasik grabbed the topic with greed. Even his glasses fogged up with delight
and anticipation. After six weeks, the inspired Shurasik rattled off a hundred and
seventy pages of introduction and wrote a detailed plan for the remaining chapters, of
which the eminent professor also understood nothing after reading.
As a result, the soul mates found each other, and now Shurasik, one and a half
years before graduation, had received an invitation from Magford graduate school. As
was customary in Magford, it was engraved on a piece of granite, which, due to its
incredible weight, two teams of twelve cupids dragged across the ocean in shifts.
At the same time, as an unofficial load, the same brisk cupids picked up for Tanya a
letter from Puper and a basket of roses. The frustrated Gury, having left Tibidox as early
as the first day, saying goodbye to no one and not even staying for the festive dinner,
now did not mention a word about it. He informed Tanya in a bombastic manner that he
loved her as before, and that he was absolutely convinced that they would soon be
together. Puper’s letter left a two-fold uneasy feeling in Tanya. On the one hand, she was
flattered that Gury had not forgotten her. On the other hand, it looked like Puper had
thought of something and would now go persistently to his goal.
“Ah, Puper, Puper! You’re good, and comely, and you have a fine broom... But
you’re just not Vanka, and that says it all!” Tanya thought.

***

9 Dmitrii Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907), Russian chemist and inventor, formulated the Periodic Law
and created Periodic Table.
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15

Before dinner, Tanya nipped off to check on Goyaryn. After leaving the double bass
at the entrance to the hangar, she pushed open the heavy gate. She met none of the
dragon-handling genies. The Tibidox dragon was in deep hibernation. Curled up, he was
lying on straw protected from fire with a spell. The outside of his scales were covered
with ice. This did not scare Tanya. She knew that in a state of deep sleep, the fire in
dragons goes out completely. Their body temperature drops, and they can lie motionless
under the snow for many weeks, months, and in exceptional cases even centuries,
resembling more blocks of ice than lizards blazing sizzling heat. The cold blood of
dragons gradually warms up only in spring when the sun peeks out.
Tanya stroked Goyaryn’s nose, which always reminded her of the double bass case.
“Don’t be bored, old trunk! May you dream all sorts of amusing dreams as creaky as
yourself! Until spring!” she said.
Tanya Grotter left the hangar when Goyaryn stirred in its sleep and opened its eyes.
A network of cracks covered the ice on its neck. Not waking up, the dragon took a deep
breath and once again placed its heavy head on the straw.
Tanya closed the hangar gates. The deep snow covered the huge dragonball field up
to the knee. A cheerful path of bunny tracks ran along the icy surface to Forbidden
Grove. It was calm and sunny. The sky, usually low, cleared up and was so glaringly blue
without impurities that if one drew such a sky in a picture, critics would consider it
unnatural and false. Meanwhile, it was a most real sky. The snow shone so that the eyes
watered.
Tibidox seemed flat, as if cut out of a giant piece of rough cardboard. The bird
10
Sirin was sitting on the oak, smiling enigmatically. Its powerful curved claws amazingly
did not match the soulful and beautiful female face seemingly coming from murals.
Tanya was about to approach the prophetic bird and ask it to predict her fate, but
changed her mind. She was a little afraid to know everything in advance; besides, Sirin,
by no means fed a vegetarian diet, was not indifferent to raw meat.
Tanya had already passed by when Sirin suddenly gave a start and uttered:

In love, you will find pain,
If you won’t betray, then you’ll pass the way.
All money is a lie, all gold is delusion,
No fee more important than blood.
When the time comes to pay –
Only life is the one price for all.
When the head is on the block,
10 The Sirin is a half-woman half-bird creature of Slavic mythology. It is a dark bird associated with the
dark force and the underworld, a beautiful bird-woman with a bewitching voice. It is loosely based on the
Sirens of Greek mythology, the three bird-women that, using their enchanting music and voices, lure
mariners to shipwreck on the rocky coast of the island where they live.

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16

Forget self – look for the word.
When a thief steals from a thief –
The prophecy will soon be fulfilled.

Tanya Grotter looked around uneasily. She thought Sirin was probably addressing
someone else. But there was no one else nearby. Sirin was silently looking with
detachment at the sun. It could spend hours looking at the sun and never blinked.
Gloomily contemplating the vague prophecies, Tanya set off to the nearby hangar to visit
the young dragons.
“Oh, why is it so easy for me with dragons and so hard with people? No, somehow
I’m not like that after all. Somewhat wrong. Maybe I should have been born a dragon, a
tiger, or a dog, and I was only born a person by mistake? Such depressing mistakes do
happen!” Tanya thought, remembering the lecture by a visiting Eastern wizard, whose
name was so long that only the genie Abdullah could remember it whole.
Mercury, Ash, Sparkling, Flamethrower, Smoky, and the other sons of Goyaryn, in
contrast to their famous father, did not hibernate. They were too hot for that. No frost
could cool their boiling blood. Eagerly waiting for the genies to bring them mercury and
take them out to fly, they were roaring, biting, jumping, bumping with their chests,
striking each other with their wings, releasing jets of smoke mixed with fire, and beating
their tails on the resonant hangar walls.
After popping in, Tanya coughed from the acrid smoke and hurried as quickly as
possible to get out. The young dragons did not distinguish friend from foe very well and
immediately attacked anyone who was careless enough to catch their eye. This was
exactly the reason Nightingale so willingly used them in training and never put them out
as “gates” in serious games.
Despite the freezing weather, the Tibidox team practiced daily. Nightingale never
said this out loud, but all the same everyone somehow knew that in May or June the
Magciety sports committee should set a date for the Tibidox-Invisibles rematch.
Petitioning for this, Sardanapal had flown to Bald Mountain several times.
The final agreement of Magciety on the match had not yet been received.
Deathless, Tistrya, and Grafin Cagliostrov invented one excuse after another. However,
hope still remained. “Medi, I would like to know what they’ll come up with to refuse us.
Seems to me I’ve made provisions for everything. They’ll have to think really hard!” the
academician repeatedly said anxiously.

***

After sitting on the double bass and uttering Speedus envenomus, Tanya realized
she had completely forgotten about lunch. When she rushed into the Hall of Two
Elements, the tables had already been laid. The fellows from the chest, identical in face,
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had spread out the tablecloths long ago, and now, each, with a towel slung over an arm
like a lively waiter from a roadside tavern, obligingly stood still at the faculty table.
Gottfried Bouillon was gnawing a huge ham, dashingly destroying it with the help
of his teeth and a curved Turkish dagger. On principle, he did not use forks or spoons,
finding them not manly enough. The Great Tooth, sipping a glass of red wine, looked
hopefully at her militant husband. Tararakh, although more ancient in years but already
somewhat civilized, went after slippery dumplings with a fork. Vanka, observing him in
secret, was chuckling. He realized that if the hunt continued to take place with the same
effectiveness, the pithecanthropus would get up from the table hungry.
Slander Slanderych piled up on pancakes with sturgeon. Occasionally, he took to
rotating his pupils menacingly, grunted, and teleported the sturgeon from the pancakes
to the mermaid. The pancakes themselves were of little interest to Milyulya. At most,
she would have enough imagination to stick them on the bald spot of a male water-
sprite.
The baby Stinktopp also sat at the faculty table, in the very spot that Professor
Stinktopp had occupied previously. Now they transplanted him here so that he would
not get into a fight and there would at least be some opportunity to supervise him. But
even under supervision, Stinktopp managed, giggling, to throw cutlets at the senior
students, and cast spells on them so that, on hitting the target, the cutlets would return
to him, leaving no evidence.
Fooling around, the baby Stinktopp completely forgot about lunch. Even the spoon
he used more as a catapult to fling potatoes. Finally, Tooth, desperate and tired of
making remarks to Stinktopp, each of which was the last, resorted to the help of the
fellows from the chest. The fellows had to feed Stinktopp forcibly. One affectionately
held his hands and the other, dexterously working a wooden spoon, stuffed him with
kasha in sheep’s stomach, according to Sobakevich’s recipe.11
Sardanapal and Medusa, for some reason, were not there. Their empty chairs at the
table looked disturbing. Earlier, the academician had missed lunch only in exceptional
cases, such as when he sat cooped up in his office guarding Mad Glazier or trying to
solve the riddle of the Vanishing Floor.
The students whispered, trying to guess or at least read on the other teachers’ faces
what it might mean. Not daring to scan any of the teachers, Yagun tried to mirror
Gottfried Bouillon discreetly, but it turned out that Gottfried’s wife had secured him.
Yagun met such a thought block from the Great Tooth that his nose almost crashed into
the fruit jelly.
“Well then, don’t! Sneeze your own secrets to each other! I don’t need them for
anything!” the playing commentator decided angrily.
11 There is an ancient Russian dish called niania, which is very similar to the Scottish haggis but replaces
oats with buckwheat. This dish has fallen out of popularity since the end of the 19 th century. In Dead Souls
(1842) by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809-52), the landowner Sobakevich serves the protagonist
Chichikov such a dish.
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Tanya snuck to her own table. Bab-Yagun, Vanka, and Rita On-The-Sly, who were
sitting with her, looked content. Today, the chocolate tablecloth had fallen to their lot,
and they turned up their noses theatrically, trying, besides chocolate, to summon from
the tablecloth the eighth kind of ice cream in addition to the seven that the tablecloth
generously shared. At neighbouring tables behind them, those with the radish tablecloth
and the semolina kasha tablecloth watched enviously. The possessors of the salad-waffle
tablecloth and the donut tablecloth remained neutral.
“Hey, Tanya, what are you doing? Just think, to be late for such a tablecloth!” Bab-
Yagun shouted cheerfully, already recovered from the embarrassment with the
unsuccessful mirroring. “And don’t buy it if the dingbats from the eighth table of rolls
propose an exchange! They put a spell on them and now look to dump them on
someone!”
“Hmm... Tuzikov tried, his cheeks puffed up like a hamster! Of course, it’s
convenient to keep stock, but girls don’t like it,” Rita On-The-Sly added with her mouth
full.
Vanka alone said nothing to Tanya, only smiled with detachment and wished her a
good appetite. Tanya wanted to shove the stubborn fellow’s nose into the chocolate and
then kiss him so he would not sulk anymore, but instead she too smiled politely and
wished Vanka “the most wonderful appetite and excellent digestion.” After exchanging
banters, both peacefully got into the chocolate cake.
After lunch, everyone split up. Bab-Yagun sped to Seven-Stump-Holes to look at
the new dragonball catalogue sent from Bald Mountain. “I’m buying nothing, you’ll see!
Just looking with one eye!” he said to Tanya.
Tanya Grotter chuckled. By the fact that Yagun began to make promises all of a
sudden, she was already willing to bet: the playing commentator would buy a good third
of the catalogue, spending all the bagel holes given to him on New Year’s Day. In about
three weeks, when these non-burning ointments, fireproof nozzle for the vacuum, jet
balls for training, and accelerating tincture of hemlock to add to mermaid scales turned
up, Yagun would again beat his chest, spit and swear that he would immediately set off
for Bald Mountain, find the one who sent out catalogues, and force him to eat all this
rubbish, stuffing him with pieces of the catalogue.
Vanka ran off with Yagun at the same time. He went to Tararakh to check on the
chimera,12 whose lion roar and goat bleating gave all of Tibidox an earful every night. It
seemed to the Cyclopes, having the habit of dozing off while on watch, that evil spirits
were attacking. They began to run around the school with axes, blocking the top of the
stairs leading to the basement.
The chimera, its snake tail not wanting to heal, had settled down quite well with
Tararakh. It had already killed a boar and nearly devoured the Firebird, so the

12 According to Greek mythology, a chimera is a fire-breathing hybrid animal composed of the parts of
several different animals.
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pithecanthropus had to put the chimera in a cell. Tararakh was unhappy with this. He
believed that all magical beings should live free. Moreover, rushing to the bars of the
cage, the chimera inflicted wounds on itself, which Tararakh had to treat.
The only person whom the chimera treated well was, oddly enough, Vanka. When
he went to Tararakh’s den, which the odours and the clutter had long since turned into a
menagerie, the chimera stopped growling. Its four eyes located on the muzzles – the
lion’s and the goat’s – one by one did not tear away from Vanka as long as he remained
in the den. While the powerful Tararakh had to resort to the help of the Cyclopes when
he bandaged the chimera, Vanka managed alone and without any help. The chimera
willingly allowed the agile, slender teenager into its cell and did not rush at him even
when he put searing ointment on its wounds.
Sometimes, when the chimera was beginning to get agitated, it was enough for
Vanka to focus and roar mildly, imitating its voice. The goat’s head fearfully drew in its
ears at once, and the lion’s head blinked and looked at Vanka with respect, as at its own.
“Well, you... don’t be too much of a hero. It’s still not clear what this cornstalk has
in its head, in what ear it catches stuff...” Tararakh growled with pride for his student.
“See, you have such magic in the blood that animals easily let you near. Were there any
animal-language wizards among your relatives?”
“Who knows? Father only trained dogs on the frontier when he served in the army.
Then, even when he started drinking, he sometimes crawled home on all fours, and all
the same no dog would growl. And the dogs in our town, oh ho-ho!” Vanka said
sparingly and no longer answered any of Tararakh’s questions.
Vanka did not like to talk about his relatives, although quite often – this Tanya
knew precisely – he sent cupids to find out how they were doing there. News that the
winged babies brought was often upsetting. Sometimes, after hearing out the latest
cupid, Vanka was silent for two days. In general, he was secretive and suffered hurt
feelings for a long time, unlike Bab-Yagun, who could quarrel to death and instantly
make peace about five times a week.
“You, brother, don’t be sad. Don’t be angry at your father... Fathers, they come in
all sorts. My father was in fact a cannibal, until the guys from a neighbouring tribe ate
him for no reason. It was such a time. You’re a little careless, and – voom! And grandpa
was a cannibal, and great-grandpa...” the pithecanthropus said reassuringly, placing a
hand as heavy as a ham on Vanka’s shoulder.
“Were you a cannibal?” Vanka asked.
Tararakh shuddered. “No, it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t,” he said firmly.
“Did you try?”
“It was something to do with hunger... You eat and the pieces stick in your throat.
You think: did his mother give birth to and nurse him so that he would fall into the pot?
No, I thought, better to starve than to eat human flesh. And here, I didn’t die after all.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
20

Somehow I struggled through spring, and then this dragon turned up,” the
pithecanthropus recalled with reluctance.
Tanya also would gladly drop by to see the chimera, but she did not want Vanka to
think that she tagged along behind him like a tail, like the dachshund One-and-a-Half-
Kilometres behind Aunt Ninel on a walk. Therefore, instead of following Vanka, she
turned to the Main Staircase, but she did not stop on the Residential Floor and began to
climb higher. It happened spontaneously, without a second thought. Tanya wanted to
get up to the attic and, if the guard spell let her, sneak up to the roof to look again at the
arrow that pointed in the direction of Bald Mountain.
Endless steps jumped in front of her eyes, she was getting short of breath, and soon
Tanya was already sorry that she had not flown on the double bass. She was already high
when she suddenly heard voices on the stairs. Someone was coming down towards her.
From the sound of the voices, Tanya realized that it was Sardanapal and Medusa.
Tanya did not want to see Sardanapal after his Premature. She was convinced that,
when confronted face to face with her, the academician would definitely launch into a
tedious explanation, and considering that Medusa was also nearby with her sharp
tongue and piercing eyes, it would be doubly intolerable. To go down would be stupid –
she had already climbed almost five hundred steps.
Tanya quickly ran to the nearest landing and dived into a nook between the marble
figure of a girl with a pitcher and a narrow window ledge. Only a person with the
imagination of a woodpecker could call this place ideal. It was difficult to spot Tanya
from the stairs, but it was very easy from the landing, one only had to turn one’s head.
Tanya realized it almost immediately, but it was too late to change her hiding place. The
voices already sounded very close.
“I don’t like this at all... Slander discovered the loophole just yesterday, and it was
only in the morning that he and Deni were able to patch it...” Professor Gorgonova said,
concerned.
“Medi, I wouldn’t call it a loophole. Did you see the edges of this breach? Such an
impression that Grail Gardarika simply broke. Spontaneous magic, monstrous power...
It wasn’t even an attack spell, I’m sure.”
“I don’t believe in spontaneous magic. Sometimes Grail Gardarika agrees to admit
a wizard who doesn’t know the spell but in whom it sees no threat. Puper, for example...
But to break it this way, offhandedly, like some plastic cap... Impossible!” Medusa dryly
objected.
“Medi, sometimes your scepticism touches me. It’s not impossible to be a wizard
and believe in miracles less than moronoids do. Remember the four-year-old kid who
broke the three-brick thick prison walls with the power of thought alone. He did this
because the next day his witch mother was to be burned at the stake and the kid missed
her very much... I’ll even name him for you. Sigmund Stinktopp. By the way, it was
precisely after this incident that he came to Tibidox.”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
21

Medusa had almost gone from the landing, but suddenly she turned around. Her
red hair hissed. Dark scales flashed with a silver spark. The outer tresses turned into
snakes.
“Grotter, what are you doing here?” Medusa asked coldly.
“Standing,” Tanya said. It seemed to her that she saw a snake’s forked tongue in the
mouth of the furious Gorgonova.
“Eavesdropping?”
Tanya flared up. She did not explain to Medusa that she simply had not wanted to
meet Sardanapal. “I didn’t know that I have to plug my ears in the presence of teachers.
Next time I’ll do that. At the next Evil Spirit Studies class,” Tanya stated.
“Grotter, how dare you talk back to me?” Medusa snapped. “Grotter, stop! Where
are you going?” But Tanya had already slipped past them and ran up the stairs.
“Tanya, wait!” the academician yelled after her, but the baby Grotter had already
soared up two flights. She raced and howled on the run, stumbling and jumping over
several steps at once.
“What insolence! It’s appropriate that she’s in the dark department... Nasty,
contentious girl!” Medusa said.
The for-life-and-posthumous head of Tibidox shook his head. His pensively
drooping moustache perked up and jumped, angrily tapping his glasses. “Medi, you
behaved badly with her first! The girl wasn’t eavesdropping. She was walking towards
us. I think I suspect what’s wrong with her,” Sardanapal announced reproachfully.
“Who acted badly, me? She’s fourteen and I...” Medusa caught on and added
vaguely, “...and I’m a bit more. In general, it’s enough that I’m an associate professor of
a faculty and she’s a simple schoolgirl!”
“It’s precisely because she’s fourteen, and because she’s just a girl, that we must be
forgiving!” Sardanapal said.
“You surprise me, Academician! You’re coddling your Tanya Grotter! So why didn’t
you transfer her to the white department, if she’s so wonderful?” Medusa asked
jealously.
“I couldn’t, Medi! Tanya isn’t yet a dark wizard, but she’s also no longer white.
She’s somewhere between conscious good and natural evil, who acts in the heat of the
moment and doesn’t think. She’s like a scale, leaning in one direction or the other. Had I
left her in the white department, the other side of the scale would have tipped and she
would already have become dark forever or would have become one of those white
hypocritical wizards, which Magciety is full of. Those wizards, who think that they’re
entitled to everything and for everyone to decide only because they avoid red sparks.
There was far more humanity in Professor Sigmund Stinktopp than in all those
pompous truth believers combined! Now, perhaps, Tanya has a chance to become white
once again. It’s small, but still there.”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
22

Tanya stood for a long time in the attic by the purple screen partitioning the access
to the roof. Tears flowed down her cheeks. The screen crackled. Its sound reminded
Tanya of the sound of a thick cellophane package being crushed. It was evident that no
spell could lift it. Slander and the Great Tooth, well versed in black magic, were clearly
more powerful than the student newly transferred from the white department.
Surprisingly, when the abyss of despair, into which Tanya fell deeper, became
absolutely abysmal and even the black stone teeth at the bottom had shown up to her,
Theophilus Grotter’s ring warmed up. A bluish thread of light detached from it and
buried itself in the far wall. On one of the stones, which hardly anyone would glance at
without special purpose, old but still discernible writing had turned white: Cheer up,
Leo! We’ll still show fate a quick flip!
Tanya smiled through her tears. It seemed to her that her father had extended an
encouraging hand to her through the years. “Cheer up, Leo! We’ll still show fate a quick
flip!” she repeated.

***

When Tanya came back, Coffinia Cryptova, the weird girl of the dark department,
was spinning around the room in a good mood, waltzing with the skeleton Dear
Tonianno and giggling foolishly with happiness. On the new red bedspread of her coffin-
bed lay a deck of cards. The king and queen of spades were lying separately, surrounded
by colourful dancing tens, jacks, and aces.
On seeing Tanya, Coffinia unceremoniously let go of the skeleton, which
immediately crashed right in the middle of the room, and ran to her.
“Grotty, did you see? I laid out the cards! Puper will be mine! You can now remove
your grasping hands!” she cried.
Tanya looked at the cards attentively. “Why did you decide that Puper is the king of
spades?” she asked.
“Then what is he?”
“He is, at the most, the jack of diamonds. The English were never spades, not their
suit... The king of spades – that’s Slander... And then, are you really the queen of
spades? The queen of spades is Medusa or Deni, and you’re clubs,” Tanya said.
Coffinia frowned. Tanya’s words hit the target. True, Cryptova had already cheered
up again after a second. She had an inexhaustible supply of cheerfulness. “Stop acting,
Grotty! Go marry either your bore Slander or a darn baldy! My Pupie is spades, I just
know it! His eyes are black, isn’t that enough for you? And the cloak is also black! He’s
so thoroughly cute! And throw him overboard/Into the mounting wave!” Coffinia sang.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
23

She loved altering songs. Here and now Cryptova obviously appeared in the role of
Stenka Razin;13 Puper, though, wrapped in a colourful shawl, clearly got the unenviable
role of the Persian princess. Then Coffinia did not remember the words of the song, so
quickly called it a day.
“Plop – and no Pupie, in short. Money alone left,” she explained and, collecting the
cards, took the zoomer out of the closet.
The magic dish trembled, blurred, and fumbled to find the long-nosed witch with
the opaque cornea in its otherworldly depths. “Greetings to you, jerkies and cursers,
wizards, maglawyers, maggals, magcesses, and magvixens!” she started to rapid-fire.
“On air is the Latest Magnews and anchor Nagiana Pripyatskaya! I hope you’ve all
rubbed your zoomers with a cloth? If not, how will you see my tan, I ask you? I was gone
for a whole week! Oh, you dorks, nitwits, and birdbrains, did you not miss your sweet
Nagianie? No? Have I really cast spells on you and turned you into zombies in vain for
the whole year? Here’s how nasty and wicked I am! So I’ll get married forty more times
and never divorce, what a baddie I am! And all these holidays, be they awkward!
Allegedly, one’s supposed to rest, so I had a rest. I was on Bald Mountain, skiing. They
say there were still pines which I didn’t hit with my forehead! And not one scratch, keep
in mind! That’s what it means to have solid principles and reinforced concrete morals!
“And now, so be it, let’s see what we have new in the world. Strangely enough, quite
a lot of news. It seems that most of the bad wizards simply did not want to go on winter
holiday. The bank in Maglion14 was robbed. Toad warts and green corn were untouched.
Perseus’ mirrored shield,15 allowing anyone who owns it to remain immune to any kind
of magic, was stolen. In defence of the bank, previously considered impenetrable, a deep
breach was made, through which the attacker penetrated into the bank and left it
unnoticed by the genie security. Magciety still cannot reach a consensus of how this
daring crime was carried out.
“Uncle Sam immediately blamed global wizardry for everything, seeking to
undermine the rate of green corns. But Uncle Sam isn’t believed too much, because his
accusations often suspiciously precede the execution of the crimes. Sam himself explains
this with the outstanding abilities of his Pythia...16

13 Stepan Timofeyevich Razin (1630-71), known as Stenka Razin, was a Cossack leader who led an
uprising against the Tsarist government until he was captured and put to death. However, he became a
symbol of peasant rebellion, and has thus remained in Russian culture and folklore. He is the hero of a
popular Russian folksong, the lyrics of which Coffinia altered. In the song, to prove to his men that he has
not gone soft after his marriage, he throws his new bride, a Persian princess, overboard.
14 Maglion – the magic world Heraklion, the administrative capital of the island of Crete.
15 In Greek mythology, Perseus, a great hero and slayer of monsters, beheaded the only mortal Gorgon
Medusa with the help of a polished shield. Since Medusa’s eyes could turn people into stone, Perseus
looked at her reflection in the shield instead.
16 The Oracle of Delphi, the Pythia, was the name of any priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The
Pythia sat on top of a tall gilded tripod while uttering the oracle. The name Pythia was derived from Pytho,
the original name of Delphi, referring to the place where the dragon Python’s rotting corpse lay.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
24

“An exhibition of the sculptures of Heraclitus 17 of Miletus18 opened in Magmitage.19
The uniqueness of these sculptures, created more than two thousand years ago, is that
they’re completely invisible and intangible. Art critics have been arguing for several
centuries whether they really exist. Some claim that the sculptures don’t exist, others
that they do, and a third that the sculptures existed but were stolen in the Middle Ages
and are now in the collection of Koshchei the Deathless. Deathless himself denies
everything. However, for more than three hundred years he also denied the abduction of
Vasilisa the Wise20 and only recently admitted that he had ‘borrowed’ Vasilisa for some
time for conducting a class of ‘bone-pricking’...
“And finally, one more piece of stunning magnews! Usually gentlemen protect
ladies, but this time it happened the other way around – the lady, or rather the girl, not
only defended her beau, but also literally ground his assailants into powder...
“It all began like this. Aunt Nasturtia, a British relative of Gury Puper, was drinking
Pipton21 tea together with another aunt, whose kindness scares even Wii, when suddenly
in front of them teleported three very unusually dressed, or rather unusually undressed
men. Aunt Nasturtia and the other aunt were so shocked that at first they beat them
with their umbrellas, and only then recognized in the three their own maglawyer,
Hudson, and two magnotists of Puper’s bodyguards.
“As it turned out, the maglawyer was able to discover the trail of Puper, who
escaped a few days ago from his coach, and almost returned Gury to the aunts; however,
he had to deal with Pipa Durneva, a girl from the moronoid world. Mademoiselle
Durneva, incidentally the daughter of the notorious chair of V.A.M.P.I.R., with powerful
magical impetus catapulted Puper’s pursuers from her apartment, where Gury was
apparently hiding. Few can defend their love so convincingly! According to the law of
Higher Magic, which had never been broken since 1198, a teenager displaying magical
powers cannot stay with the moronoids any longer and must be admitted to one of the
schools of magic. Since Pipa is Russian, this school of magic will most likely be Tibidox...
“In conclusion, the aunt, whom even Wii is rather afraid of, looked at the
magnotists with her kind blue eyes, and they immediately went looking for another job.
The maglawyer Hudson was graciously forgiven and escaped with only delicate pricks of
the umbrella. True, he had to kneel for four hours and write six hundred and sixty-seven
written promises that he would find the runaway in the nearest future and return him
safe and sound to the aunts.

17 Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Ancient Greek city
of Ephesus.
18 Miletus was a city of Ancient Greece.
19 Magmitage – Hermitage of the magical world.
20 Vasilisa the Wise, also called Vasilisa the Beautiful, is a character from a Russian fairy tale. As well as
being beautiful, she is very skilful in needlework.
21 A joke on Lipton tea.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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25

“Ah, ah, what love does! I remember that I once lost my head... However, this topic
is not for daytime news. See my evening broadcast About this and that. The revelations
of a witch. Don’t worry about children under eighteen – spells have been cast on
zoomers.”
Nagiana Pripyatskaya released a red spark and a tall crystal goblet appeared in her
hand at the same moment. “I raise this glass to the new star flaring up on the magic
horizon! The inimitable Pipa Durneva! Hip-hip, hooray!”
Coffinia brushed the image of the witch with the opaque cornea off the zoomer and
put it in the closet. “Did you hear, Grotty, do we have a rival? Such a distinct girl! Knows
nothing about magic, but completely blew away a maglawyer and two adult magnotists!
Not bad, huh? A maglawyer is still okay, so-so, but the magnotists probably crammed
combat magic for some ten years! Hmm, this one will bend the very Plague into a ram’s
horn for Puper,” she stated.
Tanya stared blankly at the closet. It seemed to her as if she had been whacked on
the head with a club. Pipa in Tibidox! Intuitive magic had shown up in Pipa, who had
been as thick as a brick all her life and only knew how to have fun by playing dirty tricks
on everyone!
Cryptova looked searchingly at Tanya. Although Tanya was silent, it was difficult to
hide anything from Coffinia. “Something’s bothering you, Grotty! You’re probably
tickled pink that your sister is coming to Tibidox?” she asked in a sweet voice. “But how
happy I am! I feel Pipa and I will become friends. And Nagianie likes her. Look at how
kindly she treated her. Nagianie has always been able to spot a good person.”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
26

Chapter 3
Pipa Durneva and Her Eight Suitcases

The chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. Herman Durnev walked around the room, as dour and
angry as Eyeless Horror on shackling night. Count Dracula’s boots were on his feet, a
sword on his belt. A crown gleamed silvery on his pale forehead. Gratis and One-and-a-
Half-Kilometres warily watched Uncle Herman, one from the couch, the other from
under the couch. They had become accustomed to that when he put on all this vampire
ammunition, it was better not to mess with him.
Pipa stood in the middle of the room, hands on her hips. Her cheeks were red and
her eyes puffy. She was arguing with her father.
“No, no, no! I will never allow it! Only over my dead body!” the former deputy
thundered.
“Papa, I beg you, don’t make me choose!” Pipa squeaked. “Don’t force me to make
you a corpse! I’m going all the same!”
“How dare you talk this way to Father, I ask you?”
“I’m scared, you put on the crown! I’m downright trembling all over! And yet I
dare!” Pipa tried to stomp both feet at once, but it turned out as just a ridiculous,
spiteful jump.
“Silence!” Uncle Herman shrieked, jingling the spurs. “Do you know who I am?”
“How? I’m seeing you for the first time, man! Anyway, you’ve got nothing to scare
me! I don’t need your money in the bank!” Pipa snorted.
The regalia of the vampire Lord and the social importance of Durnev did not make
an impression on her. She had been used to pushing her papa around since infancy,
when she blatantly tried to saw off his head with a pin from a rattle and wiped ice-cream
stained hands on the pants of his business suit.
“WHAT? How dare you?” Uncle Herman howled, turning from mauve to purple,
and from purple to blue.
“How dare you not let me?! I want, want, want to study there! I want to and I will!”
“As you want, so you’ll change your mind!” Uncle Herman stated categorically.
After glancing quickly at Papa, Pipa realized that stubbornness would achieve
nothing and decided to change tactics. She theatrically sagged onto the floor and began
to cry with tears cold and oily like yesterday’s chicken broth.
“Ahhh! Papa, oh please! I’m begging! Look how bad I feel here! I beg you, dear
Papa, don’t shatter my liiife, ahhh! Or I myself will shatter your liiife!”
Uncle Herman, still bubbling like a kettle a moment ago, stopped short. Worms of
doubt stirred in his chest. He even felt remorse. “Why is it you feel so bad here?” he
asked suspiciously. “Now stop crying! How is it possible? Honey, all these tears are the
source of all my trouble! You think I’ll give in?”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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27

“You’ll give in like a dear!” Pipa thought and started to sob twice as loudly. It was a
spluttering, shrill, battering-the-ears, tormenting-the-nerves wail – the secret weapon of
Pipa. The furniture bounced, the chandelier rocked. Uncle Herman grabbed his ears.
General Cutletkin, on the other side of the wall, reached out to the safe, where he had
hidden a personal pistol. He wanted to shoot himself.
Then Pipa took a deep breath and put more pressure on.
Poor Uncle Herman! He could never grasp that when his daughter wanted to go
somewhere or demanded something, it was wiser to yield. Intuitive magic is intuitive
magic. Pipa’s was unique, awakening, like a volcano in moments of fury.
Pipa sobbed, with each new trill triumphantly making sure that she would fly to
Tibidox. Three hours ago, an invitation from the magic school had been delivered to her,
an invitation signed intricately with flourishes by Academician Sardanapal, and now
she, skilfully using the carrot-and-stick approach, was manipulating her obstinate papa.
Slander Slanderych, having personally flown over for Pipa, sat in the Durnevs’
kitchen, drinking coffee (which he called caffe in an old-fashioned way)22 and watching
TV with disapproval. He liked neither news nor movies. After muttering something
about stupid moronoids, Slander began to click the remote control. Suddenly, he
blinked, puffed out his cheeks, and stared eagerly at the screen. He came upon a show of
a new collection of swimwear, which could not be more timely, given that it was
January. If his Milyulya could see Slander at that moment, then she would just scratch
his eyes out from jealousy. When the swimsuit show was over, the stern principal of the
magic school shook his head, driving away the delusion.
“Phew! It’s probably moronoids and nothing else. They’re even very attractive.
Only no one has a fish tail. If a woman is without a tail, then what kind of woman is this?
How does one swim with her, for example? Besides, she doesn’t know how to splash
mud,” he decided and, finally becoming fully convinced of the superiority of his
Milyulya, peered carefully into the living room.
The puffy-eyed Pipa winked at Slander, and the principal understood that a
strategic victory had been won. Moreover, Aunt Ninel was already packing suitcases
quickly. Moral suffering did not prevent her from acting quickly and deftly. Seven
suitcases were already prepared, and now Aunt Ninel was jumping on the eighth and the
last, trying to convince it to shut. The suitcase steadfastly resisted, despite a more than
sound argument.
Uncle Herman, already softened and yielding inside, was chiding Pipa to write to
him every five minutes and even more often, and Gratis, also a being not without some
magic after all, butted in with his comments. “Don’t hobnob with white wizards. You
won’t learn evil from them. Don’t poke a stick in a dragon’s nose. And the very first
thing, take care of the ring they give you. It’s, that ish, for life,” he warned.

22 The word coffee came c. 1600 from the Italian word caffe, which was from the Turkish word kahveh.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
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28

Seeing that the farewell was dragging out, Slander sighed and, having returned to
the kitchen, started to cast a spell on the TV, hoping to get back to the swimwear show.
He already realized that he still had to hang around at the Durnevs’ for a long time. On
the other hand, he could not simply abduct Pipa, as had happened with the others. After
all, Uncle Herman was chair of V.A.M.P.I.R., and the relationship between the vampires
and the wizards had always been strained. So Slander had to come to the Durnevs and
introduce himself to them quite officially.
True, it happened at dawn, at approximately four in the morning. The Durnevs
were unceremoniously pulled out of bed. But there was nothing to be done about that. It
was difficult for wizards to understand the nuances of moronoid time.
In the first minute of hearing that they intended on carrying his Pipa off to some
magic school and separating her from her parents, Uncle Herman was enraged and tried
to set the sword of his ancestor on Slander, but, being transformed into a goose for five
minutes, he restrained his zeal. Besides, Pipa herself wanted with the tenacity of a
battering ram to go to the magic school, and indeed Durnev could just do precisely
nothing about that.
Finally, the packing was completed. Suitcases piled up like a mountain at the
balcony door, for some reason suggesting the idea not of rocks but of an impregnable
fortress. The principal had by then been on the balcony for a long time, and was
anxiously patting the hard side of the pommel horse on which he and Pipa had to get to
Tibidox. It certainly was not the fastest means of transportation, but for beginners,
especially one as awkward as Pipa, it was the most suitable. The young Durneva would
definitely fall off a vacuum because of unfamiliarity, and Slander himself, to tell the
truth, was not a big fan of flight. He would teleport with great pleasure, only
teleportation was too dangerous a mode of travel for inexperienced wizards. Pipa could
do something wrong and simply disappear from the face of the earth.
Uncle Herman was suffering, clinging to his daughter’s sleeve and rambling. He
negotiated that he would fly to the school and go to classes with her. “You cannot forbid
me this! It’s my moral right!” he stated to Slander.
The principal shrugged. “Yes, please, whatever. If your desire is to set your
daughter up for ridicule, fly. Only Grail Gardarika doesn’t favour vampires. It will crush
even on approach,” he stated.
“I’m not a vampire! Just let it dare!” Uncle Herman argued; however, he wisely
refused the flight to Tibidox.
If Uncle Herman rushed from one extreme to another, then Aunt Ninel approached
business with her usual practicality. “Pipa, child, don’t forget the Taser! If someone
starts to pester you, just Taser him,” she advised her daughter.
“Be sure to take it. Where can you go without a Taser? Eyeless Horror, Wheelchair,
and Lieutenant Rzhevskii haven’t had fun for a long time. There will be happiness

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3463868.Dmitrii_Aleksandrovich_Emets
29

indeed. Normal wizards drive them away with Briskus, but Pipa Durneva with a Taser,”
Slander muttered in hushed tones.
Pipa, dressed in a pile of sweaters and jackets, climbed onto the pommel horse and
sat down on it importantly, puffing out her cheeks with dignity. Slander wanted to utter
the flight spell quickly, but Aunt Ninel clutched his sleeve. “The suitcases? You forgot
the suitcases!” she said in alarm.
“I’ll cast a spell on the suitcases. They’ll fly behind us,” Slander said reluctantly and
muttered something, tying talismans to each suitcase.
The time had come for hugs, farewells, sobs, and wet kisses on the cheek. A proper
line formed to Pipa. Mama, Papa, and Gratis – the latter, it was difficult to say on what
rights – squeezed, kissed, and hugged her. While one was saying goodbye, the other two,
not having access to the beloved body, rushed to Slander with a request to take care of
the girl.
“I beg you, don’t forsake her! She’s so helpless, so vulnerable! We’ll pay you
monthly! What’s convenient for you: in an envelope or by credit card?” Aunt Ninel said.
Slander, who could rob all the moronoid banks of the world with only a thought,
looked at Durneva with ennui and no longer yearned to escape. He was on the brink of
insanity. Uncle Herman’s family was almost the only place on earth where the stern
principal with his eye-drill was not only not feared, but also clearly held as an errand
boy or a restaurant doorman.
Whining with emotion, Gratis squeezed Slander’s hand so many times that in the
end, the distraught principal was simply shaking his hand in the air like an epileptic.
“I’ve always liked you! You’re so awwwesome!” he said languidly into Slander’s ear.
Recovering himself, the principal hurriedly climbed onto the pommel horse and
instructed Pipa to grab his belt. “Stay behind me! Don’t look down! Don’t let go! Don’t
scream loudly! If you’re scared of heights, just close your eyes!” he ordered. “Pilotus
kamikazis! Oyoyoys smackis thumpis!”
Two sparks flashed – red and green. The principal of Tibidox could not establish
himself in any one form of magic. His ring, cranky from uncertainty, never knew what
kind of magic would be demanded from it from one moment to the next and therefore
was ready for anything, even almost voodoo. The pommel horse rose in the air with
difficulty, drooping with the load and the slow flight spell.
All of Pipa’s suitcases, and even the dachshund One-and-A-Half Kilometres, took
off behind the pommel horse. The pooch was paddling and yelping contentiously. It did
not like to fly. It, in general, related negatively to everything that did not involve food or
sleep.
“One-and-A-Half Kilometres, where are you going? At least you’ll stay!” Aunt Ninel
wailed. She hastily grabbed the dachshund and, pressing it to her mighty chest, tore a
talisman off its collar.

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Slander Slanderych, by whose negligence the talisman was on the collar, grunted
apologetically. He had been somewhat distracted; besides, from the back the fat
dachshund looked like a woman’s handbag.
“Bye, Papa! Bye, Mama! I’ll write! Hey, why have we stopped? Slandych, fly!” Pipa
shouted impatiently, like a taxi driver, slapping the principal on the shoulder.
Slander Slanderych flinched. He could not stand familiarity, especially from
fourteen-year-old girls. Pipa had already so tenaciously, like a tick, clasped him around
the waist that he immediately regretted that he had advised her to hold onto him at all.
“Slandych, what’s with you, are you frozen?! Ramp up your engine!” Pipa shouted
again.
The principal released one more spark and the pommel horse quickly flew against
the wind, surrounded by a whole horde of suitcases. In less than a minute, it was already
invisible, no matter how the Durnevs cupped their eyes with their hands.
“That's it! How will we be without Pipa now?” Aunt Ninel said, sadly dabbing her
eyes with the dachshund.
“Don’t worry, Pipa can handle it! You forget whose genes she has,” said the retired
deputy and now the modest Lord of the vampires, pathetically biting his lips.
But Aunt Ninel was inconsolable. “Pipa, what do we do without you? Who would
remain with us?” she sobbed.
“But-but, no need, that ish, for this! I don’t like it! I’ve remained with you!” Gratis
declared indignantly. Suddenly he staggered, his eyes clouded over, and the werewolf,
after finding the pillow, berated in a tragic voice, “Have you prayed tonight,
Desdemona?”23
Uncle Herman did not even look at the clock. He was accustomed to the midday
demon always taking up residence on time and without delay.

***

The next morning a cupid flew to the Durnevs with the first letter from their
daughter. Aunt Ninel, not accustomed to how magic mail worked, almost fell off her
stool. However, she presently recovered so much that she found the strength to pour,
with shaking hands, half a bag of jujubes for the mail carrier squeaking with impatience.
The cupid left satisfied and from excitement almost made Aunt Ninel fall in love with
the confectionery king Bezyukin, a guy with an ulcer two floors above, who was staring
glumly at media samples of a new chocolate.
Mama, Papa, greetings! Pipa wrote. The flight was okay. In the end, I so annoyed
Slandych with my questions that he almost jumped into the ocean. And when we
reached the island, Slandych handed me some ring (cheap, wouldn’t give more than

23 This is a line from Act 5, Scene 2, of Othello (c. 1603), a tragedy by William Shakespeare (1564-1616),
in which Othello wrongly accuses his wife, Desdemona, of adultery before strangling her.
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31

thirty for it) and said, “Say Grail Gardarika, but say it loudly and confidently to make
it clear that you have every right to be here.”
So I yelled that I’m sorry, maybe? I was even slightly freaked out that I may not
be allowed on Buyan. Too bad you didn’t see what happened then! Rainbows flashed,
lightning sparkled, red dots rushed about, and in fact there was more rumbling than
when Isadora learned to drive a tank and accidentally blew up a gas station with the
cannon. It almost blew away Slandych, it tossed the horse up and then instantly down.
Imagine Slandych standing near a drawbridge, his knees shaking, face blue, and he
says to me, “Yes, I see, you have every right to be here!”
Now, about the school itself. Such a huge castle, you’d walk for a hundred years
and wouldn’t remember what’s where. One tower is worth it – you look down and the
roof isn’t visible. True, the facilities are primitive: no decent bath, no normal toilet,
everything is kind of ancient, and everything runs on magic.
To get water to flow from the tap, you have to say Fallus waterfallus. But in the
shower, you have to say Tricklus splatteris. I messed up and said Fallus waterfallus in
the toilet, so the water-sprites came running to save me then.
Now get this! Although Tibidox is huge, everyone lives on the same floor. By gad,
the architecture! They put me in a room with a girl whose name is Rita On-The-Sly.
Moronic last name, I don’t like it. She started to defend her rights when I filled up the
room with my things and slightly moved her and her junk. She said to me, “What’s this
here, you’re going to open a store? Can’t wrap my brain around it.” I told her, “Don’t
wrap your brain, stretch it along the brainstem!”
Well, we squabbled a little – locked horns from seven in the evening and started
to squabble until midnight. In the end, even the Cyclopes came to see what happened.
Well, freaks! Imagine Cutletkina, but without the Special Forces and Mercedes,
overgrown with matted hair like a moulting mutt, dressed in pelts, and with a single
eye in the middle of the forehead. Visualized? And now enlarge what you’ve got by
two. In short, I got a terrible fright: I scratched the whole face of one and kicked him in
the shin. True, he didn’t particularly feel it, didn’t even sense it! I went really nuts and
screamed at them at the top of my lungs like at Puper’s magnotists. Glass shattered,
and not just glass. Basically, the Cyclopes fled from me on all fours...
Then Rita had a great respect for me. She realized that she was not driven out of
the room after all. What do you know, when we talked normally, it turned out she’s a
cool girl. Reads Tarot cards, keen on spiritualism, talks with the dead... Cool! Papa,
tomorrow night we’ll summon Ivan the Terrible, Joseph Stalin, Count Dracula, and
your other relatives on the little things. I’m curious to ask what they think of each
other.
Ah, yes... I forgot to say: there are only seven suitcases. One didn’t make it. The
talisman, uh, untied on the way. Haven’t figured out which, because not everything is

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unpacked yet. That’s all, Papa, Mama, bye! I’ll get out to you somehow on holidays.
Dump that stupid Gratis on someone until I return.
Your Penelope.

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Chapter 4
Pipa, the Girl with Bread-and-Salt, and Zhikin the Lover

Zhora Zhikin sat in his room and, attaching to his forehead a heavy copper coin
with the snub-nosed profile of Tsar Gorokh, 24 leafed through his notebook. The
notebook was the most ordinary, from the moronoid world, teleported from the
Stationery Store in Syzran city, which the first handsome man of Tibidox once flew past
on a mop with a propeller on the way back from vacation.
It was only later, when Seven-Stump-Holes stuck his nose into the notebook, that
Zhikin cast a spell on it, and by doing so, without uttering the special spell, the book
instantly turned into an old glove, winking sadly, to the delight of schizophrenics, with
kind and intelligent eyes placed on each of its fingers.

From Zhora Zhikin’s notebook

January 8.
19:00. Date with Coffinia (crossbones drawn in the original).
19:00. Date with Rita On-The-Sly (ROTS).
Darn! Overlapped again! Wonder how am I to get out of it?

January 9.
21:00. Date with Verka Parroteva.

January 10.
Victory! Katya Lotkova scheduled a date in the old cemetery in the morning.

January 11.
Waited at the cemetery until dawn. Almost turned into an icicle. Ran around the
monuments and fell into an empty grave. Lotkova never came. She says that, while
dreaming about meeting me, she accidentally fell asleep and slept all night, seeing me
in her dreams. Flattering, for crying out loud!

January 12.
20:15. Date with Dusya Dollova.
Pimple appeared on my cheek. Can’t squeeze, new ones will instantly appear.
Dangerous to use Zitbristlis mortale! Pimple will disappear, but dog hair will begin to
grow in its place. Disaster! Tomorrow I’m on sick leave! In a pinch, I can go on a date
with Parroteva, but when it gets dark. Parroteva loves mystery.

24 Tsar Gorokh is a fictional character from Russian folklore. It is used in expressions as a reference to
time immemorial.
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January 13.
20:00. Date with ROTS. Intending on kissing.

January 15.
Almost kissed ROTS. The girl who now lives in the room with Rita thwarted it.
She always barges in without knocking. Her name is Penelope Durneva, but she
demands that we (even Medusa – surprise!) call her Pipa. She looks like a toad in
profile, but is arrogant, sure of herself, and the best dressed of everyone here. Some of
the girls fawn over her, though she’s no good in magic. They say she’s a relative of
Grotty (that’s bad), but her dad is the Lord of the vampires (that’s cool).
She came to Tibidox recently. I heard Sardanapal telling the Great Tooth that
they probably have to deal with Pipa and the baby Stinktopp individually. Pipa’s too
old for first year (she’ll finish off everyone there), and Stinktopp is too young.
Here I thought: maybe also ask her on a date? Although she kind of says that
she’s in love with Puper and he with her. But half of Tibidox also claims the same. And
what do they find in this Puper? He’s some kind of abnormal, like a dusty bag. He’s
indifferent to everything except Grotty and his broom. Decided: I’ll ask, I’ll just wait a
bit. If you quickly get together with two girls from the same room, they’ll instantly
blab to each other. Proven!

January 16.
KISSED ON-THE-SLY! TRIUMPH! SHE LOVES ME! THOUGH A LITTLE
THING, BUT LOVELY (two hundred and twenty-two exclamation marks follow next).

January 17.
ROTS kissed me. Success!
The teachers are kind of concerned. I don’t really know what’s going on with
them there, but they’re terribly freaking out. Slander was twice summoned somewhere
from class. The Cyclopes have been stripped of all time off and are forced to patrol the
island at night. One can no longer slip out of Tibidox now, simply some kind of siege.
Every time you have to explain how, where, why. I’m already tired of all this stupid
mystery. On the island! Not a month without troubles!

January 18.
ROTS kissed me again... Hmm, enough, perhaps? I don’t like girls that are too
pushy.

January 19.
On-The-Sly ran after me all night. Derailed a date with Cryptova and Dollova.
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January 20.
ROTS came to see me when I was kissing Dollova. Both started shouting and
releasing sparks. Slammed everything in the room at me. It was a nightmare. Why
can girls never be friends normally? That’s what I don’t understand. Well, I kissed
another, so what? Why scream as if your purse was stolen?

January 21.
On-The-Sly is keeping watch at the door of my room. Promptly changed all entry
spells so she could no longer barge in. This way she still knocks, even with her feet!
Someone save me from On-The-Sly! I’m sick of her! Ahhhh!

January 22.
Went to the genie Abdullah. Begged him to help me. He laughed so hard that his
eyes slid to his chin. But then promised to arrange it after all so that On-The-Sly will
fall in love with someone else. Abdullah hinted that he knows the spell (of course,
banned), when a girl falls in love with the first guy she sees... But what if she sees me
first and falls in love twice as strong? Then all is lost! No, decided – lock myself in my
room and sit cooped up.

January 24.
Abdullah didn’t disappoint! Victory! Rita loves Kuzya Tuzikov! And he did it! All
the time either he falls from the broom or a dragon swallows him. Now here’s On-The-
Sly! I’m free and happy!
Tried to date Grotty just for fun. She refused. Besides, I feel that it’s not that she
despises me – she doesn’t even despise me, but I simply don’t exist for her. And it
especially infuriates me. What does she fancy herself, a beauty perhaps? Girls like her
are a dime a dozen!
15.00. Kissed Dollova.
16.00. Kissed Cryptova.
17:00. Kissed Parroteva.
And not a single pimple! Here it is, the long-awaited freedom!

January 25.
Tatiana’s Day. The whole school has fun, even the teachers all surely shed three
hundred years. If not for this stupid mystery with Tibidox, it would have been quite
nice. So they set up a bunch of guard spells. Every night someone runs into them. One
day, even Sardanapal himself hit one. Then for three days, he was flashing like a
traffic light.

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Today Grotty hit fourteen, although she already looks a good fifteen. The whites
gave her a lot of gifts. A self-humming gusli, 25 non-losing checkers, and a whole
carload of all kinds of lucky talismans and baubles. Tanya was so happy that she even
cried. Not used to such attention, obviously. Even Cryptova got emotional and gave
Tanya the heel from seven-league boots. But she’s not without intentions, for sure. Just
think, Grotty nails this heel to any of her shoes, and then takes a step – one of her legs
would be seven versts26 from the other.
Only Pipa didn’t give Tanya anything. “Say, all my things are too new and
fashionable. You’re not used to such things after all.” And Grotty said to her, “In order
that your things fit me, I’d have to tie a piece of bacon on my tummy and a cushion
behind.” Easy to see, they’re sisters...
In my opinion, Grotty still hasn’t made up with Vanka. They talk, but somewhat
strained. It’s clear even to me that Vanka loves her, and she him. They love but don’t
trust. In a word, weirdoes! In fact, Grotty isn’t quite right in the head, I noticed this
long ago. Not a person but a hedgehog of some sort, with principles instead of spines.
If you don’t lay hands on Puper, pocket his money and then date either Vanka or me.
No, better she goes Plague knows where and sulks about Vanka.

January 26.
YAAAAY! Another heart is broken in pieces! Lotkova agreed to a date. At 2 in the
morning in the attic of the Tower of Ghosts. Finally! Poured so much cologne on myself
that Slander Slanderych showed up and stated that he smells that I was drinking in
the room!!! Totally swollen! Himself a drunk! (The words in italics are encrypted and
protected by double spells in the original.)

January 27.
Sat in the attic all night. Lotkova never came, though I waited for her till dawn.
The ghosts rattled chains, cried, moaned – I almost hung myself from melancholy. At
about four in the morning, Unhealed Lady arrived and all the other ghosts quickly hit
the road. They fear her more than Eyeless Horror. That one can scare you to death,
but Lady exhausts your entire soul. She announced to me that she was going to leave
Rzhevskii, because he refuses to wear the admiral’s uniform. She came to an
agreement with (but I think, simply harassed to death) some old admiral who
drowned some three hundred years ago in the depths of the sea. The admiral gave
Rzhevskii his uniform, but he doesn’t want to wear it. Only agrees to stick the
admiral’s dagger in his back, but Lady is against it.

25 A gusli is the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument.
26 A league is an old unit of length common in Europe and Latin America but no longer in use. There is
no standard of measurement for a league. In Russia, the seven-league boot is called the seven-verst boot.
A verst is a Russian unit of distance measurement equal to about two-thirds of a mile.
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Fell asleep in the day during Evil Spirit Studies – and while sleeping, the water-
sprites, which Gorgonova let loose on the whole class, almost strangled me. After class,
I myself almost strangled Lotkova. She claims that she was waiting for me in the attic,
but... in the attic of the Big Tower. Nice, dammit, I enjoy success, yea, whatever!
In my opinion, Kuzya Tuzikov is happy! Saw him today: walking with On-The-
Sly, holding hands! Well, downright Romeo and Juliet! Dorks!

January 28.
Dreadful Day! I’m writing, but my hands are shaking. Kissed Cryptova. Gunya
Glomov caught us. I don’t understand how I escaped. I raced through the corridors
like a hare, with Gunya after me. Barely managed to dive into my room. Good that the
entry spell is robust, or he would have knocked down the door. I trembled behind the
door, and he beat it with his fists and roared like a bear.
Well, Coffie, what a trick she played on me! When Gunya came in and still didn’t
understand anything, I wanted to jump back, but she hung onto my neck especially,
and then even laughed loudly! She isn’t afraid of Glomov and generally disregards him
– doing to him what she wants. On the other hand, it’s indeed Cryptova dragging
Glomov from year to year. She spurs him on, writes, prompts. Until she came to
school, he could only remain in second year. And now, he’s already in fourth. Here,
you try to understand these girls!

January 29.
Continuation of nightmare. Cancelled all dates. Didn’t even go to class. I’m in a
state of siege. Sit locked in the room, with Glomov kicking the door and shouting that
he wants to perform plastic surgery on my nose.

January 30.
Today I inadvertently decided to go to Removal of Evil Eye (but what could I do:
if you’re absent, Tooth will cast some spell on you), and right at the door of the class, I
ended up in Glomov’s paws. I tried to escape, but can you really break free from him?
Gunya almost went wild with happiness. He grunted, “All right! Only keep still! It’ll be
painful, but fair!”
I closed my eyes, in order to not be scared. I waited, waited, and then quietly
opened one eye. I looked, and Pipa and Cryptova were hovering near the doorknob.
Both were cooing, downright best friends. Gunya was all smiles, even lowered his fist.
“Let him go, Gunya!” Coffinia said. “Look, Pipa, it’s Zhikin, our Tibidox attraction.
Those who aren’t in love with Puper are all in love with him. And if he were as rich as
Puper and flew on a mop a bit better, absolutely all would be in love with him... And
you, Glomov, take heed: if you harm his nose, history won’t forgive you for it, as I

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won’t help you in exams.” Glomov let go of me and only kneed me from behind. Now I
have to write standing up.
But Pipa didn’t say anything, only stared at me with great interest. Definitely will
ask her out. I’ve already decided.

February 1.
What a night! Lotkova set a date for 3 am at Sinister Gates. Waited for her there
from three to dawn, played cards with the Cyclopes for noogies. I wish I hadn’t done it
– the whole forehead in bumps, almost made me a moron. Gates were shaking all the
time – first heated to nearly red-hot, and then so icy cold from them you’d freeze. The
Cyclopes say it’s not good when Chaos rages so. When this occurs, something is bound
to happen. As long as I’ve attended this dorky school, something always happens here.
And in the morning came a horrible, vile betrayal! It turned out, while the
Cyclopes were knocking my brains out, the treacherous Lotkova was riding on a
vacuum with Bab-Yagun! Here, trust girls after this! That’s it, I’m done with Lotkova!
Hate those more devious than me!

February 2.
Court Penelope Durneva. Smiled at Pipa through History of Other Worlds, and
even before the bell sent her a little note to ask for a date. I still have about five notes
from the batch that I prepared from carbon copy. The text is already there, I only
needed to write in the name and time.
Incidentally, Eyeless Horror was out of sorts today. He was so furious that he
almost pelted the class with his innards. Can’t figure out which is dumber: he or his
jokes. Probably full moon soon.
Good news: finally made peace with Gunya. Drank with him an infusion of the
roots of overpower-grass.27 Both deeply moved. Gunya asked me to call him Gunie. It’s
a name he himself came up with and is awfully proud of. He said: if someone goes
after you, just tell me. In any case, I snitched on Seven-Stump-Holes to Gunya. I never
liked this character... Well, that’s it, time to go! Running to meet Pipa!

Zhikin put down his pen, approached the mirror, and, looking at his swarthy face
with pleasure, began to rehearse the phrase: “Hello, little one! You look great today!”
With this phrase, which Zhora considered flawless in every respect, he hoped to win
over Pipa on the spot.
The incorrigible Tibidox philanderer did not know that at that moment, Pipa, in
turn about to go on the date, suddenly felt a vague anxiety. Her heart sweetly skipped a

27 In ancient Slavic belief, the root of overpower-grass can protect against all illnesses and bewitch
someone to fall in love. A shepherd’s flock will not separate after eating it. The grass is said to grow near
rivers, about elbow high, with white leaves and yellow flowers tinged with red.
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beat. Pipa swayed. Her soul was drenched with honey. Cupids in red, wide suspenders
danced in her eyes. Oddly enough, the girl’s heart would not be misled here; the swarthy
handsome Zhora had nothing to do with this dance of the cupids. Pipa just closed her
eyes, and another immediately appeared in front of her – a prim and upright young
Englishman in a cloak, with kind eyes and without a single pimple.
“What is it with me? Ah, I got it! Puper got my onesie and is bewitching it with
voodoo magic. Pity I didn’t ask him for some cloak or even old glasses in exchange. I
would’ve asked Rita or Abdullah, and we would’ve caught him with reciprocal magic,”
Pipa thought fondly.

***

February, February... A cold blizzard circled around Tibidox, swept away thoughts,
swept clear the heart. Slander Slanderych raged and found fault with the students for no
reason. Homework was such that a good half of recess was gone just to write it down.
Often an evening was not enough to do everything.
In addition to homework, Slander ordered the senior students to work on making
heavy magic chain mail. Close to seventy basic spells, and then about a dozen more,
were required to be cast onto each of the thousands of links.
Seven-Stump-Holes, Verka Parroteva, and Gunya Glomov got depressed and asked
to go back to the moronoids. “Not to the moronoids, but in two shakes to Sinister
Gates!” Slander told them with a wicked smile, a special mermaid cologne, in smell and
essence – a mixture of fish oil, earwax, and Molotov cocktail, coming from him.
Even Shurasik, who was almost impossible to overload, was indignant, and
proposed to rename Protection from Spirits to Protection from Slander Slanderych.
True, this did not prevent Shurasik from weaving for himself, aside from the chain mail,
even magic pants and a magic chain mail sun hat for the warm season. When Slander,
doubting Shurasik’s diligence, took it into his head to check it, it turned out that
Shurasik had cast on each link not even seventy but a hundred and twenty spells.
The Great Tooth, with no memory of falling in love with her awakened handsome
man, remained in a strange absentminded state. She smiled vaguely out the window,
forgot the theme of the lesson from time to time, and no longer cast evil eyes on the
students with her previous zeal. Students even began to skip her classes, something that
was simply not possible earlier. But then, when Verka Parroteva foolishly blurted out
that Gottfried Bouillon was as scary as a crocodile, it took Yagge half a day to save her
from the almost irreversible curse. Verka was coughing and spitting as if choking on
something. “I don’t know how it happened... I really just wanted the girl to take her
words back!” Dentistikha said guiltily.
Eyeless Horror, as often happened with him in winter, carried around complete
rubbish and mixed up all the centuries. Sometimes, especially after moonlit nights,
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when he rattled his shackles, Horror forgot his brain in the basement and then simply
stood silently, drilling the wall with the fiery abyss of his eye sockets.
Sardanapal’s lectures, fortunately for the students, were still as easy as before. He
assigned lessons sparingly, giving preference to compositions on topics related to magic
ethics and horoscopes of various historical figures such as the kings Charles IX 28 and
Louis XIV,29 the tsar Ivan the Terrible,30 and the Byzantine Emperor Constantine
Porphyrogenitus,31 with the majority of whom the academician was personally
acquainted.
Medusa Gorgonova decided it was time to move to joint spells and briefly informed
the fourth year about them without further clarification. At first, no one was particularly
stressed. The students reluctantly wrote down the long and tedious spells with hazy
meaning and studied even more reluctantly. Medusa did not pick on them, only smiled
mysteriously. As it turned out, she was simply waiting for practical studies. When they
finally began, everyone just howled.
“Joint spells... Okay, I think, since we survived Slander, we’ll survive this! And she
let loose bogeys, poltergeists, and noon witches 32... You fight them off, but ghouls climb
from under the floor. Oh, my granny mama, someone shoot me with Kaput youfinitut,
so I won’t suffer!” a scratched Bab-Yagun told the younger students excitedly.
It was cheerless in Tibidox, but outside was even sadder. The Cyclopes walked with
poleaxes in the snowdrifts, boots creaking. In fur caps and sheepskin coats, these
Russified Greeks33 looked ridiculous. Their big Greek noses froze sadly and frost covered
their frostbitten tips. The Cyclopes sighed sadly, remembering the vineyards and sheep
herds of their native land.
Occasionally, the Cyclopes were reinforced by the shock troop of thirty-three
heroes and went around the island of Buyan along the coast from the northern to the

28 Charles IX (1550-74) was the king of France from 1560 to his death. Trying to bridge the hostility
between the Catholics and the Protestants, he ordered the marriage of his sister Margaret (1553-1615), the
last member of the House of Valois, to Henry of Navarre (1553-1610), a major Protestant leader and future
king Henry IV of France.
29 Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France, the Sun King, with his reign of over 72 years, was the longest reigning
monarch of a major country in European history. During his reign, all of Europe admired France for its
military and cultural successes, power, and sophistication. French also became the universal language of
the European elite.
30 Ivan Vasilyevich (1530-84), Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, was the first ruler to be crowned
as Tsar of all Russia. During his reign, Russia increased its territory to almost one billion acres. He was
also a patron of arts and trade, highly popular among the common people, but remembered for his harsh
treatment of the Russian nobility.
31 Constantine VII (905-959), Constantine Porphyrogenitus (Porphyrogenitus or Porphyrogenetos was an
honorific title in the Byzantine Empire given to a son born under the right conditions after the father had
become the emperor), is best known as a scholar. Most of his reign was dominated by co-regents.
32 In Slavic mythology, a noon witch, also called Lady Midday in English, is a noon demon that appears in
the middle of hot summer days and assaults folks with heatstroke and aches, even madness.
33 In Greek mythology, the Cyclopes are a primordial race of one-eyed giants.
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41

southern outpost, checking the integrity of the magic safeguard. Cracks and breaks
appeared regularly now. They were huge, with jagged edges, as if someone invisible,
zipping past outside the dome at night, showered it with blows of monstrous force. No
magic could withstand that.
The for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox, the Honourable Academician
Chernomorov, usually accompanied the troop on a magic carpet, as he had been
suffering from gout since 1405. He sometimes doubted whether it was 1405 AD or BC.
Because of gout, Sardanapal disliked walking on snow. His long beard, which Medusa,
according to Babylonian custom,34 at times braided into many plaits, fluttered in the air,
and the colourful moustaches with icy tips fluffed up and whistled in the wind.
The moustaches served Sardanapal as a reliable magic scanner. When approaching
a place where there was a break in the dome, they began to quiver and rotate quickly.
Sardanapal hung onto the carpet and carefully examined where his moustaches pointed
with their tips. Then he flew up closer and fingered the edges.
So it also was on the day when Zhora Zhikin, handsome and loving himself,
prepared for a date, Puper made his way with the onesie to a witch famous in England
(about that a little later), and Pipa dreamt of a great and pure love.
On this very day, in the morning, Slander Slanderych was wading through deep
snow. The Cyclopes loomed behind him and the thirty-three heroes – the main army of
the island of Buyan – bristling with long spears, were moving behind the Cyclopes.
Dubynya, Usynya, and Gorynya were trudging in the distance and whining that they
would be done for.
After the recent scandal, when the golden-horned deer 35 began to disappear in the
forest and Usynya paid with a silver hoof to buy alcohol on Bald Mountain, Sardanapal’s
patience snapped and he dismissed the three of them, simultaneously casting a spell of
sobriety on them. Of course, the hero-bouncers did not leave Tibidox and, tired of the
prolonged sobriety, milled around nearby, making use of every excuse to catch the
academician’s eye and bang their foreheads.
“Unbelievable! Come here, Slander! How can I trust others when I don’t trust
myself?” Sardanapal exclaimed, feeling the edge of another crack.
“I would chop off their hands! It could be anyone!” Slander stated glumly.
“I doubt it,” Sardanapal shook his head.
Slander grimaced. His flabby face trembled like jelly. The bags under his eyes
swelled up spitefully. “Why? Are you trying to trust honesty again, Academician?”
“Of course, there’s no life without trust... Without trust, we’re all puppets, movable
ludicrous combinations of molecules, muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and chaotic
overflows of magic. If everything’s as sad as you say, then it is necessary to envy the

34 The Babylonian men wore their beard long in elaborate ringlets and tiered patterns.
35 The Golden-horned deer is a legend of the Lapland symbolising the sun. Greek mythology also has the
Golden Hind, a doe with golden antlers that can outrun an arrow.
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42

ghouls, who have already escaped from this empty fuss. If there’s trust, you walk from
world to world, opening doors wide and igniting new stars, like a lamplighter lighting
lanterns.”
“You’re a romantic, Academician!” the principal said reproachfully.
“And you’re an old killjoy, Slander!”
The principal flinched. “Me old! I’m younger than you by I don’t know how many
thousands of years!”
“Nonetheless, you’re a crank... infinitely old and perhaps even mouldy. If not for
your love for the mermaid, you’d be completely hopeless. Even then, this love is,
perhaps, the credit of the cupids. And you only poison it with jealousy,” the academician
sighed.
Slander looked anxiously around at the heroes and quickly counted them with his
eyes. Having ascertained that everybody was in place, he took a deep breath of relief.
Even Pushkin, once visiting Buyan, later wrote about the heroes as young handsome
men and bold giants.36 Over the past two centuries, the heroes had changed little,
perhaps matured a little bit. In addition, like a mermaid, the heroes spent most of their
time under water. Not surprisingly, Slander was terribly jealous of them because of his
Milyulya.
The head of Tibidox and the principal were silent, each thinking his own thoughts.
The heroes, having moved up, stood in a semicircle, leaning on their spears. Their
helmets gleamed. The heroes looked at the Cyclopes condescendingly. Had Uncle
Chernomor37 given them the order, they would have tied them up in a minute.
“The Cyclopes are like the police, but the heroes are the army,” the Great Tooth,
having once lived for several years among the moronoids, said at times. She now liked to
hit the road for a couple of days to Moscow, to Bald Mountain, to Rome, or to Paris, not
seeing any special difference between these places. “Except that the attitude is a little
more cordial on Bald Mountain,” she elaborated.
Some time later, the magic breach was patched. Sardanapal blew on the red-hot
ring of the Lord of the genies.
Slander, after carefully looking around the snow, again approached the
academician. “No traces. Actions of outside magic also aren’t observed inside the dome.
It seems that the one who struck the blow is still on the outside,” he said.
“Let’s go back to your question, Slander,” the academician said. “I can literally
count on my fingers the wizards capable of such concentration of magic. Besides, here’s
evident use of an ancient magical object.”

36 In the Tale of Tsar Saltan (1831), a narrative poem by Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837), the
33 heroes from the sea are repeatedly described as bold handsome men and young giants, all alike and all
the very best.
37 In the Tale of Tsar Saltan, the 33 heroes are under the leadership of Uncle Chernomor, from which
Sardanapal’s last name, Chernomorov, comes.
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43

“Again, really, She-Who-Is...?” Slander started anxiously. Sardanapal looked at
him, and the principal broke off.
“It’s hardly worth blaming everything on the dead old woman. As far as I know,
Plague-del-Cake has long been in the Hereafter. Her magical powers have nearly dried
up, and the only thing of hers left is hatred.”
“If not Plague, then who? Who may need to punch holes in our magic safeguard?
And why? What may be the point in this?” Slander quickly asked.
Sardanapal’s moustaches twitched accusingly. “Too many questions and too few
answers. Sometimes I think I suspect who it might be. Only he alone in the entire world
owned a magical object of the power required. But I’ll not be certain until the end, so
perhaps it’s better to refrain from speculation. Or I’ll have to commit the worst evil in
the world – accuse an innocent.”
“Innocent? What, this someone was an angel before?” Slander asked snidely.
“He didn’t do anything reprehensible before and enjoyed my deepest respect.
However, then our paths diverged, but still I find it hard to believe that he could
change... That’s why I won’t even tell you his name. Anyway, until I have evidence...”
Sardanapal nodded. The greatest of the white wizards climbed onto the carpet,
straightened its icy folds, uttered the flight spell, and quickly flew to Tibidox.
Slander drilled the academician’s retreating back with his eyes for a long time, until
the carpet became a tiny dot. Only then did the principal turn away and mutter softly,
“The old ass! He knows something but keeps quiet...” Slander wrapped himself in his
cloak, turned on his heel several times, and teleported. The heroes and the Cyclopes
reluctantly trudged through the deep snow to the school.

***

In the evening, a cupid flushed from the frost drummed on Tanya’s window.
Shivering from the cold, Tanya pushed it open. Coffinia was still awake and immediately
stared at Tanya with an evil curiosity. Wings fluttering, the cupid shoved at Tanya an
envelope with the Magford arms and a bouquet of roses resembling a snow-covered
broom. After completing his mission, the cupid began to beg for cookies.
“Discouraging Puper again?” Coffinia asked dryly.
“Not again, but anew,” Tanya proclaimed, after settling with the cupid and seeing
him off.
While Tanya was unsealing the envelope, Coffinia decisively seized the bouquet of
roses and began to shake the snow off it.
“I don’t understand, Grotty, why are you always without money? You could open a
flower shop. Or let Puper send you bagel holes instead of roses. Write him: send money
and I’ll buy flowers here. Wonder if he knows that there’s never anything in your
pockets besides cookies for cupids?”
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44

“Sometimes I think about it. In terms of money,” Tanya said sadly.
Coffinia giggled. She went to Page and casually set the bouquet between the ribs of
the skeleton. Then she stepped back and admired the result.
“Pity that stupid Puper doesn’t send flowers in pots. They would last longer.
Besides, it would be something to throw at him. Anyway, Grotty, admit that there’s
something banal about roses! For my taste, mums are better. My papa always brought
the mums from the cemetery...” This revelation did not surprise Tanya much. Coffinia’s
father worked as a funeral director and, in addition to the name, gave his daughter a
unique sense of humour.
After opening the envelope, Tanya Grotter moved away with the letter to the
window.
Tanya! My letter has a big secret! I beg you! No one must know that it is me!
Not being able to resist, Tanya snorted. “Yeah... It’s instantly obvious that the
letter’s secret. In a Magford envelope and with a bouquet of roses... Level of disguise –
twelve points!” she thought.
We need to meet. I have to tell you something important. Now I’ll drink a glass of
grog, sit on the broom, and I’ll fly all night. I hope I won’t turn into a snowman (I hope
you appreciate your Russian humour?). At five in the morning, I’ll wait for you at the
sacred grove. The grove that you showed me, when I lived in Tibidox.
Your Gury.
Nine additional little hearts were drawn at the bottom of the letter – four on one
line and five on the other. When Tanya glanced over them, the hearts huddled and
began to jump on the sheet. “Tanya” lit up on an upper heart and “Gury” on a lower.
Tanya chuckled. For some reason she had no faith in colourful postcards, little
hearts, dolls in lace, porcelain dogs, ships in bottles, and other similar souvenirs. She
was somehow closer to Vanka’s calm and restrained manner and his infrequent gifts,
not regular ones like Puper’s.
Coffinia, having watched Tanya from her bed, could not bear the pangs of curiosity.
“Well, what does Puper write you, orphan? Not changed his mind about getting
married?” she asked.
“What do you care?” Tanya snapped.
“So, he didn’t, since you’re rude to me,” Cryptova said contentedly. “I can imagine
to myself the married Puper. Sitting in stretched sweatpants by a zoomer, guzzling
noodle soup and watching a dragonball match. Like he’s still such a cool dude, but
already has a beer belly the size of a drum... And behind him is Grotty, that is, sorry,
Pupy, fussing over his model English kids. Both English aunts and two dozen
maglawyers with tears and snot flowing emotionally.”
Tanya looked at Coffinia in annoyance. “Don’t push it!” she said. “I can also paint
your future, you know.”
“Come on, I dare you,” Coffinia authorized with some trepidation.
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45

“With pleasure. Seven times married Madame Cryptoff returns from a party on all
fours, because, being drunk, she was unable to even get on the vacuum. Behind her the
bodyguards of her late husband, Sheikh Spirya, carefully keep the umbrellas above
Madame crawling through puddles...”
Tanya had long noticed that her sharp tongue cut like a razor when a nerve of hers
was touched. Here and now Tanya Grotter enthusiastically painted in broad strokes the
disappointing future of “Madame Cryptoff,” in which the most harmless pastime was
men and the most emotionally rewarding was booze.
Coffinia turned yellow with rage. “Nab-grab!” she shouted suddenly, releasing a
red spark. Puper’s just-read letter escaped from Tanya’s hands and flew into Coffinia’s
hands. “Well, let’s see what our precious wrote us... Oho, even in Russian! What
progress!” she said snidely.
“Give it back!” Tanya yelled, rushing to her, but Cryptova deftly, like the super
round roll crushing the fox,38 rolled out of bed and ducked behind Page.
“Protect me! Atosus-portosus!” she shouted. Dear Tonianno faithfully waved a
hand with a sword from out of nowhere, not allowing Tanya near Coffinia.
While Tanya pondered what to do, whether to indeed use Sparkis frontis on the
skeleton, Cryptova impatiently took a peek at Puper’s letter. However, before she could
read even a line, the letter shrank, flared up with an orange flame, and turned into a
swarm of wasps. Coffinia shrieked piercingly and hopelessly, like a chainsaw meeting a
nail fatal to its chain. The buzzing striped insects swarmed Cryptova and, quickly
crawling along Coffinia’s bare arms, formed the warning:
GIRL WITH BREAD-AND-SALT! DON’T STICK YOUR NOSE INTO
OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS!
Silly Page, bones creaking, turned on the stand and attacked with the sword,
obviously intending on piercing a couple of wasps, but also Coffinia together with them.
“Ahhh!” Cryptova yelled, barely dodging the helpful skeleton.
The last wasp, still hanging in the air, quickly dived onto Coffinia’s nose and placed
a firm dot on it with the stinger. Howling, Cryptova twirled like a snake, shaking off the
wasps, but they had turned into grey paper ashes...
“Well, Puper! Well, snake in the grass! You’ll meet me when I buy an incubator and
breed rattlesnakes,” Coffinia said, looking at her swollen nose in the mirror.

38 Kolobok (round roll) is a well-known traditional Slavic fairy tale about an animated round roll escaping
different animals in the forest, only to be eaten by a fox. In the variation called Superkolobok, a fairy-tale
play by Mikhail Slutskii for Moscow Puppet Theatre, the round roll crushes the fox and returns home.
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46

Chapter 5
Perseus’ Shield

At four o’clock in the morning in Tanya’s room, the zoomer, enchanted since the
evening, operated quietly. It was time to trudge to the date with Puper. Tanya sat up on
the bed. Her head was exactly like lead. “Gury chose a bad time. Let’s not expect
anything. I’m not in the mood for romance at dawn,” she thought, yawning.
Fragments of a recent dream hurriedly jumped on Black Curtains. The dream was
unpleasant. The firebird on Vanka Valyalkin’s shoulder had turned into the Durnevs’ fat
dachshund, bow-legged like Aunt Ninel’s antique chaise longue. But that was not all.
Tanya, looking with dread at Vanka, saw how his face became more like Puper’s, a scar
appeared on his forehead, and a broom in his hand. And she – the other Tanya in the
dream – was rushing to hug Puper...
“Briskus-quickus!” Tanya muttered, with one spell decisively sweeping away all
compromising evidence from Black Curtains.
“Grotty, who’s calling?” Coffinia asked, not opening her eyes. The baby Grotter
realized that, half asleep, she had not turned off the zoomer.
“Your Sheikh Spirya. Are you getting it?” Tanya said the first thing that came into
her head.
“Oh no, only not him! I’ve developed diathesis to him! Tell him that I married
Usynya or hanged myself,” Coffinia muttered and again buried her face in the pillow.
Half a minute later, Cryptova was already snoring. After waiting until Gunya
Glomov, walking arm in arm with Puper dressed in a kilt, appeared on Curtains, Tanya
got dressed and slipped out of the room.
She was already coming down the Main Staircase and close to the drawbridge,
when an unsteady figure suddenly emerged from the dark arches. Tanya raised her hand
with the ring. “Sparkis frontis!” she yelled. Goodness knows what came to her head.
“Hey, Grotty, what’s with you? It’s me!” Someone exclaimed fearfully. Tanya pulled
her hand back. The combat spark went up and got lost in the maze. Its flash caught
Zhora Zhikin’s pale face in the darkness.
“What are you doing here?” Tanya asked.
“Waiting for Lotkova. She made an appointment with me at Tsar Gorokh’s tomb.
Stuck around all night. Gorokh’s bones are tossing and turning again – I suppose
someone cast a spell,” Zhikin sadly informed her.
“And where’s Lotkova?”
Zhora sighed. Suspicion fought with foolish vanity. After a brief scuffle, vanity
prevailed. “Uhh... She didn’t come,” he said in passing.
“Ah!” Tanya drawled.
“I think she accidentally fell asleep and is seeing me in a dream. A great love,
female nerves, and all that. That happens with Katya,” Zhikin quickly added.
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47

“Ah!”
“Anyway, I’m glad that everything turned out. You know, I adore taking a walk at
dawn... The fresh air is very invigorating,” Zhikin said, his teeth chattering from the
cold.
“I see. Occasionally you meet truly cheerful people,” Tanya agreed politely.
Zhikin shifted from foot to foot for some time, tormented by vanity and unhappy
that he had appeared in an unfavourable light. “And where are you going, Grotty?” he
suddenly asked inquisitively.
“Imagine, what a coincidence. I also adore taking a walk at dawn,” Tanya said. She
walked past Zhikin and started to go down to the drawbridge.
Tanya hoped Zhora would stay behind, but he tagged along behind her. The first
Don Juan of Tibidox likely decided that instead of a cancelled date with Lotkova, he at
least had a date with someone. Along the way, he told Tanya anecdotes, sometimes even
funny ones, and tried to touch her accidentally.
After twenty steps, the baby Grotter already wanted very much to tie his hands in a
bow. “What an idiot! Why did I go on foot? Should have gotten up on the wall and flown
on the double bass,” she scolded herself.
Finally, the staircase ended. They passed a wide landing, where troops with evil-eye
throwers had assembled during the magical wars in the Middle Ages, and through the
wide gate out to the drawbridge.
On the other side of the moat, a bonfire was burning by the drawbridge. From a
distance, the fire was like a red comma, near which little figures were bustling. The moat
was frozen; tufts of dry reeds protruded only here and there.
Tanya crossed the bridge. She feared that the Cyclopes would ask her excessive
questions, such as where are you going and why, but the Tibidox guards clearly had no
time for her. Lieutenant Rzhevskii and the baby Stinktopp, grown slightly since the fall,
were playing two on two with the Cyclopes using greasy cards.
Stinktopp was clearly cheating, but with such a sweet smile of a child and so deftly
that the Cyclopes did not even notice. Occasionally, maintaining the reputation of a wee
one, having recently taken the deck in his hands, Stinktopp confused the king with the
jack or tried to cover the trump nine with a non-trump seven. While the Cyclopes
genially laughed at the inept baby, he, blinking naively and calling them “uncles,”
prepared for himself a supply of aces in the next game, or pulled out trumps from the
rejects.
However, the Cyclopes attentively watched Lieutenant Rzhevskii, who was well
known in Tibidox as a clever cardsharp, and who had been attacked with a candlestick
more than once during his lifetime. The ghost sat – or rather hung – in the air, with the
most innocent look stretching out his lanky legs and holding the cards close to his face.
It is difficult to say how he managed to cope with material objects. Rzhevskii himself
argued that it was not hands but force of will that did this, and shifted the attention to
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48

his grandfather the wizard, who allegedly ate dumplings without touching them with his
fingers.
The Cyclopes did not even let Rzhevskii touch the deck and took the rejects from
him. When he needed to take from the deck, they themselves handed the cards to him
one by one. The lieutenant was outraged and called the Cyclopes foolish plebeians and
kitchen peasants, unable to appreciate the flow of a noble soul. Meanwhile, the left eye
of the “noble soul” hovered in the air behind the Cyclopes and literally grazed their
cards.
The Cyclopes clamoured, howled, swore in low voices, angrily smacked the cards –
and lost repeatedly. A whole mountain of hides and mutton shoulders smoked in the
campfire already towered near Stinktopp and Rzhevskii. Dumpling Maker, the guard of
the gates and the most reckless of them all, managed to lose not only his axe but also his
coat with a cap and was now shivering by the campfire wearing only cotton pants. His
fearsome eye was spinning madly on his forehead. The baby Stinktopp, with a
businesslike air, fingered the top of the felt boots he had won.
On noticing Tanya and Zhikin, the head of the dark department, having fallen into
infancy, turned around. “Zho, Zho! Hello! Say shmiglis-fwiglis!” he asked in a quiet
little voice.
“Leave me alone!” Zhikin snapped. He, like everyone in Tibidox, had learned long
ago that it would be better not to repeat after Stinktopp.
“Well!” Stinktopp was offended. “All the same I won’t! I’ll ask any of the Cyclopes
to knuckle your forehead! They owe me! Who agwees?”
The Cyclopes moved closer to the fire. There was a sea of volunteers. Zhikin moved
back. He still had not forgotten with what eagerness the Cyclopes had knuckled his
forehead.
“OK, OK! What’s this friglis?” Zhikin asked suspiciously.
“You say it! You’ll like it!” Stinktopp egged him on, fiery flares dancing in his eyes.
“Shmiglis-friglis!” Zhikin, who simply had no other way out, muttered.
A red spark flashed. The next moment, Zhikin took off like a rocket. Howling non-
stop, he traced a beautiful arc in the air and disappeared into one of the loopholes of
Tibidox. The Cyclopes, Tanya, and Lieutenant Rzhevskii followed him with their eyes.
“He flew low! It’s gonna rain!” the ghost said throatily and snickered. He loved
reading moronoid jokes to himself, his favourite.
“Oh, no! I don’t believe this! The baby Stinktopp saved me!” Tanya exclaimed,
realizing that she had gotten rid of Zhikin.
“I didn’t even think that my catapult spell would work. This was the first test!” the
baby Stinktopp said, smiling. His front teeth had recently changed and were now white
and sharp, like those of a beaver. They were much nicer to look at than the yellow
stumps of the former Professor Stinktopp.

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49

“Gwott, give me bagel holes for cigawettes!” he asked. He was the only one in
school who thought of calling Tanya Grott. Others preferred the stodgier Grotty.
“Smoking is harmful to children,” Tanya said. Lieutenant guffawed again, not
forgetting to direct some light on the Cyclopes’ cards. He did not need the things he
won. Rzhevskii’s goal was different. He was clearly intending on turning the Tibidox
guards into a group of nudist buffs by morning.
“Who smokes, me?” Stinktopp genuinely took offence. “I don’t smoke! I feed the
cigawettes to the hawpies! After this they give me a wide thwough the air.”
“Harpies smoke?” Tanya was amazed.
“Of course! No mistake!” Stinktopp reassured her so eagerly that Tanya did not
even think to question this. The baby Stinktopp turned out to be the only one who had
managed to find the key to the callous heart of the harpies. Anyone else would have been
thrown on the rocks and torn to pieces. No wonder Tararakh always considered
Stinktopp one of the most gifted of his students.
Criticizing the theory and practice of a date at dawn, Tanya walked for a long time
along the shore of the mermaid pond, making her way to the sacred grove. The snow
appeared bluish in the dark. Moving towards the horizon, it was mixed with purple, with
streaks skyward.
Snow was falling in large infrequent flakes. It seemed to Tanya as if somewhere
high in the sky a giant was washing his hands and dropping soapsuds. The splash of
water reached from the pond. The mermaids, Milyulya’s sisters, hidden by reeds, were
sitting on the edge of the hole punched in the ice for them, combing their unruly hair
with aspen combs and stretching out an endless, mournful, sonorous song in the
predawn silence. Occasionally one of the mermaids either cried or laughed. From the
shore, it was difficult to understand the meaning of the sound.
As a precaution, Tanya climbed a little higher up the slope. Walking along the
shore was dangerous. Mermaids, without any hesitation, could easily drown her to
replenish their numbers; the protection magic that associate professor Gorgonova
taught did not work on them at dawn.
“Chekhov’s pond...39 Lermontov’s mermaid...40 And stupid Grotty, hurrying to a
date with her Puper! Darn, there’s nothing new in this world!” Tanya thought, getting
bogged down in the snow.

39 The family homestead of the famous Russian writer Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904) in
Melikhovo, now the Melikhovo Estate museum, has a small pond where Chekhov used to fish and which
appears in a number of his works.
40 Among the works of Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (1814-41), the most important Russian poet after
the death of the greatest Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837), there is a short poem
Mermaid (Rusalka, 1931).
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She reached the grove discreetly. Oaks, once dedicated to Perun, 41 crowded closely
on top of a hill. Deep tracks were visible here and there in the snow. The baby Grotter
was uneasy but made out that the tracks turned in the direction of Tibidox. Apparently,
the vigilant guards simply skipped out of combat duty.
Tanya went up the hill along its steep coastal part. Puper was not visible. She hailed
him twice – silence. “What kind of deal is this? The girl is the first to arrive on a date!
It’s already near morning, but still no Puper!” she thought.
Tanya went through the grove. Here, on a small bald spot, the Lukomore 42 oak
grew exactly like a single hair on the crown of the former Professor Stinktopp (the
current baby was simply outrageously curly). Once, the cat Bayun, 43 on his gold chains,
sauntered, starting a song and telling a tale. 44 Now the chains had been melted by
lightning. The cat was either on a spree, which regularly happened with him once in a
century, or had been devoured by hungry evil spirits during the time of Plague-del-Cake.
Only the oak, as before, stood alone on the very top, immense, sombre, and, it seemed,
propping up the sky with its sprawling branches.
Shurasik, who knew everything in the world except one – why he was such a bore,
sometimes argued that the Lukomore oak was one of the parallel reincarnations of the
World Tree. However, Tanya, having seen the World Tree in the Durnevs’ apartment,
doubted this very much. The World Tree was effortless and swift. It soared up like a
poplar or a cypress. The oak, huge, awkward, oppressive in its strength, was more the
personification of paganism, forces of the earth or of chaos.
Going around the tree, Tanya accidentally noticed something like a naturally
formed alcove or burrow between its thick roots, deep enough that a person could crawl
into it. Driven by curiosity, Tanya lay on her stomach and crawled inside. It occurred to
her to hide here and scare Puper. The burrow was so deep that she could barely discern
her own hands. “But what if someone on the other side grabs and drags me inside! Or
trap myself!” Tanya thought cautiously.
However, no one grabbed her. Instead, her fingers suddenly ran into something
cold that jangled in the dark. Tanya hurriedly withdrew her hand. Only a minute later

41 In Slavic mythology, Perun, the highest god in the pantheon and the god of thunder and lightning, has
the tree association with the oak. Shrines of Perun were located either on top of mountains or hills or in
sacred groves underneath ancient oaks.
42 In East Slavic mythology, Lukomore is a protected place at the edge of the Universe, where stands the
World Tree, a colossal tree connecting Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld.
43 The cat Bayun, a character in Russian fairy tales, is a huge cat possessing a magical voice. It lulls
travellers with tales, and those without enough strength to resist its magic or not prepared to fight with it
will be killed ruthlessly. However, those who manage to get the cat will find salvation from all diseases
and ailments.
44 The poem Green Oak at Lukomore (U Lukomor'ya dub zelenyi) by Alexander Seergeyevich Pushkin
(1799-1837), the greatest of all Russian poets, starts with the lines To the green oak at Lukomore, A
learned cat tied on a chain, Day and Night it goes around it; Goes right – it starts a song, Goes Left – it
tells a tale.
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did she pluck up courage and, feeling the mysterious object once again, realize that it
was something like a round metal dish. Except that inside the dish were leather straps.
“Aha, then I think I can guess what it could be!” Tanya thought. Taking hold of a
strap, she crawled out of the burrow and, with great difficulty, pulled out a silver shield.
The shield shone like a mirror. Tanya stared at her own face in it for some time.
The centre of the shield was smooth and perfectly polished. If it also distorted the
reflection, then it was insignificant. Runes inscribed in a decorative pattern consisting of
vine leaves and grapes covered the edges of the shield.
“What one won’t find in Buyan! Wonder if Sardanapal knows that a shield lies
under the oak?” Tanya thought, surprised that the shield was not even dull after lying in
the burrow. However, magic objects – to which the shield clearly belonged – had their
own relationship with time.
While looking at the shield, Tanya waited another twenty minutes for Puper.
Finally losing patience, she decided to return to Tibidox. She did not want to go down
the hill in the snow. Then, sitting on the upturned shield, she pushed off, picked up her
feet, and rushed along the ice-crusted snow.
At first, the shield glided slowly, as if mastering its new trait, but soon accelerating
like the diving double bass. The wind hurriedly started its speedy song. It either whined
like a mosquito or whistled some little out-of-tune motif. Tanya clutched at the straps.
She had not hoped that it would be able to accelerate this way. Besides, the round shield
was rotating so that the baby Grotter went down either sideways or backwards.
Trying to level out, Tanya saw the rapidly approaching oak – the outmost lower oak
grove, about which she had completely forgotten. Realizing that any way to avoid a
collision would fail, Tanya Grotter hastily rolled off the shield and, arms outstretched,
began to brake on the snow.
The snow filled her sleeves, went down her collar, and nipped at her neck and
chest. Almost rolling up to the oak, Tanya stopped, turning up beside the overturned
shield. Her head was spinning. It seemed to her that the tree, which she had nearly
crashed into, unexpectedly split into two. Having separated from the trunk, Gury ran to
Tanya. He was slightly blue from the cold, wrapped in some woollen shawls like the
retreating French in 1812,45 but very cheerful.
“Oh Tanya! My dear!” he exclaimed, trying to hug and kiss her.
Tanya screened herself with the shield. The suffering Englishman closed his eyes
with anticipation, and kissed his own reflection in the shield, almost freezing his tongue
to it.
“Tanya! Why are you so cruel? I haven’t seen you for over a month, and you don’t
even give me a kiss!” he said, disappointed.
45 Under Napoleon, the French tried to invade Russia in 1812. However, the Russian army retreated
deeper and deeper into Russia, burning down all villages and crops in the process, not allowing the
French to live off the land. After the French army entered an evacuated Moscow on September 14, fire
started to break out throughout the city. By the middle of October, Napoleon ordered a retreat.
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“Just think, a month. That’s still no reason to share germs... Okay, if you want, you
can shake my hand,” Tanya permitted.
Using the permission, Gury squeezed her hand for a long time. At the same time,
he put his left hand in his pocket for some reason. “You aren’t a feminist? We have a lot
of feminists at Magford!” he asked anxiously.
“Feminism, that’s On-The-Sly! I have a different diagnosis,” Tanya said.
“Diagnosis? What?” Gury was uneasy. Trained by his coach to take lots of vitamins
before eating, he was terribly afraid of all kinds of diseases.
“Simple and incurable. I’m Grotty, and that says it all.”
Gury breathed with relief. “Don’t get me wrong, I have great respect for feminists.
My good friend Goreanna is a feminist, but...” he began.
“But you don’t want to marry her and agree to surrender her to Perun. Everything’s
clear with you. You’re all this way. Let’s give you all a clumsy woman,” Tanya snorted.
She already regretted that she had not pretended to be a feminist. It would be an
effective and simple way to get rid of Gury once and for all.
Puper blinked. His eyes became sad and pleading, like those of a puppy begging for
meat. “Tanya, why is everything wrong with us?” he uttered sadly.
“What do you mean, wrong?” Tanya asked.
“Not this way.”
“How then?”
“I don’t know how, but not like this,” Puper said, even more sadly.
“Can’t you be more specific? What is it you expect from me?” Tanya asked.
Gury turned pink with embarrassment. “I expect nothing. Everything’s okay with
me,” he said hastily.
Tanya felt that there was more and that Puper would take a stand with her the
same as Zhikin. Gury annoyed her catastrophically. The easiest way to lose a girl is to
blame her for your own failures. Or pay too much attention to her moods. Gury made
both mistakes at once.
“You were late for the date. I already wanted to go back,” she said.
“I wasn’t late. I was looking for you!” Puper was indignant, but somewhat listlessly.
For some reason, it seemed to Tanya that Gury was confusing the issue. If he had
actually been here at the lower grove, why had he not hailed her when she was just
ascending the hill? Or did he hope that Tanya would find the shield that Puper was
looking at now with obvious embarrassment, as if he had seen it once before? And why
was he keeping his hand in his pocket all the time?
“What’s the important thing you wanted to tell me?” the baby Grotter asked,
dreading to be quite disappointed.
Puper lit up with happiness. “Oh! I figured out how to convince my aunts to agree
to our engagement! We need to run off to the edge of the world and hide until my aunts
say yes. Maybe even join the Babai team and train with them. The Babai know how to
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keep a secret... Don’t think that it will be for a long time. After a few years I’ll be able to
manage my bank account and then...”
Tanya felt irritation. She had already heard enough of similar projects, when she
fed the frostbitten Puper with a spoon in magic station. Here we go again! Their
relationship, like a broken record. When will Gury finally think of something new?
“Brilliant plan. I particularly liked the idea of joining the Babai team. Let’s talk
about the birds. How are your aunts?” she asked.
Gury shrugged. “You know, nothing,” he said. “They smile very nicely. Both Aunt
Nasturtia and the aunt who dreams of maglawyers... I indeed recently returned to them,
was sorry for them. And you know, they’re so meek. ‘Gury, we beg you, don’t forsake us!
Gury, what can we do to make you forget this terrible Russian?’ I told them as a joke
that I wanted a salad of mosquito hearts, and in the morning I regretted it... Imagine, a
large table, a pile of mosquito wings, and my two aunts, pale after a sleepless night, like
two witches, bent over a small plate with something so crimson. I couldn’t sleep for
three days after that.”
“And the maglawyer Hudson?” Tanya asked. She had heard repeatedly from Pipa’s
story about her heroic deed, which increasingly acquired new sentimental details each
time.
“My aunts didn’t even drop hints about Hudson. I also saw Hudson himself. He
came with some papers, pretended that nothing had happened, though he winced like
he had taken a bite of raw onion...” Puper said.
Tanya laughed. “Pipa teleported him then! By the way, you know, she’s here too!”
“Pipa in Tibidox! I knew it, I felt it! Pipa’s such a real sport!” Puper exclaimed, his
eyes strangely blurred. Must be that the voodoo love magic had a reverse outflow, and
Gury, not suspecting it, had become increasingly attached to Pipa. Although, of course,
it had not yet come to love. Only a friendly interest or initial tenderness, which
sometimes precedes the feeling.
Realizing that he was praising Pipa too enthusiastically, Gury restrained his
delight. “I have one more piece of magnews!” he remembered, instantly becoming
serious. “I heard our coach talking on the zoomer with Koshchei the Deathless.
Deathless called at that moment when our team was practising proper landing on a
broom and taking off with a running start. Coach didn’t want us to hear it, but it so
happened that Deathless was excited and talked too loudly. He was almost yelling.
Understand?”
“I do,” Tanya said, pondering what dreary training the English had. It would not
even occur to Nightingale O. Robber to practice landing on a double bass or a vacuum.
He would consider it useless. Unleashing a full dome of dragons or bringing a hornet’s
nest, forcing the players to catch the wasps one by one so as not to crush a single one,
was quite a different matter. It was thoroughly his habit.

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54

“And now the main thing! They at Magciety are going out of their way so that the
rematch between the Invisibles and Team Tibidox won’t take place!” Puper said
excitedly.
Tanya shuddered. “No,” she said quickly. “No, only not that!”
She could not even immediately comprehend this news, but took it in gradually, as
if someone was shoving a dull spear into her chest. What a blow it will be to everyone:
Nightingale, Sardanapal, Tibidox, and her personally! All the winter and autumn
training will be wasted, and she will never be able to fix the consequences of that
humiliating match when she scored on Goyaryn. How many times she had seen that
moment in her dreams afterwards, how it bugged her. No, this simply cannot be!
“They want to cancel the match? But why are you telling me this? Indeed, aren’t
you from Magford?” she questioned Puper.
Gury nodded. “I am. But I’m a supporter of fair play. You have a good team and it’ll
be much more pleasant for me to defeat it in a fair...how to say in Russian...fight. I’m
ashamed that my coach can think otherwise. Why would he even go for this deal?” Puper
said bitterly.
“But how will they cancel the match? They need some kind of excuse!” Tanya
exclaimed.
“That’s exactly the gist of the deal. As I understand it, everything has been thought
out very cleverly. In March, they’ll propose to Team Tibidox to meet Team Eternity. You
won’t be able to refuse, you can’t turn that down. Besides, they’ll inform you about the
match at the last minute...” said Puper.
Tanya was hearing about Team Eternity for the first time. As far as she knew, such
a team had never participated in the championships. True, the name of the team
sounded spooky. But still not as spooky as, say, the Gandharvas or the Werewolves.
“And if we win, is the match also cancelled?” she asked cautiously.
Puper laughed. “Winning over Team Eternity? Oh, I appreciate your Russian joke
of humour! Ha-ha!” he approved. Tanya stared at him. She saw no “joke of humour”
here, Russian or foreign.
“To beat Team Eternity – it’s...impossible! There has never been an occasion in
history that Team Eternity has lost. There hasn’t been and won’t be!” Gury said.
“What in the world? What are they, iron?” Tanya doubted.
Gury instantly stopped laughing and stared at her in amazement. “You’ve really
never heard of Team Eternity? Ten of the most brilliant, the most invincible dragonball
players that ever existed! From all corners of the earth! Different eras, different peoples,
different essences! Some from the very distant past. All of them specifically summoned
from the Great Beyond for the match... Understand now? Just three of them would
crush any team like a rotting nut, and here will be ten of them... Ten! That’s why it’s
Team Eternity!”

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Tanya shuddered. It gradually began to get through to her. “So they’re what, ghouls
perhaps?” she asked hoarsely.
Gury shook his head. “No. They aren’t ghouls... That is, of course, they’re no longer
alive, but it changes nothing... They’ll be alive in the match. Each of them will appear in
the peak of his form, in all his brilliance, in the best year of his dragonball career!”
“But how?”
“Oh, Tanya, my dear! I’m not a big...ehh...expert... but there exists an ancient
tympanum. One of the most terrible magic objects. It temporarily summons residents of
the Great Beyond and brings them to our world. They’re corporeal, the same as you and
me, but only for an hour – even a moment less than an hour. Such is the agreement with
the Great Beyond. So the game won’t be very long. But then you’ll see for yourself: the
stands will be crammed with spectators. Team Eternity, it... it... Das ist fantastisch!”
Puper blushed for some reason. Probably, no one knew that he had secretly learned
German.
“It’s impossible to win over Team Eternity. No one is expecting that,” he went on
hastily. “All you have to do is score at least one goal. Pepper, sneeze, fire-extinguisher –
doesn’t matter which. But, believe me, even this is almost impossible... All the balls will
be in the jaws of your dragon before the end of the hour.”
“And if we don’t score?”
“Deathless is counting on that. If you lose to Team Eternity with a zero score, the
Magciety sports committee will declare that Team Tibidox isn’t ready and will cancel the
rematch. There’s some old law that allows a proven strong team, say, the Invisibles, to
refuse a match with a weaker team if the last match was lost by this team with a zero
score.”
“What scumbags!” Tanya said pensively. She was torn by conflicting emotions. On
the one hand, she was outraged and detested Deathless and his despicable plan. At the
same time, she really wanted to have a look at Team Eternity – just think, all the idols,
whom Daedalus Cretan46 and Nightingale literally bored them with, will gather on the
field! Florus the Blind, the one whom they have heard so much about, will probably also
be among them. One will not even be ashamed to lose to such a team.
Puper was silent, staring at the toes of his boots. “And there’s more... I simply must
say this. If you score after all, and the Tibidox-Invisibles match takes place, I’ll fight
against you in full force... I can’t disappoint the expectations of my country!” he uttered
with effort.
The baby Grotter looked at Puper, wrapped up in scarves with his red nose
categorically shimmering. He was somewhat like Vanka, who also became principled at
times. And Valyalkin’s shabby yellow jersey somewhat resembled Gury’s ridiculous
46 In Greek mythology, Daedalus of Crete was the most skilled artisan, who built the Labyrinth on Crete
where the Minotaur was kept. Because of this, he was shut up in a tower to prevent him from revealing its
secret. In order to escape, he made wings for himself and his young son, Icarus, and flew out of the tower.
Icarus flew too close to the son, melting the wax that held the feathers together, and fell to his death.
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clothes. A warm wave soared in Tanya’s soul, partly triggered by today’s strange dream.
If Puper dared to hug her at that moment, she probably would not mind. She would
simply close her eyes and imagine that it was Vanka.
“I don’t doubt that. If you wouldn’t fight in full force, I wouldn’t respect you,” she
said. Now Tanya was already ashamed that she could mentally liken Puper to Zhikin. If
Gury would not talk about love all the time, turning into an annoying fly, she would be
friends with him as with Yagun.
The horizon turned pink. Suddenly remembering that he had to fly across the
ocean to his aunts, Puper started to get ready. “Tanya, it’s time for me to go. You’ll
consider my offer? I have in mind the escape to the edge of the earth.”
The delusion instantly dissipated. Gury again became unbearable. Tanya Grotter
wanted to comment on this in her own way, but Puper’s eyes widened piteously.
“Oh, no, Tanya, my dear, I beg you! I understand! Don’t tell me ‘no,’ say ‘I’ll
consider.’ I’ll at least have some hope left,” he pleaded.
Tanya chuckled. “I’ll consider,” she repeated magnanimously, thinking how little a
person needs to be happy.
Puper beamed. “Drop you off at Tibidox? I have a broom!” he proposed. In this
moment, Gury resembled a moronoid who, after receiving his licence yesterday, asked
the girl with forced casualness, “Drop you off? I have wheels.”
Tanya wanted to answer “no” but remembered the snowy field and, after wiggling
her toes in her damp boots, said “yes.” Melting with happiness, Gury carefully helped
her onto the broom and jumped on in front. Tanya brought the shiny shield with her.
Leaving it under the oak seemed silly to her.
Tanya hoped Puper would immediately fly to Tibidox, but Gury wanted to show off.
He began to trace snakes and a corkscrew pattern in the air. Tanya had to clasp his waist
tightly and clamp down on the broom with her knees.
“Well, how is it?” Puper asked, coming out of the dive to the ground.
“Das ist fantastisch!” Tanya said mockingly, after bumping her nose against his
shoulder for the third time.
Having exhausted his entire supply of aerial stunts, the enthusiastic Gury directed
the broom to Tibidox and made a circle above the Big Tower. Demonstrating his art, he
flew quite low, almost touching the roof with their feet. Tanya wanted to jump off and
look at the scratch on the stone, which indicated the direction to Bald Mountain – that
scratch which once warmed her palm so. But she might get overcome with emotions,
and she did not want to show weakness in Puper’s presence.
“I’m freezing! Enough!” she shouted impatiently to Gury.
Puper turned around, nodded, and obediently began to descend, zipping past a few
metres from the dark windows of the Big Tower. Suddenly it was as if a gale-force gust
hit them. Puper grabbed the broom, and Tanya grabbed Puper. They turned a few times
in the air before Gury was able to level the broom. Tanya dropped the shield and it, after
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glittering exactly like a shiny penny, disappeared into one of the vents dug by evil spirits
under the Tower. Slander struggled persistently with these actions, but new ones quickly
appeared in place of those filled.
“Curse it! Did you see that? We’ve been jinxed!” Puper shouted.
Tanya remembered that when they were tossed by the hurricane, a white face with
mouth wide open in a silent scream loomed in one window of the rooms of the
Residential Floor. Someone was standing, gripping the windowsill, and watching them
with wild eyes. Only much later, when Gury had set her down on one of the balconies
and sped away to his English aunts, did the thought flicker in Tanya that it could have
been Pipa. However, she had no firm certainty.

***

At breakfast, a sleepy Tanya was lethargic and taciturn. Most of all she wanted to
lay down to sleep again, but she still had to trudge to Evil Spirit Studies and then listen
to Eyeless Horror’s convoluted History of Beyond Worlds.
But Bab-Yagun, fresh as a cucumber and red as a tomato, was complaining loudly
about fate. “Semolina kasha tablecloth! What bad luck! I’ll shoot myself! No, I’ll hang
myself! Or I’ll shoot myself first, and then hang myself, and then even poison myself to
be sure. If, of course, this semolina tablecloth isn’t poisonous in itself!”
“Yagun, settle down. The last three times it was chocolate!” Valyalkin objected
peacefully.
“Exactly! I call this the play of fortune. First chocolate, then semolina kasha. Sit
down, chew, and don’t stick to the chair! Noo, not happening. Have to go to plan x...”
Yagun said.
He pushed his plate away and began to stare at Liza Zalizina. The long-haired Liza
was sitting languidly at the next table, where before her was the quite decent stuffed-
bun tablecloth. After about a minute, Zalizina, whom Yagun was literally devouring with
his eyes, started to move uncomfortably. She glanced at their table and, having stood up,
quickly began to assemble stuffed buns on a plate.
“Did it! Penetrating hypnosis is a terrible thing!” Yagun triumphed.
But Zalizina walked past Yagun and put the plate in front of Vanka. The
disappointed Yagun almost bumped his nose on the table.
“Vanka, want some buns? You’re so pale, always so hungry,” Liza said with such
tenderness that Tanya nearly howled with jealousy.
“I’m not pale. But let’s have the buns,” Vanka uttered.
After Zalizina left, Vanka moved the plate to the centre of the table. It was
uncomfortable for him to eat alone. “Want some?” he offered.

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“I adore buns,” Yagun declared insidiously. “I wonder what’s in them? Wow, rice,
potatoes, apple jam... But Tanya will indeed get the one with cabbage. I bet! She’s always
unlucky.”
“No thanks. I’m sick at the sight of these buns. I love semolina kasha,” Tanya said
and moved to the far end of the table.
It so happened that precisely this side turned out to be closer to the teachers’ table.
Poking the kasha with a spoon without any desire, Tanya accidentally overheard a scrap
of conversation between the Great Tooth and Gottfried Bouillon. Gottfried, deaf as an
average military instructor, could not speak quietly, and Toorh was forced to adjust to
him.
“The light of my eyes, really, again? They say it’s much bigger than all the previous
ones,” Gottfried asked in a deep voice.
“It would be easy for a rider to pass through. The Cyclopes swear that there was
nothing in the evening. If this is true, it could only have appeared at night or at dawn,”
Tooth replied.
“Is Slander already there? Maybe I should help him?” Gottfried nodded at the
principal’s empty chair.
“No need. He can cope quite well himself. He has the experience, darling, and
besides, magic isn’t your strongest point,” Tooth said softly.
The Sleeping Adonis nodded with relief and ravenously plunged a fork into the
steak. He personally did not want to jump through snowdrifts with the spear that never
knew a miss and pretend to be a cool medieval warrior.
“And where is it this time?” he asked, sending a piece of meat for a walk through
his digestive organs.
“Just behind the sacred grove. We found fresh tracks in that same grove leading
from Tibidox, but no returning tracks... I hope Slander will figure it out. As far as I
know, he’s great at reading tracks,” Tooth replied, looking back uneasily and raising her
ring.
Realizing that the experienced Dentistikha had suspected something and would
now employ Earus onheadus, Tanya forced herself with an effort of will to not strain her
ears anymore and hurriedly stared at her plate. She already knew enough.
“Footprints in the grove! She’s talking about Puper’s tracks and mine! But I didn’t
do anything! I must go there again!” she thought. A bad foreboding swarmed like pesky
flies in her head.
“Did Puper really bash the magic defence? But why would he? Grail Gardarika
already let him pass. Also this shield... What if everything is somehow connected? It
would be nice to show Sardanapal the shield, but to just go and search for it in those
passages of the evil spirits? They would even force me to climb. Better keep quiet then, ”
Tanya pondered, digging irrigation canals for creamy butter in the hateful kasha.

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***

Meanwhile, already on the broom flying to Magford, Puper squeezed the onesie, on
which was sewn a dozen terribly powerful amulets, in his pocket. These amulets were
borrowed from the dark sorceress Circe,47 who lived in a small cozy mansion on the
coast. Gury was unhappy and could not understand why the voodoo magic had not
worked. Circe insisted that Tanya would throw herself at him as soon as their eyes meet.
“Your feelings increase sieben time, and it will be une passion grandiose! I did a
monstrous magic trick! This infant onesie is now simply saturated with grand amour!”
Madame Circe said sweetly, taking the fees from Puper. After living on earth for
thousands of years, the ancient witch, practicing all kinds of magic other than legal,
completely confused all the languages and spoke in an appalling mixture, the true worth
of which only a foreman of the Tower of Babel48 builders would have appreciated.
And what happened? During the morning, his eyes met Tanya’s eyes a dozen times,
and – nothing. She did not throw herself at Gury. Only once did Puper’s heart sweetly
skip a beat, and that was the moment when a gust of unknown magic hurled his broom
from the Tower...
“Cursed Circe! She only extracted my money!” Puper thought. He badly wanted to
instigate the overgrown burly guys of his fan club to break the witch’s window.

47 In Greek mythology, Circe is a goddess of magic, renowned for her knowledge of potions and herbs.
48 The Tower of Babel is a Biblical myth to explain the origin of different languages. The story says that a
united humanity wanted to build a tower to reach heaven, so God confounded their speech such that they
could no longer understand each other.
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Chapter 6
Masha Feklishcheva, Vanka, and “Dreadful Russian Grotti”

Shortly after her fourteenth birthday, a zit broke out on Tanya’s upper lip. Her lip
was swollen and her face immediately became distorted and unsightly. In any case, it
seemed so to Tanya. She glumly stared at her reflection for a moment in the mirror, and
then shook her head.
“Looks like it’s time to create a branch of moles on my lip!” she said, and decorated
her swollen lip with a thick smudge of Brilliant Green, 49 drawing on it four wings like a
fly. The zit certainly did not become unnoticeable from this; on the contrary, it got even
more so, but Tanya experienced a special kind of satisfaction. It is impossible to laugh at
a person who laughs at himself.
Recently, Tanya had developed a special attitude towards her growing body. Her
body was something alien, hostile, seeking to harm her. It was like a filthy and
unpleasant hotel room, which she was temporarily occupying. Her voice was changing.
Her legs and arms were growing in spurts somehow, her clothes became short, her hair
split and broke easily so that she had to wash her hair every day, and then Tanya only
snorted, looking at herself in the mirror.
At night, in her best and most creative time, when she was particularly prone to
abstract reflection, Tanya wrote in her diary:
Here’s what I thought. There are stunningly beautiful people, for example, Katya
Lotkova. She doesn’t have to do anything with herself. Even after falling from her
vacuum, breaking her nose and being smeared in mud, she would remain beautiful in
everyone’s eyes. But few are like Katya. It’s an extremely rare, natural gift. Such
beauty is in itself a profession, a way of thinking, a purpose of life, and everything else
in the world. Such a beautiful person will never be able to just be himself, if, of course,
he isn’t an actor or a model. He’s a slave to his beauty. He will wear it carefully with
his body, like some pompous moronoid always going around in ceremonial white
pants, face contorted with fear, afraid to touch a wall or sit on a painted bench. Zhora
Zhikin is one such a swine among our wizards.
Besides the obviously beautiful, there are also homely people. I want to write
Parroteva, but I feel sorry for Verka. Perhaps I’m just biased towards her? Such
happens with me, and then I feel like a considerable scum. But, if one is really homely,
it’s possible to try to carry a homely appearance with great charm. One can do it with
such dignity or such ease that one will be an interesting beauty. Say, Nagiana
Pripyatskaya, who is as frightful as a crocodile. Even more so. A crocodile beside her
would come off as a Hollywood star. But everyone, I included, find Nagiana very
striking and say that she has her own style.

49 The dilute alcoholic solution of Brilliant Green is used instead of iodine in Eastern Europe as a topical
antiseptic.
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Finally, the largest group of people is neither beautiful nor homely, but ordinary.
Sometimes they can seem beautiful, sometimes unattractive. Everything depends on
the situation, on the inner spirituality, courage, intelligence, and other human
qualities. I think these people are the happiest because they can forget about their
appearance and live just for themselves. All of us, Vanka, Yagun, Puper, and I, belong
to this third group. In general, it’s foolish to fixate on details. No wonder Sardanapal
once said that to kill a man is to belittle him and destroy him in his own eyes.
Tanya had already blown out the magic torch when a sleepy Coffinia, sitting on the
bed, looked at her.
“Scribbling all the time, Grotty? Philosophizing? You really don’t know Marguin’s
theory? Labour makes a monkey out of a dark wizard!” she commented, yawning.
“In that case, you’re already overworked,” Grotty retorted.
Cryptova snorted and fell asleep again. She always passed out immediately and
slept soundly like a log through the night, although at times, to flirt, she would lie to her
fans about the sleepless nights that she supposedly spent practicing secret voodoo
magic. Her fans did not argue. Arguing with Coffinia was useless by definition. No
wonder Cryptova proudly said about herself, “But I’m this way! A donkey next to me is
simply a model of pliancy!”

***

The next day began without any special incident, except that several banniks 50 and
two kikimoras51 escaped during Professor Gorgonova’s class for first-year students. The
whole school caught the biting kikimoras. The banniks, though, let loose a fog and
disappeared to somewhere unknown, having increased the excessive percentage of
negative probabilities even without this. The first-year students, whose fault it was that
the evil spirits had escaped, hooted and cheered most of all.
Even Sardanapal could not get mad at them, although he tried. What could he do
with them? Ten-year-olds are ten-year-olds. Yesterday’s moronoid boys and girls, whose
magical powers suddenly manifested and who, for this very reason, could not remain in
their former surroundings.
Tanya could hardly believe that she could once have been like them. Four years! An
insanely short time for an adult and an eternity for a teenager!
At Removal of Evil Eye, Tanya noticed that Vanka and Liza Zalizina, sitting beside
him, were whispering about something for a long time. Even the Great Tooth, despite
her preoccupation and the volume of love sonnets under her arm, noticed this at the end
and almost cast the voiceless evil eye on them.

50 In Slavic mythology, a bannik is a bathhouse (banya) spirit.
51 In Slavic mythology, a kikimora is a malevolent house spirit.
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“Well, fine! He wants to whisper with his Liza, let him. Sold me out for three buns,
Judas!” Tanya thought with irritation. She was so hurt that she wanted to jump up and
run out of the class. She did not do this only to not make Coffinia and Pipa happy.
What a surprise Tanya had when Liza quickly left right after class, and Vanka
called Yagun and her to the side. “We need to talk. Something important happened!” he
said.
“Buns all gone?” Tanya, not being able to restrain herself, asked tartly.
Vanka looked at her in surprise. “What’s with buns here? Liza had a dream!”
“Oh, then it’s really important!” Tanya acknowledged. “When I dream next, I’ll call
a press conference...”
“Jupiter, you’re angry, then you’re wrong!” Yagun told her. “If you don’t like
Zalizina, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t hear Vanka out. Do you know why Liza
didn’t stay? Because of you! If you want, I’ll talk to Vanka myself, and you go...”
“Oh, no, I’m not going anywhere. I wonder what Zalizina dreamt about that my two
best friends are discussing it like two gossips at the market,” Tanya said in a hushed
tone. She felt that she was both saying and doing something wrong, but she could not
stop. She was terribly upset at everyone and, more than any other, at herself. And also
this Brilliant Green with wings on her lip! The zit had long gone away, but the Brilliant
Green remained. Everything was bad, somehow amiss and askew. And here was Vanka,
still recounting to and addressing mainly Yagun. This annoyed her.
“Zalizina doesn’t know exactly whether it was a dream or a vision. Maybe both at
once. She heard a voice this evening. Someone said he doesn’t want to leave. To gain a
foothold in this world, he needs three victims... And what happens then is what ’s meant
to be.”
“Who was it? Who spoke to her?” Yagun asked.
“She couldn’t make out.”
“What do you mean? Did she see him or not?” Tanya tried to find out.
“No,” Vanka said calmly. “Such light radiated from him that it was impossible to
see. He was blinding. Lastly he said to Liza that he’ll soon send a sign. It’ll be a sign to
the entire Tibidox and it’ll appear on the dome! And right after that is the first victim.
And after the third victim is another sign – what was considered stolen will be found.
When a thief steals from a thief – the prophecy will soon come true... Liza memorized
this word for word.”
Yagun turned to Tanya. “Now can you see that this is important?” he asked.
Tanya Grotter chuckled. “Yeah, now I see! Here’s what interests me: has Zalizina
told Sardanapal her dream? It seems not to me. She immediately ran to Vanka. If so,
then I’m ready to see two hundred such dreams every day. And after each she’ll throw
herself at Valyalkin. Ahhh, Vanka, I have had prophetic visions again! Sit closer to me!
Put your hand on my knee! Whisper with me like an old grandma!”

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63

“If you don’t believe, then don’t. But I believe her. You’re being unfair to Liza and
you don’t know her. And try to spare me my emotions,” Vanka said.
He turned and went in the same direction which Zalizina had gone shortly before.
Tanya unconsciously made a note of it. Yagun looked at Tanya with some reproach but
did not follow Vanka after all. He still had to pop over to the house spirits, which had
promised to forge bells for his vacuum.
“Vanka Valyalkin, number one hero of Tibidox, nobly withdrew to offer his
shoulder to Zalizina, who will crush a tank if she stops belittling her abilities!” Tanya
Grotter commented loudly. She did not believe Liza. Fine, suppose it is all true. Some
ancient spirit wants to incarnate himself in this world and force his way into Tibidox,
smashing the protective dome. But why did he inform Zalizina of his plans? What, does
he obey her, perhaps?
Tanya was about to really calm down, having decided that it was all another of
Zalizina’s whims, but then the sweet-as-honey voice of the bird Sirin rang in her ears:
When a thief steals from a thief – the prophecy will soon come true...
And a stranger repeated exactly this to Liza in a dream! Who is he?

***

The next morning, the first class was dragonball. This was not the professional
dragonball, which Tanya practiced, but amateur dragonball for first- and second-year
students. The senior students were actually supposed to be at Slander’s lecture, but he
and Sardanapal had been summoned to Bald Mountain, to the twenty-third emergency
meeting on the elimination of bureaucracy. Medusa, left in charge, decisively sent the
senior students to Nightingale. “I hate it when someone wanders around idly and
hinders classes!” she stated.
Now, despite the cold, Coffinia Cryptova, Rita On-The-Sly, Kuzya Tuzikov, and
others were circling among the rookies with the air of pros, giving all sorts of tips. Tanya
had noticed long ago that the less someone understands dragonball, the more he loves
sharing his skill. Gunya Glomov also horned in on the “teaching.” He puffed his cheeks
importantly and illustrated how to sit down properly on a vacuum and take off.
Considering that Glomov was older than Puper and looked exceedingly imposing,
the young ones looked at him as a very grown-up uncle. Their respect did not diminish
at all, even when Glomov humiliatingly fell off the vacuum, after confusing the speed
spell with the braking spell.
A freshman with pale cheeks covered with freckles, somewhat like Shurasik in
childhood, approached Bab-Yagun timidly and, pulling at his sleeve, asked in a whisper,
“Excuse me, the guys here are arguing about who this is. Is he a teacher or not? If he’s a
teacher, why haven’t we seen him in a classroom?”

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64

“Oh, he’s more than a teacher! This is our celebrity! The bachelor of voodoo magic,
Gunnio Glomini! Want some advice? Walk up to him and ask if it’s difficult to be a
genius. He’ll be nice. Only you must address him as ‘Bachelor Gunnio’,” Bab-Yagun
explained authoritatively.
The pale boy blinked with curiosity and went to his friends. The freshmen
whispered for a long time, looking at the actual bachelor of voodoo magic with
admiration. After this, a long-nosed girl with a white pigtail like a mouse tail walked
hesitantly up to Mr. Glomini with a piece of paper and, after asking for Bachelor
Gunnio’s autograph, asked about the complexity of the path of a genius.
In two minutes, Gunya began to understand what such a “path” was; in another
minute, suspicion trickled bit by bit into his brain that they were making fun of him. In
the end, for the next five minutes Bab-Yagun was fleeing in the snowdrifts from the
venerable bachelor, with combat sparks firing from ice blocks and bricks, which the
Tibidox “celebrity” hurled at him.
Nightingale O. Robber stayed on the side. He did not lecture or forbid Gunya,
Kuzya Tuzikov, and the other “pros” from giving the rookies crazy tips. But Tanya
noticed that Nightingale O. Robber was attentively observing the freshmen: how they
approached the dragon, how they took off, how they caught the balls. She understood
that the coach was keeping an eye on them, estimating whether it was possible to take
someone into the team, and involuntarily experienced jealousy.
Realizing that she still had not delivered to Nightingale Puper’s words about Team
Eternity, Tanya approached the coach.
“How many times have I warned: I hate it when people come to me on the side of
my blind eye... Who’s there again?” the coach rasped, not turning around.
“Please excuse me,” Tanya said.
“Oh, it’s you, Grotter!” Nightingale’s voice got warmer. “Well, what do you think of
the rookies? The team desperately needs an infusion of fresh blood. Next year, you’ll
graduate and I’ll have to assemble a new team, but I don’t see anyone particularly
outstanding. Believe me: I’ve idled my life away for so long that I’m already tired of
myself... With each passing year, people are getting shallower, both morally and
spiritually, low in courage, and things won’t improve with acceleration alone... Did you
want something?”
“Ehh... I found out something... On the whole, they want to cancel the match with
the Invisibles. They have a plan. Magciety will arrange a match against Team Eternity.
They think we won’t score a single goal and then they...” Tanya blurted out.
“WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY?” Nightingale O. Robber’s face contorted beyond
recognition. Dragging a foot, he strode to Tanya and even got up slightly on his toes so
that their faces almost touched. Tanya realized for the first time that she was taller than
the coach.
“REPEAT!” Nightingale raised his voice menacingly.
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“They’ll arrange a match with Team Eternity. If the score is zero, the match with
the Invisibles will be cancelled,” Tanya repeated. She certainly did not expect
Nightingale would be very pleased, but the way he reacted to this news frightened her.
For a second she saw Nightingale as he once was before the meeting with Ilya
Muromets.52 Poor travelers! What horror they experienced in the last minutes of their
lives!
“How do you know this? Who told you?” Nightingale growled.
“I can’t name him. Please don’t ask! But it’s true, I’m not lying,” Tanya became
confused.
Nightingale had already pulled himself together. He looked piercingly at her and
grinned. “It goes without saying, I won’t guess which bird brought this news on its
wings... I’m just in dismay! When our precious comes flying to us next time to do us a
great favour, tell him that the old fool didn’t guess who he is! Isn’t it so?” he chuckled.
Tanya was embarrassed. She could say neither “yes” nor “no” so as not to give Gury
away. She did not quite expect Nightingale would react this way. On the other hand, she
understood very well that there was nothing more important in life for the old robber
than dragonball. A victory over the Invisibles was more important to him than his
surviving eye.
The coach looked pensively at the sky. “The last time Team Eternity was
assembled, The Ancient One bless my memory, was thirteen years ago... It then defeated
Team Babai with a zero score and derailed their match with the Gandharvas... I’ll never
forget that day! The match lasted less than an hour. They swept the Babai – and that
team was the best then – away from the field like a heap of garbage. But most of all it
shocked me that out onto the field then came...” without finishing, Nightingale glanced
quickly at Tanya. “We were stunned, some were even superstitiously afraid. I’m
imagining what’ll happen this time if the spell brings him to life.”
“Brings whom to life?” Tanya asked.
Nightingale was about to answer, but then they heard a noise from the side of the
hangar. The coach turned quickly. Confused genies were fussing stupidly, hanging onto
the chains of Mercury, which they were just getting ready to let go. Following Mercury,
which was usually used for beginners, its unruly brothers Smoky, Ash, and Sparkling
escaped from the hangar.
Nightingale was troubled. Such an abundance of dragons on the field did not bode
well for the freshmen.
“How many spells did you close the gates with, nitwits? Well, catch them quickly,
good-for-nothings! Do you want them to cripple all my guys? Here, I’ll find out who fed

52 According to legend, Nightingale the Robber, a robber from Russian epic poetry, was defeated by Ilya
Muromets, a folk hero and character in Russian epic poetry. The poem in which this event takes place is
called the First Feat of Ilya Muromets and is one of the most popular.
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them mercury from prints on the trail!” Nightingale roared, deafening the hapless
genies with a battle whistle.
Lazy Ash, having recently eaten and therefore drowsy and becoming clumsy,
managed to tire out soon, but Smoky and Sparkling swiftly soared to the very dome and
started a fight there. Scales glittered in the milky winter sky, and dragon roars rang out.
Bluish jets of fire, colliding, spattered sparks.
The first-year students looked up and watched the dragons with admiration.
Indeed, the one who saw fighting dragons would not want to return to the dull moronoid
world soon.
Mercury, which was still on the ground, was agitated and lashing its tail, taking
down novices carelessly approaching it. The genies, crouching in tension, kept it on
chains. Occasionally, Mercury jumped up and tried to take off, and then knocked down
the genies and dragged them through the snowdrifts.
“Why are you standing here?” Nightingale shouted at Tanya. “Help them! If these
klutzes don’t herd Smoky and Sparkling into the hangar, they’ll agitate Mercury and
derail my training session!”
“I haven’t got my double bass...” Tanya said apologetically. She had found out
about the change too late and did not have time to run for her instrument.
Nightingale glanced at her with his good eye. “It’s a strange time now. I don’t
understand what happened to the dragons. And not only to them... So, no then? I’ll ask
Yagun,” he said. Tanya thought that his voice sounded disappointed.
Pipa, twirling in the crowd of fourth-year students, snorted loudly, “Obviously!
What did I tell you? Grotty won’t even fly to the fence without the double bass!”
“Where, to the fence there? You said it! Without her double bass, Tanya won’t even
dare take off on a chair without serious magic insurance,” Coffinia supported her.
The darks laughed. It was insulting that some whites also followed suit. The
freshmen started to whisper among themselves, nudging each other with their elbows.
The ideal, which they had already managed to create for themselves, collapsed before
their eyes. Of course! The famous Tanya, who foreign sports reference guides called “the
terrible Russian Grotti,” was clearly afraid of two young dragons getting into a fight
under the dome at a most normal training session!
“I say: it’s all magic! The double bass does everything for her, and Tanya just sits
and clings with her knees so as not to fall! I myself saw that at the matches!” Zhora
Zhikin said authoritatively. The big bruise on his cheek, which Zhikin earned while
testing the baby Stinktopp’s catapult spell, stood out in purple.
Again laughter.
Tanya felt hot. Looking around, she dashed to Bab-Yagun’s vacuum, which he had
carelessly left in a snow bank by the locker room, and jumped on it.
“Don’t!” Yagun yelled in confusion, rushing to her. But he was too late.
“Speedus envenomus!” Tanya shouted. A red spark flashed.
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The vacuum roared. Noticing that it was soaring in the air, Tanya strongly grabbed
the pipe and pressed on the gas right to the floor. She had seen Yagun do this many
times. A couple of times she even flew on his vacuum, while Yagun commented critically
on her flight.
However, what happened now was unexpected for Tanya. The vacuum rushed
forward with such speed that it literally pressed Tanya into the waste bin, and the pipe
almost pulled away from her hands. Having somehow straightened the rogue machine,
the baby Grotter hurled it between the dragons.
Yagun, about to dart after Tanya, tripped and fell. “Stop! Stop!” he shouted, but
Tanya heard only the wind whistling in her ears and the furious roar of the vacuum.
“She’s crazy! Who accelerates with envenomus?” Yagun was horrified, turning to
Vanka’s face, which was covered with snow.
“Really not?” Vanka asked.
Yagun powerlessly jabbed his fist into the snow. “Yes, yes, but not now! My vacuum
doesn’t slow down!”
“What do you mean it doesn’t slow down? The braking spell?” Vanka did not
believe him.
“Won’t work. I rigged the charms on it so that it would gain speed quickly. And
then I suddenly realized that I hadn’t touched the brake charms, only I didn’t have time
to alter that! I wanted to finish it tonight and attach the bells at the same time, ” Yagun
informed him apologetically. He was obviously in a daze if he remembered about the
bells now.
Vanka stared wildly at Yagun, then at Tanya, who had already passed half the
distance to the dragons, and suddenly took off.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WAIT! HOW COULD I KNOW THAT SHE WOULD
JUMP ON MY VACUUM!” the playing commentator yelled after him, having come to
his senses.
Vanka ran up to Cryptova and, before the eyes of the startled Glomov, brusquely
yanked her off her vacuum. “Speedus envenomus!” he shouted, and a second vacuum,
discharging a jet of mermaid scales and small debris, darted like a rocket after the first.
Cryptova, taken aback for a second, quickly figured out what was happening and
calmed down. “Another kamikaze! I love mass funerals! It’s always so sentimental, isn’t
it, Gunya?” she said.
“Huh?!” Bachelor Gunnio Glomini asked in confusion.
“I said that I love funerals! Pity that I still haven’t managed to become Puper’s
widow,” Coffinia repeated patiently. “You don’t have a dark shirt? A jacket? Well, never
mind, it’ll be fine. Anyway, you won’t have to mourn. Your face is so red and angry. They
would move away the bottle from the likes of you at a wake. I know, believe me.”
Gunya frowned slightly, trying to be offended by Coffinia, but he could not. This
never worked for him. Instead, he pushed into the snow the handy Tuzikov, who was
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just turning up. “Why are you twirling around here? Well, broom in hand and be off
with you!” he growled. Tuzikov prudently departed, consoling himself with the thought
that it is better not to mess with fools.
Tanya, suspecting nothing, rushed to the dragons.
Smoky and Sparkling, having started with a playful fight, gradually became
enraged and were now tearing each other apart into thousands of little dragons. Joining
in battle in the air, they exchanged powerful blows with their leathery wings, breathing
fire, biting, and, turning onto their backs in flight, trying to impale their enemy with
their claws.
Sparkling was a lithe, fast dragon with glittering scales and a long graceful neck.
The flame which it exhaled was as hot as an adult dragon’s, but the blast was precise.
But, if Sparkling, with all its advantages, was still a teenage dragon, though promising,
then Smoky was now already large and massive like his father Goyaryn. Perhaps he
lacked grace and was not so pleasant to look at in flight, but his powerful paws with
brownish curved claws were so strong that they would easily break the spine of a bull. Its
wingspan was even larger than its father’s.
“Muromets shoot me! The dragons have grown! I told Slander long ago that they
should be kept apart. But he didn’t care! They, you see, have no funds for a new hangar.
If they push me, I’ll hit the high road with a bludgeon... Tanya’s flying strangely,
accelerating in bursts... I don’t like it,” Nightingale O. Robber muttered angrily. He still
did not know about the malfunction of the braking charms on Yagun’s vacuum, but he
already felt in his heart that something was wrong.
Flying around the dragons, Tanya realized that it would not be easy to pull them
apart. Smoky and Sparkling were too carried away and did not notice anything that was
going on around them. “Not drag them by the tail into the hangar? Both little lizards are
a tad too big for that!” the baby Grotter said to herself.
Yelling at her to stop, Vanka raced to Tanya on Coffinia’s vacuum, but Tanya heard
nothing. The vacuum beneath her roared and vibrated terribly. Before the brakes,
Yagun, this supreme Mr. Goodwrench, removed the muffler in another fit of refinement,
taking it into his head to increase the already monstrous power of the engine. With each
slight turn of the throttle, the flying machine responded with such a jerk that Tanya was
almost swept away from the waste container.
“I wish I had bagel holes – a full bagel hole,” Tanya thought, bouncing without any
enjoyment on the solid waste container. “I would give Yagun a dive jackhammer for his
seventeenth birthday. He would dismantle it, hybridize it with a vacuum, and would
make something really noteworthy. Maybe ask Puper?”
After looking closely, the baby Grotter realized that the only way to remove the
dragons from the field was to lure them away. “Here we need a perky pesky bait with the
manners of a kamikaze. Any offers? No offers! So, I’ll have to!” she decided.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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69

Leaning down onto the vacuum, Tanya grabbed the pipe and pulled the throttle
until it rested on the limit. The vacuum accelerated in such a way that the freshmen, like
freckles scattered across the field, blurred and rippled before her eyes.
Smoky’s wide-open mouth flashed for a moment in front of Tanya. She saw the
little red heart of its tonsils and the saw-tooth jags of its young teeth. Someone’s scaly
tail, rough like sandpaper, brushed her shoulder. Along with the pain in her shoulder, a
flaming flare singed her hair. A gust of wind from Sparkling’s wing almost threw her off
the vacuum.
“I’m nuts. I’m definitely tired of living! Why did I get between them at all?” The
thoughts flashed in Tanya. She did not expect such speed, and even on a vacuum. But it
was already too late to retreat.
“Sparkis frontis!” she shouted and, soaring above the dragons, attacked them with
fight sparks. The sparks could not inflict harm on the lizards, but the jabs of the red dots
were much more noticeable than their own flames. Here was Yagun’s vacuum with a girl
sitting on it, flickering annoyingly in front of Sparkling’s and Smoky’s eyes.
The hunting instinct, as ancient as pessimism, went off. Sparkling and Smoky
instantly turned their necks and, having forgotten about each other, chased after Tanya.
Even without turning around, she heard behind her the thumping of dragon wings. A
couple of times white, hot smoke shrouded her. Her back under the clothing first got
wet, then froze. Tanya guessed that the end of Smoky’s fiery jet was already overtaking
her. Fortunately, Sparkling, whose flame was more dangerous, was a little ways behind.
Besides, Smoky, slightly ahead of its brother, unwittingly shielded Tanya from its fire.
The dragons were catching up. Knowing that Goyaryn’s young sons were faster
than the vacuum after all and that to break away from them directly would fail, Tanya
decided to use a proven technique: brake and, abruptly changing direction, let the
speeding dragons past.
“Bangus parachutis!” she muttered, releasing a spark and getting ready to flip the
pipe into the other hand. Nothing happened. The vacuum shuddered, but continued to
race forward as before. For a moment, someone’s colourful, nimble vacuum rushed
sideways from Tanya, and she briefly thought that it was Coffinia.
“Bangus parachutis forte!” Tanya shouted at the top of her lungs. She was no
longer joking. Theophilus Grotter’s ring again fired a spark and again in vain. The
vacuum refused to brake. The dragons were approaching on one side. On the other was a
snow-covered field with dots of players flickering on it. The genies, pulling the chains,
were keeping Mercury in place with difficulty. It was trying to make the special dragon
game “split two ways” into the Russian folk ritual “split three ways.”53 Tanya was clearly
assigned the role of the half-litre bottle, as well as the first and second course.

53 During the late 1950s in the former Soviet Union, a half-litre bottle of vodka cost around 3 roubles. A
man wanting to get a bottle would try to get two more people to chip in a rouble each, thus giving rise to
the expression “split three ways.”
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70

The hangar remained far away. Performing the same manoeuvre at such a speed
was deadly dangerous. It could easily take down Tanya and the vacuum, and then each
would have gone on its own way and in its own trajectory. But there was no choice. The
air jet pushed the baby Grotter onto her back. Fleeing from the dragons, she clung to the
pipe and established a steep turn. It was the most reckless, technically improper, and at
the same time insanely daring turn that Tanya had ever accomplished. The vacuum
skidded and twirled. For a few seconds, Tanya lost awareness of her body. Heaven and
earth mingled. Something pushed her strongly on her burned shoulder and in the ribs.
She even thought that she had crashed into the ground... And then Tanya realized that
no, the flight was continuing. It seemed that she had managed to lose consciousness for
a moment. She came to in pain, after catching on a dragon tail.
Sparkling and Smoky loomed slightly in front and to the right. Leisurely gliding on
wide wings, they turned around. Yagun’s roaring vacuum continued to race aimlessly
out of control, carrying the baby Grotter on its wide waste container.
The dragons split up. Now Smoky was pursuing Tanya hard. Sparkling, though,
cutting her off, was skimming along the snowy field. Occasionally, it flexed its chiselled
neck and quickly tossed up its graceful head with bony plates on the nose, exhaling
flames. These were no longer the harmless dragons with which they trained in
preparation for the match with the Invisibles. Smoky’s and Sparkling’s brains had
shifted in a dangerous direction. The hangar genies had clearly given them too much
mercury over the winter.
“Hey, are you asserting yourselves? What, do you have hidden complexes?
Shameless, how will you look into Papa Goyaryn’s eyes when you gobble up Tanya
Grotter?” the girl yelled at them. However, this obviously worried Smoky and Sparkling
little. Their relationship with Papa Goyaryn was unique, in the spirit of Taras Bulba and
his overgrown offspring.54
Sparkling breathed out another jet of fire, singeing the nozzle of Yagun’s vacuum.
Smoky picked up speed and was so close that, turning around, Tanya could even make
out the small scales on its snout.
Manoeuvring on the vacuum as much as the high speed allowed, Tanya turned in
the direction of the hangar, near which genies with nets and firefighting water-sprites
summoned from Tibidox were bustling urgently. It seemed to Tanya that Yagge’s
colourful kerchief flickered below for a moment.
The dragons chased after her recklessly, not noticing anything. Tanya thought with
annoyance that she would outmanoeuvre them with ease on her own double bass, but
she was easy prey on an obviously defective vacuum with faulty brake amulets.

54 Taras Bulba is the main character of a historical novella of the same name (1835, 1842) by the Russian
writer Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (1809-52). He was a Cossack going to war against the Poles. His older son
was captured and executed by the Poles, while his younger forsook his heritage for the love of a Polish girl.
Taras Bulba shot his younger son when he found out.
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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
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71

Dodging fiery jets with difficulty, Tanya twice more uttered the accelerated braking
spell until she realized that it was useless. Regretting that she had not brought a shawl-
parachute with her, Tanya stood up and, looking around at Smoky, tried to detach the
waste container from the vacuum. Waiting until the mermaid scales ran out was too
disadvantageous. Yagun always filled the tank to capacity so that there would be enough
fuel until late in the evening.
After the third or fourth yank, the waste container yielded and, tumbling, flew into
Smoky’s face, hungry mouth wide open. Tanya, together with the rest of the vacuum,
rushed down like a rock, picking up speed.
“Quick, quick! Farewell, Russian Grotti!” Coffinia Cryptova uttered with feeling
and high-fived with Pipa.
The baby Grotter realized too late that she had made a mistake. Hurrying to detach
the waste container, she did not consider that, in contrast to the double bass, the
vacuum was poorly inclined to free gliding. “I wonder, will I be torn apart or will I
crash? Oh well, who cares! That’s it, Grandpa Theophilus, pack your bags!” Tanya
thought.
Wings folded, Smoky was already dropping on top of Tanya, not noticing the
hangar genies rushing with nets and Nightingale puffing out his cheeks for the combat
whistle.
Suddenly something flashed before Tanya’s eyes. She had time to notice the
familiar red vacuum, dashing from somewhere on the side and across her path. “Really
Cryptova? I don’t believe it!” flashed in her mind.
The next instant the vacuums collided. At the same time, someone caught her waist
and pulled her to the side. Tanya rolled over the snow, scooping the prickly snow with
her collar and sleeves...
The hangar genies threw the nets onto Sparkling and Smoky and, soothing them,
forced them into the hangar. The water-sprites were bustling around, stupidly waving
their arms.
Cryptova’s vacuum was lying in the snow bank, charms scattered about. The
flexible hose leaned to the side, like a tentacle of a dead octopus. The metal guts of
Yagun’s vacuum gleamed picturesquely nearby. It was a sad picture. Very little was left
of the vacuum. Only the chrome pipe was sticking out of the snow like a reproachful
finger, as if saying, “From here we will face the Swedes.”55
“Oh, my granny mama! My vacuum! This is its hundredth crash, at least one
compliment!” Bab-Yagun exclaimed, running up. He pondered for some time, looking at
the flattened waste container, on which Smoky’s teeth marks were clearly visible, and
corrected himself, “Sorry, ninety-ninth... No need for flowers at this time. We’ll do with
simple applause.”

55 Words Peter the Great (1672-1725) of Russia said on the founding of Saint Petersburg (1703).
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72

Yagun glanced at the field and his face suddenly became serious. He flung away the
pipe and, stumbling, rushed to where the wind was fluffing up the snow and piling
snowdrifts near the magic dome...
Tanya raised herself with effort and, having sat up, looked around. She wanted to
know to whom she owed her salvation. Someone was lying half a step from her, face
buried in the snow. A yellow jersey was showing from under a sheepskin coat and
sweater.
So that was who was on Coffinia’s vacuum and ready to break his neck for her!
Vanka, Vanka!
“VANKA!” Tanya cried out, rushing to him. She tried to turn Valyalkin, but
managed to do so only with Yagun’s help. Vanka was biting the snow. The snow was
stained red. Vanka had skinned his cheek badly in the fall. His left arm was unnaturally
bent. Tanya did not even dare touch it, afraid that it would be more painful for Vanka.
“Lucky me, magic station again! Black magic rodeo then, now this...” Vanka uttered
with difficulty.
Yagge and Nightingale were already hurrying to them, but they were still far away
for the time being. The coach was limping, and Yagge was no longer in those years when
she competed in a race with ostriches. Genies with a stretcher pattered behind Yagge
and Nightingale. Their flat, formless faces were serene and detached. It was obvious that
it made no difference to the genies whether Vanka had broken his arm or neck. If not for
the Lord of the genies’ ring, residing day and night on Sardanapal’s finger and forcing
the genies to obey, they would already have hit the road into the desert to make sand
storms or lie in jars on the ocean floor.
Realizing that they would now carry him to magic station and he would be
separated from Tanya, Vanka stretched out his good hand and grasped her wrist. It
seemed he was afraid above all to be parted from her at this moment. To keep and to
hold her hand and never let go. Until the last moment, until the last breath.
“How are you? In one piece?” he breathed out.
“Yes, yes! How are you?” Tanya asked.
Vanka bit the snow again. “I wasn’t quite successful in protecting you... Too fast.
The vacuums collided. One of us... you or I... must... fall down... Then the other would
fall on the first and soften the blow... I thought it’s better if it would be me...” he
explained.
“Shut up! You’re crazy! Why?” Tanya yelled.
Valyalkin forced a smile. It was as if he had read her thoughts. “If I die, be happy
with Puper! Listen, I want it!” he said.
“Now, now, don’t go to pieces! Tanyas are hard to come by!” Yagun said, becoming
angry. “No one has ever died from a broken arm! Anyway, for someone dying, you’re
saying awfully long sentences.”

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73

“Yagun, go away! Vanka, I don’t need any Puper! Why don’t you understand this,
fool?” Tanya shouted, crying.
Not letting go of her hand, Vanka stroked the back of Tanya’s hand with his thumb.
This manifestation of restrained tenderness was customary for him. “No, no need to
throw away your life... Puper also loves you... He’s better than me. He’s famous, good-
looking, rich ... You’ll be safe with him!” he said.
“Shut up! I’ll jinx him, this Puper-Chuper...” Tanya was outraged. “Were you really
not upset with me when I pretended that I don’t love you? Yesterday, when I made that
scene at you?”
“Upset, yes... But still... could not... forget... In the afternoon I tried not to pay
attention to you, but in the evening I thought only of you...” Vanka said brokenly, biting
his lip.
Tanya looked back at Yagun. After a cough, Yagge’s grandson tactfully left.
Surrounding him were the freshman and members of Team Tibidox, who were running
up but not making up their minds to approach Tanya and Vanka.
“How is he?” Katya Lotkova asked, looking anxiously at Yagun’s face.
Bab-Yagun looked mournfully at her. Then he took her sleeve and drew her aside
importantly. “Very bad. He’s dying. He’s already raving,” he said shortly.
“Raving?” Katya was frightened.
“Yes. Love raving – the most severe form of schizophrenic raving. In contrast to all
other forms of raving, it’s incurable,” Yagun explained seriously.
“And you’re not schizophrenic sometimes?” Lotkova asked suspiciously. She was
beginning to guess vaguely that she was being fooled.
“Of course! Schizophrenic, certainly,” Yagun confirmed willingly. “I have glimpses
only on Fridays, starting at nine in the evening. By the way, what are you doing next
Friday? Shall we go somewhere?” Katya snorted and walked away.
Yagge and a breathless Nightingale finally ran up to Vanka.
“Well, Grotter! Well, Tanya! Well, Valyalkin!” the coach exhaled hoarsely. He could
not say anything more.
But then, one glance was enough for Yagge to understand what had happened. “Lift
him and carry him to magic station. I won’t look here... Lock the arm in one position!
And wrap him in something! Can’t you see that he has the chills?” she ordered the
genies severely. To Vanka she said, “Be patient, Romeo! If nothing else is broken, you’ll
soon be on your feet. For frequent customers I have double-sized bonegrafts plus
scolding for free.”
When Vanka was on a stretcher, Yagge looked at Tanya critically. “Stop! Also take
her to magic station! Why is she on her feet? What if she has internal bleeding?”
The genies were about to move to Tanya, coming from two sides.
“NO!” the baby Grotter shouted. “I don’t want to! I want to be with him! Don’t
come near!”
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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
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74

Correctly catching a note of desperation in her voice and noticing red lightning
sliding along her ring, Yagge made a sign to the genies. “Okay, lady, you don’t have to lie
down on a stretcher and can walk beside your Vanka,” she said patiently. “But keep in
mind, you still have to relinquish him in magic station. I’ll sort out his arm and then
deal with your bruises and burns. Don’t tell me that they don’t exist. If so, I’ll decide that
you hit your head and will insist on compulsory hospitalization...”
And so they went right to Tibidox. Yagge and Nightingale, indifferent to all the
genies, and Tanya, who walked beside the stretcher, holding Vanka’s hand. Behind them
at some distance stretched a long procession of freshman and the Tibidox team.
Unexpectedly, someone touched Tanya’s burned elbow. She turned, almost
howling in pain. Beside her, looking at her enthusiastically and even standing on tiptoe
to see better, froze a girl with a white braid. The one who had gone to Gunya with
questions.
“I’m Masha Feklishcheva,” she said in a delicate voice. “I really want to be like you!
All our class admires you!”
Tanya glanced briefly at her and nodded. She had suddenly become indifferent to
everyone. Everyone but one. She walked beside Vanka and gently held his hand.
Getting stuck in the snowdrifts, the genies shook the stretcher. Vanka clenched his
teeth to keep from crying out in pain.
“We will never part, never... Never ever now... All that was, it’s all over, it’s all
over...” Tanya whispered, precisely singing him a lullaby.

***

Coffinia, gloomy and discontented, walked beside Glomov. Her mood was worse
than ever. “What a pity Grotter didn’t break anything... Did you see how this cowardly
fool fled from the dragons? Why are you silent, Glom, are you mute? So, did you see or
not?” she declared.
Suddenly Gunya stopped, turned to Coffinia severely, and, taking her by her
elbows, lifted her up. Cryptova’s feet were off the ground. “Listen! If you call Grotter
cowardly one more time, I’ll shove you into your vacuum! Is that clear?” Glomov
croaked.
Cryptova, not expecting such rebellion from Gunya, was taken aback and did not
know what to answer. Only after Glomov had put her down and left did Coffinia recover
enough and say aloud, “Well, Glom... I’ll get you for this! What do you know, how
compassionate, boo-hoo! You betrayed me, you creep!”
Cryptova had almost reached Tibidox, but suddenly realized that her vacuum was
still on the field. She had to go back. By that time, the dragonball field was empty. Even
the genies, after driving all the dragons into the hangars, had left. Coffinia was alone on
the vast white plain.
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75

“I’m so bothered, so upset, and he... And most importantly, because of what!
Because of that miserable Grotty! Gunnio Glomini be darn! Never mind, wait till exams!
You’ll be stuck in fourth year for some thirty years... And then even Sardanapal’s
patience will end,” Cryptova muttered.
Snow was falling in large flakes, hurrying to cover all tracks. Suddenly, as if by
someone’s ill will, all the snow on the field began to move and whirl about, like in a
mixer. A large dark shadow, as if woven from the blizzard, fell onto Coffinia from
behind. Cryptova stopped muttering and froze in amazement. Icy snakes of terror ran
through her body. She knew that she should turn around, but she hesitated.
“Hey, who else is there? I’m asking, who? Ahhhh!” Coffinia turned, and her shrill,
heart-rending, inhuman shriek echoed across the field, dying in the snowstorm...

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
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76

Chapter 7
Beatrice the Wise

Not too late, not too early, but around two in the morning the best (and possibly
therefore the former) deputy Herman Nikitich Durnev returned home from the Slavic
Bazaar Restaurant. Beside him pattered the well-drunk Gratis, forcibly dressed in a
trendy jacket, which had only recently come from the tailor. Every few steps Gratis
became sad. He got down on all fours, pulled the red tie off his neck, and, whimpering,
wailed.
“Damn waiter, he poisoned me! He slipped something into the wine! And you,
Gosha, you skunk! Skunk! Oo-oo-oo!”
“I’m not Gosha! I’m Herman!” the director of Second-Hand Socks objected. He
stood exaggeratedly straight and, after shutting the car doors, was confused for a long
time by the two alarm buttons.
“Although Grisha, a skunk all the same! Why didn’t you let me get acquainted with
the... uh... fashion model?” Gratis was indignant, stumbling on level ground.
“You barely reached to her waist!” Durnev said reasonably.
Granny Ryukha’s relative jumped up angrily. “But I did, I did! Ahhh, nothing for
you to say! And all because you’re envious! Your wife is a... uh... crocopo... that is...
hippdile... again not that... a crocohippodile... Oh, just right!”
Uncle Herman turned purple. “Don’t you dare say that! Ninel was a ballerina!” he
lost his temper.
“Really? Did she tell you that? And I was a giant!” Gratis giggled.
The furious Durnev wanted to grab him by the tie, but did not manage to. The
werewolf suddenly rolled his eyes and, after his nose fell into a puddle, gurgled
enthusiastically. Turning Gratis over, Uncle Herman was convinced that he was fast
asleep.
“You think I’ll carry you! Don’t wait!” Durnev said... and hoisted Gratis onto his
back. The werewolf made the rest of the way on the shoulders of the huffy chair of
V.A.M.P.I.R.
Downstairs, by the elevator, Uncle Herman met General Cutletkin, rushing to his
secretary for a cup of tea. He had recently sent Isadora to Amsterdam and was now
enjoying freedom. The general stopped to shake Durnev’s hand, while deftly tucking
under his arm a thick folder he was holding in his hands. On the switching of soldiers to
disposable vegetarian meals flashed on the spine. General Cutletkin was a real
workaholic. He did not stop thinking, even at night, about how much good he could still
do for the army.
“What’s up?” Cutletkin asked Durnev.
“Here, I’ve got a job as a porter. Drunk on homebrew,” Uncle Herman grunted.

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Cutletkin glanced indifferently at Gratis. To him, the werewolf was something not
unlike a funny monkey, which also had the ability to talk. “Oh, by the way, I wanted to
propose something to you... Will you hit the road as an observer to the Middle East?” he
asked.
“Get lost! I know your ‘observer’. What am I, a boy or something, to lug around
uranium in a suitcase?” Durnev responded.
Cutletkin laughed. Durnev liked him because he did not have to stand on ceremony
with the general. He was as simple as a sledgehammer and as humane as a bayonet.
Going up in the elevator, Uncle Herman was holding the tossing and turning Gratis
by the legs and thinking sadly that perhaps the werewolf was right. His Ninel was
already far from being a ballerina and her character had not gotten better with age. Here
you live, slave like a miner, earn dough, and she... Feeling a sudden surge of irritation,
Uncle Herman kicked the elevator, almost dropping Gratis, who, nevertheless,
continued to sleep happily.
The elevator stopped. Uncle Herman, in a dark mood, stepped onto the landing,
fumbling for the keys in his pocket, and suddenly saw on the threshold a little old-
fashioned chest studded with strips of iron. Something was clearly happening inside the
chest. Either someone was tossing and turning or something was ticking. On the whole,
there was suspicious activity.
“Aha, a bomb!” Durnev almost rejoiced in his ingenuity. “Or Grotter’s child from
that smart Englishman! In short, one of the two, and it’s still not clear which is worse. In
any case, you won’t have a lot of hassle with a bomb.” Deciding to open the chest
carefully, Durnev squatted down and, after taking a deep breath, turned the key.
The forgotten Gratis slipped from his shoulder and, bumping his nose on the floor,
woke up. “What happened to me, have I been shot?” he asked, crazed.
“Yeah,” Uncle Herman confirmed.
“Terrible! Then I’m dead!” Gratis said and, swaying, sat down on the floor.
Durnev carefully lifted the lid, checking if a fishing line leading to the pin of a
grenade was tied to it. Unexpectedly, a suspicious sound – neither a chomp nor a croak
– was heard from the chest. The terrified deputy slammed his fingers with the lid and,
shaking his hand, began to blow on them.
Gratis, who knew nothing about grenades and the attempts on the business elite,
showed much more courage. He calmly opened the lid and shoved his head into the
chest. Uncle Herman carefully peered over his shoulder.
Inside the chest lay a satin cushion. On the cushion sat a small greenish frog,
holding a rusty arrow in its mouth.
“A frog princess! My dear mama!” Gratis gasped.

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78

Ignoring the werewolf, the frog looked at Uncle Herman with eyes bulging as if
from Graves’ disease. “Hello, my intended, hello, my guy in fancy dress!” she said
melodiously. “I’m Beatrice the Wise, cousin of Vasilisa the Wise!”56
“Goo-good ev-v-evening!” the deputy greeted, stammering.
“My life’s a tragedy! Koshchei the Deathless jinxed me... This shameless jealous
man could not endure my refusal and turned me into a loathsome slimy frog! I read
tarot cards, and the cards said that the only way to remove the evil eye and become a
beauty once again is to marry the Lord of the vampires. Herman, Herman, is it really
you? Will you marry me?”
“I’m ma-ma-ma...”
“He’s married!” Gratis snitched with pleasure.
The frog tragically flipped over on the cushion with legs up. “Oh, nooo!” she
moaned. “All is lost! Was the marriage conducted at a ceremony of The Ancient One and
sealed by his spell? Then I’ll always remain a frog! Such marriages are indissoluble!”
“What Ancient One?” Uncle Herman asked suspiciously. “I got married in Wedding
Palace No. 1,57 like all decent people! A cosmonaut and two people’s artists58 were at my
wedding!”
Beatrice the Wise started to kick in delight. “Glory be to Chaos! The registry office
doesn’t count. Only magical marriages conducted at a ceremony of The Ancient One.
You don’t have such a marriage, no?” she asked.
“No!” Uncle Herman assured her. “Not that! We didn’t even get married in the
church, because I held a responsible position.”
“And later? You weren’t married?” the frog asked quickly and anxiously.
“And now he’s not supposed to, as king of the vampires! The subjects won’t
understand!” Gratis butted in with pride for his relative.
A happy Beatrice the Wise jumped up and, before Durnev had time to come to his
senses, kissed him on the lips. An average swamp wafted over Uncle Herman. “Marry
me, darling! I’m indeed a beauty. Vasilisa the Wise is no comparison to me. Any water I
wash my feet with, she bathes in it.”
“Really? A beauty, you say?” Uncle Herman asked, looking doubtfully at the frog.
“Trust me! I’ll fire you up with affection, burn and singe you!” she promised.
“Agreed? With me you’ll live in complete bliss, like a pancake rolling in butter!”
“Uh, umm... Well, it’s possible!” Uncle Herman, who desperately wanted to marry
a beautiful woman, went all shy.

56 Vasilisa the Wise is the Russian variant of the Frog Princess.
57 The Griboyedov Registry Office is the first Wedding Palace in Moscow, opened in 1961 in a 1909
mansion. At the time of opening, the street was named Griboyedov Street, thus the name of the office.
58 People’s artist is an honorary title in Russia and former communist states, awarded for exceptional
achievements in the arts.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2017
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“True, we’ll have to wait thirty days and thirty nights. Magical marriages at a
ceremony of The Ancient One aren’t done sooner. Unfortunately, the old bore was
against hasty familiarity and placed a special magic block,” the frog added sadly.
Durnev nodded. He was prepared to wait at least two months. Experience had
taught him that beauties are hard to come by, if, of course, they do not mix beer with
vodka or cognac with white wine.
“Wrap me in a kerchief and take me home, precious!” the frog ordered. “And don’t
say anything about me to your wife living in the non-magical marriage with you! And I’ll
never leave you, my sweet! And I’ll kiss and caress you.”
Filled with the sweetest dreams, Uncle Herman licked his lips and, with a shaking
hand, reached into his pocket for a hanky. After hiding the frog, he pushed the empty
chest behind the garbage chute to take it to the garage in the morning, and, like a
conspirator, infiltrated his own apartment. In their apartment and immediately
noticeable after the street, two smells – the smell of the dachshund, which loved old
newspapers more than the lawn, and the smell of expensive French perfume – were
forever fighting.
Aunt Ninel was not sleeping. Dressed in a roomy silk robe, from which two sheets
could easily be cut out, Durneva was inattentively reading the female detective story
Kolobok59 in a Wig. On hearing a key turning in the lock, she, stretching languidly, went
out to meet her husband. The dachshund One-and-a-Half Kilometres, sleeping under
the sofa and dreaming a restless senile dream, crawled out and, clicking its claws on the
parquet floor, ran to establish order.
The first to turn up near Uncle Herman’s feet, the dachshund suspiciously growled
at his pocket. It vaguely felt that something was amiss.
“Who’s she growling at?” Aunt Ninel asked suspiciously.
“No one!” Durnev said quickly.
“If there was no one, she wouldn’t be growling! Are you hiding something from me,
Herman?” Aunt Ninel asked shrewdly.
Durnev moved restlessly on the spot. “Why are you pestering me? She wants to
growl and she growls! Probably at Gratis! He was trying to catch cats again!” he said
tearfully.
Aunt Ninel looked reproachfully at the werewolf. “Gratis, is that true? Why were
you chasing cats in a new suit?” she cooed.
The werewolf, who was forced to confess to something he did not do, looked
meaningfully at Uncle Herman. His brows wiggled on his narrow forehead. “Brother,
will you take me to the restaurant tomorrow?” he asked.
“Everyday? Won’t it be greasy?” Uncle Herman was indignant.

59 A kolobok is a small round loaf.
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“Ugh, how nasty you are, brother! I’ve indigestion from home cooking! Look... I
won’t chase cats... How about you, not damp? Or help, perhaps?” And Gratis pointedly
patted his pocket.
Uncle Herman gave up, correctly understanding the hint. “Okay, I’ll take you!
Damn you!” he said.
“And you’ll let me approach the models?” Gratis continued to find out.
Durnev sighed. He realized that his beloved brother would now blackmail him
endlessly. Now they were talking in a whisper, like conspirators. “They’ll step on you,”
he said.
“It’s no longer your problem! Not my fault that I like tall women. My grandpa’s first
marriage was to a heroine. I’m all into it. So, will you let me or not?” the werewolf asked
forcefully.
“Yes, yes, yes!” Uncle Herman hissed.
Gratis, having made a deal on something he could not even hope for, lit up. “Yes,
yes, yes! I chased the cats! I’m kind of a freak, a maniac, and all that! How I love my
brother! You’re so lucky to have him, Mumsy!” he admitted loudly, throwing himself on
the astonished Aunt Ninel’s neck.
Durneva shook off the impulsive dwarf and tenderly hugged Uncle Herman, almost
accidentally crushing her crafty rival in the process. The dachshund One-and-a-Half
Kilometres growled and withdrew under the sofa out of harm’s way. Sometimes it
seemed to this bow-legged sausage that it was the most rational creature at the
Durnevs’.

***

The days stretched out. Gratis, aka King Midas, Vaslav Nijinsky, 60 Herostratus,61 a
machine for gluing labels, the emperor Caligula,62 also the nephew of Granny Ryukha,
and the fool knows who else, went to the restaurant every evening and caroused with
fashion models, bringing Uncle Herman unexpected expenses. Among Moscow’s beau
monde someone unknown spread the rumour that the little dwarf owned several oil rigs
in Tyumen, and that for this reason the wily Durnev was leading him on. “Get him
drunk, force him to sign a paper – and everything! He’s like that!” Whispered business
60 Vaslav Formich Nijinsky (1889-1950), Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent. He
was the lead dancer and choreographer of the Ballets Russes and of the “Russian Seasons” – the
performances of Russian opera and ballet companies in 1907-14 in Paris and London, organized by Sergei
Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929) and based on which the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev’s ballet company, was
created.
61 Herostratus, who gave name to the term herostratus fame – seeking fame at any cost, was an Ancient
Greek who, seeking notoriety, burned the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus on July 21, 356 BC. The Temple,
dedicated to Artemis, the huntress goddess, was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
62 Caligula was the nickname of the Roman emperor (37-41) Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
(12-41).
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aces, who would gladly screw Gratis over themselves, but they were afraid of Uncle
Herman.
“That’s what reputation means! Even when you want to do good, no one believes
you!” the chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. thought irritably.
To his incredible surprise, Gratis enjoyed great, unbelievable success with the
fashion models. “He’s so amusing, so playful! He mimics a dog so comically! So much
better than these overfed bank hogs, on whose backs are imprinted the horizontal bars
of a chair!” they relayed to each other. He operated the notorious female telegraph
machine, invented again by Mama Eve and her daughters, and Gratis only came home in
the morning, lipstick smeared from head to toe and his tie soaked in wine and sauce.
Surrounded by women like flies, the werewolf beamed and generously gave them
pieces of gold, which he chipped off the Durnevs’ toilet tank during the day. As a result,
the all-knowing gossipmongers began to say that, besides the rigs, the dwarf even had
an illegal gold mine in Yakutia, where escaped convicts worked.
“Where else would he have learned to howl like a wolf that way? And his eyes glow
in the dark!” they said.
For some time Uncle Herman patiently dragged himself after Gratis, until he
realized that there would not be any special sense in it at all. A little more and he would
be taken as a sponger of the rich dwarf, and there could indeed be nothing worse.
Durnev left Gratis alone, dividing his time between Aunt Ninel and the frog.
He made a small aquarium for the frog, filled the bottom with water, and placed a
lily pad on the surface. In order that the aquarium would not catch the eye of his wife, he
hid it in the safe, the code of which only he knew.
Unlike her sister Vasilisa, Beatrice the Wise did not shed the frog skin day or night,
but only swore at Koshchei the Deathless. “He already exhausted the whole magic world,
the old fart! Doesn’t give a girl any peace! Herman, be so kind: go quickly, run him
through with your sword!” she said.
Uncle Herman thoughtfully rubbed his nose. At the very thought of having to stab
someone, he became ill at ease. “It is, of course, a good idea... But perhaps, it’s better to
write a denunciation? Or simply make a couple of calls?” he suggested.
“Who would you call? The magfioso cupids? He has no heart, there’s nowhere to
release the arrows to. Denunciations will go to him at Magciety all the same, he’ll take
them apart himself,” Beatrice the Wise croaked.
She did not scorch Uncle Herman with fiery affection, if one did not consider the
stinky water that sometimes squirted quickly from the aquarium. She ate a lot, and
increasingly more frog food, demanding that Durnev buy bloodworms from the pet store
for her.
“Wait, my dear, we’ll marry at a ceremony of The Ancient One, I’ll shed the frog
skin, and then! Believe me, my dear, Vasilisa is nothing next to me! Did you read the

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fairy tale? She’s incapable of baking a simple cake without mama-nanny. Patience, my
dear, thirty days!” Beatrice cooed. Uncle Herman endured, enviously eyeing Gratis.
A taxi usually brought the werewolf home at dawn. He answered Aunt Ninel’s
questions and reproaches incoherently and with a mumble.
“If I see you in the bathroom with a nail file again, I’ll kill you! The plumber is
already coming! You’re squandering family gold!” Aunt Ninel said.
“Ha, family! It’s all mine! Who made the toilet gold? Exactly! In fact, leave me
alone, Mumsy! Better watch out for your husband!” Gratis replied brazenly.
“Don’t you touch my husband! At least he sits at home and doesn’t go gallivanting!”
Aunt Ninel was seething with indignation.
“I know how he sits. Eek!” Gratis replied mysteriously and, blindly bumping his
head against the walls, crawled purposefully on all fours to his cubby-hole.

***

One morning, when Aunt Ninel, having made herself nine fried eggs, was just
about to pierce the first one feelingly with a fork, a sound distracted her. Looking up,
Durneva saw that Count Dracula’s crown, which her husband had left on the little table
by the sink yesterday after cleaning it with baking soda, suddenly began to jump.
“Greetings to you, jerkies, runts, cursers, ghouls, mavkas, 63 vampires, wizards,
maggals, magarajahs,64 and to Slander Slanderych personally! With you is Nagiana
Pripyatskaya with her Latest Magnews, boring for everyone. Advertising for today isn’t
paid for, so I won’t work too hard. It was some stiff’s birthday yesterday on Bald
Mountain. Now it’s like soup in my head. All words have scattered somewhere! Can’t
remember this stiff’s name. I only remember that he pestered me and in the end got it
with the bottle... Oh, The Ancient One, no, it was my boss! Nightmare! I wonder if I’m
fired! He most likely hasn’t slept it off yet... In any case, happy birthday!
“Where’s my paper? Let’s see what magnews we have there. It can’t be that nothing
bad hasn’t happened to this wacky earth ball... Oh, charming, I see bad magnews galore!
I sometimes wonder, where has the good disappeared to? It simply mustn’t be a media
event... Well, let’s go!
“Magnews from Magford. Gury Puper has once again appealed to the press. The
English wizard, not so long ago rejected by the Russian girl Tanya, has promised to
never marry. ‘My heart’s broken! I know myself, I’ll never be able to love another. My
fate was sealed. When I turn twenty-one, I’ll go to a magnastery,65 where I’ll devote my
life to dragonball and meditation,’ he told reporters. Many Puper fans fell into a trance
after this news. Some even tried to poison themselves with phosphorus matches.
63 A mavka is a Ukrainian mythological figure, a type of rusalka, which is a water nymph, an evil female
spirit in Slavic mythology.
64 Maharajah magicians.
65 Magnastery – a monastery for magicians.
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However, Gury Puper’s coach and both his aunts don’t seem to attach any special
meaning to the statement.
“‘At seventeen, people tend to exaggerate their unhappiness!’ the aunt who dreams
of maglawyers stated. ‘I’m sure Gury will marry sooner or later. When the time comes,
Aunt Nasturtia and I will personally select his bride, focusing first of all on her moral
qualities and ethical stalibity...’ I'm sorry, of course, the aunt said ‘stability’.
“The coach expressed himself even more definitely. ‘The guy’s gone mad,’ he said.
‘Now I’ll arrange for him twelve workouts per week and two sparring with mountain
trolls a month, and all nonsense will fly out of his head in a flash. I’ll have him barely
crawling to bed in the evening.’
“The young Tibidox witch Tatiana Grotter, whom they blame for Puper becoming a
hormonal maniac, refused to comment whatsoever. She cast a spell on our special
correspondent and made her way to magic station, where she’s on duty by the bedside of
her former boyfriend... What’s his name? Petka, Vaska, Vadka? Such a simple name, can
say quite worthless... And the boy himself too! Parents are squalid alcoholics, and he
goes around in a darned shirt year round like a complete nutcase. I apologize, of course,
but he clearly falls short of Puper...
“And finally, the most mysterious magnews of today. Also, incidentally, from
Tibidox. That place delights me, darn it! It seems blissful and quiet, but look closely, it’s
such a dump that Bald Mountain can relax. A few days ago, as we managed to find out,
an unknown perpetrator attacked Coffinia Cryptova. An intelligent and pretty girl.
Perhaps the most deserving person in Tibidox...
“Coffinia was found unconscious on the dragonball field and moved to magic
station. The search for whoever attacked Coffinia yielded nothing. A powerful blizzard
swept away all traces. As it soon became clear, Cryptova received no external damage
and came to in the evening. The girl doesn’t remember anything about the
circumstances of the attack. She only says that she felt a strong blow, like a powerful
gust of wind.
“However, when classes began the next morning, Tibidox teachers found that
Coffinia had completely lost all magical abilities. She remembers all the spells, but can’t
release even the weakest spark. At first, they thought that the problem was her ring, but
even with Sardanapal’s ring, the result remained the same... Coffinia’s magic gift is gone,
it seems, forever. This case is exceptional and unique, as magical abilities are often
innate.
“Slander Slanderych, the principal of Tibidox, stated that, according to the law of
The Ancient One, which has never been violated, a wizard who has lost the gift can no
longer be on Buyan and must return to the moronoids. ‘We could, of course, leave
Coffinia in school, but here the first poltergeist will kill her or the first kikimora will jinx
her. The girl’s absolutely defenceless without magic,’ he stated and added that Coffinia
Cryptova will be teleported back home tomorrow morning to her moronoid parents.
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“Sardanapal, it appears, is in complete agreement with the principal, which means
that the decision will unlikely be reversed. But that’s all the magnews for this morning,
my little jerkies! Don’t forget to turn on your zoomers in the evening and find out what
other nasty things have befallen the world, otherwise I’ll jinx you! With you was your
troublesome, your incomparable Nagianie!”
Uncle Herman’s crown stopped bouncing, and Aunt Ninel finally regained the
ability to move. For almost the first time in her life, she dropped her fork and rushed to
tell her husband everything.
“Let’s summarize. Grotter chucked away a favourable husband. That’s one.
Therefore, there’s some chance for our Pipa to become Pipa Puper. That’s two. Ninel,
move, you’re standing on a bloodworm, three... I shouldn’t have left it on the floor,
four...” the chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. responded, after thinking for a while.
The fried eggs, left alone, looked bug-eyed at the ceiling without blinking, obviously
debating the wrongness of fate and human guile.

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85

Chapter 8
Perunus Deus

Yagge was puttering behind the partition and, muttering something at an infusion
of plantain, preparing medicine.
Tanya sat on the edge of Vanka’s bed. It was the same bed on which a frostbitten
Puper had been sick not so long ago. Then Tanya also had to sit in the same place,
brushing Puper’s hands off her knees. For this reason, though the bed was the same,
Tanya did not like it much. Fortunately, Vanka did not talk about his bank account and
did not build plans for a life together forty years into the future; for that Tanya was
grateful.
“Imagine two snakes of the same length, which with equal zeal swallow each other,
starting from the tail. Got it?” Vanka asked.
“Well,” Tanya nodded. “It’s like the symbol of eternity?”
“Yes. The question that bothers me is what will be left of them as a result?”
“Stuffing. Big and eternal stuffing. Or one snake will escape in flight,” Tanya said
after thinking.
Vanka laughed. His plastered hand bounced on the bed. One of the bonegrafts,
gnawing through the plaster by mistake, flew off to the ceiling and quickly crawled along
it like a big coin with many legs.
“You can’t think abstractly or philosophically,” Vanka said, continuing to laugh.
“Uh-huh. But I know snakes inside out,” Tanya said, wondering if Shurasik, staying
a few hours yesterday in magic station complaining of an upset stomach, had bitten
Vanka. As it turned out, Shurasik had poisoned himself with some quack potion of
Arctic owls minced in a blender. Someone had told him that it would allow him to study
day and night without a break.
Yet another bonegraft had gnawed through the plaster and begun aimlessly
crawling along Valyalkin’s arm and the blanket, leaving a long orange trail with its
curative gland.
“Something about some of your bonegrafts isn’t right... They’re not in their right
minds!” Tanya said cautiously.
“Of course!” Vanka snorted. “I jinxed them! Only – shh! – don’t tell Yagge. She’ll
kill me.”
“Why did you jinx them?”
“I don’t know. They tickled, tickled, so I decided to check if an evil eye would affect
them. It worked,” Valyalkin admitted with a sigh and flicked the bonegraft off his knee.
“And if your arm won’t heal now?” Tanya asked.
“It will! Moronoids heal somehow,” Vanka said.

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Someone knocked. Liza Zalizina came into magic station. Pretending not to see
Tanya, she greeted Yagge and went to Vanka. “Here, I brought you jam! You’re always
hungry!” she said, putting the jar on the bedside table.
“Thank you!” Valyalkin thanked her. “Oh, even with a spoon! Great!”
For some reason Tanya was terribly angry that Vanka did not refuse it, though, on
the other hand, she understood very well that shoving the jar back to Zalizina, playing
the stupid game of “I won’t take it, you take it, no way!” would be stupid on his part.
“They really don’t feed people in magic station?” she asked into space, not to anyone in
particular.
Zalizina ignored her question. She in fact pretended as hard as she could that
Tanya did not exist in nature. “How are you feeling? The leg doesn’t hurt?” she asked
Vanka.
“Already better,” said Vanka.
“Healed?”
“Yes, likely...” It was obvious that Vanka was confused. He did not want to be rude
to Zalizina, but at the same time he felt that Tanya did not like this whole situation at all.
“Do you want me to cast a spell on your leg? I can!” Liza suggested.
“By the way, Vanka’s legs are fine. If anyone paid any attention, the plaster is on his
arm,” Tanya said.
“It’s noisy here somehow. Is there a zoomer operating somewhere, perhaps? Do
you hear the nasty voice? Probably a program for lowlifes,” Zalizina wondered, looking
at the wall.
It was too much. In any case, for Tanya, and Vanka understood it. “Don’t, Liz!
Yagge is treating me. In fact, my bonegrafts are a little... in short, already enchanted...”
he refused.
“I’ll cast a spell anyway! It’s called ‘crossover magic’. When you cast it on a leg, the
arm recovers, and vice versa,” Zalizina said stubbornly, not about to quit.
“Don’t cast in the presence of a third person. Anyway, I hope there’s no love potion
in the jam?” Tanya asked loudly, unable to contain herself.
Zalizina looked angrily at her. “No, only strychnine...” she said.
“Oh, finally noticed me! Hurray! Hello, Liza!” Tanya was delighted.
“Don’t push me, Grotty!” Zalizina was angry.
“It’s you don’t push me! I’m dark, by the way. Draw conclusions here. I don’t care
for any of you whites!” Tanya said.
Liza, and even Vanka, stared in surprise at Tanya. “You really like being among the
darks?” Zalizina could not resist.
“But of course! I adore them! Dark sparks, voodoo magic... You shake like maple
leaves if something goes wrong!” Tanya stated.
She was sure that she lied, but after a while felt that she told the truth. She had
settled down so in the dark department that sometimes she even experienced pleasure
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while uttering spells forbidden to white wizards and releasing a bright red spark
afterwards. What was happening to her? Was Sardanapal really correct when he said
that no one but she herself had transferred her to the dark department, following her
inclinations?
“No, I don’t want to! I won’t!” she thought with fright.
“You do want to!” the voice within, belonging to goodness knows who, said
confidently. “You want to! And you will!”

***

The next morning in the magic school for difficult young wizards, they said
goodbye to Coffinia, who was returning to the moronoids. This happened in the Hall of
Two Elements. Cryptova stood in the centre of the Hall, almost at the fiery border,
which had earlier separated good and evil but had been extinguished when the Scythian
sword slashed the hair of the Ancient One. Each endured the parting with Coffinia in his
own way, to the best of his inner grief and the ability to feel the pain of others.
The fatally handsome Zhora Zhikin sighed, thinking that the date scheduled for
Tuesday would never take place now and, since that was so, whether to write Dusya
Dollova or Katya Lotkova in the vacant spot. However, Lotkova most likely would
mislead him again, so it would be more appropriate with someone like Parroteva, just to
be on the safe side. She would definitely come, and even a half hour early.
Pipa looked with bewilderment at Coffinia. She had recently lived among
moronoids and therefore did not fully understand the tragedy of what was happening.
“Well, You’re going to the moronoids, so go to the moronoids! Many people live without
magic and they’re fine!” her entire appearance said.
But then the suffering Gunya Glomov, alone sincerely fond of Coffinia, was sobbing
loudly, not just sobbing but howling like a wounded bear. “Why did I leave her alone
then? Why? It’s all my fault, mine!” he repeated, and his huge shoulders shook. Glomov
was not afraid to appear ridiculous, but, in truth, he did not appear so. Only Seven-
Stump-Holes wanted to compare Gunya to a whiny little girl, but wisely changed his
mind. Stump was young, and he wanted to live.
Coffinia herself stood with downcast eyes, not looking at anyone and only
occasionally moving from foot to foot. Her eyes were red, but no tears were visible. A
small mound made up of two suitcases and a backpack - everything she was taking away
with her from Tibidox – towered by her legs.
“Well! Stony!” Yagge said reproachfully in a loud whisper resounding along the
Hall in complete silence. The Great Tooth and Medusa looked at her at once.
Tanya, having studied Coffinia well in the four years that they had lived in the same
room, knew that it was actually worthwhile for Coffinia to hold on now. Neither Tanya
nor Coffinia had slept all night. Cryptova was upset, first bawled, then said goodbye to
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Page, but in the end was simply sobbing loudly, burying her head in Tanya’s lap. They
parted not as friends, they were simply never friends, but something more: people closer
together, who had gotten used to and understood each other well. Tanya knew Coffinia
would write her long letters. She also knew that she would reply. Now Coffinia was
simply already exhausted and indifferent to everything, as if sentenced to death,
desperate to get a pardon and feeling the imminent steps of the executioner.
Sardanapal came forward. He was agitated, flushed. Both his moustaches were
moving, not stopping for a second. “We are doing this for the first time,” the
academician began sternly. “This is the first time we’re sending to the moronoid world a
girl who has studied with us for so long. We’re sending her, not knowing whether she
will return someday. But there is no alternative. The law of The Ancient One cannot be
broken. A wizard can only live among wizards, but bereft of magic, he must return to
ordinary people. Like should exist among likes and equal among equals. This law is
immutable. Any deviation from it is disastrous.”
Coffinia uttered a loud convulsive sound – neither a wail, a whimper, a groan, nor a
shriek.
The academician looked at her with concern. His entire artificial severity instantly
disappeared. “Please understand that we cannot! It is impossible!” he said, as if
apologizing. “Not because I am a formalist, but The Ancient One, a senile wizard, wrote
the absurd laws! It is impossible because it is contrary to the law of existence itself. You
simply won’t survive here without magic! I can only promise that I will personally do
everything possible to return you your powers... But now goodbye, although I personally
hope that it is ‘till we meet again’...” The academician turned and made a sign to
Slander.
“NOOO! NOOO! Don’t!” Coffinia screamed, suddenly fearfully, rushing to
Sardanapal and trying to grab his hands. Restraint had stopped working for her.
Sardanapal recoiled. “Slander!” he shouted hastily. “Slander!”
The principal, for a long time impatiently wiggling his bushy eyebrows and waiting
in the wings, took a step toward Coffinia and loudly uttered the spell of forced
teleportation. “Vanishium Visio Meo!” his voice resounded all over the hall.
Sparks, sprinkling from his ring, surrounded Coffinia in a dense cocoon. To save
herself from burning, she had to wrap herself in her jacket and cover her face. Cryptova
was still standing in the middle of the hall for a few moments, and then a bright blazing
red flash carried her off to the moronoid world.
“Slander! Couldn’t you really have done it some other way? More delicate, gentler?”
The Great Tooth asked reproachfully.
The principal angrily pierced her with his little eyes. “Gentler? Here, do it yourself!
It’s as if I only know one spell. You always dump all the nastiest work on me and then
reproach me for lack of humanity. I hate this blasted hypocrisy! If I’m set to sort out a
mess, I’ll do it as best I can... All clear to everyone?” He turned and left at a brisk pace.
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89

The Hall of Two Elements quickly emptied. Students and teachers quickly dispersed
without looking at each other, as if they had unwittingly become accomplices in a crime.
“If I find the scoundrel who... who... did this to Coffinia, I’ll kill him...” Godfrey
Bouillon said hoarsely.

***

The next morning Tanya got up early and dropped in on Vanka. She had the rather
vague thought to see how he was sleeping and what he looked like sleeping. However,
Vanka upset her plans. He was not sleeping. He was half-sitting high on the bed, a
pillow tucked behind his back.
“Hi! I want to show you something. Please hand me a sheet from the table, I can’t
reach it,” Vanka asked, nodding at his plastered arm.
“Easily. Nab-grab!” Tanya said, letting out a spark. A sheet of paper – the most
common moronoid paper folded up – jumped into her hand and she gave it to Vanka.
“Darn, I forget about magic all the time. I could’ve done it myself,” Valyalkin said
guiltily.
“Doesn’t matter, it happens,” Tanya soothed him, knowing how absent-minded her
dear soccer shirt could be.
“Here look...” Vanka said. “I can’t sleep here at night: lying like a log all day and
don’t get tired. So yesterday, I lay thinking about the attack on Coffinia and about Liza’s
dream. You see, Coffinia was the first victim. Now do you believe Liza?”
“More or less,” Tanya said, but glancing at Vanka’s face, she obediently added,
“Well, I do.”
“And then I remembered the mark on the dome!”
“Yeah, I know. I mean, that someone had been making holes in the dome.” Tanya
nodded.
Vanka looked resentfully at her. “You knew? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, it wasn’t my secret. I accidentally overheard a conversation that wasn’t
meant for my ears,” said Tanya.
Vanka shook his head reproachfully, and then unfolded the sheet with his good
hand. “Imagine the sheet is the shielding dome. We can make it concave, but here it’s
flat. These points here on the sheet are places of the holes on the dome.”
“Wow, so many of them! And why are you sure that they’re exactly here?” Tanya
asked.
“Yagge showed me. She looked in on me last night when I was lying with a candle.
At first, she scolded me, and then she described the dome. She has a good memory, but
the funny thing is that she didn’t understand the meaning of these holes, but I do...”
“What’s there to understand? Someone wanted to break through,” said Tanya.

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“Nothing like that!” Vanka retorted. “When they want to break through, they’ll
make one undetectable gap instead of hammering the entire dome like a hundred drunk
woodpeckers. These dots remind you of nothing? Look closer!”
“Of course they do. Your pen smears. Moronoid? Pipa was also forever palming off
smearing pens on me!” Tanya said with knowledge of the matter.
Vanka lightly tapped her forehead with the plaster. “What, are you awake?
Mentally connect them together. Along the figures, which are near the dots. They appear
throughout the winter in this sequence. Come on! See the letters?”
The baby Grotter obediently started to connect the dots. But as she was mostly
thinking about Vanka, how he lay at night not sleeping, poor thing, the letters did not
really connect for her.
Vanka already lost patience on the second letter and shoved at her another sheet,
which he pulled out from under the pillow. “Okay, look. I’ve already done it for you. The
last hole is the last letter. Read!” he ordered.
“PERUNUS DE...” Tanya read.
“The writing still isn’t finished. It should be PERUNUS DEUS. It means there’ll
be new holes, new victims, and new letters!” Vanka said. “Now do you understand who
attacked Coffinia?!”
“Perun!” Tanya said with horror. There was no doubt. Now she realized what
powerful enemy was at Tibidox. As she also understood that they must immediately
inform Sardanapal of everything.
The academician appeared in magic station two minutes later, after Yagge, who
also had to be told everything, summoned him with a special spell that sounded like
nyldualus. Judging by the mystique of the sound, the word was Old Norse. Yagge said
that this was an emergency spell accepted among the teachers in their circle, and
students had better not utter it.
Vanka informed Sardanapal of everything he had told Tanya. The academician
checked the location of the dots on the sheet meticulously and for a long time. He
slightly adjusted some dots by moving them a few squares to the right or to the left. But
in general, it changed nothing. The inscription PERUNUS DE... only became clearer
from it.
The academician frowned. He was so lost in his thoughts that he did not even
thank Vanka. It seemed he had completely forgotten that someone else was present in
magic station. Tanya heard Sardanapal mutter, “Is it really Perun? Slander and I missed
it, but the boy guessed. True, the thought had flickered in my mind that only his
hammer can... But he has always lived in peace with us... Looks like I have to,
nevertheless... But no, no!”
Having recovered, the head of Tibidox turned quickly and left, taking Vanka’s sheet
with him.
“What’s he talking about?” Tanya asked Yagge.
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The old woman wrapped herself in her shawl, as if feeling chilly. “There exists a
spell of destruction. An old forbidden Chaos spell, on which The Ancient One put a ban.
It has not been used for many centuries now. Its side effects are terrible. It brings the
world much evil and sorrow. But it’s the only one capable of destroying the ancient
god... But I don’t think Sardanapal will dare use it...” Yagge looked at them and yelled
angrily, “Why are you staring at me, don’t you know me? Tanya, isn’t it time for your
classes? It’s fashionable to roam around magic station! And you, Valyalkin, march under
the covers! I’ll show you how not to sleep at night!”

***

In the evening, a surprise was waiting for Tanya. Someone banged on the door
inconsiderately. Tanya opened it. Pipa was in the doorway, smiling uncertainly. A
bastion of suitcases was piled on the floor behind her. “Hi, Grotty! Like the good old
days! I hope you haven’t filled up Coffinia’s closet with your junk? If you have, remove it
immediately! I’m here now!” she said, dragging her suitcases in turn into the room.
Tanya looked at her in silence.
“You won’t even help?” Pipa was surprised. “Here it is, selfishness, it’s showing,
revealing itself! You’re not throwing yourself at me. Blood relative, after all!”
“What are you doing here?” Tanya asked sullenly.
“What do you mean what? I’m going to live here! You’re getting downright more
stupid by the day, Grotty! Trust me, if I just came to visit you, I would’ve done it with a
machine gun, not with suitcases!” Penelope stated.
“What about On-The-Sly? Did she show you the door?” Tanya wondered.
“You guessed wrong. Rita didn’t want me to leave. They transferred a freshman
from room 106 to her... And Medusa banished (cool word, isn’t it? much better than
‘sent’) me to you.”
Tanya sighed. If Medusa truly relocated Pipa, this decision was final and escaping
from Pipa would not be successful. All decisions made by Professor Gorgonova
inherently had the stamp of finality. “And who’s in room 106?” she asked.
“No one. No one wants to live there. On the second bed in 106 is a girl, so little,
with a white pigtail. Have you seen her? By day she’s like nothing, you can put up with
her, she sits and grinds away at books like Shurasik, but she turns into a panther at
night. Rips up a blanket with her claws, leaps...”
“Leaps? Why?” Tanya asked.
“How would I know? Likely Brazilian viral magic or her great-grandmother was a
werewolf. What’s the difference? Makes no difference to me personally,” Pipa said.
Tanya snickered, wondering, was it not a girl with a white pigtail who asked
Gunnio Glomini then, and later ran after her with admiration as she walked beside the

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stretcher? It seemed that one was also from first year. Tanya Grotter even remembered
her name. “Masha Feklischeva is a panther girl? Hard to believe!” she said.
“And you know everything! A real magic help desk! A bagel hole from me!”
Penelope exclaimed mockingly.
After pushing the last suitcase into the room, Pipa had offhandedly filled up the
entire room – not only her half but also Tanya’s. Indeed, Coffinia had a lot of stuff, but
that was no comparison with Pipa. Piling up the suitcases, Pipa knocked the skeleton
from the stand. Page, clicking its teeth, tried unsuccessfully to nip her finger.
“What trick is this?” Pipa was indignant, yanking back her hand. “I’ll throw this
dummy out tomorrow! Take it away to the operating room, if it can’t behave properly!
All clear to you, nightmare creature? Pack your shinbone and beat it!”
Tanya looked with bewilderment at Pipa, like a sensible adult looking at a
contentious little dog in the next yard barking at him. In the four years that she had
lived in Tibidox, Tanya had managed to thoroughly become unaccustomed to the
Durnevs’ daughter. True, Tanya had time to learn a few things, but Pipa also did not
waste any time, contriving to inherit the best qualities of her papa and mama.
Finally, Pipa put away the last suitcase and plopped down onto the bed. “Well,
that’s it! I’ll sort out my stuff tomorrow! Don’t think that I’ll let you litter the room,
Grotty. You’ll simply have a military system... A set of winter clothes, a set for summer,
so be it, the double bass, and I’ll toss away the rest. I hate it when the room turns into a
hatchery for moths!” Pipa stated.
“And throw out your own rags too?” Tanya asked with a smile.
“Don’t anger me, Grotty! Your childishness touches me! I am a young, pretty girl, I
have to establish a private life. Don’t think that I’ll agree to run around in stretched
sweat pants and a sweater! I need my piece of happiness in life, even if I have to gnaw it
out of somebody’s throat.”
“Somebody’s, that’s mine?” Tanya clarified.
“I wish it’s yours! You, dearie, have forgotten the intuitive magic! If you behave
badly, I’ll smear you on the wall...” Pipa threatened.
Tanya flared up. She remembered that the only way to maintain at least some
semblance of peace with Pipa was to put her in her place all the time. “Then start right
now! Leonus cesaris!” Tanya said, quickly raising her ring.
Two red sparks flashed one after the other. The crooked legs of Coffinia’s bed
suddenly turned into springy lion paws. The bed jumped up. Pipa, tossed almost up to
the ceiling, collapsed onto the mountain of suitcases.
“Atosus-portosus,” Tanya commanded, remembering Coffinia’s invented spell.
Dear Tonianio, helplessly lying on the floor like a pile of bones on a battlefield, was
instantly on its feet. Its faithful sword whistled through the air above the head of the
Durnevs’ daughter. The severed suitcase handle flicked Pipa’s nose.

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“Grotty, are you nuts? Take the skeleton away immediately! Ahhh, it’s insane!” she
yelled in a frightened voice.
“What about intuitive magic? Resort to it!” Tanya advised her.
“For intuitive magic I have to be furious, but I’m afraid of this freak! Look what it
did to my suitcase! It’s loony, its eye sockets glow! I beg you, take it away!” Pipa pleaded.
“Keep in mind that regular study of magic and two red sparks are also something! I
can do three, but mind you, then I’d have to ask someone for a broom and sweep your
ashes off the floor! Well, that’s all, live!” Tanya released another spark. Page lowered the
sword.
A tamed Pipa looked carefully at the bed before she decided to climb onto it again.
“Okay, Grotty! I’ll deal with you tomorrow! Or, at the latest, next Tuesday. According to
my horoscope, I’m extra humane today! And you, skeleton, calm down. I changed my
mind about throwing you out. I’ll tie a rope to you and dry stockings on it!” the young
Durneva said, dramatically slowing down her speed.
Tanya realized that she had won. True, unlikely for long. Penelope always got
brazen with fantastic speed.
Suddenly, Pipa’s gaze became glassy. She stared at the window and froze. “Oh,
what curtains! Pretty cute! Seems I’ve seen them somewhere already! And I even know
where!” she said in a wooden voice, remembering the terrible night when her papa was
waving a yataghan.

***

Tanya and Pipa had not had time to lie down to sleep when beyond the window, in
a spot of light where snowflakes were dancing, a chubby cupid with a postal bag
appeared. Unlike his other counterparts, the winged individual did not bang on the
glass, but began to trace with his finger on the glass all sorts of silly faces and write
words, which he had obviously learned in the moronoid world. He could do this forever,
but Tanya pushed open the window and there was nothing left for the cupid to do but to
fly into the room.
In his hand was a huge bouquet of chrysanthemums. This surprised Tanya because
Puper usually sent roses. “Maybe it’s in connection with the magnastery? Kind of like a
parting gift?” Tanya Grotter thought not without sadness. Although she was not always
pleased with Puper, she was used to regularly receiving flowers and chocolates from him
after all. And a habit, as is known, becomes second nature.
The cupid shoved the chrysanthemums at Tanya and began to circle near the
ceiling, waiting to be paid. Tanya handed him a large Tula gingerbread, 66 stockpiled for
such occasions. The cupid looked meticulously at the gingerbread, picked at it with his

66 A Tula gingerbread is a famous imprinted gingerbread from the city of Tula, made since the 17 th
century.
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fingernail, and, satisfied, put it in his bag, throwing out beforehand the tail of a Capian
roach. Gunya Glomov usually paid with a roach when he received a letter from home.
The same Gunya, by the way, when in the mood, sent cupids to fetch beer, which was
impossible to get in Tibidox.
Tanya was about to close the window after the cupid, but then accidentally noticed
that the chubby baby quickly snatched her glove from the chair and put it in his bag too.
“Hey, why? You can’t eat that!” Tanya yelled, thinking that he had made a mistake.
However, the cupid had already spread his wings and quickly flew out of the room.
“That dolt! Why would he want my glove? It’ll only fit his head!” Tanya said in
astonishment.
“He was probably ordered to steal it and he did,” Pipa shrugged indifferently.
“But why? Who gave the order?”
“How would I know? See who sent you the flowers. Or, maybe, sister, you intend to
catch up with the cupid on your double bass? No use, this little thing is very nimble. Go
find him in a snowstorm,” Pipa declared.
Tanya reached into the bouquet and pulled out a business card. Gury’s cards were
usually adorned with the Magford coat of arms – a griffin with a shield, under which
was embossed in silver letters:
Gury Puper
Dragonball forward
England, Magford School.
However, this was different – slightly larger in size, from yellowish, very durable and
coarse paper. Fash person by no mean certified! Breathe on me! illuminated sternly on
it. Thinking that the card owner had weird whims, Tanya breathed on it. At that
moment, slender, broken, impishly elusive letters flared up on it.
Hello, mein lieben Fräulein Grotter!
See you soon at your wedding. Bye-bye!
Madame Circe
Voodoo Witch
Deadmen Street (formerly Troops Alley), #665, box 1.
P.S. Today at dinner, you ate pancakes with chocolate, n’est-ce pas?
Pipa looked over Tanya’s shoulder, read the inscription on the card, and chuckled.
“Looks to me this person has taken to you in earnest. You’ll soon fall in love!” she said.
“I won’t! I already am in love,” Tanya protested.
“With some Vanka?” Pipa said contemptuously. “Leave him to Zalizina, kind of like
a gift for the poor. All the same, you’ll soon fall in love with another. That’s the whole
business.”
“I won’t!”
Pipa laughed. “With a glove? I doubt that you have enough power to resist voodoo
magic. All spells against it are long forgotten. Ask the Great Tooth. Voodoo magic isn’t a
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piece of cake. There in Europe they still understand something about it! It isn’t some
stupid squeezus pullus!” Pipa, having already had time to pick something up, declared.
“You think it’s all Puper? In terms of turning to a witch?” Tanya asked, concerned.
She for some reason could not be seriously offended by Gury. In the end, it was she then
who uttered the spell on the figure the first time. But how long can the same thing
continue? Perhaps it makes sense for her to go to a magnastery! Then Gury would leave
her alone!
“I have no idea. Maybe it’s Puper, and maybe it’s not Puper!” Pipa said. She was
gloomy. In fact, the young Durneva guessed which way the wind was blowing. Madame
Circe could not stand the slightest stain on her reputation. Having once suffered a
failure with her, Pipa’s, onesie, she sensed something was wrong and personally sent a
messenger for Tanya’s things. And the cupid flew away not empty-handed.
“In any case, Puper or not, GP is mine! Don’t even dare dream about him! I’ve
dreamt of marrying Gury Puper for ten years! He takes my arm and leads me through a
blossoming cherry orchard. Penelope Puper, sounds good, doesn’t it? GP and PP!” A
dreaminess, uncharacteristic of Pipa, appeared in her voice.
“Then GuPu and PiPu... Pi is Pipa, Pu is Puper... Oh, PiPu is already no different
from Pipa! One can see you’re destined to be his wife,” Tanya said musingly. She
thought that Pipa was fundamentally different from Coffinia. Cryptova would never
dream that she and Puper would stroll through a garden. Now, a supermarket, that is
another matter. But then Puper would certainly not be walking next to her but, panting,
would be pushing a loaded cart.
Suddenly Pipa grabbed Tanya’s hand. A bluish witch’s fire, which never happens in
moronoids, flashed in her eyes. This fire Tanya only saw before in Medusa and once in
the Great Tooth, when she accidentally caught a viral evil eye. “Give me a terrible oath
that you will never marry Puper! That you will surrender him to me! Swear, say: Drop
deadus!” Pipa demanded in a voice ringing with tension.
Tanya thought for a bit. Why would she give such gifts to Penelope? “No, I won’t
swear!” she said.
Pipa’s eyes narrowed. “But why? So, you have your sights on my Gury? Confess!”
“Sights? No sights. But I won’t swear nonetheless. Besides, how can I surrender to
you something not belonging to me? Puper’s not my property. You need him, you win
him,” Tanya replied evasively.
The beloved sister drilled Tanya with her eyes for a while, but, after realizing that it
was useless to ask it of Tanya, decided to leave her alone. “And I will win, make no
mistake! If I decide on something, then I follow through to the end! And I don’t advise
any blockheads with obscure names to get in my way,” Pipa grunted.
She let go of Tanya’s hand, lay on the bed, and turned her back to Tanya Grotter.
“Pity there’s no balcony here! I’d turn you out onto the balcony!” she said.

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Tanya looked fondly at Pipa’s back. “I’d be very happy to lie on the balcony.
Especially tonight,” she said quietly.
“Why?”
“I hate screams and the pounding of lids. It always makes me terribly nervous.”
“What pounding of lids?” Pipa tensed up.
“Um... Cryptova, whose bed you inherited, had a strange sense of humour. If at
bedtime you don’t say the shielding spell, the bed will flip over at night and close this lid
here... If you try to open it or even hack it with a sword, iron hoops will fall and cover the
outside. Read about the death of the hero Svyatogor? 67 The same magic is here!” Tanya
explained.
“You’re lying! This isn’t a lid, it’s a bookshelf... Actually, darn, it’s kind of bizarre.
And the bed is freaky,” Pipa admitted reluctantly.
“You didn’t look at what you’re sleeping on, no?” the baby Grotter was surprised.
“Not looking and not going to! What, I haven’t seen beds?”
“Beds you’ve seen... Well, good night!” Tanya said.
Pipa lay down for a while, and then got up nevertheless and looked suspiciously
under the mattress. Her scream was heard even in the Cyclopes’ guardhouse; however,
they were too busy losing their poleaxes to Stinktopp and Lieutenant to run to check
what was going on.
“Why scream? A coffin is also coffin in Africa. Boards, fabric, handle – nothing
special,” Tanya said, when the young Durneva had finally stopped.
Pipa wheezed for a minute, catching her breath, then asked, “What spell?”
“In the sense of?” Tanya did not understand.
“Don’t pretend! What did Cryptova utter before bed? Do you know?”
“Of course not. Coffinia always said it in a whisper. And I, like a good girl, didn’t
eavesdrop. Well, pleasant dreams!” The baby Grotter slid under the covers and stretched
sweetly. Her mood improved noticeably. Was it her fault that Pipa was so imaginative
and so easily fooled? Maybe tomorrow she would fall in love with Puper, but it would
only be tomorrow. Besides, Tanya remembered well that everything, even voodoo magic,
is powerless against true love. “Well, Puper, let’s see who wins! You want Russian love,
you’ll get it, just don’t be sorry later!” she thought.
Penelope thoughtfully paced by the bed for some time, occasionally kicking it
irritably, then dragged the mattress onto the floor and lay down, grumbling. Clearly, the
floor was hard and draughty in the cracks, because the young Durneva tossed and
turned for a long time and muttered all sorts of words, against which her papa had
passed two decrees and one law when he was in the Duma. True, Pipa also learned these
words from Papa.

67 Svyatogor is a mythical hero from the Kievan Rus’ epic poems, part of the Ilya Muromets cycle. He is a
giant, whose demise comes when he lies down in a stone coffin that fits him exactly. He closes the lid and
it seals to the coffin. When Muromets tries to hack the lid with his sword, iron hoops cover the lid.
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Chapter 9
Tatiana Larina68 and Darling Puper

In the morning, Tanya overslept. She did not hear the zoomer and got up only
when Dusya Dollova, sent by Sardanapal, who had the first lecture, began banging on
the door. “The academician is worried that something suddenly befell you. Since the
attack on Coffinia, the teachers get very nervous. And not just the teachers,” Dusya said,
curiously looking around the room.
Suddenly, her eyes widened. Tanya looked at the next bed. Uncle Herman’s
daughter was no longer in the room. Only on the pillowcase of her pillow, on the part
turned to Tanya, was written with lipstick in large letters: IDIOT! P.S. THIS IS NOT A
CAPTION!
“But for some reason it seems to me that it is!” Tanya muttered.
Having shown Dollova, who bombarded her with questions, the door, Tanya
Grotter began to get ready for class. “Wonder if I’m already in love with Puper?” she
thought suspiciously, shoving textbooks squeaking with indignation into her backpack.
Tanya’s backpack was trendy, more a large purse in size, and books fit into it only
because of the fifth dimension. It was Yagge’s birthday gift. However, the textbooks did
not like the backpack. Possibly because not so long ago, for the sake of interest, Yagun
had stuffed a medium-sized kikimora into it. He had really stuffed it in, and it never
came back out, getting lost somewhere in the labyrinth of the fifth dimension.
“So, what about Puper? Do I love him or not?” Tanya asked herself again. She
visualized Gury to herself, from the scar to the broom inclusively, but did not experience
anything special for him. Then, for comparison, she visualized Vanka and also felt
nothing. “It’s probably because I’m half asleep. At seven o’clock in the morning, only
freaks fall in love... True, it’s now nine already, but it’s almost one and the same,” she
thought, yawning.

***

In the hallway in front of the auditorium, Shurasik and Gunya Glomov were
standing sullenly. Pressing Shurasik into a corner, Gunya concentrated on unscrewing
his button. Shurasik, however, after pulling out his notebook, was quickly scanning the
page titled Self-defence Magic.
“Why are you here?” Tanya asked.
Glomov turned to her. “Kicked out for chatting,” he said reluctantly.
“You were really chatting?” Tanya was surprised. As far as she knew, Gunya and
Shurasik were never friends.

68 Tatiana Larina is the heroine of the famous novel in verse Eugene Onegin (1825-32) by Aleksandr
Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837), the greatest of all Russian poets.
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“Well, I started shooting the breeze with him. I simply called him a fool,” Gunya
replied reluctantly.
“I explained that this statement doesn’t correspond to reality! In return, Gunya, I
hope that you won’t become one of those to whom the term ‘degenerate’ is appropriate,”
Shurasik explained readily.
“I see! Well, I won’t interfere. Continue!” Tanya said. She was surprised.
Sardanapal usually had angelic patience. In his classes, some even walked along the
ceiling, using the “fly” spell Pesticidstachewearyus. Today, the academician was clearly
in a bad mood if he even expelled the docile Shurasik from the auditorium.
After knocking, Tanya peeked into the class and everything became clear at once.
Sardanapal was sitting at a table and writing something quickly with an eagle feather,
occasionally raising his eyes to the class. His naughty moustaches persistently got into
the inkwell and, after dipping the ends in it, stretched to the paper. Apparently,
inspiration also consumed them. The difference between the academician and his
moustaches was that Sardanapal was probably writing something important, while the
moustaches, scribomaniacs, simply soiled the page.
Theoretical magic, which in itself was unusual, was being conducted by... yes, yes...
Professor Gorgonova. “Sit down, Grotter!” she turned to Tanya sternly. “I don’t doubt
that you’ve been detained by important matters, about which you’ll tell us after class...
In the meantime, we’re talking about magic and its origins. Tuzikov, you’re fidgeting
more than anyone! Maybe you can conduct the class instead of me... What is magic?”
Tuzikov got up, shifting from foot to foot. Using the fact that attention had
switched to him, Tanya slipped into her own seat.
“Well... magic, this is when you release a spark and say something, like briskus-
quickus,” Kuzya muttered.
“The answer is worthy of a clinical idiot... Tuzikov, of course, I surmised that you
aren’t a genius, but I didn’t suspect to what degree. What, did an oak crash on you or
have you been beaten by your broom?” Medusa asked scathingly. Tuzikov blushed.
“Sit down, Kuzya... And you, Seven-Stump-Holes, are also guilty. I’m afraid you’ll
have to sit till the end of class, biting your own tongue every seven and a half seconds. I
warned that I won’t tolerate laughter. I don’t think that the Great Tooth taught you the
removal; my evil eye is quite unusual. It’s shameful to laugh at a friend, especially since
you’re no Benvenuto Cellini...”69
Medusa glanced at Sardanapal, who was a little stunned by the measures with
which she established order. After recovering, the academician yanked his right
moustache severely and again delved into his writing. Many seemed to be wondering
why the head of Tibidox was working in the classroom and not in his office.

69 Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71) was an Italian sculptor, artist, musician, and writer, one of the most
important artists of Mannerism, a European art form notable for its intellectual sophistication as well as
artificial qualities.
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“Magic is faith, one of its many forms, although not the most perfect. Faith in the
possibility of accomplishing what cannot happen if we proceed from the so-called
common sense,” Medusa continued. “Faith is what they try to take or have already taken
away from the moronoids. And is to some extent preserved with us wizards. In fact, all
you need to do to destroy a person is to take away his faith. What remains will walk,
breathe, talk, and do all the things that make people lifelike, but it’s only an illusion of
life. Of course, it is a thousand times wiser than one who, having faith, doesn’t turn it
into magic and rejects the use of the force, content only with the awareness of it.
However, now it isn’t about them... It’s about there being a traitor or a fool among us, in
this class... either one or the other in one person. There is one who committed a
senseless and harmful act and again summoned a strong ancient god to Tibidox, a god
who now gives all of us no peace. Now Sardanapal and I know this definitely... Well, no
one wants to confess?”
The class buzzed like a beehive. The academician looked up quickly. The feather
froze in his hand. Tanya understood that he declined to give a lecture today for this, to
have the opportunity to observe.
“Yes,” Medusa continued sternly. “We managed to find out that one of you cast a
spell. We have even guessed which god was summoned. I won’t name him now – neither
a nickname nor the real name. I won’t hold an interrogation, for fear that cowardice will
once again triumph. But think about this... This god is merciless and cruel. He knows no
leniency and never abandons his plans. These plans are very simple: chaos, power, and
death, even though the path that lead to their realization is sometimes very convoluted.
It’s still winter now. The forces, including magic, are weakened and remain in a
particular dormancy. But spring is about to begin, everything will wake up and then this
ancient god, feeding on our magic and faith, will be much more dangerous, much more
aggressive. Through a great number of holes that he punches with ease into the magic
shield, he will infiltrate into Buyan every night and choose a new victim every time,
adding his power to his own. And no one, not you, not I, not the most harmless
freshman of the latest set, having accidentally discovered the ability to understand the
voices of birds or revive a dry flower, will be safe... His gift, and possibly his life, will be
taken away, because no one knows what’s on the mind of a crazed god...” Medusa’s eyes
sparkled.
Sardanapal abruptly got up. “Medi!” he interrupted Medusa. “I think that’s enough.
I’ll continue the lecture... Let me remind you, our topic today is Bald Mountain. Entities
of magic autonomy and their role in shaping the magic community. As you already
understand from the title, today’s discussion is on such a phenomenon of the magic life,
as...”
Boredom captured the class like a snare. The only one with enough patience to
write down and enjoy at the same time was Shurasik, and he was now languishing in the
hallway.
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***

Thinking about what Medusa had said, Tanya automatically took notes of the
lecture.
Verka Parroteva sat at the desk closest to Tanya in the next row and was writing,
continually touching the edge of the goose feather dejectedly with her long nose.
Reaching towards the inkwell, Verka accidentally knocked her notebook with her elbow.
A small calendar nestled between the pages of the notebook dropped out and flew to
Tanya’s feet. Tanya bent down, picking it up.
Just as she thought, it was the usual animated calendar with Puper, one of the
hundreds of thousands of calendars which the publisher stamped on Bald Mountain.
The Puper depicted on the calendar, according to his innate modesty, tried to run away
so as not to attract attention, but chains restrained him. This time, the chains were quite
subtle. They could easily be mistaken for decoration or a fancy ornament. The printed
Gury stood honourably, leaning on his broom, and looked sadly at Tanya with his
expressive dark eyes.
Tanya wanted to return the calendar to Parroteva, but suddenly her heart tightened
and, as if it had fallen from a great height, shattered into pieces. Before Tanya realized
what she was doing, she raised her hand to her lips and showered the glossy paper with
kisses.
An astonished Gury, not expecting such passion from Tanya, dropped his broom
and sank ponderously, hanging on the chains. This aroused a new attack of tenderness
in Tanya, and she again started to kiss the paper Puper all over. Afraid of becoming
sodden by tears and kisses, the unhappy Gury hid behind his broom. He no longer
wanted any love and was clearly intending on following his host to the magnastery.
“What’s with me? Do I really love him? Plague take that Circe! What has she done
to me? Next time I’ll disperse the cupids with a double-barrel!” Tanya Grotter thought in
horror, while waves of tenderness continued to sweep over her.
Verka Parroteva, seizing the calendar, turned her head and stared in astonishment
at Tanya. Then she quickly poked the back of Rita On-The-Sly, who was sitting in front
of her. Now both overgrown cornstalks, after abandoning taking notes, looked keenly at
Tanya Grotter.
Tanya realized that a minute more and she would disgrace herself in front of the
whole class. It forced her to see reason. Feeling all that wild palpitations and
inconceivable gentleness, she shoved the calendar at Parroteva, shouted, “May I leave?”
and, not waiting for Sardanapal’s answer, ran out of the class. The academician stopped
and stared after her. Medusa raised her eyebrows. However, Tanya no longer cared what
they thought of her. She hastily closed the door behind her.

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Apparently, Shurasik had plucked up courage nevertheless and used the self-
defence spell. Now Glomov, like a gas-filled balloon, was dangling in the air, and the
triumphant Shurasik was towing him by the collar like a military airship. Shurasik
looked proudly at Tanya and addressed her, but she did not appreciate his triumph.
Tanya Grotter flew down the hallway, not noticing anything around. Love for
Puper, from which everything inside her was singing, overwhelmed her. Chubby blond
cupids, suddenly appearing around her splashing with their golden wings, danced in the
air like a flock of sparrows. There were lots of them, at least a dozen, and they all
showered Tanya with their arrows, increasing the already unbearable feeling. Many
Tanya knew – they repeatedly guzzled down her cookies and stuffed their pockets with
candy.
“Hey you! It’s all because of you rascals! Because of you I fell in love! Because of
you and your Circe!” Tanya yelled at them, but the cupids only laughed and, dodging,
soared to the vaulted ceiling. Sizzling and cheerful gold sparks splattered from their
wings.
Rushing along the floor, Tanya, breathless, fled along the stairs, and, not sorting
out the way, rushed into the depths of Tibidox. She ran for a long time, a very long time,
as if seeking to escape from herself. Galleries and passages flashed by, steps rushed
under her feet. She came to her senses only after turning up exactly in a godforsaken
place of Tibidox and having buried her nose in a blind wall.
Tanya looked around. The laughing cupid babies had long disappeared, only her
heart was aching from their arrows and something unsubstantial, vernal, and
quarrelsome was picking at her temples. Many things, important earlier, suddenly
dimmed and receded into the background. Speaking in the spirit of Coffinia, Tanya
suddenly became indifferent to everything but love. Now she perfectly understood Pipa,
who even now hid the photo of GP under her pillow.
“Is my love for Vanka really not true, since I love Puper? Or is voodoo magic simply
stronger than true feeling?” Tanya thought, suffering. She felt deep down that what she
was experiencing now towards Puper was not love, but a delusion induced by the
prohibited magic of Madame Circe. Passion, but in no way true love. The only trouble
was that the passion was burning her. As a person with a splinter in their foot can think
only of the thorn, so Tanya could think only of Puper, be it thrice wrong!
Hi, mein lieben Fräulein Grotter!
See you at your wedding. Bye-bye!!
The letters from Madame Circe’s business card jumped in front of her eyes. Tanya
imagined with horror how she would look Vanka in the eye today. Indeed, he was
waiting for her after school in magic station and if she did not come, he would go crazy
with worry.
“What, what do I do?” Tanya wondered. She wanted to run to her room, jump on
the double bass, and race across the ocean to Puper. “Gury, no need to go into the
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magnastery! I love you too!” she would say. And woe to his aunts if they stood in her
way!
Suddenly the wall to Tanya’s right became shaky. Unhealed Lady seeped through it.
“Oh, charmant!70 What an unexpected rendezvous! What winds brought you to our back
streets? Are we taking a promenade?” she asked languidly, straightening her bonnet.
At other times, Tanya would not have talked to her for long, remembering
Sardanapal’s warning of four years ago that it was better not to answer Unhealed Lady’s
questions and not to reveal secrets to her, but now prudence was forgotten. A moment of
weakness even happens to strong girls. The heart softened by voodoo magic and stuck
with cupids’ arrows ached. Five minutes later Unhealed Lady already knew everything,
or even a little bit more than everything.
“Oh, my dear, do you think I’m surprised? I guessed everything! I’ve long guessed
everything! Just yesterday I said to Lieutenant, ‘Grotter loves precisely Puper or death
hasn’t taught me anything!’” Unhealed Lady said importantly, puffing out her cheeks.
Of course, Lady was bluffing. She guessed nothing and had not spoken to
Lieutenant for almost a week, arranging moral preventive measures for him after
another spree when Rzhevskii and the baby Stinktopp cheated at cards and split
everything belonging to the Cyclopes. It even required the intervention of Slander
because Stinktopp flatly refused to return the winnings and the Cyclopes could not carry
out patrol service naked and, embarrassed, sat wrapped in sackcloth in the guardhouse.
By the way, the sackcloth strongly reminded some people of the Turkish carpets from
the Vanishing Floor, which had vanished into obscurity soon after the story with the
Cube of Plague-del-Cake...
“And what do I do now? Do I really go to Puper and agree to play on the Magford
team? How will I look at Vanka?” Tanya said dejectedly.
“Go To Puper! Not on your life!” Lady was horrified. “Sense of duty and again sense
of duty! Learn to rule over yourself! Duty is the only way to keep yourself in this fickle
world. Trust me, child! I was indeed once the best friend of Tatiana Larina.”
“Tatiana Larina? The same one?”
“The same one, of course. I see you’ve heard this name,” Lady said
condescendingly. “Unfortunately, Pushkin broke off his story too early. Onegin and
Tatiana’s husband fired. Onegin was wounded, but not dangerously. The bullet passed
through his thigh without damaging the bone. Eventually, Tatiana and the general had
seven children: four sons and three daughters. This thoroughly distracted her from soul-
searching, but she loved Onegin nevertheless. Eugene became rather fat, was addicted to
cards and lost, but his aunts found him a rich bride. It was difficult to call her a beauty,
but in profile, they say, she was quite tolerable. On the whole, Onegin also got married
and moved to his estate, but also loved Tatiana. He died in 1870 of a stroke. I was at his
funeral, already as a ghost, of course. Incidentally, it was in Switzerland, where he was

70 Charmant is French for charming.
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being treated for obesity. Tatiana died five years later, surrounded by children and
grandchildren. I would like to say they were inconsolable, only, I’m afraid, they quickly
cheered up after the reading of her will... Yes, something I forgot: Tatiana was widowed
ten years before her death and then even met once with Onegin, also a widower. Both
were walking with their grandchildren in the Summer Garden and reminiscing about the
past. Then they were going to meet again, but somehow they were too busy. On the
whole, everyone died, and everything was, as always!” Lady concluded and with a
studied motion raised a hanky to her eyes.
Tanya had long noticed that no matter what Unhealed Lady related, her stories
always ended identically: everyone died. This was likely the main feature of her nature –
to lead everyone to the grave. “It’s good that Pushkin cut his novel short at the most
interesting place. He probably had a premonition that the end would be uninteresting.
Any story turns into banality if you remove all the innuendo from it,” Tanya thought.
“So, it’s necessary that Vanka knows nothing?” she asked.
“It goes without saying. Otherwise, he’ll challenge Puper to a duel. A magic duel in
Russia is no stunt for you with magic wands, when both get up afterwards, shake hands,
and go about their business. Everything’s very rigorous. Both duellists take off on
vacuums to two to three kilometres from the ground and start a shootout with combat
sparks at high altitude. Imagine, Vanka and Puper, Puper and Vanka... Two combat
sparks, both fall, and two bodies smashed into smithereens remain on the snow...
Gloom! You’ll be left a double widow, never even having time to get married! And it’ll
already be threefold sad. Such is the arithmetic of love!”
Unhealed Lady blew her nose into a handkerchief. Then she examined her skirt
meticulously and flicked a speck of dust from her invisible world. “By the way, just to
maintain the conversation... Do you know what this wall is, near where we met?” she
asked already in a completely everyday voice.
“Stone,” Tanya said mechanically. She could not escape from the vision. A duel. A
dead Vanka, a dead Puper. A broom protruding in the snowdrift and a vacuum broken
into pieces. And, both will certainly die with her name on their lips. A nightmare! No,
better if Vanka knows nothing. She will become his wife and be faithful to her duty like
Tatiana Larina. Puper... so be it, she will visit Puper in the magnastery and read him a
lecture on the topic: But I am given to another and will be faithful to him forever.
Tanya thought about it and her heart bled. Simultaneously she wanted to master voodoo
magic and turn Madame Circe into a fat old rat.
Unhealed Lady looked searchingly at her. “So you don’t know anything about
what’s behind the wall? You came here for some reason, didn’t you?”
“No, it was an accident,” Tanya said.
“Really? Well, it’s for the best!” Lady said with relief.
“What’s there? Do you know?” Tanya Grotter asked.

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“Me? I don’t even have the faintest idea. Don’t have and don’t intend to have! And I
would ask everyone to take it into account!” Lady said, as if cutting her off. After tersely
saying goodbye, she quickly departed, sliding along the floor. She was in such a hurry
that she even forgot to move her legs. This was an unforgivable mistake for ghosts –
ghosts are always careful to observe ceremony.
Tanya touched the masonry. She remembered quite well that Lady had appeared
from behind the wall. She tried to pass through the wall using a spell, but it did not turn
out for her. The masonry reflected all kinds of magic.

***

After lunch, Tanya visited Vanka in magic station. She sat next to his bed and,
trying to sound cheerful, could not forget about Puper.
Even here in magic station, Vanka could not do without his pets. Hiding from
Yagge’s appearance, a guinea pig ran on the blanket. On the window, hiding its head
under its wing, sat Alkonost,71 having gotten accustomed in Tibidox. Occasionally
disappearing for a few days, it then reappeared and wandered around the school,
stepping with its long legs like those of a heron. Yagun claimed that he quite often saw
Alkonost in the remotest labyrinths of Tibidox. “It walks around Tibidox floor by floor,
as if looking for something!” he asserted. But this did not happen too often, Alkonost
much more often stayed in Tararakh’s den or in Vanka’s room. Now, however, it resided
in magic station, which already smelled like a zoo.
Normally Tanya liked such an abundance of animals, but only normally. Now
everything annoyed her. “How am I going to live with Vanka? Our house will perpetually
be a mess! Do I have to shovel piles after his stupid animals and collect wool all day?
And every day there’ll be more and more animals,” she thought.
Vanka caught Tanya’s hand and pulled her to him. “Did something happen?” he
asked.
“Nothing!” Tanya once again noted to herself that it was impossible to deceive
Vanka. Even fooling the mirroring Yagun was much easier. Maybe because Yagun was
generally not interested in much except dragonball, Bald Mountain catalogues, his
persona, and occasionally Katya Lotkova.
“No, something happened! Don’t hide it!” Vanka pressed.
“But I’m telling you, nothing... Simply at some point your guinea pigs will turn into
an ocean of guinea pigs and then there just won’t be a place left for me! On the whole, I
don’t want snakes crawling in cribs!” Tanya blurted out and left in a hurry, muttering

71 In Slavic mythology, Alkonost is a bird with the head and upper body of a woman. The image of
Alkonost dated from a Greek myth about the girl Alcyone, transformed by the gods into a kingfisher.
Alkonost’s singing is so beautiful that those hearing it forget everything else.
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that she was late for practice. She realized that if she did not go away right now, she
would quarrel with Vanka for sure.
“And I’ve managed to have such a character! I want one, and it turns out to be
completely different! But who, Plague take him, asks Vanka to keep asking questions!
You want to poke around in something, buy yourself a broken vacuum, but don’t get into
the soul,” she contemplated on the way.

***

When Tanya, leaning under the weight of the double bass, appeared on the
dragonball field, the whole team had already gathered there. The players were standing
in a semicircle and an embarrassed, little girl with a white braid was in the centre.
Nightingale O. Robber placed a hand encouragingly on her shoulder. “Anyone who
doesn’t know, meet Masha Feklischeva, our new number seven. She’s eleven-and-a-half
years old. A discovery of my friend Daedalus. He believes that Masha can appear in lieu
of Coffinia. She has an innate sense of distance; moreover, she isn’t afraid of dragons...
However, this is only Daedalus’ personal opinion. Personally, I’m not hurrying with
conclusions yet.” Masha Feklischeva quickly glanced at Nightingale with her huge eyes
and immediately lowered them. It was noticeable that she was a spirited girl in principle
but now felt a little out of her element.
“Unfortunately, we did not succeed in discovering a suitable vacuum for Masha,
but Sardanapal and I found a stuffed crocodile for her and prepped it magically in a
certain way... We consider it a quite adequate replacement. As you know, for every
wizard there exists one really suitable instrument for flight, as there exists a single truly
suitable ring. The main thing is to find them correctly in time,” Nightingale O. Robber
continued.
Seven-Stump-Holes laughed. “Really! Gather a team of youngsters, put them on
The Ancient One knows what, and then wonder that the Muses polish our mugs. Only fly
after toadstools in the forest on this crocodile!” he said loudly.
Nightingale slowly turned to him. “I appreciate your opinion very much, Stump!
No doubt it’s based on extensive experience. Perhaps you won’t refuse to fly one lap on
the dummy? I’m sure it shouldn’t be hard with your skills,” he suggested quietly.
“Piece of cake! I just hope that this dummy doesn’t smell of formaldehyde. I hate
mouldy stuff,” Seven-Stump-Holes grunted, but Tanya noticed that his voice no longer
sounded so cheerful.
When Stump walked to the stuffed animal and saw its size, which was about four
metres, his confidence left without a trace. However, not wanting to lose face, the
Tibidox forward climbed onto it. “Speedus envenomus!” he shouted, casually releasing a
red spark.

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The next moment the stuffed animal clicked its teeth. An otherworldly yellow light
flashed in its glassy eyes, and the crocodile took off, carrying the screaming Seven-
Stump-Holes, not coming up with anything better than to hug its neck tightly with his
arms. In an instant, Stump found himself at the dome and, afraid of crashing, leaned all
his weight onto the right side, simultaneously yanking the crocodile’s head.
Intentionally or unintentionally, he applied the same technique as on a vacuum, when
he had to tilt the pipe for a turn.
However, it was not the best idea in this case. The stuffed animal arched as if alive,
struck with its tail, and Seven-Stump-Holes, exactly as if fired from a catapult, dashed
away along an arc in the overcast Buyan sky. Barely managing to mutter a safety spell,
he disappeared with his head in the snow. Nimble genies rushed to the forward and,
dropping down on all fours, quickly dug him out of a snowdrift. Stump came out without
any fracture, although his nose swelled up with its colour resembling boiled beets.
“I should probably warn that it’s better to fly a dummy of this size with Hastenus
plodus. Besides, it behaves like a live crocodile on a turn and pulling its head like a dead
donkey is unwise. However, I prefer not to insult a real master with distrust of his craft,”
Nightingale addressed him coldly.
The “real master” sat on the snow and squinted in different directions, either trying
to grasp the vastness and see the whole field at once, or in shock. Then he got up and,
looking at no one, trudged to his vacuum.
“And one more piece of news... The main one!” Nightingale showed the team the
parchment with the Magciety seal stamped on it. “A courier delivered it this morning.
The match with Team Eternity is scheduled for the beginning of April. However, I was
personally already prepared for this news, so it wasn’t a dagger under the shoulder blade
for me, which, I’m sure, it was supposed to be.” Here Nightingale looked gratefully at
Tanya. “This new match will be short. Short, very tough, and I’m sure the most
memorable in the lives of many. We certainly won’t succeed in winning it, the most we
can count on is to throw at least one ball... It will already be a victory.”
Rita On-The-Sly looked at her guitar in a businesslike manner. “Why? We scored a
lot. And here’s some obscure motley crew. Even if there are good players, then the team
isn’t consistent anyway. If we don’t pull it off on technique, we’ll do it tactically.”
Nightingale’s plain face remained unreadable. Only the scar dissecting the cheek
and the sightless eye twitched. “Be patient until early April and you’ll see! And try not to
run away from the field before the last player of Team Eternity materializes. Trust me,
there will be a lot,” he said quietly. Rita’s mouth twisted with resentment, but
Nightingale did not pay her any attention.
“Remember, everything that you know about dragonball until now is nothing
compared to what’s waiting for you,” he said. “It’s not even another level of the game, it’s
something quite different. For these materialized ghosts, dragonball is more than a
sport of wizards. It is their immortality, what they’ve chosen for themselves. After each
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ball scored on their dragon, the Eternity player responsible for this happening leaves the
team forever, never to return. Those are the rules. Whoever misses the ball can no
longer stay on the team, no matter his past achievements. Only one ball and he loses the
right to eternity in dragonball. Perhaps that is why they fight like lions... The remaining
teams compared to them are swamp bogies, having hijacked a couple of vacuums to fly
at night on the Sabbath.”
“If we can’t win, then at least we’ll score a ball?” Liza Zalizina asked. She was
standing next to Tanya, but stubbornly looking the other way and doing her best to
pretend that she knew no one named Tanya Grotter. Tanya, in turn, treated Liza with no
less warmth and only called her Poor Liza,72 the reason Zalizina flinched every time.
However, Tanya kept quiet today. She suddenly figured out that if she went away to
Puper, then Vanka would get Zalizina. HER VANKA WILL GET POOR LIZA!!!
Thinking about it, Tanya listened to the first sentence of Nightingale and caught
only the very end of what he was saying. “...will be twice a day for four hours. I’ll strive
to make you even dream of dragonball at night. If there are wimps among you, they
should drop out even in training. Better to fight with a reduced team than put meat for
dragons on the field... And now a few words about our new tactics...”
The Magciety seal on the parchment flickered maliciously. After staring at it,
Nightingale growled briskus-quickus and suddenly whistled deafeningly in its ear. Yes,
yes, exactly in the ear! At the same instant, the seal turned into a fat eavesdropping
bogey. Crouching in fear, the deaf bogey hastily dashed off to the hangars. Genies chased
after him with hoots.
The coach shook his head. “That is why I love Koshchei the Deathless, Cagliostrov,
and Tistrya so much they don’t get bored. This threesome doesn’t agree that the less you
know, the better you sleep. They want to know absolutely everything. Now, come closer
and look here! And The Ancient One forbid anyone stepping on my diagrams!”
Nightingale O. Robber waved his hand and a cane appeared and began to draw on the
snow the tactical plan for the match.

72 Poor Liza (1792) is a short story by Russian writer and historian Nikolai Mikhailovich Karazin (1766 –
1826) about a peasant girl who was romanced and abandoned by a noble, and who then drowned herself.

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Chapter 10
Filth does not scare Tanya

Herman Durnev was woken up at midnight by a strange unease. He lay there,
looking at the ceiling and turning from side to side, not understanding what was
happening to him. Aunt Ninel, as huge as a snowy mountain, was lying under a blanket
and snoring sweetly, but this did not calm Uncle Herman. He got up and walked out of
the bedroom. The door to his office was ajar. A ghastly bluish light filtered through the
cracks. Sneaking up closer, Uncle Herman peered carefully into the office. The first
thing his gaze hit upon was the discarded frog skin lying in the middle of the room. That
otherworldly light was spilling from it.
Hope, like happy poodles, jumped in Durnev’s eyes. “Beatrice!” he called softly,
dreaming of goodness knows what. “Beatrice!” No one answered. Only in the next room,
where the closet was, there was a vague sound. Uncle Herman rushed there.
Near the half-open closet stood a huge flabby broad, next to whom Aunt Ninel had
a good chance to pass for Thumbelina. She was quickly discarding things out of the
closet with one hand and greedily reaching with the other for Count Dracula’s crown,
which was lying on the middle shelf next to the sword and boots. Beside her on the floor
lay a bag, which was clearly magical, judging by the two live cobras serving as
drawstrings.
“Where’s Be-Beatrice?” Uncle Herman asked mechanically.
The huge broad turned around. Her nose was like an overripe cucumber, and all
sorts of bumps and growths puffed up on her huge face, which seemed white in the
semi-darkness. “Here I am, my little chick! You flew in after all? Come here! I’ll fire you
up with tenderness... ah, my sweet?” she said in a throaty voice, clearly mocking.
“D-don’t!” Uncle Herman was scared.
The dame grinned unpleasantly. “So you refuse to be scorched and singed? I must
admit I thought so. You moronoids are like that! Fool around and dump!” the dame said
calmly, unceremoniously burying the crown in the bag.
The boots followed the crown almost immediately. Realizing that he would lose
everything in another minute, Uncle Herman leaped forward, trying to grab the hilt of
his sword. Beatrice the Wise did not even try to stop him. The sword did it for her. It
flew up and pushed Durnev’s chest unceremoniously with the scabbard.
Uncle Herman fell onto the carpet and began coughing convulsively. “Why? Why
didn’t it recognize me?”
“Won’t work, my dear! See that amulet on the hilt? I was well prepared. While it’s
there, the sword won’t recognize you. Uncle Sam will be pleased. His collection of
magical gizmos will be replenished with a few interesting specimens. I finally get magjor
epaulets,” chuckled Beatrice, calmly burying the sword into the bag.

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“So you’re not Beatrice, you’re a spy for Uncle Sam?” Durnev asked, rubbing his
chest.
“Why so rude? I’m a magfficer of intelligence, first national transformation
division. My real name is Bridget Magvuzer... but I don’t think that this information is
useful to you in the Next World. I’m going to kill you, my ruby. You woke up futilely
tonight, oh, futilely!”
Beatrice the Wise, aka Bridget Magvuzer, pulled out a ring consisting of several
silver spirals and ending with a small protrusion. “Magic ring with a silencer... The
sparks are invisible, doesn’t leave marks or burns. Symptoms of death will be of a heart
attack. Precisely such a diagnosis will be established at the autopsy. And now stand still.
I hate to waste a lot of magtrons!” she said, unhurriedly twisting the ring onto her
finger.
Having put on the ring, Bridget breathed on it and rubbed it with a sleeve,
muttering that she had not killed anyone for three months and could easily lose her skill
from this.
“Coronale mortale rejectus!” she uttered loudly, extending her hand, but Uncle
Herman was not going to wait to be finished off.
Before the spark pulled away from the ring, the former best deputy was already in
the hallway. Sliding immediately behind, the spark hit the coat rack, got tangled in Aunt
Ninel’s Arctic fox fur coat, and went out.
And Durnev was already in his office. Here he quickly flipped the switch and dived
under the desk. After a few seconds, Bridget Magvuzer appeared in the room and slowly
began to search for Durnev. The best deputy saw her fat gouty legs.
“Don’t hide, my sweet! Die with dignity. Why all these tricks? A minute earlier, a
minute later, you still won’t be saved,” Bridget Magvuzer cooed.
Blinded by light, she did not immediately see Durnev and squinted. Finally, she
bumped the desk sideways and began to pass him.
“She’ll kill me! There is no escape!” Uncle Herman realized and quickly crawled on
his stomach under a table. A spark fired at random hit a chair. The chair swayed and,
falling onto the carpet, quickly became covered with mould and moss.
Durnev was crawling and crawling, waiting for the fatal spark. But Bridget
Magvuzer, meanwhile, delayed: the ring with the silencer probably still had not cooled
down from the previous shot. Suddenly Herman’s hand stumbled upon something wet
and cold. The frog skin! With a vague hope, Durnev grabbed the skin and, crumpling it,
rushed on all fours into the kitchen. Here he grabbed a lighter and quickly held it to the
frog skin. He did it at the exact moment when Bridget Magvuzer ran into the kitchen.
“NO! Don’t do this, don’t you dare!” she shouted, but the frog skin had already
flared up, clearly soaked in saltpetre. The fire engulfed it. Durnev opened his fingers,
afraid of being burned. A moment later, the skin was already lying on the linoleum as a
handful of ashes.
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“Oh, damnation! I didn’t anticipate this! The period of magic self-jinx hasn’t yet
expired! Oh no, now I’ll forever remain a frog! I beg you to consider me a magjor
posthumously!” Brigitte Magvuzer hollered, writhing.
She tried one last shot at Uncle Herman with a deadly spark, but before she could
utter the spell, the ring leaped from her finger. Bridget Magvuzer shrank before his eyes.
The clothes fell away from her. A few seconds later, a most ordinary frog was already
motionless on the floor. It could not speak and only croaked coherently. Then it leaped
up and huddled under a tile. The stranded ring remained on the floor at the spot where
it sat.
Durnev picked it up and put it in his pocket. He realized that he had won. Armed
with a long knife, he tied it to a fishing rod and cut from a distance the talisman on the
hilt of the rebellious sword. The moment the cut cord fell off, the freed sword gleefully
ripped the bag and, after cutting off the heads of both hissing cobras, jumped into Uncle
Herman’s hand.
Durnev put on the crown, plunged his feet into his boots and, despite the pyjamas,
felt like the most formidable warrior in all of Moscow. The only pity was that no one saw
him at this moment except one Uncle Sam, in his anger crashing the zoomer in the
secret laboratory of the Magtagon.

***

Gruelling practice sessions were a salvation for Tanya. She was so tired that she
simply had no strength for anything else. Including, mooning over Puper and doing
stupid things. A couple of times it happened that she jumped out of bed in the middle of
the night. She had a wild, piercing desire to grab the double bass and fly in her
nightgown in the cold to Puper to throw herself at him. But Tanya did not fly anywhere,
and, remembering how little time was left before the morning practice, dropped face
down onto the bed and immediately fell asleep again. Perhaps in these very moments
Circe in England was telling fortunes over her cauldron, wondering how the Russian girl
was capable of resisting her magic.
The most contradictory news came from abroad. The magazine Gossip and
Nonsense claimed that Puper had already gone to the magnastery, while Voice from the
Grave claimed that he was just about to. Moonless Magic Worshipper asserted that he
had fallen in love with a pretty Chinese girl and was no longer only blushing... “Now this
is really interesting,” added Rita On-The-Sly, who, in fact, was the one subscribing to
these magazines and magnewpapers. Moronoid Times, however, outdid all, launching a
hoax that Puper’s aunt had left for the magnastery.
“But this is already unlikely! She’ll hardly deliver us this little childish joy!” Pipa
responded, whose suitcases no longer cluttered only the room but also most of the floor.
It happened after Uncle Herman managed to discover in a magic spell directory the
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advertising spell of the company Griffinservice. Delivery of luggage by transport
griffins to any distance.
Now Pipa demanded from Papa that he somehow contrive and install the Internet
in Tibidox. Durnev was not against it, but Slander and Sardanapal resisted. Sardanapal
argued that the zoomer was quite enough. Slander then stated, “We already have Cupid-
net and I won’t tolerate any other networks! Only over my dead body!”
“So that’s the deal? If it’s over his dead body, then it’s over his dead body!” Pipa
muttered, but only when Slander was not there. When it came to the principal, she was
smart enough to keep quiet; otherwise, there could be one more ghost in the walls of
Tibidox.
One evening, when Tanya, barely alive from fatigue, had returned from practice
and was wiping the damp double bass with a dry cloth, one of the representatives of the
Cupid-net network drummed on the glass – a chubby toddler smeared with chocolate.
“I won’t open! It’s from Puper!” Tanya exclaimed. Recoiling from the window, she
pressed her back to the wall. Her heart was pounding, as if it wanted to pop out and fly
alone to Magford.
“Nope, it’s not from Puper,” Pipa said. “English cupids don’t fly in boots or fire
cigarettes. English cupids are good boys, such little lords. ‘Yes, ma’am. No, sir. Will you
be so kind to present me candy? Thank you for the reinforcement of weakened strength!’
And then, would Gury really send a letter without flowers? He would rather hang
himself!”
After opening the window, Tanya ascertained that Pipa was right. Puper really had
nothing to do with the cupid, because the cupid was from Coffinia.

Hi, Grotty! Coffinia wrote. How are you, has anyone jinxed you? Look, take care.
You’re still useful to Tibidox, as it often gets caught in a story. Everything is fine with
me, anyway, as much as possible in my situation.
I’m living with my parents, they blow dust particles off me. Papa has moved up a
lot: allotting plots in the cemetery. Fences, benches, obelisks, wreaths – everything
also goes through our office. You want to work – pay. Don’t want to – your fences
violate the aesthetics of the cemetery, and wreaths create a fire hazard – so get out of
here.
Papa and Mama are awfully happy that I’m done with magic. I lied to them that I
left Tibidox myself. You know, it bored me, scant knowledge, you’re all freaks, and so
on. In short, they got me into a moronoid school. Not even a school but a college of
economics and law. Earlier they taught dressmaking there, but now it has been
restructured a little. When finished, I could be somebody there, I haven’t figured out
what. Well, learning with the moronoids! A lot of scribbling, neither green nor red
sparks, and it’s only smoky when these klutzes (in the sense of the seamstress-legal
students) begin to smoke into the vent.
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Ah yes... yesterday Sheikh Spirya Al-Alam called. That pest somehow sniffed out
my moronoid phone number. Sheikh Spiro Al-Alam is his full name! I’m absolutely
worn out by him! The minute he calls, I immediately settle scores with him.
That skunk doesn’t understand my perverted originality! You see, he doesn’t like
my letters! They’re very short! And in fact, it’s as if I didn’t write them, but a self-
squeaking feather! Now I’ll satisfy one of his main demands, I’ll write him a letter on a
bed sheet with a marker. And I’ll deliberately write very finely!
Yes, Grotty, are practices continuing? Whom have they replaced me with in the
team? Is he (she, it) playing well or not? The truth is I was indeed a terrible coward,
always afraid that a dragon would eat me or they would break my nose, so I was of
little use. Just why Nightingale kept me in the team, I’ll never understand. Ritka
somehow blurted out to me that maybe he tolerated me because the referees got
distracted by my skirts and Koshchei the Deathless bickered less when I was on the
field...
Between us, these old men are terribly weird in these matters. Remember
Crooked, for example, whom the nymphets fear... Recently a freak here invited me to a
restaurant. The car is a Mercedes. Cool for a moronoid, but simply misery after a
flying vacuum... You sit on a leather couch and the A/C blows warm air at you. Then
you get out of the car, start to sneeze and wrap snot in your fist. This is it, beastly fun...
So I went with him to the restaurant, I ate everything that I could, and he started
to pour me a glass and say all sorts of words: so, girl, I’ll teach you feelings, sit closer,
so many things! I said, “Thank you! I have to go!” But he grabbed my knee like your
Puper. Red all over, gross, he was wheezing. “Are you a fool or what? Why then go to
the restaurant at all? I put vitamins in you for nothing? Now you owe me and all
that!”
Trouble, I think, darn, I don’t have magic anymore! The ring doesn’t work! I had
to yell to the entire restaurant, “My grandpa has gone nuts!” “Filthy old men bother
me! I’m not yet fourteen!” “Perverts escaped from prison!” He jumped up and began to
grab my arms, and I yelled even louder, “Are there any real men here? Give this
decrepit old man one in the head! He steals others’ cars!” And what do you think, he
left me alone so nicely when everyone stared at him! He popped out of the restaurant
like a cork. True, then I had to get out through the kitchen so he wouldn’t track me
down.
Well, that’s all, Grotty, I dashed off a page to you, enough happiness for you...
Now I’ll roll the sheet to Sheikh Spirya. I’ll write him that I’ll set fire to all his oil rigs if
he doesn’t back off. He wants a Russian wife, excellent. Let him get magic for me
anywhere then or roll to Andorra to pick tomatoes...
Hello to Pipa! Ask how she is with Zhikin, or hasn’t he reached her? If he’s rude or
contracts his mug into the face of a suitcase, arrange a couple of dates with him and
don’t go. Zhora will immediately become docile then.
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Your Coffinie.

Although the letter was written in the usual Cryptova spirit, Tanya liked it. Coffinia
was unbearable as a roommate, but Tanya had managed in her own way to get attached
to her jokes. Anyway, with Coffinia, Tanya Grotter stayed in shape all the time. Besides
– and she could not deny this – Coffinia kept her own style. A pompous Pipa, turning
the room into a walk-in closet, Tanya liked much less.
And one more thing that was evident to Tanya. With a sharp inner sight, she was
able to see the essence of every human being, not even the words but what is behind
them. Now she felt that Coffinia missed Tibidox and that this longing was gradually
giving her more depth.
“Well, what’s there? Nothing for me?” Pipa asked.
“Coffinia advises you to reject Zhikin. At least for a couple of dates. It’ll make him
docile,” said Tanya.
“Mmm... She thinks so? Not likely...” Pipa drawled. “For a long time Lotkova has
called his bluff. Imagine, what kind of a narcissistic turkey do you have to be to not
figure it out? Although maybe I can arrange it with Katya, she’ll schedule Zhora for
somewhere on the roof at midnight, but I’ll make it the basement in an hour. We’ll both
be late and we’ll hassle him on the zoomer – from the roof to the basement and back.
Let him run about. Give him a hormonal exercise. What do you think, will it work?”
“Should work,” said Tanya. She involuntarily thought of Puper. Maybe she with her
stubbornness was doing the same thing? She was giving Gury a hormonal exercise,
putting the Englishman in a position where he could not get what he wanted? Yes, most
likely, that was it. If she were to answer Puper reciprocally, he would stop loving her
after three months and go to some Englishwoman from his fan club. After another three
months – from the Englishwoman to a Frenchwoman, from the Frenchwoman to a
Chinese woman, and would wander this way until the entire dragonball talent had been
exhausted. And then he would fall under the wing of his aunt, and she, after fixing his
weakened wellbeing with a magic potion, would find Gury a suitable companion for life
from those that play the piano, cross-stitch, make perfectly edible soup from fungus, and
do not forget to thank the aunt for the delivered happiness.

***

After classes, when she had free time, Tanya visited Vanka. Valyalkin was lying on
the blanket in blue flannel pyjamas, from under which peeped out the painfully familiar
soccer shirt, almost bleached from a lot of washing spells.
Yagge, in a quite decent mood for her age, was whispering to a decoction of elfdock.
Yagun was fidgetting around nearby and entertaining Vanka.

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“Lift the legs over the side down! Spread the head wider than the shoulders!
Breathe deeply with the gills!” he exclaimed, mimicking moronoid morning exercises.
Laughing together with Yagun, Vanka tried to follow his absurd commands, lifting his
legs and turning his head. On seeing Tanya, both – Yagun and Vanka – stopped
laughing and instantly became serious.
“Well, I just ruined their mood! Do I really have such a foul appearance? In fact, if
Vanka loves me and is suffering, then why is he now neighing like a Budyonny horse?” 73
Tanya thought irritably.
“How do you like my healthy charm of schizophrenia? Impressive?” Yagun asked.
“Impressive. Are you going to practice?” Tanya asked, carefully lowering the case
with the double base onto the empty bed.
She specifically grabbed it so as not to go up to the Residential Floor later, where
Pipa was arranging a fashion show for everyone interested. According to her plan, the
clothing demonstration should smoothly turn into boozing. Gunya volunteered to
acquire booze through the cupids. Now the main strategic task was to distract Slander,
who had a stunning innate nose for alcohol.
Although nothing had started yet, Tanya already knew in advance how it would all
end. Dusya Dollova would become sick (and for some reason inevitably near Tanya’s
bed), Gunya would fight with someone, and Pipa, dressed in a long white dress, would
run through the hallways, dragging behind her Zhora Zhikin on a leash. She called this
playing lady with her dog. And in the finale, sulphuric smoke spewing out of his ears,
would come the figure of the commander – Slander, whom an emboldened Pipa would
call Slandy in the presence of everyone. He would stomp and cast evil eyes...
After sitting a little bit together with Tanya and Vanka, who were not even talking
but just looking attentively at each other, Yagun sensed tension and dashed off. “Nah,
when this whole love-carrot74 begins with conflicts, there’s no longer anything for a true
simple sort of friend to do. You feel like a cart with disc brakes!” he said in parting.
“You know, I think he was offended,” Tanya said.
“Yagun can’t be offended. In any case, it’s difficult to upset him,” Vanka said.
“Why is it difficult?”
“How to tell you. I can feel it, but to explain... Every second, Yagun sees everyone
and himself from ten different points of view. He himself is goofy and we’re goofy with
him – in short, he can’t be offended, precisely,” Vanka said.
Tanya sat on the edge of his bed. She had already caught herself thinking many
times that, even after this vile magic, it was pleasant for her to be beside Vanka and he

73 The Budyonny is a breed of horse from Russia, developed for use as a military horse following the
Russian Revolution and currently used in competition. It was a new breed created by Semyon
Mikhailovich Budyonny (1883-1973), Russian Marshal and notable horse breeder.
74 Love-Carrot is the name of a 2007 Russian film, in which a married couple somehow find themselves
in each other’s bodies. The name is a play on words, since the Russian words for love – liubov – and
carrot – morkov – rhyme.
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continued to fancy her. If it were not for this cursed feeling of guilt, which was toxic to
her existence! What is she, after all, sick, perhaps? Coffinia went out with almost half of
the school; Zhikin, in my opinion, only has not gone out on dates with the Cyclopes;
even Pipa, as pretty as King Kong in its youth, managed to meet immediately with two
or three; and none of them felt even the slightest feeling of guilt that they were doing
something wrong. They were even rather proud of themselves. Why is everything so
different with her, Tanya?
“I’m definitely weird! Both in life and in every sense in general,” Tanya thought.
“Hey, what are you doing? Are you listening to me?” Vanka’s question, which he
had clearly repeated for the third or fourth time, flew to her.
And then Tanya realized that she had been gazing painfully at the ice-covered
pattern in the window for a long time. Beyond the window, hanging motionlessly in the
air, froze such a dear and familiar figure. Tanya’s heart melted and trickled like the
Snow Maiden in an electric grill. She instantly imagined how long Gury had spent in
flight, what sacrifices he had made to break free of the tenacious paws of his aunts! He
has come for her, flown over to take her from Tibidox to his distant, gothic, beautiful
Magford forever!
And certainly, she will fly! She cannot stay here anymore! “My dear, my dear! At
last!” Tanya murmured, pressing her hands to her chest.
Gury Puper pressed his nose against the glass, then unceremoniously, without even
bothering to open the window, squeezed into magic station. Tanya ran to him, expecting
that strong hands would now pick her up and put her on the broom.
“What are you doing? Are you overheated? How am I your dear? I was never vile
and disgusting, something I’m proud of!” Puper abruptly said nasally. His voice sounded
horrible, as if intoxicated.
Tanya winced and woke up. Lieutenant Rzhevskii was standing in front of her with
an eternal smirk stuck to his lips like a cigarette butt. It was he who had been hanging
outside the window, while Tanya’s lively imagination turned him into Puper.
Clanking his daggers, Rzhevskii walked over to Tanya and patted her cheek. The
touch of his phantom hand was something akin to an anaesthetic shot. Tanya Grotter’s
cheek immediately became numb.
“I actually came for... Next Friday, the 13th, Lady and I will be waiting for you in
the Tower of Ghosts for a small concert at midnight. Eyeless Horror will sing and I’ll
rattle my daggers! It’ll be scary fun! By the way, has anyone seen my Turkish knife? I’ve
misplaced it somewhere!” Rzhevskii announced and, laughing with his crowning laugh,
began to fly around magic station.
Yagge, continuing to tell fortunes over the elfdock, launched briskus-quickus at
him without looking around. Lieutenant was dragged into the wall and he disappeared.
After a while, his lingering laughter also disappeared.

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“I’ll be Plagued! I’ll kill you, boatman!75 I mean, Circe,” Tanya Grotter muttered.
“I’ll make her fall in love with Puper and create a love triangle that she, like it or not, will
have to turn into a love line.”
Tanya hurriedly walked to the next bed and, having opened the case, began to
check the tension of the strings. In principle, it was also possible not to do this, but she
needed some excuse not to turn around, knowing that Vanka was now looking at her in
puzzlement. “Good thing I didn’t call Puper by name! Vanka may reasonably think that I
was just joking with Rzhevskii,” Tanya hastily thought. She realized that she had almost
given herself away.
Some time later, having completely upset the double bass, she escaped from magic
station under some pretext. Alkonost was going to tag along after her, intending on
singing, but changed its mind and left for the basement to nibble on slugs and turn evil
spirits into zombies with its singing.
There was still a quarter of an hour before practice, behind which Tanya hid to not
answer Vanka’s questions. Tanya Grotter figured that she did not want to drag the
double bass over the drawbridge and then along a snowy field past the pond. She
decided to go up the wall – where the flight block was no longer operating – and fly on
the double bass.
Climbing the wall, Tanya stopped to rest on the landing adjacent to a small round
room, which was sometimes called the “room of quarrels and reconciliations.” They said
that The Ancient One once built it, having decided that since confrontations were
inevitable anyway, it was much better to create a separate room for them. Firstly,
quarrelling here in the Tower would bother no one, and secondly, there were always
such drafts in the “room of quarrels,” even in the summer, that no one would wish to
fight for long.
The door to the “room of quarrels” was firmly closed; however, voices were still
heard through a narrow loophole.
“Women are evil! They’re weak and pampered! Not being able to preserve and
multiply, they live on the misfortunes of all mortals! The great Troy fell because of a
woman named Helen,76 and I broke a rib because of a woman when I was young and
stupid!” someone mumbled. Tanya recognized Slander.
The mermaid’s laughter drowned out his words. “Slandy, don’t grumble! I’m cold,
Slandy! I want a necklace! And Medusa knew your Helen personally. She said her nose
was too long.”
“Don’t interrupt! What does a nose have to do with it? I’m asking you, what does a
nose have to do with it?” Slander continued. “The first woman deprived man of
75 I’ll kill you, boatman is a song by popular Russian singer, composer, and actor Aleksei Igorevich
Lebedinskii, aka Professor Lebedinskii (1968-).
76 In Greek mythology, Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, was the wife of Melnaus, King of
Sparta. Paris of Troy, during his time as a guest in the Spartan court, seduced her and took her back to
Troy with him. The abduction sparked the Trojan War, leading to the eventual fall of Troy.
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immortality!77 Oh, your cunning speech and the art of lying... How you looked at the
water-sprite yesterday, this nothing, this wineskin of slime! Oh, faithless! I’ll curse it,
then you, then myself! Whoopli-woepli-penalbowpli!”
Milyulya looked very annoyed. “Slaaandy, you are my papa so smart! So solid! I
want a neeecklace!” she said petulantly.
“Yes, I’ll buy you a necklace, just don’t interrupt! You’re not listening to me!”
Slander screamed.
The mermaid laughed again with her unique throaty laugh. She had already gotten
what she wanted by being persistent. Slander screeched for some time more, cursing the
water-sprite, and then suddenly stopped in the middle of a long curse, and Tanya heard
the sound of a kiss.
“Ah, here’s reconciliation! I would take the bows from these cupids and put
brushes in their hands to paint the fence, so they see some sense! And Circe there too!”
Tanya thought with irritation.
She had already climbed a dozen steps when she heard Slander’s voice again from
the top vent of the “room of quarrels.” “I beg you, be careful in the evenings! Block off all
spells, although, I’m afraid it won’t help.”
“Why, Slandy?”
“Ahem... Actually, no one should know this... Tonight, someone stole the book of
secret names from the genie Abdullah’s library... Abdullah is in a rage. All his secret
curses, with which he protects the library, didn’t kick into action. More precisely, they
did, but to no avail.”
“Fie, how boring! Who would want that grimy old book?” the mermaid asked.
“MILYULYA!” Slander said reproachfully. “This is the only book where all the
secret names are written down, without exception! The only one! Someone who doesn’t
want his secret name read would want it! Or someone who wants to attain unlimited
power.”

***

In the evening, when Tanya, exhausted after practice, during which Nightingale
squeezed out of them not only all their strength but, it seemed, also their spirit, was
studying History of Other Worlds and Pipa was reading the new trendy novel of Count
Manov, Kiss the Fuzz, a cupid drummed on the glass again. Again, he was not from
Puper but Coffinia.

77 In the Creation myth, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman and the ancestors of all humans, were
cast out of the Garden of Eden and deprived of immortality after Eve, on the advice of a serpent, gave
Adam a fruit of the forbidden tree of knowledge to eat.
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Grotty, hello again! You aren’t sick of me yet? Why haven’t you written an
answer?
Nothing’s good with me. I’m again offended for myself to the point of snivelling.
Nothing works out for me and I’m still a pest. Come, we’ll do something good for the
country. We’ll stretch our legs somewhere.
How’s Page? Hasn’t yet fallen apart from boredom? Watch you take care of him,
hug him once or twice, say something nice, or else he’ll waste away. And tell this
grumbler that I miss him. He’s almost like Gunya for me. I mean, he hardly shines, but
I love him all the same.
Yes, something else I forgot to write that time... I recently met a guy here. Genka
Bulonov. You once told me about him. This frons is fourteen or fifteen years old! Only
he was small then, but now he has grown into a whole wardrobe. They don’t let such
as him onto the basketball court because his forehead will knock the hoop. I call him
Bouillon,78 and sometimes even Borsch. He’s after me (just don’t tell Gunya). Bouillon
has a mama, so tiny, but terribly hard to please. Such a person would even get to
Shurasik. Bouillon fears her like Plague. He doesn’t even dare sneeze without her
permission. Of course, this mother can’t stand me! And I haven’t even done anything to
her. Only once I remarked that they had a mess in the apartment, and that if I were to
live there, I would toss everything into the dumpster, starting with her bed.
Something else funny about Bouillon. He, of course, isn’t a wizard, but he leans
strongly towards magic. He sits in the lotus position and buys all sorts of occult books
about astrology, yoga, and cosmic energy. He showed them to me! I almost died
laughing. I would immediately turn these moronoids to harpies, what they write about
magic. Absolutely crazy! Dingbats scribble for dingbats and Bouillon buys all of them.
And one more thing: Bouillon doesn’t remember anything about you. Nor about our
Tibidox. How they cast the zombie spell on him then, the magic still holds even now,
though at times it’s as if he falls into a trance and starts to remember something. Once
my zoomer kicked in, how he just flinched.
And you, Grotty, are such a swine! I forgot my white slippers in the room there. If
you ruin them, you’ll really get it. Hee-hee! It’s kind of such a funny joke! 79
By the way, how’s my little Puper? Hasn’t gone to the magnastery yet? Probably
sends whole swarms of cupids again. Girlfriend, don’t you push him away. Let him be
in reserve. What if you stop loving Vanka some day? Puper’s all right, it’s possible to
tolerate him. The only quirk is you have to pity him all the time and listen to all the
crap about his aunts. Guys, they like to complain more than girls, I’ve long caught on.

78 The Russian word bulonov is a plural form of bulon – bouillon.
79 The Russian expression ‘see you in a coffin in white slippers’ is an expression of contempt and hatred
for someone.
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Still, Puper isn’t Sheikh Spirya, who, with his jealousy, utterly frazzles even such
a gem like me. By the way, about Spirya. I sent him a telegram today that I died. I
wonder what he’ll throw out tomorrow.
Well, so long! Your Coffinia.

***

The ghost concert was a success. Eyeless Horror howled like a ship’s siren and
rattled chains. Lieutenant Rzhevskii, wearing an Admiral’s uniform to please Unhealed
Lady, stuck it with daggers to spite her so that he looked like a hedgehog. Unhealed Lady
herself sat in Wheelchair – the same one that all the freshmen were so very afraid of –
and languidly sniffed a long-wilted flower.
The other spectres also took off on all cylinders to the best of their abilities and
capabilities, using the fact that Friday does not generally fall on the thirteenth that
often. After about an hour, Seven-Stump-Holes got up and left, yawning. Shurasik, Liza
Zalizina, and, finally, all the teachers headed out after him.
When Sardanapal left, striving to do this as inconspicuously as possible, Eyeless
Horror was upset, got really mad, started yelling that his talent was not appreciated, and
pelted everyone with his entrails.
“Ugh! I hate these freaky tantrums!” Unhealed Lady said, grimacing, and faded
together with Wheelchair.
Taking advantage of his wife’s absence, Lieutenant Rzhevskii immediately cheered
up and, remembering an anecdote as old as the world, began to hang his socks to dry
anywhere. And this was indeed already the end of the party.
When almost everyone had fled, Horror came to his senses and began to block the
path of Tanya and Bab-Yagun, begging them to at least stay and listen to his last song.
Taking into consideration that they still had to take exams on History of Other Worlds,
they exchanged glances and stayed.
Horror howled again, so much so that the drops of the Bohemian crystal chandelier
trembled. Around the middle of the song, he suddenly stopped and stared resentfully at
Tanya and Yagun. “Someone cut me off!” he said crankily. “Someone screamed louder
than me! I won’t tolerate competition: I’m the most psycho in Tibidox! And I’m also the
most heartrending!”
“Such a thing simply can’t be!” Yagun assured him.
“No, someone yelled! I tell you what I heard! The shout was over there! Come with
me! We’ll take my competitor down red-handed!” Eyeless Horror exclaimed and quickly
flew over the floor. Tanya and Yagun hurried after him. A hooting Lieutenant Rzhevskii
brought up the rear of the procession.
Where the wide corridor exited to the landing and ran down the staircase of the
Atlases, Eyeless Horror suddenly stopped and hovered above the floor. “Oho, here’s a
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fresh corpse! How amusing! A really terrible and bloody murder hasn’t happened in
Tibidox for quite a long time!” he said excitedly.
Someone wearing a dark sweater and pants was lying face down on the flagstone
floor. Tanya and Yagun turned him over with effort. It was Gunya Glomov. He was
breathing, but his face was as pale as chalk and his eyelids were closed.
“Oh, but he’s alive!” Horror said disappointedly. “Then I’ll leave! Nothing for me to
do here! And tell your friend that if he interrupts my song again, I’ll hang right above his
bed and be there all night long, blue and swollen. Believe me, it’s not a bluff!” Eyeless
Horror turned and flew away.
Bab-Yagun began to shake Gunya. Glomov’s heavy head tossed about helplessly,
tilting back and forth.
“Maybe he’s drunk?” Lieutenant Rzhevskii winked and suggested.
“Have you lost your mind? He was still with us at the concert ten minutes ago!
Besides, don’t you know Glomov? A barrel of booze wouldn’t knock him down!” Tanya
said indignantly.
“Well then, I don’t know... I simply guessed!” Lieutenant said.
Gunya Glomov opened his eyelids with difficulty.
“Are you sick? Can you stand up?” Yagun asked anxiously.
Gunya’s lips trembled. “No.” His voice was very quiet. It was necessary for them to
strain the ears to make out anything.
“Raise your hand?”
“Raise hand... No...”
“How did you end up like this?”
“I was coming back and suddenly someone stepped towards me out of the
darkness. I turned around, but it was too late...” Tears were in Gunya’s eyes. Somehow,
it was unusual to see him so quiet and powerless. Unusual and scary.
Tanya and Yagun exchanged glances. They noticed at once that Glomov’s body had
shrunk and become very weak. Clothes hung on him loosely, as on a hanger. His hands
were thin, like a spider’s legs. Glomov’s former strength, making all of Tibidox tremble,
had vanished as if it never existed.
“The second victim... Remember what Zalizina told Vanka?” Yagun whispered and
asked Gunya, “Do you know who it was?”
“Golden moustache... Silver head... I shouted... Saw nothing more,” Gunya said
with white lips and closed his eyes again. Tears flowed down his cheeks.
Lieutenant Rzhevskii looked wildly at Gunya and, after screwing like a corkscrew
into the floor, rushed to call Sardanapal. Somehow, Rzhevskii knew how to spread panic
better than anyone else. Soon, almost the entire school had gathered on the top landing
of the staircase of Atlases.

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“I just contacted Deni. She flew with the Cyclopes to Grail Gardarika. New holes
have appeared there. Two on top on one level, two below also on one level, and a last one
at the bottom,” Sardanapal quietly told Slander.
“The letter U. The next-to-last letter in DEUS...” the academician nodded. It was
unlikely that this news caught him by surprise. Slander Slanderych looked at him
sharply and searchingly.
Yagge squatted in front of Gunya for a long time holding his wrist. Finally, she gave
a sign and the genies loaded him onto a stretcher. “They took away his strength. Not
magic, simply strength. It’s possible to keep Gunya in Tibidox, only now even the baby
Stinktopp can hurt him. I’m not sure that in the near future he will even walk...” Yagge
quietly told Sardanapal.
The academician’s face hardened. “Who was it? Did he say anything to you?” he
asked Tanya.
“Looks like Perun. Golden moustache... silver head...” Tanya said.
Sardanapal turned silently and walked quickly to his office. Medusa and Slander
Slanderych barely kept up with him.
“Yes, no doubt, it’s Perun. Perun and his hammer. He takes away from each the
most important thing. He doesn’t kill, but gives a negative twist of fate. For Coffinia, the
most valuable thing was magic, Gunya – vitality and physical strength. Performing these
actions, breaching the dome, Perun forces me to cast the spell of destruction...” the
academician said quickly.
“Perun forces you to attack him, to banish him from all existing worlds. But why,
why? Earlier, Perun was one of the most revered gods. I don’t understand what could
make him change,” Medusa Gorgonova asked, suffering.
Sardanapal stopped so abruptly that Medusa and Slander nearly bumped into him
from behind. “Now isn’t the time to think about this, Medi. The children are under
threat... I swear to myself, to you, to The Ancient One, to magic – anything... If he
attacks anyone again, I’ll cast the spell!” the academician said briskly.

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Chapter 11
Team Eternity

“Hello to you, jerkies, magvixens, magoddesses, and every other magsquirts! Oho,
Nagiana Pripyatskaya of Latest Magnews is already threatening me with the
microphone! You should have seen this microphone! It’s simply a club of the People’s
War!80 Good that my vacuum is already in the air! With you is the cheerful Babbini-
Yagunini aka Bab-Yagun, the best of the commentators and the bravest of players! Of
course, this is only my personal opinion. Or IMHO, as Pipa calls it, wistful without the
Internet. You can also disagree with it if – he-he! – you’re not afraid that my granny will
curse you. Granny, for some reason, likes such grandkids as me. If you see a jittery
chatty type, who went bonkers long ago and for a long time, he definitely needs to look
for suitable relatives, especially a mama or grandma.”
Recollecting himself, Yagun cautiously glanced in the direction of the guest stands,
trying to figure out if he had said anything wrong, but Yagge only smiled benevolently
and waved her chubby hand at her grandson.
“Well, she wasn’t even offended! Sometimes it seems to me that Granny doesn’t
heed what I say at all if it doesn’t involve food and health. But if, say, I start to have a
runny nose or admit that I have a sore throat... Uh-oh, she has already tensed up!
Someone save me from Granny! Tell her that she doesn’t need to treat me! She’ll fill me
up with dead water,81 and I’ll be as healthy as a cucumber!” Yagun yelled.
Finally, calm was established and the zealous grandmother pacified. The playing
commentator took a breath of relief and continued, “Today, on the first Friday of April,
we have gathered on the dragonball field of Tibidox, where the match between Team
Tibidox and Team Eternity should start in a few minutes. Team Eternity isn’t here yet –
the summoning spell hasn’t been uttered, though Grafin Cagliostrov, Tistrya, and
Koshchei the Deathless have already gloatingly dragged onto the field some spooky
tympanum,82 which personally gives me goose bumps. I don’t much like this tympanum.
It has this look, as if they just pulled it out of the ground or at least teleported it from
That World.83 Apparently, these greasy handsome ones – of course, I name these
representatives of Magciety only in the best common humane terms! – are rather
nervous of their own tympanum. At least Tistrya is. He’s some kind of suspicious green,
a downright fir in the forest. And this despite the fact that he isn’t even carrying the
tympanum but only the mallet for it...

80 People’s War is a military-political strategy developed by the Chinese Communist revolution. The basic
concept is to maintain the support of the population while using mobile or guerrilla warfare.
81 In legends and myths, when dead water is poured on someone, it will heal mortal wounds, after which
living water is used to revive him.
82 A tympanum was an ancient Greek frame drum, shallow and circular, beaten with the palm of the hand
or a stick.
83 That World is another name for the afterlife.
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“It’s now spring! The snow has melted, the sun is shining, and here on the field the
mud is impassable. I don’t envy the medics today – they have to run through the
puddles...
“To say that the stands are full and a bomb from a plane has nowhere to fall implies
blurting out another cliché. If you are sitting three to a spot, be glad that they didn’t
place nearby a giant or a mountain troll from Goreanna’s friends. If they did, be pleased
too, especially if he supports the same team as you or simply didn’t forget to use
deodorant. With regard to the influx of wicked spectators, the checking of tickets failed
once again. Even the armour against evil eyes issued to them didn’t save the Cyclopes.
Now they’re all relaxing on the sidelines and staring blankly at the crowd flocking past
them. Have a ticket – thanks, no ticket – also pass please. Slander Slanderych has wisely
distanced himself. Pack mentality, and if so, it’s better to pretend that everything’s going
according to plan. To swell up now is like throwing rotten tomatoes at the white cloak of
his authority...”
“Someone’s vacuum hasn’t broken for a long time. Indeed, it can stall under the
very dome, by the way! What accident doesn’t happen in life,” the director of studies
said vengefully, raising his hand with the ring.
However, before he could release a spark fatal for Yagun, putrid water doused him.
The mermaid, arms akimbo, looked crossly out of the barrel. “What kind of trick is this,
I ask you? Do you want us to be left without a commentator? Leave him alone, Slandy,
he’s fun! Or else you watch, I’ll take offence and go to a water-sprite. There he is,
winking at me! Ooh, what a cute one!” And Milyulya, with deliberate aspiration, sent an
air kiss to the crowd.
“What, again? Someone catch me this frogman! I’ll rip off all his flippers, then turn
him into a roach and teleport him to the desert!” bellowed Slander, whose jealousy
instantly forced him to forget about Yagun.
The playing commentator hit the gas, turned beautifully near the shielding dome,
and directed his vacuum right at the press stand, pleasantly alarming zoomer operators
who, not really knowing what to shoot, were turning their heads in search of at least
some decent angle.
“Until Team Eternity has been summoned, I’ll present Team Tibidox. Of course,
experienced fans already know us inside out, but don’t rule out that some of the old
witches present here suffer from sclerosis and will be very upset if we aren’t acquainted
once again,” continued Yagun. “Allow me to draw your attention to winger Zhora Zhikin,
number one, our local celebrity, wearing his most beautiful high boots and the coolest
dark glasses! If he dies today, on his monument will be: Here lie the glasses of the cool
cupcake Zhora Zhikin, and that’s all that’s left of him! Oh, my granny mama, it seems
Zhora almost fell off his mop! Why so scared? I was just creating an artistic image!
“Damien Goryanov, numero – all are numbers, but this is numero!!! – two.
Offence... Are you expecting that I’ll now say filth about Damien? I did this earlier, but
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now I’m repentant! Dami, you’re wonderful! You’re unique! I only have one request for
you: if you ram me in your dental chair, or what you still pass off as a vacuum, try to hit
at least once... Well, what did I say! Respected genies, please shake the dirt off numero
two and put him on a fighter jet! He’s still useful to us.
“Katya Lotkova, number three, defence. Grimeks vacuum. If I am meant to be
swallowed by a dragon, I want to be swallowed together with her. Please record this as
an official statement and save it in a personal file!
“Seven-Stump-Holes, number four. By the way, why four? It seems to me that his
name quite clearly says seven. Who will explain to me what happened to the preceding
six stumps? But I’ll wisely be quiet. If this one rams me, it’s already the finish.
“Number five, guitar with a trailer, Rita On-The-Sly. She plays well, although for
some reason always ends a match inside the enemy’s dragon. Number six, Kuzya
Tuzikov. A jet broom. He isn’t a broom, but has a broom. And there’s nothing to laugh
at: how would you look if they put you on a broom?
“Number seven, Masha Feklishcheva. She’s playing instead of Coffinia. The flying
apparatus is an enchanted stuffed crocodile. Some may notice that she’s the youngest on
the team and barely visible at all on the stuffed animal, but is this so important? Tanya
Grotter also didn’t start playing dragonball at ninety.
“Number eight, Bab-Yagun. Diagnosis: excellent playing commentator. Other
merits: still talking... Number nine, Liza Zalizina, cuckoo clock. For some reason she
quite often looks at the bench where Shurasik and Vanka sit. Oh, this Shurasik, what a
heartbreaker!
“And now, number ten! Finally, it isn’t Verka Parroteva but Tanya Grotter. She
performs the solo part Dragonball for double bass without an orchestra. Everyone, it
seems, knows that Tanya is an excellent forward. However, I have another question:
why hasn’t she learned to play the double bass yet? She could take lessons from the
Great Tooth. I wonder if Tanya knows that her grandfather Theophilus Grotter once
taught the Great Tooth to play the double bass and she has even achieved some success.”
A surprised Tanya looked at the teachers’ stand, trying to find the Great Tooth
there. Something suggested to her that Yagun told the truth. But why did Dentistikha
never mention this before?
“He said that needlessly. Did Yagge really blab?” Great Tooth murmured
reproachfully, addressing Medusa.
“Unlikely. Ancient gods rarely suffer from babbling. It’s just that hiding something
from a mirroring grandson isn’t so easy. Anyway, Deni, what’s wrong with you being
Theophilus’ favourite student and having played the very double bass on which his
granddaughter now traces all these figures in the air?” Professor Gorgonova smiled.
“Nothing,” said Deni. “It’s only that another meeting with reality is waiting for
Tanya today and nobody has warned her about it. A meeting, which we’re afraid to think

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about for some reason. Too many emotions for one day.” Medusa stopped smiling, and
her face was as serious as that of the Great Tooth.
Meanwhile, Tanya, distracted by thoughts of Puper, looked around anxiously at the
section of the stands where the Magford team usually sat. No one! Neither Gury, his
coach, Glint, O-Phe-Li-A, nor Prince Omelet... Even the place of honour, prepared for
one of Gury’s aunts, was now occupied by a flabby Bald Mountain sorcerer, whose whole
belly was decorated with amulets.
Tanya experienced relief and dismay simultaneously. Since Puper was not here, she
could play calmly without experiencing the temptation to throw herself at him. “But
why, why didn’t Gury come? Perhaps he has forgotten you? He walks in circles around a
Chinese girl and blushes like a traffic light! And the aunties watch, touched, but have
already secretly, like an ace of trumps, prepared for him a modest English girl!” The
other half of her “I” was nagging like an annoying mosquito.
Suddenly, it was as if an invisible harpoon entered under the right shoulder blade
of Tanya Grotter. Tanya almost screamed. Someone’s laughter rang like a silver bell in
her mind. Tanya turned around sharply, and her gaze stopped unerringly on a tall bony
lady sitting in the last aisle seat. The lady’s facial features were European, but she was in
a high turban and loose Eastern clothing with many folds.
It seemed to Tanya that the lady was squeezing something in her hand,
occasionally bringing the other hand with outstretched fingers to the clenched hand.
“Circe! Came to see if her magic worked! And a wax figure of me in her hands! Only
don’t wait anyway, you old boot! You won’t see your triumph! Out of spite! Even if your
Puper is plastered with sugar!” Tanya thought. If anything, Tanya Grotter did not lack
stubbornness. She could be miles better at that than any Circe.
“But we’ll continue,” Yagun rattled on enthusiastically. “The representatives of
Magciety have finally established their tympanum in the middle of the field and are now
generously yielding to each other the right to hit it with the mallet. Their generosity has
gone so far that a little more and they’ll come to blows. Finally, Deathless and Tistrya
trap Grafin Cagliostrov and forcibly hand this noble signor the mallet. They themselves
jump away and cover up their ears. Cagliostrov, as pale as Prince Omelet, raises his
hand and, after closing his eyes from terror, hits the tympanum as hard as he can...
Wow! Frankly, I thought the sound would be louder. And where is Team Eternity?
Perhaps the esteemed Grafin shouldn’t have been so scared?
“But what is this? Although no one is hitting the tympanum any longer, the eerie
sound increases... It’s getting louder, more unbearable! It seems to me now my head will
split and my eardrums will burst! Cagliostrov, Tistrya, and Deathless hastily crawl away
on all fours, while an unknown force is trying to drag them into the emerging vortex! My
granny mama, I’ve got it! These cheats have opened a gateway between our world and
the Beyond World, and now Team Eternity is rushing into this gateway! Now the first is

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already taking shape! Ugh, you need to have strong nerves to see how the soul is clothed
in flesh! Fortunately, this happens very, very quickly.
“You’ve probably already heard that Team Eternity will be here for only 59
minutes. Even the most powerful magic, voodoo magic – I wonder, what magic can even
summon and materialize the spirits of the dead? – won’t be able to keep them in our
world for more than one hour... All this can only mean one thing: the match is about to
begin, and therefore I’ll have to introduce you to Team Eternity just in telegraphic
style...”
Yagun quickly stared at his hand, where a moment ago the cheat sheet prepared
earlier flared up. It was a special crib invented by medieval student wizards. Considering
that a lot of useful information cannot fit on the palm, the wizards wrote down one
single spell, which displayed necessary data at the right time.
“Number one, Hercules,” Yagun imparted. “Oh, my granny mama! Somehow I’ve
immediately lost interest in playing! Can someone replace me and I’ll go to Slander for
extra sessions or Medusa for extra homework? Anyway, you can’t imagine a greater
punishment! Look, what fearsome calmness on his face! Not a muscle twitches! Not a
single superfluous movement, and just for an hour in our world! On his shoulders is the
skin of the Nemean lion.84 And what a club in his hands! It’s as if Nagiana’s microphone
is on holiday! I just don’t understand how Hercules stays in the air... Aha, Hippolyta’s
belt...85 To say that Heracles plays offence is no longer necessary. Those such as him
don’t know what defence is.”
“Yagun has somehow lost all sense of humour! Look how he respectfully responded
to Hercules,” Seven-Stump-Holes remarked to Kuzya Tuzikov.
“Indeed! He’s still not tired of living!” Kuzya Tuzikov confirmed, barely remaining
on his broom.
A silver lightning flashed in the air to the right of Yagun. His vacuum was cast aside
several metres. Miraculously still sitting, the playing commentator turned and rattled
on, “Number two! Minotaur. Midfield. Ugh! I’ve never seen a bull’s head on such a
powerful human torso before! He flies on a carpet of Ariadne’s threads. 86 I would never
have suspected that this calf also plays dragonball! A gold ring in its nose and two more
rings in its right ear. Well, that’s a good thing! I also wanted to pierce my nose, but
Granny said that she would kill me not just for a ring in my nose but even for a simple
tattoo!”

84 The Nemean lion was a vicious monster in Greek mythology and killed by the legendary Greek hero
Heracles, as the first of his twelve labours.
85 In Greek mythology, the ninth labour of Heracles was to get the magical belt of Hippolyta, the queen of
the Amazons, a race of women warriors.
86 The Minotaur was a half-bull half-man monster in Greek mythology and dwelt at the centre of the
Labyrinth, a maze-like structure. Theseus, the mythical king of Athens, managed to kill the Minotaur with
the help of a ball of thread from Ariadne, who was in charge of the Labyrinth. The ball of thread allowed
Theseus to find his way in the Labyrinth.
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“YAGUN! Number three has already materialized! Who promised telegraphic
style?” Sardanapal shouted from the stands, amplifying his voice with a spell.
“Sorry, Academician! The telegraph malfunctioned. Now it’s producing novels...
Number three of Team Eternity: Hermes.87 He was a Greek, carried out a bunch of secret
assignments, ultimately blurring his main mission. Winged sandals, a sly smile. Here’s a
truly slippery character. While searching for him at one end of the field, he’s already at
the other end...
“Wow, what a powerful crack of thunder! I can’t hear my own voice. Did it deafen
me or has my mouthpiece malfunctioned? Someone please wave at me or cast a simple
spell. I’ll know that everything’s all right... Hey, I didn’t ask all at once! Help, my vest is
smoking! A couple more spells and I’ll kick the bucket, automatically go to Team
Eternity! Phew! Number four of Team Eternity! Ilya Muromets,88 defence! Look at that!”
A gloomy Nightingale O. Robber mechanically ran his finger along the scar that
split his cheek and popped out his eye. “He hasn’t changed at all. The same as on the day
when our paths crossed,” he muttered.
“Indeed, someone gets punched and does not even notice! Next to him, the Greek
Hercules somehow instantly ceases to impress! Nevertheless, he clearly wants to
compare strength with Ilya. Hermes immediately wedges himself between them and,
having gently embraced Hercules’ waist, tactfully flies off with him to the side... Very
shrewd! If it came to a fight, a definite stop would be placed on further exploits of
Hercules. What is he, in fact, compared to our Ilya, the natural strongman of Murom
village? Well, Hercules overpowered a few small animals, which precisely now would be
entered into the Red List because of their scarcity... Only to fly on a shield must not be
very convenient. Manoeuvrability isn’t the same, although Muromets handles it quite
well.”
“Look!” Damien Goryanov muttered. “Now Yagun also went after Hercules! The lad
has gotten quite overheated... Only it’s strange somehow. In my opinion, Hercules
doesn’t even hear him.”
“Number five... Baron Münchhausen... 89 Legionnaire from Germany,” Yagun
presented with feeling. “Well, what’s there to say about him? This is Lieutenant
Rzhevskii spill over abroad. Naturally, he flies on a cannonball. But another question
occupies me more: who has a longer moustache, he or the academician? ... Number six,

87 Hermes is an Olympian god in Greek mythology, a god of transition and boundaries, quick and
cunning, and portrayed as an emissary and messenger of the gods.
88 Ilya Muromets, Ilya of Murom, is a legendary fold hero of Kievan Rus', a warrior and character of
many Old Russian epic poems. He defeated Nightingale the Robber in a forest near Bryansk.
89 Karl Friedrich Hieronymus Freiherr von Münchhausen (1720-97), German officer and author, also
known as “the Baron of lies.” After his retirement from the military, he was famous for telling
extraordinary tales about his life as a soldier, hunter, and sportsman. One of his fictional exploits is riding
a cannonball. His family friend Rudolf Erich Raspe (1737-94) was responsible for creating the
Münchhausen myth by penning works based on the tales.
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Winged Centaur, centre... Why would a centaur 90 not love Pegasa?91 Love, as is known, is
evil, you love and...”
“YAGUUUN, don’t get carried away !!!!” Medusa shouted angrily.
“What did I say? Ah, yes, yes! We don’t utter words that aren’t in the complete
works of The Ancient One...” Yagun suddenly remembered. “On the whole, I had in
mind the bearded mate of a goat, seven letters and horns... Pegasa, if anyone has
forgotten, is this horse with wings on which poets fly for vodka! Winged Centaur – half
winged-horse, half centaur – appeared as the result. What magnificent wings Winged
Centaur has! I’m sure many call him in their sleep, biting their pillow so that in the
morning, after the tenth cup of coffee, the relentless hoof of inspiration would suddenly
kick them and fling them to the computer or typewriter! They dream that they’re doing
the will of Pegasus, and it’s merely Winged Centaur!
“Number seven – Dionysus...92 also known as Bacchus... Well, how’s my memory?
Look at the vine intertwined with his hair! And the bunches of ripe grapes that fuel his
huge horn, on which he flies into the wind!
“Number eight – Florus the Blind. Yes, the same living legend cited as an example
to us all the time. It will be interesting to see him in action.
“Number nine – Argus, the many-eyed giant-guardian, 93 defence. I confess, he’s so
huge that in the first second I confused him with a dragon. And so many eyes...
Ummm... This is impressive, especially the eyes on the back! Here’s control over the
field! A small anatomical question: does he have eyes on his heels?”
While Yagun, interested in this detail, was attempting to fly closer on his vacuum,
something flashed. Several thousand spectators, blinded by the unbearably bright flare,
instinctively closed their eyes.
“The Fire Serpent... Zmiulan!”94 Sardanapal whispered, raising his hand to his eyes
as a visor.
With a long and flexible body and glowing scales, Zmiulan seemed woven from
blazing fire. Even the sharp ridge on its spine was more like flames than bony growths.
Continually writhing and swift, it was much longer than Typhon. 95 Many short wings,
also precisely fashioned from fire, were scattered throughout the length of its body,
starting from the head and ending with a flexible tail.
90 A centaur is a half-human, half-horse being in Greek mythology.
91 Pegasa, the female version of Pegasus – the well-known winged stallion in Greek mythology, is made
up.
92 Dionysus is the god of wine, theatre, and religious ecstasy in Greek mythology. The Romans called him
Bacchus.
93 Argus Panoptes – Argus the all-seeing – is the 100-eyed giant in Greek mythology. He was assigned to
guard the white heifer-nymph Io from Zeus, but was slain by Hermes. To commemorate him, his eyes are
preserved in a peacock’s tail.
94 Zmiulan is one of the extensions of the image of a Fire Serpent in East Slavic mythology.
95 Typhon is the deadliest monster in Greek mythology, a poison-spitting giant viper with many snake
heads, terrible, outrageous, and lawless, a bane to mortals.
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130

“The dragon of Team Eternity – Zmiulan. Oh, my granny mama, it’s instantly
everywhere! It burns and dazzles! How, I wonder, how can you throw the ball if you turn
into a barbecue even twenty metres from it?”
Shurasik, sitting on the stand next to Vanka Valyalkin, who was just allowed to
leave magic station today, stopped biting his pencil. “It just cross my mind: Team
Eternity’s dragon will also disappear in an hour, right? What if someone is in its
stomach? One of ours?”
“Don’t panic!” Vanka told him.
“I’m not! I’m just curious. Indeed, then he’ll simply bake inside the dragon,”
Shurasik replied.
“But here you’re mistaken. Tararakh said that whatever the temperature is outside
the dragon, inside all the dragons, and especially in the stomach, it’s always the same,”
Vanka objected.
“Please wait, it seems someone else has appeared, already after the dragon...
Number ten...” Yagun’s voice faltered strangely. What was written on his palm must
have stunned him. “So, number ten... um... Leopold Grotter, offence, magic double
bass... Incredible! Two number tens (now I finally understand why Nightingale O.
Robber gave Tanya the ‘ten’), twin double basses... Perhaps the presence in one reality of
two manifestations of double basses defies common sense, but to Plague with common
sense when this happens! There are no barriers to voodoo magic! Hold on, Tanya, I beg
you, hold on! We’re with you!”
The stands of Tibidox froze. Many eyes were directed to the diminutive young man
of eighteen who, bending towards the double bass, was gliding effortlessly through the
air. A turn, a wave of the bow, and the double bass caught a new airflow. It must have
been precisely this way that Tanya’s father fled to Bald Mountain and traced the arrow
on the roof of Big Tower. Tanya’s heart trembled again as she remembered the scratch
on the stone. Why did neither Sardanapal nor Nightingale tell her about her father
earlier? After all, they knew, they could not have been unaware! And the rest of the
teachers kept quiet...
Later, Tanya replayed each minute of the match hundreds of times in her memory.
Then, in the first moment, everything mingled in her head and in front of her eyes. The
figures of the spectators, the patrolling Cyclopes, the gilded guest stands, Zmiulan
curled up as the fiery serpent, all started jumping. She no longer understood anything,
did not see where she was flying, the whole world had blurred into a huge blot. Her
heart was pounding, and it seemed Noah’s Ark had lodged in her throat.
And then the watercolour dance stopped suddenly and one single young face stood
out from the sea of colors! “PAPA!” Tanya wanted to scream, but did not dare for some
reason. She had never uttered the word in life. It was not for her to call Herman Durnev
papa.

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131

Leopold Grotter was now speeding next to Ilya Muromets, occasionally turning and
glancing, not without surprise, at Tanya’s double bass, which was like two drops of water
to his own. Tanya saw that her father did not recognize her. Certainly! Here Leopold was
only a little older than she was, the same age as Puper, and had not even yet met her
mother, whom, as they say, she so resembles! Tanya was hurt, happy, and uneasy.
From somewhere far away flew to her ears the roar of Goyaryn, bursting to grapple
with the strange dragon, and Yagun’s voice. “Wow, so much information! Someone
substantially enlarged my cheat sheet! I wonder to whom I should say thanks, or, as
expressed by Tararakh, ‘Doesn’t gurgle thanks.’ Twenty years ago, Leopold Grotter was
the best offence of Team Tibidox. He gave great hopes and could easily have turned pro,
but left dragonball and dedicated himself entirely to science. What was it, the love for
Sophia Grotter or the prophecy of The Ancient One? On the other hand, if not for the
long-term work of Leopold Grotter over the Talisman of Four Elements, Plague-del-
Cake would have killed Tanya as well as her parents... Here, Leopold Grotter is
seventeen or eighteen... His playing nickname is Le-Gro. So his fans call him. He’s at the
very peak of his dragonball form, as are the rest of the players of Team Eternity.”
The Great Tooth tapped Medusa’s arm. “See, that’s what I was talking about,” she
said angrily. “Magciety should think before retrieving the tympanum from the storage of
prohibited curiosities and especially before beating it. Sometimes it seems to me that the
higher the authority, the more ridiculous the decisions that come from it.”
“I don’t think that their decision is so ridiculous. Of course it’s a despicable
decision, but it’s quite reasonable. Deathless, Tistrya, and Grafin Cagliostrov foresaw
everything in advance. Look at their faces! To confuse our best player and almost take
her out of the game! Indeed, the girl had never seen her father!” Medusa said
indignantly.
“I’m sure Tanya will pull herself together. Yes, she’s confused, but confusion can’t
last forever. Soon, Tanya will figure out, if she hasn’t already, that Leopold Grotter and
the entire Team Eternity can’t hear our voices. Yes, they can play, they can see our
players, but nonetheless, their souls still exist in another, alien world. Only a certain
part of their essence is here, nothing more,” Sardanapal said conciliatorily.
“Remaining outside the shielding dome, Tistrya and Grafin hastily push the
referees with balls inside. The referees release the balls and take themselves to the air on
their striped vacuums, trying to stay away from the dragons. Yes, the referees have been
the favourite treat of all dragons for thousands of years. Of course, there’s little fat on
genies, as my granny says, but they’re still nice...” Yagun rattled on glibly, as if spitting
out firm round peas.

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132

The genie Abdullah, who was present at the match, stared at Yagge. The numerous
warts crawled reproachfully on his forehead. Then, after some confusion, the hooked
nose drifted off and froze among the warts like the Volga Cliff from the folk song. 96
“My little Yagun, what a young child! What others have in their minds, he has on
his tongue!97 Don’t condemn him, my precious. It’s better to grease the palm, young and
beautiful!” Yagge said, sucking on a cherry pipe. Mockery splashed in her black eyes,
which were not old at all.
“The balls are scattering around the field,” Yagun continued. “As always, the
immobilize ball immediately picks up speed. I already barely distinguish it. The sneeze
ball and the pepper ball spin senselessly in place. They’ll probably be the first for
scoring. Both teams have lined up in battle formation, waiting for the signal... But what’s
that there? Aha, Koshchei the Deathless has appointed himself the chief umpire and,
pretending to be pleasantly surprised by the honour rendered him, is accepting
congratulations. He gets up onto the umpire stand, which Tistrya, Grafin, and a dozen
flatterers hastily decorated with laurel wreaths... The cutie Deathless is modesty itself!
Applause! The chief umpire raises his ring! An orange spark flashes! Bravo! The match
is underway!”

***

From the first seconds the game began to unfold not in favour of Tibidox. Team
Eternity pressed.
“Hercules intercepts the fire-extinguisher ball! Baron Münchhausen and Winged
Centaur easily beat Rita On-The-Sly and Seven-Stump-Holes. The sneeze ball tries to
slip away, but Winged Centaur overtakes it and keeps it with ease, holding it with his
wings. What an interesting technique! Winged Centaur precisely sticks to the ball,
doesn’t even use his hands, saving strength for the throw...
“Dionysus and Florus the Blind, playing as a pair, ‘herd’ Damien Goryanov –
Dionysus above, Florus just below and to the right. I’d like to know how Florus orients
himself, but that’s another question. Damien speeds like an arrow on his hybrid of a
vacuum and a sewing machine. Not bad, not bad at all! Practice clearly benefited him!
He stretches his hand out for the stun ball but suddenly meets Dionysus. Bacchus
shakes it with emotion, and instead of a ball, which Florus has already had for two
seconds, he hands Damien a horn with wine. Kind of like In vino veritas!98

96 The Cliff – Est' na Volge Utes (1864) – is a song about the fate of the 17 th century Russian rebel Stepan
Razin. The lyrics were by A. Navrotskii, a member of the secret society best known for assassinating Tsar
Alexander II on March 13, 1881. The song was an anthem for Russian revolutionaries of the late 19 th and
early 20th centuries.
97 This is from the Russian saying: What a sober man has on his mind, a drunk has on his tongue,
meaning that the influence of alcohol loosens the tongue to speak hidden thoughts and desires.
98 This is a Latin phrase that suggests wine lets loose the truth.
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133

“Zhora Zhikin clips the pepper ball beautifully, knocking it off course, and
intercepts! Bravo to Nightingale! I’ve always said that even a rabbit can learn to light a
match! Wasting no time, Zhikin makes a loop – this is the only quick turn that can be
achieved by a mop with a propeller – and rushes to Zmiulan...
“Seven-Stump-Holes, Liza Zalizina, and Tanya Grotter back him up. Zmiulan
allows Zhikin a throw from a distance and suddenly breathes fire. Zhora miraculously
gets away – more from terror than consciously – and tries to break through to the
dragon’s open mouth. Zmiulan instantly twists – a burst of fire, a golden deluge of
scales, and where there was a dragon’s snout, a tail suddenly appears. Wow! Now I know
why precisely this dragon is included in Team Eternity! None of the modern dragons
would be able to do such a trick.
“The confused Zhikin attempts to go around the dragon and come from the side of
the snout, but he suddenly runs into Ilya Muromets and Argus. Zhora tries to brake, but
it’s too late! Zhikin crashed at full speed into Ilya Muromets’ shield. The mop breaks
with a crunch, the propeller flies off! Ilya Muromets didn’t even sway, and poor Zhora
finds himself in Zmiulan’s obligingly open mouth. My granny mama, I won’t say ‘bon
appétit!’ Don’t you wait! It’s better I say ‘May you choke!’
“But what about the pepper ball? After bouncing off the shield and happily
avoiding Argus’ huge paws, it jumps right into Liza Zalizina’s hands. Zalizina prepares to
pass the ball back, but, on seeing Tanya Grotter, instantly changes her mind and decides
to attack by herself, clearly from a poor position at that. Here it is, the notorious female
solidarity – if I can’t have it, neither can you!
“Zalizina gains altitude and prepares to throw... She prepares too long. Such things
aren’t overlooked in dragonball. Here, movements should be faster than thought.
Leopold Grotter, emerging from nowhere on the double bass, snatches the ball right out
of her hands and swiftly takes off to Goyaryn, which is still miraculously fighting off
Hermes and Florus the Blind. Zalizina hasn’t yet realized that she’s left without the ball
and a dragon’s tail is rapidly approaching from below. A blow, like the crack of a whip,
and Liza, not having time to utter a single sound, disappears into Zmiulan’s jaws. One
cuckoo flies anxiously over the field. Argus and Ilya Muromets briefly go away and then
immediately, like guards, freeze on the right and left of the dragon’s snout. This is
teamwork, this is professionalism! Team Eternity doesn’t even need to look at each
other, it acts so as a single unit...”
Tanya was already racing on her double bass after Leopold Grotter. The cold wind
sobered her. Resentment that Father did not recognize her brought Tanya to her senses.
“I’ll show him! I will! He will see how I play and will understand!” Tanya Grotter
decided, trying to swoop down on Father from above. She was convinced that there was
no manoeuvre which would allow him to leave. She understood something about
interception, and besides, her double bass was in no way inferior to Father’s double
bass.
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134

When the shadow fell on him, Leopold Grotter quickly raised his head. Tanya saw a
faint smile pass over his lips. The next moment his left hand gently pulled the second
string. His right hand jerked the bow up. A moment later, the double bass disappeared,
only to emerge at once a few metres higher. Now they had changed places, she and
Father. Leopold was above and could easily nail her to the snowy field or toss her from
the double bass. However, he did not waste time on it and attacked Goyaryn.
“A short teleportation! No sparks, no spins, no spells!” flickered in Tanya’s
thoughts. She realized that father knew so much more about the magical properties of
the double bass. Leopold Grotter was the first in everything – school, sports, life. His
mind never stopped and always went further. What was the height of perfection for
another, became just another step in the endless ladder of knowledge for Leopold
Grotter. Tanya experienced envy – if only it were like that for her! Perhaps the river of
talent did not carry forever from generation to generation and from tribe to tribe
something that had once spewed water into the void.
Yagun turned his vacuum around and swept past Baron Münchhausen. The Baron,
with his usual levity, had forgotten about the match and tried with facial expressions
and gestures to get in touch with Puper’s publishers, asking for calendars. Puper’s
publishers puffed up their cheeks nobly and waved their hands amicably, but did not
release a calendar to the Baron.
“Oh, my granny mama! The game moves to our dragon and it’s already not looking
good! Kuzya Tuzikov and Katya Lotkova barely have time to secure Goyaryn’s mouth!
The Tibidox dragon seeks glory. His short fiery spittle chases away Team Eternity’s
attack, but this can’t last long. Dragons are extremely restless, and Florus the Blind,
Winged Centaur, and Leopold Grotter certainly knows this for a fact! They’re waiting
patiently for a mistake! Here it is! Goyaryn is distracted literally for a moment, to knock
down with its wings and swallow the unwary referee. Apparently, the referee was poking
his face in to check whether there were any violations in the actions of the Tibidox
defence. Now he’ll only be able to check the workings of the dragon’s stomach. As they
say, diagnostics of the whole organism in five minutes! Not very pleasant but useful!”
Tistrya, Deathless, and Grafin Cagliostrov looked at each other and instantly
showed Yagun a shimmering card.
“For what?” Sardanapal was outraged.
“For cynicism!” Tistrya said.
“For contempt of refereeing!” Deathless added.
“He’s a fool, and his vacuum is stupid! Be thankful that we didn’t remove him from
the field!” Grafin squeaked.
Yagun, not even suspecting a shimmering card, continued to shoot smooth and
strong words. “A dangerous moment! Winged Centaur with the sneeze ball breaks
through ahead. Taking advantage of Goyaryn not having quite swallowed the referee, he
strikes with his wings, easily circles around Tuzikov rushing across his path, and slams
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135

the sneeze ball in from close range! Flash! Gooal! At ten minutes into the match, a ball is
in Goyaryn’s mouth! Goyaryn sneezes deafeningly, scattering all over the field players
dragging their heels! 2 – 0!”
The stands exploded. Muttering that the team had forgotten all his instructions,
Nightingale O. Robber grabbed his head. “What are they doing? Why split up? Why are
they scattered around the field? Team Eternity won’t let them play! An instant capture
of a single ball, the whole team breaks through to Zmiulan – shoot! It’s our only
chance!”
Daedalus Cretan suffered no less. Not having anything on his head to rip, he tore
his thick sideburns, genuine like those of Nozdrev. 99 Hugo the Sly hovered near
Daedalus and Nightingale. When Tibidox got scored on, Hugo was about to start tugging
at his ear in anguish, but soon stopped self-tormenting and, waiting until Daedalus once
again pulled his own sideburns, tearfully said “Oh-oh-oh! Ouch-ouch-ouch!” instead and
even “Wah-wah!” sometimes, according to his mood.
“Excellent!” Bab-Yagun suddenly shouted. “Masha Feklishcheva captures the stun
ball, turns around, and tries to get through to Zmiulan! I swear by the hair of The
Ancient One (if it’s possible to swear by what is no more), this girl has sense, although
she lacks experience! Dionysus springs up in her path. Maybe he has decided to do the
same trick he did to Damien Goryanov, replacing the ball with a horn of wine, but he
didn’t account for that stuffed animal retaining some combat experience! A lash of the
tail, a snap of the jaws, and Dionysus flies upside down off the horn. Orderlies of
Abyssinian100 sorcerers immediately rush to him, but Bacchus only winks slyly at them,
and a moment later spontaneous boozing appears on the field below. My granny
relinquished the genies for this game in vain. Of course, the genies have fog in their
heads, but then they aren’t prone to drunkenness...
“Masha Feklishcheva bursts forth to Zmiulan, but Ilya Muromets and Argus spring
up in her path. The crocodile tries to attack them, but who are we kidding! Ilya catches
the crocodile on the shield and tosses it into Argus’ powerful grasp. The stuffed animal,
with Masha clinging to its neck, is thrown ten meters. Argus sends the ball to Florus the
Blind... Florus passes to Hercules, who passes to Hermes... Not reducing speed, Hermes
attacks Goyaryn. The defence tarries and one more goal is scored on Tibidox! 3 – 0...
Nightmare! Goyaryn yields to the action of stun magic, stupidly breathing out flame and
scattering its own defence. Katya Lotkova, its favourite, almost turns up in its mouth.
Her glorious vacuum – I personally helped paint it recently – having caught a jet of fire,
looks like it was found somewhere in smouldering ruins. Only vampire bile saves
Katya... She even looks pretty good!”

99 Nozdrev is the third landowner in Dead Souls (1842) by Russian writer Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol
(1809-52). Nozdrev is a superficial two-faced dilettante. His name is Russian for “nostril.”
100 Some of the Cult of Dionysus believe that Dionysus came from Ethiopia, with the Ethiopian Empire
(1137-1974) being also known as Abyssinia.
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136

Yagun uttered the last phrase, having already caught Lotkova from the stalled
vacuum.
“How about a kiss? Where’s the gratitude?” he asked indignantly, after carrying her
onto the field.
“Maybe I would’ve kissed you. But I hate it when I’m prompted! So wait now, when
the nearest February 29 falls onto a total solar eclipse! For now let the fuzz kiss you!”
Lotkova stubbornly stated.
Clarifying their relationship, neither Yagun nor Katya realized that the silver
mouthpiece was carrying their voices throughout the stadium.
“Leap Year, eclipse... Umm... Merely seventy years! An insignificant time for true
love!” Unhealed Lady said with emotion.
“Uh-huh! And still have time for more not true ones... Light affairs and other
related cherchez la femme!101 It just won’t hurt a man in the prime of life!” Lieutenant
Rzhevskii stated, accompanying his words with meaningful laughter that some mean
envious people regularly confused with a horse neighing. So, in any case, Rzhevskii
claimed.
Goyaryn, stunned by magic, was rushing from side to side, slamming into the
magic shield of the field. Patched and re-patched many times, the dome was cracking at
the seams. Breaches appeared here and there in it, and Slander, senselessly running
around, did not have time to repair the shield. Only Goyaryn attacking a new location
each time saved the spectators; the dome was vast. The dragon did not have enough
imagination to hit the same place.
“We must stop the game! There could be victims! I, for example!” Grafin
Cagliostrov shouted in panic, when the roaring Goyaryn crashed into the dome right in
front of them.
Koshchei the Deathless, who was not so easy to trick, grinned. “Never!” he stated.
“They’ll calm the dragon, I want Team Tibidox crushed once and for all!”
Goyaryn swept past, belching flame and crashing into the next section, and Grafin
calmed down. “Well, colleagues! Your arguments are convincing! I’m also for continuing
the game!” he said, raising his trembling hand.
“Leopold Grotter! A pass to Minotaur! I would advise no one to ask this bull what
his milk yield is. The pepper ball flies in an arc! I wonder, which bewitched pass is being
used? Sorry, didn’t have time to mir... I mean, to guess with my brain,” Bab-Yagun again
babbled glibly. “Team Eternity tries to attack Goyaryn, but it isn’t very easy. This one
has completely blown a gasket. It beats the dome and roars. Team Eternity, of course,
would prefer a more predictable goal, but it’s the only one there is, don’t blame me!
Minotaur rushes at full speed to Goyaryn. Wow! What, has he decided to ram? The Oak

101 Cherchez la femme is French for “look for the woman,” as in a woman is always the root cause of a
problem.
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and the Calf and further according to the text...102 But no! Minotaur throws the ball from
a short distance! Goyaryn meets him with flame and a lash of its tail. The pepper ball
bounces right into the hands of Tanya Grotter!
“Leopold Grotter, unaware of his paternity, tries not to allow Tanya to Zmiulan.
What snakes, corkscrews, eights! What loop-the-loops! Both Grotters are as if writing a
story in the air with bold strokes of their instruments! Don’t be surprised if in thirty
years they call this match ‘the battle of the two double basses’... Oho, I see the
journalists are already scribbling in their notepads! We clearly don’t have to wait thirty
years! Interesting, will someone at least reference me?”
On noticing the immobilize ball flashing by below, after which Florus the Blind and
the conceited Baron Münchhausen were already chasing, Yagun stopped rattling and
directed his vacuum to cut them off.
Meanwhile, Tanya swiftly cast the double bass downward and sharply did a roll
immediately. Leopold Grotter did not guess the manoeuvre and lagged behind a little,
losing precious seconds. But after a few moments, he already turned up beside her
again. Without thinking, Tanya gained altitude, breaking the distance – and the pepper
ball remained with her again. Somewhere in front, exactly like a cliff, flickered the
many-eyed Argus. He had clearly placed himself there, but Tanya avoided a collision
after sending the double bass slightly to the right and then, when Argus fell for the ruse,
to the left of his huge body.
Leopold Grotter flickered below, moving now in a mirror image but at a lower
altitude and waiting for the moment to attack. Tanya thought that Father looked at her
with respect. I should say so! She manoeuvred not a bit worse and sometimes even
better. Father differed on the habit of using magic all the time; Tanya relied more on
herself and on the flight performance of the instrument.
Zmiulan already loomed ahead in a golden zigzag, swift and elusive, but Tanya was
somehow sure that this time it would not get away. She felt the special enthusiasm,
unlike anything else, which always preceded scoring a goal.
Even Nightingale, already quite in despair, raised his head with hope. Tararakh,
not being tall, jumped up onto the bench after picking up the baby Stinktopp under the
arms and lifting him over his own head. Stinktopp squealed that he could see nothing
and, out of anger, cast everybody in succession spells of his own making. There were
already considerable gaps here and there in the ranks of spectators. Daedalus Cretan
stopped plucking his sideburns, and Lieutenant Rzhevskii, entertaining the ladies, stuck
onto the finale the most beloved, the most shameless of his anecdotes...

***

102 The Oak and the Calf (1975) is a memoir by Russian writer Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn (1918-
2008) about his attempts to publish in his own country. The title in Russian literally translates to “a calf
head butts with an oak.”
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Suddenly, when Ilya Muromets, “do not let the enemy pass” firmly written on his
bearded face, appeared in front protecting the dragon, a sharp pain shot through Tanya.
She almost fell down on her stomach on the double bass, nearly releasing the ball.
“Repeat after me, enfant terrible! Say ‘I adore meine lieben Gury Puper! I want for
him in Magford! I all shake from grand passion!’ Repeat or I make you scream from
pain!” Tanya heard a venomous voice, a voice which only she could hear.
Tanya turned around. She imagined that she saw Circe hold up extended fingers of
the right hand to a clenched left fist. On her face was concealed malevolence, and her
lips were whispering something. “I, misérable Russian trash, adore Gury Puper!
Repeat!”
“NO!” Tanya shouted. “NO! I will not repeat!”
“Not want, stubborn kinder? I always get what I want!”
Another pang. Tanya again buried her face in the double bass. The pain was
excruciating, like appendicitis. Circe must not have been in a hurry to remove the needle
from the figurine.
Something flickered right in front of Tanya’s face. Leopold Grotter obviously
wanted to take the ball away from her but something stopped him, and now he was
racing beside Tanya, not taking his inquisitive gaze from her. He had temporarily
forgotten about the pepper ball, especially since Zmiulan had already flown away and a
throw would not work anyway.
“FATHER! PAPA!” Tanya shouted. She could no longer hold back, the pain was so
unbearable. Leopold Grotter could not hear her, of course, but it seemed to Tanya that
he was peering at her lips, trying to read them.
“Say: meine lieben Puper! I adore you! I shake from terrible desire to fly to
Magford! You don’t know your luck!”
“BE OFF!” Tanya exclaimed, at the same time strongly trying to block her mind, as
she once did when Yagun tried to mirror her. “Well, Grotty, you yield! You instantly
pinched my brain with a tourniquet!” Yagun used to say, beginning to rub his forehead.
Tanya did not know whether it worked, but the pain subsided. Realizing that this
was just a momentary respite, she turned the double bass and dashed precisely at Circe,
next to whom the magical dome cracked after Goyaryn’s attack. Now the baby Grotter
was clearly going to ram, not intending on retreating, and Circe understood this. Horror
was reflected on her face. She raised her hand and was about to prick the figure with a
needle in the heart, but she suddenly heard a hiss. The needle melted in her fingers.
In the next row, a stern pale face was looking at her. Professor Gorgonova’s hair,
standing on end, had turned into snakes. “Don’t you dare!” she shouted.
“Get away from me, schtupid gorgon! I’ll get my way after all! This girl will belong
to Puper or nobody! No one will say that Frau Circe not deal with an order!” The voodoo

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witch curled her fingers. Her white manicured hands turned into yellow bird’s feet with
curved claws.
Medusa raised her ring, fearing that it was too late. She knew that no spark would
be able to stop the voodoo witch, in whose hands was the figure. Even if a spark would
reach its target, it would be too late.
However, help still came, and it came from where it was difficult to expect.
“Stinktopp! They jinxed Tanya, help her!” Tararakh yelled.
“I don’t help whites...” the baby Stinktopp became stubborn.
“Tanya is dark!”
“Ah, yes! Forgot again! Laiperussnaiperus!” Stinktopp shouted, releasing a red
spark. This spark, contrary to expectations, did not fly anywhere, but grew and began to
pulsate, slowly fading.
“What kind of snaiperus is this?” Tararakh asked with suspicion.
“Oh, a new trick. Tanya only has to throw something. No need to ram there,”
Stinktopp said.
“TANYA, THROW THE BALL! THROW IT!” Tararakh yelled so that it was
impossible not to hear.
Having heard, Tanya turned around near the dome and threw the ball. She would
barely hit the target from such a distance, but somewhere halfway the ball suddenly
picked up, as if an elastic was attached to it and guided it precisely on course. Something
flashed. Releasing the figure, Circe fell as if she was knocked down. Her eyes bulged out
and a pungent reeking grey smoke poured out of her ears.
“Right on target!” the baby Stinktopp said with pride.
Circe squeezed her hand, trying to pierce the figure with her claws. However, the
wax figure had started flowing from the heat of the magic and had lost its contour, and
then together with the contour the likeness, which had subjected Tanya to her.
“Schwein!” she croaked, blowing on her hand burnt by wax. “Never mind! You still won’t
lose your passion for lieben Gury! No way back from my magic!”
“Nice shot!” Yagun commented. “One of the spectators falls like an overripe pear
under the bench! The pepper ball exploded, entering into contact with her forehead! The
spectator, a respectable lady in appearance, spews obscenities asunder with fire. Oh, my
granny mama, hell is on holiday! I’ve seen many witches in my lifetime, but that they
breathed mercury vapours and their hair blazed with blue flame! Neighbours recoil in
horror... Still – a dragon’s blast of the pepper ball isn’t briskus-quickus! The Cyclopes
rush to the lady, but she rotates twice on the spot and teleports. Where she stood is now
a charred crater. Well, I never! I just don’t even know what to think. Can anyone tell
me?”
While Deathless, Tistrya, and Grafin were deliberating what to do, Nagiana
Pripyatskaya tenaciously grasped her operator’s shoulder and turned him around to face
her. “Shoot me, you clod! If the close-up is poor, I’ll freeze you! If it’s too large, I’ll crack
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your head!” she muttered, and immediately, almost without transition, continued in a
sweet voice, “With you is your Nagiana, cursers! Just now Tatiana Grotter, number ten
of Tibidox, again unpleasantly surprised her minority of fiends! Of course, I meant to
say ‘fans’! Isn’t it an ambivalent slip of the tongue, he-he? Using the breach in the magic
barrier, Grotter smashed one of the spectators. And this in front of her papa! These
Grotters have lost all restraint, they have completed everything here, I am touched!
Well, who’s this wretch, let’s look at the list of spectators! Um... I don’t believe my
cataract, it’s the voodoo sorceress Circe, who called me an old weed ninety-two years
ago! In that case, I change my authoritative opinion! Clever girl, Tanya! Interesting,
would they credit Team Tibidox at least one point for Circe? Well, idiot, did you shoot?
Let’s have a look! Oh, we’re live! Excuse your sweet Nagiana, jerkies! She’s gone!”
“Obviously we can’t nail Grotter. Circe herself asked for it... Magciety cannot
endorse the use of voodoo magic in public places,” Koshchei the Deathless rasped with
displeasure.
“That’s right! This is outrageous! The ball didn’t go into any goal!” Grafin
Cagliostrov approved; it was well known to all that he used voodoo whenever possible.
“But we can’t count any goal, of course. After all, Circe isn’t a dragon. Let Tibidox –
he-he! – try to throw one of the remaining two balls!” Tistrya mumbled, rubbing his dry
hands.
“Hermes, the Minotaur... Florus the Blind... Baron Münchhausen... It seems that
Team Eternity has decided to take possession of the immobilize ball at any cost. Seven-
Stump-Holes and Rita On-The-Sly try to cut them off from the ball, but where they...
The level of play is clearly not the same!” Bab-Yagun declared dejectedly after Winged
Centaur sidestepped him beautifully on a turn. Even the vacuum’s new attachment,
which the playing commentator pinned his hopes on, did not help. “Leopold Grotter
instantly gets back into the game! Now I know from where our Tanya gets her
nimbleness! This is technique, this is mastery of the double bass! Leopold outplays
Masha Feklischeva and boldly and flawlessly clips Seven-Stump-Holes! Poor Damien
Goryanov! He just swept past the immobilize ball, but only managed to scrape it with his
nails – the ball slipped away. Now it only remains for Dami to follow the immobilize ball
with a sad look. It’s more likely for a bowling alley with a disco and public baths to open
on Smorodina River103 than for Goryanov to catch any decent ball.
“Goyaryn continues to hit the dome senselessly. But here it feels the nearby
presence of a wizard and exhales fire. For a moment, it seems that the flame covers
Leopold. But no, he’s whole and unharmed, he managed to dodge the flame, literally slid
along its edge. A deceptive feint! A shot! The immobilize ball is in Goyaryn’s mouth! The
magic kicks in! Goyaryn glides onto the field and goes to sleep, not even folding its

103 Smorodina River is a river in East Slavic fairy tales and epics. It separates the world of the living from
that of the dead, analogous to the River Styx in Greek mythology, with obstacles for a person or his soul to
overcome on his way to the other world.
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wings. 13 – 0! Team Tibidox is trounced! Really, we won’t throw a single ball, losing the
chance to destroy the Invisibles?” Yagun concluded mournfully.
“But of course!” Koshchei the Deathless smiled contentedly, showing his teeth,
each of which was a masterpiece of art of some jeweller or blacksmith. This prominent
figure of Magciety did not acknowledge dentists and even drilled through some
particularly zealous ones with equipment.
Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya looked at each other with passionate eyes as black as
Greek olives and, high-fiving each other as if playing patty-cake, delivered at once, “Our
Tanya’s loudly crying, a ball into the river dropping!”
Suddenly two heavy hands, more like hams, lay on their shoulders. “Are we
gloating? Eh, bums?” Tararakh asked insinuatingly.
Cagliostrov and Tistrya turned around and, on seeing the pithecanthropus,
instantly became depressed.
“We love nursery rhymes!” Tistrya squeaked.
“And we demand political asylum!” Grafin added.
“Only one ball remains in the game – the fire-extinguisher. Of course, three points
will no longer bring victory to Team Tibidox, however, the future of the team and a
rematch with the Invisibles will hinge precisely on this last ball,” Yagun imparted.
Tanya looked at the coaching bench. The face of Nightingale O. Robber looked
stony and helpless at the same time. How many times did they work out the tactics for
this match in training? How many times did Nightingale repeat that it was not possible
to win over Team Eternity, and the salvation of their team was to, all at once, leaving
only a guard by Goyaryn, capture at least one ball and go on the attack, striving to score
at any cost? Now the match was almost over, Team Tibidox was scattered, and victory
remained just as unattainable...
Pressing her chest against the double bass, Tanya stretched out her hand with the
bow and rushed for the fire-extinguisher ball. However, she disastrously did not have
time. Baron Münchhausen and Hermes were halfway to the ball. Now that Goyaryn had
already been lulled to sleep and its mouth was closed, all that Team Eternity needed for
the victory was to touch the ball anywhere on its face. Even if the magic did not kick in,
the judge would still count the points.
Something flickered in Tanya’s memory. No longer hoping for anything, the baby
Grotter pulled the second string and lifted the bow above her head, as her father had
done. Would it work? For a moment, she felt that she had lost her body and turned into
pure thought. And this allowed her to turn up by the ball before Münchhausen and
Hermes. Those two recoiled in surprise when the Russian girl snatched the ball literally
from under their noses.

***

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Now only one dragon reigned over the field – Zmiulan. Its golden scales were
blazing. Raging tongues of flame came from its snout and the ridges on its back. The
little evil eyes were glowing.
After turning, Tanya openly sent the double bass in an attack. There was no time
for complex figures – the entire Team Eternity was racing to her from all over the field.
Bab-Yagun, neglecting his own commentating duties, was racing a little higher,
shouting to Tanya to give him a bewitched pass, but Tanya felt that any complication
would only hurt now – the experience and incomparable skill were too mismatched.
Now, the bet was only on a lightning quick attack.
Now Leopold Grotter sprang up straight ahead again. Double bass rushed toward
double bass. Tanya abruptly leaned back, jerked up her bow, and made an instant
turnover. It helped her to avoid a collision – she felt a tight shot of air shooting past next
to her father.
But even the overturn could not save her for long. Some kind of magic again and
Leopold’s double bass got really close. Now number ten of Team Eternity was already
pressing her in earnest, pushing back from Zmiulan. The heavy ball, fastened to her
forearm, prevented Tanya from manoeuvring freely. Florus the Blind and Argus were
racing towards her from above and below. Ilya Muromets rose up in her path like a
mountain. Tanya’s every manoeuvre, every movement was read in advance. They had
boxed her in, in the most ruthless and solid grippers that she had ever been in. She
could not go anywhere, but was forced to fly in a straight line to where, hovering in front
of Zmiulan’s snout, the glorious hero Ilya Muromets froze like a breakwater.
Leopold Grotter, now having flown almost right up against her, questioningly
stretched out his arm with palm up. Tanya realized that Team Eternity was generously
giving her a chance: either hand over the ball nicely, or... Tears squeezed her throat. But
why, why this way? Why him precisely?
“PAPA, WHY? IT’S ME, ME! HOW CAN I LOVE YOU THEN?” Tanya shouted, at
the same time understanding that she would not part with the ball. Better to shatter into
smithereens against Ilya’s shield.
Leopold Grotter’s face twitched. He seemed to understand something, or, at any
rate, something dawned in his mind. He looked attentively at Tanya, at her double bass
and bow. Then, trying to adapt himself, he looked at Zmiulan and Muromets, and a
second later, Tanya realized that the doubles basses were converging.
“DON’T!” Tanya exclaimed. “PAPA, DON’T!”
Really, a ram? How mean! Suddenly, she felt her arm being grabbed and she was
pulled strongly down to where they would inevitably collide with Argus. But before that
happened, the unwieldy giant was flown off by dual airflow – and this created the
necessary gap through which they slipped. A second later, both double basses went
around Ilya Muromets in a swift turn. He, expecting anything but this, tarried.

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Suddenly, Tanya saw that they were by the very fire-breathing snout of Zmiulan.
The dragon was already inflating, intending on exhaling flame. Leopold Grotter
tightened his grip on her arm and pulled her, no longer down but to the left. Wondering
why to use such a complicated manoeuvre of incline, when you could simply dive, Tanya
still obediently waved her bow, and the double basses, encountering a sideways gust of
wind, took off over the dragon’s snout.
SHHHIIIH! SHHHIUHH!
Yes, that was it! Zmiulan exhaled a double blast, the most devious: a short flash of
flame up and a sharp escape down. Tanya realized that had she used the standard
leaning, there would remain only some embers from her double bass, and possibly even
from herself. Leopold Grotter had saved her again.
“PAPA, PAPA! YOU, YOU...”
Leopold unclenched his hand and pushed her slightly. Now he was already looking
quizzically at Tanya, as if he wanted to say to her: come on! Attack!
“He really understood? Really?” The thought flashed like a speedy swallow.
But there was no longer time to clarify this. Zmiulan drew air in for a new flame-
throwing. Dashing the double bass sideways, Tanya slid along its long neck and, having
turned near the snout, hurled the ball with the short and powerful throw they had
practiced hundreds of times at training. For a moment, she felt that she had missed
from nervousness, but a bright flash dispelled all her doubts at once.
“GOOOOAL! Leopold Grotter allows Tanya to throw the fire-extinguisher ball! 13 –
3! Team Tibidox threw the ball at the fifty-eighth minute of the game! Now the match
between the Invisibles and Tibidox will certainly take place, I swear by my vacuum and
your sense of humour!” Bab-Yagun yelled.
The stadium roared. Tibidox fans took off from their seats, shouting and hugging.
The Cyclopes and the thirty-three heroes quickly closed ranks. They already knew that
the delighted spectators would now burst onto the field to tear apart all living things for
autographs.
The Persian wizard Tistrya turned as yellow as a lemon. Grafin Cagliostrov turned
as blue as a plum. Koshchei the Deathless opened his mouth to disallow the goal, but
looked at Tararakh and wisely kept quiet, cherishing his jewelled teeth and the silvered
skull.
However, Tanya did not notice any of this – she was looking at Father. And he,
rebellious head held high, enthusiastically raised his hand with the bow and made a last
farewell circle along the shielding dome. Ilya Muromets, Argus, Hercules, Winged
Centaur, and the other “Eternals” looked with silent reproach at Leopold Grotter zipping
past them on his double bass. However, Le-Gro did not notice them. Team Eternity, it
seemed, no longer existed for him. Leopold had just one minute remaining in this world,
the last, but it was his moment, and he drank it to the bottom like from a bowl, used it to
say goodbye forever to Tibidox, the mountains, Buyan, Forbidden Grove...
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Then, when the time was almost up, he flew to his daughter and touched her cheek
with his dry hand. Father said something quietly to her, but Tanya did not hear his
words and could not hear them, she only saw how his lips moved. Tanya knew that he
was saying goodbye, goodbye forever, and in the end told her something comforting and
even playful. Their double basses were flying side-by-side, and it lasted infinitely long,
an infinitely memorable moment, and then Leopold’s double bass suddenly started to
stop and lag behind...
Tanya understood what it meant and screamed. But it changed nothing and
nothing could help. First, Leopold’s body became opaque, then the double bass, and
finally, the bow vanished last... “PAPA!” Tanya shouted, but Leopold Grotter did not
hear her.
At the same moment in different parts of the field disappeared Florus the Blind,
the Baron, Hermes, Winged Centaur, and Dionysus, aka Bacchus, with a grace cup 104
held high, from which wine as red as blood flowed...
The extinguished Zmiulan faded last. The fire Dragon turned into a white cloud.
Where he had just been, the swallowed players hung helplessly in the air, alive, though
also pretty battered. They had not yet fallen, but intoxicated orderlies were already
running to them with reckless shouts, sheepishly but desperately trying to catch them on
stretchers.
What happened next, Tanya did not remember. She did not even know how she
managed to come down and sit down. A few minutes had just dropped out of her
memory. Having recovered, she found herself standing in the field, without the double
bass, among the storming crowd of spectators breaking through.
She was shouting something, rushing somewhere like mad; the academician stood
next to her and, after laying a hand on her shoulder, said gently and reassuringly,
“Please, calm down, my girl. Your father will no longer appear with Team Eternity ever.
He gave away the score, and it was his conscious choice. He saved you and left... He left
for immortality.”
Tanya lifted her face, wet with tears, and looked with hope at the academician. She
asked no questions, but he had read her thoughts. “No! I won’t lie. You will see him no
more. Anyway, not in this world,” Sardanapal said.

104 A grace cup is a silver bowl or tankard with two handles, traditionally passed around after giving
thanks for food eaten.
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Chapter 12
The Third Victim

For the third time, Tanya tried to focus on the Serbian fairy tales that she had taken
from Vanka to distract herself somehow. And for the third time, it did not work for her.
She could only think of Father. Time after time, she replayed in her memory every
moment of the match, each throw of Leopold Grotter, his every smile.
She would never have scored if not for Father. He saved her twice – from the
defence and from the dragon’s flame. He brought her through the distance for the
throw. He sacrificed his place in Team Eternity for her. And Father did all this only on
one conjecture, not even knowing for sure that his daughter was in front of him.
“He saved you and left... He left for immortality,” Sardanapal had said. Only what
did he have in mind by immortality? Human memory or the Other World, from where
he would no longer be able to escape?
“If the Other World, I swear I’ll go there for you and pull you out. Sooner or later,
but I’ll do it. I don’t know how, don’t know when, but I swear that it will be so,” Tanya
decided.
The phoenix feather, which she barely remembered that she held in her hand, slid
across the paper by itself, occasionally diving into the inkwell. Suddenly, Tanya saw on
the sheet Father’s profile, resembling even more than would be expected just from the
sketch. Yes, it was a drawing, but something much more at the same time. Tanya Grotter
felt Theophilus Grotter’s ring warm up slightly and, realizing whom to thank, felt
affection for the old grumbler.
Now she had a portrait. Looking at it, she could imagine Father, and this was
already considerable. Tanya kept staring for a few minutes, eagerly looking at it,
studying its every line. Pipa, dropping looks full of curiosity at her, wisely refrained from
comments. She had gotten to know Tanya quite well since childhood and understood
perfectly that there were times when it was better to remain silent.
Finally, Tanya shook her head, driving away obsession, and again stared at the
book. Despite being fourteen like her, Vanka, besides textbooks and reference books on
veterinary magic, for some reason read only fairy tales and myths and showed absolute
indifference to other books. “Fairy tales and myths aren’t lies. There’s significance in
them. There isn’t in fiction. If so, why waste time?” he said.
“Am I going to read or not? What’s with me, after all, being like this?” Tanya
sternly asked herself.
One head devours people, another – cattle, and the third – fish. He loves the night
and is afraid of sunlight. When they wonder whether there will be war, the priests lead
the black horse three times through nine repetitions, she caught sight of a few lines in
the middle of the page. It captured her and she read all night, almost till dawn...

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***

Professor Medusa Gorgonova looked thoughtfully around at the desks. She was in a
sentimental mood. Here it is, the fourth, the next-to-last, year in all its glory. Another
year and, on passing the exams, they will flutter from Tibidox forever. Some, of course,
will remain in graduate school of high magic and continue to chew on the tree of
knowledge, but the rest, what will they be busy with and which path in life will they
choose for themselves? Will they be winners or losers, or may they simply be able to find
their place in life and rise above successes or failures?
Suddenly Professor Gorgonova frowned. Three chairs, placed almost diagonally,
were empty. These were the places of Coffinia, Gunya Glomov, and Katya Lotkova.
Coffinia was at the moronoids, Glomov in magic station, where Yagge was teaching him
to walk again and to cope with the weight of a spoon at least.
“But where’s Lotkova?” Medusa thought. “Well, this beauty has probably just
overslept... Well, never mind, I’ll fix her when she comes! Let’s see what complex spell
she has against water-sprites and ghouls. If she can manage, I’ll even let in kikimoras
and wood-goblins.”
Noticing that the children were surprised by her long silence, she snapped her
fingers, returning into place the journal depressed by the impossibility of whacking its
steady friend Glomov on the head. Now nothing prevented Medusa from starting the
lecture.
“The main feature of the evil spirits is their inability towards organized activities.
The only person in history who managed to organize the evil spirits, of course with the
help of magic, was PDC. I hope you surmise that I have in mind She-Who-Is-No-More-
And-I-Hope-Will-Not-Be. However, after her death, the evil spirits once and for all lost
the ability to work together. There’s a prediction, however, rather vague and verging on
fictitious, that sooner or later the evil spirits will rebel, come together, and destroy
Tibidox. The island of Buyan will heave above the ocean with a narrow cliff, in the same
place where Big Tower is now, and a passage to the Other World, where Hades reigns,
will open up. And it will be a huge marble staircase, along which the River Lethe 105 will
carry its waters...”
Medusa saw that Shurasik was bent over a notebook, quickly filling line after line
with his minute handwriting, but he suddenly raised his head and stared amazed at the
door. “What’s the matter, Shurasik?” Medusa asked irritably.
“They are capable,” Shurasik said, stunned.
“Capable of what?”
“Of organized activities,” Shurasik repeated mechanically. Medusa frowned. The
first nerd of Tibidox often irritated her with his omniscience.

105 In Greek mythology, the River Lethe is the river of oblivion that flows through the Underworld. Those
who drink from it experience complete forgetfulness.
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147

“Look, please look! Don’t argue with him, just look!” Liza Zalizina cried out.
Medusa turned around and froze. A whole crowd of evil spirits were rushing
through the open doors into the classroom. Four bearded house-spirits, cheeks puffed
out, marched in first. Behind them were two kikimoras, four squeaky wood-goblins,
mainly of the aspen forests, with a half-dozen disgusting smelling swamp bogies, and six
bathhouse spirits, more like tattered brooms. They looked at these with amazement, as
bathhouse spirits rarely appeared in Tibidox.
The evil spirits were carrying a shiny shield with extraordinary importance, holding
its edge. The shield was covered in a decorative vine pattern of inscribed runes. Medusa
looked intently at it, not recognizing it, and then screamed and covered her neck with
her hands. She again saw the flash of the sword, dark blood gushing from her chopped-
through neck, snakes hissing, and her own distorted face in the agony of death reflected
in the shiny shield.
Nasty, very nasty. It is not so easy to look at magic items, with which you associate
grievous memories...
If Sardanapal had not appeared nearby then with a flask of dead water and
replaced Perseus’ trophy with his own on a juicy Asian melon, it would have been
possible to put a big fat cross on the story of Medusa Gorgonova, at that time still not a
professor of Evil Spirit Studies...
Having decided that evil spirits were assaulting Medusa, Bab-Yagun was about to
say a complex spell, but Professor Gorgonova quickly shouted, “No magic! Are you
crazy? This is Perseus’ shield! Someone march for Slander and the Cyclopes, quickly!”
Kuzya Tuzikov ran on all fours to the door and darted off for Slander.
Making use of the full impunity, the evil spirits scattered around the classroom.
The bathhouse spirits slid around the classroom on soapy sponges, casting evil eyes and
sending horror. The bogies, rioting, smeared everything with their mucus. For Rita On-
The-Sly, having a habit of taking off her shoes under the desk, they ate one shoe and
filled the second with some rotten stuff, from which the outside hardened but the inside
turned into a swamp.
One of the bogies, very similar to Agukh except with horns growing differently,
clambered up Pipa’s leg and onto her shoulder. Yes, exactly Pipa. Penelope Durneva,
though not having yet passed exams for even the first year and only preparing for them,
begged permission from Sardanapal to take classes together with the fourth year, where
she studied with her peers. Of course, she understood little, but it was useful in a global
sense all the same. It is better to reach for the powerful than to reign among ten-year-
olds, this Penelope understood perfectly. Now it was backfiring on Pipa.
The bogie attacking her, sniggering nastily, started to lick her head diligently with a
brown-green tongue. His wide-open mouth was dreadful, like the pre-exam dream of a
dental student. Only tooth decay excelled with health on its teeth. Everything else was
little worse than trash.
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“GO AWAAAAAY! DON’T PUSH ME!” Pipa shrieked in a terrible voice.
Zhikin, sitting with her at the same desk, not understanding whom she was
addressing, hastily dived under the table. He had already learned from bitter experience
that it was better not to argue with Pipa. The classroom walls began to vibrate. The
windows splattered. Intuitive magic, unconsciously called on by Pipa, got this together.
The evil spirits became agitated. The bogie, biting its tongue, jumped off Penelope’s
shoulder and, throwing its skinny knees high, rushed to hide behind the shield.
“Don’t, Penelope!” Zhikin shouted from under the desk. But the enraged Pipa no
longer heard anybody, hating the bogie to her core.
“OOOOOUUUT!” she screamed even more terribly, unknowingly sending wave
after wave of intuitive magic.
Perseus’ shield twirled, spraying particles of elemental magic in all directions. The
evil spirits closer to the shield got more than the others and were scattered in different
directions. Maybe it happened because the evil spirits simply did not have enough sense
to hide behind the shield rather than stand around.
A large part of the magic, being reflected, turned back on Pipa herself. However,
colliding with a new wave of magic, because Pipa worked as a powerful transmitter, it
only pushed towards the desk together with the much-suffering Zhikin.
“My granny mama! It was, perhaps, the speediest flight in Zhora’s life, ending with
a no less spectacular braking against the brick wall. The technique, of course, is beneath
all criticism, but it’ll be something to remember in old age!” Yagun butted in.
The evil spirits left in single file, cowardly looking around. When Medusa, having
come to her senses, looked into the hallway a few moments later, there was no longer
anyone, only rustling dying down along the stairs leading to the basement.
After abandoning her pursuit, Professor Gorgonova returned to the class. She
arrived there almost simultaneously with Slander, who burst in heading a hastily
assembled squad of Cyclopes. Kuzya Tuzikov had the ability to induce panic.
“What befell you? I understood nothing! The young man was terribly frightened!”
Out of breath, Slander addressed Medusa.
“And not without reason. The evil spirits found Perseus’ shield, hid behind it, and
decided to be slightly belligerent for some time. As a matter of fact, they love it. We have
to say thank you to Pipa. The shield would cope with any other magic, but it turned out
not to be prepared for intuitive magic. But how did this shield get to Tibidox at all? As
far as I know, it was kept in Maglion... And I doubt very much that the evil spirits would
be smart enough to pull this off. Most likely someone else stole the shield and the evil
spirits just found it in a hiding place,” Medusa said.
“When a thief steals from a thief – the prophecy will soon come true...” Liza
Zalizina uttered softly but with emotion.

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149

Tanya looked around anxiously at her, because she herself had just thought of it.
And another thought followed: if the prophecy is going to come true, there should
already be a third victim!
So it turned out. They had not had time to clean the glass, and the Cyclopes were
still aimlessly shifting from foot to foot in the doorway, when Yagun grabbed his temples
with his palms. “Lotkova!” he shouted. “She’s in trouble... She’s sick, very sick! I feel it!”
“How do you know? Did you mirror?” Slander asked suspiciously.
“Well, I did! And what of it?” Yagun shouted and, not asking Medusa for
permission to leave, rushed to the door.
One of the Cyclopes tried to block his way, but after Sparkis frontis was cast with a
very bright spark, he settled heavily on the floor. The attack on the Cyclops, and even in
the presence of Slander, could easily land him in the dark department, but Yagun did
not care.
“What an idiot I am! Why didn’t I go to her in the morning? It’s all me, me! What
was my mother thinking when the storks palmed off such a blockhead on her! She
should have knocked off the storks with a bazooka while they were still approaching!” he
muttered on the run.
Medusa, the Cyclopes, and Slander rushed after Yagun. Students rushed after them
like a frisky herd. The Cyclops burnt by a spark was limping last, leaning on his poleaxe
and uttering reproachful words, from which Poor Liza covered her ears. Soon everyone
was on the Residential Floor.
“Katya! Open up! I know you’re here!” Yagun shouted, banging on the door.
The door shook so much that it was impossible not to hear, but no one opened it.
Slander doubtfully shook his head.
“It seems that no one’s in the room,” Medusa said.
“She’s there... I... I just know it,” Yagun said with confidence.
“And how are you going to prove it? Agree, breaking down the door isn’t an
argument. This, by the way, applies to everyone,” Professor Gorgonova said, upsetting
not so much Yagun as the Cyclopes, impatiently waving their axes.
“Why break? I’m not moronoid special force. I can enter in a civilized way!” Yagun
was surprised. He turned his back, uttered “Fogus sneakus,” and walked through the
closed door into the room.
Slander and Medusa stared at each other.
“Indeed! A prohibited spell! Well, the whites! I think Sardanapal will be curious to
find out about it,” Slander said with covert triumph.
“Don’t jump to conclusions!” Medusa dryly cut him off.
The door opened with a click. Once on the other side, Yagun turned the lock, and
Medusa and Slander went inside. The fourth-years were about to push their way in, but
the Cyclopes, loving “do not let in” more than “do not let out,” barred their path.

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Lotkova’s room seemed empty... A tidy stack of textbooks was on the table, a made
bed. Instead of a pillow was a soft stuffed turtle from the moronoid world. A lamp of
huge Southern Russian fireflies, lighting up at the same time in the evening, was a
Midsummer’s gift from Yagun. It always burned brightly, but there was no way to
extinguish it before dawn, one had to throw a kerchief over it. In the corner next to the
wardrobe was a vacuum decorated with lots of baubles, amulets, and talismans.
Yagun looked around, puzzled. He was certain that he would find Katya here and
that she was in trouble. He felt her strong plea while still in the classroom. Now it
turned out that he was wrong.
“There’s no one here... But where is she? Indeed, strange...” Professor Gorgonova
said.
Suddenly, a vague sound reached them from the closet. Medusa pushed the door
open. On sweaters and skirts thrown down with hangers, covering her face with her
hands and rocking back and forth, sat Katya Lotkova. Medusa asked her something.
Lotkova did not answer and only began to rock faster.
Gorgonova removed her hands from her face by force and involuntarily cried out.
She was not ready for what she saw. No one was. Wrinkles furrowed Katya’s face. Her
teeth were yellow and sparse, bags were under her eyes. But the most dreadful of all was
to look at her hair... Her hair was absolutely grey and thinned, like that of a very old
man. Even Medusa, who happened to have seen a lot of things in her time, barely
refrained from shrieking.
“He... I woke up and he was standing by the bed, with a golden moustache.
Grinning and holding a hammer,” Lotkova said in a toneless, expressionless voice. On
seeing Yagun, she quickly turned away and buried her head in the wall of the wardrobe.
Her slender back shook with tears.
“My granny mama! Oh, come on!” Yagun said in confusion.
Katya continued to cry. “Go away. Let them stay, but you go away!” she shouted.
Pity overwhelmed Yagun. “You really think that I love you because of beauty...
What crap! Even now you’re better than anyone! Come on, Granny will think of
something. And forget it, this is all nonsense,” he said briskly.
“No, go away, go away... I don’t want you to see! Everyone go away! I don’t want,
don’t want anything! That’s all!!!!” Katya cried, hiding her face.
“Folk wisdom, as simple as a stool, states: when you want everyone to leave, it’s
easier to leave yourself. Sit on the vacuum, I’ll do everything!”
Yagun decisively pushed away Slander, who was dragging his heels, opened the
window, precisely started Lotkova’s vacuum, and, through the window, so that those
remaining in the hallway did not see, took Katya to magic station. It was yet another
violation of school rules, but no one recalled it any longer.

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151

Even the principal had the sense to refrain from commenting. “The third victim!
He robbed magic from Cryptova, strength from Glomov, beauty from Lotkova... If
Sardanapal doesn’t cast the spell now, then I don’t even know,” he muttered.

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152

Chapter 13
The Fury of a Deity

The fourth-years, crowding in the hallway by the door of Katya Lotkova’s room,
were languishing with curiosity. It was impossible to see what was happening inside –
the flabby bellies and round beards of the Cyclopes covered everything. Such selfless
folly shone in the eyes of each of them that to make contact with them was simply
dangerous.
Lessons were disrupted. No one remembered about classes anymore. The teachers
had no time for them. Only Eyeless Horror was ready to give his lecture now; however,
as he did not distinguish between the living and the dead at all, his favourite story was
the following: he was once strolling on a battlefield, where ten thousand soldiers and
about three thousand dead horses lay. “I howled, I sobbed, I scattered my guts! I was on
a roll! I talked about the Other Worlds, and imagine: not one stupid comment! Not one
inappropriate remark from the spot! Not the same as we have in Tibidox!” Horror said,
touched.
The senior students looked askance at the door with curiosity. Sardanapal had
already been in Lotkova’s room for quite a long time, and now everyone was wondering
what he was doing there.
“Perhaps I’ll do a little magic. Indeed, I’m awfully interested in what they have
there,” Shurasik said, carefully pushing apart his classmates.
“Earus onheadus is most certainly blocked,” Dusya Dollova declared with
knowledge of the matter.
“Let it be known to you, Dollova, that nowadays only loser-retards use Earus.
Cultural magmunity106 and technical magtelligentsia,107 for the first time so well
represented in me, have long used Intelus wiretapus!” Shurasik said importantly and
released a spark, very carefully so that those in the room would not see the flash, and
everyone heard voices at that moment.
“Did you check Grail Gardarika? Has something fresh appeared?”
“Yes, two new ones,” Slander replied.
“Only two, are you sure?”
“I swear by the hair of The Ancient One!”
“Better swear on the skull of Plague-del-Cake... In any case, if there are only two of
them, the last letter isn’t finished yet. Now we at least know that...”
Suddenly the academician’s voice became muffled and faded away, and the next
second Shurasik grabbed his ears, which had suddenly become big and flat like those of
a baby elephant. “Oh no! I never thought that Sardanapal knows a block for Intelus!
Who would have guessed that he follows the latest inventions,” he moaned.

106 Magmunity – community of magicians.
107 Magtelligentsia – intelligentsia of magicians.
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153

While everyone was sympathetically examining Shurasik’s ears, on which one
could now safely glide if jumping off a cliff after taking a run, Tanya took Vanka by the
elbow and quietly led him aside. “Did you understand everything? Do you understand
what Sardanapal wanted to say?” she asked.
“Are you talking about the writing?”
“Exactly! I think the academician said something like this to Slander, ‘The letters S,
the last letter in Perunus Deus isn’t finished yet. Now we know where Perun will appear
in the dome next time. I’ll lie in wait for him there and utter the destruction spell.’”
Vanka glanced at Tanya. He knew her too well to be mistaken in what direction her
thoughts now flowed. “Just don’t fly off without me! It’s not enough that you would be
lying in wait for Perun alone, but then it would turn out that Sardanapal also said no
such thing...” he said.
“Okay,” Tanya nodded. “But we need to fly at night. The breaches in the dome for
some reason always appear at dusk. Perun has probably decided to change his usual ‘go
for you’ in sunlight.”

***

Tanya and Vanka found Bab-Yagun in magic station. He was sitting on the edge of
Katya Lotkova’s bed and holding her hand. On noticing the visitors, Katya quickly
turned to the wall. She no longer hid her face from Yagun. And that said a lot. Yagun had
regained much more space in her heart in the last hour than in the entire previous year,
undertaking foppish advances. Perhaps it was for the reason that now he was helping,
and helping sincerely, not thinking of the reward.
“Yagun, can I have a moment with you?” Tanya hailed him. “Can you lend Vanka
your vacuum?”
The playing commentator shrugged. “Take it. You know the spell to get into the
room. Looks like I changed nothing.”
“It’s fuelled? All the brake talismans are attached?” Vanka asked suspiciously. As
practice had shown repeatedly, it was not idle curiosity.
“You don’t have to check. Good luck!” Yagun said and returned to Katya’s bed.
Vanka followed him with a surprised look.
“Incredible,” he said to Tanya. “I can’t believe my ears! Yagun didn’t lecture us on
careful handling with magical technique! It’s the first time he has given us the vacuum
without dying with worry. And he didn’t even ask where we’re flying to.”
“He doesn’t have time for that now. I think he would hand over a hundred vacuums
just so Katya would be as before,” Tanya nodded.
Leaving magic station, they lingered by the screen behind which Gunya Glomov
was lying. “Hi! How are you?” Vanka asked him.

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Gunya tried to wave to him, but he was only able to lift his hand a little off the
blanket. “Fine!” Glomov said, smiling weakly.
“Doesn’t it seem to you that he’s somewhat different, enlightened, perhaps...
Earlier Glomov never smiled this way. He even has a smile, and the smile wasn’t the
same,” Vanka said thoughtfully a moment later.
They set off to Yagun’s room. The people at the turn of the hallway that led to
Lotkova’s room were already thinning out, although the Cyclopes were still standing.
“And Coffinia has changed. She’s also different now, it’s clear from the letters,”
Tanya nodded.
She went for her double bass. Pipa, having recently washed her hair but still
smelling a little “bogie-like,” was lying on the mattress beside Cryptova’s bed. As before,
she still had not brought herself to lie on the bed. In her hands was a calendar with
Puper, having recently and already forever replaced the photographic portrait of GP.
“You know, I have this strange feeling that Puper relates to me quite well. I’ve
tamed him. Look, when I take the calendar, he immediately smiles!” Pipa said dreamily,
when Tanya pulled out the case with the double bass from under her bed.
“You simply bored him. And he smiles out of politeness. It used to be the English
were cold in the books, now they’re all polite, like waiters,” Tanya said.
Although she had managed to persuade Madame Circe, it was only a small victory.
The thorn of passion for Puper was still sitting deep in her heart. Voodoo Magic is not
magic from which one can easily recover. The only progress was that Tanya was able to
curb her own feeling. Now she was not afraid that she would betray herself, even if she
would meet Puper.
If earlier, in the first days when the magic had just been imposed, Tanya could not
look at Vanka without irritation, then she had become attached to him again now. Their
relationship had become the same as before and possibly something even more trusting.
It must be that Tanya felt guilty about something. Guilt, or rather the feeling of guilt,
makes a relationship more affectionate – this is a truth as old as the world, and as
bearded as Sardanapal.
“You don’t understand,” Pipa said. “Of course, I know it’s only a calendar, but that’s
not it. I have a feeling. I know that Puper will be mine and he can’t escape. I can feel it,
you understand, I just feel it. I close my eyes and see what transpires in Gury’s soul.”
“You read thoughts, perhaps?” Tanya asked.
“Nope, not thoughts. I’m not a telepath. But I see what’s in his soul: feelings,
emotions, images... I don’t know how to explain. And I don’t want to explain to you...
There are things that the more you explain, the more confusion there is,” Pipa said
peacefully, looking mistily at the portrait.
Tanya Grotter looked thoughtfully at Penelope. Pipa was also somewhat different –
calm and confident. No, she was not lying, not bluffing, she really knew or felt
something special.
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Neither Tanya nor much less Pipa guessed that the onesie, in which Puper had
mistakenly placed so much magic and so much feeling, had produced a backflow. “Magic
isn’t a stone that can be cast and which will lie at the spot where it fell. Magic is as fluid
as a river and as light as a breeze. Sooner or later, it always returns to the one who sent
it. Hate returns hate. Envy returns envy, and love returns love,” Sardanapal loved to
repeat at times.
The same thing now happened with Gury. With each new day, wearied by practice
and tormented by his aunts, Puper became more attached to Pipa. Despite being tied to
Durneva, he continued to love Tanya and drink traditional English tea on Sundays with
his aunts.
Vanka began to bang in the room. Suddenly remembering, Tanya took the case and
leaped out of the room. But Pipa remained to behold the portrait. “Gury, you’re so
skinny, so pale! More vegetable stew for you? But if you don’t change your socks every
day, you’ll die a hero’s death!” she cooed, rehearsing their future family life, even more
tenderly than the unforgettable Aunt Ninel.

***

It was already dusk when Tanya and Vanka got up onto the wall and began to
prepare the tools for flight. Vanka, not trusting Yagun too much, checked the talismans
and amulets. A minute later, the double bass and the vacuum took off from the wall and,
keeping alongside, headed in the direction of Forbidden Grove.
Spring was advancing decisively and on all fronts on Buyan. The ground – still
damp and dark after the snow had melted – was already full of hidden forces. Here and
there, these forces had already broken through with fresh grass and sticky leaves on the
trees. Only the old Forbidden Grove drowsily resisted Spring. But even here, in the
realm of peace, the rheumatic branches of old oak trees were already swollen with buds.
Beyond the Grove, near the ocean shoreline, Tanya and Vanka reduced speed and
proceeded on a slow spell.
“The next-to-last letter in DEUS was there, approximately opposite this ridge. So,
the last character will be...uh...here, right against the shore. It’s better to wait here for
Perun to come flying,” Vanka said, nodding at the narrow coastal spit that ran along the
cliff.
The double bass and the vacuum successfully landed on the sand. It was almost
completely dark. The ocean was rather surmised. It was heard licking the sand. After
looking around, Tanya and Vanka slipped behind a large rock and, having placed the
double bass and the vacuum behind it, hid.
It was cold. A multitude of tiny droplets covered the rock. Tanya could not hold
back and licked one. She expected that the droplet would be salty. But it was warm and
sweet. Numerous seagull tracks were clearly visible on the sand smoothed out by
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storms. Soon Tanya was completely frozen and pressed against Vanka. He tried to
remember the warming spell, but could remember only the first word: hectogrammus.
For the life of him, he could not remember the second word, and the spell, naturally, did
not kick into action.
“For the first time, I regret that I’m not Shurasik. Here’s indeed precisely someone
with no early sclerosis!” Valyalkin muttered.
They waited and waited and waited... Then waited and waited again. Nothing.
Finally, at about two in the morning, patience abandoned them completely.
“Sardanapal, for some reason, hasn’t come... Perhaps Perun won’t come tonight?”
Tanya asked. She already wanted to get up and step out from behind the rock, but Vanka
suddenly covered her mouth firmly with his hand.
On the horizon, where the moon, as big as the eye of an owl, looked out from
behind the clouds, a dark spot appeared. It grew rapidly, taking the outline of a human
figure. When the person stepped onto the sand, Tanya saw that his head was glowing, as
if enveloped in a cold fire. It was the moonlight shining on the silver hair. The long
drooping moustache was gilded. Perun was holding a hammer in his lowered right hand.
Obviously, in order to attract less attention, he came without his thundering chariot. The
figure of Perun inspired a strange fear. It felt like the figure was real, and at the same
time it was evident that it did not belong to this world.
Tanya felt a strange dryness in her mouth. What was she expecting when lying in
wait for Perun? That she would stop the one more ancient than Tibidox itself? How?
With what? And where was the academician? Except for herself, Vanka, and the golden-
moustached one, there was clearly no one else on the shore.
“Now or never,” Tanya thought. She looked around at Vanka, but he had already
leaped out from behind the rock, jumping first to take the blow himself.
“Sparkis frontis!” Valyalkin uttered. A green spark rushed to Perun and, after a
hiss, hit him in the cloak. The pagan god cried out, more from surprise than pain. Not
holding his ground, he fell on the sand, but immediately rolled and leaped up.
“Sparkis frontis!” Tanya shouted belatedly. As she had hoped, the “white” spell
came into conflict with “dark” magic. A double red spark shoved Perun in the chest at
the moment he was about to throw the hammer at Vanka. Perun swayed. His hand
trembled, and by changing the direction of flight, the hammer struck the rock behind
Tanya and Vanka, splitting it. Tanya quickly released another spark, but she no longer
had enough confidence. The spark turned out weak. Perun took it without even
flinching.
“Is that all?” the god asked with scorn. The returning hammer jumped into his
hand, ready for a new throw.
Tanya looked around at Vanka, not understanding why he did not support her with
sparks. Vanka was lying on the sand. One of the rock fragments had hit him in the head.
“Vanka, Vanka! You killed him!” she screamed at Perun.
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“I missed. He’s only stunned. Silly girl, you are now getting in my way for the
second time... Your actions are pointless and your magic is pitifully weak. I think if I kill
this boy in front of your eyes, it’ll be a good lesson. But you’ll still try in the meantime.
Perhaps I’ll take another spark,” the golden-moustached one said in a muffled tone,
walking toward them.
“No!” Tanya screamed. “You will not kill him!”
Suddenly, Sardanapal sprang up in front of Perun’s face, blocking him from Tanya
and Vanka. The head of Tibidox was stern and serious. He was holding an old
parchment in one hand and Perseus’ shield in the other, the mirror side of the shield
turned exactly towards the ancient deity.
“Deal with me first, children killer!” the academician said in a muted tone.
“Are you asking for death? Such a request can’t be denied!” The golden-
moustached one took a step toward him, but, on seeing the shield, stepped back. His
cheeks paled.
Sardanapal smiled. “Terrible, isn’t it? You know that this shield returns every blow
hundredfold and weakens any magic. Isn’t that why you stole it from Maglion, for you to
use it when the hour strikes? Only why hide it in Tibidox?”
“The girl accidentally found it. I figured it out by the trail in Forbidden Grove... I
was looking for it, even rummaged in her dreams, but there was nothing there. I grasped
only that she had lost the shield and the evil spirits had it,” the golden-moustached one
hissed, looking at Tanya with hatred. “Well, get on with it, old man, don’t tarry! I’ll see
what your parchment and your pathetic magic are worth.”
The academician unrolled the scroll and, looking at it, started to read steadily,
tracing with his fingers some figures threaded into the shield. His voice sounded
menacing, the words were staccato and sounded like clicks. Tanya had never heard such
speech, such spells before. She was trying to reproduce mentally not even the spell itself,
it was impossible to remember it at all, but only a small part of it and barely stayed on
her feet. A word burned like a red-hot iron.
However, she was not the only one who had to stay firm. The golden-moustached
one stumbled. The hammer fell from his hand. “Wait, wizard!” he shouted. “You forget
what belongs to me! They’re alive for the time being, but they’ll die with me! Look!”
On the ancient deity’s outstretched palm appeared three tiny but living hearts.
They were throbbing and beating. The paper tags on each heart cynically pointed out to
whom they belonged: Coffinia Cryptova, Katya Lotkova, Gunya Glomov. Sardanapal
stared at the hand with horror.
“You think they’re fake?” the golden-moustached one asked mockingly. “Then
maybe I should crush one? Here, this last one? Or this?” He took the middle heart with
two fingers. The heart trembled fearfully, thrashing.
“NO!” Sardanapal yelled.
“Then drop the shield!” The shield fell heavily onto the sand. Perun laughed.
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“Now get on your knees, wizard, and put your head on the shield! This, of course,
isn’t a block, but it’ll do,” he said, revealing a blade. No one knew whether it was sharp
or dull. The blade was flowing like mercury and was as ruthless as the scythe of Death.
“Come on, quickly! Don’t make me wait! Every minute of delay, one crushed heart.”
Sardanapal stepped heavily up to the shield. Tanya understood that he had
decided. He simply could not do otherwise.

All money is a lie, all gold is delusion,
No fee more important than blood.
When the time comes to pay –
Only life is the one price for all.
When the head is on the block,
Forget self – look for the word,

Tanya heard the voice of Sirin.
Before she realized what she was going to do, Tanya rushed to the shield and got on
her knees ahead of Sardanapal. “I’ll die instead of Sardanapal! Only kill no one else!
Only me!” she shouted. Her cheek lay on the cold shield.
The golden-moustached one hesitated, then raised the blade above his head. It was
clear that Tanya’s willingness to sacrifice herself had rattled him a little. Tanya saw out
of the corner of her eye that Sardanapal’s glance darted to the parchment. His ring – the
ring of the Lord of the genies – heated up and Tanya realized what would happen now.
He would utter the name!
Convinced that the academician would not have time to save her, she looked away
in horror and buried herself in the shiny surface of the shield. But even here in the
shield, she saw the raised blade and the scary face...no, a face behind a golden veil. The
shield reflected not what the eyes were seeing. Eyes could lie, but not the shield.
“It’s not Perun! Don’t!” Tanya screamed.
Sardanapal lifted his head in amazement. The word that almost escaped his lips did
not. The blade froze, ready to drop. Tanya quickly darted to the side and the blade
merely slid along the shield.
“Stop, Troyan!”108 Tanya shouted, for that was his true name. A green spark broke
away from Theophilus Grotter’s ring, merging into a single flash with a spark from
Sardanapal’s ring.
The golden-moustached one staggered and cried out. A bluish flame engulfed his
face, skin, and hair. For a moment, it seemed that he would be reduced to ashes. But this
did not happen. Suddenly the fire went out, the flame went down, and Triglav 109 stood in
108 Troyan is a pagan deity of Ancient Rus’. He appears in South Slavic folklores as a night demon with
goat ears and feet. In Serbian tales, he has three heads: one devours people, one cattle, and the last fish.
109 Triglav, which literally means three heads/chiefs, is a three-headed deity in Slavic mythology. The
heads were believed to represent the sky, the earth, and the underworld.
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front of them, no longer hiding under a false appearance. The wind tugged at the golden
veil on his three faces.
“Even your spell doesn’t restrain the one who’s as old as Death itself. Besides, you
said it separately – one began and the other ended, and it weakens the magic,” he said
hoarsely.
Triglav turned and waved his hand. It was a weak and careless movement, but the
parchment with the spell in Sardanapal’s hands warped. It seemed the moment turned
to years for it. Green spots of mildew danced on its edges. The parchment darkened, the
letters on it faded, and it crumbled to dust.
“The spell of destruction. Once during the battle with the gods, I saw it in action,”
Sardanapal said softly.
“You were mistaken, old man... You saw not the spell of destruction but destruction
itself. Wizards use spells. With gods, though, thought, desire, and will are inseparable.
We do what we want. We put randomness in regularity, and lawlessness in morals,”
Triglav grinned.
He breathed and Sardanapal fell, not staying on his feet. His neck and hands were
encased in a heavy oak pillory. “And it’s not magic. I simply wished it to be so,” Triglav
continued.
He tilted his head and two spears pierced the pillory on either side of Sardanapal’s
head. Their tips passed through the wood, not touching him. “I could be more precise,
but a quick death is boring. I want to see the terror in your eyes. Each time the fear of
those I kill makes me a little stronger,” Triglav said.
“It was you, all the time it was you!” Sardanapal said. He struggled to find words.
“You came at night to Tibidox! You took on the form of Perun, you attacked the
students, and you wrote someone else’s name on the dome! You did everything so that I
would cast the spell and destroy him... And I, I, the old dolt, guessed nothing.”
Triglav chuckled. “Previously, the wise grandpa Sardanapal only smoothed his goat
beard and pretended that he knew everything in advance. If Tibidox is in a fix, then
blame it on the prophetic raving of The Ancient One. I don’t deny, he really looked into
the future, but only saw what he wanted to see... He was an idealist, simplified life to his
vision, robbed it of all its diversity, and admired the erroneous and false harmony
stemming from this simplification.”
“How did you manage to get into Tibidox? It’s not only the dome that protects
Buyan. Who uttered the summoning spell?” Sardanapal quickly asked.
“Ah, one kid! Seven-Stump-Holes. I think he wanted to summon a dark spirit, not
me, but made a mistake in the runes...” Triglav said casually, leaning on the hammer.
“That’s it! Time to kill all of you. Then I’ll finish the writing, restore the parchment, and
throw it to Slander. I’m sure he would cast the spell without hesitation.”

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160

“Don’t you dare! Let the slandered Perun come, the one whose name you’ve been
using! I’ll summon him! Thundererium!” the academician shouted, lifting his head as
high as the pillory allowed. A bright green spark escaped his ring and dashed away
before Triglav managed to extinguish it.
The ancient god frowned with annoyance. “Cheap tricks! Perun won’t come. I took
care of it,” he hissed.
However, he was wrong. Suddenly the sky lit up. The clouds parted, swollen,
exactly like wet cotton wool, with light.
“You’re lucky, Sardanapal. It seems that besides the black queen, the white clown 110
is about to appear on the chessboard!” Triglav said. Concern was heard in his voice.
Something flashed. The nocturnal beach was lit up like during the day. Tanya and
Sardanapal involuntarily closed their eyes from the unbearably bright glow. A golden
chariot, hot and glowing, with a silver-headed and golden-moustached god, descended
onto the sand. The god’s fierce gaze slid over Tanya, over Sardanapal, and stopped at
Triglav.
“YOU CHAINED ME WHEN I WAS ASLEEP. YOU TOOK MY HAMMER!” he
thundered.
“Just the hammer. But I left you life!” Triglav said.
“DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH! YOU DIDN’T DARE TAKE IT YOURSELF. YOU
COWARD, FEAR THE VENGEANCE OF VELES, 111 SIMORG,112 AND SVAROZHICH.113
YOU DECIDED TO DO EVERYTHING BY THE HANDS OF WIZARDS. YOU WANTED
SARDANAPAL TO UTTER THE ANCIENT SPELL OF DESTRUCTION. YOU WOULD
QUICKLY ACHIEVE SEVERAL GOALS: DISPOSE OF ME, RELEASE EVIL INTO THE
WORLD, ENCOURAGE CHAOS TO REBEL, AND YOU WOULD BECOME THE CHIEF
GOD.”
“I will be!”
“PERHAPS, BUT NOW I’M NOT CHAINED. I’LL MAKE YOU FIGHT!”
Triglav shrugged. “I won’t go into battle with you, Thunderer. For some reason, I
don’t want to kill. You won’t kill me in the back. I’m leaving!” he said.
A black horse appeared by the water, knee-deep in the cold waves, smoke coming
from its nostrils and cold fire from its eyes. Three-faced turned and, bogged down in the
sand, headed for the horse. Not trying to stop Triglav, Perun stared at his back.
Triglav took a few steps, then suddenly turned around, dropped onto one knee, and
fiercely threw the hammer at Perun. The hammer raced through the air like a

110 The white clown is a clown role in Western European circuses.
111 In ancient Slavic mythology, Veles, or Volos, is one of the major supernatural powers of earth and the
underworld. There is repeated enmity between Veles, the wise, old deity, and Perun, the warrior-ruler,
representing the opposition of nature on earth against that of heaven.
112 Simorg, also spelled Simurgh, is a large winged hybrid creature in Persian mythology. It has close ties
with the Tree of Life. In Old Church Slavonic, its name is Simargl or Semargl.
113 Svarozhich is a diminutive of Svarog, the god of celestial fire and blacksmithing in Slavic mythology.
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momentary flash of light. It was the very death, instantaneous and inevitable. Tanya felt
a stiff blow of air, knocking her off her feet.
Only Perun alone, to whom the hammer was flying, did not sway and did not move
from the spot. He opened his hand and the hammer, changing direction, obediently lay
down with the handle in it.
“How did you guess?” Triglav growled. “How?”
“I DON’T BELIEVE THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO KILL, OLD HANGMAN! YOU
HATE A FAIR FIGHT! BUT DID YOU REALLY THINK MY HAMMER WOULD RISE
AGAINST ITS MASTER? NOW YOU HAVE TO FIGHT. I’M READY,” Perun thundered.
He impatiently turned his head. In the next moment, Tanya realized that Perun was
already in the gleaming chariot and raising the smashing hammer above his head.
“Have it your way. We’ll fight. I will destroy you, either in a fair fight or not. I’ll
return alone to the Other Worlds and start my reign there,” Triglav hissed. Three voices
merged into one.
“TOO MANY WORDS, LORD OF THE WORTHLESS! I’M WAITING!”
Perun leaned back and lowered the reins. His chariot, soaring with golden
lightning, was lost in the clouds. A moment later, his huge vague silhouette already
occupied half of the sky. Perun was waiting for his enemy, and it seemed the whole
world, all the elements, froze along with him.
Triglav stepped gravely into the stirrup and unsheathed his blade. His black horse
reared. The golden veil on the three faces trembled. “Death to Perun!” he bellowed
loudly and dreadfully, like a hundred waterfalls, and, growing, occupied the other half of
the sky.
Now they faced each other. Life and death. Light and darkness. Rage and calm.
Imprudence and wisdom. They stood to meet in a battle from which only one would
come out alive. Tanya involuntarily clung to the academician. When gods fight, it is
impossible for mortals to even look at it.
The black blade met the hammer. The ocean shuddered and groaned. The two
giants, two parts of the universe, violently showered each other with blows, each of
which would be enough to wipe out any mortal army. A huge wave heaved over the
shore and fell back, crashing against the magical dome. Light and darkness mingled and
separated again. Perun and Triglav collided chest to chest. The horses fought. Black
stirrups crumbled the patterned spokes of the chariot.
Tanya cried out and tried to close her eyes. She did not want to see, but saw. She
did not want to hear, but heard. It seemed to her that the sky had opened up and
merged with the ocean. Black and white eddies swirled swiftly like a dance of mayhem
around her, Sardanapal, and Vanka lying there. Perun and Triglav were already so
enormous that from the hooves of the three-faced god’s horse, the ocean left the shores.
The moon was only one of the fiery wheels of Perun’s chariot.

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Finally, when Tanya and Sardanapal had almost dissolved, disappeared in the rage
of the gods, Perun, pulling away from Triglav’s deadly embrace, looked down and
mercifully shook his head. Black clouds immediately closed like a curtain and
benevolently obscured the sky.
Now Tanya and Sardanapal could only hear the ringing and rumbling of the
heavenly battle, which was rolling like thunder. The dome shuddered. The ocean was
seething. It lasted for a few minutes – a few agonizing minutes of terrible storms and
incredible crashes. Everything merged, changed, flowed, joined, and again crashed
down on each other in a blind rage.
Suddenly, three bluish lightning bolts split the dark horizon one after the other.
The first struck the black choppy water of the ocean, the second the white sand on the
shore, and the third Tibidox, the Tower of Ghosts. This last blow was so deafening that
Tanya and Sardanapal fell to their knees, covering their ears. Nothing was known about
the strength of the first two lightning bolts, but from the third, the bronze flag-
weathervane on the roof of the Tower of Ghosts turned black and melted.
For a brief time a dead, frightening silence hung over the shore. Then the sky
parted and rain poured. Furious jets fell almost vertically like straight lines. It was not
just rain. It seemed that someone had simply hoisted up the ocean and upended it over
their heads.
“Perun won...” Sardanapal said. He could barely hear his own voice – the recent
thunder was so strong.
“How do you know it was Perun?” Tanya asked.
The for-life-and-posthumous head of Tibidox tousled her hair. “After a victory
Perun always releases water over the enemy... Water is blood, water is life. Mokosh, 114
Dodola,115 Marena,116 however many names it may have. So it was and will be. If Triglav
had won, the land would be burned by fever, and then after a while would be shackled
by ice,” he explained.
Tanya leaned over Vanka and laid his head on her lap. He was already regaining
consciousness. Blood was caked on the side of his forehead. “Poor Vanka, he’s always
getting hit,” Tanya Grotter thought. She had long realized that if only one brick should
fall on a field with a hundred thousand wizards, then Valyalkin’s crown would become
its landing place for sure.
“How did you find out Triglav’s true name?” Sardanapal asked.
“I guessed. I recently read a Serbian fairy tale and thought about the three victims.
It’s a symbol of trinity. In the tale, one of Troyan’s heads devours people, another cattle,
and the third fish; he travels at night and is afraid of sunlight. When the priests wonder
whether there will be war, they lead Troyan’s black horse thrice by nine repetitions.

114 Mokosh is the only female deity in Slavic mythology, a goddess of spinning and fate.
115 Dodola is the goddess of rain in the Balkan tradition.
116 Marena is a Baltic goddess associated with the death of Winter and the rebirth of Spring.
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163

Three again. So I thought this is more like Triglav than Perun. Everything we have in
Tibidox also repeated three times. Besides, Perun doesn’t attack at night or when the
sun is covered by a snowstorm. He isn’t afraid of light and always announces his name
loudly so that the enemies know whom to fear,” Tanya said.
Vanka finally got up. He was too weak to sit on the vacuum, so Tanya and
Sardanapal supported him under his arms, slowly moving toward Tibidox. Tanya looked
at Vanka and the icy thorn of passion for Puper melted in her heart from the huge joy
that Vanka was alive and with her again. And this joy was so great and strong that Tanya
was sure it would stay with her forever.
“I have to deal harshly with Seven-Stump-Holes. It’s hardly worth appealing to his
conscience, as he has none, and it has been so for a long time. There is no longer
anywhere to transfer him, he’s already in the dark...” Sardanapal frowned, but then his
forehead smoothed. “Aha, I know, I’ll put him to darning flying carpets! Considering
that we have about thirty and all are moth-eaten, he’ll have something to occupy him
during summer vacations.”
“And what about the three victims? Gunya, Coffinia, and Lotkova?” Vanka asked.
“I’m certain that I’ll be able to return Coffinia her magic, Glomov his strength, and
Katya her beauty. Not without reason were there three lightning bolts. Perun delivered
to our world everything that should have been. Everything that Triglav took,”
Sardanapal said. “Now I’ll only have to conduct a certain ritual, very simple, and send a
cupid to Cryptova. It’s simple with Lotkova and Glomov, they’ll get their gifts today...”
The academician smiled into his beard, which was as wet as a sponge and was not going
to dry up, no matter what spells.
“I hope the lesson will benefit all three,” he continued. “Cryptova will understand
that not everything in the world rests on magic. Sometimes it’s necessary to think with
your head. Glomov will comprehend what it is to be weak and helpless, even the weakest
and most helpless. Perhaps now he’ll think before setting his fists in motion. Lotkova, it
seems, is convinced that your friend Bab-Yagun loves her not only for her beauty.
Although, perhaps...” here Sardanapal edifyingly raised both moustaches to the sky
quickly, “perhaps beauty served as the first impetus for his feelings. However, the initial
impetus is far from everything. Beauty may attract, but it cannot hold, if there’s nothing
more beyond beauty...”
“Careful, Academician!” Tanya yelled, noticing that the head of Tibidox, caught up
in talking, was going to crash into a tree trunk. The warning was a little late.
“Oh, I’ll be Plagued! Ugh!” The academician rubbed his bruised forehead. “Yes, one
more thing... I’m racking my brain and can’t remember where I put the lists for the
white department. It’s the sphinx, it’s always playing with my papers,” Sardanapal
suddenly said, smiling.
“Why do you need the lists?” Vanka asked.

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164

“I want to fill in one name... Not to say that this name was never there, but for a
while it disappeared from there, that’s for sure.”
Tanya looked at the academician and squeezed Vanka’s hand in excitement. “It’s...
it’s...” she started in confusion.
“No need to thank me. I simply make a record. The usual tribute to red tape... The
rest depends on the wizard. When the heart makes the choice, nothing in this world is
capable of stopping it,” said the for-life-and-posthumous head of Tibidox.

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