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©Jane H.

Buckingham 2017
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
White Tower

Country of Frozen Time

Lord of the Goblins

Dmitrii Suslin

Translated from Russian

by

Jane H. Buckingham

Translation edited by

Shona Brandt and Dmitrii Suslin

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017


jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
Titles in the Series

Knight Caterino
Prince of the White Tower
Christian Thirteen
Page of the Black Queen
Lord of the Goblins

©Jane H. Buckingham 2017


jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
©Jane H. Buckingham 2019
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
1

THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF TROLLS


(Instead of a preface)

Far, far away, in the very north of the Country of Frozen Time, where snow falls in
the winter, and bears sleep in their dens and suck their paw for three months, trolls
gathered in caves that skilled dwarves had once made and then left for warm territories.
The Supreme Troll Camelbrook had summoned them.
Each troll had received a personally written summons from him and hurried north.
The trolls made their way through secret underground trails, remote impenetrable
forests, dreadful swamps, and boundless deserts to the cave of Camelbrook. No one saw
their hectic movement, because the Supreme Troll had ordered them to keep everything
in deep secret. The trolls took two weeks to gather together in Black Hall of the Main
Cave. Thanks to a variety of spells, they managed to make it on time and remain
invisible and inaudible to people and other inhabitants of the fairy-tale country.
It was dark in the hall where the gathering took place, not a single torch or lantern
was burning. It was needless – trolls see everything perfectly in the dark, and fire, that
eternal companion of all the wizards, was completely unnecessary to them.
There was an unimaginable noise in Black Hall. It was packed full of trolls of all
ages, sizes, and colours. Directly in front of the Supreme Troll’s throne, the oldest and
most respectable trolls sat on stalagmites in the first row. These trolls were huge, very
ancient, and utterly black. Their heads, large even for a copper cauldron, with furry
movable ears, turned with difficulty, and their small, wicked eyes glowed with a
yellowish-green flame. Younger and lesser trolls tried not to meet their eyes. Why? The
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2

elders did not need a reason to turn someone into stone or a rotten tree because of an
unfriendly gaze. For that reason, on Camelbrook’s order they were put in the first row so
that they turned around less.
They were not fearsome to the Supreme Troll himself. He was older and much
more powerful than all of them. Despite his years – and Camelbrook had lived for
several thousand years – he was the only one of the elders who could not only live in a
cave deep underground, but also come to the surface, though only at night. He could not
stand daylight, and sunshine would kill him if he happened to be under its bright rays.
But the black trolls could not even tolerate the night sky: it blinded them, stars burned
strongly, and the moon could even kill. That is why they lived deep underground in
stone caves, which subterranean or mountain dwarves built for them for huge sums of
money.
Brown trolls sat in the next row. At several hundred years, they were younger than
black trolls but did not differ from them in appearance, except that they were smaller,
and their eyes glowed less brightly. Nevertheless, they were as respected and revered
among troll brethren as black trolls.
Brown trolls, but younger ones, also occupied the third and fourth rows. Their
height did not exceed two metres, while black trolls reached six metres, and the trolls
sitting in the second row were no less than three metres.
Grey trolls sat in the fifth row. Actually, they were almost black only with none of
the height; they were still not mature. Each of them was no taller than a normal person.
The stalagmites ended at this row, and the rest of the trolls sat or stood on the
sloping cave wall as if on the balcony of a theater, while the respected and powerful
trolls occupied the amphitheater. In the elders’ opinion, these were small fry. The young
trolls were not afraid of the sun or the moon. They were sorcerers in the prime of life,
the most favorable age from five hundred to eight hundred years. One mention of them
and people’s hair stood on end and their knees trembled, while they could not even
guess the existence of the elders.
These trolls were multicolored – red, blue, green, and tan, depending on age,
malevolence, sorcery skill, and troll status. The darker the colour, the stronger and older,
and the more malice, guile, and deceit he had. Most were young trolls, almost a hundred
and fifty. According to the roster, there were about two hundred trolls in total in the hall.
Now the troll responsible for registering those present checked all the arrivals and
put the last cross for the name Roastbeef. “Almost everyone is in place,” he announced.
“We can start.” With these words, he rushed into the hall and informed Camelbrook,
who was completing his ceremonial toilette, that they were waiting for him.
The Supreme Troll meticulously inspected himself in the mirror and nodded in
agreement. “Start the meeting, Guingam.”
And Guingam, the chief troll-administrator and master of ceremonies, grasping a
magic staff in his small hands, ran to start the meeting. He went out to the centre of the
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3

hall, gave a sign to the musicians sitting in an upper alcove right above the hall, and they
began to play a solemn march. They had bizarre instruments, and the music from them
was weird. But the trolls were ecstatic; they loved their march very much. Loud applause
rang out.
“The Supreme Troll, President of our Secret Republic, head of the monarchial
house of Bisburgh trolls, crown prince of the global troll kingdom that will reign in the
future, Chairman of Parliament and General Assembly, Commander-in-Chief and
Generalissimo of Life Guards and Great Militia, Corresponding Member of the Academy
of Technical Sciences, Academician of the Art Gallery, Master and Bachelor of Black
Magic, Karl Johannus von Bisburgh Camelbrook the First and Only!” Guingam
announced in a solemn voice, and Camelbrook, accompanied by young troll guards,
entered the hall.
This was a troll one-and-a-half metres tall, which by all standards, was considered
very small. But precisely Camelbrook’s small statue was also his main advantage,
because he was the only troll who managed to live so many years and at the same time
remain small, downright a young troll. Naturally, no one knew the secret of his youth,
and any troll would give half of his life for Camelbrook’s secret. The second feature of
the Supreme Troll was that he did not have his own colour. He could be of all colours
and changed them according to his own desire, or could even shimmer with all ten
colours at once. Furthermore, Camelbrook, the only one of all the trolls, knew how and
loved to dress like a person. Now he was dressed in a chic black tailcoat with long tails to
the floor, red breeches with white stripes, and a high tricorne. The fashion of the
Country of Frozen Time did not satisfy Camelbrook’s demands, and he often looked
beyond it to the world of people and searched there for interesting costumes. He noticed
the tailcoat of a violinist from the twentieth century, the riding breeches of an officer
from the end of the nineteenth, and discovered Napoleon Bonaparte’s tricorne. Plus,
Camelbrook’s whole chest was hung with orders and medals that jingled while he
walked. His clothes were stylish, but he himself was by no means handsome: slim, if not
to say scrawny, with crooked legs and incredibly long arms, slender and long like a rat’s,
a snout, malicious red eyes, a long serpentine tail with spikes at the end, and huge hairy
ears – either porcine or asinine. The Supreme Troll’s stubby figure was crowned with
two high humps on his back, making his whole appearance similar to a camel. But
Camelbrook was considered the first handsome man among the trolls. His appearance,
perhaps even more than authority and power or witchcraft, was envied.
When the Supreme Troll entered the hall of the General Assembly, the march was
replaced by the hymn of the Secret Republic of Trolls, and all those present stood up,
saluting both the Supreme Troll and the hymn of their state. The hymn lasted for exactly
three hours, and for all three hours the trolls listened to it standing up. On their faces
was great bliss, because trolls, among other things, loved music very much.

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4

When the hymn ended, Camelbrook took the throne cut into a giant stalactite,
which hung from the cave ceiling. And all the other trolls settled in their places.
Guingam leaped forward. “The Great Assembly, on the orders of the Supreme Troll,
is declared open!” he proclaimed loudly.
Deafening applause sounded. The trolls screamed, whistled, howled, clattered
rattles, played pipes, and shot firecrackers. The jubilation seemed to have no end.
Everyone was very happy, because the General Assembly, the highest legislative body of
the trolls, had not been held for three hundred years.
And now the Supreme Troll turned black as coal and held up a hand, calling
everyone to establish silence. It immediately became quiet. Cold drops of water were
heard trickling along the stalactites and dripping down, and below, under the cave floor,
the underground waters of the Trolga River murmured. Camelbrook looked at everyone
present with a long and grave look, under which the trolls froze and trembled, because
they immediately understood that important and serious things would be said and it was
not necessary to expect anything good from the Supreme Troll. And Camelbrook’s first
words confirmed the gloomiest assumptions of those present.
“I invited you, respected troll sirs, to inform you of terrible news,” he said. “News
that will shock you all.” No one dared ask what this terrible news was. No one wanted to
incur the wrath of the Supreme with irreverent behaviour. Even the youngest and the
most reckless trolls were silent.
“A white sheep has appeared in our black flock!” Camelbrook exclaimed in an
ominous voice. He was very fond of theatrical effects and long turns of phrase. But no
one understood such an intricate expression, and Supreme saw bewilderment and
surprise on the faces of his subjects. “Yes, yes! Our kind is disgraced, for it gave birth to
a being delivering us insult and humiliation at least, because our noble blood flows in
him. A renegade has turned up among us!”
“Who has turned up among us?” The trolls were so surprised that they even forgot
about reverence. “Supreme, if you would speak in troll, for you’re confusing us!”
Indignant shouts swept from all sides.
The trolls saw with amazement that tears were flowing from Camelbrook’s eyes.
Unheard of. There was silence again. Nobody was able to make even a sound.
The Supreme Troll spoke again. “Are you surprised, brothers and children of mine?
Yes, I’m crying. I grieve for my people, for no one else will tell you about him, that he’s
comprised of the most evil and insidious essences on earth. No one will fear us or
tremble at the sound of our footsteps, and people will no longer frighten their children
with us. From now on, the very word ‘troll’ has lost its former significance and glory. It
has now become a synonym of good and justice, honor and courage, light and joy.” And
the Supreme Troll wailed so bitterly, uttering such a woeful speech that all the other
trolls, to be honest, till the end still could not understand what the matter was.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2019


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5

“Camelbrook!” The black troll Zaduben, Camelbrook’s old political opponent, who
from time immemorial dreamed of taking his place and was considered an oppositionist,
suddenly addressed the Supreme Troll. “You’re known for your eloquence far beyond
the Country of Frozen Time, but at times you’re too fond of outlandish words and
philosophical phrases. Yes, among us, accustomed to working our fingers to the bone
from dawn to dusk, you’re an intellectual, that is, you’ve lost touch with the masses. If
this continues, then a wall of misunderstanding will surely grow between you and us.
With all due respect, I still call for simpler language and demand that you talk with
people in an understandable tongue. Of all that you said here, I understood only one
thing: that a traitor has turned up among us, one who, contrary to the laws of the trolls,
has done a good deed. Is it so? And if so, then why shed tears, give us this villain and
we’ll deal with him quickly.”
The entire assembly immediately supported Zaduben. Terribly mad at the
unknown troll, who had made a mockery of them all, the trolls began to demand that the
Supreme Troll explained everything plainly.
Camelbrook frowned and became half dark-blue, half purple; he still wanted to
orate a little more. So he decided that he would recall Zaduben later and said reluctantly,
“Fine, I’ll explain everything more simply to you. There really is a traitor among us,
we’ve nurtured a snake in our chest.” He caught the trolls’ glances and realized that he
had slipped again, and that it was not long before re-election, and came to his senses.
“The worst thing is that he’s one of those from the younger generation of whom we have
high hopes.”
“A troll boy?” The hall just gasped. “A cub is a traitor?”
“Yes, a troll boy, a cub. Exactly he has done good deeds and disgraced our tribe.
Perhaps he has already crossed the line. Now you’ll be introduced to his case.”
The trolls were shocked. “And what family raised this monster?” the whole hall
asked.
“It’s the Hoskings family of the Serpentine Lot,” Camelbrook satisfied the general
curiosity. “By the way, bring them in. Fellow citizens, admire these trolls, who not only
raised the traitor, but also released him into the world. Disgracing our people.”
Accompanied by incredible noise, shouts, and the guardsmen’s yell entered five
bound trolls, all quite young, the oldest no more than five hundred years, the rest three
or four hundred. The trolls looked downcast, frightened, and disheveled. Apparently,
they had already had a hard time from those guarding them. When they appeared before
the General Assembly, they did not even dare to dodge rotten tomatoes, lumps of dirt, or
bags of rancid water flying at them.
“Here they are in front of you, these worthless Hoskings!” Camelbrook declared.
“Two hundred years ago they received a newborn troll to bring up in their family. The
youngling was unusual even then, because he was born light pink. The elders wanted to
kill him, but changed their minds and decided to give him a chance, sending him to be
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6

raised in the Hoskings family, known for longstanding traditions and strict rules. He
was supposed to live with them for two hundred years, after which we would get
together to examine him and decide his future destiny. But when, at the scheduled time,
I came to Serpentine Lot, the youngling wasn’t there.”
The trolls listened with great attention to the speaker. The fate of the trolls
interested everyone vividly. Trolls are inherently sentimental creatures.
“They’ve lost him!” Camelbrook exclaimed in a hysterical voice almost with tears.
The trolls were bothered. It is well-known to all that the main passion of all trolls is
gambling. And that someone had lost a youngling did not particularly surprise anyone.
In the heat of gambling, trolls can lose anything, even themselves. So after such news
they immediately began to look at the Hoskings with sympathy.
“Yes, they lost him. And to whom? Not a respectable old troll, not a band of goblins
or orcs, not swamp demons, and not a black sorcerer. No! They lost him to a wandering
knight, a boy the same as the lost bet himself. By the way, his name is Drool. Isn’t that a
ridiculous name for a troll? So they lost this poor Drool to the wandering knight, and the
knight, instead of selling him to the gypsies or to a roving circus, or at least eating him at
the very worst, made him his friend.”
“A nightmare!” The trolls were indignant.
“Alas!” Camelbrook continued. “The boy turned out to not even be a boy at all but a
real girl, who offered Drool her friendship. And Drool Hoskings became her friend. On
the first day he saved Knight Caterino’s life.”
“Who?”
“Well, this boy, that is, ugh, girl. Anyway, his name was Knight Caterino. Drool
saved him, her, from werewolves; although his duty was to help the knight to fall into
their mitts, as would any troll in his place. In short, I can’t go on. I don’t have the
strength. My soul is torn to pieces. Let Guingam tell you the further actions of Drool
Hoskings.”
“So, did he do something else?” was heard from all sides.
“Alas, what the noble Camelbrook told us was only the beginning of a whole epic of
goodness!” Guingam sighed bitterly and unfolded the scroll, in which was the case in
absentia of the troll Drool from the house of Hoskings. “So I read: After meeting Knight
Caterino, who turned out to be the girl Kate from the Big World, Drool had the
opportunity to correct his mistake and destroy her that very day. It was in the realm of
the river mermaids, where the stubborn knight had entered. Drool could have left her
there, but instead he saved her again, pulling her out of the river.”
The trolls, on hearing this, just went crazy. Whoever heard of such a case, a troll
rescuing a person twice from death instead of destroying him? Rotten tomatoes flew at
the Hoskings again, and they roared loudly, begging for mercy. But there was no mercy
for them. Suddenly, the oldest of them quite unexpectedly turned into a goat, thumped
his hooves, and bleated plaintively. Following him the rest of the Hoskings also turned
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into goats one by one. The trolls screamed with delight, after which the goats suddenly
turned into monkeys. The trolls shrieked with joy, and the Hoskings from monkeys
instantly became crocodiles, then toads, snails, rats, hogs, then rotten logs, grey stones,
and dead trees. There was unbelievable noise in the hall. The young trolls understood
that the black trolls sitting in the front row were so outraged by the Hoskings that they
turned them into whatever they could, and since there were almost two dozen black
trolls, each of them devised his own sorcery, turning the Hoskings first into one creature,
then another. Then they became goats again, because the black troll who had bewitched
them first was indignant that his sorcery had been overturned, and turned the traitors
into goats anew with an even more powerful spell. But the rest of the black trolls were
also outraged. Each believed that precisely he could punish the scoundrels the most
severely. And here the goats were halfway becoming monkeys again, then they grew
crocodile tails, after which they swelled up like toads, and it was already impossible to
figure out what strange creatures were standing in front of the General Assembly. The
trolls were dying with laughter and had already forgotten why they were actually
gathered here.
Camelbrook did not like this. He became bright scarlet, snapped his fingers,
released a stream of white fire at the Hoskings, and they became their former selves.
“Stop the farce!” the Supreme Troll ordered. “We’ll deal with the Hoskings later.
The court has not yet taken place, and no one has the right to condemn them to any
punishment. The law is above all in our republic. Guingam, read on.” The assembly
calmed down at once. Its participants nodded their heads in agreement and admired the
Supreme Troll’s wisdom and democracy.
Guingam continued. “From that moment, Drool became a faithful and staunch
friend of Knight Caterino. Then he made friends with Christian Thirteenth, a boy who
became the knight’s squire, and all three of them set off to the Capital, the main city of
people, where dwelled the enchanted boy, the Prince of the White Tower, Knight
Caterino’s younger brother, who had been kidnapped by the great sorcerer, the
Sovereign of the people. Their path lay through the Bewitched Forest, and Drool a
hundred times had the opportunity to exterminate his companions, but he did not veer
from the ruinous path and continued to help the children in everything. Largely thanks
to him, Kate and Chris passed through the Bewitched Forest and defeated an army of
witches, killed the chief witch Areatanuta, and returned Two-headed Simon to the right
path: he changed from a robber into an honest man. Then Drool led them through the
Great Swamp with the help of goblins, and the children again remained alive. Drool
Hoskings’ next crime was that he led the boy and the girl through Vampire Park and did
not let a single vampire touch the children, leaving our friends and allies hungry.”
“A disgrace!!! Death to the traitor!” they shouted from everywhere.
“And here I come to the most terrible part!” Guingam raised his hand. “Further
their way lay through the Scorpion Valley; a scorpion attacked the human younglings
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8

and stung them. Then the end would have come to the knight and his squire, but Drool
again intervened. Despite that according to the rules of the young troll, on pain of death
he must not conjure more often than once a week, Drool cast a spell and saved their
lives, thus sacrificing his own life for the sake of people! After that, he dissolved in the
air, as it should be with a troll.”
There was dead silence in the hall. The trolls could not speak. They were so
shocked that they only exchanged bewildered glances with each other in silence. This
had never happened in the history of their tribe. They simply did not know what to do in
this situation.
Zaduben was the first to break the silence. “So, there is now no one for us to punish
except the negligent teachers?” he asked.
The Hoskings trembled even more from this question. They understood that now
all the wrath of the Main Assembly would be spilled over to them.
“Unfortunately, and to our great sorrow,” Camelbrook spoke again, “the story of
Drool’s crimes didn’t end. He revived Knight Caterino, who reached the Capital and
committed a whole bunch of crimes, which for some reason people considered feats. The
knight defeated the Sovereign and took away his own younger brother. Then the
indignant spirit of the sorcerer turned into the Black Dragon of death and rushed in
pursuit of the despicable knight. The dragon caught up with the knight at the palace of
the Fairy of Eternal Youth. The Fairy helped the knight and gave him her white dragon
Voidrag. The knight killed the Black Dragon and took his tremendous power that helped
him leave the Country of Frozen Time. But do you know what he did before he left?”
“What?” the entire hall asked in unison.
“He revived the troll boy Drool. Returned to our world, his soul dissolved in the air.
He resurrected him.”
The hall gasped and groaned. Everyone knew that a resurrected troll possessed the
power of three grey trolls.
“And Drool became the court wizard of the Fairy of Eternal Youth, who became the
Sovereign of the Country of Frozen Time. And he began to do one good deed after
another. So how can we exist, brethren, and walk on the same land with a traitor?”
“Not the life for us!” the trolls shouted. “Death to him! Death! It’s no longer
possible to stop him. There is so much good behind him that he won’t wash off his
crimes in a million years. Only death can atone for everything. Death to him! Death!
Dissolve him in dead water so that no one can revive him again.” The Trolls picked for
Drool the most terrible punishment that only existed among them. And they never once
in all the existence of the Secret Republic had to carry it out.
By unanimous vote of the entire General Assembly of trolls, Drool Hoskings was
sentenced to death. Not a single hand was raised in his defense. The trolls condemned
not a small two-hundred-year-old troll youth but a dangerous state criminal and traitor
who could no longer be rehabilitated. He was a real maniac, gone mad because of
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9

goodness, and had to be stopped and destroyed at all costs. Age no longer had any
significance here.
“And what will we do with them?” Zaduben asked and nodded his head at the
Hoskings, bound and waiting for their fate. “Since Drool is a maniac, then the matter
here isn’t upbringing but the mind. Can they really be responsible for a disease that
struck their ward?” It was a very timely question. The Hoskings were no longer seen as
criminals but victims of an insane maniac.
Camelbrook went to the bound trolls and personally freed them from the ropes.
“Yes, now we know that they aren’t guilty of Drool’s crimes,” he said, and stroked the
older Hoskings on the head. “They are also mourning, like us. Isn’t it so?” The Hoskings
twisted their heads in agreement so strongly that their heads almost fell off. “Of course it
is! But we also don’t have the right to completely clear them of blame. For they’re guilty
after all.”
“They’re guilty?” The trolls were surprised.
“Yes, they’re guilty. They’re guilty of letting goodness free, tossing seeds of
goodness onto the ground with their own hands. And now, I feel, they must destroy the
terrible harvest, which matured thanks to their thoughtlessness and carelessness. Let’s
charge them to fulfil our judgement.”
“Right!” the trolls rejoiced, not wanting to associate with the Fairy of Eternal Youth,
whom Drool served. “They let Drool go, let them catch him.”
The General Assembly voted for it.
Camelbrook summed up the overall results, “So, Mr. Hoskings, in order to make
amends for the great nation of trolls and our Secret Republic, you must find and catch
the rebellious, my tongue doesn’t turn to call him a troll or even a troll youth, dangerous
maniac Drool, and execute him by dissolving him in dead water. If within a certain
period you don’t complete the tasks, then the verdict in relation to Drool applies to you.”
At this point, the General Assembly of trolls ended and everyone was released to
his home. Aside from Guingam and the guardsmen of the Supreme Troll, only the five
Hoskings trolls remained in the cave. Guingam gave them on receipt a flask of dead
water as well as the instructions for it. “Pour the contents of this container into any body
of water in which you will drown Drool and the water in it will immediately become
dead, and your friend will instantly dissolve in it.” The Hoskings nodded sullenly and
made their way to exit the cave.
Camelbrook approached Guingam and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“I hope these fools will fulfil your will, Supreme.” Guingam looked Camelbrook
ingratiatingly in the eye.
Camelbrook nodded and said thoughtfully. “They have no other choice. In fact, I
don’t care about Drool. But this troll boy dared to dress better than I do. And I don’t
forgive such things. Consider, he serves the Fairy. So what? He could dress up a little
more modestly. And if not, then don’t be offended when you are dissolved in dead water.”
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10

Meanwhile, the Hoskings came out of the cave, flinching from the bright sunlight.
Out of the blue, the head of the Hoskings began to hand out cuffs and clouts right and
left.
The trolls howled, “Why, Kurukul?”
“If I knew why, I would’ve even killed!” Kurukul replied. “Attention!” The trolls
stretched out in attention before the older one. Kurukul looked at them and was
satisfied.
“Outstanding scoundrels,” he praised them. “Ah, a curse on this Knight Caterino
and all the girls in the world who dare call themselves wandering knights. Pity that we
swore not to harm him. But Drool will answer for everything. Worthless boy. I never
liked him. When we catch him, I’ll put him through such torture that he’ll beg me to
quickly dissolve him in dead water. Clear to all of you?”
“Yes indeed!” the trolls shouted loudly and abruptly.
“Then, forward!”
And the detachment of trolls went to the grey cliff, beneath which was the famous
underground railway built by trolls, great engineers and inventors. Kurukul went in
front. Behind him, Burdiuk was carrying the flask of dead water and a banner bearing
the emblem of the House of Hoskings. He was long, a head taller than the rest and with
a bandage on his right eye, which Kurukul knocked out forty years ago when he tried to
take authority. Burdiuk was followed by the twin brothers Horek and Larek. They
walked, holding hands, and skipped like children in kindergarten. They were both four-
hundred years old, but they had brains like a century-old troll. The last was a fat one, the
wino and glutton Vrul. He was even now munching on a frog, which had the misfortune
of croaking in a puddle nearby, and his pockets were always full of salty cockroaches,
roasted spiders, and dried worms.
They entered the dungeon, sat in a small open wagon, and started the levers.
Kurukul gave the command and the wagon began to get under way. The trolls rushed at
great speed and shouted obscene songs. The noise from them was hellish.

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11

Chapter One
DROOL HOSKINGS – WIZARD AND ENCHANTER OF THE COURT

Little Drool, former troll and now wizard and sorcerer at the court of the Fairy of
Eternal Youth, knew nothing about what was happening in the northern caves of the
Supreme Troll. He had forgotten long ago to even think of his brethren. He sincerely
believed that he was not a troll, but Sweet Tooth, as the girl Kate had once called him.
Sweet Tooth was from a distant unknown tribe living far away in the mountains. He
could not even believe that he had recently lived in a dirty castle with trolls, who only
did what offended him in every way and forced him to do various dirty tricks, which
simply nauseated him. After his older “comrades” lost him to Knight Caterino, Drool’s
life completely changed. He had the opportunity to do what he liked and he liked doing
good deeds, and he did them whenever he could. As a reward for his kindness, he
eventually found himself at the court of the great sorceress who personally asked him to
become her court wizard.
“But you’re an enchantress!” Drool was surprised at such a suggestion.
“Yes, of course,” the Fairy replied. “But, you see, now that I’ve become Sovereign, I
will spend a lot of time on state affairs. And it’s almost impossible to be a wise ruler and
a good enchantress at the same time. Both take too much time and energy.
Consequently, in magical matters, an assistant is simply essential to me, and I want this
to be you.”
Drool could not refuse her and began to live on the top floor of the White Tower,
where the Fairy herself lived. Very soon everyone loved him, because it was impossible
not to. Drool’s eyes radiated kindness, and even the hearts of the most hardened people
softened when looking at Drool and they became kinder. And the children living in the
Capital simply loved him very much, because he had become their kind and cheerful
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friend, who arranged a Sweet Day for the children every month. In the city’s main
square, at the very place where stood a golden statue depicting a boy sitting on a swan,
the palace servants placed a long, very long table and covered it with the most delicious
sweets. Any kid had the right to sit there as long as he liked. Drool himself loved sweets
more than anything in the world, and therefore he knew the key trait of all children in
the world. And since he was not greedy, he liked very much to treat the children with
cakes, pastries, cookies, fruit, lemonade, and other goodies. Well, how was it possible
not to love him after that?
In second place for Drool was study. Yes, yes, study. Drool liked to learn very much.
You do not believe this? But after all, his teacher was the Fairy of Eternal Youth herself,
so she taught him not only grammar and foreign languages, mathematics and chemistry,
versification and history, but also magic, which she had mastered perfectly. Drool was
already an enchanter, but he wielded mainly black magic, because trolls did not study
anything else, so the Fairy began to teach him good magic, and Drool immediately
began to make tremendous progress. All day long he sat in the library of the White
Tower – there was a very rich library in the White Tower – and studied ancient folios, in
which the wisdom of centuries was kept. Very soon he was able to do much more
difficult things than building a house from air or creating fireballs. The Fairy was very
pleased with him and constantly praised him for his diligence. He was simply greatly
embarrassed, blushed, and covered his face with his big funny ears.
“What’s this diligence of mine?” he was surprised. “In fact, I simply like learning
very much.”
“Even among people very few like to study,” the Fairy replied. “Indeed, this is the
greatest and most noble effort.”
But study did not seem like work to Drool. It was more a game. An interesting and
entertaining game. And he continued to learn. And a couple of months later he even
began to study the nature of time. This is the most difficult area in magic and the most
unexplored. Drool became so keen on that topic that he could not think of anything else.
He learned from the Fairy that mirror gnomes were considered the best experts in time.
Drool decided to get acquainted with at least one of them no matter what. For a week, he
searched for a spell that would allow him to penetrate inside a mirror, and when he
found it, he lacked the experience, and he could only clear the glass layer of the large
mirror and enter the first room, the reflection of the one where he was. He could not go
beyond its boundaries no matter how hard he tried. But here he was very fortunate. He
was already going to return to the normal world, when he heard shuffling footsteps and
someone’s grunt behind the door. A very real mirror gnome came through the door. He
was the same height as Drool, in red trousers and a cap, a brown quilted jacket, and with
a magnificent white beard that looked like a shovel without a handle. Drool even jumped
with joy on one leg. But the mirror gnome was clearly not delighted to see him. Drool
recalled that mirror gnomes greatly disliked having their domain trespassed, and
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13

hurried to apologize. He was so polite and bowed so low in the process that the gnome
relented and his face ceased to be so gloomy as initially. He probably realized that Drool
did not pose a danger to his possessions.
“So, you’re not a sneaky thief who came here to steal our treasures?” he asked.
“Of course not!” Drool hastened to assure the gnome. “Curiosity brought me here.
From knowledgeable people I heard that mirror gnomes are the best specialists in the
field of study of the nature of time. This topic interests me very much, therefore I
wanted to gain advice from you, if possible.”
The gnome was dumbfounded with surprise. “How long have I lived in the
Looking-Glass, and nobody ever appealed to me with such a request, or I’m not White
Beard Black Clogs. By the way, that’s my name. I am the elder of the mirror gnomes of
our province and the city governor of the Great Throne.”
“And I’m Drool, court wizard and enchanter of the Fairy of Eternal Youth, our
Sovereign.”
“Drool, you say?” White Beard grunted. “I’ve heard of you. Are you the same troll
boy that his fellow tribesmen lost to the wandering knight?” Drool nodded.
White Beard knew quite a bit about him and therefore calmed down completely.
He examined Drool more attentively and remarked, “Yes, it’s really you. I even saw you
a couple of times when you twirled in front of a mirror, acting out and thinking that no
one saw you.” Drool became red as a beet and even covered his face with his ears.
“Okay, don’t be embarrassed,” White Beard waved. “Do you think you’re the only
one doing this? I’ve even seen renowned kings and great generals in this act. And what
to say, indeed even the Fairy of Eternal Youth sometimes cannot pull away from the
mirror from time to time. But why is it you’re so interested in time? Is that idle
curiosity?”
“No, I didn’t come to you out of idle curiosity. You see, my friends, the girl Kate
and her little brother Gene, they live in the Big World, where time runs its own course. I
miss them so! I especially want to know about Kate. How does she live there? Does she
remember me or has she even forgotten to think about Chris and me? However, not so
much a great distance but such a wall of time separates us. Even if taking a glance at her
with one eye. Can’t you help me?”
White Beard thought about it. “A difficult task,” he said. “If you were a mirror
gnome, it wouldn’t be difficult to help you. Along our mirror corridors, which can
deceive time, you could go anywhere and to any time you like. But for any other creature
this presents mortal danger. The air we breathe is fatal to all living things. You’ll simply
die in one of the mirror corridors of time and never see your friends.”
Drool almost cried. “Really, I’ll never see Kate again?” he sobbed.
There was so much grief in his voice that even White Beard himself was sad, but
then his face suddenly lit up with a smile and he grabbed Drool’s hand. “Listen,” he

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14

exclaimed, “It seems I can help you. In fact, it’s possible to virtually leave the Country of
Frozen Time not only through the mirror corridors.”
“Really?”
“It’s possible to move through the Ocean of Timelessness via another way.”
“Tell me, what way?”
“I need to think.” White Beard began to stroke his beard. “Let’s meet on the same
day in a week in the same mirror and talk. And while I think, I’ll consult with
knowledgeable gnomes.” They so decided.
The week dragged on for a very long time for Drool. He could hardly wait until the
day when he was to meet with White Beard. But exactly one day before this, an incident
happened, which excited him to the depths of his soul and changed the course of future
events.
That evening he, as always, was sitting in the library and reading an old
manuscript, in which there were many ancient magic formulae and spells. He found in it
an ancient spell, with the help of which it was possible to contact a person wherever he
was: far or near, past or future. For this, it was only necessary to have his image.
Drool did not pay attention to this spell at first, but he suddenly remembered
unexpectedly that, in the picture gallery of the White Tower, there was a sculpture
depicting the boy Gene, the Prince of the White Tower. It dawned on the little wizard.
Indeed, he could, with the help of this statue, talk with Gene, find out how he was living,
and ask about Kate. Drool simply trembled with excitement and ran to get everything
necessary for performing the magic ritual. He did not tell anyone about it because he
was not sure if he would succeed in casting the ancient spell.
Exactly at midnight he came to the picture gallery and found the silver statue of a
boy in shorts, with one foot bare and sitting on a swan. This was Gene Konstantinov
from the Big World, the Prince of the White Tower.
Drool began to conjure. He lit around the statue three small lamps, which burned
in different colours: white, red, and green. Then he let out blue smoke and read some
incomprehensible words for a long time. When he had already begun to be discouraged,
because nothing had happened, the statue suddenly began to glow dimly, and when he
uttered the last word, it came to life. The silver boy came down from the pedestal and
approached Drool. It was a real live Gene, only a little like a ghost. But Drool knew that
before him was not a ghost and was not at all scared.
“Sweet Tooth!” Gene exclaimed in a delighted voice and grabbed Drool’s hands.
The wizard shuddered. He felt uneasy. The statue was holding his hand. But then
he felt the impossible. Drool felt the touch of real, living human hands and not of cold
silver at all. They were real hands of a boy, warm, even hot. And Drool understood that
everything had turned out for him in the best way possible.
“Gene!” he exclaimed. “How wonderful that you and I can talk!”

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“Drool, dear Drool, if you only knew how great it is that you reached me!” the boy
muttered. “So much has happened! We’re in trouble! We need your help!”
“You’re in trouble?” Drool was shocked. “And Kate too?”
“Yes, we all are! But so far they only need me. They’re after me. If they catch me,
then the end will come to all. And to you too.” Drool did not understand anything.
“It’s connected with the former Sovereign!” Gene continued. “There’s something of
him left in me, and sorcerers of our world need it. They want to stop time, I don’t know
exactly how, and they need me for that. I can’t handle them alone. They’re already
catching up to me. You and my sworn brother Chris must help us.”
“Of course!” Drool exclaimed. He still did not know how to help the Prince of the
White Tower, but he already mentally vowed that he would do everything possible and
even the impossible.
“I'll tell you what you must do,” Gene whispered. He kept looking around, as if
afraid that they could be overheard. “Listen carefully. We have very little time. The
communication session is about to end, and it won’t be possible to repeat it to you
sooner than a year. You and Chris can help me. For victory, I need this: my sister’s
sword, which stayed in the Country of Frozen Time, and the Fairy of Eternal Youth’s
White Dragon. Beg her any way you can to send it to me. It's necessary. Do you
understand everything?”
“Yes, of course. So you need Knight Caterino’s sword? And Christian Thirteenth
will bring it to you, right?”
“That’s right.” Gene was in a great hurry. “Have him take the sword and get to the
top of Roseblan and stick a rose in his hair at dawn. The sword and the flower will bring
him to me. And Voidrag the White Dragon will find the way itself. You just need to ride
him. Do you understand everything?” Drool nodded.
“Then, see you.”
And the silver boy returned to the pedestal. Drool did not have time to speak as
before him was again a metal statue depicting a boy riding a beautiful swan. For a
moment, it seemed to Drool that all this was an ordinary dream. But he immediately
remembered: his friends are in trouble!
For Drool, everything suddenly ceased to matter in this world. He knew only one
thing: he must go to the mysterious and distant Big World to the aid of Gene and Kate
by any means and as soon as possible. Yesterday he’d had almost no hope of seeing
them again, and today it turned out that they simply needed him, and that without him
they could perish. Most importantly, he now knew how to get there, where the entrance
was closed to the inhabitants of the Country of Frozen Time.
Gene’s words staggered Drool. After all, the boy had answered the most difficult
question: how to cross the Ocean of Timelessness and meet with him and Kate. Even the
Fairy of Eternal Youth could not answer that. How could he know all this?
How simple it all turned out to be!
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16

No, it was not really simple. Drool remembered Chris. Gene said that he had to
deliver Knight Caterino’s sword to him. But Drool had no idea where his friend was now.
Sixteen months had already passed since they parted on the day when the former squire
set off in search of adventure with Arian, Prince Arinaco’s son, and there was not a sign
of either boy. Nobody knew where they were or what they were doing. To this day, Drool
was not too concerned about the disappearance of his comrade. Firstly, Chris could
stand up for himself, and secondly, his heart was not troubled by Chris, so the glorious
knight of the family of Richard the Brave did not need help. That was why Drool did not
try to find out where Chris was.
However, everything had changed. The Prince of the White Tower needed Chris,
and Drool’s duty was to find him and carry out the assignment of Kate’s brother. It was
easy to say, to find Chris. In the Country of Frozen Time, a person could perish so that
no trace of him would be found for all eternity.
Drool entered his room in deep thought and started to think about how to find
Chris. He thought until morning, but so far he could not think of anything and decided
that he could not manage without the Sovereign’s help. After all, he was still such an
inexperienced wizard. How much he still did not know and could not do. Drool became
so depressed from such thoughts that he almost cried. But what use was crying when
action was needed.
In the morning, he could hardly wait until the Fairy woke up. The evening before
there had been a jolly carnival until late at night, and the Sovereign woke up very late
and lounged in bed for a long time, sipping forget-me-not nectar from a crystal cup.
Drool walked in agitation back and forth in front of the bedchamber doors and could not
wait for the ladies-in-waiting to let him in to the enchantress. Finally, the youngest lady-
in-waiting Marie came out and told Drool that the Fairy was waiting for him.
The Fairy met Drool with a dazzling smile and inquired about the reason for his
visit. The court wizard and enchanter, embarrassed and trembling with excitement,
revealed his secret. The Sovereign frowned throughout the story, as if grey clouds came
running on a clear day.
“What happened was what I feared,” she said, after listening to Drool. “Judging by
the boy’s story, there is something of the old Sovereign left in him. That means, our
country did not fully release the children from the Big World. This is very bad. Now
mortal danger threatens both worlds. Yes, you must do what Gene instructed. But where
will you find Chris?”
“That is exactly why I wanted to ask for your help, Sovereign,” Drool confessed. “I
myself have no idea where to look for him.”
“And you think I know?”
“Isn’t it so?”
“Alas. You yourself will have to look for the boys. Start your search at the castle of
Richard the Brave. They were last seen there.”
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“But it’s too far. I cannot make it in time.”


“Take my crane carriage.”

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Drool beamed. Yes, of course, the crane carriage, the gift of the Elf King, was what
was needed. He did not waste time and immediately set off. He overcame in two hours
the way that he, Kate, and Chris had once needed so much time, and found himself in
the castle of Richard the Brave. The inhabitants of the castle: Mama Eliza, her son
Enolio, old Ian, and the nurse Joanna, met him with joy and hope. But Drool had to
disappoint them. He had no news from Chris. But the fact that he was busy searching
gave them hope. Sweet Tooth was a welcome guest.
Drool did not want to lose a minute; therefore he turned down dinner and
immediately set off in search of the boys. He had to work a little magic to see their tracks,
and asked to be left alone at the castle gate. After casting the necessary spell, he spat on
the ground, turned nine times around his axis first in one direction, then the other, and
saw what he wanted. The tracks looked fresh. Drool set off along them. To speed up the
search, he curled into a ball and turned into a round pink ball. The ball jumped in place,
and then quickly rolled in the direction which Knight Christian and his squire Arian had
gone sixteen months ago. The inhabitants of the castle watched him in surprise.
Not even the fastest horse could overtake Drool. But that did not stop him from
seeing everything that was on the way. Drool quickly rolled into a birch grove, rushed
through, and rolled on. It was not long before he found that the tracks were turning back.
Drool was surprised, but continued to follow the trail diligently. So he turned back into
the birch grove, and unexpectedly the trail broke off.
“What bad luck?” Drool was surprised.
But the tracks were no more. Drool in vain cast new stronger spells. The tracks had
disappeared.
“It can’t be?” the wizard wondered. “They couldn’t have dissolved in the air!”
Nevertheless, he did not manage to find any tracks. Stricken with grief, Drool
returned to the White Tower.

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19

Chapter Two
EMISSARIES

It was already evening. The sky was burning with the golden flame of sunset. Sweet
Tooth was going to visit the Fairy of Eternal Youth when he suddenly remembered that
he was to meet White Beard that day. Drool slapped his forehead with annoyance and
rushed to the room where the mirror was, the one in which he had met the mirror
gnome.
“White Beard has probably left already. He was offended and will never come
again,” he muttered, casting the spell that would open the way for him into the mirror.
Here he entered through the gilded bronze frame into the room where everything
was the other way around, and sighed with relief. White Beard was sitting in an
armchair. Looking moody and angry, but in place.
“Finally!” he growled when he saw Drool. “I've been sitting here like a chicken on
the roost and waiting since morning. But no him. You yearn strongly for friends.”
“Dear White Beard!” Drool sighed. “I owe you an apology. Please forgive me.
Urgent and important matters distracted me. I almost forgot about our meeting. I
passed the whole day in trouble, and all to no avail.” And he told White Beard everything.

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“You’re such a stupid troll!” White Beard did not even get angry. “If you hadn’t
been so distracted and came to me in the morning, as we agreed, you wouldn’t have had
to run all day. I indeed know where your friend is.”
“You know where Chris is?”
“Of course, I know. I just met my cousin Black Moustache Green Cap yesterday. He
just returned from Mortavia and told me that some knight Christian appeared there and
defeated the very Baron Kostiniak, the former sorcerer Murderer.”
“Chris is in Mortavia? How did he get there?”
“Well, that’s unknown to me, but Black Moustache said he had already left that
country.”
“So he has returned?”
“Not yet.” White Beard shrugged his shoulders. “It’s that he left there. And he
won’t show up here until two months later.”
Drool just sat down. “Two months! So long? It’s a nightmare and horror! We’ll be
late!”
But White Beard did not let him break down. “Nonsense!” he slapped Drool on the
shoulder. “Time doesn’t matter for your boy. No matter how many months have passed
here when you go to him, you’ll reach him precisely when he needs you most of all. Is
that clear?”
“Really?”
“Certainly. Trust me. You’ll have time to think over everything properly and
prepare for a long journey. In two months you’ll go to Roseblan and meet your friend
Christian there at the foot of the great mountain, you’ll hand over Knight Caterino’s
sword and explain to him what to do. Then you’ll sit on the dragon Voidrag and fly after
him.” Drool beamed and even found the strength to smile at White Beard.
“Here’s another thing.” The gnome rubbed his big, bulky hands satisfactorily. “And
I’ve just learned of a way to send you to the Prince of the White Tower. But now, I see
that you don’t badly need it.”
“Tell me anyway. My heart senses that your method can be useful to me. What if I
can’t handle the dragon?”
“Voidrag?” The mirror gnome roared with laughter. “A child can handle it. But,
okay, listen. You never know. Have you ever heard of the Golden Spider?”
“The Golden Spider? You mean the giant spider that lives in the White Crystal
cave?”
“So you’ve heard of it. Well, then it’s even easier. Then you’ve also heard about its
golden web. Well, just that with the help of the golden web, it’s possible to leave the
Country of Frozen Time and turn up where and when you want. Everything is very
simple. You sit on this very web and fly.”
“Sounds tempting. Only no one knows where the White Crystal cave is.”

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“What do you mean no one knows?” White Beard was indignant. “But everyone
knows it. In the Bewitched Forest.”
“The Bewitched Forest?” Drool trembled from one recollection of the Bewitched
Forest. “The Golden Spider lives in the Bewitched Forest? Then I’m better off on the
White Dragon somehow.”
“Well, as you know. And indeed. The Bewitched Forest is not a place for a stroll.
But it seems that it’s time for us to part, the mirror is cloudy. You’ve been in it for too
long. Next time, cast this spell,” White Beard handed Drool a piece of paper with verses.
“We’ll talk quite well on different sides of the mercury glass. Otherwise, our air is rather
heavy for you after all. You’re not such a bad guy. You remind me of myself when I was
young.”
They parted, pleased with each other, and the days of waiting for a meeting with
Chris flowed for Drool. In order that time did not pass so slowly, Drool studied more
than ever before. He certainly paid special attention to magic. Every day he came to the
Fairy and took lessons from and talked with her. The Fairy managed to constrain his
impatience, because she constantly occupied him with various requests. Drool met the
mirror gnome twice or even thrice a week and they spent time in long philosophical
conversations, of which both turned out to be great enthusiasts.
And then the two long months ended.
“Tomorrow your friend will be at Roseblan,” White Beard said one beautiful
evening. “Wait for him there.”
Drool sat in the crane carriage and set off with the blessing of the Fairy of Eternal
Youth to the Western mountains.
The next day, or rather deep in the evening, he met Chris. The boy was depressed.
He told Drool about his journey in Mortavia, a country hidden in the corridors of time.
He and Arian got there accidentally and fought with the mighty baron Kostiniak. Chris
defeated him, but lost Arian in the battle and returned to the Country of Frozen Time.
Here the Black Knight challenged him to a duel. Chris lost the fight and paid a very high
price for his defeat – he lost his knighthood. Now he simply did not want to live.
However, he immediately forgot about everything when Drool proposed to cross over to
the Big World to help the Prince of the White Tower and deliver Knight Caterino’s sword
to him. Christian took the sword from Drool’s hands and ascended Roseblan. At dawn
he was no longer in the Country of Frozen Time.

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“So, I’ve done half the job,” Drool said contentedly and ran to the castle where the
Fairy of Eternal Youth had lived before her accession to the White Tower. There in a
small silver chest was kept the key to the magic cave where the white dragon lived. Drool
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took the key and was already heading to the cave, when he remembered that the dragon
could only be woken up on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but it was Sunday. He had to
wait for Wednesday. “Why do I always have to wait?” Drool lamented over the new delay.
“It turns out that nothing is harder!”
However, there was nothing to do and he went to the castle library to pass the time.
“Doesn’t matter,” he consoled himself. “Now it’s only a little longer. Some three
days.” But on Tuesday there was an improbable event, which detained Drool for almost
a month in the Country of Frozen Time.
He awoke with a feeling of growing alarm. His soul was anxious, his heart was
uneasy, and alarm hovered in the air. Drool became agitated. At first he decided that he
had been late setting off to the Big World, and without his help there, Gene, Kate, and
Chris had not been able to vanquish their enemies and had perished. But then he
realized that this was not so. Although he was already quite a good wizard and he had a
supernatural intuition, it could not extend beyond his country. So, something was wrong
here at home.
And suddenly it was as if he was hit by thunder.
The Fairy! Something was wrong with her, with his Sovereign.
Drool ran skipping into the hall, where there was a magic window in which he
could see her. He hurriedly uttered the necessary words and saw the Fairy. From the
first glance he saw that he was right. The Fairy was sick. She was barely standing on her
feet. And it was a disease that could kill.
An unheard of thing! Fairies cannot be sick!
But a fact remained a fact. The Fairy was in mortal danger. Without thinking twice,
Drool sat down in the crane carriage, which fortunately he had not had time to send
back, and departed for the Capital. Only he could save the Fairy of Eternal Youth,
because in the White Tower, apart from him, there was not a single wizard!
They were already waiting for him in the White Tower and greeted him with great
hope. Two misfortunes immediately befell the Country of Frozen Time. The first was of
course the Sovereign’s illness, and the second was an unknown and powerful enemy that
had appeared out of nowhere in the country’s southeast. The Fairy had already sent
Alvansor the Flawless there with soldiers and knights. And Drool got busy with the
ailment that plagued the Fairy.
The doctors were actually powerless against the Sovereign’s malady. Drool
zealously set to work and was immediately convinced that the enchantress’ infirmity was
indeed connected with sorcery, but he could not find it for a long time. And here the
mirror gnome again came to his aid. When Drool appealed to him, it turned out that
specifically the mirrors were the cause of her condition, because the ruler of Mortavia,
the Black Queen Angusta, had sent terrible monsters – black krulii – along the mirror
corridors, so that they would kill the Fairy of Eternal Youth to prevent her from
protecting the Country of Frozen Time from the army of dead soldiers. It was precisely
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24

this army that appeared at the border. The mirror gnome and his brethren fought with
the black krulii but could not overpower them.
Drool ordered all the mirrors to be taken out of the White Tower, and the Fairy of
Eternal Youth immediately recovered. Thus, Drool derailed the Black Queen’s terrible
plan, and the Sovereign entered into battle with her.
“Here Voidrag will be essential to us,” she told Drool. “You must go to the white
dragon, wake it up, and fly with it to Crane Field, where the decisive battle takes place.
Hurry. If you’re late, then we won’t be able to cope with the enemy and our country will
perish.”
Yes, while the war was going on in the Country of Frozen Time, Drool could not
leave it. He was in the service of the Sovereign and therefore hastened to carry out her
order. He flew back to Roseblan, entered the cave where Voidrag lived, woke it up, and
flew to Crane field at the most crucial moment, when the Black Queen’s dead soldiers
went on the attack. They were on time. Voidrag dispersed the black clouds over the
battlefield, and the stream of sunrays flooding it destroyed the dead army. Then Angusta
herself was defeated. The black krulii, released by the Sovereign from those mirrors that
were supposed to kill her, devoured the Black Queen. The war was over.
Drool met Arian, who had managed to get out of Mortavia, and told him that Chris
had flown to the Big World to help the Prince of the White Tower.
“I must be with him!” the prince’s son exclaimed.
“Then sit on the white dragon and fly to him and new friends,” Drool said. “There
will be a battle no less important, and your help is also necessary.” Arian sat down on
Voidrag and flew off to the Big World.
You were certainly surprised. After all, it was Drool who had to fly on the white
dragon. Why did he stay behind?
Here is the conversation that took place between Drool and the white dragon
Voidrag when they flew to Crane Field. Drool understood dragon language perfectly,
which was one of the first things he had learned when he was still a troll. He first told
the dragon what had happened and where they were flying to.
“Uh-huh,” Voidrag sighed. “So, the Black Queen is free after all. Alright, we’ll give
her a bashing.”
Then Drool told him that they must fly to the Big World to help the Prince of the
White Tower and his friends.
“Yes, I know about that,” the dragon said. “I knew that I’ll even meet those
wonderful children, the girl Kate and the boy Gene. Only I’ll fly there without you.”
Drool, in surprise, almost fell from the saddle on which he sat. “What are you
saying?” he exclaimed indignantly.
“That I’ll fly to the Big World is written in my Book of Destiny,” Voidrag replied.
“But it’s written that it won’t be a former troll named Drool guiding me there. It’ll be a
different one.”
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25

“Who?”
“It’ll be a prince’s son, a boy with green hair. That’s what’s written in my Book of
Destiny.”
Drool did not answer him. He knew that you do not argue with a dragon. Once it is
so written in the dragon’s book, then so it will be. These dragons are incredibly stubborn
and it is impossible to convince them of anything.
After they flew to the scene and did their job, Drool immediately ran to the Fairy of
Eternal Youth and complained to her about Voidrag. She just smiled sadly.
“You know dragons,” she said. “He won’t take you to the Big World for anything, since it
isn’t in his book. You will have to send Arian with him. He completely fits Voidrag: a
prince’s son, moreover with green hair.”
“But me?” Drool nearly burst into tears. He had such a pitiful look that even the
Fairy could not stand it and began to comfort him and stroke him on the head like a
little child. Finally, she gave him candy. Drool looked at her and started bawling loudly.
But he did not do it for long, because he remembered White Beard’s words.
“So I have to get to the Big World on my own?”
“I’m very sorry,” the Fairy shook her head.
“Alright, since I have such a fate, it makes no sense to defy it. For the sake of my
friends, I’ll do anything and I’ll find the Golden Spider and its web.”
“You’re the best friend in the world,” the Fairy said.
“Really?” No trace of tears remained on Drool.
“Of course.”
“Then I’ll set off for the Bewitched Forest today to search for the White Crystal
cave.”
“But you must talk to Arian before that,” the Sovereign reminded him. “The boy
has shown to be worthy of your company.”
That is the reason Drool sent Arian instead of himself on the white dragon to the
Big World.

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26

Chapter Three
FIRST MEETING WITH THE HOSKINGS

Gene’s tasks were done. Knight Caterino’s sword and Voidrag were sent to him
with faithful friends. The messengers were already on their way. Now Drool had to see
about himself. He got the most arduous road to the Big World – through the Bewitched
Forest. Truth be told, the Bewitched Forest was the most dangerous for people. Drool
was not a person, and besides, he possessed a high level of magic skills, therefore there
was nothing for him to fear. All the difficulty consisted only of the search for the Golden
Spider: searching for it in the Bewitched Forest is the same as searching for a needle in a
haystack. There was very little hope of a successful outcome. But Drool believed that he
would find the web of the Golden Spider. With all his heart he felt that he was necessary
to his friends there, in the Big World, where they were fighting against villains and dark
forces.
The shortest path to the Bewitched Forest would take a person a month even on
the fastest horse. The crane carriage was busy. It was carrying the Fairy of Eternal Youth
to the Capital.
Drool decided to use the railway of the Secret Republic of trolls. It was dangerous.
Drool wanted least of all in the world to meet his former troll brethren. He did not care
much about relatives and acquaintances. And the railway was simply swarming with
trolls at this time of year: the season of holidays and trips to the south, where trolls
basked in the sun and swam in salt and sulfur lakes. But he also did not want to lose a
whole month on the road. He could not wait to get to the Bewitched Forest quickly and
start searching. He decided to take a chance.
Drool left the human camp and went west. There, in a day’s journey, hidden from
human and other gazes, was one of the stations of the secret railway, abbreviated SR.
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27

This happened exactly on the day when the Great Assembly of trolls took place in
Camelbrook’s caves. But Drool did not know anything about it or its decision.
Early in the morning, when everyone except the sentries were still asleep, he sat
down on his favorite pony named Larissa, which Gene had given him as a gift, and set
out on his way. The hoofs clattered loudly on the hard rocky ground, birds were singing
in the trees, the sun was shining brightly, and Drool sat proudly in the saddle and
pondered where the cave where the Golden Spider lived was located.
Towards evening he reached the place he needed and stopped for the night. He did
not hurry to use the railway. It was the liveliest at night and it was easy to meet some
trolls. Drool built a small bonfire, cooked dinner, ate, fed Larissa, and went to bed,
covered by a warm plaid blanket, which the Fairy of Eternal Youth had given him. This
blanket was not afraid of dampness, fire, dust, or moth. There was nothing better than it
on the road. Drool always dreamed of using it. And now it came in handy.
The night passed without incident. In the morning, as soon as it was light, Drool
took a blue hiking outfit out of his backpack and put it on. Then he led Larissa by the
bridle to a large moss-covered stone. He stopped near the stone, stamped his foot and
clapped his hands three times, and uttered,

“Chufyr, Chufyr, golden sprocket!


Chufyr, Chufyr, woods behind a forest.
Now, stone, move away,
And abaft you stay!”

After these words, the stone began to sink into the ground smoothly and
noiselessly. In its place was the entrance to the underground. The pony did not like this
much but she loved and respected her master, trusted him in everything, and therefore
obediently followed him. She did not resist even when they were deep underground in a
narrow and low tunnel. Along the tunnel were alcoves dug in the earth, and small mine
carts stood in these alcoves. Drool loaded Larisa into one of these carts and tied her to
the copper railing. Then he took a piece of sugar out of his pocket for the pony.
“Don’t be afraid. It’s just a train,” he said. And Larissa was calm, as if she had spent
all her life on the troll railway and there was nothing outlandish about it.
Drool sat on the driver’s seat and took up the control levers. He had to work hard
to move the mine cart from its place. It worked like a handcar from the movement of
levers, which had to be pushed by hand. The cart pulled out onto the main track and
went faster, and then the track went downhill and there was no need to push the levers.
The cart picked up speed with every second. Soon Drool and Larissa were sweeping
along the dark tunnels so quickly that only the wind was whistling in their ears. The
track first went down, then up, and the cart, after gaining momentum during the
descent, easily climbed upwards, and when it already seemed about to stop and roll
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28

backwards, the track again went down sharply, and they were flying and again gaining
dizzying speed.
Drool sat in the driver’s seat and looked forward attentively. The cart had two
lanterns in front illuminating the track with a pale blue light. A crossroad showed up
ahead. Drool pressed the brakes, reducing the speed. He had to choose a way among
four tunnels going in different directions. He had no map and had to strain his memory
to remember the railway plan, which every troll had to learn by heart. Drool knew the
plan poorly because he was too young, and now had to work hard to make the right
choice.
The day passed this way. More than half the distance was behind them, but it was
necessary to get out to the surface, because the sounds of mine carts were already heard
rushing from the adjacent tunnels. The trolls were coming out foraging. Drool reached
the nearest station and went out into the fresh air. Larissa neighed happily, because she
was very tired of breathing the underground stench.
“It’s alright, Larissa, be patient. A little more left,” Drool soothed her.
The next morning they went down and sat in the same mine cart again. No one had
made use of it during the night. It was a good sign. So there were no trolls nearby.
Maybe everything would work out and he would reach his destination safely? He even
began to whistle songs, when suddenly a cart filled with trolls rushed right past him
along one of the crossroads. They swept past, but very quickly, literally flew by. Drool
even did not manage to make them out and thought that perhaps they also did not have
time to notice him. However, just in case, he took the levers and increased speed. The
cart rolled faster and then literally dived down. Larissa neighed uneasily.
Drool looked around and his heart sank. However, it was not because he was going
too fast. No. He saw a blue light racing behind him in the distance. The trolls had
noticed him after all. Had they really recognized him and decided to talk to him? Adult
trolls, if they were from other families, liked most of all to hurt and rob kids such as him.
They would take away everything he had: the magic blanket and Larissa. And even beat
him properly.
Drool leaned on the levers with all his strength so that the air was literally buzzing.
Speed increased with every second. Drool made a sharp turn and swerved, not slowing
down, into the right tunnel. The cart almost rolled over. Larissa neighed loudly and
Drool almost flew out onto the track, but he held on and again began to press down hard
on the levers. He looked back. Darkness was behind. Drool sighed with relief. It seemed
he had dodged the bullet.
A minute later Drool looked back and almost burst into tears from distress. The
blue light was behind his cart again and becoming bigger and bigger. They were catching
up to him.

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29

The cart of the court wizard of the Sovereign of the Country of Frozen Time was
sweeping so fast that sparks flew from under the wheels. Drool no longer applied the
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30

brakes at all and reached a fantastic speed. One wrong move on his part and there would
be a terrible accident. With great difficulty, Drool managed to escape the chase this time.
He again dived into a tunnel on the left, and then right, and the noise behind him
stopped. However, it was still too early to rejoice. Drool continued to press on the levers
and looked back constantly.
It seemed no one was pursuing anymore. Drool took a deep breath. Here his cart
jumped out onto a wide path, where four railroad tracks traversed. He barely had time
to direct his transport to the desired route when suddenly, a mine cart with trolls
jumped out onto the neighboring rails. They were shouting, whistling, and swinging
their arms. Seeing them, Drool trembled with terror. The matter was much more
dangerous than simply meeting adult trolls. Drool recognized them.
These were the Hoskings: Kurukul, Burdiuk, Larek and Horek, and Vrul – in full
force. It would have been better if these were other trolls, even from the most hostile
families. But these were the Hoskings. And they also recognized Drool. So, it turned out
this was why they were chasing after him so persistently!
“Drool, you filthy dog!” Kurukul shouted. “Come on, slow down. We need to talk to
you about something.”
“I have nothing to say to you!” Drool yelled in reply. “Now I have nothing in
common with you!” He pressed on the levers with all his strength, trying to break away
from his pursuers.
“But we have a deal for you, pal!” the Hoskings shouted. They also leaned on the
levers and quickly came alongside Drool’s cart. Good that the distance between them
was not small, otherwise they would simply jump into Drool’s, and his only-just-begun
journey would end on this.
Then Drool’s tracks went down steeply, and he raced ahead. The trolls screamed in
anger and set off in pursuit.
“All the same you won’t get away from us!” they yelled. “Better give up!”
“I don’t think so.” The last thing Drool wanted was to return to his former family.
His arms were already unbearably sore from the levers. His ears were plugged up from
the screech of the wheels. It was bright in the tunnel from the fountains of spray, which
flew from under them on the rails.
Drool again made a sharp turn to the left and nearly went off the rails; his cart even
threw itself sideways and travelled in this position for a while, threatening to roll over.
Miraculously maintaining balance and putting it back in place, Drool saved his own life
and Larissa’s, and continued the mad race.
The Hoskings were heard behind him again. There was simply nowhere to get away
from them. They obviously knew all the tunnels very well and each time they unerringly
found Drool. Sweet Tooth almost cried. He could not, simply had no right to fall into
their hands. Then he would certainly not get to the Big World, where his friends were
waiting.
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31

The chase lasted another half an hour. A hellish roar was all over the troll railway.
No matter how much Drool swerved, venturing on the most risky manoeuvre, it was
impossible for him to compete with the Hoskings. Each time they overtook him and
shouted for him to stop. At the same time, they cursed terribly and threatened him with
the most horrendous punishments. Drool, of course, did not listen to them.
Once, Burdiuk almost hopped into his cart. Fortunately, he missed, being just one
tenth of a second late, and fell onto the tracks. Drool heard his wild howl and looked
around. The Hoskings fell far behind him. They stopped to pick up Burdiuk and gave
him a good bashing for not carrying out Kurukul’s orders properly.
Drool dived into another solitary tunnel. He no longer had any strength left, and
the poor fellow simply threw himself onto the seat, unable to move either arm or leg.
The cart was racing at a frenzied speed. Drool did not even know in which direction he
was going.
“Perhaps it was a mistake to use the underground,” he admitted to himself. “But
who knew that I would meet precisely them?”
After several incredibly steep descents and smooth ascents, Drool’s cart had gained
so much speed that no brakes could stop it now. Even when the path had leveled off and
went along a straight and smooth track, it was racing like a rocket.
Drool opened his eyes and felt goose bumps running down his back. Ahead, still
very far away, a light glowed. But it was approaching with every second. Drool’s sharp
eyes quickly discerned the Hoskings. Of course, it was them again. But now they were
rushing towards him, and since there was only one track, it meant that the meeting lying
ahead was to be very fast and “warm”.
Drool realized that they would now crash into each other and mentally said
goodbye to Kate, Chris, and Gene. What a pity, he thought, that he would never see them
again.
Two seconds passed.
The Hoskings in front roared like crazy. Apparently they did not particularly like to
meet Drool this way. Kurukul was controlling their cart. He sharply turned the steering
lever fully to the right...
Drool saw how the cart, rushing forward, suddenly turned aside literally a few
metres from him, went off the rails, jumped up, and turned over in the air with a terrible
rumble.
Drool rushed past and looked back. He managed to notice how the trolls, his
former relatives, rained down like peas from the flying cart. Then they were left far
behind, and Drool only heard terrible swearing and cursing in his direction. Then
everything subsided. Only the wheels of his cart were banging furiously.
The Hoskings were lying unconscious for almost an hour in the dark tunnel.
Kurukul was the first to recover. He groaned and struggled to his feet. All his bones were

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32

intact. What would happen to an adult troll? They had not been in such a situation
before!
“Cursed Drool!” The senior Hoskings swore and trudged to gather his team. He
unceremoniously approached the trolls and brought them around with a strong kick in
the side. The trolls gasped and opened their eyes, then they began to swear loudly and
outrageously and curse everything under the sun.
“Line up!” Kurukul ordered.
Groaning and moaning with each movement, the trolls struggled to line up before
their commander. They were a miserable sight: smeared with earth, all in bruises and
lumps with dislocated limbs and broken jaws. They could not even stand up normally.
They staggered, and Vrul even fell to the ground and received a kick from everyone for it.
Kurukul looked at them and spat. “From this moment, Drool’s torture before
dissolving in dead water will increase a hundredfold,” he said. “For every one of our
bruises, he must get from us a hundred of these bruises and bumps.”
“Hear, hear, Kurukul!” the Hoskings shouted with their last strength. The shout
took all their strength and they fell onto the rails like pins hit by a ball.

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33

Chapter Four
THE EAGLE-OWL NASTRADAMUS AND THE BEWITCHED PALACE

Drool made sure that nothing threatened him and no one was after him. He
decided not to take any more risks all the same and went above ground. It was
dangerous to travel further underground: they had probably started hunting for him.
Besides, he had quite lost his way and simply had no idea where and in what place of the
Country of Frozen Time he and Larissa were.
He untied the pony from the mine cart railing and helped her off onto firm ground.
Then they climbed up and, tired, fell onto the grass. It was already evening. Drool
looked around and saw that they were in a forest. From the first glance, he realized what
forest this was. The trees were huge, several times higher than usual. The leaves on them
were the size of a large burdock, ones that could replace an umbrella.
It was the forest where the elves lived. Drool was in the Elf Kingdom and this
gladdened him, because it was a stone’s throw from here to the Bewitched Forest. One
only needed to cross the Great Marshes and one would be among goblins, robbers, and
sorcerers. Drool was not afraid of any of them. Those from whom he escaped were much
more dangerous for him.
He and Larissa were very tired, but Drool did not allow them to rest too long. It
was necessary to hurry away from the station of the underground road. The trolls would
appear any minute and Drool had no desire to meet them again. He sat on Larissa and
directed it to the south. Wherever they were, the Bewitched Forest was to the south of
the Elf Kingdom.

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34

Night came quickly and unexpectedly. Darkness was even more mysterious among
the giant trees than in an ordinary forest, and Drool and Larissa tried to make as few
sounds as possible.
As time went on, Drool began to wonder. They had already travelled for so long but
they had not met a single elf. This was very unusual. After all, at night the elf forest was
always teeming with elves. And the elves themselves watched their territory very
zealously and allowed no one to walk through it for too long. Drool had visited the Elf
King many times and quickly began to recall familiar places. Soon the palace of the
forest ruler was to appear, but still not a single elf had fallen in his path. His heart
became uneasy. It was all too unusual.
It had become so dark that Drool could not even see the road and it was simply
dangerous to travel. Larissa could easily fall into a pit and break her legs. Drool
dismounted and called a halt. He did not build a fire. He nibbled on sweet crackers,
which he took out of his hiking bag, shared them with Larissa, drank lemonade from a
flask, and settled for the night.
Just in case (they were in an unfamiliar forest at night after all), Drool created an
invisible protective barrier around himself and Larissa. To do this, he just drew a circle
around himself and recited a little poem:

Oh, my magic sphere,


I’m your best pal, remember.
Protect me from darkness,
Fight and bad weather,
From water and fire,
Protect me, I desire!

After that, he calmly lay down to sleep. He was not afraid that someone would
attack him. Even if there was any danger, he would sense it in advance.
He woke up at night, because he felt as if someone was nudging him in the side.
Drool looked around. Larissa was sleeping peacefully standing, snoring in dream. The
wizard knew that he had been woken by the magic circle. He was alarmed and listened.
Had the trolls really discovered him here? No, to all appearances, these were not trolls.
In any case, they would not be so noisy.
The crackling of broken branches and the noise of leaves sounded among the trees.
Drool peered into the darkness and saw a huge, simply gigantic crow chasing a bird,
small compared to it. The bird fluttered among the trees, trying to escape the pursuit,
but the crow was chasing it, striving to attack it with its huge sharp beak.
Drool was astounded. Never in the Elf Kingdom were found such birds or other
creatures which would prey on the helpless. Giant creatures certainly always lived here,
but they were all peaceful and harmless. And the crow was the size of a large dog. The
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35

hunted bird was either an owl or an eagle-owl. The famous forest predator now suddenly
found itself in the role of the victim of a more powerful hunter.
All the same, Drool suddenly started to pity it very much. He waved his hands and
in a whisper called it to his circle. It saw his signals and immediately took advantage of
the invitation and almost fell into Drool’s hands.
The giant crow rushed after it, but, as if it hit an invisible wall, cawed angrily, and
flew backwards. Drool’s magic circle did not let it pass. The predator circled awhile
around Drool, Larissa, and the bird, its eyes burning with an ominous fire, but soon it
obviously understood that its victim had become inaccessible to it, cawed angrily one
last time, and flew away.
The bird, which was sitting in Drool’s hands all this time and clinging to him in
horror, sighed with relief. Drool looked at it more closely. It was an eagle-owl, an old,
ruffled eagle-owl with eyes as huge as plates.
When the danger had passed, the eagle-owl gurgled gratefully, “Thank you, Drool.
You saved me from death.”
Drool was very surprised. “How do you know my name?”
“Why, we met a couple of years ago, when you, together with Knight Caterino,
stopped to rest under my tree. You don’t remember?”
“I remember!” Drool exclaimed. “Then you treated us to a hare. So it’s you, pal?”
“It’s me.”
“And how did you turn up here?”
“I flew to visit my nephew, and on the way back I met this terrible monster. What
luck that you turned out to be nearby. And I had already said goodbye to life and kin. I
never thought that a strange crow could catch me, eagle-owl Nastradamus, like some
sparrow. What am I, really!”
“Don’t be upset,” Drool soothed the eagle-owl. “Something strange is going on with
this forest. What did you say your name is?”
“Nastradamus, at your service,” the eagle-owl said and bowed.
“What an amazing name,” Drool showed delight. “It’s immediately obvious that it
doesn’t belong to a simple bird.”
“That’s for sure,” Nastradamus agreed. “You can say that I earned this name
through years of hardship and misfortune. I have suffered so much in this life, suffered
so much! That’s why they called me Nastradamus.1 And this meeting with the giant crow
is the best proof of that. Really, isn’t this misfortune? Not only that lightning struck my
tree and burned it to the ground, leaving me without a home, without shelter, without a
native hollow, not only that my beloved nephew asked me to leave his nest: you see, his
wife disliked me because I said that she was a bad nest hostess. But indeed it is so. And
they kicked me, an old man, out onto the street in bad weather. But I carried him while

1 Nastradamus comes from the Russian verb nastradat’cia – to experience a lot of suffering in life.
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36

still an egg on these wings. And now, to add to all my troubles I almost got eaten. Well,
the logical end. Now do you see how much I’ve suffered?” Two big tears escaped
Nastradamus’ round eyes, which he proudly brushed off with a wing.
Drool began to soothe him. “It doesn’t matter. Everything will be fine. I’m now
going to the Elf King’s palace. Come with me. There are wonderful attics in the palace.
I’ll ask His Majesty to let you settle in one of them. I don’t think he will refuse.”
The eagle-owl was so touched that he could not even find words of gratitude, and
when Drool treated him to a sweet cracker, he almost burst into tears. “How hard it is to
find someone in this world who would simply pity an old man, would say at least one
kind word! I don’t need anything else!” he sobbed.
“Come on, you,” Drool was even embarrassed. “You once sheltered Kate and me
under your tree, and even fed us a hare. You really forget this? We must help each other.”
In the morning, the three of them: Drool, the pony Larissa, and the eagle-owl
Nastradamus, travelled together to the Elf King’s palace. Nastradamus chattered all the
way about Drool’s nobility and his nephew’s ingratitude. He turned out to be a rather
boring old man, but Drool only chuckled. His chatter did not annoy Drool at all. On the
contrary, now he did not feel so alone in the uninhabited forest.
Very soon the trees parted before the travellers and they found themselves in a
beautiful clearing, in the centre of which towered the magnificent palace of the Elf King.
And now Drool did not stop wondering. “Strange business. Not a single living being here!
Where did all the elves go? What happened here? Maybe they went on some holiday or
hunt? But indeed, there aren’t even guards at the gate. This has never happened.”
In complete perplexity, they approached the exquisite golden gates. They were
open and squeaked forlornly in the wind. Drool became scared. “I have a feeling that a
tragedy has happened here,” he said, and, just in case, took a small sword out from his
belt.
They went through the gates and found themselves in the palace courtyard. And
then a surprised exclamation escaped Drool. “I don’t understand a thing!”
The whole courtyard was packed with elves of all ages: men and women, boys and
girls. The elves seemed to be playing the freeze-in-place game. All of them were very
similar to people, only they differed in exceptional elegance and grace, tall in height, and
radiant youth. In bright light tunics of blue, white, green, yellow, or orange, they had
gold, red, or copper hair and cornflower blue eyes. Some elves had wings, transparent
like those of dragonflies, behind their backs. They could have them on or, if necessary,
leave them at home. They certainly could not fly far on these wings, but quite possibly
from tree to tree and even over them. Usually the elf palace resembled a beehive, such a
busy life in it. But now it looked like a masterfully painted picture.
“Strange creatures, these elves,” Nastradamus immediately spoke out about what
was going on. “You’ll never understand what they’re doing.”

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“No, Nastradamus,” Drool scratched behind his ear. “They’re simply bewitched. I
feel that they’ve all been exposed to a powerful spell. And who’s this great wizard who
was able to bewitch so many elves? You indeed know that even very powerful sorcerers
can’t do anything bad to elves.”
“So, there was,” the owl immediately replied. “Here, when I was still an
inexperienced chick, I had an older brother. He thought that we all should obey him in
the nest when mama wasn’t there. And if something wasn’t his way, he immediately got
into a fight. He was such a bully. So what happened? Once a weasel climbed up to our
hollow and snapped his neck. Why? Because he slept by the very door. He was breathing
fresh air all the time. Ever since, I never sleep close to the door. Well, him, fresh air.
Yup-yup!”
They passed through the courtyard and entered the palace. It was the same here.
Everywhere were frozen elves. They did not move from their place and looked pitifully at
Drool, as if begging him to help them.
But most of the elves were in the main hall, where they always held feasts and balls,
and there stood the thrones of the king and the queen. And the rulers of the forest
themselves sat in their seats and were also motionless. Silently, they surveyed their
subjects. Evidently, the elves had been feasting and having fun as always when
someone’s evil magic overtook them.
Drool was still sitting in the saddle, because he was so stunned by what he saw that
he did not even think of dismounting. Finally, realizing that it was impolite to be on
horseback in the elf palace, he descended to the ground.
Nastradamus, who had been sitting on his shoulder all this time, took off and made
several circles above the elves, and then came back. “A rueful place,” he grumbled. “I
don’t even know how I’ll live here. Here you’ll die of boredom and anguish.”
“They were bewitched quite recently,” Drool muttered. "Yesterday or, at the most,
the day before yesterday.”
“How do you know?” the owl was surprised. “What, are you psychic? I, for example,
can predict the future. My father was a servant of a wizard and knew something.”
“Look around. See how clean everything is? If they had been bewitched long ago,
everything would have already been covered with dust and cobwebs.”
The eagle-owl was impressed by this answer. “You’re almost as wise as I am,” he
admired.
“Thanks.” Drool was flattered.
“So what shall we do?” Nastradamus asked importantly. “Perhaps, have a bite so
that the brain works better? Look how much is on the tables here.”
Drool looked at the elf tables covered with dishes and shook his head in doubt.
“What if we try something and we also freeze in place?”
The eagle-owl, already holding a cookie in his paw and ready to send it to his beak,
pondered. “Perhaps we should test it on your horse?” he suggested.
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“Indeed, no! Let’s first examine the whole palace.”


Nastradamus regretfully put the cookie back on the table and scowled
discontentedly. “What’s to see here? We’ll only lose time. And the food can spoil,” the
eagle-owl grumbled. All the same, he did not leave Drool’s shoulder. After meeting with
the giant crow, he felt safe on it.

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40

Chapter Five
THE PUNISHED PRINCESS GALIANKA AND HER STORY

They went around the whole palace but did not see anything that could clarify the
situation. All the rooms and halls had one and the same thing: frozen elves and no one
else.
Nastradamus grew a bit bolder and began to fly, looking curiously into every
corner. Nothing eluded his inquisitive gaze. But even he could not tell Drool anything
interesting. Sweet Tooth was perplexed and did not know what to do at all. Should he
leave the palace of the Elf King and continue on his journey, or stay here and try to save
the miserable elves somehow? However, his conscience did not allow him to leave the
palace. He could not leave the kind forest folk in distress, but, on the other hand,
intuition suggested to him that he most likely could not help them either. The magic was
too powerful. It was clearly beyond Drool’s power. The little wizard was in a dilemma.
Then Nastradamus flew to him. He cleaned his wing with his beak and asked
nonchalantly, “Well, have we kind of looked at everything? Shall we do the attics now?”
“What attics?” Drool did not immediately understand what he was talking about.
“What do you mean by ‘what’? You told me that I’ll live in the attic. Let’s search for
a suitable one.”
“Aren’t you ashamed, Nastradamus?” Drool tried to reproach him. “Here’s such
misery, and you think of an attic.”
“Where do you see misery?” the eagle-owl was indignant. “Someone made these
idle elves stand on the spot a little bit and not fuss. Nothing’s wrong with that. No one
set fire to their home, and no one drove them out onto the street. They simply don’t
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41

know what real trouble is. But who will pity me, miserable and orphaned? Uh-huh! Poor
miserable me! Obviously I’ll remain without my own corner.”
Drool sighed. “Well, since you think like that, then let’s go find you a loft.”
Nastradamus apparently felt ashamed and immediately began to justify himself.
“Of course, I’m also very sorry for the elves. I don’t even know if I can live beside them,
so lifeless and bewitched.” However, he was still flying in front of Drool, looking for the
door to the attic, and his eyes were burning with impatience and curiosity.
“It seems this is it!” he suddenly declared excitedly near one of the doors. “I’m sure
of it. There’s a pigeon smell coming from there. Clearly it’s an attic. Pigeons always live
in attics.”
“I hope your proximity won’t be a burden to them,” Drool said anxiously.
“Of course not! We’ll be wonderful neighbours. Kind and amicable.”
Nastradamus gurgled for some time, and his eyes were sparkling so covetously that
Drool immediately doubted his words. He opened the door timidly and went to the attic.
The eagle-owl prudently stayed behind him. Drool even thought that his new friend was
slightly cowardly. But he did not say it aloud because he did not want to insult the poor
bird.
The dark and long attic smelled strongly of dust, and there were a lot of old things,
furniture, boxes, and chests.
“Yup-yup! What a beautiful place!” Nastradamus took off under the roof and began
to survey the attic from above. “It’s a real owl palace. My former nest was simply a poor
man’s shed in comparison. Thank you, Drool. A great place to live. And what’s that there
by that pipe? Seems like an old cupboard. Now I’ll live in it.” After lifting clouds of dust
and bringing down walls of cobwebs, he darted like a bullet into the darkness. His
delighted shrieks came from there a few seconds later. Then suddenly everything went
quiet.
Drool, carefully stepping among the old junk, walked in the direction that
Nastradamus had flown. Suddenly there was a loud rustle of wings, and the old eagle-
owl almost smashed into him. His feathers stood on end, and there was horror in his
incredibly huge eyes.
“There’s someone there!” he whispered, shaking with fear. “There’s someone in my
cupboard! It’s probably a ghost. Terrible sounds! What a disappointment! And I so liked
this cupboard. Such pleasant smells. Why am I so unlucky? Such a sufferer and martyr?
Why does fate punish me so severely? A little corner, where I wanted to end my old age,
is swarming with ghosts!”
“Come, we’ll look at your cupboard.” Drool was not afraid of ghosts and bravely
went to where the eagle-owl had come from.
“Don’t go there!” Nastradamus yelled. “They’ll eat you, and then how will I return?”
But Drool did not listen to him.

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Nastradamus first flew in place, then looked around, saw an old discarded stuffed
wolf, got scared, and flew after Drool.
After ten steps, Drool indeed also heard unclear, muffled sounds. He stopped and
listened. Behind him Nastradamus was muttering and grunting something. The sounds
really came from the cupboard, old, huge, and slightly ominous.
“Oh, we better turn back,” the eagle-owl continued to wail. “We better turn back.”
Drool thought that if there was something really dangerous in the cupboard, then it
would certainly have already attacked them long ago, and since this was not so, then it
was not worth being afraid. He went forward again. After a few steps, the sounds
became clear and distinct, and Drool began to guess what they indicated. When he was
in front of the cupboard, all his doubts disappeared.
Someone was crying in the cupboard. The sounds were nothing other than real
sobbing. And it clearly was not an adult. It was a child crying.
When Drool realized this, he ran to the cupboard door and tried to open it. It
turned out not to be easy. The door did not want to open. It was locked, and not just
with a lock but a magic spell. Then the wizard remembered a couple of opening spells
and instantly opened the door. After all, this was not the door of a treasure cave but only
the door of an old cupboard.
When the cupboard was open, a little girl-elf came out of it crying. If she was just a
girl, she would have been nine, but since she was an elf, she was thirty years old.
However, all the same she was a real child. An elf child. That is, in human terms, she
was no more than nine years old. The girl was incredibly pretty and sweet, although
fairly grimy. Drool recognized her at once. This was the only daughter of the Elf King
and Queen, Princess Galianka.
The princess climbed out of the cupboard, saw Drool, and also recognized him. She
cried even louder and threw herself at him. Drool hugged her and began to calm her
down. He saw that she was very exhausted and also very scared of something. For a long
time nothing could be gotten out of her. The girl cried and could not utter a word. Drool
could not calm her down.
“Really, is this how to soothe little girls?” Nastradamus intervened. “Have to teach
all you young people.” He flew to Princess Galianka and started to squeal loudly, “Gu-lu,
gu-gulu! Ala-la! Gu-lu, gu-gulu, ala-la! And who’s this crying so loudly? Ai-yai-yai, what
a cry-baby chick! Cry-baby, shoe polish, on the nose a hot fish!” On seeing and hearing
this, the girl really stopped crying and stared at the eagle-owl.
Nastradamus immediately puffed up with importance and pride and said, “Here’s a
smart girl! Will you come to Uncle Nastradamus’ wings? Do you see how she listens to
me? I often rocked my nephew’s chicks. Now we need to find her a soother somewhere
and give her milk. Or maybe you want me to catch you a mouse?”

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43

Now a smile appeared on the girl’s face. “Why do I need a soother?” she asked. “I'm
not a baby, are you? It’s been ten years since I learned how to fly. And I don’t need a
mouse either!”
“You can fly?” Nastradamus was impressed. “What things are going on in the world?
Little girls know how to fly, and giant crows attack honest old eagle-owls! Miracles!”
“Let’s go down to the palace and figure everything out there,” Drool suggested.
“Come on, come on,” Galianka rejoiced. “This attic, it’s so awful, so dusty. I’ll never
come here again. Look at what my dress has turned into. Oh, how I’ll get it from Papa
and Mama!”
“You really don’t know what has happened in the palace?” Drool asked her.
“No.”
“Then let’s hurry from here.”
They descended from the attic to the third floor of the palace.
When Galianka saw the frozen elves, she did not understand anything and was
very surprised. “What’s wrong with them?” she asked Drool.
“I don’t know for sure,” he replied, “but it seems they’ve all been bewitched.”
“Bewitched?” The girl's eyes were instantly filled with tears. “Who bewitched them
and why? And my papa and mama? Where are they?” Drool could not answer, as she
ran to the banquet hall.
“Poor girl,” Drool said. “Let’s go after her. Now she’ll need to be calmed again.”
“Poor little bird,” Nastradamus pitied Galianka.
They hurried after the princess. They found her at the throne of her parents, where
she was in a flood of tears, alternately hugging first the king, then the queen.
“It’s all my fault!” she sobbed as Drool gently took her hand. “Because of me, our
whole kingdom is in trouble.”
She continued to cry aloud and ask her parents for forgiveness for disobeying them.
The king and queen looked at her with kind, tired eyes, but could not move. It was
obvious that they could both hear and see her, but they could not answer anything. In
their eyes were pain and suffering. The princess tried to rouse them, but she could not,
and began to cry again and ask for forgiveness for something.
“Why do you ask for their forgiveness?” Nastradamus asked the girl. “And what’s
your fault?”
“Yes,” Drool supported the eagle-owl. “You must tell us everything. Maybe we can
help you with something. Start with how you turned up in the attic and why you sat in
the cupboard.”
Galianka sobbed loudly and wiped her tears with her hand. “I’ll tell you everything.”
Then she looked at her parents again and began to cry again.
“Uh,” Nastradamus splashed his wings in annoyance, “you won’t tell us anything
properly here. Let’s get out of here to some corner without elves, where you’ll tell us
everything quietly.”
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44

It was a wise decision. Galianka invited the two friends to her playroom. They did
not object. The princess invited them to sit in armchairs, then she washed herself in a
fountain, into which the dew from rose petals flowed instead of water, and changed
behind a pretty screen, from where she came out in a new short blue dress with puff
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45

sleeves and a golden belt at the waist. She had golden sandals on her feet and a small
dainty crown on her head. Her long golden hair was neatly coiffed, her face rosy, and her
eyes, blue like the sky on a sunny day, glistened with recent tears.
“I can’t look untidy, whatever happens,” she sighed. “I’m a princess. Well, now
hear what happened in our kingdom.” She sobbed and began to talk.
Exactly the day before Drool and Nastradamus came to the Elf Kingdom, a rather
bad incident had befallen Princess Galianka. Actually, she was an obedient girl and
rarely gave her parents trouble, teachers never complained about her, and friends did
not quarrel with her.
However, it was precisely on that day the feast for her thirtieth birthday was
designated, and she was to be solemnly transferred from the category of children to the
group of adolescents, and all this occurred. The day before, she had successfully passed
all the exams, proved that she knew how to count and write quite well, and even
performed a little magic – she turned an old dried bush into a rose bouquet. On the
whole, everything was fine. Galianka flew around the palace, laughing and singing in
happiness. Now she felt an urge to fly to the old closet, into which her old toys had been
taken. Galianka just remembered that she had not said goodbye to her beloved doll
Emma. It was accepted for elves, saying goodbye to their childhood, to throw out toys
and part with them without pity. Probably because of this custom, there was the rumour
of fickleness of elves. But Galianka was very fond of Emma and she suddenly became
sad. Not thinking for long, she flew on her wings to the closet and found her favorite doll.
Emma lay in a pile of broken toys and seemed very unhappy. Galianka almost burst into
tears when she saw it, grabbed the doll into her arms, and flew with it to her room.
“I’ll never part with you, poor Emmie!” she said to the doll. “And in order that no
one will laugh at us, I’ll hide you in a secret place.”
“Oh, aren’t you ashamed, my daughter!” the king-father exclaimed, seeing
Galianka in an embrace with a doll. “Don’t you know that elves who don’t want to part
with their toys remain children forever, and everyone will laugh at them? Now take this
doll back!”
Galianka blushed like a ripe tomato and plodded back to the closet. The king
watched her reproachfully from behind. The princess was so sorry to part with the doll
that she was even slightly angry with her father. “Why didn’t I manage to hide Emma
earlier?”
It must be told that this doll was given to her as a gift on her birthday by the king’s
cousin Zelfira, the fairy of the forest stream. Once she was very friendly with her relative,
but then they quarreled, and the fairy swore to take revenge on her cousin. They even
said that long ago she was in love with Galiiarad, the elf king, and she grieved very much
when he married Zolotinka, Galianka’s mother. Then, when they became enemies, King
Galiiarad even gave the order to send back all of Zelfira’s gifts. The order was executed.
Except that for some reason no one remembered the doll Emma.
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And now the doll Emma suddenly spoke to Galianka, who nearly dropped it from
surprise. “Dear princess,” said the doll. “Don’t throw me in the closet. Mice or rats there
will eat me.” If Galianka were acquainted with Aunt Zelfira, she would certainly have
recognized her voice, with which the doll Emma spoke. But, alas, she did not suspect
anything bad.
“Poor Emma!” the princess exclaimed. “What should I do? I can’t disobey my
father, but I also feel sorry for you.”
“Hide me in your parents’ bedroom,” the doll suggested. “There’s no way they’ll
find me there. Later, when they transfer you to the young people, you’ll fetch me again
and no one will know anything.”
Galianka was in a quandary. She did not want to deceive her parents, but the doll
looked at her so piteously and sorrowfully that she decided to help it. The princess
secretly made her way into the royal bedchamber and hid the doll Emma under her
parents’ bed. Then she returned to her room and suddenly found a small slipper at the
door.
“Poor Emma! She lost her slipper,” Galianka said to herself. “I must take it to her.”
The princess took the shoe and ran back to her parents’ bedroom.
She ran into the bedchamber and saw her favorite doll doing something by the
headboard. “Emma,” Galianka called it. The doll shuddered and turned. “Are you
looking for your slipper? It was left in my room. I’ve brought it.”
“Thank you,” the doll muttered. It jumped off the bed and went to the girl. “Give it
to me.” It took the slipper from the princess and started to put it on.
Here Galianka saw a silver key in its hands. “What’s that you have?”
“It’s the key to my casket,” the doll said.
“You have a casket?” the girl was surprised. “Why didn’t you show it to me?”
Before Emma managed to answer, the king and queen entered the room. The doll
immediately froze in place and became a normal toy.
“What are you doing here, Galianka?” The king was surprised. “And what’s this?”
He had noticed the doll. “Didn’t you listen to me and throw this doll away?”
King Galiiarad got angry very rarely, but now he became really angry. “Since you
didn’t listen to me, here’s my punishment for you. You’re not going to your ceremony of
initiation to elf-youth, rather you’ll sit in your room.”
No matter how Galianka asked her father and mother not to punish her so severely,
they were adamant. And so the princess trudged to her room.
“What unfair parents you have,” Emma said indignantly, when Galianka brought it
to her room. “Bully a poor girl this way. But don’t despair. The main thing is that you
didn’t throw me away. And for that I’ll show you my casket. But it isn’t here.”
“Where is it?”
“In the attic. In an iron trunk. It was discarded there when you were still tiny. Well,
will you go with me to the attic?”
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The princess was so angry with her father that she decided to spite him once more
by disobeying him. “I’ll go,” she said. “The ball will start and everyone will be downstairs,
but we’ll go to the attic.”
So she did. The festivities began and everyone went to have fun, but she and the
doll, cautiously, like thieves, began to make their way to the door leading to the attic.
Emma walked confidently along the palace hallways, although she had never been
anywhere other than the nursery, and quickly found the correct door. Galianka followed
her. She was no longer as confident as Emma, because she felt that she was not doing
the right thing. But she did not dare to retreat. She was ashamed to appear as a spineless
child before the doll.
And then they were in the attic. It was bright there, because fireflies and firedrakes,
which had lived there from the very beginning of the palace, were flying around in the
attic. The doll Emma quickly found with a glance the old iron trunk, which stood near an
old cupboard, and literally ran to it. Galianka followed her. She was curious all the same
to look at her doll’s casket.
“Open this trunk, please,” Emma asked. The princess took the key from her hands
and inserted it into the lock.
The lock immediately opened and the lid of the casket settled back. The girl
stretched her head out to see what was inside. But there was nothing in the casket. It
was empty. Only at its bottom lay a pile of black dust.
Suddenly this dust rose into the air and twirled like a black snake around Galianka.
“Oh, what’s this?” the princess screamed.
Everything around her suddenly became dark. The fireflies and firedrakes
suddenly faded and began to change, some into black cockroaches, and others into bats.
The black dust swirled around Galianka and flew out the very door through which they
had climbed into the attic.
“What was that?” Galianka, understanding nothing, asked the doll Emma.
The doll suddenly laughed disgustingly and nastily. “Stupid girl!” it said with a
laugh. “How soundly I’ve deceived you! How long I’ve waited for this moment to take
revenge on you useless and treacherous elves! And now this moment has come. Now the
end will come to your kingdom. Do you know who it is that you have released from this
casket?”
“Who?” The princess was bewildered and certainly very frightened. In the depths
of her soul, she understood that she had done something terrible.
“Lord of the Goblins! The worst enemy of all elves. Soon he will return and destroy
all of you. And now, goodbye, stupid princess. And wait for the guest. Soon he’ll come
for you! Meanwhile, he frolics in the palace, where your parents and friends are
celebrating! Ha-ha-ha!”

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With these words, the terrible laughing doll disappeared. A strong wind rose in the
attic, and Galianka did not have time to recover as an unknown force dragged her into
the old cupboard and locked the doors behind her.
The miserable girl sat in it for a very long time. She cried, slept, woke up, and cried
again. And then Drool pulled her out from there.

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49

Chapter Six
A FEW THINGS FROM ANCIENT ELFIN HISTORY

A long silence reigned after Galianka had finished her story. Drool, Nastradamus,
and Galianka sat and sighed for a while, pondering what had happened in the Elf
Kingdom.
Finally Drool said, turning to the princess, “You’re not guilty of anything. All to
blame is the combination of circumstances and the craftiness of your father’s enemies.
In order to help your people somehow, we need to learn more about this very goblin
ruler. I think I’ve heard something about him. Something from ancient elfin history. But
I don’t remember the details. Perhaps you know?”
“What?!” the princess waved her hands. “We still haven’t covered ancient history.
Only stories about the history of our kingdom. I’ve never heard of any goblin ruler.”
“Then we'll have to find out for ourselves,” Drool said. “Where’s your library here?”
“In the right wing.”
“Then lead us there.”
“Hey, maybe we should eat after all?” suggested Nastradamus. “I have such
rumbling in my belly that I’m ready to eat myself. Only what to start with, the wings or
the paws?”
Galianka laughed.
Drool agreed. “Yes, eating isn’t a bad thing. But we also can’t waste time. Let’s do
this. The princess and I go to the library, and you fly to the main hall, get food there, and
join us.”
So they did. The eagle-owl flew for food, and Drool and the girl went to the elves’
book depository.

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When they entered the hall where books and ancient documents were stored, an
admiring sigh escaped Drool. The elfin library was no less rich than the one in the White
Tower. And the famous five-hundred volume Elfinik Encyclopedia, which even the Fairy
of Eternal Youth did not have, was kept in the very central cabinet.
“Bring me the volume with the name index in it,” Drool asked, since, as is known,
there are no ladders in the elfin library like in ordinary library rooms, because they are
not needed. Elves always wear wings when they go into the reading room and flit among
the bookcases and shelves, like moths among the flowers.
Galianka thought about it. She was not a regular in the reading room, but she knew
where the dictionary was and flew to the highest shelf, which was under the ceiling. The
volume she pulled out of the dense rows of books turned out to be so big and heavy that
the girl nearly crashed onto the floor with it. Her wings could not cope with such a
weight. Drool managed to catch her in time.
“Thank you,” Galianka panted and shook book dust off her dress.
Drool opened the volume and began to quickly leaf through the pages. Soon he
found what he was looking for. “Here, Lord of the Goblins,” he said. “Look at
‘Martoduin’. Aha, I think I understand. Martoduin. Of course. He’s the lord of the
goblins! Why didn’t I guess earlier? I know about him very well. So we don’t even have
to search for a volume with the letter ‘M’.”
“Very good,” Galianka rejoiced. “But then I strained myself slightly from these
books. They are so heavy!”
Then Nastradamus flew in. He flew with difficulty just above the floor. He had in
his clutches a basket almost as large as himself with food from the festive table. “Yoo-
hoo! It’s me, and this food is mine!” he announced joyfully.
Then there was a clatter of hooves, and Larissa entered the library after the eagle-
owl. She was tired of being alone and found her riders.
When they began to eat, the eagle-owl asked Drool, “Well, did you find out
anything about this, what’s he called, lord of the goblins?”
“Yes. It’s Martoduin.”
“And who’s that?” Nastradamus asked.
“It’s a long and old story. You really don’t know it?”
“Of course not,” the eagle-owl said and poked Galianka in the side. “Do you?”
“No,” the girl admitted. “We haven’t yet gone through it.”
“See,” Nastradamus pointedly raised a claw of his right foot. “Not even all the elves
know, so what do you want from me, an old man? The history of the owl kingdom or the
duchy of white owls, I could tell you, but about elves, sorry. So come on, tell us, the
uninitiated.”
And so Drool told them the story.
“It was in ancient times,” Drool started to tell, “so ancient that there were no
people on earth yet. Only elves. Elves inhabited all the land. And they ruled the world. It
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was a golden age, when there were no wars, no diseases, and no animosity between
living beings. A lion lived on the same meadow with a calf and didn’t touch it, and
sparrows flew along with eagles. So says the ancient history of the elves. The elves
themselves were also different then. They were of gigantic height and walked on the land,
stepping over mountains and forests with ease. There weren’t so many of them, several
thousands, but they controlled the land, and the land knew no misery under their rule.
And the Great Golden Elf Radoden 2 ruled the elves themselves. He was the most
powerful and most beautiful among the elves, and everyone acknowledged his
superiority. He was their king. But Radoden had a brother, Teniblik. 3 He was very
envious of his older brother’s beauty. He was born with his envy. His envy grew stronger
and stronger. It burned Teniblik, and killed all that was kind and good in him. A
thousand years succeeded another, and Radoden became more and more beautiful. A
little more and he would eclipse the beauty of the sun. But Teniblik was the opposite: the
more beautiful his brother became, the uglier and more hideous he himself became. And
now the elves, who did not know the true cause of his changes, already began to turn
away from him, and this made him even more embittered. And that was when the
thought emerged in his criminal mind that he must dispose of his older brother and take
his place. But who would help him? Not one honest elf would do that. Then he decided
to persuade the elflins. The elflins were half-elves; they differed in that they could not fly
and were not so beautiful. They obeyed the elves and accepted their domination. Over
time, those of them who had proven themselves on the plus side turned into elves.
Teniblik found accomplices among elflins who could never make it to being elves. On
one fine day he announced that he no longer recognized Radoden’s rule, left the elves,
and took with him the elflins, whom the elves had oppressed up to then. Allegedly, he
wanted to create his own private kingdom.
“Radoden was very angry. No one had dared to contradict him in any way before
this. He cursed his brother and the elflins and forbade them to live on earth.
“‘Where do we live?’ Teniblik asked.
“Live underground,’ the Golden Elf replied. ‘Since the earth’s surface is my
domain.’
“Teniblik and his subjects went underground and harbored deep resentment in
their souls towards the elves. They began to live in the underground, where gnomes did
not give them peace, and began to prepare for war with the elves, because Teniblik
swore to take revenge on his older brother and all the elves.
“Thus Enmity and Discord came to the land.
“In deep black caves, Teniblik was bored to death by spite and hatred and
preparing for war. Spite had eaten into his soul so deeply. From a silver elf he turned

2 The name Radoden is made up of the words rad – glad/happy – and den’ – day.
3
The name Teniblik is made up of the words ten’ – shadow – and blik – flare.
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into a monster black like charcoal. His subjects became infected by his spite and also
began to turn into ugly monsters. It was cramped for them to live underground. They
always had to walk along narrow and low tunnels, stooping, on all fours, or even
crawling. All around them were cruel and powerful enemies that immediately disliked
the elflins, and the elflins lived and dreamed of going to the surface. One day they dared
to do this and went outside with weapons in their hands, intending on obtaining a piece
of surface land.
“Here they were met by elves, and the first battle on the land began. At the head of
one army stood Teniblik, at the head of the other was Radoden.
“Teniblik was frightful. There was nothing left in him of the former silver prince he
was. The elves saw in him a terrible monster, and henceforth called Teniblik Gobivilin,
which in the ancient elfin dialect means “Black Elf”. And the former elflins began to be
called goblins. That’s what we now call those who were once almost elves and could have
become them.
“But the Golden Elf had also changed. And not for the better.
“From the very day that Radoden had allowed anger to settle in his heart and
dispensed with his younger brother so severely, he could no longer eclipse the sun. And
when he led the remaining elves and entered into a battle with him, thereby depriving
Tenniblik of a chance to improve himself and realize his error, the elves began to grow
smaller, just like their opponents, the goblins.
“A long era of great struggle for the land had arrived. The endless war between the
elves and the goblins began. The war was long and cruel. Both leaders died in it, but
neither side won. The goblins failed to capture the land, the elves failed to drive them to
the end of its surface.
“And the land changed. If earlier it was all covered by magnificent forests, in which
was an abundance of fruit-bearing plants and animals, then the forests began to die out
in time. Earlier, the elves watched over their health, but now they had no time. They
were busy with war. And lifeless deserts and bare plains, on which there was neither a
tree nor a bush for dozens of days, began to appear on the land.
“The elves and the goblins continued to fight each other. New leaders led them,
and the art of war of both was unrivaled. And now I turn to the last page of this history,
sad for both elves and goblins. The struggle ended with the elves’ victory. Their king was
then Svetodar,4 the direct ancestor of Galianka’s father, Galiiarad. This was a great elf.
Great because he was one of the first to draw the attention of his people to the fact that
while they were at war with the goblins, they simply existed. During the war, their
golden age ended with no return, and they themselves lost their former greatness, power,
and authority over the land. They no longer ruled the world. In their place came other
creatures. People. These strange creatures, outwardly so similar to the elves, without

4
The name Svetodar is made up of the words svet – light/world and dar – gift.
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sorcery and magic, unable to fly or control the forces of nature, suddenly settled on the
entire land: vast plains and mountainous areas, endless deserts and steppes, the banks
of rivers, lakes, and seas, hot countries and snow-covered expanses, while they, the elves,
turned into exiles, who hid in the dense primeval forests, surrounded themselves and
their palaces and castles with impassable swamps, and did not see anything that was
going on around them. And even the elves themselves were completely different. They
had lost the secrets of immortality, and from giants turned into dwarfs, who their great
ancestors simply would not have noticed if they had met. People were counted by the
millions, but there were only several dozen thousands of elves, and the number
decreased with each millennium. This is what made his irrepressible desire for the great
race to be the sole governor of the land and its expanses. Now wise men and thinkers are
learning from this history of the battle, which almost led the elves to total extinction.”
“And what happened next?” asked Galianka, whom, one might say, Drool’s tragic
tone did not particularly touch.
“What happened next? Then Svetodar did everything to stop a senseless war. He
sent messengers with an offer of peace to the goblins. Unfortunately, the goblins by that
time had turned into what they are even to this day – evil and insatiable monsters. Great,
incredibly stupid, but insidious and cruel.
“At that time, their lord was the great-grandson of Teniblik-Gobivilin, the black elf
Martoduin. He was much more cunning than his ancestor and much smarter. Among
the goblins, he stood out with wisdom, intelligence, and appearance. Somehow he
managed not to be ugly in any way like all goblins, but more like a man. But he hated
elves a thousand times more than any goblin would. And when Svetodar’s messengers
came to him, he refused to talk with them and announced that he would fight with the
elves until he was victorious.
“‘Since elves talk about peace, it means they can’t fight anymore!’ he declared to his
subjects, ‘So, the land will soon be ours.’
“His army moved to the elfin city. Never before had goblins possessed such power
and strength as in that famous last campaign.”
“So they were defeated?” Nastradamus asked.
“Yes. Svetodar turned to the people and the dwarves for help, and together they
met the goblin army, to whose side the evil forces of the land came – sorcerers, vampires,
werewolves, witches, trolls, and gremlins.
“It was a great battle, which occupies the best pages of histories of many races. The
goblins were crushed, but at the same time, a great many elves also died. Martoduin, the
Lord of the Goblins, was captured and chained and placed in a cage.
“Goblins scattered around the land and began to live in swamps and marshland, in
mountain caves and gorges – wherever normal beings don’t live. Elves also dispersed in
their forests. Svetodar and his subjects created a kingdom here long before the Fairy of

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Eternal Youth and the Founding Knights of the Country of Frozen Time came to this
land.
“Svetodar also brought the captured Martoduin here. He did not know what to do
with him. The goblin sovereign did not want to humble himself and accept defeat, and
the elf king could not kill him. Remorse prevented him. For some reason he considered
himself guilty. He was trying to persuade Martoduin to become an elf. But Martoduin
only laughed at the king and delivered more and more pledges that he would take
vengeance harshly on the elves.
“In the end, Svetodar backed down. ‘You will sit in a cage for the rest of your life,’
he said to Martoduin. And he cast a spell on the cage. No sorcery could open it and
remove Martoduin’s shackles. And in order that he would not even try, the elves, by
decision of the Great Elfin Council, turned him into a tree. ‘Maybe you’ll see reason,
having spent time as a tree and remembering the deeds of your great ancestors.’
“But Martoduin did not see reason. A thousand years passed, and in the cage that
stood in the deepest dungeon, a black, dead tree also stood the entire time. Not one
green leaf made its way through on its crooked and prickly branches. No matter how
much living water from the Crystal Stream the elves watered it with, nothing helped.
Then the elves threw up their hands and left the black tree alone. And in vain. Because
even in the guise of a dead tree Martoduin saved his strength and called to his aid his
subjects – the goblins. They heard him, and the bravest of them began to make their way
underground to the dungeon where their Lord was languishing. It was quite
commonplace for them to dig an underground passage, and in less than a year, they
reached the dungeon and already began to quietly batter the stone wall that separated
them from Martoduin, while the elves were feeling that something was wrong after all.
Their sensitive hearts and souls grasped that their sworn enemies were next to them and
were preparing to commit a new mischief, and the elves sounded the alarm. They
searched everywhere but could not find any goblins, until they surmised to go
underground to the dungeon. The elves don’t much like descending below ground level,
but here they managed in time. When they broke into Martoduin’s dungeon with
weapons in hand, they saw that it was already swarming with goblins. They had
managed to break the cage and remove the strongest spells. Martoduin had helped them.
The enemies lifted the tree onto the shoulders of the strongest and fastest goblins and
ran away.
“The elves rushed after them in pursuit. The goblins resisted fiercely. They fought
like lions and did not surrender their trophy. It was difficult for the elves to fight with
them. The goblins were in their element. They were used to fighting underground in
narrow tunnels. A lot of brave elves fell, and the goblins managed to escape with
Martoduin under a spell. They jumped out of the underground passage and ran to the
swamp. The goblins were at home in the swamp. Then Svetodar called on all his power

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over the forces of nature to help and brought a bright lightning from heaven down onto
the fugitives. It hit the group of goblins carrying the tree and burned them alive.
“When the elves, led by King Svetodar, arrived at their place of death, they saw that
there weren’t even ashes left of the goblins.
“Martoduin, turned into a tree, also burned with a bright white fire. No matter how
the elves tried to put it out, the tree still burned down. Only a pile of black ashes
remained on the ground. Svetodar gave the order to collect all the ashes to the last little
bit and put them in an iron casket. And in order that the goblins wouldn’t reach him
again, he ordered the casket to be taken not to a deep dungeon but to the highest place
in the palace, the attic, since goblins are afraid of heights, and they won’t climb to it for
anything.
“A lot of time has passed since then. And new generations of elves, which replaced
the previous, no longer remember those events, and some even doubt their truthfulness
and call them legends and fairy tales. They soon forgot about the iron casket and also
about Martoduin. Only in the books remain the stories about those days.”
This is the end of Drool’s story.

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Chapter Seven
ABOUT THE GOLDEN SPIDER AND THE GOLDEN WEB

“So it wasn’t a legend,” Nastradamus said significantly, with a thoughtful look


chewing a steak from the leg of a stag beetle. “And Zelfira knew about it. Oh, these
women! What meanness they are capable of towards those who once rejected their love.
I remember I had an incident. So, a female owl flew to me...”
“But wait,” Drool interrupted him. “What are we going to do?”
“What do you mean, what are we going to do? Run, of course. Fly from here at full
speed. It was said that he’ll return.”
“Who will return?”
“The Lord of the Goblins. And he certainly won’t be alone but with a whole army of
goblins!” Nastradamus’ eyes became so big with fear that they almost occupied his
entire face.
“And what about me?” Galianka burst into tears.
“Also run with us.”
“But my parents? And the other elves? After all, they became this way because of
me. Will I really abandon them?” Galianka stared at Nastradamus with indignation.
“Certainly not! I’ll save them!”
“How interesting is that?” the eagle-owl smiled. “You don’t even know how to read
properly. Who are you to compete with the Lord of the Goblins? He’ll turn you into a
bug in no time.”
“Well, let him!” Galianka pouted with indignation, like a soap bubble. Her cheeks
became bright and her cornflower-blue eyes showed anger. "I would rather die fighting
him than live with the thought that I’ve destroyed the elf race! And you, stupid cowardly
bird, don’t lecture me! In fact, you should address me as ‘Your Highness’. Understand?”

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“I am a stupid, cowardly bird?” Nastradamus was indignant. “And you’re a little,


hurtful, disobedient girl. You’re even worse than my nephew! And I won’t address you as
‘Your Highness’. What kind of highness are you? Where’s your kingdom?” The eagle-owl
gurgled indignantly.
Galianka was all red with anger and was ready to attack him. Even Larissa neighed,
evidently also wanting to say something.
“It’s okay for you to quarrel,” Drool, who had been deeply thoughtful all this time,
interrupted them. “We must act. You, Princess, are absolutely right. We can’t just sit
back. But we also can’t run. If we leave the kingdom in trouble, then goblins will come
here and kill all the elves, taking advantage of their defenceless state. And when they
capture the elf kingdom, then they’ll certainly go further. You see, they need the entire
Country of Frozen Time. And Martoduin apparently has become a very powerful
sorcerer, if he could bewitch so many elves at once. It probably happened after he was
struck by lightning. Yesterday we saw that he has already transformed the nice bright
forest. Do you remember the crow, Nastradamus?” The eagle-owl cringed and almost
hid his head under his wing.
“And so it will be everywhere. Only evil beings will be free and at ease, and all the
rest will be enslaved by them.”
“What are we to do?” Galianka and Nastradamus, immediately forgetting about
their quarrel, asked in unison and clung to each other in fear.
“We still have time,” Drool scratched his ear with a squeak. “Martoduin has a lot of
work. First, he must take his former shape. And for that he’ll need to first become a tree,
and then himself. You can’t do it right away. Then he’ll need assistants. Secondly, he’ll
need to collect all the goblins. And that’s also not so simple. The goblins live wherever
they happen to be, and it’ll take time to gather them all. So, I propose to get ahead of
him. Even better. Follow his trail and try to catch him before he stops being black ashes
and turns into a goblin sovereign.”
“But even if we catch him,” Nastradamus hooted with fear and doubt, “he’ll
bewitch us.”
“I indeed said that you’re a cowardly bird,” Galianka immediately stepped in.
“Nobody’s inviting you to come with us. You sit and hide.”
“I don’t think he’s very dangerous,” Drool replied to the eagle-owl. “He bewitched
so many elves that he must have exhausted all his strength. It’ll take him a long time to
recover. We should have time. If you’re scared, you don’t have to come with us.”
The eagle-owl flapped his wings, insulted. “What do you imagine yourself?” he
exclaimed. “I’m an old warrior! That I would leave two children to the mercy of fate! Not
happening!”
“Who are you calling children?” The princess was indignant. “Certainly not me?”
The eagle-owl inflated importantly, fluffed up his soft feathers, and immediately
became twice as large. “I’m a hundred and fifty years old,” he said. “By our bird standard,
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I’m a profoundly old man. And you haven’t even been initiated into adolescence yet. So
be quiet, Princess.”
“So we'll all go together,” Drool said with a smile. “Prepare for the road.
Nastradamus will take care of provisions, and the princess...”
“And I’ll go put on my hunting outfit,” the girl quickly interrupted Drool. “Nothing
better than it while on the march.” She flew out of the library.
Nastradamus hooted and also flew off with the now empty basket.
“And I’ll read further about something else,” Drool said to himself. “Where’s the
map of the Bewitched Forest?”
He found the atlas of the Country of Frozen Time and began to study it. It was a
very good atlas. Elfin, and therefore very detailed. Drool trembled with excitement when
he found the map of the Bewitched Forest. Everything was on it. The elves diligently put
on it every tree and every bush. At Drool’s request, the map increased tenfold, and he
spread it on the floor. He promptly gasped with delight, because he found the White
Crystal Cave, the one where the Golden Spider lived.
“I have to take this map with me,” Drool stated. He did not pull the map out of the
atlas, because he considered damaging a book the greatest vandalism. No, he just made
another map from this one. To do so, he only needed to cast a little spell:

Ahh-ohh,
Wandering minstrel,
I conjure,
Away, sighs of all!
Books in succession
Stand in position.
White paper,
Painted page,
Magic map,
Come, duplicate!

A new fresh map appeared in his hands. Drool folded it and hid it in his bosom.
After that, he took out the volume of the elfin encyclopedia on the letter “G” (fortunately
it was on the bottom shelf), and read an article on goblins. On the whole, he knew
almost all of it, but the following words attracted his attention:

...Goblins are cowardly but cunning creatures. Catching them is extremely


difficult, although they are large and seemingly clumsy at first glance. To capture
them in ancient times, the elves used a web of the Golden Spider. Once in it, a goblin
becomes motionless and loses its ability to resist, for the web contains an unknown
poison that paralyzes them...
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“A much needed comment,” Drool said, then immediately found an article about
the Golden Spider. This is what it said:

The Golden Spider is one of the most ancient creatures on land. They existed at
the time of the first elves and were great friends with them. They are the only insects in
the world possessing intelligence and mastering speech. In ancient times, golden
spiders were the most faithful friends of the elves, and they used them as decorations,
worn in their hair. It is known that the elf king Radoden’s crown was composed of live
golden spiders. The spiders had practically no economic value. The only thing they did
was spin golden webs, with which the ancient elves wove fabrics and sewed dresses.
Unfortunately, almost all the spiders were exterminated during the time of the war
between the elves and the goblins, when the elves were still giants. The elves could not
protect the spiders from extermination, and the spiders, taking offence, began to seek
refuge for themselves. Since then, the friendship between the golden spiders and the
elves has ended. The spiders live in secret caves and are known for their wisdom. They
no longer trust elves.

Then, in the same volume, five pages later, Drool found an article about the golden
web. Here it is:

The Golden Web is a product made by a golden spider. It is an invaluable


material for making fabrics of incredible strength. A shirt made of golden web cannot
be punctured by any weapon. However, only the ancient elves could make fabrics from
a golden web; it is not given to the current elves. The web poses as an incredibly strong
golden lattice, very beautiful and delicate. According to legend, the web of a golden
spider is filled with magical power capable of fulfilling any three wishes of the one who
finds it. The main feature of a golden web is that it decreases in size by several
hundred times when it is divided into five parts, and it can be held in the hands of a
modern elf, even if he is a child.
One of the five parts of such a web is stored in the Royal Museum. According to
conducted investigation, the remaining four parts are with the following individuals:
Spirit of the Bewitched Forest, Queen Bee Zhuzhilda the Third, Lady Triasinitsa-
Tropinitsa of the Great Marshes, and the Golden Spider that lives in the White Crystal
Cave.
As a young man, the elf king Galiiarad tried to bring these parts together. But no
matter how the elves begged the Golden Spider to let them into the cave, he was
relentless, and the king backed down and did not look for the other parts. Therefore,
none of the elves managed to verify whether a golden web really possesses magical
power or if this is simply a legend.
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“Yes,” Drool said solemnly. "If I had known that I’d have such a difficult task, I’d
have tried to persuade Voidrag to take me with him after all. And here’s this story with
the goblin sovereign, so inopportune!”
Here Galianka flew in. She had changed her outfit and now appeared in front of
Drool. She wore a velvet hunting suit consisting of a camisole, a hat with a cock feather,
and a pair of boots with wide cuffs, all dark cherry coloured. The princess had braided
her hair in a pigtail with a golden ribbon. On her shoulders she had a long yellow cloak
with a warm crimson lining that came to her knees. At her waist was a wide golden belt
with a dagger in a sheath. In her hands she held a small crossbow like a toy. A quiver
with arrows hung from the girl’s side.
“How do you like me?” Galianka asked Drool. “The truth, am I pretty?” The
princess’ eyes sparkled, and her pretty snub nose was turned up so high that it seemed
that she was looking at the ceiling. And Galianka was right after all. She was indeed
really pretty.
“I’ve never seen anyone prettier than you, Your Highness,” Drool smiled. He knew
that elves like it very much when they are told that they are pretty.
Galianka was very happy. “Really? You like me?” And she immediately flew to the
only mirror in the library and began to twirl in front of it. “I took all the best from my
parents. My legs and figure are definitely Mama’s, eyes and hair Papa’s. Ears and nose I
got from Grandma on Mama’s side, and lips and oval face from Papa’s mother. And I
also have Grandpa’s fingers. Long and musical. He was the best lutist in the kingdom.”
“Who are you bragging about this way?” This was Nastradamus, who had
discreetly flown to Galianka and hooted these words into her ear.
The princess blushed to the roots of her hair and was very angry. “How dare you
talk to me like that?”
But the eagle-owl continued to mock. “And what’s that in your hands? A toy
crossbow? Ha-ha-ha! Hoo-hoo-hoo! You think you’ll hit someone with this gadget?”
Perhaps, he said this in vain. Galianka was so angry that she immediately snatched
an arrow, placed it in the crossbow, and fired at Nastradamus. Luckily, she missed. The
arrow flew a centimetre past his beak and plunged into a candle. A chandelier stood
behind him. The eagle-owl immediately stopped laughing.
“And how do you like my toy?” Galianka asked sarcastically. “Next time I won’t
spare you! The arrow will hit you right in the eye.”
“I beg your pardon, Princess.” Nastradamus bowed gallantly and curtsied. It
turned out he was funny and awkward. “I take back all my words. You’re simply a
splendid archer.”
“It’s true,” Drool patted the eagle-owl on the shoulder. “There are no better archers
in the world than elves. So we’re under reliable protection.”
Galianka was pleased. “That’s right!” she said and hung the crossbow behind her
back.
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“And now, for the road, my friends!” Drool declared.

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Chapter Eight
ON THE TRAIL OF THE LORD OF THE GOBLINS
OR AGAIN THE HOSKINGS

But before leaving the elf palace, Drool asked Galianka if she knew in which room
of the Royal Museum was the part of the golden web.
“Of course I do,” the girl answered.
“Then show me quickly!”
They hurried to the Royal Museum, which was in the opposite part of the palace.
Five minutes later they were there and standing in the room with curiosities. And then a
cruel disappointment befell Drool. The museum exhibits were under glass showcases or
domes, and the dome under which the “GOLDEN WEB” in elfin language was placed
was smashed to smithereens, and there was nothing on the velvet cushion.
“But where’s the golden web?” Drool exclaimed. His big eyes almost burst into
tears, he was so hurt. “Did Martoduin really steal it? Of course, it’s him! Look, see, he
even left traces.” In fact, around the circular pedestal on which the exhibit was stored,
the remains of black dust were visible. They were also on the broken glass.
“The Lord of the Goblins was ahead of us,” Nastradamus remarked, to whom Drool
had already told everything. “We can’t get the golden web.”
Then Galianka looked at her friends and smiled slyly.
“There’s nothing funny here, Princess,” the eagle-owl said in a didactic tone.
“For some reason, everyone considers us elves empty-headed and careless,”
Galianka said. “Actually, it isn’t so.”
“What do you mean by that?” Drool asked with hope.
“I’ll reveal to you a tremendous state secret,” the princess whispered in a
conspiratorial tone. “Under the glass was a copy made by a skilled jeweler. So, it’s just a
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gold trinket. And only the king and the queen, the old elf museum custodian Redleaf,
and I knew about this. That’s it!”
“And where’s the original?” Drool and Nastradamus exclaimed in unison.
“In Papa’s bedroom in a secret wardrobe,” the girl answered. “So, we indeed aren’t
so empty-headed. Father knew that the golden web was priceless and did not want to
keep it in plain sight. You never know. So he gave the order to put a copy in the
museum.”
“Can you give us the golden web?” Drool asked doubtfully.
Galianka thought it over. “Why not? After all, at the present time I’m the only
sovereign of our kingdom, so I can do whatever I want. I know that you, Drool, are our
friend and wish to help us, that’s why I’ll hand over our golden yarn to you.”
“Yarn? Why yarn?”
“Because it’s just part of the golden web. It’s small, therefore yarn. When you
connect all the pieces together, then it’ll be a web. That’s what my father said. He really
wanted to get it. But the golden spider is so stupid and stubborn.” Without interrupting
the chatter, Galianka led Drool and Nastradamus to the royal bedroom.
“Oh, and it's all because of that worthless doll,” she sighed bitterly. “I will never
play with dolls again.” The princess sighed again. “You see this picture on the wall? Do
you think this is my portrait? No. This isn’t just my portrait; it’s also a secret locker.” As
proof of her words, the girl moved the picture aside with difficulty, and a metal door
indeed appeared behind it. “The main treasures of the kingdom are stored here: three
golden-firefly crowns – the big one is Papa’s, the medium one Mama’s, and my little one,
a golden comb, with which my mama combs me before bed, Papa’s diamond razor, and
the yarn of a golden spider. Oh! I’ve told you all the state secrets.”
“Don’t worry,” Nastradamus reassured her. “Your secret will die with us. Open the
locker. Is there a smoked mouse there by chance?”
“No mouse.”
“Pity.”
Drool looked impatiently at Galianka.
“I think I’ve forgotten the spell! Oh, yes, I do remember!”
The princess uttered the necessary words in a voice trembling with excitement. The
spell was in the elfin language, and here is the approximate translation:

Tru-la-la! Tru-la-la!
The king's secret, ah!
Lock, give it to me,
Into the copper side inserted key.
The key is certainly not common,
This verse of mine is golden!
Door, door, don’t be lazy,
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66

Open quickly!

After these words, Princess Galianka blew hard into the keyhole, clapped her
hands three times and stamped her foot, and the door opened obediently. The girl put
her hand inside the locker, rattled something, rustled, and pulled out a gold plate, a bit
larger than her palm.
“It seems this is it,” she said.
“Yes, this is it, the golden web!” Drool was delighted. He immediately recognized
the golden spider’s yarn, because he had seen it in a picture in the encyclopedia. He
gently pressed it to his chest. “Martoduin will not get it! And now we must leave here
quickly.”
“I’ll just close the secret locker,” Galianka said. She uttered the same spell, only
changed the words slightly. This came out:

Tru-la-la! Tru-la-la!
The king's secret, ah!
Lock, hide it quickly,
Into your copper side inserted key.
The key is certainly not common,
This verse of mine is golden!
Door, door, don’t be lazy,
Close quickly!

The door immediately slammed shut on her orders and Galianka covered it with
her portrait.
Drool led Larissa out of the palace and loaded her with bags of provisions, which
Nastradamus had gathered. After that, he sat in the saddle, and the eagle-owl planted
himself on his shoulder.
“Are you in front of me or behind me?” he asked the princess delicately.
“I'll go on foot or fly,” answered Galianka. “And if I get tired I’ll sit behind you,
because if I sit in front of you, you won’t see anything: after all, I’m almost a head taller.”
“As Your Highness pleases,” Drool merely smiled in response. He did not take
offense at Galianka. Was it really possible to take offense at such a nice girl? Moreover,
she reminded him more and more of another girl, the one he loved more than anyone
else – Kate Konstantinova.
So, the bleak and sad palace of the elf king with elves frozen in immobility was left
behind, and in front was the magical elfin forest, once bright and friendly, but now
disquieting and dangerous.

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67

Drool rode on Larissa and carefully studied everything that fell on his path. He
tried not to lose the goblin lord’s track, which he had already picked up by the palace
gate, and he searched for the black dust wherever possible: on the leaves of trees, on
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68

high grass, on the ground, and even in the air. Nastradamus sat on his shoulder,
grumbled that he saw badly during the day, and complained that his eyes were watering
from the sunlight.
Galianka scampered back and forth, as only elves could, barely touching the
ground: she took off to the tops of the trees abruptly like a dragonfly, came down, then
soared up again, always disappearing somewhere, then returned and chatted incessantly,
and pulled Nastradamus’ wing when she wanted to show him something interesting. In
the end, Nastradamus said that his eyes were going blind, the princess was immediately
offended and told him a lot of nasty things about unmannerly birds, and then again flew
away somewhere, because she saw a family of hedgehogs: mama, papa, and five little
hedgehogs, and decided to chat with them. On the whole, the princess was the very
embodiment of nonchalance. It could not even be believed that she could do such things
that she had almost destroyed her kingdom.
Drool looked at the map all the time and shook his head doubtfully. They were
already several hours on the road when he remarked, “I have a feeling that Martoduin is
heading straight for the swamp. Did he really decide to start gathering the goblins
immediately? Or does he need something else. What do you think?”
The eagle-owl, long since asleep and dreaming of playful owlets, the children of his
nephew, nearly fell to the ground from Drool’s touch. “He had no special reason to
hurry," he remarked pointedly. “The elves aren’t going to get away from him. But it
looks to me that he desperately needs the golden web, and he’s rushing to assemble it.
This is the easiest means for him to regain his former appearance.”
“Well, he’ll just fail this,” Drool smugly patted his chest, where a map of the
Bewitched Forest and the golden spider’s yarn were stored in his inner pocket. “After all,
even if he assembles the other parts, the fifth one will still stay with me.”
Nastradamus shook his head. “Then he’ll start hunting you.”
“In the meantime, he hurries to the Great Marshes not to gather an army of goblins
but to steal the gold yarn from Lady Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa of the Great Marshes. We
have to overtake him. By the way, where is Galianka?”
Nastradamus and Drool turned their heads, but the princess was nowhere to be
found.
“Perhaps I’ll go look for her,” the eagle-owl said. “Oh, these chicks! Forever some
mischief on the mind. I’ve always said that all troubles are from them.” He flew off
Drool’s shoulder and flew back.

About an hour before this, five trolls appeared on one of the glades through which
they had passed as soon as they had left the elf palace. These were the Hoskings in
person. They did not look too great, with bruises and bumps, and they could barely
manage to talk and smear their frog brains with elixir – the main cure of trolls, limping
and swearing among themselves.
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69

“It seems he was here.” Kurukul wiggled his nose and sniffed the air. “Exactly, it
smells of Drool. I’ll never forget this sweet nasty smell. He was always gobbling all kinds
of disgusting stuff. It smells of his horse too. Look, it turned out he’s some von Baron!
He’s riding a horse, and we’re here chasing after him on foot.”
In his anger he kicked Burdiuk in the stomach, who howled and, in turn, punched
Vrul in the neck. “What for?” Vrul roared and punched Horek and Larek. Horek and
Larek attacked Burdiuk and Vrul, and a fight ensued. Only Kurukul did not take part in
it, because he considered it beneath his dignity to fight with his subordinates.
When they were tired of fighting, Kurukul ordered everyone to line up and march
along the trail of Drool and his horse. Burdiuk proudly raised the banner, so that
everyone could see that they were trolls, and they ran. If they had not suffered so much
in the railroad catastrophe, they would have used the trolls’ favorite way of running: roll
along the ground curled up in a ball, and would have instantly caught up with the one
they were chasing. But their sides were too painful, their legs and arms would not bend,
and they were satisfied with the usual run. But even so their speed was sufficient.
The distance between them and Drool and his friends was rapidly decreasing. The
trolls were not even out of breath, as their sensitive ears had already begun to detect the
beating of Larissa’s hoofs.
“Stop!” Kurukul ordered in a whisper. The trolls stood rooted to the spot.
“Get down!” They flopped to the ground.
“Now crawl, forward!"
They crawled deftly and noiselessly. Even branches did not crack under them.
Soon they saw Drool, who was talking with Nastradamus.
“Who’s that?” Kurukul, on seeing the eagle-owl, asked with apprehension.
“Looks like an eagle-owl,” Burdiuk spoke hoarsely.
“I see that it’s an eagle-owl, but what’s this eagle-owl? Maybe it’s some hero? What
if he has a secret weapon? We jump on them, and he’ll do something at once.”
The trolls pondered. They were never distinguished by bravery, being used to
always doing dirty tricks at night, secretly, when no one would see them.
“Shall we attack them at night?” Burdiuk, the most cowardly and insidious of them,
except Kurukul, of course, suddenly suggested.
“At night,” the older troll mimicked Burdiuk. “How smart he turned out to be! And
why, in your opinion, does he haul an eagle-owl with him?”
“Why?”
“So that it’ll guard him at night. Eagle-owls don’t sleep. This is obviously a vicious
guard owl. Understand?”
“Un-der-stood!” the baffled trolls stretched out in unison.
“Therefore, I have a brilliant plan,” Kurukul proudly informed them. “You four
surround them from all sides and, on my signal, attack at the same time. Kill the eagle-
owl, grab Drool! Is the order clear?”
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70

“Got it,” the Hoskings answered in a dull voice; they really did not want to attack a
vicious guard eagle-owl. But you cannot argue with your boss. There was nothing else to
do. The trolls began to prepare for the operation. They whispered, figuring out who
would attack Drool and the eagle-owl from which side.
Suddenly wings flapped directly above them and a low voice hooted, “Hoo-hoo-hoo!
Where have you gone to, worthless girl! I’m looking for you all over the forest!”
The trolls looked up and saw a flying Nastradamus right above them.
“And who are they?” Nastradamus noticed the trolls. His eyes widened in horror,
and he yelled, “Guard! Help!”
But the trolls did not hear him, because they were also screaming in fear. They
thought that the vicious guard eagle-owl had tracked them down, and would now tear
them to pieces. “Oh, mama! Murder!” the trolls, beside themselves with fear, yelled and
began to scatter in all directions. A second later, their trail went cold. And Kurukul, of
course, ran off sooner and further than everyone.
When the eagle-owl was alone, he grabbed his heart and groaned, “Oh, how they
frightened me! Only I didn’t understand who they were.”
“Hey, you!” a clear voice sounded behind him. “Those were real trolls.”
Nastradamus looked around and saw Galianka, who was sitting on a tree two paces
from him and was dying with laughter from what she saw.
“What are you doing here?” Nastradamus asked, straightening and smoothing his
feathers.
“I’m scouting.” The girl immediately stopped laughing and began to speak
seriously. “And I found out something.”
“What’s going on here? Who called me?” Drool and Larissa appeared from behind
the trees. “What’s that noise?”
“Good that you came,” Galianka was delighted. “You’re in great danger.”
“I’m in danger?”
“Yes. I’ll tell you everything now,” the princess put a finger to her lips and began to
whisper, “I was talking with the hedgehogs. It was brief. They were hurrying to the
Strawberry Gorge, where the berries were ripening. And I flew after them in pursuit. I
had almost caught up when I suddenly saw someone crawling behind us, that is, behind
you. And not alone. I was scared but interested. Who are they? Goblins, perhaps? I
looked closer, no, not goblins, but trolls. Real ones, shaggy with ears, so disgusting, and
not one, but as many as five.”
“Five trolls?” Drool did not believe his ears. “They really haven’t stopped pestering
me? Now they’ve turned up!”
“Yes, yes, yes, five trolls. I became interested in what they were doing here and why
they were following you and Nastradamus. And I began to follow them. It’s funny! They
followed you and I followed them. They crawled on the ground, I flew above them, from
tree to tree. And then they stopped under that elm and began to deliberate. I listened in
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71

on them and found out a terrible thing. They want to catch you, Drool, and were even
already prepared to surround and grab you, but then Nastradamus scared them. They
fled from him like from fire.” The eagle-owl puffed up with pride and lifted his beak up
high.
“They feared him because they thought that he’s your guard eagle-owl.” Galianka
giggled. “If they knew how brave he was! When he saw them, he almost flew out of his
own feathers.”
“This is slander!” Nastradamus yelled. “Vile slander! I indeed almost tore them up,
just pretended to be scared at first. I wanted to trick them. Deceptive technique. I always
do so.”
“You’ve both done well,” Drool praised the girl and the eagle-owl. “Without you,
my former relatives would have caught me long ago. And they would have taken the
golden yarn from me. Why are they bothering me? I have no idea what they want. Well,
we’ll continue to proceed with the utmost caution. Now, among other things, we must
even beware of trolls. You, Nastradamus, listen carefully, you have the keenest ears, and
you, Galianka, keep your crossbow ready. It’s becoming dangerous here. But we still
haven’t even come close to the Bewitched Forest. The Great Marshes begins after a
thousand steps. How will we make our way through them?”
“It’s easier than easy,” Galianka replied. “There are secret paths, they should be on
the map.”
“Right!” Drool slapped his head. “I’ve completely fallen apart. This is unacceptable
for a wizard. Good that the Fairy of Eternal Youth doesn’t see me.”
They rode on. Now there was not that carelessness as before. Even the elf princess
looked seriously forward, and constantly flew back to check whether the trolls appeared
again. She did not let the crossbow out of her hands. But there were no trolls.
“They also became more cautious and are hiding,” Drool explained. “We must keep
our eyes open. What do they want from me after all?”
And the trolls were indeed hiding in the pit under a fallen oak, trembling with fear
and conferring.
“Did you see that?” Kurukul whispered. “Really, did you see? I indeed said that
that eagle-owl is as dangerous as a plague. Only where did Drool get it? And just how
did we stay alive?”
“We must shoot it with a gun,” Vrul suggested.
“Right!” rejoiced the trolls. “But where do we get a gun?”
“Magic!” Kurukul rubbed his hands. “We’ll use magic. We need wood, iron, and
gunpowder. We trolls are great inventors and mechanics. If we had a couple of years, we
could make a gun. But there’s no time, so we’ll use magic.”
And so the trolls got busy in the pit, smashed something, one of them squealed in
pain, then they climbed out of the pit with a gun. The gun was ugly, crooked, and very
large. So large that it needed three to carry it simultaneously: Vrul, Larek, and Horek.
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72

“Forward, in pursuit!” Kurukul commanded. “Now no eagle-owl is scary to us! Let


there be even a hundred. A million!”

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73

Chapter Nine
THE GREAT MARSH KINGDOM AND ITS INHABITANTS

The friends continued to trail the goblin sovereign. The tracks were moving
steadily closer to the Great Marshes. Soon the trees began to grow less often and were
no longer as big as those that were left behind. Dampness and mustiness appeared in
the air, and the first mosquitoes began to sing along with them. At first there were not so
many of them, but then the mosquito whine became louder, and the mosquitoes
themselves became larger, and now entire clouds were already hovering over the
travellers, trying to suck their blood.
But Drool would not be a wizard if such a trifle as mosquitoes could harm him. He
did not even cast any long spells, just shushed the annoying insects and ordered:

Hey, come on, midge,


You to the quagmire!
You don’t organize
To hunt us ever!

And after that no mosquito could approach within three steps of them. The
mosquitoes were angry, buzzed, gathered in black clouds, but could do nothing. So they
took off back home.
After a while the bog in front of them started to gurgle with mires and sloughs. As
if alive, it groaned, hooted, and gurgled with bubbles, which popped with a loud noise on
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74

the oily covered duckweed of the surface. The ground beneath their feet was soft at first,
and then completely unstable. The forest had ended. The last wall of trees remained
behind, and the travellers came to an open area.
“Ah, how I don’t want to leave my lovely cozy forest,” Galianka sighed. Everyone
knows that elves do not like to be outside the forest. But there was nothing to be done. It
was necessary to go on. The princess peered into the distance and saw that in front of
them to the horizon, the swamp spread like a dirty brown sea. “What a terrible place,
I’ve never been here. And how much dirt! And now I’ll get all filthy!”
“What’s there to do, what’s there to do,” Nastradamus, who also did not like soiling
his feathers, sympathized with her. “The tracks go straight into the very quagmire.
However, are you and I afraid of it? We have wings. But how are you, friend Drool, and
Larissa?”
“Once I had to go through these places,” Drool replied. “But then it was easy. I
caught a couple of goblins and rode on them through the whole swamp in two days and
didn’t even get my feet wet. But now Galianka is with us, and goblins fear the elves more
than fire. Maybe they always listen to us trolls, but with an elf, it won’t work. They’ll just
run away. Okay if so, otherwise they might attack if they realize that the little elf girl is
completely alone. So, Princess, try not to catch their eye. What if it has already reached
them that their lord is on the loose?”
“Not likely!” Galianka pursed her lips stubbornly, but all the same shivered with
fear. “I’ll be afraid of them.”
“I think it’s time to rest and have a bite before hitting the road,” Nastradamus
proposed.
“And I’ll look for a secret path in the meantime,” Drool said. “It must be here
somewhere.” He took out the map and waded directly to the swamp. “And you assemble
dinner. And don’t forget about being vigilant!”
“We won’t,” Nastradamus, who was already busying himself in the sack with
provisions and had almost crawled completely into it, reassured him.
“I’ll be the sentry,” Galianka announced and flew off with the crossbow at the ready.
“I’ll see if anyone is tailing us.”
Drool, with the map, was already crawling along the shore of the swamp and
looking for a secret path. “Secret marsh paths, they’re invisible to the eye,” he said to
himself. “You can’t do without magic here. In order to find it, you first need a hazel twig.
Here it is.” Drool cracked a twig from a young hazel, not forgetting to apologize to the
tree and lubricate the break with putty that he always had in his pocket. “Just what’s
needed, not long, not short, and with three branches. Now we fasten onto each branch a
rowan leaf and put a pine cone on the tip.”
Thus, Drool had a very real Twig-Diviner. As soon as it was ready, it immediately
twitched in the wizard’s hands, as if it was already eager to show the way. “Wait,” Drool
persuaded it. “I haven’t cast the spell yet.”
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75

Was a twig, like a twig,


On a branch it sat,
Only a spider lived on it,
Spun string bag and net.

And now our twig


It is a diviner
Doesn’t sit in place
Walks with us together.

Lead us through, Diviner,


The swampland.
To drown us in it
Very reluctant.

Twig-Diviner jumped from Drool’s hand to the ground and began running around
him. After running around Drool several times, as if memorizing, it rushed to the swamp
and immediately jumped near one knoll.
Drool went to it. “Is this the beginning of the secret path?” he asked. Twig-Diviner
jumped happily on the spot.
Drool touched the knoll with his hand. It immediately sank. And in place of it, a
real path rose right out of the quagmire. Drool stepped on it with his foot. It was quite
firm, only swaying slightly. “Doesn’t matter, my Larissa is brave and isn’t scared,” Drool
rejoiced. He hurried to his friends to gladden them with the good news. Twig-Diviner
hopped after him.
“Oh, what a delight!” Galianka exclaimed when she saw it. “Where did you come
from, kid? Are you lost?” The twig joyfully crackled and creaked something to her.
“Ah, so Drool made you?” the princess was delighted. The twig nodded with a pine
cone and jumped onto the girl’s knee.
The eagle-owl looked at it suspiciously. “How do you know what he’s saying?” he
asked Galianka.
“We elves understand the language of trees,” the girl explained. “And this kid
speaks in two languages at once, hazel and pine.”
“That’s great,” Drool said. “So you’ll be our interpreter. I poorly know the
languages of trees. Somehow they evaded me. So, the trolls didn’t appear anymore?”
“No,” Galianka answered carelessly. She could not be serious and attentive for too
long. “I didn’t see them.”
And then there was a deafening rumble. Something big and shaggy flew over them,
flew into the thickets of very tall reeds and nosily plopped somewhere into the swamp.
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76

“What was that?” Nastradamus asked. “Did the jar of compote that I dropped into
the pit really explode?”
Galianka laughed. “Is it possible to leave compote prepared by elves in the forest?
It takes offense, spoils and explodes.”
“It seemed to me that two blasts rang out,” Drool said thoughtfully.
They had just finished eating, quickly gathered everything, loaded Larissa, put
Galianka, who could not fly with a full belly, on her, and set off. Twig-Diviner ran ahead
and pointed the way. Drool led Larissa by the bridle along the secret trail and
occasionally gave her a piece of sugar so that she would not be nervous or scared.
Nastradamus brought up the rear. He stepped importantly on the trail, constantly
looking around and flying from one tree to another. When there were no more trees in
the bog, he sat behind the princess and wrapped his wings around her.
After they had disappeared from sight, Kurukul crawled out of the jungle of reeds.
He was all wet, covered with slime and algae, a frog had settled on his head, and for
some reason smoke was pouring out of him and he smelled of cinder. Kurukul staggered
and flinched. His eyes were large and square, although they were always small and
round.
The rest of the trolls jumped out of the forest. Only the fat man Vrul was not with
them. They were also smoking and black with gunpowder. They carried on their
shoulders what used to be a gun, but now only iron and wood fragments were left.
“Commander!” Burdiuk called out to Kurukul. “Are you alive?”
Kurukul looked at him and said with difficulty, “Seem to be.”
“That’s nice,” Burdiuk sighed dejectedly and with disappointment. “We really
thought that you, this, had dissolved.”
“I’ll dissolve you!” Kurukul muttered maliciously. “What was that?”
“Our gun blew up when you wanted to shoot the eagle-owl.”
“Was it hit?”
“The eagle-owl? No, it wasn’t. It didn’t even flinch.”
“And what is it that flew away?”
“You flew away. Vrul found a jar of compote, which the eagle-owl had lost, and
wanted to try it. And when the gun exploded, it also exploded, and you and Vrul flew
away. You in one direction and he in the other. He’s hobbling over there.”
Vrul appeared in the distance. He looked even worse than Kurukul, and besides, he
fell not into the swamp but into thistle and burdock bushes and was all covered in
thorns.
“Well, I’ll show him now,” the elder troll threatened with his fist. “And that eagle-
owl, what a sly one. You know, he planted a mine for us under the guise of compote.”
And the trolls gasped for a long time, amazed at the craftiness and villainy of
Drool’s guard eagle-owl.

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77

But Drool, the eagle-owl Nastradamus, Princess Galianka, the pony Larissa, and
Twig-Diviner were already far away. Walking along the trail was easy and fast. They
were talking and speculating on when they would see the palace of the marsh mistress
Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa. On either side of the magic path, frogs were jumping from knoll
to knoll. They croaked loudly and puffed up their eyes at the travellers.
All around, swamps, bogs, and marshes stretched for many thousands of steps.
One only had to turn from the right path at least one step and it would be certain death.
But our friends were not particularly afraid. They were boldly following the merrily
jumping Twig and viewing the marsh kingdom. And here was something to see. Bizarre
birds and animals with webbed feet and giant tortoises with shells like giant towers were
crawling along dirty swampy muck.
Suddenly, Twig-Diviner stopped and began to hop hesitantly on the spot.
“What happened?” Drool asked anxiously. “Have you lost the path?”
Twig began to thump something anxiously.
“He says there’s someone behind those knolls,” Galianka began to translate and
immediately yelped. “Oh, what’s that?”
A small but long gray hand suddenly emerged from the swamp and reached for
Twig. It jumped up, creaked fearfully, and jumped into Galianka’s arms. Drool drew his
sword from his belt.
The hand began to climb out further, and following the hand also appeared its
owner. He looked like a frog, dark grey, bug-eyed, slippery, was almost as tall as Drool,
and would have been even taller if he did not walk squatting. In his hands he had a bow
stretched for shooting, but instead of an arrow, a snake, viciously hissing and showing a
sting, was placed in it. Yellow poison was dripping from its mouth. After the first
creature, others exactly the same began to appear from the quagmire. All of them were
armed. Some had bows with snakes, others halberds or clubs.
The friends had not managed to recover, when they were surrounded on all sides.
Drool put his sword back into its sheath and smiled, showing that he had no bad
intentions.
“Who you are?” the first one that had come out asked in a stern voice.
“We are travellers, going to Lady Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa of the Marsh Kingdom,”
Drool explained.
“So you aren’t spies or thieves?” the swamp soldier asked similarly sternly.
“We swear that we are not. I’m Drool, the court wizard of Her Majesty the
Sovereign of the Country of Frozen Time, and these are my friends – Her Highness
Princess Galianka, crown princess of the Elf Kingdom, daughter of King Galiiarad and
Queen Zolotinka, and the eagle-owl Nastradamus. And with us is also Twig-Diviner. I
made it. We are hurrying to the swamp queen to warn her that something of hers can be
stolen. And we also have the slightest request for her, the queen.”

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Such a sincere speech softened the warrior somewhat and he lowered his bow.
“You seem to be telling the truth,” he said. “All the same, we need to arrest you and take
you to the castle of Her Majesty Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa. If you’re indeed the court wizard
Drool, she’ll immediately recognize you, because she has been to the palace of the Fairy
of Eternal Youth many times. But if it isn’t so, then beware, a painful death awaits all of
you.” The snakes in the warriors’ bows hissed menacingly.
“Who are they?” Nastradamus and Galianka whispered to Drool, when they were
led under guard through the swamp.
“Shishigas,” Drool replied. “Personal guards of the marsh queen. Ancient swamp
inhabitants, they now serve her faithfully.”
They walked for a long time in silence. The shishigas themselves did not speak to
the prisoners, and they did not let the prisoners talk among themselves. Galianka even
dozed off, and Nastradamus had to hold her so that she would not fall off the saddle. At
last, in front of them appeared a giant tortoise, as large as one could imagine. The
shishigas led them in its direction, and after a few dozen steps, Drool and the eagle-owl
saw that it was not a tortoise but only an empty tortoise shell. To be precise, it was not
even empty. The palace of the marsh mistress was in it. It was surrounded by a fence
and a hundred paces away from it at every step floated guard knolls with three warriors
each.
“Nevertheless, you seem to be fighting with someone,” Drool said to the shishiga
commander.
“No talking,” he replied sternly, but then became sad and added. “We’ve been
having a military situation since this morning.”
“Something clearly has happened to them,” Drool thought. “And it’s probably
connected to Martoduin’s appearance. What if he has managed to steal the yarn?” Drool
became agitated and even flushed with fear that his assumptions might turn out to be
correct.
Meanwhile, a whole collection of swamp creatures had gathered around the palace;
beside shishigas, no less than a hundred of which had accumulated, there were animals,
birds, snakes, and lizards of enormous sizes with big kind eyes. A group of kikimoras,
dirty old ladies with long and thin arms and covered with algae and slime, were standing
around the palace gate. They looked suspiciously at the arrivals. It was precisely to them
that the shishigas and their captives went.
The kikimoras blocked their path. “Where to?” they asked in unison.
“To Her Majesty,” the commander answered.
“And who are these with you?” a kikimora, the smallest and the ugliest, asked.
“The court wizard of the Fairy of Eternal Youth. With him are the elf princess and a
talking eagle-owl. With them is also a diviner made from a hazel branch. They claim that
they are going to Her Majesty on a matter of national importance. But just in case, we
held them on suspicion of espionage.”
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The little kikimora looked closely at Drool and then at the princess, and her
toothless mouth broke into a smile. “Drool Hoskings,” she exclaimed, “Princess
Galianka. What important guests! And how timely!”
“Hello, Tartulia,” Drool replied. “I’m glad that you recognized me!”
“How can I not recognize you when precisely you met us at the palace of the
Sovereign of the Country of Frozen Time during our Queen’s last visit to the White
Tower? Then you called me madam and treated me like an important lady. Is it possible
to forget that? All our girls were crazy about you then.” The rest of the kikimoras smiled
happily, remembering their trip to the Capital.
In the meantime, Tartulia lashed out at the shishiga commander. “How stupid you
are, Shish,” she reproached him. “You could not distinguish dear guests from spies.”
“I really thought,” Shish ruefully scratched the back of his head.
“He acted absolutely correctly,” Drool stood up for him. “A military situation is a
military situation, and there should be no exceptions for anyone.” Shish looked at him
with gratitude.
At this time, Galianka woke up and began to look around her in amazement.
“Already arrived?” she asked in a sleepy voice.
“Uh-huh,” Nastradamus answered her.
The kikimoras saw that she was awake and bustled.
“Poor girl, she was exhausted,” Tartulia lamented. “Do you see this, the princess
wandering around the swamps? This way her legs can be stained and her wings smashed.
Please dismount, Your Highness, and go into the palace. You’ll rest there, have a good
night’s sleep as you should. And take your bird also.”
The kikimoras thought that Nastradamus was the princess’ toy. The girl, half-
asleep, also thought so, and, hugging the eagle-owl and pressing it to herself like a teddy
bear, dragged him along. Nastradamus was so surprised, so shocked, that he did not
even resist. And when Galianka buried her face in his feathers and whispered sweetly,
“How warm and soft you are!” he was touched and almost shed a tear. “Oh, you poor
little bird!” he said, and embraced the girl with his wide wings. In this way the kind
kikimoras led them somewhere.
Drool also entered the palace. Shish accompanied him. The rest of the soldiers
stayed outside and again went with a patrol to the swamp.
The marsh queen’s palace turned out to be very decent. Drool did not expect to see
a clean and richly decorated dwelling worthy of any earthly monarch.
“The Queen will receive you now,” Shish told Drool. “They have already reported
everything to her and she’s waiting in the throne room.”

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Chapter Ten
TRIASINITSA-TROPINITSA – QUEEN OF THE MARSH KINGDOM

When Drool entered the throne room, Queen Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa of the Marsh
Kingdom immediately appeared in his gaze. She was reclining on a wide marble bed in
the middle of the hall and looking sadly at Drool.
This was an amazing creature – the marsh queen. At first glance, she looked like a
giant snake or lizard with human arms and a woman’s beautiful head. Her long and
elegant body was covered with large scales of an emerald colour, shimmering and
sparkling in the sun, the rays of which infiltrated the throne room through the high
windows. Her legs were like those of a dragon only slender and shapely and not so big.
There were four of them. This way the queen could run very quickly through the swamp
and along rocks and steep cliffs and even climb trees. But now she was lying down,
wrapping herself with her long snake tail. Her hair was very thick and long, almost to
the ground, and completely black like a raven’s wing, not green as claimed by those who
had never seen it. The queen put it in an elegant hairstyle, no worse than that of the
ladies-in-waiting at the court of the Fairy of Eternal Youth. On her head was, of course, a
crown, gold and studded with precious stones. She had ruled the Marsh Kingdom for
two hundred years, after her parents died. Her father was the swamp king, a huge
serpent with four legs. Once, people who were pursued by evil witches came to his
domain. They were a noble man and woman, husband and wife. And with them was a
three-month-old girl. The witches hunted them precisely for the child. They needed her
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for their devilish witch ceremonies. It seems that they wanted to sacrifice her, cook her
in a magic cauldron, and eat her. The parents of the poor girl, trying to save her, fled
until they got into the swamp full of snakes, goblins, and other monsters. However, no
monsters but enraged witches were more frightening to them. The witches flew over the
swamp and searched for the unhappy parents and their baby. Miraculously, they did not
drown and hid in the very quagmire. But even here the witches found them. They
attacked them and killed them. However, the child was not with them. Apparently she
had drowned in the swamp. The witches so decided and flew away disappointed. But the
girl did not drown. When the parents realized that they had been discovered by the
witches, they managed to hide the baby under the shell of a giant tortoise egg.
Fortunately, the witches did not find her there. But then the kikimoras Tartulia and her
two sisters, Vorchulia and Kartulia, found the girl. It is all fiction that kikimoras are
villains and eat people. They, of course, eat people if they are completely worthless and
evil, and even came to the swamp without asking. But this does not apply to good kind
people, much less to small children. Now, the kikimoras found the girl and brought her
to the palace to King Triasina5 the Great. Then, he was still young and very handsome.
The king pitied the girl and left her in his palace. The kikimoras and shishigas, the
snakes and lizards, raised her. The girl grew up in the marsh kingdom and did not know
that there are other worlds. She thought that the whole world was a swamp and mire.
They called her Tropinka, 6 because they had found her precisely on a magic path.
Tropinka was a very beautiful and kind girl. She ran through the swamp, played with
frogs and tadpoles, bathed in clean creeks among lilies and water lilies, molded pies
from silt and invited guests to the feasts. All the inhabitants of the swamp doted on her
and loved her like their own. Each year the girl became more and more beautiful. And
the king began to look at her not as an amusing child but as a beautiful girl. And, of
course, he fell in love with her. And Tropinka, of course, fell in love with him, because
the king was the most beautiful creature in the swamp. In addition, he was even very
brave and kind. They fell in love and got married. Tropinka became queen. Later they
had a daughter, half like father and half like mother. Her parents were very pleased and
called her Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa, which meant that she was the daughter of King
Triasina the Great and his wife Tropinka. Then Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa herself became
queen. What an amazing and unusual history she has.
Seeing the queen, Drool immediately took off his hat and bowed low to her.
“Greetings to Your Majesty, Lady of the Great Marsh Kingdom, in the name of the
Sovereign of the Country of Frozen Time, the Fairy of Eternal Youth, as I am her court
wizard and enchanter Drool, and on my personal behalf.”

5 The word triasina is Russian for bog/mire/swamp.


6 The word tropinka is Russian for footpath/trail.
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“And to you, Drool, my greeting,” the queen replied. “Take it as a sign of peace and
friendship between us.” Drool bowed low again.
“What brings you to my domain? Not often do creatures from dry land visit me.”
“Need brought me to you, oh Queen. Both my personal need and that of the elf
king Galiiarad’s daughter, Princess Galianka, who now rests in your chambers. A long
journey and the damp air have tired her.”
“Is that so?” Curiosity appeared on the queen’s face. “Tell me.” And Drool told the
marsh queen his story.
She listened to him attentively, without interrupting. Her face became grimmer
and grimmer. “So that’s who tried to steal the golden spider’s yarn from my treasury this
morning!” she exclaimed when he finished. “Martoduin. Lord of the goblins. You
brought dark tidings to my home, Drool. But it’s not your fault. And, of course, not the
fault of that poor girl who was deceived by the evil Zelfira.”
Drool was delighted with what he heard. “Tried? Did you say he tried? So, he didn’t
succeed? Martoduin didn’t steal the golden yarn?”
“To great happiness or misfortune, no.”
“Why misfortune?” Sweet Tooth was surprised.
The queen sighed and shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe if he had stolen this yarn,
he would leave us alone. Now he indeed can set goblins on my palace.”
“The golden web must never be in Martoduin’s hands!” Drool exclaimed. “I must
have it. In it is the fate of the whole world, not only the Country of Frozen Time. You do
understand this?” The queen nodded in agreement.
“And if you don’t want anything to threaten your kingdom, then it’s very easy to
do.”
“How?”
“Give me the yarn of the golden spider. We’ll leave here, and nothing will threaten
your palace again. After all, Martoduin doesn’t need the palace but the yarn. While I
need it in order to defeat him.”
Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa thought it over. “You're right,” she said. “However, I just
don’t have the right to give you such a treasure. Magical things can’t be given. Magic
doesn’t recognize gifts. You’ll immediately lose it.”
Drool sighed and agreed. “Yes, that’s so. A magical thing can only be bought, taken
away, stolen, or swapped. What price will you assign to the golden spider’s yarn?”
The marsh queen pondered. While she was thinking, Nastradamus flew quietly
into the throne hall. He bowed before the queen, almost wiping the floor in front of her
throne. The queen nodded graciously to him and continued to ponder.
“How’s Galianka?” Drool whispered to the eagle-owl.
“Sleeping, like a newborn owlet,” Nastradamus replied in the same whisper.

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“I’ve come up with it,” Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa interrupted their conversation. “A


silver heron lives on the eastern shore of the swamp. Her feathers shine even at night,
and she lays silver eggs.”
“Do you want me to bring you the heron or an egg?” Drool asked the queen.
“You won’t catch her. Besides, she’s grown and won’t live in captivity. But get me
an egg. My subjects will get a chick from it and domesticate it. And a silver heron will
live in my palace. None of the earthly rulers have one. But I will. And then the golden
spider’s yarn will be yours.”
Drool bowed. “Very well, Queen. I’ll set off for the heron right now. Will you give
me a horse from your stables? My Larissa can only go along the secret path, and even
then with a quiet stride.”
“Of course, take whatever you want. And take Shish with you. He’ll be your guide.
He knows the swamp like his four fingers. And he’s also a good warrior.”
Drool accepted this service with gratitude. Then he remembered about Galianka.
“And let the princess stay with you for the time being. I think she’ll be out of danger in
the palace.”
“I will treat her like my own daughter,” Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa reassured him.
Drool turned to Nastradamus. “Will you stay here?”
“No, I’m with you.”
Sweet Tooth and the eagle-owl bowed and left the throne room and the Lady of the
Great Marshes. Without wasting time, they set off to the palace stable. Most precisely,
calling the pond, in which swam giant water beetles, a stable would certainly not be
correct. But so it was called. And the swamp dwellers and the queen’s servants called the
water beetle horses. Drool liked the biggest light brown water beetle with twisted horns
and long legs. He asked to ride it. The shishigas who served at the stables rushed to
carry out his order. While they were saddling the water beetle, Drool felt someone
tugging at his sleeve. He turned and saw Tartulia.
The kikimora winked at him conspiratorially. “I heard that you were collecting a
silver heron egg?” she asked.
“Yes, the queen asked me to deliver it to her.”
“Do you think it’s that simple? The queen had already sent many for it, but no one
returned alive with either a heron or an egg. You’re taking a great risk.”
“We have to risk it,” Drool smiled wistfully. “I have no other choice. I really need
the golden yarn.”
“Okay, so be it, I’ll help you.” Tartulia began to search for something in the pocket
of her apron. “You’re the only one who called me madam. And I never forget a kind
attitude to me. The heron is just a stupid bird, and the eggs lie in her nest haphazardly.
But angry wasps live around her nest. They’re more like dogs and allow no one to
approach their territory. Trick them and you’ll get an egg, don’t trick them and you’ll

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have to flee. No one has managed to do this yet. Here, keep this,” and the kikimora gave
Drool a deck of old greasy cards.
“What is this?”
“Don’t you see? Cards.”
“But what do I do with them?”
“What a fool you are!” Tartulia was even angry. “And even a court wizard.”
“I’m not quite a wizard yet,” Drool began to justify himself. “I’m only learning.”
The kikimora immediately relented. “Well, have you really forgotten the card
spells?”
Sweet Tooth slapped his forehead. “Of course, I remember! And how could I not
have guessed at once?”
“Well, that’s it, my dear. Go in peace. And good luck to you.”
Here they were just leading the water beetle to Drool. He climbed onto the saddle,
placed Nastradamus in front of him, and took the reins. The gates opened, and the water
beetle glided like a skater on ice along the muddy swampy soil.
“Thank you, grandmother!” Drool finally shouted to Tartulia.
The kikimora immediately glowed all over with a greenish light. “Oh, now he has
called me grandmother,” she muttered contentedly and ran into the house to continue
looking after the palace. She was in charge here.

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Chapter Eleven
ABOUT HOW TO OBTAIN A SILVER HERON EGG

Shish was already waiting for Drool and Nastradamus outside the palace gates. He
was also riding a water beetle and twisting his mustache impatiently. “I’ve been ordered
to accompany you to the eastern shore,” he explained.
“We’re very delighted,” Drool said sincerely.
“Then follow me, and don’t urge your horse too much.”
With these words, Shish spurred his water beetle, and it darted off like a rocket.
Drool did not even have to do this, because his horse instantly followed Shish.
Everything flickered and blended in like a blurry picture, such was the speed of the
water beetle. Drool clung firmly to the reins in order not to fall inadvertently, because
they could easily not notice his fall. Nastradamus, who was pressed against Drool by the
headwind, only went “argh!” on particularly sharp turns. In less than half an hour of
such a frenzied race, Shish stopped abruptly. Drool’s water beetle also stopped dead.
“Here we are,” Shish said and dismounted.
They really were at the very shore. Dry sand, yellow like oil, immediately beckoned
after all this quagmire and marsh. The first to fly off the saddle was Nastradamus. He
landed on a rotten stump, which protruded straight out of the sand and began to stretch.
Drool followed his example.
While they were resting after the race, Shish tied both water beetles to an old but
sturdy snag and ordered them not to move from their place. “There,” he waved his hand
in the direction of tall reeds towering over the sandy beach, “lives the silver heron. But
how you get to it, I simply have no idea. As soon as you start to enter these thickets, they
snap and huge wasps immediately swoop from who knows where.”
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“A fine thing,” Nastradamus grumbled. “Run through a reed jungle and look for
some heron. Oh, those kings and queens. They always have some stupid things on their
minds. Deliver them first a firebird, then rejuvenating apples, then a flying horse. In one
book I read when I was still young, four knights scampered around the whole country
and even abroad to acquire some pendants for the queen, I don’t remember the details.
It seems that they obtained them, but only one of the knights returned. He just had
depicted on his shield an eagle-owl, my great-grandfather by the way. And your queen
needs an egg. Typical royal wish.”
“So she specified to you an easy request,” Shish interceded for his queen, “then you
would get the yarn, consider it a gift. And once taken easily, then lost quickly.”
“That’s why I can’t stand all these magical things,” Nastradamus cut in. “You say
that the wasps fly at the snap of a reed?”
“Yes.”
“Well, then the matter is a little easier. I’ll just fly and scout out where this heron
nest is and where the wasp nest is. Aerial reconnaissance, that’s what we need!”
“Well done,” Drool praised Nastradamus. He was sitting on the sand and, after
taking out Tartulia’s deck of cards from his pocket, stacking something with the cards.
“What would I do without you?” The eagle-owl gurgled smugly, soared into the sky and
flew to the East.
“What do you want to make?” Shish asked Drool curiously.
“I want to make a house of cards to lure the wasps into it,” Drool replied.
“You people, wizards, are interesting,” Shish exclaimed, “and you do everything
your own way. We shishigas also knew how to use magic once. A little, just a little. Then
we swapped magic for military skills. And when you have a military career, there’s no
time for magic. Let the kikimoras do it.”
Drool listened to him and simultaneously made a house of cards. He deftly stacked
cards on each other, and soon before him was really a house of cards. It was difficult to
understand how it was standing and not scattering. It was not the kind of house card
players build. It looked quite like a real one with windows and doors that could open
and close. A simple man can in no way build such a house, because wizards do not give
anyone the secrets of building a house of cards.
Soon Nastradamus returned. When he saw the house, he looked at it from all sides
and was satisfied. “A palace, a downright palace,” he praised. “But I also did well. I’ve
scouted everywhere, I’ve learned everything. I’ll lead you by the shortest route directly
to the silver heron nest.”
“What about the wasps?”
“They’re buzzing in their nest. They didn’t notice me, because they see badly and
didn’t look up, but were flying below all the time. They’re very awkward. But their
hearing is excellent. An old feather fell off my tail to the ground and they pounced on it.
Like dogs.”
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Shish looked doubtfully at Drool’s little house of cards. “And how will the wasps fly
into such a small house? Even one wasp can’t fit in there.”
“I’m going to fix that now,” Drool said and blew on the cards.
The house of cards immediately fell apart. Shish gasped in disappointment. Drool
paid no attention to him, leaned over the cards, and whispered:

From oddities and tears,


Cards are a ruse.
You leave the pocket,
Game here is serious.
Now battle alert
Will be a whistle,
Army of cards,
Gather for the battle.
Arrange the regiments,
King of spades,
Sixes, sevens,
Like a bayonet, stand straight.
Enemy will attack them,
But the ranks will hinder.
And now enemy in a trap,
Neither hither nor thither.
Cards will catch the wasps
To the last one all,
And will keep them
Behind a strong wall.
When again
Blows the whistle,
Take flight to the east
Let the wasps travel.
The cards will return
Back to the pocket,
Deal done,
Ruse is just the ticket!

What a long spell Drool cast. But if you turn to cards for help, then short spells will
accomplish nothing. Cards only acknowledge long spells. And the longer, the more
reliable.
“Get ready,” Drool said to Shish and Nastradamus. “Now it begins. We must act
quickly. Be careful and do only what I say.”
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After that, he whistled softly, and in front of the amazed shishiga and the eagle-owl,
the cards got up on the sand and began to grow in size. They quickly grew and lined up
like soldiers in rows one after another. When they grew taller than Drool by a whole
head, they ceased growing and froze. Now every card was such that Drool and Shish
could barely lift even one of them. They had neither legs nor arms, only grinning faces
where the Jacks, Queens, and Kings are portrayed. And instead of aces there were eyes.
Big eyes with thick eyelashes looked and blinked.
Then the King of Spades came out of the ranks of the cards and slapped the air
loudly. The cards stood at attention before him, like soldiers in front of a general, and
abruptly, swaying from side to side, they all went in a smooth formation into the reed
thickets. The reeds snapped loudly under them, and then the air was filled with an
alarming and menacing buzzing.
“Get ready,” Drool ordered Nastradamus and Shish. “Now the wasps will attack.”
And a black cloud indeed formed in the sky over the reed. It was buzzing and
changing shape. These were marsh wasps, huge and vicious. For a long time they could
not understand who had invaded their domain, but when the cards began to break the
reeds and clear the ground, the wasps buzzed and rushed to attack. They did not notice
Drool, Shish, or Nastradamus, because they wisely stayed away. Therefore, the wasps
attacked the cards and began to sting them with exasperation.
But what is the use of pitying the cards? They indeed do not feel anything, but, on
the other hand, the wasps obviously did not like them. And they continued to attack. So
many of them had already accumulated that they generated a loud hum, from which one
became uncomfortable. But the cards calmly continued to destroy the wasp territory.
They uprooted grass and threw it in front of them, moving farther and farther towards
the wasp nest.
The wasps simply became furious at such outrage and continued their attempts to
make short work of an unknown and invulnerable adversary. One attack followed
another. Drool even began to worry that this seemingly did not tire them, and whether
they would proceed to search for a weaker and more understandable enemy. It was out
of the question to go to the reed jungle to find the silver heron nest.
Meanwhile, the cards had stopped their advance and began to jump on each other
with the skill of circus acrobats. In less than a minute, they had built the exact same
cabin of cards that Drool had made. Only it was a hundred times larger. The little cabin,
or rather not even a cabin but a whole house of cards, appeared on the sand in the
middle of the wasp kingdom and opened its windows and doors hospitably. And the
wasps fell into this trap. The entire buzzing mass rushed to the house and flew into its
windows and doors, trying to smash and destroy it from the inside.
As soon as the last giant wasp had flown into the house of cards, all the windows
and doors immediately slammed shut. The wasps were trapped. The card house kept

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them securely within. Now there was not one wasp in the sky, although there had been
more than a thousand before.
“Now we must hurry,” Drool shouted. “Nastradamus, lead us to the nest.”
“Right this moment, this moment,” the eagle-owl also became excited and twisted
his head quickly. He was afraid to make a mistake and thereby thwart an important
operation. “Thither, follow me.”
He flew, and Drool and Shish ran after him. They were in a hurry and did not pay
any attention to the tall reeds; they broke and trampled them. The eagle-owe flew ahead,
and they looked up. Fortunately, there were no pits, hollows, or snags on their path.
They did not fall and did not break their arms or legs.
Finally, Nastradamus stopped, somersaulted in the air, which was never expected
from such a respectable and old eagle-owl, and landed on Drool’s shoulder. “It’s here,”
he hummed, “here, after three of your steps, there’s the heron’s nest and an egg in it. I
swear on my beak that it is.”
“And the heron, where’s the heron?” Drool asked in a whisper. “Is she in the nest?”
“Yes, she’s going around it and for some reason she’s fretting.”
“What are we to do?” Shish asked. “She won’t give up her egg without a fight. And
her beak is very long and strong.”
“We must distract her somehow,” said Drool. “Nastradamus, you’ll have to do this
again. Can you?”
“What are you talking about? The old eagle-owl has never let anyone down. I’ll
pretend that I want to take her egg. She’ll start driving me away, even chase after me for
sure. As soon as she does, you run out and grab the egg. And then shake a leg, and I’ll
catch up with you.”
So they did. Drool and Shish hid in the grass, and the eagle-owl flew straight to the
nest and began walking nearby with a menacing look. His eyes burned with hunting
excitement, it seemed that he was really going to take the egg from the heron.
Naturally, the extraordinary bird was very angry when she saw that some unknown
eagle-owl was hanging by her nest, looking at her silver egg, and almost licking its beak.
At first the heron only screamed anxiously and ran around the nest, which was hidden
right in the grass. Then, when she saw that the eagle-owl did not intend to leave, she
began screaming threateningly at him and even pecked in his direction. But the eagle-
owl did not pay her any attention and behaved more and more bold, and almost climbed
into the nest. This brought the heron to a terrible fury. She squealed and attacked
Nastradamus.
Now Nastradamus had to flee. But he did not fly away at once; rather he was still
trying to return. Here the heron chased after him and even forgot about her nest. The
eagle-owl flew off and the heron chased after him with the firm intention of driving him
as far away as possible, so that he would not return.

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Nastradamus’ plan was magnificent, and as soon as both he and the silver heron
had disappeared from sight, Drool and Shish jumped out of their hiding place and
rushed to the nest. Silver eggs really were lying in it. There were four of them.
“Now this is a catch!” Shish was delighted, preparing the bag. “Instead of one, we
got four.”
Drool shook his head. “We won’t even take three. You can’t deprive the heron of all
offspring. Two is enough. One, as we agreed with the queen, the other is reserve. What if
something happens?”
They took two eggs and put them in a bag, and then Nastradamus returned.
“Faster!” he hollered. “She’s coming back!”
The snap of the reed being broken by the claws of a large bird was heard. The
heron did return. Her anxious shriek rang out.
Our heroes did not want to be caught at the crime scene and so they rushed off at
full tilt. As soon as they had escaped, the heron ran up to the nest. She immediately saw
that someone had been there, and tapped her beak loudly and indignantly. The bird
could not understand anything. She looked into the nest and saw that the eggs in it were
in place. She did not understand that there were two and not four as before, because she
could not count. And yet something was not right, and it bothered her.
The bird egg snatchers were already far away. They ran to their marsh horses and
hastened to hightail it away as quickly as possible. Because, when they ran past the
house of cards, it was already barely withstanding the onslaught of the wasps trying to
get out. They quickly sat down on the water beetles and untied the reins. The water
beetles happily beat the water with their feet, just like real horses, and sprinted away
from the place, heading west, to where they came from.
When the eastern shore was already far away and barely visible on the horizon,
Drool stopped his water beetle. Shish followed his example.
“We must release the wasps,” Drool said. “They’re not at fault for anything. This is
their land, and they were simply protecting it from outsiders.”
Having said this, he whistled softly. A little time passed, and from the east one card
from Tartulia’s deck came flying. It was the same size as before and lay right in Drool’s
open palm. Immediately following it another card came flying, and all the rest after it.
“The deception is over,” Drool said when the whole deck was with him, and he put
the cards back in his pocket. “Now we can return.”

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Chapter Twelve
MARTODUIN FINDS ALLIES

The job was done, and it was not necessary to drive the horses so. The friends rode
and discussed how neatly and wonderfully everything had turned out for them, and how
glad Queen Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa would be.
However, they were happy too soon. When very little distance was left to get to the
palace, they met a goblin. It was a real goblin, with a cudgel and a stupid face, not
promising anything good.
To understand what goblins in the Country of Frozen Time look like, one must first
imagine an elephant. Put it on its hind legs, and turn the elephant legs to rabbit legs.
Then change the fore limbs to those of a monkey, and attach a hippo head while leaving
the large elephant ears. Here is an approximate portrait of a goblin.
Exactly such a goblin emerged from the cranberry bushes. The water beetles reared
from surprise and fright, made loud crackling noises with their legs, and rushed off. In
an instant, their trace went cold. And those sitting astride them could not stay in the
saddles and fell into the swamp. But the goblin did not even pay them any attention. He
was hurrying somewhere and did not even look back at Drool and Shish. They sat in the
marsh and looked at him from behind. Not at once, but it dawned on them that the
goblin was headed straight to Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa’s palace.

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Drool grabbed his head. “So, Martoduin roused the goblins after all and is driving
them to the marsh queen!” he yelled. “This is terrible!”
Nastradamus was also alarmed. “Galianka is there!” he hooted. “If the goblins
catch her, they’ll tear her apart!”
Drool grabbed the eagle-owl and pulled him out of the water, where he was
floundering and could not get out. “You must fly to the palace and warn the queen, at
any cost, that an attack on her is being prepared, and save the girl. And most
importantly, don’t forget to take Her Majesty’s golden yarn. She will give it to you in
exchange for the egg we obtained. Take it with you.”
Nastradamus nodded. Drool hung the bag with the silver heron eggs around his
neck, tossed him, and the eagle-owl spread his wings in the air and flew in the direction
in which the goblin had gone. Drool and Shish were left alone. The quagmire did not
bother the shishiga, but Sweet Tooth began to sink. Nastradamus pushed off from him
too forcefully in order to take off. He took off, but Drool began to sink into the marshy
abyss. If he had been alone, he would certainly have drowned. But Shish effortlessly
pulled him out onto a safe spot and got underway. “Follow me,” he said. “I’ll guide you
to a safe path.”
They waded to the royal palace in dirty slush up to their chest. Again, it was ten
times easier for Shish to walk in the swamp, because it was his native element, and
without Drool he would have been on site long ago. But he did not intend on
abandoning Drool, even after realizing that mortal danger was threatening his queen. “A
little more,” he encouraged Drool. “Behind that knoll is a secret path. We’ll take it and
you’ll walk as if on a tablecloth.”
The court wizard of the Fairy of Eternal Youth smiled guiltily at him in response
and groaned with effort. Finally he reached the desired knoll, and Shish raised the magic
trail. Drool was so tired that he barely scrambled onto it, and recovered for a while,
trying to catch his breath. But it was not possible to rest for long. They had to hurry and
they ran. They ran like crazy. Shish even hopped like a frog, and Drool rolled as a ball,
risking falling into the quagmire again.
And yet they were late. When the palace appeared before their eyes, they saw a
whole pack of goblins in front of it, storming the palisade, trying to break into the palace.
The shishigas fiercely resisted the aggressors. They showered the enemy with spears and
arrows, snakes and stones. But the goblins only waved their arms and persistently
climbed forward. And directing them, Drool went all cold inside when he saw them,
were the Hoskings, in person. They led the goblins in the attack, commanded and swore,
and of course they stayed behind the goblins’ backs, as they were so afraid of the
shishigas.
Behind the goblins and trolls a strange creature towered above the swamp. It was
both a goblin and not a goblin. A goblin because he looked like a goblin, as big and
hideous. And not a goblin because he was not quite alive. That is, he was certainly alive,
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but not from flesh and bones like all normal goblins, but from wood and ash. Flying
ashes surrounded a mouldering rotten tree, creating the appearance of a goblin. Thus,
this goblin and not-goblin was half transparent. Besides, at times it seemed that he
looked like a giant elf. But this was only for a moment.

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Drool immediately guessed that it was none other than Martoduin, the lord of the
goblins. And he had already managed somehow to half-materialize. In any case, he had
already become a tree, and now it remained for him to become a living goblin.
In order to understand how the trolls and goblins came to be here, it is necessary
to describe what Martoduin did after he failed to steal the golden yarn from Triasinitsa-
Tropinitsa’s palace.
As a black cloud he flew into the palace and began to fly wildly in search of the
golden yarn. The palace was no obstacle to him; he could penetrate any crack, the
smallest keyhole. Therefore, he quickly found the marsh queen’s golden yarn. But when
he was ready to grab it, angry shishiga guards stormed into the treasury where the yarn
lay, and drove Martoduin away from the sacred chest. He had absolutely no strength to
resist them. He barely managed to take a hike, although he, of course, had no legs. The
shishigas chased him with bags, trying to catch him, but he slipped through the windows
into the sky and flew away.
He rushed around the swamp in a rage, not too far from the palace where the
treasured thing was kept, hissed like a snake with spite, and swore that he would take
savage revenge on the assailants. He lay low in the middle of the swamp and hid. Just at
that moment Drool and his company passed by. Martoduin, tired and weary, would not
have paid them any attention, but he noticed Galianka, the elf girl, among them, and
became interested.
“How did she manage to get out?” he thought. The stupid princess probably
managed to get out of the closet where he had locked her, and rushed after him in
pursuit, not alone but with someone, very similar to a troll but not a troll, because trolls
do not have such big and kind eyes.
Martoduin began to follow Princess Galianka and her friends, and when he saw
that they were making their way straight to Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa’s palace, intense
anger and fear seized him.
So, he was not the only one striving to take possession of the golden spider’s yarn!
And if that was so, then they would surely be able to obtain from the marsh lady what he
had tried to steal. If that were the case, then he would not be able to become again the
great Martoduin, as he was before, and he would not succeed in destroying his worst
enemies – the elves. And he had so little time. After all, ten days would pass, and the
elves that froze under his spell would revive and rush after him in pursuit. They would
find and catch him, and then there would be full reckoning. The elves would not spare
him again. And he was so weak, and became weaker with every movement of the sun in
the sky.
Martoduin rushed about in a panic through the swamp. Ashes and black dust flew
from him in all directions. And then detachments of shishigas began to scurry nearby.
So, they had already begun to hunt him. Nobody forgives those who try to steal a
magical thing.
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Martoduin had to hide on the shore. He hastily flew to dry land, where grass and
trees grew, and where there were no suspicious marsh creatures. He flew in, lay down
on the yellow sand, which immediately became black, and heard voices.
Martoduin was frightened and again wanted to flee, but saw that trolls, the most
authentic, wicked, and wily trolls, were walking straight towards him. Unspeakable joy
seized Martoduin. Indeed, trolls had always been his allies in the eternal war with the
elves. Moreover, Martoduin had bequeathed to them the power over all goblins, if
anything should happen to him. As a result, goblins had obeyed trolls all these hundreds
and hundreds of years. And now it was time for the trolls to pay their debts.
The Hoskings screamed in terror when a cloud of black dust flew straight out from
under their feet and addressed them: “I am Martoduin, Black Elf and the great Gobivilin,
I, Lord of the Goblins, stand before you and plead for help. Help me, or you’ll never get
out of this place!”
Such power was in this voice that the trolls did not dare defy him. They fell heavily
on their knees in front of the goblin lord, and Kurukul Hoskings stammered in a
trembling voice, “Oh, great lord, master of evil forces, what must we do?”
“Help me find a body to start. I need to move into something, best of all a tree. But
I don’t have the strength for spells, so you’ll cast the spells.”
Kurukul was a cowardly and mean troll, stupid, greedy, and uneducated. But he
knew Martoduin’s story well and did not risk getting mixed up with him. He was just a
young troll and not such a powerful villain like Camelbrook, who would never help
Martoduin. But the Black Elf said that they would not get out of the place if they did not
listen to him, and indeed his strength was enough for this. So, the senior Hoskings
began to command the subordinate trolls to prepare the solemn ritual of moving the
dead ashes into a living tree.
This, the relocation of one body to another, was a very difficult ritual. The
particular difficulty was that the dead had to move into the living, thereby taking away
its life. It was dangerous for everyone. However, although the trolls were cowardly, they
were never afraid of using witchcraft, which is why they set to work enthusiastically.
First they found a tree that stood alone on a clearing far from the others. It was
impossible to have other trees nearby. It was a young birch. It best suited the trolls,
because birches are most vulnerable to witchcraft. They surrounded it with a triangle
made of stones, which they had collected from the swamp and on each of which they had
cast a spell, after which they all acquired a black tinge. Finally, they encircled the birch
with pieces of charcoal, which had to be extracted right from underground. Preparations
were completed with this and the trolls began the ritual. They took off their dirty sacks,
which substituted for their clothing, and remained naked, grey, sweaty, and nasty.
The witchcraft ritual began with a dance. The trolls held hands and stood in a wide
ring around the tree. They were few, so they had to stretch their arms out. A wild

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frenzied round dance began. The trolls ran in a wild revolting dance, made the most
horrible and disgusting faces, twisted their ugly bodies, and sang the song:

Stupid birch, idle you’re standing,


Tru-la-la, tra-la-la! Oh!
Boom!!!

But we’ll fix this, and quickly you’ll be burning!


Tru-la-la, tra-la-la! Oh!
Boom!!!

Your crooked branches, will take Martoduin!


He’ll steal your trunk, give it to him!
Louse, lie, louse, lie!
You’ll die, he’ll live,
Tra-la-la, tra-la-la!
To us you yourself will give!

White horse, not black horse!


You to fire will tow!
Your skin was white,
Will turn black like coal!

On lies evil lice live,


Live, live!
To evil work will give!

And they sang it not once, but many, many times. They finished and then started
again.
During the time they were singing, terrible changes began to happen to the
unfortunate birch. Right before their eyes, it began to twist like a girl being beaten with
sticks, groaned in a loud voice, although trees could not speak, creaked, and, slowly but
inexorably, died. Its snow-white bark started to darken, the leaves turned black and fell
off the branches, and very real tears flowed along its branches and trunk.
Looking at its suffering, the trolls rejoiced, laughed, spat, cursed, and sang their
terrible song even louder. Martoduin impatiently crawled around them like a black dirty
anaconda and hissed. He could not wait for the moment when he could become a tree.
The trolls sped up their dance more and more, raced madly in a circle, and shouted
the song in hoarse voices. With each new circle they sang faster and faster and their
words merged into a single rumble, so that they could no longer be disassembled, but
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they did not lose any letters. Their tongues swelled up with the tension, but they did not
stop singing. And such a heat came from them that even the ground under them
groaned and began to melt. The stones lying in a triangle around the birch first heated to
red, and then became white as snow.
Then the birch let out its last scream. It was a cry for help. It called and prayed for
salvation because its roots and trunk had flared up and fire ran along its branches. It
was such a desperate cry that the forest, like a wall standing around, responded to it,
crackled threateningly with their mighty trunks, rustled their dense crowns, and emitted
a reciprocal battle cry. The trees, which had stood for centuries on the ground, pulled
out their roots and moved from their place, indignant to the depths of their rings at the
actions of the torturers mocking their sister. They stood in orderly rows and moved
slowly towards the trolls.
As soon as the birch flared up, Martoduin rushed to it and began circling around it
like a black whirlwind, wrapping it with rings. Like a boa constrictor beginning to choke
a defenceless goat. The birch groaned for the last time and began to stoop and shrink in
size, as if air had been released from it.
The trees, despite their slowness, moved faster. They were already very close. A few
steps and their branches would touch the trolls. The Hoskings knew what was
threatening them, and all five turned to face the trees advancing on them, their back to
the birch, and sang a new song:

Wall of fire, help us!


From hell here come!
We do evil, hurry!
You we’ll welcome!
Oh, fire demon,
Quick, come to us,
Warm us up, very cold,
Firewood is coming,
Take them, fearless,
Them to fire, fire goat!

Now the ground beneath their feet split and a flame of fire burst out of the cracks
right in front of the trees. A whole wall of fire raged, crackled, droned, and threatened to
devour everything that would get in its way. It was so powerful that even the oldest and
mightiest oaks and maples immediately retreated. The forest was defeated. It groaned in
pain and resentment, wept loudly, and retreated. The trees had to return to their places.
Bitterly cursing the assailants, they plodded back.

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But there was no longer a birch. On the spot where it had recently stood, now there
was a monster, resembling a charred snag and a goblin. It was Martoduin. He ran over
the trolls with a burning fiery gaze and praised them.
“You haven’t changed since we fought the elves. Not so my subjects. They sank,
almost catch mice, and are scared of everything and everyone. But it doesn’t matter, this
will soon be over. We’ll restore the kingdom of darkness, and black elves, that is, us
goblins and trolls, will again rule the world!” In his anger he had forgotten that they had
never ruled the world. But he believed it sincerely and rage overwhelmed him.
“Well, now I need to get the golden spider’s yarn,” he said. “It lies in the palace of
that upstart marshy half toad half human. We’ll take it away and assemble the web.
Otherwise, we won’t be able to cope with the elves. Follow me!”
“But we need to catch Drool, the traitor and renegade,” Kurukul tried to object.
“We have the Supreme Troll’s order.”
Martoduin narrowed his eyes. “Are you talking about a pink troll kid with big, kind
eyes?”
“Yes, yes, that’s him!” The Hoskings hopped happily on the spot. “We must
dissolve him in dead water.”
“That’s wonderful. You’ll find him in the marsh queen’s palace. I saw him going
there. So, let’s hurry!”
And they all rushed to the swamp. Now they had one goal. So, the trolls from the
Hoskings family fell under the command of the goblin lord Martoduin. And at that very
shore, they stumbled upon five goblins, which were going hunting, and took them along.
They immediately decided with them to attack Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa’s palace without
any negotiations.
“There’s a girl in the palace, the elf king’s daughter. Take her alive,” Martoduin
ordered when their army was already approaching the palace.
Drool knew none of this. When they approached the marsh queen’s palace, the day
was already approaching its end. It was necessary to get to Galianka and the golden yarn
and run as far away as possible before night came. With the onset of darkness, the
strength of the goblins and trolls would increase several times, and then it would be
impossible to fend them off. But how could they get into the palace? After all, they were
cut off from it. The goblins and trolls were between them and the palace. Drool shared
all this with Shish.
“We have only one option,” Shish replied, “to try to go around. Fortunately, there
aren’t so many goblins, and they didn’t have time to surround the Turtle Castle.”
And so they again ran along the secret paths that were to lead them to the palace,
but from the other side.

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Chapter Thirteen
WHAT GUARD EAGLE-OWLS AND GIRL-ELVES ARE CAPABLE OF

Having received his combat mission, Nastradamus rushed like heck to fulfil it.
Unexpectedly for him, he suddenly discovered that he had become very attached to
Drool and Galianka. Especially to the girl. He had simply fallen in love with her as with a
granddaughter and was now flying to save her. He was ready to sacrifice everything for
this. Forgetting that he was more than two hundred years old, the eagle-owl flew and felt
young and full of strength and energy. Where had all the aging pains, sad thoughts, and
lonely hours gone? All this was in the past, which now looked like somebody else’s. Now
he lived in the present. And in the present he had friends, and they needed him, and he
needed them. Besides, he suddenly and unexpectedly liked the life filled with adventures.
No wonder his grandfather had been the companion of a wandering knight, who even
had an eagle-owl depicted on his shield. Now Grandfather’s hot blood was aflame in him.
Nastradamus saw below him a group of goblins and trolls. He felt uneasy. And
when the trolls saw him, shouted, and began to throw stones, he even got a fright, but
only for a second. After that he soared higher and flew farther. It was a few good wing
strokes to the palace. Then the eagle-owl saw a squad of shishigas and dived down.
“Alert!” he shouted, addressing the shishigas. “Alert! Goblins and trolls are coming
here, and their lord with them. They’re going to attack your palace!”
The shishigas immediately jumped like big frogs and rushed to the queen.
Nastradamus overtook them and was in the throne room ahead of everyone. He also
raised the alarm there. The shishigas were good soldiers, so they immediately began to

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prepare for defence. The closed the gates, opened traps, occupied places at the stockade,
and prepared to meet any enemy.
To the surprise of Nastradamus, the queen was calm. She looked permissively at
the rising commotion and, when the eagle-owl landed on an arm of her throne, was not
even surprised. “Well, so, did you get me a silver heron egg?” she asked.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Nastradamus bowed. “It’s in the bag. Please be so kind as to
take it off my neck. A little more and it will chafe my neck. I’m indeed an eagle-owl after
all, not a carrier pigeon.”
The queen laughed, took the bag from the eagle-owl’s neck, and took out of it a
silver egg. The shell glittered in the orange sun rays, which just at that moment peered
in the window, and the queen was admiring it. “Well, you managed the task excellently,”
Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa said. “And I can surely give you the golden yarn. Especially since
keeping it here in my home has become dangerous. Take it, Nastradamus, and be this
faithful friend to Drool and the elf king’s daughter.”
With these words, she clapped her hands and two popeyed toads in tricornes
jumped into the throne room. “Bring the golden yarn here and give it to this brave and
clever eagle-owl,” the queen ordered.
“And now you’d better take the girl and get away from here,” the queen advised
him after the toads had brought in the golden yarn and hung it on a silk cord around
Nastradamus’ neck. “You have wings, so you can easily get away from here.”
“But what about you?” exclaimed Nastradamus. “Are you going to fight the goblins?
They will destroy you all.”
“You don’t have to worry about us,” Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa calmly answered.
“Should I be afraid of goblins, those thick-headed oafs?”
The eagle-owl shook his head and flew to find Galianka. On the way, he met a
young kikimora who explained where he should fly. When the eagle-owl flew into the
room where, as he was told, the girl was sleeping, he discovered only an empty bed. It
was a lovely baby crib made of an inverted tortoise shell. Once upon a time the girl
Tropinka slept in it when she was little.
“Where’s Galianka?” Nastradamus hooted, troubled. “That girl has disappeared
somewhere again! That’s the trouble with these naughty chicks. My feathers will fall
prematurely.”
And so he began to fly around the palace and look for Galianka. There was even no
one for him to ask where she was. Everyone had set off to protect the Turtle Castle,
because by this time the goblins had just begun the assault. But then the eagle-owl was
lucky, he met in the corridor a whole company of water snakes and tadpoles, which were
also going to war.
“Have you seen the princess?” Nastradamus asked them.

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“We have, we have!” the water snakes and tadpoles hissed and croaked. “She’s on
the castle wall fighting the goblins. Such a brave girl! We both saw that she flew to fight,
so we also ran away from nanny, and now we go to fight the nasty goblins.”
Nastradamus almost fainted when he heard such news. But there was no time to
faint, therefore he just groaned and flew out the first window to the outside. A war was
already raging there. And Galianka was certainly flying in the very midst of it and
shooting at the goblins from the crossbow. The old eagle-owl grabbed his head and
rushed to help the princess.
Galianka had just joined the battle. When Drool and Nastradamus had set off for
the silver egg, she was sleeping soundly in Queen Tropinka’s bed. The girl was so tired
that when the kikimoras brought her to the bedchamber, she did not even notice how
they took off her wings, undressed and put her in bed under a warm soft blanket. When
she woke up, she was very surprised and looked around for a long time. Finally, she
remembered what had happened to her and understood that she was in the marsh
palace. On a nearby armchair hung her clothing, and on a bedside hook her wings,
crossbow, and quiver with arrows, the tips of which were made of silver.
Galianka jumped down onto the floor, hopped about because it was too cold to
stand barefoot on the damp floor, quickly dressed, combed her hair, donned her wings,
and hung the crossbow with arrows behind her back. And in all that time she did not see
anyone. It seemed strange to her, especially since she had woken up from the noise that
was previously in the corridors and outside the windows. The princess looked out the
window and saw that shishigas, kikimoras, iguanas, and large dragon snakes, all armed
to the teeth, were running around the palace.
“Something very serious is happening here,” Galianka said to herself and ran out
into the hallway.
There was no one there either. The girl went a few steps and suddenly heard some
sounds – either hissing or croaking. She stopped. The sounds became distinct, and
Galianka, glancing around the corner, saw a round pool standing near one of the
windows. The sounds came from there. The girl went without hesitation to the pool and
saw in it a whole brood of tadpoles and water snakes. The tadpoles were swimming in
the water and the snakes were crawling along the edges.
“What are you doing here?” Galianka asked them in amphibian language. “And
where did all the others go?” The young ones started vying to tell her that goblins and
trolls were attacking the palace and all the adults had gone to war, but they were not
allowed to go.
“Is that so?” Galianka said. “Goblins? Well, I'll show them. They’ll learn how an elf
princess shoots.” And she ran from the palace. On the way, she met an old female
hedgehog hurrying to its kindergarten and almost stepped on it. She apologized and ran
on.

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Outside the palace door, there was already a swamp in the courtyard. This was the
shishigas flooding the courtyard so that the enemy could not find dry land anywhere.
Galianka, without thinking twice, flew to the walls of the stockade, from which the
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defenders of the castle were already shooting. She grabbed her crossbow and also
started shooting at a goblin climbing the wall a dozen steps from her and waving a huge
club. The shishigas showered him with a hail of rocks and snakes, but he paid no
attention to them. However, he did not like Galianka’s arrows. The first of them hit him
in the ear and he roared in pain.
“Aha, gotcha!” The girl was delighted and flew to shoot at the goblin at close range.
But the goblin, as soon as he saw that an elf was flying towards him with crossbow
in hand, howled with fear and fell back. The shishigas shouted with joy, and the rest of
the goblins with anger. There were five of them. But the sharp beams of the stockade
pierced one goblin through and through, and it was hanging, large and helpless. Another
goblin drowned in the quagmire when he tarried carelessly, hiding behind his paws from
the sharp stones flying at him. Three of them remained when the elf king’s daughter
joined the battle.
The goblin, which Galianka attacked, ran back, and the other two followed him.
The assault on the tortoiseshell castle had failed. The goblins crowded around their lord,
licking their wounds and whimpering plaintively. They did not even pay attention to the
trolls showering them with abuse and trying to organize another attack.
Martoduin looked with horror and outrage at his former subjects. Were they really
the ones who had once induced terror in all living things? Now before him were
cowardly, stupid, and useless goblins. No, five goblins were too few to do great black
deeds. Villains are strong only when they are many. And the more, the better. It
mattered not, soon he would gather countless regiments of goblins. But then Martoduin
did not have time for reflection. He saw the elf princess, and she was flying straight at
him, loading the crossbow in flight.
“Vile sorcerer!” Galianka yelled. “Now I’ll finish you! Now lift the spell off my
parents and all the other elves!”
“Seize her!” Martoduin ordered, not to the goblins now but the trolls. At that
moment he regretted that he had only had time to become a tree, because he could not
fly and could not do it himself.
The trolls did not dare disobey him, and although they were very scared, they took
out ropes and began to throw them at the girl, trying to lasso her. But it was not so easy.
Galianka flew with lightning speed and showered Martoduin with arrows. But they did
not inflict any harm on the tree. Now the strength of her wings quickly ended, because
elves are not birds and they cannot fly for long.
Finally, Burdiuk managed to throw a loop on her and with a triumphant laugh
pulled her toward him. The other trolls rushed to his aid, and the princess struggled like
a bird caught in a trap.
“Help!” she screamed. “Help!”
“Gotcha!” the trolls laughed in response.

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And then something terrible with claws, burning eyes, and a sharp beak fell on
them like a rock from above. It was Nastradamus. He dived right at Burdiuk’s head and
grabbed his hair with his claws. The eagle-owl hooted loudly and his beak worked like a
blacksmith’s hammer. With incredible force, he began to peck the one who dared to hurt
his chick.
“Help!” Burdiuk squealed. “Murder!” And he let go of the rope.
Naturally, the rest of the Hoskings, who recognized Drool’s guard eagle-owl,
immediately rushed to the side, as if they were attacked not by an eagle-owl but by a
giant eagle, and they also let go of the rope.
Galianka was free. Nastradamus soared to her, trying to shield her from the
enemies with his wide wings. At that moment, he was beautiful and resembled a
mythical harpy – a female bird. In the rays of the setting sun, the golden spider’s yarn
flashed on his neck and blinded Martoduin.
“The yarn!” the goblin lord yelled. “The golden yarn! Drop everything and catch
that bird!” But there was no one to carry out his will. The trolls had fled, and the goblins
sat around their lord in the quagmire, and like giant toads stared blankly at the sky.
“Let’s go!” Nastradamus said when he had examined Galianka and made sure that
everything was fine with her.
“I have no strength,” the girl complained. “My wings are about to fall off now.”
What to do? Without thinking for long, the eagle-owl unceremoniously grabbed
her by the collar with his claws and flew with her as if she was a mouse caught. Are you
surprised? In the meantime, I want to remind you that elves are very light, one can say
almost weightless. So the eagle-owl was quite capable. Moreover, he felt like such a hero
that it seemed that he would carry a real girl.
“Where are you taking me?” Galianka asked.
“As far away from here as possible. We’ll turn around behind the castle and fly in
search of Drool. He’s waiting for us.”
They flew in silence for a while. Then the girl lifted her head and called,
“Nastradamus.”
“What is it?” When danger had passed a little, the eagle-owl again returned to his
grumpy and displeased tone.
“You saved me, Nastradamus.” Galianka had already recovered a little and was also
working her wings. “Thank you.”
The eagle-owl could not even find anything to say, he was so touched. He only
hooted something indistinctly.
As soon as they flew past the castle, they immediately saw, a hundred paces away,
Drool and Shish hastening to meet them. Nastradamus headed towards them, and a
minute later they gently swooped down to the nearest mound.

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Chapter Fourteen
THE STREAM OF WISDOM AND LULLABY LAKE

Oh, how happy they all were! But there was no time to talk and hug. The enemy
was about to come to its senses and rush at them again, and it was, despite everything,
crafty, malicious, and dangerous. It was necessary to run. Especially since that was what
Queen Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa had advised them to do. Here luck smiled on them again.
“Look, our horses!” Shish suddenly shouted. In fact, the water beetles, which had
bolted from Drool and Shish when they saw the goblins, had also returned home. “Aw,
shameless!” Shish reproached them. “Come on, get over here.”
The water beetles crackled shamefacedly, their funny whiskered heads hung
guiltily, and they rolled up to their masters. The friends sat down on them, and rushed
at great speed to the southern shore, naturally bypassing that dangerous place where the
goblins, their lord, and the Hoskings trolls were.
The sun had gone over the horizon when they reached the shore and got out on dry
land. The friends said goodbye to Shish cordially, wished him all the best, and moved on.
It was necessary before the onset of darkness to get as far away as possible from the
marshy shore, where it was full of goblins.
But before going on the road, Drool remembered that Larissa was not with them.
The pony had remained in the tortoiseshell castle.
“What shall we do now?” Galianka almost burst into tears. “I’m so tired. I can’t fly
any more. Nor walk either.”

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“Princess!” Nastradamus sighed in understanding. “Gentle creature. My dove, I’ll


carry you.”
“No,” the girl objected, no longer wanting to hang from the eagle-owl’s beak.
“What’s the problem?” Drool reassured her. “Here’s something to worry about.
Now I’ll summon her. And at the same time I’ll send the cards back to their mistress. I
haven’t returned them yet.”
He quickly began to recite incomprehensible words and wave his arms in front of
him. It was the exchange spell. Wizards cast it when they gave something to each other,
and later when they have to exchange these things again. The spell was simple and short,
but Drool needed a long and hard blow on the deck of cards he held in his palm. At last
it disappeared successfully, and Larissa appeared as from under the ground next to
Drool. She was harnessed, saddled, loaded for a long journey, and peacefully chewing
something. She looked slyly at the friends with big, kind eyes, snorted contentedly, and
waved her tail as if in greeting.
“Well, now we’re all together and we can continue our journey,” Drool said, taking
out the Bewitched Forest map from his bosom. “We go in that direction.” He pointed
east.
And so they went in that direction. Darkness fell swiftly. Bewitched Forest was not
a very good place. Drool had already had the occasion to be here, and many adventures
had befallen him, Knight Caterino, and the squire Christian. Now he was with different
company. But these were also friends, good and faithful, who had already proved their
loyalty and courage. Drool had already acquired two golden yarns, and now he was
heading to Amber Glade, where, as the map showed, the bee kingdom was, ruled by the
bee mother Queen Zhuzhilda the Third. It was a couple of days of journey to her. And
this trek passed through not very pleasant places: Stream of Wisdom and Lullaby Lake.
They had traversed quite a bit when it darkened, and there was no way to continue
the trek. They had to call a halt. Drool again surrounded the camp with a protective
magic circle. He did not dare build a fire. “There are so many creatures here that can’t
tolerate fire, and those which, on the contrary, fly at it. We don’t need to meet with
either one or the other. So we have to be content with dry rations. Do we have anything
left, Nastradamus?”
“Of course!” the eagle-owl said. “In my bag are still elven gingerbread, a piece of
raspberry pie, honey cider, half a cheese, and a loaf made of Kulob wheat.” The eagle-
owl sighed because he could not find anything meaty.
They ate and before they went to bed, all three looked long into the darkness and
listened if the goblins were chasing after them. They could see perfectly in the dark.
Nastradamus because eagle-owls and owls are supposed to see better at night than
during the day, Drool because he was a wizard and needed only a minor spell for this,
and Galianka, since she was an elf, she saw the same during the day or at night.

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However, there was clearly nothing threatening them in the darkness. They fell asleep
without posing a guard, because the best guard was the magic circle.
Exactly at midnight, Nastradamus woke up and felt a fierce hunger. He said
nothing to anyone, quietly got outside the limits of the magic circle, and flew off into the
night forest. He returned at dawn. His eyes were gleaming contentedly. The eagle-owl
busied himself a little, cleaned his feathers with his beak, and already wanted to fall
asleep, when two voices immediately hailed him.
“Where have you been?” It was Drool and Galianka.
Nastradamus was embarrassed. “I have a female owl friend who lives here,” he
began to justify himself. “I flew to visit her. A very old friend. A widow and a great cook.”
“You’re making it up,” the princess interrupted. “You probably went hunting? And
what did you catch this time? A mouse or a hare?”
“A rat,” the owl admitted and hiccupped, sated.
“Ugh!” Galianka wrinkled her snub nose and clamped it with her fingers.
No one except Nastradamus wanted to sleep anymore, and Drool announced that
they were going further. They quickly packed up and got under way. It was very early.
Even the earliest birds were not awake yet, and the friends rode through the silent forest.
The terrain was flat, not very overgrown, and Larissa galloped at a light trot. The three
travellers sat on her together. Nastradamus was in front, trying to fall asleep and
continuously falling on his side. Drool was behind him, supporting the eagle-owl so that
he would not fall off. Behind Drool sat the princess. Gradually the Bewitched Forest
woke up. Voices of strange birds began to be heard in the canopy and blue squirrels
hopped from branch to branch in search of fruit. A wild cock from the forest crowed the
dawn and the sky turned pink. The sunrise had begun.
An array of long-legged hedgehogs ran right in front of Larissa. A bat, much larger
than Nastradamus, flew by. It was in a hurry to return to its roost. Its night time was
over. Jerboas, each the size of a large dog, grazed peacefully on the flower meadow. On
seeing the travellers, they became frightened and darted off in great powerful leaps at
lightning speed into the forest thicket. Somewhere a deer with golden antlers trumpeted.
A woodpecker tapped on a tree.
Drool was constantly checking the map, reaching for it every time, although he had
almost memorized it. “Soon will be the Stream of Wisdom,” he announced.
“What’s this Stream of Wisdom?” asked Galianka, who was asleep but woke up
instantly with curiosity.
“It’s magical, like everything else in this forest.”
“And what’s its magic?”
“Whoever goes into its waters will immediately become wise,” Drool replied with a
smile.
“Well, then I’ll definitely swim in it. I really want to be a wise princess. How
surprised everyone will be when they find out that I’m smarter than the royal astrologer.”
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“I wouldn’t advise you to do that.”


“Why?”
“Because the Stream, along with wisdom and intelligence, also bestows experience.”
“Experience will also be useful for me. Is it bad to be experienced?”
“You see, experience is gained over the years. The older you are, the more
experienced you are.”
“Are you saying that I’ll become older if I go into the water of the Stream?”
“Exactly. You won’t just get older. You’ll instantly age and become a profoundly old
woman. Wise, intelligent, experienced, but incredibly old. Do you want to be an old lady?
Although, I’ve never heard of old elves.”
Galianka shivered. “No, I don’t want to age.”
“I don’t want that either,” Drool said. “We’ll make a raft and go downstream,
because it’s impossible to walk along the shore. It’s overgrown with iron cacti for many
thousands of steps. To fall into a thicket of them is certain death. Later we’ll go ashore,
there’s a passage that leads to Lullaby Lake.”
“And what’s that?”
“The Lake is no better than the Stream. Who do you think you’ll turn into if you fall
into it?”
“Probably a baby.”
“Right. You’ll become a little nectarous elf. I’ll become a pale pink troll, and
Nastradamus will turn into a wet naked nestling. And we’ll have to start our life anew.”
“Oh, don’t!” the princess waved her hands. “Here you wait, can’t wait till you’re
initiated into adolescence, but again become a little elf and only suck flower nectar from
a nipple, lie in diapers and sit on a pot, surrounded by stupid nannies. No, this life
already bored me to death so.”
Here Nastradamus gave voice. “I wouldn’t mind being a chick again. Old age and
wisdom aren’t such good things. No one needs the elderly. But here they always bustle
around the chicks all the time, jumping, thrusting food into your beak, and you don’t
have to wander through the forest all night. Trust me. I speak from personal experience.”
“Poor Nastradamus,” the girl felt sorry for the eagle-owl. “If you want that, then
we’ll dip you in Lullaby Lake, and you’ll become a chick. I’ll take care of you.”
The eagle-owl pondered. He was visibly excited about this idea. “Some other time,”
he said, after thinking. “Now we have too much to do. Must get the golden web, save
your kingdom, lift the spell off the elves, destroy Martoduin, and send Drool to the Big
World. No, you can’t do it without me, my children. So we’ll fight further.”
During the conversations they did not notice that the waters of the Stream of
Wisdom glimmered ahead. This stream was quite narrow. But its opposite bank was
covered with impenetrable thickets of iron cacti, some of which were no shorter than
trees.

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“And what do we build the raft out of?” Galianka began to look around. “Do we
have an ax? I’ve never seen how a tree is cut down. It’s probably horrible. I won’t be able
to look at this. I’ll cry.”
“Don’t worry. Nobody is cutting down trees. First, these trees can’t float. And
secondly, I already have a raft. It lies in my hiking bag. I specifically brought a raft with
me instead of a boat, because Larissa is with us, and she won’t fit in any boat.”
Galianka and Nastradamus stared at him. “A raft? In your bag?”
“Of course. Here it is,” and Drool took out of his hiking bag a small toy raft, which
boys make when spring comes and streams begin to murmur. It was made very well, just
like a real one. It even had a mast on it.
“How do we sail it?” Galianka grinned. "Even Nastradamus can’t fit here."
“We’ll all fit on it. Even Larissa.”
Drool put the toy raft on the ground, almost at the water’s edge. One corner of it
was even touching it. Then he reached for a small box from his pocket and took out a
pinch of red powder from it. He sprinkled the toy raft with this powder, and the raft
began to grow and enlarge right before their eyes. A minute later, a real raft was swaying
on the water in front of the travellers. Not very big, but also not small at all.
With an owner’s welcoming hand, the small wizard invited his friends to climb
onto the raft. Larissa was loaded last. Drool, talking to her gently and stroking her round
side, brought her onto the raft. They were ready to push off when a familiar click
sounded in the forest. The friends listened. They still did not understand what the sound
was, when a little man made of twigs and cones instead of a head jumped out of the
forest to the edge of the stream.
“Twig-Diviner!” Galianka clapped her hands. And Twig-Diviner, who it precisely
was, creaking joyfully, jumped into her arms.
“Now the whole team is assembled,” Drool said, and pushed off from the shore
with a pole. The raft floated. The current of the stream was slow, and Drool was wielding
a pole.
They sailed for a long time. The day was in full swing. The sun was hanging high
and burning. Galianka undressed and left only one shirt on. Several times she and
Nastradamus flew ahead to scout, checking whether the passage to Lullaby Lake was
ahead. By lunchtime it was very hot, and everyone really wanted to swim. The water of
the stream beckoned them to its coolness. Waves gently splashed the logs of the raft, as
if persuading the travellers to dive and swim with them. But of course, no one wanted to
grow old, and their efforts were futile. A huge five-metre catfish, black with two-metre
long whiskers and old wise eyes, heaved heavily past them and swam, and then dived
again. It looked at the travellers so wisely that they did not want to become like it at all.
“We’ll get wisdom and experience on our own,” Drool began to think aloud. “Year
after year, year after year. You’ll see, and we’ll grow wise and gather experience. But now
we don’t have time to hasten it.”
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Finally, a sandy beach without cacti and thorns appeared ahead. Drool directed the
raft to the beach, and soon they landed on the shore. Then he again reduced the raft and
took it under his arm. “We’ll need it soon.” They walked along the passage which went
through the cactus jungle.
“Oh,” Galianka sighed in relief, when the Stream of Wisdom disappeared behind
her. “I almost went swimming. It’s so hard when the water is near but you can’t bathe in
it.”
“More than that,” Drool replied sympathetically. “Lullaby Lake is ahead of us. It’ll
talk to us differently.”
“Does it really know how to talk?”
“See for yourself.”
Very soon Lullaby Lake spread before them. It was very large and clear. The azure
sky reflected in it as in a mirror with all the clouds, the sun, and birds. Its shores were
overgrown with lilies and water lilies, from which lively frogs jumped into the water.
“Dive after us!” they croaked, on seeing the travellers.
Aside from frogs on the beach, what was not there! Baby animals, chicks, and small
boys and girls, the oldest of which was no more than five years old, they were all
scampering, playing, laughing, and singing songs. Little girl mermaids and little water-
sprites, who were not intending on drowning anyone, waved to them from the water.
There were also two goblin cubs, and even one thirty-year-old troll youngling. Fun and
joy reigned on the beaches of Lullaby Lake and in its waters.
“What, they were all adults once?” Galianka, wide-eyed with amazement, asked
Drool.
“Yes. Somehow they got into this lake and turned into children. So they stayed to
live here. Here you can live forever. Once they grow to a certain age, the lake makes
them babies again and they begin to live anew. The lake itself nurtures them as the best
mother. Feeds and waters them. Warms them in cold weather, cools them in the heat.
The children live here for centuries and know neither troubles nor worries. The eternal
festival of childhood. They don’t need anything, just play, swim, and have fun. If you
don’t want to become them, don’t even put your finger in the water, otherwise a naughty
mermaid will grab it and drag you into the water.”
Galianka obeyed Drool and stood in the very middle of the raft. She did not want to
become an infant. She was not impressed by a festival. For elves, their entire life is a
festival. And most importantly, she did not have time for games. She had to save the
elves, Mama, and Papa.
They again sat down on the raft and sailed to the opposite shore, which was visible
ahead as a narrow ribbon. When they had sailed away from the shore for a considerable
distance, the water came around them with waves, and the crystal ringing of its voice
was heard.

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“My children,” the lake began to speak tenderly, nicely, and melodiously, “you’re
tired, you need to rest. How long can you run around the world and do stupid things?
But now everything’s all behind you, and I won’t leave you. Come to me, I’ll hug you and
soothe you, warm you with caresses, remove all worries and needs from your shoulders.
You’ll forget about suffering and pain, about sadness and sorrow. Nobody will hurt you,
no one will beat you. I’ll protect you from anyone you want. Come to me!”
The speeches of Lullaby Lake were so sweet and tender, penetrating into the very
soul in such a way that everyone just wanted to rush into its waves to enjoy peace and
happiness.
And it continued, “Why hurry somewhere and be exposed to dangers, when you
can just enjoy life? Why bustle about and strive for the impossible? Stop for a moment
and think, is what you do really so essential? So necessary? After all, all this is simply a
mirage. Even if you do something and succeed, then what of it? There’ll be new concerns,
new tasks much more complex and difficult than previous ones. And everything will
start again anew. And so on until death. You won’t even have time to look around when
it comes for you and calls you. And then you’ll begin to understand that life has been
wasted and nothing has been done. Nothing achieved. Wake up and come to me. I have
happiness, joy, fun, and peace. I have immortality and eternal childhood.”
The lake began to rock the raft on the waves in time with its song, so that those
who were on it felt like being in a cradle. Their heads started to spin, their eyes started
to mist. The song soothed and lured. Everyone felt at the height of bliss.
The magic lake began to address each individually and started with the eagle-owl.
“Nastradamus,” it called, “Nastradamus. You’re old and alone. You don’t need anyone
except me. Come to me, under my wings you’ll find happiness, youth, and strength. You
saw the young eagle-owlets frolicking on the beach. You really didn’t become jealous?
But everything isn’t lost yet. Flap your wings, take a few steps forward, and I’ll take you
to them. You’ll already be different. You’ll be happy.”
Nastradamus could not stand it. He tried to take off, but since he was standing on
logs, and eagle-owls cannot take off from a flat surface, he did not succeed. Then he ran
to the water. Here, Drool and Galianka were as if awakened, came to their senses, and
grabbed him by the wings. Another moment and they would not have succeeded.
The eagle-owl hooted indignantly and began to break away. “Let me go, my friends,”
he shouted. “Let go! What’s such an old man like me to you? Better I become young and
strong, and I’ll be much more use to you! Let me bathe in this wonderful lake.”
But Drool and Galianka tried to persuade him to stay with them, because they
realized that the eagle-owl was only under the spell of the lake and did not speak for
himself. But then they themselves were completely free from its spell.

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Suddenly there was a loud neigh. They turned and saw Larissa. The pony stood on
her hind legs, the reins that tethered her to the mast broke, and she threw herself into
the water and swam to the shore, where all those lured by Lullaby Lake were having fun.
The waves picked her up and carried her as if on transparent hands. With every metre
the horse grew smaller and younger until she became a newborn pony. Soon she
disappeared from sight.
“Larissa!” Drool shouted to her almost in tears. “Where are you going? Ai-yai-yai!
Indeed Gene gave you to me! What will I tell him when he asks about you, where are
you?”
But then Nastradamus had come to his senses and guiltily twisted his head and
blinked his eyes. “What was wrong with me?” he muttered. “I almost left you. Ah, how
ashamed!”
Galianka was so delighted that he said this that she began to hug and kiss him.
“How wonderful that you didn’t fly away from us,” she said. “Yes, I almost jumped into
the water myself. Good that Drool took me by the hand in time.”
Nastradamus nodded his head. “Exactly, exactly, it was simply impossible to resist,”
he complained. “After all, I distinctly heard my mother’s voice. She was calling me. Just
like in childhood when I looked from the nest out of curiosity, she called me back. So
tenderly, tenderly.”
“And I also heard Mama’s voice,” Galianka admitted. “How is that, I thought,
indeed I left her in the palace. How did she get here? But the voice was exactly like hers.”
Drool immediately lowered his head. “I’ve never heard my mama’s voice,” he said
quietly.” Trolls don’t have mamas. As soon as a female troll gives birth, she immediately
abandons him and runs away. And trolls bring them up. Can trolls really give a good
upbringing? They cultivate the same evil as they themselves. Would you be good and
kind if your mama abandoned you?” This unexpected story of Drool utterly upset his
friends.
“Here our Larissa probably also heard the neighing of her mama-pony,” Galianka
sobbed. “And we didn’t restrain her. What a pity!”
“Maybe she’s fine now?” Nastradamus hooted. “Maybe she really thinks she’s little
and with her mama-pony beside her? What do you think, my friend Drool?”
“One of us had to stay here anyway,” Drool said sadly, working the pole diligently.
The shore was already close. “I heard that this lake never lets anyone go without taking
at least one victim. Turns out it isn’t a legend but pure truth.”

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Chapter Fifteen
THE BEES OF AMBER GLADE

Lullaby Lake was also left behind. The friends hurried to get away from it as
quickly as possible. Only now they had to walk. What was to be done? Drool put on his
back the hiking bag, which fortunately was not on Larissa when she jumped into the
water, and walked, after looking at the map. Twig-Diviner ran nonchalantly ahead and
looked for the most convenient path. Nastradamus flew ahead to scout. And Galianka
walked beside Drool, holding his hand. She was not even walking but flying and, for
appearance, moving her legs, which did not touch the ground at all. She was sad, and
when elves are sad, which happens very rarely, they completely lose their weight. That is
why the princess was now like a balloon on a string. Drool was also sad. And so they
walked in silence.
Nastradamus returned. “Only forest ahead. Trees, trees, bushes, and again trees.”
“Tomorrow we’ll be at Amber Glade,” Drool said. “And we’ll meet the queen bee.”
“The queen bee?” Galianka asked. “What does she look like?”
“What does she look like? As a queen bee should: the biggest bee in the kingdom.
She’s responsible for bee offspring: she lays eggs, from which new bees appear. But she
does this only once in ten years, that’s why the magical bees multiply so slowly. Because
of this, they’re very afraid that someone will attack them and kill their queen. The
largest and most powerful bee-warriors guard her.”
“If she’s guarded, then how will we see her?”
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“I don’t know yet.”


Nastradamus shuddered on hearing this conversation. “I wouldn’t want to climb
into a bee hive. They sting bears, let alone an old sick eagle-owl. I remember, I once
caught a hornet’s nest with a wing, barely took the wing away. The wasps chased after
me through the whole forest. My feathers still stand on end from these memories.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll think of something,” Drool reassured his companions. “Bees
aren’t wasps. They never attack indiscriminately. Besides, we have no bad intentions
and they feel this.”
They again halted in the evening, had a bite, and lay down to rest. They did not
build a fire this time. No need to attract attention to themselves.
“I hope that nothing will happen tonight that would disturb our dream,” Drool
murmured hopefully when he and Galianka arranged themselves under his wonderful
blanket.
“What can happen?” hooted Nastradamus, who settled on a stick beside them and
waited for his companions to fall asleep so that he could go hunting.
And, of course, they did not get to sleep that night, because in less than an hour, a
loud crack of broken timber woke up the little wizard and the young princess. To the
crack was added both a rustling and a quiet, disturbing, and angry buzz. The girl and the
troll leaped to their feet and began to peer into the night forest. Nastradamus was
certainly not nearby. He had already flown away to hunt.
The noise grew louder and more audible all the time. It was clearly approaching
them.
“Are the goblins really catching up with us so quickly?” Drool whispered. Galianka
put an arrow into the crossbow and pulled the bowstring.
Here the noise became so close that they even retreated a few steps. Twig-Diviner
rustled in fear near their legs.
And then the trees parted, and a creature that was the cause of all that was
happening jumped out. It was the size of a medium goblin and resembled a bear. Its ears
were round, huge, and sticking out amusingly to the sides, like a big-eared boy, and
added to all this was a nose long like an anteater’s, and it was all covered with such thick,
long, and dense fur that any arrow and even a spear would get entangled in it.
“It’s a honey badger,” Drool said. “It’s almost not dangerous, because it eats only
honey, which it steals from wild bees. Sometimes it also climbs into people’s apiaries. It
grabs a beehive, drags it to the river, puts it into the water, waits for all the bees to choke
and drown, then takes out the honey and eats until morning.”
The honey badger indeed did not pay them any attention, but ran past puffing and
disappeared into the forest.
“Did you see that?” Galianka grabbed Drool’s hand. “It has stolen a hive this time
too, it was carrying it on its back, and the bees, as big as sparrows, were buzzing above it.

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They couldn’t even sting it, it has such thick fur. Poor things! What if they’re bees from
Amber Glade?”
“"So it is,” Drool replied. “Did you see how big the hive it was carrying is? These
are the bees of Queen Zhuzhilda, and the Fairy of Eternal Youth gave her these hives.
When they were living in stumps, everything almost burned down during a
thunderstorm. It was obviously carrying the hive to the water.”
“So we must save the bees!”
“Run!”
So they ran after the honey badger. It was not difficult because it was making a
noise all over the forest, and they soon caught up with it. However, it was one thing to
catch up, but how could they take a beehive with bees and honey away from such a beast,
when a whole swarm of bees, each of which was the size of a sparrow, could not do this.
The bees were buzzing pitifully, but the honey badger only brushed them off like flies
and continued to stomp to the forest lake. A little more and the bees in the stolen hive
would perish.
Galianka took off from the spot and also flew to the honey badger. “Now take the
hive back!” she shouted. “Or I’ll shoot! Aren’t you ashamed to hurt defenceless bees and
steal their honey?”
However, the honey badger also brushed off the elf princess. And Galianka’s
arrows only got entangled in its fur and did not do it any harm. The girl almost cried in
resentment. But she was able to detain the thief, because when it saw her, it stopped and
roared threateningly.
Here Drool, who already had the necessary spell ready, arrived in time. He just
blew on the honey badger, and it fell down as if the terrible force of a hurricane had
swooped down on it. And when it jumped up and tried to attack Drool, he snapped his
fingers, and a lightning bolt flew into the honey badger. Small, but bright and loud.
There was a hissing crackle, a loud snap. It smelled of burnt fur. The honey badger
jumped on the spot, spun like a top, and whimpered plaintively. It clearly did not like
the lightning. When Drool went up to it, it fell on all fours in front of him, and the
wizard flicked its nose. The honey badger yelped but did not run away, and it continued
to look loyally at Drool.
“Well, enough punishment for you,” Sweet Tooth said. “But don’t steal anymore. I
understand, I also love sweets, and honey especially, but I don’t steal it, and I don’t
drown bees for it. So, you won’t do it anymore?” The honey badger whimpered and
rubbed against Drool’s hand. It looked very funny. It was so huge compared to Drool,
who seemed like a toy next to it. “Okay, I believe you. Now take this hive and carry it
back. And so that you don’t do anything, I’ll go and escort you.”
The honey badger snorted resentfully, as if indignant that it was not trusted,
grabbed the hive as huge as a bookcase, and carried it back. Drool, the excitedly buzzing
bees, no less than a thousand of which had already gathered, and Galianka followed it.
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“You’re good to it,” the girl admired enthusiastically. “I indeed can also release
lightning. But I completely forgot, got confused, and stupidly shot at it from a crossbow.”
“You’ve also done well. If you hadn’t stopped it, I wouldn’t have managed.”
They walked for a long time. Apparently, Amber Glade was quite far away after all.
They collected their things on the way, and Nastradamus caught up with them after a
while. When he was told what had happened, he became agitated, especially for the
princess, began to berate himself that he had left them alone without protection, and
vowed never to leave his friends to the mercy of fate.
They arrived at Amber Glade in the dead of night. Bees sleep at night, but now
whole clouds of bees were hanging above the glade, and they rushed to meet the
travellers when they appeared together with the honey badger and surrounded them
with a formidable hum. It seemed that the bees would now pounce on them and
everyone would be stung. Even the honey badger sat on its hind legs and growled in
fright. The friends were very frightened. But the bees that were with them also
surrounded them as a dense wall and buzzed loudly about something. Drool and
Galianka remembered the language of insects and understood that they were describing
their feat, how they had liberated the queen bee. The bees listened and were respectfully
silent.
“Did we save the queen?” the surprised Drool and Galianka exclaimed loudly.
And then they saw that the hive that they had brought to the clearing was different
from those that were already standing here. Those hives were also large, but they were
simple big hives and did not differ from each other in any way. This one, on the other
hand, was incredibly beautiful, with ornaments, carving and ligature, with a gilded roof,
windows with silver shutters, and ivory doors. And then the doors opened, the area
around them was immediately lit up, because fireflies flew out of the royal hive and lit
up the glade, and behind them appeared the queen bee herself, Queen Zhuzhilda the
Third. This was a beautiful bee, almost the size of a dove, a golden crown glittered on
her small head, and a crimson robe covered the wings behind her.
“Yes, you saved the queen!” she said loudly in a human voice. “And there’s no limit
to my gratitude to you! In the morning I’ll listen to you and thank you in a royal way, but
now, I beg your pardon, both I and my subjects really want to sleep. We bees are day
creatures and can’t manage without sleep at night.”
“Certainly, Your Majesty!” Drool and Galianka bowed respectfully.
“Escort them to the guest hive,” the queen ordered the bees languidly and, yawning,
returned to her home.
The travellers also went to rest. The bees led them, but before that Drool released
the honey badger. He once again ordered it not to hurt the bees, instructed it to walk
around the glade every day, protect the honest workers day and night, and not let
anyone into Amber Glade.

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“And for that,” he said, “the bees will feed you honey. Indeed, all the time you need
to earn and work, not steal and drag away without asking.”
The honey badger nodded in an amusing way, growled happily, and swore on its
honey-badger tongue to do what Drool had ordered, then immediately ran into the

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forest to make its first patrol. So, the honey badger turned from the enemy into a true
friend of the Amber Glade bees.
The next day the travellers woke up quite late after a dreamless night; the delicate
bees did not wake them, although they themselves rose with the dawn. The sun was
standing at the zenith when they emerged from the guest hive – a small square hut, and
the Amber Glade inhabitants were working very hard extracting nectar from flowers and
making honey from it. The friends came out into the fresh air and froze in place from the
amazing spectacle that appeared before them.
Amber Glade bore such a name for good reason. It was huge like the sea, and to the
farthest edges of the forest was all covered with a variety of flowers: dandelions,
cornflowers, poppies, roses, and orchids. But most of all it was dandelions. The golden
waves of this floral sea blazed dazzlingly under the sun’s rays and swayed in the wind.
And dark yellow bees with black stripes flew above the flowers. There were millions of
them, whole clouds of bees flew from flower to flower, and from hives to flowers and
flowers to hives. When a whole swarm of such bees suddenly sat down at once on some
place, it became amber from bright yellow or scarlet, from pink or even blue, from which
it was named Amber Glade.
Two bee-guards with very long stings immediately flew to Drool, Galianka, and
Nastradamus and announced that the queen was waiting for them at her palace. They
thanked them and requested to escort them. The queen of the bee kingdom, Zhuzhilda
the Third, met them near the doors of her hive. She buzzed something to the bees, and
they flew away and came back with plates full of honey.
“Have breakfast, my noble saviors,” the queen said.
The travellers sat down in front of the queen directly on the soft ground covered
with low grass and began to eat. The honey was outstanding. None of the three had
tasted anything like it in their lives, because it was the freshest honey just prepared
specifically for them.
When the friends had satisfied their first hunger, the queen addressed them with
the words, “Now tell me what brought you to these parts, and at such the right time.
After all, if you hadn’t been passing by, then I would have perished, and my subjects
would’ve remained without a queen and offspring. It would have been a great tragedy.
Our people would have been doomed to a slow death, because there’s nobody apart from
me to produce bee offspring.”
“We were heading right here, to the Amber Glade,” Drool replied to Her Majesty.
And he told the queen bee about the purpose of his journey, about the misfortune that
had happened in the Elf Kingdom, about the goblins and trolls following on their heels,
and about Martoduin. And of course he told about the magic web, which he was
assembling from golden yarn.

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“The queen of the Marsh Kingdom has already given me the golden yarn in
exchange for a silver heron egg,” the little troll finished his speech. “And I also venture
to ask you for the golden yarn. What do you want in exchange for it?”
“You’ve already paid for it, Drool,” Zhuzhilda replied. “And you paid the highest
price that can be given for this trifle. It’s yours. Take it and go on your way, and may
luck be on your side in everything.”
So, thanks to the thief the honey badger, our friends managed to obtain yet
another golden yarn so soon. Now they already had three parts of the golden web. And
they set off in search of the other two. Now their path lay towards the Spirit of
Bewitched Forest. And it was not so easy to reach it.

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Chapter Sixteen
THE SPIRIT OF BEWITCHED FOREST

Each tree, as is known, has a soul. It lives in it and can simultaneously be in the
roots, the branches, the trunk, and the leaves. So, when a woodcutter cuts a tree, he
must first make sure that the soul is no longer in the tree he is about to cut down and
that there is no life juice in its veins. That the soul has settled into another tree, young
and healthy. Only then can you cut a dead tree. And the wood from it will be excellent
and you can make anything from it, and it will not bring you trouble.
Each forest also has a soul. A forest cannot exist without a soul. It can also be in
one place or in several places at once. The soul of the forest lives in a forest stream and a
dark ravine, in a hedgehog burrow and a cuckoo’s nest, and wherever possible: in the
sun’s rays, the emerald leaves, bird songs and the rustle of sprawling crowns, the grunt
of a deer and the howl of a wolf, the drumming of a hare’s patter, the smell of ripe
berries, and the dampness of mushrooms. It can live in an empty nutshell. In general,
the soul of the forest can be everywhere. It is almost impossible to find and see it.
Bewitched Forest also has a soul. Or rather, not a soul but a spirit. A real spirit. He
is called Spirit. And unlike other forest souls and spirits, he can be seen and even talked
to. And he lives underground. What does he look like, you ask? This question, perhaps,
is not so simple to answer. The Spirit of Bewitched Forest does not have one definitive
appearance, because he is a spirit after all, and spirits are, as is known, incorporeal. But
this Spirit has a body. It is not very reliable and not completely material; rather it is even
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a half-body. It is slightly transparent, soft, and viscous. But it is convenient for him,
because he can change as he likes. He can become a forest animal, and in an instant turn
into a bird, and he can pretend to be a tree or a marsh knoll. Spirit is very fond of
changing his appearance, and in his life he has changed more than a dozen thousand
times. So what he looks like, no one knows for sure. Those who have seen him speak
differently. Everyone describes him in his own way, and nobody’s appearance of Spirit
ever agrees. Any creature you meet in Bewitched Forest can easily turn out to be Spirit.
What else can you say about him? There is almost nothing more to add. Unless it is
worth mentioning that Spirit is a big sleepyhead, a lover of sleep, and spends a large part
of his life in slumber, which, however, does not prevent him from following what
happens in his forest. He is king and god in Bewitched Forest. The primary overlord.
Whether a wanderer or a traveller gets out from the forest or disappears without a trace
depends only on him. He decides the fate of everyone who lives and resides here. But it
is absolutely impossible to understand who he likes more or who less. On the one hand,
he loves good and innocent little animals and birds, and he does not allow anyone to
hurt them. But the most unexpected monsters and other evil spirits are also found in
him. There is nothing he can do about it, because he is truly a real evil spirit. Spirit is the
word. It’s the reason the forest is called Bewitched, and magic and miracles are found
here at every step. Until recently, witches and robbers also lived in the forest. They did
not get on very well with each other, and in order that they did not fight inadvertently,
Spirit settled them in different territories, and they lived apart, trying not to meet.
But the ones Spirit really does not like and never welcomes are people. Why? It is
not known. But people are afraid of Bewitched Forest like fire, and only a few of them
have visited, and then, of course, not by choice. Only two people emerged from it alive
and unharmed: Knight Caterino and his squire Christian. Spirit did not hurt them.
Perhaps because they were children after all, perhaps they had enough trouble without
him, or, perhaps, who knows, he liked them. Although, Spirit simply cannot stand
knights, especially wandering ones. Countless of them perished in his forest in ancient
times. He lured them to the Great Marshes, handed them over to the robbers, the
witches bewitched them, wild beasts tore them to pieces, or unseen insects bit them;
some remained at Lullaby Lake, and some in the Stream of Wisdom.
Drool described all this to his friends when they were walking along a narrow deer
trail through dense thickets of wild rose. It was very difficult to walk. Galianka and
Nastradamus grumbled, making their way through the thorny bushes. But Twig-Diviner
led the company of travellers precisely through them. In order to distract his friends
from the challenge of the path, Drool began telling them what he knew about the Spirit
of Bewitched Forest.
“Where do we find him?” Galianka panted, picking another thorn from her velvet
hunting jacket.

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“I don’t know,” Drool answered nonchalantly. “We have an assistant,” he nodded


at Twig, “he’ll lead us wherever necessary.”
“Let’s hope so,” Nastradamus muttered. “Maybe he won’t lead us to the dragon’s
lair.” Twig-Diviner crackled indignantly.
“Aren’t you ashamed, Nastradamus?” Galianka exclaimed. “He was offended!”
“What do you know,” the eagle-owl pretended that he was itchy under his wing. In
reality, he was embarrassed.
Finally, the dog rose ended, and they again found themselves on normal terrain.
Only pine trees grew around them and stretched straight up to the sky. There were no
more bushes, and the mossy ground was pleasantly springy underfoot. Twig increased
speed and skipped forward. Our friends hurried after it.
The pine grove ended suddenly. The sky sparkled in front of them, the trees parted,
and the travellers came to a sandy clearing. Before them was a glade as round as a
saucer and as smooth as a tablecloth, and in the centre was a small pond with a steep,
precipitous shore, which they did not even notice at once. But Twig brought them
straight to the pond and began to jump by the very water and crackled something very
rapidly, so quickly that even Galianka could not understand it.
“Well, we can certainly bathe here,” the princess looked hopefully at her friends.
“Wait,” Drool took out the map and looked at where they were. We’re,” he
immediately became serious, “at the lair of an underwater serpent.”
“I told you!” Nastradamus exclaimed delightedly. “He led us to a dragon!”
As soon as he said it, the water in the pond started to seethe, foamed, went in
circles, and a dragon’s head leaped out of the pond together with a fountain of spray. It
raised a neck several metres long and stared at the travellers. The dragon’s body
remained under water. The serpent’s head was narrow, like that of a pike, and had huge
bulging eyes, sharp teeth, horns long like an antelope’s, and metre-long webbed wings
instead of ears. The wings worked steadily and air came from them noisily. The serpent
did not make any other sounds.
But then Nastradamus howled. “Help!” he shouted and, nevertheless, boldly
rushed to shield Galianka with his body. But the serpent did nothing more. It just looked
at them and flapped its wings.
“It’s not going to attack us,” Drool said. “When dragons are aggressive, they behave
very differently.”
“How do they behave?” asked Galianka.
“They immediately rush and devour, they don’t look.”
“Let’s get out of here,” Nastradamus suggested. “What if it changes its mind?”
“You’re always a coward,” the princess reproached him.
“I’m concerned, first of all, for the two children whom fate instructed me to
protect,” the eagle-owl answered in the same tone.
“Yes, I see that you don’t scare easily,” the dragon said in a slightly squeaky voice.
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The friends were simply taken aback. They expected something, but not this. The
dragon suddenly dissolved in the air and vanished. Only a light fog remained in its stead.
This fog curled into a ring and floated ashore; here it again thickened and suddenly a
honey badger sat down on the sand in front of the travellers.
“Well, what do you want from me?” he asked with displeasure. The friends were
silent. They still could not utter a word from surprise. The honey badger looked
displeased and muttered, “Well, now you’re silent. Well, if you have nothing to say to me,
then I’ll leave. I’ve never been pushy.”
Drool was the first to recover. “Wait!” he exclaimed. “Are you really the Spirit of
Bewitched Forest?”
“We finally guessed!” Spirit rejoiced. It really was him. “So why do you need the
golden yarn?”
“How do you know that we need the golden yarn?” Drool was amazed.
“Do you really think that I don’t know what's going on in my forest?” The Spirit of
Bewitched Forest answered the question with a question.
Drool was embarrassed. Besides, he was greatly confused, because he did not know
how to behave with the Spirit of Bewitched Forest. He knew too little about him. But
there was nothing to be done. It was necessary to get the golden yarn. Drool decided to
reveal the whole truth to Spirit. He had already opened his mouth, but Spirit was
nowhere to be found. Drool saw only the bewildered faces of his companions.
“Where is he?”
Laughter rang out in response. It came from somewhere below. Drool looked near
his feet and saw a huge hedgehog with big monkey ears. The hedgehog looked at him
and laughed. Now Drool finally understood that before him, in fact, was none other than
the Spirit of Bewitched Forest. Only this was not at all what he had imagined. Spirit was
clearly not a very serious being.
“Well, what are you staring at?” the hedgehog asked him in the meantime. “Come
on, out with it, otherwise I don’t have time. I haven’t slept for days.”
Drool began to narrate, and during his narration the Spirit of Bewitched Forest
changed appearance five times. At first he pretended to be a frog, then suddenly he took
on the appearance of Princess Galianka, and she did not like this very much.
“What are you doing?” the girl exclaimed indignantly. “Do I really have such a long
nose? My nose isn’t like that at all! Don’t exhibit, if you don’t know how!”
Spirit burst into a croaking and gurgling laughter, then turned into Nastradamus,
moreover made him so skinny it was as if the eagle-owl had not eaten for a few weeks,
and finally became Drool and nodded importantly, listening to his speech. It was very
funny to see two Drools, one telling the other something and the other listening
attentively.
The real Drool became silent, and the other one began to scratch his ears with both
hands and thoughtfully turn his head around on its axis. “A serious desire, to take away
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my golden yarn,” he said, stopped turning his head and put it backwards. “And if I don’t
give it to you?”
Drool became agitated. “But that’s impossible! I must get it at all costs. I’m ready
to do anything for it. Don’t you have a cherished wish? Tell me. And I’ll carry out
everything.”
“But I have no desire,” Spirit replied. “I don’t need anything. I have everything.”
“Such a thing doesn’t happen!” Galianka got in on the conversation. The princess
was so angry that she even stamped her foot. “Everyone has some wish. No one has
everything.”
“The princess is mistaken,” Drool-Spirit replied. “She forgets that I’m, after all, a
spirit, that is, an incorporeal being. I don’t eat, I don’t drink, I don’t need wealth or
power, nothing that living beings with flesh and blood resort to anything to get. I don’t
need anything. And if I want anything, I can turn myself into it,” in confirmation of his
words, Spirit immediately became a chest stuffed with gold coins, “and to convince you
that this is nothing to me.”
“May I say something?” Nastradamus, who throughout the conversation had not
made a sound, suddenly took the floor. “There was talk about gold, power, and countless
riches. Why do I talk about all this? Because though I’m also of flesh and blood, I also
don’t need all this.”
“Do you mean to say that you don’t need food or drink, just like me?” Spirit asked
the eagle-owl mockingly.
“Not true,” Nastradamus admitted honestly. “I need food, but only as much as I
can eat. Not more. Only man, of all living creatures, craves wealth and power.”
“Unfortunately not only man,” Drool shook his head. “Goblins, trolls, and gremlins
also dream of seizing power on the land. And there are many more who...”
“I don’t understand what this whole conversation is about.” Spirit began to get
angry.
“It’s because Drool interrupted me,” Nastradamus said. “I haven’t finished my
thought.”
“So finish it quickly!” Spirit yelled, turning into an old man with a long, very long
beard, which he shook angrily. “You’re already making me sleepy!”
“Don’t fall asleep, please, listen to me.” Nastradamus flapped his wings from
agitation.
“Yes, yes! Hear him out! This is a very wise eagle-owl!” Drool and Galianka pleaded.
“All right, so be it,” the Spirit of Bewitched Forest changed from anger to mercy.
“I wanted to say that I don’t need material goods,” the eagle-owl said. “I don’t need
gold or precious stones.”
“What do you need?”
“I need only one thing – to not be alone. I’m an old eagle-owl. A few days ago I was
needed by no one. Even my nephew asked me to leave his home. And then I first met
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Drool, and later this cute little girl. And now I know what I need in this life. To be with
someone nearby and feel needed. After all, when I almost jumped into Lullaby Lake,
they restrained me. So, they need me, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it. Now I know
that I have friends. As once in childhood, when we were sitting in the nest, we were five
brothers and sisters. How good it was for us. We were friends and needed each other,
how we kept warm in a cold nest when our parents left it, how we feared the weasel
together. It was a wonderful time. Childhood. And now there are small creatures beside
me again – chicks, cubs, children. Drool, a young troll. Though he’s a wizard and two
hundred years old, by troll standards, he’s a child, just like this elf-girl. And I rejuvenate
next to them. I feel good with them. It hasn’t been this good for a long time. Now I
appeal to you, Spirit of Bewitched Forest. Don’t you need anything to feel good?”
Spirit looked at the eagle-owl. He was still in the guise of a mysterious old man. He
sat on the stump he created and, putting his head in his hands, listened attentively.
While the eagle-owl was talking, he became very sad, so sad that everyone also became
incredibly sad.
When Nastradamus fell silent, Spirit lifted his face wet with tears and said, “Yes,
you’re right. To be alone is very hard. But I’m not alone. The whole forest, my Bewitched
Forest, is my great good friend. We can’t do without each other. And this has been going
on for a thousand years. But what was before? I almost don’t remember. Are you
surprised? Indeed I wasn’t always Spirit. Once I was alive. I had a body, blood flowed
through my veins. Real hot blood. Who was I? A bird or an animal? Goblin or elf? A
unicorn or a bear? And maybe I was a man? It can also be. That’s exactly the way it was!
Now I remember everything clearly. I was also small! I remember that well. I ran and
played with my friends in this very forest, which was then a normal forest, and the most
common beasts and birds lived in it. A sad story happened to me. Sad and instructive.”
The Spirit of Bewitched Forest sighed and continued, “Yes, I really was a man. And
to my shame, I’ll confess to you that I was a bad person. Very bad.” Spirit pondered
deeply for some time. It was evident that he was immersed in memories. Then he
lowered his head and spoke softly, “I grew up in this very forest. Or rather, not in the
forest itself, but in the village that stood on the edge, and our house was completely right
under the trees, and in the evenings acorns fell noisily onto our roof. I had been wicked
already since childhood. I lived in a forest that fed, watered, and clothed us, but I did not
like it or those that lived there. I ruined bird’s nests, destroyed animal burrows. I went
hunting with my father, killed animals and birds, and never asked them for forgiveness.
Not likely, what for, I thought. Who needs it? And I absolutely didn’t believe my father,
who reproached me for this and said that it was a sin. So I grew up a hunter who didn’t
ask for forgiveness.
“The forest froze when I entered it. The birds stopped singing; even the trees didn’t
rustle their leaves. The poacher has come! But I didn’t care, and I continued to kill so
many animals and birds that I would never be able to eat so much meat, wear clothes
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sewn from their skins, lie on featherbeds and pillows filled with their feathers. I did all
this for overindulgence. For the sake of bragging. What an excellent hunter I am! My
parents died, my friends grew old or ceased to be my friends, but I continued to come to
this forest and kill, kill, and kill. And then one day I went hunting as usual but didn’t
meet a single beast or a single bird for the whole day. It was as if they had all died out. I
didn’t wipe out all of them, I asked myself, and checked to see if my bow was tight, if the
tips of my arrows had been honed well. But the day passed, and I didn’t track down or
kill anything. And such wickedness seized me that I swore to myself that I wouldn’t
return home without booty.
“It was late at night. It was dark, even pitch black. But I stubbornly walked and
listened. And then, at last, I heard a roar. Well, I thought, a bear. I went towards the
roar and, indeed, came to a bear’s den. I had never seen it before. A she-bear was
playing with her cubs near the den. They jumped on her, skipped, had fun, and she
stupidly growled with pleasure. Not for you to growl anymore, she-bear, not for you to
play with your kids. I pulled the bow, aimed, and then the she-bear noticed me and
pleaded in a human voice, ‘Don’t shoot, brave hunter, pity my little ones. Kill me, but
don’t touch them. Look how little and cute they are.’
“’Nonsense,’ I said, ‘not a single beast has run from me alive.’ And one by one I
killed her cubs, and then shot her with the biggest arrow.
“What started then! Thunder roared, lightning struck. And the dying she-bear said
to me, ‘You are a great criminal and enemy of all living things. I curse you for killing the
soul of this forest in me and my children. It is no more in the world. You destroyed it.
Only dead trees remain in it. So you are to stay here forever and replace me. Let your
vile soul not know peace in this forest that you left without a single living being!’
“She said this and gave up the ghost. I wanted to laugh at her stupid words, but
then thunder roared again and lightning flashed. It rumbled and crashed right on me. I
died. The black soul left my body but could not break away from this forest. On the she-
bear’s condemnation, it remained in it forever and ever. My spirit flew around the forest
known to me since childhood and did not recognize it. The forest had changed. It had
become terribly uncomfortable and completely lifeless. Not a single living thing.
“And then for the first time I became so frightened as never before in my life. I
rushed through the trees and sobbed and moaned and called for help. But no one heard
me. I remained alone in an empty dead forest. And then I realized that my life was
worthless, and so was my death. And it was not even death. I couldn’t even die normally,
but turned into a spirit. And then I turned out to be not a normal spirit. Everything that
was along the way stuck to me. Animal fur and bird feathers of those I killed firmly
clung to me. So what you see came into being. My half-body. But then a miracle
happened to me far more important than the acquisition of such amazing flesh. I
repented. Yes, I repented. And completely sincerely. Oh, how hard it was to realize that
the life you lived was unrighteous and cruel. I did not simply waste it but spent it in evil
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and crime. It was awful to know. But there was no escape from myself, and I continued
to exist in a dead, lifeless forest and suffer, as no ghost has ever suffered.

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“Years passed. My torments did not cease. Day and night I rushed without rest
through the forest, hoping to find in it at least one living thing, although I was perfectly
aware that this was impossible. So it could continue until the end of time, but I got lucky
after all. Once I heard the sounds of hunting horns. They were outside the forest, and
rushing in the direction from which they came. And then I saw, everything in me
immediately rejoiced, a doe. A beauty of a doe, which was rushing right at me. Where
did it come from? Did it really come running from another forest a few miles from mine?
It was apparently so. And now it rushed straight at me in the woods. I prayed to the sky
that it would not turn aside. And it didn’t. And in a few moments I understood why.
“Hunters on horses with dogs were chasing after it. They were pursuing the poor
thing with the intention of killing it. It was now a few steps from me. Then I saw its gaze.
I had never seen such a look – the look of an animal saving itself from hunters. There
was fear, horror, and something else which made me unbearably sad, because I
remembered that I had also been a hunter and had also chased animals to their doom.
Oh, why hadn’t I seen their eyes then? Maybe it would’ve stopped my criminal hand?
And now, if I had a heart, it would burst with pity for the unlucky doe. And so I decided
to save it. I didn’t know how it happened, but I suddenly took her shape and appeared
before the hunters and their dogs. I deceived both. They threw themselves after me and
left the real doe alone. I was so angry with the hunters that I lured them all into the
swamp, where they successfully drowned.
“Then I found the doe and calmed it. How it thanked me! I’ll never forget that. It
stayed to live in my forest, and the forest instantly came alive. A miracle happened. The
forest stopped being dead. It was unknown from where, but the most unusual animals
began to appear in it. And I began to protect them. No one could invade my forest in
order to hurt them. I dedicated all of myself to this. And then came creatures that have
died off elsewhere, and now they are only in my forest. Here’s my story for you. The
story of Spirit, who pays for the unrighteous life of what he was before.”

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Chapter Seventeen
HIDE-AND-SEEK

Having finished his story, the Spirit of Bewitched Forest was silent. All his gaiety
had evaporated somewhere, and there was no trace left. An unhappy old man sat in
front of the travellers; tears, though not real but bitter all the same, flowed down his
weary face.
Spirit did not stay sad for long. In less than a minute, his eyes suddenly shimmered
slyly, and the amazed Drool, Galianka, and Nastradamus saw him begin to change from
an old man into a mischievous boy with red forelocks, eyes green like a gooseberry, all in
freckles, and in a well-worn shirt with sleeves rolled up. He looked at them and laughed
loudly.
“I remembered my childhood. You, Nastradamus, forced me go to the Land of
Memories. I’d never been there. I’d forgotten about everything for a long time, but now I
remember. Childhood, friends, fun games. You’re right. How great it is when friends are
around you. What fun and excitement. We had a favorite game. Guess which one?”
“Fly tag!” Galianka suggested.
“No.”
“Owls and mice?” Nastradamus asked.
“No.”
“Bones?” Drool timidly said.
“No. None of you guessed. It’s hide-and-seek. The most fun game. Ha-ha-ha! Now
I know what I’ll demand from you for the golden yarn.”

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134

“What?” they asked in unison.


“You’ll play hide-and-seek with me!” the red-haired boy exclaimed. He even
jumped with joy and spun on one leg. “If you find me three times, the golden yarn is
yours. If not, then it’ll stay with me forever. And no one will get it. Especially that half-
witted Martoduin, who burned a birch tree and then moved into it.”
“He burned a birch tree!” Galianka exclaimed. “What horror!”
“Horror,” Spirit said sternly, “but now it’s not about that. So, you agree to my
terms?”
Play hide-and-seek with a spirit! Perhaps it was many times worse than anything
that had happened to them. But what was there left to do? “We agree,” the three friends
replied dejectedly.
“That’s great!” the red-headed boy exclaimed and immediately turned into a little
dragon. “I’ll fly away and hide. You stay, and then you start looking for me. When you
find me three times, you’ll immediately get the golden yarn.” The dragon flapped its
wings and flew away. A moment later it disappeared behind the trees, and the friends
remained in the clearing, distraught and dejected.
“Now we’re in a fix,” Nastradamus grumbled. “To find that dummy in such a huge
forest, you can spend your whole life and still not find him.”
“But we don’t have our whole life at our disposal,” Drool said. “If we don’t find him
in three days, then all is lost. Either Martoduin will overtake us, or we’ll fall into the
hands of his goblins and my friends the trolls. And believe me, they won’t leave us alive.
So let’s search!”
“Search? But where?” The elf princess threw up her hands.
“Wherever possible.”
“Perhaps we’ll set off in the direction in which the dragon flew?” Nastradamus
suggested.
Drool scratched behind his ear and shook his head doubtfully. “Doesn’t make sense.
This is a spirit. And spirits never turn up where they set off to. Rather, on the contrary,
we must search for him in the opposite direction. Where did the dragon fly to?”
“There!” Galianka and Nastradamus pointed to the direction from which they came.
“Perfect. We’ll go there.” Drool looked at the forest beyond the pond in which the
sea serpent lived.
Nobody began to argue with him, especially as Twig-Diviner crackled joyfully and
twittered and bounced in place. The friends got on the way together and went down to
the smooth surface of the pond, because going around the pool could only be done near
the shore. In other places it was easily possible to get into quicksand, and if Galianka
and Nastradamus were not afraid, then Drool, who did not know how to fly or at least be
weightless, had no choice.
But when they went around the pond and got to the other side, an entire plain of
quicksand spread before them, and there was no way around it.
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135

Drool took out the map. “Well, can’t go around it either way,” he said thoughtfully.
“On the right is Snake Ravine and vipers, which can’t be scared away by any magic, live
in it. And on the left is a jungle of fly-catchers. They will be a hundred times worse than
vipers.”
“What are these fly-catchers?” Galianka asked. “Predators, huh? Fanged, toothy?”
“Predators,” Drool agreed. “But not toothy or fanged. They are not animals but
plants. More precisely, flowers. Large flowers with beautiful yellow buds. But better not
get near them, because they catch not only flies, but birds as well.” Nastradamus cringed.
“And mice and hares. And I think that they won’t be fastidious about either a little girl or
her friend Drool.”
“What flowers are these?”
“The usual carnivorous flowers that feed on the hot blood of anything they can
catch. They grow as thick brushwood and passing through them is impossible. They
have long stems, which can stretch for several metres. So they can overtake and capture
even a deer racing by. They throw themselves at him all together and from all sides, stick
their suckers on him, and instantly suck out all the blood without a trace. So these
flowers can even be called vampire flowers. Once they were small and actually fed on
flies and other small insects, but here in Bewitched Forest they grew to gigantic
proportions, and it’s better not to meet them. So, we’ll have to go through the quicksand.”
“But won’t it suck you in?” Galianka asked Drool fearfully. “What a pity you don’t
know how to fly.”
“Maybe it won’t,” Drool replied. “If it weren’t for my hiking bag, I would curl up
and roll along this quicksand in no time.”
“Pity that your bag can’t do the same,” Nastradamus felt pity.
“Pity,” Drool agreed, and then suddenly jumped up and laughed. “Who said it can’t
do the same? You’ve really forgotten that I’m the court wizard of the Fairy of Eternal
Youth. Indeed it’s a trifle for me!” Drool even purred with pleasure.
“I constantly forget that such trifles can be solved with the help of magic,” he
reproached himself, tucking and kneading the bag so that it was round like a ball. “I’m
going to the Big World, where my magic skills will be needed, but I can’t even cope with
simple difficulties on the way. I guess I’ll never be a good wizard.” Nastradamus and
Galianka began to convince him in unison that this was not so, and that he was a great
wizard.
At last everything was ready. The bag was rolled up and was almost as round as a
ball. Drool knelt down in front of it and, after stretching out his arms, began to make
magical passes. Galianka and Nastradamus saw the bag under his hands begin to
animate and toss and turn. It seemed that it would now grow legs and go where it was
told. But it did not grow legs, because Drool ordered:

Well, bag, lie down on your side,


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136

Turn into a round roll.


Follow me into the woods,
And the sand you’ll swindle.

Drool said this, then quickly curled up into a ball and rolled along the quicksand in
the necessary direction. The bag immediately jumped on the spot, then, like a real
hedgehog, also got itself altogether and rolled after Drool. Drool and his bag rolled so
fast that the quicksand did not have time to spread under them and suck them into itself.
In front of them skipped Twig-Diviner, which was very light and nimble, the quicksand
was nothing to it. Galianka and Nastradamus flew after them. And all together they very
quickly passed the quicksand and reached the life-saving forest.
“Phew!” Drool sighed with relief. “It’s very hard to roll along the sand. I didn’t even
suspect it. I simply have no strength.”
“Perhaps we’ll rest?” Nastradamus and Galianka immediately asked.
“Are you tired?”
“No.”
"Then we won’t rest. We must hurry to find Spirit. I’ll rest on the way. Let Twig
show us the way. Indeed, it doesn’t err. It’ll lead us to anyone we want.”
“Can it show us where the Spirit of Bewitched Forest is hiding?” the princess was
delighted.
“Only approximately,” Drool replied. “It’ll find the place, but to specify, it’s very
unlikely. And it would also be dishonest. Hide-and-seek is indeed a game and has its
own rules. No peeking.”
Everyone agreed with him, and the friends went to look for the Spirit of Bewitched
Forest. Twig-Diviner ran before them and showed the way. The forest through which
they walked was quiet and motionless. It seemed to be lurking or hiding from someone.
Drool drew the attention of his friends to this and said, “He’s obviously hiding around
here somewhere. Most likely among these trees. So be very careful.”
They all began to behave very quietly and cautiously. The friends walked and
listened to everything they heard. Here a branch on an old tree cracked and they
flinched and stopped in place. Nastradamus flew up the tree and carefully examined it
from all sides. Then he returned and said, “Nothing. The tree is like a tree. Only a
magpie nest with an egg.”
They went further. They went a few hundred paces and Twig turned back.
Apparently he wanted to say that there was no point in going further, the Spirit of
Bewitched Forest was not there.
The friends turned around and began to search the forest again. They themselves
did not know what they were looking for, but they hoped that if they found something,
then it would be Spirit.

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137

A little bird flew by and Nastradamus rushed after it in pursuit. The bird recoiled
and squeaked plaintively. But the eagle-owl, despite his years, turned out to be an
excellent hunter. The bird fluttered in his claws and begged for its life. “I have chicks
and I'm bringing them a worm!” it chirped. “Please let me go, Mr. Eagle-owl. I’ll just
feed them, and I give you honest words that I’ll return, and then you can eat me. After
all, if I don’t feed them, they’ll starve to death. Please spare me, king of the forests!”
Nastradamus already realized that he had caught not Spirit but a real bird, and he
immediately released it to go back home. “Fly in peace, little bird,” he said. “I don’t need
you. I won’t eat you and orphan your chicks. How long ago did they hatch?”
“A month ago,” the little bird chirped.
“They'll start flying soon,” Nastradamus remarked. “Well, fly home. By the way,
have you seen our dear Spirit?”
“I haven’t!” the little bird squeaked and flew away quickly, fearing that the eagle-
owl would change his mind.
Nastradamus returned to his friends and told them everything. They praised him
for letting go of the little bird and not hurting her. The eagle-owl puffed up with pride,
but quickly became as before, which was not like him at all. Nastradamus was clearly
troubled by something. He looked pensive and serious.
“What are you thinking about?” Galianka asked.
“I think I know where Spirit is hiding,” the eagle-owl replied. “Come on, everybody
follow me!”
He took off from Drool’s shoulder, on which he sat, and flew. Galianka flew after
him, and the little wizard and Twig-Diviner ran.
They found Nastradamus at the very tree which they had already inspected. The
eagle-owl flew around it and found the nest. He dived and sat down next to it. “There’s
only one egg in here!” he shouted. “Isn’t that strange?”
“Why strange?”
“Magpies very rarely lay one egg. Besides, all the birds, including magpies, have
long since laid eggs and chicks have already hatched from them a month ago. I know
this because I personally nursed the chicks of my own nephew. So, Mr. Spirit of
Bewitched Forest, we’ve found you.”
With these words, Nastradamus dropped the magpie nest with an egg from the
branches onto the ground. The nest fell to Drool’s feet, but there was no egg in it. During
the fall, it flew out of the nest and remained in the air.
“You guessed right, you guessed right!” a raspy voice was heard and the egg began
to grow, almost to the forest floor, after which it popped satisfactorily, and before the
friends was again the red-headed mischievous boy. “First time. But, you have to agree, it
wasn’t so difficult. The second time will be harder!” The red-haired boy turned into a
rain cloud, poured on Drool rain that was completely not wet, laughed, and again
disappeared from sight.
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138

“Aw, Nastradamus!” Galianka exclaimed. “How clever! If not for your insight, we
never would’ve guessed that an egg in a magpie nest was the Spirit of Bewitched Forest.”
“Definitely,” Drool agreed and stroked the eagle-owl on the head, from which he
sighed contentedly. “Now it remains for us to find him twice. And twice is better than
thrice. Well, one, two, three, four, five!”
“A-searching we will strive!” Galianka and Nastradamus picked up in unison.
And they again went searching. Only for them it was not a game at all but a serious
important matter, which was about life and death. That is the reason they were serious
and thoughtful.
Until the evening, the friends wandered through the forest, but they did not meet a
single living soul. Everything around seemed to have died out. This proved that the
Spirit of Bewitched Forest was hiding somewhere nearby, but they could not find him,
no matter how they tried. The eagle-owl and the girl searched for him in the trees,
hoping that Spirit was again hiding in the air, and climbed into every hollow, every crack,
and every nest. Drool and Twig-Diviner searched on the ground – in the grass, in animal
burrows, under bushes and tree roots, in puddles and pits, in streams and ravines. But
everything was in vain. They lay down to sleep, tired and frustrated.
“Doesn’t matter,” Drool tried to cheer up his companions, “Morning is wiser than
the evening. We’ll definitely find him tomorrow.”
“I would like to believe that,” Galianka sighed.
“Of course we will,” Nastradamus said confidently. “Since we found him once, then
we’ll find him a second time. What’s left? Besides, I’m with you, and you won’t be lost
with me!”
They got up in the morning before dawn, before there was light, and started
searching. They again began to examine everything that they came across on the way.
This was not very exciting occupation. But they had nowhere to go and the friends
dispersed in different directions and searched, searched, searched...
Noon came thus. The sun was at its zenith and was burning unbearably. The elf
princess had not been flying for a long time because of fatigue, and trudged along on the
ground. She wanted to drink, but Drool strictly forbade Galianka to drink from forest
springs, “You’ll drink and turn into a kid or a lamb. Then what are we going to do with
you?”
But the water in her travel flask had completely gone and her mouth was so dry,
and it seemed to the girl that now she would dry up and never be beautiful and attractive
again. If there was a birch grove around her, then the princess would simply ask for
some birch sap and quickly quench her thirst. But to make things worse, there was only
one aspen around. And aspen juice, as is known, is very bitter and impossible to drink.
Galianka barely dragged her legs and did not even have the strength to call Drool or
Nastradamus. “Ah, I don’t have a mirror with me,” the princess sighed. “I guess I’m
already covered in wrinkles.”
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And so she began to look around in search of a puddle in which she could see
herself. She was on a small strawberry meadow. The berries had not yet ripened and
were disgusting and completely dry. They also could not quench her thirst. Then
Galianka was lucky. She saw something sparkled in the grass. It was clearly a puddle.
Galianka ran to it. She even flew a few steps. She forgot about Drool’s ban and decided
to drink from it no matter what.
Here, finally, was a puddle. Its shape resembled very much a goat’s hoof. The girl
fell on her knees before it and saw her reflection. “What happiness!” she shouted. “I still
haven’t shrivelled up! And what a beauty all the same! But I can’t stand it anymore. I’m
dying of thirst!”
Galianka pressed her dry lips to the water. She began to drink greedily, but after a
moment, she realized that she had not a drop in her mouth. “What’s this?” the girl was
surprised, looking at the puddle. She tried again. And again her lips did not find water;
although she plunged into the puddle almost to her ears, there was no water. It was
some kind of enchanted puddle. Galianka almost cried with grief and resentment. “I'll
die like this!” she shouted in resentment.
And then it seemed to the princess that someone chuckled. She immediately
stopped crying and looked around her. Her eyes blazed with anger. Who dared to laugh
at her, the princess of the Elf Kingdom and the daughter of King Galiiarad? There was
no one.
Galianka began to guess. She was a smart and intelligent girl after all. She looked
suspiciously at the puddle, then turned away and pretended to sigh, “Oh, what a stupid
puddle, there’s absolutely no water in it. A stupid puddle! Well, I’ll go look for another.”
Again, someone chuckled. The princess realized that she had not imagined it.
Someone had actually laughed. She turned sharply and shouted, “Ah, so you’re not a
puddle at all! Here’s where you’re hiding, Spirit of Bewitched Forest! I’ve found you.
Come out!” The puddle sighed and a redheaded boy emerged from it, after which the
puddle disappeared.
And Galianka began to call her friends loudly. “Drool, Nastradamus! Come to me!
I’ve found him, I’ve found him!”

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©Jane H. Buckingham 2019


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141

Chapter Eighteen
HIDE-AND-SEEK
(conclusion)

When the boy sat on a stick as if on horseback and galloped away in an unknown
direction, the friends did not look as dejected as they had been the day before. After
Galianka found the Spirit of Bewitched Forest in a puddle, the mood of them rose, and
all three looked to the future with optimism. The game of hide-and-seek was coming to
an end. It remained only to find Spirit once more. And it seemed much easier. Although
they understood perfectly that now their opponent would come up with something more
devious and sneaky, they were ready for it.
“Let the Spirit of Bewitched Forest hide as he wishes, but let’s rest for a while,”
Drool suggested. He saw how the eagle-owl and the princess were exhausted by the
previous searches and was sincerely sorry for them. “I think we deserve it, my friends!”
And so they fell down on the soft grass. The heat quickly wiped them out and the
travellers fell asleep almost at once. Since it was day and not night, Drool did not
consider it necessary to make a protective circle.
When he woke up and opened his eyes, he saw above him a clear blue sky, through
which beetles and dragonflies flew. Drool was surprised. At first he did not even
understand what surprised him. But then he guessed. The silence had vanished. The
oppressive and guarded silence in which they searched for Spirit was no more. The
forest was living a normal everyday life. The trees made noise in the breeze, overlapping

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with all the bird voices. Magpies were crackling loudly about something. Somewhere a
woodpecker was pecking.
So, Spirit has hidden far away from here, Drool thought. He got up, intending on
telling his friends about it, when a frightened cry escaped his lips. Galianka,
Nastradamus, and Twig-Diviner had disappeared. They were not in the strawberry
meadow.
Drool did not even believe his eyes. He shut his eyes tight several times, hoping
that it was him either thinking or dreaming, but nothing helped. The eagle-owl and the
girl did not appear.
“Galianka! Nastradamus!” Drool called in a plaintive voice. “Where are you?”
Nobody answered. “Where have they disappeared to?”
Maybe they just did not wake me up and are strolling around somewhere, Drool
thought, and just in case decided to look at their traces. He quickly cast the necessary
spells. But there were no traces. The elf and the bird could certainly fly away. But their
traces would remain in the air all the same. Not very clear and precise, but they would
still remain. There were no traces.
The black snake of fear began to creep into Drool’s soul. Fear for his friends.
Something clearly had happened to them. Something bad. And he had been sleeping the
entire time. Drool painfully tugged at his ear with annoyance.
With trepidation sweeping over him, he even forgot to think about the Spirit of
Bewitched Forest with his silly game of hide-and-seek. Now all his thoughts were about
his missing friends. He was worried about them and bad feelings tormented his kind,
devoted heart.
Drool quickly pulled himself together, threw the hiking bag behind his back, and
thought. Which way should he go? He did not think for long. He decided to rely on his
feelings. “It seems to me that I must go that way,” he said to himself and quickly walked
south.
On the way he climbed a tree a couple of times and examined the surroundings,
and talked with birds and animals, but no one said anything interesting. Nobody saw
where the little girl and the old eagle-owl had gone. Alarm seized Drool more and more,
threatening to turn into panic. No seeker spell helped either. Drool’s magic was
powerless.
“But now I’m certain that the business here wasn’t managed without magic,” he
said. “Only I don’t understand whether it’s good or evil.”
And then Drool sat down in fear and terror and whispered softly, “Clearly not
good,” then hurried to hide behind the nearest hazel and pulled a short sword from its
scabbard.
What scared him so?
In the forest, quietly creeping and stooping almost to the ground, went Kurukul
Hoskings. His nose moved, because the troll was following the trail.
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Following Drool’s trail!


Sweet Tooth felt rage engulfing him. Those cursed Hoskings! Why did they not
leave him alone? He had the desire to jump out and attack Kurukul, but he did not. Not
because he chickened out, but because he had changed his mind. He suddenly realized
that he could not kill or even wound Kurukul. He was also a troll, after all.
Drool cautiously got out of the bushes and silently took off his shoes, blew on them,
and whispered:

Well, brother shoes,


The troll you cheat,
To a far field
Him you lead.

The shoes nodded obediently and ran, overtaking each other, as if an invisible
person had them on. They quickly disappeared from view, and Drool crawled away.
After a moment, Kurukul was already on the spot. Like a bloodhound, he prowled in the
grass and ran to where Drool’s shoes had run off.
Sweet Tooth looked at him from behind and sighed with relief. After a while, the
breathless shoes returned. They had obviously run through the forest very well, and
Kurukul would have a hard time following their tracks.
Drool pulled on his shoes and remembered that he was looking for his missing
friends. But he had taken only a few steps when a goblin jumped out to meet him. A
rather large goblin with a club and a helmet with savage horns. On seeing Drool, he
growled fiercely and rushed at him.
Drool barely had time to jump aside, and the goblin crashed into a tree and hit the
trunk with his head. The little troll did not stay to see what happened to him next and
ran away. But he only ran for a little bit when he stumbled upon another goblin. Drool
barely managed to turn aside or he would have crashed into him. The goblin tried to
catch him, but there was a slim chance an awkward goblin would catch the troll. Sweet
Tooth was already far away.
“What is this?” Drool thought, as he ran through the forest and dodged a whole
pack of goblins trying to catch him. They jumped out from behind trees, to the right, to
the left, from behind, then from the front, and Drool miraculously did not fall into the
paws of any of them. The goblins swore and broke trees. How many of them were there?
Drool did not manage to count them, because they all appeared one at a time. But then,
it was precisely thanks to this that they did not catch Drool.
Sweet Tooth continued to run and suddenly realized that the goblins were forcing
him to flee in the same direction all the time. “Do they really want to drive me
somewhere?” Drool asked himself. “They probably have a trap there.”

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He wanted to turn to the left, but then he stumbled upon a goblin, and this goblin
was the biggest of all the ones he had seen. And this one was not alone. He had a dog on
a leash, big as a horse and with such teeth that it could easily attack an elephant. On
seeing Drool, the goblin unleashed his dog and loudly ordered it, “Bite him, bite!”
Drool rolled off in the previous direction, and the dog, barking loudly, ran after
him. When the wizard looked back, he saw that he would soon be caught. It was
necessary to do something. He was to die from the teeth of a dog, which was big but
stupid.
It was possible to release lightning at it, but the distance was too short. He would
not even have time to say the necessary words. And then Drool remembered about snuff
tobacco, which he had recently become interested in thanks to the mirror gnome White
Beard, who was a big fan of sniffing a pinch or two.
Once, with the help of a pinch of pepper, Kate Konstantinova was able to overcome
the flying forest dragon. She just threw the pepper in its face. Now more than ever, by
the way, Drool remembered this and decided to repeat that glorious feat. Quickly,
without stopping, he took out the tobacco and dumped it like a cloud behind his back.
He instantly heard a loud dog squeal and plaintive whining. Drool did not look back and
rolled even faster. When he was completely exhausted and stopped, no one was chasing
him anymore.
“Ugh,” Sweet Tooth barely took a breath and sat down on the ground, unable to
catch his breath. “How many goblins were there? Probably half a hundred. Did
Martoduin really find out that I already have three parts of the golden web and start to
hunt me? It’s probably so. Good that these goblins are so stupid that they couldn’t even
surround me. But what to do next? Where are my friends? What happened to them? Eh,
I’m in a real fix!”
He continued to sit a little longer on the ground, wondering where to go. He did
not find the answer, but then his sensitive ears again caught suspicious sounds.
Someone was shouting in the forest. And he did not like these shouts. The voices were
too familiar.
“It seems that they saw him here!” the first loud exclamation sounded.
“It’s Burdiuk,” Drool immediately recognized the voice.
“The goblins say he ran here!” another voice shouted.
“And that’s Vrul,” Sweet Tooth said softly. “It seems I’ve lost.”
“Then set these goblin nitwits in a chain and try to surround him!” a third voice
shouted.
“And that’s Kurukul. But I sent him off to Timbuktu,” Drool muttered, and again
rushed to run away from the familiar voices.
But it seemed that they picked up his trail again, because noise and cracking,
smashing and trampling sounded throughout the forest. As if a whole herd of elephants
was chasing him.
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Poor Drool simply knew not which way to go anymore. He was confused and
incredibly tired. And then his path even went near a slope, but he could no longer roll or
run on his feet.
“Stop him! Catch him!” the Hoskings shouted loudly and often behind him.
“Now we’ll catch you, Mr. Troll!” all goblin voices said in reply.
But the strange thing was that these voices were already very close, every word was
heard, but Drool could not even see one of his hunters. And this gave him the hope of
salvation. He was not going to give up and kept running.
Suddenly the forest ended unexpectedly and Drool jumped out onto the edge of a
deep ravine. It was so deep that its bottom was not even visible. The sounds of the hunt
were approaching.
Drool began to look for a place where he could go down to the bottom of the ravine,
and suddenly, to his great horror, he discovered that it was impossible. There was no
descent. The slope of the ravine was so steep that even a monkey would not descend
along it. “And here’s the trap,” Drool told himself and unsheathed his sword again,
preparing to sell his life dearly.
Burdiuk was already walking towards him with a battle ax. “Well, gotcha!” he said
with a smirking grin.
“What do you want from me?”
“Don’t you know?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Hand over our gold!”
“I wouldn’t dream of it!”
“Then say goodbye to life.” And Burdiuk rushed to attack. Drool was very surprised.
This was very unlike Burdiuk to attack so quickly, moreover not from behind but in the
open.
But there was no time to be surprised. He had to take on the fight. Although it was
not easy to fight with a sword against an ax. Moreover, Drool could only dodge or deflect
the attacks, he himself could not deliver, as he did not try to force himself. His hands did
not obey him. But he defended himself well, and Burdiuk soon felt it. The grin
disappeared from his face and fear appeared in his single eye. He was a bad warrior.
Finally, tired of waving an ax, he suddenly screamed and ran into the forest.
Drool did not have time to recover, as Kurukul was already coming at him from
behind the trees. His eyes burned with anger and hatred. He had a sword in his hand.
“Give me the gold!” he shouted and also rushed at Drool. A new battle started.
Strange, Drool thought, why are they attacking me one by one but not all at once?
How unlike the trolls this is!
Kurukul was an even worse fighter than Burdiuk. He held the sword wrong, waving
it like a club. Drool had the opportunity to kill him ten times. And of course he did not.
Eventually, Kurukul escaped in the same way as Burdiuk.
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“Who will be next?” Drool asked, wiping sweat from his face.
“Me. Give me the gold, you disgusting traitor!” It was Vrul.
Drool’s eyes climbed to his forehead in surprise. The fatty, drunkard, bum, and
glutton Vrul walked towards him with a huge club, easily and deftly twirling it over his
head, on which a horned Goblin helmet sat on his very eyebrows.
It was with him that Drool had to be tough. Even more so. Vrul immediately
pushed him to the very edge of the abyss. He confidently and skilfully imposed his
tactics on Drool, and his club did not give Sweet Tooth any opportunity to break through
for the enemy’s back.
The abyss was already behind him. The first clods of earth had already flown down
from under his feet. Drool realized that his last hour was coming. Now Vrul would finish
him off. Then he decided on a last attempt. It was risky, but there was nothing else to do.
He was biding his time when Vrul once again waved a club and threw himself at his
feet. Vrul could not maintain his position and flew into the abyss. Drool even closed his
eyes, so as not to see how he flew into the depths, but when he promptly opened them
after all, he saw that Vrul was hanging unharmed over the ravine.
“You’re not able to do that!” Drool exclaimed, and a hunch flickered in his head.
“Of course, I am,” Vrul said and walked right through the air to the slope and again
stood opposite Drool. He waved the club.
Drool did not dodge the blow. “Strike,” he said calmly, and sheathed his sword.
“I will,” Vrul said, and struck a crushing blow. Drool closed his eyes nonetheless.
He was still not fully sure of his assumption.
The club flew through him, and Sweet Tooth felt nothing. “You’re not Vrul at all,”
he said. “You are the Spirit of Bewitched Forest. Only he knows how to walk through air
and take on any shape. After all, all those goblins, trolls, monstrous dogs, it was all you.
That’s why I didn’t see them all together, only one by one. Isn’t that so?”
Vrul was embarrassed and turned into a sad old man. “Look, you found me,” he
said, even in a rather pleased voice. “Indeed, you did. You guessed! But you even wore
me out, I’ll tell you. Well, how did you like my performance? Didn’t you and I stage a
good play?”
Drool was clearly not delighted with the show. “Aren’t you ashamed? You almost
killed me! Was that really necessary? My heart almost broke! What did you do with my
friends?”
Spirit groaned. “Everything is alright with them. I hid them in a cave behind this
ravine. I needed to deal only with you. The three of you would’ve exposed me in a flash.”
“You’re a cheat and a crook. Are they really hiding like that?”
“Of course! You would never guess. My fault. Overplayed a little. But this is my
nature. Extensive.”
“You almost drove me crazy!”

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“I overdid it a little,” Spirit was embarrassed. “But you're good too! My head is still
splitting from your tobacco.”
"What are you talking about? You’re a spirit. How can your head split from
tobacco?”
“I’m a spirit now. Then I was a dog. By the way, it was the pinnacle of my skill –
taking two guises simultaneously: a goblin and his dog.”
“So?”
“So! I’m an artist! A great artist! I was in character, how can you not understand?
Always, when I turn into someone, I go into character. I’m not some ordinary mediocre
imitator. Then I was a dog. And you hit the unfortunate dog with tobacco. I could have
lost all sense of smell. How would I live?”
“Your own fault.” Drool was still angry.
Spirit took out the golden yarn from his bosom and held it out to Sweet Tooth,
“Take it. A bargain is a bargain. You found me and it’s yours now. It’s time for me to rest.
And thanks for playing with me. I’ve never felt so good and merry. Goodbye!” And the
Spirit of Bewitched Forest disappeared.

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149

Chapter Nineteen
TRANSPARENT HILLS, BLUE DEER,
DEAD LAKE, WHITE CLIFF,
OR AGAIN MARTODUIN

Drool did not have time to say anything and only opened his mouth in amazement,
when Galianka and Nastradamus appeared on the other side of the ravine. They saw
Drool, waved, immediately flew over the ravine, and stood next to him. Twig-Diviner sat
in Galianka’s hands.
“Where have you been?”
“We were looking for you,” said Nastradamus. “We woke up in a strange earthen
cave, but you weren’t there. The princess and I started searching for you and lost our
way.”
“It was Spirit’s joke,” Drool explained and told them everything that had happened
to him, and showed them the fourth golden yarn. His story simply stunned the girl and
the eagle-owl and for a long time they could not believe him. Only the golden yarn
convinced them of Drool’s credibility.
“But this is great!” Galianka exclaimed. “Now we only have to find the Golden
Spider and take the fifth yarn from him. The web will be ours. We’ll all make a wish and
everything will end well.”
“Yes, it seems our journey is drawing to a close,” Drool agreed and took out the
map. “So, where, I wonder, are we? This, as I understand, is Bottomless Ravine.

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Definitely bottomless. Aha, here’s the Cave of the White Crystal. My friends, we’re not
far from it at all. A few hours’ trek and we’re there. So, let’s not waste time!”
Drool’s hiking bag, which he had lost when he ran from the Spirit of Bewitched
Forest, was just tottering nearby. Drool threw it behind his back, and they again set off
on their way all together.
First they went around Bottomless Ravine, and it took them a little time. When
they got out on the right path to the Cave of the White Crystal, the day had already
begun to end.
“Well, if it wasn’t for this Spirit with his stupid games, we would’ve been there long
ago,” Nastradamus grumbled.
“But then we wouldn’t have the golden yarn," Galianka remarked.
They walked until it was completely dark and only then stopped for the night.
Drool did not forget to make a protective circle this time and the night passed peacefully
and uneventfully. In the morning, they got up and set off on their way again. The road
again went up. More and more large stones and boulders began to come under their feet.
“We’re coming to the Transparent Hills,” Drool said.
“Why Transparent?” the princess asked.
“Because they’re icy.”
“Icy?”
“Yes, pristine ice. And they don’t even melt in the most intense heat. And they’re
really transparent.”
Drool was right. When they conquered the next crossing, a fabulous sight appeared
before their eyes. Ahead on the horizon, it was as if someone very huge and gigantic had
sprinkled blocks of ice. These were the Transparent Hills. Each of them did not reach
the height of a three-story building. But there were a lot of them, and they glittered
dazzlingly in the sun and reflected the blue sky.
The travellers instantly felt a pleasant coolness. After a dozen steps they came
across a mountain spring, the water of which flowed from the Transparent Hills, and
they drank with pleasure. The water was very tasty, cold, and fresh. All their fatigue
vanished without a trace, and the friends stepped on the icy land of the Transparent
Hills full of strength and hope.
It became cold right away. Drool and Nastradamus shivered, and Galianka was
covered in gooseflesh. All three of them had never been in the north and did not know
what winter was, and now they had to attend to warm clothes. Drool quickly conjured
for Galianka warm pants and a fur coat from a woolen thread and a piece of old fur that
were in his bag, and he threw his famous plaid on his shoulders. Nastradamus received a
warm green vest, which the court wizard of the Fairy of Eternal Youth wore for the night.
Twig-Diviner did not receive anything, because cold was nothing to him.
“Now we can go further,” Drool said. “It’s a stone’s throw from the Cave of the
White Crystal. It’s in the very centre of the Transparent Hills.”
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They took a route and walked. Rather, Drool walked. Galianka and Nastradamus
flew, and Twig skipped. And then it turned out that walking on ice was even more
difficult than along quicksand. Drool’s feet slid, all the time striving to topple him, and
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he barely got from one Transparent Hill to another, all sweaty and out of breath. He
could not even think about climbing on it.
“If this continues,” Sweet Tooth panted, “then we won’t get to the Golden Spider
for a year. Need to come up with something. So, what do I know about winter and
people who live in cold countries?” he asked himself. “They go on skis, skate, and ride a
sleigh harnessed to reindeers. I’ve never skied or skated. It’s unlikely that will work for
me. But a sleigh with deer, that’s interesting. Nastradamus! Galianka!”
“What?” the eagle-owl and the girl replied.
“There are blue deer here, they feed on ice salt and gallop easily on the ice. Find me
at least two and ask them to help us. And I’ll make a sleigh.”
The princess and Nastradamus were delighted that they had such an important
and serious task, so they zealously rushed to carry it out. They soared very, very high.
The eagle-owl even had to help Galianka, because her wings could not ascend too high,
and besides, the girl had on a rather heavy coat. But Nastradumus himself was almost
completely blinded by the bright sun and the ice sparkling in its rays. Tears streamed
from his eyes and he could not see anything. But the princess saw everything perfectly
and immediately discovered a herd of blue deer licking ice dust just three hills from
them.
“Let’s fly to them!” Galianka shouted. She and Nastradamus swooped down
straight at the deer. The deer were not scared of them at all, not even startled, and just
stared with their beautiful violet eyes. They really were blue, sky blue. Only their belly
was snow-white, but their branching horns and hooves were crystal and also glittered in
the sun with hundreds of multicoloured lights. When the blue deer playfully began to
butt each other, there was an amazing crystal chime over the Transparent Hills.
When the eagle-owl and the elf princess appealed to the leader of the herd, a large
dark blue deer with silver horns, and told him that Drool, the court wizard and sorcerer
of the Fairy of Eternal Youth, was unable to get to the Cave of the White Crystal and
asked the blue deer for help, it seriously listened to them royally and nodded. It
understood everything. After that, two young deer, on its orders, galloped in the
direction where Drool had remained, and the girl and the bird, not forgetting to thank
the leader, flew there.
Drool was already waiting for them. The sleigh was ready. The wizard had made it
out of a piece of wire and silk threads. It was very beautiful, as in a picture. Drool made
it along the lines of a sleigh he had seen in a fairy-tale book. And when the blue deer
were harnessed to it, Drool and Galianka became quite like Grandfather Frost and the
Snow Maiden. Nastradamus sat on the girl’s lap; she hugged him tightly and pressed
him to herself. Drool took the reins and they sped off.
That was some speed! The deer seemingly soared to the first mountain, and with
the speed of a launched arrow descended downward, galloped a hundred metres along a
smooth ice rink, then again flew up a hill. Melodious crystal ringing from their hoofs
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flew above the ground. And everything flew by, heavenly blue sky, snow, and ice
merging into one in the eyes. Such a race took the travellers’ breath away and only let go
when they stopped.
“The deer can’t go any further,” Drool explained. “The solid ice has ended. Ahead
now there are real stones and rocks, and they’re afraid to break their crystal hoofs. But
we’ll get there on foot just fine. See that milky-white rock, similar to a shark’s tooth?”
“Yes.”
“There in that rock is the Cave of the White Crystal.”
They unharnessed and released the deer, unloaded the sleigh, and set off further.
Now under their feet were not only ice but also snow, bare frozen ground, and stone
trails. One of these trails led directly to the white rock.
Twig skipped onto the path and hopped impatiently in place. Drool, Galianka, and
Nastradamus followed it. They hurried and quickly approached the desired rock. Soon it
already towered directly above them – white and majestic. The friends conquered the
next ascent, climbed to a narrow rocky ridge, and stopped. To go further was impossible.
Water separated the cave from them. A black and cold lake, in which floated pieces of ice,
lay before them in the very centre of the Transparent Hills, and in the very middle of it, a
white rock stood like an iceberg.
“And I couldn’t understand what’s that black ring surrounding the white rock was,”
Drool said, pulling the toy raft out of his bag. “It turns out to be a dead lake.”
“Why is it dead?” Galianka asked.
“No one lives in it. The water here is so cold that even ice is warmer. Who will
survive here?”
The travellers lowered the raft onto the water and headed for the gentle slope of
the white rock. They had already crossed halfway, when a roar, noise, and screams
sounded behind them. All three flinched and looked around.
Goblins were jumping and raving on the shore of the lake. A whole pack of goblins.
Three dozen monsters jumped near the water but did not dare enter it. The largest of
them brandished a club, pounded on the icy hills, which scattered like broken glass, and
drove the rest of the goblins into the water. And Martoduin himself stood near it and
gazed intently at the floating raft. He was probably speculating which of them had his
golden yarn. These were unlikely the jokes of the funny Spirit of Bewitched Forest again.
Everything was real.
The goblins grumbled plaintively and cautiously tried the water with their paws. It
burned them with the cold, and the goblins jumped back in fear to shore. In the midst of
all these huge and awkward monsters, it was not immediately possible to notice two
trolls, Kurukul and Burdiuk, who were getting in the way of the goblins and swearing
fiercely and bitterly.

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154

“Where did they come from?” Our heroes, who in their hour of triumph had
completely forgotten about the trolls, the goblins, and their lord, were amazed and
frightened.
But then their enemies had not forgotten about them. Martoduin quickly recovered
after the defeat in the Marsh Kingdom at Triasinitsa-Tropinitsa’s palace. He realized
that they had beaten him, and even angrily gave the order to destroy the palace of the
marsh queen. However, the goblins did not have time to lift their feet to fulfill his order
when the tortoiseshell began to slowly sink under the water. The surprised goblins and
trolls saw how it disappeared into the swampy quagmire, and the place where it had just
been was immediately covered with mud and duckweed. Now no one would have
thought that a most real palace had just been here.
There was nothing left for the trolls and goblins to do but to spit and set off on the
trail of those who had the golden yarn, that is, Drool, Galianka, and Nastradamus. And
they rushed in pursuit.
The goblins did not have speedy water beetles and had to make their way through
the swamp on their own, thus they fell far behind those they were chasing. Angry and
furious, they climbed out of the swamp two days later than Drool and his friends and
still wasted another half a day picking up their trail. After that, they rushed in pursuit at
full speed. Along the way, Martoduin summoned all the goblins to him and assembled
thirty-four of them.
Never before had Bewitched Forest see anything like this. The goblin pack raced
with great speed, breaking and smashing everything that fell in its path. Where they ran,
a very real clearing formed, along which a good road could be easily built. When the
goblins, rough and uncouth creatures with thick folded skin, barged into the jungle of
iron cacti, plants deadly for others, no harm was delivered to them. That was the reason
they went directly and reached Lullaby Lake through the shortest route.
Only then did the Hoskings discover that Vrul was not with them.
“Where did that fool go?” Kurukul shouted to his subordinates.
“It seems that he fell into that strange stream when he wanted to drink,” Burdiuk
replied, “and after that we didn’t see him. He must have drowned.”
Since then, an old and ancient troll appeared by the Stream of Wisdom. He was so
wise, so wise! And very old. And he was certainly not going to run after or pursue
anyone. Now he devoted his life to contemplating the essence of life, and, they say,
achieved great success in this field and became the most famous philosopher, if not in
the whole Country of Frozen Time, then definitely in Bewitched Forest. He even wrote a
book and discovered a new movement in philosophy, Epivrulism.
Next, Martoduin and the trolls sat astride the goblins, which jumped into the
waters of Lullaby Lake and swam to the opposite shore. A strange thing, but the magic
lake could transform only one goblin into a baby. The others were so stupid and soulless

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that they did not even understand much of what Lullaby Lake was trying to tell them.
And the lake just did not have enough energy to rock them, so huge and heavy.
But the trolls did not get off as easily as the goblins. The lullaby speeches affected
all four very depressingly. They were already prepared to jump into the water, but
Martoduin simply did not let them. He summoned all his forces and ordered the goblins
to not let go of the trolls. All the same, when they had already emerged on the shore and
the lake sorcery no longer had any effect, Kurukul and Burdiuk breathed with relief and
the goblins weakened their grip, but the troll-twins Horek and Larek suddenly jumped
into the water and were newborn pink trolls in a second. They jumped out onto the
beach naked and happy and began to run after each other.
Kurukul simply got in a rage when he saw this. He even ordered the goblins to kill
the troll babies, but when they tried to do this, the lake picked up the young ones and
carried them to the other side, where all of its babies frolicked. So, only two Hoskings
trolls remained, Kurukul and Burdiuk. They gave each other a sacred oath that they
would take revenge on Drool for everything, and the pursuit continued.
The trolls effortlessly raced along the trail of the travellers and the distance
between them quickly diminished. They would have caught up at the Transparent Hills,
but they lingered when they crossed Bottomless Ravine, where Martoduin got entangled
in the roots of an old cedar. His long gnarled hands were stuck and the goblins took a
long time to free him with the help of the trolls. They freed him and crossed the ravine
because it was too long to go around. They just made a living staircase clinging to each
other, and they rushed on again. The leading goblin even saw how Drool and his
company raced away on the blue deer right from under their noses, and the enemies just
became mad with rage. Anger gave them strength and they rushed through the hills
almost at the same speed as the deer. Hence, Martoduin, the Hoskings, and the goblins
appeared from out of the blue so suddenly and not at the right time.
A cry of horror at the sight of them escaped our heroes, and they began to row with
all their strength to hurry the raft. When the goblins saw this, they rushed into the dead
water and swam after them. Martoduin, Kurukul, and Burdiuk barely managed to jump
onto the back of the largest of them.
“Give me the golden yarn, and I’ll let you live!” Martoduin shouted.

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Chapter Twenty
THE CAVE OF THE WHITE CRYSTAL

But Drool and his friends were already ashore. They cast the raft adrift and ran
along a narrow path that encircled the entire white cliff like a corkscrew and led to the
Cave of the White Crystal, the entrance to which was hiding somewhere in its middle.
Galianka looked around and saw that their pursuers were fortunately still at the very
opposite shore and had overcome a very short distance. The magic of the dead lake had
taken its toll. The water in it was so dense, it was almost impossible to swim in it. Every
metre yielded to the goblins with great difficulty. As if an invisible magnet pulled them
back to the shore. All the same, the fugitives had very little time, and it was necessary to
hurry. They could still hide in the Cave and there find the Golden Spider.
If Twig-Diviner had not been with them, it would have been bad for them. From a
distance the white rock seemed absolutely level and smooth. In fact, it had a lot of
protrusions, crevices, caves, and holes. And Twig unerringly led them directly to the
entrance to the Cave of the White Crystal.
The friends stopped in front of a round iron-bound door, on which hung a lock the
size of a millstone. Drool got busy with the lock at once. It was immediately obvious that
there was no key to open it. An opening spell was needed here, moreover, a very strong
one. The wizard remembered the necessary words and began to adjust the spell to the
lock. Galianka nervously stomped behind him, Diviner sitting in her hands.

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Nastradamus flew away and immediately returned. “The goblins have already
crossed a quarter of the lake,” he said.
“Hurry, Drool!” the princess uttered with tears in her voice.
Drool tried everything, but nothing worked.
“It’s all because I’m with you,” the girl exclaimed in despair. “The Golden Spider
wouldn’t let an elf through for anything.”
Sweet Tooth turned sharply to her. “Of course!” he exclaimed. “How didn’t I guess
right away?”
“What to do?” Nastradamus asked. “We can’t banish Galianka! She won’t even be
able to fly far. The goblins would immediately capture her. They’ve already surrounded
us.”
“Of course not. Galianka, you’ll stay with us.” Drool immediately cheered up. “Just
take off your coat, turn it inside out, and put it on again. The spider won’t recognize you.”
The girl did as Drool ordered and the huge lock opened after the first spell.
“Hurray!!!” the three friends shouted and hurried into the cave. The door
immediately closed behind them. And this was very handy. Now the goblins, in order to
get to them, would have to deal with it as well.
It turned out to be bright inside the cave, which they did not expect. The light came
directly from the walls, which were smooth as a mirror and mirrored everything that
was happening in front of them. Drool, Galianka, and Nastradamus saw themselves and
were even frightened at first, until they realized what the matter was. When they
understood and examined everything properly, they began to think about in which of
the many corridors they should go.
“Diviner, lead us straight to the Golden Spider,” Galianka said.
Then it turned out that Twig-Diviner was not with them. It had obviously stayed
outside and had not managed to enter the cave with them. This was real trouble.
Galianka burst into tears. Nastradamus sighed deeply.
Drool scratched his ear. “Nothing to be done,” he said. “We must find the Golden
Spider by any means as soon as possible and get the last part of the golden web. I think
there’s nothing else for us to do but to split up and look for it individually. We still have
a little time.” The eagle-owl and the girl agreed with him.
Nastradamus said, “I’m very good at finding my bearings in caves, I often got into
them to hunt bats, so I’ll be your contact. My wings are strong and I’ll have time to fly
my route and check you out. You, Drool go to the right, and you, Galianka, to the left,
and I’ll fly in the middle and be between you.”
And so each went his own way in search of the Golden Spider. Drool went to the far
right corridor, Galianka went to the left, and Nastradamus chose the one that was in the
middle. They stopped seeing each other after a few steps, and then also stopped hearing
each other.

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When Galianka was left alone, she felt sad, lonely, and scared. She took the
crossbow from her back and walked, holding it in front of her with an arrow taut in it.
Around her was absolute silence. No sound from the outside world infiltrated here.
What was behind the walls of the cave was unknown. But the girl knew that the fierce
goblins with their ruthless ruler were rushing here on the outside, and soon their axes
and cudgels would fall on the round door, and the huge lock and wrought iron would not
stand against their blows. And it was even scarier and sadder with this realization.
To dispel anxiety and fear, Galianka began to talk to herself. “Let’s not lose heart,
but we’d better hurry.” Her voice flew under the arches of the cave into the distance of
the corridor and echoed back.
“That’s cool!” the princess exclaimed, and all her fear vanished without a trace. She
even flew a few steps, but quickly grew tired and ran again. “Where is the Golden Spider?
Where did you go? Answer me! It’s time for you to make peace with the elves and save
them from destruction.”
The corridor seemed endless. Galianka kept running, but it did not end and would
not end, but remained empty and lifeless as before.
“Somewhere here is probably the White Crystal, and the Golden Spider also lives
near it. Just wondering what does it looks like? Probably like an ordinary spider. What a
shame that I’ve never seen an ordinary spider. We didn’t have any in the palace.”
Then the princess stopped because at last she saw a cave dweller. It was a real bat,
only completely white, as if it had been in a sack of flour. It was hanging upside down
right from the ceiling, and it was unclear what it was holding onto there.
“Are you by chance the Golden Spider?” Galianka asked just in case.
The bat snorted indignantly. “Not likely! I’m Albinosius Cristallikus, king of the
bats, and I have never had any business with spiders. I recognize them only as food. And
the Golden Spider is our greatest enemy because he preys on us. But soon his time will
end. His days are numbered and we can’t wait for him to die, and then we’ll eat his
remains and live on the White Crystal ourselves. Now go away, you’re disturbing me.
Don’t you see that I’m on a hunt?”
“Excuse me, please,” the girl said and went on. She did not like the king of bats at
all, and she did not insist on continuing the conversation with him.
The corridor turned to the side and after two dozen steps brought her to a spacious
hall. It was very beautiful here. Long mirror-like stalagmites hung from the ceiling, and
the same beautiful stalactites stood like candles on the floor. There were so many of
them that Galianka immediately lost her way among them and lost her orientation. Now
she could not find any way ahead, not even the tunnel through which she had come here.
She tried to take off and look around, but she managed to last only a little bit in the air.
Her wings lacked the space to spread out, the stalactites and stalagmites interfered, and
because they were all mirror-like, the girl saw nothing except a dozen of her reflections.

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Galianka was frightened. “Help!” she yelled. “Drool, Nastradamus, help! I’m lost!”
But she was answered only by an echo, which with dozens of voices spread out over the
cave and distorted her shout beyond recognition. Galianka even thought that the whole
cave was laughing at her. She instantly stopped wanting to shout.
Suddenly, from the corner of her eye, the princess noticed something run past the
stalagmite nearest her. She rushed to it and saw a small creature resembling a lapdog
but with eight slender legs. The creature was as if covered in gold and cast a yellow light.
Galianka was very happy.
“Wait!” she yelled. “So, are you the Golden Spider? Where are you going? Don’t be
afraid, I won’t hurt you!” The creature, running away at full speed, stopped and looked
back at the last words. Six round ruby eyes and nine emerald eyes looked
simultaneously at Galianka with surprise and fright.
“No, I’m not yet the Golden Spider. I’m just a spider. And you really won’t hurt
me?” the creature asked.
“Honestly!”
“And you’re not an evil bat?”
“No, I’m a princess, and besides, an elf, and elves never hurt anyone. On the
contrary, I’ll protect you. Are you afraid of bats?”
“Very. I just went for a walk, and a big white and terribly evil bat saw me and
wanted to eat me. You should’ve seen what big and sharp teeth it has. It started chasing
me and I had to hide in this room. But now I can’t return to Papa. It seems that it’s there
waiting for me.” Galianka remembered Albinosius Cristallikus and understood what he
had meant when he said that she was preventing him from hunting.
“If you want, I’ll hide you and carry you past that disgusting bat and even take you
to your parents.”
“Of course I do!”
“Then climb into my bosom. What’s your name?”
“Paulito.”
Galianka hid Paulito under her fur coat and the spider quickly showed her where to
go. The princess saw the exit and ran back. On the way, she again met the bat lurking
around the corner.
“Returning already?” Albinosius Cristallikus asked suspiciously.
“Yes,” the girl replied. “I didn’t meet a single living being. Why didn’t you tell me
that nobody’s there?”
“You wouldn’t have believed me anyway.”
Galianka did not talk more to him and ran on. Paulito clung tightly to her with all
his feet and as if swallowed his tongue from fear. After a while, he tried to stick his face
out but immediately squeaked and hid again, because he saw a new monster flying right
at them. It was Nastradamus.

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“I finally found you!” he shouted. “Drool found the Golden Spider and told us to go
to him. Faster!”
Galianka wanted to answer him but did not have time, because there was a rumble,
the earth trembled under her feet, and the girl, clutching the startled eagle-owl, was
thrown to the ground. The walls and corridors around them began to collapse as if an
earthquake had begun. The princess screamed, the eagle-owl flapped his wings, and
they all flew somewhere down along the smooth marble floor, which in turn flew down,
then returned, then lifted up, then threw them down.
Something unimaginable was happening around them. Everything: walls, ceiling,
stalactites, and stalagmites, collapsed and scattered with a crash into small pieces. Bats
fluttered in panic and at once had no time for hunting. They, as well as Galianka and
Nastradamus, were dragged somewhere along the floor, and no one had the strength to
resist the rushing flow.
The princess held onto Nastradamus’ foot with one hand and pressed the scared
Paulito to her with the other. The hood of the fur coat covered her face and the girl could
not see anything. Something hit her painfully.
“Nastradamus!” Galianka shouted. “I can’t see anything. Help me take off the fur
coat!”
With the help of the eagle-owl, she somehow managed to remove the fur coat, but
it did not get any easier. On the contrary. The coat had softened the blows that came
from the stones and from the falls and knocking against the walls, and without it, it
became twice as painful. Tears burst from the poor girl’s eyes. She already thought that
they would now all perish, when bright sunlight appeared ahead and they were thrown
outside through a crack formed in the rock.
They did not fall down into the water because Nastradamus immediately grabbed
the princess and flapped his wings with all his might. Then Galianka also recovered and
started working her wings.
An extraordinary spectacle appeared. The huge White Rock had collapsed and fell
to the ground. It had tilted a lot and its top was now directly above the water. On top of
the rock was a small and defenceless figure in which they recognized Drool. And two
trolls were crawling to him quickly and adroitly. They shouted something and swore, but
it was impossible to make out anything from the rumble. The goblins, which had also
overcome the dead lake and were apparently climbing the steep slopes of the White
Rock, fell like peas from the narrow path, which was too small for them, down into the
lake. The lake in turn quickly became shallow, because its water drained into the abyss
that had formed from the destruction of the rock. Hundreds of tons of water rushed like
a whirlpool into the depths of the earth, and right before everyone’s eyes, only a few
deep puddles remained from the entire lake. One of these puddles was directly under
the top of the rock, on which Drool was sitting and almost falling.

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The rumble suddenly stopped. The White Rock stopped falling and froze in place.
Now it looked like a half-sunken ship.
Everything described happened in less than a minute.
A few seconds later, Galianka and Nastradamus came to their senses and rushed to
help Drool, whom the trolls Kurukul and Burdiuk Hoskings were rapidly approaching.

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Chapter Twenty-One
THE TRAGIC DEATH OF THE GOLDEN SPIDER
AND THE END OF THE HOSKINGS FAMILY

Now it is simply necessary to talk about what happened to Drool after he parted
from his friends and set off to search for the Golden Spider.
He walked along the narrowest and darkest tunnel and was least sure that he
would find the Golden Spider. It would have been better if I had gone the other way, he
thought, when a cold drop of water fell behind his collar from a damp arch of the tunnel.
Then there was a loud squelching sound.
“Uh, yeah, you can meet up with someone other than a spider,” Drool said and
drew his sword.
However, the squelching sound moved away into the distance and then completely
stopped. But Drool did not put the sword back and walked with it at the ready until he
came upon a blockage of stones. It was a real blockage and had probably been formed
quite recently, because dust was still swirling in the air.
Drool stopped, sheathed his sword, and pondered. Perhaps it was necessary to
return, because climbing over the blockage did not make sense, and there was no time.
He already wanted to turn back when suddenly he heard a distinct moan. It came from
under the rocks and was full of suffering and pain.
“Who’s there?” Drool asked.
“Me,” a hoarse, muffled voice sounded, “the Golden Spider.”

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Drool was taken aback at first, but then immediately recovered and began shifting
the blockage and throwing away stones. “How did you get here? And why are you
covered?” he showered the spider with questions.
“I went in search of my son, my golden Paulito, and fell into a trap, which my old
enemies the bats built. Their king hates me. For five hundred years I’ve been busy with
trying to give birth to a baby spider without a female spider, and I managed it only a
week ago. I learned how to turn into both a male and a female for a moment and I
managed to make an egg, and three days ago, my son was hatched. But this morning he
disappeared, went missing, ran away. I found the gold cobweb that was left of him, and
followed it like a dog following a trail. And then stones fell down and covered up my
head. I don’t have the strength to get out. Three legs are fractured, my back is broken.
I’ll soon die. But this isn’t the greatest tragedy...”
During the Golden Spider’s story, Drool laboured tirelessly and quickly released
the unfortunate spider from the stone captivity.
The spider did not stop and continued to talk, “The main trouble is that I left the
White Crystal. Now the bats will sit on it. For some reason they think that it grants
wishes. But that isn’t so. The White Crystal is just a model of the White Rock made in its
image and likeness, and it must be handled with care. It’s very fragile, and if it’s broken,
then the White Rock will also be destroyed. Oh, I’m miserable! My poor son, Paulito!”
Finally, Drool freed the spider, which turned out to be a truly wonderful creature.
He was the size of a large calf and his hair and shell were actually of pure gold, he was all
covered from head to foot with large diamonds, and his eyes were ruby and emerald and
very kind. He thanked Drool warmly and together they hurried to the White Crystal in
the hope that the bats had not yet managed to reach it. The Golden Spider, though
severely injured, moved fairly quickly, so that his companion had to run in order to keep
up. Along the way, Drool summarily described his story, which touched the spider
greatly.
“Yes, yes, I have long wanted to reconcile with the elves and renew our ancient
friendship,” the Golden Spider sighed as he found out about the misfortune that had
happened to the Elf Kingdom. “But I cut myself from all magic long ago and hid from
the world in this cave. The elves tried to get to me and I really wanted them to, but
unfortunately, the spell can’t be lifted and we were unable to meet.”
Here Nastradamus had just caught up with them and happily flapped his wings
when he saw that Drool had found the Golden Spider. “I’m flying for Galianka!” he
shouted after learning everything and disappeared from sight.
“Hurry!” Drool shouted after him and asked the Golden Spider. “So, will you give
me your golden yarn?”
“I would give you the whole golden web if I had it,” the spider replied,
“unfortunately, I’ve forgotten how to weave it. Of course, take the golden yarn. You
deserve it. There’s a tunnel from the hall where the White Crystal is, and it leads to the
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top of my rock. Go through it and climb to the peak. The golden yarn lies in the snow
cap there. It’s yours. Take it and destroy the emerging goblin kingdom.”
“Yes, I will,” Drool said. “And I’ll heal you and find your son.”

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“Find my son, find him!” the Golden Spider pleaded. “Save him. And don’t think
about me. I’m already a goner. My days are numbered. My soul will settle in my son, it
will live in him, and rejoice in all his joys. We Golden Spiders are immortal in our
children.”
Now they finally found themselves in the hall where the White Crystal was. It
sparkled with a white light in the very centre of the hall on a high marble pedestal.
Clouds of bats circled around and above it. Albinosius Cristallikus sat astride on the
white crystal and shouted loudly, “I want to rule the whole world! I want all the food to
be mine! I want all the most beautiful and fat females! I Want! Want! Want!”
“No!” the Golden Spider shouted. “Don’t touch the crystal!”
“Kill them!” the king of bats yelled at his subjects.
And then a whole cloud of vile creatures attacked the maimed Golden Spider and
Drool, who unsuccessfully tried to fight them off with his sword.
Albinosius Cristallikus continued to yell out the most impossible desires. His eyes
were burning with fire, his wings were flapping and he was hissing and spiting. In his
excitement, he lost control of himself and wanted to fly with the crystal. He certainly did
not succeed in taking off, the crystal was three times larger than him, but he managed to
throw it off the pedestal.
The white crystal fell with a crash onto the stone floor and shattered into
thousands of fragments. Immediately after this came an even more deafening rumble,
and the walls and arches around them began to collapse. The bats immediately
abandoned their victims and rushed about in terror, trying to escape from the stones
falling on them. Dozens of them died with loud plaintive howls. The collapsing rock even
drowned out their squeaking.
A huge fragment fell on the Golden Spider and literally flattened him. Drool rushed
to save him, but the spider sternly and imperiously said to him, “I can’t be saved
anymore. Leave me and run up this corridor. You can still make it. Find the yarn and
weave a golden web and you will have three wishes. Only then can you save your friends
and fulfill your duty. I ask only one thing: don’t forget about my son. Let him be in your
wishes also.” Having said these words, the Golden Spider breathed his last breath and
died. His ruby and emerald eyes went out, as if burning lamps had been blown out.
Under other circumstances, Drool would have burst into tears, but now he had no
time for it. Wiping away bitter tears, he carried out the last will of the deceased. He
understood that his friends could also die in this nightmare, but there was no sense in
searching for them. There was only one single way he could save them, which the
Golden Spider had told him. He had to fully assemble the golden web.
Sweet Tooth ran through the tunnel, which led him sharply up. It was incredibly
difficult to run. The floor was trembling underfoot, the walls were falling apart and
collapsing, large and small stones were falling from above, black dust was in the air,
nothing was visible, and it was difficult to breathe. Drool stumbled over something and
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fell. A stone fell on him and hit him painfully on the head. Blood ran down his face. “No,
I won’t reach it,” Drool groaned and closed his eyes.
It was a moment of weakness. He almost gave up, because he had lost faith in
himself. But this was Drool, a true and devoted friend of all those who needed him. His
own life did not worry him. He was not afraid of death. But right now he did not have
the right to die, because too many were depending on his life. Galianka, Nastradamus,
Paulito the son of the Golden Spider, they would now all perish without him. The Prince
of the White Tower, the Big World, Chris and Arian, would he really not come to their
aid in difficult times? No, no one would let him give up. He was in service. In the service
of Good and Justice!
Drool got up and, forgetting about pain and injury, ran on. Fortunately, it was
easier to fight his way through. Destruction was now somewhere below, and everything
above that could collapse and crash had already done so. The wizard climbed up along
the almost vertical corridor. It was not easy, but Drool proved this time that he was
worthy of the title of wizard. He turned into a creature that resembled a fly and crawled
with a speed of several metres per second.
Here at last was the top. Drool scrambled onto it through a round stone hatch and
looked around misty-eyed. What he saw did not make him happy at all.
The white rock had fallen into the ground, and the goblins fell down one after
another. Drool himself nearly fell when the rock leaned to the side, and barely managed
to grab hold of a snowy ledge. He started to search with a frantic look for the golden
yarn and very quickly found it. A small corner of it protruded from under the snow, and
gold sparkled in the sunlight. Sweet Tooth cautiously crawled to the golden yarn. It was
possible to reach it with a hand, and for this purpose it was necessary to crawl quite a bit.
Drool sent his body to the yarn with a jerk and almost fell down, but managed to hook
his right fingers in a lace of the yarn and hung, losing his footing. Then he reached for
the yarn with the other hand, pulled himself up and sat astride the top as if on a horse.
Now he had to pull the golden yarn from under the snow, reach for his parts, and put the
golden web together.
But here was the trouble. The golden yarn, which had just saved Drool’s life, did
not want to leave its refuge. It was firmly frozen in the icy top of the White Rock, and no
matter how Drool tried to pull it out, it did not come out.
The White Rock stopped falling and froze in place. Now barely a quarter of it was
sticking out from under the ground. Drool looked down and shuddered with fear. Right
under it was now a pool of water, all that remained of the whole lake. There was about
ten metres to it. But this did not frighten Sweet Tooth.
He saw the Hoskings: Kurukul and Burdiuk. The trolls deftly scrambled straight to
him and were getting closer and closer with every second. Unlike the huge and awkward
goblins, they did not fall off the rock but clung to it with all their strong fingers and toes.
Unfortunately, they immediately saw Drool as soon as he appeared up on top.
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“There he is, the scum!” Kurukul bellowed triumphantly. “Grab him, Burdiuk!”
And they climbed to Drool to finish him off. When they were only a few metres
away, Kurukul looked down and saw that a puddle was right under them.
“Hey, Burdiuk!” he shouted. “Give me the flask of dead water!”
“Why?”
“None of your business! I thought of something! Give it over!”
“I don’t think so! My flask! I myself will dissolve this traitor and report back to the
supreme troll.”
“Oh, you ass! Pity that I didn’t gouge out both of your eyes, scamp. Well, look
down!”
Burdiuk looked. “So what?”
“Don’t you see that there’s water?”
“I see!”
“You’ll never be the chief troll in our family, you’re too stupid. Pour the water there.
We’ll get to Drool right now and just push him down. How much can you mess with him?
Quickly, hurry up, while he’s alone without his bodyguards!”
Burdiuk finally understood Kurukul’s sneaky plan and hurried to carry out his
order. He unfastened the flask from his belt and poured its contents down into the water.
Black, dense, and smelly liquid flowed down. The water in the puddle under them
immediately became red, then white, blue, and again black. At the same time, it moaned
and cried loudly as if alive, then became silent, and ripples did not even appear on its
surface when stones and lumps of snow and ice fell into it.
“Done, commander!” Burdiuk shouted in an ingratiating voice. After the reference
to his gouged-out eye, he immediately abandoned the rebellion. “The water is ready!”
“Excellent!” Kurukul burst out laughing. “Well, Drool, your end has come! Prepare
for death!” And he stretched his green hairy arm out to the little troll, because he had
gotten quite close to him.
Poor Sweet Tooth, who had not managed to free the golden yarn from the ice,
closed his eyes in fear and prepared to die. Only now did he realize that the trolls wanted
to dissolve him in dead water. But why? He did not know that.
Burdiuk, his only eye burning with a yellow thunder of hatred and anger, stretched
his paws to him from the other side. “You must die, Drool!” he shouted. “So decided the
General Assembly of Trolls!”
“But why?” Sweet Tooth squeaked plaintively.
“You’ve done too much good,” Kurukul replied, trying to push Drool off the rock.
“And we sentenced you to death!”
Here Galianka swooped down on him. The girl started to whack the troll with all
her strength. “Leave Drool alone!” she screamed.
But how could a little girl cope with an evil adult troll? Kurukul simply waved her
off like an annoying fly. “Go away!” he yelled and saw Burdiuk flying down.
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http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
169

“Help! Murder!” Burdiuk shouted and grabbed Kurukul’s legs.


Kurukul immediately fell and hung, clinging to a small crack with his clawed paws.
He kicked and tried unsuccessfully to get rid of Burdiuk, who also held on tightly and
did not think of giving up his commander’s legs. The senior Hoskings swore and once
again tried to dispose of his subordinate. And then he saw what had so scared and
thrown Burdiuk off the rock. It was the evil guard eagle-owl. His eyes were burning like
lanterns and there was such fury in them that Kurukul trembled with fear, his eyes were
filled with terror, and he unclenched his fingers from surprise.
“What are you doing?” Burdiuk shouted. “We’ll dissolve!”
But it was already too late. The Hoskings screamed in two voices and flew down,
grasping at each other as if hoping they would escape and climb up the cliff again.
However, there was nothing to catch in the air and they plopped into the water. With a
noise and a splash, a tall black fountain rose to the sky, which covered the trolls’ heads.
The water came in waves; two ugly figures twitched and squealed in it. They tried to
come up, but nothing worked out for them. Soon their movements became slower, until
they subsided and the trolls disappeared under the water. Their howls and screams
stopped. The water calmed down and again became dead and smooth as paper. Then
there was a loud hiss, and foam bubbled on the black surface. It hissed and let out steam,
after which everything was again silent. Now and forever.
Kurukul and Burdiuk Hoskings had dissolved in dead water, which had been
prepared for Drool. That is when you can say: curses are like chickens, they always come
home to roost.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2019


jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
170

Concluding Chapter
IN WHICH WISHES ARE FULFILLED

For some reason, Drool felt sorry for them. He felt tears rolling down his face. Still,
these were his relatives. The only ones. Whatever scoundrels they were in life, now they
no longer existed, and Drool realized that the last thread that connected him to the past
had just broken off before his eyes. Now he was completely alone. He did not have
kinfolk anymore.
But his friends were with him. It was precisely his friends who had just saved his
life. Galianka and Nastradamus helped him to get to his feet and hugged him with
shouts of joy.
The princess almost cried. “We barely had time, Drool! Good that you held on until
help came!”
Nastradamus hooted, “The main thing is that we’re together again. Now we have
nothing to fear. Even these cursed goblins and their lord.”
Drool was surprised to discover that he was holding a golden yarn in his hands.
The one that did not want to get out of the ice. Now it lay quietly on his palm. The fifth
golden yarn.
Then a shout reached them, “Hey, you pathetic creatures! You’re surrounded!
Surrender, resistance is futile.”
The friends looked down and saw that four goblins were crawling quickly to them,
fifteen more were clambering along the rock after them, and directly under them by the
black puddle in which the trolls had dissolved, Martoduin laughed and yelled, “You have
nowhere to run! You are in my hands! Ha-ha-ha! Grab them, my glorious goblins! This
is the beginning of our celebration! Let the great kingdom of goblins reappear!”
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171

“We’ll see whether it’ll reappear,” Drool said and began to take out the rest of the
golden web. “Do you see what’s in my hands, Martoduin?”
The lord of the goblins burst out laughing and, in turn, took out the golden yarn he
had stolen from the elfin palace. “And do you see this, you stupid troll? You can’t
assemble the golden web, because all the same I have one part and it’s necessary to have
all five. Without my part, nothing will work for you. Ha-ha-ha! And what you have now
will be mine. Ha-ha-ha!”
Drool did not listen to him. He was folding his yarn into a web. All parts differed
from each other and this mosaic had to be assembled.
But Galianka replied instead. “You gloat in vain, cursed Martoduin,” she shouted
in a ringing voice. “You have in your hands only a useless piece of gold, which is no good
at all. You filthy thief, you stole an ordinary copy from my palace, not the yarn from the
Golden Spider. We have the real yarn.” The girl stuck her tongue out at the monster.
Martoduin was dumbfounded by such words. He stared with bewilderment at his
golden yarn and suddenly realized that before him was not really a magical thing. He
would have realized this earlier, he simply did not have time to examine his trophy
attentively, and besides, he could not imagine such guile. He almost fell apart in anger.
“Why are you standing there, loafers!” he shouted at the goblins. “Hurry up and grab
them! Whoever captures the troll, I’ll reward generously and make him my assistant.”
The goblins roared greedily and climbed faster. It remained for them to make a few
movements and Drool would be captured. One of the biggest goblins even stretched out
his paw, but it was already too late.
Drool at this point had assembled all parts into one whole and they by themselves
had combined into a golden web, very beautiful and mysterious. The web immediately
grew several hundred times in front of everyone’s eyes, and the golden net separated our
friends from their enemies.
The goblins were trapped. The net covered every last one of them and the monsters
stood motionless in place, as if frozen. They could neither move nor stir, they only
stupidly stared with their frightened eyes and blinked rapidly. They quickly ceased to
resemble monsters and again became those wimps that hid in swamps and hunted for
giant turtles. Only Martoduin remained the same disgusting monster, like a goblin, a
man, an elf, and a charred tree at the same time. He was also paralyzed by the golden
web and his eyes were burning with anger and hatred. There was no desire to look at
them. Good would never be resurrected in this being.
Drool, Galianka, and Nastradamus simply danced for joy. They swirled in a dance
and even sang. Twig-Diviner, having shot up from somewhere unknown, hopped by
their feet on the golden web as if on a carpet.
“And now it’s time for us to make wishes,” Drool said when they were tired of
rejoicing. “Who will start?”
“You,” Galianka said. “Indeed it’s thanks to you that we won.”
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172

“Not just me,” Drool objected. “We could only overcome all difficulties and dangers
all together.”
“That’s for sure,” Nastradamus confirmed. “Friendship is a great thing. What a pity
that I only learned about this in old age. As for wishes, I think that Princess Galianka
should be the first. Because, first of all, we need to dispose of Martoduin, and she must
do this.”
“You’re right, my good Nastradamus,” the girl hugged the eagle-owl. “I want the
terrible and cruel Martoduin to disappear with his sorcery, and never again return to
living beings. He’s no good. And the elf people will now be free, and I’ll return to Mama
and Papa!”
As soon as she said this, the lord of the goblins immediately vanished, as if he had
not been there. And at once everyone’s heart became free and joyful.
The golden web slowly and gently rose in the air. “It was I who made a wish and
asked it to take the princess home to her parents,” said Nastradamus. “The way back is
too dangerous and long, and they’re waiting for and worried about her.”
The golden web rose to the sky and flew north to the Elf Kingdom. Below, the freed
goblins began to scatter like cockroaches; now, without their lord, they no longer
presented great danger.
Galianka clapped her hands. “How kind you are, Nastradamus! But why didn’t you
ask for something for yourself?”
“I told the Spirit of Bewitched Forest and I’ll repeat to you: I need nothing.”
“I know what you need,” the girl said. “You need a home, because lightning hit
your tree. And you will have a home. I give you the attic in our palace. From now on it’s
yours! I’ll come to visit. After all, aren’t we now friends forever?”
“Of course,” Nastradamus nearly burst into tears and hurriedly hid his head under
his wing so that they could not see his misty eyes.
“I also want to live in the attic!” a thin voice suddenly rang out.
“Oh, I’ve completely forgotten about you!” Galianka exclaimed and pulled Paulito
out from her bosom. “If Uncle Nastradamus allows you to live with him, then it goes
without saying.”
“Will you, Uncle Nastradamus?” Ruby and emerald eyes stared expectantly at the
eagle-owl. “I’ll listen to you!” Nastradamus and Drool looked at him in surprise.
“Is this really a golden spider?” Drool asked.
“Yes, his name is Paulito,” said the princess.
“Paulito,” the spider squeaked. “So I’ll live in the attic?”
“Of course, you will!” Nastradamus embraced Paulito with his big wings and
pressed him to himself. “What a nice kid you are. I’ll take care of your upbringing, and
you’ll be my son.”
“And I’ll be your big sister,” Galianka said. And she also hugged both the eagle-owl
and the spider.
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173

The golden web flew across the sky and sparkled in the sunlight, so that from
below, it seemed there were now not one but two suns in the sky. The ground rapidly
sped away under their feet. There the Great Marshes flickered and also remained behind.
The golden web only paused a little in a clearing where a slender and graceful young
birch grew. It was the same one that had been so cruelly killed by the trolls on
Martoduin’s order when the villain wanted to move into it. But now it was whole and
unharmed, even healthier than before. The friends waved to it and flew on. The trees of
the magic forest of the elves cheerfully waved to them with their branches and rustled
their leaves.
“They’re welcoming us!” said Galianka.
Twig-Diviner happily chirped in response. It had served its purpose and also said
goodbye to its companions. It twittered and jumped down. “It’s running to its mother
Rowan,” Drool said.
And then finally, the palace of the elf king. And it again had become as before, full
of life, colours, fun, music, and laughter. The elves took off into the sky as a colourful
swarm and flew to meet the travellers and their liberators. A moment passed, and they
surrounded the travellers and began to hug and kiss them.
The golden web descended together with its passengers right at the palace gate,
and the travellers climbed down to the ground. They were tired but full of happiness.
And then there was a party that the king and queen of elves held in honor of their
daughter and her friends. It was a great and grandiose celebration. And Drool was to be
the most honorable guest.
Sweet Tooth was happy. “How well it all ended!” he said, bowing to Princess
Galianka, King Galiiarad, Queen Zolotinka, and all the other elves. “I’m happy for you,
my friends. But with the deepest regret I hasten to leave you. I cannot linger, because I
must hurry to set off to the Big World on the golden web. Friends are also waiting for me
there. They need my help because they’re in danger. Don’t detain me, please, and don’t
harbour resentment for my refusal to stay for your celebration.”
“Not a single elf will resent you, brave and kind Drool,” King Galiiarad replied.
“You will forever remain our best friend. Our hearts and souls are always with you, and
if you need our help, remember us and the power of our love and friendship will help
you.”
“Good-bye!” Drool said and climbed onto the golden web. He whispered something,
and the golden web broke away from the ground and flew south, taking with it a little
wizard and a great friend, nicknamed Sweet Tooth.
“Good-bye, Drool! Bye!” Galianka, Nastradamus, King Galiiarad, Queen Zolotinka,
and all the elves shouted after him.
And the giant trees waved after him and also rustled their leaves in all their forest
languages, “Good-bye, Drool! Bye!”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2019


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http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/
174

The entire Country of Frozen Time said goodbye to Drool and wished him success
in completing the great work he had started. “Good-bye, Drool! Bye!”

©Jane H. Buckingham 2019


jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca https://twitter.com/translator_frog
http://www.dmsuslin.narod.ru/