©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.

ru/

Tanya Grotter And The Throne of the Ancient One
Dmitrii Emets

Translated from Russian by

Jane H. Buckingham

Translation edited by Shona Brandt and Ivan Rodionov

Cover designed by Georgiy Lebedev

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

Titles in the Series
Tanya Grotter and the Magic Double Bass Tanya Grotter and the Vanishing Floor Tanya Grotter and the Golden Leech Tanya Grotter and the Throne of The Ancient One Tanya Grotter and the Staff of the Magi Tanya Grotter and the Hammer of Perun Tanya Grotter and Noah’s Pince-nez Tanya Grotter and the Centaur’s Boots Tanya Grotter and the Well of Poseidon Tanya Grotter and a lock of Aphrodite’s Hair Tanya Grotter and the Pearl Ring Tanya Grotter and the Curse of the Necromancer Tanya Grotter and the Babbling Sphinx

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Chapter 1 New Chairman of V.A.M.P.I.R. On a cloudy May evening, when raindrops and recently awoken flies were drumming on the glass from two different directions, the famous Durnev family was sitting in the living room. Uncle Herman was holding a laptop on his knees and, with mouth contorted by eagerness, finishing the welcome speech to the 7th All-Russian Conference of Pensioner-gardeners. “You cannot imagine, Ninel, how crucial this is! In our country only pensioners and home gardeners vote! If they support me, I’ll realize my old dream and be able to run for president! It’s only important that elections be in winter, otherwise these haters of Colorado beetles would slip off to their vegetable gardens!” This was already the third time he explained it to his spouse. Madame Durneva mumbled agreement. She could only mumble because she was devouring smoked turkey and pineapple slices. Someone had told her that it would be possible to loss weight eating turkey together with pineapple. Aunt Ninel approached the matter responsibly. She stocked a whole freezer full of turkeys and stuffed the refrigerator with pineapples. True, for the time being she had continued to grow fat, but comforted herself with the thought that not all natural medicines work immediately. Pipa was also not lounging. With her feet tucked under her, she was sitting on the sofa and thoughtfully contemplating with a magnifier the three in her diary, evaluating how to improve it more skilfully to a five. The three was very promising — with a small upper tail. Pipa had already tried using a blade on the three, when suddenly beside her appeared her papa, tired of amusing his brain with pensioner-gardeners. “Here, let me!” the best deputy demanded decisively. Pipa anxiously looked sideways at her papa and bunched up her eyes, ready to start wailing if necessary. However, the best deputy had other plans. He confiscated his daughter’s blade, skilfully reproduced a suitable trace of a handle, and, after a minute, an exceptionally credible five began to shine in the diary. “Here, daughter! Live and learn!” he said edifyingly, kissing Pipa on the head. Having displayed a dose of tenderness, Durnev turned and again trudged to his gardeners. “Stop! Hands up!” Pipa ordered, aiming an index finger at her papa’s back. The best deputy stopped and obediently lifted his carrot colour palms up to the ceiling. “We agreed: for each five I get fifty roubles! Forgetting something?” Pipa demanded. A moved Uncle Herman shoved his hand into his pocket and, after taking out his wallet, started to rummage in it. Not waiting for him to find fifty roubles, Pipa pulled the wallet out of her papa’s fingers and insolently took possession immediately of several hundred-rouble notes. “Why so much?” the best deputy was astonished. “What why? What about buying a DVD? A new film about G.P. has just come out recently! He’s so darling in it! The eyes are nice and kind, and not a single pimple!” Uncle Herman yawned. He was uninterested in listening about G.P., especially as his daughter had already been blabbering on about G.P. these past two years. Posters with G.P. were glued along the hallway; G.P. was also on dishes in the kitchen. Moreover, the clever thin-nosed face in round glasses looked out even from the bathroom towel, with which Pipa wiped her hands. “Well done, daughter! Never let slip your advantage! But enough about G.P., else I’ll howl!”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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After putting away the wallet a good deal lighter, Uncle Herman drew Pipa to himself and took aim for a new kiss on the head of his beloved offspring, but at this moment, the bell in the hallway was roused from a dream and produced something between the Funeral March and Dance of the Small Swans. Uncle Herman missed from surprise and painfully bumped his nose against Pipa’s head. “Ninnie, my sunshine, will you not take a look at what blockhead is ringing our doorbell? What fad is it to come without an invitation?” he frowned. “Right away, pumpkin! Your little dove will only have a small piece of pineapple! Otherwise the small pile of turkey will be so lonely in her stomach!” Aunt Ninel responded. “Don’t believe her, Pop! She already ate ten yogurts and fish steaks during the day! On top of that, my box of chocolates disappeared somewhere…” Pipa ratted on her dear mommy. She was always more daddy’s girl. Aunt Ninel clicked the TV’s remote. On its twentieth channel appeared an image from the camera recently installed on the landing. At the present moment, the camera was obediently taking a picture of the large grey tile and General Cutletkin’s iron door. “I see no one! There’s no one, Herman!” Aunt Ninel said in amazement. “What, no one? Then who rang?” the best deputy frowned. He rushed to the phone and dialled the concierge’s number. The concierge confirmed that no one went up to them. Uncle Herman and Aunt Ninel exchanged glances. Both simultaneously thought of one and the same thing. Or, more precisely, of one and the same person. The idyllic family scene was destroyed. “Really Grotter again? I’ve only just begun to recover! Indeed only two years has passed since she was here last!” Aunt Ninel groaned. “Ha! Tanya is not so bad! The main thing is that they don’t leave us a new orphan! Mom, see if there is a case or at least a garbage can?” Pipa snorted. “Stay here! I’ll go look!” Uncle Herman decisively ordered. He tiptoed to the door and, not trusting the video camera, looked into the peephole. Then Durnev carefully turned the lock, removed the chain, and abruptly jerked open the door. He vaguely hoped to catch someone unawares, but there was nobody to catch. The landing was actually empty. Uncle Herman shrugged his shoulders, and was already about to shut the door, when suddenly he noticed a long envelope on the mat. The Durnevs’ Moscow address was carefully written accurately in the top right-hand corner of the envelope. There was no stamp. This meant that the envelope could in no way have been delivered in the usual manner, through the mail. “Herman, what’s there?” Aunt Ninel fearfully shouted, running up to her husband. “Here,” answered the best deputy. “What a strange envelope! Not from America? I hope there’s no anthrax inside?” Aunt Ninel cautiously said. “Nonsense! I was already sick with anthrax in childhood. It seems, soon after mumps. Or after meningitis? Well, unimportant. In any event, this was before the rabid dog bit me,” Uncle Herman dismissed it and courageously unsealed the envelope. Inside turned out to be a dense sheet of paper. In the centre, written in large golden letters: “Dear Mr. Herman Durnev,
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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We report to you with satisfaction the end of the lawsuit that began in 1632. The final physical and astral death of the second contender for the inheritance — Empress C.A. Ligula — served as the reason for the termination of the lawsuit. According to the resolution of the supreme board of Transylvania, you have been declared the sole heir of your ancestor. Furthermore, in accordance with point 13.13/666 of our code you are automatically designated as the lifelong honourable chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. After taking into consideration all the facts, the main consultative board of V.A.M.P.I.R. unanimously considered that the close relationship and the natural qualities of your character compensate for the absence of magic abilities in you. In the case of your agreement, the regalia inherited by you will be sent to your home soon. Yours truly, Malyuta Skuratoff, Supreme Judge Transylvania, Anaemia Valley, 12 May 20…” Uncle Herman read the letter three times. Even — according to his habit of seeing a false bottom in everything — brought it to the light. However, this revealed nothing. Perhaps only that the paper was heraldic. A gloomy castle on a cliff was used as the heraldic element. Durnev shrugged his shoulders. “I understand nothing. Supreme board!” he said. “Excuse me, Herman! Don’t turn it down! What if they’ll even give us a blinker? The fact of the matter is that I drive to the supermarket without a blinker! I’m already ashamed to show myself in front of Isadora Cutletkina! Imagine, besides a blinker, this guttersnipe has a true IFV as an escort!” Aunt Ninel was angry. Uncle Herman with unease looked sideways at the neighbour’s door and dived into his apartment. “Shush! What are you, nuts? How often have I told you not to swear at Isadora! Maybe not today, but tomorrow they’ll give a star to Cutletkin yet! Just consider what he will be then! And afterwards, he’ll be useful to me! Yesterday he promised to purchase from me two hundred railroad carloads of old woman’s stockings!” he whispered to his wife. “Stockings in the army? Why?” Aunt Ninel was astonished. Uncle Herman mysteriously brought a finger to his lips. “Shush! State secret. Even I’m not let in. Perhaps they stretch them over rockets for conspiracy. Or for weaving camouflage nets. Even no need to alter anything here: the stockings have holes all the same.” Aunt Ninel pulled the letter out of her husband’s fingers. She attentively studied it and said, “Herman, we don’t know what this ‘V.A.M.P.I.R.’ is. What if it’s something good? Well, for example... eh... ‘Virtual Association of Muffins, Pies, and Ice-cream Rolls’?” “Nonsense! I don’t want to lead cakes!” Uncle Herman exclaimed with contempt. His spouse’s view again slid along the written lines and, full of suffering, she knitted her brow in cognitive effort. “Herman, bunny, listen!” she began. Her husband first turned yellow, and then grew red. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” he gasped. Remembering, Aunt Ninel covered her mouth with her hand. All names of the little beast with long hind legs were under strict taboo in their family. Every time she
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intended on turning on the TV, Aunt Ninel would attentively study the schedule in order to be absolutely certain that there would be nothing with big ears. “Oh, Herman, excuse me! I don’t know what came over me!” she squeaked. “I wanted to say, what if V.A.M.P.I.R. is the Veritable Association of Mass Pictorial and Information Reportage?” Uncle Herman ceased to change colours. He pleasantly turned pink instead and jumped slightly from excitement. “Exactly! You’re right, precious! Why didn’t I guess it myself! V.A.M.P.I.R. — Veritable Association of Mass Pictorial and Information Reportage!” he was inspired. Tears welled up in the best deputy’s eyes. “I knew it! I had a feeling, I hoped! My public activity and stainless reputation are known to all! The free democratic press has chosen me as its chief! You have to agree, Ninel, it’s an exceptionally wise and foresighted choice!” Moved, he sobbed, collapsed onto the sofa. “Yes, dear!” Aunt Ninel agreed. The dachshund One-and-A-Half Kilometres came out from under the sofa and began to bark with senile spite, spitting on Uncle Herman’s slippers. It could not stand it when they shook whatever was over it. The worked-up deputy took aim and kicked the dachshund back like a soccer ball. “Shut up, you, unprincipled publicist! Know your place! And I will shut anyone up for freedom of speech! Let those donkeys in Duma again try to turn off my mike! I’ll… I’ll… In short, for the time being I don’t know what I’ll do, but they will be sorry!” Uncle Herman raged. He jumped, pulled himself up to his full considerable height, and exclaimed, “Hey, you there, I agree to be the honourable chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. and receive all regalia! Ninel, look, is there an address or phone number on the envelope? I’ll answer them!” “Herman, I don’t know where the envelope is! It was just here but as soon as you shouted that you agree, it flew away somewhere!” she fearfully reported to her husband. The director of the firm Second-hand Socks was stunned. “WHAT, FLEW AWAY? A LIE! Most likely, this vile dog dragged it away! Hey you, come out! Ninel, get the mop!” Suddenly the letter from Anaemia Valley tore itself away from the sofa and, with edges quivering, attempted to bolt to the window following the envelope. “No-o-o-o! Stop! Catch it, Pipa!” After issuing an inhuman howl of a fooled careerist, the best deputy rushed after it. Trying to grab the letter, he gesticulated like a windmill in the style of the secret Shaolin School. In that same school, at the dawn of his enterprise, Uncle Herman successfully sold seventy marked down Dream of a Fireman ashtrays as incense burners from the tsarist collection of bronze. Durnev almost managed to catch the letter, but the sheet flared up in his hands. The brown fiery spot, which rose first in the centre, became a bluish flame an instant later, and consumed the entire letter. Durnev, with a face that had turned green, froze in the middle of the room and examined closely the large flakes of ashes on the carpet. “Everything’s lost! We didn’t memorize the address!” he said dejectedly. Aunt Ninel stared at her husband with horror. Large drops of sweat appeared on her upper lip. “Cookie, only, please, don’t be frightened...” she said. “What’s wrong?” “Your tee... teeth...” Durnev himself had already sensed that something was not right with his teeth. Covering his mouth with his hand, he rushed to the mirror. Here he irresolutely removed his hand. Four thin sharp canine teeth — two on top and two below — came together
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almost very tightly. “Ninel! It seems I now know what this ‘V.A.M.P.I.R.’ is!” Uncle Herman said hoarsely. Chapter 2 The Sleeping Adonis Vanka Valyalkin held onto the battlement and, leaning down, pulled the loose end of the fabric to himself. Ruby-colour letters flared up on the fabric: TIBIDOX GREETS THE PARTICIPANTS OF THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CABIN RACES! A mischievous gust of wind tugged at the banner and Vanka, who did not have time to fasten it, almost flew off the wall. Tanya and Bab-Yagun miraculously managed to catch his tangled feet. “Ugh! How mean it is to use third year students — already almost fourth year — for all kinds of nonsense! Even trained harpies could hang a banner!” Vanka started to grumble. “Uh-huh, they could! Only they would rip it with their claws. And how it would stink later! You wouldn’t be able to breathe!” Yagun stated. “Nonsense! It wouldn’t stink! There are completely decent ones among harpies. Ask Tararakh!” Valyalkin began to argue. “Don’t nitpick, soccer shirt! Think, only ninety banners. And for this we’ll be able to sit in the first row. Even closer than the instructors. I arranged for it!” Bab-Yagun tried to calm him. “The last time you also negotiated for the giants’ races! As a result they put us in the most inconvenient section and next to Slander on top of that!” Vanka reminded him. “My granny mama! And how was I to know that Slander would sit there? I could not forbid him from settling himself right in front of our noses and even chatting all the time with his mermaid! This time everything will be different!” Yagun assured him. Tanya doubtfully looked sideways at him. “Okay, what’s there to argue about?” she said conciliatorily. “We already hung four banners. Let one slip. A small matter! Only eighty-five remain!” From that memorable day of the match with the Invisibles, more than one-and-a-half years had already passed. And there was no way to call these one-and-a-half years colourless or insipid. In life — be it the life of a moronoid or a magician — things rarely happen gradually. Much more often fate, sneaking up, hits one on the back of the head with a popgun of surprise. First you, a modest employee, despondently while the day away on an office chair in front of a monitor, bored stiff, then suddenly such a whirl of events spins you that even the bank director shakes your hand for a long time, not noticing the coffee spilled on his knees. Or otherwise: a moronoid restrains himself for seventy years, runs in the mornings and gargles, in order to wake up one day grey-haired, with knees shot, sagging jaw and, after looking into the mirror, say sadly, “Good morning! Hey, kinsmen, give me, perhaps, a pistol and a half-glass of ethyl green!” However, there are also pleasant transformations. A schoolboy, standing in gym almost as the last in height, will suddenly appear in September as a tall husky lad with a brittle
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bass, and his chief tormenter, earlier teasing him on every change, would stand as if by accident closer to the instructor. In the months that we did not see Tanya, she had changed a lot. She had grown, grew prettier, and in the morning already glanced with anxiety at Black Curtains — would they reflect Vanka Valyalkin, feeding Finist the Brave Falcon with fresh duck meat, or BabYagun on his vacuum cleaner and with a black formal bowtie on his neck? She no longer laughed at Coffinia, when from the same Curtains, sometimes Zhora Zhikin, and sometimes Gury Puper, pulling up their shorts, winked maliciously. Frequently Tanya relived that moment when she attacked the terrible mouth of KengKing with the immobilize ball, and Gury Puper sped to cut her off. Sequence after sequence she played over that moment of the match. Pity, everything also ended this way with nothing. At the most critical moment, Grafin Cagliostrov, the chair of the board of arbiters, arrived in a great hurry on an enchanted dental chair. He interrupted the match and made quite a scene. “Why did you start the game without me? How dare you? You’ve violated all the decrees of the sports committee of the Magciety of Jerky Magtion!” shaking with fury, he stated. “My friend! We already delayed the game for almost half an hour. If we did not let out signal sparks, the spectators would have smashed the stadium. Pity that you were late,” said Sardanapal. “WHO WAS LATE? Me? I was here an hour early!!! Someone set the spell of passage in such a way that I was carried past Tibidox ten times and fell into a swamp!” Grafin Cagliostrov began to yell, spattering droplets of poisonous saliva. Those that fell onto the judicial stand changed into live cockroaches. Squeamish Dentistikha moved aside and brought a scented hanky up to her nose. Now everyone had already noticed that Grafin Cagliostrov appeared, let us say softly, poorly. He was covered entirely in slime, and in his ear a quite ordinary — definitely not a golden one — leech was moving. Tararakh for some reason was embarrassed; he unnoticeably moved aside and started to pick his nose with a thick finger. “Oh, oh! Vhat misfortune! An unknown person played a nasty trick on you! I am all in absolute horror!” Professor Stinktopp started to lament and excessively eagerly set about shaking the algae off Cagliostrov. “Enough! I am voiding the scores of the match! Here’s my seal!” Having pushed Stinktopp aside, Cagliostrov stuck a hand into an inside pocket. A frog jumped out of the pocket. Judging by the sizes of its eyes, it was clearly suffering from Graves’ disease. “And this is all that confirms your authority? In that case we have a full bog of them,” Medusa filtered the words through her teeth. “Do you want to joke, darling? I’ll end this farce! This fixed match!” Cagliostrov shouted. He rummaged in his pocket and, after snatching out a fairly wet parchment, waved it. “But, please, if you call off the match and void the scores, then what will become of the championship? According to the laws of your … my apologies, our Magciety, an interrupted match can resume no earlier than two years,” said Sardanapal. “This is wonderful! I’m not hurrying anywhere! But while a new game date hasn’t yet been set, the Invisibles, as before, will be considered the world champion!” Cagliostrov vindictively hissed and in an undertone pronounced, “Actus cheat macaqis interruptum
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toughis!” The parchment with plenary powers changed into an enormous bat. The bat rose above the field, puffed up, and burst into a dazzling violet flash. The stands began to drone angrily. The genie dragon handlers, on order, surrounded the dragons and began to crowd them towards the sandy arena, intending on driving them into the hangars. “There! You know this spell, Sardanapal. And you know the rules! There will not be a match between the Invisibles and Tibidox in the next two years under any condition. Now even The Ancient One wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Grafin smirked. Sardanapal clutched his heart. His beard rushed forward and made an attempt to wind around Cagliostrov’s neck. The academician barely had time to hold it with a hand. A bench fell with a deafening bowling strike. Tararakh got up. His huge lower jaw trembled. In his eyes were tears. “This mole interrupted the match… He interrupted when his celebrated Invisibles already almost lost! What is created now in the children’s minds?” he said hoarsely. Grafin Cagliostrov alarmingly looked sideways at the pithecanthropus and began to move back. Tararakh moved slowly but determinedly. The benches fell one after another. “I’m warning you, I’ll defend myself! I have a blue belt in combat magic!” Cagliostrov began to yell. “I have a fist the size of your head!” Tararakh said affectionately. “Better stand on the spot, slug, or it’ll be worse!” “Academician! What, aren’t you going to interfere? Get your gorilla away from me! He has the eyes of a killer!” Grafin began to whimper. Sardanapal turned away. “What, in fact, is happening? My laces are untied. I see nothing,” he said, ruefully examining his boots. The laces on them not only were untied, but also were so tangled up by some mysterious means that they presented a big enough threat to life and demanded immediate attention of the academician. Tararakh finally overtook Cagliostrov, shook a barely noticeable speck of dust off the shoulder of the chair of the board of arbiters and, having almost tenderly picked him up off the ground, pulled him by the jacket lapel towards himself. “You’ll not get away with thi-i-i-is!” Cagliostrov said wistfully and, having tucked in his elbows, blinked in a doomed manner. The dragon Keng-King of the Invisibles, not having had time to be taken away from the field yet, was considerably surprised. It had never seen a flying person with a trashcan on his head. This striking spectacle became so ingrained in the soul of the impressionable pangolin that for a long time it still did not spit out the swallowed players and only languidly sighed… Nevertheless, the match had already been put off, and nothing could be done about it. The cabins participating in the races began to arrive the next morning, when the school day had only just started for the third years. Good that the first lesson was veterinary magic, and Tararakh himself would also enjoy taking a look. The pithecanthropus wavered for about five minutes, casting askance looks at the window, from which a large part of his students no longer tore themselves away, and then stated, “Ahem, attention! I propose to change the theme of the lesson! Write! Cabins on Chicken Legs. Hmm... Special maganatomical features and all such in this vein. Ready? Then I don’t understand why you’re still sitting? Get on your feet and march to the courtyard! What hints don’t you understand?”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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The third years jumped with a triumphant roar, overturning desks, and moved towards the doors. Only Shurasik alone remained on the spot. “But what about the seven-headed hydra? Really, will you not dictate the symptoms of diarrhea in aquatics?” he squeaked in protest. The pithecanthropus stopped. The question caught him by surprise. “Eeee-ehhh... Excellent, Shurasik! I was thinking exactly whom to entrust with guarding the hydra! Keep an eye on it, lest it climb out from the portable tub!” he said, shutting the door. Shurasik remained in class alone. Water splashed. The third of the hydra’s seven heads leaned out of the tub. The small spitefully derisive eyes stopped at the unhappy guard. “Shoo! Quick! March! Ugh, you’re told!” Shurasik shouted in a cowardly manner. He took a mop and started to push the hydra back into the tub. The third head disappeared, but the fourth appeared almost immediately. The wood crunched. The mop broke into two and disappeared in the hydra’s mouth. Shurasik even did not have time to notice precisely which one. After dropping the remaining stub, he clutched his stomach. “O-ooh, no! I’m not okay! But only bears and hydra suffer from diarrhea!” he shouted in protest. They poured out into the courtyard just in time. The first cabin was already marching onto the drawbridge. The guard cyclops Dumpling Maker saluted it, placing a huge hand against a protruded ear. The cabin moved with a quick march step, throwing the pimply chicken legs out far. A moss-grown hag with one tooth in her mouth and bushy eyebrows looked out of its window. The straw roof of the cabin, similar to a mop of wheaten hair, bounced. Sparks fell from the chimney. Slander Slanderych winced and attempted to send the genie Abdullah for the reference book on fire prevention. “Go yourself, worthless! Don’t load the snowy donkey of my patience with granite blocks of your mistrustfulness!” the quarrelsome genie began to roar. He was upset with the principal for not allowing him to read solemnly to the guests his Poem of a Thousand Curses. After hearing that a snowy donkey served as the genie’s patience, Slander was so puzzled that he gave up and went unnoticeably away to the side. Following the first cabin, its friends were already rumbling on the drawbridge. Dumpling Maker was standing so still, chest out, eyes staring, with a hand exactly stuck to one ear. Miraculous bliss did not disappear from his face even when one of the cabins, making room for a neighbour, carelessly bumped him into the ditch. I’ll not understand vhere ze natural Greek gets such sergeant-major zeal from! Russia treats all alike!” Professor Stinktopp muttered disapprovingly. In total the participants in the prospective races were seven Russian cabins, two Ukrainian huts, three Northern yurts on deer hooves, and the highlight — High-rise on Broiler Legs. The latter was so enormous that it was necessary to enlarge the gates with a special spell. When finally it managed with improbable efforts to squeeze through into the internal courtyard of Tibidox, it began to seem from the outside that an additional tower had appeared in the school of difficult-to-raise magicians. “Perhaps we’ll persuade it to stay?” the academician Sardanapal asked. “No way! I’ve heard about it! It has such a temper that it’ll start to kick all of them here. It spends its entire life on foreign tours for this very reason… Hey, Tararakh! Take the children to the side! Don’t get any closer!” Medusa began to worry. The students unwillingly moved aside.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Worked up by the long passage, the cabins still trampled for a while in the courtyard before they agreed to move up to the previously marked areas. The distance between the areas was measured such that one cabin could not kick another. Here they stood, occasionally creaking from time to time and shifting from foot to foot. Yagge walked between the cabins and cordially greeted their mistresses. It was obvious from everything that Yagge had been acquainted with the majority of them already for about seven hundred years, no less… “Granny also had such a cabin once. Someone chased it away. Granny went for slippery jacks — returned, and tsk-tsk! Really, there’re such snakes!” Bab-Yagun informed Vanka. “What, so she didn’t find it?” Kuzya Tuzikov asked, putting his tousled head between the friends. “Shutters repainted, door hung somewhere else — you just try to find it! Get away from here, reactive broom! Nothing to smile about!” Yagun frowned. He wanted awfully to send an itch or the chicken evil eye to the insincerely sympathizing Tuzikov, but had to keep himself under control. Slander was spinning around hereabout, and Yagun had only recently been transferred back to the white department. Sardanapal did this after yielding to Yagge’s requests, and, as he expressed it, “until the first prank.” “Yagge, old lady! How are you? Still squeaking so-so?” suddenly someone shrilly shouted behind their backs. “Solonina Andreevna! It’s been donkey’s years!” Yagge — not very willingly, as it seemed to Tanya — embraced and kissed the middle-aged emaciated red-haired witch. Ginger was almost a beauty, but a gigantic saucer-sized pink beauty spot on her cheek slightly spoiled her looks. Solonina Andreevna’s cabin was lean and long-legged. It had a unique roof covered in green tiles and Venetian blinds instead of curtains and geraniums decorated the windows. Moving away, Yagge several times glanced back at Solonina Andreevna, who was smiling so broadly with feigned happiness. Sardanapal and Medusa, until then admiring from the little balcony the idyllic scene of the chicken-legged, had already come down into the courtyard. “How do you do, kind hostesses! How do you do, witch-grannies!” the academician affectionately greeted all. “And good health to you, host! Oh, come, how the beard was neglected! Exactly Tsar Gorokh!” the old ladies answered not in unison. Sardanapal’s smile widened. “Oh, I see, everybody is here! Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head! Glashka-Curdled-Milk! Big Matrena! Small Matrena! Aza Camphorovna, my respects!” The witch-grannies began vying with each other to shower Sardanapal and Medusa with presents of bunches of mushrooms and kegs of pickles and sauerkraut. The Northern witch-grannies brought cartilaginous fish and smoked deer ribs. Solonina Andreevna presented a monograph of her own composition, entitled The role of a gossip in the informational field of a planet. Cultural-logical aspect. The Ukrainian ladies presented lard and a bottle of vodka, which Medusa immediately removed far from the eyes of the academician. The witch-grannies smiled with understanding. Inspired by the successes of his rival, Professor Stinktopp rashly wanted to butt in for gifts, but they gave him nothing except a dead crow and a hissing black cat. Whimsical witch-grannies did not award black magicians.
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When the instructors, students, and guests left for the Hall of Two Elements for the holiday dinner, the drawbridge again started to move like a piston and Dubynya, Usynya, and Gorynya tumbled into the courtyard. In recent months, they had been assigned to guard the coast far from Tibidox. There the hero-bouncers rarely caught the eyes of the instructors and were thoroughly out of control. They built a home-brew apparatus and now and then, bored without shashlik, secretly brought down a deer in the forbidden forest. In time, the mischief of the heroes reached such a degree that Sardanapal, stepping out on the wall, sniffed the wind and could not understand why it smelled like booze. Dubynya, Gorynya, and Usynya knew nothing about the cabin races and now they were rather puzzled, after discovering that the entire enclosed courtyard was jammed with chicken-legged little houses. “What chicken coop did they set up here?” Gorynya said. “Right away I’ll crow like a rooster!” Usynya stated. Dubynya also wanted to say something witty, but, as it regularly happened with him, again experienced a crisis of genre. So, not thinking up anything, he carried the club over his head and advanced forward. Clucking worriedly, the cabins darted to the sides, dropping bundles of straw from the roofs. A yurt on deer hooves hid behind a Ukrainian hut. Only High-rise on Broiler Legs remained in place. Inspired by the easy victory, Dubynya moved towards it. “Why did you stand here, lanky? Now stomp!” he raised his voice at it and struck its leg with the club. High-rise on Broiler Legs shouted cockily and swung the hurt leg. The kick turned out first rate: Dubynya, flying away with the speed of a cannonball, was visible from a distance — from all the windows and towers. The trajectory of his flight was excellent and corresponded to all moronoid laws of physics. After tracing a gigantic arc and admiring the Buyan Island from the height of a hero’s flight, the projectile named Dubynya landed somewhere in the region of the coastal cliffs. Gorynya and Usynya, thinking of cajoling High-rise with their clubs, stopped. “Listen, brother, what was I thinking? Must first go look for Dubynya,” Gorynya, scratching his forehead, said. “But you, high-rise brooding hen, don’t be glad! You would think it has a brain! We’ll return yet!” Usynya added, and both heroes, pulling their heads into their shoulders, stepped back into the forest. The small-minded cabins, with chicken happiness surrounded High-rise, clucking with the liveliness of an experienced brooding hen… *** At the end of the solemn dinner, smoothly turning into a not less solemn supper, Tararakh, bashfully picking his teeth with a knife, approached Tanya. “Tanya, we need to have a talk! Let’s go away to the stairs!” the pithecanthropus said. Vanka Valyalkin with offence turned away. Earlier Tararakh did not have secrets from him. “Oho, what secrets we have! Maybe Tararakh’s planning a revolution in Tibidox?” Bab-Yagun mockingly whispered to him. Vanka nearly flung a plate at him. “Okay, don’t be offended! What kind of intrigues can Tararakh come up with? He’s a pithecanthropus! What intrigues could there be in the Stone Age? A club on the head — that’s the entire cave revolution,” comforting him, added Yagun.
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Tanya and Tararakh went away to the stairs of the Atlases. Here only the Atlases could overhear them, but they were interested in nothing except their primary occupation. “I have a request for you... Only keep it from everyone! Agree?” Tararakh continued. “Agree,” said Tanya. She shifted from foot to foot, waiting until it would be possible to return to the puff pastry. After several weeks with the radish tablecloth, she needed something less nourishing and useful. For example, a rich pastry with cream and the complete absence of vitamins. “Are you getting ready for exams?” Tararakh asked. “Yes, kind of,” Tanya pronounced not very confidently, involuntarily thinking whether she spoke the truth. On one hand, together with Yagun and Vanka, she still had not yet touched the textbooks. On the other hand, they had already tried for a week to hatch from malachite a spirit of omniscience, watering it with dragon tears and keeping it in the cold. The spirit actually hatched, but every time such an idiot came out that not only was it incapable of prompting, but it also did not even remember its own name. “Look, Tanya, you study well… So that it would just fly out of your mouth! So that any second, even when you wake up at night, everything would still be in your head… Of course, it’s also possible to spark on a grand scale without knowledge. Here it’s not even necessary to be a professor, but simply to be smart. For another professor, work so piles up that only the nose remains to be seen…” Suddenly noticing that he was refuting himself, Tararakh became silent and bashfully wiggled his toes. He always walked around barefoot, asserting that in shoes he felt like a rhinoceros with prostheses. “There’s something about all this I don’t like. He started talking about studies… What if all his asps crawled away again and there’s no one to gather them?” Tanya cautiously thought. Taking heart, the pithecanthropus took a deep breath, breathed out with such force as if blowing out a candle burning somewhere at the other end of the hall, and approached the essence, “Tanya, tonight I want to go to the cabins. I’m interested in seeing how they’re doing there. Building a nest or, perhaps, sleeping while standing.” “Go. Why not?” Tanya said. “Also — what if I’m lucky and some cabin lays an egg. I would put it into the bird Sirin’s nest — it could hatch me a cabin. And I could then give it to Yagge as a present...” Tararakh continued to mutter. “Wonderful. Yagge would be pleased.” For the time being Tanya did not see what the secret here was. Perhaps Tararakh was afraid that she would let out the secret to Yagun, and he — to his granny, and then it would not be a surprise. “Wow-wow! And I say: wonderful!” Tararakh was inspired. “So, it means, you agree? You will sit with the Sleeping Adonis?” “With whom, with whom?” Tanya asked him to repeat. Tararakh brought a finger to his lips, “Shush! Later you’ll find out. Only consider: you have to sit the whole night. Otherwise it won’t work.” “But who is this Sleeping Adonis?” “Later you’ll find out. I can’t tell you for the time being. So, yes or no? I haven’t asked you to do anything for a long time.” “Well, okay,” yielded Tanya. “It means yes?” the pithecanthropus asked again with distrust.
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“Yes, yes, yes, yes!” Tanya despondently repeated. She already reckoned that it would be possible to take a puff pastry with her. Moreover, a sleeping adonis is rarely seen. It would be interesting to take a look. Even if the adonis suddenly woke up and was annoyed, it was always possible to push him to Verka Parroteva or Coffinia. Tararakh beamed. “I knew that you’d agree! You won’t be sorry!” he blurted out, “My den in ten minutes then! Knock this way: one-two-three, one-two... Only remember — not a word!” Tanya returned to the table. Bab-Yagun and Vanka with curiosity looked sideways at her but asked nothing. “I have to be absent... I cannot tell you anything because... Well, in short, we’ll meet after breakfast!” she said, confused. “Uh-huh,” Vanka indifferently turned away. Tanya, knowing him very well, understood that he was downright outraged. She was guiltily at a loss, wrapped a large piece of puff pastry in a napkin and slipped from the Hall of Two Elements. Having gotten up along the stairs of the Atlases, she turned into the first dark corridor. This was not the shortest way to Tararakh’s den; however, the girl hoped that precisely here she would meet no one. The torches hissed in an unfriendly manner and poured out sparks. Wheelchair’s loose spokes jingled somewhere in the nooks. Tanya, without stopping, threw a briskus at it. She was already halfway to Tararakh’s den when suddenly a dark silhouette floated out from a niche, barring her way. Tanya squealed. Two torches went out with her screech. Somewhere above a glass cracked. Indeed if anything, the baby Grotter knew how to squeal and did this skilfully. Pipa gave her the lessons. Here, in Tibidox, she improved her technique with Katya Lotkova and Verka Parroteva — two famous panic-mongers. The figure started back and, after plugging up his ears with his hands, issued a bird cry. Simultaneously his face came into a lunar ray pouring through a stained-glass panel like a bluish stream. Tanya recognized Slander Slanderych. The colorless eyes of the principal froze the girl from her head to her heels. It seemed to Tanya that an icy lump began to form in her stomach. Prickly sparks ran through her body. “Grotter, immediately shut your mouth! You stunned me! What are you doing here?” the principal hissed. “I’m going for a walk!” Slander grinned distrustfully. “Here? What, no more suitable places for a walk?” “There are,” mechanically answered Tanya. “Then what are you doing here?” the principal squinted. “Eh-eh... Everywhere is full of people. And here no one prevents me from concentrating. I’m thinking over a composition on the theme of The Use of Rancid Jellyfish for Magic Purposes! You can ask Professor Stinktopp. He assigned it to us!” Tanya said, in a hurry groping for the first explanation she chanced upon. “Fine, I’ll definitely ask Stinktopp whether he permits you to be loose along the corridors,” Slander promised with a threat. His eyes like sticky worms crawled along Tanya’s arms and stopped at the napkin. “So. A bundle. What’s in it?” “Pastry,” Tanya was lost. “Really? Hand it over!” the principal demanded. Then Slander Slanderych behaved unpredictably. He threw the bundle onto the floor, hung over it like a hawk, and began to hack the pastry to pieces, not paying attention to the cream and the jam smearing his fingers. At the same time, he contrived to keep his magic ring in readiness in order to throw a combat spark if necessary. Finally, the pastry was destroyed and even trampled
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by his feet. On the floor remained only an ugly mash on which wasps began to congregate. One of them even stung the principal’s finger. For some reason this calmed Slander down. “Wasps cannot be mistaken. This was truly pastry...,” he said to himself quietly. “Okay, Grotter, go! Only don’t think that I believed you! You still have to give an explanation, and very soon!” He bored Tanya with his view one more time, and again withdrew into the niche. Tanya had time to notice a little folding there, created with the help of the simplest magic. “Aha, Slander sits in ambush! Interesting, who is he on watch for? And my pastry is something he did not like!” she thought. Soon, after contriving not to bump into anyone anymore, Tanya stood at the door of Tararakh’s room, trying to recall the prearranged knock. But she did not have time to knock, as the door was thrown open and the pithecanthropus literally dragged her inside by the sleeve. Likely the impatient Tararakh was on duty at the door, peeping through a crack. He put his head out into the corridor and, after looking at both sides, locked the door. Tanya looked around with curiosity. Not without reason Tararakh called his room a den. To call it something else was somehow difficult. Soot covered the walls with the exception of those places where the pithecanthropus scratched with a stone the silhouettes of deer and aurochs. Piled up in the corner was a not bad collection of spears, knotty clubs, and rock axes. There were especially many axes. Tararakh hewed them into shape in the long winter evenings, remembering the times in the caves. A fireplace was laid out in stones in the middle of the den, leaves and dry grass lay next to it by armfuls. Tararakh slept on them, asserting that it was much more comfortable this way. “Still!” he said with pride. “The bed must be repaired, linen cleaned, so once a year I throw the straw into the fire, and I’m able to gather new leaves from there!” “Did anyone see you?” Tararakh asked anxiously. “I did. Stumbled upon Slander. He was hiding in wait for someone,” acknowledged Tanya. The pithecanthropus dropped the log, which he was going to toss into the fire. “Where was this? Far from here?” he asked seemingly casually. “Ne-a, not very. You know, between the stairs of the Atlases and the Tower of Ghosts there is a little curved corridor where the torches always go out.” “Ah, understandable!” Tararakh said. It seemed to Tanya that he feared to hear something else and was now at ease. “And he even crumbled and trampled my pastry. Do you know why? His brain all tied up in a knot perhaps?” she was interested. Tanya thought that Tararakh would be surprised or at least agitated by the action of the principal, but this for some reason did not occur. The pithecanthropus listened to the information about the pastry without any special interest. He only muttered, “Pastry… Oh! Slander left something. This in no way can be pastry, although who knows him, what it’ll turn out to be…” “What are you about talking? What is this?” Tanya quickly asked. “I cannot tell you. Honestly speaking, I know little myself. Still, there are some guesses…” Tararakh answered evasively. The pithecanthropus approached the curtain dividing his den into two halves. He already undertook to draw it aside, but suddenly took his hand away and turned to Tanya.
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“I can’t. This isn’t a joke! You must take a terrible oath that you’ll be silent as the grave! Understand?” “Do you have in mind the fatal oath?” Tanya asked with trembling in her voice. Tararakh sternly nodded. Tanya felt dryness in her mouth. To her, as to everybody in Tibidox, it was well known what the fatal oath was. A magician, uttering the fatal oath of his free will or under coercion, can no longer destroy it under any conditions. Even a random disturbance of the oath — for example, if, not keeping himself under control, he tells the secret to his closest friend — entails an agonizing and terrible death. “Are you ready?” Tararakh asked. “I swear that I will never describe to anyone or under any condition what I will see now! No one will find out from me about the Sleeping Adonis! Strike thunderus!” Tanya blurted out. The green spark, tearing away from her ring, hung in the middle of the room, after changing for a moment into the likeness of lightning. Precisely the same lightning would pierce Tanya if she decided to make a slip of the tongue. “Sorry it was necessary to demand the oath from you… But I think you will soon understand everything yourself. Be introduced: here is the Sleeping Adonis!” Tararakh said, decisively parting the curtain. Tanya involuntarily recoiled. A crystal coffin was swinging on silver chains behind the curtain. The girl irresolutely approached, looked at the Sleeping Adonis, and in her heart confined the worm of disappointment. She must acknowledge that she expected to see something else. In the crystal coffin, breathing heavily with hands under a cheek, was a short-legged man with such porous cheeks that they were the right size for planting flowers. A drying carnation doubled over pitifully in the buttonhole of his white dress coat. “Phew, how terrible! What’s in his family tree? Crocodiles?” Tanya asked. Tararakh merrily evaded the question. “What do you want? They did not find him in time; here he was also a little dusted! But then this is the real Ludwig Champignon! Somewhere here even his uniform was signed. It was mandatory that they marked all Sleeping Adnoises in the Middle Ages… Wait!” Tararakh fussily began to inspect the collar and showed Tanya the nametag. “Here you see! What I did say? Ludwig Champignon!” the pithecanthropus was pleased. Tanya did not begin to disappoint him, although it was clearly “Gottfried Bouillon” on the nametag. She had long since known from Vanka that the pithecanthropus read and wrote rather poorly. Tanya looked at Tararakh, and her suspicion suddenly started to nag like a dental drill. “Know what, Tararakh... I’ll sit with him, but I won’t kiss him! If you need this, indeed better call Coffinia. She would even kiss a frog. And if it’s necessary to squeeze and tickle — it’s Dusya Dollova,” she stated. Tararakh was even frightened. “You… What thought is that? The reason I asked you to sit with him is that I was certain: you will not begin to kiss him. Or else, he, for all I know, will wake up! All these Sleeping Adonises are a little nutsy. He’ll roam and annoy everyone. And then may even be violent. Yes, in general he’s somewhat…kind of strange. I don’t entirely like it.” “Listen, Tararakh! Where did you get this Gottfri…Ludwig Champignon? What’s he to you in general?”

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The pithecanthropus reproachfully stared at the girl, with his entire look showing that Ludwig Champignon was not particularly necessary to him. Even more, he would be glad to be done with him, but could not in view of specific circumstances. “You have to understand, here’s some business… It’s a personal request of Sardanapal. I could not refuse. The academician found him in a cave on the coast approximately one month ago. Earlier the entrance into the cave was covered with sand, and here a storm washed away the sand. Sardanapal saw a crack, squeezed in, and looked: he was in the cave, before him a coffin on chains, and an inscription carved on the cliff above the coffin. I was not so good with reading and writing, but from the words of Sardanapal the meaning was this: ‘Caution! Deferred curse! The year he is taken away will be the year of terrible ordeal for all of Tibidox!’ Now do you understand why I made you take the oath? The discussion deals with the fate of the entire Tibidox!” Tararakh scratched his stubbly cheek with his short fingers and with annoyance pushed the crystal coffin, swaying on the chains. “Medieval magicians loved to play dirty tricks on descendants. Some even contrived to invoke a pile of deferred curses hastily and quickly died in order that they could not be abolished,” he complained. “Wait! Really, when they’re alive, then...” Tanya started in amazement. “Aha. What, didn’t you know?” the pithecanthropus interrupted her. “While a magician is still of this world his curse can always be annulled, although sometimes it’s even necessary to wreck your brain, but when he’s dead — now that’s it indeed. How he cursed — so it is. Earlier you even know how it happened: let’s assume a weak magician had a stormy fight with a strong one. He’ll curse him, and quickly jump into a pond with a rock tied to his neck. Well now indeed the strong magician can disappear to nowhere — the curse can no longer be removed, even if you collapse! Later The Ancient One stopped this practice and so arranged that hence deferred curses could not be imposed. But only there’s little sense all the same: do you know how many curses are placed from previous times?” Tararakh even waved his hand, showing that there was a whole pile of such trash everywhere. “I can imagine how troubled Sardanapal was when he read this warning!” Tanya said. “‘Troubled’ is not the word! He immediately realized that all this is serious, and began to think how to get out of this. To leave him in the cave — vacations will start any day now. All kinds of curious fools will run along the coast and for sure will stick their noses into the cave. Then at night, he transferred the crystal coffin into Tibidox, handed him over to Yagge, and ordered her to protect him like the apple of her eye. ‘Put him,’ he says, ‘into any remote room in magic station and lock it. Only not in the basement, it’s full of evil spirits.’ But you know Yagge! In a couple of weeks, she was already tired of this Adonis and began persistently to get away from him. Her patients, you know, recover poorly when there’s a coffin in the next room. They, perhaps, even don’t know about it, but it’s unpleasant for her. In short, she got rid of him back to Sardanapal, and that one to me. He knows that I would never kiss this beggar and will allow no one to approach him. Besides, who would come into my den? Perhaps Professor Stinktopp once every hundred years wanders in to drink a glass or two. These adonises are simply all the same to Stinktopp… And the adonises, if you look closely, feel the same also.” Unexpectedly Tararakh was on guard. The Sleeping Adonis noisily turned in the coffin and opened his eyes. Tanya yelled. Tararakh rushed to the coffin and, rocking it, started to sing in a hoarse voice: “Bye-bye! Quick beddy-bye! Will come a grey top, you will
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bite into a chop!” The Adonis blinked drowsily and, having closed his eyes again, began to smack his lips sweetly. Tararakh stopped singing and moved away from the coffin. “Ooh! It still works, but getting worse every time... Okay, I’m going. Else I’ll miss how the cabins are settling,” he said. He was about to move to the door, but Tanya seized his hand. “TARARAKH! Why didn’t you tell me that he wakes up? You were hoping that I would stay, right?” The pithecanthropus was terribly confused and, although there was no one else besides Tanya and the Adonis in the den, lowered his voice to a barely distinguishable whisper. “You understand... This matter here... It started very recently. He’s not so much awake, but like he suffers sleep-walking! I didn’t know this earlier. But somehow I woke and he was not here. I rushed into the corridor and searched! Barely found him — he had almost strayed into the Hall of Two Elements. I threw my arms around him and dragged him, but he’s strong as a vampire! He pushed me — and I flew away! Good that I thought of singing a lullaby. He immediately calmed down and fell asleep directly on the floor. I could barely drag him back... You do this, as he begins to wake, immediately sing a lullaby — it’ll immediately bring him down.” “I don’t know any lullaby!” “Unimportant! You can sing whatever! Deafen him even with a military march… He’s…not especially fastidious. The main thing, don’t be silent. As soon as he begins to stir — immediately sing… Well that’s it, I’ve to speed along!” The instructor of veterinary magic deftly freed himself from Tanya’s hand and slipped to the door quicker than the girl had time to hold him. Steps merrily thumped along the corridor. Whistling, Tararakh, having gotten leave for the entire night, rushed to observe the cabins. Tanya tossed another couple of logs into the fire and sat down on the straw. Four hours later the Sleeping Adonis stirred again. Tanya had to swing the coffin for a long time, singing contemporary pop — the only thing she could recall. The last vacation Coffinia dragged a moronoid radio into Tibidox and now listened at night to everything that she could catch. Sometimes she invited Gunya Glomov and egged him on so that he would dance together with Page. Once, the jealous skeleton even bit Glomov’s ear. The pop acted as stimulation on the Sleeping Adonis. He turned and gnawed the pillow. Then on the move to rap, Gottfried immediately yawned and dropped off. Happily, Tanya changed to Kalinka-malinka and, having stopped swinging the crystal coffin, returned to the fire. Drunk on the new gifts of the musical world, the Sleeping Adonis did not wake up for a long time. Tanya stood firm, making circles around the fire and examining the beasts on the walls of the den, until approximately two in the morning. Tararakh was not much of an artist, but he carved with inspiration and with his entire soul. Tired of wandering back and forth along Tararakh’s den, Tanya shovelled straw with the intention of constantly having the crystal coffin in the field of her vision. She lay down, for a while honestly stared at the snoring adonis, and then merely for a second shut her eyelids that had grown heavy and — fell asleep. Already toward the morning, a vague sound woke Tanya. It seemed to her, not quite awake, that a rock axe fell in the corner. The coals had almost gone out. The Sleeping Adonis was sitting in the coffin and smiling in the dark with bluish teeth. The lid was carefully leaned against the coffin and slightly rocked together with the chains. Fear like
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thousands of brisk ants was running along Tanya’s veins. She was absolutely paralyzed. The words of all the songs poured like dry peas out of her memory. The Sleeping Adonis clumsily got out of the coffin and, stretching out his hands forward, made his way to the door. Not noticing Tanya, he stepped over her, nearly stepping on the coals, and went out into the corridor. “Pointus harpoonus!” Tanya whispered, quickly lifting her ring. The ring of Theophilus Grotter ejected a green spark, but it was pale and, barely flaring up, withered away. Tanya recalled that the Sleeping Adonis was under the action of a deferred curse and any other magic was powerless here. Finally fully awake, she rushed after the sleeping Adonis, but that one had already disappeared somewhere. The corridor was empty. Only water drops, making their way through the cracked stained-glass panel, fell resonantly from above onto the flagstones, and torches not yet extinguished were hissing and smoking with a pinkish flame. Tanya rushed first in one direction, then the other. The twisting corridors of Tibidox were interwoven, exactly like a snake. To search for the Sleeping Adonis in these labyrinths was almost useless, especially not knowing where he had headed. Suddenly Tanya recalled that Tararakh had told her about the Hall of Two Elements. What if the lethargic Adonis again was drawn to there? Then he would bump into Slander for sure, if that one were again in ambush. Without turning over in her mind what she would say to the principal if he again intercepted her, Tanya ran to the Hall and the stairs of the Atlases. Torches flickered like spots and spread in her eyes. Her heart was pounding and leaping in her tight rib cage. She was already in the gallery between the Tower of Ghosts and the stairs of the Atlases, when unexpectedly her feet painfully hit a step that had jumped out from nowhere. Tanya fell and whimpered very quietly, nursing a hurt knee and whispering heated reproachful words to the step. Suddenly in front, where the main corridor intersected with the secondary one and where there were almost no torches at all, loomed someone’s shadow. Not pondering, Tanya rapidly crawled away and hid behind that same step, of which she recently spoke critically. The girl herself seriously could not explain what compelled her to hide. If this was the Sleeping Adonis, then indeed he was precisely necessary to her! On the other hand, it could not be excluded that this would turn out to be Slander. The most correct thing was to look closely first and only then to begin singing a solo. The figure froze at the intersection of the corridors, listening. In the dusk, his face seemed greased and indistinct. The unknown one was dragging something bulky towards himself. After standing a certain time in reflection, he again hoisted the load onto his shoulders and, swaying from the weight, was hidden in one of the passages. Tanya moved out of her shelter and inaudibly ran after him. A low sound compelled her to freeze. On a small magic stool, leaning his head against the wall and stooping, Slander Slanderych was sleeping in ambush. “Swim over here! Closer! Even closer! You have such a cool tail!” he muttered in dream. The flame of the torch trembled. The shadows fussily ran along the principal’s face. A bittern screeched in the Tibidox swamp. Slander shuddered and began to grind his teeth. The cry of the bittern by some mysterious means evoked in the sleeping one an assault of jealousy. “No, no! I don’t want fish oil! Take the spoon away now! I hate you, I don’t want to love! I saw how you winked at the water sprite yesterday, this wet nonentity! I’ll dry up the pond, yank out his beard, throw him to the sun!” the principal began to moan.
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“The wretch! Why did he fall in love with a mermaid? It would be much more correct to fall in love with Parroteva. It’s simply impossible for her not to be pleased,” thought Tanya. Lately Parroteva stuck her nose into her affairs so often that the baby Grotter frequently thought of her with irritation. When she had finally sneaked past Slander Slanderych, the Sleeping Adonis — and who else could this be, since Slander was sitting on the chair? — had disappeared with his load to God knows where. Not finding the Sleeping Adonis in the Hall of Two Elements, Tanya searched for him till dawn. And not having discovered anyone this way, she dejectedly meandered into Tararakh’s den, pondering with shame what to say to him. Having stepped over the threshold, she almost turned into a pillar of salt. The Sleeping Adonis again was lying in the crystal coffin and, having thrown his arms behind his head, was selflessly snoring the Eroica. It only remained for the girl to straighten the coffin lid so that his snore would not resound along the entire Tibidox. “Whom did I see there in the corridor? Was it him or not? And if not, then where did he drag himself to?” Tanya thought. Suddenly she understood that she would say nothing to Tararakh. The pithecanthropus so believed that she would manage, the reason why he asked her, and put her on the spot. No, better if Tararakh finds out nothing. Moreover, Gottfried Bouillon is already in place — intact and not been kissed. There is likely no reason to faint. Having calmed down, Tanya again sat down by the fire. She no longer wanted to sleep. Beyond the window in the tower, the guard cyclopes were exchanging loud exclamations. The morning approached. Chapter 3 High-rise on Broiler Legs and Obstacle Course Near noon, the entire school of magic assembled in the main dragonball field. True, it was necessary to re-equip slightly for the cabin races. The protective magic dome was removed and paths were marked in the sandy arena. Around the field stood the cyclopes, whom Slander had rounded up to keep order. The cyclopes yawned and, leaning on their clubs, stared uneasily at Usynya, Gorynya, and Dubynya. Dubynya looked fine, although his nose was slightly displaced to the side, and a well-ventilated opening appeared instead of one of his front teeth. There were almost no vacant spots on the stands, except on the very top, from where, besides the clouds, which the playful cupids, having slipped through to the match without tickets, continually looked out of, it was impossible to see anything at all. The transparent silhouettes of the ghosts soared between the rows. Lieutenant Rzhevskii bowed to acquaintances, half of whom attempted to launch a briskus-quickus at him. Eyeless Horror, after rolling in Wheelchair to the races, entertained all those desiring with candies, on which were traced crossbones and skull. On Unhealed Lady’s neck hung a supporting muff, looking as if three scores of tassels were already pulled off it, and her jaw was tied up with a towel. “Toothache!” she complained to everyone. And woe to the one who asked “where?” “HERE!” Lady answered, with explicit pleasure extracting her jaw from the muff. The compassionate spectator involuntarily grimaced, and Lady, noticing this, would start to hit him with the
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spectral umbrella and squeal, “You just look at this dry stick! Cad! And he doesn’t want to hold it!” Tanya and Vanka Valyalkin were sitting in the first row not far from the judicial bench. Bab-Yagun, who had bustled with the banners more than anyone else, was not with them. Sardanapal suddenly recollected that the races did not have a commentator, and sat Yagun down on the commentator’s tower, something similar to the tower of a volleyball judge. Yagun could see much better from it. True, he had to rattle non-stop, but he managed. Coffinia, sitting beside them, unceremoniously occupying Yagun’s place and twirling her head in all directions, nudged Tanya with an elbow. “Grotty, look! Thirty-three heroes! Now someone would faint, eh?” “If you must — faint!” Tanya muttered. She distrustfully examined the stand, on which handsome young men, daring giants in suits of scales of burnt gold, were sitting in glory and studying the playbill with the schedule of the rounds. Despite having heard about them often, she was seeing them for the first time. “And why are they alone? Where’s Uncle Chernomor?” Tanya asked. Coffinia twirled her index finger at her temple and silently pointed at the place of the chief judge, which Academician Chernomorov was occupying. Suddenly recollecting, Tanya bit her tongue. Indeed, she had to slip up like this, and on top of that before whom! “Dear spectators! With you again I’m the dear to all and irritating to many Bab-Yagun. Usually you can admire me in the field, when I courageously go into tailspin on my roaring vacuum. But that’s for dragonball matches. Now I, wise and courageous as an antique god, am on the commentator’s tower! Oh! Here I already see in the fifth row the pathetically sour, plain face of my best friend Damien Goryanov!” with crimson ruby ears, Bab-Yagun started. “So that you would crack! Antique god!” green with malice, Damien Goryanov snorted. The shielding vest of Bab-Yagun began to crackle, having successfully deflected an evil eye. “The cabins have crowded onto the start zone before me. By the efforts of Slander Slanderych on each cabin is a linen strip with its number — from 1 to 13. Certainly, this is a very wise, and I would even say shrewd, decision of the Tibidox principal. What if we confused a Chukotsky yurt with High-Rise or a Ukrainian hut?” Yagun said maliciously. The vest again began to crackle — loudly and hysterically like a zoomer. This time he had to deal with a much stronger evil eye: Yagge sternly stared wide-eyed and threatened her grandson with a fist. Slander Slanderych discontentedly rubbed the bridge of his nose and turned away. Bab-Yagun, like many great speakers, now and then forgot what he had recently said; he looked at his palm and was glad that he had safeguarded himself with crib notes. “Cabins on Chicken Legs are a very rare mythological form, relating to the kind of zoomorphic structures with no foundation. A new cabin can hatch not more frequently than once every hundred years. In the tree belt of Russia — and they dwell nowhere else — there remained so few of them that they have long been listed as endangered. For this very reason, in order to draw attention to this unique form, they have decided to carry out yearly reviews in Tibidox.” “Don’t harp on, Yagun! I would really cry from tender emotion! Cutie-tutie, the poor little housies! So that they would step on your tongue!” Coffinia Cryptova shouted from her seat.
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Yagun experienced a strong desire to launch a combat spark at her. “I believe my granny. She says that a Cabin on Chicken Legs is not simply a small wooden house with a stove. It’s even a friend. A real friend for centuries. When they drove away her cabin, Yagge almost died of disappointment. Clear to you?” “Clear. Somebody was a walking vacuum and became an enthusiastic cabin fancier. Any day now he’ll set up an incubator and breed Buyan full of kicking houses,” again shouted Coffinia. Gunya Glomov and Damien Goryanov started to neigh disgustingly. Bab-Yagun considered that there was no sense for the entire stadium to witness the bickering and quickly changed the subject. “The first international cabin races consist of three stages. The first stage — orientation in locality, the second — Caucasian trick riding, and the last — obstacle course. The winner is based on the total marks of the results of all stages,” he declared. Shurasik started to write in such a hurry in his little notebook that he blunted his pencil. The rest of the nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine spectators did not begin to record but entrusted to memory. Slander Slanderych, overbearingly inflating his cheeks, went out onto the field. “Cabins, listen to my command! Line up! Be still! Le…right! About turn!” he gave the order in a business-like manner. The cabins treated his words with total disregard. None stirred from its place. Only High-rise on Broiler Legs turned around alone. “Well done! Good girl!” Slander patronizingly addressed her carelessly and suddenly began to squeal: “Hey! What are you doing?” He grasped too late that High-rise turned around because it took into its head to pelt him with sand. And it would be much more convenient to rake up sand standing backwards. The stands howled with laughter. The disconcerted Slander withdrew hurriedly. The mermaid, whom he as usual delivered to the races in a barrel, hit the water with her tail and splashed Slander. The principal became much cleaner, but then immediately smelt strongly of fish. “Very flattering! Simply very flattering!” grimacing, a squeamish Dentistikha said. She plugged up her nose with a hanky and in a hurry moved to another bench. The mermaid, offended, tried to splash her but missed, and all the water fell on Rita On-The-Sly. On-The-Sly did not mind at all. Since she was three, she had adored pickled herring, the smell of which was close to that of the mermaid. “Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head! Number one! I ask you to love and not to complain, if anyone gets hit by an evil eye by mistake!” Bab-Yagun declared. From the cabin jumped out a decrepit but very frisky old hag. Her right foot was bone, and a yellow tooth grew from her lower jaw. The tooth was a one and only, but then of such a size that it was visible even from the next-to-last row. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head whistled smartly, instilling a slight envy even in Nightingale O. Robber. “Auntie Lush! I begged you! Let them think that I learned it myself!” Nightingale Odikhmantevich muttered unhappily. “Well, cabin! Turn your back to the forest, your front to me!” Lukerya-Feathers-on-theHead gave an order. The cabin immediately began to creak, shuddered from porch to shutter and from shutter to roof, and began to search pensively for the forest, turning the single window with geranium in different directions. After brief searches, the forest was discovered. True, at the same time, it also found that Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head and the forest were located on the same side; therefore, to turn facing Lukerya with its back to the forest was positively impossible.
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Leaving its position, the cabin started to go around its mistress in order to turn up between her and the forest, and almost trampled a junior arbiter who was a former shaman. “Stop!” Sardanapal yelled. “Discredited! Next!” “What? No matter! I’ll win back with Caucasian trick-riding!” Lukerya said. Thumping her bone leg, she climbed back into the cabin and angrily slammed the door. Following the unlucky Lukerya appeared Glashka-Curdled-Milk, Big Matrena, Small Matrena, Solonina Andreevna, Aza Camphorovna, and other participants. The cabins had different successes with orientation in locality. The Chukotsky yurts managed better than the others did in the first stage. They found not only the forest, cliffs, and Tibidox, but even navigated by the sun, and clearly showed by deer hooves where the equator was. High-Rise on Broiler Legs also passed orientation completely worthily. Unfortunately, at the same time two more shamans and one genie suffered while they were bustling around with tape measures. However, the cabin of Solonina Andreevna obtained the highest mark; it knew how to carry out surprisingly complex tasks and cleanly turned seventy-two degrees towards the named shoe of Sardanapal — exactly the one with a glued heel. And this despite that it received commands in Latin! “Well now? Who will deliver the prize ribbon for the first stage? According to the rules, it’s expected to be tied on the right foot of the cabin winning the stage!” Sardanapal briskly said. “Perhaps we’ll send an arbiter? The cabin is quite ready to kick. Anything can happen!” Dentistikha cautiously said. The for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox shook his head. “It seems they have already trampled all the arbiters. It has to be one of us! I propose Professor Stinktopp! Who’s ‘for’? I’m ‘for’!” he said. Immediately went up a forest of hands. No one liked Stinktopp. Only Dentistikha restrained, not risking to vote against her immediate superior. Professor Stinktopp turned yellow as a lemon. “I reject! I’m tired of being trampled! Who vrote ze rules — let zat vun also anser for his sick fantasies!” he screamed. “And that is a completely sensible proposal! Isn’t that true, colleagues? I agree! Who made up the rules? I ask: who made up these idiotic rules? Why does no one confess? I’ll find out all the same!” Sardanapal repeated angrily. “You made up the rules,” Medusa whispered to him. “Oh? Really? That’s annoying!” Sardanapal said when he finished muttering about absent-mindedness and lack of sleep over a hundred years. Professor Stinktopp’s twelve thousand wrinkles beamed malice. An awkward pause appeared. Yagge, long looking slyly at the field, rescued the head of Tibidox from a difficult situation. “Well now! Hand the ribbon over here! Let’s see whether it has forgotten me, as I approach the cabins,” the old lady volunteered. The brow of the academician cleared up. “Alright then!” he pronounced happily. “I think we can go to meet our deserved contributor. Eh, colleagues? You’re not against it, Slander Slanderych?” The principal of Tibidox was ‘for’. With both hands. He already began to fear that they would send him to the cabin. When Yagge appeared on the field, Solonina Andreevna began to bustle, attempting to take the ribbon from her. “Indeed allow me! It only likes me! It doesn’t allow strangers to approach, barely understands Russian!” she said.
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“Indeed true! Well, cabin! Come here, little hut!” Yagge ordered quietly. The cabin obediently ran up to her, pattering the tile. Solonina Andreevna pursed her lips. “See, it does! And she said: it doesn’t understand! Well, my dear, give me a paw!” Yagge again ordered. The cabin clumsily raised a sharp-clawed foot and, balancing on the other, stretched it out to Yagge. The old lady tied the ribbon on and, after slapping the cabin on the long leg, moved aside, giving Solonina Andreevna a victorious look. “Well done, Granny! Simply cannot believe it!” Bab-Yagun was enraptured. “And what’s going on over there? Academician Sardanapal gets up and raises his hand with the ring. One of two things: either he wants to drive away with sparks the harpies that have already made the fans sick with their heart-rending cries, or he is going to announce the Caucasian trick-riding. This will become clear very soon. According to the rules, Caucasian trick-riding is held in three groups. First group — cabins and huts. Second group — yurts. Third group — High-rise on Broiler Legs. Oh, my granny mama, I was nearly blinded! Why does Sardanapal let out such bright sparks? Caucasian trick-riding begins!” The cabins jerked from their places, instantly tossing a cloud of sand into the air. Dust clouded up the stands. Those sitting in the first rows got most of it — they turned out to be in the centre of a sandstorm. “Thanks to Yagun! He had to play such a dirty trick! Three days busy with banners in order to swallow sand!” Vanka said, in a vain attempt to make out at least his own feet. “Shurasik! Do something!” turning around, Tanya shouted. The sand squeaked on her teeth. But, as luck would have it, nothing floated up in memory except the now already quite unnecessary Speedus-envenomus. “Useless! According to the new rules, all serious magic is blocked in the field,” despondently answered a voice from the adjacent dust cloud. “How about evil eyes?” “Evil eyes and jinxes — these are not magic. They’re petty underhand actions of worthless envious people!” Shurasik categorically stated. “Oh, come on, how indignant! And the day before yesterday he put an evil eye on Verka Parroteva! The wretch for half an hour considered herself a Bengal tiger and was chasing Dusya Dollova. What did she yell? ‘I’m a tiger-dolleater!’ Must invent some such thing!” Coffinia beat around the bush. “Dollova asked for it. No one asked her to put a spitting spell on my inkpot! She spoiled my entire notebook on study of evil spirits!” Shurasik complained. The dust finally settled down only when the cabins had run off to a decent distance. Tanya saw that the cabins rushed by in uniform little jumps, similar to dancing. They braked on the turns and flapped their doors. Suddenly the shutters of the end cabin were thrown open, and a rheumatic bent granny changed direction on the windowsill. “Ah! Fir stick, forest thick, a bachelor went quick!” she shouted smartly and, after waving to spectators, courageously climbed up onto the roof. The spectators greeted her with friendly applause. The jumping cabin rigidly entered the turn, leaning to the left. “Dangerous moment! Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head almost flies off the roof; however, she miraculously manages to hold on. I’m sure she used her unique tooth. The cabin again gets onto a straight stretch and Lukerya reaches the chimney all the same! Bravo! First of all the participants! Not without reason she was waiting so for Caucasian trick©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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riding! I recall that according to the rules of the contest Lukerya must still squeeze through the chimney into the cabin, light the stove and, having first cooked the cutlets, entertain the spectators… Ha-ha! Did they really check the cutlets? Here I’m teasing my friend Vanka Valyalkin, a big fan of cutlets! But it’s actually necessary to light the stove! The participant, the first to do this, will receive the ribbon as winner of this stage!” Afraid to miss anything interesting, Bab-Yagun continually jumped up onto the seat of the tower and gesticulated. Tanya waited with impatience until the cabins again turned up in her part of the stadium in order to see something at least. But here the yurts on deer hooves, appearing as a separate group, rushed forward and everything again was hidden in dust. “Somehow I’m not meant to be a spectator. Quite another matter to be a participant!” Tanya thought, forced to breathe through the shawl. “A minor defect of the organizers, of course, cannot spoil the pleasure of the spectacle!” Bab-Yagun stretched himself out to the utmost from the tower and everything was excellently visible to him. “You’ll see how Big Matrena skilfully trick-rides! True, I foresee that for a sportswoman of such a build it won’t be easy to squeeze into the chimney! Solonina Andreevna deftly jumps onto the tiles, clinging to a ledge with an umbrella. Not bad! Glashka-Curdled-Milk, number three, uses a not less inventive motion! She throws a cat tied with a rope onto the roof. The frightened cat takes off into the chimney and there only remains for Glashka to secure the rope. Now she indeed won’t fall down…” Shurasik sneezed sadly behind Tanya. “I can’t even see my little notebook!” he said in sorrow. “Write blindly!” Vanka advised him. “I also write blindly. Only the paper is somewhat strange and the line in no way ends,” said Shurasik. “Watch what you’re doing! You’re writing on my back! And I was wondering what’s crawling on me!” suddenly Coffinia began to yell. Shurasik began to tremble and dropped the pencil. Bab-Yagun, having sat too long, jumped up on the tower. “Oh, my granny mama! Slander Slanderych with a green flag signals High-rise on Broiler Legs to start! I’ll now become deaf! What a nightmarish crash! The stadium shakes. The spectators fall like ripe apples from the benches. Interesting, what rules did Sardanapal devise for this cabin? Will someone really have to clamber onto the roof? You fall — your bones really won’t be whole… Oh, I see that for High-rise there is an insignificant change in the rules. The witch-grannies inhabiting it — and there are about two scores of them inside — briskly clamber along the fire escape, helping each other…” High-rise, shaking the stadium, moved to the other end of the field. The dust settled down. Again, it became possible to breathe without the shawl. “Cryptova, ah Cryptova!” Shurasik sorrowfully asked. “What’s with you?” Coffinia snapped. “Don’t twist about! Let me copy from your back what I wrote down earlier.” Coffinia silently pulled the notebook out of his hands and flung it onto the field. “Ah, Chukotsky yurts?” Bab-Yagun exclaimed with feelings. “I never assumed that it’s possible to dash so swiftly on deer hooves! Here only the rules of Caucasian trick-riding differ a lot for yurts than for cabins. They don’t have brick chimneys! The mistress of a
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yurt must get outside and, having gone around the yurt, must again be at the entrance. Naturally, the yurt rushes at a gallop at the same time! Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head has disappeared into the chimney already quite a long time ago! It seems to me, I see smoke! Yes, so it is — even sparks occasionally escape outside. I’ll be darned! Interesting, with what is she stoking? Did she shove a dragon into the chimney? In big-time sports anything can happen.” This time the attack evil eye was so powerful that even the shielding vest did not help. Yagun flew off the commentator’s tower and ploughed his nose into the sand. An insulted Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head angrily slammed shut the shutter. While Bab-Yagun shook himself down and again got back up the tower, the judges had finished assigning marks for the second stage. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head got the prize ribbon. The second place went to Solonina Andreevna. The third was divided between Glashka-Curdled-Milk and the mistress of one of the Chukotsky yurts. High-rise on Broiler Legs, unable to control itself, kicked a cyclops that had accidentally ran out onto the field and was disqualified from this stage. Meanwhile a team of house spirits and a score of genie dragon handlers attempted to extract Big Matrena, who was stuck in the chimney. Fatty sighed and cursed those, thanks to whom she climbed into the chimney. “I’m really furious! Not exactly coping and then hurled evil eyes already!” Bab-Yagun was indignant, again nestled on the tower. “Okay, who wants to harp on an old thing! I managed at the proper time! Any minute now the third stage — obstacle course — will begin! The limitation on serious magic has temporarily been lifted. The genies and surviving shamans are rushing along the field, creating fabricated obstacles. The first obstacle, which the participants have to overcome, is a deep ditch. Immediately after the ditch are artificial wind-fallen logs. And finally, an impassable swamp, which can be passed exclusively along the mounds concealed under water. According to the assurance of experts, during prolonged wanderings in a forest cabins have to overcome similar obstacles under natural conditions in search of worms…” “Yagun! What nonsense? I’ll take away the mouthpiece!” Sardanapal was outraged. Yagun cautiously covered the mouthpiece with a palm. “I’ll take back my words! They don’t peck worms! And they stagger so along the forest just for fun! But, Academician, is it worthwhile to carp at such trifles? It suppresses my artistic imagination!” “In my opinion Yagun’s…full of it!” Coffinia said, displeased. Shurasik began to nod in agreement. Since she took and flung away his little notebook, he was upset with the entire world. “But what do you want? A cabin race isn’t dragonball, which everybody understands! We wouldn’t be able to say anything coherent at all, but he’s doing just fine! He shouldn’t stop talking!” Tanya interceded for Yagun. Bab-Yagun precisely did not become silent for a moment, working like a true verbal machine gun. “Sardanapal lets out a start spark! Cabins, yurts, and High-rise are rushing forward, scaring arbiters and cyclopes! Here it is — the culmination of the contest! Crowding each other, bumping with wooden sides, the cabins approach the first obstacle. The first to jump into the ditch is Small Matrena’s cabin. On her tail literally hangs Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head! After it, barely lagging behind, Solonina Andreevna’s cabin navigates with its feet. One of the yurts is forced to withdraw — deer hooves refuse to climb into the water and stop on the shore. It’s right: you wash, only wash away your luck!”
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“First deep thought I’ve heard from him! Isn’t it true, my dear, very exact reasoning? Perhaps, you also don’t sit in the water all the time?” smiling, Slander Slanderych remarked, trying to put his arm around the mermaid’s waist. “Go away, pesky!” the mermaid squealed and playfully lashed the principal’s fingers with her tail. “The fight has become more intense!” Yagun shouted a little too much. “Who will reach the opposite shore first? What’s this storm? I understand nothing! Ah, it’s Highrise, jumped into the ditch and now forces a crossing of the obstacle. It splashes right to the bottom: the water barely reaches its knees. The ditch overflows its banks! What sprays! Even fell onto my lot! How unlucky for those sitting in the first rows! They’re probably now wetter than frogs!” “Mock away, lop-eared! Doesn’t matter, after the races he’ll be waiting at mine! Possible to think that he put us here on purpose!” Vanka said angrily. His yellow soccer shirt was sticking to his body. Water was flowing down his hair. His boots were squelching. Tanya was hit not a bit less, but she, comforting herself, attempted to look at the situation from another angle. “It’s okay, Vanka! It’s not all that bad! No dust now!” she comforted Valyalkin. Coffinia, examining the genealogy of the cabins and dousing High-rise with verbal mud up to the chicken great-grandmothers inclusively, was choking with indignation. “Small Matrena and Solonina Andreevna are the first to reach the wind-fallen logs. Small Matrena’s cabin attempts to jump over the obstacle while running at full speed and topples over. Unlucky cabin! It’s lying with its foundation up and mournfully jerking its feet, trying to hook onto anything. Interesting, how is Matrena there? Will she be able to get herself out or require the help of genies? Somehow, things don’t work out for the Matrenas today, I would say… Solonina Andreevna’s cabin with long thin legs shows more smarts. It clambers directly onto the logs, digging its claws into the bark. Outstanding manoeuvre! Aza Camphorovna’s cabin passes Lukerya-Feathers-on-theHead! It’s gathering speed! Will it really also decide on a leap? This is folly! Indeed, doesn’t Small Matrena’s failure teach it anything? An outstanding leap — best of all that I’ve seen! At the very last moment short wings slide out of the dormer windows on the roof of the cabin. The cabin flaps them and manages the obstacle like a laying hen taking off to the fence!” “Not bad! They’ve passed Solonina Andreevna! Look at Yagge! How she stares at these cabins — and indeed also wet from top to bottom!” Vanka said in rapture. His mood had improved visibly. Having taken from his pocket a cold cutlet, he looked over it thoroughly, removed a thread from the magic tablecloth, and started eating. Bab-Yagun was not mistaken — Vanka adored cutlets. However, his maimed magic tablecloth issued nothing more besides cutlets and cucumbers, so it left him nothing else. “Fat is detrimental!” grimacing, Shurasik remarked. “Too much talk is even more harmful. You’ll catch a cold and die,” said Vanka and stuck his hand into his pocket for the next cutlet, which the magic tablecloth already had time to prepare for him, “Oh, my granny mama! That beats all! High-rise doesn’t waste time on a leap! After gathering speed on Broiler Legs, it blows off the wind-fallen logs, scattering them like matches! Making use of this, the yurts and Ukrainian huts immediately rush into the breach. Now only the swamp and two cabins — Solonina Andreevna and Aza Camphorovna — separate High-Rise from victory! Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head also still hopes for victory. It seems her cabin is employing new tactics! It’s going to let High©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Rise pass in front, using it as a live ram, and go around it before the finish! I swear by its bone leg, this is the right tactic! Used it myself now and then in dragonball!” “Aha! No other way with Goryanov. He takes everyone down indiscriminately. Both us and the visitors,” confirmed Tanya. She involuntarily recalled the last match with the Invisibles. Nightingale O. Robber at training the day before said that two years had already almost elapsed. A new match with the Invisibles, still the champions, could take place already this autumn, if Magciety of Jerky Magtion would not invent new tricks. “And it’s time then to work hard, work, and again work! So that even at night the dragons flicker before yours eyes! First time in two hundred years Tibidox has developed a professional team, and we must not miss the chance!” Nightingale finished his speech this way. “Solonina Andreevna’s cabin freezes on the edge of the swamp, painstakingly groping with a foot for the mounds. Behind it, Aza Camphorovna’s cabin pushes ahead step by step! Oho, what Aza Camphorovna has come up with! She gets up onto the roof and tests the bottom with a pole! Solonina Andreevna sticks her tongue out at her from the window! Aza Camphorovna answers her with well-aimed spittle! What unsportsmanlike behaviour! The long-legged cabin is already in the middle of the swamp and soon must get out onto the shore… High-Rise, short of breath, is running up to the banks of the swamp. A witch-granny is jumping excitedly in each of its windows and giving advice. The poor broiler brain! Will it manage with this volume of information? High-rise for a while marks time thoughtfully and begins to go back, taking a running start. Leap! The slime flies in different directions! The entire stadium is now already flowing in slime! Even Academician Sardanapal is wiping with his famous shawl of the Milky Way. They say that when the academician sneezes into it, a shower of meteorites appears in all the moronoid telescopes…” “YAGUN!” “And why did I say that? It’s altogether only an unverified rumour! Oho! The swamp turned out to be deeper than High-rise assumed! It vanishes in the slush at a depth of the Broiler Legs and sinks in floor after floor. The witch-grannies in panic climb to the roof along the fire escape. Interesting, how will all this end? Aha, after falling in almost to the roof, High-rise nevertheless gropes for the bottom, pushes off, and begins to row! Bravo! Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head’s cabin jumps after it. The substantially shallow swamp no longer hides the mounds. Oh, how careless! One Ukrainian hut, two cabins, and two yurts nevertheless contrive to get stuck in the swamp and blunder their success! The rest have moved onto the shore and are racing to the finish! Who will succeed in being first? In front of all is Solonina Andreevna’s cabin! Lagging far behind it hurries Aza Camphorovna’s cabin covered in slime, on the heels of which pursue Lukerya-Featherson-the-Head and High-rise on Broiler Legs. Last trudges Big Matrena’s cabin.” “Nothing unusual about her trudging! Big Matrena is one-and-a-half times the size of Aunt Ninel!” Tanya remarked thoughtfully. “And three Aunt Ninels equal an elephant,” Vanka qualified, once having seen a photo of Aunt Ninel. Yagun rose on tiptoes. “The finish line is getting closer! A little more and Solonina Andreevna’s cabin will reach it. Hey, Granny, what are you doing? What did you forget on the field? Someone please detain her, else they’ll trample her!” Two cyclopes, spreading their arms wide, rushed to Yagge, but the old lady hushed them with a tooth, looked sternly at them, and the cyclopes completely wilted. Yagge ran
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out onto the field and stopped slightly right of the finish line. “Sashka-messy-slob! Well, recognize me?!” having whistled no worse than Lukerya, she shouted loudly. “Oh, my granny mama! I’m probably going nuts!” her wonder-struck grandson began to jabber. “Solonina Andreevna’s cabin stands still by the finish line, not stepping over it. It turns to my granny with a squeak! Solonina Andreevna hits it with an umbrella, but the cabin is not obeying. It runs up to Yagge, losing tiles on the way. The mistress, not expecting this trick, tumbles out of the window, miraculously hooking onto the windowsill with the umbrella.” “Sashka-messy-slob! Come up as before, like mother trained you!” Yagge ordered quietly. The cabin stopped. The green tiles finally crumbled. Under it revealed a tattered roof of straw and brushwood, with the rook nests in the chimney. Solonina Andreevna sat on the sand, mechanically holding the opened umbrella over her head. Yagge, red and indignant, advanced on her. “So, foreign beet, did you try to fool me? How do you like that, herring, covered up the roof! Painted the porch! And aren’t you ashamed, shameless? She thought that I don’t recognize my cabin on feet! It was a long-legged chicken!” “You’re out of your mind! It’s an insolent seizure of property! Such can only happen in Russia! I have Antarctica citizenship! Magciety of Jerky Magtion will not leave this alone!” Solonina Andreevna squeaked. “So that’s how it is, even dragged in Magciety! That’s right, muddle things up! We will now ask the cabin, whose it is. Well, Sashka-messy-slob, tell us, who’s your mistress!” “Cabins don’t talk! You’ll prove nothing!” Solonina Andreevna objected, with anxiety observing how the cabin, from which she was thrown out recently, began to move back. “And now we’ll see!” standing akimbo, Yagge promised. An amazed Bab-Yagun feared most of all to let slip anything. “Don’t know what my granny was planning, but the long-legged cabin clearly intends on a penalty kick. It runs back a couple of dozen metres, rushes forward, and… Contact! Go-o-al! Solonina Andreevna passes over the stands and disappears into the depths of the forest, accompanied by an entire flock of harpies. Now it’s understandable whom these stin… eh-eh… exotic smelling persons are fans of! My granny deftly jumps up onto the porch and shouts something to the cabin! The cabin swiftly rushes forward and steps over the finish line an instant before Aza Camphorovna and Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head! VICTORY! Everybody, I can no longer do it, please comment on it yourself! I’m running to them!” Yagun jumped from the tower. In the same second High-rise on Broiler Legs arrived at the finish line and everything clouded up with dust. When the dust finally settled, everyone saw that Yagge and Bab-Yagun were standing in the middle of the field and affectionately hugging the chicken legs of their newly found cabin… The fans poured out onto the field with joyful howls. The cyclopes, after setting up chains, tried not to let them through, but Usynya, Dubynya, and Gorynya, who wanted to magtograph against a background of cabins, literally dared them. The for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox, not stingy on compliments, awarded the winners. Yagge and her cabin won the shining copper samovar. For Aza Camphorovna and Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head, one received a magic tablecloth and the other a new mortar and broom.
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“Outstanding broom! A beauty for going anywhere! Simply for Puper in the team if nothing else!” Nightingale O. Robber winked smartly, presenting it to Lukerya. The old woman looked over the broom, picked at the edge of the mortar with a yellow nail strong as tortoise shell, and remained contented. “What Puper! We are no worse than any Puper!” she screeched. “Tararakh, Slander, Deni! Why are you standing? Please invite all the grannies to the table! Medusa, on this occasion it’s not a sin to pass the cup, eh? Are you with us, Professor Stinktopp? How’s your magic block, it’s not in the way?” the academician asked. The for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox contributed an increase to the wild activity. The tip of his nose was blazing keenly. The moustaches were conducting the combined orchestra of cyclopes. The earlobes were blinking like semaphores. The downy beard first disappeared, then again reappeared. Medusa sighed. She understood too well what this meant. She cautiously looked sideways at Stinktopp, certain that she would meet his condemning view, and…already sighed with relief. Professor Stinktopp’s cheekbones were covered with a tender maidenly bloom. His chin flushed a bright tomato colour. “Please, possible to tug in a cup or two! I zink, as an exception I must not break from ze collectiff!” he said. Leaving the cabins in the courtyard, the witch-grannies and the hosts poured into the Hall of Two Elements. The air there was ringing with the strokes of hundreds of wings. Cupids were hanging above the magic tablecloths and hurriedly filling their quivers and mouths with chocolate candies and pastries prepared for the guests. “Well, shoo! Quick! Here I’m after you!” The academician, slapping with his hands, yelled with laughter. On seeing Sardanapal, the winged babies scattered to different sides, not forgetting to drop a dish of cakes on Professor Stinktopp’s nose. The merry-making turned out boisterous and jolly. The magic tablecloths barely managed to produce new foods. The children gobbled pies with cabbage or apple jam, washing them down with zesty lemonade. When so much was drunk that it already got up the nose, Medusa generously waved her hand and changed the lemonade into hot chocolate. Moreover, this was precisely hot chocolate and not the pitiful kiddie cocoa — an absurd moronoid invention. Tanya, Vanka, and Bab-Yagun were satisfied. Not so long ago, they succeeded in casting a centenary evil eye on the radish tablecloth — so capital that all the food from it reeked of slops for a hundred metres. Sardanapal for a while persistently asserted that radish was good in any form, but the squeamish Dentistikha and Medusa seized the tablecloth from use and hid it for a hundred years, until the period of the evil eye had elapsed. So that now their table, as before, participated in the daily battle-lottery for chocolate, pancake, donut, and other decent tablecloths. The difficult-to-raise students of Tibidox drank chocolate and with interest cast looks at the teachers’ table, where the hosts and guests were already singing Russian folk songs. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head and Big Matrena particularly excelled. With her rich high voice — you will not believe it! — the Great Tooth herself sang the second part. When she sang: “How could I, a mountain ash, get over to the oak? Then I would not bend and shake.” tears welled up in Slander Slanderych’s eyes. The theme of unrequited love was especially dear to him. But almost a miracle took place near the end of the party. Professor Stinktopp was so excited that he performed a Tyrolean dance, and instead of “Olé!” shouted “Solé!” Then
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he slowly went along the hall on his hands. The students were thunder-struck. Rita OnThe-Sly expressed the best of everyone’s thought. First, she looked intently at the instructors for a long time and then, incredulously shaking her head, announced, “Yes, Teaches are people too! Who would have thought?” Bab-Yagun touched Tanya’s shoulder. “Tan, they’re calling you from that table there!” he said. “Me? Who?” Tanya was astonished. She raised her head and saw that LukeryaFeathers-on-the-Head was beckoning her. She got up and, smiling just in case, approached the old woman. “You don’t say, what a dark complexion! Would Theophilus Grotter be your grandfather?” Lukerya asked. “Yes.” “Indeed, I knew the old guy… A lion among all the fine fellows, here only his nature was so nasty to the point of collapse!” “Faber est suae quisque fortunae (Every man is the architect of his own destiny. (Appius Claudius Caecus))!” Flaring up a spark, the ring said. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head burst out laughing; the unique yellow tooth began to jump in her mouth, showing up in the most improbable places: first on top, then below, then completely disappearing somewhere under the hooked nose. “I recognize the dear by the gait, and the old grouser by the ring in Latin…” said the old woman. “So, that means you’re Tanya? I’ve heard much about your exploits. Manage to learn?” “Manage,” answered Tanya. Questions about studies always irritated her terribly. And not because she learned badly. Quite the opposite. Simply there was some obligation in this question. It seemed to Tanya that they posed it in ignorance, that they would ask a teenager and then forget the answer in five minutes. She promised herself that when she had quite enough of it, she would also ask the adults, “Manage work?” “Yes!” “Please continue in the same fighting spirit!” “Distressing without parents, perhaps?” Lukerya asked. “Never better!” Tanya said with a challenge. To be an orphan is doubly distressing. It is not enough that you are deprived of the people closest to you, but you are also forced to answer idiotic questions and to listen to feigned sympathies. The old woman gave her a penetrating look. “What do you know, proud! Right, never bare your soul to everyone. You only have to do that and they’ll spit on it! Pity! I know what I’m talking about,” encouragingly said Lukerya. She took out a wooden snuffbox with the portrait of some old man (for a moment the thought flickered in Tanya: and what if this is The Ancient One?) and opened it. From the snuffbox jumped out a tiny black cat and, growing bigger on the run, it dashed to tease Sardanapal’s gold sphinx, which was too big and could in no way get under the table. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head sniffed the tobacco. “Don’t think, Tanya, that I simply called you over in order to delve with my callous finger in your wound. I want to give you a gift. Perhaps, you don’t often receive gifts. Here it is! They’ll be useful to you yet!” The old woman did not let out sparks, did not utter incantations, but suddenly a towel and a wooden comb appeared by themselves in her hands. “Thanks, but I’ll not take them,” said Tanya. “Take, don’t refuse! Obviously not stolen, I present my own!” Lukerya ordered.
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While Tanya was having some doubts whether she should accept the gift, Sardanapal’s gold sphinx began to roar and jumped at the cat. The table, at which sat Zhikin, Parroteva, Liza Zalizina, and several first year magicians, toppled over. The cat, having jumped out from under it, rushed to Lukerya. Behind it on its heels, blazing with fury, rushed the sphinx. Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head stamped with her bone foot. The cat, growing smaller on the run, jumped into her snuffbox and disappeared. The repeatedly fooled sphinx travelled by with its feet on the flagstones and made off with nothing. While the thunder-struck Tanya was coming to, the old lady thrust the comb and towel into her hands, slammed shut the snuffbox, and leisurely walked away. Tanya had barely returned to Vanka and Bab-Yagun when a concerned Yagge, short of breath, ran up to her. “What did Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head say to you?” she whispered. “Nothing. First about my grandfather, then gave me a towel and a comb as presents. Should I not have taken them?” Yagge sighed. It seemed to Tanya with relief, “Why not? Not without reason people say: they give — take, they hit — run. Lukerya is not an unkind old woman but a soothsayer. Aside from her, there remain no such soothsayers in the world already. What she says, so it will happen. Not along, not across, but right into the heart with a word! She told you nothing? Recall!” Tanya honestly thought. “No, likely nothing much… Yagge, but how does she conjure without a ring, without incantations?” “But that’s how she does it. All real witches conjure only this way, from the heart… A ring is but a magic wand, perhaps made for fools. Where can the fools develop a heart and amass kindness in themselves in hundreds of years — they took the wand, hooked on the ring, and made a mess of things… If Lukerya said nothing to you, you know it’s for the best,” Yagge said and went away. But in Tanya’s memory, as always with delay, floated up the words of the witch. “They’ll be useful to you yet!” Lukerya said, giving her the comb and the towel. Only is it worthwhile to consider this prediction? Perhaps the old woman only wanted to say that she will comb her hair with the comb, and even the towel will come in handy? And was it not a strange story with the cat, that the sphinx attacked precisely the minute when she had already turned down the gift? Here, crack your brain. Not life, but continuous riddles. *** In the evening, after the satisfied witch-grannies had departed, Tararakh went out into the courtyard of the school of magicians. For some time the pithecanthropus, swaying, stood in the middle of the courtyard and ambiguously squinted at the moon, and then, having turned to the Big Tower, demanded, “Tibidox, Tibidox, turn your back to the forest, your front to me!” The huge stone thing remained motionless; however, it seemed to the impressionable Tararakh that the arches of the tower contemptuously trembled, and the thin spire on the roof, from a distance similar to the broken frame of a pair of glasses, became double. “Hey you! What kind of cabin are you after this! You’re indeed a monolithic cabin!” the instructor of veterinary magic said reproachfully and withdrew, leaning back heavily.
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Chapter 4 Rabid Rodeo Uncle Herman looked out the window and twitched with loathing. Nature was in midday high spirits and grandeur. Aspen fluff was twirling in the air. Pigeons were strolling along the sticky roofs of garages. Such a spectacle would move anyone else but Uncle Herman sensed nothing except the strongest irritation. In recent days, bright sunlight for some reason caused a sharp pain in his eyes. Even along the corridors of the Duma, he walked around in dark glasses like a Mafioso in hiding. Someone to the right of the best deputy delicately gave a cough. Durnev lowered the blinds. Aunt Ninel, dressed in the expansible robe of a retired geisha, was holding a little tray in her hands. “Herman dear, your lace socks and red checked handkerchief,” she announced. Uncle Herman grimaced and pointedly kicked the tray. “How often have I told you that I don’t wear lace socks anymore!!! I need black leather pants and a whip!” he bellowed. “Herman, my dear, but they won’t let you into Duma with a whip! Neither leather pants!” his spouse softly objected. Understanding that Aunt Ninel was right, Durnev deflated like a balloon, and obediently put on the lace socks. “You’re right, Ninel. It has become completely impossible to be involved in politics. Imagine, some wise guy made handrails out of aspen in Duma. I got a splinter and the wound still hasn’t healed after two weeks!” he said unhappily. “A nightmare, simply a nightmare!” Aunt Ninel began to nod sympathetically. Approximately in half an hour Durnev, almost under compulsion decked out in a completely decent, greyish-brown suit, was ready for the Duma. After presenting a victory kiss on her husband’s pale forehead, Aunt Ninel with relief escorted him from the apartment. Forlornly shaking her head, she set off for the kitchen. A substantial part of her life flowed exactly there, among smoked turkey, pineapples, and small packages of donuts. After becoming the honourable chair of V.A.M.P.I.R., Uncle Herman had sharply changed. In the bend of his back appeared something kingly. His green face acquired a royal grouchiness. Now and then in the evening, he would stand still before the mirror and, after advancing his teeth — now he could do this at will, would proclaim, “Everyone trembles! I’m the king of vampires! Heir of my ancestor!” Once Pipa carelessly beat around the bush, “Pop, some vampire you are! You’re even allergic to tomato juice! Interesting, how do those clever fellows from Transylvania know about this?” Uncle Herman got so mad that for the first time in his life he shouted at his daughter and even threw a pillow at her. The dachshund One-and-a-half Kilometres hysterically howled from under the sofa. It had not come out of its refuge for several days already. This shift in its psyche happened after the best deputy attempted to bite its paw. Uncle Herman was not guilty: it was full moon. Aunt Ninel alone treated her husband’s whims completely quietly. After Lisper the Rabbit, she had acquired immunity for life to all the idiosyncrasies of her successful husband.
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However, let us return to that ill-fated morning. Aunt Ninel did not have time to eat the eighth dumpling and to place in the oven the next super-useful turkey, when unexpectedly there was a knock on the door. In essence, this would not be too strange if this were not the door to the balcony. For some time Aunt Ninel extremely anxiously considered whether she should hide under the table, but afterwards armed herself with a cleaver and sneaked into the room. “Again this Tanya Grotter! Eternally created heaven knows what on the balcony!” Aunt Ninel indignantly thought. The knock on the door did not stop. Having carefully looked through the glass, Uncle Herman’s spouse saw on the balcony a pair of enormous leather boots with spurs, which, bobbing up and down, was angrily kicking the door. Next to the boots lay a sword in scabbard and a small metallic crown, which resembled more a hoop. “Aha, it’s the regalia of Herman! These psychos from Transylvania nevertheless sent them to him! I must hide these pieces somewhere, while Herman hasn’t gone completely crazy!” Aunt Ninel decided. After stepping out onto the balcony, she grabbed the boots, sword, and crown and, after looking them over, returned to the room. The dachshund One-and-a-half Kilometres again howled from under the sofa. This time its howl was especially hysterical and heartrending. “The boots aren’t bad! Stylish! And likely my size!” Aunt Ninel dreamily thought, carefully touching with a finger the tinkling little wheels on the spurs. The crown and sword interested her much less. There were traces of rust on them, and therefore Durneva with disgust carried them at a distance with an elongated arm. “Drag these pieces of iron to the consignment store perhaps? Only how much will they give for this rubbish there? Let them stay!” the spouse of the best deputy thought, hiding the newly gained regalia into the lower part of the storeroom. There all kinds of household rags and everyday chemicals were stored. It was the only place in the house where Uncle Herman, with his eternal allergies, would never stick his nose into. Aunt Ninel had already gone out into the hallway, when suddenly the storeroom started to move like a piston, shaking floor and walls. In the adjacent apartment, General Cutletkin’s, a tank helmet fell from the mezzanine. A crimson glow flooded the room. However, this lasted a total of several seconds. The storeroom stopped shuddering. The glow faded. Ninel Durneva noticed nothing. Obeying the call of her heart, she had headed off with her body and soul into the kitchen, greedily pulling air into her nostrils. In the oven, having spread its pimply wings like a growing-old beauty in a solarium, the turkey was browning. Ah, Aunt Ninel, Aunt Ninel! If you have at least five kopecks of intelligence and intuition, you would not leave the sword, crown, and boots in your home for anything in the world. You would get rid of them, destroy them, throw them into the furnace in the boiler room! Ah, Aunt Ninel, if not five, at least a kopeck of smarts for you! But what is not there is not there… ***

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In one of the June evenings Tanya, Vanka Valyalkin, and Bab-Yagun were sitting in the common room and despondently looking at the cracked malachite. Near the malachite, giggling like an idiot, soared the recently hatched spirit of omniscience. “I told you: don’t overdo it in freezing weather! It wasn’t necessary to put the stone in the basement!” Vanka said dejectedly. “What basement? Didn’t we really need the cold? Simply Tanya shouldn’t water it with those tears!” justifying himself, Bab-Yagun stated. “What those tears? Perhaps Goyaryn is no longer a dragon?” Tanya was indignant. She adored Goyaryn and visited it almost each day. The terrible Tibidox dragon had gotten so used to her that it allowed her to clamber onto its back. When she stroked it on the nose, it squeaked contentedly. Being with Goyaryn, Tanya felt as peaceful and secure as in the double bass case in early childhood. “Of course it’s a dragon, no one is arguing, but it’s old. I said, one must get tears from Mercury,” said Bab-Yagun. “Here you could get it from mercury. Who’s stopping you? Not enough empty jars?” Vanka said noncommittally. Yagun threatened Vanka with a fist. “And you hold your tongue, soccer shirt! No one stops me. It’s Mercury itself… It would not begin to sob into the jar, even if you collapse. And you can’t even get within ten metres of it…” he snapped. The friends were fighting because they knew: this attempt to enlist the support of the spirit of omniscience was the last for them. Even if they were to do everything correctly now, the new spirit would hatch no earlier than in three weeks, when it would already be useless. Time was moving on. Exams, although they so did not want to think about them, were moving with the speed of an express train. Every time before exams, Tanya experienced the unpleasant feeling that she knew absolutely nothing. Vanka asserted that this was all because of Slander, who set pre-exam jolting upon the school, alleging that it would help everybody study better. Shurasik was sitting in a corner by the stove and with concentration leafing through Self-taught magic self-defence. Spells, incantations, curses. Group battles with spirits and evil spirits. Advice for the nervous. “Someone please attack me, huh, people? Why will no one attack me? I awfully want to test the spell for smearing on the wall — Smackus wholus capitalist. Or at least let someone whack me with a sledge hammer — I feel wretched!” he whined. “Why do you feel wretched?” Vanka Valyalkin was interested. “Why? You really don’t know? They exempted me from exams!” Shurasik complained piteously. Bab-Yagun gave him a searching stare, trying to understand whether Shurasik was playing the fool or this was actually bad news for him. “Really? Some simply heartless people! You, brother, stand firm! The school for difficult-to-raise magicians isn’t a health resort! They practice the most terrible tortures here since olden times!” he sympathized. Shurasik jumped. In his eyes blazed a wild fire. “They said that I answered well in class! But I know that I answered poorly! Think for yourself, Yagun: of the thousand questions I only solidly know nine hundred and ninety-six!” he shouted and, grabbing Bab-Yagun’s shoulders, started to shake him. “A nightmare! And they indeed keep such dimwits in Tibidox! Glomov and I are ashamed of you!” Bab-Yagun said. He jerked from side to side, vainly trying to be freed.
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In agitation, the slender Shurasik assumed the strength and tenacity of a vampire. “I’ll suffocate you, you lucky thing! It’s not right! Why will you get to sit for exams, but not me? I don’t want to be on vacation a month early! Better let them throw me behind the Sinister Gates!” Shurasik squealed, fingers squeezing Yagun’s neck. Yagun wheezed. It was time to hurry to his aid. “Steamus releasus!” Vanka Valyalkin whispered, letting out a green spark, which slid into Shurasik’s ear. Shurasik relaxed. They moved him to the couch and covered him with the little magazine Gossips and Fantasies, which Rita On-The-Sly had forgotten on the table. The periodical rustled its pages to lull him to sleep. Occasionally nonsense, similar to large insects with human faces, fell out from it and, shouting, sped to the corners. A few tried to hide in Shurasik’s ears. The unconscious honour student began to giggle blissfully. “It’s for his benefit! After Gossips and Fantasies, many smart fellows became normal. It was even possible to talk with some,” said Vanka. “Really? Somehow I don’t believe it!” Tanya said. “This I tell you!” Vanka began to argue. “Look at the cover!” Tanya proposed. The colourful little magazine Gossips and Fantasies had transformed before their eyes into the starkly designed Herald of the Highest Magic. The insects with human faces rose up on their hind legs and assumed the appearance of tiny professors-astrologers. Each of them with a sense of self-respect carried a flag. On the flags flickered the inscriptions: How to determine fate according to three thousand stars and a can of beef. Twelve formulae of magic stuttering. Transformation of hobbits into moronoids. To and back. Magic beards. Trimming methods. Styling. Computations of timetables of fading of magic sparks in different climatic zones. “Well now, the whole index is scattered about! And just how did Shurasik manage to change one magazine into another? But then it’s now understandable why he’s always giggling!” Tanya was surprised. “No! Shurasik is incorrigible! Must slip away before he comes to,” Vanka sighed. They had already gone out, taking with them the cracked malachite in order not to leave any evidence for the sharp-sighted Slander, when Shurasik, even in drowsiness, raised himself on the couch and shouted, “Smackus wholus capitalist!” His ring released a red spark. The friends hurriedly bent down. Still, there was something Shurasik, limp after Steamus releasus, did not count on. His couch leisurely rose into the air, gathered momentum and, at the last second turning on its side, slammed Shurasik himself into the wall. The honour student, shaking his head, his eyes gradually becoming intelligent, looked out from behind the inverted couch. “Akela has missed!” Bab-Yagun said sympathetically. “Now he missed — in five minutes he’ll hit. He’s bothersome,” said Tanya. To avoid meeting Shurasik, they dived into the corridor where the rooms of the dark department were. At the end of the corridor, the friends slid around the corner and listened. Shurasik was not chasing after them. Must be he had not yet come off the wall. Unexpectedly Vanka Valyalkin stood still in a hunter’s stance, like a setter sensing game. “No one heard anything?” he asked. “I didn’t,” said Tanya.
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“Me neither. Perhaps you have glitches again? Medusa set them loose on you when you wrecked her experiment, remember?” Yagun reminded him. Glitches were small dreary fellows with musical gifts. Vanka had just finished with these meticulous invisible beings. Vanka shook his head. “Ne-a, not glitches. Here’s something else!” he said. Suddenly the door nearest to them began to shake, as if Nervous Tremor, one of the mad poltergeists of Tibidox, who, by the way, had secretly fallen in love with Lieutenant Rzhevskii, was beating it from within with a fearless head. The friends involuntarily moved towards each other. “Well, what did I say? Who has glitches now?” Vanka exclaimed triumphantly. “Everyone has glitches. They usually roam in groups,” Tanya remarked philosophically. Vanka placed an ear to the door, attempting to understand what was taking place on the other side. “This is Goryanov’s room. What if something has happened to him?” he asked. Bab-Yagun winced. “With Damien? What can befall him? I can’t even sit with him at the same table — my soup turns sour.” At this moment, someone on the other side shouted loudly, “Wildus chamberus!” A red spark burst dully. Its reflection was visible even in the corridor through a crack. The rings of Tanya, Yagun, and Vanka Valyalkin glowed by themselves. A moment and the door again began to shake like mad. “Oho! Did you see this spark? Such doesn’t happen with ordinary magic! Someone there uttered an incantation from the list of hundred forbidden ones! See what it did to our rings, they simply went berserk!” Vanka Valyalkin said, blowing on his ring. “The hundred forbidden ones?” Tanya was startled. “Never thought that Goryanov was capable of such!” “Really? Say also that you imagined to yourself Damien as a cupid with golden wings!” Yagun cut her short. Something began to rattle on the other side of the door. The floor under the children’s feet started to vibrate, to thump with resonant impacts. “Ahhh! Save me! Forty people hold me!” someone began to squeal shrilly. Tanya, Yagun, and Vanka broke into the room and froze on the threshold. In the room were Gunya Glomov, Seven-Stump-Holes, and Zhora Zhikin. The owner of the room, Goryanov, was lying on his stomach on a bulky wooden bench, clutching it with his hands. The bench was furiously bucking and shooting up almost to the ceiling, pushing off with its short wooden legs. Likely, it was aspiring to throw Damien off itself at any cost. “Help! What are you all waiting for? It’s kicking me!” Goryanov yelled, continually hitting the bench with his nose, which had already swollen up like a pear. During one of the jumps, Goryanov let go. The bench bucked. Damien plopped like a toad down onto the floor. The bench fell on top of him like a dead hippo. It seems it was gratified by the thought of holding a second post as a monument. After thinking about this, Goryanov issued a blood-curdling howl and hurriedly crept away under the bed, escaping the solid wooden legs of the gone berserk furniture. “Solidus realismus!” Seven-Stump-Holes said, pronouncing the abolishing incantation. The bench froze. Stump looked it over, felt the legs, checking if there were any cracks,
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and was satisfied. “Threw down one more. Who’s next? Perhaps, dandy here?” he said, turning to Zhora Zhikin. Zhikin started to puff in embarrassment and somehow quite elusively moved away to the door. “Generally I’m not against it. But I have an appointment today. Extremely important! I don’t want to show up at it with a nose like yours,” he glibly said. Seven-Stump-Holes touched his swollen nose. Tanya believed that Stump also had time to greet the bench with his nose and now for the restoration of fairness wanted everyone to have a swollen nose. “Aha! He has a date! Name at least one day when you don’t have dates or when they’re not important! Then I’ll drag you here and sit you down on this bench! We all agreed, and now no use ducking!” “Stop! You psycho!” Zhikin snapped. Seven-Stump-Holes smiled evilly and spat with aim through the window. “I’ll not stop! Tell me when you don’t have dates, dandy!” “Okay! Right away!” Zhora Zhikin thought seriously and, reaching for a notebook, started to thumb through it. “So... Thursday I have... Friday, Saturday, Sunday — also have,” he muttered. Seven-Stump-Holes ran up and impatiently tore the notebook out of his hands. “And you have to admire this! Our dandy has a date every day, and sometimes even two... And just how does he manage? You don’t use the bisect spell, no? Well, well! Here look, Wednesday this week you have a window!” “No, Wednesday I also have a date,” Zhikin said in a hurry. “The most-most important! So important that I specially put it in code. Do you see the mark?” “Where’s the mark? Aha! Crossbones! I’ll hazard a guess who this can be! Coffinia! On Wednesday you have a date with Coffinia!” Zhikin uneasily glanced at Gunya Glomov. “Nonsense!” he blurted out. “I’m not meeting Coffinia! It’s… eh-eh… Verka Parroteva!” Seven-Stump-Holes again tried to spit through the window but missed a little. “You don’t fool us! Since when does one put in crossbones as the code for Parroteva? Would draw a bird or something similar with a beak... Or no, if you were to meet with Parroteva, even the cyclopes would know about this! She would jabber to everybody! Don’t lie, dandy! Acknowledge that the bones — it’s Coffinia!” Zhikin turned pale as a toadstool. Gunya Glomov, scowling, was watching him narrowly. “Why do you say that? Coffinia’s not my type! She’s terrible! And on the whole her hair is violet… If I even agreed to meet her, then only to pass her the summaries of Stinktopp’s lectures…” Zhora muttered unconvincingly. “Really? How caring! But then why put it in code? Ah yes, so that insolent competitors would not take away the summaries! It’s so understandable, don’t you think, Guny?” Seven-Stump-Holes was touched. The heavy cognitive work taking place in Glomov’s brain was finally completed. Gunya swung. He never used magic in fights, preferring to employ approved moronoid methods. With the shrill cry of a wounded seagull, Zhora tried to place a magic block, but he did not have time. Glomov’s fist had already arrived at the destination station. Seven-Stump-Holes looked with satisfaction over Zhikin’s nose. “That’s it! Fairness is restored. Even, in my opinion, a little more than necessary! No matter, Zhikin, don’t whimper! Scars decorated, decorate, and will decorate a man. Even if they’re not on the forehead,” he remarked.
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Damien Goryanov came out on all fours from under the bed. After ascertaining that the bench was kicking no longer, he shook down the dust and…only now he saw Bab-Yagun. Discovering his enemy, Goryanov immediately put the most indignant of all available expressions onto his sour face. “Hey, whites, this is my room! I don’t remember inviting any of you as guest! Want to steal something?” he shouted. “Calm down, Damien! Pin the rap on someone else,” Bab-Yagun said merrily. “What are you busy with here? Let me guess! You’ve set up a society of bruised noses? Holding an organizational meeting?” Goryanov started to seethe. He screwed up his eyes, advanced his head forward, and, like a bull, rushed at Yagun. Yagun quickly stepped to the side and substituted a foot. “Recently you observed the attempt at a ram, undertaken by Damien Goryanov, number two. The wretch completely forgot that he had sent his vacuum Storm-100U off for repairs and achieved a ram by auxiliary means. You can contemplate the consequences of this inconsiderate act on the floor!” he commented. The enraged Goryanov jumped and again wanted to rush at him, but Seven-StumpHoles decisively caught him by the collar and moved him aside. “Welcome, whites! Outstanding! You’ll fall in love with us darks, hee-hee, as a friend of my Grandpa Vii said… Don’t you want to participate in our nice magic fun?” he asked. “Nice fun — jumping on a wacky bench?” Vanka Valyalkin asked, “It’s called RABID BLACK MAGIC RODEO! Heard about it?” Seven-Stump-Holes pushed the bench with a foot. It did not move. It required a next injection of magic for the awakening. Vanka and Bab-Yagun exchanged glances. Rabid rodeo was an ancient entertainment of the black magicians of Tibidox. It was forbidden but not forgotten all the same. Berserk benches, animated by black invocations, frequently mutilated unlucky riders. Rabid rodeo was even more dangerous than dragonball. Dragons rarely tore up players, more often swallowed them whole and kept them inside till the end of the match. The braking incantations and vampire bile saved dragonball players from serious injuries and burns. There was not any kind of insurance in rabid rodeo. A violent spirit, installing itself into the furniture, forced it to skip around the room and, after unseating the rider, pitilessly trampled him. Whoever managed to stay on the longest was considered the winner. Or at least who managed not to have to go to magic station. Seven-Stump-Holes, squinting, searchingly stared at Vanka and Yagun. “Well, Yagun, will you take a risk? Or you, Valyalkin! Don’t want to have fun? Climb on the bench, and I’ll say Wildus chamberus!” “That won’t wash!” Vanka decisively said. “Why’s that?” “Wildus chamberus is a forbidden spell. Even your Professor Stinktopp doesn’t use it.” “What are you saying? Again a wise guy! Shurasik hasn’t stung you by any chance? Or not, indeed…” Stump squinted maliciously. “Yes, he’s simply afraid! Only look at this little white wizard! He’s shaking with horror!” “Stop, Stump! He’s not afraid!” Tanya stepped in for Vanka. “No one is afraid. However, if The Ancient One introduced a spell into the list, it means he had a reason.” “Everyone knows that The Ancient One was overcautious. He placed all reviving spells in this list. Probably did not even examine each individually. What can be dangerous in Wildus chamberus! So, a bench jumps and calms down,” Zhora Zhikin said and
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contemptuously shrugged his shoulders. His nose was already bruised, so now nothing prevented him from taking Seven-Stump-Holes’ side. “Well done, dandy! I’m proud of you! If The Ancient One actually wanted these spells not to be used, he would on no account make up this list!” Stump stated. Tanya involuntarily thought that he was right. The list of a hundred forbidden spells, ciphered with special student code, not allowing them to disappear, had long ago already passed from one Tibidox student to another. And everyone secretly, almost under the blanket, learned them by heart, although this was most strictly forbidden. The Ancient One, in spite of all his brilliance, was a bad psychologist. If he did not actually want the forbidden spells to be known, he would have included them in the school program and made them strictly compulsory. “I so thought that the whites are afraid! The whites, they’re nothing but whites… Only for them to walk arm-in-arm with Tararakh and glance at Sardanapal’s mouth at what clever thing he will say, eh, Vanka? Do I speak right or not?” Seven-Stump-Holes was maliciously interested. Vanka turned pale. He silently pushed him in the chest and made his way to the bench. “And you’re not afraid that it’ll bruise your pretty little nose? Ah yes, no one is waiting to go on a date with you — then it’s another matter. Who will go on a date with you at all? I would like to see the girl who needs this scarecrow in a soccer shirt! Harpies and such mistake you as one in the garden!” Stump continued to mock. Vanka silently sat down on the bench and threw a leg over it. Even without this, the sharp features of his thin face got even sharper. “Begin, Stinktopper! I’m ready!” he said. “Don’t do this! They especially egg you on!” Tanya shouted, rushing to Vanka. She looked at Gunya Glomov so decisively that the healthy fellow moving towards Valyalkin recalled how a spark once scorched his tongue and stepped back. Meanwhile Yagun was already standing across from Zhora Zhikin. “Intervene or I’ll touch up your nose on the other side!” he warned. “Is that so! Very scary!” Zhora dodged, but for some reason did not begin to interfere. “Get down! Don’t be silly!” Tanya was still trying to drag Vanka from the bench, but already understood that this was useless. At times, the calm Vanka became more obstinate than a donkey. And this was precisely such a moment. Seven-Stump-Holes had clearly succeeded in inciting Tanya’s friend. “Move away! Stump, cast your spell! I don’t want to soil my ring with it!” not looking at Tanya, Valyalkin said. “Don’t want to soil it, then don’t! But we’re not such moralists! Wildus chamberus!” jumping to the side, Zhora Zhikin and Seven-Stump-Holes shouted in a chorus. The dual red sparks blinded Tanya. The ring of Theophilus Grotter became red-hot and burned her finger. “How many forbidden spells are possible? I’ll have thermal shock!” it squeaked with the voice of Theophilus Grotter. The bench revived. The red spark gave it improbable quickness. If it skipped like a bull in a rodeo earlier, now it was as if a rabid dog bit it. It managed to be immediately everywhere, bending and bucking with either the front or the hind legs. Vanka clung exactly like a tick. In contrast to the dark magicians, he did not flop with his stomach on the bench but sat up like an equestrian. He held on to a piece of wood with the left hand and balanced with the right, retaining equilibrium. The bench, as if deranged, jumped around the entire room. Furniture crashed and fell. Escaping from its wooden legs,
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Goryanov, Seven-Stump-Holes, and Zhora Zhikin evacuated under the bed and only rarely decided to put their noses out from under it. Even Tanya and Yagun were forced to step back to the door, ready to slip into the corridor if the bench attacked them. “What’s going on there? He hasn’t fallen yet?” Stump continually asked with hope. “Ne-a, still holding on!” Gunya Glomov answered with a hoarse bass. Not knowing by what means he had turned up on top of the cabinet and from there, as if from a captain’s bridge, he viewed the room. “Yee-haw! Scatter, wet noses! Here it is, your rabid rodeo!” Vanka shouted, flashing by at a gallop around the room. “My granny mama! What brilliant technique! Respected spectators! Get your moist palms ready for a stormy applause!!! Without a saddle, the born rider Ivan Valyalkin is staying on the prancing bench, adapting to all its intricate movements! The bench throws out all new tricks, but everything is useless! Valyalkin holds onto it as if glued, to the disgrace of the entire dark department of Tibidox and of Professor Stinktopp personally — the head of these confused pranksters!” Yagun started to rattle. It was evident that he missed commentating. “Would you shut up, Yagun! You were dark probably for more than a year!” Damien Goryanov answered from under the bed. “I was, but not anymore!” Yagun retorted coolly. “Why the emotion? I’ll be darned! Look at Vanka! Strange that with this talent he, until now, is not in the dragonball team! Yes, it’s possible to replace Zhikin and Goryanov easily together with one Vanka!” In a couple of minutes, when everyone understood that Vanka was not going to fall, Seven-Stump-Holes and Zhikin disconcertedly came out from under the bed, ascertaining beforehand that the bench was not close by. “That’s it, enough! He has stayed on three times longer than any of you! Stop your crippled stump, Holes! It’s already clear that he beat you!” Tanya ordered Seven-StumpHoles. She was the first to feel that Vanka was beginning to tire. Although so far he had managed the jumps of the rabid furniture, Tanya surmised from the tension on his face what it had cost him. “Solidus realismus!” Stump unwillingly barked. But, in spite of a flashed spark, the bench continued to skip. Seven-Stump-Holes repeated the incantation three more times, but with the same result. On the contrary, from the sparks the bench began to jump with doubled fury. A lamp broke. Gunya Glomov fell down from the cabinet like an overripe pear. “It’s useless. It doesn’t work!” Seven-Stump-Holes said gloomily, lowering his hand. “Why?” “Don’t you know?” he snapped. “Solidus realismus is only effective with one red spark, but Zhikin and I plastered it with two! Who asked him to release a spark together with me? This dandy is only good for crashing from the mop and going to very important dates!” “Don’t you blame it on me, Stump! And generally magic will run low in the course of time, and it’ll be exhausted!” Zhora Zhikin said with hope. “It’ll get tired, uh-huh! This is not a horse for you, one that gets tired. What, don’t you know that this is reviving incantation from the banned list? We have sunk so much magic into this bench — enough for a thousand years…” Seven-Stump-Holes appeared
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disheartened. To leave Vanka on the berserk bench was not part of his plan. He indeed only wanted to break the nose of a moralist from the white department. Nothing more. Tanya did not tear her eyes from Vanka Valyalkin, not knowing how to help him. Likely, from the constant jerks and hammerings Vanka began to feel giddy. His right hand, by which he retained equilibrium, no longer waved so decisively. Several times, he fell first to one then the other side and only miraculously held his ground on the smooth wooden board. It was impossible to jump off now and Vanka understood this. With such galloping, this was almost equivalent to immediately wringing one’s own neck. Moreover, a second later the berserk bench would turn up on the spot where he landed. “Hang on, friend! Try Bangus parachutis forte! And then immediately a safeguard!” Bab-Yagun shouted. Possibly, Vanka would have had time to follow his advice, but here the bench bucked and galloped sharply to the side. Vanka had time neither to swerve nor even to shout Oyoyoys smackis thumpis. He hit his head against the wall and, stunned, was thrown off the piece of wood squirming with spite. Vanka had not yet dropped down and Tanya was already rushing to him. “Tanya, the bench!” Bab-Yagun yelled. He tried to knock down the bench with a fight spark but missed. Tanya threw up a hand, already understanding that she would not be able to swerve from the bench, pouncing on Vanka and her. The cold hand of horror affectionately took her by the throat. Confused thoughts knocked around like bowling balls in her head, “Now it’ll collapse, now, now…” Moments went by, and all the time the bench hung in the air. Seconds stretched into eternity. Tanya tried to jump, to grasp Vanka, to drag him away to the side, but could not even move from the spot. Time, resounding in her consciousness, remained the same unyielding for her body, grown in the magic double bass case on Aunt Ninel’s balcony. And then it seemed to Tanya that beyond the window a red glow flared up, with feelers of light pulling Tibidox into its shaky pinkish circle. As if an invisible giant released a red spark from a huge ring the size of the sun. Suddenly the bench changed the trajectory of the drop and, having wasted all its zeal, tumbled down half a metre to the side of Tanya, exactly like a dead insect, throwing up its legs. All the time Tanya could in no way remove her gaze nor understand why the berserk bench, not having killed them, turned out to be in an entirely different place. Who pacified it and why? It was unpredictable and even scary. Some outsider’s powerful magic — moreover dark magic — had clearly interfered in the matter. This could be determined by the colour of the flash. The flash was so bright, as if thousands of sparks were collected into a united fireball of unthinkable force. Considering that even three sparks would be an extraordinary phenomenon in magic. “What was it that calmed it? There was magic for a whole eternity!” Damien Goryanov was agape in amazement, examining the bench. Likely, none of the black or even the white magicians, with the exception of Tanya alone, saw the red glow beyond the window, and already this was incomprehensible. What selective magic is this, that only one can see but the others do not even suspect?! “It cannot be that the bench was sorry for us. It’s rabid rodeo! The spirit that moved into it didn’t know pity. Some black magician helped me, but black magicians don’t help for nothing… And how would he know what’s going on here at all? It means he was
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spying, but why? And what magician is he, if he can release sparks more powerful than Plague-del-Cake?” Tanya was puzzled. Vanka began to moan. After the drop, he had been lying motionless face down on the floor. Tanya with great care turned him over and placed his head on her knees. “Why?! Why on earth did you get up on this bench at all?” she yelled. It seemed to her that she had never been as angry with anyone as with Vanka now. And had never been so worried about anyone. “I… I simply could not otherwise… you know why…” Valyalkin was barely articulate. But how could he smile so blissfully, when his lips were split with blood, and the whole right side of his face was entirely covered in abrasions? “Why, you fool? Really, wasn’t it clear that these darks set you up? You knew, you knew!” Vanka squeezed Tanya’s hand. “I never told you this… I would do this again… I would do it for you, because you were beside me and I could not…” “What ‘and I’?” Tanya cut him short. “In your opinion, I would be very pleased if this wounded stool would kick you?” “You don’t understand… How can you understand, when I’m a scarecrow in a soccer shirt, which… with which no one… What do you understand at all?” Not finishing, Vanka smiled even more blissfully and rolled his eyes. “Yagun, why are you standing there? You really don’t see? Help me!” Tanya shouted. Tanya and Bab-Yagun grabbed Vanka and dragged him to magic station. Shurasik actively helped them. Incidentally, it appeared that all this time he was curiously eavesdropping near the door, occasionally summarizing in his notebook moments interesting to him. Seven-Stump-Holes, Zhikin, Damien Goryanov, and Gunya remained in the room. It was not acceptable for true black magicians to help whites. If, of course, they themselves were not white once, like Shurasik. “Phew!” Zhora Zhikin said with contempt. “Did you hear what he was chattering? I’m ready to argue this pitiful soccer shirt has fallen in love with Grotty! And the most entertaining is that only Grotty alone, it seems, doesn’t understand this. Here I, for example, always realize when they have fallen in love with me. Yesterday when Coffinia knocked down a tray of stewed fruit on me, I immediately grasped that I must ask for a date, because in general no one asked her to go a long way around on a crawl, and on top of that stumble on level ground…” After recollecting that he had blurted out too much, Zhikin fearfully looked sideways at Glomov, just in case, to insure his nose. But Gunya, for his luck, was not listening attentively to the incoherent muttering of the local philanderer. He was sitting on the floor and for some reason continually shaking his hand. The tiny silver ringlet, cutting into Glomov’s finger thick as a choice wiener, looked absurd. But here indeed you can do nothing — magic rings make their own choices. Once and for life. “Listen, Damien, somehow everything turned out dull! The bench didn’t quite nail the fellow… But something else is bothering me: my ring for some reason has absolutely stopped producing sparks!” Gunya complained in a bass, again shaking the ring. “You simply haven’t cleaned your ring for a long time… Let me try! Wildus chamberus!” Goryanov gave the order. The red spark, hardly released from his ring, faded. The wooden bench unwillingly jerked a leg, turned towards the ceiling, and froze
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anew. “And my sparks for some reason have become dull too. Magic has disappeared. Maybe someone put a block on it, eh?” Damien said anxiously. “Exactly... Something has happened with magic. Either Slander hanging about somewhere close by, or I don’t know what…” Seven-Stump-Holes unwillingly acknowledged. Some time afterwards Gunya Glomov, all the time still dully looking at his ring, brought it to his face and shook it carelessly. The spark that jumped out scorched his long-suffering nose. “Wow, darn, it did! Either there is or there isn’t magic! When I was still living with the moronoids, electricity threw such tricks at us! First it destroyed everything in the entrance, then burned again!” Gunya was surprised. “What’s with moronoids and electricity here? You’re delirious!” Goryanov winced with disgust. Damien, like many in Tibidox, had a low opinion of Glomov’s wit. And he even could not surmise for once what kind of bright thought strayed accidentally into Glomov’s head, empty as a dusty pantry. Gunya, not arguing, shrugged his shoulders. In general, he, with all his eccentricities, was a forgiving fellow and was used to yielding to everybody, when the matter did not concern a fight or Coffinia. Meanwhile Tanya, Yagun, and Shurasik had already carried Vanka to magic station. Near the door, Shurasik sniffed nosily and with foresight disappeared. He had a head cold and a cough, and was afraid that Yagge would catch him and, after covering him with a mustard plaster, force him to steam his feet and breathe over a potato. In the treatment of slight illnesses, the old lady willingly leaned towards rigid moronoid methods. “You’ll not do it again!” she declared. Yagge was standing over a pot boiling without fire, whispering something to the pitch and occasionally throwing into it a bunch of steppe grass, or coltsfoot, or dry camomile. Seeing Vanka unconsciously sagging in the hands of Tanya and Yagun, she threw up her hands and, not asking anything, rushed to him. The pitch in the pot, left without care, indignantly flared up and was shrouded in steam. Only after all Vanka’s abrasions were thoroughly processed, the head bandaged, and he, green like Uncle Herman, was put to bed, did Yagge sternly turn to her grandson. “How did he get to be this way?” “Granny…” “Don’t Granny me! I also know that I’m not grandpa! Answer: how?” “He…fell from the stairs of the Atlases. You know how the steps there are… Rolled to the very bottom!” Yagun instantly considered it was better not to mention the rabid rodeo. “Oh, what grief, from the stairs! How often have I told Sardanapal to alter the steps, perhaps he’ll do something!” Yagge began to groan sympathetically. Yagun took a breath with relief and unnoticeably winked at Tanya, contented that he had successfully fooled Granny. However, he relaxed too soon. The old lady suddenly stretched out her hand and, having caught her grandson by a protruding ear, pulled him to herself. “Whom do you want to deceive? Who am I to you, Sardanapal? Or Stinktopp? Don’t you try to fool me!” she hissed. “But Granny... My ear! Granny!” Yagun started to exclaim in pain. “What Granny? Again Granny? What did it cost me to drag you back to the white department, do you know? What, I begged Sardanapal so that my grandson would skip on benches? Rascals, arranged rabid jumps! Hammered new nonsense into the head! Well
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no matter, I’ll give you what-for! You think, without a mother, no one would keep an eye on you?” “Oh-oh-oh! How do you know about rabid jumps?” Yagun was thunder-struck, from surprise even forgetting about the swollen ear. “And indeed I’m a complete fool! I’ve lived my entire life in the forest, never saw, never knew anything that can hurt so! I swear by the cabin, there will be hell to pay if Medusa or Slander finds out! You’ll make a racket with the whole gang in the dark department!” Yagge said. Suddenly a new sound distracted the old lady and in a flash killed her flame. Pale Vanka — his head was bandaged so that only one eye was visible — sat up in bed and searched for someone with his eye. Tanya ran up to him. “Listen!” Vanka’s voice hardly broke through from under the bandages. “Go to my room — look in the cabinet… There’s a nestling! Feed it every two hours. At night also. Only don’t touch it with your hands — you’ll get burnt! And don’t look at it in the dark — it’ll hurt your eyes later!” “What’s this nestling?” “A firebird. Someone frightened it from the laying, and it abandoned the eggs. I gathered them and cast the incubation spell. The rest of the eggs perished, but this one hatched. Well, it was difficult with it: it squeaked right through every night.” “So that’s where you always ran away to! Why didn’t you tell me?” “It was a secret. I wanted to present it to you on your birthday… In the fall it’ll already be a big bird, a beautiful bird…” Vanka could not stand expending so much energy. Unexpectedly, he began to fall sideways and would have rolled off the bed, if Yagge and Tanya had not caught him. Yagge lowered Vanka’s head onto the pillow and began to bustle over him. Tanya, having repeatedly lain in magic station, already had time to study the old lady’s habits. Like now, Yagge only bustled about this way in the most dangerous cases. Now and then even magic seemed powerless… “That’s it? Communed? Brought a patient that almost popped off? Yagun, why are you twirling around? Quick away from here — I don’t wish to see you! And you, Tanya, quick! The boys I understand, mischievous heads, but here I was mistaken in you!” Yagge said, decisively escorting them from magic station. “Yagge, listen, will he live?” lingering over the threshold, Tanya asked in a whisper. The old lady tenaciously took her by the chin and turned to the light. “What are you talking about! The eyes have been to a wet place! Should have thought earlier! There it — your stupidity — lies and cannot stir a hand!” Tanya sobbed and pressed against her. “Yagge! He will die, yes? YAGGE! Why are you silent?” The old lady softened. Having pushed Tanya away, she encouragingly pinched her cheek. “What Yagge? The slightest little thing, then Yagge! Okay, I won’t start torturing you, although it’s worthwhile! Your friend will survive, provided you don’t hang around here every two hours. Now I’ll show you and Yagun what-for! I’ll cast an evil eye! By the hair of The Ancient One I swear, I’ll cast an evil eye! And I won’t allow you into magic station anymore, mark my words!” she threatened, decisively pushing both through the door. ***
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Guessing when they would succeed in seeing Vanka again, Tanya and Bab-Yagun dejectedly meandered back. Not wanting to go through the Hall of Two Elements, where they would immediately be attacked with idiotic questions, they decided to go by a roundabout way — through one of the recently constructed galleries. For this, they had to get up to the very top of the tower narrow as a pencil and in which the work on practical magic usually took place. “Well, indeed a stench here! Must be something burning again at Stinktopp’s!” Yagun made a face. Suddenly a door was thrown open and, wrapped in escaping dove-coloured smoke, Professor Stinktopp himself jumped out of the laboratory. Stumbling on level ground, he rushed past the children and ran like a duck waddling in a hurry to the stairs. “Where’s he going?” The smoke stung Tanya eyes. “How am I supposed to know? Let’s run to have a look!” Yagun instantly decided. Through several flights, Stinktopp turned to the teachers’ floor and began pounding on Dentistikha’s door. The Great Tooth looked out almost immediately. Straightening her glasses thick as two magnifiers, she was examining an album of medieval engravings. Noticing Stinktopp, Dentistikha dropped the book from consternation. The troubadour, secretly kissing the queen on the last page, having been thrown out of the album, hastily bounced to the side and began to read verses loudly. “Not bad, young man, not bad! Excellent alliteration! And what wonderful rhythmical dip in the third stanza!” the queen languidly said, repairing her hair-do. “Deni, Deni! Recently eferyzing repeats itself! My medicine of zree stenches vent bad and all ze vhite vorms crawled avay from last year’s cutlets, vhich I prepared for ze rotten one in ze basement!” Professor Stinktopp shouted. “Really again? Must report to Sardanapal urgently!” Deni began to worry. Stinktopp angrily waved his hands at her. “Vhy do you trust your Sardanapal all ze time? Zis charlatan only chat eferyday viz his ozer vorld grandpa and couldn’t care less anymore! He lost ze canopy from ze ancient bed! Ze ozer night ze cauldron disappeared! And my dear boy Shurasik cut up ze hair long ago! I cannot blame him in zat: zen he vas in ze vhite department!” “Well, well! Perhaps not everything is so terrible. What if it’s only someone’s absurd joke?” Dentistikha said soothingly. Stinktopp flinched as if they stuffed him with lemons. “A JOKE! It’s not a joke to take all zese zings! Zis is a file plot! Ze one who arranged zis vanted to leaff us all vizout…” “Professor, they’re eavesdropping!” Dentistikha shouted. Here was what preceded the warning cry. Bending down for the album, the Great Tooth noticed that the queen and the troubadour had picked up their ears, and she frowned. “Well, march into the book! I’m telling you now!” she ordered. “What impudence! We can’t but they can!” puffing up with indignation, the queen squeaked. “Who?” “Those there who stick their heads out from the landing! Already twice!” the troubadour tattled, pointing a finger at Tanya and Bab-Yagun. Stinktopp turned so sharply that he stepped on his corn. “Seizus-catchus.” he shouted, and Tanya and Bab-Yagun flew out of their refuge, as if a rubber band got them. “Who is
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zis here! Vhy did you vander here? Spying? I say: spying?” saliva spattering, Stinktopp began to squeal. “We were not spying!” Bab-Yagun was insulted. “Vhat vere you doing?” “We... simply this way... eh-eh... wanted to find out whether the white department has to study the question on meanness?” Yagun said. “Find out? Here I find you out! LE-EEAFF HERE! MAAAARCH!” Stinktopp began to squeal. Red sparks began to jump out of his ring. “Many thanks, Professor! Your consultation was extremely useful!” Yagun could not restrain himself. Stinktopp started to hiss. The smell of melted sulphur poured out of his ears and nose. This was surprising. Earlier this only happened with Slander. Intuition suggested to BabYagun what they could run up against big time. He wisely caught Tanya by the elbow, stepped back and, without opening his mouth anymore, retired to the stairs. The head of the black department was so enraged that he was bobbing up and down like a frog on the spot. “Again insulted everyone… Why yell so? I adore Professor Stinktopp and his strange emotions! He’s simply a darling!” Bab-Yagun said, after ascertaining that they had run off sufficiently far and could not be heard already. Tanya shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t understand why Stinktopp was so mad. Just because of the unlucky medicine of three stenches?!” she was astonished. “My granny mama! What medicine here? What, don’t you understand anything? Well, really zilch?” Yagun was surprised. “What don’t I understand? A junk-dealer showed up in our Tibidox and dragged away any rubbish. He pulled the cauldron away from Stinktopp’s and Stinktopp got so mad that he burned everything out of malice,” said Tanya. “RUBBISH!” Yagun was downright worked up. “And you call this rubbish? They are not simply any cauldron or any canopy! Really, didn’t you hear what Stinktopp said about the hair? Recall, whose!” “Is that a question? The Ancient One’s!” “And also his cauldron! The FIRST cauldron of Tibidox! And the canopy from the ancient bed! The FIRST bed on Buyan, The Ancient One himself cut down from the stem of the prophetic oak! I heard about them from Granny! Understand now? Someone is stealing the objects, which belonged to The Ancient One personally.” “Why?” “How am I supposed to know?” Yagun waved his hands. “Who am I, the know-it-all Shurasik? Oh, my granny mama, what has happened! I’m downright mad!” Tanya treated Yagun’s revelation without any special interest. She was too worried about Vanka to think seriously why Stinktopp’s medicine went bad and who dragged the canopy from the bed of The Ancient One. “I should visit Vanka’s! I must take the firebird nestling!” she said. “I’ll come with you! I know what guard spell Vanka uses to lock the cabinet!” Yagun immediately volunteered. “With me, then with me. Only don’t take it into your head to grab it with your hands, and in general speak softer!” Tanya said. She had a low opinion of Yagun’s ability to communicate with magic essences.
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*** Coffinia, legs crossed, was sitting on the bed and, tongue sticking out from enthusiasm, was modelling something from dough. Seeing Tanya, Cryptova hurriedly hid her article under the blanket and spread out a smile sweet like ten tons of caramel. “Cutie-tutie, who came in! Grotty! My favourite character! I’ll now die happy!” she said. “That would be good,” answered Tanya. Coffinia cleared her throat. She knew how to appreciate a good answer. “Let’s continue the questioning! What’s this chicken in your hands? With what joy does it shine like this? Did it fly into a moronoid nuclear reactor? Or is it supper for my skeleton, eh, Page? See what Auntie Grotter brought you!” she played the fool. “It’s Vanka Valyalkin’s firebird. It’ll live with us. And only try not to butt in — I’ll cast such an evil eye that you’ll have to lie to worshippers that you have on a gas mask!” Tanya said. She was nervous. The nestling, in a box discovered in Vanka’s cabinet, from hunger was squeaking mournfully non-stop. And now Tanya was feverishly thinking what to give it? White millet? Or have to gather slugs in the basement? How unfortunate that she forgot to ask Vanka. Coffinia thought for a bit, weighing every pro and con. She treasured her appearance. “Okay, let it live here! Only be warned that it doesn’t crow at night! To tell the truth, I never liked firebirds. They’re too bright! Here asps and basilisks are a different matter. They’re darlings. I adore listening to them hiss!” Cryptova stated. Tanya noticed with surprise that Coffinia was in a good mood. If she even stood up for her rights, then it was listlessly and out of habit. “Why are we so nice today?” she thought, suspiciously examining the room. Beside Cryptova, chained to a large weight, was revealed a rather thick reference book Amorous zombification. Technology of deceiving princes, or How to get married slapdash (compiled by black magician Alla Limentova). In three years of study in Tibidox, Tanya had time to master something. At first glance, she recognized a forbidden book from the limited access library stack. But how was Coffinia able to fool the genie Abdullah? When Tanya got nearer, the reference book darted, intending on cutting into the girl’s forehead, but its retaining weight was too heavy. Losing its strength, the book again flopped to the bed and changed tactics. Thin white snakes and spiders crawled from its pages and binding, attempting to reach Tanya. “Crypt! Why are you mocking the book? You have it chained to a weight,” Tanya was interested, quietly tracing a line in the air with her ring. The snakes and spiders, stopped dead by the invisible line and not strong enough to overcome it, began crawling lengthwise. It had long been no secret to Tanya that black magic books cannot stand white magicians. It was not without reason that Academician Sardanapal kept them in a cage in his office. Coffinia winced. “It’s I, perhaps, who chained it? You’re over-excited, orphan! It’s all the genie Abdullah! I barely dragged it from the library! Already 300 years he did not lend this book out to anyone.” “I see. Why did Abdullah make this exception for you this time? He could not stand you,” Tanya was surprised.
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“How quarrelled, so also reconciled… True, I had to listen to his poems for three evenings. I nearly grew bald from boredom, listening to this old man cursing Tibidox, Buyan, the moronoids, and in general everything under the sun in alphabetical order. He also got to you, Grotty. Abdullah said that soon a distant path and even some filth await you. Well, it’s all nonsense! But then I now have the booklet!” Coffinia bragged, with feeling kissing the reference book in the binding covered with white spots of mould. The magic book was so moved by this tenderness that new worms and snakes fell from it. Shaking off a worm that had fallen onto her shoulder, Tanya dropped the box with the firebird, and was so unlucky that the box rolled away beyond the line dividing the room and turned over. The nestling with a chirp fell out of the nest built by Vanka. Hissing, the snakes rushed to the nestling and covered it. And after the snakes the spiders were already rolling like waves. Tanya rushed to help, but it turned out that the nestling managed excellently even without her. Blazing with the tail only just grown, it burned them as enemies and greedily pecked the worms, spiders, and snakes. Those that survived tried in a panic to hide in the book. “Well now, Grotty, didn’t I feed your chicken?” Coffinia smiled, with interest observing the massacre. “Hey, bird, you’re not bad! Say thanks to Auntie Coffinia for dinner!” Blowing on her hands in order not to get burnt, Tanya picked up the heavier nestling and sat it down in the nest. It no longer squeaked. Having swallowed the tail of a snake sticking out of its beak, it ruffled its feathers and, hiding its head under a wing, instantly fell asleep. “Why do you need this reference book? Whom did you intend to turn into a zombie? Zhora Zhikin?” she asked Coffinia. “No, I need this Zhikin a lot! Perhaps from boredom! Also a darling with a mop! Let him at least run across Unhealed Lady,” Cryptova dismissed him. “Who then?” A green witch’s fire flared up in Coffinia eyes. “Can’t you guess?” she started to whisper hotly. “Puper! I want to pull one over on him! Stinktopp told us: there’ll be a new match in the fall, and I dream that he’ll arrive head over heels in love with me! Only imagine: Gury and me! Gury and me! A pair of stars! When I’m sixteen, we’ll get married! All the front covers of magzines will be of us!” “Well, you still have a long time to wait!” “Why long? I’m almost fifteen! It’s a pity Magciety of Jerky Magtion forbade marriages at fourteen! I tried to send them a jinx in an envelope, but it got stuck somewhere in moronoid mail! They decided that it had anthrax. Moreover, I forgot to put on a stamp. Here’s a ninny, ought to send it with a cupid! But I feared Slander would mark its presence.” Suddenly recollecting that she got carried away and made a slip of the tongue, Cryptova with suspicion stared at Tanya. “And mind you don’t snatch away my Gurie! My little excellent Pupie! You understand, orphan? I’ll scratch out your eyes, I’ll break off your ears!” she warned in earnest, demonstrating the terribly long nails. “I don’t want your Puper!” Tanya said, remembering Pipa and her mysterious G.P. Well, is it not a strange coincidence that they even have the same initials? Pity she did not clarify then who this G.P. is. Perhaps it would even turn out that G.P. and Puper are acquainted, if not one and the same person altogether. No indeed, of all people, she does
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not like this very Gury. Not interested at all. Let him marry Coffinia if he wants. She, Tanya, has no objections to this. A satisfied Coffinia demanded an oath from Tanya that she had no designs on Puper, and afterwards, becoming kinder, extracted the figurine from under the blanket. “Only don’t think that it’s wax!” she said in a hurry. “It’s dough! Must mould Puper from it, then bake it with a spark, and cast a spell. Then he will be mine indeed! It’s the most reliable means.” Tanya looked at the figurine. There was no possible way to call Cryptova’s work successful. It was only from the broom and the long raincoat to guess that this could be Gury. “Not very alike. Try to think of something else!” she said. Coffinia jerked up her head. “Useless! Think I haven’t tried? Buried a frog in the anthill, gathered autumn gentian. Well, you know: ‘Autumn gentian! To my darling beckon!’ But this Puper is simply some rock statue! Probably a slew of people watch over him! They block all magic, even on approach! Well, doesn’t matter, no protection from a dough figurine! Here they’ll snap!” “Nevertheless, I doubt that anything will pan out with your figurine. What if instead of Puper someone else from the Invisible team falls in love with you? It’s like any of them or even simply a fan!” Tanya said. Coffinia began to tremble. The enamoured Sheik Spirya had already been pestering her for a second year. He adored calling on the zoomer in the middle of the night. At the same time, he said nothing, only sighed passionately. In order not to show up on the screen, Spirya was muffled up in the invisible raincoat. “Only not someone else! I beg you, orphan, help me! Enough psychos around me!” Cryptova stated. Tanya thought that it was also enough for her. Be them psycho or not. Although they did not ring for her, the zoomer woke everybody indiscriminately. Indeed better if Coffinia would get her Puper after all and would sooner drive away all other worshippers. Then it would at least be possible to sleep normally at night. “Do you want me to touch up your figurine?” Tanya proposed. “Only agree immediately: no needles in Puper! You cheat, and that’s it!” she said firmly. “What’s with you? Needles — when it’s wax, but not dough! I’ll not let anyone harm my sweetie! I’ll put fleece around him and hide him in a box!” Coffinia was so sincerely insulted that Tanya softened. “Well look, Crypt! Remember what we negotiated! No torturing Puper, he’s a world property!” she said. Tanya breathed on the dough, added water so that it would soften, and got to work. Even in moronoid elementary school, she learned to model rather well. Indeed Pipa would dance on anything but not modeling clay. If at times it happened that she needed to, then and only then would she glue on some hair. Although dough was not as yielding as wax or modeling clay, the work was moving along well. Soon a very recognizable Puper was standing on the table; besides, it did not even need the broom to know that this was precisely him. Coffinia clasped her hands together emotionally. “Wonderful! I recognize my Gury! Only one more detail, otherwise the magic won’t work!” After cautiously looking sideways at Tanya, Cryptova turned her bed. “Grotty, turn around! I don’t want you to see where my secret box is!” she demanded. Tanya snorted
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and turned around. Coffinia got out a small piece of dark cloth. Occasionally sparks ran along the cloth, and it was as if it dissolved in Cryptova’s hands. “What is this?” Tanya asked, opening her eyes, “What’s what? What, are you totally stupid? Don’t you remember, at the end of the match Gury’s invisible raincoat caught fire and he discarded it? Here I thought that all the same he’ll no longer use it. My Gury is a rich boy, what’s some charred raincoat to him?” Coffinia started to speak tenderly. In the next ten minutes, Cryptova generated stormy activity. She baked the figurine with a spark and with great care covered Puper, fully ready for gastronomic use, with the scrap of raincoat. After placing it on the table, Coffinia caught Amorous zombification and quickly looked over the index. From a moronoid point of view, this was a disorderly and chaotically comprised index. But this did not trouble Coffinia. She knew very well how to handle magic books. She had barely touched the binding with her ring when the book, after becoming a large centipede, quickly crawled away to the middle of the room, jumped and, on hitting the floor, opened to the necessary page. Coffinia brightened up. “Here it is! The most powerful of all love spells! As a matter of course, they guard Puper from love magic, but can never ward off this spell! It’s not without reason that The Ancient One included it in the list of a hundred of forbidden ones, and got rid of the book into the limited access stack! How nice that the genie Abdullah is a narcissistic fool!” IRRESISTIBLE LOVE SPELL FOR DOUGH FIGURINES Attention, magicians, magals, magcesses and magicans! We recommend to you a unique spell, which will endow you and your object stormy and prolonged, identical to natural, love. The spell possesses a unique power verified in clinical tests by the company Magmed. There is no escape from it on ground, in water, in caves, or in any parallel universe. The bewitched has the possible side effects: itch, the peeling of skin, jealousy, hysterics, tears, and the like. P.S. Does not work if the object experiences true, pure, and sincere love for someone else. “Whom are you frightening with jealousy, phone book? I did not almost crush my foot with the weight in order to turn my back now on the delivery! You highlight the text for me!” Coffinia shouted impatiently, with a hand whisking away all warnings from the page. Holding the figurine in her right hand, Cryptova coughed, tremblingly squeezed Puper against her chest, twirled on the spot, and with feeling uttered: Enamourus strongus sheepis Deceivis foggis Jealousus, screamus, hystericus Ardentheartus stuckonyous! A red spark flared up and faded, barely sliding along the rim of the ring. Coffinia blew on her burnt finger. She uttered the spell three more times, but every time with the same result. More precisely — without any result at all. “It didn’t work! Disgusting Puper! He’s simply a dry old stick! Or someone is deflecting love magic for him!” Stamping her feet, Coffinia yelled, and out of the fullness of her emotion almost broke the neck of the Gury figurine. Having calmed down slightly, she again stared at the book, which, with the characteristic deliberation of all magic books, only now displayed the note:
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Alert! Attempt at illegal use! Spell is blocked from black magicians! (Order No. 7415, 5 May 1290.) Coffinia gave Tanya a searching look. “Well, tell me, is this really honest — to take away from us, black magicians, the nicest spells?” she lamented. “Grotty! Do this for me! I’m asking you! You’re white, it’ll work for you.” “Why me? What if Puper already loves someone and I’ll ruin his destiny! No, I won’t,” said Tanya. “Here we go again! You really didn’t read: true love doesn’t yield to magic. So, if Puper is serious in everything, he’ll find out nothing!” Coffinia shouted. She passed from one mood to another amazingly quickly. She could lisp now, but in half a minute would howl. “How will he not find out?” “Very simply! If our enamourus won’t work, then the whole thing… But I’m convinced Pupie isn’t in love with anyone. He’s an athlete, and all athletes are maniacs. He needs precisely a girl like me, spectacular and energetic! Gurie will fly after the balls, and I’ll choose from the catalogue different eyeglass frames and high boots for him! I beg you, Grotty! Do you want me to get on my knees?” And, without waiting for an answer, Coffinia quickly flopped down on her knees. “Well now, I, so irresistible, so proud, am before you, inferior Grotty, on my knees! Doesn’t this mean anything to you? Consider: if you won’t read, I’ll find someone else! Or better, I’ll find another spell and make Bab-Yagun fall in love with me! Aren’t you afraid? Well then, Vanka! And now I see that you’re scared!” Cryptova exclaimed. “Coffinia, you’re sick! What’s with Vanka here?” Tanya frowned. “With that! With that! You have Vanka, and I need Puper! Tanya, my dear, read! Read! I’m not myself, I don’t know what’s happening to me!” Coffinia again fawned over her. Tanya angrily looked at her and, after thinking that it was useless to argue with donkeys, glanced at the book. “Enamourus strongus sheepis Deceivis foggis Jealousus, screamus, hystericus Ardentheartus stuckonyous!” she read loudly. A green spark flared up. Then one more, and again several seconds later. Tanya almost got burnt by the last. She did not expect that the spell would require so much magic energy. A whole three sparks! Coffinia, instantly understanding what the third spark meant, let out a victorious shout, and started to skip around the room. “IT WORKED! PUPER IS MINE!” she howled. Tanya unhappily looked sideways at her and already wanted to slam shut the book, but accidentally glanced at the page and froze. The letters of the spell spread out and, having changed into smoky rings, rose above the book. They hovered, shuffled, and formed into the words: We congratulate you! In the magic book of civil statuses, a record of the following content has been made: Gury Puper has fallen ardently and passionately in love with Tatiana Grotter. Reason for the feeling: remote magic against the background of primordial tendency. Tanya quickly waved her hands, accelerating the smoky rings. Interesting, did Coffinia notice or not? Luckily, no. The triumphant Cryptova was not up to reading any kind of smoky inscriptions there. Pressing the baked Puper to her chest, she, getting into the role, was already suggesting to it, “So, my darling! Time to prove your love! First, I need a
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palace! I don’t want to live in a room with her here! And then a diamond necklace! Buy or steal! Why, in your opinion, such a big broom and invisible raincoat for you?” “Oh, The Ancient One! It has to be! Why Puper for me! And what was Coffinia thinking? I modelled the figurine; I also cast the spell! Here’s some absurdity!” Tanya reflected with horror. Noticing that new smoky rings begin to rise above the book with the explicit intention of compiling into the same text, she quickly grabbed Amorous Zombification and flung the reference book onto the floor. The insulted book became a centipede and dashed to tattle to Coffinia. But, alas, hurrying to harm a fellow creature, the centipede picked the wrong route. No one saw how the awakened nestling jumped out of the nest. It came running sideways to the centipede, pretending complete non-interest in it, and then… “Ah-ah-ah! What lie will I tell Abdullah? Your foolish firebird gobbled up the book from the limited access stack!” Coffinia yelled. Chapter 5 Boots, Crown, and Sword The following morning found the best deputy lying on his stomach on the carpet and with a mop trying to fish the dachshund out from under the sofa. Uncle Herman was furious like forty thousands hungry vampires hurrying with their own bowls to the blood donor centre. “Come here, adventuress! You have to answer for your behaviour! What did you do with my boot? I have to be on the telecast on the rights of man — I’m not going there in slippers!” he hissed. One-and-a-half Kilometres maliciously growled from under the sofa at Durnev, snapped at the mop, but wisely had no intention of coming out. Especially as there was no one to protect it. Aunt Ninel was absent. It had been nine hours since she transported Pipa to the model agency Baby Doll Stars for a photo shoot. Recently Pipa had the false opinion that she had the figure of a mannequin. Aunt Ninel also found her daughter irresistible. “Only let them try not to take my girl! We’ll run over their ‘Stars’ with a tank! Isadora promised me!” she said. For the sake of always having on call a tank and a unit of the Special Force, Madame Durneva even renewed relations with Isadora Cutletkina. Leaving, Aunt Ninel laid out for Uncle Herman a suit and the polished boots, but the dachshund turned out to be brighter, and here Durnev had already been chasing it for half an hour, subjecting the thief to sharp criticism. The dachshund was old, the dachshund was foolish, but one thing it knew how to do capitally — the short legs allowed it to hide excellently under the furniture. It was possible to look into the wardrobe or to search for another pair of shoes in the hallway, but the obstinate deputy had hammered into his own head that he needed precisely these boots and nothing else. Finally, an hour before the telecast Uncle Herman gave up. After opening wide the storeroom, he started to pull all boxes out one after another haphazardly, until he reached the lower one. The best deputy did not have time to pull it to himself when something began to rattle, the box opened by itself as if by a powerful kick, and from it, jiggling the spurs, high black boots jumped out. Standing stock still, Uncle Herman grunted emotionally. He was touched. The icy heart flowed like melted ice cream in his chest. “I’ve long dreamt of such boots! Ninel for sure hid them for my birthday! What a smart
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cookie I have!” he said to himself. Durnev, thrilled and rolling his eyes, admired the boots. From under the sofa emerged the dachshund One-and-A-Half Kilometres with the adroitness of an experienced saboteur. Sneaking up to the boot on the edge, the dachshund wanted to seize it, but, after sniffing it, howled and jog-trotted, tail tucked in, into the hallway. Here it was easy to catch it, but Uncle Herman had already forgotten about it. All his attention was glued to the new boots. Having decided, he shed the old boot from his foot and, after pulling on the new ones, approached the mirror. His heart was aching sweetly. “Now this is style! Who will laugh now and say that I’m not fashionable? All will die of envy!” he exclaimed. Turning in front of the mirror, Durnev clicked his heels. The silver spurs, colliding, began to jiggle. Something flared up in the room. A blinded Uncle Herman mechanically closed his eyes and shielded them with a hand. He, as Genka Bulonov once did, decided that all the lights in the chandelier had exploded at once. But the chandelier was not the thing here. Uncle Herman was convinced of this, when he again opened his eyes. He saw that in the middle of the room, gazing around with curiosity, was a puny little man with a glossy red nose decorated with lots of little veins. His hair was dark and rigid like wires. He was dressed in a black robe with embroidered runes — so spacious that it would fit even Aunt Ninel. The little fellow looked to be about thirty. Having thought for a bit, Uncle Herman started to fill the surroundings methodically with invocatory howls. The thick ceiling of the government home indifferently swallowed Durnev’s hoarse roar. And Isadora Cutletkina’s working television set diligently multiplied by zero the powerful decibels of the promising politician. “Servant, are you here alone? Where is he? Answer, where?” the little fellow demanded, stepping out of a circle burnt in the nap of the carpet near his feet. (The poor new carpet of Aunt Ninel!) “Who?” Uncle Herman asked in a whisper. “And you’re still asking who? Your master Mozart!” The best deputy just blurted out carelessly that Mozart had died when red-nose burst out in a barking laughter. “Had died? Are you saying that Mozart had died? And it’ll be for you to know, worthless, he’s very much alive!” Uncle Herman finally ascertained that a psycho had run into his apartment. “Probably Ninel forgot to shut the door!” he surmised. “Better to nod agreement, and then summon the mad house.” “Do you mean to say that you are Mozart? Please excuse me, maestro, that I didn’t immediately recognize you!” Durnev exclaimed with enthusiasm. But he was already staring with caution at whether there was a knife in the psycho’s hands. Red-nose quickly put up his hand. A wide ring with a sparkling stone flashed on his ring finger. “Like a diamond, but, of course, fake. The medical orderlies take away all valuables from psychos,” thought Uncle Herman. “Oh no, worthless, I’m not Mozart! I’m Salieri! Kiss the ground in front of me!” Rednose rumbled in a terrible voice. Durnev became dumbfounded for a moment, but immediately came to his senses. “Certainly, certainly… The same one that poisoned Mozart!” he prompted, evaluating whether he could reach the phone and make the call.

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Red-nose froze. “You know what I was planning?” he asked dully. “You know about the cup with poison? Now I must kill you! Die, unlucky!” The psycho majestically raised his hand. The stone on his ring stared directly at Uncle Herman’s chest. “Flashus ruinis!” With his mouth open, Uncle Herman observed how a scarlet point inevitably approached him along the air. It already almost touched his chest, but here in the box behind his back was heard a strange sound, as if something moved out of a scabbard. The scarlet point turned pink and faded, having slightly singed the best deputy’s necktie. Red-nose pensively looked at his ring. He clearly expected some other result and was disappointed. “Aha! It didn’t work; you’re under someone’s protection… Okay, let’s go another route!” he muttered. The psycho ran up to the bar and, having fished out a bottle of red wine, actively began to pour some powder through the neck. “No matter, why not from a glass? Long time no see, old chap! Let’s drink wine to celebrate!” The reckless Salieri said in a deceitful voice and, holding the bottle in his hands, shuffled to Uncle Herman. Durnev began to blink quickly. He was afraid not so much of the poison, which he did not intend to drink, but of the bottle itself. The lunatic was approaching him with the gait of a ballet master suffering nerve damage. “Where are you hurrying to, dude? Let’s drink with grief, where’s a glass?” he sang, wiggling with his knees. Everything was mixed up with horror in Uncle Herman’s head. One of the runes on red-nose’s robe seemed like a carrot to him. This was indeed the overload, the last straw that broke the camel’s back. The best deputy’s eyes bunched up. “Don’t come near me, I’m Lithper the Wabbit! I can kick hard! I have thtrong hind legth!” he began to squeal. The psycho stopped from surprise. Seizing this opportunity, Uncle Herman turned his back towards red-nose and clumsily, like a mule, kicked with a boot. Because of the heavy boots, the impact turned out wonderfully well. Salieri was knocked back and, sitting down, pressed his temples with his hands. Little by little, the expression on his face changed. He became cheery and even frivolous. He stared in surprise at the best deputy, as if seeing him for the first time. “I beg forgiveness!” he started to prattle, rushing to embrace Uncle Herman. “I swear by The Ancient One, these three-dimensional spells will be the end of me yet! When consciousness droops under its weight in the astral body, any beyond spirit strives to move into the physical body. And who was I this time?” “Sa… Sal… Salieri…” With difficulty pushing aside Lisper the Rabbit in himself, Uncle Herman said. “Well now, you see! Again this Salieri!” Red-nose was not a bit astonished. “By the way, allow me to introduce myself! Fuji, instructor of magic essences from Magford! Can I hope to behold before my eyes the most honourable Academician Sardanapal Chernomorov, the for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox?” “Eh-eh-eh... No such person here!” Uncle Herman mumbled. “Why not?” Fuji was unpleasantly surprised. “Do you want to say he’s now away? In that case, please suggest to me where to wait for him. At the worst, I can even live in this pitiful closet in the rear of Tibidox.” Uncle Herman puffed up his cheeks in insult. Indeed — to call Aunt Ninel’s drawing room in the most expensive home on Rublev Highway “a pitiful closet in the rear of Tibidox!” The instructor of magic essences from Magford discovered in his hands a wine bottle, sniffed the neck, and gulped with interest. “Again poison!” he winced. “How
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monotonous! Please imagine, for 300 years in Magford they poisoned me eighteen times and cast the fatal curse twice. And every time these were either envious people or negligent students. Please imagine, they all claim that I’m a dreary idiot! Well, please tell me, do I really look like an idiot?” “Hmm… No! An idiot drools!” Uncle Herman hurriedly assured him. “Here even I say the same! What kind of idiot am I? My mummy always claimed: if you don’t pay attention, sooner or later they’ll leave you alone. But they didn’t — they got me year after year. Now I’ve decided that it’s time to move from Magford to Tibidox!” Fuji explained and, having again gulped some wine, started to giggle. Uncle Herman, with his acute nose for people, thought that before him was a complete cretin. However, he wisely decided not to announce this conclusion aloud. Strolling around the room, Fuji approached the window, looked outside, and instantly stopped chattering. “Is this really Tibidox? You can’t deceive me! This is moronoid world! Why did you summon me here?” he exclaimed. “I did not summon you! I’m late for TV! You leave or I’ll call security!” Uncle Herman wheezed and began to yell with all his might, hoping that they would hear him. Fuji plugged one ear with a finger and turned to Durnev with another. “Wow! Can you be even louder?” he was interested. Uncle Herman scooped air in with his nose and prepared for a new trill. But he did not even have time to shout when the instructor of magic essences made a motion with his hand, as if he turned the sound off in a receiver. Durnev yelled, but could not hear his own voice. He was so frightened that he nearly began to cry. “Interesting, how did this moronoid manage to change the direction of my teleportation? Changed it so that instead of Tibidox I am in this hole?” Fuji asked himself. Quickly looking over Uncle Herman, he squatted to his haunches and stared at the boots. “Oho, what a curious little specimen! So that’s why I turned up here! Now everything is understood. You’re a vampire! Moreover, a vampire deprived of magic abilities.” Uncle Herman cautiously verified with his tongue whether his canine teeth had come out. “I would ask you not to be rude to me! I’m not a vampire! I’m an elected representative of the people!” he bleated indignantly, if not his voice returning, then at least a resemblance of it. “Certainly, certainly!” Fuji agreed. He quickly stretched his hand out and tried to seize Uncle Herman’s boot, but a long serpentine lightning bolt coming off the spur stung his palm. The instructor of magic essences sighed and jerked back his hand. “That’s it! Stinging boots! Confess, moronoid, do you have nothing better besides these boots? From the same store, huh?” he asked, ambiguously winking. “I have nothing! Leave me alone!” Uncle Herman squeaked, feeling some strange tickling in his head. “Well, no, then no! Can’t even ask!” Fuji said peacefully. “Well, so long, little vampire! Time for me to go to Sardanapal! He summoned me for important business. As they communicated to me, the discussion deals with mysterious thefts. Well, but all the same you won’t understand! Even I with all my wisdom don’t understand the worthless!” He affably waved to Uncle Herman and, having wrapped himself up with the robe, began to revolve rapidly, releasing red sparks. Sticking to the robe, the sparks formed a cocoon.
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Soon it became so dense that it made Fuji look like a shining mummy. And another second later, when Uncle Herman, blinded by the glow of the sparks, closed his eyes, the half-crazy instructor of magic essences had disappeared. Chapter 6 Magic Running Low Bab-Yagun jumped on his vacuum and was the first to soar above the field. And immediately a gust of headwind stirred up the oratorical verbiage in him. “I congratulate everyone for a regularly scheduled dragonball training! Here I’m thinking, what interesting thing will happen to me today? At the last training, as everybody remembers, Mercury swallowed me. It swallowed out of pure curiosity. Probably it wanted to confirm whether I was as sour as Goryanov. Only when did it get to be so big? By the way, here’s a fresh idea: why not set up sofas and magic lighting in a dragon’s stomach? It would be possible to stretch out on the sofa and read all kinds of magazines there while the others are working hard.” Nightingale O. Robber glanced angrily at Yagun from the trainer’s bench, and immediately his coughing vacuum fell into an air pocket. Understanding the warning correctly, Yagun instantly changed the theme. “Dragon handlers open the gates of the third hangar, where, as is known, the young dragons, sons of Goyaryn, are kept… Hey, where are they? These younglings always rush outside when they see that the gates are barely open! What’s this sand spout? Why are the genies running away? Some are even knocked off their feet by someone unknown! A fiery volley! AHHHH! I still don’t understand where the flame came from! Rita On-The-Sly barely manages to dodge it… Zhikin’s mop is already blazing! I understand now! Nightingale O. Robber has made the dragons invisible and set them on the players of his team. Oh, my granny mama, and he’s the trainer! He has probably decided to destroy the old team and recruit a new one!” Bending down on his vacuum, Yagun started to rush like a lunatic along the field, miraculously avoiding collisions with the dragons. The other players were doing the same. Flame flared up left and right, scorching the skin prudently covered with vampire bile. Good that the young dragons’ fire was still not too hot. It seemed that there were not four but at least two-dozen dragons. They appeared suddenly, attacking the players from the most unpredictable directions. Only at the end of the training did the players, repeatedly burnt and dropped onto the sand, learn to guess the proximity of the dragons from the muffled strokes of their wings and the turbulence of the airflow. Zhora Zhikin had the ability in the most desperate position to avoid collision with a dragon rushing for his forehead, and Bab-Yagun, on each side of whom immediately stretched two sons of Goyaryn, made on the vacuum such a feint, which he would no longer know how to repeat even if he were to be exempted from all exams. Finally, Nightingale O. Robber, gloomily observing his players, whistled deafeningly. While the dragon handlers were bustling driving off the young dragons, all the time still fighting over Kuzya Tuzikov’s reactive broom, Nightingale, limping, was already hurrying towards the players. “Abominable! And this is a team? Ten grouches on brooms would manage better!” he stated. “But the dragons were invisible!” Goryanov was agitated.
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“And what of it? Perhaps you want them to notify their arrival by telegram?” Nightingale got mad. “Do you think that dragonball is only technique? Turns, evasions, bewitched passes? Yes, can’t work without them, but it’s all trifle, ptui! Dragonball — it’s the soul, dragonball — it’s the heart. You must widen internally and absorb the entire field into yourselves! Do you understand? To feel the dragons, your teammates, and the enemy! Everything instantly! Not only what they’re doing now, but also what they’ll do in five minutes! Only then is it possible to talk about a true game!” “Strict temporal telekinesis? Isn’t it forbidden?” Bab-Yagun asked knowledgeably. Nightingale began to click his tongue contemptuously. “Blockhead! Leave telekinesis to the scientific heads! I’m talking about the true intuitive feel of a dragonball player! Only it alone distinguishes a simply good player from a natural! No chance must bring you down from the vacuum, the double bass, or the violin! You must see dragons not with your eyes! You must feel them with your heart! Each motion, each vibration of the air! Otherwise neither pants with a sucker, nor glasses revealing the Invisibles, nor a sticky catcher’s mitt will help.” Yagun flushed and started to contemplate the pipe of his vacuum with such zeal, as if he had never seen it before. At the same time, he was pondering from where Nightingale knew about the anti-invisible glasses, which only the day before yesterday he ordered from the catalogue 10,000 novelties for a super dragonball player. Also a feeling or did the mail cupids make a slip of the tongue? Indeed the glasses were not even delivered! Finally, Nightingale finished rattling and vilifying the team. “We’ll continue tomorrow! And only let someone try to be late! For each minute of delay — an hour of mastering bewitched passes. Clear? Now out of my sight!” Having put the double bass away in the case, Tanya walked away from the field, but Nightingale, having hailed her, called her to himself. His single eye searchingly slid along the girl’s face. “If they never knocked you off the double bass today, then only because you looked so crushed. Troubles?” he asked. “Ne-a, everything’s normal. Simply I was preparing for exams all night. Next week we have evil spirits studies, and then immediately the exam with Tararakh and practical magic with Stinktopp,” said Tanya, lowering the heavy case onto the sand. Nightingale’s eyebrows moved together. “And who are you trying to deceive? Just because I’m a trainer who shouts at the players, it still doesn’t mean that I’m a complete idiot. Is Vanka better?” “Don’t know,” looking to the side, Tanya said. “It’s already the second week Yagge won’t let us see him. She even placed a block on the windows to keep out the cupids. It seems to Yagun and me that she’s simply hiding something very bad from us.” Nightingale shook his head. “Tried sneaking in?” he asked. “Yes, already three times. But every time Yagge intercepted us. Only how does she find out?” The trainer smiled. “Don’t underestimate the old lady. From whom do you think Slander learned to place notifying spells?” “YAGGE?” Tanya could not believe. “Exactly! Yet only Slander’s crackle like moronoid receivers nevertheless, and on top of that also shine, but Yagge’s are imperceptible and inaudible. If she doesn’t wish to let you into magic station, she won’t. But it’s still not grounds to play badly. If it continues this way, in the fall the Invisibles will not leave us any chance. They are training night
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and day, and mind we also stick to this without…” Suddenly Nightingale recollected and, as if punishing himself for indiscretion, pulled his beard as sparse as Genghis Kahn’s. “Without what?” Tanya quickly asked. “Unimportant. When necessary, Sardanapal himself will tell you… But keep up for the time being! I’ve long intended to give you this. Read a little! It’ll be of use to you.” Nightingale O. Robber, groaning, reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny book no larger than a matchbox. While Tanya was pondering what magnifier she must use to examine it, Nightingale uttered “Maximus gigantus!” and the book grew to the dimensions of a rather thick encyclopaedia. On the worn-out binding, clearly made of dragon skin, was printed: Daedalus Cretan. The Art of Dragonball. First, last, and only publication. The trainer opened the book slightly. Each figure in it was alive. The pages seemed clean, but the golden hand-written letters flared up on them as soon as the eye began to slide along the lines. “This is a special book. The only one where all secrets of dragonball are described. The author worked at it his entire life. Many would agree to clean dragon hangars to a shine for ten years only to read it. Even Abdullah does not have anything similar!” Nightingale said with pride. “Aren’t you glad? By the way, if you want it to shrink, pronounce ‘mizur lilliputos!’ The colour of the sparks makes no difference, although it, in my opinion, likes green better.” Tanya thanked him, hoping that Nightingale would notice nothing. Two weeks ago she would have been in seventh heaven, but now she did not even care to glance at the book. All her thoughts were there, behind the walls of magic station. Now and then, she even considered whether to break an arm or a leg on purpose in order to turn up beside Vanka. Having put away the book and said “thanks” again, she walked to Tibidox. Nightingale sternly looked at her from behind, with arms crossed on his chest. “Grotter! Hey!” he called loudly. Tanya turned around. “Do you by chance remember how many windows there are in magic station?” the trainer asked. “Four,” without a moment’s hesitation, Tanya answered. She and Yagun had examined the tower outside so many times, that she could picture it to herself with eyes closed. “Only four?” Nightingale hemmed and hawed. “Come on! I, an old fool, for some reason remember that there are five. The fifth, a dormer, is slightly higher. Once there was a pantry for magic station, but then they gave the garret to the Museum of the History of Tibidox. This was, by the way, Slander’s idea. He was eternally shouting that there was nowhere for him to store old relics. Earlier, before the museum, I remember there was a hatchway, which leads directly into magic station. For some reason everyone forgot precisely the garret window when they cast the spells… Hey, what’s with you? I was not suggesting anything! I’m only sharing recollections of my youth! For us sentimental elderly instructors, there can be nothing else.” Having run up to Nightingale and unable to restrain herself, Tanya kissed him on both cheeks. The one-eyed trainer was so stupefied that he sat down on the sand and, not being able to say anything at all, waved his hands, driving off the hangar genies rushing to his aid. And Tanya, throwing her arms around the double bass case, was already rushing towards Tibidox. ***
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In the evening Coffinia was lying in bed and doing crosswords for black magicians. She continually deadlocked and began to pester Tanya. “Hey, orphan! A likable vampire bat, issuing a pleasant buzz…” “A mosquito,” answered Tanya. “It fits!” Coffinia was pleased. “And now this: a wonderful machine for cutting heads?” “A guillotine!” “This also fits! Well, you’re a smart one, Grotty! Really Shurasik in a skirt!” “Uh-huh. And you’re Gunya Glomov with a manicure,” answered Tanya. She could hardly hide her impatience, waiting for Cryptova to fall asleep. However, it was dangerous to show this. If Coffinia suspected anything, she could easily not sleep the entire night. Finally, after deciding not to strain her brain anymore, Cryptova hurled the crossword magazine across the room. “Poor Pupie!” she dreamily said. “He’s probably longing for his Coffinia! He roams, hugs the broom! Soon he’ll begin to send cupids. That’s alright, let him suffer for the time being — he’ll begin to love more! And you, Grotty, are probably envious that I have such a beau? You indeed don’t have the least chance with him!” “Indeed not a chance for us white guards!” Tanya said, brushing off Black Curtains, on which Gury Puper, having stayed too long from Coffinia’s dream on Thursday, had long been dancing with a broom. Losing patience, she was almost ready to launch a Pointus harpoonus at Cryptova, but here Coffinia started to laugh happily, turned over to the wall, and began to snuffle. She always zonked out almost instantly, although she loved to chat before sleep. Tanya in a hurry slipped from the bed, got dressed, and, sneaking along the dark corridor, knocked on Bab-Yagun’s door. First once, and then three more times. They had agreed on this. Yagun looked out and beckoned her into his room. A spacious table in the middle of his room was covered with all possible adaptations for magic piloting and dragonball equipment. There remained only one far corner for notebooks and textbooks, where they were piled up like a picturesque pyramid, around which a nimble Tibidox spider had already woven a cobweb. Waiting for Tanya, BabYagun had not been wasting time and had lubricated all the joints of his vacuum. Four empty mayo jars were lying nearby. “See? Now my vacuum will work completely noiselessly! No one will notice us!” Yagun said contentedly. “Do you want me to sit in this puddle?” Tanya asked, examining the seat of the vacuum. “I say, a little was spilled! It’s not any mud! Outstanding mayo!” Yagun was offended. He wiped off the puddle with his palm and then licked his fingers. After using the far stairs, the friends managed to get out onto the wall, pussyfooted along it, and found themselves to be across from the low internal turret, which adjoined the Big Tower and seemingly no more than a step next to its gigantic neighbour. Precisely in this attached turret was magic station. The nibbled moon, shyly covering its flaw with violet clouds, was shining brightly. Tanya and Yagun sat on the vacuum. There were no flight blocks on the walls, only inside.

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After a short flight, the friends squeezed through the narrow garret window. The window, which Yagun contrived to break with the pipe of his vacuum, crunched with a muffled sound. “Oh! Oh well! All the same it had rotted,” justifying himself, he said. Tanya looked around. Silhouettes, similar to spectres concealed in white garments, towered in the narrow garret room with a semicircular ceiling. She carefully felt them on the outside without removing the covers. It was old furniture — sofas, benches, trunks. Near a wall, a wardrobe rose like a white cliff. Pictures in heavy frames hung on the walls — sad, grey pictures depicting terrible old men in powdered wigs and old women in caps. All the pictures were inanimate. Only in the hands of one of the old women was a live pug-dog, roaring with a bark approximating a child with a cold. “A bad artist! Why he drew such a bark from a wolfhound on a pitiful pug-dog!” BabYagun said with disapproval. “And now I definitely understand why no one comes here. A nightmarish place!” Tararakh was considered the keeper of the museum for the last two hundred years. However, the pithecanthropus could not stand anything inanimate. His heart was given to live magic essences, to which help was eternally necessary. For this very reason, the keeper was in the museum extremely unwillingly — only those days when a total solar eclipse fell on Friday the 13. This could be read on the door. Tanya silently studied one of the portraits, which reminded her of Hugo the Sly. But, alas, it was not Hugo. The disappeared white magician, who dwelled in his book, had still not been discovered, in spite of all efforts of Medusa and the Great Tooth. The one who sculpted the figurine of Tanya from wax had also not been found. Unexpectedly a squeak was heard from a far corner. The furthest of the covers was as if revived. Its obscure white silhouette either looked out of the wardrobe or restlessly fell back. Tanya and Bab-Yagun carefully approached. Tanya lifted the cover and understood that all the objects were protected by an invisible spell. “Interesting, why is it so? Ah, well!” she sat down on this object and leaned back. “Similar to an armchair-rocker, what do you think, Yagun?” “Squeak quietly, or you’ll wake Granny! Her room is right under us. And Granny halfawake is more dangerous than Stinktopp!” Yagun said expressing anxiety and set off to search for the hatchway. Tanya already wanted to jump off the armchair, but in the end accidentally leaned back a little stronger. Suddenly the rocker rose up in the air and hung above the floor. Out of surprise, Tanya caught hold of the armrest. The armchair pensively dangled in the air for a while, and then unwillingly descended onto its previous spot. The moment the runners of the rocker touched the boards, simultaneously hundreds of green sparks flared up in the garret. The rings of Tanya and Yagun instantly heated up, greedily absorbing the energy. It was not possible even to imagine how much magic was contained in this squeaky armchair. “Oho, The Ancient One was no fool in flying! Although the manoeuvrability in this thingamajig is a little worse than my vacuum! And probably presses into the back on turns!” Yagun said in a whisper, blowing on his ring. Tanya thought that her friend had finally gone crazy about his vacuum; he could think and talk about nothing else. After short searches, they discovered the hatchway. It was almost by the window itself, moreover not even blocked, but only covered with a woven runner. Yagun dragged the runner to the side and, seizing the ring with both hands, tried to raise it. No matter how
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hard he was breathing, the hatchway held on as if it was poured in. “Didn’t eat enough kasha! Dystrophicu from physedus!” Tanya let out a spark. At the same moment, the hatchway flew open with a crash, almost crushing Yagun’s foot. “Should have warned me!” Yagge’s grandson began to bawl, jumping on one foot. “Sorry! I thought you, as usual, mirrored my mind,” said Tanya. Over the past one-anda-half years she had time to learn hundreds of new spells and now used them almost without a moment’s hesitation. Not without reason Tararakh asserted that no matter how you dodge education, something nevertheless would stick. Helping each other, they carefully went down. A night-light was burning dimly in magic station. Vanka was sleeping curled up. Books and notebooks were scattered in disorder on the floor. A feather was fluttering above one of the notebooks, occasionally diving into the inkpot and writing line after line, preparing for its owner’s exams. Something gleamed in the deep crack next to the bed. Knowing Vanka, Tanya was ready to bet that he was unnoticeably pouring out Yagge’s medicine here. Not able to control themselves, Tanya and Bab-Yagun rushed to the bed and with glad exclamations started to pull at Vanka. It turned out not to be simple to wake him. Valyalkin moaned and buried his nose in the pillow. Only after prolonged shaking, he sat up on the bed and yawned. “Now I’ll give someone an evil eye! Stop!” he said and again began to fall back onto the pillow. “You’re alive! ALIVE!” Tanya shouted. The shaking light of the night-light fell on her face. Vanka stopped leaning over and finally woke up. He attentively looked first at one of his hands, then at the other. Then he touched his own forehead. “Oh, really. Why, don’t I look it?” he asked with uneasiness. “Of course you look it!” Tanya happily exclaimed. “We were so worried! Yagge wouldn’t let us see you.” “Clearly. She also wouldn’t let me out of here. She says I should be in bed. Then she brought a whole mountain of textbooks! I tell her that my head swells from them, and she stuffs me with toadstool liqueur against inflammation of craftiness. And I don’t see any logic in this: I can’t get up but I can prepare for exams,” snorted Vanka. “When will she release you?” “Somewhere in a week. If I don’t enchant the bed and fly around magic station in it. So Yagge says,” Vanka blew on the night-light. Tanya was certain: in order to see her better. “We sent cupids to you,” she said. “I saw them through the glass. Understood that it’s from you, but Yagge didn’t let them in here, and the cupids don’t understand sign language. They’re not very smart at all, especially when they receive candies first. How’s my firebird doing? Does it squeak in the mornings?” Tanya smiled. “Louder than a zoomer! Yesterday it accidentally set the nest on fire (almost caused a big fire!), and recently gorged Coffinia’s book from limited access. So that now I even don’t know how am I to shake off Pu…” She became silent, after considering that Vanka would hardly be pleased to hear that she made Puper fall in love with her. Although by mistake, it nevertheless did not change the matter. “From what pu?” Vanka asked suspiciously. “Pu? Did I really say pu? I had ‘poppycock’ in mind. There is this spell against nonsense!” Tanya said and in a hurry started to talk about the firebird.
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After staying with Vanka almost till dawn, she and Yagun intended to leave magic station by the same way, but suddenly the ceiling above their heads began to shake. Oak beams began to creak. Green sparks fell into the open hatchway. And an instant later the window upstairs flew open. A draft pulled at them. “Did you hear that? What was it?” Tanya asked. “What’s the difference? Magic objects eternally make a row before dawn,” said Bab-Yagun. Behind the partition, where Yagge slept, a cough was heard. They heard how she got up and, muttering something, groped for her slippers. “Granny’s awake! Let’s skip!” Yagun became flustered. Having gotten up onto the utility cabinet, he and Vanka pushed Tanya into the hatchway, and then, after placing his feet on Vanka’s shoulders, Bab-Yagun also lunged up there. Vanka quickly blew out the night-light and, already in the dark, heard the hatchway being lowered. When Yagge appeared on the threshold with a candle in hand, Vanka was already lying under the blanket and smiling barely noticeably. *** Meanwhile Tanya and Yagun froze thunderstruck by the hatchway. Yagun’s vacuum was floating in poured-out mayo. Here mermaid fish-scales were gleaming in the puddle of fat. The pipe was shuddering like a caterpillar attempting to crawl away. “I’m mad! Who did this? Let him confess or I’ll change him into a toilet brush!” Yagun began to yell. “Look over there!” Tanya said, touching his elbow. The piercing moonlight flooded into the wide-open window. A bright, white quadrangle was immediately noticeable on the dusty floor by the wall. The limp cover, like a deflated balloon, lay on the side. “Oh, my granny mama! While we were with Vanka, someone carried off the rocker of The Ancient One! Some people! Devilishly quick!” Yagun exclaimed. “Perhaps it skipped off by itself?” Tanya suggested, not believing it herself. “Uh-huh! And it gave my vacuum a kick purely in a friendly way that all the scales poured out of it! I’m really mad! No indeed, there was someone else here after us! Why do you think he shook out all this rubbish — in order to implicate me! Everyone in Tibidox knows that only I fuel the vacuum with mayo. It means I also stole the rocker!” Bab-Yagun squatted and, bending down in disgust, started to scoop scales and mayo back into the tank. “Ah, grease stains remain all the same! Well, just let me catch this snake! I’ll force him to eat all the balls for dragonball!” “Better yet for rottenball,” Tanya hesitated, recalling this lovely sport invented by Plague-del-Cake. The stairs leading to the garret began to shake. The door began to vibrate violently. Someone with his entire soul was thumping on it with his fists. “The cyclopes are breaking in here! My granny mama! Why did we not learn to change into flies?” Yagun whispered in alarm. The friends raced along the museum in search of shelter. They did not have time to fly away on the vacuum; the kidnapper with foresight cut off one of the talismans. Now the vacuum could only move up and down, after losing the capability for horizontal flight. Tanya, with a running start, flew to the white cover hiding something massive occupying
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the entire opposite wall. “Into the wardrobe! Yagun, bring the vacuum!” she shouted in an undertone, lifting the cover and in the darkness groping for the invisible door. Yagun, seizing the pipe of the vacuum as the only thing he could grab, had barely gotten into the wardrobe, when someone outside loudly pronounced the incantation for opening the bewitched doors. “Cyclopes, remain at the threshold! Don’t enter the garret! Don’t let anyone in or out!” Slander’s imperious voice was heard. Tanya clung to a crack. Luckily, there was a small hole in the cover directly at eye level. Into the garret, bending down in order not to bump into the low ceiling, entered Sardanapal, Slander Slanderych, and also a third person in a black robe with runes. Tanya saw him for the first time. Slander, squinting, looked around the garret. “Academician, we’re late! It’s gone,” he announced quietly. Sardanapal’s moustaches began to dance in alarm. “The cauldron, the canopy, now the rocker… Everything that we had! Not without reason was Professor Stinktopp in a panic long ago! Who, besides you, me, and Stinktopp, could even know that the basic reserves of magic were amassed precisely in these objects of The Ancient One?” he asked. “Many could know. Even senior pupils — they eternally sniff out everything! I even made up a small list of suspects,” informed the principal. Slander whispered something and a chubby office type notebook immediately appeared in his hand. “Here, be so kind as to take a look! A complete enumeration of suspects! I composed it even before the crime!” he said with satisfaction. “Well, well!” Sardanapal leafed through it in passing “But almost all of Tibidox is here!” “Not almost all, but all! In alphabetical order!” proud of his foresight, the principal said. “I even included the ghosts in it, although they likely could not be involved directly. But better be safe.” “Oho! And here even I, and Docent Gorgonova! Well, what if Medusa finds out and gets angry? Aren’t you afraid?” Sardanapal smiled. Slander cautiously drew his head into his shoulders. “No need to threaten here! I’m also in the list. Under the letter ‘S’. I even suspect myself!” he said in a hurry. “Suspect more!” Sardanapal returned the notebook to him. “It’s been a very long time that we had such troubles. All basic sources of magic have been stolen from Tibidox. Almost nothing remains. Even the spell of passage did not stop the thief.” “Or the thief was one of us, from Tibidox...” prompted the principal. “So much more shameful. You know, Slander, I undertook all possible measures to preserve these objects. I even invited a specialist from Magford,” Sardanapal indicated the young person darting about around the garret with the purposefulness of a bloodhound. On hearing that the discussion had to do with him, the young person smiled deferentially and ran up to them. “And what do you think, Fuji? Do you have a prognosis how all this can end?” the academician asked him. The instructor of magic essences stopped smiling and forced out a sad sigh, considering it more becoming to the situation. However, it was obvious that he was terribly contented that they turned to him with a question. “Mmm-ehh… The prognosis is most unfavourable.” “In what sense?”
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“Imagine that new water stops going into the well. Then sooner or later, following elementary logic, all the old water will be scooped dry and…” clearly intending to talk forever, Fuji began. Slander, who definitely did not like the young person, waved him off like brushing off an importunate fly. “Brilliant! Why not say it simpler? If we don’t find the magic objects and return them to their places, we’ll be left without magic! There will be nothing to infuse into our rings, and that’s it, the end!” Fuji sighed even more sadly, demonstrating the last degree of grief. He even reached for a hanky and dried his eyes. Having finished with the eyes, he wiped his nose too. Simply for a complete set. “Everything will be precisely so. Lamentable enough. Alas! You very accurately expressed my thought, colleague,” he admitted, with his own words bringing Slander almost to fury. “Canopy, cauldron, rocker… Someone wants to control personally all the magic in the world. To accumulate all things of The Ancient One in one pair of hands. Terrible to think what power the one who succeeds will assume,” Sardanapal pensively said. He reached the window and, after touching the broken window, added, “In case we recover nothing, only one thing will save us all. The throne of The Ancient One. The main magic object of Tibidox.” Fuji nodded in agreement. But then Slander Slanderych only winced. “I heard about the throne of The Ancient One. An old foolish legend! Allegedly one should turn to it in hopeless situations, when all other reserves of magic are exhausted.” “Now is precisely this moment,” Fuji quickly interjected. He was irritated that the principal did not take him seriously. “Let’s assume so. But the whole point is that there is no throne whatever in Tibidox! I know every brick here! Really and truly bricks! I already hung an inventory number on every beetle in the basement! If the throne existed, it would be known to me.” Sardanapal shook his head. “It’s not a legend, Slander! The throne of The Ancient One actually exists; indeed, you can believe me. Its magic energy is hundreds of times more than that of the rocker, canopy, and cauldron together. This is the only reserve magic source, which will be enough for millennia. True, this magic will be freed if and only if the throne is discovered. Not sooner.” The academician looked with hope at the invited specialist. “Fuji, I asked you to go around Tibidox. Do you surmise where the throne of The Ancient One is? Have you at least any hypothesis?” Fuji threw up his head. His nose beamed maniacally. He believed that now he would be able to chatter as much as he wanted and no one would stop him. “You see, the magic essences, which I have now studied for 300 years already, are little understood. Outwardly, the object often seems not what it is in reality. For example, a flowerpot in actuality can be a magic spear or helmet, and some antiquated stool — a sceptre of authority. And no one will surmise this until the hour strikes. Therefore, I’ll not be surprised if the throne of The Ancient One now takes the form… of eh-mm-eh… an old trunk or tomb. But here when the hour strikes…” “This we already heard…” Sardanapal impatiently cut him short. “Of more interest to us is this hour when it breaks through. Can you shed us some light?” Fuji puffed up his cheeks. He was so filled with importance that he almost took off like a balloon to the ceiling. “Certainly! I already made the calculations based on a whole series of magic formulae. If no special measures are undertaken, the throne of The
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Ancient One will appear on its own no earlier than a month, but no later than two thousand years.” Sardanapal and Slander exchanged glances. “The time period is exceptional. Is it possible to accelerate the process somehow?” the academician asked softly. “Undoubtedly” Fuji nodded. “A rite of liberation, which is known to me very well, is able to free the true essence. But this rite is sufficiently labour-consuming and requires significant concentration. And isn’t it, in fact, prohibited to free the essence from all kinds of rubbish, which there are plenty of in Tibidox? Now I ask to be excused! I must absent myself! One extraordinarily important thought just came to me and I must write it down. For some reason, I always forget my most valuable thoughts. Exactly why my enviers from Magford spread an absurd rumour about me, as if I’m a complete idiot!” Fuji in a moralizing way raised a finger up towards the ceiling and dashed away in a business-like manner. It was heard how he shouted in the corridor to the cyclopes attempting to bar his way. “Academician, why did you invite this cre... fellow?” Slander asked. “How would I know what he adds up to? Now I can’t even send him back — it’ll require too much magic energy, and we have practically none. In any event, I understand why they at Magford so willingly pushed him on me!” Sardanapal answered with regret. Suddenly something caught the attention of Slander. He got down on all fours and started to smell the floor. It seemed to Tanya from her refuge that in official zeal he even licked it. “Aha, a greasy spot of mayo! Fresh! Who would have expected it here, eh?” the principal was suspiciously interested. “Really, where? And for some reason it smells of mermaid. You would recognize this fish smell from a thousand,” Sardanapal remarked seemingly in passing. Slander jumped. His ragged eyebrows angrily crawled to his forehead. “I would ask you not to hint! Mermaids have nothing to do with this place! They don’t wander around Tibidox at night and don’t sneak into garrets!” “But there’s the smell. I hope you will not argue about this?” “It means nothing!” “Then the mayo spot can also mean nothing. In any case, it cannot give grounds for specific conclusions. Isn’t that so?” Sardanapal asked. The principal began to gnash his teeth. He could not stand it when being put in place. “Until now we haven’t searched the garret! What if the thief is still here? I’ll turn him into a zombie right on the spot! He’ll be sorry that he wasn’t born just a moronoid!” he stated. The suspicion that the kidnapper of the cauldron, canopy, and rocker could turn out to be somewhere hereabout led Slander into extreme excitation. He started to run around the garret, tearing away covers from the furniture and uttering the spell of visibility. As it always happened to the principal at such moments, red sparks fell alternately with green ones from his ring. Finally came the turn of the wardrobe. In a vain attempt to make herself as small and inconspicuous as possible, Tanya pulled her elbows to her chest. She wanted to grab BabYagun’s hand, but instead caught the pipe of the vacuum and almost cried out in horror, not understanding in the dark what it could be. The principal already seized the cover to tear it away with one motion, but precisely at this moment, Sardanapal said offhandedly, “Slander, even if someone is in this wardrobe, which I doubt, it’s nevertheless useless to search for him.”
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“Why?” The principal tensed. “Look at the plaque. This is the magic wardrobe of Catherine II. One hundred people can hide in it, such that an entire division of detectives will still not discover them. Even, see, if they dismantle the wardrobe down to the boards. How do you think it would turn up in the museum otherwise?” After understanding that the academician was right, Slander unwillingly dropped the cover and walked away from the wardrobe. “Let’s go! Most likely, the scoundrel had time to run out!” he grumbled. “Well, and what will we do next? How will we deal with the students?” Without answering, Sardanapal crossed the garret and stopped at the door. His face became severe and sad simultaneously. “One way out and it’s obvious. Actually, it’s the same situation as a year ago when the titans destroyed Tibidox. Do you understand me?” “No.” “Pity. Must preserve the remaining magic or it’ll run dry in several days. But it’s impossible to preserve magic with so many students here, each uttering hundreds of incantations each day. All students must return to the moronoid world and remain there until the throne of The Ancient One is discovered. Until this time it’s unsafe and even costly to have them here.” “And exams?” “We’ll move the exams to the fall. Or the end of summer. I don’t see another solution!” “Right you are!” Slander was inspired. “Really, didn’t I always propose the same? To the moronoids for these little idlers! The entire school to the moronoids! They’ll do things there and in the fall I’ll turn them into zombies!” Sardanapal smiled. “No-no, Slander, you, as always, didn’t listen… Not only will the students leave for the moronoid world. A portion of the instructors also has to leave Tibidox. Including you,” said the academician. The stupefied principal stumbled on level ground. “Me? To the moronoids?” he asked again. “Of course,” Sardanapal said inflexibly. “Moreover without your magic ring and without the right to use spells.” “WHAT? WHY?” “Someone must set an example to conserving magic energy. And who can this be if not the second in charge? Understand me correctly, Slander. The children are the most valuable that we have. To whom can I entrust his or her safety if not the one in whom I have full confidence? You will protect them and not allow them to do anything stupid so that we would not have problems in the fall... Isn’t that so? And in order that you would not be lonely, you can take the mermaid with you. I’m sure she will endure the journey just fine, especially as it’s necessary for you to fly over the ocean.” Slander turned yellow with malice. He already understood that the decision of the academician was final and to dispute him was senseless. Muttering that he would try hard so that the little sneaks would remember for a long time their stay in the moronoid world, he ran out. The cyclopes walked pigeon-toed after their chief. Sardanapal lingered yet for a minute. Tanya, as before not tearing her eyes off the slot, saw that, leaving the museum, the academician turned to the wardrobe and, frowning, threatened with the right moustache. His left moustache stretched into an exclamation
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mark at the same time, and the beard flickered reproachfully. “This was the very-very last of all the last warnings!” As if addressing no one, the academician loudly said. The girl froze. Having come to her senses, she nudged Bab-Yagun with a foot, but instead of Yagun the vacuum again rolled up to her. How could they hope to hide anything from Sardanapal? From the very beginning, it was known to the academician that they were here. But he did not give them away, even deftly drove the curious Slander away from the wardrobe. Why did he do this? Is it because he knew that they have nothing to do with the theft of The Ancient One’s rocker? Moreover, the head of Tibidox knowingly allowed them to eavesdrop on his conversation with Slander. Why? Was it simply out of pity or because he had some reasons of his own? Chapter 7 Roucli-Boucli-Sympapoucli In the morning, joyless news awaited all. In the Hall of Two Elements, blazed the announcement woven from tongues of fire: ATTENTION! A BLOCK IS PLACED ON RINGS! USE OF MAGIC IS LIMITED TO ONE SPELL A DAY! EXAMS HAVE BEEN MOVED TO AN INDETERMINATE DATE. FLYING TO THE MORONOIDS (STAY AT MORONOID PLACE) TODAY AT 16:00. GATHER ON DRAGONBALL FIELD. RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLIGHT — DENTISTIKHA AND SLANDER SLANDERYCH. The students, lost, understanding nothing, crowded by the announcement. Fuji and Professor Stinktopp, also in the hall, did not answer questions, waiting until Sardanapal approached. Dusya Dollova and Verka Parroteva sobbed. Rita On-The-Sly nibbled a hanky with her strong white teeth. At the same time she hit Shurasik’s finger for his expression of sympathy butting in inopportunely. Shurasik sadly went away, nursing his finger. He did everything in the world with good intentions and absolutely everything at the wrong time. And it was the saddest. The development of Shurasik and the surrounding world could in no way be in sync. On the other hand, Coffinia appeared not especially distressed. She strolled along the hall and, akimbo, told everyone indiscriminately, “Well, you lived to see on what island we live! They’re sending us to the moronoids! Doesn’t matter, my Pupie will find me anywhere! Indeed I won’t be returning to this hole!” She used her only spell for the day to print a whole bundle of residency cards. On each card appeared: COFFINIA PUPER (Cryptoff) Coffinia Cryptova (Puper) Address: England, Dragonball School of the Invisibles. “Cryptoff — this I still understand! But since when have you become Puper? Somehow, I don’t remember your wedding! Or you simply forgot to invite me?” Katya Lotkova said mockingly, examining the card handed to her. “There hasn’t been a wedding yet. But there will be, and very soon. And some insolent little witch will be left out in the cold,” Coffinia assured her.
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“This we’ll see!” Katya snorted. “Why does Puper need you at all? Without you they also have harpies on the field to scare people away!” An enraged Coffinia tried to put an evil eye on Lotkova, but her ring did not work for a second time. Besides, Katya had not yet used her spark for the day, and Coffinia was forced to put off her vengeance. “Doesn’t matter!” she hissed, “He who laughs last laughs the loudest!” “Nonsense!” Lotkova categorically stated. “The one with good teeth laughs the loudest! But this doesn’t relate to you. So giggle to yourself into a hanky, Citizen Cryptoff!” Into the hall entered Sardanapal, Dentistikha, Slander Slanderych, and soon after them Medusa. Her copper- red hair was tied up with a kerchief, but all the same, it was obvious that it was hissing and trying to become snakes. Docent Gorgonova clearly did not like the announcement that Sardanapal was going to make. It became instantly quiet in the hall. So quiet that even the hoarse breathing of the Atlases, holding the arches above the stairs, was audible. The academician stopped in the middle of the hall in the mosaic circle with runes. He tried to look above the heads. His eyes behind the glasses gleamed suspiciously. Apparently, finding it tactless to tease their owner at this hour, both moustaches and the beard were behaving like good children. The moustaches thoughtfully supported the loose arcs of the glasses. “My friends! My little friends! We are very ashamed that everything has turned out so, but magic energy on Buyan is running low. Someone, whom, until now, we have not been able to discover, has stolen from Tibidox the objects that once belonged to The Ancient One. For this very reason, all of you will have a long flight today to those moronoid cities, where you lived earlier. Accompanying you will be Slander Slanderych and Dentistikha. They will remain with you, ready to come to your aid on your first call…” “As if I would call Slander for help! I’d sooner agree to eat a live mouse!” Bab-Yagun whispered. Since the morning, he had already nosed out from his granny that he also had to fly to the moronoids. Sardanapal displayed obstinacy inconceivable for him, sending home even the freshmen. Certainly, no one intended to make an exception of Yagun, almost fifteen years old. It was decided that Bab-Yagun, who had nowhere to go, would settle with Tanya at Uncle Herman’s. But Vanka would remain in Tibidox. Yagge flatly refused to release him, stating that with such a concussion the boy would only be able to fly on a stretcher and no further than the cemetery at that. Here Sardanapal could not but yield to her. “And now I am appealing to the members of our team. A great pity that dragonball training has to end now, when the match is so close. But too much magic has to be expended to flights and maintenance of the magic field around the stadium. In this regime of the strictest savings, which we have introduced, we cannot allow even our players to remain in Tibidox for the summer,” continued Sardanapal, casting looks at Nightingale O. Robber, standing still with a stone face. Tanya again thought with horror about what she was thinking the whole time last night — Uncle Herman and Aunt Ninel. Does she really have to live with them again? She had only just begun to hope that she had taken leave of this nice family forever. Good at least that Bab-Yagun will be with her. If, of course, the Durnevs will let him stay. Today they
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are leaving at four, so this evening a surprise is waiting for Uncle Herman and Aunt Ninel. Then suddenly a sharp recollection, in no way connected with the Durnevs, woke up somewhere in the labyrinths of her memory. She recalled the indistinct figure she saw in the twilight not far from Tararakh’s room: a grey silhouette dragging something bulky. Now she finally understood what he had in his hands. The vanished cauldron of The Ancient One! That being the case, then he also stole the canopy and rocker! “Yagun! Get your things; I have to call on someone! I’ll return soon!” Tanya said quietly and slipped from the hall. In the confusion that broke out after Sardanapal’s announcement, it was really simple to disappear unnoticed. Soon Tanya was already at Tararakh’s den. She would not risk appearing unexpectedly in, say, Sardanapal’s office or Medusa’s room without an invitation, but it was an entirely different matter with Tararakh. He loved it when they dropped in casually. Moreover, there was a special reason for this visit. Tanya knocked. No one answered and she understood that Tararakh, most likely, had disappeared to the dragon hangars. There was no longer time left to search for him. “Has to be so… I hope he won’t be offended!” Tanya thought. Pondering how to get in, the girl already wanted to use her only spark for the day, but recalled just in time where the pithecanthropus hid the key. Tararakh was not a magician and locked his door the same way as moronoids. Putting the key into the lock, Tanya thought that she preserved the spark opportunely. It could prove useful in the evening — who knows what forms of delight she would get from Uncle Herman and Aunt Ninel. Tanya entered and, plucking up all her spirit, jerked back the curtain dividing the den into two parts. The Sleeping Adonis, with hands on his chest, was lying in the crystal coffin. The expression on Gottfried Bouillon’s face was the haughtiest. “Listen, Gottfried! You don’t by chance roam Tibidox at night and drag away The Ancient One’s things? If it’s you, then it’s better for you to immediately return everything to its place, or I don’t envy you! I swear by my double bass!” Tanya said not very decisively. The Sleeping Adonis did not even open his eyes, but it seemed to the girl that he heard her perfectly. Of course, there was neither cauldron nor rocker nor canopy in or next to the coffin. Most probably, the phoney villain hid them somewhere hereabout, but clearly not in Tararakh’s den. “So, you won’t return them in an amicable way, no?” Tanya asked. Not answering, Gottfried Bouillon cumbersomely turned to the other side. The crystal coffin shook on the chains. Tanya threatened the lethargic one with a fist and drew the curtain. “Pity I can’t tell Sardanapal everything! Then he’ll find out that Tararakh made a slip of the tongue to me about Gottfried. Can’t tell Tararakh either: he’ll understand that I didn’t follow Adonis at night… Well, no matter, this sleepy kleptomaniac won’t get away with it!” she thought. Something familiar chomped in the wall. Tanya surmised that they were spying on her. Moreover, terribly awkwardly. So awkwardly that only one character known to her was capable of it. “Lieutenant!” Tanya hailed. “Lieutenant!” Lieutenant Rzhevskii’s face stuck out from the wall. “How did you guess it’s me?” he asked. “Only you would chomp so loudly! What, can’t filter through the walls noiselessly?” Tanya said.
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“I can. But more interesting this way. Besides, it’s my trademark,” explained Rzhevskii. Tanya thoughtfully looked at Lieutenant. Right then one thought came to her. “Rzhevskii, we’re flying away today,” she began. “I know,” confirmed the spectre. “Lady, Eyeless Horror, and I also asked, but they turned us down. They said that it’ll be enough stir to the moronoids already. Allegedly last time we caught the eyes of a pile of people too often and upset them!” “Listen, Rzhevskii… Not as a service, but in friendship. While we’re not here, will you follow someone?” Interested, the spectre began to make noises with the knives. He perked up noticeably, although he tried not to show it. “Who?” he asked offhandedly. “This Adonis here! I have a suspicion that he’s indeed not sleeping as he seems…” “Are you saying he’s a spy? Now I’ll not take my eyes off him! Here, I’ll only tune my eyesight,” Lieutenant Rzhevskii assured her. Not putting aside for tomorrow what it was possible to do today, he immediately started to shake out his eyes from their sockets and rub them with a sleeve of his uniform. Tanya turned away in a hurry. It was useless to reprove the brash spectre. Rzhevskii would only begin to do it to spite her. Foolish, of course, to have to seek the aid of this unreliable companion-in-arms, but what else can you do? “If anything happens, immediately send a cupid to me! Clear?” “Easily! At least a dozen! No problemo, I’ll now stick to this character like a shadow!” Rzhevskii assured her, screwing into a crack in the floor. *** Towards four, the entire school was assembled in the large dragonball field of Tibidox. Hundreds of students, knapsacks, trunks, vacuums, mortars, mops, teeth-rattling helicopters, and even long swooping carriers, for those who preferred to fly as a group or simply feared height, were everywhere and anywhere. The field was so jam-packed that the harpies hovering in the sky were at a loss, not knowing on whom to spit. Soon they became so confused that they fought among themselves and with disgusted cries flew away into the forest. Slander Slanderych produced more noise and fuss than everybody did. He contrived to be simultaneously in all places and butted in everywhere. Tanya noticed that there was no longer a ring on the principal’s finger and he, hiding this, always tried to conceal his hand in his pocket. Dressed in moronoid military camouflage, Slander resembled a military instructor. For validity, he would only need an officer’s strap, whistle, and binoculars. The things Slander had with him were only a small knapsack and a keg with the mermaid. So that the mermaid would not fall out, the keg was tightly corked and was even labelled with the disguise: Lightly Salted Atlantic Herring. It was assumed that the label would fake out the moronoids and they would not want to poke their noses in there. The principal somehow did not consider that barrels do not fly at all in the moronoid world. The Great Tooth, who earlier had hardly ever left Tibidox, from want of habit, took with her so many trunks that in no way could she place them on her hovering bed with vertical takeoff, and she was terribly nervous.
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The farewell was brief. “Success! We’ll try to bring you back as soon as possible! I promise you!” Docent Gorgonova shouted. “And don’t forget to prepare for exams! ‘Postponed’ doesn’t mean ‘cancelled’! As soon as we discover the lost items or new reserves of magic, you will return!” Sardanapal admonished all. He did not even hint about the throne of The Ancient One. Finally, the academician glanced impressively at Tanya, as if he was emphasizing that the secret must remain a secret, even if someone was hiding in the wardrobe in an inopportune hour. Tararakh kept silent. But then he hugged Tanya so many times that he almost broke all her bones. On the side, Professor Stinktopp blew his nose into his rat coat and twirled the spoon on a chain on his stomach. Either he was also suffering or he was secretly glad that everyone was leaving. “Get on your vacuums!” Slander deafeningly bellowed, hiding in an enormous crow’s nest, accommodating him for the flight. For economy, Dentistikha released from her ring a single spark necessary for the operation of spells. “Hastenus plodus!” a whole choir exclaimed. Tanya and Bab-Yagun would have preferred Speedus envenomus, but Slander stated that all must move as a group, and personally would not envy those, who would separate and fly ahead. As he would not envy those, who would utter anything besides Hastenus and Pilotus kamikazis (for benches, beds, and clumsy carriers). Immediately after the utterance of the spells, hundreds of vacuums, mops, mortars, and musical instruments simultaneously rose above the dragonball field, hung for several instants, and afterwards, forming a kind of wedge not unlike a well sweep, aimed for the invisible barrier separating Buyan from the moronoid world. “Grail Gardarika!” Dentistikha shouted. Seven intertwined rainbows flared up. The magic curtain parted. The wind flung the greyish foam of the waves and biting drops into their faces. They flew over the ocean. Nothing curious took place during the flight, except that Gunya Glomov swallowed a flying fish, the cuckoo flew away from Liza Zalizina, and Shurasik fell from the vacuum into the ocean and peacefully set off to the bottom, but he was fished out and forced to dry off. *** That same June evening, Aunt Ninel and Uncle Herman were sitting on the sofa and cooing tenderly. So that she would not interfere, Uncle Herman lent Pipa his yataghan, and she left for her room to disembowel soft toys. She called this procedure “playing poleaxe-head.” “Poor girl! Not surprising that she has become so antsy!” Aunt Ninel sympathetically said. “Imagine, Herman, in school they have been assigned to read a nightmarish novel. Dead Ears, or something. Have you ever heard of such a thing?” “Tell her that I allow her not to read it. It’s not enough that they already dream all kinds of filth at night. Indeed must think up such things — Dead Ears! This is even beyond Professor Flank!” Uncle Herman said. Lately the best deputy drank only red wine and ate exclusively beefsteaks with blood. He simply could not look at anything else. But the strangest was not even Uncle Herman’s attachment to beefsteaks, but to the boots with spurs. He did not remove them even at night, and when he walked along the corridors of
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the Dumas, the spurs jiggled terribly. Those who envied Uncle Herman even called him Puss in Boots. Aunt Ninel feasted her eyes on her husband. She found his emaciated hand on the sofa and placed it on her knees. “Whose little hand is this?” she asked. This was their special family game, begun long before the appearance of Pipa. “And you’re still asking whose hand is this? It’s Herman Durnev’s, honourable chairman of V.A.M.P.I.R.!” smiling languidly, the best deputy answered. Happiness spread through Aunt Ninel. “And whose little feet are these?” “These are the feet of Herman Durnev, chairman of V.A.M.P.I.R., and perhaps even the future president. Did I tell you? The best party almost agreed to support my candidature. They hinted to me: if all the other twenty candidates refuse, I will automatically remain the only one!” not being able to contain himself, Uncle Herman bragged. “But will they refuse?” Aunt Ninel doubted. “Naturally! I’ve almost convinced them!” Uncle Herman said, slightly advancing his eyeteeth. “Oh, my baby! My lion!” Having experienced a sudden burst of tender emotions, Durneva threw her arms around the most important vampire and started to rock him on her knees. The heart of Aunt Ninel always melted when Uncle Herman manifested ambition. Bouncing on his wife’s knees, the best deputy was floating on clouds of bliss. “Ah, Herman! I even dream that the Americans would conquer us! In that case, I would not be the least bit worried. Better for them not to find you as President!” kissing her husband’s ear, Aunt Ninel whispered. Durnev restlessly stirred. “Ninel! For some reason they haven’t sent me my regalia!” he complained in a whine, for a minute looking out of the clouds. “A nightmare! Why would that be?” Aunt Ninel said and, calming her husband down, started to rock him doubly fast. The descendant of Count Dracula smacked his lips like a baby and closed his eyes. He did not know yet that there was quite a short time left for him to revel in bliss. A bell began to jingle. “Oh, it’s Isadora Cutletkina! She was going to look at the photos from Pipa’s first shoot!” Aunt Ninel exclaimed. Without looking at the TV screen or into the eyehole, she rushed to the door and opened it. In the next moment, Aunt Ninel’s deafening howl spread through all the floors of the government building. Uncle Herman with dumbbells and Pipa with the yataghan immediately rushed to her aid. They were certain that bandits were attacking the apartment. “Mom, you hold them and I’ll chop them up like cabbage!” Pipa cheeped in a warlike manner, seeing nothing behind the wide back of her mama. The best deputy looked out at the landing, sighed, and dropped the dumbbells on his own foot. Tanya and Bab-Yagun were standing on the landing. Tanya waited for a while for at least some greeting. She thought that they would grumble a “Hello!” or give a friendly smile. But the Durnevs looked at her like at a snake. “Good day! I see you are terribly glad to see us! May we go through?” Tanya said. Aunt Ninel did not even move aside. “And what’s this with you?” she sullenly asked. “Not what, but who!” Tanya corrected her. “And who’s this?” Durneva caustically made it more pointed. “Bab-Yagun.”
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“What’s this, a criminal nickname? I don’t doubt that you will be connected with criminals!” Aunt Ninel grimaced. She related distinctly negatively to criminals. Despite the fact that even Uncle Herman sometimes met with shady characters in some of his business dealings. “Bab-Yagun — it’s his name. He’s also staying here for a while. You won’t object?” Tanya asked, already understanding that the last question might as well have not been asked. Uncle Herman pursed his lips. “And where are his parents? Probably in the slammer?” he asked. “His mom had died. Yagun only has a grandmother, but she’s far away, not in Moscow,” Tanya tried to be patient. Aunt Ninel threw up her hands. She was simply seething with indignation. “What a disgrace! The punk is only thirteen and already brought with her a fellow! Your Uncle Herman and I met for two years before I let him kiss me!” “Mommy, but you were married three times before Daddy!” Pipa could not control herself. “Unimportant! I wasn’t thirteen!” Aunt Ninel cut her off. “Think, Herman, this cheeky one dragged her own fellow to our home! And I have the circles before my eyes! Now I’ll not fall asleep even at midnight!” Pipa, dying of curiosity, pushed her head through between her mother’s legs. She wanted awfully to see Bab-Yagun, and her parents were blocking up the entire door. “Do you see his ears? And can’t find some other ears? Mommy, don’t let them in! It’ll be a bad example for me!” she began to squeal. After hearing the opinion of his little daughter, Uncle Herman decisively stepped out to the landing and, lifting up his skeleton-like hand, pointed to the stairs. “Now get away from here! So that I won’t see you anymore! Live in the station, in a dumpster, and forget the way here!” he shouted. Tanya pressed the double bass to herself. She was also ready to live in the station, if only to be far away from the family of her distant relative, but Slander promised that he would check on each student once every three days. And grief to those who turned out not to be on the spot. “Only try using magic on the street and in public places!” he stated. “Well, march, or I’ll call the guard! Ninel, the phone!” Uncle Herman again shouted. He did not dare to push Tanya out himself: he remembered what it accomplished once when he tried to box her ear. Bab-Yagun interrogatively looked at Tanya. He already understood that it would be impossible to remain with the Durnevs with the normal, non-magical method. Tanya nodded. She also agreed that there was no other way out. “Roucli-boucli-sympapoucli!” Bab-Yagun said in an undertone. His ring flashed with a green spark. Before it faded, the spark quickly touched the heads of Uncle Herman, Aunt Ninel, and Pipa. Roucli-boucli-sympapoucli was the spell of sympathy. A complex spell, which was not studied earlier than third year. Sympathy was measured at cannibalistic doses. In other words, the power of one spell was usually enough so that one hungry cannibal, already almost having strung you onto the spit, would become your best friend. But the Durnevs for some reason did not hurry to become their best friends. “What trick is that? March from here! No use blowing up firecrackers here!” Uncle Herman again shouted. He took the spark for a firecracker.
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“A complex case! They so hate us that one cannibalistic dose is too small here!” BabYagun whispered. “Tanka, your turn now, my sparks are done for the day!” Tanya concentrated. Now much depended on whether it would turn out for her. “Roucli-boucli-sympapoucli-triple normoucli!” glad that she had kept today’s spark, she pronounced the intense form of the spell. The Durnevs stiffened. Little by little, the magic penetrated them. “Okay, Herman, stay! Let them live here for the time being, and then we’ll show them the door to somewhere!” Aunt Ninel muttered. The best deputy shook his head. He sensed that something had happened to him, but he did not understand what. “Fine. Tanya will sleep on the balcony, and the boy in the room. I hope he won’t steal anything. I’ll warn the guard downstairs to search him every time,” he remarked. “No so bad sympathy! And they’re as thick as cyclopes! Yagun hammered one dose into them, and I a triple! And they just barely permitted us to stay!” Tanya thought. She picked up the case with the double bass and dragged it along the hallway past Uncle Herman. After giving her a look with the frank desire to mutilate showing through, Durnev moved aside. Yagun hurried after her, the chrome-plated pipe catching the wallpaper. “How do you like that, what a young man Grotter has! Not simply came so, but with his own vacuum!” Pipa hissed into her mother’s ear. “Don’t get any ideas, daughter! Would at least be a normal vacuum or some trash! I’m certain he found it in the dump,” said Aunt Ninel. Bab-Yagun’s back stiffened. His protruding ears flared up, turned crimson, and became red-hot to such an extent that it immediately became hot in the hallway. Uncle Herman started to sweat in a jiffy and was only saved from thermal shock by it. Chapter 8 A Cupid from Puper Tanya and Bab-Yagun settled in at the Durnevs’: Tanya — where she was before, on the balcony of Pipa’s room, and Yagun — in the drawing room, where the TV was. Contrary to any expectation, they were indeed living not too poorly. Roucli-bouclisympapoucli nevertheless acted to a certain degree: Aunt Ninel no longer fed Tanya vermicelli stuck together, but was even filled with sympathy for Yagun. Once she even affectionately pinched his cheek and put a whole turkey leg on his plate. True, later it was revealed that she accidentally confused Yagun with Pipa, but for the big picture, this was indeed also not too important. Pipa tried to tease Yagun, but Yagun was not the type to allow anyone to mock him for long. After the first time, barking for about four hours, having been changed into a fat pug-dog with a hind paw bitten by her own dachshund, Pipa grew quiet. She even did not complain to Aunt Ninel, convinced that the alarmed mommy would immediately take her to a psychiatrist. At the end of the second day, when Aunt Ninel and Pipa were at the Cutletkins and Uncle Herman had not yet returned from the Duma, Slander Slanderych came, as promised, unexpectedly into the apartment to check up on them. The principal was in a
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nightmarish mood. Must be that he could not fly without the ring and had to get there by trolley bus. “Well, how are you here? Is there anything that I should turn you into zombies for? Confess — there will be a reduction!” he proposed, boring into the children with his tiny eyes. Tanya and Bab-Yagun looked at Slander almost with enthusiasm. They had so missed Tibidox in the short time that even the grim principal was a welcome guest. Moreover, he could bring some news from Sardanapal. Sensing that they were happy to see him, Slander softened. “Okay, turn you into zombies next time…” he said. “There are those worse than you. Thirty people have fallen in love with Lotkova… On-The-Sly magnetized two wallets, I caught Cryptova in a restaurant with heavens know whom. Seven-Stump-Holes changed his stepfather into a beaver with the irreversible spell. Glomov fought with soccer fans and ended up at the police.” “And Shurasik?” Yagun asked. Slander shuddered. “Better don’t ask! Shurasik is a quiet horror altogether. He locked three Candidates of Sciences and Professor Flank in the office and for thirty-six hours answered all their exam questions one at a time. The wretches attempted to run away, but he arranged it so that the door was jammed. Now the candidates are in the crazy house, and Professor Flank has enlightenment. He’s writing his doctoral on the theme Magic as it is not. Practical charms in theoretical aspect. Doesn’t matter. Soon they’ll come after him.” Unexpectedly Slander sniffed. His eyes again became caustic. “It smells like vampire! You did not summon vampires here, no? Own up!” he asked with suspicion. “No, we didn’t. And is it really possible to summon them? Granny and I somehow argued who are such vampires. In the sense, not how they look — even kids know this, but are they magicians or not?” Bab-Yagun asked. Already the second day he looked searchingly at Uncle Herman. Tanya even did not blink an eye. She was already used to the fact that when Yagun needed to nose out something, he would implicate his granny. Opportunely and inopportunely. Slander contemptuously waved his hand. “I’ll not believe for anything in the world that Yagge doesn’t know this nonsense. Vampires are the middle link between moronoids and magicians. Biting, malicious creatures, adoring bloody rituals and unhealthy food. Their hearts don’t beat, they don’t fear pain. Next to them evil spirits are like flowers. Of course, there are even hereditary vampires. They are like the aristocracy among them. Moreover, frequently it happens that this aristocracy find themselves among moronoids, not becoming actual vampires. Here they usually pursue some long-range target… But what’s all this to you? Do you have a sign some vampire exists?” Slander drilled with his eyes into the bridge of Bab-Yagun’s nose. “And from where? What, are we in Transylvania? And how’s your mermaid? Did she survive the flight okay?” Bab-Yagun asked with an innocent look, moving the principal away from the dangerous theme. Slander shuddered. This question always caught him by surprise. “She’s in the Pirogov Reservoir! She ate up all the crabs there. Almost tickled an angler to death! Oh, the infidel! I’m here now, but she’s there!” he said and, turning pale from jealousy, ran to the door. “By the way, if vampires nevertheless attack you, don’t forget garlic and the spell
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Ferdyshchus anemius. Now, it’s better not to frolic with silver bullets. It’s all nonsense, tried it myself,” he warned on farewell. Waiting for the elevator to arrive, Slander came face to face with the returning Uncle Herman. The principal unceremoniously sniffed the air, winced with disgust and, after pushing Durnev aside with his shoulder, got in. The best deputy also winced, muttering something about tramps stinking like fish. The chair of V.A.M.P.I.R. was mighty lucky that Slander’s ring remained in Tibidox… On another morning, when the sleepyhead Bab-Yagun, secretly watching moronoid TV all night, was still sleeping, and the recently awoken Pipa, lolling on the bed, was admiring the mysterious G.P.’s portrait, extracted from under the pillow, a rosy chubby cupid, with a mail bag hanging next to the quiver, knocked on the glass of Tanya’s balcony. Stretched out on the cot next to the good-naturedly creaking case with the double bass, Tanya was studying The Art of Dragonball. After the utterance of Maximus gigantus, the book grew, figures came alive, and the author himself — Daedalus Cretan, Greek, elderly, with lots of wrinkles around the eyes — briskly jumped out from the first page. Tanya often wondered who grumbled more — Daedalus or Nightingale O. Robber. But one thing was indisputable: Daedalus Cretan knew dragonball like nobody. Just figures of magic piloting alone he counted more than three dozen, and among them were such things as wedge, peak, rhomb, barrel, turn, hill, cobra, loop, front, snake, angle, corkscrew, eight, half-loop, slip, dive, and half-roll. On hearing the knock, Tanya opened the window to let in the cupid. Her heart was full. For some reason she was sure that he brought something from Vanka. Laughing, the little amour loomed before her eyes, teasing with a letter and soliciting anything tasty. “You’ll get candies in the kitchen! Over there!” Tanya impatiently shouted. The cupid dropped the letter on her knees and dived into the adjacent window, from where almost immediately came the constrained howl of Aunt Ninel. But Tanya no longer cared for the emotional experience of Madame Durneva. After all, cupids are not wolves. They had eaten no one yet. Tanya unsealed the envelope and now with surprise tried to make out an unknown handwriting. “Dear Tania! You have produced an ineffaceable impression in me. I am just thinking of you, replaying in memory each moment of the last match. I am waiting to meet you again on the field. When we see each other again, I would like to talk with you about my feelings… Please write me soon! I am waiting with impatience for an answer! Your Gury Puper.” A small live seal, depicting the very Gury in a long raincoat and with a broom in his hands, confirmed that the letter was precisely from Puper and not a forgery. Tanya dropped the envelope. “Oh no! It’s from Puper! Poor Puper! What a fool I was to make him fall in love with me! I totally don’t need him!” she whispered. She was ashamed and embarrassed, but at the same time experienced pleasure. Puper, the dream of all girl magicians, is writing love letters not to Katya Lotkova, not to Coffinia, not to any of the other universally accepted beauties, but to her — Tanya Grotter, outwardly quite ordinary overall.
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Pipa finally kissed the photograph of G.P. and, after hiding it in the box, locked it. Her sentimental mood in an instant changed to businesslike. “Hey, Grotty, are you alive? I dreamt the balcony fell off at night. Here, you’d also believe after this dream!” she said, opening the door to the balcony. Tanya hardly had time to hide the letter. After breathing down her neck for about ten minutes, Pipa was already about to push off, but unexpectedly the double bass began to shake in the case, its strings began to drone — and an actressy voice announced, “Especially for Tanya from Tibidox radio station Witchcraft-dame playing the song My Love from an unknown worshipper!” Pipa perked up. Tanya rushed to the case, opened it in a hurry, and began to turn the pins. However, she made it worse for herself, because the next magic wave already brought something even worse, “Kiss-kiss, my dear magals! With you is Nagiana Pripyatskaya, your little white witch! In recent days, improbable events continually shake the world. Not so long ago the students of Tibidox School were sent away to the moronoids, but Academician Sardanapal refused to give the journalists any explanation of this strange act. And now new stunning news! You’ll simply die! If you’re now in the air, please immediately get down! Otherwise, you’ll break your neck for sure! Are you ready? Listen! In the last interview, Gury Puper stated the following: ‘I’m in love! For the first time in my life, I’m in love. For the time being, I won’t say who is my dream girl. This will take place in the fall. Till then I ask you not to bother me. All other questions apropos my feelings pose an earnest request to my trainer.’” Pipa settled down on the floor. “Grotty, don’t touch the receiver! I’ll kill you! I know whom G.P. has fallen in love with! He saw my pictures in the journal Young Atomic Scientist! Fall will come soon!” she began to squeal. But Tanya already turned the pins. And again she was sorry. “The trainer of Gury Puper gave the statement, in which he asked everyone to show maximum delicacy to the star,” reported a thick bass. “And I quote further literally: ‘Love and increased interest of journalists are not allowed to tear Gury away from training before the critical match with the Tibidox team.’ Furthermore, the trainer hinted that only just today Gury has entered into a secret correspondence with the object of his longing; however, so far he has not received an answer.” “What a nightmare! I haven’t yet checked the mail!” Pipa sighed. She tore away from the spot and, losing her slippers, broke into a run to the elevator. The alarmed dachshund, barking, rushed after her. Tanya put Puper’s letter into the envelope and hid it in the secret pocket in the case. “I’ll not start answering. Maybe then, Gury will forget me! Interesting, what will happen when Coffinia sniffs out everything? She hasn’t suffered such a fiasco for a very long time!” she said to herself. *** Several days passed. Gury Puper continued to send cupids to Tanya. Sometimes the cupids arrived in twos or threes, panting under the weight of gigantic flower baskets. As exhausted as never before, they demanded heaps of pastries for their labour and literally devastated the kitchen of Aunt Ninel with Tatar raids.
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Understanding that all the same she could not hide so many flowers, Tanya gave them over to Pipa. Pipa was thrilled with happiness, especially after she discovered in one of the bouquets a calling card with two fiery characters. Tanya simply forgot to take it out. Good also that there was nothing on the card except a signature. “G.P.! Dear G.P.! I’m waiting for fall! Only seventy-two days, twelve hours, and ten minutes till then!” Uncle Herman’s daughter moaned. She kissed the photo of G.P. so often in an involuntary outburst that its frame cracked. Poor G. had not yet slipped away from the photo only because it was inanimate. “Pipie has a sea of worshippers! For sure they have noticed her in the group photo of models in the weekly Russian Plumber! And how was it possible not to notice her! She was standing in the very middle of the seventh row!” Aunt Ninel was beaming with happiness. She had long since acquired a special folder and gathered in it all the materials about the career advances of her daughter. Thus far, the apex of Pipa’s success was the cover of the journal TV Guide. Nowhere was it mentioned that for the editor-in-chief to come to the right decision, Isadora Cutletkina had to send to the journal a group of army special force with the support of two helicopters, and Uncle Herman added another busload of tax inspectors. Cupids flew in not only from Puper. During those June days, they darted about above Moscow and generally even above Russia with extraordinary frequency. This was precisely accounted for by the improbable amount of love, like golden rain falling onto the heads of long-suffering moronoids. Somehow, returning after night training, where they were mastering the figures of magic piloting according to Daedalus Cretan’s system, Tanya discovered a cupid on the tree under her balcony. Bored and waiting for them, the little amour, for something to do, shot arrows into General Cutletkin’s window. The unlucky Cutletkin, stuck with invisible arrows like a hedgehog, tossed about on the bed and in his dream called his secretary. “Poor dear! Probably dictating instructions again about the thorough chewing of buckwheat kasha by soldiers and lance-corporals,” his wife Isadora sympathetically thought. On seeing Tanya, the cupid was pleased and hid the bow in the quiver. He handed two envelopes to Tanya and one to Bab-Yagun, obtained the reward owed him, and flew away. Tanya was certain that the letters were again from Puper, but no: the first one turned out to be from Vanka Valyalkin, and the second from Coffinia. Tanya decided to begin with the second one. She was quite surprised, knowing that Coffinia could not stand writing. Indeed, she would sooner phone on a zoomer, continually to someone or other. “Hello, orphan! Only do not think that I miss you because I write. Simply unusual somehow to not see your mug every morning. Or even not to squabble with someone. Tried with my parents, then they immediately began to shake. Green melancholy! I probably should not have rashly changed them into harpies. Only for five minutes, but it was enough for them. Imagine, last night some idiot bothered my trunk. Cut it, and even burnt it in one place! And took nothing. The funniest is that this could not be a moronoid! You know that my trunk is charmed. By the way, someone also damaged Gunya’s
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knapsack. And recently for some reason they broke Rita On-The-Sly’s violin. Someone really blew his top. Well okay, soon I will have five railroad cars of trunks! Do you listen to the zoomer? My Pupie is waiting for fall to declare his love! These foreigners eternally drag things out! Another would have proposed long ago, got betrothed, and handed over all his savings to me. They say Gurie is a thrifty boy. He even has an account in the bank. No one knows better than me how to empty magmarkets. Only I do not understand where have Puper’s letters gone to? His trainer says that Gurie has already written all of twelve letters (!) and not received one answer! Indeed! Will I start to write to him! Let him suffer! Grotty, since you helped me shape the figurine, perhaps I will send you a gift some day: old sneakers or a memoir of my Gurie with his signature. By the way, Rusfan has already translated Gurie’s memoir from English to Russian. They say, for the translation they caught an emu somewhere and after some technical difficulties nevertheless converted it into a person. Sincerely your unloving Coffinia.” “Well now! Clearly, everything has gone crazy in this world! Both Pipa and Coffinia, and everybody else! Even this crackbrained trainer, who gives away other’s secrets!” Tanya thought. For the umpteenth time she was sorry that she yielded to Coffinia’s persuasions and cast the forbidden amorous spell. And now she did not know how to disentangle herself. She must urgently do something or Puper’s worshippers would have her scalp in the fall. On the other hand, what could she manage here, when she had only one green spark a day, and even so weak that it was barely enough for the simplest spells? After shoving Coffinia’s letter into her pocket, Tanya took in hand Vanka’s. For a while, she simply held it, even without opening it but only experiencing a special warm joy. Then nevertheless, she made up her mind and unsealed the envelope. “How do you do, it is me! They have not yet released me from magic station, but I quietly run off through the hatchway, which you and Yagun showed me. Been to Tararakh’s. My firebird lives with him now. Tararakh is terribly glad, says that the firebird starts a fire like nothing doing. You sit it on the firewood — they flare up by themselves, even if completely damp. Sardanapal is terribly disturbed. He, Fuji, Stinktopp, and Medusa go around Tibidox room after room and search for something all the time. But so far found nothing. I try not to fall into their sight. Medusa is evil, and indeed I do not want to talk about Stinktopp. Before he was not a clever one, but now he is a complete paranoiac. Fuji, that one is cuckoo altogether. Always walks in a waistcoat that wards off evil eyes, enters all doors backwards, and tells everybody how great and invaluable he is. Here rumours are spreading that next year he will be teaching magic essences. Gloom! Recently at night, near the residence floor, I bumped into some strange type with a carnation in his buttonhole. He sneaked out from under the stairs of the Atlases, and then I even did not understand where he disappeared to. But this was not a ghost, really! I so wish that you would return soon. If Sardanapal still finds nothing, I will acquire a vacuum somewhere, and if not a vacuum, then at least I will drag from the
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museum the mop with propellers and I will also leave for the moronoids in order to see you more often. I would have done this long ago, but Stinktopp took my ring. He says magic left in them is next to nothing and there is no use for them. Regards To Yagun! How is his vacuum there? I hope he has not yet drowned you and Uncle Herman in mayo? Vanka.” “Well, what has Vanka written you?” Bab-Yagun asked. He had long since read his letter and now with curiosity cast looks at Tanya. “I haven’t finished reading yet!” “Not true! You’re already reading it the tenth time! You don’t fool me!” Yagun mockingly stated. Understanding that he was right, Tanya unwillingly tore herself away from the letter. “Vanka writes about the firebird. He says Sardanapal has found nothing yet and is terribly edgy. And he’s giggling still about your vacuum! He’s interested whether you have enough mayo and if you have lost the pipe.” As always, when a conversation turned to vacuums, Yagun instantly lost his sense of humour. “Well, soccer shirt! And I’ll turn his guinea pigs into wild boars! And give the firebird to the firemen!” he began to yell. Calmed down, Yagun showed Tanya the letter from Yagge. “Granny begs us to be careful. She writes about some bad presentiments. Allegedly when she read our cards, her pack of cards was bewitched. Not so bad, eh? Although you know Granny! She’s not an alarmist, but does have crazy ideas… Still Yagge says that the spell Grail Gardarika was invoked three times recently. You understand what this means? Someone secretly penetrates Tibidox or flies away somewhere from Tibidox. Sardanapal and Stinktopp tried to look into who this might be, but were not able to. He covered all his tracks.” Chapter 9 Carnation and Sword One evening Uncle Herman was sitting quietly-peacefully on the sofa and watching the criminal chronicle on TV. “A lunatic with brass knuckles has appeared in Moscow. Detectives are already calling him ‘the hunter of teeth’ and they suspect stomatologists, who need the expansion of practice,” reported the anchor. With a finger, Durnev cautiously touched his eyeteeth. “It has become quite impossible to live! They encroach upon the most sacred!” he said piteously. Despite his teeth moving in and out and that he now ate exclusively damp meat, Durnev had not yet become a real vampire. His maniacal suspicious nature saved Uncle Herman from the century-old curse. “It’s like I’ll bite people! You bite him, and he turns out to be somehow infectious! Or, say, he’ll begin to scream, and my eardrums will break! Well, with all of them — I’ll suffer because of them!” he reflected. Recently Uncle Herman discovered a strange pattern: if at the moment when he was looking at a person, he unnoticeably clicked the heels of the boots — the person would begin to tremble involuntarily, and an idiotic fear would appear in the person’s eyes. Making use of this, Durnev would walk along the corridors of the Duma from morning to evening and, smiling significantly at his political enemies, jingled his spurs. Uncle
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Herman’s enemies, even the most vehement, somehow would immediately shiver and droop. Durnev would begin to appear in their nightmares. They already did not dare to speak badly of him even behind his back: it seemed to them that his tenacious sight would also extend as far as there. Rumours spread that soon they would appoint Durnev as one of the ministers. Getting up from the sofa, Aunt Ninel toppled the plate of pastries from her knees. Seeing the crumbs on the floor, she wanted to go for her vacuum, but unexpectedly noticed Bab-Yagun’s vacuum by the sofa. Following his Tibidox habit, Yagun scattered his things about where they fell. For example, he stubbornly deposited his socks in the middle of the room. And his pants often showed up in the morning on the chandelier, and all because they had an excessively agitated belt of Lernaean hydra skin. “Well, let’s have a look what vacuum the fellow has! Probably sucks nothing!” Aunt Ninel said with doubt. She adored proving to each and all that her household equipments were the best and all the rest were trash. For a while, she unsuccessfully searched for the cord, which must go into a socket, and then, after shrugging her shoulders, pushed the button. (Would she have known that this was the button for emergency takeoff, and which even Yagun rarely dared use!) Certainly, the vacuum would not fly anywhere without a magic spark, but then it roared frighteningly loudly like a motorcycle without a muffler. The pipe yanked itself out of Aunt Ninel’s hands and sprayed Uncle Herman with a flow of mermaid scale and mayo. A thunder-struck Durneva froze. It was the first time she saw a vacuum, which, instead of sucking in rubbish, spat it out with supersonic speed. Uncle Herman squealed. The dachshund cleared the armchair and darted under the sofa. Only the short paws flickered in the air. The vacuum rushed about the room, toppling everything it encountered on its way. Aunt Ninel, after coming to her senses only a minute later, jumped with her stomach onto the running vacuum, attempting to force it against the floor. The vacuum rushed, lashed the floor with the pipe, bobbed for a metre and, cutting into the storeroom, subsided. Aunt Ninel got to her feet with difficulty. “This boy is abnormal! Only Grotty could find a fellow with such a vacuum! Now we won’t be able to tidy this place up for a week!” she yelled. Uncle Herman did not answer. It seemed he did not hear his wife at all. He was standing, from top to bottom covered in mayo and mermaid scales, and looking at the carpet. A thin metallic crown, having jumped out recently from the storeroom broken by his wife, had rolled out there. Greeting it, the spurs of Count Dracula’s boots started to jingle excitedly. “Oho, what an outstanding crown! It, perhaps, will approach my boots!” The best deputy came alive. He picked up the crown and put it on. It fitted him just fine. But Uncle Herman did not have time to run to the mirror, when the crown flared up with a cold silvery fire, closing in above Durnev’s hair with the resemblance of a terrible helmet. It was almost impossible to look at it. It was blinding. Uncle Herman’s face was distorted. Something maniacal flared up in his eyes. “Tremble, worthless woman! Now I know who I am! I can read thoughts! You hid my regalia from me! Boots, crown and sword — here is my inheritance! I’m Herman Dracula IV, sovereign of the living dead!” he began to thunder, clicking his heels. Any of Uncle Herman’s political competitors would fall down head first, but this produced no impression on Aunt Ninel. Long years of life together with the future king of
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vampires had developed absolute immunity in her to all his idiosyncrasies. “Hermie dear, don’t rumble so! All your hair is on fire. Do you want to grow bald? And look, when you open your mouth wide like so, your tonsils are visible! They’re awfully red!” she said. The king of the living dead Herman Dracula IV stooped and fearfully meandered to the mirror to examine his tonsils. Aunt Ninel always knew how to put her husband in his place. *** After night training Tanya and Bab-Yagun always slept till noon, and even till three. The Durnevs did not interfere with them; they were even satisfied. “Good guests are those who don’t twirl under foot,” asserted Aunt Ninel, who loved to commune with saucepans in solitude. Once, after waking, Tanya could not find her double bass in the usual place. It was as if a spring tossed her up. Stumbling among Puper’s gifts and baskets of flowers, she rushed into the room and experienced unbelievable relief. The double bass, whole and unharmed, was lying on the bed. Beside it was Pipa on all fours and, with her tongue sticking out from enthusiasm, she was turning the pins. Tanya wanted to take the double bass away from Pipa, but she was too late. It had already caught a magic wave. “Kiss-kiss, my multi-disordered! Did you miss your Nagianie? Here she is! You’re listening to Latest Magnews! In today’s issue: American sorcerers sound the alarm. Last night the crown of the Statue of Liberty was stolen. For the umpteenth time the Americans have accused the eastern magician Vamdam Gussein of everything. As the main proof, they gave a magcording of Gussein’s conversation on the zoomer. ‘I’ll break off all your horns!’ Vamdam allegedly claimed. Gussein himself denies all charges. ‘I saw your crown in a coffin in white slippers!’ he said to the American correspondent before changing him into a gopher. “Other news. Tibidox is living through the most serious crisis in its history. The searches for the disappeared objects so far have not produced any result. There remained all of several weeks of magic energy. Even now practically no known spell works in the region of the Buyan Island. If it goes like this any further, soon the island will cease to be invisible to moronoids. According to leaked rumours, the only practical alternative would be the discovery of the throne of The Ancient One. Possibly, Academician Sardanapal is precisely searching for it now; however, searches so far have not produced any result. As Professor Stinktopp said in an interview for our program, ‘Your Sardanapal is a complete zero! I vould haff dismissed him from administration long ago, if not for zis intriguer Medusa!’” “Stinktopp made a slip of the tongue about the throne! No one else could! It was a secret!” Tanya thought with horror. The zoomer already hurried to present her with the next surprise. “And finally, sensational information! The board of English magicians does not rule out that one of the unavoidable amorous spells could have been cast on Gury Puper. ‘I do not exclude the Russian magfia from being mixed up in the matter!’ The well-known magnotist Google Gomos remarked. Furthermore, Google Gomos proposed for Gury Puper to go through a healing procedure of deliverance from passion. However, Puper refused. ‘Leave me alone! I love her! I’m a most ordinary guy, and I don’t need anybody else!’ he said.”
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“Gury!” Pipa began to moan, shaking the double bass. “Gury! I also adore you! Your nose, your hands, your broom! If they don’t leave you alone, I’ll ask Isadora, and she’ll remove this Google Gomos with a tank! Do you hear? Why do you keep silent, answer me!” Tanya sighed and left Pipa, without going after her for taking someone else’s instrument. There are moments when it is better not to bother a person. Heart wounds do not yield to treatment. “Interesting, did Pipa fall in love with G.P. herself or did some cupid also help?” Tanya thought. Not having met rebuff, Pipa continued to take the double bass into her room and did this so often that soon she missed not a single issue of Magnews. This confused Tanya slightly. She was not positive that it was possible for moronoids to hear magic radio waves. Slander would not like this at all. Good that he very rarely looked in on them now, limited to daily calls on the zoomer to Yagun. The principal had enough troubles even without that. Gunya Glomov finally threw away all restraint. Shurasik counterfeited credit cards. With the help of the simplest magic, he managed to get money from bank machines even with a subway token. Seven-Stump-Holes, with his love for anything that swims in water, transformed whomever into otters or coypus. Even demure Verka Parroteva was also behaving oddly: she arranged to work as a clairvoyant in some salon, where, besides clairvoyance, they were also busy with tattooing. Even the mermaid also managed to be involved in the story constantly. At night, after eating fish, she sang songs so loudly that the curious ran from all the surrounding summer resorts to the bank of the reservoir. This got the mermaid worked up and she began to make a bigger row, but Slander, out of jealousy and malice, was grinding his teeth. In two weeks, he grew two hundred years older. Under his eyes formed bags of such sizes that they could accommodate all the foreign exchange reserves of Magciety of Jerky Magtion. On the other hand, the Great Tooth, not intending to strain her nerves, acted much more wisely. She assembled trunks, conjured herself moronoid documents in the name of Vanessa van Zuppe and made a hasty retreat to Paris on her bed with vertical takeoff. “I haven’t been to Paris for a long time! Since that ball when General Bonaparte fell in love with me. I heard, this dear youth then came to Russia searching for me and even brought soldiers with him, but his nose was frostbitten and he returned empty-handed,” she told Rita On-The-Sly. Taciturn On-The-Sly only hemmed and hawed. Strangely enough, she was the only one of the present students of Tibidox with whom Deni shared some of her thoughts and even secrets. With her inexhaustible reserve of evil eyes, Dentistikha kept all others at a respectful distance from herself. *** Before training the next night, Daedalus came out from the book in an especially grumpy mood. He sat on the binding and started to grumble that dragonball had gone to the dogs, and that those called professionals today would not even have been hired five hundred years ago to level sand in the field. “Why go far then for examples! Take the two of you at least! Two boiled fishes flying in the air would give you a hundred-point advantage!” “Hey-hey, no need to throw dirt! Try flying in the dark yourself! Nothing is visible!” Offended, Bab-Yagun pouted. Yesterday he, risking his life, mastered eights and half©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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loops on the vacuum, and today they immediately compared him to a flying fish, a not bad joke, huh? Daedalus looked at him with unconcealed contempt, “Did you ever hear about Florus the Blind? I’m certain not! Here’s a natural dragonball player — best of the best! As the result of an irreversible curse (there are always enough enviers!) he began to go blind. Then Florus tied a black bandage over his eyes and started to learn to play blindly. Now this was his nature! He bit his lips so that his cries of pain could not be heard. He trained day and night right through! He fell asleep on the dragonball field and, awakened, immediately soared into the air. By the time he was completely blind, Florus had developed internal sight. He could toss a handful of poppy seeds into the air and catch all of them before the last one would touch the sand. He could take a copper coin out of a dragon’s mouth and return unharmed. And this was a blind man! He alone could haul your whole team over the coals! What do you say to that?!” Waving his hand, Daedalus opened The Art of Dragonball, settled down on the first page and disappeared, hidden under the cover like under a blanket. The book shrivelled and, after becoming the size of a matchbox, would not respond to the enlarge spell. “You offended him,” said Tanya. “Me? My granny mama!” Bab-Yagun was enraged. “I didn’t even have time to open my mouth! You think it’s pleasant when they dump on you this way? Here, you try, you rush about all night, sticking out your tongue like the strangled Nemean lion, and he…” Tanya opened the case and carefully checked if the strings in the double bass were tautly stretched. Then she set off to the big room and shoved the case under the sofa. Otherwise, Pipa would again wake up and rummage in it, hoping to find the double bass to listen to magic radio. Yagun followed Tanya like a tail, not understanding what she intended to do. “What do you think, does Aunt Ninel have poppy seeds?” Tanya thoughtfully turned to him. “Go to her, she treats you better.” “Poppy seeds?” Yagun was surprised. “Do you want to say that you intend to…?” “And why not? Will it be better if in the fall the Invisibles spread us like butter on toast?” Bab-Yagun shrugged his shoulders and set off for the kitchen, where just this moment Aunt Ninel was finishing off her third dietetic supper for the day. Soon he returned half disappointed, half satisfied. “You have a strange Aunt! I only have to mention poppies and for some reason she went crazy. After that, she gave me this package of dried peas. On account of breakfast, dinner and supper,” he reported. Having waited until the Durnevs had settled down to sleep and all the windows in the adjacent buildings had quieted down, Tanya and Yagun uttered Speedus envenomus together in order not to waste both of the day’s sparks. Sparrows dozing off in the bushes fearfully scattered in all directions. The moon like a curious eye looked out of the clouds. The night training began. *** They only returned home completely exhausted towards the morning. Tanya almost broke the double bass against a tree. Her hair was dishevelled like a medieval witch’s. A very healthy shiner was under Yagun’s eye. He got it hitting against his pipe, when he
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attempted to intercept a pea, the third by his count. “No matter how you twirl, just can’t catch more than four nevertheless! Even with open eyes! No, we really can’t keep up with this Florus the Bind, if Daedalus did not make it up!” Yagun reasoned dejectedly. Tanya kept silent. She was rarely so dissatisfied with herself. It seemed to her that she was a complete hack. To catch several pitiful peas from a whole handful, moreover ten times larger than poppy seeds! True, possibly, they tossed the peas up too high and those instantly disappeared in the darkness, but what is the sense of justifying themselves! All right… She is not going to surrender… She will try again the following night. Yagun flew up to the balcony first. He pushed open the window, rolled over the rails, and gave a whistle. Tanya’s cot was turned over; things were discarded onto the floor. “How about that! Who did this to us here? If it’s Pipa — I don’t envy her! Do you remember with what spell Seven-Stump-Holes transforms moronoids into otters? Maybe we’ll call him on the zoomer and ask?” he proposed angrily. At first, Tanya also thought it was Pipa, but she suddenly recalled that Coffinia warned her in the letter that someone was breaking and damaging the students’ things. And what if… “Yagun, do you still have a spark?” she whispered. “Yes, so?” “Get your ring ready! It’s possible that the one who did this is still here!” After muffling Yagun’s roaring vacuum, they sneaked past the serenely sleeping Pipa and slid into the big room. There an even bigger shock awaited them. The room appeared like after a robbery. Everything was turned upside down. The dachshund One-And-AHalf Kilometres was sitting on the pedestal by the broken window, shaking like jello, and howling beside itself at the violet clouds. Two moons reflected in its crazy convex eyes. Aunt Ninel and Uncle Herman were snoring improbably in their bedroom. It remained a mystery why the noise of the pogrom did not wake them. Most likely, it was not managed without Pointus harpoonus here. “Here you see, it’s not Pipa! She would not begin to trash her own things! And she doesn’t know spells!” Tanya said. Bab-Yagun lowered his hand with the ring. “Oh, my granny mama! I am truly mad! Turn me into a zombie so I wouldn’t suffer! See, my whole knapsack was crushed! Someone burnt a hole in it! Ready to argue they shot a red spark at it!” Tanya rushed to the sofa. She was certain that the double bass case was also damaged, but apparently the robber did not reach here. The case was on the spot, whole and sound. True, there was a noticeably long scratch on the dragon skin, as if someone grabbed it but something prevented him from completing what he began. Tanya experienced relief. The case, the double bass, and the ring — everything here left to her by her parents. It would be terrible if the case shared the fate of Yagun’s knapsack. “Interesting, why did this snake come? See, the door of the storeroom has been torn off the hinges. The curtains are cut! What, did he fight with himself here? Or is this your Uncle Herman running here with the yataghan?” Bab-Yagun reasoned. He became increasingly more talkative with each minute. He only just realized that all his textbooks were in the burnt knapsack. “Did you see this?! Over there!” suddenly Tanya grabbed Bab-Yagun’s hand. On the carpet, crushed by someone’s boots, lay a dried carnation, apparently fallen from somebody’s buttonhole. Tanya picked it up. The carnation smelled of mould. “The
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Sleeping Adonis!” she almost exclaimed, but just in time recalled the terrible oath she gave Tararakh. Strike thunderus is not a spell one can joke with. Tanya was just thinking about the Sleeping Adonis when the dachshund suddenly howled even louder, even more miserably. The splinters of glass, jutting out in the frame like dragon teeth, crumbled. A rusty sword flew in a warlike manner into the room and, after slipping between Tanya and Yagun, settled down into the storeroom next to the crown and the boots, which Uncle Herman nevertheless removed that night at the request of Aunt Ninel. “Oho, cold steel! Your Uncle Herman is simply the soldier: he has both a sword and a yataghan!” Yagun snorted. However, with foresight he did not risk touching the sword, especially as the spots of rust scattered along the blade very much resembled old traces of blood. “I would give dearly to understand what took place here, while we, like two lunatics, were chasing peas! Pity, there’s no one to ask what he was searching for here,” said Yagun. He recalled Daedalus, but immediately grasped that the book spectre could only discuss what he described in The Art of Dragonball. The only exception was Hugo the Sly, but he had been stolen. Deciding to check again that everything was in place, Tanya opened the case. Her hand as usual slid into the secret pocket. Her secret diary, some cosmetic trifles, letters from Vanka and Medusa… highly improbable that the night guest would come for these. Lowering the cover, Tanya accidentally did this too roughly. The case tipped over. From the other pocket — not even secret but the most ordinary, intended for notes — slipped out a towel and a comb — the mysterious gifts of Lukerya-Feathers-on-the-Head… *** Neither Tanya nor Bab-Yagun knew (and would never find out!) that there was nevertheless one involuntary witness of the night visit. In the adjacent apartment, General Cutletkin, shaking not a bit less than the dachshund, hid under the table. The wretch not so long ago was fated to live through such a severe shock in his life. Cutletkin began having the blues even since the evening. However, it was caused by a minor squabbling, a great number of those in the life of each moronoid. In the daytime, the jeep of his escorts drove into his armoured Mercedes, and both cars suffered so badly that the poor general was forced to take a seat in the reserve tank summoned by the walky-talky. They managed to drive successfully through traffic jams, but on the way back, someone unnoticeably pinched from the tank the briefcase with all of today’s bribes. Chest pain gnawed the inconsolable general till three in the morning. Finally, he had almost fallen asleep, but here through the wall, in the apartment of the Durnevs, glass began to ring. A dog began to bark and almost immediately howled. Cutletkin angrily began to toss and turn and covered his head with the pillow. Uncle Herman was useful to him, although in the mind of the silence-loving general, he was like a rather noisy neighbour. The racket did not stop. It was audible even through the pillow. It seemed the building was shaking and moving like a piston. “What are they doing there, throwing weights? Really they’ve become insolent!” Cutletkin thought. Having hurled the pillow away, he
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ran up to the wall and, uttering reproachful words from army lexicon, started to bang it with a fist. The noise in the Durnevs’ apartment did not end. Sounds were heard periodically behind the wall, as if intentionally driving the nervous Cutletkin into a rage. The general, only in pyjamas, was already going to jump out onto the landing and ring the Durnevs’ doorbell, but suddenly something flared up before his eyes. After passing right through the wall, a skinny angular figure broke into the room. The wonder-struck Cutletkin fell on all fours and quickly began to crawl under the table. Somehow, in an instant, he had determined with almost animal instinct that a nominal weapon would not help here. Moreover, Cutletkin’s pistol lay in the safe, and Isadora constantly changed the code, fearing for her valuables. Finding himself in the apartment of the Durnevs’ neighbours, the unknown person stopped, catching his breath. General Cutletkin in a cowardly manner hiccupped in his refuge and knocked the back of his head against the tabletop. The table jumped. Drawn by the noise, the stranger turned his head. In the spot of moonlight, a yellowish face and the tight collar of an old-fashioned uniform flickered. “You saw me! Have to erase your memory! Or better to kill you: it’s more reliable,” he said in the affirmative and began to raise his hand. Cutletkin closed his eyes, ready for death. Before his mental eyes, as moronoid-prosaists love to write in their books, passed his entire bright and brilliant life, beginning from the day when he, a still green cadet-supplier, transferred condensed milk and canned stew through the concrete fence of the bunker. However, the mortal hour of General Cutletkin apparently had not yet struck. Suddenly the window of the room spattered splinters. The rusty sword of Count Dracula burst into the room, delivering thrusting and chopping strokes. The unknown intruder, not expecting it to find an alternate route, fearfully squatted down and released from his finger — in any case, so it seemed to Cutletkin — several red sparks. Fiery points burnt terrible holes in the wallpaper, melted the frame with the photo of the Arab minister, to whom Cutletkin slowly sold written-off weapons, but they did not the least harm to the sword. Challenging mockingly, it digressed to the curtains, without any effort cutting them into long strips. Cutletkin’s unknown intruder stepped back. He wrapped himself up in his raincoat and began to revolve swiftly, releasing red sparks. Soon, plastered with sparks, he became like a cocoon. At this moment, having put an end to the curtains, the sword again rushed to attack, but its blade only pierced emptiness. The fiery cocoon had disappeared, taking the stranger away. The sword began to ring with disappointment and flew outside through the broken glass. Under the table General Cutletkin pressed his temples with his hands and, wisely not leaving his shelter, issued a heart-rending howl. Through the wall, the Durnevs’ dachshund responded with a sympathetic howl. Who else, if not it, was to understand General Cutletkin? Chapter 10 Whocaresonus-pofigator, or News from Tibidox

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Strangely enough, the Durnevs treated the pogrom in their apartment with the indifference of Stoic philosophers. Either they could not be surprised at all by anything after the history with Lisper the Rabbit and Uncle Herman’s involvement in the affairs of the society of V.A.M.P.I.R., or it was helped by the black magic spell Whocaresonuspofigator, which Yagun had learned in the black department. “Terribly useful spell! It happened that Stinktopp would get himself as mean as a swamp bogey, and begin to check homework, and Coffinia or On-The-Sly would whisper Whocaresonus-pofigator and release a spark into the cauldron so that the flash would not be visible. Stinktopp would immediately start to giggle and say, ‘March from here, kids! Efen ze Ancient One had only twos! Vhat education could zere be on a sunny day!’” Yagun reminisced. Stepping over the scattered things, Uncle Herman put on his boots with spurs and the crown, hung the rusty sword (the same one that possibly saved Cutletkin from death in the night!) from his belt, and went to the Duma to fix the brains of political competitors. Pipa set off to Lenka Mumrikova’s, and Aunt Ninel escorted Bab-Yagun and Tanya to the balcony and, after summoning the domestic help, undertook the tidying up. “You know, your relatives are not so bad at all. After a small magic correction they have turned out to be completely decent moronoids,” Bab-Yagun pensively said. “Indeed! Turning Uncle Herman into a complete zombie will not help! And even in general, he’s as dear to me as grey antiquity of old times!” Tanya said, having caught from Cryptova the love for senseless but sonorous word combinations. She could in no way get rid of the night’s events from her head. Why did the Sleeping Adonis destroy everything in Uncle Herman’s apartment and burn with a spark Yagun’s knapsack, and before that the same with the things of the rest of the students? Certainly, he had a sound reason for doing so. “Yagun, let’s send a cupid to Tararakh!” she proposed. “What on earth for? All the same, he doesn’t know how to read. And the cupids have holes in their heads. They can’t memorize more than three words.” “But we can send it to Vanka, and he’ll read it to Tararakh.” Yagun mockingly glanced at Tanya. “Ahhh! So say that you simply want to write a letter to Valyalkin! Wedding bells, eh?” “Shut up, vacuum cleaner! Your granny mama!” Tanya growled. She wanted awfully to change Yagun into anything. For example a parrot. However, not a talking one but a deaf mute. If such parrots exist. Continuing to laugh loudly, Yagun took himself off to bug Pipa, who had just returned home. By the way, Pipa appeared not alone but with Lenka Mumrikova, who stuck her nose out with curiosity from the hallway. “So, beauties, an excursion into the magical world, huh? Does no one want to look at my baby pictures, how I fly on a winged pot? It has wings as large as my ears!” straight off Yagun proposed to them. Lenka Mumrikova’s forehead and chin instantly turned red. She liked the insolent Yagun. Meanwhile Tanya took a sheet of paper, nibbled the pen pensively for a while, and finally began to write: “Vanka! Pass on to Tararakh that he should not let He-Who-Sleepwalks-At-Night out of his sight! This is very important! Tararakh will know whom. Sorry I cannot explain
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more clearly, this is not my secret. I cannot even name him for a reason I also cannot name… This is very complicated. I miss you terribly! I awfully want to see you! But please, do not run off to the moronoids! We desperately need someone, from whom we can find out about everything going on in Tibidox. Promise that you will not run off? Yes? Yagun and I are training every day to be ready for the game in the fall. True, have to train at night, and without dragons. Yagun proposes to change Pipa and Aunt Ninel into dragons, but I fear that we do not have enough magic for that. Besides, in dragon form they will gorge us but not spit us out. Indeed, I know them well. Slander, from overstraining himself, has gone completely nuts. The whole day he runs from one student to another and composes lists for zombification, and at night, he watches in the bushes with a club so that no one will catch his mermaid. Well, that is all! Time to close, or else Yagun would really fly into a rage there. I hear shouting that he wants to change Pipa into a new tank for the vacuum, and Mumrikova is guffawing like crazy.” Finishing the letter, Tanya wanted to write: “hug” or “kiss” but did not dare and instead of this added: “How is your firebird getting on there? Well, this is it, so long! Tanya.” After finishing the letter, the girl hid it in the double bass case, deciding to send it with the nearest Tibidox cupid. It was possible, of course, to summon a cupid specially, but by the efforts of Puper’s numerous messengers Aunt Ninel’s reserve of candies and pastries had almost dried up, and to leave cupids without rewards was dangerous. The next time, the whimsical babies could easily not fly in, or perhaps even release an arrow into the one not paying them off, making the person fall in love with whomever, possibly Uncle Herman... For a while, Tanya recalled to the smallest details Tibidox, Vanka, dragonball training, and the cabin races. Now she even presented in an idyllic light Professor Stinktopp’s malodorous cauldrons and potions. Why is it that you never value what you have, and only much later, you suddenly realize at some moment that it was true happiness! By effort of will having forced herself to discard all superfluous things from her head, Tanya reached for The Art of Dragonball and began to listen to Daedalus discussing dragon habits and tactics of team play. *** In the evening, when Aunt Ninel was sitting on the kitchen and splitting nuts for a pie, Uncle Herman was standing dully at the window and rubbing his eyes. Just now, an unwholesome vision visited the best deputy. Durnev was ready to swear that he really saw beyond the glass a naked baby of masculine sex with a mailbag on his side. The boy with golden wings fluttered from his glazed balcony and, after gaining height rapidly, was hidden in the clouds. “I’ll tell no one! Else they’ll understand incorrectly!” Uncle Herman thought with depression and, straightening the crown of the sovereign of vampires, went away from the window. Meanwhile Tanya and Bab-Yagun were already examining the message that had come to them. It was a small roll with a signed address. “Interesting what did Puper send to me this time?” thought Tanya aloud. “Ne-a, it’s not from Puper. The cupid was ours, from Tibidox,” stated Yagun,
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“How do you know?” “And what’s not to know here? Ours have wings with a tinge and redder heels. Moreover, recall what he demanded from you? Five candies and a wineglass of vegetable oil.” “So?” “What ‘so’? Foreign cupids don’t drink oil for the journey,” explained Yagun authoritatively. Berating herself for letting a Tibidox cupid slip by and missing the chance to send the letter to Vanka, Tanya tore the grey paper slightly and took out the birch bark roll. The roll was completely clean. While the girl was pondering if there was a magic cipher here and whether she had to apply her ring, a cluster of fog floated out of the roll. “Unhealed Lady!” Tanya joyfully gasped. “Well, why say Unhealed so fast? You’ll not believe it, but since the day of my death I haven’t felt so healthy!” Lady floated entirely out of the roll. She was in a long beige dress decorated with chrysanthemums and lilies. “You can congratulate me, if you’re one of those, who know how to rejoice not only for yourself. I’m getting married!” she languidly informed them. “To whom? Lieutenant Rzhevskii?” Unhealed Lady winced. “Well, why so fast about Lieutenant? Really, are there no other worthy candidates in Tibidox?!” she exclaimed with sincere annoyance. “So, to Lieutenant or not? Don’t evade the question!” Yagun insisted, suspecting something. (Most likely he again mirrored.) “Well, let it be to Lieutenant… Yes, yes, yes!” Lady unwillingly acknowledged. “Only why do you think that he will remain a lieutenant for life? Eyeless Horror promised to petition so that they would make him a captain. Of course, in the spectral world everything takes place not immediately, but in about 300 years, I’m convinced, we’ll break through to a promotion for him…” “The world has indeed gone crazy! Simply some love epidemic! Since even Unhealed Lady has fallen in love, then I indeed don’t know what to think!” Tanya decided. “Listen, Lady, if it’s not a secret… What is this so suddenly for you? You and Rzhevskii have already been friends for almost a hundred years…,” she asked. “One hundred and twenty-eight years, two months and four days,” Lady answered like an echo, “We needed time to understand our feelings. Furthermore I only recently had the chance to be convinced what an excellent, delicate, and wise person he is!” “Indeed? And I understood this the first second I saw his knives!” Yagun boasted. “Of course we socialized earlier, but it was not that kind of association. It kept us from opening up!” Lady continued. “And only now, after facing enormous danger, in a moment of special insight, when we stood shoulder to shoulder in combat patrol, I understood what a person is before me!” “Wait! What combat patrol?” Tanya asked. Lady was sincerely surprised. “What? You yourself asked Rzhevskii to follow the Sleeping Adonis! Somehow, I caught him by the crystal coffin and first I started to sob, but afterwards, when Gottfried moved, I almost died of horror. Then I recalled that, in fact, I was already dead and remained so. Since then every night, we did our continuous watch! But when at dawn he got up and went out, we, inaudible like shadows (although why ‘like’? We are shadows!), floated after him.”
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“Got up?” Bab-Yagun repeated without understanding, knowing nothing about the Sleeping Adonis. Lady ignored his question. It seemed she had decided not to notice at all the presence of the wild-eyed grandson of Yagge. “Gottfried got up every night, when your friend Tararakh fell asleep! This usually happened at dawn, when the pithecanthropus was sleeping like the dead. Between us, to charge Tararakh with guarding Gottfried was Sardanapal’s error. Now Stinktopp — that one is actually an outstanding watchman! You know: he has a third eye on the back of his head!” she hurriedly confided. “And where did Adonis go?” Tanya asked. The fatal oath did not allow her to speak about the very Gottfried, but to pose a question when someone else was talking about him — why not? “Oh, each time along one and the same route! He passed the gallery, then the stairs of the Atlases, and immediately dived under the stairs down into the basement. Likely, it was well known to him where he was heading! Only every time something frightened him away, and he returned from either one or another spot… Terrible, white, like a vampire, he walks, putting his arms out before him… How nice that beside me was my hero, my handsome Rzhevskii, always capable of raising my falling spirit with a fine military joke!” Lady exclaimed with feeling. Yagun could not control himself and started to laugh aloud. Lady contemptuously raised her right eyebrow. “But yesterday the Sleeping Adonis nevertheless completed his journey! At first he reached the Big Basement, well, you know, where these Sinister Gates are, and then, immediately by the gate, dived into a manhole,” Lady shyly repaired her hair-do and turned pink. Must be, she was gradually approaching the most interesting part of her story. “My precious, my dear Rzhevskii considered that it was altogether only a crack, but my female instinct suggested that everything was not so simple! ‘Oh no, my dear, he has a cache in this crack!’ I said. ‘You can’t even hide a dead fly there! Who will arrange a cache in such a place? There are cyclopes right here every day!’ my best-in-the-world Lieutenant objected. We began to argue, one word led to another, and my loving Lieutenant (already almost a captain, I am sure!) blew his top. ‘And I tell you, clumsy, that nothing is there! If there proves to be a cache, I’ll marry you! I swear by The Ancient One!’ he began to yell to the entire Tibidox. On hearing the noise, Gottfried Bouillon jumped out by himself from his crack as though scalded and sped away to confine himself in the crystal coffin. It was likely that he understood nothing at all! Well, insignificant! Rzhevskii and I infiltrated where he was recently and discovered the canopy, cauldron, and rocker! And immediately flew to wake Sardanapal! If you could see what started afterwards! Sardanapal almost went crazy, Medusa and Stinktopp laughed loudly like mad, and Fuji in general behaved abnormally! To be sure they freaked out — indeed we returned all reserves of magic to Tibidox!” Lady triumphantly looked at Tanya. A bashful bloom flooded her pale cheekbones. “And later he, my genius, my hero, proposed to me; it’s indeed impossible not to carry out an oath sworn by The Ancient One… And I… I said yes! I’ve felt for a very long time that we were created for each other! The wedding will take place very soon — the first day of fall. Everyone is invited, except him here!” Unhealed Lady poked a finger at Bab-Yagun, “What have I done?” Yagun was indignant.
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“The best there is! You’re crossed out from the list for everyday boorishness!” Lady explained. At this moment, the barrage of feelings finally tumbled down, and Lady, flying around the balcony, began to sing hysterically: Soon summer will end/Soon is the end of summer/And somewhere someone/Will marry me! After repeating this slightly changed verse three times, Lady wanted to vanish into thin air in order to tweak Pipa’s nerves a little for old time’s sake, but suddenly recalled something and returned. “Ah yes!” she offhandedly said. “Didn’t I tell you yet? Sardanapal sent me here. He ordered to communicate that tomorrow you can return to Tibidox! Exams begin the following week, and dragonball trainings already tomorrow! Further literally: all limitations to sparks are removed! The world is again full of magic! All students return in the afternoon, in one group. Assemble at three over the Bryansk forests on the direction spell. He requests you not be late! Dentistikha has already departed from Paris. But here Slander Slanderych has to linger and settle something. Moreover, Sardanapal forgot where he mislaid his magic ring… And now for the time being, I must fly around to another mass of people.” Unhealed Lady had hardly finished talking when the government building shuddered from the friendly howl of two young magicians. Aunt Ninel in her fright jumped into the arms of Uncle Herman, almost giving the best deputy a hernia. Pipa, covering the portrait of G.P. with kisses, from surprise broke the glass with her nose. It was the victorious cry of Tanya and Bab-Yagun, their farewell to the moronoid world! *** The dense Bryansk forests in their century had seen many wonderful and not so wonderful things, but never so many magicians gathered above them at one time. Almost no one was late except Shurasik, having taken into his head after all to read without exception all the books in the Russian state library but had only reached the letter R, and Gunya Glomov, again managing to be at the police for a fight and broken glass. True, he ran off from the police, after pulling out the grid from the window and tying up two sergeants with the phone cord. After ascertaining that everybody had gathered, Dentistikha released several sparks, giving the signal that it was possible to take off. Since Slander was not with them, the return flight was much more pleasant than the flight from Tibidox. The speediest and most impatient group, in essence consisting of the Tibidox dragonball team, rushed first with Speedus envenomus. In front were Tanya on the double bass and Bab-Yagun on the roaring vacuum, and, almost not lagging behind, Coffinia Cryptova, Kuzya Tuzikov, Liza Zalizina, Katya Lotkova, Rita On-The-Sly, SevenStump-Holes, and Gunya Glomov joining them. Zhora Zhikin, trying to set speed records, fell from the mop into the ocean and had to restrain his ardour. Behind the dragonball team with tolerable delay flew the basic group with Hastenus plodus, and finally at the very end dragging along with Pilotus kamikazis were teethrattling helicopters, swooping carriers, and group benches for those freshmen, who poorly
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kept themselves in the air. The Great Tooth brought up the rear, managing to read in flight Martin Heidegger in the narration of Plague-del-Cake. The nearer Buyan they were, the stronger their impatience. It seemed to Tanya that they were barely dragging along, although the wind had long since forced her against the double bass, not even letting her raise her head. Finally, she sensed that the moment had arrived. Her heart was beating rapidly and joyfully. “Grail Gardarika!” she shouted simultaneously with Bab-Yagun. The ring of Theophilus Grotter, after muttering: “Young and green!” released a spark. They passed seven rainbows. And then an island appeared from the oceanic foam, a fog was crawling like milky strips from the direction of the ocean. Through the fog peeped out the rock tortoise Tibidox with pointy protruding towers on the shell. “TIBIDOX — SCHOOL OF MAGIC FOR DIFFICULT-TO-RAISE YOUNG MAGICIANS. WHITE and BLACK DEPARTMENTS,” shone over the gates in ruby-coloured letters. Medusa, Tararakh, Sardanapal, Professor Stinktopp, and Fuji were standing on the little teachers’ balcony. Abdullah was whirling hereabouts, hiding a suspiciously thick roll behind his back. This time, taking into account that the competing speaker had remained in Moscow, he had a good chance to read his greeting to the end. The spell of passage operated incessantly, delivering the returning students one after the other. The orchestra of cyclopes were already rumbling on the walls, and, only on the side, directly in the air, endeavouring to out-voice it, roared the composite chorus of ghosts, in front of which in a black tailcoat with a bowtie hovered the fiancé of Unhealed Lady, Lieutenant Rzhevskii. “Why do we have to choose a large size? A normal tailcoat would not go over his knives. But now some scoundrels nickname him hunchback! Here’s indeed a mean lie — Rzhevskii has the carriage of an officer!” Unhealed Lady said with pride. In front of the drawbridge with a cudgel on his shoulder, Dumpling Maker was strolling back and forth, dropping quick stern glances with his crazy eye. “Stop — who’s flying! Password!” he demanded, blocking the way. In the next instant, hundreds of students rushing over the bridge knocked the cyclops over and threw him off into the ditch. “The password is ‘twenty-two toads!’ I allow passage!” Dumpling Maker said with an air of importance to the water sprite surfacing beside him, with a water-lily leaf stuck to his cheek. The cyclops had long ago been adhering to the principle that when you are sitting in a puddle, the main thing is to save face. The water sprite twirled a finger by his temple, spit out a stream of water from his mouth, and dived under. Chapter 11 Rejuvenating Apples A new turn of life began on Buyan for the students returning to Tibidox. In the first evening Medusa and Sardanapal criticized everyone for disrupting the rules of stay at the moronoids, but, if you look into it, the dressing down was not especially severe. It told of the absence of Slander Slanderych and his notebook of misdeeds.
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After several days, the ring of Slander was found nevertheless, all business in the moronoid world was settled, and the principal appeared in Tibidox, evil as a harpy and crafty like a snake. He ranted and raved, but Sardanapal did not allow repeat denunciation with screeches, hysterics, and total zombification: everybody was already preparing for exams. The rocker, canopy, and cauldron were placed in the garret by Professor Stinktopp. It was known that for the protection of these unique relics Stinktopp did not use the usual violet and red veils but employed some other, unique means of safeguard. What this means was, Stinktopp, it goes without saying, told no one, but he smirked so significantly that everyone involuntarily became ill at ease. The Sleeping Adonis, as the culprit of the theft, was transferred together with the crystal coffin to Dentistikha, whom Sardanapal ordered not to let out of her sight. “But what if Deni falls in love with him?” The academician with doubt asked Medusa. “With this crocodile? Impossible! Besides, she’s already in love!” Docent Gorgonova calmed him. The for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox complacently grunted and smoothed out his moustaches. Medusa did not like this. In reality, she had in mind Dentistikha’s enthusiasm for medieval literature. But the dark cloud of exams was already hanging over the students of Tibidox, only worse would be having to retake exams and working through the vacations. Certainly, during the school year, no one seriously prepared for exams, and now the heads of the students literally swelled with the enormous volume of information urgently shoved in. The entire school contrived to force their way simultaneously into the reading hall of the library, and if not for the fifth dimension, several hundred young magicians in no way could find room in the small hall with seven tables… Tired students were continually heard muttering the spells Coffeepotus stimilatus and Cramus examinitis. The genie Abdullah, who obviously was to block these spells, did nothing, and only the warts ominously roamed along his face. It was well known to the library genie that after a sevenfold use of Coffeepotus the temples would ache terribly, and after Cramus examinitis the students would become like zombies. They, dully staring at the instructor’s forehead, would be capable of clattering out from the first to the last letter the most complex answer, but any unforeseen question, even the most elementary like “What colour are the sparks?” or “Who is The Ancient One?” would lead to unpredictable and extremely unpleasant consequences. Before dinner Tanya, the recently discharged Vanka Valyalkin, and Bab-Yagun were studying the new timetable hanging in the Hall of Two Elements. “See, again they moved everything! It’s immediately evident that Slander dragged himself along and stands up for his rights. Tomorrow is Gorgonova’s evil spirits studies. And after only three days Stinktopp’s practical magic! Here’s someone who’ll indeed definitely fail me! When I was transferred from the black department to the white, Stinktopp nearly cracked! He simply fiercely hates me!” Bab-Yagun said. “He won’t. Better study!” Vanka said. “To whom are you saying this, soccer shirt?!” Yagun began to yell. “Did you at least read his questions? Some titles make me sick! For example: ‘Dandruff of a sorcerer as the basis of magic potions’ or ‘Vampire slobber and decoction of loathing’… And, do you know what Stinktopp forces students to pull questions out of? The throat of a vile lizard!”
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“It’s not a lizard. It’s this African idol. I heard it somehow amputated the arm of one fourth-year student. Allegedly because he, putting his hand into its mouth, mentally called it a freak!” Tanya said. She had not slept already for two nights, preparing for evil spirits studies. The most cunning cribs would not work with Medusa. Gorgonova blocked spells even on approach, and it was swifter to get a two from her than to exclaim Briskusquickus. Whether you want to or not, you have to give it all you have. *** On another morning before breakfast all the third-year students, awake but for the most part had not gone to bed yet, crowded before Medusa’s office. “One enters, another leaves. No cribs, no assist magic! Whoever makes a racket in the hallway will be three times sorry that he was not among the moronoids!” Medusa said sternly, looking out from the office, and called for the first six volunteers. There turned out to be several volunteers. Among them were Tanya and Vanka Valyalkin, having decided that it was better to stop agonizing immediately than fraying the nerves for the whole day and asking all those emerging: “How did you do? Is she raging?” On the other hand, Bab-Yagun decided to make for the last place and to wear Medusa down. “My granny mama! Indeed, I know: ought to answer when the instructor slips under the table from fatigue. Do you remember how I caught Dentistikha last year? I went in last. She was already sitting there barely alive, and I said to her, ‘Hurray, at long last my favourite subject! Is it possible to get two questions and one extra one?’ From fright, Deni slapped me a five and I made double-quick for the door. And I indeed knew that three was a stretch…” Yagun reasoned, but almost no one was listening to him. Each had his own system. The very first dashing off to answer, strangely enough, was not Shurasik, freed from exams, and even not Lotkova, but…Gunya Glomov. He was hoping that according to established tradition Medusa would give the first daredevil a grade of one mark higher than he deserved. “2+1=3. A full passing grade. Possible to live!” Glomov reasoned. “Welcome!” Medusa shrugged her shoulders and invited him in. When Gunya came out five minutes later, everyone rushed to him. “Well so, did it work?” “Not particularly. 1+1=2. Without the right of retaking. A couple more ‘two’s — and guarantee I’ll have to repeat a year,” Gunya sourly informed them. “But why did you laugh so foolishly?” Rita On-The-Sly asked. “I got chicken dog and auntie-fevers… I didn’t know about fevers and immediately began to answer about chicken dog. I was pleased that the question was easy. I said, with feathers and all that… But then it was explained that I didn’t pay attention reading. She didn’t need chicken dog but chicken god…” Tanya pulled out the card, where the first question was about Solomon and Kitovras, and the second about Kostrubonka. She knew not badly about Kitovras, for example, that it was a centaur, but here the matter concerning Kostrubonka was worse. If she remembered anything, then only that it was necessary to coax it all the time. Vanka Valyalkin, who got Anchutka, managed to forget all the spells from it and made pleading signs to Tanya. Tanya understood what he needed but could not prompt.
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Medusa, without raising her head from the journal, placed on her a mute spell. When Tanya tried to transfer a note to Vanka, the lump of paper flared up and turned into ashes. “Grotter, after the exam you will remove your rubbish, and now step up to answer! Only don’t step on Damien!” Docent Gorgonova said. Tanya got up and, looking near her feet, moved to the chair in front of the instructor, from which a large shaggy centipede had recently slipped down. “Goryanov! You will crawl up for retaking the exam the day after tomorrow, then, possibly, I will remove the spell from you!” Medusa admonished the centipede. Damien, not knowing all the fine points of Cramus examinitis, disappeared behind the door. “Once I get to the genie Abdullah, he will be sorry about this. I asked him to place a block!” Medusa pensively said. “Well now, Grotter, what do we have about Kitovras?” Tanya cleared her throat and began to answer; Gorgonova looked at her attentively, and for some reason the girl had the impression that Medusa heard her words before they left her mouth. As a result Tanya, nevertheless stumbling over Kostrubonka, but by chance coming up to the surface, got a ‘four’ at a stretch. Vanka had to be satisfied with a ‘three’. “It’s okay, I’ll win back with veterinary magic! I already learned by heart everything about sirens, merfolk, the Ceryneian Hind and the Fiery Snake. And about Strefil also, by the way,” consoling himself, he stated to Tanya. “What is this Strefil?” “Like the tsar of all birds. It lives on an island in the middle of the sea. Tararakh assures me that he doesn’t know how to cure it, because it has never been sick in five thousand years,” said Vanka. “A nightmare! No respect for the veterinary profession! Here get busy with some sirens and listless dragons then!” Tanya sympathized. They left for the Hall of Two Elements and dined. Since during exams everyone would be free at different times, a relatively decent tablecloth fell to their lot — potatoes and sausages. Of course, these were not pancakes with chocolate filling, nevertheless also not cooked semolina. The eternally hungry Vanka ate thirty-two sausages and four plates of potatoes and washed everything down with three litters of compote, which sharply raised his mood. “Poor Yagunie! Still suffering by the door, his granny mama!” Tanya sympathetically said, when, after dinner, they were already sitting in the library and attempting to grasp the secret of stuffing earthworms (according to rumours, the favourite extra question of Professor Stinktopp). She did not have time to finish talking when Valyalkin stared thunder-struck at the door of the reading hall. The textbook of practical magic, making use of the situation, pinched his finger. “Speaking of the devil!” Vanka exclaimed. Towards them, beaming like a polished samovar, rushed Bab-Yagun. “So, managed a three?” Tanya asked. “Three?” Yagun made a face. “Don’t you want a five?” “A FIVE from MEDUSA? This is impossible! What, did you sign yourself as Shurasik?” Vanka could not believe it. “Well no, I simply lucked out with the question. I pulled out Sporysh and guardiangoddesses. I chattered from ‘a’ to ‘z’ and without any examinitis there. I’m really proud of myself!”
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“Sporysh and guardian-goddesses? And you only knew about them!” Tanya was amazed. “Exactly!” Yagun said satisfactorily. “Them and nothing else! And I got them!” “What luck! Almost a thousand questions!” Vanka exclaimed. Yagun silently extracted from his sleeve a hidden amulet similar to a large silver coin, and shook it in front of Vanka’s nose. “What’s this?” Valyalkin asked. “You guess! Recognize who is coined here? Granny? Missed! Dentistikha? Also missed!” “Don’t turn it so fast… Some auntie!” Vanka said. “Auntie? This is Tikha — the goddess of lucky chance. Very useful ancient lady, although already almost no one remembers her. Increases positive probability hundreds of times. If there is a tiny chance, she’ll fish it out.” “And if Medusa knew?” Tanya interrupted him. “Certainly, she would know if I went first. But she was like a squeezed lemon! On-TheSly and Liza Zalizina were completely the end of her. She asked them about the cow Io, they answered about hobgoblins… She asked about bathhouse spirits, they answered about werewolves. After this pair, her eyes were already looking in different directions. And besides, this isn’t the main talisman. So, fiddle-faddle!” “And where’s the main one?” “Ahem… I swallowed it!” “SWALLOWED?” Vanka repeated with distrust. “What was there left for me to do? I thought, Medusa would see through this — so that’s the only thing left! What a dirty trick — got stuck in the throat, needed vegetable oil to wash it down, simply didn’t seem to be anything else… But now listen to what I sniffed out! I described Sporysh to Gorgonova, then, in order that there wouldn’t be additional questions, I quickly shifted the pointers to the throne of The Ancient One. I began to reason that in our time there is nothing for the guardian-goddesses to do, because there is, they say, the throne. And it’s even good that no one knows where it is, because the Sleeping Adonis was already figured out.” “What, and Medusa bought it?” Tanya asked. Bab-Yagun puffed up with pride. “Exactly! You should have seen what it did to her! Even her hair was hissing! She said that the guardians would even prove to be useful still, and very soon. She gave me a ‘five’ and catapulted me with a spell for the door… Good also she did not forget to open it.” “Why will the guardians prove to be useful? What did she have in mind?” Vanka did not understand. “And how would I know? What, am I stupid, to mirror Gorgonova — she’d slam me in an instant. Only the laces will be left for Granny to remember me by…” Suddenly some thought was reflected on Yagun’s face, even not a thought, but…on the whole, some such thing. He hugged his stomach and, smiling foolishly, stepped back. “Where are you going?” Tanya asked. “I this… recalled about one monstrously big deal. Literally a matter of life and death,” stated Yagun and dashed away. “Well now! Medusa nevertheless saw through him and put a spell on him!” Tanya said.
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“What’s with Medusa here? More like the talisman doesn’t agree with vegetable oil!” Vanka explained. *** Earlier than the appointed time, everyone gathered outside Professor Stinktopp’s office, located right under the roof in the narrow tower pointed like a finger. It was well known that Stinktopp was crazy about punctuality. So far, the doors of his office were closed, but it was already possible to see through a crack how the flame was crackling under the cauldrons placed on the fire. The maestro Sigmund Stinktopp always demanded from the students not so much theoretical as practical knowledge. “In my opinion it is slightly burnt kasha!” After becoming accustomed to the smell, Yagun said. “Indeed, more likely elixir of honesty; Stinktopp adores dosing all those answering with the stuff! If you have a crib in your pocket at the same time, you’d explode on the spot! I heard of one such story,” said Rita On-The-Sly. Cryptova put her ear to the door: some suspicious sound was definitely coming through from the other side. “Strange that Stinktopp is still ignoring us. I hear how he’s romping there,” said Coffinia. “Probably not all the questions and not all the cauldrons have evil eyes put on them yet. Personally I’m not rushing to answer,” remarked Vanka Valyalkin. He and Tanya had decided that they would no longer give in to being the first. Better to be somewhere nearer the end, using the method of Bab-Yagun. A generous Yagun even supplied them with talismans from his inexhaustible collection. True, they seemed somewhat dubious to Tanya. Her talisman was constantly sparkling and burning her pocket, and Vanka’s was so cold that the entire pant leg from the belt to the boot was covered with hoarfrost. Possibly these talismans are not bad, but what is the point in this if they cannot be hidden? Suddenly in front of the office, almost in the same place Dusya Dollova was standing, Fuji appeared. “Oh, poison! I adore poison! Where are you, my friend Mozart?” he muttered, shaking off from his robe sparks not yet faded after teleportation. The children made room. The instructor of magic essences was looking quite crazy. “He was in Magford, and when he returned, it suddenly hit him here! Again these unearthly spirits! They eternally install themselves in those teleporting!” the all-knowing Parroteva whispered to Coffinia. “And what was he doing in Magford?” Coffinia eagerly asked. “Don’t know. They say he is betrothed to some witch there. She loves him, but he not so and always puts off the wedding,” the romantic Verka said with aspiration. “Here’s a fool from the alley! He would not put me off! Only let Puper try to wimp out on me! I’ll put off the wedding to him — he’ll be singing in my choir of ghosts!” arms akimbo, Cryptova stated. Parroteva and Dollova looked at her with respect. “Salieri” prowled like a tiger several times past Stinktopp’s office, looking suspiciously at the students. Suddenly his face was distorted. With the roar of a beast, he jumped to Gunya Glomov and began shaking him by the collar. “Ah, here you are, Mozart! Well tell me, why are you a genius? Spill!” he began to yell. Gunya Glomov blinked, taken back. For the first time in his life, someone called him a genius.
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Unexpectedly Fuji unclenched his hands. He looked around, having come to exactly a moment ago, and, pressing his temples with his hands, quickly went away. “I hate teleportation. Any road at all. I remember when I was little and lived at the moronoids’, I eternally felt sick in the coach…,” he muttered to himself. Vanka Valyalkin shook his head. “With such a searcher of magic essences we’ll have to forget about the throne of The Ancient One…,” he said. “Of course! What are they thinking there, in Magford? It was necessary to slip Sardanapal this treasure!” Zhora Zhikin agreed. The top dandy of Tibidox appeared unusually contented. Suspiciously contented, taking into account the coming exam. After about ten minutes, simply not waiting for it to be opened, children began to bang on Stinktopp’s door, but as it was, it just remained closed. “And if we all slip away together?” Mozart-Gunya proposed. “Puny excuse! Better I help him apply evil eye to the questions! My evil eyes turn out thorough! It’ll be an interesting event if the cauldrons for all the whites split open!” Coffinia challenged. She turned around, released a red spark and, after whispering the break-and-enter spell Fogus sneakus, infiltrated through the door backwards. But another second later her howl was heard. “What happened?” Liza Zalizina shouted. “He… He’s more… Summon some of the adults! FASTER!” The voice of Cryptova could hardly be recognized. They heard how a spark cracked when Coffinia removed the locking spell. All rushed in. A hot pungent steam hung in the air. Professor Stinktopp’s rat waistcoat was spread on the floor. A chubby pink baby was lying on the waistcoat and playing with the bronze spoon on the chain. “But who is this? Did they toss up one more orphan, like our Grotty?” Rita On-The-Sly suspiciously asked. “Don’t come forward! What, don’t you see — this is Stinktopp! See, here’s even the third eye on the back of his head!” Kuzya Tuzikov whispered. Verka Parroteva and Dusya Dollova, still not daring to enter the classroom but looming on the threshold, began to wail and, becoming hysterical on the double, dashed off for the instructors. Several minutes later Sardanapal, Tararakh, Medusa, and Dentistikha broke into the classroom almost simultaneously. The last to come in a hurry was the short of breath Slander, who began to chase all the curious children from the room. After slamming the door shut behind them, he picked up from the floor an apple that had rolled away and carefully sniffed the bitten spot. “Rejuvenating!” he said. “Moreover unripe! These are the most dangerous! Interesting, who did this?” The baby gurgled and shoved a big toe into his own mouth. It was very doubtful that it would be possible to find out anything from him. “What if Stinktopp himself decided to rejuvenate? Between us, guys, it’s time the old boy was in for repairs! He was barely on his last legs,” suggested the tactless Tararakh. Docent Gorgonova with a flick drove off the cobra tickling her ear with a double tongue. The offended cobra again became a strand of hair. “To rejuvenate five minutes before the exam, having already started a fire under the cauldrons? Not the most suitable time. To shed a hundred or twenty years, that’s one thing, but to return to being a baby?! This is not like Stinktopp!” she sternly said.
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“Then another idea. Let’s assume he decided to shed a few decades and took the smallest bite. And then quickly went too far!” Tararakh said. “Impossible! Sigmund taught poisons and potions, and this already says something. He calculated doses perfectly. I doubt he could make such a blunder. Someone substituted a rejuvenating apple for a normal one! Indeed, it’s not so complicated. Outwardly they are similar,” frowning, Slander Slanderych stated. “Here’s direct evidence of intentional poisoning!” “Rejuvenation…” Tararakh softly corrected him. The pithecanthropus squatted down and affectionately examined the baby, who was already playing with the spoon and now pulling the rat waistcoat. “I won’t argue! Let it be criminal intentional rejuvenation! Stinktopp was even lucky that he still had one tooth and was able to bite off quite a little bit from the apple. Otherwise, he would have disappeared all together. It’s possible that it’s precisely what the scoundrels had hoped for,” the principal stressed. “But what to do now?” Dentistikha asked. Everyone turned to Sardanapal, who, until now had not uttered a word, but only attentively looked at either the apple or the flame under the cauldrons, which had a strange vinous hue. The academician’s moustaches moved uncertainly. “Nothing,” he said. “How nothing?” “We are not children. We cannot have any illusions. The action of rejuvenating apples cannot be reversed. The most we are capable of is to accelerate his growth slightly. In a year or two, he will be ten or twelve years old, and we will let him study magic anew together with our children. I will not be surprised if he succeeds,” said Sardanapal quietly. The baby again gurgled and, swinging his legs, aimed to hit Slander, who was leaning over him, in the nose with a heel. It was difficult to assume from his serene face that in the course of time he was capable of becoming the professor of practical magic. “Nevertheless I would like to know who did this to Stinktopp! For sure, it was not managed without these young criminals and scoundrels here! They needed to disrupt the exam and they achieved this! I propose to X-ray everyone’s consciousness, to reveal the guilty ones and punish them severely!” Slander hissed, rubbing his nose. “All the time I was waiting for you to say this! You would still recall that there are torture tools in the basement!” Tararakh winced. “Really? And what precisely?” Slander came alive. “Yes, well, rusty ones,” Tararakh growled evasively. He was already sorry that he had started talking about this at all. But Slander’s thought, dying to flow in a roundabout way, had already crawled further along like a slippery grass snake. “Well, please wait a bit!” he said. “I don’t exclude that students have nothing to do with it here! Deni, quickly verify whether your Sleeping Adonis is in place!” “Mine? He’s not mine!” Deni got angry. Sardanapal looked attentively at Dentistikha, and then at Slander. A wrinkle like a scar cut up his smooth forehead. “Deni, the zoomer!” he ordered. “Academician, you know me… I surrounded the coffin with this mound of spells! Now he is guarded better than the Sinister Gates!” “Deni!”
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Pursing her lips, Dentistikha thrust her zoomer to Sardanapal. The screen of the zoomer, infected by the obstinacy of its mistress, was being pig-headed at first. It either gave out interferences or attempted to speak in the voice of Nagiana Pripyatskaya, but then it calmed down and showed the small room adjoining Dentistikha’s office. The crystal coffin was rocking serenely on silver chains. The Sleeping Adonis, gazing around, was reclining in the coffin. It was evident that he had recently settled down and was going to pull the cover over himself now. All around blazed black magic guarding curtains, gilded exotic African charms, capable of plunging even an elephant into hibernation, but all these meant nothing to the Sleeping Adonis. “But why did he wake up at all? Why did my magic not work?” Dentistikha exclaimed. “The deferred curse is a strange piece. No one knows what tricks it will play. I would like to know what magician put him in this situation… It seems to me that this could be She-Who-Pestered-Everyone-Even-In-That-World!” Sardanapal pensively said. This was almost the first time he did not call Plague-del-Cake by name. “But She-Whom-You-Just-So-Subtly-Hinted-At is dead!” Docent Gorgonova exclaimed. “Of course, Medi! Precisely because her deferred curse assumed such power that Gottfried Bouillon can roam where he wants, and we can only admire him in the zoomer… Even if I take it into my head to place him in a cell now, it would not hold him! And that he sleeps like a log and doesn’t even think of waking up!” Sardanapal said crossly. The pink baby unexpectedly began to cry, and so loudly that a nervous Slander put his hands up to his ears. Dentistikha, holding onto her glasses, anxiously leaned over her former chief. “Cute, how darling! And how like himself! Tiny, but the face is already so surly, so mean!” she started to coo. “Calm down, Deni! Better conjure up some Pampers. It’s completely obvious that Professor Stin… this baby… eh-eh… is leaking,” said Docent Gorgonova, dousing her flame. Sardanapal suddenly smiled, but immediately, recollecting, hid the smile. “I, of course, understand that heaven knows what is created in Tibidox… But no way will I get used to the thought that Stinktopp is a baby again,” he said, shaking his head. “I hope, when we give him a slightly grown-up look, he will be in the white department! His life has begun with a clean slate,” he said. Verka Parroteva, eavesdropping and peeping through the doors, jumped up almost a metre. “Stinktopp will be in the white department!” she reported to everyone. “What did you say? From the fall?” Bab-Yagun burst out laughing so hard that he slipped down to the floor. “My granny mama! Here I never thought that we’d live to see the day! Baby Stinktopp will study with us. Better turn me into a zombie right away!” he said out loud, hiccupping with laughter. Laughing aloud together with everyone, Tanya accidentally noticed that Seven-StumpHoles and Zhora Zhikin had moved aside and were whispering something quietly among themselves. True, she immediately forgot about this. It is extremely difficult to hold something in your head when you are laughing so hard that you almost cannot stay on your feet from the laughter…
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Chapter 12 The Control Arrow The third (already almost fourth) magic grade was bored in one of the dusty auditoriums of Tibidox, where only the ghost of Mad Mathematician flew for the last hundred years. Mad Mathematician was a gloomy greybeard, strolling around on moonlit nights with a bloodstained square and searching for the Perpetual Sine, allegedly stolen from him by a mystical blond with a pimply nose. Both departments — white and black — were in the audience. Along the board, tilting forward, Fuji was strolling and expanding on his favourite theme. The children sighed despondently. Stinktopp’s exam was replaced with a course of lectures from this half-wit from Magford! This was Slander’s idea, deciding to punish the entire grade as a warning in case someone nevertheless was mixed up in the story with the rejuvenating apple. “Magic essence is the true essence of an object. It lies in it like a butterfly in a caterpillar or an oak in an acorn. Or another example! Visualize an egg! Who cannot imagine an egg?” Fuji asked. “I can’t!” Seven-Stump-Holes’ voice was heard. The instructor of magic essences was so lost that he even jumped. “Why can you not?” he fearfully asked. “I can’t, and that’s all! I don’t have any imagination, and I’ve never seen an egg at all!” Seven-Stump-Holes stated still more insolently. Fuji began to blink. He suddenly became so helpless and pitiful that one would want to give him a kopeck. Tanya thought that Fuji was among those teachers not capable of giving rebuff at all. She was sorry for him. “Holes, Be a stump!” she demanded. “What if I will? What are you going to do to me?” he grinned. “I’ll give you a bewitched pass at training! Gullis-dullis, Trullis-zapullis, or Figuszatsapus. Or all three together. Depending on the mood,” said Tanya. “And I’ll add a couple of balls so that it would take a long time to peel you off the shielding dome!” Bab-Yagun promised. Seven-Stump-Holes bit his tongue. Even if he had the chance to catch Tanya’s pass, those of the telepath Yagun were simply slaughter. After them, the genies had to level out the sand continually with rakes. Fuji glanced gratefully at Tanya. “So, an egg!” he continued. “Who, looking at it, can guess that inside is a chicken?” “Or a yolk, or Koshchei’s death, or a dragon, or a crocodile!” Cryptova said with a challenge. “An excellent example, Coffinia!” Fuji was pleased. “It can be anything you like in there! Or almost anything you like! I’m only trying to prove that the essence of a thing can never be determined by its external, everyday form. Do you catch my drift?” Fuji said. Fuji as a lecturer had a depressing habit. He lisped, drawled, repeated one and the same a hundred times, and after each time asked, “Well now, do you understand?” or “Do you catch my drift?” It seemed he sincerely believed that the weak-minded were sitting before him in the auditorium. Finally, at the beginning of the second hour, when everyone was already slipping under the desks and even the egghead Shurasik had stopped scribbling in his notebook and was
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casting looks at the teacher with mild astonishment, Fuji finished with theory. “And now let’s move on to practice! Better to see once than to hear a hundred times! Isn’t it true, excellently said? Do you catch my drift?” he asked happily. Katya Lotkova began to moan quietly. She had held laughter in check for so long that she was already barely alive. Fuji cleared his throat. Having vigilantly looked with his watery eyes over the class, he decisively approached Kuzya Tuzikov. “Please give me your left boot!” he asked. “W-why?” Tuzikov did not understand. “Please give it to me, then you’ll understand!” Kuzya unwillingly unlaced his boot and handed it to Fuji. Fuji lifted it up high before the entire class. From the boot fell out a forgotten crib-whisperer, and, quietly but distinguishably, it was muttering answers on protection from spirits. The exam, which Slander would be giving, according to the timetable, was at the end of the following week. Kuzya Tuzikov reddened deeply. “Aha, reactive broom, they caught you! And still poses as an excellent worker!” Gunya Glomov started to neigh. However, it was made clear, Fuji was not interested in the crib at all. He picked up the continuing-to-whisper paper and, after apologizing, returned it to the owner. After that, he placed the boot on his table, where it was visible to all. “And now I advise you to close your eyes tight!” he said, making some passes over the boot. “Why? What if I don’t want to?” Cryptova asked, but at this moment, Fuji shouted in a terrible voice, “Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis!” His ring flared up with dual, very bright sparks. Those who did not obey and did not close their eyes immediately started to rub their eyes. Others, who were not blinded, saw that Tuzikov’s boot had disappeared. A bat was flying around the classroom, running into walls. “I ask you to pay attention that this was not a spell of transformation, but precisely the rite of liberation of essences! This boot — an ordinary boot introduced into the world by a multiplying spell from a moronoid model — turned out to have the essence of a bat! I admit I also expected something similar. I have a practiced eye!” Fuji continued. “But my boot? What am I to do now, walk barefoot?” Tuzikov squeaked, examining his left foot. There was only a sock on it, and on top of that with a hole in one of the toes. The instructor from Magford made a helpless gesture. “Alas, young man, nothing I can do… Your boot will forever remain a bat. I let out its essence in its entire excellent natural state, and it will no longer return into the shell of that pitiful egg, which Mr. Seven-Stump-Holes never saw!” Fuji raised his voice. Tuzikov leaned over and unlaced the other boot. “Then please make this a bat too! Have to throw it out all the same!” he demanded. “Useless. Your second boot will remain a boot, no matter how often I utter Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis. The majority of objects in both the magic and the moronoid worlds do not have an internal essence! Of course it is possible to change anything by force, but it won’t be the same…,” said Fuji, for some purpose pointing to Gunya Glomov. Gunya started to busy himself in a fidgety manner, with alarm turning over in his mind, what if, say, a chest of drawers lives inside him and Fuji will even free it from him? “Yes well, some essence! There was a boot, but now there isn’t! No benefit, only harm!” practical Liza Zalizina said, making a face.
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“Girl, you reason exactly like those who envied me in Magford!” Fuji said sadly. “They all took up arms against me after I changed the dean’s wife into a toad! But was it my fault that she had this concealed essence?! Do you catch my drift?” An absolute storm broke out in the class. The laughter, held in control the entire lesson, escaped outside like lava in the depths of a volcano, listlessly dying to seethe. Bab-Yagun could not even exclaim “My granny mama!” and only screeched, “Oh, I can’t!” The instructor, who irreversibly converted the wife of Magford’s dean into a frog, instantly became a hero. In the concealed hierarchy of love-hate, which each student set up for himself, Fuji had instantly grown to one hundred points and rose somewhere next to Tararakh and Sardanapal, leaving Deni, Medusa, and Slander far behind. Tanya looked at the boring instructor with entirely different eyes. Short, red-nosed, absurd, he suddenly seemed to her like a magician-romantic, freeing the souls of objects from the fetters of their absurd shells. “Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis,” she quietly repeated, wondering whether this spell would work without those passes that Fuji made over the object. “Everyone may go! Same time tomorrow!” the Magford instructor said dryly. Likely, he sincerely did not understand what caused the laughter, and was even offended by such attitude towards him. He turned and, beckoning to the flying journal, left the classroom. All those remaining dragged themselves out after him. Even Kuzya Tuzikov hopped out on one foot. In the classroom remained only Coffinia and Tanya. Cryptova was searching for her pen, which had crawled away when Shurasik put an evil eye on it not so long ago. Tanya wanted to catch the bat, all the time still banging on the glass, to let it out. She had already almost caught the bat, when suddenly the double window of the auditorium was thrown open. Two cupids with an enormous basket of flowers flew into the classroom together with the moist oceanic wind. Coffinia clasped her hands. “Pupie! It’s from him, I know! Only he’s so considerate! Here, here, it’s for me!” she began to squeal. But the cupids, with wings quivering, flew past her and made their way to Tanya. She made terrible eyes and showed her fist at the cupids, but the foolish winged babies did not understand hints. Moreover, they clearly had time to quarrel between themselves, dividing the pastries obtained from Puper as a reward. One cupid had a swollen lip and the other was suspiciously dark-blue under one eye. “Here, hold this! We’re flying in for candies after dinner!” they growled, dropped the basket of flowers on Tanya’s head, and flew away. While Tanya was getting out from under the flowers, Coffinia like a tigress ran up to the basket and snatched out the postcard hidden there. On the postcard depicting cooing pigeons was written with a red marker: “Tania, to you, my love! Soon will be fall! Gury.” For a minute Coffinia remained motionless, and then…however, I will not even risk describing this… I will only say that even the water in the pond by The Ancient One’s guardhouse came to a boil. “How did you do this?” Coffinia breathed out, when her fury was more or less under control and she had stopped sprinkling Tanya with evil eyes and curses, which Tanya barely managed to block.
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“Pipe down, Crypt! No one wanted this. It’s entirely your spell! I moulded the figurine from dough, and also uttered the spell. Here’s the result! Should have thought about this sooner!” Tanya said, shrugging her shoulders. She experienced pity for Coffinia, although Coffinia was in no way like the helpless Fuji and generally could give rebuff when she wanted. Not waiting for Cryptova to sprinkle her with sparks again, she slipped from the auditorium and shut the door. Coffinia remained alone. Weeping from malice, she trampled the flowers. Then she burned the basket with a flamethrower spell. “It didn’t work! This scoundrel fell in love with Grotty! But I won’t give up! I’ll use extreme means! He’ll be sorry that he picked her and not me! I… I’ll resort to the aid of magfia! They’ll get him for me from under the earth!” she shouted. Coffinia set off for her room, locked herself in, turned over her bed, and pulled out her secret box. “Only try chattering to anyone!” she threatened Page, turning the skeleton with eye sockets to the wall. Page cracked its teeth in offence. The musketeer feathers on his hat drooped disappointedly. After taking out a notebook from the secret box, Coffinia tried to open it, but the notebook suddenly became a rat and attempted to bite her finger. “Here’s a forgetful one! Relativis beaconis!” Cryptova said, offhandedly releasing a red spark. The rat grew quiet and again became a notebook. Leafing through it, Coffinia finally discovered what she needed — one of the hundred most dangerous forbidden spells. In order that it would not disappear, as many spells transferred onto paper had a habit of vanishing, Cryptova contrived to copy it using special student cipher. Continually looking over at the door, Coffinia in a whisper read the long incantation, ending with the words “Maniacus imposonus magfioso yakuzacus!” A red spark flared up. Black Curtains in horror inflated into a bubble and immediately deflated, fringes trembling. Through the half-open window, a cupid slid into the room, looking around. It was a sullen baby of magfioso appearance, in reflecting glasses. The bow placed in his quiver was much bigger than that of the other cupids’. The same could also be said about the arrows. They were of such length that the quiver with them hung much lower than the chubby cupid legs, slightly disrupting the general magfioso impression. “Problems?” the baby asked in a squeaky voice. “An order!” shaking, Cryptova said. The cupid silently stretched out his plump hand. Coffinia pulled out Puper’s photograph from under the pillow and showed it to the cupid. The magfioso took the photograph and slid an indifferent look along it. Cryptova decided that he did not recognize Gury, but it was soon revealed that it was not so. “How much?” he asked. “Two bars of chocolate!” Cryptova blurted out. The cupid burst out laughing and returned the photograph to Coffinia. “Bad idea! They guard the client well. Two bars is the price for a moronoid…” Coffinia grew gloomy. “How much?” she asked. The cupid showed her five fingers, and then five more. Not a single cupid, even a magfioso, knew how to count to more than ten. “So many now! And so many, when the work is finished.” Cryptova sighed with relief. She threw back the pillow and handed the previously prepared bars to the cupid. “Fine, Plague-del-Cake takes you! If Puper falls in love with me, you will burst with chocolate!” she said.
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The cupid smirked and poured the bars into his quiver. “My arrows never miss the mark, mistress! He will fall in love with you like a bogey with rotten meat! Head over heels!” he promised. “Have in mind: he’s already bewitched with a figurine of dough and loves another,” warned Coffinia. The cupid winced with such contempt that the glasses jumped off his infantile nose. “You don’t know my arrows. Three arrows and he’s yours forever,” he assured her. “Only don’t forget the control arrow! Everything must be dead certain,” ordered Coffinia. “No problem, mistress! I see you have experience. Please consider he’s already yours,” said the cupid. He straightened his suspenders, picked up the glasses, and flew away, fluttering very well the magfioso golden wings. Coffinia followed him with a pensive look. She then drew Black Curtains and sat down by the windowsill. “Nightmare! I placed an order for Puper! I don’t recognize myself. Here’s what passion does to black magicians!” she said. *** And on another morning, even before everyone gathered for breakfast in the Hall of Two Elements, an utter storm broke out. Everything began sufficiently normally: lolling in bed, Verka Parroteva according to her habit listened to the zoomer, enriching herself with themes for today’s gossips. As always, they drearily muttered about the rates of toad warts and green corns and that someone cursed the weather above the continental part of Europe, and suddenly… “Bad morning, my un-dears!” the zoomer started to rattle. “With you is your Nagianie Pripyatskaya! Kiss-kiss to everyone on your beak, ears, and bald patch! “And now tie yourself by ropes to a little chair! Prepare valerian drops or hemp for soothing! Ready? Then please listen! Today at seven in the morning, an unknown cupid carried out an attempt on Gury Puper, when he, with his broom under his arm, was on his way to morning training. Hiding behind a cloud, the cupid shot four arrows at the dragonball star with two hitting the mark. Fans of Gury and the composite Tibidox team members pursued the cupid; however, that one managed to hide himself, using the high clouds… Puper is hospitalized in a severe amorous fever. At the present time, the magpital keeping Puper is under the control of substantial detachments of maglice. They do not allow journalists and photographers in to him. Magciety of Jerky Magtion has already issued a statement on this, sharply condemning similar actions. ‘This is universal magrorism! I will not be surprised if its roots lead to the east, to Afghanistan or even somewhere else!’ Koshchei the Immortal, representative of Magciety, stated. In turn, the American magician Uncle Sam has clearly let it be known that his magents are already studying the version about the participation of Vamdam Gussein and Bam Khlaban on the attempt on Puper’s life. Bam Khlaban, as usual, refrained from comments. He teleported to some unknown place and was hidden from magents and magjudges, the fact by itself is suspicious. Vamdam Gussein again rejected all charges in his address and in a temper converted seven more correspondents into gophers. Altogether, at present eight of our associate-gophers are languishing in Vamdam’s captivity. Some from grief have already acquired descendants…”
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Verka Parroteva slipped down from the bed and on all fours — to walk she could not — ran out into the common room. “They shot at Puper! Some crazy cupid! Gury is injured! He’s in an amorous fever!” she began to yell. Dusya Dollova, not warned about the need to prepare herself with hemp, became white as a sheet and fainted. Together with her, Liza Zalizina and Rita On-The-Sly toppled over. True, the last one was more for company, since she, on the whole, was completely indifferent to Puper. “Scoundrels! I’ll find out who did this, I’ll curse on the spot!” Katya Lotkova yelled. “Exactly! A nightmare!” Coffinia agreed with her, though all the time her soul was singing with happiness. “I’m indeed more indignant than everyone! Lotkova, if you will curse someone, call me. I’ll help you!” Cryptova accurately laid the copy of Moonless Magyouths on the floor, carefully settled herself down on the magazine shyly turning yellow from stale gossips, and simulated a deep faint. Chapter 13 The Wedding of the Ghosts Exams, like a bowling ball knocking out from summer the entire second half of July and the first ten days of August, were finally over. Some passed them; for those who had to retake them, they were postponed to the fall, but this was no longer important. The children, gladly detaching themselves from textbooks, really discovered for the first time that, besides the auditoriums, stern instructors, and the library of the mad genie, there existed on Buyan the sun, the oceanic coast, and the forest. Life doused them with sparkling happy drops of its waterfall. Crowds of first and second year students wandered about among the wind-fallen wood of the forest closed to visitors, scaring the silence-loving evil spirits. Dusya Dollova and Verka Parrotev carved little hearts on the cliffs along the coast. Some of them were of such a size that it was possible to see them a kilometre away. This was not surprising because Dollova and Parroteva used magic sparks to the utmost. Gunya Glomov bit a shark. Seven-Stump-Holes caught a live otter and from curiosity tested on it the spell…of transformation into an otter. As a result of the imposition of two identical essences in Tibidox there appeared…one additional swamp bogey. Tanya, Vanka Valyalkin, and Bab-Yagun disappeared either to the dragonball field, where trainings barely ceased, or in the dragon hangars. Tanya and Vanka polished the scales of Goyaryn, which treated this completely complacently. On the other hand, BabYagun preferred to stay on the side, away from the old dragon. “It has a suspicious snout. And generally it hisses at me!” he declared. “They don’t like sharp odours and you smell of lubricant. For the vacuum,” explained Tanya. “You’d think how delicate we are! It doesn’t like my mayo! My granny mama, but it doesn’t reek, it smells sweet!” Yagun was offended. Nightingale O. Robber drove the team for five-six hours a day. Towards the evening, everybody was so tired that they could barely stay in the air, confusing spells, and continually showing up in the dragon’s mouth. Good though that clever Goyaryn treated
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its own players leniently and hardly swallowed them. But there was no use waiting for leniency from Mercury or the other young dragons. Sometimes Nightingale took examples from Daedalus Cretan’s book, which generally pleased nobody. But then no one else knew so many improbable methods of training. To catch peas blindly was only one of them. Tanya, Bab-Yagun, Rita On-The-Sly, and Seven-Stump-Holes now and then managed up to five peas. Thus far, Coffinia caught not even one, but she was not a bit embarrassed by this. “I really need to catch any trash! Great players don’t waste energy on trifles!” she asserted. By the way, despite very modest success in the game, there was as before a set of worshippers for Cryptova. She looked marvellous on postcards. Moreover, she always flew in short skirts and generally on complete parade. Somehow, during training a zoomer snapped into action. “With you is your Nagianie and Latest Magnews! Happy news for all worshippers of Gury Puper. He was finally released from magpital, where he went through a course of treatment for amorous fever. From tomorrow, Gury will again join training! His brawny (and please excuse my liberty of speech) face does not express the deep suffering of the heart, which he undoubtedly experiences. But for whom? For the time being only his trainer, his agent, personal maglawyer, and several hundred closest friends know the answer to this question. They, however, are all keeping the secret piously. The investigation, until now, has not established who precisely made the attempt on Puper’s life. However, to be on the safe side, they have already begun bombing Vamdam Gussein with curses from flying carpets, and on Bam Khlaban, Uncle Sam’s magents have already declared all military weapons and squandered happy-grass, which this honourable old man stored up during long lunar evenings for magical purposes…” After hearing this report, a stupefied Coffinia almost collided with Zhikin in the air. Katya Lotkova fell down from her vacuum and barely had time to hang onto the dragon. “Hey, girls, are you out of your mind? What, did they put an evil eye on you? Cryptova, are you looking at where you’re flying? Lotkova, let go of Goyaryn’s tail! Why did you grab it?” Nightingale O. Robber yelled, attempting to restore at least a semblance of order. “A nightmare, what rifts this Puper creates in the female collective! There isn’t a match yet but he’s already playing tricks on them!” Bab-Yagun pensively commented. The baby Stinktopp, who by some unknown means had made his way onto the field, hooted from the guest stand. He was gradually growing up, and not without reason, for Sardanapal had put the spell of accelerated growth on him. Now Stinktopp looked around four years old, no less. All day he ran around the school, stuck his tongue out at everyone and teased them. Taking into account that his lexical reserve was small, Stinktopp loved most of all to combine the pronoun “you” with other words. “Magician!” someone said to him. “You magician!” Stinktopp immediately declared. “Professor!” “You professor!” The baby Stinktopp responded like an echo and began to spit neatly. He was living in Medusa’s room, where a special waterproof bed with a night-light was set up for him. Under Stinktopp’s bed was already a jar, where he collected spiders, ants, cockroaches, worms, and other small critters with a habit of crawling. It did not particularly gladden Medusa, but greatly gladdened Tararakh. “There you are! Earlier he
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was my favourite student, and he was addicted to black magic only after that incident. And now, perhaps, he’ll again study veterinary magic!” the pithecanthropus was inspired. “What incident?” Bab-Yagun tried to find out, but he did not succeed in finding out anything. “Forget it! Let bygones be bygones. Everyone can make mistakes,” sternly answered Tararakh. Now two or three times a week Tanya compulsorily dropped in on Fuji. The one from Magford was always glad to see her, in any case on the days when he did not teleport anywhere and did not imagine himself the crazy Salieri. When he did, he became dangerous and would always ask Tanya in a sweet voice, “Girl, have you seen Mozart? No? Then here, drink tea!” “It’s poisoned!” “I hate clever fellows. Poured so much poison, but not one pig would drink! Go, perhaps, to entertain Sardanapal?” Fuji sighed. However, later little by little he was back to normal and again became the nice and helpless Fuji, who could discuss the latent souls of objects as much as one wanted, and then with a beautiful stroke of the hand and dazzling sparks extract a white pigeon from an old bronze candlestick. Unhealed Lady prepared for her wedding so energetically that she even knew how to rouse up the one who desired her less than others did — Lieutenant Rzhevskii. Earlier he in essence moaned, “I’m still too young to be married! I just died only recently!” Now occasionally it even slipped out of him the philosophical, “Well, a person has to go through everything!” The wedding was postponed several times. It happened more for Lady’s passion for writing and copying invitations than any other reason. Finally, Lady firmly settled on a date and assigned the wedding on the thirty-first of August. She even stopped fainting, after planning for the marriage ceremony imminently upon them. The closer this date, the more zeal Lady manifested and the softer the groom-to-be had become. “My dear, will you not repair the knife in my back, otherwise it’ll fall out now! Merci! Isn’t it detrimental to your health to fuss so?” Rzhevskii asked. “NOT A BIT! I’M IN OUTSTANDING HEALTH!” Unhealed Lady answered with a rise in vital forces. “On the other hand I’m feeling poorly now! Something is flickering in my eyes, and I no longer neigh as before!” Lieutenant said despondently. Well, and The Ancient One with them! Is it not so with brides and grooms in the world? By and large these two had the promise to be an excellent couple. *** One day near the twentieth of August, after returning from Fuji’s, Tanya bumped into a frightened Cryptova at the door. “Wait! Don’t go in there!” Coffinia shouted, dragging her away to the side. “Why?” “We have some terrible character there! I started to go in, but he... Don’t, orphan, don’t look! I almost died from fear!” “But what’s he doing there?” Tanya asked.
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“Don’t know what he’s doing! Do you think I asked? Stop! I dropped in and like he would turn to me… The face so white, bulging eyes… I jumped out and began to call for help. I thought he would run after me but he stayed there!” Coffinia began to squeal. She was on the verge of hysterics. The floor began to shake. Slander and Sardanapal, accompanied by cyclopes, were already running towards them. “He’s in the room!” Coffinia shouted. Suddenly the door was thrown open and the Sleeping Adonis in a white uniform walked out from the room, with arms stretched out before him. Slander and the academician were rooted to the spot. Groping Sardanapal on his way, Gottfried Bouillon unceremoniously felt his face, pushed Slander aside with his shoulder, and in short, jerky movements set off along the corridor to the stairs. One of the cyclopes attempted to bar his path. He was even carrying a cudgel, but some unknown force cast him to the side like a doll. “Must stop him! Sparkis frontis! Pointus harpoonus!” Coming to, Sardanapal raised his ring. Two successive sparks took off from his ring, but faded, after barely touching the white uniform. The academician helplessly lowered his hand. “As I also assumed! A deferred curse fends off all magic. He can wander around the school as much as he pleases!” “I warned you! We won’t be able to do anything to him without the throne of The Ancient One. True, most likely precisely he and his…” Slander Slanderych began, but, noticing Coffinia staring with curiosity at him, stopped short. “All ears, Cryptova? Haven’t been on preventive zombification for a long time?” he shouted. “I… But I…” Coffinia was at a loss. “Here I think it’s already time! Go to your room, make sure nothing was lost. And you too, Grotter!” Tanya and Coffinia looked around the room. Amazing, but there was no pogrom whatsoever. Except Page, obviously trying to hinder the Sleeping Adonis, was knocked down from the support and lying by the wall. The hat with feather had moved over its eye sockets. “Everything in place, Cryptova?” Slander asked. “Uh-huh,” muttered Coffinia. “And you, Grotter?” “Everything is normal. Took nothing,” said Tanya, examining Black Curtains, so overexcited that they mirrored what had taken place. First, it was Gury Puper, then some unpleasant cupid in mirrored glasses, then the Sleeping Adonis, fumbling on the walls and precisely searching for something… Coffinia in a hurry got up in front of Curtains, clearly attempting to block them with her back. This did not escape the vigilant principal. “What’s this you’re hiding there, Cryptova? Curtains were showing something, eh?” Slander asked, boring her with his dreary eyes. “Nothing! I’m just so!” Coffinia hurriedly said. Now she was altogether sorry that she panicked and called for help. “But for some reason it seems to me that you are! Why do you have Puper on the curtains, huh? What would it be from?” Slander Slanderych pressed. It would be highly improbable that Cryptova could preserve her secret, if the principal only had more time.

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“We cannot stay, Slander!” Academician Sardanapal shouted impatiently. “Must clarify where Gottfried was directed to… And make arrangements: let someone take the cyclops to magic station. The wretch is still out!” The principal unwillingly removed his freezing glance from Coffinia. “We’ll still return to this extremely interesting theme, Cryptova! By the way, this also applies to you, Grotter! I haven’t forgotten that I saw you on the night when they stole the cauldron…” he threatened and left, having thrown the door wide open. Sardanapal beckoned Tanya to him. “Hide it better! I could hide it myself, but for definite reasons it’s important that everything goes as it should,” he said in an undertone, so that Coffinia would not hear. “Possibly, he must also discover it, but not now.” Tanya shuddered. “What must I hide? You know what he was coming after, yes?” “Let’s say this: I surmise… Hold your ground, girl, and remember that your fatal oath is still working, although, I must acknowledge I slightly weakened it. I would like to know, why does everything fall precisely onto you?” The academician smiled sadly, touched her hair affectionately, and left. Tanya was confused. She did not understand what Sardanapal was talking about. What fell on her? Why did the Sleeping Adonis come to her room? And why did the academician refuse to explain anything to her, only limiting himself to misty hints? Coffinia turned around and finally risked moving away from Black Curtains. “Well now, Grotty, will you describe where you were the night they stole the cauldron?” she asked in an unctuous voice. “Where I must have been — there I was. And what was the cupid in mirrored glasses doing on Curtains?” Tanya answered her in the same tone. “What must have been — then it was. You forgot to ask permission!” clearly nervous, Coffinia snapped. She flopped onto the bed, turned on the zoomer to full volume and began to polish her nails. The theme was exhausted. The belligerent armies temporarily rolled away their guns, rolled up the banners, and drifted home. Already considerably later, leaning down in order to reach for something, Tanya noticed that her double bass case had been moved out from under the bed more than it normally was. It even seemed to her that someone had attempted to open the clasp. In any case, small but nevertheless noticeable grooves made by finger nails were left on it. Now Tanya understood why the Sleeping Adonis came here. “He needs the case! But why?” she racked her brain over it. And somewhere at the horizons of memory a high throne with a carved Gothic back already loomed like a fragile shadow. “And where will I hide the case?” Tanya continued to think. “Although… in Goyaryn’s hangar, say, under its drinking fountain! Wow, what a splendid place! I would like to see who within Goyaryn’s sight would try to turn over its drinking fountain! To say nothing of Nightingale moving it from mercury to pure nitro-glycerine for increased flame-flowing!” So, Tanya handled it. Next day after training, she unnoticeably sneaked into the hangar. The old dragon was watching quietly as she carefully moved aside the drinking fountain and hid the case. Smoke escaped in streams from its nostrils. After Tanya left, it placed its heavy snout on the drinking fountain, with its whole appearance showing that it would advise no one to repeat this trick. However, no one tried. Besides Vanka Valyalkin, Katya Lotkova, Tanya, Kuzya Tuzikov, and Seven-Stump-Holes, everybody preferred to keep
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away from the dragon. Even the hangar genies did not risk going there without any special need… A week later, the Sleeping Adonis appeared in their room again in the middle of the night. Not discovering the case, he began to roar, in irritation tore Black Curtains down from the window, and took off… *** On the thirty-first of August in the Hall of Two Elements, where just now gathered the entire school together with the witch-grannies headed by Big Matrena, Snow White, thirty-three heroes, the cat Bayun, and a great many others, the combined orchestra of cyclopes suddenly began to rumble. The shaggy orchestra musicians in sheepskins entered the hall one after the other and, moving exactly along the line where earlier a strip of fire delimiting light and dark danced when the hair of The Ancient One was whole, were blowing their horns. The heroes Usynya, Gorynya, and Dubynya, resonantly banging the cymbals, brought up the rear of the chain of cyclopes. The cyclopes looked around nervously and started to mince quicker. Dubynya’s cymbals soon bent from excessive zeal, and he changed to soup bowls, with all his might banging them against the floor. Sardanapal and Slander could hardly calm down the raging hero. Almost becoming deaf, Katya Lotkova covered her pretty ears with her hands. “Only not this! Everything begins again! The teaches are celebrating the last day of vacations!” she groaned. “What, have you forgotten, Lotkova? What’s with vacation here? Today’s the wedding of the ghosts! Didn’t they send you an invitation?” shouting over the horns, Bab-Yagun exclaimed. “Oh, calm down, Yagunie! I have an entire bundle of them and all for different dates! Twenty weddings in a row — fully in the spirit of our Lady. Probably, the divorces will be celebrated separately,” Lotkova assured him. In recent weeks, Yagun again began to pay court to Katya. True, she had so many admirers that she hardly singled him out in the overall mass. The most that he had managed to win so far were two-three smiles. Moreover, Yagun repeatedly regretted bitterly that Lotkova, as many universally recognized beauties, was…eh-eh…very clever only in doses. She could turn a deaf ear to dozens of excellent Yagun jokes, and then suddenly burst out laughing at the crude witticism of Glomov or the foppish Zhikin, although clearly neither Glomov nor Zhikin was her favourite. She made an exception perhaps of Shurik Chpurikov, but even then it was more from compassion, the others ran him down so. “On the whole, I have some breaks with these feelings! Would better not be them at all!” Yagun reflected now and then. He did not have time to recall the wedding of the ghosts or Unhealed Lady’s threat to invite everyone except him, when the combined orchestra issued an unbelievably deafening sound and suddenly became silent at once. Slowly flowing from all corners, floor, and even from the ceiling, languidly like white swans in a ballet, the chorus of ghosts floated into the hall. Yellow locks went for the table, Fair tresses move after them. Those are not yellow locks — that is a fine young man,
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Those are not fair tresses — that is a beautiful girl... Their voices rang out in the air. Semi-transparent, as if woven from fog, the ghosts slowly raised and lowered their hands. Diamonds sparkled, epaulets gleamed, armours thundered. Simple dresses in empire style and red folksy sundresses adjoined magnificent laces and crinolines. Even Eyeless Horror on this solemn occasion got rid of his blood-splashed shirt and was now in a judicial mantle. His terrible head was lost in the wig. Certainly, even in such attire almost no one would venture to call him good-looking. However, his charm was not in this. As far as male beauty is concerned, for the time being it was enough for Tibidox to have Zhora Zhikin and the Sleeping Adonis, strolling day and night where his fancy took him and no longer falling asleep even with lullabies. The views of all the ghosts were directed to one point in the middle of the hall, where the mosaic flagstones formed a circle resembling the sun. Lieutenant Rzhevskii and Unhealed Lady stood holding hands in the circle. At first, their outlines were entirely washed away, but they became increasingly more distinct with each instant. As though Lady and Lieutenant had traded places. Lady, dressed in a magnificent white dress, was so radiant with health. Seven cupids quivering their gold wings supported her transparent bridal veil — they supported it, it goes without saying, more for show, since the veil was intangible and weightless. On the other hand, Lieutenant Rzhevskii, dressed in a new uniform, looked as despondent as if he had to dine with the donkey Eeyore. “When they ask you if you want to be married, you will say ‘yes’! And don’t take it into your head to make a mess of things! Furthermore, may The Ancient One save you if you again decorate your back with these nightmarish knives!” Lady instructed him. Lieutenant sighed and turned greenish-grey from melancholy. Academician Sardanapal opened the casket. The fine fellows from the casket, identical in face, in an instant laid out the magic tablecloths — not the everyday ones but the special holiday ones. And a huge carpet with today’s menu woven in gold thread was already spread out under foot. The quaint Slavonic characters were dazzling, instilling sweet uneasiness in the stomachs: Solemn dinner on 31 August in the Tibidox School Various hors d’oeuvres Bouillon Borsch Crepes with black and red caviar Seafood and pine nut aspic Young suckling-pigs Various fish pies Game and truffle pate Gatchina trout Wislanie salmon Azov sturgeon Nezhin cucumbers Turkeys, capons Caucasian pheasants, Siberian hazel-grouse Quail in chickpea flour Crabs in aspic
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Saddle of wild goat with garnish Dessert — almonds, nuts, pears, apples, peaches, Cardinal grapes, hot Duchess pears with pineapples Strictly for instructors — sherry, Madeira, port, Chablis, Hungarian dry, Lafite 1875, cognac 1813 For students — Russian compotes, cranberry drinks For eccentrics — Russian soft drink Buratino For those suffering stomach ulcers and desiring to dissolve everyday spots — foreign drink Coca-Cola “All right then! Not bad for a special occasion!” Sardanapal approved, after studying the part “strictly for instructors.” Yes, here was something to look at! Many of the gathered guests, with the exception perhaps of the ghosts, were salivating. They were about to rush to the tables, but Unhealed Lady indignantly yelled, “Hey-hey… no! Too early! We are not married yet!” The shamed guests stopped and turned to the newlyweds with congratulations. Among them, the thirty-three heroes were the first to rush forward. They had been soaking in the sea-ocean for so long that they had time to be downright starved. One of the heroes moved forward and on behalf of all the brothers delivered to Unhealed Lady a pot-bellied bottle with the Little Golden Fish swimming in it. The little fish raced through the congratulations and immediately started to ask to be put back into the sea. “Otherwise you’ll drink me up by accident, cursed! I know you!” it said. “Please wait with the gifts! It’s not the right thing!” pushing the heroes aside, Big Matrena shouted. “Who gives gifts before the wedding? Not a good sign!” The guests confusedly rushed back. They returned the displeased Little Golden Fish to the heroes with the request to deliver it later. The angry Little Fish in annoyance attempted to change the Tower of Ghosts into a broken washtub, but Sardanapal blocked its magic in time. And further…further began the usual wedding confusion, when everyone moved from place to place, not knowing where he could find a place for himself, smiled seven times more often than normal, and reflected with melancholy how he was brought to this arrangement at all. Coffinia found Tanya in the crowd and contemptuously whispered to her, “Did you see this, Grotty? Blunder after blunder! Even handed over the gifts before the wedding! My betrothal with Puper will not be so absurd! Besides, I will invite no one present here. Perhaps to wash dishes…” Tanya smiled. In recent weeks, Coffinia had filled her ears with stories about her betrothal and had bored her stiff. And why did Cryptova decide that Puper would propose to her? Cupids with flowers and notes did not come flying to Coffinia. True, they also stopped flying to Tanya too. Something unusual was certainly going on with Gury. If, of course, in magpital they were not turning the poor wretch into a zombie, curing him from amorous fever. “So who will you invite?” she asked mechanically, sensing that Cryptova was waiting for a question from her. “What who? Gury’s relatives!” Coffinia blurted out. “But Gury, pardon me, is an orphan!” Tanya set her straight.
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“Really?” Cryptova was puzzled. “That’s annoying! Well, then there will be the king and queen of England, Uncle Sam, Koshchei the Immortal from Magciety of Jerky Magtion, Nagiana Pripyatskaya, well, and some journalists…” While Tanya and Coffinia were talking, Lieutenant and Lady, saving the day, approached Academician Sardanapal. The baby Stinktopp, having managed to snitch from somewhere a stamped Tula gingerbread, looked out from behind the academician’s back. The third eye on the back of the young one’s head was vigilantly looking around, weighing up what he could still profit by. “Attention, friends, attention!” the academician began. “I’m convinced that today is an especially happy day for all of us! Two loving hearts are finally united, and we can hope that at midnight they will no longer float out of the walls and frighten us with sorrowful moans or deafening laughter. Isn’t that so, my friends?” Lady shed some tears, and all the milk around Lieutenant for about ten metres in different directions turned sour. Even the cream in the tea curdled. “Furthermore, today the sports committee of Magciety has finally appointed a date! The dragonball rematch has been moved from October to the middle of September! In other words, in two weeks it will become clear which dragonball team is the best!” Sardanapal added. Everybody began to buzz enthusiastically. Only Nightingale O. Robber alone frowned with his patchy eyebrows. The sudden date change of the match disrupted his entire schedule of final trainings. Nightingale was certain that Magciety specially plotted everything. The Invisibles for sure were notified in advance. As always, they dumbfounded Tibidox with the news at the last minute. “And, finally, a not less happy event awaits us: tomorrow begins the new scho…” continued Sardanapal. He looked around and, after smiling, stopped short. “However, let us put off this theme for the moment. I see enthusiasm so far only on Shurasik’s face. The rest, apparently, are still concealing it. Well, it’s your right!” Having finished the opening speech, the for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox assumed an air three times as important and proceeded to the main part of the celebration. He turned to the bride and groom. The imposing registration book appeared by itself in his hands. “I’m performing this ceremony for the first time; therefore I first beg you to forgive me if something doesn’t go as it should… Lady, will you take Lieutenant Rzhevskii as your husband?” Sardanapal asked. “Yes,” Lady blurted out in a hurry. “And you, Rzhevskii, will you take Unhe… i.e., simply Lady as your wife?” The academician floundered, but immediately corrected himself. The ghost agonizingly spent time over it. The pause became wearisome. The guests exchanged glances. Some tactless person was already openly laughing aloud. “Rzhevskii, I do not understand you! So will you or won’t you?” Sardanapal repeated, surprised. Lieutenant showed his mouth. His lips for some reason were sewn with grey thread. Agonizingly gesticulating, Rzhevskii with all his might showed that he would be glad to be married, but here circumstances prevented him. “They put an evil eye on my groom! Someone, please help him!” Lady started to wail.
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Witnesses rushed to Lieutenant. For a long time the thread would not yield. When they took it out, it turned out that together with the thread in a mysterious manner the mouth had disappeared somewhere. Rzhevskii again was standing with nothing to do, demonstrating that he would have said “yes” long ago, if it were possible for him. “Why do you disgrace me? You think I don’t know whose trick it is! You don’t want to be married, right? Well, so I’ll also refuse! Do you want this?” the indignant bride whispered. Hope flashed in Lieutenant’s eyes. The mouth, which they were already searching for around the entire hall, suddenly appeared at the previous place. “Yes, yes, yes!” he happily and very loudly said. Academician Sardanapal’s moustaches solemnly shot up. “Wonderful! One ‘yes’ and I’ll declare you husband and…” with enthusiasm he began and already almost waved his hand to give the cyclops a signal to beat the kettledrum, but here Verka Parroteva suddenly began to squeal in a terrible voice. “AH-H-H-H! Here he is again! Ah-h-hhhhh!” Everyone turned around at her cry. Gottfried Bouillon was descending the stairs of the Atlases. His porous face was relaxed and exactly immersed in dreams. The instructor of magic essences was thrown like a bag over the shoulder of the Sleeping Adonis. Fuji was wriggling and howling non-stop, “Don’t, Mozart! I always liked your music! Well, you don’t want wine, then don’t! It was just a joke!” It was likely that from the shaking, caused by the so unceremonious transportation, something shifted in the brittle consciousness of the wretch. “Nice work! Mozart finishes off Salieri! Now it only remains for Pushkin to blow up d’Anthès with a grenade launcher, and historical justice will prevail,” said Vanka Valyalkin. For some reason he, in contrast to Tanya, could not stand Fuji. Or perhaps, precisely because of her. “Wait! We must help him! How is it possible to be so hard-hearted?” Tanya was about to rush to Fuji, but Medusa held her by the elbow. “Careful! You’ll only make it worse! The deferred curse is impossible to revoke so simply!” she shouted. Having gone past the students who had stepped aside, the Sleeping Adonis stood still in the middle of the hall, after stepping into the mosaic sun. Here, inside the circle, Gottfried Bouillon unceremoniously dropped Fuji and hung over him, stretching his hands to his throat. “He’ll finish me off! Please do something, I beg you! Aren’t there any judges of music here?” Fuji began to wail, attempting to crawl away. The Sleeping Adonis placed a foot on his back and forced him against the floor. Then he leaned over and, baring yellowish teeth, muttered something indecipherable and terrible. Lieutenant Rzhevskii with military keenness took hold of the situation and, not wasting time, slipped away. Unhealed Lady rushed after the runaway groom, sending well-aimed air kisses, which brought down guests no worse than combat sparks. The chorus of ghosts began to rush around the hall. The cyclopes threw away their horns and went for cudgels. Usynya and Gorynya, for some reason having decided that it was always so at weddings and everything was going as planned, banged the cymbals. Katya Lotkova went deaf for a second time. She did not cover her ears anymore and only sorrowfully batted her long eyelashes. Academician Sardanapal, like all geniuses possessing delayed reaction, nevertheless took hold of the situation and headed the operation to save the instructor of magic
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essences. They surrounded the mosaic circle with a double ring of cyclopes. The thirtythree heroes bristled up with spears and only awaited the signal for attack. Slander, in whose ears earwax was boiling and seething like lava, drove the students to the corners. “Friends, we’ll not waver! Cupids, attack! Charrr-ge!” having climbed onto the table, Sardanapal gave an order. The cupids, with a war chirp, fired golden arrows at the Sleeping Adonis, but they were all blunted, barely having touched his skin. “Here the dried-up old stick is bewitched! Instead of that…eh-eh…unimportant who…” Coffinia suddenly remembered. The disappointed babies took to their wings like a small flock of sparrows, and, making use of the general confusion, set off to devastate the laid-out tables. Dozens of cupids quickly raked up food into mailbags and transferred them to other winged babies, who hurriedly carried them from the hall, shook them out in some secret place, and returned with already emptied ones. The baby Stinktopp helped the cupids, moreover so zealously that he broke the jar with the spiders and, while they were scattering, he started to gather them into Tararakh’s soup tureen. He splashed out the spoilt soup directly under Slander’s feet. The principal carelessly stepped into the slippery puddle and went sprawling. “Professor! How you… That is, Stinktopp… I’ll make you stand in the corner! I’ll spank you right on the spot!” he howled, raising his hand with the ring. “Aren’t you ashamed! He’s a child!” Dentistikha came to the defence of her former chief. “I wanted to say: not slap, but I’ll spank! I expressed myself inaccurately!” confused, Slander corrected himself. After ascertaining that his winged archers had failed and were busy with the plundering of his own convoy, Sardanapal gave the signal for general offensive. The thirty-three heroes rushed forward, but, not knowing how to step over the boundaries of the mosaic circle, toppled over like bowling pins. Usynya, Dubynya, and Gorynya, running after them, after drawing correct conclusions, restrained from the attack altogether, and limited themselves to shaking out dust from the sheepskin of Dumpling Maker, who turned on them in the heat of the moment, accusing them of desertion. The Sleeping Adonis continued to stand recklessly in the middle of the mosaic circle, pressing the instructor from Magford into the floor. Likely, Gottfried Bouillon did not at all realize that he had scored a victory just now. He acted like a marionette controlled by the deferred curse. Fuji no longer attempted to crawl away, but only blinked sorrowfully, not hoping especially for rescue. It seems even tears hung on his eyelashes. Medusa approached Sardanapal, who, with her approach, majestically got down from the table. “Now what, Academician?” she asked with uneasiness. The moustaches of the head of Tibidox moved uncertainly. “Only the last means remains,” he said. “I did not want to use this spell, but evidently I have to.” He took several steps towards the marble staircase and, after releasing a green spark, uttered in an undertone so that the students would not hear, “Atlasesus-socerys!” The arches of Tibidox trembled. The marble figures of the Atlases woke up. Some of them moved from the spot and took a step forward. Cracks ran along the ceiling and the walls. The bulk of Tibidox with the colossal towers and galleries rocked. It seemed the arches of the school of magic would collapse and bury everyone under the ruins. But this,
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fortunately, did not happen. The remaining Atlases and Gorynya, Usynya, and Dubynya, running to their aid, assumed on their shoulders the weight of Tibidox. Meanwhile the Atlases moved down to the Hall of Two Elements. The enormous steps shook and crumbled under their feet. Students and instructors ran to the side, making way for them. No one and nothing in the world could withstand their onslaught — not any ancient magic or the power of the deferred curse. Even in the Sleeping Adonis’ eyes clouded with sleep flickered something not unlike the realization of the inevitability of defeat. Now he would be swept aside and crushed. It simply could not be otherwise. Gottfried Bouillon shook, got off the back of Fuji, and, sullenly looked around at the approaching Atlases, went away. “I would like to know why this Adonis roams around Tibidox all the time. And the Great Tooth somehow was looking at him strangely. Why would this be?” the shrewd Rita On-The-Sly muttered to herself in an undertone. The instructor of magic essences quickly crawled out of the circle, got up, and started to shake himself down. Dentistikha, Medusa, and Tanya rushed to him. Fortunately, Fuji did not suffer seriously. If we, of course, do not consider his reason. “I always knew never to trust Mozart… He copies my brilliant concerts! He doesn’t drink wine! He is simply an insidious scoundrel!” complaining, the one from Magford muttered. “Soberonum normalicus!” releasing a spark, Medusa pronounced sharply. Fuji shuddered and, swaying, pressed his temples with his hands. “Thanks. This was in time. I already almost perished,” he said gratefully. “How did he catch you?” the Great Tooth asked. “I don’t exactly remember. No, everything was this way. I was sitting by myself in the room. I wanted to free the concealed essence from an ancient Chinese vase, and here the door was suddenly thrown open. I remembered almost nothing, only thought that someone grabbed me… And then again this crazy Salieri! Why does he lie in wait precisely for me? There are so many people in the world teleporting!” Fuji groaned. The Sleeping Adonis, moving off somewhere quicker than the Atlases, had long ago hidden in the labyrinths of Tibidox, and the clumsy giants were still stamping in the hall, crushing tables, demolishing walls, and producing senseless destruction. Muffling the rest of the sounds, a column in the corner propping up the staircase arch collapsed. Dusya Dollova began to squeal. Shurasik confusedly screamed out spells operating not entirely in the necessary manner. Sweat was running down like streams along the faces of the hero-bouncers Usynya, Dubynya, and Gorynya. Their bones were cracking. They never yet had to support such a load. “Archus athletus anabolicum!” Academician Sardanapal shouted. The Atlases stopped destroying tables and, obeying the order, without any special chase returned to their previous places, propping up the arches. Usynya, Gorynya and Dubynya literally rolled down the stairs. “Oh-oh! I can hardly stand on my feet! I would not want to be an Atlas!” Usynya panted. “And I would want to be powerful like an Atlas, but not to work like one,” refined Gorynya. Dubynya, as usually, also wanted to utter something so wise and original, even partly with a hint of genius, but along the way, he lost all thoughts little by little and, after grunting, sat down on the floor. When everything was already behind them and the guests pensively examined the ruined tables, evaluating whether it was possible to find a whole ham or an unbroken
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bottle, Unhealed Lady returned to the hall. She was without the veil and was the most upset. “He slipped off, the miserable cheat! He fled into the enchanted forest! Well, doesn’t matter, he’ll not wriggle away from me! I’ll wait until he returns, I’ll catch him and I’ll be happy nevertheless! Why did you get up? Be merry, drink, eat! Yes, there will be a feast in the time of plague on the ruins of my future!” she said with a great effort. Chapter 14 Bread-and-Salt and Fated Temptations The last weeks before the match the Tibidox team was training so much that some players from fatigue fell asleep in the air. Even Tanya, who worshipped flying, was certain that for a long time after the match with the Invisibles she would not want to sit on the double bass. Nightingale O. Robber, as the one in charge, finally grew hoarse from yelling and now could only croak. If earlier he released onto the field not more than fourfive young dragons, he now occasionally brought their number to seven. Sometimes Tanya herself did not understand how she managed to dodge them. Must have been out of habit. She returned from training barely alive in the evening and fell asleep over evil spirits studies or protection from spirits. One happiness was that practical magic, whose permanent instructor, hooting, was now chasing evil spirits or smearing the handle of Sardanapal’s office with jam, had been replaced by liberation of magic essences. The students sleepily dozed through the first half of class, while Fuji was muttering theory, then, when it came to experiments, everybody immediately revived. Students ransacked empty classrooms and remote towers, finding any ancient object. In the majority of the cases, it did not have any concealed essence and nothing was freed by the Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis spell, but now and then miracles occurred. Once it happened that Fuji liberated from a bent tripod an enraged Delphic Oracle, whom Sardanapal later barely got rid of to Magciety of Jerky Magtion, where he happily remained. Another time from a measly stool fluttered out a sirin with plumage of seven colours, red cheeks, and a pearl crown. Inspired by Fuji’s successes, Tanya once in Goyaryn’s hangar tried to liberate the magic essence from her double bass case, but Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis did not work for her. Either she did not have enough experience or inside she was sorry to be left without the case and the sparks were insufficiently hot. Distressed, she described her failure to Fuji, communicating to him at the same time about the Sleeping Adonis, who had already twice hunted for the case. “Do you think the throne of The Ancient One could turn out to be there?” she asked. “Don’t know. With these magic essences, it’s sheer confusion. You will rarely guess for sure. Possibly the throne, or possibly simply a lizard. So that you decide whether it’s worthwhile to drag it out! If you want, I can help you! If, of course, instead of the throne you need a spider or a lizard,” proposed Fuji, lightly shrugging his shoulders. “No, no need,” refused Tanya. She was even slightly offended. She must admit, she was counting on a great interest. Possibly, the entire matter was that the instructor of magic essences was terribly concerned in recent days. He was trying to be on the watch for Salieri all the time in order to block him once and for all in the world beyond. He asserted it was necessary to
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use a special spell for this, but precisely at that moment when Salieri appeared. However, Salieri always attacked suddenly. He especially loved to arrive exactly the moment when Fuji teleported to England to his bride filled with expectation. Tanya for some reason imagined to herself that she was something like Unhealed Lady. Then an event took place, which left an unpleasant aftertaste in Tanya’s memory. One day before the match, when she and Vanka decided to glance in Goyaryn’s hangar, they unexpectedly stumbled upon Zhikin in the twilight. At first, that one was at a loss, and then he suddenly pointed with a finger at somewhere to the side of Tibidox and extraordinarily loudly, exactly like talking to the deaf, began to roar, “Did you see that? Look, what’s that there?!” “See what?” Tanya involuntarily looked around, but discovered nothing special. “Someone was flying there!” Zhora blurted out even louder, blocking their way using his mop with propeller. But Vanka was simply not taken in. “Nevertheless it’s a magic island. Here someone flies every five minutes. Now you, Zhikin, will fly right this minute, if you don’t move away!” he said. “What did you say, yellow soccer shirt?” Zhikin soared up, but lacking awareness of his rightness. “What you heard! Be gone, pretty boy, otherwise you’ll have a meeting with Yagge in magic station!” Vanka unceremoniously moved Zhikin aside and put his weight on the heavy hangar gates. The recently greased gates opened almost noiselessly. Seven-Stump-Holes was messing around near the dragon’s drinking fountain. Goyaryn was looking at him quietly. After all, he was a player of its team, and the dragon knew him. In principle Stump had decided to give the dragon a drink, there was nothing special in that. It was even laudable. Strange that on the approach of Tanya and Vanka, Stump abruptly sprung back from the drinking fountain, looked wildly at them, and leaped outside. Tanya heard how he began to yell at Zhikin, “Had to shout louder! I ordered you to let no one in!” “But I did, loudly!” Zhora limply defended himself. “If you had shouted loudly, I would have heard. Huh, pretty boy! Would my eyes not see you!” Vanka nodded towards the hangar gates, from which both suspicious characters still appeared indistinctly. “So, it means, pretty boy was on watch. For some reason I immediately thought so,” said Vanka. “What do you think, this pair forgot something here?” “Well, help me!” Tanya asked. After ascertaining that both had gone off to the side of Tibidox, she moved aside the drinking fountain and raked the sawdust. The double bass case was in place. Possibly, Seven-Stump-Holes did not have time to reach it. She involuntarily recalled how strangely Zhikin and Stump had behaved in Stinktopp’s office when he was transformed into a baby. Yes, here was something to think about… Tanya looked around the hangar floor but discovered no trace of rejuvenating apples. It meant Stump wanted to toss to Goyaryn something else. Just in case she carefully, to avoid an explosion, poured out from Goyaryn’s drinking fountain all the mercury with nitro-glycerine and made up a new batch.
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Several days before the match with the Invisibles, the journalists began to arrive at Tibidox. In a state of pre-match excitation, they ran around the school of magic and interviewed everyone indiscriminately. Sardanapal locked himself in his office. The gold sphinx on his door growled in an unfriendly manner at all strangers. On the other hand, Slander Slanderych, who for the sake of this occasion moved the mermaid from the pond into the barrel, posed for the photographers and explained to the journalists the difference between love, passion, obsession, and creative ecstasy. “There is no difference! Here my mermaid also thinks so! Isn’t that true, Milyulya?” So for the first time it was revealed that Slander’s mermaid was called Milyulya… The baby Stinktopp was also not deprived of his fair share of attention. Certainly — the second face of Tibidox, the head of the dark department — and suddenly this transformation. This involuntarily directed the journalists to specific thoughts. “Please tell us, Professor, do you not suspect Academician Sardanapal of an attempt on you?” they excitedly asked. But the baby Stinktopp made no sensational statements. “I want Mommy!” twisting his little mouth, he howled. He straightened the magic ring falling down his delicate finger and started shooting scorching sparks into the group of journalists but at no one in particular. Dentistikha appeared at his cry, threw her arms around her former chief and, sternly looking at the journalists, carried him away. “It’s okay, Stinktoppie! Don’t make a row! Let’s go eat fish pie, and then it’s time for potty!” she declared. Half a kilo of journalistic attention also came Tanya’s way. She and Coffinia had just gotten up recently and were intending on breakfast, when someone decisively knocked on their door. Nagiana Pripyatskaya in person was standing on the threshold. Behind her shoulders loomed the operator with a zoomer of the “Prophetic Eye” model. “Ah well, girls! Which of you is Tanya Grotter? You, right? A short interview!” she said firmly, walking into the room. Tanya was seated on a stool next to Black Curtains. The operator immediately aimed the Prophetic Eye at her. Black Curtains, after considering that they also fell into the shot, maliciously stirred and hurried to highlight the most compromising dreams. “Three, two, one! Go! Tanya, do you remember She-Who-Is-No-More? You alone had the occasion to meet her four times, counting the episode in early infancy. What personal impressions do you have of her?” squinting her cataractous eye, Nagiana asked. “Same as everyone. Better if she never was at all,” said Tanya. “Another question. At any moment, the legendary Gury Puper and the entire Invisibles team will be at Tibidox! Do you know about this?” “I do,” nodded Tanya. “So I assumed!” Nagiana significantly raised a finger up to the ceiling. “Here I thought: you and Puper have so much in common! Both orphans, both well-known athletes, both study in magic schools, both of you wear glasses…” “I don’t wear glasses!” Tanya corrected her. Nagiana stirred with disappointment, exactly like a hunting dog pointing at an empty beer bottle. “Ehhh… You don’t? Really? Well, unimportant! Does it not seem to you that people, who have so much in common, already experience in advance special sympathy for each other?” Tanya was at a loss. Coffinia rescued her. Although she did it sufficiently uniquely. “Nonsense! They are not similar! My Gurie is delicate, Gurie is sensitive, Gurie is
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modest! From an excellent bourgeois family! Gurie has an account in the bank, bird in a cage and a whole wardrobe of invisible raincoats! Tanya is simply a Tibidox dolt! She doesn’t even have glasses and things, only a stupid double bass!” she jealously began to yell from her bed. Nagiana’s satellite — the operator — immediately directed the Prophetic Eye at Cryptova. “But what about similarities?” Nagiana was surprised. “Now this is similarity! Here both my grandfathers were skiers, both bald, both Lieutenant Colonels of the police, and both were married to blondes! Not bad, eh?” Cryptova bragged. Nagiana could not find anything to object to and only batted her eyelashes. Meanwhile Coffinia became animated and, lifting her nose up towards the ceiling, announced tenderly, “And I’ll soon be engaged!” “To whom?” Nagiana was on guard. Cryptova did not have time to answer. Suddenly the operator’s zoomer began to blink and, after he pulled it out, it sped off somewhere. “Someone uttered Grail Gardarika! The Invisibles are already here!” the operator shouted, rushing after his Prophetic Eye. At the same moment, a hurricane picked up the operator and Nagiana, swept them off their feet, and carried them away to the wall. Coffinia and Tanya rushed after them, although not with such haste. The entire school was already at the wall, and everybody was looking not at the clouds, but down — at the stairs, which the just arrived Invisibles were walking up. Dragon handlers were already struggling with all their might with Keng-King, calming it down after the flight over, and trying to take it away into the hangar. Goyaryn roared. Its hangar shook and smoke poured out of the cracks. Bab-Yagun and Vanka Valyalkin forced their way to Tanya and helped her to the merlon, where she could see much better. “Oho, and here is Puper in person! Bodyguards, how many bodyguards! I’m really dazed!” Yagun exclaimed. Gury Puper walked up to the wall, looking around as if hoping to find someone. On his right and left, vigilantly looking along the sides, were the Gury bodyguards. Prun and Goreanna were from the fan club. Both looked about seventeen. Prun held a special magic shield blocking mirroring, and Goreanna aimed an evil-eye rifle at different directions. Some strange personalities with sleek hair gathered behind into tails moved as a tight group behind Prun and Goreanna. “And what swamp bogeys are these?” Bab-Yagun asked. He left Tanya with Vanka and made his way to Nagiana Pripyatskaya, with whom he was well acquainted. “You yourself are a bogey, Yagun! These are well-known magnotists. Have they gathered such a quantity only just recently?” Nagiana was astonished. “Perhaps they guard from spells?” “Magnotists? It’s not their job, for that there are Gury’s bodyguards! Magnotists are used when it’s necessary to suggest some thought or to distract from something. I would like to know why they are twirling next to Puper. For sure this is connected with his love secret,” said Nagiana, pensively pulling air in. “But why not turn him into a zombie? Snip-snap — and no passion!” Yagun said. Nagiana burst out laughing. “Why? Then he’ll forget how to play dragonball! He’ll fall from the broom during a match or frighten the dragon — just imagine it to yourself! And even then, not all amorous magic can be removed. To weaken or to forget for a time is another matter. They keep magnotists for that.”
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At this moment, after emerging from a dove-coloured cloudlet, some winged young woman dived to Gury and started to whisper something into his ear. Goreanna did not like her too much, and just in case aimed the evil-eye rifle at the young woman. “And who is this?” Bab-Yagun asked. “Who? Why, you’re ignorant! A well-known person! The maglawyer from the publishing house issuing a calendar with Puper! She dreams of embroiling Gury Puper with Tanya Grotter. Imagine: this insolent Tanya dares to be an orphan and to study in a magic school!” Nagiana explained. “A nightmare! But what, can’t be an orphan?” Yagun asked. “I’m also an orphan and also study in a magic school!” “Really? Well, then they’ll seize upon you,” promised Nagiana. “Three orphans of different sexes on the square magometer — this is indeed suspicious! The expert on orphans Professor Flank will compulsorily put this in writing! Have you heard, he recently wrote a new brilliant work — How to Distinguish a Boy from a Girl. Volume 1 —7. I was at the presentation! Monumental work, what can one say! By the way, this publishing house also turned out…” At this moment Gury Puper with annoyance dismissed the importunate young woman and, having accidentally glanced at Tanya on the merlon, passionately looked at her. This did not escape the crowd of magnotists. They rushed to Gury and threw an invisible raincoat over his head. Prun screened him with the anti-magic shield. Goreanna, having lost her sense of reality, fired the evil-eye rifle above all heads. Coffinia, who excellently understood whom Puper was looking at, was burning with jealousy. In the confusion, someone knocked down the baby Stinktopp, and he in fright began to bawl in an ugly voice. Sardanapal and Slander Slanderych established order with difficulty only four hours later and, having calmed down the guests somehow, invited everybody into the Hall of Two Elements for dinner. The Invisibles and their retinue behaved hesitantly. They drank only filtered water, swallowed vitamins from boxes, and checked every spoonful of soup with a magic indicator. As for Puper, he drank exclusively bouillon from a thermos, which the Invisibles had brought with them from England. Puper was sad, answered without desire the questions of journalists and was on the look out for someone all the time. Coffinia was to butt in again with bread and salt, but they poured all the salt searching for poison, and when Prun x-rayed the bread with his evil-eye detector, it became a bowlegged pug dog. Then Cryptova attained her chief purpose — she caught Puper’s eye. On seeing her, Gury shuddered, uncomfortably smiled, and started to get up, but he was intercepted by the two magnotists. “Hmm… Strange business… Pity my magfioso cupid embedded only two arrows in him! It seems to me Puper has fallen in love with both of us! However, no way in the world Grotty will have a chance! But she’s in the way — have to throw her down from the double bass during the match!” Coffinia muttered to herself under her breath. *** The night before the match turned out to be restless.
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The cyclopes, stamping, walked along the corridor, guarding the rest of the guests. Between the feet of the cyclopes roamed journalists in short bursts. The insidious correspondents of Gossips and Ravings and Moonless Magyouths were in a low crawl, hunting for the sensational. Coffinia told fortunes, tried to strengthen the action of the cupid’s arrows, and was annoyed that the magnotists always blocked even the approach. Bab-Yagun tinkered with his vacuum. He first scrubbed it to a shine like a mirror, ran to Milyulya to ask for scales, wangled some special mayo from Granny, then tied up talismans from place to place. At the same time, he leafed through the tattered catalogue of dragonball goods, annoyed that he had no more bagel holes left to order the very necessary anti-burn cream, triply amplifying the protective action of vampire bile. “The Invisibles probably all have the same as Puper. Both raincoats and stickies for balls, and glasses with gizmos. Not without reason they have the rich Gury on the team!” Yagun reflected with a sigh. Since the evening Tanya and Vanka Valyalkin had slipped away to the hangar, after taking with them Vanka’s scrap of magic tablecloth. Here they supped rather well and made themselves comfortable right by the side of Goyaryn. The dragon’s side was pleasantly warm but not scorching, although somewhere inside under the folded skin raged a flame. Goyaryn was dozing lightly, after extending its long neck to the hangar gates. Occasionally, when any outside sounds reached it, it began to bubble and let out from the nostrils a stream of vapour. “It’s troubled… It senses Keng-King. If only they would not wrestle tomorrow!” Tanya said. “They should not, protection will not allow it. But here to shoot fire at each other — this they can…” Vanka remarked with knowledge of the matter. “Do you remember there was a time Goyaryn allowed no one to approach it? But when I pulled the spike from its neck, it became considerably better,” recalled Tanya. Vanka abruptly got up. Cucumbers and cutlets fell from the tablecloth lying on his knees. “Indeed I was also with Medusa and Stinktopp then. As the third scoundrel, who wanted to return authority to She-Who-Is-No-More!” he said. “Stop! You and Medusa and even Stinktopp were not guilty. Plague turned you into a zombie, but you behaved excellently! You knew how to free yourself from zombification and saved me. Later Sardanapal said that he knew of no other such cases at all.” Vanka approached Goyaryn. It seemed he could not move his eyes from the folds on its skin. “It was quite simple for me. Not difficult to free myself,” he announced. “Why?” not understanding, Tanya asked. Vanka kept silent. “Why? Tell me why? I’ll understand!” Tanya persistently repeated. Suddenly Vanka leaned over abruptly, quickly kissed her on the cheek, and jumped out of the hangar. Shaken, lost, Tanya remained in the hangar. She in no way could grasp her feelings. All her thoughts were entangled suddenly, but at the same time, the main thing was unexpectedly clear. Vanka loves her! In Tanya’s life, there were not too many happy moments, but this was one of them. Tears flowed down her face. She did not wipe them, but just in case someone entered, she buried her forehead on the dragon’s side. “Vanka, dear Vanka! What about Gury? Puper’s no match...,” she quietly said. Goyaryn only turned its neck, opened one eye slightly and stared at her without understanding, trying to figure out whom she was talking to and where the drops on its
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side came from. “Oh, indeed these magicians! They behave exactly like moronoids!” it must be thinking. Although Tanya had in mind something else, Gury was resting at the given moment. The trainer prescribed to him a good sleep before the match, and Gury treated with respect his advice and the sport regime in general. Curled up, Puper lay under the antimicrobe blanket from the firm “Brazers, Fazers, and Mazers” and saw in dream either Tanya on the double bass or Coffinia Cryptova with the vacuum pipe atilt. Under her arms, Coffinia was holding the nightmarish Russian “bread-and-salt” with a smoking wick like that of dynamite. So it was almost until morning. At dawn, Puper’s sweet dream was interrupted. One of the Shaman News reporters penetrated through the window into his room after all, hoping to get an interview and to photograph undercover, as Gury would be brushing his teeth, but he was denied access and was shot with an evil eye from the vigilant Goreanna’s evil-eye rifle… Chapter 15 The Incidental Ball The next morning, beginning at six o’clock, Slander Slanderych was at the stadium, stretched by the three-dimensional incantation Normus spacus solextensionos. So many spectators had gathered that without the fifth dimension the stadium could in no way have managed. Latest Magnews, Mag-TV, and the radio station Witchcraft-dame had set up their zoomers and transmitters in advance. Among others, the Shaman News reporter, covered with pimply green skin after Goreanna shot at him with the evil-eye rifle, was also kicking his heels. It was necessary to wet this skin all the time, and the reporter was casting yearning looks at the barrel with the mermaid. Sitting in her barrel, Milyulya was sullenly drinking fish oil. All night she had been singing songs in the pond, had not had a good sleep, and was now in poor spirits. She was in such a temper that she did not allow the reporter into her barrel, and only agreed to sprinkle him by splashing her tail. Puper fans, as usual, occupied the best stands, and stretched out a beaming banner: “GURY PUPER — HE IS SUPER!” Representatives of the publishing house rolled out a cart with the calendars and sold them to anyone who wanted one. Due to the well-known modesty of Puper, his image did not desire to remain in place and tried to slip away. So that this could not happen, they laminated the calendar. All the same, Puper succeeded in disappearing from a good third of the calendars. In some his nose remained, some a hand, some the stick from his broom. They sold such calendars at a discount. At nine, the spectators began to teleport or fly in on auxiliary means. Grail Gardarika barely managed to cope with their flow, at equal intervals letting into Buyan new portions of magicians. Usynya, Gorynya, and Dubynya helped the cyclopes check the tickets. Taking into account that black magicians preferred to counterfeit rather than buy them, the cyclopes and the heroes, all dressed in anti-evil-eye vests, attentively examined each ticket in the light. The noble profile of Academician Sarnadapal had to light up on true tickets.
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However, on the fake ones the same academician threatened the cyclopes with a fist or a grimace showing with all its might that it was placed here illegally. For a while, the heroes and the cyclopes were looking at each other, but they soon found a common language. After only half an hour, the heroes alone were checking tickets, and the cyclopes could hardly manage to transfer into their guardroom hams, kegs of beer, sacks of flour, and other bribes taken from those without tickets. There, in the guardroom, they piled everything into two heaps — one for themselves, the other for the heroes. Slander understood very well what was going on, but nevertheless there were too many entry gates into the stadium for him to follow all of them at once, and he was afraid to use the spell of magic self-cloning, fearing that one of his clones would flee to the mermaid and remain with her. Occasionally, however, he rushed to the guards and, small, angry, he would fly at them, exactly like a fighting rooster. “What are we, beasts? A man came from afar for the match and we turn him away at the gate? Such would cause an international scandal!” timidly hiding their thievish eyes, the cyclopes said. “Exactly! Our service is both dangerous and difficult! Every moment they can put an evil eye on us; scorch us with sorcery from any corner! And besides, why should we not take a ham? They don’t just give it, but give out of respect,” declared Gorynya, inclined towards social demagogy. Dubynya also wanted to say something as weighty, but words, as always, could not be found. He only struck his chest with his fist and from time to time out of fullness of feelings, attempted to embrace the collocutor, but, meeting the icy view of Slander, hid his hands behind his back. *** An unpleasant surprise awaited Sardanapal, and even the entire Tibidox. The chair of the board of referees Grafin Cagliostrov stated that this time he himself would be the chief judge of the match, and assigned the Persian magician Tistrya as his assistant. The said Tistrya was already twirling nearby with a cloying smile of regret spread across his face. Both teams were already ready four hours prior to the match. Dragon handlers fussed in the hangars and sent for water sprites in the event of possible fire. Goyaryn and KengKing roared in anticipation of battle. It could be heard how they struck the hangar walls with their tails. Bab-Yagun jumped onto his vacuum and, straightening his silver mouthpiece, soared up above the field. “Hello, everyone! With you again is me, the never-give-up BabYagun! This time I will not talk about me being loved by and irritating to many! I will also not begin to present the Tibidox team! I will say only that Zhora Zhikin, Kuzya Tuzikov, Rita On-The-Sly, Damien Goryanov, Coffinia Cryptova, Seven-Stump-Holes, Liza Zalizina, Katya Lotkova, Tanya Grotter, and I, the playing commentator Yagun, are all in excellent form and certain of our victory.” Grafin Cagliostrov grinned and exchanged significant glances with the Persian magician Tistrya. “They are certain of their victory,” he said. “Let them dream. Till the
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first penalty flag!” Tistrya said and smirked so evilly that even Cagliostrov himself became a little dismayed. Yagun stepped on the gas. In the bright sunlight, the scales, departing from the pipe of his vacuum, sparkled. “My granny mama! How glad I am that this match finally takes place! Two long years of waiting! Last time victory was so close, so real, but they stole it, in the most literal sense they carried it off from under our noses! A special merci is necessary, probably, to our new chief judge Grafin Cagliostrov! Who does not know this, evil eyes to that stand!” “YAGUN!” Slander sternly shouted. “Well now, again Yagun! Okay, let us return to our rams, that is, I beg forgiveness, to the imported, so to speak, guests from a foreign land,” continued Yagun. “They go out onto the field and look around, determining on what side is the sun and if the wind interferes. For the poor wretches, forced to fly on sticks with bunches of branches, such trifles are very relevant. The slightest gust and — tsk-tsk! I recall, once at training Kuzya Tuzikov on a broom was carried away into the ocean. Fortunately, and for someone also unfortunately, he swims like a fish…” “Yagun, don’t be distracted!” Medusa warned him sternly. “I cannot but be distracted! I think when I speak, to think silently is impossible for me…” Yagun said, justifying himself. “Number one — captain Glint, forward. Well, what can one say here? A weighty man, the well-fed foreign analog of our Zhora Zhikin! True, not quite understandable why he makes the youth team. I will not be surprised if I find out that Glint already has adult children. Number two — O-Phe-Li-A, defence. A fairy, a beauty, for sure an excellent student. Interesting, did she bring with her the silver flute? Last time with its help, O-Phe-Li-A skilfully set fire to both teams… Sheik Spirya — number three. Attacking halfback with Slavic roots and doubles as an Arab sheik. Already flew seven times past Coffinia as if by chance, although the rest of the team is still on the ground. The fellow is lucky that Gunya Glomov is not part of the Tibidox team. But the match will not go on forever. Who else is there? Prince Omelet. Twin brooms. Pro on bewitched passes! Here is someone I will be curious to contend with!” Prince Omelet and Bab-Yagun exchanged glances with sympathy far from mutual. “Number five — Gulkind-Nose, dragon guard. A sensible young fellow moreover with a commercial bent. He will go far! He brought with him from England a pile of soccer shirts with the portrait of Gury Puper and plugged them at nightmarish prices yesterday in the Hall of Two Elements. I like how Katya Lotkova dealt with him. ‘I implore you, fellow! I will get a live Puper cheaper!’ she said.” Lotkova smiled and threatened Yagun with a finger. “But why did I say that? By the way, my granny also purchased one soccer shirt, as she claims, to frighten away evil spirits… Number seven — Schulson, nicknamed Admiral. They say he can throw the ball across the entire field and still catch it himself. But these are all silly gossips. I noticed no such thing last time, although he plays rather well. Oh, here we have reached number eight (my number, by the way, is also eight)… Gury Pup… Oh, the stadium is already roaring! I think there is no need for any more presentation! Have you noticed that today he has a new broom? A solid piece! Am ready to argue, the yard-keeper of the house on Rublev Road, personally driving off cats from the king of vampires’ car, would give his best shovel for it!”
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No one heard Yagun. Everything was drowned out by the applause and shouts of welcome. Gury Puper, pale but determined, straightened the glasses on his nose and sat on the broom. It seemed to Tanya that he glanced with yearning in her direction. Immediately one of the magnotists fussily ran up to Puper and started to twirl a crystal ball in front of his eyes. “Number nine. Bad-Fat-Pet — attacking halfback. Our forward Seven-Stump-Holes is convinced for some reason that in translation this sounds like ‘likable skinny otter’. I will not dissuade him. I notice only that Bad’s broom flies both forward and backward and has a bailout.” Bab-Yagun cleared his throat. “And finally number ten… Before continuing, I warn that I am in a shielding vest! Number ten — Carolyn Curlo! I said that my vest will crackle, but it will be nothing to me! Oh, my granny mama, the vacuum is conking out! Hey, likable otter, lend me your parachuuuuuute!” BANG! They dug the playing commentator out of the sand, shook him down and, after checking whether he had broken anything, again with great care placed him on the vacuum. “Did you see that craftiness?” taking off, Yagun yelled, offended. “She simply muffled the vacuum, and that’s all she did! Probably if someone from the Tibidox team were to use evil eye on the field, he would already have gotten a penalty flag long ago! Indeed now Grafin Cagliostrov and the magician Tistrya do nothing! Do you know what they just said to me? Allegedly, they had not yet let out the signal spark to start the match, and so she can do anything she wants with my vacuum! Okay, they persuaded me, good friends! Next time I will take Goreanna’s evil-eye rifle, I will set off for the change room of the Invisibles, and turn them all into polecats! Moreover, I will also do this before the signal spark!” Yagun did not have time to finish talking, when Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya showed him the penalty flag. The thunderstruck commentator almost fell off the vacuum again. “For what?” he yelled. “For the threat!” Tistrya wickedly explained, stroking the goblet similar to a Tula samovar. “It was a joke!” Sardanapal tried to step in. “That’s not important. It could influence the psychological state of the Invisibles team and inflict moral injury on them! Say thanks that we did not remove this magfioso element from the field altogether!” Grafin Cagliostrov said. To suppress any dispute, he raised his hand with the ring and released the signal spark. Eighteen players — taking into account that Bab-Yagun and Sheik Spirya were already in the air — pronounced Speedus envenomus all at once, secured themselves with Oyoyoys, and took off. Dragon handlers threw open the hangar gates. Goyaryn and Keng-King took off almost simultaneously and, still from a distance, as if exchanging greetings, breathed jets of fire at each other. Meanwhile, the umpires, having made their way onto the field under the protective dome, let out the balls, and rushed fleeing. Goyaryn and Keng-King, not on any joint agreement, immediately rushed in eager rivalry for — no, not the balls and even not the players, but the umpires… For some unknown reason all dragons of the world cannot stand them. The umpires were on alert this time. One had time to slip away, and
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the other became a lizard in time and burrowed into the sand. Katya Lotkova and O-PheLi-A already hurried to the dragons, calming them. “What disappointment! They have not eaten the umpires for the time being! Have they really gotten too nimble? Doesn’t matter — the game is long! Anything can still happen!” Bab-Yagun calmed everyone, almost getting yet another penalty flag for such careless words. The beginning of the game this time turned out not so much swift as tactical. While the Invisibles were reorganizing, the players of the composite Tibidox team managed to take possession of three of the five released balls; however, all their opportunities at KengKing were futile so far. The defence of the Invisibles were well coordinated, and KengKing blazed with well-aimed and almost continuous jets of fire, reaching the most distant corners of the field. The immobilize ball slipped away for the time being, but Admiral Schulson intercepted the sneeze ball and passed it to his captain Glint. Glint on his broom glided at a not great height and picked the moment when he could attack Goyaryn. Thus far, Gury Puper did not demonstrate his usual miracles. He was playing sleepily and even as if without desire. On the other hand, when Tanya or Coffinia showed up beside him, Puper noticeably revived and began to trace prodigious figures on the broom. “I hope Gury did not forget the existence of the braking spells Bangus parachutis and Bangus parachutis forte. I have never seen anyone doing a cobra with such speed!” BabYagun remarked. At the very beginning of the game, it was possible for Tanya to intercept the pepper ball, but so far she had not hurried to breakthrough with it to Keng-King, especially as the rules allowed them to keep a ball for as long as they desired. Since the pepper ball gives five points, it would make sense to throw it only when a player ends up near Keng’s throat. Up to now Tanya was moving around quickly above the field, deftly manoeuvring, and disrupting the plans of Bad-Fat-Pet and Carolyn Curlo sticking with her. Carolyn Curlo, with her witch’s eyes, already several times dropped quick glances aimed at Tanya, but Tanya was in a safety vest, and her double bass dealt with evil eyes much more effectively than vacuums. Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya persistently did not notice the violation of rules by the Invisibles, although O-Phe-Li-A already played on the flute with all her might, directing the fire of their dragon, and Admiral Schulson roughly pressed on Zhora Zhikin’s broom. On the other hand, when Seven-Stump-Holes slightly cut Glint off, he instantly earned a penalty flag. Furthermore, Stump was forced to return the recaptured sneeze ball to the Invisibles. “Here’s what’s called the vital balance of justice! They have Puper not in the best form. On the other hand the judges play up to them, and they can cheat as much as desired!” Tanya thought. She waved her hand at Bad-Fat-Pet and made a beautiful barrel, in the next moment leaving the clinging Invisibles player without the pepper ball. Bab-Yagun caught a pass from Rita On-The-Sly and, after placing a spell on it, sent it across the entire field to Liza Zalizina. He calculated that the Invisibles would want to intercept it and would be knocked down from their brooms. The rules of dragonball did not prohibit this. However, the Invisibles, obviously, had heard much about the improbable ability of Yagun to change the spell several times during the flight of the ball.
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For this very reason, none of them rushed to it with the only exception of Prince Omelet, probably also a telepath. “What a pity! Omelet rushes to my ball, but does not manage! Liza Zalizina gets the pass! I will not be revealing a big secret if I say that she saw my secret sign… Zalizina attacks Keng-King with the stun ball! Excellent, simply excellent! The cuckoo is guiding the clock on autopilot! Not the most convenient form of transport, but then what speed! Here, true, you cannot tell time with it. The hands were lost already during the match with the babai… Keng-King meets Liza with fire. Short, powerful fiery spittle! The dragon economizes breath, without wasting it on long jets. It would not know how to hit upon the idea by itself! One more merci to O-Phe-Li-A and her silver flute. Keng-King’s spittle is not burning the vampire bile yet, but Liza is forced to gain altitude. While Zalizina is attracting Keng-King’s attention to herself, Seven-Stump-Holes gets into attack position. O-Phe-Li-A hurriedly begins to play the flute, but Keng-King was too absorbed in its attempt to set Liza on fire. A throw! Excellent, Holes has the ball! He deftly beats Sheik Spirya and faces Gulkind-Nose directly. Gulkind-Nose fusses and with signs proposes to Stump to exchange the ball for a soccer shirt with Puper on it! But Seven-Stump-Holes is clearly not a Pupermaniac! He draws back his arm, and… the stun ball flies right into the dragon’s mouth. A flash! The ball snaps into action, Keng grows stupid before our eyes! O-Phe-Li-A and Gulkind-Nose flee, fearing to be swallowed! One point to Tibidox! But what’s this? Why doesn’t it count? Oh no, I don’t believe my eyes! Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya declared offside, moreover only the moment before Keng swallowed the ball! How do you like that?” The Tibidox fans began to moan. It was clear to all that their team had been written off. “Why, why?” Tararakh yelled. The hot-tempered pithecanthropus tore off to the judicial stand. Sardanapal and Medusa tried to hold him, but could only slow down the speed of his advance. To be sure — how could they deal with a strong man who walked alone to a cave lion? Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya exchanged glances. Even they themselves could not come up with the reason why they called offside. “The actions of the judicial board will be discussed at the press conference after the match! At the same time complaints will be taken!” Cagliostrov said in a hurry. “And as much as desired! Then my actions will also be discussed at the press conference!” Tararakh stated. He moved Sardanapal aside and with a crack detached a very huge board from the stand. Cagliostrov and Tistrya turned pale and hurriedly raised their rings. But Tararakh was already floundering in the bear embraces of the cyclopes summoned by Sardanapal. Understanding that danger no longer threatened them, the judges again turned pink. “Very well, I will comment on our offside right now,” generously said Cagliostrov. “Ehhhhhh… Your player Seven-Stump-Holes looked impolitely at Sheik Spirya and shouted: ‘Shoo!’ to him. We interpret this as unsportsmanlike behaviour. Seven-StumpHoles is to move off the field for ten minutes. He must learn that dragonball is a highly cultured form of sport, demanding deep mutual respect from the players.” “Not true! He shouted nothing!” Medusa was indignant. Her hair hissed from the indignation. “I never lie!” Grafin Cagliostrov grew red. “My words can be confirmed by Prun and Goreanna and Professor Flank personally.”
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“WHAT? Where is this Flank?” “He’s not here, but he is married to my cousin once removed and must give me a heap of green corns!” Not getting involved in further debates, Grafin Cagliostrov ordered the umpires to bring out another stun ball onto the field and gave the signal for the continuation of the game. “Gulkind-Nose… Schulson… Again Glint… Outstanding series of bewitched passes!” Bab-Yagun started to rattle. “The worked out tactics of the Invisibles makes itself known! It’s staggering how they send a ball into the void, where a player, showing himself at the necessary place and opening the raincoat slightly for a second, catches it! Likely, the Englishmen do not intend to play defence anymore. Captain Glint passes the ball to Prince Omelet. It seems I see a smile on Prince’s face. He attacks Goyaryn, deftly deviating from the jet of fire… Then swings his arm back and from a distance throws the ball… Zhora Zhikin tries to intercept it. Zhora, don’t! Too late! I’m certain Omelet changed the spell at the last moment. Zhora Zhikin is knocked off the mop. By some miracle he still manages to grasp it, he tries to pull himself up, but Carolyn Curlo affectionately catches his fingers in the crossing of her eyes… The mop breaks. Zhora, like a white swan winged on takeoff, falls to the sand. The medical genies carry him away from the field… The Tibidox team is down one player!” “It goes without saying that Cagliostrov and Tishtra have no complaints. Perhaps change them into mice, huh?” Sardanapal whispered in an undertone to Medusa. Both his moustaches were indignantly bouncing and bending like a cardiogram. “It’s not worthwhile supplementing the noble mouse species with these two worms! Let’s see what happens next!” Medusa said. “Yes, success is not on our side!” Bab-Yagun continued to comment. “Tatiana Grotter is rushing to the rescue of Kuzya Tuzikov and Katya Lotkova in defence, but she does not manage. What a sly manoeuvre! Schulson knows how to move in such a way that Kuzya Tuzikov turns out to be between him and Goyaryn. Now Goyaryn cannot breathe out fire! A throw! Past! But what’s this? After catching the rebound from the dragon’s nose, Schulson skilfully throws the sneeze ball into its mouth. Nice, Admiral, I am forced to admire him! 2:0 in favour of the Invisibles! Time for me to join the action!” Bab-Yagun bent down to the vacuum, stepped on the gas and, after darting off the spot, rushed after the immobilize ball, which recently loomed teasingly beside the dome. Casting aside Captain Glint and Sheik Spirya with the exhaust jet of his vacuum, Yagun almost managed to intercept the immobilize ball, but here directly in front of his nose emerged Bad-Fat-Pet. He clearly moved up, hoping that the judge would assign a penalty. Avoiding collision, Yagun moved the pipe and sharply gained altitude. Precious seconds went with this. After outdistancing Yagun, Prince Omelet took possession of the immobilize ball. Yagun was certain that he would immediately attack Goyaryn, but the Invisibles had other plans. Omelet hung motionlessly in the air and, not flying away, attentively looked at Yagun. The other Invisibles also hovered nearby, moving apart and forming a circle. Puzzled, the grandson of Yagge applied the brakes and stopped the vacuum several metres from Prince. He suddenly realized what this meant. Omelet was challenging him to a duel. A duel of bewitched passes. Yagun nodded, showing that the challenge was accepted. This was dangerous undertaking, especially since his opponent had the first throw. “Gullis-dullis!” Prince Omelet uttered distinctly and sent the ball weakly to Yagun.
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Yagun concentrated. Now everything would be decided in moments. For Gullis-dullis he was supposed to use Tsap-tsaraps, but Yagun was nobody’s fool. He knew that Omelet already mentally changed or would change the spell at the last moment. And then it would be necessary to determine which of the two remaining blocks to use: Leoszafindileos or Shchups-kuroshchups. Holding in his field of vision the ball flying towards him, Yagun slid into Omelet’s consciousness. That one, clearly a telepath, smirked and skilfully blocked; however, Yagun, by an improbable effort, was able to squeeze through the block and to catch even not the thought itself, but a scrap of it “…apus.” “Shchups-kuroshchups!” Yagun shouted, after grasping that the spell for the ball was changed to Figus-zatsapus. The ball obediently slid into his hand. Omelet stopped smiling. “Trullis-zapullis!” Yagun loudly said, sending the ball back to Omelet. Omelet quickly attempted to penetrate his consciousness, but Yagun was firmly blocked. Prince began to twitch. He attacked Yagun’s consciousness time after time, but instead of thoughts a clinging rhyme was pushed at him: One, two, three, four, five A bunny went for a drive! Omelet, not knowing the Russian language, got scared, after deciding that he was dealing with dangerous ritual magic. Furthermore, he was certain that Yagun would now change the spell as he himself did, but which of the two remaining? Gullis-dullis or Figus-zatsapus? He had to guess, relying on chance. “Tsap-tsaraps!” panicking, Prince shouted. The immobilize ball gave his chest a nudge. After flying off the broom, Omelet with a pitiful howl went down. There was consternation in his sad ox eyes. What blunder did he make? A dull smack — and here thoughtful medical orderlies were already running to Omelet. “I did not change anything at all. Not worth looking for the hidden meaning where there is none!” Yagun explained edifyingly to the other Invisibles, accompanying Omelet with sad looks. Grafin Cagliostrov got up threateningly. He intended to give the Tibidox team a penalty and to remove Yagun from the field, but suddenly discovered that his voice had disappeared. No matter how much he moved his lips, not a sound could be dragged out of his throat. “I’m somewhat bad today! Here I’m wondering if this is connected to digestion?” closing a small box thoughtfully, Slander Slanderych said to Milyulya. Milyulya leaned out of the barrel and affectionately kissed the principal in the ear. She was also a fan of the Tibidox team. Yagun gained altitude and returned to performing his commentating responsibilities. The game continued with variable success. Tanya attacked Keng-King with the pepper ball, but she missed and got burnt on the hand. Carolyn Curlo, emerging from somewhere to her right, almost rammed her. Kuzya Tuzikov’s broom caught fire, but he managed to put out the flame. Katya Lotkova made eyes at Puper, but he was so absorbed in Tanya and Coffinia that he noticed not a single thing. Seven-Stump-Holes was finally back on the field again and with great zeal joined in the fight for the flame-extinguisher ball and recaptured it from Gulkind-Nose. “Seven-Stump-Holes passes to Kuzya Tuzikov! Excellent, simply excellent! It seems he even manages the small distance without a spell! But what’s this, where did the ball go? Tuzikov can’t understand, neither can I! My granny mama! Again this Puper! He
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throws open his raincoat and demonstrates the flame-extinguisher ball to all! Unbelievable! Just now he was in quite a different place!” Bab-Yagun yelled almost with tears. “Puper rushes with the flame-extinguisher ball to Goyaryn, deftly dodging the tongues of flames! Will he really throw? No! Do you see what Puper is doing? Unbelievable! He suddenly changes his direction of flight, descends, and directly in flight gallantly hands the ball over to Coffinia Cryptova!” “Shoot, shoot, shoot everything! I’ll change you into a cockroach if you miss anything!” Nagiana yelled at the operator, the Prophetic Eye crackling. The stadium froze. Puper’s fans gasped, almost dropping the banner. “GURY, WHAT’S WITH YOU? COME TO YOUR SENSES, GURY!” flared up on the banner. Out of jealousy, Goreanna seized the evil-eye rifle, but, before managing to pull the trigger, collapsed without feeling into the arms of the attentive Prun. Sheik Spirya gnashed his teeth and said several Arabic words with obscure meanings. Katya Lotkova was hanging onto Goyaryn’s neck. Meanwhile Coffinia took the ball from Puper and, beaming on the vacuum, negligently threw it in the direction of Keng-King, not even taking the pains to drop it into its mouth. “Of course, it’s all very nice! Flowers there, balls here! Everything stands in good stead in the household! But I would prefer to learn the date of the betrothal and the numbers of your credit cards!” Coffinia said negligently. Puper looked at her with sheep’s eyes. Cryptova estimated that, with the equality of love magic, Gury would now love more the one who happened to be close by. After leaping onto her feet on the vacuum, she was already prepared to tiger leap to Puper’s neck, but she delayed slightly and missed the moment. Perturbed magnotists on flying carpets already rushed to Gury. They pulled him off the broom, twirled a crystal ball before his eyes and, having brought him to his senses, again seated him on the broom. “Neat job!” Bab-Yagun was carried away. “Puper comes to! He is already looking at Cryptova with entirely different, sober eyes, wraps himself up in his raincoat, and races after the balls. Interesting, how many will he catch? I remind you, the score so far is 2:0 in favour of the Invisibles! Oh, the situation on the field again becomes heated! The flame-extinguisher ball, so politely ‘presented’ to us by Puper, is in the game again… Seven-Stump-Holes intercepts it. He goes on a breakaway to Keng-King… Will he break through? No! Stump’s vacuum begins to sneeze and reduces speed. Clog in the carburetor or again Carolyn Curlo? I lean towards the second explanation, especially as Carolyn herself turns away with a suspiciously unrepentant look. Bad-Fat-Pet and Schulson force Stump to the ground and chase him right to the barrier. Stump, understanding that now he will be deprived of the ball, makes a pass to Liza Zalizina…” Tanya blew on her burnt hand and forced herself to forget about the pain. Likely, one ought to grease thickly with vampire bile, but she in no way could become accustomed to its nightmarish smell. Until now, she was dissatisfied with her play today. The game was not moving. Must be due to the constant stops, first by the judges, then by Puper’s strange behaviour. Moreover, Tanya experienced awkwardness internally. The lost look of Gury Puper, before whom she felt herself guilty, disturbed her. Well, is it not a strange game, when everybody else has been playing, but the two best — Puper and herself — have stayed on the side so far?
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“O-Phe-Li-A again begins to play the flute,” continued Yagun. “Keng-King fans and switches the fire from Seven-Stump-Holes to Zalizina. Now it shoots long wide jets, trying to fence off Zalizina with a wall of fire. Gulkind-Nose, lurking under the invisible raincoat, does not manage to get away. His raincoat flares up! And even not just the raincoat — it seems the broom is also burning. O-Phe-Li-A drops the flute. She appears disheartened. The trainer of the Invisibles is ranting and raving, indignant at the uncoordinated play of the defence. Gulkind-Nose in a hurry rushed to the water sprites, who already had the hoses prepared. Liza Zalizina skilfully manoeuvres and, making use of Keng-King being blinded by his own fire, throws the flame-extinguisher ball into the wide-open dragon mouth. Go-o-al!” The stadium roared. The Tibidox fans threw noisemakers and signal sparks, and sent up salutes into the air. Academician Sardanapal, out of happiness, embraced Medusa. She was so embarrassed that two snakes on her head tied themselves into a knot. Tararakh rushed to embrace Dentistikha, but his nose was suddenly buried in a white uniform reeking of camphor. It turned out that while he was watching the match, Dentistikha got up and changed seats somewhere, and next to Tararakh now was the Sleeping Adonis rocking with half-closed eyes. The magician Fuji, sitting on the other side of Tararakh, got up and, fearfully looking around, leaped like a sparrow away somewhere. One look at the Sleeping Adonis filled him with horror. The pithecanthropus wanted to raise an alarm, but came to the conclusion that this would only disrupt the match. “The guy sits very quietly, bothers no one, grabs no one! Probably also loved dragonball until they put the curse on him!” he calmed himself. Puper’s fans were sitting gloomier than the clouds. The letters on their banner demanded: “GURY, WAKE UP! SHOW THEM!” “The score is 3:2 in favour of Tibidox!” Bab-Yagun was talking profusely. “I hope Grafin Cagliostrov did not have time to call time-out. Especially as there were no timeouts in dragonball earlier, and this is already pure tyranny. Oho, and Cagliostrov is almost not looking at the field! He is more perturbed by his own muteness and that of the magician Tistrya. I understand it: retarded evil eye — an unpleasant piece. For example, the word ‘help!’ may take almost a week to shout: on one sound a day! For the present Tistrya has not even considered that they put an evil eye on him. With the retarded curse, they are calm children… Interesting, which of the spectators made the effort? Indeed not the witch-grannies perhaps? Well done, grannies! No vests can help Tistrya! Their cabins are jumping in the distance there! They forced their way past the cyclopes!” The game continued. Having regrouped and changed tactics, the Invisibles went on the offensive, exchanging bewitched passes with such spirit that it seemed the ball was stitching through the stadium like a shot. After unsuccessfully attempting to intercept the ball, the outstanding Zalizina was brought down recently. Rita On-The-Sly in no way could join the play in earnest and continued to fight with the obstinate trailer. Carolyn Curlo, imperceptibly smiling, from time to time continued to throw her murderous glances. “Bad-Fat-Pet, again Schulson! Pass! Puper has the ball! What skill! Never thought that it is possible to manoeuvre so skilfully on a stick with dry branches, with nowhere to stuff mermaid scales into even!” Yagun was amazed. “Puper breaks through to Goyaryn and before that one is ready to breathe out fire, he wraps himself in the raincoat. What a volley! Goyaryn surpassed itself! For sure not even the glasses of Puper remain! A moan
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sweeps over the crowd of fans. But what’s this? Gury, whole and unharmed, appears suddenly above our dragon’s head and beautifully, even possible to say offhandedly, throws the stun ball, released but not taken into consideration, into its mouth. A flash! Of course, Grafin Cagliostrova has no complaints against Puper! 3:3!” “GURY, WE ADORE YOU!” flared up on the banner of Puper’s fans. The hero himself shyly brushed it off. “In the game remain two balls — pepper and immobilize. Who will reach them? The pepper ball is already almost in Tanya Grotter’s hands, but Bad-Fat-Pet and captain Glint roughly take her in a scissor formation. Tanya skilfully gets away from collision, but misses the moment! Bad-Fat-Pet intercepts the ball! Captain Glint gains speed and again strives for Tanya! Likely, he has made up his mind to knock her off the double bass, although Tanya does not even have a ball! Holy cow, gentlemen, I am mad! Interesting, how is Tanya going to get away from the situation? Why is she flying on the double bass directly into the upper part of the magic dome? Has she decided to play a little kamikaze? Her body is almost parallel to the ground, and the double bass is perepen… perpepende… all in all, to Plague-del-Cake with them — with moronoid words! If she crashes, it will indeed be capital! Glint rushes after the girl literally by half a metre. I do not see but sense how he smirks. I’ll say! To turn at this speed is simply impossible! All manoeuvres are also impossible in perependede.. well, in short, in this ‘cular’ position! The dome is increasingly closer! It’s already too late to turn! Now she will crash! BUT WHAT’S THIS? Tanya passes through the dome as if it isn’t there! The bewildered Glint does not brake and tries to follow her, but he crashes into the invisible obstacle! Nightmare! The broom breaks in half! Glint falls down like a rock! Tanya loops and, as if nothing was the matter, returns to the field. Excellent, Tanie, excellent!” Yagun wiped the sweat off his forehead. “Did you see this? Grotter overtakes Glint, who is close to crashing, and tries to slow down his drop. But Glint furiously pushes her hand aside. The proud Englishman does not want to accept any help. Tanya flies away to the side. The raincoat, torn away by the wind from the Invisible, remains on her like a military trophy. The sharp medical orderlies are already running onto the field, trying to catch Glint with the folding stretchers. For them, as I understand, this is a kind of sport. Ay! Almost! Their guess was some half a metre off! The captain of the Invisibles goes into the sand up to his ears. Forgetting about Glint, the medical genies are quarrelling among themselves! Then grudgingly, they load Glint like a sack of potatoes onto the stretchers and carry him off to magic station. M-yes, fruitful at my granny’s today! Not without reason she grew almost a full basin of bonegrafts! Hey, what is Tanya doing? Why does she throw the raincoat over her shoulders and where has she disappeared to? How’s this for a Puper trick, I ask you! However, rules do not forbid this.” Yagun straightened the mouthpiece and looked sideways at the stands making noise. The fans of the Invisibles were buzzing like a swarm of wasps. “CHEAT! GROTTER IS A PHANTOM?” blinked on the fans’ banner. “How’s that for stupidity? Do you yourself believe this?” the playing commentator was indignant. “Okay, while Tanya disappears heaven knows where, I can tell you why she did not crash. I hope you can visualize the layout of the magic dome. If the shielding cupola were impenetrable like a jar covered with a lid, we would all be steaming in here. And even smoke would not be vented out. For this very reason, there is a small opening
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in the upper central section of the dome. About the size of a writing desk or a little bigger. A dragon cannot fly through there, but here a player easily can. Tanya precisely slipped through it. Unlucky Glint went splat into the barrier. Nevertheless, Tanya took a risk. The dome is invisible! If she had missed just a little…” While Yagun was talking, Bad-Fat-Pet attacked Goyaryn, which was slightly not quite itself after the stun ball and shot fire at anyone — his own and the enemies. For this very reason, Katya Lotkova with foresight kept further away from it, and the “goal” was actually left without protection. Dodging the jets of flame, Bad-Fat-Pet waited until Goyaryn opened its mouth in order to take in air for new flame throwing, and threw the ball. The distance was quite small. It was impossible for an experienced player such as Bad to miss. Vanka Valyalkin bit his lip. He took each goal into Goyaryn’s mouth so painfully, as if he himself had to swallow the exploding ball. On the other hand, the fans of the Invisibles with improved looks jumped on their feet in advance, ready to shout, “Go-o-al!” But here… “Look! Nice, Tanya!” Tararakh burst out laughing, out of an abundance of feeling hitting the Sleeping Adonis on the shoulder and even not noticing it. Yagun raptly jumped on his vacuum, “Not having flown to Goyaryn’s mouth, the pepper ball suddenly disappears. Tanya Grotter, who recently threw off the invisible raincoat, appears before the dragon’s nose. The ball is in her hands! Wonderful! Tanya has mastered the best of Puper’s techniques! She tears away from the spot and, after mockingly glancing at Bad-Fat-Pet, flies away. The thunderstruck Bad-Fat-Pet clings to his broom and hardly manages to avoid the flame of Goyaryn, newly ready for flame throwing.” Having beaten O-Phe-Li-A, Tanya turned up above the dragon of the Invisibles from the direction of its back plates. She saw how rhythmically its leathery wings were working. Even now, deprived of the possibility to breathe fire, Keng-King remained three times as big as and more terrible than Mercury and Goyaryn’s other children, a little inferior in size only to their father. Carolyn Curlo, suddenly emerging from under a dragon’s wing, threw an unfriendly look at Tanya. The safety vest began to crackle, and the double bass, although not losing control, swerved slightly in the air. O-Phe-Li-A hurriedly began to play the flute, clearly attempting to set the dragon on Tanya. Keng-King swung about in the air and lashed with its tail at random. A blast from its wing spun Tanya around, and a sharp notch on the edge of the tail almost took off her head. And King was already rushing to the girl, with its mouth open… “It was necessary to leave the raincoat nevertheless!” Tanya thought. She threw the ball and immediately slid downward, her shoulder almost wounded by the terrible dragon’s snout. Something flared up behind her back. The white evil face of Carolyn flashed by. “The pepper ball is in Keng-King’s mouth! A flash, another! 8:3 in favour of Tibidox! Oho, whom did King spit out? My granny mama! It was not inconceivable that some of Puper’s fans nevertheless would try to sneak into the match without tickets! But indeed so many! Now, they likely already feel sorry that they chose precisely such a way. Medical orderlies again begin to run with the stretchers. This time it is nevertheless possible for them to catch someone. The fans are raging! Somewhere fights break out! It seems someone thinks that Tanya did not have the moral right to use a captured raincoat! But the long and short of it is that she dropped it already near Goyaryn’s mouth…”
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Grafin Cagliostrov was finally able to remove the evil eye and find his voice. He yelled and waved his hands, intending on calling off the goal and assigning the Tibidox “goal” a penalty, but suddenly the baby Stinktopp appeared beside him. “Uncle, uncle!” he hailed in a thin voice. “What do you want?” Grafin answered, displeased. “Please say: Sledgehammerus wardoffus” “What’s this? There is no such spell!” Cagliostrov snapped, after looking him over with suspicion (he in no way could grasp where he had seen this baby before). “Please! I beg you!” Stinktopp whined, pitifully winking all three eyes. “Sledgehammerus wardoffus!” having decided to shake off the clinging chubby little boy, Grafin growled out. His ring flared up with a red spark, and in the next moment, Cagliostrov, with a blissful smile, slipped down to the floor. A bludgeon, pulled out by unknown means from the hands of one of the cyclopes, was gently pounding the judge slightly above the ear. “It worked! I devised a new spell!” the baby Stinktopp began to jump with joy. Having had success, he ran up to Slander Slanderych and started everything anew, “Uncle, uncle! Please say Sledgehammerus wardoffus!” “In the game, as this has already almost become a tradition, remains only the immobilize ball! Now which team will win depends on it alone! Ten points will decide the outcome of the duel!” Yagun was breathless with words. “For this very reason a true hunt after the immobilize ball is now underway! Bad-Fat-Pet, O-Phe-Li-A, Lotkova, Grotter, and Puper… Likely also time for me to join in!” Gathering speed, Yagun rushed past Carolyn Curlo, outdistanced Puper, made a beautiful turn, and seized the immobilize ball… or to be more accurate, attempted to seize it. An instant afterwards he was already rushing down together with the vacuum. The vacuum hit the sand and opened. Yagun himself was able to hang by the shawlparachute and now, unharmed, was rushing along the field, escaping from the medical orderlies with stretchers. “I’m downright mad! A disgrace to my lop-eared head! It hit me with my own bewitched pass! After Prince Omelet, no one has yet said the block spell! Have you seen such an ass? I outwitted myself!” Yagun shouted. Unexpectedly something going on above drew his attention. He stood still and, having ascertained that the medical orderlies were no longer striving for him, lay back on the warm sand in order to watch the game without craning his neck. “Did you see that? I understand nothing! Carolyn Curlo flies towards her own dragon and jumps of her own free will into its mouth. It seems this is not the first time — she amazingly deftly curls up into a ball. Why did Curlo do this? It is necessary for me that… Yes, that’s it! This is the secret weapon of the Invisibles! After swallowing Curlo the dragon’s natural capacity for evil eyes has grown hundreds of times! Even the spectators’ vests are now crackling! What can we say about us here on the field?! Coffinia Cryptova’s vacuum explodes directly in the air. Good that Sheik Spirya shows up right beside her. Tee-dee-dee-dee-tee… Oh, it also reached me! Worse than a twin evil-eye rifle! Fortunately, the magic works only on vacuums — other flying instruments as yet are behaving. Come on, Tanya, prove that we did not catch those idiotic peas in vain at the moronoids!”
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Tanya bent down towards the instrument. She felt as one with the double bass. Even the bow, it seemed, was no longer necessary to her, but was only conducting an unknown melody living inside her. A wedge, a peak, a rhomb… As if she was sketching in the air! An angle, a cobra… One manoeuvre flowed smoothly into another. Tanya did not even think about what she was doing and what they were called. With an elegant half-loop, she broke away from Bad-Fat-Pet, who was shepherding her, and surrendered herself to a free slide. And here below flickered the immobilize ball, after which, already almost overtaking it, rushed Gury Puper. Tanya lowered her hand with the bow and, exactly like a hawk, attacked the ball from the top. It seemed her double bass was simply falling… Sand swiftly approached, but the immobilize ball also finally stopped moving away. Tanya already saw its vividly sunlit side. Puper lifted his head in astonishment… “Did you see that?” Yagun began to yell. “Either I’ve gone out of my mind or Tatiana Grotter intercepts the immobilize ball from under Gury Puper’s nose! She managed to remove the counter-spell, and now the ball is in her hands! Bravo! Gury Puper almost cut into Tanya, but he steeply swings the broom around and freezes like a statue, as in the case with Coffinia! Oh, my granny mama, not without reason you always told me that girls will bring no good! Magnotists speed to their rugs, intending on rushing to the aid of their charge, but how embarrassing! Sashka-slob — Yagge’s long-legged cabin — is standing on their pile of flying carpets and is not going to move! Here is what western tidiness leads to! If they had left the rugs any which way, they would have been in the air long ago! The magnotists are hopping around like frogs, but they dare not interfere with the kicking foot. Knowing the nature of Granny’s cabin, I can say: the weather for the magnotists will remain non-flying no earlier than tomorrow!” The whole time the benumbed Puper could in no way take his eyes off Tanya. Baffled by such behaviour of her rival, Tanya also slowed down, continuing to hold the ball. She could fly to Keng-King and, possibly, decide the outcome of the duel, but for some reason she lingered. Gury flew up slightly closer. Now they were flying side by side. Tanya just in case put away the ball, for it was not inconceivable that Puper was being crafty and would want to snatch it away, but Gury paid the ball no more attention than he did the excited dragon midges flying all around. “Tanya, here we finally meet! For two years, I have studied the Russian language… I have longed for you!” he said with an accent but sufficiently clearly. “Get it out of your head! It’s all magic! You understand, magic! You fell in love with me because I cast a spell on a dough figurine!!!” Tanya shouted. Gury began to blink. “Oh no!” he said perplexed. “With what figurine here? I have loved you already for almost two years…” “But it was a special spell! From the hundred forbidden ones! I cast it!” “Nonsense. The forbidden spells are not so dangerous! I have been inoculated against them many times, and besides, Prun has the anti-magic shield… How often have they tried to make me fall in love — and so? I looked at the girls as friends, no more!” Puper brushed it off. “But I could not forget you even from the last match. I remembered your hair, your eyes, your double bass! Why did I not collide with you in the air during that match? I simply could not… For a long time I examined what prevented me, indeed I was not afraid, and then… then I understood.”
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Although Tanya did not experience reciprocal feelings for Puper, she was perturbed. Does Gury really actually love her? It is pretty nice of him, especially assuming that the story with the dough figurine has nothing to do with it. True, it is terribly absurd to have a conversation hanging in the air, when thousands of eyes are directed at them from all directions. And why does Puper not understand this? Good still that Coffinia is not with them now — the annoying Sheik Spirya is still keeping her on his broom. “But what about Coffinia? You indeed have fallen in love with her also?” she asked Gury. Puper was winced. “Coffinia — who is this? That girl with bread-and-salt? Oh, I understand! It’s totally different, it’s a delusion! I perceived it when the magfioso cupid shot me with his arrows! I lose my head when she is near, I like to look at her, but in my heart I feel that she’s not that… She is mercenary, petty, selfish! She needs my money, but not me! If I cease to be rich and famous, she will toss me out the door… But when she is close by, I cannot keep my eyes off her… Probably it is so, when you love two at once…” “Gury, don’t philosophize! I DO NOT LOVE YOU! Do you understand?” Tanya shouted. Puper shuddered. “This is terrible!” suffering, he said. “With all my heart I will love you always; even if that girl with bread-and-salt hires ten thousand magfioso cupids and with their arrows they pierce me like a porcupine!” “Listen, Gury, I said… Millions of girls love you! You will find someone. For example, I can recommend my cousin Pipa. Character is far from ideal, but then she is the daughter of the sovereign of vampires,” muttered Tanya. She herself was already having difficulty understanding what was flying off her tongue. It seemed to her that her words were lost somewhere, as if they were falling into cotton. “I don’t need anyone else. I will leave everything — my raincoat, my broom, my account in the bank, and I will move to Tibidox! I will play on your team. I will not give you up, so you know! You are also an orphan… We are so similar! My fans can’t stand you! They were even going to send to you the terrible Adavra Kedavra, the vampire of our school…” Suddenly Tanya noticed that something flickered behind Puper’s back. Goyaryn, with its mouth wide open, was rushing to the benumbed Gury. On the enormous snout of the Tibidox dragon was clearly written the desire to treat itself to fresh Gury meat. But Puper, it seemed, noticed nothing. Or it was all the same to him. “Here’s our dragon! Look out!” Tanya shouted. Gury turned around. His face turned stony. “It’s unimportant. Let it gorge me, if you don’t say ‘yes’!” he announced tragically. “No!” “Well, wonderful. Then it devours me, and all’s done! No me — no problem!” Gury said quietly. “At least wrap yourself up in your raincoat! You don’t know our dragon!” Tanya exclaimed. Puper obstinately shook his head. Goyaryn was already very close. Its wideopen throat resembled a tunnel ending with the burning hot crater of the stomach. Jealous Lotkova, looming above its head, clearly did not intend to drive off the dragon. It was literally read on her venomous face, “Let no one get him!”
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“GURY, MOVE!!!” Not thinking why she acted this way, Tanya waved the bow. The double bass rushed forward with such speed that all the strings began to drone at once. The immobilize ball was interfering with her, occupying her hand, and Tanya, not looking, cast it aside somewhere. Seizing Gury by the belt, she pulled him off the broom and jerked him down, saving him from Goyaryn’s mouth. The enormous shadow of the Tibidox dragon slid over them. Tanya experienced relief, but here something flared up. An orange haze obscured Goyaryn. A moan swept over the stadium. The rattling Bab-Yagun suddenly stopped short in mid sentence. Tanya understood nothing. Either they had cast an evil eye on Goyaryn or simply the sun reflected off its scales. Only when the dragon stopped moving its wings and sleepily descended to the sand was the terrible truth revealed to her. THE IMMOBILIZE BALL! She, not looking, threw it into the mouth of her own dragon. Goyaryn’s eyes, like two sparkling diamonds, were reproachfully shut. Tanya let go of Puper and, forgetting about everything in the world, dashed down. She clung to the neck of Goyaryn and tried to raise its heavy head. For a moment, it seemed to her that this was possible! She would lift up the heavy dragon and take off together with it. She would lift it into the air and play with it… She… But this, it goes without saying, was folly. “Don’t fall asleep, don’t fall asleep, don’t…” as if loosing her mind, Tanya shouted. Tears dripped onto the scales on the dragon’s snout sprinkled with sand. “Goyaryn is lulled to sleep by the immobilize ball! The Invisibles gain ten points. The Tibidox team has lost!” Bab-Yagun said with a lifeless voice, somewhat completely not his. “Here it is, sensation! Material of the month, year, century! I’m all excited! Someone please put an evil eye on me!!! Only try not to remove it! I will curse you! I will curse right now! Nevertheless you will not be able to construct the frame as I see it!” Nagiana Pripyatskaya squealed excitedly and from fullness of feelings hit the operator with an umbrella. That one, dodging the umbrella and drawing his head into his shoulders, in a hurry passed the Prophetic Eye over different directions. Journalists, correspondents, photographers, and simply smart fans broke the chain of cyclopes and poured out onto the field through the passages for the referees. Keng-King, whom they still did not have time to drive off into the hangar, greedily swallowed the sluggish. Soon it was so full that it could barely keep in the air. Sardanapal turned away. Tararakh cried, sobbing like a child. Beside him, Vanka Valyalkin froze exactly like a stone statue. “What game is this, in which Gury gives the balls to whomever is near, and Grotter throws them into the mouth of her own dragon! What has happened to dragonball?” the Great Tooth said quietly. Grafin Cagliostrov, coming to, smiled nastily and rubbed the trophy with his sleeve, after breathing on it. “They will be satisfied in Magciety! I did everything necessary! Ah yes, not to forget to inform them that I saw Vamdam Gussein and Bam Khlaban at the match… They were not here, but what of it… What if they changed into something else? Hee-hee!” The dumbfounded Puper was already standing like a statue near Tanya. The rest of the Tibidox team came down and, without looking at Tanya, went into the locker room. Dragging behind himself the hose of his knocked-down vacuum, Bab-Yagun approached Tanya. “The fans of the Invisibles roar in triumph, but their roar sounds somehow hesitant. It is understandable even to the last donkey that Tanya put this ball into her
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‘goal’, saving their Puper, and so, what victory is this then?” he encouragingly said into the silver mouthpiece, only this did not become any easier for either Tanya or the fans. “Did you see it? Tanya Grotter betrayed her own team! Don’t you see, she wanted to save Puper! Cutie-cute! Sucked him in and now hogs him for herself!” Coffinia howled from above. She would have rushed to Tanya long ago already to scratch out her eyes, but the sly Sheik Spirya especially kept the broom higher in order not to let Cryptova slip away. “Why are you so angry? Smile! I will present to you an oil well! You will ride on a broom with little bells!” he promised. The sheik with Slavic roots spoke Russian much better than Puper, just that his words “little bells” sounded like “litter pells.” “Go away, disgusting!” Coffinia snapped, attempting to throw the obtrusive suitor off the broom. The whole time Tanya could in no way let go of Goyaryn’s neck. It seemed to her that she had betrayed it, let the whole team down, and could do nothing meaner altogether. It was a bad, very bad feeling. “Now you will go with me! You cannot remain here! I will persuade the trainer, and he will take you onto our team!” Puper tried to convince Tanya. Making plans, he did not see how the magnotists and the winged maglawyer were stealing up to him from behind. They gripped Gury, covered his mouth and, hurriedly twirling the crystal ball before his eyes, in a rush carried him off the field. Next, the photographer from the publishing house escaped and took photos of Puper for a new series of calendars. The dragon handlers approached Goyaryn and started to bring it around. One of them muttered that Goyaryn is already old and that there is nothing worse than the immobilize ball for an old dragon. They pushed Tanya aside. She remained alone among an unfriendly crowd. The fans of the Invisibles mockingly congratulated her. Nightingale O. Robber walked past Tanya, even without looking around. She stood up, and her friends of yesterday and best friends made room, letting her through like a leper. Only Vanka alone did not run off anywhere but waited for her. Near Vanka like a sympathizing mountain appeared Tararakh. “I don’t blame you… I understand everything, but why did you do it? Goyaryn would not kill him, only swallow him till the end of the match!” Vanka said quietly. He alone, besides Yagun and Tararakh, did not avert his eyes. “I myself don’t know. I would have acted differently now, but then… Everything turned out somehow absurdly… Here he is, and here’s Goyaryn. I’ll go now. Please don’t come with me, I must be alone!” Tanya said. She went onto the field, found the double bass on the sand and wanted to carry it to Tibidox, but recalled the case. “Now it’s already unimportant. I’ll get it!” she thought. Walking towards the genies stepping aside from her, Tanya dropped into Goyaryn’s empty hangar. The drinking fountain was overturned and lay on its side. The case was gone… Chapter 16 The Case and the Battle-axe At night, after running away from the magnotists, Puper made his way to the residence floor, in order to try again to persuade Tanya to fly with them. Gury believed that he had succeeded in slipping away unnoticeably, but it was not so. Behind him sneaked Prun and Goreanna in invisible raincoats and they, following Puper, also burst into Tanya’s room.
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Goreanna even started on the threshold to bang away with the evil-eye rifle, but, to her misfortune, the first round fell onto Black Curtains. The gone mad Curtains tore away from the curtain rod and attacked Goreanna. In the heat of the moment, poor Prun came upon Coffinia, who was still beside herself after her failure with Puper. I will not begin to describe further, I will only say that the anti-magic shield was of no essential help to Prun. There was an awful noise. From somewhere a woken Gunya Glomov came tearing along, swinging his fists, rushing at the magnotists. Even Shurasik came running, on the run looking in haste through the self-taught manual of magic defence. The fight turned out worse than those that take place at stadiums after soccer matches. With the only difference being that the cyclopes did not interfere and pulled no one apart. They were sitting in the guardroom and splitting with Usynya, Gorynya, and Dubynya yesterday’s “gifts” from cheaters. Nagiana Pripyatskaya’s curious operator, who decided he was going to take a rare shot, had his Prophetic Eye broken. And his own non-prophetic eyes were in an offhand manner also decorated with shiners. The fight ceased only with the appearance of Sardanapal and Slander Slanderych. The latter rashly punished both the guilty and the blameless. The next morning the Invisibles flew away to England, taking the trophy away with them. Puper, still not having spoken with Tanya, sullenly sat on his broom and was constantly looking around, as if searching for someone. Possibly, he hoped to see Tanya at the wall, but she was not there. She, having locked herself in, was sitting in her room. Coffinia, managing to catch Puper’s eyes ten times, attained nothing. The recent shock and Tanya’s behaviour completely cured the Englishman of the magfioso cupid’s arrows. The previous life of the school of Tibidox began again: schoolwork, meals in the Hall of Two Elements, magic books in the reading hall, and loads of tasks, from which towards the evening the head swelled up and became as heavy as a cauldron. Everything was as before, with only one exception. Tanya no longer went to dragonball training and generally avoided encounters with Nightingale O. Robber. She felt thrice guilty. They had all the chances to win and did not win only because of her foolish act. This was clear to everyone and to her most of all. Time after time she replayed in memory that scene and every time she became shameful and was disgusted. “Okay, easily understood, you’re so kind and pure! Blah-blah-yak-yak!” Coffinia said. “But tell me, why did you throw the ball in Goyaryn’s direction? Was there no other direction perhaps? Well, could have thrown it down or passed to Yagun! After all, you could attach it to your forearm — you had your sticky… But no, you had to throw it straight into Goyaryn’s mouth! Wanted to curry favour, huh?” Tanya kept silent. She heard these reproaches not only from Coffinia. Almost everybody had already asked her why she did not attach the ball to the sticky or pass it to someone. But what could she answer, when she herself did not know what was the matter with her. Moreover, in the magic world (yes, and even in the moronoid one also!) nothing happens randomly. Even first-grade students, having barely mastered simple spells like Briskus-quickus, knew this. Tanya had already looked into Goyaryn’s hangar several times. The old dragon, fortunately having fully recovered, looked at her, as it seemed to her, without the previous sympathy. There were offence and bewilderment in its eyes. It did everything correctly: tried to swallow an opposition player, but instead of this got a ball from
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someone it trusted most of all. “Ah, magicians! No understanding anything about you!” It was as if Goyaryn said. However, it did not breathe fire on her. But now and then, Tanya wanted very much that it would let out a flame and burn her into ashes. She, leaving for the hangar, even stopped covering herself with vampire bile. *** After how the Sleeping Adonis appeared at the match and attacked Fuji in the Hall of Two Elements before that, it became clear to Sardanapal and the other instructors that it would be impossible to keep him on the spot. Even after sitting through three nights in the genie Abdullah’s library, Medusa discovered not a single efficient means against the deferred curse. “There is no way to cope with the sleeper! What he will be when he wakes up, I indeed really don’t know. Simply just ask Magciety for protection,” Sardanapal sighed. “And will Magciety really protect?” Tararakh was in doubt. “No, naturally. But then what activity it will develop! It will send experts to inspect our wine cellars for the purpose of conducting forbidden rituals. The experts will go down there and, already not returning for a long time, will disappear there, but Magciety will shower us with sorcery and send dragons to breathe on Tibidox. No, let us indeed manage somehow without Magciety!” “Nevertheless we must undertake something urgently! The Sleeping Adonis has already gone around the entire Tibidox — tower after tower, basement after basement. He is clearly searching for something — and we can all guess what precisely,” said Medusa anxiously. Sardanapal shrugged his shoulders and untangled his beard, which had wound itself around the arm of the armchair. “I see only one way out. We must set up watch. Let some of the upper-class students be constantly, day and night, next to the Sleeping Adonis and follow him, wherever he directs his steps. When Adonis discovers the throne, the students will have to call Medusa, Slander, Fuji, or me. And best all together,” he said. “The poor senior students! The Sleeping Adonis will attack them! He will kill them!” The Great Tooth was horrified. “No need to panic! He is not guilty of anything, only cursed! Until now, he has not attacked anyone…” Sardanapal said sternly. “If we do not count Professor Stinktopp and Fuji…” Slander Slanderych, eternally doubting everything, added quietly to himself under his breath. But the decision had already been accepted. The watch began. They broke the students of the fourth and fifth grades into pairs and put them on watch by the crystal coffin according to a specific timetable. “Well, exactly as at a cemetery! Now even have to stick around here all night!” Rita On-The-Sly muttered. More than once already she looked hostilely sideways at the Sleeping Adonis, large hands folded on his stomach. “Interesting, why precisely did they pair you with me? Was there nobody else?” Tanya asked. With her legs stretched out, she was sitting on a small bowlegged stool in the room adjoining Dentistikha’s office. True, Deni herself was not there now — her bedroom was in the adjacent tower with a gallery connected to this tower.
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“What why? Who made up the timetable? Slander! And he, it’s clear enough, will only do it to spite. Necessary to match up white with black, and even pick such people who would irritate each other, as you and me here. Consider, he put Yagun with SevenStump-Holes, and your Vanka with Cryptova. Here you’ll see, she’ll suck him in! To spite you, as you beguiled Puper!” “I did not beguile Puper!” “You still tell people this! That is all they chatter about on the zoomer: poor Puper, unlucky Puper, Grotter bewitched Gury! Our Gury doesn’t eat, doesn’t drink, only gnaws on his broom!” Rita On-The-Sly mimicked. Usually taciturn, now she was warming to her subject and had no objection to gossiping. Tanya wanted to put Rita in her place, but perceived that the quarrelsome On-The-Sly precisely tried to achieve this. She could easily quarrel all night, doing nothing else all the same, and never sleep. Not answering, Tanya began to think about the most different things. The night is generally a strange time. Thoughts do not stay in one place and slide around all the time, rush by somewhere in a long chain like clouds in windy weather. On the other hand, all enlightenment usually also comes at night. Puper, Goyaryn, Uncle Herman… Everything here had already been thought over long ago; therefore, Tanya’s thoughts somehow rushed past further by themselves. She began to think about the double bass case, occasionally casting looks at the serenely snoring Adonis. “If my case is the throne, then he already has it. Why then has nothing happened? No, something here is not right,” she decided. The Sleeping Adonis smiled mysteriously at heaven knows what and smacked his lisps in his sleep. Either he was weaving some lethargic intrigues for the next time or he simply saw that he was finally kissing someone. Unexpectedly On-The-Sly tore away from the spot and ran up to the window. “Look, Grotter, a glow!” she began to yell. Tanya jumped. In the first minute, it seemed to her that they had stretched a purple cloth, now forming many fiery mounds and folds, outside the window. And only afterwards she made out that in the courtyard of the school of magic, red spheres flared up soundlessly, died out, and flared up again. She understood that she had already seen this glow twice — the first time on the day of the rabid rodeo, when the bench with Vanka fell on them… “What are you doing? Don’t!” Rita shouted, hanging onto her arm. Having pushed a trembling On-The-Sly aside, Tanya gave the heavy window a shove. Together with the night wind, a crimson glow burst into the room. It smashed onto the walls and danced at the rounded corners of the crystal coffin. A minute passed, and the glow began to fade gradually. Finally, shaking, it skimmed along the black walls of Tibidox and seemingly entered them. “What was it? My ring was so hot!” Rita began to groan, blowing on her finger. “Magic… Much magic… Monstrously much magic,” said Tanya. The ring of Theophilus Grotter, also downright overheated from the surplus of strange magic, cleared its throat and in an intoxicated voice spoke pompously about an obvious logical incident, “Carpe diem! Carpent tua poma nepotes! (Seize the day! Plan for the future! (Latin))” A chain began to creak, swinging. Rita turned around. The Sleeping Adonis moved the lid aside and sat up. His eyes were half closed, and his hands were already groping the
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edge of the coffin. And then Gottfried Bouillon deftly, like a cat, jumped out onto the floor. On-The-Sly wanted to scream, but Tanya covered her mouth. After looking around, the Sleeping Adonis returned to the coffin and, having thrown off the lid, under which he was laying earlier, took out a battle-axe of an imposing size. After testing the blade with his finger, he hesitated and left the room. “He brought an axe! He will hack someone down!” On-The-Sly started to whisper. Her dark-complexioned face went blotchy — it was noticeable even in the dark. Tanya shook her, “Pull yourself together! Run and wake Sardanapal!” “And you?” “I’ll go after the sleeper!” On-The-Sly hung onto her arm. “Don’t! He’ll kill you!” Tanya finally shook Rita off and slipped out to follow Gottfried. The Sleeping Adonis quickly moved to the stairs, scarcely looking around. The battle-axe gleamed in his lowered hand. “I’ll wake Sardanapal! But where is he to search for you?” On-The-Sly muttered fearfully. “Don’t know… In my opinion, he is going down into the basements. At worst, Sardanapal will let the sphinx out on the trail,” shouted Tanya already on the run. The Sleeping Adonis quickly went down the dark stairs of Tibidox. A draft buzzed through the numerous cracks. The flame of the torches flared up on Gottfried’s approach and began to toss about. Now and then, the tongues of flame leaned over and attempted to reach the Adonis, but they seemingly encountered an invisible barrier and changed colour. Tanya sneaked after him, trying not to get too near but also not to lag too far behind. Occasionally the Sleeping Adonis changed his direction of motion sharply, picking one of the secondary galleries, and then she surmised where she had to go only according to the crackle of the torches. Soon they were already in the foundation of the tower, where its thick arches — together with the arches of the other towers — merged together into the unified shell of the rock tortoise. The Hall of Two Elements was very near here — altogether only through the wall with seven semicircular arches. However, the Sleeping Adonis, in spite of expectation, did not turn in there but to the side opposite the Hall. Unhealed Lady floated out towards Tanya. The deserted bride appeared unexpectedly cheerful and active. No despondency, no new sores. In her hands she was holding a whole pile of bedraggled parchments, some kind of leaves and spectral papers, through which the walls appeared. On Lady’s nose were flaunted a pair of glasses a ’la Puper. “Rzhevskii is hiding all the time in the woods! Well, let him hide! I’ll take him to the court of ghosts! Here are the documents I have gathered. Let them judge him! The representatives of the publishing house promised to lend me a maglawyer! They have all kinds there: with wings and without! But better for me with wings — they’re as mean as wasps!” Lady said in a shrewish way. On hearing a sound behind his back, the Sleeping Adonis stopped, puzzled, swinging the axe in his lowered hand. Tanya waved her hands so that Lady would talk quieter, but that one persistently did not understand hints.
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“What, are you hiding perhaps, from whom? Drop it! How is it possible to play hideand-seek?” she asked loudly. “Do you know what I’ve clarified? Before me, Rzhevskii had already been betrothed seven times! A not so bad moral character, huh? And I almost tied my life up with this terrible type! Simply Raoul Bluebeard!” Now only a corpse would not have already heard Unhealed Lady. The Sleeping Adonis turned around. Tanya wanted to hide in the shadows, but she did not have time. Gottfried was about to take a step towards her, but suddenly he reconsidered and rushed into a narrow corridor not illuminated by any torch. “How impolite! Last time this scoundrel wrecked my wedding, and now he saw me and fled! No inner consideration! A cad from a commuter train, pure and simple!” Lady said with indignation. Before rushing to follow the Sleeping Adonis, Tanya hesitated for a while. The corridor was entirely dark. Gottfried could be on watch for her anywhere. But indeed, besides her fate, there was the fate of all of Tibidox in the balance! True, for some reason this noble argument did not particularly convince her. Even dampened her enthusiasm as a result. “Run! I will remember you forever young!” Reaching for her shawl, Lady emotionally sobbed. “Don’t miss the opportunity to die in the prime of life!” “Curse that tongue of yours!” “How can you talk to your elders this way?” the deserted bride was indignant. “Moreover, taking into account the attitude of the King of Ghosts towards you, you have a not bad chance to become a ghost. Then you and I will take someone to court together. I against Rzhevskii, and you against Puper or Vanka Valyalkin! Agree?” More to escape the crazy Lady than actually to want to overtake Gottfried, Tanya rushed after him. Dampness stretched on. Groping the moist walls, she began to descend down into the basements. How many times had it staggered her that this magic school had such an absurd construction! For a spacious, extensible place with enormous halls and gigantic staircases, it included numerous holes and filthy passages seemingly created for evil spirits. For the first while, Tanya was still afraid that Gottfried was lying in wait for her, and she came to a standstill before every turn, but soon she got tired of fear. It started to seem to her that she was lost and could no longer find him. Corridors flickered, branched out, flashed before her eyes. Her feet ached from the endless stairs, which as suddenly began as also broke off. Sometimes she stepped on a snail and flinched from the sound of crunched shell. Suddenly a blank wall stopped Tanya. Thinking that she had reached a deadlock and lost Gottfried, she wanted to turn back, but suddenly noticed a pinkish glow more to the right, where two walls closed in. This twinkling could be the result of either a guard spell or recent use of magic. Deciding not to risk in vain, Tanya squatted down, gathered a handful of rock crumbs from near her feet and threw it at where she saw the glow. Nothing flared up, it did not crack, it did not crash, meaning that this was not a guard spell but simply that someone very recently passed through the wall here. After stepping into the pinkish haze wrapped around her, Tanya whispered, “Fogus sneakus!” and, having turned around, moved through the wall. The wall proved to be surprisingly thick. It was hard to move through the masonry — it seemed to Tanya she was stuck in solid cold dough. There was no air in the wall. The girl was choking, barely
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finding in herself the strength to move. The ring of Theophilus Grotter released all new sparks, making it possible for her to advance in all of less than a hundred centimetres. Finally, at the point of almost suffocating, Tanya took another step, and all but tumbled out of the wall on the other side. “Ugh! Barely managed! And it will be known to you, the spell Fogus sneakus is not for such walls. This is not a pitiful door! Next time I’ll leave you in the masonry — then you’ll see!” the ring muttered. “You leave me and you’ll remain with me!” Tanya said. “And don’t you threaten me, don’t threaten! You’d think she’s frightened! Indeed lucky with such a granddaughter!” the ring pouted. Having recovered her breath, Tanya recoiled from the wall and yelled. It turned out several of her hairs were solidly lodged in the masonry, and now she had ripped them out. “And how will Sardanapal find me? Even his sphinx cannot smell through the wall! Why did I penetrate here at all?” she thought, puckering from the pain and experiencing a desire to burst into tears. It was possible to return, but she no longer risked moving through the masonry a second time. The ring had consumed too much magic and did not have time yet to recharge. Most likely, she would get stuck. For the time being Tanya could make out little — her eyes had not gotten used to the dark. However, according to the special hollowness, with which echoed the sound of her steps, she sensed that she was in an enormous quarter somewhere deep under Tibidox. Unexpectedly in front a dazzling magic light flared up behind the columns emerging from the gloom. It was so bright that Tanya involuntarily shielded her eyes. After becoming accustomed to it, she sneaked up to the column on the edge and looked out from behind it. She saw a huge round area lined by mosaic tiles in the form of a spiral. Four huge rock posts stretched upward, forming a semicircle and propping up the ceiling. Right in the centre of the area, where the spiral, it seemed, did not stop anywhere, a man was standing with his back to her. A wine-red leaky sphere, which first started to pulsate, then compressed and threw out long thin rays, enveloped his not tall figure. The man in the centre of the wine-red sphere was motionless. It seemed he was wholly submerged in his thoughts. He lifted up his hands only rarely, and then Tanya saw on one of his fingers a gleaming ring that had dulled. On the other hand, the mosaic spiral behaved as though alive. Either tongues of fire danced on it, or it seemingly rose above the floor, forming a transparent wall of light, and then the figure in the centre lost its outlines. Suddenly the Sleeping Adonis emerged from the darkness and, after turning the axe to its butt-end, as if he wanted not to kill but to stun, he began to sneak up to the back of the lone person standing. “Look out! He is going to hit you!” Tanya shouted, appearing from behind the column. On hearing her voice, Gottfried Bouillon stood still and dropped the axe. The man in the centre of the spiral turned around. Tanya recognized Fuji. Noticing the Sleeping Adonis, Fuji lifted his hand without delay. An entire hurricane of red sparks broke loose from his ring, sprinkling Gottfried. Tanya understood that Fuji, knowing that there was no stopping Adonis otherwise, used the freeze spell. Sparks fell like rain. And, which was amazing, their number was not limited to one or two as for normal magicians. Even Plague-del-Cake, the strongest of all, rarely could release more than three sparks — there was no counting them here at all. But even they
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could hardly stop Gottfried. Already almost covered with ice, he nevertheless, like a swimmer against the current, with effort broke through the flow of magic sparks, and step by step approached Fuji, stretching out in front his hands with crooked fingers. Nevertheless, Fuji also did not surrender. The entire time the small instructor of magic essences rained down on the Sleeping Adonis new reserves of magic. Red sparks were shooting now not only from his ring. They seemingly flowed throughout Fuji’s entire body, and afterwards smashed against the Sleeping Adonis’ chest in two overflowing streams. Individual sparks could not be distinguished. These were rivers, true rivers of magic… Even Gottfried Bouillon, shackled into his deferred curse exactly like armour, already could not resist. He almost became an icy chunk. Ice forged his legs and confined all of him in icy armour. Finally, the Sleeping Adonis trembled, with effort made another step, and was still. Fuji carefully approached Gottfried and, continuing to keep his ring in readiness, knocked with his hand on Gottfried’s chest. The chest of the Sleeping Adonis answered with the same sound as a chunk of normal ice. Fuji cleared his throat with satisfaction and lowered his hand. “You saved me! Another minute and… He almost took me unawares as last time, when I was going to… we won’t begin to stir up the past.” “But why did he bother you?” Tanya asked. “Indeed, why?” Fuji smiled. “I’m such a quiet, peaceful, harmless little fellow. By the way, do you want a riddle? Recently it came to my head, when I was standing here… Why is a man like a doll?” “Don’t know. Perhaps outwardly,” absent-mindedly answered Tanya. All the time she could not take her eyes off the Sleeping Adonis at all. She could hardly believe that everything was over. It seemed Gottfried Bouillon was trying to stir under the layer of ice. A little more — and cracks would pass along the ice, and he, breaking loose, would leap to Fuji and her. “Incorrect answer! A man is like a doll in that when the game ends, they take him away exactly so in a box. But I don’t want them to take me away in a box! I want to take everything away in a box!” Fuji said and smiled at his own joke. He picked up the Sleeping Adonis’ axe and, after looking cautiously at the blade, threw it far away into a corner. “I have long pursued a delusion, an obsession that this life which I am living is not the true life, but a former life, an afterlife, trouble of dreams… Something false, temporary…” he continued to mutter. “Did it not surprise you how a good man visualizes hell? Every torment! All scopes — and even details! Hair will bristle! Needles under the nails, a burning hot frying pan, hanging on hooks by the tongue! And here paradise is presented as much worse. An evergreen landscape with flowers, a lion licking a lamb, and you, strolling either with a white umbrella or with white wings.” Tanya looked apprehensively at Fuji, estimating whether a new reckless Salieri or a relative of his from beyond had moved into him. If so, she could not calm him down by herself — she must summon Sardanapal, Medusa, or Slander. She began to step back carefully to the columns, but not the one she had come from but to that column, from where Gottfried had appeared. For some reason it seemed to her that over there she could reveal more easily a passage going up than where she had almost sat forever in the wall.
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Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that by that column, in its shadow lay something long, similar to a dog. Her shift did not escape the sharp-sighted eyes of the madman. “Wait! Where are you going?” Fuji hailed her. “I’ll call Sardanapal. He is searching for the Sleeping Adonis and me, but the gold sphinx will not be able to sense us through the stones,” said Tanya. “Of course it won’t be able to…” agreed Fuji. “No one will find us here. We’re in a cave under Tibidox… Yes, you don’t know: this is the true primeval Tibidox, and everything there, above, appeared much later. It was built upon, reconstructed, collapsed, disintegrated, damaged by young magicians with their frolicsome hands and empty heads. Only here, deep underground, has everything remained unchanged. Such must be true of eternity — indifferent, cold, steadfast!” “Uh-huh. But I am going, okay?” “You’re not going anywhere. I cannot let you go!” Some new note appeared in Fuji’s voice. Tanya stopped. It seemed to her she had misheard. “How’s this? Is this a joke?” smiling, she asked. “Here is not the worst place, believe me. Very soon nothing will remain there, above, except some ruins. Nice picture, how dear to me you are… Something there on the plain the moon swe-e-eps over… And in the middle of the picture a pile of bricks. This is already purely a landscape sketch!” shrugging his shoulders, Fuji spoke. “The ruins of Tibidox? It seemed to me it is standing firmly,” said Tanya in alarm. “Firmly for the time being. But think now. We are under Tibidox. Tibidox is held up by these four huge pillars. They are its supports, its core. As soon as the pillars disappear, nothing will hold the remaining buildings in place. No silly Atlases, no magic, nothing… And soon these columns will not be here, you can believe me.” “But why? What will become of these columns? Do you want to destroy them?” Tanya could hardly recognize Fuji. “Destroy the columns? Leave destruction to the moronoids! I only want to return their primeval essence to them. I will cast the spell of liberation — and they’ll stop being absurd rock fingers and become what they should be!” “The throne?” Tanya assumed uncertainly. “Clearly…” Fuji began to rattle. “This is the throne of The Ancient One, the inexhaustible source of magic! The old man was sensible. He did not convert the throne into a bench or a sofa or anything like that. It would be simply too obvious! He did not squander talents on trifles! His throne is no more and no less than Tibidox itself. More accurately, its underground part. If you only knew how much time I lost before I was able to understand this!” Making use of Fuji almost not looking at her, Tanya continued to back to the column. Suddenly something cropped up under her feet. Stumbling, Tanya fell. The thing she earlier with surprise had assumed to be a dog turned out to be her double bass case. “So it was you and not Gottfried!” she exclaimed. Doubts… There were no longer doubts… Chapter 17 The Comb and the Towel
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“Oh, it goes without saying, it’s I who stole your case!” Fuji agreed. “Should never trust an acquaintance too much, especially a new one. Did you really not wonder why someone would need this junk at all?” “I did wonder. But it was incomprehensible to me. At first I considered that it’s the throne, but then I began to doubt,” said Tanya. “And correctly. Your case doesn’t have any concealed essence. But this doesn’t prevent it from being unique in its own way. Your great-grandfather Theophilus, guarding the double bass, put a lot of shielding magic in the case…” nodded Fuji. Tanya recalled how in childhood she had hid in the case from an infuriated Aunt Ninel and that one, though strong as a hippo, could never drag her out of there. “And it will be known to you,” Fuji continued, “that his entire life your greatgrandfather searched for the throne of The Ancient One and near the end found it after all, but could not bring himself to take possession of it. Indeed, it would be necessary to destroy Tibidox and the old guy didn’t have the nerve for it. Instead, he took a different approach… Did you never examine the texture of the dragon skin, which he stretched over the bottom of the case? No? Wrong! Your case could tell so much, especially if we look at it at midnight, with the light of three candles, each shorter than the previous exactly by half a finger. You see, Theophilus didn’t have any idea that he would have a great-granddaughter, and in general, in my opinion, he couldn’t stand children. For this very reason, he told no one — not even his son — about the map. Only once, even then half-hinting, he mentioned the case to a witch of his acquaintance. Incidentally, Theophilus also didn’t suspect that this witch was a secret ally of Plague-del-Cake, although, it goes without saying, as all such allies, she was canny and worried more about her own interests than that of her mistress.” “Humanum est mentiru (To lie is the nature of man (Latin)),” said the ring unhappily. “Exactly — nature! And it had to be this way so that subsequently this witch’s grandson would appear! The only and beloved grandson, to whom she entrusted all her private knowledge, all her secrets. The grandson, who became an adult very early and understood early what he wanted… The grandson, whom no one loved except this old witch, and who vowed to take vengeance upon the entire world for this.” “This was you?” “Precisely!” Fuji poked himself in the chest with a finger. “At first I took Granny’s story as a legend — any legend about old treasures and crafty maps, but afterward, when I began to search for the throne, it suddenly dawned on me that once I had already heard something similar, and I understood that I definitely must get hold of this case.” “But then Gottfried wanted to steal the case at Uncle Herman’s! I thought of him!” Tanya shouted, examining the reproachfully thickening icy statue. “The Sleeping Adonis?” Fuji bent over. “And how did you decide that it was him? The wretch, I even pity him! How could you see that this simpleton only tried to protect you! True, he is sufficiently clumsy! So clumsy that earlier everybody decided that he was guilty.” “But I saw the flower then, in Uncle Herman’s room!” Tanya exclaimed. “Well done, you saw it. For this I placed it there…” “YOU?”
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Fuji nodded. “Imagine, then I changed into the uniform and appeared to you for the case. But Dracula’s sword prevented me. It broke loose and attacked me. If I didn’t take flight, it would have destroyed me. A vile piece of iron!” “But perhaps you are a black magician?” “Black, not black — what’s the difference! Vampires are extremely slow-witted. It is not possible to come to an agreement with them. They hate us, magicians, black and white, with this fierce hatred, which excludes any alliance. Our sparks don’t work on them, nothing at all — except for a couple of foolproof spells and an aspen stake! Disgusting vile vampires! Stupid bloodsuckers! They’re barely smart enough to maintain neutrality. This is about the vampires themselves. And in general I can’t stand their magic objects.” “But why did the sword not attack Yagun and me? Aren’t we also magicians?” Tanya asked. “But did you release a spark at it? That’s just it! I clearly overestimated its capabilities and enraged it!” The one from Magford winced from the unpleasant recollection. “I ended up returning empty-handed. When I understood that the case was under foolproof protection at the moronoids’, I returned the canopy, cauldron, and rocker. By the way, it was quite difficult for me to steal them. I had to make my way through here at night, deceiving the spell of passage. It’s then that I arranged for Sardanapal to invite me to Tibidox.” “But why did you return the magic objects?” Tanya asked. “An absurd question! Is it very difficult to surmise? Would Sardanapal really call you back to Tibidox otherwise? You would then remain among the moronoids till eternity. It was necessary to sacrifice something. Besides, I only need the canopy, rocker, and cauldron as an initial source of magic. From where do you think I get such magic reserves? But how can they be compared to the throne! Overall, I took a risk. I watched where the Sleeping Adonis goes at night, and placed the objects there stealthily… That’s all there is to it! A problem from the textbook for the weak-minded!” “But the deferred curse of Plague-del-Cake! It seemed to us it forces Gottfried to hunt for the throne! Plague simply cursed no one this way!” Fuji twisted the ring on his finger. “The deferred curse? Why did you all decide that She-Who-Is-No-More placed it? With all her unquestionable merits, this dear Lady has nothing to do with it at all! The one who put the deferred curse on Gottfried was… The Ancient One!” “A lie! He couldn’t have!” Tanya indignantly shouted. Fuji laughed aloud. His teeth were small as those of a polecat. Now Tanya no longer understood how she could have been deceived and even felt sorry for him earlier! Only think: at one time, she liked him even more than Medusa and the Great Tooth! Almost as much as Tararakh or Sardanapal! “Why a lie? Is it so complicated to believe? In your opinion, only black magicians could place deferred curses? It will be known to you, your nice Ancient One willingly used both white and black magic. He cursed Gottfried with a specific purpose! He needed a reliable defender for the throne! Here he also arranged that Gottfried would only be able to get rid of the curse after he had protected the throne and other magic objects from encroachment… The curse was to serve him as outstanding armour against any black magic. Me, for example. Isn’t it true The Ancient One thought everything out excellently? How many sparks I showered him with before I succeeded just to forge him
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with ice! If you had not hailed me in time, all my plans would have been ruined. How nice that I have such an intelligent (or, more precisely, so muddle-headed!) ally.” Tanya wanted to bite her own hand, so that blood would come out. Well, fancy that — she herself had prevented Gottfried from stopping the scoundrel! If not for her, the Sleeping Adonis would have reached Fuji and prevented him from destroying Tibidox! But now…now everything is again hanging by a hair. Fuji suddenly stopped running along the columns and threw up his hand. A shower of sparks pierced the air and faded. “No one suspected me!” he shouted. “Who was I to everyone? The wretched instructor from Magford, unable even to teleport without adventures. Only Professor Stinktopp alone worried me. He began to guess something! Somehow, I noticed that he was following me at night. To kill him was too dangerous, so I tossed him an apple… Such a little apple! Isn’t it true it was effective? Unfortunately, they almost found me in his office, and I had to pretend to be Salieri again! And again I got away with everything! I was clean and out of suspicion!” “Not so! I knew everything!” Someone’s familiar voice was heard. Tanya and Fuji turned around as one. Fuji recoiled. A storm of green sparks started. In the middle of the hall, Sardanapal and Dentistikha appeared slightly to the right of the one from Magford. The Great Tooth, hurriedly wrapped in an absurd robe with cornflowers, was in a bad temper. She could not stand it when they woke her in the middle of the night. On Deni’s head was a ridiculous polyethylene cap similar to what Aunt Ninel put on after colouring her hair. However, even in this absurd guise Dentistikha managed to inspire respect. The academician threw off the raincoat, which was smoking after teleportation. Sardanapal’s gold sphinx, baring its teeth, emerged from under it. “Maximus gshantus!” the academician called out, releasing a spark. The sphinx began to grow and swell up. Each second it became doubly larger. The lax muscles heaved up as mounds under the golden skin. Pressing itself down to the floor, the sphinx began to sneak up on Fuji, prepared for a leap. “As you can see, we were able to find you.” “But how did you guess that it’s me?” Fuji spoke hoarsely. “I saw the flame above the cauldron! On the day when someone placed the apple for Stinktopp… It was wine-red! Such a flame appears soon after teleportation,” explained the academician. Not taking his eyes off the sphinx, Fuji quickly stepped back to the centre of the spiral. Fright gradually smoothed off his face, and the previous expression, secretly confident and sarcastic, appeared. The academician quietly observed him. “The human soul is like an apple — grows at one end, already rots at the other. In it is everything you want — disasters, failures, and old scars. It is omnipotent, but also helpless, naive, and foolish. Sometimes it moves forward, sometimes it rolls back and dries out… That is your soul, Fuji, it has already dried out! It is worthless!” he said. “Really?” the one from Magford was noncommittal. “So, my soul dried up? Well there’s the path for it! And for the time being we’ll see whether you learned to deflect sparks, old stump!” He jerked up his hand with the ring and quickly, barely pausing, released two streams of sparks. The academician deflected the first one with the block spell, but the second one already demolished his block and struck him in the chest. The academician fell. The roaring
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sphinx rushed to help him and leaped at Fuji. The instructor of magic essences squatted and, after raising both hands, caught the sphinx with two crimson streams. The sphinx, almost reaching Fuji, was flung away like a kitten. The sphinx flipped several times in the air, but nevertheless managed to land on its feet. Barely finding itself on the flagstones, it began to prepare for a new leap, but Fuji had already outlined a fiery circle around himself. The sphinx drifted along the boundary of the circle, attempting to find a hole in order to penetrate in. Dancing tongues of magic flame hissed like snakes and tried to sting the sphinx in the snout. “Time to proceed! This puppet theatre for morons bores me!” Fuji said, deliberately yawning. He began to twirl on the spot and, making quick passes with his hands, he uttered, “Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis!” The columns trembled. Tanya heard how above, where the mass of Tibidox hung over them, everything began to shake and move like a piston. However, Fuji clearly expected something different. “Isn’t working! The Ancient One had clearly put in something to reject black magicians. Vile suspicious old man, eternally putting spokes in the wheels!” he apprehensively said. “Interesting, how is it for me to go around this limitation? Aha, but if we try to replace the ring… The ring of a white magician!” “Hey, you!” he ordered Tanya, nodding to the academician lying unconscious. “Bring me his ring!” “I’m running already! Now I’ll only change my boots!” Tanya said, without moving. Fuji wanted to leave the circle himself, but he looked sideways at the sphinx and reconsidered. “You don’t want to give me his ring? Fine! I’ll take yours! Snatchuscatchus!” he shouted. Tanya felt like an invisible loop was winding around her and pulling her to the circle. She resisted, clutching at stones with her hands, but was relentlessly pulled towards Fuji. However, the most surprising, she was not pulled along a straight line, but along the aisle between the outlined spirals. “Help! Please do something!” Tanya shouted at Dentistikha. The Great Tooth jerked up her ring and took aim at Fuji. “Leave the girl, or I’ll put an evil eye on you!” she ordered. “I’m trembling all over! I’m simply crushed by your threats! And perhaps I’ll surrender and voluntarily set off for the Sinister Gates?” Fuji started to snigger. “Humcrawlit transitum vaereno!” Dentistikha delivered. This was one of most terrible evil eyes — the spider. To deflect it was especially complex. Moreover, it was necessary to have time to utter everything in a minute; otherwise, the result of the evil eye became irreversible. A red spark tore along to Fuji. That one quietly followed its flight. When the spark was very near, he smirked and lightly blew on it. After changing direction, the spark returned to Dentistikha. The Great Tooth scarcely had time to step back. “Didn’t work? Ah-ah-ah! Maybe you will try again? I’ll wait!” the one from Magford sympathetically proposed. But Deni did not. She already understood that Fuji’s magic protection, which used the inexhaustible reserves of The Ancient One, was multipurpose. “You don’t want to? How sad! Evidently, I’m not fated to become a spider!” Fuji sighed. “And so — now’s my turn!” He raised his hand and, mockingly, began to release
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sparks, which struck the stone directly under Dentistikha’s feet. Escaping from the sparks, the Great Tooth was forced to jump, rushing from side to side. “I was sure you know how to dance! More feeling! There, yes!” Fuji exclaimed with laughter. He perceived himself the master of the situation. Sardanapal was lying unconscious. The sphinx, precisely hypnotized, was tossing around the fiery circle, each minute becoming smaller. Suddenly the Great Tooth found herself next to the Sleeping Adonis. Picking a pause between the sparks, she ran up to the Adonis, grabbed him by the neck, and kissed him on the lips. Appearing exactly from nowhere, dual lightning struck the icy chunk. Cracked, the ice freed the captive figure from its fetters. The Sleeping Adonis opened his eyes wide and looked gratefully at the Great Tooth. She, embarrassed, turned away. “Please understand me correctly. It was altogether only a need, although…” confused, she muttered. “What have you done? Do you at least understand that you have removed the deferred curse? Dried up idiot! Eternal Teach!” Fuji began to yell, having lost all self-control. Gottfried Bouillon turned around at the sound of his voice. “You have insulted the Lady of my heart! All your blood will not be enough to wash off this insult!” he said in a voice hoarse from fury. “How noble! The lethargic one has woken up! Good morning, sunshine!” the one from Magford was touched. “Serve you coffee in the coffin? Or will you brush your teeth first?” “One more insult! But this is already unimportant. All the same can only be one death, and you have already earned it,” Gottfried took a step. The rest of the ice crumbled, changing into water right before the eyes. “Hit yourself on the nose: now nothing protects you anymore! There is already no curse!” Fuji said. In his voice, however, certain uneasiness was felt. “You guessed it! But The Ancient One also provided this! My love protects me! And here it is — Apollo’s spear that has never known a miss!” Gottfried Bouillon said. In his raised hand a metal spear appeared by itself. Its tip was decorated with whimsical signs. Fuji hurriedly whispered something. In his hand appeared a shield of red sparks. The spear of Apollo hit the centre of the shield, bounced off, and again returned to the hand of Gottfried, who was prepared for a new throw. Attempting to hinder him, Fuji released a new stream of freezing magic. Now it was already necessary for Gottfried, defending himself, to jump to the side quickly. Fuji raised the other hand. He literally poured black magic on Gottfried. In the air blazed lightning. The amulet of the Great Tooth cracked non-stop. The next casually released charge of black magic melted it. Deni fell. Fuji twice strengthened the magic discharge. This was already a true hurricane! Even the immortal sphinx, whimpering pitifully from time to time, sat on its hind legs. Gottfried was already twice knocked off his feet, but every time he miraculously rolled away to the side, avoiding the fateful impact. The spear of Apollo fell out of his hand, and all the time Fuji with new flashes would not allow the awoken Adonis to approach it. However, battling with Gottfried, the instructor of magic essences was distracted. Tanya, whom he had simply forgotten about, had finally stopped being dragged along the stones. She jumped up and darted to the double bass case. She already understood that
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her ring was powerless to manage Fuji, who, being in the centre of the spiral, was drawing magic now from the inexhaustible reserve of The Ancient One. “Grandfather, tell me what to do! Please tell me!” she pleadingly shouted to her ring. “Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata! (We are always striving for things forbidden, and coveting those denied us. (Latin))” The ring gloomily answered. “Grandfather! Too late for that now! Do you want them to kill me?” “Okay,” the ring creaked. “No need to panic! Open the case!” “And then what?” The ring did not try to keep silent. It had already consumed the whole day’s reserve of conversational magic. Not waiting for an answer from the ring, Tanya rapidly crawled to the case. After dragging it away behind the column, she sunk her finger into the hollow of the lock. Flick! The case opened. Likely, Fuji did not even glance inside. But why? He only needed the map. Everything was here just as before the theft. “So? What’s next?” Tanya feverishly asked herself. To get into the case and slam the cover shut after herself? Possibly, the shielding magic would be quite enough for her, but this would hardly help Sardanapal, Deni, and Gottfried. Besides, great-grandfather Theophilus had something else in mind. Thrusting her hand into the note pocket, Tanya met the towel and the comb, and mechanically, intending on continuing to search further, took them out. Suddenly someone yelled loudly behind the column, and then silence, foretelling nothing good, hung like a corpse. Not understanding what was happening, Tanya, continuing to hold in her hands the generally unnecessary objects, looked out from behind the column. Gottfried Bouillon, struck by dual red flashes, could no longer get up, and Fuji, leaning over him, raised his ring, intending with all his might to say the fatal spell Flashus gravulis. On noticing Tanya, Fuji turned to her. He was pale. His chin was trembling. Tanya thought that Fuji could not make the grade as a deadly villain. Indeed more likely, a downtrodden embittered tyrant among the unfulfilled — among those insignificant tyrants no one fears, who eternally cannot get a chair at a common feast and who get cold tea in a cafe. And even so, are many of them deadly villains in life? However, precisely these unfulfilled ones are dreadful… “Turns out it’s not so simple to kill… Especially when you are looking them in the eyes. Grotter, give me your ring, release green sparks, and, possibly, I will preserve his life!” the instructor of magic essences ordered. “No.” “I said: give me your ring! I must carry everything to the end! I must! I can’t go back!” “I don’t want you to destroy Tibidox!” “Spit on Tibidox! I need the throne and I will get it! Flashus gravulis!” Fuji screamed. A crimson point jumped from his ring and burnt into the stone a deep opening half a metre from Gottfried’s head. Tanya covered her face. The splinter of granite drew blood on her cheekbone. “Next time I will let out a spark right into him!” Fuji warned. “Well, ring! One… two…” Understanding that she had to obey, Tanya did something in a very female manner. Before reaching for the ring, she screamed and flung the towel to the floor. SHIAHHHAHNTSSSSS...
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Everywhere bluish sparks flared up and waned. A raging stream twirled Tanya around and knocked her off her feet. Water was continually rising. Tanya was swallowing water. She was flung from side to side. Soon she could no longer touch bottom and tried only not to be thrown to the columns. Somewhere at the edge of the pool, the Great Tooth emerged, and even managed not to lose her glasses. Next, sticking its head out of the water, the gold sphinx of the academician was rowing with its paws. Sardanapal, Gottfried, and Fuji were not seen. Finally, Fuji nevertheless appeared on the surface. “Kuerrsimobum!” he shouted, spitting water. The lake was clouded up with steam. Tanya was choking. She already almost could not distinguish anything. Something was raging and bubbling under her. Water drops mixed with red, blue, and pink sparks. Good that the water remained cool as before — evaporating it, Fuji nevertheless cared about himself. Tanya lost track of time. A whirlpool first tossed her about, then threw her to the surface, where she managed to gulp air in with her mouth. In the end, when consciousness had already almost left her, she perceived that she was lying on her stomach on the floor and, feverishly continuing to swim, was rowing with her hands on the stones. The Great Tooth, the sphinx, Sardanapal, and Gottfried Bouillon were convulsively swallowing air. Water scattered them wherever. Fuji was pitiful as a rabbit cap fished out of the water. Nevertheless, he was precisely the first to get to his feet and unsteadily meandered over to Tanya. “This is too much indeed! Time to end this! Nab-grab!” he muttered. Tanya yelled. The ring jumped off her finger, after scrapping the skin on her knuckle. Fuji caught it in flight and, wiping it with disgust on his moist shirt, put it on the ring finger of his right hand. Then he turned around and, swaying, made his way to the centre of the spiral. The sphinx, grown heavy from the water, was about to try to leap at him, but Fuji met it with a stream of sparks. He had barely stepped into the spiral, as the dying-out fire flared up along its entire length with new vigour. The instructor of magic essences lifted both hands up to the ceiling and, after falling onto his knees, shouted so loudly that the rock ceiling was almost split by the echo, “Transcendentus Kantus burnoutis!” But the second before the stolen ring of Theophilus Grotter, intensified by all the reserve of ancient magic, threw out a stream of green sparks, Tanya suddenly realized that she was still holding the wooden comb in her hand. Acting subconsciously, she swung and tossed it up as high as possible so that it would turn out to be over Fuji’s head. “…antus burnoutis!” the echo shattered for the last time. The magic flow of sparks, already soaring and almost scattering between the columns, suddenly changed direction and struck… the wooden comb. It fully absorbed all the released magic and fell beside the instructor of magic essences. An amazed Fuji carelessly took a step and leaned over the comb going through some extremely complex transformation. Something with a crack broke the flagstones of the floor. A root suddenly appearing from under the stones whipped around Fuji’s leg. A double bough rested against his chest. Young branches and numerous bindweeds twined round his body. The instructor of magic essences instantly became similar to a retired satyr among bushes in the distance watching a nymph after bathing. Trying to shake off from himself the obtrusive root wrapped around his leg and already almost up to his waist, Fuji released a flow of incinerating magic. This was his mistake. The magic forest grown from the comb absorbed magic with the greediness of a sponge.
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After several instants, Fuji could no longer stir either his arm or leg. He even could not turn his neck. He had grown into the tree like an old wood goblin dozing off for a century at the roots of a young oak. Only his small eyes were blinking maliciously and with a harried expression. Sardanapal finally recovered enough that he was able to rise. His moist moustaches had barely just begun to dry, and the beard as before more resembled a wet washcloth. “Oh! Ancient Sanskrit magic of the witch-grannies! Towel, comb… Didn’t The Ancient One rather forbid it? Well, unimportant. I only need to know that in this case its application was defensible,” the academician remarked, admiring the young forest, already taking up a large part of the underground hall. “Dryads templus finite!” Sardanapal said softly, with a single, quite pale spark slowing down the growth of the forest. The Sleeping Adonis was already leaning over the motionless Deni. “Beloved, don’t die! I will pass through half of the earth, but I will bring life and death water for you! You will shine like the diamond of my ring!” he exclaimed. “In principle I have life and death water in my office. But it’s not needed in this case. Deni will live if you do not let her fall,” the academician remarked carefully. After coming to, the Great Tooth straightened her glasses, saw whose arms she was in, and fainted again. Suddenly something flared up. Medusa Gorgonova and Slander, late, had teleported into the middle of the hall. From under Medusa’s raincoat, the baby Stinktopp jumped out with a wild preschool howl. Hopping, he ran up to Fuji entangled in roots and squealed, “Uncle, I composed a spell! Say: Begus-hmegus-wastegus, and this thing will no longer hold you!” “Go away!” the instructor of magic essences said hoarsely. “Well, please say it, else I’ll tickle you!” Siegfried began to stamp his feet. “Begus-hmegus-wastegus!” Fuji hissed through his teeth. Suddenly his face was distorted. He yelled, began to shrink, and… A long writhing worm was hanging from the wrinkled root. “Wow, how plump it turned out! It indeed wants to eat! I’ll feed it dragon dung!” Stinktopp was pleased. He reached for a matchbox, pushed the worm into it, and ran off. “You won’t believe this, but the little-one thinks up spells by himself. By the way, for some reason it seems to me that they are irreversible!” Medusa said softly. “Colleague… that is, Stinktopp, come back quick! You will be lost!” Sardanapal shouted after the baby. The baby Stinktopp leaped out from behind a column and stuck his tongue out at the academician. In spite of his extreme youth, the former professor of black magic as before showed Sardanapal not the least respect. True, now this in essence was expressed in making faces, defacing a chair with chalk, and casting spells stealthily at every opportunity. *** In about three weeks, the entire Tibidox school for difficult-to-raise magicians gathered in the Hall of Two Elements for one significant activity. But about that a little later… For the first business, Tanya approached Zhikin and Seven-Stump-Holes, standing aloof at a distant table. Now it was already clear to her that they were not the culprits of
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what had taken place recently, but all the same, this pair did not inspire confidence in her. For this very reason, she took Bab-Yagun with her, after briefly bringing him up to date on the matter. “Time to tell the truth! What were you doing in Goyaryn’s?” she asked, trying to speak sternly like Medusa. Stump and Zhora Zhikin started to fidget anxiously. “Nothing. Just simply...” they hesitated. “You can lie to the maglice! Or you can tell everything...” bellowed Bab-Yagun. Seven-Stump-Holes and Zhikin denied it for a while, but then decided that it would be simpler to confess. “Well… eh-eh… we-we… We wanted to add enraging tincture to Goyaryn! We wanted it to swallow all the whites at training!” Zhikin said. “But why whites?” “Why are they so smart, so correct? I hate them!” Seven-Stump-Holes stated, darting with his nose. “Don’t philosophize, Stump! You have a silly face for a philosopher! But then what were you doing in Stinktopp’s office?” Bab-Yagun asked. “And where do you think we got it, this enraging tincture? From Stinktopp’s office! We dropped in and there was already this baby… Well, we got scared. What if they think it’s us. We slipped out and shut the door!” Zhikin unwillingly acknowledged. “Silence! All to their places! We are in a festive mood! We are experiencing happiness!” Slander Slanderych, feeling an irresistible need to manage and organize people, shouted from a distance. The two white and two black magicians exchanged far from sympathetic looks and returned to their places. Tanya got beside Vanka Valyalkin and gently tugged at his sleeve. Vanka smiled at her. Sardanapal came forward and turned to the gathering. He spoke quietly, but his voice was carried to the entire school. The tips of both moustaches were perkily standing up. “My dear, dear friends!” the academician said in a trembling voice. “We are gathered here today for combined happiness! Even, if one may put it that way, quite a bit of combined happiness… Well, what more can I say? All in all, I am not an orator, but merely a modest academician, the for-life and posthumous head of Tibidox. Our school is riding high again, and I am glad for this. Although we lost the dragonball trophy, I am convinced we gained the biggest of all possible victories — the victory of generosity. But now I ask you with all my heart to wish our newly-weds happiness.” Sardanapal turned around. The Great Tooth, leaning on Gottfried Bouillon’s arm, was standing half a step from him. The baby Stinktopp, with his nose wiped dry, held her veil, in passing managing to make faces at the cupids flying by. Occasionally Deni and the former Sleeping Adonis exchanged heartfelt glances. Deni blushed. “I have long since thought that they were created for each other! Even when she declared to all that he’s terrible like a crocodile. It’s with an ulterior motive!” Yagge said, standing among the witch-grannies. “To be abused by the loved one is only to enjoy oneself!” Lukerya-Feathers-on-theHead agreed with her. “A decent feast for the wedding!” Big Matrena nodded agreement, casting looks at the tables. And on the other side of Academician Sardanapal, Lieutenant Rzhevskii, robed in a special anti-ghost straitjacket, was weary. “When they ask you: ‘yes or no?’ you will say:
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‘yes!’ And you don’t say ‘you know where to go!’” Lady instructed him, tugging the sleeves wound around his body. Lieutenant only sighed. He already felt sorry that he came out of his forest shelter and yielded to the temptation of visiting Tibidox again. Unhealed Lady was already waiting for him in Tibidox, and not alone but with the geniebailiff from Magciety of Jerky Magtion. Lieutenant had a choice of prospects: either to leave for the basements of Tibidox and rumble with chains for a hundred years, paying for the seven simultaneous betrothals, or to be joined in marriage with Lady and even get a captain’s epaulets. On the whole, Rzhevskii with military courage accepted the correct and only possible solution. “Will you, Gottfried Bouillon, take as wife Dentis… the Great Tooth?” the academician solemnly asked. “Yes! A thousand times yes!” Gottfried burst out passionately. “No need for a thousand times. Once will be enough. A thousand weddings in a row — it’s too much even for an immortal,” the academician restrained his ardour. “But let us continue… And will you, Great Tooth, take as husband Gottfried?” “Yes!” Deni very quietly said. “Wonderful! Now let us switch over to the other pair! Rzhevskii, will you take as wife Lady?” “Yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes…” exactly like a machine-gun, Lieutenant rattled. He was hoping that if he banged away with “yes-yes-yes” for a long time to infinity, Sardanapal would not be able to put a word in and pose the same question to Unhealed Lady, and would not be able to declare them husband and wife then. But the academician did not intend to ask Unhealed Lady anything, just as he was going to declare what was already understood by all. He smiled, dashingly clicked with his left moustache, and immediately the orchestra of cyclopes, conducted by the specially summoned spirit of Mendelssohn, began to thunder, muffling Lieutenant. The chorus of ghosts, jealously looking unfavourably at Mendelssohn, burst out in the opposite corner. Instantly all sounds were mixed, went off key, lost their colouring — and as a result the holiday and happy atmosphere was restored in the Hall of Two Elements. “My granny mama! So many weddings! Simply like a mad house! Well, here you see, I’ll never get married! I’ll die an old bachelor! A woman ruins a man!” Bab-Yagun categorically stated, pushing through to Katya Lotkova. Lotkova did not even look around. After ascertaining that his amour arrow had flown off the mark, Yagun sulked and decisively directed his steps to the table to inhale pastries… ***

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Glossary
A Feast in the Time of Plague: One of Pushkin’s (see Pushkin) drama works from The Four Little Tragedies (1830), it is based on the English romantic drama The City of the Plague (1816) by the Scottish writer John Wilson (1785-1854). Abdullah: Common Arabic male name, also the name of the Prophet Muhammad’s father. Adavra Kedavra: The killing curse in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1965-). “Akela has missed!”: A line from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936). It is used ironically when a person is pleased with the mistake of someone close-by. Anchutka: An evil spirit, one of the ancient Russian names for the devil, lives either in the air or in the water, and instantly responds when the name is mentioned. Asp: A poisonous snake like the Egyptian cobra. It is an emblem of supreme power in ancient Egypt, and depicted on the headdresses of pharaohs. Atlas: In Greek mythology, one of the titans who fought against the gods and as punishment was condemned to hold up the heavens on his shoulders. Auntie-fevers: In old Slavonic mythology, there are twelve fever sisters each tormenting a person with an illness including shakes, headaches, coughs, and others. The oldest and the last sister is death. Autumn gentian: According to old Slavonic mythology, this plant, gathered from Bald Mountain on Midsummer’s Day, June 24, possesses the power of transformation. Baba Yaga: A Slavic folkloric character, an aged crone and a witch, who lives in the forest in a hut with chicken legs (see cabin on chicken legs). Bab-Yagun: A derivation of Baba Yaga (see Baba Yaga). Babai: In old Slavic mythology, a mysterious essence in the image of a terrible lopsided old man, a malicious night spirit that takes away disobedient children. Bam Khlaban: A play on the name bin Laden, the best-known member being Osama bin Muhammad bin ’Awad bin Laden (1957-), an Islamic militant believed to be the founder of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda. Basilisk: In Medieval European legends, the basilisk is the king of serpents, usually described as a crested snake or cock with a snake tail. Its odour can kill snakes, the fire from its mouth can kill birds, and its glance can kill a man. It can also kill by hissing. Only a weasel can kill a basilisk. Birch: In popular Slavic belief, the birch has both useful and harmful properties. It is a tree associated with witches and unclean forces or evil spirits. The soul of the dead is said to reside in a birch. Birch branches gathered or a birch broom in the house is considered a reliable means of protection against evil forces. The birch also has healing magic by “transferring” disease of the sick to it. Some Russian legends start with the line “On the ocean on the Island Buyan there stands a white birch …” and this birch represents the world tree, a symbol common in ancient
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societies, a tree that in Eastern mythology connects the three regions of man, heaven, and the underworld. Bluebeard, Raoul: The title character of a fairy tale (1698) by Charles Perrault (1628-1703), the French author who laid the foundation of fairy tale as a literary genre. Bluebeard was a wealthy aristocrat who murdered his previous three wives but, when trying to kill his new wife, was instead killed by her brother. Bonegraft: An organism that heals broken bones, similar in appearance to a bright disk the size of a metallic 5-rouble coin, with 6 long fragile feet and a mouth with powerful jaws. A bonegraft larva resembles a tadpole, is fed meat, and grows in pitch. Bone leg/foot: In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga (see Baba Yaga) is also called Baba Yaga Bone Leg. She has one normal leg and foot, but the other one is bone. Bread and salt: A welcome greeting ceremony of the Slavs — a round loaf of bread on an embroidered towel with a holder with salt sitting on top of the bread is presented to important guests. It signifies hospitality and friendship of the host. Breathe over a potato: A folk cure of the Slavs, this is a procedure similar to inhaling steam to overcome a cold, only substitutes the pan of hot water with a hot potato boiled in its skin. Bryansk: A city southwest of Moscow, on a strategic point near the junction of the rivers Desna and Bolva. It was an ancient fortress made invisible from the outside by the forest wilderness. The legendary Nightingale the Robber (see Robber, Nightingale O.) supposedly lived in a Bryansk forest. Buratino: This is the name of the main character in The Golden Key (1936) by A.N. Tolstoy (1883-1945), based on the Pinocchio motif. It became such a success that the name is used in a variety of products marketed to children in Russia, most notable being the brand of soft drink known for its caramel taste. Buyan: In Slavic mythology, the island Buyan is an island far away at the end of the world. Concentrated on the island are all the might of spring thunderstorms, all the mythological personifications of thunder, wind, and storm. The stone Alatyr, the centre of magical coordinates of the world, can be found here. On this island are also the Dawn maiden and the thunder god Perun. This island appears in The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1831), a fairy-tale poem by Pushkin (see Pushkin). The merchants have to pass this island to get to the realm of Tsar Saltan. Cabin on chicken legs: The residence of the Slavic folkloric character Baba Yaga. Scholars believe it may be an interpretation of either Siberian doorless and windowless storage log cabins built upon tree stumps grown close together or cremation huts of ancient Slavs. Cagliostrov, Grafin: The name is derived from Count — Graf in Russian — Cagliostro. Count Alessandro di Cagliostro (1743-95) is widely held to have been an alias for the charlatan Giuseppe Balsamo, an occultist and Italian adventurer. There have been numerous adaptations of the character Count Cagliostro in music, fiction, and films. One of these is Count Cagliostro, a short story about supernatural love, by A.N. Tolstoy (1883-1945). C.A. Ligula: Caligula, Latin for little soldier boot, was the nickname of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (12-41), the third Roman emperor. The few surviving sources of his reign
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focus on his cruelty, extravagance, and sexual perversity, presenting him as an insane tyrant. He was assassinated. Cat Bayun: This is a character in Russian fairy tales, incorporating a fantastic monster and a bird with a magical voice. This magical learned cat is frequently featured in popular Russian literature. (See Cove Oak.) Catherine II: Catherine the Great (1729-96) of Russia, born Sophie Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst, wife of Peter III of Russia, reigned as Empress of Russia from 1762 after the death of her husband; also known as the epitome of an enlightened despot, a patron of arts, literature, and education. Centaur: In Greek mythology, a being with the head, arms, and trunk of a man and the body and legs of a horse. Ceryneian Hind: This is the enormous female deer sacred to Artemis, in Greek mythology, the goddess of the hunt and the moon. Hercules’ third task was to capture this beast with golden antlers and bronze hooves, and said to be able to outrun an arrow. Chernomorov, Sardanapal: The wicked sorcerer in Ruslan and Ludmilla (1820), a fairy-tale poem by Pushkin (see Pushkin), is named Chernomor. In The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1831), another of Pushkin’s fairy-tale poems, Chernomor is the leader of thirty-three heroes from the sea. Chernomorov can mean “of the Chernomors.” Sardanapal is the Greek name for Assurbanipal, the last great king of ancient Assyria. During his reign, 668-627 BC, Assyria was known for both military power and cultural splendour. Cove oak: This is from the prologue of the fairy-tale poem Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) by Pushkin (see Pushkin): On distant shore a green oak towers; And to it by a gold chain bound: A learned cat spins out the hours By walking slowly round and round; To right he walks and sings a song, To left he walks, and tells a tale. Cretan, Daedalus: In Greek mythology, Daedalus was the most skilled artisan who built the Labyrinth in Crete to house the Minotaur (see Minotaur). A Cretan is a native of Crete. Cupid: Also called Amour, the god of love in Roman mythology (called Eros in Greek mythology), he is often depicted as a wilful and mischievous winged child carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. He has two kinds of arrows: one that causes instant love is golden with dove feathers; the other that causes indifference is lead with owl feathers. Cyclops: In Greek mythology, a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of its forehead. Dance of the Small Swans: Danse des petits cygnes from the ballet Swan Lake (1875-76) by P.I. Tchaikovsky (1840-93).

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d’Anthès: Baron Georges-Charles de Heeckeren d’Anthès (1812-95), a French cavalry officer and later senator under the French Second Empire, he was most famous for mortally wounding Pushkin (see Pushkin) in a duel. Dead Ears: A joke on Dead Souls (1842) by Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol (1809-52). In Russian, there is only a difference of one letter between ears – ushi – and souls – dushi. Delphic Oracle: The oracle at the ancient sanctuary of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. The priestess of the oracle gave prophecies and was consulted before all major undertakings in the Hellenic world. Dracula: Count Dracula is the name of the world’s most famous vampire character from the book Dracula (1897) by Irish author Bram Stoker (1847-1912). The name “Dracula” is derived from a secret fraternal order of knights called the Order of the Dragon, founded by King Sigismund (1368-1437) of Hungary to uphold Christianity and defend the Holy Roman Empire against the Ottoman Turks. Vlad II (1390-1447) of Wallachia (Romania) was admitted to the order because of his bravery in fighting the Turks, and he was called Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Dragon). His son Vlad III (1431-76) became known as Vlad Dracula (the son of Dracul). Dragon: In Slavic mythology, a dragon is an enormous serpent covered with skin like armour and can have one or several heads – 2, 3, 6, 7, 12 – and the same quantity of wings and claws. It shoots out flame from its mouth and its flights are accompanied by thunder and storm. Dragonball: The favourite sport of magicians, involving 2 teams of 10 players and a live “goal” – a dragon – for each team. These “goals” are capable of swallowing players. The aim is to throw the balls – flame-extinguisher, stun, pepper, sneeze, and immobilize – into the mouth of the opposition’s dragon. Dubynya, Gorynya, Usynya: Hero-giants of Russian folklore. They are embodiments of the three elements: Gorynya – fire, Dubynya – earth, Usynya – water. As a rule, they appear as positive characters that help the main hero. Duma: Any of the various representative assemblies in modern Russia. The State Duma is equivalent to the lower house of parliament. Durnev, Herman Nikitich: A Russian name is made up of three parts: in this case the first name “Herman,” the patronymic “Nikitich,” and the last name “Durnev.” To show respect to a Russian, address him or her by the first name and patronymic, e.g., Herman Nikitich. Durneva: The female form of the name Durnev. Eroica: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Opus 55, by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), is subtitled Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un grand'uomo – heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man. Ethyl green: Viride nitens – a topical antiseptic solution for abrasions and minor skin problems, also know as brilliant green, it is a green dye toxic to most animals. Evil spirits: Slavic mythology is full of evil or unclean spirits, or petty demons, presiding over different things, e.g., domovoi – male house-spirit, kikimora – female hobgoblin, also female house-spirit, leshii – wood-goblin, ovinnik – barn-spirit, vodonoi – male water sprite, rusalka – mermaid or female water sprite, to name a few. They often play tricks on humans.
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Fiery Snake: Originated in mythology of the Chuvash people of the middle Volga River valley, the Fiery Snake is a demon, the personification of the elements of fire. It is in the form of a snake-like being with multiple human heads, very strong wings, and chicken feet, and it brings all kinds of sickness to people. Fifth dimension: A hypothetical dimension beyond the normal three spatial and one time dimensions. Finist the Brave Falcon: This is a Russian fairytale character, a falcon by day and a handsome youth by night. Firebird: In Russian folklore, the firebird is the embodiment of the sun god and thunderstorm god, the celestial fire. When it sings, large round pearls drop from its beak. When it flies, its feathers shimmer gold and silver as if a fire is burning, illuminating the night. Funeral march: Also called a dead march, it is a piece of music in a minor key and slow tempo imitating the solemn pace of a funeral procession. Gardarika: The ancient Scandinavian name for Russia. Genghis Khan: (1165-1227), the founder of the Mongol Empire, the largest contiguous empire in history. During his lifetime, the empire occupied most of Asia, and his descendants stretched the empire across most of Eurasia. Genie: In Middle Eastern mythology, a genie is any spirit less than a god. It is a creature with free will, made of smokeless fire. Genies are invisible to humans but they can see humans, are beings much like humans possessing the ability to be good or evil, and have communities much like human societies. They are controllable by magically binding them to objects. Giant: The English word commonly used to denote mythical beings of human appearance but prodigious size and strength. Many different cultures have such beings in their myths and legends. They are usually featured as primeval races associated with chaos and wild nature, are attributed superhuman strength and physical proportions, a long lifespan, and thus a great deal of knowledge as well, yet weak in both morals and imagination. Our modern perception of giants came from fairy tales, portraying them as stupid and violent monsters, frequently said to eat humans, especially children. Gorgonova, Medusa: In Greek mythology Medusa is one of the gorgons, vicious female monsters with hair of living, venomous snakes, who turn to stone anyone who looks at their faces. Using his shield as a mirror, Perseus managed to chop off Medusa’s head. Goyaryn: A derivation of Gorynitch, the most well-known dragon in Slavic folklore. Graves’ disease: A condition caused by excessive production of the thyroid hormone. Protrusion of the eyeballs is one of its characteristics. Great Tooth: A play on words of the name Dentistikha – Zuboderikha in the original Russian text, zuboder being the Russian word for dentist. Her nickname is “the Great Zubi,” zub being the Russian for tooth.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Guardian-goddess: The bereginiya of old Slavic mythology came from the Russian words bereg – river bank – and berech – to protect. Originally a mermaid-like creature, this has evolved into the earth-goddess and hearth-mother, with the use of the mermaid image on fretworks of a home for protection. Gulkind-Nose: From the Russian phrase s gul’kin nos meaning “very little, less than nothing.” Harpy: In original Greek mythology, a harpy (snatcher) is a beautiful winged female. In later tradition it was transformed into a bird monster with a human head. Heidegger, Martin: (1889-1976), German philosopher, one of the most important and controversial of the 20th century, with the study of being as his main concern. He placed an emphasis on language and on the special role of poetry. Hydra: In Greek mythology, a many-headed water serpent. When one of its heads was cut off, two new ones appeared. It was killed by Hercules who burned the neck after cutting off each head. IFV: Infantry Fighting Vehicle, armoured vehicle for carrying infantry into battle and providing fire support for them, more manoeuvrable than a tank since it is less heavily armed and less heavily armoured. Io: In Greek mythology, she was a priestess seduced by Zeus, the ruler of the Olympian gods, who changed her into a white heifer to keep his wife Hera from finding out the affair. Kalinka-Malinka: A very popular Russian folk song. Kasha: Porridge usually made of buckwheat but can also be of other grains. Kefir: A yoghurt drink or buttermilk. Kitovras: In the book of legends of old Rus, this is a demon in the shape of a centaur with wings, and the name came about around the 14th century. Kitovras is based on Asmodeus or Ashmedai of Judaism and the Bible, a demon that helped Solomon erect his Temple, but the Old Slavonic legends of Kitovras developed independently. Koshchei the Deathless/Immortal: He is a Russian folkloric character, nearly immortal, a captor of beautiful damsels to be rescued by their suitors. He is called the Deathless because his death is hidden in an egg in a duck in a hare in a coffer buried under an oak on an island in the sea. If one finds the egg and hits him over the head, he will finally die. Kostrubonka: In Old Slavonic mythology, this is the name of the scarecrow to be burnt every year in the ritual to welcome spring. Kvass: A Russian fermented beverage resembling beer but made from rye or barley. Lerna: This is both a city and a fountain in the swampy region south of Argos in Greece. Lake Lerna is the scene of the story of the Hydra (see Hydra) in Greek mythology. “Let’s drink with grief, where’s a glass”: This is a line from the poem Winter Wind (1825) by A.S. Pushkin (see Pushkin). The original is “Let’s drink with grief; where is a tankard!”
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Little Golden Fish: From The Fairy Tale about Fisherman and Fish (1833) by Pushkin (see Pushkin), the Little Golden Fish is a magical being that granted wishes to an old fisherman who caught but released it. The fisherman’s greedy wife first asked for a replacement for her broken washtub, but her demands eventually got so outrageous that she was left again with her broken washtub. Magal: Girl magician. Maganatomical: Magical anatomical. Magcess: Princess magician, the word “princess” here is used as a term of endearment, not in the literal sense. Magciety: The society of magicians. Magent: Magician agent. Mageographer: Magician choreographer. Magfia: Mafia of magicians. Magfioso: A member of the Magfia. Magford: The Oxford equivalent of magic schools. Magic tablecloth: It features in numerous Russian folklores. When it is laid on a table and the necessary words are pronounced, a feast appears. After the meal is finished, some other necessary words will make the remains of the meal disappear and the tablecloth clean again. Magican: This is actually a play on the word Mohican, which can also be spelt Mahican. Magjudge: Judge over magicians. Magledger: Magic ledger. Maglice: Police for magicians. Magmarket: A place that sells things related to magic. Magnews: Magic news. Magnotist: Magician hypnotist. Magometer: An instrument for measuring magic. Magpaper: Magic newspaper. Magphone: Magic megaphone. Magpital: Hospital for magicians.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Magcording: A magical recording. Magrorism: Magic terrorism. Magsecutor: Magician prosecutor. Magspray: Magic spray. Magtion: Magic action. Magtograph: To photograph using magic. Magyouth: Young magician. Magzine: Magazine for magicians. Mendelssohn: Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-47), German-Jewish composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the Romantic period, is now among the most popular composers of that era. His Wedding March is one of the most frequently used pieces of music at weddings. He was born Felix Mendelssohn, but his father Abraham later changed the last name to Mendelssohn Bartholdy and renounced the Jewish religion. The name Jakob Ludwig was added when Felix was baptised as a Christian in 1816. Merfolk: In Russian folklore, merfolk is a merging of the mythological rusalka and the Biblical myth of the drowned Egyptian army that pursued the Jews into the Red Sea. They are half-human and half-fish, males and females, connected to untimely death and the accursed, but have the gift of prophecy and an influence on human fate. Mermaid: A mermaid of Slavic mythology is called a rusalka, the spirit of a drowned maiden that lures travellers into the water to be drowned. Motif: A recurring theme in a work of literature, music, or art. Mozart: Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), a German composer and musical child prodigy, is among the most enduringly popular of composers of classical music. Though the circumstances of his early death have been much mythologized, it has been widely accepted that he died of acute rheumatic fever. My Love: The song Liubimaya moya is an extremely popular Russian love ballad. Written and performed by Vyacheslav Anatolevich Bykov (1970-), it became an instant hit and song of the year in 1996. Nemean lion: In Greek mythology, the first of Hercules’ 12 tasks was to kill the Nemean lion, a vicious monster. Hercules choked it to death. “Nice picture, how dear to me you are…”: This is a variation of the first verse of an 1842 poem by the Russian poet Afanasii Afanas’evich Fet (1820-92): Wonderful picture, How dear you are to me: White plain, Full moon.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Nymph: In Greek mythology, these are very popular female spirits associated with nature, targets of satyrs (see Satyr), and loves of gods and heroes. Appearing as lovely and eternally young women, they are the personification of natural features such as mountains, rivers, trees, and others. As such, they are invaluably bound to the locality with which they are associated. O-Phe-Li-A: The name in Russian is O-Feya-Li-Ya. If all the characters are grouped together to form a word without hyphens, it can be loosely translated into Ophelia. If the hyphens are substituted by spaces, it becomes the phrase “am I talking about a fairy.” “Our service is both dangerous and difficult”: This is the first line of the song The Invisible Struggle from the popular Soviet detective TV series The Experts Lead the Investigation (197189). The word Experts came from ZnaToKi, the name of the group formed by the three police investigators: Znamenskii, Tomin, and Kibrit. The song was featured from 1971-82 and became the unofficial anthem of the Soviet, and later Russian, militia. Pangolin: A scaly anteater. Phoenix: The same as a firebird (see Firebird). Pillar of salt: In the Old Testament, when God rescued Lot and his family, they were told not to look back. Lot’s wife did not obey, and when she turned around, she turned into a pillar of salt. Pithecanthropus: An extinct primate postulated from bones found in Java in 1891 and originally designated Pithecanthropus erectus because it was thought to represent a species evolutionarily between apes and humans. The word was derived from Greek roots meaning ape man. Pogrom: An organized, often officially encouraged persecution of an ethnic group. It came from the Russian verb “to wreck havoc.” Poltergeist: A term for a supposed spirit or ghost that manifests itself by moving and influencing inanimate objects rather than through visible presence or vocalization. The word is German for “rumbling ghost.” Puper, Gury: Since the Cyrillic alphabet does not have an “H,” Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1965-) becomes “Garri Potter” in Russian, thus having the same initials as Gury Puper. Pushkin: Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837), considered the greatest Russian poet and founder of modern Russian literature. Ritual Services: Funeral services from coffins and monuments to the funeral, including the registration of necessary documents. Robber, Nightingale O.: Nightingale Odikhmantevich Robber. Nightingale the Robber is a robber from Russian epic poetry. He lived in a forest near Bryansk (see Bryansk), sat in a tree by the road to Kiev, and stunned strangers with his powerful whistle before robbing them. Some sources say he was also known as Nightingale Odikhmantevich. Rusfan: This is parody of the publisher Rosman, which translates into Russian the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1965-).
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Russian school system: The Russian school year runs from September 1st to the end of May with June being the exam month. It is divided into 4 terms with vacations in between: a week at the start of November, 2 weeks for Christmas and New Year, and a week at the end of March. A fivepoint grading system is used where “5” is the highest mark, “3” is average, and “2” is unsatisfactory. “1” is uncommon and rarely given for academic reasons. Rzhevskii: Lieutenant Rzhevskii, the hussar hero of the very popular play Long, Long Time Ago (1940) by A.K.Gladkov (1912-76) about the war of 1812. In 1962, the play was turned into a very popular movie. After that, Lieutenant Rzhevskii became the hero of anecdotes, usually banal and which should not be told in decent company. Salieri: Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), an Italian composer and conductor, was one of the most important and famous musicians of his time. Shortly after his death, he was rumoured to have confessed to poisoning Mozart (see Mozart) out of jealousy, but neither the rumour nor the jealousy has been substantiated. Within a few months after Salieri’s death, Pushkin (see Pushkin) wrote his “little tragedy” Mozart and Salieri (1831) as a dramatic study of the sin of envy. Samovar: A Russian invention, a metal urn used for boiling water to make tea. A very strong tea concentrate is made in a teapot kept warm on the top of the samovar. A cup of tea is made by diluting some of the tea concentrate with hot water from the urn. Sanskrit: An ancient Indo-European religious and literary language, the classical literary language of India. Satyr: In Greek mythology, a satyr is a two-legged being with the upper half of a man and the lower half of a goat with a long thick tail. Mature satyrs also have goat’s horns. They reside in woodlands and forests and as a group are lovers of physical pleasures. Satyrs are passionately fond of female companionship and the most common objects of their desire are nymphs (see Nymph). Semolina: A granular, milled product of wheat, mainly used for making pasta. Shaman: Shamanism is a range of traditional beliefs and practices based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits that affect the lives of the living. A shaman is an intermediary between the natural and the spiritual world, travelling between the worlds in a trance state. Once in the spirit world, the shaman communes with the spirits for assistance in healing, hunting, or weather management. Shaolin School: The Shaolin Temple in China, the main temple of the Shaolin Buddhist sect, is associated with martial arts. Shashlik: Small pieces of meat marinated, skewered, and grilled. Siren: There were three bird-woman called Sirens in Greek mythology, their enchanting music and voices lured mariners to shipwreck on the rocky coast of the island where they lived. Sirin: This is the half-woman half-bird creature of Slavic mythology. It is a dark bird associated with the dark force and the underworld, a beautiful bird-woman with a bewitching voice, loosely based on the Sirens (see Siren) of Greek mythology.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Skuratoff, Malyuta: Malyuta Skuratov, Grigorii Luk’ianovich Skuratov-Bel’skii (-1573), Russian statesman, military and political personnel, and head of the special task force Oprichinina of Ivan the Terrible (1530-84). He got the nickname Malyuta because of his small stature. The name Malyuta Skuratov has become synonymous with an executioner and a villain. Slippery Jack: A mushroom that grows abundantly in pine forests, it has a white stalk with a distinct ring and a slimy brown cap. Solomon: The 10th century king of Israel famous for his wisdom and the Temple in Jerusalem. Sphinx: This is an iconic image of a recumbent lion with the head of a ram, bird, or human. It was invented by the Egyptians of the Old Kingdom, but a cultural import in archaic Greek mythology, where it received its name. There was only a single sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of destruction and bad luck. Sporysh: In old Eastern Slavic mythology, this is the personification of fertility, a white curlyheaded person that walks along the field, symbolized by a double ear of grain. Stinktopp: An archaic German word for bedbug. Stoic philosopher: Also called a Stoic, a member of the Greek school of philosophy founded about 308 BC, advocating the calm acceptance of everything as the unavoidable result of a divine will or natural order. Stomatologist: A specialist in stomatology, the science dealing with the mouth and its diseases. Strefil: The progenitor of all birds in Old Slavonic mythology, it lives in the middle of the ocean and resembles a kingfisher. Talisman: An object marked with magic signs, it confers on its bearer supernatural powers or protection. That World: In Russian folktales, the term “That World” refers to the world of spirits and demons. Theophilus: A name of Greek origin. In the Bible, it is the name to which the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles are addressed. Thirty-three heroes: See Chernomorov. Tistrya: In Persian mythology, the god of rain and fertility, personification of Sirius the Dog Star. Titan: In Greek mythology, any of the primordial giant gods who ruled the Earth until overthrown by Zeus; the titans were offspring of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth). Tsar Gorokh: A Russian fairy-tale character designating time immemorial. The Russian proverb “during the time of Tsar Gorokh” means “in very remote times.” Tula gingerbread: Almost the most widely distributed gingerbread in Russia, Tula gingerbread is rectangular with a design stamped on one side.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Tula samovar: Tula is the samovar capital of Russia. The first samovar factory was founded in Tula in 1778. “Turn your back to the forest, your front to me!”: A line used quite often in Russian folktales, this is the magic phrase to reveal the door of Baba Yaga’s (see Baba Yaga) cabin on chicken legs (see cabin on chicken legs). Tyrolean dance: The Schuhplattler (literally shoe slappers), a traditional folk dance from Austria and Bavaria (Germany), is performed by male dancers with characteristic rhythmic slaps on the thighs, knees, and soles, and stamping of feet. Valerian: A hardy perennial flowering plant with the roots most commonly used for its sedative and hypnotic properties in patients with insomnia. It is also mildly addictive. Vamdam Gussein: A play on the name Saddam Hussein (1937-2006), ruler of Iraq. Vampire: In old Slavic belief, an unnatural or premature death turns a person into a vampire. That is, death by suicide, death from wounds or epidemic diseases, a person not having made a confession before death, or a dead person not having had a funeral service read over him. A vampire can become a sorcerer. Water sprite: A Slavic mythological character that lives in a body of water and drowns people. As he is the master of the body of water he lives in, he is also the master of all living things in the water. Water sprites are evil/unclean spirits and come from the souls of drowned men or children, or unborn children of drowned pregnant women. According to another legend, they are fallen angels that landed in water. In appearance, a water sprite can be an old man, an adult man, a child, or even invisible. In general, it is believed that he is shaggy with green hair, from which water is constantly dripping, and he is overgrown with slime, algae, and moss. He can also change into any living thing and any inanimate object. Werewolf: A werewolf is a person who shape-shifts into a wolf, either voluntarily by using magic, or after being placed under a curse. Such shape-shifting myths are found in nearly all the cultures of the world. One of the simplest ways of turning into a werewolf is to put on a whole wolf skin or a belt made of wolf skin, and the removal of the skin changes the wolf back into a person. White millet: In Russian fairytales and epic poems, white millet and wheat is an epithet for high quality. White slippers: A part of the Russian burial ritual, these slippers are without hard soles. Wood goblin: In Slavic mythology, a wood goblin is the embodiment of the forest as a space hostile to humans. He is the master of the woods and the animals and birds in the woods. He has the appearance of a peasant with a white beard, dressed like a normal peasant with the exception of the shoes: left shoe on the right foot and right shoe on the left foot. He can change his size at will or even change into a plant, an animal, or a bird. Wood goblins belong to evil/unclean spirits, come from “damned” non-Christians and children stolen before christening, although according to one legend, they are fallen angels that landed in the woods. Yaga: Baba Yaga.
©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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Yagge: A derivation of Baba Yaga (see Baba Yaga). Yataghan: A long Turkish knife with a curved blade having a single edge. Zombification: The process of turning someone into a zombie. Zoomer: A communicator in the shape of a tin dish; it has visuals and notifies with a loud jingling sound.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009 jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca http://emets.olmer.ru/

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