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©Jane H.

Buckingham 2009
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
Methodius Buslaev
The Scroll of Desires

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
Methodius Buslaev – The Midnight Wizard
Methodius Buslaev – The Scroll of Desires

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
1

Oh, friend, why worry about the secrets of existence? Why
torture body and soul with difficult reflections? Live happily,
spend time in joy; at the end, they will not ask you why the world is
as it is.

Look at the morning, arise, young man, and breathe the joy of
dawn! A time will come when you will search and not be able to
find this moment of life, which so surprised us in this illusory
world. The morning threw off the cloak of gloom, what is there to
mourn? Arise, we will make use of the morning, because many
mornings will still exist, when there will already not be a breath in
us.
Khayyám

It is a ridiculous thing for any man to dispense with
wickedness in himself, which is in his power to restrain, and still
strive to suppress it in others, which is impossible.
M. Aurelius

The soul is a living essence, simple, incorporeal, reasoning
and intelligent, making use of a body, and being the source of its
powers of life and growth, sensation and generation. It is a free
essence, presented with the ability to want and to act, changeable
in will, having the min… as its purest part.
St. John of Damascus

Chapter 1
Rendezvous with the Unlucky Wretch

Moscow had not yet managed to cool down after the hot and stuffy June day. The sun
was lying breathlessly on the roofs and panting; however, dim evening shadows were
already roaming along the ground. The drainpipe, which Daphne touched in passing, was
scorching hot. She winced. Trying in every way not to be different among normal people,
she had recently adjusted her pain threshold, making it the same as that of moronoids,
and now she never got tired of being surprised by new sensations, constantly making
some new discovery.
For example, after thoughtfully drinking boiling water, it is possible to warm up for the
rest of one’s life. New footwear gives lots of discomfort. A bitten tip of the tongue hurts
for a whole week. If we immediately start on ice cream after tea, teeth begin to ache and
the enamel cracks like ancient cliffs. If running romantically barefoot through a puddle, a
jagged bottle bottom can easily cut the sole. In general, moronoids do not have a life but
continuous limitations. One has to remember so many of all kinds of nonsense!
Manoeuvring between passers-by, Daph continued her jaunt, not having a specific goal
or route. At this hour in house № 13 on Bolshaya Dmitrovka, they were accepting reports
from succubae and agents. Ares politely asked Daph to disappear somewhere and not to
scare the nervous Gloom folks with her Light essence and the flute protruding out of her
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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
2

knapsack. Daph herself was glad to leave. The dejected plasticine faces hardly inspired
her to continue making acquaintance and, in general, to creative work.
The infernal cat Depressiac, sitting on Daphne’s shoulder, had not given up its attempts
to get rid of the overalls. These were black leather overalls, entirely covered with snaps
and zippers. Daph had acquired them in the store Petfun. The overalls hid the wings,
which even now swelled under them like two mounds. Furthermore, Daph could not
control herself and, giggling, purchased for the cat a tiny choke collar — leather with
bright long studs, which jutted out, true, not on the inside, as in serious collars, but on the
outside. Depressiac was indifferent to the collar, tolerant, but in all of an hour, it rolled on
the ground with a heartrending screech, attempting to strip the collar off with its back
feet.
Daph crossed Kaloshin Alley, and passed Krivoarbatskii Alley, when suddenly on
Plotnikov Alley a black limousine of unprecedented length blocked her way. Hey, this
was some limo! With cast wheels, a herd of horses under the hood, and sparkling with a
waxy shine in spite of the specks of mud on the doors and the fenders.
Daph stopped, patiently waiting for the limo to pass. However, it did not move,
occupying almost the entire width of the alley. After shrugging her shoulders, Daphne
wanted to squeeze through between it and the wall of a house, but the automobile sharply
backed up and, with the bumper almost resting against the house, again blocked her way.
Through the tinted glass, Daphne could not see who was sitting in the car. True, it
seemed to her that she could make out the flame of a cigarette, glowing crimson like the
furious eye of the Cyclops.
Depressiac on Daph’s shoulder stopped battling with the overalls and was on guard.
The cat’s tail began to flick dangerously. It arched its back. It started to hiss, digging its
claws into her shoulder, and baring its small triangular teeth. Simultaneously Daph at the
telepathic level perceived waves of fury and fear issuing from the cat. Fury was okay.
Depressiac, possessing a nature as nice and pleasant as Tartarus itself, continually flew
off the handle and threw itself on any dog without exception, be it even the size of a pug-
dog named Uncle Baskerville. But here fear… This was something new. Depressiac did
not even particularly fear the Garden of Eden rock griffins coming alive. Daph was
downright worried. Her cat possessed stunning intuition and it was a bad sign that it
feared someone or something.
Daph’s hand slid to the flute and extracted it from the knapsack. However, before
taking any measures, it was worthwhile to determine precisely what she had come across.
She concentrated, squinted slightly, and looked at the limo with true sight. She
discovered no magic and calmed down, after deciding that she was dealing with those
usual moronoids, with hormones running wild, that every pretty girl has to contend with
from time to time. Nevertheless, this relief lasted altogether only for a moment.
Suddenly, on adrenaline rush, Daphne’s heart began to skip like an elastic. Her stomach
cramped up. The long hair, grey almost to white, stood on end, disobeying the law of
gravity, and invoking in a small part of the public a complex, close to hallucinatory,
association with the terrible Tibidox sorceress M. Gorgonova. This happened at the
moment when Daph understood that she not only discovered no magic but also
NOTHING at all inside the limousine.
The usual space that one looks at with true sight was empty. By definition, a void
cannot exist in the world. Even if there is no magic in it, there are hundreds of other weak

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http://emets.olmer.ru/
3

energies and flows, which tint space similar to watercolour on a background. Each thing
has its essence, and these essences constantly act on each other. Thus, two identical
ballpoint pens, one of which, say, was used to write a denunciation and the other a
postcard to a beloved grandmother, are two completely different pens from the point of
view of magic. A moronoid can easily confuse them but never a guard of Light or a guard
of Gloom. And atoms have absolutely nothing to do with it here.
However, in this case internal sight showed nothing. Everything was cleaned out. The
limo was just that. No more and no less. As if it was never on the streets, scaring cats and
passers-by. No one’s thoughts, which had to touch it at least casually, were imprinted on
it. And at the same time, it was very proper, sleek, and ideal. It created this sensation that
a compact black hole, carefully tied up with pink nylon threads, gaped inside the
limousine. Daph had never had the chance before to encounter this protective shield. She
suddenly realized that she had met something unknown and extremely dangerous. Would
the flute help here? It is not known how an unknown something will react to its attacking
trills. Suddenly it dawned on Daph that true sight was simply not enough here. Or,
possibly, the look was not long enough… If she would be somewhat more persistent
and…
The limo suddenly roared, took off, and, having made a U-turn in two stages in the
narrow alley, disappeared in the direction of Prechistenka Street. Its license plate was
bespattered with mud, and next to the left rear headlight was a sticker of a skull. And this
skull, speeding away, ominously winked at Daph.
Daphne followed the strange automobile with a puzzled look, and then set off for the
subway station Smolenskaya. She walked and reflected. She was certain of one thing:
there was no way of explaining the appearance of the limousine as chance. Someone
specifically wanted Daph to understand that he was following her. Did this clearly and
demonstratively, barely hiding. And what was more: he knew ahead of time where Daph
was going and where it was possible to meet her. And this put her on guard the most. It
alerted her because even Daphne herself, wandering without any purpose around a city
centre she was poorly acquainted with, did not know this.
Daph was still seething and indignant for a long time, recalling the defiant red spot
behind the tinted glass, but soon youth and flippancy took over, and, after seeing a little
store near the subway, she counted the change in her pocket. Depressiac’s collar and
overalls left Daphne almost without cash, but Daph somehow had not decided for the
time being to ask Ares for money. Well, is it not ridiculous for an omnipotent guard of
Light to find herself in this idiotic position? There was only enough change for one thing:
either potato chips or a pop. After weighing all the pros and cons, Daph bought the
cheapest bottle of pop, believing that pop without chips was nevertheless still pop, but
chips without pop would be a snack merely hanging in mid air and without any meaning.
Not too long ago, Daphne without a twinge of conscience would teleport everything she
needed from a shop window or, simpler, pay off the salesperson by flicking her finger
and generously transforming the dish for small change into gold; however, now this
would be unpardonable carelessness. Guards of Light would immediately spot a change
in the mystical field, would determine the individual magic style, and after several
minutes a detachment of golden-wings would be here. And this time it would be doubtful
if she could slip off. No luck can continue infinitely.

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
4

Daph, as before, remained a wanted fugitive guard. The incident with the labyrinth,
which gave Methodius Buslaev the force, had hardly changed Daphne’s life. Like a
ropewalker, Guard General Troil was balancing on the thin wire between life and death.
However, to the rest of Light, she was now a traitor with black feathers in her wings. A
traitor banished from Eden.
Pensively looking at the bottle cap preventing her from reaching the pop, Daph
pondered whether it would be proper if she allowed Depressiac to bite it off, and whether
it would evoke some harmful interest among the moronoids. In the end, she decided not
to upset them. Their short seventy-year life is already so full of all possible shocks. “A
head cold keeps them awake. A heart attack makes them sit up,” Julitta usually added.
Daph opened the bottle against the edge of a phone booth scratched by many
predecessors and, looking forward to the coolness, she began to raise the bottle to her
mouth. Suddenly her hand trembled. The pop splashed on her chest.
That same limo was ten metres away. It was obvious that it had travelled along
Glazovskii Alley, in a mysterious manner passed all signs and obstacles, and in a round
about way dragged itself over here. Daph’s mouth became dry like having the sands of
the Sahara in it. Her first thought was to dive into the subway where the limo precisely
could not follow her, but her second one was to approach the car confidently and demand
an explanation. However, the first option seemed cowardly to Daph, and the second
required super-courage, which so far she had not discovered with the most thorough
search. As a result, Daph did neither, but something in the middle: namely, after
remaining on the spot, she drank the pop in large mouthfuls, although the pleasure had
already been poisoned. The coolness now gladdened her no more than a butterfly
accidentally flying under the jets of a waterfall. The limousine remained at the previous
place. No one left it.
“If these were guards of Light, they would have summoned the golden-wings.
Moreover, flashy cars are not our kind of transport. Ours would come on a bike and,
helping an old lady cross the street, would unintentionally destroy a dump truck with
maglody. If guards of Gloom… hmm… this vulgar car is more their style. But why
would they follow so obviously, when even without it the world is full of invisible spirits
serving Gloom? Why would guards of Gloom follow me in a limo, if I’m living at Ares’,
what would they have in mind? But what am I afraid of after all? Yes, must approach
nevertheless! This is simply shameless! They are getting on my delicate kiddie nerves!”
Daph was angry.
After putting the bottle down on the asphalt, for encouragement she touched the bronze
wings hanging from a lace on her neck, took the flute out of her knapsack and, having
gotten up to the limousine, knocked loudly on the window. Moronoids looked at her with
surprise. This girl’s brain was clearly tied up in knots. She threw herself at the car, kicked
it, beat it with her fists, and swung the flute with a determination even a savage would not
have clubbing a tortoise crawling out to the sand. And here on her shoulder was a rather
weird-looking, bald cat, clearly sick for a long time as a kitten, in overalls and a bright
collar, arching its back and hissing.
“Hey, who’s there? What do you want from me, huh? Come out!” Daphne shouted.
However, the window of the limousine remained raised. Even almost burying her nose in
it, Daph saw only her reflection in the mirrored surface. In that moment, it seemed to the
stupefied Daphne that radiance originated from her reflection, and a golden semicircle of

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
5

aura appeared above her head. She grew numb, not believing her eyes! The glass of the
limousine reflected true essences, and for that reason, the car could only have very distant
relation to the world of the moronoids.
The instant Daph understood this, the limousine again started and began to drive away
quickly. “Aha! You’re running away! There, there, you get out of here, get out of here!
Spin the pedals, before they break your buggy!” Daphne began to yell triumphantly. She
sensed the triumph of a Neanderthal, who, having used cries and firebrands to drive out
of a cave an old bear with tangled fur, moved in there with his entire family, and, just in
case something else might still be hiding in the dark, let the mother-in-law in first. In the
end, again trying to knock on the car roof with her flute, she ran several steps, but, after
catching curious looks from the passers-by, recollected suddenly and, filled with the same
consciousness of victory, dived into the capillary network of Moscow alleys.
In approximately half an hour, Daph crossed Boulevard Ring at Strastnoi Boulevard,
above the Chekhov subway station. Having already stepped onto the pavement, she felt a
prick of anxiety. She realized belatedly but very distinctly that someone was following
her and, moreover, had been doing so for a long time. Daph stopped abruptly and turned
around. A tall, athletically built man in a short leather jacket and a silver belt with a
buckle in the shape of a skeletal hand was following as if glued to her. After noticing that
Daph was looking at him, the man was startled and stared at the sky with such a
deliberate look, as if he had discovered at least enemy parachutists there. Daph laughed
— it was so absurd. Probably, her contemptuous laughter reached the stranger’s ear,
because suddenly he, not disguising himself anymore, decisively made his way to
Daphne. His right hand slid into a pocket.
After jumping over a bench — on one side an enamoured couple was huddling timidly,
and on the other side a student of land reclamation, with abstracts and a bottle of beer,
was sprawling imposingly, occupying a large part of the bench — Daphne, dodging,
dashed away to run on the lawn. Depressiac was jumping on her shoulder like a dashing
rider from the Perm Circus. Daph ran quickly. The world fell away. Mothers with
strollers, trashcans, freshly planted lindens along the boulevard — everyone and
everything enjoying themselves, spinning, leaped into her eyes like busy spots.
It seemed to Daph that she had lost her persecutor, but unexpectedly he appeared
directly in front of her — appeared so suddenly, as if he was not running but simply
standing, arms crossed on his chest, and waiting for her. In a panic Daph jumped over a
cast iron fence, scared the rushing cars with swift chaos of movements, and darted to the
first entrance she came across. Gripping the long wooden handle, she jerked it, was
pleased that there was no code-lock, and dashed up the stairs. She shot past mailboxes,
flew up ten steps at a time, and… An iron door rose up directly before her. A cursed
code-lock was installed nevertheless, though not below, but for some reason between the
first and the second floor. Petty and mean villainy!
Daph realized that she had gotten herself into a trap. To hide in the entrance was
obvious foolishness on her part. Indeed if one is on the run, then run to a crowded place.
She pushed the door with her shoulder and began to press the buttons chaotically — it
was useless. The stupid heartless iron was not going to let her pass. Then Daph grabbed
her flute, ready to resort to an attack maglody. Let golden-wings trace her, but she was
not surrendering without a fight! “We’re forcing our way through, Depressiac! Get

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6

ready!” she whispered. The cat started to hiss and protracted its claws with the sound of a
switchblade unlocking. It, like yesterday’s cutlets in the fridge, was always ready.
Footsteps were already thundering on the stairs. First appeared the toes of heavy boots,
and in an instant even the persecutor. Drops of sweat on his wide forehead stretched out
in a chain like the Kurile Islands. As before, he was keeping a hand in his pocket. “Hey
you, stop! Just move and you’ll be sorry!” Daph shouted, quickly bringing the flute to her
lips. This was a serious threat. The power of maglody was not inferior to an automatic
weapon. In any case, Methodius so asserted, having once observed how Daph used
maglody to break into smithereens bricks he tossed up on her request. The stranger
moved away, anxiously eyeing the flute. This was already strange. Moronoids were
usually amused when someone threatened them with a flute. Probably, the long-standing
influence of the proverb “Born a fool, die a fool.” had an effect. “Gosh! You forced me to
run a little after all!” he said, panting.
“No jokes! What do you have in your pocket? Take out your hand… slowly… even
slower… no sparks, no tricks! I’m warning you!” Daph nervously repeated. “Fine, fine.
You also calm down!” After shrugging his shoulders, the man slowly took his hand out of
his pocket and unclenched his fist. Daph distrustfully moved a little forward. On his palm
lay small silver wings, from which a bright light radiated like waves. They differed from
Daphne’s bronze wings, hanging from a lace on her neck, in that both wings were
looking back a little, having a barely noticeable sharp bend. If the bronze wings had the
likeness of an eagle’s wings — these more resembled the wings of a storm petrel or an
albatross.
“What, are you also a guard of Light? But why are your wings not quite right?” Daph
asked already much more peacefully, however, without lowering the flute. “Yes, I’m
Light. But I’m not from Eden. I’m not among those who consider you a traitor and thirst
for punishing you!” the stranger said with a smile. “Hmm… Sounds somewhat drunk.
Then where are you from?” Daph asked not without a challenge. Fate again began to
tempt with its opportunity for everyday rudeness. “I’m from the Transparent Spheres, my
dear child! I’m your guard-keeper! My name is Essiorh!” Daph grew numb. The flute in
her hands lowered by itself. The Transparent Spheres, situated at the top of Seven
Heavens, were home to those who stood over the guards and protected them. Even Troil’s
guardian was there. “You are my guard-keeper? You?” she asked distrustfully. “And why
not?” the stranger was astonished.
Daph stared at him with suspicion. It goes without saying that she knew her guard-
keeper undoubtedly existed. But that he would look so… eh-eh… unconventional. She
must admit that she had visualized something much more respectable. So bald, with
tortoise-shell glasses, slightly boring, drawling, with a music folder under his arm, and a
tiny speck of green on his cheek, under which hid a small and decent teacher’s pimple…
But here… ahem… military boots, all in leather, provocative belt… hmm… to analyze in
general, amusing. After securing such a guard-keeper, here she would also be able to
remain in her usual style.
Essiorh, after bending his head, looked with a critical eye at his own figure and the belt
with the buckle in the shape of a skeletal hand. “Is my body troubling you, my child?
Perhaps you don’t know that keepers from the Transparent Spheres, in contrast to you
Eden guards, cannot be on Earth in their true bodies? Must admit, this brutal appearance,
a mountain of muscles and the chin of a savage also disturbs me; however, it appeared

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7

there were no other bodies in our terrestrial storage. Selection was poor to almost nil.
Taking into account that a talking dog is somewhat frivolous for a first meeting of a
guard and his keeper, I nevertheless would take a human body. Moreover, there were
still… hmm… a few other reasons.”
Daph nodded. “Good it’s not a dog. My cat… On the whole, I want to say that we could
slightly scratch a dog easily. People would then think that the dog had been frolicking,
excuse me, with a circular saw.” “Even a talking one?” Essiorh was horrified. Daph
nodded dejectedly. “Alas. I don’t think that it would have time to speak. Even with the
word ‘hello’ it would only reach the letter ‘e’…”
Essiorh reproachfully shook his head. “Ahem… Well, so there it was… My good child,
I hurried in order to inform you: your immortal essence and your wings are in great
danger.” Daph dropped her eyes. Essiorh looked at her with the well-developed
incinerating severity. Daph learned severity № 27 of the General Catalogue of
Reproaches and Moral Admonitions for Influence on Mortal and Immortal Essences
Endowed with Conscience (program of class 97 of guard-educational high school).
“Wow, they teach our keepers using the same textbooks!” she was mentally enraptured.
“Listen to me, unhappy child! Listen and be frightened! It’s not enough that you —
voluntarily or not — stepped on the slippery path of service to the guards of Gloom, not
enough that your new masters steal eide! Not enough that the circle of your contacts is
composed of agents, cursed witches, pagan tramps…” he was rattling like a machine gun.
After perceiving that he had made a slip of the tongue, Essiorh winced slightly; however,
he did not begin to correct himself. He thought it would probably just slip through. “Who
are these pagan tramps? Surviving Trojans grown wild? Dangerous specimen probably?
Perhaps you had in mind pagan gods?” Daph asked pitilessly.
However, her sting did not succeed. Essiorh already knew how to wriggle out. “…
Don’t interrupt! I have no other designation for these pagans imagining themselves as
gods… And the succubae, disturbing the righteous sleep of mortals with exciting visions,
perhaps they belong to the society, which a guard of Light needs? But the speech is not
even about this! After all, all this can be written off as an accident and errors of youth.
You did something more terrible, quite nightmarish!” Essiorh lifted a finger and traced an
inspired line, one end of which rested against the nearest cloudlet, and the other on
Daph’s nose. Daphne waited with trepidation for the continuation. And it followed
immediately.
“An impression of your Light wings has turned up on the scroll stolen by one of the
servants of Gloom. With your action, you have stuck a dagger into the heart of Light!
You have messed up the veins of good and evil! Do you at least understand what you
have done?” Essiorh got carried away. His voice rose increasingly higher. The entrance
glass started to vibrate. The code-lock grew warm. The bright buttons began to weep with
the scorching metal.
Daph coughed politely but persistently. “Can I ask a question?” “Ask!” Essiorh said,
clearly grieved by the desire to be contrary and to refute all her arguments. “You said:
‘An impression of your wings has turned up on the scroll.’ On what scroll?” Essiorh
frowned. “What? Are you pretending? You dare to deceive me? To lie to your guard-
keeper?” “But I’m not lying. I saw no scroll… That is, I saw three railroad cars of scrolls,
but something that special, I would remember… And I didn’t leave an impression of my

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8

wings anywhere!” Daph stated, after looking at Depressiac. “And what do you think of
that?” The cat kept its opinion to itself.
Essiorh started to seethe with indignation. He aimed a reproachful finger at Daph and
was about to continue the disclosure, but unexpectedly stopped short. “Eh-eh… What day
of the week is it today?” he asked absent-mindedly. “Monday,” announced Daph with
doubt. She knew the moronoid days of the week rather poorly. “Yes, exactly. It was
Monday morning, since the agents trooped over to Ares,” she added, after thinking it
over.
Essiorh held his head. “Oh, woe is me! I mixed up everything! Having travelled here
from the Transparent Spheres, I didn’t consider the difference in Earth time, didn’t think
about the natural celestial lead, and warned you about an event, which hasn’t yet
occurred, thus destroying the immutable law of freedom of choice.” Here Essiorh, not
sparing his body, hit himself hard on the forehead with one of the rings. He did this with
such zeal that an imprint appeared on his forehead. “Now I’m forced to take leave of you!
But remember what I said to you!” he stated and started to move back hurriedly, clearly
intending to disappear.
“Stop!” Daph shouted. “But was it you in the limo? May I use the informal ‘you’ or is
this impudence?” The keeper stopped. “Informal ‘you’? This is impudence, but you
may,” he said after some wavering. “Where, where was I?” “In the car following me.
Well, tell me, this is important to me! Why were these tricks necessary? In order to play a
little on my nerves?”
Essiorh looked at her in bewilderment. “Well, it’ll be known to you: I found you only
twenty minutes ago. Found with the help of that indissoluble tie, which always exists
between a guard and his keeper. I was in shock. I’ve become a complete stranger to the
mortal world. I was last here during the times of ancient Babylon. I remember I found a
whole crowd of idlers and, in order that the people would not lounge around with nothing
to do, I proposed to them to build a tower. The usual small tower. Who knew that the
moronoids would get so carried away? My boss was very unhappy.”
“Fine, not you, so not you. But did you see the limo?” Daph continued asking. “No. I
must assume you have in mind one of those vehicles with a nice young woman at the
wheel attempting to knock me down when I was pondering something on the pavement?”
Essiorh tried to be more specific. Daph looked searchingly at him and decided that it was
possible to believe his words. That Depressiac related to Essiorh benevolently served as
an influential argument in favour of Essiorh speaking the truth. Taking into account its
specific character, of course. In any case, it did not strain itself and did not hiss at him as
at the limousine. “It means, not only are the golden-wings and the keeper from the
Transparent Spheres interested in me… I’ve become popular. Only this form of
popularity somehow is not much to my liking,” decided Daph.
“Why haven’t you been in the mortal world for so long?” Daph asked, after deciding to
appear attentive. It would seem the innocent question embarrassed Essiorh. “After the
Babylonian incident I began to have trouble at work… Eh-eh… I was slightly in the
wilderness when you appeared. And here they remembered me,” he drawled evasively,
staring at his very strong mitts with polite informative interest.
“Could nobody be entrusted with such an important issue? I have me in mind.” Daph
was filled with enthusiasm. Essiorh smiled with a forced smile. Someone who recently
fell from a chair and now attempts to present this as a joke would smile so. “Oh no. I fear

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9

that the issue is much simpler. No one else agreed to take you… All shoved you aside as
they could. Finally, they found the last one. Alas, this last one turned out to be me. You
and I, as the moronoids very rightly say, are worms from the same coffin.”
“What, what? Peas from the same pod?” “Worms from the same coffin!” Essiorh
obstinately repeated. “And don’t argue! So they say. I read it in the dictionary, when
preparing for transplanting to the human world.” “Ah, I understand! Sniffka said that
Guards of Gloom cast an evil eye on one publication of the moronoid phraseology
dictionary. Her good friend, having found out about this, immediately purchased twelve
copies to give away to friends. So here, according to Murphy’s Law, he miscalculated,
Sniffka turned out to be his thirteenth friend and didn’t get this dictionary. She was very
hurt!” Daph elaborated.
Essiorh turned a deaf ear to her words, thinking about something. “Daphne! I have a
request for you… a personal one… I’m asking you not to tell anyone that I showed up
with my reproach sooner than I should have. We’re very strict about this, taking into
account that I also have earlier blunders. Can I hope that everything will remain between
us?” Daph nodded patronizingly and slapped her keeper on a shoulder solid as granite.
“Have no fear! I’ll sew a zipper on my mouth and zip it shut every time I try to squawk…
Depressiac is also a reliable lad. Except for a good fight, night flight, and Persian cats, he
has no other weaknesses. And also no interests, by the way, if we don’t consider raw
meat.”
Someone had already been drumming nervously for a long time from within the iron
door accidentally welded shut by Essiorh’s reproach. It no longer made any sense to
remain in the entrance. Daph and Essiorh left, not waiting for the moronoids to summon
the Emergency and Disaster Relief Ministry or the fire department.
Twilight slowly thickened above Moscow, exactly as if someone had dimmed the
brightness of a monitor screen sequentially. The wind played on an unglued
advertisement. Automobiles with maniacal perseverance rushed along the ring of
boulevards. Their drivers diligently made a show of having important business
somewhere. And, it goes without saying, none of these simulators of stormy activity,
masters of beating the air, was concerned that here, two steps away from them, Daphne
the guard of Light was discussing the fate of the moronoid world with her keeper from
the Transparent Spheres.
Suddenly Depressiac emitted a warning guttural sound. Daph looked up. She felt a
sharp uneasiness. While she was in the entrance, something changed in the magic field
above Moscow. Neutral and sluggish earlier, now it blazed like the aurora borealis. Daph
scrutinized the sky over the roofs of the houses. It seemed to her that to the right,
somewhere very high, two golden points flickered. Before Daph had time to focus on
them, the points disappeared. Almost immediately in another part of Moscow,
somewhere awfully far away, in the outskirts, an additional point flickered. It traced a
semicircle and also disappeared. The points resembled not even sparks but timid yellow
maple leaves, when in the evening murky forest the last ray of the sun suddenly falls on
them.
“Golden-wings. There are about two scores of them above the city. They appeared
about ten minutes ago,” Essiorh announced with knowledge of the matter, answering her
unvoiced question. “What are they doing here?” Daph inquired with uneasiness.
“Hmm… Strange question. They’re searching, of course.” “For me?” “This time it’s not

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you. Although, if they catch sight of you, there’s no doubt they’ll immediately attack you.
So, no noticeable magic. Be quiet as a dead mouse in the fourth power generator… Ouch,
again the jinxed dictionary! But now, if you’re interested, look over there… Over that
house on the corner, found it?” “No.” “Look closer. Higher than the billboard, higher
than the attic… Do you see a fat black blob? Well!”
Daph looked hard and actually saw what Essiorh was talking about. In the air, a round-
shouldered little fellow in a raincoat was leisurely moving away from them. He was
going along and piercingly examining the walls of the houses. Obstacles did not exist for
his small colourless eyes. Neither concrete walls nor iron roofs — nothing could cover or
hide. The small sticky hand would reach out to everywhere. The sticky fingers would
close over the most important and the most secret. On an adjacent street Daphne saw yet
another figure exactly the same. And another one. And another. The figures were moving
in parallel, block after block combing the city.
Daph grabbed the collar of the cat dashing from her shoulder and a spike in the collar
pricked her finger. “Who are they? Darts of Doom?” she asked indistinctly, licking her
wound. Essiorh, puzzled, looked sideways at her. “What guards? Don’t amuse me!
Ordinary agents. Hundreds of them all over the city, but all the same the agents have to
be careful. Golden-wings are not in the mood nowadays. They attack continually.”
“Really?” “I don’t lie without sound reasons!” Essiorh was insulted. “And guards of
Gloom don’t protect their agents?” “Whatever for? What are such agents to Gloom,
dozens of races flattened and banished to Tartarus? Gloom has never particularly spared
clay and plasticine. By the way, are you aware that some recently prepared agents even
have blood? We discussed this at briefing. Their blood is the powder for office printers
diluted with Troika cologne or ethyl alcohol. Ligul mocks the image and likeness any
way he wants…” Essiorh said with bitterness.
Unexpectedly he turned sharply, caught Daphne by the elbows, and quickly carried her
under the arch. Moronoids eyed them with alarm. Some heroically disposed men even
came to a halt. Daphne, as soon as Essiorh put her down on the ground, waved her hands,
showing that everything was in order and no one was attacking her. “Quiet! Certainly no
one can cut into the conversation of a keeper and his charge, but nevertheless it’s better
not to be noticed!” Essiorh whispered, pressing against the wall and carefully looking out
of the arch.
Daph saw how a round-shouldered agent in a raincoat suddenly tossed up his head,
looking out at someone, then stooped, drew himself together, and in a cowardly manner
dived into the attic window. Almost immediately, a bright flash drew a line in the sky.
Above the street, something, impossible to see with moronoid sight, rushed past in a
golden radiance. Dazzling wings and a stern profile flickered, prolonged by a flourish of
the flute.
For a while the golden-wings obviously pondered whether he should continue pursuit
along the back alleys with attics and sewers, which creations of Gloom so loved, and
then, after reconsidering, rushed after another agent, the one combing the region from the
area above. The agent, down on his luck and losing his head, rushed along the boulevard
from one signboard to another and only at the last moment, escaping from maglody
attack by the guard of Light, desperately dived with his plasticine head into the sewage
grid for rainwater. He dived, sunken into liquid clay there, and was hidden.

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The golden-wings gained altitude and disappeared behind the flat roof of the cinema.
After ascertaining that danger had passed, the agents came out of their refuges, shook,
somewhat restored their flattened forms — especially the crumpled one squeezing
himself through the grid, and continued to comb the city.
“What are they doing here? Both agents and golden-winged? Why so many of them?”
Daph asked with apprehension. “Searching. Both these and others. Only here, for some
reason I believe more in the intrusiveness of plasticine villains,” Essiorh remarked sadly.
“And the agents are not searching for me?” Daph asked just in case. Essiorh looked at her
with compassion. “My good child! Are you at this again? As they once told us at
briefing: the double repetition of a question indicates either depressive sluggishness or
maniacal suspiciousness. Why would Gloom search for you when you’re already with
Ares? No, they need something else,” he explained, with his tone showing that he was not
about to explain what this something was.
“Fine, don’t tell. But can we play a little game of hot and cold?” Daph quickly asked.
“You may. But I promise nothing,” emphasized Essiorh. “It goes without saying. Perhaps
they need, by chance, that scroll, on which the impression of my wings would be found?”
Daphne asked. “I’ve said too much,” the keeper growled. “What value does the scroll
have? Why is it so necessary to Gloom? Essiorh, don’t be stubborn! Why hide from me
what’s already known to all?” Daph quickly asked.
The guard-keeper was perceptibly embarrassed. The secret had turned out to be
somewhat painfully transparent. Nevertheless, he continued to persist, “Time for me to
go. We’ll still meet! Till we meet again! And don’t be offended! I can’t, I simply don’t
have the right…” After nodding to her, Essiorh quickly jumped out of the arch. His
prompt retreat resembled a flight. When, coming to her senses, Daph rushed after him,
the street was empty. Only the wind was rocking the “No parking” sign suspended from a
wire.
Pondering over the strange events of the day, Daph slowly wandered towards Bolshaya
Dmitrovka. In a minute, not a single suspicion was left. Suspicion had strengthened little
by little and changed into truth. The truth included the fact that her guard-keeper was a
chronically unlucky wretch. “The most muddle-headed guard of Light simply by
definition must have the most spontaneous keeper. Everything is logical. Don’t you think,
huh?” she asked, turning to Depressiac. However, the cat was thinking about the dog
across the street, sufficiently far from them. It was moving extremely insolently, holding
its tail curled up, barking at cars, and ambiguously sniffing posts. Daph had to hold
Depressiac tightly by the collar to end the discussion.

Chapter 2
Grabby Hands

Methodius kicked the chair in irritation. For a solid half-hour, he had been trying with
mental magic push to light the candle standing on the chair some a metre away from him.
However, in spite of so small a distance, the candle persistently ignored him. Then when
Methodius got mad and attempted to put everything connected with this failure out of his
head, the candle fell and in a flash became a puddle of wax. Moreover — what Buslaev

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12

discovered almost immediately — the metallic candlestick also melted together with the
candle.
“I don’t know how to do anything. I’m a complete zero in magic. I have it either too
weak or too strong. And I’m this future sovereign of Gloom? All of them are delirious!
Better if Ares would teach me something besides slashing with swords!” Methodius
grumbled, rewarding the chair with one more kick. The chair went off along the parquet
for half a metre, wobbled several times in pensiveness, and changed its mind about
falling.
Despite the fact that July was no longer simply looming on the horizon but literally
dancing a lezginka on the very tip of the nose, Methodius, as before, was living in the
Well of Wisdom high school, where annual exams had not yet ended. Vovva Skunso,
having grown quiet, did not allow himself to play any tricks and was as polite as at a
funeral.
The director Glumovich greeted Methodius every time he saw him in the hallway, even
if they had met seven times in the day. At the same time, Buslaev constantly felt his sad,
devoted, almost canine look. On rare occasions, Glumovich would approach Methodius
and attempt to joke. The joke was always the same, “Well now, young man! Tell me your
confusion of the day!” Glumovich said in a cheerful voice, but his lips trembled, and his
forehead was porous and sweaty, like a wet orange. Every time Methodius had to exert
himself in order not to absorb his fuzzy dirty raspberry-coloured aura accidentally.
Nevertheless, Glumovich did not ignore exams, and it was difficult for Methodius,
frequently letting his studies slide in previous grades. For the most part, it helped that
even without him there were enough meatheads among Well’s noble students. Nature,
having succumbed to a hernia in the parents, was making merry to the maximum in their
children.
After throwing the damaged candlestick — it had not yet cooled and still burned the
fingers — into the wastebasket, Methodius left the room and set off aimlessly wandering
around the high school. The soft carpeting muffled his steps. Artificial palms were
languidly basking in the rays of a florescent light. There were practically no students in
the hallways. In the evenings, the parents dropped by to pick up the majority of them, and
then on the other side of the gates by the entrance would line up a full exhibition of
Lexus, Mercedes, Audi, and BMW. The Wisdom Wellers were usually more or less
lacking in imagination. Waiting for their young, the padres of well-known last names
winked slyly at each other by flashing signal lights and honking horns, greeting
acquaintances.
Methodius slowly made his way along the empty high school corridors and, for
something to do, studied photographs of earlier graduates, read the ads, the timetables,
and in general everything in succession. He had long ago discovered in himself a special,
almost pathological attachment to the printed word. In the subway, the children’s clinic, a
store — everywhere boring for him, he fixed his eye on any letter and any text, even if it
was a piece of yellowed newspaper once stuck under the wallpaper.
Here and now, he was interested in the amusing poster by the first aid station. On the
poster was depicted a red-cheeked and red-nosed youth lying in bed with a thermometer,
either projecting from under his armpit or like a stiletto piercing his heart. A white
cloudlet with the following text was placed over the head of the youth, “Your health is
our wealth. At the first sign of a head cold, which can be a symptom of the flu,

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13

immediately lie down in bed and stick to bed rest. Only this way will you be able to avoid
complications.” Instead of an exclamation mark, the inscription was crowned with one
additional thermometer, brother of the first, with the temperature standing still at 37.2.
Methodius instantly assessed the originality of the idea. He practically could always
simulate a head cold. However, in half of the cases even a simulation was not necessary.
“Eh, pity I didn’t know earlier! Must say I’ve ruined my health! How many school days
spent in vain… But it won’t work with Ares, I fear! Can’t dodge the guards of Gloom
with a head cold!” he thought and began to go down the stairs.
Soon Methodius was already on Bolshaya Dmitrovka. House № 13, surrounded by
scaffolding as before, did not even evoke the curiosity of passers-by. A normal house, no
more remarkable than other houses in the region. Methodius dived under the grid, looked
sideways at the guarding runes flaring up with his approach, and, after pushing open the
door, entered. The majority of agents and succubae had already given their reports and
taken off. Only a vague smell of perfume, the stifling air, the floor spattered with spit,
and heaps of parchments on the tables showed that there had been a crowd here recently.
Julitta looked irritated. The marble ashtray, which she had used the whole day to knock
some sense into agents’ heads curing them of postscripts, was entirely covered in
plasticine. Aspiring to cajole the witch who was losing her temper or at least to redirect
the arrows, the agents told tales about each other. “Mistress, mistress! Tukhlomon is
playing the fool again,” one started to whisper in a disgusting voice, covering his mouth
with his hand. “Where?” “Hanging over there.” Julitta turned and made certain that the
mocked Tukhlomon was in fact hanging on the entrance doors, with the handle of a
dagger sticking out of his chest. His head was hanging like that of a chicken. Ink was
dripping from his half-open mouth. This nightmarish spectacle would impress many, only
not Julitta. “Hey you, clown! Quickly put the tool back where you took it from and come
up to me! I counted to three, it’s already four!!!” she began to yell.
Tukhlomon, squinting like a cat about to be punished with a sneaker for bad habits,
sadly opened his eyes, freed himself from the dagger, and on bent knees approached
Julitta. The witch pitilessly and accurately knocked him on the nose with the heavy press
of the Gloom office. The agent made a face feigning fatal and eternal offence, wiped his
watering eyes, and after a minute was already twisting like a grass snake around Buslaev.
“How is the future majesty? Hands are not sweating?” he spitefully asked, squatting
down. “And how are you? Don’t sneeze continuously at night, the conscience isn’t
itching?” Methodius answered courtesy with courtesy. “Nothing. Thanks… It’s only you
who sleep at night… We work at night as in the daytime! Please be good enough to see
for yourself!” the agent answered. “Don’t kill yourself!” “I won’t. Be kind enough not to
worry. For your sake I’ll look after myself,” Tukhlomon answered mysteriously. He
giggled and took off, politely shuffling alternately with both feet.
Ares, as usual, was staying in his office. One could only go to him by invitation. The
chief of the Russian division of Tartarus was there almost without budging — day and
night. Only recently, warning no one, he disappeared somewhere for almost three days
and then re-appeared suddenly, giving no one any explanation.
Next to Julitta Aida Plakhovna Mamzelkina found room for her own body. Aida
Plakhovna’s cheeks were rosy and her eyes bright. She likely already had time to dip into
the honey wine. Judging by the contented look of both, Julitta and Aida Plakhovna were
busy with the most pleasant matter on Earth — slander. After putting her bony feet up on

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14

a chair, Mamzelkina looked through the far wall of house № 13, which was no obstacle
for her all-seeing eyes. It was that brisk evening hour, when all kinds of two-legged
upright-walking essences were hurrying somewhere or returning from somewhere.
Moronoids were scurrying about along sidewalks, lanes, pedestrian crossings, and
bridges of the megalopolis of ten million.
“Julitta, my dove not yet dead, look over there!” Mamzelkina cackled. “What a serious,
dignified man! What kingly carriage! How he carries his portly body, how solidly and
peacefully he looks in front of himself! See how everyone yields to his path! They must
think that this is the prefect of the region going around his domain in search of something
else to knock down! In fact, this is merely Wolf Cactusov, untalented writer and quiet
hen-pecked husband, whom the wife has sent out for dumplings at the corner store. Isn’t
it true how deceptive the first impression is? Interesting, how would this turkey sing if I
remove the covers off my tool now?” “Perhaps we can check?” Julitta innocently
proposed. Aida Plakhovna threatened her with a finger comprised, it seemed, of only
some joints and bones. “Not supposed to. There was no order for the time being… My
doe not yet shot, I don’t do unauthorized activity! I have an establishment! That’s that,
my cemetery treasure!” Aida Plakhovna edifyingly said.
Julitta sighed so sadly that all around for one-and-a-half kilometres all gas burners went
out, and leaned back against the chair. “Why so sad, dear? Feeling miserable?”
Mamzelkina asked sympathetically. “Oh, Aida Plakhovna! I’m miserable,” complained
the secretary. “Why?” “Miserable that no one loves me. In the evenings I get so tired of
humanity that I want to nail someone.” “You, girl, drop this! Don’t lose control of
yourself! There now, I see all your agents are walking around crippled! Don’t be heavy-
handed and muddle-headed!” Mamzelkina said sternly.
She turned around and saw Methodius standing still by the doors, looking at her with
curiosity. “Oh, and this, the little chick not yet slaughtered, is hanging around here!
Everyone wanders around! I walk around the city, look along the sides. I have no
strength! Agents prowl, golden-wings prowl — and everybody needs something! And
now even this, young and green, was roaming! Well, why do you wander, dear, why do
you stroll?” the old woman began to moan. Methodius muttered something unhappily. He
had his own opinion regarding who was hanging around and who was quaffing honey
wine.
Aida Plakhovna threw up her hands. “I dare say you’ve grown bolder, to talk to me so!
I’ve heard much about your feats, heard much! Passed the Labyrinth, seized the magic of
the ancients, but so far haven’t found the key to the force… Don’t grieve, big-eyes,
everything will come together. What won’t come together will be hidden. What won’t be
hidden will lie as dust. Gloom also wasn’t built in a day.” Methodius nodded impatiently.
He did not like it when they hinted to him that sooner or later he would become the
sovereign of Gloom. This was as intolerable as the flattery of agents and sweet giggling
succubae.
Mamzelkina quizzically inclined her head to one side and started to move with such
speed on a chair towards Methodius, as if the chair was mincing along on bent legs.
“Why so sullen, huh? Is your spiritual pain troubling you? How’s your eidos, kinfolk? No
grabby hands have reached it for the present? Watch, many such hands here, oh, many!”
she moaned.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
15

“Don’t you try to scare me with empty threats! I’m not so easily deceived!” Methodius
snapped carelessly. Lately he had gotten so used to being rude to agents that now it was
not easy to break the habit. He would be rude and at once felt like he sweated from his
own bravery. The encased scythe, standing in the corner, tinkled nastily. Its shadow,
falling onto the wall and mysteriously crushed, formed into the words, “Mors sola fatetur,
quantula sint hominum corpuscula.” (Death alone reveals how small are men’s bodies
(Latin) Juvenal, Satires, X)
However, Aida Plakhovna either was in a good mood or had decided to turn a blind eye
this time. “And, dear, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. What jests… We
don’t need to deceive others. We’re working people, we’re mowers… Except eide, we
require nothing from others… We’re not chemists, not carpenters, we’re grave workers!
So, my diamond, you’re my unfilled hole!”
Meanwhile Julitta reached for a large piece of chocolate slipped to her by one
enterprising succubus and rustled the foil. With her usual thoughtlessness, she did not
treat Methodius, and Mamzelkina, besides honey wine, abused nothing. “Now yesterday I
thought of something…,” said Julitta with a mouth full of chocolate. “Thought of you!
You have a strange last name for the sovereign of Gloom. Buslaev! It’s kind of
suspicious in our difficult time. That is, I understand, of course, Vaska Buslaev,
Novgorod hero, swung a shaft, this and that… Likely good and reliable all the time...
Only not quite for a leader nevertheless. You would be better as Petrov or Smirnov.”
Mamzelkina did not agree with her. “Ne-a, my dear, no use talking nonsense. He
shouldn’t be a Smirnov. Many Smirnovs are wanted. Indeed, I know. And if the initials
also coincide — now that’s a real misfortune. Once I drag one into Tartarus, but it turns
out: namesake! ‘You made a mistake,’ they tell me, ‘old woman! Do you just snatch
anyone?’ But what mistake did I make? Here’s the order: Smirnov P.A., 1964. Here you
are: Smirnov PA, 1964! Receive the goods!” Aida Plakhovna said and rubbed her hands.
“So, did you take him back?” Methodius asked. Julitta began to laugh, looking
sideways at the confused old woman, who, out of surprise, even dropped the ladle with
honey wine. “My dear, who would kindly take him back from Tartarus? We’re not a
government office for little fellows to run here and there. Already brought in — such a
slim lie is customary and you drag along another load. Okay, my sweets, I’ve chatted too
long with you already… I have people who have exceeded their allotted span in white
light!” Aida Plakhovna started to mumble in a hurry.
Obviously steering clear of the slippery theme, she took down the dirty knapsack from
her shoulder and poured out for Julitta a whole pile of soiled parchments onto the table.
The witch made a face when the parchments rolled out onto the table. Many of them had
brown dried spots and fresh mucus covered the others. “Now here, my aspen coffins, are
invoices for suicides, and here are those who mortgaged their eide in life, meaning they
miscalculated a little with the terms… And atheists, desecraters, and those
philosophizing… as they negotiated a separate invoice with Ligul … Will you sort it out,
dear? If you can’t, here’s the complete list. One grave to another!” Mamzelkina talked at
a great speed.
Checking whether anything remained in her knapsack, Aida Plakhovna decisively
shook it. A trapped parchment fell out onto the table. “And who’s this?” Julitta asked.
“And this is… a suicide. The wretch swallowed sleeping pills. She decided to frighten her
husband a little. Twice she did it and they pumped them out. Did it the third time and

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
16

here her husband was detained at work… Someone brought him a game disk! As if all
these aren’t attached to our Chancellery,” willingly explained Mamzelkina. “Careful with
the parchment, Juliatta, my little birch not yet sawn! Here the eidos is glued underneath,
so as not to be mislaid. Take some pains with the receipt! Eide without a receipt will cost
you dearly. Later you can’t render an account!”
Julitta unwillingly wrote a receipt, took the stamp pad out of the box, and began to
stamp with loathing where needed. She had hardly finished as bloody letters oozed on
Mamzelkina’s copy.
Delivered: Mamzelkina A.P.
Senior Manager of the Necro-department
Accepted: witch Julitta,
Russian Division of the Chancellery of Gloom
Secretary and Laboratory Assistant
Witness: Buslaev M.I.
Student of Gloom
Mamzelkina had not yet read the parchment when the letters suddenly became milky
and that part of the record, which concerned the witness Buslaev M.I., vanished into thin
air. Methodius began to blink dumbfounded. The old woman sternly threatened him, “Oh,
I know whose trick this is! It’s all your unsold eidos making a row! Doesn’t matter, I
implicated a witness for the pile. And it’s okay without him,” muttered the old woman.
Aida Plakhovna carelessly put the receipt into the knapsack and, staggering, picked up
the scythe. “I’m going, kids, I’ll mow a wee bit. Already the legs don’t walk but the
hands toil over everything. Well, if I take to my bed for good, how will people on Earth
die, my hearts? Take care, Juliatta, take care, little orphan! Look after Ares, it’s hard for
him. Ares suffers, indeed I feel for him. It’s all the cursed memory! And you, Methy, be
healthy! Here, I know, trouble will come with such speed that you’ll be in a terrible
mess!”
“What trouble?” Methodius asked. “A-a-and, my dear, one immediately sees how green
you are! Who asks Death about the future! If I answer you, then I’ll have to cut you
down! So, interested?” Mamzelkina glanced at Met so pointedly that he even stepped
back. A hot and empty abyss blazed in Aida Plakhovna’s small eyes. “No, don’t!” he said
in a hurry. “As you wish! Suit yourself, paradise saved! Ciao, clear-eyes, and you know
to watch over your eidos. Perhaps your eidos isn’t better than others’. I’ve transferred
many of them, I know the price of each… But indeed awfully powerful forces stand
behind it, your eidos, they do, they do… Here’s like in the casino: now and then, the
seven is so bound to the eight that even an ace can’t butt in! Clear?” “Clear.”
The old woman smirked. “I love intelligence. Are you indeed intelligent?” “Yes.”
“That’s nice. And look after your Daphne! Indeed a painfully bright girlie — lest
something doesn’t work out. Because of her. And… with her… Understand me?” It
seemed to Methodius there was a hint — a very clear hint — in the old woman’s words.
But to what extent her prophecy had to do with the near future — this he did not know.
Buslaev felt that everything was not so simple here. Oh, how complex!
Aida Plakhovna left, dragging her legs. Her dry, efficient cough reached them from the
outside, and almost immediately somewhere on an adjacent street the siren of an
ambulance howled heartrendingly. Whether these events were connected, Methodius did
not know. Although he would not be surprised to find out that the old woman started her

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17

work while she was still here. True pros of the necro-department never stop working for a
moment. Their scythe shoots up and falls down ten times a minute.
After the departure of the industrious old woman, Methodius and Julitta remained in
reception together. Julitta, on whom Mamzelkina dumped a pile of parchments requiring
sorting, was again in a bad mood. After the succubae and agents, she, according to her
own expression, took a long time restoring the acid-alkaline balance in her soul.
Moreover, she had the usual date in the evening and had to scrape on the walls and gather
together at least a bit of good emotion. Not wanting to be like a sponge taking in her dark
mood, Methodius, for something to do, set off for the room adjacent to reception.
This was a tight and gloomy nook by the stairs; the furniture there was only a sofa so
decrepit that Methodius would not be surprised to find out that Noah himself slept on it in
his ark. Something was gnashing in the dark, exactly a key turning in a lock, and a hoarse
voice said, “The old sinner Protagor said, ‘Man is the measure of all things: of things
which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.’ With these words
he wanted to say, ‘If a man believes in the gods, then they exist, if he doesn’t, then they
don’t.’”
“Who’s here? I ask: who’s here?” Methodius nervously asked. He did not receive an
answer, but wings started to flap, and Buslaev realized that Ares’ ancient prophetic raven
was talking to him. The raven was so old that its feathers had come off in some places
and dull pink skin peeped out. Now and then Methodius was surprised that the raven was
still alive. Neither Ares nor Julitta ever fed it and generally, they extremely rarely
recalled its existence. However, Methodius knew precisely that the raven was with them
even in the lighthouse.
His eyes gradually grew accustomed to the semidarkness. Methodius saw that the door
of the cage was wide open. The raven was sitting on the back of the sofa and looking
about askance. “Pour some water for you perhaps?” Buslaev proposed. The raven ruffled
up indifferently. Methodius did not know whether the bird understood human speech or
thoughtlessly repeated phrases heard sometime long ago. He sat in the semidarkness,
listening as the large bird stirred in the dusk, sat for nearly half an hour, thinking about
something vague. At first in his thoughts was Irka, whom he had treated rather poorly,
not visiting her for a long time, and then finally Daph with her enormous white wings
supplanted her.
When Methodius was going to return to reception, the raven suddenly pecked the back
of the sofa and said, “Into the cloth of centuries is interweaved this parable. She was a
guard, and she threw onto his neck the lace with the wings, not knowing that she has to
fall in love with him and share immortality with him. She did not know that the moronoid
world would begin to draw her in, so that at some point in infinity hearts and fates will
unite. So let the flute play!”
Methodius quickly took a step towards the raven. “What are you talking about? Daph?
What does it mean?” he nervously asked. However, the bird had already become silent
again and was only indifferently walking along the back of the sofa. Whether this parable
was from the past or the future, whose cloth was not yet woven, it was impossible to
understand. After struggling with the raven for about ten minutes, Methodius
nevertheless secured from it the next phrase, “He said: Dhul-Qarnayn! Gog and Magog
are doing harm to this land; shall we pay tribute to you so that you would set up a

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
18

barrier between us and them?” the bird said hoarsely, finally baffling Methodius.
Buslaev angrily turned and left.
He expected Julitta alone in reception, but during his absence there appeared Daphne
and Tukhlomon, having already had time to forget that he had gotten it on the nose with
the press, returned for some reason. “Strange that I did not hear them come in,” thought
Methodius, turning around to look at the closet. “Interesting, did Daph hear how I tried to
find out about her from the raven? Although, perhaps not.”
Daph removed the overalls from the cat, leaving only the collar, and now the naked and
terrible Depressiac, after stretching its wings, flew around reception. Occasionally it hung
onto the heavy velvety drapes or with furious mewing ripped with its razor-sharp claws
into one of the spying pictures. Julitta, in her leisure fond of shooting with the pistol at
the pictures or practising throwing a dagger at them, treated this vandalism with moderate
benevolence.
Tukhlomon was hanging around Daph and whining monotonously, entreating her to let
him have her wings. The agent’s face was twisting every which way and changing
hundreds of sugary expressions per minute. The rather bald top of his head gleamed. The
trimmed sideburns looked very appropriate. Over all he was so annoying, like he had
been put together by sweaty hands. “I don’t need the wings forever! I’ll just keep them
for a while! Pretty please! My cherub! How much does it cost you to gladden a sick old
man? I implore you! Clearly a noble lady! Please be so kind! I thirst for Light! I’m tired
of Gloom, the poor old man! I’ll kiss the hem of your dress! Smooch-smooch-smooch!
Darn, a thread got stuck in my teeth! Don’t let the old soul perish!” he repeated, crawling
around on his knees. Daph shook her head. She could very well imagine what happened
with those guards of Light, who out of good will loaned their wings to agents. “I want to
go to Eden! To sing in the paradise choir, to gobble apples of knowledge and spit out the
seeds! At least let me understand, what Light is, huh? I yearn for Light!!! Pretty, pretty
please!”
“Stop! Stop taunting!” Daph got mad. “Listen, Light! He never stops! Use your knee
and give it to him in the nose!” Julitta, tired of listening to Tukhlomon whining, advised
her. On hearing the advice, the agent helpfully started to move his nose up to Daph. “I
beg you, light of my soul, please don’t trouble yourself! With a knee, or a leg, may even
pull my hair out, or trample on my fingers! And if you desire to shoot me with a machine
gun, I’ll even bring one! Everything for the fine noble lady! Only give me the wings,
huh? Uncle Tukhlomon is so wretched, so unlucky! A sin to refuse him, big sin! To
refuse Tukhlomon is the same as smacking an orphan with a crowbar!” he started to
sweet-talk, touchingly puffing up his cheeks.
Realizing that there was no other way of shaking him off, Daphne decisively reached
for the flute. On noticing this, the agent began to crawl away quickly. He did not fear a
crushed nose or other damages, but here it was a bad joke with the flute of a guard of
Light. A single unique maglody could convert him into a puddle of malodorous
plasticine. “Okay, okay, Uncle Tukhlomon is leaving! Only, I beg you, no need for
music! I have weak eardrums! I’m not dancing today!” he whimpered, on all fours
running behind Methodius and using him as a cover.
Methodius greeted Daph. She answered him dryly, looking to the side. It seemed to
Buslaev that Daphne had been diligently avoiding him for a couple of weeks already.
And if she nevertheless addressed him, then she would quickly get worked up and begin

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
19

to argue trifles. Methodius could not find any explanation for this. He was sure that he
had not offended Daph. Although, on the other hand, he could also have blurted out
something careless. It is always so with these girls. They are eternally offended by some
phrase, which you yourself do not remember. “Did I say that?” “You did.” “When?”
“Depressiac!” Daphne said, with alarm looking at the cat, which, swinging on the
drapes, was thoughtfully examining Methodius. “I warn you! If you, like last time, allow
Mr. Buslaev to pet you and at the same time don’t scratch his face, I’ll have to wash you
with bleach. Moreover, both inside and out.” Tukhlomon, inflating his cheeks and,
simultaneously slapping them with both hands — a sound “puff!” came out — guffawed
fawningly, appraising the scope of the fantasy of the guard of Light. “I don’t need your
cat!” Methodius said, offended. “Wonderful. Because I was serious about the bleach. I
don’t want your microbes on my cat,” said Daph.
“Ah, what imagination! Uncle Tukhlomon is having fun from head to toe! If you want
to realize your dreams, Light, Tukhlomon will climb with pleasure into a washer so that
you could start it! Can pour bleach into my ears! Can even spank with a shoe! Let’s agree
on a payment! Besides your wings, I don’t need anything!” the agent started to babble
cautiously. Daph looked at him with loathing. Meanwhile, Tukhlomon, having jumped to
his feet, was already leaping around Methodius, exactly like a baboon out of the zoo.
“My usual compliments to the future sovereign! Have you decided to wipe your feet on
me? Or a fist to the forehead? It’s soft, won’t hurt your fist! Or the cheek. I’ll puff up the
cheek!”
“Stop!” Methodius said. Tukhlomon was not a bit offended. “Well no, then no. It’s
never too late for one good person to hit another. And indeed I, must admit, regard the
matter with favour. I recently came from Ligul to Ares and to you all. Literally dashed
here in a minute: one leg here, the other already there. Hurried with the speed of light!”
“Consider that I’m already fainting from joy! What next?” Julitta muttered. “What do you
mean ‘what next’? I came from Ligul!” Opening his eyes wide like a picture of
bewilderment, Tukhlomon repeated.
“I already heard this. What does the hunchback want from us?” the witch said.
Tukhlomon looked at her with mocking reproach. “What hunchback-eh is he? Yes, his
stature is small, stooping a little, but not this. Is it really nice to reproach him for this? Is
it really moral-eh? And where’s the heart of kindne-ss, where’s the patien-ce? Tut-tut! I
have to tell Ligul how you appreciate him here! Oh, I have to!” “You mean to squeal?”
Daph refined in an icy voice. “What bad words you use, girl! Squeal, fie! Not squeal but
inform in the name of triumph of law-eh and order-eh!” Quick to take offence, the agent
corrected.
“Tukhlomony, my little dead fish, cut the sound! Else, I’ll force a woollen sock down
your throat! You know me!” Julitta frowned. “It won’t help. Indeed, I’ve swallowed
many socks in my century! Nowadays everyone has rich fantasies! Here even Daph, our
darling guard, wants the cat to scratch Methy, the sovereign of Gloom! And fill the cat up
to its eyes with bleach! And now a sock! Here a moth eats it and doesn’t choke!” the
agent brushed it off. “So, does it mean you’ve eaten socks? And how are they, tasty?”
Daph asked with curiosity. “Not tasty, but possible to consume!” the agent willingly
answered.
“And now the main thing. The purpose of the visit, so to speak. I have to deliver an
invitation! Ligul summons Ares, Methodius, and Julitta to England. To William the

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
20

Conqueror, head of the British division of Gloom. William gathers his own to an
exclusive party on the occasion of the anniversary of the Norman invasion. There will be
the most noble bigwigs ever existed!” “When is it?” “Tomorrow.”
“Of course, I’m not summoned?” Daph mockingly asked. Tukhlomon shrugged his
shoulders, expressing regret with his whole appearance. “Not supposed to, my beautiful.
Gloom assembles there, and though you’re a fugitive, you’re Light nevertheless! No
good! Here if you let me have your wings, then no problem, this very second! Will you,
huh?” Daphne silently reached for the flute, forcing the agent to end the propaganda
instantly.
“Clear. What time?” Julitta asked. “Midnight tomorrow. Will you deliver the invitation
to Ares yourself, my sweet, or will you consent to give me a kick to attend to him? Under
the fieriest eye-eh?” Tukhlomon asked maliciously. “I’ll do it. Off limits for you there.
Stay here and wait.” Julitta disappeared into the office, closing the door behind her.
In a couple of minutes, Ares came out of the office and stopped in the middle of
reception — stout and breathing heavily. A deep scar lined his swarthy face, dividing it
into two unequal halves. “Since when does Ligul send Tukhlomon to summon us to
William? Does William not have messengers?” Ares asked with displeasure. “Indeed it
so happened. The two of them summoned together. Communicating. When I turned up,
William was Ligul’s guest. They were sitting, steaming in lava. They wanted to send a
messenger, but I volunteered. Messengers, I think, are also forced labour! Must feel sorry
for them out of the kindness of one’s heart,” answered Tukhlomon, bowing. He spoke
humbly and flatteringly; however, his alert blinking eyes were literally frozen on the
bridge of Ares’ nose: this way they would catch any indiscretion.
The swordsman stretched out his hand and, taking Tukhlomon by the plasticine ear,
pulled him towards himself. If Tukhlomon had not gotten on his toes, his ear would have
remained in Ares’ fingers. “So you feel sorry? Oh, don’t lie! Perhaps you’re sniffing
around for Ligul? You want to be both here and there — to get on well everywhere?”
Ares asked with disgust. “Indeed no!” Tukhlomon was insulted. “I come to you with my
whole soul… Sigh! For what?” “Parchments handed in, stamped, prolonging the stay?
Swell. Now get out of here! Julitta, my sword!” “Why the sword? No need for a sword!
As I understand, it’s such an elegant hint-eh that it’s time for me to depart? Uncle
Tukhlomon precisely intended to say that he’s in a great hurry! Anything for Ligul? No?
Well, don’t, don’t! I was simply asking…” the agent began to bustle. Looking back in a
cowardly manner, Tukhlomon hurriedly dragged himself to the doors, pasting on the
slightly torn ear on the way.
“Stop!” Ares unexpectedly ordered him. The agent stopped, moving slowly in alarm on
fragile plasticine legs. “Come back!” Tukhlomon sadly returned. “Agent, recall: did Ligul
tell you about the small chests? Only before you start lying now, think, is it worthwhile
for this to be your last lie,” Ares said threateningly. Tukhlomon clearly became ill at ease.
He unhurriedly reached for a red kerchief covered in polka dots, unfolded it, and blotted
his forehead in the same efficient movement with which a hostess sweeps crumb off the
kitchen table. “Eh-eh… well… There was something like that. I sorta heard,” the agent
mumbled indistinctly. “Clever boy! If you were to lie, you would be leaving for Tartarus.
I can make it so that for ten centuries you won’t be able to move into a single most pitiful
plasticine body. And no Ligul will stop me.” “This I know-eh. You can-eh,”
despondently nodded Tukhlomon.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
21

“Excellent. If you’re so all-knowing, then another question: have they found the chest
yet? Who has it?” Tukhlomon opened wide his loyal eyes. “I cannot know-eh! This is the
secret, hidden by Gloom-eh!” “Really? How annoying! Julitta, did you bring the sword?”
Tukhlomon began to tremble. He already considered that after saying A, he had to say B.
Otherwise in a spell it was easily possible to turn up in Tartarus forever. “No need for the
sword! I remember-eh. There are all of two chests, in which it can turn out to be. The
chests are precisely twins. A moronoid by the name of Anton Ogurtsov has the first. This
we already sniffed out.” “Does the moronoid suspect what’s in it?” “How is it possible?
Moronoids are complete fools. How would he know about the secret bottom?”
Tukhlomon giggled. Ares slightly inclined his head and quietly repeated “Anton
Ogurtsov.” Nothing changed on his face. Methodius was ready to swear that, on barely
hearing the name, he already knew everything about this moronoid. From the first cry to
the last sigh.
“And who has the second?” Ares quickly asked. “With the second one it’s more
comple-x. It constantly changes position in the moronoid world. We’re totally knocked
off our feet! Better if the hiding-place turns out to be in Ogurtsov’s chest!” the agent
stated. Ares looked inquisitively and menacingly at him. “You’re not lying?” “No. That
is, in general, it happens, I lie-eh. Can’t do without it. But now — no-eh,” Tukhlomon
began to tremble.
The swordsman of Gloom encouragingly slapped him on the cheek. “Smart boy! I hope
you won’t forget that you have to bring the contents of the chest not to Ligul but to my
hands? Right?” Tukhlomon began to stir in alarm. He was in a panic like a cockroach
accidentally hiding in a gun barrel and hearing the dry flick of the lock. Must be, he had
other instructions on this score. “Well yes, but, generally, I promised-eh…” he muttered.
“I commend you for your consciousness. And consider, if it turns out to be at Ligul’s, as
a result of sheer luck, for example, I will be VERY offended. Understood?” Tukhlomon
bowed, scared, and promised to deal with everything personally. “I won’t pass it to
anyone! Have no doubt!” he said with regret. “Now, well done! Off with you!” Ares
ordered with disgust. The agent bounced and teleported, leaving behind a small cloudlet
of stink.
“He’ll squeal. In vain you talked to him this way. It seems to me Tukhlomon fears and
hates you,” said Daph. Ares looked at her seriously. “He’ll squeal?” “He will. If he hasn’t
already gone to do so. You really don’t know?” Daphne was astonished. “I know. He’ll
squeal no matter what. On me, you, Met, and Julitta. He would even squeal on himself, if
there were any profit in it. To betray anything and anyone is all the same to him, since he
has already betrayed all under the sun.” “Then what are we to do?” “Nothing. Never
stand on ceremony with this type. There’s only one way to curb those like him: the force
that can crush his plasticine head. In the final analysis, even the spectre of Faceless
Kvodnon wouldn’t be able to count on his loyalty,” said Ares with contempt.
“Faceless Kvodnon? Who’s this?” Methodius naively asked. This name — Faceless
Kvodnon — had barely sounded in the spacious hall when something changed. Glass
began to ring. The parchments fell like rain from the table. An unnatural wind touched
their faces, after lightly powdering their eyes with dust. Methodius sensed waves of
danger and death. They were so tangible that they almost became physical. Julitta faded
and shrivelled. Depressiac, swinging on a group portrait of the big shots of Gloom,
stopped meowing heartrendingly. Fear, hanging in the air, was so resilient that Methodius

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
22

blocked the perception, trying not to absorb its energy. Something suggested to him that
in this way, it would be easy to be deprived of his essence, his eidos, and in the end, even
his life.
“Damn!” Ares said, slamming a wide-open window, beyond which the construction
netting was billowing. “This happens because he uttered this name! He, Buslaev!” Julitta
croaked. She became white as chalk. Methodius had not seen her like this even when
Ligul was raging here, threatening to send the witch into Tartarus.
“Facel…” for some reason Methodius started again. Ares ran up to him and, covering
his mouth with a firm hand, began to breathe heavily through his cut nose. “Keep quiet!
No more words! I regret that I mentioned him… at all…” “Why?” Met asked, barely after
Ares removed his hand. “At some point you’ll sort it out yourself. For the present,
remember: any uttered word materializes. One cannot fail to hear his true name, even if
it’s spoken in a whisper. Provided, of course, that you have attained revelation. You’ll
hear your name everywhere, even if a vampire buried three metres deep in the tundra
whispers it. You will hear and you will perceive it as a summons or a request for help.
Especially when the one who utters it is endowed with a force, which he doesn’t know
how to control. Understand now?” Methodius moved his fingers in an ambiguous manner
that it was possible to consider as either yes or no. He wanted very much that Ares would
not cover up his mouth again with a firm hand.
“Now on to business… Tomorrow, I think, we’re all visiting William. Must understand
that it’s necessary for both him and Ligul. A sin to ignore so amiable an invitation,
especially delivered by such a quick messenger as our Tukhlomon… Methodius and
Daph, I’ll not detain you! Try and remember any business, if you have any! If not, quick
to Glumovich’s nursery to stock up on overdue information from the fields of physics,
biology, and other inexact sciences. Julitta, you stay! Must put things in order here and
sort out the parchments!” Ares turned and set off waddling to the office.
Looking at him from behind, Methodius carelessly thought that it was difficult to
believe that the best swordsman of Gloom was in front of him. Now his chief more
resembled a champion or boxer grown stout, to whom an armchair and a good mug of
beer has long been dearer than the sport of his past. He thought and was immediately
sorry, because Ares suddenly turned around, and, in the next moment, Methodius felt that
the point of a dagger was tickling his neck.
“First consideration,” Buslaev heard Ares’ voice. “It’s dangerous to look at the back of
the head of people and even more so nonhumans. What is taking place behind our back,
we often see better than that what is created before our eyes. No stress, no excess
thoughts, and all the more no fatal fastidious looks. Leave them to tragedians from a
theatre destroyed by fire. Got it, Signor Tomato? Answer only ‘yes’ or ‘no’.” “Y-yes,”
Methodius articulated, feeling how a sharp sting pricked his neck.
“Second consideration, indirect result of the first. If you want to hide something from
someone, place it in front of his nose. Got this too?” “Yes.”
“And finally, third consideration: don’t think badly of those, for whom you work. This
is not only dangerous but also uncomfortable. Even Ligul, who invented it, doesn’t
encourage duplicity. Clear?” “Clear,” said Methodius, his eyes following Ares’ wrist.
“That’s a good boy, Signor Tomato,” approved Ares. “I’ve long noticed: moronoids
understand much quicker when you threaten them with a blade or simply any heavy
object. It clears even the densest brains excellently.” “Nothing of the sort! It only

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
23

humiliates the person!” Daph, appearing next to them, objected. “One can’t humiliate a
person. His own nature humiliates him. Nothing has changed for thousands of years.
Humanity was like a tribe of monkeys, and so it has remained,” said Ares sternly.
“Man did not originate from monkeys. And indeed you know this very well. I learned
in school that guards of Gloom started this rumour in the moronoid world. Isn’t it so?”
Daphne said. Ares frowned, showing that the matter was not common knowledge here.
“Very well, I agree, it didn’t happen… I imagine that it’s monkey originating from the
best part of humanity. Gorillas — from athletes, baboons — from politicians, and
macaques — from the intellectual elite. Need proof? Easy! In the moronoid world, Signor
Tomato, there is only one law — the law of the strong. They trample down and kick the
weak (them first of all) — morally, and often even literally. Besides the right of strength,
for some reason they have not come up with other rights.”
“You forgot one additional human right. The right to pardon and to create good, in spite
of everything,” said Daphne obstinately. Methodius looked at her in amazement. He did
not suspect such internal strength in his frail guard of Light. Neither did Ares, perhaps.
Because he suddenly calmed down, stopped flying into a passion, and said conciliatorily,
“Well, well, little one! Curtail your Light propaganda, or I can think of something else!
At least, if it’s convenient, don’t continue in the same spirit. Just that sooner or later
you’ll find a fork in your neck, a half-eaten sausage with the tracks of your best friend’s
teeth will be pinned to your teeth… Philanthropy, alas, is punishable.” There was not a
hint of humour in Ares’ voice. He hid the dagger, lightly pushed Methodius away and
left. The office door shut.
Julitta approached and, after examining Methodius’ neck, whispered at the shallow cut.
“Don’t be mad at him! Now and then Ares gets that way… Frequently in the lighthouse,
he would be quiet for whole weeks, and then would suddenly begin to joke spitefully and
laugh at Light and Gloom at once. At such times, it was best to keep quiet. Then it would
let go of him and he again would be as before…” Julitta said softly.
“Why is he so? Will you explain?” Met asked. If Daph posed this request, the answer
would be a decisive no. But here Julitta hesitated. She related well to Methodius. After
looking sideways at the office, with a flick of her finger she placed a circular shield to
protect against eavesdropping. Ligul the hunchback’s face in the group portrait of the
bigwigs of Gloom stretched resentfully. Simultaneously on the adjacent landscape with a
view of a humble cemetery in the spirit of Zhukovsky, the outermost gravestones stirred
disappointedly. Even Ares from the office — and that one could hardly x-ray the magic
barrier, although it was unlikely part of his plan.
“I think it’s all because one can’t half-serve Gloom. Gloom itself punishes its servants,
taking away their dearest, with the blood wrung out of them. Take any of us. All of us are
either unhappy, without eidos, with a gaping wound in the chest that will never heal, or
puffed up narcissistic blockheads (tomorrow, Methodius, you’ll see them), or generally
natural freaks like Ligul. Staunch supporters of Gloom are actually few, although there
are, certainly…”
“Why then do the rest serve?” Methodius was astonished. “Well, my dear, you’ve got
to be kidding! It’s very simple to find oneself on the side of Gloom: only carelessly
stumble on the slope once and… you’ll be rolling down indefinitely. Although now and
then you’re rolling merrily, in style, you don’t argue with this…” The twenty-year-old
witch snorted, remembering something. Possibly, the next date, casino, or bar, which she

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
24

was going to smash soon. It was not her habit to retain the tension of a thought for long.
Julitta was as quick to calm down as to flare up.
“Although, on the other hand, I have difficulty visualizing Ares among the guards of
Light. Right, Daph? How is it with your imagination?” Julitta asked. Daph thought for a
while and tried to answer honestly, “The stone griffins would not like Ares, and this, and
that… Although among us, for example, are complete bores. Tedium and bigotry are the
main unpleasant features of Light. Or, more precisely, are our main temptations.”
“Listen, Julitta, who is this F’less? Well, do you understand whom I’m talking about?”
Methodius asked in a whisper. “Are you still being obstinate? Okay, I think it’s
worthwhile to tell you nevertheless, although Ares would disagree. After all, couldn’t you
indeed also find this out from the Book of Chameleons? If you weren’t such a lazy
person?” the witch winked at him with a hint. “Uh-huh!” Methodius agreed, surprised
that the thought of the book did not come to him earlier.
“Kvodnon — only I beg you, Met, don’t repeat it, you have some black tongue — is the
true host of Gloom. Its only sovereign. Faceless Kvodnon is the second and true face of
Two-faced Kvodnon. Got it?” Methodius began to shake his head, digesting the
information. “Faceless is the true face of Two-faced? Now I’m even more confused.”
“For some reason I thought so. It’s always necessary to explain for a long time
elementary things to a moronoid. But here genies, let’s say, understand such fine points
immediately. You say to them, ‘Listen, friend, there was Two-faced Kvodnon, and now
he’s Faceless Kvodnon. So don’t you forget it, friend, when we say simply Kvodnon, we
imply the previous Kvodnon in his administrative quality; when we say Two-faced, we
imply the collective essence of Kvodnon; when we say Faceless, we’re talking about the
present.’”
“Who-oa, come again! I also don’t understand. Didn’t our golden-wings strike down
Kvodnon? During the decisive battle? Really not so?” Daph was surprised. “We even
have an annual holiday in Eden!” Julitta looked at her with mockery. “Well, you’re our
merry fellow here! Why don’t you enjoy yourself? Play your pipe a little? Especially if
the occasion exists.” “Jokes, jokes. Nevertheless, I don’t understand: Faceless, Two-
faced, simply Kvodnon… How many of them are there?”
“The number of young child prodigies swiftly increases. It goes without saying, in
reality there’s only one Kvodnon. Darling, the golden-wings destroyed the body of
Kvodnon, thus converting Two-faced Kvodnon to Faceless. Moreover, golden-wings
knew how to do it such that Kvodnon will never be able to be personified. Not in one of
the existing bodies, not even in an agent. In any case, it’s considered so. Many of us
doubt that golden-wings knew how to destroy the immortal essence of Kvodnon. Do you
know why? Because they didn’t!”
“But I thought Ligul is now the sovereign of Gloom and they intend me for his place,”
said Methodius thoughtfully. Julitta burst out laughing. “Who, who in the place of Ligul?
You? So that he would push off to make way for you. No, Ligul is himself, and you’re
yourself.” “You’re certain?”
“Who is Ligul, if we look closely? An ordinary manager! A pimple on the body of
Gloom! An upstart, the head of the Chancellery, which takes stock of nasty deeds of
moronoids and their eide. Some eide go into our darc but a small portion. Maximum one
third. Where do you think the rest goes? At least, let’s say, that eidos of the unlucky

©Jane H. Buckingham 2009
jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
25

suicide, which Mamzelkina recently brought over? Do you think it’ll reach Ligul? Only
crumbs from the lordly table fall to his lot!”
“To whom will it go then?” “Now here again Faceless Kvodnon surfaces, his spirit, his
true shady side, about which no one knows anything… This eidos together with many
others will be dropped into a dark vessel, which stands in the centre of Tartarus, on a
three-legged support with lion feet.”
“Why?” “Oh, there are many versions. Even Ares hardly knows them all. The most
widespread: Kvodnon, who by the very fact of his existence makes up Gloom, needs this.
The vessel on lion feet is special. Not even an artefact but the first artefact. Hundreds of
eide and parchments covered in writing about the acts of mortals have already been
deposited into it daily for many centuries. And, until now, take note: the vessel has not
been filled. Moreover, to steal anything from the vessel is impossible by definition. It
recognizes only one owner, whom no one has seen for a long time already.”
“Kvo…” “Shh!” Julitta looked at Buslaev with the long-suffering patience of a mother
explaining to a year-old child that he should not poke papa’s eye with a fork. “Oh-oh-oh!
Papa will get boo-boo!” “Possibly. Whether Kvodnon exists or not, don’t let this paradox
trouble you. A moronoid always learns about the existence of Kvodnon at the very last
moment, when Mamzelkina’s scythe has already dropped. Someone, after all, composes
the lists… hmm…of harvest for our manager. And, indeed you can trust me, it’s not
Ligul. Otherwise, I would have been in them long ago.”
Methodius suddenly perceived how his hair started to throb, ache, and hurt. It was a
strange sensation, almost a warning, emerging exactly at the moment when he wanted to
pose a question to Julitta. But he did, nevertheless. Simply because he was Methodius
Buslaev. Stubborn as the log, on which Eddy Khavron sat. “Listen, if K exists… then
why did Ares either in jest or in earnest call me the sovereign of Gloom? Or does K…
intend to hand over his authority to me?”
Julitta blew on her long bangs. “Puff… Well, you, pardon me, pose some questions! I
myself don’t know how the rest goes here, but, I think the authority of Kvodnon is now
of another kind. Kvodnon is now a spirit, and the authority of a spirit is always more
ideological than real. The sovereign of Gloom in his present understanding — it’s…to
compare it to something…well, like a king. Only I immediately warn you: don’t be
flattered. Yes, a king has authority and power. He can execute or show mercy. He can
declare war or make peace. Everything, it would seem, is tiptop. But you see: a king can
be overthrown, poisoned, executed, struck down in battle, or in the end, he can die by
himself. And furthermore, the usual story is: ‘The king is dead… Long live the king!’
Isn’t there such a thing?” Methodius unwillingly nodded.
Julitta looked at him sympathetically and continued, “Here Kvodnon — the old, solid
Kvodnon, not the current, Faceless — once keeled over in battle with Light, and now
they carefully cultivate you to fit on his throne in order again with your help to try to
even the score with Light. If not you, sooner or later another Buslaev will be born.
However, no one can become Two-faced Kvodnon and the more so Faceless. He’s
unique. He existed primordially. He’s more ancient than this world.” “This Gloom of
yours is a muddled organization,” said Daphne, shaking her head. “Don’t say it, Light. A
simple horror, so muddled. On the other hand, it’s more understandable to me than that
Eden,” agreed Julitta.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
26

Behind the door, Ares gave a resounding cough and struck the table with his fist. Julitta
hurried. “Well, that’s it, party’s over! Chief’s in a bad mood! Daph, Met, take your
infernal kitty away — it had gnawed a corner off the marble table over there! — and
march to Glumovich’s school to lead the poor fellow to a heart attack! Methodius, you
will be needed tomorrow at midnight. Make a note of it!” she stated.

Chapter 3
Minister of Scrofula, King of Aspirin

In the infinite flow of humanity that crawls along the subway escalators all day and a
substantial part of the night, thousands of female faces flicker. They float past and are
lost in the expanse of the subway reeking of rubber and the twisting passages under the
streets. Their motley army includes: battalions of workaholics and regiments of harassed
housewives, squads of sympathisers and artillery battalions of stinkers, logistic units of
prisoners of the office, cavalry of hundreds of adventure seekers, divisions of wild
hysterical women, draft reinforcements of bluestockings, strategic reserves of former
wives, lawless detachments of good-natured mindless ones with canine fur on their skirts,
and finally, platoons of poor devils supplied with the newest weapon of tears.
However, one ought not think that it is possible to cover all skirts rushing about with
the above given modest classification. Some do not fall into any classification at all. A
martyr, a pivot, or pouty lips and all ears? And this is still nothing — a mild case. There
are even some, whom a guard of Gloom will not talk about, that are everything before
him, and he will only scratch his head and go away. Women are like water. They never
stay in one spot and frequently flow from one state to another. To take at least this one or
that one there… Today she is a bluestocking, tomorrow a nice frump, the day after a
harassed hostess or prisoner of the office. It seems, all the same, she gets off quickly at
the terminal. But that is a denial. A woman is always capable of surprises. Suddenly a
miracle happens — and a recent bluestocking takes off like a speeding rocket. A phoenix
flares up where there were recently the ashes of a person.
Zozo Buslaeva, mother of Methodius, belonged to the now extended category of
women-motors. Their main special feature is that they spend their entire life in fussy and
chaotic motion. For them, an hour spent in one place is equivalent to a year of strict
confinement. It was now necessary for Zozo to spend her days exactly in one place.
Recently she was sweating over the post of secretary in the firm Construction Battalion
Forever, busy with deliveries of construction equipment. The owner of the firm was
Isadora Cutletkina, General Cutletkin’s wife, through whom Khavron arranged the job
for his sister. However, Zozo saw Isadora herself only once. Moreover, their dislike for
each other was mutual. However, this had no influence on anything. Isadora was barely at
the office. The owner and director, as is well known to many, are often treated
differently.
Five days a week from ten in the morning to six in the afternoon Zozo accepted and put
her signature on papers, on which demolition hammers chiselled, asphalt spreaders
rumbled, crane clamping mechanisms clanked, paint sprayers hissed like a snake, and
Black and Decker pistol drills droned hollowly. In her time free from the drills, Zozo

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
27

answered the phone, entered into the computer requests for spare parts for cranes, or
sorrowfully watered the flowers.
Next to her behind the wall, in the large room occupied by the sales division, the
telephone shrilled non-stop. The old informer Xerox squeaked idiotically. The drywall-
covered wall, against which it leaned, shook nervously. Sputtering managers flew along
the corridor like clamorous flocks. Something like fastening chains and construction
gloves reigned over their bickering. The flock with the gloves had barely managed to
rush past and a new invasion turned up. The door was thrown open, someone looked in
and shouted, “Seen Tsitsin? Where’s that idiot?” Zozo vaguely and languidly waved her
hand in the air as if entreating: all of you stay away from me, I know nothing. The flock
of lynchers setting off in pursuit of the idiot Tsitsin had only just disappeared but a
commotion again began in the corridor. Zozo plugged up her ears in order not to hear the
managers’ sorrowful whine, but it was not possible to work on the computer with
plugged ears, and she willy-nilly tore her hands away from them.
They were again getting excited behind the door. There along the corridor they were
dragging Tsitsin, caught red-handed in the cafeteria in an attempt to purchase a bottle of
Holy Spring mineral water. “What were you thinking when you wrote ‘Country of
Recipient Egypt’ in the documentation on a snow blower?” they yelled at him. “Don’t
blame me! They screwed up the order!” a velvety tenor objected with dignity. “But
you’re not a moron! You could consider that the most severe frost in Egypt is twenty plus
degrees!” “I warned the deputy Alex Kurilko, and he said: stop! I can’t work when they
say ‘stop’ to me! I have two higher degrees! And let go of my arm immediately! You
have sweaty fingers!” the tenor defended himself. “Aha, right away! Go, go!” the voices
said and, judging by some suspicious sounds, they were urging on Tsitsin in the back.
Zozo wanted to scream and, screwing up her eyes, threatened the monitor with her fist.
She felt like a prisoner of the dull office Cyclops with the spat-upon whiskers, which she
wanted terribly to hit on the head with the cover torn from the Xerox. Stretching and
straightening her numbed back, she glanced through the window at the crows bathing
with pleasure in the air eddies by their high-rise, and smiled at some of her own obscure,
mysterious, but very pleasant thoughts. Nevertheless, even in these dreamy moments her
fingers continued as usual to run along the keyboard, concrete mixers and dumpsters
jumped in the columns assigned to them, and the stapler clicked loudly, biting into the
papers.
Zozo was despondent. She wanted a personal life or at the worst to be on leave. But for
the time being there was no chance for either personal life or leave. It was hot in the
office. The air conditioner did not get rid of the stupidity and boredom of the place. The
yogi and essayist Basevich had disappeared somewhere. He had stopped phoning and,
apparently, running in the morning. Other adequate candidates had not yet showed up.
A couple of weeks ago, on a wave of drawn-out absence of fish, Zozo put up a notice
on an Internet dating site, accompanying it with a scanned ten-year-old photograph, in
which she in a low-neck dress was tenderly embracing someone’s collie. The photograph
seemed very good to Zozo. True, with the scanning and the reduction a certain special
expression in the face adding attractiveness had vanished, and it was necessary to cut out
Methodius, who, to tell the truth, was also in the photograph, neatly using Photoshop. In
Zozo’s opinion, he decreased her chances for personal happiness. A pale, light-haired
child with an aloof look, moreover, appeared too adult for his then three years of age.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
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28

Soon, to Zozo’s happiness, letters started to arrive. She immediately eliminated some,
held others in reserve, listlessly answered a third, doubting for a number of reasons
whether it would be worthwhile to lead it to a personal meeting. And then one more letter
arrived, and Zozo understood with the nose of a bloodhound: he. Although the letter itself
was sufficiently sluggish and spineless, and even the last name was some vegetable:
Ogurtsov. Anton Ogurtsov.

***

Are you all still following Calderón, convinced that life is a dream? Untrue! Life is a
nightmare. The only comfort is that a nightmare is short-term. People fear possibly
everything. There are many thousands of fears or phobias. The fear of darkness is called
achluophobia, cold — frigophobia, solitude — isolophobia, being buried alive —
taphophobia, open space — agoraphobia, daylight — phengophobia, beard —
pogonophobia, going to bed — clinophobia, standing or walking — stasiphobia,
being robbed — harpaxophobia, work — ergasiophobia. Not in any way fewer
than phobias are manias. The most inoffensive consists of the incessant washing of
hands. Besides manias and phobias, there are some dozens of “philias” not promising
their possessor anything except troubles, frequently criminal.
According to statistics, one phobia and a couple of manias haunt the average
unremarkable moronoid. Rarely can someone brag about more. However, such unique
examples nevertheless exist. In Moscow on Stromynka Street, in the beautiful elite house
with turrets and circular windows lived a certain individual, who strove for absolutely all
existing phobias and more than half of the manias. Anton Ogurtsov was that remarkable
individual. He had wide shoulders, chubby cheeks with the insolent bloom of a piglet,
and a firm nose of good breeding. He would even be considered a handsome man, if not
for an eternal expression of hunted terror in the eyes and pursed lips.
A former medical student, who quit during second year, he knew too much. Even now,
ten years later, occupying a post of average importance in the office of an Austrian firm
producing disposable serviettes, cotton swabs, and paper towels, Ogurtsov suffered from
a multitude of his knowledge. The medical student who failed to complete training saw
dangers where others let them slip satisfactorily. What indeed, it seems, is more pleasant
than messing around in one’s nose with a finger? By no means, attention! Being
excessively absorbed, it is easy for you, darling, to join the ranks of clinical idiots. How?
Easy! Pursing his lips, eternally stiffened in expectation of misfortune, Ogurtsov would
explain to you that, by extracting snot stuck in the nose, it would be easy to bring on an
infection through the capillaries, which in turn cause a clot of brain tissues.
“And this is only the beginning!” Ogurtsov would exclaim and, rolling his languishing
eyes tormented by Graves’ disease, would disclose a terrible secret. Fish accumulates
mercury. Canned foods increase the probability of cancer. It is easy to suffer a stroke
getting up too quickly from a chair. The sharp foil of Alenka chocolate can cut a vein if
we saw it with this foil for a certain time. And our food? What is it if not a cemetery of
pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and hormonal additives!
Now if only all the horrors of the world were limited to this! How easy, how nice it
would be to live then! Alas, a hundred times more things were known to the unhappy
Ogurtsov. Take transport. Aircrafts fall into oceans. Trolley buses burn like matches. If a

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
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29

trolley bus did not burn today, that means it burned yesterday. Buses only pretend that
they have routes and stops. In reality, they patiently search for closed-down railroad
barriers in order to demolish them and then go lifeless. And the subway? The air in it is
full of the worst infections. An escalator, breaking down, seizes with its gears a poor
fellow off his guard and drags him into its clanking womb. And the maniac-machinists,
rushing into the tunnel with a grin at its mouth, and passengers pinched by the pneumatic
doors?
The ill-fated Anton Ogurtsov lived sadly, very sadly, in the world. He did not live but
dwelled in it. Even in the evening, falling in exhaustion onto his bachelor bed, covered in
antiseptic sheets given to him free of charge for advertising purposes, he could not drop
off with dreams of escape. Ogurtsov was lying and remembering that streptococci were
living in his pillows, the cup of tea drunk at night could cause vomiting, and a
smouldering mattress was capable of suffocating a sleeping person in five minutes. In the
middle of the night, he woke up in a cold sweat. It seemed to him that the protective vent
over the pipe was ripped out and the apartment was filled with methane. Furthermore, a
mean little falsetto regularly whispered to him that, according to statistics, ninety percent
of people die in bed. The same tireless little falsetto suggested to Anton Ogurtsov to
watch his health vigilantly.
At different times, the employee of a foreign firm suspected he had spondylarthritis,
peritonitis, pyoderma, helminthiasis, iritis, astigmatism, cancer, lymphadenitis,
polyneuritis, endocarditis, cirrhosis, tracheitis, leprosy, and gingivitis. The fact that none
of these diagnoses was confirmed did not weaken his natural hypochondria.
There was not a single prominent medical notable, to whom Ogurtsov would not show
himself. Homeopathists, virologists, dermatologists, allergists, bacteriologists,
gastroenterologists, therapists, toxicologists, and physiotherapists — all knew him in
person. To all of them, the worker of the serviette front demonstrated his athletic trunk
and vigilant eyes of a paranoid. It was impossible to disengage oneself from the
frightened Ogurtsov, burning with desire to learn the truth. He clung like a leech and
cried on the doctor’s shoulders, imploring, “Professor, please don’t deceive me! Tell me
the truth, no matter how brutal!”
In despair, doctors used the last resort — they sent the minister of antibacterial
serviettes to their colleagues, also venerable notables, against whom they had a grudge.
Doctors exchanged Ogurtsov like iron ingots, hastening with his help to play a dirty trick
on their foe. As a result, the histologist sent Anton to the cardiologist, the
ophthalmologist — to the balneologist, and the endocrinologist — to the orthopaedist. At
parting, each notable nevertheless considered it his duty to write some prescription for
Ogurtsov to remember him by. As a result, in Anton’s kitchen cupboard were set up in
rows: Papazol, Asparcam, riboxine, Nitrosorbid, norsulfazole, Erynitum, ethazole,
Senade, Sustak, theophylline, Levomycetin, cholosasum in blue bottles, cholosasum in
red bottles, Teturam, Nembutal, Nootropil, Suprastin, hydrocortisone, and the most
favourite of all medicines, the name of which Ogurtsov uttered after two passionate sighs
— amoxicillin 0.123%. So far, the powerful organism of the athlete was coping
successfully with all this trash, devoured daily in unthinkable quantities.
The duke of serviettes and master of the order of cotton swabs did not exactly have
harmful habits, in fact, not at all. He had solid lines in this column. When they smoked in
his presence, he turned green. Sometimes he drank wine, but exclusively within the

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30

framework of treatment with grapes at one teaspoon twice a day. Ogurtsov was even
tenser with girls. If it so happened that some girl approached the sinewy handsome man
with an interest, Ogurtsov would immediately turn to flight. Where others saw girls, he
saw hordes of microbes, hepatitis, and the flu.
When Ogurtsov turned thirty-five, his parents, living in Noginsk outside Moscow,
sounded the alarm and took him in a tight Nelson hold, forcing him to get married. After
being obstinate for half a year, the hypochondriac employee of the disposable serviette
firm gave in. He sighed submissively, swallowed vitamins, and began to read ads on the
Internet. Having written Zozo a very modest letter — the first letter in his life unrelated
to business, he was extremely surprised when white hands immediately caught him and
quickly mobilized him for a date.

***

Ogurtsov waited for Zozo where all Muscovites deprived of imagination meet: at the
Pushkin monument. He had a large bouquet of roses in his hands. “Are you Zoe?” he
asked in a business-like manner. “Me? Yes.” “Then this is for you. Please hold the
flowers carefully. Don’t get pricked! They’re fraught with sporotrichosis,” warned
Ogurtsov. Zozo almost dropped the flowers. She did not know what this sporotrichosis
was, but the word sounded terrible.
In the meantime, Anton Ogurtsov straightened his Herculean shoulders and solemnly
uttered another truth, “Since we’ve already met, it’s not worthwhile to stand by the road.
Here I estimated and realized that in those ten minutes I waited for you, my lungs had
taken in around four hundred million micro-organisms. People don’t have immunity to
many of them.” Zozo patiently nodded just in case. She had long been used to being hit
exclusively by psychos. Indeed, she had such karma.
“Let’s go somewhere for a bite? I just came from work,” she proposed. This simple
proposal provoked the most unexpected reaction. The employee of a foreign firm absent-
mindedly stared at her. Zozo perceived how his intellect broke through the shroud of
hygienic thoughts, descending from the height of the stars, where spiral viruses flew and
gloomy intestinal bacteria soared, to the sinful earth filled with microbes.
“Hmm… Eh… Well, yes…” “You’re not against it?” “Of course not. Of course, it’s
possible to get a bite, only where?” Ogurtsov asked. “What’s the difference? Well, at
least over there!” Frivolously flirting with sporotrichosis reigning on the thorns, Zozo
waved the roses in the direction of McDonalds. Anton stared at her wildly and his chin
shuddered involuntarily, “Are you serious? Carcinogenic preservatives, trans fats, and
artificial carbohydrates there! How can you not be ashamed!” Zozo was humbly
ashamed, but at the same time remarked timidly that all food without exception was
harmful and what to do now — die of hunger?
The trainer of cotton swabs thought for a bit. Zozo began to languish. “I’d have dinner
all the same! I’ll pay my own shot, if that’s what embarrasses you,” she said persistently,
feeling the beast of hunger. “Is money really the matter? So, let’s go! It seems there’s this
one place…” Anton said sourly. The necessity for a heroic deed was clearly visible on his
noble face.
They went somewhere, turned, turned again, and slid under an arch. Although the sun
was raging on the street, here dampness reigned. Having squeezed through between

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
31

parked cars, they passed one more playground, and dived under one more arch. Here
Ogurtsov stopped. Above a small basement with a sparse artificial palm at the entrance
crowded the bright letters: DREAM OF YOGI.
“What’s this?” Zozo asked in horror. “A vegetarian restaurant. Someone — don’t
remember who, don’t remember when — described it as very good,” the marquis of
serviettes proudly explained. He took a serviette from his pocket, wrapped it around the
door handle, and with disgust opened it. After Zozo had entered, Ogurtsov discarded the
serviette and whisked sideways through the closing door, contented that he had slipped
away from the bacilli dwelling on the handle. “Now down the steps! Careful, might fall!”
he warned. It was possible to fall fifty times. Namely, there were so many steps.
The restaurant was in a former air-raid shelter. It was chilly in its only hall, like in a
tomb. Anton Ogurtsov looked around knowingly and sat down at the far table next to the
fire extinguisher. The restaurant was completely empty. Only by the door, a strange sleek
little fellow with a lively, exactly elastic face was hunting with a fork the only radish on
his plate. He was hunting with such zeal that Zozo even thought that perhaps he was
mocking someone. However, the sleek little fellow persistently did not look in their
direction.
After some time a pale waitress crept out to them. All things considered, it was obvious
that she was extremely surprised by today’s influx of visitors. After leafing through the
menu, Ogurtsov ordered the Dual Health salad, asparagus, and carrot juice. The waitress
again crept away somewhere. There appeared to be sluggish movement beyond the
partition to the kitchen.
Zozo was bored and frozen. Ogurtsov folded a napkin into a ship. “So, are we going to
keep quiet? Do you intend to talk about something?” Zozo nervously asked. The king of
disposable towels did not answer. After finishing the ship, he took the next napkin and
made a toad. “Hey! I’m here!” Zozo shouted. “Is it possible to find out what you’re
thinking?” Again, she did not get an answer. The duke of hygiene, without raising his
eyes from the table, kept silent and planted the toad into the ship. “That’s it! I’ve had
enough! I’m leaving!” Zozo decided. She was already almost getting up when the
waitress appeared from the kitchen with a tray. Two tall glasses of carrot juice stood on
the tray. Caught unawares, Zozo remained on the spot.
On seeing the juice, the single-use dandy came alive and began to move his fingers.
“Here are some plain glasses! I love everything elegant!” he said inopportunely. “What a
coincidence! Me too!” Zozo said, glad that her collocutor had come out of his lethargic
dream. “Imagine, recently I bought an excellent box in an antique store. Here indeed is a
feeling of style!” “Ah, what’s so special about it?” “Well, it’s all so… ancient… carved,
from mahogany… on the lid the sun and two such winged… dragons, perhaps?
Everything with great taste!” Ogurtsov had difficulty describing it precisely. The little
fellow hunting the radish froze.
“And what do you keep in the box?” Zozo asked with the tenderness of a
psychotherapist. But Ogurtsov had already become quiet. He took his fork and with
disgust began to scrutinize it in the light, checking if it was washed. “What? Medicines,
which must be stored in a dry dark place. The box is excellent for this. Above are several
small compartments, and a deep one below. Furthermore, there are several drawers. I
store vitamins there,” he said edifyingly. “And where do you store your vitamins, Zoe?”
“Eh-eh... In the fridge,” Zozo lied. She thought that if she had vitamins for real, in two

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32

days Eddy would pig out on them and have an allergic reaction. Her brother eternally
suffered from an undivided love for anything free.
Ogurtsov chewed the asparagus critically. Before swallowing, he processed each piece
with saliva no less than thirty times. One could read the thought on his face that the
digestion of food was an important and necessary labour. The muscles of his strong
cheekbones moved vigorously. Zozo looked at him with irritation. She wanted to hurl the
plate with turnip at him, then catch a taxi and go to bite someone. Having put an end to
the asparagus, Ogurtsov looked at Zozo in the manner of a bird and, making up his mind,
started to gurgle with the carrot juice.
“It’s bad to live alone. Solitude depresses me. I need a beloved soul next to me. Zozo, a
man cannot exist without a woman. Downright unreal after all,” he complained, full of
suffering. Zozo choked on the juice from surprise. Passing from an innocent conversation
on a box to family life was much too unexpected. “No, Zozo, a man cannot be without a
woman at all,” Ogurtsov continued to develop the thought. “Here, for example, if he has
problems with the heart at night, who would phone emergency? I’ll teach you mouth-to-
mouth resuscitation, Zoe! And we will give each other injections! You have a light hand,
I hope?” Zozo began to look around uneasily. She in no way expected this turn in the
conversation.
“So will you agree?” The encouraged Ogurtsov was enthusiastic. “Will I agree to
what?” Zozo did not understand. “What do you mean to what? To marry me.” “So soon?
I don’t suit you. I don’t know how to make mustard plasters. It’s better for you to look for
a nurse,” unexpectedly for her, Zozo blurted out. Accurate female intuition suggested to
her that before her was a complete and incurable psycho, whom no injection could
already save. The employee of a foreign firm extracted a feeble bird sigh from his
powerful chest. He was not offended. Rather he was distressed. His eyelashes were long
like a girl’s. “A nurse? Do you think so? I didn’t think about it. Perhaps it’s better than a
doctor-resuscitator? This, in my opinion, is more reliable, what do you think? In other
words, more extensive!” he seriously asked. “Absolutely. All the best! And good luck to
you!”
Zozo got up and began to move back. She was already imagining buying a large
chocolate bar at the kiosk. With the thought that chocolate was harmful, she started to
feel better. “Please stop! I probably should escort you?” Anton asked. “By no means! I
can manage!” Zozo refused and forever disappeared from both the Dream of Yogi
restaurant and Anton Ogurtsov’s life.
The king of towels finished drinking the carrot juice in small gulps and felt his own
pulse. The pulse was normal. As if Zozo’s departure also did not affect his blood
pressure. Ogurtsov thought with relief that all matters of amour were finished today. At
the same time, it seemed to him that the little fellow with the crushed face and pushed-out
shoulder blades winked insidiously at him from the adjacent table. Acting in the best
traditions of a public health ministry, Ogurtsov was not immediately disturbed. He paid
the bill and left, again wrapping the door handle with a serviette in order not to get
microbes — airborne ones — on his hand.

***

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
33

Ogurtsov walked home: good it was not far. He walked and fearfully pulled his head
into his shoulders. The insolent stooping little fellow with the crushed face — the same
one that had winked — in some mysterious manner seemed to him to be anywhere and
everywhere. He jumped in shop windows, passed by in trolley buses and taxis, with a
leash on his neck ran after small dogs and, swinging his legs, sat on the fence of an
avenue. One time he even managed to grin slyly from the street ad of a fashion magazine,
where, smacking his lips over the empty casing of a sausage, he sat unsteadily on the
shoulders of the very young model. Ogurtsov’s mouth went dry. He felt like a complete
paranoiac and began to consider in earnest a visit to a psychiatrist.
Having finally forced his way into the entrance of his building, he stared at the
concierge, as if suspecting to see the sly stranger. He stared and calmed down. The
concierge was the same as before. A clean little old lady was sitting in a glazed room
with geraniums, listening to the radio, and reading something. After greeting her and
having gotten a “good evening” in response, Ogurtsov was about to walk past her when
suddenly something compelled him to look around fearfully. The concierge was reading
— Oh God, no! — the Iron Men magazine for bodybuilders, with the same dreadful
insolent little fellow staring out of the cover the whole time. He was naked to his waist
and emaciated as the skeleton of a Caspian roach. After ascertaining that the minister of
cotton swabs noticed him, the little fellow began waving at him and sending air kisses.
Ogurtsov rushed into the elevator and, after poking a button with his finger, got up to
his floor in a hurry. On finding himself in the apartment, he slammed the door shut,
turned the key four times, bolted and chained it. On legs like cotton, Anton set off for the
kitchen and there, knocking a spoon against his teeth, he hurriedly drank three
tablespoons and one teaspoon of red wine. Ogurtsov was never like this. It was already
akin to a reckless attempt to pour alcohol into his liver. However, the Herculean organism
of the king of serviettes managed even this.
After hiding the bottle and spoon, Anton limply wandered into the room, intending on
lying down on the sofa and thinking over a call to the psychiatrist. After pushing open the
door, he froze on the threshold and… started to croak in horror. On that very sofa he was
aiming for, a pillow behind the back, the insolent person with the lively, somewhat
flexible face was lounging. In his hand was a large pistol, which the shady character,
tongue hanging out from enthusiasm, aimed directly at Ogurtsov’s heart. “Hands up!
Everyone stand, lie, sit! No one leaves, walk together! Bang boom, everyone is dead!” he
said in a vile voice. Ogurtsov’s knees buckled from fear. His pulse went off the scale.
Meanwhile the little fellow jumped from the sofa and ran around the room, shattering
everything around. Glass clinked, a chair toppled over, pills gushed out from the
overturned night table. Yanked out pages of the medical encyclopaedia fluttered,
demonstrating terrible colour pictures of trophic ulcers. “Where’s the box? Confess
voluntarily and we’ll let you go in half the sentence!” the little fellow shouted
threateningly, brandishing the pistol.
Ogurtsov did not answer; however, his doe eyes slid by themselves to the cabinet. The
strange character ran over and jerked open the door. A collection of cups rained down.
The last to fall out of the cabinet was the ill-fated box. The insolent little fellow stretched
out his hand, but immediately, having said “oh,” jerked it back, after barely touching the
lid. One of his fingers flared up and burned almost to the joint. The agent began in panic
to shake his hand, groaned, and started to mould his finger anew, lengthening the

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34

remaining part. “I hate these artefacts from Light, even if I weren’t Tukhlomon! Even
almost no power is left in it, nevertheless still can’t sneak up on it… What to do? Ah, I
know!” he muttered to himself. Waving the pistol, he beckoned a trembling Ogurtsov to
himself. “Hey, you, boy, well, get over here! Take your box! Open it! Wider! Let’s have
a look! Away with the medicines, they’ll no longer be of use to you.”
Pale from horror, Ogurtsov started to whimper, shaking out the pills onto the carpet.
Tukhlomon fixed his eyes upon the bottom of the box. “Ah, here it is! Press with a finger
on the bottom next to the right edge! Hold, don’t release! What, didn’t know, perhaps?
Now with the other hand a quick turn of the sun on the lid! Turn more bravely! It’ll not
bite you! Ready? And now release the bottom! Don’t hold it, I say! What, it moved? Take
it out! I dare say, you indeed didn’t even know that it has a secret bottom here!”
Not taking his eyes off the little fellow and his terrible pistol, Ogurtsov took out the
bottom of the box. Tukhlomon greedily glanced in; however, he only saw a pitiful
handful of sawdust. The agent’s face shrunk in disappointment. It was crushed like a
rotten apple, on which a sole had stepped. He clearly hoped to behold something more
remarkable there.
However, the agent quickly pulled himself together. “It turned out to be a mistake…
Your box is an empty shell. The bees have to fly further for honey!” Tukhlomon said
sweetly. He approached the window and, fidgeting the flexible nose, thievishly looked
out. He was probably checking whether there were any dangerous golden sparks nearby.
At this moment, he was very similar to a thievish rat. He discovered no guards of Light.
Tukhlomon grinned. “Remember, if golden-wings come flying to you after me, you will
give my regards. Uncle Tukhlomon, you tell them, ordered you. Remember? Won’t fall
into decay?” he anxiously asked Ogurtsov. After this, he waved to Anton and set off for
the door.
The king of serviettes was about to feel relief, understanding that his life had been
preserved, when suddenly Tukhlomon stopped halfway and slapped himself on the
forehead. The sound was like a hand slapping on flabby dough. “Ah, yes! A tiny little
thing! I broke down the little box but forgot something else… Get over here, friend!
Lively!” The agent suddenly appeared next to Ogurtsov. His plasticine mouth moved
apart. The duke of cotton swaps saw the decayed teeth and the tongue covered with green
mould, through which a worm was leisurely crawling. There was nothing more loathsome
in the world than this mouth. Ogurtsov was instantly covered with squeamish sweat.
Trying not to breathe, he pressed his back against the wall.
“Give me your eidos!” Tukhlomon pronounced in a terrible voice. “No-o!” shaking,
Ogurtsov mumbled. What eidos was and why it was demanded, he did not know but for
some reason felt that it was something extremely necessary to him. “WHAT?” the agent
roared frightfully. “You won’t? Give it, trash, or I’ll kiss you! But together with the kiss
are transferred influenza, meningitis, tuberculosis, and heart diseases!” “No-o-o…”
Anton groaned, but already with new intonation. An instantaneous, goodness knows from
where, gust of wind seized the ripped-out pages of the medical encyclopaedia and flung
them in his face. “Yes, my dear. A medical fact. With the kiss are even transferred
chickenpox, smallpox, angina, and diphtheria. And no need to check, I know my
medicine! I myself made them up on Ligul’s order!” Tukhlomon inflexibly stated.
The agent suddenly grew terrible. He turned blue like a drowned man. Now he
occupied a good third of the room. “GIVE ME YOUR EIDOS, YOU NOBODY! Or

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35

death! Repeat! ‘I transfer my eidos to Tukhlomon and reject all rights to it.’ WELL!” The
terrible green mouth moved to Ogurtsov. A smell of damp earth and rot issued from the
mouth. The nightmarish tongue covered with holes again thrust out. But even this seemed
not enough to the agent. He raised the pistol and pointed it at Ogurtsov’s forehead.
“Eidos or life! Choose! Death of body or death of spirit! Speak, or I’ll shoot!” The
terrible voice roared like a snake picking its way into Anton’s heart.
“Death of spirit… I reject all rights to eid…” hardly moving his lips, Anton announced.
“Eidos!” Tukhlomon helpfully prompted. “I reject all rights to eidos and transfer it to...”
“I’m Tukhlomon. I have neither mommy nor daddy! Repeat, don’t tease the little
orphan!” “To Tukhlomon!” Ogurtsov repeated dejectedly. The agent smiled pleasantly
and in approval slapped the duke of hygienic sheets on the cheek. “Has to be a bit louder,
so it’ll come off! Well done, did everything for papa! And for that I love you, because
you’re papa! Because you, sour puss, obliged Tukhlomon!” he said affectionately and in
rhyme, mangling the known children’s verse.
Tukhlomon slammed shut his terrible mouth. The stench instantly disappeared. There
were bags under Tukhlomon’s eyes and his face sagged and became flabby, exactly like a
tomato touched by mould. The shoulders drooped, the chest fell. And even the agent
himself suddenly appeared as a pitiful and negligible creature. With sudden and shameful
enlightenment Ogurtsov suddenly understood that the one he so feared, the one he was
squeamish about, turned out to be simply trash — the most ordinary and harmless
plasticine. Both the worm and the terrible pistol seemed to be plasticine also. The muzzle
of the pistol drooped and crumpled. Tukhlomon, after looking sideways at the pistol,
carelessly rolled it up into a lump and stuck it to his leg. The lump stretched, spread, and
grew into place as if poured. “Very useful little thing! Ah-ah, you wouldn’t know how
much trash I’ve already modelled from it: bombs, engagement rings, small trunks with
money, deputy’s ID cards…” he shared the secret.
Ogurtsov, feeling ashamed, realized that he had become the victim of an immense
bluff. But it was already too late to change anything. The agent, shuffling in a senile way,
approached Anton and, putting an arm all the way up to the shoulder into Anton’s chest,
extracted something. It was not painful, perhaps slightly disgusting. Ogurtsov also did not
understand what was taken away from him, but experienced a terrible void.
“Well, that’s it here! As you see, it’s not painful at all. One, two, and it’s ready! He
didn’t even have time to gasp, as Tukhlomony ate the eidos!” the agent stated in a
friendly manner, greedily examining what was lying on his palm… “How miserable the
clients are now! You scare one with a herring, kiss another, slip a syringe to the third in
an hour of need — and that’s it, pack the goods… Eh, darling, you made a fool of
yourself! Perhaps I could really do that to you? Not on your life! It’s said: hair won’t fall
near the head! Just shout, stamp your feet, be a worm!”
Ogurtsov took a step forward and, grabbing the agent by the shoulder, mumbled some
broken and indistinct words. It seemed he was asking, almost praying for the return of
something to him, but he knew already that this “something” was lost to him forever, and
together with it everything good, what was and what could be, was also gone. Hope was
lost.
“Well, be good, dear, don’t get sick! Now you have to be even more on your guard
against diseases, because your immortality is all lost! Hee-hee, very funny even! All you
have to do — hee-hee! — is to kick me with one-third strength or drop the box on me!

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
36

I’d immediately be gone! I have no power, I’m plasticine, puny! Now farewell, poor
devil! Take your vitamins, my dear, and don’t sneeze!” Tukhlomon said with false
sympathy, resolutely freeing himself from Ogurtsov’s fingers. Having carelessly waved
to the sultan of disposable towels, the agent coolly took a step into the wall and melted
away. Ogurtsov stood for a little in the empty room, and then, sobbing, squatted down
and sadly began to gather the pills off the carpet. In his chest gaped an invisible black
hole.

Chapter 4
How many sixes in the ace?

After moving her fingers apart, Julitta with tender emotion examined her hands. “Ah,
how beautiful they are! And indeed my feet are not any worse! But no one appreciates
them except the idiot genies! Everyone sees only a heavy elephant!” “Can never say
‘heavy elephant’. It’s meaningless. ‘Heavy elephant’ is like ‘enormous moose’. It goes
without saying that a moose is enormous. Simply enough to say ‘elephant’ or ‘moose’,”
Daphne remarked.
Julitta placed her arms akimbo. The lights in reception shook alarmingly. The hanged
men in the pictures started to squint. The antique statue in horror turned away and
covered its face with its hands. “Turn off the sound, Light! I can even call myself a hippo.
But if anyone squawks again about moose, let him consider: the cemetery is full of free
holes!” the witch said threateningly. “No one called you anything! The discussion dealt
with entirely different things!” Daph obstinately objected. “Yea, yea! The conversation
about elephant, moose, and other planktonic insects, of course, started purely
accidentally! Watch it, Light, I’ll chop off your wings!”
Seeing that Daph was offended, Depressiac arched its back and started to hiss. The
witch nodded with satisfaction. “Well, that’s it! I warned you! Now someone will be
deprived of a tail! I see right through you! You’re a blonde only in appearance, but in
your soul you’re a mean brunette!” she said darkly. “Just you dare touch my cat!” Daph
was angry. In the next second Julitta materialized a small sword, and Daph — the flute.
Depressiac, not having anything that could be materialized, extended its claws. The world
briskly rolled to a war.
“Perhaps let us declare a truce? Well, at least for half an hour?” Methodius asked,
yawning. He had already gotten used to the fact that at least on the whole Daph and
Julitta got along well, nevertheless about three times a day they would start a showdown.
Julitta thought for a bit. To arrange a slaughter in reception was not in her plans.
Moreover, she already had time to cool down. “What about you? Do you have anything
against a truce?” she asked Daph suspiciously. “Consider: in half an hour I’ll make
mincemeat out of you!” “Uh-huh. I’ll mark the time,” nodded Daph, putting away the
flute. Julitta carelessly threw away the sword, smiled, and moved over to hug Daph.
Soon, having finally calmed down completely and swallowed some candies, the witch
was already reading out from memory to Daphne and Methodius a brief history of Gloom
and the Chancellery in Tartarus.
For the most part, as Methodius understood, the history of Gloom was divided into two
periods. The first — before the loss of the sovereign of Gloom, and the second — after.

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37

Faceless Kvodnon either actively did not interfere in the history or preferred to operate
the marionettes invisibly. After the loss of Kvodnon the forward hunchback Ligul soon
moved into the spotlight. Approximately in the same epoch William the Conqueror, then
a simple guard of the Norman division, without consultation with Ligul took England
after knocking off Harold. It is incomprehensible how William managed to beat the rap.
He remained to carouse in England whereas Harold was recalled into Tartarus forever.
Several centuries later they placed Bonaparte over Normandy and France. Julitta, as she
stated, was never especially interested in the details of behind-the-scene manoeuvring and
therefore had simply forgotten all the others.
For example, she forgot about Hastrubal, a guard of the second rank managing the
Carthaginian sector, whose son Hannibal, by an Earth woman, at first accomplished
successful aggressive marches through the entire Italy and Sicily, and then with a bad
joke angered Kvodnon, who wiped Carthage from the face of the earth, first
overthrowing Hannibal, and after him in the heat of the moment also Hastrubal.
There existed, furthermore, the dark history of the half-magician, half-guard Odysseus.
Odysseus’ path in life was full of ups and downs. Kvodnon either promoted him to a
guard of the first rank, demoted him almost to the fourteenth rank, sent him into exile, or
generously showered him with eide. As a result, poor Odysseus, on waking up, did not
know what fate awaited him for the day: a reward or a sequential box on the ear. With
grief, he took Troy, after making the horse move subsequently becoming famous with
chess players. Then, after many years of wandering, he settled down at his place in
Ithaca, in the interim beating up agents, who had been allowed to get out of hand during
his absence. Later this method of disciplining agents received wide acceptance and was
even included in the plan for training guards of Gloom.
The ancient history of the moronoid world, in which Gloom willingly interfered, was
even more entangled. The Ancient Greek division of Gloom at first was split into many
subdivisions: Athens, Thebes, Sparta, Smyrna, Pylos, Argos, Delphi, etc. Each division
wallowed in its own vice: in Sparta they fought and severed darc, in Athens they
philosophized, in Delphi three words could not be linked together without fogging the
truth. Division heads quarrelled among themselves, packed wars of local importance with
tonnes of agents, in a fit of temper rose in rebellion against Kvodnon, and at full strength
set off for Tartarus to fan lava. They gave Greece first to the Persian division of Gloom,
and then the Roman.
In connection to this Kvodnon uttered one of his crown phrases. “Guards of Gloom
must suggest vices to people and not give themselves up to them.” The bores and toadies,
as Julitta said, more of them in Tartarus than in the upper world, immediately forced
sinners to carve this saying on cliffs in eighty-metre high letters and smooth them with
tongues of incandescent mercury. This seemed not enough to others, and in Tartarus an
ascetic party was formed in haste. The guards belonging to this party stopped giving in to
any vice, be it even a comparatively innocent exhalation of sulphuric smoke. Following
the lecture of Kvodnon, these guards, dressed in white garments and with wings whitened
in lime, suggested to people the most loathsome vices. But, alas, it was unsuccessful.
Seeing that the vices were not corroborated by personal examples, people started to cool
towards them or carried them out listlessly, without any taste for them. Kvodnon, filled
with alarm upon seeing that the inflow of eide was decreasing, in a directive order sent
the entire ascetic party to sweat their guts out in fiery Gehenna. They again revived the

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38

fashion for vices, and the huge letters on the cliffs, instructing one not to give up to them,
were hacked away by the efforts of all those sinners. So in Europe, following Gloom, the
transition from the grim Middle Ages to the impetuous Renaissance came to be.
Daph listened with half an ear to Julitta. She was busy with Depressiac and,
continuously playing on the flute, accelerated the healing of its wounds. Here, in the
screened residence of Gloom, it was possible to play the flute without fear that they
would locate her. Last night her beloved cat grappled with an entire pack of stray dogs.
The scuffle started because of such a commonplace trifle as a dead crow. As a result the
crow still remained intact and the pack of dogs thoroughly thinned, whereas Depressiac
had a torn ear and a deeply bitten through shoulder. But this was still bearable. If it were
an ordinary cat instead of the infernal cat, it would for sure have joined the crow in its
journey to the other world.
Ares came out of his office around midnight. Methodius hardly recognized him. He was
in an austere black tailcoat, strikingly different from his usual red spacious caftans. “I
hate formal receptions! With great pleasure I would set off there with a sword and chop
everything up like cabbage,” he muttered and, suffering from sulphuric breath, stared at
Methodius. “And why is this pale individual in stretched jeans? Bear in mind that you’ll
also need a tailcoat… Julitta, take care of it! Another question for the curious: Met, how
are you with teleportation? As always or slightly better?” “Eh-eh… Well I…” Methodius
began. “Clearly,” nodded Ares. “No need to continue further. Well, aren’t you ashamed,
Signor Tomato? The magic in you is no less than in a third of Tartarus, but even a normal
wall is an insurmountable obstacle for you. To say nothing of such a comparatively
simple trick as teleportation. Such is even in the power of modest Tibidox magicians.”
“Does this mean I’m going nowhere?” Methodius asked in disappointment. Ares’ eyes
sparkled mockingly. “Why so quick about going nowhere? Certainly, you’ll not reach
England on foot. However, to fly on a broom or a flying carpet is not our style. There is,
however, a way…” Ares turned and hailed quietly, “Mamai!” From the wall walked out
an unknown limping agent — small, slant-eyed, terrible, with a flat Mongolian face. He
took a step and stared at Methodius with a wild look. It made Daph standing beside him
uncomfortable. “Get acquainted, Methodius! This is Mamai! Once the khan of the
Golden Horde. Killed on the Kulikovo Field. Subsequently they sent him from Tartarus
for being unsocial, which, between us, is almost impossible. Now and then, when a
chauffeur is needed, Mamai renders me this service. Mamai, is the car ready?” The khan
nodded sullenly and, on turning, made his way to the door. He treated Ares as if without
any respect, merely observing decorum. He simply despised the rest.
They went out. Beside house № 13 stood a low terrible car without glass, cut all over
by splinters, covered with spots of rust, with a third of the roof crushed, and burnt tires.
Methodius and Daph stared at Ares in amazement. The baron of Gloom smirked. “Ah, I
know! Personal automobile of Field Marshal Paulus. Destroyed by mortar fire near
Stalingrad. The Marshal himself, however, turned out not to be in it at that moment.
Mamai, you did finally remove the remains of the chauffeur? Signor Tomato is
squeamish.” Mamai spat through his teeth and, after lingering, nodded. “I did!” he
growled.
“Are we going in this piece of junk? To England?” Methodius asked in distrust. He
would never assume that such a coach was capable of moving at all. “Trust me, with
Mamai this car will go anywhere you want. To England, to the Moon,” Ares said

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39

seriously. “And now let’s be on our way! Julitta, you haven’t forgotten the tailcoat for
Signor Tomato? He has to change on the way! Mamai, time for us to go!”
The khan with effort opened the rusty door. The car smelled of swamp and rotted seat
leather. Ares sat down first in the car. After him, lingering a little was Methodius, and
Julitta was the last. Daph and Depressiac remained outside. The cat hissed. If it had fur, it
would be standing on end. Likely, the cat sensed the heat of Tartarus emanating from the
car. Methodius glanced at Daph in search of encouragement. She waved to him and
immediately turned away, remembering that she was angry with Buslaev. Mamai lowered
himself heavily onto the driver’s seat, seized the thin melted steering wheel, sneering
obviously, touched the torn off hand brakes, not even taking the trouble to start the motor,
and… the heavy car rushed forward with the speed of a comet.
Traffic lights flashed. Methodius was sitting in the back. Julitta was pressing on him on
one side and on the other — Ares’ shoulder like a rock. In front loomed the clean-shaven
back of Mamai’s head. The khan, who earlier probably operated exclusively vivacious
Kalmyk coach-and-threes, drove like he was out of his mind, not remembering the
brakes. They flashed passed a lieutenant of Traffic Control in a new uniform with
luminous strips, who swallowed his whistle in horror and had his striped baton hanging
down. Behind them at the crossing a Lada and a Volvo collided with a metallic bang, and
on the side, after losing electrical whiskers, a trolley bus helplessly stood still. And again
the swift flight of the rusty coach… Methodius was numb in the seat, trying not to look
along the sides. One more turn, which the furious khan made almost with the curved
blade unsheathed. Unexpectedly the car jerked and something knocked on the bottom. “A
brick?” Julitta asked. “No! A dog!” Mamai said through clenched teeth.
They rolled up to Glinishchevsky Alley deserted at this hour, roared along it, clutched
at parked cars, completely took off the rusty door on the driver’s side — Mamai only
growled in furious excitement — and went straight for the far wall of a house. Methodius
tensed up and pulled his head into his shoulders — the swiftly advancing brick wall had
given birth to the worst thoughts in him. “Aaaaa!” The moment the automobile,
according to the laws of physics, should have been flattened against the wall, Methodius
closed his eyes.
After several wearisome seconds, seeing that nothing had happened, when he again
opened them, they were already rushing along the straight-as-an-arrow highway
somewhere in the suburbs of London. Mamai, grinning, turned around to him. Deep
satisfaction was written on the agent’s face. Methodius understood that this presentation
had been arranged exclusively for him with the taciturn agreement of Ares and Julitta. As
compensation, he wanted to pull out the scarce beard of the former khan and would not
have failed to do so, if Mamai at this moment had not knocked down the fine-looking
gates and darted along the sandy sedate path of an English garden.
Agents in identical dark-blue suits waved their hands, blocking its path, but in the last
moment jumped to the sides like bowling pins, shouting from behind something about
crazy Russians. Mamai grinned, grinned evilly, with the corner of his mouth. His strong
angular shoulders stood on end, leaning over the steering wheel. It seems the passion for
blood was raging in him all the time, the wild steppe cavalry rushing like shreds of fog
before his eyes. Hey, it was crowded for him in both the sublunary world and the other
world, even if he did not get along in Tartarus! One dream alone remained in the old
khan: to gallop with the wild cavalry through the entire universe, forcing the galaxies to

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40

tremble, ravaging worlds, scattering constellations to dust and ashes, cutting heavenly
bodies with curved sabres, so that the suns would grow dim, covered up by clouds of
arrows! Hey, it’s crowded, brothers, it’s crowded in the sublunary world!
At the end of the lane, Mamai crashed into a marble statue and only stopped here
because there was already simply no place to go. The khan grunted and, with his whole
face lit up by this fierce dreaminess, turned to Ares. Unquenched fire still raged in his
eyes. “We’ve arrived? Today we were dragging along somewhat!” Ares growled with
displeasure, getting out of the car. “The child is with us! Must take care of the child!
Perhaps you’d go fast with a child?” Mamai said with resentment, nodding at Methodius.
Methodius hiccupped from surprise and left the automobile in a hurry.
A rather short guard, robed in a black tailcoat and escorted by a retinue, was already
hurrying towards them. This guard was elegant, adroit, pomaded — with an elegant
beard, moustaches turning up dashingly at the end, and rings gleaming on the fingers. He
only needed the sword and the long cloak dragging along the ground in order for him to
step straight out of his ceremonial portrait, but what is such a sword and what is such a
cloak? It was clear then that William the Conqueror himself was before them.
“Ares, my brother! What barbarous ways! Your savage driver broke Michelangelo’s
statue! Was it really not possible to leave the car at the gate?” William said reproachfully,
with obvious annoyance, nodding to the marble head rolling along the lane. Interrupting
the agitated exclamations, Ares gave William a bear hug, slapped him soundly on the
back, and kissed his turned up moustaches three times. Poor William began to tremble
like a pinned butterfly in his embrace. His guards and agents began to fidget
uncomfortably, wanting and simultaneously not making up their minds to interfere.
“Look at him, Julitta! Look, what a scamp! Skin and bones, slender, but climbed out
among the chiefs! Huh, crook! We’re sorta the best, eh?” Ares said mockingly, turning to
Julitta. She nodded. “But the statue, my statue!” the squeezed William moaned. “Enough
of your stinginess, what a cheapskate you are! Well, they broke it, so it’s broken! It’s not
meant to stand for centuries!” Ares was surprised. William subtly squeaked into the ring
formed by his powerful hands. “As for the car, so we’ll move it! Mamai! Parking!” Ares
bellowed.
In fright, William pressed his hand against his chest. “I beg you, don’t. It’s better where
it is!” he muttered, but Mamai had already jerked with a backward motion along the
chopped up lawn. The grass torn out by the wheels flew in different directions. Chinese
vases and Greek amphorae scattered with dull thuds. Soon a terrible crash and the
grinding of metal indicated that Mamai had probably had parked successfully. William
only moaned and, turning around, went to the house, inviting Ares and Methodius after
him.
They had barely found themselves in the hall when obliging footmen — all in tailcoats
with the monogram W on the sleeves and mother-of-pearl buttons — immediately hurried
to them. Their mobile faces were helpfulness itself. Lined up in three rows with six
agents each, the footmen held trays with refreshing beverages or stone cups with lava
from Tartarus for those desiring something warmer. “Look at that! Trying to dazzle, eh
Will?” Ares mockingly asked. William apologized and went away: other guests had
arrived.
Methodius tried not to get lost in the crowd, keeping next to Ares. He felt many eyes
directed toward him. Occasionally glances pierced at him from nowhere: a part of the

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41

guards remained invisible. In the turbulence of the surrounding space, Methodius sensed
hundreds of different emotions related directly to him. Here were sympathy, hope,
distrust, and some dark, unkind expectation.
Ares, confidently moving forward in the crowd, nodded to this one, dryly greeted that
one, and a few, for example, like the Chinese guard Chan, he embraced for a long time,
kissing them soundly. The small Chan, slightly laughing, stretched out his neck. Not less
warm greetings honoured the enormous New Zealand minor deity with greyish black
skin, nicknamed Son of Big Crocodile, with whom Ares, as Julitta said, had old ties.
They supposedly fought side by side in the last war with the golden-wings. “Ligul hasn’t
arrived yet?” Ares asked Son of Big Crocodile. “Not yet,” he answered. Methodius
noticed that Ares frowned slightly: the most honourable guest bagged the right to be the
last to arrive.
They continued to work their way through the motley crowd of the invited. Suddenly
from somewhere above an orchestra began to thunder, and young guards, quickly
orienting themselves and picking up young witches that had turned up, started to whirl in
a dance.
Julitta in a whisper explained to Methodius who was who. Some he recognized by
himself. For example, the smug Bonaparte in tight white pantaloons extended two
scented fingers to Ares for a gracious handshake. Ares extended one to him in response,
slightly bringing Bonaparte down a peg. In the corner, melancholic like Byron, with
bushy eyebrows and hanging nose sat Tamerlane — once the conqueror thundering
through the whole world but now a forgotten-by-all guard-pensioner, whom they
occasionally invited to celebrations so that he would not rust completely in idleness.
Further to the left, the thickset red-bearded Barbarossa, rolling the whites of his eyes in
a warlike manner, was strolling among witches on the wrong side of thirty. Here was also
the passionate Bolivar, South American guard. This Bolivar already drained, obviously,
not the first glass. After grabbing Julitta by the sleeve, he began to whisper something
hotly into her ear. In response Julitta coquettishly beat him with her fan and laughed so
provocatively that she was stared at.
“What did he say to you?” Methodius asked the witch, when Bolivar went away. “The
deuce knows! Some nonsense!” she answered with irritation. It seemed Julitta was
dissatisfied that Bolivar did not invite her to dance. However, a healthy Scot in a kilt
running up to her instantly corrected this negligence. He bowed to Julitta and in an instant
was already twirling her in a dance. Ares went away to Attila, the sullen warlike guard
who once messed up the Hunnic division once and for all, and began to converse quietly
with him about something. Methodius remained in solitude, feeling uncomfortable.
All around smart agents scurried about with trays. Offering drinks, they tried to catch
what the bigwigs were discussing, scribble it down in little notebooks, and throw the
ripped-out pages into the mahogany “for denunciations” box chained to one of the
columns. That’s that: tradition. Friendship, as the saying goes, is friendship, and work is
work. The bigwigs looked at this leniently, as a whole encouraging fervour. Only ardent
Bolivar in an offhand manner pressed the plasticine nose into the head of one of the
insolent agents. Other agents in a flash caught this fact in their notebooks.
“Tomorrow these records will fall onto William’s desk, and the day after — Ligul’s,”
the approaching Julitta whispered to Methodius. “And they’ll punish Bolivar?” “I doubt
it. His hot-tempered ‘disposition’ is known to all, and furthermore to lay hands on an

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42

agent is a commendable act.” “Why not teach them? If agents are not taught, they’ll die
as ignoramuses!” Ares, having left Attila, said conciliatorily in a bass voice. On noticing
that the nearest waiter-agent hurried to copy his words into a small notebook, he with a
powerful cuff dented the back of his head. The bigwigs roared with laughter, looking as
the agent, at a loss, clucking like a hen, straightened his own head.
This served as a signal. Other bigwigs also, not staying on the sideline, began to beat
the agents, working up an appetite before dinner. Son of Big Crocodile especially tried,
even small Chan did not lag behind and, using the base of his hand, turned the agents’
faces into mash. The agents, dodging the blows, wrote in their notebooks, noting who hit
whom and how often, and who said what at the same time. The agents knew their
business. Now and then bigwigs, even including Ligul the hunchback, would make a slip
of the tongue when in excess of something, and later, realizing that their words were
recorded, they would thrust their hands into their darc for eide — as payment.
Julitta again slipped away somewhere. One of the beaten agents — in a torn tailcoat
and with the left eye crushed — in a waddle insolently approached Methodius, stopped
and began to look at his mouth, waiting for Methodius to say something. The tip of the
pencil in his hand trembled from impatience. “And what does this character need from
me?” Methodius thought. Knowing from past experience that it was dangerous to talk
with agents and that they would interpret everything their own way, Methodius
nevertheless took a risk and stuck his tongue out at him. The agent treated this with
extreme seriousness. After thinking for a little bit, he began to scribble something quickly
in his notebook. Buslaev looked over his shoulders and read:
“Report № 31 874 766 756 from the creation of Gloom.
Methodius Buslaev (M.B. from now on) was standing by a column in solitude (sic!).
Upon my approach he tensed perceptibly, which, without a doubt, attests to the fact that
M.B. perhaps had prejudicial thoughts. The sarcastic grimace made by him a little later
and the tongue sticking out give grounds to assume that with this grimace M.B. perhaps
attempted to insult the high ranks of Gloom. In particular, taking into account the nature
of the grimace, it is possible to judge reliably the unscrupulous parody of the dear-to-us-
all face of Ligul, chief of the Chancellery.
With sincere and righteous indignation Oligo de Phrēn, agent of the 12th rank.”
“When did he have time to dash off so much? And what accusatory style!” Methodius
was amazed. “Read it?” grinning, Oligo de Phrēn asked, willingly showing him the
notebook. “You owe me, so I’d forget everything.” “Aha! Already running!” Blushing,
Buslaev took the pencil away from Oligo de Phrēn, broke it, and, shoving it into the
agent’s obedient mouth, forced him to chew and swallow it. The agent did this
obediently, even with readiness. After making short work of the pencil, Methodius
attempted to rip up the notebook, but it turned out to be made of special indestructible
paper, which persistently restored itself and grew back together, no matter how small the
scraps. After despairing to destroy the record, Methodius fed the notebook to the agent.
Oligo de Phrēn sullenly obeyed and, blazing with unrighteous indignation, chewed up all
his records. “I’ll not forget this! Have in mind — this is a document!” he mumbled with a
well-packed mouth. “Chew, come on, chew!” Methodius encouraged him.
The orchestra suddenly fell silent. Only some mindless trumpet — the trumpeter must
have been deafened by the sound of a proper instrument — continued to play for some
time. The dancing couples stopped perplexedly. The scribbling agents at once turned to

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43

the doors. William the Conqueror stretched on his face the courtliest of his smiles and,
standing on the right foot, lifted the left, preparing to take a step as soon as was
necessary.
Ligul the hunchback entered the hall leisurely. A mannish secretary with glasses in a
horn-rimmed frame accompanied him. Behind marched several hefty agents with firm
chins moulded from plasticine — more honourable than a real guard. William leaped out
towards Ligul. They greeted, showering one with welcome, the other with expressions of
appreciation. Then both went across the hall. The bigwigs of Gloom hurried to greet
Ligul: he bowed to some, simply smiled at others, and nodded half-seriously half-
condescendingly to some.
“Please, everyone to the table!” William shouted, giving a sign to the conductor. The
conductor, a small fellow with a big head, sewn together hastily from continuous
inspiration, lifted his arms, waved the baton — and music burst out, in a flash filling the
entire enormous space to the most distant back streets. The wide double doors leading to
the dinner hall were thrown open. A long, magnificently laid table appeared, covered by a
black tablecloth, with sparkling crystal glasses and bottles, standing still in silver vessels
with ice, waiting for their hour.
By each chair, assuming either male or female appearance according to the situation, a
succubus was standing still. Their responsibility was to make sure that the guests’ glasses
did not remain empty. A card with a name lay beside each dinner service. Methodius’
card showed up in the left third of the long table, far from the cards of Ares and Julitta.
On his left sat a fawn-coloured Austrian witch, all the veins showing under her delicate
skin. On his right solemnly sat a sullen African minor deity, on whose plate was bleeding
pieces of meat, cooked only for show. The proximity of this neighbour did not inspire
Methodius, especially as the deity, immediately sensing something, smirked disagreeably
with his triangular teeth.
Good that Methodius found the succubus conscientious and not annoying. A very
correct succubus, excellently trained, was a huge rarity among these folks. At the proper
time, he poured into Methodius’ glass something dense, cool, and thick as jelly, and put
down the food. The Austrian witch also turned out to be a tolerable neighbour. She barely
talked to Methodius and only timidly crumpled her napkin. She looked like a humble
person and was uncertain what she was doing in this dark company at all. Later
Methodius found out from Julitta that she was a well-known poisoner and thrower of
needles of evil eye. They were hidden right in the napkin.
Ligul, raising his glass, proposed a toast in honour of William, at the end saying several
salutatory words about Methodius. The toast was neutral, with formal expressions. The
toast seemed dull to Methodius; however, it produced an impression on those present.
Evidently, it was rarely possible to hear praise from Ligul. The sullen African deity half-
turned to Buslaev. On the deity’s forehead was a third eye. “To your health, man!” the
deity said, clinking glasses with him. There was nothing for Methodius to do but to raise
his glass also.
“Oh, no! That won’t do! Bottoms up for health! This isn’t alcohol, it’s the juice of the
knowledge of truth!” the toothy deity prompted, after noticing that Methodius was going
to put the glass down on the tablecloth. Methodius drank, but the thick, cold juice in the
glass nevertheless did not run out. The deity did not remove his insistent glance from

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44

him. When, feeling that he no longer could, Methodius wanted to set aside the glass, the
deity threateningly repeated, “Bottoms up with the juice of the knowledge of truth!”
When the glass was nevertheless drained and the deity had taken his blazing gaze away
from Methodius, before Buslaev’s eyes was a continuous fog. His consciousness blurred.
Methodius’ left shoulder started to fall somewhere and came to rest against the Austrian
witch. Good that the succubus, standing behind his chair, had the sense to support
Methodius by the shoulders. “Learned the truth like this! Why am I so?” Methodius
thought, mentally cursing the African deity.
Ares, sitting opposite and slightly at an angle, looked at him not without sympathy. In a
minute of temporary enlightenment, Methodius discovered that he was dreaming
everything and this was not Ares at all but some fat unknown guard. Ares had
disappeared somewhere together with Julitta. Smiling, Methodius pointed at the unknown
guard and started to guffaw. William, proposing a reciprocal toast to Ligul, looked
sideways at Methodius with cold bewilderment. “Well, now the agents will scribble!
Well, let them scribble!” Methodius thought and closed his eyes. As it seemed to him,
only for a moment.
When he again opened them, he then discovered that he was sitting at a round card
table with a green cloth, covered with records of bets in chalk, stretched over it. A silver
candlestick was burning on the table and a pack of playing cards was lying there. The
red-bearded Barbarossa was across, and on the left was an unknown guard with a pale
face in glasses mounted in gold — outwardly very fine looking but with bad asymmetric
eyes. On the right hand side — oh, no! — sat the smirking hunchback Ligul himself.
Everything was floating in front of Methodius’ eyes. He understood then the formal
dinner party had ended, all the guests had gone into the card room, and he, probably,
together with them. Some juice! But what could he do in this noble company? Methodius
decided to get up and slip away unnoticeably, but at that very moment, everyone sitting at
the table turned to him.
“Well, one more bet! We’re waiting, Mr. Buslaev!” Barbarossa impatiently repeated.
Methodius muttered something indistinct. That he had made a mistake and was already
leaving. “Indeed, no! I recall that the rules of the game were specified at the very
beginning. Young man, when you sat down at the table, you were advised of them.
Moreover, you confirmed your agreement. Not possible to renounce the game,” said
Ligul sternly. The hunchback spoke dryly and officially, looking through Methodius as if
they were not acquainted. Buslaev began fleetingly to look out for Ares in the crowd of
guests crowding around the table, but that one seemingly had fallen through the ground.
“Where is he? Where?” Met thought with uneasiness.
“We’ve been waiting too long! We’re listening to you, Mr. Buslaev! Your bet?”
Barbarossa repeated with even greater impatience. “But what do I bet? Money?”
Methodius helplessly asked, thinking that he did not even have small change with him.
Barbarossa pulled at his red beard. “Dummkopf! Who here needs money?” he growled
angrily. “Why did you sit down at the table and grab the cards, not knowing either game
or bets? Here’s my bet — a sword. In its handle are several priceless Indian rubies. Alaric
used exactly it to turn the tide in his favour, obtaining indemnity from Rome… Ligul’s
bet — a gold statuette from the Incas’ ransom for Atahualpa. Cain placed the Kimberley-
Clark diamond, one of the ten largest in the world.” “That means this pale person here

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45

is… Cain!” Methodius thought, on looking with apprehension at the pale guard — the
first killer on Earth.
“These are our bets. Now we would like to know yours…” Ligul began to roar.
Methodius muttered that he did not have anything, but here the mannish secretary,
leaning over, whispered something in Ligul’s ear. The hunchback lifted his left eyebrow.
“Attention! It has become known to me by chance that this young person — don’t be
horrified, gentlemen! — has no lien on his eidos. Moreover, his eidos still belongs to him
and not to Gloom!” The crowd of guards surrounding the table began to drone like a
beehive. “It was very strange on the part of our respected associate Ares to bring with
him a person though well-known but with this indeterminate status. It’s possible to see
mockery in this over the unwritten affiliations of our community. And in this
relationship…” continued Ligul.
“Why the chatting here? Just take it!” Barbarossa impatiently growled. The chief of the
Chancellery of Gloom disapprovingly looked sideways at him and reproachfully
threatened him with a finger: I say, wait, everything has its own time. “My dear! I only
tried to say that since there are no other bets, according to existing rules, the eidos of this
youth can also become a bet, it goes without saying, if none of the players object.
Personally I don’t.” “I don’t!” Barbarossa said in a bass voice. “You, Cain?” Cain slowly
nodded, without removing his gaze, unblinking like that of a lizard, from Methodius. “So,
the bet is accepted. The game is the simplest. Known even to babies in our time:
blackjack. All bets are placed,” said Ligul. His small hand, bespattered with ink, stretched
to the pack.
“No! I refuse to play for my eidos!” recalling the warning of Daph, Methodius shouted.
The first-on-Earth killer unglued his lips, “Your agreement is not compulsory. Sitting
down at the table and not having other bets, you automatically gave it. If you forego the
game — we will take away your eidos and all,” he said in a quiet, colourless voice.
Methodius understood that they had tripped him up. Ares! But where is Ares? In the
crush of the fuzzy bright spots — the faces surrounding the table, as it seemed to him,
flickered the cheerless face of Julitta, but they pushed her aside, and she could not force
her way through.
Ligul dealt everyone two cards. Methodius even had his doubts whether the hunchback
was a cardsharper — his hands were moving too quickly. Once Julitta said that, knowing
the various bad habits in themselves, the guards played with special cards, not allowing
them to x-ray with eyes, trick shuffle, or other manipulations. “If in all of Gloom there is
even something relatively honest, then it’s the cards,” she said. “Well? Take them!”
Barbarossa grunted. Methodius carefully glanced at his cards. The pictures on them were
alive. In his hand the king of diamonds, wrapped in a mantle, gloomily looked at the
adjacent nine. Likely, it irritated him that he, a king, was worth four points in this game,
but the pitiful nine was worth nine.
“Again?” Ligul asked. “Hit me!” Barbarossa grunted. After taking the third card and
having looked at it, the German angrily flung the cards onto the table and thrust both
hands into the red beard. Judging by everything, he had surplus. However, is it possible
to trust a black guard? This could all be an act. Nothing, as Methodius noticed, could be
read in his aura. In spite of external agitation, it remained the same tight and violet. This
meant that in reality, in spite of all signs of agitation, Barbarossa was as calm as a boa
constrictor.

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46

“And you?” Ligul turned to Cain. That one took a card and impassively shook his head
— enough. “You, Methodius?” Methodius again glanced at his cards. He had repeatedly
played blackjack with Eddy. “Thirteen is small. For sure someone will have more…
Lord, what am I to do!” Methodius thought. The flame of the candle trembled. Cain
moved away as if from a strike and unpleasantly screwed up his eyes.
“Hit me!” Methodius said. The hunchback deftly dealt him a card. It was a six of
spades. A nine, a king, a six. Altogether, nineteen. It would seem, not bad. With Eddy he
would already have stopped and not tempt fate further. The guards searchingly looked at
him. The eidos, as a bet, was beating in his chest like a bird locked in a cage.
“Again!” Methodius said before he had time to think. Ligul with the greatest readiness
immediately dealt him another card from across the table. The card quickly crawled along
the cloth, as if stuck on the back of a cockroach. Not turning over the card, Methodius
covered it with his hand. Too much. He knew this. He knew exactly, even without
looking. It was already clear to him that he had just then completed a reckless, disastrous
act.
“Must assume you don’t need any more? No?” Quietly, precisely knowing everything
in advance, the hunchback said and began quickly to deal to himself. To an eight and the
queen was added a six, and to it extraordinarily quickly one more queen. The head of the
Chancellery smirked. “Twenty. Show your hands!” he said. Cain, the whole time so
outwardly indifferent — only the eyes blazed — put down an ace and two kings.
Barbarossa mixed up his pile and with a little finger pushed it forward. Likely, he
actually had too much.
Now all eyes turned to Methodius. “We’re asking you, young man! Don’t detain us.
We’re all terribly busy. And pay, gentlemen, pay up!” Ligul announced in a voice, in
which triumph clearly sounded. With heart falling, feeling empty and in despair,
Methodius turned over his cards, after adding to them that last one, which he himself had
not yet seen. Knowing that he had too much, he looked not at the cards but at Ligul.
Interesting, what will this villain do with his eidos? Although what is the difference now?
The hunchback slid his penetrating eyes along the pictures. His face did not change, only
the nostrils of the hard purebred nose trembled greedily. “The end!” Methodius thought.
“That’s it now! How stupid!”
Something flashed before his eyes. It was Barbarossa getting up heavily and, having
turned crimson, sticking the short sword of Alaric into the table in front of Methodius.
Following that, Cain contemptuously, as if giving alms, dropped the diamond from his
limp hand. “You won, boy. However, the risk was big, very big,” he said in a deadly
voice.
Methodius stared at the cards without understanding. On the table before him, pinned to
the cloth by Barbarossa’s blade, lay a jack of hearts. The sword did not spare it. It was
not so much a heart already but worm-eaten. Here they are, the two missing points!
Twenty-one! He won! There was surprise on the faces of the guards crowding around the
table. And Methodius understood that this entire evening was planned precisely to take
away his eidos. Everything was thought out, roles were played, the card party was
prepared. However, he was given a chance. An improbable chance. By whom? For what?
Julitta, on whose arm was hanging one of Ligul’s agents, finally forced her way to
Methodius. The agent’s plasticine face was badly scratched. The heroic chin was
thoroughly pressed into the back of the head. Even now, after the end of the party, the

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47

agent continued to “not let go.” “Imagine that, they arranged so that during dinner they
summoned Ares straight to Tartarus. He sensed a dirty trick and ordered me not to take a
step away from you. But here these, plasticine snouts… They fell on me, surrounded me,
grabbed me by the arms! I shouted, and they covered my mouth with their rotten hands…
Indeed how many of these fingers I broke! All fillings are now jammed with plasticine!
Here, off with you!” she shouted, with a successful hit flinging the agent away from
herself.
“It was my eidos they wanted,” said Methodius. “I realized that when I saw that the
African deity had palmed off the glass on you! He also hypnotized you while you were
drinking… You, Met, have to think in general what you’re doing! Here for you is not the
boarding house of noble girls, as at Glumovich’s! Here you only have to be off your
guard a little — they’ll cut your throat and force you to sew it back together! There Ligul
changed the darn pack while dealing, Barbarossa and Cain didn’t even blink an eye,
bastards!” Julitta reproachfully said. She approached the table and demonstratively,
clearly teasing Ligul, raked up Methodius’ winnings. On noticing Alaric’s sword in her
hands, the agents surrounding her skipped off in a flash, probably recalling more
important matters. Some, on the run, contrived to scribble in the small notebooks.
Ligul carefully approached Methodius. Buslaev perceived strong uneasiness issuing
from the hunchback. The head of the Chancellery was at a loss. Even, perhaps,
frightened. He knew all the cards, which would be dealt to Methodius. There was no way
he could have been dealt the jack. This was distinctly read in the fuzzy-dirty aura of the
head of the Chancellery. Methodius was about to begin absorbing his aura mechanically,
but immediately rejected it with disgust, feeling how sticky it was.
“I hope everything will remain between us? In a narrow friendly circle? Well, we tried
and it didn’t turn out… Is it worthwhile to bother Ares with such trifles? After all, the
future sovereign of Gloom must not have his eidos in a suspended, so to speak, state.
Tartarus save me, your eidos will go to Light, and then… hmm… it’ll be a bad story…
oh, bad,” the hunchback began to click his tongue.
“Are you afraid that we’ll tell Ares and he’ll shorten someone’s darc? Someone who’s
also rather short?” Julitta winked in understanding. Ligul tossed up his head. “Don’t
overdo it, girl! I fear nothing! It’s you who should be afraid! Remember how you were
stripped of your eidos! Remember where your mother is, and think how little your body,
deprived of eternity, is worth. One puff, one slight push — and it’ll become dust,” he
hissed. Methodius noticed how Julitta turned white. Her mouth was contorted, her lips
began to tremble. She tried to say something but could not.
“And you’ll remember something else too, my sweet!” Ligul said, knee creaking
rheumatically. “Ares, however glorious he might seem to you, is a guard of Gloom. You
at least understand the value of this word combination? A guard of Gloom! The umbilical
cord, which connects him to Gloom, is unbreakable. What would Gloom be worth, if it
were possible for him to turn away from it so simply? The moment the posing ends and
he has to step up to action, a deed of Ares will be a deed of Gloom. Gloom will reach for
a sword with Ares’ hand and strike its enemies with his hand. I indeed have no doubt
about this!” The dim, stale aura of the hunchback became intolerably bright, dazzling.
Methodius involuntarily closed his eyes. No, he understood, Ligul was not bluffing this
time. There was not a word of a lie in what he said.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
48

Chapter 5
The New Mouthpiece

When Methodius, Julitta, and Ares departed on Paulus’ rumbling coach and Bolshaya
Dmitrovka again was immersed in the cobweb of a warm Moscow night, Daphne
returned to the residence of Gloom. This was the first occasion when she dared to enter
there alone. The rune at the entrance started to glimmer in investigation, as if wavering in
its decision, and nevertheless let her past. Daph experienced anxiety. For several days
already she had not materialized her wings. She did not do this partly because there was
nowhere to fly and partly because she felt that there were more dark feathers on them.
Depressiac coolly marched beside her. The flickering flames of the candles were
reflected in its convex pupils. Occasionally the cat flopped to the floor and licked its left
front paw with such diligence, as if it had not tended to it for around two weeks already.
Meanwhile it had licked the same paw only a minute ago. The rest of the paws for some
reason did not enjoy such popularity with it. At the most — it remembered them once a
month. Having finished licking, Depressiac jumped onto Julitta’s table, whisked onto the
floor a couple of forgotten parchments with denunciations and stretched itself out
between the inkpot and the large press of Gloom, used for prolonging the registrations of
succubae and agents.
“Well, I’ll be!” Daph thought. “They hide nothing from me! No secrets! Take, but I
don’t want to! Espionage under such conditions is simply uninteresting!” She approached
the table, looked at the press, stretched out her hand, and clearly perceived that she
should on no account touched it. Any material thing has its… no, not aura, people have
aura… a thing, if we look at it with true sight, has a certain outline — benevolent, neutral
or, on the contrary, secretly hostile. For example, a good bread, dry bread, and poisoned
bread have three completely different true outlines, three imprints in existence, even if
outwardly there is nothing distinguishing. However, the press of Gloom had no outline at
all. A chasm. A black hole. The tear on the rags of existence, under which there were
only death and Tartarus, was haphazardly darned with thick threads.
Daph walked away from the table and glanced into the partially opened door of Ares’
office. There she met an unexpected void, as if Ares, departing, had taken away together
with himself the true essence of everything that surrounded him. Only a draft was rolling
white flakes of dust along the floor. The parquet was rotten, fallen through. With great
difficulty again tuned in to the previous sight — here something did not let her — Daph
saw Ares’ armchair and next to it on the table the two cases with the swords. One was
Ares’, the other — Methodius’. A dense ring of darkness surrounded both swords. To
touch them meant to doom oneself to a service to Gloom. Daph’s flute emitted by itself a
thin, sorrowful sound.
Daph returned to reception. In the corner grown white were several marble antique
statues among those never found by moronoids in the ruins of Pompeii. On one of them,
the nose was broken off by a pistol shot. Julitta probably was not pleased with herself in
the mirror again today.
“Somehow everything is stupid!” Daph thought. “I was bored in the Garden of Eden.
All the time they looked at me as at an improper guard. Now I must look after Methodius,
although Troil, giving me this order, was himself clearly under the influence of an

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49

artefact of Gloom. And as long as the entire matter is in the artefact, it turns out, Gloom
ordered me to look after Methodius? Hmm… Then why did the Transparent Spheres,
which are guardians to the guards, take me under their patronage? Everything somehow
is indeed entangled, contradictory… Were I, let’s say, thirty thousand years old, I,
perhaps, would figure it out. But here all of some thirteen thousand! Poor me, unlucky
person, who has no power! And I won’t fall in love with Buslaev, let him not hope! He
would have to be at least fifteen-sixteen thousand… True, he looks grown-up
nevertheless … Darn it! I’m not thinking about that again!”
In the small room behind the flimsy door, Ares’ crow was walking along the back of
the sofa and muttering something. Daph stopped outside and, after opening the door
slightly, listened. “After death the soul wanders in the labyrinth of those sins, in whose
cobweb it got entangled during life. Gloom creates evil in the world by means of people.
Fishes do not know what water is, since they only live in the water and nothing else. Your
enemy will render you harm, hater will repay badly, but incomparably miserable evil will
bring you an erroneous thought…” the crow growled.
Daph glanced at it in the nook. The crow looked askance with a round eye at her, turned
to the other direction and, after suddenly pulling one of the few remaining feathers from a
wing grown bare, threw it at Daph. Daphne squatted down, looking at the feather and
thinking what this could mean. The feather was lacklustre, with edges torn off and…
absolutely black. Daph became terrified. At that moment, she even wanted Depressiac to
break the neck of the mocking bird. Having read her thoughts, the crow hurriedly flew
into the cage. Must be, its own wizened body still presented some value to it. “If there is
no power to start and distribute a light, then at least don’t block it,” it uttered with
reproach. Whether it was a quotation or its own words, Daph did not understand.
Unexpectedly Depressiac started to hiss and arch its back. Daphne looked around. The
cat’s eyes were looking at the wall. Daphne concentrated, her consciousness slipped
through the stone, saw what the cat saw, and, stumbling, she hurried outside. After
finding herself under the grid, she rapidly began to clamber up along the scaffolding,
rattling the iron stairs. On the fourth level of the scaffolding, Essiorh was sitting at a safe
distance from the identifying runes. In the hands of the guard-keeper were a can of beer
and a stick of smoked sausage, from which he decisively bit off with his strong teeth.
Daphne stopped in confusion.
Essiorh raised martyred eyes to her. “Don’t be surprised! My body wants to eat and
drink all the time. It still wants to fight with someone. Also almost constantly. But this
isn’t the most terrible,” he complained. “What’s the most terrible?” Daph asked. The
guard-keeper kicked the scaffolding using his heavy boots. “This is nightmarish… It talks
with women!” he pronounced with horror. “So?” “What do you mean ‘So’? Women —
there is a nightmare, they’re the ruin of any thinking essence. They’re hastily created
from Adam’s rib. This is intolerable! And they still need help all the time.” “Everyone
needs help. Me for example,” Daph said philosophically.
Essiorh waved his hands indignantly and with the sausage made a chopping motion,
such as a gladiator makes, terminating a devastated enemy with a hit into the split helmet.
“One of them addressed me today. She required urgent consultation. She feigned such
helplessness! Oh women, oh deceit!” “What consultation?” “She asked where the trolley
stop was.” “Well, you could answer,” answered Daph. She did not see a problem here.
“BUT THIS TOOK PLACE AT THE TROLLEY STOP! I immediately pointed out this

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scandalous fact to her and advised her to be more attentive hence. It’s my obligation to be
of assistance to someone close-by. And I walked further. But further the most terrible
began.”
“What? She turned out to be a guard of Gloom in disguise?” “Worse. She caught up
with me. She said that she had reconsidered waiting for the trolley and asked me to hold
her bag for her. And again I couldn’t make up my mind to refuse.” Daph smiled. “But
didn’t you know? Women cannot carry heavy bags.” “Heavy? She had quite a small bag.
Such a tiny leather bag, which even keys have to be shoved into! I carried her bag and did
not raise my eyes, but she laughed loudly and for some reason attempted to tickle me!”
“Nightmare! You ran into a fruitcake!” Daph sympathized. Essiorh nodded. “I think so
too. We walked, walked, and it was never-ending. But at the crossing I dropped the bag
on the asphalt and ran away like a despised agent golden-wings are after. But this insolent
daughter of Eve laughed loudly behind me! Oh, if I could return now directly to the
Transparent Spheres and play the flute there! But, alas, it’s impossible! I cannot leave
you without guardianship for a moment!”
Essiorh sadly gulped down beer and offered Daph the beer. “Want some?” he proposed.
“No. It seems, still early for thirteen thousand years,” refused Daphne. “Excuse me, I
forgot. I’m terribly absent-minded. But sausage is okay for thirteen thousand years?” “Let
me have the sausage!” Daphne sat down next to Essiorh on the scaffolding and dangled
her legs. It was amusing: to sit with ones guard-keeper on scaffolding and munch on
smoked sausage. The sausage was solid like a stump. Sensing that Daph was
experiencing explicit difficulty, Essiorh extracted a knife from his jacket. Daph carefully
pulled out the blade. It had a raptorial bend and a number of notches.
“A wicked knife. Here I didn’t think that a guard of Light could have one like this,”
Daph was astonished. “It’s not mine. It’s the biker’s knife,” the keeper said in
justification. “Biker?” Daph did not understand. Essiorh leaned down and showed her the
deep fresh scar on his neck. “There’re a couple more under the jacket,” he explained. “A
scar? Where did you earn it?” The keeper smiled sadly. “Where do you think the
terrestrial storage gets their bodies from?” “Well… eh-eh… I think that…” Daph started
hesitantly. The truth was too terrible to state it simply.
Essiorh pitilessly nodded. “Quite right. The biker failed to follow the bend on the out-
of-town highway… Since in life he had time to do a couple of good deeds, in particular,
saving an old man from a burning garage that was full of tanks of gas, guards of Light
collected his eidos… I installed myself in his body, which we revived and patched up.
The body, likely, didn’t even notice the substitution.” “Is that possible?” “Oh, you bet.
Bodies are very naive. Besides food, sleep, a roof overhead, and other small pleasures,
they need very little. And although that fellow has been in the circles of Light for a long
time and it’s good for him there, believe me, he left me a bundle of habits, basically
harmful.”
Essiorh finished drinking the beer and mechanically flattened the can in his hand. Daph
threw Depressiac the piece of sausage, which the cat swallowed in flight, and returned the
knife to the keeper. “Listen, but all this is really sad. I pity the biker,” she said. “Me too,”
remarked Essiorh. “But, to judge by the highest standards, death is only terrible if the
eidos falls into Gloom. The rest have the infinite path of Light in front of them. And our
motorcyclist will speed along it on the best of motorcycles, which he couldn’t even have

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51

dreamt of in this world. On a motorcycle with an engine that doesn’t overheat, oil doesn’t
gush from all the holes, disks don’t chew up rubber, and brakes don’t jam.”
The keeper pensively looked at his empty hands. His face expressed regret that the beer
was all gone. “And now the important thing. Are you ready for a serious conversation?”
he asked. Daph involuntarily looked around. Although on the scaffolding, nevertheless,
they were in the territory of the residence of Gloom, and here even walls had ears.
“We’re not… well, you understand?” she asked. Essiorh edifyingly poked with a finger
into his belt buckle in the form of a skeletal hand. “Do you see the rune in silver? This is
the rune of temporary limitation. Unfortunately, it acquires power only once in a 24-hour
period. From eleven in the evening to one in the morning, I don’t exist for any guard of
Gloom and all the more for trifles like agents. Now it’s somewhere near twelve.
Understand the hint? The zone of action of the rune is exactly three metres.”
“Clear. So what secrets do we have?” Daph asked flippantly. “You can no longer
remain in Glumovich’s high school. You must leave it immediately. Temporarily you’ll
settle with Methodius’ relatives. It’s too obvious a place. They won’t begin to search
there for you. Imagination simply won’t be enough.” “But why can’t I remain in the high
school? Sort of boycott Uncle Glumovich and his stupid high school for fools?” she was
astonished. “The problem isn’t Glumovich. It has become known to golden-wings that in
this part of the city someone regularly uses Light magic. In other words, they cut a card,
they comb house after house and can come unexpectedly into the school any minute. You
indeed used magic, admit it.” “No.” “Recall!” Essiorh insisted. “Well… m-m-m… It
seems I played the flute several times. But it’s not enough and only trifles. Yesterday and
the day before. I thought if I use only a tiny bit of magic, they wouldn’t catch me in the
act,” she said dejectedly. Daph felt like a complete idiot. Did she not indeed know that
she must not? She knew. Nevertheless she was counting on the off chance. “Do you see,
she thought! A turkey also thought that moronoids feed it only because it’s so beautiful,”
Essiorh said mockingly. “So?” “In any decent store you’ll find it in the meat department!
Moreover, take note, idealism comes completely free of charge.”
Daphne thought for a bit. “Why didn’t golden-wings seize me, if they caught the
magic?” she asked. “First of all, they received the signal very recently. Secondly, it’s
only a signal, which, together with other signals, stands in the queue for verification.
And, thirdly, fortunately for you, golden-wings are currently extremely occupied. They’re
searching for something important…” The keeper waved his hand vaguely somewhere in
the direction of the roofs.
Daph began to drum her fingers on her knee. “Listen, Essiorh! Transparent Spheres are
higher than Eden, isn’t it so?” “Of course!” “And Eden listens to the opinion of
Transparent Spheres!” “Per se.” “Excellent! Then why not you explain to golden-wings
that I’m good and there’s no need to hunt me? So simple!” Essiorh shook his head. “No
can do. Everything but this. The incident with Troil and the theft of the horn have made
too much noise already. It has become a matter of honour for the majority of golden-
wings to catch you.” “But it’s possible to tell them the truth!” “What truth? That you’re
ours, Light?” “At least,” muttered Daph, after looking sideways at Depressiac’s jagged
tail, with which it had already twice contrived to brush against her cheek. “And my cat is
no brighter,” she thought.
“And now sort it out with your brain. If Light suddenly stops hunting for you, Gloom
will immediately suspect something. It’s a mistake to think that Gloom doesn’t have its

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52

spies in Eden. Alas, they do. Daph, pardon me, but to change anything for you isn’t in our
power. You cannot return to Glumovich’s high school. You must live for a certain time
with Zozo and Khavron.”
Daph sighed. “You’ve persuaded me. But as compensation you’re to tell me about the
scroll, which everyone is searching for! Only I entreat you: don’t pretend that you’re not
in the swim of things!” she proposed impudently. Essiorh scratched the bristle on his
chin. “Okay, shake hands, although it’s also against the instructions… The Scroll is a
neutral artefact. It can serve both Light and Gloom.” “Is such a thing really possible?”
Daph doubted. “Why not? Let’s say, a stick has no evil in itself, but it can easily serve
evil. Possible to bring down nuts from a branch using a stick, and possible to knock
someone on the head. Everything depends on the unruly conduct of the imagination.”
“Jolly imagination. But what does this have to do with the Scroll?”
“The Scroll of Desires, or to be more precise: the Scroll of Small Desires. The
magician-alchemist Brugus invented it. A simple magician, take note, not a guard. In his
own workshop, he produced thousands of such scrolls and established trade on the
Skaredo Market. They were inexpensive, since they worked for the performance of
foolish desires. To find lost keys, get rid of warts, make the neighbour’s dog hoarse for
its annoying bark… In order to carry out the desire, it was enough to write it down on the
scroll and throw it into the fire afterwards. The only condition: the logs had to be birch.
The scroll burned — the wish was fulfilled.”
“But they’re all trifles,” Daph said thoughtlessly. Essiorh looked at her reproachfully.
“They were trifles until a specific moment,” he spoke with authority. “Brugus was already
in old age when he produced the only Scroll, on which he put the strengthening spell.
This spell doubled the simple magic of the Scroll every ten years and quadrupled every
thirty years. He hid the Scroll in one of two boxes, protected by magic of Light, which
were also made in his workshop, and, having told no one about this, he sent the boxes to
wander in the moronoid world. They only learned about this a couple of weeks ago, when
our clerks examined his records for their inclusion in the catalogue. And now think: in the
past centuries the Scroll has acquired amazing magical power. If Tartarus will be the first
to discover the box with the Scroll, we’ll find ourselves to be in a nightmarish position…
Recently it became known to us that one of the boxes was intercepted by Gloom, but,
judging by everything, nothing turned out to be there. However, then the probability is
higher that next time Gloom will be lucky. Indeed there remains all of one box!”
Daph hesitated. “Now I understand why our golden-wings are bustling so. It’s
worthwhile for Gloom to write on the Scroll: ‘Bring down all Seven Heavens, cut them
up with a jigsaw!’ And bang! — throw the Scroll into a bonfire with birch logs.” Essiorh
looked with reproach at Daph. “My child, now I understand where you get dark feathers
from! You have an excessively lively imagination! No, Seven Heavens won’t fall to the
ground. The Scroll isn’t capable of doing anything immense. Indeed, as it was, so it also
remains a scroll of small, foolish desires…” “Foolish? But you said that it has now
acquired colossal power?” Daph set him straight. “Yes, it has. But at the same time it still
remains the Scroll of Small Desires,” said Essiorh. “How’s that?” Daph was lost. “It’s
like this. The strengthening magic doesn’t extend to the scale of the desires. But then the
augmented power of the Scroll — and it’s colossal! — can control time. Brugus played a
dirty trick on all of us. Before the Scroll fulfilled desires only in the present. Now the

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53

concept of ‘when’ doesn’t exist at all for it. It can carry out any small desire in the past,
no matter how long ago this past was.”
Daph, mechanically twisting her bronze wings in her fingers, was teasing Depressiac.
The cat, however, was not in the mood for games. The infernal cat, walking about, tore
up with its claws the construction netting, yawning with its three rows of triangular teeth.
“Well, let them. How is it our concern?” Daph was naively interested. Essiorh stretched
out his hand and unceremoniously gave Daphne a knuckle on the forehead. The following
second he had to save his hand from the jumped-up Depressiac. The cat’s teeth slammed
shut with the sound of a trap. “What’s with your cat, gone nuts?” the keeper shouted.
“My police force takes care of me. Be forewarned next time. So what small dirty trick in
the past is there that will change the present?” rubbing her forehead, Daph asked more
precisely. Essiorh shook his head, looking at the cat. However, Depressiac, as if nothing
was the matter, again stretched out on the scaffolding.
“There can be any dirty trick. Well, let’s say: a messenger of Light bearing an
important order breaks three wing feathers at once. Even if he doesn’t fall, he’ll then be
late for sure. Or a rashly said word will destroy an important alliance. No one knows
what nonsense is capable of unbalancing Light and Gloom! Now do you understandable
how dangerous the Scroll is?” the keeper said with enthusiasm. Daph nodded. At this
given moment, she was disturbed not even so much by the Scroll as by the need to live
with Zozo and Khavron, which second-by-second would remind her everyday of
Methodius, who, for the time being, had been out of her head for a long time.
“Listen, Essiorh, everything is clear to me about the Scroll. But why do I have to live
with Buslaev’s relatives? Can’t I go elsewhere, perhaps, to hide from the golden-wings?”
she asked with suspicion. “Pardon me, but it’s the will of Light!” Essiorh said softly but
firmly. “But why does it have this will? Only because, if a girl stays alone in a hotel,
having with herself only a flute and a rather bald by nature cat with a jagged tail, it’ll
evoke suspicion in moronoids?” “Moronoids have nothing to do with it at all here. Some
of our wise men, there in the Transparent Spheres, are capable of beginning to see the
future clearly. Not the future as a whole, it goes without saying, since it entirely depends
on the present, but its separate elements. So here, the wise men assert that further
development of the Scroll will be directly connected with you and Methodius. So, your
decision? What am I to report to Transparent Spheres?”
Daphne, not accustomed to moral shelling of such power, began to feel lost, to show
weakness, and to chew her nails. “You stop this!” Essiorh said severely. “You’re not
starving! You don’t need to feed on finger nails… Are you falling in line? What am I to
tell Transparent Spheres?” Daph despondently nodded. Not enough that she is faced with
falling in love in the future with this stupid Buslaev, she even has to live with his
relatives. Gloom! Her wings will not only darken, but also grow bare from this. “Tell
them, that-I-agree. Odero, si potero; si non, invitus amabo. (I will hate, if I can; if not, I
will love, against my will. Ovid. The Art of Love, III, 11, 35.)” she said in an undertone.
After looking sideways cautiously at the cat, Essiorh sympathetically patted her on the
shoulder (Daph almost flew off the scaffolding) and immediately apologized for his
clumsiness. According to him, he was still not entirely used to his excessively powerful
body. “Don’t lose heart, good child! After all, I’m your keeper. And in order that you
wouldn’t be completely sad, I’ve prepared a surprise for you!” Essiorh said. “What is it?”
Daph asked suspiciously. The keeper unclenched his hand. “What does it look like?”

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
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54

“Oho! A flute mouthpiece!” “That’s what it is.” “But why? I have one.” Essiorh
hummed. He was contented. “Not like this. This mouthpiece is for Light’s secret attacks!
In former days, our skilled artisans made such parts. If it’s attached to your flute, and it
fits, I’m certain, you’ll be able to use magic as often as you want. No one will be able to
trace you — neither Light nor Gloom!” “Ah-h-h… understood! Like a silencer on the
barrel! Wonderful!” Daph was filled with enthusiasm and in celebration kissed her keeper
on his prickly cheek.
Essiorh sighed. “Silencer on the barrel! You always have to pick the stupidest
example!” he said sadly. “By the way, I have one more message for you. This time it’s
official.” After rummaging in the pockets of his leather jacket, Essiorh fished out a
parchment, bound by thread and sealed with sealing wax. On the sealing wax was a large
imprint of a griffin. “I surmised what’s inside here, but preferred not to open it. Protocol
is protocol,” said Essiorh.
After indecisively turning the parchment in her hands, Daph broke they sealing wax.

EXTREME TOP SECRET!
Read through and forget at once! Do not let it go lower than Seventh Heaven, except at
the moment of proclamation.
In accordance with order № 27031974 from the creation of the world to appoint the
assistant to junior guard of Light Daph (№ 13066 in the general list of guards) as guard-
keeper of Methodius Igorevich Buslaev, living at the address: 64 North Boulevard,
Moscow, and to commit her to protect his eidos.
For the reason that this task is of the nature of exceptional importance, it will be
proposed to the committee of rewards and advancement in the Transparent Spheres to
examine in one of the next sessions the question of the promotion of Daphne to junior
guard.
Acting Supreme Guard General Halley.

In the lower part of the parchment was a small addition written in pencil, most probably
had nothing to do with Daph.
“Matilda, sweetheart, DO NOT cc the Third Heaven office! Pay attention at least once
to the heading SECRET. And see to it that this blockhead Essiorh returns the order to us
after proclamation. DO NOT forget to erase this note. In addition, bring coffee!
A.S.G.G.H.”
“Anything there about me?” Essiorh pointedly asked. “No,” said Daph. “You lie, oh,
you lie! I can see on your face that there is. They’re always writing some filth about me.
This fool of a secretary generally giggles when I appear… Okay, read!” After cautiously
looking sideways first to the scaffolding, then to the moist, plaster-peeling wall of the
residence of Gloom, Daphne read through the order, skipping the penciled note out of
politeness.
“Saddled you after all with Buslaev and his eidos? Well, well… You at least understand
what a load of responsibility they’ve burdened you with and what will happen if
something goes wrong? Earlier at least it was unofficial, but now they’ve thrown
everything together on paper there,” Essiorh said sadly. “But then they promoted me to
junior guard!” Daphne exclaimed joyfully. Essiorh mockingly stared at her. “Is this
directly written there? In plain text? Well, sort of! The committee there… Eh, you don’t

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55

know how to read bureaucratic papers correctly. One of the next sessions — it’s still not
the immediate and generally impossible to know which one. On average, a session of the
committee is conducted once every ten years. At the same time, for reason of the
enormous quantity of claims, it continues for no less than three years with interruptions.
In other words, up to the moment when (and if) they promote you after all, Methodius
Buslaev has all the chances of becoming a grandfather… If by that time he still has his
eidos!”
Essiorh stretched out his hand and took the parchment from Daph. Then, having bid
farewell in a hurry and after mumbling something about the instability of magic
protection, he took off. Evidently, he was ashamed that he had to be the guardian of such
a simpleton. After folding back the netting — it was hanging in shreds after the claws of
Depressiac — Daph watched for a long time as Essiorh went along Dmitrovka in the
direction away from the centre. Head inclined slightly, gait relaxed, with a challenge.
Likely, the body wanted terribly to grab any late passer-by by the shoulder. Daph saw
that the powerful body gradually got its way. The inexperienced guard-keeper from the
Transparent Spheres implanted in the moronoid world involuntarily yielded to its animal
will. It even seemed to Daph — and now and then she was shrewd — that soon Essiorh
would acquire a motorcycle for himself. The body clearly thirsted for some things: speed,
risk, sharp turns, the rush of adrenaline in the blood. Oh, it is not easy to maintain balance
between body and spirit! One will surely overcome something and attempt to consume
the other, to consume so insolently, completely, without ketchup or mayonnaise.
Even after Essiorh had finally disappeared, Daphne still remained on the scaffolding for
a while, looking out for the gleam of the gold wings. Then she closed her eyes, forced her
consciousness to leave the body and, after gliding above the city, looked with true sight
at the Moscow streets. And almost immediately she saw several hundred stirring dark
spots, thievishly sliding from one roof to another. If she examined carefully — true sight
does not know distance — it was possible to see the sleek plasticine heads and orderly
sideburns of the agents. There were many more of them than golden-wings. Occasionally
they gathered in small groups at intersections, whispered secretly, and from there were
already crawling along the alleys. The searches, likely, were in full swing; moreover,
they were not futile. Daph came to this conclusion as the agents did not place themselves
chaotically but were concentrated in two urban regions: along Bolshaya Nikitskaya
Street, Novyi Arbat Street, and in Strogino. “What could this mean?” Daphne thought.
After returning to her body, she went down along the unsteady stairs without handrails
and, not going into the residence of Gloom, she folded back the netting. She wanted to
take a stroll. However, Daph had hardly taken a step outside, when Depressiac started to
hiss a warning, pressing itself against her leg. Daph turned around sharply and saw the
familiar black limousine parked at an angle from the entrance. Behind the tinted glass,
like last time, the flame of a cigarette smouldered crimson. Just that now Daph doubted
all the more that this was a cigarette.
Daph turned around and quickly moved along the street in the opposite direction. She
did not allow herself to turn around, but felt that the limousine started and came after her.
The street was strangely and ominously empty, although four hours ago, when Essiorh
left, there were enough passers-by. Even traffic lights and shop windows mysteriously
and unkindly squinted, grew dim. It seemed to Daph that the city suddenly became grey

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56

and lifeless. Not a city but an absurd, awkward decoration. Only she and the limousine
were real.
“Who’s there in the limo? Golden-wings would attack immediately — decisively and
zealously. To hide and to shadow dishonourably for those, who bear gold wings…
Guards of Gloom? Why would they follow me so obviously? They would send an agent
who would be slinking in the shadows, sticking his plasticine paws to the asphalt. I
wouldn’t even find out about this. But who then?” Daph pondered swiftly. The same fear,
as it was at the very beginning when the limousine barred her way in the alley, returned
to her. Daphne wanted immediately to materialize her true wings and take off. But no,
must not — golden-wings do not doze. Possibly, the limo was striving for precisely this
— panic and poorly thought-out decision. Now Daph perceived it as some essence
wholly hostile to her.
Daphne turned into the alley and, yielding to first impulse, dived into the dark arch
between a fashionable boutique’s showcase and an airline company’s ticket office. For a
long time afterwards she could not understand what had compelled her to step in so
recklessly. Did she indeed hope to hide there? Daph understood almost immediately that
she had made a mistake. Behind the arch turned out to be a dead-end, a small, enclosed
courtyard to two entrances with dozens of stunted trees and a sandbox, to which
Depressiac immediately set off to investigate with interest.
The narrow beams of the headlights caught the arch and stretched inward. The
limousine turned around and slowly began to force its way into the courtyard. It seemed
to Daphne that it had even shrunk, attempting to conform to the width of the arch. After
rushing about between the trees, Daph tried to find some shelter, but there was none. The
limousine slowly approached. Depressiac hissed and jumped over to Daph near her legs
— a belligerent, small, strained ball. Daphne leaned down and decisively unzipped the
overalls, freeing the cat’s wings. Even though she could not, Depressiac should have the
possibility of flying away and escaping.
The limousine had almost pushed its way into the arch. Its headlights groped along the
walls, stumbling against the trees. Jittery shadows rushed about around the courtyard.
Daph flattened herself with her back against the wall. To the right, caught in the
headlights, a white sheet flickered on the glass of an inaccessible entrance: “Do not
bother with an agent! Do not leave ads!” And although the text was the most ordinary, for
some reason it forced Daph to be prepared. Not taking her eyes off the ominous
limousine, she hurriedly groped for the mouthpiece, Essiorh’s gift. Her other hand slid to
the flute. The new mouthpiece did not click into place immediately. With slipping
fingers, Daph adjusted it for a long time before she was convinced that the mouthpiece
fitted tightly and as it should.
“Ready! Now I can!” Daph thought and, driving off the persistent sensation of the
inanity of her actions, attacked the limousine with dual maglodies. The wall in the arch
cracked deeply. Glass splinters flew. The yellow signal light in the boutique’s showcase
began to blink hysterically. The light behind the lowered blinds of the airline ticket office
lit up. Worried moronoids began to rush about in the windows. One of them yelled
something obscene, threatening, and Daph, whose nerves were strained to the limit,
casually pressed him with the maglodies into the depth of the apartment. The moronoid
began to yelp piteously, and further valuable instructions of to whom and where to go no
longer came from him.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
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57

The limousine, rumbling, drew near. The maglody cut into it and jumped aside,
splintering with destructive sounds in the tight well of a courtyard. A headlight broke.
The radiator bent into a grin. One more attack trill of the flute — and the bumper sagged
like a senile jaw. But these were minor damages, which did not prevent the limousine
from pressing Daphne against the brick wall. Daphne helplessly lowered the flute. Yes, it
is time to materialize the wings. There is simply no other way out. Already ready for
flight, she glanced at Depressiac. The winged cat drifted above the limousine. Depressiac
pounced, caught the roof with a claw and hurriedly gained altitude, fearing a retaliatory
attack. Depressiac acted like a beast encountering another stronger and more dangerous
beast, which it had all reasons to fear. Daph looked closely and it appeared to her that the
limousine was twined between the trees, hurrying to approach her.
“And what if…” flickered the delirious thought in her. Daph hastily switched to true
sight and peered at the limousine. For several long seconds, what she saw remained a
limousine. Its camouflage balked, would not let go. Daph was almost certain that the car
was real and the key to its invulnerability was in another, deep magic. But suddenly in
that place, upon which her maglody had fallen earlier, the camouflage unwillingly backed
away. It seemed to Daphne that she saw a flickering of scales. The scales fitted tightly
and were almost dented by the maglodies, at least here and there greenish mucus was
already oozing.
Daph heard hissing. That she had succeeded in penetrating its secret did not go
unnoticed by the essence. Having understood that it could not hold the camouflage, the
something stopped shadowing her. Daph saw the terrible head of the reptile from
Tartarus, which in Eden was known as “the infernal snake.” The snake coiled into a ring
and started to hiss, disgorging on Daph the cyanic reek of its breath. Possibly, in the next
instant Daph would have been destroyed, if Depressiac had not caught hold of the
monster’s snout a second before. The snake squinted, protecting its ghastly eyes with
leathery plates.
Daph, having recovered her wits, lifted the flute abruptly and, mentally thanking the
bore Sniffka for forcing her to repeat one and the same hundreds and thousands of times,
met the infernal snake with frighten-off maglodies intended for essences from Tartarus
breaking through into the upper world. Terse, persistent sounds unpleasantly harmonious
for the creation of chaos interfered with the snake approaching her. And here the cursed
cat, making use of the snake’s awkwardness, still attempted to reach its eyes.
The snake hissed, belched out at Daph a jet of flame, which she put out with difficulty
with a counter maglody, and, having clumsily turned around in the tight courtyard, it
began to move back to the arch. The steamed up asphalt lumped up, swelled up into
bubbles. Daph choked. She hardly had enough breath to finish the shielding maglody,
which could in no way be broken. Magic does not like half-heartedness and would
immediately lose strength. The infernal snake, it seemed, understood this, because it
rapidly, continuing to keep its eyes squinted, looked around at Daph. Having finished the
maglody after all, she fell onto her knees and coughed convulsively.
Finding itself in the arch, the snake in a hurry assumed its camouflage. The wide plates
of armour became cast wheels. The snout shrank. The back hardened into the polished
black roof. The snake slid through the arch, scraping on the stone sides almost taking the
outlines of the limousine doors, and crept away, after leaving several rapidly evaporated
spots of greenish mucus.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
58

Daph rose with effort. She was reeling. Victory — although was this victory, did she
indeed just drive away the predator? — came to her with incredible difficulty. The tree,
which had found itself to be the focus of the snake’s flame, blazed like a match. Daph
took a step and slipped. It turned out she had stepped into the sandbox, in which the sand
had melted and was baked into glass. Depressiac returned. The cat was extremely
satisfied with itself. It smelled of sulphur and Tartarus. Daph took it into her hands and
looked whether there were any wounds. There were none.
Daph raised her head. The windows were swarmed with moronoids grown bolder.
Somewhere nearby a police siren was already howling. And here even on the adjacent
roof loomed two flat figures, one of which in a burst of indefatigable inquisitiveness
tumbled down, fell blindly with its mug plopped against the asphalt and, giggling,
crawled to the sewerage hatch. Smart agents were already there. And following them for
sure would come the golden-wings. “We’re taking off, Depressiac!” Daph whispered,
recognizing her hoarse voice with difficulty.
Trying not to step on the melted asphalt, she ran out through the arch. There was not a
trace of the limousine on the street. The snake from Tartarus had disappeared. It was
hardly seriously injured — Daph knew that she had only frightened it away for a while.
Now something else bothered her: why did the infernal snake begin to hunt for her? Who
let it out of the gates of Tartarus into the outside world? Who set the snake on her?
Indeed these reptiles are not very clever by themselves. And finally, what was the
purpose of the one who sent the snake, to destroy Daph or was it a different purpose?
After all, in their last encounter the snake did not attack but only expectantly observed. It
was such a small but very timely clarification at the price of a life.
In the evening in a narrow Moscow kitchen with violets going wild in the windows,
Zozo Buslaeva and her good-for-nothing brother Eddy were having tea with a nut loaf.
Eddy was bored and teased his sister. “How’s the young life? Not expecting new princes
on sickly asses?” “Stop, or I’ll throw a saucer!” Zozo snapped. “Okay, okay. I only
wanted to ask: how was your date yesterday with that character with the cucumber last
name?” Eddy asked. “No go!” Zozo said with irritation, stirring her tea with a spoon.
Eddy nodded in understanding. “So, again a washout? Did you at least go somewhere?”
“To a little restaurant,” Zozo answered in a sad voice. “Oh-oh-oh! What’s it called?”
“The little restaurant? Dream of Yogi,” Zozo recalled with some effort. “And where is
it?” Zozo explained in detail. Her brother thought for a bit. In everything concerning
Moscow cafes, restaurants, and clubs, he was more informed than any reference book.
“Ah, well, well… They recently renamed it. Earlier they were the Exotic Kitchen. I
glanced in when I was looking for work. That’s some place! They would strip a cat and
sell it as porcupine meat. In the freezers, everything was fused into a bloody frozen mess
— you wouldn’t be able to break it with an axe. The floor was washed once a year, but at
the same time was filled with so much water that all rats would drown. And above the
banquet table a guinea pig in a cage making a mess,” he recalled.
“You’re lying all the time. There wasn’t any guinea pig there,” Zozo said, offended.
“That means, they already gobbled it up. Sometimes you meet worthwhile psychos
among the clients. These have the motto: ‘I eat everything I see.’ He sees a guinea pig —
give me that with mayo! He sees a parrot: for the life of me I want its wings! Once for a
rich schizoid I personally caught swordtails from the aquarium and dropped them into a
frying pan,” Eddy said distinctly, after making a guillotine motion with his hand in the

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59

air. “What are you, sick?” “Me? Ne-a, I’m fine. Well, once the client also asked for every
small aquarium fish as for the sturgeon, ready to pay — what’s the problem?” Eddy beat
around the bush. “Yes, all sorts… And how’re things with you?” Zozo sighed, looking
sadly at the window. A languid, evening mood suddenly came over Zozo.
“Never been better. Summer outside and I’m hanging around in the city like a post with
clocks,” briskly said Eddy. “By the way, Zozo! If two female ding-a-lings phone, say that
I’m not home. Or — no. Say that you’re my wife, okay? If they don’t believe you — say
that I trampled all the flowers on the lawn, spat into a phone booth, covered a park bench
with knife scratches, and now I’m hiding from the police.” “And what voices do your
ding-a-lings have?” “One’s a bass. That’s Ninel. And the other bangs away so squeakily
like on a sewing machine. This is Isadora. You know her. I’m quite fed up with them.
Remember?” “Aha, okay,” agreed Zozo, pushing the last piece of nut loaf into her mouth.
“But that Isadora… won’t she fire me?” “Ne-a. She’s not really vindictive. And even then
she, in my opinion, has already forgotten about you,” said Eddy thoughtlessly.
Despite that Khavron occupied a good third of the tiny kitchen and his face was as wide
as the cutting board, Zozo continued to protect him as in childhood. Though, Eddy also
stuck up for her when the opportunity arose. Must say, they were the ideal brother and
sister. As far as this is possible at all in the bustling anthill of life.
Some sounds were heard on the landing in front of the entrance door. Someone quite
definitely knocked, and then pushed the door with a shoulder. Later again knocked and
again pushed, harder. There was nothing surprising in this. The doorbell had already not
been working for a month, and on the other side of the door was a conspicuous notice,
beautifully printed out on the office printer. The notice said, “BELL DOES NOT WORK.
PLEASE KNOCK!” Zozo did this. However, this was also not enough. Below the exact
computer letters was crooked scribbled with a pencil:
Who knocks this way?
Kick like mad!
This was already a creation of Eddy, who, having decided that the notice was
insufficiently expressive, made up his mind to refine it.
“Who’s forcing his way in there? Likely no one was coming for me,” Zozo asked with
uneasiness. “Me neither. Perhaps, your young Buslaev?” Eddy assumed. “No, Methodius
is in school. He phoned that he won’t be coming.” “Aha, well then, some other psycho.”
“Don’t call my son a psycho! Just you wait, when you have a son, I’ll pay you back!”
Zozo frowned. “Easily. Do you think I’m against it? If you want, together we’ll take
away my son’s candy and break his toy cars!” Eddy generously gave her permission.
Zozo sighed. Her brother clearly did not intend to be married or have children. In any
case, not in the next ten years.
Again, they knocked on the door. “I’ll go and open it,” sighed Eddy and got up. In a
stretched soccer shirt with the inscription I came, you left! and plastic flip-flops, in which
three ethnic Vietnamese would get lost, Eddy looked more than imposing. A beggar
along the line of “We’re not locals…” appearing behind the door would jump into the
garbage chute with a squeak without having had time to finish the phrase.
Eddy turned the key, heroically stuck out his chest, and pulled the door open. He pulled
and immediately got offended, after understanding that there was completely no one to
appreciate his terrible pose. The landing was empty, if we do not consider a strange cat in
overalls and a choke collar. The cat was standing and looking at Khavron with red

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60

unblinking eyes. It had a notch in its tail. Eddy stupidly examined the cat, reflecting that
it indeed could not exactly have knocked on the door, and hastily tried to recall whether
he drank anything today since the morning, because a similar essence could only appear
from a very bad hangover. “What’s this? A character for cat food ads? Get away from
here!” Khavron stated, vaguely sensing some kind of dirty trick. The cat remained on the
spot. Eddy’s loud voice did not bother it a bit.
Squinting short-sightedly, Zozo carefully looked out from behind her brother’s back.
She also wanted to understand what was happening on the landing. “What a pretty cat!”
she cooed. “Where’s a pretty cat? Show me!” Khavron did not understand. “What? You
really don’t see it?” “I see the ugliest cat, on which all mad scientists of this world
performed an experiment.” “Eddy, don’t be mean! Give it some sausage!” “Sausages cost
money,” responded Khavron laconically. “Khavron! Don’t be greedy!” Zozo was angry.
However, Eddy was obstinate. “No. Today this pretty cat from a nuclear reactor requires
sausage, and tomorrow I’ll have to leave my own home. And my home — it’s my trench.
I, poor and with many hang-ups, hide in it from the surrounding world.” “Edward!” “I’ve
already been nearly thirty years as Edward! I’m an old and sick person, with good-for-
nothing nerves! Hey you, Whiskas, march from here, before I throw you down the
garbage chute!”
The cat waited, arching its back. Its tail smooth with a notch was swishing from side to
side, which indicated the highest degree of irritation. Then Depressiac yawned and, after
demonstrating the three rows of triangular teeth, moved sideways towards Eddy.
Khavron’s mouth dried up. He lowered the foot ready for a kick and stepped back. “Hey
you, don’t be silly! I’m nice! I always loved kitties, doggies, and other tailed stinkers!” he
muttered, attempting to slam the door shut. The cat obstinately pushed. The door did not
bother it much. His sister looming behind his back interfered with Khavron’s quick
retreat.
“Depressiac, don’t touch him!” someone suddenly ordered. Khavron saw a beautiful
girl of about thirteen and with light hair. The hair was tied into two braids projected at
unthinkable angles. On the girl’s shoulder was a small knapsack of jean material. A flute
like the handle of a sword jutted out of the knapsack. Eddy began to blink. Recently he
had been absolutely certain that besides the cat, there was no one on the landing.
However, now his eyes assured him of the opposite. “Hello!” the girl said. “Hello, a
clause of the criminal code! What do you want?” Khavron muttered. He vaguely
recollected that he had already seen this girl somewhere once. But where, when?
Khavron’s consciousness did not issue more distinct information on this score. The girl
inclined her head to one side, then the other. For a moment, it seemed to Eddy that he had
taken a step into the X-ray chamber, where they X-rayed him from head to toe. They
weighed and drew conclusions, sufficiently ironic.
“Again, good evening! I’m Daphne, a friend of Methodius! I have pleasant news for
you: I’ll be living with you,” said the girl. Eddy burst out laughing. “What? Of course, no
problem! We can rent you the bathroom for a hundred, the kitchen for fifty, and the
windowsill for twenty bucks a week. And hang your mutated tiger cub by the tail from
the chandelier completely free of charge.” Depressiac started to hiss aggrievedly. Its
entire body language indicated that one more peep — and on the chandelier would turn
out to be the very Eddy Khavron with his stupid little jokes.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
61

Zozo unceremoniously pushed her brother to the side. In her maternal consciousness,
burdened by the dragged on searches for something, at least an overdue prince, swarmed
the most alarming, the most maniacal thoughts. After all, Methodius’ grand-dad was tried
for bigamy and chronic non-payment of alimony, and his father skipped only those skirts,
which he saw on mannequins in store windows. “Eddy, don’t play the clown! Must look
into this! Honey, and where did you meet Methodius?” Zozo asked ingratiatingly. “At
Glumovich’s high school.” “Oh! Do you also study there?” “Yes, that’s the problem. I
don’t like living in the high school. And Methodius said so many nice things about his
home… Like how he lived here splendidly,” Daphne awkwardly informed her.
“Methodius lived here splendidly?” Khavron drawled in distrust. “Hmm… The guy has
clearly begun to hallucinate because of nostalgia. Such also happened to me in childhood
at the pioneer camp. At first, I scratched lines on the wall, counting how many days had
past. But by the end of the session I blew my nose into the pillow because it’s sad to part
with friends.”
“But why can’t you live in the high school now? It seems not bad there. Or is it bad?”
Zozo asked anxiously. “I fought with Glumovich,” said Daphne. Zozo was about to start
raising her eyebrows wonderingly, but Eddy unexpectedly supported Daph, “Not
surprising. This Glumovich is simply some lizard! Except that he doesn’t eat flies!” he
butted in. “Still, all the same, honey, it’s better for you to look for some other place to
stay. You can see it’s rather tight here. But we’ll send you a postcard for the New Year,
and in general our thoughts are with you. Okay?”
Daphne smiled. She must admit that she had expected something similar. Still… has to
approach from a different direction! “Okay! Only I’ll play the flute for you first. May I?”
“Only a short one. Very short! Some 10-15 notes and without these… without sharps!”
Eddy generously gave his permission, beginning to shut the door. “What about flats?”
Daph asked merrily. “Very well, flats then,” Khavron allowed.
Mentally thanking the farsighted Essiorh for the mouthpiece, Daph reached for the flute
and began to play quietly. The sounds of the flute, soft, affectionate, worked their way
into the soul. On the landing the aroma of rose oil spread by itself. The space widened,
was filled with new paint. Khavron’s hand trembled and let go of the doorknob. Both
Khavron and Zozo suddenly felt enormous sympathy for Daphne. So enormous they
immediately wanted to smother her with hugs. After noticing that she was overdoing it,
Daphne in a hurry added a couple of trills to lessen the intensity. Khavron and Zozo
restrained their ardour and stopped. “Eh, well… What was it? But won’t your parents be
against your living here?” Zozo asked, beginning to yield. “My parents are in another
city… In Vladivostok,” said Daphne, hurriedly calling to mind a map of the moronoid
world. “Clear as day. To walk there everyday is difficult,” agreed Khavron. From his
mouth, this sounded encouraging.
Daph sighed with relief. “Seems it worked!” she thought. In saying that Methodius
praised his own home and that she did not like Glumovich’s high school, she had lied
and, lying, she risked that at least one more feather on her wings would become black.
Light does not encourage lying, even if it is for life saving. On the other hand, if she
stated to Eddy and Zozo that her guard-keeper had sent her to them, they would definitely
phone the loony bin. Using the flute to defend herself from the loony bin medical
orderlies was not in her immediate plans.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
62

“Hmm… A little question? And this bald from radiation fox will also live with us?”
Eddy was interested. Daph again was uneasy. Since she was no longer playing the flute,
her magic had begun to wear off. Although the cynical Khavron, not knowing it himself,
generally had significant innate immunity against magic. That is, certainly he had to yield
to her, but very temporarily. Understanding with whom the discussion was dealing,
Depressiac arched its back. “Okay, okay, I’m not against it. You want to live here — do!
I hope you at least have a muzzle?” Eddy hastily gave in. Having understood his words
accurately, Depressiac jumped onto Daph’s shoulder and started purring. Khavron with
consternation observed the transformation of infernal cat into heavenly kitty. “So be it,”
sighed Zozo. “Come in… You’ll live with us until you sort out the problems with your
school. You’ll sleep in Methodius’ bed. Are we really to send you on foot to
Vladivostok?”
Daph stopped at the threshold, examining the small room. Posters on the walls,
congested with things… Did Methodius really grow up here, in this cramped space?
Inconceivable! Nevertheless, it was so. Now this will become her room. “In case you
snore at night, consider: I throw the dumbbells with very good aim,” warned Khavron.
“Doesn’t matter. I’ll return them no less accurately,” Daph reassured him, dropping the
knapsack from her shoulders. She already understood: good or bad, it will not exactly be
boring here. “Agreed! Then till the next skirmish!” Eddy said and, after catching his
sister by the sleeve, pulled her into the corridor. “Here’s what I thought. Doesn’t it seem
strange to you that her name is Daphne?” he whispered. “If Zoe can be Zozo, why can’t
Darya be Daph? And in general there’s nothing more absurd than the last name Khavron
in nature nevertheless. So sit down and shut up!” Zozo generously stated. Eddy,
accustomed to the constant run-down of his last name, beat around the bush. “But then
there’s charm in my last name, you cannot but admit this. Such unique charm. Although a
little porky,” he commented.

Chapter 6
If First You Don’t Obliterate, Try, Try, Again.

“Methodius, I’ve wanted to ask you for a long time: how do you like walnuts?” Ares
asked. He placed a nut on the tabletop, picked up the bronze figurine of Ligul, and began
to raise it slowly, taking aim. The bronze Ligul frowned and screwed up its eyes: it had
already guessed what would happen now. And it was not mistaken. With one precise hit
of its head, Ares cracked the shell. A bronze lump slowly swelled up on the bronze
forehead of the hunchback.
“Take a look, Signor Tomato, at how the nutmeat resembles the human brain. Two
hemispheres, the same look. Lots of possibilities and a deplorable ending in a wooden
shell… So will you have some nutmeat?” Ares asked again. Methodius shook his head.
He thought that after this accompanying speech he would not be able to eat nuts for a
long time. Ares shrugged his shoulders. “Well, you don’t want any, as you like… As one
agent says, though the matter was forced, it’s possible to elude it.” Having sent the
nutmeat into his mouth, the swordsman of Gloom crushed it with his strong yellowish
teeth. He put the broken shell onto Ligul’s head.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
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63

“I’m sure our dwarf has regretted 300 times that he ordered a shipment of these
figurines to be produce. Moreover, I’ll tell you in secret, he unwisely ordered them to be
so similar to the original that they became vulnerable to the simplest voodoo magic.
Probably, the wretch secretly hoped that they’ll begin to praise him, and he’ll listen and
float in honey. In reality, his enemies bought the figurines and jeer all they can. And it’s
all pride. The one who invents vices must not give himself up to them… Isn’t it so,
Ligul?” The figurine demonstratively turned its back. Having lost interest in it, Ares got
up, stretched himself with a crack, and looked over his army. All the associates of the
Russian division of Gloom had gathered in his office.
Depressiac attempted to pull the collar off with his hind paws, continually settling
nervously to lick its whiskers and left front paw. Daph materialized her wings — here, in
the residence of Gloom, there was no risk of being caught — and flapped them on the
spot. She simply wanted terribly to fly. “Hey, Light, don’t make drafts! Not enough for
me to have only a head cold!” Julitta frowned.
Having collapsed into the armchair, the young witch scrutinized the group photograph,
in which she was surrounded by her young men — in essence the messengers from
Tartarus. “I understand nothing! Yesterday there were clearly more of them. Omar, Ervin,
Aslan, Joseph, Ahmet — these are likely in place. Hmm… Who else? Aha, I know!
Missing one of the Sayids, so chubby!” she said.
“Well then, let’s have a look!” Daphne, offended that she was not allowed to stretch her
wings, demanded. “Just as I thought! Who’s this second to the right? Somehow he
suspiciously has many canine teeth.” “Well, so? His name is Mumrik! He’s only half
cannibal, from dad’s side. Mumrik is nice. Very funny and shy. I met him in a den on
Bald Mountain. There he bit off the hand of a bouncer. Imagine, the bouncer would not
let him play the piano with his feet, and Mumrik was very upset. I understand him. He
has such a musical soul!” Julitta said. “All the same. Never do group portraits with a
cannibal. After some time the portrait will cease to be a group… A photograph is like a
submarine. You can’t run off it,” warned Daph.
Julitta stared suspiciously at the photograph. “Do you think this Mumrik ate Sayid?
Mumrik couldn’t, he’s nice.” “Well, so? No matter how good your Mumrik is, doesn’t he
have to eat?” “Nonsense. Mumrik, well confirm that it’s not you! Daphne, just look, what
an honest face he has in the photo!” Julitta was obstinate. “Here’s also what I’m on about.
Honest people don’t have such honest faces!” Daph interrupted. Julitta looked at her with
great doubt. “Somehow you’re wrong, Light. In the sense of how a correct Light should
be,” she offered with doubt.
Daph was confused, after thinking that Julitta was right. She was rescued by Ares
knocking on the table, “The time has come, as Mamzelkina says, to sound the assembly
of all lost regiments! Who do we have available? One sufficiently promising but
completely inexperienced as far as magic is concerned Signor Tomato…” Methodius
gave a cough unhappily; however, this did not disturb Ares. “Such a gigantic store of
magic, feeding a head not very clever so far,” he continued. “Further… One guard of
Light with an armour-piercing pipe, who recently raised hell in the vicinity of an airline
ticket office and now hides from golden-wings in the former room of the mentioned
Tomato.” Now came the turn for Daph to be surprised. She did not suspect that Ares
knew about this. “More… One candy-loving witch, from whose clouts ringworms grow
on many men’s cheeks.” Methodius and Daph exchanged glances. They had already

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64

gotten used to the fact that when Ares was chatty, it usually preceded something
extensive.
“And now a little practice! Daphne, do you know what attack maglodies the golden-
wings use?” the Baron of Gloom continued. “Well, not all, certainly. They have their own
fixations, but basic maglodies are common for all of Light,” carefully answered Daph.
She did not reveal military secret. Ares himself was up to date for sure. Nevertheless, he
was the swordsman of Gloom, and she a guard of Light.
“Wonderful! Then do me a favour: pull out your helicon and attack Signor Tomato.”
Daph with doubt looked sideways at Ares, and then at Methodius. “Ne-a, I can’t! I won’t.
He can’t stand up to it,” said Daph. Although she was annoyed with Methodius, she could
not do so much as taking him on directly and finishing him off here. She knew too well
the power of a hit by a maglody of Light. “Of course he can’t,” Ares politely agreed. “I
understand, little one, that you knock out bricks with your shepherd’s pipe. It suffices to
visit one little courtyard located not far away from the airline ticket office to be
convinced of this. Therefore attack him first with weakened maglodies and gradually, as
successes appear, increase the power.” “Well, if so… okay…” Daph pensively agreed,
pulling out the flute.
“And this is necessary — to learn to block the magic of Light?” Methodius asked. The
Baron of Gloom looked at him with a sneer. “The question is rhetorical, Signor Tomato.
Usually they teach you to block the magic in order to die a little later and to make the life
of enemies a little more intolerable. Otherwise, I fear, the first maglodies will flatten you
on the wall before you have time to reach for the sword. Take note, whether you manage
the sword well or not, nobody will even care.” “I care,” Methodius pointed out. “Well,
perhaps posthumously. It’s possible, of course, to resort to summoning the spirit of Horse
every time, but sooner or later this will lead to Horse not wanting to leave. And then
instead of an unobtrusive enemy, who only needs your head, you’ll have a much too
pertinacious friend. Daph, get ready! We begin training!” Daph unwillingly pulled the
flute out of her knapsack.
“Excuse me! But how am I to block?” asked Methodius anxiously, looking around at
Ares and Julitta. He, however, received no recommendations. “Think as you go!
Personally, in your shoes I would try to sort it out somewhat quicker. A skirmish with
Light is in store for us this evening.” “WHAT? Daph and Julitta asked at once. “More
details later! To those… hmm… who survive training! Begin, Daphne!”
Daph aimed the flute at Methodius and unwillingly blew a weak maglody out from it.
With all her might she tried not to overdo it, nevertheless Buslaev’s feet took off from the
floor, and he flew over the table, as if from a powerful blow to the chest. Julitta winced
sympathetically and, after dropping another candy into her mouth, licked her fingers
covered with chocolate. “You, indeed, are a sadist, my friend! It’s immediately obvious
that you’re one who gradually got into a rage in music school,” she said, turning to Daph.
Daphne ran up to Methodius. “Sorry… It was accidental. I didn’t break your ribs?” “And
ribs also,” a hoarse answer came from under the table.
Ares clicked on the tabletop with a strong yellowish nail. “Hey, crawl out! Enough
feeling sorry for yourself! What did you feel?” “What, is there any doubt what I felt? It
seemed to me that a horse kicked me. And my head hurts,” Methodius, irritated, assured
him. “To hell with who kicked you and what hurts! It’s important for me to understand
something else: did you feel anything on the magic level?” the swordsman of Gloom

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65

bellowed. Rubbing his chest, Methodius struggled out from under the table. He was
hurting, but he understood that pity was not the feeling, which was worthwhile to count
on now. No one in this world feels sorry if you are stung. And in general only a bee has
sting. This he had surely mastered long ago. Even in school when they beat him up. One
against three.
“Describe the sensations!” Ares persistently demanded. Methodius closed his eyes,
recalling. “A light beam… A straight line, precise. It came not from the flute, but from
some other place. And it struck the dark side in me, perhaps… It’s complicated to
explain. Especially if one considers that the next moment I was in the air,” said
Methodius. Ares laid a hand on his shoulder. The dull pain in his chest eased
immediately.
“Concentrate! In a minute, everything will pass… You understood much correctly: it
would be a mistake to think that the magic of Light hides in the tool itself. Magic comes
from an external source. The flute only draws it, attracts it. Did you try to deflect the
beam?” “No. Everything happened too quickly.” “Pity. Now it’ll not be so quick! Daph,
put a new cartridge clip in your street organ!” “Perhaps we shouldn’t?” Daphne was in
doubt. However, Ares considered it necessary. “DAPH!” he repeated.
Daphne shrugged her shoulders, demonstrating to Methodius that she had nothing to do
with it, and again brought the flute to her lips. This time she was more careful and blew
out a very weak maglody. After seeing the light beam rushing towards him, Methodius
contracted inwardly and attempted to parry it mentally. To deflect by will in the same
manner as using the sword to fend off the blade of the enemy’s sword. He put much into
this hit by will, very much power. However, the light beam met his instinctive magic
without any resistance. The blade of Methodius’ will cut the void, and the next instant
Buslaev settled down on the floor, rubbing his chest, onto which fell a new powerful
blow.
Daph guilty lowered her flute. “These maglodies were created for guards of Gloom.
They break through any armours of Gloom, except those that are artefacts. I doubt that
it’s possible to parry them in general,” she said softly. Daph turned not so much to
Methodius as to convince Ares. It seemed to her that he demanded the impossible from
Methodius. It is not possible to block that, which cannot be blocked. Ares mockingly
looked at her. Daph immediately became uncomfortable. Ares’ voice grew, occupied the
entire enormous hollow room, and shook the glass. Words hung like fiery signs printed
out on the walls. But it was also tight here for this voice, and it flew away along all the
stairs of the residence of Gloom on 13 Bolshaya Dmitrovka.
“Remember, under this moon whatever you want is possible. You only have to want it!
Methodius, gather together every shadow, everything dark inside. Imagine that there’s no
rescue for you. Despise pitiful Light, but also despise Gloom! Let what was, what is, and
what will be with you become unimportant. There is only you alone — your solid internal
I, which is higher than Light and higher than Gloom. Only you actually exist. The rest of
the world is merely absurd nonsensical shadows crumbling in your pupils… Shut you
eyes — and the world will disappear. Only you will remain. Mock, jeer inside everything
that can happen to you. Fear nothing, neither hope for nor desire anything! Pull yourself
together! And you, girl, do it again! Don’t stand on ceremony with Signor Tomato! The
longer you stand on ceremony with him, the longer he’ll understand nothing! So!”

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Parchments rustled. The eide in Julitta’s and Ares’ darcs began to pound resonantly,
like drops. The ceremonial portrait of Ligul the hunchback began to sway. The rusty and
merciless scythe of Aida Mamzelkina began to ring in space over the world. Methodius
became terrified. He understood suddenly that if anything, he would never get sympathy
from Ares. Or this sympathy would have nothing in common with the human world or
human feelings. The swordsman of Gloom had his own path in this world. The path,
dodging between Light and Gloom, always led to Tartarus. And Methodius felt that it —
that one and only place even agents were terribly afraid to find themselves in for a long
time — was an unpleasant and nasty place.
“Daph! Full power! Don’t spare him!” Ares shouted. Daphne looked guiltily at
Methodius, brought the flute to her lips and blew out a combat maglody. Although she
again secretly attempted to soften its destructive power, the maglody sounded with a
force unexpected for her. Daph looked anxiously around at Ares and saw that he was
smirking and significantly twirling the chain of his darc. Daph guessed that the Baron of
Gloom had strengthened her maglody using the force of eide. “Guards of Tartarus cannot
produce their own maglodies. This is the lot of Light. But to strengthen someone else’s
— why not? No one can prevent a magnifier from strengthening a sunray. Now and then
they do this, attempting to bring the actions of Light to absurdity and at least this way, to
injure it,” Elsa Kerkinitida Flora Zaches’s voice sounded in her memory.
Methodius saw how the dazzlingly bright beam, carrying the dagger-like force and
energy of Light, pierced the wall of the residence. It was too late to block it, condensing
Gloom inside and hating everyone and everything, as Ares had prompted him. Moreover,
Methodius felt that it would be useless. Without a moment’s hesitation — since one
instant was too short a time for formulated and clear thought — he took a step forward,
towards the beam. He took a step, inhaled air deeply and greedily, exhaled, preparing to
face the blow, and… understood that there would not be any blow.
The beam disappeared, dissipated, after painlessly sliding into his chest and merging
with his eidos. Only his head was dizzy. The world was saturated with new colours,
began to shine, started to smell sweet, widened, grew — and for a brief moment Met
sensed the enthusiasm of a two-dimensional paper person who suddenly became three-
dimensional and experienced the beauty of the three-dimensional world. But this lasted
for a very short time. He felt his chest in disbelief. Nothing, not a trace. Even the ribs,
suffering from the first two unsuccessful attempts, no longer ached. Depressiac,
attentively looking at Methodius, turned its red eyes away and began to lick a paw
indifferently. Must be, in the cat’s opinion, the show was over.
“Effective. You managed. How did you do it?” Ares was interested. “Don’t know,”
answered Methodius. It was a lie. Actually, he knew. Instead of meeting the beam with
the rejecting force of hatred, he softened, opened up his soul, and allowed Light into
himself, without setting up any obstacles, without attempting to block or deflect it. And
Light, perceiving this in him, became a part of him. Ares, looking intently at Methodius,
grew noticeably sullen. Obviously, he also understood the reason.
“Well, however it was there, you managed well… But keep in mind — sooner or later
you will have to decide all the same in which trench you sit. With us or with them,” Ares
nodded at Daph. “The one who long attempts to combine black and white in himself will
become grey sooner or later. But no one likes grey. Greys are forever manoeuvring, since
it’s not possible to please everyone yet they so desire. They don’t have enemies, but also

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no friends. They know neither laughter nor tears. Storms as well as peaceful kindness are
alien to them. These are worms, puttering in existence and changing it into humus…”
“It’s all eidos and its free choice… Now I understand why Ligul so wanted to get it. No
eidos — no choice,” Julitta with envy whispered to Daph.
Ares looked at the clock. The Baron of Gloom had a special clock — a crystal sphere
on a bronze chain turned pale green. Inside the sphere, in a murky liquid, two snakes
were slowly revolving, endlessly devouring each other. The snakes were alive. Looking
into the office in the evening or at night, Methodius saw their round black eyes, and he
became terrified. He felt how, while he looked at the snakes, absolute evil, which he was
unable to cope with, pulsating, infiltrated into him drop by drop.
“And the now the final event of the festival! Let’s sit down for the road, servants of
Gloom! We set off, for bread and for show!” Ares said. “Where to? Really to a fight of
the gladiators?” Daph naively asked. “Worse. To the theatre. There for sure will be
golden-wings, so, little Light, make your choice whom you’re with. More than a probable
skirmish,” smiling, the Baron of Gloom said.
Daph sighed, after recalling that she had to take care of Methodius. The thought, that
she had to battle with her own kind and consequently be even more deeply enmeshed in
Gloom’s sticky nets, did not exactly make her happy. “With you… But how do you know
that golden-wings will be in the theatre?”
Ares looked appraisingly at her. It seemed he was weighing whether it was worthwhile
to say. “Box № 2,” he said. “Agents finally got to the core of its secret. The spell of
instantaneous displacement has been cast on the box. There are two-three places in
Moscow where it appears, following a whimsical schedule, which so defies logic that it
can only be worked out by logic… On the whole, according to our data, this evening the
box materializes in the dressing room of the theatre Muse.”
“It’s also known to golden-wings where this will take place?” Methodius got to the
point. Ares despondently pushed the armchair with a foot. “I think so, yes. A couple of
hours ago agent Ksandr, after reporting this to me, was intercepted by a mobile pair of
golden-wings halfway to Tartarus. The wretch was hurrying so to notify Ligul that he
forgot to be vigilant. Taking into account the praiseworthy courage of agents as a whole
and the courage of agent Ksandr in particular, I’m certain that golden-wings now know
everything. Starting from what breed of live pups Ligul eats for breakfast to the list in
alphabetical order of guards of Gloom from Aahron to Yauesuf inclusively. So today an
intense and interesting battle awaits us.”
“Perhaps notify Ligul, in case he doesn’t know? Let him bring more guards,” Julitta
was brave enough to propose. Ares looked at her with unconcealed irritation. “Notify
whom? Pardon, I didn’t catch it,” he said. “I’ll keep real quiet, chief! Consider that I’ve
already bitten off my tongue and eaten it instead of supper,” the witch thought better of it.
“Bon appétit! And I don’t want to hear any more about Ligul.”
Ares opened the case and quickly, efficiently looked over his blade. Then he extracted
it and made several circular motions with his hand — first slowly, then quicker. His blade
was everywhere. Methodius saw only steel. Sensing what would happen now, since Ares
had given him much time training his intuition, he swiftly squatted down. And just in
time. The Baron of Gloom quickly turned, and the next moment, the blade cut the air,
where Methodius’ neck recently was.

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Ares quietly caught the sword by the blade and hid it under his raincoat. “Not bad,
Met… But next time, after dodging, don’t remain on the spot, attack immediately. Or do
you think that, having missed once, your enemy from disappointment would immediately
sprinkle his head with ashes and go away to the magloister? More probable that he’ll start
dealing you newer and newer blows until his sword chops something… And it may not
be true that each time you’ll have time to jump away, not true at all.”
“Fine, I’ll attack. Should I take my sword today? Well, to the theatre?” Methodius
asked. He looked at The Ancient One’s narrow blade, which had passed through many
transformations. On the blade were many small nicks and several deeply eaten rust spots
like caries. The end of the sword was broken at an angle just like Methodius’ front tooth.
Buslaev carefully touched the handle. Although he practiced with Ares almost every day,
the sword as yet was far from becoming a continuation of his arm, and frequently,
looking at it, Methodius experienced the same feeling of internal uncertainty and risk-
taking as a person about to pet a strange German shepherd.
Ares traced with his forefinger along the scar on his face. “For you to decide! Take it
only if you actually have the internal determination to use it. Otherwise, a person bearing
arms is only subjecting himself to excessive danger. It’s not enough just to wave any
sabre. Confidence is necessary, so that you’ll be able to step over someone’s life. Imagine
to yourself that you’re cutting down a guard of Light… Daph, for example. Split her from
shoulder to waist… Well?”
Methodius, never complaining of an absence of imagination, imagined. Now he raises
the sword, now he hits Daph — white-toothed, merry, winged… He became terrified, and
hurriedly took a step back, fearing that the dark blade would understand him incorrectly.
“But why Daph? Indeed she…” he began. “Everything’s clear with you, Signor Tomato!
Again who has a fit of ‘aw-wfully likable’, eh? Crows ‘caw-caw’!” Ares mockingly
interrupted him. Methodius angrily turned away and blushed. “Nonsense! I never said
that,” he snapped. “We-ll… It goes without saying… Who would argue with the future
sovereign of Gloom, who swindled Ligul himself in cards? Everyone knows that our
future stern lord’s interest in girls is no more than in the cultivation of mushrooms under
domestic conditions!” Ares smirked. “Exactly!” Methodius growled. “Bang-on.”
Ares stopped smiling. As if the mocking expression was washed off his face by pouring
rain. “The subject about crows is closed. All the same, I think it’s better to leave your
blade in the residence of Gloom. You’re clearly not prepared for battle. Or you’ll have to
summon Horse. Here’s indeed someone who knew how to let a sword drink blood. To
drink to satiety, to the handle… Moreover, as far as I remember, Horse always began to
search the dictionary using his eyes for the word ‘moral’ because he could in no way
remember what it was.” “I won’t summon Horse, but I’ll bring the sword,” obstinately
stated Methodius. Ares shrugged his shoulders and did not begin to argue. “The choice is
yours. Only don’t be surprised later if the sword picks your chest as a sheath. Right
between the ribs.”
“Ah, stop!” Daph suddenly shouted to someone. “Shoo!” Ares turned around to her
voice. It turned out that Depressiac, tired of fighting with the collar, jumped up onto the
table and clawed the agents’ reports to shreds. The cat had clearly been sitting too long.
Daph rushed to remove him from the table; however, the Baron of Gloom looked upon
Depressiac’s behaviour leniently. “This boy hasn’t had his fill of Valium,” he only said.

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“That’s not the case. It’s simply been some two hours already that he hasn’t fought with
anyone,” justifying, Daphne stated.
Julitta giggled, watching as Daph caught the leaning cat around the tummy and tried to
jostle it into the overalls. Depressiac resisted and dug with its claws deeply into the
polish. “Anything to keep baby happy as long as he doesn’t kill anyone. Your cat would
nibble the sack on Charon’s barge to the River Lethe… Hey, careful, you bent a wing!”
Julitta commented. “And let’s not resist! You’re likely beginning to get attached to my
cat,” remarked Daph, continuing to fight with Depressiac. Julitta nodded. Recently she
had actually been treating Depressiac much better, but it did not prevent her from
occasionally rushing with a foil after the cat, having played a dirty trick, along the entire
residence of Gloom. “I love those things on elastic. Break it off, it’ll wander, but later it’ll
return to place,” she agreed.
Outside, from the direction of the alley adjoining Bolshaya Dmitrovka, the crashing of
cars was heard. Hailstones of broken headlights began to jump on the asphalt. A bumper
broke off. A car horn began to wail. Everything spoke of someone decisively parking a
delivered automobile directly in the parking lot. And just a minute later terrible slanting
eyes appeared in Ares’ office. “Oh, our Mamai has arrived from the Battle of Kulikovo!
And here I’m thinking: where is he, my darling, got stuck in a traffic jam, perhaps?”
Julitta cooed.

***

Pressing the case with the sword against his chest, Methodius struggled out of the
terrible coach, when the automobile cut into the cast plaster bowl at the main entrance to
the Muse theatre. Mamai, smirking so darkly all the time, shut the rusty door with a kick
of his foot. Then he backed up, turned around sharply, and his rumbling carriage from the
beyond dashed away, the bottom scratching asphalt.
Daph stood next to Methodius, holding in her hand a leash attached to Depressiac’s
choke collar. Furthermore, taking into account that Depressiac was clearly disposed to
fighting with anyone, she put a muzzle on the cat. Depressiac in the overalls, with a
choke collar and muzzle, looked comical. In any case, until someone decided to glance
into its red eyes.
Julitta was playing with the foil, for which there was not even a scabbard. “Going right
in like that? Don’t you want to hide it?” Methodius asked. “Don’t intend to. Only those
with magic abilities can see this foil. For the rest this is simply an umbrella. Camouflage
magic, you know.” After taking a step to the side, Julitta touched the neck of the fat clerk,
sitting in the open cafe next to the theatre, with the tip of the foil. Leaning over a
disposable plate, he was devouring meat dumplings with such an important look, as if he
was carrying out heaven knows what sacred rites. Feeling the touch of metal, the clerk
started to look back uneasily. Finally, his pig’s eyes rested on Julitta. “Girl, be more
careful with your umbrella! Don’t you see, perhaps, that you’re bothering people?” he
said angrily. “Please excuse me, uncle! I beg you, please don’t interrupt your digestion!”
Julitta calmed him.
Not looking around at his satellites, Ares decisively made his way to the entrance into
the theatre. For a moment, their group was reflected in the glazed poster with show times.
Methodius, after seeing everybody from the side, estimated that their appearance was

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provoking and picturesque. The magnificent Julitta in a provocative red dress (she
asserted that blood was not visible on red), eating chocolates on the way; even though her
foil seemed like an umbrella to everyone, she compelled moronoids to look around at her
continually. The dark-complexioned Ares with a cut face, like an ice-breaker cleared a
path for himself in the crowd. The light-haired girl with a flute projecting from her
knapsack and an incomprehensible something on a leash: neither a little mouse nor a frog
but a wacky little monster. And finally, he, Met Buslaev, was perhaps the most
unremarkable in this group for the time being.
The ticket collector of the Muse theatre, with the instinct of all ticket collectors, was
about to block their way automatically, but Ares quietly showed her an empty hand and
walked past. Daph and Julitta followed. Methodius, the last to pass, noticed a vacant
expression on the woman’s face. Later, the minute she came to, when they were already
on the stairs, she took to checking tickets with double the zeal, shouting to the quiet
students fumbling in their bags in search of their tickets.
“Better for us to go up to the dress circle. Either the nearsighted or gregarious sit in the
orchestra section. It’s important for them to feel the mass psychosis in order to be
engrossed in the show. They’re not our kind of thing!” Ares said. The light was already
out when they finally sunk into the soft seats of the thirteenth box of the dress circle.
Even here, Ares did not change his passion for this number.
A minute later the curtain rose, and in the Moscow Muse theatre began the first act of
the play Queen of Spades base on the adaptation by I. Shpuntser-Smorchkovsky, music
by O. Gulkind. The director was the venerable Lucian Babets. The staging was not
without pretensions. Plywood panels depicting a deck of cards hung on chains from the
ceiling. In the right corner of the stage, a stuffed horse was grinning sullenly. On top of
the horse strutted a headless mannequin in uniform. In the left corner of the stage was
another mannequin with a foil inserted into its breast. “Plagiarism, darn! A foil like mine!
Moronoids have become quite impudent. Hey, listen, it wasn’t possible to take a spear or
a boomerang there?” Julitta said with irritation.
The conductor waved his baton. Frightened off by the sounds of trumpets, clarinets,
violins, and a drum, three horse-guards climbed out of the orchestral pit. That these were
precisely horse-guards and not some general guardsmen was indicated delicately and
unobtrusively by horsies on sticks, on which all three were skipping.
“How did you do, Surin?” one of the horse-guards shouted loudly, energetically
slapping his friend on a cotton-padded shoulder. Surin skipped to the mannequin and
started to pull the foil out of its chest.
“That’s right!” Ares approved. “If there’s a gun on stage, it must bang.”
“How did I do? I lost, as usual. Must admit that I’m unlucky!” Meanwhile Surin
informed the audience, time after time assaulting the mannequin with the foil. The
mannequin treated this release of spite like an intellectual: made it look like they were not
beating him, but secretly preparing to write a protest to London.
The third horse-guard meanwhile got rid of his horsie, uncorked a bottle of champagne,
announced, “Well, to Nemirovich ibn Danchenko!” and, after spilling some over himself,
started to guzzle greedily straight from the bottle. With a swing, he flung the empty bottle
into the auditorium. The audience squeaked in fear, but the bottle turned out to be a prop.
After flying as far as the second row, it returned to the stage. It seemed elastic was
attached to its neck.

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The audience had not yet recovered their wits, when a rope dropped down from up
above, almost nailing Surin, and a pale young man in a top hat began to climb down the
rope. The first horse-guard stopped scratching his underarm and, pointing to the young
man, joyfully communicated, “Ah, that Hermann! Never once in his life does he pick up
a card, never once let out a password, just sits with us till five and watches us play!”
The conductor’s bald spot flashed sharply. The baton moved like the whip of a slave-
trader. The orchestra began to play something halfway between Mendelssohn and
Clayderman, but with a strong influence of African rhythms. Scores of hussars — four of
them were clearly female — leaped out onto the stage and started to rush around.
Hermann, standing on a card, dashingly swung above their heads. “Aha! Very unusual
interpretation! It symbolizes the depth of personality, scale, flight, scope, breadth of the
soul and… eh-eh… well all such nonsense to add to the 3000 characters with blanks!”
Wolf Cactusov, sitting in the audience, thought and made a notation in his notebook.
Towards the end of the dance, the history of Count St. Germaine and the old countess
was just barely clarified, and, after catching Hermann tumbling down from the swings,
the actors disappeared behind the lowered curtain.
Julitta, looking not so much at the stage as at the audience, touched Methodius’
shoulder. “Did you see? Golden-wings there!” she whispered. From a side passage of the
orchestra two men — one medium height, the other tall — showed up and unassumingly
settled in the end seats in the fourth row, vacated not long before their appearance. The
elderly couple sitting in them left the theatre just several minutes ago. “Scare-off
maglodies! Hey, even Light! They’re preventing moronoids from getting intellectual
pleasure!” Julitta expressed dissatisfaction.
“These are really golden-wings? You haven’t made a mistake?” Methodius expressed
his doubts. To his eyes, the men appeared ordinary. He saw no wings on them. And only
after closing his eyes and concentrating did he discern a steady golden radiance issuing
from the new arrivals. Exactly the same radiance came from one more place in the
orchestra, and, feeling dryness in his mouth, Methodius pointed it out to Ares. “Yes, I
also noticed. Two in the seventh row… Two militant pairs — altogether four guards of
Light. If they need wings, they’ll materialize them, same as the flutes,” nodded Ares.
“But why are they without…” Methodius started. “Don’t be naive, Tomato! And for that
I won’t call you Signor. Did you really expect that the entire Eden’s army would appear
here with a whole parade? Haloes, chain mail, trumpets? For cheap shows you turn to
TV,” Ares frowned.
Methodius licked his lips and looked sideways at the case with his sword. He was
involuntarily experiencing uneasiness before his first serious battle. “Do they suspect our
presence?” he asked, again giving way, and was immediately ashamed, after perceiving
that Ares looked at him like at an average burden with Down syndrome. “They surmise
by themselves. Golden-wings aren’t idiots. Those guards of Gloom who were inclined to
underestimate them discovered their darc cut off one morning…”
“There are only four of them? Not more? What if it’s an ambush?” Methodius asked.
Ares shook his head. “No ambush.” “How do you know?” “Four of them, because
there’re four of us. And in a different turn of events — even if we chop them into
cabbage — there won’t be more of them. The rest won’t interfere. There exists an
unspoken agreement. Something not unlike the ethics of corporations at war with each
other,” patiently explained the Baron of Gloom. “And they stick to it?” “You bet. As is

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72

known, the most reliable agreements are those never recorded on paper. The number of
fighters from both sides must match. Only in this way can glory be calculated and
charges of cowardice avoided. On the other hand, that we have a cat — magical, but still
an animal — gives the golden-wings the moral right to set loose on us any other magical
beast, for example, a griffin or a sphinx.”
“A griffin against Depressiac? That’s unfair! My cat doesn’t deserve this!” Daph
exclaimed, looking around with uneasiness. “Poor ethics will keep mum in this case,
since formally there’ll be five against five of us. But I don’t think, however, that they
have a griffin with them. All the same, the moronoid world demands elementary caution,
which is not to be expected from a fighting griffin.”
“Aha. A griffin would destroy not only the theatre but also half of the block,” snorted
Julitta. “But you, my dear, nevertheless hold back your stuffed animal. Else later the
golden-wings will pin the blame on there being more of us!” In response Daph silently
showed her the gnawed through leash. “What’s this, a hint?” Julitta asked sullenly. “He
was so suspiciously quiet. Depressed. I even unbuttoned his overalls and removed the
muzzle. I thought, it’s dark here and all the same no one would see,” justifying, said
Daph. “Well, well! And have you known for a while that he had slipped off?” “Well, a
minute ago… He’ll return… later… well, when he tires…” Daph added in a hurry.
“Don’t switch, Light! Don’t you indeed want to say that the wacky, hormonally
preoccupied, and eternally hungry bald cat is flying somewhere around the theatre?”
Julitta clarified. “He’s not wacky. He’s simply impressionable and vulnerable,” Daph was
offended. She did not object to the remaining characteristics.
At this minute, the theatrical chandelier somewhere up high began to ring tenderly.
“Oho… Someone extremely impressionable and monstrously vulnerable is clearly
swinging on it. Can you reach him, Daph?” Ares asked. “Yes. If I materialize my wings
and fly. Shall I?” “Not worth it. Now’s not a good time. What about you, Julitta?” “If
with an arbalest, then easily,” the witch proposed predatorily. “Only try!” Daph was
angry, reaching for the flute. “Stop fighting! I hope he’ll drop the chandelier on the
golden-wings’ heads. Nevertheless, pity they don’t have a sphinx with them. The kitties
would frolic nicely and at the same time bring this hotbed of culture down to its
foundation,” Ares remarked philosophically.

***

In the second act, a wheelchair with the limp old countess in it rolled onto the stage
squeakily. The countess, with the look of absolute junk, was put together from wire and
empty plastic bottles. A large gramophone said all the monologues for her in a squeaky
voice. Three lady’s maids in kokoshniks and full SS uniforms pushed the countess’
carriage. Liza, in a dog collar with nametag, was chained to the wheelchair. She could not
keep still, and, languishing, periodically began to rattle the chain and to make pleading
gestures with her hands. It was felt that she was ready to run off with not only Hermann
but also Ligul the hunchback, so long as they would release her from the leash.
Tomsky on top of the toy horsie quickly came out onto the stage and yelled into the ear
of the dummy, “How do you do, grandmaman! I come to you with a request!” “What’s
that, Paul?” the gramophone answered somewhat hesitantly. “Please allow me to present
to you one of my friends and bring him to the ball on Friday!” “Bring him to the ball and

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you’ll present him to me then!” With another delay, for technical reasons, the
gramophone wheezed to him in response. Happy that his mission was successful, Tomsky
lapsed into unruly behaviour, jumped down from the horse and, picking up the dummy
from the wheelchair, started to rush along the stage. Out of concern for the countess, Liza
dashed about so much that she overturned the empty wheelchair and almost broke loose
from the chain.
In the third act, Hermann again appeared on stage. At first, he flattered Liza for a long
time from the wings, using navy signal flags, then he sneaked into the bedroom of the old
countess and began to quarrel with the gramophone. When even after this the
gramophone did not reveal to him the secret of the three cards, Hermann flared up and
pulled out an enormous Colt. “Old witch! So I’ll force you to answer!” he shouted,
grinding his teeth in such a way that he agitated even the stomatologist Ashot Kirzaryan
sitting in the tenth row. The frightened dummy, not standing up to the nervous tension,
began to shake all the fine wires and broke up into separate plastic bottles. “Aha! There’s
something behind this! Interesting symbol! Seven hundred characters with blanks!”
Cactusov thought, scratching in his notebook. After frightening the countess to death, in
the heat of the moment Hermann shot an entire cartridge clip into the auditorium and was
removed with the crash of drums and the moan of violins. Further action unfolded
accordingly and ended very lamentably.
At the end of the play, two sinewy medical orderlies dressed in white robes and striped
trousers carried off a kicking Hermann to the crazy house. Liza ran in small steps after
him, rattling the chain. Other heroes stomped onto the stage and for a while trod by
themselves, but then, left without ideological leaders, also disappeared somewhere. The
curtain coquettishly twitched several times and dropped down. In the next minute, part of
the audience ran into the cloakroom in order to get in line, and the others began to clap
loudly and shout “Bravo!”
On hearing the ovation, I. Shpuntser-Smorchkovsky and O. Gulkind, earlier hiding
behind the curtain, immediately stuck their noses out of the director’s box. The director
of the play, Lucian Babets, immediately summoned them onto the stage, simultaneously
explaining to the audience that both turned up in the theatre purely by chance, on their
way from Boston to Omsk. The three together bowed for a long time. At the same time,
Lucian Babets pretended that it was awkward for him and he intended to disappear
behind the scenery, but for some reason each time showed up in front of everyone all the
same. Shpuntser-Smorchkovsky kissed both cheeks of the lady’s maids, and O. Gulkind
dragged the conductor and the first violin out of the pit and ran together with them onto
the stage, sowing confusion and uneasiness. Wolf Cactusov appeared on stage — not
known how — and was about to force his way to greet Lucian Babets, who, in creative
intoxication, after nodding negligently, turned his back to him. A distressed Cactusov
sadly shoved off.
Hermann, having run away from the crazy house, came out to bow twice; moreover, he
kept the medical orderlies beside him and continually raised their hands, as if the medical
orderlies were precisely the main characters here. A bespectacled youth jumped belatedly
onto the stage and, losing his head, presented flowers to one of the second tier actresses,
which surprised the girl greatly and Liza standing next to her. Suddenly remembering, the
youth tried to take away the bouquet and correct his slip, but, embarrassed, could not
carry through and retreated in a cowardly manner.

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74

Gradually the hall was deserted. The lighting technician disappeared from his eagle’s
nest, and the orchestral pit was raised. Shpuntser-Smorchkovsky and O. Gulkind, like two
operatives firmly holding the pompous Lucian Babets by his wrists, proceeded to the
nearest hole-in-the-wall. Even the ushers, who had to close the hall after checking that no
one remained, mysteriously disappeared, not even having done this. Only a three, a
seven, and an ace necessary to no one haphazardly towered like an unfinished house of
cards on the stage and a program dropped by someone was lying about in the
passageway.
Golden-wings got out of four seats of the orchestra section and stood up expectantly,
looking up. There, on the dimming theatre chandelier shedding down crystal pendants,
the cat Depressiac was swinging. One of the golden-wings materialized his flute and
attacked Depressiac with maglodies, but the smart cat in a flash leaped from the
chandelier and hung by its claws onto the velvet of one of the boxes. The broken-off
chandelier fell showering into the auditorium, breaking two rows of seats.
Ares approached and, leaning his elbows against the edge of the box, began to look
calmly at the golden-wings. Methodius was astonished. He expected an immediate
skirmish; therefore he had been anxiously pressing the case with the sword against
himself for a while. However — no. Both the golden-wings and Ares were clearly
lingering over the mêlée. Even that tall guard who tried to bring Depressiac down
lowered his flute. And then the amazed Methodius saw how Ares bowed slightly to the
golden-wings. They in turn also answered him with civil nods. Methodius interrogatively
looked sideways at Ares. “Don’t be surprised, Signor Tomato! Only a fresh hostility is
clamorous. The old one though is cold and calm. We still have time! The night is long!”
not removing his eyes from the golden-wings, Ares explained to him. Julitta, brandishing
her foil, stood up next to Ares. The golden-wings, however, looked at her only in passing.
It was evident that they were disturbed in earnest only by Ares and… perhaps,
Methodius. They looked attentively and tenaciously at him and at the sword case in his
hands.
A door slammed in the distance. Methodius, whose internal space suddenly widened
and vision penetrated even the walls, perceived that the last moronoid had leaped out of
the theatre as if scalded. It seemed this was the unlucky Wolf Cactusov, detained for
some unknown reason in the foyer. And the most amusing — Methodius sensed this
completely accurately — poor Wolf himself did not know what chased him away. He
experienced vague anxiety of the most incomprehensible quality: first, it seemed to him
that he was being pursued, next — the gas was not switched off at home, then — a crafty
druggie around the corner was playing with a bat, intending on robbing his wallet and cell
phone.
After deciding that being in the depths of the box behind the backs of Ares and
Methodius was not too courageous, Daph got up next to them and started to call
Depressiac, which, becoming belligerent and jumping from circle to circle, insultingly
paid her little attention. When Depressiac did not wish to respond the fourth time, Daph
held her tongue and pretended that she shouted “Depressiac!” simply to complain about
her internal state. “What, pretending to be deaf? Should have done it with an arbalest
after all! Excellent cure for earwax,” sympathetically said Julitta.
Daphne looked down. Now all of only fifteen metres separated her from the golden-
wings. Daph understood very well that she had already been recognized long ago.

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Otherwise, it simply could not be. Now, when guards of Gloom were standing beside her,
the conclusions, which golden-wings could jump to, were too obvious. Deadly obvious.
Daphne sensed waves of contempt and anger issuing from them. She felt how, saturated
with them, her feathers grew dark and heavy. Daph felt bad and ashamed, but at the same
time indignation stirred inside her. She wanted to grab her flute and with dual maglodies
knock down a dozen seats around the golden-wings. And let Essiorh think what he
wanted then.
“Do you know them?” Ares was interested. “No. Never saw them before,” Daph said
reluctantly. It was the truth. “What’s so bad? But they’re yours, Light?” Julitta gibed.
“And you, of course, know all the guards in Tartarus? But they’re yours, Gloom?”
Daphne answered her in the same tone. Julitta made a face. “Curse that tongue of yours!
Tartarus isn’t the place where one should have friends… Now bald mountain — yes. It’s
merry there, especially if Nagianka kicks up a racket as she should and tries to be
original.”
At this moment one of the golden-wings stepped forward and, lifting his hand up in
reproach, pointed his flute at Daph. He was elderly and dark-complexioned, with
drooping grey moustaches. “Daphne, assistant to junior guard! Do you hear me,
despicable traitor? I’m Alcides, second guardian of the golden-wings, holder of the Order
of Loyalty, senior oracle of the House of Light! If you want to live, unfasten your wings,
drop the flute, and come down! You will be deprived of magic, wings, and flute, but you
will keep eternity.” “Well, indeed no. The flute and the wings are like keys and notebook
to me. I won’t return them!” Daph refused. “You have chosen your own fate, Daphne,
assistant to junior guard! And you will be buried under the landslide of your obstinacy!”
Alcides said with compassion.
“Fancy that! Everyone knows that you’re only assistant to junior guard! This is what I
call advertisement!” Julitta remarked loudly. “And in general, Light speaks in all kinds of
clichés! When not being wearisome, they must read chick lit in their guardroom.”
“Silence, witch! May the venom of your malice poison you!” The very young blond
guard standing to the right of Alcides was agitated. Julitta threw up her hands. “I will
really shut up! Don’t even let a girl open her mouth! Eh, golden-wings! And if I also
want to be in captivity? What should I unfasten and remove so that my life would be
preserved? Only let that handsome blond come up after me, otherwise I disagree!” she
shouted.
The very young guard blushed and clutched his flute. Daphne sympathized with him.
She knew perfectly well that to get into the ranks of golden-wings was monstrously
complicated. The fellow had to pass immense competition and hundreds of tests, master
maglodies and stunts till the fingers turned blue and the chest hurt, smash agents in
training battles, and here suddenly a twenty-year-old moronoid witch was mocking him.
For sure, he would now give up much in order not to have this fresh, rosy, and sweet
appearance. But alas…
“Hey you, creation of Gloom! Only let me reach you! I… I… You’ll see what it’ll be!”
he shouted in a fragile voice. “And what will it be? More detail from here on, please,
don’t miss a single one. I’m an impressionable girl. A tender word can literally knock me
out. Will you play the wedding march of Chopin Bach Mendelssohn on the pipe for me?”
Julitta slyly asked. Ares guffawed. However, rosy-cheek was so angry that he
materialized his wings and was about to rush to Julitta, but Alcides held him.

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“Hey, Ares! Something I don’t understand! Where’s Ligul, where’s William, where’s
Barbarossa? Has Gloom really lost all real soldiers? You have a good team! A sharp-
tongued secretary, two adolescents, and a midget-cat!” he shouted. “Then it’s worse for
you. The more absurd we look from the side, the more disgraceful your defeat will be!”
Methodius shouted in offence. The golden-wings exchanged glances. The argument was
strong. “Flutes to the battle!” Alcides gave an order. “Well done, Signor Tomato!” Ares
showed approval. “Well said! We already did some work with our tongues, now it’s time
to work with blades.”
With the sword materialized in his hand, the Baron of Gloom jumped heavily down into
the orchestra. The golden-wings, not closing in on Ares, attacked him with maglodies,
from which Ares either attempted to sidestep by rapid adjustment or deflected with the
blade of his dark sword. It was possible to judge the strength of the maglodies in that one
of the seats, onto which a light beam fell, was ripped out together with the bolts. No,
these were not Daphne’s friendly maglodies, even intensified by Ares. This was
something entirely different.
Ares’ strategy was simple. Deflecting the maglodies, the swordsman of Gloom
attempted to draw the golden-wings closer to striking distance of the sword. They, in
turn, understanding that this approach was more dangerous for them, stepped back, not
ceasing to play the flutes. One of the maglodies, after sliding along the blade nearer to the
handle, stung Ares, hurling him back a metre. The swordsman of Gloom fell, and
although he immediately jumped up, Methodius realized that even guards of Gloom were
not so invulnerable. “Julitta, Daph! Take those two!” Ares shouted, after appraising that
the golden-wings, scattered around the hall, occupied positions very advantageous for
them.
Julitta with the foil and Daph, who did not know herself how to do this, rushed to his
aid. In her leap, Daphne materialized her wings, sensing the elastic, exciting rush of the
air on the feathers. Fixtures glided like bright spheres along the boxes, the projector
flashed its cyclops eye, motley cardboard cards flickered on the stage. Depressiac, similar
to a flying squirrel shaved by a maniac, with a heartrending meow leaped from heaven
knows which circle and flew by very close to Daphne. Depressiac’s aim was the bright
bald spot of one of the golden-wings — a bald spot, which, with mystical power, by its
sole cheerful lustre, attracted falling objects and leaping cats. Daphne soared up to the
ceiling, where instead of the heavy chandelier now hung one hook, and from there, not
specifically aiming at anyone, launched two triumphant maglodies. What joy it was — to
fly again!
Methodius dallied, with the moronoid habit of gauging heights with caution. About
three and a half metres, and still seats underneath. He did not much care for rattling his
bones, and even with all its merits, the sword of The Ancient One little resembled a
parachute. Buslaev tensely pondered: jump or run down the stairs. The question was
nevertheless a matter of principles and fraught with multiple crises. Here it was similar to
the “to hit or not to hit” from a medical point of view. By chance, he shifted his gaze up
and was blinded by Daph’s wings. He had never seen her in flight before. Daph first
gained altitude, then, contrary to boring physics, danced in the light of the projector,
which the run-away lighting technician had not switched off. Daph was not even
embarrassed that her enormous wings occasionally brushed against the narrow theatrical
circles.

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77

While the amazed Methodius was admiring Daph, the golden-wings Alcides decisively
attacked her with dual maglodies. On noticing how the light beam intensified from
without and rushed towards Daphne, Methodius, without a moment’s hesitation, leaped
with a shout and in flight met the maglody with his sword. The blade attracted the magic
of Light like a lightning rod. Methodius only sensed how the handle heated up in his
palm and the formidable blade, after absorbing new power, lit up. Daph caught
Methodius under the arm near the seats. However, taking into account that Methodius
was by no means a bit of fluff and had time to gather speed in the drop, Daph could not
hold on and collapsed on top of him. They rolled between the seats. Daphne’s dishevelled
hair hid Methodius’ face. He felt her breath like apples.
Daph scurried and hurriedly got up. “Next time when you jump, don’t howl so loudly!”
she growled. “I saved someone’s life,” snapped Methodius. “You saved my life, I — your
ribs. Consider that thanks for thanks. And it may not be necessary…” “What’s
necessary?” “Nothing. On the whole, here’s your ‘thanks’ for you, now go for a walk!”
For some reason Daph was angry. “Thanks don’t gurgle. I’ll exchange one thanks for
three chocolates!” Methodius parried. This was a small joke in the spirit of Eddy
Khavron, by the way, also borrowed from him. Only the mercenary Eddy often
exchanged “thanks” for a can of beer, which had already long been his alternative
currency.
Julitta selflessly fenced with the rosy-cheeked blond, who could not resort to maglodies
because of the short distance and used the bayonet joined to the flute. The blond, forced
to battle with a girl, and furthermore with full strength, appeared confused. “Strike!
Parry! Strike! Parry!” Julitta commanded. “Hey, what are you doing? Now’s my turn to
lunge! What, do you want to stab me? Strike! Parry! Here’s a good job now! Do you
want me to kiss you on the cheek? I’m not poisonous. Don’t be afraid!” The blond
stepped back in confusion, obediently continuing to parry. After one of Julitta’s lunges, a
deep scratch appeared on his shoulder.
“You defend badly, chicken neck! Keep in mind that I felt sorry for you! Notice, it
would be worth nothing for me to cut off your golden wings!” Julitta stated. “Strike!
Parry! I read a story by someone about a clown, who was stabbed in the leg with a dagger
by his rejected beloved. The clown was writhing in pain and dying, but, in order not to
frighten the one he loved, shouted that it was raspberry syrup pouring out. Hey
handsome, felt sad about something? Fence! Do you think I’ll tell you fairy tales till old
age?”
A maglody, released in passing by the flute of one of the golden-wings, knocked Julitta
off her feet. The foil flew from the witch’s hand and, after tracing a semicircle, was lost
between the rows. The blond paused and, after looking around at Alcides, attempted to
cut off Julitta’s darc, at the same time apparently afraid to wound her with the bayonet.
“Hey!” Julitta said, wincing from the pain. “You too, Brutus! In the most interesting
place! They tell the truth that there’s no protection from idiots…” With these sad words,
the witch very neatly and accurately kicked the blond in the ankle.
Despite the short-term success, this could easily have become the finale of her path in
life. Already hurrying to the aid of the blond was a third golden-wings — Thucydides, till
now not without success, knocking down Methodius quickly with two maglodies.
Methodius took the first maglody with his sword and absorbed the second into himself;
however, this turned out to be obvious surplus. Such a charge of magic simply could not

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78

be absorbed immediately. As a result, Buslaev flew over three rows of seats and was
saved from the mop-up maglody only thanks to Daph, reciprocally attacking his offender
with a long threading maglody, which Sniffka, not deprived of humour, called “dance of
the corkscrew.” However, Thucydides, a rather short and broad-shouldered guard, was
strong as a gnome. It would only be possible to knock him off his feet with a ram,
provided that the three Tibidox intellectuals — Dubynya, Gorynya, and Usynya — would
swing the ram. Thucydides protected himself with a wing from the “dance of the
corkscrew,” taking it in the feathers, and with a reciprocal maglody knocked the flute out
of Daph’s hands. After this, he rushed to Julitta, intending on cutting off her darc.
Victory in battle, therefore, almost belonged to the golden-wings. Methodius and Julitta
were clearly out of it and, as is called, smoking on the balcony. Daph in no way could
find her flute at all. Only Ares was confidently battling alongside the cat Depressiac,
which, after abandoning the boring bald spot, like a small vampire bat, rushed around the
auditorium so swiftly that none of the maglodies could hit it. But Ares, attacked
immediately from both sides, the entire time could in no way approach either of his
opponents and was continuously forced to parry.
On noticing that the curve on Thucydides’ bayonet was almost touching the lace, on
which Julitta hung her darc, Ares jerked his sword overhead using both hands and
bellowed, “Stop!” The golden-wings froze. “Alcides, head of the force of Light! I, Ares,
swordsman of Gloom, using my right, challenge you! If the gold wings that you bear are
deserved by you honestly, you will not refuse! Let the one who wins get the box!
Furthermore, my own darc for the game! Leave the girl!” Ares said dully. “What sense is
there in one-on-one combat? Was there not enough fighting, four-on-four? Victory is
ours!” Thucydides answered reasonably, swinging Julitta’s darc on the bayonet.
However, the lace and the silvery icicle itself were still whole. The guard lingered,
waiting for his leader’s answer.
“Alcides!” Ares bellowed, ignoring his words. “I challenged you personally. Or are you
such a coward that you always let fat gnomes answer for you?” Turning pale, Alcides
took a step forward. There is no worse insult for golden-wings than to be accused of
cowardice. In order to save their honour, they are ready to rush singly into attack against
at least an entire legion of Gloom. “I am not a coward. My wings against your darc! No
one is to interfere! Thucydides, leave this young witch! First we hunt the full-grown wolf,
and then look into the wolf cubs!” The short guard snorted and fell back a step from
Julitta. The witch heard how he, grumbling, called Alcides a madman, who from vanity
did what Gloom wanted.
Julitta sat down on the floor, feeling her darc. The blond irresolutely approached her,
clearly without hostile intentions. “Alcides is a good soldier! His threading maglody
breaks through even the fence of the Garden of Eden. Your master doesn’t have a
chance!” After giving a cough in order to draw her attention, he said.
Julitta screwed up her eyes. “Don’t clutter my brain with your nonsense. Better give me
your phone number!” The blond turned pink. “Wh-why?” “So? What if I want to yield
myself up as a prisoner to you? And in general you don’t ask girls such questions.” “I
don’t have a phone.” “Nightmare! What have they come to! Not even a phone in the
Garden of Eden! But you do have a name? Or did your mummy forbid you to tell it to
witches?” “I’m Cato,” said the utterly confused blond. Julitta snorted. “What, seriously?”
“You don’t believe me?” the blond was offended. “But I do. I’m generally trusting. We’ll

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be friends, Catosha! And I’m Julitta. Only I beg you, in the interests of the health of the
Ministry of Public Health, never call me ‘snail’. Even as a joke. Right away something
bulky will come down on your head. For example, the Ostankino Tower.” “O-okay.”
“Let’s move on, Catosha! Will you not ask me for a date?” The flute fell from Cato’s
unclenched fingers. “Don’t know. Perhaps…” he muttered in uncertainty. Julitta
coquettish slapped his hand. “You persuaded me, naughty, you did… Talked me right
into it! And even pretended to be modest, sly dog! When, tomorrow?” “Tomorrow I…”
began the guard of Light. “Agreed! Only consider, I’m a busy working girl and don’t get
off earlier than six. From morning, I sort out the mess with succubae and knock some
sense into the agents. You don’t have a habit of being late, Catosha?” “No. But all the
same I’m not…” the completely entangled blond mumbled. “That’s a good boy. I love
punctual people… Then remember: not far from our residence is the statue of Yuri
Dolgorukii. You’ll immediately recognize it. Pigeons eternally sit on its head! And don’t
forget your armour-piercing pipe. Perhaps we’ll go to a nightclub, but genies from
Tartarus meet there too. Again, will have to shoot the bouncer. He doesn’t want, you
understand, to let in people not fitting the dress code…”
While Julitta was putting the unsophisticated blond on the right track, the Baron of
Gloom and Alcides approached each other. Ares lowered his sword, just as Alcides did
his flute. “Six and a clap?” Alcides asked. The chief of the Russian division of Gloom
nodded and turned around. Alcides followed his example. Now both were standing back
to back. The chains, on which one hung his darc and the other his gold wings, were
almost touching.
“‘Six and a clap’, what’s that?” Methodius asked Daph. “Simple. The opponents each
take three big steps and wait for the signal — a clap. Then all depends on what happens
faster: the guard of Gloom approaches for a blow with his sword or the guard of Light
has time to attack with his maglody,” explained Daph. “Ares will knock down Light!”
Methodius said. “Not necessarily. There’s a reason for six steps. With a distance of less
than six steps, well, four steps, the sword will definitely outstrip the flute. If the distance
is eight-nine steps, the flute takes the lead over the sword. With six steps and equally
trained, the chances are approximately identical,” Daph said with slight irritation. She did
not like it when someone underestimated the flute and the destructive force of maglodies.
Well, are moronoids not strange creatures? A pitiful rifle or pistol inspires respect in
them, but the flute of a guard of Light seems like a pipe and evokes only foolish giggles.
Even Methodius Buslaev — and he was not yet ingrained.
The swordsman of Gloom and Alcides waited. The face of the guard of Light was
aloof. It seemed he was weaving in his consciousness a maglody to incinerate Gloom.
Here it is already ready… Now it only remains for it to come into contact with the flute
and slide towards the target. Ares’ face disfigured by a scar expressed impatience. On it
was read a simple and clear thought — the thought that chopped off heads do not play
musical instruments. “Let’s begin! Why are we lingering?” Ares impatiently asked.
Alcides nodded in concentration, showing that he was also ready.
“One…” Thucydides began to count slowly. He moved his hands apart, getting ready
for the clap immediately after the count of ‘three’, when suddenly something cracked
dully behind the stage. It sounded as if someone had dropped a clay pot in a resonant
room. Thucydides jerked up his head and stopped counting. “The box has materialized!”
he said. “To hell with it! There’s still time! The one who takes head and wings will get

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the box!” Ares impatiently shouted. “Or head and darc!” The lop-eared Alcides got to the
point, after looking at his flute with hope.
“Two…” Thucydides pronounced unhappily.
I am standing before the entrance into the coffin.
Here is this red terrible coffin.
And I so fear this coffin.
Here is this red terrible coffin,
A gloomy song taken from heaven knows where began to play in Methodius’ head.
However, before Thucydides sounded ‘three’ and clapped his hands, something took
place in the corridor of the make-up rooms. Methodius saw a vague radiance break
through the wall. He would not have noticed it at all had he not possessed the ability to
see auras and energies. A small reddish sphere, similar to a ball for table tennis, slid
along the floor and immediately faded. This was the first time Methodius encountered a
magic spark. The flash also did not remain unnoticed by the golden-wings and Ares.
Moreover, it clearly said more to them than to the inexperienced Methodius. “Treachery!
Someone from Gloom is there!” Thucydides shouted and rushed along the passageway
between the rows. Golden-wings followed him. Alcides looked around disappointedly
and made a helpless gesture, showing Ares that the duel had to be put off. Julitta, Daph,
and Methodius broke into a run along the dusty curtain to the wings. The actors’ smoking
room with a sofa, a narrow little corridor — and they jumped out to where there were
already golden-wings — the dressing room. Behind them, breathing heavily through his
cut nose, rushed Ares.
Guards of Light and Gloom paused at the doors, considering whether they should fear
each other and whether an attack in the back would follow, but then they broke into the
dressing room all at once. A three-leafed mirror and a padded stool hospitably met them.
The smell of sweat and perfume. A toreador’s hat, which would even be big for a bull. A
saucer of cigarette-butts. Ivy growing bald at the window. A couple of yellowed posters
with autographs of flies and celebrities.
Alcides view slid along the mirror and stopped on the floor, where a circle, which
remained after prompt dark magic teleportation, had not yet faded. After squatting down,
Alcides attentively started to examine something on the floor. “Oh Light! Someone was
here! They beat us to it!” he shouted and, on turning around, ran face to face into
Methodius. The attentive look of the guard of Light slid along his face, his hair, the
sword of The Ancient One in his lowered hand. Methodius sensed that in this look he saw
something he rarely or even never found in Ares — tired compassion. “Remember your
eidos, Buslaev! You are on a bad path! I see your body as a corpse, and your eidos
forever ruined… Gloom always pays those who serve it, this is true, but, alas, with false
money. Remember, Buslaev: Aqua et igni interdicere! You’re close to hearing these
words! And you, Ares, killer of Light, we’ll still meet again. Only, I fear, not now. Now
the main thing is the Scroll,” Alcides said tiredly and left. The other golden-wings
followed him, materializing their wings. Cato helplessly glanced back at Julitta and
shrugged his shoulders. “Tomorrow at six! If you’re late, I’ll break Dolgorukii’s statue!”
the witch shouted.
Methodius noticed that in the dressing room not far from the faded circle was a box
lolling around. The lid was opened. The second bottom had been unceremoniously
discarded to the side. Now the box no longer disappeared anywhere, and even could not

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disappear: since the guard spells were destroyed, the box’s ability to teleport also
vanished together with them.
“Someone beat us to it. Both the golden-wings and us! And now I want to know: who?”
Ares said. He squatted down, examining the residual magic radiance. “I can’t determine
whose. We caught it too late,” he said with annoyance. “What if it was Ligul? It’s
completely his style,” proposed Julitta. Ares slowly shook his head. “Ligul? Hmm-m-m-
m-m… It’s possible, but all the same I think that this isn’t Ligul.” “Why?” “Ligul
wouldn’t have enough courage to stick his nose here alone. He, like the majority of
important bastards, loves to have a large retinue beside him. This teleportation circle is
clearly meant for one. Moreover, Ligul isn’t able to handle the magic of red sparks…
Here we’re dealing with someone, who, together with the strength that darc gives, uses
even the power of dark rings. Someone who works not for Gloom but for himself…”
Suddenly Ares stopped talking and vigilantly glanced at Methodius. “What’s with you,
Signor Tomato? You look like death warmed over. Are your principles tormenting you,
your morals nagging, and conscience spoiling your mood?” “The golden-wings said that
he sees my eidos ruined and my body as a corpse…,” repeated Methodius. Ares frowned.
“Met, did he say so exactly? That you’ll die and all that?” “Yes.” “Excellent. Then you’re
lucky.” “Why?” “Because this Alcides is an anti-prophet. I’ve heard about him. The only
one of his kind. All his predictions come true. There hasn’t been a case that he is
mistaken.” “There, you see!” “Don’t interrupt. Did you really not hear, I said ‘anti-
prophet’? His predictions happen with an accuracy to the reverse. If he says that you’ll
live long and happily and defeat all enemies, you should immediately lie down in a coffin
and close the lid. So, Signor Tomato. Live and be glad!”
Ares’ voice sounded convincing. It was so convincing that Methodius could not but
believe him. Only the strange — bitter and simultaneously ambiguous — wrinkle, which
appeared in the corners of Ares’ mouth in the first second, disturbed Buslaev. However,
he soon discarded the thought from his head. “And what’s this ‘igni et...’? Well, what did
Alcides say to me?” On recalling, he asked Daph, when they had again settled down in
Mamai’s rumbling carriage. “Aqua et igni interdicere? It means to forbid water and fire.
An expression of banishment. They used it in Rome, but Light uses it too,” absent-
mindedly explained Daph. She was anxiously examining the long scratch on Depressiac’s
back and therefore did not give her answer special importance. One of the guards’
maglodies, though casually, nevertheless caught Depressiac, after sliding along the
leathery side and a wing. The only comfort was that everything healed on Depressiac as
on a dog. Despite the fact that it was a cat.

Chapter 7
A Key to Nothing

“The best cure for tonsillitis is to breathe on a toad,” Eddy Khavron imparted
authoritatively. He had already been patiently trying to treat Daph for five minutes. To
treat the usual moronoid tonsillitis, which she had inexplicably managed to get. And, as
always, it was not possible to determine whether Eddy was joking or telling the truth.
Khavron’s proposal did not inspire Daphne. “I’m already running!” she said. “Then let’s
clarify this. Did you eat something very cold?” “No.” “Drink something cold?” “Don’t

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think so,” Daph answered with doubt. Khavron shrugged his shoulders. “In order to get
tonsillitis in the beginning of July, you have to be a very unlucky person.” “That’s exactly
me,” despondently nodded Daph. “Then the old student method: half an aspirin, half a
pill for bad luck, and have a good rest till evening. And in the evening boogie down to the
disco and sneeze on everyone till your full recovery… Well, I’m gone! Bye to the
microbes!” Khavron said and, after waving to Daph, left for Ladyfingers to catch tips by
spinning his “witticism”.
After Eddy slammed the door shut, Daph touched the aspirin left on the saucer and
screwed up her face. She gave the pill to Depressiac. The infernal cat devoured the whole
thing, lock, stock, and barrel. Now, having gobbled up the pill together with the saucer,
Depressiac passed its tongue over the triple rows of teeth and settled down to warm itself
on the running TV set. Daph leaned back on the pillow and despondently began to
examine the wallpaper, covered sometime long ago with drawings by hand and even
signed Mithodius. Judging by the nature and quality of the figures, Methodius was to the
young Rembrandt, as was going to Venus on foot compared to post chaise.
Daph’s throat smarted. The lymph nodes under her ears were swollen a little. It was
painful to swallow. Instantly something started to croak indistinctly in her ears, as if the
toad recommended by Khavron was already sitting there, anticipating to be breathed on.
“What has it come to, that I, a guard of Light, can be sick with tonsillitis! For the first
time in the history of the universe! Not even enough to have fallen in love, and that’s it…
perfect finish!” Daph thought. She was sad. She grasped Depressiac, put it down roughly
on her tummy, and closed her eyes. Depressiac began to purr huskily (the nervous better
not hear this). To Daph, and to the cat also, although it possessed much more developed
intuition, it remained unnoticed that Eddy’s jacket, negligently thrown onto the back of a
chair, somehow blurred and became fuzzy, as if there was a not very clean glass between
it and Daphne.
When Daph fell asleep, someone’s shadow slid along the sunlit parquet. A tall narrow-
shouldered man appeared in the room. Stooping, he sat on the chair, which until then had
seemed empty, and, biting his thumbnail, he stared at Daphne with eyes having bulging
veins. The concept of “age” was not retained on his unremarkable face, which slipped
from memory like wet soap from a hand. But something stuck in one’s memory all the
same. For example, the face was very lively, and the corners of the mouth shuddered now
and then as if from a nervous tick — a characteristic very common in werewolves and
half-breed werewolves. The stranger’s skin was greyish with large pores. The nose,
broken in former days, had a bulge in the upper part, near the eyebrows. On the top of his
head was a fairly good bald spot, which made the crown subtly similar to an old billiard
ball, on which someone glued sparse ash-grey hair. The same sparse ash-grey hair, but
only taking the form of stubbles, dispersed like islets on the face. On his belt, in a metal
ring, hung a battle-axe, agreeing poorly with the general appearance of a litigant and
pettifogger. The handle of the axe had a tinge of green and the blade had nicks
everywhere. As if it was grinning. However, in the magic world only a fool would begin
to judge his opponent by external appearance.
Depressiac, which, even in dreams Daph continued to press against herself, opened its
eyes and stared watchfully at the stranger. The tail of the cat ending in an indentation was
trembling. If not for the overalls, which hindered the movement of the wings, Depressiac
would already have slashed the face of the uninvited guest long ago. “Quiet, foolish

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animal, don’t wake her! If she reaches out for the flute, I’ll kill her! This way… this way
she’ll live for a while…” the stranger whispered with his lips, aiming a thin finger at
Daph; a large ring similar to a drop of mercury was quivering on his finger. Depressiac
stopped hissing. Either the play of colours of the ring cast a spell on it or wise instinct
suggested to it that the grey person was as dangerous and merciless as Mamzelkina after
a bad hangover. The cat froze; however, it bared its small sharp teeth. Depressiac was
ready to rush to grey-face if he were to take at least one step towards Daph.
On noticing this, the man quickly extended his hand, with the palm directed towards
Depressiac. The strange liquid ring turned around the finger without any effort. Like
mercury, it flowed around the finger in many separate drops. A ruby point detached itself
away from the ring and rushed, sliding on invisible gossamer, to the cat. Depressiac
darted and stopped dead in its tracks. A hollow void filled its paws. The strong back with
lean ligaments supporting the back muscles was numb. The stranger walked to
Depressiac, squatted down and, having some fun, ran a finger along its teeth frozen in a
grin. Depressiac followed him with its eyes full of hatred. Only the pupils still obeyed it.
Everything else was paralyzed.
“Hello, kitty! Anything you want to say to me? Shake a paw?” Fighting for its life,
Depressiac convulsively tried to pull in air. “That means no? Well, it’s probably better
this way. Once I killed the likes of you by the hundreds in Tartarus. Simply for
amusement. There were creatures a little more terrible: with snake tails, basilisk eyes
transforming your heart into crystal splinters, and scores of heads spewing out fire…
Although, I must admit, I much prefer killing hippogriffs, unicorns, and other creations of
Light. They writhe so sorrowfully, broadcast pain in such a way that happiness fills my
soul. Creations of Gloom are not so interesting in this respect,” he said in a scratchy
voice.
Depressiac with effort stirred a front paw. He succeeded in moving it all of a couple of
centimetres, but this put the stranger on guard. “Oho! And you’ll quickly be out of the
paralyze magic, friend! Creatures much stronger than you could not even move an
eyeball the whole night and waited until I killed them… Why is this? Ah, you’re a
mongrel! A merging of Light and Gloom occasionally leads to strange results…” The cat
managed to turn its head. The jaws with the triangular teeth slammed shut, but,
unfortunately, not fast nor strong enough to snap off the insolent finger.
“In five minutes you’ll again be able to bite and scratch. Alas, can’t kill you now. Must
hurry!” the stranger muttered unhappily. Thrusting his hand under the raincoat, he
extracted a pair of heavy tongs. After putting on thick gloves, with the tongs he carefully
lifted up the bronze wings on Daph’s chest. The tongs blazed. The parts that came into
contact with the wings glowed. The heat slowly ran along the tongs to the handle. “Pity,
can’t cut them off together with the lace. And the lace… hee… together with the head. If
the girl is dead, the impression of her wings won’t be of the least use. If the lace suffers,
the connection will be destroyed and the impression won’t be worth anything…,” he said
hoarsely with disappointment.
Holding the tongs with one hand, with the other he deftly placed a slender scroll on
Daphne’s chest and, after straightening it, touched it with the bottom edge of the wings.
A slight, hardly distinguishable ripple passed quickly over the scroll. Smirking, the
possessor of the iridescent ring let go of Daphne’s wings and removed the tongs. Then
came the turn of the scroll, which set off for his wide sleeve. “Got the impression. With

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the girl it seems, that’s it… Although no, one more detail! I’ve successfully managed
nevertheless to twist her sap of a keeper round my little finger,” he muttered in a
business-like manner.
Grey-face raised his hand to his face and quite softly, as if it was a candle he feared to
extinguish, blew on his quivering ring. A small, almost indistinguishable red spark slid
through the air to the sleeping Daph and, after touching the lace, on which hung her
wings, a barely perceptible knot was frozen on it. “Simply a knot… I don’t think it’ll alert
anyone. Certainly, much grief in much knowledge, but I prefer to know everything.
Especially what takes place in Ares’ office… Till we meet, Ares and… Methodius!” he
whispered. The stranger rolled up his shadow, exactly like old burlap, traced a circle on
the floor, and took a step into it. In the next instant, the charismatic person, appearing
from nowhere, departed for nowhere.
After awaking in the morning, Methodius with melancholy recalled that it was Friday
— and such days always happened to be especially troublesome for guards of Gloom.
Only yesterday, Thursday, he, remembering, cheerlessly thought that much fuss of the
silliest kind would be in store the next day. Expecting nothing good, he set out for the
office, at the entrance of which already crowded a line of succubae. They were dull in the
company of succubae like themselves. They flattered no one, they flirted with no one,
their sweaty palms nervously squeezing the papers for extension of terrestrial
registrations.
When Methodius forced his way through, the succubae strove to grab him by a sleeve,
entreating to admit them without waiting in line. One succubus, an unpleasant saucy
character with a short crew cut of lightened hair, hung onto Met’s neck and began to lisp.
Knowing that there was no other way to get rid of him, Methodius said to him in a
wooden voice, “No can do, mister! Lux in tenebris! Deo juvante!” and acquired heavenly
delight watching how the insolent person was blown away and soaked by a fetid puddle
in a crack in the asphalt. After some time the succubus returned already from another
crack, dull, dispirited, and began humbly to beg forgiveness. In this case he voluntarily
and with all his might “begged pardon” against the wall of the house. The remaining
succubae, seeing what fate befell their comrade, rushed with a squeak in different
directions, and then Methodius was already going along the wide corridor. Daph had
taught him the expressions of Light, which he recently used. He heard how she once
successfully uttered them, completely driving off an agent pestering her. Now Methodius
feared that he and Daph would really get it from Ares, if the succubae snitched. And they
would definitely do this, if they knew how to push their snouts into the boss’s office.
Julitta herself would not blurt out anything. To repeat complaints was not her style.
Methodius went in, after looking sideways at the rune. Julitta was not alone in
reception. Beside her sat Mamzelkina, repairing goose feathers using a rusty but sharp
little knife. No one knew how to do this with such perfection as Aida Plakhovna. She
literally felt each feather and cut it into a shape essential to it. “It’s not, you’ll be kind
enough to see, a great achievement. Approximately the same motion as separating eidos
from the body!” she benevolently explained. “Hello!” Buslaev greeted them. “Oh
Methodius, my pet! And you’re here, darling! A hundred graves, a hundred corpses! A
meeting of all the fallen!” she greeted Buslaev. “Indeed better ‘a hundred summers, a
hundred winters’,” Julitta corrected her. “Well, my dear, in a hundred years there will be
more graves,” affectionately answered Mamzelkina.

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Julitta wrote something with black villainous blood on a parchment. This blood, in
contrast to blood of Earth donors, used for routine records, could not be bought at the
Durnev’s, but was specially delivered from Gehenna fire for filling in papers going to the
Chancellery to the hunchback Ligul.
Julitta raised her head and looked at Methodius. “Aida Plakhovna, is it me or is our
lady-killer in a good mood? Why would that be?” Mamzelkina grinned in understanding,
“Our ace is clearly naughty. Here he drives away succubae with expressions of Light, you
understand…” Methodius looked sideways with alarm at the door of Ares’ office. Aida
already knew. That means the chief was possibly up to date too. “Expressions of Light?
But they wouldn’t work for me. Useless to say it without eidos,” Julitta said not without
melancholy. “But someone else’s eide? You have them in your darc? Really they
don’t…” Met started. Julitta swung the silver icicle on her chest. “What do you mean
someone else’s? They give me strength for magic, no more. Hundreds of others’ eide
won’t replace one of your own. Otherwise, guards of Gloom wouldn’t be so embittered,”
she said quietly. Mamzelkina stopped repairing feathers and looked attentively at Julitta,
‘Somehow today you’re not quite up to it! Look out, someone will hear,” she warned.
“I’m switched off,” said Julitta and again buried herself in the papers.
“Why have you become sad, dear?” “Just now I recalled something. Somehow I met a
youth. A chocolate youth — naturally chocolate. The fingers are chocolate, hair, ears,
hands, legs — everything is entirely of chocolate. Such a soul, such a heart, such a mind
— simply darn so! And also pure chocolate! And before our date they ate his head, can
you imagine?” “Such things happen. We have tough ones. And who’s the youth, an
agent, perhaps?” Mamzelkina asked suspiciously. “No, not an agent. Ancestral curse.”
“Ah-h-h! I sympathize…” Aida Plakhovna drawled.
“And you, Methodius, all the same be more careful with expressions of Light. It’s not
so bad with Ares, but here if they find out in Tartarus, Gloom forbid… Oh, what’ll begin
then! Then they’ll send me to snip-snip you!” “Well, so they’ll find out some time in
Tartarus, but the succubae, if I indulge them, they’ll be sitting on my neck right now,”
said Methodius and, after opening the reception door, shouted: “Start moving, citizens,
one at a time! Don’t crowd! Shove in two mugs, both exit, fast! Wel-l, miserable, toddle
along!”
Aida Plakhovna, after dropping the little knife, clasped her hands. “Nice smile, Met!
I’ve only seen the like once, with young Ladik, when he managed to hack his first coffin
using a hatchet! How pleased Ladik was, how he laughed, how he clapped!” “Who’s this
Ladik?” Methodius jealously asked. “You really weren’t acquainted? Ah, yes, I forgot…
Count Vladislav Dracula, ruler of Transylvania. Often I had to be at his place on… eh-
eh… official business… One of his relatives lives here in Moscow, looks smack like him,
but not in spirit! A man with no scope, petty! And you smile, little friend, you smile!
Don’t pay attention to an old woman!” Mamzelkina must have been looking into a crystal
ball. Methodius’ mood was surprisingly good. Could it be that today he had already
involuntarily thought of Daph three times? Right away, he wanted to phone her at his
home in order to hear her voice. But should he dial from the residence of Gloom?
A bowlegged succubus entered first, stretched out his moist palm with a rumpled
report, froze, and stared perplexedly at Buslaev. Methodius thought better of it. Not
enough that this succubus would now blurt out something about Methodius’ mood, but
especially as, judging by the face, he was getting ready to do it. He would even become

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Daph — this was simple for succubae. “What are you blinking your eyes for, fat-face?
Quickly fill out the form, sign, and get out!” Methodius raised his voice, hurriedly
sending the succubus packing.
“Whoa, Aida Plakhovna, did you see that? A simple mortal treating spirits of Gloom so
caddishly? And please note that he’s so at home he doesn’t notice this outrage!” Julitta
giggled. “One of two things: it’s either a good or a very bad sign. Seems to me our boy
can surprise us greatly soon,” Mamzelkina said quietly into emptiness, continuing to
repair the feathers.
Methodius froze. He had heard that Aida Plakhovna was given the gift of foresight and
therefore her prophecies often came true. The only question here: were these words a
prophecy? There was no time for him to ponder this: the next stretched-out face had
already pushed through the door. “Next! Smartly, comrades! One foot here, the other in
the coffin!” he bellowed, borrowing one of Julitta’s usual little jokes.
After the succubae began the line of agents, with Tukhlomon among them, appearing,
as usual, last. After receiving an extension of registration, Tukhlomon glanced at
Methodius with such a caustic expression that Buslaev was ready to guarantee:
Tukhlomon had already dashed off to Ligul to denounce him. “Be happy, Mr. Sovereign
of Gloom! Peace to your home! To your own apartment, so to speak. Don’t be sick!” he
said ambiguously on farewell.
When the agents had finally disbanded, along came a whole crowd of sectarians
recently crawled into Russia through all sorts of cracks. Ligul willingly used these people
for pre-sale preparation of eide, as he expressed it. They paid off the preachers with fruits
of the charismatic trees: as these people had long since agreed to sell their eide, it was
necessary to attract them with something. With the sectarian preachers — since this was a
new and important direction of work — Julitta and Ares personally checked them out,
and even Aida Mamzelkina joined in on a voluntary basis. Methodius, as a newbie, was
not allowed contact with these characters. But even though Buslaev kept himself totally
on the side, almost hiding behind the fountain, the preachers all but contrived to slip to
him a little colour brochure with a call to confess. Alongside that, their greedy paws also
stretched out to his eidos.
Towards the evening came the time for those on leases, attempting to prolong the lease
term of eide. They calculated correctly in the chief Chancellery of Tartarus: the new work
model with mortals gave good results. Knowing that according to the conditions of
transaction, the contract could be dissolved at any moment, those on leases — normal and
occasionally not bad moronoids, initially expecting to indenture their eide only
temporarily — were drawn deeper and deeper into the network of Gloom. Aiming to be
reliable, they did unusually nasty things, quickly outdoing on average even the
productivity of agents. For this reason from Ligul’s staff recently came a circular,
ordering the reduction of the minimum term of lease from three years to six months.
Although the zeal of the frightened ones on lease only grew from this, Ares and Julitta
were displeased, since the quantity of paperwork increased many times.
Finally, “the soldiers’ arms grew too tired to thrust.” Julitta stamped with her last
strength. The feather soaked with blood broke in Methodius’ hand, and he, after staining
the paperwork, started with disgust to blot it with a rag. “Need help?” the hoarse voice of
some stray succubus insinuatingly asked from the line. The wretch did not manage to
arrive in the morning and was now sucking up so that they would not expel him. “I’ll

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manage by myself,” growled Methodius and, kneading his palm, looked hostilely
sideways at the line, whose tail crept out to the street. “Forced their way through after all!
Splash holy water on you! Hey you, bloody careerists! Already said in Russian: no
crowding, one at a time! I’ll mow down any excess, I warned you!” Mamzelkina
bellowed, mangling her grammar for the sake of being dramatic. The line fearfully
stepped back and, pushing, kept moving outside. It was known to all that Aida
Plakhovna’s words did not differ from her actions.
“Daph wisely plays hooky after all. No need for her to do anything in this dump! Smart
Daph! Although, of course, tonsillitis is tonsillitis!” Methodius said, keeping himself in
control with difficulty in order not to hurl the stamp at one of the faces looming before
him. Mamzelkina exchanged glances with Julitta. “Ah, Met, my little friend! My scythe
would not mow you down! According to everything, it’s obvious that you’re still a fool!
Moreover, not even top-of-the-line!” she said in a sugary voice. Methodius was offended.
“Why is that?” “Because! With your power you can know what’s happening in the centre
of the Earth, but you don’t even understand what’s going on with Daph and why she’s
sick with tonsillitis.”
“And why is she sick?” A suspicion admittedly flickered in Methodius, only he did not
dare to express it. “Trust me, cold ice cream has nothing to do with it here. The moronoid
world is altering her. The poor thing has lived here too long,” said Aida Plakhovna. “And
why is this so dangerous?” Mamzelkina hesitated. “You must be kidding! The moronoid
world possesses monstrous gravitational force and can change anyone conveniently. A
guard of Light must show up regularly in Eden. Even golden-wings, you notice, and they
are a cut above simple guards, for each day squandered among the moronoids, they spend
two days in Eden. Only in this way can one protect oneself from the influence of the
moronoid world and not become human.”
“And what will happen with Daph now?” Methodius asked with uneasiness. In recent
days, he had caught himself thinking about Daph at the most inappropriate moments and
without any reason. “With each day she’ll become more and more human with all the
pluses and minuses of this state. How long this humanization will last — who knows.
Weeks, months, decades — everything depends on personal resistibility… And generally,
Met, how do you yourself picture Daph in our office? What future does she have here? A
guard of Light taking scorned papers from agents?” Julitta asked not without malice.
“And the wings? The flute? The maglodies? What will happen to them if Daph
becomes human?” Methodius asked, turning to Mamzelkina. With all Julitta’s
advantages, Aida Plakhovna seemed to him the more knowledgeable. Mamzelkina
pensively chewed with her empty mouth and looked with such significance at one of
those on lease that he immediately skipped out. “I don’t think that she’ll lose them. And
even generally, the swift humanization of Daph, in my opinion, has other reasons besides
the direct influence of the moronoid world…” said Aida Plakhovna. Her voice sounded
evasive. Julitta must also have surmised these reasons. In a fit of temper, she stamped so
hard on the next registration that the inkpot jumped. “Look here, damn you! I’m sick of it
all! If in ten minutes people don’t stop piling up, I’ll take a machine gun and go out onto
the street to find out who’s last!”
Aida Plakhovna got up and leisurely stretched herself. Her bones began to crack loudly.
“Not worth it, Julietta, don’t trouble yourself, darling! Better let me go look. Indeed time
for me to go! I’ve stayed too long! Ares, take care!” she shouted, raising her voice so that

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it could be heard through the door. “Take care, Aida! Drop by again, not just on
business!” reached them from the office. “And you take care! We’ll meet again!”
Mamzelkina promised Methodius and Julitta and, ringing the encased scythe, made her
way to the door. Aida Plakhovna looked flagging and listless. However, it was noticeable
that mentally she was already preparing herself for work.
When Mamzelkina went out, Julitta was eavesdropping for a while by the door, and
then carelessly threw the stamp into the box. “It seems to me there won’t be more today,”
she said and looked at the clock. “What do you think, Methodius? Let’s pack up! I have a
date at six… Almost five now. We’ll manage. Mamai will transport us through the
Moscow traffic jam. And woe to any bulldozer that gets in our way.” “Where are we
going?” Methodius asked. He was hoping to visit Irka today. He had not been to see her
for a hundred years already. His conscience was nagging, pestering, and plaguing him.
“What do you mean by where?” Julitta was surprised. “Really, didn’t I tell you this
morning? Obviously, everything went out of my head… To the taxidermist. Ares needs
rat skins. A lot.” “Why?” “Hello! To write protests to Ligul in his Chancellery. This
skunk overloads us with scribbler’s orders and only accepts protests on skins. Notice, he
receives denunciations on whatever is convenient. On napkins, toilet paper, even with
milk between the lines. Write him a denunciation on the Egyptian pyramid, and in a flash
he’ll grab it and make off with it to a corner.” Julitta impatiently seized the magic silver
bell and rang it, summoning Mamai.
On finding himself on the street, Methodius looked around with interest. He was
interested in what car the khan would arrive in this time. He had already gotten used to
the automobile changing every time. So it happened today. Instead of the usual junk of
WWII Mamai was in a shiny black Rolls-Royce. The new Rolls-Royce had no visible
damages, and it was only when going around it that Methodius discovered several bullet
holes in the glass of the right rear door. “Did they really hit it?” he asked. Mamai sneered
in understanding. “They didn’t exactly miss the mark. Even armour plating didn’t help.
Have no fear, mister! Skeletons don’t bite,” he said hoarsely. After bracing himself,
Methodius pulled open the door and sighed with relief. The rear seat appeared completely
proper. If there were skeletons once, now they were absent.
“Mamaikin, will we be late? I have personal life at six. Meeting a guard of Light, by the
way, a classy one,” purred Julitta. The flat face of the khan remained impassive.
Methodius thought that Mamai already had no personal life for a long time. Only
Tartarus, racing, and emptiness. “We’ll have time,” Mamai said in a hoarse voice. The
Rolls-Royce darted away from the spot. The tires began to squeal, signing their own
obituary. The right mirror immediately flew off, having caught the parking post. The
protruded edge of the scaffolding surrounding house № 13 cut through the rear door.
Some boards fell from above. Julitta muttered that Ares would be unhappy. But the Rolls-
Royce had already flown out onto the road and darted off, ploughing into the traffic like a
can opener into a can. Methodius understood that they would be on time at the
taxidermist. Or Time would feel sorry about this.
The taxidermist Tsyuryupov, a sullen young husky lad, reeking of old scarecrows and
formaldehyde, was waiting for them in his workshop, which Julitta and Methodius
entered, trying not to touch anything. On the walls of the large semi-basement room hung
Tsyuryupov’s collection, consisting of abnormal, deformed skulls. Here was a sheep’s
head with a bent horn grown into one of the eye sockets, a bear skull with two bullet

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marks, the jaw of a dog with a deformed bite, and many similar exhibits. The only
“normal” skull belonged to an elephant, which died performing in a Romanian circus on
tour.
On the table, brightly lit by surgical lamps, lay a dead cat, next to which gleamed
scalpels, saws, and butcher shears on a rag. On seeing Julitta, the taxidermist was
embarrassed and muttered that a banker had ordered a stuffed cat. “Did he love this cat
very much?” Methodius naively asked, trying not to look at the partially dissected small
carcass. Immediately he began to feel sick. Tsyuryupov grinned. His teeth were so
terrible and the jaw so powerful that it involuntarily came to Methodius’ mind that this
skull would be a worthy exhibit of the collection. In other words, the finishing touch. And
more absurd giggling, shrill and girly, was heard. “Loved it? Couldn’t stand it! Hee-
hee… It hid fish in his boots! Hee… it howled… hee! And so eighteen years in a row…
And all this time… hee… the banker nurtured a plan of vengeance… hee-hee…”
continually emitting lip-smacking sounds, the taxidermist informed him.
Julitta demonstratively looked at the clock. “Well, where are they?” she asked.
Tsyuryupov rushed to a corner somewhere and returned with fifty rat skins. The top had
not yet dried entirely. Julitta took the skins and silently went to the exit. The taxidermist
overtook her already at the door and, lowering his voice, quickly muttered tongue-tied,
requesting to prolong the term of lease. ‘Hee-hee… hee-hee…” Methodius only heard.
“Not allowed more than three times!” Julitta said sternly, out of habit putting on a blank
face. “But I absolutely need it! Hee… No other way for me! Well then, you, boy! Do
something, hee!” The taxidermist almost groaned, attempting to put his arm around
Methodius’ shoulders. Recalling the dressed cat on the table, Buslaev quickly jumped
away.
“Only without the circus! We’re not elephants!” frowning, Julitta said. “And leave your
‘hee’ to yourself. We’ll try to make an exception. When will your lease be up?” “In three
months!” Tsyuryupov blurted out. “Come then. And you watch that there won’t be any
more delays with the skins. One more excuse that there are no rats, and…” Tsyuryupov
flatteringly began to nod. “Same conditions as the previous lease? Hee… I’ll indeed
make it worth your while! If there’s something on my part… To stuff something there…”
Julitta waved him off. “No need. I’ll manage somehow. I myself am stuffed,” she said.
Just in case, the taxidermist did not begin to smile or say “hee-hee.” “And what are the
conditions?” Curious, Methodius asked Tsyuryupov. “What conditions?” “Well, you
said: same conditions as the previous. What?” The taxidermist looked with appeal at
Julitta, but, getting no help from her, babbled on about complete nonsense, “You’ll see
for yourself in the contract there,” he said in the end and, after hurriedly stepping back to
the dead cat, shutting himself off with it from the surrounding world.
Julitta burst out laughing in the car. Methodius never got tired of being surprised by the
change in the witch’s mood: a couple of days ago after a fight with a genie she literally
shook the automobile with her sobbing, and now in exactly the same manner it was
shaking from laughter. “Well, you shook him up with your question! Did you see his
face?” the witch asked through laughter. “Aha. But why was he so flustered?”
“Toothbrushes,” said Julitta with difficulty. “What toothbrushes?” “What are you,
completely stupid?” Julitta was amazed. “Do you know what Tsyuryupov mortgaged his
eidos for? Once a month he receives a package, so punctually, and guess what’s in the
package? Old toothbrushes of famous actresses, sportswomen, and so on. Last time they

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were, in my opinion, those of the French singer Purchette de Farce and the Russian tennis
player Katya Syroezhkina.”
Methodius shook his head. He already had time to be slightly skilled in the matters of
the Chancellery of Tartarus and imagined how much correspondence and red tape would
be necessary each time to put through a demand. If the taxidermist does not become
reasonable urgently, a rather big account would be shown to him in the next world. “The
supply division, most likely, dumps everything onto the shipping division, the shipping
division to the messengers, the messengers — to the committee on terrestrial matters,
those to the foreign department, the foreign department to the succubae service, and the
succubae most likely again back to the supply division.”
“Do you remember for one guy on lease we needed the worn soccer boots of the
Argentinean team’s forward? For two weeks I squabbled with the Chancellery, until they
stole them,” he said. “I say, Buslaev, Buslaev! That one was an important character, a
politician, who wanted to surprise his chief, but this is an ordinary taxidermist! The
supply division would not begin to bother with him! It would keep the order waiting for
seventy years, while this Purchette would not kick the bucket, and then would send a
polite justification response about the impossibility of fulfilling the order because the
subscriber isn’t accessible.”
Methodius blinked in perplexity. “Then where is the toothbrush from?” “Hello! Where
have we parked our brain? Under the guise of Syroezhkina’s toothbrush, he received
someone’s old brush from a trash can — indeed I don’t know whose, and instead of
Purchette’s, Nagianka Pripyatskaya sent Vii’s personal toothbrush. Certainly, also no end
of trouble for me, but then how amusing! For what nonsense a man is ready to part with
his eidos! And indeed he’s not alone.”
And Julitta again burst out laughing, even so heartily that the windshield cracked, and
almost threw Mamai out of the driver’s seat. “Hey, be more careful! You stop that!
Khavron always said: if you want to get somewhere, don’t touch the driver’s nose or the
gears,” warned Methodius. “Your Khavron’s a smart one! He thinks right! Introduce us
some time!” Julitta was touched. “Ne-a. Eddy is harmful and greedy; better not have
anything to do with him.” “Doesn’t matter. I’m comfortable with that. I’m a girl well
provided for. I have here a car with a personal chauffeur. Right, Mamai?” Julitta said.
The personal chauffeur, who was also a khan of the Golden Horde, growled angrily,
clutching at the steering wheel like a bulldog at a bone. “Silence is a sign of approval,”
Julitta was filled with enthusiasm. “Okay, khan, let’s go! Why are we standing still,
whom are we waiting for? What, have we signed up for the tortoise race?”
The enraged Mamai took off so swiftly that a garbage can he came across on the way
went through the shop window of a store. Simultaneously a decorative grate, covering the
roots of one of the long-suffering Moscow trees, tossed up by a skidding wheel, struck
the wall of a house and accurately grazed the windshield of the Rolls-Royce, completing
what Julitta had already begun with her ultrasonic laughter. The edge of the grate stopped
all of half a metre from Met’s head. Mamai, huffing and puffing, knocked out the cracked
glass with his feet and, after flinging away the grate, again heavily flopped onto his seat.
“Hey, khan, are you capable of seeing at all or what? If something happens to Signor
Tomato before his eidos reaches Gloom, they’ll skin Ares! And they’ll bury me alive
altogether!” Julitta flared up. Methodius tensed up. It seemed to him that before him a
curtain opened slightly, but so quickly that he did not have time to make out what was on

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stage. “Why? Why would they do this to all of you?” he instantly asked, but Julitta
already recollected suddenly that she had rashly blurted out an unnecessary thing.
“You’re a valuable member of our collective! A workaholic, a young specialist!” she
drawled vaguely and suddenly, looking at the road, began to squeal: “A dog, Mamai, a
dog!” A shaggy mongrel with matted fur full of burs appeared so opportunely for Julitta
that Methodius did not doubt: indeed the witch herself had teleported it onto the road in
order to avoid a conversation undesirable for her.
The khan hooted. At the sight of the dog, in his fevered brain not strong on logic
loomed the back of a grey wolf dodging around the field, and he himself was sweaty,
young, squealing passionately, hanging from the back of the horse, and already raising
the whip. “Sic it, Mamai, sic it!” Julitta yelled. Pursuing the mongrel, which he wanted to
mow down at any cost, the khan turned the steering wheel sharply and found himself in a
long empty street. This was an area of factories with concrete fences stretching out along
both sides of the road. Behind them, a dark-blue Japanese minibus also turned into the
same passage. Neither Julitta nor Methodius paid it any attention.
Clutching the steering wheel like a rein, Mamai rushed after the dodging dog and
almost overtook it, when the mongrel, on orienting itself, dived under a concrete fence.
The wind, which the windshield did not hinder, angrily threw a handful of street dust into
Methodius’ face. He coughed. The khan applied the brakes abruptly and, after jumping
out of the car, began to gnash his teeth. His hot nature, becoming even hotter than in the
depths of Tartarus, did not desire to be reconciled with defeat. The witch sympathetically
batted her eyelashes, and immediately, exactly on order, the same shaggy dog jumped out
onto the road — only already from the opposite side.
“Julitta! I know: these are your tricks! Why would Gloom punish Ares if I die with my
eidos intact?” Methodius repeated angrily. The witch settled onto the back of the seat.
The dog disappeared, leaving a puzzled Mamai. “Why this, why that! And what a pain in
the neck you are!” Julitta mimicked. “Think for yourself, have you given in to brain
damage? Whoever owns a person’s eidos also owns his power. So? If an eidos is given
up to Gloom, so too is the power of the person, no matter how great they were, they will
only be turning the mill of Gloom… Well, and we, it follows, are responsible! Hey,
what’s there? I swear by my darc, these are no longer my tricks! Mamai, did you see
that?” Mamai honked with irritation.
The unpretentious dark-blue minibus, till then quietly dragging along behind, abruptly
overtook them and, after steeply turning to the right, suddenly braked, forcing the khan’s
automobile against the concrete fence. Four strong men with baseball bats jumped out of
the minibus and made their way to them. Methodius felt shivers down his spine. “Julitta,
look!” he shouted. The witch looked around and remained displeased. “Yes, you’re right!
Four fellows, and not a single likable! Where is humanity going? With this undermined
gene pool it’s not going very far!” she said. “What, don’t you see what they have in their
hands?” “Ah-h, you’re on about the bats… I was always allergic to crowbars and bats.
You see, magic certainly protects against hits by heavy objects, but far from always.”
“Mistress, shall I sort this out?” Mamai proposed, turning with difficulty. However,
Julitta ordered him to remain on the spot and lock the doors. “Strange situation! Must sort
this out… Sit quietly, Mamai! If these are banal pretensions of male moronoids having
fun, who cut whom off and who switched lanes with whom, it could be worse. But if not

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and this is something more serious? Hello, boys! How do you do? Are you from the
madhouse team?” After giving a cheery wave, Julitta greeted the attackers.
The men, running up to the Rolls-Royce, split up. Two remained on this side of the
automobile, while two ran to the other. Methodius noticed that once in a while they cast
looks at their own minibus, behind the tinted glass of which likely remained someone in
charge of the operation.
“What’s the matter, boys?” Julitta repeated. “Don’t chatter! Out of the car, lively!”
briefly ordered one of the attackers, who Methodius mentally described as a variety of
worm. Julitta capriciously pouted. “Well, indeed no! I’m a timid girl! I need to be
courted, talked into something, else I don’t play! I won’t go to you, you silly, nasty
bogies!” she refused. The worm nervously glanced anew at the minibus. “I don’t
understand nothin’. You want trouble?” he asked sullenly. Julitta began to nod and broke
into a smile. “What, do you have some to spare? If for free, then why not? A freebie is a
freebie: take more, hide more.”
The worm hit the locked door with the bat. “Come out, hippo, have a conversation!
Everyone comes out, or it’ll be worse! Well!!! I’m warning you for the last time!” Julitta
frowned. Methodius, who knew how she usually reacted to the word “fatty”, became ill at
ease, when he imagined what she could do with someone who called her not even “fatty”
but “hippo”. “Oh, I see, romantic guys! They know how to pay a compliment and make a
woman’s life pleasant! But I, a fool, still complained about boredom!” The witch said in
an affectionate voice that promised nothing good to those who looked closely at the
intonations.
The attackers finally ran out of patience. A tall tow-haired pimply fellow, after running
up to the Rolls on Methodius’ side, kicked the door several times. “Why do you kick with
your foot, love? It’s a big car, foreign! Will it really work with a foot? You try with the
bat! A bat — it’s such a stick!” Julitta encouraged him. “Well, thanks! Have you
considered what you’re advising?” Methodius started to hiss at her. The witch sighed
guilty. “Sorry, Met! I couldn’t watch without pity at how he’s hurting his own foot. The
car is metal, without feelings, but the foot is his, living.”
The third attacker jumped onto the hood and attempted to force his way inside, but
Julitta deftly poked his thigh with the foil, forcing him back. Convinced of the
impossibility to unlock the doors, the goons from the minibus followed the witch’s
counsel and began to strike the doors and the surviving windshield with their bats. The
windshield was covered with a network of cracks and it crumpled inward. Mamai
hummed with satisfaction. This fan of vandalism with respect to means of transportation
could not but obtain pleasure. Julitta, leaning back on the seat, was enjoying it, with
mocking remarks encouraging the guys to hit harder. “Hey, little bat, altogether! Hey, my
darling, go! Let’s do it, brother! Smash the Rolls so that LogoVAZ would be afraid!
Hurrayyyy!”
Unexpectedly the witch ceased generating slogans and became silent. “What,
commercial break?” Methodius asked. Julitta shook her head. “Ne-a, worse. Ares is right:
the day the first little monkey found the first stick became the saddest day in the history
of humanity.” Almost immediately, Methodius understood what she had in mind. One of
the attackers, on running back to the minibus, grabbed a short crowbar and, after inserting
it into a gap, began to force open the door. It became clear almost immediately that no
foreign car could withstand a Russian crowbar.

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“This fellow likely didn’t read the classics. He who comes to us with a crowbar will
perish by the crowbar!” Julitta said. Her voice, however, sounded worried. Magic to
magic, no one would dispute her advantage, but jokes are no match for bats and a
crowbar. Especially for Methodius, who still had not learned to use his powers correctly.
Moreover, Julitta was clearly feeling anxiety. Something was not quite right. The
infantile-lilac auras of the moronoids was mixed with something strange, undefined for
the time being but persistently dangerous. It was something unnamed so far, but that the
witch’s unerring intuition noticed.
Julitta quickly assessed the possibilities. Mamai with all his pluses was nothing but an
agent. He fought well with cold steel using old memory, but there was not and could not
be any strength in the plasticine hands. Methodius would not even be able to manage
ordinary teleportation. How far one could rely on him in a serious fight was unclear.
Beginner guards, not having mastered the force yet, depended a lot on attitude and faith
in themselves. With the right attitude: beware, Roman legions, I will break all! Without
it: oh, mummy, this doggie bites!
“Met, I hope you didn’t forget your sword?” Julitta pensively inquired, slightly bending
the reliable foil in order to feel it better, and evaluating how many seconds remained to
the moment, when they tore the door away. Methodius silently showed her the case.
“And how’s the mood? Fighting?” “More or less.” “So, more or less?” “More more than
less less,” getting confused, Methodius assessed. “Excellent, I’m glad. Do you see these
four blockheads with bats? You have to get busy cutting wood. Try to make their bats
into something resembling avant-garde art… Mamai, with what will you brag?” The
khan, breathing heavily, leaned down and extracted from under the seat a curved Tatar
sabre. On his flat face was the evil smile of a person showing up in the world much
earlier than the appearance of the word “mercy”. “Everyone’s ready? When I say ‘Go!’
and give a signal. Then how the card will fall and the shoulder will swing! LET’S DO
IT!” Julitta stated.
Mamai abruptly threw open the front door and, after pushing it with his feet, struck a
tarrying pimply fellow. He then jumped out and with loud cries rushed to the tow-haired
one. That one stepped back in fear, haphazardly blocking the hits with the crowbar.
The successes of Methodius, who in the heat of the moment jumped out of the car after
Mamai, were much more modest. The sword of The Ancient One cut the first bat
beautifully and elegantly, with a huge desire to destroy wooden objects. However,
already the next minute an amazed Methodius suddenly found his face on the asphalt. He
even did not understand what went easily between his legs in the style of wrestling. Well,
well… And trust magic intuition after this!
“Got yourself in a fine mess, ace? Do you want to get it in the face?” Methodius heard a
hoarse voice through a fog. The man straddling him was strong and pot-bellied.
Methodius struggled, kicked, attempted to bite, but could not even get up a little. “A
disgrace!” a thought flickered. “When Ares finds out how stupidly I fell, he’ll demote me
to an agent! Good at least I’m not yet morally mature enough to be a succubus.” He again
fidgeted and again got a slap — good-naturedly within reasonable limits — on the back
of the head. “Lie down, boy! Don’t move! Where did you get the sharp iron? Did you
sharpen it yourself?” someone said to him. Methodius squinted at the sword, which he,
pressed against the asphalt, could in no way reach. “Well, doesn’t matter… Let one of
these characters try to take my weapon! He’ll immediately find out what a small cut

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means!” he thought vindictively, recalling that the magic swords do not like strange
hands.
Buslaev attempted to repeat what he did when he alone won over five in high school:
concentrate his energy, gather it into elastic lumps, and knock down that skunk sitting on
his back, but alas… Nothing turned out. Apparently, energy could only be discharged by
means of direct eye contact. In order to attack, Methodius at least had to see his enemy,
but he saw only a piece of concrete wall, a strip of ground with a trampled cigarette-butt
and the tinted glass of the front door of the minibus. Behind the glass — this Met sensed
— someone’s eyes were studying him. “Well, don’t look there! I’ll wring your neck like
that of a chicken! LIVELY!” Suddenly, for no reason at all, someone spoke roughly and
spitefully at him. Paunchy, after gripping Methodius by the hair, stuck his nose into the
asphalt.
The lingering Julitta got out of the Rolls-Royce without hurrying. She pensively looked
at Methodius pressed against the asphalt and the courageously struggling Mamai. The
khan, with a shout and a stomp of his feet, instantly pounced on two attackers with his
sabre. For the time being they carefully held their ground, decidedly not taking any risk,
and even stepped back, being inferior to the khan’s fury.
After bending the foil slightly with her left hand, Julitta asked with indignation, “Hey,
and what about me? Really, no one wants to harm a defenceless girl? I’m disappointed,
my good gentlemen! No thanks to you! Now go for a walk after this along the deserted
streets!” The tall fellow, the one whose bat Methodius cut into two before they brought
him down, turned with a foolish smile to Julitta. “Gosh darn! Another solid role player!”
he said, eyeing her foil. His hand as usual reached for the knife in his rear pocket. “Well,
spaced-out pixie! Shall we talk? Will you take off by yourself or shall we put some
colour on you?” “Won’t you think it over? You see, they promise heaven knows what,
and then later they cut off communication. But I’m a vulnerable, impressionable girl,”
said Julitta and, after sticking out her forked tongue, sensually licked her lips.
The amazed fellow from unexpected surprise moved half a step back. In the same
second, with an abrupt slash of the foil on his wrist, the witch knocked the knife out of
his hand. An unknown force caught the fellow and pressed him with his back against the
concrete fence. After waiting until he had slipped down, Julitta leaned over him and
tenderly traced with a fingernail along his neck. “You won’t believe this, friend! I’m so
forgetful: I eternally confuse veins and arteries! Blood in the veins is unsavoury, but here
in the arteries… Turn your head a little sideways, my dear!” she purred, slightly opening
her mouth. The fellow wheezed with horror. Methodius surmised that the witch had
advanced her ocular teeth. This naive vampire trick always made an impression on
nervous moronoids.
While Julitta was fooling around, things with Mamai became increasingly less splendid.
The plasticine hand of the courageous khan — alas, that was no other body to return to
from Tartarus — from the repeated powerful impact was simply wrapped around the
crowbar. The sabre fell off. Mamai rushed to pick up the sabre with his left hand, but was
immediately knocked down by a well-aimed hit of a bat on his head. Julitta expected
Mamai to jump up and continue the struggle, but the khan only remained on the asphalt.
“Strange business! Not only can an agent not be killed, but conventional weapons also
can’t stun him. No doubt someone bewitched the bats and the crowbar,” she muttered in a
preoccupied manner and, having decisively shaken her victim, asked, “Who’s helping

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you? Someone from the guards, from the magicians? Well, speak!” The fellow
persistently kept silent. His lower jaw bounced. Julitta sighed, “It means, the courageous
hares choose a heroic death? Yes or no?” The poor devil shook his head. “Oh, I
understand your problem!” Julitta surmised. “You’re afraid of both me and the one who
sent you. Have to make it such that you would fear me a little more.”
In the witch’s eyes red flames lit up. A nasty determination appeared in the motions.
Julitta began to lean over slowly, aiming for the artery. At a time of stress, even the most
disconnected moronoid always understands whether it is a bluff or not. The fellow turned
pale and, continuing to keep silent, the frightened eyes squinted at the minibus. “Aha…
Hint is understood! Your father-commander sits there, isn’t that so? And now, little one,
I’ll temporarily absent myself and I’ll be extremely disappointed if, on returning, I still
find you here. I advise you to play the popular game of ‘run along the railway tracks
away from the armoured train’… On your marks, get set, go!” Clutching the foil, Julitta
made her way to the minibus. Her ashy hair was reflected in the tinted glass. Julitta jerked
open the door, brought the foil forward for the stab and… For long afterwards, she could
not forget this moment.
Buslaev continued to struggle obstinately. He wiggled as before, dreaming only about
one thing: to see his enemy. He did not need more. Only visual contact. “Well, lie still!
Still! Stop it, puppy!” Paunchy, tired of the young man’s attempts to free himself, cursed
and pulled his head back by the hair, intending on pressing his face against the asphalt.
Methodius closed his eyes tight and… suddenly heard a reproaching bass, “God forbid,
my friend! Calm your ardent anger, for you are not beating your neighbour but
desecrating your eidos!”
Paunchy froze, then turned his head. Leather jacket. Belt with a buckle in the form of a
skeletal hand. The stranger stood and, arms crossed on his chest, was eyeing him with an
edifying-reproachful expression. The man was likely strong, but had an aloof and
merciful face. He did not seem dangerous to paunchy. “Screw you… Hypocrite, s.o.b.!”
he puffed. After hearing so filthy a profanity, the stranger meekly dropped his eyes. “I
admonish you, my brother, stop, for you do not know what you are doing! Listen to the
voice of your conscience! Do not beat this simple-minded baby!” he repeated.
While paunchy was digesting the information, the “simple-minded baby” made use of
the commercial break and bit his finger. After cursing, the champion again caught
Methodius by the hair. “Don’t bite him, impulsive youth! Think about the microbes that
live on his finger! You’re disturbing their rest!” the stranger said edifyingly. Paunchy’s
patience ran out. He would already have rushed at the new enemy long ago if there was
not the need to hold Methodius. “Get lost, deadbeat, before you croak! Beat it! Lively!”
Biker began to blink in amazement. Likely, it was the first time had he met a case when
his admonitions did not work.
Methodius opened a swollen eye. “Who are you?” he wheezed. Biker hesitated. “Eh-
eh… Don’t know if it’s worthwhile talking about this. But so be it… I’m a guard-keeper.
My name is Essiorh.” “Guard? Light? Then do something!” Buslaev demanded. Essiorh
made a helpless gesture. “But what can I do? My words bounced off the ears of this big
fellow like a dry pea from a rock structure. Accept this beating in reasonable
understanding, for how this bad man beats you in this world, so will agents and other evil
spirits beat you in Tartarus!” “Stop talking non-stop! You’re my guard-keeper! You’re
obligated to help me!” Methodius wheezed. Paunchy pressed him like a stone plate to the

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asphalt. “Everything’s clear!” the champion said with face brightened up. “I understood!
You’re both psycho!”
Essiorh affectionately shook his head and, after squatting down, said mysteriously,
turning to Methodius, “You are mistaken! I’m not your guard-keeper! I’m Daph’s keeper.
I’m here by chance. To help you does not fall into my direct responsibilities.” “But
they’ll kill me and Daph will be distressed! She, perhaps, may even die, because our fates
are connected!” Methodius shouted, hoping to find any approach to this nitpicker.
“Hmm… reasonable… Let us examine the philosophical diagram: a friend of my friend
is my friend. Consequently, the guard of my guard is my guard. Must look up what the
code says in regard to this,” muttered Essiorh.
He pulled out from his pocket a small book no bigger than a fingernail, blew on it,
increased it to the necessary size, and started to turn the pages leisurely. “In individual
cases such as: a natural disaster, emergency, volcanic eruption, or an attack of robbers,
the guard-keepers, entrusted with the authorities of class A, have the right to withdraw
from their usual doctrine of non-intervention and take action, although somewhat
contradicting the freedom of will, however in the given concrete circumstances
presenting…” muttered Essiorh. He did not pay any special attention to the thug, who
recently felled Mamai, aiming for him with a bat, but only waved him away in
annoyance.
“There you see! There’s something about robbers!” Methodius began to yell. “Just a
second, I must ascertain the correctness of your words! It’s not worthwhile to rush with
judgments!” Essiorh said, raising his head from the book. “Excuse me please, my friends,
are you robbers? In other words, is it possible to classify you precisely according to this
article?” For a moment, the goon with the bat became numb with insolence. “You
classify shit! Everything will be shit! Got it, smarty-pants! Curtains for you!” he said
hoarsely and attempted to hit Essiorh on the head.
However, before the bat traced a semicircle, Essiorh’s right hand professionally cut into
the attacker’s chin. The thug collapsed as if shot, and the next second, Essiorh, after
taking a step, abruptly with the edge of his palm struck the neck of the champion pressing
Methodius down. That one became soft and buried his forehead into the asphalt.
Methodius with difficulty got out from under him and got onto his feet. The last of the
attackers dropped the crowbar and rushed to the minibus, clearly intending on extracting
from there something more effective than crowbars, trowels, and other excavating
equipment.
Essiorh did not pursue him. Instead, he raised his hand and, after growling something,
blew on it, as if sending away his own words. A quiet clap was heard. A pair of stretched
track pants remained on the asphalt. The keeper despondently lowered his eyes. “Well
now, it’s always so with me. No need to look there!” he grumbled, getting up between
Methodius and the minibus. “What did you do with him?” “Eh, nothing!” “What do you
mean nothing?” “I merely cast a simple spell of amends for evil. The poor wretch for half
a second heard about himself all the bad things he had said about others in a year. Usually
everything concludes innocently. Who would expect that this would turn out to be so
slanderous?” “Uh-huh. But more likely that he forgot to set the steamroller on park,”
Methodius vindictively commented.
After lifting a finger to the sky, Essiorh sternly glanced at him. “You cannot thank me, I
acted strictly in accordance with instructions. And please tone down your magic field. It’s

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seething so, that it’s uncomfortable to stand next to you,” he requested. “With what
instructions?” Methodius was interested. Essiorh opened the code book and, after
marking the place with a nail, read edifyingly, “Here… Point № 342. ‘An attempt to
apply damage to the rental body utilized by a guard as such: with a brick, a stick, a fist,
an earth-air rocket, or any other similar means, is considered as intentional damage of
heavenly property, and therefore the guard has the right to stop it; at the same time
without causing the attacker irreparable physical loss and without affecting his eidos.’”
“Well, you skunk!” Buslaev exclaimed indignantly. “It turns out that you basically
stand up for a person only because someone wants to conk you?” “You interpret
everything too simply, not knowing what serves your own good,” said Essiorh. “What
nonsense are you talking?” Methodius was mad. “Do discuss reasonably and without
heat. What’s this body? A perishable shell inclined to decay, but the eidos is immortal. I
precisely worried about it first of all. Sooner or later they would punish this man for his
action of beating you up, but for the beating received you would say good-bye to a part of
your sins.”
“But they could kill me!” Methodius said. “Not you, only your body,” the guard
corrected him. “If you despise my body to such an extent, why do you then so fear for
you own?” Methodius asked. Essiorh reproachfully put his hands together. “I do not fear
for my body, I only treat it with great care. The body, which you see me in, is only a
temporary shell, and subsequently, possibly, other guards will use it. Therefore, I protect
it in order not to deserve reproach for negligence to what is necessary to many. However,
I value the body not a bit and am ready to leave it even now.”
Methodius, squinting, looked at him. Not in vain was Eddy Khavron his uncle and Zozo
Buslaeva his mother. He cut through any falsity in intonation even on approach. “Leave!”
Methodius said. “What?” “Leave the body. Right now! Well!” Essiorh hesitated. “I
cannot do it right now. I don’t have the right…” “Mastered it for long?” Methodius
continued ludicrously. “What?” Essiorh tensed up. “This oily voice?” “Bite your
tongue!” Essiorh snapped; however, did it without much confidence. “This is all a terrible
moronoid world. It undermines my moral principles. I’m already afraid to look to the
sides and look only at the stars. To be located here is punishment for a true guard of
Light.”
Mamai, coming to, got up on all fours, shook like a dog, and began to straighten his
plasticine head. After giving it an approximately accurate shape, the khan agent raised his
sabre, and began to hobble towards Methodius and Essiorh. He looked cautiously at the
guard of Light — must be he had guessed who was before him. “Where’s Julitta?”
Mamai asked hoarsely. Methodius nodded towards the minibus. The khan looked around,
looked closely, and rushed over. “Come here!” Methodius heard his cry. Having picked
up his sword from the asphalt, Buslaev rushed to the minibus. Essiorh hurried after them.
The driver door was thrown wide open. Julitta sat beside it on the asphalt, clutching her
head with her hands. When Methodius ran up, she raised suffering eyes to him. Julitta’s
face was frustrated. Her eyes dimmed. As if someone had drunk all the lustre out of them.
“What’s with you?” Methodius shouted. “I don’t know. I understand nothing,” the
witch said, hardly moving her lips. “What don’t you understand?” “I pulled open the door
and… someone was sitting here. Someone invisible, but with a distinct contour of aura…
I wanted to stab with the foil — directly into the centre of the aura, but here it blinded
me. I couldn’t even stir. Even thoughts stopped. Everything inside froze. I saw everything

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but understood nothing… In my opinion, he did something to my darc.” Sliding blindly
along her clothing, Julitta’s hand closed over the silvery icicle. “Here you see: your darc
is in place! He didn’t cut it off,” Methodius said soothingly. “True… He didn’t. He
hooked it with some iron and did something to it. And then he simply disappeared. I
think, teleported… And what am I to tell Ares now? Not some pleasant story.” “Idiotic,”
frowning, Methodius agreed. It was painful for him even to sigh. His ribs ached, and his
face, he felt, was in no way worthwhile to look at in the mirror. Good still, no teeth were
broken. In any case, so far no new chippings and unknown hollows were discovered. And
this was already a positive moment.
“Must at least find out whom to say thanks to for our happy childhood. In short, I’ll
now search for the switchman. Someone didn’t conceal himself — I’m not guilty!” Julitta
said thoughtfully. After getting up not without effort, she approached one of the thugs,
whom Essiorh had knocked out. This one was already starting to come to and even tried
to attain a vertical position. Tickling him with her foil, the witch tenderly asked, “Please
tell, uncle, indeed worthwhile? Why were you brandishing bats? Is today surgeon’s day,
the festival of fractures?” Lanky began to mumble something. “If you lie, I’ll bite off
your head!” Julitta warned affectionately but in complete seriousness and opened her
mouth slightly. “Well, this girl is all impatience!”
“We… they paid us,” lanky said, looking with superstitious horror at her gleaming
mouth. “Who? Really the savings bank?” “We don’t know him… Some fellow. He
approached us… We had to attack you in order to distract you, and the rest, he said, he’ll
take care of himself,” the fellow hurriedly babbled. “What’s he going to do? To whom?
To my darc, perhaps?” Julitta was more specific and slowly, without any effort, tore the
fellow off the ground. The witch’s eyes suddenly became hollow and very unpleasant.
“D-don’t know,” said lanky and suddenly becoming limp in Julitta’s hands, began to cry
bitterly.
His lips trembled, and through them, through the turmoil and the whimpering foul
language the words “mom” and “Lord” suddenly broke through. And these simple words
saved him. Julitta, hissing, let go of him and walked away. The harsh witch-like features
of her face began to soften, assuming a human expression. “L-Lord… L-Lord… f-forgive
me… and in order I…” the fellow incoherently muttered. “Weep, wretch! Think about
your eidos, think, how low you have reached, after yielding to passion!” Taking
advantage of the situation, Essiorh interfered, embracing the fellow around the shoulders
and wiping his tears.
After looking at the big guy leaning over him, one who had recently nearly knocked the
soul out of him but now proposed to him to weep, the fellow began to sob even louder,
almost in full voice. “Essiorh, the brakes! He’ll definitely come to his senses. But he’ll do
this a little later… Now let him tell us where they’re from generally. Who are they?”
Methodius said, noticing that paunchy, who had forced him against the asphalt, was also
beginning to stir. Meanwhile, the other was already sobbing so bitterly that he could not
give a distinct answer.
“Possibly I can help!” Essiorh modestly stated. “These unhappy ones are grave-diggers
from one large cemetery and they live by cynically extorting exorbitant recompense for
what is their duty. Furthermore, in the evenings they now and then rob lonely passers-by.
They’ll attack in entrances and on dark streets… To find or figure out such people poses
no difficulty to any guard even with beginner’s level of preparation. And now, my

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friends, let us depart and leave these men here with their passions.” “What, are we simply
letting them go? Not even kicking them several times as a souvenir?” Methodius
vindictively asked, feeling the swelling bridge of his nose. “You are nasty, but… Of
course not,” Essiorh assured him. “I am certain their guard-keepers will carry out
educational work with them and try to set them on the path to salvation. However, I fear,
in the given situation it’ll be a nontrivial task.”
Essiorh looked around in a business-like manner and beckoned Mamai to him. “My
friend, may I dare ask you for an enormous favour?” Mamai carefully approached. He, as
any normal agent, was rather afraid of anyone he perceived to be a guard of Light. “Drive
their self-propelled vehicle off so that we can pass, but, I beg you, restrain yourself and
do not do what I read with grief in your thoughts,” ordered Essiorh. Mamai smirked. He
sat down behind the wheel of the Japanese minibus, started it, turned the steering wheel,
drove off, and… after pointing the bus at a lamppost, jumped off on the way. “Restrain
yourself, restrain yourself, but if I can’t restrain myself?” he muttered, returning to his
beat-up Rolls, in which already sat Essiorh, Methodius, and Julitta.
Julitta, having completely recovered and even with cheeks turned slightly pink, already
stuck to Essiorh to the utmost extent. The amorous witch had long ago glanced with
curiosity and an enraptured look at his very wide shoulders, leather jacket, and chrome-
plated belt. “Whose guard-keeper is this? Ni-ice ma-an! And so heroic: threw all
everywhere, hurled all here and there, tossed all every which way!” she purred. “Ab-b-b-
solutely my type!”
“Do not blaspheme, witch, and move away from me!” Essiorh demanded with
indignation. “You smell of perfume, which only coquettes, immoral women sprinkle on
their bodies, and therefore to me you are like a corpse putrefying, like a stinking dog.”
Julitta was completely not offended. “Well, you also chatter! Really, a stinking dog?
Uncle Kenzo would be flattered by this characteristic of his new citrus collection.
Perhaps you can smell better? Press your nose against the dimple behind my ear, here,
here! Well, be bolder! Strictly for scientific purposes!”
“Stop, do not touch me! Remove your hand!” Essiorh yelled, with horror shaking off
the witch’s hand. “Sheesh, what a hypocrite!” Julitta snorted, removing her hand. “And
from where then do you know what perfumes immoral women use? Or did they read this
to you in your Eden political briefing? And perhaps — ha! — did you spy on us, poor us,
using invisibility?” “You can insult me as much as you desire, witch. I will not answer
you! Character is forged in the furnace of temptations,” Essiorh said. “A classy phrase!
One my friend the pickpocket loved to repeat. Do you know what was his favourite, after
which he began to cut handbags with a razor? He pressed against a girl in the subway
and, if the girl began to suspect something, he said in a whisper, ‘Did you hear the latest
news about global warming? In the hour of global warming people must be side by
side!’”
Julitta moved very close to Essiorh. Her hand seemingly by chance slid along the
guard’s arm. “Wow, what muscle!” she said with admiration. “Are we friends with
weights? Maybe, better for you to acquire a girl? True, today I have a date with one
Light, but he’s not so cool. I’ll probably tell him that we’ll simply remain friends and
another one-and-a-half kilos of stories. Are you indeed also not seeing anyone?” Essiorh
turned crimson. “Go away, witch!” he began to yell with all the might of his lungs. Julitta
nodded with satisfaction. “Just as I thought, handsome! You spent your entire youth on

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choral singing, didn’t you?” “Go away, snake in the grass! Do not disturb me with your
sinful charms!” Essiorh almost groaned. The witch tilted her head, flattered. “You guys in
those spheres of yours know how to give compliments! Yes, I’m actually very nice. True,
some dare to call me fat, but they, as a rule, don’t live long, and it’s possible not to take
them into consideration… So, will you kiss me, Essy? Here, here, on the neck. At the
same time, we’ll finally decide on the perfume… Methodius, shut your eyes and cover
your ears! You’re not here!”
“Stop your wreck, agent!” Essiorh began to yell in horror, attempting to grab the
steering wheel. Mamai pressed down on the brakes. The guard jumped out and, swinging
his arms, took to his heels, manoeuvring between cars. “Hey, handsome! Find me! From
now on Caty returns to the archives!” Leaning out the window, Julitta shouted at him and
to the entire street. Essiorh shuddered, pulled his head into his shoulders, and disappeared
in the crowd. Mamai guffawed; however, Methodius did not even smile. The fact is that
the minute Essiorh jumped out of the car, he suddenly heard a distinct voice, in no way
clownish and not confused, “Be careful! Don’t ruin her! For one who ruins the Light
wings of a guard, there is no salvation. You’re one step away from the abyss of Tartarus!
Your eidos is in depression and fear!” There was something in these words that was like
the wind blowing away all Methodius’ bravado. Even the bruises and abrasions ached
more. There was no doubt: the speech was about Daph.

Chapter 8
Dead Parrots Do Not Have Tonsillitis

It was a quiet and clear evening. The roofs, licked by the sunset, seemed soft as process
cheese. Nature was flourishing. Pigeons cooed. Leaves turned green. The grass as usual
was trampled by installers of “Do not walk on grass” signs. Cats settled which one would
be protecting the courtyard territory. Overall, a summer idyll à la Moscow.
Zozo Buslaeva, having locked herself in the bathroom, turned on the water and,
drowning out the roar of the taps, talked on the phone to the next contender for her hand
and heart, and at the same time for her liver, spleen, and other internal organs. When
nothing took shape this time, she slammed the door with feeling and went into the room,
where Khavron was playing cards with Daph. Both were cheating. Khavron cheated by
dragging cards from the discarded pile and Daph was mirroring and changing clubs into
spades using magic. As a result, the scores were about even.
Zozo stood beside them, sparking and fusing, like a broken cell phone charger. “So?
What a life! A horrible life!” she said loudly and with deep feeling, not to anyone in
particular. “Zoyka, don’t hang around here! You don’t harmonize with my antique
furniture,” Eddy yawned. “You er… better sit down and play cards. We’re playing for
sandwiches: the one who loses hops into the kitchen, makes sandwiches with sausage,
and brings them into the room!” This was a crafty proposal. Eddy had finished the
sausage that morning. Consequently, the one who lost not only had to run to the kitchen,
but also to the store. However, for the time being the sly Khavron naturally did not
mention this.
Zozo was not listening. She was upset and was in need of joint hatred and indignation
against the nasty male species. “Eddy, just imagine! What a parasite, bastard! And such

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101

exist!” she said. “Such what?” “Yes, here’s one. We just met yesterday, and today he
already tried to get money from me! It goes without saying that I sent him packing on the
double,” said Zozo. “Who’s this? Ogurtsov-Pomidorov again?” Eddy asked. He had long
since dismissed all Zozo’s worshippers, having once and for all decided not to overload
his memory. “No. Another fellow. Name’s Vadik. Don’t remember the last name. That
one dealt with paper towels, and this is a security guard at a bank.” “Possible to go nuts!”
Khavron sidestepped. “An entertaining date! A bank guard, but no money. I also knew
such a dodo. Worked as a cook and lied that they wouldn’t let him eat. Who’s going to let
you, you take and eat!”
“Eddy, you’re a cynic!” “Ne-a. What kind of cynic am I? Simply that they gave me an
evil eye in my childhood,” said Khavron. Daphne looked vigilantly at him from behind
the fan of cards. “And indeed it’s the truth,” she said out loud. “What’s the truth?”
“About evil eyes. You have a bad lengthy corkscrew-shaped break in the centre of your
aura… Didn’t you and Methodius have a falling out now and then? Although, perhaps
it’s not his work here. Someone else’s. Were you acquainted with an old woman with
eyes of different sizes?” she asked mysteriously, reading from Khavron’s aura what was
immediately clear to any guard. “No. And don’t be distracted. You’re to take 2 cards!”
Eddy said impatiently.
“But indeed you did! There was this old woman!” Zozo suddenly exclaimed. “Eddy, do
you remember, when Mother broke her leg, they brought Nanny to us in the summer?
You pestered her all the time and she hissed at you! Well, you remember, she did not
even know how to read, and she had such terrible glasses, convex, darkened… It seemed
to me that they were like dragonfly eyes.” “Ah, that nitwit, who killed my parrot… Don’t
remind me of her! Daph, play or fold!” Khavron screwed up his face. “She didn’t kill
your parrot! It died by itself! You can’t possibly remember anything, you were three
years old!” Zozo began to argue. “As if I care, three or thirty-three! I remember
everything. Nanny was standing by the cage, looking at the parrot, and then suddenly blip
— and it’s done. It dropped, in short, the beak and feathers. How I howled, rushed at
Nanny, and hit her legs with my fists, but she grabbed me by the shoulders, pulled off her
glasses, and looked at me so terrifyingly…”
Daphne leaned forward. The bell of her intuition began to ring. “And then?” she asked.
“And then nothing… I haven’t the slightest idea. I was squealing all the time, could not
look at her, and Mother sent Nanny away. And don’t plug up my verbal fountain with a
finger. Don’t interfere with my raving!” “What, she simply sent her away? Didn’t she
explain anything?” Daph disappointedly asked. Khavron dismissed it. “And what do you
expect? That two divisions of telepaths would come to investigate the death of a parrot,
cordon off the region, and listen to the ravings of a three-year-old boy? Now I can
express all my thoughts normally, but at the time, words ended after the second syllable.”
“Glasses…” drawled Daph, sensing that any time now she would recall. “A bird…
Darkened glasses…” “Here we go again! Stuck on her glasses! Need glasses — shoot the
optometrist. Loot the optician!” Khavron said in annoyance. “That isn’t the point. Did
you say that she pulled off her glasses, eh?” “What does he remember there, this
pipsqueak?” Zozo butted in. “Yes, Nanny was always walking around in dark glasses.
Even in the evening. She told Mother that she had a rare disease of the crystalline lens.”
“Yea, yea… I know the like! Occupational hazard of snipers… See nothing, hear nothing
— and then bang: you’ll be writing your eulogy,” muttered Khavron.

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Zozo touched his hand. “Eddy, don’t be nervous! You’re always nervous when you talk
about this!” Khavron flung the cards onto the blanket. “Who’s nervous? Me? I’m not
nervous, I’m hysterical! What do you want? Once a month I must dream how this old
woman looks at me, after taking off her glasses. And you know what: she had no pupils,
all gone… Then I couldn’t explain to Mother, only cried and understood that something
wasn’t right. But now I can: THERE WERE NO PUPILS! Absolutely none!”
Daph immediately touched Khavron’s hand. “But then there were two heptagonal red
sparks… Right? And they slowly revolved like gears. Locked onto you. You couldn’t
look away. You felt like there was a meat grinder trying to grind you inside. Your
consciousness crumbled. It was disgusting and foul. As if they cut you up into hundreds
of people, each of whom was terribly disagreeable to you,” prompting, she said.
Eddy ran his hand along his face. “How do you know how everything was?” he asked
with uneasiness. “I know because I know,” evasively said Daph. She was nervous, like a
young sapper who raked the ploughed earth and saw his first real mine. “Listen, didn’t
this witch say anything to you? Suggested anything? Remember! You must remember.”
“I remember nothing: whether she said or not! If I have to think about this, my head will
explode!” Khavron snapped. “And indeed, why the interrogation without summons?
You’ve made your home here: sick in bed! If you keep pestering me, I’ll put a cupping
glass on you. A three-litre one.” “No way! No need for a cup! I’m already suffocating
with the scarf!” Daph rejected, fending off Khavron with a sullen Depressiac.
Daph’s neck was wrapped in a scarf. A very strange outfit in the July heat. But Eddy
was certain that there was no better cure for tonsillitis in nature. Moreover, unlike aspirin,
the scarf by definition was reusable and he would not have to pay for it like any kind of
cold and flu medicine. The mercenary and highly experienced Khavron had also taken
this into consideration. “Aha…” thought Daph. “Something becomes clear. It appears as
follows: this family encountered otherworldly essences even before Methodius’ birth.
Most likely, the strange old woman was a midnight witch from corpses animated by
Gloom. They have a pathologic hatred for birds and intolerance of light. It remains to be
figured out what the midnight witch wanted from little Eddy twenty-five years ago.
Khavron didn’t and doesn’t have any magic abilities. Midnight witches don’t drink blood.
Bio-vampire? More probable, but it also doesn’t add up. There’s something else.”
Meanwhile Zozo left for the kitchen and sadly returned, holding in one hand a brewing
teapot, and its bright cover in the other. “Everything’s bad. Only some badly reeking
margarine in the fridge. Who wants tea of the second convocation on seventh laziness?”
she asked. “What, already no fresh brew? What’s humanity getting to?” Khavron groaned
insincerely; he knew about everything since the morning. He needed all of a minute in
order to restore emotional equilibrium and completely let go of all bad thoughts.
Probably, because he had a simple soul resistant to moral storms. His eidos sat solidly in
the saddle.
“And did you buy any? Do you at any time buy anything in the store at all?” Zozo was
indignant. “No. My wallet can’t bring itself to pay for something I can have for free at
work,” objected Eddy. “Then bring some home, since everything exists there as in
Greece!” Zozo pounced on him. “Indeed no. Two things don’t let me drag produce home:
my conscience and the chief cook. Even if I can somehow cope with my conscience, the
second still manages to poke his nose into all the holes despite weighing nearly two
hundred kilos per hectare.”

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Zozo put down the brewing teapot and looked worriedly at the phone. “Seems
Methodius hasn’t phoned for a long time!” she said. “Nonsense! A thirteen-year-old! At
this age, they’re no longer tied to mommy’s apron strings. When I was his age…”
Khavron started. “…you were afraid to sleep without a light!” his sister interrupted. Eddy
looked around in alarm at Daph. “A lie! A blatant lie!” he stated. “When I was thirteen, I
played checkers in youth detention. It was the only way to keep me away from serious
crimes! And how the girls loved me! They queued up in order to get my phone number.”
“Cool it! Who needed your phone number? Perhaps you gave it together with the set and
all the wires…” Zozo rebuffed him. “You simply don’t remember. Then you had your
own life. All those pimply boys playing tough and smoking on the stairs!” Khavron
touchily objected.
Zozo waved him aside like a fly. “Okay, forgotten… Maybe Methodius has fallen in
love with someone, huh? Somehow I’m worried,” she complained. “Why in love? He
hasn’t fallen in love with anybody! Who needs him?” Daph said, quickly glancing at her
own bronze wings. Zozo became quiet and looked at Daph with great interest. After
reading her thoughts, Daphne again recalled the prophecy of Retired Fairy and became
alarmed. “Indeed no! Hey, you there, upstairs, keep this in mind! I don’t want to fall in
love with Methodius Buslaev, and let those who connect the fates of immortals and
mortals take this into consideration! Hey, do you hear? It’s I, Daph, guard of Light with
dark feathers, speaking!”
Bang-bang! Someone began to pound energetically on the door, interrupting the
peaceful flow of conversation. “I’ll just remember where the machine gun is,” said
Khavron, unwillingly getting up. Looking through the peephole, he beheld his age-old
enemies on the landing: a bony lady with cavalier moustaches and the picturesque last
name of Polutonnik and her frail husband. Eddy was not a telepath, but, after thinking it
over, came to the conclusion that a visit from the queen of hearts and the jack beaten
down by life promised nothing good. “Oh no!” Khavron groaned. “Only not these two!
My delicate health won’t stand up to this!”
As we know from works in zoology, there are two types of neighbours dwelling in their
natural habitat of an average Moscow building. The horizontal neighbours — on the same
landing, and the vertical neighbours — those living above and below. Neighbours on the
same landing, as a rule, are in good relations with you, since your burrows are so close
and it is dangerous to argue. However, the neighbours above and below are your enemies
by definition. Eddy and Zozo lived on the top floor; there was only the TV antenna
above, which would be complicated to quarrel with, although now and then it was
possible. The Polutonniks, living on the floor below, were precisely vertical neighbours,
and this says it all.
Raisa Polutonnik was somebody in the consumers’ society. She protected old ladies
from the rustling of small bags of potato chips, expired yogurt, and the sharp foil in
cigarette packs. Her husband with a training and a half — a retrained economist and
failed political scientist — led the existence of a dabbler. When he was not dabbling, for
the sake of daily bread he ran an Internet site for online order of rodent feed. In nature
there existed one more Polutonnik — fourteen-year-old Cyril; however, at the given
strategic moment, in view of the probability of war activity, Cyril was in evacuation.
“He’s so talented! What imagination! Recently he drew such a hanged man that Grandma
became ill!” the enraptured parents said about Cyril.

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The fight between Eddy and Zozo on one side and the Polutonniks on the other was of
long duration. There were two reasons. First — Zozo’s loud laughter when she talked on
the phone and her habit of flooding the neighbours below. Moreover, both joys usually
occurred simultaneously, since Zozo in ecstasy on the phone turned on both taps. Second
— Eddy Khavron’s morning and evening howls: he had read somewhere that for lung
development one must issue two loud howls, each a duration of about ten seconds. Eddy
generally read a lot of all kinds of nonsense, and in essence, nothing stayed in his head.
But then if something got into his head, he would be obsessed by it forever. As, for
example, these cleansing howls. As soon as Zozo had music on too loudly or Khavron
issued his morning howl too loudly, the Polutonniks began to rage and strike with
whatever was handy on the radiator and gas pipe.
“Damn, I flooded them a little again… And we still haven’t given them the money for
last time! What are we going to do?” Zozo asked in a business-like manner, after
realizing who was behind the door. “We’ll sit them out! Our proud Varyag will not
surrender to the enemy!” Eddy decided, issuing with his whole body his best victory
howl. The Polutonniks were a couple of rare troublemakers. It was dangerous to come to
blows with them. Moreover, according to the information obtained by Eddy, they were
protected by the “little red booklet” of Madame Polutonnik’s first husband, who loved the
wife so much that he clearly understood how lucky it was for him to escape.
The Polutonniks began to utter reproachful words, convincing Khavron to open up and
to hand over to them the hiding Zozo for justice and punishment. Eddy sat quietly and
only once in a while babbled, “For shame, man, offend old people! Huh? I’m not dressed!
Who’s knocking on my door? Don’t you see there’s no one home?” “What do you mean
there’s no one home? Then who’s talking to me?” Polutonnik was annoyed. “You’re
hallucinating. Reboot your brain, dude!” Khavron declared. “Don’t you dare get familiar
with me! Jokes don’t go over well with me! I’ve read all the books on martial arts!” the
fan of hamsters squealed. “Indeed? But I write them!” Khavron declared.
Having exhausted all the arguments, Polutonnik became quiet, not knowing what to
say. “What, the verbal well ran dry?” Eddy said maliciously. This was already too much.
Raisa Polutonnik flared up and gave her miserable henpecked husband the command to
assault. Polutonnik picked up speed, inflated his cheeks, stared, and, after straightening
his shoulders, advanced to the door. However, at the very last moment he stopped,
touched the door with a finger and refused to kick it down. “I’ll hurt myself!” Polutonnik
said pitifully. “Go home! You’re no use all the same!” his spouse bellowed. Her hubby,
crushed by matriarchy, hurriedly took off, after promising to hold Eddy up to shame on
the forum for fans of hamsters. “Be off, be off! Hello to the guinea pigs!” Khavron shot
at him from behind.
“Remember this, you crazy devils: we’ll not leave this alone! The authorities will know
everything, including the burnt ceiling!” Polutonnik shouted. “What? Whose ceiling did
we burn? The decay was increasing, the blood vessels were bent, and it was a loose
screw!” Eddy babbled in amazement. He had decided that this was too much even for
their family. “Ours!” Raisa answered. “Today, during the day! We have a large charred
spot on the plastering in the big room! An ideally circular shape! You have to answer for
it! We’ll teach you to store explosives at home!” “What explosives?” Khavron was
dumbfounded. “Indeed I know!” Raisa Polutonnik answered with a caustic remark and,
after shaking the door one last time, went away following her husband.

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105

Eddy shrugged and returned to the room. “Did you hear? Not a day these psychos don’t
come up with new paranoia! Wouldn’t you know it, either they don’t like my morning
howl or poor Zozo arranged a shower for them! But today their ceiling was charred! If a
person is a moral freak, then he has been for a long time.” “A spot on the ceiling? It’s
likely teleportation!” Daph muttered. Personally, she saw only one explanation to what
was happening: someone among those possessing the highest magic had visited their
apartment. Moreover, this magic was so strong that a part of the usual golden hoop of
teleportation was imprinted on the plastering of the apartment below. Now it remained to
find out who this was and, most importantly, why he had come.
“You know, I just remembered what she said to me. Somehow it surfaced by itself,”
suddenly stated Khavron, approaching Daph. “Who?” “That nanny… She said, ‘Your
blood is my blood. Your will is my will. Wait until the black swan calls you!’”
Julitta stretched with a crackling sound, straightening her arms. Where did her vampire
smile and devouring eye sockets disappear to, the ones that horrified the poor
gravediggers? Now this was simply a good-natured young damsel, starving and ready to
gobble up even day-old soup in the fridge covered by a film of congealed fat. “Mamai!
Stop at the first restaurant! Caty misses the mark. After the recent physical exercises a
girl only needs rest and loads of carbs stuffed in some large pie,” she ordered the khan.
“Methodius, are you with me?” “Ne-a, I’m going home,” said Methodius. Julitta gave
him a critical look. “After how they levelled out the asphalt with your face? Time to visit
relatives and say that everything is fine with you. All right… At least a little tinkering,
perhaps…” The witch lifted her palms to Methodius’ face and held them there for several
seconds. Methodius felt a tingling. The pain subsided. Buslaev moved his broken lips and
discovered that he could do this much easier than a couple of minutes ago. “There, that’s
better,” encouragingly said Julitta. “Certainly you won’t win a beauty contest. But then,
now you’re like a completely respectable schoolboy, who after school fell from the
swings all of about four times. No more… So, you won’t think it over? Coming to eat
with me?” “No. I should rest and visit my parents,” Methodius turned her down. He
thought about Irka and Daph. About Daph and Irka. The sequence of these two thoughts
was most undetermined.
“Oh?” Julitta squinted, but instantly ordered with the intonation of a circus clown,
“Mamai, stop! Methodius Igorevich will re-est, tire-ed of our company!” “And my
sword?” Methodius recollected suddenly, looking at the case. “Leave the sword here. I’ll
drop it in the office later. Adolescents with swords in the centre of the city give birth to
unhealthy associations in respectable passers-by… Mamai, stop, I said! I don’t tolerate
the presence in the car of those who don’t want to eat with me!” Mamai perceived the
repeated order too literally. He braked so sharply that Methodius nearly departed through
the knocked out windshield. Hardly had Methodius left, when the automobile with the
witch and the agent broke away from the spot and sped off.
Buslaev looked around, orienting himself. He either had never been or did not
remember being in this part of Moscow. It was getting dark. The houses were already
beginning to blur and be wrapped in the bluish fog of twilights. After glancing around, by
chance Methodius discovered the large luminous letter “M”.
Having gone down to the subway, Methodius for a long time stood by the turnstile and
dug into his pockets. He realized suddenly that he did not have any money with him in
order to pay. “Well, isn’t this ridiculous? Ares would be amused! Practically the

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sovereign of Gloom and can’t get on the subway!” he thought with annoyance. The lady
ticket collector in the booth looked at Methodius with suspicion. And not surprising.
Although Julitta had taken care of Methodius’ face, his clothing still looked as if all the
central streets of the city had been scrubbed with it. Methodius went behind a column,
tensed up and attempted to exert influence on the turnstile with the help of magic.
However, the turnstile proved to be unreceptive. Just some wooden block and not a
turnstile. No matter how much Methodius strained himself, he succeeded only in pulling
off the wall with his gaze some hook entirely unnecessary to him, and he did not even
concentrate on it. After suffering for a minute, Methodius simply took a running jump
over the turnstile and, accompanied by the monotonic whistle of the ticket collector,
quickly dashed down the escalator.
Approximately an hour later Methodius was standing on the landing in front of Irka’s
apartment. Sensing that he was nervous, he rang the doorbell. It rang and he strained his
hearing, waiting for the familiar whir of the tires in the corridor. However, everything
was quiet. The tires did not whir. The only thing audible was the TV set running in the
depth of the apartment. Only after the second ring did Methodius hear footsteps. The door
opened. Methodius saw Granny. Granny stood and looked at him with a vague
expression. “Good evening!” he said loudly, trying to muffle uncertainty with loudness.
Granny said nothing. “Eh-eh… Good evening! It’s me, Met!” Methodius repeated in
embarrassment. Finally, Granny stepped back silently and reproachfully, letting him past.
Methodius did not even begin to glance into the kitchen — he sensed that there was no
one there, but immediately, after uncomfortably casting off his laced shoes, he turned to
Irka’s room.
Irka’s armchair next to the bed was covered with books and clothing. Irka was sitting
not as always at the desk with the desktop but on her bed. A throw covered her legs. On
her knees was a small table like those for serving breakfast in bed. Only now on the little
table was a laptop. Slightly to the side, close to the pillow, lay a plastic jar lid, and on it
— half a dozen pills. The pills were small, ordinary. But Methodius from his own
experience had learned long ago: the smaller the pill, the more disgusting the taste, the
stronger the action, and consequently, the worse you are. Large tasty pills usually turn out
to be innocent vitamins.
“Hello!” Methodius said briskly. “Mutual!” Irka answered. “What’s mutual?”
“Everything. In this case it’s the ‘hello’.” Methodius hunched down next to the bed. “Are
you angry with me?” he asked guilty. “When I’m angry, I bark. Now I’m not barking,
therefore, I’m not angry,” answered Irka. “Ah-h-h-h…” drawled Methodius, feeling that
he was stuck. “For some reason it seems that you’re angry…” Irka did not answer,
continuing to type something. She avoided looking at Methodius. “Where are you?”
Methodius asked. “What do you mean where? Ah, on the Internet. In one brainless
forum. A place where those who aren’t in nature gather.” “And where are they?”
“Somewhere probably. I’m somewhere, only incomprehensible where, what for, and
why,” said Irka, decisively closing the laptop.
Methodius, continuing to look at her, found that Irka’s complexion was yellowish. Or is
this the lamp gleaming? He closed his eyes and, even without tuning up true sight —first
time in his life! — saw the pulsation of Irka’s eidos. A tiny bluish grit flared up and
faded, exactly like a distant lighthouse, whose light breaks through the milky fog of a
tired aura. There was something sad, lost, and despairing in these flashes. Not giving any

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thought to how to do it, Methodius sent out a magic ray connecting his eidos with Irka’s.
This was a strange, a very strange connection — two eide, two tiny stars, one growing
dim, the other bright, connected by an invisible umbilical cord, along which flowed the
energy. From the powerful battery to the weak and tired. The energy umbilical cord
existed for a total of several brief seconds. Then Methodius, not used to it, could not hold
it, and it was broken. But even this turned out to be sufficient. The fragile internal
communication that once existed in Irka was restored. Irka’s eidos became somewhat
brighter; its flashes became more prolonged.
Irka for the first time quickly glanced at Methodius. “What’s with your face?” she
asked. “Eh-eh… Fell from the sw... from the bed,” said Methodius. “Aha. And the bed
was on the roof of a skyscraper. Then you again climbed onto the roof, again fell, and so
on twenty-five times. Did I guess right?” “More or less,” Methodius admitted. “Are you
in trouble?” Irka asked. Buslaev shrugged. He found it difficult to say whether he had
been in trouble recently. Or had this already become his way of life?
Attempting to change the subject, he pointed to the couple of power bars lying under
the coffee table to the right of Irka. “Brr! An awful lot of wires! Why are they
necessary?” “Where? Oh, those! The yellow from the lamp. The thick beige — the
processor. The simple black — the monitor. Slightly less black and thin — the battery
charger, one more completely black — the scanner, that bright one — the printer, this one
at the end — the speakers, and this one I already don’t remember… It seems, for
charging batteries for the camera.” “How do you distinguish these three black ones?”
“These are quite easy. There are cords, which I don’t remember at all… For example, one
more white and that there, at the end, bluish…” Irka said light-heartedly.
“Regrettable confession. But if we’re really starting this conversation on electrical
things, do you know how the wire network was invented?” Methodius asked, glad that he
had succeeded in changing the conversation. “One engineer, don’t exactly remember his
name, experimented with a dynamo, to which for some reason he had to attach a wire.
His associate took the roll of wire and went into the next room. And there the floor had
just been washed, and it so happened that he was standing in a puddle. At this moment,
the first engineer purely for scientific purposes turned the handle of the dynamo several
times. A howl was heard from the other room.” “Is this true? So, was he killed?” Irka
absent-mindedly asked. “Apparently not. The charge was quite small. This didn’t spoil
their joy of first discovery. True, I’m not sure if everything was like this in reality. This is
Eddy’s version and he frequently tells stories,” said Methodius.
Irka passed a hand over the throw. Methodius with shame perceived that the
informative lecture on the theme of electricity did not much enrich her internal peace.
“You haven’t been by for a long time. I… on the whole, not important… This has
something to do with your new school?” she asked. Methodius secretly touched his
pocket. The Book of Chameleons was there. Ares ordered him to carry it with him
constantly — day and night. Methodius did not know what appearance it took at the
given moment. Possibly Russian-Korean Phrase Book? This was the smallest and lightest
of its disguises, convenient for the road. Methodius’ mood abruptly began to crawl down.
He wanted to excuse himself, go into the bathroom, put the book into the toilet and flush
it down the drain. Only he knew that it would not help. Closing your eyes to danger does
not mean eluding it. On the contrary, in shutting your eyes, you become more vulnerable.

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“Do you remember earlier I visited you every day?” Methodius asked. “Yes,” Irka
responded like an echo. “Now it’s impossible. I can disappear for a long time. If this
happens, don’t be surprised.” “Why?” Methodius approached the window. It was easier
and more comfortable for him to talk without looking at Irka now. “There are troubles,
from which it’s possible to run away. Even if they’re huge. Drop everything, disappear,
change your name, appearance, take off to a distant city, and lie low. Maybe they’ll find
you, but most likely not. But it’s not possible to hide from this danger. It’ll find me
everywhere — even underground or on the ocean floor,” said Methodius.
“Why are you saying this? Is someone threatening you? Some bandits, the Mob?” Irka
asked. She frowned slightly and pushed her hair back from her forehead. Methodius
involuntarily smiled. “Uh-huh. The whole Italian Mob,” he said. “Oh? Then this is all
connected to your new studies in the high school?” Buslaev hesitated. The idea seemed
amusing to him. “Aha. Glumovich is the chief mafioso. He hides an A-bomb in his
office.” “You’re keeping something back…” insisted Irka. “I know I am, but for the time
being I can’t tell you. If I do, this will affect you too.” “But indeed I’m already affected?
Yes or no?” Irka asked. Methodius slowly shook his head. “I think not yet. I won’t let
anyone harm you… Another bad thing. It’s bad that the danger in many respects comes
from me myself. For you the danger isn’t so much them as me… I don’t know how to
explain this to you but so it is…”
Irka looked seriously at Methodius. There was no fear but misgiving in her eyes. “I’m
not afraid. And I even believe you. I simply want to understand.” “When necessary,
you’ll understand, but now just trust me. Do you trust me?” “No… I don’t know… I do…
Sit down here beside me!” Irka said and buried her forehead into the shoulder of
Methodius sitting on the bed.
“For a long time already… almost from that day when you moved to this high school,
I’ve been having terrible dreams. Someone searches for me, someone with soft and sticky
hands. Later he sneaks behind me and shouts, threatens, begs. I ride on the wheelchair,
ride very fast, but see a high threshold in front, but I won’t have time to brake. And then
he overtakes me.” Methodius squeezed his hand tightly into a fist. “Hmmm… And what
face goes with the sticky hands? Snivelling, wrinkled, cringing all the time?” he asked in
a business-like manner. “The face is not visible. He stands in the dark and stretches out
his hands. I see them… Then he runs… Well, you know how everything is in a dream.”
“What does he want?” “I don’t know,” said Irka. “As if I have something he needs but I
can’t give it. And I don’t want to. And it’s not possible to give it.” “This is wise.
Remember: he’ll scream, intimidate, lisp, threaten, but you don’t give. Don’t agree!
Remember, he can’t do anything to you, no matter what nonsense he says and how he
threatens. Do you understand? Punch him, punch him! Trust me, he won’t hit back and
there won’t be any more dreams!” Methodius said.
“Well, wait till you fall into my hands, Tukhlomon! The game ‘Overtake me, brick!’
will seem to him the most humane game in the world!” he thought and suddenly felt how
the Book of Chameleons became warm in his inside pocket. This could indicate Ares’
summons or simply the book’s reaction to his irritation. But it was not worthwhile to risk
nevertheless. Ares is still half the trouble. He can be magnanimous. Tukhlomon is all of a
third of the problem. But if Ligul becomes seriously interested in Irka…
Methodius started to say goodbye in a hurry, indicating that Zozo was waiting for him
and he must… yes, simply must go. “Do you want me to tell you what I thought about

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last night?” Irka asked. “Have you heard the words ‘The road to hell is paved with good
intentions’? I, of course, understand that it’s not about that here… Well, and if we make a
logical palindrome? ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ — does it mean,
‘The road to heaven is paved with bad intentions’?” “Unlikely. Very doubtful,” answered
Methodius, with a finger tracing an imaginary line from earth to sky. “Now and then it
seems to me that all roads without exception lead to Tartarus after all. Wherever you go,
you’ll only get there. And then I become seriously terrified… Well that’s it, bye, Ir!”
“Bye!”
Slowly going down the stairs, Buslaev examined the drawings on the plastering. The
drawings were quite predictable and indicative of the level of intelligence of young
Moscow pithecanthropus trying to grasp the secrets of elementary physiology for the first
time. However, Methodius at that given moment was more interested in something else.
He was searching for the letters “M” + “I” on the wall by the window between the first
and second floors and did not understand where they could have disappeared to. And it
was only after seeing on the plastering many fresh, unskilful scratches, which could leave
only one person who reached for the inscription from below and, not seeing anything
because of tears, agonizingly scratched the wall with nails, that he understood everything.
Both Granny’s aloof look and Irka’s melancholy… “Clear,” thought Methodius.
“Everything is clear. I’m simply a rat, the latest skunk. Although who said that I must be
this and that and something else? Was I like Ares?”
Buslaev thought about Irka and felt a jab of guilt. Can she not be helped somehow? Is
there magic, which is capable of reviving her spine and forcing her legs to move? If yes,
then this magic must be very strong, because Irka’s legs are thin and weak, almost
deprived of muscles. Ten years in a wheelchair — that is three thousand six hundred and
fifty days, and not simple days, but days of growth, days when the legs must run and
muscles contract. “I have power, but it is small. Need something else. Not simply skill,
not simply spells… Something more. Something not relating to the magic of Gloom,” he
suddenly understood very clearly. As he also understood that no one else, not even Ligul
himself was in a position to help, since he undoubtedly would demand Irka’s eidos in
exchange. But here, with Daph… Possibly, it is worthwhile to have a chat with Daph.
Methodius looked around on the street and, after slipping to the playground empty at
this hour, he reached for the Book of Chameleons. Earlier he was mistaken at Irka’s. It
was no longer the Russian-Korean phrase book. The book had changed once again. Now
Methodius was holding in his hands Moscow Newspaper by V.A. Gilyarovsky, published
by “Science and Technology”, 1989. The book was continually shaking impatiently. The
letters on the binding became crooked. Methodius hurriedly found page thirty-one and
counted off twelve lines from the top. “I’m waiting for you in the office. VERY
URGENT! Don’t go home! A.” he read.

Chapter 9
Eidos and Wings

Methodius made out a sealed envelope in Ares’ hands. The chief of the Russian
division of Gloom had already taken a silver letter-opener to it and, after lifting the seal
with it, opened the envelope. From the envelope he pulled out a fine, wonderfully

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produced piece of parchment, the large birthmark on the outer side of which clearly
testified to what skin it was prepared from. After taking the parchment, Ares stared at it.
Methodius did not know what precisely he expected to see there, but Ares’ face suddenly
became sullen. Wrinkles ran across the middle of his forehead. “What has Ligul written?”
Julitta asked. Instead of an answer, Ares showed them the parchment. They saw that the
parchment was completely clean. Now uneasiness also appeared on Julitta’s face. “Is it
true that there is nothing on this sheet or do I simply not see it?” Methodius asked. “You
see well enough. It’s actually clean,” said Ares. “So clean that it can be considered a
clean object altogether, delivered from Tartarus and only visited Ligul’s hands,” Julitta,
independent in her own judgments, specified.
“Eh-eh… What nonsense! Most likely the secretary put the wrong sheet in the
envelope. That happens fairly often with botched correspondence,” assumed Methodius.
Several times he had to send trivial requests to Tartarus and imagined what a confusion
of papers reigned there. Just to find an already signed document among the pile of papers
on his own desk, an eighth-rank clerk can spend about ten years, even then only if you
breathe down his neck all the time — otherwise even the lifetime of the Universe will not
be enough to get the ball rolling. Ares shook his head, “Ligul’s Chancellery doesn’t make
mistakes. The Chancellery of Records Management — yes. It regularly mixes up papers,
reward lists, and service records. This almost always happens with retrieval from
archives, but Ligul’s Chancellery making a mistake — won’t happen. If they sent a clean
sheet to us, it means that Ligul himself wished it so. Or, take it higher, Faceless Kvodnon
doing this through Ligul. Kvodnon nevertheless has a certain connection with Ligul, I
think… But, again, I won’t guarantee this.” “But why did he order sending us a clean
sheet?”
Ares impatiently snapped his fingers. While Methodius was pondering what this
indicated, the window was thrown open. Into the room flew a large, beautiful serving
plate with a turkey stuffed with nuts and prunes. The turkey emitted a delicate aroma,
tickling the nose and evoking saucy and frivolous thoughts. The parsley ruffles on the
turkey breast appeared shredded, and a fork was sticking out on the side, meaning that
some restaurant regular had been deprived of a turkey, which he had ordered, right from
under his nose. Possibly, the starving baron of Gloom precisely felt his gastronomic
vibrations and, not being able to control himself, teleported his supper. “Don’t pay any
attention, Met. Now and then food helps me think,” said Ares, pulling the dish to himself.
“So, your question… Mm-eh… We’ll answer it this way. Depending on the specific
case, a clean sheet sent in this manner can have different shades of meaning in Tartarus.
It’s a warning, perplexity, disappointment, impatience, encouragement to action, and a
thousand more different interpretations.” “And what message did Ligul want to send in
this case?” Methodius asked. “Nothing. Our gnome loves to fog up the truth. He fogs up,
keeps in suspense, confuses everybody, likely dissatisfied, and you sit — and settle
down, know your place,” muttered Julitta. “Watch it, Julitta, you’ll get in trouble! And
don’t you eavesdrop! Cover up your ears!” Ares muttered, with the fork threatening the
portrait of the hunchback. “Look, Met, if this has to do with you scheming with guards of
Light and keepers from the Spheres, and heaven knows where they come from, then I’ll
grind you into… mm-eh… well, you understand what I’ll do with you.”
Methodius looked sideways at Julitta. She was standing with this innocent and almost
holy face that would even be clear to a fool: she had already made a slip of the tongue to

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Ares about their trip today to the taxidermist, the fight with the grave-diggers, and about
Essiorh. And once this is known to Ares, then possibly Ligul also knows. After all, the
city is full of agents darting about and succubae smiling nastily. “Yes, Met, Ligul already
knows everything… You shouldn’t suppose that he became the head of the Chancellery
only because he swung a sabre more than anyone after the loss of Kvodnon,” Ares
nodded, reading his thoughts with such ease, as if they were simply tattooed on
Methodius’ forehead.
The baron of Gloom continued to devour the turkey. He had long since put the fork
aside and was helping himself with the dagger. “Well now,” he said, flinging away to the
corner a gnawed turkey leg. “It’s time to drive an aspen stake into the chest of his
illusions! I have a feeling that soon — in the next day or two — everything should be
decided.” “So soon?” Met asked. “Why not? Someone stole the Scroll of Desires from
the box at that moment, when we were competing in muddle-headedness with the guards
of Light. Furthermore, this same someone tricked you and, after forcing you to fight with
gravediggers, imprinted Julitta’s darc on the stolen Scroll. Otherwise why arrange this
farce with bats — I can’t find an explanation.”
“This is all because of the Scroll of Desires?” Methodius surmised. “Now and then,
Signor Tomato, you move me with your naiveté! Stands to reason. The entire matter is
the Scroll, which someone clearly took in his own interests and not in the interests of
either Light or Gloom.” “And?” “Think for yourself. He has had the Scroll for a while
already, but he still hasn’t written his desire nor burned it. Why? He did not find a birch
log? Hardly. There can only be one explanation. This is a desire to attempt to influence
further the fates of Tartarus and Eden. And if so, then one scroll is too small. Its
kidnapper must secure the mystical support of all participating parties. At least the magic
demands justice formally. Here we’re encroaching upon the region of the very delicate
interrelations of good and evil.” “Such exist?” Methodius had his doubts. Ares smirked,
showing yellowish, wide teeth. “If not, then why the heck are you so carried away by the
sight of Daph? And it’ll be known to you, before the desire is written and the Scroll
thrown into the fire, it is necessary to imprint on the Scroll the wings of a guard of Light,
a darc of Gloom, and the eidos of a person, free in his choice. It’s unimportant whether
this happens of one’s free will or by deception. Such finesse hardly bothers the
universe…”
“Fine. The darc is imprinted. I blundered. But the wings of a guard of Light?” Julitta
asked. “A moment!” Hardly concerned about his greasy fingers, Ares opened a drawer
and threw a photograph onto the table. The photograph did not turn out too well.
Someone took it in a hurry, through a window. From the blinds, the calendar with races
and, mainly, from the very look of the room, Methodius understood whose apartment this
was. Beyond the window was a man with a tainted bald patch, similar to a peach
overgrown with black fur. He was blurred visually. Partly because the photograph was
badly taken, partly because even in the magic photograph baldy tried to turn his back to it
and shield himself with his hands. An angry Ares brought the photograph to the candle,
and it flared up. The man rushed about in the photograph and disappeared in the smoke,
never showing his face. “Stubborn as before. Well… All the same sooner or later the
meeting under the clock will take place…,” muttered Ares.
He knew. His pupils narrowed. They became like small piercing points. The hatred,
which the swordsman of Gloom experienced towards the balding person, was tangible.

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Methodius could easily absorb it, but did not do so. He clearly sensed that hatred, even a
stranger’s, was like acid, capable of corroding his soul. “For anyone who doesn’t know,
remember: this is Yaraat,” Ares said tonelessly. “He was in Daph’s room. One of the
agents turned out to be nearby and had time to take a picture… Unfortunately, the photo
came to me after a delay. The agent first directed his plasticine paws to Ligul and only
then to me. A reprimand has already been brought to him in person. I’d even say: pressed
onto him.” Ares looked sadly at his powerful fist.
“Do they follow Daph? Where did this agent come from?” Methodius asked. “Of
course they follow her. Gloom has too much of the low rank. Everyone must find
something to do. Do you really think that Gloom will leave Daph alone?” “It won’t,”
quietly said Methodius. Buslaev already felt this long ago, but was afraid to voice it so
that the words would not have substance. But they have materialized. This, alas, is fact.
“What went on with you and Yaraat then? What brought on the hatred?” he asked.
Methodius knew that the questions were a risk. He did not expect Ares to answer him,
and was even prepared for a flash of anger. However, Ares answered, “A story of
friendship, a story of treachery, a story of death. These stories are frequently interwoven.
And indeed once Yaraat and I were friends… As soon as I recall that I trusted this rat, I
want to take this dagger here, cut out my own heart, and trample it with my feet,” Ares
said slowly and distinctly. He looked up and stared gravely at Methodius. “And now you
want, of course, to know how everything was? From the beginning to the end? The so-
called details are always important to you, a former moronoid. Little sense to you
otherwise. Isn’t it so?” Methodius kept silent. Intuition prompted that it would be better
not to speak up now. And he was not mistaken.
Ares continued, “A guard of Gloom doesn’t have the right to love or to have ties. The
only thing allowed us is to experience passions, even the most monstrous. This law is
immutable. The rest of the laws are broken in Tartarus quite easily and without special
consequences. After all, the aphorism ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is our aphorism. Do
anything nasty, but no noise and no dust. However, the ban to love and to have ties is
extremely strict. I would say, precisely, Tartarus, this institution dearest in every respect,
stands on the ban to love.” “But Indeed…” “Don’t interrupt! Love erodes absolute evil. It
undermines the foundations. It makes a guard flabby and half-hearted. It opens a window
for good, which searches for any crack in order to filter through. Indeed if you love —
actually love and not simply lust and use — good wouldn’t manage without this!
Immediately self-sacrifice, tender emotions, and all sorts of related trash will turn up. As
a result you’ve simply converted the destructive sword of Gloom into a rusty piece of
iron, which will break in the first battle.”
Ares’ crooked fingers scratched the table twice. His voice, however, remained the
same: measured, cold. “And a couple of refinements. If a guard of Gloom falls in love
with a witch from the Bald Mountain or a female guard (you’ll understand this in a year
or two, we have some devilishly attractive ones), it’s a small loss. They’ll turn a blind eye
to this. Most likely, your love will become ordinary passion, and generally afterwards
will even dissolve like a drop of blood in the sea… Another important thing to
remember! A guard of Gloom doesn’t have the right to fall in love with a mortal, in
whose chest is the still unclaimed eidos. Before anything, he must take away this eidos
and transfer it to Gloom. He doesn’t even have the right to put the eidos into his own
darc, if it’ll mingle with this lowdown feeling there. Who knows, possibly, sooner or later

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he’ll face the temptation to free the eidos and return it to its owner, and this would indeed
be an insult to Gloom.”
“So, it’s forbidden to love mortals with eide. Why?” Methodius did not understand.
“Because there is a light in an unclaimed eidos. It lives in the eidos even in the worst, the
most soiled, petty, nasty acts! It glimmers like a candle till the very end, and its fire will
devour Tartarus!” Ares snapped. “And a second, fundamental thing: a guard of Gloom
has no right to fall in love with a guard of Light. The punishment for this is the most
severe. You’re deprived of your essence, leaving only pain and fear… But it’s better for
you not to know this. Three times a fool is the one who hurries to rid himself of childish
and youthful illusions. Under them is usually rotting meat. Obedient, quivering, such as
this! Now you’ll understand how it is! Hey you, move!” Obeying Ares’ terrible look, the
half-gnawed turkey, helping itself with its wings, scratching the tabletop with the bone of
the intact leg, crawled to the edge of the table, leaving on the polish a greasy trail of
sauce. It was a painful and unpleasant sight. After pushing off for the last time, the turkey
fell down heavily. “Did you see? This meat has lost everything. It has no future, no past,
no eternity; it’s half-gnawed and nevertheless fears. This is what fear is. Its essence, its
roots, its laws — distorted,” Ares said and became silent.
“That’s what happened with you and Yaraat?” Methodius reminded him. Ares looked at
the dusty cracked glass close to the scaffolding wrapped in construction netting. Having
taken up new residence at 13 Dmitrovka, the swordsman of Gloom did not take pains to
put his office in at least a resemblance of order. And despite that he could do this just by
snapping his fingers. But somehow it was not managed here.
“The story is simple. I fell in love with a mortal and, after breaking all rules, preserved
her eidos. A daughter was born. Also with eidos, bright and beautiful — to me, a guard of
Gloom, who sucks in strangers’ eide like a black hole! Trust me, anyone who knows
magic will tell you: a child for a guard of Gloom — this is the greatest miracle. We by
nature are empty and barren. I hid my wife and daughter for long enough. Hid them from
everyone, very ingeniously, with great imagination. The Chancellery of Gloom knew
nothing. But then one of the agents sniffed it out and reported it before I had time to
spread his plasticine brain on the nearest wall. These vile agents are everywhere. There
are myriads of them in this guilty world. They began to pursue us. Our situation became
extremely difficult. They searched for us, they arranged a real roundup. And a roundup of
Gloom — this really means something! I myself would hide thousands of times, at least
for a century, but to hide two mortals — woman and child — is monstrously difficult!
Especially when a multitude of spirits is put on the search. And then came the moment,
when they drove us into a corner…”
Ares’ hand grasped the handle of the dagger so tightly that his fingers had turned white.
Julitta was listening, almost not breathing, although this story was probably already
known to her. Methodius noticed that Ligul the hunchback had skipped off the portrait
and in complete panic was breathing heavily somewhere behind the frame, not having the
ability to flee from the canvas. “Likely he also knows what happened next,” thought
Methodius.
“We hid in the attic of an abandoned shack in one tiny town. It was late fall. The child
cried and coughed. She had caught a cold. The day before we had been in the rain, when
we worked our way through a swamp. I couldn’t use magic: they would immediately
have discovered us. Pursuers were already everywhere. While they were just spirits and

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agents, I knew that as soon as they had succeeded in sniffing out something, guards
would appear. And then I decided that the most reasonable thing would be to distract the
pursuit, lead it away after myself. Alone I’d throw them off, make short work of anyone
who crossed my path, and then return. But I had decided not to leave the two of them. I
needed someone possessing magic who would protect them in my absence. Who
wouldn’t allow a single agent to thrust his soft nose into our sanctuary. And I summoned
the one whom, so it seemed to me, I could trust…”
“Yaraat?” “Yes, him,” Ares said through clenched teeth. “Yaraat was outside the law.
A thief, an abductor of artefacts. Both Light and Gloom searched for him. But I liked
him. I repeatedly sheltered him and thought that I could count on him for reciprocal
service.”
“And he came?” “Yes. Yaraat immediately appeared, as soon as I traced the first rune
of the secret call. He was nice, merry, romantic, and he joked. In the filthy shack, dirty
water flowing from the roof, drafts through all the cracks, he seemed like an angel. I
wrapped my daughter in a raincoat, said something encouraging to my wife… I trusted
him, asked Yaraat to remain with them, and left with a calm mind, taking with me only
the sword without the scabbard. I held it in a lowered hand and went along the central
street. On the outskirts, I caught the eyes of agents. I cut one down; the rest, it goes
without saying, slipped away and called the guards. They teleported that same minute.
There were about twenty of them. This I was also striving for. I led the pursuit after
myself through the swamp for a long time, chopping off heads and darc of the most
zealous, thereby they rushed at me like dogs to a wolf. It turned out to be such little
surprise. The majority, and the runt Ligul among them...,” Ares cast a furious glance at
the empty portrait, “preferred not to butt in and let others advance. Finally, they left me
alone and took off, threatening to get even for everything later. I understood that I had
won. When a dog barks, it’ll no longer bite. And here after two days I returned to the
same little town, to the same courtyard. I went up to the attic along the same squeaky
steps and found no one there.” Ares started to breathe heavily and nosily. A strange
transformation took place with the scar along his face. One part of it became white, the
other — crimson.
“Did Yaraat turn them over to Gloom? Yes?” Methodius asked. With a foot, Julitta
nudged Buslaev in warning. Probably, this was not the right question to ask. However,
the words had already come out. Ares answered. So slowly as if he was tracing words on
the wall after dipping his finger in blood. “No! That would be boring. Yaraat thought up
something else. He put a knife to the throat of my girl and forced my wife to pronounce
the words of renunciation. What mother would not give up her eidos for her child? Then
he also took the girl’s eidos. My good child, it goes without saying, wanted to save
mommy and also pronounced the formula as she could. Yaraat put both eide away in his
darc. And after that he dropped my wife and daughter into the dry well in the courtyard.
Evidently, they were alive because he still had to finish them off with rocks. He threw
down ten large plates. This I found out when I went down into the well…”
Ares became silent. Methodius and Julitta also kept quiet. It was so quiet in the office
that the breathing of the scared Ligul the hunchback was heard behind the frame of the
ceremonial portrait. Several times he carefully looked out and attempted to hang out a
white kerchief — the sign of surrender. Ares started to walk around the office. Clearly, he
could no longer remain in one place. His voice jumped like a cardiogram.

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“I searched long for Yaraat, but it was all useless. He had hidden skilfully. Werewolves
have this innate gift. Here magic power was intensified: neither Gloom nor Light could
discover where he was hiding. What’s there to say about me here? Yaraat sallied and
stole all new artefacts, which helped him go scot-free. He lost power and was captured
very recently, only when you — Methodius Buslaev — came into the world. A child, a
babe did what I couldn’t… Then I also wasn’t quite myself. Inside me had formed this
black hole, which I could in no way fill. Exactly then I became good friends with
Mamzelkina. It turned out that Aida and I have much in common: a void inside and
honey wine. Gloom began to worry. They said about me: he’s too angry for evil. Evil
must be done with a cool head, but this… Agents avoided bringing me orders. Succubae
shook like aspen leaves if they by chance had to show up beside me. One of them
somehow attempted to appear like my daughter and was very sorry for it… After some
time — five, fifty years, I don’t remember — I was arrested for a duel with Horse and
sent into exile. To the lighthouse on a cold ocean. I didn’t resist. It was all the same to
me…”
Ares took a step towards Methodius. He leaned over. His terrible cut face was hanging
over him. “What else do you want to know about Yaraat? Did I quench your curiosity?”
he asked jerkily and hoarsely. Methodius became terrified. He sensed that Ares, stirred up
by the recollections, was capable of cutting him down now. Hatred for Yaraat boiled in
him like lava, only Yaraat was not next to him here. “Nothing. I… I’ve learned
everything,” Methodius said in a hurry, not taking his eyes off Ares, although he wanted
awfully to do this. He knew it would be dangerous to do so now. As dangerous as looking
into Ares’ pupils. Therefore he looked slightly higher, at Ares’ eyebrows. This
confrontation continued for a wearisome minute. Then Ares sharply turned around.
“Pity, pity… I understood the essence of this villain too late. Yaraat steals artefacts
from Light and Gloom not because he’s a free renegade who wants to exist
independently. He’s a werewolf. Not the Transylvanian poor devil werewolf that
transforms into a wolf after being bitten by the same, afraid of crosses and silver bullets,
but a true natural werewolf. A moral amoeba. Emotions are everything to werewolves,
their narcotic, but only to them. Werewolves are chameleons in everyday life. They are
cordial, affectionate, pleasant. They force you to fall in love with or at least to trust them,
and then finish you off with a smile on their lips, not forgetting to bring you happiness
with a fresh anecdote… The main thing for such creatures is to tickle their own nerves.
To perceive themselves as important people. Do you think he acted so because of my
wife’s and daughter’s eide? And for that too, but the main thing for him was for me to
hunt him down, to hate him, to gnaw my own hands, annoyed at them for not being able
to close in on his throat,” he said bitterly and already almost calmly.
“If I…” Methodius uttered suddenly and became silent. Ares looked at him expectantly.
“…meet Yaraat, I’ll kill him! Neither wall nor allies will save him!” Buslaev firmly
finished. Ligul on the portrait waved the white kerchief with such energy as if the
kerchief was tied to a windmill blade. Likely, he had his reasons. After all, who, if not
him, had passed on the tiger-bite sabre to Yaraat and helped him escape from captivity?
Ares’ short powerful finger poked Methodius painfully in the chest. “Signor Tomato,
don’t make promises you’ll have difficulty fulfilling. And know this: he will try to meet
you. I’m certain of this,” said the chief of the Russian division. “In order to take
vengeance for the power that I took away from him?” “Among other things. But, the

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main thing now is that he needs your eidos in order to make an impression of it on the
Scroll. After that, he only has to write down his desire and throw the Scroll into the fire. I
think this is the easiest part. And that’s it — the magic of the Scroll will acquire the
power and intertwine with the fabric of time as deeply as the owner of the Scroll wishes.”
“But why my eidos in particular?” Methodius asked nervously. Right away from an
aggressor dreaming of meeting Yaraat, he had become a victim, and this was unpleasant.
Ares smiled. Having enough experience, he also perceived this nuance. “Haven’t you
understood yet? Of course, he could simply go up to any eidos, but Yaraat doesn’t deal in
small quantities. He tries to sting me a little more, to humble me… Again, again, and
again! To show up beside me and then disappear suddenly without a trace. Your eidos is
suitable for this purpose more than the rest, taking into account that your power…
hmm… is rather significant.”
Methodius looked at one of his hands, at the other, and moved them like the two sides
of a scale. “So this is why Ligul wanted me to lose my eidos as a bet? Because my eidos
is the key to the Scroll?” “Yes, Signor Tomato. You understood everything correctly.
Your eidos is the key to the Scroll. But, I must say that our little friend has a much more
extensive problem. To whom a person’s eidos belongs, so belongs also his power, isn’t
that so, my friend?” Ares asked ironically, raising his eyes to the portrait. The hunchback
smiled, expressing the most touching tender emotion to Ares’ words. The portrait clearly
did not want to be in trouble with his host. He did not simply radiate benevolence. He
was glowing with benevolence like a uranium rod tossed into a sugar bowl.
“Ligul, can you hear me?” Ares asked. The portrait carefully nodded. “Good!” Ares
said. “Then immediately cover up your ears! I want to say something not intended for
them.” The portrait in a hurry covered up its ears. “Julitta, little one, be so kind and light
the fireplace! I’m disappointed. They try to deceive us!” without raising his voice, Ares
ordered. Understanding that he was exposed, the hunchback in the portrait squeaked and
covered up his ears for real. He even closed his eyes tight, pretending at once to be the
three little monkeys: hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.
“Methodius!” Ares said, after ascertaining that his words would not leave these walls.
“I hope you won’t repeat my mistake. Gloom save you if you tie yourself to a mortal with
eidos or to a guard of Light. You will destroy yourself and her. The future sovereign of
Tartarus and a girl from Eden by birth cannot have a future. Forget Daphne! Even I, I
fear, won’t be able to protect you. The stakes are too high. Gloom won’t allow you to fall
in love. IT NEVER WILL!”

Chapter 10
Summons to Tartarus

After a couple of days, a courier arrived and delivered to Ares a summons to appear in
Tartarus on the double. The courier was an elderly genie slicked with oil; for the solemn
occasion, he materialized whole and even put on the widest breeches, the kind that
Methodius earlier happened to see only in movies about the Zaporozhian Cossacks. After
delivering the summons to Ares and asking him to put an impression of his darc on the
register, the genie hung around in reception for a while, unnoticeably snitched a silver
spoon from Julitta’s desk, and disappeared. “What a parasite! Next time I’ll nail all the

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spoons to the edge of the desk! It’ll be like in a funny farm: you want to mix in the sugar,
turn the glass under the spoon! I have no more strength: agents snitch, succubae snitch,
and now even genies!” said Julitta with indignation. “If you simply catch them red-
handed?” Methodius asked. “Aha! Just try catching them! You seize his hand, he’ll plead
kleptomania, on top of that even show a certificate!” the witch brushed it off.
Ares stared at the summons for a long time, trying to determine from the sender’s aura
imprinted on it, what was worth waiting for in Tartarus. But the summons was standard,
drawn up by some personal secretary in Ligul’s office, who at that moment had been
thinking about her female fate and the trip to the canteen and therefore had imprinted no
distinct aura. However, the signature at the bottom of the summons belonged not to Ligul
himself but to one of his assistants who, in all likelihood, did not know why Ligul needed
the chief of the Russian division of Gloom. After understanding this, Ares left the
summons in the room and approached the portrait. “What do you need again, old man?
First one paper, then another? Do you sleep at night or just write and write all the time?”
he asked sullenly.
The hunchback in the portrait shrugged his shoulders and with a spiteful air started to
shift from foot to foot. Then he extended a paper finger and pointed at the summons. Not
understanding what he wanted, Ares glanced at the summons again and discovered that it
stated under the heading “Urgency:”
“APPEAR IMMEDIATELY WITHOUT ANY EXCUSES OR EVASIONS!”
Specified below in small type was:
P.S. We request to take into account that imaginary ignorance, blindness, incarceration
of the vessel (for genies) or in the wolf state (for werewolves), non-receipt of this
summons in time on account of the accidental loss of the courier (sic!), and also clinical,
physical, and astral death cannot be considered as justification of failure to appear (article
966 point 696 of Tartarus codes).
“Even envisioned the accidental loss of the courier, the skunk! I suppose the couriers
get thrown around? We have some slick ones. Will swat them like flies and afterwards,
‘Well, I didn’t receive your letter!’ Okay, Ligul! Don’t bore me! I’ll return and
immediately begin to play darts. Only pity there’s no target. But we’ll find something!
Something small and repulsive!” Ares promised with meaning. The vile expression
immediately disappeared from the face of the portrait. Ligul started to puff and, stuck,
with the help of his short legs, crawled to hide behind the frame.
Ares put on the breastplate, took the sword, with a sullen expression on his face walked
up and down the office several times, and called Methodius. “Julitta and I are leaving for
Tartarus. Of course, we’ll try to return ASAP. However, I have a bad feeling that we’ll be
retained there for some time.” “What if you don’t give a damn about the summons? Rip it
up?” asked Methodius. Ares became thoughtful and, putting his hands behind his back,
moved the fingers a little. “Rip up the summons to Tartarus? A summons that I signed
with an impression of my darc as a receipt? You amuse me, Signor Tomato! With all my
disrespect to the Chancellery and personally to Ligul, Tartarus is a somewhat different
thing. Its laws are unyielding. I have to go all the same.”
“But what should I do?” Methodius asked with unease. The room had grown narrower.
The world had become alarming. “Whatever happens, don’t leave the office and keep
your sword ready. I hope that I was able at least to teach you something. If necessary,
summon the spirit of Horse again, but to do this, only point out from the very beginning

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his place as a guest. Otherwise, he’ll take away your body. Indeed I’ll be in Tartarus and
would hardly be able to help you.” Methodius nodded unhappily. He understood this.
“Another thing… Mamzelkina promised to look in this morning. While Aida is here,
you’re safe. Yaraat won’t poke his nose in. But around noon she has…eh-eh…a shift, so
that you’ll have to care about the safety of your eidos and your head. I’d advise you to
call Daph. Her armour-piercing pipe and poetic little beast with its heavenly claws can
turn out to be useful company. Success to work and defence!” The heavy hand
encouragingly patted Met’s shoulder.
After taking Julitta with him in order to give his appearance in Tartarus the nature of a
business trip, Ares departed for Tartarus. “Met, be good and keep your chin up! That’s
the main thing!” Julitta shouted at parting. The young witch tried to keep her spirit up,
but she looked depressed. She did not want to go to Tartarus. Even with the chief. Even
on an official call. To get oneself there is much simpler than booking a return ticket.
Methodius remained in the residence of Gloom in solitude. (Is it only pride here?) It
seemed that with the disappearance of Ares and Julitta the walls of reception had shrunk,
grown dim. A long crack ran along the ceiling. “Everything here is only appearance.
Nothing real… Eh-eh, well, okay!” he thought and, after opening the case, looked over
his sword. A rather dull blade, a notch, a simple handle… Mm-yes… Looks pretty
unassuming. However, to judge a magic weapon by its appearance is to judge the taste of
the soup by the colour of the pot. “So, Yaraat! I’m waiting for you! Indeed it’s you who
started everything, I know,” Buslaev said loudly, attempting to find confidence in this
loudness. He set off to Ares’ office, placed the case beside him and, after putting his feet
up on the desk, mentally began to twirl in his memory all the lessons, which the
swordsman of Gloom had given him at some point. In his imagination, blades sparkled
and blows rained down thick and fast. It was difficult to say whether Ligul sensed
something; however, it did not look out of the portrait, sensibly preferring to stay behind
the frame.
Suddenly the office door creaked. Tukhlomon’s surly stretched-out mug pushed
through. The agent twisted his head around with curiosity and, on noticing Methodius,
grinned rather disgustingly. “Acting as the chief? If so, a promotion for you!” “What
promotion?” Methodius did not understand. Tukhlomon nastily wagged a plasticine
finger at him. “Oh yea? Feet-eh on his desk-eh? On his desk-eh! You won’t deny it? You
won’t! I understand you-eh: it’s always pleasant to scoff, so to speak, with feet on the
platform-eh! To express one’s own attitude to management. Eh? Uh-huh! Indeed, do
acknowledge that you don’t like Ares. Well, please acknowledge!”
Suddenly a bad feeling emerged in Methodius that this visit of Tukhlomon had been
prepared earlier. The agent was clearly well informed that Ares was in Tartarus,
otherwise he would never poke his nose into his office without knocking. And this rather
offensive, mocking formal “you.” “And where are you going with this?” Methodius
growled. “Aha, here you almost let the cat out of the bag! Well, please tell the truth,
please say: I can’t stand him, such a plodding camel!” Tukhlomon goaded. An interested
Ligul stretched out of the frame his own aural sink overgrown with black hair.
Having perceived that Tukhlomon was annoying him on purpose, Methodius controlled
himself. “What do you want? Today is not receiving day.” Not a bit embarrassed that he
was not invited, the agent barged into the office and, having sat down on the edge of the
desk, started to stare insolently. “I know-eh about receiving day-eh. But I have a personal

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question for you!” said the agent and winked his bulging eyes in turn. “Admittance of
personal questions every first and third Thursday of the month by advanced booking.
Regularly from 15:55 to 16:00. And now please kindly leave the office!” Methodius
parried. After all, Julitta’s school was Julitta’s school.
However, this did not make an impression on Tukhlomon. Leaning over the desk, he
hugged Methodius’ shoulders and, sobbing, poured forth an incoherent tirade interrupted
with sobs. From the tirade Methodius could make out that Tukhlomon was calling him
“my friend,” “young man,” “smart person,” and “dear father,” and portrayed himself as a
victim of love for truth and someone spreading true love. “If it’s necessary to break
someone, just whistle! We’re all like this, stand up for truth!” Unexpectedly Tukhlomon
finished his tirade, continuing to moisten Methodius’ T-shirt with crocodile tears.
Having lost patience, Buslaev bellowed at him and, after breaking away from the
tenacious hands, pushed the agent off the desk. “Well, say what you need, and clear out!”
he threatened. After falling onto the floor, Tukhlomon did not attempt to get up and
became sad. “So, how are you treating me here? Possible to say I come to you with a
quivering heart and baring my soul, and you kick me? Not ni-ice, oh, not ni-ice!
Downright humanly unpleasant! Oh-oh-oh!” Methodius threw the inkpot at him. The
agent did not try to dodge from it, but, jumping, deftly caught it with his teeth, like a dog
catching a Frisbee. “Well, why would you break it? Not nice! Again, not your things!” he
said, reproachfully putting the inkpot back onto the table. “And in general, Methodius
Igorevich, my dear, you’re not in a position to trample me or throw things at me! You’re
completely at my mercy!” Tukhlomon stuck his hand into his pocket and quickly pulled
out a crumpled piece of pink paper.
“What’s this scrap?” asked Methodius contemptuously. “This isn’t simply scrap. This is
pulled out of a diary! Girls, you know, love diaries! All kinds of little notebook, hee-hee!
Sometimes they write such nonsense that even they feel sorry later!” Tukhlomon grinned.
He grinned so nastily, with a hint. “What are you talking about?” “Here’s what! Please
have a look!” Tukhlomon said and brought the pink paper in front of Buslaev’s eyes. “I
love M.B. so that I’m ready to sell my soul, if only he would be pl…” he began to read.
Half a dozen words after that were boldly painted over with a felt-tip pen. Likely,
someone, after making an entry in the diary, deleted it, ripped out the page, and,
crumpling it, threw it under the bed or the table, where Tukhlomon carefully fished it out
afterwards.
“Who is this? Really Irka?” thought Methodius. However, he felt not joy but uneasiness
and guilt. Intuition suggested that the paper was Irka’s after all. But it meant that
Tukhlomon, persistent like chewing-gum sticking to the sole, had consequently picked up
a small key to Irka’s eidos. Certainly, this was altogether only a piece of paper, not a
document, not a renunciation, but paper is extremely dangerous. In confusion, Methodius
stretched out his hand in order to grab the pink sheet, but, before he could do this, the
agent abruptly jumped away. “Ah-h, no! Do you think that I’m a complete fool? If I give
you this paper, you’ll easily dispose of it. No give, and that’s it!” shouted Tukhlomon,
instantly passing to the informal “you.” He must have decided that the necessary moment
had already begun.
“You will hand it over like a dear!” said Methodius, after pondering how to pressure
him. “According to the decree of Chancellery № 7 of 4.11.4512 from the creation of the
world all compromising materials of such kind are subject to immediate delivery to the

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division. Non-delivery means exile to Tartarus for a period of up to thirty centuries.
Consequently, however it turns out, this paper nevertheless will come to me.” He hoped
to drive the agent into a blind alley, but Tukhlomon only grinned cunningly and rather
nastily, and sniggered with somewhat conspiratorial familiarity, “Make no doubt about it,
Methodius Igorevich. Though we’re simple ignorant spirits, the laws, I dare say, we
know rather better than you. I have to deliver the paper, it’s true, only to where? Can be
different divisions. If I want, to Julitta, or if I want, to Ligul. He’s angry now, would be
glad to grab this scrap with both hands… Well, got it?”
Buslaev felt that the agent’s arguments were steadily forcing him into a corner.
Showing that he surrendered, Methodius raised both hands above his head. “Fine,” he
said dejectedly. “I acknowledge that you’ve got me by the throat, Tukhlomon! How
about a bargain? What do you want for this paper?” Astonished by how quickly his
opponent surrendered, Tukhlomon, morally prepared for a prolonged siege, blinked, and
scratched the bridge of his nose. Methodius perceived with happiness that earlier the
agent had only been exploring the ground, blackmailing, considering how to profit, and
still plainly did not know what to demand. Undisguised greediness now caught fire in his
watery eyes. Tukhlomon definitely feared a cheap sale.
“Eh-hmm-eh-eh… I want a lot! So, I’ll simply not give it away for the asking! I indeed
didn’t get the paper for free!” he procrastinated, rubbing his hands. “First of all, I want
your ei…” “Stop!” Methodius cut him off. “I myself will not give you any ‘ei’. I propose
the price! What will you say to the Pharaoh’s ring, which summons genies? The one who
has this ring easily has thirty thousand spirits obeying him every ten years. Thirty
thousand!” The agent stared distrustfully at Methodius. The fact is that he was now
describing Ares’ favourite ring, from which Ares, beyond any doubt, would not want to
part. Buslaev only shrugged his shoulders: it said, here do what you want, you have
driven me into a corner. Tukhlomon thoughtfully chewed his lips. “It’s tempting, but I
truly don’t know,” he said, acting like a shy maiden. “Please let me look at the little ring
first. Already awfully unexpected.”
Methodius vigilantly estimated the distance. Tukhlomon was looming by the office
door. No, still cannot reach him. “Why not? Of course you can look.” he opened the top
drawer of Ares’ desk and beckoned Tukhlomon over. When the agent, having lost
vigilance from greediness, leaned towards him, Methodius seized the case with the sword
and, not having time to pull out the sword, hit the back of Tukhlomon’s head with the
case. Artefact is artefact. The agent began to squeal in a high pitch like a suckling-pig.
Methodius pulled the pink sheet out of his hands and, after tearing it into tiny pieces,
burnt it over the candle. Tukhlomon with a howl rushed with his stomach on the desk,
trying to take possession of at least the ashes, but did not manage.
After opening the case, Buslaev took the sword from the velvet. “Now, get out! Out!”
he shouted terribly, hardly recognizing his own voice. The sword impatiently jerked in
his hand. Another instant and it would cut the plasticine person into two unequal parts.
Squeaking, Tukhlomon jumped out the door and, stumbling, took to his heels. Methodius
understood that this time the battlefield remained his. The former sword of The Ancient
One, which had become the sword of Gloom long ago, shook and struggled in his hand.
Ripples ran along the dull blade. The notches were grinning nastily. The sword was mad
at Buslaev for not succeeding in cutting Tukhlomon. “Stop, friend! You wouldn’t like it!
There’s no blood, there’s nothing, only plasticine!” Methodius said and hurriedly

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returned the sword to the case before it turned on him in the heat of the moment. It was
completely possible to expect this from the wilful artefact.
Soon, as Ares had also warned, Mamzelkina limped in with the stretchable sagging
knapsack on her back. If not for the covered scythe, it would be possible to think that she
was collecting beer bottles in public gardens. Not finding Ares and Julitta, Mamzelkina
felt hurt and became glum; however, a keg of honey wine was discovered in the usual
place, and Aida Plakhovna was noticeably consoled. The ringing scythe stood in the
corner.
“Well, brother Met? The little heart goes pitter-patter? The eidos with wings goes
flitter-flutter?” she joked, scooping out honey wine with a cup. “Sit with me, let’s chat.
Don’t be afraid, my dear, we’ll call a time-out…” Buslaev carefully lowered himself onto
the sofa next to the old woman. On Mamzelkina’s feet were the usual worn white
sneakers. One lace was shorter and was therefore probably laced through a hole. For
some reason this everyday, very ordinary detail especially surprised and frightened
Methodius. It would be simpler for him if he saw bones instead of sneakers.
“What does Ligul’s reception in Tartarus look like? Were you there?” he asked,
distracting himself from bad thoughts. “Ah, my dear, where have I not been! Where did I
not cut down people!” Aida Plakhovna smirked. “Indeed I don’t know: can we call it
reception? It’s this narrow long corridor entirely crammed with old empty chairs, and
with one single room at the end.” “A room with spiders?” Methodius absent-mindedly
asked. “With what, with what?” Mamzelkina asked tenaciously. Buslaev was uneasy. He
had the feeling that he had just uttered some word dangerous for him. “Well, it’s from
Dostoyevsky. Svidrigailov feared that instead of eternity there will be a tight room with
spiders,” he hurriedly explained.
“How do you like that! So smart, and read smart books! Decided to read it yourself or
did someone put you up to it?” Aida Plakhovna was touched. “Myself.” “You’re lying!”
said Mamzelkina, threatening him with a bony finger. “Oh, you’re lying, love! You’re
lying through your teeth!” “Well, I’m lying, I’m lying. A friend gave it to me,”
Methodius unwillingly acknowledged. It was useless to deceive the old woman. “What
friend? Really Daph?” affectionately asked Aida Plakhovna. Methodius felt uneasy. The
old woman clearly knew much more than it was possible to assume. “If only,” he said
with defiance.
In Mamzelkina’s empty eye sockets flared up a pensive flame. “Why are you rude to
Granny? Perhaps Granny wishes you harm?” she said with reproach and at the same time
as if with a hint. “All night cutting, the wretch, didn’t stop.” “So, cut down many?”
Buslaev asked, frightened by his own impudence. It was important to him to direct the
old lady’s thoughts away from Daph. Aida Plakhovna blushed ambivalently and took a
mouthful of honey wine.
“Well, many, not many — how to count… There was one interesting moronoid. A
rather large figure of average pettiness! Started charities, spread heresies, encouraged all
sorts of ‘isms’. Roused doubt in simple-minded people, stung in an underhand way. So to
speak, let the apple rot from the middle. Today I took the hapless one to Tartarus. He was
indeed grieving! I carried him, but all the time he kept repeating that I don’t exist, that
there’s no Tartarus, that there’s nothing, it seems. ‘I’ll complain! You don’t have the
right! There isn’t any Tartarus!’ he shouted. Then he believed, of course, the poor devil,

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when he saw Cerberus… Even though he still didn’t see where it was but only heard the
barking from a distance.”
“Why was he like this?” “I already told you. For cleverness and the ‘isms’! Particularly
for atheism,” Aida Plakhovna said nastily. “But why atheism? Really, he’s not
advantageous for you?” Mamzelkina again looked at him tenaciously. “What’s this ‘for
you’? Oh, for such words I’ll obituate someone! Are you shunning us? Meaning, we’re
black and vile, but you’re white and virtuous? Is that so, perhaps?” Methodius was silent.
Mamzelkina, cooling down, shook a bony finger in front of his nose. “Look, my dear!
Don’t get carried away, don’t pick at an A-bomb with a screwdriver! In that particular
case, it turned out to be disadvantageous. At first even Ligul fell for it, but then we
gradually saw: not so. At first moronoids really got into the swing of things, but then they
drifted away, let their thoughts get out of hand, and now they believe in neither Light nor
Gloom. They want to come from monkeys, to hide the tail in the pant leg, and to die
without return. But in the universe it’s this way: to each his own belief. You don’t believe
in immortality, then don’t. And you won’t have immortality.” Mamzelkina made a
broadly helpless gesture.
“Here the eide also crawl away then. They scatter, become non-existent. Light obtains
its personnel as before, righteous men also come to pass now, but Gloom loses out. It
loses many eide. You take an eidos, but it’s a rather weak, unfit, rotten one… You place
the eidos into your darc, but the energy there is as in a small dying battery. No power in
it… Simply ptoo!” Aida Plakhovna with feeling spat at the wall in a short machine-gun
burst and timidly apologized to Methodius for the rebound. “People let themselves go,
oh-ho! Without us, they create evil according to their own feeble minds. Earlier they at
least signed contracts with us, but now they fire away without any contract — everyone
his own thing. They with their hearts would grow fat like broilers. Now it turns out there
is no benefit to anyone, neither Eden nor Tartarus nor the moronoids themselves!”
Suddenly under Mamzelkina’s shapeless clothing, something began to grind and beat
hoarsely. Aida quickly thrust her hand under the overalls and extracted an ancient silver
watch. As it turned out, this was emitting the unpleasant sounds. After looking sideways
at the hands, Aida Plakhovna sadly gulped from the cup and, after rinsing her mouth with
the honey wine, swallowed.
“Oh-oh! Somewhat quick today. Again someone’s hour has struck! It’s always this way
— no personal life! Well, I’m going, Met! You be careful. I’m uneasy for you about
something today. Likely no order for you for the time being, but all the same I’m
uneasy… Indeed, we have this in Tartarus: sometimes another little fellow slips by out of
order. Someone chops him down and all that stuff!” she said suggestively and dragged
herself to the door. Her steps were small, senile, the white sneakers were shuffling and
unsteadily groping the floor, but when Methodius looked outside only several seconds
later, the senior manager of the Necro-department could no longer be observed from
house № 13 on Bolshaya Dmitrovka. Only the faint ringing of her unsanitary scythe hung
in the air.
For approximately half an hour Methodius strolled around Ares’ office. After
Mamzelkina’s strange words, he was firmly convinced that soon something special and
hardly pleasant must occur. And that being so, he had to be on alert. Grabbing the case
with the sword, he set off for reception. Methodius decided now not to part from the
sword either day or night until Ares’ return from Tartarus.

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On Julitta’s desk lay the forgotten magazine Gossips and Ravings published on Bald
Mountain. The magazine was willingly read by both magicians and guards, and had the
widest circulation in these worlds. Methodius picked it up, and for something to do
started to leaf through it.
Column Oh really, these celebrities!
Nagiana Pripyatskaya: How to become a widow in five minutes. The story of the eighth
and last wife of Bluebeard. 5
Sleeping Beauty: For a long time I have not slept without sleeping pills. 7
Red Riding Hood: It was love at first sight with the wolf. But here Grandmother was
against it. 9
Prun: Happiness is an evil-eye rifle and many, many magazines. 15
Tsar Saltan: I am against absolute monarchy. 18
Puss in Boots: The main thing about boots — the spurs. 20
Dobrynya Nikitich: But then this party pooper so insolently says, “Hands up!” Well,
I… The story of a fight in the Bald Mountain Antiquity restaurant. 26
Whom will Tanya Grotter marry? Opinions of psychologists and analysts. The round
table of the psychologists was bitten through as a result of a fight. Puper, Vanka, Urg, and
Gleb Beibarsov did not suffer. 29
Attorneys of Tugarin Zmeyevich: The use of rain by Alyosha Popovich lies outside
legal means. 31
Puper smokes on the balcony (sensational photographs by Papa Razza). 33
Snow White (II given magic): These are no poor gnomes. Small men are much more
romantic. 36
A little bit of politics
The best things come in small packages. Our expert Hassan oglu Ali Baba forecasts an
increase in price at the slave markets of Asia Minor. 37
Gottfried Bouillon: Political news. Evil spirits in the basements of Tibidox move to
guerrilla warfare. The story of the laying of land mines to the doors of Sardanapal’s
office. 38
Column Witch Grusha’s Advice
How to remove spots from the conscience without the application of zombification
magic. 40
Means of conservation and voluntary mummification of past years’ dead. 41
Vegetarian menu for cannibals (12 recipes to prepare vegetarians with cabbage leaves).
43
How to put eye drops into your domestic basilisk’s eyes. 45
How to win the heart of a guard of Light in 3 weeks. 47
Cyanide pie for uninvited guests. 51
Secrets of the penetrating gaze from Venya Vii. Lesson № 2. For survivors. 52
Sharpening a scythe with an ordinary whetstone using the method of A.L. Mamzelkina
(Attention! It is not recommended for the living to look at the photograph of the scythe!
Photo by Papa Razza). 53
“Aha!” Methodius mumbled. “Now it’s clear why Papa Razza is everywhere within the
black frame. Here it is, the price of sensation!” After examining the index again, he for
some reason began to search for page 47, muttering that he did not intend to win
anyone’s heart and, in general, it was all nonsense. Is it really possible to believe what is

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124

written? Can a magazine with such a name write anything intelligent? While leafing
through it Methodius accidentally stumbled upon a short note:
History Pages
As is known, about 300 years ago the natural werewolf Izarhus escaped from Tartarus.
As a souvenir, he caught several redheaded jackals, which in twenty-four hours almost
completely destroyed the inhabitants of a small city in Northern Italy. With considerable
efforts, the jackals were destroyed by golden-wings arriving on alert. Izarhus managed to
escape and the guards of Gloom only captured him twelve years later.
Question: why did the redheaded jackals, creatures, as is known, that hate all living
things and do not yield to training, obey Izarhus and not tear him apart? Moreover, for a
long time they made their way with him along the winding paths of fiery Gehenna and
helped him to cross Lethe. The researchers of magic explain this phenomenon as
werewolves possessing innate ability to control telepathically the behaviour of primitive
creatures and creations of Gloom.
Practical work: If you suspect that you are dealing with a werewolf, you should look at
him by way of a knife, holding it near your eye, pointing out. This way, you have a
chance to see the true essence of the werewolf.
“Awful style! Exactly assembled in blocks. For sure a Touch-up bookkeeper, who was
a poet in the last reincarnation, wrote this,” muttered Methodius. He stared with
sympathy at the werewolf Izarhus, chained to the photograph like Prometheus to the cliff,
and turned to page 47 nevertheless. On the page — to his surprise — there were
numerous pencil notations, which attest to the fact that this article for some reason also
interested the owner of the magazine Julitta.
Have you fallen in love with a guard of Light? Well, this is your complication, and for
you to unravel… Then have in mind that the guards value:
1. Lively, nice, and unexpected actions. Desirably impromptu. A planned coincidence
or an anecdote studiously learnt by heart from a soiree will only evoke a polite smile.
2. Magnanimity and benevolence.
3. Generosity but not affectation. To glitter with the gems of the Queen of Sheba or to
brag with papa’s new multiple-charge flute — bad form.
Guards also love three “ifs:”
1. If people do not interrupt every two words with the remark, “And here I…”
2. If people arrive at the right time and leave a little ahead of schedule.
3. If you have some business, occupation, or profession, besides breathing down the
guard’s neck and constantly demanding attention or comfort.
Guards of Light cannot stand:
1. Ungrounded aggression and irritation.
2. If people reduce them to an emotional toilet for negative moods. In particular, they
abhor conversations about your not being understood, not being highly valued, being
loaded down with bastards all around, but you are the only bright and pure one. And in
general, you are so fed up with everything that tomorrow you will start pouring
concentrated uranium into everyone’s shoes.
3. When people speak badly about those absent and comment on the clothing and
behaviour of passers-by and transients.
4. When people use their feet to make fun of those morally fallen and are rude to the
dead.

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5. When people reach them every minute with telepathic communications or cupids.
6. When people bring them bouquets of more than 3000 roses. This complicates
movement, can lead to a hernia, and fills them with depressing thoughts on
environmental issues.
Something forced Methodius to tear himself away from the magazine. He sensed
unease. The unease was murky, indefinite, similar to an itch after an insect bite.
Methodius stood up abruptly, overturning Julitta’s chair. Must be, he again with his
internal magic sensed something amiss, because the chair, outwardly more than strong,
suddenly crumbled like rotten wood having stood in a damp thicket for exactly half a
century. Methodius’ hand slid to the case, opened it, and extracted the sword. The handle
of the sword was slightly warm. This meant that the sword sensed strange, suspicious
magic; however, this magic was scarcely greatly dangerous. Otherwise, the sword would
heat up much more. Methodius stood still, listening.
Vdddrrr… vdddrrr… vdddrrr…
The sound was similar to the hum of a dentist drill. Methodius with his enduring
memory to smells perceived the disturbing smell of heated tooth and bone. Listening and
keeping the sword ready, he stealthily began to go around the premises. Finally, he
understood what the source of the suspicious sound was — the door. The door was
shuddering slightly, barely perceptibly. Something was happening on the outside, very
close-by. It was visible in the crack under the door how someone’s greyish shadow was
moving outside. The rune, critical for entry into the residence of Gloom, first began to
shine weakly golden, then became dim. This spoke of its confusion. The rune clearly
doubted whether it should let in that, which was outside. Whether it was foreign or one of
its own. The hanged men on the canvas with the nice name Execution of Rebels, which
one of Julitta’s worshippers had recently presented to her, began to swing squeakily.
Methodius took several steps. He held the sword with the blade forward, ready for
either instantaneous parry or attack. On approaching the entrance, Methodius slowly
pulled air deeply into his nose, trying to calm down, and then having abruptly kicked
open the door, jumped aside half a metre, ready to struggle with who would now burst in.
However, no one did. Instead, a bald head with full chubby cheeks slowly and
importantly rolled over the threshold. Methodius’ gaze with involuntary fastidiousness
began to search for the place of separation from the body; however, the head was reliably
round in all places without exception. No bleeding cut. It was quite unlikely that there
was a body, from which it had been separated at some point.
Without paying the sword any attention, the head rolled to Methodius’ feet and stopped.
Its eyes were half-closed. The eyelids were overgrown with skin and could not open any
wider. “Hello, roly-poly!” Methodius said not too confidently. The head did not react to
his greeting at all. The pale dead lips opened and announced, “Methodius! I am in
trouble. I need your help! Follow this head. It will show you where to find me. Excuse me
for sending this strange messenger. There was no other way out. Daphne.” Methodius
lowered the sword. “Did Daph send you? Where is she now? Where?” The head moved.
Its bald spot was gleaming with droplets of perspiration. “Methodius! I am in trouble. I
need your help! … Excuse me for sending this strange messenger…” it began to repeat
again. Buslaev understood that he would learn nothing more. The head was clearly
capable of only repeating the same words like a street organ.

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126

On finishing its speech, it turned around and quickly rolled away. The soft nose made a
squelching sound when the head rolled over it. “Hey, stop!” Methodius shouted. The
head continued the motion. After rolling over the threshold, it jumped like a ball, and
squeezed through under the scaffolding. Realizing that the head did not intend to wait
while he bestirred himself, and that it could get out of sight, Methodius rushed after it,
barely managing to hide the sword in the case and take it with him. Moronoids clearly
could not see the head, something one could not say about the blade, which could easily
lose its head and mess up the first passer-by, if the crowd accidentally caught hold of its
owner by the shoulder.

Chapter 11
From Khavronissias to Khavroniads

Eddy Khavron, recently returned from work, was sitting in the kitchen eating a large
strawberry pie taken from the restaurant on the occasion of the chef’s absence, and
staging an experiment. Eddy was monstrously pleased. He had only just discovered that if
he pronounced “Zozo” with his mouth full, half of the time it became “Juju” and the
other half “Jojo”. “Juju! Jojo! Cume hero!” he called. A puzzled “What did you say?”
reached him from the room. “Cume hero, Jojo! And bring Daph wid you!” Khavron had a
fit of generosity.
His call was heard this time. Depressiac in the choke collar purposefully entered the
kitchen first and, having critically looked sideways at the strawberry pie, silently made its
way to the refrigerator. Khavron hurried to open the door. He had already learned that if
this was not done in time, the dear little beast would gnaw right through the fridge.
Depressiac slid a sullen look along the half-empty shelves and, having plunged its claws
into the metal, lazily climbed into the fridge (it was simply too lazy to jump); after
seizing with its triangular teeth a can of salmon, it waddled off, with the intention of lying
down somewhere in the most inappropriate place and desirably in the passageway. Eddy
wiped the sweat off his forehead. “I simply adore this little beast! Who would lend me a
shot gun? Or better just an RPG-18?” he muttered. Depressiac stopped by the door and
turned its head around. Khavron convulsively smiled and waved at it.
Daphne and Zozo appeared in the kitchen. Daph was already without the scarf and
looked considerably more cheerful. The cold had retreated, suffering great losses. The
microbes surrendered in droves, sending in advance generals with white flags. With his
hand, Khavron made the magnanimous motion of a person who recently presented an old
overshoe to his neighbour and now craves prolonged ovations and encores. “Shid and
ead! Here’s henough for all… I had a nightmarish day today! You can shank me!” said
Khavron. With a full mouth, the word “nightmarish” came out as “nigdmurish”. And
again Eddy remained pleased, tasting this new spontaneous word.
“What’s so nightmarish?” Daph asked, cutting off a piece of pie for herself. One ought
to carry out the ritual of politeness and she did it properly. Eddy swallowed the food and
was already talking coherently, “Here’s what! Ninel Durneva and Isadora came for me
again! It was useless to hide from them in the kitchen. They caught me, as they say, nice
and warm.” “And so?” “And nothing. Had to teach them to gargle with French cognac.

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First ‘gur-gur’ this way, and then quickly ‘gur-gur-gur’. Simply a circus! Our entire
kitchen came running to watch.”
“Can one do this? To gargle with cognac?” Zozo doubted. Eddy stared at his sister with
the explicit intention to incinerate her with his look, but thought it over and instead ate an
olive from the jar. “Show me an article of criminal code that forbids this… By the way,
Jujo, Isadora was so deeply moved and promised to give you a raise, so you owe me.
Only someone will have to remind her tomorrow so she won’t forget. Cognac promises
are not noted for longevity, if they don’t have a shot as a fresh reminder the next
morning!” he stated, neatly spitting out the pit through the window.
Zozo batted her eyelashes, feeling touched. “What, seriously, a raise? This skinflint?
And did they torment you long?” “And what do you think? Almost killed half a day on
them. After cognac, Ninel Durneva wanted herring with pineapples and a gipsy choir, and
Isadora, as a general’s wife, began to demand a cartridge case in order to drink
champagne out of it. And after each case a guard would fire an air pistol, since there is no
mortar in Ladyfingers after all. Then they kissed me on both cheeks, dived into Isadora’s
BMW, and left. By the way, just between us, I so didn’t understand who sat at the
wheel.”
“And why you didn’t go with them?” “Juju, I did you a good turn at this very place here
with these overworked hands! I’m not suicidal to drive with drunks. Besides, I only have
the license to ride a bike.” “Bravissimo, Khavronissimo! You’re a true knight! What if
the poor woman gets into an accident without managing to give me a raise?” Zozo said
reproachfully. Having become a Buslaeva a number of years ago, she was always
experimenting with pleasure with Eddy’s last name, and the argument “And what were
you yourself?” in no way worked on her.
Daph, after inhaling the piece of strawberry pie, did not take part in the bickering. After
spending several days in Methodius’ home, she had already gotten used to Zozo and
Khavron never switching their vocal apparatus to pause and constantly picking on friends
and each other. The only exceptions were the rare moments when Eddy was panting with
the dumbbells or when Zozo was laughing loudly on the phone in the bathroom.
Suddenly Daph raised her head and listened. From the room, where Depressiac
remained, it seemed to her there was some noise. She rushed there. The infernal cat, till
then was peacefully gnawing the can, now with harrowing meows was rolling on the
floor, tormenting something with its hind legs. That something was absolutely not
resisting and apathetic. “Depressiac, stop! Shoo, scram, off!” Daph yelled, mixing
everything together. Having caught the cat by the collar, Daph with great difficulty
dragged it away to the side. Depressiac hissed and escaped from her hand.
A large head, soft and bald, was rolling despondently on the floor. Depressiac’s claws
had drawn deep scratches on it. There was no blood. It was likely that inside the head was
made of poorly baked dough or something similar. How the head turned up in the
apartment, Daph could not imagine. The head rolled to Daphne’s feet and stopped. Its
one eye looked at the floor, the other, with inverted eyelid, at the ceiling. The lips of the
head moved, “Daphne! I am in trouble. I need your help! Follow this head. It will show
you where to find me. Excuse me for sending this strange messenger. There was no other
way out. Methodius.” “Methodius? Did Methodius send you? Did he make and revive
you?” The head did not answer. Only the inverted eyelid trembled.

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Daph attempted to tune in to Methodius and sense him telepathically — she was able to
do this, after all, she was precisely his keeper in the moronoid world, and who if not a
keeper has the right to penetrate. There was no time to spare. The soft head was jumping
by the entrance, persistently ignoring Depressiac, which attempted to throw itself at it.
Daph was nervous, and the connection was interrupted all the time. She was only able to
clarify that at the given moment Methodius was also rushing somewhere. Buildings
jumped before his eyes and astonished faces shot past, scattered like peas. He was short
of breath, tired, and running either after someone or away from someone.
The head rolled out to the corridor and from there, through the entrance door thrown
open by mystical means, to the stairs. Daph barely had time to grab her knapsack with the
flute and clutch under her arm the escaped Depressiac. And then… then there was
nothing else to do but to rush after the head. The head quickly jumped along the steps,
sparing neither forehead nor nose. On the turns, its large flabby ears tinkled against the
rails. With her fine musical ear and complex associative ability, this unpleasant jingling
sound roused up in Daph’s memory the smell of slimy walleye pollock glued to the
frying pan, and she puckered. The eyelids overgrown with skin looked sideways at Daph,
checked whether she was in place, and the head again began its soccer leaps. Depressiac
was dying to deal with it, twisted out of her hand and was almost strangled by the collar.
The soft head briskly rolled along the asphalt of Bolshaya Dmitrovka. It either flickered
in the crowd or showed up on the roadway, where it courageously manoeuvred between
cars. Several times the soft head was not lucky and automobiles hurled it back onto the
pavement. All the time with the same sleepy-retarded expression the head hit walls,
smashed shop windows, windows, lamps and, springing back up, again restored its form.
It happened that it bumped into passers-by and brought them down. The amazed
moronoids looked around, not understanding what had tripped them. Besides Methodius,
nobody else could see the head.
Buslaev ran. He manoeuvred through the crowd. He either pressed himself against the
walls or jumped out onto the road, skirting many moronoids moving with the importance
of a penguin from a vague point A to another, even more vague point B. The eidos was
absent from a good third of them. Methodius, whose true sight was switched on with the
appearance of the head, saw this absolutely correctly. And despite that the eidos was the
size of grit, there was an enormous gaping hole, almost the size of a fist, in these people’s
chests. Next to the hole in some could be discovered a playful flag: Succubus Adolf was
here or Agent Mariokak put his signature! This flag was incorporeal, imperceptible to the
moronoids themselves; however, it clearly intended to remain with him till death. Among
the moronoids were numerous ones, whose eide — although they were also available —
were swollen with fat. Moreover, frequently even in those who appeared outwardly
sinewy or even athletic. Eide clearly in no way depended on the physical state of the
body. The glow of such eide barely broke through the fat, as if some cynic had shoved a
small Christmas garland light bulb into a piece of fresh suet. Choked in fat, such eide had
to die out soon, if, of course, the tenacious paw of an agent did not grasp them first, after
putting in exchange a coquettish flag: Cuckoo from succubus Brusha!
And Methodius was rushing after the head the entire time. He had been running for so
long that his thoughts were all tangled up and, where there were thoughts earlier, now
only the running remained. Now and then, waning, he changed to a quick step and, after
feeling ashamed of his own weakness, ashamed that he was betraying Daph, began to run

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129

anew. “I’m… coming… to your… aid, Daphne!” he repeated, and each word fell in with
an out breath. Clerks. Tourists. Crowds. Cars. Light signals. Shop windows. Dark-blue
squares with house numbers. Everything was mixed up and twirling like a tossed up deck
of cards. Three times Methodius lost sight of the head and then only intuition led him on.
But the head, on sensing that it had lost contact, also slowed down its absurd leaps. It was
not in its plans to lose Methodius, but now to exhaust him, to deprive him of strength and
breath — why not? Here, perhaps, was something to ponder over.
Finally, the head turned from Bolshaya Dmitrovka into an unprepossessing alley and
for a long time zigzagged under gateways and along courtyards. And then suddenly there
were fences. The head leaped over them without any difficulty. Methodius had already
once smeared one hand with motor grease, and sticking into the palm of his other hand
were the barbs, which someone, with love and concern for humanity, had completely
wound around a fence trustworthy in appearance. And every time before climbing over a
fence, Methodius was forced to first move the case with the sword, risking not finding it
at all later. “I’m a regular Duncan MacLeod! He at least held his sword under his coat…
Up! Ugh!”
He scrapped his sole a little, climbing onto the next garage in order to jump from its
roof over the sufficiently high concrete fence. He jumped over, and for a second hung in
the gooey infinity of instantaneous drop, which was immediately concluded by the
unpleasant but nevertheless tolerable pain in his heels. Relieving his feet, Methodius fell
on his hands and again felt pain — this time in the stripped palm. Knowing that if he
started to feel sorry for himself now, then it would be for a long time, Buslaev
immediately jumped up, preparing to continue the run. He was standing in a small
overgrown fenced-in area. In the centre was an old two-storey house to be demolished.
On the first floor of the house the windows gaped like black traps; however, on the
second the glass was almost intact everywhere. Sounds of the city from the other side of
the fence were muffled and distant. Here, by the old house, space existed already
according to different laws of its own.
The head was waiting for Methodius a dozen steps away. It was no longer hurrying
anywhere. The nose of the head was pressed in and off to the side, one ear had been lost.
The cheekbones were greased and rubbed out. Cigarette butts and other rubbish were
sticking to the soft face. The method of displacement à la Colobok clearly proved not to
be the most reliable and most economical in urban conditions. Having looked sideways at
Methodius with the surviving eye and discovered that he was here in place, the head with
explicit effort rolled away towards the porch of the two-storey house and, barely touching
the steps, with the greatest ease crumbled into grey somewhat putrid dust. Its journey had
come to an end.
For some time Buslaev viewed with perplexity what remained of his guide. The dust
shone weakly, exuding reddish energy with a green vaporizing border. Methodius once
heard from Julitta that similar magic was used for transformation of the dead. He did not
know whether this was death or the head had simply become what it was originally —
dust haphazardly assembled and glued together for carrying out a specific mission — and
again becoming itself after fulfilling its life’s destiny. Buslaev touched his chipped front
tooth with his tongue. Since the tooth broke, he had constantly been doing this when he
needed to calm down and collect his thoughts. Why exactly he had to calm down, it was
difficult to say; however, it worked, helping him switch from a state of suspended

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thought to actions. Methodius was not frightened, because internally — unknown for
what reason precisely — he was completely ready for what happened with the head.
Ready to the level of his internal, intelligent essence, not controlled by him for the time
being. An essence surprised by nothing and that knew everything ahead of time.
The case opened with a light flick. It opened by itself, although Methodius did not think
of touching it. The case breathed out heat. Methodius perceived the smell of singed cloth.
The velvet, on which the sword lay, was not burning and barely smoking, but
immediately darkened, smouldered to ashes by the heat. The outline of a black spot was
crawling away, repeating the outline of the sword. However, the sword was not simply
scorching. It blazed so, as if it had left the furnace a second ago and was now ready to
accept the heavy blows of the sledgehammer. It was scary to look at the scorching sword;
however, Methodius understood that he had to take it all the same. If the hostile magic
flooding everywhere here, to which the sword answered with the heat, was so strong, it
would be folly to part with the sword. What was strange about this was that thus far
Methodius himself saw no dangerous energies except the weak but completely controlled
ghostly phosphorescence issuing from the head crumbled into dust.
Methodius closed his eyes, pulled air deeply into his nose, and reached for the sword.
And although his hand was still in the air, he distinctly felt the heat. “One…” he counted
aloud. “Two… A little more… Three… Four… Five… Well, Gloom take me, six!!!
Worthless! Weak-willed slug! Six, I said! WE-ELL!” The hand advanced by jerks,
increasingly more unwilling, like a cowardly caterpillar. Methodius meant to take the
sword at the count of “three,” but here both “five” and “six” were sounded already and
the hand was still hanging so in the air all the time. Methodius was putting off the
moment when he had to take the scorching band and extinguish its heat with his own
flesh.
Finally, Methodius understood that another second and he would finally lose the battle
to his fear. On getting angry with himself, he opened his eyes and, after a short yell,
gripped the blazing sword. In the first instant, the pain was searing. From the hand it rose
into the brain, enveloped the entire body and… suddenly let go. The sword continued to
blaze, but its handle became much cooler. Must be, the clever artefact restored its
connection with Methodius’ consciousness, recognized its owner and, having received
the painful response in reverse, cooled the handle.
Letting his palm cool, Methodius moved the sword into his left hand and carefully
began to approach the low steps, two in all, to the porch of the entrance, covered with
sticky mucus, which the dust was converted into when its last dead force departed. After
stepping over the puddle of mucus, Methodius pushed the door. It was useless. The heavy
door did not even move. After assuming that it opened the other way, he pulled with
force. The door gave way, yielded, but yielded slyly. The wooden handle, after making a
breaking sound, remained in his hand. Methodius discarded it and looked at his palm. Old
dust and bird dung mixed up with the blood from a deep scratch ran a path along the head
line. The scratch was obviously left by a wire earlier. “Wrong answer! Okay, you don’t
want to be in a friendly way, you’ve been warned!” muttered Methodius.
He took a step back and, after briefly breathing out, as Ares taught him, hacked the
door with the sword. He expected a flash of magic, cutting the door slantwise —
anything. However, everything turned out to be much more humdrum. The sword broke a

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large chip off the door, left a long scratch about fifty centimetres, and happily clanked the
flagstones of the porch, almost leaving the luckless swordsman without a foot.
Buslaev despondently looked at the sword. Was it worthwhile to blaze so and emit
magic such that as a result zilch came of it on the theme of Shakespearean finales in the
madhouse theatre? It is hard to believe: is this really one of the three most powerful
magic blades? On the other hand, sword-artefact essences are whimsical. Everything is
not so simple with them. They would slash armours (desirably also magical ones in order
to show off the rust of years) with pleasure, but to cut sausage or break through a door…
Pugh, spare us this, young man! It’s not comme il faut! “Fine. Let us assume that this is
also an incorrect answer. Let’s try to devise something less spectacular,” said Buslaev,
having correctly interpreted the direction of thoughts of his sword. He jumped off the
porch, ran around the house along the asphalt path, slightly romantically stumbled over a
damp cardboard box and as a result without any special difficulty got into the house
through a frame grinning with glass splinters.
The house was slowly dying. The internal partitions on the first floor were already
punched through here and there. The doors were gone. Everything that could be taken
away — taken. Everything that could be broken — broken. Everywhere that could be
fouled — fouled. The miraculously intact white bathtub with a long sparkling tap alone
preserved at least some recognizable decency. In any case, until Methodius, glancing
inside, beheld the drowned rat in the green water. On the wall hung a calendar for the
year before last. From the calendar, a girl dressed for the beach was smiling suggestively
at Methodius. Her teeth were alternately painted over with a black pen. Methodius
mechanically waved to the girl. He had already gotten used to all portraits being alive in
Ares’ office. However, the girl did not answer. Either she was never alive or had already
gotten out of the habit of being alive. Methodius carelessly hooked with a foot an old
chair without the seat. The chair rocked for a while in pensiveness and then fell
nevertheless. But it fell unwillingly, all the time with the same apathy, which flooded
everywhere here. It was difficult to believe that here, in this dying house, someone once
lived, suffered, laughed, cried, dreamed, and loved. The house submissively waited with
indifference until they demolished it and together with it also all its memories fallen into
decay.
Keeping the sword in readiness, Methodius went along the corridor to the stairs,
glancing into the rooms. The blade continued to pulsate in his hands. “Ah, indeed, my
friend Met, something isn’t right here! I don’t like this little house!” it said with all its air.
“Daph!” Methodius hailed loudly. “Daphne!” Silence. Somewhere in a distant room, an
unclosed window slammed. But it seemed that it had also slammed earlier and in this
sense was not concocting anything new. Methodius hailed Daph three more times, but he
was never answered. Ten more steps and the long, hostel-type corridor suddenly came to
an abrupt end. On the right was a boarded-up door — the same one that Methodius was
unable to get through into the building. And here were also a couple of nails driven in
sideways. It was now clear why the door displayed this perseverance. Going up was a
staircase without a rail and it absurdly came to an end suddenly after the first flight.
Methodius took a step towards the stairs. The sword began to glow like a fiery band in
his hands. It was impossible to look at it — the eyes stopped seeing anything else. Only
the handle remained cool. Buslaev looked around with alarm. Nothing seemed dangerous.
Several rusty fixture rods lying in a row and resting against the sidecar of a motorcycle,

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sufficiently unexpected among all this rubbish, but also, as a whole, sufficiently
explicable. Broken bricks, pieces of glass, two chairs without seats, an old TV set placed
on its side, some rags scattered about. Here, perhaps, was everything. However, alarm did
not recede. Intuition had already — almost from that instant when the head decomposed
to rot — been prompting him for a long time: something was not according to plan. In
any case, not according to his plan. That someone else was cynically foisting this game
on him.
“Everything is fine. I simply ate too much calcium gluconate in childhood and my brain
started to lime up,” Methodius uttered, calming himself. The blade again flared up in
warning. Not attaching any importance to this, Methodius decided to climb up the
staircase to where it broke off and try to take a look at the second floor. Who knows,
perhaps Daph is there? He was about to lift his foot, stepping over the fixture, when
suddenly an iron rod rose up and attempted to whip his ankle with a supple tail.
Methodius darted, but never really managed to regain equilibrium. The only thing he was
able to do was to free his foot, even then only because, acting unconsciously, he pulled it
back, simultaneously kicking like a hare with the other foot. Having been tossed up and
losing the sword, he fell onto a broken tile by the staircase and, not paying any attention
to the pain, began to crawl away in a hurry, looking sideways with horror at the strange
iron.
The rods began to thunder, got into motion, and started to straighten fragment by
fragment. The motorcycle side-car adjoining the fixture rocked slightly, rose about a
metre and a half above the floor, and — Methodius was ready to swear on all the
plasticine of Tukhlomon (in no way would he swear on himself and his eidos now!) —
stared at him. The sham camouflage shell cracked, curled up, exactly like the greyish
membrane of a peanut. Through the rust and the cut-up rag seats, peering out with some
yellowish, mournful foam, the true essence of what was hiding under all this was
perceptible. Dense scales, here and there covered with green mucus. A narrow head.
Insane and simultaneously piercing eyes, in which there was nothing except hardened
fury, were calm and sharp like a surgical scalpel. In contrast to Daph, Methodius never
heard about the infernal snake, but even what he saw was enough to conclude: before him
was a creation of Gloom, a creation of Tartarus. An essence, which could only emerge
where the incandescent void was found beside the infernal cold and chaos swirled like a
biting fog.
The snake crawled leisurely towards Methodius. Its intentions were obvious and
predictable like the subject of the black magic broadcast Guests of Uncle Vurdus, the
participants of which were trapped on moonless nights near the city cemetery. Methodius
moved backwards until his shoulders were resting against the cold brick wall. The doors
of mailboxes slammed open, hitting his shoulders. Their tin-plated interior littered with
ancient ads complained that no one writes to the colonel. All trains had left for the depot.
Moths had eaten all the uniforms. You are free, gentlemen!
The snake was already close-by. Trying not to look into its terrible eyes, Methodius
threw himself at the staircase. After sliding on his tummy along the dirty steps, helping
with his hands, he scrambled onto the landing between the first and the second floor. And
he immediately understood that this was the end. One side was a semicircular window.
The other — emptiness and the moist pipes of the basement visible through the broken
floor. Jumping there would immediately break his neck. The third side was the snake.

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Even if he could knock out the glass, trying to get out onto the street, the bulky wooden
frame, in the shape of rays spreading out from a semicircle, broken into many sections,
would not let him through. Three metres above a large flagstone of the second floor was
visible; however, he indeed could in no way jump so far there.
From the steps, Methodius began feverishly to look for the sword fallen from his hands.
The snake body, bending slowly, had already flowed onto the first step, when he finally
saw it. The sword was lying by the door, separated from Buslaev by the snake. The snake
was slithering unhurriedly but purposefully. It was not even slithering — it seemed to
Methodius that it was precisely flowing along the stairs like a jet of mercury. Only the
sound of the scales grating the steps indicated that this essence was nevertheless of flesh
and… but here it is better, perhaps, not to mention blood.
The fear, squeezing him like a knot until now, suddenly retreated. Fear is a strange
feeling in general. It is only where hope exists that everything settles by itself. It settles if
we fearfully freeze up and yield. Here such hope could not even arise. It was all the same
to the infernal snake what meat to eat: passively limp, squealing, courageously resisting,
or altogether already wormy for a long time. The monster from the depths of Tartarus
distinguished a living person from carrion only by the sign that carrion usually moves
less.
The scales stopped rustling. The snake slowed down its motion and raised its head.
Then barely perceptibly flowed back approximately half a metre, as if it backed up.
Methodius was astonished: did it really change its mind? The snake’s neck was fanning
noticeably. Buslaev was puzzled, understanding nothing. Careful! Now! The intuition,
which Ares had cultivated in him for so long, suddenly forced him to throw himself down
onto his stomach on the landing; moreover, to do it so swiftly that he did not have time to
place his hands correctly and hit his cheekbone.
A bluish jet of fire, dagger-like and narrow like the jet of a welding gun, swept over his
head and struck the semicircle, immediately blackening and breaking the glass. After
letting out the jet, the snake froze, pondering where its prey had disappeared to and
whether it was completely scorched. Then it again slowly slithered along the steps. Not
waiting until it turned up beside him, Methodius rolled down to the mailboxes and rushed
to where a strip of the sword was gleaming among the rubbish. He ran stumbling along
the crumbled tiles and from the corner of his eye saw how the snake’s body occupied the
entire landing like a wide ribbon. Having caught hold of the sword, he turned around. He
was expecting that the snake was still having difficulty turning on the narrow landing, but
no… Everything was much worse. The demonstrative laziness, with which the snake
pursued him earlier, was transformed into a splash of activity. The snake, warmed up by
its own heat, attacked. Its body rolled up into tight rings and then instantly straightened.
Methodius, in no way expecting this swiftness from the snake, did not manage to advance
the sword correctly. And what discussion could there be about some classical parry or
protection here, when something with the thickness of a pine tree for ships fell on him?
Methodius did not even manage to roll and move away from the attack. All that he did
was to fall on his back and place the sword straight in front of himself. In the next
moment, the enormous snake body was piled on top of him. Feeling that the sword was
wringing the strength out of his hands and could not be resisted, Methodius could only
turn a little so that the handle of the sword would not break through his chest. And in the
following moment darkness already took Methodius into its sticky embrace swirling with

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jerky visions. He only had time to feel that green mucus was pouring down his chest.
Consciousness ran off obliquely like a train, without a note, without a phone call, not
leaving either smell or sound.

Chapter 12
The Thirty-first Silver Coin

After following the head, Daph made the same mistake as Methodius. She began to
play according to the strange rules, which, from the start, by definition, promised her
nothing good, proper, or eternal. However, Daph, having lived in the world a little longer
than Methodius nevertheless, had learned some safety basics, actively drummed into her
at school in Eden. As is known, one of the twenty fundamental rules of guards of Light
says: A guide of Gloom will not lead to Light. Do not wait for union from treason. Do not
wait for help from slyness. The leaping head, emitting ghostly phosphorescence, weak but
nevertheless noticeable to both Daph and Depressiac, could in no way be a creation of
Light. Consequently, it was that same guide who should never be trusted. Daph
understood this excellently. For this very reason, while still on the way, fighting with
Depressiac, which categorically did not desire to be held tight under her arm, she reached
for the flute and kept it ready.
Passers-by stared at Daph with great interest. Actually, in every respect Daphne was a
picturesque spectacle. A beautiful girl, with two bright braids similar to streams of light,
with a flute in her hand, with a deformed cat in a choke collar and clearly suffering an
intensified form of fury, was rushing to heaven knows where. Yet, here people ten metres
in front of Daph fell and scattered in different directions, swept away from the road by
the invisible head.
Soon, in spite of her attempts not to lose sight of the head, Daph began to lag behind,
moreover absolutely hopelessly. This happened because the head, which she tried to
overtake, was rushing almost twice as fast as the one leading Methodius. The distance it
had to cover was much longer and so it had to hurry. After deciding, Daph quickly
glanced up, checking whether there were golden specks of light nearby, and then using a
short trill cast the short invisibility spell on herself. Several moronoids, looking at her at
this moment, began to look around dumbfounded, not understanding where the girl had
disappeared to. But Daphne did not have time for them. She seized the talisman and
decisively materialized her wings. Flapping the wings once, again… Her takeoff was
similar to the laborious takeoff of an eagle. After all, she had not practiced for a long
time. However, the moment the buoyant wind picked her up, all her skills returned and
Daph sensed the habitual rapture of flight, the overwhelming happy feeling, in which all
filth and doubts dissolve like a pessimist in sulphuric acid.
Having risen three-four metres — there was simply no sense to be higher — Daph
again saw the soft head. It had long ago jumped out onto the roadway and was rushing
swiftly along the avenue. There seemed to be no possibility to overtake it on foot, but
now the advantage was on Daph’s side. Depressiac, whose leathery wings were still
under the overalls, insultingly hung down from her hand like a dead fox. Its entire
appearance said, “So, you can fly but I can’t? Yes? Well, well! We saw such mistresses
in Tartarus in Spanish boots!” However, it was not in Daph’s plans to undo the zipper on

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the overalls. To chase a head and track an overheated cat at the same time was nowhere
close to the pastime, to which one should dedicate one’s life.
Besides, for a couple of minutes now, an unpleasant thought, overpowering even the
fear that golden-wings would locate her, had already been tormenting and gnawing
Daphne. “Interesting, why on earth do I help Buslaev? Why do I tear along like a mad
cockroach on his first call? Oh, pardon me! I’m his guard-keeper… Well then, nothing
personal, simply just work,” she calmed herself, perceiving a flaw in her logic. After all,
she only now recalled that she was a guard-keeper, having already dashed after the head.
“Shoot! Perhaps I’m good for life! I help dogs and cats. I give kopecks to the poor. I let
out flies through windows. Here I also decided to help Buslaev. After all, is he worse
than some Colorado beetle?” she convinced herself, more assured all the time that it was
so.
After approximately twenty minutes of flight, when Daph, on greeting with her
forehead the sign No Stopping, stopped getting pleasure manoeuvring between billboards
and trolley-bus cables, the head finally slowed down its leaps. Now it was rolling
considerably slower. After descending, Daph discovered that the features of the face of
the head had been completely smoothed out and ground off. The ears and nose had
disappeared. The outlines of the eyes barely showed. Everything was obliterated.
Everything was wiped out. The mad chase along Moscow avenues had eaten everything.
After jumping with explicit effort over a high fence, the head burst with an unpleasant
sound and spread out like greasy mucus. This, admittedly, did not surprise Daph too
much. From slush and dust haphazardly stuck together with black magic spells, this was
only to be expected.
Daph gave a slight glance at her wings, checking if they were bespattered. Everything
was in order with the wings. At the same time, she noticed not without satisfaction that
there were no more dark feathers than last time. The tip of one feather that turned black
long ago had brightened slightly. No, it had not become white, but nevertheless it was
definitely darker last time. “It’s OK so far,” thought Daph. After going down a short
distance from the broken head, she again seized the talisman and removed her wings. The
invisibility spell had run entirely dry by that time. However, there was no sense in
repeating it again. This magic could only help to hide from the moronoids. The story with
the head definitely spoke of other forces getting mixed up here.
Daph looked around. Directly in front of her was a two-storey house. Depressiac, which
she lowered to the ground, was tense and issued a warning sound with its throat. Then,
going past the door, it went around the house to the left and leaped into the first broken
window. Daph followed it. Intuition indicated that she was not the first to use this method
to get into the building today. After ascertaining that the mouthpiece was fitted securely,
not sliding and not going to let her down at a critical moment, Daphne raised the flute
level with her lips and tried to relax. When you create magic, the basis of which is
breathing and entering into contact with the magic flute, stress can ruin everything. One
false sound, one nervous breath, and that is it. The maglody would become useless.
She went out into the corridor and, pressed against the wall, carefully moved forward,
glancing into all the rooms, where Methodius could turn out to be. Depressiac sneaked
off, leaving Daph a little behind. Unexpectedly the cat’s back arched, the wings heaved
up under the overalls, and it jumped back like a ball. A disquieting fire lit up in the cat’s

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eyes. Mentally going through versions of the attack maglody, Daph carefully looked out
from the corner.
Between the stairs and the door she saw Methodius, pressed down by the massive head
of a snake. This was the same snake, which pursued her in the guise of a limousine and
with which she battled in the blind alley courtyard with the arch. The sword of The
Ancient One, the handle resting against the floor, entered the snake through the Adam’s
apple to the entire length. On looking closely, Daph ascertained that the tip of the sword
came out of the back of the head of the snake. A dark artefact had finished its dark
business. The snake of Tartarus was destined to return no more to its homeland to devour
millennium after millennium the flesh of those doomed to eternal torment. The body of
the creation of Gloom continued to tremble convulsively. A silvery wave continually
passed along its back. Maglodies were already not needed here, but a team of necro-
magicians and vivifiers.
Daph rushed to Methodius. If he, until now, had not been crushed, then it was only
because the handle of the sword, on which lay the entire weight of the head of the snake,
resting against the floor, had created for Methodius a certain minimum supply of safety.
The dead snake could not crush his rib cage, but neither did it allow air to pass through to
the lungs. Daph understood that if a way to free Methodius was not found immediately,
in about ten minutes Mamzelkina, after coughing a little and guiltily shrugging her
shoulders, would come for Buslaev. His breath was becoming hard to hear. A strand of
light-brown hair was sticking to his damp forehead. After touching the artery of his neck,
Daph felt a weak pulse. Having put aside the flute, she took Methodius by the hand and
pulled with all her strength, resting a foot against the dead snake. Buslaev began to moan.
His body almost did not move. Daph helplessly let go of the hand. “For all that the spells
of elementary magicians are more practical than the magic of higher circles. Indeed they
always work, with rings and sparks! And how many years has Eden existed, none of us
has ever found time to compose a maglody for lifting weights,” she thought with
reproach.
The reason for this unfairness in magic was obvious. The creators of Light magic of
Eden were not interested in practical maglodies but maglodies influencing the nuances of
feelings — the smallest, almost imperceptible twinkling of eide and the barely
perceptible gleam in the pupils, which appears with the first production of tears drying
before someone noticed them. The delicate pulses barely peeking through newborn leaf
buds or the first, almost convulsive, awkward smile of a person with an inferiority
complex, for many years sitting in a tank of his own fears. The majority of the maglodies
influenced specifically these barely perceptible but monstrously important nuances. The
creators of Light magic scorned all things practical, considering them secondary and
rather confusing even without the complex cobweb of existence. Cynical realities dictated
whether it would be more convenient nevertheless to break a coconut, in case this need
emerged, with a stone than with a maglody, complex in execution, making use of the
flicker of the star Cor Hydrae as reflected in the water of the well, in which a moth of the
species Stigmella malella drowned last year.
Helplessly looking around, Daph’s sight stumbled upon an iron rod. After picking it up
— rust instantly remained on her palms — she contrived to shove the rod into the narrow
clearance between the handle of the sword and the head of the snake and rest the end of
the rod on the floor. Before using the lever, she ran around the snake, checking whether

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its head, on shifting, would crush Methodius if her strength suddenly left her. Then she
returned and again lifted the rod. “Buslaev, keep in mind that I can’t stand you. You’re a
devil of an egoist! A narcissistic blockhead! You have a grandfather with the last name
Khavron! I was sick of you even before the doctor told your mommy that she has a son!
And in general my work is this: help fools and show compassion to greenhorns!” she said
and leaned on the rod with all her weight.
Daph pressed down with all her strength. Green mucus from the snake’s wound poured
onto her hands. And? Did this head make up its mind to lift at least a little bit? Depressiac
pressed close to Daph’s legs and only hindered. Either the cat was drawn to kindness,
which was rather hard to believe, or it feared something. After the third or fourth try the
head of the snake yielded, but, frozen at the critical point, it seemed it was waiting until
Daph altered her strength in order to collapse onto Methodius, finishing what it began.
Almost despairing, feeling how the rusty rod would slip from her fingers any minute
now, Daph rushed forward, pushing the end of the rod up and to the side. Her feet slid on
a tile. She fell on her knees. But, before the rod was pulled out of her fingers, the heavy
body of the dead snake tumbled down on one side, on inertia making a third of a
revolution. Now the handle of the sword of The Ancient One was looking almost at the
ceiling.
For some time Daphne dully examined the handle, not believing what had happened.
Then she got down on her haunches next to Methodius. She looked at him and with
sudden clarity understood that it was necessary to hurry. The radiance of Buslaev’s eidos
had become intolerably sharp. This could mean only one thing: Methodius’ eidos was
happily packing its bags and clearly intending to part with the body, in which the last
breath would disappear soon. Methodius was leaving. Soon his body would become only
a body and nothing more.
Daph did not panic. On the contrary, her thoughts suddenly cleared up. She distinctly
sensed that there was time. Maybe a minute or two, but nevertheless no one would take
them away. Now the main thing was calmness. No abrupt movements, no fuss. Not
taking her eyes off the eidos, she wiped her palms, covered with unpleasantly reeking
mucus, with deliberate sluggishness against her clothing and picked up the flute. She
kneaded her numbed fingers, which were scratched by the iron rod and had lost their
sensitivity. Felt the flute in her hands. Brought the mouthpiece up to her lips. Touched it
with her tongue. Took it by the tips of her lips. She breathed out carefully, uncertainly, as
if experiencing her power and the power of the flute. Then she breathed out again,
already with greater faith in herself, and finally began to play, after understanding that
she had reached the necessary calmness and internal concentration. The aching sounds
filled the space inside the dead, doomed walls, and even the walls, it seemed, found hope.
Daph played, not looking at Methodius but knowing to whom each sound was
addressed and feeling that every bit of magic was changed into sound, each breath
achieved its goal and warmed the one that must be warmed. This was the maglody of
love and loyalty — the only one that could help at the moment. The longest and most
heartbreaking of all maglodies of Eden — with long agonizing fades and sudden, either
sorrowful or piercing sounds. It seemed that the maglody did not exist whole — the entire
maglody was broken up into short measures with unequal intervals similar to the resonant
beating of a heart, weak at first but gathering strength later. Daph played and felt tears in
her eyes. She was feeling sorry for herself. Together with the maglody Daph was

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transferring to Methodius a part of her power and immortality. But at the same time —
here once and for all Daph also could not deceive herself — it was pleasant to share this
with Methodius. The fury in Depressiac’s eyes, provoked by the proximity of the snake,
subsided. The maglody even pacified this ever-hungry mad mongrel cannibal and circular
saw.
When the last tormenting sound melted away in the void of the house, Daph lowered
the flute and for the first time in the last while looked at Methodius. His eidos again
shone with an even light, which did not resemble the more agonizing brightness of a
burning-out lamp. Daph sunk down onto the hard scaly side of the dead snake and began
to look at Methodius. He was breathing evenly. His cheeks had lost the colour of wet
chalk. The heavy oblivion of near death yielded its place to a deep, healthful sleep. Daph
intuitively knew that in roughly a quarter of an hour Methodius would open his eyes.
Now it would be better not to wake him to allow his strength to return. “Good, he didn’t
hear how I played. Maybe he wouldn’t understand but all the same he would have felt,”
she thought. Daph knew that these minutes would remain forever her minutes. She would
never tell Methodius. Only they, the guards, know what actually has meaning in this life.
“Interesting… hmm-m-mmmm… well, purely theoretically, is Buslaev good-looking or
not?” she reasoned, using the opportunity safely and examined him for a long time. “You
wouldn’t call him a dreamboat, of course. But indeed these, with the red cheeks, they’re
completely susceptible… Now then, let’s quickly break down Mr. Buslaev into pluses
and minuses. Let’s examine him like a nut. Pluses: he’s sensible, sometimes witty, likely
sees himself from the side, doesn’t build himself up as the stern sovereign of Gloom, only
with such nonchalance, the devil-may-care type. Minuses: hmm-m-m… sometimes very
disgustingly rude… pays me less attention than I would like… a gentleman… hmm…
rather situational. Not all that well educated. Only now begins to catch up slightly. And
the most important minus: age. He’s only thirteen… On the other hand, he’ll be fifteen in
only seven hundred days. And twenty-three in three thousand and six hundred days. But
what’s three thousand days? Nothing. Only four hundred and twenty Sundays. How often
have they left me without candies for thirty years in childhood! Plus once without ice
cream for eighty years…”
Methodius suddenly smiled. Too late Daphne, carried away by her own reflections,
understood that he had come to long ago and was examining her all this time through half
closed eyelids. “Darn, again a trick of Gloom! They’re cunning at every turn! Impossible
to have anything to do with them!” she thought with irritation and quickly turned away.
“Awake? Could say thanks. Next time something presses you down, get out yourself,”
she muttered. Methodius sat up, made sure that he was fairly alive and fairly healthy.
Everything was absolutely sore, but likely nothing was broken. “I’ve gotten out of the
habit of saying thanks. A dangerous word. Succubae react to it strangely. And agents —
those generally instantly run to denounce! They say he’s seeking salvation with the
competitors and all that jazz…,” stated Methodius.
His eyes stopped at the neck of the snake and at the handle of the sword. “Listen, did I
do that there? Or someone else?” he asked with distrust. “Likely it was you. I don’t run
along the streets with scrap metal,” remarked Daph. Methodius ran his hand along his
face, recollecting. “I happen to be very predatory now and then. Especially when they
jump me,” he said pensively. “And how come you’re here? Although… I seem to
recall… It’s you who summoned me here.” “Me?” Daph was indignant. “Wake up and

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smell the coffee, my dear fella! I need you like a walrus needs diving equipment or an
African chief needs felt boots!” “So, it’s not you who sent the head?” Methodius asked
with distrust. “Me?”
Suddenly, from the direction of the stairs a dry flick was heard, similar to the sound of a
whip licking the top of a boot. At the same time, something burned Daph’s hand. She
unclenched her fingers from the pain and realized too late that she was disarmed. The
flute was unceremoniously yanked out of her fingers. “Oh no, my flute!” Daph groaned.
“What’s the matter, my dear? The flute isn’t honking? The notes got stuck in the holes by
vermicelli sticking together? The phonogram is jammed? Hey, somebody, strangle the
sound director!” someone burst out laughing. The wall — or, more accurately, what
earlier seemed like the completely inoffensive part of the wall with falling plaster and
reddish brick peeping out — started moving, taking shape.
Daph and Methodius whipped around. A tall stooping man was standing by the stairs.
His face seemed like a continuation of the bald patch, which was the colour of an old
billiard ball. The corners of his mouth were trembling from a tic. He was holding a long
whip in his hand, seemingly absurd especially in combination with the austere office
jacket of black colour and bowtie askew. However, it was worthwhile to look into the
empty attentive eyes of the stranger, as the desire to smile disappeared. A battle-axe was
hanging from a metal ring on the belt, the axe known in the astral world as the Axe that
Repelled Death.
“Yaraat!” Methodius instinctively exclaimed. The man bowed courteously, “It’s
pleasant when no introduction is necessary. And you, of course, are Methodius?” His
voice sounded neutral, but Methodius saw hatred in his eyes. A hatred, which seemed to
him stuck to the werewolf’s gaze like old bird dung to the rails of a balcony. No one in
life had ever hated him so keenly. It seemed to Methodius that he felt the pressure of this
eerie blazing gaze as that of the infernal snake. The pressure was frightening and
hypnotic. Buslaev carefully squinted at his sword, weighing whether he could pull it out
of the snake’s neck, where it was stuck up to the handle. Even in the most optimistic case,
if he could, then not immediately. Yaraat’s battle-axe could clearly trace an arc faster.
“Much faster. The scales hold the sword very firmly. These are the best, the most reliable
scabbards of all existing,” Yaraat said softly, reading his thoughts.
“It’s you who forced the snake to disguise as a limo and follow me? Why? Was it really
not possible to do this secretly?” Daph asked brusquely. Yaraat looked sideways without
any regret at the dead monster and shrugged his shoulders. “Of course it is. But it seemed
to me like an amusing idea to tickle your nerves. And later, in the big picture, it turned
out to be useful. You got tired, keyed up, finally off your guard, fell ill, and I obtained an
impression of your wings.” “But why made the snake attack me?” “It did? Ah, what a
rascal! Bad boy!” Yaraat, making a face, threatened the dead snake with a finger. “Well,
indeed it decided by itself! I must confess, you see, I forgot to feed it. The first time when
it was sated, it restrained itself, even — hee-hee! — when you beat it with your flute near
Smolenskaya, but then its cover was blown.”
“And what now? You, of course, intend to kill us?” Distracting the werewolf, from the
corner of her eye Daph noticed that Depressiac, pressing against the floor, slid behind the
snake and, keeping a low profile, remained unnoticed by Yaraat. Heaven knows what
secret weapon it could be, but better than nothing all the same. The werewolf lazily threw
away the unnecessary whip, thrust the flute taken away from Daph into his belt, and

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extracted from an inside pocket a greyish roll tied with a ribbon. “Already two
impressions. I saw to them earlier. A little trifle remained and the matter is done. I’ve
already prepared birch logs. One spark and they’ll catch fire…,” he said pensively,
avoiding a straight answer to the question.
Methodius again looked hopelessly sideways at his own sword, so close and yet so
unattainable. He understood that he and Daph were unarmed and did not have a chance to
deal with Yaraat, in whose hands was the axe-artefact. Even if they broke into a run, the
liquid ring, slowly revolving on the werewolf’s emaciated finger, would strike them with
ease on the first spark.
“Only I have to write the desire first…” dreamily continued Yaraat. “A small, very
modest desire. In no way grandiose. Light and Gloom have survived to no purpose, so I’ll
destroy the balance. What is the sense to disrupt that which also exists this way only in
their imagination? Although, I must admit, an amusing little thought flickered in me. Do
you know why Ligul the hunchback rose so high?” “No,” said Methodius mechanically.
“What, really? Did Ares really never mention this? Oh, my secretive friend Ares!” Yaraat
smirked. “Ligul got the torn chain from Kvodnon’s broken darc, which the golden-wings
destroyed when they ran Kvodnon through with their swords. It’s all but a pitiful chain,
in which, however, remained some power.” “Kvodnon’s chain!” Daph repeated quietly.
So this is what Light doesn’t suspect! And there they in Eden are racking their brains
over why this strange character became the head of the Chancellery of Gloom.”
“And now let’s imagine to ourselves this version,” the werewolf continued caustically.
“In the heat of the battle, in the tent then there’s a terrible jam, you can believe
Kvodnon’s chain is lost. They trample it into the loose soil, and it’s underground for
centuries, overgrown with grass on top. Then I come along and simply take it. But
together with it also some kind of authority. Beautiful, huh?” “Why did you decide not to
do this?” Daph asked. In her opinion, the idea was not bad.
The werewolf frowned. “The game isn’t worth a candle. After weighing everything, I
decided that I didn’t need one more artefact. At that specific moment, I had several of
them. My wish will be different. About thirteen years ago there emerges in a baby some
problems with the heart valve, and this baby dies without having been born.” “And this
baby, of course, is named Methodius Buslaev. And, not having been born, doesn’t take
away your power, isn’t that so?” Daph asked. Yaraat raised his sparse eyebrows.
“Methodius? But here you make a mistake. They don’t call this baby anything. It dies
without a name; not named, not recorded in the books. There’s no Methodius, never was,
and never will be. That’s why I need precisely his eidos. So that he would cross himself
out. In any other case, even in the case with Kvodnon’s chain, I would approach
another… The world is full of eide, the majority of which can be obtained, possessing
only arrogance and minimal fantasy!” he snapped. His hand slid to his belt and the
following instant the battle-axe appeared in it. Methodius was startled how quickly
Yaraat could extract this bulky weapon.
The werewolf clicked the blade with a nail and listened with pleasure to the sound.
“And now the transaction,” he said, looking intently at Buslaev. “I’ll not persuade you to
give your eidos away out of your free will. I know that it’s useless. You choose. First: I’ll
now kill Daph in front of your eyes and leave. In this option, your eidos remains in you,
since I’m unable to take it away by force, even from the dead… This way, why do away
with you altogether? Better to let your conscience torment you for your entire life.”

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“And the second?” “Oh, I see we’re interested?” the werewolf laughed. “Second: you
simply give me your eidos. You say the formula of renunciation nicely. I take it away,
put away the axe, we politely say goodbye, and part as good friends… Daph, it goes
without saying, remains alive.” “And I, of course, won’t exist? What about my heart
valve?” Methodius asked. He did not intend to agree to this option, he was simply
playing for time. The corner of Yaraat’s mouth began to twitch. “Here I indeed don’t
know how time will manage the paradox. Possibly, you also won’t suffer in this reality,
but I’ll find my previous power through the well of the world. Possibly, you’ll simply
disappear… Everything depends on with what threads time will prefer to sew its holes.
Time is a very whimsical substance, not to say: stubborn as a mule.”
Daph comprehended the entire wickedness of this manoeuvre. Methodius would lose
his eidos in any event, whichever option he chooses. If he betrays her and let her die,
preserving his own life, the eidos itself will not remain in him, since eidos is
incompatible with treachery. In the second option, he gives it away freely and… loses all
the same. “Don’t agree!” she shouted. “He’s lying! He can’t kill me! I’m an immortal
guard, and he’s altogether only a werewolf! Not even a guard of Gloom! For this very
reason he couldn’t become the head of the Chancellery, even after obtaining Kvodnon’s
chain.”
Yaraat looked at her with distasteful compassion. “Don’t flatter yourself. Possibly, you
were immortal. Do you think I can’t kill a guard of Light? An enamoured guard of Light,
who gradually becomes human? Easier than easy. I prepared well.” Yaraat threw open his
jacket. “Do you see the stone dagger without scabbard near your flute? The excellent,
repeatedly tested artefact of Gloom, which helped many to take final leave of
immortality. Did you not ponder why a knife of silicon became a knife of pink marble?
Because you have fallen in love, my dear! True, I indeed don’t know who precisely was
honoured by your attention; however, taking into account a certain maglody, which I had
the occasion to hear recently…”
Methodius looked at Daph with surprise. Her cheeks were burning. He had never seen
her in such confusion. Daph’s aura was splashed with colours. It was blazing like the
aurora borealis. “I AM NOT IN LOVE! IT’S ALL A LIE! I DON’T CARE A STRAW!”
she shouted. Yaraat smirked. “You gave yourself away. My plan worked. If you hadn’t
fallen in love, you wouldn’t fall into the elementary trap. You wouldn’t dash after the
head… You indeed are a guard of Light, possessing some intuition, and not a snotty
student witch from Bald Mountain! Did the head really not seem, putting it mildly,
suspicious to you? How could Methodius make it, understanding nothing of magic? What
do you have to say?” Daph did not know what to answer. “My dear, enough experience
has shown me that those in love are easy prey. So it always was and always will be. One
who loves is fearless and… vulnerable. An invulnerable lover is nonsense, a linguistic
paradox…,” the werewolf snapped.
Continuing to hold the axe in his right hand, he reached for the stone dagger with his
left and touched its tip with a disgusting, bluish tongue. His tenacious gaze slid from the
bronze wings upward and stopped at Daph’s throat. “And now, Methodius, your turn. I
need the formula of renunciation. ‘I transfer my eidos to Yaraat and renounce all rights to
it.’ I’ll not repeat it a second time… Well…”
Suddenly the werewolf took a step forward. Before Methodius had time to gather his
wits, he caught Daph by the hair and roughly pulled her to himself. Daphne grimaced

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from the pain. And the blade of the dagger already slid along her neck. Methodius saw
how it changed colour. Pinkish, violet, lilac with a stain. The dagger was not simply
killing Daph, it was even taking the force away from her, an immortal, transferring it to
Yaraat. This was already taking place right now. The sagging cheeks of the werewolf
became supple. The yellowish bags under the eyes had disappeared. The werewolf was
brimming with force, like a hungry vampire, having managed to get out of the grave after
tearing up the earth with its fingers, wandering aimlessly for a long time, and finally
when its strength was already near the end, caught a young rosy peasant woman in a
village.
“Oh, how nice! Well, Methodius! Decide faster, or I won’t be able to control myself
and will finish her off after all! You cannot imagine what joy it is to take away her force!
It’s simply ecstasy!” Yaraat croaked. His face was flushed then. The dagger was jumping
impatiently in his hand. Methodius felt how his will was shrinking, freezing under the
pressure of his wrathful, confident, smug look. “Repeat! ‘I transfer my eidos…’ Do you
want me to kill her, yes?” the werewolf squealed. “I… transfer…” Methodius obediently
began, not tearing his eyes from Daph, turning pale. He knew only one thing: he must
save Daph, in spite of everything.
“No-o! Don’t you dare! Depressi-a-a-ac!” Daph shouted in a broken voice. Yaraat
raised his eyebrows in surprise. The dagger, trembling, lost contact with Daph’s neck for
a moment. “Oh, depression…” the werewolf began without understanding. He did not
have time to finishing talking. A collar with spikes flickered in the air. Squinting eyes,
ears ripped in fights. Terrible claws. The infernal cat, obeying a command for the first
time in its life (earlier it only reacted to ‘Will you eat?’), jumped onto Yaraat’s chest,
with its claws tearing up his face and considerately reaching for the eyes.
Trying to rip the cat off himself, Yaraat dropped the axe and the dagger, and let go of
Daph. She jumped away to Methodius and with her hand covered up his mouth, all the
time still trying to utter the formula of renunciation. “Do you hear me? Take his force
away! Depressiac cannot detain him for long!” Methodius rushed to the sword and began
to pull it out, but the sword sat perfectly still. The shrinking scales of the snake beginning
to stiffen squeezed the blade so tightly that even if he tied a rope with a motor to the
handle, he would not be able to free the blade. Daph dragged him away from the sword.
“Stop! What’s with you! You don’t need the sword! Take away Yaraat’s force!” she
shouted again. “How?” Methodius began in confusion. “How would I know? When you
were a baby, did you ask me? Simply do it! Repeat it again!”
Methodius closed his eyes, trying to collect his thoughts. He did not have any idea how
to do this. To say “Take the force!” is all the same as saying “Eat the moon!” The
thought, of course, is interesting, but just try to realize it. Daph understood Methodius’
doubts very well. Not without reason was she his keeper. “Don’t think about anything!
You think too much and therefore understand nothing in magic! You breathe without
thinking! Take away his force also without thinking! That’s it, already too late!” Yaraat
finally detached Depressiac from himself, slashed it with the dagger — fortunately, the
blade only caught one of the spikes of the collar — and with the force threw the cat off
himself. Depressiac hit the wall and, stunned, temporarily retired from battle. Blood
flowed down the werewolf’s face, welted by claws.
The werewolf stretched out his hand in order to grab Daph again, but Methodius, after
falling onto one knee, with a look pushed him in the chest. He himself did not understand

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how he did this. He simply felt suddenly that everything would turn out with him. That he
had the power. His temple immediately began to ache, his heart started to beat
irregularly, but he did not pay this any attention. In his consciousness, intersecting
currents twirled and sparkled. It seemed to him that a mysterious blade was gliding along
a whetstone, issuing white-yellow icy sparks that instantly faded.
Yaraat, shaking his head, again attempted to take a step, but Methodius again pushed
him with a look, forcing him to step back. He already felt that he could keep the
werewolf at a distance, as if moving a powerful transparent wall in front of himself.
Besides, he could do more than this. Acting all the time instinctively — merely by the
power of image, not thought — Methodius clearly imagined a slender needle, hollow
inside. Here the needle entered the centre of Yaraat’s swirling aura, where his own
energy and the energy stolen from Daph did not yet have time to mingle, and began,
exactly like a syringe, to extract everything without leftovers. Yaraat darted and grabbed
one of his own talismans similar to a golden beetle; however, Methodius felt that the
werewolf could deny him nothing. The talisman at least helped, but clearly not to the
degree that Yaraat had hoped.
Methodius perceived himself as a gladiator armed with a sword and a spear, against
whom advanced soldiers in cardboard armour and with little wooden sabres. Pitilessly
taking energy away from Yaraat, he drew it in, absorbed it into himself, adding it to his
already enormous reserve. At this moment for the first time in his life, Methodius
managed to look into himself, and what he saw there startled and frightened him. It
seemed to him that he was standing, balancing, at the peak of a mountain, almost to the
sky, and below, where it could not be seen, stretched the boiling ocean, terrible, powerful,
seething like lava. The ocean, which would consume him, should he stumble. Only one
careless step — and emptiness. Finale. But now he was still at the peak and therefore
drank Yaraat’s energy with casual artistic ease. Any resistance from the werewolf seemed
deliberately ridiculous and absurd. So it was. An elephant, driven crazy, was chasing a
barking little mutt, which bolted howling and with its tail pulled in so far between its legs
that the tail almost folded up to its chest. Daph looked at Methodius with a mixture of
horror and delight. She already vaguely understood that hence it would be in prospect for
her to fear Buslaev not a bit less than to fear for Buslaev.
Suddenly the werewolf, almost two-thirds wasted, found a way out. He fell down,
howled, and began to roll and writhe. A shudder ran along his body, in an instant it
became flabby and soft like jelly, and then Methodius suddenly thought he saw Zozo. On
the floor before him shivering in fear was his own mother, from whom he was drawing
out the force drop by drop. The similarity was staggering. This was Zozo herself. A
thought even flickered in Methodius whether Yaraat used the spell of displacement,
teleported his mother in his place. After all, a magician, saving his own life, is capable of
a lot. In panic, Methodius cut off the channel, along which the force entered him. The
astral wasp’s sting quivered resentfully and, suddenly becoming brittle, began to
disappear.
Daph energetically tugged Methodius’ sleeve. “What are you doing? Don’t spare him!
It’s the werewolf! He’s feigning! Don’t believe him!” “With suspicion that you are
dealing with a werewolf, you should look at it via a knife, holding it by your eye with the
tip out. In this case you have a chance to see the true essence of the werewolf,”
Methodius recalled too late and, on taking out a penknife, looked at the werewolf,

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holding it near one eye. He saw the blurred outlines, the teeth stained with blood from
bitten lips, a balding head, and glowing red eyes. No, this was not Zozo. Indeed.
However, it was already too late. Methodius had lost the lead. Psychological confidence
and the right of the first charge. He could not, simply physically could not finish off his
own mother, who was writhing on the floor before him. Even though intellectually he
understood that the true Zozo could in no way turn out to be here. More likely, she was
now eating pickles, leafing through a woman’s magazine, or patiently listening to the
chatter of some Boris Borisych Ptushkin, reiterating that the court had granted him
instead of his ex-wife the apartment, since property had a bad influence on a person from
a moral point of view. (By the way, Zoe, I have not asked, but how is it with you on real
estate?)
However, the mood was already lost. Methodius had switched over, pondered, and,
having done so, lost the ability to create magic, to feel its living fabric. The invisible wall
began to grow dim, to lose colour. Methodius involuntarily began to clutch at them,
attempting to hold, and… finally lost everything. Yaraat, having stopped feigning, was
crawling on the floor, and groped in a hurry for the axe and the dagger. He was the first,
even before Methodius himself, sensed that there was no longer danger. “Doesn’t
matter!” the werewolf croaked, with the back of a hand wiping the blood off his face.
“I’ve lost much, but I’ll get my force back! For the time being, what has remained is
enough for me.”
Having found the dagger, he suddenly took a leap, went along the floor on his belly,
and tried to catch Daph’s ankle. But suddenly his hand ran across a high army boot.
Before him, arms crossed on the chest, in a short leather jacket and a belt with a silver
buckle in the shape of a skeletal hand, stood Essiorh, appearing here in the empty house
from heaven knows where. The werewolf hurriedly crawled back and jumped, squatting.
It seemed to Methodius that he was staring at Essiorh with special, strange, almost
superstitious horror. Horror, which was evoked not just by the usual fear of a creation of
Gloom before a guard of Light but something more. Something terrible, which remained
off the screen of the present day.
Yaraat’s hand dived into a pocket and extracted a small hollow clay pot similar to those
pitchers, in which they sell fragrant oils in the south. After aiming the jug at Essiorh’s
throat, Yaraat shook it with enthusiasm. “Well, this is it! Death to you, Light! Kilurikh’s
jug will finish off whoever is conveniently in a human body, even if you’re from the
Transparent Spheres!” he shouted. Essiorh waited patiently. He even squatted down and
propped up his cheeks with his hands so that it would be more convenient for the
werewolf to aim. Yaraat again shook the jug and stared vacantly at the artefact. Then,
after looking sideways at the guard of Light, with irritation threw away the jug. “What a
pity! Where the jug doesn’t act, neither will a knife!” he croaked.
Essiorh sternly nodded. “Did you guess the reason? Here even the black magic of
Kilurikh’s jugs is powerless. The memory of the body, intensified by an eidos, free and
not belonging to you, although separated from the body forever! This memory is also
something standing in this world full of certainty, isn’t it so?” he asked sullenly.
“Memory of the body?” Daph repeated without understanding. Essiorh raised a hand,
several times made a fist and unclenched his fingers with the expression as if the hand
was something independent of him. Daph saw that the hand itself involuntary stretched
out to the werewolf’s throat. After making a slight effort, the keeper overcame it.

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Meanwhile Yaraat had decided on the last means. After snatching out the Scroll of
Desires, he attempted to write on it quickly in a bold hand, making use of one of the eide
incarcerated in his darc instead of Methodius’ eidos. But, before he did this, Essiorh
stretched out his hand, and the Scroll, suddenly pulled out of the werewolf’s hands, found
itself in the guard’s. The keeper with disgust tore it up and, blowing on it gently, turned
the artefact into dust. “Well, that’s that! Awfully easy now and then to destroy something
that seems so important to others,” he remarked.
“The body, again this body!” the werewolf said through gritted teeth. “Not only. I as
guard-keeper have access to everything that has an impression of Daphne’s wings…”
Essiorh remarked modestly. “And the second reason: yes, the body. You’re already
familiar with it, aren’t you? I think if I try a little bit, I’ll even be able to call to mind the
circumstances, with which this happened.” “No!” shouted Yaraat. “I’m seeing it for the
first time!” “Really? Now I’ll elaborate on this…” The keeper closed his eyes for a
moment, and his face was aloof when he opened them again.
“It happened four weeks ago. In the Moscow area, on a country road, at night. A biker
and his girl were returning from the lake. They exceeded the speed limit and a wheel
caught the rock post of a road sign. The fellow escaped with many abrasions. The girl
was less lucky. She had a broken arm, compound fracture of a leg, a brain concussion,
and a lot of other things. The cell phone didn’t work: the fellow somehow had managed
to bathe in the lake together with it. There was no one around. Only the moon, like a
razor cut made in the wings of a stage, through which the light was beating, and the girl
on the road. It was impossible to carry her on the motorcycle. It was about twelve
kilometres to the nearest populated area. He howled like an injured beast. Then he took
the girl in his arms and carried her. He wore himself out, put her down, and again carried
her… Here suddenly he saw: a flame ahead. He approached a bonfire. A man was sitting
by the bonfire. Where he came from — unknown. But very nice, obliging. Ready to help,
ready to sit with the girl, while the fellow ran for help. Kind, thoughtful… When he
leaned over the girl, she even came to and smiled at him. The fellow rejoiced. He
thought, she’s saved… Why are you silent, Yaraat?” The werewolf’s face turned yellow.
He flung one of the talismans onto the floor and stomped on it. Apparently, this was an
attempt to teleport, but the proximity of Methodius and Essiorh took away the magic in
his artefacts.
“The fellow left the girl by the fire next to the man, whose name he never learned, and
rushed off for help. He was lucky. After half an hour, he flagged down a car, the first he
met, and returned to take the girl to the hospital. On these country roads, it would be
impossible to get an ambulance to reach her in time. When they found the fire, it had
already burnt out. The girl was dead. Her face had been mauled by either a wolf or a
dog… The friendly stranger had disappeared without a trace. Not surprising that the
fellow did not value life too much then and soon followed the one he loved. But I
installed myself in his body, as you can see… Indeed this wasn’t your first hunt, Yaraat?
All these years you’ve attacked the defenceless? Those in love are easy prey, isn’t it so?”
“I needed her eidos and fresh force. Methodius deprived me of everything. She didn’t
want to give. I lost control!” the werewolf croaked. His eyes slid along the flagstones on
the floor in search of the battle-axe.
“Like the time with Ares’ wife and daughter, right? You also lost it, when you finished
them off in the well?” Methodius asked, quickly leaning toward him. “None of your

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146

business, guard of Gloom! I do what I want! I kill whom I want! Understand?” Yaraat
squealed hysterically, and Methodius understood with horror the entire truth.
“He’s not a guard of Gloom! I am,” someone suddenly said quietly. Daph and
Methodius turned around at once and saw Ares. Julitta stood to the right of him. The
young witch looked displeased. Likely, she had teleported onto the street near the porch
and, with her imposing build, had to climb through the window. In Ares’ hands,
Methodius saw the long notched blade. The face of the swordsman of Gloom… however
it would be difficult to call this a face now. It would suit more the definition of a mask.
Yaraat stepped back, jumped aside, and, grabbing his darc, attempted to teleport for the
last time. However, the gold sparks covering his jacket suddenly faded. Ripples went
along Yaraat’s face. He understood that he would not manage to hide. And so, he was
doomed to fight. Yaraat was hardly a coward. His face hardened. The werewolf threw off
his jacket, tore away the bowtie and shirt. Methodius saw under it a fine chain mail with
runes. Playing with the axe, he took a step back. “I’m ready, Ares. If you thought that I’d
whimper, you’re mistaken! Soon you’ll depart to follow your family. By the way, you
must thank me that I freed you from the spectacle of the unavoidable aging of your loved
ones. Imagine how sad it would be for you to look at your own old daughter, remaining
young yourself.” “Now I’ll thank you. I’ll thank you for everything. Then in the
lighthouse, I thought about you every day!” Ares quietly announced. “Really?”
Ares looked sternly at Daph. “Take the cat away! And the rest also go away! Leave
us!” he said imperiously. “But, allow me! How can you tell me to go away?” Essiorh
started. “Leave, Light! I don’t know what you need, but I’ll fight you later. Even Ligul
wasn’t able to hold me in Tartarus. For sure you also won’t be able to… But for the time
being step and wait for me outside!” Ares said stiffly. The indignant Essiorh again
wanted to bark something, but clever Daph, having already caught Depressiac, decisively
pulled him after her. She understood that all of one awkward word could lead to Ares
attacking the guard with his sword.
First along the corridor moved Julitta, after her Daph, dragging her listlessly resisting
keeper, and last was Methodius. Before taking a step into the room with the knocked-out
window and leaving forever the doomed house, Buslaev looked around. By the stairs on
the dented floor remained only Ares, Yaraat, and the dead snake. Ares looked in
expectation at the werewolf, almost urging him on with his gaze. The last thing that
Methodius saw: Yaraat was raising the axe, which, growing in sizes, cast a terrible
shadow, similar to a gallows with a swinging corpse. Ares was simply standing and
waiting for the impact… Methodius hurriedly jumped onto the asphalt next to Julitta and
Daphne. An agonizing wait began. Essiorh impatiently shifted from one foot to the other.
The attacking werewolf’s sharp abrupt squeals reached them. Blades rang, colliding.
Shielding talismans snapped into action, the stone knife sang bloodthirstily in a deep
voice a song of death, magic sparks splashed from Yaraat’s ring. Ares was silent.
Methodius heard not a sound, which could originate from him. And then — so suddenly
— everything went quiet. An ominous silence descended onto the house. Right through
the boarded up door, not a bit confused by this, Mamzelkina came out onto the porch.
She came out in a business-like manner, not looking to the sides. In motion, she was
concealing something in her knapsack. It was obvious that Aida Plakhovna was at work.
The scythe was encased in her hands. This time she did not even have to uncover it.

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147

Everything was finished without it. After taking several steps, Mamzelkina melted away.
New accomplishments awaited her.
“Listen… eh-eh… you better not wait for Ares! Simply this friendly advice. Teleport
fast,” said Daph to Essiorh. “Do you think that Ares won? On what grounds? Where are
the facts? How do you know that Death took away precisely Yaraat? And even if him!”
“Essiorh, I beg you! Teleport, please?” Daph impatiently begged. “If you think that I fear
some guard of Gloom, you’re mistaken! I’ll remain here and fight him! I’ll cross
maglodies with his dark sword!” the keeper seethed.
Julitta took a step to him and, like a tigress, rubbed her cheek against his shoulder.
Essiorh, boiling with indignation, turned to her. “No one says that you fear him,
sweetheart. You’re so noble, so brave! We fear for Ares. We don’t want your incinerating
maglodies attacking him. You’ll indeed spare our chief, no? You’re indeed a kind prince,
eh?” Essiorh thawed. “Eh-eh Do you really think so? Well, that my maglodies are so
dangerous for him?” “Goes without saying!” Methodius and Julitta said in unison. Julitta
again hurriedly rubbed her cheek against Essiorh’s jacket. “Hmm… In that case, it
doesn’t actually make any sense for me to remain here. If I all the same can’t raise the
flute to him coming to meet you, then it would be unwise to let him chop me up like
cabbage…” Essiorh thoughtfully drawled. “Well then, run! Ta-ta, my brute! We’ll still
see each other, right? Daph knows how to contact you?” asked Julitta. Essiorh absent-
mindedly glanced back at Daph. “I think she knows. In any case, I never lose sight of
her,” he said. “Now that’s wonderful! Then there’s no problem. What are you doing
tomorrow evening?” Julitta purred. “What am I doing tomorrow evening?” Essiorh
listened keenly to the sounds inside the house and, after waving to them, disappeared in a
golden circle.
Julitta burst out laughing. “I like him immensely! He’s so… well, like a pretty girl…
And where do you get only these, Light?” she asked Daph. Daph petted Depressiac. She
had already finished inspecting it and ascertained that its wounds were not dangerous. In
a couple of days the cat would again begin to make Eddy Khavron hopping mad and he
with howls would demand a machine gun. “He’s nothing like that! It seemed to me that
he’s changing for the better,” standing up for her keeper, Daph remarked. She in truth
also considered it so. With each day, Essiorh became all the more accommodating. The
moronoid world had a positive influence on him. Julitta treated her words
philosophically. “It all depends on what’s better,” she said.
Ares appeared in the room with the ripped out frame. For some reason a raincoat was
thrown over the blade of his sword. He even did not remember Essiorh. Methodius
clearly sensed that no one could ask Ares anything. In any case, anyone who wants to live
long and happily. “Old debts are paid, new ones not yet,” Ares said flatly. “Julitta,
summon Mamai. Leave! I’ll take care of your sword, Signor Tomato. And your flute too,
Light! Now go! I want to be alone.” Ares turned his wide back and slowly, clumsily like
a bear, again went into the deserted house.

***

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
i

Glossary

A hundred graves, a hundred corpses; a hundred summers, a hundred winters: This is an
adaptation of the Russian idiom “how many summers, how many winters” meaning “Long time
no see!”

Aahron: Hebrew name meaning “mountain of strength”.

Alaric: King of the Visigoths, an East Germanic tribe, who sacked Rome in 410.

Alcides: The name given to Heracles (see Heracles) at birth.

Alenka chocolate: A Russian milk chocolate bar with the face of a little girl on the wrapper.

Alyosha Popovich: A hero of Russian epic, he is known for his craftiness and wins by tricking
and outsmarting his enemies, as in the case of his duel with the dragon Tugarin Zmeyevich (see
Tugarin Zmeyevich).

Aqua et igni interdicere: The Latin phrase aqua et igni interdicere means ‘to outlaw’: aqua —
water, et — and, ignis — fire, interdico — to forbid.

Ares: In Greek mythology, the Olympian god of savage war, bloodlust and slaughter personified.

Astral: Astral can mean something related to stars; or the astral body, a second body that
accompanies an individual through life, able to leave the physical body at will, and survives the
individual after death of the physical body.

Atahualpa: The last sovereign of the Inca Empire, he was captured and hanged by the Spaniards
in 1533 despite paying a ransom of a room filled once with gold and twice with silver.

Attila: Also known as Attila the Hun or the Scourge of God, Attila (406-453) was the leader of
the Hunnic Empire that stretched from Germany to the Urals and from the Danube to the Baltic
Sea. He was the most fearsome enemy of the East and West Roman Empire, and is remembered
as the epitome of cruelty and rapacity in much of Western Europe.

Aurelius: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121-180), Roman emperor (161-180), one of
the most important Stoic philosophers. Stoicism teaches self-control and fortitude to overcome
negative emotions, and maintaining a will in accord with nature.

Bach: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), German composer and organist of the Baroque
period, is considered one of the greatest composers of Western music, and together with Ludwig
Van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms made up the famous “three B’s” of classical music.

Bald Mountain: According to Slavic legends, a place where witches and other paranormal
creatures gather for the Sabbath.

Barbarossa: Italian for “red beard”, this is the nickname of three famous people in history: the
Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (1122-90), and the brothers Oruç Reis (c.1474-1518) and Hızır
Hayreddin Paşa (c.1478-1546), Turkish privateers and respectively governor and admiral of the
Ottoman Empire.

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Baskerville: This refers to The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902) by Sir Arthur Canon
Doyle (1859-1930), a crime novel featuring Sherlock Holmes, inspired by the legend of an
enormous diabolical hound.

Bluebeard, Raoul: The title character of a fairy tale (1698) by Charles Perrault (1628-1703),
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.

Bolivar: El Libertador (The Liberator) Simón José Antonio de la Santísima Trinidad Bolívar
Palacios y Blanco (1783-1830), commonly known as Simón Bolívar, a Venezuelan, is described
as the “George Washington of South America” for his role in South America’s successful
struggle for independence from Spain. The South American Republic of Bolivia was named after
him.

Bonaparte: Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), French military and political leader, was a general
during the French Revolution and, as Emperor of France, dominated continental Europe until he
tried to invade Russia in 1812. He is regarded as one of history’s greatest commanders and
remembered for establishing the Napoleonic Code, which laid the bureaucratic foundations for
the modern French state.

Bouillon, Gottfried: a character from the Tanya Grotter series, he was formerly put under a sleep
spell.

Buslaev: In the Novgorod cycle of byliny — heroic poems, epics — Vasilii (Vaska) Buslaev was
a brave young folk hero of unlimited boldness.

Cain: According to Genesis of the Old Testament, Cain was the firstborn of Adam and Eve and a
farmer. He killed his younger brother Abel, a shepherd, after God accepted Abel’s sacrifice
instead of his. Being the first murderer, he is sometimes seen as the progenitor of evil.

Calcium gluconate: The calcium salt of gluconic acid, an oxidation product of glucose, it is used
to treat conditions arising from calcium deficiencies.

Calderón: Pedro Calderón de la Barca y Henao (1600-81) was a dramatist of the Spanish Golden
Age, with La vida es sueño — Life is a Dream — perhaps being his most well known work. It is
a philosophical allegory, a conflict between free will and fate. “Life is a dream from which only
death awakens us.”

Carthage: An ancient city along the coast of Tunisia in North Africa, it was the master of the
Mediterranean maritime trade and one of the largest cities in Hellenistic times. The Romans
destroyed the Carthaginian Empire, one of the longest-living and largest empires in ancient
Mediterranea, in 146 BC.

Cato: Marcus Porcius Cato (Cato the Elder) (243 BC – 149 BC) and his great-grandson Marcus
Porcius Cato Uticensis (Cato the Younger) (95 BC – 46 BC) were both Roman statesmen. Cato
the Elder was known as the Censor, being a strict disciplinarian, opposed to the spread of
Hellenic culture, and against luxury and extravagance. Cato the younger was legendary for his
stubbornness and tenacity, immunity to bribes, moral integrity, and distaste for corruption.

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Cerberus: The three-headed hellhound in Greek mythology, an offspring of Echidna (see
Echidna) and Typhon (see Typhon), guarded the gates of Hades and ensured that the spirits of
the dead could enter but not leave.

Charon: In Greek mythology, the souls of the dead buried or burned with the proper rites are
ferried by Charon the ferryman across the river Acheron into Hades (see Hades).

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 knights 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.

Chopin: Frédéric Chopin (1810-49), composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period, is
regarded as the greatest Polish composer.

Clayderman: Richard Clayderman (born Philippe Pagès, 1953-), French pianist of contemporary
music and light classics.

Colobok: In an old Slavic fairytale, this is the name of a round loaf — the word colobok is
Russian for a small round loaf — that comes alive and travels the world.

Comme il faut: French phrase — as it should be, proper, seemly.

Cor Hydrae: The brightest star in the constellation Hydra, its Latin designation Cor Hydrae —
the Hydra’s heart — was introduced by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). The
Arabs called it Al Fard al Shuja — The Solitary One in the Serpent — because there are no other
bright stars near it, and from this came the other designation Alphard.

Count Vladislav Dracula: Vladislav or Vlad III (1431-76), Prince of Wallachia, a historical
region of Romania, more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler or simply Dracula, inspired the
name of the vampire in the novel Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker (1847-1912), an Irish writer.

Cucumber last name: The last name referred to is Ogurtsov, and the Russian word for cucumber
is ogurets.

Cyclops: In Greek mythology, a member of a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in
the middle of its forehead.

Darc: A small silvery icicle-like personal ornament for keeping captured eide (see Eide). Each
guard of Gloom has his own darc, which he guards with his life. This is a play on the word
“dark”, since it is something belonging to Gloom.

Deo juvante: Latin — with God’s help.

Dobrynya Nikitich: A hero of Russian epic, he is depicted as a dragon slayer who wins by
bravery.

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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.

Dummkopf: A stupid person, from German dumm — dumb and Kopf — head.

Durnev: A character from the Tanya Grotter series, also the relative of Dracula referred to in the
story.

Echidna: The mother of all monsters in Greek mythology, an offspring of Gaia — Mother Earth
— and Tartarus (see Tartarus), mate of Typhon (see Typhon), with the face and torso of a
beautiful woman and the body of a serpent.

Eide: Plural of eidos.

Eidos: In Greek philosophy, an eidos is the immutable genuine nature of a thing, an abstract
universe, the essence. In anthropology, it is the distinctive expression of the intellectual character
of a culture. In the current story, it is what is generally termed the soul.

Essiorh: Essilor is a French company producing primarily ophthalmic lenses and ophthalmic
optical equipment. The French “l” is pronounced softly and the “r” is a guttural “rh” sound.
Besides, Essiorh is from the Transparent Spheres.

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.

Fourth power generator: On April 26, 1986, reactor #4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in
Ukraine exploded, leading to massive radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an
extensive geographical area. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant disaster in history.

Gehenna: From Hebrew ge bene Hinnom — the valley of the sons of Hinnom, where, according
to the Bible, children were sacrificed to the deity Moloch. The word represents a place of torment
and suffering — hell.

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.

Gnome: Technically, there is no such thing as British gnomes, only elves or fairies – supernatural
and invisible magical folks, usually in human form.

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.

Graves’ disease: Also known as Basedow’s disease, it is a thyroid disorder with one of its
characteristics being bulging eyeballs.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
v

Griffin: A mythical beast found depicted in ancient Babylonian, Assyrian, and Persian paintings
and sculptures, having the head and wings of an eagle and the lower body of a lion. Griffins were
supposedly guardians of the gold mines of ancient Scythia. Their eyesight was clear and sharp
and they were also known for their swiftness.

Hades: In Greek mythology, the name for both the abode of the dead and the god of the abode.

Hannibal: Hannibal Barca (247-182 BC), a Carthaginian (see Carthage) general, was one of the
greatest military leaders in history. He was the son of Hamilcar Barca (c. 275-228 BC),
Carthaginian general and statesman, and his Iberian wife. His most famous achievement was his
war with Rome. Unfortunately, he did not have the full support of the Carthaginian aristocracy
and eventually left for voluntary exile. He committed suicide by taking poison so as not to fall
into Roman hands.

Hasdrubal: This was the name of several Carthaginian (see Carthage) generals, among them
Hannibal’s (see Hannibal) brother and brother-in-law.

“He said: Dhul-Qarnayn! Gog and Magog…”: This is verse 18:94 of the Qu’ran, the sacred
scripture of Islam. A tribe threatened by Gog and Magog, two evil and destructive nations,
offered tribute to Dhul-Qarnayn in exchange for protection. He refused the tribute but constructed
a wall the hostile Gog and Magog could not penetrate. Most secular historians identify Dhul-
Qarnayn (the one with two horns) as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), Greek king of Macedon,
one of the most successful military commanders in history, presumed undefeated in battle.

“He who comes to us with a crowbar will perish by the crowbar!”: An adaptation of the
proverb “Live by the sword, die by the sword.” from Matthew 26:52, this is interpreted as poetic
justice.

“Hey, little bat, altogether! Hey, my darling, go!”: This is an adaptation of the famous refrain
of the Russian folk song Dubinushka:
Hey, Dubinushka, altogether!
Hey, the green one, go!
Pull, pull,
And altogether!
Dubinushka is the diminutive of dubina, Russian for a heavy club. The song is usually sung to
coordinate the effort to move a loaded barge along the Volga River after lifting the anchor. Both
Dubinushka and “the green one” refer to a huge pine chained to the barge to break the rapid
currents and help move the barge from the shoal.

Heracles: In Greek mythology, the greatest of heroes, a paragon of masculinity, and the ancestor
of royal clans, also known as Hercules in Rome and the modern West.

Hippogriff: A mythical beast, the only known relative of a griffin (see Griffin), this is the result
of the mating of a male griffin and a filly. As griffins and horses are mortal enemies, such a union
is incredibly rare, thus the hippogriff is a symbol of impossibility and love. This creature has the
head, wings and front of a griffin and the back of a horse, moves through air faster than lightning,
and figures in medieval legends as the mount of knights.

Horse move subsequently became famous for chess players: This refers to the famous Trojan
Horse devised by Odysseus (see Odysseus). In chess, the Trojan Horse Draw Offer is a tactic to

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

mislead one’s opponent about one’s assessment of one’s position, thus making the opponent
overconfident and possibly overplay his hand.

John of Damascus: Saint John of Damascus (c. 676-749), a Syrian monk and priest, was the
Chief Administrator to the ruler of Damascus. He wrote works expounding the Christian faith,
and made contributions to law, theology, philosophy, and music. The hymns he composed are
still in use in the Eastern Christian monasteries.

Julitta: St. Julitta was a Christian martyr under the reign of Diocletian (244-311), Roman
emperor (284-305). The name is a diminutive of Julia; in Russian it is Ulita, with a possible
diminutive of Ulitka — snail.

Juvenal: Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known in English as Juvenal, was a Roman poet active in the
late 1st and early 2nd A.D., author of Satires, 16 poems in the Roman genre of satire. Details of his
life are unclear.

Khayyám: Ghiyās od-Dīn Abol-Fath Omār ibn Ebrāhīm Khayyām Neyshābūri (1048-1131), also
known as Omar al-Khayyami, Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, and astronomer.

Kenzo: Takada Kenzo (1939-), Japanese fashion designer, is the founder of Kenzo, a world-wide
brand of perfumes, skin care products, and clothing.

Kerkinitida: An ancient small Greek outpost on the northwest plains of the Crimea, the modern
city of Eupatoria, a major Ukrainian Black Sea port.

Khavron: From Russian khavron’ia — pig.

Kimberley-Clark diamond: Kimberley-Clark is a global corporation of paper tissues and related
personal care products. The Kimberley diamond, originally a 490-carat rough, is a famous
champagne-coloured emerald-cut diamond named after the Kimberley Mine in South Africa.

Kokoshnik: The traditional headdress for Russian women in the 18th and 19th century is shaped
like a diadem, with the front adorned with gold and pearl embroidery, and tied at the back of the
head with long thick ribbons in a bow.

Kvodnon: “kvd” is a Yiddish root meaning heavy.

Lada: This is the brand name of the Russian car manufacturer AutoVAZ’s export vehicles.

Law of the strong: This is from The Book of the Law (1904), full title — Liber AL vel Legis, sub
figura CCXX, as delivered by XCIII=418 to DCLXVI, the central sacred text written by Aleister
Crowley (1875-1947), a British occultist, who founded the religion Thelema based on a
philosophy of life “Do what thou wilt.”

Lethe: The river of forgetfulness, called the River of Oblivion, in Greek mythology, is one of the
rivers that flow through the realm of Hades (see Hades). The souls of the dead drink from this
river to forget their past life on Earth.

Lezginka: A Caucasian Georgian folk dance of lively tempo.

Ligul: From Latin ligula, diminutive of lingua — tongue.
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Little red booklet: The ID of a Russian militia or FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian
Federation) officer is in a red leather holder.

LogoVAZ: An automotive trading company that received the first official status to import
Mercedes into Russia in 1991.

Lux in tenebris: Latin — light in darkness.

MacLeod, Duncan: A fictional character and protagonist of the fantasy TV series Highlander:
The Series (1992-98), he is an Immortal and an exceptionally excellent swordsman. The TV
series was a Canada/France co-production, a carry-on from the original 1986 Hollywood film,
which has since become a cult classic, especially in Europe.

Maglody: Magic melody.

Magloister: A cloister for magicians.

Mamai: A general of the Blue Horde (part of the Golden Horde, the Tatar-Mongols) around the
lower Volga region, he was a powerful military commander in the 1370s. Even though he was
defeated in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380), he did not die in battle but was assassinated after he
escaped to the Crimea. Contemporary Russian has an expression “like Mamai had passed through
here” to describe an utter mess.

Mamzelkina, Aida Plakhovna: Mamzelkina is from Russian mamzel’ka — mademoiselle, Aida
is from Russian Aid — Hades (see Hades), and Plakhovna is from Russian plakha —
executioner’s block.

Mendelssohn: Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-47), generally known as Felix
Mendelssohn, German composer, pianist, and conductor of the early Romantic period, is now
among the most popular composers of the Romantic era.

Methodius: Saint Methodius, 9th century Byzantine Greek archbishop, and his brother Saint Cyril
are credited with devising the Glagolitic alphabet, from which evolved the Cyrillic alphabet.

Moronoid: How the immortals — magicians, guards — refer to a mortal.

Nagianka: see Pripyatskaya.

Necro-department: The department of death.

Nelson hold: One of the grappling techniques in martial arts for controlling one’s opponent.

Nemirovich-Danchenko: Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko (1858-1943), director,
writer, and pedagogue, co-founded the Moscow Art Theatre and established the Moscow Art
Theatre School.

“Not so much heart already but wormy”: This is lost in translation as it is a play on words in
Russian. The word for the heart suit — chervovyi — is only different from wormy — chervivyi
— by one character.

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Obituate: To record a death, from the word obituary.

Odysseus: Known in Latin as Ulysses, he was the legendary Greek king from Ithaca, the hero of
the epic poem The Odyssey and a key character in The Iliad, both works by Homer, the legendary
Greek epic poet, sometime between the 9th and the 6th century BC. Odysseus is most famous for
his Trojan Horse stratagem during the Trojan War and his ten-year journey home to Ithaca
afterwards.

Ogurtsov-Pomidorov: In Russian, one of the plural forms of ogurets — cucumber — is
ogurtsov and one of the plural forms of pomidor — tomato — is pomidorov.

Oligo de Phrēn: Oligo (Greek) — little, few; Phrēn (Greek) — mind, intelligence.

Ostankino Tower: A TV and radio tower in Moscow, and at 540 metres tall, it was the tallest
freestanding structure in the world from 1967 to 1976.

“Our proud Varyag will not surrender to the enemy”: A line from the poem Varyag (1904) by
German writer Rudolf Greinz (1866-1942) about the Russian battle cruiser Varyag (Russian for
Varangian, see Varangian) during the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905.

Ovid: Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17AD), a Roman poet known simply as Ovid, wrote about
love, abandoned women, and mythological transformations. One of the three canonical poets of
Latin literature, he had decisive influence on European art and literature.

Papa Razza: a play on the word paparazzo – a freelance photographer, especially one who takes
pictures of celebrities.

Phoenix: This is the same as a firebird, which, in Russian folklore, 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.

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.

“Please tell, uncle, indeed worthwhile”: A line from the poem Borodino (1837) by Russian
Romantic writer M.Yu. Lermontov (1814-41).

Polutonnik: From Russian poluton — semitone.

Pompeii: A town in western Italy that was completely destroyed by the eruption of the active
volcano Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Pripyatskaya, Nagiana: a witch, a character from the Tanya Grotter series.

Prometheus: In Greek mythology, a titan who moulded humankind from clay and stole fire from
Zeus (see Zeus) to give to the mortals for their use, for which act he was chained to a rock and
had his regenerated liver eaten daily by a vulture until Heracles (see Heracles) killed the vulture
and freed him.

Prun: a teenage bodyguard, a character from the Tanya Grotter series.
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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
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Puper: a white magician, a character from the Tanya Grotter series.

Pushkin: Aleksandr Sergeevich Pushkin (1799-1837), considered the greatest Russian poet and
founder of modern Russian literature.

Queen of Sheba: The legendary queen who ruled the ancient kingdom of Sheba, which may have
included part or all of modern day Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Yemen, and who is depicted in the Bible,
the Qur’an, and Ethiopian history. In all accounts, she was apparently very rich and brought
expensive gifts on her visit to King Solomon of Israel.

Queen of Spades: A short story (1833) by Pushkin (see Pushkin), it has inspired an opera and
numerous film adaptations.

RPG-18: The RPG-18 Mukha — fly — is a short-range, disposable light anti-tank rocket
launcher, the Russian equivalent of the US M72 LAW (Light Anti-tank/Anti-armour Weapon). It
requires only one operator because it is not reloadable.

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 five-
point 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.

Sardanapal: see Chernomorov.

Scrofula: Tuberculosis of lymph nodes, especially in the neck.

Signor Tomato: A character from the children’s books by Italian author Gianni Rodari (1920-
80).

Sit down for the road: This is a Russian custom that before starting on a long journey, the ones
going and those seeing them off have to sit down for a moment. During this time, everyone can
calm down, remember what might have been forgotten, or simply focus on the trip ahead.

Skaredo: From Russian skared — a skinflint.

Sphinx: This is an iconic image of a recumbent lion with the head of a ram, bird, or human. The
Egyptians of the Old Kingdom invented it, but it received its name as a cultural import in archaic
Greek mythology. There was only a single sphinx in Greek mythology, a unique demon of
destruction and bad luck.

Sporotrichosis: A skin infection caused by a fungus.

SS: Schutzstaffel, a special police force in Nazi Germany founded as a personal bodyguard for
Adolf Hitler in 1925; the SS administered the concentration camps.

Stigmella malella: The apple pygmy moth is a leaf miner of the crab-apple tree.

Stomatologist: A specialist in the mouth and its diseases.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
x

Succubae: Plural of succubus — a demon taking the female form to have sex with sleeping men.

Svidrigailov: Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigailov, the villain in Crime and Punishment (1866) by
F.M. Dostoyevsky (1821-81).

Tamerlane: Timur the Lame (1336-1405), the Turco-Mongol conqueror of much of western and
central Asia, founded the Timurid dynasty that survived until 1857 as the Mughal dynasty of
India. He is known to have employed information warfare, making use of spies to collect
information and spread rumours to weaken morale and cause panic among his enemies.

Tanya Grotter: a white magician, the main character from the Tanya Grotter series.

Tartarus: In Greek mythology, both a deity and a place in the underworld even deeper than
Hades (see Hades).

“The decay was increasing, the blood vessels were bent, and it was a loose screw!”: This is an
adaptation of the beginning lines of a Russian folk song: The reeds were roaring, the trees were
bent, and it was a dark night.

“The soldiers’ arms grew too tired to thrust.”: A line from the poem Borodino (1837) by
Russian Romantic writer M.Yu. Lermontov (1814-41).

The thirty-first silver coin: This refers to the Biblical betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for
thirty pieces of silver.

Thucydides: (c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC), ancient Greek historian, is regarded as the father of
scientific history for his strict standard of gathering evidence and analysis in terms of cause and
effect, and as the father of school of political realism that views the relations between nations as
based on might rather than right.

Tibidox: The school of magic from the Tanya Grotter series.

Titan: In Greek mythology, any of the primordial giant gods who ruled the Earth until
overthrown by Zeus (see Zeus); the titans were offspring of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaea (Earth).

Tower in ancient Babylon: This refers to the Tower of Babel, which, according to the Bible, was
not built for the worship and praise of God but was dedicated to the glory of man, thus provoking
the wrath of God.

Transylvania: A historical region of Romania, used as the setting for the novel Dracula (see
Count Vladislav Dracula).

Tsar Saltan: The character from a Russian fairy tale put into the poem The Tale of Tsar Saltan,
of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful
Princess-Swan (1831) by A.S. Pushkin (see Pushkin).

Tugarin Zmeyevich: A mythical creature in Russian epic and fairy tales, he personifies evil and
cruelty and appears in the form of a warrior and a dragon with paper wings. During his duel with
Alyosha Popovich (see Alyosha Popovich), the hero prays for rain, which ruins the wings, giving
Alyosha Popovich the chance to kill the dragon.

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

Tukhlomon: The Russian word tukhlo means rotten, as in something has gone bad; the name can
be loosely translated as a rotten man.

Typhon: In Greek mythology, the last son of Gaia — Mother Earth — and Tartarus (see
Tartarus); Typhon was a sworn enemy of the Olympian gods, presented as a storm demon and
personification of the earth’s volcanic forces.

Unicorn: This is a legendary white horse-like creature with a slender, usually spiral horn growing
out of its forehead. Traditionally it has a billy-goat beard, a lion’s tail, and cloven hoofs. Ancient
Greeks believed unicorns were real and nasty, easily provoked creatures, not the familiar gentle
image that came from the Germans in the Middle Ages.

Vampire: In old Slavic belief, an unnatural or premature death turns a person into a vampire.
That is, death by suicide, from wounds or epidemic diseases, not having made a confession
before death, or not having a funeral service read over the dead. A vampire can become a
sorcerer.

Vanka: a white magician, a character from the Tanya Grotter series.

Varangian: The Northmen that founded the Russian dynasty in the 9th century.

Vii: In Slavic mythology, this is a character whose glance can kill as well as turn cities into ashes.
Fortunately, his eyelids are so heavy and his eyebrows so long that his eyes are covered, and
require several strongmen with iron tongs to open them.

Wedding march: A piece of music played during a wedding, usually accompanying the entrance
of the bride and the departure of the married couple. Traditionally in Western weddings, the
entrance is the Bridal Chorus (generally known in English-speaking countries as Here Comes the
Bride or Wedding March) from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin and the departure is the Wedding
March from Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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.

William the Conqueror: William I of England (1027-87), Duke of Normandy from 1035 and
King of England from 1066, led an army of Normans to invade England in 1066 to claim the
English throne, defeating the Anglo-Saxon forces in what has become known as the Norman
Conquest.

“You too, Brutus!”: The phrase often used to represent the last words of Roman dictator Julius
Caesar (100 BC-44 BC).

Yuri Dolgorukii: Prince Yuri (Georgii) Vladimirovich (c. 1099-1157), nicknamed Dolgorukii –
Long-armed – was Grand Prince of Kievan Rus (1149-51, 1155-57) and founder of Moscow.

Zaches: One of the famous works of German writer Ernst Theodor Wilhelm Hoffmann (1776-
1822) is Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober (1819) — Little Zaches called Cinnabar.

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jhbuckingham@yahoo.ca
http://emets.olmer.ru/
xii

Zaporozhian Cossacks: These were Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Sech (the fortress beyond the
rapids) living in the Steppes of the Ukraine. They were a strong political and military force north
of the Black Sea from the 16th century until forcibly disbanded by the Russian Empire in the late
18th century.

Zeus: In Greek mythology, the king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus, and the god of sky
and thunder. He was an offspring of the first generation of titans (see Titan).

Zhukovsky: Vasilii Andreevich Zhukovsky (1783-1852), Russian poet who introduced the
Romantic Movement to Russian literature. In 1802, he published a translation of Elegy Written in
a Country Church Yard (1751), a masterpiece by English poet Thomas Gray (1716-71). This is
conventionally cited as the starting point of Russian Romanticism.

Zombification: The process of turning someone into a zombie.

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

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