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Cave of the Sleeping Bogatyrs

This series of caves is located a few versts outside the village of Vladykino, along a stream, and near a waterfall. It was initially blocked with boulders, and had several flat stones outside with images of bogatyrs etched on them. Snakes slithered underneath those stones. The caves had been mentioned to Yuri previously by the Archbishop of Ladeisk, who said they might help secrete the people of the area away from the predation of marauding wolf shapechangers. The archbishop also gave him an icon to help gain entry.   Once the boulder was moved, the Serpent Slayers discovered a dark tunnel that led to a three way intersection. In the intersection stood a flat-faced boulder that looked like a Doomstone without an inscription. Agapia recalled stories of such stones (with inscriptions) appearing in songs about the heroic deeds of the bogatyrs. If one went right, he would find a wife; left - a steed; and straight - death.   The left-hand passage did indeed lead to a steed, that ran out to Yuri. It was pursued by wolves, who were defeated, but some fled out of the chamber via side passages. All told, there were six such tunnels leading from the chamber. A hollow stone horse sculpture stood at the center, and [Lokan detected a horse scent inside its hollow body. The six passages then all led to another chamber, where a huge mother-wolf nursed cubs, and protected the wolves that survived the battle. Lokan struck a deal with her to leave the cubs alone if the Serpent Slayers' progress was unimpeded. She let them pass through the chamber, and down a tunnel into yet another chamber, which had nothing in it save a pure gold and pure silver dipper, suspended from a hook in the ceiling. Together with Yuri and his new horse, Lokan succeeded in reaching up and taking them.   The right-hand passage from the Doomstone led up to a large chamber with a ring of fire at its center. inside was a silken tent held up by bones. A woman with dark, shadowy wings emerged from that tent, and attempted to charm, first Vorobei, then Lokan, who she kissed and killed, and then Yuri, who she enticed to enter the ring against his better judgment. She was subsequently subdued by Agapia and Zorina. On the other side of the chamber was another tunnel, that continued upward, and eventually divided into two branches. Both led to smaller caves. The left-hand one had a fiery stone pillar it it that consumed an invisible or mystical fuel. The left-hand one had a berry bush from which two jewels grew.   The center tunnel leading from the Doomstone was the longest and flattest. It ended in a very large, roughly circular chamber, though it was dark, and the far side could not be seen. The chamber was a pit filled with bones. A rickety rope bridge stretched across its center and on into darkness. Two ledges - one on the right, one on the left - ran along the edge, but did not reach to the middle of the cave. A three-headed, fire-breathing serpent made part of the cave glow. it emerged from under the bones and attacked the Serpent Slayers before being cast down.   That is all that is known about the Cave of the Sleeping Bogatyrs at present.

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