Chapter 40 - The Subterranean Book
After waking, Drazhan scouts around the campsite, finding some very healthful berries, and then leads the group back to the giant's hole. Equipped with rope this time, the Yokels make their descent into his cave. Drazhan descends last, holding Lumír'sboar, who is out of his wits with fright. After Sasha calms him, torches are fashioned from the wood in the cave, Sasha magically lights them, and the entire party proceeds into the dark, fashioned passages where Lumir had wandered the day before. Drazhan keeps giving Sasha funny looks. There is a long tunnel with side tunnels on the right, but they don't seem to lead anywhere. Before long, it becomes clear that these side tunnels actually form letters, which Sasha identifies as runes in the Chud' tongue, which, as Vasilisa confirms, also happens to be the tongue of the volkhvy - a language Plamen learned in adolescence, though he cannot read it. The first five letters form the word prede - 'before' or 'ere'. The companions soon identify a second word - molot - 'hammer'. Sasha begins to record the words on paper she carries in her coat. Within the intersection of passages inside the arrow-shaped "t" rune at end of the word stands an enormous granite hammer. Chonkorchuk sees that the hammer is suffused with magic, and Sasha, after handling it for a time, gets a feeling that a spirit of thunder resides in it, which someone capable of wielding it could release. The Yokels try to convince Drazhan to drag it along, but the ghazi is skeptical whether it has any power at all, and whether there is any point in taking it. The party continues down the long tunnel, which eventually ends. There is a whole sequence of words - a phrase, perhaps, which the companions try to parse. The entire line reads: prede molot tvortsa o svode nebesnogo bligi. The Yokels moot several ideas about what it might mean: 'before the hammer of the creator about vault heavenly strike'. They eventually settle on 'before the hammer of the creator struck against the heavenly vault'. Chonkorchuk recalls that the rune Sasha says is an "s" stands for Svarog - the Smith and demiurge who according to legend created the heavens and the earth, while the rune for "a" is a symbol for the Alatyr Stone - an item he and Plamen have hunted for since their days in Lazarevo. The 'g' rune in the last word - bligi - has a set of stone double doors at the bottom. In front of the door stand two stone gryphons, one of which wears a chocker with a green stone around its neck. The door seems to be the only exit from the passage. Vasilisa concentrates on detecting the apples, and is convinced that the party must go down and over in order to claim them. Not wanting them to slip from their grasp, the group decides to go through the doors. Bravely leading the way, Lumir and Boris are surprised when the gryphons suddenly come to life. Poor Boris is grabbed in a monstrous beak and tossed roughly aside. As he lies on the stone floor, the rest of the companions spring into action. Lumir tries to send the monsters to sleep, but to no avail. Plamen resorts to his new tactic - summoning war horses. Drazhan, enraged, mounts one of them, and begins to poke away at the gryphons with his spear. Chonkorchuk blasts them which his witchly power, while Vasilisa engages in knife work. Before long, the gryphons lie dead in front of the gate, and change back to stone. And after many entreaties, the Yokels convince Drazhan to return to fetch the hammer, drag it back to the room, and strike it against the door. Peals of thunder are heard, and the doors swing open. The party now finds itself in another long tunnel with side passages, which form a second line of text. Sasha and Plamen attend to everyone's wounds, and miraculously, manage to revive Boris, who reluctantly trundles along with the group, grunting his displeasure to Lumir, urging him to listen to wisdom and turn back. But the Yokels press on - Plamen's horses will not last long. The words are sochetalasi - 'to have a relationship' or 'to combine'; ogon' - fire; ta - 'and'; vzdukh - 'air', 'breath', or 'spirit'; vo - 'in' or 'into'; plot' - 'flesh' or 'matter'; zharkaya - 'fiery' or 'hot'; and i - 'and'. From left to right - i zharkaya plot' vo vzdukh ta ogon' sochetalasi - 'and fiery/hot flesh/matter in/into air/breath/spirit and fire had a relationship/combined'. As in the previous line, two letter-chambers are significant: the o in plot', and the o in ogon'. Between the two slashes in the o in plot' stands an enormous stone bed with a huge human being in it, snoring away. Pulling back the covers, they discover a giantess, dressed in a skirt and naked from the waste up, and with an enormous bone at her side. After being defiled this way, she wakens, grabs the bone, and brings it down on Plamen, who is barely able to turn away at the last moment, and receives only a glancing blow. The small chamber is filled with a tangle of horse, boar, and humanoid legs, and the Yokels go to work with spear, dagger, blast, and hoof. After recovering from the giantess' strike, Plamen, whose horses have just unfortunately vanished into thin air, conjures up a flaming sphere, and sends it on top of the stone bed. Boris, redeeming himself from the embarrassing encounter with the gryphons, fights valiantly with this tusks. Before long, Chonkorchuk fells the giantess. But what to do next? It is not clear why the giantess was here, Vasilisa insists that the apples are further still in the complex. But there are no obvious ways to delve further. The o in ogon' does have a stone furnace on the floor in the shape of an eight-spoked wheel, with two iron ducts filling the slashes of the o leading away from it, and into the wall. The ducts seem to be solid iron, however, and can't be accessed. The set-up reminds Chonkorchuk of his vision of a forge from the night before, and the lines and the letters all seem to refer to Svarog - a master of the forge. It seems that going further must have something to do with this room. As they ponder their next move, the Yokels discover that the giantess' skirt also has magical power - the patterns of strings sewn into it suggest that it has some sort of fire-related power, and in any case, it seems to have come through the flaming sphere unharmed. Perhaps the thing to do is to start the furnace - but with what fuel? There is a bit of wood in the pit, but it is mostly burned down, and in any case not sufficient for a hot fire. Drazhan is struck by a thought - why not burn the giantess? He returns to the bedchamber, and comes back dragging a giant arm. Not wishing to continue with any of this grizzly business, the Yokels decide to settle for a short nap. Drazhan, wishing to prove his companions wrong, curls up to the hammer and attempts to somehow bond with it, though the skirt also makes for an attractive bed buddy.
- Giant stone hammer
- Giant plaid skirt
- Cave is discovered to be a book
- Two stone gryphons are slain
- The stone hammer is used to open the stone gate guarded by the gryphons
- A giantess is slain