The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 33 - The Return to Vladykino
Before nightfall, Lokan shoots a deer, and after eating a part of it, settles down to spend another night in the woods. After midnight, the alarm he set goes off, and he finds himself face-to-face with four wolves. The vagabond tries to socialize with them, but the wolves seem to be interested in marking territory. They throw themselves at Lokan, and ignominiously, drive him off, to finish the night elsewhere. The next morning, he sets off again, in hopes of finding Malinka. This time, he is more successful, and in the mid-afternoon, he sights the familiar apple tree, and the walls and spires of the estate. Strangely, the gates are ajar, and a smell of human flesh emanates from inside. Lokan wanders into the fastness. The streets and courtyards are littered with partly eaten corpses. As he makes his way toward the church, he sees that the cross has been knocked off the spire, and lies, broken, in the dirt. A familiar figure exits a nearby building, and moves toward him. Kolovul greets Lokan, and asks him why he is there, and where he is going. Lokan tells his fellow wolf about his family, and tells him that he is going to Vladykino, where he spent some time months ago. Kolovul relates the events of the previous night's victory, and then explains that a scouting party is running to Vladykino after sunset, and invites Lokan to join them, if he can rouse himself on time after his lengthy journey. Lokan agrees, and asks about the whereabouts of Grey Wolf. Kolovul tells him that the Master is inside what used to be the church. Lokan enters the building, and sees the enormous wolf sleeping in the middle of the wreckage. He looks around for holy water, but the font has been smashed, so he slinks off to collect unattended trophies, and finds a sabre, four daggers, a fur coat, and a rabbit fur hat. He then goes to sleep in one of the empty huts. In a few hours, Kolovul rouses him, and with several other wolves, they set upon their way.
* * *After riding all night following the attack, Yuri and Agapia reach familiar environs by mid-morning. Most of his native village is still burnt out, but some houses have been rebuilt, and there are obviously people inside the village. But Yuri has more important business - he rides off downstream, and begins to look for a cave that matches the archbishop's description. He rides for another hour, past piles of boulders, before finding a waterfall with a massive stone nearby. Yuri dismounts a little ways away, and, after leaving Agapia to tend to the horse, attempts to move the boulder. It won't budge, so Yuri tries to move the smaller stones nearby. Though he is able to roll these off, he finds a snake underneath each one. The vipers launch themselves at him, and he has to skewer them. Underneath the third stone, he finds a fat, two-headed snake, but also an image of an armed rider carved into the stone. Unsure what to make of this, he collects his companion, and rides back toward Vladykino, to ask the locals if they can make any sense of the meaning, and any information about the cave. After arriving back in the village, Yuri finds about 50 people - some builders from Malinka, others returnees, and their relatives from nearby settlements. Among them are Bogdana and Gleb - Svetlana's aunt and uncle. They are happy to see him, and ask him about his travels since he left home, and about Svetlana's whereabouts. Yuri tells them about his trip south to kill Yaqub, and his recovery of his betrothed, though he is somewhat sheepish talking about where she might be now. He changes the subject to the destruction of Malinka, and says that it is imperative that Gleb helps him recruit men to move the boulder by the waterfall. Otherwise, the Grey Wolf's minions are likely to arrive soon, and make mincemeat out of the people staying in the village. The people are somewhat less than forthcoming - it's not clear whether they buy Yuri's wild story, and they have their own work to do. An old man, who looks out of place here, openly eavesdrop on Yuri's conversations with the able-bodied people. His name is Nil, and he says that he has been living in the woods outside the village, waiting for the right person to gain entrance to the caves the archbishop indicated. He is not sure Yuri is that person - the caves are the resting places of bogatyrs, which presumably means only other bogatyrs can gain entrance there. Yuri doesn't exactly fit the bill - he is socially unconnected (unmarried), has no horse of his own, and it is not clear whether he has great deeds to his name that bards will sing of - Yaqub notwithstanding. For his part, Yuri wonders what Nil is doing in the village, and what exactly his advice amounts to. Tired after a long day, he tells the people to be ready to set off in the morning, and finds a place to sleep in an empty compound.
* * *In the middle of the night, Zorina arrives with Svetlana. The unlikely pair spent the previous night in the woods, but luckily, were unmolested, and after rising in the evening, they walked through the night to arrive at Svetlana's native village. She walks around the rebuilt houses, and soon locates Gleb and Bogdana, who greet her, and tell her of Yuri's arrival. Svetlana goes to sleep with her kin, but Zorina finds her traveling companion before turning in herself. Yuri is happy to hear about their arrival, and after the rest of the village learns about it, they press Yuri to hold an immediate common-law wedding - a priest can be found to make it official later. Yuri is chagrined and annoyed - his difficulties with Svetlana remain unresolved, and his plans regarding the cave seem to be getting sidetracked yet again. But, egged on by relatives and Nil, he goes off to serenade his intended, and after she wakens, she rushes out to him. All is forgiven, and the preparations for the wedding begin. A pig is slaughtered, and Agapia volunteers to officiate. Outside the village, tables and barrels are set up. Agapia climbs one to deliver an oration to the young couple. But before she can begin, Lokan wanders onto the scene. His scouting team just arrived outside the village, and he volunteered to go investigate. Zorina is not terribly happy to see him, suspecting him of treason, and Lokan launches into an apologia of his actions over the last few days. Meanwhile, there is s a scream coming from inside the village, and Yuri immediately rides off to investigate. There, he finds an enormous wolf, who has cornered a woman inside a yard of the nearly empty Vladykino. Despite the fact that he is hurt, Yuri immediately rides in to rescue her. The wolf fells Zorina's horse, but the cossack keeps it at bay with his spear. He makes a few unsuccessful attempts to jump onto its back, but the wolf cannot sink his teeth deeply into the cossack's flesh. After their companion rides off, Lokan and Zorina listen to Nil's story about the doom of the bogatyrs due to pride and stubbornness - sins to which he suspects Yuri also succumbs. But after the rider fails to return, his two companions follow him back into the village, and find him engaged with a wolf. Zorina is aghast at her horse's plight, and cures it, before beginning to fire at the wolf. Lokan hesitates about what to do: following the Grey Wolf sounded like a worthy calling, a redemption of his whole prior life; but he had already crossed his family, and would he be prepared to betray Yuri, Agapia, and the others? There is little time to think, so he leaps into action against the wolf. Surrounded and pressed on three sides, the wolf transforms into Kolovul, spits at Lokan and calls him a traitor, and then begins to fight back. At one point, he manages to push both Yuri and Lokan away, and tries to make his way out of the yard, but Yuri's spear blocks his way again. Seizing Yuri's spear after losing his own sabre, Kolovul makes one last attempt to fight his way out, but in vain - Zorina has caused roots and stones to poke out of the ground to slow his progress, and the three companions finally bring him down. Zorina heals her comrades and seizes Kolovul's money pouch and his sword. As the other villagers gather to learn of what happened, Yuri scolds them for not believing his tale - the Grey Wolf's lieutenant now lies in front of them, proving the truth of his admonitions to make haste.
- 4 daggers, sabre, coat, fur hat (Lokan)
- 8 rubles 39 kopecks
- Yuri, Lokan, Zorina, Agapia and Svetlana reach Vladykino
- The entrance to the secret cave is found (?)
- Kolovul is defeated