Junak did what was required of him, and threw the fish back into the water. It plunged and disappeared, but he paid little attention to it, so occupied was he with his own thoughts. In the far distance could be seen the rocks of the Island of Eternal Life, but there seemed no way of reaching it. Leaning on his club he thought and thought, and ever as he thought he grew sadder and sadder.

"What is the matter, Prince Junak? Has anything vexed you?" asked his horse.

"How can I help grieving when, while in sight of the island, I can go no further? How can we cross the sea?"

The Spirit Of The Steppes Part 4 35

"Get on my back, prince, I will be your bridge; only take care to hold on tight".

The prince held firmly to its mane, and the horse leapt into the sea. At first they were plunged right beneath the waves, but rising again to the surface swam easily across. The sun was about to set when the prince dismounted on the Island of Eternal Life. He first took off his horse's harness, and leaving him to browse on the green grass, hurried to the top of a distant hill, whence he could see a large oak. Without losing a moment he hastened towards it, seized the tree with both hands, pulled at it with all his might, and after the most violent efforts tore it up by the roots from the place it had filled for centuries. The tree groaned and fell, and the hole in which it had been planted appeared like an immense case. Right at the bottom of this case was a coffer bound with iron. The prince took it up, broke the lock by striking it with a stone, opened it and seized the hare that was trying to make its escape. The grey duck that had lain underneath flew off towards the sea: the prince fired, struck the bird, the latter dropped its egg into the sea, and both were swallowed by the waves. Junak gave a cry of despair and rushed to the beach. At first he could see nothing. After a few minutes there was a slight movement of the waves, while upon the surface swam the fish whose life he had saved. It came towards him, right on to the sand, and dropping the lost egg at his feet, said: "You see, prince, I have not forgotten your kindness, and now I have found it in my power to be of service to you".

Having thus spoken it disappeared in the water. The prince took the egg, mounted his horse, and crossing the sea with his heart full of hope, journeyed towards the island where Princess Sudolisu kept watch over her sleeping subjects in the Enchanted Palace. The latter was surrounded by a wall, and guarded by the Dragon with Twelve Heads. Now these heads went to sleep in turn, six at a time, so it was impossible to take him unawares or to kill him, for that could be done only by his own blows.

On reaching the palace gates Junak sent his invisible club forward to clear the way, whereupon it threw itself upon the dragon, and began to beat all the heads unmercifully. The blows came so thick and fast that the body was soon crushed to pieces. Still the dragon lived and beat the air with its claws. Then it opened its twelve jaws from which darted pointed tongues, but it could not lay hold of the invisible club. At last, tormented on all sides and filled with rage, it buried its sharp claws in its own body and died. The prince then entered the palace gates, and having put his faithful horse in the stables and armed himself with his invisible club, made his way for the tower in which the princess was shut up. On seeing him she cried out, "Prince, I rejoiced to see your victory over the dragon. There is yet a more terrible foe to conquer, and he is my jailor, the cruel Kostey. Beware of him, for if he should kill you, I shall throw myself out of window into the precipice beneath".

"Be comforted, my princess: for in this egg I hold the life or death of Kostey".

Then turning to the invisible club, he said, "Press forward, my invisible club; strike your best, and rid the earth of this wicked giant".

The club began by breaking down the iron doors, and thus reached Kostey. The giant was soon so crippled with blows that his teeth were smashed, lightnings flashed from his eyes, and he rolled round and round like a pin-cushion. Had he been a man he must have died under such treatment. But he was no man, this master of sorcery. So he managed to get on his feet and look for his tormentor. The blows from the club rained hard upon him all the time, and with such effect that his groans could be heard all over the island. On approaching the window he saw Prince Junak.

"Ah, wretch!" cried the ogre, "it is you, is it, who torments me in this way!" and he prepared to blow upon him with his poisonous breath. But the prince instantly crushed the egg between his hands, the shell broke, the white and yellow mingled and flowed to the ground, and Kostey died.

As the sorcerer breathed his last, the enchantments vanished and the sleeping islanders awoke. The army, once more afoot, advanced with beating drums to the palace, and everything fell into its accustomed place. As soon as Princess Sudolisu was freed from her prison she held out her white hand to her deliverer, and thanking him in the most touching words, led him to the throne and placed him at her side. The twelve maids of honour having chosen young and brave warriors, ranged themselves with their lovers round the queen. Then the doors were thrown open, and the priests in their robes entered, bearing a golden tray of wedding rings. Thereupon the marriage ceremony was gone through, and the lovers united in God's name.

After the wedding there were feasting and music and dancing, as is usual on such occasions, and they all enjoyed themselves. It makes one glad to think how happy they were, and what a glorious time they had after their misfortunes.