The Treasures of Lake Vaal

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“Today, everything should happen today ...” – Ruth thought, once again coming to the window and peering into the night sky. It was covered with the dark clouds. And only the moon from time to time appeared from the thick and gray clouds. Suddenly blew a gusty wind. It became stronger and even the centuries - old trees had to incline to the ground. It tore off their leaves, lifted them high above the ground and was spinning them in a whirlwind of dance. The wind liked to do this. To show its admiration it uttered the prolonged hissing sounds. The wind enjoyed the freedom, unbridled power and the absence of the obstacles in its way.

The howling of the wind was heard from the chimney. In a moment the fire died out in the hearth. The friends of Ruth – a hedgehog Chifa, a fox Eka, a hair Trasis with the leverets Ven and Lud and a hawk Ray – hid in fear, snuggling against each other, anxiously watching their mistress. Ruth once again went up to the window. The element was raging outside. The gusty winds opened the shutters. A large nut in a gilded nutshell rolled on the floor. “It's Ashera! The Queen Ashera! She probably wants to give me the message!” – Ruth thought, sitting at the table and opening the nut. There was a note in the nut: “When the lightning in the sky sparkles for the third time, it will show you the direction of the way”.

It was still and quiet for a moment. Then the lightning flashed in the sky and everyone could hear the peals of thunder. Ruth ran to the window, trying to find out the direction from which the lightning started its way. “The first, the second ...” – she repeated to herself. The heart was beating with excitement. The lightning appeared in the sky for the third time. Its reflection was so strong that it seemed as if the element cut it into two parts. “But it shows to the northeast! It is so far away! And there must have been so many obstacles!” – flashed through the Ruth’s mind. She was so nervous, that she began pacing the room, thinking about something. Then she stopped as if she finally made a decision. Ruth came to the trunk and a small casket was pulled out from its bottom.

For the last time the inhabitants of this house gathered at the large table. The house was once built by Ruth and the inhabitants of the forest instead of the burned house of the Woodcutter, who loved all the animals and birds – his friends. He helped and protected them and they kept the memory of him.

Ruth opened the casket and carefully took out the necklace and unusual old coin. No one could say something perspicuous about this coin that illustrated a face with a stuck out tongue on the one side and wheel with four spokes on the other. Even the old people just shrugged their shoulders, when they saw it.

Then Ruth unwound a rolled-up message that sounded: “There will be a day and hour, when the time comes to go on a long journey to unravel the mystery of the treasures. At first a strong wind will blow. It will bring an important message. With the help of it you will find the right direction. When you see the lightning in the sky, you should go on the road. Get a cloak from the old trunk. The cloak is magical. And don’t forget to take an umbrella. It also has a magic power”. The ancient manuscripts illustrated a circle divided into parts. Each of them included a picture: a meandering line, a cross and the vertical bars. In one of the parts there was a small sign circled a few times and consisted of two intersecting arcs. The whole winter Ruth and her friends had tried to figure out the meaning of this circle. Then they understood that it was the ancient calendar, where people marked the months and seasons of each year.

Ruth looked out of the window. The peals of thunder became even stronger. Because of the lightning it was as bright as day. “Everything that is written in the ancient manuscripts is true. The time has come!” – Ruth said aloud. She came to the old trunk and took out her cloak and umbrella. No one knew how long had they been there. It was a mystery that had been kept for centuries. Ruth put the necklace together with the coin in a little canvas bag, tightened it with a silver ribbon and hung on her neck.

She took everything that she needed in her way. Her friends decided to accompany Ruth in her way to the clearing, where grew an old oak. Further Ruth would go along.

All night and all day they went through the dense forest. Then there was one more night. When the fog covered the ground, the travelers heard a strange noise. They strained their ears. “Ruth .. Ruth .. you have come ...” – someone whispered. Suddenly the fog turned into the cloud, which had been growing all the time until it began to acquire the visible outlines. Soon everyone could see the bushy horns and great strong body of a beautiful Moose. The Moose looked at the travelers with her wonderful eyes. She bended the knee and said in a low voice: “The time has come, my lady. It is moving rapidly, we cannot assume that it overtakes us”.

The friends of Ruth began to cry. They had never stayed alone before. But it was time for Ruth to go. What if she would be in danger and her new friends would not be able to protect her? The hawk Ray was making circles in disturbance as though he wanted to make sure that the path was clear.

Ruth embraced her friends for the last time. Each of them was dear to her. Everyone received a special task. Ruth gave an apple stone to each of her friends, so that they took care of the apple stone instead of grieving for her. On returning home she hoped to see a beautiful apple orchard.

– I have to follow this difficult way to unlock the secret of the necklace and coin. According to the words written in the manuscripts, it is the right time for them and there is something important they want to tell us. The Guardian of the Earth will definitely tell me something about the treasures. The moose Indra will help me to find my way to him! – Ruth said.

She looked at her friends for the last time, put on her long cloak with a hood and disappeared in the fog together with the Moose. The friends of Ruth remained standing in the middle of the clearing with the sad faces.

Ruth followed the Moose. In some time the fog lifted.

– Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!... Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!... – the laugh was heard from everywhere.

Ruth stood. So did Indra. The Moose was listening to the strange sounds, directing the horns from one place to another. The laugh became louder. Suddenly they saw the funny little men in striped linen trousers running on all sides. They laughed with their ringing voices, deftly jumping over the stumps and snags. They were glad to see the travelers and to show it they tossed up their hats made of straw. Soon the travelers saw a mischievous Pereplut. He was famous for his talent to amuse everyone he met. In this way Pereplut wanted to deceive travelers, to lure them in his possessions by giving them a goblet of the heady honey, so that they stayed with him forever. He was bored. That’s why he wanted to have a company. “Can it really be true that we have crossed the line? – flashed through the Ruth’s mind. – Has the foggy road led us so far?” As soon as she thought about this, Ruth heard a hissing sound coming from the ground and saw the puffs of the steam.

The wind lifted them up and they disappeared into the air space. “The fault! This is the fault mentioned in the manuscripts. So, here is the line between the past and the present!” – that was the only thing, which Ruth managed to note.

The travelers were surrounded by a dense ring of the laughing creatures on all sides. They giggled, pulled the hem of Ruth’s dress and jumped. Someone was climbing up the umbrella. Pereplut offered a goblet of the heady honey to the Moose. Indra began to sniff. The smell was magnificent. She was ready to try the drink.

Ruth tried to beat off the little men, but there were a lot of them. She could not even take a step to stop Indra. “The umbrella! The magic umbrella!” – Ruth remembered about the umbrella and immediately opened it. The laughing men disappear as well as Pereplut. They were standing alone in the middle of a big clearing. The Moose looked at Ruth guiltily.

– We must hurry! The time shouldn’t overtake us. There can be a lot of obstacles on our way. – Ruth said in a firm voice. She looked around. “Yes, it is not a mistake. The true life has remained on the other side of the fault. Here begins the past. The glacier has not reached this place. This is the beginning of the ancient land, which conceals a great number of secrets and mysteries. The glacier could not bury them all under its meltwater.”

Indra looked at the sky. The fog had already cleared away. The sun rays struggled through the clouds. The Moose nervously looked in the direction of Ruth, who was thinking about something, though she had to hurry. It couldn’t be allowed that the time overtook her.

Meanwhile Ruth was standing not far from the fault, trying to determine the age of this ancient land.

“It all happened a long time ago, probably a few million years ago...” – Ruth recalled the words of the ancient manuscripts. “The glaciers occupied a large territory of the planet. Then the warming started and the ice began to melt. The meltwater was moving through the mountains and plains covered the huge areas. But then it was cold again and the meltwater froze not far from the fault.”

Indra knocked the ground with her hoof, because the Woodsman went out of the wood. The Moose kneeled and said quietly: “Follow him. He will help you not to get lost in the wood. And then there will be the hills and the Bald Mountain. When you cross the Bald Mountain, you will see the grove with the unusual high oak trees. There will be the path leading to the Guardian of the Earth. Unfortunately, it is a difficult task to find this path, because the oak trees are very much alike. Follow your heart and it will help you to find the right direction. If you have the good intentions, the Guardian of the Earth will allow you to enter his possessions. If not, no one will ever know where they are.”

Ruth did not have an opportunity to say goodbye to Indra, because the Moose disappeared.

– Indra! Indra! – Ruth could only exclaim.

The Woodsman flashed through the pines. He smiled his broad, good-natured smile, beckoning Ruth. She rushed after him, running from one tree to another, afraid to lose the scent of him. When she suddenly left alone, looking around and not knowing which way to choose, the Woodsman appeared in front of her, smiled and beckoned her. In some time the wood became rarer. The Woodsman looked at Ruth with his kind eyes and disappeared. She hastened her steps, heading toward the bald mountain. Ruth walked through the meadows and plains full of flowers. They were so beautiful that Ruth was admiring them. Every flower knew that it was handsome. That’s why each one tried to prove to the other flowers that it was the most beautiful in the world.

– Ah, this self-loving Narcissus! He really thinks that he is the most beautiful! – the White Tulip laughed, turning towards the sun to look more elegant.

– The Narcissus! The Narcissus! – the Blue, Yellow and Red Tulips took up the words of the White Tulip, bursting into laughter.

– Stop this nonsense! – the Peony resented, shaking his magnificent lush mane. – Do you really think that the beauty of the Narcissus or the Tulips can be compared with my beauty? Look at me! Peonies are represented in a riot of colors! White, red, pink! Everyone knows that the drops of my nectar have cured Pluto, the god of the underworld, who has been wounded by Hercules!

– There you go again! – the Tulips giggled. – Don’t forget that the goddess Flora has given you a description of a stupid and pompous flower! Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha ... From your point of view even the Roses are ugly! But when the flowers saw Ruth, they immediately stopped their bickering and greeted her.

Ruth was welcomed by the Bluebells with their gentle chime. The Roses smiled to her. The Peony looked very noble, as if there hadn’t been the dispute on the topic of beauty.

– Do not quarrel, my dear, – Ruth said, embracing the flowers. – You are so beautiful, but everyone is special. Do not argue who is better. The world wouldn’t be so bright without any of you!

After these words the heroes of the bickering thought about their unique beauty. The recognition of this fact made them look even more attractive. Ruth smile at everyone and bowed. Then she had to continue her way.

Ruth climbed up the Bald Mountain that was called “bald”, because there was no greenery on it. Soon she saw the oak grove with the high trees, the foliage of which went far into the sky. They were very old. Indra told the truth: their beauty was amazing. Ruth had never seen such trees before.

Ruth was admiring the grove for some time, not daring to enter. In some time she carefully came to one tree, then to another. She wanted to touch every oak tree to hear its breathing, heartbeat, to feel its soul. Hugging a tree, Ruth was standing beside it for a long time. Each tree was dear to her and she didn’t want to leave it. And it welcomed Ruth with the whispering of the foliage. But there were a lot of oak trees here. Ruth wanted to hug all of them and to give them her love.

Her heart told her that every tree is fraught with the unusual force: a beautiful and kind, wise and gentle ...And to choose the best one was simply impossible. “Indra, what were the words of Indra? Is it possible to determine the best oak trees? All of them are precious! They give the force to the earth! And it is just awful when someone kills a tree!” – Ruth uttered in despair. She was in turmoil. “I love you, my dear oaks! My heart feels that I have come to you, strong and mighty, good and glorious! You are all dear to me! Perhaps the Guardian of the Earth won’t let me in his possessions, but I love each of you!” – Ruth shouted into the air, moving from one tree to another and embracing oaks. Her voice went up as far as the crowns of the ancient oaks could hear it. Then Ruth stopped and silence hung over the grove.

Suddenly she heard the noise coming out of the ground. It seemed that someone was opening the old and rusty lock. The earth slowly moved apart and Ruth saw a forged door with a large ring in the middle. It was old and covered with a greenery and moss. Ruth pulled the ring. But the door was so heavy and it was difficult to open it. “What can I do?” – Ruth said, looking around. But there was no one there. Ruth pulled the ring once again, but the result was the same. “ The umbrella!

Of course, the umbrella!” – flashed through her mind. Ruth touched the door with the tip of the umbrella and it opened. Hardly had she crossed a threshold as the door closed. Ruth saw the steps made of the roots of the unknown trees. She couldn’t see the end of the steps. Suddenly the torches, fixed to the wall, flashed with a bright light. The passage was covered with the cobwebs. The inhabitants of the underworld, who used to live in the dark, were trying to hide from the light. A blind mole left the passage the last. A bat flew close to Ruth, almost touching her.

Ruth was afraid to move. She listened in silence. Ruth didn’t see anything suspicious and took a step forward. The way was blocked with the cobweb. She tried to tear it, but it was too dense. Then Ruth touched it with the umbrella and the cobweb was torn. Unfortunately Ruth was able to overcome only one step, because the cobweb blocked the way again.

Ruth did not remember how long time it took to walk down to the last step, cutting the cobwebs with the umbrella. When she felt the firm ground under her feet, she saw one more forged door with a strange pattern in the middle. Ruth was confused and did not know what to do. The magic power of the umbrella wasn’t enough to open this heavy door. “What can I do?” – she said in despair.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and Ruth saw a ghost. It was coming nearer and nearer to her. And, finally, the profile of the White Monk became visible. Only instead of his face there was the haze. The ghost came up to the door and touched the pattern with the big silver ring with a seal. The door opened noiselessly and the White Monk went through the wall in his unknown world.

Ruth ran down the steps made of stone and appeared in the middle of a huge hall. On all sides there were people, who, judging by their clothes, came from different eras. Ruth was confused. Everyone was smiling to her and whispering the kind words. “Don’t look in their eyes! Don’t look in their eyes! Otherwise, you can get under spell!” – Ruth repeated, pushing them away and rushing forward to a bright light. But they were everywhere. Ruth felt tired, she wanted to stop and lie down.

“It is Mara1! The insidious Mara is blocking my way!” – Ruth thought. She tried not to fall asleep. But it was difficult. “The goddess Mara is evil! She tortures people with the nightmarish dreams. It has become the obstacle on my way! The envy darkened has her mind. She does not want that people to be happy and see only the beautiful and cheerful dreams! No! I should definitely visit the Guardian of the Earth,” – Ruth tried to persuade herself not to fall asleep. More people appeared in the hall. “The cloak! My magic cloak! It will help me to become invisible.”

Ruth put on her cloak and disappeared. When she took it off, she appeared in front of the entrance to the smithy. It was huge. After each impact of the hammer by someone strong and invisible the bright flames flared from all sides. They lit up everything around and then lifted up. Only a hissing sound was heard from there as if the water fell on a hot griddle. Ruth started back, pressing herself to the wall, not knowing the way to go through the fire. “It is Zhizhel, the god of fire, in his smithy. He is forging the weapon to defeat Perun2! Yes, it is Zhizhel!” – Ruth said. She took out a piece of bacon and threw it into the flames. It was the offering to the fire. The flames immediately disappeared.

– Zhizhel! Stop it! You're trying so hard in your underground smithy that you can overheat the earth. If it happens, it will be a drought that can destroy everything! – Ruth cried.

– Ruth! I should hurry! You know that the power of Perun lasts from the first to the last storm! And then he goes to sleep till the spring and I won’t have an opportunity to reckon with him for everything! – Ruth heard the voice coming from the depths of a huge smithy.

– But you had fought with Perun before! And what? While you was forging the weapon, the land was drying up because of you fire. Then you came out of your smithy and Perun shot his arrows at you. The Earth suffered from the heavy rains and thunder. Stop it! Don’t do this! – Ruth insisted.

It became silent in the smithy. Zhizhel was thinking about something.

– Ruth! If you are here it means that something has happened! – Ruth heard.

– Yes! Help me to get to the Guardian of the Earth! It's time to unveil the mystery of the treasures that can tell us a lot of things about the world we live in!

Then was another minute of silence.

– Well, Ruth, I'll help you! – he cried at last. His voice was so loud that its waves almost knocked Ruth down.

She pressed herself to the wall, clutching the magic cloak and umbrella to the chest and protecting the bag that was on her neck.

– I'll help you! – Zhizhel promised.

He blew with a force toward the opposite wall. The flames appeared and the wall opened. Ruth ran the passage in the wall.

– But I will reckon with Perun anyway! I can break down his arrows-lightning! – Zhizhel persisted.

– Everyone should live in harmony with all the gods and spirits! Then it will be a piece in the world! – Ruth shouted in response.

She left the wall behind her. She was standing on the road paved with the cobblestones. Ruth looked back. It was so beautiful everywhere. The birds were singing on the trees that grew along the road. The meadows were cover with a carpet of the wonderful flowers. “The Adonis, coltsfoot, lungwort...Here is a lily! – Ruth admired. – This flower is so beautiful and graceful. The golden water that helps people with their illnesses is made of it. Every flower has a healing power in this land! This place is the kingdom of flowers!”

The Butterfly with the bright and unusual wings sat on Ruth’s shoulder. Then the Butterfly circled around Ruth and the blue and yellow-brown colors on the wings also played with the golden tints. The Butterfly beckoned Ruth. She rushed after the Butterfly and soon came to a large stone grotto3.. The Butterfly waved the wings several times, saying goodbye to Ruth, and flew back to the valley of flowers.

Ruth saw a big and fat Caterpillar with a beautiful striped belly and a back of the same color. First she stretched herself annoyed that someone disturbed her at the most inappropriate moment and broke a sweet dream. Then she looked at the stranger.

– Mireya, my name is Mireya, – she said coquettishly, admiring herself. The Caterpillar moved her antennae, thinking about something. She crawled to the door that blocked the entrance to the grotto. The Caterpillar rose to her full height and grabbed the ring, hanging on it. The door opened. The Caterpillar waved her antennae, inviting Ruth to enter.

A little old man with the long grave hair was sitting at a large wooden table in the middle of the stone grotto. He was reading an old book, slowly droving the pointer over the lines and repeating aloud what was written there.

– That's it! It was the last words. Now Ruth should enter the grotto! – he muttered under his breath. And then he tore himself away from the book, looked at the door and said: “Here you are! You have come, Ruth! I'm waiting for you! The time has come for our meeting.”

– Yes, the Queen Ashera has given me a sign, – Ruth said. – And here I am.

The little old man easily jumped off a high wooden chair and said: “I am the Guardian of the Earth! It is a pleasure to meet you!” Then he put his pince-nez glasses and looked at Ruth, saying: “That's how you look like, Ruth! I have heard a lot of positive things about you!”

Ruth was standing still, studying the old man. She imagined the Guardian of the Earth as a strong man, formidable and severe or even unapproachable. But the old man, who was standing in front of her, was kind and open-hearted. He had a wonderful friendly smile and was glad to meet Ruth. “Perhaps the power of a great man is in his kindness and simplicity as well as in his love to all that surrounds him. And it is no matter what appearance he has,” – Ruth said. No one knew how many centuries he had lived in this stone grotto. Probably since the time, when Yarylo, the god of the sun, had pierced the dark, covering the sleeping Earth with his rays. Then the Earth awoke filled with the sunlight and vitality. And Yarylo exclaimed: “Love me, Mother Earth! For your love I will give you the blue seas and lakes, yellow sands and green grass. I will reward you with the wonderful flowers and animals.” Ruth and her friends knew this legend very well. It was also known that Yarylo appointed the Guardian to take care of the Earth. He should maintain order of each corner all year round. Yarylo used to fall asleep till the spring. In spring he awoke and was riding the bluish clouds – his horses, driving them on with the golden reins that were the lightning. He awakened the Earth and everything came to life: the fields, meadows and dense forests. It was also a busy time for the Guardian of the Earth, who should watch over the inhabitants of the Earth.

He was smiling at Ruth with his good-natured smile, but his eyes were anxious.

– I know, I know, the time has come. We should unveil the mystery of the treasures that you have brought. Their time has come, – he muttered, pulling out a key from his linen shirt. It was hung on a thick twisted rope that was around his neck. The key was so big and heavy that Ruth tried to help the Guardian of the Earth. But she could hardly hold it. “What force has this old man?!” – she thought. When he finally got it, he drew himself up and even became bigger.

– I haven’t used the key for a long time, – the Guardian of the Earth said happily, groaning with pleasure.

Ruth looked around. “But what should be opened with this big key?” – she thought.

The Guardian of the Earth outlined a circle in the air with his arm and a wall appeared in front of them. There was a large lock in the middle of the wall. The old man took the key with both hands and put it in the keyhole. The lock easily opened.

They were standing in a big library with a great number of bookcases filled with the old books. The wise men were sitting at a long table covered with different manuscripts. They were focused on their work, paying no attention to anything around.

The Guardian of the Earth waved his hand and a silver bell emerged from the air. The old man ran the bell and the wise men raised their heads for a moment, nodding apologetically. Someone shrugged his shoulders at a loss.

– Our old books from the most ancient library can’t give the answer to the question about the origin of the treasures that you have brought. Not a word! Even in the manuscripts that have preserved from that time. – the Guardian of the Earth said with the annoyance in his voice.

– But how have they appeared here? – Ruth was at a loss.

– If we find out something about them, we will unveil the mystery of the place from which they have been brought in our world. These treasures show that there a lot of things that we don’t know. – the old man said thoughtfully.

– What do we do? – Ruth asked in disturbance.

– We should go to the Chief Scientist. – the Guardian of the Earth said ringing the bell.

The wise men in the library again became absorbed in the old books and he outlined a circle in the air with his arm. A gap appeared in the wall and the White Monk floated through it. The White Monk bowed to the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth and beckoned them. Ruth took a step forward and the gap suddenly disappeared. They were standing at the foot of a tower. It was so high that went far into the sky, disappearing behind the clouds. The tower was situated on a small island. When

Ruth came to the edge of the island, she saw that there was the emptiness under it. The island was flying above the ground. Ruth looked questioningly at the Guardian of the Earth.

– People somehow think that there is only one world – the world where they live. But there are other worlds that surround us, – he said slyly.

– But how to recognize them? They're invisible! – Ruth tried to understand where they were and what was happening.

– We should be very careful and listen attentively to understand that we are not alone. There is the underground world, the world of the good and evil spirits. There is a place where live the souls of those, who have left the world of the living people. There are a lot of other worlds. Everything is interconnected and cannot exist separately. The inhabitants of the parallel worlds help us in difficult situations, giving an answer through our inner voice. You should only understand the laws, by which they are arranged. The Chief Scientist in the invisible country knows all the laws and he will definitely tell you how to unveil the mystery of the ancient treasures and with them the secrets of that land, – the old man said cryptically. – I'm only the Guardian of the Earth, – he added, smiling apologetically. Then he added: “We should visit the Chief Scientist and ask him about everything. He lives in this tower.”

– But how do we get there? – wondered Ruth. – There is no entrance in this tower!

The Guardian of the Earth smiled slyly and outlined a circle in the air. The arch with the gates appeared in the wall. There were two guards close to it. They are invited the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth to enter, bowing to them. No sooner had they set foot on the wooden platform than it slowly went up. The tower was high, that’s why it took a long time to get to its top. There were many floors in the tower. Each of them was filled with people involved in their important affairs. Everyone was busy with his task: someone was drawing different signs and pictures on the wall; someone was doing the experiments with the liquids in the flasks... The Chief Scientist was observing the stars in his huge telescope. In his cell4 that was located at the top of the tower there were many items unknown to Ruth. On the table there was a set of the magnifying glasses and loops of different sizes. The telescope was situated at the window. Everywhere there were books, maps and drawings.

Ruth carefully came closer to the Chief Scientist in order to ask him about everything. But he was focused on his work not noticing anything around.

– Can we have a minute of your attention? – the Guardian of the Earth spoke cautiously, coming nearer to the Chief Scientist. He was muttering to himself, continuing to observe the starry sky and then suddenly shouted with the voice full of happiness: “I found it! I found it! I found it!” And when he finally tore oneself away from the telescope to write down his observations, he was surprised to see the guests in his cell.

– Please, could you help us? – Ruth asked, giving the ancient coin to the Chief Scientist.

When he saw the coin, he could not hide his surprise.

– What an interesting coin, it's so rare! So, let me see! – he said.

Such a genuine interest and curiosity reflected on his face that the guests didn’t dare to disturb him, waiting for what he would say. The Chief Scientist was thinking about something. Then he began to inspect the coin under the magnifying glass.

– What are the interesting signs, resembling the straight lines! – he exclaimed, getting into the swing. – The Runes5, the writings of the Normans – the ancient people who lived in the north, they are reminiscent of the runes, – he muttered to himself. – No, not the runes! – finally he came to a conclusion and got the old book and map from the shelf.

The Chief Scientist absorbed in studying. In some time Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth heard a cry: “The amphora6! The ancient Greek amphora! It can unveil the secret of these treasures! Yes, yes! It is the Greek amphora!” Then he turned to Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth:

– The Queen Ashera has given a sign! The time has come to unveil the mystery! – he said with excitement. – We must hurry! Ashera has the ancient amphora that has been left by the Greeks in this land many centuries ago. They were trading with the whole world, including the lands between the Dnieper River and the Eridanus River!

– The Eridanus River? But where is it? – asked Ruth with excitement in her voice.

The Chief Scientist began to turn over the pages of the book.

– Here, look, – he said, moving the book closer to the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth, reading aloud the words written: “Ovid, the Roman poet, tells us about a wonderful young man named Phaethon, who asked his father Helios, the Greek god of the sun, to allow him to drive the Sun Chariot harnessed four horses. First Helios disagreed, realizing how difficult and dangerous it was, but finally gave in to his son. When Phaethon took the harness in his hands, four horses ceased to obey him feeling the insecure of the young man. And the horses bolted the frightened Phaeton around the world, flying up and down. The Sun Chariot burnt everything on its way. The Zeus struck him with the lightning and the body of Phaethon fell into the Eridanus River! "

– And what does it mean? – Ruth became nervous.

The Chief Scientist was turning the pages of his old books.

“And here is another Greek philosopher and Hesiod, his student. They wrote that the body of Phaeton fell in the water of the Eridanus River! And the Eridanus River is another name of the Dvina River!” – he said solemnly. “Here, on this page, are written all the ancient names of this river. Even those, who lived in the north, in Scandinavia, knew about it. In their stories about the journeys to the Eridanus called sagas they mentioned the Dvina that had a lot of names: the Rubon, the Rudon, the Duna, the Dina and the Vina!” – he said triumphantly.

The Guardian of the Earth even jumped with delight.

– I knew it! We have the cleverest scientist! That’s why he is the Chief Scientist!

Ruth was at a loss.

– So, the amphora can be the Greek one, because the ancient Greeks traded with people who lived between the Dnieper and the Dvina. But it wasn’t the only thing that they did! – added the Chief Scientist, smiling mysteriously. He quickly came to the big old bookcase and took a plate made of birch bark from the shelf.

– Only few of such plates have preserved in the world, – he said, blowing off the age-old dust. – It was difficult for me to unveil the secret of the images depicted on it. But everything is clear now. It is written that a Greek trader sailed along the Dnieper in the direction of the Turunt River to find the ancient treasures.

Ruth stared at the Guardian of the Earth and the Chief Scientist, who saw her uncomprehending look and showed her the old map.

– As you see, here is depicted the Turunt, – he said.

– But here is the Polota River, – said Ruth.

– That's right, the Turunt is the ancient name of the Polota, – with joy in his voice said the Chief Scientist. – So, on the old maps it is marked by the name of the Turunt!

– The treasures are connected with the name of Ishtar, the goddess of power and love. The Greeks called her Astarte. She had a lot of treasures. But one day they were stolen by people, who came from the place over three seas: the Black, the Aegean and the Mediterranean. The thieves went far to the north along the river Turunt to sell the treasures to the Normans, who could give a great sum of money. The images on the plate illustrate this story, – the Chief Scientist said quietly, looking around.

– There were a great number of jewelries and such ancient coins as you have, Ruth. On most of these coins were the images of the temple of the goddess Astarte! Then the powerful Slavic tribe of Krivichy came to this land from the west. The tribe settled in the upper reaches of the Dnieper, the Neman, the Dvina and the Volga. There also lived the Baltic tribes, or the Balts, as they were called, – he added.

– And what happened later? – asked Ruth.

– This is the subject of our subsequent study! – said the Chief Scientist. – It is written that later was a battle. The Normans were strong and wanted to get the treasures by deception. The thieves of the treasures had to give up. Defeating, they decided to save the treasures. They couldn’t take the treasures with them. That’s why they buried the treasures in the ground hoping to come back here again. They made a map of the place, put it in the amphora and took with them. They also took the coins and necklace to pay off in case of the attack of the enemy.

– Well then, the enemy attacked those people, – mused Ruth.

–How do you know? – asked the Chief Scientist.

– One early morning I heard the resounding gobble. The big fat turkeys came to the clearing, – Ruth began her story.

– They were arguing about something, – she went on. – Finally the leader of the turkey flocks came forward and laid the necklace on the steps of my house. He was very nervous and told that when he was searching the seeds in the grass, he also found a coin.

Hardly had I hidden the necklace and coin in the casket as I heard the thunder and saw the lightning. The gusty wind opened the window and a large nut in a gilded nutshell rolled on the floor. There was a note from the Queen Ashera: “Preserve these things! They have a secret. When their time comes, I'll let you know.”

It was quiet in the cell. The Chief Scientist was thinking about something. Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth were afraid to disturb him. “If the Queen Ashera has given a sign, it means that the treasures are still there was never found to the Greek, who went looking for him,” – thought Ruth. The Guardian of the Earth nodded assent as if he understood her thoughts. He was sure of it too.

– Ashera! Only Ashera can shed light on the mystery of the treasures! If she has the amphora, they are in her power! – finally said the Chief Scientist, hiding the old book with the map in the bookcase. – The possessions of Ashera are far away. She is clever, artful and power-loving. Ashera has a great magical power. – he added, turning to his telescope to observe the celestial infinite space – the Universe. The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth stepped on a wooden platform that slowly went down.

The school for boys in the possessions of the Guardian of the Earth.

– I think, that something important will happen today, – Yas said quietly, referring to his friend Yuras.

– Yes, if the arrogant and self-loving Cockatoo has assumed the stately pose, we can surely expect the important news, – whispered Yuras.

It was unusually quiet in a large room with a vaulted stone ceiling. At school in the possessions of the Guardian of the Earth the pupils mastered different skills, including the studying of the centuries-old traditions of their ancestors and practicing various old crafts. The boys had a very competitive nature. Before their classes they used to practice their skills. Someone could become invisible and suddenly appeared in front of the other person. Some pupils could read the thoughts of each other. Sometimes the pupils could also get the information talking to the birds.

On that day everyone was waiting not only for the news, but also for the severe test. They knew a lot and could do a lot, but on that day it was coming something that they could not even guess. The boys were looking anxiously toward Yas and Yuras, who were among the best pupils. “Will the friends become the leaders at this time?” – a lot of boys asked themselves. At this school the envy was considered as the character trait of the weak people. Only those, who had no the power of will, purpose in life and who didn’t want to make something really important in their life, could turn into the envious people. Such pupils had to leave this school. Here everyone wanted to be strong in spirit and enduring. The exams gave the opportunity to find the strongest one.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and the boys saw the Guardian of the Earth together with Ruth. Behind them there was the Chief Rector. The boys dressed in the black robes with the white collars and the square caps on their heads greeted them standing.

– I declare the exams for all the pupils! – proclaimed the Guardian of the Earth.

– I declare! I declare! – immediately began to shout the Cockatoo. He was close to the Guardian of the Earth, when he announced about the important decisions. Then the Cockatoo assumed the stately pose not only to look handsome with the white feathers and the red spots on the head, but also to be more significant proclaiming something important.

“We should choose the ace of aces and organize the competition among them. The Supreme Council of the Rectors will identify two pupils. The winners will go in search of the amphora. It is situated in the possessions of the Queen Ashera and is guarded by her personal guards!”

“Two pupils! Two pupils!” – triumphantly repeated the Cockatoo, who was proud of his work. When the Guardian of the Earth ended his speech, he went to the balcony with Ruth to watch the competitions and the Cockatoo took a large envelope and flew around the huge hall. He gave the envelope to the Chief Rector and again assumed the stately pose.

The pupils took their seats at the long wooden tables and were waiting for the actions of the Chief Rector.

– I declare the first and the simplest task! – the Chief Rector dressed in a long red robe uttered loudly. His gait was a little bit bouncing, which made a square cap with a tassel on his head also bounced up in the tact of his footsteps.

– In front of me is the envelope with your first task! You need to determine what it will be devoted to! –said the Chief Rector.

All the pupils absorbed in their notes, trying to use the knowledge they received at school. The Chief Rector stood a big sandglass on the table. It quickly became to measure the time. The time was out, when the last grains of sand fell on the bottom of the sandglass. The pupils uttered in unison: “The first exam will be dedicated to the memory of the ancestors!” The Cockatoo looked carefully at the boys, checking up the correctness of their thoughts.

– Right! The first exam is dedicated to the memory of the ancestors! – the Chief Rector said, opening the envelope and taking out a sheet of paper. – But each of you will be allowed to take part in the next step of the exam only in case he can name all his ancestors up to the fifth generation!

All the pupils began to prepare for the answer. Suddenly everyone saw a gap appeared in the wall and a large Eagle flew out of it. The Eagle was whirling around the hall. The pupils jumped from their seats, trying to catch him. But his wings were so strong that everyone, who stood on his way, was thrown off.

Yas was the only one, who didn’t move, carefully watching the Eagle. Then he gently beckoned it, saying it some kind words with a friendly smile. The Eagle circled in the air and flew to him.

– Yas is the first one, who is allowed to participate in the next step of the exam! – the Chief Rector said solemnly. – He can speak the same language with the birds! The Eagle has brought the news and passed it to someone, who understands him and is kind to the bird! It does not matter that the Eagle is a bird of prey! One will survive in the way, if he can understand even his enemy and tame the dangerous birds and animals!

– And now let us proceed with the next contest!

The Chief Rector turned the sandglass. The pupils began to list all their ancestors. It was necessary quickly to recall them to the fifth generation. The one, who didn’t know his ancestors, didn’t have the right to be called a Human. The pupils, who didn’t know their ancestors, weren’t allowed to take part in the exam as well as to study at this school. This tradition had been kept for a long time, especially in the lands between the Dnieper and Eridanus. It was believed that the forgetful person could easily become a traitor.

“Simeon, Vladimir, Sofia ...” – echoed through the hall the names of ancestors, which was uttered by every pupil. All the boys remembered their relatives up to the fifth generation, but not all of them knew the ancestors, who lived earlier! The sixth, the seventh generation... Only two survived until the ninth generation: Yas and Yuras.

– Do you remember one more generation of your ancestors? – the Chief Rector asked loudly, referring to Yuras and Yas and turning the sandglass. The boys remembered. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

– Can you enumerate more of your ancestors? – the Chief Rector addressed to the boys, again turning the sandglass.

Yuras raised his index finger. It was a sign that he surrendered. Only Yas uttered the names of his ancestors. When the last grains of sand fell on the bottom of the sandglass, Yas named the ancestor, who was the first one in his family. The audience applauded. The Guardian of the Earth nodded approvingly.

– Yas and Yuras have coped with this task! – the Chief Rector proclaimed loudly. – And now the next task for all the pupils! The boys, who win, will continue to compete for the right to go to the land of the Queen Ashera! So, the question is the following: “What should you do to call your ancestors for help?”

The pupils began to enumerate. “In spring we should go to the grave with the food and drink to share the joy of the nature's awakening!” – was heard on one side.

“In autumn we should open the windows and doors and call our ancestors to join us at the festive board!” – was heard on the other side of the hall.

“We should put a bowl of the hot food, so that the ancestors can satiate themselves with the steam. Then we should talk to them.” – someone said.

The Chief Rector raised his hand as a sign to stop. “That's right! You have coped with this task! But what else you should remember?” – he said, turning the sandglass.

– The ancestors will help, if our memory about them is sincere! One should refer to them only with the good intentions! – Yas said.

– Yes, all your deeds and thoughts should be pure! Only in this case you will succeed! – the Chief Rector said, hiding the sheet of paper with the first task in the envelope.

– And now we are moving on with the next task! – proclaimed the Guardian of the earth. – It will be announce by Ruth!

– Simargl is the god, who guards the treasures and protects the sacred Tree of life, from which go all plants! He should be favorable to you, if you want to find the amphora and to decode the signs on the map. How to make a bid for his sympathy?

The pupils were thinking. As soon as the Chief Rector turned the clock, the vaulted ceiling slowly began to dissolve into space. Finally everyone saw a starry night sky with the constellations instead of the ceiling and the Chief Astronomer, who was jumping from one star to another. In some time he was in the hall. He took a long pointer and outlined a circle in the air. In a minute the students saw an astrological map instead of the night sky.

– Each of you should take a close look at the astrological circle, – said the Chief Astronomer, taking his hat-cap that looked like an elongated cucumber off and setting straight the glasses on his aquiline nose.

– Your task is to determine the time, when Simargl is favorable to the travelers! – proclaimed the Chief Astronomer.

A lot of answers were given by the pupils. But the Chief Astronomer didn’t like the answers. No one knew the correct one. The pupils looked at Yas hopefully. He was the best pupil in reading the astrological maps. Yas was thinking about something and then said:

– It is coming the year of four eclipses. In order to avoid the troubles one should be careful in May and June. According to the stars, the eclipse of the sun will be in these months. But Simargl will be favorable to the travelers in the middle of June, during the summer solstice.

The Chief Astronomer even jumped of delight, because it was a correct answer. Ruth nodded approvingly.

And then the pupils came to the Dnieper, to the place, where it was the farthest distance from one bank to the other one. The Chief Rector made a sign to start even more challenging competitions. The task was to swim across the deep and rapid river and to make a fire on the opposite bank. The pupils began to fulfill the task, but the obstacle appeared to be the whirlpools and strong currents in the middle of the Dnieper. A lot of the boys gave up and returned. Yas was the first one, who got to the opposite bank. The second one was Yuras. They managed not only to swim over the river, but also to keep dry everything for making a fire. The friends were followed by the other pupils. Everyone was in a hurry to make a fire

The Guardian of the Earth outlined a circle in the air, asking Perun to send the rain. In some time the rain drops fell on the ground. Soon the rain poured down as though from a pail. It was the most difficult part of this task: to make a fire, when it was raining so hard. The pupils tried to cover the firewood with their bodies, but it was very difficult to light a fire.

“Quickly, quickly!” – Yas hurried himself, trying to make a fire. His body was suffering from the rain drops and the wind. “The main rule of the warrior is not to give up! He must overcome all the challenges without losing self-control! His thoughts must be addressed to the gods, asking them about mercy and patronage!” – Yas repeated the main rules. In a minute he managed to light a fire.

The Guardian of the Earth put his hands up and Perun stopped sending the rain. The sun appeared from the clouds. The ground was warmed with the sunbeams.

Only ten pupils were chosen for the final task, which was to make a hike through the forest and to get an aurochs in a hunt. Yas and Yuras were among those ten pupils.

Suddenly everyone heard the thunder and saw the lightning. “The first, the second,” – Ruth repeated to herself, looking at the dark sky. She had the feeling that the Queen Ashera wanted to give a sign. The Guardian of the Earth began to nervous. He was turning over the pages of his old books. Finally he said: “We will get the message after the third lightning.”

It was true. A large nut in a gilded nutshell rolled on the floor. The Cockatoo caught it. Ruth sat down at the table and opened the nut. There was a message there.

“It is the turmoil in the possessions of Chernobog, the patron of evil and darkness. If someone tries to get to my possessions and find the code of the Greek map, he will be punished by Karachun and Zyuzya, the gods of cold, sent by Chernobog. And Yaga, the goddess of death, has already triumphed in her heathen temple7!”

– Ashera has given a sign! The way in her possession and the possessions of Simargl won’t be easy, – Ruth said with a trace of nervousness in her voice.

They were waiting for the returning of the strongest and most courageous boys from the hunt. The Chief Astronomer was observing the stars. “They are about to return! – he said solemnly. – But the pupils shouldn’t go empty-handed in the possessions of the Queen Ashera.” – the Chief Astronomer said, again looking at the stars.

To placate Ashera the best craftsmen immediately began to make the jewelry for her.

– The Queen is capricious and uncertain. But she really wants to unveil the mystery of the treasures. Ashera would have sent her guards to find the treasures a long time ago, if they could find the code encrypted in the signs of the map, – said the Guardian of the Earth, looking at the jewelries made by the craftsmen. Together with Ruth they was admiring the pendants, bracelets, necklaces, not knowing what to choose. But every item was perfect. The Chief Jeweler, seeing their confusion, invited them to enter the secret room. The most skilled craftsmen worked here. They were painting on enamel. Such a technique was known only in this land. The technique was kept in a secret. But the beauty of the jewelries made in such a technique was famous around the world. The merchants were ready to give a great sum of money only to look at this extraordinary beauty.

– Yes, Ashera calls us! But if she gets the code, she can change her mind. Everyone knows about her treachery, – said Ruth, fingering the stones that should be installed in a graceful crown made of painted enamel. It was a special gift for the capricious Queen Ashera. It was decided to present her something really amazing.

– Such a gift can definitely cajole Ashera! – exclaimed Ruth with excitement.

Then the Chief Jeweler opened another door and they entered the workshop where the skilled craftsmen were making different things of wood: the trunks and caskets, cups and dishes and other things. The technology of making such things was special too. It was called “carving”. The craftsmen were asked to carve a casket for the crown. The casket was decorated with the precious stones.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and the Eagle quickly flew out of it. The bird made some circles in the air as if he wanted to announce about something. Then he disappeared.

– The hunters are coming back! – proclaimed The Guardian of the Earth.

They were greeted by the shouts of delight. Each of the boys threw his bag at the feet of the Guardian of the Earth. Some boys brought the wolves, some – the foxes. Yas and Yuras brought the aurochs.

The Chief Astronomer was observing the sky for several days, giving pieces of advice to the Supreme Council of the Rectors. Finally the decision was proclaimed: “We have chosen the best pupils to go to the possessions of the Queen Ashera in order to find the treasures. They are Yas and Yuras! You must act immediately!”

Yas and Yuras went on a long journey. They confidently walked on a cobbled road that ran between the woods, where were singing the canaries and other birds. They cheerfully greeted Yas and Yuras. The flowers also met the boys with the friendly greetings. The colorful butterflies were waving their bright wings, wishing a good luck. Then the boys saw the Caterpillar, who was crawling on the road, waiting for the friends and moving her flirtatious antennae.

– Here is Mireya! She is accompanying us until the dense forest! Soon will be the border of our land. We have to face with a great number of dangers! It will be the hardest test! – Yas said with a troubled voice.

– And after the forest there will be the land of the good and evil spirits! – Yuras added.

– But we must remember that soon there will be a rainy autumn and cold winter and we must overtake the time and to do everything until the night of a summer solstice, which is called Kupalle, – said Yas.

They knew that only in this magical night in June all the secrets of the Earth could be unveiled by a person. It was on this magical night, when the treasures appeared from the ground in order to get dried from hundreds of years of holding in the ground. One could see the blue lights near the places, where they had been buried. It was Simargl, who helped to find the treasures. It would be impossible to find the treasures in other time. On the next day the treasures would be hidden in the ground.

In front of them there was a forest. The friends became alerted, looking and listening to everything that surrounded them. No sooner had Yas and Yuras set foot on the soft moss as it grasped their legs to the knees. The boys could not make even a step forward. Yas and Yuras immediately got the salt out of their canvas bag and scattered it in front of them. Moss parted to let the boys.

– We should do it before entering the forest, – Yas said.

– Yes, it's our fault, – confirmed Yuras. – The salt drives away all the trouble from a person. The forest must have spelled us and we have forgotten about everything.

The friends went further. They were very attentive, trying to move quietly. They should try to find the old stump before they would meet the insidious Wood Goblin. Suddenly they heard the laughter from somewhere.

– The Wood Goblin! It is the Wood Goblin! – said Yas with a troubled voice, trying to move faster. He was followed by Yuras.

– Yas, – he called quietly, pointing to the dumped tree.

They were squeezing their amulets8 – the small figures of horses made of bone that were hung around the neck of each of the boys. The amulets helped to ward off the evil spirits. The boys ran to the old stump, but their feet were grasped with the moss again. The friends couldn’t move further.

– The Wood Goblin is coming! He has his assistants with him. They are blocking our path, – Yuras said.

The boys used the salt again and ran to the old stump. The laughter was growing louder and louder.

– If we cannot get to the stump, the Wood Goblin will laugh with his creepy laugh and everything will be lost, because from this laugh will freeze the blood in our veins, – shouted Yas. – The Wood Goblin will take us in his possessions and bury there!

– The dark forces! The dark forces are standing on our way! – Yuras shouted back, catching up with each other. – Look! We are among the oldest fir trees that have the beards of moss and lichen! It is the most favorite place for the dark forces!

They were surrounded with the dense fir trees on all sides. Yas and Yuras stopped. The boys were saying the spell in a loud voice. The forest heard this spell and let them go. The friends ran to the old stump. The Wood Goblin was coming closer to them. His voice was growing louder and louder. He was celebrating his victory, laughing in such a way that the boys felt the all-absorbing fear.

– We are strong! Our spirit is stronger than the Wood Goblin! – Yas shouted loudly.

– Yes, we are strong! We bear no ill-will! We just want to know the secret of the ancient land! – Yuras shouted even louder. The echo spread his words throughout the forest.

The Wood Goblin stopped for a moment and began to listen. He was muddled with words of the echo. The Wood Goblin didn’t know where the boys were.

– The nasty boys! I'll give you a sound thrashing! – the Goblin muttered with irritation. – They don’t afraid of my loud laughter! It is the unprecedented impudence!

– Echo is also ungrateful! I'll show it! – continued the Wood Goblin. He stopped, thinking about what to do next. And then he jumped in delight. Finally, the Wood Goblin understood what to do next...

But it was too late. Yas and Yuras were close to the big old stump. They put the meal, which had been prepared specially for the Wood Goblin, on the stump. The laughter stopped and the Wood Goblin disappeared. Yas and Yuras breathed a sigh of relief. The Wood Goblin couldn’t do any harm to them anymore, because the boys softened him up with the meal.

– Echo! Thank you, Echo! – shouted the friends and quickly went forward.

The boys had been going through the gloomy forest for a long time, looking around, until it became dark. Suddenly Yuras saw someone in the forest.

– Look! Look! There flashed a bright shade! – he said.

It flashed once again.

– Mara! It is the insidious Mara. She wants to shackle us with her sleepy fetters! – Yas told to Yuras, falling asleep. Yuras also stopped, leaning against the tree, trying to fight with the sleep.

– What should we do? What should we do! – repeated the Guardian of the Earth, leading the pointer on the lines of his strange book. There were no letters in this book, only the lines.

Ruth bent over the book, looking at the Guardian of the Earth, who was nervous. There was nothing in the book except the lines. Ruth was surprised and stared at the Guardian of the Earth.

– What should we do? What should we do? – he repeated. Then he outlined a circle in the air. The gap appeared in the wall and the White Monk emerged from it. His face was in the haze. He bowed to the Guardian of the Earth and then the haze in his face dissipated. Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth saw a terrible picture – Yas and Yuras could barely stand up. Just a little bit – and they would sleep for a long time.

– The servants of Chernobog, the forces of evil and darkness, are mocking at the boys, who are weaker than they, to show them the power of the dark forces! – exclaimed the Guardian of the Earth angrily. – They are afraid of fighting with the servants of Belobog, the forces of light and goodness. But in August, on the “rowan” night9, when the sky is full of the rain and the thunder with the lighting, all the forces of light gather together to struggle with the dark forces! That's when they are not a big trouble!

The haze again appeared instead the face of the White Monk. The Guardian of the Earth showed him the way and he slowly disappeared. Soon his figure could be seen in the forest. The White Monk began to drive Mara off, protecting the boys. Mara tried to get to the boys, but she was afraid of the White Monk and his power. In some time she gave up and went away. The White Monk followed her.

The Guardian of the Earth took his soothing drops, which were always at hand in a small vial. The Chief Pharmacist prepared them for him. The work of the Guardian of the Earth was very uneasy. Then took his book again, leading the pointer along the lines without a single letter, repeating aloud everything that was happening with Yas and Yuras. Ruth was listening to him very attentively.

– Come on, my dear, come to me! It's boring in this river! No one hasn’t visited me and talked to me for a long time! – was muttering the Merman, who lived in a small river in the forest and was glad that the boys managed to struggle with the Wood Goblin, with whom he had quarreled a lot of times. They had argued about their unique powers for many years there was no the end of their discussions.

The Merman was excited. He had an opportunity to show his power. To show his delight he was shaking his long green beard made of algae. Earlier he lived in a large lake. There were a lot of servants, mermaids, there and he had a large throne made of shells. But he tired and wanted privacy. The Merman decided to retire to a quiet place without fuss and hassle. But it was boring here too. That’s why he was glad to see the boys.

– Come on, my dear, come to me! – he muttered again, rubbing his hands with satisfaction.

At the bottom of the cold river he was making a cold fire, driving away the smoke with his long beard.

– Yas! There are the strands of the fog there! – said Yuras nervously.

They stopped. The friends were looking at the fog.

– Yes, the fog has the form of the strands. They are floating through the trees! – said Yas thoughtfully. – It means that the Merman is making his fire somewhere not far from here.

– Well, come, come to me as soon as possible! Do not forget to set foot on the bridge, – the Merman was muttering. – I will ruin the bridge, catch you, look in your eyes with a deadly look and drag you in the whirlpool! – he rubbed his hands with satisfaction once again.

Yas and Yuras were standing close to the river, looking at the water. It was still.

– The Merman! The Merman is hiding from us! – Yas said. – When the water is still, one should be careful. The still waters run deep and the Merman is setting his nets! – he added quietly, fearing that the Merman will hear them.

– What should we do? – asked Yuras and then answered himself: “We can’t climb the bridge. The Merman can ruin it and catch us!” The friends looked around. “The Willow, of course, the weeping Willow, whose branches were drooping down the water,” – thought each of the boys. They had no choice. They should hurry. Yas and Yuras came closer to the Willow, hugged her and whispered the kind words about her beauty. She answered them with the rustling of her leaves, reaching out her branches. The friends grabbed the strong branches and got over the river.

– Where are you going?! – The Merman only managed to shout, leaping from the water and trying to catch the boys. But it was too late. Yas and Yuras were running through the forest to the road that led to the possessions of the Queen Ashera. The Merman was angry. He was whirling the water in the whirlpools. But he couldn’t do anything. He failed once again.

– Yuras, hurry up! –cried Yas. – We must hurry!

– This forest is enchanted! It doesn’t want to let us! We have run a lot of miles and the clearance is seen ahead of a rare forest, but we can’t get out of here, – Yuras said breathlessly.

Yas was also tired. They had been wandering through the forest for several days. But it was impossible to find the right path.

– We should find the Soothsayer. He is terrible, but he can help to find the way to the Sorcerers, if we coax him. – said Yas. No sooner had friends thought about it than they heard the rustling of the leaves. Then they saw a mouse and the friends followed it. The mouse led them to a small clearing in the midst of which there was a hut. The boys entered the hut and froze in horror – on the table there was a big snake that was licking milk from the crock made of clay.

When the snake saw the uninvited guests, it looked at them with displeasure with its unblinking little evil eyes. The snake began to approach to them. Yas and Yuras were looking around, leaning against the wall: the real owner of the hut – should be somewhere near. But then they noticed the light of two more pairs of such eyes on the stove. They ran outside, but the strong wind stopped them and they had to come back to the hut. When they opened the door, they were surprised to see an old man, who was drinking a big mug of milk. The old man saw the boys and began to laugh: “And what have you studied at school? I've always told to the Chief Rector that his pupils should study the magical art more carefully! With such knowledge you will never get to the possessions of Ashera!”

– But we have done everything right! – Yas and Yuras cried at the same time. – We have lost only because of you. The distinguished Soothsayer, you have hidden the right path from us, that’s why it is difficult to us to find the way out.

– The forest is magical, – said the Soothsayer, looking at them with his little eyes. –You shouldn’t forget about it, the young men. The road to the Sorcerers10 is even more complicated. Everything is under spell there: the trees, paths, tracks and even stones.

– But we will definitely get to them! – Yas said. – Please show us the way. We must really hurry because the time shouldn’t overtake us. The Soothsayer looked at the brave boys with dissatisfaction, drinking his milk. Yas and Yuras were waiting for his decision. The Soothsayer was thinking about something and then said: “Okay, I'll show you the way. I have had enough fun, hiding all the right paths from you. Now I have to return them to their places!” As soon as he said these words, the hut disappeared. The friends were standing in the middle of a field with a great number of the large and small stones. The forest was far behind.

They looked around and saw a lot of the flat stones with the imprint of a human foot in the middle. Yas came to one of the stones and put his foot in the imprint of a human foot. A narrow path appeared among the stones. The friends immediately ran forward and soon they were close to a huge boulder-stone. They knew that it was the house of the Wizard. The boys wanted to ask the Wizard about the help. Yuras knocked three times. The Wizard opened the door. He was waiting for the friends. In the stone house there were a great number of the shelves with the flask for the magic broths. Without saying a word, the Wizard began to pour the pure spring water in the flasks and the boys – to select the herbs to make a special broth.

They knew the right herbs for the broth. They had the excellent grades on this subject at school. “I shouldn’t forget about the rowan,” – murmured Yas. When the broth was ready, the Wizard put the candles on both the sides of the flakes and began to recite the incantation. He gave the flake with the blessed broth to Yas and with the blessed water – to Juras. The friends bowed to the Wizard and went to the road. First, Yas splashed the blessed broth on the stones and then Yuras did the same thing with the blessed water. Suddenly the stones disappeared.

Yas made the sound reminded a mouse squeak. Immediately the friends saw the mice running from all sides. They surrounded the boys. Yas made the sound again. The mice started to tell about the road leading to the Sorcerers and about the dangers they can face with. The friends thanked the mice and went further, splashing everything around with the blessed broth and blessed water on their way to the Sorcerers.

The forests, fields, meadows and villages were far behind. Yas and Yuras came to the wood, where lived the Sorcerers. The trees let the boys in the wood because Yas and Yuras managed to overcome all the challenges and obstacles. Finally they appeared before the Sorcerers, who had discussed a lot before they blessed the friends on their way to the possessions of the Queen Ashera. They made all the special rituals to ask the gods about help and suppress the evil spirits. The boys were given the amulet with the image of the sun – a circle with a cross in the middle. Then each of them put on a shirt with the protective embroidery on the sleeves, collar and hem so that the spirits couldn’t make any harm to them. The friends remembered that each detail of the clothing of their ancestors had a special meaning.

The Sorcerers called the falcon. It did a few circles in the sky and flew away. The Sorcerers tried to predict the events on its flight. They had been thinking a lot, shaking their heads, before they finally announced their decision.

The Guardian of the Earth was leading the pointer along the lines of his book. “That's it! The Sorcerers have shown the way! Yas and Yuras are going to the possessions of the Queen Ashera!” – the Guardian of the Earth said solemnly and closed the strange and unusual book. He was happy. “They are alive! They have survived! They have overcome all the challenges!” – repeated the Guardian of the Earth. He was so excited that he wanted to take his soothing drops once again, but the vial was empty.

– The Pharmacist! The Chief Pharmacist! – The Guardian of the Earth was indignant annoyed that he was bad looked after. The Chief Pharmacist appeared with a new vial, saying: “You don’t care about yourself. You have been so nervous about everything for many centuries. They will come! They won’t come! You shouldn’t worry so much!” Ruth was trying to help the Chief Pharmacist. However, she was excited too. Yas and Yuras entered into the possessions of the Queen Ashera and the book wouldn’t be able to tell them about the challenges on the dangerous path of the boys. The Guardian of the Earth understood what Ruth was thinking about. He took his soothing drops, jumped from his high wooden chair and outlined a circle in the air. A gap appeared in the wall. The White Monk came to them and took them with him. In a minute they were in the residence of the Chief Astronomer. He was waiting for the guests ready to show them his invention. No one knew about it. The Chief Astronomer asked the Guardian of the Earth to look through a peephole of a strange construction. The Guardian of the Earth saw a thin beam, which reached the stars. Then the stars reflected it and it returned to the Earth. When the beam reached a special place on the planet, it was possible to see it through this construction.

– Oh, wow! It’s a good idea! Our astronomer is the best! – The Guardian of the Earth exclaimed with delight. But suddenly a cloud appeared on the way of the beam and the picture disappeared. The Guardian of the Earth looked at the Chief Astronomer with disappointment.

– I'm still working on it, – the Chief Astronomer said apologetically.

– But what should we do? – asked Ruth.

The Chief Astronomer smiled slyly and asked them to climb the narrow spiral metal staircase. Upstairs they saw a door, opened it and looked around. From all sides were the carrier pigeons that were ready to bring an important message at any moment.

Ashera was sitting on her sofa, looking at the fire in the fireplace. She enjoyed the game of the flames and crackle of the logs. It was relaxing. She was telling fortunes in this evening. “The fire is burning cheerfully today, – Ashera noticed. – It’s a good sign!” Then she was watching the coals. “At last!” – said Ashera with delight. The hot coals began to spring from the fireplace. – Soon the welcome guests will be here.

“The guests are really welcome. I can’t act without them, Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth, – she thought, fingering the beads. –I want to get the treasures and learn about the age of this land. Moreover, I can get the information about my family. It is much older than everyone thinks, I feel it. If it is so, I can pretend to be a mistress! I will get a great power! The treasures will be mine if they find them!”

The eyes of Ashera were full of joy. She imagined the beautiful bracelets, beads, necklaces, coins, which could help to unveil the secret. “What if I won’t get the treasures?! – flashed through her mind. – No! The time of the treasures has come! I've been waiting for this for so long! I will help these boys to get the code and find the road to the treasures. And what next?”

“But first, I will send a lot of challenges to them. The way to the amphora should be difficult. I will drain the helpers of the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth of all their strengths so that they can reach only the ancient Polota, where may be the treasures. But they won’t manage to protect them...” – The Queen Ashera thought. Then she mixed the dices made of bone, shook them and threw at her feet. They rolled on the floor and stopped, when the total number of the circles inscribed on them was eight. Suddenly the Black Monk appeared from the ground. There was the haze instead of his face. He bowed to the Queen Ashera.

The White Monk was rushing about his stone cave, not knowing how to get out of it. The Guardian of the Earth gave no sign. He was listening the stories of the carrier pigeons about the distant lands and forgot about everything. Suddenly he noticed a rapidly approaching crow flock. The crows made a few circles in the sky and flew away. The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth began to worry. The Chief Astronomer tried to understand what had happened. The Guardian of the Earth outlined a circle in the air. The White Monk appeared in front of him. The Guardian of the Earth showed him the way. The Chief Astronomer fastened the message to a leg of a carrier pigeon.

On the border of the possessions of the Queen Ashera and the Guardian of the Earth appeared the figures of the White and Black Monks. They were standing in front of each other with the crossed arms ready to use their magic powers. The opposite forces met together and didn’t afraid of each other.

Yas and Yuras were in the forest. It was quiet everywhere. Suddenly they heard a sound.

– It’s a carrier pigeon with a message! It means that something has happened or someone is warning us, – Yas said anxiously.

Soon the friends saw the carrier pigeon. They took the message and thanked the bird. The carrier pigeon made a circle in the sky and flew away. The boys unrolled the message. There was a map of the safer way to the Queen Ashera and amphora.

According to the message, it was far away. It was also mentioned in the message that the White and Black Monks would deter each other only one day and one night.

–It is not a mistake! Ashera has decided to use all her insidiousness! – Yuras said quietly.

– She has called the Black Monk to make us weak so that we can only find the treasures, – Yas said. – But then we won’t be able to resist her guards and she will take the treasures.

– We have little time left, – Yas worried.

– Yes, if we don’t fulfill the task, the servants of Chernobog, Karachun and Zyuzya will deal shortly with us, – added Yuras.

They looked at the message once again. A winding line led in the direction of the lakes and disappeared there. The boys should hurry. Yas and Yuras ran in the destination of the lakes, looking at sunbeam. It was evening, when the friends came to the place marked in the map. However, there were no lakes there. There was a forest on all sides.

The boys got lost. They followed the map, but it didn’t work. Yas and Yuras couldn’t understand anything and didn’t know what to do. They looked around and saw a stump. Yas decided to sit down and to think about everything. Yuras followed him. Hardly had the friends touched the stump as it tumbled down and the boys fell down in the place full of water.

They looked around. There were many large and small underground lakes there. Suddenly a fish jumped out of water. In a moment it jumped again, beckoning them. The boys followed it. The fish led them to a boat. The friends climbed into it. The boat swam slowly forward.

It was a cave with a great number of the tunnels. They passed the salt lake with the salt deposits, the mineral lake with the colored minerals on the walls and ceiling. Ahead of the cave was a lake with the fresh water. Hardly had the boat entered its waters as it appeared in the whirlpool. Yas and Yuras began to row with the oars. But it was difficult.

–You are strong and brave! I'm tired! – Tsmok– the owner of the lakes muttered, sitting on the bench.

– I think we have got out of the whirlpool, – said Yuras, breathing faintly because of tiredness.

Yas threw the oars and was listening to every sound, carefully looking at the surface of the lake.

– We must hurry! Tsmok can collect his strength and repeat his attempt, – Yas said. –It’s his tricks!

The friends gathered their last strengths and took the oars.

– What are you doing?! – Tsmok shouted. He drew a deep breath. The boat got in the whirlpool again.

– May be we should look for the amphora on the bottom of the lake, if we have been sent to this place, – said Yuras and let go of the oars.

The boat disappeared in the whirlpool. The friends closed their eyes and drew a deep breath. In some time they were standing on the bottom of the lake.

– How slow you are! – Tsmok grumbled. – I have almost spent all my strengths on you. When the grownups tell you to go to the lake, they understand what for you should go there. You should grasp quickly! They know what they do! – he continued.

He was lying on the bench, trying to regain wind. Then he looked at his clock on the sandy bottom of the lake made of shells and immediately jumped to his feet that were long and thin. His soles reminded the flippers. The friends couldn’t understand how the soles of such shape were able to hold his body wrapped with the long and short algae.

– What are you waiting for? Let’s go! We haven’t much time! – said Tsmok and went forward.

Yas and Yuras followed him. It was difficult to go, because the feet of the boys sank in the sand. Suddenly Tsmok stopped. He was standing in front of a bush with the thorns, which were on all sides of the bush. Tsmok reached out his thin hand in the bush with the thorns. The friends froze in horror, imagining how painful it was. But Tsmok was fumbling in the bush with delight, muttering something to himself.

– I found it! – he said happily, pulling out a large shell. With a sigh of relief, he gently knocked on it.

–Dear Snail! Wake up! We should hurry! Tsmok said with delight because he managed to find the right shell.

A beautiful head of the Snail appeared from the shell. She looked around and disappeared in the shell. Then she closed her house - shell and put it on her back. The Snail crawled forward. Tsmok was behind her. Yas and Yuras followed them.

– Dear Snail, please hurry up! We must hurry! – Tsmok muttered.

The Snail stopped and looked reproachfully at Tsmok. She could hardly hold her tears. She really wanted to help and was moving with her last strength. Finally they came to the city of snails. A fence built of the high shells surrounded it. The Snail knocked on the gate three times and the Guard of this city appeared in front of them. He looked at the friends and Tsmok and understood everything. The Guard took the key from the hiding place and proudly gave it to Tsmok.

– Thank you for preservation of the ancient property! – Tsmok said. – I would like to express my deep gratitude for your help.

The snails moved their horns. Tsmok began to unearth something in the sand with his thin hands. In a minute everyone saw a hatch door with a massive lock. Tsmok put the key into the keyhole and opened the hatch door.

– Come in please, the young men! It’s the shortest path to the Queen's possessions and to the place, where the amphora is probably kept! – proclaimed Tsmok. – You can make it! Yas and Yuras went downstairs and appeared in the narrow tunnel.

– Be careful! Ashera called the Black Monk! She wanted to do something insidious! – Tsmok shouted to the friends.

The hatch door closed and the boys found themselves in the darkness. For a while they were going, leaning against the wall. But suddenly it ended. The friends stopped. They understood that it was the emptiness everywhere. Suddenly Yas and Yuras saw four bright lights that didn’t move. The friends didn’t know what it was. Yas made the first step. Yuras followed him. The lights didn’t move. It was dark everywhere. Yas took the birch bark out of his canvas bag and set fire to it. Lighting up the premises, they saw two huge dogs or wolves that were lying on the floor. Yas tried to make a step, but the beasts began to growl and he returned to his place. Yas tried again, but the result was the same. The beasts stood up. They were very huge. The boys saw the door behind the dogs or the wolves.

– It can be the way to the possessions of the Queen Ashera, – Yas said quietly.

– But how can we get there? –asked Yuras. –We must hurry!

The growling was growing. Yas and Yuras tried to talk to the dogs, but it didn’t work. The friends attempted to walk round them, but the result was the same.

– They are half the dogs, half the wolves! Half the dogs, half the wolves! – Yas repeated in despair, trying to remember something. – If they don’t react like the dogs, they can react like the wolves, – he concluded. Yuras took the birch bark out of his canvas bag and set fire to it again. The beasts saw the flame and were scared of it. Yas immediately ran to the door. Yuras followed him, waving the burning birch bark in front of the beasts’ noses. In a minute the boys were in the corridor. Yuras put the burning birch bark at the entrance of the corridor and joined Yas. Together they were running forward. They had the opportunity to break away only until the fire went out. Suddenly Yas and Yuras reached a brick wall. There were two different tunnels leading to the opposite directions. The boys stopped. They didn’t know which way to choose. They heard the barking of the large dogs. Yas and Yuras understood that they should hurry. At school the Chief Rector repeated a lot of times that they should release their mind and listen to their heart to make the right choice. The friends decided to follow his advice and to release their minds.

– Yas! We should go there! – Yuras said.

– Yes, there! – confirmed Yas. – My intuition also tells me that this direction is the right one.

They were running for so long that they were ready to drop with weariness. The friends stumbled and fell, but by helping each other, again rose and ran forward. The beasts practically caught up with the boys. But suddenly Yas and Yuras saw the way out of the tunnel full of light. Half the dogs, half the wolves stopped and growled. Yas and Yuras fell on ground. They were too tired.

Yas was the first, who came to his senses.

– Yuras! Get up! One day has passed! One night is also coming to an end! – he shook his friend in order to wake him up. – Soon the White Monk will stop to suppress the Black Monk and the Queen will send her guards to deal shortly with us! Yuras stood up and the friends went in the direction of the light. In some time they were standing in the middle of a large hall. There were torches on the walls of this hall. The boys saw the amphora on a pedestal made of the red stone. The friends froze in disbelief.

– We have made it! We have found it! – Yuras shouted.

– We have come in time! – added Yas.

They ran to the ancient amphora. The boys wanted to touch it and to read the signs inscribed on it, but the torches flashed a bright flame and the snakes crawled from all the holes, surrounding the amphora. There were many of them. The dogs started to growl again and then ran away. Yas and Yuras recoiled from the amphora. The snakes made a circle around the amphora.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and the friends saw the Black Monk.

– One day and one night have come to an end, – Yas said quietly. He was in despair.

– We must do something, – said Yuras. He gathered all his will and went to the Black Monk.

– Yuras! Where are you going? It’s dangerous! – shouted Yas.

But Yuras had already come to the Black Monk.

–Tell the Queen Ashera that we have come on behalf of the Guardian of the Earth! We have seen her sigh and here we are! – Yuras said.

The Black Monk with the haze instead of a face was in fury because of the impudence of the boys, who didn’t afraid of him. He made a few circles in the air, looking at the boys.

– The Black Monk, I'm not afraid of you, – Yuras shouted loudly. – Tell the Queen Ashera that we have come! Only together we can unveil the code encrypted on the map, find the treasures and learn about the secrets of this land! The Black Monk made a circle in the air and disappeared.

Yas and Yuras pressed themselves to each other. They were waiting for the Black Monk, looking at the dancing snakes with terror. It seemed that the snakes would get to the friends and kill them. Then Yas and Yuras heard a sweet melody. The snakes froze on a moment, listening to the sounds. Soon a figure of the fakir appeared in front of the boys. He was playing the flute, coming closer to the amphora. The bright light of torches began to go out and the snake slowly disappeared in their holes.

The fakir11 bowed to the boys.

– The Queen Ashera is waiting for you, – he said.

– But what about the amphora?!– Yas asked, running to it together with Yuras. They were close to the pedestal, ready to touch the amphora. Hardly had Yas touched it as the Cobra's head appeared from the narrow neck of the amphora. The Cobra was ready to bite anyone and to release her deadly poison. Yas and Yuras recoiled.

– The Queen Ashera doesn’t allow to touch the amphora. She is waiting for you, – the fakir said, showing the right direction.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and the Black Monk emerged in front of them. He beckoned the friends. Yas and Yuras followed him.

The boys were standing in the middle of a hall full of light. In front of them on the gold-embroidered cushions and mattresses was sitting the Queen Ashera – a beautiful leopard-cat. The friends had heard about her beauty before. She had an unusual color. It was caramel one with the orange-brown spots. The boys could not take their eyes from her. They were fascinated with the beauty of the Queen. “The Queen really belongs to a very ancient family. She wants to prove it to her enemies and to get the power.” – Yas said with amazement.

She stretched out her strong paws and put her beautiful face on them, looking at the boys with her large slanting eyes. Her look was searching and charming. The Black Monk was close to her ready to fulfill all her orders. Yas the first came to his senses.

–The Queen Ashera! Please, take this gift! – He said solemnly, taking the carved casket out of his canvas bag.

The Queen nodded. The servants took the carved casket from the hands of the boys and brought it to Ashera. When the carved casket was opened, everyone was amazed with the beauty of the crown.

– It is wonderful, – purred Ashera in delight. She stood up, showing her gracefulness and beauty. The Queen Ashera put on the crown. For some time she was admiring her reflection in the mirror and then said:

– The amphora! Bring me the amphora! I like the gift!

The doors opened. The servants brought the ancient amphora at the paws of Ashera.

– You are strong and brave and you have overcome all the challenges! But I would like to check your knowledge! No one could unveil the code encrypted in the card! Now it is your mission! You can come to the amphora, to touch it and feel its power and spirit.

The friends looked at the amphora with caution, remembering about the Cobra. The fakir began to play a sweet melody and the Cobra appeared from the amphora. She crawled to Ashera. The Cobra was looking at the boys from this point ready to use her poison at any moment.

The Queen made a prolonged mewing sound. The guard came to the amphora, bent it and cut off its bottom with the sword. A twisted piece of leather fell out of it.

– This is the map with the encrypted code! – Ashera said solemnly. – Take it! – she added with the imperious tone.

Yas and Yuras took the map and looked at it. There were so many lines and signs they have never seen before.

– You must unveil the code and find the place, where have been buried the treasures! – Ashera continued. – You must do it before the sand in our main sandglass fall on its bottom, which means – in four days! The guards were standing still, while the Queen was speaking.

– If you unveil the code, you will get a reward – you will go to find the treasures! You will be the first one to touch them! – Ashera proclaimed.

Yas and Yuras bowed to the Queen Ashera.

– Remember! You must find the treasures before the night of a summer solstice – Kupalle because only on this night Simargl helps to find them, – she added. Ashera made another mewing sound and the guards brought the large sandglass to the center of the hall. The grains of sand began to fall. Ashera gave a sign. Yas and Yuras started to examine the signs. The guards were watching the boys doing their work.

– A point, then a line and again a point, – Yas led his finger on the map. – What does it mean?

Yuras was thinking about the location of these signs.

– All the signs are located at the equal distance from each other, – he said. – A line runs along the ancient Turun at the place of the present Polota.

– The first point is marked close to the place where according to the map is located the stone valley, – reasoned Yas. – But what is the meaning of these points?

– The points, the points ... a line may indicate the direction of the path. Probably we should go along the Turunt, – Yuras reasoned.

– And the point may be the beginning of the path to the treasures, – Yas conjectured.

– But we have more than one point, – Yuras doubted.

–Yes, we have one more point, which is at the top. It may be the end of the path, where we can fin d the treasures, – Yas conjectured.

– No, it's too easy. And if it were so easy, the code would have unveiled without us, – Yuras doubted.

– Yes, – agreed Yas. – You are right. I think that the servants of the Queen have already searched in this place, – he concluded.

The friends looked at the map once again.

– You are right, Yuras, the spots and lines can be seen clearly. The solution is not in them. This is only a hint, – Yas agreed with him.

The sandglass was inexorable. Time was moving forward. The boys, furtively glancing in their direction, were trying to find the explanation of the signs and symbols marked on the map among the names of different forests, swamps, fields, villages. The friends wanted to understand the sequence of their arrangement.

– We should find the sequence of the signs, – Yas said.

– The signs close to the forest and close to the bogs are different. They reminded the signs from our lessons of making the cryptograms12, where we have studied the ancient scrolls13. But these signs have their peculiarities.

The friends were at a loss. The day was coming to an end. Then came another day and another day. Yas and Yuras couldn’t unveil the code. The guards turned the sandglass for the last time. Everyone was waiting.

– I think that all these mysterious signs have been created only for misleading, – Yas said finally.

– It appears so, – agreed Yuras. – The battle between the ancient tribes couldn’t take place in a bog or in a deep forest. It means that these signs – the circles with a star –have another function. May be they indicate the camps of the Normans. So, we shouldn’t take them into account.

– It means that we should return to our first version – with points and a straight line along the Polota, – Yas said quietly. – The most difficult puzzles have the simplest solution.

But he didn't sound confident. The friends had already thought about it, but they couldn’t find the answer. They looked anxiously toward the sandglass. They had little time left. The Cobra raised her head and began to hiss. Ashera was dissatisfied. The guards, who were watching her every move and every expression of her eyes, were ready to execute the order of the Queen. The grains of sand were falling on the bottom of the sandglass.

– So, we see the point in the place, where is situated the stone valley, – Yas reasoned. – The stones have a long life and keep every event in their mind. If we go to the stone valley, we can find something that will give us the answer.

– But how can we convince Ashera of the truth of our words? – Yuras asked. – If we don’t unveil the code, she won’t let us out alive.

– We must do something to go in search of the treasures, following the map. Something on our way can give us the answer.

It was a difficult task. The friends looked at each line and sign again and again. The time was ending.

– Yas! – suddenly exclaimed Yuras. – Look over here! He was so excited that he could not utter a word.

– Look over here! Look! – he repeated.

Yas looked at him with astonishment. It was the first time, when his friend was so excited.

– How haven’t we guessed before! It's so easy! – Yuras said again.

– What? What do you mean? – Yas asked.

– Here, look here, – he began quietly, looking around. – A point, then a line and again a point. This picture goes up and it seems that it breaks. But what is further?

Yas was looking at the top of the map.

– There are different animals. May be these animals live close to the Polota, – Yas reasoned aloud.

– And then? Look carefully! – continued Yuras.

– Then there is the lake, – Yas said, looking at the map.

– And what do you see there? – Yuras asked with a smile.

– I see an ox, – Yas said quietly.

His face was full of amazement. He looked at Yuras.

– Yes, yes, it is the ox, – Yuras confirmed, smiling. – And now let summarize all our ideas and thoughts. The oxen don’t live on the lakes. They come to the lake from the forest for watering. If it were just the indications of the animals, it would be the flock of the oxen on the map.

– But there is only one ox on the map. It is a symbol, – Yas continued his thoughts.

– It is situated in the place, where is the lake. But there are many lakes there. If the treasures are there, we will need a lot of time to identify the lake and find the treasures. But must do everything until Kupalle, – Yuras said.

– So, the main hint is the image of this ox! – concluded Yas. – It’s so easy! On the lessons of making the cryptograms our teachers have told us many times that the images of different animals are often used to encrypt a message!

– Right! The image of the ox will help us to find the answer! – exclaimed Yuras.

The friends heard the hissing of the Cobra. She was ready to bite them. The boys turned around. The last grains of sand have almost fell the on the bottom of the sandglass. Yas and Yuras looked at each other. Their faces were full of joy.

– We have unveiled the code! – Yas solemnly declared, triumphantly raising his hand up.

The Queen Ashera stood up from her mattresses and pillows, straightened her back and took an imperial and proud bearing. The guards froze in front of her in a bow. It was quiet in the room.

– Speak! – the Queen said in a peremptory tone.

– We know where may be the treasures and are ready to go there immediately!

– Have you really unveiled the code so fast? All my servants have been trying to do it for years, but you have done it in four days! – Ashera said with a mockery in her voice.

The guards were laughing with her. The Cobra was crawling to the boys. She was so close that they were looking at each other eye to eye.

– And where are the treasures? Tell us, dear boys! – Ashera asked again, looking at them with her predatory leopard-cat's eyes.

They eyes were so insidious that the friends felt the sense of fear for a moment.

– Dear Ashera, please tell the guards to take the Cobra away. If she bites us, you won’t learn the code. The treasures will be the property of Simargl forever, – Yas said, taking a step back.

The Queen Ashera hissed at the Cobra. She slowly began to crawl away to the corner.

– Speak! – Ashera ordered.

– Our Lady! It's impossible! The map has showed us where are the treasures and we are ready to go there immediately! We will definitely find the treasures and unveil the secret of the things brought by Ruth as well as the secret of this land and your secret, – Yuras said solemnly.

– I order you to tell me where the treasures are! – the Queen almost shouted.

– But we can’t do it! No one should know this mystery! If someone, who lives in three distant seas, hears about the treasures, he will try to get them. In this case none of us will unveil the truth about our world! – Yas said.

– How dare you to talk to me in such a way, you, nasty boys! I am Ashera! I am powerful and mighty! Throw them in a cage! There will be time to think about their behavior! – she ordered to the guards.

They guards caught Yas and Yuras and pushed them in a secret door, which appeared in the wall. When the door closed, the boys flew down. They fell on the ground. They hurt themselves. When Yas and Yuras looked around, they understood that they were in the cage. The huge tigers were walking around this cage.

– We have been warned that Ashera is insidious! – Yas said with the annoyance in his voice. – Her greed is boundless! We won’t unveil the secret of the treasures!

– We must get out of here. We shouldn’t let the time to overtake us. Soon is Kupalle. There is little time left, – Yuras said anxiously.

– But what is the solution? What should we do? – Yas worried.

The friends stopped talking. They were thinking how to escape from Ashera, remembering all the things they have been taught at school.

– Probably we should ask our ancestors about the help, – suggested Yuras. – They can help us.

– Yes, we can do it, – agreed Yas. – But we should try to understand the nature of the tigers and to talk to them.

–We should also transmit the message about the insidiousness of Ashera to Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth with the help of the energy of our thoughts, – Yuras said ready to release his mind. It should be clear to concentrate on the main things.

– Oh! – The Guardian of the Earth jumped in his chair.

Ruth looked at him, not understanding anything.

– Oh! – The Guardian of the Earth jumped in his chair again. – Oh, oh, oh! – he was lamenting, seizing his head in his hands, swaying from side to side. He had already jumped out of his chair and was sitting on the floor.

– What has happened? – asked Ruth.

– I knew it, I knew it! – He was repeating, continuing to sway from side to side.

– Please, explain to me, what has happened? – asked Ruth more insistently.

– Call the Chief Astronomer! – stamping his foot, said the Guardian of the Earth and froze, emphasizing the importance of the moment.

No one should bother him at such moments. He was thinking. A gap appeared in the wall and the Chief Astronomer came.

– Ashera! She is insidious! Her greed has overshadowed her mind! – the Guardian of the Earth shouted nervously. – My inner voice tells me that she has locked the boys in the cage. Now she wants the boys tell her the code!

Ruth and the Chief Astronomer froze in surprise. They did not expect to hear that. It was quiet for a moment. Then the Chief Astronomer broke the silence.

– We must hurry! – he said and ran in his possession.

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth followed him. When they caught up with him, he was observing something at first in one telescope, then in the other one, muttering to himself, not paying attention to the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth, who were waiting for the Chief Astronomer.

– What do you see? – asked the Guardian of the Earth, coming to the Chief Astronomer from one side and then from the other side. But the Chief Astronomer didn’t hear him, observing the stars in a long telescope.

– I knew it! – the Chief Astronomer said thoughtfully, taking away his eyes and sat down on his haunches close to the telescope.

– Well, what is it? Please tell me, what is there? – the Guardian of the Earth said nervously.

– We must act! – the Chief Astronomer said, quickly getting up and rushing to the loft. The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth followed him. When they climbed up, all the pigeons immediately flew to them. Several pigeons sat down on the shoulder of Ruth. They were vying with each other, trying to tell about something. The Chief Astronomer twisted the message. Then he raised his hand, giving a sign to the Chief Pigeon. Waving the wings, the Chief Pigeon immediately sat down on his hand. The Chief Astronomer fastened the message to a leg of the Chief Pigeon, whispering some words and sending the bird to the possessions of the Queen Ashera.

– That's all! – he said, sighing with relief.

– Explain, please, what does it mean? – the Guardian of the Earth said in a resentful tone.

But the Chief Astronomer kept silence, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

– I am waiting for the explanation! – insisted the Guardian of the Earth, stamping his foot.

– That's all! Soon the boys will get the message and begin to act! – the Chief Astronomer said finally. – Ashera has really shut them in the cage. They must get out of it as quickly as possible. Soon Simargl will open the ground with the treasures. It must be done on the day when the voices of the planets and the Earth will meet together! Soon this time will come. When? I have written in my message. It will help Yas and Juras!

– It’s the unheard audacity! We will tear all diplomatic relations with Ashera! It doesn’t matter that she is the queen and has the rarest color with the brown spots! It doesn’t give her the right to behave in such a way! Now is the crucial moment and we can unveil the mysteries of this land. In this moment we should unite for a common goal and Ashera is only interested in the treasures, which she wants to take for her own! – the Guardian of the Earth was indignant at Ashera. – She decided to take an advantage of this situation. No! I won’t allow her to do it! The boys are well done! They haven’t told her the code. We should ask the Chief Rector to put them the excellent marks! No more tests! It is my decision!

Yas and Yuras had been sitting the whole night in the cage, snuggling against each other. They were afraid to move, because of the tigers. When the friends tried to stand up, they began to growl. Yas and Yuras fell asleep. It was a hard way and the tasks made them feel terribly tired. But they had a troubled slumber, awakening all the time, listening to every sound and peering into the darkness. But they saw only the tigers, who were grinning. In the morning the tigers fell asleep. Suddenly Yas heard the sounds that reminded a flight of a pigeon. He pricked up his ears. Yuras also began to listen to the sounds.

– The Chief Pigeon is flying here. I have recognized the bird by its wingspread. – he said quietly.

In a moment appeared the messenger of the Chief Astronomer and dropped the message to the friends. Then the bird flew away.

The tigers began to growl again growled, baring their fangs. The boys snuggled against each other even more afraid to move. The tigers raised their heads, but did not notice anyone or anything that would attract their attention. In some time they fell asleep. Yas carefully took the message and started to read it.

– It will be a certain day and hour, – he read quietly, – when the voices of the planets and the Earth will meet together!

– It will be today! The time will come soon! – Yuras added quietly, listening to the breathing of the ground.

The friends paused, trying to see a slight glimmer of the stars, shining in the predawn sky, and to hear even a very quiet sound.

– The ground begins to shiver, – said Yas. – Soon will be the time of the storms!

– We have no time, – concluded Yas.

Everything and everyone would freeze during the time of the storm. Yas and Yuras realized that it was the best time to fulfill their task. The boys were looking at the tigers. The animals were sleeping. The friends tried to think how to get out of the cage, but the forces almost left them. They were listening to the sounds, trying to catch the vibrations of the storms. Yas and Yuras remembered the lessons at their school. When they felt the storms, they took a deep breath to resist their force, to drive them off. When the storms receded, they made a deep breath to stock up on energy. But it was necessary to find the way out of the cage. It was consisted of a solid lattice without the locks and bolts.

– Where is the way out? – Yas and Yuras asked themselves.

– We have fallen down from the top. The way out must be there, – Yuras said.

The friends raised their heads, wondering how to get out of the cage. But they saw only the lattice and pre - dawn sky. The boys didn’t see the chambers of the Queen Ashera. When the day came, Yas and Yuras looked around and realized that the cage was on a small island in the middle of a still lake surrounded by cliffs. Yas carefully raised himself. The tigers were sleeping. It was the hour, when the forces of the Earth and the Universe came together. The storms quieted down, preparing to the final whirlwind.

Yuras stood up and was examining the cage, trying to find the way out. But he didn’t succeed. Then friends started to check the metal bars, trying to bend them, but the result was the same. They fell to the ground in desperation.

– The ground! – Yuras said. – We are sitting on the ground! We have not paid our attention to it before!

The friends fell down to the ground, listening to the sounds. They knew that it was in the morning before sunrise, when the ground could give the signals to a person, transmitting the most accurate information, predicting the future: if anyone heard the groans, it would be illnesses, the children’s crying – a hunger, the rumble and stamping of feet and hooves – a war. Yas and Yuras heard the voice that was singing a quiet song.

– The time has come, when everything stood still on the earth– Yas said.

The boys rushed to dig the ground under the cage keeping an eye on the sleeping tigers. Suddenly it began to scatter like a fountain in all directions. Yas and Yuras stood still. In a moment they saw a growing earthy hill as if a mole was digging a corridor, afterwards a hole appeared out of which a thin long hand appeared, then another, and then the familiar elongated head with a forelock of the algae.

– Wow! – Tsmok said, shaking off the ground. –I have come on time! Oh, this whimsical Ashera! She thinks only about herself! Ashera is ready to do anything because of her vanity! I have warned you that she is insidious!

He smiled, showing that he was happy to see and to release them. He was looking at the friends triumphantly. They froze in surprise, not understanding anything.

– Though I am old, I can still do a lot of things! – He said solemnly. –What is it? Why are you so sad? Tsmok was looking at the friends, not understanding anything. They were nervous. Tsmok stopped, looked around and understood.

– The tigers! I have forgotten about them! They wake up soon! This hour is coming to an end! – he cried and rushed to dig the ground. The boys began to help him. It was necessary to do everything before awakening of the tigers. It was Yas, who pushed in the hole. Yuras followed him. They were in the earthen pit. When the boys looked around, they saw a long corridor in front of them, which was made under the still lake. The friends were waiting for Tsmok. He was trying to fill up the hole.

– Ashera won’t guess about anything! – he said.

Tsmok was satisfied. In a moment he appeared close to the boys. He took a rest and ran down the earthen corridor. The friends followed him. The corridor was low and narrow.

– Hurry up! Hurry up! – Tsmok muttered. – It isn’t my lake. It is the lake of my friend. He doesn’t let anyone here, because it is the healing lake with the water of life. He allowed me to visit his possessions only for a short period of time.

Soon they got out of the corridor. The lake was left behind.

– You should hurry! Ashera will soon wake up and send the guards to catch you. She is vindictive, very vindictive! – Tsmok said with alarm in his voice, plopping in the nearby lake.

– Thank you, Tsmok! We couldn’t do it without you! – Yas and Yuras said and ran toward the forests. – We must unveil the mystery of the treasures and this land!

– We should help to each other! Is it possible to do something important in your life, if you are alone and don’t have your friends? – Tsmok shouted, brushing a tear.

The Black Monk was rushing about the cave, feeling that something went wrong, but Ashera didn’t give a sign. He flew to the wall, trying to get through it, but he couldn’t close it without the will of the Queen. At that time Ashera was lying on her pillows and mattresses. She was dreaming that the servants would bring the treasures to her feet. Then she would call the wise men. They would announce that her family, the family of cats - leopards, is the oldest one. Ashera mewed, stretching herself with pleasure. Then she fell asleep again. She was dreaming about the victory over her enemies. They would bow to her and glorify her and her family. Ashera was happy – the boys were in her captivity and would not disappear. She would force them to tell her the code.

Yas and Yuras were very tired. They were running along the river, through the forests and villages without stopping, realizing that they had the time only while Ashera was sleeping. Soon she would wake up. The Queen wouldn’t hesitate. She wanted to get the code and the treasures.

– The stone valley should be here, – Yas said, looking around.

– But there's nothing here! Though the first point on the map is here, – Yuras said at a loss, looking around too. – The road ends here and further is the field.

The friends stopped. They were at a loss. An ancient map couldn’t deceive them.

–So many centuries have passed ... – Yas said again with alarm in his voice.

– Maybe we shouldn’t look for the stone valley, but for a separate stone that has been hidden somewhere nearby? – asked Yas.

They once again carefully inspected the neighborhood in all directions, but didn’t see any hint. So, they decided to move on. Hardly had they turned as they saw a huge boulder. It was situated on the edge of the field, not far from the forest.

–It’s a huge stone! – Yas said with surprise.

– Its width is about three meters! – echoed Yuras. – The length is practically the same!

– The map! This stone! Its location is the same as the place of the point marked on the map! – pronounced Yas, admiring and marveling at its size and walking around it.

Yuras also examined the stone.

– It’s not the stone. It’s a boulder! It has a shape of a pyramid! And it has a red color, which reminds me granite! – he said in admiration.

– Yas, look! There are letters on the boulder! – Yuras suddenly said, looking at the letters inscribed on the stone.

– What are these letters? I haven’t seen such letters even in our old library! – Yas said with alarm in his voice.

– What are the strange signs ... – Yuras said thoughtfully. – And what do they mean? What is the answer?

The friends were standing in bewilderment. The signs on the stone were definitely the letters.

– But which nation had such letters: the northern nation or the southern one? – Yuras said thoughtfully.

– The only thing is clear: it was a very old nation ... – Yas thought. – But what is the meaning of the sighs on the boulder?

Suddenly their attention was attracted by a strange sound. They looked at the sky and saw a black dot that was approaching to the boys. Finally Yas and Yuras could see the Eagle. He was flying so low over them that the friends squatted: they feared that the bird would knock them down with the strong wings. But the Eagle made a circle over the boulder and sat on its top. Then he looked at the friends and flew away, waving his strong wings.

– It is the sea eagle! The predatory eagle from a family of hawks. Such birds nest in the upper reaches of the Polota! There are many lakes there! – Yas suddenly recollected.

– If the bird is here, the lakes are close to this place! –Yuras said.

– It means that we have come to the lands around the Polota, which have been marked with a straight line on the map! – Yas concluded. – And this boulder can be a sign, the boundary sign! The Chief Rector has told us that in the ancient times people used to establish such boulders not only on the mounds or monuments, but also to mark the boundaries! But what is the meaning of these letters? Suddenly the boys heard a muffled sound coming from the depths of the ground. The friends crouched and began to listen. In a moment they exchanged glances and froze with fear. They understood that the Black Monk was close to them.

The White Monk was rushing about his stone cave, but the Guardian of the Earth didn’t call him. Together with Ruth he bent over the map and was looking at the land of Ashera.

– No! I don’t understand anything! And anyway, I can’t wait any longer! Where are the Chief Astronomer and his pigeons? It's morning, but I don’t have any information! – he was indignant.

Ruth was nervously fingering the beads.

– But the Chief Pigeon has given the message to the boys! And Tsmok has probably rescued them! –she soothed the Guardian of the Earth.

– Tsmok is old and clumsy! – he grumbled.

And then he ran to the Chief Astronomer, holding the hem of his long linen shirt.

– I can’t wait anymore! I want to know what are doing the Chief Astronomer and his pigeons!

Ruth rushed after him. The Chief Pharmacist followed them.

– You are nervous again! Don’t forget that you have drunk a month's supply of the soothing drops! – he shouted to him, waving a vial with the soothing drops.

But the Guardian of the Earth went upstairs and practically collided with the Chief Astronomer, who was hurry with the urgent message.

– We have troubles! The big troubles! – he could only say, sitting down on the step. Beside him sat the Guardian of the Earth, wiping the sweat from his brow. Ruth and the Chief Pharmacist were giving him the soothing drops.

– Speak! –demanded the Guardian of the Earth.

– My pigeons flew over the possessions of Ashera, but they haven’t seen the boys there, – said the Chief Astronomer.

– So, they have managed to run away from Ashera! – the Guardian of the Earth breathed a sigh of relief. – But where are they now?

– The troubles! The big troubles! Ashera has ordered the Black Monk to catch the boys! He is running them down! – The Chief Astronomer said anxiously.

The Guardian of the Earth immediately outlined a circle in the air and the White Monk appeared in front of them.

– We seem to be too late, – the Chief Astronomer said dejectedly. – The Black Monk will soon catch up with Yas and Yuras.

The Guardian of the Earth showed the direction and the White Monk rushed to rescue the boys. It was necessary to catch up with the Black Monk, who was merciless.

Yas and Yuras pressed against the boulder, trying to hide. They knew that it was impossible to escape from the Black Monk. They were thinking how to protect themselves from the power of the Black Monk. The roar coming from the ground grew louder and then the boys saw the figure of the Black Monk, who appeared from the ground. The friends were threatened with danger.

They were looking at the figure, choosing the opportune moment to grab him by the laps of his long robe or to drive him away in case of the attack.

The Black Monk began to fly around the boulder, approaching to the friends as if he wanted to look at them with his faceless entity. Yas tried to grab him, but the Black Monk leaked through his fingers and vanished. In a moment he re-appeared in the form of a figure, hanging over them, and laughed. Then Yuras rushed to the Black Monk, trying to grab him with his both hands. But he flew off to the side and then upwards.

– Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! .. – laughed the Black Monk even louder. – No one has tried to resist me and my power! You are the naive boys! Don’t enrage me! Return to Ashera or wait for massacre!

The Black Monk was approaching to Yas and Yuras. In a moment he would cover them with his shadow and incinerate the boys. Suddenly the friends heard a sound of a strong wingspread. Yas and Yuras turned around and saw the Eagle. The bird attacked the Black Monk and started a fight. The Black Monk and the Eagle attacked each other in such a way that the sparks together with the Eagle feathers flew about the air. Soon the Eagle began to lose his strengths because of a great number of wounds. The Black Monk laughed triumphantly.

Then everyone heard the rumble coming from the ground. In some time a figure of the White Monk appeared from the ground. And when the Black Monk wanted to finish off the wounded bird, the White Monk stood between them with his arms crossed. The Black Monk wouldn’t dare to cross the boundary. The friends rushed to the Eagle, who was trying to fly away of this place. He jumped on the wounded legs, made an effort to spread his wings and fly, but it did not work.

– Wait a minute! You need a help! – shouted the friends to the Eagle. – The wounds should be dressed!

But the Eagle was flying away. Yas and Yuras followed him. When he saw that the boys almost caught up with him, he stopped and, gathering his last strengths, spread the wings as if he wanted to attack the boys. The friends were surprised. They didn’t understand the reaction of the Eagle. He attentively looked at Yas and Yuras and slowly began to disappear.

– Where are you? We want to help you! – they shouted.

The boys tried to find the bird, but there was no one there. Yas and Yuras were upset because they couldn’t help the Eagle and to thank him. But they returned to the boulder because it was necessary to unveil the inscription on it. The White Monk would be standing in front of the Black Monk until Kupalle. But the long journey was ahead and they had little time.

– What are the strange signs, – Yas said. – But among them are the similar signs! Look, Yuras, the first sigh is followed with two similar signs.

– Yas! The Eagle! He is there! – Yuras screamed with surprise and ran to the forest.

Yas followed him. The friends looked around, but didn’t see anyone.

– It was only the illusion, Yuras, let's analyze the inscription on the boulder, – Yas said, returning to the boulder. – It is important for us. Now I am sure that this is a hint for us. Hardly had he done a few steps as the Eagle appeared in front of him. Yas ran to him, but he vanished. Yas stopped and looked around. Suddenly he noticed the Eagle, who was far away from them. The bird was jumping on the wounded legs, moving through the thickets.

– Wait a minute! – Yas shouted and ran to the bird. Yuras followed him.

They had been following the Eagle, trying to catch up with him, almost the whole day. He appeared in front of the friends and disappeared again and again. Suddenly the boys went out of the forest to the bank of a small river close to the water mill, on the porch of which stood the Eagle on his strong, but wounded legs, spreading the wings. The friends rushed to the water mill. When they ran to the porch, the bird vanished. The boys entered into the water mill. There were the millstones there. The grain had been grinding into flour. Then the flour had been placing in the bags. But the friends saw no one in the water mill.

Yas and Yuras hid, looking around. The noise in the attic attracted their attention. They ran upstairs. The Eagle was sitting on the old trunk. The bird leaped down from the trunk, spreading the wings, and began to moult off the feathers. His legs turned into the feet, the body – into the human body. In a moment the friends saw a miller in the linen pants, shirt and vest tied with a leather strap. Yas and Yuras recoiled in surprise. Without saying a word, he limped to the trunk. He was a huge powerful man. The miller grabbed the bolt with his strong hands and lifted the heavy lid.

– You must hurry to overtake the time, – he said.

The friends cautiously looked at him, not understanding anything.

– Here, take it! – Said miller, taking from the bottom of the trunk the clay tablets wrapped in a linen tablecloth.

Shaking off the dust, he laid them out in front of the boys, who couldn’t believe their eyes – the signs on the clay tablets were the same as the signs on the boulder. Yas and Yuras froze in astonishment, glancing in the direction of the miller and the clay tablets with the strange signs. Yas began to lay out the clay tablets in front of him.

– The signs are the same as the signs on the boulder! – he said finally, laying out the signs in the same order as on the boulder.

In front of them there were four clay tablets with two similar signs in the middle. The miller took a heavy bundle out of the old trunk. Then he carefully unrolled it. It was a long rag of the old parchment stretching from the trunk to the exit of the water mill. The friends saw the signs on it. There were the letters next to the signs. Yas and Yuras rushed to search for the signs they had seen before.

– This sign reminds the letter “v”! – gleefully shouted Yas.

– And this one – the letter “a”! – happily shouted Yuras. – So, we have two letters “a”!

– But what is the last sign? – Yas asked. – I didn’t find it.

He was carefully going downstairs, examining the letters. Yuras was going behind him.

– I found it! I found! – he shouted gleefully. – I found in the end of this parchment! It is the letter “l”!

They had the word “Vaal”.

– Vaal, Vaal, – the friends repeated aloud. – But what does it mean? Vaal, Vaal ...

– We should ask the miller! – Yas said.

They went upstairs to the attic, carefully twisting the old parchment. When returned to the attic, they saw the Eagle, who was sitting on the trunk. The bird looked at them and disappeared. The friends stood in bewilderment. They were at a loss. Suddenly they heard the sounds resembling a wingbeat. The boys ran downstairs and saw the Eagle. The bird was flying around the water mill. The friends ran to him, but he moulted off the feathers. When the friends were close to the place, where was the Eagle, the bird had already transformed into the Hedgehog. The animal was looking at the boys.

– What? What does he want to tell us? – The friends quietly asked each other.

The Hedgehog began to move his paws up and down, showing his excitement. Then the Hedgehog ran in the direction of the forest. The boys followed him. In the reflection of the moon they could barely make out the animal. That’s why they were listening to every sound. But they lost the track. Yas and Yuras looked around. It was almost a dawn. They couldn’t see the Hedgehog. He disappeared without a trace. Yas and Yuras were at a loss. They didn’t understand why the Hedgehog led them to this place.

– Yas! Look! – Yuras said quietly.

They began to look in the direction where the forest ended. There, on the edge of the forest, in the haze of the early morning mist, they saw a faintly discernible figure of the miller. He made a welcome gesture and bowed to the friends. When Yas and Yuras ran to the edge of the forest, the miller disappeared. They were standing on the bank of the river.

– The Polota! – Yas shouted joyfully.

– According to the map this is the Turunt, or the Polota! – echoed Yuras.

– So, the Eagle has shown us the shortest way! – Yuras said. – We have chosen the right direction! The point followed with the straight line! It is the place where begins the straight line!

– The Eagle helped us to unveil the signs on the boulder! But why? He has a secret! And what is the meaning of the mysterious word “Vaal”? – Yas worried. They fell to the ground to have some rest, trying to understand the meaning of such a strange name.

– Vaal ... – quietly said one boy

– Vaal ... – repeated more quietly the other boy.

The boys wanted to sleep. Finally they fell asleep and had been sleeping the whole day. They understood it, when they woke up and saw the sky and the sun that was at its zenith. Then they heard a barely perceptible purr next to them. A gray-white-striped Cat was rubbing against the leg of Yuras.

– I think that it is the servant of the insidious Ashera. She has sent the Cat to find out about the treasures! – the friends said at the same time and froze, staring at the Cat. She was glancing angrily at Yas and Yuras for a moment because the boys unveiled her secret so soon, but then she continued to purr softly. Suddenly the friends saw a black dot in the sky. It was the Eagle.

– You are here! – gleefully shouted Yas.

The bird was circling above the Cat. She was hissing with anger, pressing herself to the ground. The Eagle was soaring upward and downward, driving her away from this place.

– So, the Cat is the servant of Ashera! And the Eagle knows about it! Yas! Run! – Yuras shouted and the friends ran along the Polota. They stopped only in the evening, when they understood that no one followed them. The boys decided to have a rest.

– Yuras! I think I’ve got it! – suddenly said Yas. – The picture of the ox on the map means the place where it can be the treasures, – a lake or the place near it! We have understood it before.

– And the inscription on the boulder “Vaal” is consonant with the word “vol”, which means the ox! – Yuras said. – I think I see what you mean. Maybe those people, who came to this land, pronounced the name of this animal in such a way!

– And according to their pronunciation of this word, they made the inscription on the boulder! – concluded Yas. – If our guesses are correct, we are moving in the right direction.

The way of the friends was very difficult. They had been walking along the Polota for the whole winter, hiding from the snow and blizzards in the stone caves and dugouts. One day they found a shelter in a hollow of an oak, hiding from the freezing cold. When the spring came, Yas and Yuras appeared in the land of the lakes, overcoming the bad roads. But the water overflowed the banks and it was difficult to identify the boundaries of the lakes.

– We have to wait until the water will return to the lakes, – Yas said. – Now we can’t identify a particular lake.

The friends made a shelter of branches not far from the water. Then they began to make the amulets: they carved the figures of the horses of wood and placed around their shelter of branches to protect themselves from the invisible evil spirits. At the entrance the boys drew a circle with a point in the middle. It was a representation of the sun to be protected from the dark forces of evil.

When the water returned to the banks of the lakes, the friends began to worry. There were so many lakes, which covered the long distances. That’s why it was difficult to choose the right way. They tried to reproduce the map, drawing it on the sand, to mark the image of the ox. But it was difficult to define a certain lake that they were trying to find. The map was very old. Much water had flowed since then: some of the lake dried up, the others became shallow. Yas and Yuras were disorientated with the present look of the lakes.

They stopped for a moment and began to release their mind to choose the right direction of the way.

They closed their eyes and concentrated. Each of the boys appealed to the memory of their ancestors and the invisible worlds asking for help so that the ancestors would send them the ideas about the right way. When Yas and Yuras opened their eyes, they froze in surprise. Somewhere far away they saw a figure of the miller, who was going forward.

– So, we must go in the opposite direction to the way we have intended to choose, – they said at the same time and followed the miller. When they came to the road showed by the miller, he disappeared. Hardly had the friends done a few steps as they felt the unknown force. There was a feeling of anxiety and even fear. Looking around, they didn’t notice anything suspicious, but the fear intensified.

– We have come to the land of the priests and priestesses14, the good and evil spirits, – Yas said quietly, cautiously looking around and becoming alert to the silence that was oppressive. There was no one around. The friends had the feeling that everything froze.

Without saying a word, the friends were going on the road showed by the miller and their inner voice. It was quiet and so windless that even a blade of grass didn’t move.

– When the spirits don’t want to show their presence, they freeze and hide in order to appear in front of a wayfarer at any time, – Yuras remembered the facts learnt at school.

– How useful are these facts now! At school we haven’t got an idea why we have to learn all these facts about the nature and its secret world.

The day was drawing to a close.

– Yas, – Yuras called quietly. – Look.

The friends froze. Far away they saw the flashing lights.

– The ever-burning lights.. It is the ever-burning lights ... We have been told about them at school, – Yas said even quieter.

– It means that the heathen temple is not far from here. And judging by the lights, – not only one heathen temple, – concluded Yuras. – We are really in the land of the priests and priestesses.

The friends heard the first spring thunder. It was so strong that it shook the ground. It seemed the thunder wanted to show that its strength and power were great. Then it was the flash of lightning. The Guardian of the Earth, who had been waiting for the news about the boys for so long and even had dozed tired of the uncertainty, woke up in surprise. The Chief Astronomer had been observing the world in his largest telescope for the whole winter. But it was difficult to see anything because of the snow clouds. He sent the pigeons, but they couldn’t fly to the possessions of Ashera because their wings froze of cold.

Ruth was surprised too. She spent a lot of time in the most ancient library, speaking with the wise men. She learnt so many interesting things that she wanted to read more books. Ruth was absorbed in her studies, but the flash of lightning interrupted her.

Then it was the second thunder. Ruth stood up and began to listen. She was nervous. The Guardian of the Earth jumped from his high chair. He outlined a circle in the air and a bookcase filled with books appeared in the wall. The Guardian of the Earth took the book that he needed. It was big and heavy. He laid it on the table. The Guardian of the Earth began to lead the pointer on the lines of his book

– Now! Now! Now it will be the third l and we will get the message from Ashera, –said the Guardian of the Earth.

The lightning flashed. A large nut in a gilded nutshell rolled on the floor. The displeased Cockatoo caught it. The bird was disturbed at the most inopportune moment, when he was cleaning his beautiful feathers. Ruth opened the nut and took the message. When she read it, she froze in surprise.

– The bad news, I know, the bad news, – the Guardian of the Earth said quickly, shutting his book. He outlined a circle in the air. A gap appeared in the wall and the book returned to its place in the ancient library. Without saying a word, the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth ran to the Chief Astronomer.

– The Insidious Ashera! It is the insidious Ashera! – repeated the Guardian of the Earth, running to the Chief Astronomer. When they got to the possession of the Chief Astronomer, it was a complete mess there. The astronomical maps were everywhere. The large telescope was almost hidden under the books and the small one couldn’t be seen. The Chief Astronomer was sitting on the floor. He was staring at the big astrological circle, leading his long nose at first in one direction and then in the opposite one. When he sensed something, he froze and began to look at the signs of the zodiac, thinking what it could mean.

– She is lying! She wants to outwit everyone! – he said.

– What do you mean? – asked the Guardian of the Earth in surprise.

– Ashera has given the message, but she is cheating. The stars and my astrological map are telling me a different story, – said the Chief Astronomer, continuing to lead his long nose in both directions.

– My inner voice is telling me the same. Yas and Yuras came to the right place, but Ashera wants to mislead us!

– And it means that her servants are already prowling around! Yas and Yuras are in danger! – Ruth concluded.

Ruth began to help the Chief Astronomer with his astrological map. The Guardian of the Earth joined them. It was necessary to make a decision.

Ashera was howling, terrifying the servants and guards. When the leopard bared her teeth, they ran away and froze with fear. Even the snakes hid in their holes. Suddenly it became quiet in the in the apartments of the Queen Ashera. And then she growled so loud that everything and everyone around startled. The Queen called the most faithful servants. The black crows appeared in front of Ashera.

– Yas and Yuras have come to the lands where it may be the treasures! – she said. – Fly toward the great lakes faster than the wind, wake up our faithful friends and tell them to put obstacles in their way and to keep their eye on them. Tell them that it is the order of the Queen Ashera. They must tell me all the news about the boys. If the boys find the treasures, they must catch them and take the treasures! – she added in an imperious tone.

The Queen Ashera took a majestic pose and showed the direction to the crows.

– Now we will see who is the strongest and the most powerful, – she said, purring. – I am tired to obey the Guardian of the Earth and his suite. I want to rule and unveil the secret of the treasures! He, who owns the secret, owns the world!

Pleased with herself, Ashera laid down on her pillows and mattresses, quietly purring. The fakir was playing a sweat melody and the snakes appeared from the holes, wriggling in a dance. Together with them came the gray-white-striped Cat, who crawled to the Queen, hanging her head. When the Queen noticed the Cat, she began to hiss with anger. The Cat ran away. The Queen was in a rage. Her faithful servant didn’t carry out her order.

Yas and Yuras was going on the road showed by the miller, stepping carefully and listening to every sound. It was very quiet as if someone was hiding nearby. Suddenly they saw a flock of crows flew over them. The friends stopped and looked at the crows that were flying away.

– It is no accident that the crows have appeared here, – said Yas in some time.

– Yes, it is no coincidence ... – added Yuras, thinking about something.

He wanted to add something else, but he couldn’t do it because the crows were approaching to them again. This time they began to attack the boys with a loud cawing. But the friends didn’t panic. They whirled, driving off the crows and making them fly away in all directions. Yas and Yuras stopped to have a rest. It was necessary to rally their forces before a new attack. But the crows circled over them and flew away, cawing loudly.

– The trouble ...the trouble walking near ... – Yas said.

– Surely, crows woke their evil sisters, their twelve thin, ugly and evil winged sister, – added Yuras. – Now we should be alert.

No sooner had he pronounced these words than Tryaseya appeared from her gloomy dungeon. She was approaching to the friends. They snatched at their amulets - horses, which were on their necks. The amulets didn’t let Tryaseya to get to the boys and she flew away.

– We have got rid of Tryaseya, but we can also face with Ledeya, who can freeze us, Ogneya, who can burn us, Grudeya, who can get on our chests and jump until we die of cough, Gluheya can block our ears so that we can’t hear anything, – Yas began to enumerate all the tricks of the evil sisters.

– We can also meet Lomeya, who can break our bones, Glyadeya, who deprives people of sleep and sanity. But the worst of the sisters is Noveya. If we get in her hands, we won’t have the chances for salvation: she will turn us into the corpses, – Yuras said with alarm in his voice.

The friends were thinking. They have the amulets that will help to protect themselves against the evil sisters. But there would be other obstacles on their way. The evil sisters were the servants of Yaga, but this goddess also had her terrible friends – Karachun, Kaduk, Koschey and one-eyed Liho – who acted with her. It was very difficult to overcome such challenges and the struggle against the goddess of death was useless because she could catch a person in her cold embrace and take away with her for ever.

Yas and Yuras understood that in the struggle against the treacherous enemies they needed not only their strengths. Using their mind could help them to win. The friends tried to remember all that they had learnt at school.

Ashera was happy. The crows woke up the evil sisters, who would catch the boys. The Queen was purring of pleasure, lying on her pillows and mattresses. She even didn’t hiss on the white-gray-striped Cat anymore. Ashera was glad that she would get everything she wanted. But the Cat felt guilty. She was purring, asking for forgiveness. Then she rushed in search of the boys. The Cat wanted to expiate her fault, currying favor with the Queen.

– We should find the place of gathering the energy, where the present and the past meet together, –Yas said. – I think that it is somewhere nearby. The Chief Astronomer has told us about such places on the Earth. If we can get through it, facing with the time of the evil witches and the dark forces, we will overcome this difficult way. We should make the correct calculations and determine where there are the energy points of the Earth! – he added in a firm voice.

The friends continued to remember all the facts they had learnt at school. They were appealing to the memory of their ancestors, hoping to get a hint. But most of all they remembered the words of the Chief Astronomer. “Our consciousness gathers the world” – he used to say. Only when the boys faced with the obstacles on their way, they got the meaning of these words. It was the most difficult test they had ever had. The result of this test depended on their actions.

–At last! At last! At last the sky is clear! – shouted the Chief Astronomer. He tore oneself away from the world's largest telescope, dancing around it.

– What is there? – asked the Guardian of the Earth. –Speak!

But the Chief Astronomer didn’t pay attention to the Guardian of the Earth, again clinging to the largest telescope and observing something in it.

– What a troublesome work I have! It is so difficult to manage with it, – said the Guardian of the Earth with an offended tone, sitting down on the steps leading to the loft. – Everyone has his own traits of character and considers himself the smartest and greatest, but I have to be patient with them, looking for the individual approaches in order not to offend anyone. I want to keep peace and order. And I want to get the news, that’s why I should endure all these liberties. But there is nobody, who can replace me and I can’t retire for many centuries!

The Guardian of the Earth was upset. He looked as if he wanted to cry.

– What are you talking about? – Ruth began to soothe him. – You are so wise! We all love you, but everyone has his own responsibilities and wants to carry out his commitments well. The Chief Astronomer will sort it out himself and tell us about everything. We should be patient.

– Yes, I know that a person, who knows how to wait, becomes the winner, – agreed the Guardian of the Earth.

– I know! I know how to help to the boys! We must act! – the Chief Astronomer suddenly shouted and ran to the loft. Ruth and the Guardian of the Earth followed him. Picking up the laps of his long linen shirt and jumping over the stairs, he kept saying: “What is there? Tell us, please!”

But the Chief Astronomer began to draw a scheme on a piece of paper, muttering something under his breath. Then he began to examine it carefully.

– Well, well, well... – he continued to talk to himself. Then he ran to the telescope and began to observe something in it.

– Well, I should mark here and everything will be taken into account, – the Chief Astronomer said with satisfaction.

When he began to roll up the message and tie it to the feet of the Chief Pigeon, he finally noticed the Guardian of the Earth, who was standing close to him.

– You are here! – he said in surprise.

– I should admit that I have been here for a long time, – muttered the Guardian of the Earth. – Please tell me everything!

It was almost a sunset. Yas and Yuras didn’t know what to do. It was too dangerous to go forward and too risky to stay, where they were. They had little time, that’s why they were nervous.

– If the obstacles on our way are becoming more and more difficult, then we are moving in the right direction. It is clear that someone doesn’t want us to unveil the mystery and find the place marked with the image of the ox on the map, – Yas remembered all the events that had happened with them.

– Maybe someone wants to get the clue and the treasures himself, –said Yuras. – We must overcome the last and the most difficult hurdle. Only in this case we will find the way to the treasures. But how can we find the place, where meets the past and the present?

The friends were at a loss. Suddenly they heard a familiar sound reminding a flight of birds. Soon they noticed the pigeons.

– Maybe the Chief Astronomer wants to give us an important message, if the Chief Pigeon is accompanied with the faithful servants, – said Yas with alarm in his voice, looking at the sky.

The pigeons circled over the boys, gave them the message and flew away. They felt that this place was in danger as there were very many disturbing impulses that came out of the earth. And he did not want to stay there any longer.

Yas and Yuras rapidly unrolled the message. There was a line, which with two transverse lines. Then there were four short sinuous lines and four transverse. Then – a sinuous line and seven points.

– It is the scheme drawn by the Chief Astronomer, – Yuras said with confidence.

– We must hurry. We have little time, – Yas said, when they figured out all the lines and points depicted by the Chief Astronomer.

The Chief Astronomer made the message understandable only to the boys. If someone else got the message, he wouldn’t understand it. It was the most difficult task on the lessons of making cryptograms.

– It is the stone again, – Yuras said quietly. – Maybe the hint is connected with the stone.

They were going on the way drawn by the Chief Astronomer, trying not to step aside. Suddenly they saw the lights in darkness of night and heard the purring.

– It is the insidious Ashera! She has sent her servant again, – Yas said, pausing and listening. – But we don’t have time to deal with her. We must hurry. Soon will be a dawn.

The friends went faster, ignoring the gray-white-striped Cat, who was trying to follow Yas and Juras. Suddenly she stopped and began to hiss. She mewed, stopped for a moment and slowly began to crawl away.

– What is it? What has happened with the faithful servant of Ashera? – asked Yuras and stopped too.

– Yuras ... – Yas said quietly, pointing to the stone in front of them.

The white-gray-striped Cat was crawling further and further away, while the friends were coming closer and closer to the inconspicuous stone.

– Here is the stone indicated by the Chief Astronomer, – Yuras said quietly. – We should be careful. It can be the entrance under the stone.

– The entrance to another world, hidden and inaccessible, – Yas said. –The inhabitants of this world don’t want to communicate with us, that’s why we shouldn’t go there without asking.

– We should appeal to the memory of our ancestors! – said Yuras.

The friends put their hands up, looking at the sky, and began to talk to the ancestors: “Sofia, Euphrosyne, Rogneda, Rogvolod, Bryachislav ... You have helped this land to survive in the difficult times! Please help this land again! Send your spiritual energy and teach us to comprehend the secrets of time!” Yas and Yuras froze, listening to every sound. But it was quiet. It was almost a dawn. Yas and Yuras were looking at the pre-dawn sky, trying to feel any changes in the nature. Suddenly they felt a slight breath of wind.

– It's time ... We have been made a sign, – Yas said quietly.

A step and another step ... The friends were coming closer to the mysterious stone. Now they could see it clearly. Hardly had they touched the stone and said: “The times, the times, meet together, the doors, the doors, open for the travelers”, as the ruins turned into the ancient settlement15. Together with it appeared the ghosts.

– The ancient settlement ... – Yas said with fear and surprise.

– The Chief Astronomer has told us about this ancient settlement, do you remember? – Yuras added quietly, trying not to disturb the ghosts.

– Yes, he has told us about the fierce battle that took place somewhere in this area a long time ago. The ancient settlement was destroyed and all the residents were killed, – Yas remembered the story of the Chief Astronomer. – And since that time the ghosts had appeared here for centuries. It happens at dawn or at dusk. The ancient settlement is invisible to a human eye, but the ghosts preserve the memory of it.

– So, it is the ancient settlement we have been told about... – Yuras said.

– And we have found the place, where the past and the present meet together, – added Yas.

The ghosts were approaching to them.

– Our consciousness gathers the world, – whispered the ghosts.

The friends froze in surprise.

– The memory gathers the world ..the memory gathers the world, – it was heard from all sides.

Yas and Yuras tried to take a look at the ghosts, but it was difficult to do in the predawn mist.

– We keep the memory of all the events that have happened in the world. We know all about the past and the present. We make the times gather together, – the friends heard a quiet voice.

– Help us to overcome the hurdles on this way! – asked Yas.

– We can help you!... Our history is more ancient than the one that you know! ... – said the voices. – You should know .. you should know ... The treasures will help you to unveil the mystery ... Find... Find them ...

It became quiet for a moment. Then the boys saw the silhouette of a ghost, approaching to them.

– You will see the ruins of the ancient pagan temple by Lake Paulskoye, which is not far from Polotsk. It’s difficult to find the traces of the temple because they are barely distinguishable, but the memory of it and the day, when the temple has been ruined, is alive. – said the ghost. – You must find the flint that looks like the thunderous arrow. It is situated not far from the ruins. Make the sacred fire with the help of this flint, using the oak branches!

–What for? What is the meaning of this fire? – asked Yuras.

– The sacred fire should blaze up! – the voice of the ghost echoed over the ruins.

The ghost began to disappear.

– Wait a minute! Wait a minute! But how can we find the way to the lake? – Yas and Yuras shouted. – And what about the treasures?! And the ox?!

– The sacred fire should blaze up! – the friends heard.

When the morning came, the mist had vanished away as well as the ancient settlement. The first rays of the sun touched the ground and the friends saw that they were standing on the bank of a beautiful and picturesque lake.

– Yuras, we have little time, – with alarm in his voice said Yas. – Only one day and one night further to a day before Kupalle. We must hurry!

– We are standing on the bank of another lake. It is not the lake with the ox. How can we find the way to it? – Yuras said nervously. – And what about the words of the ghost?

– We must hurry! We must find the flint and make the sacred fire, – Yas said quickly, looking around. – Maybe we will find the hint.

The boys were looking for the traces of the pagan temple.

– If the ghost have told us to act in such a way, then it has its meaning, – he added.

They spent the whole day searching for the traces of the temple, but the lake was too large. The friends began to nervous.

– Yas, look! – Yuras said, moving the bushes apart.

There was a low hill in front of them.

– I think that earlier it was a high hill, – Yas said, looking around.

– It may be the tracks from a deep ditch. He was almost overgrown with the grass, but here is the deepening around the hill, – Yuras took up his thoughts.

– So, here could be the temple-fortress surrounded by a palisade and deep ditch.

– It is true! – Yas said. – Now it all ties up! There was a temple in honor of Perun! The deity had the appearance of a human with a flint in his hand. The flint reminded the thunderous arrow! The ghost has told us about it!

– We know that the fire made of the oak branches used to burn close to the deity the whole day and night, even when it was raining, – continued Yuras.

– And those, who couldn’t preserve the sacred fire, died, – Yas added quietly. – But why should we make the fire?

The friends became quiet. They realized that something important was connected with the sacred fire.

It was almost dark, when Yas found the flint.

– I found! I found the flint! It has the form of the thunderous arrow! – he exulted.

The friends made the sacred fire. It ran like a snake through the maze of a big piled fire, broke out and rushed up. Suddenly the ground roared, shook and the White and the Black Monks appeared from the opposite sides of the fire with a strange whistling sound. The friends froze with fear. The haze that was instead of the faces of the Monks began to take shape. The White and the Black Monks appeared on the ground, throwing off their monastic garb. In a moment two strong warriors crossed their heavy double-edged swords. And the life and death battle began. Yas and Yuras were afraid to move, snuggling against each other.

– The main thing is to preserve the sacred fire, – the boys heard the voice.

The friends began to throw the oak branches into the fire. The angry faces filled with hatred reflected in the flames of the fire.

The poisonous snakes hissed, looking at Ashera, and began to crawl away, hiding in their holes. The servants froze in horror. The fakir was speechless. Something terrible was happening before their eyes. Ashera mewed and began to roll over her pillows and mattresses, cramping and roaring. Then she stretched out.

The flames of the fire blazed up in the furnace and immediately died out. Before the eyes of the servant and guards of Ashera the Queen suddenly began to squirm and twist. Finally instead of the leopard-cat muzzle appeared a face with the big slanting red-brown eyes. Instead of the rare color with the brown spots on her head appeared the red hair. The leopard skin fell on the floor and everyone saw a beautiful maiden.

The flames of the fire blazed up in the furnace and immediately died out again – the leopard skin disappeared. The Queen looked gracious in her clothes made of the light and flying fabric. There were the golden sandals on her elegant legs and the crown with precious stones on her head.

– Asherah16 is back... Asherah is back... – whispered the servants and guards from all sides. – She has returned after so many centuries...

– Asherah is back! Long live the Queen Asherah – the earth deputy of love and power goddess Ishtar!! – triumphed the servants and guards of the Queen.

– Asherah is back..., Asherah is back..., – muttered the Guardian of the Earth, leading the pointer through the pages of his old book. – Here, I found it. It is written about the battle, – continued the Guardian of the Earth. –Well, well, well here are the main words: “The sacred fire should blaze up!” The Guardian of the Earth settled back in his chair and dropped his pointer. The book closed and returned to its place in the ancient library.

“It has happened...” – whispered the Guardian of the Earth.

– Asherah is back! Asherah is back! – the Chief Astronomer shouted, running to the Guardian of the Earth. He was followed by Ruth. They froze afraid to disturb the peace of the Guardian of the Earth, who was thinking about something. No one should disturb the Guardian of the Earth, when he was thinking.

– If Asherah is back, it means that the boys have made the sacred fire, –he said. – The fire made on the site of the ruined temple returned to life a bygone era together with its inhabitants.

– I was right! I was right! I am well done! – the Chief Astronomer was glad. – My telescope! My pigeons! They helped me to draw the right scheme!

– The boys have come to the treasures, have they? – Ruth said.

– Not yet, but they are close, – the Guardian of the earth said quietly. –The main challenges are ahead. They have little time. The battle between the White and the Black Monks has begun. Asherah is very power-hungry. If the Black Monk wins the battle, the dark forces will begin to act and then...

– What should we do? – Ruth said with alarm in her voice.

– I know! I know! – shouted the Chief Astronomer.

He turned around and ran to the loft. The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth followed him.

The battle had been lasting the whole day and the whole night. No one wanted to give up. It was the morning of a new day, when the strengths of the White Monk began to leave him. But the dark forces became stronger. The evil sisters were ready to come to the aid of the Black Monk.

– What should we do? – Yuras said at a loss. – How can we help to the White Monk?

The friends were thinking what to do.

– It should make the fire flame up! – Yas said. – The ghosts have given us a hint that this fire is connected with the White Monk.

They began to throw the oak branches into the fire. The flames of the fire blazed up. The White Monk gathered his strengths and re-entered the battle. The evil sisters hit in their holes. Suddenly the pigeons appeared on the horizon.

– Look, our pigeons! And the Chief Pigeon with them! – Yas shouted, waving his hand.

But they quickly flew away in the opposite direction.

– Where are you? – Yuras shouted to them.

– A sign! They want to give us a sign! – Yas said thoughtfully.

– It’s true! It's a sign! The Chief Astronomer has sent them, – Yuras agreed.

The warriors were tired because they carried the battle all day, night and day, which has already crossed over his middle. The odds were alternately first on one, then on the other side, but no one wanted to give up. The friends knew that it would be a balance between the light and dark forces until the end of this terrible battle. Yas and Yuras were worried. The Black Monk began to attack the White Monk more furious. The boys continued to throw the oak branches into the fire, but it was useless.

– How can we help him? If he gives up, it will be the end of everything. Even the treasures won’t help! – Yas said in desperation.

– The world is full of the dark forces, that’s why it is so difficult to struggle against the evil, – Yuras said with the same desperation in his voice.

Suddenly they noticed a black dot in the sky. It was approaching to them. In a moment the boys saw the Eagle.

– It is the Eagle! The pigeons called him for help! – they shouted at the same time, waving with their hands. – Here! Here!

The bird began to attack the Black Monk, who struck with his sword, making the Eagle flew off to the side. But the Eagle gathered his strengths and attacked once again. Then the bird began to peck at the head of the Black Monk, who was whirling, trying to drive off the bird, but it was useless. The Eagle seized the Black Monk with the claws. The White Monk struck with his sword and the Black Monk fell on the ground. The evil sisters began to hiss with rage and fear. The White Monk drained of all strength fell on the ground too. The friends ran to him.

– The sacred fire should... – he said quietly.

Yas and Yuras looked at the fire. It was slowly becoming dim. The Eagle was close to the fire, jumping on his strong legs. The boys threw the oak branches into the fire. And as soon as the fire blazed up, the bird moulted off the feathers.

Instead of strong clawed feet legs appeared, instead of the body - the figure of a mighty strong man. He turned to his friends. Those stood still - the miller stood before them in the armour of a warrior. There were the bracers17 on his hands. He had an amulet on his left shoulder. His sword was in the sheath.

– We must hurry! – he said to the friends. – Simargl will wake up soon in order to dry the treasures!

– But what about the White Monk? – asked the friends at the same time. – We can’t leave him here.

– He will keep the sacred fire, which is the soul of the temple. While the fire is burning, the light forces are helping us to struggle against the evil! – the miller said, soothing the boys.

The Queen Asherah was angry. The crows brought the bad news. Her faithful servant – the Black Monk died on the battlefield and the boys were going to the land, where could be the treasures. The crows told her that the boys were going to the lake. Once there were many heathen temples around this lake. People sacrificed the oxen on its bank. Moreover, Filonid, a powerful and invincible warrior, was with them.

– Oh, these annoying boys! Now I understand the code on the old map! – Asherah said nervously. – And Filonid ... But the Queen Asherah won’t give up!

She called her faithful servants and ordered:

– All the dark forces must make the obstacles on the way of these boys and Filonid! We! And only we will find the treasures! Now we know the place, where we can find them!

The crows flew around the world to tell everyone about the order of the Queen.

The friends and Filonid ran with all their might. Suddenly they met the Merman, who tried to catch them, but Filonid took his sword and the Merman jumped into the water seized by fear. When they run into forest that they had to go through to get directly to the place on the map where an ox was depicted, the moss grasped their legs to the knees. Filonid began to cut the moss with his sword, saying: “We don’t have time to bring the gifts. You are blocking our way with the bad thoughts! And your intentions are clear to me!”

The Wood Goblin, who was close to the friends didn’t dare to laugh in his loud laughter. He was scared. All his friends were running away at the sight of Filonid. Even the evil sisters were afraid of his sword. Filonid struck with his sword for the last time and the evil spirits hid in all the holes. There were no more obstacles on their way. In some time they came to the lake. It was already dark. Soon it would be the night of Kupalle.

They were standing close to the lake, looking around. Yas and Yuras were happy, but Filonid stood still. He was embarrassed. He looked around, then rushed to the shore, carefully examining everything in its path. Filonid came to the lake, thinking about something. Then he ran along the shore, but suddenly stopped, and with anxiety in his voice said:

– Many centuries have passed. The lake has become shallow. The lake that was so large has turned into a small one.

– What should we do? – Yas said in despair.

– We should find the traces of the ancient centuries – the place in front of the heathen temples, where used to be the fires, – he said.

– The heathen temples? – Yuras asked in surprise. – Are you sure?

– Yes, here at the lake, there were a few heathen temples, – Filonid said, looking around.

– But what about the ox on a map? – continued Yuras.

– The oxen used to be sacrificed to Perun, – Filonid said. Therefore, the lake is called Oxen - Filonid said looking around. – It was a long time ago.

His eyes skimmed over the tops of the trees, barely perceptible hills where could have been heathen temples in ancient times. Friends stood still, trying not to disturb Filonid, who was trying to remember the place where perhaps the treasures was buried. Meanwhile midsummer dusk came over the lake and Kupala night was about to come into its own.

– I think I found it... Earlier these oaks were young. The road from the oaks led to the lake, – Filonid said, trying to compare the present view of the lake with his memories. – Yes, it is here ... In a summer noon the sunbeam used to touch the water surface in this place, – he said. – But the lake has become shallow and now there is a dry land here. So, the treasures may be somewhere nearby.

Hardly had Filonid said these words as the blue lights appeared close to the lake.

– Simargl! Simargl has lit the lights to show where the treasures are! – shouted Yas.

– But there are many lights here! – said Yuras.

The friends were at a loss. There were so many lights everywhere. They didn’t know, where were the treasures they needed. The boys were looking at Filonid, who moved forward, avoiding the blue lights. Yas and Yuras followed him. Under the blue lights appeared the cracks. The boys tried to look into the cracks and were amazed. They saw somewhere deep in the ground huge pots of gold and silver that hung on chains, but somewhere in the deep there were precious stones antique trunks bound in iron. But when they looked into a crack, they heard roaring and hissing of the evil spirits and the pots with the gold, silver and precious stones sank deeper into the ground, disappearing without a trace. Filonid made a sign to the boys, warning them. They should be very careful. The friends shouldn’t look into the cracks without a special need, otherwise the treasures would disappear without a trace and they couldn’t find them.

– The treasures are enchanted, – Filonid said quietly with anxiety in his voice.

– The deeper we dig, the deeper the enchanted treasure sink into the ground. – Yas said quietly, fearing to disturb the god Simargl.

– So, we should remove the spell from the treasures, – added Yuras.

– But it is difficult to find the treasures, from which we should remove the spell. – Filonid said, looking at the starry sky. – We need the whole night to do this, but we don’t have so much time.

They stopped. Filonid was looking around to find the right place.

– The water! Of course, the water! – Filonid suddenly shouted. – The water retains a lot of different events in its memory!

Filonid ran to the lake. He scooped up the water with his hands, saying: “Tell us the secrets that you keep to protect them from the enemies and evil forces.” Approaching to the treasures, he sprinkled them with the water. When the lights under a treasure went out, it meant that it wasn’t a treasure they were looking for. Filonid was going further. Fewer and fewer lights remained on their way. The friends anxiously looked at the sky. Soon would be a dawn. The last drops of the water fell on the ground. Suddenly the lights became brighter and everyone heard the sound coming from the ground. It sounded as if someone knocked and wanted to get out.

– The Underground King, open the ground, open the ground, let the secret out. We will take the secret with us and tell it to other people. We promise to the god Simargl that we have the good intentions... – Filonid said quickly. Yas and

Yuras repeated the same words.

A crack appeared on the ground. Filonid, Yas and Yuras looked into it. They saw a crock that was approaching to them. Filonid and the friends were happy. They couldn’t believe that they had found the treasures they needed.

Suddenly the blue lights began to go out. Soon would be a dawn.

– It is time for Simargl to close the cracks until the next night of a summer solstice! – Yas shouted.

Filonid put his sword into the crack. The friends quickly began to dig the ground, but the crack was closing.

– Yuras! Dig here! – shouted Yas.

Yas tried to grab the crock, but it was stuck so that Yas couldn’t take it out.

While the friends were digging the ground, Filonid was holding the sword at an angle, so that the crack couldn’t close. Hardly had the friends pulled the crock out as the ground closed and the crack disappeared.

– Yes, it is the crock that we have been looking for! – Filonid rejoiced. – Thank to the god Simargl! Thank to the Underground King!

– We found it! We found it! – Yuras and Yas were screaming with delight.

Filonid carefully began to untie the leather lace that was holding the linen cloth, which covered the crock. When he opened it, the friends froze in surprise. The crock was full of the jewelries and ancient coins illustrated a face with a stuck out tongue. Yas carefully took one coin turned it over. It was a wheel with four spokes on the other side of the coin.

– They look like the coin brought by Ruth, – he said quietly.

– But there are other coins here, – said Yuras even quieter.

He was afraid to speak louder as if the crock would disappear because of his voice. When he took another coin, he froze in astonishment – it was the image of the temple and the symbol of the goddess Ishtar. Yas and Filonid were amazed too.

– Astarte, Ishtar, or Asherah, Ashera ... – Yuras whispered.

Suddenly everyone heard the rumble coming from the ground.

– It's ... – Yuras could only mutter.

The figure of the Black Monk appeared in front of the friends. Immediately Filonid began to decrease in growth, instead of legs appeared strong claws, body covered with feathers. Yas and Yuras barely had time to pick up the vessel that had fallen from his hand turned into wings.

– The sacred fire went out, – Yas said at a loss. – We forgot about the sacred fire.

– Run! We must run! We must save the treasures! – Yuras shouted, running to the forest. Yas followed him.

The battle started on the bank of the lake. The Black Monk rushed to the Eagle, trying to catch him by the wings, but the bird of prey attacked the Monk in such a way that he had to retreat for a moment. He was in a rage. Finally he managed to catch the wings of the Eagle and the bird began to fall dawn. Luckily, the Eagle had escaped before he reached the ground.

Suddenly everyone heard the rumble coming from the ground and the White Monk appeared in front of the Black Monk. Eagle soared into the sky and followed Yas and Yuras, who were running away. Yas was clasping the crock with the treasures to his breast and Yuras was looking around. Suddenly they saw a black dot in the sky – the Eagle was flying to them.

–We are here! We are here! – they shouted, trying to draw his attention.

As soon as the Eagle reached the friends, he sat down on the ground, jumping on his strong feet as if he wanted to say something.

– What does he want to say? – Yuras said, trying to understand the Eagle. But Yas called the Eagle and whispered some kind words to him.

After these words the Eagle inclined his head.

– As it turns out, it is important to understand the language of animals and birds, – Yuras said, climbing to the back of the Eagle.

– Every person will understand animals and birds, if he can listen to his inner voice and his soul, – Yas said, sitting down on the back of the bird.

The Eagle fluttered his wings and flew to the Guardian of the Earth.

– Well, well, well, – kept saying the Guardian of the Earth, leading the pointer on the lines of his strange book.

– What is there? – Ruth asked, noticing that the Guardian of the Earth was nervous.

But he continued to lead the pointer on the lines.

– It means that something has happened, – Ruth said thoughtfully. Understanding that it isn’t the appropriate time to disturb the Guardian of the Earth, she ran to the Chief Astronomer.

– Well, well, well, – kept saying the Chief Astronomer, looking in his largest telescope.

– What is there? – Ruth asked the Chief Astronomer. But he didn’t hear Ruth, muttering something to himself.

– They are returning! – he suddenly shouted and ran to the Guardian of the Earth. Ruth followed him.

– They are returning! They are returning! – the Guardian of the Earth shouted happily. – That’s all!

He closed the book that returned to the ancient library through a gap in the wall. The ancient book dissolving in the air floated into the old library at his usual place. It was not known when it would be any need for her again and how many centuries would pass before one remembers it.

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth were looking at the treasures. Ruth put her coin and necklace close to the treasures, which were very old. Even the Guardian of the Earth couldn’t remember such ancient images that were depicted on the treasures. He shook his head, saying:

– Even the oldest of my books couldn’t give me the answer about the age and origin of these treasures.

The Guardian of the Earth was thinking for a moment and said:

– We should go to the Chief Scientist!

The Guardian of the Earth outlined a circle in the air. The White Monk appeared from a gap in the wall. He bowed to the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth and beckoned them to follow him. Ruth took a step forward and the gap vanished. They were standing at the foot of the tower, which was very high. It was situated on the island. The Guardian of the Earth outlined a circle in the air. The arch with the gates appeared in the wall. The guards, who were close to the gates, bowed to the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth. No sooner had they set foot on the wooden platform than it slowly went up.

When they got to the cell of the Chief Scientist, he was observing the stars in his telescope, not paying attention to anything around.

– Can we have a minute of your attention? – the Guardian of the Earth said, trying to get the attention of the Chief Scientist.

But the Chief Scientist didn’t notice him. The Guardian of the Earth became angry and began to stamp his foot.

– I think I know what to do! – Ruth said.

She climbed up to a pile of books so that she could reach the telescope. Then she put the ancient coin that she brought with her to the magnifying glass of the telescope.

The Chief Scientist shrugged his shoulders. He muttered to himself some words, trying to see something in the telescope. He was in irritation. In some time the Chief Scientist looked in the telescope again, thinking about something and shrugging his shoulders. Then he sat down in his chair and looked around.

– What is it? – the Chief Scientist said in surprise, looking at Ruth, who was standing on a pile of books. – What are you doing here? It's simply a disgrace!

– Yes, it's simply a disgrace that you don’t pay attention to us! – the Guardian of the Earth said with irritation. – It was a little trick to attract your attention!

– What is it? – the Chief Scientist said, observing something in his telescope again. Then he said in surprise:

– It's a coin! A very old coin! ..

– Yes, it's the ancient coin! – the Guardian of the Earth echoed. – We have come to you to get the information about this coin and about the treasures that we have found outsmarting the insidious Asherah, – the Guardian of the Earth said proudly.

– I remember something like that ... – muttered the Chief Scientist and rushed to the large bookcases. – The necklace made of cowrie shell18 from the ancient castle in Polotsk... I remember, remember... it was exactly in Polotsk.

– Why are you talking about the necklace made of cowrie shell? – Ruth surprised. – We have brought the other jewelries and these coins...

– Yes, the necklace made of cowrie shell .. Yes, yes, the necklace made of cowrie shell .. We should focus on the time, when it was found in one of the ancient treasures not far from Polotsk. But your jewelries are much older and they are connected with the places, where flows the Polota and many lakes and therefore with Polotsk. I know it for sure because I have already seen such images on the coins, which are very, very old, – the Chief Scientist muttered and began to read an old book.

The Chief Scientist was turning over the pages of the book for some time. The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth were waiting patiently.

– Here! I found it! I have seen such images before! – the Chief Scientist said solemnly.

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth were excited.

– Thrace is the ancient country between the Aegean, the Black and the Marmara seas ... Then again Thrace, no, it’s not, what I need, – the Chief Scientist muttered. – That’s it! The colonies of the Phoenicians! Phoenicia! Phoenicia! The ancient country, which is situated on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea! – he shouted, jumping for joy and clapping.

– Tell us, what is it? Why are you so happy? – the Guardian of the Earth asked carefully.

The Chief Scientist turned over a page and took his map.

– Look here! The colonies of the Phoenicians extended from the Mediterranean to Lake Maiotis, which is the ancient name of the Azov Sea.

– So what? How the Phoenicians are connected with our treasures? – the Guardian of the Earth was at a loss. He didn’t understand what the Chief Scientist was talking about.

– Now it is clear! – continued the Chief Scientist. – We have made a great discovery! The flourishing of Phoenicia was at about the sixth century BC until they were conquered by the Persians and then by Alexander of Macedon! Can you imagine?! Until the sixth century BC!

The Chief Scientist was happy, clapping his hands gleefully.

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth were waiting. They wanted the Chief Scientist to explain them everything. In some time the Chief Scientist calmed down and continued.

– You see, the Phoenicians were active in the land and sea trade. They sold not only the rare purple wool, but also the expensive jewelries that were famous all over the world. And even in the ancient times the Phoenician coins were unique.

They were found only close to the Black Sea. But the coins appeared in the northern lands! It means that my suppositions are truthful!

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth paused ready to hear something very important.

– Here, in this book the wise Lucian19 has written: “The Phoenicians sailed not only from the Azov Sea to the Bosporus, but also they reached the Hellenic and the Barbarian seas,” – the Chief Scientist said quickly. He became nervous, walking about the cell.

– So what? – the Guardian of the Earth was disappointed.

– It means that Polotsk is much older than we have thought before! Do you see, what I mean? – the Chief Scientist was excited.

– No, I don’t! – the Guardian of the Earth said.

– But it's so easy! – the Chief Scientist was perplexed. – Polotsk is mentioned in the chronicles under 862, but the Icelandic sagas tell us about the seizure of this town by the Huns in the fifth century, when their leader was Attila. It means that Polotsk is four centuries older than we have thought. But the Phoenicians were here even earlier. They traded in these lands, what can be proved with the Phoenician coin and necklace. Later the Greeks came here to sell the rare things of the Phoenicians! It also means that there were the ancient settlements close to the Polota. They were much older than we have thought!

– So, here is the answer! – the Guardian of the earth said. – These lands are much older! And it also means ...

The Guardian of the Earth even rolled his eyes with happiness.

– And the family of Asherah is very old too, – Ruth said quietly. – She knew about it, waiting for the hour when the treasures could prove this fact!

– But it's not all, –said the Chief Scientist. – For the Phoenicians the ox, or vol – Vaal – was a sacred animal. They worshiped the god of the sun Vaal and brought this tradition to these lands. The inhabitants of these lands began to sacrifice the oxen to the god Perun to increase the force of these lands. A mythical Phoenician god Og, who later lived in the town of the horned goddess Astarte, or as it is called Ishtar, Asherah, and replaced the horned Vaal! –remembered the Chief Scientist.

– I knew it! I knew it! We have the cleverest scientist! – the Guardian of the Earth said solemnly.

He outlined a circle in the air. Through a gap in the wall the Guardian of the Earth together with Ruth appeared in the large hall in front of the pupils. The members of the Supreme Council of the Rectors headed by the Chief Rector, were waiting for the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth. They turned over the sandglass for several times. The Chief Astronomer was whispering:

– When they turn over the sandglass once again, the Guardian of the Earth together with Ruth will come here.

– They are coming! They are coming! – shouted the Cockatoo.

The Guarding of the Earth was standing in front of the pupils, who were applauding to him. They were happy. The Guardian of the Earth raised his hand. It became quiet in the hall. Only the Cockatoo shouted, wanting to show his importance:

– Hush! Hush!

– The treasures have told us! – the Guardian of the Earth began his speech. – The treasures have told us that the lands close to Polotsk are much older than we have thought before!

Everyone shouted with delight. The Guardian of the Earth raised his hand again and the Cockatoo shouted:

– Hush! Hush!

– We could learn it with the help of Yas and Yuras, who have overcome all the challenges on their way to the treasures! – the Guardian of the Earth said solemnly.

Everyone began to applaud, enjoying the victory of their friends and classmates, the victory over the forces of evil and over the insurmountable obstacles.

– The Chief Scientist could unveil the main secret of the treasures, – continued the Guardian of the Earth. – The lands close to Polotsk are not only much older than we have thought before, but also have been well – known at that time!

Everyone began to applaud once again. The pupils were sending their gratitude to the Chief Scientist in their thoughts.

The Guardian of the Earth raised his hand once again.

– But we couldn’t do it without Ruth, who has brought the treasures to us.

Everyone began to applaud to Ruth.

– And why else? – asked the Guardian of the Earth.

– Because we were together! Because everyone wanted to help to each other! Because there are a lot of good people in our world! Because ... – it was heard on all sides.

Suddenly a gap appeared in the wall and everyone saw the Eagle, who circled the hall and sat down next to Yas and Yuras. The boys bowed to the bird to show their gratitude.

– We should unveil other secrets! The secrets that have been kept by the ancient people for centuries! – continued the Guardian of the Earth. – It will be the most difficult task for the pupils!

The Chief Rector as well as the members of the Supreme Council of the Rectors bowed to the Guardian to the Earth, saying:

– I entrust the pupils together with the Supreme Council of the Rectors to begin the fulfillment of this task immediately! Remember that the most precious thing in the world is the history of our planet. The more we learn about our background, the stronger is our spirit!

The pupils began to whisper in excitement. It was not only the most difficult task they had ever had, but also the most interesting one!

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth took their seats in the balcony, observing everything that was going on in the hall.

The Chief Rector took the envelope and gave it to the Cockatoo, who grabbed it with his beak and made a circle over the heads of the pupils. It became quiet in the hall. The Chief Rector turned over the sandglass.

Yas and Yuras began to whisper as well as the other pupils. The grains of sand were falling on the bottom of the sandglass. The Cockatoo was watching the pupils, who were thinking.

– You are right! – the Chief Astronomer said solemnly. – I feel that you all have coped with this task! My inner voice tells me about it, when I am looking at your concentrated faces!

– We should connect the past and the present! – the pupils said. The Chief Astronomer approvingly nodded his head. The Cockatoo began to shout:

– To connect! To connect!

The Chief Astronomer outlined a circle in the air and instead of the ceiling appeared the starry sky.

The students froze. Then each of them made his assumptions. The Chief Astronomer was listening carefully, walking about the hall. Then he stopped and said:

– The truth is always much closer than we think! – he said. The pupils were thinking. Everyone wanted to find the correct answer.

The Chief Rector turned over the sandglass.

– I know! We should find the place in the Universe, where the time zones are connected! – Yas shouted.

– You are right! – the Chief Astronomer said happily. – The truth is always much closer than we think! People somehow think that they must invent the time machine for these purposes. For many centuries they have tried to build such machines.

But the only thing they need is to address themselves to the Universe. It is a very difficult task for you because you have still a lot of things to learn! But if you work hard, you will succeed! And now you should answer my question: “What should be done to connect the present and the past?”

– We should find the place in the Universe, where the boundaries between the present and the past are wiped! – Yuras answered.

– You gave the correct answer, – said the Chief Astronomer, looking at Yuras with a kind smile. He was very pleased that the pupils are so clever.

– But how to define these boundaries, I'll explain later. Today I'll do it myself, – said the Chief Astronomer, smiling. – But you should wait for a few days. Everything will happen on June 31!

– On June 31? – whispered the pupils.

– Yes, yes, on June 31. You are right that there is no such day in June, but it is meaningful, – mysteriously said the Chief Astronomer. Then he outlined a circle in the air and appeared among the stars. Jumping from one star to another, he disappeared in the Universe.

The Guardian of the Earth and Ruth were worried. In a few hours it would be June 31 and there was no news from the Chief Astronomer. Yas and Yuras as well as the other pupils were worried too. The Eagle was walking back and forth, jumping on his strong feet. Everyone was waiting.

– What about Asherah? – Ruth asked the Guardian of the Earth. She thought that they should tell the Queen about her family. But the Guardian of the Earth answered:

– The time hasn’t come yet! It is Asherah's own fault that she doesn’t know the truth.

– But it was Asherah, who gave me the sign. She told me that it was the time to unveil the secret of the treasures, – Ruth tried to make the Guardian of the Earth to change her mind.

But he only muttered: “It is important for her to understand that it is a lowdown act to behave in such a way.” Then he rang the bell. From all sides flew the pigeons. The Chief Pigeon sat on his shoulder and began to coo about something.

– He is coming! We should be ready! We should be ready! – the Guardian of the Earth said.

Then everyone heard a strange sound. A gap appeared in the air. The endlessness could be seen in this gap. There raged the storms of the Universe.

The Eagle began to moult off his feathers. In a minute the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth saw the mighty warrior Filonid. Once upon a time he came from Greece to find the treasures of the Phoenicians in these lands. People, who lived close to the Polota, knew a lot of things about the Phoenicians. He found the treasures, but it was a battle, his friends – Greeks were killed. Filonid hid the treasures, but he couldn’t escape. The dark forces enchanted him. Only the sacred fire and pure thoughts of people, who would find the treasures, could break the spell.

Filonid bowed to everyone to show his gratitude and went into the gap. There he turned into the miller with the kind eyes. Yas and Yuras rushed to him, but they couldn’t cross the boundary between the past and the present. The miller bowed to everyone again and disappeared

– Now it will be the owner in the mill and the flour won’t be ground itself, filling the bags up to the top, – with sadness in his voice said the Guardian of the Earth. – The miller will be engaged in the peaceful activities – to grow the bread, to trade in his far - distant country, which was once in the history.

The shadow of the beautiful Asherah flashed in the distance. She was quickly going away in the infinite space. Behind her flashed the silhouette of the Chief Astronomer and immediately disappeared from sight. Then vanished everything around. Suddenly the Guardian of the Earth and Ruth heard the thunder. They stopped and began to wait. They saw the lightning and then the other one.

– Soon, soon, – kept saying the Guardian of the Earth, – soon there will be the third stroke of the lightning.

A nut in a gilded nutshell rolled on the floor. Ruth picked it, sat at the table, and opened it. There was a coin with the image of a beautiful temple of the goddess of love and power Asherah and her symbol there. And there was a note: “Thank you, Ruth, you did everything right and in time.”