When my companions and I first set foot in Zanjibār my initial, impulsive desire was to make my way back home. Confidence was wearing thin on me from the dangers faced. But by day’s end, I had grown to reconcile with the dangers of this dark continent, overcome by the relentless drive that brought me this far in the first place. And so with my quest no longer annulled by anxiety, upon sailing from that now eldritch coast my ambitions were set on making port in the land of Abyssinia.
Howbeit, I came to learn that Abyssinia’s access to the Red Sea had been tenuous for centuries. Furthermore, ‘twas currently in the chaotic midst of what one might call a ‘warlord period,’ divided amongst itself into several regions with no central authority. As a result of my ignorance, we were forced to make port at a neighbouring land – but I am getting ahead of myself in this recollection. The intervening days are of valued note.
On the day we set out from the island Fundiswa took it upon herself to instruct Halgan on how to navigate using the sun, moon, and an archaic mariner’s astrolabe we got at the market. I could overhear her proudly boasting on the quarterdeck that she was, “adept at detecting the finest pathways between places,” much to my surprise. Before then Fundiswa had been rather modest with me regarding her navigational abilities.
My small coterie of companions was all the crew we had, additional sailors being seen as superfluous, for as beyond Halgan guiding its trajectory the ship’s freakishly biotique nature meant that it inexplicably functioned largely on its own. This left a lingering sense of isolation and a palpable void of activity, yet this opportunity enabled us to grow closer over the course of that voyage. By nature of this growing camaraderie, we all insisted on pitching in, such as with the cooking, though my attempts at that were far too wretched for me to dare commit to paper. Among my party, meals seemed to always be one of the high points for socializing and by Halgan’s coaxing, it became habitual for us to say ‘Alhamdulillah’ at the end of every meal.
Merriment would fill the room as we either told fables, spoke of gossip, philosophy, or even the bygone days of our youths. N!uhka would get very enthusiastic, at times even jumping up onto the table, when telling of the heroic adventures her mother went on. Such as the time she fought a fabled Bosjesmen chimera, the ‘rain snake,’ which sounded like kindred to the Inkanyamba. My own stories, such as discovering mother’s Varangian ancestry or studying minerals with father, felt dismally dull by comparison.
Howbeit, as I should have anticipated, discussion of our youth was a sore subject for the unfortunate Halgan. Though much to my surprise, the normally affable Fundiswa was also quite tight-lipped on this matter. Only mumbling something about an overbearing mother and “flying south from duty, the most dreadful burden of tradition.” In like manner, N!uhka would always fall silent whenever asked about life with that prude Ulster missionary Deidre.
During the length of our journey, Fundiswa rarely spent a moment apart from me, going so far as to sleep in the same cabin. She looked forlorn when I told her on the second day to give me some time alone to organize and revise my field notes on chimeras. Eyes downcast and lips pursed, feet dragging across the deck, a truly sullen demeanour.
I thought secluding myself was ideal for such academic work, yet in that solitude, her image would arise before my mind. So calm and penetrating, her gaze unspeakable. There then came an enraptured rush I did not understand, making the heart shudder at its reflection. I searched those blissful eyes for an answer and my nerves became overwhelmed, confronted by a deviant contradiction. And this – is a topic best left expounding on another time. Suffice to say, it was not long before I went and implored Fundiswa to assist me.
As for N!uhka, she was quite overcome with seasickness for the first few days. Having spent her life up to that point in a desolate desert, I can only faintly imagine how overwhelming it must have been for her to cope with the vast ocean. Concerned for her wellbeing I made an effort to confer with N!uhka on the second day and with broken English she expressed enthusiasm with seeing where our travels would bring us. Howbeit, she also admitted yearning for youthful days of racing across the sand and hunting antelopes.
Halgan meanwhile, looked ostensibly content for the first two days and she delighted in assisting Fundiswa with improving my Arabic. For that intervening time, suspicions whispered throughout the chambers of my mind, having caught glimpses of troubled expressions and other forms of distressed body language. On the third day, after much deliberation, I settled on the conjecture that Halgan’s cheerful demeanour as of late was merely a facade. Rather, she must still be coping with Bint Al-Nujum’s extreme alteration to her biological composition.
With Fundiswa as my interpreter, we confronted Halgan, voicing our concerns for her wellbeing. Initially, Halgan rebuffed our allegations, insisting that she was at peace with her new state of being. She spoke at length of the polarizing philosopher and Sufi mystic Ibn Arabi’s conception of al-Insān al-Kāmil or “the perfect man,” as well as its expoundings by Abdul Karim Jili. Halgan’s understanding of their concept was frankly fallacious – asserting that Bint Al-Nujum had facilitated the manifestation and binding of the divine to her mortal form, becoming an absolute mirror of her god’s essence. The first stage of ultimate oneness with Allah, no separation between them, the earthly and divine coming together.
When I inquired as to how she knew of these two men, as I doubted they were merely something learned on the side while she was a slave. Halgan sheepishly admitted that they were inspirational figures to that aforesaid shoggoth’s cult. More confoundingly, Halgan maintained that she was never a member of any cult and is still a devout Mohammedan. Albeit, one who has joined a Sufi congregation – a type of religious order that focuses on the mystical and ascetic dimensions of her faith, often striving for an inner purification and to achieve a much closer connection to Allah.
With rough estimates, I would say we argued for a few hours, chipping away at what I deem to be Bint Al-Nujum’s theological conditioning. Halgan was a proud and confident girl, too steadfast in her beliefs to be easily shaken by a heated argument. Yet in due time the second facade broke down as well and she bemoaned her perpetration of shirk – the sin of attributing partners to Allah or ‘polytheism.’
Tendrils emerged and erratically flailed behind Halgan as she sobbed into her hands. Concern for her welfare eclipsed my own at that moment. Disregarding the threat of getting smacked by her tendrils, we moved in to embrace and comfort her. Being pressed up against her pink gelatinous body was such a queer feeling, howbeit, I did my utmost to disregard that sensation.
Fundiswa stood there with her back straight, greatly composed, and ran a hand over Halgan’s slimy cheek. In that soothing tone of voice she oftimes bears to comfort others, inundating the mind like warm milk, Fundiswa opined, “Did Bint not say that she freed you from submission to any master? Surely, such a declaration would include herself. Thus, in my eyes, you are free to chart your own course in this life Halgan. And whether ‘tis acknowledging your past or repenting to God, any choice you make from here on is valid.”
Wiping away the viscous, lavender-hued substance that was streaming down her face, Halgan nodded her head and bestowed us a truly genuine smile. Retracting the tendrils, Halgan stood up from her chair and excused herself. Thereafter, her face began contorting until it settled upon a look resembling her previous visage – a face partially marked by a large burn scar. Her adoption of this form came as a shock to us, but as time went on I grew used to it.
Resting a palm upon each of our shoulders, Halgan shifted her gaze between us as she disclosed in a proud yet brittle voice, “Jazaka Allahu Khairan. What I have done to myself can never be undone, but I can still embrace the old parts of me, as disfigured and upsetting as my past may be. You see, those women taught me to love myself, thus I realize discarding my past for a clean slate could never hope to bring me peace with myself. It will still take some time for me to come to terms with my experiences, but your words have opened the reflection I sorely needed to begin healing.”
Abruptly, N!uhka barged her way into the room and asked in a longing whine when we would be eating. By the sound of it, her stomach concurred. Cackling at the pitiable sight, Halgan rolled her eyes and said she would get right to it. Thankfully, Halgan’s mental connection with the otherworldly ship was never hindered in the face of all that distressed she experienced and accordingly we remained on course that day.
On our first day at sea, we made port in the land of Kenya at the Omani controlled town of Malindi. I wish we could have stayed longer to document the local species of chimera, especially one that was a sort of cyclopean bear woman, something ‘Nandi’ I think it was called. But the gossip among sailors put Halgan on edge, it revolving around an ‘unusual storm’ that had occurred at Zanjibār the night prior. One Indian man claimed to have seen dozens of panicking djinn flying across the sky in a dazzling spectacle of colours. Another asserted that what he witnessed seemed like the storm was purposely wrecking boats at the island’s harbour.
While there we stocked up on further supplies, hoping that we would have enough so as to make Somalia an unnecessary destination. Fundiswa meanwhile decided it was time for a change of attire, in light of where our adventures ahead were likely to occur. She traded for a loose black over-garment called an abaya, a robe-like dress that seemed to be the chief attire among the Mohammedan women we encountered. Part of its purpose is to instil modesty, yet her breasts were quite evidently outlined underneath the fabric. An effort was then made to update N!uhka’s wardrobe, but unfortunately, she was just far too tall for any of the clothing on offer to fit properly.
Forgoing a caravanserai, we spent the night within the secure confines of our ship. There we had our first dinner together as a crew and it was an amusing evening, in part because N!uhka had until then never eaten a fish before. At sunrise, we sailed back out to sea. Judging by the eldritch nature of our vessel, with tendrils or gauche flippers paddling behind the waves, I roughly estimate that we were capable of speeds of twenty-six knots per hour.
Upon the fourth day Fundiswa and I awoke in an embrace at noontide, wooden mouthed from the honey mead that N!uhka had brought from her village.  When we stumbled out of our cabin to find a meal, we came to the realization that our supplies were dwindling. Coming from a long line of merchants, I saw it prudent to take initiative and pester Halgan over the matter as opposed to deferring it. Much to my exasperation, even this looming danger wasn’t enough to cajole her into mooring at the nearby Somalian port of Hafun. Instead, we continued to sail North-East and within a few hours we landed at the island of Socotra, nestled within the entrance to the Gulf of Aden.
Bordered by beds of rock and coral, the port village we came to was a quaint place morbidly called Muhd Aldam, “Cradle of Blood.” It was far from being the largest settlement on the island, but at that point, we didn’t care. By the looks of things, fishing was the primary occupation for the inhabitants, with a few engaging in animal husbandry. When we docked a group of these fishermen were gawking at our ship as they unloaded their fresh haul of swordfish and barracudas.
The inhabitants viewed me with equal parts unease and curiosity, white travellers rarely setting foot on the island. Or mayhaps the tension in the air was derived from the ghastly appearance of our vessel? A few speculated that a sorceress may have blown our ship off course by commanding the winds. Others remarked that we were so fortunate to land here outside of monsoon season, elseways we would be stuck here for some time.
While I thought my own presence to be quite unusual for this island, it paled in comparison to the large plethora of Arabic species of harpies on the island. From the dusty white Egyptian vultures and pharaonic variety of eagle-owl harpies to ostrich harpies. The latter were notably smaller and lighter in colour compared to their African counterparts I had previously encountered. There were even a few cat-eared Djinn, likely from Oman judging by their manner of dress. The multitude of stone inns that lined the windswept cliff sides were fully booked by this entourage of chimeras, who to me felt rather out of place.
Inquiring around, I found one harpy who graciously informed us that they were all there on an annual migrational vacation, as harpies are prone to embark on. Furthermore, the island itself was the property of the Ottoman Empire, albeit through the Yemen Eyalet that was 230 miles [370 km] North. Personally, I favour the theory that Semihomo aviana engage in these migrations out of a cultural desire to mimic their counterparts, rather than any innate primal compulsion.
We anticipated a short day, yet came to stay until the next morning. The island captivated me with its strange fauna and flora, many of them found only here. There was a prehistoric air to the arid environs with long stretches of sand dunes and dry lowlands rising to towering granite mountains with pointed peaks, which reached up to five thousand feet and were shrouded in mist. There was a jumble of limestone plateaus pockmarked with caves. Squat, bulbous, and bottle-shaped trees were scattered across the landscape. The compulsion to explore such an alien land while the others shopped was just too great for me to ignore.
On Socotra, the local Sēmihomō ovis [Weresheep; Sheep Satyr], camel centaurs, and onocentaurs all possessed lean builds and impressive sure-footedness for the sharp craggy landscape. Looking down from the massive cliffs that line the coastline, I spied along the coast’s dangerous rocky shoals a group of Semihomo kavoúria [Cancer; Crabtaur] fishing with nets. Their carapaces were square in form and of a pale pink hue, their long robust crab legs parted by mauve joints, and their claws were asymmetrical in size.  They skittered across the rocks with such ease and confidence, never exhibiting any sense of hesitation. Occasionally they swiped and shouted at the mischievous Semihomo aquaticus delphinidae [Dolphin Mermaids] that tried to steal their fish.
Fearing that I may get lost or injured if I were to traverse any one of those mountains alone, I sought out a guide. Eventually, I managed to encounter one sheep woman who was willing to step away from her goats and guide me through some parts of the Diksam plateau. Amid the arid soil of this area, there were vast stretches of stones and shrubbery, as well as bizarre trees that resembled mushrooms and numbered thousands of years in age. Upon the bottle trees I noted earlier I found many large land snails were climbing across them, seeking to either escape the heat or carnivorous beetles that scurried below. In retrospect, I recognize these trees to have been Adenium obesum [Desert Rose] and living up to their name I recall some were sprouting bundles of beautiful crimson flowers. Unfortunately, I must note that on more than one occasion I feared my hessian boots were slipping or tripping upon the rocks.
We stopped to take a rest in a cave and instead of silence she talked of the island’s history; discovering my guide to be a moderately learned woman was a welcomed surprise. She directed my attention to murals in the cave of winged creatures and spoke, “For centuries empires have sought the resources of Socotra, chief among them frankincense and myrrh. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and even the Queen of Sheba all came. And each spoke of enormous harpies that would hoard such resources in the island’s many caves.”
Her words enraptured me, rich in ties to the larger world of ancient history that I have spent so much of my life studying. Once she grew silent, I took the opportunity to remark in broken Arabic that I now recalled once reading of this land in the writings of Herodotus and Pliny the Elder, each claiming it was home to the legendary Phoenix. I then tried to press her for further information on these phoenixes, but the sheep woman promptly arose and urged me to follow her out of the cave. Bluntly asserting, “No one has seen such a thing in centuries, the Ottomans are just another in a long line of fools chasing a fairytale. Best you just focus on what can easily be seen.”
But as we continued to walk across the plateau, her words plagued my thoughts with existential ponderings on the nature of chimeras. Just how many species have died out and disappeared from Earth without a trace, lost to the ages as mere myths? How many still live in the wilderness apart from the societies man has built? And just how many are dying out as we and humankind trundle about over inconsequential matters? Looking back now, this moment of introspection was vital in reinforcing my convictions.
When we returned to Muhd Aldam in the evening I encountered a group of chimeras on the village’s hilltop portion. At first glance I assumed them to be mere Semihomo draconis, but in actuality, they were a species of vegetative chimeras. Regrettably, I have scarcely made note of such chimera on my travels, for they are not my forte. Science hasn’t yet come to discover any conclusive explanation for how it’s possible for a lifeform to be simultaneously a plant and an animal. Howbeit, the makeup of these chimera were too exceptional to go unremarked.
Upon closer inspection, I found their wings to be a vast network of thousands of intricately interwoven, rippled branches, curving upward into a draconian shaped. Each ended in an upturned, densely-packed crown of long and stiff leaves, evocative of a mushroom. These caps were lined with small, fleshy red berries, as well as fragrant white and green flowers. Instead of flesh, their lower legs and forearms consisted of a mottled-white bark similar to the branches, albeit marked with unnatural slash marks. The small horns that protruded from their foreheads were likewise composed of this material.
This species of dryad bore a resemblance to an endemic species of trees that the locals call Dam al-Akhawain or “Blood of the Two Brothers.” Two legends surround these trees – the first relates to that name, claiming the first humans lived here and the tree sprouted from the spilt blood of Hābīl, murdered by his brother Qābīl. The other says they sprouted from the earth when blood from a dragon, wounded in combat with an elephant, seeped into the ground.
Regardless of the veracity of these myths, it’s a fact that contained within the bark of these trees is a resin as crimson as any blood and renowned throughout the ancient world. Much like the locals, who use it as a cure-all, the Greeks and Romans wrote of it having a wide range of medicinal uses. Beyond that, it has shown usage as a pigment for art, a dye for wool, an alchemical ingredient, a colourant in cosmetics, and incense. Indeed, this resin was of such great value that I saw some of those dryads cutting their own bark so they may harvest the resin within. This act of self-mutilation was appalling to witness, yet being of calm spirits they reassured me that the pain is minimal and the bark will grow back.
That night we ate dinner at the only tavern in the port village. As we dined on goat meat I spoke with my companions of the Phoenix and how it has captured the imagination of Chimeranologists for centuries. Howbeit, somehow the topic of discussion shifted to that of the Queen of Sheba, or ‘Bilqis’ as the Mohammedans call her. An equally legendary and beautiful figure, scholars speculate that her ancient kingdom may have existed in either Yemen or the land we were heading towards, Abyssinia.
Beyond questioning her existence, one of the greatest debates among scholars in my circle is that of her species. Some say she was human, others claim a Djinn or a witch, and then there are those who say she was a member of the ancient race known as Lilim. When Fundiswa asked me of my own thoughts on the matter my zeal for the discussion ever so waned. For in truth, the varied hypotheses had as of yet to settle in my mind and congeal into any sort of standpoint – this I articulated plainly, “I have no opinion.”
Overhearing our conversation, a Semihomo chiroptera [Werebat] hostesses came over to us. She mentioned that according to one legend the inhabitants of Socotra are descended from subjects of the Queen of Sheba, while another contends their island is the biblical port of Ophir. She then began to roar with laughter at her own words, remarking that all the tourists they get love to hear such fanciful tales.
Irritated, Fundiswa dismissed the intrusive woman, telling her that we have “no time for made-up fables.” That being said, the spectacle of harpy tourism was not something I often got to experience. With that thought having sprung to the surface, much of my evening before retiring to our ship was spent interviewing the various harpy tourists that were noisily revelling all across the village.
When the habitual time came for us to rest my slumber was far from being a peaceful affair, frequently harassed by nocturnal visions. It didn’t help matters that at times it sounded as though the ship itself was breathing, but I digress. Many of those dreamscapes I cannot recall and even more were purposely forsaken in my mind – ‘tis not pleasant to dwell on such things. And dreams are some of the hardest things to recount with any certainty.
That fourth night, wherein we were docked at Socotra, was no exception to that persistent phenomenon. For there arrived a particular dream which most sordidly left an impression upon my mind like no other. Some may say that it was a consequence of my drinking, but I have nary known a single Russian to suffer nightmares so coherent while asleep on the bottle’s influence.
I was sitting atop a gargantuan birch tree, gothique and anomalous in form. The Malachite maid was perched beside me, humming some indistinct song. Along the branches, nightingales fluttered about, but on the tallest branch of all an eagle stood perched. The sky was stygian, blacker than the darkest nights of the Winter Solstice. The world stretched forth from the tree as desolate fields, nary another tree or bush in sight.
Far below us, I could barely discern that within each of the trunk’s three sides a single face was embedded. Each was mottled in a different shade of moss – white, green, and black – but all had their eyes obscured by unnatural golden bands. Bees flittered around the trunk and further below black beavers circled around the tree, the latter resembling twisting roots from my vantage. Betwixt them, a bear-headed serpent thrashed about and was struck by lightning each time it attempted to ascend the tree. 
The skulls, ribs, and rotting carcasses of cattle were scattered around this titanic monster. After every bolt of lightning, the serpent would rear up, sneering at the very sky itself. And each time this occurred, the serpent’s outrage was met by the harsh, commanding bark of the eagle alongside the thundering of the clouds.
But of those aforesaid faces within the tree, each chanted a distinct, yet barely audible word. Close to a whisper, these words were carried in the wind by leaves, “Proshedsheye; Nastoyashcheye; Budushcheye.”  These words transfixed me, that first one chiming the loudest in my ear. I lost all sense of weight and my body leaned progressively backwards, prepared to fall and drift off into a blissful daydream. But before I could fall off the tree, my volition was snapped back into place by a tapping on my shoulder. Glancing over to my right, I found it was none other than the clawed tips of the Malachite Maid’s reptilian hands. Having gained my attention, she smirked and informed me that we are at a “crossroads.” She then directed my gaze downwards once more, this time not to the tree itself, but rather to view a village suddenly materializing upon the barren landscape.
There was a sense of antiquity to it, vaguely Varangian in its appearance, nestled against a river and fortified with earthen ramparts. The most I could discern from so high atop the tree was a loud skirmish playing out within its walls and flames gradually arising among the buildings. The few words that the wind carried from the village were all some incomprehensible or archaic form of what I presumed to be Norwegian, though I knew little of that language. Of them all, only a single word stood out to me atop the tree, “Aldeigja.”  The word rang and ached in my heart, for I felt so firmly that I knew this word, that I had read it somewhere in an old text, but my memories could not place it.
Satisfied with my observation, she thereafter grasped my shoulder with a forceful tug. Wrapping her tail around my waist, the Malachite Maid leaned over and told me in that mischievous, churlish sneer that I had grown accustomed to, “You see dear, the Rus’ people have always been besieged by tragedy and hardship. Your ancestors faced it regularly, your progeny will face it, and even I face it – weeping for my sister spirits Liczyrzepa, Dali, and sleepy Saya.” 
She then turned from me for a moment, sniffling and wiping her face. With faint sympathy, I put a hand on her shoulder, but she quickly twirled around and let out a fierce hiss, giving me such a fright that I fell on to my back. Standing over me, she chuckled before continuing her speech, “But for now, you must face the ire of tragedy and hardship. It’s clear that the melody of peaceful days has disarmed you, oh fair maiden of nobility, so I implore thyself to be prepared for days to come.”
Suddenly, through the ascending smoke, I could make out a giant figure. It appeared as if from nowhere and tremendously loomed over the scene. ‘Twas a bearded man, with a foreign aura to him that went far beyond the depths of his swarthy complexion. After some time he turned from the village, staring up at us with barely veiled contempt. With a hefty, pained jerk he unsheathed a blazing sword that flickered wildly amidst the darkness and gestured skywards at us.
If this sooty scene had occurred outside the senseless realm of dreams I may have been a trembling mess, but the only emotion I can recall is an intimate agitation. The shadowy figure addressed me by the epithet, “Potómka Yaroslava,” though I know of no such ancestor.  He cautioned me to be wary of serpents, whether they walk or slither. Saying that I would eventually come to them a guest and depart once order is in ruins. But then he forewarned that, before this time shall come, I must tackle a throbbing vengeance. He described it as being tattered like a peasant, scarred like a serf, and wielding a spear of death between its eyes.
The man’s voice trailed off as he resumed staring at the fire below. A forlorn glare marked his feverish eyes. In that time, the Malachite Maid leaned over and whispered to me, “Despite all that has been said Hearth Spirit, the outcome is still unknown. So best you follow the proverb – do not come to Tula with your own samovar.”  Then, with all the care of a reckless mother, she shouldered me off the tree and downward into the gaping maw of that aforesaid ursine-faced serpent.
Thereafter, I jolted to consciousness and was quickly comforted upon reminding myself that Fundiswa was still lying next to me. Underneath our shared blanket my skin, fur, and feathers were all aglow in a sheen of sweltering sweat. My restless mind swallowed a scream that was frantic to escape, wanting to alert the world of being terror-stricken. But I was far too busy contemplating and dissecting what I had just witnessed to waste time on insubstantial frights.
As I rolled over and looked aloft at the distant ceiling, it felt as though the room had grown colder. The once plain wood above my view had become pockmarked with luminescent amber eyes, peering through the darkness, gaze directed at me. At first, I thought them a figment, but they were too substantial in their depth to be any mere ruse of a drowsy mind. Our ship being organic and alive to some degree had been known to me by this time. Howbeit, the extent of its abilities as well as its sentience were yet to be settled. Was it merely a puppet that required Halgan’s mind to stimulate movement or was their relationship more complex?
Suffice it to say, this delirious encounter did not become a nightly occurrence. Nor did I raise my concern of this to Halgan the following day. My decision of inaction should not be mistaken as a flippant disregard for the welfare of myself as well as my crew. I weighed the then present risks and surmised that putting further strain on our captain’s already distressed psyche could lead to greater misfortune. And such misfortune was not something I wished to chance that day, for an overwhelming sense of unease was already weighing on me over the ill-defined ill omen that was the aforesaid dream.
 According to one of the many translators I worked with while compiling this book, the phrase “wooden mouth” is a literal translation of a French idiom. The original phrase would be “(avoir) la gueule de bois,” meaning that one is hungover.
 Based on Sashenka’s field notes, some of my colleagues have suggested to me that the species of Cancer or Crabtaur she’s referring to is most likely the Pink Ghost Crab. These are a species of crustacean chimera and similarly named crabs that are only found on the east coast of Africa.
 Based on our world tree hypothesis below, the imagery of a bear-headed serpent would match up with the more draconic depictions of Veles, the Slavic god of dragons, cattle, and the Underworld (as well as many other things). Though in ages past the serpent beneath the world tree would be a dragon known as Zaltys. The lightning then would represent the Slavic god of thunder Perun, who was often symbolised by an eagle as well as said to attack Veles in such a manner each time he attempted to climb up the world tree to his domain. The reason for their hostility varies between tales, but usually, it’s cited as being due to Veles stealing Perun’s cattle.
 When translated from Russian to English the words Proshedsheye, Nastoyashcheye, and Budushcheye respectively mean “Past,” “Present,” and “Future.” Though we are merely speculating when it comes to interpreting this dream, her description of the tree seems to be an amalgamation. It roughly correlates with many descriptions of the World Tree in Slavic mythology, but “three heads with gold bonding” matches descriptions of the Slavic god Triglav. Furthermore, back in the 19th century, the Czech folklorist Karen Erben identified each head of Triglav as being associated with a symbolic colour: white for Heaven, green for Earth and black for the Underworld. Though some modern scholars of Prague have speculated that these may have also represented the three dimensions of time.
 Aldeigja is a word of Old Norse origin. It’s mentioned in a few of the Norse sagas as a Varangian settlement, raided and set ablaze in the late 990s by Eric Haakonsson as part of his campaign against the Kievan Rus’ ruler Vladimir the Great, but is also an ancient name for the historic Russian village of Staraya Ladoga. As established previously in this book, Sashenka’s mother was born in this same village and lived there until her marriage to Pavel Grigoryevich Demidov (Павел Григорьевич Демидов).
 Liczyrzepa is the name of a legendary mountain spirit said to reside over the Karkonosze mountain range in the Southwest of Poland and North of the Czech Republic. Likewise, Saya is the name of a legendary mountain spirit and warrior said to reside in the Sayan Mountains – historically this range served as the border between Russia and Mongolia. And finally, Dila is the name of a group of mountain spirits, who the Georgian people once worshipped as aspects of a singular goddess of hunting and mountains. She was said to reside in the Ushba peak of the Caucasus mountains.
 Potómka is the genitive singular of the word Russian word potómok (пото́мок). This word can mean ‘offspring’ or ‘scion’, but we believe that in this case the word means ‘descendant’. Yaroslava, on the other hand, is simply a given name. Common in both Russia and Ukraine, the name is of Old Slavic origin. However, while we were digging through the Russian archives for many gruelling months to ascertain how far back the lineage of Sashenka’s mother stretched in this village, we stumbled across at least one source that listed an ancestor by the name of Yaroslava Vébrandrdóttir.
 Though phrased slightly differently, this appears to be a literal translation of the Russian idiom, “В Ту́лу со свои́м самова́ром (не е́здят).” The meaning behind this turn of phrase is that one should not do things that clearly are not needed and is derived from the fact that the industrial city of Tula is well known for its samovars (an iron apparatus for boiling water for tea). A comparative English idiom would be, “Carrying coals to Newcastle.”