This faithfully constructed compilation of remarkable biographical anecdotes details the exploits and achievements of a woman whose life has been overlooked by historians in the West for over a century. Beyond that, this book is hereby respectfully dedicated to all the Kikimora out there with big dreams. – Sashenka’s Great Granddaughter
Estimated Date: Possibly sometime around the 1820’s or 1830’s
A few years ago I was visiting London to meet some colleagues in the local Zoological Society. While having a drink at The Lamb pub in Bloomsbury, my peace was suddenly befuddled by this oriental drunkard who walked up to me and made a boast that rattled me to my very core. He claimed to be a monsterologist named Ken Katou — such an absurd fabricated title – and stated that we Westerners or “Gaijin” were hopelessly ignorant of the globe’s monsters compared to the Eastern Island of Yaponiya.
At that moment, a woeful pensiveness tugged at every fibre of my being, for I knew in part that the man was correct. The monsters that we researchers write about, and of which the Penny Dreadfuls sensationalize, are but a shadow of the immense biodiversity on this planet. Nevertheless, you can be rest assured dear readers, for I could not stand by and just allow this gibfaced hornswoggler to besmirch the honour and superiority of us Europeans. Therefore, I, Princess Sashenka Pavelovna Demidov, scion of the Great Blacksmiths of Tula and loyal subject of the Russian crown, do solemnly make an oath to defame this Ken Katou and expose the undiscovered.
For my first destination, I felt that the Dark Continent was as good a place to start as any. However, arranging an expedition to Africa was no easy feat for me, what with classifying as both a member of the fair sex and a Chimera or ‘Monster,’ specifically of the binomial species Domuspiritus Kikimorai. But eventually, I managed to make the London Zoological Society see fit to do the unprecedented and partly fund a joint expedition with my motherland’s Imperial Russian Zoological Society. Many an eager hunter offered to join me on my expedition, all offering some form of compensation. All were declined in due course, not only for their impudence of being ignorant of my noble family’s wealth but also for their crude and lecherous desires being all too bluntly obvious upon their faces; many a man must view the lands of Africa as an excuse for them to act like children with impunity.
On December 20th, I finally arrived at Port Elizabeth upon the steamship Krakenbridge. Overall, my trip across the Atlantic was a rather swift one, thanks to the new breed of working-class lava golems they had down in the boiler. While we were at sea, a sprightly young homing pigeon harpy landed aboard the ship and delivered me some rather grim news. The town’s foremost native interpreter, who I had arranged to accompany me on my journey, had taken gravely ill. However, he promptly found a substitute that would be meeting with me at the docks, a native by the name of Fundiswa who is allegedly versed in over two dozen languages. This linguistic prowess rings a bit false to me, feels like an exaggeration meant to console any possible concerns. Yet, the splendid weather on the day of my arrival made me think that fortune still smiled upon my quest.
Fundiswa had a peculiarity to her that I couldn’t quite place at the time. It was not her primitive choice of attire that mystified me, though they did leave her substantial bosom to hang bare for all wandering eyes. Neither was it her vibrant copper hair, fashioned into an intricate series of braids that gave off a resemblance to the horns of a ram, nor was it the white painted markings that streaked across her arms and dotted her face. Nyet, what I sensed was something far more primal of spirit behind that human face; even so, I will have to investigate at a later date.
Fundiswa showed me around the township as we sought transportation and with great despondency, I must note that there were no distinctive native monsters to be found — allegedly the damn Dutch or “Boers” had scared them off. Though this was not the end of my day’s misfortunes. Many an unruly local hollered as we passed by, impudently inquiring as to why my (non-existent) husband wasn’t accompanying me or if I was a handmaid seeking employ. Furthermore, we had an arduous time finding a caravan that would oblige taking us to the destination I had in mind, cautioning us that it was an ill-advised and treacherous venture. Nevertheless, I brushed their caution aside and was fortunate enough to receive many a potential lead by conversing with slaves as well as natives of the Xhosa tribe.
Eventually, we chanced upon a couple of Arab ghouls and cameltaurs at the market who were willing to transport us beyond the Cape Colony. Their manner of dress was rather conservative, suggesting them to perhaps be Mahomedans, but their faith was trivial in the grand scope of my expedition. They are probably the best caravaneers we could have gotten since there has been much written of Arab travel through the interior and yet very few Europeans have dared to explore it. Of those who have, they cared not to spread light upon the dark mystery of this continent, only to expand their wretched inventory of slaves.
Our first destination was a waterfall the natives call KwaNogqaza or “Place of the Tall One.” The journey would take about seven days, if the weather and our fortune remained fair, bringing us right into the Zulu Empire; word is that traversing Zulu territory is perilous, them being on the warpath. But Fundiswa seemed oddly composed and assured me that we would be fine. Just to be safe, I had devised a route that stays predominantly close to the coast. The Xhosa back at Port Elizabeth were adamant of these falls being the best place for me to find a legendary breed of equine-headed dragons who could control the weather — the Inkanyamba. At least one group of men claimed they had the ability to contract their body while in water and only a sangoma could safely approach them, both of which I sincerely hoped would not prove true.
By the end of the first day, we took up lodging in the British settlement of Grahamstown. While there we stocked up on supplies and the ghoul caravaneers bought a male slave to, umm, how do I put this — ‘service their needs’ on the trail; the slave was young and very robust, though he was rendered mute from the abuse of his former master. I had read tales asserting that the Arabic ghoul was notorious for its ravenous nature, both in regards to meat and fornication, but never did I think I would witness it first hand. Furthermore, they proffered me the use of his roger if I ever felt unreasonably salacious during our journey, but I graciously declined. A noblewoman such as myself must resolutely save herself for marriage.
In the days that followed, our encounters with Europeans were chiefly scarce. But of greater relevance, I must say the eastern coastal region of Southern Africa has proven to be far more densely forested and humid than I was initially led to believe, full of rolling fertile fields, broad rivers, overlapping types of forests, and lofty beige mountains that loomed over us in the distance. Camping in the heavily thicketed valleys under the shadows of those mountains provided us brief respites from the hot dry climate. By the fourth day, December 24, I began to notice the biome transition into an open grassy savanna. In general, the region is quite hilly and the further East we went the more humid the climate became.
Of the diverse wildlife in this region, there is much that could be said, rivalling the majesty of anything one would find at the zoo in Kazan, Tatarstan. But my expedition obliges me to speak only of the chimeras we have encountered. The first of note is a travelling group of Xhosa we met on December 21, shortly after leaving the settlement of Grahamstown. Amongst their numbers were massive warrior women with leathery skin, legs thick like tree trunks that diverted into three rigid toes, and a large aquiline horn sprouting from their forehead – a more intimate study will be necessary to ascertain if they are echoes of Rhinoceri.
This group of Xhosa seemed far more vexed than the ones I spoke to back in Port Elizabeth, a brazen rage seething in their eyes as they held us up with flintlock muskets, spears, and the aforementioned horns. Boer incursions into their land have reasonably caused the natives to be hostile towards Europeans such as myself. The ghoul caravaneers were baring their fangs, snarling, and about ready to pull out their scimitars when Fundiswa shouted something in the Xhosa tongue, quelling the conflict before it could escalate to bloodshed.
Before I had time to bid a hasty farewell, a grizzled gentleman with a scraggly grey beard and a myriad of wrinkles stepped forward from the group to speak with me. According to Fundiswa, he cautioned that the Inkanyamba was an exceedingly dangerous creature of a vicious disposition, a destructive force of nature that needed to be treated with great respect and caution at all times. I scoffed at the old man as we continued onward, confident that I could handle any adversity that comes my way. Nevertheless, from this encounter onward we would make sure to avoid encounters with wandering tribesmen whenever possible.
Further into the river valleys, we chanced upon many prides of were-lionesses, an emblematic favourite among the masses of the British Empire. We witnessed some lounging in the strong sun, their largely humanoid bodies drawing the eyes to leonine fur that only covered their forearms and the thighs downward, each tapering off into into a pair of large fearsome paws. Others we found swaying tails and flexing their bronzed muscles in acts of wrestling, claws always retracted, which to some may seem playful. Howbeit, there lies a deeper significance, for were-lionesses are always seeking to one-up each other and prove their dominance. Even when laying with a man, they are said to be quite aggressive.
Crossing over into the savanna there were countless herds of roaming centaurs to be found, but unlike the monochromatic centaurs of Europe, these women evoked the Zebra and had white stripes streaking all across their sleek black equine bodies. Standing out amongst the herds were women who had gone so far as to paint the skin of their human-half, or dye their hair, with white streaks. Fundiswa informed me that no Boer has ever managed to incapacitate or abduct one of these zebrataurs, their wild spirits unwavering.
By December 25th, we were heading further northward and the hilly topography became far more mountainous; the thickets and savannas gave way to lush grasslands that would make for perfect grazing fields. Along the way, we passed many people who were fleeing westward from the ever-advancing Zulu Empire, including native holstaurs whose skin were strewn with patterns of assorted colours. In the distance, I could discern a rather extensive mountain range. According to the makeshift map I acquired in Grahamstown, the Boers call it the Drakensbergen — a detail that, while wee, renews my confidence that we are on the right track.
We awoke early upon December 26th to pouring rain, gradually filling our campsite with lakelets and rivulets of water. At the time I was not aware that rainfall in this region of Southern Africa was so substantial. Nevertheless, the prospect of falling ill was not formidable enough to coax me into delaying this expedition, thus ever onward did we trek. Much to my chagrin, the rain would not abate that day, moreover, at noon a sharp mountain breeze swiftly sprang upon us. Still, we were fortunate enough to have the land transition into a thick forest canopy.
As the sun set upon that day, we came across a most peculiar and eldritch structure. It was a hut larger than any I had ever seen in this country, stretching high up into the forest canopy, cylindrical in shape with a conical roof, and constructed entirely out of stone. On either side, the entrance was surrounded by exquisite mosaics of what appeared to be serpents and priestesses dripping in blood of an unnervingly lurid crimson hue. So transfixed was I that, before I could even think to press onward, the hut’s wooden door swung open to reveal a lamia with silvery-grey scales and a viper snuggled around her neck. Like many of the local chimeras I had encountered, she gave off the impression of lacking any form of modesty, brazenly strutting around unclothed; such carnal indecency, it makes my face go aflush! The lamia enthusiastically greeted us and bowed, then with an innocent grin offered to let our group stay the night in her “temple.” I hesitated briefly, the circumstances marked by a stain of dubiosity, but my frustration with the rain coupled with my curiosity led me to accept her offer.
Inside the Temple, we sat around a fire, atop of which I boiled a kettle of tea, as dozens of docile cobras slithered all around us. Or at least, the lamia claimed they posed no threat to us, but forewarned that to harm any of them would be a grave insult to her. The caravaneers and their slave were apprehensive, mumbling something about “sihr,” and trembled the whole time until their bodies slumbered off. I did my best to pay them no heed, for I had many questions to pose towards this alluringly mysterious lamia, and she was more than eager to answer them through Fundiswa.
Scarcely stopping for air and tea, the lamia spoke in great length at a fever pitch, “My name is Esosa. I am what is known as a Black Mamba, one of the most feared serpents in all of Africa. Our aphrodisiac venom is most potent, paralyzing even the toughest of men, and if inflicted in profuse quantities can even kill. As for this temple, my congregation recently helped me construct it as to my specifications. I am an emissary of the Dahomey Kingdom, who over the course of the last century has been most graciously spreading their Cult of the Serpent throughout Africa. Once I was but a dull beast, then their slithering revelation opened my eyes to the varied coils and scales of creation. Now I seek only to spread their message.”
Initially, I felt it would be most apt to pronounce Esosa as being a delusional heathen, but I had the forethought to maintain my regal poise and just indulgently nod my head to her further ramblings. When I enquired as to what deities they worshipped, she looked bemused for a time, until eventually answering that they purely worship snakes in general. How very quaint. As for the Dahomey, they were certainly a kingdom I had heard of prior — situated north of here in the Western regions of Africa, it is a nation governed by powerful amazonian women — but I cannot recall any references to them being serpent worshipers. Well, at least not of literal serpents, more so those of the phallic variety. Regardless, it is quite an intriguing development and one I should endeavour to investigate later.
We left early the next morning, not wishing to exploit our host’s hospitality and faintly fearful that her cordial nature may merely be a facade to ensnare us. Anticipation was mounting inside me, for I knew deep down that we were rapidly approaching our destination. I could feel my tail impulsively wagging behind me, in addition to the hairs and feathers on my arms bristling up in anxious excitement. I could already envision the recognition I would gain from this discovery; people would finally see that Kikimora are capable of far more than just being domestic servants! I was so full of zest that I completely overlooked how curiously quiet the forest was that day.
On that day the dice-roll of weather favoured us, though we were forced to traverse a multitude of rivers and dense thickets. Midday brought the sun soaring over us, a glaring beacon beaming down on the lake as if to herald our arrival into the lush subtropical clearing. KwaNogqaza waterfall was a breathtaking sight, towering over three hundred feet into the sky and cascading over steep dolerite cliffs. Every step of our expedition had led to this moment, but now the true challenge was to begin in earnest — finding the Inkanyamba itself.
Many an uncounted hour passed over our heads, the sun gradually changing its orientation in the sky as we probed and combed through the clearing in its entirety. At one point I attempted to make an inquiry with some nearby harpies, but they flew away once I spoke the chimera’s name. One of the cameltaurs speculated that it may have migrated, but this clearly wasn’t the correct season for it to do so. Eventually, the sky was overtaken by a gloomy overcast and I began to deliberate on whether or not we should begin setting up camp for the night. Then, as if life saw fit to further stroke my ambition, Fundiswa promptly called me over to the water.
Peering down into the water, I initially beheld no contour reminiscent of a colossal lamia, but there was most certainly something moving about. It was hard to get a clear look at the creature gliding around in the depths of the broiling lake. There was an undeniable semblance to the various accounts locals have given me, but I thought, surely this cannot be the dragon of legend. It looked to be only a foot long and its lower half resembled an eel more than a serpent. Then a new thought came to me and a deep anguish filled my heart, as though my credibility as a researcher was drowning; had I been led astray by the tall tales of overly superstitious tribals?
Fundiswa did her best to console my melancholy, holding me close and stroking my tail to further comfort me. However, we were interrupted by a ferocious voice clangoring throughout the clearing, yelling with such force that I swore it caused a great rumbling in the clouds above. The tone evoked irritation and a sense of authority, but alas, its coherence was saturated by the unrelenting thunder of the waterfall.
Suffice to say, this sudden roar provoked the whole of my party to tense up, all except Fundiswa, who stood with admirable composure. In a frenzied panic the ghouls unsheathed their scimitars, the cameltaurs drew flintlock pistols concealed in their niqabs, and I braced myself in a pugilist stance for what I presumed was going to be an ambush. We waited in suspense for quite some time, yet neither men nor monsters emerged from the thickets; the unnatural stillness of the forest became all the more apparent to me.
Soon enough, the unearthly yell resurfaced and on this occasion, there was no mistaking their origin. The sounds were evidently reverberating from the direction of the waterfall’s plunge basin. Suddenly, a tremendous torrent of water erupted from the lake like a fierce geyser, severely drenching us in its wake. And in the interim of that water’s rise and descent, I briefly discerned from within its depths that selfsame contour from earlier, only now its form was rapidly expanding in size.
Therein, at last, was the famed Inkanyamba in all its eminence, effortlessly floating above us like the wingless dragons of the Far East and accompanied by an orchestra of thunder. The upper half of the Inkanyamba was immaculately humanoid, adorned in a simple leather top and a host of varied jewels, with white stripes marking its face and abdomen. Her eyes were a bright luminescent blue and emitted small streaks of lightning. The alleged horse head of the creature was exhibited by a pair of gazelle horns, tapering equine ears, and a wild mane of zebra-esque hair that trailed from the head and down her spine until tapering off into the dorsal fins of her lower half. This section of her body was as dark as the night, patterned with a dense array of white bands, and looked to stretch over twenty feet in length.
Without warning, the cameltaurs began firing upon the Inkanyamba with their flintlocks. Before I could reprimand their unwarranted force, it was swiftly met in turn by a concentrated volley of hail. The ghouls shouted at me in a resentful fashion as they rushed to mount the cameltaurs. Like a rock to erosion, the loyalty of the caravaneers had wore away and could no longer be upheld by the stipend I was offering them. Thusly, they took off into the forest with a cloud of hail trailing behind them, taking half of our supplies but neglecting to take their slave.
With my disposition remaining stubbornly bright, I stepped forward and attempted to open up a parley between us, wishing to resolve this conflict as we had previously with the Xhosa. But then, a great crackling came overhead and I watched as a streak of lightning issued forth from the Inkanyamba’s arm, briefly casting a silver sheen over the surrounding area. With the uncanny pace of a cheetah, Fundiswa dove in and tackled my startled body aside, shifting me away just seconds before that lightning perilously struck the ground where I had once stood.
Racking my head for a method of escape while sprawled across the ground, the Inkanyamba trained her eerily luminescent eyes on me with a gaze as piercing as her lightning. Slowly, she opened her mouth and spoke down to us in Zulu with an authoritative tone that shook the clouds, “Lowly bird-dog, harbinger of the pale horde, you flagrantly trespass on this dwelling ground of my people. If not yet bold enough, you then sought to slay me, as if you were a predator. But there is nary a man nor beast alive that can call itself the predator of us. So please understand, by our customs I cannot allow leniency for this offence. But I promise, your bodies will be made full use of, neither bone nor flesh will be wasted.”
The resolute Inkanyamba raised both of her arms high above her head, incandescent energy surging across them as she prepared to strike at us once more with greater force. However, my fortune had yet to run dry, for a voice cried out from the forest behind us, pleading for the dragon to momentarily delay her sublime judgement. Our saviour was none other than the black mamba lamia, so-called Esosa, from the day afore, her unclothed breasts swaying and bouncing wildly in all directions as she hurriedly slithered over to us.
Once reaching our position, the panting Esosa threw a convulsing mutilated goat to the ground before us – a most miserable sight. A slight grin was evident on her weary face as she tried to catch her breath, eventually raising her voice, “Oh mighty dragon, exalted above all the lizards, I beseech your heart. Forgive these witless foreigners, whose hearts are iron caked in muck. Please, accept this offering of prey, and…” The lamia paused, her eyes darting around the clearing until falling on the abandoned slave, “And I pray you accept this matrimonial offering, a man of most splendid endurance!”
The Inkanyamba descended to the ground before us, gingerly lowering her arms along the way. Her face had a look of curiosity tinged with amusement to it, humming in contemplation as she flew around us and looked the slave over. Trembling, he tried to speak his mind, yet not a sound would come out. Finally, with a hand to her lips, the dragon spoke once more, “Hmm, I will admit, he is quite a striking young man, with such an alluring longing in his eyes. And my mother has been pestering me for some time to attain a mate. Alright, I will accept your offering, but I still cannot just allow these two to leave untouched.”
Esosa frantically rushed to pull the slave far away from the inner clearing as the Inkanyamba began swirling around us, her floating body moving progressively faster and faster until our vision was obscured by an ashen haze of wind. My entire body lost all sense of weight, there was nothing below my feet, all I could feel was the body of Fundiswa holding on to me with an anaconda grip. A vast pressure pushed down on my ears and a loud hiss came from all directions, not unlike a passing locomotive, causing my ears to pop several times. My lungs were battered, struggling to breathe. As I looked up I could barely glimpse the Inkanyamba swirling at the top of the vortex, virtually a living tornado, with bolts of lightning streaking off of her in all directions. I could feel my consciousness being dragged below, drowning in a dense sea of wind, surely this was the end for me I thought. Yet, I would later awaken in Fundiswa’s arms, far away from the jungle on a dune of red sand. From there, I suppose the spontaneity of my adventures truly began…
 Yaponiya is the Russian word for Japan.
 Sangoma is a Zulu term that is colloquially used to describe all types of Southern African traditional healers or “shamans,” but is also a specific type of healer that relies primarily on divination for healing purposes.
 Based on the geographical region involved, I would hazard to say that these holstaurs would be roughly equivalent to the Nguni cattle breed of southern Africa.
 From Dutch to English, Drakensbergen roughly translates to “Mountains of Dragons.”