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A Pavilion Neither In The Sky Nor On The Earth

Source: Hero Tales And Legends Of The Serbians

Once upon a time there lived a tsar, who had three sons and one
daughter. The latter was kept in a cage by her father, for he loved
her as he loved his own eyes. When the girl grew up she begged her
father's permission to go out one evening with her brothers, and
the tsar granted her wish. No sooner had she left the palace than
a dragon flew down, seized the princess and, despite her brothers,
disappeared with her into the clouds. The princes hastened to tell
their father what had happened, and they implored him to let them go
in search of their sister.

Thereupon their unhappy father gave each of them a horse and other
necessary equipment for a long journey, and they started out upon
their quest. After journeying a long way, they sighted in the distance
a pavilion, which was neither in the sky nor on the earth, but was
hanging midway between. When they came underneath this, it occurred
to them that their sister might be hidden in it, and they began to
consider how best they might reach it. Finally they decided that one
of them must kill his horse, cut its hide into strips, make a thong,
and, fastening one end to an arrow, shoot it from the bow so strongly
that it should strike deeply into the framework of the pavilion,
thus making a way up which they could climb.

The two younger brothers proposed to the eldest that he should kill
his horse, but he refused. Neither would the second brother consent to
do so; then the youngest brother, seeing that it could not be helped,
killed his horse, made its hide into a lengthy thong, fixed one end
to his arrow, and shot straight up to the pavilion, where the arrow
stuck firmly.

Next they had to discuss who should climb up the thong; again the two
elder brothers refused, so it fell to the youngest to perform this
exploit. Being very agile, he soon reached the pavilion; wandering
from one room to another, he finally came to an apartment where, to his
great joy, he saw his sister sitting with the sleeping dragon's head on
her knee. When the princess beheld her brother, she feared exceedingly
for his life, and implored him to escape before the dragon awoke.

The Prince slays the Dragon

The courageous youth, however, would not obey his sister, but seized
his mace and struck the dragon on the head. The monster pointed with
one of his claws to the place where he had been struck and said to the
maiden: "Something bit me here!" Again the prince raised his mace and
delivered a blow upon the monster's head; but the dragon apparently
did not mind, for he pointed again indifferently to the place, saying:
"Again something has bitten me!"

The young prince was on the point of striking the third time, when
his sister pointed to a spot where only the dragon might receive
a mortal wound, and directing his blow upon the place indicated,
the dragon instantly succumbed. The princess at once freed herself
of the dragon's head, ran swiftly to kiss her brother, and then was
eager to show him the different rooms.

First, she took him into a room in which stood a black steed fastened
to a stall and decked with a saddle and harness adorned with pure
silver. Next she led him into a second room, where they found a white
horse, also ready to be mounted, but its harness was of pure gold. Then
she took him into a third room, where was a beautiful Arab steed
whose saddle, stirrups and bridle were studded with precious stones.

The princess next conducted her brother to a chamber in which a maiden
was sitting at a golden tambourette engaged in embroidering with golden
threads. From thence she led him into a second apartment where a girl
was spinning gold threads. At last they entered a third room in which
a maiden sat threading pearls, and before her, upon a golden plate,
was a golden hen with its chickens, sorting the pearls.

Having satisfied his curiosity, the prince returned to the room where
he had left the dead dragon, and threw the carcass down to earth; and
at the mere sight of the dragon's body the two brothers were terrified
out of their wits. Next the prince slowly let down his sister, and,
after her, the three maidens, together with their work. While he was
thus engaged he shouted to his brothers and made gestures indicating
to whom each of the girls should belong. He reserved for himself the
one who had been threading pearls, not forgetting the golden hen and
the chickens.

The Perfidy of the Brothers

His brothers, envying the heroism of the young prince and jealous of
his successful exploits, were now guilty of a dastardly trick; they
cut the thong in order that he might not be able to reach the earth,
and taking their sister with all the booty they hurriedly decamped.

On the way home the princes met a shepherd watching his sheep, and
they prevailed upon him to disguise himself and to impersonate their
youngest brother, ordering their sister and the three maidens to keep
strictly their secret.

Some time elapsed, and one day the youngest prince had tidings
that his brothers and the disguised shepherd were on the point of
marrying the three maidens. This information seems to have been
singularly complete, for on the day of his eldest brother's wedding,
mounted on the black steed, he flew down and alighted in front of the
church. There he awaited the moment for the procession to come out,
and, as his brother was preparing to mount his horse, he approached
him swiftly, raised his club and struck him a heavy blow so that he
fell instantly. The young prince then remounted the black horse and
was instantly transported to the mysterious pavilion.

On the wedding-day of his second brother the feat, this time on the
white horse, was repeated, none guessing who the strange aggressor was.

Next came the turn of the shepherd. On the day of his wedding with
the third maiden, the young prince, mounted on the Arab, alighted
in the churchyard just at the moment when the wedding procession
started to return. This time he struck the bridegroom on the head so
heavily that he fell dead. The guests hurriedly alighted from their
horses and surrounded the prince, who made no attempt to escape, but
revealed himself as the third son of their tsar. He told them that the
pretended prince, whom he had just sent to the other world, was but a
common shepherd, and that his brothers, out of envy, had caused him
to remain in the magic pavilion where he had discovered his sister
and killed the dragon. All that he said was immediately confirmed
by his sister and the three maidens. When the tsar heard this he was
very angry with his two elder sons, and drove them for ever from his
palace. But as for his valiant youngest son, he united him to the
third maiden and left him the crown and all he possessed when he died.

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