The Three Men of Power—Evening, Midnight, and Sunrise
He went into that palace, and there came to meet him in the copper halls a maiden whose cheeks were redder than the aloe and whiter than the snow. She was the youngest daughter of the King, and the loveliest of the three princesses, who were the loveliest in all the world. Sweetly she curtsied to Sunrise, as he stood there with his golden hair and his eyes blue as the sky at morning, and sweetly she asked him,—
"How have you come hither, my brave young man—of your own will or against it?"
"Your father has sent to rescue you and your sisters."
She bade him sit at the table, and gave him food and brought him a little flask of the water of strength.
"Strong you are," says she, "but not strong enough for what is before you. Drink this, and your strength will be greater than it is; for you will need all the strength you have and can win, if you are to rescue us and live."
Sunrise looked in her sweet eyes, and drank the water of strength in a single draught, and felt gigantic power forcing its way throughout his body.
"Now," thought he, "let come what may."
Instantly a violent wind rushed through the copper palace, and the Princess trembled.
"The snake that holds me here is coming," says she. "He is flying hither on his strong wings."
She took the great hand of the bogatir in her little fingers, and drew him to another room, and hid him there.
The copper palace rocked in the wind, and there flew into the great hall a huge snake with three heads. The snake hissed loudly, and called out in a whistling voice,—
"I smell the smell of a Russian soul. What visitor have you here?"
"How could any one come here?" said the Princess. "You have been flying over Russia. There you smelt Russian souls, and the smell is still in your nostrils, so that you think you smell them here."
"It is true," said the snake: "I have been flying over Russia. I have flown far. Let me eat and drink, for I am both hungry and thirsty."
All this time Sunrise was watching from the other room.
The Princess brought meat and drink to the snake, and in the drink she put a philtre of sleep.