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Tanya Grotter And The Magic Double Bass





Prologue

The black sorceress Plague-del-Cake, whose name they dread even to utter aloud, climbing to power, destroys the brilliant magicians one by one. Among her victims is the remarkable white magician Leopold Grotter. His daughter Tanya, by some unknown means, manages to avoid death, but on the tip of her nose, a mysterious birthmark remains for life Plague-del-Cake mysteriously disappears, and Tanya Grotter turns out to be abandoned to the family of businessman Durnev, her distant relative She lives with this extremely unpleasant family until the age of ten, and then finds herself in the unique world of the Tibidox School of Magic

Chapter 1
A Baby in a Case

On a bright autumnal morning when everything in the world appeared harshly vivid and disgracefully happy and the foliage on the trees shone as if it was doused with golden tinsel, a stooping tall person in a grey coat came out of the entrance of a multi-storey building on Rublev Road.

His name was Herman Durnev, the director of the firm Second-Hand Socks and the father of a year-old daughter Pipa (short for Penelope).

Stopping under the eaves of the entrance, Durnev looked around disapprovingly. The sun, whose roundish face was as flat as a pancake, indulged itself on the neighbouring roof as if being lazy and considering whether it would be worthwhile for it to rise further or to come down as is. On a pile of leaves not far from the entrance a woman in an orange overall was half lying and looking into an open hatch. Her profile was regular, Greek outlines, and the copper-red hair puffed out so that they made one involuntarily think of snakes. In the hatch someone was rumbling and messing around boisterously. The haughty sparrows were pecking something on the asphalt, briskly, like rubber balls, jumping away from passers-by.

From the windows and cellars, from squares and empty parks, from the crowns of trees and the sky with wisps of clouds hanging, from cats eyes and ladies handbags, from the exhaust pipes of automobiles, from price lists at the stores, and the still sunburnt noses of summer residents from everywhere, rubbing carrot yellow palms, the quite young, recently born October looked out.

But all this beauty was of no concern whatever to Herman Durnev. Weather, and in general nature, only interested him enough for determining whether or not to take an umbrella with him or whether it was time to put snow tires with spikes on the car.

He looked at his watch and reached for a small box with homeopathic medicine.

What a cad this sun is! One, two And you cant even spit on it At least it generally dies out Really, on such a day who can be in the mood for work? Five, six Sooner or later Ill really have an ulcer Or already have Seven he muttered, counting off little beads and placing them under his tongue.

When the little beads had dissolved, Durnev started to think better and said to himself, Well now, now Ill indeed live until dinner if I dont get blood poisoning from the new corn plaster.

Certainly, Durnev also did not suspect that he was being observed.

A large disgusting-looking bird: gloomy, dishevelled, with a long scruffy neck on which there were almost no feathers, was observing him from the eaves of the entrance. The bird held in its beak a photograph cut out from a magazine and was looking at it yes, it was the same Herman Durnev, taken together with his wife Ninel and daughter Pipa at the International Suspenders Exhibition in the All-Russia Exhibition Centre.

Occasionally the bird lowered the photograph onto a metal sheet and started to compare meticulously the present Durnev with the photograph. At the same time, disgusting greenish lumps of mucus dripped from the beak onto the photograph.

It is possible to imagine how surprised Durnev would be if he were to casually raise his head and take a look at who was sitting on the eaves of the entrance. However, Herman Nikitich was not among those who pay attention to birds, if, it goes without saying, it was not a cooked chicken lying before him on a plate. Moreover, at the given moment the dodgy mind of the head of the firm Second-Hand Socks was occupied with the solution of a question: how to get custom clearance for two railroad cars of used handkerchiefs under the guise of goods for children.

Durnev walked down from the porch and, with obvious pleasure stepping several times on the charmingly bright yellow leaves, turned on his heel. Having done this, already completely indifferently he passed many other leaves and sat down in the new black car. The car started to purr and was off. The bird with the naked neck gravely broke away from the eaves and flew after the car, clearly not intending to lose sight of it.

* * *

The woman sitting on the lawn, whom Durnev in passing thought of as a repair person, followed the bird with a penetrating glance and muttered to herself under her breath, I would like to know what Lifeless Griffin is doing here. The last time I met him was when they got the Titanic down into the water. Dont remember what happened with the steamship there but for sure there was some trouble.

She threw up her hand, on her middle finger was a sparkling ring, and she whispered quietly, Sparkis frontis!

At the same moment, a green spark escaped from the ring and singed one of the birds wings. Losing feathers, Lifeless Griffin collapsed onto the asphalt like a rock, crowed something hoarsely and, taking off again, threw itself behind the nearest house.

The mysterious person blew on the glowing ring.

I hate these living corpses. They cannot be killed a second time. Indeed better to deal simply with evil spirits, she muttered.

Meanwhile, in the hatch, something came down with a terrible crash. Water splashed.

A-a-choo! it was heard from the hatch so deafeningly that the cover even jumped up.

Having forgotten about the bird, the repair person if, of course, this was a repair person leaned anxiously over the hatch, Professor, you will catch cold! I beg you, at least put on a scarf!

Medusa, dont be ridiculous! A scarf wont help divers! a voice immediately responded.

But this did not calm the woman a bit.

I swear by the Hair of The Ancient One, its really too much! Only imagine, the very academician of White magic, the head of the Tibidox School of Magic, Sardanapal Chernomorov is forced to remove the simplest spells of the evil spirits! Where, please permit me to ask, are our junior magicians, where are the assistants? she asked, pressing her lips tightly.

The rumbling in the hatch stopped. To the surface rose a small rosy chubby person dressed in an orange overall, from which water was trickling down No, please excuse me, not an overall but a robe. It could seem like an overall only to a not very keen observer and even then only at first glance. Precisely the same orange robe was also on his companion.

A-a-choo! Medusa! All this, right, this nonsense, is not worthwhile to trouble anyone! A-a-choo! Without practice, in two years I would become a helpless office magician. Are there any among us lazy people who can even turn into a pig without the ring? To say nothing of the highest disciplines, such as theoretical magic, levitation, protection from hexes, or the production of talismans.

Having cited this, in his opinion, deadly reason, the academician Sardanapal stood on tiptoes and cheerfully looked around. His right moustache was green and the left yellow. But the strangest thing was that the moustaches were never in a state of rest for a second. They either coiled like two live ropes, or were interlaced, or aimed to entwine the temples of the eyeglasses and pull them off from the chubby persons nose. True, it was not so simple to do this, since the glasses were kept on clearly not so much by the temples, having come loose a long time ago, as by a special spell.

As far as the beard of the academician was concerned, its colour was generally not determined, since it first appeared then disappeared. For sure, it was possible to say only one thing the beard was phenomenally long, so long that it was necessary to wind it repeatedly around the body and to hide the ends in a pocket.

Noticing finally that his robe was soaked, the head of the school of magic muttered, Firstus drumus!

Steam came off the clothing and a few minutes later, it was completely dry again.

Ah, what a wonderful fall day! Sardanapal exclaimed, turning to his companion. Its like that day they chopped off my head for the first time! Dont you agree, Medusa?

The instructor of studies of evil spirits, the associate professor Medusa Gorgonova, grimaced and ran her fingers along her neck.

Ugh! Its only possible to wait for dirty tricks from moronoids They also chopped off my head. Unrestrained type in winged sandals, staring into his own shield. Then I was a badly brought up witch with nightmarish habits, and only you, Professor, would re-educate me, she said.

The moustaches of Sardanapal trembled with pleasure.

Do stop, how many times can one be thanked! A real trifle it was to stick on your head! For that, it wasnt even necessary to resort to serious magic, a simple and plain spinning spell was quite sufficient. Well, and that you renounced your previous habits honour and praise to you! My credit was ahem of the minimum ahem

How can you say so?! Medusa exclaimed. I changed travellers into sculptures! Anyone who looked at me instantly became stone!

Nonsense, dont think of that! You were a very young girl, having complexes because of pimples, and here you bewitched those poor devils who saw you by chance. Frankly speaking, I understand you very well: these ancient Greeks poked their noses into everywhere. You even took yourself out of their sight further to the island, and they nevertheless gadded about close by, swinging their swords. All that was demanded of me was to cure you of pimples. And what a beauty you have become! Even Koshchei the Deathless constantly blushes when he comes flying into Tibidox on the skeleton of his faithful horse

Bad old man! Forty kilograms of silver-plated bones, gold crock, amber teeth and all this in armour from Paco Grabanne! Medusa frowned.

But youll not argue that he has fallen in love with you!

Associate professor Gorgonova blushed embarrassingly. The red spots flaring up suddenly in different places on her cheeks resembled something like cherries.

Sardanapal! I beg you! she exclaimed reproachfully.

The moustaches of the academician of white magic trembled guiltily.

Cursed malice! After I accidentally drank an infusion with harpy venom, in no way can I get rid of it. Ive tried the liver of dragon, and half a glass of green spirit with a drop of basilisk bile in the morning and before bed nothing helps! he complained.

Dont apologize, Im not offended. I simply dont like it when they utter that name around me Medusa softened. Better tell me this: did you really drag me here from Tibidox itself only to remove the spell of this utterly useless hatch, which pulls in keys and coins of passers-by? Only dont be sly. Weve already known each other for three thousand years

Sardanapal reproachfully looked at his companion and blew his nose into a gigantic star-covered hanky, which had suddenly appeared mysteriously in his hand. The stars on the hanky winked and formed themselves into whimsical constellations; moreover, the constellation Ara attempted with meteorites to get rid of the constellation Sagittarius.

Medusa, youre arguing like a sorceress. Put yourself in the place of a normal person. Keys arent trash. A person deprived of keys has a real chance of spending the night on a bench and catching a head cold Like me, for example.

Your head cold is from your not putting on a scarf when we flew over the ocean And the needs of moronoids disturb me very little. In their world, there are fully enchanted hatches, turnstiles gone hog wild, and cellars slamming shut by itself. Evil spirits dont sit on their hands. Well hardly leave and theyll again put a spell on this hatch. And well not be able to do anything about it.

Seeing that his companion was starting to get angry, Academician Sardanapal lightly blew on the hanky, and it melted in his palm, having changed into a dark-blue washcloth beforehand.

Excuse me, Medusa. Recently I suspect that someone has also put a spell on my sense of humour. Not excluding that the Tadzhik genies put an evil eye on it, I forbade them to arrange dust storms Mm Did you see the man, who recently came out of the entrance?

I did. But how did you manage? I must say that you were underground!

Sardanapal smiled mysteriously, Oh, if I want to see something, a few metres of asphalt cannot hinder me. What do you think of him?

Extremely unpleasant character Br-r Even among moronoids you usually expect better.

Now, now, Medusa, dont be so harsh. At least out of respect for the memory of Leopold Grotter.

LEOPOLD GROTTER? He knew him? Medusa exclaimed dumbfounded.

Sardanapal nodded.

More than that. Hes his relative. And even sufficiently close in all the nephew of his grandmothers second cousin. Of course, for moronoids this type is related only through Adam, but you and I know the formula of magic-kinship of Astrocactus the Paranoid!

He is a relative of Grotter! So this is why we

Shh! the academician suddenly brought a finger to his lips, ordering Medusa to keep quiet. Both his moustaches at once sprang up and pointed at the sewage hatch.

Nodding, Medusa noiselessly stole up to the hatch and, squatting down, abruptly pushed her hand through it. At the same second, a nasty screech was heard from the well.

There it is! I got it! Hey, stop! the instructor of studies of evil spirits shouted.

When the hand of Medusa again showed itself on the surface, her fingers firmly clutched the ear of a little lady with a bumpy violet nose and green hair. The feet of the hissing lady were very curious flat and rather resembling flippers. The prisoner hissed, spat, clicked her triangular teeth, and attempted to kick Gorgonova first with the right flipper, then with the left, and then with both alternately.

Killga for revenga! And tellgi someone to let gogi! Setgi upon bitingi! Fiegi on yougi! And fiegi on yougi! she screamed furiously.

How do you like that a kikimora! Curious little example, sufficiently large Chernomorov commented, examining with interest the game caught by Medusa.

Again an evil spirit! Medusa winced with disgust. Now and then I begin to doubt that She-Who-Is-No-More actually disappeared. That someone sent Lifeless Griffin, and now here is this fright Hey, dont you twitch!

A-a-a! She scarega! Scumgi let gogi! Gogi my own businessgi! You needgi ripgi megi pantgi! Fiegi on yougi! the kikimora squealed, not giving up the attempts to kick Medusa with her flippers. It was necessary for Medusa to hold her at a distance with an outstretched arm, which was not simple since the kikimora was sufficiently well fed.

Stop wailing! Who sent you? Speak! Medusa demanded severely.

No saygi nothingi! Stupidga witchga! Now peckgu you throughgu! Playgu in your coffingu! the kikimora squealed angrily, trying to accompany her words with aimed spittle.

Gorgonova gave the kikimora a quick glance with her penetrating eyes.

Try! she said threateningly.

You veryga need mega! the sly kikimora instantly changed her mind and mournfully started to whisper that she was an unlucky orphan and that everyone could insult her, an orphan.

Aha, you insult yourself, orphan! Sardanapal hummed and hawed. The academician pretended that he wanted to bring a finger to the mouth of the kikimora, and her sharp triangular teeth clicked right away, exactly like a trap. If Sardanapal did not jerk back his hand, he would have one finger less.

Shell not tell anything. I know this kind. And its clear that she didnt roam here going about her own business. Maybe well preserve her in alcohol for the museum so that no one would make a slip of the tongue? the instructor of studies of evil spirits proposed, energetically shaking the kikimora by the ear.

A-a-a-a-a! Dont wantga be in alcoholga! Will keepga quietga! Will be the quietest hushga! the kikimora began to bawl shrilly.

Not worth it, Medusa. Its completely not necessary to put her in a jar. Ill make it so that shell forget everything. With a dexterity difficult to expect from a clumsy phlegmatic person with a round belly, Sardanapal seized the kikimora by a flipper and, blowing into her ear, uttered in an undertone, Scleroticus marasmoticus! Fillissimo moronissimo!

After this, he cold-bloodedly unclenched his fingers, dropping the spy onto the grass. For a while, the green lady crazily shook her head, clearly in great confusion. She looked at Sardanapal and Medusa dully and without curiosity. Making several staggering steps on the lawn, the kikimora gathered her senses slightly, snorted contemptuously and, having reached the hatch in a waddle, jumped in there like a toy soldier. From the hatch a small fountain of water splashed out, several bad words were heard, and everything quieted down.

She swam away, said Sardanapal, indicating the direction with his green moustache.

All these evil spirits are terribly boring. Its about time to put a spell on them so that they wouldnt butt in on the moronoids. One day theyll upset the balance of power and then itll be bad for us all. Medusa anxiously clicked her tongue.

Sardanapal dismissed it lightly, Nonsense, Medusa. You exaggerate, as always. The evil spirits are a confused force, sprung from chaos and partially preserved from the times of paganism. Yes, there are many evil spirits, dozens of times more than us magicians white and black, but they were never in a state of agreement among themselves. How often I remember, the evil spirits were always defying bans, playing dirty tricks on the moronoids, and upsetting the balance. But as long as the Hair of The Ancient One is whole and the Gates are standing, our world is in danger from nothing. Even from the direction of the black magicians, whom well in no way smoke out of Tibidox.

And what about She-Who-Is-No-More?

I agree, she was unique, who knew how to organize the evil spirits and to set them on us. Moreover, she almost managed to force us magicians to hand over our positions to her. If not for Leopold Grotter and his newborn daughter

Not only Grotter. You never feared her, Professor! Even when she was in power!

Sardanapal bashfully turned pink, Oh, certainly! Im always ready to utter in everybodys hearing her true name Plague-del-Cake! You see? Plague-del-Cake! And nothing terrible happens!

The loud voice of the academician did not yet have time to stand still in the shifting labyrinth of high-rises when the glass of the terrace on the third floor spurted out splinters and a gleaming iron, whipping with the cord, flew out from there. Cutting the air with a whistle, it rushed along precisely to Sardanapals head. Picking up the hems of his robe, the academician quickly jumped aside and muttered something. In that same moment the iron turned into vapour.

Did you see that? She-Who-Is-No-More wanted to kill you! Medusa exclaimed fearfully.

Nonsense. There is already no Auntie Plague Simply one of the old spells snapping into action. She scattered thousands of them everywhere. Sardanapal smiled and stepped on the escaped plug trying to coil around his leg with its cord.

Medusa flinched from loathing. In her thin hand by some mysterious means appeared a lorgnette, with which she examine parts of the destroyed iron.

What an abomination! The next nasty invention of the moronoids Were leaving! Theres nothing more for us to do here.

Chernomorov shook his head, And heres where youre mistaken. The time has come to carry out the most unpleasant and difficult part of our mission. I started to talk about this but we were interrupted. We must however painful this is for us leave Tanya to the man whom you just saw.

Medusa Gorgonova recoiled. Her copper-red hair, even without being tousled, rose suddenly on end and started to hiss. A casual person not knowing what Medusa was connected with long ago in her past would swear that he just saw a ball of entwined snakes.

WHAT?! Did I hear right? You want to give the daughter of Leopold Grotter to this pitiful moronoid? The girl who, in some unknown manner, survived a struggle with She-Who-Is-No-More? The girl, after a meeting with whom She-Who-Is-No-More vanished?

Detecting the angry notes in Medusas voice, the academician hurriedly turned away in order not to look her in the eyes by accident. To remove ancient magic is possible, but it has side effects.

Medusa, we dont have another way out, he said softly. We simply cannot act otherwise. I swear by the Hair of The Ancient One, I would sooner let my moustaches be shaved off and my beard be cut than to give the daughter of Grotter to this moronoid, but we must, we are simply obligated to do this for the good of the entire Tibidox.





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