I did nod in understanding.
"Fear not, though," I added: "Who-so-ever does enquire, I shall tell them (providing they are not men or women of the cloth) that Prince Holgar is a Crusader. And, that I (an erstwhile saqaliba *) did help him escape from Muslim slavery."
That was nearly two score years ago.
Upon parting with Skogul, we did journey to the Danish village where King Gudfred and his queen consort had ruled. And, the weed-covered graves we did find there did, indeed, confirm that Brother Iosef had been right about the slower passage of time.
The prince's son Edric, of course, had long since died, as well. With his remains cremated in typical Norseman fashion. But, as to the disposition of Queen Kara's body, following her death? Only one person on Earth might be able to answer that question: Vulda the shamaness.
"Even if she does not possess supernatural longevity," I said: "...she might have descendants among the Sudovians. For any woman who can shrink infants, and change into a fox, might certainly be able to bear children of her own. Even when wearing the semblance of an elderly mortal!"
"Either way," Prince Holgar did reply: "...such a task will entail our endeavouring to join the Teutonic Knights! If only to secure horses, and funds for the journey."
I nodded in understanding.
"You will need a yeoman turcopole, of course," I added: "...if only to strengthen the imposture.
He did smile and nod, understandingly, in return. And, many were the adventures we did subsequently have on the way back to Sudovia. Some of which I have already dictated to the good brothers, here, at the Monastery of St. Anthony of the Caves. Including that one wherein I did learn of the son Skogul had borne me!
But, now, I grow fatigued. The fatigue of one whose body has become weaker and less willing than his mind. Thus, do I--Ilya, bogatyr of Murom--take leave of this world. In this Year of Our Lord; Thirteen Hundred and Fifty.
* * * * *
MONASTERY OF ST. ANTHONY OF THE CAVES
SOMEWHERE NEAR KIEV, USSR (1931)
Brother Piotr brought two candles into the monastic library. The one in his left hand; to light the way. And, the one in his right hand; to aid Gustave Liebenkraft in his studies.
"Ach! Danke schoen!" said the beaming archeologist.
"You are most welcome," replied Brother Piotr, with a smiling bow: "How goes your research, doctor?"
"Slowly, but surely, Gut Bruder. I have nearly finished the transcription! Hopefully, the Board of Regents at my alma mater will reconsider their earlier stance, and grant me further research funds."
Brother Piotr partially frowned: "One should always be half-prepared for disappointment, doctor. For, as the Good Book says: 'There are none so blind as those will not see.' And, those responsible for worldly education can be the blindest ones of all!"
In response to this, Gustave Liebenkraft partially smirked.
"Perhaps! But, as the Amerikaners say: 'There is more than one way to skin eine Katzen!' "