In response to this, I did introduce the three of us. I then told him that, even if we were to accept him as telling the truth about his offer, there was only room for two passengers in his rowboat. At which comment, Skogul's frown did become a most mischievous smile.
"A flaw easily remedied," she said.
Whereupon, she grew once more into a hundred foot-tall giantess. Simultaneously grabbing me up, with her left hand, and stuffing me into the exact center of her bosom! This was followed by such a wave of dizziness that I confess I did black out. And, upon reawakening?
I did see Lin Kuei in the bow of the rowboat, acting as pilot. While Svyatogor sat in the middle, doing the actual rowing. And, Skogul sat in the stern, using her right hand to manipulate the wooden rudder.
Her left hand was preoccupied holding my shrunken self.
"God's Blood, woman!" I shouted up at her: "What have you done to me?"
She giggled: "Fear not, little warrior. I shall re-enlarge you once we reach our destination. Though, I must admit; you are so cute in your present state, I am half-tempted to make you thus, again, after our mission is accomplished!"
To plainly change the awkward subject (and thereby thwart any escalation of arguement), Svyatogor did ask our new acquaintance why the island was called Avar-aral.
"The only Avars I know live in the Caucasus Mountains," he did add.
Lin Kuei nodded at this.
"Indeed. And, this island was once home to the Wu Sun Clan. A piratical off-shoot of those same people. The she-demon you call Ovaria did use that clan as the nucleus of a new army, with which she intended to reconquer the lands west of the Khazarian Sea. Yet, the advance of this army (now known to you Occidentals as 'the Hephthalites') was halted at the Tanais River Delta by a confederation of Maeotian tribes.* A confederation led by the Aspurgiants, and reinforced by the Bastarnae (elite mercenary warriors of mixed Galatian and Vandalic descent)."
"You are surprisingly well-versed in Occidental history," observed Skogul, her suspicious frown returning.
"I have traveled the Silk Road more times than you have golden hairs on your head, my dear," he did smilingly retort: "And, I have conversed with many learned men. Among them, Fray Lupo the Hubertarian."
That so startled even Svyatogor that he nearly dropped both oars overboard!
"When did you meet him?" I demanded, scarcely able to believe my shrunken ears.
"In Byzantium, where I did help him escape from dagger-wielding Assassins trying to steal from him that which should never have left the Land of the Indus."
"And, what might that be, pray tell?" asked Skogul's father as he resumed rowing.
Lin Kuei half-smiled: "That... is another story."
By noon, we had reached the western-most fringes of the archipelago Vulda the shamaness had foretold me of. At which point, Lin Kuei astonished us once more. From within a rucksack he removed from his shoulders and back, he did remove a semi-circular globe made of glass. Within, that globe was half-filled with water. And, floating atop that globe was a piece of wood with a lodestone bound to it.
"Observe!" he commanded: "The lodestone points the way to true north. Thus, your destination lies slightly more eastward. We shall rest here, for tonight. Upon the morrow? You may re-enlarge and use these islands as literal stepping-stones to your final objective."
Whereupon, Skogul half-smiled at me: "It would appear I get to keep you like this, for one more night."
As I wished to save my strength for the coming battle, I did reluctantly keep myself from protesting.
Aspurgiants: another linguistic pun, referencing the (possibly Indo-Iranian) Aspurgiani tribe.
Bastarnae: genuine name for Danube River plains dwellers of Celto-Germanic stock.
"That...is another story:" See DIARY OF A NAZI ARCHEOLOGIST.