He was a wanderer over the earth, for, learned in all else, he still sought knowledge of men and of countries. He had gone up by the Volga to the Kama and to the Bulgarians. Now he was wending his way with the Russians to Kiev and Tsargrad. "Ibn-Sadif ascended the hill, and beheld a blazing pile. On a log of wood lay a maiden with her left breast ripped open; flames licked her feet.
The Arab gazed up at that vast space where the shining constellations swam towards the bosom of the Infinite, then down at their fantastically mirrored image in the river's depths and cried aloud: "'Woe! Woe!" "In the far distance beyond the water the wolves howled. "At nightfall Ibn-Sadif joined the Prince who was directing the ancient funeral rites.
The Arab raised his hands to the sky; his white garments flew round him like the wings of a bird; in a shrill, eerie voice like an eagle's he cried to the fierce bearded men gathered around: "'This night just a thousand years ago, the Archangel told the Mother of God in Nazareth of the coming of your God, Jesus. Woe! A thousand years ago! Can it be? "Thus spoke Ibn-Sadif.
In the terrible, lurid light of that vernal evening the princeling died. "Then they slew his horse and his wife, and raised the tumulus. "In the Prince's suite was an Arab scholar named Ibn-Sadif. He was as thin as an arrow, pliant as a bow, as dark as pitch, with the eyes and nose of an eagle under his white turban.
I feel utterly lost, Vilyashev. We are no good to anyone. Not so long ago our ancestors used to flog peasants in the stables and abduct maidens on their wedding-nights. How I curse them! They were wild beasts! Ibn-Sadif spoke the truth ... a thousand years and still the Mark of the Beast!" The Prince's cry was low; but deep, and wild.
Here, where were we born, they have called us their masters, their fathers carrion crows, vultures! Like the fierce Russian tribes of old, they have let loose the hounds of destruction on wolves and hares and men alike! Woe!... Ibn-Sadif!" Constantine lighted a candle on a table, and crossed the room. In the strange blue light of dawn his livid shadow fell on the whitewashed wall.
Around were sombre, bearded men with swords in their hands. An ancient Shaman priest was circling in front of the funeral pyre and shouting furiously. "Ibn-Sadif turned aside from the fire, and descended the forest pathway to the river. "The sky was thickly studded with stars that shone like points of living gold in the warm deeps of the night; the water gave back a glittering reflection.