The Adventures of Tim and Janik
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The secretive guest

Tim was very surprised to hear that his grandmother Yenisaya was coming from the country to visit them. He knew she was not an ordinary woman, but it was rarely discussed in the family. No, Grandma was not crazy: quite the opposite. Everybody respected her wisdom and sought her advice, but the people were still a bit apprehensive of her. Tim knew from overhearing adult conversations that Grandma lived a secluded life and her neighbors tried to avoid her house. The rumors in the village were that Yenisaya, despite being small and delicate, could easily defeat an army of men. The rumors were, people disappeared in her house. Lastly, Grandma owned a huge purple dog. It was a Central Asian Shepherd Alabai that was 6 feet tall standing on four legs. The people in the village believed that the dog was once Yenisaya`s beloved, but when he broke her heart she turned him into a dog in anger.

Tim`s father always denied Grandma`s oddities. He kept telling everyone she`s just a normal woman who simply doesn’t enjoy daily commotion, and that society is always wary of the ones who are different.

Grandma`s country-house was in a picturesque place at the foot of the mountains. In the 12 years of his life, Tim had only visited there three times. The first time he was a baby, so naturally he did not remember anything. The second time he visited Grandma for a few days before going to school. Although Father insisted that his mother`s house was completely safe, Tim and his younger brother Janik, who often quarreled and fought, were forced to declare a truce at the grandmother`s place and went everywhere together.

The kids could not understand why their parents did not notice all the oddities of that house. Grandma, of course, strictly ordered all her things to behave hospitably with her grandchildren. But when Yenisaya was not around bored furniture was ready to mock at the visitors. The stairs could start dancing when walked on, and after Tim and Janik fell, the steps would roar with laughter.

The doors were fond of jokes as well. Sometimes the kids would open a door only to find another door, and another, and so on until the boys began to cry and beg the doors to let them pass. At times, they had to compliment the door for hours just to get from one room to another.

However, the children loved the windows. When the boys looked out, the windows would turn left and right so they could see more. This gave the children the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful nature of the foothills, the patterns drawn by hundreds of butterflies in the garden, and, of course, quickly find a purple Central Asian Shepard Alabai named Foggy.

The dog charmed the socks off the boys. Foggy himself was even more enraptured. Whenever he saw the kids he jumped and wagged his tail like a puppy. The boys loved playing with Foggy, he was a very kind and intelligent dog and loved giving his paw. They played, laughed, and filled the neighborhood with cries of joy until the sunset. Tim and Janik`s parents wondered how Foggy never accidentally hit the kids with his giant paws when they ran and played. Seemed like he could be as light as fog.

The most exciting thing for Tim and his brother was riding the dog. They tightly gripped the fur and the dog carried them into the fields, over the river and into the mountains. Sometimes they went very far from home, but the boys were not scared: Foggy always knew his way back. In a few days, they were best friends. That friendship made the kids wish to visit Grandma more often, but the secretive lady preferred solitude.

The third visit drastically changed the brothers’ opinion of their grandmother. Tim was ten at the time and Janik was eight. They were playing with Foggy in the yard when suddenly they heard an unfamiliar man`s voice coming from the house. The boys knew that there was no one else for a couple of miles around except them and their grandmother. They tiptoed in, crept to Grandma`s room, and peered through the crack of the slightly ajar door. A tall, thin, hook-nosed man, who appeared out of nowhere, was intensely arguing with Yenisaya.

“You were hiding your son from us. Now you have grandchildren.”

“I can’t sacrifice my grandchildren! They’re too young still,” said the old lady very quietly but firmly. She pointed at the man as if she wanted to stab him in the eye with her finger.

“Now is not the time to think of no one but yourself! We’re all in danger!” persisted the intruder.

Grandmother began to push the annoying visitor towards the wall. The kids saw an open chest there. Suddenly, with a quick movement Yenisaya grabbed the man by the throat with both hands and forced him into the chest! She closed the lid and fastened a heavy padlock. Grandmother turned to the door, and the children took to their heels at once. The stairs danced and tried to make them fall, but the boys were so scared they jumped down in an instant. At the bottom the younger brother took a second to stick his tongue out and make a face to the disappointed stairs. Tim hurried to open the front door, but it wanted to hear some praise first. Behind the door they found another door, and so on. The older brother then kicked the door in anger.

The door opened with an “ouch”. The kids ran outside and called Foggy. They jumped on his back and rode aimlessly until the dark.

The padlock was still on the chest. Every day and night until the end of their visit the children listened and watched to see if Yenisaya would let her captive go. However, Grandma seemed to have forgotten all about him. Back in Almaty, Tim and his brother secretly told all their friends about their grandma-enchantress and her purple dog. Nobody believed their stories, which made the boys sad. They hoped that one day Grandma would come to visit, and then all their friends would see the magic and be able to ride a giant dog.

Now the old lady has announced her visit, but this has caused everyone to worry. The parents had long discussions on why would Yenisaya choose to visit them all of a sudden. They were worried she was ill or in some other kind of trouble. The kids however remembered the odd conversation Grandma had with the stranger. They never mentioned it to anyone, but now they began to worry that Yenisaya was coming for them.

The secretive lady assured them she would get to the city on her own. From the early morning, the family was busy about the house. Mom was cooking something delicious in the kitchen. The children were arguing about which room Grandma should sleep in and which room she should use to do magic. The day before they had gotten hold of small knives and hidden them under their pillows, just in case Yenisaya decided to sacrifice them.

Father was watering the trees. The water sparkled in the sun and a beautiful rainbow appeared over the garden. All the flowers opened and turned their faces to the sun, as if on command. Dozens of colorful butterflies flickered around.

“She’s arrived,” said Father to himself.

He hurried to the gate, calling his wife through an open window. Mother called the boys to welcome the guest.

They did not wait long: in a few minutes, a taxi stopped in front of the house. A short, elderly woman in stiletto shoes stepped out of the taxi. She was wearing a black trouser suit. The stand-collar of her jacket accentuated her slender figure. Her jewelry also caught the eye: massive earrings, bracelets, and a chain with the Golden man pendant. Her wavy hair looked like a white cloud around her head. A swarm of colorful butterflies flickered around Grandma. They seemed to have come with her in a taxi from the mountains. Tim and Janik closely watched old lady`s every move, so as not to miss any important sign.

“All present!” Grandma smiled cunningly, “Splendid!” she held her arms out for hugs.

One by one, they came up to say hello. First Father, then Mother, Tim and his younger brother. Yenisaya kissed everyone, leaving traces of scarlet lipstick.

“You’ve grown so tall, and look at your cheeks!” said the old lady to Tim, affectionately touching his snub nose with her finger.

“And why are you so lean? Nothing but bones. Do you run around all day every day?” she asked Janik caressing his hair.

“Didn’t Foggy come?” asked the younger brother in a cheerless voice.

“All your neighbors would run away if they saw Foggy,” Grandma laughed, “he stayed to guard the house.”

After everyone said hello the taxi driver pulled out a big roll-on bag and called Tim`s father over to the trunk.

“Let me help you carry this into the house,” he suggested pointing at a large brown wooden chest with a padlock.

Tim`s father was about to grumpily ask why she would bring this huge chest to the city, but stopped himself. He knew that this was just the first of the oddities awaiting the family while his mother was visiting. They placed the chest in the guest room on the second floor. It was so heavy that the head of the house got a backache.

“That poor guy`s body must still be inside,” guessed Janik.

“Maybe there’s more than one,” whispered his older brother in reply.

At the table, Grandma asked each of her only son`s family members about their lives.

“How’s your business, Duman?” she began with the head of the house.

“All good. Just opened another selling spot.”

“Congratulations! And how is it going for you, Sara?” she asked her daughter-in-law, who worked as a psychologist.

“I’ve developed an original seminar ‘Woman`s Magic’ and now teach classes.”

“Mom, do you know magic too? Like Grandma?” asked Janik and not waiting for a response turned to Yenisaya, “Grandma, will you teach us some magic?”

“The best magic is what a person can do with his life,” smiled the guest, “I`ll teach you that when the time comes. In the meantime, young people, tell me what are you up to these days?”

“Tim sends texts about love to girls!” mischievously said Janik.

“Shut up!” indignantly shouted Tim, “That’s not true!”

“You shut up! I saw it!”

Tim wanted to hit his brother, and accidentally knocked down his tea-bowl, spilling its contents. Out of spite, the older boy hit his brother on the head, and the brother in return hit Tim on the shoulder.

“Tim! Janik!” the father called them to order.

“Almost grown-ups and still no brains!” Mom became upset. “What a mess you’ve made! Clumsy rhinoceros!”

“And what are your interests besides girls, Temirlan?”

“He likes hair fashion and playing guitar for the girls! Mwah-mwah!” Janik knew that his parents would stick up for him, and decided to use the opportunity to expose as much dirt as possible.

“That’s not true. I’m so tired of him tattling!” Tim knit his brows and wanted to get up and leave, but Grandma looked at him severely, so he stayed.

“And what exciting things can you tell us about yourself, Jansultan?” Yenisaya addressed the younger grandson by full name, as an adult. “You are ten now. What have you achieved under the guidance of your psychologist mother?”

“He does research on his boogers,” laughed Tim.

Father tried to change the subject and offered Janik a bun.

“I don’t want a bum,” Janik made a face.

“Teaching other people is much easier than teaching your own children,” sighed Sara.

The mysterious chest

During the day, all family members only pretended to go about their business. In reality, they were watching Grandma and waiting for her to start acting oddly. Tim went outside and in the garden saw Janik sitting on a tree and watching Yenisaya through the window.

“What are you doing up there?”

“Shush! Stop yelling. I’m spying on Grandma.”

Janik climbed down from the tree.

“She noticed me because of you!”

“What did you manage to see?”

Janik got wide-eyed and said, swinging his arms: “Grandma just pulled a sword out of the chest! It was thiiiis big and golden! She brandished it like a ninja.”

“Brandished what?” Tim did not believe a word his brother said.

“The sword. And then she saw me and threw the sword back into the chest. And she put a lock on it.”

“Stuff and nonsense!”

Tim saw that Grandma came outside and was slowly walking towards them. She was carrying two small boxes.

“We’ll ask about the sword,” Tim wanted everyone to understand what a nasty little liar his brother was.

The lady walked past her grandchildren, sat on a large swing, and invited the boys to sit next to her. They settled on both sides.

“When I was little, I was just as curious as you,” she said to Janik. He blushed. “The incurious have a boring life.”

“What have you got in that big chest?” the youngest grandson could not resist asking.

“I put my worldly wisdom and memories in it,” Grandma laughed.

She opened the cardboard boxes she brought with her, and pulled out two small gray chests, just like her big one, but in miniature.

“These are my gifts to you. Now each of you has your own chest. You will be able to store your own memories in them, and you will not need to poke your noses into other people`s chests,” grandma smiled and touched Janik`s nose with her finger.

“Nothing will fit in such a small chest,” Janik said, looking at the gift, thinking how to bring up the sword.

“These are no ordinary chests. They will grow with you. And someday they’ll be as big as mine.”

“And we’ll have to carry them around, too?” Tim asked, not very happy with the prospect.

“We all carry our chests with us. The question is what’s inside. If there are good things, it doesn’t seem so heavy.”

That night, when Father went to the children`s room to wish his sons sweet dreams, Tim and Janik asked him what Grandma kept in the chest. The answer made them even more intrigued.

“I’m forty years old, and I have no idea what my mother keeps in that chest. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are potions, dried snakes, or frogs. A neighbor once said that when I was little, my mother never treated me with pills, only made me herbal tea and worked her magic. I don’t remember any potions, but I remember that if something went wrong, my mother would collect more butterflies in the house, and we would play with them and laugh a lot. There are so many rumors about your Grandma that it’s hard to separate the truth from falsehood.”

The father kissed the children, turned off the light, and left. As soon as his footsteps faded, Janik began to annoy his brother.

“Tim, Tim, are you asleep?”

Tim decided to ignore him. Janik got up and jumped on his brother`s bed.

“I saw Grandma put the key in the pocket of her dress,” he whispered, shaking his brother by the shoulder.

“Do you know what happens if Grandma finds out you stole her key?”

“You’re saying that because you haven’t seen that sword. It was so nice and shiny. I don’t care about you, I’ll go and take a look.”

Janik quietly made his way towards his grandmother`s room. The door was closed, but not locked. Janik carefully opened it. The curtains only covered half of the window, and a clear moon illuminated the room. Grandma`s dress was hung on a chair. Janik went up to it, when suddenly the old lady muttered something and moved. The boy quickly hid behind the chair.

When he was sure that his grandmother was asleep, he reached into the pocket of her dress. He almost screamed when someone grabbed his arm.

“What if she finds out and never comes again? Do you know what Father will do to us then?”

“You donkey. You scared me. We’ll just take a look and put everything back in its place.”

Janik quickly reached into the pocket and pulled out the forbidden key. He tiptoed over to the trunk, holding the key to his chest with both hands in anticipation of something unknown. He put the key in the lock, turned it, and opened the lid. Tim also crept up to the trunk. It was dark and hard to see anything. Janik bent over and ran his hand along the bottom, but the sword was nowhere to be found. The chest was empty.

“No sword, no body,” Janik said. “Why is it so heavy then?”

“Of course, there’s no sword. You lied as usual,” Tim turned his eyes from the chest to the sleeping Grandma and back.

Janik, unwilling to give up, decided to climb into the chest and search for the sword.

“Don’t step on anything,” whispered Tim.

Janik first put one leg over, moved it along the bottom and, finding nothing, got the other leg over. Suddenly he fell into the darkness.

“Janik, Janik!” Tim called his brother in a low voice, but there was no answer. “Hey, donkey, where are you?”

But nothing broke the silence except his heart, which was pounding so loudly that it seemed like the sound of it could wake all the neighbors.

“Where are you? Janik, Janik! Shoot.”

Tim thought about waking the parents, but quickly changed his mind. What would he tell them? He sat on the edge of the chest, turned to look at his grandmother, who was sleeping peacefully. Then he jumped into the darkness. A moment later, he was falling down and thinking how just a few minutes ago he was a happy boy, lying in his own bed, and that this time he would definitely hit his brother hard. That is, of course, if he ever sees him again.

The Valley of Happiness

Tim felt like he was flying for several minutes at a cosmic speed. He had experienced something similar on the water-park slides, but this time he felt nothing underneath him but air. Suddenly he realized that he had fallen into a deep puddle. It was still dark. It seemed to him that he was not in an open space. It smelled damp. The boy could hear water dripping in the distance and feel rocks on the ground. He concluded that he must be in a cave. Then he thought that every cave must have a way out. He found the wall and walked along it, calling his brother from time to time, but his calls faded in the gloom. At last, he saw daylight in the distance and went faster towards the exit. Blinded by the sun, at first Tim could not understand why the colors were so unusual. He touched the grass — it felt completely normal, but it was blue! There was not a soul around. Only strange trees with brightly colored leaves. Huge planets floated across the sky, sometimes covering the Sun. Tim recognized Mars and Saturn. The planets were moving low and steady, like airplanes. Tim was very scared. He looked around. He began to call his little brother, first quietly, and then louder and louder.

“Janik! Ja-a-anik!”

“Tim!” he heard from around the trees.

Tim ran to the sound and saw his younger brother. They hugged and even shed a few tears.

“Where are we?” asked Tim trying to get it together.

“I don’t know. I was looking for a way back, a hollow, a pit, something. But I didn’t find anything that looks like a way back into the chest. There’s nothing but this strangely colored forest.”

“Why did you climb in here? We don’t know where we are or how to get back home!” Tim was very angry with his brother.

“How could I have known that this chest was some kind of a black hole?”

Tim knew there was no point in arguing, so he went towards a wide trail. Janik ran after him. The forest was amazing. The children were curious about everything they saw around them. They stopped from time to time to watch the strange local creatures. Tim was showing in every way how angry he was with his brother. He frowned and did not talk to him. But he was constantly looking back, to make sure Janik was following him. Janik however did not seem worried. He marveled at fluffy white jerboas, an army of ant-size green elephants, and cute monkeys that mimicked his movements. They came upon a yellow river and saw a tortoise the size of a car crawling along. Janik ran around it excitedly, making sure it was safe to ride. Then he jumped up and climbed the reptile`s leg and up to the shell. It was a little steep, but the boy gripped hard and managed to climb to the top. He was riding a tortoise.

“Whoa! Tim, get up here!”

Tim tried to climb the shell, but could not. Janik laughed loudly.

“Come on, use your floppy muscles!”

Tim turned away and proudly went along on foot.

“Oh, come on. I’ll help you, give me your hand. Come on, Tim, please!”

Tim was acting offended, but he really wanted to try riding a tortoise. Janik jumped around like a monkey, but still helped his brother climb on the shell.

From up there, the boys got a better view of the area. The nature was beautiful, with lush trees everywhere and funny forest critters, but the absence of people was frightening.

“Look, someone’s sitting there! It’s a person!” Janik pointed at the top of the hill.

The brothers jumped off the tortoise and hurried towards the top. When they came closer, they saw a teenage girl. She was sitting on the edge of a cliff in the lotus position. Her eyes were closed and her hands cupped together on her chest. A tiny yellow bird was flying around the girl, sometimes sitting on her feet and shoulders.

As usual, Tim was the one to start a conversation. He had good social skills, could easily find common ground, brag a little and lift everyone`s spirit.

“Excuse me, may I ask you a question?” Tim said.

The girl opened her eyes and looked at the strangers. Tim noticed that she was pretty, with messy bright red hair and big green eyes. She was wearing tight pants and a short maroon linen dress with long sleeves. On her feet she had flat maroon boots. Tim noticed that she had a sword and a necklace with a large silver heart. She also had an adorable dimpled smile. The girl glanced at the brothers and looked up to the sky.

“Thank you!” she said.

Then she turned back to the boys and smiled.

“You’re here already? I’m very glad!”

“Do you know us?” Tim and Janik were very surprised.

“I asked the Universe for the courageous saviors. And here you are.”

“We’re here because of you?” Tim felt like now was the time to get angry.

“I don’t know how you got here, or who you are. I just asked the Universe for the saviors of our Valley, and here you are. But I expected the saviors to be bigger and older.”

Tim, who preferred diplomacy over force, found this encouraging.

“My name is Tim, and this is my brother Janik. We live in Almaty. We don’t know how we got here. We only know that we are children and, as you can see, just in our pajamas. We can’t save anyone, we’re not warriors or wizards. And we really need to get home.”

The girl`s smile faded.

“If you aren’t the saviors, then go home,” she said in a sad voice. Then she sat back on the edge of the cliff, put her hands to her chest, and began to whisper something as if forgetting the boys were ever there.

Tim went up to the girl.

“I’m sorry, but what are we supposed to do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care,” she said without opening her eyes.

Tim looked around. There was not a soul in sight, only blue grass, flowers and trees. He figured they really needed the girl`s help.

“Look, we don’t know if we’re the saviors. No one told us anything about it. Can you tell us what this place is and who needs saving?”

The girl opened her eyes and got up. Her face brightened and she explained that the place is called The Valley of Happiness and is inhabited with extraordinary people.

“We are the new version of humanity. Not only do we have more physical capabilities, but also a better mentality. My name is Appak. And who are you?” she said.

“We’re probably the old version of humanity. We are from the world where the grass and leaves are green, other planets do not fly above Earth, and girls do not walk alone far away from the city.”

“Blue grass,” the girl laughed, “It`s just a setting. Easy to change.”

She clapped her hands and the grass and trees became green.

“Oh, what’s that?” the girl put a hand to her head, as if it suddenly hurt.

All of a sudden, she easily took the top of her head off with both hands. Then she opened it like a box and looked inside her own skull. Dozens of bright butterflies flew out. They circled around, but did not fly away. The boys got scared and stepped back. The girl ignored them and began to catch something inside with her fingers. The brothers looked into Appak`s head and saw a small black cockroach. It was running and hiding behind the microchips of the brain, but the girl managed to catch the roach and throw it away.

“Do the new humans have butterflies and roaches in their heads?” Janik asked.

“These are thoughts. Butterflies are good thoughts, cockroaches are bad. If you do not clean your head in time, cockroaches can eat all the butterflies. You have to clean your mind,” Appak replied, reassembling her head. “And how do you clean your thoughts?”

“We just don’t think anything we don’t want to,” Tim said.

“It must be very difficult. After all, bad thoughts are so clingy,” said the girl sympathetically. “We’ll go to my place to meet my family. On the way I can tell you why we are waiting for the saviors. Akzhol!” called Appak. A huge purple dog came running from the forest.

“Look, it’s Foggy!” Janik was happy.

“No, his name is Akzhol,” said the girl and went to her dog.

The dog had no reaction to the boys, and they realized that it was not Foggy, but a similar dog. The brothers became a little sad, because they missed their four-legged friend very much.

Akzhol laid down so that the children could climb on his back. When everyone was comfortable, the dog got up and headed for The Valley of Happiness, increasing its pace with each step. The small yellow bird chirped merrily on Appak`s shoulder.

“Is this your bird?” asked Janik. He was very fond of animals and birds.

“Yes, this is my best friend, Allowie. He’s so cute and smart.”

“Who came up with such a strange name?” Tim laughed.

“My dad gave him to me. And he picked the name.”

“Looks like our mountains in Almaty,” Tim concluded, looking at the landscape around. He looked at Appak and smiled. “Maybe you can show us around sometime, we can go for a walk, sushi-pizza, or whatever you do for fun here?”

“If you save us, of course, there will be a reason to celebrate,” the girl replied.

“Yeah,” Tim said thoughtfully, “if we could save at least ourselves.”

The dog carried the children along the trail to the mountains. After wandering a little among the tall pines, they came to an edge of a cliff. From here, they had a charming view of The Valley of Happiness. Down in the valley in the vast ocean of grass the children saw hundreds of white yurts for as far as the eye could see. The blue sky mirrored the yurts with snow-white clouds. Tim and Janik saw people going about their business, children running around and heard laughter. Akzhol started down on a serpentine road. Many locals were riding past them on huge purple dogs.

“The valley is so beautiful!” said Appak softly.

“And how is the new version of humanity fundamentally different from us?” asked Tim.

“The Valley was built by regular people. The world can be like this, without evil, without envy, without violence. This world,” Appak gestured at the Valley, “does exist. Everyone here creates their own beautiful reality and is careful so that it doesn’t interfere with the beautiful reality of the others.”

“It’s impossible for everyone to be the same and equally happy. There will always be poor, rich and dissatisfied,” replied Tim.

“Not everyone here is the same. Everyone is different. Some people don’t need riches. They are happy with what they have. But they know for sure, that no one will try to take away the little they have. The people of the Valley know that everything you need, you can create on your own, if you only work on yourself. Taking away from the others means giving up your own development, it is primitive. To be able to improve is the true happiness.”

Appak patted the dog`s neck, and Akzhol stopped near one of the yurts. The children jumped off.

“There’s my school,” said the girl, pointing to the largest yurt nearby.

“Cool, I’d go to a school like that!” said Janik with energy. “But tell me, what were you doing on that cliff? You were whispering something.”

“I was thanking the Universe. Expressing my gratitude for the life, health, my family, for sending us the saviors.”

“But you didn’t know we were coming yet, did you?” Tim was confused.

“I did know. I thanked the Universe and waited.”

“Does it work like that?” asked Janik.

“Didn’t you learn how to be grateful at school?”

“To be grateful for something that hasn’t happened yet?” Tim asked. “No, we didn’t.”

“How strange,” now Appak was surprised, “In The Valley of Happiness, the lesson of gratitude is considered the most important and the most useful in life.”

The girl led the two brothers to her house. Only when they were right in from of the house, the newcomers noticed that yurts were in fact two-storey and only different from the modern houses in their round shape. Appak`s family came out to greet them. Transparent white curtains fluttered in the wind when the door opened. The father and sons were dressed in embroidered linen shirts. The mother was wearing a straight-cut dress made of softest and finest felt and chunky silver jewelry. Appak had four brothers. The oldest looked over 20, and even the youngest seemed much older than Tim. A few steps away from them stood a tall, thin man. The boys had seen him before with their grandmother. He had a very long hooked nose.

“Dad, Mom, meet our saviors!” announced Appak.

Tim could only sigh.

“It is a great honor to welcome you at our home. We’ve been waiting for you for a long time. I am the Head of The Valley of Happiness, my name is Danai. This is my wife, Shadi. Our sons: Tair, Tasnim, Tauman and Talip. Appak is the youngest child.”

Each brother shook Tim and Janik`s hands and introduced themselves.

“Tim, your savior,” Tim said sarcastically, genuinely wondering who or what he could save these grown men from.

“And this is my assistant Agzam,” Danai gestured at the long-nosed man. Agzam nodded.

“So you’re alive?” Janik asked. “We thought you died in the trunk.”

“I returned home,” Agzam answered, nodding again.

“You demanded that our grandmother must send us here?” asked Tim with annoyance.

“The valley has been waiting for you for many years,” Agzam explained with no emotion. “Before that, your father could have helped us, but Yenisaya was afraid for her son and hid him. He still doesn’t know who he is.”

“And who is he?” the young guests were intrigued.

“You must have seen your grandmother’s Golden man pendant,” said Danai. “The Golden man was the founder of The Valley of Happiness. He lived two and a half thousand years ago near Almaty City. You are the descendants of the Prince whose military dress of pure gold is now kept in the state vault. You must have seen a copy of it in the Museum. And we follow his ideas and traditions. For hundreds of years, the inhabitants of the Valley have preserved and passed on his wisdom from generation to generation. While the people here are safe, you live your lives. But in case of trouble, the Valley summons you.”

“And if we don’t want to save anyone?” Tim asked.

“You won’t be able to live in peace. And now you can’t go home until you destroy The King of Fear.”

“Many years ago, your grandmother single-handedly saved the Valley from the enemies,” Appak`s mother said softly. “And now the Valley is expecting the same heroic act from you.”

“It’s all because of Grandma! Now I know why she came to visit,” muttered Tim. “She decided to sacrifice us after all.”

“Your grandmother would never sacrifice you. But this is the destiny of your family.”

The guests were invited into the house. In the middle of the yurt was a dining room flooded with light from a round window in the ceiling. A long table was right beneath the window. The Head of the Valley sat in the place of honor, his wife to his right, then Appak, then the four brothers by seniority.

The guests were seated to his left, so was Agzam. The variety of dishes made Tim and Janik forget everything. They were really hungry after their journey. Danai began to tell the guests what was expected from them.

“People in the Valley are the same as you. We have learned to live in harmony and receive energy from Space. But there are neighboring lands whose residents couldn’t or didn’t want to change. One of them is The Mountain of Fears, under the rule of The King of Fear. Each year he has fewer and fewer subjects, and his power is fading. Before it’s too late for him, he wants to attack The Valley of Happiness to destroy it. If there is a war, some people won’t be able to go back to their lives and some will join his side. We have intelligence that The King of Fear is preparing to attack with an army of thousands.

“But you are so advanced, strong, can’t you defeat his army?” Tim asked with a mouthful of pie.

“We could only kill The King of Fear, but not the ordinary people.”

“But you have to defend yourself, don’t you?” Tim liked the idea of saving someone from an army of thousands less and less.

“People that live in the Valley of Happiness are on a different level. For us to kill a person means to kill a whole Universe. To kill a part of ourselves. Who needs spirituality if it will get someone hurt?”

“So you need someone primitive to kill everyone for you?” Tim`s indignation knew no bounds.

“No, you only need to kill The King of Fear.”

“Oh, well, that’s much easier!” Tim finished eating and was ready to take his leave.

“You are not primitive at all,” Shadi said gently. “You are the descendants of the great dynasty. You have all the necessary qualities in your genes. They just need to be activated.”

“No one from the Valley can enter the Kingdom of Fear. Our energy is too different. Although we live relatively close to it, we barely have contact with anyone from there,” Danai continued. “You need to get into the Kingdom.”

“And then?” asked Janik.

“And then find the Sword of Light.”

“How do we find it?”

“The sword responds to your energy. Only if your energy is in key with the Sword will you be able to control it. What you’re showing now doesn’t match The Sword of Light. You need to work on yourselves.” The head of the Valley picked up a remote from the table and pointed it at a TV on the wall. The Sword of Light appeared on the screen.

“This is the sword I saw Grandma hide!” cried Janik. “And you didn’t believe me. It’s the same sword!”

The sword was very beautiful, with a decorated golden hilt.

“Yenisaya doesn’t have the real sword, what you saw was but a hologram. The King of Fear hid the real Sword of Light in his castle. This sword is the only thing that can destroy him. You have to get there.”

“And what if we fail?” asked Tim.

“You won’t. We will do everything in our power to make sure that you succeed.”

“And what if we don’t want to go there and fight?” Tim became very serious.

“You are here to help us, and until the enemy is destroyed, you won’t be able to return home. We only have one day to prepare you. We’ll start early in the morning, but we better have some rest now.”

“One day?” Tim and Janik looked at each other. Never in their lives could they have imagined getting into such a mess.

Appak led the boys upstairs, to the guest-room.

“I feel like I was watching a fantastic movie and suddenly found myself on the other side of the screen,” complained Janik as they went up the stairs. “There are no such things as kings of fear and valleys of happiness in the world!”

Appak led them to a spacious but cozy bedroom with two separate beds. The window showed a fabulous view of the Valley. Planets were floating across the sunset-red sky.

“Why do you say there’s no such things?” the girl objected. “We exist, as do you, and all this beautiful world. There are some clean clothes in the closet for you. Good night.” Appak with Allowie on her shoulder closed the door behind her.

“And planets don’t fly between the Sun and the Earth,” Janik added as she left.

Early in the morning, the eldest of Danai`s sons woke Tim and Janik up. In the closet the boys found a bunch of clothes that fit them. They put on fashionable jeans and t-shirts, spent some time in front of the mirror, then went down to have breakfast. Agzam was already eating sandwiches and discussing something with the owners of the house. After a hearty meal, everyone except Shadi went to the hall where the head of the family kept the swords. Sabres, epees and swords were mounted on long stands. Tim and Janik had never seen real swords before, and they were very impressed with their host`s collection. They felt awkward when everyone else picked up their weapons and began swinging them expertly. Even Appak showed off her personal sword.

“Those are for grown-ups. But look here, these are not sharp. I used these swords to teach my sons when they were younger,” said Danai.

“Will the Sword of Light be the grown-up size?” asked Janik.

“The Sword of Light can be any size for the person it chooses.”

Janik picked up one of the swords and did a little flourish with it.

“Try moving it in a figure-eight pattern,” Appak`s father suggested. “If you can, then it suits you.”

Tim was eyeing one of the swords, but would not dare pick it up.

“What’s the matter?” asked Danai, as the others went out into the garden.

“You see, I’m not cut out for swordsmanship,” Tim said in a serious tone, “the thing is, I’ve always been clumsy like a rhinoceros. And The King of Fear must be defeated by someone very smart, and my mother always says that I’m growing up, but not getting any smarter.”

Danai affectionately looked at Tim.

“Your mother loves you very much, but sometimes she is wrong. What we think about ourselves and what others say about us is not always true. Sometimes, for some reason, we may get false ideas about who we really are. Such affirmations prevent people from winning. You must learn to notice the wrong beliefs and change them to the good ones that will help you become a better person. Instead of ‘I’m clumsy,’ you say ‘I’m strong and agile.’ And so it will be. Trust me. Take the sword.”

Tim obeyed. It seemed like a voice inside him was laughing and shouting angrily: “Don’t touch the sword, rhino, drop the sword!” But the boy did not want to offend Danai, so he went into the garden with everyone.

For several hours, the Head of the Valley trained the children in the garden. At first, Tim felt self-conscious, but then he saw that no one was taking the class seriously, everyone was laughing and playing. This made him forget about the awkwardness. The brothers simply repeated the moves. After that, Danai paired them with his sons. Only Appak, who was bragging and showing off her excellent sword skills, made the guests feel embarrassed, so they would try even harder.

After dinner, Danai sent his children to study in the library, and took Tim and Janik to another interesting room. They went to the basement, down a long, narrow corridor, and into a large room filled with dozens of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The brothers saw hundreds of their own reflections. However, these reflections did not behave normally. Instead of repeating every movement, they did whatever they wanted.

Danai led the young guests deeper into the mirror room. In one of the mirrors the children saw themselves and Danai singing merrily, in another — suffering and crying. In one mirror the brothers were looking at their phones, ignoring everything around them. At some point, the boys realized that they were lost in the maze of their reflections. They began to worry. However, Danai was composed.

“Look at this reflection,” the man gestured.

The brothers saw two depressed boys looking around in confusion, and a grown man staring into the distance with sadness.

“Sometimes it is helpful to look at yourself from the outside. To see whether we match what we claim to be. Can these desperate guys you see in the mirror defeat The King of Fear?”

“They don’t have any weapons, and they’re children. So probably not,” answered Tim.

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