Mad Trif wasn't a bad guy. There had been a time when people had a great deal of respect for him, and he took care of people the way he'd always done: protected their cattle from wolves and their crops from locusts. Back then he was commonly reffered to as Saint Trifon. He didn't exactely do it on purpose, he just kept his pets in check because he'd been exaggeratedly polite and insecure as a child and, as a rule, tried to inconvenience people as little as possible.

He still maintained a polite veneer, though his mental capacities might have waned over time.

Mara had quite a productive conversation with Mad Trif. He told her about how to distinguish gender in insects, she explained how she got hold of her never-drying quill (the same feather she kept in her hat) and complained about deadlines.

They parted ways, but not before Trif gave her instructions as to the best ways of sliding down a rope without injuring herself.

The Quill Story, as she dubbed it, was long, complicated and well-known in several taverns, where it was so appreciated that she'd probably get free drinks for life if she weren't intent on paying. It was one of those stories that started with gryphons in the north and ended with her initiation in the Cult of Bendis. And for the life of her, she had no idea how she ended up with that foxskin on her back, even if she was the one telling the story, except she was pretty sure poisonous mushrooms were involved and it somehow made a lot more sense when drunk. But, when all that was needed was a short explanation, she said she got it from a nice girl, Luana, while getting really, really, REALLY sidetracked.

Trif's rope-climbing tips served her quite well and she dropped in the Other Realm with only a few scratches and painful blow to her ego.

A graceful young woman walked (almost floated) by.

"Excuse me," Mara interjected. "Could you help me?"

"Are you lost?" she asked dreamily.

"Well, no, I know where I am, I was just hoping you'd go into details."

"Hmm?"

Mara sighed. "I was hoping you'd tell me what's in each direction."

"Oh... There you have Inia Dinia's monastery, the one made from solid gold. Then, in that direction, the Blajin's island. Hmm... That way... Well, it's Youth-Without-Aging-And-Life-Without-Death... and over there..." This went on for quite some time.

Mara nodded and thanked the woman for her help.

"You're welcome, and watch out for the zgripsor birds. It's mating season."

Mara grimaced, reassuring herself that this was yet another thing she did not want to know. She started walking towards the lake in the distance.

By the time she reached the lake, she realized the water was murky and probably unfit for human consumption. She didn't want to go back and she could see a stream on the other side of the lake, so she decided to rest and go fill her water flask later. As she was sitting, she began throwing pebbles, watching the gentle waves stirring the surface.

A voice rudely interrupted her.

"How would YOU feel if I started throwing rocks on your roof?!"

Mara flinched violently and realized the voice was reffering to her.

Half-risen from the water, a woman with long, unending black hair and blindingly pale skin glared.

This was the first time Mara had met a Vîlva Apei and she vaguely wondered if skin that white glowed in the dark. Then she recalled that the water spirits were known for their short tempers and frightening skills at disfiguring people.

Mara apologized. "I didn't think there was anyone there."

"Well, think twice next time!" the Vîlva spat and disappeared under water again.

Several facts were well-known about the Water Vîlva: they liked luring young men and drowning them, when they left their lakes, the water would sometimes follow them and they were often responsible for floods. Also, when they were on land, their powers were diminished, so instead of killing, they simply disfigured all those who saw them.

Now Mara could add another thing to the list: they were terribly cranky.

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Author Note: yet more info about Mad Trif. I'd also like to mention, I think Youth-Without-Aging-And-Life-Without-Death is such a long and unnecessarily complicated name. Can't just say "immortality", can we? And yes, it's a place mentioned in Romanian fairytales, though the concept itself is actually a common element in any mythology around the world.

The Vîlve are guardians of sorts. I don't know, it's kinda fuzzy. But Vîlva Apei protects waters, hence her name. Other Vîlve will be making their appearance in anz possible next chapters, because they're just fun like that.

(Oh, God, I hope FictionPress lets me keep the Romanian characters, but if you can see little squares instead of letters, I'm not going back to fix it. It's impossible to fix. I can't write the freakin' name without the Romanian characters.)