When the Great Khan's basqaqs finally arrived, resentment gave rise to open rebellion in the blink of an eye. And, naturally, the tribute-collectors ran to Prince Aleksandr for help. They implored him for a body guard lest the good people of Novgorod overwhelm and kill them. And of course, Aleksandr Iaroslavich immediately complied.
What few in the city realized was that a similar drama was playing out in Wizard's End. As the Muggle basqaqs prepared to conduct their tax census, wizards from the court of the Great Khan moved against wizarding Novgorod with equal rapacity.
The Warlocks' Duma was caught in the middle. Magic or no magic, the prospect of openly opposing Prince Aleksandr was unsettling—especially when he mustered his army and dispatched them to protect the Mongol officials as they swaggered through the city. The Muggle burghers who knew of the existence of wizards implored them to come to their aid. One of the first rebels to be executed was in fact a wizard deprived of his wand by a Mongol wizard's Disarming Charm and dragged before the commander of the Suzdal regiment on charges of sedition.
The chief basqaq charged with conducting the census of Wizard's End was a short, swarthy wizard named Degei. For several days the students and teachers at Durmstranga Dvor watched him as he strode with impunity through Mastera Volost, accompanied by a bodyguard of half a dozen other Mongol wizards. He was a sour-faced man in a thick, fur cloak and a strange feathered cap. Instead of a wand or rod of the sort Novgorodians witches and wizards were used to seeing, he carried a staff with the finial carved in the shape of a horse's head. He and his unsavory band marched from house to house, taking the names of every witch or wizard family along with information about their occupations and the size of their homes.
Highmaster van Durmstrang knew it wouldn't be long until Degei learned of the existence of his school and began to search for its invisible entrance. He made sure everyone knew better than to pass through the gate when Degei or any of his men were around. Secretly, he worried about the trustworthiness of his neighbors. He had tried for twenty-five years to stay out of the business of the other inhabitants of Mastera Volost. He did right by them, selling them potions at far less than they were worth, repairing damaged wands, and procuring magical items for them through his extensive overseas connections. As tensions rose and violence threatened, he hoped this would be enough to buy their secrecy.
"I never should have settled in a city," he muttered to Master Gridebor, the Potions master, over supper one night.
"It made sense to be near a major trading route," the white-headed teacher said. "I certainly appreciate the ease with which fresh potion ingredients can be obtained. And books and other goods come our way from as far as London, Byzantium, and even China."
"Do I hear you voting to stay, Master Gridebor?"
Gridebor shrugged. "It's not for me to say, Highmaster. I trust your leadership. And of course this current unpleasantness is a strong argument in favor of your plans."
"I've contracted a shipbuilder in Kholmogory about a koch," the Highmaster said. "We can spend the summer applying the necessary enchantments. Best of all, I've finally managed to reach a deal with the vodyanoys who live in the Upper Vyg. Safe passage every year for a very reasonable price." He leaned back in his chair. "By this time next year, we shall have washed our hands of Novgorod and bloody Prince Aleksandr and his Mongols!"
The Highmaster would have said more, but at that moment Pentti burst into the refectory. His lip was bloody and his left arm looked badly burned.
"Highmaster!" he called. "There's trouble outside!"
All four teachers and most of the students rose from their seats. "Stay here," the Highmaster ordered the students, then strode into the courtyard with Pentti at his side and Master Gridebor, Master Dravenis, and Mistress Nadezhka trailing behind.
"Explain yourself, Pentti," he said.
"Abakum went out for a walk," the seventeen-year-old Finn explained, "with Krasa."
The Highmaster had wondered why those two hadn't shown up for supper.
"I saw them on Fedorova Street while I was returning from an errand in Kolduna Bazar. I…I thought I would spy on them, see where they were going, but…"
By now the five of them had passed outside the gate. On the narrow cobblestone street was a scene of pandemonium. In the distance a building was on fire. People were shouting in a handful of languages, and Abakum and Krasa were racing toward Durmstranga Dvor with a half-dozen Mongol wizards in hot pursuit.
The Highmaster drew his wand and gave a nod to Abakum. He tackled Krasa, and both of them fell to the snowy ground, clearing a way for the Highmaster's curse.
"Postrad'i!" he thundered. The nearest Mongol immediately fell to the ground, twisting in indescribable pain. Behind him, Degei the basqaq trained his horse-head staff at the Highmaster and his colleagues. By now, however, the other three teachers were prepared to defend the two students scrambling toward the gate. A flurry of hexes stopped the advancing Mongols while a magical shield enveloped Krasa and Abakum.
"Inside," the Highmaster snapped.
Once inside, he rounded on Abakum. "Explain!"
"You led them straight to our door, you idiot!"
"Ghert," Mistress Nadezhka said. Only then did the Highmaster notice Krasa Baikisheva cradled in her arms. Her face was pale; her breathing shallow. As Nadezhka and Gridebor carried her to the infirmary he turned again to Abakum.
"They spotted us as we entered Mastera Volost from Fedorova Street," he explained. "The leader—the only one who speaks Russian, apparently—kept trying to question us. He didn't recognize us. He wanted to know where we lived, where we were going. Then…"
"Then Krasa got nervous," Pentti added. "She cursed him—or tried to. She tried to use the Killing Curse, but she was frightened. It had no effect."
"The next thing I knew," Abakum picked up the story, "spells were flying everywhere. Pentti appeared out of nowhere and tried to help. We managed to hold them off, but Krasa was hurt. I sent Pentti ahead to get help."
Outside, the Mongol wizards had managed to regroup. They stared at the gate, which by this time had been closed and thus rendered invisible to all who didn't belong at Durmstranga Dvor. But they still knew exactly where it was.
Degei aimed his staff on the gate and attempted to blast it open with a Reductor Curse. The gate shook. Too many more spells like that and it would fly off its hinges.
"Stupid girl," the Highmaster spat. "Always trying to prove herself! A simple Memory Charm was all that was called for. And you!" he rounded on Abakum. "You should have known better. You let the situation get beyond your control. I will most surely punish you later, Abakum Abakumov, but for now I need every witch and wizard healthy and battle ready."
Another Reductor Curse shook the gate. A crowd of Novgorodian wizards had begun to gather on the street, shouting and throwing their own hexes and curses at the basqaq and his bodyguard.
The Highmaster turned to Pentti. "Go to the infirmary. See to that arm, and tell everyone there to gather in the refectory as soon as possible. Tell Master Gridebor to tend to the wounded there if his has to." Pentti took off at a run. Only Abakum, Master Dravenis and Highmaster van Durmstrang remained in the courtyard.
"You two must hold them off," the Highmaster said. "I'll send Evert and Kadibor to help you. I'll shoot blue sparks. That will be your signal to retreat to the refectory." The teacher and the student nodded. "Those damned Cyclopes had better be ready for us."
He spun and charged back into the main building. In the refectory, he found Evert and Kadibor and sent them into the courtyard. He scanned the room, overlooking the frightened faces of his students in his search for three suitable objects. They had to be big enough for nearly a dozen people to gather around. He settled on a tapestry hastily pulled down from the wall and spread upon the floor, an iron kettle retrieved from the kitchen, and the bench on which his Novices sat to eat.
Over each item, the Highmaster uttered his incantation.
Master Gridebor and Mistress Nadezhka at last entered the refectory with Krasa and Pentti. Krasa still looked weak and weary, but at least she was conscious. Master Gridebor urged her to take another sip of the potion he held for her. Madame Nedel'ka, the housekeeper, wandered in from the kitchen.
"Nadezhka, you go first with the Intermediates." He conjured a leaf of parchment, quill, and ink, and scribbled a hasty note. He handed it to Mistress Nadezhka. "This will explain everything to Brunt, the foreman of the Cyclopes. If he gives you any trouble, feel free to deal with him as you will."
He motioned for Nadezhka and his Intermediate students to gather around the tapestry and hold on to whatever piece of it they could reach. "Any minute," he said.
Outside, there was an explosion and the sound of twisting metal. The Mongols had breached the gate. The sounds of spells being cast—and the groans where they had hit their marks, began to be heard from the courtyard.
The first Portkey activated, and in a flash of light Mistress Nadezhka and her charges vanished.
"Novices, you're next with Master Gridebor. And you, too, Nedel'ka." They all gripped the kettle, waiting for the assigned time at which it would also vanish. Young Detleff trembled in his shoes and bit his lip to hold back tears.
The Highmaster aimed his wand at the ceiling and blasted a hole clean through it. Then he fired blue sparks high into the air above Durmstranga Dvor.
A second later, the second Portkey transported his Novices away. Only the Adepts were left. "Pentti and Krasa should have a seat on the bench," he said. The rest of you, make sure you're at least touching it." As soon as Evert and Kadibor barged into the refectory, he ordered them to grasp the bench as well. Directly behind them were Abakum and Master Dravenis.
"You two take positions at either end of the room. Get ready to Apparate on my signal. We'll meet in Kolduna Bazar, in front of Ewald van Lübeck's."
The third Portkey vanished.
Degei and his bodyguards stormed into the refectory. From the look on the basqaq's face, the last thing he expected to find was a nearly empty room.
"Postrad'i!" the Highmaster shouted. Abakum and Master Dravenis followed suit, and in a heartbeat the Mongols were all curled up on the floor, shrieking in agony. Disarming Charms flung everyone's staff against the refectory wall. Next, magical ropes bound the intruders hand and foot. Highmaster van Durmstrang saluted his student and his colleague, and the two of them vanished with a crack!
"Snezhinka!" the Highmaster called. In a flash, a tiny figure dressed only in a scrap of tattered linen appeared at his feet.
"Highmaster van Durmstrang has need of Snezhinka?" the house-elf squeaked.
"Gather the rest of the house-elves," the Highmaster commanded. "Box up everything—and I mean everything! Books, lanterns, bedding, cauldrons, potion ingredients…. Am I correct that you'll be able to find me if I call for you—no matter the distance?" The elf nodded, obviously frightened.
"I'll call for you within the hour. Then you'll know where to Apparate when everything is ready. Now, get busy! We're already out of time."
The elf looked up at him with tearful blue eyes. "Y-yes, Highmaster van Durmstrang, sir." The elf vanished. The Highmaster surveyed the room, now empty except for his hostages. He gazed down upon them with a fire in his eyes.
Abakum and Master Dravenis quickly huddled around Highmaster van Durmstrang as soon as he appeared in Kolduna Bazar.
"Highmaster!" Abakum cried.
"Don't talk to me," he spat. "Because of you, I'm forced to flee Novgorod in the middle of the night like a common criminal. Of all the stupid—"
"It wasn't just him, Ghert," Master Dravenis said. The Highmaster glowered at him.
"Don't forget, the Muggles and their politics set the events of this night in motion. If Abakum and Krasa were foolish to seek a bit of…diversion…in the midst of a cold winter's night, then don't forget that the Novgorodians were doubly foolish for stoking the animosity of the basqaqs."
The Highmaster growled, unconvinced.
"You've lived among the Russians as long as I have. You know what they would say."
"Nichevo," the Highmaster sighed. "'It can't be helped.'"
"What's done is done, Ghert. Be thankful that, through your foresight, you already had a plan by which our school could survive."
"Perhaps, Master Dravenis." He eyed Abakum with murderous intent. "But this will be the last time I subject the future of my school to the whims of fate. I shall expect nothing more than complete secrecy about the location of our new home. Anyone who shows the slightest inclination toward carelessness or loose talk will be dealt with severely. Am I clear?"
Abakum gulped and nodded.
"Come, Ghert, and show me this castle you've been telling me about. It sounds wonderful."
Highmaster van Durmstrang extended his arms. Master Dravenis took one, and Abakum, the other. The three turned on the spot, and Disapparated with a crack!
• The Novgorod uprising began in the winter of 1257 when Berkai and Kasachik, Mongol basqaqs, encountered resistance from the people of the city. They appealed to Prince Aleksandr for a bodyguard, and he mustered the Suzdal and Vladimir regiments and turned them against the citizens of Novgorod. He sent his son Vasily into exile for insubordination and supporting the rebels and had many of these rebels executed.
• Russian Pomors or "Seasiders" maintained a thriving trade across the northern coasts of Russia and Norway beginning in the Viking age. Kholmogory, 45 miles upstream from Arkhangelsk on the Northern Dvina River, was later the site of an important early shipyard.
• A koch was a one- or two-masted sailing ship with a flat, rounded bottom. They were designed mainly for Arctic voyages. At a later time, they were used extensively for the exploration of Russia's Siberian rivers.
• I would be willing to give Beauxbatons a try next if there is interest. Any suggestions?