|Tales of the Uncanny by Václav Černy, Zlata Černá, and Miroslav Novák.
Published in Czechoslovakia, 1976.
The Devil Wedding
Aluda Sazikauli lived at the edge of the village of Shatili.
He had neither wife nor children, his father and brother had been
killed by Kists, and his mother had died of fever during a pilgrimage to the
Cross of Gudan. Aluda took his revenge on the murderers of his father and
brother, provided for the funeral of his
mother, and from that time he lived alone. He was
respected by the villagers, for he was a good hunter and an
amusing drinking companion, who always knew how to add
to the general good cheer with a fine story. “To the Cross
of Gudan,” he would say, “you should
have been with me and now you could
make me choke on every lie you catch me telling. Can I
help it if you are all so unadventurous?”
One day Aluda Sazikauli set off to hunt mountain goat.
There were great numbers of these shy creatures on the
distant mountain slopes. He travelled until dusk and spent
the night under his cloak in a sheltered valley by a spring.
The next day he climbed the bare
mountains. Boulders jutted out from the
rock-face like the teeth of a fairy-tale giant, but not a
mountain goat was to be seen. He crossed over the summit
and descended into the next valley, but again he had nothing
better to eat but bread, cheese, and water from a spring. In
vain did he call on Ochopinto, the
herdsman of the wild animals of the forest. By
late in the afternoon of the third day he had seen
nothing. Then suddenly he saw three nanny-goats and a
mighty he-goat with powerful horns standing outlined
against the sky. Taking cover behind boulders, he crept
close to them, and felled the he-goat with
a single shot. The third night was fast
approaching, and he could not spend the night on
the bare mountainside. He put the mountain goat on his
back and began to climb down the steep slope.
Suddenly in a narrow valley, between the trees, he saw
smoke rising, and before long he came to an extraordinary
building. It was a stone castle made of rough-hewn boulders.
The castle was built right into the hillside and had a
crumbling watchtower. A drawbridge led to a
wooden portico, guarded by twin towers.
The castle was gigantic. Its doors were so huge that a rider
with his spear held high could pass through them,
and two knights in armor could ride side by side along
“To the Cross of Gudan,” said Aluda
Sazikauli to himself. “There are no castles built like this, today.
Our ancestors must have been mighty
The light was fading and smoke was rising from the chimneys. Singing could be heard from the great hall and Aluda longed for a warm hearth where he could rest his weary limbs. Easing the goat from his shoulders, he called, “Masters of the house!“ There was no reply. He called a second time, and there was no answer. When he was about to call for a third time, the door opened. Dusk had fallen and Aluda thought that his eyes were deceiving him in the gathering darkness. Out of the house and down the lowered drawbridge came a man with seven heads. The heads twisted in every direction and they spoke one after the other in the same voice:
Come in and accept the hospitality of this house!”
At that moment, Aluda realized that he stood before the
terrible seven-headed devil, Baqbaq, whose very name cast fear in the hearts of ordinary men. Aluda was frightened but it was too late to draw back and decline the invitation. “May
the White Rider help me," he thought to himself as he stepped bravely
toward the seven-headed monster.
“I see you are a hunter “ The devil
laughed so heartily that the valley shook.
“I shall call my son to take care of your prey.” He
turned two of his heads and called into the house. The
door opened once again, and his son stepped onto the
drawbridge. He was even more misshapen than his father; he
had three legs and his arms brushed the ground.
“This is my youngest son, Forest-Howler,” said Baqbaq.
“My son, take our guest into the hall.”
“Come in, my guest,” Baqbaq turned to Aluda. “You are not
the only one who will be feasting under my roof tonight. We
are celebrating the marriage of my daughter, Three
Eyes-beautiful Eyes. I am sure you have heard of her.”
Aluda was terrified but all the same he smiled politely and
followed Baqbaq and his son into the castle. They passed
through an anteroom and entered the great hall. A cauldron
hissed and steamed above a great fire that roared in the
hearth. The guests were sitting on benches
along the walls, and they fell silent as
Baqbaq led Aluda inside.
“Our house has been honoured by a new guest,” said Baqbaq, “a Khevsur hunter. I don”t know your name, guest,”
he turned to Aluda, “but I see by your weapons that you are
a brave man, and a mighty hunter.”
Aluda turned a little pale, but his host continued:
“You may put your weapons aside, because you are safe in
Aluda drew back a pace, but he was instantly surrounded
by hideous claws that reached out towards him. “Entrust me
with your gun and scimitar, so I can hang them in a place of
honour.” It was Baqbaq’s middle son, Mangy-Polecat who
spoke. Reluctantly Aluda placed his gun in one of the claws,
even more reluctantly he unbuckled his scimitar and put it
in the second claw, and then the third
claw seized him and stood him in the centre
of the room.
“Allow me to introduce my guests, Khevsur,” said Baqbaq.
“I am sure you have never met any of them before.” Baqbaq
laughed in all his seven throats, and the company joined him until the rafters shook with their
roaring. It was, indeed, fine company. There
were fewer of them by far than there were heads; they
stared at Aluda out of many eyes; they stretched out
so many arms that Aluda thought that they could have
taken Ananuri Castle apart stone by stone before he could
count to five.
“You should tell us your name, guest,” said the ghastly
Thundershaker, who was presiding over the wedding feast,
“so that the bride and groom may later remember this day
Aluda Sazikauli hesitated. If he told them his real name
they would come to visit him and the rest of the villagers
would avoid his house in horror. He would become an
outcast in his native village, and mothers would frighten
their children with his name. He made up
his mind to lie to them.
“My name is Seven-Devils-Enemies-of-the-Gods,” he said.
“You have a strange name for a Khevsur,”
said Thundershaker in surprise. “I have met a great many of your
fellow countrymen, and they had all sorts of names, but I
have never heard of anyone with a name
like yours. We know that Khevsurs swear to
the Cross of Gudan. You ought to do so now, so that we
can believe you.”
The rest of them joined their voices to his until an
indescribable uproar set in.
“To the sock on the gam, my real name is Seven-Devils-
Enemies-of-the-Gods,” Aluda hurried with his response
before the noise had quietened. No one heard him properly,
and so everyone believed him.
The master of ceremonies then called for silence. He delivered a toast and handed Aluda a goblet of arrack. The goblet was as big as a warrior’s helmet, but without batting an eyelid Aluda drank it all. The devils growled in admiration and Thundershaker called out:
“Bring me the cauldron and I shall give our guest a portion of honour!”
At once Baqbaq’s sons jumped forward and handed him
the huge, steaming cauldron from the fire. Thundershaker
fished something out onto a dish. Forest-Howler knelt down
beside Aluda and placed the dish before him. Aluda saw that
the dish contained a human head. He blenched and his hands
began to shake; he tried to swallow but his throat was dry
and he felt nausea rising in his throat.
Baqbaq was watching Aluda’s expression intently, and he
guffawed with all his seven mouths:
“It seems you do not feel well, guest. Surely you do not
mean to say that the food I offer you does not appeal to you
“Actually, I have lost my appetite today,” lied Aluda. “I
tired myself out with my long journey, and
your portion of honour seems a trifle
too rich for my stomach, weakened as it is with hunger.
If you would not be offended, I would prefer some cheese
which I brought with me.
All the demons present began to bawl at the top of their
lungs, but it appeared they were not offended by the
refusal. On the contrary, they were bubbling
over with sympathy, and each was
recommending his own proven remedy against nausea.
“The best is snake’s bile,” screamed a toothy goblin from
But the seven-voiced Baqbaq shouted the rest of them
down: “Give him a vat of beer, that will restore his
Everyone agreed and at once they brought a full vat. They
held it to his mouth and poured the beer into him until he
thought he would drown. With all his might he pushed
Forest-Howler away who thought Aluda wanted him to pass
the vat around the circle. The demons drank, a river of beer
gurgled down their throats, and soon they had to bring
another vat. The beer tickled their palates, and they began
to pat their furry bellies, and all at
once they burst into their own wedding song:
“Ho, ho, hyde,
We have a bea-oo-tiful bride.
She’s lovely and furry from head to toe,
Hunchbacked, warty and pigeon-toed.
The bridegroom comes from far away,
And he’s even furrier, hey, hey hey!”
When they thus reminded themselves of the bride,
Thundershaker bellowed out once more:
“Show our bride to the guest, for that is our custom. He is
a human and he will spread tales of
her beauty among his people.”
They all agreed, and as one body they led Aluda to the
bride’s chamber. There sat Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes
surrounded by her bridesmaids. She was not as hideous as
Aluda had feared, in fact she would even be quite comely if
she could only hide her third eye.
“Be in good health, beautiful bride,” Aluda greeted her.
“Never did I see a more beautiful devil bride. I never would
have thought that devil maidens were so beautiful.”
“I like you too, guest,” said Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes, and
when none of her bridesmaids were looking she added: “You
are almost as fair as I, and fairer by far than my groom.
You are no doubt courageous and they
told me you are a good hunter. I am sure
you could support a loving wife and a family of
devil children. Kidnap me!”
“How could I dare to do such a thing?” Aluda protested. “I
would insult the house in which I was made welcome, and I
would make blood-feud enemies out of my friends.”
“But you said that I appealed to you, and I want you,” Three
Eyes-Beautiful Eyes stamped her foot stubbornly. “I shall
order my maid to saddle a horse secretly and you will kidnap
Aluda refused, he resisted, why he even tried to run away,
anything to escape from this two-fold danger, but all in
vain. Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes snatched
him up and tucked him into her sewing
basket, and then she whispered something to the
hideous old woman who was her maid. In a little while she
released him and took him out into the courtyard and through
the wicker gate, into a pasture where a saddled horse stood
At that moment joyous shouting burst out from the front
of the house. The groom had arrived to claim his bride.
Aluda was scared beyond thinking. What was
he to do? He could see no way of escape.
Before very long the wedding guests would discover that the
bride had disappeared, and he with her. They would
pursue them both, and he had no means of fighting them.
And even if he did manage to escape how could he live
with a wife like Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes?
Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes, noticing his dejection,
snuggled up to him and said: “You
kidnapped me and I can never return to my father’s
house. But I shall defend myself with you and if worse comes
to worst, I shall die with you. For didn’t you say that you
were fond of me?”
From the house came the wailing of the bridesmaids, and
the terrible roar of the frenzied wedding guests, and above
it all the dreadful voice of the
insulted bridegroom thundered out:
“Who has kidnapped my bride?”
answered all the demons at once,
one louder than the other.
“Even if there are fourteen of them, or even twenty-one,
swore the groom, “not one of them will escape me. I shall
tear every one of them into a thousand
Aluda tried to hide behind a boulder, comforting himself
that they might overlook him, but Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes
misunderstood his intention; she leaned against the boulder,
for she thought he wanted to roll it down on the house. She
wrenched an enormous crag out of the mountain-side, and the
crag went surging down towards the house below with a
deafening roar, tearing down everything in its path. Then
she snatched Aluda under one arm, the
horse under the other and bounded up the
When the crag crashed into the castle below, caving in the
walls, the devils set up a terrible howling. Only the groom
lost no time and stormed after the
runaways up the mountainside.
“Ha, now I”ve got you,” he called out behind them in a
thunderous voice. “Stand still, all seven of you!”
Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes set Aluda and the horse down
and leaned against another boulder. In the dark she could
not see who was where, and the devils could
not see her.
By the sound of the shouts, though, it was apparent that
they were not far behind them. Three Eyes-Beautiful Eyes
rolled another boulder down the mountainside and the groom
roared out in rage and in pain.
“What is the matter with you?!” asked Baqbaq’s seven
“Nothing, but I am becoming more and more cross!” said
the groom, not wanting to confess pain in front of his
And the narrow valley replied to his thunderous voice with
“Cross… cross… cross…”
“Ha, there is that Khevsur,” said the devils who were higher
up the mountain. “He’s swearing to Gudan’s Cross!” And
they started to topple boulders down in that direction.
Those who were lower down picked up rocks
and pelted them uphill, all of
them bellowed, those who were hit roared out, rocks
rumbled and trees cracked. No one knew who was fighting
whom in the confusion.
Aluda took his chance and jumped up on the horse and
started out on the narrow sheep trail along the mountain
precipices quite unmindful that with every step he could
break his neck, while the devils battled amongst themselves
mercilessly. Perhaps they all truly believed that their
adversaries were enemies of the gods, or perhaps in their
boundless rage they wanted to revenge themselves on their
comrades for the blows they had received. Who can say?
Suddenly, the voice of Thundershaker boomed out Of the
“Ho, ho, not one of you will escape ! I know what I shall do”
He stepped up to the side of the mountain, leaned his
mighty shoulders against it, braced his feet against the
opposite precipice and leant so mightily that the side of
the mountain cracked and collapsed, its
peak tore off and buried the entire
valley. For miles around the earth shook, the mountains
twisted, and in the fissures new valleys appeared.
And from that spot where the terrible horde of devils lay
buried, there rose a column of dust and acrid smoke as if
from burning limestone.
But by then, Aluda was in safety. At that very moment he
was crossing the mountain pass, and carefully he guided his
horse through a narrow gorge between two escarpments and
down into the valley which he knew well.