The mirror was playing it honest. It had to tell the truth to the elder King. The King was losing his sight as well as the life that he knew as a much younger man. He was experiencing the joy of watching his sons grow up, but alas, it was not enough. The King heard a tale one day, a tale that would change the lives of many forever.
The story was based upon the apples of youth and the water of life. By using these magical items, age and injury would become instantaneous afterthought. The King decided to send the eldest of his three sons to the faraway land to obtain the apples of youth and the water of life. After several days the young man came to a three way fork in the road. A sign in front of the paths read: "Take the first path and your horse shall be fed, but you will go hungry. Take the second path and you shall die! Take the third path and your horse will go hungry, but you will be fed." The King's son took the third path.
On the youth rode. After several minutes after several more, the lad came to an adorable home sitting on a hill. The mistress of the house was at the window and she fed the weary traveler. She then asked him, "What self-respecting young man will spend the night on his own? Get you to the bed of my daughter, the fair Dunya."
"Snuggle closer," Dunya said to him. He moved towards her and immediately fell through the bed into a place where he was made to thresh damp rye for the rest of his days. Time was time and it passed, the King gave up hope and considered his son lost.
Frustrated, the elder King sent his second son on to complete the same task. The young man followed the same path as his older brother and wound up suffering the same fate. The King's youngest son begged his father to allow him to attempt the task of retrieving the apples of youth and the water of life. The King was very skeptical. He believed that his youngest son was far too weak and inexperienced to complete the job with successful results. The young Prince would not give up badgering his father, and at long last the King allowed his boy to proceed.
On his way, everything happened just as it did to his brothers before him. Eventually, he came to the adorable house where Dunya and her mother lived. The young Prince asked if he could spend the night. The woman fed the tired traveler, sat him down upon a wooden bench and said, "No self-respecting young man sleeps alone after such a long and tiresome journey, get you to the bed of my fair Dunya."
The young Prince had a different response than his brothers did. He said, "No, mistress. That is not for a traveling man. I'd rather go with Dunya to the bathhouse." Dunya was just as cunning as her mother and as the young Prince entered the bathhouse, which was made as hot and steamy as could be, she locked the unsuspecting lad within it! The Prince was far too determined for this and he forced open the door! He then tossed Dunya within the bathhouse, grabbed three different switches, entered the bathhouse and began to whack her into submission! She begged for mercy as he questioned, "Wicked Dunya, what have you done with my brothers?"
Dunya told him that they were locked in the cellar to ponder their disrespectful ways and to complete their chores. The young Prince believed her and swiftly proceeded to tie three ladders together and rescue his brothers stranded within the deep, dark cellar. The young Prince offered them a safe return home, but the brothers were far too ashamed to ever face their father the King again. They wandered into the forest as the Prince told them that he'd finish the task, so that they'd be forgiven.
The Prince continued in his search for the apples of youth and the water of life. He wound up meeting three sisters, each older than the next. They supplied him with three different winged horses and a warning. They told the Prince that the apples of youth and the water of life resided within the garden of an evil witch, their aunt! They also told him that his final horse must ride fast, jumping over the palace wall into the witch's garden. But, the Prince must make sure that the bells of the horse do not graze the wall or the witch will awaken and punish the Prince in a most horrible manner!
He did everything as they requested. His horse jumped the wall and just barely grazed the top of it with his bells. The sound wasn't that loud so the witch only woke up for a split second. By the time the witch realized what had happened, her apples and water now safely in the hands of the brave Prince, she sent her guards out to give chase to the North, while the witch headed South. She was close to catching him but the Prince managed to reach his land and the witch would not dare follow. She told the Prince not to be so proud, for some day, his brothers would get him! Having cast this spell upon him she rode off home.
The Prince rode further and eventually ran into his vagabond siblings. They lay fast asleep as their journey home was completely on foot. Not wishing to wake them, the Prince left his horse to graze and then fell asleep beside them. Cursed by the witch, the brothers woke up and saw that their youngest brother had secured the apples of youth and the water of life. They removed the apple of youth from his jacket and threw him into an abyss where the young Prince fell for three days until he landed in a dark underworld.
The Prince ran into several people that were all weeping bitterly. When he asked the reason for their sorrow they told him that the King of the underworld had one daughter that was going to be sacrificed the next day. Sacrificed to the monstrous, seven-headed dragon! This was a law, a law that did not seem right to the Prince!
The Prince went to the King and told him that he'd save his daughter from the dragon in return for the favor of his choosing. The King of the underworld was overjoyed and accepted the deal. The next day the Princess Polyusha was brought down to the sea for sacrifice, and the Prince followed. While they waited they chatted about the Prince's adventure. He informed the Princess that he still had the water of life!
Then the Prince said, "Comb my hair. If I fall asleep and the dragon comes, hit me with the iron rod I've brought, otherwise you won't be able to wake me up."
Sure enough, the dragon came and hovered over the Princess! This happened while the Prince was slumbering away! She tried to wake him by shaking him and that did not work! When she began to weep one of her tears fell on the Prince's cheek and he awoke straight away! The Prince swung the iron rod at the dragon, knocking off five of his heads in the process! With a second swing, he knocked off the remaining two! The Prince buried the heads under a wall and threw the body of the dragon into the sea!
Luck had run out! A big burley fellow was hiding by the sea wall and he saw the whole thing! He jumped out and chopped off the head of the Prince and threw him into the sea! The burley fellow told the Princess that she must tell her father that he had saved her life or he'd get rid of her as well. Polyusha agreed, out of fear alone.
The King of the underworld was overjoyed and told his court to prepare a huge feast to celebrate the upcoming wedding. On the day of the wedding the Princess hid alone in a barn, yearning for the real hero. Polyusha got a brave idea. She asked her to father to send his best fisherman down to the sea to retrieve her special fish. Her father agreed. The fisherman pulled in their third net and within it they found the head and body of the Prince! Polyusha ran up quickly, she grabbed the flask with the water of life from within her beloved's jacket , placed the Prince's head back on his body and then sprinkled the water on his neck. The Prince came back to life!
Princess Polyusha was overwhelmed with excitement! She told the Prince about the big burley fellow and what he'd done. The Prince told her that he'd take care of everything. The Prince went to the palace and asked the King of the underworld who saved the Princess? The King told him that it was the big burley fellow. The Prince told the King that they should all go down to the sea and see if the burley fellow could pull the dragon's heads out of the water. The burley fellow could not do it! The Prince did it in the blink of an eye! Princess Polyusha told her father what happened and her father tied the big burley fellow to a horse and had him drug over hill and dale!
The King of the underworld wanted his daughter to marry the Prince. The Prince told the King that he just wanted to travel back up to his land. He also told the King about the apples of youth and the water of life, and what they'd do for his father. The King let Polyusha decide. She told them of a giant bird that could carry them up to freedom! The two of them flew high, higher and the highest! At last, they reached the Prince's father, the King. The Prince saw that his father regained his youth from the apple stolen by his brothers, but he was still blind. The Prince told his father what they'd done and the brothers were so afraid to face the consequences that they jumped into the river never to be seen again!
The Prince rubbed the water upon his father's eyes and his sight returned quicker than it had left! The King's first sight was his youngest son, a boy grown into a man! A huge party was thrown that lasted several days, a celebration for the wedding of the Prince and Princess Polyusha! A task had been completed, a family had been created!