There was once a Czar of Russia who fell ill of a disease that no doctor could cure.
An old crone told him, "Oh, Little Father, when I was very young I heard of a land called the Land of Youth. In that land is a fountain of the water of life. Send one of your sons to get some of the water for you."
The Czar gave his eldest son, Prince Michael, a great sum of money and asked him to go in search of the Land of Youth.
Prince Michael departed, but the first place he reached was the City of Pleasure and he went no farther. Then the Czar sent his second son, Prince Peter. Peter met his brother in the City of Pleasure, and stayed there with him.
Prince Vladimir, the youngest son of the Czar, then wanted to go, but the Czar feared that his two elder sons had perished, and he did not want to lose his last child. Vladimir, however, grieved to see his father grow weaker and weaker, so one night he secretly set out to get the water of life.
He passed by the City of Pleasure and entered a vast wilderness, which took him twenty days to cross, and came to a great sea. By the seashore he found an old, old crone and he asked her the way to the Land of Youth.
"I am one thousand years old," she said, "and I have never heard of such a place. But perhaps my friends know."
She went down to the shore and blew upon a horn, and the water was churned into foam by the multitude of fish that came to her call. No fish, however, knew of the Land of Youth. But as Vladimir was going away a whale came hurrying by.
"Can you take this handsome lad to the Land of Youth?" said the very old, old crone.
"Certainly," said the whale, "if he will wait until midnight. The Fairy of the Fountain and her two dragons will then be asleep."
So at midnight Prince Vladimir got on the whale's back, and was swiftly carried to the enchanted land. He quietly went to the fountain where the fairy slept beside her dragons, and filled two flasks with the magic water. When he saw the fairy's face, he was so moved by her strange beauty that he resolved that when he had cured his father he would return and try to win her love. In order that she might know him, he placed a chain of jewels with a locket that held his picture, around her neck.
Then he traveled back on the whale to that old, old crone, and gave her one of the flasks, and she drank the water and became a beautiful maiden. He then crossed the wilderness and showed the other flask to his brothers in the City of Pleasure.
Michael and Peter killed Vladimir, then took the flask back to the Czar themselves. They told the Czar that Vladimir had been slain.
Their father drank the water and became young again. He was so grateful that he proclaimed that Michael should rule over Northern Russia, and Peter over Southern Russia. But as he spoke two dragons rushed up through the air and killed the wicked brothers. On one dragon sat the fairy, on the other sat Vladimir.
Having fallen in love with Vladimir's picture that he put in the locket, the fairy went out to find him. She found his body and restored it to life with the magic water. She told the Czar why she had killed his two elder sons, and then led Vladimir back to the Land of Youth, where the two lovers still live together, every young, ever loving , and ever happy.
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