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A Don Cossack and two Kalmyks have an adventure near the Volga and the Don Rivers set 57 years after the Change.
Dorzha explains that he needs to recover a princess who was taken from a Kalmyk escort by Tartars and Sergey offers to help. After arriving at Astrakhan and being attacked by three Tartars who die attempting to kill the pair, Sergey realizes that Dorzha is a woman. Dorzha explains that she is the half-sister of the princess, Bortë.
Sergey and Dorzha rescue Bortë with her help. Bortë has no desire to return to her father a be married against her will. She is a scholar and wants access to the books rumored to be in China. The three agree to travel.