Reworking of an Old Russian folk tale from fantasist Lackey (Sacred Ground, 1994, etc.). Ilya is the despised middle son--beaten by his elders, spumed by his younger brothers--of ""czar"" Ivan, actually a boyar with pretensions. When someone mysteriously begins to steal cherries from Ivan's orchards, the guards are found fast asleep. Ilya's older brothers take turns to watch, with no better results; but Ilya jabs himself with pins to keep awake and meets the Firebird, a creature with dazzling feathers that is also a beautiful young woman. She gives Ilya a feather, and thereafter he can summon the Firebird as well as understand the speech of birds and animals. Ilya's big brothers take their revenge and beat Ilya nearly to death, and thereafter he pretends to have lost his wits. Finally, the brothers tie Ilya to his horse and send him cantering away through the snowy forest. After various adventures, he comes upon the place of a dreadful and seemingly invulnerable sorcerer, the Katschei, who can be killed only when his heart is destroyed--and it isn't in his chest. Can Ilya's friend the Firebird help him to triumph? A pleasant enough diversion aimed at the younger sections of the audience; pity that Lackey didn't inject some modern rigor and logic into the proceedings.