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Early in the morning, Samo was inspecting the extent of poisoning among his soldiers. He summoned his subcommanders near the remnants of the famous Tribech’s southern rock tower to explain them why he has to go on a mission right away.

“Even though we captured the ancient fortress of the People of Tribech, half of our army is poisoned and I was ordered by PERUN to go on a journey. Vladislav and Drahomir, you will accompany me on my mission. Our goal will be to find a sacred chasm deep in the highest of the mountains and use its sacred waters of life and death to poison one single magical arrow,” said Samo.

“One arrow against the whole Avar army?” asked Drahomir.

“One will be enough,” answered Samo.

“Sacred waters of life and death… Does it mean that it can heal as well?” asked Vladislav thinking of saving his beloved Miloslava.

“I guess we will soon find out,” replied Samo.

So they went on another journey and it wasn’t going to be an easy one. Thanks to having rested horses, they were able to get to the Upper Nitrava’s impregnable Vishegrad fortress within hours. There the stationed Venedian soldiers informed Samo that they are preparing another army of reinforcements from the north.

As Drahomir was walking through the lively fortress, he sensed something unusual in the area. A deadwhite rooster showed itself staring at him unflinchingly and then it started speaking to him in his thoughs: “You’re thinking right. I’m the highest of all gods and I’ve taken this traditional shape to guide you to the sacred waters of life and death.”

“Sacred waters of life and death… does this mean that it can heal our poisoned army?” asked Drahomir.

“It can heal whatever is sick and poison whatever is healthy,” said the rooster in Drahomir’s thoughts. “The unbelievers have destroyed our temples, burned our shrines and effigies. That’s why we the gods acceded to radical measures to support your fight,” he continued.

“What about the arrow that we’re supposed to find? What shall we do with the arrow poisoned by the sacred waters of life and death?” asked Drahomir.

“Your best archer will take it near the Zobor fortress, point it towards the skies and hit the water reservoir of the fortress. But this must be done without being sighted by the enemy. SVAROG is currently crafting the special tip for the arrow. Now prepare yourself for the journey and get going!” said the rooster in Drahomir’s thoughts and simply disappeared.

Samo was still resting and had a quite interesting dream. It was about a time when tribes moved through Europe chaotically like ingredients in a soup and Venedian tribes one by one settled central and later south-eastern parts of Europe. Settling of new areas did not occur randomly. Venedian tribes always chose their neighbors wisely. They settled near tribes who they got along the best.

One good example were the Hrvati and Srbi, who settled Dalmatia mostly along the river Sava. Two strong tribes that swore to protect each other and coexist in mutual cooperation for eternity. Two brave tribes that decided to settle right in the middle of Europe’s superpowers and simply survive. Two persistent tribes that fought Avars long before our struggle here even began.

In that moment Drahomir came to the tent and woke Samo up: “We have to move on! A rooster explained the mission to me.”

“A rooster? Are you kidding me?” asked Samo laughingly.

“Yeah, funny. PERUN took the form of a rooster and he will be the guide on our journey,” replied Drahomir.

Samo stared at him for a while but then he realized that stranger things happened in the last weeks and they simply moved on.

Samo had to explain to his scholars: “Beware of the woods we’ll soon have to cross. They’re full of creatures and demons that will try to trick you into what they want.”

As the night was falling, Samo and his companions entered the Fatra Mountains. They decided to make a camp near a tiny creek deep in the forest. After they fell asleep, Drahomir was woken up by a shrill singing. He started following the singing upstream the creek.

The singing was getting louder and louder until it was deafening. It was then when Drahomir realized, that there’s a small forest lake in front of him with a spring near the lake that’s filling it up with crystal clear water. Right next to the spring were twelve beings singing and dancing around in a trance.

These were forest fairies with light green dresses, long golden hair adorned with flowers, dancing around barefoot and singing in an irresistible manner. Drahomir was extremely attracted by their tones and he wanted to run towards them. This lust grew and grew inside him. In that moment all the fairies stopped dancing and turned their heads towards Drahomir who was still hiding in the bushes.

Drahomir was a bit frightened but the never-ceasing singing was drawing him towards the fairies. So he stood up and walked towards them. When he was close enough, one of the fairies approached him and they started to dance, faster and faster. Drahomir was not able to stop nor was he able to stay fully conscious.

He knew that it was too late for him to do anything. Fairies were once young women that died before their wedding. Therefore their souls were wandering through the world and were seducing young men to a lethal dance. There was no way out of this. Only a miracle could help him.

MORENA showed up near the lake with several crows flying above her. She took the form of an old woman in a black cloak and a jagged scythe. As she was approaching Drahomir she started laughing out loud. Vladislav said to himself: “Now Zubata* is coming for me. I’m doomed.”

In that moment a greatly glowing fairy dressed in white appeared before Drahomir. She ordered the other fairies to leave him alone and Drahomir fell on the ground. The fairies didn’t mind and continued dancing with each other. Drahomir looked around and realized that MORENA was gone. So he dusted himself off and ran away.

As he was running into the camp, he woke up Samo and Vladislav and explained them everything that happened. Samo had a strong feeling about going to the lake. He ordered the young men to stay in the camp and went there to see for himself.

Only the young fairy dressed in white was waiting for him at the lake. She had a beautiful long but wavy blond hair that was glowing in the dark. And thus she spoke: “Come closer, I won’t harm you!”

“It’s you, it’s definitely you!” she said cheerfuly.

“Do you know me?” asked Samo.

* Zubata, Smrtka, Death – other names for MORENA

“I’m your mother,” said the fairy while Samo was speechless. “I’m so overjoyed to finally see you,” she continued but thereupon she felt sorrow. “I wasn’t gifted to be able to see you grow up, nor to be with the love of my life.”

“Who is my father?” asked Samo.

“You will find out when the time is right and it will be soon,” answered the fairy and started to fade away. “Goodbye my son. You’ll always be in my heart!” whispered the fairy and disappeared.

MORENA was angry that she didn’t succeed the second time to get her revenge. She started preparing an unpleasant surprise for Samo and his companions for the next night.

Early in the morning the group continued their journey. Samo did not tell Vladislav and Drahomir what happened at the lake. So they crossed many valleys and around noon they found a ramshackle cottage surrounded by a thick forest.

Vladislav knocked on its door three times. Noone answered. So he knocked some more until he heard whining laments. “Who’s waking me up during my break?” asked the whiny voice.

“Good day to you, we’re travelers and we would like to pay for your hospitality,” replied Vladislav.

The door opened and out came an old and extremely ugly witch. She had a long pointy nose, her dirty face was covered with enormous wrinkles and she was jawning loudly as if she had no class what so ever.

The witch realized that there are three well built men standing in front of her and she thought to herself: “They would make a great dinner and there would be enough left for days to come.” This was not an ordinary witch. It was the dreaded mistress of forests going with the name Jezhibaba.

“Well, well, well, you want my food but your gold is worth nothing here,” she said.

“Can we repay you in a different way?” asked Samo.

“You could chop wood I have stored next to my house. I’m planning a feast in the evening,” she replied.

“Yeah sure, a feast,” thought Vladislav to himself. The group agreed simply to help an old woman and started to cut Jezhibaba’s wood into smaller pieces.

“This will keep them busy until my sisters return,” thought Jezhibaba to herself.

Jezhibaba continued cooking her mushroom soup. She formerly planned to sleep till it’s ready, but because her plans were ruined she got pretty angry and hexed the soup with a sleeping spell.

When Samo and his companions were finished with cutting the wood they entered the cottage, ate two bowls of soup each and after a short while they fell asleep. The two younger witch-sisters flew back home on their brooms from an unsuccessful children hunt. As they entered the cottage, it was lifted into the air. The cottage was standing on one chicken leg and the second one was bent.

Horses that were waiting tied to trees got scared and started neighing. Samo and his scholars opened their eyes, jumped on their feet and surrounded the witches.

“So you wanted to eat us? Now you’re going to pay for this,” said Samo and started throwing them out of the cottage one by one.

“How… how is this possible? The soup was hexed,” said the surprised oldest witch lying on the ground.

“We assumed that you’ll try to deceive us, so we ate lots of peppermint while we were cutting the wood,” answered Samo. Peppermint is a plant that effectively repeals magic and of course Samo knew it.

“What are you going to do with us?” asked the youngest but probably the ugliest sister.

Samo took their brooms that were resting on the furnace and broke each one of them while throwing them out of the cottage towards the witches. “This way you’ll have it more difficult to do harm to people,” said Samo. He and his companions jumped off the cottage, got on their horses and moved on.

Later in the evening they laid a bonfire and wanted to spend the night on a wide meadow. Before they went to sleep they wanted to honor their gods with the fire ritual, jumping over the bonfire and singing traditional songs.

Early in the morning when it was still dark, Vladislav got up, stoked the bonfire and went for a walk. After a while he heard a loud hooting. He followed the sound to find out what’s going on.

Then he saw a silhouette of some huge creature approaching him. The hooting was getting louder and louder. Vladislav stepped back and the creature showed itself in the light of the moonlight.

“Grgalitsa,” said Vladislav and stepped further back. Grgalitsa was a huge hairy female daemon with long messy hair, bulged eyes and a big bosom. Deep down she was a cursed soul of a woman, whose child died of negligence. Her punishment was to wander the world in this form and she misused it to seek out and kill people by choking them with her bosom.

He ran back to the bonfire but the creature was following him. “Help me! Grgalitsa is after me!” screamed Vladislav. Samo and Drahomir got up and took out their swords. They didn’t know that Grgalitsa is drawn to sounds and fires and can leave you alone by simply putting out the fire and being quiet.

As she was getting closer her golden eyes started glowing and she grew bigger and bigger. The men were like frozen. Suddenly they heard a crowing. Their rooster guide came to the rescue and Grgalitsa started retreating back to the woods. Crowing of a rooster always deterred demons.

The rooster didn’t say a word and started to march in one direction. So Samo and his companions put out the fire, jumped on their horses and followed it.

As they started climbing the southern Tatra Mountain range dressed in their winter clothes, Drahomir spoke to Samo: “I can feel the presence of so many animals that I’ve never seen in my life. This is incredible!” On the left side they could see the breathtaking northern Tatra Mountains and on the right side other mountains of the Carpathians.

“There in the distance is Nitrava,” Samo pointed his finder to the south-west and added: “And to the left is the heart of the Avar Empire. Right in the middle of these two places is our fortress Vishegrad on the river Dunay, which suffers under Avar occupation the longest. That’s our ultimate goal.”

After a while they reached the highest peaks of the mountain ridge, where there were no conifer trees or bushes around, only rocks with grass here and there. Vladislav spotted their guide right on the top of Khopok hill. Something was shining right next to him. So Vladislav and the others started to climb the rocky peak and as they reached the top the rooster was gone.

“Look! There’s the arrow!” shouted Vladislav and picked it up in his hands.

Samo and Drahomir came closer to have a better look.

“I’ve never seen such a material,” said Drahomir.

The arrowhead was white with a texture that was out of this world. Samo has seen such a material before. It was like a stone that fell right from the sky when he was still a child.

“It’s so light,” said Vladislav.

“Just put it away and let’s move on,” ordered Samo and the group continued walking to the east.

“We’ve passed the Khopok hill and now we will turn before the Dhumbyer hill to the left. There you can see our destination, the sacred hill of the guardian Krakonosh who guards all mountains in the world,” spoke Samo pointing to the northern peak.

“What is this region called?” asked Vladislav.

“It’s Liptovium. When there’s winter, even words coming from your mouth freeze and fall to the ground,” answered Samo and everyone laughed.

“Look at those sharp peaks. What’s the name of the one in front of us?” asked Drahomir.

“People living in the valley call it Poludnitsa, because the Sun is right above it at noon,” answered Samo.

“So it acts like a sun clock?” asked Vladislav.

“Something like that,” answered Samo. “Forgotten impregnable fortress that also showed the time,” he added with a smile.

As they were reaching the top of the mountain, their guide appeared in front of them once again. The rooster started running towards the dwarf pines so the group followed him. After a while they weren’t even able to see him and it was then when they found a deep chasm.

Samo and his companions lit their torches and descended to the depths of the chasm as far as it went. Then they used a rope to abseil even deeper. When they reached the ground, an entrance opened within the walls of the chasm. A wide cave opened itself in front of them.

“It’s sssso cold in here,” said Vladislav.

“Hang in there. We’ll be out in no time,” said Drahomir who didn’t feel coldness due to his curse.

“There it is!” said Samo and moved his torch towards an opening in the wall. The water was coming out of a small hole in the wall. Two female figures were engraved in the wall. These were the goddesses of life and death, ZHIVA and MORENA.

The water went down a duct carved in stone directly to a cave lake. Vladislav directed his torch to the lake and said: “You can’t even see the end of it. That’s so scary!”

They didn’t want to loose time, so they filled up all their leather bags with the sacred water, dipped the arrowhead of the magical arrow in the lake and continued with their journey back.

“Look! The arrowhead is changing its colour,” said Vladislav and showed the arrow to Samo and Drahomir.

“It’s changing to black,” said Drahomir.

“The color of death. Maybe this time MORENA will be on our side,” said Samo with a smile.

When they descended from the mountains, Samo gave some of the sacred water to Vladislav and told him: “Go to Marhat and save your loved one. I’m sure there’s still time to help her.” Vladislav thanked him and promised that he will join the army as soon as it will be possible.

Samo and Drahomir had another important task to fulfill and it couldn’t wait because they managed to anger the god VELES and they had to make everything right. On their way towards Tribech they decided to spend the night on a hill south of the Fatra Mountains. This hill was even higher than Tribech. Samo and Drahomir took out their axes and in the light of the bonfire they carved a wooden idol of VELES and placed it on top of the hill.

“From now on these mountains will be dedicated to our horned god VELES and this hill will be called Velestur,” shouted Samo out loud referring to the bull horns of VELES and then he poured some of the sacred water of life and death on the idol. Even though VELES was the god of the underworld, he was also the god of livestock and abundance and therefore people had to honor him. Early in the morning Samo and Drahomir continued towards Tribech.

Vladislav did not stop for the night. He was riding his horse as fast as its breath was lasting which was enormously dangerous during the night, but he reached the Marhat fortress in no time. Miloslava was lying in bed with a fever. Her eyes were slightly open but she was hallucinating and didn’t recognize Vladislav right away.

Vladislav approached Miloslava and told her: “Drink this sacred water!”

“Go away you demon!” she shouted.

“It’s me, don’t you recognize me?” asked Vladislav.

Miloslava opened her eyes wide open and she smiled. “My love,” she said and drank from the sacred water.

Miloslava’s condition improved instantly and she continued smiling at Vladislav who felt something he never felt before. He felt peace in his soul. His beloved Mila was alive and he couldn’t be happier.

By the time Samo and Drahomir came to Tribech, the fortress was refortified. Its main wall was fully restored with wooden stakes stuck into the slopes beneath the walls with sharp edges facing out. In case of attack, the system slowed down the enemy and made it easier for defending archers to target him. Samo gave orders to Slavomir to defend the fortress.

Kvetoslava was greeting Drahomir from the distance and when they both met she kissed him. Healthy soldiers redistributed the sacred water and the Venedian army was saved.