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INTRODUCTION
PROLOGUE
CHAPTER I - THE SWORD
CHAPTER II - MORAVIA
CHAPTER III - MARHAT
CHAPTER IV - TRIBECH
CHAPTER V - THE ARROW
CHAPTER VI – NITRAVA
CHAPTER VII - BOGATYGRAD
CHAPTER VIII – CLOTHAR
CHAPTER IX - DAGOBERT
CHAPTER X - RETALIATION
EXPLANATORY NOTES


CHAPTER VII - BOGATYGRAD

Nitrava was slowly returning to normal. Samo ordered his soldiers to help the locals to build PERUN’s temple inside the Zobor fortress. While inspecting the works, he wanted to discuss next steps with his two scholars Drahomir and Vladislav.

“I have a simple task for you. Prepare messengers who will invite all the chieftains to a meeting in Diyagrad in ten days as it was agreed in the beginnings of the revolt,” ordered Samo referring to an important meeting which was intended after the liberation of Nitrava. “In the meantime, I will oversee the construction works on the new temple and prepare our army for the assault on Vishegrad on the river Dunay,” he added.

Samo knew that although the Venedian army won many battles, the war was not won yet. So he sent mounted scouts to the river Dunay and the southern mountains where the Vishegrad fortress lied well protected. Their goal was to inspect the situation and bring back information about the probability of a successful assault.

By the time PERUN’s temple was finished, the scouts came back with bad news. The thing was that Vishegrad lied in the north-eastern part of Pannonia, ideally covered by the river Dunay and mountains as high as Tribech.

The attacking army would have to cross the river Dunay through a ford far away from Vishegrad and then, while on flat land, it would be exposed to devastating raids by Avar horse archers. Such a campaign would claim many lives.

Avars knew that by loosing Vishegrad they would be fully exposed to Venedian attacks, because Avar heartland south of Vishegrad was merely flat land, and it would be only a matter of time until they would loose their empire. That’s why they acted fast and concentrated their strength in the mountains around Vishegrad.

“We should have never lost Vishegrad. Together with Preslav it forms the only effective defense against southern influence,” thought Samo to himself.

Samo and all the subcommanders of the Venedian army attended the lightning the fire ceremony at PERUN’s temple. This was accompanied by animal sacrifice. The Zhrets* lit an eternal fire that had to burn constantly. He was the only one that was allowed to add wood to the fire and he was fully responsible for the fire. Then the Zhrets killed several types of animals and threw their guts but also good meat right into the fire to please the thunderer god.

The temple consisted of a circular wooded palisade with PERUN’s idol right in the middle of the circle. In front of the idol was the eternal fire.

“From now on PERUN will protect our city of Nitrava and we will worship him not only as our highest god, but also as the patron of our city!” shouted out the Zhrets and the ceremony ended with a feast.

The next day Samo ordered Slavomir to strengthen Nitrava’s city walls, but also to focus on two hills south of the town center, and he left with Drahomir, Vladislav and Kvetoslava for Diyagrad to attend a meeting with all the chieftains that joined the revolt against Avars.

On their way they had to stop on Marhat. Vladislav was eager to see Miloslava again. She was already healthy and full of life. Drahomir and Vladislav agreed to ask their loved ones to marry them and so it happened. They god engaged right on Marhat.

After resuming the journey, as they were crossing the river Morava, Samo noticed elevated places forming islands within branches of the river. “This looks interesting,” whispered Samo.

“What do you mean?” asked Drahomir.

“I had something on my mind for a longer time. Let’s just have a short break here,” replied Samo.

So they left the horsers by the river with Miloslava and Kvetoslava and went for a walk. Samo was trying to get to the highest point within the river branches. It wasn’t that easy, because the area was extremely bushy. Samo had to use his sword to cut his way to a small mound.

“It’s very close to Diyagrad, but that could be beneficial. After all this is an ideal site for what I was going for,” he thought to himself.

At the same moment Vladislav came to a small grove. He was somehow drawn to this place. In the middle of the grove was a tiny lake. Vladislav sat on the ground next to the lake and just enjoyed the silence.

* Zhrets - Venedian pagan priest

This idyll did not last long. A thick ray of light came down from the clear sky heading directly into the lake. Water in the lake started to boil instantly and out of it came a huge figure dry as if the lake wasn’t even there. It had a large hammer in its hands and steel pliers attached to its belt.

Vladislav was in a shock, but still able to get at least one word out of him: “SVAROG!”

SVAROG was the blacksmith of the gods, creator of the world and all living beings. Probably the ugliest of all gods who had paradoxically the most beautiful wife, the goddess of love called LADA. His working tools were the hammer and pliers, which he gave to mankind and teached it the craft of metal casting using the much needed fire.

“PERUN asked me to reward you for your bravery and for the restoration of his patronage over Nitrava. That’s why I made you this bow and quiver. Noone else will be able to use them,” said SVAROG.

“Thank you, almighty keeper of the fire in the sky,” replied Vladislav.

“One last thing. Other gods including me are displeased with you bulding only temples for PERUN. This has to change! Do you understand me? Never forget that if your people will believe in us, we will protect them and when they stop, they’ll be doomed,” said SVAROG seriously.

“Of course. It was wrong of us to neglect other gods,” replied Vladislav.

SVAROG nodded, turned around and disappeared in a glaring ray of light.

Samo and Drahomir came running towards Vladislav. “What happened?” asked Samo.

“Not much,” replied Vladislav smiling. “I just got some godly presents,” he added with a smile and all of them moved on.

It seemed a long time they left Diyagrad and now they were in front of its gates again.

Samo came to the main square as quickly as possible, he jumped off his horse, ran towards his house where his beloved Drahoslava was hanging washed clothes on a string. Samo surprised her completely and gave her a warm and long hug.

Chieftains from all corners of the revolting Venedian lands came to the meeting. They had time to chat a bit during a splendid dinner. These were the times of cooperation between Venedian tribes, an important heritage from hundreds of years ago, when they lived together in their old homeland to the east.

The eldest chieftain stood up, raised his glass and called out: “To all our successes!”

“Hurra!” shouted the others.

The eldest chieftain had a sip of wine and started talking: “My dearest Samo, without you all of this wouldn’t be possible. We owe you so much, therefore we, the chieftains of Venedian tribes that revolted against Avar tyranny, decided unanimously that we want to lead our new Union.”

He had another sip of wine and continued: “You must understand that we love our freedom and this offer is not for a lifetime. We would meet every year to decide whether you stay in your position. We would elect you only upon complete satisfaction. So it’s up to you. Do you want to take our offer and rule us wisely and fairly?”

“I humbly accept the proposal,” replied Samo.

“So it’s done. I’m pleased with your decition. What’s your first order as our ruler?” the eldest chieftain asked.

“I have a vision of building the greatest city our lands have ever seen. It will be large, strong, oriented on production of high quality goods and the most important trade crossroad which will make it wealthy. Wealthy as no city in our lands before. People from all over Moravia, Bohemia, Carantania, Silesia, Vistulania and from the mountains will trade there in huge amounts and they will call it the wealthy city,” explained Samo his vision.

“Bogatygrad*. That sounds so stunningly,” replied the eldest chieftain. “And where should it stand?” he asked.

“Right between the branches of river Morava. To the north-east from the city of Diyagrad so that they can help each other out and cooperate closely,” replied Samo.

And thus the meeting did not only allow a born foreigner to rule Venedian people, but it also laid the foundation stone for a great city that would play an important role for Venedians in hundreds of years to come.

Venedian chieftains did not agree with a campaign into Pannonia and the heart of the Avar Empire. They were tired of endless wars and Samo understood them. As he was leaving the meeting, Vladislav tried to speak with him.

* Bogatygrad – Wogastisburg as mentioned in the Chronicle of Fredegar

“Have you thought abou who’s going to be the patron of the new city?” asked Vladislav.

“Not yet. Do you have something in mind?” replied Samo.

“We have neglected our many gods besides PERUN. If this city should become a great trading point, then its patron must be a skilled craftsman. SVAROG would make a great protector of the city,” explained Vladislav.

“You’re right. So be it,” agreed Samo.

“Samo, you wanted to speak with me?” asked Drahomir who was also coming out of the meeting room.

“Boys, and I can still call you boys, because only tomorrow you’ll become real men. You will marry your loved ones and then I will leave for Nitrava. I must be as close to our enemies as it is possible. This will ensure that Avars won’t have a grasp at our lands again. Ragnahar will assist me,” said Samo moved by the changes.

“I have assignments for you two. Drahomir, you will stay here and supervise the construction of the new city. I will send you the best builders from our lands to make it happen. Vladislav, you will go to Preslav and defend it together with Carantania from possible Avar attacks.

Next day was Saturday, LADA’s day, the day of love. Everything was prepared for the weddings. Drahomir with Kvetoslava and Vladislav with Miloslava approached the Zhrets. The men were dressed in newly made leather armors and the ladies in long white dresses with freshly cut florwers in their hair.

The Zhrets started with singing praises towards the goddess of love LADA. He asked her to accompany the two couples through life so that their love never fades.

The men gave apples to their ladies as a symbol of fertility and got decorated daggers in return as a symbol of strength. Then the Zhrets grabbed Kvetoslava’s hand and put it in Drahomir’s hand, the same with Miloslava and Vladislav.

“You’ll be forever bound by this promise. From now on you’re one. Now go and celebrate!” said the Zhrets and the two couples started walking away from the Zhrets while others were throwing dried grain onto them to bring them luck on their journeys.

The celebratory feast was taking place in the largest house in the city. According to tradition, the newlywed wifes could not touch the threshold of a house, so the men had to carry their wifes into the house.

After all the guests sat down the newlywed wifes started cutting a huge honey cake. Only after everyone tried it the feast could start. And it was a big one. Piles of food, barrels full of wine and mead with music and dancing till the morning. Only around midnight some of the guests put on masks and played the tales of brave heroes that liberated their lands.

The next day in order to strengthen their love and honor the goddess LADA, the newlywed helped to plant a birch grove near the river Morava. It would symbolize their growing relationships and beauty that it would bring them and at the same time make LADA happy, because birches are her trees.


INTRODUCTION
PROLOGUE
CHAPTER I - THE SWORD
CHAPTER II - MORAVIA
CHAPTER III - MARHAT
CHAPTER IV - TRIBECH
CHAPTER V - THE ARROW
CHAPTER VI – NITRAVA
CHAPTER VII - BOGATYGRAD
CHAPTER VIII – CLOTHAR
CHAPTER IX - DAGOBERT
CHAPTER X - RETALIATION
EXPLANATORY NOTES