Two tales without a head
By Radoslav B. Chugaly
Copyright 2016 Radoslav B. Chugaly
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Dragon’s great-grandson, first tale
- Have a seat son, eat your breakfast. Strength comes through the mouth, and a young man needs his strength by the bulk.
- I’ll just take some coffee granny, there’s no hunger in me this morning…
- Come on, come on, priganica’s are just about done, and there’s gonna be a few fried eggs. They come well with some cheese and bacon, to make some ground for the coffee…
She spent half a century in Central Serbia and still hadn’t learned the dialect. All in vain, the strong old lady left one foot in the old country for all of her life. Even more, during those fifty years, she collected all the possible expressions from the other settlers and none of the native people. Therefore, those priganica’s as if the pancakes are not good enough. Sternly built, she held the entire house on her back all her life, without even a grunt. Had to, she lost her husband early, and most of her children were lost during the war. To complete the misfortune, both her son and daughter-in-law died in an accident leaving her all alone to bring her grandson up. Single candle to burn for her.
- I can’t granny, I’m not hungry even a bit. This morning welcomed me even more tired thatn the last night.
That’s from the last night’s party. You could’ve drunk a bit less, just like your granddad! Come on, have just a bite…
- I didn’t drink much, granny, on my eyes, I swear, just a couple of brandies, from the pitcher my granddad left for my coming to age. One for me and one for him, since he didn’t live to drink with me…
- Right you are… he waited for that coming to age since way before you were even born, there’s no telling you… let’s have one with the coffee and tell me why you’re so tired then, There’ll be time for breakfast later…
She poured a traditional flask to each of them, from the bottle holding a cross made of mulberry wood, full of amber liquid as thick as oil. Granddad’s brandy made of plum from Banija mountain, he went for it to the old estate just to make that brandy. Picked the plums from deep grass, brought them on his arms down to the village and made the brandy. Just for the grandson his daughter-in-law is going to give birth to during next year. The whole village laughed at him when he said it, his daughter-in-law brought only handmade quilt and gave it to him with a bitter smile of a woman that knows she is not going to give birth ever. He just made the brandy, poured it into glass pitchers and labeled each one with a future date, took a shaveand a bath, and fell to sleep. When people marked half a year since his death, his daughter-in-law felt a life moving inside her, went to the doctor and got a confirmation. There, an old man new about him somehow even before he was conceived.
- Bottoms up, this one’ll do you no harm…
- To your health granny.
- Tell me now, what bothered you last night? Is there a girl in the village? You know there’s no girl who’ll say no to you…
- I know granny, it’s not love, I have yet to see the one I like. All night I had this strange dream. A drem of me flying up from my bed, through the roof, and over the black locust treetops and fly high, high into the sky. At first, it was interesting, but later I’ve noticed some dark dots in the distance approaching me. I waited for them, and they were all some kind of large birds, large as eagles and black ac crows. Their beaks covered in blood and feathers all ruffled up, came upon me all until the morning. I defended myself, hit them repeatedly, all until the Sun came up and I returned to my bed. I must’ve moved my arms a lot, my muscles are all beaten up by the bed posts…
- Last night only? And never before?
- Who knows what it can be if it happens again you just imagine burned wood stumps in your hands and hit the birds with them. And tell me about it the next morning.
- Godmother! Godmother!
- What’s the noise so much? I’m not deaf, I’m old!
- Trouble, godmother, my grandson awoke.
- Did he? Is he of that age already?
- He is… what am I to do?
- Nothing… take it upon you to teach him some lore. Don’t let him perish here, he’s not on his turf, doesn’t have the full power…
- What should I teach him? I can only tell him all and see what happens…
- Tell him. Tell him all. Bring this package with you, his grandfather left it with me to give you when you come with this news…
- Oh, God help me…
- Help or not, you knew what you were doing when you accepted the proposal from Radosh.
- Good morning granny.
- Good morning son. How did you sleep?
- Much better, the advice about tree stumps was a good one.
- You’ve had the same dream?
- The same. But this time I defended immediately, remembered the stumps in my dream and laughed, loudly, and those birds stopped for a second. I guess my laughter surprised them, and when I remembered the stumps they apeared in my hands. When I hit a bird she just stumbles down to the ground, in a minute there were non around me, and the clouds disappeared. I flew above the village all night and laughed, and it seemed that the entire village laughs with me…
- Have a seat, I need to tell you something, it is your time to know…
And she told him.
Radosh was the village pride, the only son of the richest landlord, anything was within his grasp. The strongest man around, well fed and clothed, he could cut the log as thick as his leg with a single stroke of the ax. Fiery, restless, he would roam the woods wntire night and scare the animals. They said even the wolves listened to him, and he wrestled bears ond the forest clearings. Maybe it wasn’t all the thruth, only in his village no one lost a sheep to a wolf, and children went freely to the woods to pick mushrooms. The only thing that worried his parents was the fact that he never looked twice at a girl and refused to marry.
And they searched all the villages, even the towns near and far, many wanted and accepted, but all in vain. He greeted each of them, heard both her and his parents and, with just a knife on his belt, went to the forest to look for the wrestling companions. And so it went until one night when he suddenly returned home, woke his parents and called his family. He told them to prepare the wedding for the noon of the next day, the party shall come with the bride, two bulls must be roasted and one male goat, and all the poor from surrounding villages must be invited to be well clothed, fed and offered drinks. He called his mother to the side, gave her a wrapping and told her to hide it and never show to anyone. Poor mother did so, and never spoke about it until the day she died and returned the parcel back to his son. At noon, his father peaked to the road, seeing no one as far he culd look, and went back inside thinking his son lost his mind somewhere in his nightly roaming. At that point there was shouts and music in the yard, the drums started to beat. Both he and his wife rushed out to see the yard full of people. Radosh also came out and pointed them towards the bride in pearly clothes telling them it’s their daughter-in-law. The party lasted for five days, and nobody slept for the entire time. Nobody also saw those people before or after the wedding. They just went away the sixth morning, and the bride remained alone with Radosh.
Years passed, giving Radosh and his wife only one son. As remarkable as his father was, his on was more fierce and strong than him, but quiet and peaceful man. He would walk the village as a giant, two heads taller than anyone, and people would see him standing alone on the meddow, talking to somebody invisible, someone only he can perceive. They said he was just like his father, that his wife would also come from the Devil, that he was not born for a mortal woman. They didn’t know how close to the truth they were. Close, because Radosh’s wife was truly a Dragons daughter, and Radosh won her by wrestling the Dragon on a bet – his head on one side, and all the treasures of a Dragon on the other. After three hours of battle, Radosh threw him to the side, beating him, and he stood up asking:
- What will you have Radosh? All the riches of this world are mine to give!
- I want your daughter for a wife. You have nothing else of value to me.
- I have anything Radosh, but you don’t know what you ask for! She’s my only child, my only offspring, if you take her from me you’ll have the same faith – nevermore shall there be more than one offspring with you among the living souls for as long as my treasure is not returned!
- So be it, honorable father-in-law, I’ll be waiting tomorrow at noon for the feast…
- My party is hungry, you’ll need a lot of food.
- Don’t you worry, there’s enough in my household for the village of dragons!
So it happened, Dragons daughter came, married Radosh, and their son was half-dragon, a Zduchach. He saw fairies and nerodims on the meddows, knew who is ill in the village and for whom the Death is coming, and he also knew what the weather shall be upon his domain. Often enough, he would tell the villagers for days in advance not to bring out the cattle on a certain day, and to tie up the doors of their homes and barns well. And same as Radosh, he brought one day a bride no one saw before. Quiet, peaceful, just as he was. They married and lived well, but without the fruit among them. At that time, the whole family moved to the flatlands, thinking things are going to be better when they switch the surroundings. When Radosh stops roaming the woods, the thing he never truly stopped doing whole his life, when the bears stop coming to their doors complaining about their bruises. All until the day Radosh picked up his knife again, placed it on his belt, and went to the old country to pick the plums for brandy, bringing the brandy and his blessing to the daughter-in-law and left this world forever.
- It’s an interesting story granny, especially the part when you use granddads name in it, it’s gonna make me believe I’m a Dragons great-grandson, son of Zduchach…
- It’s no ordinary story son, it’s your story. That’s the time Radosh went to his father-in-law to ask him why his son has no children of his own and he told him this:
- Honorable father-in-law, I’ve come for the second time to speak with you.
- Welcome you are, my son, but keep in mind you cannot wrestle me again because my strength withers not, and your age lays heavy upon you…
- I don’t have wrestling in mind, you have nothing of worth for me anymore, I’ve just come to ask you something.
- Ask than Radosh, someone is bound to know the answer in my kingdom.
- Once you’ve promised me that I’ll have no more than one living offspring for as long as you don’t get back what is yours.
- I promised Radosh, have I lied?
- Not entirely, but I had only one child, and he has none.
- There can be no other way Radosh, even I hold no power to lift my curse. If you wish for grandson, you must lose a son.
- Is there another way? I don’t wish to sacrifice a son, and I wish to have a grandson.
- There is Radosh, give me back what is mine.
- NO! I’ll never give her up for as long as I live! If I give her up than I don’t wish to live anymore!
- Than Radosh, finish up your chores, greet your family and die. As long as you two live, there shall be no third.
- Promise me then, honorable father-in-law; that you’ll stand by those words with your face and honor!
- I promise Radosh. Die, and one year shall not pass before your grandson is born.
- And so, my son, my Radosh died and my father sent you to me. And my son, your father, left soon after Radosh. I wished to return to my kin, but my father forbade. He said: “I promised Radosh when he was alive, I won’t lie even now. His death releases you not. Until he does, you must not return.”
- You’re making fun of me granny!
- No, my son, and here is the proof – your godmother gave it to me last night. Radosh left it for you to decide.
And the Dragons great-grandson opened the parcel, taking out the white cloth as small as two fists. He opened it, and there was a white dress as light as if it was made of moonlight. He recognized the bride’s dress from grandmother’s tale. Without a word, he gave it to his granny, she pulled it over her head, appeared to him young and smilng again and vanished. Just for a moment, and then reappeared again holding a book bound in scaly leather and told him:
- Here’s a gift of wisdom from your great-grandfather. There you shall find all that was and all that’ll be. Radosh is forgiven, the curse is broken, but there is tha blood of a Dragon in you. Learn and do as you fell right, and in your kin, there will always be help for you. Just think of us and we shall all be there.
Dragon’s great-grandson, second tale
As time went by, it was easier for him to adjust to the life of solitude. Not that he had much of a company before, but his morning conversations with grandmother and her constant nagging about breakfast meant a lot to him. Now, he made his daily routine, rising with the first rays of sunshine, going to the stables to feed the cattle and foul, up to the garden for some spring onions and radishes, to the storage for some cheese he made himself using Whitey’s milk, and then to build a fire and cook some food on his old stove.
- Come on baby, I’ll let you in the yard today to manage yourself, don’t eat my lettuce again – he scolded the white goat his granny left him, more jokingly than serious because Whitey never touched the plant in the garden. Granny was strict about that and all the animals knew it.
- Meeee – the goat waved her head and glanced him under eye like only goats can do – If only granny hadn’t left you to my care, I’d tell you things now!
- I’m sorry, you know that’s a joke, I’m in a funny mood this morning and I need an advice.
- Say your trouble.
- It seems to me the clouds are a bit murky on the west, where all the evil comes from, and the morning is a bit darker than it should be. What awaits us today, I don’t know…
- Wake that lazy no good rooster, he crowed all night and now sleeps. He doesn’t see that the Sun already peaked above his head!
- I’m not asleep, you silly goat! There were watermen around the house all night so I crowed to scare them off. As if they feel something…
- Don’t you argue with me! You’re not my kin to command me as you do with the hen!
- Of course we’re not, I scare all the demons, and you are in cahoots with them!
- Well, there’s some truth, we are kin, but I promised granny to renounce such deeds…
- All right, all right, we all promised because she saved our necks. It’s better to be a good servant than a good lunch…
- Come on, stop the argument. Someone could hear me talking to you and think I’m crazy! Is there any advice or should I go to the mountain and ask the winds?
- Go to the river, the goat had a good idea to ask me, to the watermill and ask the miller. He has an agreement with the watermen, maybe he’ll know a thing or two…
The old miller sat in front of his house, knitting his fish net. The fee for milling was not enough for his large family, so he contributed his budget by fishing. No wonder, nobody else dared to fish besides him because watermen often dragged people, tore their nets and broke fish traps. He was told to have an agreement with watermen not to bother him, but the old man never spoke about it.
- God helps, uncle Milan!
- God help you, Peter, what good brings you here?
- Well, not really good, I need your help and advice…
- What can an old miller help to a Zduchach? You know thing better than me – the old man looked upon him cunningly, holding one eye closed to keep the cigarette smoke out of it.
- Oh, my uncle Milan, only you know what I am, and you had to hear it from someone enlightened. No use to hide from me.
- Ehehehehe, right, right, I heard from the enlightened. Frogs are croaking, grass whispers, the waters are burbling, and the mill ticks. I know what you are and who you are. What, I repeat, can an old mille help you?
- Dark are the clouds in the west, my rooster told me the watermen were restless last night, and I know how they hate being far from water. Do you know what’s happening?
- I know they are restless, but I don’t know why. I would’ve gone to ask, but I can’t.
- Why not? You are not afraid of them.
- Not of them, but something had moved into my mill, I’m not going there for the third day today…
- Whatever it may be, there’s two of us. Bring some salt in your pocket and let’s go…
Watermill was a good hour of walk away, giving them a chance to talk a bit as they went there. The old miller bragged how he can earn well from fish and crayfish, better than flour. People saw less nowadays, villagers didn’t come as often as before, anything they grow got bought by retailers. There, Peter is one of the rare who hasn’t furnished his house with modern appliances and didn’t even have the electric current. All else just chase technology and avoid nature and land.
- Eh, uncle Milan, you know I can’t have electricity. I can’t afford it, and I don’t need it. There’s no way for me to leave the forest and land to go to the city or the crops would fail, and there’s no work here for me to make money…
- I know it all, my child, but if you’d tell them what you do, they would pay for your bills…
- I can’t say since I mustn’t charge. What has been given to me is not for sale, only to be shared. And what do I need? Some cheese, some vegetables, milk, and water…
- Right so, I seem to remember you don’t eat meat?
- No, I don’t. I eat only what is freely given, one cannot speak to an animal and then eat it. I’m not a Dragon…
- Not entirely, not entirely…
A change of subject was in order here, so Peter turned to the other side. Fortunately, the mill was in sight already.
- There’s the mill, uncle Milan.
- There it is. Do you see the shadow above it?
- I do. As if the Sun never rose above…
- That’s my trouble Peter. I don’t know what’s inside, nor I dare walk in and check, but there’s nothing good for sure…
- Stay here then, take the salt in your hand and wait. I’m off to check.
- Go, and take care, you are strong, but you’re not the strongest…
Peter snuck up quietly, but without bending or hiding. Anyway, it would be futile to hide from something able to drag such a shadow upon entire watermill. He came in silently, holding the door open while he looked around. In one of the corners, the darjest one, something moved a bit.
- Welcome, little Dragon! Have no fear of me; I’m dangerous only to mortal men!
- Show yourself then, let me see you and know you!
- Please, just close the door, sunlight hurts my eyes, be so kind.
Peter closed the door, fearing a little, for he was aware that this thing before him Is powerful, but the greeting gave him some courage. He knew he’s just part Dragon and, as such, no less mortal than any other human but this creature didn’t seem to know it.
- Now show yourself, let me see you!
A strange horned creature slithered from the corner with a horrible sound. The massive and ugly thing covered with formidable scars all over its scaly body. Gnarly horns and six legs were encrusted in iron, and its eyes were just small pools of black fluid, like spiders eyes, only less of them. Peter remembered his great-grandfather’s book.
- So, Bukavac! What are you doing outside the lake?
- The Ala chased me; she says I wake her up at night while drowning passers-by.
- And how did you get here?
- River floods the corner around this mill, it’s enough for me. I’m here during the day and go there at night…
- And why are the watermen sneaking in my village during the night?
- Fools! They remember being dragged into the water by my relatives while they were alive, and now fear me. As if I hold any interest in them, now they are ghosts!
- What happens now?
- Nothing. I’m fine; they don’t bother; only there are no villagers or cattle for me to drown ever since I came. Tell me, is there anyone living here? Can I even have the miller?
- There’s no one in the village but me, I chased them all – Peter lied – and the miller is in league with the watermen so they told him about you.
- Oh! That’s no good. What can a Bukavac do in an empty village?
- Nothing, I’d recommend another moving…
- And how about if you help me a bit? You could chase the Ala from my lake so I could return home? There’s a rich village, many people, and cattle on the lake…
- That’s why Ala took it away, to be godmother to people, and eat their cattle. I can’t help, but you must leave this place…
- Not in a million years!
- Well, then escort me out and bid me farewell. I’ve finished this conversation.
- But I havent’!
Bukavac jumped from his corner and crashed with full force into Peter. Zduchach felt no fear, fierce as his granddad Radosh, caught Bukavac in an embrace and squeezed him strongly across the chest. They carried each other for the better part of an hour, none prevailed the other. All six legs in vain, the force is strong in Dragon’s descendant. At one moment, Bukavac eased up just a bit, and Peter managed to carry him out. There was still a shadow above, but Peter had it easier now.
- Now you’ll see what a Zduchach does best!
It dawned upon Bukavac who he wrestled with, recognized his opponent’s mortality. He doubled his efforts trying to drag him into the river, but all was over. Peter just glanced to the sky, the shadow vanished as if erased, and sunshine shone on the beast.
- Let go of me mortal! The Sun burns me up!
- I’m not letting go until you’ve promised to leave forever and free this place!
- I promise! I promise whatever just let go, my skin is drying and cracking, you’ll kill me!
- I know you cannot die, I want your promise!
- I can’t die, but the pain is overwhelming, if you hold me long enough I could lose my strength forever! No recuperation can help me then! There, you know my greatest secret and greatest weakness, let me go mortal, don’t take my strength!
Peter loosened his grip, releasing the Bukavac, he couldn’t destroy him entirely for it was not in his nature. The beast moved a bit and asked:
- Tell me your name, I wish to know whom to watch myself of.
- Peter’s my name, I’m the Dragon’s great-grandson, and you may stay here until dark. When the morning comes I don’t want to see you in my realm. If I see you again, I’ll chain you to the ground to dry out!
- Have no worries Peter, you’ll never meet me without your intention. But know this, you’ve made me a great mercy for not destroying me. I can’t escape my nature, but I promise not to drown people anymore. The cattle that wonders to me is something else…
- Even that is enough from you. Just leave this village.
The old miller flinched when Peter appeared, he dropped his paper and tobacco he prepared to make a roll-up, but Peter picked it up and told him not to fear.
- Here, uncle Milan, we solved your trouble. Be at your house until morning, and tomorrow you can use your watermill again. Tell your friends their water shall be free tomorrow to return in peace.
- Thank you, Peter, had I known you can help I’d call you the first day!
- It’s better this way, Bukavac was in your mill, he would be suspicious on the first day and very hard to subdue.
- Whatever you say, and tomorrow come by my house around lunchtime, my wife will make you something extra to take home…
At dawn, Peter opened the door to, as accustomed, do his chores. Had he not accidentally glanced, he would have stepped on. At the doorstep, there was a basket made of water grass, filled with berries, plants, and fruit. Even ones that don’t grow at this time of year, and there was more than a dozen varieties of mushrooms. To himself, enough food to last for days.
- Whitey? Where’s that Emperor of threshing floor and king of all chicken?
- Sleeping again, I don’t know his excuse for today since he was silent all night…
- I’m not sleeping, you goat, I told you so yesterday!
- Come on, stop arguing! Tell me what’s this in front of the house and who left it?
- Watermen came by last night, the whole bunch of them as if they’re making a wedding, offering gratitude for the return of their home. That is a gift from them, and they also said you don’t need to water your garden anymore, it’ll never go dry as long as they exist. Furthermore, they said that, if you’re ever in danger near water, just shout your name and help shall be given. And now enough, I’m off to nap a bit, someone must stay awake tonight, who knows what’s gonna visit you tonight!
Peter just laughed and went inside the house. Great-granddad’s science is vast, there’s so much more to learn.
About the author:
Radoslav B. Chugaly (a good query at google or any other net browser) – brick mason, carpenter, tile layer, concrete worker, poet, writer, performance artist, Dudeist, graduated as Bachelor with honors in economics. He is currently working as an accountant at public elementary school in Serbia. These are dry facts.
These are two short stories that helped create my novel “The Book of Answers”, sort of a template for it. Thank you for reading my prose, I love you all. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer?
Discover other titles by Radoslav B Chugaly
The Book of Answers
Two stories that helped as a template for my novel. Main character is Peter, half-demon and a Dragon's great-grandson. Using his powers he aids the villagers avoid supernatural threats during their everyday life. The first tale is about his coming-to-age and learning the truth about himself, and the second is his first big adventure. Perhaps there will be more stories, if Peter allows me to write them.