"Does anyone have a luck like ours?!" mumbled angrily a young girl, while pealing another roasted pepper. She placed it in a big bowl and tried to clean her hands by washing them with the water placed in the other, smaller bowl by her side. The attempt was unsuccessful, as the water had become dirty and needed to be changed. She continued as she got up, used it to water the nearby flowers and filled it with new water for the cheshma. "We went to one little expedition in Karet, decided to rest for a while and now we are getting punished for it by making almost all of the zimnina?! Sure, it had to be done, but are we feeding a whole village?!"
"If you don't count orphans, beggars, sufferers of deadly illnesses, slaves, women abused by their husbands, people chased simply because they worship something different or have a different skin and many more, yes, we do have a quite the luck." Answered her companion, who would do the work as equality reluctant. "But my mum took it really bad this time. If she could die from worrying, she probably would... " her playful voice stopped. "Kalina, I'm sorry, I... I didn't mean it like that." She gently took her friend's hand, who in that time had returned to her seat, with a changed expression on her face upon hearing the words "mother" and "dead" in the same sentence.
"I know it. You will never think of hurting me. You are my posestrima, Bela, we have an unbreakable bond." Kalina smiled with her rose-petaled like lips and even though they resumed their work, sang songs and laughed at joked, the thoughts of death at the back of her head could not give her piece.
Protected from the sun under the shadow of the grapevine, the girls were lost in both their work and their own world. They already belonged to two, but creating one of their own gave them a feeling of accomplishment and control over their fate. Besides it was not too hard for them to dive in it - the forest calling upon them to hide from the unbearable heat with its coolness, the clean little river where they would swim and one could mistake them for rusalki with their long hair let down. And it was not like they hadn't already been mistaken for samodivi a few times by some villagers working on their way to gather herbs before the morning dew dried...
"You have the whole day to do just one simple task and yet it seems you are not even halfway done it. And after that, you have to separate them in half, put one half in jars and close them, while the other half goes into the lutenica. When will you do all that?! When I was your age, you know, I would be up with the first roosters' cry, sweep the yard, cook for 10 people, sew, watch my younger siblings, take care of the animals and practice my magic. Kids these days have to do nothing. The whole day is for yourselves and you do nothing with it." Delyana's figure was towering behind Kalina's back and her usual glare was piercing both of the girls. Her voice, as always, had a hint of mocking note in it, combined with her obvious superiority over them. Her sudden appearance was enough to startle the girls and make them resume their work faster and skilful than before. She just had this power over people - a smirk and a raised eyebrow had once had made rulers obey her with no hesitation, but history could never give her credit for the number of wars she stopped. And no such things ever bothered her, that was just part of her duties - to make sure there is some close to balance and peace, with little to no personal profit. But the wars that could break out for her, the most beautiful among the witches, well, the witches that were both blessed and cursed with immortal life, were of equal number.
One look from her steel-coloured eyes and a smile from her pink lips had men falling on their knees. Something that became boring, annoying even, after she hit her three hundred years. Yes, the same Delyana that was sitting with her back leaned onto the white wall of the house, with sun rays making their way through the grapevine and caressing her white skin, while she was placing the tomato she just picked up from the garden on the blue, brown, white and black ceramic plate next to the sirene and preparing to drink red wine from the matching cup. The same one, who looked so out of place in her clothes, that she still hadn't changed from her visit to Donata zemya - her white riza with golden and silver thread, peaking under the sleeveless black dress, decorated with pearls and sapphires on the neck and hemline, that failed to show her poplar like waist. A strand of her black hair had shown from under her matching hat with a white cloth, that was meant to cover it like every other well-respected woman.
"How did it go? Was the tsar in a good mood? Did you get what you were going for?" Beloslava tried to sound as pleasing as she could when she started a conversation with her aunt, for she was in a bad mood most of the time and no one wanted to be on bad terms with her.
"I did. I got even more than what I wanted. And how could he not treat me well, when his family ownes me for at least nine more generations in the future." She had a silent laugh and drank a big sip from her cup. "There is more to tell, but I would like to wait for your mother to get home - this story is too tiresome for me to tell it more than once in the same day." Her tone was making it sound like it would be quite amusing, but one could never know with her voice - she was gifted at hiding her real feelings. "You know, from what I saw today, I realised that there are daughters far worse than the two of you."
Taken aback, a pair of grey and turquoise eyes met - a thousand things were on their minds but they still could understand each other with just one glare. After all, they were posestrimi - a bond stronger than a normal friendship, they were more than sisters, their souls would answer each other at their greatest time of need.
"What? Do you think that excuses your behaviour? I just want to know what were you doing in Karet? What were you looking for? Trouble? Dedoviya?!"
"No, really what were you doing there? Besides breaking a damadjana with the fine wine?! DO WE STOP YOU FROM DRINKING HERE? DO WE STOP YOU FROM DOING ANYTHING? UFF, LELE, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? DO YOU HAVE NO CLOTHES ON YOUR BACK? NO FOOD ON YOUR PLATE? NO ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD? OUT! OUT! OUT! YOU ARE ALWAYS OUT! MAKING ME WORRY! ONE DAY, WHEN YOU STEP INTO MY SHOES YOU WILL KNOW! WHEN I AM DEAD, YOU WILL KNOW!" This load entrance was enough to straddle even Delyana.
"Uff be, kako! You scared even me!" She treated her elder sister, Asya.
"Good! You need a lesson too! With all the stuff you say, it will be for the best to have your tongue rubbed with hot pepper!" A vein on Asya's forehead seemed to be on the verge to pop from her anger.
"What am I - a kid?"
"No, a brat!"
Kalina and Beloslava were just there, awkwardly doing their task, while listening to the usual innocent quarrel between the sisters.
Asya shifted her gaze towards the girls. There was a rage in her blue eyes - was it from Delyana or the girls doing, it was hard to tell.
"You are not going to great me? I am no one to you now?"
"H-h-hello mother." mumbeled Beloslava.
"G-g-greetings, aunt Asya" replied Kalina.
Both girls were nervous and shaking. Both sisters had fiery tempers and were shrewish, as well. If Delyana could be intimidating, Asya could be plain scary. But that does not mean they were unfamiliar with kindness. Yes, they are kind and gentle at heart, but dealing with all sorts of debili, idiots and freaks had them bitterly learn not to be too good.
"So now you remember that you have a mother? How about a few days ago when you decided to run away from home?"
Her tone was enough to make the girls wish for the ground to open and swallow them - they knew what they had done was not right, but Asya was riding the broom hard this time.
"And to go to Karet of all places?!" Kalina bit her lip nervously, she knew it was said to her.
"We got careless...I promise it won't happen again!"
"Look at you, with your looks they would have figured you are a Suntolian from Vulchekraishte." The change from angry to maternal Asya was always sudden, yet so natural. She wasn't just angry, she was worried for them as every mother would be. "Your eye colour - could not be that big of a problem, but this hair colour" she ran the tip of her fingers over Kalina's thick braid, placed over her left shoulder "Brown, but instead of gold, there is silver in it. You can't hide that. More so the fact that you are not any Suntolian from Vulchekraishte, you are knyaginya Kalina Petrosinova - the youngest sister of the Suntolian tsar. Do you know what could have happened if they had figured out who exactly you were back then? You know that your family is infamous there and some of them would not have shown you mercy, by just killing you, that is?" Her gaze shifted towards Beloslava, whose head was lowered from shame, and no one could see her burning cheeks "And you - you could not have opposed?! I understand that after 300 years of being imprisoned in a mirror awoke a burning passion to explore in you, but I can't bear to lose you again, maiko..." And after her shaking voice stopped coming out, she lifted Beloslava's head with shaking hands and kissed her forehead, then she caressed Kalina's cheek and proceed to hold them both in her embrace. "I love you both so very much. Both of us do, that's why we act like this." Her being mad never lasted longer than a week.
As she was whipping her eyes with the end of her zabradka, her eyes suddenly opened wide from Delyana's loud call.
Kalina was holding the same knife, that Delyana had used to cut her tomato earlier, pointed against her, no, it was against someone or something behind her. She turned her head slowly to see a shabby old man, smiling at them. As their eyes met, she instantly recognised him and a smile bloomed on her face. She crossed looks with her sister who, too had a sincere smile put on, then turned towards the girls.
"Put this knife down, Kalina. There is nothing to be afraid of." Completely faced towards the man, she started giving her usual speech to the people who were lucky or in some cases unlucky to reach her home, but this time it felt as if she was not serious, rather teasing between old friends. "Greetings, yunache!"Both she and Delyana were doing their best to hold their laughter. "I see you have travelled long, passed through nine mountains, crossed nine rives, defeated three hali, three zmeya and three lami. What brings you in my home?".
The old man, who had started laughing uncontrollably had to take a few breaths before finally answering. "I am but a simple traveller, wondering the world is my only craft and call. I ask of you for some water, food and a place to rest and spend the night. I will be gone in the morning, after the third cry of the roosters."
Delyana stepped in and with quick steps came towards him. There was some sort of excitement in her movement, like that of a child who meets its father at the doorsteps, though standing next to each other they resembled a grandfather and a grandaughter better. Her smile was wide and revealed her pearl-like teeth, that matched those decorating her dress and head. She opened her arms and both ended up in the type of hug, from those which you give a dear friend, a friend you haven't seen in a long time.
"Blagoveste, Blago, is it really you? How many years has it been? Look at you? Why don't you take better care of yourself?" Delyana was showering him with her words and attention and did not see how Asya approached them both.
"Dobre doshul!" She said and kissed both his cheeks.
"Dobre zavaril!" He answered.
Both girls were finding it hard to understand what was happening - an old friend, so dear that he was shown an unusually warm welcome.
"Come here, girls!" Asya invited them with her hand. "Bela, don't you remember Blagovest? He would come here often when he was young with his twin cousins." And in a split of a second, she did and joined them.
"Yes, I do. You would stay with me and keep me company sometimes, back in the days when I was still in the mirror."
"It is very nice to see you finally out. Did you run on the grass with bare feet?"
"One of the first things I did."
"Come, oh, Kalina come. You would love to meet Blagovest."
She felt embarked for pointing him with the knife, but he was a stranger after all, at least to her. Her steps were slow and safe.
"You would be happy to know who this man is." assured her Delyana. "His name is Blagovest Petrosinov - he is your grandfather's cousin and was his most cherished friend, as he is to me and Asya." The sisters smiled at each other.
Hearing the family name made Kalina raise her head high and as their eyes meet she saw his were the same as hers and her brother and sister, the same that a true member of the family has. She showed him a kind smile, while the expression on his face changed as if he saw an old memory. His eyes got teary and all he could say was one thing.
Cheshma - Translators gave me the option to write it as "fountain" or "well", however they fail to capture the meaning of it. A cheshma is a place where you get your water from during old times, however, unlike fountains you don't need a bucket for it. They are the old time versions of sinks in a way. As water is considered the source of life and to build one was considered one of the greatest things a person could do.
Zimnina - food stored in jars and kept for the winter. In this chapter, Kalina and Beloslava are making roasted peppers.
Posestrima for women and pobratim for men is an expression used when two friends are so close they view themselves even closer than blood relatives. So blood sister/ blood brother
Rusalki are considered the equivalent of mermaids in Slavic mythology. They are a biger part of the West and East Slavs mythology.
Samodivi are another female spirit, they are forever beautiful and young women dressed in white, long hair and enchanting look. Instead of a belt, they wear snakes or rainbows on their small waists. When a man steals their veil they are forced to obey and marry him, but they try to get it back at any given chance and when they do they leave their husband and children.
Lutenica - a vegetable spread, popular in the Balkans, the main ingredient is tomatoes, while for ajvar is peppers. Besides tomatoes and peppers, it can also have onion, eggplant, chilli peppers, garlic, salt, carrots(depending on the region).
Sirene - A type of brinnen cheese
Dolnata zemya - The underworld. In a lot of fairytales, it is the place where the dead water is stocked or the hero has to commit a task to return to the Upperworld. However, it is not the place, where the souls of the dead are resting.
Riza - Shirt, petticoat.
The rest are in the pinned comment, due to lack of space :).