The fresh and cool air of the forest was filling Kalina and Beloslava's lungs аs they were riding through the night, guided by the stars and the magpie bird on their way to Zmeikovo - the village of the samodivas! Oh, it was not easy to find a bird willing to show them the way, but could they miss a chance to learn more about Bisera, Kalina's mother taken from her children too soon, along with her husband. She couldn't find any relative from their mother's side for Albena's wedding, but what about Bozhana's...No! She can't fail this time! She will get their grandmother to Bozhana's wedding, and now that Albena is with a child there will be someone to guide her through it. Yes, it was her turn to do something for them! Asya and Delyana would be furious, the punishment they would receive will be the worse one so far, maybe dyado Blago will be disappointed with her, but she had already started dancing on the horo - there was no going back!
The magpie was flying faster, hoping to escape from the girls who were at its tail. That way no one would shun it for revealing the two young witches the way, or else it will never be invited again to thresh the magic flower smil and be allowed to take a bath in the lake and change its feathers again. But that horse, a sharkoliya - who could escape from it? Black in colour, though young it was already as experienced and confident as some of the oldest ones from its kin. The magical flying horses, that can hide their wings and aid yunaks in need when they heat a strand of their hair, that give them advice while taking them through nine lands, nine rivers and nine mountains - a witch with such a horse was a dangerous thing! Had she been a man, she could have gone to become a great yunak, but alas the future of Kalina Petrosinova would never take this turn.
Who knows how long they were riding on Vihur's back? With Kalina dressed in male clothes and Bela's hands wrapped around her waist, one could mistake them for a couple eloping together - a perfect bait! The further they were riding into the forest the more they were feeling like losing their senses - the stars were fading, until only one was left, the trees were closer to one another, as if knowing they are outsiders to this land. But, like most witches, they were both born on a special day - Saturday. They won't be so easy to trick!
The sound of their breaths and Vihur's hoofs hitting the ground were the only things reaching their ears until they started hearing a faint melody - kaval! The laughter of women! Have they finally reached it?
"Yunache...yunache, join us, join us" as if the air whispered. An almost eerie figure passed near them. The girls only caught a glimpse of it, but one thing they were sure of - they made it!
"Come, play for us, dance with us" this voice was even more seducing than the one before. Kalina let it guide her, it was the only way!
"Vihur, let it guide you!" She leaned to his right year and whispered gently.
"I still don't think that it's a good idea to go to the samodivas. They are scary! What if they chain me and let their youngest ones pull my tail like the knyaz of Zhegavica girl did?" His voice was scared and no one could blame him. The samodivas were beautiful, more beautiful than any woman, but one look in their eyes and you are as good. Their songs were bewitching, while dances so wild, that it could drive you insane.
"It's alright, I won't let them do it. I will keep you safe!" She tried to keep her voice calm, but the last words came up shivering. She was as afraid as him. Bela was holding onto her stronger than before. But showing fear at this moment would only make them more vulnerable, knowing their anger when they figure out Kalina is no momuk, but moma.
Following the lure, a light started being visible behind the trees growing brighter the closer they were coming until they reached it - Zmeykovo, the home of the samodivas, zmeys and along many others of the beings men were in fear.
A large fire was surrounded by women in white clothes and long, loose hair, each more beautiful than the one before with mad eyes lost in their mad, yet enchanting dance. Young men were playing for them on kavali, not knowing what they were doing. They were all handsome, by their clothes you could tell they were lured from the field they were working on, the road they were crossing or the herd they were looking after. None of them would be leaving this night. In the morning their cold bodies would be found by passing men, with blood on the corner of lips, as they have played music to death. And their faith, like that of many others before and after them would be serving as an example and warning to men.
The grass here was greener, the stars brighter, their bodies felt light as they got off the horse and ready to join in the somodivas' horo, but that wasn't what they were here for! But how do they start? How do they find Kalina's grandmother? Will she recognize her the moment their eyes meet? How does a samodiva grandmother even look like? Kalina knew what a regular grandmother looked like, but these are samodivas we were talking about...
"Come and dance with us" their voices were impossible to describe - flowing forest stream, a light breeze, a song no bird can rival! And the way they moved - how could you resist not following them? They grabbed their hands and included them in their dance. The horos they had taken part in during festivities in villages were hard for them, not that people cared, as long they were having fun, but they were messing the steps so often that it wouldn't be surprising if one day they twist their legs in such way that no one will be able to undo it. But this dance here every step felt natural and light, they knew every move even before finishing the one before.
Their laughter was contagious, one that clouds your mind and soul. The more they danced the less tired they felt, in fact, it was as if new strength. And at the moment of the peak, it would withdraw and they would drop dead. But who cares about it at such a moment.
The kalpac on Kalina's hair felt on the ground and her long braid was left hanging. Some of the samodivas started laughing and pointing at her, others let go of each other's hands as the dance was put on hold and were piercing her with their stares. Her sides were burning with shame and anger. No matter how much air was entering her body, it wasn't enough. She tried to stop the fear from appearing on her face and grabbed Bela's hand, who was more successful in looking brave at situations like these.
"What do we have here?" A beautiful, yet intimidating voice started walking towards them without shifting her gaze. Even if they tried moving, no fibre from their bodies was obeying. She had gotten up from the ground where she was sitting with a few other samodivas and men. There was something in her, something familiar like they have sensed it before.
"We are just passing on our way. If you let us continue we shall not make a scene!" Bela spoke first. She tried to cover her fright up, but the woman sensed it immediately and smirked.
"Is that so?" Her teeth were white and canine-like. "Then why were you following this magpie?" She pointed at the bird which showed them the way. "May I know what two witches are doing in my land? And I want the truth this time!" Delyana! She reminded them of Delyana!
"I am Kalina, ward of the witch Delyana and a witch of the sense! With me is Beloslava, my posestrima and daughter of the witch Asya and a witch of the mirror. We are here to find my grandmother - the somodiva who gave birth to Bisera who went to marry knyaz Svetlin Petrosinov, the ruler of Kostica!"
"And what makes you think that she'd want to meet two izdunki like you? A knyaginya who likes to play around and a witch who can't control her powers to the point she stuck herself in a mirror for 300 years." She laughed and the rest joined her. Bela blushed and ducked her gaze in the ground with shame. If only it could open and swallow her at this instant. "However, I must admit that I am impressed how well you navigated yourself on your well here." Her palms were placed under the girls' chins - the left on Bela's, while the right on Kalina's.
The green snake that was wrapped around her waist started moving and climbed over Kalina right arm to prevent her from raising it to defend or attack if necessary.
"Do you know what we do to girls here?" She whispered in her year, her breath cold and fragrant.
"Sirma, stop it now! It isn't befitting to treat guests like that!" One of the men, that were sitting on the grass called. He was pale, with dark hair and eyes matching his black clothes, embroidered with silver.
"Keep yourself quiet, Chernozem!" She hissed like a snake, her crystal eyes flaming. "And you two, stupid ones, should be grateful to be related to such witches, or otherwise I would have made you one of us by now!" The snake came back to her as she let them go.
"Go home, they are probably worried for you now! If you don't leave until sunrise you won't be able to go home for a long time."
"I won't leave until I met my grandmother!" Kalina's gaze was telling everything Sirma needed to know.
"Stubborn, aren't you! We'll see what good it will do you in future. Follow me you two! If pain is what you want, you will get it!"
Both girls chuckled as they looked eyes and followed Sirma into the darkness.
- Zmeikovo is the village where samodivas, zmeys and other mythical creatures live during the autumn and winter. they left it at Blagovec/Annunciation (March 25) and returned there at Seknovenie (August 29). During this period they live in the world of people.
- "To start dancing on the horo" is an expression that means that once you start something you have to finish it.
- Smil is one of the names Bulgarians give to the dwarf everlast. Its other names are sminchec and bezsmurtniche.
- Kaval is a flute type instrument, typical of Balkan folk music. Popular among shepherds, it's not uncommon for stories to include them playing it while taking care of their sheep.
- Momuk - young, unmarried man.
- Moma - young, unmarried woman.
- Samodivsko horo is the dance samodivas dance when they gather, just like their songs it is said to be the most beautiful in the world.
- Izdunka could be a slang used to refer to a member/child of a certain family, but it could also mean a failure. Sirma is using both meanings at the same time.
- Horo, also called oro, is the typical folk dance of Balkan people. It differences from one country to another. Every country has its different types of it. What's typical of Bulgarian ones is their tact - 22/8 for the Sandansko horo for example, 11/ 8 for the Kopanica, 7/8 for the Ruchenica and Elenino and so on. Dancers gather in a circle, with a bagpipe player in the middle, imitating the rotation of the planets around the sun. Some historians believe it is a tradition dating since the time of the Thracians and their cult towards the Sun.
- Subotnik is a word used to refer to people born on a Saturday. Such people are believed to have supernatural abilities and can see and recognize evil demonic beings such as vampires, ustreli, samodivas, diseases, etc, as well as being the only ones that can pursue and destroy these beings. In addition, the Subotnik can distinguish sorcerers from people. The birth of a child on a Saturday is a great joy for the family, as this birth is seen as God's favour. It is believed that a house where a Subotnik lives is protected from evil magic and spirits, as well as diseases. This belief also applies to domestic animals - dogs born on a Saturday are especially revered (the motive for the plague, which is afraid to enter a house with such dog), while oxen and horses born on Saturday are worth more than those born on other any of the other days of the week.