Rada's eyes were two thunderstorms, though she kept silent for a few moments. Moments that Kalina used to observe her face as much as she could and try to find the slightest resemblance to her late mother, whose beauty was often compared to that of a samodiva. And now she knew there was a reason for that, even no other people but her and her siblings, as well as Asya, Delyana, Bela and dyado Blago would ever know. However, she couldn't remember her mother's face anymore. She didn't want to admit it, but it was the sad truth that had been casting dark shadows in her soul with every passing day. No! These thoughts should be chased away at once otherwise her wound might reopen again and even though they had prepared small flasks of zhiva and murtva voda, a second reopening for the day could be so exhausting she wouldn't be able to recover even when applied.
"Remember why you came, Kalina!" her own voice echoed, as she had stopped the bond between her own mind and that of Beloslava, so they would rest a bit. They were far too inexperienced to keep it for such long periods of time yet. The fact they were spending only half a year learning together was showing - Kalina was a fast learner, while Bela was still afraid when learning even the easiest and harmless spell after trapping herself in that mirror for 300 hundred years...she drifted again. Now wasn't the time to question her education.
If she couldn't think of her mother's face, she had to think of someone else - her sister Bozhana, the spitting image of knyaginya Bisera, as beautiful as her, if not more. "Think of her, as if she is here beside you." And her older sister's white face started appearing right next to that of Rada in her mind. A warm and gentle smile from her rosy lips, the long golden hair, rarely let loose from braids, the dark eyes, that hid so much from ordinary people...nothing from Rada was there. Her eyes were two distant and cold stars, her hair long and free was shining in silver and her skin had none of the pink blush Bozhana had. Her lips were shut tight as if she never smiled in her life. Both were beautiful, but if Kalina had to be honest with herself she still found her sister prettier than any samodiva, no matter how out of this world their beauty is, it was a deadly beauty, while that of the second knyaginya of Kostica was honest and pure, and even though Kalina was a bit jealous of her for her looks, neither she nor anyone else was able to hate her for it.
Rada who didn't blink once since Kalina pointed her out and revealed their blood relation, finally spoke. Even if her voice was sharp, she still showed respect to her tzarica.
"You know I hold no secrets from you, my tzarica, but family matters should be disguised in private. I ask to be excused and speak with my granddaughter alone." The way she spoke the word "granddaughter" made Kalina realise what the words that Beloslava stated a while ago truly meant. A fact she completely ignored while recklessly diving in another idea for something close to a complete family again. Samodivas mary mortal men because they steal their bulos and by that, they are bound to obey them. And every day they try to retrieve it and run away. How much shame does one samodiva feel after being captured from a mortal man?
"Very well, then we shall leave you my yourselves and join the rest's celebration." And with those words she got up from the ground, the other joining here. A big deer, with enormous antlers, came from nowhere and the tzarica sat on it and rode off without bothering to say farewell to them, while her svita followed her by foot. When they disappeared out of sight, Rada turned her gaze towards Kalina, who noticed the change in it - it was filled with sadness and loneliness, nothing of the former fierceness was to be traced.
"You have nothing from his features." Her voice was low, nay, it was weak, while her eyes had lost a bit of their light. "Bisera was his living and breathing copy in almost every aspect, however." The way she spoke her mother's name, made the young witch of sense think she too was hurt by her demise. "You are wondering who stole my bulo, don't you? Who is the man who fathered your mother?"
Both girls nodded, feeling their hearts beating faster with curiosity. Chills ran down their backs as the samodiva came between them and embraced them. All three bodies shook a bit with anxiety from this unfamiliar feeling.
"Come now, let us sit down as I tell you this tragic story that shall find its place among the many tragedies of the Petrosinovi."
Silence. Breaths being held, as the anticipation for the truth to be reviled rose up.
"It's been years since I thought about him. I try not to, but here we are now, I am left with no choice." She went silent again, her body tense and her eyes becoming wet from the tears that were about to overflow at any given moment. "Daylight is not deadly to us, but it makes us weak. Even so, I liked to go for walks during the day, watching people work from afar. Sometimes I would build up the courage and help out during harvest, to young brides and women with children...Surprised? We can be good too, not just cause trouble for mortals, but fear rules over people. Never forget that!" Yes, fear is one of people's greatest enemies, for they can become too cruel to others under its influence. "Near a forest, I love dearly, a young shepherd started to take his sheep out grazing. He lived alone, at the end of the small human village, with his loyal dog as his only company, but he never seemed lonely. Sometimes he would go in the forest to hunt or fish, but he'd never take more than he needed. Same with everything else. And with time I found myself watching him every day. One day I got too close and his dog chased after me, trying to protect his master, but he stood between the two of us and let me escape unharmed, even though I could have protected myself. In the process, my bulo fell on the ground. Do you know what he did? He folded it neatly and left it for me to take it back. He could have kept it and forced me to become his wife and I would have been bound to do so, but he wasn't like that and that was what made me fall in love with him. I continued visiting near his home every day until one day when he finally spoke to me and asked me about what was the nature of these visits. And all I could do was proclaim my love for him. I handed my bulo to him and a kitka that I had kept near my heart. After that, we started living together. People knew what I was and shunned us, but it did not matter, everything was alright because we had each other. Soon it became the three of us because our Bisera was born. Our happiness was growing every day and before I knew it five years have passed. People say that mnogo hubavo ne e na hubavo, and I feel there is some truth in that. He fell ill, not because there was some plague or sickness roaming around, but because of me. My love for him was so strong that it was killing him. That's the fate of a samodiva. Even our pure love is deadly to men, even if we don't wish them to harm it is inescapable. So to save his life, I left them. Watching my daughter from afar, not being able to embrace her or kiss her, tell her how much I love her ever again. Years rolled by and that man forced himself to marry another woman, so our girl wouldn't be alone if he leaves this world too early. His new bride was mean and hated her from the moment she set her foot in our home. After his death, that came not long after their marriage she went back to her parents' home, leaving my girl alone. But Bisera was so headstrong. She donned male clothes and took over her father's work. People were already talking badly of her because of me, so it didn't bother her that their disapproval was paling up. One day while Svetlin, your father, was on a visit to a nearby town. Their eyes met and they knew it! They were barely children, but it did not stop them from meeting in secret every day while his visit lasted and he promised to come back and take her as his wife. A word he kept. They seemed happy. I was sure she was safe with him, so I didn't bother to check on her as often as before, but it seems that was my mistake."
Her story ended here. And the tears that were coming down her face were turning into biseri when falling to the ground. The name "samodiva" spoke of the destiny that she had to bear - sama and diva.
"I know why you are here. I can't join you and your siblings, as much as I want to. Meeting them will only cause us all pain. It will be for the best if they don't know about me. I can't stay with humans too long, it's against my nature. I can't give much advice to you, or your sisters."
Kalina's face became paler from the pain that she felt. As if some invisible hand was pocking in her chest, holding her heart and squeezing it until it bursts.
"So we came here for nothing."
"No, you didn't. I know it is not what you came here for, but it is better than nothing." Rada's embrace was warm, a bit loose, as the samodiva was still a bit reluctant and unsure how to show her affection, but Kalina allowed her tears to fall and pulled her closer. The only person in who's arms she cried was Delyana. She was going to tell her how much she loved her after they come back home.
"Please, keep this Kalina safe." Rada's plea to Beloslava revealed a bit more of her vulnerability. "Now, shall we send you home? It will be for the best if you leave this place before sunrise otherwise you won't be able to go home for quite some time and people would be worried about you two."
Both girls nodded lightly and stood up from the ground, following her, with fast steps. Kalina's worry about Vihur started to appear again. Sirma didn't allow them to take it, so Chernozem promised to look after him. She agreed, but was still unsure was it a good idea to trust him with her sharkoliya. Even if he was a friend of Asya and Delyana as Bela told her, he was a zmey. And she promised Vihur that nothing bad would ever happen to him tonight or at any other time. The light, laughter and music were starting to be seen and heard again and both girls started walking even faster, eager to go leave Zmeykovo. They had almost reached the end of the path when they stopped so suddenly that they almost bumped into Rada's back.
What they saw waiting to meet them at the samodiva gathering scared them more than anything else this night - Asya, Delyana and Blago, who was armed with a sword. Chernozem was on their side as well, taking care of Vihur, just like he had promised and speaking words of comfort to him. Delyana was starring intensely into Vida's eyes, her face fierce like that of a warrior, while the tzarica seemed amused.
"Where are they, mother?"
Here are the explanations of the words in Italic
- svita - entourage;
- kitka - a flower, a branch with the flowers on it or a small bouquet;
- mnogo hubavo ne e na hubavo - a proverb, meaning that too much good/ nice won't lead to good;
- biseri - pearls;
- sama - alone;
- diva - wild.