The punishment they received for their little "adventure" was pretty unexpected. It didn't even feel like one, but you could never know with Asya and Delyana's parenting methods. Kalina's annual stay was cut short with two weeks, and as for Beloslava...well, as much as a mischievous duo they were, working together had them progress faster than when they were apart. Thus, Asya, very much reluctantly, had Beloslava accompanied Kalina and stay with her under the guise of being a new playmate and handmaid. However, the girls weren't deprived of one last "outing". The wedding of the tzarkinya of Dolnata zemya and the zmey Chernozem was one of a kind event. A three days of celebration, with noble and not so noble guests, mostly friends of the groom, had gathered from far and near to join the happiness of the lovers.
The realm of Dolnata zemya, located under those of men, was always in a state of twilight, the colours seemed to be murky when you first entered, while the people were paler and lived longer than ordinary people and even witches. But they were no different than their neighbours upstairs, even when the latter treated their existence as nothing more than a tale your grandmother tells you while cooking on the fireplace. Their songs, their food, their way of life was the same, with little difference, that came off as natural, just like you'd expect two cities to have their own individual charms. But nothing was more charming than Morana herself. A pale, frecked cover face with shining eyes, graced by a crown of silver braid, her smile was lighting up the room. Both girls were surprised she was a little more than a decade older than them. With matching clothing of gold and silver, Chernozem stood with his black curls and beard, he'd joke with his fellow zmeys, who were as equally appealing as him but would stop each one of them, who'd try his luck with Kalina. That was when he was not too busy being completely captivated by his now-wife. The wedding was a joyful event that left them in high spirits for their upcoming journey.
Bela, like a child, was asking numerous questions about everything they passed and Kalina would happily answer what she could. Blagovest, who had decided to join them to the capital and continue with his travels from there on, would question the changes in his once familiar views, or tell them an interesting memory he'd have from this place. The twelve guards, who'd always escort her to and back, all looked at him with mistrust. After all, he was a stranger to them all and their heads would roll if something bad happened with the knyaginya they were trusted with protecting. Or that was what they thought. For the people all over Suntolia, she was staying with the daughter of a highly-skilled healer, her great grandfather had once trusted. Once they reached Delyana's palace, covered with magic to appear as a simple house, large enough to host them all with no troubles, they'd all fall asleep, with their dream becoming the memories they would tell upon their return. They would occasionally wake up, to take the little knyaginya on a few days visit to the palace of the knyaz of Zhegavia - Grozdan Subotinov, and his wife - Zdravka, the daughter of the Zagorchinovo knyaz, the region below Kostica, that was the first to help and give advice to Albena and Vulchan, when their tragedy struck. And now tragedy had struck both Zhegavica and Zagorchinovo.
The news reached them a day journey to Dobrovo, the seating of the Subotinovi family. Few days prior knyaginya Zdravka suddenly went into labour, even though there were three more months left for the child to come. Already a woman with frail health, she closed her eyes before hearing the child cry out. And tragically, it would never cry, nor laugh, nor speak or sing. The crowded church and the hot day made her dizzy. So many people crying and wailing, like coyotes...She hated it. They didn't know her. They knew the knyaginya, but not Zdravka. The gentle, kind kaka Zdravka. One of the few people that wouldn't give her looks of pity. She'd always have good words of comfort. She even trusted Kalina with holding her newborn daughter, Divna, when she was only ten. She even said that she'd be the godmother of this child after it's safe birth. But it wasn't safe and she was gone.
Pale face, dressed in her wedding attire, she looked so unbothered by all this. Her child, wrapped in white cloth was placed over her breast as if it was sleeping. Her grieving father, the knyaz of Zhagorchinovo was holding Divna, who at five, barely had a glimpse of what was happening around her. With her little arms she was reaching out to her mother's thinking she could wake her up. Kalina thought to herself how she wanted to take her in her arms once more, like when she was a babe and lead her away, like Delyana did with her, and save her from this. Was her parents funeral the same as this one? Did Bozhana reach her hands to their parents like this? Was Albena holding her? Was Vulchan silently excepting everyone's condolences with a stone face, unable to show his grief, like Grozdan Subotinov. As if he died along with her. Like he was waiting for all this to end, so he could just lay down and be buried with her. The fire in his eyes was put out, his dark hair had strands of silver even though he was only ten years older than Kalina. People were whispering he hadn't eaten since he was told he lost both wife and child and his looks proved those words too. It wasn't a knyaz before her, but a broken husband and father.
The women around her were using even this day to gossip. How could they be like that? She never understood what people liked so much about it. Does poking your nose in other people's business bring them some form of joy she didn't know of? Even the priest starting the prayer didn't stop some from their talks. The feel of dizziness came back again...
"Someone...someone, get me out of here, please!" Kalina thought to herself A sharp pain ran across her chest as if cold steel had pierced her heart. But she had to stay strong. Raising her chin as high as it was proper for the moment, the breath she let out, put the other women in their place. She couldn't give herself to her living wound now of all times. She mustn't let herself cause a scene here of all places. Not now! She has to pull herself for Zdravka! Discreetly placing her hand over it to make sure blood hasn't started flowing, the feeling of relief because of the dry silk was short-lived, as her vision started turning black and she lost balance. Feeling herself falling, she shut her eyes tight. Instead of the marble floor, she felt someone's arms catching her. Grozdan Subotinov, the knyaz of Zhegavica carried out Kalina Petrosinova, one of the Kostica's knyagini from the church under hundreds of piercing eyes and whispering lips.
For the rest of the journey home, Kalina, was silent, keeping to herself the dark thoughts that plagued her mind became all that mattered. From mourning over the death of Zdravka, she slowly shifted towards reflecting upon Delyana's words. Those that should have given her answers, but instead, she birthed new questions! A curse was mentioned. The family curse, she knew about it but not its exact nature. At a convenient time, when it was just the two of them, she'd have a talk with Blago about what he knew of it. She was aware of some distant blood relationship with Asya and Delyana, but their sister being the foremother of the royal and twelve families was a bit too unexpected as her name was lost in history, or never recorded or left unwritten purposely. Another Kalina of the Petrosinovi family...What was she like?...
Even now, when she could feel the Zagorchinovo's knyaz gaze that made her shiver. He had a right to give her such gaze for what she did! She disturbed the last time he saw his youngest daughter. Kostica was located above Zogorcinovo, yet he still insisted on escorting her party all the way to Vulchekraishte. It gave her a scene of relief, as it meant they wouldn't be stopping and greeting as many people, as usual. Being a which was hard and exhausting, but being a knyaginya could feel just, if not more, dreadful.
Kalina would switch her hands to wave at all the people that were stopping their work or were stepping out of their homes to greet and cheer for her, encouraging Beloslava to do so, as well. Their precious and fragile girl. The whole of Kostica was celebrating! But was it the same in Vulchekraishte? The whole town was crowded and it took three times more time for the carriage to reach it. Hundreds of flowers were thrown and handed at them, but the girls barely succeeded at accepting them. People all over Kostica could be seen with the colouring of the Petrosinovi, but compared to the ruling family, it was dull, beautiful, yet lacking the special that fascinated you.
Once they passed the stone gate, a loud voice proclaiming Kalina's official return home, Beloslava, who was naturally unused to all of the attention she had become subject of, thought she could finally rest. She was wrong, for when she stepped out of the carriage, in front of her stood a taller, older and sharper version of Kalina!