pagan Slovens is a tough business, thought Ludwig. They hide in the
like moles, and you have to get them out of the bushes any way you can.
Karanthanian Duke Valtunk was clear: we must exterminate the pagans.
when they worshipped mountains, trees, wells, rivers, and animals, and
prophesied the future, was over. It did not matter whether they
believed in the
afterlife or not; what mattered was whether they worshipped idols,
Perun, Veles, and Mokosh.
his man-hunters came across statues of these idols, the whole village
burn, and the luckiest could become slaves; they killed the rest. The
not want to risk a new pagan revolt, which would again bring the help
Bavarians and Franks to ravage the countryside and take whatever they
all of course with the blessing and encouragement from the Bishop of
who considered himself the religious and secular overseer and almost
of Karanthania; and he was constantly arguing about that with the
dress in a black mood and to shout at his neighbors,
you lazy swine! Shall I help you with a kick? You would only eat, but
hunt the heathens?" The young, gentle Paul, who had only recently still
"drunk his mother's milk," stood up immediately. Carsta, the
dangerous Carsta, filled with strength and muscle, just sat down and
everything, as always, from under his forehead, gloomy and
remains of the rabbits and the bread from the day before on the bench.
Engelbert thought it would be enough to prepare them a hearty lunch,
should take care of their food in the meantime. No one had any
respect for pagan hunters, and serfs avoided them entirely as if they
contagious. No wonder, he thought, since they all have pagan names:
Črnel, Tugomir Dobren, Ostrik. Kasne, Radana, Ljuba, Motimir, Višegoj
personally given the Christian name Ludwig at his baptism by the priest
Friedrik. Although the ceremony was in Bavarian, a language he did not
understand, he still remembered it with pleasure.
first start with the food, so you don't faint in the middle of the
he cried. So the three of them sat down on the bench and hungrily
eat yesterday's leftovers. They chewed on the tough and not very tasty
the old hare roast and the bread they were tearing from the common
is food for us?" said Carsta grimly.
dogs get something like that in the master's house."
that Master Engelbert is looking after us! Where else would you find a
suits you so well!"
a condescending look and got up from the bench. With his long black
face carved like stone with sharp features, and his body that just
strength and hidden danger, he stood out everywhere. It was strange
never took slaves or serfs that would lie down at his command without
Especially as he was almost half a head taller than most of the
his master's estate. Some women made advances to him, but to no avail.
Paul, of slender build and with a delicate face marred by an old wound,
reproachfully at Carsta; his respect for Engelbert was definite and
unshakeable; after all, the master had freed him from slavery so that
be his servant. He was still very inept at fighting but eager to learn.
life was an open book; Carsta's a closed and thrice-locked document.
appeared from an unknown place and answered no one's questions about
what he was. Only to his master Engelbert did he offer himself as a
hunter, and he accepted him at first sight. Engelbert asked him
real, dangerous warriors were always in short supply in this outpost
pagan and natural wilderness. He did not go to church but never prayed
idols or foreign gods, so everyone was at peace with that. As a hunter,
nonsense, Carsta, it is what it is, and we will not change it. We'd
ready for today's hunt, which could mean a great victory for the one
church of our Saviour."
supposed to be?" Paul asked curiously.
Silence entered the room of the thatched hut. Borut was the legendary
the rebellious priest of the pagan village of Jeleni, of which only
remains today. He was said to be able to summon fire and rain, drive
storms, increase the fruit and other harvests, to heal what no one else
better-informed villagers quietly discussed the fact that he always
wives to be buried next to the corpse of their husbands when they died.
also wondered why he always demanded two prisoners from the spoils of
man and one woman, and sometimes a child, who were never seen again;
preferred to keep quiet about it - it was a dark and dangerous matter.
kept silent about the strange demand that the villagers bring him
chickens, but only adult males. They, too, always disappeared soon, but
to, no one dared to ask Borut. Not even Chief of Jeleni - if he wanted
remembered it all well, from the time when he was a pagan child in
Tomislav. Then Borut, as he was an orphan without parents, had taken
him in to
raise him as his successor. Even then, his cheeks were already
figure stooped but surprisingly strong. He remembered the night when
taken the two slaves and the child away, and a terrifying calm had
the whole camp; on such nights, no one dared to go near their humble
however badly he might have been hurt.
had an alliance with the devil; he was so dangerous. It was no accident
the massacre and burning of Jeleni, which Borut and his wife had
the churches and open-air crosses burned to the ground; only those in
and towns were safe - Borut was said to have mastered fire from near
Ludwig was sure that even Engelbert was afraid of him too, and the
this head will be rich enough. But a sadness reigned him, he will kill
adopted father, his youth, his clan. Ludwig started to pray in his
fervently. Slowly it helped.
God in the heavens was, that the Jeleni were burnt and that the priest
took me under his protection at that time." Ludwig thanked God.
the evil spirits out of me and even taught me to read and write so that
master had a particular regard for me. The good father even taught me
basics of rhetoric, medicine, and geometry before leaving this world
better one.” Now, he had to give courage to his soldiers.
Borut. A reliable spy has found out where this pagan priest, this
God-cursed idols, is hiding and where he is surely performing his
rites. Once and for all, we will kill the bastard to whom, even today,
serfs and slaves go for advice and help. Gone will be the high priest
heathens, of whom they say that he is above the only God, that he can
than our ordained priests; that he is above Jesus, who came into this
save us from our sins."
care," said Carsta, cuttingly, "as long as the catch is good. I hope
he has made his fortune, for the pay is poor here."
Paul almost stammered, "if we're going to fight the devil, shouldn't we
take some spiritual help with us?" He certainly meant Father Hedwig.
Ludwig had to admit that Father Hedwig, though ordained, was a cowardly
take him along was out of the question, for he would have expelled the
of his bowels at the first noise and fled in a cowardly manner when any
father cannot be burdened with worldly things, especially if he is not
physically prepared for them." he lied to Paul to reassure him. He
tell him what amused him most was that the name Hedwig meant warrior.
really?" he thought. "He looks on us all as devil heathens, speaks in
the language of the Salzburg because he came from there, raises his
the service of God, and secretly sleeps with any slave who dares not
say no to
him; if she does, he runs away from her like a hare. And his flattery
Engelbert, his family, and those few Bavarians, Franks, and Saxons whom
commanders left behind, mostly because they were of no use."
dismissed these petty thoughts from his mind and continued,
occasion that will not be repeated, remember. Our spy stumbled upon his
by accident, and, according to him, it is so hidden that no one would
found it on purpose. The good thing is that we have nothing to fear. He
with his wife; they have no children and, after the destruction of the
no more armed escorts. He may have dogs or a pupil, but that is all we
this the priest of the pagans who have burned all the churches around
the one in Bischofshofen; how shall we fight such a demonic adversary
holy support?" Paul insisted.
attacking him in the evening, when he won't have time to prepare some
snare, because he will be tired and with the dinner and the rituals,"
Ludwig explained. "I'll tell you the rest on the way. Let's go!"
them went to the stables, cleaned and fed the horses further, and
horse tack before use.
quickly equipped and ready, and, led by their halters, they walked out
settlement in front of a barrier of high, sharpened logs. They were
and set off northwards, where the spy had directed them. The path was
untrodden, and they had to take care when riding to avoid hurting their
legs. Here and there, they saw an isolated farm here and there, mostly
thatched huts and rarely any real houses. In between, there were often
homes that had been burnt down as their inhabitants refused to obey the
only God or even fought against Him.
Perun, Veles, and Mokosh were standing by their side, they almost
principality of Karanthania a few years ago. And what the rebels did
destroy was conquered by the Franks and Bavarians, whom the prince
his aid. So naturally, they took everything they could get their hands
the land to the captured pagans, most of whom quickly ended their lives
journey nor the environment was pleasant. On the way to Borut, they had
crowd along a path between several mountains.
left is the mountain with the deity of light, and on the right is the
of his opponent, the king of darkness. The space between them is
separated by a
river and trees, which keep the two from fighting." Borut's words began
echo in his head from when he was still his chosen successor. And for
devil's sake, Paul saw a cave again.
look at that hollow in
of the hill, there must be something hidden there, maybe a treasure;
and have a look!" the young man exclaimed, full of enthusiasm.
with your caves, holes, and caverns; they're just snakes, goblins, and
and stuff there," growled Carsta. Paul fell silent, and they rode on in
silence to a sort of a junction between this path and a similar narrow
land, equally unsuitable for riding.
monster Vedomec is sleeping at the crossroads, careful that we won't
him," Paul whispered. Ludwig knew the answer from Borut:
Vedomec sleeps at the crossroads, but only when the crossroads are not
shape of a cross, that is have to be like the letter Y." He was silent,
however, on Borut's additional explanation:
also his daughter, Vedomka, which is something quite different, more
and unbelievably eviler. Vedomec mainly destroys people's dreams, but
devoted to Mokosh, destroys men." And here Borut fell silent and did
want to go on - because he was too young, he explained, even though he
knew what her image looked like.
almost childlike face amidst his long blond hair, asked him admiringly,
"You are amazing, Ludwig; tell us more about this place where we are"
the Great Mountain on the left and the Little Mountain on the right,
considered sacred. The pagans used to go to the Great Mountain to pray
they thought it was crystalline and full of water that could cause
Most importantly, they buried their dead in the spires and hollows of
mountains so that you won't get spooked the next time you explore them.
it is said, you could summon Perun, a thunder god, and protector of
sky. His statue mostly has a flash in its hand. The same applies to
protects herds, be they horses or sheep. He is as ugly as the night and
in the form of a snake, dragon, or wolf. His main job is to guide the
underworld and shepherd souls. The worst one is Mokosh....but about
other time. Although Perun is the supreme God, everyone is more afraid
to explain to the innocent young man about the goddess with the
long arms, lush breasts, and inviting crotch. Especially not that she
ruler of sexual relations and women's periods and moon, the protector
in general and mothers and virgins in particular, and that she also
entrance to the underworld and walks freely in the world. And only high
like Borut knew other horrors connected with her.
on foot," he ordered. "This path is unsuitable for riding, and the
branches may hurt us." So they continued their journey slowly, leading
horses to make as little noise as possible.
called Carsta quietly. He raised his hand and pointed to the end of the
which was in a small clearing. Ludwig involuntarily thought back to his
days - when he had played with Nadovid and Čedomir in such a clearing
and secretly watched Mabilka peeing. But these images were overwhelmed
memories of the massacre of the village. Of Nadovid with two arrows in
chest, of Čedomir coughing blood and holding his intestines, crawling
his cut stomach. And of Mabilka being dragged by the soldiers into the
all that could be heard was her sobbing, which ended with her short
shook his head to rid himself of these unbelievers' memories and
clearing. A tall wooden idol stood there, and he immediately realized
Perun. But no one was near the idol, and no sacrifice lay in front of
has not yet set enough for the sacrifice," he whispered. "We must
find the way from where Borut comes here."
inspected the countryside better than a hunting dog, silently pointed
him with his hand the faint traces where someone regularly walked. They
their horses to branches and set off on foot to follow the trail. About
hundred paces further on, they saw smoke.
swords!" Ludwig commanded, and with blades drawn, they stumbled to the
smoking hut. There was no one in front of the hut except a wooden
little further on, which Ludwig knew to represent Veles. In front of
him lay a
black, slaughtered rooster, still oozing blood.
you stay here for the
anyone approaches, warn us immediately, do you understand?"
Paul replied distractedly, already starting to look around.
let's go; God's work is waiting for us!" he urged his roommate, and
the sword in hand, he started to march towards the hut. He kicked the
hanging all around, except in the middle of the hut, where there was a
with a bench and three bowls, and to the right of the shed, where an
woman was bent over cooking something. She turned to them, and he
was Borut's wife, Jarinka. She looked at him,
had to come to this, what Borut saw in the fire, that it is our
fate. His disciple has come to kill him. How do you feel, you traitor
people and their murderer? How does your new God, who is so powerful
was easily nailed to the cross, make you feel?"
witch, lest I cut your throat!" threatened Carsta.
your friend, so beautiful and so strong, true honey for the female
yet he touches not a single one. Perhaps because his mind is always on
fair-haired young companion, with whom he is innocently skinny-dipping,
he secretly looks at him lustfully? What do you like most about him?
buttocks? Maybe it's mostly that you want to suck his -" Carsta stabbed
Jarinka fiercely in the chest, and when she fell to the floor, he
pound her until she was almost dismembered.
say a word to me about this and especially not to Paul!" he snapped at
Ludwig, who just watched the whole thing and didn't dare interfere.
killed all the animals in the hut and picked up three roosters.
these with us, at least we'll have something to eat," he said. Ludwig
cockerel is a bad omen and brings a great misfortune." He tried to
warriors bring even worse misfortune," Carsta growled and continued
cleaning the roosters.
be it, just no burning, the fire and smoke would have alerted the
Borut, and he will never be found again."
thing is that the old hag won't be buried and will be devoured by wild
you carrion of the devil!" Carsta was still furious. The allusion to
was completely tearing him apart. Ludwig waited until he cleaned all
cockerels, knowing that this work would calm him down.
take those birds, and let's move on, our target is Borut, not his wife,
maybe a pupil he has acquired. He will have to sacrifice to his
on this day, which will have an empty, black moon so that he won't be
least not for a while. We must follow him on."
hut. And the first thing they noticed was. that Paul was nowhere to be
hell did he go? Did he go to relieve himself or what?" worried Ludwig
the hut and said, "There's a well-trodden path diagonally up here. But
think it's Borut's path because, on the other side, there are traces of
single man who went from the hut to the mountain near there." Carsta
sounded worried but not too concerned. "You can see the entrance to a
cave from that side. I bet Paul was drawn there by his eternal
these caves and spires." Ludwig agreed with himself.
the grass and prepared to wait. Fortunately, it didn't take long before
heard the awkward footsteps of the forest beginner. Paul emerged from
woods, disheveled, sack in hand, and ran towards the two warriors.
last! And how hard it was! The cave is full of skeletons sitting
wall, and I almost ran away because of it! But at the end of the cave,
must be over a thousand paces long, stands a statue of an idol with a
its hand. And in front of him was a sack. I grabbed it, and I tell you
have never run so fast and so much in my life. Thank God I am safe now."
did you bring in that precious sack?" asked Carsta, half mockingly.
there must be jewels or pearl necklaces inside," exclaimed Paul.
just jealous because I'm rich now."
let's see this wealth, this treasure, open it and show us; I promise we
take anything from you."
Carsta and began to untie the sack. When he opened it, he cried out
giant snake slithered out of the bag and bit into his neck. Paul stood
wriggling and flailing his arms madly, and after a few moments, the
way and disappeared into the grass. Paul continued to squirm, and his
companions watched helplessly. Finally, he stopped and immediately fell
ground. Carsta ran to him, put his head in his arms, and began to
will take you in and heal you, you just have to hold on." "Hold
"How, I am burning, everything in me is on fire!" Green foam appeared
on his lips, and his breathing became deeper and shorter. He cried out
more times and then fell silent. His head lay in Carsta's embrace, and
whole body was unnaturally contracted but still. And his face became
Paul was dead.
since Ludwig had known him, Carsta sobbed. He held the dead Paul in his
and moaned aloud that he will get well. He cradled him like a baby and
his cracked voice songs in an unknown language. The sun had risen, and
is dead. All we can do now is to bury him temporarily so that he won't
touched by wild animals and come back for him later so that he can have
Christian funeral." Carsta looked at him silently and didn't move until
Ludwig remembered what to say:
pagan charm. I've looked through the whole sack, and only the bones of
babies are in it. Borut must have offered this terrible sacrifice to
from him came the poisonous snake. Because there are no poisonous
big around here, somebody attracted them. And who is the only one
attracting such snakes?"
right!" Carsta blurted out. "We have to avenge Paul, and the devil
Borut will pay for it! Let's go at once, up that way, and the slant one
path. Let's go, avengers, my sword and knives crave for his blood!"
buried Paul and started up the path. They had not gone three hundred
a new figure of an idol appeared on the horizon. Ludwig immediately
it as Mokosh. In front of her, too, lay a slaughtered black rooster,
female priestess kneeling beside him. She must have been young.
forward and jumped on the girl. The woman screamed, but Carsta hit her
the face and threw her to the ground. He tore off her robe so that she
naked and shouted,
I'm going to show you who the real man is, and this heathen is just the
one for it." He roughly put her legs apart and threw himself on top of
with his trousers down. The girl just lay there looking up into the
suddenly, she raised her hand, and Carsta groaned. And he lay on her
been thinking about whether or not to follow Carsta on the girl,
to him. He turned him over, and there, right where the heart was, was a
narrow knife stuck in the body. Carsta was dead, and he had been killed
innocent-looking girl staring at him in silence.
heathen, what right have you to kill Christians, you
gives me strength, Mokosh gives me life, Mokosh will take me to the
underworld," she replied calmly.
also give you what is yours, don't be afraid for it, you a traitor and
We will see if your God can protect you from her!" And she began to
the words of the evil charms, which Borut still vaguely remembered.
her mocking look, put him into a mental fog, and he feared that she
him. Finally, he just had to swing his sword and slit her throat.
Carsta away from the idol and the girl and quickly shallowly buried him.
if he could only show two women's bodies, at the cost of Paul's and
lives, Master Engelbert would punish him. He could only be saved if he
catch the High Priest, who was being secretly worshipped by the whole
except the Franks and the Bavarians.
head will count as a success with Engelbert, regardless of the deaths
other warriors. He looked around feverishly and saw a beaten track
leisurely downwards towards Perun's idol. The sun was setting in the
which meant the time for sacrifice was approaching. He set off down
slanting path, but something he didn't quite understand was disturbing
thought, all these paths were diagonal, as if they were a triangle, as
approached the statue of Perun after about three hundred and fifty
the idol was not alone. Kneeling in front of him was the now bald but
recognizable Borut. He, too, was offering to his infernal God the cock
slaughtered before him.
quietly and then fell on him. Borut was cut down without resistance;
that, he turned him around and put his sword to his throat.
have finally come, my forgetful disciple, to slay your teacher and
honor of your crucified God, just as I saw in the fire. Thou hast had
hang around today. Have you forgotten that in one day, you have visited
heavenly deity, the female deity, and the deity of the earth? It is a
but dangerous path, especially if you forget what it means, you, my
you talking about, you foolish old man? Your times are over, and you
babbling. And what is this constant repetition about forgetfulness?"
forgotten that the most fruitful sacrifices occur between several gods
Is it no longer clear to you, that you strode between the gods of the
earth, and the underworld in a triangle? First, you sacrificed a
Veles, a virgin to Mokosh, and now you will sacrifice a head priest to
The black cock is not thy food, it is thy fate, and Mokosh, whom you
offended the most, hath pronounced judgment and punishment on thee, O
forgetful disciple, and I shall be a witness to it."
pale. Only now did he remember that sacrifices in the gods' triangle
immense wealth or a terrible penalty. And, in retrospect, that was
what he had done. From Perun to Veles, from Veles to Mokosh, and from
Mokosh …back to Perun - he had unwittingly performed the
ritual of the
threefold sacrifice in the triangle of the gods, about which only a
was spoken. Otherwise, there was a terrifying silence and silence about
one wanted to be the next victim.
given you a judgment and a punishment, she has, that one amuses me
because she has given you something you won't want, but you will have
want," Borut continued.
my forgetful disciple, cannot escape her, no matter where you go."
looked at him calmly as if Ludwig were a piece of rotten meat.
to stop thinking about pagans, rituals, and spells; he thought instead
Engelbert's prize and furiously chopped at Borut's head. Borut didn't
groan at this, just stared mockingly in his face. It took him three
the blade to behead him.
me if you dare!" he shouted to the pagan gods.
stronger than all of you, idols!!«. He wrapped the head, which, even in
was as laughing at him, into the cut part of the robe and went to look
horses and the two deceased.
When he had found them, he saddled one of the horses and led the other
with the bodies of the two fellow soldiers, along with him.
ride through the unnatural silence in the woods and meadows, he arrived
fort in the middle of the night. No one was waiting for him, for all
asleep except the guards. So, he, with Borut's head in the improvised
to the room assigned to him. Ludwig lay down on the bed with a sigh of
and threw Borut's head carelessly so that it was lying under the bench.
into a dream.
something distressing, frightening. He heard panicked shouts and
Fort was under attack and nobody was defending it! He must help! He
rise, but could not. What was wrong?
towards the fire, which was burning steadily, and saw a naked woman in
him. She had matted red hair, a face that showed the lines of forest
and unattractive breasts that drooped, a figure that bore the marks of
hunts and childbirth, and bony, marked hands and feet on which long,
nails were constantly moving in and out.
he whispered wearily. Her very appearance paralyzed him.
came, exactly as you
invited us. My
family and friends are now having fun with your people and gods watch
approvingly. There will be a lot of slaves, meat, and human children
my kin, soon.
what Mokosh sends you personally, and I am her judgment and punishment,
love. Mine, for you, are now and shall remain mine alone." She talked
guttural voice that sounded like it came from another world. Now he
why Borut had refused to tell him about her; for Vedomec only destroys
dreams, but Vedomka destroys people in the most terrible way. A
poor sheet off him; he lay naked under it and she laid down on him. She
raised him, took him in, and began to move in a strange rhythm over
with every movement, his life force was draining and ebbing away. He
would not last much longer.
defend himself; he only grew emptier and more helpless as she moved
above him and
he within her. He was so weak that he was barely conscious. He knew
it would all end. That soon, it will be the end of him.
dying and the fort was burning.
the head under
the bench was laughing roaringly.
© 2023 Borut Slokan
Bio: In his own words; "I am a
retiree in Slovenia. Glad to be alive."