This is the story of a man who went to become a Hajduk, an outlaw, resisting the occupation of his country by the western Khazurks.
The first image you should know, however, is of a small bedroom in late afternoon. An orange cloth hung over the window and the sun light gently tumbled in, bathing the room in a beautiful, orange light. A woman sits on a bed crying. She sits next to an empty crib that will never hold a baby again and weeps throughout the day.
She wept mostly for her baby, although her husband, Dragan leaving her certainly didn’t help. He would have been better off is he could also have simply sat and wept for his lost baby, but he could not. His father was typical of fathers in the smal village where they lived, and taught his son to stifle emotion, unless you were blind durnk in which it was okay to let a little of it slip. Dragan had struggled to please his father. He never actually did, although what he hadn’t realized is that it was because his father was never pleased except for some moments of blind drunkeness, and it wasn’t actually personal and there was almost nother he could have done. While Dragan was a kinder man than his father, dealing with emotions was a struggle, and when faced with the kidnapping of a child, rage was really the only emotion possible. Even vastly gentler men than Dragan would have agreed with him there. So it was that after a long, bitter argument, more yelling than was psychologically good for either Dragan or his wife, a day of tense silence followed by more yelling, you can all imagine i’m sure, Dragan finally left his wife, his house, and his village to set off, become a Hajduk, and kill the bastard Vizier who had stolen his baby girl.
Finding the legendary Hajduks is no simple task. They hide in the mountains and their very survival depends on a great deal of difficulty in smelling out their location. However, theirs is the blood of generations of native Savonics. Thus Dragan went to the graveyard where generations of his ancestors lay, and thought he didn’t really believe in magic and could barely muster a belief in religion in general, this didn’t stop him from performing a little magic rite, exactly as an old woman he had spoken to instructed him.
He was pleasantly surprised and even mildly shocked to find it worked. A ghost appeared, holding an old lantern and guided him, pointing the way that would take him deep into the hills to join the Hajduks.
Thus Dragan joined the Hajduks. He learned to fight, to live in the rough, to plan strategies of both stealth and violence. He learned to drink, something he already was fairly adept at, but he learned to do it even better, to sing songs that stirred the blood of patriots, and of brotherhood. He also learned of loneliness, isolation, and starvation. He learned to kill, both from a distance and with cheek to cheek intimacy. He learned to almost disregard fear. Almost all men feel fear, and he never learned to not fear it, he simply learned to not care one way or the other if he shit his pants and not let it affect his ability to make the enemy shit his.
He never learned satisfaction. Over time his fiery passion and desire for revenge gave way to an ever present sadness that at moments almost made him hesitate dangerously before picking up his saber.
The Vizier had begun his post in the Savonic wilderness by secretly keeping a calendar that ticked down the days until he was done with this infernal posting and could return to the beloved homeland his heart yearned for. He bore no ill will towards the conquered people he was sent to govern and keep in line.
He was unmarried, and while many of his contemporaries had various vices ranging from quirky to downright cruel, his weakness was woman. Seducing the locals was his one big vice and he felt to his credit, not really so bad as he was neither brutish nor unkind in his seductions.
All would have gone well, his post a mere four years and the local population he oversaw would have lived a relatively unbothered existence as far as conquered Khazurk territories go, if it hadn’t been for the damned monkies.
One of the Vizier’s contemporaries had made elaborate and expensive arrangements to acquire a pair of golden monkeys and have them brought to him over in Bosnia. They would have to travel through Hadim Pasha’s territory along with the ridiculous entourage that was accompanying them. The entire procession looked wealthy and important and as such were a giant bullseye to local terrorist organizations, like the Hajducks. Assuming they were carrying great wealth, the Hajduks attacked the procession and killed most of the men, although the monkeys ran free and their descendants live in the forest to this day.
This attack was a travesty. For awhile Hadim was certain he would lose his life over it, but in the end, great and harsh countermeasures were expected from him, and any hope he had of seeing his homeland again for at least a decade, quite probably two, were dashed. He was stuck in this infernal outpost with these violent, uncivilized barbarians who could only be trusted to rob and murder. He thus acted accordingly.
Animosity festered and bred, and by the time some years had passed there was no love or gentleness left for the locals, and in their turn, little to none for him.
The violent, bloody dance between Hajduk and Khazurk continued steadily, until finally a great battle came. A spy in the Hajduk camp leaked their whereabouts and the Vizier swept down with his soldiers. The fight was fierce and brutal.
Dragan’s life in the Hajduks had often resembled a great party of rough and tumble brothers, with drums and drink, some blood here and there, and promises of great victory and retribution that never quite materialized. This fight though, this was something else. The sights he saw would haunt him for the rest of his days. They would have haunted any of the men, however by the end of the battle, everyone else had been slaughtered. Dragan had been knocked out under a pile of bodies and overlooked. Thus, when the Khazurks cleared out, he was the only one still alive.
By the time he crawled his way out it was the dead of night. Various animals were picking at the remains of his friends. In the moonlight, Dragan saw human figures also nibbling on the bodies. Other ragged people were piling the bodies into a cart as several dark robed figures watched on in still silence.
After Dragan had spent a few minutes gathering his bearings, one of these figures approached him. It was a Vampir, looking just like his Baba had described, thin, ghoulish, black eyed and bony with long teeth and nails. The Vampir congratulated Dragan on surviving and assured him he would encounter no more ill will or personal danger on this long night. Indeed, Dragan had been spared by Providence, by the Brothers, themselves who rule over all these, the twin gods, Belo Bog and Crno Bog, to be the hand of fate and the instrument of their Will.
The Vampir invited Dragan back his humble estate, to rest, heal and eat. He promised guest privileges, which amount to further assurances of safety, and as Dragan was too weak, wounded and psychologically shell shocked to do otherwise, he went with the Vampir to his estate, a place nicely nestled in a dark space in between two landmarks Dragan knew well, but in a such a crack the Untouched could not see nor venture in sunlight.
The estate was a monastery and the Vampir and his brothers were monks, followers of Crno Bog, the Black God. The White God had his Sun religions, but the Black God, too had his religions and followers. The Vampir and the other monks had chosen their lives quite carefully and purposefully. They were about Order and Balance, and the Sacred unseen rivers of fate that flow throughout the world, of which Dragan is now cast upon, a piece ordained by the the Twin Gods themselves to fulfill his duty. The vengeance he craves is more than a selfish desire. It is a necessary task, a balancing of the scales, an important move on a chess board Dragan cannot see but which he is honored to be a part of for a few brief, but important moves.
The monks chant their dark verse night in and night out. Dragan eats with them in their great, grey stone hall, and after the rich, heady wine they drink each night, the candlelight and shadows mix to form plays which tell such wonderful and sad stories, and reveal soft and terrible truths.
Dragan’s time at the Dark God’s monastery ends and after one last talk with the Vampir, he makes his choice. He can, he should become a monk of the Black God, but out in the world there is final task to be done, and only with this task will the choice be made. A single drop of blood must spill. The moment will be when the moment will be. No matter the choice, he must leave the monastery and pursue his destiny, and so, bid a gentle farewell by the Order of Vampir Brothers, he sets off late at night, backpack full, saber at his side, to make the long, bitter walk to the Vizier’s palace.
It was only later, along the way, that he came to realize well over a decade had passed in this outside world while he had been in the monastery.