Dragan slowly walked across the land, reflections of otherworldly darkness moving across him. He realized he could see the dead. They were mostly pointless, wandering ghosts, muttering to themselves. Some tried to engage him but he usually ignored them. Day after day he continued shuffling across the countryside, feeling more and more a part of the shadows, like something neither quite alive nor dead, but living in a grey realm in between.
He came at last to the palace, wandering, stumbling through the town until the palace lay within his sight. So many people, so many smells, so many dead and living shuffling around him that he could hardly stay focused.
It was as he strode to the entrance of the palace that his wife Danijela appeared before him, the girl he had left so long ago now, left weeping with an empty crib in the autumn afternoon. She was dead of course, for how long he couldn’t say. She begged him to turn back. She told him there was nothing before him but blood and sadness.
He told her had come so far to avenge their child, their lives. He did this for her. He did this for them. Couldn’t she see that? He did this in her memory. He would avenge their lost lives, their lost family.
Danijela shook her head.
If he cared so much about her, about their lives, then where had he when she needed comforting? When had he cared so much that he had put her first? She had never been his priority. He was always looking to be at the cafana, drinking with the boys. All those nights drinking and boasting, bragging about his sexual conquests, all those meaningful little glances he and his mates gave each other when there was some secret that had to be kept from the girfriend, and they were so stupidly inebriated, did they possibly think they were being subtle? She sat through the bragging, she sat through the secrets and the cheating and knowing that she came somewhere later down the list of things he wanted as part of his day. And she put up with it because she was a fool with an idiotic fantasy about how they could be, one day, when he was settled and devoted. She was in love. She was so stupidly in love with him and she knew you had to put up with a certain amount from men. So she did.
And he was so annoyed with her for being annoyed with him for always choosing the cafana over her. For always hoping that just once, it would be her who was at the top of list, not several priorities down. She had so much love for him, and yet it hurt so bad to realize she would never be the center of his attention. She would never have the kind of love a dumb girl dreams about, she would have whatever was left over for her. How could she not be hurt? How could she not show that? And in the end, when she had been crushed beyond all hope, he hadn’t even then chosen to stay there for her. It was more important that he get his “vengeance”, that he even the score, because some sense of balance of pain was more important than compassion for his heart broken wife.
And despite it, she had gone to her grave still loving him.
Before she left, she put her ghostly hand on his cheek and told him that she was sorry. Please, don’t harm her baby. She was so sorry.
Dragan just stood there as Danijela disappeared.
Guards rush over to him and recognizing the clothes he wore, Hajduk clothing from the terrorist band that had been obliterated 18 years ago. His sword was taken and he was escorted into the palace. Surrounding by armed guards he was brought into the courtroom, where the Vizier sits alongside members of the courts, guards and a young woman at the Vizier’s side. The girl was about 19 years old and carried a Janissary blade.
The Vizier pays a small respect to the long defunct hajduk and believes Dragan to be some kind of delirious madman whose mind did not survive the massacre that happened so long ago. He asks him what he wants? The time of resistance is long over, the war lost, why does he come to palace?
Dragan says he came originally to slay the Vizier, to which the entire court chuckles. Dragan is a shell of a man, and unarmed at that. Dragan admits he is not sure if he has the will for that anymore. He has realized he has never done right by anyone who mattered and is unlikely to start now.
The Vizier asks him why he is so forlorn? Why now? His comrades died long ago.
Dragan tells the Vizier that he took his baby.
The Vizier is shocked. He asks Dragan to explain, then pauses and asks what village he is from.
Dragan tells him.
The Vizier nods slowly. Yes, he knows the village. He has been there, some time ago. He had a woman there once. A sweet, wild thing… it was an affair and she got pregnant. Was this someone close to Dragan? His girlfriend? The Vizier tells him it is unfortunate, but the baby was not his. The baby was the Vizier’s. He only came for what was rightfully his. Did his girlfriend not tell him? The baby, the girl is grown. She is right here. The Vizier point to the girl with the Janissary sword. She is not Dragan’s daughter. She never was. Dragan was so busy searching for revenge based on a misunderstanding, and he should have been watching his own house, taking care of his own woman. The Vizier tells him to go back home. Go back to the woman. Some time may have passed, but she was a wild thing then, surely she can offer some comforts to a lonely man even now. A good woman after all is one of the deeper comforts in life. Next of course to children. And the Vizier pats the back of the girl beside him.
As the Vizier talks, Dragan hears the chanting of the Black Monks. It builds in intensity as the Vizier speaks. Dragan tries to ignore it, tries to block it out but it just builds in his ears. It prays to things and purposes Dragan neither understands nor cares about. He hates himself. He hates this bastard of a Vizier. He hates it all. He is regert. He is the senseless fool. He is disorder and failure and fury.
The chant suddenly goes silent as the Vizier finishes speaking, with a remark about Dragan would have been better to have had an actual child himself then pursue the sad and doomed life he did.
A heart beat.
Dragan explodes in a whirl of supernatural violence. Despite having no weapon, he overpowers the guards, soon wields a saber and in a matter of minutes massacres the entire court and almost all in it.
At last, when the cacophony of blood and whirling violence settles, there is only Dragan standing before the Vizier with the girl in between them. His wife’s daughter. The daughter he thought was his. The daughter who was never his.
Dragan and Dijana face off at one another. They both stand there, sabers drawn. Poised. Waiting.
It is her blood which if spilled will make him a Monk of the Black God. Thus, if he attacks her, the Black God wins.
It is his blood she was warned not to spill. If she lets him attack her without defending, the White God wins.
If they both attack, Aza, the god of chaos wins. If they both lay down their swords, Osa the god or Order wins. But… if the Black Monks serve order than are they serving Osa unwittingly and therefore order is served by Dragan attacking and balancing the scales of karma. But the girl is innocent in the entire affair, her blood spilled is not balance, it creates imbalance, it serves Azar, then. Which of the gods are aligned with whom?
All is still for this one tense moment between the palace and the heavens where much more than the players at hand can conceive has been bet upon what shall happen in this moment.