by Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
by Timothy O. Goyette
A Bloody Homecoming
Maybe the woods had really been the gods' first temples in times past, the place where men had come in order to find some protection and relief, but there were some strange, disturbing and scary sounds coming out of those tall chestnut and beech trees which stood on the verdant slopes they were climbing with difficulty. Of course, Chavdar was not troubled by the forest or the approaching dusk, because the 40-year-old, fair-haired man had lived in the wilderness for most of his life. As a matter of fact, he was anxious over something scarier and more elusive: what lay in that woodland and seemed to be chasing them along the path they had been traveling since the day they had all left Kleidion.
The general had learned long ago to have a deep respect for the forests as they were a source of life, prey and food - but he was also well aware that something darker, worse and more dangerous than all that could come out of those places at times, unfortunately. Wild beasts, cruel plunderers or even sudden wildfires, perhaps. There were also a few strange creatures, in the end, some cursed beings or terrible demons, or so people had kept telling him for so long, since he was just a child. Actually, according to his previous experience of war, humans had proved many times to be much more bloodthirsty and violent than any legendary beast ever imagined by the populace so far. Nevertheless, nothing could ever prevent the common men from thinking that something much crueler than themselves would live somewhere, hidden in the night in some secluded place, far from everyday life and the sight of the local inhabitants, certainly.
The mountain range they were on was about 37 miles long and 5 miles wide, northeast of Dojran Lake. He was the leader of what was left of his previous great army, and Chavdar had many thoughts on his troubled mind at present, of course. He wore the characteristic wide-skirted top coat in gray/white color, with a strong mail corselet worn just under it and some smutty trousers -- that were the only parts of his former rich clothes the man had been able to save from the plundering perpetrated from the winners after the decisive Bulgarian defeat -- besides the general had a small knife at his waist that was placed exactly where he used to have his gold-hilted sword positioned when he went to war in the past. His blue eyes stared at the wild place that was representative of the vast, open landscape they were going through at present.
The course Chavdar and his troops were following was a very hard one, not only because of the recent defeat that had disbanded the once-powerful Bulgarian army, but also for the sad consequences of that last battle, as their bodies still showed the terrible injuries they had received. Along with the mutilating punishment, all the men-at-arms had been inflicted by the winners, unfortunately.
It seemed difficult to believe now, given its poor conditions, that such a once-strong infantry and cavalry were the means which made possible the existence of the Bulgarian state itself. Its easy successes under the previous rulers had marked the creation of a wide-ranging empire. It had been said that, for a very long time, there had been many cases of Byzantine commanders abandoning the battlefield simply because of a reluctance to confront the powerful Bulgarian infantrymen on their home territory or abroad - but those times were long gone by then. Now the capable and decisive Byzantine Emperor had seriously beaten their army and there were no hopes left of conquering again the land past their border they had been invading and occupying over the course of the previous years. Now their homeland was completely defeated and its more experienced soldiers, commanders and generals were wounded, disfigure or already dead.
All that was the outcome of the bloody battle that had taken place two weeks before, on July 29, 1014 at Kleidion -- as the culmination of the nearly half-century struggle between the Bulgarian Emperor and the Byzantine Emperor. The Byzantine army had been able to corner the enemy troops and force a skirmish while Samuil, The Great, their ruler, was away. The enemy Emperor had won a great victory and, bloodily, had 14,000 Bulgarian prisoners blinded, leaving only one man in every hundred with the sight in one eye to lead his comrades back home.
The battle had been fought in the valley between the mountains of Belasitsa and Ograzhden near a small village. The decisive encounter had occurred with an attack in the rear by a force under the daring Byzantine general Xiphias, who had infiltrated the Bulgarian positions, the bloodshed beginning soon thereafter. When the fighting was over, the men captured had undergone the terrible punishment decided by the Byzantine Emperor himself who, subsequently, became known as the "Bulgar-Slayer".
The few surviving soldiers, beaten and injured, were well aware that the rest of the Bulgarian Empire was going to be finally destroyed by their adversaries, and there was no way to stop them by then. But all of them had to share a terrible destiny at present, being forced to focus on a difficult situation, as the men were uncertain if they would really be able to make it back to their villages, being in pain constantly and feeling desperate, given the blindness they had been punished with.
So, their long retreat had started, from the site of the battlefield to their land far away, across high mountains, wide plains and an almost endless territory that separated those from their destination. Wounded infantrymen without their swords or spears, tired cavalrymen deprived of their indefatigable horses and body armor, soldiers lacking in their usual iron shields and heavy axes, one-armed commanders and a few surviving generals in such a bad state. Chavdar -- as the main leader -- concluded that this was what the long crowd of beaten people on the move seemed to be made up of. And most of them were incapable of watching their steps, being forced to grant complete custody of themselves to the few officers that still were capable of seeing, at least by means of one of their eyes. That was the remains of the once-undefeated Bulgarian army, the once comprising warlike soldiers who were usually described before as ‘ferocious beasts covered in blood’ on the battlefield, now looking like as some cattle overcome and calmed down completely.
‘One eye only at my disposal, the same for each commander who had 99 out of every 100 men to lead and to look over!’ the general told himself sadly, while going along the way.His tall build appeared slender and bony now, being very different from the muscular body he showed off just some weeks before.All that was cause of the seemingly unending and demanding course they had gone along, without food and water apart what they had been collecting or searching for along the way and inside the woods in order to sustain themselves.
The thing that got Chavdar down most was that also his son,Kuzman, enlisted in the army before the battle as his personal attendant, had undergone the same cruel punishment of his.At least he hadn’t be entirely blinded, as one of his eyes had been spared by the winners in the end.So, the young man, still 20-year-old, had to share the same burden of his -- and of all the other commanders who still were able to see, at least partly…-- in order to look over the blinded former warriors they were leading through that difficult territory, trying to find the safest passage and the best way to get finally home again.Most of them were eager to meet again their parents and the relatives, but they were also grief-striken because they already knew that they were going to stare no more at their beloved faces, to watch their sons growing or recognize the towns they were born. For the others, they knew, too, that what they saw presently was not the same they were able to before, and their poor one-eyed sight would have always been a cause of affliction and deep sorrow for all the time of their life to come, certainly.
Even though a famous Latin personality once said that ‘The eyes are not responsible when the mind does the seeing’, of course it was not the same.Nothing would have ever been exactly as before,anyway, for him and all the other men captured at the end of the battle…
That was a very wide, dangerous and wild area you had to look at with both eyes attentively, so, just think if you have only one to use for that purpose all along!
By staring at the sun which was going down, the leader understood it was already time to stop for that day and set camp on the place they were at present.So, he gave orders to his nearest men to act accordingly and then make a commander send for his son, as he had to speak to him before the night.
After a few moments, Kuzman came from the rearguard and stopped before his father. Soon Chavdar noticed that, even though his son already was a young, bulky man now, he just looked exhausted, surely he had become weak, debilitated and tired cause of all they were undergoing along that path.Lacking in provisions and other usual supplies, their condition was worsening day by day, and that had a great influence on all of them, as a matter of fact. Kuzman was no exception, of course, as the few things to eat were adequately shared among all the members of the crowd,obviously, and there was not so much to sustain their bodies and make them walk all day long.Somebody had already fainted or fallen many times, others had been simply left on the ground, being unconscious or next to their passing, because they were starving or simply the deep wounds they had on were too serious to let them live any longer.But there were not enough one-eyed men to look over so many soldiers in such a bad condition, of course.
“How are your men today?” the general asked him, in a low tone. There were not many opportunities to talk to each other during the day, actually, as their continuous duties kept them separated for most of the time, having to care of a different part of the group. The number of people to be watched were so many, and there were only a few men capable of using an eye, to at least check the ground, the dangers around and all the rest, anyway.
The young man, with long chestnut hair that covered the upper part of the woolen robe he wore, had decided to always wear a patch crosswise over his lost eye, in order to make sure the empty ocular cavity could not become infected, but also as a distinctive trait on him. He replied with a feeble voice. “They keep going, but we lost two soldiers this morning. And two more are going to follow tomorrow, probably…They were some experienced, able warriors, father.”
“Not more experienced than the other six we lost yesterday, my son…” Chavdar stated, being sad.
“Yes, you’re right. What are your orders?”
“Just take care of your men at night…This area is mostly unknown, and some hungry wild beasts could be eager to come out of the forest and get some fresh meat. We are many, but may also seem to be easy prey for the wild animals, being mostly unarmed and dead tired, you know.”
“Do you think that there are bears nearby?” the son asked the leader.
“There could be, sure…but something else could stay hidden among those trees…” The man stopped for a few moments, then went on. “In a way, I sense it…Call it experience, or simply the worries of a middle-aged, depressed and defeated general…”
Kuzman looked at his father: before his black eyes the parent seemed to be really much older than he really was, surely the difficulties of those days and the lack of good food had hit him hard, leaving him bereft of strength and weaker than ever,in a way it just appeared as a very different individual from the undefeated general he had always been considered until the day of that final battle fought at Kleidion.Zhivka herself, Chavdar’s wife and his mother, too, probably would never recognized the man given the poor way he looked by now…But, to him, the capable leader would have been forever the experienced warrior who was guiding all of them as safely as he could through that verdant, endless territory, undoubtedly.
“I’ll do as ordered, general!” the son exclaimed.Then he left, returning to his company down the slope of that forested mountain.
Chavdar remained seated for a while, thinking of the way he felt and considering all the other duties he had still to accomplish before laying on the ground to fall asleep. Hard was mentioning to himself that the views from up on that high lawn where he stayed at present afforded great views down the valleys...
The last hours of light were going to pass calmly and in silence, as the previous days, seemingly. But it was just that night that all began, unfortunately. And everything changed for worse, from that point forward…
The day had dawned clear over the mountains when the tired army reached the highest point of that forest. While the lines of the men started to pitch camp and got ready for the oncoming night, some small groups went out in search of firewood to gather or tasty herbs to eat.
Three one-eyed infantrymen, who had left their soldiers in some other fellow’s care for a few moments, assembled at the border of the woods, each one with a small knife in his hand, then they held a brief consultation in order to decide where to go.
Nedelcho, an almost hairless cripple soldier in his late 20s, with only a worn- out, soiled yellowish robe on, started the discussion. “We need something else to feed on…the herbs our comrades ate yesterday are really horrible. Other than that the rain which kept pouring all morning made those soggy, so they taste bad now!”
“You didn’t mention the bad smell those already have…” Grigyor added quickly. He was short, with a strong build that seemed to have lost weight considerably during the last few days because of the lack of adequate food provisions.
“We’d better go search for some berries - there should be something edible in the vicinity. I’ve even noticed some fruit trees along the way today,” the third man, who had blond hair on top of a wide, coarse face added. His name was Zdravko and looked to be wrapped in the remains of a dress uniform, probably the one he had on over the course of the last battle.
“Why didn’t you tell our commanders about that?” Nedelcho objected.
“I tried, but they didn’t listen to me. ‘We have to move!’ they kept shouting along with ‘We need to get out of here!’ - so I wasn’t able to do anything else about that…”
“I heard you talking to them, actually, and I think they were right at that time…the rain was heavy and could have endangered all our infantrymen if we had remained on those slopes. The ground was slippery and some disaster could have happened in just a matter of minutes…”
“Aye!” the soldier nodded.
“Alright! But we have to move now, anyway.” Grigyor pressed the others: ”It’s getting dark very fast, the sooner we go, the better…So we can come back before it’s too late and have a good sleep. Tomorrow we have to wake up early, as usual…”
“Just fire up your lamp and go…” Nedelcho said
The three started making their way to the closest path and followed it thoroughly until they were far away from the camp, already unable to see it, because of the darkness and the distance involved. The trees enveloped in the dimness of the night looked like a sort of long wall that encircled the path they were walking along, displaying some weird features of the place which made it even more distressing and a bit frightening.
All of a sudden Zdravko blurted out something, addressing his companions. “Didn’t you hear that sound up ahead of us?”
“What sound you mean?” the second soldier asked.
“The one of bones being stepped on or being eaten…” and at those words he simply shut himself up, unable to go on speaking.
“Eaten?” Nedelcho cried out.
“Do you think some wild beast is around here, hunting for prey near us..?”
“I think the animal has already caught its prey and is now feeding on it…” Zdravko replied, a wary look on his face.
“Maybe we, too, should take the chance to kill something in order to have some fresh meat! Why not the same predator which is now eating his prey nearby?”
“It could be very dangerous …” the other soldier objected. “It would be alright if we stumbled into a boar that we could easily take down, along with its prey which would become part of our dinner, but what if it is something bigger or worse? Like a bear or some wolves?”
“It’s worth a try,” Zdravko stated.
“I’m also tired of eating only poor herbs and rotten fruit…” Nedelcho said. “But we could find more problems than the ones we already have…”
“We need nutritious food in order to heal our wounds and become strong enough to continue our journey. Our homeland is still too far away…Let’s have a look!”
The other members of the small group nodded eventually.
So Zdravko handed Nedelcho his lamp, and his fellow soldier went further down the slope, while the remaining two soon followed. Their advance started off well enough with a clear, wide track until they had to branch off through the forest that was wrapped in darkness all around. While proceeding cautiously, they reached some barren land that was hidden by some plants and shrubs. As they went past that, they saw an open area, a sort of small clearing. That was the place where the sound was coming from, undoubtedly!
The clearing itself was small, more or less round, floored in a sort of greenish lawn, and walled in by a few old beech trees. To their great surprise, it contained only two things: a body, looking like a human, seemingly already dead, and another creature of massive build which didn’t resemble a man at all, his back partly lit-up by the lamp. The beast was massive, covered with hair and, as he turned briefly towards the light, his face had a wolf-like nose and two vivid eyes resembling an animal’s. The wild being behaved exactly like a voracious individual laying over a corpse which was already half eaten. The fact that alarmed the three the most was that the dead body wore part of the armor and the typical clothing of one of their fellow soldiers who were marching on these slopes, while the creature-like thing was feeding on the remains, unscrupulous and hungry, without concern about anything else around him.
Or, at least, he was doing so until he noticed the presence of the group of the three men nearby. So he began smelling the air using those huge nostrils and then raised his massive head in order to stare directly at them. And he immediately stopped eating his prey that lay on the ground.
Some blood was dripping down the sides of his wide mouth, with many great, whitish teeth openly displayed - a terrible appearance on his weird face. As he stood up, temporarily throwing his dead prey aside, he looked taller than 10 feet in size. The being moved quickly against the men and lurched out a paw towards the first one’s neck, that was Nedelcho, grabbing him and taking the poor fellow to the ground in order to kill him.
Then the bloodshed really began and only lasted for only a few moments. Grigyor was the second to fall, among high cries and a sound of teeth already at work.
Zdravko was the only one who was able to escape the cruel slaughter,eventually. While the first two men were standing before the creature, he stayed in the rear at the time of the assault, so he started running and ran fast, moving away from that place without looking back, ignoring all the desperate voices and the sound of bony remains which were being eaten that he happened to hear from afar. He had always been very good at running, so he did his best and got out of that area as fast as he could.
That was the thing that saved his life.
As the only surviving soldier reported the incredible events to the general, who had been awakened suddenly that night, he looked a bit doubtful and didn’t believe his story at first. Chavdar, actually, supposed that a sort of bloody brawl could have arisen among the three, for some unknown reasons, and the killer, who could turn out to be the same surviving infantryman, had taken the chance to slay his adversaries, just telling him a strange story afterwards. That could very well have happened, certainly. But the other blind infantrymen of his company told him that Zdravko had always been an excellent soldier, and he had treated them with great care and utmost respect during all those days, so they believed in his tale, even though it seemed strange and incredible.
The fact was that they had lost two useful one-eyed men all at once, and Chavdar knew how much the army of the blind needed those at present. Now the Bulgarian general really had some serious problems to face…as if their situation weren’t bad enough by then…
The next night the creature struck again and two more soldiers went missing in the end. Over the course of the following days, several individuals were killed by that terrible being, always at night, notwithstanding all the precautions they took and their tries to stay as far as possible from the border of the forest. But in the end their safeguards were of no use.
The General considered that they were in a very bad situation, they had done all they were able to, but that didn’t seem to be enough. At that point it was clear to him and to all the other commanders that it wasn’t simply some plunderers or cruel outlaws who were chasing them, as no valuables -- and there were only a few left in the army -- appeared to be missing. Not even the poor weapons of the dead had been stolen by anyone…
Chavdar supposed that, for all the previous week, the creature had been feeding on the dead of the day -- who had been left along the way -- among the many wounded or tired soldiers of the army, provided that their passing was recent and their remains looked still tasty. But one night he had assaulted some of his men who were still alive, and enjoyed them more than the ones who had died too early on the same day, long before nighttime, and who weren’t some succulent meat anymore for his peculiar tastes. So he had gone hunting in search of something to eat…warriors with some fresh blood in their bodies!
Given their difficult situation, and their the lack of very good worthy swords and armor, they tried to assemble a battle team, equipped with the best gear there was available, who would be able to chase and fight such a monster. Anyway, with the remaining 13,000 blind former- prisoners, presently alive after the first three weeks of long, wearing and deadly route across those lands --with only one man in every hundred with the sight in one eye to lead the others-- their condition proved to be too demanding to let them think of forming a good battling detachment, even if small. This was because taking away some men who were still able to see from the care of the other 100 they had to look after simply meant leaving the others alone and helpless. That way, the ones left behind were likely to become the next easy prey of that creature laying somewhere in the deep woods that surrounded them.
But maybe all of that was also an answer to their problems, and could turn out to be a useful idea. What if they used a group of blind soldiers, left alone on purpose in the open, baiting the creature with fresh meat and then assaulting him on all sides with all their might? Their weapons would be small and of little use, but together they could kill it eventually…or so the General thought.
In a way, according to what Chavdar had already began considering, it was just as if that monstrous being had perfectly recognized the smell of a weak animal, as they really were at present, and was chasing them day by day, sure that there were rich resources of meat he was able to prey upon at will, and nobody could stop his assaults. Unfortunately he wasn’t that far off, the General told himself, and that image, impressed on his mind, represented the bad situation they were facing by now.
Maybe their soldiers had the smell of fear attached to them, a stench of desperation and feebleness that the creature was capable of sensing from afar, the same as a light that directed him out of the forest towards their army in search of fresh food.
They had to set their trap or that bloodshed would never end. And they had to do it soon…
The fighting squad the generals had assembled consisted of twenty men, all with their knives and stones, wooden poles and every kind of weapon they had built or found on the ground. As Chavdar thought on what they were doing, he didn’t like endangering his soldiers by using them as bait, even if fictitious, in order to attract the monster, but he knew there was no other choice.
The two infantrymen who volunteered to try, were ordered to sit down in the woods at night at a distance from all the other armed soldiers, as if they were leaving the crowd so that they could go hunting by themselves or evade their duties for a short time. Then the General deployed his men in the vicinity, surrounding the place where they sat, and just waited for the monster to come. Everyone of the chosen ones disguised their smell -- to not be noticed by the weird beast -- by means of mud, leaves and shrubs that they had previously wrapped their bodies in.
It didn’t take too long before something happened, actually.
Some noises were heard in the undergrowth, then a few movements were noticed through the beech trees. As the first man of the two who were sitting in the woods began to cry, Chavdar gave the orders and all the lamps his soldiers had been issued were lit at once and the creature became visible, right in the middle of the small clearing that had been chosen on purpose to set that deadly trap.
Lyudmil, the most valuable and strongest warrior among all the infantrymen of his army, moved forward with all his speed before anyone else could move and immediately assaulted the monster throwing two blades that remained stuck in the hairy body for a while. But, both of the knives soon fell to the ground, under the light of all those lamps, as if rejected from that massive body, which appeared to not have been hit by any weapons at all.
The same man tried to attack the strange being again, by using a large branch, but his lunge had no effect. Such a monster seemed immune to damage caused by ordinary weapons, as the deep cuts made by his warrior during the first assault seemed to be healed completely. An incredible thing! Then, it was the monster’s turn and the blow he addressed to the daring Lyudmil was terrible and deadly. The general knew it as he looked from a distance, just before he saw the blood coming out of the infantryman’s chest which was going to be pierced eventually. The next soldiers followed, but the result was the same, more or less, and after a few moments four soldiers already lay dead on the ground.
The creature was seemingly endowed with an unbelievable strength and speed far exceeding those of common men, indeed. His physique looked much taller than the any one of the warrior’s in the army he was leading. The General was well aware his entire squad could be of no worry to that being, nor even the best, most trained and fastest soldier in his troops at his best would ever be able to damage or stop him in the end.
While that desperate fight was taking place, Chavdar noticed a thing that left him stunned. The tall monster wore a sort of metallic bracelet on his right arm, the one he was sure he had already seen on someone in his army, so…
It was a wawkalak! Legends about those cruel werewolves were abundant in this region, but it was assumed that these were only tales of old people, or stories which were meant to scare young children. But it was quickly becoming apparent that they had undervalued such rumors.
The transformation of an individual into such a creature was usually thought to occur either purposely or after being placed under a curse, certainly - that condition being considered a sort of punishment coming from the gods. These men were supposed to change into a werewolf at night to indulge in bloody acts. What he was seeing confirmed what such stories said.
The General had also been thinking for a while that the bloody assaulter might be a soldier of his army, or a commander, as the horrible deaths seemed to be following them along the way. But who? And since when? How could he discover the truth? Besides, he remembered that the old stories explained that the bloody being was vulnerable only to silver objects, something all of his men were now lacking in, surely.
After having killed all of the twenty infantrymen assembled for that attack, and also the helpless pair in the middle of that clearing, the powerful wolf-like monster left his dead prey, stepped forward, ready to deal with Chavdar, finally. The creature started in his direction, two bulging bloodshot eyes staring at him from afar. There was no one else alive to help him, and the General was thinking he would have sold his life dearly, by any means, but he couldn’t deceive himself: he knew he would breathe his last soon…
The hairy creature had no tail --it was his way of moving on three legs that made him stretch the fourth one backwards to look like an unexpected tail -- and to appear very large. Other than that, he undoubtedly had human-like eyes, if you could just concentrate on those when he came near.
Then the most unexpected thing happened right in front of him. The creature, very imposing and terrifying, stopped immediately and seemed to be thinking of something. Then he started walking again, very calmly, towards the man.
By approaching slowly, as a good dog might approach his master with some meekness, and by licking the hands of the middle-aged General , the wolf-like being clearly showed him that he didn’t want to eat him – just his men actually. What the hell…
Then Chavdar remembered what the peasants commonly said about these monsters: .Legends had it that the neighbors and family of the men turned into a wawkalak were unafraid of him.
But how did it happen? There was no one else from his family within the crowd who represented the poor disbanded army so far except…his son! Oh my!
The creature stopped licking Chevadar’s hands, then moved backwards and returned to the deep woods where he had supposedly come from that night.
He didn’t even try to attack him or show any warlike behavior towards him. The general remained speechless, alone, in the clearing full of dead bodies, his former soldiers who had fallen on that battlefield.
Everything that Chavdar thought he had just discovered proved to be true the following day, as the General, accompanied by another younger commander of his, named Alexander, reached his son who was washing his eye patch in a small water stream that crossed that plain. As the man approached, Kuzman hurriedly covered his left eye and then put the cloth on it quickly before Chavdar could look at it directly….But the leader already knew the truth, even though he didn’t say anything.
“Father!” the young man welcomed him, then remained in silence.
The General noticed that his son was hiding the eye socket only because he didn’t want the others to discover that he had his once-lost eye again, right in its place…The wawkalak surely was able to make his arms and tissues grow again, as he had discovered the night before…
The man reminded himself of some old memories, a few details he had never understood but that he now saw as important revealing traits. Ever since Kuzman had reached the age of 15, the boy had started leaving the house at odd times, and went out hunting by night on some days. So, the General should have had some suspicions -he should have seen the true face of his son by then.
Chavdar didn’t have the heart to kill him, to slay the only son of his who had survived the bloody battle of Kleidion, as he didn’t want to give more pain to his wife when he had finally got back to his house, if ever.
Maybe, he would never have discovered the truth about what his beloved son really was if he hadn’t seen the creature with his own eyes, if he hadn’t taken him into his army to fight that war. But now that the man knew how the things really were, he was well aware that he couldn’t act against him. Not even to save his soldiers…
After that bloody defeat, after all that had resulted because of it and all Chavdar had lost on the battlefield, along with one of his eyes, he simply couldn’t bear the weight of such a loss, there was no way he was going to fight his son.
It was not that he couldn’t look at what Kuzman had become, but he just didn’t want to see…
“We’d better move on,” the man stated, standing in front of his son while staring at Alexander. “There’s nothing else we can do…just push our men to walk along. Maybe if we can get out of these precipices and the forests of this area, we can have a chance, we can make it.”
“Aye, Sir!” replied the slender commander who soon hurried to make the infantrymen move along.
Chavdar looked discouraged as his subaltern went away. Maybe sooner or later he was going to become the prey of the creature that was his son the following night, who knew? With all his heart, he hoped not.
“We’ll outlast all of this!” he cried out, addressing both Kuzman who was next to him and his attendant who was already far away. The General knew he was lying, but there was nothing else he could do. He wasn’t used to lying to his soldiers, but he was certain that by the end of that bloody journey, unfortunately, he would have become very good at it.
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