Chapter 2 | January 18, 2020.
The guys that Tragomila hung out were full of weird stories. They traveled along the entire Milk River and its branches, from the high Bear Teeth to the Crystal Sea. With products and goods, the ships carried their unusual experiences, often deliberately created and twisted to capture the human imagination. Tragomila loved listening to their stories, especially from her friend Chedodrag, when he returned from a trip with his father and uncle from the north. She had always dreamed of sailing with them and exploring new landscapes.
“Just as we sailed out of the harbor, packed with silver fox fur, a strong west wind blew black clouds at us. We expected it to be short, but unfortunately, the blizzard hit the sails very hard. The wind was pushing us in the direction of the black canyons. People we trade say that in the depths of the canyon sleep ice dragons, which wake up in the presence of humans. The waves have already pulled us deep into the canyon. You wouldn’t believe what the fog looks like there. It is silky as a girl’s hair and white as milk. You could touch it with your hand. My father ordered us to determine the direction immediately because the compass was not working. Something distracted it and made the needle spin like crazy. All the while we wandered through the thick fog until we came out into the clear narrow canyon. Strange were the landscapes, with no trees and rocks that ate light. The sky was not visible from the thick gray clouds. I swear I have never seen so quiet and clear sea water smooth as glass. Through it was a green bottom full of red round stones. I have not seen any fish, but what I am I will never forget,” Chedodrag said.
“Did you see the ice dragon?” Tragomila asked impatiently.
Her friend looked at her deeply with his big eyes. “I wish I had seen a dragon and that it had dragged me into the jaw of nothingness. On the sea floor among the stones lay a pale girl. She looked dead as she was dreaming eternal sleep, but when I leaned in to see her better, she opened her eyes. She looked at me like you now. Her black eyes were full of sadness, hatred, and anger. They seemed so familiar to me as if I had seen such a face somewhere. She fed me with her pain and dragged me into the water. Through the bones, I could feel her cold hands streaming and hugging my heart. If it wasn’t for my uncle to stop me from falling over the fence, I wouldn’t be among you right now. When I came back to look at the bottom, she was gone. “
“Sounds like you saw a rusalka,” concluded the trembling, black-haired boy who sat next to Tragomila.
Chedodrag shrugged. “Bole, I don’t know if it was a rusalka or some fairy-tale creature, but her creepy eyes haunt me in my dreams and call me into the cold depths.”
“You’re lying Chedo, as always,” the other fat-faced, low-growth boy frowned.
“I swear to you Momo, I clearly saw it!” Chedodrag exclaimed.
“Then how did you get out of that damn place?” Momo asked suspiciously.
“Well, the ship went out into the open sea and the compass started working. We were a few miles east, near Merchkoln,” Chedodrag explained.
Momo complained. “You’re lying! The story doesn’t make sense. First, you got into a storm where it was snowing and the wind was blowing your boat! And then, by some miracle, you slowly entered the deep misty canyons that somehow suddenly became so shallow and visible that you could see the haunted girl underwater. You can make it better! ”
Chedodrag stood up from the box and put his hands in his pockets. “Think what you want Momo, but I’m sure of one thing. That girl was underwater and she knew me, I felt her call and her suffering. Her eyes were the most horrible thing I’ve seen in my life. “
“What an adventurer like you were scared by the eyes of a girl,” Tragomila teased.
Chedodrag smiled and said gently. “Mila, as soon as I thought of your blue eyes, I immediately forgot about that freak.”
Tragomila blushed and looked away. Chedodrag has been seducing her for a while. They had known each other since they were children and their parents knew each other since Chedodrag’s father sold fur and clothing to the Volosad’s nobility.
“Bole, let’s go fish, I can’t listen to this Chedo anymore,” Momo said to his friend and led him to the shore. The Chedodrag seemed to be waiting for that moment. He sat next to Mila who was smiling and kissed her gently.
“I waited a long time for this, to kiss your beautiful red lips,” he said.
She blushed and looked at him gently with her blue eyes. “Me too, I was thinking of you everyday.”
“When I saw you in that pink dress, I wished to kiss you”, he said. “Only that annoying Momo stopped me from doing it. He is so boring, he is always complaining.”
“You know he doesn’t like it when you make up stories,” she replied.
“Mila, you don’t trust me too?” He complained.
Tragomila looked at him gently. “Everyone in the city knows you like to make up stories and lie. Even your father and uncle say so. But I like to listen to your stories, even if they are fictional. ”
Chedo replied angrily. “If you went with me along the river, you would see the same as me!”
“Oh I would like that, but you know what my parents are like and that I was destined to be a kneginya and a representative of my house. ”
“That’s not life for you!” He grabs her hand. “You don’t want that. Let’s get out of here together! “
Tragomila laughed. “You are so silly today.”
“Mila, I’m serious,” he looked at her and she realized he wasn’t kidding. “I love you so much. Mila, I want you to be my wife.”
Her breath stopped in an instant. “Do you really want that?”
He laughed. “Yes, my dear, I want to be with you. All my life! To kiss your lips and look into your blue eyes every morning. I don’t need anything else, just you! We’ll take one ship and sail away from this empire. There are stories that people from Zelenostrva have found a huge land in the west. Let’s go out there to explore and start a new life. Just you and me.”
Her heart was mixed with joy and desire for adventure. She kissed him passionately and bitted his lips . “Oh dear, I like what you are talking about and I would love to come with you!”
“Then let’s do it now! There is nobody around, we can just jump into a ship and flee to the Zelenostrva.”
She trembled. “Now? But I am not ready!”
“Don’t worry, I will buy you everything that you need. I earned a lot of money. Please, just do it!”
She watched him as her heart pounded. It was enough to say Yes, and they would leave immediately. She could fulfill her dreams and leave the dull court life. But when she looked in the direction of her home, she realized that such a decision would be crazy and immature.
“We don’t have to hurry, we better come up with a plan and make a deal with our parents. ”
“We don’t need a deal, they will never accept that!”
She grabbed his arm. “Understand, my dear, I cannot leave my parents so easily, they will worry about me, my father would turn the whole world to find me. We need to prepare ourselves for all this and when the time comes, we can get out of here. “
Chedodrag stood up. “What are you talking about? Everyday you complain about your parents and how you don’t feel satisfied with your life and how much you would like to leave them.”
“I know, I know,” she cried. “You’re right. But please just understand that this decision will be crazy. Let me write them a letter so they know why I’m leaving them, so they don’t think I’m gone. “
“I understand. Tonight, I’m going to the sea with my father and uncle. They will stay on the trip for two years, going a little further this time, deeper to the northeast. I can hide you in the boat and when we stop in the Mostograd, we can take the boat and leave to the northwest in direction to Belobrodlye and then Zelenostrva. I’ll be waiting for you here before they arrive, but if you don’t come at the time, I must flee with them.”
“Ali right, we make a deal,” she said. “Hope we will make it.”
Chedodrag caught her around the waist and kissed her. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
She smiled and walked away.