One summer day many years ago I decided to escape from the city closeness and seek coolness in my mountain village.
At lunch time I climbed up to Dobreva chuka. I wandered alone through the dark beech woods for mushrooms and started going down to the village. The path was winding on the slanting south slope, overgrown with beech, oak and hornbeam. The bushes growing along the rocks had started to get yellow. Around them was the intoxicating smell of thyme.
It was a quiet and hot August day. I decided to take a turn to the opposite gully to quench my thirst. I turned aside from the road and walked at random. I walked for a while and a wide meadow appeared in front of my eyes. A herd of twenty sheep was grazing on it, but neither a shepherd nor a dog could be seen. The sheep were pressing one to another and lowering their heads, they were expecting the summer heat to pass.
I heard a whistling. I looked around and saw an elderly man sitting in the shade under the bushes at the top of the meadow, waving his hand. I approached him and recognized the shepherd uncle Kalin Gorski who, after his retirement, raised a few sheep and fed them on his own.
“Good health and long life, Boris! Are you out for fresh air? You had to be earlier before the baking sun“ he said.
He lifted his large, tough body from the ground and gave his hand for greeting.
“Good meeting, uncle Kalin! Wow, you do not get old!” I replied, and wiped the sweat from my forehead. “I was thirsty and went to drink water in the gully if it had not dried out because of the heat.”
“It hasn’t dried yet... I went there a few minutes ago to fill up my canteen.”
Uncle Kalin took the canteen out of the nearby juniper bush and I took a sip of water thirstily.
“Sit down”, invited me uncle Kalin. “Take a break, let’s talk for a while.”
I sat down on the dry grass, under the shade of the oak bushes, and I gazed unintentionally into the sky.
“What are you looking up? Even the sparrows hid away from the heat... A long time ago there were big eagles circling above the Flat Stone”, as if he were talking to himself.
“The eagles are now only in the zoo,” I said, looking up at the tall Flat Stone that looked menacingly on the opposite mountain slope.
“Listen to the story I’ll tell you.You may have heard it, you may have not.”
Uncle Kalin knitted his thick eyebrows, took off his casket from his grey hair and slowly started telling the story.
“Once upon a time, the old men said, above the Flat Stone, there, where the lawn ends and the forest begins, there was a large, powerful oak tree that was so old that no one knew its age. The tree was very high and it was visible from afar. Stretching out huge branches, it looked like a giant colossus, supporting the sky. No storms, no winds, no heavy snow could break it.
At the top of the oak, a male and female eagle built a nest. Each spring they would carefully tighten the nest and keep one or two little eagles in it. How many generations of eagles had been raised there no one knew.
Next to the tree, the old Roman road was winding. Along it, from late afternoon, people from the village went with loaded mules to the city. Passengers, shepherds and goats, as they passed the tree, took off their hats, bowed to it and humbly crossed themselves. Then they watched the oak and the sky above it for a long time, where the male and female eagles freely flapped their wings and made big invisible circles.
At that time, a goatherd called Kara Stoyan lived in the village - a young and unruly man. He grazed the goats of the village. Only crazy things were there in his head because he was slightly insane.
It was early spring. The springs were murmuring, the cuckoos went cuckooing, the warm spring wing started blowing, the water-meadows and hills were green. The forest was alive with bird songs.
One day, the goatherd led the goats for pasture near the century-old oak tree. A kind of a devil came into his head and he was wondering how to get the eagles into trouble.
Kara Stoyan hid in the bushes near the oak and waited. After a while, the male eagle flew in the sky and reached over the ridge of the mountain to search for food. He stalked while the female eagle left the nest and climbed up branch after branch on the top of the oak tree. As soon as he got to the nest, he reached out, picked up the two eagle eggs on which the birds had sat and put them in his bosom. He got down on the ground. He gathered dry branches, lit a fire and roasted the eggs in the glowing embers. Then he timidly stared at the sky in all directions. He saw that the eagles were not there. He climbed up the tree and left the eggs in the nest.
The female eagle returned at some time. She covered the eggs with her body and began to hatch. She lay long on them. A month passed, then two, three ... The female eagle turned the eggs with its talons and lay on them again to warm them, but the eagles did not hatch. From the care of the eggs and the sorrow for a child the female eagle was exhausted and died one day in the nest.
The male eagle started squealing pitifully, as if he was crying for its beloved. He moved the dead female eagle from the nest and lay down to hatch the eggs. So he waited for the winter to come and one morning when the forest woke up covered with snow, the male eagle died of exhaustion.
Before a month or two passed, Kara Stoyan had languished. He was lying sick with an unknown illness and became silent. The eagles laid Kara Stoyan under a curse and soon after that he left this world.
The winter passed and a new spring came to the mountains. The big oak tree above the Flat Stone did not grow green. The budding branches of the tree began to dry. First died the branches around the nest, then one by one and all the rest. By the autumn, the entire oak tree dried “
“The eagle’s curse is a heavy one!” said uncle Kalin, coughed slightly and drove the flock to water it.