Ivan D. Hristov

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MANOLE MACRELATA

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THE ORDEAL

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THE ORDEAL

THE EAGLE’S CURSE

Translated by: Росица Шопска

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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 ea

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