Seven hillocks, seven sheepfarms
The sun drove the fading moon away from the sky. A brand new day dawned. However, I only scented this, as it were, because even though I had more than enough of everything in my magical chamber, the window was smaller than a palm.
Carefully, I first opened my left eye, then the right one, and – as usually first thing in the morning – I yawned, whined, stretched my paws. Complete silence everywhere, when all of a sudden sparrows spoilt a morning idyll – they were chirping, squabbling, quarrelling pell-mell... Look – what is it they are gossiping about?! I grew cautious ... my little ear, entangled in a coat sleeve, I quickly got right. Cor! They are mentioning some unknown corners, stories that I have never heard about. These must be some fairy tales!
Laziness was still overcoming me, but curiosity was even stronger. I tell myself:
– You can be lying about once you`re as old as uncle Tascherl, now it is becoming of you to explore the world! –
Into the bundle, which I had found in the chamber corner, I hastily tossed a snack and the old-fashioned blue coat, ... in case it got colder.
I stepped out right to my fairy-tale world – I took delight in the idea of not being just any dachshund, as I have my name now ...
– My name is Taši! –
– Woof, woof, woof ...! – I greeted the castle walls in my own way before I set out to the unknown world! I followed my nose.
– It`s so easy and simple to wander across the world..., – I thought to myself, proud of my courage. Suddenly the road split.
– And what now? To the left, to the right? Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor... – I mumbled to myself in an undertone, – so which way? To the right! –
I dashed forward, wagging my tail happily, but after a while I was barely shuffling along a steep winding road. And all that dust! ... I rather jumped into bushes. Prickles or not, at least a whirl from under the wheels will not sweep me away into a ditch ...
– I was suspecting that! – I got chilled somehow. I put on the coat and ...
I happened to be in kind of a village. – Have I ever been here or not?! – I was murmuring under my whiskers.
Then, out of the blue, there`s an old, weary dog standing in front of me, asking me in a hoarse voice whether I had got lost:
– You`re not from here, are you? – he looked at me with somewhat sad eyes. – You`ve got fed up with a comfortable life with your master? That`s why you`ve escaped – to breathe freedom?! Aren`t I right? – he barked grimly.
– You can see well, I`m not from around here. But you haven`t guessed the rest – I neither have a master nor home. And I sleep all by myself, despite being still tiny, in a secret chamber in the Krásna Hôrka castle. I have got my name only lately too. I`ve been given it by my famous uncle Tascherl ...! You`ve never heard about him? –
– I have and I have not, I worry about completely different things than noble dogs – the village dog barked. I even felt sorry for him, as he certainly hadn`t received much goodness. So I only asked him:
– What`s your name and whose house are you guarding? –
– Bodrík, old Bodrík they call me and within my memory I`ve been serving to old Ištván, a village watchman. He is all and weak too, and can`t hear well. Still, he is a better storyteller than anyone else in the world. Come with me, and listen... You just can`t leave once he starts with his stories. –
We spent all the evening long lying at the feet of the watchman Ištván. And indeed, suddenly there were a great many fairy-tales ...
– And you faithful animals, do you know how this castle grew on this nice hummock? – old Ištván began, and pointed towards the hill high above the village. Of course, we didn`t know. We were scarcely breathing, excited with curiosity.
– A long, long time ago, when those spruces in a forest were no larger than small seeds, a shepherd was roaming the countryside. They called him Bebek. Beginning early in the morning until late in the evening he would be strolling with his sheep. And at night? He would sleep curled at their warm woollen bellies, just like that – outdoors in the open air. Covered by the star-spangled sky. He knew his vast bounds well. Along with all other living beings within.
One day he spotted a hawk hunting a mouse. Without a moment`s hesitation he snatched the squeaking mouse from the eagle`s claws. But not every mouse is the same as others. This one turned out to be the mouse king, and he rewarded Bebek generously. And he would give him this piece of advice:
– Head for a forest at night, and upon the third stumbling over a rock lift that very rock...!
The shepherd did just that. It was worth performing a good deed, for he found gold and silver coppers underneath. He placed them in a big leather bag, but on his way home he tripped one more time. Over even bigger rock which was glistening like the clearest star in the sky. Well, that was neither silver, nor gold, nor copper. He just managed to find a huge diamond!
Bebek, left only with his poverty and six sons added to it, hid those treasures well, so that thieves roving the countryside could not possibly despoil them.
On the second or third day he drove his sheep back, shut the sheep-pen, and went to visit the king himself; to return the precious stone honestly, as he had found it on the royal property. He was much delighted by the jewel and wanted to give the poor shepherd a fair reward.
– What wages do you ask for the treasure you have brought so bravely? –
– Well, most merciful lord, I`ll be happy if you give me seven hillocks... – Bebek pleaded politely.
– And what would you do with bare hillocks ...? – the baffled king questioned and chuckled. – How odd this bargain is with you exchanging the diamond for hills where nothing else but grass grows! –
– That`s exactly what my soul is longing for. I shepherd my sheep and they need good pasture. And sheepfarms..., I`ll build them on each hillock, - the shepherd explained to the king.
– However, not only was Bebek not stupid, he was practically provident. By using coppers, which he`d found under the rock, he built for each son not a sheepfarm, but a castle! Long after they would proudly tower above the countryside – Sádek castle above Hrušov, above a village Silická Jablonica, the castle Falcon Rock, and further in that direction, where the sun rises, the Turňa castle and three castles on western hills – in Plešivec, Brzotín and Štítnik. The seventh one, which he built for himself - Krásna Hôrka – was the most beautiful one and it retained its position. That`s it, right there above the village – old Ištván finished his narrating.
– And what about others ... – are they not standing anymore?! –
– Well, they aren`t. Only two or three bare walls remained from some of them, others are just ruins overgrown with weeds and prickles... or they had completely collapsed. –
He was a bit drowsy, but Bodrík, and I must admit that me too, was curious to hear what lord the poor shepherd had become at last. Ištván said with a flourish:
– There`s nothing worse than when a poor man becomes a rich man! Have you not heard about marauding knights?! They were some villains. Also František and Imrich –descendants of the shepherd Bebek – belonged to them. They would drop the bells from churches, and mould cannons from them. All cannons up in the castle come from this act of sacrilege – the watchman spat angrily into a corner.
Then he turned completely silent. He stuffed his pipe with some tobacco and started puffing without saying a single word. Still, he couldn`t do that for too long. It was necessary to announce a night hour. So he took his trumpet, slung it over his shoulder and slowly, step by step, he was walking along the village.
– The trumpet blasted out, the clock struck ten... – the sound spread from above the bounds towards the castle soaring on one of Bebek`s hillocks.
– Blast, blast, blast ..., the clock struck... – phew, it scared me! I stuck out my muzzle from under the earl coat. There was peace and tranquillity everywhere. I could see neither Bodrík, nor the watchman anywhere around.
– Could it be just a dream?! – I mumbled and yawned loudly.
– A sleep yes, not a dream, anyway! The earl coat caused... that I found myself in the old days... – the idea crossed my mind.
– What if I put on now... – I was ransacking through a colourful heap of clothes ... – these lovely striped summer shorts. They would perfectly fit me. For a summer trip to... – no sooner had I finished contemplating the idea than totally different times occurred.
In a fertile village Jablonov nad Turňou farmers were just gathering the tenth part of their rich harvest into a granary. But that will be a different story.
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