Valkadin Glog is a companion from the Rhodopean lands. He is an old and enigmatic professional vampire-hunter, as well as a good healer, among other things. While he was on his way to investigate the appearance of a rare creature in Central Europe, he was robbed by a bunch of ungrateful peasants and decided it's safer to travel with a warband than alone.
This is the story of Valkadin Glog, as told by himself to some of his trusted companions. As with every story, take for truth what you find to be believable and for fiction – what you find to be not.
“I was born with the name of Boyan in AM 6649, or AD 1141, on the dawn of the Saturday just before the Great Lent, as the third boy in the family of Dragoslav the Trader and his wife Boyana, the local healer. We lived in a beautiful little village somewhere in the Rhodopean Mountains, but I learned its name late in my life, because I was taken away from my family when I was four years old. This is how it happened:
An old traveller from a distant land, another Slovene like us, but from the lands of Carinthia, passed through our village and we welcomed him to stay with us for the night. Incidentally, his name was Bojan as well. A one night's stay became a week's stay and I often noticed the newcomer secretly speaking with my parents, who seemed quite worried. As the week nearly passed, my parents told me that I should go with the foreigner, to become his apprentice and make a better life for myself than they could give me. It was quite a shock for me to hear this and, after all, which little boy would be glad to leave his family to travel with some stranger? I felt betrayed, angered, upset... but there was nothing I could do, so after a few days of taking farewell with my family and friends, we left on our new way.
Soon I learned what the grown-ups had learned before me – the foreigner was a kresnik as he called himself, or a svetocher or glog as my people would call him. In any case, what he did for living was to fight and repel various evil creatures, vampires in particular (or drakos, in the Rhodopean speech). Although somewhat suspicious, it was a respectable profession and not everyone could become such. As I was sabotnichav, meaning I was born on a Saturday, I had the gift to see things for what they are, even an invisible vampire. That was probably why I was taken as an apprentice (in addition to the similarity of our names), or at least I presume that's what the people back then thought. But whatever the reason, I hated it. I was taken away from my family and I couldn't accept it. Bojan wasn't particularly well-suited to deal with children either – his job, my job, and the life we lead is very different from that of ordinary men and women. So, while I eventually became quite intrigued by all the things he taught me in the following ten years (and they were many, too many to mention here and now), I kept a certain distrust and even occasional hostility to my master.
Then came the most important or fatal day in my life – a hot summer's day in AD 1155, in the middle of the Transylvanian woods. It was the day when I would become a vampire-hunter myself, the day I would have to face all my fears and subdue them. In order to do this, I had to pass through the ritual of valkoedene – eating from a sheep killed by a wolf. Strangely enough, as I was left alone by my teacher to “guard” the sheep we had brought, a great white wolf appeared, attacked the sheep, which I had been instructed to allow to happen, and then just left. Certainly an unusual behaviour for any wolf, I thought then, but I didn't really know how right I was, having forgotten what I had been taught all this time, probably due to all the anxiety of passing the test. Anyway, I prepared the meat, ate it and then my teacher came back.
I was expecting all kinds of things, but nothing extraordinary really happened and we started preparing a camp for the night, as it was already getting darker. Time passed by and, as we were talking by the fire under the full moon, I finally gathered the courage to demand an answer as to why I had been taken away from my family and how did he make them let me go. I wouldn't say Bojan was surprised by the question, though it was obvious he wasn't very glad to have to answer it. Though I guess he realized he sooner or later had to tell me, so he finally told me the simple truth: He had noticed that my father was a vampire. It isn't rare for vampires to bed the women they had fancied while they were alive, or to return to their widows and try to continue their lives. I also already knew that if a vampire isn't killed within the 40thday of his death (before that he's only an invisible spirit), he becomes a samsomolets, having a flesh of his own and with the ability to travel in daylight as well. And if he again isn't killed within 6 months, he becomes bonified, a platenik, and often moves to a place where people don't know him. Such was apparently the case with my father, according to Bojan, but at the time that sounded to me more like a disgusting insult than anything else. I grabbed my spear, threw a torrent of curses at my master and then ran away to the thick of the night.
Eventually I stopped to catch my breath, thinking about what I had been told and my knees slowly started to weaken, as I realized it all may have been true. It would also explain better why I was chosen – if my father was a vampire, then I was not merely a sabotnik, but also a dhampir, a half-vampire – a perfect choice for a vampire-slayer. Besides, like with other creatures of the night, not all vampires are actually evil or bad. My father must've been one of the good ones, I thought, if Bojan left him live with my mother and their... our family. As I was thinking those things, I suddenly realized that something massive was moving slowly behind me. I turned around and saw a huge black bear, bigger than any I had previously seen. Having been caught completely by surprise and still shocked from the revelation of my past, I just stood there petrified, unable to move or at least raise my spear to protect myself. The bear drew ever closer and just as it had reached me within a paw's distance, it suddenly turned sharply around, with the same great white wolf I had previously seen, hanging from her back. The two started fighting fiercely, inflicting wound after wound upon each other, while I just stood there and watched. As the two animals engaged in a bitter, close-quarters duel, whirling around on the ground, with the bear having hugged the wolf in a deadly grip, I realized I had to do something, for if the wolf would lose, I would be next. I grasped my spear as steady as I can and swung blindly at the brawling couple with all my strength... I hit... The blade pierced the animal's hide, a small splash of blood falling on my hands, then it passed through all the insides and got out... to pierce yet another hide. The handle of the spear quickly snapped out of my hand, as the inertia kept the two fighting animals rolling for a little while more. But as things calmed down, seeing only the bear's now immobile back against me, I came closer and saw what had happened – in my childish fright, I had stabbed first through the wolf and then right into the bear's heart. Shocked for a second time this day and again unwilling to believe I had killed my saviour, I ran back towards the camp, tears pouring from my eyes in a bitter torrent, only to find my teacher asleep, with a bloodied stain on his chest. You see, what makes a kresnik different from a “normal” glog is that the kresnik retains something of the shamans of old – his spirit is able to leave his body, in the form of a white wolf, and battle the evil creatures of the night. That was the most painful moment of my life. Even today I still feel the same bitterness, the same agony, the same misery, the same hopelessness of that moment...
As the sun rose, I wiped my tears away, buried my teacher, the great Bojan of Carinthia, and swore a blood-oath with the very same spear (the one I still carry today) that I will do my best to continue his work and make him proud. From that moment on I also started calling myself Valkadin, in his honour. Though the irony of my name-change was revealed only later...”
There are many, many more stories to be told of Valkadin's adventures later on, his encounters with various creatures, various people and various lands. They may be heard near camp-fires, sang at village fairs or read from a separate book. But these are some of the things Valkadin revealed only to his family.
“After my teacher died, I eventually made my way back to my homeland. It was difficult for a 14 year old boy to travel alone in these unknown lands. But to my good fortune, I still remembered a few basic words in the Vlach language I had learned during my childhood, from the talks of the shepherds my father traded with. After a number of hardships, two years later I returned to my family in the Rhodopes. That is when I started unravelling the history of our kin. My family rejoiced in seeing me back, though my mother seemed particularly upset by the news of Bojan's death. As I questioned her alone, she told me the reason: Bojan was her father, thus my own grandfather. I did not expect this, but as I thought about this later on, it made sense. That's why my mother gave me off so easily – she knew I'd be in safe hands, with my family, eventhough I didn't know it. Maybe she had even chosen my father on purpose? Heck, that is even why we bore the names Boyan and Boyana – it was no coincidence, after all...
I stayed with my family for several years after that, helping them with the daily chores and my mother, in turn, helping me learn how to make various potions and spells and, most of all, how to control the wolf inside me better. I found another side of her, which I had never seen when I was a kid. The same goes for my father as well. They were both stronger than they seemed, they knew how to control themselves and they taught me some very valuable things, continuing the work of my grandfather.
But as I eventually grew up, wanderlust, curiosity and the desire to learn new things took over me and I started travelling around the lands, occasionally returning home for a short visit. Slowly, but surely, I became a man, a vampire-hunter, even a scholar of sorts. In the following years of research, it also became apparent how much our kin is connected to the wolf. Because Bojan, besides being a kresnik and thus able to manifest his spirit in a wolf's form, was a descendant of a long line of werewolves, as we are as well. I found out about this fairly late, in the fall of AD 1185, when I was in the Russian lands of Novgorod-Seversky. I had heard of a bard, Kolya, who was at the time writing a poem for Knyaz Igor Svyatoslavich and his recent escape from Cuman captivity. Kolya was supposed to know a good deal about a famous predecessor of his, who had lived over a century ago and turned out to be the great great grandfather of Bojan, thus my own great great great great grandfather. As it seems to be a tradition in our family, he was also a third son and carried the name Boyan. According to Kolya and the local stories, that Boyan was a royal bard in the Principality of Chernigov, of royal descent, “grandson of Veles” and a Pagan. The last part is probably a rumour of the common people, based on his abilities – just as many people, as you have already noticed, my daughter, look at us with suspicion because of the rituals from the Old Days that we practice. But, anyway, what was most important for me was that everyone remembered this Boyan, the Bard, being able to turn into a wolf. This confirmed what I thought and thus I inquired more about his origins and story. I'll tell you more details about them some other time...
It turned out his mother was quite memorable as well – extremely beautiful and highly skilled in many things, most importantly in the art of healing. Something that seems to be common for all women of our kin. Her name was, naturally, Boyana, just as yours, your grandmothers and all the first-born women in our family. What was most intriguing, though, was the story of her own life. Kolya told me that she was not originally from the Rus, but came from the south, from our Bulgarian lands, particularly from the area of Cherven. Naturally, I went there and was told possibly the most interesting part of our family history – Boyana is the daughter of Knyaz Boyan, the son of Tsar Simeon. Everyone has heard of Boyan, better known as Boyan the Mage, son of Tsar Simeon the Great and brother of St. Tsar Petar the Pious, famous throughout the world with his skills in all kinds of magic and... being able to turn into a wolf. What I found from the people there was what happened later on in his life, which isn't so well known among our people, namely that he was enchanted by a samodiva, from which he had a daughter – Boyana. They lived in a sacred hidden cave in that region and only once appeared to the people, to save the Bulgarian army from a certain defeat. That is also when Boyana first saw the outside world and the desire to see more started growing in her, until she finally left the cave and started travelling across the realms. I'll have to tell you more about that story later on as well...
Tracing our line further back became somewhat easier then – we all know of Simeon the Great and of his father, St. Boris the Convertor. But the biggest breakthrough happened around AD 1189-1190. At that time I had already started tracking down the members of our large family, to try to unite them and teach them, and was on the trails of one of my distant cousins, Vladimir. Incidentally, it all happened in my home region of the Rhodopes. Tsaritsa Elena, the wife of Tsar Ioan Asen of Bulgaria, was at that time visiting the Batkun fortress, so I decided to go there as well, as Vlad was reportedly in the area and might have went there to see the queen. Unfortunately, he wasn't there and Elena soon left, although it was long past noon and we urged her to stay in the fortress for the night. She refused though, insisting that she needs fresh air, so she left with her retinue, while I stayed to gather some more supplies before I would continue the search.
But as the night fell, we heard cries coming from the foothills. Fearing the worst, I immediately ran down the narrow path to the woods where Tsaritsa Elena had stopped by for the night. As I reached their camp, I saw a number of dead and wounded people. One of the latter told me they had been attacked by some monster, which went after the fleeing queen deeper into the woods. I followed their trails and soon reached a small glade, lit by the full moon, surrounded by the woods on three sides and a high cliff across me, on the fourth. Tsaritsa Elena was cornered by the werewolf there, standing threateningly above her, and I had little time to think – by instinct I took a quick measuring glance and threw my spear. It pierced him right through the chest and at that moment I already knew what I would find. Alas, Vladimir has always seemed to have been a black sheep. Later on I learned from Elena that he was wooing her before she married Asen and never really accepted their marriage. He kept stalking her, harassing her, though she didn't want to trouble her husband with this and decided to leave the capital for this journey, so Vlad would hopefully forget about her, at least for awhile. But it seems he had followed her – was he planning on kidnapping her or just seeing her again, or something else, I don't know...
As I was later asked to choose a reward for saving the queen, I requested access to the new royal library in Tarnovo and spent much time there, reading our old historical books together with the young Kaloyan, who had recently returned from Constantinople where he had stayed as hostage for a couple of years. Of course, my new knowledge of our ancestry also helped, as it made me a distant relative of the royal family, though they come from the half-giants' branch of the old dynasty. In any case, with their help I managed to trace our lineage all the way back to Attila, the Scourge of God, and beyond. Since then, I have been looking, among other things, for traces leading to the legendary Sword of Mars, which Attila had once found. Who knows, maybe one day I'll find it... or you will...”
These, and many others, are the adventures of Boyan, later named Valkadin, vampire-hunter, half-vampire himself, werewolf, witcher, hero, descendant of great people and an even greater samodiva – one of the best hunters of his time...
There are a number of historical and legendary elements woven into Valkadin's story, most of which would normally be understood only by a very few people. So I've decided to list most of them here, especially the historical explanations, although I'll leave a few Easter eggs to be found with time:
- For the historical vampire hunters, you can check their Wikipedia page, as well as the one for the Slovenian kresniks. Of course, I've used a number of other, more detailed sources, but unfortunately they're not available on English.
- The name Valkadin comes from the Bulgarian word "valk" (вълк), meaning "wolf". In the old times it was given as a form of protection against wolves, but in some cases, like this one, it can be associated with the spirit of the animal itself. And since the wolf is the vampire's greatest enemy, according to folklore, it rather fits as the adopted name for a vampire-hunter (besides the more obvious reason that Boyan took it to honour his teacher, the white wolf who died fighting the bear). It is also possible that the name Valkadin is a corrupted form of Valkashin, which itself derives from Valkasin, meaning "wolf's son".
- Boyan the Bard was a Russian bard in the court of Chernigov around the middle of the 11th century. He is featured in the Lay of Igor's campaign, where he's indeed mentioned as a grandson of Volos (Slavic god of the underworld) and able to turn himself into a wolf or an eagle.
- Boyan the Magician (only Bulgarian Wiki available) is the third son of Tsar Simeon I the Great (893-927). The medieval sources say that Boyan (also known by his Christian name Veneamin) persistently kept wearing traditional Bulgarian clothes, as opposed to the Roman fashion making its way into the Bulgarian court at the time, and that he had mastered the art of magic and was able to turn himself into a wolf, an eagle or any other animal. The legend that he was enchanted by a samodiva and lived with their daughter Boyana in a cave is taken from his Bulgarian Wiki page and one folk tale.
- The story about the werewolf attacking Tsaritsa Elena was inspired by a legend of how the village of Patalenitsa (successor of the medieval Batkun) got its current name (which can be translated as "Elena's Troubles"), taken from the village's site. In the original story, her retinue was attacked by forest bandits, so she ran and hid in the hut of an old woman, who outwitted the bandits.
- The mention of Tsar Kaloyan and his kin bieng half-Giants alludes to several archaeologically discovered skeletons, which are attributed to him, his older brothers Petar and Asen and his cousin Ivanko. All four of them are of quite an exceptional height, especially for that time and region - between 1,90 and 2 metres in length.