The Slaying of the Psoglav
By Đurađ Mutimir Vasović
Let me tell you of the tale of the end of the Psoglav. The Psoglav, the dog-headed servant of the daemon Valaen, plagued the Vasoyevi for near five hundred years. For the Vasoyevi had once worshipped and called the daemon Veles in days gone past, but when they began to become complacent with their worship, Valaen sent the Psoglav into their midst, eternally chasing them. Sacrifices to the Psoglav were made in the camps to appease the bloodthirsty creature. First, always, would a chicken be sacrificed. When that would no longer sate the creature’s hunger, a goat, then a bull, and finally a horse. But always the creature hungered until, every few years, only a sacrifice of one of the Vasoyevi’s own, chosen by lottery, would stave off the daemonic monster. But then, of course, after a time, the cycle would begin again.
Centuries ago, before the time of the patriarchs and matriarchs, there was a boy born amongst the ever-traveling Vasoyevi into the Višeslavić, a family of fair repute made up of a half dozen wagons. Born the nephew of the župan of the family Radoslav and son of the hunter Strojimir and herbalist Evdokija, he was named Vasilije. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a hunter like his father, learning much from him and attending many hunts as he hunted small animals with the other children whilst the adults hunted the larger game. In the eighth year of his life, he had a sister that was named Angelina whom he cared greatly for and swore to protect from any danger. During this time, he also struck a close friendship with another child named Boris of the Isperiev family. As he grew up, he noticed how a few of his hunting friends disappeared and, when he inquired, was told only that “the Psoglav comes for naughty children who don’t listen to their parents.”
Upon entering the twelfth year of his life, Vasilije was told of the true nature of the Psoglav, as was the custom of the time. He was taught the beast preferred young children the most and that the time for another sacrifice was coming soon.
The day of the lottery arrived and, to Vasilije’s horror, Angelina was chosen as the sacrifice for the year. Believing it to be his responsibility, he volunteered to sacrifice his sister to the beast. As the caravan broke camp, he brought his sister into the woods under the guise of a game. As they went deep into the woods, Angelina expressed fear and asked him if she would be safe, which he said she would. Once he was out of her sight, he ran as fast as he could back to the caravans before they left. As he ran, he heard the cries of his sister before they were drowned out by the roar of what he could only assume to be the Psoglav.
When Vasilije returned to the caravans, he was filled with guilt and swore to kill the beast with his family and friends being little able to persuade him otherwise. Throughout his adolescence, he practiced by hunting wolves and other predators then bears when he reached adulthood. Boris, although being amongst those who tried to persuade him, stayed with him nonetheless. When he heard of the return of the Psoglav, he ran to the forest to confront the beast. Whether he sought death or honestly believed he would be able to kill it was beyond even him. When he saw the beast, he was briefly full of terror with its scars, matted fur and bloodstained mouth. When he recovered from the shock, he barely dodged the claws as they came for his head. When he swung his sword to the beast, it connected but did not harm the beast. Nonetheless, he tried to fight it until the beast pinned him. As the beast prepared to kill him, Boris came and sacrificed himself to the Psoglav, freeing Vasilije and allowing him to return to the caravans. Distraught at his failure and the loss of his sister and now his greatest friend, Vasilije fell into a depression and refused to leave his wagon. He barely ate and drank with his hair becoming long and unkempt and himself becoming dirty and fetid.
Months later, he heard of a man roaming the caravans and causing a stir. He was Sava of the Zìdarić family; and though he was a Vasoyevi, he preached the Word of Godan. He taught how the Lord provided many gifts to the Vasoyevi people with their freedom to live on the road being just one. Attracted by these words, Vasilije joined his growing congregation much to the chagrin of the župan of the Višeslavić, now his cousin Vlastimir. Vlastimir despised Sava and those he taught, and he threatened to expel Vasilije and any other Višeslavić from the caravan. Yet, the Word of Godan was compelling and more and more converted.
One member of the newly converted followers of Godan was a woman named Ileana of the Lupeșcu family, who was an herbalist and brewer in the caravan.. Under the effects of her herbs one day, she received a vision from the Veličan Žigmund, who thanked her for her devotion to Godan and blessed her with a token of his soothsaying abilities. Upon waking from her vision, her hair had become a brilliant red, and she called herself one of the Red Followers of Sigismund, becoming the first Red Sigismunda, or Sigismundaroșie. She went amongst the followers of Godan, telling them of this vision and also told them that the Veličan Žigmund had given her one more gift, knowledge and power to free themselves at last from the Psoglav and Valaen.
Many of the people did not trust her, but she asked them to place their trust instead in Godan, and she began to gather together those who wished to slay the beast. Chief among them was Vasilije, and his impassioned pleas to the people turned many of their hearts to Godan and they felt strong enough to face the beast. Ileana came to them all and blessed them. In a ceremony lost to all but the Sigismundaroșie, Ileana brewed a special tincture, which she gave to the brave men, and they felt the power of Godan within them, justified and sanctified before the Almighty, and they knew they had the power to defeat their long-suffering enemy. Over the course of several months, they turned the hunter into the hunted, seeking out the Psoglav and learning of its habits and weaknesses. Three times, the Vasoyevi did battle with the Psoglav, one time for each of the Exalted that came before Sigismund, weakening it and driving it into a cave to recover. At the last, Ileana handed a curved knife to Vasilije, proclaiming that he was destined to be the one to slay the Psoglav.
He entered the cave alone and found the Psoglav, cowering, wounded. Vasilije’s heart was turned to pity, for before the might of Godan, even the fiercest of beasts was nothing. He took his knife and ended the beast’s suffering, ending also Valaen’s centuries-long reign of terror over the Vasoyevi. Standing over the corpse of the beast, Vasilije swore to hunt all manners of monsters and beasts to atone for the years of sacrifice made to the Psoglav, becoming the first kȁjatac. Vlastimir had expected the party to die, so upon their return, he expelled Vasilije from the caravan. No longer a Višeslavić, Vasilije would form a new caravan that would grow in size and reputation with his son, Joanikije, being elected župan of the now fully Canonist caravan, taking the daughter of Ileana as his bride and the first Matriarch. And from his line, the Vasović family was eventually born, beginning the grand destiny laid out for that family and the Vasoyevi.