They had made good progress. Velibor stood watch by the window of an old barn they had stopped in for the night. He had learnt the lady’s name was Maria. They were at the top of a hill, and once they were over it they would be decently safe for the night. Watching the distant war brought back memories of Antonya. He felt the need to cry, but couldn’t. He must be strong for this family, and help them to safety. Just then Maria walked up behind him and brought him a little blanket. She offered him some food and he ate gladly. She was good company, he thought. She knew that things were not okay, yet asked no questions. She understood.

Maria caught Velibor smiling at her, and laughed at him. “Velibor, are you getting tired? I will take watch if you want.” He smiled back, only just realising what he was doing. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. I have a bad habit of that. Can’t sleep?” They smiled in agreement, and conversation flowed like that for a long time. Soon the sun rose, and no sooner did the children. They ate quickly and began their journey again.

He avoided the main road, as the further they travelled, the more people came up to them and asked to borrow one of the horses. But Velibor needed to move the family away and fast. He wanted to help everyone, but it was just not possible. They rode through many fields, barely stopping in case someone caught up on them and took a horse. By lunchtime they were over the hill and a fair distance from it. They were approaching a fairly large town, and decided to stop there for the night. It was then that Velibor realised he had no money. He turned to Maria, but she had nothing either.

The children looked at them, wondering what was going on, when Velibor noticed the little boy sitting with him was playing with something. “What are you playing with there?” The little boy laughed and emptied his pocket. The other children took out a few coins each as well. There was enough money to find them a place for tonight, and a few other things. Velibor had the biggest smile on his face, thinking of all the things he could do himself with that money, when it suddenly dawned on him that they had no idea where this money came from. “Bato, where did you find this?” Maria said sternly to her son. “You put us in sleep and we got it mummy” he replied instantly, smiling at his mother. “Mum,” Elena, her oldest daughter spoke up “The hay that you told us to sleep in, we moved it around to make it more comfortable for us, and these coins started falling out. So while you were talking to Mr. Velibor, we went in turns to check the whole barn for money. We found lots, but couldn’t bring all of it, so we split it up into our pockets, carrying as much as we could, and we buried the rest.”

Elena was maybe only eight years old. She was the oldest of all the children here. And the leader. If she did something, they did it too. Slowly she began to empty all of the coins that she had hidden, and the other children did too. Velibor stopped them quickly though. “Kids, hide the extra coins you just brought out of your pockets. If anyone sees that much money here, who knows what will become of us, and everyone will charge us too much money for somewhere to stay.” He gathered the coins they already had, and together they proceeded to enter the town. Just before the first house, he turned to the family. “I know this may be uncomfortable for you, but for us to get a good place to sleep and eat, I’m going to have to pretend to be your father. So don’t call me Mr. Velibor when we get there and people are around. Is that okay? But remember, this is just pretend, and only while we’re here. Okay?” The children seemed uneasy about this, and all looked to Maria. She smiled and nodded to them, and together they entered the town.
Many of the first places rejected Velibor. Some houses were eager to take him until he mentioned that he had a wife and kids with him. He came towards the end of the main road, with things not looking too good for him. He decided to try one more house. “Maria, if this house doesn’t work, we’ll just grab something to eat and then ride out into the country and find another place to stay out there. I’m sorry children.” With a bowed head, he tried the last house. It was a very big house, double-storey, and very antique. He was pretty sure that they wouldn’t get accepted into this house.

An old man opened the front door, and was surprised to see him there. “Why hello young man! This is quite new. Usually the only visitors I receive is the town officials asking for money. What can I do for you?” Velibor smiled half-heartedly. “Me and my family, my wife and children here, we’re looking for a place to stay. We’re escaping the coming war. We can pay you, help you in any way if you need it, just please, you’re our last hope.” He was almost in tears. He really wanted to help this family, and he felt like he would fail if he couldn’t find them beds for tonight, and food as well. But the elderly man had a big smile on his face. “Company? You want to stay in my house? I’m honoured! You can stay as long as you want to! You can stay forever if need be! This big house is so lonely and sad now that I am by myself. Come inside! Please!” He held out his hand for Velibor to shake, but Velibor hugged him. The children’s faces lit up, and they all rushed inside. Stopping in the foyer, they were amazed at the first sights of the house. “I’m sorry it’s not very clean. I’m old and fairly poor, I can’t afford to pay a maid anymore. I do try to clean though.”

Maria called all the children to her, and they began to talk in hushed voices. The elderly man began to talk to Velibor. “My name is Marius by the way, but you may call me whatever you wish. I am so pleased that you would come to me for help. Would you like to see your rooms?” He led them a grand staircase and onto the second level of the house. “This level” he said, opening his arms “is all yours.” “But what about you Mr. Marius? Where will you sleep?” Marius laughed at Maria. “Darling, I live downstairs. I am too old to walk up and down these stairs everyday. So this is all for you.” The children laughed and ran to the bedrooms, inspecting each one. They settled down, and then slowly one by one poured down the stairs to see Maria in the kitchen. She had begun cleaning up, and Elena called the children to follow suit. Marius had gone to have a midday rest. When he woke an hour later, the house was shining and spotless, and wonderful smells were coming from the kitchen. Maria had begun to cook up a late lunch with what there was in the kitchen. Velibor, on the other hand, had gone into town to find out news about the war.

He walked into the first pub he saw, expecting to see some people there that would help him. He walked up to the bar, and began to talk to a man there. He didn’t know much, except for the fact that there was a senior messenger of the king staying in one of the inns on the other side of the town, and he was refusing to give information. Other than that, everyone knew the same thing: Serbia was slowly losing the war.

He walked through town slowly, trying to learn more things and see what was going on. Not much was happening. Just many people worried about losing land, animals property and crops. He was almost towards the other end of the town, when an old lady standing in her doorway called out. “Velibor, Velibor! Is that really you Velibor?” She grabbed his arm and pulled him into her house. He didn’t recognise her the slightest bit, and she could tell. “You don’t remember me, do you?” He shook his head, and she laughed. “I’m Carol. I was Princess Antonya’s made until she left for Russia. I do not believe it, that you don’t remember me!” he smiled, but was deeply hurt at the thought of Antonya. He was dieing to know how she was. So he asked her, and they sat there for a very long time, telling stories. He learnt how Antonya had not smiled since she had heard news of Velibor’s supposed death in the war, and in general her depression. His heart broke at this news. But what iced the cake of his pain was hearing how she was rumoured to be courting the Tsarevich. Velibor’s heart shattered, and he could feel his eyes burning with tears. Carol offered him dinner, or something to drink, but he felt the sudden need to run. He promised Carol he would return soon and they could talk more, but he had to leave. Walking through the door, as soon as she was out of sight, he ran, and he ran for ages. He entered the house, and things didn’t feel right here anymore, but he ignored it. He ran up to the room he shared with Bato (who insisted on sleeping with him after their journey together) and collapsed on the bed. The tears were burning his eyes as they fell to the sheets. He wanted to rip his heart out and burn it, to die, to leave this world. But even then he had nowhere to go. He lay there for a long time, letting his tears burn rivers into his cheeks, his heart beat and bruise his chest.

Eventually, the tears stopped flowing. He felt dead and empty inside, weak and hopeless. With a defeated spirit, he walked downstairs to find Maria and the children. But no one was there. He walked all throughout the house, his heart starting to come to life as he realised things weren’t right here. There was no smell of cooking or cooked food, no dishes left from dinner or lunch. He ran upstairs to check the rooms, and none of the beds had been touched. He found another door and followed that, wondering what could be there, but there were only more stairs. They lead to an attic, but no one was in there. He began to search it, looking through various things for any sign of where they had gone, when he barely heard the sound of a door handle closing. Looking in the direction from whence it came, he saw a small door concealed by boxes, and ran up to it. ‘the rest of the house is empty’ he thought ‘so here goes!’

Making sure the door wasn’t locked, he closed it gently, only to see little Bato standing in front of him. “You take too long Mr. Velibor!” He looked at where he was. It was like an indoor jungle, one of the most beautiful gardens he had seen. Suddenly, in the corner of his eye, he saw Bato disappear through the trees, and he ran after him. It was like a maze. Running in and out of the trees, through bushes, under fallen trees and over small bridges, then finally Bato stopped. “You have to be really quiet” he whispered “and watch your head, or its going to get very hurt.” He pulled Velibor to his knees, and made him sit down. Then he pushed him very hard. It was like a slide, and it wouldn’t stop. Velibor was worried if Bato had followed him, or if he was just a pigment of his imagination. But sure enough, he was behind him. And just as he saw him, a branch hit him across the head. “Keep your head to the ground Mr. Velibor!” He whispered, laughing as Velibor rubbed his head. After what seemed an eternity, they reached the end, and he just sat there, rubbing his head. Bato frowned at him, and pulled him to his feet. “Mr Velibor, if you don’t hurry up, we are going to miss dinner, and mummy doesn’t like it when I’m late. Come on!” Velibor chuckled and got up, following Bato. They ran through some more trees and bush, until Bato stopped. Velibor wasn’t paying attention, and kept running, going straight into him. Bato laughed, brushed off the dirt on his otherwise spotless clothes, and laughed at Velibor, sitting there on the floor, covered in mud. “Mummy doesn’t like dirty people to eat her dinner. You’re gonna be in big trouble Mr Velibor.” He closed Velibor’s eyes and held his hand, walking him slowly through the forest. Velibor had come to realise that they were no longer in the garden in Marius’ house. They stopped walking, and Velibor heard the sound of a door opening. He was walking on stone now, form what he could guess, and started to worry that he had trusted a demon, that maybe he was going mad. A light breeze blew, and it started to get lighter from what he could see through his blindfold. The ground he was walking on started to feel broken and unsteady, but Bato didn’t slow down. He began to walk faster. Another door opened, and a great noise met his ears. “Mr Velibor” whispered Bato quietly, pulling him down so he could untie his blindfold “we are here.”


Antonya walked through the corridor and down into the courtyard. Cristian had told her to go and spend time with Alexandre. She walked into the courtyard, and stood just behind where she thought he was sitting, wondering what to say. What to do. She began to shiver a little in her thin dress as a light shower started. His arms wound around her, and she jumped with his touch. She hadn’t expected him to be behind her, but she settled into his arms anyway. He was so warm. He hugged her tightly, and began to kiss her hair. “I’m sorry, Antonya, I really am, if it was my fault you were upset. I didn’t want to hurt you. I never wanted to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

She said nothing, only turned around and hid in his arms. “I’m sorry too Alexandre. I… I… I guess I just don’t know what’s wrong with me.” She began to cry in his arms, finding safety in the strength of his embrace. She wanted to stay like this with him forever. He stroked her hair. The rain started to get stronger so they moved just under the cover of the corridor.

Cristian was in shock. After everything, he had trusted them so much, believed every word they said, and all they really wanted was the Serbian throne. He was angry. Running to Antonya’s room, he realised he wouldn’t find her there, so he walked passed the courtyard. They seemed so happy together, and it seemed to help him feel even more isolated. Surely Marco had heard everything too, yet all he did was shoot Cristian the kind of look that spells ‘you-are-dead-when-this-is-finished’. He thought of all people, his own father would have understood. He would have to tell Antonya some other day, but how to tell her? Oh, he didn’t know. He ran to his room. He sat outside on his balcony that faced towards the busy city below. In the sky above the sun was slowly setting, painting new colours in the sky on the clouds. A soothing calm began to take over him, and he felt like himself again.

He sat there for a long time, thinking, as he watched the sun set. Moscow was supposed to be a break for Antonya, not another nightmare after everything that had happened. He didn’t know how to tell her, but he had to warn her about Gatchina. The bells started to ring for dinner, but he didn’t want to go. How could he ever be in the same room as those treacherous, deceptive, lying cheats again? His heart began to burn for revenge again, and he decided to stay put in his room. If he was hungry, he could always go and visit Andrei later. It started to get very cold outside, so Cristian walked indoors and sat on his bed, staring out the window. Eventually, he ended up falling asleep there.

Antonya and Alexandre had made it to dinner, after much debate about whether they should leave or not, but Alexandre’s hunger won. They ate quickly, but something was wrong in the room. It felt awkward to be sitting there. Marco was eating quietly, not making much conversation, and the Tsar and Tsarina were being obnoxiously loud. The rest of the room was filled with hushed whispers, and that’s when Antonya realised what was missing. Cristian was not there. It wasn’t like him to miss out on dinner, he loved food. She caught Marco’s eye, wanting to figure out if he knew anything, but he smiled vaguely and returned to his food.

After dinner, she was talking quietly to Alexandre, when Marco walked up. “Marco, I’m terribly sorry, but do you mind if I talk to her a while?” Alexandre smiled and squeezed Antonya’s hand. “I’ll talk to you later, or maybe tomorrow, okay?” She smiled, saying nothing in return, and left with her uncle. He escorted her on a long walk through the castle, making small talk, asking about her and how she was enjoying Moscow so far now. Soon the lights went out in the Tsar and Tsarina’s quarters, and he marched her quickly to Cristian’s room. “I’m awfully sorry Antonya, I was just waiting for them to go to sleep, and for the rest of the castle to follow suit. Help me wake up your cousin.”

She jumped on Cristian’s bed, only to get up again and close his balcony doors. It was freezing in his room. The head Butler came for a word with Marco before retiring for the night, all the fires were lit and a maid came back with dinner for Cristian, strawberries for Antonya and vodka for Marco. The princess started to worry. Her uncle hardly ever drank, unless he was very happy, or extremely worried. This didn’t seem to be a happy occasion. “So, you gonna tell her, or am I Cristian?” Cristian looked up from his food, surprised that Marco was saying this. He thought they were just having some awkward family time. “I thought you were angry at me for that…” he hinted. Marco shook his head, and they sat in silence while Cristian finished his meal. The maid came in from outside the doorway and took the empty plater away. Cristian began, and recounted to her everything that he had heard. Marco added in a few historical details about Russia, and Antonya felt sick. She walked out onto the balcony, not sure what to do. Why? She loved Alexandre. Cristian came up behind her, and stood next to her, as they leaned on the rails looking out on the nightlife of the town below. Marco stood between them, and wrapped his arms around both of them. Bursting into tears, they stood there very late into the night, consoling each other, trying to find a solution to this problem.

Antonya and Cristian stayed up all night, staring out into the stars, mostly in silence. The night was clear and the air was fresh thanks to the rain earlier in the day. She just wanted to cry, but there were no tears left. Cristian sat in silence. Occasionally, he would ask her if she was cold, and wanted to go inside. He could feel her shivering, but she refused. Eventually he got tired of just sitting there, and together Antonya and Cristian moved into his room. He didn’t want to stay there, where he was constantly able to stare out his window and see the Tsar’s quarters. Without words she understood his discomfort. Drawing the curtains wouldn’t ease the pain. They wandered around the castle to her room, and she dressed in warmer clothes and picked up a coat. They walked out of the castle gates.

Antonya had no care in the world for where they went. Her cousin was one of the only people that he had now. Velibor was dead and gone; Marco had a castle and businesses to run, he didn’t need her; her parents were never really concerned about her; and although she loved Alexandre she had to keep away from him. It just wasn’t safe anymore. From somewhere inside her tears came again. Cristian linked his arm in hers and guided her slowly through wherever they were walking. Antonya had no idea where they were now. He led her along an uphill path.

He stopped at something, but Antonya’s eyes hurt and she couldn’t tell anymore where she was or what was going on. She heard a door creak open, and was met with a freezing cold breeze. Cristian walked her in, and sat her down on something soft. She tried to rub her eyes to see what was going on, but it didn’t help. He lit a fire and sat next to his cousin. For some strange reason, Antonya felt a sudden peace being here, and an instant need to sleep. Cristian was happy. She was at peace, somewhat. This place always helped him when nothing else could. He lay her down on the small bed there, and she slept almost instantly. Sitting on a couch nearby, he stared at the fire for a long time. Alexandre was a good guy. He wasn’t like what he remembered of Velibor. He cared. He had heart. What’s more, as far as Cristian could tell, he really loved Antonya. Or, if it wasn’t love, he at least had very strong feelings for her. He never saw much of that in Velibor.

Morning light shone into the cabin, and the fire was burning slowly, yet the two that slept inside did not stir. One slept on the couch and the other slept in the bed. The sun rose a little higher in the sky, and the birds singing lost volume. Still they slept. The fire was made of slowly dying embers, and the cabin was filled with light. He walked along the path, just knowing that he would find them here. Cristian always came here when he didn’t know what to do. He walked up to the door and looked through the window. It was nearly lunchtime, and here were his two favourite people, still fast asleep. The fire was nearly dead too. Slipping through the door quietly, he sat down near the fire and sparked it up again. He opened the bag he had carried with him on the table and bought out an apple to eat, sitting on one of the chairs there.

Antonya was just starting to wake up, when she heard a door open. From the corner of her eye, she could see her cousin fast asleep on the couch opposite. The shadow moved in the door quietly. She was guessing it was a man, as he chuckled quietly to himself. She pretended to sleep. “My Princess Antonya” the shadow laughed “you are absolutely hopeless at pretending to sleep. Hungry?” A wave of relief swept over her, recognising the voice instantly. “Uncle Marco!” she almost yelled with relief, running into his arms. Cristian stirred on the couch, and got up slowly. “I was wondering when you were going to get up, Antonya. You first started moving when the first birds were singing.” he mumbled. They all sat around the table, and Marco brought out breakfast for them.

“Couldn’t sleep last night Cristian?” he asked, as they ate. “Nah, not really. I don’t know what to do about those lying, disgusting, cheating, stealing…” “Alright, alright, you eat your breakfast” Marco interrupted, realising not much had settled inside Cristian’s head. Antonya smiled though, eating heaps of food. “What is this place Marco?” “Oh.” He said, not sure where to begin. “It’s my place” Cristian jumped in “so I’ll explain it.” Not really fussed, they sat back in their chairs to listen to Cristian’s story. When he first came to Moscow, he hated it. He used to go into the woods when Marco wasn’t looking and try and run back to Serbia to be with people he knew. He found this cabin one time that he was running, and decided to stop and enter it. It was deserted and very dusty, but he cleaned it up. He stayed there for three days while Marco had people searching all over the city for him. It wasn’t until Marco decided to hike into he woods and search there himself that he found the cabin along a concealed track. He didn’t think Cristian would have been in there, but there he was, sleeping peacefully on the bed. “This place reminds me of Serbia. Remember how we used to run down to the bottom of the courtyards and play all day in the wooden cabins? I came here and I thought, wow. I’ve found a new cabin. All I have to do is get passed the forest and I’ll find the castle again.”

She walked over to the little bookshelf in the corner just next to the bed. There weren’t many books, and nothing that interested her. She noticed a few of Cristian’s books sitting there, and spare clothes for him sitting in the chest at the end of the bed. “Uncle Marco, I think that I should go to Gatchina with Alexandre.” She concluded, having just had a thought. He was surprised at this, and Cristian wasn’t sure to what think. She explained to them that they couldn’t really do much to her in Gatchina, it was so far away from Serbia, and they would have to confirm everything with her parents before they planned any sort of marriage, let alone an engagement. Cristian decided he would go to keep an eye on his cousin. Marco couldn’t commit to going, but he promised to visit often. So together they had it decided, Antonya and Cristian were in one week to leave for Gatchina with Alexandre.



Velibor and Sadif had become good friends. They had been staying together for a good week now. Velibor helped Sadif set a lot of things up around the farm, and the horses had actually started to like him. Sadif taught him how to ride, and although he was still not the best at it, Sadif thought he seemed natural at it.

Back at the castle, King Vladan was not happy. Reports had reached him of how his daughter was in Russia, and that was all well, her courting with the Tsarevich could mean great help from Russia in the war. But the war was not going too well. Ever since Princess Antonya had left for Serbia, and Velibor had died, it seemed things had spiralled downwards. He had put out the call for people to donate horses and food towards the war effort, and for more men to come forward. He’d expected some delay, but it had been three days already.

Bastian, a messenger from the king knocked on the front door of the house. It had been a long day, and he was hoping that a friendly woman would have some food for him, or at least some kind stranger to open the door and let him rest for a night there. But no, a rough looking young man opened the door. “Hey. What do you want?” “Umm, I’m a messenger from the great King Vladan, asking people to answer his call for aid in the war efforts. Donations of food, money, horses, anything useful, even men to fight are accepted. The King promises rewards for all those who offer him aid. Will you?”

Sadif stood at the door, not sure what to do. He asked Bastian to wait there for a second while he went to consult Velibor on this. “Vel, there’s a messenger from the king at the door, he wants aid for the war.” “Oh. So? Why you telling me?” Velibor started to get angry at the mention of what could have been his father- in-law. If this messenger had been around for at least the past four months, he would recognise Velibor straight away. Everyone who lived in the castle and the surrounding town knew him. Sadif saw his unease, and questioned it. “Are you still uneasy about the princess Velibor? You know, I wasn’t thinking of joining the war ourselves, and these horses are starting to get lazy from little exercise. What do you say we donate them?” There was a pause, as the idea processed in Velibor’s head. “Do you mind if I invite him in? He looks seriously tired and hungry.” Vel sighed, and realised the past was going to catch up with him sooner or later. “Yeah, I guess. If it gets too much I’ll just go to my room or something.”

Bastian was sitting on a fallen log just outside the house, throwing small pebbles from the ground across the garden. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to give up anything for this war. It must seem so unreal out here to these people. The only difference is the lack of men working in and around the fields, he thought. Not only that, but the country areas were already very poor. Not to mention the fact that if Serbia kept up the downfall the war would hit these people and towns first. They probably want to keep everything so they can make a quicker escape. Suddenly the front door opened again, breaking Bastian’s train of thought. “I bet you’re hungry, or something like that. Tired at least. Come inside and join us.” Bastian was surprised at this offer. The widows always offered, and the single mothers, but never the men. He was happy though. At least he would get some warmth and rest, and some food other than the bread and dry meat he had packed.

It was Velibor’s turn to cook, and the house smelt truly delicious. Sadif and Bastian were sitting by the fire discussing arrangements for the horses and food to be bought to the castle. Dinner was served soon after, and the trio sat in the dining room around the picture of the Serbian Royal Castle. “Isn’t he a good cook? Oh, sorry, Bastian, this is Velibor; Velibor, this is Bastian.” Sadif was laughing, enjoying his meal and the company he had, but Velibor had felt a sudden discomfort when he mentioned Bastian’s name. Something about him rang alarm bells in his head.

They finished their meal, and moved near the fireplace to talk more before bed. Velibor realised where he recognised Bastian – he was the messenger who used to run errands for Princess Antonya. Just the thought of her and his heart began to burn. Not willing to reveal himself, he stood up discreetly and excused himself from the room.

As soon as he was out of their sight he ran to his room and crashed on the bed. His eyes filled with tears as he realised how hopeless his life was to become. Forever running from representatives of the King, he would never know the life he used to have. He would never again see his darling Antonya. With that though his cries became uncontrollable, and he left the house through the door in the kitchen. It was pitch dark outside, but he didn’t care. What worse could happen to him, than the fate he had just chosen for himself? He walked aimlessly, having no idea where he was headed, until he was so weak that he collapsed in renewed tears upon the ground.

He woke, only to find himself in the middle of a strange field, not far from Sadif’s house. With swollen eyes he struggled back to the house only to find no one there. He entered the kitchen, washing his face with icy cold water. Sadif and Bastian had already eaten breakfast, but hadn’t cleaned up anything. He called out as he walked into the lounge, but no one was there. His searching became more frantic, looking in every room three to four times, calling louder and louder, trying to find them. It was a small house, where could they be? Running to his room, he threw on a coat and sprinted out to the barn to check if they were there. The horses hadn’t been fed yet, so he did that quickly, and looked around the barn for the usual signs of Sadif. His coat hung up, any of the horses coats groomed, but there was nothing. He moved back to the house, and sat in the kitchen looking for some sign of his friend. Deciding he was hungry, he moved to the cupboard to find some food. The cupboard was empty. Velibor ran to Sadif’s room and looked for the one thing that he treasured most. Aside from a few clothes missing, that was gone too.

Not a moment had passed when he began to hear screams from outside the house. Looking through the curtain, women and children were running passed the house. One woman came and knocked on the door. “I’m sorry” she said, startled that anyone had opened the door. “We are friends of Sadif, is he home?” Velibor looked at her, wondering how best to respond. “Sadif is not here” he replied softly, “he will be away for sometime. May I help you?” “Oh…” she hesitated “Maybe its better if we just go then.” “Are you sure? I am a very close friend of Sadif’s, I can help you if you want.” The lady turned around, paused, and looked at him. She had many little children around her, very anxiously looking behind her. “I.. You are not leaving to get away from the war?” Sadif froze, and everything finally clicked. A messenger must have come after breakfast, telling them to move quickly. Sadif looked at the lady. “I am not sure yet. Maybe I will help you with what you need, since I am alone. I didn’t know the war was coming. What may I help you with?” The lady broke down in tears, telling him her situation. They lived on a farm that was near the battlefield. The soldiers had killed her husband and taken the two oldest sons to fight in the war, telling her to take the children and run to safety. They had been running all night and most of the day, until she recognised Sadif’s house and sought help there. The war was quickly moving towards them, and all she was asking for was a place to hide. Sadif was rushing around the house, packing important things while she was talking. “Hmm. Sadif has no cellar here, so we will have no place safe to hide, and if the war reaches here they are sure to burn down the place. It is of no value. We must move. Quickly.”

The woman stopped pacing, and stared, thinking. “We have run all night and most of the day. We are weak, and very tired. You are best to leave us here. We will be okay.” He stopped rushing and walked to the fire place, looking for Sadif’s prized egg. He found it, but underneath it was a little note, scribbled.

Vel, sorry that I didn’t say goodbye, but the war is coming. You will read this eventually. Take whatever you need from the house and do what you have to. I trust you. Be safe my friend, hopefully we will meet again. Sadif.

Packing the egg safely in his small bag of belongings, he began towards the kitchen. Then he stopped. Looking back, he asked “Do your children know how to ride?” She was confused for a moment, but then understood. “Of course they do, except for the two youngest.” “Will you please take all the food that is of use to us and pack it in whatever bags you have brought? I’m going out for a second, I’ll be back quickly. Pack everything you need!” The woman smiled, thankful for his action in her inaction.

He came back with 5 horses, fully saddled up and ready to go. She had packed everything, and together they began saddling up the kids. He helped her onto his horse, handed her the youngest child, and jumped onto his horse pulling a young little boy to sit up with him. They galloped at full speed, Velibor doing his best to help the family. “Antonya, I’m doing this for you, I love you” he breathed into the air.