Mujo Avenges Halil’s Death

Halil was dead. The warrior who made all of New Kotor and Zahar tremble and who was dreaded throughout the Kingdom of the Christians as far as the Danube, had been slain. His friends had buried him up in the mountain pastures. Mujo was alone, bereft of his companion. The lofty mountains too were lonesome, for the warriors’ cry was no longer to be heard. Only the cuckoo remained in a dried up stream bed, its chant echoing plaintively over the meadows. 

One day, a voice arose from the depths of the earth and addressed the bird: “Cuckoo, oh cuckoo, listen to my words! I am sending you a message.” The cuckoo replied, “I am indeed surprised to hear a human voice on these solitary mountain peaks and yet see no humans. I am used to being here alone, and to tell the truth, have never heard a voice up in these mountains here. Where are you speaking from?” The same voice spoke again, saying, “I am of the dead, cuckoo, that is why you cannot see me. I lie under the earth.” “But who are you?” “I am Halil, brother of Gjeto Basho Mujo. Listen to my message, cuckoo, and take it to my brother. Say to him: Oh, Mujo of Kladush, I, your brother Halil, send you greetings from the mountain pasture where I lie. I fear neither wind nor rain, neither snow nor cold, neither thunder nor lightning. 

But God has caused me to suffer great hardship. It is Captain Kreshto of the Kingdom of the Christians. Every Sunday, he comes here to hunt. Nor does he come alone. He brings three hundred companions with him. They all stand in front of my grave and vilify me, shouting: ‘Halil, get up and rise from the grave so that we can fight man to man! You used to block the roads, do battle with us and frighten our friends out of their wits. The whole Kingdom right up to the Danube trembled at the very mention of your name. You slew many a warrior with your sword, razed many a fortress and carried off many a maiden. I have now come to avenge myself. I will never leave you in peace, even in death!’ So speaks Kreshto over and over. He stomps on my grave with his feet and pounds it with his cudgel, never letting my bones rest. Then he summons his three hundred companions and they all stomp on my grave. I have told him, Mujo, that a deadman is dead and cannot rise to do battle. I would like to rise, Mujo, but I cannot. I lie six yards under the earth covered by a heavy tombstone. If you wish to do battle, Kreshto, I told him, then call on my brother Mujo and he will face you. If you are still my brother, Mujo, rid me of this pest so that my bones can finally come to rest. Have you understood, cuckoo?” “I understand,” it replied from the bed of the dried up stream. “Bear my message to Mujo. In our courtyard we have a withered mulberry tree. Perch there and wait until my brother hears your call. It may be that they curse you, but do not take offense. Will you give him my message anyway?” “I will, Halil,” replied the cuckoo. “I am off to Jutbina. Farewell Halil!”

The cuckoo spread its wings and set off, flying straight to Jutbina. On arrival, it landed on the mulberry tree and sang its “cuckoo”. Mujo’s wife heard the bird, opened her window and shouted angrily, “Be off, bird of ill tidings! A cuckoo landed on the mulberry tree at the same time last year and brought us the news of Halil’s death. Go away or Mujo will come out and pluck your feathers.” The cuckoo replied in an injured air, “I have never been to this area, nor did I bring you news of Halil’s death. But listen to me now. I come from Halil’s grave in the mountains. Halil heard me there and asked me to bear greetings to Mujo. He also gave me a message and I shall not depart without having given it to him even if you try to kill me.”

Mujo heard the cuckoo and rushed out into the courtyard addressing the bird gently, “Speak, cuckoo! If you wish to enter our home, if you want anything to eat or drink, please come in and stay as long as you like.” The cuckoo replied from its perch on the withered mulberry tree, “No, Mujo, that is not why I am here. I have come because Halil gave me a message for you.” The cuckoo then repeated word for word what Halil had told it. Mujo listened and said to the bird, “Farewell, cuckoo! Greet Halil for me and tell him that I will be there next Sunday.” The cuckoo then took to the air and flew back to the mountain pastures.

On Friday, Mujo went out onto the parapet of his fortress and summoned his warriors to battle. All of Jutbina and the whole Krahina heard his call, seized their weapons and gathered immediately in front of Mujo’s home. They asked why he had summoned them and he informed them that they were to leave Saturday to do battle in the mountains. He invited all the warriors to stay with him and showed them great hospitality. They spent the night at his home until Saturday came. 

In the dark of night they set off, led by Mujo, and rode up into the mountains, arriving on Sunday morning at Halil’s grave. There Mujo said to them, “My friends, conceal yourselves on both sides of the road. That is the direction Captain Kreshto and his band of three hundred companions will take when they come to defile Halil’s grave. Promise me that you will not talk or fight until I give the word.” The warriors promised and lay in ambush, waiting silently. The only noises to be heard were the wind rustling in the beech trees and the murmur of the spring. 

At daybreak, the call of hunters could be heard in the distance. Then came a deafening roar as Captain Kreshto appeared with his three hundred companions. He walked up to Halil’s grave, stood on the tombstone and stomped on it three times, calling loudly, “Rise from your grave, Halil, and let us do battle!” But he could speak and defile the grave with his feet and cudgel no longer, for at that very moment Mujo’s deep voice resounded in the mountain. “I will give you satisfaction, Captain Kreshto!” Kreshto froze and said, “Holy God! What was that voice thundering in the mountains? Has the deadman actually risen from his grave?” Kreshto’s three hundred companions froze too. Mujo delayed no longer. Drawing his sword, he sprang forth. Kreshto tried to retreat but Mujo slew him with one fell stroke. Once again, Mujo’s voice thundered: “Such is the vengeance for defiling Halil’s grave!”.

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