Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 38



Koschey’s Disobedience

Koschey’s parents railed against the injustices of the Monarchy. More officers came. They expected free lodging. They expected free food for themselves and for their horses. They were arrogant and casual in their abuse of the inn. Koschey cared for their mounts and said nothing. He rarely talked at all, but he watched.

His mother and father could barely keep up with the repairs and the needs of the larder, as officer after officer came through. “Make yourself useful, boy,” swore his father. “Do something about these horrible men!”

Koschey looked at him.

“You know what we mean,” said his heartless mother. “What you did to the trader, to the others. Give me your heart, if you’re too soft, I’ll hold it for you until after the deed.”

Koschey looked at her.

He did not give her his heart. She had warned him when he gave her half of his heart that he must never split his heart again, especially not if she or his father asked for it. She told him that no good would come of it. “No matter how we plead or command, you must keep your heart to yourself.”

One day Koschey disappeared. There were no officers that day, nor had there been any that week. Work had not been bad. There was nothing for him to be angry about, were Koschey to have ever become angry. He had simply run away. His parents were furious, but what could they do? There was no boy for them to punish for disobedience. Until he returned, weeks later, as quietly as he had vanished. “Where have you been?” his mother screamed at him. “Look at the state of this place!”

Koschey said nothing. He did the work that they assigned to him. He waited. Eventually, as he knew they would, more officers came.

“You are not welcome here,” were the words Koschey used to greet them outside before they had even dismounted.

“Not welcome?” said the first.

“Not welcome?” repeated the second.

“You and yours will no longer be able to stay here. You will not sleep in the beds. You will not eat the food. Your horses will not enjoy the stables.”

“We are here on official business,” said the first, who recognized that the figure in front of him was but a young man. He alit to the ground, the better to show the youth that he was larger, broader, and stronger. “Two of our number came this way once, and we will discover what happened to them.”

“What will happen once you know?” asked Koschey.

“We will bury their bodies. If they died of natural causes, then that is that. If they fell afoul of some trickery, then we will take our revenge. We serve the Monarchy, and the Monarchy is absolute.”

“Koschey, don’t be an impudent boy!” said his mother as she emerged from the inn. “We don’t stand in the way of the law.” She did not like the officers, but she feared the repercussions of disobedience more than she loathed their presence.

Koschey looked at her.

It was different than it had been before, and she stepped back, unsure of him.

“I have a message for the Monarchy,” Koschey announced.

The officers drew their swords.

“They and their representatives are not welcome here. They will not be supported, not here, not anywhere. Not any longer.” He looked at the officer on horseback. “You will tell them.”

“What of me?” said the first.

Koschey looked at him.

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Chapter 1     Chapter 2     Chapter 3     Chapter 4


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