Telling Tales 112
Truth and Consequences
No one had the slightest idea what to make of the beggar’s story. It was the most that Alexander had ever spoken in their presence, and while he always gave the impression of being a rather sad young man, his voice and body were transformed with hatred and rage. No one had any idea save, perhaps, the wolf. “I, too, have been wronged by that Koschey,” she said.
“Who is Koschey the Deathless?” asked Kou Ke, for the man was unknown in the lands from which he came. Juleidah and Scrobarnach Armtha were also ignorant of his details, so Ivan explained all he knew of the evil sorcerer. He concluded with their mistake in thinking that he had kidnapped Vasilisa but that he had in fact been a teacher of the Sunset King.
The wolf pushed her great body forward and reminded everyone that Alexander’s story, while completed, had not exactly resolved. “How does this relate to where we are now?” she asked.
Alexander pointed up and beyond the trees that sheltered them now. “The giant. He is my brother.”
Ivan gaped. “He returned to transform your brother into that monster?”
“It is the result of the curse. My brother first lots his wits, but we eventually found them again. He has lost his fear, his nerve, and other things, but always we recovered them. This time he lost more than he ever has before. His feeling, his will, his reason, sight, temper, and sense of proportion. Each loss has changed him, until he has become what you see now. I stay nearby, begging for scraps of food, hoping that I may somehow learn to save him.”
“You are fortunate indeed,” said the wolf, “for it is precisely this group of people around you who can come to your assistance.”
The beggar shook his head. “No one can help me without the things that my brother has lost. No matter that you are skilled fighters and canny wizards…”
“That was just Vasilisa, actually,” coughed Ivan.
“Indeed?” asked the wolf. “What of the hunter’s pillow?”
At first it seemed that no one knew of what she spoke, but in short order Ipiktokiyakovik said, “Ivan told you about it.”
Except that Ivan was just as confused at first. “Oh, I see! The thing that you showed to me and Vasilisa when you joined us back on the beach! And no, I never said a word to her about it.”
Ipiktokiyakovik produced the small, cloudy white pillow the size of his palm and Alexander gasped. “That is my brother’s feeling!” Scrobarnach Armtha produced her piece of bloody metal, which was the giant’s lost will. Entendtout’s puzzle box was his reason. Juleidah’s matching sapphires were his sight. The spiked red flower that Haraka kept was his temper. “We are still missing his sense of proportion. Missing one, we might as well be missing all.”
The wolf shook her massive head. “We are not missing it. It is in the possession of Kou Ke.”
The fae serpent gasped his disbelief. “I have no objects like the ones our friends have produced.”
The wolf agreed. “You have not objects, but that does not mean you do not contain it within you. It is part of your curse. The problem for you will be that in removing it, we will likely cause your death.”
“My brother…” said Alexander.
“My life…” said Kou Ke.