Telling Tales 164
Bulat, He Worked for Koschey
Bulat, he worked for Koschey. I don’t know that we should judge him too poorly for this. There are a lot of good people who work for bad ones. You say it’s a question of morality. I say it’s a question of hunger. I’d like to see you in that position and see what decision you’d make, I would.
Let me give you an example. Say you go into business with your neighbor. You’ve known him as a neighbor your entire life and he takes care of his house and his family are well-fed. You take all of those things as indications of his character and you’re comfortable opening a shop together. With you he continues to be a stalwart friend, but you discover that he cheats on his wife. Or that he kicks dogs. Or that he spits on beggars. It turns out that this latter behavior is more proper to the kind of man he is than the fact that he has always been a good neighbor. He has been a good neighbor, you learn, only because he likes you. Do you stay in business with him, when you know he is a bad man but when he operates a respectable business?
I don’t believe that we’re all good or all bad. How often are wizards purely evil? Do they have signs outside their dreary castles, “Evil Wizard seeks minions. Inquire within”? I’ve known good police officers who give a cold man a pair boots and I’ve known bad police officers who are little more than bullies in uniform. No, there are good wizards and bad wizards the same that there are good and bad merchants, no better or worse than us, driven by what makes sense.
It’s my guess that Bulat, who is apparently a decent man, began working for Koschey without knowing who he was, or believing that in such and such a capacity, the man was not all bad. Who knows, perhaps he knew exactly who and what Koschey the Deathless was and began to work for him for the sole purpose of undermining him from within. I don’t know that part of the story.
What is true is that at the beginning of the tale, Bulat is working for Koschey.
Why did I spend that time explaining the situation? Because I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about him. I don’t want you think that he’s turned on Prince Ivan, because you might think that. You might. I see the look in your eyes.
Bulat is not the only man working for Koschey, not by a long shot. He’s not the most important man, either, and he doesn’t get the most important jobs. Sometimes he’s a guard for the castle. Sometimes he guards a caravan. A soldier he is and a soldier he’s always been and Koschey is wise enough a man not to ask things beyond his servants’ abilities.
Yes, yes, I hear you objecting. Who would steal from Koschey? Who would be so foolish? I have three answers. In the first place, there are always those who want to show their own skills by taking on the best. Foolish, you say, and foolish, I agree. It doesn’t mean these people don’t exist. Second, there are those who think Koschey is merely a legend. He couldn’t possibly be real, all those stories. Third, there are those who don’t know who the owner of their stolen goods is. They’ve made a mistake.
Well and good? Here, then, let me start, finally.
On this day, Bulat was standing before a tremendous storm…