Telling Tales 199
Conomor the Accursed
Far from this place, closer to the sun and the moon to where we are now, Koschey once held a different castle. Whether or not he holds sway there still, I do not know, but in those days he was not as mysterious as he is now. People knew him by sight, not only by reputation, though they feared him all the same. The same as with this palace, Koschey had a staff who looked after it for him in his absence. Here the local lord is Oleg Borodin, of course. In this place and in those days, it was a man by the name of Conomor, called the Accursed.
Conomor was a vicious man. His temper was vile, his patience was thin, and his moods were black. He was a giant of a figure, taller by a head than the tallest man you know, broad of shoulder, stout of arm. He fought with a spiked club and known for the rage that would come upon him in battle. He could not contain his temper under the best of circumstances, and in battle he did not even attempt to do so. He spat and he rolled his eyes and foam appeared at his mouth and every man that came within range of his club died quickly and painfully.
For reasons known only to himself and certainly not to me, Conomor decided that he should get married. His reputation aside, this was a feat easier said than done for he was not a handsome man. His eyes sank deep under heavy brows. His nose was wide and his chin was broad. He let the nails on his fingers grow nearly to claws and he never wore boots. His feet were calloused and yellow. The most striking thing, however, was that the hair on his head was the deepest blue, from the tips of his greasy locks to his eyebrows, to his bristling beard. How it came to be this way I have never heard. I have heard it said that it was a warning from his master, but then I have also heard that it predated his employment to Koschey, so who is to say?
This Conomor traveled across the land seeking the hand of any girl who would have him. When none would, he took his suit to their fathers. He promised them riches. He swore to their safety. He made assurances that he would not enter their lands without their express permission, should they fear him specifically. Conomor was a bad man, but he was not stupid. In spite of all of these oaths, entreaties, and more, none would consent to pass his daughter into Conomor’s hands. So it was that he became even more foul-tempered than before, even more dangerous, to the point where even Koschey, I heard, watched his step around the man, for while Koschey cannot be killed without knowing where he keeps his heart, he can still be hurt, and Conomor specialized in hurting as much as in killing.
Well, one of these men with daughters of marrying age found himself in a bind. His fortunes were lost at sea and who knew when if ever they would return. He was far from home in Conomor’s domain and while he knew of the cruel man, he did not recognize the place in which he found himself, to his detriment.
The servant who answered his knock in the middle of the storm, he is the man from whom I heard this story and he is the one who worked for Conomor and Koschey.