Telling Tales 203
Actions and Reactions
Conomor was nearly as tall as the horse itself. He looked nearly as much like a bear as a man, broad in shoulder and thick in waist. His face was permanently twisted with fury and foam flecked the corner of his mouth where sharp teeth still showed. His hair and beard were matted and later the traveler would swear that Conomor must have been living in the wilderness outside the castle. He didn’t carry the spiked club of which everyone spoke, but his claw-like hands made it clear that he needed no extra weapons.
The horse screamed.
The savage man seized the horse’s mane, quicker than thought, and bent its head around so fast and so hard that the horse knew even through its terror that any move would mean a broken neck. It quivered in fear.
“You have abused my goodwill,” he said the to traveler, twisting the horse’s head even further. “Those are my rightful property.”
The traveler could not so much as utter a word. The sight of Conomor alone would have been enough to shock and staunch and prepared man, but he also smelled of dead and rotting things. It was all the traveler could do to stand his ground.
“My steward warned you of the consequences.”
“C-c-cursed?” the traveler stammered, unable to do more than utter a single word.
The blue savage laughed, full of scorn and anticipation alike. “D-d-death,” he mocked. “You have not broken any of the rules of enchantment. You have broken the rules of hospitality and now you are in my thrall. You were protected from me until now, but you have forsaken that with this action.” Something like a smile bent his face in new and feral directions.
“It was… only… weeds…” gasped the man.
“Because it does not look precious you think it cannot be precious?” Conomor snatched the flowers from the man’s hand. “In the right hands, a midwife, an alchemist, a surgeon, or a barber, you could make a tonic that would drive a man mad with love with these flowers. There is nothing here that is not of value. Nothing, except your life.”
“I only wanted… my family…” he stammered.
Conomor halted his hand mid-strike and the fingernails seemed to pull back, less like claws than they had been just a moment before. “Your family,” he repeated.
“I only wanted to let them know where I have been, bring them something of your home to show them, nothing valuable, I thought, here at the gate, I would be outside your grounds and that – ”
“You thought wrong.” The savage leaned closer and the smell nearly overwhelmed the man. “But you raise an interesting point. You have a family. Daughters?”
The blue man eyed his prey before straightening up. “I do not need three. I want one. A bride. You have daughters. Give me one of your daughter’s hands in marriage – swear it to me on your life – and I will spare you.”
It was only after he was on his way home, long after he had promised away one of his daughters – any one of his daughters, Conomor was not particular – only after he finally stopped shaking that he realized what he had done. It took him three more days to return home and a full day beyond that before his family could wrench from him an explanation of what had happened.
It took no time at all to detail what Conomor would do if one of the three girls at his castle in three days.