This section is from the book "Myths And Folk-Tales Of The Russians, Western Slavs, And Magyars", by Jeremiah Curtin. Also available from Amazon: Myths and Folk-Tales of the Russians, Western Slavs, and the Magyars.
After dinner Nikita said to the terrible Tsar: "Does the young woman please thee, or shall we go for another?"
"No, Nikita, there is no use in travelling for nothing; there is not a better than this in the whole world".
"Well, then, marry now she is in our hands. But look out, Great Tsar, don't be caught napping. The first three nights she will try thy strength; she will put her hand on thee and press mightily, mightily: thou canst not endure it in any way. At these times hurry out of the chamber; I 'll take thy place and soon tame her".
They set about the wedding, and Tsars have not to make mead or wine; all was on hand. They had the wedding, and the terrible Tsar went to the chamber of Yelena the Beautiful. He reclined on a couch.
Yelena put her hand on his breast and asked: "Is my hand heavy?"
"It is as heavy as a feather on water," answered the terrible Tsar; but he could barely draw breath, so had she pressed his breast. "Wait, I have forgotten to give an order; I must give it now." He left the chamber.
Nikita was standing at the door outside. "Well, brother, thou didst speak truly; she came very near putting the breath out of me".
"Never mind, I'll settle the matter; stay here".
Nikita entered the dark chamber, lay on the couch. Yelena thought the Tsar had returned. She put her hand on his breast, pressed and pressed; could do nothing. She put on both hands, and pressed more than before. Nikita Koltoma, like a man in sleep, caught her and hurled her to the floor, so that the whole castle shook. The Tsarevna got up, went quietly to her bed, and fell asleep.
Now Nikita slipped out to the Tsar and said: "Go in boldly; she will do nothing till to-morrow".
With Nikita's aid the Tsar escaped the second and the third time, and then lived as was proper with Yelena the Beautiful. Neither a long nor a short time passed, but Yelena the Beautiful discovered that the terrible Tsar had deceived her, that his strength was not great, that people were laughing at her, that Nikita was the man who had conquered her. She was in a terrible rage, and hid in her heart a cruel revenge.
The Tsar had in mind to go to his own kingdom, and said: "We have stayed here long enough; it is time to go home. Make ready for the road".
They prepared to go by the sea, and had a ship laden with various precious things. They went on board, and sailed out on the sea; sailed one day, sailed a second, then a third. The Tsar was delighted; he could not rejoice sufficiently that he was taking home a Tsaritsa ruddier than the sun, fairer than the moon, whiter than snow. But Yelena the Beautiful was thinking her own thought, - thinking how to pay for the insult.
At that time an heroic slumber overcame Nikita, and he slept for twelve whole days and nights. When the Tsaritsa saw Nikita in this sleep, she summoned her trusty servants, commanded them to cut off his legs to the knee, put him in a boat, and push him out into the sea. Before her eyes they cut off the legs of the sleeping Nikita, put him in a boat, and pushed him out to sea.
On the thirteenth day poor Nikita woke. He looked around, - water everywhere; he was lying without feet, and no trace of the ship.
Meanwhile the ship sailed on, sailed on. At last the harbor was before them. The cannon thundered, the people ran together. The merchants and boyars met the Tsar with bread and salt, and congratulated him on his marriage. The Tsar called guests, gave feasts, and forgot to think of Nikita. Little time had he left to rejoice. Yelena the Beautiful soon seized his kingdom, took the management of all to herself, and forced him to herd pigs. The wrath of the Tsaritsa was not allayed with this; she gave command to make search on every side for relatives of Nikita Koltoma, and if any were found to bring them to the palace.
Messengers galloped and searched everywhere. They found a brother of Nikita, - Timofei Koltoma; they brought him to the palace. Yelena the Beautiful gave command to take out his eyes and drive him from the town, When they had blinded Timofei they led him outside the town and left him in the open field. The blind man dragged along, found his way by feeling; he went and went, till he came to the sea-shore, advanced a step or two, and felt water under his feet. He halted, stood on one spot, moved neither backward nor forward; he was afraid to go. All at once the boat with Nikita was borne toward the shore. Nikita saw a man, was rejoiced, and called to him: "Ei! good man; help me to land".
The blind man answered: "Gladly would I help thee, but I cannot. I am without eyes; I see nothing".
"But whence art thou, and what is thy name?"
"I am Timofei Koltoma. The new Tsaritsa, Yelena the Beautiful, had my eyes put out, and drove me from her kingdom".
"Ah! but thou art my own brother; I am Nikita Koltoma. Go thou, Timofei, to the right side, - there a tall oak is growing; pull out the oak, bring it here, and throw it from the shore into the water. I will creep out upon it to thee".
Timofei turned to the right, stepped forward, and found the tall old oak, seized it with both hands, pulled it out by the roots, drew the oak, and threw it into the water. The tree lay with one end on land, the other came down near the boat. Nikita crept out on shore somehow, kissed his brother, and said: "How is our terrible Tsar living now?"
"Oh, brother," answered Timofei, "our terrible Tsar is now in great straits, - he is herding pigs in the field! Every morning he gets a pound of bread, a jug of water, and three rods on his back".
Then they talked about how they were to live and how to support themselves. Said Nikita: "Hear, brother, my advice: thou wilt carry me, because I am footless, and I will sit on thee and tell thee where to go".
"Agreed; be it as thou sayest. Though we are both maimed, we shall serve for one sound man".
So Nikita sat on his brother's shoulders and showed him the way. Timofei walked and walked, and came into a slumbering forest. In that forest stood the cabin of Baba-Yaga. The brothers entered the cabin; there was not a soul inside.
"Well, brother," said Nikita, "feel in the oven. Is n't there some food?"
Timofei crawled to the oven, took out every kind of food, put it on the table, and they both began to put the food away; from hunger they ate everything clean. Then Nikita began to examine the cabin. He saw on the window a small whistle, placed it to his lips and began to whistle. He looks - what sort of wonder! His blind brother is dancing, the cabin is dancing, the table, the dishes are dancing, everything dancing; the pots were broken into bits.
"Enough, Nikita, stop playing," begged the blind man; "my strength can hold out no longer".
Nikita stopped whistling, and that moment everything was silent. All at once the door opened, in walked Baba-Yaga, and she screamed with a loud voice: "Oh, homeless vagrants, to this minute not a bird has flown past, nor a beast run by here; and ye have come, devoured my food, broken my pots! Very good; I'll settle with you!"
"Silence, old carrion! We shall be able to settle with thee ourselves. Here, brother Timofei, hold the old witch firmly!"
Timofei caught the Baba-Yaga in his arms, squeezed her hard, hard; but Nikita seized her that moment by the hair and dragged her through the cabin.
"Oh, fathers," begged Baba-Yaga, "I'll be of use to you myself; whatever ye want I 'll get you!"
"Well, then, old woman, speak. Canst thou get us healing and living water? If thou gettest it, I 'll let thee go alive into the white world; if not, then I 'll give thee to a cruel death".
Baba-Yaga agreed, and led them to two springs. "Here are for you the healing and living water".
Nikita Koltoma took the healing water, poured it on himself, and his legs grew out. They were quite healthy, but would n't move. He took living water, moistened his legs, and began to use them. The same happened to Timofei Koltoma: he washed the hollows of his eyes with healing water, eyes came in his head just as if they had never been injured, but saw nothing; he washed them with the living water, and they began to see better than ever.
The brothers thanked the old woman, let her go home, and went to liberate the terrible Tsar from suffering and misfortune. They came to the capital town and saw that the Tsar was herding pigs in front of the castle. Nikita Koltoma began to blow on the whistle, and the herdsman with the pigs fell to dancing. Yelena the Beautiful saw this from the window; she was furious, and gave command to take a bunch of rods and flog the pigherd and the musicians.
The guard ran out, seized them, brought them to the castle to treat them to rods. When Nikita Koltoma came to Yelena the Beautiful he made no delay, but seized her white hands and said: "Dost know me, Yelena the Beautiful? I am Nikita Koltoma. Well, terrible Tsar, she is in thy power; what thou wishest, that do".
The Tsar gave command to shoot her, and he made Nikita his first minister; he honored him always, and obeyed him in all things.