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The Blood of the Bear

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The Blood of the Bear

Post by Ronson on Sat Jul 31, 2010 1:12 pm

Part One


Legends are often told of ancient times. The storytellers of the Northlands tell this story as a legend, even though it is from a relatively recent past.

In the time of Growth, when the birds return to the trees and the sun rises higher in the sky, the children of the Northlands look to the awakening of the bears as the final signal that Growth is upon them. Hungry from their long sleep, the bears come closer to the villages and towns. Therefore, each village has a family whose duty is to ensure the bears do not come into the village and threaten them.
One day, young woman named Kiva went into the forest to gather firewood. As she turned to head home, her foot slipped on a patch of ice and she stumbled, scattering the firewood across the snow. Before she could stand again, a large hand reached toward her and she gasped, staring upward at the tallest man she had ever seen in her life.
"I did not mean to frighten you," he said, his rich voice lilting with an odd tone Kiva had never heard before. He pulled her easily to her feet and helped gather the scattered wood. He carried the wood for her to the edge of her camp and smiled at her. "Who are you?" she asked. "My name is Benno," he replied. "I am glad to be of service." Benno bowed low, then slipped away into the woods as silently as he had appeared.
Kiva belonged to the family of bear watchers of her village. She looked forward to sitting the long watches of the night with her spear by her side, guarding the village. Kiva loved sitting just outside the edge of the camp fire's light to gaze upon the stars. Though Growth was upon them, the nights were still long, crisp and clear and the stars so bright she felt as though she could reach out her hand to touch them.
One night as she sat watch, she heard a rustling sound in the nearby brush and stood, gripping her spear. "Who is there?" she called, cautiously approaching the area, but she saw nothing but the tracks of a bear in the light crust formed on the top of the snow. Furrowing her brow, she resolved to keep a closer eye on the village and not on the skies.
During her watches now, Kiva thought about Benno. He was not of her village; his voice had an odd inflection she could not place. But he spoke Halasian as did she and he was very handsome. Gazing upwards into the stars, Kiva wondered where he came from and whether she might see him again. At that moment, she heard the rustling in the woods again where the bear had left its tracks. Kiva grabbed her spear and edged her way toward the noise, careful not to make any sounds
Benno stood at the edge of the woods. He smiled at her, "I hope you do not mind; I wanted to see you again." Kiva blushed and Benno stepped closer. "When first I saw you sitting here beside your fire and looking to the sky, I knew you are a dreamer, as am I," he said. Suddenly, they heard a bear in the undergrowth nearby.
Kiva gripped her spear and looked toward the noise, but Benno put his hand on her arm. "The bears do not come to kill; they come to look," he said softly. "Some say the bears come to find a mate among the Northmen, so they may share their strength." A large, shaggy bear emerged from the woods, looked at Kiva and Benno, then lumbered away again.
"You see? He did not come to harm you," Benno smiled, then slipped into the woods with a quick wave. Though she looked for him again over the next few days, Kiva did not see him. Kiva began to think she had hit her head that day she fell with her firewood and had imagined him into being.
Though Growth was upon the Northlands, the changes were not as sweeping as they are in the distant south. Snow and ice still cover the ground, but the lands feel more awake to those who know them best. The children of the Northlands, scattered by the invasion of the Horde, looked to each new season with hope in their hearts that this season, they would retake their homes. The Horde had not come yet to Kiva's village.


Part Two

This is the second part of a legend among the Northlanders concerning the Age of War. In Part One, Kiva met Benno, who was not of her village.
Though the Horde had not yet come to their village, Kiva's people were prepared. With the Growth season upon them, they knew that ways previously impassable were now easier to access. They had dug in defensive trenches lined with sharply spiked branches and stakes. They had watches every night, both for the bears that were awakening and for any sign that the Horde might be advancing their way.
Kiva was near the river gathering more wood when she again saw Benno. He stood at the edge of the melting ice, staring intently into the water. Before Kiva could call out a greeting, Benno reached into the water and with a quick swipe of his hand had knocked a fish onto the icy shore.
As he picked up the fish, Benno noticed Kiva watching him. "I have never seen anyone fish that way before," she said, coming closer. Benno laughed and bade her stand back from the icy edge. He braced himself on the riverbank and stared into the black waters. He stood still for so long, Kiva wondered whether he had frozen in place. Suddenly he bent forward, darting his hand at the water and flinging another fish to the shore.
"That is how we fish in my clan," Benno said, picking up the fish and putting it into a rough bag he had at his belt. Kiva laughed and said, "I have never seen that before; your clan must not be from around here." Benno glanced at her and said, "No. It is not." He turned to leave, then said hesitantly, "Are you curious to see where my clan is from?"
Kiva paused, considering, "Is it far? I am on watch and must be back before dark." Benno nodded, "You will be back before dark." And then without warning he scooped her into his arms and crossed the water. "Benno! The river ice is melting!" Kiva gasped, "The water bites with cold; are you mad?" He laughed and said, "This is nothing; I am of the North!"
Benno pushed through the snow-covered branches that hung low to the riverbank. Kiva had never walked on this side of the river before and she was fascinated. The trees grew tall and thick and were so closely set that no snow reached the ground. They came at last to an enormous tree, and at its roots, Benno pushed aside a leafy bush, revealing a hole into the ground.
Though Kiva had to stoop to enter (as did Benno, who was taller than the tallest Northman), she could stand upright once inside. The cavernous hole seemed to go on and on into the darkness. Benno lit candles and offered her honey mead. It was warming and delicious. He brought her dried berries.
"Where is the rest of your clan?" asked Kiva. A shadow passed over Benno's features. He said softly, "I am the last of my kind," then he said as though correcting himself, "Of my kin." Benno sat silently for a moment. "We lived in this place in the time of Growth, but at other times lived in other places. The Horde found us elsewhere. I alone escaped."
"I am sorry," Kiva said. "The Horde has not yet come here." "But they will," Benno said quietly. "They will never get what they seek. The time has come for them to be defeated. And when they are gone, I will join another clan. My strength will be theirs."
Looking around the empty cavern, Benno said, "Come! It is time for you to return to your people." He took Kiva's hand and stood for a moment, studying it closely; it was so small in his palm. Then he smiled at her and led the way through the bush into the woods.
Categories: Items · House Item (Item Type) · Book (Item Subtype) · Books · The Blood


Part Three

This brings to a close the Northland legend told of Kiva and Benno, who helped bring victory to the Northmen.
Once they reached the river, Benno picked Kiva up to carry her across the icy water. An arrow flew past them, then another. Without breaking stride, Benno retreated into the woods with Kiva still in his arms. He made an angry sound that reminded Kiva of a growl. The Horde had come to this part of the Northlands at last.
"We will cross lower down," Benno said, his dark eyes glittering. "I will take you back to your village; they are here for me." Kiva said, "The Horde care nothing for whom they kill." Benno shook his head. "They have seen me and know where I am from." He put Kiva gently on the ground and took her face into his hands. "I am not what I seem," he said and Kiva gasped as she recognized him. He was of the bear people.
Benno nodded. "It is true; I am a bear. From the moment I first saw you, I knew that I must stay with you; that is why I am in this form. Now, we must hasten away. The Horde hunts me for my blood. They drink it, thinking it will give them my strength -- but that is not how one becomes a bear." Benno kissed her forehead and said, "You are now marked by a bear."
Kiva listened intently; the mark Benno had placed on her forehead gave her the sharp hearing of the bear. She could hear the Horde cursing farther up the river. Staying close behind him, Kiva followed Benno as he loped through the woods until he came to a place where they could cross the river safely. Picking her up again, Benno crossed the river and they headed toward her village.
"Your people will be safe in my cave," Benno said. Kiva shook her head. "No, we will not hide," she said. "The Horde thinks to overrun all the Northland but we cannot let them. If we defeat them here, it will give strength to our people." Benno nodded. "Then we will fight. I will go with you." The pair ran swiftly back to Kiva's village where they sounded the alert. The defenses were swung into motion while they made their plans.
"The Horde is at the river; orcs only and I sense they are afraid of something," Benno told the village elders once Kiva introduced him. "I know not what. This is the time to push them back. Push them back beyond Halas." The village leaders agreed. This time they would be the aggressors and slay the Horde. "I go with you; I must avenge my clan," said Benno.
Kiva said, "We should drive them into the river and let them freeze. They will sink under the weight of their gear and be unable to reach the riverbank." Benno added, "I will cross and attract their attention; while they are looking at me, push ahead." After a quick debate, the elders agreed that this plan might work. If nothing else, it would reduce the numbers of orcs that they would need to fight hand-to-hand. The villagers set off for the river.
They found the Horde milling along the riverbank, obviously intending to cross it but unable to agree on how. Benno slipped away and soon enough, they saw him on the opposite bank near the woods. So did the orcs. Howling, they turned to face him, stringing arrows and aiming their spears. Benno stayed just out of reach, taunting them.
"Now!" cried Kiva. She and the villagers burst out from their hiding place. The surprised orcs did not know which way to turn. Some fled into the river. Some turned toward the villagers. There was enough confusion that the villagers pressed the orcs back until they were all in the icy waters. They were too heavy-laden to reach the riverbanks and either froze or drowned.
This victory marked a turning point against the Horde. The villagers spread the word as quickly as they could, heartening the clans and giving them the hope to take back their own towns. Then the clans united to take back Halas. Kiva and Benno married then and through their union, the strength of the bear still flows in the veins of the Northmen.

Ronson

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