The Blood of the Bear, 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.