The Blood of the Bear, 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.