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    Grumpy Bear
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Arctic Roots - 12. The Mother Lode

Axel woke in the night hearing a breathy whisper in his ear and a hand stoking his cock.

“Cub,” Axel mumbled, “Let me sleep. We’ve fucked enough for one night.”

He reached up to bat at the face whispering in his ear but found only empty space. He looked over at Adam’s side of the bed, but the cub was sleeping soundly. They had been partying in the Saloon till nearly closing time, and then they had come up to the room and made love for another hour before finally going to sleep.

Axel decided that he must have been dreaming and laid his head back down. He soon fell back into such a deep sleep that he didn’t even notice the antique dresser moving away from the wall again, just as Axel had pulled it out to show Adam his name carved there, but this time the dresser moved on its own.

****

“Very funny, Papa,” Adam said, waking Axel up. Sunlight streamed through the bay windows and the cub was standing at the foot of the bed, giving Axel a stern expression.

“What are you on about now, Cub?” Axel mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

“Well, the guy at the front desk yesterday was going on about this room being haunted, so you had to go and pull a prank to try to scare me this morning. Nice try.”

“Cub, what the fuck are you talking about?” Axel asked again, growing annoyed. He didn’t enjoy games or jokes first thing in the morning, and he thought the Cub knew that rule.

“You’re telling me that you aren’t the one who did this?” Adam replied, pointing at the dresser.

Axel got out of bed to look at what had the Cub so worked up this early in the morning. He noticed that the dresser was pulled away from the wall again.

“Did you move this dresser?” Axel asked, grumpily.

“What? No!” Adam replied. “I thought you did it. I suppose you’re telling me that you didn’t do this to your name carved on the back either!”

Axel walked around to see the back of the dresser where he and Samuel had carved their names back when he’d first moved into this room in the Hotel. This morning, the carved inscription was covered with a bloody handprint.

“Oh, I see,” Axel said, understanding both the handprint and the mysterious caress and whisper in his ear that woke him during the night.

“You see what?” Adam asked, nearly in a panic, “Care to fill in your ol’ Cub here on the secret?”

“The guy at the front desk was right. This room is haunted. It’s where Samuel died, and it looks like he’s been hanging around ever since.

This isn’t the reward you expected when you broke my heart and tried to kill me, is it Samuel?” Axel shouted to the room.

“Papa!” Adam said, grabbing Alex’s arm and trying to calm him down. “You’re going to wake up the whole hotel! Let’s get dressed and go get some breakfast and you can tell me what happened with Samuel that makes you think he’s still haunting his old room.”

Once they were out of the Westminster and across the street to the El Dorado restaurant with a table and a cup of coffee, they were both able to calm their nerves a bit.

“Okay, Papa,” Adam now said, “This whole Samuel business just took a fucked-up turn. I think you need to get this story out of your system.”

“This is going to be another rough tale, Cub,” Axel replied. “I’ve kept it buried for so long, but seeing this place, and that room, and the picture of me and Samuel in front of the Westminster has brought it all up again.

“When spring came in 1898, the Westminster opened, and Samuel moved into that room. I had a standing appointment with him twice a week. I paid the madam eight dollars a week and I got Samuel entirely to myself every Wednesday and Saturday night. We would make love and talk. He would tell me how much he loved me. After I made my fortune, we were going to run away together and live in Kansas City. In many ways, that was the happiest time of my life so far…”

****

Alexei worked his claim hard the second summer in the Yukon. He was able to excavate three times the amount in the drift tunnels during the winter months as the year before, and he kept the dirt and gravel from each of this three tunnels in a separate dump, so that he could evaluate the profitability of each and adjust his excavations appropriately the next winter.

By mid-summer, Alexei was halfway through sluicing his piles, and already had twice the amount of gold he’d excavated the year before. He cashed in this first batch of gold with the mining recorder’s office in July, and Alexei suddenly found himself with an extra $900 in his pocket.

He used some of his profits on lumber and materials, and replaced his drafty tent with a cozy cabin, complete with stove, fireplace and an attached outhouse. He purchased new clothes, for himself and Samuel, and on their Wednesday and Saturday “date nights” would take him to the best restaurant in town for dinner and drinks before returning to Samuel’s room in the hotel to make love.

Alexei assured Samuel that he was close to striking it rich. If the second half of his winter excavation dump piles paid off as well as the first, he would be in line to make a fortune within the next year or two and then he could give them the life they deserved.

There were many times that Alexei considered telling Samuel his secret, that he was actually a near-immortal werebear, but chose to wait. That was something that could be discussed after he had made his fortune and he offered to take Samuel away from this dirty boomtown and the men who used him for their primal urges five nights a week.

When Alexei started sluicing on the third and final dump pile from his winter excavations, he immediately knew that he had found his fortune. Every shovelful of dirt into the sluice box returned a trove of shiny bits of gold. He knew immediately that this third tunnel within his mine would be where he should focus his efforts over the upcoming winter, and when the fall came, he had not one, but two glass jars full of gold to sell.

Alexei paid the $100 fee to renew his claim for another year, and after all transactions were complete, he had made just a little over three thousand dollars just in August and September. If he could focus all work on the third tunnel as soon as the ground froze over, and work steadily until the spring thaw, he could easily pull another ten thousand in gold from the ground and by this time next year, he would be a rich man.

Alexei invested some of that year’s profits into equipment that could pump steam from the surface into the mines, eliminating the need to build fires each night to melt away at the frozen ground a foot at a time. He worked at an inhuman pace, fully utilizing his werebear strength to dig at the ground as he never had before. The only days off he took during those winter months was during Christmas week.

On the Saturday before Christmas, Alexei walked into the Lounge and asked for the Madam herself.

“Well, well,” She said as Alexei stood waiting for her in the front parlor, “If you’ve grown tired of Samuel, I’m afraid I have no other forbidden fruit to offer you, Alexei. What is it that you require?”

“I have not grown tired of Samuel,” Alexei said crossly. “I’m here to tell you that I want to buy his time for the entire week, and I want to bring him back to my cabin in the mining camp for the duration of that time.”

“The holidays are a busy time, Russian,” the madam replied. “There will be a lot of lonely men looking for someone to keep them warm for an hour and give them some Christmas cheer during the next few days. You’d be surprised how many prospectors care very little whether it is a woman or man who gives them that warmth and cheer.”

“I would not,” Alexei interrupted. “I know that Samuel has many men that he is paid to service, but for the next seven days, he will be mine and mine alone. That is my Christmas present to him… and to myself.”

“As you wish, Alexei,” the madam replied with a smirk. “That will cost you $100.”

“Agreed,” Alexei said without bothering to question or haggle the price. He pulled his leather billfold from his pocket and counted out the notes. “Please have Samuel brought down here to me at once.”

Samuel descended the stairs into the Lounge, dressed in his boots and warm parka. He stood in front of Alexei and looked up into the big man’s eyes.

“Sir,” he said, “The madam has told me that you have paid a tremendous sum of money to have me to yourself for the next week. Why would you do that?”

“Because I care for you, Samuel,” Alexei replied. “I wanted to make this week enjoyable for us both. I have worked hard, and my mine is turning a nice profit. If all goes to plan, by this time next year, you and I can be celebrating together comfortably in a fine home in Kansas City. That is where you would wish to be, isn’t it?”

“Oh, yes sir! You have spoken of that to me often, but most miners and prospectors here have dreams, and so very few of them seem to come true. I visited Kansas City once with my father, and it was the most fantastic place that I’d ever seen. Living there with you would be my dream!”

“Then you shall have it,” Alexei replied. “Give me until the next fall and I will have enough gold to make us comfortable for the rest… for the rest of your life.”

Alexei was slightly saddened, knowing that he would have to watch Samuel grow old and die, while he remained constant, never aging, and never changing, but if he could help to make the young man’s life a happier one after having played a part in initiating him into a life of prostitution, then that’s what he would do.

The week was wonderful. Alexei took Samuel to his cabin on his claim, and they spent a wonderful holiday together. The big man lavished gifts upon his young lover, and Samuel gave himself freely to the Russian, keeping him warm at night and waking him each morning with kisses and more lovemaking.

When the week was over, Samuel was returned to his life at the Westminster Hotel, and Alexei returned to his work within his mine, continuing to see each other twice each week during the long winter months on their regular nights of Wednesday and Saturday.

When the spring thaws arrived, Alexei had not three but four dump piles ready for sluicing, all taken from the highly profitable third mine tunnel.

As the big bear worked through the spring and early summer, he found that he filled both of his gold jars full after just sluicing the first pile. If he made a profit of more than three thousand dollars with two jars the previous fall, he was currently positioned to make over twelve thousand this year if the other three piles produced the same quantity of gold!

He stored his jars in a trapdoor underneath his bed in the cabin. He had no need for additional cash sitting around, and he planned to save all his gold until the fall and cash it in all at once before claiming Samuel for good and leaving the Yukon before the snows fell.

Alexei worked diligently, and by the middle of July had four jars full of gold in his hiding place under his bed. With the exception of his twice weekly excursions into town to take Samuel to dinner and back to the Westminster to make love, he barely stopped working at all during the long hours of summer.

When the beginnings of the fall season came, Alexei had managed to stash not eight, but ten jars of gold in the hole beneath his bed. He estimated the value at $15,000 or more, and before he decided whether to renew his claim for another year, he wanted to have a talk with Samuel about their future. If Samuel was ready to leave this life and commit himself to being Alexei’s lover, then he would take his profits, buy out Samuel’s contract from the madam, and they would book passage on the next boat leaving downriver to the sea. From there, they would travel by ship to California, and then take the train to their new home in Kansas City.

If Samuel had cold feet about life with the big Russian man, Alexei would allow the young man to make his own choices and he would stay to work the mine for another year.

On their next Wednesday date night, Axel had a surprise for Samuel. There was a traveling carnival in town for a few days, and instead of their usual dinner and walk back to the hotel for sex, he took the young man to see the amusements.

Samuel was thrilled at the fun and excitement of the carnival, wanting to try the many different things to eat, and watching his strong man win at the many games of skill and strength. The highlight of the carnival was the “Athletic Show” in the main tent, which featured professional wrestlers with exotic names and entertaining biographies battling each other in flamboyant costumes in the wrestling ring. Alexei and Samuel watched the wrestling matches with great interest, cheering for the show’s heroes, and joining with the rest of the crown in booing the villains.

Just before the final match of the night, a carnival barker entered the ring, inviting any challengers from the audience to wrestle the winner of the previous match. For the cost of a mere $10 entry fee, a challenger could multiply their money and win a $100 prize if they successfully pinned the professional for a count of three.

“Oh, Alexei,” Samuel whispered, “You should do that. You could win for sure.”

“I don’t like to draw attention to myself, Samuel,” Alexei replied, “If I wrestled that man in front of everyone, it would be showing off.”

“Please?” Samuel begged, batting his eyes, at the big man, “Do it for me? It will make me so proud.”

Alexei sighed.

“As you wish, young one,” he said.

“Sir! You have a challenger right here!” Alexei cried, standing up from his seat, and holding ten dollars in his hand.

“We have a challenger!” the carnival barker called. “Step up sir, remove your shirt, and climb in the ring!”

As Alexei took his place in the ring, the barker quickly told him the rules.

“No biting, pinching, punching or poking,” he said. “No gouging the eyes, and no grabbing his cock or balls. If you can pick him up off the mat, no slamming him back down head-first. Do you understand?”

“Aye, I understand,” Alexei replied, and the barker quickly called for the two wrestlers to begin.

The resulting match was more of a comedy rather than an exhibition of athleticism. The professional desperately tried to use every move and hold in his arsenal to force Alexei to the mat, but the big Russian stood in the middle, acting as if the other man’s actions were little more than the buzzing of a mosquito about him. Over and over the professional leapt upon Alexei, only to find himself swatted away and knocked across the ring.

“Hurry up and finish him!” Samuel called from his seat in the crowd and Alexei tipped his head in the young man’s direction and gave him a wink.

The next time the professional jumped at Alexei trying to complete a hold or knock him off balance, the Russian grabbed the man from mid-air, spun him around over his head and slammed him flat on his back onto the wrestling mat. From there it was a simple matter to push his knuckles against the professional’s shoulders until the dumbfounded carnival barker realized what was happening and slowly counted to three.

The crowd in the tent erupted in cheers, shouting “Alexei, Alexei!”

The barker reluctantly counted out $100 in bills back to Alexei and the big man buttoned up his shirt, and collected his young date, giving the crowd a final wave as they left.

Instead of taking Samuel back to the Westminster that night, he took him back to his cabin, ensuring the young man that he would have him back in his room before the madam would notice in the morning.

“That was so exciting, Alexei,” Samuel said, recounting the wrestling match again for his man’s benefit. “We could make a lot of money if you could win those wrestling contests all over the country.”

“Son,” Alexei replied, “We’re not going to have to rely on wrestling matches to get by. It’s time for you to decide if you’re ready to leave the Yukon with me.”

“What are you saying, sir?” Samuel asked. “Have you struck it rich?”

“See for yourself,” Alexei said, pushing his big bed off the trap door and opening it so the young man could see inside. Ten large glass jars sat in the hiding place glittering in the light of the cabin’s oil lamps.

“Oh, sir,” Samuel said, “It’s wonderful. It’s the most gold I’ve ever seen.”

“It is enough to give the two of us a comfortable life. Will you come and live with me in Kansas City?”

“The city of my dreams…” Samuel said, thinking wistfully. “Sir, there are some things that I must do before I can decide to leave. Can I give you my answer when we see each other again on Saturday night?”

“That will be fine, son,” Alexei replied. “If on Saturday you agree, I will immediately buy out your contract with the madam and you will be mine. On Monday when the mining office opens, I will cash in all of this gold, and we will book passage to California.”

“Thank you for giving me the time to think about this, Alexei,” Samuel said. “For now, come to bed and let me show you how much I appreciate everything that you have done for me.”

Three days later, on Saturday evening, Alexei returned to the Westminster Lounge for his regular appointment with Samuel. He walked up the stairs to his room on the third floor and knocked softly on the door. Samuel answered, dressed in the best clothes that he owned, clothing that Alexei himself had purchased for him.

As he walked into the room, he sensed the feet of another person shuffling on the floor behind him, and heard the door being closed. Before he could turn to see who else was in the room with them, a heavy shovel whacked against his skull, knocking him to the floor. The shovel was slammed into his head three more times as he lay there. The last thing he heard before losing consciousness was Samuel’s voice.

“That’s enough,” Samuel said, “Even this great oaf can’t survive that many blows to the head. Help me get him outside…”

Alexei woke to sunlight shining in his face. He was cold and wet. His head hurt.

He sat up and realized that he was in the river, washed up against a bank, many miles downstream from town. He felt his head where he’d been struck with the shovel and realized that his skull had been fractured. If he hadn’t had a werebear’s miraculous healing powers, he likely would not have survived.

He pulled himself from the water and began the long walk back to town. Cold, wet, and angry.

It was already dark again by the time he reached the Westminster Hotel, and he let himself into the building through the back door, quickly running up the stairs to the third floor. He didn’t bother to knock this time, instead throwing the door open with a bang.

Samuel was in the room alone, packing his things into a carpetbag. He turned and looked at Alexei with shock.

“A-Alexei!” Samuel said stammering. “Thank God you’re all right! I was… so worried about you.”

“Save it, whore,” Alexei replied. “I know that you had someone else in this room waiting to ambush me when I arrived yesterday. I suppose if I go back to my cabin, all of my gold is gone, isn’t it?”

Samuel straightened up and looked Alexei in the eye.

“That’s right. Your gold is long gone by now.”

“Who was it?” Alexei asked. “Who are you conspiring with against me?”

“Rosa,” Samuel said.

“Rosa the whore? Why did you betray me for another prostitute? For a woman?

“Rosa convinced me that what I was feeling for men was unnatural. We wanted to live a life together that is pure and natural. We’d been saving our money together. I thought I was going to have to keep taking that giant cock of yours up my ass for the next ten years before we’d finally have enough money to leave, but as soon as you showed me all the gold you had hidden in your cabin, I knew it was our chance.

“And you’re too late to get it back, by the way. Rosa took it all with her. We split up to throw anyone who might suspect us killing you off our trail. She left this morning by boat and I’m leaving tonight by wagon. We’re going to meet back up at the coast.”

“Samuel,” Alexei said, trying to hold back his anger, “I loved you. We could have been happy together.”

“Rosa told me that you’d try to say something like that. You’ve been twisting my mind, making me think that your perversions are normal to keep me under control. That’s why she was going to be the one to kill you with the shovel before we dumped you in the river. You were supposed to be dead, Alexei… Why aren’t you dead?”

Samuel reached into his bag and pulled out a revolver.

“I’ll make sure that this time, the job is done,” he said and fired twice at Alexei. The bullets hit him in the chest, and Alexei staggered backwards, but soon stood upright again with an expression of hatred on his face.

“I don’t understand,” Samuel said, “Why won’t you die?”

“Because I’ve been keeping a secret too Samuel,” Alexei said, his voice changing to a deep growl and fur starting to sprout on his face and arms. “You can be sure that once you know my secret, you won’t live long enough to tell anyone else.”

In an instant, Alexei’s body heaved and shifted. His clothing was torn at the seams and his face and hands distorted. A moment later Samuel was face-to-face with a ten-foot Kodiak bear.

Samuel screamed and fired the gun four more times, but it had no effect. The bear roared and slashed with its claws, ripping open the man’s abdomen and disemboweling him as he shrieked and begged for mercy with his final breaths. The man inside the bear saw his lover’s guts spill out onto the floor of his room and for an instant, instead of Samuel, he saw Gregor, the tavern-keeper in the Ural Mountains who had tried to turn young Alexei the human into a prostitute, and who he had also disemboweled in his rage.

Alexei the bear rampaged down the stairs of the hotel, turning at the bottom and bursting through the doorway into the Lounge, where the painted ladies were entertaining the prospectors for their money. The women screamed and the men shouted, but the bear’s roar was louder, and his claws were sharper. The bear ripped and tore his way through the room leaving a path of death and destruction. He saw the Madam of the house running for the door, but he caught her with his claws, tearing her in two as she shrieked in pain.

The screams of the dying humans in the Lounge did nothing to soothe the pain of the bear, and he broke through the door and out into the street, running toward the miner’s camp. Several men emerged from the saloons and gambling halls with their guns and took shots at the giant rogue bear running through the streets of Dawson, but it did not slow down or stop until it was lost in the woods.

Returning to the door of his cabin, Alexei shifted back to his human form and quickly packed his clothing and few possessions into a bag. His gold was indeed gone, but Samuel and Rosa had not found his supply of cash, and he still had a couple thousand dollars. He knew he must get out of town as quickly as possible, and as he finished packing and slung his bag over his shoulder the answer came to him in a moment of inspiration.

On the outskirts of town, the carnival was just finished packing up their tents and loading up the last of the wagons. Alexei spotted the carnival barker who had offered the challenge to the crowd for anyone to try to pin the professional wrestler and ran up to him.

“I have to get out of town, tonight,” Alexei said to the barker, “And I think your outfit could use a better class of wrestler. One that can’t be beaten by any random asshole from the crowd.”

The carny looked Alexei up and down.

“Have you ever wrestled professionally before?” he asked.

“Just the other day when I mopped the ring with your man for $100. Remember me now?”

“Oh, right,” he said. “You got me and Jim in deep shit for losing that money. The boss took it out of our pay.”

“Yeah,” Alexei said, “Well, I’ll give you each two hundred now if you let me join up with you. I have to get out of this shithole. Now.”

“You got a deal, buster,” the carny said. “That’s my wagon. Hop aboard, and welcome to the Lord John Sanger & Sons Carnival!”

“What’s your name, mister?” the carny said as the wagon caravan pulled out of town in the darkness of night.

“Alexei.”

“You’re gonna need a persona. A gimmick. We can call you ‘The Mad Russian!’”

“No.” Alexei said.

“Look, buddy,” the carny said, “This is all part of a show. You’ll need a catchy name to entertain and dazzle ‘em. If you don’t want to play up the Russian angle, then what do you want your persona to be? The flashy one? The giant one? The handsome one…?”

“How about I be the tough one who beats the shit out of everyone else?” Alexei replied sternly.

“Uh, I guess that can work, but we’re going to have to change your name and your image to match that. ‘Alexei’ is going to have to go. Too Russian and not very tough sounding. How about… ‘Axel’ instead? That’s a tough-guy kind of name.”

“Fine. Axel it is. What else?”

“You’re big, but you’re too… pretty to pull off the tough-guy persona... How do you feel about tattoos?”

****

“Wow,” Adam said. It was early evening. They had been wandering the town and talking all day.

“Yeah,” Axel said. “Wow.”

“So, you sort of went berserker with your bear and killed Samuel and a bunch of other people, and then joined the Carnival?”

“Pretty much,” Axel replied. “The whole killing people thing is another part of the story that we aren’t going to let slip out and tell the other bears like Ezekiel. Right, Cub?”

“Of course, Papa,” Adam said, “Although if you want to know the truth, I think Samuel at least deserved it.”

“Yeah, that little piece of shit really broke my heart, Cub. It was a long, long time before I allowed myself to love anyone again after that.”

“How long?” Adam asked.

“Until I opened the door of a monster’s hut on an Indian reservation, and your bald ass walked out, Cub,” Axel replied. “You’re the first person I opened my heart up to again after he broke it… So, don’t make me regret it, okay?”

“Okay Papa. Your heart is safe with me.”

Later that evening, the bears had the two biggest steaks in Dawson City with all the sides before going back to their room in the Westminster Hotel to fuck their brains out.

After Adam fell asleep and began to snore over on his side of the bed, Axel sat awake and waited. Before long, a light breeze blew through the room, and Axel heard a soft whisper in his ear and felt an invisible hand caressing his cock.

“Hello Samuel,” Axel whispered. “So nice to see you again.”

A dark shape formed and sat on the end of the bed near Axel’s feet.

“Hello Alexei,” a soft voice whispered back, “I’ve been waiting so long for you to come back home again.”

“This isn’t my home, boy,” Axel replied, “Not any longer. I thought I could have been happy with you once, but you ruined that for me. I have a new love now. One who is a bit more loyal.”

“I’ve only stayed here to tell you that I’m sorry,” the dark shape whispered. “I really did love you, but I was afraid that loving another man would make me damned, so I tried to save my soul by betraying you. In the end, it was that betrayal, not the love, that damned me to this Hell.”

“What do you need from me in order to move on?” Axel asked.

“I need you to forgive me, sir. Has it been long enough that you can feel pity for me again?”

“If you need my forgiveness, son, you have it. Go in peace and move on.”

“Thank you, sir,” the dark shape whispered, dissolving, “I’ll always remember how good you were to me.”

With that final whisper, Axel could tell that the spirit was gone, hopefully for good. He laid down on the bed and cuddled up against his cub. Wherever Samuel was now, he hoped it was nice. Just like Kansas City.

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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Wow what a sad chapter in some respects. Unfortunately as Adam said Samuel probably deserved what Axel did to him. The touch at the end where Axel forgave Samuel was great.

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Samuel and Alexei's story is heartbreaking. He was justified in killing Samuel, but I'm not sure about the others.

Seeing Samuel's ghost appear was shocking to say the least! This raises the question of, "What else exists in this universe?" There's ghosts, werecreatures... what's next? Vampires? Satyr? I'm interested!

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This chapter was just perfect, i was wondering if Samuel would become violent towards adam out of jealousy. The part at the end where Samuel apologized and axel forgave him was beautiful and a great way to finally close that chapter of Axel's past. Superb writing Mr. Grumpy 🐻

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I hope that Rosa ended up in just as bad of shape as Samuel and the rest of them...

So we get to the moment that Alexi became Axel.

forgiveness is truly divine.

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