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    Grumpy Bear
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Arctic Roots - 3. Alexei’s Story

The group of new cubs studied hard, and the four youngest tackled the history of the 1980s, AIDS, Reagan, escalating nuclear proliferation, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rapid decline of Communism. The fifth cub who was assaulted by Christopher and changed into a monster in 1992 was added, and they covered the 1990s, the fall of the Soviet Union, the first mass school shooting in the US and the increasing gun control debate, the continuing AIDS crisis and the first drug advancements that lifted the death sentence from the diagnosis.

Satisfied with their progress, Axel, Ezekiel and Joel decided to take another break before tackling September 11th and the massive changes in world following that event. That evening, Adam prodded his Papa for more of his personal history, and before heading to the dining hall for dinner Axel finally relented and agreed to tell his Cub about his life before being turned into a werebear.

“Tonight, Papa is going to tell me the story of where he came from before becoming a bear,” Adam said casually to their companions at the dining table.

A dozen shocked faces turned to look at the pair, and the room grew so quiet they could distinctly hear someone dropping their fork in surprise.

“How did you manage that?” Jacob asked. “We’ve been trying to get that big ol’ bear to spill his secrets for a couple years now. Cub-to-cub, how did you do it?”

Axel’s eyes narrowed and he let out a low growl as he glanced around the table, but Adam was enjoying the attention.

“I had to spend a lot of time on my back,” Adam said smugly, “Wearing down his defenses, but he finally told me about his Papa and how they met. Did you know that was way back in 1648?”

“Cub!” Axel loudly interrupted, “Not everything I tell you as your Papa is for public knowledge, understand?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Papa!” Adam replied, realizing at once that he’d overstepped his Papa’s bounds, and had seriously pissed him off. “Can I at least ask Ezekiel whether he knows your Papa or not?”

Axel sighed and nodded his head.

“Grand-Papa,” Adam said to Ezekiel, “As I said, Axel met his Papa back in 1648, and back then his Papa was supposedly almost four thousand years old.”

Ezekiel chuckled.

“There’s only one bear I’ve ever known who was that old,” Ezekiel replied, “And no one has seen hide nor hair of him for a thousand years. So, I doubt very much that Axel’s Papa could have really been that old. Did Axel tell you his name?”

“He said that his name was Matthias, but that everyone they did business with back then in the 1600’s called him Matti.”

The color drained from Ezekiel’s face and his eyes grew large. He looked at Axel with an awed expression.

“Everything has come full-circle,” the Grand-Papa whispered, to the confusion of all at the dining table.

“What are you saying, old bear?” Axel asked. “Did you know my Old Man before he turned me?”

“I did indeed, young one.” Ezekiel answered. “Do you not recall the story of the great army of werebears who assembled in Russia a thousand years ago to battle the Viking who was turned into the dababbi monster?”

“My Old Man was in that army?” Axel asked.

“Not only was he in that army,” Ezekiel replied, “Matthias is the bear who finally killed the monster by ripping its head from its shoulders with his very paws.”

As the group fell silent again to ponder this, Ezekiel continued.

“Over fifty bears were killed by the dababbi in that battle, and one of them was Matthias’s Cub, his Love, his Mate of a thousand years. When the battle was over and the dababbi was dead at Matthias’s paws, he buried his Mate, changed into his bear form and wandered into the wilderness alone. It was thought that no one had seen him since that day, but now it becomes clear that seven hundred years later, he took another cub.

“How wondrous it is that the first dababbi war was ended by Matthias, and the second dababbi war was ended by his Cub. With two very different outcomes.”

Axel began a low rumbling growl deep in his chest. Adam recognized the sound that his Papa was not happy. Axel pushed his half-eaten dinner plate away from him and gazed downward, looking at nothing.

“Matthias was a very good friend and mentor to me,” Ezekiel said, “Tell me, young one, was he a good Papa to you?”

The rumble in Axel’s chest rose in volume.

No,” he replied simply, and then rose from the table and strode quickly from the dining hall.

Adam stood and made apologies for this Papa.

“Matthias may have been Axel’s Papa,” Adam said, “But he kept him at arm’s-length. They never really bonded properly as Papa and Cub.”

“Matthias made room in his heart for another Cub, but not another Love,” Ezekiel commented. “How sad for Axel. This reveals much about how he came to be.”

“If you will all excuse me,” Adam said, “I’m determined to find out the rest. Good evening!”

****

“If I tell you more,” Axel said sternly, pacing back and forth in front of the crackling fireplace as his cub sat patiently on the couch, “It is just between you and me unless I decide otherwise, understand? Some of the things that I did in my human youth and in the many years after I left my Old Man I’m not entirely proud of. They’re things that bears like Ezekiel would consider to be behavior unworthy of the noble werebear clan. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Papa,” Adam replied, looking down at the floor. He was embarrassed that he had spilled his Papa’s secrets so easily over the dinner table to the other bears, and he would do better at earning Axel’s confidence in the future.

“My name wasn’t always Axel,” the big bear finally said, resting his forearm on the mantel and turning to gaze at the fire. “I was born Alexei Ankudinov in what is now known as Ukraine. My family and I were part of the proud warrior tribe known as the Cossacks…”

****

“Alexei,” his mother said with tears in her eyes, “Why must you leave our home? Can’t you stay here to find happiness? There are many young girls right here in this village who would make a fine wife and bear you many strong sons.”

“Mama,” Alexei replied, looking at his mother but avoiding eye contact, “You know that I’m not interested in girls. I cannot help the way that I am. If I am to find worth in this life, I must follow my Cossack warrior brethren into Siberia where I will find my fortune with furs, walrus ivory and silver.”

“If your mind is settled on Siberia, then go,” she said, drying her tears with the hem of her apron. “I have done all I can to show you the path of marriage and children. I beg of you now, if your intention is to lay with other men, then wait until you are far from here. Do not bring shame upon our household. You are part of a line of proud Cossack warriors, and I will not have this stain upon your father’s memory.”

“Mama, please…” Alexei said, trying to make his mother understand, but she turned away from him.

“I see that your bag is packed,” she replied. “Go now, and do not return unless it is with your bride and my grandchildren.”

Alexei left his home without a backward glance and strapped his pack behind his horse’s saddle. He headed east upon the well-worn road where many Cossacks before him had begun their quest for adventure and wealth that lay ahead in Siberia.

The road east was long and tedious. Many nights Alexei was forced to sleep outdoors with only a small campfire for warmth, while other nights he may be lucky enough to find a town with a tavern or inn where he could find a hot meal, a mug of ale, and a warm bed.

Taverns cost money, of which Alexei had short supply. He would trade lodgings for work, sometimes cleaning stables or washing up in the kitchens. Alexi always agreed to whatever task could earn him a meal and a bed, and turned away no offers for work, knowing that each was simply a temporary engagement to assist him on his true path east.

He found himself traveling through the Southern Ural Mountains in the wintertime, and even with his steadfast horse, the travels were difficult. He encountered a lone tavern along the mountain road, owned and operated by a single man, portly and ruddy faced. Prices at this tavern were high, and Alexi had not nearly enough coin to pay for a meal, let alone a bed for the night. He begged the owner to give him any job that might earn him some food and drink and a place to sleep.

The portly owner looked Alexei up and down, scrutinizing him. His eyes bored into Alexi, and the young Cossack knew that the tavern-keeper was undressing him with his eyes.

“Yes,” the man said after careful consideration, “I do believe that I can find a position for you here. If my guess is correct, you have the proper temperament for the work I have for you to do as well.”

Thus began Alexei’s introduction to prostitution.

The tavern-keeper, who was named Gregor, gave Alexei a bountiful meal of smoked ham, boiled potatoes and cabbage, and filled his tankard with ale. He took Alexei’s horse into the stables and made sure it was fed. Once the tavern closed for the night, he took Alexei into his own bedchambers and greedily sucked the Cossack’s thick manhood, swallowing the young man’s semen before bending over on the bed and demanding that Alexei fuck him repeatedly until the hour grew extremely late and they both fell asleep from exhaustion.

The next morning, Alexei began packing his bag, preparing to continue on his journey, when Gregor stopped him.

“And just where do you think you are going?” he asked indignantly.

“I must continue my travels now,” Alexei explained. “I am headed to Siberia to make my fortune in furs, ivory and silver.”

“I think not,” Gregor replied. “Your horse is locked in my stables, and I will not release him until I am properly paid for your meal and lodgings.”

“But…” Alexei said, “I thought when I laid with you last night… wasn’t that your payment?”

“You think one night of mediocre fucking is enough to cover your bill?” Gregor said with an evil laugh, “I’m afraid that it will take a week’s worth of fucks for you to pay what you owe me.”

Alexei was a good hunter and provider. He was trained as a warrior, but he was not educated in the ways of the world that he now faced with Gregor. He stayed at the tavern, giving Gregor many hours of sexual pleasure, but each night that he stayed under Gregor’s roof only increased his bill, and no matter how many times he laid with the greedy tavern-keeper, the tab never seemed to be paid in full.

Alexei pointed this out to Gregor and raged against the unfair conditions that were thrust upon him. Gregor pretended to care and suggested a way that Alexei could earn more money each day than he spent at the tavern. All he would have to do was begin nightly pleasuring of the other tavern patrons as well. The more men he could service per day, the faster his tab could be paid in full.

Poor Alexei stayed at the tavern another month, and the business became a popular destination for lonely men looking to take the handsome young Cossack to bed. Most wanted Alexei to fuck them, and some just wanted to admire his muscular nude body and suck his cock. Others wanted him to suck them off or lift his legs and take their gnarled cocks up his ass. The ones who came to fuck him were never kind or gentle, and Alexei felt the backs of their hands across his face on a nightly basis.

After weeks of this treatment, Alexei again confronted Gregor, who sat at a table after closing, greedily counting his money.

“I have had enough of this,” Alexei said, “I have fucked you and your vile friends each night for the past month until I can stand it no more. I tell you now, my bill is paid, and I owe you no more of these foul services!”

“You think you can just walk out of here, do you?” Gregor asked with a sneer. “I own you now, and every man within a hundred miles knows that you belong to me. If you even try to escape, they will hunt you down and bring you back here. This is your home until your youth fades, and we grow weary of fucking you. On that day, you may do as you please, but until then, you will remember your place and you will continue pleasuring us all nightly.”

Alexei had never in his life experienced the rage that he felt now. His vision went blurry, and his next actions were completed purely by instinct.

He reached above the fireplace mantel and took down the sword that had hung there for decades. Gregor stood to protest, and with one quick motion, Alexei sliced the weapon across the lower portion of his plump belly, spilling his intestines onto the floor.

Gregor fell to the ground and for the next minute tried futilely to gather his loose guts and insert them back into his body before death finally overcame him and he moved no more.

Alexei stuck the sword into his belt and gathered the money that lay on the table. Looking at it in his hands, it was more money than he had seen in one place in his life. Nothing would ever feel like enough to compensate for the way he had been treated by Gregor and those men, but at least with the additional coins in his pocket he would be able to afford to pay for meals and lodging for the remainder of his travels.

He returned to his bedchamber which stank of sweat and semen from the many men who had used him that night, and he overturned the oil lamp onto the bed, setting it on fire. He quickly gathered up his bag and went to the stable, freeing his horse and fleeing down the road into the night as the tavern was consumed in the fire and burned to the ground.

Alexei had successfully survived the first thousand miles of his journey, a little shrewder and savvier from the experience. Only four thousand more miles to Yakutsk, his destination at the frontier of the Siberian exploration.

He rode his horse fifty miles a day, and due to the extra money he had acquired from Gregor’s tavern, he did not need to take any additional extended stays to work off the tab for his overnight lodgings. He reached Yakutsk after four more months of steady riding, and immediately set about to find employment and make a name for himself.

He sought audience with Pyotr Beketov, the Voivode, Governor, and Warlord of Yakutsk. Being a young, strapping Cossack warrior, Alexei was immediately given a position of authority within the ranks of the Zaporozhian Host, who were the first men sent into the uncharted territories for the purposes of exploration and to make first contact with any natives living in those lands.

Many times, the natives were welcoming of the strangers into their lands and readily agreed to share their resources, directing the Cossacks to the local rivers, home to abundant populations of sable and Siberian weasels bearing valuable fur. Alexei would hunt during these times, and in just a few years had made himself more money selling furs than his entire village back home could see in a lifetime.

Of course, not all natives were welcoming of the Zaporozhian Host’s arrival and pushed back against the Russian expansion into their territories. At these times it was Alexei’s job to persuade these natives and make sure that they understood that it was not in their best interest to resist. In the end, Alexei claimed their sable and weasel furs anyway.

After ten years serving in the Zaporozhian Host, Alexei was comfortably wealthy and began to feel the need for new adventures and excitement. New expeditions were being formed each year, and the adventurers who managed to survive returned to Yakutsk with the walrus ivory and chests full of silver ore that Alexei had dreamed of in his youth. He made it known throughout the town that if any entrepreneurs were seeking men for an expedition, he was a seasoned professional who was ready for the challenge.

In the spring of 1648, Alexei’s ambition paid off. For six years, there had been rumors of a ‘Pogycha River' to the east which flowed into the Arctic. The area around this river was rumored to be rich in sable fur and walrus ivory. Two expeditions had already tried and failed to reach this region. The second was blocked by the arrival of thick Arctic ice floes which forced them to turn back, but not before the discovery of silver ore in the area, ensuring that a third attempt would indeed take place and giving the explorers the hopes of the richest find yet.

Semyon Dezhnev was a part of that second failed expedition, and immediately upon his return he began recruiting able-bodied men for the third expedition. Dezhnev used his own money to fund the trip along with two brothers, Andreev and Afstaf'iev, representing the Guselnikov merchant house. Fedot Alekseyevich who was a participant in the failed second expedition along with Dezhnev also joined, and between all four of these wealthy investors, they had a total of seven vessels and 90 men.

Dezhnev personally recruited Alexei for the expedition, and to sweeten the deal promised him that whatever furs or ivory he was able to hunt and take on the trip he would be allowed to personally keep for his own private profit.

The offer was too good to refuse, and so that spring, Alexei, the four wealthy investors and 89 other men began the thousand-mile trek from Yakutsk to the frontier river fort at Srednekolymsk where their ships waited, and adventure beckoned.

****

Axel paused his tale. The fireplace needed more wood, and he needed a beer. He sat down in his easy chair and instructed his cub to go fetch both.

Adam quickly did as his Papa had requested, first handing Axel a cold beer and then adding logs and stoking the fire.

“Papa,” Adam finally said, “That is an amazing story. I can’t believe that you were used that way by Gregor the tavern-keeper! I nearly cheered when you told how you sliced him open with the sword over the mantle, but I didn’t want to interrupt.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand, though,” Adam continued, “When you were with the Zaporozhian Host, what happened to the natives who tried to resist?”

“I wiped them out, Cub,” Axel replied. “If they weren’t friendly and didn’t share their resources with us, I simply wiped out their entire village and took what I wanted.”

“Oh… Papa,” Adam said, with sorrow in his voice.

“I told you before I started that there were things in my past that I am not proud of that I didn’t want you telling the other bears here. This would be one of those things. Now that you know, are you able to look past my shame and still love your sinful old Papa?”

“Of course! I feel sad that you had to do those things, but I don’t think that you’re the same person now that you were back then! That was a different time and place, and it was during a period in history when native peoples were treated poorly all over the world. Despite what you may have done in the past, I still love you forever no matter what.”

“Thank you, Cub,” Axel said. “Please keep that in mind. The story isn’t over yet, but it’s over for tonight. Let an old bear rest his weary brain a bit before you make him dredge up the next chapter in his sordid past.”

“I understand, Papa,” Adam said. “You can continue the story whenever you’re ready. Tonight, I’m ready for bed, and some of that good lovin’ that you’re so famous for!”

Axel smiled and finished his beer.

“My pleasure, Cub. Let’s go snuggle under the covers and see if I can’t make you to roar so loud the windows rattle!”

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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Learning of Axel's history is simply fascinating. I foresee some relationship issues with Adam being a blabbermouth though. Another wonderful chapter, Grumpy!

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Awesome chapter. The history of Axel is fascinating. If Adam remains a blabbermouth it may cause issues between him and his Papa.

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History is written by those that prove the winners and survivors.  We find out things from their point of view.  Alexi proved to be one of the winners; but he is also one that does not appear to sugarcoat what happened.  Can't wait for what is to come.

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