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    Grumpy Bear
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Serpent Mound - 4. Yes, Staff Sergeant

Bill stood in at at-ease position with Bernie’s cap held in his hands behind his back.  He watched the new cadet running back from the dorm building in his PT uniform carefully scanning the ground to the left and right of his path as he ran.

When he got up to Bill, he stopped and stood up straight and still in front of him.

“It seemed like you were looking for something on the ground as you ran back here, Cadet,” Bill said, “Am I right?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied.

“Care to tell me what it is you’re looking for?”

“Well, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie said. “I was running pretty fast, and when I got to the dorm building, I reached up to put my cap on my belt and it wasn’t on my head.  It must have fallen off while I was running, and I was hoping to find it if I came back along the same path.”

Bill produced the cap from behind his back and handed it back to the nervous Cadet.

“It did indeed fall off your head, Cadet,” Bill said. “I’m not going to punish you because it’s your first day, and because you told me the truth, but be more careful in the future.”

“Sir, I’m not supposed to wear the cap with my PT uniform, right?”

“No Cadet,” Bill replied. “For now, you can leave it folded on the end of the bleachers here at the football field.  No one is going to touch someone else’s cap that has obviously been left there on purpose.”

Bernie did as he was told, and then followed Bill as he began to walk around the grounds.

“Here we have the football field, Cadet,” Bill said beginning the tour, “We have a varsity team made up of Juniors and Seniors who play against the local public High Schools in the fall.  Have you played before?”

“No, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied. “I never really got to stay at a school long enough to join any of the sports teams.”

“Is it something that you’d like to try?” Bill asked.

Bernie shrugged his shoulders.

“I can’t hear you, Cadet,” Bill said with a stern tone in his voice, “Is football something that you would like to try?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant!” Bernie replied quickly, “It’s just…”

“Just what?” Bill asked.

“Sometimes accidents happen around me and people get hurt,” Bernie said. “I don’t know why they happen, and I don’t want any of the other Cadets to get hurt because of me.”

“Accidents?” Bill asked skeptically, “Are they because you lose your temper and accidently hurt someone?”

“No, Staff Sergeant!” Bernie said with a tone of frustration. “I’ve never gotten mad and hurt anybody in my life!  But everywhere I go, people get hurt and I always get blamed.  I’d like to try sports, but if it means more people getting hurt around me and having to take the blame for it again, I’d rather just sit on the sidelines.”

“I know better than to blame someone for an accident that isn’t their fault, Cadet,” Bill replied in a gentler tone than before, “I don’t want you missing out on something that you could really enjoy because of the fear of the unknown.  I’ll give you some time to get settled and get to know some of the other Cadets, and then we’ll figure out a sport for you to participate in.”

“Thank you, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie said, “Most people just assume that I’m a bad apple because of where I come from, and don’t bother to really listen.”

“That’s what makes us different here at Mt Savage, Cadet,” Bill said, “We know that if we don’t listen to what our boys tell us, we’ll never get to the root of what’s troubling them.  Now, are you ready for a run?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied, and Bill began to run at a fast jog, with Bernie quickly catching up and falling in line beside him.

“This is our baseball field,” Bill said as they jogged around the backstop behind home plate. “I’ll test your swing and throwing arm sometime, and we might give baseball a try as your sport.”

“These are the parade grounds where we perform our military marching drills and it’s also where morning and evening PT sessions are conducted,” Bill said next as they ran through a large grassy field with spectator bleachers along one side.  “When I give you your class schedule, the PT class location will just be listed as, PG, so now you know that stands for Parade Grounds.”

After running the length of the Parade Grounds, Bill veered to the right and began running toward the side of the property.  Bernie kept pace and as they got closer to their destination, he saw that there was a medium-sized pond with a dock and a small boathouse.

Bill ran up to the dock and came to a halt.

“Bernie, for safety’s sake, I’m going to need to test your swimming abilities,” Bill said. “You do know how to swim, right?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied.

“Okay,” Bill said, peeling off his tee and kicking off his boots, “See that floating platform out in the middle of the pond?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied.

“I’m going to swim out there first,” Bill said, pulling off his socks and sticking them into his boots.  As Bill bent over, Bernie caught a glimpse of the elastic bands of the jockstrap underneath the Staff Sergeant’s butt cheeks as the hem of his shorts rode up, and he found himself involuntarily getting hard again.

“After I’m on the platform, I want you to jump in and swim out to me,” Bill continued, ignoring the fresh waves of arousal scent spilling from the boy.  “As long as I don’t have to jump in and rescue you, we’ll both swim back here to the dock, and you’ll have passed your swimming test.  So, go ahead and strip out of your tee and your boots and socks and get ready.”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied, and Bill immediately dove into the water and began swimming out to the floating platform with strong strokes of his arms.

Bernie quickly peeled his shirt off and kicked off his boots and socks as he watched Bill swimming quickly to the destination in the middle of the pond.  The Staff Sergeant pulled himself up onto the platform by his muscular arms and turned, dripping, toward Bernie at the dock.

“Okay, Cadet,” Bill called, “Your turn.  Show me what you’ve got!”

Bernie held his breath and jumped off the end of the dock feet-first, plunging into the chilly water.  After bobbing back up to the surface, he sighted the platform and began swimming toward it, mimicking the arm movements that he’d just seen the Staff Sergeant demonstrating a moment earlier.  He wasn’t nearly as fast as Bill, but he made good time, and before he knew it his hand was touching the side of the platform.

“Good job, Cadet!” Bill said, leaning over and extending his hand.

Bernie grabbed the hand offered to him and in an instant, he found himself pulled out of the water and up onto the platform.

“Do you need a minute to catch your breath?” Bill asked.

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied, “But just a minute and then I’ll be fine to swim back again.”

Bill looked at the Cadet as he stretched his muscles on the platform and noticed that his cotton shorts had slipped down on his hips low enough to expose a mark.  It appeared to be a burn scar in the shape of a bear.

“Cadet,” Bill said, “Feel free to tell me it’s none of my business, but can you tell me how you got that mark on your hip?”

Bernie stopped stretching and pulled up on his waistband to cover the mark again.  He looked down and away from the Staff Sergeant’s face in embarrassment.

“Please, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied, “I’d rather not talk about it if that’s okay.”

“That’s perfectly fine, Cadet,” Bill said. “Maybe someday that’s a story you’ll want to share, but I’m not going to rush you into talking about anything that makes you uncomfortable.”

“Thank you, sir,” Bernie replied.  “I think I’m ready to swim back to the dock now.”

“Okay, Cadet,” Bill said, “This time when you jump in, instead of feet-first I want you to try jumping in head and arms first, straight out, like you’re Superman jumping off the top of a building ready to start flying.  If you do it right, your hands should go in the water first, followed by your head, and then your feet will go in last.  You ready to try it?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied.

“You jump in first, and I’ll be right behind you,” Bill said, “Ready, set, GO!”

Bernie jumped in head and arms first as he was instructed.  It wasn’t the most elegant dive, and it ended with just a bit of a belly-flop, but it was good for a first try.  Bernie immediately started swimming back to the dock as soon as his head came back up out of the water.  Bill dove in next and within a few strokes had caught up to the boy.

As Bernie swam, he kept his eyes on the dock, and he noticed a white mist form and start to float across the surface of the water.

Oh no, Bernie thought.  Not again.  Not so soon!

The mist crossed in front of Bernie as he swam and settled over Bill’s head.  Bernie was sure that the Staff Sergeant hadn’t seen the mist, as he was focused on his swimming form.  In an instant, the blond head of the Staff Sergeant was pushed underwater by an unseen hand with only his arms flailing about above the surface.

Bernie panicked.  He could keep swimming back to the dock, but he really liked the hunky, blonde Staff Sergeant and couldn’t let him drown.  He’d never been able to fight against the mists before when they wanted to hurt someone near him, though.

Bernie gathered his wits, took a deep breath, and swam over to the spot where his instructor was floundering in the water.  Just as the big man’s hands began to sink beneath the surface, Bernie reached out and grabbed one of them with his own.  With all his strength, he pulled, and the Staff Sergeant’s head popped back up above the water again.

Bill gasped for air and looked around with wild eyes.  He saw Bernie treading water beside him with a look of panic on his face.

“Are you all right, Staff Sergeant?” Bernie asked.

“I am now,” Bill replied still gasping to catch his breath. “Can you make it back to the dock on your own?”

Bernie nodded and started swimming again.  Bill rolled over onto his back and paddled himself with a leisurely backstroke as he continued to catch his breath.  Bernie reached the dock first and climbed out using the ladder.  When Bill finally reached the dock as well, Bernie leaned over and offered his hand, just as Bill had done for him back at the platform.

After Bill was out of the water, he lay on his back on the dock for a minute regaining his composure and strength.

“Cadet,” Bill said, finally, “I’m sure I already know the answer, but I’m going to ask anyway.  That wasn’t you who pushed me under the water, was it?”

“No, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied.  “I was several feet away when I saw you go under.  I almost panicked, but I swam over to help.”

“That’s what I thought,” Bill said.  “You’re the one who saved me and pulled me back up again.  So, who or what was the thing that held my head underwater like that?”

“That’s the thing that causes the accidents,” Bernie said, sadly.  “It follows me wherever I go, and then bad things happen to people.  I’ve been trying all my life to get someone to believe me, but I always get the blame every time something bad happens.”

“Did you see it?” Bill asked, “What does it look like?”

“It looks like a white mist,” Bernie replied, “That’s the only way I can describe it, but it seems to have invisible hands that can grab people and do them harm.  I saw it floating over the surface of the water and it went right past me and headed for you.  When it got to your head, you suddenly went under.”

“And you’ve seen this mist before at your other foster homes?” Bill asked.

“Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Bernie replied, “I always see that mist before there’s an accident and somebody gets hurt really bad and I always get blamed for it.  That’s why I’ve never played any sports or have done very well in school because that mist keeps tormenting me and everyone around me wherever I go.”

Bernie started to cry at that moment, and Bill sat up and gathered him into a warm hug.

“Hey now,” Bill said, stroking his back and trying to comfort him, “Marines don’t cry.  I believe you, Cadet, and we’re going to do everything we can to figure out what this is that keeps hurting people and put a stop to it, okay?”

“Okay sir,” Bernie said, feeling a little better but not wanting his incredibly hunky instructor to let go just yet. “Please don’t kick me out.  They said that you were my last chance.”

“Nobody gets kicked out of this Academy, Cadet,” Bill replied, still holding the trembling boy, “And that mist of yours made the mistake of going after the wrong ex-Marine.  It’s going to be sorry it ever let me know that it exists.”

****

Rieka’s eyes glowed a brilliant emerald green as she sat within the outline of the head of the serpent at the apex of the mountain.  Gradually, her eyes dimmed and she was able to look at her surroundings again.

“What did you see this time?” Namir the panther asked her.

“The wights have found him again.  They tried to drown a big, bearded man the boy was… swimming with… but the boy came to the man’s rescue and the wights were forced to dissipate.”

“Where is he?” Namir asked, “Is he within reach?”

“He is not far, but no longer in Tennessee,” Rieka replied. “He seems to be in some sort of boarding school now.  I saw a campus with dormitories and athletic fields.”

“Well, that narrows it down!” Namir said sarcastically.  “A boarding school with athletic fields, not in Tennessee!  I wish these wights you send to track him were able to provide you with better information.”

“Watch your tongue, Namir,” Rieka hissed, “Or the Serpent may pluck it from your head.  The wights will give us the information that we need in time.”

“They have had twelve years, Rieka,” Namir whispered. “All they have succeeded in doing is cause havoc and chaos whenever they have found him, which has resulted in him being bounced from home to home.”

“The wights have their own methods,” Rieka snapped, “If the humans would be more patient and nurturing, we would have found him long before now.”

“Time is running out, Alpha,” Namir replied. “The boy is seventeen now.  If we do not have him here with the others during next year’s autumnal equinox, then all is lost, and the ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Tuath Dé will rise to become the walking death.”

“Silence!” Rieka commanded, and Namir ceased her verbal assault on the wolf.

Rieka rose from the ground and closed her eyes, reciting a chant before stepping outside of the serpent’s head.

“Interestingly enough,” Rieka finally said, breaking the silence with Namir, “I detected a strange essence emanating from the boarding school and from the large man the wights tried to drown just now.  I think that one or more of his new caretakers may be werebear.”

“If we could succeed in turning those bears to the path of the Tuath Dé, we could restore balance within The People and be finished with Karhu once and for all,” Namir suggested.

“Werebears are revoltingly proud and noble,” Rieka replied, “We may be able to turn one or two of them, but we shouldn't take that for granted.  Until we have another bear in our midst, we must continue to keep the traitor Karhu alive.”

As they spoke, they walked to the entrance of the cave.  Rieka strode forward until she was standing within a few feet of the heavy iron bars sealing the entrance.  Within a few seconds, a long hairy arm shot out between the bars in an attempt to grasp at her shirt, but Rieka had twelve years of practice to know how close she could get and still remain out of the bear’s reach.

“Good afternoon, Karhu,” Rieka said cordially. “I just wanted to let you know that the humans have moved the boy yet again, but the wights have found him this time in less than a day.”

“Your wights only give you a taste of the boy,” a scratchy voice spoke from the dark of the cave, “They are but teasing you, never giving you enough to actually find him again.”

“Then, you stinking bear, I will use the wights to invade his dreams.  They will revive his memory of the year he spent with The People, and the stronger that memory grows, the sharper my connection to him will be.  He has but to say my name aloud, and I will know precisely where on this Earth he is hiding, and I will send The People to bring him back to the village where he belongs.”

“The boy is smart, bitch,” Karhu replied, “He hasn’t uttered your name once in the last twelve years, and he will not in the last year you have remaining.  I hope the entrance to my cave provides me a good view of the village and The People as the Tuath Dé rise to destroy you all.  It is what you all deserve after the atrocities you have committed over the past two millennia in the name of your gods.”

“When we capture the boy and bring him back here,” Rieka hissed, “I will make sure that you have a front-row seat as the bear-god rises from the ground to spit out the remains of the last bear kindred and claim his new prize.  That boy has but one destiny, and that is for his soul to nourish the bear-god for the next century so that The People may bathe in the gift of peace and prosperity!”

“No, Rieka,” Karhu said, “I spent a year with that boy, and his destiny is not to become food for the gods.  Odin touched that one long before the Tuath Dé put their mark upon him, and he is destined for something greater than your plans for him.  You can keep me locked in this cave for as long as you wish, but it will not undo what has already been done, and it will not change the future that I have given back to the boy.”

“Then you can continue to rot in the dark,” Rieka replied, and turned her back on the cave entrance shrouded in shadows.

Copyright © 2021 Grumpy Bear; All Rights Reserved.
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Grumpy Bear's Werebear Tales

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

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The bad stuff has begun. At least Bernie has a safe haven and someone who believes in him at last. I'm pleased Kahru is still alive, even if he has been held a prisoner. Rieka must be stopped at all costs.

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2 hours ago, Grumpy Bear said:

Hmm... If only the Bears had one of the Ancients on speed-dial who they can consult on such matters... 🤔

Sounds like a job for Mattias.

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If I remember correctly, Ezekiel, mentioned that Matti was old enough to remember the gods well.  It's a good thing Adam got him connected.  I am happy that Bill is someone who knows that listening is the better part of communication.  Being a werebear does help one to accept Bernie's explanation as truth, when humans don't.  At least now Bernie has the support of other werebears and a refuge for a while. 

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