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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 - 5. The Lost Lamb

Gary and Bill sat in front of the computer in Gary’s office.  They were on a video conference with three of their Council representatives and Matthias, the Ancient.  Representing the Council on the call were Gunnar, Axel and Thomas.

“Here’s the situation, Gentle-bears,” Gary said, “We have a new cadet at the school as of this morning who has been orphaned and in foster care since the age of five.  Bill and I have confirmed by scent that he’s bear kindred, but there’s a problem.  He’s been bounced from home to home and kicked out of all his previous schools because he continually gets in trouble.  One of the first things that he said to me when he arrived was that trouble ‘just seems to happen.’  Earlier this afternoon, my Mate, Bill took him to the pond to conduct a swimming skills test, and while they were in the water, some…thing pushed Bill’s head under the water and tried to drown him.  The boy said that it looks like a white mist and that it has been following him wherever he goes for his whole life.  Anytime that white mist shows up, somebody near him ends up getting seriously hurt, and the boy is always pinned with the blame.

“So, my question to you now, is there any known record of this kind of entity harassing bear kindred before?  If so, is there anything we can do about it?”

“White mist you say?” Matthias asked.

“That’s right,” Bill replied.  “The boy said that it was a white mist that floated over the surface of the water, and when it stopped over my head as I was swimming, I felt actual hands grasping my head and body pushing me under the water.  As soon as the boy swam over and grabbed my hand, it was as if the hands pushing down on me suddenly dissolved to nothing.”

“Wights!” Matthias grunted.  “You’ve got a nasty case of wights!”

“What are wights, Papa,” Axel commented, “And what can we do about them?”

“Wights are undead spirits,” Matthias replied, “Not alive enough to be a solid person, and not quite dead enough to be a ghost.  Terrible existence.  Some of the lesser gods were known to create wights by consuming the souls of a living person and then using the remains as ethereal slaves.”

“So, there is some minor deity out there sending its undead slaves to torment this kindred boy?” Gunnar asked.

“That’s what it sounds like to me,” Matthias replied.  “I haven’t seen a real wight myself in a couple thousand years.  Not a lot you can do about them.  They can get up to mischief and can certainly do serious harm to people, but it would take a special set of circumstances for them to have enough power to kill.  Nearly drowning Bill is probably the closest they’ve ever gotten and I’m sure it gave them a real undead hard-on while they were doing it.”

“So, what do we do about them?” Gary asked.

“I can’t give you any advice about the wights.” Matthias said, “Because they’re just doing the bidding of some pissant god who’s most likely struggling to survive and remain relevant.

“Bill, when you were swimming with him, did you notice any unusual marks on the boy?”

“Now that you mention it,” Bill replied, “Yes.  When he got out of the water, his shorts slipped down low on his hips, and he has a burn mark… I guess you could call it a brand… in the crude shape of a bear right above his right hip.”

“A bear brand?” Matthias asked, “By Odin’s ballocks, that sounds familiar, but I can’t quite put my finger on it, and of course, it isn’t written down anywhere, so we’re going to have to pull it out of my thick skull, somehow.”

“Gary and Bill,” Matthias continued, “You’ll need to work carefully with this Cub to go back in his memories before he went into foster care, and all of this started.  Some little upstart god has put its mark on him, most likely because he’s kindred, in an attempt to claim him.  For what purpose, I don’t know yet.  You’ll have to see if you can get him to remember when he was given that mark and if he heard the name of the god that did it to him.  If I know which pestiferous god is behind this, I can tell you how to deal with it!”

“It should know that werebears and their kindred have already been touched by Odin, so it would have no rightful claim to the boy,” Gunnar said.

“Gary,” Thomas said, “If you need any assistance, Sam and I are just a few hours’ drive away.  If these wights keep giving you trouble, don’t hesitate to call.”

“Just get the boy to remember the name of the thing that put its mark on him,” Matthias said, “And by Odin’s hairy sweetmeats, the werebears will put a stop to it!”

****

Bernie lay in his room, trying to sleep, but having difficulty due to the new environment and the excitement of the day.

He turned his bedside lamp on and looked at his schedule again that was given by the Staff Sergeant after he recovered from his near-drowning, and he finished the campus tour.

Reveille was at 6 am, or “O-six-hundred”, as the Staff Sergeant referred to it.  He wondered if there was going to be an actual bugle waking him up in the morning.

Breakfast was from 6:30 to 7:30, and then he had morning PT on the parade grounds with the Staff Sergeant from 8:00 to 9:00.  He asked the Staff Sergeant if he could wear his PT uniform to breakfast, but the answer was no, he would be expected to put on his daily uniform to the cafeteria, then go back to the dorm and change into PT clothes and be on the parade grounds by 8:00, and then at 9:00 he would have thirty minutes to change back into his daily uniform and get over to the main building for his first class, History, at 9:30.

History with Mr. Greig from 9:30 to 10:45 in room 104, and then Algebra from 11:00 to 12:15 with Mr. Daniel Arnold, the Dean of Faculty in room 205.

He would have 12:15 to 13:00 for lunch, and then he’d be back in the main building at 13:00 for Biology with Mr. Bjornson in room 102 and then English at 14:30 with Mr. Samuels in room 105.

After English was over, he was to go to the Headmaster, Gary’s office in room 207 for counseling from 16:00 to 17:00 before changing back into his PT uniform for evening calisthenics with the Staff Sergeant from 17:30 to 18:30.  The cafeteria would remain open until 20:00 for dinner, and then the remainder of the time would be spent in study and homework until lights-out at 23:00.

The Staff Sergeant told Bernie that the hour with Gary for counseling every day was not necessarily a permanent thing, and that if Gary felt it was advisable, he could cut back to two or one session a week and utilize that hour in music and art lessons.

Bernie was excited and ready to get started the next day.  He had performed poorly in school before now because it was so difficult to get the teachers to understand his problems, and the mist would show up wherever he went, causing trouble for which he always caught the blame.  Since the Staff Sergeant had already established that the mist was real and was not his fault, maybe this time he’d finally have a chance to do well among a group of adults who truly believed him.

He turned the light back off and lay down again, closing his eyes in an attempt to relax and hopefully fall asleep.  As he did, the mist that had been hovering unseen just outside his window took the opportunity to enter his room and settle just above his face.  As Bernie took in a deep breath, the mist followed the air current into his nose, and made itself at home inside the boy’s head, succeeding in doing what he could not do on his own, putting him into a deep sleep.

****

Bernie opened his eyes, and he was laying on a bed of white pine needles in a sparse grove on the top of a mountain.  He sat up and looked around and he realized that he was laying in the middle of an effigy mound shaped like a bear.  It was the same shape as the mark on his hip, and as he looked around even further, he saw mounds in the shapes of a wolf, boar, and panther.  Intertwined between all four of these mounds, curling and coiling and ending with its head in the center was the serpent mound.  Sitting cross-legged in the middle of the serpent’s head was a woman with copper-colored hair wearing a gray dress of hand-woven linen.  She looked at Bernie with eyes that glowed a bright emerald green.

“Hello boy,” the woman said, “You remember me, do you not?”

Bernie looked away from her face and nodded his head silently.

“And you recognize this place?”

Again, Bernie nodded without saying a word.

“Will you not speak?” the woman asked. “Call me by my name so that we may talk of the things that have happened over the last twelve years we have been apart.”

“I want my Papa,” Bernie said, still looking away from the glowing green eyes.

“You can see your Papa again,” the woman replied, “You merely have to call me by my name and ask.”

“I don’t believe you,” Bernie said.  “Papa said that you meant to do me harm, and that you were going to punish him for setting me free.  I think you’ve killed him.”

“I cannot kill him,” the woman said, “He is Bear, and the only one among The People in the village.  Without him, The People would not be in balance.”

“However,” she continued, “It seems to me that you have encountered some new men today.  Men who are also Bear.  If those bears were to join The People in the village they could supply that balance, and I could be persuaded to let your Papa go.”

“I want… to seemy PAPA!” Bernie exclaimed and a visible wave of energy flowed from his body like a ripple in water moving outward in a glowing blue circle.  When the circle of energy flowed over the woman, it knocked her backwards onto the ground.

“You little brat!” the woman shrieked, sitting back up again.  “You want to see your Papa?  Fine, we will go see your Papa right now.”

The world around Bernie whirled and shifted as if he was in the center of a tornado, and when it stopped, he was sitting on hard rock outside the mouth of a cave.  The entrance to the cave was covered in iron bars like a jail cell.  Bernie heard a deep, low growling coming from inside the cave and as he watched, a thin, mangy, grizzly bear walked up to the bars and sat down facing the boy.

“Papa?” Bernie asked timidly, “What has she done to you?”

The bear opened its mouth to speak, but all that came out were the grunts and growls of the bear-language, and Bernie could not understand.

“Foolish boy,” the woman said from behind him, “I have shown you your Papa, but I will not allow you to hear him speak.  He is alive… for now.  Whether he remains that way is up to you.  I give you two choices to free him.  Speak my name and The People will come and collect you and bring you back to the village.  The other choice is to bring your new Bear friends here to the village willingly.  We will take them in exchange and will let your Papa go free.

“The choice is yours, but you have one year to decide.  If you are not here in the village one way or the other by the Autumnal Equinox, your Papa dies.”

“Papa! No!” Bernie cried out, and the bear roared at him in return, but immediately the whirlwind appeared around his vision once again, and when it cleared, he was sitting in the center of the village.  The People emerged from their cabins to look at him, and he saw the other three children who had been taken and marked along with him on that fateful morning.  They were nearly grown now.  Seventeen years old, just like Bernie.  They looked at him with sunken, haunted eyes but were unable to speak.

“Look how The People need you, boy,” the woman said from behind him. “You are needed.  You are wanted.  Where else in your life have you been as loved and protected as you were when you were with The People?  Have the humans treated you so well?”

“My new Headmaster and Staff Sergeant want me,” Bernie replied.  “They care about me more than anybody has since Papa.”

“Yessss,” the woman said with a hiss. “Your new Bear protectors.  Bring them to the mountain, boy.  Bring them to the village.  They will join The People, and all will be happy and peaceful once again.”

“Stop it!” Bernie cried, covering his ears, “They won’t join you!  They’ll never join you!”

“Speak my name, boy!” the woman commanded, “Speak my name and all your torment will be over!

“STOP!” Bernie shouted and the blue wave of energy rippled out from him once again, wiping away the vision of The People and the village into blackness.

****

Bernie sat up in bed, drenched in sweat.  There was a bugle call being played on speakers throughout the campus of the Academy.  It was playing reveille.  Six am.  The woman, the village, his Papa, it was all just a dream.

Bernie stumbled to his bathroom and started the shower running.  As he soaped and lathered himself up and down, the details of the dream began to fade.  He could vaguely remember seeing a thin, scraggly bear that reminded him somewhat of his Papa, and a woman with glowing green eyes telling him to speak her name and come to the village.

He dressed quickly in his daily uniform and walked over to the cafeteria, remembering to put his cap on his head when he went outside, and then folding it over his belt when he entered the building.  After getting his food and saying good morning to the lunch ladies, Rodney and Marcus, he looked around the room.  Cadets were sitting at the tables in groups of four or five.  It was too early for Bernie to know his place in the pecking order yet, so he was just about to sit alone at an empty table when a group of four boys across the room began to wave and shout.

“Hey! New kid!  Over here!”

Bernie looked over at them and they waved from him to come and join them.  As he approached, they scooted around the table to give him room to sit.

“You’re the new Junior Cadet, right?” one of the boys said.  “We’re in your class.  We’re probably in the same classes all day.  Do you have your schedule the Staff Sergeant gave you?”

Bernie nodded shyly and pulled the schedule out of his pocket and handed it to the boy.  The boy read it over and nodded.

“Yeah, we have all the same classes except for your session with Gary in the afternoon.  Don’t sweat that, he has those with everybody when they first come here, except that they usually start here as Freshmen and not as a Junior.  What’s your name?”

“Bernie,” he replied, “Bernie Smith.”

“Hey Bernie,” the boy said. “I’m Joe, and this is Manny, George and Peter.”

The three other boys nodded at Bernie as Joe called their names.

“Stick with us, today Bernie,” Joe said, “And we’ll get you used to the routine around here in no time.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll really like it here.”

“I already like it here a lot better than the foster homes I stayed at before now,” Bernie said.  “Gary and the Staff Sergeant were really nice to me yesterday.”

“Foster homes?” Joe asked, “Like you’re an actual orphan or something?”

Bernie nodded.

“My parents died in a fire when I was little,” he said. “I can’t remember where we lived when that happened.  Somehow, I was lost on my own for a while in the woods, and people eventually found me wandering around alone in Gatlinburg when I was just five.”

“Ho-lee-shit,” Joe said. “That’s a pretty good origin story.  You’re like an X-Man or something.”

“Well, nobody seems to have understood me up to now,” Bernie replied.  “Hopefully the Academy here can be my Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters!”

Joe laughed.

“We’re gifted all right!” he exclaimed, “Gifted at getting in trouble and flunking out of school!  But, you’ll see, this place will turn everything around for you.  I wasn’t going to pass the eighth grade before I came here, and now I’m thinking about maybe going to a university after I graduate.  If I do, I’ll be the first in my family to go to college!”

“You two better shut up and eat,” Manny interrupted, “We’ve got to get changed and out for PT by eight or the Staff Sergeant will have us running laps around the whole campus till lunchtime!”

Joe dropped his head and started shoveling his plate of eggs and sausage into his mouth.  Bernie grinned and followed suit.

They wolfed down their breakfast and then hustled back to the dorm building.  Bernie noticed that the other Cadets automatically put their caps on their heads and took them back off as they exited and entered the buildings.  As Juniors, they all had single rooms, but they were on the same floor of the dorm building and off the same hallway.

“Get changed fast,” Joe said to Bernie, “And don’t forget to wear your jock under your shorts.  Staff Sergeant is a stickler for wearing jockstraps for PT.  We’ll meet you back outside the building and then we can all jog over to the parade grounds together.”

Bernie changed as quickly as he could, but when he ran back down the stairs and out the door, he still found the other four waiting for him.

“Pretty good time,” Joe said, “But you’ll get faster.  Believe me!  Let’s go.”

As they jogged across campus to their PT class, George fell in next to Bernie.

“I heard a rumor yesterday,” George said, “Is it true that when you were doing your swimming test yesterday, you saved the Staff Sergeant from drowning?”

Bernie blushed.

“I don’t think he would have really drowned,” Bernie replied, “But something definitely happened when we were swimming back to the dock.  He… got caught or something, and his head went under water.  I swam over to him and grabbed his hand to pull him back up is all.”

“Wow!” George said with awe. “The Staff Sergeant is a real-life war hero.  He saved twelve Marines single-handed from a burning building in the war, and now you saved him!”

“He’s been really nice to me since I got here, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen is all,” Bernie said, embarrassed.

“Yeah, well the Staff Sergeant can be a real ball-buster,” George replied. “Maybe he’ll go a little easy on you after saving his life and all.”

“I hope not,” Bernie said. “I don’t want to get the reputation of being the Staff Sergeant’s ‘pet’ my first week here!”

George laughed, and as they neared the parade grounds, they could hear the Staff Sergeant’s deep voice bellowing at them.

“Two minutes, maggots!” he shouted. “If you aren’t in your place and ready to begin in two minutes, I’ll have you digging a moat around the Academy wall until you’re eighty!  MOVE IT!”

“I don’t think the Staff Sergeant has any pets,” George said. “If he did, he’d probably eat them for breakfast.”

Both boys burst into laughter and hurried to get into their places for the start of their morning PT class.

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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Well, at least Matthias knew what was causing the issues, the Wights.  We can all hope that Bernie will share his dream and what is going on in them with Gary or someone else soon.  They need to start preparing for what is coming.  Glad that Bernie is making some friends.

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I'm happy to see Matthias, especially with a perkier attitude. Axel and Adam must be making some frequent trips...

Bernie now has a mission, and I hope he shares with Bill and Gary about Karhu.

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I am impressed with the Academy set up for the kids.  Bernie is immediately accepted into the school by boys his age.  His dream/not a dream is a warning and a challenge.  I hope Bernie can begin to trust Bill and Gary enough to tell them about what is happening.  The sooner it happens, the more time our werebears have to figure out who the enemy is and how to solve the problem.  

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