The bear prince isn’t sure he agrees with tradition. The one arranged to be his mate is very sure she does not.
Hair hanging off his skeletal shoulders and hips, the old Bear king breathed in a rattling sigh. The hot air brushed his drooping whiskers, the thinning fur covering his upper and lower lips turning black like the lower mountains. He turned his fading gaze to observe his son's argument one last time.
His son, the last-born of his mother, shuffled with indecision.
Unlike the king, his son's coat held the rust from the mountains, a dull red. Fat filled out his ribs and stomach, a good sign of health. The mountain tunnels were carved by magic, smoothed by thick fur constantly wearing away at the stone. Fat was a needed insulation against the rough terrain.
The young prince shifted his weight, short legs submerged in belly and hip fur. The king did not understand his insistence on using all four legs when the Bear's forelegs were four times the length of their back ones. Generations of Bears used long legs and claws to pull their way through life, the need of back legs was nearly non-existent.
Yet his son persisted. Yet he ignored it. He loved his youngest cub, peculiarities aside.
"Speak, Redmoon," the king sighed, rolling further onto his wide shoulder in order to see better. "I groan with age."
Redmoon huffed his words before saying them, large round ears swatting his head. Building up his courage, he lifted his stubby face to meet his father's gaze.
most food, she will show her ability to contain enough energy through the cold seasons to sustain strong cubs. Should she fail, I will be forced to find another arrangement for you next Season. Yet I am old, and my time is near. Should I die before you are mated, tradition dictates your brother will take over."
"If we can find him," Redmoon grumbled.
"Then it will continue up the line of your mated brothers until a leader is found." Shifting his weight onto one arm, the king leaned forward. "This is how it is. This is how it has always been. If you are not bonded before I die, you are to be descended in the name of tradition. Cast down the mountain to live among the strangers of the forest, likely to die there. Outcast. Never to return. Does this please you?"
Redmoon wanted to scream. He wanted to demand a change in tradition. Yet he knew what tradition dictated. The weight of his bloodline pulled his neck down as he shook his head. "No," he muttered, words caught in the fur around his mouth. "It does not."
"Then we are ended." The King groaned as he reclined, stretching his neck and rolling onto his stomach. He relented in his son's silence. "I do not wish for unhappiness, but our role among the clan is strength...keeping tradition and a strong bloodline." When Redmoon did not respond, standing in defeated silence, the king realized there was nothing new he could say and closed his weary eyes. "The contest is soon. Please ensure the food is gathered."
Pulling his way from the cavern entrance, Redmoon heaved himself upright. Unconventional as it was, some days he didn't feel like rolling around on his stomach.
Just like some days he didn't feel like being married for the sole purpose of tradition.
His back legs shook with the extra weight, but he leaned heavily forward until most of it comfortably rested around his shoulders and arms. Placing one curled fist in front of the other, he lurched his way across the mountain ledge until he found a path sloping upward. With a heavy sigh, he uncurled his claws and began climbing the rock.
There was only one true way out of this arrangement; sabotage. Yet he wasn't sure he was strong enough to see it through. His father and forefather had done things this way. Would it be so bad?
He gave his head a shake. No. Don't bow to tradition without knowing why tradition stands. That's what he believed, and what he had tried to tell his father over and over again.
But his father was a king stuck in his ways, constantly lecturing on the importance of bonding to a Silver-claw female he had never met. She had heard of him, certainly, but it didn't change the fact the two were unlikely to meet before the contest.
Redmoon listlessly wandered around, kicking up small pebbles at the edge and envying their ability to flee. A breeze blew sideways, carrying strange whisperings to his ears. In trying to determine who it was or where it came from, he found himself looking back towards the stage.
As most of the gatherers moved away, content in their mission to gather food, he spotted a single bear stayed behind; a silver-coated female bent over a basket, head amongst the fruit. The whispers came from her. She was using magic, old words woven into a string of sounds and directing energy at the food. The basket's contents began to blacken and curl at the edges before snapping back to normal; he didn't know what she was doing, but clearly, it was meant to be undetectable to the eye.
He was going to turn, to let her be, when he spotted a pair of guards pulling their way along the mountain.
Shuffling up behind her, he wrapped a giant paw around her arm and tugged her off-balance. Her whisperings came to an abrupt halt as she realized she had been caught.
"Come with me," he said quietly, "unless you want to be caught."
Down the mountain, Redmoon hid them away in a small cavern ledge. Yanking her arm from his grasp, she swiped an angry blow at him while a growl rumbled in her chest. "Why did you stop me?!?" she snarled. "It was almost done!!"
"You are lucky I caught you and not the guards," Redmoon growled. "Do you know what it is to stake the game before it is set?"
"Eviction," she barked. "And it cannot come soon enough."
"What is it to you?" he demanded. "Why sabotage this contest?"
"Because this is the one where the king shackles me to his cubling prince for the sake of tradition, and I will not have it!!"
Ah. So, this was Mistcloak, the female his father selected to mate him, should she win. His betrothed wanted as much part of the bonding contest as he did. He wondered how many other Bears felt this way, how many others participated in the bonding feast contest against their wishes.
"Not simple eviction," he snapped, shaking his head. "You are supposed to be bonded to the prince. The king would likely descend you for such a thing."
"Better than being bonded to a cubling!!" she roared. Taking a deep breath, she snorted out the rest of her anger, unused to the fire it left in her belly. "Besides, I was in no danger. One of the guards is with me, a silver-claw also unliking of tradition. He allowed me to gather so I could alter my chances."
Redmoon took a breath. "What magic did you use? I have...not seen such a thing before."
"You wouldn't if you were born to a hold higher up," she said, sniffing around the cave. "We use such Language against troublesome plants; ones poisoned or invasive. It harms them little, yet sickens them enough to cease growing for a moon or so, giving us a chance to move them. I used it on the fruit because the price for such magics turns the plant inedible. Sickens you."
"So you would avoid winning, but not in a way to disown your last victories."
She nodded, now inspecting the cavern's insides. Something sparkled against the black walls and drew her attention. "What is this place?" she abruptly asked. "What is in the walls?"
He smiled, moving to answer her question with a display. "It is where the obsidian flowers bloom." Picking up a paw, he scraped at the blackened wall. A small cloud of dust and ash fell away to reveal a sharp black stone set into a fragile-looking flower. "My mother used to bring me here. We always came to watch the blooming, when the flowers free themselves and extend their roots, catching the low mountain winds and lifting into the air."
"I did not know they bloomed in such a dark place," she said, looking down further into the cave. "Our hold only sees them on the winds."
"My mother would tell me that even flowers bloom in the dark of the mountain...and that we should be no different." Looking back, his mother might have always believed he was different. Perhaps she even loved him for it.
"I am the cubling prince," he said gently, returning his watch to the struggling flowers. "And I do not approve of this bonding contest either."
Mistcloak let out a hard breath, brows furrowing in confusion. "But if..." she shook her head. "Why did you stop me?"
"...First, I must know...Are you so repulsed by me?"
She shook her head. "It is not repulsion. Not to you. I am repulsed by the contrived nature of it all. Bonding myself until death to a mate I've never met? Based on a single fact of how well my stomach holds. How well I might birth the next line. Is my life so unimportant it must be lashed to a stranger who only desires my future? Can I not find a mate whom I enjoy? Who enjoys my present, however strange?"
He looked at her with a soft smile. "My Mistcloak...I have wondered the exact same. The simple nature of my birth brought about a burden I am unsure I want. Yet I must share this unwanted burden with someone of whom I know nothing. We are expected to hold burdens together, to sleep, to mate...all for reasons unknown."
"Then change things!" she said with a snort. "You are higher than me; can you not terminate the arrangement?!"
"I am higher in name only," he moaned, rolling back on his hind end and looking out over the sky. The mountain spread below him like one giant paw, branching out into different sections below. "I have tried talking to my father and gained nothing. Yet with you...Perhaps we can both get what we desire."
She tilted her head and waited.
"We will wait until after the gatherers are done. I will go to the stage and dismiss the guards for a moment. Once they leave, you are free to work your ill on more baskets than yours...that way, it will merely look as if the food was gathered from an ill place. You will not get in trouble."
She agreed, and together they waited.
The next sky-shift saw all the nine holds of the Bear clan gathered at the mountain top, each of them gathered at their respective piles. Silver coats, red fur, and a mottling of black and white reflected the faint light of the sky, while brown coats shuffled among black coats. Rusty red noses twitched at the food, while large ears flapped back and forth in anticipation.
The king let out a thunderous roar. The contest began. The females dug their faces into their piles, eating as much as they could. Some sliced the stalks for less chewing, while others swallowed fruit whole. Bellies began to enlarge as they ate, food stretching the stomach as wide as possible.
As planned, a few females began to fall ill. One from the rusty mines spewed her contents onto the floor. A brown forest-hold roared in pain and smashed her pile with her claws. A small handful of pepper-print females collapsed, and soon Mistcloak herself succumbed.
Redmoon watched in silent dismay. While their plan had worked, he did not think so many would suffer at his actions. He turned slightly to watch the females taken off the field and realized he didn’t know their preference on bonding. He hadn’t thought of what they wanted, of what they hoped for.
His stomach churned. In his efforts to free himself, he had not considered anything other than himself. If he were to change tradition, perhaps he must think beyond his own skin.
His mind turned to Mistcloak. He looked for her among the crowd, saw her being helped off the stage. She was so much stronger than he; stronger in will, mind, and body. She had taken action while he did nothing. Perhaps his father had not chosen so poorly.
The young prince drew a look of annoyance from his father, claws tapping the stone as he fidgeted. He wanted to make sure Mistcloak was well, despite her reassurances the poison would only last a short time. He recognized strength and companionship in her; for too long, he thought he was alone. Alone in his understanding of tradition and where he fit in. Alone in his distaste of doing something for the sake of the generation before...but with someone like her...someone strong enough, believing the same as himself...perhaps together, they could change tradition. Perhaps.
The Short Stories
From time to time I have minor adventures, whims, or odd ideas that manage to be written down. Below you'll find all my little nonsensical adventures, anything from other-worldly to other-wordly.
Occasionally I get a wild hair and do something I can't particular categorize. So it gets classified as 'nonsense' and put into the corner for others to look at.
To shorten this introduction: I'm a Millennial Gemini Ravenclaw Firebending INTP-T that is somewhere in the range between Enneagram numbers 4-7 (It keeps changing and I keep forgetting which number I'm supposed to be). If that doesn't give you some kind of picture of how I operate then you'll just have to start Googling things.
All 30of30 Animal Bear Bubbles Cocky Cookies Detective Event Funny Grandma Halloween Haunting Hedge LevelUP Marwolaeth Mystery Noir Parody Phone Calls Plants Pupmkins Rabid Plants Redmoon Rocky Roses Satire Squirrel True Love Valentines Story Zombies
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