Thursday, March 3, 2016

Desperate Measures and a Bear's Test of Trust

"Prior William!" cried one of his men. "We can't go on. We must have food. We can't hunt in this blizzard."

The Bear could see all the men, and the two dogs that had not been eaten, but beyond was a curtain of snow. The Bear's legs were raw from the leg irons, and the iron muzzle dug into his face with every move. He was starving along with his captors. They had been feeding him such small scraps as could be accommodated by the muzzle, but even that had stopped a week ago. He would not be killed by this blizzard. But if all the men died, the Bear would slowly starve to death in chains and muzzle.

"It is madness to attempt to cross the Alps before Easter!" another man angrily accused. "You're the one who should have been chained and muzzled. You've led us to our deaths."

It was true, the Bear saw. They would last perhaps a few more days; Bear, too many beyond them to contemplate. Bears took a long time dying.

"Kill a dog," Prior William ordered. "And don't short the Bear his share."

"You're taking food out of our mouths to feed your plaything?" the first man asked. "Even if by some miracle we get to Rome, oh what a fine spectacle he shall make, scarred with cruel apparatus and half-starved. Prior William bringing a bear in chains to Rome is nothing like Abbot Corbinian's miracle."

Hearing Father Corbinian's name was as good as a meal. Perhaps these men were not as evil in their distress as they had been in conquest. Father Corbinian. What would he want Bear to do?

Presently, he began pawing the snow. When he was finished he stood looking at Prior William.

When the men stopped arguing, the Bear made the best noise he could make to get their attention. He looked from Prior William to the marks he had made with his paw.

"I'll be -- do you see what I see?" one of the men asked.

"Looks like a bear has dug around in some snow," said another.

Prior William stared at it, and held up a hand for silence. "Get your spears ready. Remove the muzzle." While the rest of the men threatened the Bear with spears, one of them took a hammer and knocked out the two pins that held it closed. The Bear opened his mouth, painfully, and cleared his throat. Still, he said nothing. He looked at Prior William and shook the chains on his forelegs.

"Tell me what you want," Prior William demanded. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

The Bear looked him straight in the eyes and jangled his chains again. Then he curled up in the snow as if he were prepared to rest there for a very long time, all the while staring at Prior William.

"Damn you," Prior William spat. "Remove the chains."

"Prior," began one of the men, "need I remind you that this is a bear we have chained at our feet? He may not be in very good shape, but spears or no, who is to say what will happen if we remove his chains?"

"He'll save our lives, you idiot," Prior William answered. "Look," he commanded, pointing at the snow disturbed by the Bear's paw.

The man took his hat off despite the cold and scratched his head. "I see what you're saying. Could be. Then again..."

"We don't have any alternative," Prior William said bitterly. "So chains. And pack."

Returned to his natural state, the Bear thought that while the men might not have any alternative, he had several. He could no doubt kill most of them right now, and the rest would scatter to cold, lonely deaths. He could fill his stomach and head to a lower elevation where he might find shelter and even a pony. That was his Bearish instinct. He would especially take pleasure in Prior William's gruesome death. And, he would be in possession of Father Corbinian's black words.

Or, now that he was free, he could leave them to their fate, and save himself.

Ah, but against his animal instincts, stood everything Father Corbinian had ever taught him. When he always told the Bear to "be more man and less bear," he was not talking about these kind of men. He was talking about a man like Father Corbinian.

"Bear will search for shelter," he finally said in a voice raspy with disuse. "Then he will search for game. Do not move. Bear will be back."

"You're staking our lives on the word of a talking bear?" one of the men asked incredulously. He barked a short laugh. "What's to keep him from just running off? It is certain he owes us nothing."

"I am staking our lives on a loyal pupil of Father Corbinian," Prior William stated calmly. "I do not believe this rational creature would soil the memory of his master."

"Bear has one master," he growled. And with that he turned and was quickly swallowed by white mystery. He was not certain just who that would turn out to be.

"I still don't see it," said the man who had not seen anything significant before.

"Look." Prior William bent over the Bear's design and traced it with a finger above it. "It's an ichthys. An early Christian symbol. To you, a simple fish. But to a bear, lads, it is food, whether fish or flesh matters not to us. I suspect Abbot Corbinian's Bear was not unaware of its significance to Christians, so, a pledge, if you will. We've bartered the beast's temporary freedom for dinner."

"If he brings me dinner, it won't be me chaining him up again," said the man.

"Nor me," said another.

Prior William assumed a thoughtful mien. "Perhaps. But let us not get ahead of ourselves. Let us pray for the success and trustworthiness of Corbinian's Bear."

17 comments:

  1. Oh Bear, I'm hanging on your every word of this story.
    Please update again soon! And thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL... maybe I'll figure out what happens next soon enough for you. Bears tend to make things up as they go along. Maybe I should have a poll.

      Save Prior William's Party
      Kill Prior William's Party on the Spot
      Leave Prior William's Party to its Fate

      Delete
    2. Oh, you've pretty much shackled Bear to a choice already.

      Polls would just be temptation to Bear.

      Delete
    3. I wouldn't be too sure, utubeo. Bears are very unpredictable creatures. Both in the wild and at a keyboard.

      Delete
    4. It's tough to argue with the script writer over what will be written.

      On the other hand, once written and read, it's a tough fight for the writer to argue with the reader's appraisal.

      Delete
    5. A writer's work belongs to the reader. It is the writer's task to make a success of the story, to entertain, to illuminate, to provoke. If a reader feels like arguing with the writer, the writer must simply recognize that he has failed with a particular reader. There is hardly any argument to be had.

      The truth is, I have a lot of fun with my stories. If I can illuminate different aspects of Lent with one, so much the better, although, as I have said, I am not particularly qualified to do so.

      Delete
    6. P.S. if a writer lets a reader guess everything that is going to happen, then he has deprived the reader of one of the pleasures of fiction :-) There are different paths to the same place, and I can pretty much guarantee nobody is presently able to guess what happens next :-)

      Delete
    7. Don't mind me. I'm just a flea.

      We get our amusement by making the mighty scratch in awkward places.

      Delete
  2. I just hope Bear doesn't rush right back.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just hope Bear doesn't rush right back.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Huh, I'm not sure what he should do. I wouldn't like it if he killed everybody, or anybody. If he's a bear with honor, he should do something positive, but I'm not sure what.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, the Bear was a diamond in the rough back then.

      Delete
  5. Well, I'll take the end of Part I literally, and pray for the Bear's success and trustworthiness. And the same for us all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your stories are most inspiring and a great alternative all the political nonsense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, there just seem to be be a couple of narratives on the GOP side, and once you've heard them... I didn't even watch the debate last night. Instead I started Season 4 of the excellent Amazon-funded BBC series "Ripper Street." I had to do some jiggery pokery, since it is not available in the U.S.

      Delete
  7. Clearly, the Bear is going to sanctify Prior William, and perhaps a few readers in the process...

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm all for a happy ending for both the Bear and saving the prior's party too- as long as they are converted to being nice to the Bear afterwards....

    ReplyDelete

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