I dig my walking stick into the snow, hoping to find some purchase against the blisteringly cold wind. Unfortunately, the stick slips and I fall face-first to the ground. Even as a proud woman of science, I'm little match against the frozen wasteland that is Eirenevos.
Groaning, I pick myself up and look around, surveying the lonely whiteness. I've been out here for days, having gotten separated from my expedition party during a particularly dreadful blizzard. My food's low, hunger and exhaustion makes my body feel heavy, and I'm starting to lose all hope of surviving; let alone completing my mission to find the rune bear.
I sigh, leaning my head back. It thuds against something soft and warm. I scramble forward, turning around. A huge, midnight colored nose presses against my face and I stare into deep, violet eyes. Blue fur tickles my cheeks as pale runes illuminate the wasteland in the setting sun. The rune bear. I've found the rune bear.
"Well, I can die with accomplishment, unless I'm hallucinating," I mutter pessimistically. I shriek as the rune bear opens its jaws. Huge, unrealistically white teeth gleam with saliva as it breathes warm air over me. I feel my eyes droop and myself falling back.
I sit up, finding myself in a strange cave with star-like crystals. The rune bear curled up by the entrance, looking out. I'm alive. The smell of cooking meat alights my senses and I see a spit over a small fire. I swallow hungrily and the bear turns. The spit dismantles itself and the stick skewering the meat floats over to my hands.
Apparently, it's able to utilize telikinetic powers. It looks away as I hastily eat. I have the rare chance of close observation, and I plan to use it wisely.
Beware the Bear
There's something psychedelic about the rune bear. They're like koalas: they live in the branches of trees, have noses twice the size of their ears, and they're not bears at all. In fact, they look more like beavers with a giant snub nose and soft elephant ears. I couldn't tell you what sounds they make, but I've seen one eat; Crunch, crunch, crunch on cloudy diamonds and calcite cakes. Their teeth are so small and round, like turtle toes and horse hooves. When they curl up in trees, they look like birds' nests or just a bundle of pine frongs. You'd never know it was a rune bear up in the tree until you heard their crunchy eating or saw the shimmering purple glow from their cross-hatched tails. Their light is so faint, you can only see it at night. Sometimes, from above the forest you can see an ethereal turqouise haze through the pine needles from the glowing etchings reflecting off their cobalt fur. It looks like a soft borealis, especially against the sparsely starry sky and plush grey powder snow. They're called bears because their claws and skin are as tough and thick as polar and black bears. They look soft, but if you pet one, it feels like you're brushing your skin with a steel grill-cleaning brush. It's not smooth and gentle, but it's majestic armour. No one's ever looked in the eye before though... my grandps tells me they can steal your secrets and turn them into runes on their tail. That's why they're so valuable- if you can catch them and trace the runes on their tail, legend has it you can learn the secrets of the mountains, the ice, and time if you choose the right runes. That knowledge is valuable, powerful, and dangerous.
The Rune Bears are guides and guardians. They are sent by the Ancients to guide young travelers. The Rune Bears have the ability to change their shape and appearance; however, they are traditionally comprable in size to polar bears with a bluish white fur covered in pure white symbols and runes (hence the name).
They primarily guide lost travelers in snowstorms to safety. The following is an excerpt from Garl Thur’s diary In Winter’s Grip, where he mentions, only briefly, his interaction with a Rune Bear.
With the blizzard finally gone, I ventured out with the bow in hopes of finding small game. The snow thatI saw two weeks earlier had frozen, drifted, piled, and blown into new shapes. I barely recognized any of the trees and the small wood-shed to the East of the cabin had been miraculously freed from snow. (Before I had had to dig a good four feet deep just to reach the outlying pieces of wood.)
After travelling for two hours with nothing in sight but snow and trees, I decided to return to the cabin. Halfway back I saw movement in a clearing to my left. I crept closer, wary of mountain lions. There I saw a beast like none other. It looked like a bear but was far to big. It knew I was there, I am sure of it, but it made no movement towards me and I did not approach it. After a short pause, it moved on. I have no knowledge of what that creature was, nor have I seen anything like it since.
Of the few people I have told this too, many assume I never left the cabin at all that winter and was simply delirious with fever. I know I was not.
“He’s just different is all,” declared Jason’s mother.
“Different. That’s what you call it?” blurted his father as his brow greeted his nose. “Where is “just different” going to get him in life? What’s going to become of our boy, Mildred?”
“Leave him be,” insisted Ma. “Stop your fretting. He does his chores. Leave the schooling part to me.”
When the last planting of corn has been harvested and the hickory leaves drop, Jason smiles in anticipation of the first Nebraska snow. Tis the season Rune Bear comes to greet him deep in the woods behind the farm. No one, not even Ma or his treasured sheep dog Shiloh has seen the blue Rune Bear but him. He knows this for a fact because the glowing runes speak to him. Not in an audible sense, but in a knowing way all the same. It’s not like they give him all the answers to the many things he doesn’t understand, but they give him exactly what he needs to get by. Who of any of us knows all?
“Rune Bear,” communicated Jason, “Why did God make me different?”
And the Rune Bear understood that Jason thought different was bad. “God made you different and perfect. Different is special. And isn’t it special that we found each other? And isn’t it special that you can decipher my runes?”
Then Jason and Rune Bear sat for a piece on a log in the snow. The cold didn’t bother them as they silently contemplated life and each other. “Ma calls me special too, Rune Bear.”
Before the sun set, they parted. As Jason walked back toward the farm he couldn’t help but notice the stillness he felt, in spite of the howling wind from the east.
“There’s my boy,” said Ma. “Time for supper.”
The elves sit around the fire, their eyes alight as the flames lick upwards, sparks spit and fly, yet their chatter never ceases. They too are scared of the forest. They hum if they are alone for fear their silence would mean they have trespassed.
Nobody wants to trespass in the forest, imprints upon imprints, tales upon tales, folklore built in the dense thickets of the forest. Where lives are lost.
In the end, like the elves, we will victims of the forest too.
Ramblings on Things That Don’t Exist
I know you won't believe me, no one ever does, but I've seen it. The legend is real and no matter what anyone says, I know what I saw.
I was eight years old. It was the middle of winter, and I was out gathering firewood for our fireplace. I was in the forest, only a few minutes walk from our house, holding a flimsy axe and trying to cut down a tree that was easily ten times my height. Ha, I never said I was a smart one, did I? Well, anyway, I got my axe stuck in the tree and tried to pull it out, with no success. It was getting dark, and I was worried that my father would be pissed at me for my failure. I'd just about given up trying to get the axe when I saw it. I don't know where it came from but it was in front of me, staring at me with its great black eyes. I'll always remember those eyes - I swear, those eyes held all the knowldege in the world. Anyway, that thing was huge, easily six times my height and the width of three full-grown men, standing next to each other. It was blue, not of sky blue, but a dark deep blue, like a sapphire, burning at night. I know it doesn't make sense, but that's what it was. And it was glowing, bright white lights in all kinds of strange shapes, all over its body. It was surreal. I couldn't believe it. Was I scared? A little bit, yeah of course, but I was mostly amazed. The legend, come to life. A real rune bear, right in front of me. I'll never forget it, as long as I live.
Find Me a Rune Bear
Find me a rune bear in this wintry abode
Find me a rune bear that calls this place home
Find me a rune bear with magic so bright
Find me a rune bear whose power lights up the night
Hidden away among the snow-covered trees
Blue runes upon his fur, blue light glowing towards me
A beacon of hope, of terror, of weird
Find me a rune bear
And then send me there
Beware of the Rune Bear
I’d heard legends, I’d heard stories, I’d heard warnings, night by night.
“The rune bear will get you”, “you’ve done too much wrong”, “you’re much too far gone.”
“But look at these tattoos,” I’d smirk when I’d say, “these protective charms and glyphs charcoaled into my skin.
They’ll protect me day by day. The legends you worship; is this not what they say?”
The tribe people sighed, they shook their head, and surrendered.
‘Their great Rune Bear will not harm me. Their silly bear cannot touch me.’ this is what I thought before she became my abductor.
Little did I know the rune bear watched me all along. It took getting trapped here, within its magic lair for me to hear its runic song. The scenery around was now snowing; though I’d never once seen snow, the symbols floating off of me were glowing, they gave me no where to go.
Tears and screams; this icy blue-escent bear wholly ignored. Instead, deeply, profoundly, violently, yet completely unsoundly; she roared. Judgement for my my tricks, my jokes, lies, and crimes, I was robbed of my voice, now all people hear are the Rune-ish tune of mimes.
The Rune Runners
It was not a race,
To see who paced,
But still Rune Bear First,
Growled with all the hurl,
He had in his veins.
This was a mission,
And he had to win.
Or the punishment,
Would be his biggest sin.
The glinting scales,
On his glowing skin,
Were a give-away,
To where he was hiding.
The ice was cold,
But he dressed in the frost.
And stood on the top,
Of the mountain howling.
Was a war.
One they had to win.
It’s easy to get lost, even easier when all you can see is a blanket of white. “Classic, typical, foolish,” I say as I berate myself for staying out so long. In another season I would have had no trouble, but now? Today?
I shivered uncontrollably as I tucked my overcoat tighter around my chest. A few minutes prior I had almost given up until a strange glow appeared in the dim.
“Faith,” I gritted aloud. My words froze and stuck to my lips as they passed around me, carried off by the wind. She would always say that when times were tough, when I felt alone. Back when I wasn’t. I shook away the memories as I felt warmth begin to return to my body. A warmth that came as the glow began to draw near.
Musk and sweat filled my nostrils as chiseled eyes beckoned nostalgia. It had stopped snowing finally, and my savior was thick with hoarfrost. I reached out, my eyes giving way as I braced myself upon it.
“Not yet! That’s for later!” She smiled as she slapped my hand away.
“Snowing. I thought it was… snowing?” I asked as I looked about a room and table decorated with lavish treats.
She laughed. “I think you’ve already had too much wine.” She pointed toward the window and my eyes followed. Night had fallen, but it was clear. Perhaps she was right. Of course she was right. Her glass met mine in a crystalline greeting atop a gingerbread house, and smiles caressed our cheeks.
“Can I stay?” I asked, turning toward her beaming face. She gave me that look that told me I was being a fool again.
So yes, here I will stay. If only for now, if only for a little while.