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The Lady and the Bear

In the ethereal light of the rising moon, her gossamer gown flowed behind her like windswept cloud. It caught and ripped on clawing dark bushes she brushed passed and low leering branches tugged at her midnight black tresses.

A call had woken her in the night, a whisper in her mind that spoke of a clearing lit overheard by the full moon. She cared not for her bare feet stepping on wet leaves and the first snows. She did not heed the chill wind goosing her flesh and misting her breath. She cared only for speaking the words that were tantalising her mind and tugging at her heart.

She wondered the forest at random, following and feeling her way to the clearing. The tall black trees bearing witness to her wild wandering, their boughs shrugging indifference in the silent dead of night. An owl shrieked and its wings beat heavily behind her as it swooped low and snatched a soul scurrying across the snow.

There was a loud rumble from behind her and her eyes shot up to the clear pin pricked sky above. Long blues and sweeping violet sprayed with gleaming white. There was no flash nor any clouds for distant thunder to be heard. She whipped her head around at the darkness between the trees. The image of a beast lumbering through the night sent a chill down her spine that the icy wet ground could not. She fled stumbling as she scampered up a rise, tripping on her skirts and cracking twigs.

Wet with the snow she scrambled, her heart raced and thumped against her chest. Every breath that misted was matched with a loping stride that crunched the snow behind her. She raced up the small hill and blundered into the clearing, the sounds of a hungry animal drawing ever closer. Looking back over her shoulder she saw its glowing eyes at the wood line, saw it pause for a heartbeat and found ground rushing up to meet her. She tumbled down again rolling over onto her back in time to see the great slivery bear draw up to her slowly.

His long fangs caught the moonlight that bleached the sky of stars and his hot breath sent up great clouds as his slow movement dominated her world.

It was then that the whisper came again, an itching in her mind that told her to stand.

She stood on blue feet, in tattered gown and straightened her shivering shoulders to face the beast. She glared at him as he drew within feet of her, the voice in her mind sang brightly of the moon and the moment soon to come. It melted the fear from her mind and it bathed her in warmth as the bear rose up on its hind legs and stood tall above her its roar deafening and its massive paws raised high. Fear cracked through the song’s warmth and tears fell from her cheeks and she closed her eyes and shrank back. The bear shrank before her unseen, in bright shadowless light from above, a man stepped forward warmed by a bearskin.

He drew up the shivering lady, swung the great coat around her and looked into her brave beautiful face. And his rage softened, although his words were loud, full of grunts and anger as he fought for her to be brave again and open her eyes. She held them fast, tears streaming, until he bent low drawn by a song in his mind and kissed her. In that moment the melody in her mind stopped, the ice at her feet melted, her shivering fled and the clearing was calm.

He held her as she collapsed into his arms, her eyes bright and full of love, his fierce tenderness kept her safe. He kissed her again and held her as if he would lose her. Long moments passed and then light above moved and shadows came back to the clearing and her gossamer gown grew whiter and feathery. She shrank before him, her neck grew long and elegant, her hands traced his jaw as her fingers joined. He held her still, close to him and warm, when she tried to spread her wings and fly from him.

In the passing light of the moon, a man carried a swan from the forest.

If you liked this story, you’ll probably enjoy The Knight’s Errand, a fantasy short about a Knight set upon a difficult task by a crafty wizard.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Romance

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