But when the Snow Bear chooses Leri, she finds a different reality than what she’s been taught all her life.
Can Leri do what must be done to enable the Snow Bear to continue protecting the valley?
And what will happen if she can’t?
Formats: ebook $2.99
Audience: young adult
Length: short story
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Leri stood outside her family’s hut, staring south along the valley. It was almost dark and the snow shone white on the ground, pocked blue where footsteps criss-crossed between the huts of the village. Tiny flakes swirled in the air around her, a hint of more snow to come.
The Snow Bear would like that. He could prowl through the valley as he pleased, his white coat hiding him from view. Two days ago Fior had found bear tracks – huge bear tracks – close to the village. There was muttering among the elderlies that night. Rarely did the Snow Bear venture close to the village he was bound to protect. Usually he stayed on the high places near the valley rim, hunting the injured and old deer within the valley and other prey Outside.
Leri looked up at the Pass. She couldn’t see it from here, but it was the only entrance to the valley, the only thing which kept the villagers safe from the madness Outside. The young men, to pass into manhood, had to survive two days Outside collecting items that the villagers needed. Most returned. Some didn’t.
None spoke of what was beyond the Pass.
And the Snow Bear let them come and go, although hunters had found the remains of creatures in the Pass, creatures the Snow Bear had obviously killed and left for the villagers to find.
Leri had always been fascinated by the Snow Bear. Even as a toddler she had loved to hear the legend of how the first settlers had won their way into the valley from the madness outside, how they had confronted the Snow Bear in all his vicious snarling white-furred glory, and how Riordan the Brave had struck a bargain with the Bear that would ensure both the settlers’ and the Bear’s safety and survival.
Nine generations had passed since then. The villagers had kept the Bear fed during the lean times of winter with precious roots and vegetables, even going short in some harsh years. And the Snow Bear had ranged the high country and killed those few nightmarish creatures which managed to cross the high peaks that protected the valley from Outside.
Leri had once asked how the Snow Bear could live for so long. Her mother had hushed her swiftly, almost self-consciously, telling her that the Snow Bear was magic and would live forever. Leri, even though she was only four years old, had felt the disapproval in the room and had not asked about the Snow Bear again.
She had thought about him, though. She had scoured the village’s small scribery, hunting for references, information, anything that would tell her more than the stories did.