The Werebears of Adengaan - Chapter Thirteen
As much as Gaden, Karn, and Brunaulf wanted to spend more time with their werebear brothers, they knew affairs in Adengaan had to take priority. It had been over three months since leaving to intercept raiding parties and it was uncertain just how much information Jamder would have relayed about their situation. They enjoyed the day saying their goodbyes to their friends and spent one final night Home before starting their journey back to Adengaan. Gaden could no longer fulfill his duties to King Halben and thus needed to resign from his position in the guild. Brunaulf decided to come with his lover for support as did Karn. The Gaden reflected on the three months he spent with his new family as he prepared for the journey ahead of him. His thoughts revolved around the many joys meeting members of his new family and getting a taste of the new way of life that would be his to enjoy. However, his old chapter in life needed to be closed so he was free to savour his new one.
Getting from Carayorn to Adengaan is a two week journey with the first ten days traversing through mountainous terrain without any paths before coming to a road of any kind. Gaden looked forward to the opportunity to travel so he could learn the way for himself and to learn some practical aspects of traveling to and from Home. One such practicality is the use of “bearpacks” - a kind of backpack with multiple straps, loops, and ties to accommodate various forms. It is usually donned in half form and secured so that when transforming to full bear form the pack will stay in place. On reaching roads the pack could be readjusted to be carried over the shoulders like a traditional pack. The three intentionally travelled light as there was plenty of food to find along the way and Gaden's lessons continued on how to “think like a bear in the woods” as they traveled.
One thing the mage-turned-werebear noticed in their first full day of travels is how the forest seemed so alive. Everything seemed to shimmer with life and radiate an energy he hadn't noticed before. It seemed to be inviting and comforting, almost permeating through him as he travelled. As that first day progressed he seemed to become more accustomed to it, as if it were a given. The trio stopped to rest by a brook reverting to human form and taking a stretch. Gaden used the opportunity to have a drink by the brook and enjoy the water lazily flowing by. He decided to stretch out letting his head rest in the nook where the ground ended and the tree trunk began, looking up into the sky staring at the branches of the trees. He noticed the intricate patterns of branches from different trees intertwining to form the canopy above him as he let his mind wander. His eyes were moving from branch to branch, tree to tree as a kernel of knowledge came to the forefront of his mind. He studied further and he could see it - energy flowing from tree to tree.
Gaden stood up and faced the tree he was leaning against and placed his hands against it and began to concentrate. He could feel the tree's life, its energy, and how it interacted with the other trees near it. He closed his eyes and with concentration he explored the network of trees around him with this newfound sense. It seemed vast and extremely complex, far too complex to conceptualize it all at once. He narrowed his focus to just a few trees around him. He felt the interplay, the connection between them both through branches and roots. Gaden could almost feel what it would be like to be standing at the tree next to him. In an instant he felt himself shift. Opening his eyes he discovered he was standing by and touching a tree next to the one he was originally touching. He stared back and forth, first at the original tree, then the one he was at. All of the pieces clicked in his mind and he smiled. In a way, he had just teleported himself using the energy of nature around him.
Just as he was going to tell his companions what happened to him, he had a flash of insight from a recent memory:
"Use it for your community and to help others. You'll figure it out."
Gaden smiled to himself as those words spoken to him finally had some context. Though it wasn't the traditional “magic” he was used to, there seemed to be a kind of energy in nature he could harness. Throughout his life he had always been told he had “potential” and it seemed Haran Mojkar had rewarded him with a newfound potential to explore, learn, and grow into.
“Hey, Brunaulf,” Gaden called, “come here for a second?”
“What is it, Gaden?” Brunaulf said, smiling and heading over to his companion.
“I want to try something. Can you give me a hand?”
“Ok. Reach under my shirt and put your hands on my shoulders.”
The big man bent down a little to get underneath the smaller werebear's shirt and began massaging his shoulders. Gaden's cock sprang to life.
“You're not making this easy,” he said, smiling. “Okay, let me try this.”
Gaden put his hands on the tree again and felt the energy flow between Brunaulf, himself, and the forest. Concentrating and putting himself in the same mental frame of mind, he attempted to traverse back to the first tree, except this time with Brunaulf in tow. It was extremely difficult and it felt like he was trying to juggle, but sure enough in a brief moment of time the two appeared by the other tree.
“Holy shit!” Brunaulf quipped pulling his hands out from under Gaden's shirt. “How in the hells did you do that?”
hard to describe, but Haran Mojkar bestowed on me the ability to use
this strange form of magic. I don't quite get all of it and the
inspiration for how it works seems to come
in fits and starts, but this form of 'teleportation' came to me while
I was studying the trees. And I don't get sick from it, either!”
“Pretty amazing feat, I must say.” Karn commented as he walked over. “Looks like your days performing magic may not be over after all, just expressed in a different way.”
The newest werebear grabbed Brunaulf by the hand and led him over to Karn where he grabbed them both in a hug. Holding it there for a few seconds, he then gave each of them a small kiss.
“What was that for?”
“No reason, just felt like it” Gaden said, “shall we get moving again?”
Two weeks later they had arrived at their destination. Adengaan seemed different as they travelled through the harvested fields toward the gates. To Gaden, it was an entirely new sensory experience. Sights and particularly smells fought for his attention. He recognized the smell of werebears among a few of the guards as they arrived at the gate. The entire group, however, noticed the pensive mood in the air from the guards, as if there was a recent trauma from which the city was still healing. To avoid any explanations at the gate for the change in appearance of Gaden and Brunaulf among those not part of the werebear brotherhood, Uncle Karn simply introduced them as guests who would be staying with him for a few days before travelling on. The guard on duty informed Karn that a standing order was given to report to His Majesty immediately on Karn's arrival and to not be surprised if a royal page visits his residence. Karn thanked the guard for the information and the three companions entered the city.
“Something's definitely not right,” Karn noted, “the guards seem tense and it’s very uncommon for a standing order like that.”
“Agreed,” noted Brunaulf, “we have been gone for almost four months though. A lot could have happened in that time.
It wasn't a long walk to the modest house Karn and Brunaulf called home for so many years. Once inside the three werebears dropped their packs, opened a few windows to remove the stale air, and flopped on the large bed. They were quite content to have a nap and simply enjoy each other's company when a knock came on the door. Looking at each other for a moment, Karn decided it should be he who answers the door. He was greeted by member of the honour guard for His Majesty.
“Good day, Karn.”
“Good day, Therin” Karn said.
“May I come in?”
“Of course!” Karn stepped aside so the guard could enter and closed the door behind him. Therin began to speak once the door was closed.
“His Majesty has decreed you and your companions shall attend a private audience with his majesty immediately.”
Confused looks passed back and forth between the three werebears as they started to wonder what in the hells was going on. Therin continued.
“Formal attire is not necessary. It is more important that you come with me at once. I am not at liberty to discuss further details here.”
The three men, with little choice, decided to accompany Therin to the royal quarter to see His Majesty. They continued to notice the strange dichotomy of actions among the people. Ordinary citizens laughed and joked, and children played as if there wasn't a care in the world. Soldiers and guards, however, seemed to be on a heightened sense of awareness. It seemed to be a kind of “just in case” preparation for something unknown. As they reached the door to His Majesty's chamber, Gaden remembered the friendly page of the court standing there to announce guests. A look was exchanged between Therin and the page. and the page with a nod decided he would be more useful elsewhere. When the area seemed empty, the guard opened the door himself and, with little fanfare, ushered the three men inside.
The air in the room seemed different today. The ten man honour guard usually present was down to only four, but what stood out for Gaden the most was seeing Jamder at the dais talking to a rather large, imposing figure sitting on the throne where King Halben should be. He was hugely and densely muscular, easily as big as Brunaulf if not bigger, incredibly hairy, enormously and thickly bearded up to his eyeballs. His hair was chestnut brown and his eyes as he glanced down to Gaden were hazel. Gaden found himself somewhat aroused. The mage and this man were speaking in soft tones. Gaden was surprised by this turn of events and his nose confused him a bit as to who were werebears, but as a precaution and not forgetting decorum stopped to bow with the other two at an appropriate distance from the man sitting on the throne.
“Gentlemen,” King Halben began, “this is a private audience, and with events that have recently transpired that we must discuss, I relieve you from your duty to stand on ceremony. Come closer so we can discuss somewhat privately.”
The three men moved closer to the king as he began speaking again looking at Gaden.
“Gaden! Why, I must say the change did you good!”
Confused how a man he had never seen before recognized him, all he could utter was “Uh, thank you.”
Sensing Gaden's confusion, King Halben offered some context.
“Ah yes… I forget. What you see now is my true form, Gaden, the form not hidden by a glamour for the sake of public appearance I wear. You are no longer susceptible to the illusionary magic I use.”
Turning his attention to Brunaulf, the King continued.
“Brunaulf! I don't know what the Gods happened to you, but we will have to hold that conversation for another time, still, I love the grey and you’ve become quite strapping, haven’t you?!”
“I have brought you here to thank you for your service to the city. Jamder here came to me about four months ago with information uncovered from a raiding party you encountered. It turns out the raiding parties were decoys. The purpose was to entice the five city states- Adengaan in particular- to expend key resources both in manpower and magic outside the city in order to weaken it from within. The ultimate plan was to carry out an assassination. My assassination.”
The three werebears appeared shocked someone would make such a bold attempt.
“This was a very organized, structured plot. The information Jamder provided was confirmed by reports from our allies in other cities. This was the work of The Exiled.”
Karn's face showed his shock and disbelief.
“The Exiled?” He questioned, “Are you sure?”
“It’s been confirmed,” King Halben replied.
“Who are The Exiled?” Gaden asked.
The King had a somewhat incredulous look on his face and began a lecture with a tone that indicated what he was saying should be common knowledge.
“The Exiled are a group of werebears who were cast out of our family shortly after...”
“Sorry?” Gaden interrupted, “Our family? You mean that you are a werebear too?”
King Halben smiled, then laughed for a moment before directing his attention to Karn.
“Is the only education for new cubs sexual education anymore? Do they not give any history lessons to new cubs at Home?”
“An apparent oversight I will remedy.” Karn replied, blushing slightly.
“Yes,” the King said redirecting his attention to Gaden, “I am a werebear and some, but not all, of the honour guard are werebears. Use your nose, young cub.”
Gaden took a sniff, he guessed he’d missed it due to the number of werebears on the dais, but there it was as clear as day. The King’s scent was most assuredly ‘family’.
“That is why the illusion magic in place no longer affects you. It’s purpose is to allow us to integrate better with human society. In point of fact, the city has a rich tradition that involves werebears, but this is not the time nor place for that discussion. Instead, I'll summarize what you need to know about The Exiled.”
“During the Great Expulsion of 233, a minority faction among us felt we shouldn't have to go. They felt we were superior beings to humans and, if anything, humans should be subjugated to us. We fought against them and our superior numbers allowed us to banish them both from Adengaan and from Carayorn. We attempted dialogue with them in an effort to reconcile our family but they completely broke ties in the fifth century. They've not attempted contact for over 400 years until now if you count this assassination attempt as 'contact'.”
“As for how they did it, with the help of magical allies. Several moles inserted themselves into the Mage's Guild as new applicants. Simultaneously several Exiled with magical camouflage became recruits. By expending resources to counter raids, assisting the other four city-states, and troubles involving magic, it left us thin. Low troop levels combined with the guild and guard being infiltrated and it was a recipe for an assassination and a coup here in Adengaan. Had you not found those documents and given them to Jamder, the city may have very well fallen from within, and I would be dead. As it stands, with the help of Jamder and Nadis, we were able to ferret the moles out and prevent the attempt.”
“Wait a minute,” Gaden said, “Nadis? You mean that fat, dumpy guy who seemed bored to be my proctor when I arrived here...”
“...is probably one of the most skilled mages I've known next to Jamder here.” The king concluded the sentence as Jamder made a slight bow.
“As for Nadis, it's his way. He's not about pomp and circumstance, and he's good at what he does. He's been here almost as long as Jamder, and he's been a valued confidant and friend to the city. Because of that I give him free reign to work within the guild as he sees fit. In this case, it has paid off.”
Brunaulf decided to weigh in on the matter, thinking about how an ordinary human would stand little chance against a werebear in a fight.
“That explains why the guards are still on edge. Also, if The Exiled are involved, this is probably not an open and shut case.”
King Halben elaborated on the statement. “It is also why we are having a private discussion about this and why the only members of the honour guard here are ones you would recognize from Carayorn. This attempt was targeted at Adengaan because of who we are, obviously.”
“However, the point to be made today is that the city owes you a debt of gratitude I cannot express publicly for obvious reasons. All of you have earned a respite from duties to the city. Gaden, of course you will have 'resigned' for 'personal reasons' which I will accept without question. Brunaulf, the mage's guild can help with illusionary means should you choose to continue to serve, but you have a well-earned hiatus ahead of you. You as well, Karn. I understand from Jamder you volunteered to help. All of you take some time off and when you return we shall figure out how to integrate you back into Adengaan and move forward in dealing with The Exiled.”
The werebears contemplated the situation before thanking King Halben. His majesty concluded: “I expect to see you again at spring thaw. Now, I have additional affairs to discuss with Jamder, privately, before he goes back into retirement. Kindly leave us, but again, thank you.”
The men bowed and as they were leaving Karn made eye contact with Jamder. Each held the gaze for a few seconds before King Halben, demanding the old mage's attention, caused Jamder to break it and look away as the door closed to the chamber.
“Just when I thought I understood my path in life, out comes another wrinkle,” Gaden commented as they left the palace, “Tell you what, Brunaulf, let me pack my things from the guild so I can stay with you. I could use the rest and relaxation,” he smiled mischievously and quoted what he said those four months ago when he was laying in Brunaulf's bed recovering, “that is, if I'm not imposing.”
Brunaulf smiled and put himself between Karn and Gaden, and with an arm comfortably over each of their shoulders, began walking toward the guild to collect Gaden's things.
Snow was falling lightly in large flakes on an unusually cold fall day. Gaden, shirtless, was busy splitting wood outside a small house in the woods located not too far from Adengaan. Gaden didn’t seem to mind the cold as much as he used to, back when he was human a day like this would require a wool shirt with a layer of linen under it even if he were doing something strenuous, but now, his body hair was more than enough.
Brunaulf had mentioned this once abandoned house was the one he stayed in the night before he came to Adengaan as a boy and always considered the house as a good omen. Now that King Halben had temporarily released them from duties they took the opportunity to repair the place to be a home away from home. They had made considerable progress in the month since beginning to repair it and it was finally “winter worthy”. The only thing remaining was to split enough wood to heat the small home for the winter.
Brunaulf ducked out the door to see his love splitting wood. Smiling, he approached his lover while he was preparing a piece of wood to be split and wrapped his arms over his shoulders from behind.
“Why don't you come have a rest and sit by the fire? Exercise is good for your muscles, but I think you’ve done enough for the day” Brunaulf asked nuzzling his face into Gaden's neck, “I have a nice toasty one going and we have that nice rug on the floor in front.”
Gaden took a moment to savour his lover's touch and scent while he contemplated the need to continue splitting wood. He caught a whiff of another comforting scent somewhat far off and smiled to himself as he tried to make a decision.
Karn in bear form was watching from a distance amused at the two lovers. Their scents intensifying as their passion increased began to stir something in the older werebear to join them. Turning into human form he began to take a step toward them anticipating hours of fun when a man emerged out of thin air.
“Jamder?!” Karn incredulously asked.
“Who else would I be?” the mage quipped.
“But, how did you find me?”
Jamder put on an overacted exasperated look.
“Oh please! Like I can't find my big bear! Catching you post transformation naked is a bonus, though.”
Karn was almost at a loss for words.
“Well... what are you doing here? I mean, is something wrong?”
“Not entirely,” the old mage started, “but I need your help.”
“Of course,” Karn said, “I'll be glad to help any way I can. What can I do?”
“You can help me by taking this.”
The old mage held up his outstretched arm to show a gold chain with a gold pendant on it. The pendant was the same symbol of the bear Gaden and Brunaulf now had, except instead of being crafted in silver, this one was crafted in gold. Karn looked at the pendant, surprised and confused.
“I don’t understand” was all Karn could say.
“It’s simple.” Jamder said grabbing his love’s wide meaty hand and putting the medallion in his palm, closing his fingers around it. “After all, it’s not only a token of love, but a symbol of a bond between a werebear and his candidate.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out an identical pendant and began fastening it around his own neck as he continued speaking.
“Gaden's life was going down a path similar to mine, but he chose the other fork in the road. It gave me food for thought. 'Why was I so adamant about not going through with it? Why couldn't I be happy as a werebear?' I would ask myself. I guess if I face the truth of it I was afraid. You saw how my life had so much purpose back then and that purpose depended upon magic. Gods, even now my magic abilities have been found useful with events of late. Of all people, you know more than anyone how magic is such an integral part of me, of who I am. To lose it would be like losing one of my senses. I feared what my life would be like if I gave up that part of me. I feared that my love for you wouldn't be enough to make up for that loss and, over time, I would come to resent my bear that I love so much.”
He turned to look at Brunaulf and Gaden in the distance enjoying each others' embrace as they stood by the wood pile.
“But I look at them. I look at the life they are going to forge together not only as lovers to each other, but loving and loved as part of an entire community. I guess Gaden showed me if I have you to love and if I have your love and support along with your Family, I need not be afraid of what I might lose, and I should embrace everything I would gain.”
He turned to face his lover again who was still holding the pendant in his hand. The mage opened his fingers again to remove the pendant, reached up and put the chain over his head, and took a step back to appraise how the pendant looked on him. The werebear looked down and cradled the pendant in his hand as Jamder spoke again.
“For over thirty years, Karn, you were my lover, confidant and friend. Your love for me never wavered, not once, even now. You're a loyal, compassionate, deeply caring man capable of amazing feats of love. I've always treasured that about you.”
“I want to experience that amazing, incredible love you have for me again my big bear, and I want you to feel all the warmth and love I have for you - a love that's never died – for the rest of our very long lives.”
Jamder gave Karn a big hug and while doing so whispered three words in his ear before breaking the hug to watch his expression.
“Let's go Home.”
Karn's eyes searched Jamder's face for information. Did he really mean he would go through the change? Smiling, Jamder nodded slightly.
“You've offered this opportunity many times, several more than I deserved, and each time I've foolishly wasted the opportunity. If you're willing, if you'll give me that opportunity one more time, I won't waste it again.”
Karn, awash in emotions, didn't know what to do. Excitement, relief, and joy all fought for control of his mind. Sensing his lover was somewhat in a state of shock, Jamder stepped forward, nuzzled his face cheek to cheek, and then gently kissed him, while moving his hand to Karn’s erect member, caressing it gently. Finally, Jamder could take his lover’s seed, as Karn had always wished. Karn returned the kiss which grew in intensity as he realized he would not have to watch the man he had loved more than anything wither away and die, but rather be his partner and friend for a very, very long time. Never breakng the kiss and grabbing him in a huge embrace, Karn savoured this moment with his lover as they teleported away.
Gaden was feeling exceptionally aroused. He always had trouble resisting Bruanulf's scent. With the way he was being massaged from behind while his balls were being toyed with, his cock started to stiffen in his pants. His mind battled between making sure wood was ready and enjoying all the passion his lover had to offer. In what seemed like an eternity of indecision he finally decided the wood can wait.
“I was thinking of finishing this up for the wood and the exercise, fit body, fit mind you know. But on second thought, you may be right. That fire and lying with you in front of it would be oh so nice,” Gaden said and nuzzled his thick long beard into his lovers for a kiss.
Turning to face Brunaulf, he began to gently push him toward the door making a show of not being able to wait to get inside. Laughing, the bigger bear ducked his way through the door with Gaden in tow. Gaden standing in the doorway took one last deep sniff of the air outside in anticipation of a third that would be joining them, but the air no longer held the scent. Shrugging, he closed the door behind him to enjoy the company of his lover and friend. Arms and legs warmed by fire entwined and shifted form, while outside snow continued to fall.
FIN... for now