What's this talk of strange beasts?

Airy pearls bubbled from the waterskin Drakon was drowning in the spring. He could make out his father, the top half of Alastor the King, wading the scrub to where the others rested.

Lounging, like a man in his couch, Marron licked his healed paw. The paw that Urska had healed so uncomplicatedly. He, alone, did not appear to mind the sky all burning sun.

"Feels good, eh, old man?" Borysko rasped, hidden in brush.

The old dancing bear puffed, and yawned, showing all his teeth. Swinging his broad head toward the crinaeae's spring, and taking in Alastor wading now toward it, Marron flicked out his tongue, licked his lips, even managing to reach the iron ring through his snout.

Borysko lifted his thin voice. He came on the wind that tugged and pushed over the mountainside.

"So what's this talk of strange beasts high on Cwen, eh? How often have y'heard that asked, Drakon? In tavern. Far away from here. Braggart might say, Pour me beer, and I'll tell a tale of it. Now, you and me, and our bears, and the King, we'd tell a better tale, wouldn't we, eh? Oh. I've found a floor. Drakon, here's broken floor under broken me. All bits of blue and white, and red. Red, Drakon. Looks like the head of a stag. Such a tale, we might drink lakes of beer for the hearing of, eh? EH?"

Drakon spied the cub, waddling closer through the bending brush, evidently intent on investigating the noisy man. Urska, ever watchful, rose from her bed, head up, ears twitching, and evidently intent herself.

Returned to Drakon's side by the spring, the King, his father, dropped the pair of empty wineskins he had retrieved, and settled on his heels. They might have been perfect moments, these in his fa's company, as the first of the skins gurgled and filled in the crinaeae's clear pool. But for the cub finding Bory then, and the man waving a hand, swatting the air, playfully, before the cub's snout.

The cub, as ever a willing playmate, he ducked Bory's agile hand, gaped at the taunting fingertips, and showed the man all his small bright teeth. This, of course, was too much for Urska. Like a twistwind, she burst dustily through the snapping brush, directly for where Bory lay.

"NO TOUCH!" she roared.

"Was only playing, Beauty —"

"No touch!"

"I've sworn never again I'll harm bear'kind. I might give my life for this little one. For you, my gal. Though, how I might save him, or you...weak and half-dead, as I am —"

"You no touch! —"

"Well — bite my head off, then. Send me to my rest."

Growling, bristling, Urska shouldered away the mewling cub.

"But a little bite, then. MY GAL!" — And Borysko laughed, unpleasantly, sneeringly, wheezingly.

Drakon saw the concern furrowing his father's brow. "Son, you must talk that She into seeing sense."

"I know it, Fa. Urska is stubborn. She'll take some convincing, is all."

"You will need your Borysko to safeguard your life in the struggles ahead. You need him himself again."

The cub then pushed bristly head and shoulders under Drakon's arm, put his paw on the empty wineskins, nosed them, and bawled his displeasure. Urska, watching still, and settled on her paws, only flashed her eyes at him, when Drakon closed his arm around the youngster's neck. Her head popped up, though, nostrils flaring, eyes staring, when his father raised a royal finger to scratch behind the cub's twitching ear.

"All's well, Mother." said Alastor, desisting from that, and instead taking up a wineskin and holding its neck, spluttering, under the water of the spring.

"You're King, here, my boy —" he had just added.

The crinaeae's abrupt giggling startled his father straight back and up on his long legs.

"Summerwine!" she sang, "One thousand years since last I tasted summerwine. So kind, your gift."

"Is mine." muttered Urska, staying in her bed in the swaying scrub.

"Then my Thanks I extend to you, Bear and Girl."

"Me, Bear."

Borysko blurted, "And Girl, by night."

Drakon nosed the neck of the other emptied wineskin. Still, it held at least a few pungent drops.

"Urska, may I give these few drops, too? On your behalf."

A most significant moment passed, Urska staring at the wineskin in Drakon's hand, before she replied, "Is no more. Give."

Borysko was a hound, who had treed a hapless bear — "She likes the girl. Did you know, Drakon? I've watched her, the girl under the stars, stretching out her limbs."

Urska's puffing reply, and the mounting silliness of the pair of them bickering, demanded Drakon's immediate mediation — "Bory, I'm bringing you the skin. The water is delicious."

"You'll find me under the sun. Lying on this splendid, broken floor. And Thanks."

"Here is the little more we have." said Drakon, dipping the wineskin in the crinaeae's pool.

"Such kindness!" said the water. "I am shamed by your kindness. I had thought to let you pass from here, and keep from you the place of the seers."

Drakon stumbled over the water nymph's admission.

"They are here, upon this mountain, fair one? Vagari seers?"

"Very near the sky, yes. Where the great She of the mountain breathes."

Listening intently, Alastor leaned close: "Seers?"

"Answers, Fa." said Drakon.

The End

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