It must be several hours later now, but I can’t be sure, I don’t have a watch. To be honest, aside from the rush with our current circumstances, time seems pretty arbitrary in this world.
The sunlight feels like it is high noon. I find it hard to gauge though, because I can’t identify the sun directly. I can relate it a bit to heavy cloud cover, where I know it’s day, but can’t tell what time since the sun’s position isn’t clear. That said, there also isn’t any clouds. Further confusing me, the sky is tinted a blue-green color, with the closer I looked straight overhead, the brighter it appears. If I was somewhere else, I wonder if it would be the same there as well?
Lost in thought, I am startled by a twig breaking very close by. Both Lilia and I look up and instantly scramble to our feet.
“Darling, although we’d be happy to know how you killed my husband and sons with that lack of awareness, now isn’t the time for that. Sit down this instant. These men won’t do any harm… unless you give them a good reason to.” The bearfolk woman stands on the back of one of the six bears currently approaching us.
More startling than the actual event, is the fact that they had gotten within lunging distance before we even noticed them.
Either way, we are very outmatched in this situation. I grab Lilia’s arm, and sit down, pulling her with me. “This close, we wouldn’t be able to beat them anyways. Let’s trust her,” I informed Lilia.
She growls a little, which was cute. It sounds like a little kid growling, but a dryad making that noise, really? Since when do dryads growl? It didn’t escape the bearfolk’s notice either. “D-dryad, hun, please, we wouldn’t, we need you, right? We wouldn’t threaten you, ever, promise.” It seems she didn’t feel that placated Lilia enough, because she is still freting. “Uh, and, we would never harm the hume, either, promise.”
That seems enough because she sighs, and slides off the side of her ‘mount.’ “You dryads are a handful,” she mutters as she approaches us. “These here are our sister’s sons. They have agreed to help us since this is technically their territory. They have been informed of your deeds.”
I am a bit confused. First I find out I killed her husband and sons, then I find out her nephews have been informed, but are helping? “I… don’t understand. You’re not mad…?”
She seems very dismissive of the subject, waving her hand… erm… paw… as if to brush off something trivial. “Darling, you have killed all of our sons. There is no one left to avenge our husband’s death, nor reclaim our domain.” From there, she looks away. In a quieter voice, she offers more explanation, “we are a free woman. For someone to be able to humble our family so much… We have no right to oppose them. We are just happy to be able to find a way to help. That land is ours no longer anyways.”
I still don’t understand, but she is helping rescue Mika, so I shouldn’t question her good will. To that end, I turn to Lilia. “You ready? To do the sleep thing?”
She nods and keeps a watchful eye from bear to bear, gauging them.
“Glen, quit hiding in the tree, and get near the Hume and Dryad so we can keep you awake. You have work to do as well,” the bearfolk woman calls out, before sitting down next to us.
I nearly jump when I see Glen repelling down from a rope hanging from a tree. After landing next to us, with a large backpack on his back, he tugs on the rope a few times, and it falls down to him. “Ready.” He sits down with us, saying only that word.
The ursine woman motions to the nearby bears and they surround us. They wait for something. The bearfolk woman and Glen both look at Lilia.
“Oh.” I say, understanding the problem. “Lilia, you need to be outside of the protective barrier they are going to set up.” I let go of her arm and give her a reassuring smile.
She stands, proceeding to walk outside the ring of bears. I can see her worried looks clear as day.
“I’ll be fine, just put everything to sleep when the bears put up their barrier.” I try to reassure her. She nods to show she understands, but doesn’t look any happier about it. “Okay, let’s do this,” I tell the bearfolk woman.
The bears, in twos, rear on their hind legs, and placed their front paws together over us, in order from tallest pair to shortest. Once complete, the space surrounding their bodies changes somehow. It is as if the air in this small shelter, constructed of their bodies, feels stiff and smells stale.
After a few minutes of waiting in dim bearshift shelter (Editor’s Note: sigh; Author’s Note: I couldn’t help myself!), the bearfolk woman speaks, while looking up. “We were afraid of this. Stand up, and push through. They’ve fallen asleep protecting us.”
Thanks for the support! I am in your care! Forgive me…