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Adventure Fantasy

A wendigo howls outside the igloo, its relentless fury wearing on the young, pregnant widow whose husband died in my arms just before the long dark began. A full turning of the moon will occur before we see the sun again, and the beast outside will prowl for days, before its fury sates. In the dim light of an oil dish, I measure the food which the elders left for us.

"Bear-Slayer," she invokes my name. "What will we do?"

"Joyous Seal, stay here." I tuck my namesake's skin, a thick white fur, snug about her. "I will hunt for more food."

The bear spirit flows in my veins. I can swim in the ocean and feel no cold. I tuck my fang, won during my spirit quest and wrested from the land of the Gods, into the hide sheath. Now, with the dark blade hidden from sight, I put it under my belt. Then three harpoons, mine from before I stumbled on this tribe's hunters, one in my right hand and the others for the quiver at my back. As an outsider, if they disappear while I am gone, none will know what became of them. And someone will take them.

I crawl into the entry room, closing the curtain behind me. In the chill dark, I open the outer barrier, and enter the wendigo's realm. Its many claws tear at me, nipping at my skin in scores of tiny cuts. Mother moon should be visible, but the beast's dark body hides her. Even as it tears at me, it screams its harsh, voiceless cry, to rend my spirit. I unleash my bear, the totem spirit rising in me, filling my limbs with might and my eyes with rage.

"Raaahr!" my challenge meets the wendigo's voice, and its claws slack a bit. It does not care to face defeat, for, though terrible beasts, this form of manitou is born of cowardice, of weakness. I scream at the skies it roams. "Come monster. Match your mettle against mine. Your kind cannot defeat me. I have slain your ilk before. Test me if you dare."

With each word, the claws retreat until finally the shadow-creature departs and the moon goddess shines her pleasure down at me. Yet the wendigo's breath remains, thick, billowing, impenetrable layers of white, like smoke from a bonfire as it renders blubber to oil. To find my way through the glowing mass, I close my eyes and use the nose of the bear to find a trail. Nothing at the moment, but I can wait. I trot away, waiting for fresh spoor.

The breath abandons its caress of my exposed skin before I catch any scent. The moon still hangs in the sky, its light reflected by the white lands about me- endless broken plains interspersed with jagged upthrust crystalline spars where summer's freedom ground two floating islands together. Of all tasks, only hunting relaxes me. I imagine myself young, among my tribe, and free of the curse.

Movement in the distance catches my eye. A caribou, a big male, but moving slowly as if it is either injured or old. My breath catches. I have run long enough I might have caught him- if I started with a chase instead of casting for prey. I need to close on him, and throw well, or the moon will set and permit his escape.

I drop low, crawling through the loose powder on the ground. One limb, then the next. The starts shift overhead and the moon begins to sink toward the horizon. Too far to throw, but the light will fail soon. Long moments going slowly, then I am close enough for a charge.

I leap up and run, a harpoon in my right hand, ready to throw. I release it just as my target lifts his head. The heavy stone head sinks in behind his shoulder blade. Blood spurts, a crimson mist which settles as carmine droplets on the white blanket which coats the ground. Three steps and he falls, though his legs continue to thrash. I approach carefully.

"Manitou of this noble caribou, hear my thanks. Your life means life for three- I accept your life as the great manitou will one day claim mine." He stills at my words and I finish him cleanly with my fang, its odd gray blade, ever-sharp, cutting the stag's throat so its blood flows and peace takes it. I gut the carcass, remove the intestines, but place the liver and heart inside my jacket, then lift the body onto my shoulders. The power of the bear grants me strength beyond normal men.

Following my tracks back is easy enough- for a while. But then the moon sinks and plunges the land into darkness lightened only by the stars. Cold distant eyes of lesser manitou, many of them evil, stare down, watching, hoping for some ill to befall mortals. The tracks become less distinct as I trudge along, the burden preventing me running, but ensuring Joyous Seal and her unborn child will have ample food for the remainder of winter.

The breath of the wendigo returns just as I recognize a pair of jagged spires from the trip out. Then, its body hides the stars, blotting them from the sky. I continue, expecting the claws to begin tugging at me, but they do not. This is a cunning enemy. It will not assail me direct where I might fight back. It keeps distant, hoping to confuse me, to lead me in circles until I die.

Then, not ten paces from me, I spot its ally. A great white bear with a pair of half grown cubs. I have no choice. The mother will charge for my food. I toss the heart to it, which the cubs pounce upon, gnawing at the soft meat, still warm from contact with my body. The mother steps forward, but I lower the caribou carcass and place it between us. "I need only part of this meat. You may have the remainder. I too must feed hungry cubs."

Placated by my obeisance, she waits. I carve off a haunch, sling it over my left shoulder, then slowly step back several paces. The bear watches, eyes on the fang I hold in my right hand, as if she senses the manitou power in it. The cubs finish the heart and, along with their mother, move on to the main body of the dead buck. I circle wide, then catch a scent of burning oil. I run back to the village, only to find the igloo I shared with Joyous Seal collapsed. I dig her out, but she is dead and cold, the bear-hide absent.

Rage. My eyes burn with red mist. This is my curse, to be lonely forever. But I will have back my item of power, a hide of the white bear, my namesake totem. The elder certainly has it, luxuriating in its warmth. I know his igloo, it is fronted by another, which has a trio of strong warriors. Men who will try to stop me from retrieving that which is mine. I decide to show as little mercy as was shown. I leap at the side of the main igloo, striking with my full force. Smaller men might take several blows to accomplish as much- Joyous Seal likely died terrified as her home slowly crumbled around her- but I manage with a single impact. The elder wails as I grab the bear-hide, puling it from him while he cowers.

I will not stain my fang with needless blood. Instead, I run to the open lands, to the dark, to the waiting malice of the wendigo. Because, for all its evil, I prefer the honest assault of ripping claws and roaring hate to the quiet treachery of men.

September 14, 2020 04:43

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30 comments

Doubra Akika
09:15 Sep 14, 2020

The ending was so powerful!!! Your descriptions and choice of words were magnificent. The title is great as well! The curse is a terrible one, being lonely forever. Forever is a long time. I love how your stories are different and always set in places I wouldn't have expected. Hope you're staying safe!

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A.G. Scott
05:32 Sep 14, 2020

Okay nice prologue, where's the rest? In all seriousness, I could read a lot more of this. The native mythology was a really smart way to address the prompt, your word choice is chef's kiss *mwah* and communicates the tone very well, and of course the plot itself was captivating. If I dared venture to offer any criticism, it would be that I didn't feel particularly connected to the pregnant woman, who, funnily enough, seems flat - perhaps because we get her history in just one sentence, or perhaps because her only line affirms her lac...

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Charles Stucker
07:10 Sep 14, 2020

The lack of interaction is supposed to emphasize the nature of his curse, to remain forever alone. I wrote a couple of stories about this character with the idea of a novel, but I got sidetracked by other projects. Right now I'm about halfway through a manuscript which I hope can find an audience. After that, who can tell.

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15:28 Sep 16, 2020

This was absolutely gorgeous! I love any story that handles folklore/legends well, and you did it beautifully. The descriptions are stunningly vivid, and the way that you use the scenery to set the tone-- along with well-crafted metaphors-- is perfect. The story has a pervasive sense of loneliness throughout it even before we know the specifics of the curse. When the revelation comes, it makes sense without being predictable. I honestly didn't catch anything that I'd change; I was so captivated by the story itself that I could have miss...

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P. Jean
01:44 Sep 15, 2020

Your stories never disappoint. I felt the struggle within and without. Amazingly fine.

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Charles Stucker
01:52 Sep 15, 2020

Thanks. For some reason this is so ego inflating just when I needed it.

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P. Jean
02:21 Sep 15, 2020

Welcome. Some of us wannabes have it some don’t. Lucky you. I look forward to more!

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Regina Perry
14:23 Sep 14, 2020

The curse came through quite clearly on this piece. The whole thing has a kind of lonely feel to it, though that lessens a bit when Bear-Slayer is in the midst of a hunt. I felt a bit cold reading it. I didn't see any typos this time. Just one place missing a comma and another place with an extra one. Here's the line missing the comma: "The cubs finish the heart and, along with their mother move on to the main body of the dead buck." It should be inserted after "mother". And here is the line with the extra comma: "Because, for all its e...

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Charles Stucker
15:02 Sep 14, 2020

Thanks. No matter how many times I go over something, I always miss a few bits.

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Lina Ozz
03:33 Sep 21, 2020

Your command of description is mesmerizing. I love the way you included such vivid animal/cultural imagery and emotion throughout the piece. My favorite example: “Yet the wendigo's breath remains, thick, billowing, impenetrable layers of white, like smoke from a bonfire as it renders blubber to oil.” You also vary your sentence structures and length very well; I found the piece wonderfully fluid because of it. Also, that last sentence. Ooh. So good. Excited to read more of your work!

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Nunya Business
21:15 Sep 18, 2020

Why are you down voting people

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Charles Stucker
00:52 Sep 19, 2020

Unless I accidentally hit a downvote when pressing the upvote, I have not. there exists a troll who plagued me earlier who might. If you tell me which comment/story got downvoted, I can check to be certain.

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Nunya Business
01:57 Sep 19, 2020

Nope it wasn’t you

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Megan Sutherland
18:13 Sep 29, 2020

I've seen your name in people's bios so I decided to come check you out. Such a sad ending! You do well making people feel for the character with certain words. Good connotation. You're super descriptive as well. I really enjoyed this story! -Megan S.

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Silvia Bartolini
16:10 Sep 26, 2020

What amazes me of this and a couple of other stories of yours I've read is the amount of research and knowledge in them. It reads so real, I have no trouble at all identifying with your characters. By another writer, it could have been fantasy. But in yours, it's just a different, relatable belief system. Not explaining it well, probably, but hope you get what I mean. Anyway, good job!

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S. K.
22:29 Sep 23, 2020

this is one of the best written stories i've seen on here. fabulous job Charles! you took the prompt to a new level!

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02:11 Sep 19, 2020

I love the role of the bear in this. Very vivid descriptions, really could feel the cold loneliness of it all.

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Andrew Krey
10:27 Sep 18, 2020

Wow, I really liked the intensity of this story. The lone "bear" fighting against the elements, and his curse. The ending was extremely powerful. I liked the way you embedded the animal kingdom into the faith system of the people, to then reveal the protagonist would rather be among the animals than endure humankind. It was very well done. Happy writing

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John Del Rio
14:13 Sep 17, 2020

as well done as your other stories that i have had the pleasure of reading. different genre seems to pose no problem for you. i wonder where the outsider came from? you capture the feel of the cold and the hunter gatherer feel. the wendigo took the place of the cold of winter or was it actually the supernatural creature? maybe it was both. it was sad that Joyous Seal and her unborn were taken; but it seems unusual for that culture. if the elder made it happen then Bear Slayer was justified i feel in doing what he did. the elder should...

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Batool Hussain
13:26 Sep 17, 2020

This is amazing. No wonder it comes from such a great writer i.e. you. Every single one of your stories stand out at their own places. And I mean it. The use of description, the creativity and the dialogues have been done at its finest. I am, once again in awe. Last week, you suggested that whenever I wanted for you to proofread a story of mine, I should tag u and that is exactly what I am using this opportunity for. If it's not much of a bother, please have a look at my recent one as soon as possible as the due date is tomorrow. It's t...

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☆ Adrienne ☆
05:32 Sep 19, 2020

Hi Charles! Your story, like all the ones you've written before, is enthralling from start to finish. You are an amazing author, and I sincerely believe you deserve the top spot on the leaderboard. You told me to comment on one of your stories to proofread one of mine. I don't mean to be a bother, but it would help a lot if you could help me with my writing. Your comments made my first story stellar, and I would appreciate your help once again for my new story. Thank you! I await your next work! ~Adrienne

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Lily Kingston
15:19 Sep 26, 2020

I love the last sentence and how well it fits the story. Keep up the good work and keep writing!!

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Ola Hotchpotch
12:37 Sep 24, 2020

Wow. Such a powerful story with such a strong end ' I prefer the honest assault of ripping claws to the quite treachery of men'.Very well written story. In my culture this is the time called ' devi paksha'. I would like to share some folk stories of the devi coming and why she is celebrated with such devotion when all around we experience people raping, molesting, torturing and killing helpless female foetus ,girls and women, ostracising some of them, spreading malicious gossips against them and attacking them under any excuse. The goddess...

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00:06 Sep 23, 2020

Wonderful piece! Such an intriguing story. Your plot really sucked me in, and your writing was just beautiful. Great job, Charles! Keep writing!

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Meli Mangos
14:24 Sep 20, 2020

I think you could make this into something longer, especially with the descriptions you have. This story by itself seemed a little rushed and I wasn't entirely sure about the traditions and powers of the characters because we just didn't have enough time or space to explain it all.

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Charles Stucker
16:17 Sep 20, 2020

Thanks. I often leave details vague, because I want an air of mystery. Bear-Slayer is supposed to be like the man with no name, he shows up, things happen, he leaves.

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The Cold Ice
03:25 Sep 19, 2020

The ending was powerful!!! The title is super.Great job keep it up.Keep writing.Wonderful story. Would you mind to read my story “Underground world.”(I have still time to edit)

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Serenity Spooner
08:35 Nov 20, 2020

The whole thing is grabs onto the reader, wanting to know more about the bear-slayer and this strange world they live in. It's amazing the words ya have used to give us an image of the world he's in, but also give us space for our own imagination to think up.

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