The Bear and the Lady Fair
It took a while for Frostmaw to recognize the smell.
Everything was so vivid here, more intense, moreso than anywhere he’d ever been. As a cub, growing up in the snows of Dun Morogh, scents carried a long way, as there were few competing smells on the wind.
But here, the air was full of birdsong and animal cries, and more distantly, the sounds of things strange and unnatural, the kind of half-remembered nightmare that would haunt him in the early spring after long sleeps. The colors were so intense that Frostmaw sometimes had to shut his eyes to give them a rest — who knew there was so much green in the whole world? And the air was full of smells, layered one atop another, plants, animals, water, earth, again and again and — blood. Bear blood, a lot of it.
“Where do ye think ye’re goin’, ye grouchy old coot?”
Ringo Flinthammer glanced back — Beli was with their rams, lost in thought — and raced after the bear, who was pounding across an impossibly green Val’sharah meadow toward a line of low hills.
“Is this about the spirit o’ the gun? Ah thought ye’d like him better if Ah made him look like a bear!”
Frostmaw screeched to a halt in front of a cave, growling quietly, his muscles twitching, and crept slowly forward. Ringo nodded and readied his Titanstrike.
It had been a busy few weeks in the Broken Isles. Between the Alliance, the Unseen Path and the Netherlight Temple, it seemed they never had time to slow down or even talk.
But that would wait. Now, Frostmaw was creeping into the cave and his growls were replaced with a roar of anger and the sounds of combat.
Frostmaw almost filled the entrance of the cave, and the spirit bound to the gun didn’t help matters, but Ringo was able to squeeze in, where he was able to make out a prancing sprite battling both bears. It slashed at Frostmaw with its thorns, drawing blood and clawing at the bear’s eyes.
“Frostmaw! Play dead!”
Both the bear and the spirit, which imitated Frostmaw in all things, dropped to the cave floor, and Ringo’s gun roared. It took him several moments to hear the sound of a whimpering bear cub through the sound of the ringing in his ears. He brushed the fragments of the sprite aside and reached out to a terrified cub, the last of its family left alive by the sprite, the den a horror show of blood and fur.
“All right, wee one, ye’re safe now.”
Ringo scooped the cub up. It was an ashmaw, a common breed around here, and carried it outside. Beli was still standing with Beer Run and Sam. She wasn’t holding either of their reins, but luckily they were both veterans of war and didn’t wander while they still had their bridles on. Instead, they merely munched at the soft green grass as Beli stared off into the middle distance, frowning.
“Are ye still worried about that damned wind chime?” Ringo said, not sure whether he was frustrated or not, and trying to keep it out of his voice.
Beli cut him off with one raised hand — she didn’t want to talk about it again.
Ringo sighed, and held out the terrified cub.
“This wee one could use yer look-see, maybe a touch o’ healin’. Sprite killed its whole family. Frostmaw heard it or smelled it or somethin’ and led me to it.”
Beli took the trembling cub in both hands, and held it to her breast, murmuring quietly to it.
“Shhhh, shhhh, you’re OK now.”
After a moment, she looked up.
“I’ll call him ‘Shiver.'”
Sorry for the long gap: This time of year is rough at work. More stories coming, I promise!