The only bear in the world was asleep, sprawled out on the bluish-purple grass, leaking out gas that smelled like fish from either end.
The shimmering blue creature in the stream nearby looked like a bear, but wasn’t. Not really.
Still, he was enjoying getting into the mindset of the bear. Standing still in the stream, waiting for the fish to forget that the four limbs in the water were a living being, he listened to the sounds, breathed in its scents, and was at peace.
The Drust were gone, for now, at least, and bird song was returning to areas of the forest where it had vanished. The smell of scorched plants had abated. Things were quiet once more.
“Khaz’goroth on a cracker! Back off, ye bloody stupid birds, or I’ll … ow! What is wrong with ye?”
The dwarf woman came crashing along through the stream, accompanied by the outraged squawks of a heron, sending the fish scurrying for cover.
She stood up, dripping, trying to recover some sense of dignity. Her face broke into a delighted grin when she saw the bear.
“Frostmaw! Ah’ve been looking all over for ye!”
The bear opened one eye, farted again, and sat up, making a delighted noise, nosing the woman.
“Would ye keep it down? Ye’re scaring the fishes.”
Beli Flinthammer slowly pivoted, raising an eyebrow at the glowing blue not-a-bear in the stream.
“Ringo? Is this what ye’ve been doing all this time?”
“It takes a lot longer for the fish tae relax around ye than ye’d think. Ah’ve been here about an hour, waitin’ on them to drop their guard.”
“I MEANT TURNING YOURSELF INTO A BEAR!”
“Oh, that? Nae, that was a lot easier than ye’d expect.”
“Could ye get out of the stream and kiss yer wife?”
Ringo splashed ashore, transforming back into a dwarf.
“And what have ye been doing? What is that? Are ye dressin’ up as a faerie dragon for Hallow’s End?”
“Let’s just agree that maybe we make bad fashion choices when the other is nae around.”
“So, what else did ye do while we were separated?”
“Ah know how to bring Kildris back to life, once we’ve got her soul.”
“Excellent. I know where the soul is, but I don’t think yer gonna like it …”