alorn_bear: (shortfaced bear with comparison bears)
[personal profile] alorn_bear
The door opens onto the very edge of an ancient forest, where the trees open up onto a vast grassy basin. The land is dotted here and there with groves of trees verged with thickets of berry bushes, centering around deep, cold springs of water just freshly melted from the winter's cold. The water is clear enough to look down through ten feet of it at the dozing trout below. Deer, as placid and docile as sheep, graze in the tall grass; for all that green is only beginning to rise in the world again, this place is already strong with life.

You okay there? says Belar; he's taken on the shape of a bear Suzi will never have seen before. The short-faced bear died out of Earth's record ten thousand years before recorded history began, but it was the largest mammalian carnivore ever to set foot on land. He stands five and a half feet tall at the shoulder despite being on all fours, and he couldn't possibly be less than ten feet long from nose to tail. Despite this, the deer in the grass and the birds overhead show no particular distress at his presence.

Date: 2007-02-06 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Suzi makes the universal gesture of "give me a moment", and when she's utterly certain that she's finished throwing up she cleans out her mouth with water, "Now I am."

Date: 2007-02-06 05:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The bear whufs. This way, he says, and starts padding off across the landscape.

Overhead the skies are blue, though the pale wisps of mares'-tail cirrus clouds and the lower, pebbly mackerel-sky clouds that accompany them herald windy weather on the way. Not for some time yet, though. The sunlight spills across the vale, glinting off the pools among the trees, promising spring's proper return soon enough. Belar stops now and again to sniff the wind or rise up on his hind legs and survey the landscape. (That's a hell of a sight, by the way; he's at least eleven feet tall that way.) You know, he says after a while, we're still a good couple of leagues from the Tree. The way I see it, we've got three options. One, we just keep walking the normal way until we get there. Two, you learn how to ride. Or three, you let me make a couple of teeny weeny adjustments to that psychospatial sense thing so you don't get disoriented when I start ignoring distance. I'm good with any of them. It's totally up to you.

Date: 2007-02-06 05:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"I can ride horses." She says with a small smile, "As long as they cooperate? But if you want to ignore distance that's alright, too." Her fingers tangle in his fur while she talks to him. "If your Tree can help me...I don't want to delay."

Date: 2007-02-06 06:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Okay. I hope you can hold on real tight, because my ribs are kinda big in this form. The gigantic bear's forelimbs bend until he's just about kneeling; all it'll really take will be a touch with the intention of climbing aboard for Suzi to find herself astride.

He's a god. He's good like that.

Hold on tight, Belar warns again. This shape was built for hunting pronghorn. And he's off.

We should probably mention that pronghorn can keep up a steady forty to forty-five miles an hour across open country for considerable distance, and fifty-five to sixty at a dead run.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She blinks, then twines hands and tentacles into his fur. Level two augmentation, he's not losing her unless he decides to lose her. "Okay! she attempts to inform him, but the wind takes it away.

This is kind

Date: 2007-02-06 06:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, he doesn't plan on losing her. He doesn't lose anybody once he decides to start keeping track of them.

A covey of quail bursts up from hiding as he gallops past, wings whirring almost as loudly as the wind of the bear's travel. The landscape blurs and streaks past them, trees and bushes and grass alie swiftly smudging out on either side. It is, perhaps, not unlike an experience two girls once had in another world very far away indeed:

Have you ever had a gallop on a horse? Think of that; and then take away the heavy noise of hoofs and the jingle of bits and imagine instead the almost noiseless padding of the great paws. Then imagine instead of the black or gray or chestnut back of the horse the soft roughness of golden fur, and the mane flying back in the wind. And then imagine you are going about twice as fast as the fastest racehorse. But this is a mount that doesn't need to be guided and never grows tired. He rushes on and on, never missing his footing, never hesitating, threading his way with perfect skill between tree trunks, jumping over bush and briar and the smaller streams, wading the larger, swimming the largest of all.

Like that, save for the brownness of the fur and the lack of any sort of mane. This world is not quite to Belar what Narnia was to Aslan, but it's very close.

And then, as the great bear hurtles up a long, long grassy rise, the Tree heaves into view.

Its branches reach hundreds of feet into the air. Its sprawling limbs shade entire acres. Among its branches flit more birds than one might find in entire forests at home; and for someone like Suzi, it is impossible not to zlin a Presence that both welcomes and calls.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It feels like (Whistler) home. She leans forward, leans toward it, at the call and the welcome and right now she isn't thinking about the bar.

She isn't thinking about being useless.

She just wants Whistler to be here too.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The great bear's gallop steadies, slows, and finally stops a few paw-falls away from the edge of the Tree's shadow. This is as far as I go, he says. I'll wait for you here.

There are no nuts or seeds on the ground, no sign of blossom among the branches. If Suzi finds a fallen branch or leaf, she won't find a similarity with any other tree she's ever seen. There are no other trees like this, no kindred species. Only this one.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She walks toward the tree, and after a minute spreads both of her palms on the trunk, and even extends her laterals to touch it. She doesn't want to miss anything that it can give her, anything at all.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The first of all lessons that the Tree ever teaches those who touch it is of the nature of time. Humans break time into manageable pieces- night, day, week, fortnight, twenty-eight day cycles- but what the Tree knows, what it holds out, is that the divisions ultimately mean no more than the placement of marking-stones does to water. The river of time flows endlessly from the beginning to a goal ultimately unfathomable, even to those who've been to Milliways. The end, the goal, lies ultimately somewhere beyond even that.

It's a difficult concept even for those born aware, as Polgara was, or touched by Aldur, as Belgarath was, or destined someday for the Choice that would change all existence, as Belar's brother Eriond ultimately was. For someone bound to the lesser cycles as Suzi it cannot be even the slightest bit easy; but the Tree is patient, and can show the way as no other teacher can.

And once that understanding is zlinned truly, there is another: that of tasks that lie ahead. The Tree does not communicate in images, precisely, and definitely not in words- but there is an understanding there, held out and given freely, of duties that lie ahead. Of need- others', her own- and the certainty that it will arise; of living as long as she needs to in order to see these things done. Eriond's understanding of existence opened upon contact with the Tree, and Polgara received the knowledge of the speech of birds, but Suzi's lot is not theirs, and thus neither is the Tree's gift to her. There are deaths averted yet to come in that understanding, many of them, and it is because of her. There is a kind of life that speaks of Keon and other householdings- and more, for there is no rage and mistrust without, only the sense of the sea. This is the task; this is the duty, and the joy, because how could it not be so?

But- and here, and here only, the Tree grows specific: this duty, this gladness and joy and making-things-right, is not a thing all on its own. Without Milliways it happens not at all. Not for Suzi. Not for anyone. And it happens not at all if that is done reluctantly, either, or out of some sense of obligation. It comes of acceptance, as so many important things do, given freely and of her own will.

There is, perhaps, a little wind through the branches. Suzi may well find the sun has traveled quite some way when she looks at the world again with ordinary senses.

Date: 2007-02-06 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
"Choice of chains." she says softly, and she can't help the fact that she's crying. It gave her a choice. Even if not the choice she wanted, it gave her a choice.

And, really, that's what she wanted. A choice. Even more than a duty, she wanted a choice. She doesn't let go of the tree right away, when she's back to herself. She takes a moment to compose herself, and when she turns away she picks up one leaf from the ground.

"Thank you, Belar. I'm ready to go home, now."

Date: 2007-02-06 06:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Belar's world is very much one of destinies and prophecies and obligations to undeniable forces, but there is a thing about the really critical ones: for all that Destiny moves the lives of the people and gods of Gara, the most important moments in any prophecy are those where the choice is made. Whatever that choice might be.

The Tree understands.

Belar is waiting at the edge of the Tree's shadow when Suzi makes her way out; the bear grunts and lies down again to give her a means to climb up. The gallop resumes as soon as she's ready. Somewhere in the midst of that flying run, between one step and the next, the rolling green of the Vale of Aldur gives way to the frozen landscape around Milliways.

(The Tree may have given one last gift. There's no disorientiation this time. It's possibly the least distressing switch in psychospatial awareness ever.)

Date: 2007-02-06 06:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
(It's possibly the ONLY non-distressing switch in psychospatial awareness ever.)

She kisses his muzzle again, "Thank you. I need to think for a while...I have some apologies I need to make. Thank you...and you can find me any time. You may find me any time, for selyn and things."


alorn_bear: (Default)
Belar, Bear-God of the Alorns

February 2007

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