• Meg Gaertner

Bear Maiden and the Boy Magician (7/10)

Chapter Six

Time went on. Summer came and went, with autumn nipping at its heels. It was on a brisk fall evening, the flame-covered trees rivaling the setting sun for majesty, that something changed in The Tower and its two inhabitants. By this time, the bear spirit was buried deep in Bear Maiden’s chest. Boy Magician’s wayward, subtle magic continued to tighten the shackles holding the bear spirit captive. But Bear Maiden herself sought to push this spirit down. She knew she was incapable of completely hiding her discontent and her desire to be free of The Tower. She knew Boy Magician saw the longing in her eyes, and she knew the pain it caused him. Bear Maiden hurt to hurt him. So she tried to subdue her own wild spirit on his behalf.

But they both underestimated the ferocity of this bear spirit, and its inability to be destroyed or caged forever. On that pristine autumn night, the bear spirit emerged. As the sun faded from the sky’s view and a perfect full moon rose to claim her place among the stars, Bear Maiden felt a shift within her. It started as a quiet, simmering resentment, slow-burning and kindled with the utmost care. Her eyes darkened and narrowed as a sudden gust of wind lifted her sunburnt wheat hair. Her gentle hands tensed and gripped the air, grasping white-knuckled at her skirt, the bedcovers, anything within reach. Her arms and legs tightened, the coiled ropes of muscle flexing and surging with energy and pent-up aggression. Her breath labored and her chest heaved with the anger growing inside of her. Part wild beast, barely maiden, she stood there shaking, overtaken by feral emotion as the bear spirit fought tooth and nail for its freedom. By the time Boy Magician turned in wonder at her changed breathing, the transformation was complete.

With a fierce half-scream, half-roar, the bear spirit rose up, completely enraged at its mistreatment. Boy Magician stopped, terrified of the wild creature before him. In a breathless moment, he locked eyes with the beast, and saw instantly her confliction—the sadness and hurt of a child beaten down, the fear and pain of a girl losing control, the frustration and betrayal of a wild spirit needing freedom, all channeled into a pure fury all the more powerful for having been locked away. Boy Magician saw that the beast was ready to lash out at any moment, and that her rage was completely destructive. He immediately sought to calm the beast and control her.

Boy Magician raised his hands in a pacifying and careful gesture, speaking slowly in low tones intended to relax and sedate. The beast merely snarled in contempt and tensed to spring toward the staircase. Boy Magician rushed to block her path, not knowing what kind of damage the beast might cause were she to break free. The beast roared in fury and with clawed hands sought to drive past him. The boy grabbed her tightly, clamping her arms down by her sides. She howled gutturally. He held her against him with one arm and with the other grabbed at her mouth, her throat, anything to silence the otherworldly, broken sound. The boy leveraged her to the floor, his arms holding her down.

He avoided meeting her eyes, unwilling to look beyond the fierce wildness to see the pain close behind. As he held her down, his magic reached out to subdue the bear spirit and send it back into its lonely hibernation. With a final convulsive shudder, the beast’s rage turned into desperation and Bear Maiden broke down into tears she could not end. Seeking to drown out the sobbing he could not bear to hear, Boy Magician babbled words he hardly cared to acknowledge—What’s the matter with you? Control yourself! What, are you crazy? Stop crying! Stop being a child! His voice and his magic weaseled deeper and deeper into her mind, and tiny slivers of her heart broke off with each word-dagger. Bear Maiden saw, and howled piteously, mourning for the first time her own brokenness. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep.

Boy Magician let go of the girl and found himself sobbing in confusion and exhaustion. Looking at the maiden huddled on the floor, he was struck by her brightness and beauty for all the tear streaks and grime marking her face. She seemed clearer to him somehow, and he felt afraid of her sharp edges. He feared both for her and for what she would do were she to leave. His thoughts muddled around in his head until a few key ideas emerged from the dark mess—She’s dangerous. She’s crazy. I’m the only one who can understand and take care of her. She needs me. She can’t leave The Tower.

Solid in his convictions, Boy Magician moved to the window and peered out at The Village below, surprised that the loud struggle in The Tower had not broken the dreamy quiet of the town. Turning back to the room, his breath caught at the sight of his reflection. In the scuffle, the ragged cloth concealing the mirror had fallen. The brightness of the full moon illuminated the mirror clearly. What he saw within terrified him—dark shadows created by dagger-sharp cheekbones, sickly green eyes sparkling with hellish fire, hair dripping to his shoulders like blood, and underneath all of it, the ice-cold glow of his magic. If the girl had become a beast, he had become a monster.

Silent tears flowed down his cheeks as he recalled how through his strength and magic he had subdued the girl. Unable to face himself any longer, the boy lashed out with his magic to crack the mirror into pieces. His visage broken, Boy Magician turned once more to the girl, blaming and hating her for his feeling this way, and hating himself for hating her. He looked away again and collapsed onto the bed.

Awakened by the sound of breaking glass and Boy Magician’s muffled tears, Bear Maiden witnessed his pain. She saw that he hated this magic he could not control, that he hated himself and what he had become. In an instant though, she saw a change. She watched the boy straighten, watched him push away his emotion, watched his eyes deaden and dull…and watched as part of his heart broke free from the rest to melt away. As she drifted back to sleep, Bear Maiden mourned for the boy’s unhappiness.

And so a new pattern emerged in The Tower, with the full moon proving a faithful witness to the pain of the boy magician and the bear maiden. Each month, illuminated by the glow of the moon, the boy and his magic would fight to subdue the girl and her bear spirit. Each morning after, the boy would reject his magic and his own reflection, and the bear spirit would find another brick laid down in the wall to shut it away for good.


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