Today, as I prep for tomorrow’s Feast of the Bear, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Barony of Septentria, I came across a thing.
The Tale of the Great Bear of the North
by Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Presented at Twelfth Night, AS 45
In the beginning of time, before civilization touched the lands of the North, the Great Bear roamed free, alone beneath the stars, ever wandering, ever searching. It is said that on the coldest of cold nights, his mate and his cub were taken from him, and the earth rang with his howls and roars of anguish. Frigga, mate to the All-Father, heard these cries and came to him, and took pity on the white bear, bereft of mate and child, and offered this to him: “We cannot unwind the skein which the Norns have spun. But look to the sky, and know that in this Northern land, your kin will be with you always.”
And she pointed to the sky, where whirled the Great She-Bear and her cub, clad in stars, mother and child, always circling the Polestar.
“This is of great comfort to me,” said the Bear, “but what am I to do here, alone, below?”
“You must give your heart to the land, and your descendants will be multiplied upon this earth,” said Frigga.
The Bear wondered at this and how it might come to pass without his mate by his side, but kept silent. For many years, the land was in his care, but he was alone.
Far to the West, in the land of the setting sun, Apollo did look down from his chariot and espied a people thirsting for knowledge, searching in the darkness for truth. One day he perchance came upon them, dressed in fine clothes, speaking the languages of civilized folk. He heard the clash of sword upon sword, but found not warfare, but gentle courtesy and chivalry. “I shall drive my sun-chariot close, and its light shall shine brightly upon these people, and they shall have my protection,” said he. So bright was the sun that shone that it nourished a new Society. And in those lands did King Richard and Queen Marynel rule, followed by King Henrik and Queen Wendryn, and King Richard the Second and his queens, Anne and Diana, and King Henrik the second and Queen Leanne; and King William and Queen Sheryl.
And in the reign of King Siegfried and Queen Marynel, word reached Their Majesties that a fierce woman approached the Kingdom of the West, riding upon a tiger. She demanded entry into their hall. Apollo recognized Durga the Invincible from the Eastern lands, and knew she would not be denied her wish, for she is fearless and ever-patient, and so opened the minds of Their Majesties.
“My people are restless,” said she. “They desire to know your ways, but not to be governed by you. They wish to be self-sufficient. They have read the sacred texts. Will you grant them your blessing to rule their own Kingdom? The lands of the East are far from you, and will not trouble you.”
Their Majesties nodded, and appointed Lady Elfrida to travel to the lands of the East. And Durga was satisfied, and returned to her lands. Lady Elfrida did appoint Maragorn and Adrienne to preside at the first tournament in Eastern lands as King and Queen, and in that grand tournament Bruce of Cloves won the Crown for his lady Florence, and reigned for a full year.
The passing of Durga had roused a great dragon from his slumber, and the dragon saw from afar the people of the East and the birth of their Kingdom. He looked beneath his wing and saw on the shores of the great lake others searching for the light of civilization. Emissaries were sent, and Countess Adrienne did come to the city on the shore of the great lake, and a grand tournament was held, and the victor proclaimed Baron Under the Mountain. This was Cariadoc of the Bow. But the dragon was not satisfied, and he confronted the Lady of the Tiger. “It is not right that I bow to you,” said the dragon. “You are not sacred to my people.” He extended his right talon, so that it fell just west of the great city of steel. “All lands west of here I claim for my own.” The Lady of the Tiger laughed. “I have no desire to rule such uncivilized people. Perhaps in the future these barbarians and my people might meet here to settle the matter. The Dragon laughed and departed, and such did the Coronation of King Cariadoc and Queen Diana Alene transpire in the fourth year since the light came to the shores of the West.
But the Dragon did not inhabit these lands alone. The great wolf Fenrir was wont to prowl in the northern reaches, far from the dragon’s fiery breath. In the great North Woods a band of people came together who venerated Fenrir and carried his image before them into battle. Three of their number had travelled to the Kingdom of the West in its third year and saw the wonders of civilization there. In the fourth year the people in the North Woods came together and began to form a barony, sending emissaries to the West Kingdom. But messengers were slow and unreliable and were lost in the great distance, and so the people of Fenrir moved forward not knowing that around them, a new Kingdom was growing. In the fall of the fifth year of the Society, King Franz of the Middle, hearing strange tales of this stronghold in the great woods, came in person to witness its wonders. The victor of the tournament that day, Thorvald inn Grimmi, who had been one of the three to travel to the West, was invested as Baron and knighted on the field, and his lady Signy, who had also traveled to the West, became Baroness. The Lost Barony had been found, and many of its line would sit the Dragon Thrones.
Amongst the people of the North Woods was one Finnvarr de Taahe, a knight whose wanderings took him through the lands to the East of the North Woods, and indeed, into the lands of the Tiger of the East. It was there that he came to dwell in Mirkewode for a time and won for himself the Crown of the East. In those days, there was no requirement that King and Queen dwell in their own Kingdom, and so his Queen was Caellyn, a lady of the North Woods. Travelling between his home in the East and his keep in the North Woods, he travelled through lands yet unclaimed and unpopulated, though full of scholars and merchants, and he resolved to return. His passing was not unnoticed. The Great Bear of the North watched him from afar, and wondered what this might foretell.
Count Finnvarr built a hall within the city of scholars on the shore of the ancient lake, but yet he was still alone, and travelled often to the North Woods, where he told tales of the wondrous things in the city of scholars and the beauty of the wilds without. One lady, Gillian d’Uriel, heard these stories and resolved to come to that land as well. Others from the city of scholars soon joined them as well, and in the ninth year of the Society the outpost on the shore of the ancient lake known as Eoforwic arose.
Soon other outposts arose as well, Noerlandia to the north, Ben Dunfirthshire to the west. The Great Bear of the North discovered them in his wanderings. He kept silent, but found that ever more he was drawn to these people, and the people began to catch glimpses of him during his wanderings, standing alone, his eyes sad yet hopeful. The people of Noerlandia instituted a feast in his honour, but he did not yet come amongst them. Yet he watched, and kept guard over them.
And so it came to pass in time that Count Finnvarr won the right to the throne of the Middle and he and Caellyn were crowned in Eoforwic in the twelfth year of the Society. One day the King was out riding in the woods and found himself separated from his retinue. It was then that the Great Bear showed himself. The King was not afraid. “Great Bear, I have seen you from afar for many months, and so have all those who dwell in these lands. Yet you do not fear us, nor hunt us for food. What is the meaning of this?”
“Great King,” said the Bear, “I have felt the love of these people for this land. I dwell alone in these lands, and have for many years done so. The land has been my only companion, and it is my heart and soul. Your people have honoured me, and yet I have kept apart, fearful of what might come to pass.”
“You are a mighty bear,” said the King. “What have you to fear?
“I fear that I will love again, and lose my mate and child, as I did many years ago. But yet Frigga foretold to me that my descendants would be multiplied were I to give the land my heart. I did not know how this could be, and then your people came to dwell amongst trees, rivers, lakes and meadows alongside me, and I felt their love for what I love, and I knew that I must find my mate amongst them, for they are destined for greatness. But I would not usurp your place, O King.”
The King inclined his head, and said, “Great Bear of the North, I and my line rule vast lands to the west and south. It is in my power to raise these people to greater glory, and I had already resolved to do so. But we have lacked a leader. They shall be a barony called Septentria and you shall rule as Baron in my stead.”
“Alas, “said the Bear, “Great as the love I bear for this land, I cannot rule over humans. But I have seen a lady amongst you, beloved by all her people, who came to these lands not long after you. Where I am rough and beastly, she is gentle and speaks with the voice of a poet, and is renowned far and wide. She inspires all to create great beauty with their hands, voices, and hearts. She is mother to these people, and thus my mate in deed if not in name. If she were to accept the Coronet of a Baroness, I would ever be beside her to protect her, the land, and the people.”
“You speak of the Lady Gillian,” said the King.
“I do,” said the Great Bear of the North.
“Never before has a Baroness ruled alone,” said the King.
“She will not rule alone. She has the heart of a Bear,” said the Great Bear.
And so, in May of the thirteenth year of the Society, the Barony of Septentria was born, raised to high status by Queen Kirsten of the Middle, and the lady Gillian, to the joy of the people, took up the Coronet as its Baroness. And the Great Bear of the North, Ursus Septentriae, alone no more, ever protects his people in peace and in war, and his descendants are multiplied upon the land.