It wasn't even because of the bear, though it mauled or killed nearly everyone in the lodge. No, it was because of my rival, who, because of an ill-timed smile, had decided he wanted my woman, Sesina.
It was Gathering Day at the reservation, so the whole clan had congregated at the main house to celebrate. Things had been relatively calm, and the glassworks was finally making decent money. Still, even with our newfound prosperity, things were uneasy. Like any contained community, there were factions and disputes, and the animosity between them was beginning to escalate from a low simmer to an outright boil.
Esau was one of the members of the faction who believed in following the old ways--but only when it suited him. He called himself a warrior, but refused to follow the codes. He cheated at the games, lazed about on the hunt, and flat-out snubbed anything he considered "women's work." Some of the younger men were enamoured of his opinions, and copied his attitude, leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack. Needless to say, he was not well-liked.
My best friend, Trev, and I had been at the glassworks all day, and had just arrived home in time to bathe before the celebration. On Gathering Day, everyone dressed in their finest traditional wear, and ate together in the main hunting lodge to renew their connections to the ancestors and each other. No weapons were allowed at the feast, but were instead stored in the armoury attached to the hall.
No one knew where the bear had come from. They weren't an uncommon sight, being in the middle of mostly unblemished territory as we were, but this bear was.....wrong. More than rabid, more than enraged. Possessed, almost. It had killed three people before we had hardly realized it was among us. And it was SMART. Too smart. It didn't blindly swing and snap at anything in its way--no, it went after the most precious targets first. The children.
Nearly all of the smallest children were on the first floor, that being the easiest way to keep track of the toddlers and littles. The bear got to them first. The screaming...it was awful. Shrieks and wails of fear and pain... The women, Sesina among them, tried to get the children outside, but the bear was everywhere.
She was one of the first to die, from an eviscerating swipe across the belly. I saw it from the third floor, and could do nothing to stop it. Her eyes found mine as she choked and gasped, trying to breath through shredded lungs.
My vision went red. I did things I never knew I was capable of. I launched myself from the balcony onto the second floor. The door to the armoury was latched, but I didn't even bother with the lock; I just wrenched it open in a furious haze.
No guns. Shit. I'd have to make to with the traditional weapons. I grabbed the nearest bow and quiver and strung it with one savage twist. Next I snatched up a handful of short spears, and my father's hunting knife, a blade as long as my forearm and sharpened into a hair-splitting edge.
Taking no more than a second to settle my weapons, I bolted out the door. I'd have to try the long range weapons first. But even in the short amount of time I'd been occupied, more people had died. More women and children had died, though everyone had evacuated to the second floor, hoping the bear would be confused by the stairs.
No such luck. Like I said, this bear was SMART. Once it had run out of easy prey, it STALKED. Sniffing the air, it turned in a slow circle, nose snuffling, saliva falling in greasy ropes to the floor, splattering on the blood and gore liberally coating the wooden planks.
My blood boiled as I took aim with the first arrow. It flew straight and true into its haunch, burying itself a quarter of the way up the shaft. The bear reared up, bellowing in pain. But it didn't stop. It began shuffling up the stairs, lurching into the bannister and wall with every step.
I loosed a second arrow. This one just glanced off its matted fur and clattered down to the ground. The bear roared again, and its gait became more agitated, clambering faster up the staircase.
I attempted two more arrows in short succession, but the angle and the bannister made it difficult to find a true shot. The bear was nearly onto the second floor. Amazing myself again, I swung up onto the decorative railwork that bordered the balcony up to the roof, praying that it would hold my weight. I loosened one of the spears from my back, hefting it in my hand before hurling it as best I could at the beast.
It struck. Again the monster howled in rage, clawing at the spear now lodged in its ribs. And still, it did not stop. There was not enough room for everyone to run to safety. More death. More bloodshed. More family and friends whose lives were snuffed out and whose bodies were desecrated by this creature from the Underworld.
I glanced around. Some of the women who had managed to run to the third floor were shoving the remaining children out onto the roof in the hopes that once the bear was either killed or left, they could crawl back inside. Others of the young men, Trev among them, had also thought to run to the armoury and had grabbed whatever they could find--more arrows, spears, even tomahawks.
None of it proved any use. The bear was unstoppable. Even bleeding from half a dozen gaping wounds, blinded in one eye, it was crazed. It seems to feel no pain, snarling only in rage and frustration. And still it killed. Elders who simply couldn't move fast enough. Young warriors trying to score that seemingly impossible mortal wound. Children screaming for their mothers, and the mothers and women trying to get them out of harm's way. On and on it murdered, making its way higher and farther into the lodge.
Finally there was nowhere else to retreat. I saw Trev die as well, nearly half his face gone, torn away by the massive jaws of the bear. I saw other friends die as well, in the most horrific manners possible. I steeled myself. There was no choice. I would have to stop the fiend before the clan had no living member. I took a deep breath, and raised the last spear I had left, having lost the other scrambling for a better shot. The bear was occupied in rooting around in an unidentifiable body's intestines. I had a perfect shot at its spine.
I lifted my arm for the throw. I never made it. Suddenly I felt a stabbing pain in my back and my breath whistled out in a whoosh. I looked down, and could just see the tip of my missing spear protruding from my ribcage.
I turned slowly, disbelieving. Esau stood behind me, an ugly sneer on his face, his eyes lit with unholy rage and lust.
"She'll be mine, now," he growled, baring his teeth. "Sesina will have to love me, now that you're dead."
I tried to laugh, but I couldn't get enough air. "You fool. Sesina's dead. That bear killed her. That monster that you brought into our clan murdered her."
He blinked, and shook his head. "No. No, you're lying. I told it NOT to kill her. I told it NOT to kill her!" he screamed.
I glared at him. "You really thought you could control that beast? You really are a fool. Even the shamans know better than that." I choked on the blood running down my throat. "You've just doomed us all."
I fell on my side, too weak to even knee any longer. Esau just stared at me, shrieking at me, spittle flying from his mouth. I didn't care. All I could feel was my warm, warm blood pooling underneath me, and the piercing agony in my chest. The last thing I saw was Esau's face, all sanity gone, and the bear looming behind him, paws upraised and mouth agape....