Brother and Sister Part 3 - Bear's Milk

They were at a bear’s cave. They were greeted by ferocious growls. When they entered, they found a large brown bear huddled in a corner with her cubs. The moment she saw them, she rose to her full height, waving her paws menacingly at anyone who dared approach. Even with Protius and Nejvada at his side, it would be a close fight. The bear would not be pinned down as easily as the wolf had been.

As they stood facing each other, the wolf cub had caught one of the bear cubs' eyes. Curiosity overcame him, and he left his mother and brothers to take a closer look at this strange animal. The two animals pawed each other and rubbed noses. Seeing their brother, the other cubs also wanted to play with the wolf cub and moved towards it. Now the mother bear was standing all alone. The cubs were by Ivanko’s side. He drew out his sword as if to kill them. The bear's attention was now torn between the two ferocious dogs in front of her and her cubs being held hostage by Ivanko. What was she to do?

The dogs took advantage of the bear’s distraction to pounce upon her and pin her down. Ivanko felt sad seeing the majestic creature held down so helplessly as he milked her. He really felt evil doing such a thing to her. But then his sister’s life depended upon it. At least she thought as much. So, he had to do it. Soon he had enough milk for his sister. The dogs let the bears go and they were on their way. As he started to ride, he saw a bear cub running by the side of his horse. It was the same one that had turned the game for him by making friends with the wolf cub. He looked back. The mother bear seemed to have no objection to the cub leaving the family. She seemed completely relieved to be left unhurt and reunited with the rest of her cubs.

He picked up the bear cub that was probably younger than the wolf cub on to his horse and rode home. He wondered if he saw a flash of disappointment on Marya’s face on seeing him arrive home or was it his imagination? There was no reason why she should not be happy to see him return. And if she was to be believed even her own life depended on it. She definitely did not show any happiness. She just quietly took the bear’s milk and drank it. For some time, she seemed recovered.

Then one day, again she was down sick. Ivanko just could not understand what was with her. Why was she behaving so strangely? Why did she keep falling sick and making strange demands all the time? Also, somehow, he did not sense the closeness that had existed between them all these years. What was happening to her? Was the illness affecting her mind in some way?

They had always been so close. Other than being brother and sister, they had been through so much together that they could not but be extremely fond of each other. He remembered how their heart had been in the sleeve as they had fled with the bull. They had feared the demon would catch up with them this time as well and he would not be that forgiving a third time. He would definitely kill one of them. Their worst fears had been realized when they had felt the blue flames from the demon’s horse a while after they had left his place. He had caught up with them again. Was this the end? Would the bull now leave them to their fate and run away like the horse and bumblebee had earlier on?

The bull however had remained calm. “Look into my left ear,” he had said calmly. Ivanko had complied.

“What do you see there?”

“Something that looks like a brush.”

“Take that and throw it between us and the demon.” He had done as the bull had bid him.

The moment the brush hit the ground a dense forest had sprung up. Just like that out of thin air between them and the demon. They were now safe. It would take months for the demon to make his way through the forest. The trees and bushes were so close together that they had to be cut down for one to make his way through it.

But the demon could only be delayed not denied. He destroyed the entire forest and was soon after them. Again, the blue flames could be felt close to the bull’s hindquarters.

“What do we do now, friend Bull? We are done for.”

“Look inside my other ear,” said the bull. “What do you see there?”

“A handkerchief.”

“Wave it in front of you.”

He did as he was told. A huge river came up in front of them.

“What have you made do, bull? We can’t proceed ahead anymore. We are literally trapped between the demon and the deep river.”

“Don’t worry. Wave the kerchief once more.”

As soon as he did it, a beautiful golden bridge formed across the water to an island right in the middle of the water.

They rode across the bridge and were soon on the island.

“Now turn and quickly wave the kerchief again.”

As soon as he waved it, the bridge disappeared. And in good time for the demon was about to climb on to the bridge.

“Now you are safe. For all evil creatures are scared of running water. The demon can’t get to you here on this island.”

They had heaved a sigh of relief.

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