This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series

 

The White Bear's Neckband

 

Once upon a time there was a Princess named Enid who lived in a castle in the cold north woods. Her parents were very nice, and her two older sisters were pretty nice (though not very adventurous), and they all lived very happily together and kept the kingdom peaceable.

Then one day when the Queen was walking alone in the woods, she saw a mean-looking Sorcerer charming birds into a net. "Stop that!" she cried. "Go away! No hunting here!" She grabbed the net away from him and shook it.

The birds flew away. The Sorcerer glared at her and muttered a spell; then, with an evil laugh, he vanished away.

The Queen tried to speak, but her voice stuck in her throat. She could scarcely breathe. The Sorcerer had put a curse on her throat! The Queen hurried home, and there she took to her bed, feeling worse and worse.

To the family's distress, the Queen grew weaker and weaker day by day, and none of the physicians in the kingdom could help her. The castle physicians sent to many faraway places for all sorts of peculiar seeds and odd roots and planted a whole row of rare medicinal herbs in the kitchen garden; but in spite of all their efforts, the Queen grew worse every day.

Princess Enid, too, studied and studied, and learned many interesting things about herbs and cures; but she could find no way to help either.

Then one night the Princess had a strange dream. She dreamed that she held in her hands a beautiful neckband made of gold, and that she put it round her mother’s neck, and that her mother at once sat up and touched it and smiled, and was all well again.

Next day Enid said, "Mother, do you have a neckband made of gold?"

Her mother smiled faintly. "How strange. Last night I dreamed that you put one round my neck, and it made me well at once."

The Princess ran and told the King about this. Immediately he called all the goldsmiths of the land to the castle. Princess Enid drew them pictures and oversaw their work, but none of the hundreds of neckbands they made looked quite as bright and beautiful as the one in Enid’s dream, and none of them made her mother feel any better. Most just made her cough, and a few even turned her neck green.

Then one day, while Enid was out walking in the snowy woods, she met a great white Bear, who was walking on his hind legs. He was wearing a golden neckband! It was the most bright and beautiful thing she had ever seen, and looked just like the neckband in her dream!

Could a great Bear like this be someone’s pet? It seemed unlikely. "Sir Bear," Enid said bravely, "I pray you of your courtesy, will you give me your neckband? My mother—."

The Bear looked down on her. "Will you come live with me and be my love?" he said.

"Er, will you sell us your neckband? My father—"

The Bear said again, "Will you come live with me and be my love?"

"Er, may we just borrow … I mean … er. --Look, is that all you know how to say?"

The Bear said only, "Will you come live with me and be my love?"

Enid sighed and patted him. "All right, good bear, good bear, whatever you like," she said, crossing her fingers behind her back and adding silently, well, maybe for a little while, if I have to.

So the Bear purred and knelt before the Princess to have his ears scratched. Quickly she took the neckband before he could change his mind.

"I will come for you in three days," said the Bear.

Oh, dear… Could this bear really talk? Had he understood what she said? Did it count as a promise, when—.

"Er, thank you very much! Er, goodbye now," said Enid, and ran home as fast as she could, holding tight to the golden neckband.

At the castle Enid snuck in the back way and tiptoed up to the room where her mother lay sleeping. Gently she placed the golden neckband on the Queen’s neck.

The Queen smiled as though she were having a good dream. Then the color came back to her cheeks, and at once she opened her eyes and touched the neckband. Immediately she was all well again! So she sat up and looked around her and hugged Enid.

Just then the King and Enid’s two sisters came in, and they all hugged each other and cried with joy, and asked Enid dozens of questions. "But you cannot go and live with a bear!" they said, when she had told the story.

"Don’t worry," said the King. "If any bear comes after you, we will soon turn him into a rug for the great hall!" And he locked Enid into the highest tower room and called his soldiers to surround the castle, and to let no one pass, man nor bear.

After three days the White Bear came out of the woods and said to the soldiers, "Where is my love?"

The soldiers all attacked him with their spears. The Bear would not hurt them, but he would not run away either. He just kept piteously asking, "Where is my love?" while they poked and poked him.

Finally Enid’s oldest sister ran out and told the soldiers, "Stop hurting the bear!"

The Bear said, "Are you my love? Will you come away with me?"

"Yes, yes, good bear," said the oldest sister, "whatever you like!" And so she was able to lead him into the woods.

"Now ride on my back," said the white Bear, and would go no farther till she had climbed on. Then the bear bounded away through the snow, and when they had gone far and farther than far, he asked her, "Have you ever sat softer, and have you ever seen clearer?"

"Y-y-y-y-yes," the oldest sister shivered. "On my mother’s lap I sat softer, and in my father’s great hall I saw clearer."

"If that is true," said the White Bear, "then you are not the right maiden." So he carried her back to the castle, put her down gently, and called out, "Where is my love?"

Again the soldiers attacked him with their spears, and again he would not run away, till finally Enid’s middle sister ran out and told the soldiers, "Stop hurting him!"

The Bear said, "Are you my love? Will you come away with me?"

"Yes, yes, good bear," said the middle sister; and so she was able to lead him into the woods.

"Now ride on my back," said the Bear, and would go no farther till she had climbed on. Then he bounded away through the snow, and when they had gone far and farther than far, he asked her, "Have you ever sat softer, and have you ever seen clearer?"

"Y-y-y-y-yes," she shivered. "On my mother’s lap I sat softer, and in my father’s hall I saw clearer."

"If that is true," said the Bear, "then you are not the right maiden." So he carried her back to the castle, put her down gently, and called out, "Where is my love?"

By this time, Enid (seeing what was happening) had climbed out of a back window and down the tower. Now she walked up to the Bear. "I am the one who took your neckband."

The Bear bowed. "Will you come away with me?"

Enid said bravely: "For a little while."

"Very well," said the Bear. "Now ride on my back." So Enid climbed on, and the Bear bounded away through the snow. When they had gone far and farther than far, the Bear asked her, "Have you ever sat softer, and have you ever seen clearer?"

"No, never," Enid said politely; though oddly it was quite true. "This is great fun!"

"Then," said the Bear, "you are indeed the right maiden." So he bounded through the beautiful snowy woods, over shiny ice mountains and across rainbow chasms, till finally they came to a mountainside in which there was a peaceful hidden valley.

Here the Bear took Enid straight to a great ash tree, from which she could hear a plaintive sound of crying. High in the delicate upper branches hung a little cradle, rocking in the gentle wind. The Bear climbed part way up the tree, but then the tree began to bend and shake under his weight. So he came down hastily, then looked up, whining.

"You want me to climb up to the cradle?" said Enid.

The Bear nodded, his eyes full of concern.

So Enid climbed up and up, into branches so delicate that they swayed with her weight, till she came to the little cradle, which was made of white maple-wood painted with pink roses. In the cradle were three beautiful tiny human babies, no bigger than puppies.

Enid put the babies inside her jacket and very, very carefully climbed down with them.

The Bear sniffed the babies and licked them all over, very gently. Then Enid put them back in her jacket and climbed on the Bear’s back again. He carried her softly through the woods till they came to a strange beautiful place. Here on a gentle hillside covered with wildflowers were white marble pillars and white marble floors, all open to the sun and air, forming rooms which were filled with graceful pools and couches and urns.

From all sides, white bear servants came running and greeted them silently. One old bear servant took the babies to a nursery all hung with pink and white curtains and put them to bed in a crib full of rose petals.

"Please stay and be mistress here," said the Bear, so sweetly that Enid could not refuse.

So for many days Enid lived in the Bear's quiet open-air palace, sleeping in a great marble chamber all her own, and in the daytime frolicking with the babies and the forest animals, while the great Bear watched over them all.

There was only one room which the Bear would let no one enter. It had solid stone walls and roof like a tomb, and a big lock on the door, and everyone was afraid to go near it. But there was no need to, and Enid, like the others, soon forgot all about it.

The only problem was finding a nurse for the babies. But finally Enid found a mother deer who had lost her fawn, and was willing to give her milk to the little ones – as long as the Bear stayed well away.

When this was taken care of, Enid asked the Bear: "Is that all you wanted me for? To find a nurse for the babies?"

The Bear shook his head.

"Then what?"

"Will you stay with me and be my love?"

Enid smiled and petted him. "I'd love to. But my family will be worrying about me. I must go and visit and tell them I am all right. Just for seven days. Then I will come right back."

The Bear looked very troubled, but made no attempt to dissuade her.

Next morning, as soon as Enid was ready, the Bear took her on his back again. He bounded through the flowers and through the snow, and they went far and farther than far; and when they got back to her father’s castle, the soldiers came running to attack the Bear again. "I will come for you in seven days," said the Bear, and ran away into the woods.

Enid had a wonderful visit with her family. Her mother and her sisters were charmed by Enid’s stories about her life on the Bear’s hillside, and wanted to visit there too. But her father said: "What folly! You all need to be thinking of the duties of your stations, and royal marriages; and it is time Enid grew up too." And when he overheard Enid whispering to her middle sister about the locked stone room, he became very angry indeed. "Bah! It is bad enough for you to keep house for a white bear," he said, "but this one sounds more like a blue-beard!"

"Nonsense," said Enid, who was packing to go back with the Bear, as it was the seventh day. "He is very nice. You should have seen how worried he was about those babies in the tree."

"Bah, humbug!" said her father. "Probably he ate them for supper as soon as you left! --Now, promise me this. If you do not see those babies as soon as you return—" he took out a big ring of keys "—you must open that stone room and look into it."

"The babies will be fine!"

"Then you should not mind promising!"

"Oh, very well." Enid put the keys in her bag, said her farewells, and rode away on the Bear’s back, far and farther than far.

As they went, a great snowstorm came up, dark and frightening. Enid huddled into the Bear’s fur and went to sleep. While she slept, he reached the hillside and put her in her own bed in her own marble chamber. Later she woke all alone, with the wind howling. Though some magic kept snow and cold out of the chambers, still all was gloomy and frightening.

Enid did not want to go out to the nursery to look for the babies. She went back to sleep – and dreamed her father was with her saying: "Bah, humbug! The babies are eaten, you are next! Get up! Obey me! Open the blue-beard tomb!"

Half-sleepwalking, believing her father was really here, Enid obeyed; she went all alone and unlocked the stone room and looked inside. And oh, how she regretted it!

For no sooner had she opened the door, than a fierce Sorcerer jumped out of the tomb. "Thank you, stupid girl!" He cast a spell at the ground and a column of acrid flame sprang up, throwing harsh light all over the hillside.

Enid came wide awake! Oh, dear, what had she done! Her father had never been here! That had been a dream.... But this was real!

Grinning evilly, the Sorcerer transformed himself into a black Dragon. He warmed his claws at the column of flame, then flapped his dusty wings and crowed and flew in circles, growing bigger and bigger.

By this time the fire and the noise had waked everyone up. The deer nurse came running, with the babies following her, healthy and rosy as ever; although as soon as they saw the Dragon, they began to cry, and the deer had to take them back to the nursery for chamomile tea.

When the white Bear came running, the Dragon, who was now ten times as big as the Bear, grabbed him up in its claws. "Now I’ve got you, my old enemy! Now back to my City of Brass!!! Just in time for My Coronation! Yahhhhh!"

Enid was horrified! No wonder the Bear had forbidden everyone to open the tomb! What in the world had possessed her to do it? She couldn’t let this happen!

Enid grabbed the Bear’s tail and tried to pull him away from the Dragon.

The Dragon flapped its wings and lifted both of them into the air!

The Bear growled to Enid: "Turn loose! Save yourself!"

"No! I won't let him have you!" Enid held on all the tighter.

The Dragon carried them both high in the air, higher and higher. Its great black wings flapped slow and heavy, carrying them along and along. Enid held on tighter and tighter.

Soon they were above craggy mountains. No one could safely drop on those! The Bear reached down and grabbed Enid in his arms. Though the Dragon was still carrying them both to who-knew-where, suddenly Enid felt safe and warm. "Why didn't you tell us about the Sorcerer?" she demanded.

"Sorcerer’s curse," the Bear grunted. "Spell of silence. Hard to talk."

Enid remembered her herbal studies. There had been a potion to cure a curse of silence.... "Would a True Vervain Anti-Silence Potion help?"

"Maybe," he grunted with difficulty. "How could you--?"

Just then they passed the crest of the mountain and the Dragon began gliding downwards. Ahead was a river-meadow with sheep grazing. Beyond were rocky hills and a gleaming metal City of Brass.

"Is that the Dragon's City of Brass?"

"--Yes--" Talking seemed to be choking the Bear, so Enid asked no more.

The Dragon swept low over the river-meadow, grabbing mouthfuls of fat sheep. "Drop me here!" Enid cried. "I will get the herbs and follow on foot."

"Just go home," grunted the Bear. "Be safe." And when the Dragon next skimmed the reeds, the Bear dropped her in the tallest, softest clump.

After she landed in the reeds, Enid lay still for a long moment, watching the Dragon soar up and away in the direction of the City of Brass. Apparently he hadn’t noticed when she dropped off.

Enid lay and rested till the reeds sagged to the ground and bog water began soaking into her clothes. Then she got up, feeling rather sore, and limped along, looking for herbs in the grass as she went; but always going in the direction of the City of Brass.

This river-meadow, she soon found, was an excellent place for herbs! Within a few hours, Enid had found Meadow-sweet, Bee-Borage, Rue, and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme. Only one ingredient was missing: the True Vervain. This was a very rare plant: even her father had had to send for it from far Cathay; though later the sprig which Enid had planted in their castle garden had grown very well. How she wished she could go home to get some! But she had no idea of the way, knowing only that it was far and farther than far.

Finally, just as the sun was setting, Enid came to a little cottage: cosy white, with fragrant smoke from its chimney. There were pink geraniums in window boxes, and bright figures and flowers painted on walls and doors. The garden was full of flowers and herbs, and good smells of cooking came from inside. A sign by the door said: Hand crafted Witchcraft ... Hand-witched craftery ... Sand-crafted villagery ... Witch-handed villagery ...Well-wishery ... Handpainted Sandwiches ... Good Village Witch ... Village Good Witch ....

Enid didn't bother reading any further. She just knocked at the door, which had a neat brass knocker with wooden flowers carved all round it.

A little gray lady opened the door and looked at the herbs Enid was carrying. "Ah!" she said. "You must be a fellow herbalist! Do come in."

The little house was spotless, and Enid was boggy all over. "But I'm so muddy…."

"Please don't worry. The housekeeping spells can handle it. What a good collection of herbs you have. Making an anti-silence potion? Not for yourself, I hope, I could use some good company, for a change."

"No, ma'm," said Enid, when she could get a word in. "The potion is for the White Bear."

The gray lady sighed. "Ah, if only it were that easy to help the Bear. I have tried and tried all the potions I could think of, of course, ever since that awful Dragon Sorcerer began the Great Sorcerous Duel with him."

"What do you mean?" said Enid.

"Oh, it is a terribly long story, my dear. The Bear was guardian on this mountain, with his wife and cubs. He would not let the Dragon Sorcerer hunt on our mountain. So the Sorcerer challenged him to a duel of magic. They both cast a great many spells back and forth. Finally the Bear imprisoned the Sorcerer in a great marble tomb. And how is the Bear, by the way?"

"Oh," Enid said, "he is in great trouble. I let the Sorcerer out, and he is taking the Bear away to his City of Brass." She tried to hold back tears. "Oh, why didn’t the Bear tell me?"

The old lady was already getting out her teapot. "The Sorcerer had put a curse of silence on him. The Bear could quote poems and such, but when it came to important things about the duel, the curse was at its strongest."

"How well could he talk before?" Enid asked curiously.

"Barely." The old woman busied herself at the stove.

Enid sat down at the table and buried her head in her hands, feeling rather confused by so much talk after the Bear's silence. "Er, have you tried True Vervain Anti-Silence Potion?"

"Not a leaf of it to be found in the whole kingdom," said the gray witch. "I think it’s apophrycal. At least, unless it’s a variant of Blue Vervain, which of course I tried but it didn’t work, any more than anything I used to try to restore his wife and cubs from the spells the Dragon Sorcerer had put them under—"

"I can get some True Vervain," said Enid.

The old woman was suddenly quiet and owl-eyed. "Truly? It might well be worth trying. With cream and sugar?"

In the potion? Oh. The old lady had set a pot of steaming herb tea on the table. "Er, yes, thank you." Enid sipped the tea -- it tasted wonderful!

The old lady poured herself a cup, and passed over a jar of crescent-moon sugar cookies. "But where would you get it? The True Vervain, I mean."

Enid sighed. "My father's castle. But it's several mountains away, and I'm not even sure how to get there."

"Are you welcome there? Do you know the place quite well? Is the vervain yours by right?"

"Of course!"

"Then I have a spell that can send you there, for the required moment, at least. Best wait for morning, though." The old woman began shaking out clean linens full of lavender buds.

Suddenly, with the fire warmth and the tea steam and the lavender smell (especially when some of the lavender buds fell into the fire), Enid felt very sleepy. She scarcely knew it when the old lady put her to bed, softly singing an old song about a thousand fragrant posies, a cap of flowers, a kirtle embroidered all with leaves of myrtle; and a belt of straw and ivy buds.

Next morning the good witch made Enid sit down and eat a breakfast of hot oatmeal with cream and butter, cloves, anise, and cinnamon, and would not let Enid ask half the questions she wanted to. "What about the Bear’s golden neckband?" Enid managed to get out, between the tea and the dishwashing.

"It was a neckband of healing," said the witch. "I enchanted it for him, and it helped him some, till he lost it."

"Lost it! He gave it to me. To help my mother! Would it help him if I bring it back?"

"Hm. Perhaps if I soak it in a potion using real True Vervain --! Did the neckband help your mother?"

"Yes, she's almost all well." Enid told her the story.

"Did your mother keep taking True Vervain as well?"

"Yes."

"Maybe it was the combination--. Now if I add some other spells--" The old woman paused, as though struck by an idea, then began opening books and muttering and making lists. "Look here," she said, when Enid had finished the dishes. "We may be able to do quite a bit with that True Vervain. There are lots and lots of recipes here that list it as a preferred ingredient. I've tried them all – substituting Blue Vervain, of course – and they haven't helped the Bear much. But if you can get quite a lot of the True Vervain--"

"How much?"

"Well -- at least two leaves…."

Enid laughed. "The plant had three dozen leaves when I was home last."

The old woman whistled with delight and went back to her books and made more lists, while Enid swept the floor.

Enid had just finished when the good witch suddenly looked out at the rising morning-mist and said, "Woops! If the vervain is to be picked with the morning dew still on, we'd better hurry. Shut your eyes, and be ready for a quick return."

Enid obeyed. She heard mysterious noises, melodic murmuring, felt as though the room were spinning round -- heard a dog bark, felt gravel under her feet, sun on her back…

"Why Princess Enid, what in the world!" It was the voice of the old Cook at her own castle!

Enid’s eyes flew open. She was back home in her own castle’s kitchen garden on a fine morning, there was the True Vervain plant in front of her – and Cook about to pluck it for the salad basket. "No, no," cried Enid. "Never! Leave it alone!"

"Well, if I ever heard the like--! And where did you spring from?"

Enid pulled up half the clump of vervain by the root, and gave Cook a quick hug. "I'll tell you someday." She ran into the castle and up the stone stairs and through the passages to the Queen's room, where her mother was just waking. Another quick hug! "Please may I borrow the neckband? Can you spare it for a while?"

"It is in the handkerchief drawer," said the Queen, who privately thought this must all be a dream. "I'd been leaving it off anyway--"

Enid felt among the scented handkerchiefs till she grasped the cold gold band. Just in time! The room began spinning round --

-- And she was back at the witch’s cottage! Enid held out vervain plant to the old woman. "Here, plant it and have all you like."

You may be sure the witch did not waste much time in doing just that! She put the plant in the best corner of her flowerbed, and trimmed off the end of each stalk. "That will help it take root, and the trimmings will be enough for the potions."

The rest of the day was spent in cutting, measuring, simmering, skimming, infusing, and decanting, all in a haze of fragrant steam. It was well after dark when the old witch put the gold neckband to soak, then said: "Let's see, which potions are ready now…." She sniffed all the potions, tapped some, chose a few, thought a minute, wrote another list. "I must stay here and work on the neckband," she said. "I can send you to the Sorcerer’s City of Brass for only thirteen minutes. Here is a list of the potions and what you must do with each. In this order, mind you!"

She handed Enid the list, which said:

Blue potion – for Bear to drink
Green potion – to pour on Sorcerer
Yellow potion – drink this yourself
Orange potion – for babies to drink
Red potion – break it on the biggest rock on the hillside

Enid folded the list carefully. "Er, can you tell me what the potions will do?"

"No," said the old woman, "for I don't quite know myself. No time to test them. It's sure to be something rather helpful, though. I hope. --Now, have you ever been to the City of Brass?"

"No."

"Mm. So there's no place there you know well, and would be welcome? The spell requires it."

Enid closed her eyes and thought hard. "Maybe -- the Bear's arms?"

"Just the place! Shut your eyes!"

Enid obeyed. Again, she heard melodic murmuring, felt as though the room were spinning round.... Then there was a terrible smell of burning paper, and noise of yelling -- and the Bear's big warm arms around her!

Enid wasted half of one of her thirteen minutes hugging him.

The Bear seemed wounded and tired. He didn't ask any questions, he just licked her. When that was finished, Enid looked around.

They were in a cage on a platform high above a crowd of yelling, jeering people -- who were all applauding while the Sorcerer made a speech. The only light was a big bonfire. With the flickering shadows and the smoke and people waving flags with the Sorcerer’s insignia, no one could really see anything very well.

First things first, Enid thought. "Drink this." She gave him the blue potion.

The Bear drank it -- and immediately he shrank to the size of a mouse!

Well, that was useful. Enid gently picked up the tiny Bear and put him in her pocket. So far so good.

When the crowd noticed the Bear had vanished, and they all began shouting and jostling and quarreling. But Enid was able to slip out between the bars before they noticed her. She climbed up the outside of the cage and crouched on its top.

The Sorcerer came elbowing his way through the crowd. "That bear cannot have escaped, you simpletons, it must be in the cage--" While Enid looked down on him, the Sorcerer went into the cage and looked around.

Enid found the green potion. When the Sorcerer walked under her, still shouting at his helpers, she reached down through the bars and carefully poured the potion on top of the Sorcerer's head.

At once the Sorcerer's voice became high and squeaky and then stopped! He kept talking but no words came out. Hastily he ran out of the cage. He pulled out his wand and tried a spell but nothing happened. The crowd began laughing at him.

Enid consulted her list. Yellow potion – to drink yourself.

She found the yellow potion and drank it. It tasted like mint and meadow-sweet.

At once the City of Brass spun around her. The noise stopped. She felt rushing of wind, and smelled clean cold air. Then suddenly she was standing on a slanted hillside. She lost her balance, fell, and rolled down through cold sweet green grass to the bottom of a hill. When she looked around in the moonlight, she could scarcely believe her eyes. She was back at the Bear’s hillside palace!

"We’re home!" Enid cried, and reached in her pocket for the tiny Bear. But her pocket was empty.

Oh, dear, where had he dropped out--? Here on the mountain, or back in the City of Brass? She could only hope for the best! There was nothing to do but continue following the witch’s list, before the potions spoiled, or something.

Enid consulted the list again, then went to the nursery and gave the orange potion to the babies. Immediately they turned into three little white bear cubs, who began romping and playing all over the moonlit marble floor -- to the great startlement of the deer nurse.

"Thank you," said the deer, when she had recovered from her surprise.

"What!" said Enid. "You speak human language now?"

"No. I am still speaking deer language. Can you understand me now? You never did before."

It must have been one of the potions, Enid thought.

"Thank you," the deer repeated. "That was another spell in the duel. They were the bear's own babies all along. And now, as no one can possibly expect me to nurse white bear cubs, it's clear I'm no longer needed--" With a toss of her head, the deer bounded out of the door, over a low marble baluster, across the meadow, up the far hill, and was never seen again.

Great. The Bear was missing, the babies were now bear cubs…. Would she have to find a bear nurse for them? I'll think about that tomorrow, Enid thought, and looked at the list again.

There was only one more item. Red potion -- break it on the biggest rock on the hillside.

Enid went to the biggest rock – much bigger than any other rock in sight. The Bear had spent much time sitting by it and rubbing his shoulders against it, and even the babies always seemed happier playing in its shelter. The sky was turning pink in the east as she made her way to the rock. She burst the potion bottle upon it.

Immediately the rock became a big white Bear! But -- Enid realized in a moment -- this was a beautiful strong female! It must be the Bear’s mate. The Mother Bear stretched, then bent gracefully down and gave Enid a gentle warm hug. "Thank you. I have been wishing for so long to welcome you here!"

"But-- bu-- who-- wha-- wher-- when-- why--?"

The Mother Bear laughed. "The Sorcerer had en-stoned me as part of the duel. Now, where are my cubs?"

Just then the three cubs came bounding to the sound of their mother’s voice, and what a merry reunion that was! The bears all played and rolled and played and hugged, and drew Enid into their hugging, and then did it all again!

Then the sun rose. They heard a great roar. A tall shape of golden white was coming near. It was the White Bear, who had come back to his own size and was lit all golden by the rising sun.

The bear family all rolled round in a mass of hugs and loving growls, then invited Enid into the middle of the big furry ball of them, and rolled and played and hugged again; till one by one they all fell asleep, warmed by the morning sun, with Enid held gently among them. And they all slept in the sunshine till they were completely restored, and all their troubles seemed like a half-forgotten dream.

For three days there was rejoicing and festivity around the bear's hillside; and then the Village Witch arrived, carrying the gold neckband (which was now a bit greenish from being soaked for three days in True Vervain Anti-Silence Potion). As soon as she put it round the Bear’s neck, he could speak as he had long ago – barely but comfortably.

So the celebration began all over again. "The Sorcerer is deposed," the good witch told them. "His own citizens have imprisoned him, and are sending an emissary for peace. They promise he will not trouble your mountain again." And she went round cleaning up all the other spells that were left over from the duel, using the remains of the True Vervain potions and a few others.

When she finished that task, the witch showed Enid how to make a magic portal so that Enid and the bears could step through and visit her cottage whenever they liked, and another portal to the castle of Enid’s mother and father.

Enid wanted to try the second portal at once; and as soon as she stepped through it, she found herself back in her own family’s castle garden, next to her mother, who (now completely recovered) was kneeling in the dirt planting a whole row of True Vervain.

You may be sure it did not take long for Enid to persuade her father to come through the portal to see the Bear’s palace for himself! Her mother and sisters came too, of course, and they were warmly welcomed by the Bear and his mate, and by the good witch as well (after she had given the father a good scolding).

And from then on the Bear family and Enid's family and the good witch all visited each other back and forth as often as they liked; and they all lived happily ever after.

 The End

 

The Bear and his rides are from a Scandinavian variant of Cupid and Psyche. ("King Valemon" iirc.) The imprisoned sorcerer who carries  away the imprisoner is a classic Russian motif. Most else is mine ( with thanks to Christopher Marlowe). -- RL

 

This story is copyrighted by Rosemary Lake. All Rights Reserved.
The Once Upon a Time When the Princess(tm) series
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Rescued the Prince,
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Beat the Dragon
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Cast the Spell
Once Upon a Time When the Princess Got the Treasure

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