In the early days, Bear was the greatest mother of all the wild spirits. Always the strong, steadfast guardian, She was fierce and implacable before any foe; and if She was stern with Her children, it was the sternness of a concerned, protective mother, always conscious of the well-being of those children, past, present, and future. She did not share Her love and Her gifts openly, but always they were there for those who asked Her in the appointed ways.

When the Wild-Touched first appeared among men, those favoured by Bear gained much of Her character. Strong and sturdy, they weathered many hardships in the service of those they called kin, whether two-legged or four. Shrines to Bear became known as the safest places a weary traveller could rest, for like Bear’s own den, any intruders there would swiftly face wrath that knew no equal; and when the danger was past, the wardens would ensure the safety of all their charges before resuming their vigil. The bandit kings of old curbed their ambitions rather than expand into the woods where She dwelt.

Then came Ainlath Goldmane.

Goldmane saw the Wild-touched as a corruption, and worship of the old spirits as its root. He taught that the time had come for Mankind to govern its own destiny. Many who feared the wild places and the hidden potency of the Wild-touched flocked to his banner, and once he had an army, he set it to war.

Of all the old spirits, Bear was the most settled in Her ways; and so the shrines of Bear were the easiest to find and besiege. Though Bear’s faithful counted among their number many formidable warriors, they were worn down by the ranks of Goldmane’s army. One by one, the shrines were broken, their faithful slain, altar stones that had accepted offerings of craft in Bear’s honour stained with the blood of Her children. Whenever Goldmane’s warriors met a bear, they slaughtered it, animal or Wild-touched human.

At length, only Bear’s most sacred shrine remained, deep in the Bjornskog. Bear’s children fought bitterly, but in time the great oaken doors were breached and Goldmane’s right hand, Jaris Hawkeye, led a band of warriors into Bear’s innermost sanctum.

Only in the visions of Raven’s seers did anyone learn the events of that day. Bear’s most faithful, Wild-Touched all, beseeched Her for strength in battle. She gave them more. The stone effigy, fifteen feet at the shoulder, rose from its plinth with a roar that split the cavern asunder, a bellow heard throughout the Bjornskog and beyond. Bear set upon Her tormentors with horrible fury, crushing warriors by the half-dozen with each swipe of Her strong claw, Her stone hide turning away all blades. Her adherents, sharing Her madness, were scarcely less fearsome.

Hawkeye’s fighters were slain to the last. The few who escaped Bear’s immediate wrath succumbed to the forests, as Wolf and Snake and fierce Wolverine and many others answered Bear’s earth-shattering roar for vengeance. For years, the beasts of the Bjornskog were so hostile that to set foot among the trees was to court death.

Even after that ferocity ebbed, that of Bear’s children did not. All those with Her mark were driven into frenzy on that horrible day, and spoke not another word to civilized folk. She touches few, now, only those half-mad for vengeance, and those few are forever after lost to the peaceful world of men. She shuns the offerings once proper, for She has no more love to spare for men, and no more trust. Those who venture near Bear’s holy places, even to bring her offerings, do so in greatest peril; for in Her ruined den at the heart of the cursed Bjornskog, Bear still stands ready for battle, stone paw raised to strike, Her fangs forever dripping red with the blood of Her foes – and the wise fear that Her bloodthirst will never be slaked.