Gifts and Sacrifices
By Catherine Angley
AKA Ulisa Barbic
Part One: Gifts
Chapter One: An Icy Feeling
Ursa Barbic opened her eyes and stretched. It had been a few months since Igthorn had been defeated but she was still uneasy. A true warrior never let her guard down. But Buddi had. She smiled. He had been practicing his flute lately. She’d heard him the other day and had to admit that music was for anyone but babies as she had said before. It was beautiful. She’d even told the cub so. She had never seen a child’s grin stretch so wide.
She kicked off her sheets and stood. The wind was unusually cold this morning. She went to her closed window and looked out. She saw why immediately.
There, down in the courtyard was Buddi and Sir Thornberry.
The ground was covered with snow.
The two Gummies were taking full advantage of this weather. At the moment, Sir Thornberry was losing. Buddi had him backed against a wall, pinned with a shower of snowballs. Ursa chuckled. Thornberry kept trying to counter attack but Buddi was not just a Barbic, he was a child. And a cub was too fast for even Thornberry’s experience. Ursa took another look at the two before drawing her window shut and pulling the drapes shut. She had expected snow for a time but for the first time since their move to Ursalia she’d have to use her winter clothes.
Barbics had winter clothing just like other Gummies but unlike most, they were made of leather that had insulation rather than wool. Wool was easily torn in battle but the leather that had was different. It was thick as armor but had the texture of cloth.
Ursa slipped hers on, a simple outfit of slacks and shirt. On her way out, she grabbed her gloves that she kept for climbing. They would do. As she walked down the corridors of Ursalia she saw Grubbi and Gritty preparing to go outside. The two were working on the weapons today, despite the weather. Originally Buddi was supposed to help them but she guessed that today because of the snow they couldn’t drag him away from it.
“Hey Ursa.” A voice called as she stepped out into the snow.
It was Thornberry. He smiled at her. “Could use some help here, ya mind?”
“Oh I don’t know,” she replied. “This is rather amusing.”
“What? What’s amusing?”
Ursa sighed, “Never mind.”
Buddi first seemed to notice her but he said nothing and picked up another clump of snow. Ursa turned back and started to walk back to the others. But then an ice-cold bomb whacked her in the back. She whirled around, eyes blazing. Buddi smiled at her, tossing a snowball in his hand.
She smiled at him, a mischievous grin spreading over her normally serious face. She raced to him saying,
“Buddi Barbic, you are asking for it.”
Ursa leapt closer but she missed the cub by inches. He was quick over the icy ground, agile. Ursa was agile enough but it had been a while since she’d run over ice. Snow yes, ice no. She followed Buddi around for some time. He was always a few feet ahead.
“Heads up!” a voice penetrated Grubbi’s concentration. He and Gritty stopped their work and looked upward. Buddi ran out of the hidden corridors, leapt on the banister, and slid down. At the last second, he jumped and landed on his feet. He looked behind him. Then he winced.
“Buddi!” Ursa stood at the top of the stairs, hands on her hips, all playfulness gone from her face. “How many times do I have to remind you before you comprehend it?!” She stormed down the stairs, lecturing as she went. “How many times?!”
Buddi looked at Gritty and Grubbi but they just backed up saying in unison, “Leave us out of it.”
“Buddi!” The cub looked at Ursa. She looked at him sternly. He shrugged. “Buddi!”
“I know,” he said in defense, holding up his paws. “But I think it’s stupid. You climb mountains for Pete’s sake.”
“But not when they’re sheets of ice. And even then, they have some footholds plus I have something holding me up.”
“Barely,” he shot back. “Besides, I-“
“I don’t wanna hear it. How many times do you and I have to go through this?”
“Don’t even start Ursa,” he replied. “Spare my ears. I know: Don’t slide down the banister. Just mountains.”
“Bu-udi.” Ursa sighed. “It may seem like a dumb rule but Barbics only have a few. I have reasons for them. You slid off a mountain, you can find footholds easily. You slid off a banister, you whack your head on the pavement and consciousness is history.”
“All right already.” Buddi growled. “I get your point. I also still don’t think you can catch me.”
“Wha-“ but before Ursa could even finish; Buddi had taken off across the bridge. She started after him, turned to Grubbi and gritty and said with a chuckle, “That boy is gonna be the death of me. Or my patience.”
“I personally think you worry about him too much, Ursa.” Grubbi told her. She met his eyes. He smiled at her. “Sometimes, you sound like a mother.”
“Hmmp,” she scowled. “I didn’t use to be. But in the winter he turns wild. He’s normally content to be a musician.”
“Sounds like a certain young girl Barbic I used to know.”
“I never was good with a instrument.”
“Thank goodness,” Gritty replied. “You were tone deaf. Still are.”
“Ha, ha, very funny.”
Gritty smiled at her. “He did pass his Test of Bearhood, Ursa.”
Grubbi picked up. “We aren’t saying not to worry Ursa but we are saying-“
The two finished.
“All right, I will. But right now I have a little revenge to take.”
And with that, she took out over the bridge into the slopes around Ursalia.
* * *
Buddi sat in some of the small snow banks as he waited for Ursa. He didn’t know why but lately, he’d been uneasy. To try and get his mind off it, he’d been running around and playing a lot. He knew that normally Ursa would not have been so keen on his little act on the stairs but he knew that she was A) very tired of his running around like a demon and B) worried about his sudden change in behavior. He wanted to make her happy and stop being afraid for him but at the same time he appreciated her concern. He was shook from his thoughts by a sudden cry.
“Buddi! Where are you?”
It was Ursa.
Buddi almost started to go but then a flash of light blinded him. When he could see, he saw a strange shadowy figure. It looked like Igthorn. Then he saw horrid images, blood, killings, and bodies. Ursa and the others. All lying lifeless and then there was Sunni. He swallowed hard, tears blazing in his eyes. No this had to be a dream. He covered his ears. But now the scream of others seemed to echo in his ears. He felt it as a roar in his mind. He tried to block it out but nothing was working. He heard it again.
“Stop it! Stop it!”
Buddi collapsed to his knees but he was faintly aware of Ursa’s footsteps. He could feel it but the screaming in his ears was blocking it out. He couldn’t hear her. He was just fighting to keep his calm and cool. But he was losing. The pain was too great and the screams were too loud. The blood was too much.
“No, stop it!” he was screaming again. He felt his body start to shake. He opened his eyes but now the pain had even seemed to affect his sight. He could only see blurs and what was clear was the red blood in his mind. What was this? He didn’t understand. He tightened his grip on his ears and screamed again, pinching his eyes shut. But the blood still flowed, the screams still came and the fear and pain still overtook him.
He was trembling now, almost like he was cold. But he wasn’t. Just terrified and overwhelmed with pain. He felt like his mind would explode. It hurt. Those spears that Barbics trained with, he felt as if thousands were sticking his mind and body, crippling his bravery.
He shook again and prayed for relief.
The pain came thrice more. One… a flash of Igthorn, with a blood stained ax.
Two…a flash of Ursa, Sunni and the others, helpless beneath him. He swung the blade, blood erupted.
Three…A triumphant Igthorn, standing over the bodies, blood flowing over his boots as he let out a hideous laugh.
And then, relief came as the pain overwhelmed the cub and he collapsed into blissful unconsciousness.