He was born an ordinary cub, and grew under the loving care of his mother and the forest guardian, an old nymph. The nymph knew she was aging, and for several years had been searching all who were born in her forest for a new guardian, some youth worthy and capable of replacing her. She wanted another nymph or a unicorn or some other creature readily in tune to magic, but alas, her forest was small and shrinking every day. There had been no reports of any unicorns or other nymphs or anything else magical for many seasons, almost since she herself became guardian. She knew she would have to settle for a regular forest creature, but none had been born under the usual signs.
Her weakness was known to the dragon who lived nearby. He it was who destroyed her trees and killed her animals who wandered too far.
As the cub grew, he learned to hide when the dragon approached. Angrily, he watched the destruction that beast caused, and sadly, he saw how little the guardian could do.
Finally, he approached the nymph.
“I know I am little more than a cub, not yet fully grown,” he said, “but is there nothing can do to protect my home and my friends?”
The nymph sighed a weary sigh. She wanted so badly to help the young bear, but already she could sense the dragon’s return. If she did not save the trees that were left from his awful burning, who could? And yet that spell drained her strength so completely, it was the only spell she could cast in a day.
She shook her head sorrowfully.
The bear growled, frustrated.
“I know,” said the nymph, glancing around for any hope she could give him. As she did, she noticed a dusty old scroll. With a spark of recognition, she realized this was the very same scroll used to give her the powers of the guardian.
“Cub,” she exclaimed, “perhaps you could take my place!” Grabbing the scroll, she explained her plan. “With this, I could give you my magic, and more – as much power as you can wield, depending only on the strength of your heart. Unfortunately, this would be the last spell I ever perform, for I am so sapped of strength that it would require my very life. Are you willing to accept this enormous responsibility?”
The bear trembled with eagerness and fear. He had hoped to be able to help, but to receive the guardianship was every forest youngling’s dream. “Are you certain I am worthy?” he asked, shaking.
“That you are here now in no coincidence, but a sign from the gods themselves. But we must act quickly. The cursed dragon is almost here.”
“Then let us act. What must I do?”
“Hold very still and focus on your love for your forest,” instructed the nymph, and began to recite the spell.
The bear closed his eyes and thought of his mother, and the trees, and the berries, and the streams. He thought of the birds and the deer and the rabbits and the squirrels. He thought of how much he desired to protect them all and let them grow in happiness and free them from terror. As he listened to the chanting of the spell, he felt himself grow larger and experienced a new sensation, a magical power that threatened to burst his heart.
Suddenly, the chanting stopped with a soft thump. The nymph had died, unable to prepare him for the battle he must now face, save to give him the abilities he needed to defeat the dragon.
Now, he could sense the enemy’s approach himself. The beast was very close. Today, he came from the West, which meant – the bear gasped. His mother’s den was in danger!
Furious, he burst through the forest, unwittingly using his new power to propel himself faster than he had ever before run. Finding his mother at home, he panted, “I am the new guardian! The dragon is coming! You must gather the other animals and flee to the other side of the forest!”
Without waiting for an answer, or even to be sure his mother still recognized him, he ran on, reaching the edge of the forest just before the dragon did. As the dragon opened his maw to deliver a fiery blast, the bear grabbed and threw a stick charred from a previous burning.
The stick landed upright in the dragon’s jaw, causing him to choke, but only for a moment. A flaming cough soon removed the problem, but now he wanted to roast this presumptuous fuzzball. He redirected his flame and shot straight at the bear.
Roaring, the bear sprang up with his front legs outstretched, and caught the fire full on his chest. Then, he slammed his fore-paws together, pointing his claws at his enemy. As he spread them apart again, a rain of hail flew towards the dragon, great apple-sized lumps striking hard against his scales and ripping through his wings.
The dragon plummeted down, landing in front of the enraged guardian, who lost no time securing his advantage with a stream of water, extinguishing the beast’s fire.
“How,” roared the dragon. “None have ever before absorbed my fire!”
“I am the new guardian of the forest. My magic is stronger than that of any dragon,” boasted the bear, secretly wondering whether that was really true. “If you leave now and trouble us no more, I will spare your life. Otherwise, I will turn you into a mouse and let loose my owls on you!”
The dragon whimpered, “Spare my life, o powerful one. I will no more burn your trees or eat your animals. Just let me live.”
The bear nodded, and watched the dragon crawl pitifully away. Then, he set about healing the fallen trees. Under his care, the forest grew and grew, unicorns returned, nymphs came home, and even elves sought it out. Nothing dared even try damage his forest.
At least, such is the story the grizzly wizard tells to explain how he came to exist and be guardian of such a luscious forest. As nobody saw the events, we can never know for sure how the nymph died and the dragon disappeared, but as long as he still acts like my son, being peaceful and kind to all under his protection, we are all willing to believe him.
Note: I’m not sure it shows, but I forced myself to write this as fantasy, and it was actually a bit of a struggle. It just seems so unrealistic. How could a bear have the brain capacity to be a wizard? Do bears live near apples? Would they eat mice? Do they actually live with rabbits and dear? Most importantly, would a grizzly really have a den in a forest? I forced myself not to look any of this up, because fantasy. I wanted to write about a grizzly wizard this weekend, and I did.