Bears. Arcanum is filled with many varieties of the large, aggressive beasts, brown, black, golden and grizzly; all can be found wandering the vast wilderness between civilized towns. Yet one particular breed has remained elusive to the scientific community, its status as fact or fiction questionable, mention of its very existence cause for a heated debate. Yes, it is the ancient bear of which I speak.
As any person raised in our great land can attest, ancient bears have been portrayed in childhood tales and songs of old for generations. Always revered as great spirits of wisdom roaming the land, they have been said to give council to the wise and swift death to the foolish. The tales speak of enormous, benevolent spirits seeking solitude far from civilized society. It is said that they are slow to anger yet possess powerful magickal abilities. One particular tale I recall speaks of an ancient bear who was able to return from death, fully restored, and when set upon by its enemies, all manner of woodland creatures came to its aid.
In this most enlightened of times, we took it upon ourselves to find scientific evidence as to the existence of this beast and its amazing abilities. While we discounted most of the tales from our childhood as fanciful imaginations, we highly suspected that they held some small truths, and that the beast itself was more than mere legend, as several sightings over the past few centuries gave credence to portions of the tales from our childhood.
With generous funding from the University of Tarant and the Zoological Societies of both Tarant and Caladon, our expedition to track the ancient bear was underway. Led by none other than Franklin Payne, a spectacularly excellent tracker and marksman, I felt confident our journey would end in success.
It was a long and arduous journey to locate an ancient bear, but find one we did. The beast was easily larger than any specimen we had previously encountered, seemingly as large as the ancient cave bears whose fossils are occasionally unearthed in Morbihan. Its coloration was like nothing we had seen before, for it had a strange transparency about it, as of golden hued watercolors on glass, backlit by a wavering light. Our studies did not go unnoticed by the creature, but at no point did it do more than growl a polite, rumbling warning in our direction. It roamed far and wide, and we followed. Then, in a foolhardy move I shall forever regret, we attempted to capture the beast for more in-depth studies.
Traps were laid, snares were set and no less than three of us readied and threw vials of the strongest gaseous soporific available, in order to immobilize the great bear. Yet, as the saying goes, we only made it mad. It was then that we discovered how frighteningly true the tales of our youth proved to be.
As the ancient bear let out a deafening roar, we were set upon by woodland creatures. Rabbits, vermin, wolves… even a mountain lion and a small gowrath attacked our party from all directions. One of our guides attempted to control the beast with powerful Nature magicks. When that failed, he threw instead from his knowledge of Force in an attempt to save us. He was killed for his efforts, teaching us that a single swipe of the beast's massive paw was enough to relieve us of our lives. As I watched our party scatter in terror, I was horrified to see grasping vines, roots, and branches attempt to hamper our escape. They seemed to have come to life in response to the bear's plight.
Those of us who survived this horrific onslaught began as orderly a retreat as we could manage. I still believe we all would have perished, except for the great marksmanship of Mr. Payne. Although two more members perished as his weapon jammed, it was his fortitude with a rifle that saved us from certain destruction. As he corrected the malfunction, a great burst of fire erupted from its muzzle, and the great beast crumpled to the ground in a bloody heap. At that precise moment, the secondary attacks ceased. The woodland creatures fled the local, the flora and fauna became mundane once more, and all was still.
We approached the great bear, and were assured that it would bother us no more. Although I was badly shaken, I was still able to direct the remaining party members to assist me in some rudimentary studies of the beast, before we tended to our dead. Its size, as I mentioned above, was immense, a single paw being much larger than even our servant Grog's head. Its coloration was amazing, and the silky feel of its thick, long fur was beyond imagining. Great, razor sharp teeth adorned its jaws and its eyes were as blue as the summer skies. We pitched camp for the night nearby, determined to study the beast further on the morrow.
However, the joke, as it were, turned out to be on us. For we awoke the next morning to find the bear gone, its tracks, several hours old, leading off into the forest.
Harold Lord Ballard
I extend my continued gratitude upon Professor Stravaig, esteemed provost of University of Tarant and champion of zoological study, without whom this expedition would not have been possible.