Once Upon A Winter’s Night Chapter 2

Silence fell, but for the storm, and but for Giles’s racking cough.

… so, it wasn’t silent at all, then.

So FINALLY some of the people there do something sensible and STAY QUIET in the hopes that the bear… oh sorry, excuse me, Bear… will just go away. But it keeps hammering on the door. And Purity Sue decides that there is only one thing to do: be a dumbass!

“Papa,” asked Camilla, “how large is the Bear?”

Well, obviously it’s a teeny weeny wittle cub if it reduced her father to shrieking.

“Large enough to smash down the door?”
“Oh yes, Camille. Quite easily.”
“Yet he does not,” observed Camille.

Ah, so the only logical conclusion you can make is to assume that the Bear – which belongs to the nastiest species of bear in the world – has no bad intentions like EATING YOUR WHOLE FAMILY. Here’s an idea: maybe it’s weakened from hunger, which is why it can’t break down the door.

So she does the only logical thing: she throws the door wide open so the Bear can come in. And for some reason, everybody just cries and wails instead of BODY-TACKLING THE INSANE BITCH who is trying to get them all killed. But since she’s a Purity Sue, she automatically assumes that any wild animal that doesn’t kill you right away must be a magical Disney animal who will talk and frolic with you while you sing in the woods.

“Is that pack of wolves still waiting to sing with me?”

Sadly, Camille’s dumbassery has tragic results. It turns out that she was wrong, and the giant polar Bear IS only weakened by hunger, and was waiting for someone to open the door. She doesn’t have enough time to actually see how wrong she was, because the bear immediately snatches her out and rips her screaming carcass in half, biting off her head to make her quiet. Since the hovel had only one door, the bear immediately wedged itself in the doorway, and picked off her hysterical family members one by one… starting with Giles, who was unable to move because of a coughing fit.

Nobody knew of their deaths, and nobody mourned them. The only one left alive was the Bear, who slept among the puddles of blood and torn-up limbs, its belly finally full.


Yeah, we should be so lucky. No, Camille is a Purity Sue, which means her innocently selfish, idiotic actions are actually the right thing to do. Oh, and she’s also allowing a giant blast of VERY COLD SNOW to come into the house, which almost blows out the fire and further freezes her family. Yes, clearly she is a paragon of loving unselfishness.

In the fluttering light cast by the struggling blaze, Camille, her loose golden hair aswirl

Yes, Camille can’t even stand in the middle of a blizzard without being Sueishly picturesque.

“What is it you want, O Bear?”


No, the Bear actually is bringing them a message canister, which Camille is obviously able to get without having her face torn off. And of course, she leaves the door wide open so the house can be as cold and wet as possible inside.

for she was fearful of the Bear’s great claws and teeth, though if the creature decided to attack there was little she could do to defend herself or her family within.


Speaking of which, why don’t these dumbasses have any WEAPONS? I mean, they live out in the middle of nowhere but apparently have nothing to fend off wild animals and/or thieves with! Is this another thing Lazy Farmer Dad was supposed to do but didn’t?!

So after letting

The moment the canister was free, the Bear backed away a step or two, Camille suppressing a gasp of startlement at the great white beast’s sudden move. But the Bear stopped and once again became still. Camille then stood and, shivering with cold or dread or both, stepped back into the cottage and grabbed the door and latched it shut. Inside, she heaved a great sigh of relief and slumped against the wind-battered planks, the storm howling to be let in again.
“What is it?” cried the father, he and Giles now huddled with the others, spinning snowflakes yet swirling through the air within and drifting down to the clay floor.
“It is a message tube,” said Camille, pushing away from the door and moving to the table. She held the leather canister up for all to see, her hand yet trembling with residual fright. “Now and again by courier, Fra Galanni would receive one similar to this”—she glanced back at the rattling door—“but never one borne by a Bear.”
Camille twisted off the cap and shook out a scroll from inside and set the canister down on the board.
“What does it say?” asked Aigrette, the mother moving opposite.
“It is sealed, Maman,” replied Camille, showing her mother the fix of green wax holding the scroll closed, wax impressed with an ornate signet depicting a wide-branching tree—an oak, perhaps.
“Well, open it, for surely it was meant for us, else the Bear would not have brought it here.”
Camille nodded and broke the seal and unrolled the parchment. The message it bore was written in a very fine hand.
“Read it to us,” urged Lisette, now stepping to Camille’s side.
“Oh, do,” cried Colette, she and Felise rushing forward as well, the others crowding ’round the table after, including the father and Giles, the lad’s coughing finally come to a stop.
They all craned their necks to look at the writing, which none could read but Camille, for, unlike them, she had been taught by Fra Galanni to read and write. Her mother had bound Camille over to the elderly monk as a servant girl at the age of eight, and she had attended him for nearly four years, until he had died of the ague.
Tilting the letter toward the firelight, the better to see the script, Camille quickly scanned down the scroll and sharply drew in a breath. She looked up at her father.
“Come, come, daughter, what does it say?” he asked.
Camille looked again at the letter and, her voice slightly quavering, read, “To the parents of the girl who sings in the field …”
To the parents of the girl who sings in the field: Greetings.
Fear not the Bear, for he would do you no more harm than would I. Think of him as my ambassador, and offer him your hospitality ere reading on.
Camille looked up from the page. “Papa, let the Bear in.”
“Bu-but, what if—”
“The Prince of the Summerwood has so ordered,” said Camille, gesturing at the letter.
“Prince?” gasped Aigrette, her eyes flying wide, a gleam of expectation within. “Henri,” she barked, “do as Camille says.”
Sucking in air through gritted teeth, Henri loosed his hold on Giles and stepped to the door and lifted the latch and opened it wide, the wild wind and snow howling about to set the strings of beans and turnips and other such to madly sway, the pots and pans to clang, and the fire and wrapped ’round blankets to whip and flutter in the blow. “Enter, Monsieur Bear,” Henri called, his voice trembling, and then quickly stepped wide of the way. The great Bear ambled inward, the girls scrambling together and in a body retreating, Camille and Giles standing firm on the side of the table nearest the Bear, the mother cringing but remaining opposite.
Taking up most of the free space, with a “Whuff!” the Bear sat down and grunted as if in satisfaction.
Shutting out the storm, the father closed and latched the door, though momentarily he peered out into the fury beyond, as if perhaps seeking more bears or mayhap thinking of bolting.
With pale eyes, the Bear looked at Camille and the opened scroll and cocked his head.
“He wants you to go on,” Aigrette whispered across the board.
Camille nodded and peered at the scroll again and started at the beginning once more:
To the parents of the girl who sings in the field: Greetings.
Fear not the Bear, for he would do you no more harm than would I. Think of him as my ambassador, and offer him your hospitality ere reading on.
That done . . . I am smitten by your golden-haired daughter, and I seek your permission to marry her—
“Not fair!” cried Lisette, outrage honing her words as she glared with dark blue eyes at Camille. “I am the eldest, and I should be first to marry. And to a prince at that.”
“And I next!” called out Colette indignantly, her own blue eyes ablaze. “And a prince for me as well.”
The Bear swung his great head toward the pair and a growl rumbled deep in his chest, and with small yips the two fell silent.
“A prince,” hissed Aigrette to Henri, her eyes narrowing in calculation. “A prince wishes to marry our daughter. Go on, go on, Camille; pay your sisters no heed. Go on, read the rest.”
Taking a deep breath, Camille continued:
. . . I seek your permission to marry her. If you accept, she will be the mistress of a grand estate, and my holdings in Faery are—
“In Faery?” blurted Giles, and then began coughing again.
Embracing the rail-thin lad, the father repeated, “In Faery? But therein dwell monsters most dire, and—”
“Quiet, both of you,” snapped Aigrette. “Our daughter is to marry a prince. Read on, Camille. Pay no heed to your father and brother.”
. . . my holdings in Faery are considerable. Too, if you accept, I will settle upon you a sizeable bride-price of gold as well as an annual stipend, enough for you and your remaining children to live in modest luxury.
I await your answer. If it is yes, my ambassador will bear her to me.
Until your decision, I remain,
Lord Alain

Prince of the Summerwood
Now the Bear sat back on its haunches and glanced from fretting father to avid mother and back again.
“Oh, but isn’t this wonderful,” said Aigrette, rubbing her hands together and beaming, her usually downturned mouth smiling for the first time in months. “Our own Camille is to be married to a rich—”
“But, Maman,” protested Camille, “I don’t wish to be wedded to someone I have never met.”
“Hush, child,” replied the mother. “You knew someday we would arrange a marriage for you.”
Lisette shoved forward. “But you should first arrange a marriage for me,” she angrily snapped, “for I am the eldest, while Camille is the youngest of all.”
A clamor arose from the other girls, each crying out that they were certainly older than Camille, and the twins began arguing with each other as to which of the two had been born first, Gai crying, “Me!” and Joie crying, “No, me!”
“Be quiet, all of you,” shouted Aigrette.
When a disgruntled silence fell, Aigrette said, “Don’t you see, the prince asks no dowry, but instead will pay us a bride-price and an annual stipend for the hand of Camille. By accepting this proposal, not only will we have wealth to escape this dismal life your father has visited upon us, we will also have dowries for each of you, wealth to attract suitors.”
With sharp intakes of breath, the girls looked at one another, realization illuminating the face of each. And then, clamoring, they turned to Camille, and she in turn looked at her father, tears in her eyes, but he could not meet her regard. In that moment Camille wished that Fra Galanni were there to comfort and advise her. Again she looked at her father and whispered, “Papa.”
Henri turned to the Bear and said, “We will sleep on it.”
“What?” demanded the mother in shock. “Sleep on it? Henri, the one who made the offer is a prince!”
Henri flinched, but then took a deep breath and gritted his teeth. “I said, we will sleep on it.”
The great white Bear grunted, and lay down and closed his ashen eyes. Henri took to his bed; Aigrette, sissing angrily, followed him. The girls, too, retired—Camille and the twins sharing the lower bunk, Lisette, Felise, and Colette sharing the upper—and Giles took to his cot by the fire.
In spite of the blizzard, the cottage was cozier that night, made so by the presence of the Bear, his huge bulk shedding warmth into the room. Yet at the same time the chamber was distressingly chill, for Aigrette seethed in frigid ire. Camille lay a long time awake in the angry whispers coming from her parents’ bed—Aigrette raging at Henri, her furious hissings muted by the storm rampaging without and the great sleeping breaths of the Bear within.

The next morning dawned to quiet, for the blizzard had blown itself out sometime in the night. At breakfast, at the mother’s urging, once again Camille read the letter to them all, and over their gruel they argued, and only Camille and Giles were opposed to the proposal: Camille would not wed someone she had never seen, and Giles would not lose the one sister he had come to love, who made him laugh and played riddle games and taught him échecs and who sang so sweetly. Henri did not speak, his ears weary from Aigrette’s late-night harangue. The mother and sisters, though, clamored for Camille to quickly accept the fact that it was a prince whom she would wed.
The Bear sat silent, though he did share a bowl of the porridge with Camille, who had no appetite at all.
Finally, Henri said, “We must write a response unto the prince.”
“Papa,” said Camille, sighing, “we have no parchment, no pen, no ink.”
“And even if we did have such,” hissed Lisette, “how would we know what she had written on any note we would send?”
At this the Bear growled, and Lisette snapped her mouth shut.
“He seems to know what we are saying,” said Aigrette, nodding toward the Bear. “Simply tell him that we accept and send him on his way to bring back the promised gold.”
Tears in her eyes, Camille silently gazed at her father. Henri once again could not meet her mute stare. He turned to the Bear. “Come back in a sevenday, for then we will have our answer.”
Angrily, Aigrette glared at him.
Grunting, the Bear moved to the door, and, before anyone else could stir, Aigrette sprang to her feet and opened the wooden-planked panel and led the Bear outside. ’Round the corner of the cottage she went with him, and there she said, “Come prepared to pay the bride-price and bear Camille away, for I shall see to it that she goes with you.”
The Bear growled low—whether in ire or agreement, Aigrette could not say—and then ambled away from the stone hovel and toward the twilight border of mysterious and dreaded Faery, for therein strange and terrible creatures did dwell, or so it was said. Hugging herself against the cold, Aigrette didn’t blink an eye as the Bear rambled across a pristine white field of new-fallen snow, leaving heavy tracks behind, to pass into the silvery twilight and vanish; but inside the cottage, with an eye pressed to a chink in the back wall, Camille watched as well, her heart beating swiftly in fright.


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