Chapter 2 (part 2)

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Golden Queen Chapter 2 (part 2)

The night that Gallen O'Day fought off the nine robbers, Orick had been thinking about leaving Gallen forever. A dozen conflicting urges were moving Orick in ways that he did not wish to go.

His love of mankind and his desire to serve God by ministering to others was leading Orick toward the priesthood. Yet Orick knew that he and Gallen were not of the same heart on such matters. While Orick revered the Tome and its companion book the Bible, hungering for the wisdom of the ancient Christ and his disciples, Gallen's attitude toward the books was disappointing. The young man vacillated between grudging admiration for some of the Bible's teachings and open contempt for the Tome. Obviously, Gallen did not have faith in the holy books. Although Orick genuinely liked Gallen, their sharply divergent views on religion were troubling, and Orick believed that soon he would have to leave Gallen, if only to retain some peace of mind.

Furthermore, Orick found other urges beckoning him. He had been spending a great deal of time in the company of humans lately. But such a state of affairs could not long continue. He needed a female bear's company.

So, that night as the two said their good-byes at the back of the inn and Orick watched as Gallen led Seamus away on the mare, Orick's own words rang in his ears, "God be with you then, for I shall not."

The young female bear next to him, named Dara, pawed demurely through the garbage. "Have you decided then? Will you be coming to the Salmon Fest next week?"

Orick imagined the hundreds of bears that would be gathered at the fest, fishing in the day, sitting around campfires and singing all night on the rocky beach on the banks of the cold river. He imagined the smell of wet fur, the pine trees, whole salmon skewered on stakes as they leaned against the fire pits to broil. Though Orick didn't particularly relish the idea of wading in the icy waters of Obhiann Fiain all day trying to catch fish in his teeth, he was nearly four, and certain primal urges were getting hard to ignore. Orick saw that becoming a father would confer upon him a type of immortality, for he would live on through his progeny, and he hungered for that particular blessing.

Yet if he entered the priesthood, he would have to take a vow of chastity, and so he considered that this year he would need to go to the Salmon Fest. At the Salmon Fest many a fair young female bear would be hunting for more than a slimy morsel of fish for dinner, and frankly, as the bears say, "A she-bear in heat is the best kind to meet."

Sure, there would be games at the festival-competitions where the males would go at it tooth and claw, tree-climbing races, the log pull, the pig toss. Orick would have to win the right to breed, but he was becoming rather large, and he'd learned a few wrestling tricks by watching Gallen.

Who knows, he mused, perhaps I'll unseat old Mangan as the Primal Bear. He imagined how envious the other bears would be as he chose the best and brightest females to breed with, then Orick gobbled some cold cabbage and deep-fried clams from the garbage.

"I'm not sure if I'll come or not," Orick growled in response to Dara's question. "I'll think about it." It was possible to find a mate without going to the Salmon Fest, but a saying rang through Orick's mind: "While the common bear shivers in his wet fur, the superior bear builds a fire." So, Orick knew that if he really wanted a quality mate, he would need to make the journey to the Salmon Fest, leaving Gallen O'Day behind.

"I saw some deer up the hill in Covey's apple orchard," Dara said coyly. "I really like venison. How about if we go up there and see if we can kill us a deer?"

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