Chapter 1 Another World
“Where am I?”
He looked out at tall trees and knee-high grass of emerald green rippling in a warm breeze. Birds trilled in the high branches. A summer sun blazed golden in a pale, blue sky.
Another thought followed. One that left a cold drip of fear to trickle down his spine.
“Who am I?”
A long moment of deep silence passed as he explored the blank areas of his mind. Something very close to panic began to boil in his chest. What happened? What was wrong with him? What if…
“Logan. Logan Proud Bear.” The name, his name, burst from his lips. All else was fog but he had his name. It wasn’t much, but at least it was a beginning; a life jacket he could cling to in unknown waters. Something to build from.
“Ok,” Logan breathed. “Now what?”
When in doubt, start from the beginning.
The words bubbled up from the dark recesses of his memory. Where had he heard those words before? A man’s voice, deep, paternal, and…
Nothing. Logan felt his hands ball into white-knuckled fists. So frustrating!
Still, it was wise advice.
“Breathe, Logan,” he told himself. “Just breathe. One step at a time. Figure it out.”
A slow look around revealed that he was standing in a clearing that appeared to be in the middle of a thick, old-growth forest. A small, grassy hill jutted up from the forest floor to his right. Just behind him, two, man-sized, rectangular stones stone stood on end. A third stone lay across the top forming an archway as if one piece of Stonehenge had been stolen away and left in this clearing. Ancient looking pictographs of humans, animals, and mythical creatures were etched into the rock beneath a crawl of brown lichen.
“Find a game trail. Follow it to a source of freshwater. Follow the flow of water tao civilization,” Logan told himself.
Again, he had no idea how he knew this, but he knew it as sure as his name. The thought had the weight of experience. It still wasn’t much of a plan but better than standing around. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” he muttered and walked toward the dappled shadows of the forest.
The moment his foot stepped beyond the clearing and between two trees Logan knew, with sudden and absolute clarity, that he was not alone. A powerful sense of presence washed across the clearing. The hill to his right shuddered. Dirt and grass fell away as something enormous slowly rose from the soil. It shook itself, revealing thick fur, a broad snout, and deep, black eyes.
Grizzly bear! That was the immediate thought that came to mind but this was like no bear Logan had ever seen or heard of. Dawning terror threatened to turn his guts to water as the creature gave a ponderous heave, standing up and up onto its hind legs until it towered almost thirty feet tall!
“Greetings, cousin,” its voice rumbled like distant thunder.
Logan’s mouth fell open. He stared dumbstruck, like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. This can’t be real. This can’t be happening. This is just a dream. Yet, the sun warming his face felt real enough as did the scent of the giant bear; warm fur and fresh-turned soil. Logan pinched his arm and felt the sharp sting of pain.
“I… how… what…,” Logan stammered.
The bear fell back down to all four paws. Logan felt the impact through his boots, heard the low boom of a multi-ton apex predator settling its weight on the ground. It took all the willpower he could muster not to piss himself in terror.
“I am the eternal guardian of this gateway,” the bear rumbled. “Too long it has been since one of the blood last walked the path. Too long have I slumbered in the dreamless, twilight sleep.”
Slowly, the fear of imminent death began to fade and rational thought crept back into Logan’s head. Something about this giant creature seemed strangely familiar to him. And very, very, old, he thought.
Some quality in the bear’s deep, ageless, eyes hinted at secrets long lost and the slow crawl of many centuries come and gone. Beneath that bottomless gaze, Logan felt like a newborn child instead of a twenty-nine-year-old man.
He blinked in surprise as another piece of memory clicked into place. I am twenty-nine years old. He searched for something more but the only additional memory tickling his brain was something about this magnificent creature…
“Are you… Grandfather Bear?” he asked.
The great head nodded. “So your people named me long ago.”
The great bear spirit. Logan realized. The totem animal of… of… For a moment there was only gray fog, then quite suddenly he had it. The totem animal of my family! My father was Apache!
“Am I dreaming?”
“Perhaps,” the bear rumbled. “Dreaming or no, you have stepped through the veil and onto the trodden path, as your ancestors did long ago. The only way now is forward.”
His massive head turned and looked back into the forest. Logan looked and saw a path winding through the trees. A path that had not been there before.
“What will I find on this path?” he asked.
“Only what you carry inside you,” the bear replied. “But be warned, cousin, of the Rule of Three. Neither eat nor drink of this realm. Ask for nothing and give not thanks for what is offered. Give not your true name. This I offer to you freely out of respect for the ancient traditions of your people. Heed me well.”
“Ok, but…what is the Rule of Three? I don’t understand.”
“It is the ancient law of binding from which all oaths are born.”
“Well, Th…” Logan caught himself before he could say “thank you”. “That’s kind of you,” he offered instead.
Grandfather Bear winked at him and smiled. “Good. You are learning.”
Logan smiled back. Now that he knew it was just a dream, this was starting to be fun. “Let’s do this then. Goodbye, Grandfather.”
Logan stepped out of the clearing and onto the winding path. Ahead, it twisted through the trees and vanished into the foliage. One last look back showed Grandfather Bear slowly settling back down into the grass. His ageless eyes slowly shut. His voice, heavy and sleepy, drifted to Logan on the wind.
“Go now, cousin. Destiny calls.”