The Shadow of the Bear: A Fairy Tale Retold

Free The Shadow of the Bear: A Fairy Tale Retold by Regina Doman

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Authors: Regina Doman
Rose exclaimed, and at once felt hollow, shallow. This place was sacred.
    Blanche wrapped her arms around herself tightly, gazing around cautiously.  She still looked wary.
    “My violin teacher told me what a beautiful church this is—or was,” Rose said. “Blanche, they used to have school masses here, instead of the assembly hall, before it was abandoned. The floor is unstable.”
    “Oh, just wonderful,” Blanche said in a restrained voice.
    “It’s only unstable in certain places,” Bear hastened to assure her. “Don’t worry—I know where the weak spots are.”
    Rose chided herself for babbling and making her sister even tenser. Her eyes were adjusting to the dark, and she could make out that they were standing in a narrow vestibule. In front of them were doors with dark glass windows. Through them, faint light showed.
    There was the sound of scuffling as Bear’s shape turned to one side and hunched over a low table. “I keep some vigil candles over here with matches. Hold on, and I’ll get a light.”
    Then there was a scratch, and a faint glow. Rose temporarily lost perspective as the flame of the candle made the shadows briefly impenetrable once more. Her eyes adjusted again, and she saw Bear’s face with its mane of hair floating above the wax taper. He had become a cave man, his face gaunt with dark eyes alert and cunning like some strange beast. The light grew, illuminating his shape, and casting light on their faces. Rose felt as though she were being put under a spell—eye color: deep green and fey.
    Bear put a hand on the door behind him, illuminating a panel of dark colored glass and dropping a pool of light onto a tiled floor. The door opened, and he led them into the church, holding up the candle like a torch.
    They found themselves in a large, spacious place full of indistinct forms. Bear led them down the main aisle, boards creaking beneath his boots. Rose could make out pillars and an occasional jeweled glimmer of a stained-glass window catching the glow of a streetlight outside. Their footsteps echoed weirdly in the emptiness that was full of something.
    “Can you see anything?” Bear asked them in a whisper.
    “Pews,” Rose whispered back.
    They reached the end of the aisle and stood before the sanctuary. Bear pointed with the light to the roof. “The roof leaks, and it’s been rotting the floorboards in the sanctuary. That’s where the floor problems are. I wish the parish had fixed the leaks when they first started. The problem will only get worse as time goes on.” He set the vigil light down on the marble altar rail with a deep sigh. “But the diocese seems determined to let this place run down. It’s a crying shame. You can’t see much of it now, but it was a magnificent church.”
    “You really seem to care about this place,” Rose commented.
    Bear looked at both of them, a fleeting look of mischief on his face. “Well, as an enchanted prince, this is the closest thing to a palace that I’ve got.”
    “Oh yes!” Rose said. “I had forgotten.”
    He turned to the sanctuary. “I’ll light the candles so you can see more.” He stepped inside the sanctuary carefully. “This is the part of the floor that’s weak. Wait here.”

    Bear resembled a dark, hulking stagehand moving about the scenery, thought Blanche.  He passed the stripped altar and went out through a small door into what must be the sacristy, and returned with a brass candle lighter. He leaned over and lit it from the small candle he had been carrying. Then he began to light the candles of various heights that stood in dusty branched candelabra on the back wall. Slowly, the facade was illuminated with halos of gold, as though it were the stage for a play. Blanche could see now that there was a high altar on the back wall, layered like a palace, with niches where men and women with wings and robes stood frozen in adoration. Lastly, Bear lit the candles on either side of the carved tabernacle that was

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