Bear was on the run. He was one of the immortal beasts, Overlords of man, but man had revolted. Nearly all of Bear’s brothers and sisters had been slain, and with their deaths, man had grown stronger and wiser. Bear knew of only one of his siblings that still lived, Wolf, but that is a different story for a different day.
One night, while Bear slept, a lone human came upon him. “An Overlord,” the man involuntarily shrieked in fear, waking Bear.
Human,” Bear roared. He pounced on the man immediately. “Give me one plausible reason that I should not gut you here and now.”
The human solemnly looked Bear in the eyes. “I can think of no reasons,” the man said in a steady voice. I am only a lowly human with no land, house, wife, or kids. There is nothing in my life that is worth sparing.
“Why would you say this?” Bear asked, perplexed. “Why not say you have a wife and kids who depend on you. It might have saved your wretched life.”
“I value honesty,” the man replied coolly. “And to be only honest, I would give anything. I would accept any fate.”
“Hah!” Bear laughed. “You die for nothing.”
“I sacrifice myself for my beliefs,” the man corrected. “Nothing is nobler.”
“Living is more noble than dying.” Bear countered.
“Not if you must live in violation of your beliefs,” the man told Bear. “You will acknowledge this before the end.”
“Rubbish!” Bear bellowed. In his moment of rage, Bear struck the man in the face, removing his head from his body. The man’s death troubled Bear almost as much as his words and invaded his dreams that night. Because of his dreams, Bear chose to search out three travelers and ask them about sacrifice. He wanted their opinions, needed them.
Bear walked through the woods for an entire day without finding any travelers. That night, he slept little, and he set out early the next day. Halfway through the day, he noticed a doe with a fawn in close toe. “Doe,” Bear called out in a loud voice so she could hear.
“Run,” the doe commanded her child. As soon as the fawn obeyed, the doe turned to Bear. “You will die before you ever touch my baby!” the dear yelled.
“You cannot beat me in any sort of battle,” Bear noted with a chuckle. “Why would you even attempt to threaten me?”
“You will not touch my baby!” the dear repeated without a hint of fear.
“In that, you are correct,” Bear told the doe. “I simply desire to ask you something.
The doe looked shocked. “What do you desire to ask?” she asked suspiciously.
“I have approached you in order to ask if it is your belief that sacrifice can be nobler than living.” Bear explained.
The doe laughed at him then. “For your edification, any common idiot could answer your question,” the female dear told him. “But I can see you are no common idiot. Of course! To sacrifice yourself for certain reasons can be nobler than just about anything, so long as there is good reason to do so. For example, if I had been slain by you while attempting to protect my daughter from harm, it would have been noble. Sometimes… sacrifice is necessary.”
“Thank you,” Bear said to the doe that had answered his question and was now running off into the forest to find her daughter.
Bear sat in silence, in deep contemplation and thought, deep into the night. Even after the full moon had reached its apex Bear sat and thought in complete silence. Finally, however, sleep came to Bear. Bear awoke around noon the next day. He noticed the lateness of the hour and set off at a brisk pace, intent on finding another traveler. Yet search as he might, he could find no one, but he did once notice the unfamiliar scent of what he believed to be the stink of human. This struck him as odd, but like most things, he paid it absolutely no heed whatsoever.
Once again, Bear made camp for the night. He awoke shortly after dawn the next morning and again set off to search out some travelers. To his surprise, he again found absolutely nothing save the stench of man and metal. He made camp rather disappointed that night and awoke before dawn the next day. Being able to watch the sunrise brought comfort to Bear and improved his mood exponentially.
Again, Bear set out in search of someone to answer his questions. Today, he had more luck than on the previous two days. Today, Bear was lucky enough to cross the path of a beaver when he began walking towards a river.
“You stay away from me river,” the beaver warned.
“Why?” Bear asked the creature.
“Because… if you do, I will destroy my dam and flood this land. You will most certainly drown.”
“No need for that,” Bear told the disgruntled beaver. “Let us break words, not your home.”
“What do you want to speak about?” the beaver asked, his interest peaked.
“I wish to hear what you have to say about something,” Bear told him.
“I must say, that is a new one. Someone wants my opinion about something? Ask away,” the beaver told Bear.
“My question is about sacrifice,” Bear told the beaver. He then politely waited for a response to what he had said.
“My silence is your cue,” the beaver said.
“Can sacrifice be noble?” Bear inquired. “I mean, are some things worth giving up anything and everything for?”
The beaver thought on this for many long moments before seeing fit to answer. Finally he responded, “I suppose. After all, I was willing to lose my home, to destroy it myself, in order to keep a dangerous predator off of my property. Also, I would willingly give my life or anything else to protect my wife and me little ones.”
“So sacrifice can be noble,” Bear stated more than asked.
“That is correct,” Beaver answered anyway. “Is there anything else, anything at all, that you wish to hear my opinion on?”
“Urm… no,” Bear said. “You have been most helpful. I think I should leave you and your land in peace now.”
“I like you,” the beaver stated. “Be sure to come back and visit some time! Me wife and kiddies would like the company.”
“Perhaps,” Bear muttered distractedly as he walked off in very deep thought. “Perhaps.”
Bear had still not found a third traveler by the time the one week anniversary of his quest had arrived. “I need a third response!” Bear roared. “I must decide.”
Suddenly, Bear found himself surrounded by twelve great and mighty hunters, the same twelve men who had been tracking him. “Damn it!” Bear cursed. “Not now! I still require one more answer. I was so close.”
In Bear’s head, a voice sounded. “No time. You will have to answer yourself.”
Bear knew his choice before he even realized it. He chose to meet his end as an Overlord and not some wild beast. He would die with his honor intact. He chose to sacrifice himself for his beliefs about nobility like the man he had slain earlier that week. Bear didn’t roar or even so much as flinch as the hunters butchered him.
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