"Aaaaaaaaagh!" Nulyn screamed as she slammed the door. Thorden came running, hammer in hand, to see his wife pale and trembling. "B-b-bear," she stammed in response to his unspoken question.
"Move away fra' th'door lassie," said Thorden pulling her towards him. Nulyn watched, hands to her mouth, as Thorden adjusted his grip on the hammer, squared his shoulders and started to open the door. He peered round the edge of the door and, to his wife's astonishment, burst out laughing. "Tha's no a bear, it's our wee lassie Hulan!"
Nulyn scowled and pulled Thorden away from the door and opened it wide. Indeed, there stood a sheepish looking Hulan and behind Hulan there was a large white bear.
"Hulan! Ye half frightened me ta death! Why did ye no let us know ye were comin'?" Nulyn demanded indignantly. She turned to her husband "An' there is a bear," she told him crossly, "when I opened tha door there was no sign o' Hulan." Thorden stifled a chuckle and went outside and opened his arms to his daughter.
"I wanted ta surprise ye," Hulan told him as she was enfolded in a hug.
"Hehe, ye did that alright lassie," said Thorden holding his daughter tight. He let go of Hulan and held her at arms length, studying her. She looked different; her face had lost it's chubbiness and, while still round, looked leaner; she held herself differently, more upright and somehow alert but relaxed at the same time. She felt different too, his daughter was developing muscles. He looked past her at the bear. "Who's this then?" he asked her. Hulan's face lit up and turned to look at the bear.
"This is Blanche," she told him. "I tamed her myself," she finished proudly.
"Did ye now? Ye'd better come in an' tell us what ye've been up ta."
He turned and pushed past Nulyn who was still in the doorway, glaring at the bear. Hulan made to enter the house and the bear started to follow her. Nulyn spluttered with indignation, hands on her hips. "That animal's no' comin' inside!" she declared.
"But Ma nothin'! There's little enough room fer the three o' us as it is," retorted Nulyn.
"But Blanche goes everywhere wi' me Ma an' it's cold out here."
Nulyn snorted, "Huh! Cold? Yer worryin' about a bear bein' cold? I don't suppose she's bin toastin' her toes in front o' an open fire all the time she was wild! Ye'll only be a few feet away from 'er. Trust me lass, she will nae pine away." Nulyn turned and swept into the small house, leaving the door ajar. Hulan sighed and went up to the bear, wrapping her arms around it's neck. The bear rested it's massive head on Hulan's shoulder then grunted. Hulan drew back chuckling "Hungry again?" she asked. She rummaged in her bag and brought out some food for the bear. "Now ye wait quietly out 'ere," she told Blanche as she fed her, "I'll come out in a bit and feed ye again and once Ma an' Da have gone ta bed I'll let ye in." She tickled the bear behind the ears then turned and went into the house, closing the door firmly behind her. The bear let out a long huffing sigh and stared at the door for a moment, then it turned and lay down and shut it's eyes and started to snore.
Inside Nulyn's expression softened as she looked at her daughter. "Why don't ye get out o' that armour while I make sumthin' ta eat?" she suggested. Hulan nodded and disappeared into her old room. It felt strange to be home again. It all seemed so familiar yet she felt like a visitor. It made her realise how much she had changed since she left home a few months before. She shrugged off the bow and quiver and leaned them up against the wall in a corner of the small room. The large two-handed axe disappeared underneath her narrow bed, close to hand in the unlikely even she should need it. Hulan rummaged through the tiny dresser and pulled out an old skirt and blouse. "I mus' remember to take those wi' me when I go," she thought to herself. She changed quickly, stuffing her leather gear into one of her packs. The skirt and blouse hung more loosely on her than they had done in the past. Hulan returned to the main room of the house where her mother was laying a meal out on the table. Hot steaming broth, fresh bread and a large jug of ale. She looked up and smiled at Hulan. "Ye still look different, even in yer old clothes," she told her daughter. "Set yersel' down and eat an' then ye can tell us what ye've bin up ta."
The meal over, Hulan popped outside with the leftovers and fed them to Blanche. Behind her, her mother grinned "Would ye look at her," she chuckled, "like a hen wi' one chick! That bear does nae look as if it's goin' ta starve ta death any time soon." Hulan returned and refilled her flagon with ale then curled up on the settle in front of the fire.
"So lassie," said Thorden "the life o' a hunter suits ye from tha look on it."
"Oh yes Da!" Hulan nodded enthusiastically "I love it, I really do. I've even bin accepted inta a guild! They're called The Keepers of the Light an' I've got a tabard."
"You were accepted into the Keepers? Aw lassie I'm so proud o' ye! I've heard o' them an' a fine bunch o' people they are too."
"Indeed," added Nulyn "They're famous throughout Azeroth. Who'd a thought our little lassie bein' accepted into the Keepers. I heard about wha' happened to the Lady Cinnessa. Tha' was a sad business so it was She was a paladin like us ye know."
The mood became sombre as all three reflected on the untimely death of the paladin, Cinessa.
Thorden wiped his eyes. "Och, the smoke fro' tha fire's made me eyes smart." Nulyn snorted and rolled her eyes at him. She looked at Hulan "So yer a fully-fledged hunter wi' a pet an' all. 'Ow did ye come by 'er? She's unusual in these parts, bein' white." Hulan thought back to the day she'd travelled to the North Pass on her way to Loch Modan and started to tell her parents about it.
It had been a beautiful clear day and there was little work to be had in Dun Morogh. She'd run across someone who needed a message delivering to the Southern Guard Tower in Loch Modan and as she'd never been there she offered to take the message there. It would be an adventure to visit a new place. She set of along the road to Dun Morogh and after a few miles came to a fork in the road. One road led to the Southern pass, the other to the Northern pass. Hulan decided to cross into Loch Modan via the Northern pass; that way she could enjoy a long walk down to the Southern Guard Tower and have a good look at Loch Modan on the way. If she was lucky she'd be able to pick up more work on the way. She emerged from the first tunnel to see a group of mountaineers. She went over to say hello. It turned out that one of them was missing and they were in a bit of a flap about it. One of them looked her up and down, taking in the bow on her back. "Ye look like a hunter miss. Are ye any good at trackin'?" he asked her.
"I am a hunter," she told him "I'm not bad at trackin. What's tha problem?"
"I'm a siege engine pilot an' me an' me mate are here lookin' for ore. Our engine's busted so Mori decided to hunt fer ore while I mend the engine. I've no seen hide nor hair o' him fer days. Would ye mind havin' a bit o' a scout around an' seein'if'n ye can find him? We're getting' quite worried about him. Like I said, his name's Mori. Mori Hildelve."
"I cannae promise anythin'," said Hulan "but I'll have a go. Mebbe he's slipped in the hills and busted his leg or somethin'."
"Aw thank ye lassie," said the Pilot gratefully "You take care, there's bears an' snow leopards in them hills. Mori can look after hissel' but he might be in real trouble."
Hulan nodded. "Which way was headin'?"
The Pilot pointed "He headed north," he told Hulan.
Hulan took a moment to check her weapons then headed towards the hills in the north. It didn't take her long to discover Mori Hildelve. She found his corpse at the foot of a small ravine. He hadn't been dead long from the looks of it. She checked his body and found a small notebook. It told how he had fallen and been unable to walk. He'd dragged himself out of the wind and waited for help. A bear had come sniffing round and although he'd managed to drive it off he feared it would come back. Obviously it had. Hulan sighed sadly and set off back to the Pilot. The poor fellow was beside himself when he discovered what had happened to his friend.
"Missie, I need ye to do somethin' else fer me. I'll make it worth yer while mind," he said to her, wiping the tears from his eyes. "I want ye to find that bear and kill it! I dinnae have much in tha way o' cash to pay ye fer yer trouble but I have a fine mace and a dagger wi' me. If'n ye can bring me that bear's paw ye can take yer pick, either will fetch a pretty penny if'n ye canne use them yersel'."
Hulan was curious about this ferocious bear and keen to test her mettle so she agreed to hunt the bear.
She made her way back to where she had found the body. The pilot had told her he'd be along later with a party to retrieve it and take it back to ironforge. Bear prints led into the ravine. Hulan set off cautiously. Not far into the ravine she heard the bear. In front of her was a snow leopard. Hulan dispatched it quickly then set off in pursuit of the bear. She almost fell over the bear. It was white and was hard to see against the snow. It was unusual for these parts, most of the bears in Dun Morogh were black. She settled behind a rock to watch it. It was bigger than any bear she'd ever seen although its fur hung loosely; it obviously wasn't getting enough to eat. The poor prospector must have seemed like easy pickings she thought. Hulan took a couple of arrows from her quiver. She'd only have time to get off a couple of shots before the bear was on her if she didn't kill it outright. Hulan was new to the bow, preferring it to the loud blunderbuss she'd initially been taught to use. She wasn't sure her skill was up to this foe. Hulan offered up a quick prayer to the Gods and let fly with the first arrow. It skimmed over the bear's shoulder. The bear raised it's head and roared then charged at Hulan who was already letting fly another arrow. This one found it's mark and embedded itself in the bear's shoulder. The bear roared with pain but it's charge barely faltered. The bear almost on top of her, Hulan dropped her bow and pulled her axe from her belt. As she rasised her axe the bear's massive paw slammed into the side of Hulan's head, stunning her. For a moment Hulan thought she was going to black out but she managed to stay on her feet, shaking her head groggily. She raised her axe again looking into the bear's eyes. The bear was mad with rage but it's strength was failing. The bear was a killer and yet there was something noble about it that stayed Hulan's hand. Making her decision in an instant Hulan recited her chant and dropped into the taming trance. The rest of the world faded away leaving just Hulan and the bear.
"So bear, we're tryin' ta kill each other. If'n we carry on like this one o' us has ta die an' I really don't want it ta be me. I haven't even got ta see Loch Modan yet. Even if ye do kill me, an' with my arrow hangin' out o' yer shoulder that's lookin' less likely, others will come an' they'll be bigger an' stronger than me an' one o' them's sure ta finish ye. Eatin' people, especially dwarves, is sumthin' that won't be tolerated. I dinnae ken if'n I'm doin' tha right thing but there's sumthin' about ye, I think it would be a shame ta kill ye. If ye had a mind to stop batterin' me I cud take that arrow out'n yer shoulder and patch ye up. I need sumone ta hunt wi'.there'd be plenty o' grub fer ye, ye would nae go hungry any more. I'd take good care o' ye. Wha' do ye think?"
The light grew bright again and Hulan regarded the bear lying at her feet. For a moment Hulan thought it was dead, then the bear moaned with pain. Hulan reached into her pack and pulled out food and bandages. She put the food down in front of the bear. "Ye tuck inta that while I get this arrow out," she told it. The bear started to eat hungrily. Hulan took hold of the arrow and pulled. As it came free the bear snarled at Hulan but then turned back to the feast she had placed in front of it. "Hmm. Yer still a wee bit frisky but ye'll get used ta me.I hope!" By the time the bear had finished eating, Hulan had dressed it's shoulder. Hulan realized that she wouldn't be able to hunt a lot with the bear until it had healed but that would give her time to feed it up and gain it's trust. The bear grunted with satisfaction and stood up. "I need ta think of a name fer ye," Hulan told it. She peered round the back of the bear. "Yer a she-bear. Tha's nice.two lassies together. Now what shall I call ye?" Hulan thought hard for a moment. "How about Blanche? It means white." The bear grunted. "Ye like it? Good. Blanche it is then."
Hulan and Blanche headed out of the ravine. Hulan told the bear to wait for her and she headed back to the Pilot. "I'm sorry," she told him "That bear's too big fer me ta take on."
"Ah well, ya tried lassie. Thank ye fer that. I'll send fer some hunters from Ironforge and we can kill it when we go fer poor Mori's body."
Hulan nodded, "I need ta be off now mister. I need ta get ta to Loch Modan before it gets dark," and with that she turned and hurried off. She wanted to get Blanche away as quickly as possible. An hour later she and Blanche were comfortably settled at the Inn at Thelsamaar.
Hulan looked at her parents, "So that's how I came by Blanche. I did tha right thing, she's shapin' up nicely now she's fit an' strong again. I did feel a bit bad though about lyin' ta that Pilot."
Thorden frowned at her. "I heard some rumpus up at Ironforge about a rogue bear," he told her "They 'ad trackers out fer days lookin' fer it but I never heard that they found it." His face softened "Dinna worry lass. Yer secret's safe wi' us, we won't tell a soul."