Ayula, Queen Among Bears


She’s heard all the things they’ve said about her children. Born of the woods. The leaves serve as ears, the forest floor is her skin, tree knots see for her. Cedar her father and Spruce her mother. Ayula, Queen Among Bears, lifts her head and sniffs the air.

Miles away, a hunter chops wood. Movement at the edge of the forest catches his eye. He pauses, wipes sweat from his brow. His son stacking the wood asks his father what it is. The hunter points, “There, see? Just a bear.”

A trio of patrolling knights head down a worn road. Their lances held high, backs straight, armor gleaming in the morning sun. One pulls a wine skin hanging from his saddle. “Put that away,” says the captain. “Stay vigilant. Merchants have seen bears out this way.”

“Bears?” the wine knight scoffs. “Just bears?”

The scents and sounds that ride the air tell Ayula the humans have forgotten. More afraid of wolves than the forest’s first rulers. She calls and the bears come. With each new arrival they grow in strength. Soon there are dozens. They move as a tidal wave of muscle and fur, teeth and claws. An angel scouting the skies sees trees fall like grass underfoot. She tucks a wing, banks, and heads towards the disturbance.

Ayula, Queen Among Bears leads her growing tribe towards the nearest human settlement. A relatively new town, all things considered, only two generations old—a child in tree years. Ayula intends to remind them of the bear’s place. Not the laughing stock of the forest kingdom, but its rightful royalty.

The angel lands in front of the mighty queen. “Ayula. Where are you going?”

Ayula stops, sits back, stares at the angel. The first such creature she’s seen with these new eyes. “Ahead.”

“To the humans?”

Ayula bows her head in a single nod.

“I’m sworn to watch over them. I must ask, what do you intend?”

“To crush them. Remind them of the might of bears. Too long have we been laughed at. I’ve heard them all this time. Their lack of respect is,” she huffs. “No more.”

“I don’t doubt your ability to teach them a lesson. Might I suggest another way?” The angel folds her wings.

A bear as tall as a mature pine lowers his head. “This one would make a nice snack, my queen.”

“No,” says Ayula. “No eating the angel. Let’s hear what she has to say. Why shouldn’t we continue?”

“Because there are families,” says the angel. “They would suffer. Children would lose their parents, wives would become widows, men would see you rip their sons and daughters limb from limb. Is that what you desire? A queen protects her kingdom, yes. But to be provoked to action by every little taunt? No. They’re just words.”

“Every little--this has been going on for years, angel,” says Ayula. “No one respects the green anymore. The forests are ignored. Only the sickness of fire, foul magics, death, and decay triumph.”

The angel nods. “These are dark times, true. But there is good too. Change is on the horizon. Have you heard about the dragon-god?”

“Bolas. What of him?”

“He’s been imprisoned.”

A low roar rumbles in the back of Ayula’s throat, her eyes widen. Murmurs ripple through the surrounding bears. Their eyes full of anger and suspicion, begin to soften. “By who?” asks Ayula.

“Dozens of planeswalkers and the citizens of Ravnica. Many gave their lives to see his evil locked away. Now his brother serves as jailer. We’re entering a new era, Queen Ayula. All I ask is that you be a force for good, not pain and strife and bloodshed.”

Ayula doesn’t respond for a long time. Her bears sit, some lay with chin on paw, some sleep. Birds land on Ayula’s shoulders and still she does not reply. The sun sets, rises, sets, and rises again. She considers the angels’ words. Finally she says, “You’re right, what they say doesn’t matter. Only their actions do. Let us see what this new era holds. We’ll wait and watch.”