Without releasing his grip on the bear’s head, Putin turned toward the voice.
At the edge of the clearing stood a sturdy young she-bear, her snow-white fur highlighted against the dark forest behind her. “Father?”
Putin kept his grip on Orso’s head. “AY ACK!” the bear bellowed, doing his best to warn the she-bear in spite of his burns.
Putin and the white bear stared at each other in shock, without moving, barely daring to breathe.
The young bear was baffled and terrified at the sight of the mighty Orso, the Bear King—her father!—so near defeat and death.
Why … What are you doing to my father?” she gasped. Putin looked from the she-bear to Orso and back. “Your father,” he repeated quietly.
Putin tightened his grip on Orso’s head. “Stay back!” he barked. “This bear, your … king … has committed atrocious crimes. He must die.”
“YOooo!” howled Orso, furiously. The she-bear stepped toward them. “Get back!” Putin shouted. “Go into the woods! This is not your battle!”
The white she-bear continued moving deliberately toward them. “You must not hurt my father,” she growled.
Did she mean to attack him? Putin had no doubt that he could dispatch them both, but he had no desire to kill the younger bear.
“Stop where you are!” Putin commanded, as the she-bear moved closer. She stopped, then spoke again: “I invoke the Great Law.”
Putin blanched. “The Great Law … A life for a life. I had forgotten …” “Yes,” replied the she-bear “I offer myself as your slave forever.”
“In exchange for my life of servitude you will release King Orso without further harm.” The she-bear stood silently, awaiting Putin’s reply.
Again, Putin felt the green anger growing inside. How easy it would be to snap his foe’s neck! How easy … and how dishonorable.
Once the Great Law was invoked, only the beneficiary could rescind it. By opting to die, Orso could save the she-bear. But Orso was silent.
The coward! Putin grew hot with rage. How he longed to rip the Bear King’s head from his body! Allowing his daughter to become a slave!
Yet … would this not be the perfect revenge, to take the noble she-bear from Orso, just as he had taken Ursa? Putin smiled at the thought.
Gradually, he relaxed his grip on the bear’s head. “If my foe has no objection, then I accept your offer,” he replied. Orso said nothing.
The white she-bear stepped forward and knelt before Putin. “I am yours now, Master,” she said. “I am the daughter of Orso, I am called—”
“I do not care what you have been called,” Putin interrupted. “You are mine now, and you shall be called Snowy. Snowy is your name, slave.”
“Come!” Putin spat. “Leave this poor excuse for a ‘King’ alone to consider his crimes.” Together Putin and Snowy walked out of the clearing.