If you ask around the Realms, people will tell you all kinds of things about spirits. Some adventurers believe that spirits are simply the restless dead, while others will tell you that spirits are their own type of being from another plane of existence. Going farther out there, some people will think you’re talking about booze and they’ll get all excited. In Voraniss we have a special relationship with the spirits; for there are many that have chosen to take residence within our borders. Some of these spirits take the shape of animals, and we have built various shrines to them all throughout our territory. One of my favorite spirits is Osag, the Guardian Bear, and it is he who I wish to tell you about.
Osag’s legend is one beloved by our locals. It begins long, long ago when humanity first arrived within the lands presently known as Voraniss. Never before had they seen such ancient trees, and they felt as dwarves beneath a giant’s heel. Fish and game were bountiful, and so the humans were able to wander free from place to place as they followed after that which they hunted.
Osag was one of these early humans; a proud warrior who led his tribe forward by the point of his spear. Osag’s life hadn’t always been so blessed, however. He had grown up without parents, as many adventurers do. His mother had fallen early on to a particularly harsh winter famine, and his father had died a warrior’s death charging into combat against an enemy tribe. The others helped him as best they could, but he was expected to pitch in often; to prove beyond a doubt that he was more than a burden. The labor made him strong, and by the time he was a young man he was larger than most of the adults. Osag’s size made him a natural leader on the hunt, and the strength and wisdom that came with his experiences made him a fierce opponent.
I tell you this so that you might understand what was going through Osag’s mind when he first entered the forest and saw a wounded bear cub struggling to survive on its own. With no parents in sight the weakened creature mewled and cried out in distress. It was a perfect target for the hunters; easy prey for them to enjoy without risking their health or energy. But Osag couldn’t let them take the creature, for something in him related to its predicament. He remembered how alone he had felt without his parents to guide him, and his heart softened. Instead of dinner, the creature became his companion.
As Osag aged, so did the bear. It grew larger and more powerful, towering far above the men of the tribe when it stood on its hind legs. Many of the others in Osag’s tribe were wary of the creature, for they did not trust the instincts of a once wild animal; especially not one as huge as the bear. Osag didn’t mind though, and he continued to treat the bear as a brother. They hunted together, slept next to one another, and even shared their food.
One fateful winter Osag’s tribe was having trouble finding game. They had traveled south towards the thicker forests of the land, but heavy snowfall had left them stranded and hungry while the deer outran them. The people began to get restless, and supplies were running low. As desperation grew one man suggested that Osag let them kill and eat the bear so that they might save themselves. Osag refused, and a fight broke out as tempers flared.
Punches were exchanged as the two men brawled to resolve their differences, and Osag threw his adversary to the ground where he got a mouthful of snow. Furious that he could not beat the mighty Osag with his fists, the man got back to his feet and reached for his spear. Raising his arm behind his head, he threw it forward before Osag could arm himself. Only, he didn’t aim for Osag…he aimed for Osag’s beloved bear. Osag cried out in warning, springing to life as he ran for his companion. There wasn’t enough time to get his own weapon, or to hit the soaring spear out of the way. Sorrow swelled up deep within his heart as the realization dawned upon him.
Osag did the only thing he could think of and threw himself into the spear’s path. The weapon pierced his lungs and pinned him to the ground. Everyone was in shock, but none more so than Osag’s bear who no one now dared touch. It stood up on its hind legs to roar, chasing off the scared and confused tribesmen before returning to Osag’s side to lay down and press a nose into his cheek. Osag knew there was no way he was going to live, and so he used the last of his strength to turn his head and smile at his friend.
When his remaining life finally drained from him, Osag’s strength failed and his forehead rested upon the bear’s nose as his body slumped. For days the bear lay beside Osag, not even bothering to get up and eat. Without his friend, his savior, his heart was broken. The spirits of the forest, those that whisper between the trees, were moved by the brotherhood of bear and man, and they took pity upon Osag who had sacrificed himself to save a creature of the wild. Using their great magic, they pulled the essence of the hero back to the woodland and gave him new form. Osag was to become a bear, a guardian spirit of the creature he had given his life to defend. Joy would return to the earth, and that year Spring came early.
To this day, you can find Osag keeping watch over all of Voraniss by his den near the forest where he fell. He’s more bear than man now that the memories of his former life have faded over time, but they say he’s still always watching out for orphans and lost souls. If you watch long enough, they sometimes even say you can see him playing with the other bears like he’s always been one of them.