Rise and Fall

Part One:  The Arrival

"And there is no trade or employment but the young man following it may become a hero..."-- Walt Whitman

            As he looked into the mirror, he couldn't help but wonder--what was he looking at exactly?  He had heard different things about mirrors:  they stared right into one's soul; they showed the truth about people.  But, all Phoenix Audubon saw in the mirror was, well, Phoenix Audubon.  He didn't feel like anything was looking inside him, and the mirror showed him what he already knew.  It showed the same white bear wearing the same brown vest and shorts, brown gloves, and blue and red cloak he'd always had, in the gray cave he'd always lived in.  "Maybe that's just it," Phoenix said to himself.  "Maybe the mirror is only showing what it knows about me--nothing but what I already know.  And, maybe...it's telling me I need to learn more, so that when I look into it next time, I'll see someone more than who is there now."

            You see, for all 20 years of his life, Phoenix Audubon was taken care of by a phoenix, a mythical, magical bird, colored red as fire.  It gathered food for him, and taught him about the rest of the world.  However, the phoenix was 500 years old, and was nearing its end.  It was time for Phoenix to venture into the world for himself, and take care on his own.

            "You mean, you're gonna' die?"  Phoenix asked his protector.  It was the only companion he knew--as a friend, and as a parental figure.  "I'm afraid so, my young cub," the great bird replied.  "But, there is one last thing I can do for you.  Normally, when a phoenix dies, all that is left is ashes, from which it will be reborn soon after.  But, it hurts me to even think about you dying one day.  So, I will use the last of my power to give you a spirit.  It will give you the power to use magic, and will also protect you while you are developing yourself and your new abilities.  Don't depend on it; I would hope that you will be able to defend yourself one day, and, perhaps, maybe someone else.  I would like to leave you, knowing that even when you suffer a terrible fall, you will rise once again, as I have done in the past."

            "But..."

            "Dear cub, I have lived many centuries, and I have grown tired.  Taking care of you was the greatest joy I ever experienced, and I feel that I can move on now.  But, don't worry, Phoenix Audubon.  My spirit will still keep you safe, as you will soon find out."

            "There is one more thing I must tell you--I have told you that you were part of a family.  Use this gift I give you to find that family, so you need not be alone."

            "Okay..." was all that the still somewhat shocked Phoenix managed to stammer.  

            And, with that, the phoenix began to glow brightly, and then burst into flames.  Then, the fire raced toward the white bear, surrounding him.  Phoenix watched the world around him fade in a white light, and he felt a warm, soothing sensation in his body.  He opened his eyes, and looked in the mirror.  This time, he saw himself, surrounded by the fiery image of a bird. 

            "My spirit will still keep you safe..." The echo in his head soon faded.

            "So, now I can use magic.  I suppose I should try this out, before I blow myself up with it."  Phoenix contemplated his first move.  Well, I've always seen the phoenix fly.  I want to do that, too, he thought.  So, he stepped outside of the cave, and looked westward.  Okay, now how do I fire this up?  Maybe if I just focus real hard...He closed his eyes.  And, in a matter of seconds, Phoenix began to feel the same warm sensation as before.  When he opened his eyes again, he was floating, and surrounded by the fiery bird again.  "This is cool," he said aloud, but can I turn off the pyrotechnics He focused his thoughts again, and the fire was extinguished.  "All right!" he shouted, and began zooming around the sky around the cave.  Just feeling the wind in his face, and seeing the world below him, it made Phoenix feel wonderful.  "Thank you, phoenix," he said softly.

            Though he wanted to explore his newfound abilities further, the bear thought it was time for him to fulfill his guardian's last request, and find the family he belonged to.

            "But, how am I going to find my family?" the bear thought.  "I don't even know what to look for."  It seemed that just because Phoenix could use magic, that didn't mean he could master it in a matter of minutes.  He decided to retreat back into the cave he called home.  He started to pace around, hoping an idea would come to him.  He looked around the place, but he didn't see anything that would help him.  There was just the mirror on the wall, and the somewhat small, clear pond of water, all this surrounded by the light gray of the walls, ceiling, and floor. 

            He picked up a rock, and suddenly got an idea.  Phoenix had always tried to throw rocks at the pond, and try to make them skip, but they always ended up just hitting the bottom of the pond.  "I may not know everything about my new powers, but I know I can make this rock skip!"  He picked up another rock, put it in his hands, held it to his forehead, and started to focus on it for a few seconds.  When he opened his hands, the rock seemed as if it was glowing.  Phoenix took aim across the pond.  He saw a pile of rocks on the other side, and got into position.  He said with enthusiasm, "All right, here goes!"  And, with a swing of his arm, and the flick of a wrist, the rock hurled toward the water.  But, instead of sinking like the others, it bounced across the surface.  "Yes!  Yes!  5 skips...6...7...8...9..." 

            But, after that 9th jump, the rock was across the pond, and landed on the rocks.  As soon as it touched the pile, there was a bright flash and a loud pop that caught the bear off-guard, causing him to stumble back a couple of steps.  "Ten?" he said.  Suddenly, he noticed his rock went back to normal, but now the whole pile was glowing.  Phoenix slowly walked towards the other end of the water, not sure what was making that light.  When he got there, he noticed the glowing was coming from something underneath the pile.  Phoenix began digging towards the light, until he uncovered a large tome.  It was a faded red, with gold trimmings.  Once Phoenix touched the book, the glowing suddenly stopped.  The bear opened it, and found a message on the first page, written as if the words had been singed onto the paper instead of written with ink.  This is what is said:

Dear Phoenix,

By the time you have found this book, I will no longer be with you.  That is why I leave this tome for you. 

By now, you may have realized that magic is not something to underestimate, and that it takes great care to use wisely. 

This book not only contains spells that you may need during your life, but also guidance on how and when to use them.

Be careful, as there are some spells in here that come at a great price to cast.  But, I know I can trust you with this.

As you use it, perhaps you will think of me, and use it to defend someone, as I defended you. 

Be cautious, my cub, but be strong.

Your Loving Protector,

The Phoenix

            For a moment, Phoenix stood there silently, clutching the large book closely to his chest.  "Even after it left, it is still making sure I am safe....", he thought, reminded of how grateful he was for his protector.  "Well, the phoenix wanted me to have this, so I'm gonna' put it to good use."  As he began to flip through the pages, he said aloud, "Gee, all these spells don't seem to be in any order...How am I going to find one to help me find my family?"  No sooner did Phoenix speak those words did the book glow briefly, and then the pages started to turn by themselves.  Then, it suddenly stopped.  After he closed his mouth, the bear read the name of the spell:  "Reaching Out.  This technique is used to locate members of a group or family in case they become lost."  "Well, I guess that answered my question," Phoenix mused.  "Let's see here....'To reach out, the caster must have a picture of a member of the group or family.  Though the spell can work using the caster's own image, it will not be as effective as if using someone else's image.  First, the caster clears the mind, and then focuses on the image.  The caster's mind will then search out any entities that possess a connection to the caster, and identify their position to the caster.'  Well, I guess that sounds simple enough.  Okay, since I don't have a picture of anyone else in my family, I'll just use...hey, wait a minute.  I don't even have a picture of myself!"  Phoenix begins to look around the cave, and then, he notices his reflection in the mirror.  If I'm really part of a family, I'll look like them, right? Well, my reflection is a kind of image...I guess I can give it a shot, he thought.

            So, Phoenix focused on the reflection of himself, which also looked like it was preparing for a spell.  Then, he closed his eyes, and cleared his mind.  After a moment, he felt his mind wander.  It felt like he was flying, without moving at all.  He was enjoying the peacefulness, until he suddenly shaken up, as if an explosion went off in his head.  After Phoenix took a second or two to get his senses his back, he had realized what the sensation that he felt was--the spell had found something, or someone.  Phoenix wasn't sure exactly, or precisely where it came from, but he had a general idea of where to start looking.  He decided to hide the book back under the rocks for safekeeping.  And, with one last look in the mirror, he said, "Time to find my tomorrow," walked out of the cave, flew up into the air, and set off towards what he had "reached out" to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            "Remind me again why I'm coming along, Tenderheart?"

            "I already told you, Grumpy.  Friend Bear went with Secret Bear on another caring mission.  Come on, this is a serious mission.  Two of No-Heart's shadows are scaring a little girl.  We have to get there and stop them!"

            "Poor Marigold," Cheer Bear said, sitting in the back of the cloud car.

            "Don't worry, sports fans," Champ Bear boasted next to Cheer, "We'll show 'em that when it comes to caring, we mean business!"

            Tenderheart Bear began to slow the car, and directed it towards the earth.  "All right, everyone, we're coming up on Marigold's house.  Be careful, everyone!"  When they landed, the four Care Bears arrived to find a little blonde girl being pursued by two black, shadowy figures.  She had picked up a stick, and started swinging at the shadows, shouting, "Get away!  Stay back!"  Though the stick passed right through them, one of the shadows swiped its hand at the stick, snapping it in half.  The little girl let out a scream, and continued to backpedal away from the ghostly monsters slowly, but surely, chasing her.  Unfortunately, she had backed herself into a brick wall.  There wasn't anywhere else she could escape to.  "Aaaah!  Somebody, please help me," she pleaded.

            As the Care Bears ran to the little girl's aid, Grumpy Bear said, "Oh, no!  We have to do something, and fast!"

            "Okay, Grumpy, you and I will take the shadow on the left," Tenderheart quickly ordered, "Cheer and Champ, work on the right one!  Everyone ready?"

            "Ready!" they all replied.

            "Care Bears, stare!"

            The expressions on the shadows' faces changed from evil grins to open mouths of shock as the bears' beams struck them in the back.  But, instead of running off, as the four bears expected, they instead turned their focus on the source of their distraction.

            "Uh-oh, it didn't work!" Champ Bear noticed.

            "What now, Tenderheart?" Cheer Bear asked Tenderheart Bear, a bit frantic over their failed attempt to chase away the shadows, who were now headed their way.

            "Okay, Care Bears, this time, we'll all stare at one shadow.  Aim for the shadow on the left.  Ready?"  The other three bears nodded.  "Care Bear countdown!  Three!  Two!  One!  Care Bears!  Stare!"

            This time, all of the bears' tummy symbols hit one shadow.  It began to writhe around in pain from the energy of the Care Bears' emotions, until it finally decided it had had enough, and began to fly away into the sky.  A little exhausted by how much energy it took to vanquish the first enemy, they soon realized the remaining shadow was still coming towards them.

            "There's not enough time for another stare!" Grumpy warned.

            "Quick!  Jump out of the way!"  Champ said, and they all dove in different directions.  The shadow raced in, and took a swing with his claws, missing Tenderheart only by a few inches.  Realizing they now had an opportunity to counter, the Care Bears formed a line again, and stared one more time.  After struggling to make some headway against the attack, the shadow had run away at last.  The bears quickly sat down, exhausted by all the effort they put to rescue the little girl, who was also sitting on the ground, still shaken up by this whole incident.

            Champ Bear rejoiced, "All right!  Our team won!"

            "Yeah," Grumpy Bear spoke, between pants, "but...they put up...quite a fight."

            Cheer Bear rushed to the girl's side, "Are you all right, Marigold?"

            "Uh-huh," she hesitantly replied.  "Are they gone now?"  "You bet," Cheer reassured her, "and, even if they do try to come back, so will we!"

            "Thank you so much, Care Bears!  Please come back soon, even if it's not to save me!"

            "Sure, sports fan," said Champ.

            Tenderheart pondered this encounter for a moment.  "I don't understand it--a stare from two Care Bears was usually enough to chase a shadow away.  But, this time, it took all four of us staring for a long time to turn only one of them back.  I've got a bad feeling about this."

            "What do you think it means?" Grumpy Bear asked.

            "I don't know. But, I do think that we need a meeting at the Hall of Hearts to let the other Care Bears know.  We better leave now."  The other bears nodded.  Grumpy used his tummy symbol to create a cloud car, and they all got in.  Tenderheart waved, and said, "Good-bye, Marigold!  Be careful!"

            "Okay!  Bye-bye," the girl shouted, and waved back as she saw the fluffy-looking vehicle rise into the air, back to Care-a-Lot.

            Only a couple of minutes later, and Marigold started giggling and having fun in her yard again.  But, someone else was still quiet over what just happened.  Phoenix Audubon, following the signal from the spell he cast, noticed the battle going on the ground, and while everyone else was caught up in the struggle, he quickly dove into a bush in the yard.  As he situated himself to get a better look, the sensation he felt when he cast the spell came back to him, only this time it felt stronger.  The white bear noticed a lot of things as he was watching the drama unfold.  First of all, he noticed the four beings that looked kind of like him, only with different colors.  "They must be the 'members of the family' that the 'Reaching Out' spell found," he surmised.  Phoenix had also noticed a feeling from the two shadowy figures that chased the little girl around.  It was a cold feeling, something that made him shiver a little, and caused his fur to stand up a bit.  "Ooooh!  I don't like the feeling I got from those things!  It felt bad.  It felt...evil."  Phoenix had his eyes on the ground, pondering all he had witnessed.  "Those other bears...the way they defeated those shadows, it was almost like magic, but, not like mine.  What does it mean?"

            "Whatcha' doin' over there?"

            "D'aaaaaah!"  Phoenix was startled by the sudden break in his train of thought, and when he noticed the little girl with blonde hair standing in front of him, he tried to scurry way.  Unfortunately, he was in a corner with nowhere to run to, and being so surprised, he didn't think about flying away.  The girl pressed another question.  "Are you a Care Bear?  You look different from the other ones."  Phoenix shook his head briefly and regained his composure.

            "A...'Care Bear'?"

            "What's your name?"

            "My name...is Phoenix Audubon."

            "My name is Marigold.  Wow, that's a big name.  And, your clothes...none of the other Care Bears have clothes like that."

            "Care Bears...you mean, those bears that rescued you?"

            "Uh-huh.  Aren't you a Care Bear?"

            Phoenix was uncomfortable with all these questions at first, but he quickly began to enjoy Marigold's company.  She was just a little girl, with long, blonde hair, green eyes, and wore pink overalls.

            "Um...No. Well, I don't know.  You see, I'm...kind of an orphan, and now, I'm out to find my family.  I was following a clue to them, and that led me here...Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't want to bore you with my story."

            "It's okay, but it's so sad, being all alone."

            "Well, I wasn't always alone.  I was raised by a phoenix.  It's a magical bird that took care of me.  But, it passed away.  Right before it did, it gave me the power to use magic, and stuff, and told me that I was part of a family, and that I should go find it."

            "So, you are a Care Bear?" the girl said with excitement.

            "There's only one way to find out.  Can you tell me where I can find them?"

            "Um....", Marigold thought for a moment, then raised a finger above her head.  "There.  Somewhere."

            "Hmmm."  Now, it was Phoenix's turn to think.  "Well, it's a start.  But, I think I have a way to track them down."  He raised his hands in front of his face, his left hand in front of his right, and then put the index and middle fingers on each hand straight up, curled the other fingers, closed his eyes, and began to concentrate.  He tried 'reaching out' again, but, this time, he used the image of the other bears in his head to focus on.  Seconds later, he felt a sensation, but, this time, it almost seemed that Phoenix could "see" where the other bears were, even with his eyes closed.  He opened his eyes, turned around, and turned his gaze to the east.  "Over there!  I can feel it!", he declared.

            "Wow, is that magic?  That's neat!", said Marigold, giggling.

            "I guess, I mean, it does come in handy.  Marigold, I think it's time for me to go, to find out if I am a Care Bear," Phoenix said, a little sad to leave this new friend.

            "Okay.  Will you come back again, and tell me what happens?  And, show me more magic?"

            Phoenix chuckled a bit.  "My, you sure have a lot of questions.  But, yes, I promise I'll come visit again.  Take care, Marigold."  And, with that, the white bear began to rise from the yard, his cloak flowing in the wind as he began to fly off."

            "Bye, Phoenix!  Good luck!", Marigold shouted as she waved him off.

            Phoenix's head soon began to overflow with thoughts.  "Wow, I can't believe it.  I'm going to find my family.  But, what if they're not?  Wait, they have to be, if we look so alike!  What if they don't like me?  Hold on, they're called, "Care Bears," so they can't be mean...I hope..." He was subconsciously slowing down as apprehension set in.  "Maybe I should head back to...no, the phoenix told me to find my family, and that's what I'm gonna' do!", he assured himself.  "But," he compromised, "maybe I shouldn't just show myself.  I know!  I bet I can make myself invisible!"  He stopped moving for a moment, looked at his hands, and stared at them as if he could see through them.  Within a minute, he was able to see through them, as his entire body faded and became transparent, until Phoenix was almost invisible, leaving only a very faint outline, barely recognizable amidst the sky.  "Wow," he wondered, "how did I know I could do that?  Is it just because I can use magic?  I guess some of it just comes naturally.  But, I'm still coming back for the book when all this is over."  With more determination, Phoenix continued his flight towards his family.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            "Oh, it'll be good to get back to Care-a-Lot," Cheer Bear sighed, "I am just ready to throw myself on my bed after that last mission!"

            "I don't know if we'll have time for a break, Cheer," said Tenderheart.  "Remember, we need to report our encounter with the rest of the Care Bears.  This is something serious here."  He still seemed to be pondering as he steered the car towards home.

            "No rest for the weary," Grumpy Bear muttered under his breath.

            Soon, another cloud car came towards them from far ahead in front.  As it came closer, they saw it was Wish Bear driving, with Cozy Heart Penguin in the passenger seat.  "Hi, everyone!", Wish Bear greeted them.  "Cozy Heart and I were actually on our way to see if you needed any help with the caring mission.  But, I see you handled it just fine."

            "I wouldn't say 'just fine', Wish Bear," said Champ with a slightly warning tone in his voice.

            "What do you mean, Champ?", asked Cozy Heart.

            "We'll explain everything when we get to Care-a-Lot," Tenderheart assured her.  "Let's all get going."  With that, they all headed home.  The wind blowing in all their faces, it seemed like any other drive to Care-a-Lot, until suddenly, the cloud cars stopped abruptly, as if they had collided with something, then the Care Bears felt the cars thrown back, but they appeared to be stuck.  After everyone recovered from the impact, they looked around, trying to figure out what had just happened.  At first, it looked like they were simply hanging in the sky, until Grumpy noticed sunlight reflecting off of something.  As he followed where the light led to, he reached outside of the cloud car, and felt something very sticky on the side.  "Hey, guys!", he exclaimed, "I think we've hit some kind of...web, or something!"

            "How very observant of you, Care Bear."

            Those words struck fear in everyone there, and as their eyes widened, it was Cozy Heart who now made a discovery.  "It's...It's No Heart!"  She was pointing above them, and they all swirled to find a small spider scurrying towards them.  However, the web they were caught on began to glow purple, with the spider beginning to glow as well, and it started to grow in size, until it towered over them.  With two large, red eyes, and a pair of large fangs in its mouth, it grinned fiendishly, as it said, "Welcome to my parlor."

            "Aaaaaaahhh!"  The Care Bears heard a scream, and they quickly found its origin.  Wish Bear was caught in the web, apparently thrown from her car in the impact, and struggled to free herself from the web, with one of the gigantic spider's purple, hairy legs overshadowing her.  Tenderheart Bear and Cozy Heart Penguin pushed the accelerators on their cars all the way down, causing the wheels to spin.  Eventually, they managed to free themselves from the threads.  "What?  You don't like my accommodations?", No Heart asked sarcastically, then looked at Wish Bear still caught in the mess.  "Well, then, I shall have to offer this one the 'deluxe' treatment."  He began to spit out more of the sticky thread, covering the poor Care Bear and immobilizing her.  The others dove in to try to help, but the evil arachnid hurled web strings at them, and they had to turn back, as they watched helplessly while No Heart reposition himself over Wish Bear.  He shouted out, "The destruction of the Care Bear Family shall begin with this one!"  "NOOOOOOOO!", she yelled out, as the spider stared back at her, seemingly ready to swallow her.  She closed her eyes, and tried to turn her head from the impending doom from above.

            Suddenly, from out of the west, appeared a fiery streak, heading straight towards the web.  As it came out, a couple of the bears were able to notice blue and red within the fire.  The giant arachnid began to bring its fangs towards his prey, but quickly stopped as he saw this fire stop on his web, right next to Wish Bear.

            Wish was still expecting the worst, when she noticed warmth to her side.  She opened her eyes, and was shocked to find someone standing over her.  He looked somewhat like a white care bear, only he had no tummy symbol, his nose was triangle-shaped, instead of heart-shaped, he was wearing a light brown outfit with a blue cloak, and he was engulfed in flames.  The bear raised a gloved hand, and then quickly passed it around her, breaking the sticky threads of the web with seemingly little effort.  As No Heart realized what was happening, he tried to strike both of them with his jaws, but the newcomer had already scooped Wish Bear into his arms, and quickly jumped to avoid the attack.

            "My stars, what is happening to me?"  Wish Bear wasn't sure how many more surprises she could take.  She had shut her eyes again, and when she opened them again, she noticed the cloaked stranger was carrying her, and that both of them were floating in the air.  She also noticed that her arms were around the bear, and she quickly let go.  "Oh, my, I'm..." Wish started to apologize, but stopped when she realized he was looking at her with an emotionless stare.  Suddenly, she felt them moving as the mysterious bear moved towards the cloud car with Cozy Heart Penguin (who was rather confused by all this, as well).  He landed on the hood of the car, set Wish Bear down, and she climbed into the passenger seat.  At this point, she had composed herself enough to inquire, "Who...who are you?"  The other bear said nothing, and maintained the stoic look on his face.

            "WHAT!?!  What is this?"  No Heart was furious over the fact that a stranger had foiled his ambush.  "How dare you meddle in my affairs?  Who are you!?!"  The bear remained silent, only moving his gaze towards the gigantic spider, whose face was now twisted with anger.  "Fine.  If you won't tell me, I'll make sure you won't tell anyone!"  With that, purple lightning bolts raced across the arachnid's body, and, with a flash and a loud thunderclap, it transformed into his true form, that of a robed man, standing on a dark cloud.  Then, he pointed a finger at the white bear, and a huge purple lightning bolt shot forward.  The Care Bears gasped from their cars, fearing the worst, but the stranger quickly jumped away from the projectile as it passed by him.  Then, with a look of determination, his hands began to glow, and making quick sweeps with his arms, retaliated with some small balls of fire.  Some of them managed to strike the evil magician, knocking him backwards onto his cloud.  As he struggled to get back on his feet, No Heart decided it was better to retreat...for now.  "I don't know who you are, or how you can use magic, but mark my words, you will pay for this!  As for you, Care Bears, it is only a matter of time before I defeat each and every one of you, as well!  Ha ha ha ha ha!"  With that, he raised his arms, then quickly dropped, causing more lightning and thunder.  He had transformed into a tornado, and headed off, back to his castle.

            Tenderheart Bear was the first to speak.  "Um, thank you for saving us.  But, we still don't know who you are."  The white bear turned around, with that same blank stare.  Floating there for a few seconds, he took a step back, crossed his arms over his chest, and threw himself backwards.  The Care Bears all were shocked to see him fall, but then, they saw the image of a fiery bird engulf the mysterious one, and, as he threw out his arms to each side, he began to fly off into the distance.

            "Okay, does anyone have any idea what just happened right now," Grumpy inquired.

            Champ asked, "Hey, Cozy Heart!  Are you two okay over there?"

            "I'm fine," the penguin replied.  Wish Bear could only manage to utter, "Uh-huh."

            "Well, I'd say we have more to report about back at Care-a-Lot.  Come on, everyone.  Let's get moving," suggested Tenderheart.  And, with that, they continued on home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            "Ewwwwwww!  A spider!  Ewwwww!  Why did it have to be a gigantic spider!?!  Ugh!  And, I touched its' web, too!  Oh, that was so gross!"  As he scrubbed himself frantically in the pool in his cave, Phoenix Audubon reflected on the day's events.  "Oh, well, I guess it was worth it.  After all, it looks like I've found my family," he thought out loud.  "I mean, they look very similar to me.  And, when I rescued that one girl, and I had her in my arms, I felt a kind of warmth.  I mean, I know I was surrounded by fire, and all, but, this was different.  I felt this deep inside, in my heart."  The bear knew what he had to do.  "I've going to find them again, and I'm going to introduce myself to them.  After that, I can only hope they'll accept.  We don't even know each other, but I get the feeling that we share a common goal."

            "Now that I think about it, it was kind of strange back there.  I didn't know I was such a fighter when it came to magic.  But, when I saw those bears in danger, I just felt compelled to help them.  That whole fireball trick--it's like it came out of nowhere.  Wow, this 'gift' really is a learn-as-you-go thing.  I wonder what else I can do with this."  He looked to the pile of rocks that still hid the book underneath.  "I just hope nothing bad comes out of it...Wait a second!  The phoenix wouldn't have trusted me with magic if it knew I couldn't handle it," he assured himself.  "Yeah!  No problems!"

            "As for that...spider..." Phoenix said with a shiver, "whoever that was, he was bad!  The evil I sensed in him was far worse than those shadows I saw before.  He seemed very determined to kill those other bears.  I wonder why?  Well, it didn't seem like that was the last time they'd see each other, so I'm sure get a chance to find out."  After rinsing several times to make certain any trace of the spider was removed from his skin, he dried himself off, put on his outfit, and gave himself a once-over in the mirror.  "Okay, everything looks good.  Time to make an entrance."  With that, Phoenix Audubon walked outside, and took off in the sky once more, to meet with his destiny, with his family.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            "...And then, we finally made it back here, to Care-a-Lot," Tenderheart Bear said, finishing up his briefing to the rest of the Care Bear Family gathered at the Hall of Hearts.  Some of the people seemed lost in thought at today's news; some were worriedly speaking to their neighbors.  True Heart Bear struck a gavel at her podium to restore order.  "All right everyone, please settle down.  This is rather unsettling news you have, Tenderheart.  First, shadows have become stronger than before, then an ambush by No Heart not far from here, and this mysterious stranger, who might be a Care Bear..."

            "I hate to agree, True Heart, but I think all of this information points to dangerous times ahead," said Noble Heart Horse.  "I've got a bad feeling about this."

            "That's what Tenderheart said," Grumpy Bear commented.  "What can we do?"

            As True Heart and Noble Heart looked at each other a bit nervously, someone spoke up.  "May I say something?"  Everyone turned around to the source.

            "Go ahead, Wish Bear," said True Heart.

            "The stranger...the white bear...I don't think he was bad at all," she meekly argued, making little eye contact with everyone else.  "He saved me...he saved all of us.  Don't you think he could be a Care Bear?  Shouldn't we search for him, and find out?"

            "I think that's a great idea, Wish Bear," Bright Heart Raccoon chimed in.

            "I don't know," Noble Heart warned, "Perfect and Polite Panda were the only two missing Care Bears True Heart and I were aware of.  Besides, if what Tenderheart said is true, and he can use magic, he may not be a Care Bear after all."

            Cheer Bear spoke up.  "I think we should at least ask him who he is, and where he came from.  I mean, even if he turns out to not be a Care Bear, we could at least ask for his help."

            "Cheer's right," Brave Heart Lion declared as he stood up.  "If No Heart is launching a stronger offense, we could use all the help we can get.  I say we search out this mysterious bear and find out for ourselves!"

            "All right, then," True Heart conceded.  "Let's go out and find this bear."

            "Hold on," Tenderheart interrupted, "but it seemed to me that the bear was actually headed towards Care-a-Lot when we were ambushed.  I say some of us should wait here, and in the Forest of Feelings, just in case he does show up here."

            "Well, it's settled then!  Let's get going!"  Grumpy Bear shouted impatiently.  With that, the Care Bear Family made their way out of the Hall of Hearts.  Most of the Care Bears, including True Heart and Noble Heart, hopped into cloud cars and rainbow rollers.  They decided to look around where No Heart had attacked Tenderheart's team earlier, and near Marigold's house (The little girl whom they had helped earlier).  Tenderheart, Grumpy, Share Bear, Good Luck Bear, and Loyal Heart Dog stayed in Care-a-Lot, while Brave Heart, Bright Heart, Playful Heart Monkey, Swift Heart Rabbit, and Wish Bear looked around in the Forest of Feelings for any sign of the white bear.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            "I think...I think I sense I'm getting closer."  Phoenix Audubon continued to fly in the direction that his magic sent him--the direction he hoped would lead to the family the phoenix said he was a part of.  Once again, he was flying invisible because he still wasn't sure how he was going to introduce himself.  Should he just walk in and immediately draw attention to himself?  Or, should he be more subtle, and make contact with one person, just to be sure they would take him in.  After all, I don't know how they reacted when they first saw me, he thought.  From what I saw, they seemed quite surprised.  Well, I'll never know until I get there.

            Finally, Phoenix found what he had been searching for--a city.  A city in the clouds, made of clouds.  Since he saw the other bears and the penguin driving cars made of clouds, he deduced that this was their home.  As he came closer, he could see stars, rainbows, and a river flowing through it all.  Once Phoenix neared the edge of the land, he slowed down, and landed softly, so as not to draw attention to himself, even if he was still invisible.  It was a cloud he landed on, but he noticed it was firm, like the ground on the earth.  As he looked around, he could see flowers growing all around.  He began to walk around, and he saw all the houses, made of clouds and just as solid as the "ground".  He noticed a large, heart-shaped building, and then, and even bigger castle.  Phoenix admired the multi-colored trees, birds flying around, and little stars in sky, in broad daylight.  "Wow," he said aloud, to which he quickly slapped his hands over his mouth, and looked around to see if was detected.  It appeared he hadn't.  However, the bear also realized something.  "Gosh, despite all these buildings, I haven't come across anybody.  Not even the ones I saw earlier.  Could something have happened?"  Just then, he heard the sound of voices nearby, and they seemed to be coming closer.  Phoenix ran and stood against the wall of one of the houses.  No one could see him, but he figured he could be extra cautious anyway.  Seconds later, two figures walked by, talking to each other.  Phoenix recognized one of them, a dark blue bear with the picture of a cloud on his chest.  The one to his right was a light blue dog with a heart-shaped medal on his chest.  He listened in on their conversation.

            "Aw, I wanted to go out and search with the rest of them..." the blue bear lets out a sigh, "...but, once again, I have to stay behind in Care-a-Lot.  With all this talk of No Heart being stronger, and strangers popping out, I'm not happy being here alone."

            "Gee, I wouldn't think protecting Care-a-Lot would be a problem for 'Super Grumpy'," the blue dog said, letting out a chuckle.  "Besides, you're not alone.  We've got friends in the Forest of Feelings, plus Tenderheart, Good Luck, and yours truly."

            "Humph!  Comforting words, Loyal Heart," the other bear said, rolling his eyes to match the dissatisfaction in the tone of his voice.

            Then, Loyal Heart stopped almost abruptly, and held out his left arm in front of Grumpy to warn him.  "Hold on a minute!  I don't think we're alone."  He started to turn around and see if he could locate whoever was nearby.  When Phoenix heard this, he held his breath, shut his eyes, and pressed even closer to the side of the house.  Please don't find me, please don't find me, he hoped in his mind.  After a minute or two without a discovery, Grumpy and Loyal Heart decided to give up.

            "Maybe you just imagined it, Loyal Heart?"

            "Maybe," the dog lightly sighed in reluctant agreement.  "Still, I'm sure I sensed something.  Well, we should keep patrolling around, and maybe see if Tenderheart, Share, and Good Luck have found anything yet."

            "A little excitement would have been nice," Grumpy said.  They both began to walk off.  About a minute later, Phoenix opened his eyes, and let out a breath of relief.  That could've turned out interesting, he thought to himself.  I recognized the bear from before, so I know I'm in the right place, but...that dog...he really sensed my presence? They must have more magical talent than I thought.

            He almost wanted to reveal himself to those two, but he became too nervous to become visible.  Maybe, maybe I'll just...explore this land some more!  Yeah, that's it!  I...better make sure they haven't set any traps, or something...Phoenix remembered seeing a river when he first came here, so he started walking around for it.  Once he found it, he traveled alongside it.  After some time, he came upon a rather dark cave.  From outside, he managed to make out several rocks jutting from the ceiling and from the river, but no walkway.  He simply decided to use a little bit of magic to hover above the water.  Phoenix then made fists with his hands, brought them to his forehead, and they quickly began to glow a strong, white light.  He navigated around the rocks until he reached the end of the tunnel, where he quickly came to a waterfall.  He looked below, and he saw a forest down there, with huge trees with different colored foliage, and fruits and flowers, some of which shaped like hearts or stars.  Suddenly, the white bear felt a bit daring.  He stepped backward a little distance, and then sprinted towards the edge of the falls.  With one giant leap, he spread his arms out, and dove for the center of the lake below.  The rush of the wind as he fell towards the bottom continued the exhilaration as he hit the water.

            "Huh?"  Brave Heart Lion was startled by the sound of a splash, coming from the waterfall behind him.  He stepped closer to the lake, trying to see what made that noise.  Though the water was clear, he couldn't find anything.  "Maybe it was just a big rush of water.  Oh, well, I mustn't get distracted," he said to himself.  As the leader of the Care Bear Cousins, he felt he had to remain vigilant in case he saw anyone, be it No Heart, or the white bear the others spoke of.  What he didn't realize was that the white bear was closer than he knew.  Phoenix silently let the current of the river move him along; still as transparent as the water he traveled with.  He looked around at all the flora, listening to the chirping of birds, and he began to relax.  He was enjoying all the sights of this forest, until something caught his eye--or, more accurately, someone.  To his left, he noticed someone standing by the river's shore, watching the water flow downstream.  He recognized this "someone" as the young lady he had rescued from the spider/sorcerer earlier.  While she was studying the current, unknowingly, she was being studied herself.  Phoenix kicked his feet underneath the water so that he could slow his pace and glance at her further.  There was something about this bear, something he had experienced the first they had "met".  Something about her teal fur, and her soft, black eyes gave the newcomer a tingle inside, a sensation that none of his magic has produced.

            "Wow," he let out softly, out of reflex.

            "Oh, my gosh!"  Wish Bear let out when she heard a voice from seemingly out of nowhere.  She quickly leapt backwards from the river a couple of steps, and looked wildly for the source.  Phoenix Audubon, realizing he'd blown his cover, began to panic.  Unable to concentrate sufficiently anymore, he noticed his hands had begun to fade into visibility.  He paddled hurriedly for the opposite shore.  When Wish heard the splashing, she could almost discern a figure leaving the water.  "Wait!  Come back," she yelled at the figure, and she dove into the river to pursue it.  Phoenix, now completely visible again, scampered through bushes and leaped over tree roots in an effort lose his follower.  He didn't have a reason to flee, and he didn't know where he was running to—he was still startled.  Though she was losing ground to the person ahead of her, Wish Bear kept chase, using the rattled leaves and wet footprints to guide her.  She soon came upon a cave inside a small mountain.  The mouth of the cave was not very wide, and the top of it did not rise very far above her head, but the darkness within revealed very little as to the contents from where she was standing.  Not knowing what to expect in there, Wish used her tummy symbol to create an alert signal to warn the others in the Forest of Feelings of her whereabouts.  She used her symbol again to create a shining star so that she could see inside the cavern.  With that, she stepped inside.

            For all its gloominess, the cave did not go deep into the mountain.  Sure enough, Wish Bear soon found someone standing a few yards in front of her.  He stood very still, facing a dead end as if to accept the fact that the hunt was over.  With his back to Wish and the light from her star, she could make out a blue cloak with a red trim.

            "It…it's you, isn't it?"

            The words echoed from teal bear's mouth, and they bounced off the walls for a couple of seconds.  However, that seemed to be the only movement in the cave, as the visitor remained reticent and unmoving.  Finally, he slightly lowered his ahead, looked over his right shoulder a bit, and then turned around to face his captor.  Wish's eyes widened slightly as she scanned the white bear proper.  Besides his cloak, he wore a tan vest with 4 pockets and matching shorts, and a pair of brown gloves that extended past his wrists ending with tan cuffs.

            "It is you!  You're from before," Wish anxiously declared.  "Who…who are you?"

            Though the stranger had shown signs of life and responsiveness, it made him appear no less diffident, as he merely stared back at her with a blank face, and continued to give the other bear the silent treatment.  Wish Bear decided he might be wary of the given situation, so she tried to assure him of her good intentions.

            "Please, I don't want to hurt you.  And, I'm sorry I chased you like that.  It's just that, well, there have been a lot of things that have happened, and we're all kind of on edge.  But, you were the one who saved me earlier, and I don't even know your name, and you ran away before I could say, 'Thank you,' and I, I…" She turned her head down and to her left, a little embarrassed from her sudden outpouring.

            "You're welcome."

            "Huh?" said Wish Bear, lifting her head back up and looked again at the white bear, whose hands were now resting on his hips and his face seemed friendlier as he smiled slightly and his eyes reflected a bit of a sparkle. (Which could have merely been the result of the light from the shining star, but who could tell at this point?)

            "I guess I should say that I am sorry also, for running away…both times," he said.  "I was, I don't know, anxious.  To be honest, a lot has happened to me, as well, so I think I can understand what you're going through."

            "Well, I think it's about time we got out of this cave," Wish Bear suggested.  "We'll have plenty of time to hear each other's stories.  And, I want you to meet the rest of my family."  She reached out her hand to him.

            "Family…" he repeated.  He remembered why he had come here in the first place.  It looked like the journey of Phoenix Audubon was finally going to be over.

            As they reached the opening of the cave, Wish asked the newcomer to stay behind a moment, so she could introduce him.  "Nothing fancy," she assured him, "It's so my friends can prepare themselves for the shock." He agreed, and Wish stepped outside.  No longer needing the star in her hand, it disappeared into a cloud of sparkling light that rose into the sky.  Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, Playful Heart Monkey, and Swift Heart Rabbit were all waiting nearby after receiving the bear's signal.  "What is it, Wish Bear?  Did you find that other bear?"  Brave Heart Lion inquired.  She nodded.

            "Yes."

            "Really?  Where is he?"  Swift Heart bounced a bit as she asked, almost instantly appearing to be impatient.

            "He's right over here," Wish motioned with her head.  She called out to the cave, "You can come out now."

            Slowly, the figure emerged from the darkness, blinking a bit from the sudden sunlight, and putting his right hand on the corner of his head to shield his face.  As his eyes regained focus, he noticed the others looking at him.  Aside from the bear, he saw a lion, a raccoon, a rabbit, and a monkey all standing in front of him.  Though they all seemed friendly, Phoenix was starting to get nervous again.

            "Um…hi," was all he could manage out of his mouth.

            "So, what's your name?" asked Bright Heart.

            "Oh.  I guess I never got the answer to that back in the cave," Wish Bear realized.  She stepped forward a bit, and requested softly, "Can you tell us your name?"

            Something about the look in her eyes made Phoenix a little bit more comfortable around them all.  He closed his eyes, took a slow, deep breath, opened his eyes, and finally revealed what they wanted to know.

            "My name…is Phoenix Audubon."

            They were all a little confused by his response.  Playful Heart giggled a little. (Maybe they were expecting a name ending in "Bear"?)  Finally, Brave Heart broke the silence.  "It's nice to meet you, Phoenix.  I'm Brave Heart Lion.  This is Bright Heart Raccoon, Swift Heart Rabbit, Playful Heart Monkey, and I think you've already met Wish Bear."

            "Well, sort of, anyway—I didn't even know her name until just now."

            "Oops," Wish Bear said quietly.  She was starting to feel almost as awkward as Phoenix was.

"I'm sure there's much more you could tell us right now," Brave Heart continued, "but we need to get back to Care-a-Lot and let the others know you're here.  Please, come with us."

            "Okay, I will," said the white bear.

            Brave Heart and Swift Heart both used their tummy symbols to create cloud cars.  "Would you like a lift?" Swift Heart offered the newcomer.  "Or, are you just going to fly and follow us."

            "No, I think I'd better take it easy for the rest of the day, so I'll climb aboard," said Phoenix, still a little tense.  So, Swift Heart Rabbit, Wish Bear, and Phoenix Audubon rode in one car, while Brave Heart Lion, Bright Heart Raccoon, and Playful Heart Monkey rode in the other car.  Both cloudmobiles started off, and then rose into the sky.  Phoenix looked over the side of the car, not only at the forest in the clouds, but also at the earth below that.  He tried to look relaxed as he sat down, smiling whenever one of the other two in the vehicle looked back at him, but…

            Is this what's supposed to happen? He thought to himself.  They haven't called me part of this "family" just yet.  Maybe I shouldn't be so nervous about this; I can see they don't mean any harm.  He sighed.  Maybe when I meet "the others", we can all sort this out.  He rested his head on the back of seat, and stared up at the sky.

            A moment later, a voice came from the dashboard of the car.  "Brave Heart Lion to Care-a-Lot.  Come in, Care-a-Lot.  Tenderheart, Grumpy, Loyal Heart, please answer."

            "This is Tenderheart Bear.  Go ahead, Brave Heart."

            "We found the white bear in the Forest of Feelings.  His name is Phoenix Audubon.  Get Grumpy and all the others to the Hall of Hearts, and let everyone know to come back and meet us there."

            "Copy that, Brave Heart.  Tenderheart out."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            Meanwhile, sitting in the throne room of his dark castle, with his head resting on one hand, and his red eyes staring at the ceiling in frustration, No Heart continued to mull over his failed attempt to ambush his opposition, the Care Bears.  "I imagined it might only be a matter of time before one of those wretched Care Bears would learn to use magic," he said to himself, "but I hadn't expected it to be so powerful!  I still can't believe he managed to defeat me and ruin my plan!"  He slammed his fist on the armrest of his throne, which was accompanied by a crack of thunder.  Beastly, No Heart's lackey, was humming along the hallway when he heard the ruckus from inside the throne room.  "Uh-oh, sounds like things didn't go very well for No Heart.  I think I'll try and make him feel better!"  So, he strolled into the throne room.

            "You look a little down, No Heart.  Is there anything I can do to make you feel better?"

            The evil wizard moved his gaze onto his lowly assistant, and spoke unusually gently, "Why, yes, Beastly.  There is something you can do."

            "Really?  What's that?"

            "Getting out of my face this instant!!!"

            "Yeeeaaaa-heh-heh!"  Beastly yelled out in a panic as he darted out of the room.  Unfortunately, he couldn't stop himself in time to turn into the hallway, and with a "WHUMP!" he was plastered on the bricks like wallpaper.

            "Go make yourself useful and sweep the thunder pit room!" No Heart bellowed from his chair.

            "Sure thing, Boss," Beastly replied in a nasal tone, his nose firmly pressed against the wall.  He managed to peel himself off the wall, plopped onto the floor, and scurried down the corridor.

            The sorcerer obtained some satisfaction in tormenting his servant, but more importantly, it allowed him to clear his mind for more sinister inspirations.  "Whoever that white bear was, I sensed that there is a lot of power lying dormant within him.  However, I also detected that he lacks skill in using it, as if he was working merely on instinct," No Heart was smiling from behind his cowl.  "Perhaps I can find a way to use his potential for my benefit.

            "Beware, outsider…I will teach you not to meddle in the affairs of the great and mighty No Heart!"  The wicked wizard began to laugh, first suppressed, then intensified into a full, frightful cackle, with thunder and lightning joining in outside.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

            As the Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins filed into the Hall of Hearts, Wish Bear, Brave Heart Lion, Grumpy Bear and Tenderheart Bear were all standing by the door with Phoenix Audubon.

            "Boy, there sure are a lot of you," said the nervous newcomer.  His hands were fidgeting in front of his waist, which caught Grumpy's eye, so he asked, "You're not much of a people person, are you?"

            "I guess not, probably because I haven't been around people much," Phoenix retorted.

            Brave Heart put his hand on the white bear's right shoulder.  "Don't worry, Phoenix," he said. "I think everyone will see how nice you are once they get to know you better.  Heck, you might even get to join the Care Bear Family."

            Phoenix's eyes widened.  "Really?"

            "Yes," Tenderheart agreed.  "After all, you saved us from No Heart earlier."

            "No Heart?  You mean that…" Phoenix shuddered briefly, "big spider?"

            "He can be whatever he wants to be," Grumpy explained.  "He uses all his magic to try and stop us from bringing loving and caring to the people of Earth.  And, it seems he's become more powerful than before."

            "That's why it would be a great help if you were to join up with us, Phoenix Audubon," Wish Bear added.  "We could use someone with your talents to assist us."

            "Well, I guess I could think about it," he said, trying not to appear eager.  Inside, however, he was almost impatient waiting to be asked to be a part of this family, and no longer have to be alone.

            At the end of the line, Phoenix Audubon noticed two Care Bears approaching the group that were not only a bit taller, but also seemed statelier than the others.  One was a cream-colored bear with a blue, pink, and purple tail and tuft of hair and a stained-glass-looking star with a heart in the center on her chest, and to her side, someone that resembled a horse, with lavender fur, an indigo and white mane, and on his chest, a heart with a star in the center that seemed to be the converse of the bear's symbol.  The bear smiled at the newcomer.  "Hello, Phoenix Audubon.  My name is True Heart Bear," she greeted him, and then pointed to her companion on her left.  "And, this is Noble Heart Horse.  We are the founders and leaders of the Care Bear Family.

            "On behalf of the entire family, I welcome you to Care-a-Lot.  I would also like to thank you for your courageous acts in rescuing individuals and driving away No Heart."  She extended her hand towards Phoenix.

            He took the hand and shook, trying to grip firmly to mask his apprehension.  "Oh, well, you're welcome," he replied.

            "Everybody else seems to be inside right now," Noble Heart said as he peered inside the Hall of Hearts.  "I'd like for all of you to sit on stage for this meeting."  Speaking to Phoenix, he said, "We'd like for this meeting to be a chance to get to know you better, and so that you can get to know us better, as well.  Don't be afraid, this won't be a harsh investigation, or anything," he chuckled at the end.

            With that, they all stepped inside.  Phoenix Audubon looked around the main room and was fascinated by the décor.  He had seen the hall from the outside, how it was heart-shaped, and on the ceiling, where the two sides came down and met a point hung a great chandelier, with composed of several circles of lights that looked like candles, and filled the room with a cool brightness.  On each side of the grand hall was a large, heart-shaped window that looked out to the white, cloudy city surrounding them.  The floor was composed of white tiles with a big red heart on each tile, and in the center of the room was a huge heart-shaped table, where right now, bears and other animals of many different colors were talking amongst themselves, but some of them paused and looked up as they saw a white bear walk past them towards the stairs to the platform at the end of the room just in front of the table.  Tenderheart motioned to Phoenix that he should sit in the middle of the stage, and the rest of the Care Bears accompanying him sat to either side.  When they were all in place, True Heart struck the gavel to quiet everyone down and gain their attention.

            "Everyone," she started, "I'd like to introduce a very special guest.  All of you had heard of the 'mysterious stranger' that had saved Tenderheart and his group from No Heart earlier.  Well, as you can see, he has come to Care-a-Lot today to introduce himself.  Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins, please welcome Phoenix Audubon!"

            With that, everyone turned around, and started clapping for Phoenix, who only smiled nervously and waved his hand briefly.  True Heart carried on, "Mr. Audubon, if you would, please tell us about yourself."

            Phoenix waited a moment, took a deep breath, and was about to start, when he made a quick request.  "Um, you can just call me 'Phoenix'; that will work just fine.  As for about myself, well, there isn't too much to say.  All of my life, I kind of, well, grew up in a cave."

            "By yourself?" asked Noble Heart.

            "No, actually, I was cared for by a phoenix," he explained.  A few of the Care Bears had confused looks on their faces and began discussing with others around them.  True Heart Bear hit the table with the gavel.  "Please, everyone, give our guest a chance to explain.  Would you please continue, Phoenix?"

            "Okay, let me try to explain.  A phoenix is a mystical bird with special powers.  They are said to be protectors of people, and some have even been known to be guardians of the North Star."

            Grumpy Bear stood up.  "I don't understand.  Were you hatched from a phoenix egg, or something?"

            "Huh?  Oh, no, no.  That's not it all.  You see, it told me that about 20 years ago, it had found a little white cub—me—while flying over a forest.  However, I…" he paused, and closed his eyes for a moment.  "When it came for a closer look, the cub wasn't moving.  I was…I was dead."  Phoenix looked out at his audience and saw the gloom in some of the eyes.  He continued, "The phoenix was saddened by this, and it told me that it used its powers to bring me back to life.  But, it couldn't find any bears that could be my parents, so it took me under its wing, and raised me in a cave on a mountaintop."

            "Hold on a minute," True Heart blurted, "I just thought of something.  Noble Heart, remember when we were searching for the orphans, everyone here who would become the Care Bear Family?  Do you remember when we saw Dark Heart in that forest..."

            "...And he was floating over someone, and he was speaking to them."  Noble Heart finished the thought.  "What did he say?"

            "It was something like, 'Too bad, it looks like those two weren't able to save you from me.  But, don't worry, I might be able to find some companions to join you later.'  And, he laughed, then he flew off."

            "A little white cub, the only victim of Dark Heart, with no way to defend himself...Phoenix, I think that was you we saw, long ago..."

            Audubon was a little puzzled by this.  "Really?  What does this mean?"

            "I think it means you were destined to be a part of this family, all along," said Noble Heart.  "We can discuss this later.  Please, continue on with your story."

            He nodded.  "Okay, well, like I said, the phoenix and I remained in the cave the whole time, and it raised me, brought me food, gave me clothes, and even taught me some information on the outside world.  Nonetheless, the phoenix rarely went outside much, just for necessary things, like finding things to sustain us.  I never went very far outside the cave.  That is, until today."

            From the white bear's left, Brave Heart Lion asked, "What made you decide to leave?"

            Phoenix cupped his hands together, rested his muzzle on them, and sighed.  "Today, the phoenix told me that every 500 years, or so, a phoenix is supposed to die by being consumed by a fire starting from within, and that its time had come.  However, it said that it was tired, and instead, it would use the last of its' power to protect me.  It gave me a 'spirit', which would allow me to use magic, and keep me safe, but only until I became adept with using magic."

            "You mean, that fiery bird that surrounded you when you left the first time we saw you," Tenderheart Bear inquired.

            "Yes, that right.  Once it bestowed that gift upon me, it told me one last thing.  Somehow, it knew that I was part of some kind of family, and that I use my new talents to search this family out.  With that, in a bright flash of light, it was gone.  And, I was alone…" he trailed off slightly.

            Wish Bear put her hand on Phoenix's to console him.  "I'm sorry," she said.

            He looked up at her face, and saw the compassion in her eyes.  "Thank you," he said, a little breathless for some reason.

            "Phoenix," Noble Heart Horse began, "what made you think we are your family?"

            "To be honest," he tried to clarify, "I really wasn't sure.  I had just lost someone very dear to me, and I had no idea how to use my magic, so I just hung around the cave, until I stumbled onto an old book.  It must've belonged to the phoenix, and in there was a note from the phoenix telling me that this book had magic spells I might need to know and use.  So, I opened it, and the book flipped itself to a page that had a spell for locating missing family or group members.  Now, the spell required that I use a picture of a family for it to work the best.  Since I didn't happen to have one handy, I used my own reflection in the mirror.  The result was, more or less, a simple point in the right direction.  I didn't know what to expect, but I had to fulfill the phoenix's last request.  I quickly discovered I could fly, and I also found out other 'tricks' somewhat unexpectedly.  Invisibility was one of them.  When I got closer, I started to get very nervous.  After all, it would be my first time making contact with other people, so I made myself disappear, and pressed on.  I ended up finding 4 of you trying to help out a human girl from two shadow-looking monsters.  That's when I noticed the similar features."

            "That's when we helped that girl, Marigold, wasn't it?" recalled Grumpy.

            "Yes.  She, well, 'ambushed' me, and we had a nice talk."  He stopped for a moment.  "Actually, she did all the talking.  I was still kinda' shy at that time.  But, Marigold talked some confidence into me to keep searching, so I tried the spell to find you again, this time I had better luck since I had a mental image to work with, and then I found you all against that really gross spider, and, well, the rest is history.

            "I think that about covers everything, unless someone has a question?"

            One of the bears raised his hand and stood up, then he pointed at Phoenix, and started wiggling his fingers quickly.  This puzzled the newcomer, "What?  I don't understand."  He put his left hand inside the hood of his cloak and scratched the back of his head.  The bear at the table whispered something in his neighbor's ear, who stood up next to him.  "Sorry about that.  His name's Secret Bear, and I'm Friend Bear.  Secret Bear says he just wants to see you use some of your magic."

            "Oh, well, sure, I guess it wouldn't hurt.  Let's see now, what can I do?"  Phoenix thought about this, and then he pressed his hands flat together as was praying.  He rubbed his hands back and forth a little bit, and then opened them up like a book.  When he did, a small globe of light appeared, and began to float.  He guided it over to the two bears standing up.  Secret Bear poked at it with his finger and it moved slightly, which made both him and Friend Bear giggle.  Satisfied, Phoenix began to make more spheres, and everyone seemed to enjoy the demonstration, until Phoenix clapped his hands in delight, which inadvertently caused all the light spheres to pop loudly in succession as if they were a string of firecrackers after their fuse had been lit.  Everyone in the room, ducked, shrieked, or covered their faces, including Phoenix, who quickly apologized soon after.  "Oops!  Sorry, I didn't mean for that to happen!  I guess I need more practice," he said, laughing uneasily.

            True Heart tried to restore by striking the table with the gavel once more.  "All right, all right!  I'm sure you didn't expect that to happen.  Fortunately, no one seems to have been hurt.  Just please be more careful, Phoenix," she counseled him, to which he quickly nodded.

            Brave Heart stood up this time.  "Care Bears, Care Bear Cousins, I move that we invite Phoenix Audubon to join the Care Bear Family.  We could use his help right now, and after all, he's been looking for a family."

            "Are you serious?"  One bear spoke out, one with light purple fur and a shake with two straws on her chest.

            "What are you talking about, Share Bear?"

            "Didn't you just see what happened here?  His magic backfired on him.  Sure, he seems like a nice guy and all," Share argued, "but if he's got something he can't fully control, that's a big risk right there.  I'm not so sure he could be helpful if he can't use this magic of his properly."

            "I'm really sorry about that," Phoenix pleaded, "and I promise you that I will train really hard so use my abilities properly.  I only want to help, and..." he sighed.  "All is ask is to not be alone anymore."

            True Heart and Noble Heart conferred with each other for a moment, and then came to a decision.  "Share Bear, we understand your concern.  So, I think we'll let you all vote on this one.  If you would like Phoenix Audubon to be a part of the Care Bear Family, raise your hand."  Most of them raised their hands, including everyone on the stage with Phoenix.  "If you would not like him to join, raise your hand now."  Share Bear and two others raised their hand.  "Well, then it's decided," said True Heart.  "Phoenix Audubon, would you please stand up?"

             He rose out of his chair, and faced everyone one the floor.  Noble Heart walked up to the stage, and stood in front of the new recruit.  "Phoenix Audubon, do you pledge to uphold the mission and beliefs of the Care Bear Family?"

            "I do," Phoenix Audubon replied.

            "Do you accept the responsibility of protecting the people of Earth and their feelings from those who would seek to harm them?"

            "I do."

            "And, do you promise to be an example for others to follow, and to help your fellow Care Bears and Care Bear Cousins in times of need?"

            "I do."

            "Then, it is my honor and privilege to..."

            "Just a minute, Noble Heart."  Tenderheart Bear interrupted.  "Phoenix, I don't mean to sound rude, but, you guys, don't you think we should give him another name?  You know, a name that is more like ours?"

            "Hmmm..." True Heart pondered this proposal.  "You might be right, Tenderheart.  But, what name should we give him?  Certainly not 'Phoenix Audubon Bear'."

            "What about 'Unique Bear'?" offered Brave Heart.

            "No, that won't work."

            "Um, if I may make a suggestion?"  Phoenix asked as he slightly raised his hand into the air.

            "Go ahead, Phoenix," said Noble Heart.

            "Well, since I promised to protect peoples' feelings and defend the Care Bear Family, I would like to request the name, 'Defender Bear'."

            True Heart thought about this, and then decided, "All right, if that's what you'd like, we'll honor your request.  Noble Heart, would you finish the ceremony?"

            "All right." He cleared his throat, and began again, "It is my honor and privilege to welcome Phoenix Audubon, Defender Bear, into the Care Bear Family.  Tenderheart, would you give him his tummy symbol?"

            "Sure thing."

            "Wait!  Wait one second!"  Phoenix exclaimed.  "I'm really sorry to interrupt this, but can you excuse me for just one second?"  With that, he closed his eyes as  he started to concentrate, and then he snapped his fingers.  When he did, a curtain dropped from out of nowhere, hiding him.  No one saw or heard anything, until Phoenix's arms came out from underneath holding his clothes, and setting them aside.  He snapped his fingers again, and the curtain lifted, and he stood there without any clothes.  "I just feel that I should accept this without my clothes, so, you know, it looks like I am fully determined to take this new role.  I'm very sorry, Tenderheart.  I'm ready to continue now."

            "Okay, here we go."  With that, the heart on Tenderheart's chest lit up, and a shining copy of floated towards Phoenix and sank into his chest.  It soon began to glow, and dimmed to reveal his tummy symbol--a blue and white shield, with a star on the top section, and a heart in the bottom section.  Once he examined it for himself, he smiled, and then it looked like he was about to cry.  "Thank you, everyone.  You don't know what this means to me.  I promise, I promise I will do my best earn everyone's trust."  His pledge was greeted by a standing ovation.

            "Treat Heart, get your camera ready, and capture this moment, would you?" True Heart asked she walked to the stage and welcomed the newest Care Bear.  Noble Heart did the same, and they posed for Treat Heart's camera.  "Smile!" she said just before the flash.

            As everyone came around to give their greeting, Defender Bear said aloud, "My name is Defender Bear, and I am a member of the Care Bear Family!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Author's Notes:

Project Date:  July 13--November 28, 2002

(Updated January 30, 2003)

The Care Bears and Care Bears Cousins are the property of American Greetings Corp, Nelvana Ltd, and Those Characters From Cleveland, Inc.  No relationship with any of the aforementioned companies is implied by this work.

The story is the original idea of the author and is not intended to represent any real event.  Furthermore, the uses of the characters are not meant to represent any real person, explicitly or implied.  Any use of the story, in whole or in part, must not be completed without the prior consent of the author.