The Nighttime Visitor

or: East O' The Sun, West O' The Moon

Disclaimer: This story contains adult themes and interactions. You've been warned.

It can't end like this- I won't let it. After all that I went through to get here, to come to this impossible castle, which no one believed I could find, surviving a journey none believed possible; I will not surrender to defeat. I fought my way to the castle that is east of the sun and west of the moon, and I did it alone. I did it for him; I did it for us. I did it because I am the only one who loves him enough to move the earth and winds to fight for him.

I'd thought that, maybe, the fight to get here would have been enough to prove me worthy, that everything would fall into place and it would turn out that that had been enough of a test. But of course it isn't that simple. Nothing about him and me ever could be, could it? I fell in love with a polar bear- how could I expect anything to be simple after that?

He is just lying there, on the bed beside me. He must be drugged, because I try to shake him and he does not stir. I scream and he doesn't so much as twitch in response. In my panic, I begin to sob, and I feel shame for giving in to such a waste of energy instead of coming up with a plan. But I have travelled so long, so hard, carried first down long, long roads, then cradled in the hands of the winds. My body was only held together by my mind, by my certitude that I would get to him and I would fix everything. I would free him from the evil trolls, we'd leave this place together, and I would once more have my love.

When I entered the room and saw him, it felt as if it were closing, this strange, long chapter of hardship. But he lies, comatose, on the bed and he does not respond. Once the tears begin to flow, I cannot stop them. I let them keep flowing, and I wail- pouring out, in salt water and wordless screams, the entire story of what's happened since I saw him, the story of my soul which is lost without him, my heart which breaks and mourns the fact that our separation is my own fault, of my fear that I won't be enough to save him.

I touch his face and remember the first time I touched it- I remember the first night he came...

I'd gone to the castle with the Polar Bear, and it was like all of my dreams coming true at once. I agreed to marry him in exchange for protection and well-being for my family, who thought me mad for accepting such terms. But I'd always wanted something different, and the Bear certainly was. The castle offered luxury I'd never known as the daughter of a poor wood-cutter, but that first night I had felt a screaming loneliness. The bed so large but so empty except for me, and the room, gaping in the dark, and no one but me and the Bear in the whole castle.

But then the door opened, and I thought he'd come- to wish me goodnight?- but the footsteps that crossed to the bed were human. The weight of the bed shifting as someone joined me wasn't the inordinate weight of a bear, who couldn't fit in the bed anyway, but that of a man. I was so afraid, but so curious, as he had settled in, pulling blankets slightly away from me and over himself. In the dark he reached for me, pulled me to him, cradled me in his arms and held me. Somewhere in my head, I seemed to hear my mother's voice as a warning that something untoward was about to occur, but it didn't. Instead he held me, he spoke in a low voice- words in language I didn't understand, but words that made all the tight places inside of me unclench, open their fists, and relax for the first time. I melted into him, against him, lulled by his voice and the sound of him drawing breath until I finally fell asleep.

He was gone in the morning, but that was all right, because I spent the day with the Bear. That first morning was when he told me his name. I'd laughed, finding it odd that he had a name and that it was Bastian- such a normal, human name! But my laughter seemed to hurt his feelings, so I laughed no more and instead we talked. We talked and talked until I fell asleep that night, sitting in front of the fireplace, stretched out on a settee, in the Bear's- in Bastian's- private library.

I woke for a bit when I felt arms lifting me, carrying me through the abiding darkness of the castle hallways, to my rooms. I was laid on the bed, and was already falling asleep again as I noticed that the person who'd carried me was changing my clothes for me. Too sleepy to be concerned, I closed my eyes once more. I didn't open them until the next morning, alone again, but still feeling the sensation of arms having been wrapped around me.

And so it had progressed- days spent with the Bear, talking, laughing, walking, playing; nights spent in the arms of a man whose face I never saw. He came at the darkest watch of the night, and he left before the light of dawn, but he kept me company. He soothed me, he comforted me, and after a while I noticed that I was stirring in response to him, that the soothing touch of him lulling me to sleep was awakening me, quickening something for which I had no name.

I remember the first time that I touched him before he had a chance to reach for me. When, in response to his arrival, I was facing his side of the bed. How easy it'd been to reach, to touch his face in the darkness, measuring the place was the smoothness of his skin met the roughness of unshaven beard, and then lower, where the beard ended and met the vulnerable skin of his neck. I remember suddenly needing to feel all of him, to touch all of him.

I'd moved across the bed, our bed, in the darkness, until I was next to him, but that wasn't close enough. I slid a leg across his stomach, slowly moving across him until I drew myself astride him. He wore no shirt, and my hands eagerly felt all of him that I could, moving across broad chest, to smooth, round shoulders, to the protrusion of his collarbone, up his neck, to touch his face once more. I lowered myself so my face was close to his, and felt something inside of me respond as if this had been what I'd wanted all along, this pressing of myself to him. I moved my hips again, and the friction of touching him, of him touching me, spread a spark through me. I began to move again and again, not knowing what was happening, but sensing that this was some other sort of magic; magic like the bear had, something he hadn't told me about.

The man beneath me continued to lay there, and I wondered why he did not respond by either word or movement. He neither encouraged nor discouraged what I was doing, and so I continued. I could feel my breathing change, something was coming, and it was something that my body wanted. I stopped thinking and found my body adjusting, moving itself around in just such a way to increase the pleasure of what I was doing, spreading my legs further, pressing the cleft of my body harder against him.

Suddenly, he did move- his hands came to my waist and held me still. For the first time, he spoke aloud to me in my own language, addressed me directly. His voice reverberated on some strange new frequency within me, filling my mind as well as my ears.

"Are you certain that this is what you want?"

"Yes."

"Are you afraid?"

Afraid? What was there to fear? I was with him. Was there something unknown in the dark of the night surrounding us? Was I do doing something that was somehow wrong, about to bring a judgement upon me?

"No, I'm more afraid of stopping than moving forward."

"If you're certain, and this is what you want, then I will help. If I help, will you kiss me?"

"I'll do that without your help or with."

I leaned forward, laying myself against him, and even though I couldn't see in the dark, my lips found his in an instant. My first kiss, and our lips touched in way that seemed so perfectly suited, it was if they were made for each other. I did not know if ever kiss felt like this, I only knew that I wanted to devour him, to drink him in, to take him into myself completely and feel him within me in every way. I touched his face, I touched his neck, I felt the sensation of his muscles moving as he kissed me back, as he rose to meet me. I held his head, pressing him ever closer, not letting him move away, not letting him break the connection as it sealed between us.

His hands on my hips picked me up, and I nearly protested, but he settled me back against him, against a ridge that caught perfectly at something I hadn't known was there before. I understood that this was the source of all this pleasure, and I writhed. I pressed again, I ground into him and he broke the kiss, but only to throw back his head and moan. The evidence that my actions pleased him made me feel heady, drunk with whatever power this was. It seemed that the power wasn't mine, it was just something coursing through me over and over again, heightening into something unknown, terrible, and great. I worried that I was pressing hard enough against him to hurt him, but he showed no signs of pain, and I couldn't have stopped if I wanted. His hands moved to my shoulders, down my arms, till his hands locked with mine. Holding his hands, I pressed them down to the bed, bracing my arms for leverage as I drove harder, until my body was seizing in some sort of fit, starting where it touched him, but pushing up, all through me, screaming over my entire body, seeming to fill my mind. I drew myself up, stretching over him, letting the pleasure soar up and out of me. It escaped from me in gasps as I panted for air, my throat burning dry and I didn't care because this was greater magic than a talking bear, it was greater than the riches I'd found, and it was something I never wanted to end.

The moment passed. Slowly, languidly, the intensity abated until I was breathing normally again. I laid back down, stretching against the length of his body, my legs and arms wrapped around him, my face buried in his neck. I was tired, and felt like sleeping, but then I smelled his neck and felt myself start all over again. I brushed my face against his beard, began to lick at the skin where it ended, and then I gently pressed my teeth there as well.

"You should rest." His voice sounded strained.

"Did I hurt you?"

A chuckle. "No. I am in no pain. Are you?"

"No. I want more..." I lifted myself so that our faces were pressed together, and moved to his mouth once more. His beard was slightly scratchy, but I ignored it as my lips parted, and I delved my tongue into him.

He broke the kiss. "Do you know what we are doing?"

"Do you?"

"Yes."

"Then tell me."

"Are you sure you want to know?"

"I want whatever it takes for us to keep doing this. I want more of this: I want all of this."

"You are not afraid?"

"Should I be?"

"Some bonds, once formed, cannot be unmade. I would not have you bound to me against your will."

That gave me pause. "I am promised to the Bear, to Bastian. Is it possible to be bound to you both?"

I think I heard him smile. "Yes. It is more than possible, if it is your wish."

"Then I could have him as my friend, as my companion and eventually my husband; but still have you, and this?"

"Do you still wish to marry him?"

"I said I would. I will keep faith as he has kept faith by helping me and my family."

"Does he want a wife who feels only gratitude, not love?"

"It isn't only gratitude. It is a promise. A promise made by me is a promise that will be kept by me."

"Does he desire a wife who is only there to keep her word, or one who would not tolerate being parted from him because she loves him in the depth of her soul?"

"If he were seeking that, would he have bargained for a wife in an exchange of promises?"

"All marriages are based on the giving and accepting of vows. And perhaps the promises he made to you only seemed to be what they were. Perhaps he loved you with all of his soul from the moment he laid eyes on you and saw you smile. From the first time he heard you sing as he passed your cottage in the woods. Perhaps the first time you smiled and invited him into your home- perhaps he knew you were the only woman he would ever love, and maybe the only woman who would love him enough to break the spell that is upon him."

"He has a spell?"

"Few polar bears who speak, are lords of their own castles, and desire to wed young women are free of some sort of spell."

As soon as he said it in those terms, I knew he spoke the truth. It hadn't occurred to me to wonder if Bastian's situation were something like a spell; something that might be undone. Was it possible that my future husband might one day break the spell and attain some other form? How would I feel if he were not my Bear?

"Do you love Bastian?"

"I don't know... I feel affection for him, but I don't know love. What I have for him may be love."

"And for me?"

"For you I have desire, a sort of hunger. But also- how long and lonely these nights would be without you! Even if I never kissed you, even if I hadn't felt the need to find out what all you offered, I need your arms around me to sleep, I need your words to bid sleep come and take me. I need both you and Bastian, I think. He fills my days with talking, and he's become a very dear friend, at least. But he cannot come to my bed and take me in his arms, as you can. Can I not have the both of you?"

He moved himself, and me because I was atop him. After a moment, we were in the same position as always- I was laying in his arms, he was curled up behind me, as if sheltering me with his body. I realized that there would be no more kissing tonight, only sleeping and thinking of what we'd said to each other.

"I will give you time to think of it. After what we've done this evening, the bond has begun to form. To continue on this road will deepen and strengthen that bond. It is what I desire, but I am not worried about me. You must have time to think about what you're saying and doing before you promise anything, with either words or deeds. Tomorrow night, when I return, we can either sleep as we've done, or we will continue what you started tonight. It will be your decision."