2012 First Quarter Exalted Crayon - VULASH

PART ONE
East of the Bear, West of the Shaman

Once upon a time there was a bear, and the bear’s name was Vulash. Vulash lived in a magical zoo; he was a polar bear of massive proportions, and people the world over came to see him in all his might. A magnificent bear he was, huge and terrifying to behold, except when he was asleep (which was a great deal of the time). Then he mostly just looked like a large white blob on a white ice float in the middle of his enclosure.

Most people didn’t know he was not really a bear at all. An evil enchantress had put a spell on Vulash, so that he took on the illusion of a great white polar bear except for the hours before and after midnight, when he turned back to his natural human form.

As a man, he was a burly specimen with shoulders the width of two ordinary men and a thick, tangled black beard. The top of his head, on the other hand, was covered in nothing save pure masculinity. Heaven help the man who called him bald, or mocked him for the kilt he wore in human form, for Vulash was ferocious both night and day. It was said his nipples were the finest in all the land, and it would be criminal to force a shirt upon his glorious frame.

Life in the zoo, all things considered, could have been worse. Vulash had food and water and shelter, a place to hide and a place to bask in the sun. He found that his greatest foe in this prison was neither fear nor pain, but rather boredom, loneliness. While he could occasionally talk to the other animals (who, incidentally, all turned into humans at night – even the naked mole rat), communication was strained and awkward, as everyone was equally behind bars, and also forbidden by the evil enchantress zookeeper.

Vulash was not entirely sure of the exact terms of his imprisonment. He knew there were certain rules he could not break; he could not tell anyone that he was cursed, or even give them a hint, or even point them in the general direction of possibly discovering the truth. Animals tended to disappear when they risked discovery, and he’d been warned early on not to try anything clever. There was some rot about true love’s kiss and a princess and being married a year before revealing his true nature as a man, but Vulash suspected that was just the evil enchantress messing with him. Anyway, what kind of woman would kiss a bear, much less marry one? The thought was disturbing; Vulash was cursed, not some kind of furry, and he wasn’t particularly interested in attracting some weirdo.

And so, when a mysterious woman wandered up to his dwelling late one night, the sensible thing would have been to ignore her.

She was a somewhat unusual looking woman. Hard-featured and large-framed, she might have looked mannish if not for what could only be called her vast bosom which went before her like the prow of some great Viking ship. Two prows, in fact, if such a thing were done. She wore her black hair in two long plaits, lending her an almost innocent, if not exactly pretty, appearance.

The woman (there was no calling her a girl, in spite of her pigtails – she was simply too big for the word) approached the gate that surrounded Vulash’s environment with an air of eager curiosity. The zoo had been closed for several hours, but she did not seem to fear discovery; she wasn’t being the least bit sneaky, not that she really could have been missed by anyone with eyes, ears, or a sense of smell.

In any case, she did not appear to have any intention of leaving, and the hour of Vulash’s change was approaching. What was she doing? He cringed when he realized; she wanted to see the great polar bear. In fact, if he strained his ears he could hear what he could only assume was her bear call.

“Here bear bear bear bear bear bear bear bear! Here bear! Sleepy bear, time to come out! Heeerrrreee bearbearbearbearbear!”

She was going to get everyone into trouble! Vulash knew he had to do something, but at that exact moment the change overtook him and he was quite helpless.

As soon as he was fully human once more, kilt and all, he had a decision to make. Put a stop to the looney woman, or let her get caught by the enchantress. Talk to a stranger, or sit alone in his private cave.

He supposed it really wasn’t much of a choice at all, when it came right down to it.

Unfortunately, being a bear the majority of the time had left him with fewer social skills than he might have otherwise possessed. He started out by startling her badly; he had snuck out the back of his cave and crept along the edge of the fence so deftly that she did not see him until he was right under her nose. Once she seemed to have recovered from her initial shock, he thought it best to announce himself.

“Er.”

The woman blinked. “Uh.”

And thus a beautiful friendship was begun.

The woman’s name was Verileah, and to Vulash’s surprise, she was almost as large as he. Having enormous size in common, they quickly and easily struck up a conversation. He dodged her questions about where he had come from and why he was on the wrong side of the fence, just as she dodged his question about what she was doing there. However, it soon became clear that, even with all the obfuscating going on, she had no other place to go, and it had been her intention to spend the night in the zoo.

What was he supposed to do? Turn her away? That would just be rude.

He gave her the rules meant to protect the transformed animals of the park. She was to stay in the zookeeper hut just outside the bear’s enclosure. She was not to bother the other animals, especially the bear who slept in the cave. She had to leave immediately at dawn, before the zoo opened, and she could not seek Vulash out before she left.

Unfortunately, Vulash never said that she couldn’t come back the next night.

For Verileah’s part, she obeyed the rules on the first night. On the second night, too, she returned, and slept, and departed at dawn. It was going so well that Vulash stopped worrying about the risk of housing a human and simply enjoyed the company. That is, until the day Verileah overslept and encountered a furious white polar bear in the morning.

Verileah 10 years ago
PART TWO
The Shaman's Menagerie

Verileah could not be said to be the fastest ship in the fleet, but even she was able to put two and two together after her encounter with the great white polar bear. Once she had finished hyperventilating and was sure she wasn’t going to shit herself, she was able to recall the sense of déjà vu when the polar bear came roaring her way. The clues all lined up after that; the fact that Vulash was inside the polar bear’s enclosure, that she had never seen the polar bear and the man together, and of course the general sense that something weird was going on.

Somehow, some way, Vulash was the bear, and the bear was Vulash. Verileah didn’t know whether she felt worse about pissing off her new friend, or angering a man who turned into a ferocious wild animal. Or was he an animal who turned into a man? Verileah didn’t think so; there was definitely something human about that bear.

And that bear had been trying to tell her something, she was sure of it. Why else would he roar and rage at her until she fled? Sure, he was angry that she had broken their agreement, but Verileah was certain there was more to the story. She would just have to speak with Vulash again, after the zoo closed and he turned into a man. She would wait in the zoo until dark, then sneak over to the bear’s enclosure, hiding until either the bear or the man came out of his cave.

Having a day of nothing but thinking and waiting ahead, she thought about how she would have gladly taken the bear’s place, if such a thing could be arranged. She was spending her nights in a zoo; one does not typically do that if they have any better prospects. It might be nice, turning into a polar bear, having people come from all over the world to see you, taking naps in the sun and eating salmon for every meal. But come to think of it, who was to say she would turn into a polar bear, if she were to turn into an animal? Perhaps whatever magic turned Vulash into a polar bear would turn another person into a bird, or a fish, or a naked mole rat. What animal would she be, if such magic came her way?

It was with this question in mind that she began to make her way through the zoo, considering the animals in their cages and wondering which was most like her. The monkey, who swung from tree to tree, chittering and screeching? Surely not. Perhaps the steadfast ox? Verileah was big like an ox, but there was something patient and enduring about that particular animal, something she did not feel she possessed. Maybe she was more like the restless jungle cats, pacing smoothly in their cages. But no – she lacked their elegant grace. Possibly she resembled the she-wolf. She could see herself as a wolf, running with her pack at her heels, howling at the moon, wild and fierce.

That evening, just past twilight, when she finally worked up the nerve to return to the polar bear environment, she knew immediately that something was wrong. There was white canvas covering the bars of the enclosure, and a large sign that said “EXHIBIT CLOSED FOR VETRINARY CARE” and a silly graphic of a polar bear getting an injection in his fluffy bear butt. This made Verileah feel quite frightened indeed; what would they do to him? She couldn’t help but feel that this was all somehow her fault; it couldn’t be a coincidence that the day discovered the true nature of the polar bear, he mysteriously disappeared. For that much was clear. Vulash was gone, and possibly in danger.

There was only one thing to do. She was going to have to rescue Vulash, no matter how dangerous the task proved to be. It was her fault he was in this mess; a rescue mission was the very least she could do. But if she was going to break into the vet’s office, she would need all the help she could get. Remembering her wandering through the zoo, she hit upon an idea.

The first cage she visited belonged to the monkey.

PART THREE
Raid Strats Gone Wild

No one who went into the vet’s office ever came out alive, but Vulash had not given up quite so easily; he was just going to have to be the first to survive. His situation was not good; he was locked in a room with no means of escape, and it wasn’t as though he could expect a rescue considering he’d scared away what could have been a strong ally. He had hoped that if she ran away in time, he wouldn’t be caught flirting with discovery, but caught he was.

Fortunately for him, he had a plan to get out of this mess. It might not have looked like much of a plan – at the moment, the strategy involved lying very still and keeping his large bear eyes glazed over – but Vulash thought he might just be able to pull it off.

Sedatives were not an exact science. The amount of tranquilizer to give an animal depended on many things; the animal’s metabolism, their size, their emotional state. Because the potential side effects of over-tranquilizing included death, (and Vulash was not to be killed just yet, not until he had turned back into his human form and the enchantress had a chance to properly gloat) it was far better to under-tranquilize and work your way up as needed.

It certainly didn’t look as though Vulash needed more sedating, but in truth he was wide awake and ready to strike the moment an opportunity presented itself.

The plan was to incapacitate the enchantress the moment she walked into the room. Then he would have to wait until he turned back into a human and interrogate her until she gave him the secret to freeing himself and everyone else in the zoo from the curse.

Unfortunately, humans, even powerful enchantress humans, are quite fragile, whereas polar bears are very, very strong. One good swipe and the enchantress was beyond incapacitated; she lay, unmoving, on the floor, blood trickling out of her mouth, and then several things happened at once.

The clock struck eleven. The door burst open in a blur of animals; a boar had clearly bashed down the last barrier, but a host of creatures, great and small, had come along to help or just to see the show. And in the midst of this menagerie Verileah stood, a monkey on her shoulder and a wolf at her side.

For a moment, no one moved. The animals were expecting the change to humanity to overtake them, and it kept not happening. Verileah struggling with doubts that Vulash and the bear were really one in the same, and wondering just how stupid she had to be to charge into a room with an obviously violent polar bear, if the body lying in a heap on the floor were any indication. The enchantress bled.

Suddenly, the monkey on Verileah’s shoulder screeched and jumped. Vulash tilted his head, wondering what was wrong, when the monkey turned to him and blew a great wet raspberry and then made a series of loud smacking noises with his mouth. What was he…oh.

Oh.

Maybe the enchantress wasn’t making up the bit about the kiss after all.

It was clear that Verileah had come to the same realization, judging by the face she pulled. Nice. It wasn’t, Vulash mused, as though the giant woman were some beautiful princess kissing a gross slimy frog to make him a prince; Vulash was fabulous even as a polar bear!

After Verileah took an insultingly long moment to steel her nerves, she began to walk slowly toward him, her face scrunched up, her eyes nearly closed.

Behind her, the enchantress stirred. Vulash rose to his hind legs in alarm, but he needn’t have worried. She gurgled, groaned, and let out a weak but quite evil ‘muah’, then collapsed, most certainly dead this time.

At that moment, every animal in the room turned back to their human form. Vulash was surrounded by chaos; cheering and whooping and chest bumping, dancing and screeching and hugging. But eventually he made his way through the suddenly very crowded room to where Verileah stood, looking embarrassed.

“Thanks for your help there,” Vulash boomed in his deep voice.

“Er.”

“No really, I appreciate it. Good to know that if the only thing that stood in the way of freedom from a horrible curse was a kiss, you would have maybe sort of come through for me once you thought about it for a minute.”

“Gurg.”

“Sincerely, I’m touched. I may cry. Way to take one for the team.”

Vulash was quite openly taking delight in watching Verileah squirm. He couldn’t let that long hesitation go without picking on her at least a little, but he was prepared to give her a pass when she eventually found her voice.

“You were a big assed motherfucking bear! Last time I saw you, you nearly ripped my face off! I like my face!”

Vulash laughed and laughed. “Good thing it was just a simple matter of killing the curse caster or we would really be in trouble!”

Verileah tilted her head to one side and lowered her voice to more serious tones. “See, I don’t think that was it. Your, uh, zookeeper there, she was willing to end your curse early rather than risking discovery, right? It was supposed to be this big secret that no one could find out. So…I think that’s what broke the curse. Someone finding out.”

Vulash gave a skeptical grunt. “If that were the case, I would have been cured the moment you figured out what was going on.”

“Yeah…but I didn’t really believe you and Mister Polar Bear were one and the same until I started to walk toward you. Not wholeheartedly, I mean. Er, I was pretty sure, but, you know.”

Vulash gave her a flat stare that would have withered a lesser woman; Verileah merely wilted a bit.

“You mean to tell me that you broke open all those cages, stormed the vet’s office, broke down the door, and came face to face with a polar bear that you weren’t one hundred percent sure turned into a human?”

Verileah shuffled her feet. “Seemed like the right thing to do. I thought I’d gotten you in trouble.”

Vulash continued to stare while Verileah fidgeted. After a long awkward moment, he held out his hand for her to shake.

“Well, thanks, then, for the leap of faith. Even if it was ill advised. I still think landing a killing blow on the enchantress had something to do with ending the curse, though.”

Verileah took the offered hand and shook it hard. “Let’s call it a draw, then.”

Vulash clapped her so hard on the shoulder that she stumbled. “Deal.”

EPILOGUE
Vulash Exalted

“And that’s how Vulash broke the terrible curse and we all ended up turning back into humans at once. But before you all start getting terrible mental images in your heads, remember that we were all in cages before that, so even near nudity in close quarters was quite an improvement. To Vulash the Bear, who saved us all from a terrible fate!”

Laughter was roared, glasses were raised and drained, and applause followed the man with the unusually large ears as he took a seat in his place by the campfire.

Vulash was much too manly to blush, but if one looked closely they might find a trace of red at the tips of his ears. One year after the events in the vet’s office, the old zoo crowd was still quite keen on celebrating the former bear’s achievements. As long as liberal amounts of beer were involved in said celebrating, Vulash thought he could go along with it, but all the attention did get a little embarrassing after a while.

Verileah was leading a former flock of flamingos in song; Vulash couldn’t hear the lyrics, but he thought he caught his name a couple of times and decided he probably didn’t want to know. He’d helped this bunch remember their humanity, had listened to their stories and even told some of his own, had admired and supported their ambitions, but he felt sitting through a tribute song was a little much to ask. Thinking to prevent further embarrassment, he struggled to his feet and was harshly reminded of the amount of beer he had consumed. The world spun in shades of violet and blue and his fingertips sang with the taste of white. The edges of his tongue rippled, time warped like a gong, and suddenly the world was right once more.

That was, Vulash thought, either some seriously impressive beer or some seriously terrible singing. He was distracted from reflecting any longer on his strange hallucinogenic experience by the crowd of people attempting to hoist him up into the air to the cheers of everyone. Fortunately, he proved too much man to lift so easily, and they had to settle for a group hug of sorts.

“Three cheers for Vulash, the Hero!”

“Three cheers for Vulash, the Mighty!”

“Three cheers for Vulash, the Exhalted!”

“Hip hip…Horray!”
Verileah 10 years ago
Vulash has been a much beloved member of The Angry Crayon for eight years now, and during that time both the community and everyone’s favorite fluffy-butted shaman have seen many changes. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the years is everyone’s high regard for the V man. His opinion is always valued and often sought after, whether with regard to books and film or politics or science or ethics or, well…say anything! We delight in his company and his leadership in mafia, whether he is rocking the votes or writing the scenes. We all know he is bright, engaged, and compassionate, but somehow he constantly continues to reveal hidden talents. All this, and he has the excellent taste to support and encourage the art community here.

Thank you, Vulash, for joining us in this journey, leading when we needed leadership, supporting when we needed encouragement, and always being a friend to TAC. We are pleased to announce that Vulash Fluffybutt is this quarter’s Exalted Crayon.
Wystro 10 years ago
Congratulations, Vulash! I am honored to create your illustration gifts:

A desktop:


A signature:


An avatar:
ROzbeans 10 years ago
Congratulations, Tim. Long time coming. Thanks for putting up with us.
Kelefane 10 years ago
Congrats!
Vulash 10 years ago
Thank you guys! I've never been very artistic, but I love this site - i can honestly say I was very surprised by this. This past semester was pretty rough for me, and this really means a lot in ways that I can't express. Verileah the story was amazing, as usual, and Wystro those images are absolutely perfect. Thank you guys.
KaAnna 10 years ago
Congrats!!!! Wystro, amazing art as always. <3
Eve 10 years ago
Grats Vulash! Awesome story and art as well, you two!
Verileah 10 years ago
The story ended up a bit long; it was loosely based on East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which is...well, long. I've been wanting to write this story for a while now, so I was really glad for the opportunity to actually finish it. Some of the story can only be appreciated by an EQ shaman, particularly a barbarian shaman, which is what we both played all those years ago, and there is a bit of inside joking as always, but the intent was sincere; to tell the story of a great ol' bear...er, great guy .

Anyway, enough about that. *squishes Vulash*
Laschae 10 years ago
Grats man!!
pharren 10 years ago
The dates on the posts really threw me off, making me wonder how I'd missed seeing this thread for almost a month. Excellent choice, story, and art. Hooray for Vulash and stuff!

The lack of jumping polar bears was more than made up for by Vulash's hallucinogenic tasting of the blue... er, white.
Dia 10 years ago
Horraaayyy! Congrats!
ROzbeans 10 years ago
pharren;110730
The dates on the posts really threw me off, making me wonder how I'd missed seeing this thread for almost a month.


My bad.
Lessa 10 years ago
Congrats!!
Greywood 10 years ago
Congratulations sir!
Vulash 10 years ago
Thanks all.

Maybe I'm being dumb, but my signature isn't showing up. When I go to the signature section of the settings it is there. Any ideas?
ROzbeans 10 years ago
Vulash;110760
Thanks all.

Maybe I'm being dumb, but my signature isn't showing up. When I go to the signature section of the settings it is there. Any ideas?



Wrong box. Go to settings and under forum, edit signature - you put it there. Or post the link and I'll do it for you.
Vulash 10 years ago
Thanks