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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 10

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

My mind is weary so I let my legs do the work, guiding me across Shadowwolf lands without need for thought. They know the way around our territory, though what the Grackle said is true – there is less of it these days.

Sweat breaks across my brow and my arms grow weary from carrying the bladder of medicine, but still I run. The sun has been up for hours by the time I reach my home at Treehorn Hall, and all I want is to sleep. My muscles are exhausted, and I need time to rest undisturbed.

My kinsmen have seen my approach, and Ulkiree the healer is waiting with a sentry at the threshold as I reach the gate. I stop and fold forward, breathing hard, feeling their eyes upon the back of my head as I search for air to speak.

“Welcome returns, Brahkis Shadowwolf.” Ulkiree is unusually formal, perhaps for the benefit of the guard beside her. I am not currently in Rulgor’s favor and appearing too friendly with me might prove disadvantageous for others.

I peer up before straightening and find no kindness on their faces. “Healer Ulkiree, Narfur.” I nod my acknowledgement, then hold out my prize. “Our shaman has prepared this potion for Hagen. Has he improved?” I am certain he has not, though what I really want to know is whether he’s died while I was away. Only one guard at the gate is a positive sign…

“His fever persists, though his spirit has not yet joined our ancestors,” Ulkiree answers, no doubt aware of my concern. She takes the bladder and I am glad to be rid of it.

“Make sure he drinks as much as possible,” I add as she steps away to return to her patient’s lodging. I glance at Narfur and consider whether I should find an excuse to leave again. If the next few hours go poorly, I may not have another chance. But I am so weary and can hear my furs beckoning all the way from my shelter. Right now, the prospect of sleep is worth leaving myself at the fate of the Bones.

I enter the Shadowwolf fort and take a direct path toward my abode, avoiding eye contact. The last thing I need now are questions about my visit to our mysterious shaman.

As soon as I’m alone, I drop my pack and peel off my boots, surrendering willingly to Sleep atop my furs. She takes me easily, and my dreams are filled with the pink-haired Eladrin and her enormous eyes. Even in the landscape of my imagination, her presence makes me uneasy, though I do not find it entirely unwelcome. We argue, but only half-heartedly, and when I turn my head a large, black-headed wolf is watching me, his amber eyes hungry as if viewing their next meal.

Not for the first time, I’m shaken awake by Rulgor’s men – wolves and women recede to the corners of my consciousness.

“Come, Brahkis. He wants you.”

I know “he” means my chieftain, but the voice commanding me doesn’t sound agitated. Could this summons be to receive an honor? If so, why would Rulgor send two guards? An execution seems more likely, but I’d settle for banishment. I take my time pulling my boots back on, testing how much the delay annoys my escorts and judging what that may portend.

At least they don’t feel the need to seize my arms, which I take as a good omen. Dusk has settled outside my shelter, so they at least let me sleep long hours, for which I silently offer thanks. As my alertness returns, I take account of the tribe’s mood. They do not seem to be in mourning.

We reach the chieftain’s lodge and one of my escorts lifts the flap for me. Hagen is cradled in a pile of furs inside but sitting up and awake. A rush of relief washes over me.
“Brahkis.” Rulgor’s voice startles me, and I turn to find him approaching from the opposite side of the enclosure, carrying a bowl of steaming broth. “My son has survived your mistake. He is strong.”

Rooted in place, I watch as my chieftain crosses the lodge and hands the bowl over to Hagen, who accepts it with both hands. His eyes find mine for a moment, but he says nothing. “I never doubted that,” I reply.

Once his son is contentedly slurping the broth, Rulgor straightens to consider me. He’s half-a-head taller, which many find intimidating. “You at least succeeded in winning Yorilis’s aid. That must have required some cleverness.”

I nod at the compliment, careful not to push it too far.

“So, I have another task for you.”

“Yes, my chieftain.”

“I sent Vulchais to the Shaddowwolf outpost in the golden valley to assess their hunting and return with a bounty of meat. He has not returned, and we are already down too many warriors.” Rulgor nods in his son’s direction, perhaps to remind me of my guilt for the current predicament. I feel none.

“That is most unfortunate. I shall pray to our ancestors that he returns soon.”

“I’m not leaving this to your prayers, Brahkis. I want you to go to the fort to see if Vulchais needs help. I expect swift tidings if trouble has befallen him.” Rulgor stares at me, awaiting my acceptance.

I doubt this mission could be worse than the previous day’s excursion and am not averse to returning to the isolation of the wild to clear my head, but I don’t want to sound grateful, either. I bow my head. “Yes, my chieftain.”

He grunts and nods to the guard behind me, who once again lifts the flap so I can leave. Returning to my shelter and checking my pack, I make certain there are enough supplies for another couple of days. This time, I’m also taking my bow. I secure it to my pack and fasten a quiver of arrows to my belt. I will hunt if I can, though the real reason for it is the possibility of enemies.

Still feeling a little abused for what was not my fault, I don’t bother exchanging farewells with anyone. The taiga will welcome me, sure enough.

I head west, starting out the same direction as Yorilis’s retreat, though keep to the main path as it curves southward. After about a mile, I’ve lost Treehorn Hall to the horizon behind me and start to relax. The air is crisp, but not too cold. I’ll have to make camp before long, so at least I should be able to enjoy one night of safety.

As soon as the thought crosses my mind, I hear the flutter of wings close by. I turn to find, standing on a patch of shaded grass to my right, the Grackle, in human form.
“Brahkis, I’ve found you! Rhiannon has been captured and needs our help.”

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