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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 12

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

I pull back on the bowstring until the stave creaks, then take aim, knowing how important this first shot is.  “Just don’t hit the girl,” I say to myself, lining up a shot at the leg of her carrier.  Hitting one of the others would be simpler, but I do not want to spook the group and have the man with Rhiannon beat a hasty retreat behind those walls.  I have to cripple him first.

Their pace is slow, but the movement is enough to make tracking the shot more difficult.  I wait and am rewarded by the caws of the Grackle, which cause the Roaring Bears to stop in surprise.  I let my arrow fly, watching its path as I draw another.

The projectile strikes the man in the hamstring and he crumples to one knee, losing his grip on the Eladrin in the process.  I wince as she tumbles to the ground, knowing the fall could not have been comfortable.  Just as his companions turn my way, looking for the source of the assault, I let a second arrow fly, striking one of them in the gut.

The Grackle continues causing a ruckus, flying in wide circles around our enemies to confuse them.  The eyes of all three settle on me, and the uninjured one shouts that I am a Shadowwolf, which I suppose he’s gathered from the context.  He and gut-shot charge up the hill toward me, which seems foolish.  What if I had allies hiding below the crest of the hill, ready to ambush them?  Their lack of consideration is my loss, however, for in truth I seem alone – though I’ve recently been reminded that things are often not what they seem.

I quickly consider whether to try another arrow; the falling darkness, combined with their movement, is enough to abandon my bow in favor of my knife.  I wish now I’d brought a longer weapon.  I spare a peek at my first victim to see he’s hunched over, probably trying to determine the best way to recover his load.  He’s shouting news of the attack to the encampment, leaving me to hope he’s too far afield for them to hear.

I cannot bother with such things anymore, for the barbarians close fast.  Curiously, they’ve descended onto all fours, scaling the hill using both hands and feet in great loping strides, though it is not so steep to make such a thing necessary.  The technique is awkward, uneven, but disconcerting.  With the bear skins draped over their shoulders, they give the impression of being beasts themselves.  The coming fight won’t be easy.

The one I shot is having a tough time of it, falling behind as his wound causes more pain than he’d care to show.  At least I’ll have a delay before they can fight in tandem.  I roam a little from my bow, not wanting it to get crushed or fall into my enemy’s hands, though I stay near the top of the hill, hoping to use the higher ground to my advantage.  Entering a defensive crouch, knife in hand, I prepare for the first blow.

The unhindered warrior rears up from his running stance to attack.  He is taller than he looked from a distance and surges forth with a wild swing of the knotted club drawn from his belt.  Set with a pair of spikes, it promises trouble.  Light on my feet, I leap back and lift my arms in avoidance.

He is so strong, even the heavy weapon doesn’t impede him from striking repeatedly with quick fury.  I roll over on my shoulder and back to my feet, giving more ground to his relentless assault.  If I don’t do something soon, the second Bear will join him and my danger will double.

I need to get closer to strike, and to do that, I need to either trick my opponent or be willing to absorb a blow.  Deception sounds better.  Taking a risk I stand straight, lowering my weapon to reduce myself as a threat, and yell as I point behind my enemy, “The beast has returned!”

He simply cannot help himself and pauses to look.  Though only the briefest glance, he’s given me an opening and I take it.  Lunging forward, I raise my knife to slice across his open side.  Before I can reach, he’s already recovered and swings that awful club down at me.  Shifting my weight toward my left side, I grab his wrist before his weapon makes impact.

He catches the wrist of my delayed strike in his own hand and we struggle, each straining to break the resistance of our enemy.  He is so strong.  Suddenly, one of my legs is pulled out from under me and I’ve lost.

I tumble to the ground, face down, losing the grips on my knife and the barbarian’s wrist to break my fall.  The other Roaring Bear has joined the fight, and now they’re on both sides of me. Standing victoriously in the falling dark, they savor the moment before finishing their defenseless prey.

Why did I listen to that annoying Shaper?

A series of vicious snarls echo in the young night, and I attribute it to the strange, animalistic aspects of my enemy, but immediately after, the clubbed barbarian falls onto his face as well.  A large wolf, so black I am certain it must only exist in my imagination, stands on his back, its white teeth snapping to get a hold of the man’s neck.

My quick reactions have always served me well, and I don’t waste time questioning the intervention.  I roll onto my back in the thick grass, then arch it and push down with my hands and shoulders to flip onto my feet again.  I charge my still standing enemy, but it’s so dark I don’t see the hammer coming.

He hits my left arm hard enough that it goes numb, and it may be better that way.  Regardless, I manage to barrel forward into my opponent, and when I feel the arrow that’s still lodged in his belly, I grab it and push it deeper.

He cries out and his muscles relent for an instant, allowing me to push him over onto his back with me astride.  I push even harder until I feel the arrow come out the other side.  One of his organs must have ruptured or he’s gone into shock, because his arms drop to his side and he no longer moves.

I hear the snarling resume behind me but not with the same anger as before – more like a warning.  I turn to find the other barbarian face down and also still.  The wolf is apparently real, for he is staring right at me, growling.

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