Join My Newsletter and get "Ascent of the Demon" for Free! Just Click Here...Click here for a Free Book!

“I Am Brahkis” Episode 15

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

The view within the flame starts focusing toward the base of the mountain and soon sweeps downward like a diving hawk. Flashes of snow and rock fly by. “What is this?” I ask as I look away, the scene’s movement making me dizzy.

“Patience,” the Grackle says calmly, as if he knows what’s coming next.

I turn back to the fire and watch from one knee as the vision slows and settles on a village in ruins. Its once-proud wall has been smashed to pieces. Milking goats lay dead in the snow. Shelters have crumbled to the ground in piles. Many men and women have perished as well.

“Where is that?” I can’t help asking, though I already know. This is the Great Mountain, so it must be a village of the Rock Wyrm clan. The devastation looks like their namesake rose from its lair under the earth and smote them.

“This was the first village to fall,” the Grackle says, gazing into the flames over my shoulder, “but there have been others since. And the danger is spreading…”

“Who did this?” Rhiannon asks, her pitch betraying a hint of fear, though the dead are not her people. “Another warring tribe?”

The vision fades and the fire reduces with it, becoming once more confined to the center of the hearth. The Grackle shakes his head. His stare is still vacant, though there is nothing more to see in the flames.

“Monsters,” he finally says.

I squint at him, waiting for the trickster to be more specific. Surely this shapeshifter is exaggerating. I grab the bowl that Shadow has licked clean and rise to my feet, eager not to proceed on an empty stomach. Rhiannon inevitably takes the bait.

“Monsters? Like what, demons?”

The Grackle shrugs. “Why not? Demons of Ice and Stone. Manifestations of the Mountain. I don’t think it matters what we call them – they are angry, and they kill. I have seen it myself.”

“You saw these demons in person?” I reiterate, providing an opportunity for the Grackle to reveal his burgeoning fiction.

Instead, he nods. “I was in bird form, of course, but I’d already become aware that something was amiss and went to see in person.”

“That’s a long trip…”

He shrugs. “Not too far as the bird flies.”

“So, what did they look like?” Rhiannon asks, sounding much more credulous than I feel.

“Their bodies hold different shapes,” the Grackles explains. “Some have arms and legs, others are more like beasts. But they are all made of the stuff of the Great Mountain – ice and stone. The Rock Wyrm clan didn’t stand a chance.”

“And you think we do?” I ask, which is really what his upcoming request comes down to, unless I’ve completely missed the mark.

The Grackle turns from me and walks to the edge of a hexagonal table behind him. He pours cups of water from a covered pitcher, drinking from one before gifting his guests the others. My question hangs heavily in the otherwise cozy room. Eventually, though, he answers.

“I don’t think we have to fight them, Brahkis. That’s one of the reasons I chose you. You’re strong, but know how to use your head.”

I can’t say the compliment hurts his cause. “Go on.”

“Do you remember the tremor that shook the earth just over a moon cycle ago?”

Of course I did. Rulgor offered up a sacrifice of three sheep to appease the spirit of the netherworld and had us watch the sacred burial grounds for three nights, without sleep, to make sure our ancestors didn’t rise from their graves. “I do,” is all I say, though, not wanting to speak ideas into existence.

“Well,” the Grackle continues, “I believe that tremor may have sundered the heart of the Great Mountain, tormenting the Spirit who can no longer find peace there. He is wounded and lashing out. Perhaps all we really need is to find a way to heal the mountain’s heart.”

I raise one eyebrow at the shifter’s speculation and look to Rhiannon to gauge her level of acceptance. She is nodding slowly, which I should have expected. “And how under the stars of Heruldin’s Axe are we supposed to heal a torn mountain?”

“I don’t know, Brahkis, but if you felt the anguish and hatred permeating the mountainside as I have, you would understand more clearly.”

“I would like to investigate personally,” Rhiannon says, “on behalf of my people. If a balance within nature has been disrupted, we ought to put it right.”

I throw my hands up, then remember I’m not beholden to these people. “I certainly wish you both good fortune, but I must report the incursion of the Roaring Bears to my chieftain.” I chug the remainder of my water and set the cup heavily upon the mantle, beside my similarly empty bowl. “My thanks for your hospitality – now would you be so kind as to guide me back to the path home?”

The Grackle doesn’t budge. “We’re going to need you, Brahkis. We’re going to need your protection and insight. The Great Mountain is too far from my Source to Shape any significant magic.”

“Well, you’re going to need a plan to ‘heal the mountain,’ too. How’s that for insight? I suggest you start there.” If he’s not going to help me, I’ll have to find my own way out of the woods. I’ll be drunk doppelganger before I’m out-stubborned into staying in this trickster’s house overnight.

I cross the room and lift the latch to the outer door, wondering if they’re going to try and stop me. I pause, but hear no arguments. I pull the door open and Shadow rises from his resting spot on the floor. At least someone else is with me.

“Brahkis…” the Grackle starts as I take my first step across the threshold. I stop to hear what he has to say. “Be careful out there. The world is a hostile place for loners.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: