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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 19

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

Despite knowing of a hundred things that could go wrong, I decide to take the Grackle at his word. I prefer serving my people from a distance, actually, given that none of them share my point of view on how societies should work. I’ve only seen the Shaper show a few tricks so far, but he possesses true magic and that potential should be honored. The Grackle is a man, after all, and purportedly one of my people. He showed an impressive amount of effort just convincing me to help save my own clan. He deserves the gift of trust.

The slain elk seems to gain weight as I carry his carcass back to Treehorn Hall. Shadow runs without a care across the hillsides as I trudge on, mocking me with his freedom. I wish I was so, not beholden to others, but it is folly to waste time planning escape from one’s Fate.

I receive a warm enough welcome upon my return, given that I bring provisions, and for the moment, the settlement feels like family. Treehorn Hall is getting so packed and everyone is so consumed with preparations that no one questions the black wolf tracking my heels. I deliver the elk to the kitchens and slink back to my shelter.

Evening is falling and I’ve learned my lesson about traveling to Yorilis’s hilltop in the dark. Sleep has been tracking me relentlessly and I’ve done an expert job eluding, but am weary of being prey. I am weary, all the way through.

It takes only a moment to shed my clothes and slide underneath my furs. I bury myself in their newly appreciated luxury and groan my satisfaction. Perhaps that was Shadow voicing his, but we share one mind at the moment and the weight of his back curling against me is the last thing I feel before the morning.

“Brahkis, Rulgor wants to know how plans for the assault are coming. What should I tell him?”

Nertram’s head protrudes into my shelter and has spoken, but my sleepy mind has not prepared my mouth to do the same. I grunt to let him know I’m awake, but I could sleep for another day cycle and not be ready to rise. When I fail to provide further details, Nertram vanishes back outside. Rulgor is not usually the kind of chieftain who asks for updates. His patience must be as thin as the summer ice.

Of course, I spent the previous day hunting and not developing strategy. I haven’t even created a ledger of our assets. One thing I hate more than undeserved authority is the inability to form realistic expectations.

Knowing the current balance of favor with my chieftain is tenuous, I ignore the request for a report and proceed directly on my journey. As long as I’m trusting the Grackle, I might as well go all the way. Shadow rises with me, and I look around the enclosure, deciding what to bring. Some bandages, my knife – I’ll leave my bow in favor of moving more swiftly. I don’t have any extra rations stashed.

“We’re going to have to stop by the mess hall again,” I tell Shadow.

He licks his lips as if he understands, and I lift the flap of tanned pelts to exit. “After you.” Shadow lowers his head, squeezes outside, and I follow. I slept later than expected and the settlement is strangely empty. All those people couldn’t have abandoned the safety of the fort that quickly, so our Chieftain must have put them to work.

Grabbing some lunch is an easy task with most of the warriors gone – none of the people I encounter have any idea who I am or that I’m responsible for planning our clan’s victorious return to the Golden Valley.

I pilfer some bread and meat but make Shadow wait for his portion until we’re outside the timber barricade. To increase my chances of avoiding Rulgor and his cronies, I cut west across the next hill, instead of following the usual trodden paths. I’ll join back with the trail later, but for now, the tall grasses grant as much resistance as I hope to find.

Even on a direct route, it would take some hours to reach Yorilis. I make sure to listen to what the wind tells me along the way. It speaks of migrating birds, of the mother bear and her two cubs striving to make it through their first summer, and of a brush fire set to clear more land for planting. I can tell by the way Shadow turns his head and changes his pace that the wind tells him all these things too. Probably more.

He lets out an excited whine, his ears perk up, and I wonder what he’s learned that escapes me. Woods have sprouted to our right, and Shadow darts off across the hill, heading for the tree line. Hoping it isn’t another predator, I grab the handle of my knife in case it is. My muscles tense and I squint toward the edge of the woods, preparing to fight or flee.

When I see the pink hair, I relax, releasing the breath I’d been holding. Shadow halts as Rhiannon steps from the shade of the aspens, lunging the front of his body upward to nuzzle her. I wonder what a wolf makes of such huge, colorful eyes.

“How long have you been following me?” I call, simultaneously relieved and annoyed by her presence.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Brahkis. The Grackle told me where you were headed and that you’d need me.”

“Did he?” I would love to know what kind of help the Grackle thought this waif could grant me in conversing with the Shadowwolves’ Spirit Shaman. “Well, come along if you like, but you’re likely to be disappointed. The man I’m seeking doesn’t smell all that good.”

“And you think you do?” she says.

I shrug. She probably has a point. We walk the rest of the way in relative silence, with Shadow bounding off then coming back to greet both of us with nuzzles and licks. He’s gotten friendly quick – maybe there’s something wrong with him. Yorilis is waiting, looking down on us from the hillside like a hawk when we arrive. I wonder if he’s ever seen an Eladrin before …

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