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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 20

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

I can only guess how long Yorilis has been watching, but he doesn’t move from his chosen spot until Rhiannon and I reach the foot of his hill. “I wondered when you’d return, Brahkis.” He steps slowly down the matted grass of the hillside as I ascend to meet him. “I see you’ve started to understand your true nature,” he says, nodding toward Shadow. The beast has been roaming beyond sight for the last hour, but makes an appearance as soon as there’s the promise of an easy meal.

“I don’t know about that, Shaman, but I am in need of guidance.”

“This one isn’t a Shadowwolf,” Yorilis states the obvious while unabashedly staring down Rhiannon, “but walks on sacred Shadowwolf lands.”

“I think our ancestors will forgive her,” I say dryly. I’ve had enough of territorial disputes. “We’re working together toward a common goal.”

“Hmmm,” is the sum of my Shaman’s response.

Shadow suddenly growls, drawing my attention. The bridge of his nose is wrinkled and his fur, puffed out. A chorus of growls answers and I turn to see a trio of grey wolves stuck in a similar posture.

“Now, this is interesting,” Yorilis says, not appearing the least bit concerned at the collection of snarling aggression on the verge of erupting into violence.

Rhiannon chants a bit in her native tongue, and when I look over, her head is bowed in concentration.

Am I the only one capable of a normal reaction? “Shadow!” My call is harsh, cutting through the growls of the canines, and the black wolf changes his demeanor instantly, eliciting a brief whine while looking up at me with apologetic eyes.

Rhiannon completes her chant and the other wolves drop silent, sitting on the grass and turning their heads toward the elwise woman. “Don’t act aggressively and they’ll leave you be.”

I don’t know if she is the true cause of their shifted mood, but I’m close to being impressed. Shadow trots over to the native wolves, keeping his head low, and they start sniffing one another.

“Where did this dark one come from?” Yorilis asks.

I shrug. “He approached me in the Golden Valley, attacked some of the Roaring Bears, and has been following me ever since.”

My Shaman looks me over long enough to make me uncomfortable before speaking. “It was good that you came back, Brahkis. You may be ready for the next step of your journey. Come, join me by the fire.” Yorilis turns and takes broad steps up the green and grey hillside, back toward his pelt-covered shelter.

I wave for Rhiannon to come along, then follow in Yorilis’s footsteps. Now that he’s getting along with the other wolves, I’m confident Shadow will make another appearance when he’s ready and leave him be. It’s been hours since I started from Treehorn Hall, and my stomach reminds me with a rumble as I smell the stew simmering over Yorilis’s campfire.

He understands the rules of hospitality, even if he questioned Rhiannon’s presence initially. Now that we’re seated around what stands for his hearth, Yorilis is bound to share his meal. He rummages through a couple of piles to find spare bowls, dusting a bit of grass from one, and then ladles hot, meaty broth into them. Once his guests are served, Yorilis measures out a portion for himself and we sit in silence, outside of the slurping of our stew.

“What brings you back?” he asks, once our swallowing slows. “I presume, since you had the freedom to do so, Hagen did not perish?”

I nearly choke on a chunk of venison as I try to answer. “He lived, yes,” I finally manage after a fit of coughing. Before I can gather my words, Rhiannon cuts straight to it.

“We are investigating what is wrong with the Great Mountain,” she says.

Yorilis raises an eyebrow as he faces her. “What does that mean? How can anything be wrong with a Mountain? Are the forests upon its slopes burning?”

I shake my head, having recovered and swallowing the rest of my food. “No, Yorilis. The Spirit of the Mountain is lashing out for some reason. Monsters of rock and ice slay those who live near its roots, and it shows no signs of stopping. At least, that’s the impression of the Grackle.” I catch myself, realizing I probably sound insane.

“The Grackle? You’ve had dealings with that shape-shifter?”

“You know him?” I ask, for some reason surprised.

Yorilis nods. “I know he is a bringer of ill omens.”

“Maybe that’s the only time anyone will listen to him,” Rhiannon postulates.

“It doesn’t really matter,” I grumble. “I’m going there to see it with my own eyes, but first I wanted to consult you to see if you’ve ever heard of such a thing. Or might know of a solution to appease the Spirit. How do I even get close enough without his monsters attacking me?”

Yorilis nods slowly. “This is a heavy thing, if true. We know that Spirits of Nature are fickle and mysterious to our way of thinking. Communicating with one will not be easy. But, if it is behaving as you say, my advice is for you not to approach it, Brahkis.”

I let out a strange sound, but one apt for my dismay. “Your advice does not lead toward a solution, friend. How can I find out what the Great Mountain wants without going near it?”

“I was not finished, Young Wolf. You should not approach the Mountain, Brahkis, until you’ve finally mastered your own nature.”

I shrug and set down my bowl, then turn to Rhiannon. “Are you able to make any sense of this?”

Her giant eyes are impossible for me to read. “I could go without you, I suppose. Maybe the Mountain is only angry with your kind. Perhaps the Eladrin could come to terms with the Spirit on your behalf?”

“I can help you take the final steps of your journey,” Yorilis continues, ignoring the elwise compromise. “Let me mix a potion for you to take before you sleep. It will hasten your confrontation with that which blocks your search for inner truth.”

“I still don’t know what you mean.”

“Just trust me, Young Wolf. Do as I suggest, and before morning, you will know yourself better than you can fathom.”

Well, I don’t want to have come all this way for nothing. If this is what the Shadowwolf Spirit Shaman can offer in the way of aid, I suppose I shouldn’t refuse.

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