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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 22

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

I grip and lift the Shadowwolf Blade from the cairn. The rush of what feels like a foreign spirit entering my body makes me gasp, but my next blink pulls me awake, and I’m once again lying near the fire on my Shaman’s hillside. I lift my torso, my legs still extended on the ground, and see the sword sitting across my lap. Its weight presses on my upper leg, and the massive weapon slides off when I move. Is this real?

My head swivels, looking for the others while I wonder whether I’ve been caught in some sort of dreaming loop, induced by Yorilis’s potion. Rhiannon sits cross-legged with vacant eyes in the same place as before. The fire’s been reduced to a low glow, suggesting it’s not been tended in some time. I don’t see the Shaman anywhere, but my shifting rouses Shadow.

The wolf gives an inquisitive whine and stands from his place near the campfire, approaching to investigate. Only, this can’t be – the wolf is now huge, grown to half-again his previous size. “Yorilis!” I call across the hill, hoping he is near enough to hear me. I need answers.

Shadow nuzzles my cheek and I push him away, grabbing the Shadowwolf Blade from the ground and using its length to drag myself to my feet. Curious, I lift the weapon, grabbing the hilt with both hands. The leather of the hilt feels good against my palms, and even in the sparse moonlight, the swords shines. Although of solid weight, it feels lighter than it should – lighter than steel, at least. I’m eager to test the blade, but that can wait. First, I need to figure out what’s going on.

I call again for Yorilis while heading toward his shelter, wondering if he’s hiding from me or has perhaps taken off on one of his ingredient searches. When I lift the wolf-skin flap to peek inside his enclosure, a smoky haze nearly chokes me. I quickly duck back out to take a breath of fresher air, then go in for a second look.

The haze lingers but is not as intense. The shelter’s interior is a mess of scattered items: hollowed-out gourds, stoppered and full of who-knows-what, strange-looking tools for jobs I can’t imagine, pelts, sacks, entire uprooted plants, and more. Yorilis is inside, too – one more unmoving object taking up space. He’s sitting with a vacant look on his face, similar to Rhiannon’s but slacker, and a long pipe lays on the ground in front of him.

“Yorilis!” I call, almost sure he can’t hear me. I poke the long, curved blade of the sword into his enclosure and tap his shoulder, but he doesn’t move. “Wonderful.” There will be no answers until my peers come out of their respective stupors.

I cough from the smoke and leave the shelter behind, deciding to stoke and rebuild the fire while I wait. Perhaps I can figure this out for myself. Shadow watches me intently as I add wood and blow on the embers until the flame is reborn. I look back when I’m done and consider him. I’d thought for a moment that perhaps this was a different animal, but that seems too complicated a trick, even if it makes more sense than the alternative. This wolf still acts like the Shadow that’s been following me for days – not some completely wild beast. “How did you get so big?”

Maybe he hasn’t grown, and the potion Yorilis gave me is merely affecting my perception. That seems possible, for the Spirit Shaman is certainly in another world at the moment. But then, what about this sword? I am holding it, and it’s real enough. But how did I get to the grave of my clan’s Founder? I have no idea where it is, and the weapon wasn’t even present when I first arrived.

More and more, it seems like sorcery is involved. I wish the Grackle was here, which is not a thought I’d expected to ever have.

“Your wolf has grown,” Rhiannon says casually, as if it’s not entirely strange.

“Glad to see you’re back,” I reply. “Is he my wolf?” I ask. “And how has he grown?”

Rhiannon shrugs. “Perhaps he has the spirit of a Dire – an ancient wolf – and his body has changed to fit.”

“Creature’s bodies don’t just change to match their mood,” I argue. Although, what do I really know about it?

As usual, Rhiannon isn’t taking it. “Don’t they? What do you make of the Grackle, then? Or even your Spirit Shaman? The first time I saw him, he was running as a wolf with his pack around the hillside.”

“What? Yorilis?” I can barely cope with all the assaults to my worldview. My brain feels like it’s about to shut down, whether out of sheer fatigue or an inability to make sense of this strangest night.

“Yes, he’s a shapeshifter. Didn’t you know? Not a Shaper, like the Grackle, but there is often more than one way to reach the same destination.” Rhiannon has stood and is staring at me with those big eyes I doubt I’ll ever learn to read.

“So … do you have any explanation for this?” I ask, holding out the Shadowwolf Blade. I figure it’s worth a try.

“That’s a big sword,” Rhiannon responds. “Do humans actually use weapons that large?”

“My people, yes. But you don’t have any idea how it came to be in my possession? I didn’t have it when we arrived here.”

“Well, are you going to enlighten me, Brahkis? Or am I just supposed to guess?”

I sigh and lower the tip of the sword until it rests on the ground. “The point is: I don’t know myself. I took Yorilis’s draught, and when I opened my eyes, I was in an entirely different place. I found the sword there.”

“And you don’t know where you went?” Rhiannon asks. I’m actually impressed by her patience. This strangeness didn’t happen to her, after all.

“I don’t,” I respond, shaking my head. “And I don’t suppose it matters. But I came here for answers and think I’ve only found more questions.”

Rhiannon nodded like she understood. “Get more sleep. In the morning, we can make a start for the Great Mountain. I’m certain we’ll find answers there … though we might not like them.”

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