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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 23

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

I wake, and this time the air is bright and chill. The stars have been replaced by blue sky, and I am refreshed from sleep. Shadow is curled up against me, keeping me warm. I look over to find the silver sword still on the ground beside me … so it wasn’t all a dream – unless I continue doing so. But a man can’t live his life with such thoughts, so I stand and prepare for existence within my new reality.

Rhiannon kneels further down the hill, investigating a small clutch of wildflowers I find unremarkable. I vaguely remember her suggesting that we leave for the Great Mountain this morning, but competing responsibilities gnaw at me. Perhaps what I truly sought from our Shaman was absolution for abandoning the Golden Valley to the Roaring Bears.

“Did you learn something about your nature last night, Brahiks?” Yorilis has managed to sneak up behind me – an impressive feat, given that his appearance startles Shadow as well.

Startled, I spin to face him. The man wears a wolf pelt mantle over his shoulders. “I’m not sure what I learned,” I respond. “What was in that potion? And did you take some yourself? I couldn’t get you to answer me when I woke.”

Yorilis chuckles disturbingly. “That was ancient medicine, for your soul. Now tell me, what did you find?”

How does he know I found anything? “Well, that falchion for starters.” I nod at the sword, lying on the ground. “Do you know what it is?” I’m curious whether my hunch has merit.
The Spirit Shaman gasps. He bends down and lifts the blade in both hands as if presenting a gift to an unseen benefactor. “The Sword of Yorrick Shadowwolf,” he announces, the pitch of his raspy voice raised in awe. “How did you get this?”

I shrug. “It just appeared on the same cairn I was … transported too. A voice told me to take it.”

“This is a potent gift, Brahkis.” Yorilis’s demeanor shifted. “But beware – it will both smite your enemies and earn you more.” He looked up from the weapon’s silvery surface to study me. “Anything else?”

My instinct is to keep observations to myself, lest my peers judge me poorly for them. But something about the way Yorilis asks makes me feel like he already suspects the truth. “I saw my reflection in one of the stones atop the distant hill. Only, it wasn’t really mine … it was a wolf’s.”

“Ah!” Yorilis exclaims, spinning and settling the tip of the sword against the ground. “But that was you, Brahkis.” He pokes my chest with his unoccupied hand. “The wolf is in your blood, your bones.”

“Like it’s in yours?” I ask, remembering what his elwise guest said about him last night.
A crooked smile creeps across his face like a choker vine. “You must now learn to embrace what you’ve seen, Brahkis. Accept your nature.”

“Well, that may come, old man. But what I need now is a different kind of advice.” I reach down and ruffle the fur between Shadow’s ears. He’s stayed by my side this entire time. “Should I go to the Great Mountain to learn the truth behind the troubles there, or stay and serve my chieftain by fighting against the Roaring Bears?”

His smile levels out to nothing. “Whatever we might feel like doing, Brahkis, we both have a duty to our family, to our clan. That cannot be escaped, neither by man nor wolf. Once you’ve lost your clan, you are a nomad, a wanderer without a home.”

“But isn’t protecting them from the Great Mountain also serving the clan?” As soon as I make the argument, I see how quickly he recognizes it for what it is – an excuse.
Yorilis doesn’t answer but extends the hilt of the sword to me. “Take up your birthright, young Shadowwolf, and defend your people.”

I look down the hill at Rhiannon, who has finished perusing the flora and is staring up at us, looking more than ready to leave. I growl, resisting to the last moment the decision I’ve made. “We can’t leave for the Mountain yet,” I yell down to the pink-haired Eladrin. “There is something I must do, first.”

She shrugs. “Have it your way. I will return to my home and better prepare for the journey. I’ll come back in three days and then head north. I hope you’re still alive to come along.”

I accept her at her word, and she walks off without speaking another. “Three days,” I repeat. Three days to plan and carry out the assault on the fort at the Golden Valley. Three days to figure out how my clan, who has been shrinking like a glacier in summer, is going to overpower the strength of the Roaring Bears, while they hold the tactical advantage of a stronghold. It is a daunting task, and before I tackle it, I’m going to need breakfast.

“Any more of that stew?” I ask Yorilis. He nods, perhaps sharing the same thought. It won’t be as good, cold, but I need something in my belly. Waiting for the Shaman to retrieve our bowls, I wonder what the Grackle has been up to. If he thought I was going to be traveling all the way to the Great Mountain, what kind of plan did he have to delay our enemy?

The arrival of food distracts me, but I know I have much to overcome. “Any more advice for how to defeat the Roaring Bears?” I ask Yorilis between mouthfuls, judging that it can’t hurt to ask.

Yorilis shakes his head. “I thought you were the one known for strategy,” he replies.

I grumble at my own reputation. It may be so, but that doesn’t mean no one else should even try. I look at Shadow, who licks his lips, no doubt waiting for me to share. What would a wolf do? The thought is wistful, perhaps, but it lingers with me all the way back to Treehorn Hall.

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