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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 24

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

“Where have you been, Brahiks?” Rulgor waits for me with his war council just inside our settlement’s timber walls, as if someone told him of my approach.

“Planning the assault. I had to consult with our Shaman.” Both of those statements are true, though not connected in the way Rulgor will interpret them. Honestly, I thought hard about how to oust the Roaring Bears from our fort in the Golden Valley, during my walk back. I have the seeds of a plan, but would rather not share them until I’ve spoken to the Grackle. Mentioning that to my chieftain, however, would be unwise.

“Well, what have you come up with?” he growls. I assume his acceptance of my excuse is conditional on what he hears next.

I look down the line of faces before me: Rulgor, Hagen, his recently recovered son, Logan, and Myrkis. None of the other three meet my eyes. “Are you sure you want to do this here, my Chieftain?” I say. Plenty of other clan members are nearby, going about their business but close enough to overhear if voices are raised.

“Hmm.” Rulgor peers over his shoulder as if just becoming aware that we have a total lack of privacy. “Let’s take a walk around the hill. I need to stretch my legs, anyhow.”

The guards open the gate and I wait for my chieftain and his retinue to file through before taking up the rear. Shadow moves his head back and forth, seemingly confused that we’re going back out after just returning. After taking a few steps toward my shelter, he catches on and turns around.

“Where did you get that sword?” Logan asks, noticing the Founder’s Blade strapped across my back. “It doesn’t look like the work of our smiths.”

I like Logan, and he’s a benefit to the War Council, even if the man who chose him isn’t. I silently curse myself for not having thought of an explanation ahead of time. I clearly can’t tell them what happened – they’d accuse me of lying if I did. “I, uh, took it from one of the Roaring Bears I bested.” I know this sounds like a boast, and I don’t like hiding the truth, but it’s also the kind of thing my people respond positively to.

“I suppose we should just let you at the fort, and you can reclaim it single-handedly,” Hagen jaws. Rulgor and Myrkis laugh at his jeering. And to think, I just went out of my way to save his life.

“That might not be a bad idea if he brings that wolf along,” Myrkis adds. “By the north wind, what are you feeding him? Has he grown since yesterday?”

“He might have,” I respond, modulating my voice to suggest I’m in on the jest. If only he knew how true his observation was …

We trace the outline of Treehorn Hall, keeping its wall to our left. The grass is high, and I notice for the first time that the nearby trees have all been felled so that no branches reach over. Perhaps I see it now because I have infiltrating the Golden Valley on my mind.

“Alright, Brahkis,” Rulgor says as we reach a point along the curvature where the front gate can no longer be seen. “What have you devised?”

I sigh, glancing back momentarily at Shadow, who trails me by a few paces. I wonder how he makes distinctions between friend and foe … “We know that the Roaring Bears are confident in their strength,” I begin, “and they have the added advantage of occupying the fort. So, how would a wolf fight off a bear?”

I pause, partially to build suspense, but also to test my companions. “He wouldn’t,” Logan reluctantly answers. “He would know the bear is stronger and seek other prey.”

There is actually something to that, but of course it’s not a path our chieftain is going to accept. “Misdirection,” I offer. “The wolf is not alone, and while the bear gives attention to his snarls, the rest of the pack will nip at the bear’s flank.”

Rulgor and Hagen nod at the imagery. “But how do we get at the Roaring Bear’s flank, when it is protected by a high wall?” the chosen son asks.

“With stealth,” I say. “We attack at night and use the darkness to our advantage. “Our main force will approach the front gate, full of noise and brandishing fire. While the Roaring Bears dig in and prepare to reinforce the gate, a few of our best warriors will have snuck around and used grappling hooks to scale the back wall. They can open the gate from the inside and let the remainder of our force in.”

Even as I’m speaking, I know there are holes in this plan and it’s far from complete. I just want to buy enough time to get my clan off my back so I can seek out the Grackle and discuss what his magic has to offer.

Rulgor stops walking and the group mirrors him, all turning to face me. “You really think you can pull this off?” he says, lifting his chin so he can look down at me.
I nod. What else can I do?

“Who will you take with you over the wall?” Hagen asks. “Do you know anyone else as sneaky as you?”

He almost says it like a compliment, but it’s clearly not. I stare at him, hard, daring him to read my mind and learn all the things I’d like to do to him right now. “I haven’t worked out all the details yet,” I finally reply, keeping my eyes and tone even.

“Well, don’t take too long,” my Chieftain says, clasping my shoulder. “I want that fort back by the quarter moon.”

I nod again and he pushes past me, heading back to the entrance of Treehorn Hall. The others go with him but I stay rooted, knowing I have another journey ahead. Shadow growls and bares his teeth at my clansmen as they move between us. I guess the truce is over.

“Shadow!” I snap my fingers to gain his attention as Logan and Myrkis move to protect their leader. They would die for him, I suppose, and that’s something. The huge, black wolf looks at me and I take quicks steps away from the wall, creating an unimpeded line of sight to him. Shadow bounds toward me, snapping one last time at the other as he passes.

“Keep him under control, Brahkis, or take him back to the wilds where you found him,” Rulgor shouts as he marches to the gate, not bothering to look back.

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