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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 26

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

If this doesn’t go well, at least I won’t have to uncover the secret of what’s ailing the Great Mountain.  It wasn’t difficult to find volunteers to step with me into the shadows, for they imagine their share of the glory to be greater.  Have they weighed that against earning a greater share of death?

Nertram – the only one I know for sure respects me – advances beside me as our octet scales the back side of the hill.  We stay low, sometimes on all fours, our eyes almost fully adjusted to the dark – as much as the eyes of men can be.  Whether to our benefit or detriment, clouds blanket the sky, blotting out nearly all starlight from the heavens.

I have no doubt the Grackle will still be able to find us.  Unable to simply wait, I motion for my troupe to stay put while I crawl to the crest of the hill.  I want to get a sense of the fort’s activity.

Timing will be crucial.  The rest of our warriors, three score in all, should be quietly marching along the path from Treehorn Hall this very moment.  I look over my shoulder first to make sure they are not yet within view.  As soon as they are, I must be ready to enter the shadows and emerge inside our stolen fort.  The very idea causes me to shiver.

I want the Roaring Bears to realize the scope of their opposition just after our first strike, adding a crucial moment of choice to maximize panic and nurture disarray.  They will no doubt be wondering how we got inside, how many of us there are, and that sense of confusion will create our advantage.

The flapping of wings catches my attention, but before I can spot a dark bird upon an even darker sky, a robed man is lying beside me, crushing the long grass.  “I’ve scouted the fort from above,” the Grackle whispers, “and have found just the right corner of shadow to suit our purpose.”

I’m glad he didn’t bother with pleasantries – shows his focus is where it needs to be.  “Alright then,” I say, finally peeking over the top of the hill and looking down into the Golden Valley.  The fort doesn’t seem particularly active tonight; only a few torches are visible from my vantage.

My plan embraces the use of stealth, of subterfuge – not traits we men of the north particularly admire.  Yet, in the end, my Chieftain allowed me to proceed my way instead of demanding a frontal assault that we might demonstrate our strength to our enemies.  He deserves some credit for that, I suppose.

“There they are,” I announce downwind to the hillside, spotting the movement of many marching feet upon the path far below.  I turn to the Grackle.  “We should do this.”

He nods and stands, then walks downhill a few paces to avoid being spotted from the fort.  He grips the edge of his cloak in one hand and extends his arm perpendicular to the ground.  The cloth beneath is black, but still looks like cloth.  The Grackle reaches into a pocket over his right breast and withdraws a small object.

“Once I’ve finished speaking, I will nod and you can just walk right though my cloak as if it was a hole in the air.”  He starts chanting as if no one should have trouble accepting what he just said.

“We will go one at a time,” I say, “but in quick succession.  Remember, on the other side are our enemies and we should act decisively and protect one another.  We’ll make our way to the gate as fast as we can and prop it open.”

No sooner do I finish my speech than the Grackle completes his strange chanting.  He nods.  I swallow hard and loosen the sword from my back.  I cannot regret what I’m about to do or their will be hesitation, and that could get me killed.  I am a wolf defending my pack, that is all.  Without sparing another thought, I swerve around the Grackle and dip into the curtain of his cloak.

The journey is instantaneous, and I am suddenly standing on a packed earth floor, surrounded by a wall of high timber.  Nertram bumps into me from behind, a reminder to keep moving.  I hustle forward, struggling to gain my bearings.  A few bodies wrapped in thick animal hides dot the elevated walkway around the fort’s perimeter, but they haven’t noticed me.  My gaze shifts lower, more concerned about the Roaring Bears who might threaten from the ground, but I don’t spot any.

A handful of buildings shield my view to the front gate and I throw my back against one, trying to reduce my profile.  Nertram does the same as voices reach us from around the corner.  It sounds like a group of men are in the yard – a shift change for sentry duty, perhaps.  I look past Nertram, temporarily awed as my Shadowwolf brethren birth from the darkness of the fort’s corner.

When they are all accounted for, I will their gazes to mine and nod, hoping they understand enough to follow.  Gripping my sword with both hands, I use quick, short steps to reach the end of my building’s cover and expose myself to the yard.  Eight Roaring Bears occupy the vicinity – one for each of us.  Of course, we have the advantage of surprise, which is the look frozen on the face of the nearest one as I slice him open from shoulder to hip.

My clan members rapidly spill around me, and the sounds of hasty slaughter shatter the otherwise still night.  Wails and shouts join with the movement of air as blades whisk through it, all filling my ears.



“Raise the alarm!”

A few of them are able to draw weapons but are quickly overwhelmed by our savage readiness.  The gate stands straight ahead, and the two Roaring Bears stationed to control it abandon their post to run for the barracks.  This is our chance.

“Help me with the gate, Nertram!” I yell as my other companions fan out to form a circle around us.  Together, we lift the heavy bar blocking the entryway and drop it on the ground.  Each grabbing one side of the gate, we pull with all of our might to open it.  My end swings slowly inward, and after it is half-way ajar, I pause to catch my breath … just in time to see a line of Roaring Bears streaming out of the barracks, howling at the tops of their lungs.

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