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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 30

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

“The Founder’s Blade?” asks the Grackle.

I sigh, not wanting to share such information with more people than necessary.  “I had an experience after drinking a tincture the Spirit Shaman gave me.  I think I discovered the weapon belonging to the Founder of our Clan.  Or, it discovered me.”

“Our Chieftain’s son has the silver sword of Yorrick Shadowwolf?”  The Grackle seems stunned into silence.

I scan the yard to see if anyone overheard him but get no obvious indications.  ‘Shhh.”  I step closer to the Grackle.  “I tried to convince him it was cursed, but he managed to somehow turn that back on me.”  I glance around again, definitely not wanting any of my Clan to hear what I’m going to say next.  “Can’t you, you know, put a spell on Hagen to change his mind?”

The Grackle scoffs.  “If I could, do you think I’d be living as an outcast?  Enchantments of the mind are more the province of Eladrin magic … perhaps if Rhiannon were nearby …” 

I shake my head.  “She’s preparing for the journey to the Great Mountain.”

“As should you be, Brahkis.  You won your victory here.  It’s time to shift focus to the bigger threat.”

“I’m not leaving the Founder’s Blade with that oaf!”  This time my voice does attract attention, and I growl at my loss of control.  I nod toward the dark corner where we first arrived through the Shaper’s shadow cloak and head that direction.  Once we’ve created a little more distance from the rest of the Shadowwolves, I resume speaking in a lower voice.  “I know how it sounds, but I feel like finding that sword was an act of Destiny, and I don’t think the ultimate purpose was to deliver it to the son of Rulgor.”

The Grackle nods his agreement, though the torch-induced shadows of his face turn the gesture sinister.  “I understand.”  He looks down at Shadow, who lifts his muzzle as if waiting for a question to answer.

The question, when it comes, is directed back at me.  “What was Hagen’s precise reaction when you told him the Founder’s Blade carried a curse?”

I shrug, thinking back to my exchange with the Chieftain’s son.  “He said that any curse could be overcome by the strength of his family line and that only a coward like myself would be afraid to use such a powerful weapon.”

“So he didn’t dismiss the notion of a curse out-of-hand?”

I shake my head, wondering what solution the Grackle is reaching toward.

“Well then, perhaps we simply need to prove to Hagen that the curse is real.”

“Before sunrise?”  I’m thankful for the help but dubious all the same.

It’s the Grackle’s turn to shrug.  “The ploy will either work or it won’t.”

“And you can’t just magically sneak in as a wisp of smoke and steal the Blade back while he sleeps?”  I usually prefer the subtle approach, but I worry that might require a level of sophistication Hagen distinctly lacks.

“Brahkis, I think you underestimate the rest of the tribe’s adherence to superstition.  Now, I need an empty sack and a little time.  See to your fellows.  I’ll find you again in an hour or two.”  With that, the Grackle takes his leave, finding even deeper shadows of the fort, not doubt to transform away from prying eyes.

I sigh, annoyed at my own impatience.  It’s a trait I disdain in others.  Nertram’s wounds still need tending, as do a slew of my kin.  My knife recovered, I return to the hall where the injured wait.

I stay busy with the repercussions of battle, bandaging the wounds too deep to close and applying honey to protect from infection.  I am no surgeon from the southlands, however, and my limitations are evident.  A handful died during the fighting.  The savage wounds inflicted by the Roaring Bears may claim twice that many as the days pass.  I’m exhausted by the time I’ve done what I can.

The hour is late, or more precisely early, and Hagen has no doubt long since retired.  I do not wish to sleep surrounded by the wounded and decide to find a spot under the stars.  A fur blanket and Shadow should be enough to keep me warm.

Stepping out into the still night, I hear a pronounced hiss beckoning me from a dark corner.  Shadow’s ears prick up and his posture tenses.  I had forgotten the Grackle during my work, and am so tired I almost wish he’d done the same.  If he weren’t doing me a favor, I’d pretend I didn’t hear him.  Instead, I follow the sound into the shadows, though I’m unable to perceive any from my Clan still keeping watch.

“I trust our Chieftain’s son is sleeping by now?” the Grackle asks in a harsh whisper.  He’s holding something I can’t make out in the darkness, but it seems to be intermittently emitting slight squeaks.

I nod, though unsure he can make out the gesture.  “What have you got?”

“A sure sign of the curse,” he replies, an unseen smile evident in his voice.  “Take me to Hagen.”

I don’t know for certain where Hagen has laid his head, but it shouldn’t be difficult to work out.  Presumably, the captain’s quarters are the largest in the fort and likely the only private sleeping space.  It doesn’t take long to narrow the choices from the few free-standing buildings around the yard.

“Stay, Shadow.”  I point to the ground to emphasize my desire.  Understanding that our mission requires stealth, I don’t want a stray growl to ruin things, though I realize both the Grackle and myself are hopelessly clumsy compared to the wolf.  My dark-furred companion obeys, though, settling his rump onto the ground as we creep to the door separating us from the sleeping Hagen.

“What exactly is the plan?” I finally ask, still unsure what the Grackle’s cryptic explanation encompasses.

“It’s quite simple,” he replies.  “As you told our Chieftain’s son, bad things happen to those who possess the Founder’s Blade.  Hagen’s about get his first proof of that.”  The Grackle gently pats the sack he’s holding closed by one hand.  “Now, if you’d be so kind as to open the door for me …”

Trusting the eccentric Shaper, I grasp the handle and slowly push open the door, thankful it hasn’t been barred from the inside.

The Grackle remains crouched as he creeps through it, and I stay in place, watching from the door.  The room is dark, but my eyes have adjusted well to the starlight.  I can make out the edges of objects as well as the Grackle’s movement.  A slight glint from the silvery metal of the sword calls to me from the bed as if we share a bond.  Does it shed its own light, or is that my imagination?  It bothers me that Hagen is sleeping with it, snoring loudly enough for me to be envious of his rest.

The Grackle approaches the bed and rises.  I see movement and hear another sound, like the tearing of bread from its loaf.  Then, more squeaking as the sack is upended.  Hagen’s snoring is interrupted as he stirs.  I tense, almost letting the door slip shut as the Grackle freezes.  I start breathing again when Hagen does, and the Grackle hastily struts toward me.

I hold my questions until he is out and the door is closed behind him.  “What—”

“Shhh!” he responds, leaning closer to the captain’s quarters as if listening.

I stay quiet and do the same.  We don’t have to wait long.  A series of thuds, followed by a barrage of curses erupts from inside the room. The Grackle stands and hurries in the direction of the main hall.  I follow suit, a few steps behind, and Shadow abandons his vigil to stay with me.

“What just happened?” I ask as we reach the halo of torchlight outside the hall.

“I suggest you find a place to lay low and get some sleep,” the Grackle replies between sharp breaths.  “If I guess correctly, we’ll find out before long if it worked.”  With that, he shifts into bird form and flies off into the night sky, leaving me with my questions.

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