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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 32

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

After fighting for my life in the Golden Valley and getting only a wink of sleep, all I really want is a chance to rest. Is that too much to ask? I hold my question until trudging most of the way up Yorilis’s hill. “How long ago did the Eladrin leave?”

He’s been watching me the entire time but looks toward the far horizon when answering. “Some hours. She is very headstrong.” His eyes return to mine. “Like someone else I know.”

I laugh weakly and impale the Founder’s Blade into the sloped earth. “Perhaps she prefers to travel alone.” I sit down first, then recline all the way back onto the hillside. “Can’t say I blame her.” And I don’t. If I viewed the world the way I imagine Rhiannon does, I wouldn’t wait for me, either. But I need sleep, and dozing in the grass, with a mixture of a cool breeze on my skin and the warmth of the slanting sun to counter it, is too strong a lure to resist.

The Spirit Shaman’s shadow looms over me as he bends forward, hands crossed behind his back. “So, you’re not even going to try?”

I shade my eyes further with my hand and squint up at Yorilis. “I didn’t say that. But there is no way in the Seventh Hall that I’m going to catch up when I can barely set one foot in front of the other.”

Yorilis straightens. “You do look rather worn out.”

“That’s an understatement. She’ll have to sleep sometime too, right? I’ll make up ground after nightfall. Shadow will help me track her, won’t you boy?” The wolf lies on this stomach, aware that I’m speaking to him, but doesn’t give up gnawing curiously on a tuft of grass.

“Mmmhmm,” the Shaman hums before stepping away to finally let me rest. “The problem with that plan is that Eladrin don’t really sleep, after all,” he says over his shoulder, but I’m halfway to snoring and pay him no mind.

I wake up on a hillside under a clear, starlit sky. My pulse quickens. Have I been transported by the magic of the moon, back to the resting place of my ancestors? I sit up to further absorb my surroundings and spot smoke rising from Yorilis’s shelter near the crest of the hill. An untended fire burns in the stone ring nearby, a cool breeze making it dance. I exhale sharply and rise, drawn to the promise of warmth.

To my immense gratitude, Yorilis has left a pot stewing over the flames. I use the long, protruding spoon to taste directly from it. Whatever herbs he used in the concoction, Yorilis’s meal is delicious, and I take full advantage of his absence to fill my belly.

Guessing at what he might be up to in his shelter, I realize the futility of trying to negotiate supplies for my trip. “We’ll just have to hunt tomorrow,” I announce to Shadow, who has been sitting calmly and licking his lips while watching me eat.

After redistributing the weight of my satchel and pouches over my hips, I recover the Founder’s Blade and strap it to the harness across my back. I steel myself for the pace to come, knowing that quick-but-steady will get me further than a blistering surge that burns out too quickly. Discipline and relentlessness: that is why the taiga favors the wolf.

The Great Mountain is still days away, but every journey begins with a single step so I take my first. Bounding down the hill, I listen to my own feet adjusting in the dark as they navigate the uneven surfaces. Shadow is ready for a run and waits long enough to give me a hopeful lead, just so he can prove how quickly he’s capable of closing it.

I quick-march for hours, through forest and field, covering good ground. When he gets hungry enough, Shadow wanders off on his own to hunt. I’m not worried about him finding me again and catching up. Eventually, hunger conquers me as well, and I spend an hour exercising patience. With no signs of large game to track, I wait and eventually shoot an unsuspecting squirrel in the midst of his own snack. My arrow pierces his head and flings him violently from his perch. It is a quick death and I don’t plan on wasting any meat.

While I cook him over a hasty fire, Shadow returns with the carcass of a hare dangling in his mouth. He sits nearby and we eat together, though the crunching bones and ripping flesh cast doubt on my companion’s manners. “You eat like my chieftain,” I tell him between bites of my own meal.

With food in our stomachs, we cover ground for a few more hours until it is time to make camp. The long day of moving has left me hungry again, but the fatigue I feel now is preferable to the previous days’, and at least it doesn’t come with new bruises. I don’t bother with a fire, trusting in Shadow’s company to keep me warm.

At dawn I forage for berries, mushrooms, and nuts, finding just enough so that I will stay hungry but still able to run – the way it should be. As we stretch further north, the track grows slower. Worn paths grow scarce and the elevation rises. I have seen no sign of Rhiannon, so she must be traveling quickly as well – or gone a completely different way, I suppose.

Morning mists hang heavily over the land, which is not unusual, but as the day drags on, they fail to dissipate. Between the trees and fog it is impossible to assess the sky, but a rumble of thunder in the northern distance brings warning of what is to come. I check that Shadow is still within sight before resigning myself to continue. Getting soaked as the temperature drops is not something I’m looking forward to.


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