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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 38

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

Though the journey back to Shadowwolf lands provides me ample time to reflect, doing so fails to yield a viable solution. My body reminds me of the cost of confronting these Mountain Monsters; the scrapes and welts I accrued are both visible and painful, and I know it could have easily been worse.

I don’t say much on the way back, and neither does Rhiannon. We have almost two weeks until the next full moons, and it doesn’t make sense to stay up in the remote cold of the Great Mountain for so long. We both vowed to return when the time finally comes, and the Eladrin’s earned my trust.

I miss my own shelter at Treehorn Hall. Even my often annoying neighbors provide a modicum of comfort that I find myself craving. But I’m not going all the way home – at least not yet. There are only two people I can think of who might be able to guide me through the present dilemma, and one of them is currently a bird.

The Grackle will find me when he is ready – of that I am sure. He cannot keep his beak out of the mission he gave us in the first place. So, I make my way toward Yorilis’s hill to solicit his advice. The odd goat’s not too bad if you’re willing to give him a chance. He means well, he’s just misunderstood.

Shadow and I are both more comfortable once we’re off the mountainside and back into the forests. I breathe easier and he is free to hunt. Rhiannon follows her own path home once the land levels off, so I take the time to set snares and catch myself a rabbit. Life is better with a full stomach.

In a couple of days, I’m back in familiar territory. I see the wolf totems of my clan and my pace quickens until I reach the Spirit Shaman’s abode. It is dusk when I arrive and he’s nowhere to be found, but I hear the calls of wolves in the nearby woods. Shadow returns them. It wasn’t so long ago that such howls made my spine tingle. Now, they sound more like a greeting.

I make myself useful and tidy up the stones around the fire ring, then use the last of the light to gather kindling. With my attention devoted to tending my small blaze, I fail to notice Yorilis’s silent return.

“Brahkis, I thought I smelled you,” he says, walking up the hillside from behind me. His feet are bare, caressed by the long grass as he strides closer. “I see you decided not to remain upon the Great Mountain.”

“You thought I might?” I use a thick stick to move a pair of burning limbs within the fire.

“I thought you and the lass might have run away to find true happiness together.” He jests, but hides it well.

“I don’t suppose you have anything around to cook?” I started walking early and didn’t stop to eat.

“Just brought down a deer, actually,” he says, licking his lips. “It’ll go quicker if you help me dress it.”

I can’t argue with that and am not above laboring for my meal, though it will be a more difficult task under the stars. I draw my knife and follow the Shaman to the carcass. Working together, it barely takes any time to skin and slit the deer. I notice that, instead of a puncture wound from an arrow, the animal only has bite marks around the throat. I have questions but keep them to myself.

Yorilis waits until we’re eating to begin asking his. “Did you find what you were looking for on your journey, Brahkis?”

I take my time chewing, not sure how much I should explain. “I don’t know what I expected, honestly, but Rhiannon thinks she found the cause of the trouble. She says the Great Mountain’s Heart has been broken.”

“Split by the earthquake, I surmise.”

I jump at the Grackle’s voice and nearly fall off my log, for he has materialized from thin air. Yorilis laughs quietly at my reaction. “Have we not talked about that?” I say, reaching for the piece of venison I dropped.

“My apologies, Brahkis. I had just transformed when I heard what you said.” The Grackle bows his head to Yorilis. “Greetings, old friend. I have been away too long.”

“Come, sit and share in my kill,” our Spirit Shaman offers.

The Grackle obliges. “I saw it with my own eyes this time,” he says once he’s holding a hefty portion of meat. “The Heart of the Mountain, split in two. You remember the tremor we experienced a couple moons ago? That must have been what did it. The timeline all makes sense.”

“So what’s to be done?” I feel very much like the uninitiated in these matters. “Rhiannon says her magic can heal the Heart, but that the Mountain’s Guardians will likely turn on her when she tries.”

The Grackle nods while chewing. “I would trust her instincts on that. Unfortunately, my magic is limited so far from my source. You’ve got that sword, Brahkis. Can you not defend her?”

I scoff. “I don’t know if you reached us in time to witness my encounter at the Rock Wyrm village – or what was left of it. One of those monsters nearly took my head off. I know you saw how many were outside that cave. According to the Eladrin, even more wait inside. I am a confident man, but I try not to lie to myself. I cannot defeat half a dozen of the creatures on their own ground.”

“So, wait,” Yorilis says, setting down his food and raising a hand. “How is it that the girl and our friend here got close enough to see the Heart in the first place, if it is protected by monsters?”

I shrug. “She says they don’t see her as a threat.” Shadow whines and steps a bit closer to the fire, so I throw him another chunk of deer flesh. “Nor the wolf, apparently. But barbarians? Oh, I’ve seen up close what they do to the likes of us.”

“Well, then,” Yorilis says before leaning back against his log, looking entirely content, “the solution is simple.”

“It is?”

“Yes, Brahkis,” he replies. “You just need to approach the Heart as a wolf.”

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