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“I Am Brahkis” Episode 9

The Adventures of an Intellectual Barbarian

“Twisting Nature?” I ask. “What do you mean?”

“Please,” the Grackle entreats, “follow me to my home and I can make this much clearer.”

The fey woman laughs. “I will leave you to it,” she murmurs, shaking her head and backing toward the currently tamed thicket.

“Please, do not leave!” Urgency sharpens the Grackle’s plea. “He cannot do this alone.”

The woman turns to me, bringing the realization I’m the one this Shifter is talking about. “What is it I’m doing alone?” The obtuseness tests the threshold of my tolerance for annoyance. “I just need the snowbell blossoms so my Chieftain’s son doesn’t die. I don’t have time for anything else right now.” I can hear the rumbling in my own voice grow. “I cannot follow a strange, feathered wanderer to his roost, nor can I abide the whims of an enchantress. I must have those flowers, one way or another, then I’m leaving this glade!”

Both strangers stare at me in silence, my boiled-over frustration filling the clearing as surely as the green moonlight. My concern at the moment is the fey, for she possesses what I need. I am ready to pounce again if she moves against me, though I’m uncertain such a reaction won’t simply repeat the same cycle again.

She regards me with those large eyes, and I still can’t remember seeing her blink. “I will give them to you, Brahkis,” she says at last. I can scarcely believe what I’ve heard. “Your need is true, but I want you to remember this succor the next time you meet an Eladrin, whether me or another.”

What can I say to that? I’ve never seen her kind before, so why should I guard against owing one a favor? “Thank you,” I manage, much quieter than before. She steps toward me and I extend one arm, forcing myself to trust. She delivers the basket, and an unexpected pang of guilt comes with it.

“What’s your name?” Even my attempt at civility sounds harsh. I need sleep.

She answers, nevertheless. “Rhiannon.” Speaking her own name, the lyrical aspect of her voice asserts itself once more.

“Rhiannon,” I repeat, more to hear the contrast of the word in my gruff tone than anything else. “The Shadowwolf clan thanks you as well.” She nods, and I turn my attention to the Grackle, as it seems somehow wrong to ignore him. He is a Shaper, after all. “I wish you good fortune on your quest,” I say, not knowing what that entails.

“I’m not giving up on you,” he replies.

Time will tell, but I don’t speak the words aloud. No use baiting a sorcerer. Instead, I raise my hand and wave, letting the handle of the basket slide into the crook of my elbow. I know it has to be late, or early, and I’m eager to return to the campfire. Sparing a look back as I reach the edge of the glade, I find both of my conspirators vanished.

I force myself forward, resigning to let the weight of tonight’s mysteries accumulate without immediate consideration. If I don’t get back to Yorilis soon, I fear this night will find a way to continue playing out endlessly.

My return through the woods seems faster, but that may be because I give less care to my surroundings. No wolves linger to harass me, and I welcome the cold wind greeting me as I break free from the dense trees. The stars have moved, and the faintest glow on the western horizon warns me that morning is not far off.

I keep a quick pace around the base of the hills until I reach the shaman’s slope. The wolves have all departed, and while this brings relief, it also leaves me feeling alone. What has this night done to me?

Yorilis is snoring in his shelter when I reach the hill’s summit. The sounds of his slumber ignite my own latent exhaustion, and I decide not to wake him. Placing the basket of snowbell blossoms near the entrance of his abode, I claim a swath of thick grass and unceremoniously collapse upon it. The ground is cold, but the grip of my fatigue is strangling, and I give in to it.

The sun is full upon me when I wake, though I have not slept overlong – that much I can tell from the difficulty of sitting up. Yorilis stokes the fire nearby, and a pot rests on a spit above it.

“Is that Hagen’s remedy?” I ask, my waking voice resembling a bullfrog.

Yorilis nods, and though his lips move, I cannot hear any words.
Pressing my palms to the earth, I force myself to rise, thankful I don’t have to fight the curve of the hill to draw closer. “I had the strangest night,” I begin, summoning what I think are memories, but may have just as easily been dreams.

The shaman is still mumbling, giving no indication he’s listening, so I save my breath. I sit cross-legged across the fire, mirroring our positions from the previous evening, and inhale the scent of whatever is simmering in the pot. It smells awful, so I lean back and close my eyes. It’s possible I fell back asleep, because I almost tip over when Yorilis finally directs words my way.

“Take this back to Treehorn Hall and give it to the healers,” he says, extending a bulging drinking bladder. “Some will spill, but Hagen must drink at least half. He will sweat, he will vomit, but should not eat anything else until his fever breaks. If we have caught the poison in time, he will walk again in three days. If not… Brahkis should make peace with his ancestors.”

I cannot tell if the old man is trying to be funny, but his blunt words stir the unsettled contents of my stomach. I stand and take the bladder from his hands, even as my body cries out for more sleep. Every hour I delay might be the one that seals my fate, if the long night has not already done so.

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