Snowy Ground: Chapter 1 Part 2

Beyond the gates into the city of Khalenthel, nestled inside the well-carved ribcage of the mountain, was an innumerable collection of opportunities if one knew how to look for them. This was the truth of anyone who existed inside. From the magma and ironworkers whose skin was ashen from laboring next to the lifeblood and near-beating heart of Khalenglough the Great. So too were there minstrels whose sole purpose was to walk the rings of the city, singing, and dancing, keeping morale up. The guards, that traveled in packs ensuring everything was fair and just. There were bakers, painters, toymakers, and noblemen.

Finally, the mountain scouts who only entered upon the changing of the moon phases, the new moon meaning that for fifteen glorious days Clemnilshala Noblehood could go about her business as she saw fit. Often her business was living in her very own slot that she called home in the off days. Wherein there was a hearth, dust on the walls, and a rectangle just above the mantle that had not always been there. The full moon meant she was back outside, patrolling and doing what she did best.

Now some may suggest that dwarves are often loud, with poor manners and great appetites. Perhaps images of tables packed with ale and meat, often the dwarves in question would be drunk, havering back and forth. At first glance, surely they were an argumentative folk over suppertime. Eynnil couriers and visitors rarely elected to eat with the dwarves. The great ramfolk, unless they were given no choice but to come into the mountain, were more or less mere whispers and rumors. And when they did visit they kept to themselves, forming groups amongst themselves and remaining as subtle as the ghostly shadows cast by the flowing bloody magma that warmed the city and stoked the furnaces. Clemnilshala seemed to be the only known exception. She, in most ways not including physical, seemed to be as much a dwarf as anyone else in Khalenthel

Some may say that Eynnilfolk were never made to be living inside the mountain where the rocks chipped away at their rammish hooves. How their hooves were different from the riding rams and king-horses was often a mystery. Many believed that these same folk were never made to live in the snow outside where the soft terrain made it hard to stand on two legs. Yet Clemnilshala never made motions that she’d ever leave the city of Khalenthel, her neighbors often gossiped that she actively avoided Eynnil couriers and peered around corners before stalking on like a great green ghost. Though the holy warriors that dwelled close with the noblemen could answer the question in a heartbeat as to why Clemnilshala simply didn’t ‘get along’ with others of her kind. Though they simply never seemed to care enough to do much about it.

The day that Clemnilshala returned into the mountain for her allotted fifteen days amongst the warmth of the fire, she first stopped by her home and unloaded her gear. Unpacking her pockets and storing away her excess foods. Hanging up ropes and setting aside bags of this and that. All the while Rigmol, her great stag, waited on the other side of the doorway finding his antlers were far too big to pass indoors. At last, Clemnilshala was afforded the moment to change out of her leather jumpsuit, dyed green, and set it in the washtub to be cleaned and repaired when the time suited it. A button had come loose, and a squabble turned skirmish with a nearby tribe of bandits had given it rips in the leg and side. Now was not the time to do this. She instead clothed herself in a sweater and skirt which seemed too large and too small for her frame at the same time. The only thing she replaced was her faded belt sporting her family crest and pockets for her small possessions.

The first place she went after leaving her door and taking Rigmol by the bridle was to the pub, feigning that she would visit Fellfili later after she’d had a good meal. She took her food back out into the corridors of the city, sitting on the steps of the slot that the pub occupied. This meal, wrapped in cloth turned out to be roasted meats of sorts, a kind of gravy, squash, and a hunk of bread. Additionally, they had filled her flagon with whichever liquor whose barrel was already open. This she called the usual, even having a second plate onto which she placed a portion of her meats to share with Rigmol who laid down to relax and tear tender morsels apart in long strings and proceed to eat them. To his companion, this was a normal occurrence, but to others that did not spend their days with Rigmol, a stag eating meat was exactly as unsettling as it sounds. Clemnilshala watched and snickered at something the stag must have said. Beginning to feed herself, watching a painter across the way, with his face pressed to the wall, close to a hole that lead outside and provided fresh air into the flews.

Meanwhile behind her, inside the pub, the patrons made merry and reveled with the returns of their brothers and friends. Passing by was a guard, taking a stroll, he looked so much like his father in many ways. Clemnilshala drank of her flagon, a sour sort of whiskey filled it, and hummed and hawed about what that painter must be created on the canvas. That is until she spied the horn, hoof, and tail of an Eynnic courier that interrupted him giving him a scroll case and a sack of money. Clemnilshala did not wait to see if he packed up and left, instead, she made herself scarce and took her empty plates into the kitchen of the pub and helped wash up.

“Hidin’ out again lass?” Said a familiar lady’s voice. A whispy bearded cook slicing away at a boar, long silver hair tied back in two braids. Her elderly face was as kind as Mr. Ignar’s, certainly, this was Mrs. Fellfili alright.

Clemnilshala’s face flushed at how quickly she’d been discovered.

“Noo, I ain’t hidin’ out, Fellfili. I thought that ye coould just use the help. A rowdy bunch out there today” she muttered putting a soapy rag to the dirty dishes, taking a seat by the washbasin and smiling. Her long tail thumping on the floor.

“Sure ye ain’t.” Fellfili replied, snickering to herself and plating up a thick slice of boar to be taken out whenever. “I miss our chats lass. I knoo that my uncle is gone now but I still want tae keep in touch when yer in town”

Clemnilshala quieted herself, thinking of what sorts of words she could say here.

“I’m sorry, that I don’t come like I used tae” she said after a long pause. Fellfili waved off the apology and sheathed her carving knife into the wood of the cutting board. She wiped her hands on her apron and instead sat with her back to Clemnilshala and began to peel potatoes.

“It’s not an, ‘I’m sorry’ matter love. I just want tae make sure yer doing alright, eh?” she leaned back pushing on Clemnilshala’s back “Ignar and I just like ye is all. We want tae look out fer ye as long as we can. We know its hard fer ye long-lived folk.”

“It is hard, Fellfili. But it’s been four years now, I don’t want tae talk about those cry-things” she said softer still, changing the subject. “I saw a griffin out there. And a couple of birds too. First flying things that I’ve seen since the falling star last winter.”

Clemnilshala stacked the plates, and peeled potatoes next to Fellfili while Rigmol bugled loudly outside the pub.

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