Snowy Ground: Chapter 1 Part 5 (And a Half)

The blizzard’s snow coated the windows and blotted out any light from the outside world. It was still jarring just how pure white snow could make the world so bleak. As an outdoors-dwelling dwarf from the plains, any other day he wouldn’t have seen the snow where he came from. Even moving to the temporary dwelling inside the mountain, where he spent the time since his family was called away, he never saw it except for through the vent holes of Khalenglough the Great. Less commonly he’d catch glimpses of the elusive powder on the shoulders the mountain scouts on rotation coming back in coated in it. It was a ghost that melted away within minutes of being near the furnaces. It somehow never crossed his mind that in the townships they saw snow all the time.
By the time he’d awoken, anyone could have fooled Samythiel that it was still night time. He’d been jarred by the deep yowl of a large house cat that sat upon the shelf of the storeroom and warmed itself by an oil lamp. He sat straight up in the cot pulling the provided blanket up to his chin. Quickly enough he brushed through his beard and cleared his throat of the sleep from the night before. There were others in the store, they shopped as quietly as they could, seeming to dodge Samythiel before he’d gotten up from the cot, the blanket falling to the floor.
“Mornin!” shouted Ignar from across the storeroom as he turned the dials and pressed the buttons of his register and opened the drawer to return silver chips to a young maiden who’d bought an entire bolt of fabric. She’d hugged it to her chest the whole time as she crossed the store in cleated leather boots, leaving shoe-shaped holes in the floor. Before trudging back out into the snow she too bid Samythiel a good morning.
Samythiel, still with the sand of sleep in his eyes, approached the counter where a bagged lunch had already been laid.
“That’ll be fourteen silver. And nine more for the bed.” Ignar said holding his hand out in waiting. Surely the word of Samythiel’s recent wealth had made it across the town, through the vines of people he’d yet to meet. Alas, he paid for his keep and did not haggle about cots nor linen sacks of food.
“Talk tae me,” said Samythiel as he investigated the bag of food. “That Eynnil that comes through here. Do ye know anythin’ about her? I was a’hopin tae see her again. Thank her fer takin’ me intae town”
Ignar nodded and silently drew out a map for him to follow down the road to the stable house where the rams and other beasts of burden were kept, and by everything that looked down on the world there she was. She bucked dirty straw and spread fresh and clean bedding for a monstrous stag. She talked to the creature the whole time, answering questions and even bantering with it until she’d filled a washtub with water. She’d removed a brass disc from her broken-off horn and rubbed her head down with water whose steam rapidly faded into the air.
The grand antlers of the enormous great stag in the stable swiveled around and it’d groaned at her before she raised her head to look at Samythiel as he got closer. She too was immense but it was her eyes, a lavender brown, that held him in place for seconds before he watched his step to get closer. What could he do but hunker down next to the washtub, something akin to the stables where he came from, and mimic the way she washed up. He stopped her from saying anything, stating he wasn’t too good to wash from a bucket.
He glanced over at the fur-lined cloak hanging from a nail on the stall post. In the daylight, it was far easier to see the scratches and scrapes on its suede and leather. Along the bottom edge, the animal pelt had become ratty and unflattering for those who enjoyed being fashionable, a grassy trim of small stitched up scars grew from the corners. All he could do was offer a smile and his thanks.
Perhaps she didn’t like it, questioning if he really meant to say that he was impressed by her skill. She leaned back and put her hands over her face before bolting upright to return his family crest. She’d read it, the dark smudges in the middle of those eyes, lifting and lowering, sketching a response. Upon returning it to his hands she used his name. strangely enough, it sounded so natural from her mouth, even if the thick mountain accent was hard to understand. She hammered away at her hooves with chisels and tools as he told her about the griffons and how his family are not from the mountain but from the plains. A thought came over him, that this Eynnil was as much a dwarf as one can be, easy to speak to and unceremonious as she took care of her hygiene while speaking.
“What about yoo then?” he’d say. “How did ye become a scout eh? Don’t reckon I’ve seen yer kind show so much knowledge about the mountains” He made motions like a mouse skittering around, the only Eynnilfolk he’d seen scampering in and out and generally leaving as quickly as they arrived.
She didn’t seem to like this as much either. A wash came over her face as she looked to grimace at something, itching and rubbing at her flopped-over right ear. Taking off her own family crest, an antique as well, she offered it to him. Samythiel looked at the dings and scratches in the bronze and traced the lines of her family name with his fingers. ‘Noblehood’ it read; a giddy glee filled him up to his shoulders he knew this family well.
The Noblehood family was once a vast clan of artisans and philanthropes. They were known all over the plains for their craftsmanship and unparalleled knack for making strong bonds across the clans. For a moment he wondered if they were all Eynnilfolk. She asserted that she belonged in the mountain. The more Samythiel asked, the more formal her posture became.
“How did ye come to meet the Noblehoods?” He’d asked. She simply smiled.
“A yeti. Much like the one from last night” A laugh escaped her throat as she rubbed the brass cap of her broken-off horn.
“Did yoo marry into the family?”
She nodded with a smile, leaning over to hammer on new hoof plates, nailing them in place causing Samythiel to flinch.
“Why haven’t ye gone back to yer own kind?”
She stopped buttoning these nails and sighed through her nose.
“I don’t belong with other Eynnil, Earthenboot. My place is here in the snow basin.” She looked out of the stall doors and looked at the snow.
“Where ye goin after this?” Asked Clemnilshala “Not everyone goes out intae a blizzard. A well-paying job perhaps?”
He nodded and opened his traveling bag, pulling out the bag of money he’d received from the courier and smiled.
“Frankly lass, er, Mrs. Noblehood, I think I may be a-needin’ an escort to Brinorion. Without reliable griffons, tae take me it looks like I’ll have tae go on foot.” He shook the bag of money. “I’ll pay handsomely. And I won’t be as big a burden as ye might think once we are out of this snow”

She’d chewed her lip, looking at the sky and mulling over a light breeze. With furrowed brow she lowered and bobbed her head. They would leave together after all.

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