The clouds must’ve gone sometime before morning broke over the mountains. Their tendrils remain painted over the great sun whose light always found a way to infiltrate Clemnilshala’s eyes without miss. She’d wrinkled her nose and puckered her face in hope that maybe Rigmol would block it out or that those brushstrokes would blot out the light.
No such luck.
With loud groans, she peeled her face out of Rigmol’s side. The sunlight sighing down across the floor of the stables casting her uneven shadow across spent bedding. She rubbed the remaining stump of her broken-off horn as she wiped stray drool from her cheek.
“Mmmmnh Mornin’ Rigs” She scratched at the flattened spot her face had made in her great stag’s side.
Rigmol shook his head to rid his face of powdered snow and free his grand antlers of the small icicles that formed across the night.
“Good morning to you too” He ‘said’ craning his great head before getting up. Clemnilshala leaned out of the stall window eying the blankets and walls of snow left behind by the blizzard, slowly being put under control by the rays of light that blinded her for just a moment. With a great yawn and a long rubbing of her bad ear, torn off by some encounter a long time ago, she went for the pitchfork and breathed happily. The rams were already out to pasture or aiding Milgen’s citizens in returning to business as usual. Outside of Rigmol the stable was deserted and ready to be cleaned. She scooped old straw out of the way, erasing the imprint her body had left in the night where she’d slept. She’d set the saddle blankets out on the stall doors and beat the dust mercilessly, cleared the paths for the rams to return comfortably. And after all of this, she found the time to fill a washtub and sit in front of the fire and clean her face of sweat and dust.
She hadn’t heard the soft stepping young man entering the stable over the splashing and bristly scratch of a plate brush being scrubbed over the remaining nub of her left horn. Rigmol alerted Clemnilshala to the blonde dwarf’s presence in the stables. He’d approached and knelt next to her scooping the brisk water into his face and beard. Clemnilshala raised her hand to warn him that this water was used and dirty.
“Was never too proud tae wash my face with the animals. Sometimes ye also see first-rate scouts again.” He smiled, his cheeks rising and bringing her gaze up to his verdant eyes. “I was hopin’ tae see ye again before goin’ tae the human city.”
Clemnilshala’s face broke an infectious smile. “Really? ‘Olmost got ye killed out there” she muttered.
He nodded and splashed more water into his face. A shiver went down his shoulders as he muttered how cold the water was. Clemnilshala stifled the flushing in her cheeks by leaning way back on her stool and looking up at the rafters. She bolted upright swiftly patting herself down to find the right pocket on her chest and retrieving the dwarf’s family crest.
“Reckon yoo’ll be wantin’ this back, Earthenboot,” she said taking the moment to look it over before placing it back in his hands. She’d put her hand on his wrist and lingered here with the inking of a memory from some time before now. He had paint under his fingernails, brown paint with some sort of sand mixed in and a cat hair. She blocked herself from staring any longer, closing his broad fingers around his family crest before going for the washing cloth that she’d then offer.
“I don’t think I’ve yet met an Earthenboot in the mountain. What’s yer name, yer given name” she asked cocking her head to the side as he put away his family crest and took the washing cloth, soaking it in the washtub.
“Samythiel, a pleasure, I’d be surprised if ye had seen an Earthenboot this far out. I’m nae from this mountain. ‘Come from the plains and foothills.” He smiled with pride, the Earthenboots are the oldest clan of griffon masters.” His voice muffled as he washed his face.
“And yoo?” she sat back down on her stool and took the hammer and the chisel to unbutton the nails that held her primary hoof plates on. “Why’re ye nae wranglin’ griffons with yer kin?”
She leaned in to listen, fiddling with her own family crest.
“Nae, lass. I didn’t have the gift tae master griffons.” He shook his head, laughing a bit. A rain of muddy colors transferred to the cloth. Yellow and blue and grey clouds into the water.
Clemnilshala rested her elbow on one of her knees so that she could brush out dirt and gravel from her hooves vowing to herself that she’d sweep it up later before putting down the clean straw. At the same time, she watched his face as he made no attempt to hide his eyeing of her hooves.
“Soo I’m a painter now.” He said simply. “Iffin’ yer askin’. What boout ye eh? Yer a’lookin’ like a mountain scout but I don’t recall speakin’ tae Eynnilfolk fer so long.”
Clemnilshala’s face tightened a moment before she removed her family crest pinned to her side.
“I’m, eh, I’m a’belonging here.” She presented the bronzed item with the Noblehood image carved into its face to Samythiel. She watched him nod and look at it, comparing it to his own, letting his thumbs glide over the intricate lines. Clemnilshala eyed him closely wondering for just a moment if he’d pocket the item. To her surprise, he passed it back to her with wide-open eyes. Asking more and more questions about the Noblehood name than she knew the answers for, all the while, Samythiel Earthenboot smiled cheek to cheek. For a moment Clemnilshala Noblehood could have sworn that she heard something clockwork tick once. Then the one question she always dreaded when meeting someone new. Why she hadn’t gone back to the other Eynnil.
But the way his eyes were lit up like the shiny new buttons on a fresh uniform stayed her venomous words on ‘her kind’. She stopped what she was doing and simply said.
“My place is here.”
Rigmol passed them by, as Samythiel pulled out the bag of money and begged her for an escort to the human city of which King Ignar ruled. Against her better judgment and Rigmol’s silent protest-
She agreed to the affair.