Snowy Ground: Chapter 1, Finale

By afternoon at the latest, they had to be on the way in order to make it to the far scouting station nestled inside the diminutive mountain Alfgorn who seemed to have an ever-changing title depending on who a person spoke with. Now, normally one might take ten days to go around the readily accessible roads between the mountain passes and the other bodies of land which made up the great nations. Samythiel returned to the general store with a list of supplies needed to make the trip. For mountain scouts with access to the scouting stations and tunnels underneath the mountains, the trip would be taking four days instead. By the time Samythiel returned with Rigmol’s saddlebags filled with supplies for a trip to and from the city, Clemnilshala had just finished buttoning and strapping knee pads and leg braces onto her great stag. The calms after blizzards were always the best for traveling but worst on the thin-legged creatures such as great stags and Eynnilfolk.
The cold wind made Rigmol’s fur bristle like a shoe brush as he complained and groaned about how he was supposed to be inside of the mountain where it was warm next to the river of fire.
Samythiel, ever helpful, got up on a stepping stool and helped in throwing saddlebags over Rigmol’s back before crawling underneath and tightening the flank cinches separately. Clemnilshala crossed around front and opened up the far satchel to pull out a collection of white wrappings. She read the words on it and smiled.
“Woould some lamb help ye old friend? Will that stop yer bellyachin’?” She unwrapped the parchment paper to strips of sweetened meat coated in a dry glaze that shined in the sunlight as brightly as the snow under her hooves. Rigmol did not turn down meat, instead, he actively ate it from Clemnilshala’s fingers, chomping it down into his staggish jaws.
Clemnilshala smiled brightly coming to Samythiel and taking a knee, lowering her head deeply.
“Here,” she said, lacing her gloved fingers together and offering him a step onto Rigmol’s back. Even on a stepping stool, most dwarves would find trouble climbing onto great stags. He steadied himself with a broad hand on her shoulder as she hoisted him up and got him settled on Rigmol’s saddle. She fed the stag another piece of lamb. A shiver went up his spine, Samythiel could feel it like he could feel the way griffons would celebrate being treated.
When the journey began Clemnilshala assured Samythiel that they would arrive in the city safe and sound. The snow came up so high when cutting across the basin, touching the soles of Samythiel’s boots. Rigmol only huffed and puffed, pushing through as Clemnilshala, chest-deep, braced herself behind the shield of her bow to part the way for the small band. It was barely nightfall when they got to the first scout station on the far end of the basin. The way was lit by a great brazier and waiting there was a group of older scouts, several of whom sported eyepatches and decorated cloaks of their own. Under the brazier, it was much warmer as the curtains of night closed over the sky and snuffed out the violet light of sunset.
It was here that they would break for the night. The older ladies and gentlemen put their hands up to halt Rigmol and help Samythiel back down to the ground. They were served with hot food that hung on a string from the braziers. They even remembered to bring Rigmol the meats he liked as well as stray potatoes that had been left over from other meals. Clemnilshala leaned into his side while Samythiel sat opposite to her, they ate and drank and told stories late into the night.
As Samythiel faded to sleep the last thing he saw was the Eynnil with a great smile on her face singing songs and butting her head against her friends as they havered along.
He was roused the next morning and placed on Rigmol’s back before he leaned over and went to sleep again, how long must it have been since he slept under the vast sky. When he awoke the second time they were in a service tunnel, passing a supply cart pulled by a team of rams. The end of the tunnel was nowhere in sight, all Samythiel could hear was the sound of cave water kissing the ground and the distant grumble of mining elevators going up and down. Occasionally, they’d see a fire-tender come along and replace torches so that anyone in the tunnels could see.
At one point Samythiel checked his pocket watch for the time, passing an alcove with a well-lit inn as he rode on Rigmol’s back. Rigmol slowed a moment but Clemnilshala insisted that they continue on, that they would rest when they saw the sky again. Which took late into the following night spending thirty hours underground in mining shafts and service tunnels weaving to the left and right before being presented with the beauty of the open taiga on the other side of the mountain pass. Without the treachery of poor weather the trip truly was significantly shorter.
The valley Reynraed, a lush bountiful harvest with paint splashes of lamplight where towns came together and feasted. They continued on, coming down a cobblestone road into a town littered with humans and dwarves. They knew Clemnilshala here too, she dug around in Rigmol’s saddlebags and passed around goods from the mountains. There were cheers and joy. Through the trees, one could see the glow of Brinorion city. One more day. This night there was a festival of flowers and grain.
Rigmol relaxed with a plate of food while children braided flowers and beads into the long patch of fur in his mane that seemed to give the old stag the appearance of a beard. He laid guard over Clemnilshala’s prized cloak as she danced and turned and stomped and clapped with the dwarves of this town. Samythiel danced too, drinking his fill and even purchasing a charm to carry along to remind him of the way he felt tonight. They sang poems around a great bonfire being built by brazier tenders. Women tied a piece of paper and fire starter to an arrow and, with hands clasped at their chests and flowers in their beards, begged Clemnilshala to light the fire with her bow. The festival parted and Clemnilshala took the arrow, running halfway down the town before picking up her shielded bow, drawing the arrow, and allowing it to be lit ablaze. The arrow whistled through the air like a shrieking hawk and the wood pile was engulfed in flame. There was cheering, more festivities, and in Samythiel’s ears, he could hear the whistling arrow all the rest of the night.
They departed the next morning with a second escort and a ram for Samythiel to ride upon as they cut through the forest surrounding the town on a dusty path. The forest grew darker and more daunting yet nothing attacked the whole way with a flintlock wielding maiden leading them. The whole of the day they rode down to the river with a bridge that crossed right into the northern gates of Brinorion. They arrived late in the night and set up camp skirting the very edge of the forest at Clemnilshala’s behest upon seeing a patrol of broad Eynnic men in their glittering white armor. She threw her cloak over a branch and allowed Samythiel to sleep underneath it. All night long she stood watch.

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