Snowy Ground: Chapter 2 Part 1 (And a Half)

The inklings of a dream had faded away, lost to the morning wind, and reality came into focus with the face of a blonde Dwarf. His familiar face, furrowed and afraid, shied away from the point of a skinning knife. Warmth welled into Clemnilshala’s cheeks, her hair bristled as she dropped her whip and put the knife away in its sheath on the side of her chest. The way it was slid in and how she could feel the knife moving into place reassured her that she was not a danger. What could happen now but apologize profusely? She clapped her hands on the sides of his shoulders the way she used to when she made a fool of herself on the mountain around other scouts.
“Lad! Och I’m sorry!” she said, “I dunnae what came over me! I shouldn’t have done that” She shook him a bit before he wriggled free. He held his palms up like a defensive fighter in an unnamed tavern somewhere that did not mean to offend an aggressor.
Shaking his head Samythiel only said that he was going into the city and that he left her some money with Rigmol. Just like that he picked up his tucker bag and cross the bridge into the city, disappearing behind its gates.
All that was left was Clemnilshala and Rigmol, she took off her family crest and pinned it to her great stag’s harness and tack. Her hair bristled, she peered around looking for the source of the electric current that pestered the back of her neck. She got up, stretching out and going to wrap up her beast whip and replace it to her side.
Rigmol was slower to get up, he groaned and complained about having to lay on the hard ground instead of the comfortable bedding of a stable somewhere. He muttered something about enjoying the fireplace of the one in Milgan, that there was always soft straw to lay on. Clemnilshala pulled her mouth to one side, less than amused at her stag’s barrage of gripes. It wasn’t long until they’d completely packed up, Clemnilshala rolled around in the grass and dirt to cover her hoof prints as best she could. She smiles and brushes the streaks and lines of green stains into her green-dyed leather, they looked like they’ve been there all along. Stains from other grasses mingled with the engraved runes along her shoulders and sides. She put his bridle on and the bit into his mouth, tugging at it as they set off together back into the forest. A thin blanket of mist painted the long grasses and reeds along the stream that cut into the forest.
They passed a chicken coop with Eynnic servants picking up eggs, Clemnilshala cringed and hit her head beside Rigmol’s great neck as the old stag seemed to laugh a little. Hens waddled about the forest with geese and ducks in little flocks, tended by a human laborer with a long stick. He looks up from his work, waving at the one-horned Eynnil. Clemnilshala stayed her hand for a moment, a stony bubble rising from her stomach as her throat tightens.
She waved back and walked on making it to another stream deeper into the forest on the way back. Checking over her shoulders, without anyone else in sight she let Rigmol kneel and have a drink of water. She took the time to rest her bones, unbuttoning her jumpsuit and wriggling free of its top to cool her shoulders and undershirt, rolling up the pants to soak her aching hooves in the clean water. She set her gloves to one side and paid no mind to anything else as she scooped water up into her short hair. It washed over her face and soaked into her undergear.
She blustered and shook her head “vrr thas cold” She hisses to herself as Rigmol takes a nice long drink. Clemnilshala worked her fingers through her hair and made sure to shake out the dead leaves and pieces of grasses. She cleaned the scarred edge of her right ear which had been torn in a fight so long ago and no longer matched her flopped-over left ear. With water in her ears, it was impossible to hear the footsteps sneaking up behind her.
Surely the clatter of a knight’s armor roused her from her hygiene, she raised her head and turned to find dark eyes seated under a protruding brow characteristic of the absolutely massive males of the Eynnil species. His broad frame blocked out the sunlight and the veins of shy treetops, his horns wove downward and outward, a fine example of a warrior on any other day. The white blaze down the front of his face was broken by the sooty smudges of some war paint.
An exile hunter stood before her.
Clemnilshala’s tail coiled up close to her body, with her shoulders and legs exposed like this there was no way to deny that her skin was indeed marked. She tried to lace her arms into the long sleeves of her scout’s gear, perhaps she could get away and get to the borders of this territory before he caught up with her.
He advanced. “Exile!” he shouts into the woods to be answered by the whoops and hollers and the clattering of plate armor.
“Ah heh” Clemnilshala breathed, getting up from her spot, cool water drips down the back of her neck or was it sweat by now. “Err I’m sure we can be reasonable, lads. Eh heh…I’m just on me way back tae me home…annn I’ll nae be in yer hair if ye let me go”
Four more exile hunters joined the male, Eynnic faces with smudged paint and small weapons. They looked to one another. Shackles and chains emerged from their bags and pockets as they spoke to one another. Something of nostalgia sat in Clemnilshala’s stomach.
“Ye still travel in packs of five eh?” She mutters, drawing her arm from one of her sleeves and sticking the leather into her belt. Her hand rose to her knife sheathe with a furrowed brow. Was this going to get ugly? Not if she could help it.
“What sort of crime did this one commit hm?” said a female, looking up to the original hunter. He cocked his head and went deep into thought.
“Blasphemy, blasphemy, and attempted murder.”
In all honesty, the point of her exile for attempted murder was blown entirely out of proportion. She couldn’t help it if someone was afraid of the end of a broom handle once upon a time. He didn’t even bleed, and besides, he attacked first.
“To the stockades then?” She advanced on the no man’s land between the exile and her hunters.
Rigmol lifts his head and snorts a bit stepping in time between the two, lowering his great crown of antlers to meet their attacks. They didn’t back away, instead, stepping forth and grabbing hold of his antlers. The great stag chortles bucking his head this way and that, if only they weren’t wearing plated armor so that he could show them what for. The behemoth male Eynnil easily pushed past Rigmol and lunged for Clemnilshala.
With a hand to his shoulder, she dodged out of the way just in the nick of time, leading the man’s weight into the stream with a cascading splash. Two Eynnic women were attempting to control Rigmol by the antlers as a final, much smaller, man came about to handle Clemnilshala. With one arm in the sleeve of her gear and the other, and its marks, exposed to the open air, she looks between them. Skipping her steps toward Rigmol she hooks her arm around the closest of the women and thrusts herself to the ground taking the woman with her. It wasn’t enough to knock her out but the attacking woman lay stunned a moment as Clemnilshala grabbed the ankle and hoof of the other and rolled over, pulling her backward and bringing her down.
Whenever it was that the largest hunter of all stopped her rolling against the massive hooves. He reached down to pick her up by the shoulders like a stray kitten. She went for her knife. This got ugly enough.
“Rigmol!” she shouts, swiping at the man. “Rigmol! Run! Get back tae the mountain!”
The man glided back, what sort of magic was it that he could see her attacks and move so deftly out of the way? She advanced, swiping again, bringing her skinner knife back only to be caught by one of the women, coated in grass stains. The other clamped shackles around Clemnilshala’s wrist, loud chains echoed in her flopped-over ear. There’s a zipping flash of Rigmol’s grey fur disappearing into the trees. Clemnilshala relents, dropping her knife.
“Blast it all” she curses to herself, lowering her head, and allowing them to put shackles and poles at her neck. Mighty uncomfortable, though a bested exile has more to worry about than iron and wood when headed into a city with so many golden-eyes.
The city was a blur as she was taken through, remaining upright with her arms being held behind her back she clattered through the streets. She peered down her cheeks at the humans who no longer looked up at Eynnic folk with confusion and intrigue but as paragons of pure morality. After all, the vast majority of golden-eyes were of Eynnil blood. Some half breeds. Even less commonly full humans and even other animal-folk had the chance to become one with the Anghniel and pass through the Weilvog. Clemnilshala never had the chance before her life became one of exile.
She’d hoped that life was over and done with. She’d made that stance when she received the weaving marks up and down her body. The ones that coated almost every inch of skin with elaborate patterns that told other Eynnil her shames, and told the warriors of the Anghniel that she was a fair target. The weight of the mantle she used to carry on her shoulders once upon a time had become the tightening iron collar around her neck as she was lead through the city to the Lanh temple.
She accepted her fate, she did all those years ago. She thought she left it all behind. That it was all over.
It was not. Not in the slightest.


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