Snowy Ground: Chapter 2 Part 4

The library was locked in favor of giving the delegates of the shifter peoples of the southern territories the privacy they needed with the Abbess. They had swooped in, furred and feathered folk, and whisked Samythiel out of the room and dropped him outside the door. The wind hadn’t yet left his hair when he opened and closed his hand to find it empty of his prized paintbrush. Through the corridors in the priory in search of the doors to the outside world. He could have sworn that the windows have been moving around. A wooden door had to be around here somewhere. He passed a small army of frog folk fawning over the emergence of their own who had become a golden-eye. They braided her hair in the way that toadlings were knowns to do, standing just taller than dwarves they were often the allies of hill and plains folk. Samythiel lingers and watches until they cast their disapproving gazes on the interloper and wave him away.
At last! The door to the outside, left ajar to allow a cool breeze to dance in the halls of the priory and lift the spirits of the younger children running errands, buckets of water, and laundry from room to room. A group of dwarves huddled in a corner reading a book together, whispering amongst themselves about how neat it must be to live in its little world. Samythiel peered over their shoulders for a moment, it was written in runes of a language long dead and forgotten. As he moved to leave the abbey, perhaps to explore the city, find out more about her peoples. Find inspiration about the Weilvog and Anghniel and how they touch the lives of the center of human civilizations. The dwarf was stopped by the sound of a voice. A whisper at first, quivering, wavering in strength being cut off by a much louder commanding bark.
“Do you know why you’re scrubbing floors now, Lavia?” the voice sneered. Samythiel peered into the alcove, the eynnic lass, Lavia, was on her hands and knees moving a floor brush around as the others looked on. She’d lost her frock and was now draped in rags. Her long braided hair soaked up the water while her onlookers stood with dirty bare feet just beyond the reach of the thin sea.
Lavia said nothing.
“You’re scrubbing floors because you’re this close to being put into exile. Again and again, the Abbess Superior has to vouch for you to stay. Your magic is not of our magic. You’ve been so friendly with the exiles out there you might as well be one of them. What do you think of that Lavia hm?” The other woman from that day, the one with the teeth that protruded from her lip, Xirril stopped Lavia from continuing her work by stepping on her brush wielding hand.
Lavia did nothing.
“What’s more you were turned in by an exile who thought he could rejoin our order by turning on you. You’re releasing exiles back into the wilds and somehow I have to fight for my position in this temple. Your days are numbered Lavia. I’ll personally make sure that not even the Abbess can save you.”
The eynnic lass remained still. Though the air took a scent like the wind before a rainstorm. Her hair soaked in the water her horns seemed to brim with power. Xirril reveled in it.
“What are you going to do? Use your outsider magic? I welcome it! Strike me down!”
Lavia did nothing.
Xirril spits on the floor. “Bah, you’re not worth the time. Remember that Lavia. You’re an outsider who refuses to abandon your outsider’s magic. You’re never going to be scribe again”
Xirril took her foot off the poor girl and walked down the hall, leaving Lavia to continue washing the floors. Samythiel turned to leave through the door. He was stopped by the stuttering breaths of Lavia who pushed the brush along the floor. Her sniffles softened Samythiel’s heart, his stomach sank and he forced himself to turn back and enter that portion of the hallway. Abandoning the hurt lass would be heartless. His feet were clean but he stood just beyond the edges of the ocean of cleanliness before he crouched before her.
“Can I help with tha?” he said, offering his hand for the scrub brush, looking about for a second tool.
Lavia sniveled further, shaking her head, dragging the ends of her braids in the water. She muttered that she couldn’t ask him to do that.
“Ye didn’t ask me. Please, lass? Ye could use a couple of breaths.” He put a hand on hers, pulling the brush from her hand and letting her sit against the wall. She drew her knees up and buried her head in her hands, high seated horns sticking out into the hallway as Samythiel hummed a song and scrubbed the floors by himself. Moving the brush back and forth brought an idea to his head. This brush would be coming with him at the end of this day.
“What other duties do ye have taeday?” he asked as soon as it sounded like she was beginning to calm down. He caught glances at her hooves as she kept her head buried in her arms. She shook her head.
“This was the last, then I would be free to continue my studying” she muttered. “I was almost done when Xirril came to me” she sniffled, reaching out to take the scrubbing brush back. Samythiel pulled it away.
“I’m nearly finished, why don’t ye show me this city hm? I’ll buy ye a hot meal if ye’d like” He gave his best smile, wiping his head with dirty water and dabbing himself dry with his sleeve. He scooted closer to the eynnil, careful to not poke an eye out on her horns that loomed over her head like the vaulted ceilings of the temple. Pulling from his pocket his handkerchief and offering it so that she could dry those big sad eyes. Her eyelashes and the thin layer of fuzz on her face sticking up in tiny points. She pulled the cloth from his fingers and dabbed her face dry as she sniffled.
“Thank you.” She said between her stuttered breath. Her voice a staccato as she came up with words to say. “I think tha-that would be permissible”
Samythiel got up to his feet, offering her a hand to hold as she got up to her hooves and looked down the hall. She dropped a compliment on how well he’d done on the rest. So many thankful words were spoken as her breath returned to normal. Her clothing, clad in stripes of different shades of brown, stood out against the blue and yellow drapes of the other initiates of the Abbey as Samythiel took her by the hand and lead her into the courtyard then out of the gate. They bumped into a pair of swan-necked, golden-eyed scholars in their gold and white gowns. They looked down on Lavia, straining their vision to peer down upon Samythiel. They passed between the two and into the abbey limits.
Lavia’s posture improved as soon as her face touched the sooty air of the rest of the city. The wood braziers warmed the streets and the oil lamps lit the skies. Agoras in between the districts of the city, food stalls and bazaars lined the streets. People hawked their wares everything from cheap jewels made of glass to spices to censers and magic artifacts from places across the sea. Each sort more fantastical and impossible to believe than the last. Lavia leaned over each table pushing small items around with her fingers. Gingerly as though she’d break something if she so much as breathed on it wrong.
She seemed to calm down. The swelling had gone from her eyes and she seemed brighter in the face, her fuzz dried and her cheeks swollen as she bought sweets from a candies vendor. She put ribbons of somewhat hard candy into her mouth and looked at the golden afternoon sun. The hustle and bustle of the street were interrupted outside of a tavern with a chair flying through the open door and knocking over a table selling amulets from a kingdom with no name. Peasants flocked to the center to block the view of Samythiel but not Lavia who seemed to crane her neck and observe the fist-fighting brawl that unfolded in the streets. The tavern owner came to the door to shout at them, waggling his fist.
Samythiel dropped Lavia’s hand to peer through the legs and move aside the robes of the bystanders to find yet another eynnil shouting at the bearish face of a shiftling who’d shown his true form.
“C’mon! Give it here lad! Ye blusterin’ nuisance I won fair this time! Give me the jacket!” shouted the eynnil, she swung high in a smallshirt striking the bear- head’s jaw as he rolled over to try and pin her to the cobblestone road.
“Yew cheater! Yew will never get my jacket!” shouted the bear-man, her brought his arm and caught her in the side, throwing her from his chest and casting her several bounces across the street. She landed up against a grandmotherly toadling who helped her up. Samythiel squinted at her, straightening his glasses she seemed familiar with short hair and a long tail. But her skin, coated in dark tattoos overtook any memory he had of any eynnil he’d ever met. He’d never seen this much of an eynnil before and none of these markings matched anyone he’d become acclimated with.
Lavia’s hand went to her mouth. “I know that one” she whispered, her dark eyes darting side to side as she looked at the marked eynnil fighting the shiftling. “I released her last night”
Lavia shoved through the crowd, her shoulders smoked as her magic brimmed in her fingertips. The air crackled with electricity, lightning igniting the straw at the edges of the streets ablaze stopping everyone in their tracks. Women gasped and men held their wives, shielding them from the initial blaze. Lavia looked around in fear, her face taut and eyes wide she waved her hands and made a noise dissipating the fires within the minute. Nothing was damaged. Though her brow furrowed and a red flush filled her cheeks as she lept into the fight. She took the wrist of the other eynnil in her hand and dragged the girl off into the canals that split the city districts away from each other.
Samythiel followed closely behind, jumping over the bear-head shiftling.

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