Snowy Ground: Chapter 5 Part 1

Hippogriffs did well on their own to carry their riders without bonds nor magic, some breeds of domestic griffons too. Anfia could normally take care of Magga alone, but she’d been saddled with the dense weight of two dwarves. No flying transportation would be provided to Samythiel. But, as Lavia reasoned, flight would be useless over the trees if they wanted to find Clemnilshala in the woods. All they truly had to do was avoid the stag’s head shiftlings unless they, too, had disappeared with the Colmillo population.

Xirril protested that there were no Colmillo by the sea, for they were folks who were fond of desert rivers. That she, in fact, came from an icy desert and lived along a fishing river with great beasts before she was called to come to the Lanh. Lavia merely rolled her eyes and bid the dwarves to lead ahead.

Samythiel held his sister’s shoulder as he pointed forward and guided them from the back of the saddle. They wove through a path that was un-laid. They came back to the carcass of Yüavmir where a business a weaseled had moved into his head and were eating of his shoulders in the few hours it’d been since Clemnilshala discovered him. Something glinted amongst a thick mushroom ring that surrounded the open grave of the Wild Thing. Samythiel stopped the quartet to jump from Anfia’s back and approached it with caution. Taking up a stick with a fork in one end to move the mushroom parts out of the way. He picked up the very familiar skinner knife with a sticky leather chord wrapped around its handle. He pointed it toward his face, inspecting, he remembered this alright, when it’d been shoved toward his face as he started a sleeping eynnil. Far too big to be handled by human or dwarf, it still rattled his innards to hold it in his hands like a time lost artifact.

“C’mon Sammy, we have tae go” Magga snapped him from his trance. “She’s not here, he got tae go.”

Fromt here they traversed the forest until they came to a plain much like the home these same dwarves hailed from.

These were not those plains, however, they were populated already with a Horse Herder nation. Xirril’s hippogriff stopped, squawking and chipring. He was unwelcome here, as most hippogriffs were in the lands of the Horse Herders.

“We should fly from here, I don’t want them to harm my beast.” Said Xirril, taking off without giving anyone else a say, so is the privilege of the Abbess’ protégé.

“Sammy, you steer, I’m goin tae get Anfia off the ground and I wont be able to guide her on my own.” Magga brought her gusts of wind following behind the hippogriffs. Samythiel held tight to Anfia’s reins as they climbed higher and higher. They dodged the rays of the Horse Herder’s war songs and their practical arrows. Through something in their songs, a kind of golden light emitted from down in the villas came in a beam of air that pushed the hippogriffs into turns and flips. The same beam, like a hammer, beat on Anfia’s chest, she called and roared turning and diving, nearly throwing Magga from her back

“Dammit, stop bein a fleabag about it” Magga hissed in the air. “It’s nae just me that can make ye fly straight.”

While the Horse Herders launched their attacks, in the villa below, there were people going about life oblivious to their warriors and guardians.

“Anfia, do not engage! <<Just fly away! Take us over the hills!>>”

There was shouting between Xirril and Lavia before Lavia rose her hand to the sky and called the clouds, the rain, that came down in glowing hues as Xirril lent her magic to the elements. The horse herding peoples below ran for cover lest they be burned by the might of the Weilvog and the Anghniel through their Lanh.

“Damn you both! Can we nae engage! Just fly!” screamed Magga “Just fly ye nits! And fly straight!”

They dodged bolts shot from crossbows and arrows and beams of magic.

Otherwise the trek to the mountain was frighteningly uneventful. People didn’t care when the four passed through town, they showed stewardship toward the animals. Though very few villages cared to have the presence of the Lanhs inside their boundaries. Each time a dirty look was thrown to Xirril, in particular, Magga took a miniature victory that she was right. Though she seemed so eager to come to the defense of Lavia who, for as dressed in the garb of the Lanh as she was. Whenever Samythiel, young and clueless Samythiel, would ask, she simply said that Destiny told her so. They returned over the trees, and the rocks, the shrubs and bushes. Over the rises and over the bordering mountain of Thamdül as night fell for the fourth time in their travels. Lavia pointed out the unassuming form of the Fox-eye tavern where she mentioned her times there.

It was here that Clemnilshala was last seen, though last they knew she had only just left to go back to her home. They stayed the night in the tavern, taking up valuable space at tables and in the beds in the loft. Nothing to see, nothing to do, Xirril’s mania had made her rise early and sleep late though the hours of other’s sleep passed slowly before her eyes.

The night at Fox-eye tavern was long as she remained beside the fire, pushing the callouses of her fingertip into her tusks as she did when she was pensive. Hiding away her disgust for the dwarves as they reveled over, what, something so paltry as someone downing a giant pheasant. It was only food after all. It was only an animal. It was nothing. None of this meant anything. The only thing to mean anything was what the Weilvog could offer. An eye-patched dwarf passed by, setting his cloak by the fire and taking off his boots. Xirril thought this must certainly be “Fox-eye”. They way he looked at her got on her nerves, as though he knew everything. How could he. He didn’t know anything. All he did was leave her beside the fire as she warmed and went to join his friends.

The morning was longer still, gusts of wind prevented taking off. What’s more, these dwarves and humans insisted in showing them down the slopes with great emphasis on Lavia and the two “plains folk”. “Plainskin” they called Magga and Samythiel. The latter produced the knife he found from the back of his belt and garnered the respect of their mountain kin in this…charming…if filthy tavern. They tossed their card games to the side and thrust their shoes onto their feet leading the charge of folk on their horses, rams and armored swing.

Down the ledges they went, the treacherous roads that were invisible from overhead thanks to the snow drifts. Lavia seemed ever confused that it took till past nightfall to enter the gates of Khalenglough. She, however, relished the act of explaining how they were to sleep in the corners of staircases next to the roads with what-have-you creatures that Xirril had never seen before. She boasted her knowledge of where the forges were but if all of this information lead them to what may yet be the only known eynnil crazy enough to live in this forsaken rock.

“Ah, but I may know where to find her in the morning. And we are still within Master’s time limit, I’m sure one more evening won’t be a great fault in your strength, Xirril.”

Magga snorted and took her brother up the steps into the inn in front of which the quartet had stopped . She muttered about letting sisters, even chosen sisters, have their arguments and that Destiny was right once again.

Samythiel slept in a proper bed while Magga, come morning, could be found slumped over a table with her elbows perched over the back of her head. He smiled, sliding her embering hair over one of her shoulders to lay in an ash tray. She was probably dreaming of home, as many elementalists did. Magga was always good with fire and stone, it was easy for her to warm a room, as what bits of unspent tobacco and whatnot burned and flittered up toward the ceiling.

Samythiel went out to follow the path through the familiar Khalenthel square, past the stable where he sometimes saw Clemnilshala, out front of which was Anfia quarreling with a great white hippogriff with a strange symbol on the chest of his tack. No stable hand moved between them in favor of letting animals settle their differences. His easel was still set beside the hole in the wall where he’d seen the bird, looking at it now, the painting he’d been working on was no good. He couldn’t see the love he had for the craft. He’d much rather draw the sea, this painting, all it told him was that it was a pass time before he could see his family again. He pushed his thumb into the corner of the canvas, warming the paint then the fabric. A slow burning hole emerged with the scent of smoke that brought the attention of two peacekeepers and several waterwomen to put it out. He was shoved to the side and lost his footing, hitting the carved stone floor of the city. In his sliding backward, down the way, festive music came to his ears from far away through the hallways and corridors.

He followed the sound, passing a number eynnil along the way, couriers and refugees from Brinorion, why they would pick the inside of a mountain, with how much they complained about their hooves, was beyond Samythiel. Though they were still rare, but people standing taller than most horses were easy to pick out of a crowd. One of which, was from the beach camp. What was his name, the one that frightened Clemnilshala Noblehood? He couldn’t put his finger on it, but the scars on this man’s face were ones not easily forgotten. He lurked in the shadows along the walls and skulked through the corridors. He reminded Samythiel so much of Vulac, so much so that he turned down the familiar path through the trade market hallway where he visited when he was here last, letting the eynnil out of his sight.

The smith that sold him the silver wreath smiled, he did not forget Samythiel, he greeted him with a waving hand.

“So how did the lil’ lady like yer gift?” Asked the kindly old man as he arranged other ornaments on his table. Samythiel didn’t have the heart to show him the wreath that was returned to him.

“Ah, aye she loved it.” He hoped. “Means a lot.” to him.

“Better get a paintin’ of the two ‘a yoo soon.”

No. He wanted to paint other things. Amryth Noblehood was the portraitist.

He continued down the halls, through the corridors, following the music.

It was here he found a celebration hall, a wedding, Mrs. Clemnilshala Noblehood, and a baby.

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