The patch of scalp around the back of Samythiel’s ear continued to tingle the whole way to the pub where the chairs accommodated the eynnil as well as the dwarves and humans. Valthran berated Clemnilshala with every pace while her hands remained at her sides, balling up the fine linen of her dress in her fists. At the pub she called someone aside to let someone named Fellfili know that she was here. Then, after leaning back in a wooden chair and allowing it to creak under her weight she opened her hand and motioned for them to speak. All was quiet as the two, far larger than any dwarf, struggled to find a way to sit still in a chair amid the short table.
“I have no intention of going back tae tha forsaken beach. And there is nae a thing ye can offer me tae make me come back. Nae tell me, what does yer abbess want with me so bad eh?” She started, interrupting them just before they began to speak.
“Brinorion Lanh burned from the inside. The Vaniaal is dead and someone or something knows how to fight us with our own talents. Abbess believes it’s up to someone, in exile like you, to show us other ways to defend ourselves. She’s been plagued with prophesy that you…by name…will help lead the eynnil of Brinorion and Uluur into a new age.”
“The Vaniaal ain’t dead. Doon’t lie tae me.” She replied, reaching for her waist to not find her knife but her smoking pipe that she prepared from a communal case in the center of the table.
Valthran lowered his head, glancing at Clemnilshala with eyes that had her pull back.
“It cannae be. He cant be dead. He’s the Vaniaal” No one moved, silence was thicker than swineskin. “Truly?”
Valthran scratched the back of his head, the thing around his shoulders that seemed so malicious to Clemnilshala was no longer present. She denied the death of the Vaniaal for several minutes, her jaw tightened around her the mouthpiece of her smoking pipe.
“Ye cannae find a teacher in me. I’ve turned my back tae tha life.”
“You have to. It’s your duty to teach those who need to defend themselves. Or as the warrior I knew you to be become nothing more than a wight?” Valthran spoke at last. His voice was deep and smooth and deserving of the title of ‘The Great”
“Hey, laddy, yoo made damned sure tha the warrior in me would never become golden of eye. Surpassed by yer treachery.” She pointed with the mouth piece of her pipe. “Perhaps ye need a wight like me tae go round four with ye and whip ye with a broom, if we’re soo concerned with tradition all of the sudden.”
Xirril’s head turned between the two of them, looking to Samythiel for guidance. She picked at her Colmillo tusks and worried.
“Please. This is for the greater good. See reason before I have to personally extract you from this place and bring you back to the sea by force. With no demands and no rights.” From her waist she pulled the document that Magga had fought so hard to obtain. She slid it across the table and expectantly watched Clemnilshala who continued to lean back and smoke her pipe. Clouds puffed upward as though she were a dragon. “I would really rather you come back of your own volition and we won’t have to take memories out of your mind. I’m certain you would fill up more vessels with pointless knowledge and what we cannot use gets thrown away. You would know this yes?”
“I wasn’t a priestess.” She shook her head and finally took the document. “I never knew what it was that ye priestesses did. I was more like tha <<villain>>. If you attack me, in the middle of Khalenthel, ye’d be against a sea of dwarves…inside their mountain…with every exit blocked. I doubt you can go tae war with just yer bodies. So, I will see the two-a you here tomorrow afternoon while I think this over. I just want tae spend one more night here, and nae make a bad decision. Considering you two interrupted such a lovely wedding and scared the wits outta the bride and her babe.” She rose and thanked the three for a ‘lovely’ conversation with a polite baring of her lip.
Xirril turned to Samythiel who’d lept up and didn’t give her a chance to say anything. He followed Clemnilshala, still needing to return her knife to her. His eyes grazed the image of the black haired ghost he’d met sitting across from a laughing dwarvish man who patted the table before spooning dark, thick, liquid into his mouth. His teeth were all there and his hair was as red as fresh copper. He turned away from them just in case they were not illusionary, it would not be the first time he’d seen a black haired dwarf and a red haired dwarf sit together over a meal.
The red haired man disappeared from his peripheral vision as he proceeded into the back of the tavern. Here in the kitchen and the butchery was Clemnilshala, seated on the floor, pulling the skin off a leg of hog. Three chickens were at her side ready to be plucked. The chef and butcher, an elderly lady with two long braids down her back was speaking with her.
“Lass I really wish ye wouldn’t use yer teeth when ye skin with my knife. Et’s bad manners.” She said while the eynnil went about her work.
“Yer knifves are small and I lost mine Fellfili and my teef isf the easiesft way tae get this hog skinf off the meat” Clemnilshala threw her head back and tore skin free from the hock clear down to the hoof. A strip of skin and fur much like that of a banana, dangled over her wrist as she loosened the next piece. She glanced at Samythiel, putting her teeth over the next segment. “Thish isf Shamythiel. He reminds me a lot of Folruth.” She tore away again.
Samythiel gave a polite, if shallow, bow to the elder.
“He’sh an elementalist, like hish shishter.” She told all sort of short tales of their travels, lingering on one that he had nearly forgotten about in the taiga village on the way to the Brinorion Valley. The elder, Fellfili, smacked the back of Clemnilshala’s head.
“Have good manners why don’t you. I have tae serve this tae people ye know. Yer nae with all yer little scout friends outside.” She pointed her butcher’s knife at he before turning to Samythiel. “Well? Ain’t ye goin’ tae say hello? Aint no use having the two of ye having bad manners while I’m still breathin’”
Clemnilshala pulled the hog leg from her mouth and scrabbled and scraped against the floor with her hooves so she could turn to face him while remaining seated.
“Ah, aye. I’m Earthenboot, er Samythiel Earthenboot. I just wanted to check on…well I just wanted tae see if yer okay. I was hoping that I could have a word with ye.” He stammered. “in private”
“Well go on then, say what ye need tae say.” Fellfili said with gaze indiscernible from a glare, so much so that Samythiel began to wring the bottom of his shirt. He patted at his sides to find the handle of the knife he had yet to return.
“I wanted tae return this to ye.” It wasn’t the knife that he showed her but the wreath decoration for her family crest. She pulled her head back and took a moment to search between them. She gulped a breath and moved to get up Fellfili laughed to herself and shook her head.
“Lass, lass, nae a person alive who can get ye what ye truly want. Soo on tha other matter, of that paper there, ask fer something that only you can possibly think of. Demand something impossible to obtain. Nae scram, I’m too old tae be playin’ chaperone fer a beardling like tha.”
Clemnilshala put a hand to Fellfili’s shoulder “Ye remind me so much of Ferynia.”
Fellfili rolled her eyes and pushed her away. “Go on ye wee scamp before I smack ye with a wooden spoon”
Clemnilshala stood to one side of the door and allowed Samythiel to pass her by. They walked about the roads of the city while she held firm to the gift he had returned to her. She continued to turn it over in her fingers while they talked about all sorts of nonsense.
“Ye really don’t like them do ye?” Samythiel asked, looking all the way up at her face. She turned away.
“Nae. I still have some respect fer eynnil kind. I think I just outgrew tha life.” She picked at the laces on her dress. “Whoever decided tha Valthran has tae be a part of all of this must know me all too well lad. Tha’s what I don’t like.”
“Do ye hate him then?”
“With every fiber of my stitching. He’s ruined more lives than I have. And I’ve been pretty reckless in the past.” She touched her side at the narrowed part of her waist, pulling back immediately. “Well, no, I don’t hate him, tha would mean I hate my life nae. I like this place. I’d like it better if I didn’t need tae worry he’d show up like a gnat.”
They walked the path of the city, stopping just before the great scout’s hall again. Hjomnir was not here now, but the black haired dwarf once more, just a ghost, stood looking into the door with his measuring thumb outstretched. His fingers combed in his hair while he pondered deeply the subjects before him. Here it was that he looked far more ghostly than ever, Clemnilshala did not see him at all as she went inside. Samythiel lingered next to him.
She stood before a decorative hearth.
“When my brother was young,” he said “He couldn’t wait tae be in this building. I waited her fer him tae come back each month he went away. Then she came to wait with me.” He folded his hands in front of him and cocked his head to one side. “The day he brought her here she couldn’t stop worrying yet he couldn’t stop smilin’ ear tae ear. Et was almost like when he brought that deer o’ his home, but even more so.”
“Why do you show yerself tae me spector?” he moved to touch his shoulder, surprised to find that there was a physical pressure pushing back against his hand.
“I ain’t that old yet. I died, wha, five…six years ago? The paint on my canvases ain’t all dry, child.” He waved his arms around like a codger. A great smile came to his face just as the realization came to Samythiel’s. “By the side, I like tae come here, tae see if my brother will show. Figure she does that too. She’s been lucky enough a few times, starin’ intae that old fire and fallin’ asleep he’ll come through on a waning moon in the late summer some time and kiss her head and rest in her lap until just before she wakes up. But this is the first I’ve seen her in a while.”
A spectral noise came from deeper in the mountain’s very stone.
“Trust me lad, should ye ever marry someone, make sure yer the first one tae go. Or else ye’ll keep em waiting fer eternity and you’ll never forget it. Thanks fer keepin’ my memory alive, et does a heart some good tae see someone appreciate real talent and skill.” He patted Samythiel’s cheek with gentle slaps before he disappeared into the wall of the mountain in the form of a white shade.
The whole of his face tingled, not just the spot behind his ear where Clemnilshala’s fingers had touched. He couldn’t fight the smiling that kept coming to the corners of his mouth. She was standing at the fireplace, leaning on her elbow and just gazing into the flame. He gently touched the side of her skirts to let her know he was there, staring into the firelight as well perhaps he’d see something other than the darkened hues of blue and green that immediately bombarded his eyes. Her trance was broken and attention came back to him. She mustered a smile to match his.
“I know wha ye want me tae do lad. I know wha I have tae do.” She put her hands behind her back. “I’m afraid, fer the first time in some two hundred years. I’m terrified. I cannae imagine helping the eynnil, but I cannae imagine lettin’ em crawl as I did.” She approached the sheer black curtain and reached underneath to touch a specific cloak. Short hairs fell like fine snow on the floor.
“So what do you want, lass?” He replied, gently bringing a hand to her forearm. “Magga fought hard fer yer right tae make demands, so either make the demands ye need tae complete their mission, or demand tae be left alone and risk them taking you and making you like the slaves in the mountain’s mines.”
She returned to the foot of the hearth and sat back down on the floor, her tail rose and fell under her dress. Toying with her family crest and pondering the impossible request. It was staring her down, somewhere in the fire, in the mournful flicks of the decorative flame.
If just so they would leave her alone these few weeks, non stop pestering. She did not wish for scores of real eynnil to come to this mountain. If only they’d stay away.
“I have the document here. Do ye mind writin’ fer me lad?” She held the paper out to him with a wryer smile coming to her cheeks. Something in the blue of her eyes pierced the pits of his very spirit. “I think I know my demands.”
“Excellent to hear” came the third voice of Xirril from the door, with her arms crossed over her chest. For a meager moment Clemnilshala’s hand went for her knife, the other hand stopped the first.
“Of course. I’ll make my demands on that document ye brought and I’ll teach yoo lot tae hold yer own so that you’ll leave me alone at last.” She lowered her head and mocked the eynnic ideals of bodily politeness and silently began to goad the better sensibility of the Lanh temples that she no longer attended into acting out.