It took only one bite of Samythiel’s meal for him to know that the most dastardly of ingredients had been used. He pulled the sandwich away from his jaws to find two red squares and upon opening, he found a plethora of tomatoes. Horrid things. Berries, that couldn’t be fruits nor vegetables but unholy explosives in the mouth at the best of times and spies lying in wait and making the bread soggy here in his hands. He pulled the parchment to his side and picked off every last one. Putting them aside, coated in oil, ground pepper from the north, and a white dressing. His actions aroused the attention of a one-horned eynnil who approached and squatted beside him taking a bite of a while tomato and sucking out the juices and seeds as though it were the most normal thing in the world.
“Me husband used tae like those. Waste nae, he’d say. From the looks of it, yoo ain’t so fond of the little things.” Clemnilshala squatted beside Samythiel and used the backs of her hocks as a seat. He looked positively green at the thought of finishing them as she took another bite of her meal. Eating it like an apple. Stem, leaves, core, and all. She looked between Samythiel’s face and the slices he’d set aside and pointed at them.
“Do ye mind if I eat em?” her hand hovered closer, picking at the loose little skin that had thankfully not made it into the dwarf’s mouth. He waved the question out of the air. What did he care if he wasn’t going to eat em. Like a scavenging dog she took the wrappings and sat just behind him, turning her back to his and enjoyed the food. She made little hums as she happily enjoyed tomatoes the fancy way and made little hums and sounds while she went about her business.
“I thought ye had gone back tae the mountain, lass” Samythiel said, at last, taking a break to wrap up the other half of his sandwich in what remained of the parchment paper he’d been given. “Hoow’d ye end up on this expedition”
Her long tail coiled up next to her leg as she thought about the right words to say.
“Ehhh involved rope and well, an elementalist with a stick, orders I coouldn’t refuse lad, aaaand nae I’m on this expedition tae get a very precious back tae me”
“Aye,” She dragged her finger through the remaining oils on the parchment and put it in her mouth. The corners of her eyes sagged as though she hadn’t slept in days. “Curse the Lanh for having this fancy people food”
She eyed passerby guards, they returned her glances.
“A game of chicken by thunder.” She mutters, opening her food ration for a paper-wrapped piece of cheese. A triangular wedge with black flecks of tobacco leaves in it. She pulled the same skinner knife from her underarm sheath and used it to cut a slice off for herself. Cutting a second slice for Samythiel before they were joined by a third.
Lavia came to sit with them with a smile painted on her cheeks while she ate a boiled egg with a palm-full of sugar. Clemnilshala called her fancy for wasting valuables, like sugar, on expeditions. Lavia said nothing, only dipping the bitten off parts of the egg into her palm. Once she was done she eyed the other eynnil and dusted the sugar off her hands.
Samythiel’s stomach dropped, he could hear the faint creak of Clemnilshala clenching her jaw. The mountain scout stood, taking with her the rest of her cheese wedge, and stalked off toward the front of the party. The thuds of her heavy plated hooves grew softer as she took Rigmol by the reins and situated herself amongst other company.
The lunch break was over as soon as the sun hung like a dinner plate over the top of the woods. They walked, chasing the sun to the west toward the seas. Stopping in a town that had already raised flags for quarters by order of the king. The tavern was packed when the moon had yet to clear the mountains far away. Samythiel helped to stable the horses and rams to find the great stag, Rigmol, resting and eating animal feed while his companion’s cloak hung on a nail in his stall.
“Where do ye reckon she went eh beasty?” Samythiel asked, looking over his shoulders first to not seem entirely daft to be speaking with the animals. Rigmol shook his head and bucked his chin upwards. Tilting his great crown of antlers back to look at the ceiling where there was a rustling of hooves thumping through thatches, reeds, and upon the wooden frames. Samythiel looked around for a ladder. Not here nor there. Though when standing in the archway into the animal pens he could see her shadow on the ground in the last orange lights of daytime. The dwarf stood back, watching upward as he could see the crest of her head before calling up to her. Asking if he could possibly join her.
She lowered her bow, unstrung, for him to grab a hold of. Her voice was far gentler now as she pulled his heft up until he could climb on the roof.
“Anythin’ fer yoo lad” she said as she turned in a circle and watched the mountains. The sun going down where, in a flash, it was gone and the moon rose behind her. She had a small smile on her face, unbuttoning the top of her jumpsuit and taking a deep breath of the new night air.
“The air smells fresher when the moon is up.” She says, taking a seat after setting Samythiel down on the roof. “Earthenboot eh? What were ye before yoo were a painter?”
“Earthenboot’s are griffon breeders. Used tae have em in the king’s air teams. Pulling enchanted carriages and the like before the falling star.” He smiled, puffing up with pride as he combed his fingers through his beard. “What were yoo before ye became a mountain scout eh?”
“Just an exile” She muttered “Before, I was in trainin’ tae be just like one of them knights” She spit a seed out and watched it spin through the air and clink lightly off the helmet of a passerby knight. She flopped backward and hid from him, he didn’t seem to see Samythiel. The guard walked on, his armor clinking along as he passed into a nearby smithery for repairs. Clemnilshala snickered to herself, raising her head and picking bits of the roof out of her short hair. Straw and hay from thatching fell down around her shoulders.
“Do ye mind if I ask –” Samythiel started.
“Blasphemy. I was put intae exile fer blasphemy lad” she interrupted, getting comfortable on the roof. She peeked over at his face, his furrowed eyebrows.
“Ahhh good tae know, lass, I was aboout tae ask about yer envelope. Ye said it earlier tha ye cannot get it till ye finish this expedition. What’s so important about it? What’s in it?”
“Och….excuse me fer presumin’ lad. Figured it was a matter of time on the other thing.” she looked up at the sky. “My envelope, it’s a locket ye see. Has the last survivin’ picture of me late husband and I. Er Folruth Noblehood and me.”
“Wait lass, ye married intae Noblehood’s family? Did ye know their painters?” Samythiel grinned ear to ear, his insides fluttered as he got up to his knees and leaned into her. Showing his age as a young man to her for just a moment. The crinkled corners of his eyes disappeared in the moonlight as he went into depth talking about the Noblehood painters. Clemnilshala pulled her head back, eyebrows raised.
“Ah-aye, lad, the same one. I think I told ye this before.” She thought back to when they’d first met. Her tail coiled up against her leg just thinking about it.
“Did ye know Amryth Noblehood?” he said just as quickly. “Famed painter Amryth Noblehood?”
“Tha was my Folruth’s brother. He painted the portrait that’s in me envelope. Came screamin’ in one day tha he was going tae do it because his time here was numbered and he was gonna get tha marriage portrait done if it was the last thing he did” she giggled. “I remember it well, ah it must’ve been eight years ago nae that we received the portrait”
Samythiel, positively enchanted, rested his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. Clemnilshala talked endlessly into the moonlight all sorts of tales about family suppers with Amryth Noblehood. The times that his wife would bake the wild hunt’s pastries and bring them during the winter holidays. How his daughter, Fellfili, once pierced the hide of the pale boar that had yet to fall. Once the moon was high, however, rest was needed by the Dwarf and he was lowered down to the ground the same way he came up. He nearly leaped from his skin as Clemnilshala, with her gargantuan size just jumped down from the roof with little more than a grunt. He offered to walk her to the inn where she could sleep in a bed but she denied it, instead of going around the back of the stables to find that Rigmol had already laid down and gone to sleep.
She muttered and cooed to the great stag that she thought he’d wait until she got back. The stag made a sound. She asked him to not talk to her like that. She was just making a friend. She laid over on her side and cuddled her face into Rigmol’s shoulder, pulling her cloak down from the wall. Pulling it over her shoulder like a blanket. She looked mighty comfortable. Samythiel almost asked if he could join in the stables, putting his fingers together and silently clapping his hands as the thought welled up in his head. Instead, he cleared his throat and took his leave across town. Going into the inn.
In a room with several guards who laid their swords, crossbows, and shields down yet slept in their armor in anticipation of the morning to come.
There was a great crash just before dawn, shouting, a cat yowled. Samythiel sprung from his bed to look out of the window where there, again was the shadow of an eynnil and her stag with a large round item of sorts. When it was time to pull out of town, Rigmol had become a pack animal with a barrel strapped down to the back of his saddle. The cork leaked whiskey. Clemnilshala didn’t seem to mind it.