Three expeditioneers drew their swords, knives and, in the the case of a lass, musical spoons that she’d been playing in the nights prior. They’d sensed it in the rocks. Samythiel, too, could feel the shift in the stone, an innate thing that all dwarves seemed to know whether they were from the prairies or the mountains. Flapping, flapping came to Clemnilshala’s sensitive ears before any sensation came through her hooves.
“Barüff! Barüff on the way!” Shouted the lass with with the musical spoons. She stamped her feet and uttered fiery elemental magic, her spoons became broad shovels in an instant. She counted backward from ten, between each number she made a command to the expeditioneers to pair off with the other travelers. Samythiel and Lavia huddled behind the broad commander Vulac whom had never seen barüff. They drew their sword.
A great call was thrust down the tunnel bidding anyone to announce themselves lest they be hurt by magic or projectiles. No response. Just the clicky clack of claws and the flutters of their ears, their barks of echolocative talents grew closer as the barüff stormed the party. Rigmol reared and bugled, he lowered his head to throw the monstrous body of a creature aside. It whined and squealed and scuttled away leaving behind a trail of its defensive musty stink.
The party split between the large eynnil near Clemnilshala at the back of the party and the rest. The priestesses huddled together in the middle of the group, they held onto one another being guarded by warriors and expeditioneers. Rigmol remained near the front with the three who took stances and awaited the ambush going into orders of how to get through this alive.
“Along the walls! Get tae the walls! Squat down!” Shouted an expeditioneer. “Mountain scout! Use yer shield tae give these beasties a jumping point!”
Clemnilshala grunted in response, she scrabbled her hooves and scooted on her flank until her back met the armor of the commander.
“Ay, founder-foot, is that elementalist right there? Lavia?” She asked raising the shield of her bow . Before anyone could answer the thumps of paws, clause, and the weight of a juvenile barüff leaping onto her bow and arm. She buckled a moment while Lavia reached forth and touched her on the shoulder. She called again “who else is back there?”
“The dwarf, Samythiel!” Lavia replied, her fingers curled around the fur of Clemnilshala’s cloak.
“Aye, scout, I’m right here.” Samythiel pushed to one side to avoid being squashed underhoof.
“Think ye can help me convince tha fine elementalist tae make up a mess of lightning. Barüff, last I heard, flee from storms right?” She called out, turning to one of the expeditioneers.
“Ye know yer stuff, deary!” Replied the nearest expeditioneer. He grunted, bunting a great grey mass upward with his fist. Rocks tied to a piece of leather wrapped around his knuckles. The animal roared and whimpered. It lumbered to the left with its silver eyes, jumping on nimble paws. It opened its grey jaws and hooked its teeth over the rim of Clemnilshala’s shield.
Rigmol bucked another beast as Lavia nodded at last. She breathed low and brought her hands up, curling her fingers like claws she called on all the stresses that made sparks brim and overflow. She thought of the day in the alley, where she saw the exile before her tumble out and brawl with a bear head. Yet. Nothing came forth. Nothing flowed forth like a fountain of disappointment. Bore bothersome than any oil bath or denied meal.
Clemnilshala’s stamina waned twice as fast as she pulled her head and dodged the gnashing fangs of their wolffish heads. She took a knee and sunk lower and lower under their weight.
“Sa- Earthenboot! Help me out here” Clemnilshala begged, grasping her hand until her fingers came upon the painter’s palm. “Yeh, ere, help me hold this old bloke up eh?” Her voice softened “this old bow can hold anything so long as -ahh- as we keep its shield up.. Lass! Lavia! Any sparks?? What about the fire?”
Samythiel laid his hands on the bending bow, he helped hold it. Grinding his teeth and pushing back against the barüff. One had throw its skull over the shield and with little time to think he head butted it in the nose. A sensitive hit that made the creature only angrier and more desperate to taste the flesh of those who cowered.
Clemnilshala pulled on Vulac’s armor hauling them from their position in guarding the golden eyed priestesses. “Help him hold this up” She guided their hand to her beloved bow. “And doon’t you break it y’hear? Or else I’ll dock yer tail for ye”
Lavia kept trying and failing to create the static power to scare the barüff, at which Clemnilshala pulled the ragling up by the shoulder.
“Och just grab their tongues, all things can gag, just gag em”
“What if it bites me?!” Lavia squawked, inching her hand closer to the beasts’ teeth. Jerking it back before it snapped its jaws.
“Doon’t ye worry, I’ll be right here with ye, and if something happens I’ll take good care of it.” She lurched around and drew her skinner knife. Rebounding her knuckles off the sensitive nose of the barüff “Nae get gaggin’. Vulac, yer in my world nae, work with me, hit the sire when I tell ye”
The expeditioneers sounded the call that these two were the last of the problem. Lavia took a breath and squeaked, jamming her hand into the young animal’s mouth. It retched and snarled, pulling his head away at the sensation, his teeth scratching long lines on the top of her forearm.
A whistle, a torch was taken from the wall of the tunnel and with leftover bowstring an expeditioneer tied said torch to the back leg of the sire. Samythiel got to his feet and shoved the bow upward with a hearty crack echoing down the tunnels to the calls and responses of other animals that lived within the mountain. The signal came, Vulac, as commanded, took and open palm and struck the beast sending it rolling through piles of loose stone. It yelped and whimpered scrabbling off into the tunnels. Scratching its way into fissures in the mountain where he and his son dwelt.
Vulac demanded to know what in the name of the Weilvog those things were.
“Barüff” said the expeditioneer, turning her shovels back into her musical spoons and putting them away. “Think of em like wolf-moles. Harmless ‘less ye scare em silly. Something up there must’ve spooked em out of their holes.” She moved and helped Samythiel release the shielded bow and passed it back to Clemnilshala. Muttering that he would make a fair mountain scout if he wanted.
Clemnilshala stalked up ahead with her bow, she drew and loosed an arrow through he corridor. It had a loud whistle all its own. When it’d reached the end of the tunnel what’d echoed back was far worse than any barüff. Any day. A roar overcame the accessway. One so loud that it shook the stalactites from the ceiling.
“Thagrim-“ Clemnilshala muttered to herself “Now I know where we are. Brace yerselves, the yeti up ahead and I have a score to settle.”
At the end of the tunnel stood Thagrim. A great horned beast that learned forth and rested his immense weight on his long front knuckles. A low growl emerged from his throat. Thagrim, son of Ioqgrim. His breath was a cloud around his hulking body.
“Ochhhhhhh <<hello ugly.>>” Clemnilshala uttered “<<Ain’t seen your pappy in a spell, s‘pose I’ll make sure that your time is up too eh?>”
Vulac leaned over Lavia and spoke in a low whisper, expeditioneers herded the party to one side out of the yeti’s immediate range of grasp.
“What tongue is this? Is this the language of the dwarves?”
Lavia simply nodded. “She speaks just like them.” She crossed her arms over her chest and shuddered. Thoughts of the abbess flooded her eyes. What trait of an exile who seemed to have no intention of going back to her people was she so interested in? She looked up at Vulac who averted their gaze from Clemnilshala and her taunting of a mountain beast.
She’d effectively stolen another torch from another expeditioneer and continued to taunt the yeti in the language of the dwarves, brandishing the fire before she looked over her shoulder.
“Oh, any day nae! Rigs will lead ye down the mountain!” She shouted to the same expeditioneers. She bit her lip and whistled. “Och and lass, Lavia, hop on his back, snows in the valley are going tae hurt yer legs.”
Lavia arched her head to look up at Rigmol, a beast in his own right, through the eyes of the ragling. Vulac knelt to help her onto the great stag. They grumbled about exiles giving commands like a general would. A priestess hummed in agreement.
As the party began to move along, clemnilshala risked being left behind. She’d thrown down her bow and drawn her whip and knife. The snap of leather echoed down the mountain path and into the basin. Lavia sucked her head each time she heard it. The wind was low and the weather clear although snow blanketed the ground. Outside of the roars of the yeti and the curse words of the mountain scout that had Samythiel wincing every so often, all was quiet. The path was clear and wove round and round again in jagged switchbacks down to a way station wherein resided a tavern, a stable and a trading post. They were greeted and regarded by bearded lasses who had just come up from the basin, teaching and training new scouts. The new lads and lasses assumed that Samythiel Earthenboot was the accompanying scout and that Rigmol belonged to someone else in the party.
The others, who knew better, took Rigmol to the stables with the rams and swine and horses. The stabliers recognized him at an instant, he looked to the other animals with a unique smugness. Especially once these stabliers tacked him in his snowy gear used for pulling sleds far larger than any toboggan. The bells on his straps and collars meant to alert others on the winding paths to make way or be squashed. Off in the distance roared the yeti with a lice like a man in peril. Quieter was the responding cries of an eynnil who was “handling it” on her own.