Chapter 4 Part 0

The sea. In the summertime. Six moons ago it probably didn’t look like this. Quiet. Beautiful. Lots of new rocks to explore a rocky beach set upon a sandy one. These rocks were not always here perhaps they came from the same place that the wandering star did.

It smelled like the brightness of lamplight. Not the smell of lamp oil, but the feeling of standing, free of cold, free of aches and pains associated with scout work. The thoughts concerning how many ways someone could possibly perish without sweet light. The company was met by overjoyed folk who crossed in front of the group with water and food and magic tonics for the traveling folk to acclimate to the rocky, warm, beaches of this sea. Samythiel’s head darted side to side as his eyes came over the strokes and washes of dwarves from his region of the world. Immediately he began to search for the rusty blonde hair of his family, departing from that spot to touch the shoulders of anyone he might remotely recognize.

Clemnilshala, however, could not help but to notice that this beach was crawling with other eynnil. She hid her one horned head behind Rigmol’s neck and petted his beard all the while he complained about the rocks of the beach.

“Rigs, if we get outta this alive, I’m going tae get a medal made fer yer valor.” She muttered under her breath. Her breath turned into a soft panting, it was warmer here, it smelled nice, but her talents as a mountain scout would be rendered useless if she stayed too long. For a time, Clemnilshala considered cowardice. To mount up, turn tail, and return to her mountain. Rigmol must have sensed it, as his bellyaching turned to what sounded like a far-away whisper on the wind. That it would be so easy to just go home. To return to what she knew. Clemnilshala almost did. Her fingers squeezed his reins, mentally preparing to journey back. Yet, while her attention remained on her tattoos, something convinced her that she had to see it all through. Someone was, indeed, looking for her according to Lavia. She instead tightened the laces on her gloves and bracers then proceeded forward.

“I cannot protect you here, girl. Tread carefully.” He said after her, beginning to walk onto the beach. He set about muttering to himself all the things she’d confessed to him over the many many years they had known one another. The things about the other eynnil, their lack of mercy toward exiles, and yet there she goes as bold as brass into oblivion set upon a serene beach.

“Och, nae ye decide tae worry about me. Ye doon’t need tae do that much mothering, yer my oldest friend.” She called back over her shoulder.

“Then why? Why? Why are you going there? It’s safer in the basin you impetuous child.”

“We can return precisely when we mean tae. Let’s keep tha option open eh?” Clemnilshala filled her chest with air and imagined herself as large as one of the very many males on thse shores. “I’m being searched for, I want tae knoow why.” She called just once more before coming to hover behind a couple of low ranked eynnic trainees and accompanying expeditioneers that looked remarkably like they would belong with Samythiel. Something about the turn of their eyes rather than the dark color of their hair or the way they did their braids. She spoke dwarvish to them first, keeping a sideways eye on the large, lanky, trainees. The expeditioneers’ eyebrows nearly rose off of their faces and fluttered away. Clemnilshala repeated herself.

“<<Please, Is there anything that I can help with?>>”

“<<That depends on what you can do. Whose company are you with, mountain scout?>>” Said one of the dwarves.

“<<I’m from Khalenglough the Great. My post is the top of Thamdul the Lesser. I’m a part of Hjomnir’s company.>>” She replied. “<<Hjomnir’s work-ram.>>”

“<<After you get changed can you pull some of these boats toward the banks so they can be repaired? Be a great help, scout.>>”

“<<How about I just help right now. I’m, eh, a bit attached to this gear. Lets have it stay with me.>>” Clemnilshala bowed her head lower and scuttled along down the beach to begin dragging the broken boats from their shoreline graves up the sand and rocks toward their final destination. She’d taken rope and fashioned herself a harness upon her shoulders to help. She nearly felt steam rolling off her body beneath the leather, heat billowing past her jaw as she worked. Reluctantly she agreed with Rigmol to allow him to guard her cloak so that she wouldn’t damage it with rope fibers. Up and down the beach she trudged as sweat beaded on her brow.

Meanwhile, there was a reunion, of Lavia and a surprising number of people from the Lanh that left before she did. They seemed weary, eynnil and human alike. They rested on cushions provided by the Colmillo people of this region, with long teeth protruding from their bottom jaws. Lavia remarked to herself that they must be Xirril’s family. A weight came to her shoulders at the thought that she may yet see her villain here at the sea. The Colmillo whispered amongst themselves, painting stripes on one another’s exposed shoulders and telling jokes that anyone could understand. One of these folks approached Lavia with fresh clothing well suited for the weather, he seemed nice, it soothed her worries as he smiled with all his teeth. The tusks that protruded from his bottom jaw were like yellow reeds, decorated with scrimshaw carvings, for moments she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Until, of course, he laughed a breathy laugh and turned to aid Vulac. The tips of Lavia’s ears warmed as she seeked privacy to change out of her clothing.

Alone behind the encampment she admitted to herself that she might actually miss the smokey scent of this sweater and the way the length of this skirt made dead leaves rustle. She folded up these clothes after dressing. Immediately the moist and mild temperature of this climate didn’t bother her so much. It was as though there was an invisible line between the taiga of the sea and the inclines into the mountains and basin. The sun beat down on the rocks and twigs, while it was nothing like the warmth of a desert, it was fatiguing to feel it for the hour the party had been here.

Lavia returned to Vulac who looked at her as though she had taken too long. Vulac kept their sword on their hip, it weighed down the side of his trousers that had replaced his chausses. They were sitting and tightening the belts fastened to Brinorion colored greaves, painted, shining and new. They stamped their hoof, their mouth twisted and they showed their teeth. Lavia’s voice worked before her mind could catch up, asking them if they were okay. Vulac mentioned that their hoof was sore and they would be useless for a few hours. They, evidently, pulled their hoofplate off in an unwise manner. They commanded Lavia to find the rest of the traveling party and direct them to go and borrow new clothing.

She lingered a moment, furrowing her brow, before turning to go find anyone she recognized from the party. Strangely, their faces escaped her and the only way she could tell their origin was the fact that they were still dressed in cold weather clothing. She’d come to Clemnilshala first, the easiest to recognize, who insisted that she would be fine in her gear amid her panting and hoarding of water. The one horned eynnil cleared her throat and nodded at her arms, muttering that she couldn’t afford any new clothing at the moment. Wandering eyes could cost an arm and a leg. Always in that accent of hers. The priestesses were far more understanding, nodding their heads and going with blank faces from their spots. She couldn’t find any of the expeditioneers, perhaps they had changed already. Finally she had come to Samythiel who seemed more than happy to comply. Before she could continue on she was taken aside by the same Colmillo man and given a board with parchment and a charcoal pen.

He mentioned that her reputation preceded her as someone who could read and write and that she would be researching with the historians in a fringed tent at one end of the beach. He made it clear that it was dangerous to be unguarded in these parts. He offered to lead her away from this part of the beach, and took her hand to show the way. Going on and on about the stag’s-head shiftlings in these woods. Giants with antlers that, even in a humanoid form, could gore a person beyond repair.

“Thank you” Lavia muttered, pulling on the corner of her robes. Together they passed a gaggle of expeditioneers who had received Samythiel with smiles and helped fit him with civilian clothing.

Samythiel waved at Lavia as she passed, there was no reason to be cold to the lass even if he doubted her commander.

He watched over the sky, having not seen his mother nor sisters yet, wondering if their griffons would come bounding down from the clouds and he would reunite with them soon. He was the guardian of their memories now, well, him, his father and brothers who had stayed diligent in griffon husbandry.

To pass the time he contented himself to taking a rowboat out to a rock and aimlessly sketch the scenery. There were so many birds here, a sorely missed sight for the past half-a-year. Expeditioneers left their small belongings with him to look after, bidding him to not go anywhere. Though with the expansive ocean and the absent expertise on the art of swimming, he proved to have a knack for keeping an eye on bags and compasses. The world went by, a griffon flew over head, having been turned to the sky in the way that a shepherd would turn their rams out to pasture. It chased a bird, Samythiel could almost hear the juvenile’s happy growl-chirps.

The clouds rolled on as he worked on a passive sketch, they turned into shapes. The effigy of the juvenile griffon littered his rolls of parchment paper. Birds of all poses too. The day became dusk, the birds became bats, it was harder to see the boats on the water until they lit lamps. Returning to Samytheil’s rock to collect him and their belongings and return to the beach.

The beach was dotted with fires and wreathes of bodies warming themselves, cooking dinner, and warding off the strange sounds in the taiga woods. Samythiel surveyed the encampment the size of a small village. A shadow strode past him, approaching one of these fires, squatting down and receiving dinner. The light of the flame shone on their face, the commander Vulac, who turned to the familiar silhouette. The same light illuminated her face, glinting off the metallic cap on her horn. Samythiel approached, sharing a moment of eye contact with one and then the other, and passed them by to sit with the next group. Clemnilshala’s flopped over ear twitched at his long sigh through his nose. He leaned backward against her spine. Her heat permeated her leather gear and his cloth shirt. A cloud of tobacco smoke enveloped them, tying invisible ropes around his shoulders.

“Saw ye sketchin’ out there. Were ye drawin’ the birds?” Clemnilshala asked between breaths. She pushed on him and offered her sachet of smoking tobacco. He accepted it. Her sides expanded and contracted with her harsh panting.

“Are ye doin’ alright, lass?” He pushed back.

“Aye. <<I’m just a bit hot is all. I’ll be fine.>>”