“<<There’s always a way to make yourself useful.>>” Boasted Clemnilshala, wriggling against cotton bindings that held her injured arm to her chest. Instead she used her leg and hoof to move the bellows paddle by the brick and clay forge that flared brightly. It was as familiar as the hearth which awaited her back in her home in the mountain. She’d said so, on multiple occasions.
Samythiel, in awe of her love for the mountains that she called home, rested his elbow on his knee and his head in his hand. Charged with scrubbing the dishes from the day’s meals nearby, by none other than Vulac, he could only catch her smiles in imaginary jars; as one might catch fireflies or field hoppers. These smiles, though, with the one side of her face, were as fleeting as small beach fleas that bounded from stone to stone beside his feet. He preferred to keep and eye on the camp, the hustle and bustle stuttered in his vision with inspiration for all the sorts of paintings he could possibly capture. Images with rocks for the frames and washes of the ocean. He liked to see everything so peaceful.
In unison both he and Clemnilshala winced at the sound of a careful smith splitting the shield of the great long bow and seting it aswide. She merely, meekly, continued to push the bellows.
“Wha she sure is interesting” he’d heard before weight befell his back. He became the landing plot for Magga who dragged her knuckle across the top of his head and spoke all sorts of nonsense about how her little brother was finally becoming interested in women. The force of her landing had dredged his beard into the dirty dish water.
“Hey Mam’s coming back from the sea. Will ye be gettin’ tae introduce her too….” Magga cleared her throat and bucked her head upward. Samythiel pushed her away with his palm over her face. “Whaaa, and yoo all are always on me about any, ehem, handsome stranger walks within twenty meters of home.” She made a face and gave a playful bunt to her brother’s jaw. Samythiel shook his head, he was more excited to see his mother than he was to introduce her to anyone. Stones sunk in his stomach without reason enough to flee. Magga simply laughed and laughed. He held his tongue, glancing at Vulac and meeting their gaze for half a second while Magga continued on.
“I’ll think she’ll have more tae say about me nae findin’ me a husband and lettin’ Laefyn get married first then she wil have tae say about yer bein’ here without the colors.” She threw her arm over his shoulder and shook him side to side.
“Doon’t tell me…..Laefyn is here too?” Samythiel finally broke his silence, waving his arms and disengaging her for a moment.
“Och, nae, if she were here then I certainly woouldn’t be, duster.” She snorted. “Nae, she had three wee little rock chompers at once. I doon’t think we’ll be seein’ her or the husband any time soon. Et’s just me and mam out here. None of the others from home.”
“So we’re alone?”
“Just like Pimilf.” She raised an eyebrow, and infectious grin that broke across her cheeks as Samythiel laughed.
“Och I didn’t think I’d ever hear that name again.” He picked up a scrub brush and cleaned the undersides of his fingernails. “Figured ye forgotten his name too”
“Nae nae nae, I can knoow destiny when I see it, duster. I could see it then, and I can see it now.”
“That again huh?” He tugged her beard, a new kind of moss had grown since she had come out here. Sea side lichen was well in bloom. “Who was it that took tae the sky late one night claiming destiny on the winds?”
“That’d be me” She touched his nose “And guess what I found that year, I found destiny.”
Samythiel put a new stack of dishes into the washing tub. After removing his boots he dug his toes into the rocks and sand. They curled as the indomitable Vulac passed with their swollen cheek. Magga whistled at them calling him two ladle-fulls of ugly before picking up her two handed hammer and throwing it onto her shoulder. She bid Samythiel to stay safe, to be quicker and cleverer than this place, and departed from that spot. All the while going on about destiny calling her name again.
Samythiel averted his gaze from Vulac, his sights fell on a bucket of clean drinking water and its ladle. Vulac’s attention followed. They did not move a muscle. Drying his hands on his sides he went about intercepting the commander while not being caught underhoof by any one else. Vulac and Lavia were easy to dodge, Clemnilshala moved sideways and made sure not to endanger her kin, but the other eynnil on this beach seemed to always be walking precisely where he needed to go. He remained vigilant of who was around as he came to take a seat next to the good mountain scout.
“Here, drink up” he pulled on the side of her kilt. She looked down at him, depressing the bellows again, and rubbed at her broken horn.
“I got work tae do” she said.
“Noblehood, please. Yer an Eynnil, nae a camel. I doon’t want ye tae go fer another round in the medic’s tent. Reckon the bear head is getting real tired of savin’ yer hide eh?”
She pursed her mouth and shifted the bellows job to a lad who’d been standing by. While Samythiel went on about how it wasn’t more than two days since she went down. She continued to rub her head, feeling for the swollen bump to prove it. She relented and sat next to him, scooping water to her mouth with her hand, neglecting the ladle. He mimicked the movement. She took another drink with a waggle of her eyebrows. Her eyes ceased to focus on his face and turned their pale blue gaze on something over his head in the woods. Her upper lip raised. All he could so was shudder at the length and girth of her cuspid teeth. There was nothing there of importance other than the shadows of antlers on the trees and small rabbits in the forest scrub that dodged and danced around glittering arrowheads.
“What is it that has ye in a tizzy, lass?” Samythiel reached for her. She pulled away, scooping more water into her mouth. She shook stray droplets to the stones that were so ripe for skipping on the calm oceanic waves.
“ehhhh” she vocalized “I cannae put m’finger on it. But I cannae tell if this place has too much spirit or nae enough”
Samythiel combed his fingers in his beard. “Too much of a what?”
She continued to mumble about too much of a something, meanwhile she neglected to take any more water, instead focusing on the depth and width of the forest. It wasn’t strong, but something indeed was unsetting yet so easy to ignore that he couldn’t remember the name of the tree which bore the surrounding flora and fauna. He couldn’t recall looking for the voices of the territories they’d traveled through on this journey. Yet the wheezing and the silence caught his attention as someone attuned to the elements. However weak that bond was. Though the source of a faint creaking sound was no mystery, looking up at Clemnilshala with her teeth bared at the woods, clenching her jaw so hard there was a sound. He patted her shoulder.
“Hey, what do ye mountain lads listen tae? What rules yer lands?”
“Hm?” She jerked her head to the side, closing her lips and running her fingers in her hair. “I dunnae. We listen tae the king I guess”
“Nae nae, what guards nature? We listen tae the elements. They help keep balance with the world around us.”
“ohh!! It’s the wild things! Aye we hunt em every year!” Clemnilshala puffed her upper chest with prideful sniffs. “Aye, over the last nineteen years Nahchog’s hide has only been pierced four times. One of which was by yers truly”
Samythiel’s mouth opened and closed several times.
“Yoo hunt yer balance keeping spirits?” His voice cracked in such disbelief. How was the territory not dead?
Clemnilshala pulled her head back. “Doon’t yoo play games with yer elementals? Everyone knows when a wild thing dies his place is taken by the next in line. Something stronger, cleverer, better tae protect us in the valley. Their flesh provides in hard winters and their hide is warm. It’s an honor.”
Her upper lip rose, mimicking the uncontrollable change in Samythiel’s face.
“I’ve nae seen any sign of the wild things. Nae here.” She leaned on one hand, gazing off in pensive contemplation. “Don’t much like not being acquainted with the wild things. How those trees are still standin’ is beyond me.”
Samythiel took another drink of water. This time, taking the ladle spoon. He filled it and brought it up to her face, standing atop the seat.
“Here.” He offered a smile. “<<You really are one of the children of the mountain aren’t you?>>”
She shook her head. “<<No, I’ll never be a child of Khalenglough.>>”
“<<You could be a child of Thamdül. I swear on all the dust devils in the world that I’ve seen stranger come from His cradle.>>”
“<<I could accept that. I could be of Thamdül’s cradle. Even as I am>>” She played with a fraying thread on her kilt, a one sided smile came to her cheek.
“<<Then why is a child of Thamdül so far from home?>>”
Her smile flittered away.
“Silly isn’t it.” She returned to the common tongue. Her voice lowered itself. “I’ve gone and put m’self in more danger here than any day back home. Yet sending yoo on a dangerous adventure, and the expeditioners too, when I can serve yoo too, would fill me with….what’s the word….” She muttered to herself. “<<Melancholy.>> I wouldn’t want tae see yoo, a painter, get caught up in eynnil politics.” Her eyes rolled in the motion of the sun.
“<<I think we both know that answer belongs under a bull.>>” His brow furrowed while he stared at her face. The bottom of his throat burned with such a lifeless answer.
She stood after contemplation, saying nothing, and simply returned to depressing the anatomy of the forge bellows with her hood. The wind bag wheezed under her weight, louder than the breath of the woods. The forge hands, the other smithies, waved their arms for better control and temperance in her steps. She waved her good hand and patted the bad, still bound to her chest, as though the use of her leg and hoof had anything to do with it.
Samythiel tapped the bucket of drinking water several times with the ladle, only to be ignored. A smith shook their head. She returned to her work songs, and in a moment her voice broke. One sound of Clemnilshala became three singing in harmony. Three of her voice sparked whoops and claps of the smithies around her. At the same time attracted the attention of Lavia.
Ash she approached the smiths she fiddled and fidgeted with one of her three braids in her long hair. Clemnilshala continued her song, its beats falling in line with the lift and lower of her leg. Though the closer Lavia came, the quieter Clemnilshala sang, until she stood still, looking down on her.
“Ehhh, doon’t think anythin’ of it.” She muttered to the ragling.
Lavia’s face recoiled, she turned her back, and talked to herself.
Samythiel backed away and went to return to the dishes.