The sun passed over the door way and was visible from the window. Clemnilshala rose from her spot on the floor, picking pieces of dead grass from behind her ears. The stove was filled with not but hushed ember. She wheezed and blew dust from her nose as she got up, hunched over to one side, and took a candle to set it within one of Rewwer’s human lanterns. Out into the sunset she strode, looking in the direction of the towns where their little firelights were like yellow stars on the horizon just before the mountain range. A dog came to follow at her hooves as she ventured further into the woods, looking out for Rewwer.
Her head remained low, her hand at her side pushing the holy burn so that it did not ache so much. It was long after dark, the moon was dim behind a painting of clouds, when she found Rewwer, leaned against an old beech tree with his head hung over Mamala. In his arm was Hinala who was silent. Clemnishala’s stomach fell for a moment, she scuttled ahead and took a knee beside him, holding the lantern over Mamala’s head, her eyes fluttered. Hinala certainly did not appreciate the light either, her small baby hands came up to her eyes as she made noise. Like a small toy dropped in a grand fountain clemnilshala’s stomach returned to normal. Fear left her.
“What happened. What happened, youngling.” Rewwer said, his voice shook the leaves of the tree. He touched his wife’s face with the back of his hand. “She’s so injured, she ran all the way here with my precious Hinala. What happened. Tell me.”
Clemnilshala hung her head and bit at her lip, wringing her fingers.
“Well…my old partner, is golden eye’d now. He was going to take Hinala”
“They. They are they, they are one. No use for bad manners.” He bounced Hinala up and down. Clemnilshala drew back with the lantern.
“And they were going to take Hinala back to the city, and Mamala and I tried to stop him, well he pushed Mamala into the wall and she escaped before I did.”
“Why did it take you so long to come looking?”
“Never mind that.” Clemnilshala turned her injured side away from Rewwer. “Is Mamala going to be okay?”
“Never mind that” he parroted. “Take Hinala home. I’ll be back by dawn.”
He held his lamb up in his palm, she stopped fussing when she was held in proper arms again. Clemnilshala stopped after a few steps and looked back. Rewwer waved her away. It was hours again, the moon continued to loll over the sky, rising like a beacon hidden behind smoke and insecurity. The way back to the cottage was as silent as infant breaths. She sat in the tannery, leaned up against the wall, holding Hinala close to her chest and nodded off again. The pain in her side faded in her sleep. In her fitful nightmare she saw Valthran again, as a boy that she was friends with, and how they would practice with their father’s heirloom hammer. That birds made up the cushions on the floor and were undone underfoot, leaking stuffing like children’s toys.
Come dawn Rewwer was not inside the cottage, but the stove had been lit and there was a bowl of beans set a soaking. Clemnilshala looked about for Mamala who often did the beans. But her hoof prints were not to be found. The blue light of a misty morning bled from the windows. The walls had been washed clean of the streak of blood that Mamala left when she escaped.
Hinala continued to sleep, curled up, her little tail flopping about.
A chopping from outside stirred Clemnilshala’s attention, she fruitlessly attempted to swaddle the lamb against her chest, finding to much fabric on one side, and too little to support small Hinala.
Babies all seemed the same, they were so difficult to make stay put.
Rewwer’s eyes were reddened as he brought the chopping ax over his head into unsuspecting logs. He looked to Clemnilshala, and shook his head. It was from there that he turned his back to her and began to walk deeper into the woods down to the stream where there was a new mound in the sandy banks, joining a long lonely line. She understood.
“A hundred and fifty nine. A hundred and fifty nine of us exiles have come to me for solace and I failed them, and now…” he tightened his jaw. “…and now…”
Clemnilshala touched Rewwer’s arm.
“What was your name before?”
“Rilwaar…it was Rilwaar once” he showed her the tattoos that denoted his name hidden well under leather gauntlets that he always wore. “I came to her the night before I was taken, and she kissed my cheek and told me that she’d find me one day. I never, in my many decades, never expected her to be cast out too. And so we built a life out here, in these woods, doing just what your mother and father did.”
Clemnilshala touched Hinala’s cheek.
“Mother and father. They really helped you did they not. I wish that I could have helped too. I’m afraid I don’t remember you.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. Those Uluurites, they’ll meet their fates one way or the other.” He bunched up his fist. “You said your old partner found you here. Is he an exile hunter?”
“I was…once.” She sat down and carefully rubbed her side, the burn becoming bothersome the more she was upright. Rewwer sat with her.
“I cannot have you here posing a danger to my daughter.”
“I understand. It’s my fault that Mamala was killed.”
“No it was your partner’s fault. Not yours. But I cannot have you here much longer, lest that beast comes back. You will always be welcome to visit, but at the end of the month you will depart.”
A great loneliness found them both and sunk into their fleshes as though their shared markings were grates in the stove. Rewwer spent the days busying his hands with his lamb, playing games, while Clemnilshala made certain that her departure would not be as sore as her side.
She didn’t tell Rewwer of the hammer nor the burn to her side, until much much later.
At the end of the month, Rewwer filled Clemnilshala with a meal of beans, and gave her a bag of money and directed her to the west, to a different human town wherin there was a population of horse herders that would take care of the weary traveler.
The weary traveler.