Harvest. The best time of the year, the snow fell harder, it became easier to see Folruth’s red hair through the vent hole in the wall, and there were more than plenty of markets set up in the hallways. Exotic vegetables could be bought, sheeps milk had a certain bitterness to it, fanciful tobacco stalls from all over the land all whooping and hollering about their wares. The librarian section of Khalenglough knew that the good tobacco never came until the dead of winter, but there were still those silly silly souls that insisted on drying and seasoning their own leaf.
There were occurrences of bandits coming into the basin, she could see their heads through the vent hole in the wall. How fortuitous that she now shared a home with Folruth that had a vent hole so that the soot and the heat didn’t hurt so much inside of the little slot in the wall. Clemnilshala often sat beside the vent hole and valiantly tried to darn socks without using too much thread or making loops that would catch on toes. Not having toes of her own it was an impossible task.
She would sleep just beside the door, sitting up, slumped over an over turned bucket on which she rested her head. She’d done this for the past fifteen years. Folruth, when he was at home, watched over her while her tail would thump on the floor while she dreamed. Nightmares faded from year to year, though somehow Folruth could feel when sweet dreams, what ever eynnil considered sweet dreams, would turn bad. Her top lip would begin to quiver, she would talk with her eyes closed, her face would furrow up and her breath would quicken. The best thing to do, he found over fifteen years, is to sit beside her at the door and lean over where his head would rest on her side. The bruise there that never healed was always warm. She never liked blankets being pulled over her shoulders, it always woke her with a start and sometimes she would jump up and break a flower pot or knock over a weapon rack. Once she’d put a sizable tear into his cloak.
She never meant to break things. On account of the cloak she spent days attempting to repair it with little luck nor skill.
But Harvest, the best time of the year, there were never any instances of nightmares during harvest.
there was no fifteen day on/off schedule for the ten-fifteen weeks of harvest time, depending on the season. Scouts would escort trade goods down the mountain and stay in the towns below where scouts in the towns would escort those goods to the various borders, and from there they would trek the way back up the mountain, guarding the much needed resources from allied territories. The days that Folruth came back to the mountain during harvest season he, as with any scout in the spirit of the harvest season, would be allowed to spend the night in the warmth of the city in the comfort of their beds after escorting carts of trade goods up and down the great staircase. People would whisper on those days, whenever Folruth returned, for Clemnilshala would wait at the gates with the wives, sisters, brothers and husbands of the scouts. She would stay behind while the families of other scouts ran forward, citing that she still feared hurting someone under hoof.
Together, from the gates, they would go down hallways and corridors and observe the harvest markets that could be found in the varying districts of the city. Folruth annually dropped off toy figurines he made throughout the year and Clemnilshala aided in handing them out to orphans. In her fine clothing she enjoyed letting the young beardlings trace her markings and tattoos with their little fingers though would stand straight up when they would attempt to give her a hug. O! How they would squeal and laugh at that, often clinging harder to be hoisted several feet off of the ground. They recited together the scouting songs and had a lovely time playing figurines. Clemnilshala often withdrew herself after some time and simply watched, busying her hands to help fold blankets or help with dinner rations for the orphans as Folruth made mighty armies of wooden figures. They often asked if there will be another hunt for Nahchog, and as the wind would have it, his porcine highness would be awakening he’d don his mighty tusks and have a go at the scouting company.
This year would stick with Folruth and Clemnilshala for rest of their lives. Harvest was always a time of paying debts, being generous to ones neighbor and friends, and most of all, exuberant revelry toward the fellow dwarf. After leaving the orphanage that year, Clemnilshala stood aside and gently, so gingerly, reached out and touched Folruth’s red hair and let it fall over her fingers before she followed him out into the streets toward the market where they sold grain goods such as breads, flour, and sweet cookies. Brewed malted drinks were here too in front of breweries that allowed passerbies to sample and purchase which would somehow always send far more business and trade to the following stalls of the markets.
Everyone was always in a good mood during the holiday market. This was the year that Clemnilshala discovered her love of the sour loaf of milk and grain and renewed her expensive taste for iylvienbol.
With money she’d earned doing odd bits of helpfulness throughout the year, and plenty of time to think, she wanted to thank Folruth for the hospitality. A handful of metal chips that served as money was able to purchase him a handsome set of enchanted laces for his boots that would never break, even if he were in the greatest hurry in the world and with all his strength pulled them too hard. 44 iron chips they costed, for the time being they lived in her pocket, with the fragments of a glass eye she found while out exploring the city, and pieces of silk that had dropped off the hats and robes of the nobility in the King’s district, which was through the ornate archway at the end of the grain market. Grain was being delivered by husky bear’s head and wolf’s head shiftlings hoisting bags over their shoulders for vendors to use. Clemnilshala had become used to seeing the marks of Uluur on several bags, Uluur, outside of its military, had a high-demand export of grain and pork goods. She no longer lingered in place staring at the sigil on the corner of the bag in wax.
There too was a market in the king’s district. Bold as brass did Clemnilshala and Folruth walk in to see the fine wares of jewelers and metal smiths. Though at this time of the year there seemed to be something new budding inside of an unused slot in the wall. There was a great pale curtain over the entrance that faced the king’s hall. It wasn’t this curtain that got Clemnilshala’s attention, it was that there was a broad, golden-eyed, eynnil with a docked tail and cropped ears and glittering markings of valor standing confidently over shiftling and dwarvish laborers. Clemnilshala stopped, her hands escaped her pockets and began to bunch up the sides of her fine dress, and her tail coiled up against her leg as she saw the eynnil. She backed up a few steps, bumping into the table of a jewel craftsman selling carefully cultivated and mined and made to be the colors of preciousnesses for gentile dwarves that were not scouts. There was the clinking of glass decoration and the clacking of rocks rocking backward and bumping one another. The commotion in the silent hall, the King so enjoyed the quietness of his district, drew the ear of the golden eye. They turned toward her, their hand went to their side. Clemnilshala froze up, squeezing her dress tighter in her hand. They took one step forward. She turned tail and bolted back into the grain market, running with her chest pushed out and looking over her shoulder with the passing stalls. Folruth was not behind her at all, not to her frenzied searches for anything appearing to be golden amongst the golden and bronzy hues of the grain and family crests that seemed all too bright while reflecting the light of the mountain’s magma and firelight. She ducked to one side and scurried away behind a great cask that had been pulled from its cradle in the wall to be displayed with its artistic carvings and stories of its lifetime of aging and brewing. The woman behind the table, who had brought out more sampling glasses, looked at Clemnilshala and brushed her hand through her beard.
Clemnilshala leaned up against the cask and held her hands to her chest, quietly whispering and attempting to barter the safety of this spot. The woman wouldn’t hear of it, not asking for money or anything in return, everybody needed a short break from all of dwarf kind, even other dwarves, it was no surprise to her that an eynnil would need a moment to breathe. She passed a cookie to Clemnilshala and went back to hollering her plea for those to come up and try this brew. All the while people passed and spoke excitedly about giving to their fellows. She looked under the table, watching feet go by, recognizing the boots of guards and scouts alike. A pair of pale hooves in golden plates paced one way, then the other, then along shuffled the familiar boots with broken laces on one side. She stirred and straightened her back just enough where she could see over the edge of the table, between the drinking glasses.
“Psst” she hissed, “Folruth, back here.” She said softly.
Folruth came around the table with the permission of the lady and knelt before Clemnilshala, pulling her tightly into a strong embrace.
“Och lass, I got soo worried.”
“I’m sorry tha I ran.” She muttered, “It looks like there’ll be a Lanh here. They send Flailmasters first to clear away the…eh…undesirables from the area and I thought…well I thought that they might try me.”
She buried her face into the side of his neck.
“I shouldn’t have walked intae the king’s district soo exposed, lad.” She finished, taking a deep breath of the smokey scent that clung to his hair.
“Bah et’s nae a worry lass.” He pet her head, “Ye’ll be safe with me. No matter how many of those big blighters come tae the city.”
“But they’re golden.”
“And I’m seasoned. Here, lass, put this on yer blouse, right about here” He unpinned his family crest, and tore a piece from his kilting where the cloth of the Noblehood family was displayed to the other dwarves of the area. “Yer gonna be my ward now. Er, that is tae say, iffin ye accept I wont let anyone harm a hair on yer head.”
“I don’t understand, Folruth.”
“Ahhh, I want ye tae say ye’ll be my wife, lass.” He scratched at his head, his face turned about as red as his hair. “I, eh, I’m mad fer ye.”
“Es it love?”
There was quietness. He rubbed the back of his neck. Her face softened, her flopped over ear drooped a touch while she leaned in close and gently put her forehead to his. The words were never said behind that table, but the turned over fear in both of their stomachs faded as their bond was forged in the presence of a barmaid and a table of small glasses of malted beer. They laughed at the silliness of wedding behind a cask, though neither of them admitted that they would not have thought of anything better.
They attempted to pass through the archway into the King’s district, turning the corner to find the golden eye standing there. Their dungeon whip drawn at the ready with glittering white fronds. Clemnilshala slowed behind Folruth, humming a sound.
“Why doon’t we go home lad…we don’t need tae pass through this part of town today.” Clemnilshala muttered again, hesitating.
“The way home is through tha archway, besides, we must tell the king. Believe me my dear, he won’t give ye any trouble. I’m sure of it.” He touched the small of her back and smiled the wide way that he did around her. “The king blesses all marriages, then no one can touch ye without a fleet of fuming, harvest minded dwarves ready tae declare war on one of our own.”
Clemnilshala pulled her head back
“If nae the warriors then the scouts. I would see to it personally. You are one of us lass, an’ as long as ye wear tha crest, yer as Noblehood as I am and as much a dwarf as any two-chip Hollyhearth and his bastard children.” He sniffed with pride. Noblehood. The family of Artist, of Scouts, and of Philanthropists. “Come we must tell the king, he will bless this union and even….what’s the name again, the king of that guy’s city?”
“Aye lass, that one, even He cannot touch ye here in this basin.” He held up his hand, his blue eyes were the hot flames of holy oil that melted away all misdeeds. She put her hand in his along with her trust and her heart and, while still nervous and slumped forward, they were stopped by the golden eye’d guard who looked down their face at Folruth and Clemnilshala who made herself as small and unthreatening as possible. She hid her shoulders from the guard, slinking away from the kind of clean, unmarked body that she used to have. Her tail swayed side to side, coiling up and uncoiling only to repeat the motion on the opposite side.
“You may not pass into the sanctum of the Holy Lanh of Khalenthel.” Their eyes fell to Clemnilshala and her marked arms and hands. “You will taint the light that the Weilvog and Anghniel have bestowed upon the king of this city.”
“Funny yoo should say tha laddy,” said Folruth, “We have an audience with the king tae be attending to. Which means we must be going intae tha district.”
The golden eye glanced between the two of them, their hand tightened around their whip with a leathery creak. Since when did the Golden use leather? Clemnilshala merely nodded and smiled with Folruth, closing her fingers in his hand. She pulled on her lengths of hair and turned a bit toward him.
“Let us not dally any further, ehhh we cannae be late tae meet with the king, no?” She piped up, her attention coming to the Golden Eye’s sword. “I am most certain tha I can be allowed to cross through here. I am no eynnil after all.”
They started forward, crossing into the district of the king.
“You have the hair of one.” Said the guard.
“I abandoned tha life, lad” she said, pointing her words with the sounds of the dwarves. She looked about at what laid around her, minding that Folruth continued to hold her hand. “Let us pass without trouble and we will let you be.”
The golden eye took her by the shoulder and turned her to face them, raising their hand with their whip in the way that a true flail master did. They did not move to strike, though it was impossible for any other person to know this.
“Tha’s my wife!” Folruth shouted, creating a spectacle, drawing attention of guards and vendors.
“That is a stain on your great city and our alliance will cleanse it of all your filth” They brought their whip down, as though her hoof skated on ice, the lightness of something that pulled her Clemnilshala shoved her back between Folruth and the Golden Eye. The fronds and tails of the whip came down on her shoulder. She arched her back and moved inward to the range of the Golden Eye. She let go of Folruth’s hand, he went for his decorative knife, which seemed so similar to his skinner and working knife. He held it with the blade facing upward.
“<< Ah my darling, we see battle on our wedding day, this must be either a blessing or a curse. I feel filled with luck, grant me your hand for all time and we will face combat as one.>>” He said, speaking dwarvish which was still lost on Clemnilshala yet it filled her with vinegar. She turned back around, taking another lash to the chest and neck. No skin broke but fabric was turned to thin ribbons in that spot. She lunged forward and forced herself in front of Folruth, she couldn’t hear the skittering sound of her metal hoofplates on the stone floor, the king’s district was like a field of ice as compared to the crunching pebbles and uneven terrain of the other districts of the city of Khalenthel. Clemnilshala grabbed the sword of the Golden Eye.
A third lash, she held her shield arm up and allowed the whip to wrap around her wrist with its tiny barbs she held it steady. She pulled the Golden eye’s sword from their scabbard and thrust its point into the stone between their feet.
“Et was by Uluur tha I was exiled. And you will go home in defeat.” She turned, pulling their whip away from their hand and letting it hang from her arm like an ornament while she kicked the flat of her hoof into the broadness of their sword. The swordmaking of Uluur had not changed in these years it snapped right at the point that they always seemed to. The same point that the dagger of the exiled female who had attacked Senaar so many years ago. Clemnilshala could almost see that night. She pushed through the idea of the flame, taking the sharp remain of the sword.
“Consider taeday a funeral of a nameless exile, I wash my hands of yoo.” She brought it to the back of her head, while the handle and fronds of a punishing whip dangled down her back she took a handful of her long pale hair and cut it free. She threw it upon a braiser that lit the King’s District.
The scent of a different smoke drew the attention of the King’s personal guards who filed out from his hall with spears and swords in hand to the scene. Folruth put his knife away swiftly and put his hands up to the guards as they approached to quarreling eynnil. It took much explaining, they spoke to the surrounding citizens who had not abandoned their stalls to step between the hoofed folk. Clemnilshala dropped the broken sword and answered for her crime against the Golden Eye. She stuck her chest out, breathing with pride, holding her hands behind her back while touches of blood soaked her fine dress. It was explained so many times, over and over again, by Folruth, by Clemnilshala, that they had only come for the King’s blessing and that they were hindered by the Lanh who had not even been seeded yet in the stone of the mountain. The Golden Eye spun a stringent tale where it was a farce, an abomination for exiles to seek comfort in the places where the Weilvog and Anghniel rest. All the while Folruth could not cease smiling and holding the small of Clemnilshala’s back.