Showdowns with plains lions were far louder than the sounds, and silence, that came from the back room of the triangle shaped station. Folruth and the other dwarf exited into the great room where there started music and strange song in their language. Ferynia set to arranging jars and bottles on a table. Clemnilshala inched close to the corners, shuffling along, leaning on the walls, until she sat on the floor while the dwarfess in lovely garb filled a tub with water and with magic heated it and moved it around as though it weighed nothing.
“Welp, c’mon then lass, let’s get ye started on the mend.” She waved at Clemnilshala who didn’t move. “Come now, there might nae be much water fer somethin as big as yoo but it’ll be enough. Wouldn’t ye like tae be all nice and clean?”
Clemnilshala shook her head, slowly turning it side to side.
“We’ll get tae see all them pretty tattoos of yers wont we?”
Clemnilshala’s heart thumped harder. How much do dwarves know?
“Here, let me help you. I won’t hurt ye, Folruth would have a cow if ye came outta here in yer skin and all tha blood and filth all o’er ye. Wont hurt a bit.” Ferynia advanced a few steps, extending her hand, allowing holy magic to come to her broad fingertips.
Clemnilshala pushed off from the floor, leaning into the wall she reached the window. With a loud squawking, hoarse, shout she hooked her elbow over the frame and scrabbled against the wood and stone of the wall in an attemped to climb out. Her tail that worked hard to steady her balance knocked over everything it reached. Wooden spoons, cooking pots, glass and ceramic bottles that spilled dusts and liquids all over the floor. The commotion roused a knocking on the kitchen door and a calling from an unfamiliar voice asking in unfamiliar languages what was going on.
Ferynia called back.
“Come nae lass, I aint gonna hurt ye. Please don’t break off my flower beds.”
What waited outside were drifts of snow and leagues of ice to navigate. Clemnilshala had her shoulder and her head fully out the window. Even smaller dwarves were playing ball out here. The frame was too small to fit her other shoulder. She couldn’t escape. Not out of the window anyway. The smaller dwarves, clad in fur, waved at clemnilshala with their arms held high over their heads. Out here as well were other dwarves who walked along in their cloaks. They looked down at Clemnilshala and turned their head to the side.
One knelt down and reached to touch Clemnilshala’s head. She swung with her arm, her elbow firmly planted in the icy snow, but they did not draw back and laid just a gentle hand between her horns. They smiled.
“Get stuck did ye? Here let’s get ye back in there.” He said before he pushed her back through the window and back into the kitchen.
Ferynia crossed her arms over her chest.
“Cant have ye doin that. Don’t like magic hm?”
Clemnilshala shook her head again.
“Then we’ll have tae jus’ do this the hard way. Won’t feel so great, but we will both just have tae manage hm? No magic it is”
It turns out that healing magic, the sort that priests and priestesses used, was different to the dwarves. They did not bathe warriors either. It gave Ferynia a laugh while Clemnilshala sat in a tub of water. Like a fish in a sauce pan. The wooden tub was wide but not deep, normally being used for vegetables she would come to learn one day. For now she sat. Waiting. For nothing to happen. Ferynia looked at her, and she gazed back. Clemnilshala took a wash cloth and shed herself of the brown and red layer of dried blood Ferynia made do with what she could. Dulling her head ache tremendously with a powder, taking away the strains in her weakened muscles. Muttering something all the while in that strange strange tongue. Ferynia asserted for years that she didn’t use magic. She might as well have as the crushing weight of her remaining horn dulled. Her other eye didn’t feel so heavy and drooped. Clemnilshala rinsed her hair of blood, her horn remained tender though at least she was clean.
“Until yer good enough tae get by on yer own, yer simply goin’ tae have tae trust us.” Ferynia said, lending more aid, pulling twigs and bits of rock from the cracked and peeling remains of her horn. “Most a yer ear’s gone too. Looks like Rhinegrim got ye good. But looky yoo, ye got out alright, and ye got us scouts.”
Clemnilshala remained quiet.
“I swear, tha Noblehood, he brings me the strangest creatures tae fix up. Rabbits, boars. He brought me tha stag once an’ tha’s where I had tae set a line tha I can only do creatures tha live in this basin.”
“I don’t live.”
“Yer heart beat says otherwise lass.”
Ferynia pulled at Clemnilshala’s sagging skin.
“Normally I’m just a cook and I heal anyone who comes back here with my magics.”
“Yes yes, no magic for you. Why don’t ye get yer…blanket? They gave ye a saddle blanket for clothes? By the open skies tha Rigmol reeks! Well jus’ put yer blanket back on, go out tae the galley and find a nice comfortable spot.”
Food waited in the large great room. Long rows of tables of foods of all sorts. It was here that these dwarves clumped together and clattered utensils on plates and spoke in that language. Clemnilshala tightened the fastener that Ferynia gave her on the saddle blanket. Hunched forward, with her head low, she moved slowly, methodically as not to step on anyone. The warm air of the station gave her skin goose bumps. No one glanced at her for more than a moment, even with these retched tattoos littering every visible surface. She approached the fireplace, where there was a larger lump of hay atop of which laid Rigmol who was eating from a dish that was about the same shape as the wash tub in the back.
He was eating a stew of sorts, white in color, and didn’t seem to mind Clemnilshala coming to sit on the floor with him. She lowered her head to him and contented herself to look about the room. The stag didn’t do anything. Until she reached forward and attempted to take a cubed piece of food from the stag’s bowl, it was then that he lowered his head and flashed her a look that appeared different from the normal face of a stag. His antlers hovered at her head. ‘Back off’ was the thought that bubbled from her stomach, and so she drew away.
“H-hello” she said to the stag. Perhaps he would say something back, like the way he seemed to move and sound around that Folruth. The stag said nothing. In fact no one said anything. They stayed to their clumps and didn’t bother the other groups unless it was to pick up a fallen utensil or bring more food. No one aproached Clemnilshala.
No one seemed to pay her any mind.
She didn’t matter it seemed.
A wash of fragile relief came to her, her shoulders lowered themselves as she laid back against the warmed stones that formed the hearth. Folruth, the other dwarf, and Ferynia clumped together and spoke amongst themselves while Ferynia rubbed herbs and refuse from her hands. Whenever one spoke, the others would pet and comb through their beards while they listened.
After what felt like no time at all, their triad had broken up, the other dwarf went upstairs into the loft, Ferynia went back into the kitchen, and Folruth approached a table and then came to Clemnilshala with two bowls of liquid.
“Climbin’ outta windows are we?” He said with a smile and a laugh. “Think Ferynia’s goin tae turn ye intae soup?” He held one of these bowls out.
Clemnilshala didn’t move, so he set it on the floor and backed away. He looked to Rigmol who ate his white stew. He pulled up a stool and sat at it, looking directly at her before taking a long drink from his bowl. Clemnilshala looked at him. He looked at her. She pointed to his bowl.
“That one.” She said at last, confused as to what he snickered about while he put his bowl down, poured liquid from the untouched bowl into his bowl, and took the untouched bowl and drank of that one. Clemnilshala watched closely, the inner corners of her eyes twitched. Rigmol shifted and nudged her at the back, pushing her forward for her to weakly take the bowl from the floor and put her mouth on the rim. It was a brothy stock. With grains in it. Salty, with circles of rended fat laying atop of it. She drank it. A sip at first. It was delicious! Thick in a way that coated the inside of her mouth with the flavors of mushrooms. By the Weilvog she was never going to pick mushrooms out of her food again. It must have been made with actual cream. Her tail rose and fell once or twice before it shifted beneath the warm hay to her other side.
“See, I ain’t meanin’ ye harm either.” Said Folruth. “Ets made of boar and sheep, raw sheep’s milk, it’s good ain’t it?” he pointed to her bowl. “Got mushrooms in it too. Theyre good fer ye.”
She could barely hear him over the sound of the fire and what must have been the sounds of soup falling into her empty belly. She imagined it’d sound like filling a well with a water pitcher.
She nodded “Good.” She said to him. She had no human words to lean on to communicate. Why couldn’t dwarves speak eynnic? Did they lack the jointed larynx? Though she couldn’t speak it anymore either.
She pointed to him. “Folruth.”
“Aye lass, Folruth Noblehood, mountain scout at yer service. Got tae say I aint seen too many folk like yerself in the basin let alone in Khalenthel. Where ye come from lass?”
“Mmm Uluur. Used to be my home.” She said, finishing the soup.
“Nae no more huh. Looks like ye need a new home, reckon somethin better than frolickin with yetis.” He tipped his head back and finished his own soup. “You’d be safe in Khalenthel. Good city. Great opportunities. Reckon we can find somethin fer someone like you tae do. Fancy bein a courier?”
Rigmol groaned and made his staggish noises at Folruth.
“Nae in tha way, I’d never.” He turned to the stag, before looking back at Clemnilshala again, his eyes darted over her markings. “Though we will have tae get yet clothed in something before we go up the mountain. The cold alone with get you all eaten up. We can go intae Milgan in the mornin’ tae see what they have. That shouldn’t be too bad a walk fer ye.”
She rubbed her arm and looked away. He got up and went for more soup. Bringing it back with some bread. Clemnilshala only took the soup, and thanked him no less than four times between long drinks. Folruth only laughed and laughed every time, waving his hands and saying that it wasn’t any skin off of his hands.