Life as it’s always ever been

“I’ve been dreamin’ of you.”

“You were singin’ “Oul at Fire River” to me; somehow, the sunrise always reminds me of that.”

A lone eynnil sits by the smolders of the night’s campfire giving off their last heaves to warm her breakfast and coffee. Leaning against her companion’s rising and falling side, crooning secrets up at the clear night, coldly staring back. She’d all but buried her hooves in the ashes of what remained of the fire. Everything was much cooler now.

Rigmol was nearly still, breathing soft dreamy puffs of his dreams while curled up on leftover bedding atop a favored ledge of Thamdül. She shuddered at the near-burning heat of her coffee cup coming to her lip. After a long drink, she delights in the billowing cloud, exhaling toward the remaining whispers of night, turning into a crimson-golden sky.

How the elderly great stag could always find a cozy place to take a snooze was one of life’s great mysteries. Perhaps it was his nighttime rituals of shaking, smoking his own pipe, and just being his staggish self that created peace enough that he could drift off. His breaths were like the curling smoke of a dragon deep in hibernation. Hulce’s Blue tobacco always did this.

A breeze brings a smattering of loose snow across the pristine basin where two small towns lay in the shadow of Khalenglough the Great, waiting for the sun to peek out between Thamdül and Alfgourn the Lesser. The wind dodged her cloak and gear and gave her a rinse of goose skin coursing down her spine. The fur of her thick, heavy hood tickled her cheek while she could not pull her family crest fast enough to prevent it from blowing off. The stones hung from specialized thread to keep her ear piercings open clack against one another. Soon enough, she’d be able to wear her hard-earned trophies on metal settings. She just had to wait a little longer; one couldn’t blame the greenhorns for being late. The trail up to this spot was treacherous enough to take nearly twenty years to feel safe alone and another fifteen to fully master. 

“Noblehoof, Good Morning.” Said the greenhorn, not quite so green but still so young. He looks so much like his Mother. He must’ve arrived while she was staring off into the vastness of the open and beautiful sky. ‘Noblehoof’ gives a warm smile in return. What was his first name again? Something Skipflock…A fine dwarf, as most dwarves are, a fine person indeed. He had the good feet to be a good Foundationeer of the Mountain.

“Yoo can use m’first name ye knoow.” She replied, standing, taking a moment to clack her cleated hoof plates together and shake the ice and snow from her shoulders. He waits as it seems to him that she rises endlessly. Nearly double his height, it felt. A gigantic specimen of the religious couriers inside of the mountain cities. “Clemnilshala’s always been fine. Yer mam did a good job raisin’ ye.”

She stomps twice into the ice layer that froze a brown layer of leaves, vitzsovljoum, and the mountainous nakedness through a near impenetrable glassy prison. Moss and rocks of thousands of years ago do not move a moment. Her great stag, whose head was higher than she was tall, yawned in all the laziness a seasoned travel companion could. Rising hind first before the front. Clemnilshala inspects his tack before pulling his reins; he’s in a grumpy mood on account of not being allowed to warm up in his own time, grumbling about how he isn’t a horse. Not that Skipflock could hear. 

“Yoo’ll be able tae handle et up here? This is one of the trickier posts tae be nailed tae.” She askes, posturing herself to leave. Skipflock nodded in return with simple affirmative words. At his word and wave she was on her way down the path. The journey down Thamdul mountain was as usual, ice never was where one needed it to be, it chipped and cracked like strands of lightning under Clemnilshala and Rigmol’s weight. Rigmol groaned the whole way in reply to create a chorus with the crackling. 

They passed three other greenhorns, greener greenhorns, fresher in their shiny new cloaks, headed up to that spot. It often took more dwarf power to keep the peak of Thamdul in place. They look up at Clemnilshala, talk to one another of how they would get past without falling. The path was narrow and Rigmol and Clemnilshala were huge. They crouch and walk underneath her. Her long tail strokes along their hoods and necks until it falls behind them. Then they go beneath Rigmol who noses at their shoulders and sniffs for treats.

She stops at Foxeye Station for water and washing up of the face and the spaces behind the ears. The dwarves here were good people too, familiar to her face. They smile and call her by name before returning to their businesses. A young foundationeer reads poetry from an antique journal from a mountaineer whose spirit had become one with the wind. Clemnishala listens covertly, mouthing along the syllables as she waits for Rigmol to come to the window. She knew these poems well, by heart; she’d heard them so many times. Softened hushed evenings and sweet words from a smokey breathed mountaineer while keeping warm over a dinner of rations.

They continue all through the morning down into the town of Milgan. It was nice all the same. Even if the rocky mountain shelves threaten to crumble under their weight and their joints turn stiff and sore. Milgan was the perfect halfway point between the outer stations, like Foxeye and Hagshield, and the Great Staircase up to the gates to the heart of Khalenglough mountain herself. By the time Clemnilshala makes it into the town’s general store, the sun was directly overhead the shimmering basin. The time of day when anyone caught outside would strip a few layers and put dark paint under their eyes. Clemnilshala was no exception, removing a leather glove to apply eyeblack straight from the pot over her dark circles before heading into the store.

Mister Ignar ran the store. People around Milgan gave him a certain amount of respect for, by happenstance, his name was the same as the human king of Brinorion. Mister Ignar of Milgan was fair with his prices and often traded goods if one wasn’t in the practice of carrying much money with them. In stark contrast to the human king, Ignaer was infinitely patient with the eynnic Clemnilshala who shambled about his store. Keeping careful that she unbuttoned her hoofplates outside and hung them up on the provided nails beside the door.

“Aaaafternoon” He said, eying pocked marks on the floor as he busied his hands by wiping down the counter. “Felfili was asking about yoo yesterday, wonderin when yer goin tae go see her again.”

Clemnilshala listens passively, digging through a papercard box of bone needles. Her eyes dart to a dusty helmet that seemed to loom over the whole shop in its everlasting vigil. Growing dirtier by the month, as cloaked in cobwebs as Clemnilshala is cloaked in mossy green leathers. It still made her stomach turn over. 

Lass” Mister Ignar said again, “Tha ol’ thing isn’t going to hurt ye. Et’s just a helmet.”

She tore her discomforted gazee away from the helmet and grabbed a needle at random. Adding a new jar of molasses to her order. Paying with a bag of treasure she’d picked up on the trails.

“Send the missus m’love yes? I do enjoy our little chats.” 

“Ye didn’t hear me then, She’s askin about ye, she hasn’t seen ye in a few months. She’s hopin yoo’ll still come for dinner during harvest.”

“I wouldn’t miss et fer the whole world. I’ll even bring the good vinegar, and Ro’Burra’s pickles again.” She offhandedly replied, taking the moments to arrange the molasses next to her waterskin of liquor and waterskin of water in her bag. She threaded the needle onto some string and tied it around a button inside her cloak, and beat down the cloak from the inside to knock off the pine needles and small sticks. Scuffing her hooves on the floor to scoot the refuse out of the front door.

“Bring Ro’Burra herself if you must, just make sure to come see us. We aren’t Hollyhearths, we won’t turn away yer kin, chosen or otherwise. Shiftlings are always welcome at the table. Yer not going to lock yerself up like ye did last year.” Ignar grits his teeth at the sound of hooves on his floors.  Now that was unfair, the wandering star that turned nearly all the world upside down had damaged so many crops that Harvest Season was sparse throughout all the lands, not just Khalenglough basin. He slides a paper wrapped packet of smoked meats across his counter. “These are for Rigs, not fer yoo.”

Clemnilshala laughs and laughs as the bell over the door tinkles again, taking the meat with her and closing the door, nearly pinching her long tail in the seam. Promising to send his love to the great stag, perhaps that would sweeten him up as they prepared the trek to go into Khalenthel by nightfall.

4 thoughts on “Life as it’s always ever been

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