Chapter 1 Part 1

“I dreamed of you last night.”

“I dreamed of all those years ago when you sang your old poetry to me and taught me all the words. Somehow, the sunrise this morning reminds me of ‘The Owl at Fire River’.”    A lone Eynnil sits by the fading embers of the campfire she’d built the night before. Her companion great stag rests his head in the snow, huffing foggy breaths as he listens to her. She shudders at the burning touch of her metal coffee cup to her lip. After a long drink, she delights in the billowing cloud that she exhales toward the golden sky.

The wind blows a smattering of snow across the pristine basin where two small towns lay in the shadow of Khalengough the Great. The wind dodged her cloak and gear and gave her a rising wave of goose skin coursing down her spine. The fur of her cowled hood flopped over her head, tickled her cheek as she pulled on her family crest tracing the lines idly as her great stag rose his head to greet the young man who had come to take her spot and relieve her of overnight duty atop this peak.

“Noblehoof, Good morning” He waited for her to stand, she must’ve been almost double his height. A specimen of the travelers that arrived on this world centuries ago. Noblehoof smiled warmly, hoisting her pack upwards into her cloak.

“Ye can use my first name ye know. Clemnilshala is fine by me” She replied, taking a moment to check the cleats on her own hoof plates, stamping twice into the ice layer that froze a brown layer of dead leaves and moss and rocks thousands of years ago. Leaving frosty little holes in her wake as she took up her bow and quiver. Her great stag, who was even taller than she, yawned lazily getting up. Hind legs first, then front. Clemnilshala bent at the waist to inspect her stag’s hoof plates, shaking his front legs, and made sure he was sturdy enough to go down the mountain. She turned back to the young man and waved goodbye.

“Ye’ll be able to handle it up here? This is one of ‘er higher peaks” she asked, posturing herself to leave. The young man nodded in return, with a simple affirmative word the Eynnil was on her way down the path. The journey down the mountain normally would be a treacherous one for the inexperienced mountain scout. Ice was never where one needed it to be, it often chipped and cracked like strands of lightning under Clemnilshala’s weight alone. Her great stag, Rigmol, often groaned the whole way. The crackling ice called, and Rigmol often replied in a strange chorus.

The trip into town was nice all the same. Clemnilshala thought so, even if the small rocks that stuck out and caught the leather barding along the edge of her cloak along the way. At the end of the road, a mountain scout was always met with a great gate into the sleepy town of Milgan. The Eynnil took the moment to lean on the gate. Her joints creak after so long in the cold and threatened to crumble if she spent any longer out here. Milgan was the perfect halfway point between the outposts along the outer crown of mountains and the great gates into the heart of Khalenglough mountain herself. By the time she made it to the general store the sun was directly over the shimmering basin, the time of day where anyone caught outside would strip their extra layers and put dark paint under their eyes. Clemnilshala was no exception, putting a leather-gloved hand into her pot of lampblack and applying it over her already dark circles before heading inside 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. A just ruler with a heart of gold and flesh who just so happened to surround himself with Golden-eyes. Despite being a dwarf, Mister Ignar too was a ruler of his own store and tavern. He was fair with his prices and often traded for goods if one wasn’t in the practice of carrying money with them. In addition to his trades, he seemed infinitely patient with the Eynnil who shambled about his store, keeping careful that she unfastened her hoof plates outside and hung them up on the provided nails.

“Mornin’ lass,” he said, eying the pocked marks in his floor and busying his aged hands by wiping down his countertop “Fellfili was asking aboot yoo last night”

Clemnilshala listened passively, digging through a paper card box of bone needles for one that would make a good replacement for the one she broke a month prior, all the while she kept an eye on a dusty helmet that seemed to loom over the whole shop. Growing dirtier by the week and cloaked in cobwebs it still made the traveler’s stomach turn over.

“Lass.” Mister Ignar said again. “Tha ol’ thing isn’t going tae hurt ye. Just a helmet.”

She tore her wary gaze from the helmet and grabbed a needle at random, as well as a jar of dark molasses. Instead of money, she pulled a hefty leather bag, tied in sinew and a scrap of fur, and traded it to Mister Ignar as payment.

“Send the Missus me love eh? I do enjoy our little chats” Clemnilshala said offhand, taking the moments to take her cloak off and arrange the molasses next to her liquor in their respective sewn-in pocket. She then threaded the needle on some string and tied it around a button on the inside and finally, she shook her whole cloak violently, knocking off pine needles and small sticks. Of course, she made sure to scuff her hooves along the floor and kick the refuse out onto the front walk of the general store.

“Noblehood wait a moment, lass. Do ye have anythin’ tae say tae Fellfili? I says she’s been askin’ aboot ye.” Mister Ignar’s voice came over the sound of the tinkling bell over his door. Clemnilshala stopped and made a face.

“I ‘s’poose if yer taking messages, can ye tell ‘er tha I’ve been doing just fine.” She paused a moment, wondering to herself when the last time she saw Ignar’s wife’s face. “In fact, I just might bring ‘er a hot meal.”

Ignar looked to approve this idea, pushing a paper-wrapped bundle of smoke meats tied in string across the counter.

“These are fer Rigs, not fer yoo” He said simply as Clemnilshala put her cloak back over her shoulders. She nearly jumped out of her skin at the way the bone needle suddenly poked into her leg. She nodded and took the bundle of meats and put them amongst the other things on her person.

“Thank yoo” She smiled, putting her hood up. “I’ll send yer love tae Rigs.”

With no other words to be said between the dwarf and the Eynnil, Clemnilshala was out the door, slamming shut with a gentle pat on the backside threatening to pinch her tail. “Come on Rigmol” she said to her great stag. “Let’s go pay a visit to the city”.

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