The city of Khalenthel, inside the well-carved ribcage of Khalenglough the Mountain, was an ever-evolving and innumerable collection of opportunities if one knew how to look for them. This was the truth of the people who lived there—from the magma and ironworkers, working their calloused and ashen skin next to the lifeblood and almost-beating heart of the mountain, to the common folk in the foramen and processes who owned stores and had family linages of duty. There were walking entertainers whose sole purpose was to keep up the morale. The guards that traveled in packs ensured the city’s fairness and justice. The bakers, painters, toymakers, and nobility each served specially crafted roles.
Finally there were the mountain scouts, the Kalurgororr, the brothers of the mountain who came and went through the gates in league with the lunar cycles. Of the Kalurgororr there are four distinct groups, the Kalurvoltag otherwise called Foundationeers by the spreading fire of common language. Their skills were varied and they served as extra support to the Uungarrama, bird masters, and the Grekvannar, the outward guards. And finally the sprinkling of the Aljerja the wisened generals of good lineages whose families were the stuff of legends, they were the backbone of any group and served to teach and oversee the other three.
Clemnilshala was a mountain scout, a Foundationeer, and upon coming back to her home city among her beloved fellow-dwarves, she could go about her business as she saw fit. At least for the next fifteen glorious days. Her business often lived in her slot in the wall of a middle foramen. There was a hearth, dust in nearly every corner, and all the signs that someone truly lived there. The spotlight full moon meant she was back inside and enjoying her days in peace, working in the forges. Dodging the sideways gazes of the odd eynnic courier, wondering just how another eynnil could possibly live among dwarves of all peoples.
The couriers looked to get younger with every passing year, in their eighties with bright round eyes and happy to see the world outside their own homes before being disappointed to be taken to Khalenthel. The stones were too hard for their unshoed hooves. They would come, do business with the king, and leave just as soon as they possibly could.
Eynnil couriers and visitors rarely elected to eat with the dwarves. The great ramfolk, unless they were given no choice but to come into the mountain, were more or less mere whispers and rumors. And when they did visit they kept to themselves, forming groups amongst themselves and remaining as subtle as the ghostly shadows cast by the flowing bloody magma that warmed the city and stoked the furnaces. Clemnilshala seemed to be the only known exception. She, in most ways not including physical, seemed to be as much a dwarf as anyone else in Khalenthel.
Clemnilshala unfastens the top of her gear so that her skin may breathe from the stuffy fur and leather inside the suffocating heat of the city. While removing her gloves and stuffing them away, she is stopped in her tracks as a running young eynnic courier with long black braids looks over her own shoulder and decidedly not where she is going. With a loud crash, the youngster makes an impact, and papers and parcels go flying everywhere. She seems the youngest one yet; no way could she be older than seventy-five.
The young girl rubs her horns, looking up at Clemnilshala with disbelief. Her pretty Brinorion silks rise and fall as she pants. She can feel her young eyes travel upward and fall on the non-secret of her unwavering loyalty to her dwarvish kin. Her face fills with panic, the corners of her mouth drag outward.
“You….you’re…” sputtered the youngling, pointing with a weak finger, her eyes search and read what she can of Clemnilshala’s markings
Clemnilshala said nothing in return, letting the girl have her fill of knowledge as she made to start buttoning back up. This mountain was safe for her and there was nothing a mere 70 year old could do anyway.
“I’m so sorry!” The courier throws her hands up to shield her face. “Please don’t hurt me, exile!”
There it was. Clemnilshala got a breathy sort of amusement from this, rubbing the brass cap over her broken off horn.
“I ain’t goin tae hurt ye. Do ye want help pickin up this mess?”
“No no, you cant touch any of this!”
“Thought not..” She clears her throat, holding a marked hand at the top of her gear, being covered in near totality in tattoos and markings denoting exile made it exceptionally tricky to remain anonymous for long. She picks up her shielded bow from the ground and, admittedly rather coldly, leaves the youngling to pick up the mail. The only things she wanted was a hot bath and a hot meal.
Her home, the slot in the wall, was waiting as usual. She unloaded her gear. Unpacking her pockets and storing away her excess travelling food. Hanging up ropes and setting aside bags of this and that. All the while Rigmol, her great stag, waited on the other side of the doorway finding his antlers were far too big to pass indoors. At last, Clemnilshala was afforded the moment to change out of her leather jumpsuit, dyed green, and set it in the washtub to be cleaned and repaired when the time suited it. A button had come loose, and a squabble turned skirmish with a nearby tribe of bandits had given it rips in the leg and side. Now was not the time to do repairs. She instead clothed herself in comfortable civil clothes. The only thing she replaced was her faded belt sporting her family crest and pockets for her small possessions.
She struck a small fire in the hearth and greeted her pet wood spider as she pulled fuel to warm the home and went back out almost as quickly as she’d arrived. Taking Rigmol by the bridle was to the pub and explaining that now was as good a time as any to go visiting Felfili.
Golden-eyes didn’t even breathe, to the best of her knowledge, yet they could drown, how bizarre. The notion was neither here nor there as her peripheral tracked another much larger eynnil with armor not of Brinorion city. It was so quick she couldn’t have the time to recall if their eyes were the molten shine of the life she nearly grasped or if they were those of the 70 year old who was dashing about. Along the way to see Felfili she remained alert to her surroundings as not to hurt anyone underhoof. ‘Remember where you are’ an old friend and educator would cant over and over until she heard his voice in her sleep. Remembering where she is she could claim her safety in dodging a disgruntled guard rounding a corner as he grumbles about a spicy old hag. Felfili was home alright.
Refuge was found in the back kitchens of the little pub. There she was, Felfili, in her element in taming the breeze that came from the forge bellows and helping it breathe life into her cooking fire. Of any of the elements she was the best with the wind. Perhaps it was why her pub did so well, she didn’t have to look where she was blowing as the scents of her cooking made its way out into the city. Her attention as in trimming the fat and suet from a mountain boar.
“Evenin’” she continues to hack away. “Thought ye wouldn’t be comin’ taeday.”
“Ahhhh ye knoow Ignar, he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Anythin I can help with?” Clemnilshala leaned to one side, “I can relieve ye of some of that pig tail there. Looks like it’ll be a mighty tasty one”
“I’m sure et does, but how about ye start putin’ taegether tha offal pie. Heard a rumor tha we have eary-toadlings comin intae our humble mountain hold” She puts a courtly finger to her beard and twirls around one of the many many ornaments. “Queen of all the earys sa’s that her own brand of scouts found a lead to the Star.”
She cackles, shaking her head and returning to her slicing as her charms jungle together.
“I doon’t want tae make tha monstrosity, soo nae et’s yer problem.”
“Hm? Wha they want?” Clemnilshala eyed the bowl of gristle and organ meats. Her and her big mouth in offering to help and being delegated to kidneys. “Is the king angry with the Weilvog again?”
“I’ll give you crispy pig tails fer the trouble” Felfili raised her head, looking to her aunt, not often did she hear the names of the other celestial beings which other folk had begun to put their worship and faith in for protection. Her father made it certain to tell her that it was best to distract the eynnil from those memories.
“And?” Clemnilshala pulled the bowl closer, negotiating the ingredients and just what she had to work with.
“And? What are you on about ‘and’? And yer goin tae rob me blind talking about ‘And” Her cooking fire grew blue and hot. “And yer goin tae be a good aunty and make an offal pie ‘fore I smack ye with a broom!”
She waved her hands while Clemnilshala dodged in play. While Felfili continued to bluster she took a seat at the kitchen table, she so liked to tug on her beard when she had the chance. She began to break down the heart into pieces and the kidneys into thin slices. Maybe if it were fried uip it’d be palatable but alas, offal pie was no such thing. It was baked, frozen, then served once thawed but not warmed again.
“Besides those eary toadlings are just lousy with loot, and I want em spendin’ big here. I even got the offal of an ass from the lower ring. Provided da’s ghost stops botherin’ em.”
“The lower ring has a really nice bath site thank yoo very much.” She continues preparing the bowl. Accepting a covered plate of her ‘usual’.
“Oh ho? Does tha mean yer finally comin’ outta yer hidey hole fer harvest dinner? I aint seen ye in tha pretty dress of yers in decades.”
“Hey hey, et’s only been four years since…then” She cleared her throat, holding up two halves of a heart, dissecting between the ventricles and the strings. A sigh comes to her nose. “Fer someone as long lived as me, ets still fresh. We take eons tae mourn, ages, lifetimes even.Canno blame me fer feelin the sting fer a lil while longer.”
There was quiet. Felfili didn’t forget.
“Ye knoow wha I need? An adventure, goo wanderin off past the mountains tae the see. Raise a lil hell. Slay a pouerful foe.”
“Heh, Aunty Clem goes Yurstjorjof in another land eh?”
“Yer right insane when yer hungry. Go on, go eat. I’ll finish up in here. Thanks fer cuttin’ all tha up. Makes et less of a problem.”
And just like that, she took her meal back out into the corridors of the city, sitting on the steps of the slot that the pub occupied. No amount of the crispiest, hairiest, crunchiest tail of Nahchog himself could convince her to stay and smell offal pie being baked. This meal, wrapped in cloth, turned out to be roasted meats of sorts, a kind of gravy, squash, and a hunk of bread. Additionally, her flagon was already filled with whichever liquor, whose barrel was already open. This she called the usual, even having a second plate onto which she placed a portion of her meats to share with Rigmol, who laid down to relax and tear tender morsels apart in long strings and proceed to eat them. This was a normal occurrence, at least to Clemnilshala, but to others that did not spend their days with Rigmol, a stag eating meat was precisely as unsettling as it sounds.
Clemnilshala watched and snickered at something the stag must have said. Beginning to feed herself, watching a painter across the way, with his face pressed to the wall, close to a hole that lead outside and provided fresh air into the flews. He’s been sitting in that spot, day after day, night after lonely night; any time she was out, she saw him, peering outside into the basin. One of those plains dwarves displaced by the wandering star. She never got up the courage to get close enough to see what he was painting.
So many dwarves now were of the Weilvog. A lanh gathering was getting out, the temple hemorrhaged people out into the streets. All the while, Clemnilshala sat idle, perfectly content to just watch the world go by as the folk worried about their own business. Dwarves’ observance of the Weilvog and the Anghniel accommodated Clemnilshala’s existence in the mountain when she came along. They let her be. the faithful legacies with well-respected family names, and she tried not to pass the lanh when she could help it. Potatoes were soft in her mouth, not upsetting a raging toothache that’d sprouted since her last brawl at the pub.
The little courier soon escaped her present thoughts while the painter was painting away with his fingers.
He had blonde hair that he tied back all civil-like, he looked so much like a human if the Anghniel pulled a prank and stuffed the human into the body of a dwarf. He wore spectacles that he hung around his neck when he went about painting, and each time Clemnilshala passed by in the past she could note that he didn’t smell like the plains dwarves that came through to take audiences with the king. He was intriguing….only from a distance however, and once the wee courier that crashed into her approached the painter Clemnilshala made her escape to hide out with the reek of offal pie.
One thought on “Returning Home to the Politics of Offal Pie”
Loved it! I wish it were longer lol so I could go on reading.
You did and excellent job of describing it so that the scene clearly played out in my mind.
Can’t wait for more!