Night fell, the younglings went to proper Eynnil stables, in buildings with doors in this village filled with lean-tos. Clemnilshala went to the open animal stable to sit beside Rigmol and wash her hair in a water bucket. Animal supply was great on her short hair. It got the job done nicely and she always enjoyed the lustrous, fur-like, quality that always came with it.
“That worried are we?” Rigmol rose his head from his restful dozing. “Hold on…it will get better. You are not alone here, and Fox-eye isn’t too far from here. You’d have a legion of scouts waiting to defend you should you need it against these eynnil.”
Sure enough, with the turning of a stone underhoof just outside, stood Lavia in anxiety and the Abbess Y’luunara in unmoving glory. Clothed so menially, in the brown linen tones of commoners the both of them, the latter maintained her regal posture compared to young Lavia who stood like the quivering young thing she was.
“Is this where you’ll be sleeping then?” Y’luunara advanced and touched the roughened posts of the building. Her gold gaze tumbled from the rafters to Rigmol whose groan made it clear to Clemnilshala that this Abbess woman was unwelcome near him.
“You are not alone against her, not even here, girl.” He kept his legs drawn up near his relaxed torso. His voice was a whisper to Clemnilshala’s ear, sounding like a magic flinger preparing to cast a curse, yet these sounds were just the grumblings of an old man.
“Aye, I’ll be sleeping out here, I can see the sky and still be with my best friend.” She replied, shaking chilled water from her hair, it spread in a shower over the straw. “Many of those students are Winterborns, I’ll do wha I can with wha I got.”
“My Lavia here tells me your father was a shield master to the Vaniaal during his life.” Y’luunara glanced to Rigmol again and adjusted her hooves.
“Aye, My Father, Selmnilor is a good man, he taught me a lot without even speaking. Though I cannae give all his lessons away”
“How would you like to see your family again? Each of your students know their own heart wishes, I would be so intreagued to know yours.”
“You would.” Grumbled Rigmol “Keep away from my girl, dead hag.”
“Rigs, hush” Clemnilshala stamped her hoof “Please, Rigmol.”
“You were right, my pupil. It does seem like this creature speaks. How curious” Y’luunara pet Lavia on the head.
Lavia, nudged forward by Y’luunara, unrolled a blanket and a cushion. She set herself a bed in an empty stall and began to undo her braids. Clemnilshala turned back to the Abbess.
“She will be bedding with you, as a scribe she must be ready to take note whenever you need her.” Y’luunara explained “I’ll take the liberty of barring Valthran from this place, I’ve already appointed dwarves to be his monitors.” She advanced further into the stable, the whole of her hoof falling onto the straw and cloth of Rigmol’s bedding. She did not understand his language when he spoke and moved, words that came too easily to his own ‘master.’
Her hood depressed the corner of his blanket. He leapt up and wagged his head, brandishing his antlers and threatening to lock them with her split and forked crown of horns.
“Whoa! Whoa woaaa” Clemnilshala jumped between the two of them.
“Get back!” Rigmol’s ghostly voice was a snarl. “I don’t want that thing anywhere near me! She does not belong here! Get her away! Away you silly girl!” He reared and pawed and snorted.
“He doesn’t want any more company, ma’am.” Clemnilshala kept bucking her head over her shoulder. “Thank ye fer yer time lass. <<But if you don’t leave Rigmol will try to kill you>>” She grabbed her stag by the antlers and brought her head sown to his forehead. “<<Now will you button up, old man? Look, look she’s leaving. She’s going.>>”
Y’luunara muttered something before leaving. Clemnilshala never heard it, Rigmol only reacted with more vinegar and venom in his strained voice.
“That is a threat! Get out! Get out!” He broke away from Clemnilshala and stamped at Y’luunara, lowering the forward points of his antlers at her “If you talk to my girl like that, I’ll kill you!”
Y’luunara’s golden glow faded as she shuffled into the dark of evening, the last she was seen that eveing was the alert sway of her docked tail. Rigmol shook his head and paced about the stables, grumbling with angered and strange language.
“Old friend…” Clemnilshala approached Rigmol and pet his muzzle, undoing her belt. “Here, stop looking at things.” She wrapped her belt over his eyes like a mounting beast’s fly cloth, fastened with the Noblehood family crest. With him blindfolded, she aided him to lay back down and relax. She took off her own cloak and laid it over his shoulders while he grumbled about the abbess.
“here ye go old friend. Jus’ rest yer head here.” She guided his head into her lap, like she did when he was drunk and foaming with mushrooms, but here he was huffing with anger. She pet the start shaped patch of twiseted fur on his forehead.
Lavia pulled her blanket up to her chest and curled her hooves up.
“What happened?” She asked “He’s never done this until….until….until he came for you after the waterlord came from the sea.”
Clemnilshala pet his head until he was most assuredly asleep. “What ye have tae understand is tha Rigmol and I have been friends fer a very very long time. Longer than you’ve been alive. And after all we’ve been through taegether, he and I are all we got left.”
“You have no one else?”
“Well, there’s Rewwer and wee Hinala, my Garuk and them, but they are nae with us at this time nor in the bitter colds and in the lonely nights. Et’s been just me and him fer these past four…nearly five…years now.”
“After your husband died?” Lavia leaned forward.
“Ah..aye. After he went on. Ye got tae treat Old Rigs here with love, care, and the good luxuries.” She pet his sleeping face. “He’s magnificent when he gets going, he can run completely stable with a fully armed dwarf standing…standing! on his back. I’ve seen it!” Her whispers had the bravado of a shouting voice.
“Without my master I would have no one either. Before their exile, my mother and father were stablehands and herders of Brinorion’s mounting beasts. Well until they weren’t. No matter, master picked me up, dusted me off, braided my hair as if I wwere her own.” Lavia peeled at the split points of her hair.
“Ye never said tha at the baths.” Clemnilshala cocked her head “Do ye keep em….here?”
She extended her hand and pointed to her palm.
“My hand?” She looked to her own hands.
“Aye, so close tae ye, closer than yer head and yer heart. If they cannae find yer secret in yer head then they look tae yer heart, if it aint in yer heart then they’ll have tae wrestle et outta yer hand.”
“You know a lot about where to hide secrets. I’ll imagine that.” Lavia peered at her palm and scratched at the folding lines.
“Cannae hide only secrets in my hands.” Clemnilshala opened her cloak and pulled forth her bronze envelope; “Do ye know wha this is?”
“Your most prized possession? That I stole from you?”
“Eh, it don’t matter how ye got it, but secrets ye hold in yer hands…they don’t go away because ye think that if you stopped thinking of em then they’ll run away and ruin everything ye built” She waved her other hand about, flamboyant in her movements to open her envelope.
“You have secrets in your hands as well?” Lavia pulled her blanket up again. “You want you husband to be a secret? You talk about him so much I don’t understand. I thought you loved him.”
“I do love him. I don’t want him tae see….well actually I don’t want his memory tae be used against me. I’m afraid tae see him again….unnaturally…like this.”
“Bringin’ the image of the dead back tae life. It aint right” she shook her head. “I don’t want someone takin’ my Folruth from the sky.”
“You really loved him didn’t you?” Lavia pulled her head back. “I don’t see how eynnil can love someone other than eynnil.”
“Well, I’m nae an eynnil anymore, am I? He loved me a whole lot longer than it took fer me tae realize tha I wasn’t meant tae be coming back.”
“What do dwarves do after? After death. What do you do?” she laid her head on her pillow and coiled around in the hay and the straw until she was comfortable. She listened to Clemnilshala talk about how folk of the mountain cut their hair short, part of it would be burned with the body of the deceased and the other part would be preserved just in case the dearly departed wanted to come a-visiting. By the time Clemnilshala finished speaking of death rituals Lavia was sleeping like an extinguished candle.
Rigmol too had bored his nose into Clemnilshala’s shoulder as she coiled into the crater that was his legs and abdomen. Her cloak was her comfortable blanket. She pushed her face into his furry neck and cal to sleep with the strange hay of the horse herders. It was strangely soft, filled with the furry plumes of pussywillow.