According to Rigmol, through Clemnilshala’s words, Samythiel wasn’t as heavy as his mountain cousins. He held the reins in his fingers as the stag gallops like a horse in circles at the end of a rope. The wind in his ears whistled and made both of their collections of earrings jingle. The wind, ah, the wind was as playful as Aff. He called it to his back and shook Rigmol’s reins as he seemed lighter on his hooves. His vision blurred and darkened as his calls to the ancestral elements pulled his power from the sky and the pollen from the flowers in the untended grasses. The wind giggled and played with his earrings, teasing him to take the extra knife from Rigmol’s tack and cut the rope connecting them to Clemnilshala.
His laughter joined the chorus of the wind, in the blindness of his magic, he patted Rigmol and asked aloud if he trusted him.
Rigmol responded with a great bugling that was enough for him to take the knife and cut the rope and snap the reins and go straight. Not looking back to Clemnilshala, it wasn’t as though he could see her at all. How he didn’t remove his thumb in the process was a miracle, they rode forth along a stream and wove between buildings as Rigmol turned and cocked his antlers away from the structures.
He slid side to side with his feet barely fitting the stirrups meant for mountain dwarves far larger and colder than he. The eynnil sized stirrups flatted and clattered against the belly strap much to Rimol’s huffing and snorting. More than 250 years with her and four without Folruth, and somehow, she occasionally forgets a saddle blanket as though the one Folruth gave to her all those years ago stopped her memory. Samythiel’s head turned directions opposite to where he was going, even Rigmol knew the blindness that came with elemental magic, if just the blindness.
As he ran along he stamped his front hooves into the mud, uncomfortably aware of everything on him, he bucked and stamped to the cantor of the rider’s laughter. Running to play with the rearing, pawing and flapping wings of the most amiable Anfia who squawked at them. She greeted Rigmol with her forehead and groomed his neck while he nipped and nibbled at the crest of feathers between her eyes. Her rider laughed at Samythiel, calling him names and helping him down from the saddle.
Magga laughed and dance, swinging Samythiel around and around as his vision took its own sweet time to return.
“Ah ye nearly flew on that saddle, I’ll bet Tondrüd would be jealous if he saw ye ridin’ like that.”
Samythiel turned red, scratching pieces of grass from the fibers of his bear, completely out of breath. in the blurry progress of his vision, he drew magga close and hugged her tight around the shoulders. Composing himself and returning to the jumping and kicking of dancing in celebration.
Over the top of a hill there was a procession of priests with incense that quieted the voice of the wind. It left them with a childish ‘awww’
“Yer power’s been growing, a bit like but looky ye duster! I’ll bet ye can get a vetty olden’ off the ground.”
“Ahh I knoow wha yer meanin’ but Tondrüd would never agree tae carry me.” He shook the remainder of his blindness away and blinked until the he could see the painting of his black-haired sister set before a field of grass and flowers. That’d be a fine one to hang in the mountain. Her smile and the beads and seeds that’d come to call her beard home were like gems in the hun.
Tondrüd, won at auction from a group of seaside dwarves that’d captured him from the wild and in a certain mood for violent passion that stuck with him ever since. From then he was like a work horse with an eagle’s head and a puma’s hide. He pulled plows in the straightest lines but refused to fly until one odd day when Samythiel was barely old enough to put a braid in his baby hair beard, Tondrüd who hated all living things, and would visibly think about his obedience be fore he did anything, lowered his regal head and guided wee Samythiel to a sharp stone that had stuck into the pad of his back paw. He let the lad cling to his great beak, and hold onto fistfuls of his fur with a grubby wee hands while he waddled along with unsure footing. Nothing but relief found the wild griffon and with a mighty ‘galumff’ Tondrüd dropped to the ground and pulled Samythiel into the crook of his front legs and groomed the child behind the ears, chirping all the while.
Farmhands and fathers jumped to pull him away from the griffon.
From then on Tondrüd was a nightmare to his handlers; picking at the locks on his paddock, leaping over fences and harassing wee Samythiel who wicked away at his beak while he tried to go about his chores. Tondrüd would steal apples from baskets and cuts of meat from butchers and bring them to him. Yet still took immense pleasure on bucking anyone from his back any time they thought it a good idea to climb up. Samythiel was no exception. He’d sit on the tack and barding and be thrown off.
No, no Tondrüd would never let Samythiel ride him. But if it were an emergency, he’d elect to ride Rigmol again. The same Rigmol who relaxed under Anfia’s wing while she waggled her head and played with his earrings.
Magga pulled her hammer and set to practice throwing fire with its flat face. The lovingly carved patterns burned bright red while Samythiel played with the air to quash any flame that skipped into the grass. It was as if the star never came, and all was normal. If it were all normal, ah how nice it would be. With the wing and pollen, he played with the images he’d seen across the journey. Magga’s fire was the bright shadow behind the eyes of the abbess whose image kept coming to the flurries of pollen time and again after he dashed them. His glasses kept his vision in balance as he used more elemental power to come up with anything else.
Meanwhile Clemnilshala, with the husky fibers of rope in her hair, had not seen where Rigmol and Samythiel went off to, there was barely an after image of a turned-up tail and a banner of golden hair moving as one. To the open sku, she set aside a prayer that they would see eye to eye while on their adventure. She could not help but to get stuck in the thoughts of what to do about the woman preparing to wear the crown of the Vaniaal with a face that she’d never seen before. She pulled a reed from the stream and put the stem into her teeth.
Over a ridge skulked Valthran, being tailed by two dwarves and Vulac. He kept peering over his shoulder and shaking his head in the way he used to when he was irritated. Vulac carried Valthran’s effects; his sword and spaulders, with his young head high as he aided the finest golden eye he knew. Even in her bitterness Clemnilshala could not deny that Valthran had become a remarkably fine eynnil and an example of the virtues for all who walked the reads in the Vaniaal’s hoofprints. What a magnificent shining thing he’d become indeed. Though with no emotion anymore, as with all golden-eyed eynnil, it was even more perplexing it was that he turned to face her and lowered his head and raised a hand to wave, or or so she assumed before averting her eyes. Her tail waved to one side behind her as she rose to find a place with more familiar faces. Familiar songs, familiar smells away from these horribly familiar smiles.
She found the new forges, new smiths, with proper buildings and proper bellows where she could give proper aid while her students were off worshiping with the older warriors and priests. The dwarves were wary now of her, muttering to one another if she could truly be trusted, though they did not turn her aid away when she worked the bellows to keep the fire warm as they worked with stone and metal. They lamented to her that they missed their leisure times, that they were being worked harder than the slaves in their own mines. She worked up a slick sweat over the rest of the morning and deep into the afternoon. The sun passed over the whole of the sky. She only stopped once Samythiel returned with bruises all over his legs and a grin on his face while Rigmol laughed and bunted his head on his cheek.
She turned the work of the forge back over to the dwarves. She’d meant to follow him and Magga and spend the evening with them. Meaning to share her bounty of extinct yet miraculously plentiful store of tobacco. But after aiding toadlings with baskets of laundry and the youngling eynnil with produce for supper did she stop at the outskirt of the village. Priests were raising stockade poles, a youngling was already chained to it, hanging her head in shame. The tops of her cropped ears drooped as her head nodded in and out of sleep. A full singlet of smallclothes was all she wore. Clemnilshala erranded to retrieve her cloak and returned at sunset to put it over the youngling’s shoulders.
Her eyes opened immediately, she snapped and bucked her head back and forth. Clemnilshala lowered her head and connected with her horns.
“Shhh shh, et’s okay.” She fastened the cloak over her shoulders. “I’m goin’ tae stay out here with ye.”
“You don’t have to. I’m here on my own” The precocious female snuggled her face into its fur. Her shoulders sank under the leather. “This is so warm. I want one just like it.”
Clemnilshala pet the girl’s head and took a seated spot at the base of the post
“Aye, I said the same thing when I first touched the cloak of a scout.” She laughed “I fergot tae ask, what’s yer name?”
“Why should I want to tell it to you?”
“Well, knowin’ yer name is better than callin’ ye ‘Promising pain in m’backside’.” She waved her hand about. “It’s rude tae assign those words when ye don’t know a person’s name. Even if yer on The Post, yer still an eynnil.”
“I think you’ve misunderstood. I’m meant to be here” She mumbled, Clemnilshala gave her a look.
“Tainilor.” She said at last. “I’m Tainilor, daughter of Tanotai and Nimnilor.”
“Tainilor, what a pretty name. Three syllables, so classical. Et’s strong, brings the wisdom of yer father and mother yes?”
“I heard you have two of them. With seven whole syllables no less.” Tainilor hung craned her head down, pulling on the chains that held her to the post.
“Eh heh, Noblehood, Clemnilshala Noblehood. Daughter to Selmnilor and Hashala. Wife to the late Folruth Noblehood of Khalenthel. Ehhhh at yer service.” She offered her bare hand to shake before she remembered the post. “Ahem…Soo what’d they tie ye up fer?”
“Nothing, I just wan-“
“Fer nothin lass?! Mee, well I can understand being here fer nothin, but yer still clean and good and pure”
“Will you please stop interrupting me? I asked to be here, well, I wanted to learn what you must’ve known and to know this post where I saw you in Brinorion. How do I get those eyes you have? The eyes that meet those of a veteran guard and scare them like a cat scares a fawn.” She said “They didn’t bathe me in oil, or flog me, but at least I’m tied here.”
Clemnilshala put her head in her hand, rolling her eyes as she nodded along.
“A valiant effort ye made, lass” she stumbled over her words. She got up to take her cloak back after standing. Tainilor shook her head, muttering at its warmth and how it smelled. Clemnilshala nearly took it anyway, nearly went for oil and a flail, nearly taught her what the post meant for the lowly and the exiled. She refrained. The life on the post was not a life, instead she pulled her knife. She carefully moved the girl’s longhair out of the way and broke the lock open and forcibly freed her to crumble to the ground.
“My son used tae do hairbrained things like tha. Et’s nae the same. He thought et’d make him tougher tae think of my past sufferings. That he’d understand better. Such is the nature of fawns.”
“When you say it like that it down sound rather stupid. I-I wanted to see some of what life must’ve looked like for you. So that I can learn better from the way you want to teach us—” she smacked her lips “Wait, you have a son? Who is your son, is he among us?”
Clemnilshala shook her head. She pulled out a water skin of sour mash and a pot of sharp molasses.
“Nah, the eynnil wouldn’t have my Garuk be in with them and I certainly wouldn’t approve of it iffin he became a golden warrior. I never want him to taste the sweetness of praise from a tasseled officer. He’s better off knowing the life of his Father-colony.” She took another long drink and shook at the shoulders. “He’s freer than you and I. Would you like some?”
“Is it good?”
“Well I like et, but I cannae say et’s any good” she got up to her knee and offered it. Tainilor accepted and put it to her mouth, until the inevitable flavor came to her tongue where her cheeks puffed up like that of a toadling’s waddle. She shook from side to side. She spit it out alongside the post.
“What an evil evil drink, I thought you said it was good!”
“Well it warms my belly, and the –mmmmh—molasses here gives me enough energy tae get where I’m meanin tae be goin’” She took another drink “I like the way it prickles”
Clemnilshala pet Tainilor on the head, between the hons, and commended her for at least thinking to try to understand. She got up and left her sitting at the base of the post to do whatever she pleased. She passed the Abbess’ building where Vulac and Valthran sat, conversing over sweet bread with so many chips worth of sugar and milk on top. She nearly went to join them at Valthran’s meek waving and his scooting to one side to allow her a place to sit. He’d stretched the corner of his mouth to a wide one-sided smile that made the scars on his cheek shift like tallgrass. It made her skin crawl.
Her hand came to the grave of a bruise, a burn, a bit of both, that never quite healed. She turned her back to them and stalked through the village. It brought Valthran to a stand, followed by Vulac, the two of them followed her trail. She passed two dwarves who were only resting until the shining golden Valthran passed. One opened her eyes and she woke the other with an enthusiastic bout of patting the shoulder and hissing to get up for they had to return to monitoring.
The kind bear’s-head shifting at the medic’s station peered out of the door and beckoned Clemnilshala over. This advice she took if only if only to have a place to sit down comfortably, no matter how much she missed the smell of the straw of the stable and the preferable company.