Missteps into Mercy

She came to the mountain cradle of Khalenglough ar Thamdul after a time. The snow bit her cheeks and the tips of her ears. What matter of people lived here pray someone tells her as she, in no clothing, slipped down paths and skittered on the icy shelves of the mountain. Her hooves chipped on the little rocks while she trudged into the snow. Wavering side to side, a walking cup filled with a kind of exhaustion that was thick and syrupy. She misstepped once and caught herself. Leaning into the mountain’s side and taking a moment to breath this thin air. It only made her eyelids heavier, and her sides heave harder.
She misstepped again and fell so far down the mountain. Scrabbling against the side to grab whatever stuck out enough to grab hold. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing more, her legs crumbled beneath her as she came to her knees and hip landing before a great cave the outside of which was littered with strange, small, weaponry. They had their own markings on them. It was impossible to tell what they were meaning. If they had any meaning. Her vision blurred with the thought of a place to sleep. There was a pile of dead, furred animals, she warmed herself here. Crawling in amongst them, large sized swine with turned up noses and tusks. Some of their eyes were open and frozen. Some of them were closed. What was certain however was that there was no life here.
Clemnilshala had not seen much animal life in the year she traveled across the countries and territories and kingdoms. She didn’t find many places that would open their arms to her or give her food. There were Lanh temples everywhere.
She laid amongst the dead swine and cradled the back of her head with her elbow. Letting her eyes drift off for a time.
Shuffling came.
A weight fell atop her, a weight and warmth that came to drip over her shoulders. A stench filled her nose and stirred her exhausted eyes. There was life here after all. She licked at the blood of an elk on her skin trying to keep her movement to a minimum while that shuffling continued around the cave, going deeper inside. The shuffler’s sniffing and rumbling moans faded from the cave. It sounded big.
She tried to turn over and crawl when she could no longer hear it over the howling of the wind outside. Its whistle pierced her. Her eyes fell upon a great beast who took notice of her. How it could see her was a task as impossible as gaining forgiveness while in exile. Perhaps it could feel her living gaze.
The elk’s blood continued to soak into her hair. Its stink falling all over. She licked her lip. The liquid hydrated her cracking lip. The cold was a bulwark as the animal was torn away from her back. Its blood froze to her skin nearly an instant. The great beast, with a repeating W shaped mouth filled with blunt and sharp teeth alike. It had horns. It had paws. It was clothed in the trees of the valley below and its own fur.
That fur looked like it could warm her.
She’d never slaughtered something that large before.
She picked up a swine’s bone and positioned herself before the creature. It stood tall like a human would. Broader than any eynnil. But was neither of those things. It lumbered and lunged forth leaving footsteps of blood and ice in its path with a great roar that echoed through the caves. It hurt her ears. Its fist came barreling down and she ducked, holding her shield trained arm as though that would protect her. Sticking its arm with what was decidedly a thigh bone.
She dodged its hit the first time.
She dodged it again. Sticking it was as fruitful as attacking a mounting beast with a loom needle. Its blood froze into its fur and made dangerous barbs that were harder to avoid. Its frozen blood scratched her the more she dodged. With no clothes the bite of the freezing wind chewed away at her legs. She stiffened. She just needed one good way to wound the creature. To break its skin.
She charged ahead, and leapt as well as a nude eynnil could in the cold and dug her fingers into its plush fur. Its softness surprised her, it was slippery and downy and hard to hold. With the cracked and chipped points of her hooves she kicked and pierced its abdomen and climbed two paces and thrust the swine bone to connect with its neck.
It was too fast, its thrashing about caused it to bleed more. It took her by the leg and tore her from its body throwing her across the cave floor out of the entrace and to the edge of its ledge. There was a path! By the weilvog there was a path! She forced herself up but the creature, swifter, stronger, built by the cold and nurtured by the ice, barreled toward her on all fours and crashed its head into her side where the burn of Valthran’s hammer still ached.
Clemnilshala cried out and cursed the beast as she skittered down the path, rolling like a log into the mountain wall. A voice cut the wind. It might have been hers. It might not have been. She crashed shoulder first, leaping up and aggressively swinging her tail side to side she dared the creature to do it again. The path was so narrow that she was so sure that she could stand a better chance. She just had to push it. That would certainly kill it. There was so much fog from the particle snow on the wind that it was like clouds against the mountain.
The creature charged again on all fours, she lowered her head to meet its connection, singing a chaotic war cry in her mother tongue. She grabbed it by the horns and twisted its head to the side. it did not stop, continuing forward and crushed her between its girth and the mountain. Its hind end scuffled and slid underneath it and it rolled into a standing position. Clemnilshala was lifted from the ground. It grabbed her by the waist and roared into her face. She head butted it and it pulled her from the wall and, as though she were a hammer, hit the other wall of the mountain that housed its cave. She cried out louder in pain.
The snow became stars. There was a rush of red. A voice that did not have an origin. She felt the air on her skin as she fell from the ledge. And then there was nothingness.

She couldn’t open her eyes yet when she realized she was still in her body. Not yet.
There was a lot she did not know about what was happening. All she knew was that her shoulders were warm. This was confusing. Her side and her back was warm too. She had a dried crust on her that didn’t relent as she made attempts to move about. Was this reincarnation? Did she reincarnate as bread? This oven was purring?
There was a voice.
It wasn’t hers. It was gruff. Deep. It was not song. It wasn’t the purring either. She moved her arm, finding herself on her side. Everything ached all over. It was here that she forced open her eye.
He was drinking from a flagon, and shook his head afterward with an audible ‘ahh’. She only twitched her eye, finding the other one did not want to cooperate. Her head was filled with a splitting headache. He glanced at her. She squeezed her eye shut. He made a series of short breaths and said something.
It was impossible to understand.
The warm purring thing made sounds as well. Moving just a little lighting up every painful thing inside of Clemnilshala. She hissed. It stopped moving, she was rolled onto her back by the purring thing. When she forced open her eye again she saw the head of a stag. And the neck of a stag. She turned stiffly to look at the little man.
His hair was as red as the animal blood that she had lapped from her skin in the cave. He didn’t look at her, he looked at the sky and the stars. He spoke aloud impossible words again. The stag made sounds back at him. Then real words came through into her ears.
“Human tongue?” he said. She understood that. She groaned shortly. Words catching themselves in her stiffened neck.
“Don’t. Yer hurt. Bad. Washernaym?”
She did not answer. What kind of human language was this? How could she tell him that she didn’t understand all of human tongue.
He pulled his hand to his chest and petted his long, intricately braided, beard. It was filled with patches of moss.
“Folruth” he held his hand out to her. “Naym?”
Oh! Name!
“Cxxxxx” she sputtered moving a little. The stag moved too, as did he. He made three short utterances and the pulled one shoulder up while the stag shuffled under neath her back so that she was sitting upright. She didn’t want to even think about moving.
“Cxxx. Cxx-lemn-hh-illshala.”
His head bobbed, his brow furrowed, what she could see of his lip moved as he sounded it out quietly.
“Clemnilshala” she repeated. How long had it been since she uttered her own name? She turned her head to look about, there was a mound at the base of the mountain.
“Folruth….Clemnilshala” he moved his hand back and forth slowly. She squirmed away at his advancing fingers. He shrunk back, moving his shoulders forward and hunching.
“What?” Clemnilshala croaked, turning her head toward the mountain. Searching for the cave with the beast.
“Thamdul? That mountain is Thamdul.”
“No no. What was the thing?”
“Oh, Yeti. His name is Rhinegrim. Nae wha were ye thinkin’ goin on and tryin’ tae take on a grown yeti like Rhinegrim while buck naked in the middle of a snowstorm?”
“Hm?” her attention faded. It was difficult to keep her eye open, so tired.
“Bahhhh doon’t worry about it. In the mornin’ we’ll get ye tae a station and decide what tae do from there.” He stood up at the sound of a roar in the distance. He made more words and sounds though Clemnilshala drifted back into the waters of sleep. “<>”
The sun glittered off the mountain, the sky was bright and the rays of light wove between trees so perfectly right into Clemnilshala’s eye. Everything was fiery orange before she opened her eye, then everything was bathed in grey white and blue and green.
Except for red, there was a thumb print of red in the distance hitching up the stag like a mounting beast. In the sunlight his hair was lighter, she thought she could see flecks of gold. He was tying straps when she raised her head against the steam of the extinguished fire. Everything hurt. The light in her eyes, her head. Oh her head hurt so much. She reached up only to put her hand back down as her upper arm didnt want to go past her shoulder.
The stag looked over and bucked his head, bunting his front quarters against the little man. He stumbled along and looked to Clemnilshala waving high over his head. He picked something off the platform he had hitched.
“Rigmol says that he’d rather ye nae have splinters in yer scratches.” He held a thick piece of woolen cloth. “It aint much but it’ll cover ye up.”
His eyes, as blue as the sky, kept darting upward slightly.
“Tha looks bad. Soo Rigmol over there,” he pointed to the stag who was now eating something off the ground. “Is going to pull ye iffin ye cannae walk.”
“Wahk?” Clemnilshala echoed.
“Mh, aye lass, it’s a ways tae the station.”
He held out his hand “en case ye need some help. I’ll eh, be needin me cloak back.”
She pulled back her hands coming up to her chest.
“Ey ey I ain’t meanin’ tae hurt ye. Just need my cloak” He motioned to his shoulders and nodded to her. “Didn’t want ye freezin’ up.”
He traded her the thick cloth for the cloak around her shoulders that he put on, fastening a shining piece of jewelry at the closure. Clemnilshala was rendered transfixed by it. She began to stand up, wobbly legs like a young faun were near impossible to move without great difficulty. She took a wide stance and wrapped the cloth around her waist while this, Folruth, turned around and rocked back and forth.
“We’ll see about gettin’ ye some better clothes at the station.” He coughed into his fist before he put his hood up. Hiding away his long red river of hair. Clemnilshala’s hair had turned brown with dried blood, it hung around her shoulders and reeked. She was lead to the wooden platform pulled by Rigmol the stag, and taken through the snow, slowly, to a triangle shaped house with a chimney that breathed wood smoke.
Folruth went inside and came back out with another little man. “Welcome tae the dwarvish basin.” Said the man while he adjusted his own cloak. He pointed upward.
“Ah, that’s what yoo were on about lad. That looks bad, ye feel alright lass?” He pointed to his head.
“Cannae understand much.” Said Folruth, he kept looking at her head too.
In curiosity she raised her hand, pushing it past her shoulder with all the strength she could possibly muster and went to touch her head. Something was wrong here, where was her horn? Her fingers danced around a jagged edge as her eyes widened. Her brow furrowed. There was softness in the middle of what remained, and warmth. All that was left was a cut down stump and soft cuticle inside what used to be a magnificent example of eynnil horns. Her chest began to heave.
“Lass. Lass, et’s alright, we’re gonna harbor ye here until yer in better shape.” Said Folruth. “Lass looky me. Et’ll be alright” he brought his hands close, she scrabbled her hoof and scooted backward.
“Clemnilshala you’ll be alright. Us dwarves are goin’ tae fix ye up nice.” He said. “Just come inside, we’ll get ye some food, haps a bath. Yer safe here.”
Rigmol was unhitched and brought around to help Clemnilshala by letting her lean on his plush fur. To her surprise he was allowed inside of the building where there was a great fireplace and straw all over the floor. Boots and socks and cloaks were hung before the fire while there were a great great number of these dwarves talking and laughing amongst themselves. Their conversations stopped for just a moment as she passed by and was brought to a smaller lump of a man in a kitchen.
“Ferynia, think ye can work yer magic?”
They started to speak, a lady dwarf, with a beard, this was puzzling too. She was speaking those strange sounds.
“Like humans. <>” said the other man.
“Ye bring me an entire eynnil? Honestly I patch up broken bones fer dwarves, how do ye expect me tae know all about eynnil?” she said. More unintelligible words. She sighed. “Rhinegrim hm? Bah fine I’ll see wha I can do. But tha horn aint growin’ back no way no how.” She pointed.

One thought on “Missteps into Mercy

  1. Excellent work with this one, I really felt a sense of danger twinned with dread. Being stuck in the cold unprepared is one thing, but tangling with the things that live there is worse. You did very well with building up to the appearance of Rhinegrim, much to the surprise of Clem. I especially liked that you had her default to her standard fighting style, despite having nothing for equipment. It’s a very legitimate mistake and it feels real. Additionally I like your introduction to our new characters along with the present dialect. It’s good world building and I like that some characters can technically share a common tongue, but not know a single word the other is saying. I’m looking forward to meeting these new folk, I hope they give Clem some need care. And a break.


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