On Tomatoes

Throughout the city, there were holes in the walls that housed dwarves and served as their homes. Folruth lead Clemnilshala, blethering his advice about not attacking guards and warriors, nor speaking ill of the king, nor stealing or other crimes that would likely get someone arrested and sent away. They passed from district to district. Passing tables of imported produce, corn, and other vegetables. They stopped and money was exchanged over the fist-sized berries that lay upon a table of wares. Fruits, forbidden and crimson, sporting green hats that filled Folruth’s palm without room for much else. He took three, and laid them in the hood of his cloak. He too bought grain and goose eggs and bread. Sheep’s milk, and fabric. A great many things with currency the size of his thumb.
“Chips” they were called, the pieces of money, which were made by forges and stamped with the family crest of whomsoever owned them. Metal chips bought and sold everything around here.
The ground hurt her hooves as she helped carry what she could, filling with shame that it couldn’t be more given how she towered over the dwarves. So many smells came to her nose and infected her sinuses for a great deal of time before she became blind to the scents of soot and heat and hair and food. But in the first moments these new scents, the heat of the rivers of fire and molten stone, how close everyone stood together and bumped up against one another and hugged one another in public, Clemnilshala held her tongue to the taste of the air and held closed the blanket from the mountain scouts station. For some reason she missed the landscape of the outside and the danger of creatures far larger than she. Broad and stout so many of these folk would be able to overpower her emaciated frame so easily. Every turn she looked to find something else that could be used as a means of striking her existence from the Anghniel’s ledger.
Folruth smiled up at her and asked in his accented tongue if there was anything in this whole market that she could possibly want. It was harvest time after all. Clemnilshala meekly moved her head side to side, the rabbit skin on her horn tapped her on the side of her aching head. In all honesty all she wanted was sleep. Her eyes would drift closed while she stood straight up, only opening when Folruth’s voice faded away where she would then follow him. He offered his hand on several occasions but she kept every limb to herself, as close to her center as she possibly could. If she could become a stable ball that floated along that wound be preferable than the firescape that Folruth lived in. He just lived here. Like an unsane person. They walked the length of the ring shaped city, going up levels and down levels while he spoke about this, that, and the other things.
At last, finally, they came to a hole in the wall. It wasn’t a very large slot to exist but, as Folruth put it, it was close to the library and had enough room for a person and their esteemed guest.
“Guest”
“Aye lass, ye can stay here as long as ye like, so long as tha head o’ yers gets better.”
Clemnilshala reached and touched the spongy remains of her broken horn through the rabbit pelt that protected it from the cold. She took it off and held it in her lap, attempting to cool her head against the fiery hot air that suffocated.
“It’s sharp” she muttered “Why do you live here?”
“Well, because its close tae m’brother’s house, and that’s close to m’parents’ house. And it has a vent hole, look, et’s like a nobleman’s window” he waved his hand and twisted open the metal shingle that covered the vent hole.
“But you are Noble hood.”
“Ah ah, aye that’s my name but et’s really a trick ye see. We ain’t nobles. but. We sure are artists and we are mountain scouts and we are honored tae donate what we can fer this city.” Folruth sniffed with pride, unpacking the hood of his cloak. The forbidden berries he put onto the eating table.
“And, that applies tae you nae.” He smiled at her and arranged items. “And, well, I expect you’ll want tae clothe yerself in more than jus’ a blanket too there’s some fabric iffen ye knoow how tae sew.”
“But why? I do not understand”
“Et just seems like you could use a good place tae exist for as long as yer meanin tae.”
He smiled and put the goose eggs into a dish with similarly sized eggs. Clemnilshala’s ear twitched and patted her cheek.
“Won’t be long.” She said, “The soup will heal me.”
“Ye really liked Ferynia’s soup eh? I’ll have tae beg her fer the recipe. Then again…” his eyebrows lowered and he leaned out of the door. “Yoo wait right here, lass, I’ll see if m’brother has it somewhere.”
“Wait no, I really do no-“ She reached forth a bit as though she could catch his red hair as it fluttered out of the front door and past the window facing the streets where dwarves went on their business. They peered at her, she proceeded to wring her hands in front of her and observe the plain white linen and pulled it free of the bolt. She touched her face to the fabric, it was rougher than the silks of Uluur and the wools of the lowlands. Though any clothing was welcome at this point.
She made sure to roll it back up and go about rummaging through what other belongings that Folruth had finding a box of glass eyes of all kinds of colors on his mantle piece and a bag of claws, feathers, and animal teeth. Sheep shears. A boar’s hair brush. Her tail waved from side to side while she poked around in what most certainly did not belong to her. Pushing and pulling his cooking pans that were nailed to the wall for good storage. She found a spider in the fire wood box that sat beside the hearth. It had a fat yellow back side and a web like spun gold. She left it alone while she continued her search.
“Hungry are we?” Folruth had appeared in the doorway in utter silence, how long had he been watching, O! By the Weilvog what to do to explain why she was harassing spiders.
“Ahh, no, not particularly.” Rewwer had made sure to tell her to always keep her best manners, things he would probably teach Hinala. “I feel, eh, satisfied.”
Folruth leaned over and crossed his arms, his shoulder fit in a depression in the doorway.
“Ye won’t mind if I eat then? Wouldn’t want Rigmol tae think I forgot about him”
“You say that as if he speaks”
“By open skies lass all things speak, Rigmol more than most,” he went for the goose eggs and opened a wooden panel in the floor where he fished out a square of butter and a cloth wrapped….something. “Got some iylvienbol here if ye want any. Rigs hates it but personally I love it.”
“Love?”
“Aye, aint a flavor like it. Butter eggs with iylvienbol. Nothin quite the same. Perhaps tha’s why it’s so expensive.” He unwrapped the substance, it had grassy green clippings over top arranged in a brand name. He put the cook pan over the fire and waved her over to take a look. Goodness goose eggs were large, everything here was so large and yet so small. He cut into the butter with his personal knife and tossed it in, cracking three eggs with the same blade and dumping them in to stir them around without a spoon but with the knife.
“Nae, I jest with Rigmol. He’s been my friend fer more than thirty years nae, reckon we’ll be friends fer a great long time from nae.” He cut up the block of iylvienbol, portioning off some of the egg mixture into a wooden bowl for the great stag before he added the iylvienbol into the hot pan. A great stink floated upward with such unholy speed that Clemnilshala shuffled backward and covered her nose and mouth. It assaulted her with the force of Valthran’s heirloom hammer and at the moment she would have rather had another encounter with it than what was currently melting in the pan and mixing into the eggs. Folruth glanced at her and stuttered a breath while he shook his head. “Aye the smell aint for everyone but et’s supposed tae be good fer ye. Will ye at least try it, ye can sit by the vent hole if ye’d like”
She took a plate from him with only the stretchiest iylvienbol and the drippiest butter. It was thick like the frosting stew yet was runny over the plate. She scuffled over by the vent hole and twisted the iron cover open while she waited for her nose to go blind. Folruth ate directly out of the pan spreading the butter eggs over pieces of bread. She followed his lead in the way that she could. Turning bread over on the wet, stretching, golden-yellow mixture and picking it up in pieces to eat it like mollusk in a sea faring town that she never remembered the name of. Perhaps Folruth was right, the stretching, pungent, iylvienbol was salty and had minuscule bits of something sour that excited her mouth and prompted her to eat more. Before she knew it the plate was empty and her taste buds felt lonely without the richness and flavors of butter eggs.
“Iffin ye take those out tae Rigmol I’ll put some more of this taegether fer ye. He should be just outside in the yard”
Clemnilshala approached the doorway and leaned out, looking for signs of the great stag only to find the points of his crown of antlers sticking up from the edge of a make shift stable with its very own bed. Rigmol was laying on his side, his nose buried in the spine of a book as though he was actually reading it and smoking his pipe. He nosed the parchment pages and turned them with the sticky moistness of his snout. The characters on the page surrounded pictures, painted with bright colors of all sorts, however reading it was as lost on clemnilshala as understanding the tongue that the dwarves spoke.
“Hello again” she said, putting down the wooden bowl. “Folruth said you would like this.”
The stag looked up from his book and nodded his head to the space where there was an identical wooden bowl that had been emptied some time prior. Clemnilshala reached and hovered her hand near the stag’s nose in attempts to let him get a good sniff. He didn’t move toward her, only to eating his food. He had hums and animal noises that he made while he feasted on goose egg and turn the pages of his book. What Folruth was talking about, how all animals had voices, was complete trivia. So she turned on her hooved and climbed back into the house where Folruth waited with her plate full of butter eggs with iylvienbol. And what’s this? Tomatoes.
“I think tha ye just need tae get used tae it here. I’d really like it if ye stayed for a while though, perhaps the mountain will grow on ye lass.” He held up the plate. “There’s no place safer fer ye.”
“What about-“ she touched her arm.
“What about em? They’re very pretty”
“Bad luck”
“Well, ye cannae have rainbows without rain, lass. Otherwise all ye get is senseless weaponry and violence. How about ye come eat.” He took a seat on the floor next to the vent hole.
Clemnilshala had never eaten a tomato before. They were forbidden for how they turned to poison on the plates of vaniaal’s of the past. But here, in the mountain, deep in a fortress hidden behind dirt and stone, they were safe to eat.
They were sweeter than any candy.

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