Clemnilshala was stuck with Rewwer in the mornings, for initial measurements. Folruth and Dāniff were in the common space teaching Hinala all kinds of new words, smiling the way that grandfathers did, perhaps it was the eyebrows and beards and the ways their faces relaxed sideways.
Clemnilshala’s old clothes were discarded into a wash tub for later while Rewwer made circles around her muttering to himself with pieces of string.
“You’ve become broad, tough, it’s a good thing for you I hope. So what happened to your horn my dear?”, he asked, measuring her arms and across the chest while listening to the story of the yeti and of meeting Folruth.
“And this?” He touched the burn on her side, a bruise that never healed. “Can’t imagine any yeti did that.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She said, glancing out through the curtain into the common space. “It’s old.”
“I’m all ears”
“It was Valthran, that day, and it’s what happened that made me late to find you and Mamala that day.”
Rewwers face fell. “Oh”
“You never told me, you took a holy burn to the skin, you were so small and weak back then how’d you manage?”
“I managed. It doesn’t hurt much when it’s cold out and in the mountains, it’s always cold. But it was, I think, my last act of weakness, and I pushed it through.” She winced at the touch of string at her waist that scraped over the tender skin of her burn. “I’ve returned the favor to their face. And I’ll find a way to continue to do so should I see them again.”
Her fist balled up.
“Did he ever come back?” She asked Rewwer who too fell quiet.
“They came back some time after you left. They are a formidable opponent. I did not realize until then just how much you did to get Mamala and my child out.” He touched her shoulder “I’m sorry for banishing you from this place all that time ago”
“Bah, don’t worry about it” she grinned “it’s the reason I found Khalenglough and Thamdül. Hinala has grown so much from that sweet baby she’s running around on her own, she’s talking I think, look at her go.” Her face softened.
“And you? Do you have children?” Rewwer measured her leg length and compared it to her long tail. Her hocks turned bright red, giving Rewwer a laugh. “Wait…are you?”
“Oh no no, I assure you it’s nae for lack of trying but, no we have no children…yet” she said in confidence. She faced the ceiling, the way she did when she hid the fluster in her cheeks from the dwarves, but being shorter than Rewwer, it was a moot cause. He laughed and laughed and offered her more scavenged clothes from the chest in the corner for her to borrow.
“Come let’s go see those pelts you brought, we will tan them together my friend.” He nodded to Folruth and Dāniff the whole of the way through the common space while Hinala went on telling all kinds of stories about a particular rock she found in the garden that could fly according to her. And a leaf that stuck to her stuffed toys. Dāniff rose to follow them. From then on Folruth and Dāniff would follow Clemnilshala and Rewwer for as long as they stayed. In the mornings the three helped with chores then Folruth and Hinala would go to explore the woods with Rigmol while Dāniff kept a close watch over how tanning went, making sure the majority of the work was done by Clemnilshala while Rewwer walked her through how to do it.
The pelts were shaved and oiled and stretched out onto frames and set out into the sun. the freed fur was collected from the dirt floor and set aside to be made into stuffing for Hinala’s toys when she inevitably would pop a seam or want a new character in her plays. When nothing else could be done to the leather Clemnilshala would help prepare lunch and then there would be leisure time outside in the gardens over glasses of creek water. Telling all kinds of stories of the exiles that came through this place. All kinds of people, none that Clemnilshala knew. Pleasant visits from traders, unpleasant visits from traitors, having to set up precaution in the woods so that Hinala would be safe.
Then the dwarves would tell stories of yetis and the Wild Things on the mountain and in the basin.
The tale of Clemnilshala’s horn was recanted with greater laughter each time.
“Bahhh, at least ye found me lad.” She looked to Folruth as she drank the water. “And wha a fox ye were, hair so red I thought you were hurt too!”
One evening Clemnilshala was stirred by the soft hoof falls of Rewwer sneaking out of the back door in the tanning area with a lantern. She got up from the space where she slept, wrapped over the top of folruth’s head like a hat. She went out of the front door, taking her cloak with her, she followed Rewwer to the stream where he was knelt over Mamala’s grave mound.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more, Rewwer.” She said, touching his arm, he twitched and looked to her.
“I couldn’t do more for her,” he said back,
“But you can, you have Hinala, she lives on in Hinala” she muttered, repeating something she’d overheard in the public house as dwarf mourned his brother and his brother’s wife and was unsure of how to care for his three orphaned nephews.
Rewwer turned and buried his head into Clemnilshala’s abdomen, shuddering with tears as he hugged her tightly where she stood. Her hands rose upward at first, startled, she’d moved to step away but stopped herself, the light in the cottage window at the top of the hill had a vague shape pacing in front of it and thoughts that it could be Folruth came to mind. With a stuttering reach, pulling back rapidly with great unsureness, she rested her hand on Rewwer’s head. She pet his hair between his horns and knelt, hugging the older eynnil back.
“It ain’t the same, not really, I know” she continued to pet his head and make gentle subtle tugs to tell if he was done hugging her yet. He was not finished yet. “But I’ll return tae ye, we can even call one another friends if you’d like.”
“That would pose a danger to my daughter.” He wavered, finally letting go of Clemnilshala. “But, your clothes, you can come back any time to get them repaired.”
“You’ve got it. I will come back for repairs as often as I can”
“Do not deliberately break my creations Clemnilshala. I’ll send you away at the gate.” He raised an eyebrow, the redness in his eyes faded, as he stood, returning the head petting “But knowing you, you’ll be around here more often, Hinala certainly will be happy to see you.”
“What’s that mean?” She bumped him with her shoulder
“Means that if you can get your horn there broken off that I shouldn’t have so much faith that you’ll take good care of yourself let alone my leather work.” He laughed “Come, we should return to the cottage, I don’t want Hinala to have a nightmare and not have me around.”
Back at the cottage, through the front door Folruth was sitting upright with Hinala laid in his lap sleeping again. He explained that she had come down the stairs crying about not being able to find Rewwer and so he consoled her.
“Bah et’s nae any different than a drunkard crying about something.” He waved his hand. “She’s about the same size as one”
They quietly snickered together, it was true Hinala, at 44, was as tall as an adult dwarf, and would only grow bigger when the long years would crawl on. Rewwer kept his hand over his mouth, stifling his laughter comparing a fawn to a drunkard, as though it wasn’t true that children this age were indistinguishable in behavior to those who enjoyed the drink too much. Deciding whether or not to put something in her mouth by putting it in her mouth was a tremendous problem that she still worked to overcome.
Dāniff was nowhere to be found in the common space, he’d gone back into the leather working area and was going about surveying the lines and cuts made to the leather. So late at night the four adults made sure that Hinala continued to sleep and continued to work on the leather gear.
In the time that it took to create this leather gear Clemnilshala had become quite used to dressing and undressing for measuring, for fitting, for this and that. She’d learned to hold a hammer and how to cut leather so that the seams wouldn’t be jagged and irritating. She took to cleaning the leather and dying it like a bird takes to swimming in the ocean. It was a long process, a great many days spent in routine until, at last all the pieces were finished, sewn together with pieces of fur protecting the seams. A great patch of sheep skin, with the wool still on it, was attached on the one side to protect her holy burn which would only get more irritated if she let it get cold. The wind alone would bite at its edges and only cause more damage to her body.
The last step was to test it out, to spar with it outside to see if it moved right, if the edges came together and didn’t bother her. With sticks and wooden swords and a picnic they went deep into the woods away from the cottage, the five of them. Hinala had a toy sword with her as well as ‘Stuff baby’ flopped over her arm. She marched alongside Folruth who was teaching her a song. Dāniff held his hands behind his back the deeper into the woods they went until they came to a clearing with a small enough pond in its center and a willow tree wrapped around a beech tree. All about the clearing, this great hole in the forest, were rings of mushrooms scattered like the floor of a jewelers shop. Dāniff stepped back, muttering about the Wild Things frequenting this place, that the circles of mushrooms were the prints left by their footsteps, this was a perfect place to practice.
Rewwer removed his shirt and tossed it aside and tightened the belt of his pants. He extended a hand and allowed Clemnilshala to make the first move. She’d become so comfortable with defending with attackers that she didn’t know how to begin a spar, she took a stance and pushed off from the ground, the rubbing of the leather warming up and losing its brand-new squeakiness. She moved to deliver a punch to rewwer in the chest, though his smile and his stance made it difficult and she hesitated. Rewwer slapped her hand away, taking her wrist in one hand and her shoulder in the other and turning her around to push her at Dāniff. Dāniff jumped out of the way and put his palm to her leg pushing back, she lost balance and tumbled to the ground, rolling end over end into the pond. The water was warm on her hands but did not come through the seams to touch her legs at all. Her hair dripped it down her collar and warmed into something that felt almost like steam though it held true to her skin without something to wick it away like Folruth’s wool underclothes.
“Remember where ye are Noblehood!” Dāniff chided, laughing “Ye’ll never be a good mountaineer if yer sopping wet!”
“Och-“ She responded getting up and shaking her hair of water and lunged at Dāniff, tackling him to the ground. It was sloppy, he’d have gotten away had she not been 22.5 hands tall and had arms to pull him down. “You’ll pay fer that lad!”
Folruth laughed and let Hinala play alone for a while as he went to join in sparring, taking a stick and passing it to his wife. Rewwer backed up and watched for a time. Dāniff got up and continued to pat openings in her stances and forms shouting for her to remember where she was. Shouting words in dwarvish. There was pushing and shoving and wrestling, rolling around in the grass. Clemnilshala asserting through panting breaths that she could defeat them if she wanted, she just didn’t want to, rousing their laughter even more through this play. They goaded her to prove it, shouting more words in dwarvish. And she did in a way, turning around, using her cloak to blind Dāniff’s eye as she shoved him into the water, then executing another attack on Folruth, tackling him to the ground full of laughter to push her mouth on his cheek and on the deepening M pattern of his hairline, giving him kisses in the clearing while the mushroom ring they’d disturbed surrounded his head like a halo.
“The snow in spring, green and vibrant amongst the budding grasses and the trees. The exuberant and joyous song that comes from the heart of the mountain, warming the cage of ice that surrounds it. The snow is gentle to her chosen favorites, and hesitates to bring them harm. the chill is warming to the cheek and the scalp. I too can never resist her kiss.”
Hinala jumped up! Bleating a fawn’s war cry and she ran for Clemnilshala, head butting her in the side where her burn was. The sheep’s wool cushioned the blow from her small horns. She’d grown quite fond of Folruth. They rolled around and wrestled for almost an hour before they all sat back and laughed and caught their breath. Rewwer stood over them, Dāniff beside him, dripping wet from the pond.
“How does this gear suit ye lass? Does it feel right?”
“Et’s a bit big around the middle here,” she pulled at the loose leather at her abdomen.
“You might grow into it, I wanted to leave that in hope.” Rewwer explained while his daughter came to sit in his lap and he began to braid her hair. “You may need to go out into the cold for whatever reason you mountain people have. I’d want everyone safe if I were you”
Clemnilshala cocked her head before turning her head up to face the sky as though she’d suddenly understood every secret of the universe all at once.
“I’ll need a toolbelt as well, Rewwer, so that I can carry my things with me.” She said, touching her abdomen “I don’t think I’ll want my knife or equipment to be so close tae the skin.”
Folruth raised a hand, sitting up
“Actually, lass, I already have tha made up fer ye. Et’s back there with Rigmol. Ehhhh et was his idea anyhow. I borrowed Rewwer’s tools while yoo were doin’ the laundry and cleanin’ the stable outside an’ whenever ye just weren’t lookin.” He said, leaving out how it would suit her figure nicely in his opinion. Dāniff smiled at this, nodding slowly.
“We leave fer the mountain in the morning then.”