Due to injury Folruth was permitted to end his fifteen days early and return home to rest and heal. Clemnilshala traveled with them yet most of the time on the two day journey around the safe places of the Basin, she spent in quiet contemplation. Folruth spoke aloud with Rigmol and thought of poetry. Shame filled his cheeks as he thought of the life he had chosen to lead, walking through on the back of his great stag while his wife took the reins as though he could not walk on his own. Shame for all the steps he took to become a good scout, spent seasons to no longer be a green horn, sleepless nights, wildlife, bandits, and the isolated boredom that came with waiting for something to happen to the basin.
“Ah but she was the snow, she’d fallen so far into the basin with a heart as fragile as glass and patterns that only belonged to her. She’d come to me while my faith in the mountain failed. She is the snow, beautiful and soft on my cheek.”
They came to the base of the great staircase, the winds were beginning to pick up as the shadows of evening began to fall over the whole of the basin. Clemnilshala looked to Rigmol and then to Folruth. At the top of the stairs something big paced back and forth.
“Should we sleep out here?” She touched the bundled up straps that made a tent when tied to a tree. She glanced up to the top of the stairs. “The night winds might get dicey if they’re like this now.”
Folruth looked up at the sky and up the stairs and hung his head, petting his beard. This life outside, it was intoxicating, he knew they could make it if they pushed hard, but even he didn’t want to put so much effort into going back into the mountain when there was a cold night sky dangling overhead. The greatest stars were beginning to undress themselves of their dayclothes while darkness came over the basin.
“We will have tae be quick lass, so tha et doesn’t blow away” Folruth dismounted Rigmol, giving his own kind of hiss as his aching arm did not agree with the coldness of the wind. He pushed the stake in with his foot, just as he did the night before.
“It’s cold-“ Clemnilshala started.
“Aye, don’t feel too good do it.”
“I was goin’ tae say that I love it.”
Of course she would say so, while she looked out the same way that fresh scouts did when they saw the sun go down over the far ridge. The face tilted upward so slightly, taking in the view of the sky and the wild, cold-weather suited, griffons who flew overhead as their silhouettes disappeared into the sunset. They all looked like that. The inhale of the dusky air. The exhale and the mutter under their breaths about how beautiful it was outside of the mountain like this.
“Et feels almost criminal. I never noticed it before” Clemnilshala said, pulling straps from Rigmol’s tack and helping set up the tent for the second time.
Every wide eyed beardling said that when they first wanted to become a scout. Even Folruth did, he hid his face in a curtain of his hair. He corrected the way she wrapped the leather straps around the stake and the tree. He didn’t show her, this time, how to do it right in the hopes that this idea would simply flutter away in her dreams should those nightmares come back, or be replaced with new nightmares of the kinds of creatures that traveled on the night wind and proved to be far worse than any Yeti. Ghosts that came around at night in armies that would wash over the basin and not be able to tell the living from one of their own, things only known as snow scratchers that would collect the cloaks of more seasoned scouts instead of the greenhorns, they were known for taking eyes as well much like the fate that befell the whole of the Hearthflare family with a frightful curse that one of their eyes would always be missing, either at birth or to the claws of a snow scratcher. Inside of the deep tunnels that were routinely checked there were the massive baruff, wolfish worms with talons as long as a man’s leg, they bore arms that meant to dig into the stone of the mountain and yet they chewed through it as though it were made of bread.
“The snow had only tasted as savory as fresh water in the forgelight. She’d carried shipments of finery in the rough to the forges to repay the ceiling under the sky. Though when the snow touched the sky for the first time, she tasted as incense does. I could only breathe in fresh night air laced with her enthusiasm. The snow lays gently in a ring like sweet bread around me and warms me from the inside.”
– Folruth Noblehood
Folruth had taken his cloak and laid it over the hitch lines like a leaning tent, he laid in the snow on his good arm while his cut still ached and made its steps toward healing. Clemnilshala merely pulled the blanket she wore around her shoulders in the style of the scouts over his shoulders and pulled him close, building a miniature pointed wall of snow wedged between the two of them. While Clemnilshala slept Folruth sat up listening to the sounds of the night. He touched her cheek, the life of the scout, why did it fit her face? He ran his thumb over her cheek again as she curled up tighter like a tighter ring of bread. Her tail wrapped around his leg as her arms drew into her chest. Frost budded at the end of his noes and in trails inches mustache while he nodded off as he sat up. Clemnilshala’s arm reached out and took him by the middle and pulled him closer. Her legs drew up tighter. Rigmol who waited patiently outside said that it would be okay to sleep that nothing would be attacking this night.
“You’re sure?” Asked Folruth through the flap of his cloak as it acted as a wind breaking tent.
The stag outside only got up and bugled into the night, crossing around and helping break the force of wind against the cloak.
“Don’t you worry about a thing” he said to Folruth.
Folruth wriggled about and held the chilled hands of his wife while he laid on his aching arm. He thought of all the ways that someone were to become a scout and how this was not any way to start. Her legs only swooped beneath his, bringing chilling snow into he crooks of his knees. Her head buried into the space of his neck, she pressed the warmth of the space between her horns into his shoulder and jaw. He petted her arm as it slithered over his middle as she did as they shared the bed or the same space of the ground. Her breath warmed his collarbone and loosened the muscles around his cut. It really was no worry, he knew he could push through, he had so many times. He’d come home to Clemnilshala with more cuts and wounds on his person than this.
She squeezed him tighter.
“<<What do you dream of dearest?>>” he spoke in dwarvish.
“<<Stopping you from bad days>>” She replied, short and choppy. “I don’t want ye tae see the things I have.” She continued to mutter, breathing words that normally came along with her nightmares.
“What of the things I’ve seen out here, what of the things here?” He whispered, placing a gentle kiss upon her forehead “What don’t you want me to see my love?”
Her face shrunk in, like a bitter taste in her mouth.