Clemnilshala found it difficult to imagine her father as a Golden eye. Changed in form or otherwise. As he came up the walk he brought her a gift as well. A gift of savory bread. He made sure that she knew that if there was anything ever that had frightened her about the raid the night before, or the life of a warrior, that he would give her as much courage and information as he himself had. He ruffed her hair like Senaar did.
“Now how about you come and train with me. I can show you some things that are above your level if you wish it.” With his one sided smile he gave a wink.
Selmnilor took his daughter by the hand and the ritual scroll from her. He passed it to a protoge who was inundated with laundry, offering him sweet bread for this favor.
Her father trained with his shield, holding in front of him while Clemnilshala attempted to follow in his hoofsteps. Her shield was small, wooden, now with a crack in it thanks to the raid of the night before. It simply did not compare to the glittering and immaculate shield her father used to protect his partner.
“When you hold your shield, you protect your partner. We are partnered up because we protect them and they look after us. We give them what we have, and they return the favor. Not always in the same way, my daughter. Your mother has the house, and she gives to her guests when I am not home, she gives our food, our warmth and our comforts before they….must travel on. In return they give to her their woes and their strength and that is why….they have never returned to our plot. Your mother gave me her heart and her dagger after battle and I gave her the home.” Her father explained rubbing his shield down with cloth before he picked up his sword. “You…you have given so much to that exile…the stable hand. Your partner mentioned it. But you must share with your partner as well. Because your partner, Valthran is who you rely on to return home. And had that exile not been cast out, Valthran would be who it would have to rely on to get you home.”
He advanced with his sword giving his daughter’s shield a tap.
“But Pa, our house is filled with-“
“Travelers. Weary and ragged. Nothing more. You understand?” He interjected.
Clemnilshala’s face hardened, she furrowed her brow and pressed her teeth together. Her father’s interruption and his glancing about turned her stomach into a knot.
“The travelers…father…they took so much from the people here. Why does mother have to give to them too?”
“So that if they come back, they will bring gifts. We trust in this. This is what the Weilvog wishes for us. That one day someone will return the kindness.” He advanced again, taking steps forward and tapping the sides of her shield. “Now you do it to me”
Clemnilshala repeated his step, one lunge, then shorter steps at the sides of the shield. She wanted to own that shield. She imagined herself for a brief moment hoisting it up in the heat of battle and pushing away a dozen exiles.
“The rituals…father…the rituals both demand starvation and bathing in oil. Is it that the Golden Eyes are no longer like us? Just like the exiles?”
“Shhhh. We do not say that, daughter. Please ‘shala, mind your words. Now how would you protect me on a battle field?” He hissed before softening his gaze.
Clemnilshala raised her shield like a mighty statue in the square.
“No, not like that. I am bigger than you, and it is also my duty to protect you on the field. So you would protect me from what is smaller than I am. You would hold your shield here.” He lowered her shield, laying his aside to demonstrate where to hold ones hooves and tails.
“I don’t understand.”
“Here try it with this”
He picked up his great shield, and slid it up her forearm. It weighed as much as the hand of a mounting beast. How did her father carry this all day long for the Vaniaal? She stumbled immediately. Though, to Selmnilor’s pride, she did not let it touch the ground.
“See where your arm is here? This is where you hold your small shield. So that you can protect Valthran from dangers.”
“I think I see it now. But what if I do not have a shield?” she asked. “Or any weaponry.”
“Then you have to work triply hard to make sure that your partner comes back to his home. Because he may have someone waiting for him, several someones. Wouldn’t you like for Valthran to see his father and mother every time you two come back from patrolling?”
“We wont be patrolling for twenty years!”
Selmnilor raised an eyebrow and put his hands to his hips. “I’m not so sure of that.”
“I dont understand.”
“You and your Valthran will be coming with Senaar and myself and Throsaan to patrol the border wall this afternoon.” He smiled. Clemnilshala was filled with joy to know that she would advance. She ran up and hugged her father who swung her around.
“Throsaan and Senaar are petitioning the Vaniaal’s council to consider you adults for your valor and courage last night. It meant a great deal to the two of them it seems. Ah I’m so proud of you. And tonight, we will go back home to the house, perhaps your mother will make fat pork and we can share it with the guests.”
“Perhaps” Clemnilshala said, her stomach turned in a knot again. For the rest of the afternoon she and Selmnilor trained waiting for the fateful time which Throsaan and Senaar would call them back.
The trainees had gone from the courtyard, it was all quiet aside from a post before the fountain where people got their water. An Exile had been caught and taken back into the city and stripped to its smallclothes and displayed. Its head was sunken toward its chest. Its frame was so skinny that its breath expanded and contracted its protruding ribs. She’d seen it so many times. Not this exile but exiles who were caught and brought back as tapestries dedicated to immorality.
Clemnilshala stopped to read what its markings said. These were familiar. Still puffy and yellowed around the edges. She took ahold of its familiar hair and pulled its head up. The stable hand.
He looked at her with exhaustion in his face and oil coating his skin.
“’Shala. I came to see you. At least one last time.”
“I do not see you. I do not see you at all. Last I saw you was on the table where I had to hold you down.” She did not utter his name. It locked itself away in her stomach. Her eyes dragged around his skin reading his name over and over and reading his crimes. There was so little yet it was so great and terrible that she couldn’t bear to look at it. A (crime, insignificant in the future but significant now)
“Clemnilshala, please. Release me.”
“No. You’ve cast your lot. You’re not the bull I spoke with.”
“You do not understand.”
Clemnilshala ceased to listen, his words were thumping drums. She pulled her sword and laid just a small cut on his side. Striking out his name from her memory.
“No more of this.” She said and turned her back to the former stablehand.
she proceeded to her stable where Valthran stood, lacing up his armor. There was new armor here. Armor for adults. For adult eynnil who had yet to finish growing. She tightened it across her chest and abdomen. She turned to help valthran with the sides of his thighs and affixed his honor tassels to his hocks. What remained of his tail raised up.
He aided her in the hard to reach spots. Her father’s words rang true in her ears.
“You should get your ears cropped. They’ll hurt when you have to wear a real helmet one day.” Valthran smiled and gave her ear a tug. “They’re so long, its almost like hair. But if they keep flopped over like this then words will get lost and you will not be able to hear us. And you would be able to hear whatever is going to try and attack you. I cannot protect you if you cannot alert me fast enough.”
“Are you mad that your ears turned out bad?” she grinned at him. She tugged his horn in return.