a day came. Someone younger than she was selected to convene with the Weilvog. Clemnilshala, instead of feeling the sting of jealousy, a mere trainee being chosen by the powers that be was instead burdened by the youngling’s worries about receiving a gift of golden eyes. Oh how their eyes were so wide. She allowed them to stay in her quarters that night, they played card games and something, something she’d never said before but seemed to bore itself in her throat came forth from her mouth hours before sunrise.
“You know,” she’d said to the youngling, their name having lost all meaning to time “A gift is meant to show trust in a person. That trust means that they will still love you enough even if you do not accept it. A gift is able to be rejected, perhaps until you’re ready” She’d said.
Where these words came from is still beyond her even now.
Though. Her words were not as helpful as she’d thought. Come sun up the youngling was asleep in her lap wherein she sat petting their long hair and humming a soft song. A knocking knocking came upon the doors to her quarter. Defender folk stood there in their glittering pale armor. Pale warriors of holy stature. Clemnilshala put her fingers to her lips, choosing to rouse the youngling from their slumber gently. A gift of the Weilvog and Anghniel was something to be calm and ready for. The youngling, their eyes snapped open as they looked up at the Warriors they lept to their hooves.
“No! No! I won’t go!” they shouted. They drew their arms close to their chest. “I don’t want this gift! I don’t want it! And I don’t have to take it!”
The pale and golden eyed’s looked between the youngling and Clemnilshala who, until that point, had only one offense and it was leaving someone’s greaves unwashed. Valthran was amongst these pale warriors, his face changed that day. His usual friendly demeanor had been washed away with the youngling’s tears. The last that Clemnilshala ever heard of the youngling was that they had been cast into exile. Marked with disobedience and cast out into the rain and ash.
Clemnilshala didn’t think much of it for more than a year until, out exile hunting after an extensively difficult session of training. She could nearly taste the mantle of A warrior on her shoulders. Until. One night she saw them again. Their face had become scarred and ragged. Their hair was patchy and their tail had been shortened. Was it by the wildlife or was it by other exile hunters. They recognized her. She recognized them. Her stomach turned in knots. She knelt by the youngling, now a full grown exile in their own right, and tended the wound in their leg.
“Shhhh. Shhh don’t be afraid of me. These should help you get away. Take away the hurt for a while. Now go…run” she hissed at him in the rain. Before long the youngling whooped and hollered, swinging their weapon around where they called other exiles, in a colony on the edge of the mushroom forest. Clemnilshala scrabbled backward, her hooves sinking in the mud she had little experience in. The youngling’s gaze turned just over her shoulder where Valthran the wise wonder had already come to her aid.
“Kill them all. For the crime of bringing harm to one of our newly ordained defenders” he said, kneeling down laying a gentle hand on Clemnilshala’s shoulders. He whispered in her ear. “Are you hurt? Do you want the first blow?”
Clemnilshala’s knotted stomach returned. “N-no!” she shouted over the rain. “These kind folk came to my aid when I fell. We should let them leave peacefully!” she looked at their spears. She had yet to be ordained. But as the exiles, including the youngling, scattered into the night Clemnilshala was taken by the shoulder and shaken like a ragdoll.
“What have you done!” shouted Valthran!
“Senaar will see that I was right to let them go! I am not hurt! Just muddy!”
“Pah, Senaar will know all about what happened tonight” Said Valthran. This man that she once played with as a child, seemed a looming monster at this point. She pursed her mouth under his intimidation.
She was taken back to her home barracks somehow its halls and corridors seemed so much colder now. Although allowed to walk on her own she felt leashed like an burden-beast. Harnessed and taken rather than brought home. Something turned her stomach.
Soon enough. Soon enough she was approached in her quarter by Senaar. His face, aged yet wise. He already knew. His mustache stretched wide as he smiled at her and pet her long hair.
“I can save you from this” he said softly as he squatted before her as though she were a scared child. “I know what you did for those exiles. I imagine you’re beginning to understand what is on the books waiting for you, child. Are you sorry for what happened?”
Clemnilshala leaned to one side and looked to the sealed closed door. She shook her head. “The point of a gift is that it can be rejected. That youngling’s exile was unjust”
“this could mean that you too will be thrown into exile just as well. If you reject our help.” Senaar said. His voice was always so gentle. “I had been wanting to make you my successor one day”
There was no way she could be exiled. She was nearly a holy defender. One of the Anghniel’s chosen. The ever powerful Weilvog and Anghniel. She shook her head at Senaar.
“Then we must leave you here, until you come to your senses. No food will be brought for you this night” said Senaar. His face twisted in a way that she hadn’t seen before. She drew her legs in, stubborn, she was not wrong in this. So she had convinced herself. She wasn’t given sleep that night either. Her lights were left on from the outside. Sounds just loud enough to keep her awake came through the door. Tapping and speaking that she could barely comprehend. Something about the Bad-Ones perhaps. Suggesting that she would be better off the slave of the Bad-Ones. Sold and bought like chattel.
She crossed her arms. Stubborn in her ways. She was not wrong here. She had nothing to hide and therefore nothing to worry about.
Oh how wrong Clemnilshala was.
She had been demoted, demoted down, and down again. She was no higher than a little ragged servant and yet she held firm that that night was not a mistake of hers. She still trained but was given no armor. She still fought but was given no weapon. She used her gumption. Her conviction to use the holy connection to the Anghniel that brimmed in her skin to protect herself and most importantly others.
Come the new season and new recruits were brought to train, younglings, far far younger than the exile she’d set free. Valthran, as vast and strong as he was, would often put them into direct danger forcing others to step in and protect them.
One day Clemnilshala had spied Valthran approaching a youngling who had dropped an elite’s spear. Its weight was far too heavy for the child. Valthran was there in heartbeats with a crop. The youngling had their hands in front of their face to protect from a beating. Clemnilshala, broom in hand, threw sick upon the ground and leapt into the fray. She jumped betwixt Valthran and the youngling and brought the handle of her broom down between the plates of his armor.
“A Child!” she had shouted in the middle of the training yard. “A child Valthran!” she swung her broom
“The will of the Weilvog and Anghniel gives me this right, stay out of the way, ragling!” Valthran’s voice rumbled and yet failed to shake Clemnilshala.
“Then the Weilvog and Anghniel have poisoned you!” Clemnilshala took her broom and swept beneath Valthran’s legs knocking him back with his largest open spot. She stamped her hoof, dressed in rags, upon his plated chest. “Poison!”
“Do not say that! It is because of the Weilvog and Anghniel that we are no longer slaves!” Senaar had come with his golden eyes and pale hair. Clemnilshala looked to Senaar. She still respected him. His face. The way he at least looked her in the eye. The unspoken ways he could communicate. He was once a slave. Clemnilshala calmed for that day.
But not the night.
The councils. So many councils have been formed that night. So soon. From her chamber, a prison cell now. No longer with her personal effect but just a blanket for warmth and a commode for something else. She had grown accustomed to this life. She didn’t mind it. But she was dead asleep when all she could feel hands. So many hands. Her shoulders, arms, waist, legs, hooves, tail carrying her way from her stone bed into the darkened night. The Dark Court. Eynnil in their finest to look down upon this ragling. The magic in this place brimmed as though they were ready to attack her if she made one step out of line. Her clothes were torn from her body. She stood in not but a loin cloth before the court folk ready to decide her ragling fate.
There was Senaar ready to speak of her in a positive light. Speak of her willingness to cast herself between a defender and a trainee, to take beatings upon her back for small infractions. Her willingness to show mercy to one exile whose crimes were to say ‘no’ to the Weilvog and Anghniel. She was given tonic, something to quell her upset stomach, something with a herb that compelled those who ingested it to speak only the truth.
But such is the way of the Eynnil-peoples now, so Clemnilshala thought. She held her fists to her chest, the way that the youngling did so long ago. She thought a moment.
“It is the Anghniel, the Weilvog, that keep us from becoming slaves once more” Said one of the many council members “We shall never become slaves again!”
That member was once a slave as well.
“How powerful are these powers then?” she asked, coming up from her knees, standing and scratching at her neck. Tearing away at invisible clothes though naked inside the court before these councilors. “How powerful are they to keep away the old ones in the old lands from our blood?”
“Hold your tongue!”
“I have held my tongue long enough!” Shouted Clemnilshala “What, did you do this to the youngling who wasn’t ready to be golden?”
The court turned their noses and horns up. The judge the jury turned their hands to their gavels.
“Hold your tongue and save yourself!” They shouted “We cannot help you see the errors of your words unless you stay silent”
“How long have we been silent to the cruelty that we put upon our younglings!” She stamped her hoof. “we are no better than the others! Our mission to make sure they never enslave us again. You have the powers to protect do you not, why do you beat the wits out of our younglings!” she stamped again
“Bite your tongue, Clemnilshala. You were so close to becoming a protector of this city”
“Then burn this city to the ground. The great powers have poisoned you too! Sick to you! Sick to this entire city! We would have been better off as we were before. At least then, in numbers we could rise against them! We could touch them and shove them over cliffs!!! Do you not see? They cannot be overwhelmed as we are now! We are slaves once more!”
“That is enough!” shouted the judge. “Your words show your heart! Clemnilshala!”
Clemnilshala’s stomach emptied. “Are you people blind! You are being poisoned!”
She struggled against the hands that dragged her from the court room. The last she saw was them drafting her document for the archives. The account of how a promising young defender in training turned her back on the great powers she once served.
Clemnilshala was taken back to her quarters and left there, no food, no water, no bathing, no sleep, for nine days before she, upon the brink of passing out against the wall of her cell, was taken by the shoulders. Three more days she counted. Three days it took to cast an eynnil into exile.
She was chained to a post in the yard for all the trainees to see. The public portion. Her wrists bound in chain, the metal cutting into her skin clear down to the bone. She could see the white and pale shades of cartilage and ligaments on her bone. She was left there the whole day only being given water from a cup on a rod. Clemnilshala remained firm. She knew Weilvog could fix her skin and bones.
Come night her head had come to hang. Oh how she craved sleep. She didn’t think this would happen. But the traditions had to be respected.
She was roused from her sleep by the sting of hooks upon a fail. They shouted so many words at her. Flails from six. Seven. Eight. Directions. On her pure unsullied skin. All the while they asked if she was ready to give up yet, to retake her mantle under the Anghniel. What was it in her, what little imp in her throat said no! she was left over night chained to the post. The beating with the whip was not going to break her. She was so close to becoming a golden defender. The following morning she was brought to the lake and chained to the post there. Her wounds spit upon. Valthran cast the first blow that day. In the day whips had become rods. Overhand upon her shoulders she could hear her bones breaking, she could feel the stretch of her skin splitting and blood running down her shoulders over her back.
A spectacle it had become as she was lashed by her old playmate.
They called her something dirty. Filth. They chained down her hooves. She was so thirsty for anything. Day two. She was read her rites. The rites of dissolution from the eynnil peoples. She was read from their holiest books, with their finest garbs. Senaar asked her to just take it all back. To take it back and believe what she believed in her heart, in silence. His eyes were teary come night. His head covered by a hood as he had snuck out with a flagon of water and a bit of bread. Clemnilshala pursed her mouth.
“Not you Senaar. Er. Commander.” She pulled and tugged her exposed bones on her chains. Her bones crackled, her tarsals broke the more she pulled. Her cries of agony were met with the running defenders the other eynnil who came to meet Senaar and commend him for alerting them to her pulling and struggling. She gnashed her teeth and whipped her tail at anyone who came near. Senaar was pulled away from her mind tricks, and there Clemnilshala was left, naked, in the rain while the water fell on her exposed bones upon that post.
Day three, she spent sleeping. Not caring if the skin of her hands peeled forth like gloves, she hung her head and closed her eyes. But such was not the face of someone in these rites. As she was spotted taking rest her cheeks were patted and smacked to awaken her. Her eyes had grown dark, dim, her faith in the light faded as much as her faith in the the great powers. Today they asked her, as she knelt on the brink of oblivion, if she took it all back. They still had time to save her. Over these past weeks, this year, her ribs had begun to show and some vile little thing inside her said to just take it back. She had grown thin, frail, but her gaze, her blue eyed glare hadn’t dimmed in the slightest.
She was left alone while the younglings trained. Valthran made sure to bring his least favorite youngling into her view and whip this child until their hands were numb and cut up by the crop used for riding beasts. Clemnilshala struggled against her chains once more. She had to be bound by the throat against the wooden post until the night.
Day three, come night—
She leaned her head on the post, her mouth parched of water, sticky too too sticky. But not to be her worry for that much longer. Just after sundown Senaar came once more, shaking her gently by the shoulder. “Just take it all back. You can return from a ragling, not from what they plan child”
Clemnilshala said nothing. Her vision faded as she hung her head and took more rest. She was roused a second time. Hands. So many hands. So many more, taking her, pulling her limbs, her arms, her legs where she couldn’t struggle and laying her upon a stonish alter and tying her down and chaining her in place.
There Senaar stood at her head. His face filled in agony, Clemnilshala watched the tears stream down his cheeks. Her stomach turned over one last time. His gentle hands laid at her head and held it still. He began to sing, with shaken voice, the final rights before one stops being eynnil.
“Senaar….Senaar please” she muttered. For Senaar, commander, she would take it all back. But too late were her words. At her right shoulder was Valthran with a hammer and needles upon a stick. Her eyes widened, her oldest friend stood there and made the first blow with ink over her heart tap tap tapping as though their time as children meant nothing. A glee in his eyes, he took pride in his art, his flourishes upon the tattoos that he helped place on her skin.
She could feel the miniscule stretching of her skin as ink was bored into her flesh with hammers and needles fastened to sticks. They hadn’t been cleaned since the last exhalation. The sounds of night, the birds, the bugs the little barking lizards, were overtook by Clemnilshala’s shrieks. Her shouts of agony in the field of training for the younger Warriors only grew as sleepy little trainees little younglings were given sticks and needles of their own to put runes upon her body. Runes that she attempted murder according to the little things. She squirmed and wriggled in place the more they got to the thin spots of her skin. The thinner her skin got the more she cried out and the more she considered just taking back everything she’d said but the scratching the blasted scratching scratching of needles and hammers on her skin. Something she would always remember.
The entirety of her skin was marked from her shoulders to her chest clear down to her deepest held secrets.
Her skin marked, her body stripped nude even from her loin cloth, she was pulled, bleeding and helpless from the altar and thrust into the ash of the fields outside the old lands. Clemnilshala shrieked in her agony with fresh wounds upon her skin, her bones exposed to the air filled with the nothingness of burnt matter. Her skin bled into the dirt, dark in color as it soaked the soil providing her own nutrition to the ground.
She got up on her hands and marked and scarred knees and crawled away. Her breaths hoarse against her chest with fresh tattoos and markings as she crawled out of the known territories that she used to hunt. She found herself deep in the ashlands.
She spent hours and days coughing, traveling from place to place to place. The rain was acid. The Ash was infectious. Little yellow dots of infection that cropped up underneath her tattoos as she tried to let them heal nicely. She hid in the mud and dirt, laying supine and burying herself up to her nose just as she had discovered so many exiles before, whenever she saw the lightest glint of the pristine armor of defenders. How many years was it that she wore that armor? How many years did she hunt those marked ones down? Her body grew emaciated.