Since then Clemnilshala traveled more with her father and stayed away from home for longer and longer amounts of time. With the other fauns and trainees. Cleaning out stables for the mounting beasts, sweeping the floors of the Lanh. Taking on other’s chores when they, eventually became younglings and fell in love and would wish to sneak away and see their affectionate ones.
She learned more of the Weilvog and the Anghniel, and how to exact their vengeances. Laboring over which path that she would walk, to study the magics of the battlefield and raid the minds of ill enemies or to go forth to the lines and strike with her fists. She asserted that she could learn both, she studied doubly hard, with as much diligence as her closest friend and ally Valthran who was growing into a fine young buck himself. Clemnilshala would train with him in unimaginable ways. Such as practicing arrays with burned pitch, writing between Valthran’s steps and making sure he knew where she was at all times. It is the purpose of each partner to be aware of where the other is in times of peril. To know where each person is in a given space and how to avoid them.
It was gradual over forty years where, at 81, she had become a precocious young doe. She trained. That was all that lived in her mind. Until she met him. The stablehand with glasses. He was nine years her junior. Not as tall as she. With long grey hair and uncropped ears and all of his furs still in tact. Long ago Clemnilshala went through the ritual of removing the hair from her body for good. He was not a trainee. He was the son of a family of shepherds. But he had glasses. He could’ve been a scholar. He could have become a scribe to the Vaniaal. He could have become so much more so why did he clothe himself in lowcloth.
She made more time to go about visiting him at the stables. Then while she trained, she trained harder. Perhaps this is what Selmnilor felt for Hashala. When Senaar would say to the younglings that the teams who finished first would be rewarded with a night free from chores she acted more valoriously. Senaar often noted in his documents that she would personally carry her partner Valthran over walls and hurdles so that she could disappear from the supper table with apples and bread.
Until one evening the stablehand did not meet her at the stable. It was as though he had ceased to exist. No one mentioned his leaving. No one seemed to recognize his name. Senaar pushed Valthran harder in Clemnilshala’s absence. He trained with him Personally. Using mixtures of magic and force to build up his endurance for he could not allow the youngling to be carried over obstacles by his partner every time.
A fateful night came. Where there was a shriek that filled the halls of the Lanh where Clemnilshala lived in when she wasn’t visiting home. She was startled, rolling from her bed onto the floor. She took up her mantle and shield to wake Valthran who took up his Heirloom hammer, gifted from his father, and went with her to see where the sounds were coming from. In the training yard there they were. Throsaan. Selmnilor. Senaar. And the stable hand, stripped of his clothes, being covered slowly in markings of exile.
Clemnilshala had seen these markings on her own. When her mother harbored the other exiles. Swollen. Yellowed with infections of the kinds of herbs that were used for the dark black ink. This ink would never fade. This ink would never grow weak. It would remain forever as a testament to their crimes and sins against the Vaniaal and the Lanh and the Weilvog and Anghniel. Throsaan saw his son and his son’s partner lurking in a doorway, Clemnilshala’s shining shield had caught his eye and he beckoned over the younglings. Not yet adults, they made sure that the two saw what happens when these wretches were thrown into exile. Senaar stood at the stable hand’s head. Selmnilor looked to his daughter who didn’t take her eyes off of the stable hand as he writhed and squirmed under their weight. But his strength caused him to break free of so many hands often. Throsaan glared to his son and directed him to help in holding down the exile while it howled into the night. Clemnilshala took a step back.
Throsaan took a break from tapping the needling stick into the stable hand’s flesh to pull Clemnilshala by the shoulder. They demanded that if she would watch then she would help. Clemnilshala looked to her father, their furrowed brows a mirror of one another while black stain was driven into the skin and flesh.
“It is much like the pig. Think of the pig ‘shala.” Said Selmnilor. “We do this because they deserve it. They know because we tell them so many times. And they still defy us.”
Though. This confused her more.
“Exiles are naught but wretched stones in our pockets that pull us from the light of the Weilvog, remember that son. The radiance of the Vaniaal can only protect you for so long” Throsaan spoke over Selmnilor. Senaar snarled a warning to their pupils.
“We will speak only in the verses in the holy text.” They turned to their eynnil songs. Their voices became disjointed and chaotic while they continued to do the deed. Clemnilshala knew these words. How often she studied them in the throws of night. She sang along and followed behind, hurling holy oil over the exile as he was cast out of Uluur into the mud. Her hands black with the ink that bled from his skin mixed with holy oil. She did not seek purification for nine hours while she sat alone and contemplated these meanings. She sat in the stables alone. Until she would be approached by her partner.
“Father says that the Exiles should be purged from the wilds as well. But your own father is right. Those exiles are nothing but swine. But we cannot eat them. We can only wash our hands of them.” He touched Clemnilshala’s clean shoulder. “You’ll want a holy bath to take its stink off of your hands. Don’t worry, it would have only put you in jeopardy as well.” He brushed his fingers in her hair and braided it down.
“I didn’t think he was capable of such crimes. Why would a person do that?”
“Because they hate the Weilvog. They all hate the Anghniel. And it could not be saved.”
Clemnilshala knew. She knew why but why?
Priestesses and their protege’s bathed Clemnilshala in oil. Blessing her with a night of sleep and five days of leisure.
In these days of leisure she made sure to clean her space in the stables. She swept down Valthran’s side of their stable as well. She couldn’t get the face of the exile from her mind’s eye. But to remember bad thing was to reject the Anghniel’s connection to its people.
On the first day she went to the markets where there were little children getting their ears cropped with glee. Fashionable shapes were left behind and many talked about how much they would not miss being slapped in the eye with their ears. Clemnilshala did not get her ears cropped. She didn’t understand why someone would do that. Getting the hair of the body removed was one thing, until it got cold at night and nothing could warm you. But cropping one’s ears would only allow seeds of grass to fly in.
On the second day she went to see the people of the town. Young fawns scampered around donning the cotton padding affixed to their ears and comparing with drawings what they would look like when they were healed. A child got glasses and with their dark hair and horns that reached for the sky; he looked so much like the stablehand she had not seen for a while.
The third evening there was a fire in Uluur, at the great gate where there stood the effigies of the Weilvog and the Anghniel. So many eynnil were attacking with long hollers and disjointed ugly songs. Weaponry from inside the city. Among them was the stable hand with yellowing scabs that fell from his arms like dust while he raised a pitch fork over his head to attack the guards with hatred filling his eyes. The corners of his mouth dragged to the sides and he showed his teeth, stopping before Clemnilshala. She stepped backward where a guard steadied her.
“Do not be frightened youngling” they said while their eyes glowed over the silvering stars of the sky and the reddening flames of the ground. “Why don’t you be my assistant. You’ll need your weaponry. I will hold off this scum while you go retrieve it.” They said.
In the firelight it was impossible to hide her facial expression, it was impossible to hide the thoughts that raced in her head as she bid herself over and over to think of the pig. It is like the pig. Valthran waited at the entrance to the trainee’s stables with Clemnilshala’s sword and shield. He had his training gear on. Practically, he thrust her weaponry.
Back at the gate the guard had another large, broad, exile pinned to the ground under his hoof. He took the two younglings to his side and began to teach with the tip of his ax. “Look at these markings.” They traced the shapes. Over the halfsun inside of which said this pig’s name.
“A thief. A liar. It took all that its peers had to offer when it lived here. And stole more. And what is this?” They moved their teaching instrument down a jagged and curved line. “They boastfully spoke of the death of the Vaniaal, unlearned in the Lanh it cannot have any gift of prophecy. It will have no gift from us any more.”
Clemnilshala looked up at the spattered lines and markings of the exiles that were flooding into the city. They did not fight with armor. They did not have weapons. Nothing about them glittered with valor or honor. The dark black markings in the light of the fires they’d set to this market, or residence, or what remained of this place, only breathed in the maddened chaos. She glanced around holding up her shield as guards and exiles swung wildly at one another. What strange dance was this.
Was this where her path would lead? Is this what the Vaniaal and all his wisdom and radiant prophecies saw for her? There was no time to question the Vaniaal. A female was stalking along the sidelines with a knife, creeping toward Senaar. Clemnilshala had seen it before. It used to be a priestess and took great care to clean and mend armor. Clemnilshala thrust herself into the fray of Senaar as they fought with their fists with another male. She intercepted the female and held up her shield as the female was moving its strike to hit a youngling. With a loud sound a crack formed in her shield. She forced her sword upward past her shield.
A mistake! Her sword was never unsheathed! The force of the female pushed her backward into Senaar’s leg. Her heart beat harder as Senaar strengthened their stance.
“Who’s there?” They called.
“It is me Senaar. This one was going for your armor!” She called back. She hardened her abdomen and with exhilaration she twisted her arm and then body to one side, dragging the larger, adult, female with her. Its blade snapped with a high pitched ring leaving it with a handle and a thin, long, dagger like shard jutting forth.
“Well done!” Senaar said as they threw the male they were fighting to the ground and stomped its back.
The female thrust again, Clemnilshala blocked it once more, swinging her sheathed sword into the female’s side like a mace. There was an audible crack and the female fell to the ground. Its crown of four horns clattering on the street. It hissed out as it held its side. Clemnilshala’s heart beat harder. The markings on the woman’s arms boring into her mind that flooded with strange joy. She was in battle. And she was helping Senaar win against these wicked pigs! This was what the Vaniaal saw for her! This was what it was. She mimicked the stomps the guards were using before a bellowing horn and ugly broken song rang throughout the exile raid.
They picked up their own, their wounded, their dead, while the warriors and the guardians began to step back. The warriors commanded one another to get the mounting beasts, hitch them, and get ready to follow the exiles to their colony. Clemnilshala started to move with the crowd of guards, everything glittering with red and gold. Senaar stopped her.
“No. You will stay here and put out fires with your father and I” they took ahold of her shoulder and offered a smile. “You are not ready for what lies inside of colonies. I do not want to hurt your heart.”
One thought on “The Weilvog, the Anghniel, the People, and the Exiles”
Intense chapter! This one really takes some of the elements of what we’ve seen hints of until now and brings them to further fruition of what happens with an exile. Its additionally heartbreaking to see our Clem smitten with the stable-hand and to have them undergo a drastic change with this key event. It really makes one wonder about who is and who isn’t a believer in this culture. I also liked your depiction of the combat here. It reads very clearly and demonstrates the overall coordination of the scene without having us locked within one character’s POV. Its appreciated since there are a lot of details that are present and worth witnessing from our POV vs a singular character. Your last quote at the bottom has me curious about this next chapter