Chronicles of Norallen (storyline)/The Road to Fjelltoppen Fastness (vignette)

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The Road to Fjelltoppen Fastness

Her hand was on the door when the knock came. Stepping back quietly, she paused for a moment before opening the door. After all, she didn’t want to seem too eager for news. Beyond the threshold, the Lorekeeper of the T’Kirem loomed large in the dark hallway and, without invitation, stepped in. Those with her remained at a respectable distance and in the hallway.
“I’m Lyudmila,” she said by way of introduction; an easy smile brightened her wizened eyes.
Elidrianne accepted the hand with a smile.
“It is an honor to meet you, Lorekeeper,” she replied with ease. “I am sure you have heard already, but my name is Elidrianne Thystledowne.”
Their handshake was brief, allowing each woman to quickly get the measure of the other. Once done, the giantess folded her hands behind her back, the pleats of her arisaid shifting at the waist though the pin at her neck kept the length from slipping from her shoulders. She eyed the human, who was rather tall for her species, though not nearly as tall as she was, and nodded to her.
“I have heard you are looking for Hrondejar. Many have come to me, asking if I can aid you in your search, and as luck would have it, I can.”
Elidrianne grinned, the tension in her muscles easing a bit.
“Thank you, Lorekeeper,” she said with almost a sigh as her response. “If you can point me in the right direction, I will quickly be out of your way.”
Lydumila chuckled. Deep, rich, and warm, the sound filled the room, and, despite herself, Elidrianne found herself grinning.
“Not so fast, human of the lowlands,” Lydumila began to walk in a slow circle around the smaller woman. “You have not come prepared enough for the trek ahead.” Glancing up at the door, she barked an order, and a younger giantwoman entered carrying a bundle of items.
“You will need warm clothing,” she said, lifting one garment at a time from the pile held by her helper. She began holding each piece up at various sections of Elidrianne’s body. When the younger woman started to protest, Lyudmila gave her a look that told her, in no uncertain terms, that her protestations were going to be ignored. “You are from the lowlands, and you do not know what mountain life is like, and I will not have your ilk coming up here saying that I have sent you ill-prepared to traverse the mountain.”
One by one, the garments were gone through and held up to Eldrianne and, if found acceptable, tossed onto the bed. A thick set of leggings, some fleece-lined trousers oiled for the weather, two heavy sweaters, several undershirts, and a parka lay on the bed when the giantess started to toss thick woolen socks with it.
“I couldn’t possibly, Lorekeeper. I simply don’t have the money to pay for these items.”
Ignoring her comment, the lorekeeper tossed two pairs of boots upon the floor. “Try these,” she said. “If I have judged correctly, they should both fit. As for payment...”
She eyed the human, who appeared to be familiar with the nuances of military life, as she instantly sat down at the order and started to try on the boots despite actively arguing that she did not need the clothing. This simple action made the giantess smile.
“You are already paid in full. The tales you bartered at the Gathering were worth enough to cover all this,” she gestured at the bed. “Vrathos said that he knew they were worth more when he traded you the arisaid.”
Eldrianne smiled as she stamped her second food into the boot.
“In all fairness, they are not my tales but my brother's.”
Lyudmila held up her hand.
“You did the telling, you asked the questions, you brought everyone to thought. Do not short yourself the contribution you have provided.”
Chastened, the smaller woman nodded and stood.
“They are a touch loose.”
“Good,” came the swift reply. “When you are up on the mountain, you will change your socks the moment you feel a chill in them. You will do this because it means they are wet and can cause damage to your toes. You may be tempted to not ignore this advice as you will feel warm enough from the walking, and your limbs will have the blood flowing in them, but you will do it anyway. There is death in the biting cold if you do not listen to these signs.” Before the smaller woman could reply, she continued.
“You will also void as often as the urge arises. You may ask why, but I will simply tell you. The body tries to keep the urine warm and will take the heat from your limbs first to accomplish that task. It is best that you get rid of it. The temporary cold to your behind will outweigh the continued warmth of your limbs, fingers, and toes.”
Blinking slightly, Eldrianne nodded.
“Each night, of which there will be two, you will completely strip in the shelter and change everything. Every item of clothing is to be changed. You will immediately put on the second set. When the fire is built up high, and trust me, the flames of it will be high, and you will hang the clothing nearby. It will dry completely despite the cold around you. You will then use the warm, dry clothing as part of your bedding.”
“On your way out, you will be handed rations and a bedroll.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Eldrianne responded.
Glancing up, Lyudmila only smiled.
“There is nothing to say. We will not allow a desert-borne to suffer unnecessarily in the snow. It is not our way.”
Turning towards the door, Lyudmila continued.
“You will eat everything offered to you, and if you are still hungry, you will ask for more. Those you travel with will expect you to ask if you are hungry. Do not be humble.”
“Travel with?” the other woman inquired as she moved with her towards the door.
“Yes, I have arranged for two of my Wsalmir cousins to travel with you and a lass from the Vaikarama Clan who is heading toward the peak after stopping at Fjelltoppen Fastness."
"You have a lot of cousins," Eldrianne said slowly.
"You will find that we consider all of our blood family," the lorekeeper replied with a smile.
"Thank you, Lorekeeper. I don't know what to say."
"You have said this twice now," the other woman reminded her with a smile. "But there is nothing to say. We of the kindred understand what kin means. I hope you find your brother."
With that, the lorekeeper departed, leaving Eldrianne to pack her new items.