It nice to reminiscence where you come from compared to where you are. I know I didn’t come from a lowly place and rose to where I am now. I wasn’t a born leader with all skill and talent. I earned it all. And many don’t find it interesting because I was born into the Brotherhood. Most of every Sheldmartin male has served. It’s what we do. However, it does make me wonder if they struggled. What horrors did they see? Did they find the best and the worst of elves? Did they fight their own weakness to help build their strength? Were they willing to do the impossible, and if so, what was that impossible? Or were they like me, had to deal with a few more impossible than necessary.
Mien slept poorly. Oeric’s words about Kellas having a drive to end people’s lives disturbed him. He knew killing someone was easy. The body was only protected by a thin layer of skin. It could be easily punctured and cut. And one didn’t have to damage the skin to kill someone. Poison, stagnation, suffocation, starvation, and dehydration could be used to kill someone as well. He himself nearly strangled his cousin. He knew what he was doing, but, he didn’t. Mien was so focused on his own suffering that he didn’t think beyond it. It all dawned on him after he was dragged away and arrested. And then it all scared him. It made him wonder how Kellas wasn’t afraid and was his motivation just a twisted sense of justice. To punish someone regardless of the truth and who was involved.
He shifted uncomfortably on his sleeping mat and noted that Doran was awake. The scant moonlight highlighted his body that was sitting upright. Mien, didn’t disturb him and continued to listen for footsteps. Then, he heard a creak. A simple bend and snap of the wooden floor. It could have been a footstep, or it could have been settling. Mien didn’t know and his heart hammered his chest. Then everyone else stopped breathing to listen as well. There were no more sounds. No one opening the door to their room. It was just the dorms settling. They all exhaled at the same time.
Soletus then whispered. “You fellows need to sleep.”
“So do you,” returned Tyrus.
“I’ve not slept at night for weeks. What’s your excuse,” retorted Soletus.
“It’s your Pa’s fault. He had to go mention that normal elves don’t kill a gorge full of elves and act like nothing happened. Then I just started thinking about it. Kellas is an outright monster if it’s all true,” he said.
“It is disturbing,” agreed Mien.
“That’s not why I can’t sleep,” stated Doran. “I was just thinking that I should turn in my sash.”
“Why would you do that,” asked Mien.
“I’ve acted unbecoming of a Fenndish monk. Besides, I’m not good at it anyway,” he explained.
Soletus snorted. “Giving up is beneath you. Not good with a staff, then work with a bow, be a scout.”
“I expect you of all people would want me gone,” stated Doran, surprised.
“Wanting you out of my sight and doesn’t mean I want you to just give up.”
Doran shifted and laid back down. “I can’t see the path in front of me anymore. It’s just shrouded. Isn’t it for you too?”
“It is,” admitted Soletus. “I’m taking a leave once this is all over, to think. Maybe you should do the same.”
Mien could hear that off sounding note in his voice. That muddled sound when people weren’t okay. He sounded like himself when they saved Vlory, but now, he sounded much like he did on the road. He needed to heal and maybe with the situation with Kellas resolved, maybe he could.
When morning arrived, they were all groggy. They had to get through that day and then the hearing would be held the next day. And as a sort of reprieve, Oeric had them join the daily routine monetary routine. They joined morning prayers, had breakfast in the messhall, and then went to the training fields. Nimbus joined them because he wanted to see Mien’s shield and how strong it was. He was impressed. Soletus spared warders, which helped his mood along with Tyrus. Doran requested to go to the archery field. And he stood there just firing arrows and talking to others.
When afternoon arrived, Mien’s lack of sleep caught up to him as well as everyone else. They all ended up under a tree napping. Even Soletus fell asleep. They all woke up before him because he was clearly exhausted. Under the sun, it was clear how pasty he grown and the dark rings around his eyes was becoming a permanent feature. Mien with the help of Doran and Tyrus, kept everyone away from disturbing him. They even shushed Oeric, who come over there to get them to finish out the day with a little more training.
What woke Soletus up was clearly a nightmare. He started making incoherent sounds and breathing erratically. Mien only managed a quick shake before he snapped his eyes open. Pupils large and full of fear. It wasn’t like his drass beast’s dreams because he wasn’t in pain. However, he didn’t eat that night. Though, he immediately fell asleep that evening while Tyrus shined their boots because he wanted to make sure they all had a mirror like surface.
When morning came, they ate then dressed for the hearing. Mien stood in front of a provided mirror trying to get the cowl he had to wear sit right on his shoulders. It was the same pale yellow as he always wore, but this time with blue stripes running along the edge of the hood. He did like the blue jacket. Soletus, Tyrus, and Doran smoothed out their brown jackets and made sure their sashes were all tied appropriately. Then, one by one, they put on their black gloves.
“Too fancy,” muttered Tyrus as he worked on his cuffs. He cleaned up just as nice as the rest of them. He looked like a typical Brotherhood elf. His hair was in a low braided que he wore along with Doran. Mien had little choice in hair styles. He was told to forgo cutting it until he saw the arbiter. He did so begrudgingly, even though it covered his neck. It was too short to look good tied up. So, he combed and slicked it back instead of pushing his forelocks to the side as he normally would. It was more formal and matured his face. His reflection looking back at him reminded him of his guide.
Through the mirror, he saw Soletus tugging at his gloves and then flicked his hair back over his shoulders. He could see Kiao did, at some point, trimmed his ends. He wondered if Soletus left his hair sloppy on a daily basis so not to look prissy. However, he threw it all away then and brushed it to its corn silk sheen that Kiao liked. The only change in the visual texture of his hair was the fact he wore a single thin braid going down the right side of his head. It was woven with a beaded leather string that had a martin feather on the end.
He had to agree with Lyndon’s assessment of calling him a boy-man. Yet that outward appearance was deceiving. He was still young. They all were. Maybe his mother was right. What they were doing was meant for men.
Soletus finished and looked in his direction. Mien focused on himself again. His friend the join his side and so he could adjust the high collar of his shirt properly.
“All this makes me look like Papa,” he commented.
“Is that a bad thing,” asked Mien. He could see it now since he mentioned it.
“Yeah, because one day, someone is going to think we’re brothers.”
There was a tap at the door and they all shouted for them to come in. Oeric stepped in his dress uniform as well. The only difference between them was his jacket had silver buttons and the sash around his waist was fringed. The one thing unusual was the fact he was wearing jewelry. Most wardens didn’t. There wasn’t a great deal of opportunity for it. However, like most wardens, it was minimal. He wore his marriage pendant, as well as a series of individual braided ear cuffs that went up his right ear. Each one representing a child with a stone representing the moon they were born under. He, of course, had his hair down with a single thin braid on the right side of his head. At the end hung a single feather that was black with gray edges. It was a pintail feather.
He walked around them, checking their boots and uniforms. Of course, he stopped at Soletus and leaned to see his back.
“Do you have a problem with the length of it,” said Soletus.
The first warden stepped back. “You wear it well.”
The compliment lifted Soletus’ face a little. Oeric then took his braid in his hand and attached the same feather he wore at the end. He then produced three more and handed them out. Mien held it in his palm, realizing it was made into a pin to stick on his uniform.
“It’s for Lyndon, “said Oeric. “His mother made them.”
They put them on and Oeric led them to the head’s room.
The only the Arch Monk and the Patriarch at there. The Arch Priest’s seat was empty. The Patriarch was in his chair in the middle cleaning his glasses while the Arch Monk watched them all with a critical gaze, inspecting them all one by one. Mien was certain he was looking at their feathers.
Eight chairs had been brought, as well as a podium. Icus stood behind the podium, straightening up papers. Four of the chairs were empty and the others were occupied with Kellas Cole, Pace, and Roy. At least there was a six-foot gap between them.
Soletus took the seat that was right across from Kellas. He sat with his head high and his attention forward. Mien situated himself beside him and attempted to mirror him. However, his efforts were thwarted by the ringing in his ears returning. He pushed a finger in his left ear as it was making him uncomfortable. Tyrus gave Kellas and the others a dirty stare before doing the same. Doran looked at the floor before looking forward as well. Mien spied Captain Mallard off to the side. She stood against the wall with a host of soldiers waiting for the outcome.
The door to the room opened again. Brother Hickory walked in followed by Master Tyr, Brother Nimbus, and a great deal of peaceguards in their wake. In fact, there were at least ten there. Four of them by the door. The other six positioned themselves, with three behind them and three behind Kellas and his men.
The last person to walk in was Brother Farley with a book and an inkwell. He sat at a little desk off to the side that Mien didn’t notice at first. He opened the book and ink well. And became poised, ready to write.
The Arch Monk then stated. “I trust that Farley will set the date. I don’t think it’s necessary to go through every formality. I want to get through this as soon as possible. I’ve a long day ahead of me and Captain Mallard has waited long enough.” He glared at the row of them and spoke with disappointment so heavy in his voice that Mien had to look away. “Never in my life have I been presented with a case where there are multiple counts of serious misconduct and acts unbecoming of a warden.”
Mien wasn’t sure who he was talking to either as he managed to look at all of them.
“Enforcer Icus has investigated a series of terrible events and come to a conclusion I accept. I will go in order starting with the death of Junior Warden Lyndon’Pintail. I find First Warden Kellas’Rook directly responsible by recklessly endangering his band.”
Mien felt Soletus beside him jolt a little. They expected that, but it was nice to hear it. He tried not to look at Kellas and the others. However, he heard nothing over there.
“From there we go to trespassing and the mass murder that happened in the Firerock Gorge. And I find once again First Warden Kellas’Rook as well as ScoutWarden Cole’Redtail, Warden Pace’Gander, and Warden Roy’Teal are guilty of actions unbecoming of a warden of this order.”
This time Mien glanced over and saw them all remaining oddly straight faced. Heads unbowed.
“And of course, I come down to the acts here on the grounds:. Cole’Redtail, Pace’Gander, Roy’Teal, you are guilty of the murder of Second Warden Valhart’Titmouse. Do you four have anything to say about your actions?”
There was no shame on their faces, as well as no surprise. The first one who showed some reaction to it was Kellas and that was because he spoke.
“Sir,” he said, his face unreadable. “Where are you getting the evidence for these charges from?”
The Arch Monk gestured to Icus to speak.
The enforcer stepped forward and spoke. “Facts and evidence. Fact, a group of individuals from our order trespassed into the Firerock Gorge and took it upon themselves to punish peaceguards who committed a punishable crime and ran. Not only did they find the wayward men, but brutally killed them and then slaughtered the denizens of the gorge. Some were crushed in a rockslide created by an explosion. That killed most of them, then others were picked off like animals on a hunt. The arrows had our order fletching on them. A few appeared to be mauled by a bear. The clearest piece of evidence was a bloodied hunting knife belonging to Senior Junior Warden Soletus’Sheldmartin.”
“That doesn’t sound like my men, and I were responsible,” said Kellas.
“On the surface it doesn’t and along with the statements you wrote, it makes sense. One could make a quick judgment. That’s what you isn’t it?”
Kellas didn’t respond to the bait. Icus went on.
“I’m not like that and I delve deeper and found strong evidence that you and your men lied.”
“Why weren’t we even informed of this evidence before,” asked Kellas, displaying no sign of outrage or offense at being accused of lying. In fact, his calmness unnerved Mien. “We could prove we weren’t lying.”
The Arch Monk presented the bloodied knife. “This was the knife buried in the chest of one of the peaceguards.”
Kellas quirked a single eyebrow before it drew together with the other and became genuinely stunned.
“Junior Waden Doran’Shrike was pressured into retrieving the knife from the late Second Warden Valhart’Titmouse where he had plans to use it. How, we will never know. I assume it was going to be used to kill Acolyte Mientheoderic’Cyan. The late Brother Elnos paid him to do so. However, he struck the acolyte here with a rock and it appeared to have done what he wanted. So, he probably needed to dispose of this.”
“That’s hardly proof,” said Kellas. “It’s conjecture at best.”
“Not really when paired with other evidence,” said Icus. “Elnos was guilty of being a voyeur and was in denial. He blamed his victim for his behavior and was not suicidal. In fact, Elnos didn’t jump from the belfray. He fell. Though the evidence was small, but there was a single button from a first warden jerkin.”
Mien stared at Kellas hoping for some kind of reaction or admission. There was no remorse there.
“Past behavior First Warded Kellas. Who was it that purposely pursed a man right in the maw of a drass beast? Then just stood and watched until he was dead. Then killed the drass beast? You walked away as if you did nothing wrong.”
“So, you’re bias,” accused Kellas calmly. “You were there and reported me. Sounds like you’re fishing, for what justice for dirty deviant of an old man.”
“Notice how I didn’t accuse you of it. But one of your jerkins is missing a button. And you seem very judgmental about Elnos. Which supports my finding even more.”
Kellas met Mien’s gaze for a moment. The corner of his mouth went up and then dropped as he looked forward at Icus who continued.
“I was confused for a while. Then the lads came home and told a vastly different story and one shared at with what Captain Mallard witness with her own eyes. And the only way to get to the truth was allowing Brother Hickory to use the phrase of truth on Senior Junior Warden Soletus’Sheldmartin.”
Kellas swayed his head. “You are failing to convince me you are unbiased. Normally, Brother Hickory performs his skill on both parties in dispute. Not only that, but you also kept my men and I in the dark. You locked us away a few days ago only telling us to prepare for judgment. We should have prepared for a defense.”
Icus clasped his hands behind his back. “I was trying to contain you. Your entire living band only knew what they needed to. You and those who are loyal to you happened to need to know the least.”
“Icus, you use that stone like visage to his that burning desire on taking vengeance on me. It’s clear you worked your way becoming the enforcer just to punish me for something I’ve already been punished for.”
Icus blinked at him. “I don’t trust you. I have a strong suspicion that Brother Hickory used his edict phrase on you, it wouldn’t work. You believe your own truth as Elnos believe his. Besides, I have proof you lied.”
A wry smile crossed Kellas’s face. “Where is this confirmation of where me and my men have lied?”
“The time frame.”
At that, Mien looked at the others and they looked just as baffled and intrigued as he felt. He then looked off to the side where Oeric stood. The man wore a slight smile on his face.
“It’s the little details that get you in the end,” explained the enforcer. ”According to your statement, you went to the site of the attack on the merchant across the river. Crossings isn’t that far from that location. In fact, it’s less than a day. You claimed to have spent the night there and then came back.
“Master Tyr had a chat with the towns’ folk to establish a time line. They spoke about the heavy rain that washed out their bridge. A number of witnesses stated you left days before it happened. If you didn’t pursue these young men and came back the following day, you should’ve crossed that bridge with no problem.”
Kellas didn’t so much as blink.
“If you count the days, it makes no sense why you took so long to return. If you read the statements written by this group of young men, theirs make sense why it took them so long. Did something else happened you’re not telling us?”
The first warden said nothing. Icus went on.
“Perhaps you thought no one would care about what happened in the gorge. That no one would be alive or would be too frightened to tell. Maybe you thought these young men were traumatized enough that they would be too scared to return. Either way, you weren’t counting on this knife and Captain Mallard over there. Do you know why she is here?”
Kellas glanced in her direction. “To arrest someone?”
“Indeed. Do you know why?”
“Because there was a mass murder. But when has the Seat cared about the wretches of the world,” said Kellas darkly.
“There were two non-wretches in the gorge, Kellas,” spoke the Arch Monk.
Icus explained. “Captain Mallard is in charge of a special operations unit. She runs a spy network. She had two of her warrant officers spying in the gorge. They were trying to capture a trafficker. She was stationed at the nearby fort when she received reports of explosions. Her scouts saw smoke in the distance towards the gorge. She sent in a messenger to her spies to see if everything was alright, instead they got news of their demise. One of her men was mauled to death by a bear, the other was shot in the back in the woods some distance away. He was clearly trying to flee. She had been very insistent that I hand over the wardens who murdered her men. The Seat wants justice, and we have to oblige.”
“You don’t,” said Kellas. “You have the right to intervene. To find us guilty of our sins and we submit ourselves to a penitence.”
With that, Cole, Pace, and Roy agreed with a nod all saying they they had sinned and wanted penitence.
The corners of Arch Monk’s mouth dragged down with the weight of disapproval. “And I choose not to exercise that right. You knowingly acted against the rules of this order, broken your vows, and expected me to show mercy.”
Kellas’s expression darkened. “I acted for the sake of this order. The Brotherhood deals with their own and the Seat supports us in this right. I dealt with those Peaceguards.”
The Arch Monk’s voice came down on him like a hammer. “They were outside of our province. With permission from the Seat, I would have allowed you to pursue. However, you took it upon yourself to do that and deal out what, justice? You should’ve brought them back here. More importantly, you didn’t need to kill an entire gorge of people to do that.”
Kellas then said impassionedly, “The gorge, it needed to be cleansed of the sin our order committed in there. Those peaceguards taught them our ways for wrongdoing. Our training is to be used to help the people. And we should protect that. I am sorry about the spies. They were just unfortunate casualties. As for Valhart, he too was a sinner. He was unworthy given what he had done for Elnos. I found that out after we come home and dealt with both those problems. We can’t have such people in our order.”
Mien felt his stomach twist. The first time he met Kellas, he didn’t like him. He couldn’t put it in words. There were no words to describe the voice of the person he was listening to to. A sense of wrongness also cascaded over him. He didn’t know if it was the ringing or what, but something wasn’t right.
He caught movement and saw Brother Hickory edging closer to them. He stopped, looked puzzled, and turned his ear towards them, and kept going until he was a few feet behind the peaceguard that was behind Kellas.
“In fact, Lyndon’s death was the only one I’m not responsible for. That was Soletus’ incompetence. In fact, he should be thanking me for avenging the death of his cousin. Something he was too weak to do.”
Mien automatically reached out for Soletus’s arm as he shifted in his chair. His jaws were tight along with his entire body. He didn’t have to speak for Mien to feel the brewing storm inside him. The Arch Monk however, spoke with a storm in his voice.
“Kellas, I have stood by you, tried to make you see the truth. Dias tells us not to be arbiter and executioner! You’ve not learned a thing. You’ve gone too far.”
“I went farther because you’re too weak,” he returned. “You needed to be shown that you and this order are weak men.”
The Patriarch pushed his glasses on his face and said in a low but firm voice. “Enough! I heard enough. I won’t you gone. We won’t shield you from the Seat’s wrath.”
Kellas then tried again, “The rules state—”
“I am very familiar with the rules,” said Lord Kharis. “And I’m not going to debate them. You are stripped of your rank and removed from the Dias Brotherhood. You are no longer welcome in our order or on its grounds. You are to turn in your sash and turn yourself into Captain Mallard. She would like to have words with you.”
“No,” said Kellas, standing and pulled out something silver and round from his pocket. It was about the size of a small egg. It wasn’t solid as far as Mien could see through the intricate lacing, but it held something inside it. He couldn’t see what it was, but it was the source of the ringing as it had gotten louder the moment, he took it out. And then an aged hand snatched his wrist.
“Drop it,” ordered Brother Hickory.
Kellas’ face twitched as his hand struggled to grip the object. The peaceguard beside Hickory plucked it from his hands.
“Be careful with that,” said Hickory, his teal eyes shifted to a hot bright blue.
The peaceguard gulped and stepped away just as Cole launched himself from his seat and tackled the guard to the ground. The object flew and landed on the floor with a hard thud. It clicked and released a cacophony of jagged sounds. They slammed into Mien’s ears. He slapped his hands over his ears and fell out of his chair.
Through the tears that welted in his eyes, he could see the device. It had rolled to the edge of the rise where the head’s chairs were. He tried to crawl toward is but couldn’t reach it. The dissonance coming from it was maddening. It was so bad, everyone in the room was affected by it. Everyone was struggling to stand and falling to their knees.
The struggle that was Kellas, Hickory, the peaceguard, and Cole had gone to the floor, with each of them having trouble fighting. Brother Hickory couldn’t keep hold of Kellas and was curled on the floor with his fingers in his ears. Kellas was trying to untangle himself from him and was crawling away. Soletus was on his hands and knees and grabbed Kellas by his left ankle. Pace and Roy started kicking him to let go as they were trying to help Kellas to his feet. Doran crawled around and threw himself at Cole’s back and wrapped his arms around his neck and wrestled him back down. Oeric who had been standing, stumbled, trying to make his way to the device and ended up getting down to his knees stuffing his fingers in his ears.
The sound was now affecting Mien’s inner ear and all he felt was vertigo. He glared at the device and uttered out the phrase of silence at it. Nothing happened.
Then Tyrus came into view crawling towards the device with determination. When he was within arm’s reach of it, he raised his fist and slammed down on it. He struck it again and again, growling at it. The sound from it waiver a little, but he needed a hammer to stop it.
It was then the air by the object shimmered and a bear manifested itself into existence. Khodi snatched the device in his jaws and crunched it. The noise from it flickered and then it started up again, this time a nerve wracking squeal. It was comparative to fingernails on slate. Khodi chomped it again. The squealing stopped. It chimed once before it went silent. The bear spit it out.
The consort then turned to help his summoner. His first swipe pulled Roy off of Soletus. The second swipe, batted Pace away. Kellas was upright for a second before and Khodi pulled him down by the back of his sash and rolled him so he could plant a paw on his chest. The bear roared in his face.
Soletus stood to his feet and leaned against the backrest of the closest chair while all the peaceguards took hold of those loyal to Kellas.
“What are you waiting for,” taunted Kellas. “You said that you would kill me if I ordered you again. Well, I’m ordering you to do it!”
Soletus’s eyes narrowed, and Khodi adjusted himself so his jaws engulfed Kellas’s neck, but he didn’t bite down. Mien heard the sounds of unsheathing swords and saw that the soldiers had recovered themselves but didn’t appear to know what to do.
Mien stood up and shouted. “Soletus stop!”
The young man looked coolly at him. “This man is a monster. I kill monsters.”
“But can you become worse than him,” said Mien.
“Come on, I can feel his teeth. “Or are you too much of a neth coward to do what you believe,” said Kellas.
“Soletus,” said Oeric, walking behind his son and wrapped an arm across his chest. “It won’t bring him back or stop your pain. Call Khodi off.”
“He deserves to die,” rasped Soletus.
“I wanted to send a knife in his black heart long ago, but that’s not our way. Dias will see to his punishment. However, the families of those he killed deserve answers. Do you want to take that chance away like he did you?”
Mien reached for his forearm and held it. “Please, you don’t want to walk down this path, my friend.”
Kellas then rasped out a laugh. “He’s not listening. I feel teeth–”
Soletus closed his eyes. “Banish,” he cried. Khodi broke apart into sparks. Kellas then scrambled with a hand, going into his jacket pocket. Oeric shifted in mid stride and threw himself at Kellas. He snapped his around his arm and used his momentum to spin Kellas back to the floor. He stood on top of him with all four legs. His front paw holding his head down.
“Get ready to take him so I can move off him,” he snarled to the soldiers.
“Do as he says,” order Mallard.
The soldiers hesitated.
“Just do it already” she screamed with her sword in hand and glared at Oeric.
The soldiers hurried over there, giving him wary looks. When they had hands on Kellas, Oeric left and trotted over to his son’s side. The young monk dropped to his knees and buried his face in his fur.
Mien kept an eye on all of them. The peaceguards searched Kellas pockets and the others. Another device was taken from him.
“And this is why I greatly dislike dealing Brotherhood,” muttered Mallard and shouted to her men. “Take them out of here. We’re moving out immediately. We stayed here long enough.” She lingered and said to the Arch Monk, looking at Soletus and Oeric. “You are harboring some dangerous men here.”
Icus then said. “These men are trained to stop threats with a consort if they can. And an angry elf with a sword is just dangerous as an elf with a consort that can and will engage in combat.”
Captain Mallard sheathed her sword. “Very well. I didn’t see anything then. For the record, the Brotherhood handed me who I wanted with little fuss.” She then turned to Icus. “I’ll send you a message in a few days. Keep your boys. I have no use for them.”
With that, she strolled out with the rest of her soldiers trailing her.
“I believe a break is in order,” said the Patriarch, as pulled himself upright in his chair and then leaned to the side. He massaged his forehead and then gestured to the floor. “Also, what was that?”
Hickory picked it up. He looked pale and disheveled. “Old kanu technology. Likely a device to render a person and even chanters unable to move with sound. I could research and see what it could be.”
“I could feel it,” said Mien and he plopped himself down in a chair. The world still spun. “Days ago, I felt it. Why are all kanu devices so noisy?”
“I felt it too, I but didn’t know what it was,” he said and pointed to the floor. “Lie down, you look as if you’re going to be sick.”
Mien stretched out on the floor. Soon, several chanter priests arrived, wondering what they heard. They were sent to get water and help a few of the peaceguards to the infirmary. Mien wanted to go as well, however, Kiao came to them. He really wanted to lay his head in her lap. However, he sufficed with a folded blanket under his head and a cool cloth across his eyes. Oeric was seated beside him back as an elf with an arm around his son. Tyrus and Doran both lay on the other side of them.
The young chanter spoke when no one was paying attention to them. “I wish I could’ve stopped it,” he said.
“Why couldn’t you silence it,” asked Soletus.
“It’s an object. Apparently, I can’t silence those,” he answered.
Doran then asked. “How was Tyrus able to hit it?”
Mien shrugged. “If I had to guess it because he’s a half-elf. Humans are magic resistant.”
Tyrus chuckled. “It still hurt my ears though. I just didn’t feel crippled.”
“I still feel crippled,” moaned Mien.
The Arch Monk then sat down in one of chairs near them. “That racket has given me a terrible headache,” he said.
Kiao said from his side. “If you like, I can get you something for that.”
The Arch Monk held his palm forward. “I’ll have it later. Right now, I think I need to speak to these four young men. When you arrived home, I wasn’t prepared for you and Captain Mallard to arrive on the same day. She was demanding that I release who caused the carnage in the gorge with damning evidence. Then you four showed up and we had to figure out something to hold her at bay and keep Kellas from running until he was in a position where we could make sure he wouldn’t easily run. So, I apologize for the deception of make you seem guilty.”
Mien looked up at his bandmates. They all looked too tired to be insulted by their treatment. Soletus then spoke.
“It’s okay,” he said. He looked tired and unrelieved.
“I understand a great deal why you broke away from First Warden Kellas and tried to make it back on you own,” continued the Arch Monk. “However, I find it disturbing how this all escalated. There needs to be reexamining of the rules when it comes to junior wardens and the ability to leave bands when they are clearly under the wrong first warden. And I suppose it needs the masters need to be clearer about what junior wardens need to do when their first and second wardens commit an act that goes against our rules. The enforcer and I will work on it.”
Even at that news Soletus didn’t perk up. He didn’t look as if he were even there.
“And as for you, Grandson, what was that,” he snapped.
That was what Soletus was waiting for. His face ticked. “I don’t know. I was angry.”
“And your anger nearly made you became a murderer,” snapped the Arch Monk. “I expect you to have self-control. No, you’re just like your father. Touched by some craziness.”
Oeric snapped his attention to him looking sharp but the Patriarch spoke faster.
“Solgard,” he said, his voice came down like a gavel strike. “Sometimes you can be completely obtuse. Your grandson has had the absolute worst thing happen to him.”
“I know what it’s like to have someone die in your arms, Kharis,” he snapped. “I didn’t go out and kill those who killed my wife.”
“But she wasn’t your first death. By the time that happened you had the experience and the resilience for it not to leave you raw. Not to mention, all of them lacked a first warden to help them work through something like that. And this is on top of leadership responsibilities falling on him. Then they have to deal with a husk and figure out a way to aid a chanter about to die a very horrid death. And you get on him for threatening the person responsible for that. You should commend him for the self-control for not acting on it sooner and stopping.”
“Kharis, you aren’t a monk,” said the Arch Monk, and the young man’s green eyes sharpened like a hawk. “Don’t give me that look. You don’t fully understand what is and isn’t expected of our monks. This is not a good sign.”
“What I expect is my monks not to commit mass murder,” he shouted, becoming the lord he was and stood tall. “What I expect is not to wake up and find dead on these grounds and in my town! What I expect is for warders and junior warden to not be afraid to speak out against being treated poorly by their first and second and then told to just tough it out. Until what, they switch with a ill-feelings towards authority? Distrust kills men. This situation could’ve been avoided if Soletus wasn’t kept in Kellas’ band at all!”
Soletus swayed his head. “I wouldn’t go as far to say that. Lyndon would’ve died if I wasn’t so afraid of being called out.”
“And that’s another thing. You shouldn’t be afraid in the first place,” exasperated the Patriarch and then he lowered himself. “And there you go. Speaking the heart of your sadness and anger.”
The young monk bowed his head down. And was trying to hold back tears.
“You know Lord Kharis, you have the heart of a priest,” said Brother Hickory. “Solgard, his actions are uncharacteristic, but he isn’t touched by madness and neither is you’re son. His acting like that makes it very clear this young man is ragged.”
“I’m fine,” exclaimed Soletus scooping out tears from his eyes.
“No you’re not,” said Tyrus. “I’ve watched you not be fine since Lyndon was shot. Admit your hurt and quit trying to hurt everyone else became of it.”
Mien readied himself to hold back Soletus instead, the young monk lost his battle. And his shoulders started shaking. He folded and started sounding like he did that first night.
Oeric patted him on the back. “Come on, you need some quiet. We can go to the infirmary. Kiao I’m sure will help you there.”
Soletus shook his head and sobbed out, “No, can I…can I just go home?”
“We can do that,” said Oeric trying to straighten him up. Soletus moved, but instead of getting up, he grabbed hold of his father, clinging to him. Oeric tensed for a moment and then held him. “Shhh, come on. You can do this to your mother, and we need to walk to be able to do that.”
Soletus gripped the back of his uniform.
“Or we can do this.”
Kiao then appeared and whispered softly to Soletus. Mien felt her use the phrase of peace and he thought it wouldn’t work on him. However, it did Both Kiao and Oeric then pulled him up and led him away.
The Arch Monk cleared his throat then started massaging his forehead. “Well there is more. Things that have to do with. Junior Warden Doran’Shrike.”
Doran bowed his head and unwound the sash around his waist. He scooted over on his kneed and sat in front the Arch Monk. He held it out for him to take. “I think it’s fair for me to turn in my sash. I am unworthy as a monk. I’ve not acted responsibly according to the rules of the order and as well as Dias. Not just for this instance but for my past actions.”
The Arch Monk pushed his hands back. “I don’t accept. You’ve showed humility when four adults failed to do so today. However, some sort of penitence is necessary in your case. We well talk about it later.”
Icus then said. “There is one more thing here before we forget. Some praise in is order of the Acolyte here. It’s very rare that we have a noble in our midst who has taken to our teachings. He should be commended.”
“Excuse me,” said Mien searching his face.
“Bravery is a strong trait of yours,” said Icus. “Not to mention, you’ve a strong will and conviction as a chanter. A weak-willed chanter cannot kill a husk. In fact, your peers made it very clear you of all of them didn’t deserve any sort of punishment.”
Mien looked at Tyrus and Doran stunned.
Tyrus then explained, “We decided on the road that since you were going in front of the Arbiter, this shouldn’t effect that. If one of us had to be free, it was you.”
The Arch Monk cleared his throat. “Then I will call for an assembly tomorrow so everyone will know what he’s done. Farley, have you written all of this down?”
Mien forgotten about the elder priest and saw him still seated at the small desk. His hair was a little out of place and his robe ruffled. However, he dutifully was writing and nodded. “Every bit, Sir.”
“Good. I’m done here. I’m going to my chambers. My head can’t take anymore.”
With that the Arch Monk rose to his feet and left them.
Icus then stated. “I feel there is an apology in order on my part. I couldn’t proceed without minimizing risks. As the Arch Monk stated, we were both concerned that Kellas would flee. I wanted it to make it look like you were my primary focus and not him. However, that gave him time to kill Valhart before he could answer for his own actions. I’m sorry for that too.”
“You should apologize to Sol more than us,” said Tyrus. “He’s done nothing but suffer since Lyndon died.”
Icus looked at him. “It’s expected I suppose. Being neth affects his behavior. Something he needs to work on if he’s going to survive.”
“And he can survive, and he will thrive,” said Hickory. “This is just a moment in his life. An opportunity to learn and to grow. He just needs time.”
So, the reason I took so long with this is because I was editing this chapter ant the last chapter together. And I know this one is incredibly long. I tried to chop it down. It worked. Somewhat. There were a lot of small changes and a few big ones. I changed the ending of this chapter so it leads into the next one a little better. I made changed with Icus to make him less of a jerk. He still is, but not as much. However, like I needed him to lay out his finding like a good Sherlock Holmes. Not to mention Icus' motivations for wanting Kellas stopped. In fact, Oeric smiling in that scene is because he knew that Icus had him.
As for Kellas, I didn't want him to be a raving lunatic. In fact, he remained that serial killer calm. I feel I should add in something, if not shown what he was doing. However, this novel doesn't need to be any longer. Sheesh, this monster is already 200k+ words long. Anyway, I'm going to try to post the last two chapter this week And then I'm going to be finished and I'll decide on how I'm going to approach everything next.