It felt like an age passed before I was plucked off that tree. Then I was dumped in a tent and was allowed to rest for a heartbeat. I became a first warden. And first wardens aren’t allowed to rest, let alone mourn or recover from swallowing half the water in a deluge. There is this expectation of first warden to always be strong and relentless. And I didn’t feel like I was that. I wasn’t that. But I had a band of men, some workers, and displaced townsfolk to lead and sort out. wasn’t strong enough to lead a band of fourteen men. It felt like someone had beaten me with an ice block and stabbed me in the heart with a shard from it. None of the men truly cared for me. I was about to pass command when Tyr came to me and told me something that Talore used to like to say. “Put on your big boy boot and give them a good shine. They might not fit, but you can still make a good show.”
Accusing a priest of doing something unbecoming was unheard of. The priests didn’t do anything. They were always the calmest of all the residents in the monastery. They comprised the most disciplined men. And yet, Brother Elnos acted as he did. And by the next morning it appeared as if every priest knew what happened the previous evening. Kiao joined her brothers in the mess hall with all the other priests staring at her. She sat with her cloister of friends, and they did their best to ignore them.
“This is a nightmare,” muttered Kiao into her porridge.
“It’s unideal,” admitted Alder.
“It’s not just unideal,” hissed Kiao. “This, I don’t want this. I wanted my existence to not cause me issues or anyone else. The assembly is going to somehow blame me for all of this and get me kicked out.”
“You don’t know that,” returned Alder. “Besides, if they remove you, well, I’m leaving!”
“Don’t do that, Brother Oli needs help.”
“You know, he’ll just retire. This order needs you more than you need it,” he told her.
“True,” agreed Lionel.
Kiao knew that was true, but she didn’t know if the assembly realized it, or they were just going to use it as an excuse to act against her. She didn’t know, he hated not knowing, but she had support.
Brother Oli stopped her after she returned from breakfast asked about what happened. The more Kiao explained it to him, the redder her face became. His voice was a sudden summer storm.
“Has he lost his mind,” he muttered with disappointment mixed in with his anger.
“So what’s going to happen?”
“I don’t know, I’m going to talk to the Arch Priest. However, whatever the decision is, it’s best if you took yourself out of the infirmary for a bit.”
“Why,” she demanded. “It’ll look like I’m running.”
She wanted to stand her ground and prove that she couldn’t be scared off.
The elder priest shook his head. “Lad, you need a break.”
“No, I don’t!”
“Yes, you do,” he said firmly. “How many times did you lapse into that state yesterday?”
Kiao pursed her lips then stated in a small voice, “A couple times.”
“That’s what I thought. You need time to work on this. I’ll cover for you. Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling spry today and we can handle being chanter down for a week or two.”
“A week or two is too long,” she protested, and he raised her palm.
“Child, even Dias took a break in making the world and so shall you take a break in your duties. I think two weeks is all you need to gain control and for all of this to sort itself out.”
“Fine, I heed to your wisdom,” she said, but was at a loss of what she was going to do with herself. She didn’t want to stay in her room and hide. She couldn’t. If she was going to get control over gain acceptance of the bond and control of the channel, she needed to talk to Hickory. Maybe he could arrange for her to stay at Saffron’s. She left the infirmary and crossed the ground, passing by at least one of the assembly priests. They never stopped her but gave her a cordial wave. She waved back and continued on her way to the chapel. Maybe everything wasn’t about to collapse under her feet. If everything did, the chapel was the place to go.
The chapel served as a personal sanctuary for her and for Mien when needed. Brother Hickory’s small spare room was by far the best place to sleep in when you wanted to get away from everything. The atmosphere of the chapel was just inviting and comforting. Brother Hickory was understanding and provided decent sweets. Well, Widow Saffron provided the sweets in forms of pies and melons she grew herself. She even tried to teach Kiao how to make pies at one point. However, after one smokey experience, the potter told Kiao she ought to stick with just consuming them. Though if she ever wanted to throw some clay on her wheel, she was more than welcome too.
When she started to push open the chapel door, she found herself being pulled forward. She let go this time and was once again greeted by Oeric this time on his way out. She immediately put her hands on her hips and glared at him. After they were done with speaking to Lord Kharis the previous evening, both she and Lionel instructed him to rest. He wasn’t listening.
His brow formed an amused arch. “I’m giving that dirty look of yours somegood practice.”
She told him firmly. “You were told to rest.”
“I am resting. I’m not in the monastery, am I,” he returned conversationally. “Anyway, you look much better than last night.”
Kiao’s frown deepened. She wanted to forget about the previous evening. “You look better as well.”
There was warmth to his skin again. In fact, he was less solemn than usual. His expression was light. One might say he wore a smile. She wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“Yes, let’s just pretend last night didn’t happen.”
His brow pulled together, forming the expression of a concerned father like the one her father, Oli and Hickory would give her. In fact, she was certain if given a chance, the Patriarch would give it too.
Kiao gave him a dismissive wave. “There is nothing to worry about. That sort of thing happens.”
“Yes happens,” she said, then sighed. She rubbed one of her reddened ears, wishing she could wipe her visible embarrassment away. “Sometimes too much stimulus makes it very hard for a chanter to remain calm.”
“So you’re saying too much happened to you at once,” he asked.
“Exactly. But I’m fine now,” she assured him.
“Good. Since we are both in better states of mind. We need to talk. Preferably this evening at dinner. I’ve had some thoughts.”
“I can come earlier, I’m on leave.”
“Because of what has happened. All of it. Brother Oli wants me to stay out of sight and I need to get control of my abilities. Hickory offered to help me. Hence why I’m here. Maybe after I talk to him. Shouldn’t be very long. I’ll find you and then we will talk.”
“I’ll be in the society house if you need me, until later, Sister,” he said with an incline of his head and then strolled to the horse tied to the fence.
Kiao watched him, slightly annoyed that he had the inability to use her name. Once again, she tried to entered the chapel. She opened the door without a problem, but this time she walked straight into the chest of another taller elf. She apologized and stepped back to see the tan robes of middle-aged priest coming out. He looked surprised and then a wide smile lifted the man’s entire face.
“Greetings, Sister Kiao,” he said jovially.
“Greetings Brother Brontis,” she said, leaning to the side so she could see around his broad shoulders. “I’m sorry I can’t converse right now. I need to speak to Brother Hickory.”
The dyne elf became deflated. His small low ears drooped a little. “Oh. A lot of people seem to trust Brother Hickory a great deal. I can’t seem to get them to be comfortable around me.”
Kiao felt a little sorry for him. Out of all the assembly, he seemed to be the only one who was sincere. In fact, he reminded her of a story she was told as a child of a great bear who wanted to make friends with all the small creatures, but they were afraid of him.
“It’s because he knows them and their situations more. It’s easy to speak to someone who knows all the details.”
The man’s shoulders sagged. “He said that too. All I wish to do is to help. But the most I’ve been able to do is greet patrons.”
“Well, that’s important. It’ll make people more comfortable with your presence.”
“He also said the same thing.”
“Sorry, if I echo him, I picked up a lot from him over the years.”
“There are worse things you could pick up on,” he said and then tilted his head. “Shouldn’t you be in the infirmary?”
She parted her lips to answer him, but then spotted Brother Hickory beside the altar.
“I’m taking some time off. I’m sure within the hour, you’ll know what happened if you don’t know already,” she told him. “Now excuse me, it was nice talking to you.”
As she walked down the aisle, the door to the chapel opened and heard someone call Brontis and saying, “Come with me, the assembly is having an emergency meeting.”
She wanted to see who it was, but thought it best if she didn’t. Instead, she watched the expression on her patron’s face. Displeasure tugged his brow together for a moment as he looked past her. When he focused on her, his expression lifted into a meager smile. He led the way to his living space behind the chapel. It wasn’t the large. Enough for a round table and a cook stove to keep it warm. He sat two slices of pie down and a cup of tea between them both on his table.
“I run into Soletus’s father on my way out. He looked happy. What did you tell him?”
Hickory chuckled at her. “Nosey much?”
She didn’t want to talk about her just yet. “Well, I ordered him to stay at home and he isn’t heeding it.”
“You should be happy that he rode a horse here,” he told her. “Anyway, we discussed some personal things.”
Kiao saw the wrinkle between his eyes become as more visible. “That good, huh?”
“It was about Soletus.”
Kiao took a bite out of the crust of her pie. “So, he came here to ask what to do about it?”
“He more or less wanted to know what more could he do. He and Cordea have known since birth there was something was different about him.”
“They’ve known for that long?”
“Yes, I told them to watch him because of how his timbre sounded. Someone like Mien can pick through it. Since his was stronger than the average child and I thought could be a chanter more than being like me. And since I couldn’t give them a definitive answer, they raised him just like a regular boy. And really, that’s all you can do. It only really matters at his age.”
“I didn’t even consider it until he told me,” she admitted.
“It’s a bit more obvious when you have an inside point-of–view,” he said. “There are neth specific traits such as not following custom or tradition. In his case, he likes his hair long.”
“I would think the disinterest in a sweetheart would be the biggest.”
Hickory swayed his head. “Not everyone is ready for another person in their life at his age or older. That is the least of all the traits because neth elves do have a range of how we wish to live. Some are happy with living a solitary life while another might welcom a companion in their lives.”
“You mean fall in love,” she said.
He bobbed his head from side to side. “For lack of a better word, yes. But the shape of that love is different. What we do to show it is different. It’s not customary.”
“Kind of like you and Saffron,” she said and then, for the first time in a long time, heard him stammer.
“Well, no…I mean yes. Saffron and I are friends Companions are more than just friends.”
“Uh-huh,” said Kiao. At first, she wasn’t certain of who the potter was to Hickory when she first met her. Hickory was friendly and nice to everyone. However, there was a certain brightness he only reserved for Saffron. Brother Oli came in a close second. But Saffron was the only person she ever saw him reached to hold her hand. The only one he leaned on. And all those gestures weren’t much to anyone one else. But for Hickory, that was telling.
“I promised her husband to look after her after he died. And I just happen to enjoy her presence,” he said regaining his poise.
“And she like you and bakes you all sort of things for you to eat.”
“It’s part of my strategy dealing with other. Look, I don’t need you starting to give me a hard time.”
Kiao laughed to herself and moved on for his sake. “Anyway, if you know all of this, why haven’t you confronted Soletus?”
Brother Hickory pointed his fork at her. “You, of all people, should know how hard it is to talk to him. He’s a come to you person, not a come to him person. He is a private person and doesn’t like it being invaded..”
Kiao started back eating her pie. “I tried to direct him to you when he came to me.”
“I’m satisfied that he sought someone he trusts. One can start feeling isolated when you feel alone. And I don’t want that to happen to you,” he said with a meaningful look. “Elnos oddly ran to me on my way back to the chapel. I thought I felt a disturbance and he come running out of the infirmary and said he needed to talk.”
Kiao dropped her fork. “He just run out there, acting like he did nothing?”
“He was trying to distract me because he was rambling himself and his goal. However, what struck me as odd was him rambling about you. Saying that I haven’t done a good job of teaching you and that you need to learn how to be a better priestess and that he could do it. However, he said, sounding even more crack.”
“Well that’s because he snatched me by my braid because I got too sassy for him.”
Hickory’s eyes widened. “That’s what he did! Why didn’t you come to me– well actually that would’ve been terrible idea because here was here.”
“Oeric took care of it. He was there as well as Lionel, we spoke to Lord Kharis as he told me to come speak with him if anyone did anything against me.”
“Good. Then something will be done. He’ll make sure he doesn’t come anywhere near you. His behavior is really concerning. I can’t wait to get inside his brain to figure out what.”
She touched the side of her head. There was only a shadow of pain left from what happened. She was glad that Elnos wasn’t that strong to hurt her more, but he hurt her enough for someone wiry and thin. He wasn’t like Mien or Nimbus. They had to be in good physical condition to be combat chanters. He was certainly not like Oeric, who just threw him. In fact, she realized that tended to be Oeric aggressive towards males, but was surprisingly gentle towards women. Maybe that was the reason Cordea was unworried about him towards her. She was not his problem. Other men seemed to be. No wonder Mien said they could relate to each other.
There was a tap on the doorway. Kiao turned around to see Briar standing there.
“I’ve come to fetch Ko-ko. Lady Lass’Cyan is at my house.”
Kiao’s heart dropped in her stomach. “Is she really?”
Briar nodded. “Pa thought it would be best if you spoke to her.”
“I could come too,” offered Hickory. “She is my cousin, and she can be particular depending on her mood.”
“No, just K-Ko.”
Kiao rather he did. She hadn’t planned on meeting Mien’s mother for a long time and wasn’t even sure if she wanted to. She had uncertain feelings about her. The state her bond partner was in when he arrived disturbed her greatly. She couldn’t imagine a mother allowing her son to be put in that condition. Noble women were forces to contend with. And even Mien himself gave the impression that she was but was also powerless at the same time. Soletus had met her and described her as shrewd, but said her hands were tied by choices she made. It didn’t help the House Cyan was connected to House Jay. They were a house who choose its male members over female for nearly everything no matter how idiotic, brutish, sleazy, and crass they were. There were houses who were the opposite and were just as bad.
“We’ll talk later,” said Hickory.
Kiao nodded and followed Briar in silence until they were outside. The huntress took her hand and dragged her forward as if keeping her from escaping.
“What happened? Father was on a war path since early morning,” whispered Briar. ”He called the Arch Priest and ended up shouting at him. They’re friend, he never fights with him. Anyway, he was going on and on about having a well, a harasser in the order.”
“Harasser,” said Kiao as they got to the door to her home.
“I’m being polite. He wasn’t. Did someone do something to you,” she said with a sharpness in her eyes that suggested she was thinking about hurting someone.
Kiao stopped walking. “Brother Elnos. He wanted me to become a better priestess and he’s the one who to do it. When I denied him again, he attacked me.”
Briar’s green eyes became bulged. “So, he is a harassing bastard.”
Kiao never considered him being that. “Yes, I guess that is appropriate for what he did.”
Briar took her by her shoulders. “Why are you always so matter-of-fact about this? Stop being a priestess and be upset like any other woman.”
“I am upset. Why should I show it,” she said.
“I would be on a warpath if I were you. Anyway, if they can’t treat you right, then you are welcomed as an honorary huntress to join me. You can become our chanter.”
“Thank you. I’ll consider it but given how both Oli and Hickory will probably go on a warpath themselves, on top of your father, I don’t think I’m going anywhere. Besides, I rather fight to stay here. I belong here.”
Briar then hugged her. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Fight on, sister, fight on.”
They continued into the Patriarch’s home and turned onto the parlor she was at last night. The sight in front of her made her pause. Her gaze fixed immediately on Lady Lass. She never seen the woman, but she was a fox-top and passed it on to her son. However, what caused her to pause was the baby in her arms. As far as she knew, Mien only had a single sibling, and she was his twin. This was a development she didn’t think he would be happy with. Behind her stood a young man with a wide chin who looked too closely related to Mien. That had to be his cousin Dalaen. Beside Lady Lass sat a fox-haired young woman who was a feminine version of Mien. It was uncanny how similar they looked. Her chin was smaller and her viridian eyes lacked the sun glowing in them as her brother. However, that didn’t stop her from tilting her head and her brow rising up like Mien’s would when he was intrigued. She then broke into a wide, approving smile. When Briar introduced her.
“That was quick,” said Nerva.
Briar took a seat across from her father, who was inspecting his spectacles.
“Hello,” Kiao bowed, and wanted to kick herself. She could never remember to curtsy. Mien would have laughter in his eyes and tease her the moment he got a chance. Lady Lass assessed her neutrally.
“I’m honored to finally meet you. Mien spoke so highly of you. Said you were noble born as well,” she said and then became bemused. “However, I was under the impression that you were a young man.”
Kiao joined her in confusion. “Well, I didn’t let that fact known that I was female until a few years ago. It’s a long story. Didn’t Mien tell you?”
Lady Lass swayed her head. “My son has been vague in his letters for the last two years, to tell you the truth. I assumed it was because he became busy with fieldwork. I assumed that’s why he hasn’t disclosed everything he’s been doing.”
Kiao noted the tart note in her voice. The girl inside of her panicked. She ignored it and asked. “So, he’s told you he passed the trials?”
“Yes. He was very pleased with himself.”
“And he told you about being in First Warden Oeric’s training band?”
“Oh, yes. And stories of being in the infirmary too,” she said and added. “Multiple times.”
Kiao didn’t know how to feel about Mien not telling her the truth. She wasn’t surprised. But didn’t know why. She knew part of It had to do with his uncle. Mien stated he didn’t want him to know about them. It never crossed her mind that it extended to his mother as well.
“I suppose it gives you something to bring up when he returns,” she said.
“Yes, we have a lot to talk about. I arrived earlier and had a brief chat with the Arch Monk about what happened,” she said. “He called it an incident of insubordination. And my son would have very little reason to be involved in something that could ruin his chances for freedom. And furthermore, why is he allowed to travel as far as going over the Lower Branch? I assumed he was going to continue stay local as you say.”
“Mien had to take a position as what’s known as a floater. No one wanted him in their band and First Warden Kellas was the only one willing. His band is known to go out far, but all our monk friends are in that band. They have experience and Mien wanted to be with them.”
The woman passed the baby to Dalaen. “So, you think he can make decisions with his condition?”
Kiao bristled. Even his own mother thought something was wrong with him. She clamped tightly down on a rude retort and said conversationally, “I understand why you may think that given the state he was in the last time you saw him. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by his progress. Overall, he’s as normal as a timbre sensitive chanter can be.”
“That’s good to hear,” she said, though looking doubtful. “Does that mean he’s told you what Hugh has done to him?”
Kiao swayed her head. “He’s told me very little. I’ve figured out a few things from off-hand comments and his behavior. If I press the matter, he’ll avoid a direct answer and snap at me if I keep going. I’m not going to lie. I avoid making him upset. He gets unreasonable.”
“So do you think at 28 he’ll be willing to come home?”
Kiao knew the answer. He wouldn’t. He didn’t want to be anywhere near his uncle.
“Will his uncle be there,” she asked.
Nerva looked at her mother. Dalaen attention went to the baby he was holding then at his aunt. Lady Lass looked her in the eyes.
“We can’t answer that. Hugh is currently in the south. He’s a place there he stays at. He’s been known to stay away months or even years living there.”
“If that’s the case, no. I know he’ll be older, trained to defend himself but, Lord Hugh is the center of his issues. He will rub Mien’s empathic tendencies the wrong way.”
“His empathic tendencies,” question Lady Lass.
Nerva answered her. “It means he can feel other’s emotions, Mother.”
Kiao nodded. “He’s not a true empath. If he was, his life would be a lot more difficult. Instead of absorbing all emotions, it’s just negative emotions, such as aggression. For example, if someone is attacking another verbally, he’ll do the same. Before it suppressed him, now he lashes out. Sometimes he can wrangle himself in, other times he can’t.”
Nerva then asked. “So you’re saying that if Uncle Hugh were to yell at Mien, he’ll yell back?”
“Yes, to the point he will become the aggressor.”
“Theodoric would’ve never do such a thing. Aside from Dalaen, he’s never hurt a soul before,” said Lady Lass.
“He’s not repressed anymore,” said Kiao, wanting to drive that point home. “Mien has the ability to be very verbal and sharp with his words when he wants”
Dalaen then asked. “What would happen if I were to speak with him alone?”
“I wouldn’t allow it,” said Kiao simply.
The young man shifted the baby on his shoulder. “But I really need to speak with him. Aside from apologizing, there is a matter I need to speak to him about.”
Kiao didn’t know what to think of the young man. She expected someone arrogant. Someone who had the look of a bully and not bouncing a baby in his arms. Maybe like Mien, the person in front of her had changed. She thought about it for a long moment and told him,
“I’ll have to ask Brother Hickory if it’s safe.”
“Safe for him?
“No, safe for you.”
Dalaen face transformed into the same stricken expression Mien could. “Why? He’s not going to try and kill me again.”
“No, that’s not a problem at all,” Kiao assured. “I really need you all to understand he’s not that slight shy boy you last saw.”
Lady Lass glanced at her daughter with disapproval. “He doesn’t sound like he’s improved.”
Kiao sighed. “Your son is a very gentle. He’s very sweet. Children love him and women think he’s charming. But he’s a tod now. He’s emotional and can’t help to show strong feelings,” she said. “And since he is a strong chanter, he’s going to get if he’s angry. And if you are on the receiving end of an angry chanter, it will feel like they are verbally beating you with a club. If Dalaen wants to speak with him, he needs to be prepared for that.”
“Maybe I can have Nerva with me,” said Dalaen.
Kiao swayed her head. “He might feel betrayed seeing you two together. No, you must be alone. He won’t hurt you as long as you don’t threaten or touch him. Also, I’m not sure if he’s ready to forgive you or willing to trust you.”
Kiao knew he wouldn’t. He was still very wounded.
“I really don’t care if he forgives me or not,” said Dalaen. “I want the opportunity to apologize and speak with him about something family related. Can I do that?”
“I’ll get Brother Hickory to arrange something when he comes home. If anything, I can see how he reacts to you. That should indicate his response to his uncle.”
The baby in Dalaen’s arms began to fuss, and he passed her back to his aunt.
Lady Lass then started back on her prodding. “I see. I suppose you know my son well,” she said.
“Yes, I became his senior. We work well together,” she said.
“Why wasn’t he kept with Soletus?”
“Soletus is a monk. He’s his own duties to focus on. They’re good friends. Then his father, First Warden Oeric, helped in places where Soletus couldn’t.”
That was when his mother’s brow shot up in recognition. “Mien wrote to me about him. He certainly seems to like him a lot.”
“He’s written to me about him as well,” said his sister. “Is there any way we can meet him?”
“Maybe. He’s a bit occupied.”
“I can go get him,” announced Briar. “He’s at the society house, anyway.”
The Patriarch came alive again. “Is he really? His wife and the women there should shoo him back home.”
Briar stood and waved her father off. “Please, they were babying him the last time I saw. He could probably tell Lady Lass a little more about what happened. He’s the Arch Monk’s son after all.”
Kiao wasn’t sure if he would disclose anything that he knew. While Briar was gone, the Patriarch then spoke to reassure her, and she asked him about House Gyrfalcon and his mother and siblings. Kiao ignored most of it. Her mind was still reeling on the fact she was speaking to Mien’s mother. It wasn’t the meeting she wanted, and she couldn’t tell if had been going well or not. She got the impression it had not because that tart unhappiness was still in her green eyes. In fact, the woman was probably downright displeased and worried given what had happened. Though so far, she hadn’t become irate.
Oeric arrived shortly after Briar went to fetch him. In that time, he had pulled his hair back in a neat but quick braid and tucked in his shirt. However, he couldn’t straighten out those scars. Lady Lass’s gaze became sharp and wary. Nerva was less surprised about the scars. In fact, she beamed as if she were finally meeting someone of notoriety. Dalaen gulped.
Soletus’s father bowed. “Greetings Lady Lass. I’m sorry for my appearance. I wasn’t expecting a meeting.”
A strange expression formed on Lady Lass’s. If Kiao had to guess it might’ve been the fact Oeric’s voice didn’t match his appearance. He didn’t have a rough sounding voice that one might think he had. He and his son sounded alike, but Oeric’s voice was modulated only because he was controlling the speed of his word.
Lady Lass relaxed a little. “Greetings. I met your son, he was a wonderful boy. I am not going to lie to you, I’m a bit surprised. I expected someone Dyne.”
“My wife is. He takes mostly after her.”
“I see. I didn’t realize he was half. He looks full,” she said, squinting at him as one would a stain. “You have to excuse me but, Mien never mentioned that you were a former cur.”
Oeric fold his hands behind his back, tucking away any expression. “I don’t see why he would mention it. It’s not relevant.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed at his unapologetic tone. “And you just swept him under your wing?”
“I accepted him as being part of my son’s life. They became friends and my wife always invited him to dinner and my youngest daughter loves him,” he said.
Kiao noted he mentioned them, like to ease some of the intolerance that was being displayed in front of them. It didn’t curb the critical glint in her eyes. Oeric continued without notice. “He then came to me because he wanted to be a combat chanter. You need a first warden or a master to assist with the training. I was the only one willing to give him a chance.”
“And you thought he was well enough to do it?”
“The heart of the brotherhood training isn’t about waiting for one to be well enough, strong enough, or fit enough to start it,” he said sounding as if he gave that speech many times. “It’s about what you are willing to do. The training will shape you. He wanted it enough, so he did the training.”
“And you should’ve stopped him,” she snapped and then hissed angrily as if not to disturb the baby in her arm too much. “He’s a meek boy and has always been jumpy and anxious of the world around him. His experience left him fragile minded, and everyone around here has just let him do whatever he wants. Now he’s lost! If he’s dies, it will be your fault. His blood will be on this orders hands.”
Kiao marveled at the woman’s change in mood. That’s where his comes from, she thought.
The Patriarch sat up straight and was ready to take control of the situation however, Oeric spoke before him. “I can understand you being upset that your son is missing. Mine is too. However, don’t belittle you son like that.”
The Patriarch then intervened. “Given the circumstances, Oeric, I don’t think that’s fair to say.”
Lady Lass ignored him and was fixed on the first warden in front of her. “Oh, so you know better than I do about my own son,” said the woman.
“Yes,” he returned.
Kiao thought Lady Lass was going to kill him because for hi bluntness or at least tear at him with her word. Oeric continued before she remembered she was a noble and became indignant.
“If he was a fragile minded meekling, I would’ve never trained him. Sure, I had to deal with his fear of being around men, his lack of confidence, and a variety of other quirks that would crop up. However, he wanted to confront those pieces of him and become more. He did that and beyond.”
“My son came to this place broken. He lost his minds and only had fragments of what he was back. Nervous, shaky, jumpy, and above all not even elf anymore. And he just recovered all his facilities and is the same as he was before enough to go marching across the countryside.”
Kiao bit down on her lowered lip to keep from calling the woman stupid at the audacity at her believing that Mien was incapable of doing anything. Maybe she herself was part of the problem. Mien told her it was his father that made him do things. His mother always objected to them. She never imagined it was to that extent. However, forever the priestess, she sat there with her gaze on Soletus’s father and tucked her own displeasure in the back of her mind.
“I didn’t say that,” said Oeric shifting his weight to his left side. “He can never be the boy he was before. He can only go forward as the man he is becoming.”
That did little to soothe the woman’s irritation in face she became even more upset. “And I suppose a cur like you is an expert on what a man actually is.”
Even Kiao felt the sting of that insult. She waited for him to display anything more than composure. However, like her, Oeric was forever the monk. He could wear being one very well it seemed. Though she bet if it was someone more familiar to him, he would lean into being sardonic. And like a monk, he gave her an answer a monk would say.
“I learned that the measure of a man is not who he was in the past that cannot be changed. It’s who he is in the moment he stands and the choices he makes while walking forward down the path before him.”
“Sounds like an excuse a cur would say,” she said remorselessly.
“Stephren, the first monk, said that to a fallen and broken man because Dias says for us to give our brothers and sister a second chance. And for use who accepted this chance to pass it forward. There is little difference between your son and me. For one, he doesn’t wear his bad choices on his skin,” he said.
Lady Lass critical gaze deepened when he compared the two of them.
“And two, he is young with a lot more resiliency than me at his age. So, I know I can find him.”
Lord Kharis then sat up straight. “Find them, but we already have a search underway.”
“I’m doing this myself so I can correct a failure on my part. I trusted a man whom I gave a second chance, and he took a torch and burned it. So now I’m fixing it.”
I'm so tired. These last three chapters have been a beast to revises. There wasn't a lot in this chapter that needed fixing, not like last chapter where I re-wrote a scene. Anyway, next week is the only getting 1 update. From there, I'm taking a two-week break to prepare pt. 3 of finish up on my other story still left on RR. Once I can do that, I only have to worry about one story to edit, and I can get back into drafting Eroden and the other book. So, I will see you November 7th.