There was only disbelief in that moment. Give me a day. That was all I asked for. Yet, the golden light of evening touched his still body that hung from the rafters. Kellas stood beside me neither shocked nor surprised. He didn’t react like someone who failed to guard someone to keep them safe.
“Has anyone been in here,” I demanded.
“No. I didn’t even step in here. This is clearly a suicide,” he claimed. “Why be upset about it. It’s one less useless cur in the world spoiling people’s lives.”
I was amazed at my control at telling him to get out. And ordered Tyr to help me cut him down. He helped me wrapped his body and found a nice quiet spot to bury him. After the last bit of rock was laid on top of the grave, Tyr then asked me what were my orders. I told him When I didn’t answer. He grabbed my forearm and told me to stow it. asked me again. I decided then that Tyr as my second instead of Kellas. And that snake would be removed from my band.
“Why would they still follow us,” Kiao demand as Oeric led them deeper into the forest.
“They’re Dyne,” he replied, stopping. His nose went skyward. He peered up watching the sky as if something was going to drop on them.
Kiao stopped her horse beside him. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Back up,” he snapped angrily.
Kiao tugged at her mare to go backwards. His nervousness worried her.
“And they’re mercenaries with the ability to take their consort’s shape,” he said belatedly.
“Come on.” He then sprung forward and kept going straight. ”They’re Dyne mercenaries.”
“First Warden, slow down. You’re making little sense.”
He spun around to faced her and sat on his haunches in a fluid motion. He took a deep breath. “That woman is a priestess of Diva.”
“Yes, the moon mark on her cheek means she’s one. Think of her like you. Except she’s a druid and committed to Diva. Though, I question if she is doing Diva’s suppose will or following her personal hatred.
“It’s absurd for her to come after us. I showed them how strong of a chanter I am.”
“Some people are absurd. They aren’t scared away by challenge. Likely, she finds the fact you aren’t just a chanter with a lovely voice worthy of defeating.”
“But they think I am in danger because of you,” she told him.
“Sister, elves are very absurd creatures at times.”
“Well isn’t Xerius the one in charge? Can’t he stop her?”
“He’s one of the mercenaries that have been hired to bring in any curs. Their goals go hand in hand.”
“What are you doing?”
“Watching for Xerius,” he said, absently observing the clouds. “He can cover more ground. We need shelter that can hide us from above.”
He started off again directing them further away from the road.
“Shouldn’t we follow the road?”
“We are,” he said. “I’m keeping parallel with it and following northwest track. Don’t worry, I won’t get us lost.”
“Well, maybe we should meet them again and I could force them back again.”
Oeric’s reply came out as a sharp bark. “No.”
He slowed down until he was beside her horse again. “How effective are your abilities after they know what is coming? Not to mention, it takes a lot out of you. They’ll keep pushing until they burn you out. And you need your abilities to help your mystery chanter.”
She flexed her hand. Warmth still radiated from her palm. In her mind, she could still hear echoes of the phrase of purification. She suspected that the phrase of purification was very important.
“If I’m to help her, they need to go away. Can’t you fight them?”
“Fight them,” he barked. “You saw how well that went.”
“Then do so as a man.”
He shook his furry hand. “That’ll be even worse. Fur and lose skin protect me. And really, Sister, despite my strength, I don’t care for physical confrontation.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?”
“We keep moving. We need a way to lose them. I know a few ways to do so, however, I need you to see if you can find Mien.”
“Well, if it is an ability, then you can control it.”
Kiao felt he had lost his mind. “You want me to enter that state on purpose while being pursued?”
“Isn’t a first warden supposed to know what is and isn’t risky? This is a risk! What if I get stuck and we’re found?”
“I’m not having you do this in the open. We can hid,” he said. “Besides, it would help me choose the direction we take to get away from our pursuers.”
“But I am limited by distance,” she explained. “He has to be close to me.”
“Timbres reverberate on the wind, do they not?”
“Yes, but it’s like sound. You can’t hear it if it’s too far away unless boosted somehow.”
“It’s still worth the attempt. When I find a spot to rest, you’ll try.”
They pushed onward, keeping parallel to the road as Oeric stated. Kiao could always see the road. However, he did a sudden turn back towards the road. At first she thought it odd they were going back to it. However, they only crossed it and headed further into the woods going more westerly than north.
He didn’t relax the entire time. He was constantly stopped to watch the sky. She was alert and was watching for anymore large cats. She suspected he wanted some place concealed. However, there was little that around them that could hide their scent.
They come to a stop when Oeric found a tall mound of earth. There was a jagged tree stump on top with the truck of the tree laying over the entrance to what looked like a large den. He took the horse away from them and tied it under the base of a tree some distance away, but within sight. She crawled into the carving and Oeric joined her. The two sat comfortably beside each other.
“There is enough light left so I can see any threat coming while you find Mien,” he told her.
“I’m not sure how. Usually, I get drawn into that state thinking about Mien.”
“Then think about him,” he said, as if it were the simplest thing.
“I don’t think I can force that sort of thing. There are deeper feelings, I guess involved. I’m not exactly pinning over him now, which is how it happens,” she said and could feel her face flushing from having to explain that. She like the thought of being with a boy, not pinning him like some typical girl.
“Is that true for every time?”
“Yes. Though I suppose stress has brought it on too.”
He thought a moment. “And being pursued today didn’t bring it on?”
“No. Why would that. I handled it. There was no reason to want Mien. Even right now, this isn’t a situation where Mien’s presence will help or make me feel better. You’re adequate enough.”
His brow then pulled together. “So, it works on more sentimental feelings?”
“Are you trying to think of ways to bring that state on?”
“I am trying to assist you,” he admitted. “So, when was the first time it happened?”
“I was walking back from dinner with the Patriarch. I wanted Mien and the others to return badly that evening. We were supposed to have dinner there and the red sky reminded me of him.”
“And then the next time was when you came over to my place.”
“Yes, but you can’t create the feeling you created there. Cordea isn’t here.”
“She isn’t necessary, I think,” he said, leaning back into his corner. He rubbed the tops of his legs again and closed his eyes and he took in a few breaths before letting out a wistful sigh. “In situations like this, I wonder what Cordea is doing.”
“Cordea, I wonder if she’s home and safe. If she and Saedee are okay. I think about what they usually do at this time. And what she would say about the situation I’m in. See, I’m good at finding trouble. She’s good at getting out of it,” he said with a smile on his face with his gaze turning distant. “Even when I first met her dressed up like a doll, she got me out of trouble.”
“Her parents, like a lot of Fenndish Dyne, keep some of their dyne customs. She can explain it better than me. But, due to her birth month, she was born to be a wife and thus was trained as such and always dressed up to show off how beaturiful she looked. As a girl, she looked like a doll to me. It bother me as a boy because all I could think about was how was she going to do anything worth doing dressed like that? When I befriended her, the first thing I did was get her a set of clothes so she could run around in.”
Kiao couldn’t help but laugh. “You really did that?”
He nodded. The smile across his lips widened. “I wanted her to have fun. She needed a friend and what doesn’t get you in trouble at least once. She ran around in an old hat and shirt my sister didn’t want. I let her have trousers that were too small for me. And I traded a favor for some shoes. When it came time to create some mayhem, people didn’t realize it was even her. I didn’t mind them seeing my face. I was a fiend. That was the point of the game.”
“And she just went along with it all,” she asked. She couldn’t imagine Cordea acting like a terror.
“If Cordea didn’t want to do something, we didn’t do it. I promised her that,” he said. “I might have been a fiend, but I wanted her to have a voice. She lacked it and she could have one with me. She took that and leaned how to talk me out of going too far. There was more than one evening, she talked me down. Instead, we would sit on the town wall and talk,” he said.
“What did you talk about?”
“I would tell her stories about the constellations,” he told her. “My mother had a book filled with stories she used to read to me. When she died, I read that book again and again until my brother threw it into the fire as punishment. But memorized them. I would tell them to her.”
Mien did the same things in a way. Except he would point to all the named stars in the sky. All the stars that made up a constellation. He even had a song dedicated to one of that he sang. He said he made it up on the evening listening to his father list off the stars in Wonderer Tetmus.
It was then the world grew soft. This time, she let the silence take her. Instead of letting the bond do the checking, she pushed it and guided it. She stretched out her mind’s ear until he head began to ache. However, there was nothing. The only thing she was aware of was the hand that clamp tightly around hers.
Kiao then let that connection to her body bring her to focus so she could speak.
“I don’t sense him,” she said. “I’m stretching myself as far a I could. There’s nothing.”
She didn’t expect to hear a reply however, she heard Oeric speak clearly as she should and not distant.
“If you are straining yourself, come back. We’ll try again tomorrow at some point. Do you need help?”
Kiao let go of the channel and found herself back in the waking world.
“Are you okay,” he asked.
She bobbed her head. “Yes. It’s not draining like what I did earlier. Though, I don’t think I should do it for long periods of time.”
He then dug in his pack and pulled out food and handed it to her. “Take this. I know sugar helps, so I made sure I got something when we were in Wateree.”
In his hand was something sandwiched between thick dried leaves. She pulled it apart was greeted by strawberry leather. Of all the flavors he could’ve gotten her, he picked out strawberry. That was her favorite flavor.
“What‘s wrong,” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said, peeling the sweet from the leaf and stuffing it in her mouth. “You’re not going to tell me stories about Cordea every time to help me.”
“I’ve a lot of stories about she and I. And I know how you ladies love stories.”
“You don’t take me for a romantic.”
“I’m not. You should get bedded down. I’m planning to leave before sunrise.”
Kiao gigged at him. “Fine, be that way, you big softy.”
She gathered her bedroll and settled down. He finally took to being a wolf again and curled right in front of her legs. His fur being stirred by a breeze was the last thing she saw before shutting her eyes. She was tired from all that happened and drifted off. However, her rest was cut short by being shaken violently by her shoulders. She was about to cry out when a hand clamped over her mouth.
Oeric then hissed in her ear. “Quiet. Xerius is out there.”
Sorry, sorry for late chapter. I had a lot of things to do today. Also, Oeric is totally a romantic.