Lyndon that the best place for Kiao to reveal herself was the Mess Hall, where most of the warders and junior wardens would be at. Not to mention a hand full of wardens, senior, second, and first wardens mixed in with masters would be there. That large of an audience made Kiao feel giddy. However, there was no turning back. Her friends were already at her side and the only thing she could do was swallow her trepidation and stepped into the log building.
It was warm and full of voices of everyone talking that morning. She strolled down the aisle at the far side of the room and stood in line as she had done for years. All the tables closest to the food line grew silent. Also, someone whistled, getting the attention of the young men who stood in front of her turned around and gaped at her.
“What,” she asked.
The young man’s brow pulled together as if he was about to say something, and then his face went ashen.
“Move along,” said Soletus from behind her in a low threatening voice she felt in the center of her chest.
She shoved her elbow behind her and hit muscle. “Don’t overdo it.”
The young man turned from them and nudged the tod standing in front of him and whispered to them. After that, nearly the entire line turned around and stared in her direction. Some were amused laughing and other were confused. She ignored the low voices and focused on getting to the front of the line. Once there, she snatched up a tray, took her bowl of porridge from one of the servers. He tilted his head. She went to the one and as he handed her a slice of bread, he asked her,
“Brother Kiao, why are you wearing a dress?”
“Oh, this, I thought it would look nice and more appropriate to my person,” she told him wearing her infirmary face. “And that’s Sister Kiao to you. Also, can I get an extra slice?”
He handed it to her speechlessly. She walked away with her breakfast and she and her friends were going to sit at their usual table when she heard a high whistle to her left. It wasn’t a catcall. She and her friends all turned to see Brother Nimbus throwing his head back and clapping his hands while First Warden Oeric curling his index finger at her.
She and the others walked over to them.
“This is the first warden table,” she told the grave faced man.
Oeric pointed at the table for them all to sit. They all did, with Soletus and Mien flanking her.
“I see you waived subtly,” said Soletus’s father.
Nimbus pulled in a breath and sound like a gagging donkey. Oeric kicked his leg. The combat chanter sat up, gaining control over himself again. He didn’t bother with seriousness and beamed at her. “I like it! This is wonderful and unforgettable.”
“It is that,” said Oeric, trying to hide the lift in the corner of his lips behind the mug he held.
Kiao glanced around her and found that she had many eyes on her. The ones that burned on her back were coming from the priest's table from across the hall.
“Well, you got their attention,” said Lyndon. “Good.”
Oeric sat his critical gaze on him. “So, are you the brainchild of this operation?”
Lyndon pointed to himself. “Me? I’m appalled that you would throw out such wild accusations, Uncle Oeric.”
His uncle critical stare deepened.
“You act as if I mastermind every bit of mischief that goes on here.”
Oeric remained unconvinced.
Lyndon grinned. “Admit it, it’s funny.”
The man sighed and then his attention fixed over Kiao’s head. Nimbus’s face soured as well.
“Get ready for a storm, Lass,” he warned.
She heard a throat clear behind her and tilted her head up to see Honored Priest Meric glowering down at her. It didn’t surprise her to see him as he was a member of the priest assembly.
“What is the meaning of this,” he demanded.
“Meaning of what,” she said.
“Why are you insulting this order by wearing a dress,” he said between his teeth.
Kiao stopped a nervous giggle from exiting her throat from his obliviousness. “Oh, you’ve gotten this all wrong. I thought I would dress more appropriately.”
His face became inflamed with indignation. “Do you think this joke is funny?”
“If this were a joke, I would’ve gone out and found a large pair of apples instead sticking with my natural form.”
Nimbus stared, choking on air again.
Meric glared at her, clearly not getting it.
“I don’t know if I should be insulted that my feminine features are so minimalistic that you can’t tell or worried that you’ve forgotten what a woman looks,” she said archly.
The honored priest worked, his jaw becoming dismayed.
“How about this,” she offered. “I finish my breakfast while you seek the Arch Priest.”
Kiao settled back down and barely lifted the spoon to her mouth before she felt her arm nearly yanked out of her socket as Meric yanked her up.
“Wretch, you’re coming with me!”
He only managed to drag her up. She leaned back, using her weight to keep him from pulling her further.
“Get you’re paws off me,” she growled, snatching her arm from him. She stumbled back, and she felt Mien hold her protectively while Soletus planted himself between her and Meric.
Nimbus and Lyndon stood to their feet with Oeric the only one remaining seated. The man took a sip of his drink and said with a firm edge in his voice, “Leave her, I’m handling this.”
“By what right?”
“Because I can,” he said, giving the man a frosted look.
“Someone who’s a waste of space has no right to be an authority for the priest,” spat Meric trying to reach for Kiao. Soletus clasped his hand around Meric’s arm. “Tell your delinquent spawn to unhand me,” demanded the Honored Priest.
Oeric remained relaxed. “I will, if you promise to follow Sister Kiao's instructions. While you’re at it, get the Patriarch and Arch Monk. We’re going to need a big audience,” he said, ending with a wolf’s grin.
“Fine and afterwards, I’ll drag with wench off the ground myself,” said the Honored Priest. Soletus let go of him and they all watched him storm off. The entire mess hall had fallen silent.
“Nothing to see here,” shouted Nimbus. When he saw everyone put their heads down eating, he grumbled, “Stupid son of a skane.”
Mien helped Kiao back to her seat.
“Did he hurt you,” he asked, watching Meric’s retreat intently.
Kiao massaged her shoulder. “I’ll live.”
Mien stood up.
“Sit down,” backed Oeric. Mien lowered himself back to his seat. “And this goes for the rest of you lads. Don’t start or finish anything,” he said, meeting his eyes with his son. “If it some stupid dod like Meric does something with a bunch of witnesses, be smart about it. Fight with reason first. Brawns last resort.”
They all nodded.
The rest of Kiao’s breakfast was uneventful. Just an endless supply of eyeballs on her focused in her direction.
When she and her friends returned to the infirmary, they were told by Lionel that she was to go to the chamber to speak to the Heads. She thought she would speak to the Arch Priest alone. Then again, the Patriarch wanted to help her, but she never imagined that the Arch Monk would bother getting get involved. She knew Oeric had told Meric to do so, but didn’t expect it to be done. She entered the large room and saw them sitting in their perspective chairs.
The Arch Priest sat in his high-backed chair with his eyes closed. The Patriarch, seated in the middle, was leaning on his armrest, occupied by his fingernails. When she entered, he straightened up, and lifted his spectacles up. A very infectious and approving smile formed on his face. The Arch Monk didn’t even look at her. He was fixed on his son and grandson.
Brother Oli was already there with Brother Hickory helping him down in the chair that as provided for him. The honored and elder priests that made up the assembly was across the room glaring at Kiao with contempt. Her stomach lurched. There were a lot more people than she anticipated. She swallowed a few times to keep her breakfast down and, ever the priestess, she stood poised.
The Patriarch cleared his throat and spoke. “Now that’s everyone is gathered, we need to sort everything out. Brother Lorthan.”
The Arch Priest's eyes remained shut.
“Brother?” The Patriarch waited for a long second before moving on. “Alright, I’ll lead the questioning then.” However, right as he started speaking, Brother Meric stepped forward, already on the offensive.
“Now you’ve seen the truth for yourself that we have had a deceitful wench in our order. Punishment needs to be exacted quickly.”
Kiao bowed to the Patriarch. “Lord Kharis, let me explain. The only reason I did this was because it was the only way I could help Brother Oliver in the infirmary.”
“And to make fools of us and mock this order, no doubt,” stated another priest.
The Patriarch then asked her. “Did you join this to mock this order?”
“No,” she said.
The elder chanter beside her stood from his chair and took his place beside her and said with his feeble voice resonating like an old bell.
“I did what I did was because the infirmary was understaffed. I asked the assembly to find help of any kind. However, I was met with apathy. All they offered were volunteers who did more harm than good or stopped showing up. I prayed to Dias for help and then, Brother Hickory told me he acquired a young healing chanter. Dias answered my prayers. They were smart, learned quickly, eager, and could stomach anything I had them do. Problem was, she was a girl.”
Brother Hickory then added. “Our intention wasn’t to deceive anyone. Once I received permission from her parents to train her, Oliver and I came up with a reasonable suggestion. Allow a single priestess to work in the infirmary. She would stay with Saffron and would train with me. When brought it before the assembly, we were met with pure opposition. Even told that the Arch Priest wouldn’t approve.”
Brother Oli bobbed his head and picked up on their clearly rehearsed explanation. “Not to mention we received a handful of excuses that ranged from a girl could never deal with the gruesome injuries to a female healing chanter would be inferior because they all burst heal. All very untrue. So, in order to break their ignorance, I worked to prove them wrong.”
“Technically, it was my idea,” said Hickory.
Oli turned his head to him. “Cory, you are not taking all the blame for this. I could’ve let it all go.”
“No amount of pride you have for her doesn’t compare to my deception from the moment I met her.” Brother Hickory bowed his head his voice full of humility. “That, Arch Priest and Patriarch, I am sorry for. Such an act is unbecoming of someone of my post.” Then the tone of his voice grew sharp again. “But, you have to understand, I felt this was necessary given no one was listened to Oliver. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like the fact they were belittling the child who was never given a chance before to prove herself.”
The Patriarch scratched his chin. “Interesting. And where did you find her, Brother Hickory?
“During our very last visit to High Perch. We were on our way back from the Sisterhood and had taken a sharp turn. We stopped so I could inspect our load and make sure the weight of our cart hadn’t shifted too much. Between some crates I found Kiao sleeping. She claimed she was an orphan boy who escaped a cellar. His guardians didn’t like her being a chanter. She was lying about being an orphan. But not about being locked in a cellar and being mistreated.”
“What was wrong with her?”
“They didn’t aid her during her edict. She was learning the phase of healing and they denied her any chance to heal. Because of it, she would fall into a trance state, searching for an injured person to heal. With that much energy buildup inside of her, we couldn’t under good conscious take her back. We let her stay, and had her heal minor injuries in the towns we stopped at.”
“And did all of you know she was a girl?”
“Only I did, and another chanter found out later in the trip,” said Hickory. Kiao wasn’t surprised. He wasn’t mentioning Nimbus in all of this. “After she spoke to me the first time, I knew then. I said nothing to anyone because I could hear the distrust in her voice. I didn’t want to give her a reason to run away. It wasn’t until I got her settled in the chapel and I confront her about it.”
Kiao smiled at her own memory of the situation. Hickory, never even had a child. Never raised on himself and it showed. He was awkward, but he was smart. They had traveled outside of the chapel and in town. He bought her a bun and explained to her than he needed to contact her actual parents. And while Kiao was a very nice name, it wasn’t her name. A young lady like her probably had a prettier name.
Kiao, being unable to lie about it any further, told him he was wrong. That Kiao was her name, it was a pet name. And pretty princess names were overrated.
“She then shared a disturbing story about how the Sisterhood took issue with her because of her parents,” continued Hickory. “They ostracize her, and I wasn’t about to send a child back into that kind of environment. I thought it was better if her parents took her. They come here originally to claim her, but…”
Brother Hickory looked at Kiao.
“At the end of my edict, my guide told me to stay here. That is a direct by Dias,” said Kiao. “And originally, it was agreed, with my parent’s approval, that I stay here and become Hickory’s ward. And I am but he had other ideas to add to that.”
Meric’s voice rose again. “Instead, this unworthy creature from the Sisterhood—”
Kiao swung her head to him and cut him off. “The last I checked, Dias doesn’t choose a chanter based on our terms of who is and isn’t worthy.”
“Meric,” said Patriarch sharply. “Please shut up. I want to hear her story, not your opinion.”
Another priest, who was a spindly and paler than the moon, raised his boney arm. Kiao knew him as Brother Elnos, one of the useless chanters who stayed in his room all day praying for the world to go back to golden days long past.
“May I speak, Lord Patriarch,” he asked mildly.
The Patriarch tapped his arm rest impatiently. “A quick statement.”
“We can’t have priestess or priest here willing to deceive anyone, no matter the reason,” he said. “How are we to trust her word or Brother Hickory for that matter when Dias demands honesty from those who serve?”
Brother Hickory turned to Elnos. “Brother, my only lie, was not telling anyone this child was a girl. In fact, dressed as a boy. No one questioned her ability. Many including yourself were impressed. However I doubt you would’ve been if you could see past everything, the assembly is far to sexist. You’ve even forgotten that the greatest chanter of all was Lenneth, a woman.”
“You should be stripped of all authority,” snapped Meric. “Because clearly that unusual mind of yours makes you believe you are above us all.”
The Arch Priest opened his eyes. They were a shimmering bright blue.
“No need to be so offended, Brother,” he said, his great baritone filling everyone's ears and even the crack in wooden floor beneath their feet. “I knew what she was the moment we met.”
Kiao heard everyone stop breathing, including herself.
“Sometimes, I see glimpses of the future walking in the waking world with certain people,” he explained. “The day we met, I saw a young woman sitting before me dressed as she is right now.”
Kiao was so nervous about the day she met the Arch Priest because neither she Oli nor Hickory felt they could fool him. Yet he sat there as he painted something he dreamed of on a canvas and treated her no differently. Just welcomed her warmly.
“So, you purposely allowed this devious vixen remain here,” exclaimed Meric.
Kiao heard someone growl behind her over the Patriarch’s rising voice.
“You call this young priestess one more inappropriate name, and I will have you tossed out of here by your ears,” he told him.
“Oh, come on, let’s not pretend that you believe she hasn’t taken advantage of her position to romp off with one of the many lads she calls friends.”
“And here I thought you couldn’t become more of a senseless crass dod in the mess hall today, but now you showed yourself for being nothing more than a crude bastard,” shouted someone from behind Kiao. She recognized the voice, but not the volume or the tone. She turned her entire body around to see Mien opening his mouth and berating the man. “Are you so threatened by her that you can do nothing but insult her? No wonder your son is so hateful and sour, he gets it right from you!”
“Mien,” she hissed, and then she noticed his eyes were molten gold.
“What right do you think you have to speak to me that way, boy,” said Meric.
“Because you are a fool grasping for power. Trying to be more than what you are. Trying to control those under you. Repressing all the chanters under you so they are no greater than you. And you certainly can’t have a female chanter be greater than you.”
“Now he’s speaking crazy nonsense,” said Meric to the Arch Priest. “She was .”
Kiao managed to wrap her arms around Mien’s torso right as he threw himself toward the priest. “Stop! He trying to make you upset,” she said.
He stopped struggling, but he remained taunt. Kiao didn’t know how much longer she could hold him back when he reacted that way. Every time she grabbed him, she always felt more muscle on him.
The Patriarch looked towards the guards. “Would you please remove the Honored Priest?”
Meric then kept going. “Mark my words, allowing her here will end in ruin!”
Kiao felt Mien bristle again, and she hissed in his ears. “Don’t. Let him alone.”
Once he was gone, Mien immediately relaxed.
Brother Elnos then raised his hand. “Arch Priest, Brother Meric raised a good point. That elicited a strong reaction from the boy that I feel needs to be examined, but not in the way he suggested. The boy reacted to his words.”
“Mien reacts to harsh tones,” said Kiao, lowering her arm. “But that’s not why Mien reacted the way he did. I need to discuss that too.”
The Arch Priest studied both Mien and Kiao a moment and then said. “This an interesting development, though it makes sense from what I’ve seen. It seems that our young acolyte’s timbre sensitivity is strong enough that he’s formed a timbre bond with our young priestess.”
The Patriarch's eyes widen in shock. “When did this happen?”
“A few months ago,” answered Kiao, tying to keep from wincing.
“How did it happen,” asked the Patriarch.
“When I was attacked by a drass beast, I was too worn to heal alone, and I asked Mien to dual heal with me. That triggered the bond.”
The assembly to the side started muttering to themselves.
“I know what it means. And the order avoids timbre bonds. Especially ones between chanter of the opposite sex, which is why I thought it was best to tell the truth,” said Kiao, looking at the Patriarch. She had nothing left to say or display.
Brother Hickory step in again. “It’s my fault. It didn’t even occur to me that this could happen. I knew the both of them had similar timbres. I figured they would be good friends.”
“I didn’t realize it and I’ve guided him when healing others plenty of times and it triggered nothing. Granted, I wasn’t healing myself. But he was close enough to me to hear me.”
“There is a time for everything,” said Arch Priest. “He didn’t know the truth then. Once it was revealed, he saw you for what you are.”
“That makes no sense. Chanters respond to voice. My voice isn’t different from before.”
The Arch Priest started chuckling. “My dear, men are simple creatures, chanters or not. He already was drawn to you by voice. And to further it along, it was a simple change in visual perspective. He saw something pretty, and he liked it.”
Kiao glanced at Mien. He was blushing. “But he’s too young.”
“That is true. He is younger than most I’ve ever read about.”
Then one of the priests spoke. “This isn’t the natural way of things.”
“Among chanters, it is. You don’t see it anymore due to the fact we send female chanters we find to the Sisterhood,” explained the Arch Pries. “We don’t want the Seat believing we are breeding a chanter army. Two chanters are guaranteed to have at least one child who is a chanter. And since these two aren’t weak, a child from them is likely to take on a strong trait from each of them.”
Kiao smiled sadly. “Well, I don’t think people have much to fear from us. I can’t have children.”
The Arch Priest chuckled. “I wouldn’t put too much stock into what you’ve been led to believe.”
Kiao swayed her head. “No, I’m very certain that’s impossible.”
“Have a little faith, child. You will be a mother because recently. The image of you changes and I didn’t understand why. I think I do, as I’ve seen a faint image of a little one following you down the halls.”
Kiao involuntarily turned her head to stand beside her. She wondered if her face became as ashen as Mien’s.
“Now I didn’t tell you two that to throw you both into shock.” Mien didn’t look as if he was in shock as much as he was about to be sick. “Though, I am confused on why this happened to such a young tod other than its Dias’s will. Though we should move on to things that can be concluded. I wish for our sister to remain here. With us, no punishment.”
A jolt of surprise rattled the Patriarch. “What?”
“Kharis, do you have anything against her being here,” asked the Arch Priest.
“Well, no. I think it’s wonderful. I’m surprise that you come to your decision so quickly,” he said.
“Ah, so that much you didn’t plan for,” said the Arch Priest, giving the younger man a knowing look. “You’ve grown wiser, but not subtler.”
The Patriarch’s cheeks got a little pink in them. “Ah, I’m transparent as always.”
The Arch Monk cleared his throat and said, “I’m certainly not happy with this development or the fact there was a very extensive cover up.”
Kiao then spoke. “I’m sorry Arch Monk. I didn’t want half of these people to know. They all found out in their own way.”
“And somehow that included my son and grandson?”
“They found out the same day,” she said as he looked over her with his hands raised for an explanation to those standing behind her.
Oeric then stated, “I vowed to aid and protect women than to be one more man who harms them. I think you know why I would make such a vow. So, I protected her with my silence.”
Soletus shrugged. “Wasn’t my place to tell.”
“That’s the best you can do, Grandson?”
“That is my reasoning,” said Soletus. “It wasn’t my place to tell. Besides, why does it matter if she’s female? She healed and treated because she was the best chanter they have. No offense Alder.”
Alder sighed. “None taken because she is. I’m better at sicknesses. But if you want someone to mend bone and flesh, you find Kiao.”
“You knew all this time,” asked the Arch Monk.
“Yes. And it’s utterly ridiculous anyone would believe a woman couldn’t work in the infirmary. I’ve seen her covers in blood, fecal matter, and vomit all at the same time and starts washing her hands talking about how she wouldn’t mind a cherry pie for dinner.”
“A hard day of healing makes me hungry,” she explained.
The Arch Monk massaged his brow. “I’m not happy about it. This is going to cause a mess. I’ll have a bunch of youngsters acting stupid and a bunch of men feeling misled. However, I won’t stand in the way of her being here, as she’s already is.”
Brother Elnos then stated. “She needs a chaperon, not to mention their bond monitored.”
“I’m not some child who needs babysitting. I’m an adult,” snapped Kiao.
“That’s not my point,” said Elnos, pointing to Mien. “He is more timbre sensitive than we were led to believe. He could be a danger to you.”
“How could he be a danger,” asked Kiao, glancing at Mien. He looked to be asking the same question.
“The boy is a great deal more empathic than anyone here has realized,” explained the priest. “In fact, probably a great deal more than you realize. Just observing him for the time I have, I suspect that his actions against his kin are a product of it.”
“That’s a known fact,” stated Brother Hickory.
“So, if you know that is a fact, then you should realize that there is more he could react to. What other tones excite him? What other things can he force on someone else through will? In fact, I’m concerned over how quickly someone with his personality attached himself to her. That sort of thing can turn to obsession quickly.”
“If he has no self-awareness and control,” argued Hickory.
“But does he have enough to handle a timbre bond? He still struggles with hash tones and he spends his days blocking out timbres to not be overwhelmed. Now he’s formed stronger feelings towards an individual that wasn’t there before. How much more can he really handle.”
Brother Hickory glanced at Mien. “I don’t think that’s an issue.”
“But you don’t know. You’ve never felt strong feelings or physical desire for another before in your life. So, you wouldn’t really know what he is feeling,” retorted Elnos.
“He is right about that,” stated the Arch Priest.
Brother Hickory brow dropped and became flat.
“I suggest we place a fasterner on him,” suggested Elnos. “That should cut off the timbre bond and you can extend it to anything you believe would distract him from learning how to maintain control of him empathic nature.”
“But a fastener would interfere with his work as a combat chanter,” reasoned Brother Hickory. “And besides that, they are only reserved for chanters with no control. As someone who has had a fastner put on them, he is nowhere close enough to have one.
“One should be applied at least for the bond. He’s too young and neither of them have proven themselves to Dias for them to have a relationship.”
Kiao pursed her lips. He had made an excellent point.
The Arch Priest spoke, still looking like he was resting. “Fasteners are never to be used for that reason. She would have to have one applied to her.”
“I don’t feel the bond,” said Kiao. “I’m nearly timbre deaf so I do not know what Mien feels on a daily basis other than what he’s described to me.”
“Even more reason to do it,” said Elnos.
“Once the bond establishes itself, we can’t sunder it. And it’s better off if we leave it unhindered. Yes, there is guidance needed, but there isn’t anyone here present that can guide them. Perhaps, maybe, there is, but I don’t see them clearly yet.”
Brother Elnos’s shoulders sagged. “At least consider doing something about these outbursts of insight. He’s going to end up saying something he shouldn’t to the wrong person.”
The Arch Priest opened his eyes again and became annoyed. “Perhaps I’ve given the assembly enough time to come to terms with their failures. Times are changing, and you can’t hide behind supplication forever. I believe that Dias gave you the answer you needed. There are chapels out there that need filling, roads that need walking. You can’t stay inside and lick your wounds forever.”
“I beg of you to at least give him to train with another priest. I mean, Brother Hickory is wonderful and wise but his being neth is his short-coming.”
Kiao heard Brother Hickory let out a long-suffering sigh.
“I’m ending this discussion here,” said the Arch Priest firmly. “There will be no fasteners applied to this acolyte. We timbre sensitive chanters learn better when we aren’t inhibited. As for their bond, I do want it monitored. Perhaps their quarters proximity needs increasing. Sister Kiao will not be given an escort unless needed. And if anyone of you harass her, then I’ll let Lord Kharis deal with you. He is far more creative than me when it comes to punishments.
“As for Brother Oliver and Hickory. You two have always been co-conspirators. I don’t know which one of you is worse. Hickory, you have always followed you own beat. And Oliver, you think you know better than anyone else. And I allowed this to happen because, tthere is a time for everything. And a lesson to be learn. You plan has bared fruit but, the end result might bit be entirely what you planned for. Paths shift. Anyway, I see no reason to punish you.”
“We should have the right to have some say,” argued Elnos. “All the assembly would agree with me.”
Voices of agreement arose.
The Arch Priest frowned. “I’ve told you what going to happen. If you have something reasonable and no excuses, see me in my chambers later today. Now, I need to go back there and finish communing with the future. I thought I saw something interesting, and I need to paint it out.”
The assembly filed out first, giving her unhappy looks.
“Great, I’ve enemies everywhere,” she muttered.
Before she could step out, the Patriarch called her, singing out her name. “Oh Sister Kiao.”
So that’s where Briar gets it, she thought.
“Stay right there.” He wore a broad smile. “That went over easier than I thought.”
“I didn’t expect the Arch Priest would be fine with it either,” she said.
“I’m still worried about the assembly. I fear they will find a way around what Lorthan has decreed. That being said, if you ever need anything. I mean anything, come to me.”
“I mean it. If you need a sanctuary, Maelyra will make you a bed in our home.”
Kiao nodded, taking his words to heart.
“Good, now run along. I think you’ve an infirmary to go back too given that most of its staff is here.”
Kiao nodded and exited the speaking chamber and was immediately grabbed, hugged, slapped on back, and cheered for by all her friends.
“Oh, stop it,” she told them, trying to wave them off. However, her two favorite cousins both had one arm over shoulder each.
Oli was the last one who came in and kissed her on the head.
“That went well,” he said. “We need to celebrate later, of course. Right now, I’m sure there is work to be done. I left Lionel alone. I’m trusting he isn’t too in over his head.”
Kiao looked around for Mien. She didn’t see his copper head anywhere. “Where is Mien?”
“He ducked out with Brother Hickory,” said Soletus. “He said, they needed to talk.”
Kiao nodded. She would talk to him later.