Brother Oli flapped his arms and declared. “It’s becoming an epidemic!”
His frustration was palatable, and Mien could feel it nudging the back of his mind, causing annoyance that wasn’t his own to flow through him. He stopped his hand from reaching for the shard of glass he was about to pick up. He exhaled, keeping himself steady, and let the sensation roll through his body and out.
“Why isn’t more being done?”
Mien lifted his head along with Alder, who had stopped dragging the broom across the floor in front of the medicine cabinet and eavesdropped on the explanation that day.
“We are doing all we can,” answered the peaceguard patiently.
“It doesn’t look like it,” returned Brother Oli using his best disappointed grandfather voice.
The peaceguard straightened his spine. “There is adequate security around the monastery. This was just a minor incident.”
Bother Oli’s face pruned. He then started on a long fast tirade about the meaning of “adequate” and “minor.” Mien couldn’t blame him. They were all frustrated. The infirmary had accumulated piles of broken glass from three broken windows, a glass cabinet door and two stolen bottles of pain tincture in an effort to get blighter.
They had no more making the most recent break-in a fruitless attempt. Mien figured the person smashed the cabinet in frustration because they couldn’t get a hold of the substance. Not that their bottles were worth fixing their need. The blighter they used had little addictive properties in it, but that didn’t matter to an addict. It was blighter. They only way the break-ins would stop if the dealer was found, and those under its influence treated. The peaceguards were doing a terrible job of aiding that process.
“You don’t seem to appreciate the significance of this problem,” insisted Oli pleaing.
Beside him, Brother Kiao stood in complete contrast with his hands clasped behind his back, being as expressive as a stone. That was surprising, given the young man wasn’t afraid to share his opinion at all. And he had an opinion on the matter. Many senior and elder priests didn’t care about his attitude, but they did little to stop him. Or at least, Brother Oli didn’t. The elder priest seemed to encourage him and acted as if he could do no wrong.
Mien figured it was because Kiao was his favorite among the healing chanters in the infirmary. He was skilled for his age and was just as smart, if not smarter, than he was in terms of book learning. His specialty was the body, so he knew all things physiological. It also helped he had excellent skill in other areas of being a chanter as a strong dreamseer and using the chanter’s force of voice. Overall, everything one could ask in a young chanter priest.
“It’s clearly an addict coming in,” said the peaceguard to Brother Oli. “It’s obviously someone who’s been here before, as they know they can exploit your bad hearing.”
A cool chill formed between Mien’s shoulder blades. That was why he was listening. He hoped his unreliable lie detecting skills would work. He just didn’t know what he had lied about.
“I don’t have bad hearing,” protested Brother Oli.
Mien tried his best not to laugh aloud. The old elf heard fine but slept he like the dead. One day, Alder shouted his name in the elder’s ear while he was asleep in his rocking chair. He thought him to be dying because he wouldn’t wake up. Kiao ended up bringing in a plate from the mess hall and fanned the aroma of fresh baked bread and bean stew to his nose. The old man woke up excited about a meal.
Brother Oli and his sleeping habits were well known, and he was the only person in the infirmary at night given how much he slept during the day. It was no surprised that someone broke into the infirmary three times without him knowing until morning. It was clear they needed another priest watching things at night.
“I will put an extra man to come and patrol around here until this is sorted out,” promised the peaceguard.
“How is that going to be any different from the other patrols,” exasperated Oli. “It’s not helped yet!”
“It’ll help as we continue investigating the matter. We are sorry about your windows, but until we get to the bottom of this, I fear much worse might happen.”
Indeed, thought Mien.
His uncle was a blighter addict and often used it when he drank wine. If he was irritated while indulging, it would make him violent. He always took his anger out on him. He couldn’t imagine a town full of people who might react in the same way.
The peaceguard saluted and left. Brother Oli grumbled and became very tired. He probably expelled most of his energy for the day trying to get the peaceguard to take their issue seriously. He rested a withered hand on Kiao’s shoulders.
“You don’t need me down here, do you,” he asked.
Kiao swayed his head. He was in charge while Oli rested. No one faulted the elder. His was passed even the silver-haired stage. His head was now covered in thin white wispy strands as one would expect an elf approaching his fourth century. Honestly, the elf should’ve retired decades ago, but most of the older priests were disinterested in the infirmary. And the Arch Priest claimed it wasn’t busy enough to warrant much attention. Mien spent a good year and half there and he had to respectfully disagree.
Alder and Kiao ran the infirmary. They were young and ran circles around those who volunteered to help. However, their energy only went so far and they still needed help. Kiao begged Brother Hickory to let them have Mien, even though he wasn’t a healing chanter. He could heal, but only in bursts. Kiao and Alder were both healing chanters and could sustain heal. They could out do him any day. However, they didn’t want Brother Oli to do much of anything.
He run the infirmary by himself for many decades with priest and chanters flowing in and out. He acquired Alder as a boy and then Kiao came along. He treated them like grandchildren, and they treated him like an old elder to indulge. The two of them were determined to make him comfortable. Thus, they needed someone young to work with them, so Brother Hickory agreed, making Mien their junior apothecary.
“Good, I’ll be upstairs. Since Mien’s here for the day, send him into town to talk to Petra about a new pane for the door. I doubt you will be busy.”
“I’ll see that it’s done,” said Kiao, looking dutiful.
“Good, good, don’t know what I would do here without you looking after things,” said the priest, patting him on the shoulder, and walked slowly away down the hall. Kiao watched the elder climb the stairs. When the old chanter priest footsteps caused the floorboards above them creaked, the well-mannered face dropped from Kiao’s face and he glared at the windows.
He clapped his hands together and announced, “I want to set a trap.”
“A trap,” questioned Alder, dumping his glass in a bucket and carrying it over to Mien so he could dump his pieces in it.
“I was thinking we could set a small flask outside of the window and on the top of the cabinet with a skin staining substance.”
“It’ll stain the floor,” pointed out Alder. “Let the peaceguard handle it, Kiao.”
The young man ignored him and walked towards the empty frame and started inspecting it.
“Why bother breaking in? The windows are low, yes, but the infirmary is always unlocked. Anyone who lives in town knows that.”
“Well, it could be an outsider.”
“If they know the location of the infirmary, then they’ve come here and read the sign on the door that says it’s unlocked.”
Alder rolled his eyes skyward. “They could be illiterate. Not everyone is blessed knowing how to read.”
Kiao was undeterred by that round of logic and continued to study the window. “It doesn’t make sense. They can’t have too wide of shoulders. They would have to be Mien’s size.” He then looked at the base of the window and broke off a jagged piece still attached to the frame. “I wonder how they even climbed through the window.”
Alder leaned on his broom and moaned. “Would you give it a rest already?”
He went on as if he didn’t hear him. “They didn’t even cut themselves not once or even left a shred of clothing. No boot prints under the window inside. They just slip in and out of here like a wraith.”
“And the Peaceguard can find your wraith,” said Alder, sweeping up the smaller shards of glass. Mien dumped his bucket wordlessly. When those two had a disagreement, it was best to stay quiet. He decided to slink to the basement, however, Kiao fixed his attention on him.
“Did you sense anything?”
Mien paused in mid step wincing. He was hesitant to say. His ability to sense lying was unreliable for anyone to trust. Yet Kiao insisted they were they were useful.
“I know you did,” she pressed.
“The peaceguard wasn’t telling the truth about it being an addict coming in.”
“Why lie about that,” exclaimed Alder.
“I don’t know. I’m telling you what I sensed,” said Mien.
“You should’ve said something,” said Kiao at the same time Alder stated, “Well, you probably sensed wrong.”
Kiao glared at him. “Would you stop being dod! There are things about theses break-ins that make no sense. And just because Mien’s abilities aren’t accurate enough for you doesn’t mean he’s wrong.”
“Of course, why would the keepers of law and order in the town not tell us the truth,” grumbled Alder, shouldering Mien aside and started sweeping the remaining small shards of glass. Mien let him have it.
“I’ll get ready to go to Petra’s,” he said, trying to escape again. Alder was in a bad mood because of what happened and Kiao was trying not to be by doing something about it. Training with Oeric or Nimbus to become a combat chanter would be better. However, that wasn’t much of an escaped when the two were dogging him now. They wanted him better than the average combat chanter and they trained him hard. He liked it better when he first stepped into the order. He had more free time and would spend it with Lyndon and Soletus. However, the two young tods went to the culling and wouldn’t be back for a few days yet. Then he might get to do something fun, given his two current companions were a bit dull.
Alder didn’t do much except work and be a priest in his room praying and meditating, and Kiao rarely went out unless Soletus or Lyn invited him to something that wasn’t swimming or playing a game of rush. Kiao claimed he couldn’t swim and refused to learn, and the rush was too rough. Yet riding on the trails with the fastest and most spirited horse he could find was perfectly acceptable.
Mien was about to walk out the front door into the lobby with his bucket of glass when a woman entered the room first, followed by three men. Two of them were helping the third along, who was shaking as if he had fallen into an icy pond.
The woman latched onto Mien’s arms. “Please, help my brother,” she cried.
Kiao left the window and pointed to the examining table closet to the door behind a screen. “What’s the matter with him?”
“I don’t know,” she said between gasping between tears. “Please don’t let him die.”
The two men picked the woman’s brother and sat him on the table.
“Greetings,” said Kiao to the brother. “I’m Brother Kiao, what’s your name?”
“They’re trying to eat me,” he said, swatting the air.
Alder stood off to the side. “You need me to get anything?”
Kiao put his hands on his hips and frowned. “Not yet. Mien, come here.”
Mien walked into the examination area of the infirmary. Kiao took a step back and gestured him forward.
“Look at his eyes and tell me what you see.”
Mien stood in front of the shaking man and saw that his eyes were nothing more than a glassy pool of black with only a sliver of what was some shade of green. Mien picked up the man’s hands. He tried to jerk it away and Mien held onto his hand to get a look at the man’s fingernails. The base of his nails was gray.
“Blighter,” stated Mien. “And the poor kind at that.”
The stuff nobles ingested didn’t cause nail discoloration.
The woman covered her mouth with her hands, gasping. “What? No, no, no, he would never take that stuff.”
And then the brother started flaying his arms around trying to hit Mien. “He’s one of them! He’s one of them!”
The elf jumped from the table, but the two other men with him stopped him and tried to force him back down. He started kicking at them. Mien backed out and pulled the sister back.
“Alder, get the restraints,” shouted Kiao.
“Don’t hurt him,” begged the sister as her brother nearly punched Kiao in the face with his elbow.
Kiao and the two men pulled him around the screen.
“Noooo,” he cried as they dragged him. He then stopped flaying and went limp. Kiao let go at the shift in weight. The two other men followed and stood back, watching him curl up in a fetal position, shuttering. Alder came with in with the restraints.
“Get him on the bed with the bars,” said Kiao and wave for Mien to come.
“It’s going to take four of us to get him up,”
The man’s sister clutched her hand over her heart. “Do be careful.”
Kiao told the men. “Get his feet; we’ll worry about his hands.”
However, on approach, the man saw Mien and screamed, “No!” He jumped to his feet and a boot knife manifested in his hand. He lunged at Kiao. Mien watched in horror. The tip of the knife was pointed at Kiao’s ribs. The young man stepped backwards, and the crazed man stumbled forward. The knife made contact with Kiao going downward. He cried out and fell to the floor.
Mien grabbed the man’s hand that held the knife and twisted it behind his back. He used his free hand and freed the weapon from his grasp. The other two men took hold of him. One took his other arm. Alder and the other man grappled his legs. They picked him up, ripped off his boots, and dropped him to the bed. Another knife clattered to the floor.
The sister was by Kiao side with a hand on his back. “He’s bleeding, he’s bleeding,” she cried.
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