I thought about that moment again and again. I thought about how could have hurried him up. Or I could have just picked him up and jogged out of that valley. Before the water hit, I remember seeing band on the hill. Their heads turned to the dam. I don’t even remember the sound. I remember the bridge trembling under my feet, and I turned just in time to see a wall of water knock me out. I woke up in a rapid. Somehow Talore had kept hold of me and we rode down on a shattered piece of the bridge. It was tossed into the branches of a small tree. I was barely alert enough to realize what was going on or what he had done or was doing. He told me to leave the bridge and climb the tree. I did. I didn't realize that he was impaled on the bridge. He couldn’t move other than hack away at the branches that held the bridge with his knife. The tree's roots were being pulled out by the weight of it. His last words to me are still banded into my mind. “I’m not going to let another one of Solgard’s sons die.” And with one more hack, I watched my mentor, my first warden, being swallowed by a torrent.
Kiao tried again and again to force herself from her mind. She was able to fade back wake earlier, now she couldn’t. The channel wouldn't let up its searching. She fought against it while Oeric picked her up and carried to back to the monastery on horseback. She didn’t feel him clutching her or hear him shouting to the staff. She didn’t hear Lionel, Alder, or Brother Oli calling her name and trying to repeat what they did before and place another mug in her hands. She didn’t feel it.
On her end, she screamed at the channel itself. It felt like a combination of sleep paralysis and having the phrase of silence being used on her. She couldn’t move her body with fear eating at the edges of her mind because there was no sound except here.
Then she thought she heard something in the distance. It sounded far off. But then it got louder. Someone was making a noise, no calling her name.
Kiao tried to listen for the direction it was coming from.
She felt herself being moved, swayed, maybe shaken. She couldn’t tell. The channel was taking all her attention.
“Kialianna, listen to me,” spoke a voice that rumbled like distant thunder.
“Hickory,” she cried.
“Yes, listen to me, keep listening. You need to get out of your head.”
“Where are you,” she asked.
“I’m right in front of you, child. Focus on seeing, not on hearing.”
Kiao couldn’t see anything, or she didn’t think she was seeing anything.
“Come on, blink.”
She tried, but the act of something that came naturally was impossible. “I can’t,” she said in a small voice.
“What did I tell you about telling me you can’t? You can. Just like walking out of dreams. Remember, you struggled to pull yourself out correctly? We used an anchor to pull yourself out. Use this as an anchor.”
“Use what? I can’t feel it,” she said and tried to fight it again, trying to get free, and pushed against the channel with her will.
“Stop that,” ordered Hickory, shaking her again with his voice. “Stop fighting the channel. Use your other senses and feel.”
"But it won’t move out of the way!"
"The channel is a part of you. Ignore it. If you can hear me, then you are listening past it. So, you can feel past it."
She then felt pressure on her hands. It then started to sting. It wasn’t just pressure, it was pain. She burst back into the waking world and her vision sharpened. She was in a private room with Hickory sitting beside her. He had her hand in his, pinching the top of it. She tugged at his hold. His eyes were burning such a bright blue she didn’t even see his pupils.
“That was quite the hold,” he said with his lit causing his voice to reverberate.
“Why does this keep happening,” she shrilled, frustrated that it happened again not once but twice in a day.
“Calm down,” he soothed. “Half the reason you were stuck was because you started fighting it and then panicked. You made me have to empower myself to get you out.”
He blinked and the vivid glow died to a back light.
“Sorry,” she said. “Maybe most of the priest didn’t feel you.”
However, infirmary opened and Elnos shouted, “What’s going on? What is Brother Hickory doing?”
Kiao grimaced. “Of all the people to come,” she muttered.
Hickory wave dismissively at the door. “Ignore him. Helping you was more important than their discomfort.”
“You know what would help me, is not having this bond control me!”
The older priest shook his head. “Again, it’s not controlling you. Like all chanter abilities, it’s a part of you. One you might have not known existed. Your issues is that you don’t know the shape of it and how to work with it. Until you figure it out, it will act with a mind of its own.”
“Well, I would know it if the assembly didn't block my ability to research it.”
Hickory then swayed his head. “True, but, Child, you can only learn so much from a book. The shape of your bond with Mien cannot be found through pages. Not only the magical parts of it, but the nonmagical parts of it. You have the knowledge about what love is from what was taught to you through Dias’s Word. That’s all you need. You can figure the rest out like your bond partner.”
Kiao's shoulders drooped. “But I’m not Mien. He’s a feelings sort of person.”
“And you can be that, too.”
Kiao gave him a flat look. “I’m not a feelings sort of person.”
He sat a steady gaze on her with an ever so slight dubious arch to his brow.
“Okay, fine, I'm not in the same way Mien is. He’s used to this sort of thing. I find it annoying.”
“That a good point and really he would be the better person to help you navigate this.”
“He’s not here, though,” she said and then brightened. “However, when he comes home, all of this will go away anyway. I can connect to him, so I don’t have to worry about it.”
He gave her another flat stare.
“Above and below, why wouldn’t it,” she exclaimed.
“Just because you connect to him doesn't mean this will go away. You need to accept the bond on your end, which is most of your trouble. You keep stating it’s separate from you. It’s not. Mien accepted the bond and what is does for him. I think it’ll help if you treat this as you would when you started diving into dreams. We need to create an anchor for you. Something you can feel. You used to hold my hand when you practiced diving into dreams.”
“I won’t have a hand to hold all the time. Besides, feeling something painful seems to be the only way to bring me out.”
“Then we will figure out a better—”
Elnos’s voice cut him off and came right outside the door. “I don’t care what he is doing; he shouldn’t even have to do what he had done.”
Hickory’s attention went to the door. "...Anchor. If pain is it, then I suppose we can create something that feels painful for you. However, I don’t think you need it for long. Once you learn how to react to the channel, then you can slip in and out.”
The door then swung open and Brother Elnos burst inside. “What are you doing,” said the priest with a suspicious squint.
“I’m helping my young ward,” said Hickory, rising to his feet.
“You should be in the chapel,” said Elnos. “You have your responsibilities outside of these walls.”
“Honored Priest Brontis is watching the chapel. It’s a chance for the townsfolk to be comfortable with him. As assembly head, you put him there to help me and it’s been a great convenience,” he replied. He then told Kiao. “I’ll see you later.”
Elnos blocked the doorway and demanded. “Why did she need your help in the first place? Was it that accursed bond?”
Brother Hickory rested a hand on his shoulder. “Brother, why have you made this a concern of yours? In fact, the problem is the assembly decision to for an ill-fit solution on her that is causing this.”
“Only because you are ill-fit to guide both your charges. Your inability to understand the nuance of customary elf relationships caused this to happen. You would’ve never needed to use your abilities and disturbed the entire priest wing if you had.”
Brother Hickory let out a long-suffering sigh. “Experience is gained not only by what one feels but how one listens. I dedicated what remained of my life to listen. To Dias and other around me. And what I hear from you Elnos is cracked glass. Wish to discuss that with me and free you heart?”
Elnos stiff stance faltered, and he took a step back. He then realized what he had done and folded his arms inside of his sleeves and steadied himself. “Haven’t you been in that state too long already? You’re going to drain yourself.”
“I can engage my abilities all day if I wanted,” said the priest, shutting his eyes concentrating and opening them. They were once again the same gentle teal they always was. “The only people who are bother by what I can do, are the weak. My concern is genuine. Something is wrong with you. If you have something in your heart that’s bothering you, you know where to find me.”
With that, Brother Hickory scooted by him and left. Elnos appeared to be stunned. Hickory could have that affect on other. She took that opportunity to gather herself up and left the room, hoping to leave Brother Elnos behind. It was still her day off and she wanted to head up stairs to rest. However, she caught sight of Oeric sitting on one of the examining tables. He waved to Brother Hickory, who exited the building. Lionel was looking after him and handed him a tin cup of something. He was speaking with him pointed to his leg and handed him a few packets of something.
She headed towards them, however Elnos cleared his throat behind her. The young woman’s eyes rolled skyward. However, forever the priestess, she faced him only displaying a look of pleasant inquiry.
“And where to you think you’re going,” he questioned.
“To check up on the First Warden there.”
His face darkened. “I see you chose to ignore me.”
She crossed her arms. “I went to the arboretum to clear my mind. I have no interest in learning anything from you."
The older priest swayed his head. “Your stubbornness is hindering you from being a better priestess.”
“And how are you more qualified than Hickory, exactly? Go on state your reasons," she challenged. He just stared at her, eyes tightening in frustation. He had nothings, so she turned away from him. “So you have none. Not surprising. Now excuse me, I would like to thank First Warden Oeric for bringing me back here.”
She turned his back to him. Elnos then caught her by the arm and clutched it tight.
She glared at the hand around her upper arm, then his face. “Remove your hand.”
“You will learn not to speak to me like that. I’m not some warden you treat,” he told her through his teeth.
She forced her voice at him and repeated herself. “Remove your hand!”
He then grabbed hold of one of her braids and wound it in his hand and until held her by her scalp. Kiao let out a yelp but didn’t struggle. It was painful enough having her hair twisted and pulled without her making it worse. She glared at him instead and dug her nails in his hand in outraged.
He then hissed in his ear. “They may have spoiled you into thinking your greater than you are. You are nothing. And you never will be without me.”
He finished just in time for and to come inside her field of vision and grabbed Elnos by his collar and lift him off the ground.
“Let go of her,” snarled Oeric in the priest’s face, but by that point he had released her. Kiao darted to the side and Lionel stood in front of her.
“Are you okay sister,” asked Oeric.
She nodded and watched Elnos face turning red and him clawing at Oeric’s one hand.
“Typical, can dish out pain and terror, but can’t take it,” sneered Oeric and the warden threw him on a bed. He bounced once and tumbled straight to the floor. He crawled to his feet and stumbled away with Oeric advancing towards him. The priest sped up his retreat and ran out of the door. He didn’t follow. Instead, he faced Kiao. She clutched the side of her head with a quivering hand.
Lionel tentatively touched her arm and she jerked away from him.
“Sorry,” he said backing up. “It just, that looked painful.”
There was a thump from upstairs and Alder appeared from the top of the stairs jogging down.
“What happened,” he demanded, pausing at the bottom, looking between them all.
Lionel then explained, “Elnos attacked her.”
Oeric eased forward. “Sister, I think it’s best that you sit.”
“I don’t want to sit,” she snapped. “Just leave me alone. All of you!”
Lionel backed away.
Alder crept closer. “Kiao, what happened?”
“I don't want to see him sit foot back here. I don’t care if he is the head of the assembly or not. I don’t want him anywhere near me ," she said marching to a bed and flopped down. She couldn’t believe that happened to her. That all that time of being there, not a single warden, warden, or initiate young and old. Yet it was the priests that set themselves against her. Those who should be the wisest of the order.
Alder got within arm's reach of her. "Yes, I know, I know. We’ll do something about him when you’re not so upset.”
“I’m not upset,” she shouted, causing the bottles in the cabinet to rattle as well as the window.
“Fine, you're agitated,” he said.
“I’m not,” she argued, because she could. She didn’t care if he was right. “I don’t understand why he would even do that. What did I even do to him?”
Alder tried to comfort her, but she swatted his hand away. The only person she wanted there. Then it happened again. There was no sound. She scrambled to find anything as an anchor. However, her sense of touch was vanishing. She couldn’t even feel the bed under her. And then callused hands enclosed her hands. She didn’t recognize them. But whoever it was, rubbed their thumb on the top of her hand. It was unpleasant and felt even worse now that she was recovering from the violation, she felt from Elnos. She wanted to tell him to stop. Yet it her in waking world.
“Sister,” called Oeric
Kiao pushed the channel to close, but it fought back, wanting to stay open. To keep searching. She didn't understand why the supposed part of her was determined to search for nothing. Mien wasn’t there. She knew that. Yet the bond didn’t. If it was truly a part of her, then it should be logical too.
“Sister, I only have a surface understanding of what’s happening to you. You keep listening for Mien. Well then just listen for him. Stop fighting it and just listen."
"I don't think that going to work," said Lionel.
"It's an urge," said Oeric. "Like any other. You acknowledge the urge; you lean to understand why you have the urge. You don’t let it control you. Ask Dias for help if you must. Not everything can be done alone."
Kiao didn't think it was an urge, but it was a good comparison. It was demanding her attention. She didn’t want to bow to it. However, she had no choice she stopped pushing the channel and listened to the nothingness. She didn't like it still. It was empty. She felt separated from herself. Yet those calloused hands held hers keeping her in place. When the bond was shown there was nothing to connect with, the channel closed. She felt it recede. Then it closed. The world came into focus again.
Oeric squeezed her hand. She regarded him, seeing concern on his face. It was like looking into Soletus’ face. The shape of his brow made her realize how much father and son shared. Soletus looked like Cordea in terms of facial features. However, his expressions came from Oeric. Even the compassion filled ones.
“Thank you,” she said.
He gave her a nod and sat on the bed behind him.
“Should I get Brother Oli,” asked Alder.
Kiao swayed her head. “No.”
He then became annoyed. “Brother Elnos crossed a line! You need to do something, or I am!”
“I am doing something but that something is talking to the Patriarch.”
He became confused. “Why him?”
“Because he told me if anything happened or if I needed anything, I was to come to him,” she explained.
“I believe Lionel and I should come with you since we witnessed what transpired,” stated the First Warden.
“I don’t think you need to,” she said.
“We’ll come anyway,” the man stated firmly. “Besides, I want to make sure Elnos isn’t waiting for you or something.”
Kiao felt too shaken to protest his protectiveness and let him come. Lionel led the way with a single twinkling silver star lighting their path. Oeric stayed at her side as they made their way to the patriarch’s home. She was certain he was busy. However, when they came to the large home, the curtains were all drawn with the closed sign hanging up for hearings.
“Is he home,” asked Lionel.
Oeric nodded as he took the brass knocker and tapped the door. Kiao didn’t expect anyone, but the door swung open. Kiao expected Maelyra greeting them with a radiant smile. Instead, the broad forehead man that was the Patriarch’s aide.
“Oh, I wasn’t expecting anyone else to see the Patriarch. He’s a little indisposed of right now," said the aide.
“I need to speak with him,” said Kiao. “I was told if I ever needed anything, I was to come to him. He didn’t exactly give me a condition on it.”
The middle-aged half-elf gestured them forward. “Come in. I’ll get an earful and then some if I told him you come and didn’t wake him.”
He ushered them all in and brought them to the parlor. They all saw a pair of feet supported on the arm rest of the couch placed right in front of the hearth. As they come around, it was the patriarch, stretched out with his son sleeping on his chest.
“Honestly,” muttered the aide patting the Patriarch’s calf. “Lord Kharis, you have visitors.”
He jerked awake and let out a moan. He pointed to the boy on top of him.
“I’ll go get Xinny. You can hold on until then," said the aide and abandoned him.
“Oh, Sister Kiao,” he yawed and then paused. “Please tell me this is a just a friendly visit or my wife has voiced her concerns about my wellbeing.”
“I’m afraid neither, Sir,” she said.
His green eyes fixed themselves on Oeric. “If you’re here, then this ought to be wonderful. Mind freeing me?”
Oeric plucked his son carefully off him. The boy didn’t even wake up. He only stirred to get comfortable in his arms.
“I should wake the little fiend up. I’ve not gotten much sleep. Little tyke wakes up with nightmares and expects me to put him back to sleep.”
“Are you asking for a suggestion,” asked Oeric.
The Patriarch stretched. “You’ve gone through three of these.”
“The solution depends on the child. I gave a doll to Fern, slept on the floor beside of Soletus when I could, and Saedee just need me to talk her back to sleep. Just don’t have them sleep with you or they’ll never leave.”
“Ah, so I’ve got to be creative about this. Mae seems to think him running to me is the best solution.”
"It could be," answered Oeric as the Gyrfalcon servant, Xinny come bustling in. Oeric passed the boy to her, and she vanished out of the room.
“I guess Maelyra isn’t here,” said Kiao, finding a seat across from the chair the patriarch sat in beside the hearth. Oeric and Lionel sat on the couch.
“She’s hosting nonsense at the society house in an effort to keep Cordea in good spirits,” he said. “So, what brings you here?”
“Brother Elnos,” she said and described to him what had happened that evening. Oeric and Lionel told their parts while the Patriarch listened with his face creasing further into displeasure.
“Is Brother Elnos another member of the priest's assembly?”
“He’s the head,” she said and watched him become intrigued. “He’s used his position to meddle with Mien and me.”
“And that led to today?”
“Yes. He doesn’t like the two of us together. Elnos came into my room earlier today talking about how I need to be a better priestess.”
The Patriarch face twisted. “He came to your room alone?”
“Yes, I was at my desk working.” She decided to leave out the fact that she was having one of her moments. “I don’t know why he was even there.”
“He told us that he was seeing Brother Oli,” said Lionel.
The Patriarch's hand struck his arm like a gavel. “That’s magnificently inappropriate!"
“Thankfully, Brother Oli was asleep in the other room and Elnos managed to wake him up at some point. Either way, Elnos practically does what he wants. The Assembly supports him. The other priests love him. And you know the Arch Priest hasn't been all together this last year so he gets away with everything.”
The Patriarch looked at the flames in front of him. “Here, I thought I had a monastery full of good men. Well, grumbling men, but ones with enough sense.”
“You won’t find good sense among those who think themselves superior, Kharis,” said Oeric.
The man's gaze intensified on the fire. “And Lorthan," he muttered, his face drooping with disapproval. "Don’t you worry about a thing, Kiao. I’ll take care of this,” he said. His voice was low, firm, and unquestioning.
Why is this late? Because I had to do some minor, major revisions.