Now a certain kind of loyalty is needed from a warden to their first and second. However, that sort of loyalty is based on respect. It is not given or demanded because you did another a favor or you start choosing favorite. It is rewarded by good leadership and strong character. Anything other than that is dangerous. And given what I know now, Kellas was a dangerous first warden to have in the order. He was an extreme. And extremes are never good. Warden’s like him are how rifts are form. How extremism within a sect is formed. And that’s how Kellas gain those that followed him. They believed in his extreme way of thinking.
He let a friend die. That was all the Mien could think about. He couldn’t understand why the young monk wasn’t mad at him, and continued being his friend. He was directly responsible for it. His entire purpose was to assist in the protection of his bandmates. Yet, the young monk wasn’t angry at him. There was nothing in his voice that suggested otherwise. If anything, he wanted to be near him more. Wanted his friendship. A shoulder to lean on. It was confusing to him.
When his own father died, after some of grief let up, it turned to anger towards his uncle. It was his ill maintained mine that killed his father. Though, Mien never acted on it. He never allowed that ball of rage to control his words. He just shoved it away in his mind. He never showed it. Fear was a stronger emotion than his ill-feelings towards the man. Yet, it came bursting out all that moment on the bridge and he directed it at his cousin.
He wondered if that rage was inside of Soletus. He was in pain so something had to be there. Mien just hadn’t done anything to make it burst through. Was it even going to happen because he seemed a little better emotionally at the moment. Physically, however, he was still ill. In fact, he soaked his arm in the stream for as long as he could and crawled back to sleep. Tyrus still hadn’t stirred, leaving Mien alone with his thoughts.
He paced around their campsite in a wide loop. Checking the perimeter but to also beat himself for not doing more. If Soletus wasn’t angry at him fine, he could still be upset with himself. His mind was full of thoughts of how he could’ve done more.
He stopped at a tree and leaned his forehead against the bark.
Why not learn the phrase sooner. I could’ve shield Lyndon as we ran to save Soletus, he thought, and then his mind finally provided a check. Could I have shield the two of us on the move? Can the shield move?
He didn’t know a terrible lot about his phrase of protection. Usually, knowledge of a chanter’s phrase was given when the chanter learned the phrase. It was different for everyone. Nimbus could shield. He could shape it to be like a buckler shield in front of him and could move it around. In fact, he could form three of them at once. Mien knew that wasn’t the shape of his phrase. It was literally a translucent dome around someone. He didn’t think he could move it if Tyrus had moved.
So, there is no way I could shield Lyndon from getting hit. But why didn’t I see the person shooting? Maybe I couldn’t.
Soletus mentioned it was late in the day. It was dust or night. That would make any situation chaotic. Who could see a crossbow in the dark?
Then there was healing Lyndon. He tried to force a memory of the incident forward, and his mind revealed nothing. The only thing he had was knowledge of anatomy. If Lyndon was struck in the neck and if Soletus’ description of it was right, Lyndon’s artery, vein, and his trachea had to be hit or torn. Such a wound would need treatment immediately. However, it was interrupted by the clay shell.
If the shell wasn’t in the doorway, I could’ve patched Lyndon up to help him live.
Yet even with him working all of that out, Mien still felt terrible. He let a brother die. That was a burden on him. But was it? Brother Oli told all the infirmary staff repeatedly.
“You can only do so much. You can stop blood flow, you can mend broken bones, but if a soul is called, you can’t stop it. You can’t do anything about it.”
Kiao was probably the only one there who could and only under certain circumstances. Chanters didn’t hold the full power of a god.
“Glad you come to that conclusion,” said his guild behind him.
Mien straightened up and whipped around the other side of the tree. The waking world was gone, and he was in the field again. His guide this time was standing solemnly.
“This is the truth all chanters must accept. You’ve only been gifted a tiny have only a tiny portion of Dais’s power. One can do amazing things, but there are limits. And within that limit, one must understand what they can and cannot do by themself.”
Mien wondered how many chanters never accepted that truth. And could he just accept it.
The guide gave him a lopsided smile. “Many chanters. Some need a harder lesson. But that’s not for us to worry about. Because the lesson here includes what can be done when we aren’t alone. There was a reason you met her. And that reason is important to the one close to you.”
He blinked and he was back among the trees. There was the sound of crunching leaves and the loud snap of a branch being stepped on. Mien jumped and searched for the noise. It was Tyrus.
“You okay. Been watching you pace like a penned dog and then you just stopped,” he said.
“Oh.” Mien rubbed the back of his neck. “I was thinking. Had a vison. You know, typical chanter stuff.”
Tyrus chuckled. “I guess the whole edict thing is still going on? You’ve not forgotten what happened?”
“No, if anything I could forget was seeing that husk.”
Tyrus shifted and looked uncomfortable. “Yeah about that, thing. Was that your first time seeing one?”
“It didn’t show. So, thanks for saving me.”
The young chanter didn’t really want his thanks. He didn’t need to say thank you. However, he just settled with.
“That’s what we bandmates do. And don’t feel bad about not being able to stand against a husk. I told Soletus early, they try to control your mind.”
“No joke. It just. It kept telling me stuff like that was too weak,” he said not looking at him. “Not strong enough. Not good enough. And I feel that way now. I’m a dirty half-elf. We’re not good for much.”
“You’re good enough. Any faults you have has nothing to do with you being a half-elf. It’s those rocks in your head. Stick with us, your brain will grow, and you’ll lose them.”
Tyrus chuckled. “Lyndon warned me you could be a little sharp little dagger.”
“Well, he was mostly on the receiving end of it.”
“Tits I miss him. Nothings felt real since he died. It probably double for you since you weren’t there and don’t even know how it happened.”
“Funny you should say that. Sol told me earlier. That’s why I’m out here,” he said. He started at the white sky above him. His green eyes sad. “I could have saved him. I don’t remember, but I can feel it here,” he said pointing to his heart.
“But you did save us. You’re very good at that,” retured Tyrus both of him looking through the trees.
Doran returned during early afternoon. With news as he wasn’t slumped and grumbling when he arrived.
“I’ve good news and bad news,” he stated. “I found a road, but it led to abandoned village with a bunch of drass beast poachers camping in it.”
Soletus’s brow dropped into thought.
Tyrus face twisted in confusion. “Titfire, who’d want to do that?”
Soletus stared at him. “Humans tend to do that. You learned that—you know what, never mind.”
Doran continued. “We can avoid them. There is a path that leads to an east bound road. I saw a bridge going over the river.”
Soletus perked up. “Good job. I don’t feel like dealing with them. We need to move out as soon as possible. Once over the river, there should be a town,” he said and stood. Then his legs folding and he sunk back down. “How about you guys get everything pack up and then we moved out?”
“We could rest,” suggested Mien. “Half the day is already over.”
“Too close to the poachers,” he said. “They’ve likely seen smoke from our camp. If they see us moving away, they won’t do anything to us. Plus, it’s getting misty again. We need better shelter.”
Their plan was set, and they moved out. Mien walked that day, giving Tyrus’s legs a rest. He was strong enough he could walk whatever distance they needed to cross for half a day. Doran led them through a thicket and that was when he heard the voice again. It was stronger than before. He quickened his steps and wondered away from the group towards a break in the trees. He heard Soletus call him followed by the others following him. Mien broke through and stook on the road. The voice vanished.
“What’s wrong,” asked Tyrus.
“I hear her?”
“Hear her who,” Doran asked.
“I forgot about your edict,” said Soletus.
Doran sighed loudly.
Mien spun in a circle. “She’s gone.”
“Can you send your voice on the wind,” asked Soletus.
Mien opening his mind and closing his eyes to listening before saying. “I don’t know. I don’t know what phrase can give you that ability.”
The voice touched his mind again. It was coming gown the road that tunneled its way through the trees. “We follow the road,” he said.
Above the treetops ahead was rising smoke.
“That’s the poachers,” said Doran who had followed his gaze.
“Any villagers there,” asked Soletus.
Doran swayed his head. “Just poachers.”
“What are the chances a chanter is there,” asked Tyrus.
Mien walked forward. “Enough to check.”
Doran spurred his horse and blocked his way. “Look, I gave that place a good examination. Nothing but humans and half elves there. Not a single elf to be a chanter.”
Not all chanters were elves.
“I need to look,” stated Mien firmly.
“We’ll check it out,” said Soletus. “It can’t hurt.”
Doran’s shoulders sagged. “Fine.”
Mien wasn’t looking forward to what they were about to do. The closer he got to the village, the more the wrongness thickened like the soupy mist around them. The dampness around them at least muffled their approach after they tied their horses up, the sound of dripping in the moisture, laden air covered their steps as they approached the town from the west. They kept low to the ground, using trees and the thicket to obscure them as the approach.
When they came to a halt, they crouched down together at the outskirts of an old tiny village. There wasn’t much to see aside from homes not occupied by the poachers. The only thing of interest was the three large cauldron in the center. They billowed noxious smelling steam into the air with a human watching them. She had a two-prong instrument in her hand which she dipped inside one of the pots. She fished out something long and white then sat it on a cloth. It was a bone.
A chill went down Mien’s his spine. It was the first thing that made him uncomfortable. The second thing was to his left sat a stone temple. It wasn’t a Fenndish chapel, as the roof was domed. On the double doors, he could see unity rings on. It was a Triad chapel.
He was going to bring it to the attention of Soletus, but young monk was occupied. He had a hand cupped over his nose with his finger and thumb covering, squeezing his nostril shut.
Tyrus who was keeping an eye on their flank and back and whispered. “You’re not going to be sick are ya?”
Soletus sliding down on his back turning green.
“Tyrus, I think maybe you should take Soletus back to the horses,” suggested Mien.
Soletus bobbed his head. “He’s right. I don’t like the thought of splitting the band. But I’m going to be useless again.”
Mien immediately heard the pain in his voice and saw his left arm was wrapped around him. His hand was tight in a fist.
Doran nodded. “Fine. Mien and I will look around. It will be easier. We’ll be right back. This shouldn’t take long.”
Soletus and Tyrus shuffled off back the way they came. Mien watched them until Doran tapped him on the shoulder.
“I’m going ahead to the back of the chapel. If it’s safe, I’ll motion you over.”
The young man darted towards a pile of rotting logs and rocks. He became still when the woman at the cauldron turned around and looked in their direction. Mien crouched lower in the thicket. She then turned her back to them and started whistling. Doran waited and then darted from there to the side of the chapel and out of her line of sight. He scooted alone the wall until he was at the back of the chapel and peered around it. He motioned for Mien to come.
Mien mimicked Doran’s movements. However, even with getting closer, he couldn’t feel another chanter. He stretched his sense, but he couldn’t hear the cry for help anymore.
“Can you feel anything now,” Doran asked once he had settled down.
Doran pointed to a large dilapidated shed. “That is as close as we can get. No one can see us there.”
It was secluded with trash obscuring one side.
“Lead the way,” gestured Mien.
Doran left first, followed by Mien. They squeezed together as close as they dared. Mien then caught sight of something that stood behind the shed. It was a fence post with a round disk made of tao stone lashed to it. There was writing carved into it. It was Melodic, and it felt like a ward. He could feel it humming on his skin. He opened his mind to it and discovered the ward was one he felt before. It was one to signal when a drass beast was around. Usually, they were dying or too distorted. This one sung clear and crisp. However, buried in the ward was something else. A soft timbre pulsed then, and he heard it say, “Help me,” in Melodic.
Whoever did it was impressive to imbue tao stone with a ward, let alone put a message in it.
Doran poked him in the side. “Who is the chanter? All I can see are humans and I know they can’t be chanters.”
“I’ll see if I can find their timbre,” He concentrated and opened his mind’s ear all the way up and was bombarded by a lot of strange timbres. Most of them coming from the chapel to the side and they were abnormal and grating. A strangled cry made its way out of his throat as he worked on silencing those. He discovered there were more pillars around them. He silenced those as well. What remained was a single timbre. It was weak and strong at the same time. It reminded him of falling snow and it was coming closer.
Mien held his fingers to his lips and gestured to his right. That was where Doran was. He heard footsteps. Both of them stopped breathing. There was a sigh, and someone spoke with an unfamiliar accent as if elvish wasn’t her first language.
“I know you’re back there. They don’t.” she whispered. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t tell them.”
Doran looked at Mien. He forgot that the other chanter could sense him as well.
“Come on, don’t be shy,” said the woman, who clearly had a lit. It wasn’t strong, but it was there.
Mien leaned over Doran to peer around the shed. He didn’t know what to expect other than she sounded young. He was met with was a young woman no older than Kiao under a thick pelt made into a cloak. Across her face was a thick scar that streaked across like a lightning bolt, with its branches going over her right eye and one cheek. The pale skin of the scar contrasted against her toasted and freckled face.
“Hello,” he whispered. He knew she could hear him.
“What are you doing here,” she returned.
“I heard your cry for help,” he said.
“You did,” she said, holding her hand up to her mouth with her lips pulled up. She let out a single snort of laughter before controlling herself. “My problem isn’t for tods to solve. Run along before you get caught by the others.”
She then walked forward to the post.
“You’re renewing the wards around here,” said Mien. “How do you do it? How do you even put a message in it?”
“A kanu secret,” she said absently, lingering at the post. With her back turned to him, she continued speaking. “Hmm, are there more than two of you this far in the wilderness?”
“We’re on our way home,” spoke Doran. “And Brother Mien you’re your message and was urged to come here.”
The woman turned her head to him her with a troubled look on her face. “You do not sound happy about it.”
“This isn’t about me,” he returned.
“Concerned about this one,” she said, lifting the stone disk and held it in her palm of her gloved hand. “I’ll advise you to ignore this one and go home.”
He frowned. “So let me get this straight. You signaled for help but, you don’t want us too?”
Doran gave Mien a sharp look. “So, we wasted our time coming here?”
She chuckled. “Well, you young ones can sort it out. I’ve got to check my wards. It was nice speaking, seeing another chanter.”
Mien reached and grabbed her arm and a chill run up his arm. He felt as if he touched something revolting. An urge he never associated with another rose. He felt as if he touched something profane and he needed to burn her.
He snatched his hand back. The center of his chest burned. Her own gaze of silver and gold flared up.
She became grave. “You’ve the sun in your eyes, bright and terrible. Are you my savior or are you my reckoner?”
Sorry for late upload. I've been distracted, not to mention being sick kind of messed up my momentum.