That’s a question that’s not easy for me to answer. When I first took this post, I did blamed Kellas on my grandfather. That he enabled him and let him continue unchecked. However, like I said, I’m not angry at Kellas anymore and that entire situation. My belief has tempered over the years. And it’s hard to tell if an egg is rotten by just looking at it. Especially in an order where complacency had already established itself. Not just in the older members, but in the younger members as well. And that’s mostly what I fall on the foot of my grandfather. He shouldn’t have allowed such complacency to take hold, where a self-righteous extremist infected the order.
Brother Hickory once told Mien that a chanter’s life was like walking across a beam of wood over a ravine. One never wanted to lean to far to either side because using one’s abilities wrongly would cause you to tumble downward. Or even being afraid to use the great, could do the same. Sometimes you lose balance and lean to one side, then the other. You might trip and fall on the beam. However, you never want to fall off and forget your way. As a chanter, one never wanted to fall so far, to have to climb back up. And that was if the chanter could. In the situation in front of him, Mien knew she had fallen to the worse place imaginable.
Doran nudged him. “Mien, what’s wrong? What is she talking about?”
Mien kept his jaw tight. He was afraid to speak. His palm itched. The phrase of light had climbed up his throat and pushing against his teeth.
“He is unable to answer. There is power on his lips,” she said.
And then the phrase of silence joined it.
Every fiber of him wanted to end her at that moment.
“Why are you getting the shakes,” said Doran growing in alarm. His gaze fixed itself on her. He positioned himself in front of Mien and he reached towards the hunting knife at his side. “What are you?”
Mien reached out and gripped his arm and shock his head.
“Then what’s going on,” he demanded.
Mien willed his mind, his instincts, and his abilities to relax. It was like trying to push back against a boulder rolled down a steep hill. Making it stop and convince all of it that nor horror was standing inf front of him like they had seen the other day. Yet she felt and sounded like it.
She looked at the knife didn’t remove her eyes off of it. “Maybe that would be my quick end and not a purifying flame that only the reckoner sings.”
Mien swallowed hard and croaked croak, “Don’t, Doran.”
He didn’t remove his hand. “Why?”
“I’ll explain, but don’t threaten her.”
The kanu crossed her arms. “The sun is still there. Yet, you managed not to sing for my death.”
“Why do you feel like a drass beast,” demanded Mien.
“You know how,” she said. “And wish to die on my terms. A more peaceful way than the terrible golden light trying to burst out of you. The help I need is one who possess purification.”
The phrase of purification wasn’t prevalent among Fen elves. And not as rare as the phrase of the risen. Neither of them were ones he knew. And one he didn’t think would help her. She was corrupted. She had drank drass beast blood. There wasn’t a single antidote in the world that could save her. Panic set into Mien. This wasn’t what he expected out of an edict. He assumed he would be proving that he knew how to use his phrase, not what was in front of him.
“From your face, you don’t,” she remarked. “Any way, run along. Don’t worry about this one,” she said.
“No,” hissed Mien. He didn’t want to be the chanter who failed his edict. He had to figure something out.
“Look, there is nothing unless you wish to kill me.”
There was a shout. It sounded female and was probably from the woman by the cauldrons. The kanu stepped out and spoke to her in reassuring tones in the human’s language. And then went back to her post.
“They are suspicious. And are looking around because they thought they spotted someone. If you want no eyes on you, there is a single stone house. That home is mine. On the back side, there is a cellar door. Wait there and keep your heads down.”
She then walked off, heading towards another post.
Doran then asked, “Should we trust her?”
“If she wanted to call for alarm, she could’ve easily done so a moment ago. We’ll make a wide arc around this place and find her home. Go head, signal when it’s clear.”
They made their wide arch around the village. Most of it looked was in disrepair and sagging roofs and listing foundation. The only buildings that weren’t letting in drafts and rain were made from stone like the chapel and Vlory’s place. As Mien moved, he eyed the chapel. He watched the poachers empty out the cauldron with the bones. It took two of them to ladled the liquid and pour it in casts. Another would carry them inside of the chapel with the boiled bones.
It started raining while they waited at the cellar door. Not only did they have to keep their head down, but huddle together just to keep warm. Of all the people Mien didn’t want to be huddled with was Doran. Though it was better than his uncle.
Vlory came like she said and swung the cellar door open for them.
“Hurry up,” she said. “Leave your cloaks down there.”
The house wasn’t much of anything. They entered through the kitchen. It was the largest of the room as it had a table for two in it. She led them away from it to the back of home that comprised two rooms. One had the door closed; the other was a small bedroom. She let them in there. Mien finally got a good look at her. Her hair was a black mound of curls that went down to the middle of her back. Her eyes were silver, centered with gold. And like all kanu, she was covered in freckles and had wide ears with reddish brown tips.
She tossed a folded blanket from her cot at Mien. “Settle down on the floor. Take your boots off and I’ll get another blanket.
They did as they were told and squeezed together on the floor from across her bed. There wasn’t a lot of room. When she returned, she tossed the blanket at Doran’s face and settled down on her cot, examining them curiously.
“You have uniforms and patches. Not military. What are you?”
“The Dias Brotherhood,” answered Doran.
“Oh,” she said, surprised and studied them with interest. “I’ve never laid eyes on the Dias Brotherhood before. These poachers are roaches, they hide from those of light.”
“And how did you end up with a group of human and half-elf poachers?”
“I needed work and they needed my skill. I keep drass beasts away.”
“I don’t think coin is greater than your life! This is dangerous and illegal work,” said Doran.
The Kanu woman raised her hand and tugged off a leather glove on her hand with her teeth. “Agreed,” she said, showing them her hand. All her fingertips were in varying states of turning to a dirty purple. If there was no clearer sign of a chanter who had consumed drass beast blood. Mien couldn’t understand why. Chanters were warned about it. It enhanced their abilities, but it came with the cost of death. Either slowly over time or if they consumed enough of, the corruption would kill them, and their bodies would into husks. And a husk far more dangerous than the one they come up against. There were many stories of men and women who were enticed in the woods by a lovely voice, only to meet their end to a horror.
Doran’s jaw sagged. “Why are your hands like that? What happened?” he questioned.
She shrugged. “Why does it matter? I’m dying. What this one needs is to remove the corruption so I can die in peace.”
Before Doran questioned further, Mien then injected. “She’s been drinking drass beast blood. The only way you can get rid of it is for a chanter to purify you. If nothing it done, she’ll turn into a husk.”
The young woman gave them a rueful smile. “So you know the truth. A cleaning that only fire can provide will save these people if I go too far, Reckoner.”
“I’m not your reckoner,” Mien exclaimed.
“I cry for help and Dias sent me a bright light burning. What am I to think?”
Doran then asked, “Why not stop drinking it?”
“It’s not that easy. It’s addictive.”
“That and the corruption empowers me to keep my body whole. I was mauled by an extremely venomous drass beast. These humans and half-elves were desperate to save me. They reached for the only solution they had.”
“So, the wounds should be healed,” said Doran.
“I borrowed time from the Maw’s creation. The corruption keeps the wounds from being healed. It also gives me the power to keep the wounds closed as long as I consume it. If a chanter can purify the corruption from my body, my body won’t turn into a husk when I die. Then I die.”
“Why can’t they purify then heal you,” asked Doran.
“Because the chanter has to be powerful to cut through the corruption, the venom and be able to heal them,” answered Mien. “That’s a job for one very strong healer.”
“What about someone like Sister Kiao? She’s a strong healer.”
Mien thought about it. She was strong, but it would use every ounce of her and maybe that wouldn’t be enough. He shook her head. “She would need help. But aside from that, she doesn’t know how to purify. No one in the infirmary knows how. It’s a rare phrase among elves.”
That kanu then looked down sadly. “Among my people, it’s not. If I were with them, I would have a chance. More can purify than heal. I cannot heal well normally. My skill lies in speaking into tao stone. Enough about that which cannot live. You two are pathetic looking. I can get food and you can tell me about this brotherhood.”
With that, the woman left, leaving them alone.
Doran watched her go out and then whispered, “We can just stay here forever. What are you supposed to do?”
Mien shrugged. He was at a complete loss about what to do. He wasn’t equipped. Even if he did, he couldn’t heal her either. He was stuck on an impossible task.
Think, he thought, Think. There has to be something I missing here. I can’t protect her from herself. She’s corrupted. How does the corruption even works?
Mien was so into his thoughts, he didn’t notice the young kaun coming back into the room. She had a plate full of pan bread and jerky. He only realized it when Doran reached for the plate in his line of sight and plucked some bread off.
“We should carry some back to the others,” he said.
“So, there are more? What does this brotherhood do?”
“We’re custodians of the land,” explained Doran. “We vowed to Dias to work for the people and one of our purposes is to thin the wave of drass beasts that comes out of Drass Tarn. We also focus on aiding townsfolk anyway within our capabilities. Our band was a drass beast hunting band, and we were out on a mission to take care of a behemoth. We mostly go out to patrol and slay whatever drass beast near and around the province’s southern border.”
“Why not outside of your province,” said Vlory.
“The order isn’t as large as it used to be. We do what we can now. Not everyone cares for our brand of help. Not all the towns in our province are Brotherhood friendly. We help them regardless. Well, if asked though,” he said.
“I see. And you members are always as young as you?”
“No. We’re just young, is all. And Mien, don’t you need to say something to her,” said Doran. He stared at him in a way that suggested he needed to do something.
Mien didn’t know what more was he to say to someone who he couldn’t help. He hoped that his guide would tell him more, but it looked like he was on his own. Not to mention, he still felt that pressure and the want to destroy.
“You could come with us and find out everything you want of your curious enough,” said Mien. “I can’t help you, not alone, but maybe other chanters I know can.”
Vlory shook her head. “I’ve seen maps. You’ve a world to cross. I will be consumed by my wounds. I cannot survive without drass beast blood and my body has reached its limit in accepting it. I hear whispers. My dreams are haunted by a gaping maw filled with row after row of teeth. It laughs at me. Beckons me. The one isn’t worth your soft-heart.”
“I think you are,” returned Mien gently.
“Reckoner, your eyes still have the sun in them. I know the stories. My people know them as reckoning lights. They make purifying flame, hot and devastating. Sent out to rid the graceless chanter to stop them from harming others.”
Mien frowned. He never heard anything like that before.
“I doom these people. If I leave, my husk will harm someone else. I can poison myself if that’ll make it all easier to rid me.”
That wasn’t a decision he wanted to make. What made him the authority in her eyes to make such a thing?
“I need to talk to the rest of my band about it,” he said aloud and thought, I have to think about it.
“Then you do that,” she stated indifferently. “Come back when you figure it out. But before you go, I will give you something to take back to them.”
Mien forced a smiled on his face. He didn’t know what else to do. “Thank you…uhhh”
Her name resonated in his head, sunk into his mind as if implanting itself. He knew then if he failed her name would haunt him every time he closed his eyes at night.
Doran and Mien returned where they left the horses. Tyrus was awake, standing in his cloak. He had brought the tarp out and stung it up for Soletus. The young monk had his back against the tree, sleeping under it. Their approach woke him up. He looked at them hopeful and then confused.
“We have a problem,” stated Doran.
Soletus arched a brow. “What sort of problem?”
“We found the chanter,” explain Mien. His voice was flat. “She’s corrupted. She drank drass beast blood and a lot of it from the looks of it.”
Soletus became even more bewildered.
Mien explained further. “She was mauled by a venomous drass beast. You personally know how hard those wounds are to heal. In order to save her, the poachers gave her drass beast blood in a misguided attempt to save her. She’s at the point of turning into a husk.”
Soletus’ brow pulled together. “And you just left her there?”
“What else were we supposed to do,” exclaimed Doran and pushed the knapsack of flatbread at Tyrus. “She didn’t want to come. In fact, she just wants to die. She was pushing Mien to do.”
Soletus shook his head. “I bet she doesn’t. She went through all the trouble to ask for help.”
“She wanted a chanter with the phrase of purification to make her suffer less,” cried Mien, and started pacing. “I don’t know it. We can’t take her back with us. We don’t have time. She’ll die if she stops taking the blood and she’ll die if she continues taking the blood. I was given an impossible edict.”
“Okay, regardless of that, we can’t leave her there,” reasoned Soletus. “She’s corrupted. We have to deal with her. By order of Dias and the Seat itself, we cannot leave a corrupted elf –”
“Kanu,” corrected Doran.
“Corrupted anything, we can’t let it alone,” said Soletus. “It has to be purified. We must burn them like we burn drass beast bodies.”
“I’m not assisting in a woman’s suicide,” shouted Mien. His own voice hurt his hears. He softened his tone not to sound so desperate. In it place, formed a sense of resolve. “After everything, you think I can just set by and let someone else die on me. Lyndon hurts enough. Besides, my entire edict has been about saving. This makes no sense, but there has to be a way to. I don’t know what that is.”
Soletus’ face became thoughtful, and he bobbed his head. “Okay, that settles it. We take her and trust Dias to give you guidance on what to do next.”
“Wait what? What do you mean take her,” said Mien.
“Save this woman,” interrupted Tyus with his mouth full. “These are so good. She stuffed these with butter, herbs, and salt.”
Soletus cleared his throat and spoke. “What I mean is that we are taking her.”
Mien wondered if the fever was getting to Soletus. “You mean kidnapping her?”
“Try persuading her first? It’s not perfect, but she can’t stay there. Besides, that, I had Tyrus watch while you were gone, and he noted that the Triad structure is where they store beastie parts. And since the structure is an offense to Dias, it needs to burn. So, we need to run the moment that goes in flames and she’s going with us.” Soletus them prompted them. “Thoughts?”
“When are you going to act on this plan,” asked Doran.
“We’re rushing into this,” returned Doran. Mien had to agree.
“We are, but we don’t have a choice. We need to take her and I need to get away from this place, and these poachers need to go too,” he said in a reasonable voice.
Tyrus then raised his hand.
Soletus regarded him. “Yes.”
“You know, he has a point. We’re rushing this. There’s a chance something’s going to hit us from the side.”
“True, but this is the best course of action with what we’ve been handed. We have a duty to perform here, so we should do it as quick as we can.”
“Well, I do like burning stuff,” said Tyrus.
Doran’s shoulders sagged. “Fine. It’s damp enough this won’t cause a brush fire at least. It will scare the poachers off too.
Mien wanted more guidance. More time to figure it out.
Soletus pushed himself upright with effort. Mien came to his side to steady him.
“I guess we need to do this just to get you out of here, since you’re still ill. Are you going to be well enough for all of this?”
“I can’t help, so you three are going to have to follow my plan. I promise you this isn’t fever driven nonsense, so here is the plan…”
Sometimes I really dislike this time of year. The hubby is sick and I'm starting to get sick on top of the monthly fatigue. I didn't get a good night of sleep last night, but I finished this section. *Gives a shaky thumbs up* Now, I'm going to work on fluff story I'm drafting. I've a fantasy romance of coziness. Yes, I'm working somewhat on Eroden. But this editing is taking more out of me than I anticipated. The next part shouldn't bee too bad, I worked on that a little more than this. Now, part five is where all the issues start. I'm going to spend a lot of time making it make more sense.