I promised him that and I fought him anyway. Cordy told me not to, but I thought I knew better. So now you understand why I say, I’m not a smart man. It took me way too long to figure out that you talk to Soletus without antagonizing him. That was the way Papa, and I spoke. It didn’t work with him. He has a different personality. So, years lead to that moment. So, it was a lesson I had to learn. One, that Soletus is the perfect son for me and that I’m good enough. I didn’t have to become this sterner individual due to own illogical fears of him becoming me.
Kiao had expected bumps along the way, however, she never imagined Oeric being accused of murder. She followed the soldiers pushing him through town to and used that time to assess their situation. Oeric didn’t seem worried as he was sandwiched between four soldiers. He had the air of someone going on a mid-afternoon stroll. She wasn’t sure how he remained composed given the wiry elf, who had identified him as the murderer, kept buzzing around him like a midge.
“You thought you could slink away but, I got you,” he said jabbing a finger at him. “They’re going to hang you good.”
Oeric kept his head forward even though it was clear they took a route in the dead center of town to get as many eyes him as they could. And they stared at the procession all the way to the mayor’s house. Kiao was ignored as if she didn’t exist. However, once she got to the steps going to the nicest looking building in the entire town, the two soldiers guarding it crossed their glaives in front of her face.
“Only those who are part of this official investigation are allowed through,” said one of them, whose topknot exposed a very broad gleaming forehead. “You are advised not to leave town until the Mayor sees to this case.”
“And when is that,” asked Kiao.
“His trial will be a week from today.”
Oeric’s stoic demeanor dropped. He came to a dead halt and displayed bewilderment. “Excuse me! You’ve no proof save the word of another, and I’m arrested with a trial date already set?”
“It is law written by the Seat,” said the soldier who had taken him into custody. Another tried to push him forward. Oeric planted his left foot in front of him, pushing the soldier back.
“Law states that I’ve a hearing within a day’s time of my arrest. You don’t jump straight to trial,” countered Oeric.
The soldier who grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. “Curs like you shouldn’t be seen, let only heard. Keep your trap shut. If you don’t, you’re going to be wearing a new scar on your face in the shape of my fist.”
“Don’t you lay hands on him,” Kiao shouted.
The soldier who threatened Oeric glared down the steps at her. “Listen here priest, leave or I bring you in here too.”
Kiao pushed the glaives down that crossed in front of her and stood on her toes. “I don’t give a rat’s tit about what you will do. I want to speak to your commanding officer.”
“Kiao,” spoke Oeric sharply. She regarded him. He then said in his measured voice. “Go back to the room. In my bag there is a velvet pouch. Find another soldier, and ask them to take you to their captain, and give the pouch to him.”
The soldier then slapped him across the face.
Kiao searched for a way squeeze through.
“Kiao,” he barked and jerked his head, signaling for her to go. She backed away, keeping an eye on him. He turned his back to her and continued to the mayor’s house. When she, focused on the road ahead of her, she heard the soldier whisper to another.
“Follow him and if he does something you don’t like, bring him immediately. I’ll get the captain later.”
Kiao looked back to see one of the soldiers walking quickly to follow her. She sped up or as much as she could through the throng of people. There was little room to run, but she weaved between people and throwing out apologizes all the entire way to the inn. She squeezed by the latest group, asking for a room, and jogged upstairs.
The packs that Oeric carried were small and contained very little save a change of shirt, flint, and a knife. She went to the other pack and found a water skin. Under that, she found what he wanted. A velvet pouch that held something disk shaped. She didn’t waste time looking at it. As she hurried downstairs, she came face to face with the soldier who followed her.
He had his hand on his sword. “I’m going to–”
“Take me to your commanding officer immediately,” she said, forcing her voice at him with a softer touch than usual. “No need for the sword. I’m coming willingly.”
The soldier paused. His hand dropping from his sword, and he stared blankly at her.
Kiao’s eyes warmed, becoming violet as she spoke encouragingly. “Better to have him deal with me correctly. A good soldier follows his captain’s orders. You are a good soldier.”
The soldier frowned, looking as if he might be breaking her control. However, he said. “I’m a good solider.”
“Of course you are,” she said, keeping with the soft firm tone of her voice and then reinforced with more of her will. “Now take me to your captain.”
She saw the innkeeper gapping at her. The rag in his hand stopped in mid-wipe.
“Don’t worry, I am following a very capable soldier to his commanding officer,” she told him sweetly and was glad that he was the only one in the room paying attention. “Continue cleaning, there’s nothing to see here.” He bobbed his head and continued cleaning.
The Brotherhood went way out of their way, telling others that chanters were incapable of mind control. Most chanters were capable of persuasion. She was capable of a bit more than that. However, she couldn’t make anyone do something that wasn’t within reason. Well, she could, she didn’t like forcing others.
The soldier led her into the heart of where the soldiers gathered. They were searching under a cart when she walked up. At the side, watching observing it all stood a tall elf wearing a scarlet military jacket covered in badges and white pants. His topknot was adorned with a clasp made from gold with a single feather raising from it. He stood with his arms crossed and tapping his polished boots in annoyance. His hooked nose was very familiar as well as his sharp green eyes.
The soldier that was in front of her saluted by with a fist to his hear. “Captain Gyrfalcon,” he greeted. “I brought you this young man in connection to the murder Sergeant Swallow is investigating.”
Kiao inclined her head. “Captain Gyrfalcon. Are you in close relation to Lord Kharis’Gyrfalcon?”
The man became intrigued. “He’s my younger brother. How goes the Brotherhood?”
“Fine, but your men took my escort into custody for murder. He told me to give you this.”
The captain took the purple velvet sack and opened it. He lifted up a gleaming regent silver medallion. They were used by minor houses for proof of identification. Attached to the medallion on a chain was Amethyst and smokey quartz and a single dark feather martin feather.
The captain’s brow pulled together as Lord Kharis did when he was told something that didn’t please him. Except the Captain did look mildly miffed.
“Corporal,” he snapped.
Kiao watched the man’s smugness vanish, and he straightened to attention. “Yes Sir!”
“Do you know how to tell if someone is Brotherhood?”
“Yes Sir. He wasn’t wearing a uniform and his face was scarred like the wolf elf we’ve been looking for.”
The corporal faltered. “It was just scarred, Sir. He was clearly a fighting cur at some point. He had knife work across his face.”
“Where is he?”
“The Mayor’s House. They should have him in the holding cells.”
“Come,” ordered the Captain and he started down the road taking long hasted strides. The confused corporal turned to Kiao, who had already lengthened her stride to keep up with the captain. She was glad for his haste and prayed that they didn’t touch Oeric. She was afraid they would beat him given how hostile they were.
When they arrived at the Mayor’s house, the Captain headed to the back of the house. There was an entrance there leading downward. She expected the sound of fists meeting flesh as the door was opened. Instead, there the sound of clinking metal against metal filled the air. Someone let out a chain of explicit that caused the captain’s face to get tighter with rage. They descended the stairs and found a disheveled Oeric sitting with his feet propped up on a desk, flipping a knife idly in the air. The manacles around his wrist rattled as it did. The other cuff was empty. His freed hand was resting on the desk, red and cut. He gave the captain a wolf’s grin.
“Greetings Captain Gyrfalcon. What happened to Lieutenant Raven?”
She and the Captain’s gazes swung to the right. The soldiers and including the man who accused Oeric were packed in a single cell. The worse of them was holding a cloth up to a bloodied nose. But, they all looked like they got into a scuffle in a tavern and the tavern owner took a frying pan to them before throwing them under a horse.
The Captain’s brow dropped further into a deeper frown. “Sheldmartin, it’s always a pleasure. And Raven was promoted and sent away.”
Oeric gestured to the cell. “That’s a shame. He took all your good men and left you with pickings.”
“There’s been a lot of shifts and I’ve a unit made of a bunch of numbskulls currently. I thought mindless searching would teach them the way of things, while the better ones actually did something useful. I see I was mistaken.”
The sergeant that brought Oeric in come to the bars with a swollen eye. “Sir, this Cur-,”
“Shut up! I want you and every fool in there to take a good look at this face and remember it. This is Arch Monk Solgard’Sheldmartin’s son, Oeric. Not only does he pass through these lands uninhibited, but when dealing with the Brotherhood, you take them immediately to me.”
“How am I to tell he’s Brotherhood without a uniform, Sir,” said the sergeant. Kiao felt he was feeling particularly stupid that day to keep going.
“He’s a damn chanter with him, you moron,” shouted the Captain.
Oeric then cut in, “Captain, watch your language, you’re in the presence of a priestess.”
The Captain’s head swung around to get a good look at Kiao.
“Greetings,” she said, folding her hands in front of her like a good lady. “I’m Sister Kiao’Meadowlark.”
The sergeant sneered at her. “What kind of priestess goes running around like a young man?”
“The kind that needs to,” she retorted.
The captain focused on his men. “Instead of asking stupid questions, how about ask yourselves how you lot got tossed into a cell by a single monk?”
Kiao was curious about that as well. The men all looked away from their captain in shame.
“You should train them to protect their belt knives better,” said Oeric, showing the one he had been tossing. “Also, convince the Seat to invest in better wrist wear.”
“Don’t you act all haughty-totty you murdering bastard,” said the father.
The captain’s attention fixed on Oeric for answers.
“I was arrested by these men for murdering a woman I’ve never met. I thought it better to obey and they, in turn, would be reasonable,” he said and then the wolf’s grin came back. “However, they hit me with a club. And you know I’m a very delicate soul with a lot of reflexes.”
“Sir, my actions were justified,” defended the Sergeant. “He’s one of them shifting elves. Titmouse himself saw him walking along the road, shifting back. And look at his scarred face and sandy hair. Tell me this man isn’t the cur we want.”
“Such assumptions, I’ve a very common hair color,” returned Oeric.
Gyrfalcon then added, “You claimed the culprit’s eyes were green and that he was young.”
Titmouse then stammered, “He’s still young. ‘sides it was getting dark, and he always huddled in the shadow of the shed. I could’ve easily got the color wrong. He’s just a cur anyway. Nothing bunch of useless wretches! Better dead than alive.”
The captain the stated. “First Warden Oeric has always been tamed for what he is.”
Kiao then heard a soldier mutter. “You didn’t see that fiend fight.”
Oeric then put his legs down and leaned forward on the desk. “If I was feral, I would be struggling to continue this fine conversation with you fellows. I would be twitchy, unable to keep focus, sick looking, and sweating.”
The father rattled the cell door and pointed a finger at him. “On the road, he shifted out looking pale and sweating.”
Oeric gave him a dismissive wave and said nothing.
Gyrfalcon cleared his throat. “I think the best way to show if Sheldmartin isn’t the… erm wolf we are looking for is for him to shift in and out. A feral can’t do that, can they?”
Kiao watched Oeric’s lips become flat. He leaned back and rubbed his wrist.
“Yes, that’s true. An elf with no control over that form won’t be able to.”
Kiao didn’t know how much ease of controlling over the ability he had at the moment. He had been threatened and attacked.
“Well then, prove us wrong and change to a wolf and back again,” said the man.
Oeric held his hand out. “I need this removed. It’s just easier.” He held out his wrist. Captain Gyrfalcon pulled a key from the wall and removed the manacle. Oeric then stood in the center of the room and called forth Lykkon. The wolf with a silver coated and a crescent moon mark on his shoulder materialized. Oeric breathed in and exhaled. Kiao held her breath. And then what was once elf suddenly stood a muscular sandy furred wolf with gray markings between his eyes and on his back. He looked large occupying such a small space. One soldier cursed while the other ones warded themselves with a sign.
“Nigma’s teeth, they let you in the Brotherhood,” exclaimed the father.
“They are the ones who trained me to use this form,” said Oeric, and then he shifted back to an elf fluidly. “Being a wolf has its advantages, but a lot of disadvantages. It encourages people to accuse me of all sorts of thing such as killing sheep, raping women, and stealing pastries from little children.”
“And you’ve probably done all of that and more!”
“I’ll admit to the latter, but to be fair, the child thought I was a dog and wanted to give me a treat.”
The father turned to Kiao. “How safe do you feel around the likes of him? It won’t be long before he’s knocking you senseless and on top of you.”
“I trust the First Warden with my life,” she said without hesitation. “It’s the person who tries to hurt me I’m worried about.”
“And I’ve never seen you until today,” returned Oeric. “This young priestess has been traveling with me since—”
“What priestess travels alone with a man,” exclaimed the father. “I bet there is some tryst going on here.”
Before Kiao could fire off a response, Oeric growled and bared his teeth at the man, looking more wolf than elf again. “You insult her again, and you’re eating your tongue.”
“First Warden,” chided Kiao.
The man leapt up and down with his arm, thrusting out to Oeric. “See look, he’s getting wild and feral!”
Oeric squeezed his eyes closed. He had one hand balled up, the other rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Look, I’ve never seen you before in my life. I’ve not set foot in this town for years, but I have patrolled these roads.”
“True, he’s not done so in the last several, though,” said Gyrfalcon.
That fact didn’t sway the father. “He could’ve left the order. He’s not in uniform.”
They were interrupted by the sound of clapping footsteps coming down the stairs. A well-dressed elf appeared wearing riding boots stopped midway down.
“Ah, there you are, Captain, been trying to find your sergeant…” he trailed off and his gaze fell on the cells. “Above and below, why are you in that cell, Sergeant?”
“I’ve caught the feral one, Mayor Shrike. Captain Gyrfalcon is going to let him go.”
The mayor’s face twisted in confusion. “Nonsense. I have him. Had a hard time catching him too. We got him cornered not before biting one of your men. I sent him to off to be mended.”
Oeric entreated the captain. “Can I see him?”
The captain shrugged and deferred to the Mayor, whose face brightened in surprise.
“Is that you, Oeric? Well, this is unexpected, but well-timed. Though I doubt you can do much. Off his mind he is,” he said, signaling for them to come.
When they walked back outside, she saw them dragging a man across the ground towards them. He was tugging at the ropes that bound his wrist together. When they stopped, he started gnawing on them as if he were an animal.
Kiao wrinkled her nose at the musk coming off him. Oeric muttered something unintelligible.
“Nothing but an animal that one is,” stated the Mayor.
Oeric crouched outside of the reach of the elf. He stopped chewing on the rope and snarled at him, causing spittle to trail down his mouth. His hair was indeed sandy, but it was matted and probably covered in lice. His clothing was a dirt covered shirt and trousers like Oeric wore. They were also the same height, but the first warden was a fattened pig compared to him.
“He’s nothing but ribs and bone,” said Kiao and then to the father who joined them. “Above and below, how did you think the First Warden was him?”
He ignored her. “What are you waiting for? Hang him!”
“He’s knows how to use a consort,” said the Mayor. “I thought he might be one of the Brotherhood’s.”
The father got up into the Mayor’s face. “I don’t give a rat’s tit who he belongs to. He needs to be strung up. Curs are messed up in the head. They need to die or this happens!”
Kiao’s heart went out to the man in front of her. Somewhere in there was an elf who needed help.
Oeric then talked to the elf as if he were sane. “You can’t keep doing this, you know. The world is simpler in the mind of a wolf, but you hurt others doing this.” The man kept chewing the rope around his hands. Oeric grabbed the elf by his hair and snarled, “Stop pretending you can’t hear me. You’re choosing not to be elf right now.”
“Damn you,” croaked the man.
“If you can curse me, then you can tell me your name,” said Oeric.
Kiao walked forward. “You’re hurting him.”
Oeric shook his head. “I need him to focus. He can’t ignore physical pain like everything else. I want to know why he killed her.”
The man looked away.
“Didn’t mean to do it, did you? Probably wanted to be around her because she was pretty.”
The man’s shoulders sagged.
The monk swung his head sadly. “That was very stupid of you. Instinct replaces thoughts and reason. What did she do, smell like another male and jealousy threw you in a rage?”
The man started struggling to pulling away. “You know nothing!”
“Can’t you tell we are of the same cut, Brother? If not for Dias’s grace, I would’ve lost all good sense like you.”
“We are nothing alike,” he said and then started thrashing. Oeric yanked hard and pinned his head to the ground.
Kiao intervened and stepped in his line of sight. “Stop, you’re hurting yourself. Let us help or you’re going to die.”
“Then let me die,” begged the man.
Oeric put more weight on him. “I don’t recognize your face, but as far as I know, the only way you learned to use a consort is the Brotherhood. That makes you one of ours, and that gives me the right to intervene.”
The father jumped forward. “You can’t do that.” He then pleaded with the captain. “Tell him he can’t do that.”
“Actually, he can,” said Captain Gyrfalcon, holding up a medallion. “This is a house sigil. This man is Oeric’Sheldmartin. He speaks for Arch Monk Solgard’Sheldmartin and my brother Patriarch Lord Kharis’Gyrfalcon. As you know, they are the custodians of this province. They still follow laws of the Seat, however, when something involves their members, I have to defer to them.”
“You’re saying this man will dodge justice because he’s Brotherhood?”
“No,” stated Oeric. “Justice in another form. He will be given a chance to make amends according to our rules. If he can’t refuses to do what we say, we give him back to the Seat to deal with.”
The elf snarled, surprising Oeric and shifted back into wolf so quickly. The first warden had no time to react other than grabbing him by his tail as the ropes didn’t hold him anymore. He turned, flashing his teeth at the first warden’s hands. Oeric let go.
Instead of going back to the street, he threw himself toward Kiao. She ducked out of the way, yelling at him to stop using her abilities, as she did, an arrow buried itself in his head. Two more followed it in quit sucession.
A blizzard’s chill blossom inside of Kiao and her heart went into palpitations when the man’s heart stopped. She started grasping as her lungs refused to pull in air. The edge of her vision blackened, and the world became dull. She groped around for something to hold on to. However, her legs wilted. Oeric caught her and scooped her up. On their retreat, she saw the body of the wolf morph back into a man with an arrow sticking out of the back of his head. The other two other found their mark on his neck and shoulder. When they rounded around the corner of the building, the strangling tendrils of instant death loosened its hold on her, and she gulped in air.
Oeric lowered her on the ground. She clung to his shirt, hyperventilating. He pried her right hand free and uncurled her fingers before laying her hand flat on his chest. She could feel his heartbeat and pressed her ear to his chest. She needed to hear life. Feel something warm. A shadow fell on top of her, and she saw the Mayor’s face. It looked familiar, but the face above her was mild compared to what she was used too from his brother Meric.
“How is she,” said the mayor.
Kiao let out a few dry heaves.
“Bring her into my office,” he said.
Oeric lifted her up and carried her into the mayor’s house. She was taken down a hallway to a bright, spacious room with a waxed light wooden floor. Oeric lowered down carefully like she was his own child and pulled a throw over and places a pillow under her head.
“She’s not a combat chanter, is she,” guessed the Mayor.
“No, a healing chanter,” answered Oeric.
“So, she’s never had anyone killed in front of her?”
“No,” said he, settling at her side and laying a hand on her forehead. “You’re ice, Sister.”
The mayor started pouring something into a cup and then handed it to Oeric over the back of the couch. “Just water. I’ve liquor that could warm her up, but she’s green.”
Kiao took the water. Her shivering nearly shook the liquid out of the cup as she tilted her head back and gulped it.
“I’ll take the liquor,” she rasped.
The mayor looked intrigued. “Where did you find her, the mountains?”
“Actually, she’s one of ours,” said Oeric.
The mayor let out a gasp of disbelief.
“She’s an exception to the rule.”
“The Patriarch’s doing,” guessed the mayor with his voice getting closer again.
“Yes,” answered Oeric, reaching for the short shot glass. “She has the Arch Priest’s blessing.”
Kiao took the thick crystal glass in her hands.
“Now dear, you might want to sip,” the mayor instructed.
Kiao drained the glass in one gulp and held it up. He wordlessly took the glass. Kiao felt the warmth in her belly spread. She coughed once and sank down on the cushion under her head.
“I suppose if you let her travel with you, she must be stout. Which I have to ask, why are you here without a band and without visiting me?”
“I’m in a hurry, Halvus. You would have me here feasting for a three-day span,” said Oeric and then looked at Kiao. “You, okay?”
“I’ve been better,” said Kiao, trying to scratch out the image of helplessly watching a man getting killed in front of her.
Oeric took hold of her hand and started rubbing it.
“Does Cordea know where you are,” said the Mayor, who was now standing behind her. Kiao watched annoyance pull at Oeric’s brow.
“Don’t give me that look. That woman of yours will turn the world upside down looking for you. I’m just making sure I don’t need to send messages about your location.”
“She knows what I’m doing.”
“And where are you going?”
“Escorting the sister to complete a mission and finding my son.”
The door to the room then opened. The mayor then walked from behind the couch towards Captain Gyrfalcon.
“Those men of yours were looking for any excuse to shoot that elf from the moment we found him. They need better training!”
“Perhaps he shouldn’t’ve been so hasty for an end,” snapped the captain. He then marched up to Oeric and Kiao. “I apologize for that scene. No lady should’ve seen that.”
Kiao waved a hand at him. “No worse than seeing a severed arm and disembowelment. However, chanters such as me don’t like it when people are hasty for an end.”
Captain Gyrfalcon handed Oeric his medallion. “I apologize for the idiocy of my men. You really should be in a uniform because your presence is poorly timed. It’s beginning.”
Oeric’s brow rose. “Really?”
“Yes, and every mercenary up and down the Branch has been employed to help. I can’t message them all to allow you to pass.”
“What’s beginning,” asked Kiao.
The first warden held his index finger to her. “I was planning on being on four legs most of the trip. I should be safe enough.”
“I’ll trust your judgement, but I want you to get different lodging in town.”
“He can stay with me,” said Mayor Shrike. “No one will bother him if they don’t see him.”
“Good,” said the captain. “If there is anything I can do to make up for this, tell me.”
“Well, if you don’t want to worry about my face, let me across that river,” said Oeric. “We are on a rescue mission and time is of the essence.”
“If you’re on a rescue mission, then what‘s your excuse for not having a band or uniform?”
“The Arch Priest said only the two of us were required and two travel faster than a band.”
The captain bobbed his head. “Done. I’ll talk to the ferryman to get you over as early as possible. Mayor Shrike, I need to speak with you.”
“Thank you,” said Oeric.
He gave them both a curt nod and then vanished with the mayor in tow.
Oeric focused on warming her hand up. He let go of the first one and reached for the other one. She wanted to make a remark about his care. However, she settled back, allowing him to melt the iciness without a word on that.
“So, what’s going on,” she asked.
He smiled a little. “Doing something they wanted to do for years. Rip apart blood sports. My guess, they are starting with large ring north of here. If all goes well, they’ll scare fighters and handlers back to go back into hiding in one place. Once there, they plan to clean it out.”
“And that makes it hard for you to travel because…”
“My scars are a dead giveaway for a cur,” he told her.
She watched him for a moment. “But you are nothing like him.”
“I was before my mind righted itself.”
“Was that before or after you met Maelyra?”
“Before. I just regained myself when she showed up before that, I lived like a wolf a year or two on a leash. Clincher liked to use me as his personal bodyguard.”
Kiao frowned. “So, you allowed yourself to be treated like a dog. Why?”
Oeric stopped rubbing her hand and held it loosely. “It was simpler. It was simpler not to think about the life I had choose and all the pain it brought me. Kind of like Mien.”
Just with the mentioning of his name, the bond flared up and a desire to have Mien there descended on her. She curled the other hand into a fist, waiting for her mind to slip and cut her off from the present.
The channel searching for him and there was nothing. Disappointment filled her heart. She didn’t know why the expectation to find him was there. They had just begun their journey. There was nothing to do other than find her anchor and leave. It then occurred to her she didn’t set one. However, Oeric made himself one and held her hand tight and was speaking.
“Come on, slip in and slip out. Don’t stay in there, don’t panic,” he said, and she could feel the vice grip of his hand.
It was like walking out of a room this time. Her eyes focused on Oeric searching gaze. Then to his hand that held hers. It was his hurt hand.
“I guess you didn’t feel Mien,” he asked.
Kiao swayed her head. She wanted to focus on what she could do and not what she failed at. So, she tugged her hand from his and took hold of his forearm to examine his wrist. She started pressing her thumb along the joint.
Oeric became still and watched her. “You seem like you’re gaining control over it as you didn’t sit in that state for long time. Oww, what are you doing?”
“You’re skin is raw. And forcing one’s hand out of a shackle usually breaks one’s thumb. I’m making sure you didn’t.”
“There is a bit of a trick to it. Especially with the type they use,” he said, wincing. “You know my thumb would be fine if you stopped touching it.”
“If you are planning to walk, you need this healed. I still think we need to take a days’ rest, at least for your hip.”
“That’s fine. My hand is fine,” he said with a growl and tried to tug his hand free.
Kiao held on tighter. “Stop being a child. Let me at least treat your wrist. It’ll get over this quicker if I heal something.”
She had seen the dead before. She had seen maimed bodies before. What she hadn’t seen was someone killing themselves in front of her. He didn’t want to be helped. Not like Mien or Oeric. The urge to mend a terrible wound or hold a baby grew inside her.
“You’re going to need your satchel for that,” he told her. “If you let me go, I promise I won’t run off.”
Kiao released his arm, asking. “Have you seen someone kill themselves before?”
“Yes. It’s common among curs when they’re freed,” he told her looking away from her. “The world isn’t friendly towards former curs. And we have fiends in our minds. Then there are the physical effects of it. Instead of coping, they choose death.”
Kiao didn’t know that. In fact, she knew very little about the lives of fighting curs. Her only source of knowledge was the former one before her.
He pushed himself from the floor and stood. “I’ll be back shortly,” he said, clearly retreating. He wasn’t so fast enough to hide the rueful expression look on his face.
I didn't realize that the last two chapters were so long. Very long.