To the Dyne, Dias is the demigod of song as well as second chances. To those who are actually Fenndish, he is the creator, but he is still a god of second chances. The hand that’s reaching out to a lost cause. When Dias gives you one, you need to give others second chances as well. It’s a very easy thing to forget that you should be doing. Even I forgot that after awhile. I mean, my success with giving on to former curs like me, never worked out. Tragically so. I just stopped. Because judging. It’s easy to do so. Then I met Mientheodric. He was this quaking, fearful boy who tried to kill someone. I didn’t like him when I saw him. Not because of what he did, but because it was like looking into a mirror. Dias reminding me of what I tried to hide.
Oeric returned close to dusk. Kiao was sitting in the near dark in relative comfort, still examining her staff. Lykkon padded in first and sat immediately near her, once again giving her a good thorough sniff before stretching out. Oeric followed, going straight to the hearth to start a fire. It was a strange sight as they had been avoiding fires for a good reason, and yet he was comfortable making one now.
“Arg, I can barely see. But starting a fire will be quick. I’ve some dried brush for a good starter and this wood is dry. I hope the person who left it here will forgive me for using it.”
Kiao watched him start the fire as he explained their plan for the following day as he worked.
“When we leave, we won’t be going out the front. There’s a door off to the side back there that leads to a passage underground. That will be our road for a short bit. I checked the exit, still very clear. I tucked our horse out of sight. If Xerius and his band want to inconvenience us, then I’ll make them work for it.”
An amber glow from the heart grew stronger and Oeric added more wood. It made the staff in Kiao lap orange.
“Anyway, I think we deserve a decent road meal tonight. Now I wish I had brought a bow,” he said then twisted on his heel to look at her. “I could’ve easily shot a— what’s in your lap?”
Kiao pointed to the staff.
“Yes, that,” he said, putting his hands on his hips.
She gestured to it and mouthed, “A staff.”
“I can see that. Where did it come from?”
She stood up again and led him to the door.
He inspected it. “So, it was behind here. How did you open it?”
She couldn’t explain it very well mouthing, but she tried. She told him about how the door lit up when she touched it and how she whistled it open. However, the door remained inert when she touched it again.
“So, you whistled a door open, picked up a staff, and the door sealed itself when you stepped out?”
She bobbed her slowly as he made it sound completely ridiculous. The way his eyes swept over the staff, she was afraid he was going to tell her to leave it. She clutched it tighter.
“This is a chanter thing isn’t it?”
He let out a growling sigh. “Maybe it’ll be good for something,” he said, yawning. “Come on, let’s get something going before it gets too late.”
They had a meal out of their dried foods. The portion he made didn’t have conservation in mind. It was mostly to fill her belly. Kiao could’ve eaten several bowls of the traveler’s stew he mixed. Two full bowls did nicely. He stuck with a single bowl. However, once she felt sated, she pulled out her bedroll. Oeric leaned against a rock, watching the flames absently. She noted he was wearing his whip canes still, but overall was relaxed. He then glanced at her.
“Go to sleep,” he told her. “We’ll be up and out of here as early as possible. I’ll stay up and keep the fire going for a bit. I’m waiting for Xerius.”
Kiao gaped at him and mouthed. “Why?”
“I need to speak face to face to him and this is the perfect place to do as he can’t come in here,” stated the warden with a smirk.
Kiao wanted to know what he meant. However, she didn’t want a long explanation. Something large collided with what sounded like a pane of glass and then the thud of a body falling. She realized it had come from the doorway as whomever it was moaned. Oeric started chuckling as he took the torch from the side of the hearth and lit it. He made his way to the entrance with Kiao trailing him, hanging back. The torch illuminated a Xerius who was on the ground holding his head.
“You ought to be more careful swooping into unknown places,” said Oeric. He held up the torch to illuminate Roxlyn as she stopped short of Xerius. She glared at the doorway with her nose scrunched up.
Kiao then understood. The building has some sort of protection wards on it. However, she never heard of a ward that could keep someone physically out.
“I found out long ago that nonbelievers can’t enter this temple,” he explained. “If I had to guess, this place may have something within to protect.”
Kiao glanced at the staff on the ground by the hearth. It wasn’t there. She then realized it was in her hands.
“By that logic, you shouldn’t be able to enter,” grunted Xerius.
“To become a Dias Brotherhood monk, you have vows to take and follow them with all the sincerity in your heart,” he returned solemnly. “In other words, people change, Xerius. I’ve changed.”
Kiao was still caught on the wards. How could a ward even begin to sense someone’s beliefs, she thought. She looked above the doorway and saw nothing. However, the stones that lined the bottom had writing as well.
“By the way, this protection ward reacts to violence. I would think about your actions carefully,” Oeric informed them.
Xerius’s eyes narrowed, and then he started chuckling. “Looks like you’re finally using all that potential I said you had. But how you’re going to get out then? There is no exit to this temple in the back.”
“Doesn’t matter how I do it, but when I do it, I don’t want to see your face or feathers again. No cats, no doe. You hurt my charge, so I’m not feeling accommodating anymore.”
Roxlyn stomped out of the shadows getting as close to Oeric as she could. “Using her voice made me very angry. She angered Diva!”
Oeric blinked. “Beware of how much you spit. These wards see it as an attack.”
The woman stepped back looked around as if to spot any defense.
“Besides, Sister Kiao never would’ve done that if you didn’t attack me. You know the saying; violence leads to violence.”
“Your kind is a stain on this world! My oath is to stop you,” she snapped angerly.
Oeric rolled his eyes. “Let me explain this in another way. You’ve a mercenary license in this country, therefore, you are forbidden to take into custody or act against someone without a single warrant for their arrest.”
“I was asked to bring in all curs I found over the river,” said Xerius.
“Not former curs and certainly one not doing anything illegal!”
Xerius looked in Kiao’s direction.
“Above and below,” he exasperated. “If I had intent on selling her, I would have abandoned her at the lodge and ran. Less trouble.”
“There is clearly some attachment there, given her actions.”
Kiao would’ve shouted at him if she could. The only thing she could do was pound the end of her staff on the stone floor.
“And what were her options? Let me die and allow my killers to take her to safety? Last time I checked, murdering doesn’t inspire trust.”
“What is she to you, your lover?”
Oeric winced. Kiao felt the bond twisting her stomach, but also being around Oeric was too much was like being around her father. Maybe an uncle. And she was beyond doubt that Oeric consider nothing more than a child. Not to mention him calling her “Sister” was said using a voice with very little affection, but a whole lot of respect.
The wolf’s smile came back as a sneer this time. “That assumption is extremely disrespectful to Sister Kiao. Further conjecture will prompt retaliation on my part. For example, my foot in your teeth. However, I don’t want to deviate our exchange further. I want to get to the crux of it. What I’m trying to get you to grasp is that pursuing me will not grant you coin. Bring my head will mean your incarceration and deportation, if not your decapitation.”
“A former cur is in no position to threaten us with law,” said Xerius.
“I know the head of the mercenary guild. One letter and I can have your licenses revoked. However, I’m very generous and I won’t write him if you promise me you will refrain from following me any further. In fact, I urge you to go to Captain Gyrfalcon and give him the name Oeric’Shelmarin. He can educate why my name bears weight to it. Especially with the campaign you are involved in. Now, if you excuse me, I want to start focusing on finding my son.”
Roxlyn then spoke wearing a spiteful smirk. “Why is your son so far away that you have to hunt him down? Did he do what you did and became a cur? I pray he’s a rotting corpus when you find him. That Diva curses your blood and that all yours will die becoming dust for her.”
Kiao was caught between being proud that Oeric possessed the self-restraint not to hit her, but she wished he would slap the snot out of her.
The stones around the doorway shimmered to life. A sound like the deepest of bass voices came from every crack in the floor. In the gloom, some of the stones in the courtyard shimmered as well.
“Curses count,” said Oeric. “I would leave while this temple is giving you the chance.”
The Diva priestess stepped back again, this time grabbing Xerius by the arm and gestured for him to go. “You have to come out of there eventually,” she said.
Oeric waved to them. When they disappeared, the amicable smile dropped to a frosted stare. It was a well-known fact that you didn’t threaten his family. She saw the results of what he did to Clincher after he attacked Soletus. The handler nearly lost his arm. Originally, Oeric’s intention was to kill him as he was a threat to his life. She knew the woman didn’t have that kind of impact on him, but it still had an impact.
She walked forward and touched his forearm. That brought her a sideways stare.
“First Warden,” she mouthed and gestured to the large hearth to the side with her staff.
He nodded and went back to where he sat. He didn’t lie down to sleep. She was concerned, but he likely didn’t want it. Instead, she let him cool off and think. The deep voice of the temple lolled her off to sleep. When she was woken up, it was gone. The fire was not. It had been reduced to a handful of coals. Oeric was in the process of building it back up again to warm up some water in the pot for tea. He handed her a mug of tea after he had done so.
“How’s your voice?”
Kiao cleared her throat and tested her voice out. She wasn’t met with pin pricks. “I can talk again,” she said, though her voice sounded high and strained. “No singing.”
“Good,” he said. “I delayed their attack last night because of this temple. They would’ve taken advantage of you not having a voice then.”
“And they’ll follow us again, even after what you said to them last night.”
“Likely,” he answered. “This is personal now.”
With that, they left the hearth with a lit torch in Oeric’s hands. They walked towards a door to the side. It was the first time Kiao had even noticed the door. It didn’t lead to a room but downward to a basement or a cellar. Instead, it was a burial chamber. Stretched out before them were stone vaults. The names of those buried were written in an older form of their language. Oeric remained silent and point to their destination. It was another passage. This on led to another set of twisting stairs leading in the gloom.
“Where does this go,” she asked, feeling uncomfortable with the void below her.
“To a cavern,” he told her, stepping down and holding his hand out. “The stairs are narrow.”
Kiao took his hand, and he held it tight as he descended. She figured out why as her feet barely fit on the steps. Her staff helped, however, it was a slow going. She didn’t know how Oeric managed, other than he was likely walking on the pads of his. At least the passage was short. They had to be several feet below the tomb and stepped into a cavern. She expected it to be cool like above ground. However, it was warm and humid. Water ran to their right and Oeric took the time to refill their water skins. Kiao took the time to fill her belly full of water. She didn’t want to start their diet of traveler’s cakes just yet.
They continued straight, neither going upwards or downwards. The cavern ended, and they walked down a narrow shaft. Oeric’s nearly had to walk sideways to keep his shoulders from scrapped the sides of the rock walls. He also had to stoop took the top of his head from colliding with a low hanging rock.
They walked for about a mile and curved a long time before Kiao smelled fresh air. Daylight greeted them. The cave opened back up again and there was their horse waiting for them. He walked over to the creature and petted her.
“Before we leave, I want you to try and find Mien again,” he said. “Do you need help?”
“No,” she said. She didn’t want his help. Not that she didn’t appreciate it, but she wanted to try without him. She learned how to manipulate the channel last time. She felt confident she could learn to draw herself in. Maybe even to do so without thinking too much on Mien to do so.
She settled down on the ground with the staff in her hands. She didn’t even realize she was holding it until she adjusted her hand position and felt the coolness of the wood.
Oeric’s gaze was on the staff, clearly trying to decide if it was good or bad. Nimbus was right about him being perceptive. She then tested how deep it went.
“You keep eying this as if it bothers you,” she said.
“It doesn’t bother me. The way you’ve been acting towards it does. I doubt I could take it away from you.”
“There does seem to be some sort of hold it has on me,” she said, turning it in her hand. “I don’t feel any strong attachment to it other than if feels like it belongs to me.”
“Well, priests in the past were known to carry staff,” he told her. “I do believe that Lenneth carried one made from braided ash saplings.”
“That is likely what this is.”
“Probably. Though not that type. It doesn’t even look like wood. And what are the stones in the wood?”
“These? They are imbued tao stone. I can feel the timbre coming off of them. It’s love, insight, and purify. I don’t know how one would use these, especially the love one.”
“Why is that?”
“Love is what’s known as the unspoken phrase,” she explained. “One that every chanter’s knows, always uses, but is never spoken for the most part.”
His brow quirked. “That’s vague.”
“I’ve read I should only speak it directly to the person I choose to spend my decades with. Once in promising, once on the wedding day, and once during the wedding night.”
Oeric crossed his arms. “That can’t be the only time one would speak that phrase?”
“Well, the phrase’s function is to express and reinforce love. The utility passed that is up to the heart of the chanter,” she stated with a shrug. She didn’t know what that met. That is what she was told.
The warden appeared to be rolling what she said in his mind for a moment. And then asked, “Could you use it to help find Mien?”
She started at him with her tilted.
“Now, I’m just a monk. I’ve muscles for brains, but you stated yourself, the utility is up to you, and you claimed distance is a factor in sensing Mien.”
Kiao looked at the staff. “A power boost is what you’re thinking. I can’t just make a phrase do what I want.”
“Is that not what chanter do? Use your phrase and it responds to your will.”
“But I can’t just will a phrase into doing what I want,” she argued.
“It would help us out a great deal if you could find him right now. If we didn’t have mercenaries on our backs, I would be more open to just searching. However, we’ve been given a great deal of direction before, I think we can get some now.”
Kiao settled again and spoke the phrase in her hoarse, squeaky voice. The tao stone shimmered into life. The staff hummed and a channel connected to her magical heart. That was the first part of her task, the second part was to activate the channel between her and Mien. That was very simple at that point. She thought about Mien.
He was the boy who called her beautiful. Those peridot eyes of his were always on her with a fascination that she couldn’t even fathom. When she was frustrated or upset about something, he managed to make her feel better. She could bounce ideas off of him, as he was the most willing to explore knowledge than anyone else in the infirmary. She wanted to hear his thoughts on the staff. He’ll be afraid of it at first but would be curious about it. Probably would even try to use it.
It was then her awareness started to fade, and three other channels had opened. And as usual, there was nothing coming from it. However, she could feel something coming from the staff. It almost felt like Dias’s quintessence, but not the same. She didn’t have an endless about of energy to pull from and that energy would burn her alive if she opened herself to it fully. The only way she figured how to do it was by treating it like dual healing. She picked the one imbune with the phrase of love and pulled the energy from it, into it into the channel connecting her to Mien, extending it. There was nothing, but then something faint came towards her. It was Mien’s timbre, but it was weak and dissipated as it passe her.
“I feel him,” she said aloud.
“It’s faint. We are at the very edge of his timbre,” she said, waiting to feel it again. She did and raised her hand and pointed. “That direction!”
Kiao focused back on the world in front of her and really wasn’t sure what direction she was pointing in as she was pointed to rocks.
Oeric pulled out his map. “That’s going back towards the road. We better get started; we’ve a lot of ground to cover.”
We are nearing the end of pt. 4. As a reminder. I am taking a break after this. I was thinking of a 3-week break instead of a 2.