I’m fine. I’ve not talked about all of this in a sitting and in a long time. I talked in pieces to Miranda, of course. And maybe I’m just making excuses because this, still has an effect all these years. That moment, of walking home and seeing the monastery’s spire, was the start to some very turbulent years. My heart was in pieces and the spaces between those pieces hurt. Like broken glass cutting me. And it was my fault because of my embarrassment. I didn’t want to be mocked and feel inadequate because I was a unicorn. Something unbelievable. Something to be doubted because it doesn’t exist. And yet I do. And it took me some time to learn that unicorns have horns, and we can fight like the best of them. In my case the best. I decided that I didn’t want to give in and cause another death. Lyndon told me one day just to sit on my hill and die on it. No bowing my head. And all these decades. I don’t sit; I stand. My head unbowed.
- From Interview with Master Sol written by Patriarch Lord Theris’Heron
It was surreal walking through the west gate of Grace’s Hope. I wasn’t that Mien didn’t think they wouldn’t make it. However, it was a goal that felt so very far. Traveling thought got a lot easier with First Warden Oeric’s arrival. He brought experience and a sense of safety. It wasn’t that he felt that Soletus did a terrible job. But having someone that knew where they were and where to go was much better even if it was “Master Dour.”
One of the first things he did was show them how far they were on a map. Mien didn’t realize they had traveled so far north. He even educated them on where they went wrong by the fork. As blunt as Oeric could be, he didn’t blame them for it. Though he did add that if they had a map, there would be no excuse for the mistake.
The one thing Oeric didn’t bring was more horses. Kiao was riding one, and he had traveled by foot. And as they traveled, towards Wateree he did so as a wolf, and bought two horses and a small cart to transport Vlory. She was too weak to ride and dragging her behind a horse on a litter was slowing them down. Also, the cart provided much needed rest since she was recovering slowly. She couldn’t ride for very long. The litter the made kept her from sleeping and made the acting she felt in her bones all the worse.
They spent the night in wateree taking advantages of bed and bath. On their way out, they were stopped by a group of soldiers seeking Oeric before he left. The stopped and waiting for a Captain who had Lord Kharis’ face but more aged and weathered and had only a fraction of his grace. He came out fussing at Oeric for a long time for getting involved in foolishness of mercenaries. The incident had him speaking to several officials he wanted nothing to do with and writing multiple long reports. And ended his statement that he should have him arrested for being right good pain in the arse.
Soletus’s father wore a wry grin and stated, he’ll try better next time. That there will probably be foolishness but no paperwork required. The two stared at each other a moment and then started laughing.
From there, traveling went blessedly smooth.
“I can’t wait to sleep in my own,” said Mien to Soletus, hoping to drive up a little conversation. The closer they got home, the more he withdrew. However, the young man still hung in heavy contemplation.
“Yeah, I want to rest too,” he said absently, and went into his thoughts again.
Mien decided not to bother him. There was a lot he had to face. Mien did as well, well, if his mother was still there and he prayed to Dias that she wasn’t. He rather deal with the aftermath of Kiao and Brother Enos’ situation and Kellas before his mother.
First though, they had to get situated without the entire monastery knowing of their return. Oeric made certain that it was evening when they crossed the threshold of the town.
“I want the number of folks who know you’re home limited to only a handful tonight,” he told them as they rode.
“And how we going to do that,” asked Tyrus.
“You will all stay in the infirmary. I’ll get interested parties to visit you there.”
“We need to send Mien to Lady Lass,” put in Kiao. “I don’t think she waited this entire time at the Patriarch’s house. But we should check.”
“I’ll check to see if she’s there.”
Vlory’s soft voice rose. “And what of me?”
“We’ll put you in the infirmary until we can arrange housing,” answered Kiao.
“Finally, a bed,” she cheered. “Though, my heart will miss my square chariot.”
As they got to the gate, there was only a single peace guard paying mind to the door. He signaled to everyone else through when he saw Oeric. That was the first hurdle. The second was getting by the stable hands on duty that evening. There wasn’t anyone there who would go around flapping their lips, which was a relief. However, in the stable itself, Tyrus stared hard at one of the horses that caught the lantern light. Mien looked at it as well. It wasn’t order stock. The creature was large and wasn’t the browns, roans, and blacks the order preferred. The horse was cream colored with long forelocks and a coat that wasn’t maintained by a groomer. Tyrus walked over to it and the creature extended his head to sniff him and then tossed it in excitement.
“What is it,” asked Oeric.
“It’s one of my family’s horses,” he answered sounding surprised. “Meaning someone is here.”
Oeric nodded. “When I go to the Patriarch, I’ll see if he knows something.”
Tyrus petted the horse and filed out with everyone. The grounds were empty. It was after dinner and everyone should be in their rooms with lights out approaching. The infirmary was still lit inside and brightly as well. No patients were in there. That was a good.
When they all walked in, Alder and Lionel were mopping the floors. Alder’s teal eyes widened and fixed themselves on Kiao. Before he could go gushing out his concern for her, she started tossing out orders.
“Good, it’s empty in here,” she said. “I’ve a bunch of tired young men here who are road-worn, a bit malnourished, no serious injuries, but they need to stay here for the evening. We are going to tuck them all upstairs. I don’t want anyone to see them.”
Vlory then spoke as Tyrus carried her through the threshold and she said, “I’ve been seriously injured.”
“This is Vlory,” said Kiao, gesturing to her. “Put her in one of the private rooms downstairs. She needs looking after.”
Tyrus helped her on the examination table, with Lionel fixed on her.
“Yes, she’s a chanter,” said Kiao.
“You found her,” said Alder, looking amazed. He then saw Mien and smiled at him. “I’m glad you’re in one piece.”
“I’m happy to be in one piece,” said Mien, making a beeline to the closest bed and sitting on it.
Alder stood beside him counting and then frowned, looking round. “I thought there were five of you missing.” He paused a moment and then said softly. “Where’s Lyndon.”
Soletus dropped on the nearest bed to him. Tyrus and Doran both looked away at something else that wasn’t Alder.
“Lyndon didn’t make it,” said Soletus.
Alder froze, becoming distraught.
Kiao placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’ll tell you later, okay?”
Alder nodded and went on helping Vlory, forcing a smile. Mien wasn’t surprised to see his reaction. Alder didn’t exactly care for Lyndon. In his opinion, Lyndon was a bad influence on Kiao. And yet he did very little to stop him other than give him a dirty look with occasional complaining. However, Lyndon provided a certain flavor of life that wasn’t normally in the infirmary. He made it interesting. And the chanter priest liked it, though he never would admit it.
Oeric then said. “Get everyone situated. I’ll be back.”
He left as the stairs creaked, announcing someone coming down.
“I hear familiar voices,” said Brother Oli ambling down the stair slowly. He then came to a halt and smiled warmly at them. “Welcome back lads. I see you had a very long stroll.”
He then caught sight of Vlory. “Ah, so you found her.”
“Yes,” said Kiao. “Vlory, this is Brother Oli.”
The Kanu woman gave him a wan smile. “Hello, elder of all elders.”
“Well, you certainly look like you’ve been through it all and drug through some more. Don’t worry, we will have you healthy soon,” he told her and then opened his arms wide and gave Kiao a big hug.
“Glad to have you back, Lad. There is much we need to discuss as things have happened since you left,” he told her, and he shuffled his way to Mien. “And you, young sir.”
“Oh, I can hear it. What edict phrase did you learn,” he asked excitedly.
The old priest beamed with approval. “Excellent and perfect for a combat chanter. Well, we need to have a party soon. That makes Lionel the only one who hasn’t learned his yet. First thing first, let’s get everyone a good look over. Alder, how about you see to Vlory and get her settled?”
Lionel went to Soletus and spoke to him softly. Kiao went to give instructions to Doran and Tyrus while Brother Oli stayed by Mien and patted his back.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m tired,” said Mien.
“You’ll feel better with a night’s rest. I don’t want to force a lot on you right now, but there are things that need to be discussed. How much has Kiao shared with you about what is going on?”
“You mean Elnos?”
Mien told Kiao he didn’t feel like being angry about it on the road. Now he felt it was a great time to be.
“So, what has been done about him?”
Brother Oli shook his head and whispered. “Nothing. A couple of days after Kiao left, Enforcer Icus searched his rooms. The found some interesting item. Shortly thereafter, he threw himself off the belfry tower.”
Mien gaped at the elder priest.
“It was a shock, to say the least. Then Hickory told me what was found, and he’s more than upset by it. Brother Rastor has been made the new assembly head. He’s been keeping things calm until Kiao can come back. He’s also been distracting the other priest in his campaign to force the Arch Priest to step down. He feels leadership is lacking.”
The young chanter didn’t know what to think about it all. That was a lot of changes to come back too.
“And I do agree. The Arch Priest isn’t focused anymore,” continued Oli. “However, the ones who don’t care for Kiao, want Rastor to take over, because they feel they could persuade him to remove Kiao. We need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Shouldn’t you be talking to Kiao about all of this, then?”
“I will, but you need to know as well.”
Mien nodded and found that his plate was full of very different things. He watched Brother Oli leave, giving his attention to Kiao. He watched his bond partner show him the staff she found. If they were going to talk about Elnos, it would have to wait until Brother Oli stopped holding it in his hand, amazed. He watched their excitement for a bit. Then stretched out on the bed. His eyelids felt heavy, and he gave into a quick nap. However, he didn’t get long into it. Oeric returned with Honored Priest Meric, Lynhart’Pintail, and another man. He was remarkably similar to Tyrus. He had the same bronze-colored hair, but his ears were small without much in the way of a long tapered tip. He looked more half-elf than Tyrus did. Though, Mien’s attention didn’t stay on him for very long. Oeric then told him.
“Your mother is at the Patriarchs. You should clean up. I’ll take you there.”
Mien nodded, but halted a moment. Soletus and his uncle caught his attention. His friend’s eyes widened with all color, leaving his face. Mien wondered if he should walk over there for support. However, Lynhart wore a sad and welcoming smile.
“Oh, come on, Nephew, I know you can still speak,” he said.
Soletus stood and lifted Lyndon’s sash that was resting on the bed beside him. He draped it over his hands and presented it to his uncle to take.
“I’m sorry,” he said. The pain in his voice was so tangible that Mien could feel in his heart. “He died saving me.”
Lyndon’s father closed the gap between himself and Soletus. Then he stopped. His hand hovered over the sash that Lyndon proudly wore across his body.
“We knew what he was getting into when he joined. I’m thankful that you returned,” said Lynhart. “Was it quick?”
Soletus swallowed. There was no good way to answer that question. And for a moment, Mien thought he would choose silence or just lie. However, Soletus liked to be honest.
He cleared his throat and stated. “He didn’t want to give up on living, but…”
Lynhart then picked up the sash. His dark blue eyes became very cool. “Was Kellas there when he died?”
“He was nearby, but he didn’t know until after it happened, Sir,” said Soletus.
“Were you with him?”
“Yes, Sir. I was holding him.”
“So where did this all happen,” asked his Uncle with his voice getting tight.
“The Firerock Gorge. We were there under Kellas’ orders,” said Soletus. “We buried Lyndon, including the other dead around us.”
Meric then spoke. “What happened for there to be other dead?”
“Agreed,” said Lynhart. ”Why would there be dead when you were called to kill a behemoth in Crossroads miles away.”
Oeric then stepped in. “Explanations are going to have to wait.”
Lynhart looked sharply at him. “I deserve to know what happened. I’ve been waiting weeks to hear it. Kellas certainly hasn’t been forthcoming. He keeps repeating that Soletus will be the one answering for it. And that father of yours and that rock by his side refuse to say anything other than just wait for Tyr to get back.”
Meric agreed. “Aye, and we didn’t even know you have taken off until your wife had told us. Saying you were looking northeast, of all places, than south.”
Tyrus’s relative then spoke. “I dunno what ta think ‘bout all this. I come ‘ere to check on me brother and ya all talkin’ about stuff I don’t understand.”
“Well, I’m alright,” said Tyrus. “You can go home and finish diggin’ up sweet potatoes or whatever.”
The man crossed his arms. “We were worried after Kay read that letter ‘bout you bein’ missin’. Someone had ta come ‘ere to make sure they were lookin,” he said, pointing to Oeric. “I didn’t even know he was out lookin’ in holes for ya.”
The dimples on Tyrus face deepened. “To be fair, I didn’t either,” said Tyrus.
Oeric raised his voice over everyone’s. “I know there is a lot of confusion about what is going on. Answers will come with time. You can have time alone with the lads but keep questions about what happened to the minimal at this moment.” He then turned his body to face Lyndon’s father. “Hart, I promise on my blood and honor there will be someone to answer for what happened to Lyndon. However, badgering any of these lads will not get those answers.”
The mason’s chest swelled up and his face reddened while his hand clinched the sash he held.
Oeric placed a hand on his shoulder and gripped it. “Hart, I loved that son of yours like he was my own. His death hurts. It didn’t have to happen. And I’m going to make certain the blackened soul who caused this answers for it.”
All the frustration, fueled by pain, left Lynhart and he looked down at the sash. Then at Soletus, who was holding a hand up to his chest.
Lynhart then pushed him into sitting. “Boy, you look as if you’re about to toss your dinner.”
Soletus didn’t answer.
His breathing didn’t sound right at all. Mien left his bed. Oeric and Lionel got to him first. Soletus then scooted over the bed to the other side of it away from them. He dropped to the floor, sitting there with his arm on the bed clutching the sheets. Oeric motioned for them all to stay back. Mien had a very good idea what was wrong with his friend. Oeric likely did, and Kiao did as well. She hung back with her attention fixed on Lionel. The young chanter priest mouthed, “Nerves.”
She nodded and gestured with her hands for him to stay away. Mien snapped softly to get her attention. She shook her head, and she tugged at her own shirt, then him and towards the washroom. She wanted him to clean up. He nodded. He walked past Oeric, hearing him say in a low voice, “Just breath. I know you feel like you’re dying. You’re not. I’ve experienced this before. It’ll pass. This will all pass.”
Welcome back. We are in the last part, The last arch if you will, of this particular novel. And if you read this story when it was posted on RoyalRoad, you will note that this isn't the original chapter. It's been split. It went on too long. I wanted to extend this part a tad. Making it clear that Tyrus' brother had arrived and I needed more of a reaction out of Lynhart (Lyndon's dad) I also wrote in something I left out. That was the ending with Soletus' anxiety attack there. I left it out because of RoyalRoad's audience. I didn't want complaints about Soletus acting "weak" or something. However, I want to make it clear Sol's mental state isn't good right now. He hasn't been in a good state since the end of chapter two. Then again, this story isn't about heroes being heroic all the time. Or powering through your problems with physical strength and skill. So those people who think that, might not read it anyway.
Also, note I did change the site's theme. I wanted something easier to read and many people reading in night mode a lot easier. However, I don't feel confident enough to mess with the code of this site in that way. So I found a dark theme online. My only issue with it is that I think the font is too dark. Maybe it's just me. Is it? That I'm a bit more confident into changing.