Standing in the courtroom was surreal. Everything that happened to him over the last six years began there. Now he cycled back around. However, it didn’t feel as if his journey was complete. Just a wing of it. There was a lot more to experience, and he didn’t know what to expect. However, he could do what he could to get the result he wanted. Being successful sat his course against a typical life. Brother Hickory told him that he wasn't obligated to a normal life. And Mien realized he wasn't. He was a chanter and thus would live the life of one.
He fiddled with the links that held his shackles, twisting them in his fingers. It was a little insulting that they made him wear them again. It wasn’t like he was going to run off. That would be stupid. However, they gave him something to look at other than the Arbiter’s bench, his family, and representative of House Jay to his left.
He peered right, instead and saw the faces that representation what he considered the best time of his life so far. Soletus, Hickory, Nimbus, and Oeric sat right behind him. Kiao sat a few rows back with the other elves waiting for their turn. She decided it was best to go incognito so his mother didn’t know she was there. And went with a very straw blonde and still tucked in the dark cloak she wore. She looked like any other young woman one might see in the city. Except for that cloak. The embroidery on the back of it represented that side of her that like bright fancy thing and apparently peacocks.
I’ll go to town and get her a proper gift to match it, he decided.
The door behind the Arbiter’s bench opened and he entered the room from a door with a tome under his arms and seated himself. A court officer stood near him, and Mien finally looked up and took a deep breath. He knew the outcome would be in his favor. That didn’t make the knot in this throat vanish or his palms less sweaty.
The Arbiter cleared his throat. “I’ve got a few interesting cases to get through today, and apparently the best of them all is the first. I’ve been anticipating concluding it. I want to know if the paperwork and grief I was given for not sticking to tradition was worth it.”
He then regarded Mien to speak.
The young chanter gave him a half-smile and inclined his head. “Greetings, your Honor. I apologize for the inconvenience my situation has caused you. I’m well aware of how unorthodox this is.”
The Arbiter’s brow rose, and he bobbed his head in approval. “Well, this is a pleasant surprise. I couldn’t get a full sentence out of you the first time. You also were a bit smaller. Finally, hit that growth spurt.”
“I was told that it matched my inner growth,” he answered, putting on a smile that nervously toothy.
The Arbiter picked up a stack of parchments that took both his hands to hold. “I want you to look at this. I asked the Brotherhood to document your progress and they sent me a tome. I was expecting a few notes. They would make excellent court clerks given how thorough they are. However, it’s not just the amount before me but what I read. Reading it all was also very heartening. It seems you’ve charmed your way into others caring a great deal about you.”
Mien blushed a bit.
“However, all of this doesn’t matter unless you can finally explain to me why you did what you did to your cousin?”
Mien gestured to Dalaen. “It’s simple. He tossed my flute in the river and I wanted to get him back for it and everything he had done to me. It was revenge on my uncle because I felt he was responsible for my father’s death. I wanted him to feel the same loss I did, and I wanted Dalaen to not exist. I was in pain, and I wanted it to stop. I desperately wanted it to stop.”
The Arbiter frowned. “Why did you think that was a wise decision? That those around you would forgive or that the law would forgive you.”
Mien took a deep breath and said, “That wasn’t the point, your Honor. I wanted to die,” he said. It hurt to admit that aloud and for everyone to hear.
“Do you want to die now?”
“No. I realized I wanted to live when I spoke to Brother Hickory. Then I knew how much I messed up.”
The Arbiter flipped through the pages of the stack he had. “That’s quite the admissions.”
Mien swallowed with his throat getting tight. “Yes, but I can’t deny it.”
“In these notes, it explains that you’re a timbre sensitive chanter and an empath. Negative emotions around you helped attribute to your actions. That taking you out of the situation, you improved greatly.”
“That’s true too, but the responsibility is still mine,” he said.
The Arbiter leaned forward, intrigued. “And here I thought these statements were exaggerated. That they found fit for a nervous little thing such as you to work in an infirmary and then trained to be a combat chanter. However, that wasn’t enough. You have to do saving the lives of others again from not one, but two deadly situations and you could just leave it at that. But you rescued another chanter if you strip it down to the basics. You accomplished all of that in six years”
The Arbiter then focused his attention behind him. “And you, Solgard’s grandson, look very proud.”
Soletus stood and spoke. “Your Honor, because I knew he could do it. I’m honored to call him my friend. Life and protecting life means a great deal to him.”
The Arbiter bobbed his head.
“And of course, a letter of praise directly from an elf I never thought I would see in this building ever again. First Warden Sheldmartin. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
Oeric stood and inclined his head. “Your Honor.”
“I should’ve known. We spoke twice now and here is a third. I’m glad it finally has nothing to do with blood sports.”
“I’m glad it’s not as well,” he said.
“So, you trained him,” he said, leaning back in his seat.
“I did,” said Oeric with a note of pride in his voice. “My son and my late nephew suggested it. I wasn’t going too, until Mien came to me and he insisted I did. He didn’t think anyone else would give him a chance. So, I extended the offer given to me. A chance to prove that one’s past doesn’t determine their future. That you can control it.”
“Ah, the Brotherhood’s philosophy. Passing on and extending second chances.”
“Yes,” he said. “He passed on a second chance to the chanter he helped saved. He became someone willing to preserve life than to take it away. And that is, among the greatest acts in our order.”
“And I see no reason to stop it. Officer, go ahead and take those manacles off. My previous ruling still stands. Mientherderic’Cyan, your custody remains with the Dias Brotherhood. At the age of 28, you will be released and tthese charges being removed from your record.”
That caught Mien off guard. “Excuse me?”
“I see no need to hang these things over your head. That’s of course if you can make it to age 28 with a clean slate which you should have no problem with. This case is dismissed,” said the Arbiter with a slam of his gavel.
Mien was free to go. Though unlike last time, the celebration didn’t start until he was outside. He found Soletus and hugged him.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
“I did nothing this time,” chuckled the young monk he said embracing him in a tight hug. “That was all you this.”
He then moved on, grabbing Brother Hickory while Nimbus rubbed the crown on his head.
“You did wonderful lad…why are you crying,” asked Nimbus.
“Because it’s the only time he really does,” answered Soletus. “He’s happy.”
“But I can’t help it,” he said, wiping his face off and then he focused on Oeric. The man held up a hand and had already taken to going down the steps. His gaze settled behind him and then on his face.
“You don’t have to thank me.”
He was about to tell him he wanted too and more, however an arm wrap around him.
“Oh, Theodoric, you were wonderful,” stated his mother. “Oh and look at you. That uniform makes you look official.”
Mien hugged her and Kiao floated down the stairs. She waved to him and touched Oeric’s arm before continuing down the stair with her clock showing off full spread of that peacock embroidery.
He let go of his mother.
“We should find someplace to eat for lunch,” she said. “In fact, I’ll invite all of them as well. You too First Warden.”
Oeric had taken two steps away from them and turned around. “No, I don’t want to intrude.”
“Just let him escape, Lass,” advised said Hickory.
“Why would he want to escape,” she asked.
“Believe me, it’ll cause you less trouble,” he said Oeric pointing to his face.
“I’ll keep him out of trouble,” said Nimbus. “You go to lunch. Take Soletus with you. He needs it.”
The young monk gave him a dirty look. The dark rings around his eyes had vanished, but he was still thin. Dalaen stood off to the side and announced.
“I’ll go to the inn and eat lunch there,” he said.
“You certainly will not,” she said. “Theodoric has forgiven you, so you should sit with us.”
Mien swallowed the words that he didn’t. Instead, he said, “I don’t mind Dalaen. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten as someplace fancy as a family.”
“Good. I know of a place that serves two dishes, a wonderful creamy stew and elegant seasonal dessert of their choosing. We might even get to hear one of the upcoming performers play her harp,” she said, leading the way.
The moment she looked away, Soletus pointed his index and middle fingers at his eyes and then at Dalaen. The young man gulped and proceeded down the stairs.
“If he gets out of line, what are you going to do this time,” whispered Mien.
“I haven’t planned that far,” admitted Soletus. “I’m sure I can think of something threatening and impressive looking.”
Mien hung back before walking and then said to Soletus. “Thank you for coming. You didn’t have too. I know you wanted time to yourself.”
“I started this with you and on your way back home for the first time, I’m with you. Because I’m finishing this with you,” he said.
Mien wore a grateful smile and threw his arms around Soletus the way Lyndon would and said, “Thanks.”
Soletus responded with and arm of his own and patted his shoulder.
“So, are you still going to talk to your old alchemy master still?”
Mien nodded swallowing a newly formed lump. “Yes and when I do, there is no turning back.”
“Do what you need to do,” he said.
"That noble inside of me feel like this is a selfish decision. Your house is everything. But the chanter in me, wants his freedom," he said.
"You decide where you to do and where your path goes," said Soletus. “One day your mother will understand.”
He didn’t know if she would. Dias chose him to be a chanter. Gave him a purpose and someone to be with. Some of that, she was supposed to provide him. Maybe, her reasons for being against what he wanted was because she lost that ability and hung on to what control she could.
Lunch lasted longer than what Mien wanted. After his announcement of his plans. His mother talked to him more after lunch and that went on too long as well. So, when he was finally let go, he jogged across the city and hoped that the alchemist shop was still open. He knew the man always closed an hour before dinner. Some days two. He hoped it wasn’t one of those days.
To his relief, the familiar dark stone front building was still showing the open sign on the door. It was still very much the same. The only difference was the lettering on the window front. They were even fancier and swooping. However, it still read: Towhee Alchemic Wonders.
He opened the door and the smell of something spiced greeted him. The usual dark glass bottle lined the walls of the shop holding various compounds. They were nothing dangerous. Mostly soap mixture for cleaning, oils, alcohols, and dyes. The dangerous substances were kept in the back and mixed on order. Such as acids, poisons, and other elements and compounds.
“Coming,” said a high voice and out stepped a young woman, wiping her hands. She wore the apprentice apron he used to wear. Her eyes went wide. “Hello, what can I do for you?”
“Is Master Towhee in the back," he asked.
“Uhhh,” she said, giving him a good sweep.
He realized then his cowl was over his head, and he pulled it back. “Can I speak to him?”
That didn’t speed things along at all. In fact, her blushing at that point went full pink.
“Ummm… yes….he is. Hold on,” she said, walking off. “Master Towhee, there is a young man…uh chanter here.”
Mien could barely make out his master voice saying. “Aren’t we about to close?”
“Well, yes, Sir. But he wanted to speak to you.”
“I-I-I uh, didn’t ask.”
“Layla, could you please go ask him?”
“Master Rail, I need to speak with you,” Mien shouted. “It shouldn’t take that long. I can do so while you close. Do you want me to slide the closed sign on the door?”
There was a pause and shuffling.
Mien went behind the counter and got the closed sign.
An older elf they came from the back wearing a magnifying glass around his head.
“Theoderic,” he muttered in shock.
Mien opened the door and slid the closed sign into the slot and shut it.
“Greeting Master Rail,” he said.
“I haven’t seen you… You, you’re all grown up. What brings you here? I thought…” he said, trailing off. ”It’s good to see you. I hardly even recognized your voice. I didn’t know you were a chanter. Well, I didn’t want to believe the rumors, and that was part of it.”
Mien could feel the nervous note in his voice on his skin. He rubbed his arms.
“Why are you here?”
“I need to ask you a favor. Is there any way you can get a hold of a current copy of the entrance exams for the university for me?”
The man was surprised. “You want them?”
“Yes, I need something to study off of. I won’t be taking the test again in a couple of more years but, I need to start refreshing everything.”
“I can only give you the current set and the test gets more difficult if you failed once. They test you on a lot more than the field you choose. Are you still doing alchemy?”
“Yes. And I want to get into the apothecary college,” he said.
“Ambitious. You seemed satisfied with learning with me. And I would take you on again if I could, it’s just…” he trailed off and then started shuffling things around. The young woman there started sweeping.
“You have a new apprentice,” helped Mien and in his mind, It’s not the fact you don’t want to because you think I’m crazy and a chanter.
“Yes, yes. I heard you went into the Brotherhood. Is that why you want to try to be an apothecary?”
“Does your mother know about this? She came in wanting to know if I would take you on again when you got out a few months ago. I had to tell her no. Then she asked how successful I believed you would be if she could persuade you to go to the university. I told her I didn’t know.”
“I talked to her earlier about it,” said Mien.
“Oh? I’m sure she’s proud,” he said. “Working for the family, business and all.”
“She was a little upset. She’s not my sponsor. I’ve other arrangements. When I’m done, I’ll hopeful be working for Lord Kharis’Gyrfalcon.”
“Wow! That’s amazing. Well, I’ll send you the materials. Do I send them to the estate?”
Mien pulled out a slip of paper and handed it to him. “No to this post.”
“Grace’s Hope huh? I you aren’t coming home?”
Mien shook his head. “Not right now.” If I’m lucky, I’ll never have to live in that house ever again.
He then said his goodbyes and walked back to the inn he was staying at. However, he stopped at a shop front and saw something that caught his eye. He changed his mind and decided not to go back to his room. He need to buy something and push a talk forward that was more important than the one he had with his mother.
He searched for Kiao going to the inn she was staying at. He followed his own senses and found her out in the dining area alone.
Her face lit up when she saw him. “I’m not surprised to see you.”
He sat across from her and placed a package in front of her. “It’s a gift,” he said.
“You know if anyone should be gift giving, it’s me,” she said, putting one of her own on the table.
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” he told her, looking at the little packing tied in a blue bow.
“It’s not just from me. Alder, Lionel, and Brother Oli helped pay for it. I just had to pick it out. Open it," she said, beaming with excitement.
Mien wanted her to open his first, but he was too curious and opened the wooden box. There lay a dark blue velvet cloth he plucked it out, it had some weight to it as was circular. When he pulled the cloth he was greet with what looked like a silver compass face as well as something else. He wasn’t sure he was looking at.
“It’s a time compass. It shows you your direction and that printed dial in the back that turns, showing you the time of day. Right now, it’s close to sunset.”
“Ohhh,” he said, examining the silver chain. He needed a proper vest to tuck it in. “Thank you.”
“I thought this would help you to not get lost again,” she said with a giggle, and started opening his present. “So, what did you get me?”
Kiao pulled off the box lid and then she blinked at it. Her jaw sagged. "Mien." she gasped and then looked across from him as if he had gone mad.
“I thought you needed something to match your cloak.”
It was a hair comb made to look like peacock feathers with precious stones and freshwater pearls.
“You didn’t need to give me this,” she said.
“But you like it, right?"
“I do, but this cost a lot.”
“And this didn’t," he asked.
“It’s a tool,” she retorted. "Something useful. This is just an expensive thing. And think it's lovely. Isn't a gift I expected from you. Everything you've given me has been handmade or found by you why this? "
Mien leaned forward. “I wanted to give you something to match that cloak. And you’re beautiful and the lady you traveled across the country for me should have pretty things to match her bravery."
Kiao stared at him wordlessly. Then down at the comb.
“I decided to choose a future with you. And before that can happen, I need to take steps,” he said. “And it pits me against my mother. She expects me to come home and erase myself. I cannot do that. I'm a chanter. I've seen what I can do. Like you. Though you saw the beauty in healing. I see joy of protecting life.”
Kiao regarded him. Still speechless.
“So I can’t be a noble. I lose all of that. I lose you. I can’t live with myself turning my back on the gifts and purpose given to me. And I want my mother to understand that Theodoric is gone. He left when boyhood was ripped from me. There is only me and there is nothing wrong with me. I’m just different.”
"And wouldn't going home show her otherwise? At least she’s around you to see it."
Mien shook his head. "I want to prove her my independence and that I don’t have an condition. If I’m home, she would seek advice from House Thrush. And she’ll do something well-meaning following their advice, but she would hurt the both of us. So in order to keep conflict away, I have a plan."
Her eyes narrowed and had a suspicious glint in them. “This better not include us running away together.”
“No,” said Mien. “This plan involves me leaving to attend the University.”
Kiao arched an eyebrow at him. “Really?”
“Yes. It’ll take me six years to finish, and then I’m going to return to the Brotherhood become the orders licensed apothecary. I asked the Patriarch about it and he’s, my sponsor. I told this to my mother, and she wasn't happy at the end of lunch. Because I'm sponsored through the Lord Kharis, I am obligated to work for him. Thus, I work for the order."
Kiao's brows rose. “You thought of all of this and acted on it?”
Mien let out a nervous chuckle. "Mother was stunned too. And like I told her, I know what I’m doing. I thought about it for months. I didn’t tell her First Warden Oeric, suggested it. I did point out that the prestige gained from working for a member of House Gyrfalcon was more than I could gain from House Jay or any minor houses she had access to to. They are two houses away from the Seat. It would help a lot because I’ve not regained my title back. She understood that."
Kiao wore an amused smile. "It’s hard to say you have a condition with you thinking all of that through."
"She called my tactics as something my father would do. But, she said she was happy that I'm going to school. Easier for her to find me wife," said Mien, showing his frustration by making a face.
"I mean, this is just step one, right? You can’t win everything with one round."
"Yes, yes," he sighed. "I hope you aren't upset that I'm going to have to spend years apart. But there are so many benefits to it. Like maybe it will keep out peddlers with their peddler water.”
Kiao rolled her eyes. “Why did you have to remind me of last week? Did Lionel ever figure out why it made your mouth numb?”
Mien chuckled. Even though Brother Oli was weak, he had to be stopped from using the infirmary broom from chasing the peddler out of town himself. “He told me that there are four known plants that could do it, and he was certain every single one was used in it. Or that’s what I gathered. He ranted for a very long time.”
“And I don't mind us being apart. We've years to be together," she said. "But what about the bond,” she asked. “And your abilities. Not a lot of room being what you are in Eroden.”
“It’s doable. More training and all of that,” he said, reaching his hand out, palm up for her hand. She stared at it for a moment and clasped it. “It’s what I’m willing to do to make us work.”
And that's the end of Edict(revised)
This last chapter was an attempt to writing Mien saying I love you without him saying I love you. I didn't want this to be that sort of declaration. That comes a little later. Elves don't move fast. And Kiao and Mien are slow moving. Not to mention Mien accepting he's a chanter completely. That he has a life he needs to live.
As for my future and what is going to happen here. I'll talk about that in the post after this. However, I am taking an extended break. You likely won't see any writing until July.