Yes, I felt betrayed, but it was more disappointment. I thought we would defy the odds. One of the first things that they tell you and make you understand that the friend, the brother, or in my case, the cousin you joined with may not make. The odds were against us. So, Lyndon and I vowed one evening to stay in the order side by side from the beginning to we were old and couldn't fight anymore. And the reason for the vow, I wanted to quit. I had talent, but I had weight on me. And not just the physical kind, but expectations as well. I was standing in the shadow of three men. And I wasn't like them. He kept me going and there he was, quitting and leaving me alone.
Mien jerked awake and pushed himself upright. A stab of pain traveled between his eyes to the back of his skull. He cradled his head, moaning while sinking back down. However, he noted that his back didn’t strike hard the ground. Instead his head was cushioned. He parted his fingers and saw the slats that made up the ceiling above him. He wiggled his leg and felt the smooth underside of a patched blanket on his bare legs. In fact, he was in his shorts. He then inspected the room while keeping a grip on his nerves, so he didn’t panic. Gray morning light shone through the latticed window. His uniform was folded neatly on a chair beside his bed.
I’m at the inn. How, he wondered.
He looked in Lyndon’s direction. The young man was sprawled on his back, asleep. The young chanter gaze flicked over to the bed closest to the door. It was empty. Soletus was gone. If anything had happened, he knew the young monk would stay by his side. If he wasn’t concerned, then there was nothing to worry about. But that didn’t settle Mien. He swallowed the dryness from his throat. He needed water, but his stomach felt sour.
Blast it, too much wine, he moaned to himself.
It was then the door flung open and struck the wall and Mien’s head vibrated like a struck bell. Soletus stomped across the floor and went straight to the window.
“Good, you’re awake,” he said curtly, and pulled the curtains back. Light punched Mien in the eyes. “We’re moving out.”
The young chanter shielded his face with his arm. “I thought we weren’t moving out until tomorrow.”
“Change of plans.”
He put his arm down in time to see his shirt followed by his blue travel jerkin, cord, and trousers being tossed at his head. He barely caught them out of the air before they hit his face. Soletus strolled across the room and gave Lyndon even worse treatment. He shook him roughly.
“Get up,” he ordered.
“Arg, stop, above and below! Why can’t you let a fellow sleep,” said Lyndon right as he took his trousers to his face. “What’s nipped you in the rear?”
Soletus didn’t reply. He walked to the window and waited for them to get dressed. His arms were crossed tightly over his chest and the cords in his neck taut. Mien was glad he stopped speaking as he could hear the irritation radiating from his word. He immediately blocked the roll of emotion or he was going to get annoyed himself. He was empathic. He soaked up negative emotions like thirty plants. However, he could still feel his friend in the back of his mind, but it was receding. The young monk was trying to calm down. He had closed his eyes and started breathing more steadily.
Lyndon then said more gently. “Seriously, what’s bunched your shorts up your crack?”
“There’s been an incident. I didn’t like how Kellas was going to handle it and Valhart was an ass again. But I was able to convince Kellas to at least have everyone vote on it. Kellas will go into the details when we all get downstairs. You can get packed after that.”
“So, it isn’t urgent?”
“A decision needs to be made sooner and not later,” answered Soletus. “Just get dressed.”
Mien stood slowly to his feet with his trouser on while Lyndon was just pulling his own. The young chanter picked up his shirt and struggled to remember coming back to the inn. The only thing he could remember was the vision. He didn’t think too long about it as his headache became louder and he had to stop dressing.
“Your head still bothering you,” Lyndon asked.
Mien squinted at him. “How do you know my head is bothering me?”
“You said so last night after you come back to the festival.”
“I came back,” he asked, trying to pull up the memory. There was nothing.
Lyndon nodded, working on his belt. “Yeah, you were acting dazed. And had dirt on the front of your shirt and pants like you fell.”
“What did I say?”
Lyndon shrugged. “Nothing other than you were tired. Soletus walked you back here.”
Mien turned to Soletus.
“You didn’t say anything,” he said absently.
Mien sank down back to his bed. “I don’t remember that. Did I tell you that I started my edict?”
Soletus regarded him and Lyndon stopped dressing. “What,” the cousins exclaimed at the same time.
“I guess I didn’t,” he said with confusion grown into fear.
“Well, this complicates things,” muttered Soletus, going towards the door. “Meet Doran downstairs. I’m going to get Tyrus up.”
When he darted out, the young scout’s face lit up. “So what phrase is it?”
“I don’t know because I could hear it but didn’t understand it. I’m a little more worried about not remembering coming here last night. I was warned they have side-affect.
Lyndon’s face twisted in confusion. “Side-affects. You don’t learn edict phrases like any other phrase.
Mien swayed his head. Kiao told him when she learned hers, a child version of herself would appear out of nowhere and talk to her during her waking hours. At night, she would sleepwalk in search for an injured person to heal. When she couldn’t find someone, she started dropping into a trance at any time of the day. At least, she was confined for the most part or with other chanters. He wasn’t. He didn’t have anyone to help him. It made him a liability, and he wasn’t looking forward to hearing the critics of the band's opinions of it.
There was shouting from the other room. Lyndon stared at the wall with sympathy. He had already dressed and had his shoulder sash in hand. Mien hadn’t even pulled his shirt on.
“Are you okay? I thought edict phrases were something to be excited about,” he asked and brought Mien his boots and cowl.
“I’m fine. This is just unexpected. Like everything else in my life,” he said and then muttered, “For once I would like something predictable to happen.”
“Would you want a predictable life?”
“It would be easier.”
“And that’s why yours isn’t,” said Lyndon grinned. “What’s the fun in that?”
Lyndon opened the door for him and gestured for him to walk out with a bow. At the same time, the door to their left opened and Tyrus stepped out. His bronze hair was a nest, his eyes were bloodshot, his and his face drooped so much that neither dimples of his were visible.
“Why is Sol acting like it’s his time of season,” said Tyrus. His parlor turning a to a green tint as they stood there.
Lyndon heaved his shoulders. “I don’t know.”
Tyrus took in a great yawn and winced. “Tits, I want my head on a pillow.”
Mien wished he was on one as well. Every step he took rattled his brain.
Tyrus then said. “You look just as chipper as me.”
Mien grunted and kept walking until they were downstairs and stepped into the open dining area of the inn. They wound through the empty tables towards Doran. He was digging into a plate of food. The smell of it soured Mien’s stomach from the distance he was at. When they arrived to the table, he placed his head down and tried to breathe though his mouth.
“You all are the brightest rays of sunshine I’ve ever seen,” said the young man.
Lyndon yawned and started patting Mien’s back.
Mien heard the front door to the inn open.
“Good, you fellows made it down,” Soletus said. He joined them. “I asked the innkeeper to make you guys a little something.”
Tyrus let out a moan, “If it’s what Doran has on his plate, I don’t want to see it.”
“Aww, come on. A little food in you will make it all better,” said Soletus. There was never a time he wouldn’t say no to a meal.
“What I need is a grave,” cried Tyrus.
“And who’s fault is that,” spoke Warden Cole from the table beside them. He was the oldest and the crotchetiest member of their band. “Drinking like a bunch of fools while we adults do all the work.”
“Shut it, Old Man,” said Tyrus.
Cole’s foot hit Mien’s chair leg. It felt like a rock was rattle in his skull. “Up boy, there’s plenty of time to cry about your poor head later.”
“Lay off,” said Soletus.
The old man sat at the table beside them. Mien listened to the other footsteps around him. He heard the shuffling walk of Pace as well as the heavy steps of Roy. Someone else joined the table. He assumed it was Valhart because he heard him snort with derision.
“What’s wrong with the greeny?”
“Having issues,” said Cole. “Like women, you know.”
They laughed. Mien contemplated taking Doran’s plate and slamming it over Valhart’s head. However, the movement would cause his own head to split open.
Lyndon patted his back again. “Come on, sit up.”
The of the chorus filled his ears suddenly, whispering loud and urgent. He straightened up and listened. The chorus caried the phrase and he felt it on the tip of his tongue. His lips started to sound it out with his mouth when a plate dropped in front of him. He jerk and was greeted by a pile of scrambled eggs, and two thick slices of buttered bread. A pitcher of water was placed on the table as well as and followed by a large bowl of stewed mix fruit and nuts. Mien didn’t want any of it. However, he blessed their food and tried to consume at least half of it. Tyrus stuck his tongue at all of it. He dumped the eggs on Lyndon’s plate. Soletus pointed to Tyrus’s toast, and the young man tossed them to him. Doran nibbled on seconds.
Kellas finally joined them. He was fully dressed in his dirt stained uniform. Though the tastles first warden’s sash around his waist was clean. He thanked the innkeeper for the early breakfast and instead of going straight to the senior warden table, he came to theirs.
“Half of you look ready to move out, while the other half looks like you’re ready to die,” he said with a laughing smile.
Tyrus kept his head down and muttered something unintelligible, but it sounded rude.
Mien kept eating. Kellas came to a stop behind him.
“How are you doing,” he asked.
“I could be better,” said Mien to his plate.
“I’ve been told about your current state. Can you ride?”
Kellas walked away from him and came to the other. His wolf eyes looking serious. In that moment, Mien was reminded of Soletus’s father. They had the same stark pale blue eyes. However, even in the more serious of situations, Oeric’s gaze was honest. Kellas not so much. Even his voice was the same in that there was just always something off. In fact, Mien never liked Kellas the moment he meets him, but never could put it in words. He still couldn’t. And it was more than what Soletus always complained about.
“I’m sure all you beauties are aware that we’re up very early this morning,” he said.
“This is a bunch of nonsense,” cut in Valhart. “We could be done and gone by now.”
Kellas ignored him. “Last night, a beaten merchant managed to stumble his way into town. He had been ambushed and robbed. I went around asking last night and found that a gang of men have taken uphold in the Firerock Gorge.”
“We should already be moving out there,” muttered Valhart.
Lyndon raised his hand.
Kellas regarded him. “Yes?”
“That’s across the river. You know, outside of our range. Besides, it’s the military’s job to take care of a bunch of thieves.”
“The merchant who was attacked managed to get his hands on once of the thieves weapons. That’s how he got away. It was a tao stone dagger. And I know what you gentle fellows are going to say, that he could’ve come across it anywhere if a warden lost his dagger. However, this dagger had banded brown and white leather hilt. That’s a peaceguard’s dagger. And we’ve been told to keep an eye out for that group of former peaceguards.”
Lyndon sank back in his chair, clearly stunned by the implication of what that met. Mien was as well. They had a chance to get the wayward peaceguards. Kiao would be happy if they came back and had them. She lost a lot of sleep treating poisoned children for there attempt at making blighter.
Soletus then stated, “Sure, there’s a high chance it might be theirs but, we don’t know if it is. We’ve patrolled the roads and come across leads before. They’ve led to nothing. They likely run off with their families who left town. They likely live in another province to the east or something.”
Mien couldn’t say he blamed them for leaving town. He wouldn’t live in a place where he was shunned and criticized for something they had nothing to do with.
“It’s more than just a high chance,” said Kellas. “I’m willing to bet my life it’s them.”
“Even still, we can’t pursue them,” argued Soletus.
“Of all the people,” snapped Valhart. “You should want to pursue them!”
That was true, thought Mien. Those peaceguards left them to deal with a drass beast that could have killed Kiao.
“Maybe two years ago when they weren’t potentially held up in a thieves’ den,” returned Soletus. “This is a place that the Seat had cleaned out multiple times and there is even a fort nearby to keep an eye on it. So why are we going to the gorge when we should just go to them.”
Kellas folded his arms behind his back. “Normally I would agree, however, they’re attacking innocents, using our weapons to do so, and it was our order who failed in detaining them. They are our responsibility!”
Mien shivered at his last statement. He was adamant about it. He didn’t understand why. He had no connection to those peaceguards.
”Let the army take care of this situation,” reasoned Soletus.
Kellas then returned in a terse version of Soletus’ tone. “I wasn’t planning on turning this into a debate.”
Mien felt uncomfortable with those words. He was obviously getting impatient. Soletus tried to argue, but the man cut him off.
“It’s an unwritten rule that the Brotherhood takes care of their own, even those who have strayed.”
Mien looked at the senior wardens, Valhart, Cole, Pace, and Roy bobbed their heads in agreement. They would always agree with Kellas. However, Soletus, whom he trusted, was hesitant. No matter how much it would make Kiao happy. She would be happier if they weren’t in danger.
“However, if you want to put it up for a vote. All in favor of pursuing the transgressors,” said Kellas, raising his hand up with Valhart, Cole, Pace, Roy, and Tyrus.
Soletus cut Tyrus a look of betrayal.
“One of my friend’s brother got sick. It was downright unfair that nothin’ happened to them,” said Tyrus.
“Those not in favor,” said Kellas.
Soletus raised his hand along with Doran and Lyndon, followed by Mien.
Valhart let out an exasperated sigh. “Not surprised the cousins and the greeny vote together. It’s like you three can’t think independently.”
“At least we think,” retorted Lyndon.
The corner of Valhart’s lips quivered as if he was about to snarl. Soletus then spoke before he had time to say something offensive to start a fight.
“Aside from it not really what we should do, Mien just started his edict,” defended Soletus. “That alone should be enough reason to head back to the monastery.”
Cole and Pace were the only two who looked impressed by that fact.
“Still, that shouldn’t affect too much,” said Kellas.
Mien swallowed and spoke. “It will. I don’t remember anything after the vision I had last night. So something important could happen and I don’t remember it because I flashed into a vison.”
“We could just leave him here,” suggested Valhart.
“No, we need him in case one of us gets injured,” said Kellas.
Mien wanted to tell the man that wasn’t his purpose. His purpose was to help in combat. They were supposed to keep themselves from getting injured. He didn’t say it though. Another stab of pain raced to the back of his head cause him to hang aching head down and listened to their debating. When the pain subsided he raised his head and opened his eyes. The table was gone. Before him was the field again. He spun around and found himself standing there solemnly.
“Really,” he shouted to himself. “In the middle of a meeting!”
The being looked at him thoughtful sad smile. “Believe me, it’s better this way.”
Mien dragged his hands through his hair. “How is this better?”
“People make unwise choices and they come with a cost,” said he and then turned towards the setting sun.
Mien didn’t get an answer. Instead, his guides, green eyes shut as the sun sank down passed the horizon.
“As a chanter, you are given a great deal of power. Most will use it for good, others use it to take advantage of others, and then there are those who run from it. Then there are those around the chanter. Maybe will encourage the chanter to do good, some will take advantage of them, and others abuse them so that they cause a chanter to run. Chanter’s can easily become lost through ill will and abuse. They become one of the graceless. You lost your way once before to sorrow and you don’t need to lose your way for revenge.”
“What are you talking about?”
The being in front of him finally regarded him. His eyes were more gold than green. “You have to learn to protect while not fearing the outcome of death. Sometimes, Dias’s purpose isn’t always to save a life.”
Mien heard the phrase again on the wind. This time, it was louder and more persistent. He strained to understand the chorus around him. His lips started moving, sounding out each syllable in Melodic. Each syllable connected to a phrase that he knew. He knew the phrase. It was the phrase of protection. However, the moment he uttered it, he flashed out of the field into chaos. The world sped by him. The sun rise and fall. Another vision, as he saw the field again, maybe.
He heard something explode in his ears that brought him into the focus of night. Lyndon was shouting beside him all the while his ears were ringing. There was another explosion, the sound of rocks flying through the air and crumbling down on the. Then more confusion. There was shouting, and the smell of blood was thick around him. Sorrow, disbelief, and then anger strained his throat. And then he caught sight of something, and horror raced through his mind. His mind screamed with the phrase of protection singing in his ears. Then from that moment on all he felt was angry. It wasn’t his own. Then again it was then he was hit with something. And everything was knocked from him. The chaos ended and there was nothing but a veil darkness.
He heard nothing.
He felt nothing.
He saw nothing.
He smelled nothing.
He felt something similar several years ago. A moment of nothingness. To bad that moment was burned into his mind.
As before, awareness came back. He cracked his eyes open and saw everything around him as a mass of unidentifiable dark shapes. He closed his eyes and focused on how he felt, as his sense of touch was the sharpest. The air felt warm, so it wasn’t night. He took a deep breath and cough. There was pressure on his chest as he was lying on his stomach. He drew his fingers towards his palm to see if he had use of his hands. He was able to grasp the grit of cool soil in his hands. He was outside and there was not grass under him.
A sharp clank of metal on rock got his attention. The metal struck the rock a few more times before it turned into scraping. The sound grated on his nerves on top of the buzzing flies he was becoming aware of. It was then his sense of smell came back. His nose filled with the sour smell of wet burnt wood and the faint odor of putrefaction. Something was dead near him.
He opened his eyes fully. This time, his sight focused and he realized someone was lying beside. A tattered cloth lay over them. Wind gusted up and moved the cloth just enough to reveal the drooping eyelid of a lifeless woman with one eye and the other half her face blackened.
He went from a vision to a nightmare.
He screamed, but his throat didn’t release it. The only sound that filled his ears was the sound of rushing blood from his heart trying to beat itself out of his chest. He struggled to scoot himself away from the sight before him. A strangled scream finally burst out of his throat.
The digging stopped.
Mien scrambled to get and felt something solid behind him. He rolled and discovered it was another corpse. He crawled forward trying to get upright. His legs refused to hold his weight. He toppled forward and began to crawl. Someone then grabbed him from behind.
“No, stop,” they choked.
Mien fought against their grip, and they held him tighter.
“Shhh. Calm down. Breathe. It’s alright.”
Mien was hyperventilating now and jab them in the chest with his elbow. They didn’t let go. In fact, it felt like they were hugging him.
“Oaf, no, don’t do that. Tyrus! Get over here!”
Mien gave one more burst before he became too feeble to fight. The one who held him lowered both of them to the ground.
“Shhh, take full breaths. Thank Dias you aren’t dead.”
He became still. I’m not dead? Why would I be dead?
Mien tried to speak again, but his parched throat wouldn’t allow it. He started coughing instead. The arms that braced him loosened and the person who held him crawled around him. They had the bluest eyes that could ever be on an elf. And they were filled with joyous tears. Soletus pressed his forehead against his.
“Thank you, Dias.” He said, repeating it three times before he said. “I didn’t want to lose him, too.”
He kissed him on the forehead.
Mien started shaking. Tyrus then appeared, reaching out and touching the young chanter’s arm.
“How is he…I thought he was…” then the young man became wordless and gaped at him.
Mien searched for anything familiar around him. There was no inn. The only wall around him was a red rock face rising in the air. His intuition screamed that something horrible had happened however, he couldn’t remember what.