Mien burst outside, searching the dark for a quiet place to retreat and hide. There was no sanctuary to be found as the night sounded like a cacophony to him. His hearing was painfully enhanced and there crickets and other night bugs all around him chirping. He slapped his hands over his sensitive ears to block out their grating song. It didn’t stop his mind’s ear from sensing Brother Hickory’s timbre or Kiao’s which was singing seductively to him. Neither did it stop the latent ward that lay inside of the Sheldmartin’s home and the house beside it. Nor from him picking up the faint timbre that Soletus had.
He started pacing from one end of the yard to the other trying to gain control over his senses and close whatever channels he could. They were all open. As he moved, his clothing moving against his skin, making it itchy and crawling. He pulled off his shirt without pause to his pacing and threw it to the side. If he had been in his room, he would’ve tore off his trousers and shorts as well. In doing so, he uncovered his ears making his head feel like it was going to explode. Mien doubled over, clamping his hands over ears again. The worse of it came. The sound that chanters described as the chorus of the world.
To weaker chanters, it was only white noise they could easily ignore or shut out. The Arch Priest described it as the most glorious sound in the world. To Mien, it was a collection of magical voices, all trying to whisper to him at once. Sometimes he could hear things from, giving him insight. It wasn’t loud as much as it was overwhelming on top of everything else. He heard it first when he was a child. He was about twelve and was sitting through a lecture with his tutor and his mind drifted off, daydreaming. For an instant, harmonious chatter cried out in his mind. It snapped him back awake and scared him so much that he leapt out of his chair, surprising tutor and was jumpy for the rest of the day.
What he was experiencing in the present was much worse than that little scare. It just piled on top of everything else. He couldn’t take the sensory overload. There was only one thing he could do in that situation and that was use the phrase of silence on himself. He shouted out the phrase, and a blanket hushed the racket in his mind.
He knew no other chanters liked it. They didn’t like their enhanced senses taken away or disconnected from Dias’s quintessence. It induced anxiety and paranoia in them. To Mien, it was a great relief. He loved silence. He could think and recover now.
His feverishness let up and he was able to feel the chill in the night air with his fingertips. Heat still radiated from his magical heart, though making his chest the only warm part of him. He stopped pacing to get his physical heart to slow down. It was beating rapidly, as if he had run around the field with Oeric. He dropped on the ground, splaying his arms and legs out. He shut his eyes to take in the comfort of the quiet earth.
Mien laid there meditating thoughtlessly until he felt rough fur brush his hand. He jerked awake in time to feel Onyx sniff the crown of his head. It felt funny feeling her warm breath stirring his hair and not hear it or being able to see the obsidian hound. Her tongue started going over his cheek to see if he was okay. Mien pushed her head away and patted her on the neck. She often did that to Soletus and, like him, she flopped down beside him. Her bristly fur stabbed his skin, and he scooted over, resting a hand on her shoulder.
He tried to ignore embarrassing whirl of emotions and desires he felt earlier. There was nothing in the world that could make him move even when his hearing came back. He was mentally tired from fighting with himself as well as physically tired from running and walking.
Mien saw light at the corner of his eyelids, followed by the sound of flapping robes as someone walked towards him. Onyx let out a warning growl from her chest. Mien patted her shoulders, and she fell silent. Hickory was still dressed in his vigil robes as if he had hurried over there. The priest settled on one of the stumps that Oeric had arranged around a fire pit in front of Cordea’s vegetable garden a few feet away.
“There is food inside. From what I was told, you need to eat,” said Hickory.
Mien opened his eyes and stared at the stars dotting in the inky darkness ahead. His hunger was the least of his worries.
“Well, if you aren’t hungry, we talk instead.”
Mien opened his mouth and asked quietly, “About?”
“Well, I should’ve caught you days ago because I know how change affects you. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve adapted nicely since you’ve come here, but to have one’s friend to deceive you, well that’s not something easy to accept.”
“She’s still the exact same Kiao she was when I thought she was a he,” said Mien and shuddered at his lie. It was clear she was a cute fascination that was smart and something he clearly liked. He definitely couldn’t go back to the point of him thinking of her as that smart young man who he enjoyed being friends with. The one who gladly taught him everything he wanted to learn, even though Brother Oli wanted Kiao to slow down.
“I’ve a hard time believing that, given you’ve seen who she is.”
Mien didn’t respond. He wanted to be left alone, however gone were the days the priest would back off.
“Kiao was worried about you,” persisted the older priest. “She thought she hurt you.”
“She didn’t hurt me,” muttered Mien. He had hurt himself from being frightened and panic made him lose control.
“She did trigger something, though. You don’t react like that unless there is a trigger. She was it, I assume.”
How does he always know everything!
There was no way around not talking about it. So, he asked as innocent sounding of a question that he could.
“Let’s say something did happen that makes me question my ability to interact with girls.”
“Well, as a chanter, you can’t be with just anyone,” explained Brother Hickory. “I was trying to tell your mother this. I supposed you’re old enough to know that no amount of cajoling, flattery, gifts, passage of time, or how beautiful a girl appears is going to make you like them. It’s all in their voice. In your case, that weighs more because of your timbre sensitivity.”
“Hypothetically, what if I’m draw towards someone instead of repulsed?”
“Depends on if it’s just their voice or magical timbre?”
“Is there a difference,” asked Mien softly, hoping there wasn’t.
“Being drawn into a voice is like being attracted to another’s personality or physical features. Being drawn into someone’s timber, well in your case, that’s a complication.”
Mien groaned inwardly, A complication, I would’ve never guessed. He folded his arms, hugging himself.
Hickory clasped his hands together. “Lad, if you need to tell me something, I am here to help.”
Mien never liked revealing things about him. Even if he couldn’t deal with them, he wanted to deal with them alone. As a boy, he was afraid of what people might think because he didn’t like being mocked. Everyone he knew currently wouldn’t, however, they would try to help. They’ll just make him do things he wasn’t good at or fond of or talk to him to work things out. Though, Mien had to admit talking to someone and getting help wasn’t too bad. He didn’t want to always be in need of assistance though. He didn’t want to be a complication or an inconvenience.
Hickory sighed. “Would it help if I tell you I’m not going to get mad at you because it’s out of your control?”
Mien laughed. “Is there anything about being timbre sensitive that’s in my control? Can I have contact with someone or think they’re pretty without getting so fixated on them!”
Hickory rubbed his forehead. “Mien, we’ve a problem.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he exclaimed, sitting up. “Oh, I know the phrase of silence, that’s a problem. I’m timbre sensitive, that’s a problem. I’m too excitable, that’s a problem. I can only burst heal, that’s a problem. I’m always a problem, always deficient and now I can’t even be around girls because I magically l latch onto them because I’m attracted to their timbres.”
Brother Hickory swayed his head patient as ever. “Lad, you aren’t a problem. You have a few complexities about you that aren’t easy to deal with comparatively to others. Adjustments need to be made and sometimes they aren’t easy. And that problem lies on us, not you.”
That didn’t make Mien less conscious about it.
“Anyway, chanters are already drawn to other chanters. They’ll make friend with chanters or even those who are chanter gifted easier than a normal person; call it a preference. However, if you were drawn to Kiao’s magical timbre, then this isn’t a simple case of preference. It’s a quirk that timbre sensitive chanters have.”
“It’s rare. It’s very rare. I’ve not seen it happen because you are the first outside of the arch priest I’ve met. And it’s never happened to him. I’ve only read about,” he said sounding like he was unhappy with himself. “I didn’t really think about this happening with you because you’re so reserved and slow to adjust. And if it did, it would be a subtle shift. I should’ve of considered it a little more. I’m sorry.”
Mien didn’t like the fact he was apologizing. It made it seem what he experienced was the worst possible occurrence of what he was trying to describe.
“I didn’t think you’re timbre would resonate with another here. Though, I should have kept in mind that a person timbre can change, fluctuate depending on what happens to them. You’re was muddy sounding when you come here and has become much clearer. And when you first came, I sense that the person closet to your timbre was Soletus. Part of the reason I wanted him.”
“So, if my timbre truly resonated with his, this would happen to the two of us?”
He shook his head. “No. A timbre bond, from what I understand depends more on how you feel about the other person. Now in you case, it is based on you liking Kiao if I had to guess, things are different.”
Mien winced and dropped back down on his back. He was getting a headache and only himself to blame for it.
“I’m just going by what has been written. From what I’ve read, usually a timbre bond only establish itself after an emotional bond has. What rarely happens are ones that are like a lightning bolt. And those you imagine are unideal.”
Mien started laughing. There was no amusement in his chortling. It was the sort of laughter one let for the outrageous. However, Mien could hear that manic note in his voice he hated.
Hickory heard it too and stood to his feet. “It’s obvious you’ve overexcited yourself today. You can spend the night in the chapel, and we can talk this out tomorrow.”
Mien sat up and regarded him directly. “No, no, no, you don’t tell me all this and then try to tuck me into bed.”
“I think with a clearer mind-”
“No,” Mien exclaimed. “I want to know why my abilities control everything I do to the point I can’t choose who I want!”
“Shhh, calm yourself, we can work through this.”
Mien then shouted, “You don’t know what I felt!”
Brother Hickory looked at him thoughtfully. “I don’t and never will. However, it had to be something strong if it terrified you.”
Mien swallowed to soothe the rawness he felt from yelling and stared at his hands. He spoke with more control. “It was wonderful as well as terrifying, going from admiration to yearning after someone to the point you feel like a rutting stag. It’s like sitting by a warm fire then getting thrown in it. That’s not normal! Why can’t I be normal?”
Brother Hickory then told him gently, “You’re a chanter, we don’t get the luxury of being normal.”
Mien hung his head down. “And what about Kiao? This is one-sided. How can something so one-sided happen?”
“As I said, it’s not supposed to strike like lightning. You form it over time. Where you go from here, I don’t know. A fancy of someone, like what you have can change. Accept her as a friend. Which I recommend from where you are in life. Because other than that, you earn her affection in the same way customary folks do.”
Mien didn’t like the thought of doing any of that. Looking, appreciating, and admiring Kiao was fine. Being her friend wasn’t difficult. Purposely fostering a relationship with her was out of the question. The entire thought scared him. She would be the person who would know him the most. He didn’t have much to show anyone. Mien didn’t even try to hide his dismay on his face.
Brother Hickory sighed. “Clearly, you are still too young. Which concerns me because I don’t understand how it happened if that is the case. Other than that, I’m worried given your sensitivity effects your sense of touch. I fear getting physically close to someone will be difficult for you. Overtime, you can become desensitized, but before that happens, I’m afraid it might cause you so much discomfort you’ll just start avoiding it.”
Good, thought Mien. I don’t want to be near her if this is going to happen every time.
“You do need to tell Kiao.”
All the blood drained from Mien’s face and a lump the size of a melon formed in the young tod’s throat. “Why would I do that,” he croaked.
“This isn’t some boyish fascination that’s going to go away.”
“She’ll hate me for it.”
Brother Hickory scratched the back of his neck. “She won’t hate you, but I can’t guarantee she’ll be happy with it. I know she’s independent and likes doing things her way. So coming to terms with it might take he a bit. It won’t be as bad as you might think.”
“I’m not her ideal!”
“Ideals are funny things. Often times, they aren’t what you need.”
“And how exactly am I what she needs, or anyone for that matter,” asked Mien, though it wasn’t exactly a question the older priest could answer. He knew that.
“Mien, there is nothing wrong with you. Everyone has an oddity or three. Kiao, actually, of all the young lasses I know, probably has the most potential of understanding your oddities. Now, you need to tell her above everything else.”
“And what’s that going to do?”
“Honesty is the foundation of a good relationship of any kind. This way you inform her that this entire affair scares you and you can establish boundaries. If she says she needs space, then two of you can–”
“I rather she likes who she wants and not bother with me,” interrupted Mien. “She does like someone else.”
“I noticed,” he said. “I might be neth, but I know when I see a young woman making the motions of trying to snag a young man. She might be subtle, can mislead Oli into believing all her heart is into working in the infirmary, and point Alder’s bad intuition in the wrong direction, however I know.”
Mien stared at the priest, curious at the fact how he knew.
“It’s obvious someone her age is going to seek someone on her own when there is no one guiding her into matching. I probably should do so, given I’m technically her guardian as well, but I want her to have choice. Anyway, I figured it out because she’s never been interested in becoming close friends with someone outside of the infirmary until you arrived. Then it was confirmed when I noticed there wasn’t a day she didn’t sit with Soletus during his training with Ealdred.”
“Well, if you know she likes Soletus, then what right do I have to stop her and stand in her way?”
“They aren’t going to work out,” stated the older chanter.
Mien tilted his head, shocked he would say that with surety.
“You’re going to have to take my word for it,” said the older chanter priest. “Now, if you would like, Cordea warmed up a little something for you so you can head off to the monastery.”
Mien squirmed at the thought of returning inside. Kiao was still there.
“If you are worried about your reaction, I doubt it will happen again,” assured Hickory, standing and guided his golden twinkling starlight ahead of him while picking up Mien’s shirt. The young tod, however, lingered on the ground.
“Is there anything else or are you too exhausted,” questioned Hickory.
Mien rubbed his eyes. “Exhausted.”
He quietly hoped he could hide in his room from Kiao and figure things out. A good three week should do it because he knew she wasn’t going to be happy about it.