Elves were no stranger to death. Anyone living in the province, from farmers to the order itself, knew of death. That the families and friends would have their moment to grieve. Maybe even some talk around town and then healing began. Life went on cycling with death as for it had for ages.
However, the very next day, an enraged family member entered the chapel during one of Brother Hickory’s teaching session. It was the sister, who had driven them to the farmhouse, that interrupted priest. She went off on her own sermon condemning and claiming that chanters were self-righteous frauds who choose who lives and dies.
“In all the decades of me holding this post, I’ve never had someone come barging into my chapel,” he said to Kiao and Brother Oli after it happened. They were all seated in the back of the chapel around his little round table in his personal living space. He looked disturbed.
Saffron was there pouring some more drink from a bottle into a wooden cup that she pushed in front of him. She then walked to his stove and picked up a plate full of nut stuffed buns in the center of the table before standing behind Brother Hickory, patting his head.
“And then she wouldn’t leave. She argued with me, shouting at the people there, and refused to be reasoned with. I’ve never had to call in a peaceguard to escort someone out until then either. And when the pushed her to the door, screamed even louder as if they murdering her.”
Brother Oli then said. “Kory, you should’ve just used the phrase of peace on her so there wouldn’t be a scene.”
“That sort of action might be okay in the infirmary, it’s okay if I’m counseling someone, however, doing that to a member of the common populace and one that is so anti-chanter, I would prove their point,” he said drinking down what was in his cup. “Besides, I can do my job without my abilities not to mention she was probably too angry for it to work.”
Kiao looked at her hands. “I’m sorry I brought that down on you,” she said.
“It’s just grief talking, child. Some elves get full of sorrow, some find peace, and other they get filled with rage. You can’t control that.”
“But she came at you and not me,” said Kiao.
“I rather she did than you,” he said.
Saffron then left from behind him and then stood behind Kiao’s chair and started stroking her head.
“Don’t feel bad about it,” said the older woman. “It’ll all just blow over.”
Kiao hoped so.
A day later, the sister was protesting in the market, spewing more anti-chanter sentiment. Kiao heard about it and walked there just to witness it from afar with Soletus and Briar.
“They are corrupt, no longer working Dias’s will,” she said to the crowd, red faced, standing on an overturned wooden crate. “They’ve a chanter of old, like the ones the Seat used to have them in the army. They lost control of them and the chanter would around towns and villages killing innocent folk and letting them die bleeding because they were unworthy! Even killed royalty, they did.”
“What utter nonsense! No chanter has ever killed a member of a ruling house,” said Kiao and then she thought about it. “Well within the last couple of centuries.”
Soletus laid a comforting hand on her shoulder. “At least no one is paying any attention to her,” he said.
That was true. People didn’t pay her any mind except the elf running the in the fruit stall beside her. The woman stared at her darkly. Then a customer pointed out a rotten apple to her. She picked it up and reared her arm back right as a peaceguard come up. He snatched the apple from her and wagged his finger at her. She then had a heated exchanged with the peaceguard. The sister shouted louder.
“If anyone is unworthy, it is the chanters. They stayed holed up in their monastery only to remind of us of the truth that they cannot be trusted.”
“Can’t he arrest her,” asked Briar.
Soletus then said, “She can protest something she doesn’t agree with. She isn’t calling for violence or killing folks, she’s okay.”
“They should be dragged out into these streets and made to see our suffering. And answer for their crimes of letting us die. Dias gave them the ability to heal our wounds, to treat the sick, raised the dead.”
Kiao entire body twitched at hearing that lie. She wanted to stomp right over, take the fruit the peaceguard had confiscated, and smash it in the woman’s face.
It was then she felt two arms hooked around her own and lifted her off the ground, spinning her around.
“Ko-ko,” said Briar. “I insist we do different than listen to fools today.”
“Agreed,” said Soletus. “So where to?”
“I say we go to the society house and let everyone met Lianna,”
Kiao swayed her head, looking back at the woman. “No, what good would come of it?”
“Why not? It’ll be fun to see how everyone will react to you like this.”
Soletus threw an arm over her shoulder, blocking her view. “I think it’ll take you mind off of this.”
“Alright,” Kiao agreed. “I doubt that it’ll do that.”
Briar beamed. “Good, just do one thing, change hair color. Black makes you look too much like yourself.”
Kiao then changed hair to golden orange.
“Good, perfect. We match,” said the huntress.
Kiao couldn’t say she wanted to look like a twin to Briar. It was too common of a hair color.
When the three of them walked into the society house, there was a small crowd there. Lady Maelyra was talking to an older woman in gentle tones. Cordea was standing beside her with her face tight. It she who caught sight of them gave them both a quick glance, holding up a finger signaling she was that would meet with them in a moment. The older woman spoke scornfully to Lady Maelyra saying,
“You are just as empty-headed as you sound if you don’t understand what I’m saying!”
Kiao immediately recognized her as the mother of the woman that had died.
Lady Maelyra, serene as always, stated, “I simply cannot do what you wish. He is helpful to our cause.”
“He and his kind have no place in the society. He let my daughter die.”
Kiao nearly turned around. She didn’t want to hear how she let someone die anymore.
Cordea sighed. “He did no such thing, Phina. He is needed to bridge a gap here.”
“Then bridge the gap with an actual priestess, not some skane spawn!”
Kiao gritted her teeth and controlled her bristling. Briar took her by the hand and stared to drag her out of the large room towards the back. It was then Edithlyn stepped out from the hall into the room, blocking their escape. Her face pruned up, and stood there like an angry grandmother.
“Phina, stop tossing around insults” she said. “Brother Kiao did everything he could. It would’ve been a futile effort for him to have done more.”
“He acted as if he felt nothing of her death!”
“Believe me, he felt it, but tried his best not to show it. That’s Brotherhood training there. Even I would train an apprentice under me the same. You can care, you can do all you can, however, when you see someone in poor shape, steel your heart. And he did to a point. However, he was nearly in tears wrapping that grandson of yours. That’s why I told him to go out. He was shivering like he was in the cold of winter. Seeing death is one thing, feeling it is another.”
“If he knew she was dying, then he should’ve done more!”
Edithlyn crossed her arm. “Look, I’m not going to continue circling around this conversation with you over and over again.”
“How can you stand up for him? Everyone I spoke to doesn’t even like him,” said the mother.
Kiao figured they would like her even less than before, if that was the case.
Edithlyn crossed her arms. “I wouldn’t have him come in here weekly if that was the truth. The only complaints I’ve gotten are that he’s too impersonal and trying to wall everyone off around him. Not to mention he is poor with children and young. But he knows his stuff, he learns quickly, and isn’t squeamish. He’s perfect in that aspect and so he stays.”
Kiao was surprised she said that.
“Yes,” jumped in Maelyra. “And I don’t appreciate the fact that son-in-law of yours hit him.”
The woman snorted. “He’s a chanter. It’s not like you can hurt them.”
Maelyra’s face went dark. Her voice lost all her sweetness. “I’m not arguing with you all day. He stays. That’s my final decision.”
The woman jutted her chin out. “Then I will no longer be supporting the society,” she threatened.
“Then wipe your feet on the way out,” said Maelyra.
The woman's face went sour. “I’ll tell everyone how you treated me.”
Briar’s mother waved her hand goodbye. When she turned to them, a bright smile replaced the dourness she wore. When the front door slammed, rattling the wall, her nostrils flared. She exhaled and looked at Kiao with a bright smile.
“And who it this lovely young woman,” she said.
“This is Lianna,” introduced Briar.
Kiao was looking between Maelyra and Edithlyn wishing she could speak her gratitude for what they said but she stopped herself. Briar nudged her to say something.
“Uh, hello,” she said.
“Well, hello,” said Maelyra, engulfing her in a hug. Kiao wasn’t expecting it and hugged her back. The woman then held her at arm’s length. “Have we met?”
Before Kiao could talk, Briar answered. “No, she’s someone who comes to town occasionally. Minor noble with family who has a business in town. I just wanted her to come here.”
“Oh, what house are you from? I can’t say you’re a familiar face,” she asked.
Kiao's mind went blank.
“Oh, stop pestering her with questions,” said Briar. “She’s here for a single quick visit. I just wanted to let her see the place.”
“Fine, tell her to find a place to sit if she wants. I’ll see if I’ve something in the kitchen,” said Maelyra, vanishing off to the left.
Kiao seated herself at the table. Cordea came over and sat down beside her.
“Sorry you had to witness that. We’ve just been dealing with local silliness,” she said.
“I’m surprised you’re being that generous, calling it silliness,” said Edithlyn taking a seat across from her. “It’s unadulterated stupidity.”
“You’re getting prickly again,” returned Cordea.
“Because she and that wretched daughter of hers are trying to undermine our efforts. I spent the entirety of yesterday convincing everyone I run into that there was nothing that could be done. I’m going to ask Kiao if there is some way that he can set up question-and-answer day of what a chanter can and cannot do.”
That’s a good idea, thought Kiao.
Lady Maelyra returned with a small pitcher in one hand, a plate of buns in the other.
“You really need to take a break, Mae,” said Cordea.
“Nonsense. I’ll slow down when I get a bump that’s the size of a small melon.”
“Bump,” asked Kiao, looking at Briar.
“Mother is carrying wee one, shhh it’s a secret. Doesn’t want father to know yet.”
“Because he’ll start being clingy and cancel all his trips. He’s still a few important ones to make this year, and I want him to make them,” said Maelyra.
Kiao wondered how far along she was. Some chanters could sense that sort of thing right off. She didn’t. Mien probably could, but he was gone, so she’ll see if he could the next time she was there.”
“Congratulation,” said Soletus.
“Thank you,” she said, sitting down and pouring herself something to drink and took a bun.
Kiao picked out a small one for herself and stared to eat so she would always be unable to speak.
“You should ask Brother Kiao the next time he comes to take a look at you,” suggested Edithlyn.
“I think a living baby might cheer him up.”
“Certainly. Was he that torn up?”
“Yes. Probably should tell everyone to lay off. I was hoping he would learn to bend, and not treat everyone the same way he would a warden, but I think we’re the ones who are going to have to a little.”
“I tried to tell you, but no one listens to me,” said Cordea.
“So, it’s safe to say you like him, Edithlyn,” said Briar.
“Well, yes, he’s an intelligent young man. I was a bit doubtful, but he’s smarter than my lads were at his age, so call me impressed. But…ah I don’t know how to bring something like this up. I just noticed a feature the other day.”
“I might’ve noticed something too,” said Briar.
“Alright, hold up your hand and put your fingers together.”
“Notice how your index finger and ring finger are the basically the same height,” Edithlyn pointed. “Your index finger being the longest, however on Kiao’s hands, his ring finger and middle finger on both his hands are the same length.”
Briar nodded. “That’s what I noticed,” she said.
Kiao immediately tucked her hands in her lap. Then was at a loss on how to finish her bun.
Cordea noticed the action. Narrowed her eyes a moment before finding her plate in front of her more interesting.
“It’s something I’ve seen it before with certain individuals. It’s a unique abnormality that indicates a unique condition I’m familiar with,” said Edithlyn.
“A unique condition,” said Briar, glancing at Kiao.
Kiao hoped the wisewoman didn’t give any details about it.
“Yes, and something that’s a little personal,” she said, looking at Maelyra and Cordea, but I do have a sinking suspicion that you invited him here because of it.”
The two women stated at her. “Whatever do you mean,” they said echoing each other.
The wisewoman gave them a flat stare.
“If you want to know, I suggest you ask him,” said Cordea.
“Or you can make it easy on me and tell me. I must be delicate in approaching this.”
Maelyra then said. “Well, yes, there was a reason other than the obvious, but beyond that reason, if he has a condition, I was unaware of it.”
Edithlyn became confused.
“Just work it out some more, Dear,” said Lady Maelyra.
Kiao suddenly felt a little uncertain about everything again. When she, Briar, and Soletus stepped back outside again, she waited for one of them to stay for something. She wasn’t wrong with her suspicion because Briar then asked.
“It’s nothing you need to worry about. Edithlyn was right, it’s personal,” she stated quickly.
“If it’s personal, then it’s personal,” said Soletus. Kiao looked up at him and he was giving Briar a dirty look.
“You act like I’m being mean or something by asking a question.”
“You’re prying,” said Soletus.
Briar looked hurt. “But I like to know all the things.”
“Well, you don’t get to know all the things,” he returned and then said to Kiao. “It’s okay, I know you told me you had a condition but, I don’t need to know what that is.”
“I do,” exclaimed Briar.
Soletus then stepped in front of her. “No, you don’t. How about abut be a little more concerned about that family.”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I just didn’t get a good feeling off that woman. I mean, sometimes you tell something is off with a person. Something was off with her.”