Kiao showed me a many things during that period of time. Mainly, that every chanter is different, we all have our quirks, and we all come from different places. In fact, Kiao taught me more about actually being a chanter than Brother Hickory ever did because Brother Hickory was a priest before he was a chanter. Kiao was a chanter before a priest.
The next day Soletus brought Mien to the monastery. He was curious about his new surroundings, but stayed very close to him using him as a shield when a stranger walked passed who happened to be an adult. The younger member eyed so overt wary stares that Mien hid from them as well.
He needs to get use to this, thought Soletus. And they need to get use to him.
The only person who didn’t have judging eyes was Warden Kellas. He hadn’t returned to field duty yet. He gave them both an encouraging nod of the head. Since Mien didn’t mind being outdoors, as he spent most of his time sitting outside when he could, they took to practicing by one of the training fields within eyeing distance. Soletus did so purposely. He was putting Mien at the edge of the cliff now. He might have leaned him too far out by sitting to the side and allowed Lyndon instruct him.
“I’m going to teach you how to talk,” announced Lyndon putting his hand over his heart as if it were some grand noble pursuit.
Mien gave Soletus that “really” expression and then back at Lyndon.
“I’m serious. You need to be able to speak clearly and precisely. It’s a skill that is needed for all your future endeavors. Lucky for you, I am an expert of diction and discourse and will us my skill to guide you.”
Mien nodded slowly, but Soletus could tell he wasn’t taking anything he said seriously.
“First lesson, you can’t give me any non-verbal gestures unless I tell you.”
“Okay,” said Mien softly.
“No, say yes Master Lyndon,” corrected the young man.
Mien gave Soletus a flat stare.
“Really Lyndon,” said the young monk shaking his head.
Lyndon put his hands on hips. “Well he’s my pupil.”
Mien rolled his eyes skyward. “Yes, Master Lyndon.”
“How do people hear you speak? I mean, I’m not trying to be a bother or anything but you talk very low. I don’t know how Soletus can hear you.”
Mien looked down his face flushing. “Sorry.”
“No need to be sorry,” said Lyndon. “Speak louder. You’re supposed to be a chanter. How’s Dias supposed to hear you?”
Mien’s shoulders started sagging. He was already getting uncomfortable. Soletus stepped in.
“Lyndon,” he said, motioning him over to where he sat on the fence.
His cousin trotted over to his side. “What?”
“You’re going to have to not be so overwhelming. He’s on the verge of shutting up.”
“Then I’ll just force him out of it.”
“No. He’ll get anxious and at that point you’ll get a better response from a rock.”
“But you can’t pussyfoot around him forever,” argued Lyndon.
“Fine. Help me out here why doesn’t he speak louder?”
Soletus thought a moment back to something Mien mentioned before. “He doesn’t like the sound of his voice.”
Lyndon’s face screwed up in confusion. “But he’s a chanter.”
“A self-conscious chanter.”
“That’s an oxymoron if I don’t know one,” said Lyndon backing up towards Mien. He laid a hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re smart enough to understand why we are doing this. I mean you need to be able to talk to people. Not just for the Arbiter, but for the rest of your life.”
“I know,” said Mien softly.
“I don’t think you do. You are part of one of the most powerful group of elves. You’re a chanter. You have the power over Dias’s hymn to make those words mean something,
“But people are afraid of chanters,” returned Mien.
“Yeah, well, people are afraid of bears too. And bears don’t stop being a bear because everyone is afraid of them. They just keep on being bears.”
Mien kicked at the dirt by his feet. “But other boys don’t sound like me.”
“Well because you’re a chanter. It bleeds into your voice. Also, not all of us can sound like Soletus being the boy man he is. You’re still practically a kid.”
Mien face became even redder. “I’m 18.”
“A late bloomer then. So what. We’ve plenty of those around here.”
The boy started to look less uncomfortable, but he was still looking at his toes.
“And besides being all quiet isn’t going to make you get used to it. In fact, that’s kind of odd for a chanter. Lucky for you, I’m here to help you out,” said Lyndon with confident smile.
That self-assurance didn’t last. Lyndon had him relaying mock messages and reading aloud. Mien started off okay. He had a good reading voice with a rhythm to it. Soletus could’ve listened to him all day, but he spoke soft. Lyndon kept stopping him, reminding him, and commenting constantly. It caused get nervous as Soletus thought and he stumbled over his words. It got to the point the boy was tripping over every other word.
“Come on, talk through it,” said Lyndon trying to be encouraging, but he was being impatient.
Mien closed the book. “I’m done.”
Lyndon put his hands on his hips. “Done? You can’t quit. That mean’s your giving up and you can’t just give up when your life-”
Mien shushed the young scout by pushing the book into his chest and forced the words at Lyndon. “I’m done!”
Soletus felt them from where he sat. It was like a nudge in his mind. Lyndon looked as if he was slapped. He watched Mien stalked away, climbed over the fence, and, left them. He didn’t try to call him back. Instead, he regarded his cousin and clapped. “Good job, you done what I never accomplished, and that’s frustrate him.”
Lyndon blinked and shook his head and opened his mouth to shout it after the boy, but snapped it shut.
Soletus lips spread in an amused smile. “He must be powerful to rendered you speechless.”
His cousin fumbled with his book and rubbed his ear. “You wouldn’t want to talk if he directed that at you.”
“Oh I felt it.”
Lyndon let out a tired sigh. “How have you worked with him this long?”
“I’m patient and I don’t push him. At least now I know he can push back.”
Soletus then felt a tap on his shoulder and saw Mien standing behind him.
“I don’t know my way back,” he said as soft-spoken as he was before.
Soletus took him back to the chapel. Mien didn’t say anything. He clearly upset about what happened. Soletus tried to touch him gently to reassure him and the boy slapped his hand away. Soletus left him alone after that. It was better to just let him fume. Afterwards, the young monk met back up with Lyndon at the entrance to the monastery.
“While you were gone, I was struck by a brilliant idea,” his cousin announced.
“Really, who’d you here is from?”
Lyndon’s mouth sagged. “Ha, ha, ha. Anyway, I was thinking why not get help from another chanter?”
Soletus found his cousin determination to help touching, however he didn’t know who he had in mind. There weren’t that many Chanter’s in the Brotherhood. They one, had to be found. They would send out a party every year to find a chanters coming into their own. Most parents weren’t thrilled to have children taken away and especially a first born child. It became even harder because there weren’t a lot of Fenndish. The Fen moved to another religion and favored the Triad or just didn’t believe anything at all favoring the teachings of philosophers. And elf couldn’t be a chanter if they didn’t open themselves to hear Dias’s voice.
It didn’t help that the adult chanter priests were disinterested in their fighting brothers. And like all priest, they rarely left the monetary and would pray and meditated to seek answers for an unbelieving world. What few young chanter priests they had were taught to do the same.
Soletus always believed that action was the answer and monks couldn’t do that alone. They did have combat chanters but they were so few and as far as Soletus knew they were all around his father’s ages except for maybe two. He was sure they wouldn’t think that helping Mien would be a fruitful endeavor. They were a bit condescending. Lyndon seemed very optimistic about his suggestion.
“I think I can get someone to help,” said Lyndon walking across the grounds.
Soletus sprung forward falling in beside of him matching his pace even though it felt as if he was straining himself a little. “Where are we going?”
“The infirmary,” announced Lyndon.
Soletus was happy to go back there not being a patient. He never was fond of the infirmary. There wasn’t much privacy between the rows of beds. It was too quiet and when that wasn’t the case, there was someone in discomfort and moaning. Unfortunately, there was a monk there. He was lying on his back with his hand on his stomach on a bed. Lyndon didn’t see him as he was focused on searching for someone. Soletus was about to ask who until the young scout laid his sights on Brother Kiao who was standing off to the side washing his hands in a water basin. Lyndon smiled and went on his approach.
Soletus didn’t know much about Kiao other than what he learned from his last stay. He was several years older than they were. From the blue cord around his waist and badge on his smock, he was a healing priest. He was rather odd looking having such dark roan red hair. It wasn’t a common color for elves. His blue violet eyes sheltered by thick eyelashes were always sharp and knowing. Soletus also noted they change color dependent on light and ability usage. At the moment they were blueish looking.
Lyndon stopped beside him and leaned on the cabinet the basin was on.
“Kiao,” he greeted heartedly. “My cloth brother, how are you today?”
Kiao glanced up and went back to washing his hands. “No, I don’t have any more nova blossom. I’m tired of you sprinkling it in other’s shorts.”
Soletus gave his cousin a sharp look. “That was you?”
“Gareth threw manure on me. It was a lesson in respect,” he said seeing nothing wrong with causing rashes in places that had no right to be itchy.
Kiao pointed at Soletus. “Surely you’ve not come in here for him. He looks well enough.”
“You think, he looks pale,” said Lyndon glancing over his shoulder.
“I’m fine,” assured Soletus. “We came here to ask for your help.”
Kiao was clearly disinterested and paid more attention to drying his slender hands off. “With?”
“We need a chanter to help with Brother Hickory’s pet project that I’ve been helping him with,” said Soletus.
The young man arched a brow. “You do know Brother Hickory is a chanter?”
“Mien is wary around him. He’s more open with people around his age.”
Kiao shrugged and walked off. “I’m not really around his age.”
Soletus found his attitude strange as the young man was kind to him when he was in bed. Now he was dismissive. That didn’t stop Lyndon following him to the podium where a thick ledger lay. The young chanter priest opened up the book and started writing.
“You’re close enough. He needs to be more relaxed. He’s got to stand in front of an Arbiter. But he doesn’t respond well to my instruction,” explained Lyndon. “He can’t handle my charm.”
The corner of Kiao’s mouth went up in a half smile. “And what about Doran?”
Lyndon snorted and crossed his arms pouting. He was still slighted over the incident.
“We’re not on speaking terms with him,” explained Soletus.
Kiao’s head went up. “Then I’ll help.”
Soletus was stunned by his quick change in attitude. His cousin was taken aback as well.
Kiao then explained. “I compare Doran to fecal matter. He spends too much time flapping his lips behind people’s backs. You two have either been stupidly blind to it or hoped he would improve.”
“We knew,” said Soletus. “He’s gone back behind each of us talk about the other. We just put up with it.”
“You’re far too nice, Soletus, especially with someone who’s jealous you.”
A jolt of surprise coursed through Soletus. “Me? Why?”
Kiao raised an eyebrow. “Have you studied yourself in a mirror? If I were a monk, I would be jealous of a tod with your form and skill. Many have to work hard for what you’ve been gifted.”
“Yeah, he’s boy man,” said Lyndon.
Kiao chuckle lightly. Soletus couldn’t say he found it amusing.
“How do you know Doran’s jealous of me,” he asked.
“It’s amazing what people talk about here. They can talk as low as the want, but I’m a chanter, I’ve really good hearing,” he said. “Anyway, I can’t say that Doran has anything good to say about you. He did nothing but criticize your actions during the drass beast attack. He claimed he would have been able to climb up and kill it.”
“He didn’t do anything except signal for help then hid behind me the entire time,” exclaimed Lyndon.
“Well that’s not all he said. He made a strange offhand comment to me about you’re cousin have strange physical features as well. Something about a hairy upper lip.”
Soletus’s tongue swiped his upper lip unconsciously. He could feel the start of the hairs he would occasionally have to shave off when they became too notable. It was his father that managed to find a suitable razor from a trader. They were hard to come by. Elves didn’t have facial hair and any that did were thought to be half elves. Soletus’s would be picked on for it so he didn’t want anyone to know. Doran promised he wouldn’t tell anyone when he caught Soletus trying to get rid of the hairs one day.
Lyndon’s eyes narrowed. “You know what, I figured out what he’s suggesting. He’s suggesting I go flatten his nose,” growled Lyndon. He tried to stalk off but Soletus grabbed his collar and held him back.
“You don’t get to flatten his nose,” said the young monk.
“Okay, I’ll hold him and you can,” said Lyndon trying to squirm out of his hold.
“No,” said Soletus.
“He promised not to tell anyone,” reminded his cousin.
“You should let him go,” advised Kiao. “If it isn’t Lyndon, it’ll be someone else. He’s well on his way to a broken nose.”
Lyndon kept on struggling to get Soletus’s hand free from his collar. “I don’t see why you aren’t upset about this.”
“I am,” Soletus snapped. His voice carried in the infirmary echoing. Lyndon flinched. The two other priests looked their direction. The person lying on the bed stopped moaning and popped his head up to see them. Soletus ignored them and reasoned with Lyndon through his teeth. “What good would it do anyway? If you and I get into fight with him and Papa finds out, we’re both worse off than we already are. Let it go!”
Lyndon put his hands up. “Okay, I will…for now.”
Soletus released him and gave him a parting dirty look then looked as pleasantly as he could muster to Kiao. “Don’t tell anyone.”
“About a physical abnormality? Ha, everyone has those. As a chanter, you learn physical perfection is a flawed ideal. As for Mien, what is it that you wish of me?”
“He needs to be around another chanter who’s comfortable being one. He doesn’t like the way he sounds and talks really softly unless he’s around someone he’s really comfortable with.”
Kiao considered that for a second. “Odd for a chanter.”
“We know. But I think once I get him to be all right with his own voice, he’ll do better. If you meet him, you’ll understand how he isn’t.”
“I’ll help when I can. I’m busy with this, a lot,” he gestured infirmary. “How about you see me tomorrow in the mess hall at lunch and bring him. I’ll determine what I can do then.”
Soletus didn’t tell Mien about the reasons they were meeting Kiao for lunch. He already figured it out.
“Another person to help,” he asked.
“You’ve met Kiao and he’s nice,” Soletus explained to him as they walked between tables in the mess hall. The young chanter priest was already seated to the side alone and had three seats already waiting for them. Soletus noted in the distance was Doran sitting with his new wader friends watching them. Lyndon spotted him as well and the two glowered at each other.
Kiao snapped his fingers at Lyndon. “We’ve business that has nothing to do with him.”
Soleus sat and pulled Lyndon down with him by his sash to the bench. Mien took a seat beside of Kiao who looked at his plate of food. There was about as much food as a baby rabbit could eat.
“Seriously that’s all you eat,” said the young priest.
“He doesn’t eat much,” said Soletus.
“Food is everything to a chanter. That’s how we sustain ourselves to chant.”
Mien cast his eyes on his plate becoming uncomfortable.
“He’s not using his abilities much,” said Soletus.
Kiao took a bowl off of his tray and placed it on Mien’s. “Even still you need to eat a lot more. You’re thin.”
The boy started on his tray clearly embarrassed.
Kiao sighed. “You have to excuse my healer’s sense. I just want people healthy. I don’t mean to belittle, I’m just concerned.”
“It’s okay,” said Mien softly.
Kiao studied him for a moment. “Do you just know the phrase of light?”
Mien nodded and started eating.
“When did you learn it?”
Mien lowered his fork from his mouth and stared at his food.
“During something bad that had happened, but not during the incident that brought you here?”
That surprised Soletus. He never questioned when the boy had learned the phrase.
“I guess you hid the fact you could from you family didn’t you?”
Mien nodded again keeping his eyes downcast.
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” said Kiao. “I hid my abilities from mine. I knew what it meant. I knew the priests would come and they would take me away and my parents would let them.”
“You don’t sound like you’re from this region,” said Mien softly.
“You’ve good ears. I’m from Summerset. It’s the home of all sorts of performances. It’s a wonderful place, colorful and friendly. Chanters even sing there. I even heard Queen Nethera herself singing in the grand hall there. She’s a chanter too you know,” Kiao looked sadly out in front of him. “However, here I am as far from home as I can get.”
“You don’t like it here,” asked Lyndon.
Kiao stirred his food. “I do, but there’s nothing like Summerset. It’s colorful and full of life,” he said and then to Mien. “I suppose you’re the opposite of me. You probably want to be as far from home as you can.”
Mien bobbed his head.
“I can tell how much of a bad place it was. I hear it in your voice. It’s scared like vivid wounds on your flesh,” said Kiao. “It’s just as vivid with how much you don’t like yourself.”
Mien swallowed hard looking distressed. Soletus didn’t know if their conversation was a good one to have in public.
“Peace my friend, Si lei’so. No need to fear what no longer is able to hurt you. This is one thing about this place, despite the drass beasts, you’re safe here.”
Kiao had used the phrase of peace. Using phrases on another chanter normally didn’t work. Soletus guessed it did because Mien was untrained. However, the boy blinked hard, but didn’t seem that anxious anymore as he was puzzled.
The young priest looked apologetic. “I’m sorry. I thought that maybe I could use that without you feeling it. But it brought you out of whatever state you were falling into. You can keep doing that, you know. It stresses your body.”
“I know,” mouthed Mien.
“Of course you do, you’ve been probably hearing it from Brother Hickory for weeks now,” said Kiao starting on his lunch. “He’s probably is giving you the confident speech constantly too.”
Kiao dropped his fork and leaned on the table with his elbows. “Annoying isn’t it? ‘Have confident,’ as if it is something that can just be obtained by just hearing it. I remember locking myself in that little room in the chapel and refused to come out after he went through his spill.”
“Why,” asked Mien growing a little more interested in him.
“I didn’t like myself and I didn’t like being a chanter. My abilities were unstable from not being able to exercise them properly for a long time. I would get terrible headaches and feel like my chest was burning. Some days I wished I could be normal and Dias pick someone else to be a chanter.”
Mien tilted his head at him.
“We aren’t all born and bred Brotherhood like Lyndon and Soletus here who accept everything so easily,” he said and then suddenly frowned. “You’re still glaring at him.”
Soletus didn’t even notice. He was too busy listening to Kiao. His cousin was indeed giving Doran hateful looks and Doran was returning them as well. The group of warders their ex-friend was with saw the silent antagonizing exchanged as well. Soletus elbowed his cousin.
“Would you stop, I don’t feel like him coming over here.”
Mien looked over. “Why is Doran over there?”
“Because he’s a jackass,” snapped Lyndon.
Soletus jabbed his cousin with his elbow in the side again. “Seriously Lyn, let it go.”
Lyndon rubbed his side however, he was still fixed on Doran. “You know, back in the day, they use to string traitors up by their toes and slash their wrists to bleed them out.”
Soletus rolled his eyes skyward. “That was the army and they cut their hands off.”
“Lyndon, you are here for a reason,” said Kiao gesturing to Mien.
Lyndon gave Doran one more quick glance before settling back down again. “Please continue,” he said.
“Anyway, Mien, I think I know something that might help. I’m part of the brotherhood chorale. Well there are only three of us right now. There would be more if things weren’t complicated right now. Perhaps we should come to the chapel and you can listen to us.”
“Listen, why not have him join you,” questioned Lyndon.
“I think this is the best way to help. Besides Mien doesn’t object, now do you?”
“No,” said Mien.
Soletus got the impression that the boy didn’t mind Kiao at all. He warmed up to him a lot quicker than he did him. The young monk couldn’t help, optimistic that progress would be made a lot quicker.