Kiao didn’t want to put any stock into what was nothing more than just a gut feeling. Then again, it was Soletus’s gut feeling and there was some merit to that. But at the same time, there was nothing the woman could do other than stand on a crate like her daughter and was chased out of the market after an old man got tied of her “preaching.” That wasn’t the end of her though. She took the opportunity to move to the other side of the city not far from the society house. In fact, she was within sight of the building to the member’s displeasure according to Briar.
When the day arrived for Kiao’s weekly visit to the society house, she thought about staying in the infirmary. She was bogged down with fatigue and feeling bloated. The muscles from her hip to her knees cramped and a growing ache radiated from below her navel that decided to spread to the small of her back. Her time of season decided it was a good time to show after a year and a half absents. It would be in full swing in a few days and then she would be a rendered good for nothing bed warmer.
Normally, she would’ve taken it easy and let everyone else handle everything. Instead, for the first time since she started her duty to the women’s society, she was glad to grab her satchel and go. Lady Maelyra had refused to change her mind letting stay her there made the girl inside of her happy. If that woman died under her care in the mountains, Kiao would’ve found herself facing more rejection. And Edithlyn thinking highly enough of her to correct people on what had happen bolstered that feeling. She felt like she had a chance now.
When she started crossing the monastery ground, she spotted Soletus ahead of her walking out the gate. The young woman paused wondering if she should avoid her tall friend and let him get further along. However, in her moment of hesitation, the young monk turned around spotting her. He waved to her.
“Why does he have to be so friendly,” she muttered and waved back. She should enjoy being his friend instead of the manifestation of her confliction she was beginning to feel. That he was always going to be a distraction. And she knew if she separated herself from him for her own good, Soletus would get hurt. She knew from Brother Hickory, neth were funny like that. They put a lot of value in friendships. If she discarded his friendship, he’ll likely feel betrayed and never speak to her again.
She sucked up her girlish feeling into a ball in the back of her mind and greeted her friend.
“You’re early,” he said.
“I wanted to have some time to talk to Edithlyn before any patients arrived and maybe some of the others,” she said.
Soletus smiled. “It’s funny how that helps. Hearing that you’re acceptable to others.”
“We shouldn’t be that way,” said Kiao. “We should only care about what we do in Dias’s eyes and yet, we can’t help to want to be accepted by our peers. So have you told Mien?”
Soletus grimaced. “I was going to but…”
“Why would it matter to him? He isn’t going to care,” she told him.
“I know but, I ended up telling Briar of all people and I got back to the room and that felt like that was enough.”
“Well at least it helped you and Briar get along. It was nice having two people tag along with me like that. It was kind of fun having more people knowing.”
“I only asked her to come to make us an even three, not that she’s a friend or anything,” he said.
Kiao could hear the grudging tone in his voice keeping her smile to herself.
“She’s just an ally,” he said. He changed subjects and started talking about what he wanted to help the huntresses do that day. After they passed by the Patriarch’s house and rounded the corner where the chapel sat, the young monk’s brow pulled together and he stopped walking.
“What,” she asked. She saw him focus on the empty lane before them. The sun wasn’t over the town wall so there were a lot of shadows still around. One couldn’t see straight ahead. It narrowed and curved a little to the left before going a little to the right to go around homes and greenery.
He nudged her forward and leaned to her ear. “Try not to look too much at it, but, that abandoned warehouse four buildings ahead of us, I saw movement in one of the upper windows.”
Kiao glanced at it and then his profile. She wasn’t sure how he saw that far. She figured it was because he was taller, she couldn’t see anything.
“Keep your pace beside me,” he ordered.
Kiao wasn’t sure what to think about his caution, however it was better just to listen and ask later. She just watched and waited to see what happened. The abandoned warehouse came into full view. The long two-story building was boarded up with ivy covering the stones. It was mostly an eye sore that no one claimed the spot or tore the building down. There were nearly passed it when Soletus cried out at the same time that Kiao heard and saw something whizz right in front of here eyes inches way.
Soletus pushed Kiao to the side towards a very old and wide oak. The two of them scrambled behind it just in time to hear a loud crack from something hitting the tree.
“What in the name of all,” Kiao exclaimed as she crouched and pressed herself against the tree’s bark.
Soletus settled as close to her as he could. Another crack against the tree brought him a little closer to her where he was practically on top of her.
Kiao sunk down trying to ball up. “Tits, what is that!”
Another projectile smacked into a rock and skipped across the ground in their line of sight. Kiao studied the object. It was a smooth and the size of a peach pit but looked like a rock.
Soletus became mystified by it. “That’s a clay bullet,” he said.
“What’s a clay bullet?”
“For a sling. I have one. It was one of the first weapons Papa taught me to use.”
“The boys I knew just used river rocks.”
“Yeah well they were probably just playing with them. Clay bullets fly better and are used for hunting.”
There was one more crack and then, Kiao heard someone running towards them. Soletus did as well and pulled away from her coiling into a crouch. From around the tree, appeared a tod. He reached for her at the same time Soletus sprung on him and then snatched him by the front of his shirt.
Kiao scurried out of the way to her feet right as Soletus slammed him against the tree. The tod was revealed to be a farmer son given how patched his clothing was and how tanned his skin was. He struggled wildly cursing.
Soletus sighed and summoned his consort. Khodi manifested beside of him, standing on hide legs and roared. All at once, the tod deflated, becoming wide eyed.
Soletus then told him very calmly. “You either stop struggling or he holds you. And believe me, I’m not sure if I’m in a good enough mood to control him.”
Kiao straightened up and put on her best intimidation face, and folded her arms tightly across her chest.
“Who are you,” she demanded.
The tod spit in her direction.
Khodi raked one of his claws down the tree by the tods head. Kiao was sure the he had wet himself.
A humorous smile spread across Soletus’s face. “I’m going to explain how this works, if I don’t think something you say or do isn’t polite, Khodi doesn’t think it’s polite either. So please reframe from spitting at my friend.”
“That chanter killed my brother’s wife,” said the tod.
Kiao gaped at him appalled. “So you think that gives you the right to sling clay bullets at me and my friend. You could’ve killed one of us.”
“Then he shouldn’t’ve been with you,” retorted the tod. “I was going teach you a lesson.”
Soletus snorted. “And you’re doing an outstanding job.”
“Let me go an’ I’ll show you, I’ll beat both of you.”
The young monk barked out a laugh.
The tod might’ve been tall, but he was lanky and nothing compared to Soletus who was looking rather bored.
He dropped one of his arms holding him.
“Now look here farm boy, I’m holding you with one arm,” said Soletus. “And I’m not showing off…well a little. I’m just point out the fact you hold nothing on me. Also, I’m being awfully polite because if you actually hurt my friend, you’ll be missing a row of teeth crying for your daddy.”
That’s when the tod spit right in Soletus’s eye. The young monk threw him to the ground and the farmer’s son tried his best to scramble upright. but Khodi was faster. In in a flash, the bear pushed him back down to the ground. The bear took a large forepaw and pushed in the center of his back to keep him on his stomach. The tod screamed the entire time as if he was being murdered.
Kiao gave her friend a disapproving stare while he wiped off his face in disgust. It was moments like that he reminded her of his father.
“He’s not hurt,” said Soletus.
“He’s hurting me,” cried the tod kicking his legs.
“Waa, waa,” said Soletus, leaning against the tree. “I can watch him while you get someone to take him. There should be a peaceguard by the chapel.”
Kiao glowered at him hard.
“Don’t give me that look. I know I’m not supposed to use my consort on other elves, but he’s a knife concealed on him. The two of us are unarmed so…”
“How do you know he has a knife?”
Soletus gave her a cocky smile. “Get someone and I’ll show you.”
Kiao jogged back down the lane where they came from. She didn’t see a peaceguard, but that she saw someone even better. The Patriarch had stepped out of his house looking sharply dressed in riding attire with his tall black leather riding boots clapping against the stone.
“Lord Kharis,” she shouted.
Briar’s father spun around on his heel with his refined face looking puzzled. When she got closer, her recognized her and greeted her cordially.
“Ah, Brother Kiao, this is surprising to see you out and about.”
“I’m sorry to impose on you, Sir, but I need you to come with me,” she said.
“Certainly, though this is highly unusual,” he said as she led he down the lane. “Most tend to stop me the moment I step into the monastery. Though, this is convenient as we need to have a conversation.”
“Is it about angry mother who’s not happy with the death of her daughter and grandchild?”
“Yes and some of the impact from it as well as a few other things,” he told her.
She took him to the tree and pointed to the tod. “Well here’s some more impact. He was in that old warehouse slinging clay bullets at us.”
“Help me, he’s killing me,” cried the tod.
“Oh shut it,” snapped Soletus and then greeted the Patriarch with a toothy grin. “Good morning, Sir.”
Lord Kharis looked at Khodi who had settled down with his forelegs and chest on top of the boy. “You know it’s not proper to use your consort on another elf, Junior Warden.”
“Junior Warden,” questioned the tod and he was ignored.
“He attacked us with a sling and was using these,” explained Soletus. He handed the Patriarch one of the bullets. The man studied the object neutrally. “Kiao and I hide behind the tree and then he came at us.”
“He grabbed me and his bear tried to maul me.”
Soletus pointed to the tree bark that Kiao had racked with his claws. “I may have been a little upset and wanted to scare him. He was being rude to Kiao.”
The man leaned and studied the marks.
“He’s also armed. I supposed he met to threaten Kiao alone or something. He a belt knife tucked under his shirt.”
Kiao saw Briar’s father face because grim. “I’ve been told you are getting to be a bit troublesome, Junior Warden.”
“Trouble often seems to find me, Sir,” replied Soletus nonchalantly.
The Patriarch stared at him with heavy disapproval. “That better be so because I hate the thought of my daughter being around someone like that.”
“I worry about that as well. This town will burn if you daughter meets someone like her.”
Kiao couldn’t control the snort of laughter that came out her nose. The tod had set him in a defiant mood. Even with the father of his pretend sweetheart scowling at him, the young monk let the look roll off as if he had nothing to fear from the wrath of a protective father.
“You’ve very stout pair, boy. However, you don’t want them to get too big that they trip you.” The Patriarch focused his attention on the tod being held down by Khodi. “Do you mind letting this lad up for me.”
Soletus looked intently at Khodi and the bear rose off the tod. As he did, the farmer’s son dug his toes into the dirt and tried to push himself up to escape. The Patriarch snatched him by the back of the shirt and lifted it to reveal a concealed knife that was strapped to a woven cord that acted as a belt. The man removed the knife from the sheath. It was ivory colored with dark purplish veins running through it. It wasn’t tao stone and it wasn’t black steel. Whatever it was, Kiao didn’t like the look of it and took an involuntary step away from it.
The Patriarch’s jaw hung loose. “Above and below, where in the name of all did you get this?”
The boy’s jaw muscles tightened.
“What is it,” asked Soletus as he was handed the blade. He turned it over in his hand turning bladed weapon in his hand.
“It’s a bone blade made from drass beast bone.”
Soletus dropped the knife as if it burned him.
The Patriarch became apologetic. “Oh sorry, I forgot. Though, I rather not leave it there. Rumor has it you can instantly kill a chanter with a drass bone knife. Not true of course, however, chanters have a lot of trouble healing wounds cut with drass beast bone. It’s also very illegal in my town.”
“This ain’t your town, you cock,” said the tod.
Kiao knew if he had said that to any other noble, he wouldn’t been hit on. Lord Kharis didn’t even show a drop annoyance. He went on amicably.
“Yes, my town. I’m Patriarch Lord Kharis’Gryfalcon, perhaps you heard of me.”
The tod’s face leeched of all color and he started apologizing. “I’m sorry,” he cried. “I wasn’t trying to kill the chanter, just show ‘im, you know. It won’t happen again I swear!”
“Where’s you’re sling,” said Lord Kharis.
“In my right pocket.”
The Patriarch fished it out and studied the brown leather. “Nice craftsmanship. Though, this should be used for hunting animals not on my monks and priests,” he said and then told Kiao. “You two come with me. It’s seems we’ve a civil dispute to managed today.”