Pt. Two: The Message
I’ve been a warden most of my adult life. Being a blood sports fighter were only but a short moment in my lifetime. However, both had a monumental impact on me that lasted decades. I don’t know what was worse the shame or the fear. Maybe it was the foolish belief that I had overcome it all, but at the same time, tried to hide it. Dias allowed me a peace with it all when Clincher was hung. I could see things better. I could move forward and see my path ahead of me with clarity. Before that, I felt that the path in front of me was one I couldn’t walk. And then I realized that everything happened to me was for his benefit.
-Excerpt from Confessions of the Wolf by Oeric’Sheldmartin
There were only a handful of things that Kiao regretted doing in her life. The one that bothered her the most was allowing the Sisterhood to convince both she and her parents in taking her without question. However, she was considering her current situation being equal to that. She allowed Brother Elnos to inspect the infirmary without Brother Oli there. Twice, no, three times she could’ve gone upstairs to fetch him. However, she and Alder thought it was best to leave him alone in his rocking chair drinking a hot cup of tea. They thought they could handle the new priest assembly head alone.
“Why do you have so many beds,” asked Elnos. “Hardly any are even filled each day. Most of the injured stay in here a few hours and then you send them to their rooms to rest. It would be more efficient and a better us of space if you removed some.”
It was true they never had many people in there. However, there was at least someone whether it was someone injured or a boy who just needed an excuse to hide from a bully.
“We need to be prepared for an influx. Such as sickness,” she answered.
Alder bobbed his head in agreement supporting her. “It’s true. If an illness spreads, instead of sending someone back to the dorms to make it worse, we can keep them here.”
“And if we took out the beds, what would the extra space be used for,” she asked.
“I would rather you to put more focus on healing and treating those who need attention. Recovery can easily be done in the rooms of the patient. This way may consolidate staff,” said Elnos.
The priestess clasped her hands in front of her as a way to keep from tugging at her braids in frustration. “Consolidating our staff when we just now have a staff is a terrible idea! Three people cannot run this infirmary as the assembly has believed for so long. It’s more efficient to have priests of varying skill to share the load. And it may not seem like much right now, but this place can become very busy very quickly. ”
“It’s very true,” said Alder. “We could use another actually.”
Brother Elnos crossed his arms. “For what purpose?”
“We need someone else to help so we have a more efficient rotation.”
“Then how about you use Brother Mientheodric for that,” suggested Elnos.
“Because he’s on the road and it easier for him to keep his sleeping habits as they are,” she said suppressing a sigh.
“With him being on the road so much, what is his purpose here then?”
And now we get to the purpose of this nonsense. For once, I thought he wasn’t going to be predictable, she thought.
Him sleeping in the boy’s dorm across the monastery wasn’t enough. Mien being on the road wasn’t enough either. However, separated them by eliminating his position was now the new goal.
“He is our apothecary,” said Alder. “Yes, Lionel can do it but, Mien knows more. He is teaching him what he can.”
Kiao then added. “Not to mention he’s very good with the distraught, scared, and the nervous. So not only do I have use for him at the society house, but here as well.”
Alder then straightened his spine and added evenly. “We have everything under control here. Everyone brings something to the table. Everything works efficiently the way it is compared to when I first arrived.”
“Yes and one day, I would like for this place to be run with a duty roster,” said Kiao. “But I need more willing help. That’s why I asked the assembly for more assistance, not an assessment on how to run things more efficiently.”
Elnos then waved his hand in the air as if he were shoving away their request. “Our non-chanter brothers feel as if this isn’t the place for them. So I can’t provide you with anyone else. Honestly, it’s due to your presence, Sister Kiao. Maybe to get what you want, maybe you should solely focus on a clinic in the town. You do so much of your work there too.”
That sounded like a good idea to a naïve girl, but it was from Elnos’s mouth. It was a rotten excuse to try to get her out of the infirmary.
Before she had a chance to reject his suggestion, the infirmary door swung open and hit the wall. All of them jump to see the patriarch’s daughter, Briar rushed in. She was covered in dust from her dark leather battle skirt to her leather vest. There was grass in her hair and smeared across her sweaty cheek.
She grabbed Kiao’s arm and pulled her. “Orrie collapsed while we were out and brought him back here.”
Kiao turned back to Brother Elnos. “Sorry, duty calls. Alder can you finish up?”
He nodded and she matched up with Briar’s speed.
“What do you mean the First Warden collapsed?”
When she walked outside, she saw that the huntresses managed to get him slung across a horse. By his side was one of the shepherds son’s keeping him balanced.
“Hey Sister Kiao,” he said.
“Greetings, Rodon,” she said hurrying passed him. “What happened?”
“I don’t know. He and the huntresses were trying to help Ma get her sheep out of a gully. He was running around fine until he went down. Thought he tripped and got a little trampled. But then the huntress got to him and he was out cold and hot.”
With his help and Briar, they lowered Soletus’s father down to the ground. His skin, which was normally golden from long days outdoors in the summer, was pale. Kiao wiped the wisps of sandy hair that was stuck to his face from sweat. He was warm.
Briar then said from her side. “We got some water in him and he started to stir but then he feel out again. So I don’t know what’s up.”
Kiao’s first thought was he had been in the sun too long as it was a very warm that day. But it didn’t feel right.
“First Warden,” she called, using a bit of force in her voice. His face twitched and then said to Briar. “Get me a bit of water; there is a pitcher in the infirmary.” She then patted Oeric’s face. “First Warden Oeric, I need you to wake up.”
He let out a long groan and his eyes flickered open only for him to then squint from the sun. His hand reached for the button on the high collar of his shirt and then it fell limp.
“Let me get that,” she said and got his collar for him and saw a red patch that was a little smaller than her palm on the base of his neck. “Enflamed skin,” she muttered. She touched it and felt heat from it. She unbuttoned his shirt further and saw another patch in the center of his chest. She couldn’t imagine what it could be. The huntress arrived with the water she asked for followed by Alder with a litter.
Once inside, Oeric woke up with confusion on his face. Thankfully, he didn’t try to move as some would’ve. He let them carry him to their private examination room. Alder treated him giving him water and let him rest. After a short period, she and Alder came in to see how he was doing and found him sitting up and alert. However, he was still pale and was very thirsty. They let him drink again before Alder began to examine him. They had him take his shirt off and revealed even more patches of inflamed skin.
Alder studied him with his thumb pinching his chin. He was better at identifying infections than she was. He focused on his skin rather than examining him from the inside. He did ask Oeric to open his mouth and the young man peered inside of his throat and followed that up with touching one of the patches and pressing down on it.
“Does this hurt,” he asked.
“A bit,” answered Oeric.
He stepped back and folded his arms muttering, “If you know it isn’t everything else, the unlikely must be the answer. First Warden Oeric, have you ever had patches?”
The older elf stared at him confused.
Kiao said from off to the side. “That’s a childhood infection.”
“You mean rose patch,” asked Oeric.
“Again, that’s a childhood disease and that leaves small circles on the skin about the size of your fingerpad,” said Kiao.
“If you’re a child,” stated Alder.
Oeric looked at him with disbelieve and then massaged his forehead knowingly. “No, I’ve never had them.”
Kiao’s jaw sagged.
Alder looked just as stunned. “You managed to go all this time and three children without catching this?”
“I got through two children,” corrected Oeric. “Saedee just got over her bout with it. But is this what it is. I felt fine when I left home this morning. I didn’t have these spots.”
“They tend to form rapidly after the infection takes a hold,” said Alder. “It’s rare to make it to adulthood and not have them. You want them as early as you can because it affects adults differently. The patches are sensitive to touch. Not to mention it comes with a high fever as well as hallucinations.”
Oeric blinked at him becoming stoic. “Anything else?”
“Also, those red patches can travel up or down your body. If one appears around your eyes, we have to put you in a very dark room because you will be very sensitive to light. Right now, it seems to be staying on your chest but I’m concerned it might spread downward to your pelvic region.”
Oeric stiffened. “Why?”
“Rose patch is known to cause infertility in adult men.”
The first warden’s brow twitched. “What sort of infertility are we speaking about?”
Alder glanced over at Kiao.
She held up a hand. “I don’t make the First Warden uncomfortable in the least.”
Ever since she revealed herself a young woman two years ago, quite a few wardens were no longer comfortable around her to do examinations on them. Oeric wasn’t one of them. In fact, it had the opposite effect. He trusted her more.
“Even still, this is a touchy subject,” said Alder. “Many males feel strongly about their virility. Someone his age is still very intimate with their mate. Not being able to please her in the most traditional way would make a man insecure. Especially from a childhood infection you should’ve gotten before age 10.”
Oeric grimaced. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “Yes, I understand, Brother. Anything else?”
“Chronic pain is very common in adults after the disease that left them.”
That was when Oeric’s brow met in concern. “Chronic pain?”
Kiao stopped Alder there. She didn’t want to make him becoming too distressed. “Yes it could happen, but these are concerns are situational at most. You will experience pain after the sickness has left you. The only time it goes chronic if it doesn’t fade in six months. We needn’t to worry about the now. You’ve a moderate fever and it needs to be controlled so it doesn’t get too out of hand. It would be best if we keep you here.”
She hoped that would’ve quelled him a little. It didn’t, the man still looked troubled.
“And if the pain remains, will it affect what I can and cannot do duty wise?”
“Yes,” said Alder. Kiao kicked him in the calf. He then forced a reassuring smile on his face. “However, I think its best we wait until we get to that point if we do get to that point.”
The two of them tucked Oeric in a private room upstairs. He would be close to Brother Oli to keep an eye on. The priest wanted at least a single patient to look after even though he spent more and more time sleeping. She could also keep an eye on him as well, since her room was across from his.
She would rather have a room in the priest wing still, but she was moved. They wanted her to sleep off the monastery grounds in an effort to push her out. Or that’s how she took it and Elnos’s current efforts. However, Kiao refused, stating to the Patriarch that she needed to be close to the infirmary. If an emergency occurred, running to get her wasted. He understood and asked that she remained on the grounds.
All-in-all it seemed that her giving up her disguise made things worse for her. It came with a few benefits. Women weren’t afraid to come to the infirmary. They were mostly the wives of wardens however, it was a start. Only a few women would come in there before like Coredea’Sheldmartin. The woman had all her children delivered there. So she easily came to see her husband.
She brought Saedee because she was beside herself in tears. She had made her papa sick. Kiao stood to the side watching the entire scene. Oeric used a softer voice compared to his measured stern one he used for everyone else. It was a strange thing to see and uneasiness settle in her chest. She knew there was no reason for it other than all he had done to Soletus. The young man was someone who could actually defend himself. His daughter couldn’t. She looked tiny and vulnerable sitting on who she considered a brute.
He and Soletus were nearly the same height. Oeric was shorter by just a couple of inches. Soletus’s muscle seemed to concentrate itself on his torso. Oeric’s was evenly distributed throughout his body making him strong and fast. He had the stamina to match and could keep up with warders when running distances. He also had the combination of skill taught by the brotherhood and what he had learned in the ring. That included fighting using his consort given ability and turning into a wolf. And she saw the injuries he could inflict on a person in that form.
Cordea though, had no trouble sitting there listening as he went through a list of very logical reasons why his daughter she shouldn’t be upset. The little girl nodded and hiccupped. The woman had told Kiao that Oeric was the softest around Saedee. Had the least amount of distance between her than his other children. She joked it was because her daughter looked remarkably like him with his ears, iris color, and nose. From what the priestess could see, it held true as he did something she never thought she would see him do. He nuzzled to top of his Saedee’s head and kissed it. The child gave him a peck on the cheek and then he kissed her and nibbled on hers until she squealed and laughed again.
Kiao smiled despite herself. It looked like something Mien would do. He loved children and her as well. He never outright told her that he loved her. She could tell though. The problem was, she didn’t feel the same draw as the tod did for her. She thought about it more and more and was certain it would cause issue. He could always pour out his affection for her getting her things and making her scented soap. She might not been the prettiest thing in the infirmary, but she was the best smelling. He did brighten up her miserable days and making her transition more bearable. However, she never poured anything out towards him. She was busy and honestly couldn’t figure out what he liked for gifts. Mien didn’t care whether she did or not. He didn’t demand affection from her. It seemed that her accepting him was enough.
Cordea then said to her. “So how long is this going to take?”
Kiao was snapped out of her thoughts and told her, “It might be a week or two. But I think the First Warden will be better in a week or at least well enough to go home.”
Oeric sank down in his bed signaling he was done talking. Cordea got up and kissed him. She left after that promising to see him later on. Kiao went back to work going to her own room to clean up.
When she returned downstairs, Alder was talking to the Arch Monk and Madame Cordea giving them an earful of his concerns about the future of Oeric’s health.
She opened her mouth to stop him from frightening them as he had done Oeric. But she was stopped by a thousand singing voices entering her mind. She clapped her hands over her ears, but that didn’t stop the chorus of the world. Above the voices, someone cried out in anguish. It was Mien. She could feel his sorrow squeeze her chests followed by his anger, fear, and then lastly desperation followed by determination. It all caught her breath and held it. She stumbled to the ground trying to draw in breath. Just as black spots appeared in her vision, the channel closed and left her breathless on the floor.