Having someone die on you is inevitable. When that day comes, you have to learn how to move on. If you dwell on it, you can’t be a first warden. Is it easy? No. The first death is the worse. That one feels like an iron ball around your neck. Your dead brother’s sash, feels like a physical manifestation of your failure. But, you have to let it go. You have to tell their families what happened and give them their sash. It’s tradition. I always do it in person. You can write notes or have the Arch Monk to it. However, I never let my father tell their family. That’s the act of a true coward.
Oeric’s fever refused to go down. When he was lucid, he would request something to drink before falling back into a muttering stupor. Kiao and Lionel tried to keep him hydrated as he sweated out of his shift and soaked the bed. Keeping him comfortable was difficult as the rose colored patches spread to the right side of his back and then traveled downward. The last one appearing on his right hip and that was when he became very restless. It hurt him, causing him to moan for nearly a day. Then he went silent when his fever reached its peak.
Kiao had to place him under close watch. Someone had to check in on him to make sure he was still breathing. She spoke to Cordea and the Arch Monk stating she really didn’t know what was going to happen. Oeric had a strong constitution, but the fever was taxing it. He risked dying if it continued. After that, the Arch Monk sat with him a very long time praying and making sure if he woke up, they could give him something to drink. Kiao checked on him praying herself that she didn’t have to tell her friend that his father died. Also, she wanted to ask him about his dream.
She didn’t expect him to remember it. The most she wanted out of it was ease of mind. Never had a dream stayed bother her for days. Lyndon speaking directly to her was unheard of. Dreams didn’t work like that. Her abilities didn’t work like that either. She was just an observer; she couldn’t interact with the dream itself. The most she could do was interact with the person having the dream. And that would lead them to wake up. It didn’t help that the Arch Priest told her to watch him. So it was obviously important.
On the day that Mien was expected to arrive home, Oeric’s fever broke. Kiao entered his room at the start of her shift. Sun light streaked between the curtains. However, the priestess reframed from drawing the curtains back to keep the room dark. Instead, she undid the latch on the window, and pushed the pane open. She was greeted with fresh cool air that she hoped would dissipate the stuffiness of the room.
After that, she lowered herself down on her knees to check on him. He was sleeping on his stomach with his head turned to the side. She rested a hand on his forehead. The fire that raged inside him died, leaving his skin clammy and cool. Kiao couldn’t help but smile in relief. It grew when his eyelids cracked and then blinked. The man’s pale eyes focused on her. They were clear.
“Good morning, First Warden,” she greeted.
He responded with a very low moan.
“I know, you feel terrible,” she said as she pulled back his blankets to inspect the patches on his back and saw that the inflammation had gone down. “But I need to check on you. Does this hurt?”
She pressed down on a fading pink patch. He gave a faint sway of his head.
“Good,” she said.
“Cordea,” he whispered.
“She should be in soon. She came here every day to check on you. I think it’ll be a nice surprise to see you awake.”
He nodded and shut his eyes again. Kiao did a quick check. First she examined his heart. It had a strong beat, lungs were fine, and other organs, didn’t seem to sustain any injury other than what she expected to see. He would be on a broth diet for a bit and she’ll keep him off the duty roster. Not that he was doing much since everyone in his recent training band was picked up. He helped the huntresses instead. If he showed up at the society house, she would tell them to chase him home.
After she was done, Kiao went about her day constantly looking at the door to the infirmary, or looking out the window for Mien, or any other signs of Kellas’s band returning. However, he didn’t show up. It wasn’t unusual. Sometimes bands were late. But by day’s end it was clear that the band wasn’t arriving. It made the young woman antsy.
She was constantly fiddling with things that didn’t need messing with. She went down the rows of beds making those that weren’t occupied neat. They were already made, but she tucked the edges of the blankets repeatedly. She even dusted the inside of their glass cabinet with all their frequently used items. All the while, Alder watched. When she was in the middle of rolling up their bandages for the third time, he snatched her current roll out of her hand.
“What’s wrong,” he asked.
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, taking the roll from him. He seized it back before she undid the entire roll again. He spun it in his fingers until it was a neat roll and put it back in its spot, shutting the door.
“You’re being restless.”
Kiao sighed. “I was expecting Mien to be back today and he isn’t.”
“It’s not unusual for bands not to be back at their projected time, you know that.”
It was then the door to the infirmary opened. Kiao’s heart jump in excitement and then crashed when Cordea stepped in. She had come by earlier and then left. This time she appeared with what appeared to be a small kettle in her hands.
“Madame Sheldmartin,” greeted Alder. “I didn’t think you would be back.”
“Oh I just stopped by again with some bone broth. He wanted some and I figured that would be okay with you. He never likes what get prepared here because of what you put in it.”
Kiao smiled. “I should stick in the usual herbs in there but, I’ll let him off for one evening. Hopefully, he’s awake.”
She then escorted Cordea to Oeric. He was awake despite Alder washing him, dressing him in a new shift, and put a new set of sheets on his bed. Normally, that would tire a patient out, however he looked more bored than tired. His face lifted up when he saw Cordea. She put her kettle on a plate that rested table and produced a spoon and bowl from the satchel she carried. A twinge of envy nudged at her. It was a foreign feeling to her in the context she was in. She never looked at another couple and wished it was here with Mien. Granted she rather him not be ill.
Instead of lingering there embarrassed, she walked out of the room and went along the wall until she found a spot to lean on. She scrubbed her face in an effort to wipe off her disappointment. Not just for the fact that Mien wasn’t there, but for what she felt. Oeric then said something softly to Cordea that caught her attention.
“I had the death dream again,” he said.
Kiao held her breath.
“Please don’t tell me it wasn’t Soletus,” she begged softly.
“It was Lyndon.”
There was a short pause before Cordea hissed, “Are you sure?”
Kiao didn’t hear him say anything. She assumed he nodded.
Cordea then demanded. “Are you certain it wasn’t a fever dream?”
“He was sitting right where you are.”
“You need to tell my brother or your father or someone this time!”
“This time,” Kiao muttered and slid herself closer to the doorway.
“No,” he said.
“Why,” demanded Cordea. “That’s my brother’s son!”
The priestess’s heart went out to Cordea. She loved her brother and her nephew.
“I can’t tell him.”
“Oeric, of all the people in the world you can trust, Lynhart is one of them.”
“It’s not simple. Maybe I can tell him when I understand the dream. It wasn’t like others. Lyndon told me a lot of things that make no sense. He wanted me to do something. Travel north. Is about all I can recall now.”
She let out a sob.
“No crying you,” said Oeric. “I know he was our other son, but ours is still alive.”
Kiao couldn’t listen anymore. Instead, she crept to her room with her mind racing. Something had happen. Mien’s anguish likely was cause by Lyndon dying. She wanted to demand that Oeric tell her about what she had seen. Emmery then manifest in her arm that she wrapped around her chest. The consort rubbed the bottom of her chin with her head.
“What? Oh, I guess I’m in a bit of conflict with myself. I know confronting them isn’t right, but why is he being secretive?”
The ermine continued to try to comfort her.
“Why does he try and hide everything about him. I mean hiding the past from his son worked out nicely. Soletus definitely didn’t suffer from his secretiveness.”
It was then the consort bite Kiao on the chin.
“Ouch! You know I’m right.”
Emmery nipped her again.
“Oww! Okay. Maybe I am being unreasonable, but why not tell anyone if he knows Lyndon is dead? What does he gain from hiding the fact he saw him? Why is he having vision? I know he has particular dreams but this is beyond what I’ve seen.”
Emmery then nipped her in the ear.
“I’ll let it alone for now,” she told the consort not sure how long she could wait. Until Oeric was better was the obvious answer. However, she didn’t know how long it was until he would be strong enough. He slept through the following day and then the next he requested to be sent home. Brother Oli saw no reason not too and sent him home. Kiao was away at the women’s society house at the time and came back to find an empty bed.
It wasn’t until, a week later after Oeric had woken up, did she speak to him again. Before that, first Warden Kellas arrived home.
No one woke her when he did at first. The previous day was taxing. She worked in the infirmary and then had to go to go out for an emergency. It was an early labor and Edithlyn wanted her there. It was a long one and she stumbled into the infirmary right as Lionel was going to bed. She told him that she was going to sleep in the next day. And she was determined to do so, until Alder came knocking on her door.
She groaned and pulled her blanket over her head.
“Kiao, I know you can hear me,” he shouted.
She continued to ignore him.
“Look, I know you told Lionel not to disturb you, but you didn’t tell me so I’m telling you to get up. One of Kellas’s men is injured downstairs.”
Kiao flung her covers off the bed and scrambled to her feet. “Where’s Mien,” she shouted at the door pulling off her sleeping gown.
“Well, here’s the thing, I was told to take you straight to the Arch Monk’s chambers.”
Kiao stopped dressing, “Why?”
“I wasn’t told why and I didn’t ask,” he explained. “I promise you, that if I find out anything on my end, I’ll tell you. Just get dressed.”
Kiao slipped on her slippers wondering what was going on. It was Scout Warden Cole who was sitting on the examination table. He glanced up in time to see her pass by him and their gazes met. She couldn’t read anything from it. It was just the grumpy faced look that some of the older warden wore time to time. Like everything was routine. She hoped that met that Mien and Soletus were at the Arch Monk chambers. However when she entered room, there was a suspicious collection of people in it.
Brother Hickory was the first person she saw and he waved at her. Then her eyes fell on Lyndon’s parents. They were standing behind the chairs in front of the desk where Oeric was sitting down. Cordea was sitting beside him with a hand resting on his. Brother Meric caught sight her and then turned away from Kiao the same time she did. They had been taking a new approach in dealing with each other. They ignored one other which worked out very well, but that opened the door for Elnos it seemed.
When the Arch Monk entered the room, he was followed by Enforcer Icus. The monk had now taken over from Master Marth and took up full mantle of the monastery’s enforcer. Something he felt was necessary. No one in the boy’s dorm liked Icus, especially Lyndon. He assigned monitors to make sure those in the dorms were acting properly. It made it even more difficult to weave together pranks. He couldn’t charm the monitors. She personally didn’t have a problem with Icus. However, she didn’t want to see his presence there.
If Icus is here, then there is something very wrong, she thought.
“I called you all here to share some unfortunate news,” started the Arch Monk. “This morning, First Warden Kellas returned with half of his band. The members who didn’t return were Senior Junior Warden Soletus’Sheldmartin, Junior Warden Tyrus’Woodquill, Junior Warden Doran’Shrike, Junior Scout Lyndon’Pintail, and Alcolye Mientheoderic’Cyan.”
The room became hushed. No one seemed to be breathing. Kiao’s breath caught as sinking feeling hit her. She swallowed and looked around. She imagined that a bunch of parents being told their children were missing, would erupt into questions and demands especially from Soletus’s father. However, he remained silent with the lot of them.
Lyndon’s father cleared his throat and said, “You mean he lost every junior warden and a chanter?”
“Correct,” said Arch Monk. “I can’t give you the details on what fully happened.”
Seems like an excuse to withhold information, thought Kiao. She could guess what had happened given that Icus was there. Not to mention, how clean the line between who had come back and who was missing. Soletus had probably led them away after a disagreement. If she had to guess, Second Warden Valhart was probably at the center of it. However, where did Lyndon’s death fit into it all?
Oeric finally made his voice be heard. “So you can’t tell us if they are alive at least?”
Arch Monk bobbed his head. “I can tell you, yes, they were last seen alive.”
“All of them?”
“Yes Soletus was alive when he was last seen.”
“I wasn’t asking specifically about my son,” returned Oeric.
Kiao then turned to him. He was wearing a full scowl now.
He father sighed. “Look, I don’t know everything at this time. All I know they are all alive, that is what Kellas told me, and that is all I’m willing to say.” He then pointed a finger at him. “I want you to stay out of this.”
Oeric crossed his arm in challenge. “I think we all have right to know what happened to our sons, Sir.”
“After all related parties are here and the statements I need, I will share more information.”
“So you can’t tell us if you are sending out a scout relay to search for them?”
“No,” said Arch Monk and that was when every parent in the room reacted with demands of why they weren’t.
Kiao spoke over the voices using her abilities to make herself be heard, “I thought if a band was a week late, then we search for them.”
Icus step forward holding his palms forward and motioning for everyone to be quiet. He then said, “I know you are concerned, but let us handle the situation as we see fit.”
“Yes,” agreed the Arch Monk. “I just wanted to inform you of what was going on before rumors got to you first. I promise I will keep you informed on when I learn more about what happened. I also implore that you don’t talk to Kellas or any of the other wardens under him for now. You are dismissed except you Sister Kiao.”
Kiao was curious why she of all people was made to stay. She sat down in front of the Arch Monk. Enforcer Icus addressed her.
“I just wanted to ask you a few questions,” he said. She concluded that he sounded like what she imagined a stone would sound as it talked, deep and rough. It didn’t help he wore the same expression as one as well.
“You are good friends with Senior Junior Warden Soletus, correct?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Two years ago when you were injured due to the cowardly acts of four former peaceguards, was he upset by that?”
“How upset did he get?”
“He was upset enough to do something about it. He wasn’t planning to avenge me or anything.”
“And afterwards when we didn’t find them?”
“He accepted it. I was more unhappy about it longer than he was. They hurt a lot of innocent people.”
“I see. And has he shared with you about his inability to work with Second Warden Valhart?”
Even though Kiao couldn’t hear as Mien could, she knew when someone was using specific words to get a specific answer.
“It was less about his inability to work with him and more of how he doesn’t trust Valhart. The more he doesn’t trust someone, the less inclined he’s willing to work with them.”
“Interesting,” said the man holding his austere expression.” Also, I’ve a question about Acolyte Mientheodric.”
“What about him.”
“When was the last time he had a fit of any kind that would hinder his ability to act.”
Kiao thought hard about it. “It’s been awhile. He’s not had one since he started training with First Warden Oeric. Even before that, he’s had moments, but not like he first arrived. His uncle isn’t here.”
Icus then arched an eyebrow. “His uncle? How does he relate to him and his condition?”
Kiao stamped down her annoyance quickly. She hated that people thought there was something fundamentally wrong with her bond partner.
“He doesn’t have a condition. Brother Mien is very timbre sensitive. He was shy and empathic in nature and his uncle created a negative and difficult environment to live in. Mixed that in with the fact he was an untrained chanter coming into his abilities was a disaster waiting to happen. We took him out of that, made him feel safe, build his confidence with training which allowed him to grow, most of the damage reversed. Not all of it, but most of it. You’ll find that he can be anxious, but he can perform his duty excellently.”
“So you’re saying he wouldn’t fall into a panicked fearful state over just anything?”
“No. I doubt he would fall into one if he saw his uncle now. I’m curious how he’s going to react to him if he sees him this year when he goes in front of the arbiter.”
The stone face of Icus broke and he tilted his head becoming intrigued. “This year?”
“Yes, in a few months, Mien’s due back in front of the Arbiter for his sentencing.”
“Is that so? Why would he go back?”
“You have to ask Brother Hickory about the details. However, from what I gathered, Mien didn’t receive a traditional sentence for attempted murder. He was given to the Brotherhood on the condition they bring him back and show his progress. If he doesn’t show enough improvement he’ll be sentence to death.”
Icus considered her words. “One more thing. The Arch Monk mention that you felt you bond partner?”
“Yes I felt his anguish over something that happened to him.”
“Have you felt anything else from him?”
“Thank you. That’s all for now. If I need to speak to you again, I will find you.”
Kiao nodded to him and left the room wondering why he asked the question he did. They weren’t searching for them, but he wanted to know about Soletus and Mien. She got the feeling that this wasn’t a simple case of insubordination. On her way out, she say hello to Brother Farley who was sitting in his recess in the wall behind a table. He gave her a warm smile and then went back to reading. She was certain he had gone through the entire archive by then. She tried to he was reading and wasn’t paying attention when she rounded the corner.
When she finally looked forward, she saw someone in front of her and let short high yelp. They young woman’s heart leap in the throat and she held her chest. The person in front of her was none other than Soletus’s father leaning against the wall on his shoulder.
She knew he wasn’t trying to but he looked imposing. Soletus could lean against the wall like him and would appear to be a ray of sunshine. Oeric on the other hand had, was like a winter wind. It didn’t’ help he had the starkest wolf eyes she had ever seen. The scars on his face didn’t help make him more approachable. Neither did his demeanor.
“What did Icus want to talk to you about,” he demanded in a whisper.
No greeting or no thank you for helping him, just a demand. It annoyed her.
“Good morning, First Warden, I see your well,” she said walking away from Brother Farley’s line of sight and told him what Icus asked her. He deserved to know since he had asked about his son.
A wry smile touched his face. “He’s already starting on an investigation if he’s asking questions like that. There is something very wrong here especially if they separated from like that in such clear lines. Though, it makes little sense.”
“My son, Lyndon, and Mien have a connection to those peaceguards. However, Doran and as far as I know Tyrus, don’t.”
“That’s interesting,” noted Kiao to herself aloud.
“Indeed. I’m going to find out what happened.”
Kiao arched her eyebrows at him. “Really, despite the fact you were told to stay out of it.”
Oeric righted himself with effort. “I am staying out of Icus’s way. I’m using the resources I have at my disposal,” he said giving her a meaningful look.
Kiao pointed to herself. “Why?”
“I know about what you felt from Mien. More importantly, you know about the dream.”