The first death I dealt with was the first warden I served under. I was his second warden. His only reason in taking me was because of the Arch Monk. He wanted me to learn responsibility and not shy away from it. He was convinced that if I could be a parent, then I could certainly be a second warden. So I was given to First Warden Talore. He was short a elf, but a giant in personality. We were different in that aspect, summer and winter. He was a boisterous man and I was subdued. He knew I hid myself behind a mask to appear like my brother. He would snatch that mask off and force me to confront myself. He was a great mentor and one that I needed longer. However, he died saving me.
Kiao was caught off guard. She didn’t expect Oeric to come to her.
“I was woken up,” Oeric explained. “And even though I vaguely remember it, you were by my bed, Dreamseer.”
She nodded. “Yes I saw the dream. I wanted to ask you about it. It was more particular than any dream I’ve ever witnessed. Does it have any meaning to you?”
She wanted to hear the truth from him and not reveal that she had been listening into him speaking to Cordea about it.
He looked over her and behind him before he lowered his voice saying, “I’ve had dreams like it before when someone close to me has died. The first time this happened was after my mother died when I was five. And it’s a lot like what you saw. I’m asleep at night and they visit me.”
There was a lot there to come to an understanding with. There was the fact that Oeric was able to commune with the dead and one of those dead people was Lyndon. She felt confused. How was she was supposed to think of someone as dead, when he was very much alive the last time she saw him? It didn’t feel as if it did happen. Maybe it hadn’t happened and Oeric’s dream was wrong. She wanted him to be wrong.
Lyndon was the first friend she made outside the infirmary. He opened up her small world into the monks. He was full of stories of the boy’s dormitory and had a mind for mischief. She constantly told him never involve her in his pranks, but he always did on some level. She didn’t want to admit it, but it was exciting to hear or see his results.
“Are you sure he’s dead?”
“My dreams have never lied to me once. He’s gone from this world.”
“How can you—” she started and then was at a loss for words.
“Just say that,” he finished. His face softened. “Sister, death stings a lot less after you’ve lived several decades. As Dias says, we focus on the living. Lyndon came with a message about those who are alive. And they were going north and that’s about all I remember.”
“He told me that you need to come with me,” she admitted.
He looked surprised.
“I interacted with your dream, not on purpose. Lyndon turned to me and said you needed to come with me. That never happens just so you know. What you’re having aren’t dreams, they’re visions.”
He shifted up right. “Not entirely surprising. I have particular dreams as you say,” he said and stepped away from the wall. He managed a single step forward before he cried out. His hand groped towards the wall and caught himself. The muscles in his jaw were tight and he was shifting his weight off his right leg.
“Where’s the pain coming from,” she asked.
“It’s coming from my right hip or back. Don’t know but it’s making my entire leg above my knee ache,” he hissed through his teeth and warded her off with an outstretched hand.
“You shouldn’t be having pain of this intensity,” she said and reached for him again.
He moved and put his back to the wall and stood straight. His heavy breath evened out. “It’s going away now.”
Kiao reached for his chest and he brushed her hand to the side.
“Please don’t touch me,” he growled.
She thrusted her hand on her hips. “Well if you aren’t going to let me look here, then at least come with me to the infirmary.”
He sighed. “Stop fretting. Cordea has a horse for me,” he told her as if he were speaking to one of his children. That annoyed her.
“I’m fretting because you probably had a spasm. You shouldn’t be on your feet,” she said using her reasoning voice.
“I’m sorry. Maybe I should’ve kept lying on my back when being told my son is missing,” he told her starting to walk away. She then stepped in front of his path and pointed a finger towards his face.
“I’m not here to argue what you should and shouldn’t do. I’m telling you what you need to do because of the nerve spasm you just had. I know you’re worried, but don’t you get caustic with me.”
His brow slightly arched as his gaze traveled down her finger to the scowl she was wearing. He could’ve snatched her hand out of his way. Kiao expected him, to at least push it aside.
“I apologize for taking my annoyance for this situation out on you,” he stated.
She lowered her arm. “It’s okay, but I’ll feel better if I took a look at you.”
“I’m tired and I’m heading right back home. I’ll rest the entire day if you wish. But tomorrow, we need to start looking into this. By then I can get information on their last known location.”
“How? You can’t even talk to Kellas and his men.”
“Let me worry about that,” he said. “Now if you excuse me, Sister. I need to go.”
Kiao nodded and watched him walk away. He then started limping. He was still hurting and she stopped herself from shouting at him to march himself to the infirmary. She shook her head and instead focused her mind on the situation before her. She was unsure what he could do to find Mien and Soletus. The ball of concern that was nested in the back of her mind came to the forefront. Mien was field trained, but it was very clear his moment of distress was linked to Lyndon’s death. His mental state had to be in a mess. The tod could be falling apart and relapse into the same state he did with his father. Then again, maybe he wasn’t the one she should worry for. Soletus was close to his cousin.
He had changed over the past couple of years. He was less a tod and more a man in some ways. He was turning into a warden becoming firm. However, he was still Sol. Under the surface lay a bubbling pool of emotions. If he was hurt, they were unleashed and he would become another person. His self-control would be gone, his temper short, and he would easily say and do something just to be mean. It was like someone needed to be hurt along with him. And with Mien hurt by Lyndon’s death, they would be a mess with Doran and Tyrus with them.
So when Kiao made it back to the infirmary, instead of taking her post at the podium, she found herself drawn downstairs to the lab. She sat on Mien’s stool and opened up the book he had started working on. It was full of modified formulas that he written in his crisp handwriting. He wanted everyone having the ability to mix.
She her fingers across the ink and thought over what the First Warden had told her. He wanted her because of what she had felt. However, what could she do? There was the channel but she knew very little about it. Over the last two years, they didn’t do anything with it. She wanted to know more about it. It was then the Assembly found out and Brother Elnos stood in her way siting that Mien was too young and advised they wait until he was at age. He took away what she found in the archive and told them she couldn’t research it anymore. She didn’t get very far into the research either. She had a few notes about their bond, but she did have an entire list of useful book she planned on finding again. She needed those books.
Kiao’s first stop was upstairs to her room. She closed the door behind her and got on the floor beside her bed.
“I’ll have to come back and read most of theses after my shift,” she said to herself as she got on her stomach and then rolled on her back. She pulled herself under her bed and searched for her journal. Tucked in a shelf formed frame of the bed, was her leather bound journal. She stood up and carefully opened the journal so all her loose parchment didn’t come flying out and on the floor. There was a single page that she sought and that was her list of books. She flipped through the pages finding her list and at the bottom, she wrote down two books she found the most helpful in learning about timbre bond granted abilities. She smiled plucked the piece of paper out and sat it on her desk and placed her journal back where she had it. She needed to get back to work deciding that tomorrow she would start her research. However, she needed a plan.
She decided to keep things simple. She would go to the archive before her shift in the morning. Brother Nardel, who watched the archives like a hawk, wouldn’t be fully alert. She could walk in unnoticed sneak to the section books she was forbidden to look at. That was where her plan became uncertain. She could take advantage of the fact she wore a dress and slip the book under her skirt. However, she would need to find another tome to act as a decoy to check out to give her reason for being there. However, she doubted she could transport the tome comfortably and that was the problem. Haste was needed and she didn’t want to trip or shuffle too much. The only other option was to get someone else involved. No one in the infirmary was a good option. Nardel would know right off who the book was for.
“I’m just going to have to figure it out as I go,” she resigned to herself the next morning after coming to no other solution. Before she could leave the infirmary, a yawning Lionel stopped her.
“Hey before you go, here,” he said, handing her a note and stretched.
“Who’s this from,” she asked him not recognizing the parchment used.
“Whomever the senior warder is right now,” he said.
Kiao examined the note closely and realized that the two letters on it was in script was an “O” and “S” with very fancy loops and hook. The handwriting inside though was plain but neat and crisp.
Meet me in the archive after you eaten your noon meal.
-First Warden Oeric’Sheldmartin
“What is it?”
“Oh nothing,” she said and immediately revised her plans. If Oeric was going to be there, then he could check out the book for her in fact, he could practically walk out with it in his arms on promise he’ll bring it back that day. One day was all she needed. She revised her plan and waited until the afternoon. However, she decided to just to skip her noon meal all together and make sure that the book was there where it should be.
However, when she got to the entrance of the archives in the main hall, Brother Elnos was talking to another priest across the hall from the door. Kiao only had two options; walk passed him and be stopped or walk into the archive and raise his suspicions. Then again, no matter what she did raised suspicion. So she walked over to the door causally and could feel his eyes. She acknowledged him with a bow to her head before she slipped into the tomb like darkness of the archives.
There were lanterns sporadically placed on the stone wall. Most people used lanterns to search the stacks. Kiao used her starlights to guide her. This time her cluster of stars chose the constellation call the Stellar Ship. The story was about a crew who used the ship to explore and seek knowledge. Kiao wasn’t terribly happy about it. She felt betrayed by the stars. That meant she was looking for something and Brother Nardal would notice. However, the sentinel of the archives wasn’t looming over the archive. In fact, none of the two other brothers who watched the place were there. They had gone to lunch. She smiled and quickly hurried to see the book she needed.
On her way, she caught sight of a bright glow off to the side. Another chanter was present. She inspected that first making sure it wasn’t anyone getting in her way. When she turned the corner of the shelf and saw Brother Nimbus standing between shelves with three small sun orbs suspended over his head. He was flipping through a large tome idly looking very bored. He rubbed his large nose and sneezed stirring up a cloud of dust from the shelf in front of him.
She smiled at her good luck. She met Nimbus on the same trip that took her down from the Sisterhood to the Brotherhood. He was there with Brother Hickory. Nimbus was a battle chanter and an expert in non-verbal communication. His consort gave him the ability to mindspeak with people around him. And since he hit a hundred a few years ago, he wasn’t too old to be impossible to talk with. Then again, he had always been approachable. He was jolly and good natured. It surprised her that he was there, instead of being out on a mission.
“Bless you,” she told him sitting in the edge on the table in front of him.
His face lit up in happy surprise. “Hello Lass, what brings you down here?”
“A summons, but since you’re here, I need your expertise,” she said.
“Nonverbal magical communication.”
Nimbus sneezed again before saying. “Are you speaking about a consort given abilities?”
She shook her head and explained to him what happened in the infirmary.
He gave her a suspicious look. “Didn’t the assembly tell you that you weren’t allowed to pursue this subject?”
Kiao arched a brow at him. “I’m not pursuing knowledge. I am using tools to help with an emergency. I know you’re aware of what happened with Kellas’s band?”
Nimbus smirked. “I’ve might’ve been informed of the situation from a certain first warden who summoned me here. I may also be helping him.”
“How,” Kiao asked.
“Well, given our position, I do believe we are near the Arch Monk’s quarters. I’m just keeping tabs on Oeric. Making sure as he put it, thinking properly. The more he keeps his mind busy, the better off he is. He’s reading right now.”
“Statements that Kellas and his men wrote this morning. That should tell you something about what happened. They don’t do this with any old mission that gone to smoke.”
“So he’s taking advantage of lunch time.”
“Yep, even that dusty old clout Farley is gone, so Oeric is having free reign over his father’s desk.”
Kiao then realized that sitting behind a stack of books was a black-back hare. It was Loher, Nimbus’s consort.
“While he’s still reading, I can answer your question. You and Mien have a bond channel. It’s stronger than say a consort created channel. They are limited. I can only contact someone within a short distance and if the person has an open mind.”
“What do you mean by an open mind?”
“I mean their minds must be accessible making it easy for me to contact them. I can tell you Mien’s mind isn’t. Now, it might be different for you. You’re his bond mate. For me, I can’t speak to him. There’s like a barrier protecting his thoughts. If he could learn to control it, I think I could access his mind. Thought there is no point, he’s very expressive.”
“Who would be an example of someone with an open mind,” she asked.
Kiao mouth twisted with surprise. “Are you serious?”
Nimbus chuckled at her. “It’s nothing to do with him being a naturally open person personality wise. It’s just that, his mind has a bit more flow to it. He hides nothing from me. I can always tell when someone is uncomfortable with me; their mind is tense and I get forced out repeatedly.
“And he doesn’t do that?”
Nimbus thought a moment. “Well, it was more like he wanted me to trust him when we first met. I could tell he didn’t care for it at first but he relaxed into it, he can speak very clearly to me. The only time it’s hard is when he gets fixed on something.”
“So if Mien is open to me, how would I even contact him. We can’t mindspeak.”
“Then you do so when he is sleeping, you’re a dreamseer.”
“But I can’t interact with a dream. I can only observe. If I interact with him or anything else in the dream, it’ll wake him up. I only have a few moments to do what I need to do. Not to mention distance is a factor. I need touch the person.”
“Remember when I said that bond channels are stronger. You could in theory access his dreams as long as he is near you without waking him.”
“Okay so on Mien’s end, he pushes off his emotions on me?”
“It makes sense. He’s going to have to learn to control the emotional projecting though. He probably didn’t even realize he done it then. It can be an uncomfortable thing to experience to the person receiving it.”
Loher then jumped on the stack of books. Kiao let out a little yelp and held her chest. The hare gave her a look of apology and then stood on his hunches.
“What is he doing?”
“Oeric’s on the move. He’s coming to us,” said Nimbus and he winced. “And he’s in a fine mood. You mind showing him back here when he comes?”
“Of course,” she said rising to her feet and then stopped. “I’m confused about something. Has he told you about his dream?”
“How long have you known he has visions like that? And why is he hesitant to tell everyone else like Lyndon’s parents.”
Nimbus started petting Loher. “He told me today. And I can understand his silence.”
“It’ll cause him more trouble. There are those out there who can contact the dead more so than he can. However, it opens you to the Maw every time you do it no matter whom you’re contacting. It’s discouraged. If anyone caught wind that he has visitations from the dead, well what does that say about Oeric?”
“But the dead are contacting him. Does that mean he’s chanter gifted?”
“I checked more than once. No magical heart and has a base timbre. He’s just perceptive. Since he’s susceptible to dreams, having specific visions like this isn’t a far stretch.”
Kiao arched an eyebrow. “I’m not sure his perception is all that great at times.”
“It is,” defended Nimbus. “He’s a smart man.”
Kiao let out a derisive snort.
Nimbus then stated. “You know as a priestess, you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. I’ve said this many times to a lot of people here. The moment you stop looking at what he’s done, you see what he is capable of.”
Kiao face flushed. “I witnessed the product of what happens when he doesn’t think. It’s hard to see him as intelligent.”
Nimbus put his book down. “And what of Mien? You’ve no problems of seeing him as intelligent and he’s done something terrible.”
“But he isn’t an adult who has had decades to get a grip over himself. Not to mention there are circumstances surround Mien that pushed up over the edge. Oeric was just a rebel.”
“I thought the same until I got to know him and learned you can’t chain a person to their past. It’s not fair to them especially when they make the active attempt to move away from it themselves.”
Kiao groaned in her mind. After all these years, he still managed to give her lessons.
“I’ll try to be better,” she said and left him. When she got to the top of the stairs leading to the archive, she pushed the door the same time it was being pulled. She was yanked forward. She almost fell and was caught and steadied back upright with a strong grip. She then those hands belonged to Oeric.
He looked down with his mouth curved down in a terse frown. “You alright?”
“Yes,” she said stepping away, noting thatBrother Elnos was no longer around.
Oeric looked behind him. “Anything wrong?”
“No, come down,” she said leading him to Nimbus. He sat down in the chair beside her.
“So what did you find out,” asked Nimbus.
“Utter tripe,” answered Oeric.
“Tripe? Bringing out the sophisticated words. This isn’t good.”
“The entire account Kellas and his men wrote is a well scripted lie,” he said with his lips curling. “I gathered that they were told to investigate where a merchant who was attacked. He was traveling with others. They were killed and he escaped. And that’s about all the truth there is. From that point on, they wrote about how the lads were unhappy about finding dead bodies. Mien became very emotional over it as there was a dead child.”
Nimbus tilted his head. “Well, that something he would do. He’ll be okay, but bring a child in it….”
Kiao thought that sounded like Mien as well.
“My son was alleged to have gotten angered by it and he wanted to go after the highwaymen as there was significant evidence they were the wayward peaceguards making blighter. Kellas wanted to head home.”
“That doesn’t sound like Soletus,” said Kiao.
“What does sound like him is a refusal to follow orders,” said Nimbus.
Oeric then continued. “Soletus and Valhart got into an argument over it. Soletus lost his temper with him and Kellas. He tried to reason with Soletus, however my son wouldn’t be placated. At some point, he spoke to Lyndon, Mien, Tyrus, and Doran to go into the Firerock Gorge to catch them and vanished in the middle of the night. Kellas didn’t pursue.”
“Why didn’t he,” asked Kiao.
“It’s outside of our province,” explained Oeric. “We can pursue and kill drass beasts however, we can’t take action against people.”
“But the Brotherhood goes after bandits and fugitives all the time outside of the province,” said Kiao.
“The only if we’ve permission from the Seat.”
Nimbus then said, “I don’t see why you call what was written tripe. I mean, all what you described is within the behavior of your son and Mien.” Kiao watched Oeric annoyed gaze become frosted. “Think about, those two talking with Lyndon about how Kiao and those children were hurt and nothing was done about it. A boy’s adventure is what that is. A misguided one at that.”
Oeric gave a firm shake of his head.
“Lyndon was with them,” said Kiao. “He’s good at persuading others.”
“Soletus doesn’t have that kind of a drive because he’s cautious.”
Nimbus then told him gently. “Oeric, your lad is strong-headed. If he feels compelled to do something he feels is right, he’ll do it. I’m not saying that Kellas is telling the full truth, but all that’s all within character.”
Oeric leaned forward and stated, “The reason why its utter tripe is the fact their statements are written all the same.”
Nimbus’s brow furrowed. “I don’t follow.”
“There are a couple spots were where their wording was the same. For instance, when they were describing Mien getting upset they all wrote, ‘Mientheodric started shouting’ followed by what he said word from word. Not, ‘the boy hollered a bunch of nonsense I don’t remember’ or ‘the lad got upset like a spoiled girl about this’ or ‘Acolyte Mientheodric, became upset and yelled.’ No, they all repeated the same exact wording. This started at the point of them investigating the scene where the attack happened.”
“I don’t get how that indicates they are lying,” said Kiao.
“It indicates that they corroborated their statements to keep their facts straight,” said Oeric. “If multiple people are involved in a lie, you want everyone to tell the same lie. Any deviation from wording makes it harder to keep.”
Nimbus looked at him impressed. “Only you would notice something like that in reading as fast as you did.”
“Icus should as well. It’s a common thing you look and listen for.”
“Remind me why you didn’t become enforcer. Marth offered you the position,” asked Nimbus.
“Because Icus can carry the burden of derision from the others for once.”
“You’ve too much skill to be stuck in the position you are in, Brother.”
Oeric shrugged. “Anyway, if there is a grain of truth to be taken, is the fact the gorge is involved and Soletus got into it with Valhart. Somewhere in that, my nephew died and that’s probably what Sister Kiao to felt Brother Mien.”
“That’s a bit of an assumption to make,” said Nimbus.
“No it’s not,” defended Kiao. “He was distraught. Something happened to make him feel that way, but it didn’t last long. He was surprised and then determined to do something. Just the raw energy from it…”
She then shivered.
“Maybe something happened to Soletus at the same time,” suggested Nimbus. “If someone died in front of him, I would bet he was encouraged to try to save someone else. He’s a brave heart. If it’s within his power, he’ll try to do it.”
Oeric bowed his head and rested his forehead on his fist. He then said quietly, “He could’ve been a smith, a mason, or some other trade. I would’ve been just as proud. But no, he had to be a warden. I never even encouraged him to be one. The only thing I did was teach him to defend himself. Then it was as if a staff was born in his hands. How many generations does this make? How many Sheldmartins does this order need? How many more need to die like my brother?”
Kiao was surprised by his words. She knew he was protective of his son. It ranged from him not wanting Soletus to make the same mistakes he did to not being comfortable with him being warden either. However, she never heard that talk come out of his mouth before.
Oeric eyes became wide and he peered at Nimbus who had to have said something to him via his min. He looked into the face of the combat chanter a long time before he lowered his hand saying, “I’m sorry. This is what happens when I don’t sleep. I need you to do something for me Nimbus.”
“Say it and it’s done.”
“I want you to talk to Tyr. He’ll be the one organizing the search and I need you to go with him.”
“Why not you? I’m sure he’s expecting you to push your way in.”
“I’m in no condition to be on the road. If he finds Soletus, I think you’re the better person to be there for him.”
Nimbus sneezed again. “Consider it done,” he said and then said to Kiao. “I sense a reason you’re here. Is there a specific book you wish for me to retain for you?”
“I actually prefer if the First Warden here gets it.”
Oeric gave her a questioning stare.
“I’m trying to figure out a way to contact Mien. If we can get an exact location of their whereabouts, they will be easier to find. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the title and the writer,” she said.
Oeric nodded. “Before I forget Sister, Maelyra told me to tell you come over to her house in the evening for dinner. She thinks Briar needs some comforting with Soletus missing and all.”
“Certainly,” said Kiao standing. However, she wasn’t sure if Briar needed comforting for that.
“And also, thank you for doing what you’re doing,” he said. “I know you’ve your duty to perform. I promise I won’t inconvenience you much longer.”
Kiao was caught not by his words, but the sincerity of them. She felt uncomfortable by it given what she had said about him earlier.
“You’re no inconvenience. We are working towards the same goal,” she said. “I want to see my friend too, just as much as I want to see Mien home.”