All we had left was a short sprint over the bridge going across the understream and we would’ve been safe. However, we didn’t even make it halfway across when I heard a thunderous rumble and felt the bridge shuttered. I turned just in time to see a wall of water knock me out. I woke up in a rapid. Somewhere in it all, Talore had grabbed me and clung to the bridge that was ripped up from the wave. It had been tossed into the branches of a small tree. I could probably circle the trunk with my hands. However, it caught the both of us. I was barely alert enough to pull myself on it. Talore was caught on a board. It was impaled in him he couldn’t move and was hacking at the branches that held us with his knife. The tree’s roots was being pulled out of the earth. I remember reaching for him and he told me, “I’m not going to let another one of Solgard’s sons die.” He broke the last branch and I watched my mentor, my first warden being swallowed by the river. His body was never found. I didn’t have a sash to return home with, only my guilt.
Kiao was fully aware of what was happening to her this time. It made it worse. She tried to force herself from her mind. She was able to earlier that day however, she couldn’t then. She fought against herself while Oeric picked her up from the chair and carried to the horse he had been borrowing to get around. She didn’t feel him clutching her as he rode back to the monastery and carried her to the infirmary. She didn’t hear Lionel, Alder, or Brother Oli calling her name and trying to repeat what they did before and place another mug in her hands. She didn’t feel it.
She screamed in her mind to get out of the channel. She wanted to cry, felt like crying but couldn’t. She didn’t know what was worse, having the phrase of silence used on her or being lost in the nothingness. It was as if she was stuck in a dream. She had been more than once when she started training in her abilities. The only way she got out was with help and needed it them. All she could hear was her own voice in her mind and then she thought she heard something in the distance. It sounded far off. But then it got louder. Someone was making a noise, no calling her name.
Kiao tried to listen for the direction it was coming from.
She felt herself being shaken.
“Kialianna, listen to me,” spoke a voice that rumbled like distant thunder.
“Hickory,” she cried.
“Yes, listen to me, keep listening. You need to get out of your head.”
“Where are you,” she asked.
“I’m right in front of you child. Focus on seeing not on hearing.”
Kiao couldn’t see anything but a blurry unfocused mass.
“Come on blink. “You’re in control, blink.”
She tried but the act of something that came naturally was impossible. “I can’t,” she said in a small voice.
“What did I tell you about telling me you can’t? You can. Just like walking in dreams. Remember you struggled to pull yourself out without waking your patient up. Well pull yourself out, use this as an anchor.”
“Use what, I can’t feel it,” she said and tried to fight it again trying to get free and pushed against the channel with her mind.
“Stop that,” ordered Hickory shaking her again with his voice. “Think, Child, think. I know you’re afraid but feel, stop listening.”
She then felt pressure on her hands. It then started to sting. It wasn’t just pressure, it was pain. She burst back into the waking world and her vision sharpened. She was in a private room with Hickory sitting beside her. He had her hand in his, pinching the top of it. She tugged at his hold and he released her. His eyes were burning such a bright blue she didn’t even see his pupils.
“That was quite the hold on you,” he said with his lit causing his voice to reverberate.
“Why does this keep happening,” she shrilled and tugged at the braids on the side of her head.
“Calm down, Child,” he soothed. “Half the reason you were stuck like that is because you started fighting it and then panicked. You made me have to empower myself to get you out.”
He blinked and the vivid glow died to a backlight.
“Sorry,” she said. “Maybe most of the priest didn’t feel you.”
However, like a prediction coming to pass, the back door to the infirmary open and outside she heard Elnos shout,
“What’s going on? What is Brother Hickory doing?”
Kiao grimaced. “Of all the people to come,” she muttered.
Hickory waved dismissively at the door. “Ignore him. Helping you was more important than their discomfort.”
“You know what would help me, is not having this bond control me!”
The older priest had that uncertain twist to his lips she was familiar with when he was uncertain about what he was about to say.
“I can only state that through my observations, it’s not controlling you. Like all chanter abilities, it’s just a part of you. And if you don’t know the shape of it and how to work with it, it will act with a mind of its own.”
“But I don’t even know anything about this bond! No one will allow me to read anything up on it. I’m blind to it, so I’m to how to deal with this. I had a book on it but Elnos took it away.”
Hickory then swayed his head. “My dear girl, you can only learn so much from a book. True, knowing that this could happen would’ve helped you. However, the shape of your bond cannot be found through pages. You have the knowledge about what love is from what was taught to you through Dias’s Word. That’s all you need. You can figure the rest out like your bond partner.”
“But I’m not Mien. He’s use to feeling things out. He’s a feelings sort of person.”
“And you can be that too.”
Kiao gave him a flat look. “I’m not a feelings sort of person.”
The neth priest sat a steady gaze on her with an ever so slight dubious arch to his brow.
“Okay not in the same way Mien is. He used to this. I find it annoying.”
“You bring up a good point. He would be the better person to help you navigate this.”
“He’s not here though and I get the impression that if he is found and brought home all of this will go away. So I don’t have to worry about it.”
He gave her another flat stare.
“Above and below, why wouldn’t it,” she exclaimed.
“Chanter abilities don’t just vanish. You know that. This is something you need to figure out and come to terms with. You can start by learning about instead of fighting against it. Let it wash by you. As well as have an anchor. You used to hold my hand when you practiced diving into dreams.”
“I won’t have a hand to hold all the time. Besides, feeling something painful seems to be the only way to bring me out.”
“Then we will figure out a solution—”
Elnos’s voice cut him off and came right outside the door. “I don’t care what he is doing; he shouldn’t even have to do what he had done.”
Hickory’s attention went to the door. “Remember, the anchor is just there to remind you of your body. You are the one who brings you back.”
The door then swung open and Brother Elnos burst inside. “What are you doing,” said the priest with a suspicious squint.
“I’m helping my young ward,” said Hickory rising to his feet.
“You should be in the chapel,” said Elnos.
“Honored Priest Brontis is watching it. As assembly head, you put him there to help me and it’s been a great convenience,” he replied. He then told Kiao. “I’ll see you later.”
She waved to him.
Elnos blocked the doorway and demanded. “Why did she need your help in the first place? Was it that accursed bond?”
Brother Hickory rested a hand on his shoulder. “Brother, why is it any concern of yours? Yes I know you made it your concern, but you seem to be ill-fit to help my ward with this.”
“You’re even more ill-fit. Your inability to understand the nuance of customary elves relationship is what caused this to happen. You would’ve never needed to use your abilities and disturbed the entire priest wing if you had.”
Brother Hickory let out a long-suffering sigh. “I found that the only people who are bothered by me are the weak. They are nervous about someone who can see through them like glass. And you’re cracked Elnos,” said Hickory.
Elnos stiff stance faltered and he took a step back. He then realized what he had done and folded his arms inside of his sleeves. “Haven’t you been in that state too long already? You’re going to drain yourself.”
“I can engage my abilities all day if I wanted,” said the priest shutting his eyes concentrating and opening them. They were once again the same gentle teal they always was. “If you have something on your heart that’s bothering you, you know where to find me.”
With that, Brother Hickory scooted by him and left.
Kiao then gathered herself up and left the room hoping to leave Brother Elnos behind. It was still her day off and she wanted to head up stairs to rest. However, she caught sight of Oeric sitting on one of the examining tables. He waved to Brother Hickory who exited the building. Lionel was looking after him and handed him a tin cup of something. He was speaking with him pointed to his leg and handed him a few packets of something.
She headed towards them to see what was going on however Elnos cleared his throat behind her. The young woman’s eyes rolled skyward. However, forever the priestess, she faced him only displaying a look of inquiry on her face.
“And where to you think you’re going,” he questioned.
“To check up on the First Warden there.”
His face darkened. “I see you chose not to heed my words and do as I said.”
She crossed her arms. “I went to the arboretum as I always do to clear my mind. I like the sound of the frogs form the pond.
The older priest swayed his head. “You know, this stubbornness of yours is hindering you in being a better priestess.”
“I don’t need you to be a better priestess,” she told him in a low clear voice. “Now if you excuse me, I would like to thank First Warden Oeric for bringing me back here.”
She started to leave him but Elnos caught her by the arm and clutched it tight. She glared at the hand around her upper arm, then his face.
“Remove your hand.”
“Cantor, you need to learn your place. It’s not as grand as you believe,” he told her through his teeth.
She forced her voice at him and said, “Remove your hand.”
He then grabbed hold of one of her braids on the side of her head wound it in his hand and until held her by her scalp. Kiao let out a yelp but didn’t struggle. It was painful enough having her hair twisted, and pulled without her making it worse.
“Don’t think I can’t remove you from this post. That boy is a corpse. You are mine, Skane.”
Outrage flared up in her chest and she dug her nails in his hand and raked them down his wrists just as a hand came inside her field of vision and grabbed Elnos by his collar.
“Let go of her,” snarled Oeric in the priest’s face.
Elnos released her and the first warden threw him on a bed. He bounced once straight to the floor. He crawled to his feet and stumbled away with Oeric advancing towards him. The priest sped up his retreat and ran out of the door. Oeric didn’t follow. He left him and focused on Kiao who had was clutching the side of her head with a quivering hand.
“Sister, sit,” instructed Oeric.
“Go away,” she snapped. Her voice shook the walls and the bottles in their cabinet. Oeric raised his palms forward and stepped back. There was a thump from upstairs and Alder appeared from the top of the stairs jogging down.
“What happened,” he said pausing at the bottom looking between her and Oeric.
Lionel then explained, “Elnos attacked her.”
Oeric took a step forward.
“I said back off,” she said not wanting him of all people near her.
“Don’t get close to her,” advised Alder.
Lionel backed away. “She doesn’t sound right.”
Alder crept closer. “Kiao, what happened?”
“He grabbed my hair and called Mien a corpse,” she cried. “Told me that I was his.”
Alder’s face twisted in confusion. “What? Why would he— argh, we’ll worry about it later, first sit down. You’re upset.”
“I’m not upset,” she shouted and he winced. Lionel covered his ears.
“You’re being loud, thus upset,” he said gently.
“I’m not,” she said hugging herself. She was assaulted with the desire for Mien’s present. She wanted to hear his soft-voice and feel him putting his arms around her in a warm hug. The world once again started to be muffled. She let out a frustrated growl. “Why is this stupid bond being this way? Why can’t it get out of my head?”
Alder took hold of her. “I think it’s happening again and led her to a bed and had her sit.
Slowly the world started to fade. She scrambled to find anything as an anchor. However, her sense of touch was vanishing. She couldn’t even feel the bed she sat on. And then callused hands enclosed her hands. She didn’t recognize them. But whoever it was, rubbed their thumb on the top of her hands. It was unpleasant and the pain and violation she felt from Elnos flared back up.
Kiao forced herself to see.
Oeric lowered to his knees by her feet. “Sister, I want you to control your breathing. Inhale by three and exhale by three.”
“That’s not going to help,” she said or thought she said. She could feel herself speak more than hear. “I’m trapped half way in listening and the waking world. I need, I need an anchor.”
“Then I’ll be your anchor,” he said firmly. He squeezed her hands and held them tightly almost crushing them. “Listen to what I tell you. I want you to breathe and I want you to focus on feeling each breath.”
She had nothing to lose and listened to him.
“And by feeling each breath. It’s the same as if you are clearing you mind. You’re feeling your body and listening to what is around you. I only have a surface understanding of what’s happening to you. You keep listening for Mien. Well then just listen for him and then guide yourself back by your breathing.”
Kiao didn’t want to touch the open channel. It sucked her in and was demanding her attention. However, she did as he said still breathing and feeling it. And listened to the nothingness and followed the sensation of her breathing back out. The channel closed. The world came in focus again.
“Sister, are you okay,” he asked and squeezed her hand again. She regarded him seeing concern on his face. It was the way his brow furrowed that made she realize how much father and son shared. Soletus looked like Cordea in terms of facial structure. However, his expressions came from Oeric. Even the compassion filled ones.
“I think so,” she replied.
“Good. That always helped me when I felt out of control,” he said letting go of her hands and sat on the bed behind him.
“Should I get Brother Oli,” asked Alder.
Kiao swayed her head. “No.”
He then became annoyed. “Brother Elnos crossed a line! You need to do something or I am!”
“I am. I need to talk to the Patriarch.”
He frowned. “Why him?”
“Because he told me if anything happened or if I needed anything, I was to come to him,” she explained.
“I believe Lionel and I should come with you since we witnessed what transpired,” stated the First Warden.
“I don’t think you need to,” she said.
“We’ll come anyway,” the man said firmly. “Besides, I want to make sure Elnos isn’t waiting in the shadows.”
Kiao felt too shaken to protest his protectiveness and let him come. Lionel led the way with single twinkling silver star lighting their path. Oeric stayed at her side as they made their way to the patriarch’s home. She was certain he was busy however when they came to the large home, they curtains were all drawn with the closed sign hanging up for hearings.
“Is he home,” asked Lionel.
Oeric nodded as he took the brass knock in his hand and tapped the door. Kiao didn’t expect anyone but the door swung open with the Patriarch’s aide greeting them.
“Oh, I wasn’t expecting anyone else to see the Patriarch. He’s a little disposed of right now.”
“I need to speak with him,” said Kiao. “I was told if I ever needed anything, I was to come to him. He didn’t exactly give me a condition on it.”
The middle aged half-elf gestured for him. “Come in. I’ll get an earful and then some if I told him you come and didn’t wake him.”
He ushered them all in and brought them to the parlor. They all saw a pair for feet supported on the arm rest of the couch placed right in front of the hearth. As they were shone around, it was the patriarch stretched out with his son sleeping on his chest.
“Honestly,” muttered the aide patting the Patriarch’s calf. “Lord Kharis, you have visitors.”
He jerked awake the let out a moan and pointed to the boy on top of him.
“I’ll go get Xinny. You can hold on until then.”
Kiao didn’t know what to think about the sight in front of her. She knew that Patriarch seemed to go out of his way to be seen as a person. Though what was in front of them superseded his effort quite a bit without trying.
“Oh, Sister Kiao,” he yawed and then stopped abruptly. “Please tell me this is a just a friendly visit or my wife has voiced her concerns about my wellbeing.”
“I’m afraid neither, Sir,” she said.
His green eyes fixed themselves on Oeric. “If you’re here, then this ought to be wonderful. Mind freeing me?”
Oeric plucked his son off him. The boy didn’t even wake up. He only stirred to get comfortable in his arms.
“I should wake the little fiend up. I’ve not gotten much sleep. Little tyke wakes up with nightmares and expects me to put him back to sleep.”
“Are you asking for a suggestion,” asked Oeric.
The Patriarch stretched. “You’ve gone through three of these.”
“The solution depends on the child. I gave a doll to Fern, slept on the floor beside of Soletus when I could, and Saedee just need me to talk her back to sleep. Just don’t have them sleep with you or they’ll never leave.”
“Ah so I’ve got to be creative about this.”
Their servant, Xinny come bustling in and Oeric passed the boy to her and she vanished out of the room.
“I guess Maelyra isn’t here,” said Kiao.
“She’s hosting nonsense at the society house in an effort to keep Cordea in good spirits,” he said. “So what brings you here?”
“Brother Elnos stepped out of line,” she said and described to him what had happened that evening. Oeric and Lionel told their parts while the Patriarch listened with his face creasing further into displeasure.
“Is Brother Elnos another member of the priest assembly?”
“He’s the head,” she said and watched him become intrigued. “He’s used his position to meddle with Mien and me.”
“And that led to today?”
“Yes. He doesn’t like the two of us together. Elnos come to my room earlier today talking about how I need to be a better priestess.”
The Patriarch face twisted. “He came to your room alone?”
“Yes, I was at my desk working.” She decided to leave out the fact that she was having one of her moments.
“So he just walked on in there?”
“That’s magnificently inappropriate,” hitting his hand on the armrest of the couch.
“I can have people speak to me in my room,” she defended. She didn’t want him shielding her.
“I wholly disagree given he isn’t someone you trust.”
“No,” she said and ran a hand through her hair flinching as she touched where she was grabbed. “I can see that being more of a problem now given what happened.”
The Patriarch looked at the flames in front of him. “Here I thought I had a monastery full of good men. Well, grumbling men, but ones with enough sense.”
“You won’t find good sense among those who think themselves superior, Kharis,” said Oeric.
The man gaze intensified on the fire. “Don’t you worry about a thing Kiao, I’ll take care of this,” he said. His voice was low, firm, and unquestioning.