So why didn’t Kellas step in to stop Valhart. He didn’t care. The two of us had a falling out because I wanted to switch bands after my time was up. Valhart heard me talk about it to Feris’Redcreast when he was in the band. He then he want to Kellas who took offense to it. I was being disloyal. That’s the thing, Valhart, Pace, Cole, and Ryhns were completely loyal to him. I was expected to be the same because he did me a favor by taking me. By his logic, that one act should’ve been enough to grant him all the respect in the world. I was grateful he did take me in but he wasn’t the first warden for me. That became clear the day Lyndon die.
Mien slept and as he expected, the moment he shut his eyes, he appeared in his favorite field. This time, his guide was sitting in front of him giving him a pleased grin.
“You’ve passed your first test.”
“Test? What was it for,” asked Mien.
“It’ll all become clear as soon as you meet her.”
“Dias is one for peace, forgiveness, and of second chances. You were given a second chance so you must pass it on to another.”
“Okay, I understand that, but, who is she?”
“Each chanter’s edict is unique. They need to learn how to use their gift, but for some they need more than just learning to use it,” he said with an enigmatic grin.
Mien sighed. “And that’s what you’re not going to tell me? Not what am I to learn about all of this?”
Given the fact that the smugness of his guide didn’t lift, Mien assumed that was a yes.
“I can tell you a little about her, you are dealing with a graceless chanter.”
Mien was only told about graceless chanters only so he could avoid becoming one. They were chanter who lost their path. When a chanter did, their abilities would want or if they gave into the Maw and Malicifier s voice, they would warp and become a banshee.
“She’s just lost. Her people did a great injustice to her. Now she needs a safe place just like you needed a safe place to thrive and learn to sing. She has forgotten what that means.”
Mien again heard her on the wind. Her timber and her voice were stronger and in her plea, he could make out the words, “Help me.”
“She is desperate, and no matter what she says, you are the one to help her. There is more to this, but times is up. You need to wake up and start building a useful bridge.”
With that, Mien woke up unable to move. His heart jumped in is throat. Someone was lying on top of him and that someone wasn’t dead or trying to hold him down. Mien twisted his head to see Tyrus’s shoulder. It looked like the half-elf was trying to roll on his back and ended up leaning against him instead. Mien would’ve scooted out from under him if it wasn’t for not wanting to disturb Soletus to his other side.
He did the only action left to him. He shoved Tyrus off of him. He grumbled sleepily and then slept on his side. He then checked on Soletus. The young monk was sleeping soundly despite his restlessness during the night. The sheen of sweat that formed on his forehead was gone. Color hadn’t returned to his face though. Those dark rings around his eyes had gotten darker. Mien then noticed that ever returning thin scruff of hair that grew on his upper lip was getting noticeable. There was nothing he could nothing about any of that though.
Instead of lingering, Mien crawled out from under the tarp and stretched. He caught sight of Doran at the bank of the stream. His shirt, jerkin, and sash were drying on a flat rock near him.
Mien wanted to go to the stream to wash his face off; however, he didn’t want to deal with Doran. Then again, avoiding him was moot given their situation. The young chanter got over himself and went to the stream anyway. He focused more on splashing cold water on his face than the other elf beside him. That was until Doran spoke.
“If you aren’t too tired, can you check my arm before I go?”
Mien hadn’t exactly healed it. He shuffled over to him feeling a bit stupid that he hadn’t.
“Sorry,” he said. “I forgot all about your arm.”
“Don’t worry about it. There’s a lot going on,” he returned.
Even still Mien should’ve examined it earlier. All he could do now was focus on what he could heal and hope no damage was done. Doran was relaxed as he looked at his terrible stich work. He could feel the young man’s gaze on him. Mien focused on making sure there was nothing wrong internally with Doran’s arm and placed a hand on his chest. Just as he muttered the phrase of healing and was pulled inside of Doran, the young man spoke.
“My mother was murdered by a chanter,” he said.
Mien nearly pulled out of him. He stopped his self and wrestled with his focus to heal a tear in his muscle tissue.
Doran continued. “She was the town skane in Wateree where I was born. My father took a liking to her and tried to help her. They ended up together and she became pregnant with me. She didn’t tell anyone who’s child I was. Not even him. The chanter, who stayed at the chapel with him, didn’t like her. Claimed she was leading my father astray and took it upon himself to stop her.”
Mien paused from inspecting nerve damage. He was flabbergasted. He couldn’t understand why a chanter would decide something like that.
“He tried to kill me as well. Wrapped me in a blanket with rocks and was going to toss me in the river when he was stopped by a fisherman on the lake when I started to cry. Everything unraveled after that. He killed my mother and put her in a shallow grave. Brotherhood sweep things clean as they can. The chanter in question was given to the Seat and hung. I had no family to claim me. So, my father took me and returned to the monetary despite the fact I’m likely not his son. I look nothing like him. I’ve Dyne hair color.”
Mien pulled out of his body so he could meet him face to face. The thought never really crossed his mind. He only assumed Doran took a good liking to his mother like Soletus. Granted, you could tell Oeric and Soletus were related.
“My father doesn’t care much for murders especially murdering chanters. When he heard Brother Hickory had made a deal for your life, he didn’t want you in the order. He thought it was better if they put you down. Said once a chanter felt they were the judge of who lives and dies, they wouldn’t stop.”
That didn’t surprise Mien. He knew Merick hated him. At least he knew where the man was coming from, however, that didn’t mean he thought Merick was right in the slightest. He stared at Doran hoping he had a point to telling him what he did.
“And I agreed with him,” said Doran looking at the water. “I was scared and I didn’t like the fact that Soletus and Lyndon liked you. And if they wanted to die, I just left them. Stupid thought of a dumb boy, I know. You think I would know better now, I don’t.”
Is this a confession? An apology, he thought.
“You know you can say something instead of making faces.”
Mien shrugged. “If I had something to say, I would say it.”
Doran browed pulled slightly together. “And you don’t at all?”
“No. Because you’ve not said everything,” said Mien. “You made a long speech to explain yourself but no point. What’s the point?”
Doran shifted on his rock uncomfortable. “Maybe I just wanted to get some things off my chest.”
Mien crossed his arms. “Then get it off. Finish up already.”
The young man stood and started gathering his clothing. “I don’t know why I even bothered. I need to get going. I’m already getting started later than I wanted. How’s my shoulder.”
“It’s healing well. I didn’t do too much to it but rather heal naturally. You can move it around but don’t do anything too strenuous on it. And I wasn’t trying to be mean or spite you saying I had nothing to say because what can I say? Apologize? Promise that I won’t try and harm you? Why should I do any of those things? I’ve shown enough I’ve no intentions of harming you.”
Doran pulled on his shirt and tucked it in his trousers. “I know and that’s the problem. You’ve saved our hides twice. You’re not a bad sort but I don’t like you. I don’t like a lot of people. Like Soletus, he just annoys me.”
“Maybe you’ve not gone deep enough for those reasons. Maybe the reason isn’t them but you.”
Doran had gotten his tunic and then his sash, pouting as he did. Clearly, it was something he didn’t want to hear and probably had heard.
“That hurts to hear, I know. But can I give you a bit of advice. Maybe you need to talk to—”
“If you going to say Brother Hickory, no. I have a Pa you know.”
His father would never help him understand. Mien didn’t say that but instead he told him, “I wasn’t going to say Brother Hickory but First Warden Oeric.”
“Why would I talk to him of all people,” exclaimed Doran.
“Because he knows a lot.”
“What does a feral elf know anyway,” Doran grumbled and tied his sash roughly and marched off towards his horse.
Mien rolled his eyes. He brought the horse to water and he had no energy to keep enticing it to drink. However, he didn’t want to feel guilty for just giving up. He tired one more time.
“For one he’s not feral and two, he knows what’s it like to be someone who is their problem.”
Doran didn’t reply. Instead, he just got on his horse and tapped it’s sides and was off on his way. Clearly, Mien hit a sore spot and it made sense. Someone got up from behind him. He assumed it was Tyrus but when they sank on the rock that Doran had his clothing on, Mien eyes widened. It was Soletus.
“Hi,” he said breathing heavily.
“What are you doing up?”
“I didn’t want to lie down anymore. I’m dizzy.”
“Being up isn’t going to help with that,” growled Mien.
“Lying down isn’t going to help with our situation,” said Soletus undoing the lacing of the protective bracer around his left forearm. He wasn’t well. Mien still figured he wasn’t thinking right. He needed to get him back down. He looked to Tyrus for help and saw that he was still asleep.
“Let him rest,” said Soletus as if he knew what he was thinking. “Talk to me. You told me soft-speaking. Honestly, it sounds like mind-control.”
“It’s not mind-control. Telling someone to ‘calm down,’ when they’re upset is persuasion. You’re providing them clarity.”
The young monk gave him a dubious flat stare. “You know there isn’t really a difference there right?”
Mien squirmed but held firm to his statement. “There is a difference. Persuasion isn’t used to harm someone. A person still has a choice to listen or not. You are pushing your will for them to listen. With mind-control, and chanters are capable of it, you’re taking choice away. You’re pushing your will them with malicious intent. You are controlling their actions.”
Soletus gave him a toothy grin. “It’s less questionable to persuade people with a staff.”
“Didn’t you once tell me you thought chanters should be well-rounded and get weapons training.”
Soletus glowered at him. “Don’t you dare throw that back at me!”
Mien held his head up high. “I believe chanter gifted monks should be well-rounded and learn how to accept his gift and use it.”
“Other than my occasionally forcing my voice at people when I’m upset, it means very little to me. No one would even guess I am.”
The young chanter crossed his arms and looked at his stubborn friend in exasperation. “Does being chanter-gifted make you uncomfortable or something?”
“I don’t like being even more different. Is it enough that I’m half dyne, a Sheldmartin, and neth.”
There was a clarity to Soletus voice that hadn’t heard in days. Mien tilted his head at him.
“What’s with the look of intrigue?”
“Nothing, your just sound like yourself,” he said watching Soletus scoot forward and lean over the bank of the stream. He dipped his arm in it. “Does that help relieve the pain?”
His friend nodded.
“Are you okay?”
“No. I feel like I’ve been beaten with a staff in the stones. But pain means I’m alive. The world is moving. It won’t stop for me, but I desperately want it to give me time,” he said lifting his arm out of the water and regard Mien with his eyes glistening. “But when has the world been generous with time?”
The young chanter stood and joined him on the rock.
“I promise I won’t do this again,” he said pushing tears to the side of his face.
“You’re fine. What happened to give you this illumination?”
“The husk. It was like staring into a dark cold void. It was hideous and made you want to look away and hide. Made you want to cower. It whispered at me. It wanted me to given in to sorrow. Let it touch me. End it all.”
“I’m not sure how that helped you.”
“Because I don’t want to kill myself. I stopped listening to it. Then everything became a little clearer after that. Though, I tripped and feel taking my eyes off it. Why did it focus on Tyrus?”
“Fear. Tyrus was the most afraid of it. It uses fear to its advantage. They say the Maw uses husks as a mouth piece so it makes sense. Which by the way is a good example of mind control.”
“You don’t persuade to make someone afraid of you. You persuade to reassure them and to comfort them. You are gentle and yet firm. However you don’t want to swing too far with it and seduce someone.”
“Really you can do that?”
“Yes, being a chanter is more than just singing hymn. There is power in our voices. The hymn provides a focus for our will. In fact, a chanter doesn’t need to speak the hymn aloud to use it. You can will it.”
That brought Soletus’s attention on him again. “Really?”
“It’s all about faith, understanding, and will. For example, Brother Hickory doesn’t need to say most of the phrases he knows. Brother Oli doesn’t either. Heck he doesn’t even have to touch a person to see inside them. He just hovers his hand. Kiao’s is learning to do it.”
“And you can shield without saying a thing.”
“No I can’t.”
“You did when you saved us,” retorted Soletus.
Mien’s didn’t understand. The prospect of him being able to do something like that was unthinkable. In fact, according to his guild he used the phrase in an act of desperation. Surely, it wasn’t something to be relied on. However, it didn’t change the fact he could do it. Both Brother Hickory and Oli were strong and aged chanters. He had nothing on them in terms of experience. Yet, in desperation, he was able to wield a phrase without speaking it. He knew what his phrase meant on some level. To protect.
What was I protecting them from?
Soletus looked to the sky. “I didn’t want to tell you what happened, because I was afraid you would feel guilty. That you had to make a choice like that.”
Mien raised his palms to stop him. “Wait, wait, I thought we were waiting until we got home?”
“I told you that because I didn’t want to talk about it then,” he admitted. “Do you want to know?”
Mien couldn’t say he desperately wanted to know. However, he felt it would shed a little more light into their situation. However, he didn’t want to do so at his friend’s discomfort.
“Soletus, if you want to wait…”
“No, you need to know. It’s only fair. Remember when I said, they were throwing clay shells on us. Well my horse was killed by one. I was standing behind it and it took the blast but I was trapped under it. I was too disorientated and afraid to move. You and Lyndon left the shelter that Tyrus and Doran huddled inside. You two managed to get the horse off of me and on our way back was when Lyndon was shot. He took a bolt in the neck.”
Mien started shaking his head in confusion. “No, no, I should’ve been able to save him. I can save someone with an arrow in them. He would’ve lost blood but I can close an artery!”
Soletus rested a hand on his shoulder. “Let me finish.”
“We carried Lyndon back and he was gasping, struggling to breathe, and you were working as fast as you could when a clay shell was tossed in the doorway. I thought we were dead. I heard you shout ‘no’ and then it exploded. It brought down the entire face of the home and is should’ve buried us if we weren’t killed by the blast or shrapnel. You shielded us but you also was keeping all the rock and dirt from crushing us.”
Mien thought about the implication of that. “You know how much force a clay shell releases? Not to mention the weight of rocks and dirt! The phrase of protection isn’t even a sustained phrase! It requires will of the one using it!”
Hearing himself stay it made him pause a moment. It required the will of the user.
“You managed to hold back a blast, you were on you back with your hand stretched out keeping the shield from breaking, and formed a sun orb so we could see to dig our way out. It was either us or Lyndon.”
“And what was the choice there,” he demanded. “There was nothing I could do in that situation.”
“You didn’t think so then. You kept telling Lyndon that you were sorry and hang on. You couldn’t let go. You were under a lot of strain. And we all dug as quickly as we could but, Lyndon stopped breathing before we were done,” said Soletus. His voice cracked and he put his arm around Mien’s shoulder. “He was dead. Kellas and the others had managed to kill the attackers and forced them to retreat. There was just so much death around us you lost it. You went off on Kellas. Valhart started slinging insults and you ripped into him with word. I don’t even know he had a rock in hand until he swung and hit you. You dropped like a rock. You weren’t breathing or had a heartbeat or so I thought. I lost it and refused to go with them.”
Mien’s heart ached. He didn’t understand how he was even the least bit amazing if he couldn’t even save a single life right in front of him. Why hadn’t he learned the phrase sooner to keep Lyndon from being struck? He didn’t have much time to dwell on ii before Soletus wrapped him in an embrace.
“No! Stop being a pastry,” shouted Mien. “I told you, no hugs until we get home.”
“I want to make it clear I don’t blame you for it,” he said.
The young chanter didn’t fight it and allowed himself to be squeezed but not crushed for once. Mien patted his back. “Yes, I get your appreciation now let me go. I don’t need you fever sweat on me.”
Soletus released him and watched him smoothed out his uniform.
Why couldn’t I save him, he thought.
“You’re still upset about it aren’t you?”
“A little.” He then remembered what his guide told him very early on. That he couldn’t save everyone. He knew that from working in the infirmary. There was life and there was death. You had to get used to it. It was just a different feeling when the dead person was a friend.