What disappointed me, annoyed me, irritated me, and just exasperated me about the entire situation with Kellas was the fact, he showed no remorse. He lied to me and pretended he did nothing. I have no proof other than his reaction to the scene. He wasn’t shocked or surprised. He looked coolly at the man’s body hanging from a rafter of the barn he should’ve been guarding. Clearly, a suicide, he claimed and then proclaimed he was glad he was gone. That justice had been served. That he got the death that a cur deserved. And he didn’t understand why I would be upset by that statement. Why I was so keen on proving his innocence. And I hit him in the jaw. Tyr was holding me back from doing anything else to him. But I shouted at him. Oh how I shouted at him. It was the last mission I ran with Kellas. I had him removed from my band.
“Why would they even follow us,” Kiao exclaimed as she follows Oeric. He was leading them deeper through the forest.
“They’re Dyne,” he replied stopping. He pointed nose up to the sky and peered up as if something was going to drop down on them.
Kiao stopped her horse beside him. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Back up,” he snapped angrily.
Kiao tugged her reins of her horse back wondering what got into him. He watched her until she was in the shadow of the tree they had stopped under.
“And they’re mercenaries with the ability to take their consort’s shape,” he said belatedly.
“Come on.” He then sprung forward and kept going straight. “They like to hunt.”
“But Roxlyn is a doe. Deer don’t hun.”
“Doesn’t matter, they’re Dyne, they hate chanters and they are mercenaries.”
“First Warden, slow down. You’re making little sense.”
Oeric all in one fluid motion turned his body to face her and sat on his haunches. He took a deep breath and started to explain things to her. “That woman is a priestess of Diva.”
“Yes she had a moon mark on her cheeks therefore she is one of Diva’s chosen. And she is compelled to do her bidding. As you heard, she wants to kill curs like me and now you.”
“But I scared her witless. It’s absurd for her to come after us.”
“Some people are absurd and aren’t scared away by challenge. Some choose to defeat their adversaries no matter the cost.”
Kiao tried to accept what she was hearing but ended up giving her head a shake unable too. “Maybe they aren’t. This could be a giant assumption we are making and you’re worried about nothing.”
“If she was truly scared she wouldn’t send a scout.”
“Well isn’t Xerius the one in charge? Can’t he stop her?”
“He may be but again, she is a priestess and what she wants goes.”
Kiao thought about that a moment and smirked. “A priestess who has men doing her bidding, must be nice,” muttered Kiao.
Oeric then looked up at the over cast sky again. “Please, every lad in the infirmary and Brother Oli listens to your every whim.”
“Alder doesn’t listen to me and what are you doing?”
“Watching for Xerius,” he said absently observing the clouds. “He can cover more ground. We need shelter that can hide us from above.”
He started off again and they moved away from the road even more.
“Shouldn’t we follow the road?”
“We are,” he said. “I’m keeping with a northwest track. Little difficult when it’s cloudy but the clouds go west to east for the most part. Don’t worry, I won’t get us lost.”
“Well, maybe we should meet them again and I could keep them back again.”
Oeric reply to that came out as a quick sharp no.
He slowed down until he was beside her horse again. “How effective do you think you’re going to be after that first time? Not to mention, it takes a lot out of you. They’ll keep pushing until they burn you out and you need that strength to do whatever it is you’re going to do.”
She then flexed her hand. Warmth still radiated from her palm. In her mind, she could still hear echoes of the phrase of purification. In a way, she compare it to when she was learning the phrase of healing. However then, she had the overwhelming urge to heal someone. She suspected that the phrase of purification was very important. Who could need purifying? Maybe Soletus? He was the only one who would benefit if he was bitten by another venomous drass beast.
“We need to get moving,” she muttered to herself and then to Oeric. “What can we do to make them go away? Can’t you fight them?”
“Fight them,” he cackled. “You saw how well that went before.”
“Then do so as a man.”
He looked forward shaking his furry head. “They won’t be men when they fight me and certainly aren’t going to be reasonable to talk it out before you suggest it.”
“Then what do you suggest we do?”
She didn’t think he knew. He frowned and then realization lit his face and slipped into determination. “Well if the Arch Priest told me that my band is waiting for me, then we shall bring them to my band.” He then regarded her. “I need you to see if you can find Mien.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Using the channel. Is it possible that you control the state to search for him?”
He lost his mind. “You want to try and enter that state purposely while being pursued?”
“Isn’t a first warden supposed to know how to assess risks? This is a risk!”
“This is a risk I’m willing to take,” he told her confidently.
“What if I get stuck, you ever think of that?”
“You have me to use as your anchor.”
She didn’t understand his certainty at all.
“Sister, you were given the ability for finding Mien and we need it. Why run blindly away from our pursuers when you can give us a direction to go.”
“But I am limited by distance,” she explained. “He has to be close to me.”
“Timbres float on the wind do they not?”
“Yes but it isn’t like smoke and ash that can travel miles. A single timbre from a distance is like trying to find a drop of blood in a lake in the chorus of the world unless it’s boosted,” she said.
“But if we got close to him, you could sense it, and give me a direction?”
“Then we try.”
“First Warden, you are putting a lot on me when there are a lot of unknowns here.”
“I believe you can do it,” he told her. “I’ve worked with a lot of chanters. None of them were an onslaught. You could drown someone if you aren’t careful. So you are plenty powerful and smart. You can make it happen.”
Kiao didn’t want to doubt him and think his confidence was misplaced. She could do it but as she told him, there were a lot of unknowns. Sometimes as a chanter, you didn’t want to try and do something you weren’t meant to do. However, he was right; Dias gave her the ability for better or for worse. She would have to try if Oeric could find someplace for her to practice.
They pushed onward keeping parallel to the road. However, he did a sudden and sharp turn and crossed the road before going further into the woods going more westerly than north. He constantly would stop to watch the sky before going onward. She was alert and was watching for anymore large cats. She suspected he wanted someplace concealed. However, there was little that around them. There were a lot of tall trees to make searching for them from the air difficult, however anything from the ground could track them with scent alone.
They come to a stop when Oeric found tall mound of earth. There was a jagged tree stump on top with the truck of the tree laying over the entrance to what looked like a large den. He took the horse away from them and tied it under the base of a tree some distance away but within sight. She crawled into the carving and Oeric joined her. The two sat comfortably beside each other.
“There is enough light left to see if you can find Mien,” he told her.
“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do this. Usually I get drawn into that state thinking about Mien.”
“Then think about him,” he said as if it were the simplest thing.
“It doesn’t work like that. I have to focus on him while in a raised emotional state of some kind. Something to, I guess encourage my longing or something,” she said and could feel her face flushing from having to explain that. She definitely didn’t want to tell him, her own jealousy had brought it on as well while watching him and Cordea.
“Is that true for every time?”
He thought a moment. “And being pursued isn’t enough?”
“No that’s completely different. Sure, the body response is similar, however the mental response is different. This isn’t a situation where Mien’s presence will help or make me feel better. You’re adequate enough.”
His brow then pulled together. “So it works when you’re emotional essentially?”
“Are you trying to think of ways to bring that state on?”
“I am trying to assist you. So when was the first time it happened?”
“I was walking back from dinner with the Patriarch. I wanted Mien and the others to return badly that evening. We were supposed to have dinner there and the red sky reminded me of him.”
“And then the next time was when you came over to my place.”
“Yes, but you can’t replicate any of this unless you’re planning to make me very upset.”
“Isn’t necessary,” he said leaning back into his corner. He rubbed the tops of his legs again. He became silent for a moment. His eyes lids sealed themselves and he took in a few breaths before letting out a wistful sigh. “In situation like this, I wonder what Cordea is doing.”
“Cordea, I wonder if she’s okay or if she’s, in a situation as well. Granted she isn’t like me. I’m good at finding trouble. She’s good at getting me out of it,” he said with a smile on his face with his gaze turning distant. “Even when I first met her dressed up like a doll, she got me out of trouble.”
“Her parents, like a lot of Fenndish Dyne, keep some of their Dyne customs. She can explain it better than me. Do to her birth month, she was born to be a wife and thus was trained as such and always dressed up on display. She looked like a walking doll. I of course thought it was ridiculous. As a boy, I could only think of how could she do anything worth doing dressed like that? When I befriended her, the first thing I did was get her a set of clothes so she could run around with me.”
Kiao couldn’t help but laugh. “You really did that?”
He looked down at the ground. “I was a strange boy,” he admitted. “Despite everyone’s insistence that I liked Cordea all the way back then, my feelings were much simpler. I wanted her able to have a friend. So I got a hat, an old shirt my sister didn’t wear anymore and found a pair of trousers she could wear and shoes. Half the time we created some sort of mayhem, they didn’t realize it was even her. I didn’t mind them seeing my face. That was the point of the game.”
“And she just went along with it all?”
“Well not all the time. If Cordea didn’t want to do something, she could talk me out of it and I never forced her to do anything she didn’t want to do. In fact, being with me helped give her a voice. She talked me out so many nasty things. One evening, I had all intentions of setting fire to something, but she talked me down. Instead, she had me take her on the town wall and there we sat and talked. We did that a lot after that.”
“What did you talk about?”
“I would tell her stories about the constellations,” he told her. “My mother had a book filled with stories she used to read to me. When she died, I read that book again and again until my brother threw it into the fire as punishment. But, memorized them. I would tell them to her.”
Mien did the same things in a way. Except her would point to all the named stars in the sky. All the stars that made up a constellation. He even had a song dedicated to one of that he sang. He said he made it up on evening listening to his father list off the stars in Wonderer Tetmus.
It was then the world grew soft. Kiao did the only thing should could do was let the silence take her. And instead of letting the bond do the checking she pushed it deliberately like she was trying to hear something in the distance. She stretched out her ears but her mind began to ache. However, she couldn’t hear or feel anything in the distance at all. The only thing she was aware of was the hand she felt around hers.
Kiao then let that connection to her body bring her to focus so she could speak.
“I don’t sense him,” she said. “I’m stretching myself out but there’s nothing.”
She didn’t expect to hear a reply however, she heard Oeric speak clearly as though he was right beside her and not the far away tones as before.
“If you are straining yourself come back. We’ll try again tomorrow at some point. Do you need help?”
Kiao let go of the channel and found herself back into awareness.
“Are you okay,” he asked.
She bobbed her head. “Yes. It’s not draining like what I did earlier. Though, I don’t think I should do it for long periods of time.”
He then dug in his pack and pulled out food and handed it to her. “Take this. I know sugar help so I made sure I got something when we were in Wateree.”
In his hand was something sandwiched between dried leaves and she pulled it apart was greeted by strawberry leather. She stared at it a moment. Of all the flavors he could’ve gotten her, he picked out strawberry. That was her favorite flavor.
“What‘s wrong,” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said peeling the sweet from the leaf and stuffing it in her mouth. “You’re not going to tell me stories about Cordea every time to help me.”
“I’ve a lot of stories about she and I. And I know how you ladies love stories.”
“You don’t take me for a romantic.”
“I’m not. You should get bedded down. I’m planning to leave before sunrise.”
Kiao gigged at him. “Fine, be that way you big softy.”
She gathered her bedroll and settled down. He finally took to being a wolf again and curled right in front of her legs. His fur being stirred by a breeze was the last thing she saw before shutting her eyes. She was tired from all that happened the previous day. However, she was shaken violently by her shoulders and forced awake. She was about to cry out when a hand clamped over her mouth.
Oeric then hissed in her ear. “Quiet. Xerius is out there.”