And my feeling alone sometimes was a result of there was no one like me out in the open. Yes, there were others, but I think the older monks. The ones who could’ve set an example really didn’t want to. They expected me too. Yet Brother Hickory was unabashedly neth as well as being a chanter. I didn’t realize how much he was just so comfortable to be in his skin until I was around him long enough. And he was the one who taught me to be comfortable in mine. He was my example. He was a good example because he told me that long ago, he didn’t like what he was either for the longest time. He also stated he didn’t like other people either which, honestly was very hard to see. He was the kindest man I ever met.
The sight of Kellas filled Mien with a single emotion, disgust. He was hoping his mind would release a memory from the void in his mind. However, no forgotten moment bubbled up to the surface. Words did yet they were stopped at the tip of his tongue. They became lost in a haze. His head ached ad his ears began to ring causing them to ache all the while Kellas’s attention fell on Oeric as if he weren’t there. He greeted the warden warmly.
“I’m glad you made it back. I was surprised that you found them so easily,” he said.
Oeric and nudged Mien with his elbow. “Remember what I said.”
Mien nodded though he didn’t feel like engaging Kellas. He was starting to feel ill. However, he was able to glare at him squinting through the pain in his head.
“I came here to find you, Oeric,” said Kellas. “I just wanted to confirm that one of the boys didn’t come back. I was told it was Lyndon.”
“I’m not obligated to tell you anything,” said Oeric.
“You’re being hostile. So that means it’s true and something going on. I’ve been seeing topknots around and heard something happened in the Firerocks.”
Oeric let out a snort. “You would do well at being a swindler selling peddler pretending you’ve no idea what happened.”
The warmth from Kellas faded. “So, you believe whatever story your son concocted. Believe me, Oeric, when they left, they were all alive. I had nothing to do with what happened. All your answers lie with your son.”
“There is a very special place deep down in the depth of the Maw for people like you,” said Oeric with a low growl to his voice.
“I didn’t kill your nephew. That’s all on Soletus’s incompetence.”
Oeric ushered Mien forward. The sensation got worse as he passed by Kellas. Oeric paused at Kellas’s side and stated, “One day, someone is going to hurl that blacked soul of yours there.”
Kellas looked coolly at him. “You’ve said that too me before. No one has stepped up and done. Perhaps, old friend, you should be the one who does if you hate me so much.”
Oeric opened the door and pushed Mien on through. Once the door was closed the ringing stopped but vertigo hit him.
“What’s wrong,” asked Oeric.
Mien stood and waited for the sensation of the world moving to leave him. Oeric placed a hand on his back.
The young chanter walked away from the older monk and sat on the floor.
“I’m fine. I just felt something off Kellas. It made me ill.”
Oeric frowned. “His voice?”
“No, not his voice. I heard nothing from his voice. Just this overall sensation when he was around. I started to get something from him and then nothing.
“Do you need to go to the infirmary,” asked Oeric looking suspiciously through the door.
Mien shook his head. The world settled down again. “I’m fine now but if it happens again, I’ll go. He called you old friend, were you.”
“We were a long time ago. Come, I take you back to the room for now. I want all of you in one place with him and Valhart slinking around. They may do something.”
They went back to the room and opened it. Tyrus was stretched out on his mat sleeping. Soletus had pulled his against the wall and was sitting up resting. He stirred awake when they came in.
“I would get rest while you can,” said Oeric.
“I can’t really sleep right now,” said Soletus. “Isn’t there something that I could be physically doing than just waiting around here?”
“This is what you need to be doing. Rest because you need to be sharp of mind.”
Soletus nodded however he didn’t lie down.
“I’m going to arrange food and get Brother Hickory to come to speak to you, I’ll be back.”
Mien went to his own mat. Roadworn weariness took hold of him quickly and once again he found himself in the field. He thought he was done with his edict as the visions had stopped. Vlory was healed. Yet there he was alone. The mirror of himself wasn’t there but something was. The chorus was there whispering things he didn’t understand the choir of gentle ethereal voices.
Mien did the only thing he could and began to walk. There was no place to really go in the dreamscape. The field went to the horizon on all sides still, but he chose the direction where he felt the tugged to the most towards. Mien then saw someone to his left. There stood a man. He saw the shadow that face staring back at him in the mirror daily. Thought of him every time he held a rock in his hands. Yet the memory of the man faded that he had forgotten his father had hair that threatened to be coppery orange in the summer. How those dark blue eyes of his weren’t as bright as Soletus’s but they were just as welcoming.
A somber smile spread on his face. Mien would’ve run to him but, he felt unable to. He couldn’t go left. He could only walk forward. His father was beyond him. Instead, he raised his hand and waved his fingers at him. That would have to do instead of that one last hug. That somber smile brightened and Julius bowed his head to his son.
“Light the world,” he said. The wind stirred and his father became dust and traveled along with it.
He went straight. And as he walked forward, various stages of him appeared. From a baby to toddler, to a young boy and went all the way to the point when he came to just himself. Granted himself had that same infuriating expression his face as his guide.
“You do wear this exact same expression, given the right circumstance,” said his guide remaining as he was then and not an older man as he had been.
Mien wondered how often his friends wanted to punch him in the face.
“Not at all really,” answered his guide.
“So, what is all of this?”
“Again, visions aren’t ours, but we need to stay focused on things the path in front of us. There is no turning back time. We can only go forward. Now, to important things. We need to finish this up. You asked me early on who I was.”
“I did. I thought you weren’t me, not completely,” he said.
His eyes went colorless again.
Mien’s stomach twisted a little bit. He remembered Kiao’s reaction to his guide. She was in awe at first and then she shifted into being scared but not in the way of something frightening because it was dangerous. She acted as if his guide holding her was something that wasn’t allowed. Then there was what his guide told him about Kiao’s guide. He couldn’t understand what was said to her, but his guide said it was something her heart needed to tell her.
“So, you’re not me but you are me,” said Mien and he swallowed. “Then you’re some sort of manifestation of my magical heart.”
His guide smiled broadly at him and inclined his head to him. “I am that part of you that connects to Dias. I am the piece of the two of you,” said his guide whose voice was his and then became more. “I am fully open to you now. There is one more phrase that it yours. Minor compared to what you possess now.”
Mien nodded unsure of his feeling of who he was talking to him.
“Our light may burn as bright as the sun and we can scorch corruption into ash. However, protecting others is our most precious gift.”
Again, Mien bobbed his head.
The being’s voice then changed sounding less like himself and something more and echoed in his heart.
“These interactions are going to be few and far between. I’ll show up when you need me and there will be a day that you will. And my chanter, never forget, never be afraid to you your voice. Despite what they believe, sing. Always sing.”
Then like before, he woke up. He was greeted to the sound of someone slurping and scarping the sides of a bowl with a spoon. His own vision focused on a bowl of food and beside it on a place was a large onion pastry.
“Kiao insisted that I buy you one,” spoke Brother Hickory somewhere off to his left.
Mien sat up and found him sitting in the chair at the table. The aged priest greeted him with a warm grin. He couldn’t help to return it. There was something reassuring about having him sitting among them patiently as ever. Mien focused on his food and took a big spoonful and stuffing it in his mouth.
“I was going to wake you up,” spoke Tyrus cleaning the bowl he held sides with a lump of bread. “But he insisted that we let you sleep.”
It was warm and savory. Mien missed savory food with flavor. As well as butter. There was butter in his strew so it clearly didn’t come from the mess hall. It tasted a great deal like Soletus’s mother’s cooking. He looked at his friend who was eating slowly. Taking little bits at a time however, he wore a slight smile of appreciation.
“I didn’t want to interrupt your vision,” said Hickory. “We’ll talk about it later. Edict visions always lead to a single question of why we don’t tell you what to expect.”
“That,” stated Mien pointing his spoon at him.
Doran then cleared his throat. “He’s awake now. You promised to talk about Soletus’s idea when he did.”
Hickory held up a palm forward. “Wait and digest. I know you’re eager to make amends but you four need to really consider this.”
“I don’t mind,” said Mien between bites.
Soletus then spoke between bites. “We should start planning this out as soon as we can.”
“There isn’t much to plan. Much of what I wanted to speak to you about is for you to fully understand what you are asking me to do. Being subjected to my phrase of truth isn’t painless. I’m forcing you to speak. You don’t get to think, you don’t get a chance to pause. I ask you a question and I force you to tell the truth. It’s very unpleasant. Usually takes a day of recovery and you’ll likely want nothing to do with me.”
“But we’ve little choice,” said Doran. “They told you what going on what is happening. We have to give them something worth more than a bloodied weapon. We have no other proof but our words and if we can prove them true, we’re free.”
Hickory’s eyes warmed up appearing bluer. “The only reason why you’re doing this is to make amends. And while that’s a noble gesture, it’s now what you need to do. You should choose something more meaningful to the person you wronged.”
Doran regarded Soletus. The young monk glanced at him and then just ignored him.
“Besides I have a sinking suspicion that the Arch Monk is going to demand Soletus to do it because he is your senior,” said Hickory.
“No,” Doran protested loudly.
“I see no problem with that. I can do it,” said Soletus.
“There will be a problem,” said Hickory. “You are chanter gifted. Most individuals won’t fight so much as they’ll be in despair. You, on the other hand, will fight it and it will make the after-effects much worse. There is a period of feeling violated that comes with this sort of thing. Not to mention a headache.”
“If that’s the case then fight for me to do it,” pressed Doran. “I want to do something to make this right. Let me do it.”
Soletus swayed his head. “What he says is true. My grandfather is going to demand that I do it. That’s how it is. If something goes wrong, a first warden takes responsibility for the actions of his band. I was acting first,” said Soletus.
Doran covered his face. “Why do you have to be this annoyingly selfless.”
“I’m not! I’m stating fact, Doran. My grandfather will demand if not order Brother Hickory to use me. Doesn’t matter if I’m his grandson. He’ll use me as an example. If you want to make things right with me. Like Brother Hickory said, it’s not this,” stated Soletus.
Hickory then intervened from them starting a fight that Mien knew was going to come. “Again, I would like for you to find some way out of being chosen. There are things we need to discuss in the foreseeable future.”
Soletus looked down at his bowl and stirred what remained of his meal. “Is there really anything we need to talk about.”
“You know perfectly well what it relates too,” said Brother Hickory gently.
“You already knew, didn’t you?”
“Yes. And the reason I never said anything because it’s such a difficult thing to bring up. You weren’t aware of it. Which is understandable. You think the entire world is like you until you realize they don’t. We can talk about this all on a later date. You’ve a lot to deal right now so we must focus on one thing at a time.”
“Good, that being said. I rather not put you through this. I can’t do Mien because he’ll resist me. Given his phrases, he’ll probably try to silence me and protect himself.”
“So that leaves just me and Tyrus,” said Doran. “I already volunteered.”
“I’m afraid your father will refuse to let me do you no matter what you might wish, so that leaves Tyrus.”
All the color drained for Tyrus’s face. “Wait, no! Why me!”
“To be honest, you are the perfect candidate. You would be unable to resist me. However, given how terrified you look, you’re out as well.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to help it’s just that, I don’t like being forced to do something against my will,” he said softly. “That’s just terrifying and not right.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” said Hickory. “What will likely happen is Soletus and Kellas will be chosen. Doran, however, I will try to make a case for if given a choice.”
“Then what can I do to be ready for this,” said Soletus.
“Nothing other than don’t fight me.”
“Why do I feel as if this is can be used as punishment.”
“It’s more on the lines of torture in the old days,” said Brother Hickory.
“Worse phrase ever,” muttered Tyrus.
“It has its uses as a protection against liars,” said Hickory. “Believe, me there are plenty of men and women on the road whose sole purpose is to take advantage of others. Having someone around who can see through it is useful.”
“Is there anyone who could fool you,” asked Doran.
“Yes and no. There is a certain kind of person who believes in their truth no matter if it is a lie. And I’m not talking about a person who was taught one thing and learns to believe something that’s untrue. I mean a skilled liar. One who knows how to manipulate others. One who can work around my abilities to maintain their lie. I’ve had it happen before, not here of course but when I was still living my old life.”
“What if Kellas does something like that,” said Doran. “Is there any way to avoid it from happening.”
Brother Hickory nodded solemnly. “If I feel that he will be a problem, there is a concoction that I can use but I rather not. If I use it on Kellas, I will have to use it on Soletus to keep things fair.”
Soletus rubbed his face. “Let me guess, there’s a reason why it’s not a good
“Some of the same ingredients used to make lovelace are in it. It’s not going to have the exact same reaction, but it will leave you in a state that makes you more pliable and less guarded. More trusting. And of course, this is just during the process. The side-effects afterward might not be pleasant. The sense of violation might be stronger because you’ll likely feel tricked.”
“Well I’m giving you permission to do this,” said Soletus.
“Doesn’t matter. The reaction to it is the same no matter if the person agrees or is scared. Hence why I talk my way out of doing it.”
Soletus didn’t look certain anymore that it was a good idea. Mien didn’t think it was a good idea. Surely there had to be something else. Though from his run-in earlier, Kellas was determined to keep up his act and deny responsibility.
“If anything, I want you to sleep on it,” said Hickory.
“I’m not going to change my mind,” said Soletus. “Something has to be done.”
“Yes, something does and I’m going to pray there is another way,” said the priest. He stood up stretching. “I should probably go back to the chapel now. However, if any of you lads wish to speak with me, feel free to send me a message and I’ll arrange for a session with you.”
They all said goodbye to Hickory leaving them alone in the room together. Soletus spoke.
“I know he wants me to sleep on this and he’ll pray for another solution. Maybe I will too but, I don’t think there is another solution. Unless there is more we need to dump on the table. We need to do it now.”
Tyrus immediately stared at Doran. The young man held up his palms to the half-elf. “I swear I don’t have anything else,” he said.
Soletus crossed his arms and looked at Tyrus. “What about you?”
“I’ve nothing, Sol. I’ve told you everything and showed you everything,” he said. “We should as you if you have more?”
“I’ve nothing at all. However, we need to put out heads together. We need something that will cast more doubt on Kellas’s tale aside from what Doran has said because he can’t prove anything.”
“True that,” said Doran with his head down.” And then he said to Soletus. “I’m sorry, you know.”
The young monk regarded him narrowing his eyes at him. “Sorry for what?”
“For taking your knife. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Clearly,” said Soletus with a roll of his eyes.
“And it wasn’t malice on my part. I really didn’t want to do it, but I needed to prove myself.”
“Yep because we all know that stealing someone’s gift is the best way to do it,” returned Soletus surly.
Doran brow dropped. “You know it really just a knife.”
“Yeah, it’s just a knife! But it’s what that knife stood for. And with it, you enabled Valhart to do whatever he wanted with it.”
“I know, but I want to know, how do I do right by you. How would I make it better?”
“There is nothing you can do to make this better,” returned Soletus.
Doran’s face soured. “So, you just want to be mad at me.”
“I’m not even mad at you,” Soletus told him and added with the same disapproving voice his father used, “I’m disappointed,” he told him.
The young elf just settled back down. Neither looking frustrated nor even surprised by Soletu’s tone. Mien cleared his throat wanting to move on from what could end up in a fight.
“I actually do have something to tell you,” spoke Mien. “It’s about what I learned from Icus and the priest who is taking over for Brother Elnos.”
He shared with everyone what was told to him even with what the enforcer told him not to tell. He thought it would be at least a little better for Soletus and he was right. The young monk’s looked a little brighter.
“This is a hot mess. And there isn’t anything we can do but sit here and wait.”
“I’m fine with that,” stated Tyrus. “There ain’t much we can do. I mean, I feel bad for Sister Spice. I mean, good thing he’s dead.”
“Seems a bit too convenient,” said Soletus. “I mean, who was this person who tipped them off.”
“What the heck, Sol. No need to overthink this.”
“I’m not. I think it’s odd because the only person who would’ve had an inkling of Elnos’s obsession would be oh I don’t know, Valhart. He’s no issue with trying to kill people.”
Mien never considered that Valhart was the one who tipped them off. However, something was beginning to bother him.
“I still don’t get why he would do it then and not in secret with Soletus’s knife,” stated Mien. because that’s the only reason why I can see he needed that knife.”
Soletus laughed. “What, was he going to implicate that I killed you?”
“No, something simpler than that,” said Mien looking at Doran. “I suspect that he was going to implicate the one who stole your knife.”