And then there was Icus. To say we never got along is a bit of an understatement. There was exactly no reason for us to not get along, however we just didn’t. It wasn’t on my end completely as he made himself as unlikable as he could. He didn’t want anyone to suspect the truth about him. Being friendly with me would suspect him. He was to become Arch Monk. My grandfather chose him. One day, we had a debate about my choice in going on missions with the huntresses aiding me. He took me to the side and admonished me for it. He told me he would never consider what the Patriarch wanted out of respect for my grandfather. The following day was the day he was killed.
The thought of getting commended for his actions made Mien’s stomach knot up. It seemed inappropriate to commend him while a tragedy still happened. Then again, Lyndon would probably smack him on the shoulder and tell him to take it. Mien really just wanted the entire ordeal to be over. The adventure was supposed to be over. They were supposed to come home and rest. Not reacting to every situation as that kept popping up in front of them still. It felt as if it all caught up to him.
He felt it in his chest as always. His heart sped up, from unease and a sense of dread washed over him. He found it ironic. He was out in the wilderness without a first warden, encountered a husk, and had little food without becoming an anxious mess but in the sheltered safety of the monastery was a different story.
After his talk with Oeric, he retreated down to the basement. Lionel was there so it was quiet. The only company was the bunches of mint dying from the rafters above his head. There was something calming about being under there despite the thumps of feet above him.
Part of him wanted to see what could be cleaned, organized, and mixed. However, he just sat on his stool and looked across the alchemy kit stretched before. The tubs for distillation looked like they could use a clean. The heating plate needed a new candle. And the soap for the batch Mien left to cure weeks ago was probably ready to give to the women at the society house. He would go there as soon as he was free.
Mien leaned on his knees and stared at the stone floor. The time should’ve spent in contemplation on what he could say to defend his actions for following Soletus. However, his attention was in the palpitations he was having and trying to focus on ignoring it. He then decided it was as good as place as any just to meditate. He sat on the stool with his hand in his lap and focused on his breathing. He wasn’t going to go into a fit when he arrived home and was safe. All he had to do to get through the next two days.
He was down there for some time when he heard his name being mentioned from Lionel, who come down the stairs. Mien was already to his feet when the tod came to a stop.
“Oh, there you are, Alder wanted to know if you checked on Soletus recently,” he said giving him a concerned look.
Mien shook his. “No, I haven’t, but I will.”
“Are you okay,” he asked.
“I’m well enough now,” he said, leaving it at that going up one flight of and then across the large room to the next. Soletus’s room door was still closed, when he opened it, he found Cordea had used her motherly talents and had Soletus’s head in her lap. He was sleeping. His mother held her finger to her lips with her other hand rubbing his back.
Mien didn’t have the heart to disturb him as he looked to be the most at peace he had been in weeks. Clearly his mother was better a person to help at the moment thus Mien just left them alone again. He was glad too as he really felt the need to speak with Kiao. He wanted to make sure she wasn’t at miffed about whatever had put her in a bad mood. He found her at the podium, writing and muttering to herself. It wasn’t a great sign that Emmery was resting on her shoulders.
The consort let out a squeal when he was close and jumped to his shoulder. Kiao went on writing whatever she was filling out. It wasn’t the ledger.
“What are you doing?”
“Brother Oli wanted me to update some of our written knowledge on Neth males as we finally have an official one in the order again.”
“Can’t you do that sitting down? He said, petting Emmery with his fingers.
“I’m making sure a certain first warden is staying put.” Mien looked at Oeric across the room. He was too busy sleeping to pay attention to them. “You know how he injured himself. He climbed a ladder, had a spasm, fell off, and his head.”
“Is that all?”
“All what,” she said focusing on writing and doing so furiously.
He quelled the desire to rest his hand on top of hers to force her to stop writing. He didn’t want her to smudge her ink. “You’re agitated about something.”
“I was to speak with the Arch Priest. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be and there were others there talking about the unfortunate Elnos and that I’m responsible for his death.”
Mien bristled. “Who were these priests?”
Kiao continued to focus on her work. “It’s doesn’t matter, they were just talking.”
“They shouldn’t blame you for him being a pervert. They should hold some amount of respect for you,” he told her.
She met his face. “And who’s going to teach them, you?”
“If I have too,” he said, and she gave him a doubtful look. He then stated more seriously with his voice dropping to a low octave he didn’t know possible. “How long do you expect me to passively watch things happened to you? I’m not.”
Kiao stopped writing. “Excuse me.”
“Do you think I like hearing how others are disrespectful to you and your saying it doesn’t matter.”
She then leaned away from him sweeping him over. “None of them are likely to be as him. Elnos. He was just one exception,” she said finally.
“It doesn’t matter if they are that extreme or not. It’s unacceptable. You need to tell someone.”
“Who? The Arch Priest? He’s never around much to tell. I suppose I could tell Brother Rastor, but I don’t know about him. We have to see how he plays out. And yes, I can go to the Patriarch, but going to him because I was physically assaulted was one thing but tattling on mean people will likely get me being mocked. It’ll be better for you not to be offended for me.”
He the crossed his arms. “No one has right to hurt you or blame you for something that wasn’t your fault.” he said applying force in his voicing knowing well she could feel it.
“Don’t use your voice on me, I can understand you perfectly fine,” she said.
“Then stop accepting this and believe everything is going to be okay if you do nothing. It won’t.”
He then felt Emmery rub underneath his chin with her head before she wound around his neck. Her summoner though looked as if the magical creature betrayed her. Mien stroked the consort between the ears with his finger.
Alder leaned out from the room where Vlory was and said, “You tell her. Maybe she’ll listen to you. I already told her that this morning.” He then vanished back into the room he walked out of.
“See,” he said.
Kiao was clearly about to protest more when the outer door to the infirmary opened and he leaned away in time for Brother Oli to shuffle in. He appeared worn with Brother Hickory glued to his side helping him along.
“Sorry it took me longer that I anticipated to get back. I had to see the Arch Priest.”
“Really,” said Kiao. “I was trying to see him earlier. He wasn’t where he told me to meet him.
Brother Oli nodded. “He was brought back to his quarters and on the way back here I was brought to see to him. He’s in a trance right now. A vision caught his attention and it took him a long time to come out of it. He claimed it needed to it through.”
Kiao frowned. “His visions always need his attention now.”
Brother Hickory nodded. “True and more priests are sharing that opinion and wanted mine on the matter. So we had to stand listening to that.”
“I’m surprised they even asked,” she said.
“They honestly just wanted to convince me to support Rastor in taking over,” stated Hickory with a hint of displeasure in his voice.
“I take it you don’t care for him,” asked Mien.
“He’s ambivalent to my ears. It concerns me when people are like that.”
“You too,” asked Mien.
“So you hear it as well or rather the lack of hearing while getting uncomfortable about the thought of him taking over. However, you’ve nothing to justify the feeling?”
“Something like that, but not the uncomfortable part just, it’s just that I want something to be wrong with him but there isn’t,” the young chanter explained.
Brother Oli patted Hickory on the shoulder. “Well, you sensitive types can go work that out. I’m going to rest. You know my opinion on it.”
“I can help you up the stairs, Oliver,” said Hickory, reaching out for him.
“No, you stay here. We rarely get to see you out of the chapel.”
“And I can spend that time with you too, old friend,” said Hickory.
Brother Oli waved him off and proceeded up the stairs slowly. “No, the younger generation need of you now. Beside, I’m certain you want to meet Vlory.”
Alder stood in Brother Hickory’s path. “It’s best you let him go. Maybe later on you can give him his evening tea. He usually doesn’t eat very much in the evening again.”
The silvering priest watched his friend walk up the stairs and said in a quiet breath. “Oliver was having trouble examining the Arch Priest.”
“We know,” said Alder soberly. “We don’t have him do much of anything anymore he’s only here for guidance if we need it.”
Mien knew they all had been trying to ignore the inevitability of his death but that day seemed closer and closer at every day that passed.
Brother Hickory’s teal eyes grew somber. He took a deep breath. “Yes, while I’m wanting Soletus, is able to be spoken to again?”
“No, his mother is with him,” said Mien.
“Oh, excellent. I’m certain leaving them alone is best for the two of the. I’ll see Vlory, instead,” he said.
Alder led the way and Mien found Vlory was awake and sitting up in bed. Mien walked in and selected a corner to stand in. He wanted to see how the young woman was doing. The chair that Alder was using had a book resting on it. He looked at the title and found he was reading her poetry. And not any kind of poetry. It was written by a female poet named Blue Bird. She was very lyrical and spiritual. Alder was trying to uplift her spirits.
Vlory brightened up to see visitors but became intrigued at the sight of Brother Hickory.
“Hello, I’m Brother Hickory,” he said warmly.
She blinked at him. “First Reckoner and now you…”
“She’s timbre sensitive,” explained Mien.
“Oh another one,” said Brother Hickory unable to the warble in his voice.
“I have already been bonded though the tie is broken. I likely will not bond with another chanter. Not like that,” she said.
“Even still, I think it would be best if we move you someplace else after you’re well enough to walk. What happened to you is traumatic and most I find need a little bit of peace.”
Vlory tilted her head and started to fiddle with her hands. “What’s with elven men? Soft-hearts all around.”
“The world hasn’t been kind to you, I see. Well, we’ll try to make up for whatever rudeness they have inflicted on you. For now, I just want you to get stronger.”
Vlory’s tilted her head. “You’re like Son of Lenneth aren’t you.”
“Soletus,” Mien helped.
“We do have that in common,” said Hickory.
“Then you need to know his heart aches. Broken in two. You’ve felt that sting.”
“I have and I’ll help him as well as you. Don’t think you can distract me from you,” he said.
Vlory looked put out. “The bonded pair did more than I deserved. I don’t need more debts.”
“You don’t have to repay me for helping you or the Brotherhood. However, if you want to exchange of anything with me, how about knowledge. You can teach me about the Kanu. I can’t say I’ve come across your people before.”
Vlory smiled a little. “You’re like the earth, help sprout other and absorb water.”
Hickory grinned. “You figured me out that quick.”
Mien left them alone and Alder followed.
“I knew he would like her,” stated Alder. “He’ll need the distraction if what we’re all worried about comes true.”
Soletus slept into the afternoon. Mien checked on him after Cordea left him. He had him lying on his pillow tucked under a blanket. Hickory peered in on them and said he would come back later. It was shortly after that when he started to stir and pushed himself on his elbows and cradled his head.
Mien laid a tentative hand on his shoulders. “Sol?”
The young monk rolled his head to face him. The vagueness in his gaze was gone, however, his eyes had a glossy fevered sheen over them. “What time is it,” he asked.
Soletus laid his head on his hands. “That late and I still feel off.”
“Can you take something?”
“I’m starving,” he said, sitting up squinting. “When did I come here?”
“After Brother Hickory was done,” he said and pointed to the small bed table. “I was told that you needed to drink this entire pot.” He then poured a small about in a cup and handed it Soletus. The young monk snatched it and drained.
“I’m thirsty too.”
Kiao stepped in from her room and hung at the door. “You’re finally awake.”
Soletus drained a full cup in just a few gulps and handed it to Mien. He nodded.
“Can you get to your feet yet? I was told to have you walk around when you woke.”
“Can that be to the mess hall,” he asked expectantly.
Kiao gave him an apologetic smile. “I have something downstairs you can eat.”
“It’s not broth is it,” he asked.
“I wasn’t certain you would be hungry and I would have to force you to eat something,” she answered.
Mien presented him with another cup and his friend took it and stopped in mid-drink.
“A diuretic,” said Kiao.
“Oh,” he said and gulp it down. “Doesn’t taste bad.”
Kiao studied him for a moment. “Are you okay? Want to talk about it?”
“Nope,” said Soletus.
“Brother Hickory would like for you to talk to him about it,” said Kiao still staying at the door.
“I’ll talk to him when I feel like it,” he said curtly.
Kiao threw a glance at Mien. He waved his hand at her. Soletus sounded angrier than he really, but clearly didn’t want to talk about it. If she bugged him about it. He would get more irritated.
The young monk then regard Kiao. “Why are you just hovering there,” he said.
She entered the room. “I wasn’t sure what sort of side-effect that you would have. You might’ve not wanted a lot of people around.”
“No, you’re fine. So is Mien. Granted, you two are the only people I want right now. How long should this last?”
“Once we force out whatever remains in you, you should be good. You’ll need to drink a lot of water too so you’re going to urinate a lot in the next couple of hours.”
“Wonderful. I’m never doing this again,” he said.
“You’re doing well regardless. I expected you to act more wary, shaky, and wanting to be alone.”
“I really don’t want to be alone,” he said. “Being with Mama helped, but, I want physical contact with another person. In fact, I want a whole lot.”
Kiao sat beside him and then rubbed his back. “This is the other side of what we expected.”
Soletus looked hard at his cup.
Mien sat close on the other side of him.
“You two don’t have to do this,” he told them.
“It’s better if we make you feel better this way than ignoring it until you get antsy.”
He lifted the cup and took another drink of tea, this time sipping it. “Even still, it feels a little strange. I just don’t want to use the two of you like this.”
Kiao then looked at his head. “I know your mother braided you hair, but, if you don’t want this then I could brush it for you. It’ll have nearly the same effect.”
For a moment Soletus looked uncomfortable at it and then decided on. “Maybe. Who else is here?”
“Don’t be embarrassed. We can hear anyone who’ll come up the stair before they get here so they would never know.”
“Sure,” he relented.
Kiao leapt off the bed and hurried into her room as if he might change his mind and returned with a brush in hand grinning enthusiastically. “I can even trim your ends a bit if you want. Make it even.”
“That’s fine,” he said.
Mien then watched her take out a pair of shears from her pocket and placed it on the bed.
Mien chucked at her and then said to Soletus. “Given what you’ve been through, this is deserved.”
Soletus closed his eyes while she undid his braid. “Something nice and savory would be better.”
“I see nothing wrong with this,” said Mien.
“That’s because you have no concept of normal,” returned Soletus.
“True,” shrugged Mien.
“It’s normal. Customary elves do this with their sweethearts,” said Kiao.
It was then Soletus regarded Mien as if wanting his opinion on the matter.
The young chanter shrugged again. “It’s a bonding sort of thing. You let Saedee brush your hair, think of it like that. Plus my hair is short and Kiao is frustrated by it.”
“It’s just not satisfying enough,” she said taking a long stroke from the top of his head down to the ends of the section she held in her hands. Soletus let out a content sigh.
“You would think I wouldn’t be like this,” said Soletus. “It’s not the first time I wanted physical contact before, just not his strong.”
“Just because your Neth, doesn’t mean you dislike physical contact,” said Kiao. “You’ve always been a hugger so it doesn’t surprise me that you would occasionally want something beyond at.”
“Sometimes it’s a bit more than occasionally. It comes and goes. Just not this overwhelming desire.”
“You need to speak with Brother Hickory,”sang Kiao.
Soletus shoulders sagged. “Why does he have to be the only person I can talk to about, well anything!”
“You can talk to me but, I think he’ll be better for you in the long run. I know what he did was uncomfortable but he’s really the nicest man I’ve met.”
“It was like having someone bearing down on you. Holding you down on your stomach. I couldn’t even fight him. I wasn’t given the chance and he made me not want to but I wanted to.”
“That’s why he doesn’t like doing it,” she said. “He doesn’t want you to hate him either.”
“I don’t,” said Soletus. “It was like learning how terrifying Papa can be. I don’t know that I can even spar with him.”
“I think the First Warden might surprise you now,” she said to him. “He’s a lot of restraint. And Brother Hickory, well he just wants to help you. He wants you to have what he never had when he was younger, someone who understood and could guild him.”
Mien agreed with a nod. “Can’t say House Thrush is very understanding when it comes to you not being a standard elf.”
“But I don’t want to be different or my differences mean so much that I am different among everything else,” he said.
“But you’re in good company. Mien and I know all about being different,” said Kiao soothingly.
Soletus let out a content sigh and changed subjects. “So what happened while I was out?”
“Your father fell off a ladder and hit his head yesterday,” said Kiao. “He came in today and is resting down stairs. His head will be fine. Wish I could cure him from being a dod.”
“He wants to speak to you about what Icus had you confess. He was a little upset about that,” said Mien.
“Oh that. Figures he would be.”
“He doesn’t want us talking to Icus again without his presence. I got the impression that he took advantage of him not being there. I’m not sure if he is even helping us.”
“Icus wants the truth and helping us in one way gets the truth. However, the truth isn’t necessarily going to make us blameless, we have to do that ourselves,” said Soletus.
“But you claimed you’re negligent in Lyndon’s death,” said Mien. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I needed to. I need to prove a point,” said Soletus.
Kiao sighed. “Soletus, the last time you needed to prove a point…”
“This time time I know what I’m doing a bit more,” he said confidently. “I just need a little expertise in what I want to say and how to say it. So when you get done, I need to speak to Papa.”
It was then Mien heard a commotion downstairs and someone shouting. Some came jogging up the stairs. Kiao stopped brushing and stood up when Alder shouted, “Kiao!”
“What,” she said and the young man appeared in the doorway.
“The Patriarch needs you to come with him. A body was found, it’s Valhart’s.”