Edict Ch. 42

I really don’t know what else to tell you, Theris. I’ve not talk about any of this in decades. It was nice to reminiscence like this. To remember where you come from compared to where you are. I know I didn’t come from a lowly place, thus not as interesting. I was born into the Brotherhood. Most of every Sheldmartin male has served. It does make me wonder if they struggled. What horrors did they see? Did they find the best and the worse of elves? Did they fight their own weakness to help build their strength? What did they love? Were they willing to do the impossible, and if so, what was that impossible? Or were they like me, had to deal with a few more impossibles than necessary.

     For once, in what felt like ages, nothing happened. The sun rose and they worked on preparations. Afterwards, they spent the rest of the day out on the training fields. Nimbus joined them because he wanted to see Mien’s shield. Soletus spared with Tyrus. Doran was at the archery field. He was drained and tired by the time dinner rolled around. That should’ve made sleeping easier but Mien’s mind wouldn’t stop churning thoughts and concerns. He was worried about the outcome of the decision make by the Arch Monk. What if it didn’t favor them? He was also concerned about Oeric being suspicions about Kellas. In fact that worried him most of all.

     It never occurred to him that Kellas was dangerous. However, the more his anxious mind rolled it in his head, the more it became clearer. Kellas had likely killed people within sight of the Brotherhood. It wouldn’t be long for him to do something inside of the halls if not stopped. However, Kellas didn’t burst into their room that night to get Doran. Logically the man wouldn’t. If he wanted Doran, he would have to get all of them. That didn’t stop him from listening for foot steps outside the for most of the night.

     When morning came, Mien was happy to hear the morning horn. He was still wide awake and was giddy through pray and breakfast. Getting dressed and groomed as something for his mind to focus on.

     He was glad he didn’t have to wear a robe because he was a combat chanter, however, he still had to wear a cowl. For the dress uniforms it was the same light yellow, but this time with blue stripes running along the edge of the hood. It made him stand out from the others as well as the dark blue jacket he wore. Soletus, Tyrus, and Doran smoothed out their brown jackets and made sure their sashes were all tied appropriately. Then one by one they put on their black gloves.

     “Too fancy,” muttered Tyrus as he worked on his cuffs. He cleaned up just as nice as the rest of them. He looked like a typical Brotherhood elf. His hair in a low braided que that he wore along with Doran. Mien didn’t have much choice in hair styles. He was told to forgo cutting it until he saw the arbiter. He did so begrudgingly. It did cover his neck, but it was too short to look good tied up. So he stood in front of the mirror Oeric provided and combed it out then slicked his hair back. Even though he could push his forelocks to the side, getting them completely off his forehead looked more formal. In fact, it managed to mature his face. His reflection reminded of his guide.

     Through the mirror, he saw Soletus tugging at his gloves and then flicked his hair back over his shoulders. He could see the that Kiao trimming his ends was a good idea. He wondered if Soletus left his hair sloppy on a daily basis so not to look prissy. However, he threw it all away then and brushed it to it’s corn silk sheen that Kiao always wanted to do. The only change in the visual texture of his hair was the fact he wore a single thin braid going down the right side of his head. It was woven with a beaded leather string that had a martin feather on the end.

     Out of all of them he looked more like a man. He had to agreed with Lyndon assessment of calling him a boy-man. Yet that outward appearance was deceiving. The young monk was still very young. An more experienced monk would’ve handled his situation better. Soletus finished and looked in his direction. Mien focused on himself again. He then and stood beside him to he could adjust the high collar of his shirt.

     “Wearing my hair down always makes me look like, Papa,” he commented.

     “Is that a bad thing,” asked Mien seeing it since he mentioned it.

     “Yeah because one day, I know someone is going to think we’re brothers.”

     There was a tap at the door and they all shouted for them to come in. Oeric stepped in dressed completely different than when they saw him at breakfast. Like them he was in his dress uniform. The only difference between his jacket and a junior wardens was the silver buttons and the fringed sash around his waist. And there was also the fact he was wearing jewelry. It was a rare sight as he didn’t wear it often. Most wardens didn’t. Their wasn’t a great deal of opportunity for it. However, like most wardens it was minimal. He wore his marriage pendant, as well as a series braided ear cuffs that went up his right ear. Each one representing a child with a stone representing the moon they were born under. He of course had his hair down with a single thin braid on the right side of his head. At end hung a singe feather that was black with gray edges. It was a pintail feather.

      He walked around them checking their boots and uniforms. Of course he stopped at Soletus and leaned to see his back.

     “Do you have a problem with the length of it,” said Soletus.

     “He looks damn fine to me,” said Tyrus. “If we can’t get the Arch Monk with our words, then we’ll do it with looks.”

     The first warden stepped back. “Doubtful, as it’s not going to win points with him. However, in my personal opinion is that you wear it well.”

     The compliment lifted Soletus face a little. Oeric then took his braid in his hand and attached the same feather he wore at the end. He then produced three more and handed them out. Mien held it in his palm realizing it was made into a pin to stick on his uniform.

     “It’s for Lyndon,”said Oeric. “His mother made them.”

     Without any prompting, they put them on and Oeric led them to the head’s room.

     The only ones there were the Arch Monk and the Patriarch. The Arch Priest’s seat was empty. The Patriarch was in his chair in the middle cleaning his glasses while the Arch Monk watched them all with a critical gaze inspecting them all one by one. Mien was certain he was looking at their feathers.

      Chairs had been brought as well as a podium. Icus stood there straightening up papers. There were eight chairs situated in front of him. Four of them were empty and other were occupied with Kellas Cole, Pace, and Roy. At least there was a six foot gap between them.

     Soletus took the seat that was right across from Kellas. He sat with his head high and his attention forward. Mien situated himself beside him and attempted to mirror him. However, his efforts were thwarted from his ears staring to ring. He held his left ear as it was making him uncomfortable. Tyrus gave Kellas and the others a dirty stare before doing the same. Doran looked at the floor before looking forward as well. Mien spied Captain Mallard off to the side. She sat against the wall with a host of soldiers waiting for the outcome.

    The door to the room opened again. Brother Hickory walked in followed by Master Tyr, Brother Nimbus, and a great deal of peaceguards in their wake. In fact, there were at least ten there. Four of them situated by the door. The other six positioned themselves with three behind them and three behind Kellas and his men.

     The last person to walk in was Brother Farley with a book and an inkwell. He sat at a little desk that was close to where Mien sat and opened the book and ink well. He became poised ready to write.

     The Arch Monk then stated. “I trust that Farley will set the date. I don’t think it’s necessary to go through every formality. I want to get through with this as soon as possible. I’ve a long day ahead of me and I would like to send Captain Mallard off. She’s waited long enough.” He glared at the row of them them and spoke with disappointment so heavy in his voice that Mien had to look away. “Never in my life have I been presented with such a case where there are multiple counts of serious misconduct and acts unbecoming of a warden.”

      Mien wasn’t sure who he was talking too as he managed to look at all of them.

     “Enforcer Icus has been looking through the series of terrible events I speak of, starting with the death of Junior Warden Lyndon’Pintail. I find First Warden Kellas’Rook directly responsible by recklessly endangering his band.”

     Mien felt Soletus beside him jolt a little.

     “From there we go to the mass murder that happened in the Firerock Gorge. And I find once again First Warden Kellas’Rook as well as ScoutWarden Cole’Redtail, Warden Pace’Gander, and Warden Roy’Teal are guilty of actions unbecoming of a warden of this order.”

     Tyrus leaned into Mien and whispered. “He’s not even naming us in there nonsense.”

     “And of course I come down to the acts here on the grounds Cole’Redtail, Pace’Gander, Roy’Teal, you are guilty of the murder of Second Warden Valhart’Titmouse. Do you four have anything to say about your actions?”

     Clearly Icus had put everything together. However, Mien glanced over at Kellas and his men. They were sitting straight with their heads unbowed. There was no shame on their faces, as well as, no surprise that the conclusion had been reached. The first one who showed some reaction to it was Kellas.

     “Sir,” he said, his face unreadable. “Where are you getting these charges from?”
     The Arch Monk gestured to Icus to speak.

     The enforcer stepped forward and spoke. “Facts. A band trespassed and took it upon themselves to rid the world of a few peaceguards that have alluded us years ago. Not only did they find the wayward men, but killed them brutally and slaughtered the denizens of the gorge. Some were killed in a rock slide from an explosion, others were burned, some were picked off like animals on a hunt with arrows, and others appeared to be mauled by a bear. In fact a bloodied hunting knife belonging to Senior Junior Warden Soletus’Sheldmartin was found there.”

     “That doesn’t sound like my responsibility then,” said Kellas.

     “On the surface it doesn’t and along with the statements you wrote it makes sense. However, on deeper review of the evidence, I come to the conclusion that you lied.”

     “Why weren’t we even informed of this evidence before,” asked Kellas, displaying no sign of outraged or offense at being accused of lying. “We would prove we weren’t lying.”

     The Arch Monk presented the bloodied knife. “This was the knife buried in the chest of one of the peaceguards.”

     Kellas quirked a single eyebrow before it drew together with the other and became genuinely stunned.

     “It seems that Doran’Shrike was pressured into retrieving the knife from the late Second Warden Valhart’Titimouse where he had plans to use it in some fashion that we’ll never know. You had your men kill him. I assume it was going to be used to kill Acolyte Mientheoderic’Cyan. He agreed to do so from evidence I found on the late Brother Elnos. However, he attempted to murder him with a rock instead and probably needed to dispose of this.”

     “That’s hardly proof ,” said Kellas. “It’s conjecture at best.”

     “That’s why you must get to the truth other ways,” said Icus undaunted. “The truth was found out from Soletus allowing Brother Hickory to use the phrase of truth on him. It would be very difficult for him to lie. As Acolyte Mientheoderic’Cyan knows when he is lying as well. He was there too.”

     Kellas returned back to impassiveness. “There seems to be a bias here. Normally you have both the parties in dispute put through Brother Hickory’s abilities. Not only that, you kept us in the dark and the only news I have received was second hand. The most news I’ve gotten was a few days ago when told that the Arch Monk is rendering his judgment. We needed to prepare for it. Clearly those loyal and and I are being treated unfairly.”

     Icus clasped his hands behind his back. “There is no bias. I was trying to contain this situation. The eight of you only knew what you needed to. You and those who are loyal to you happened to need to know the least.”

     “You still don’t like me do you,” said Kellas. “You’re like Oeric, never quite gotten over the past.”

     The enforcer then continued on unruffled. “I didn’t trust you. That is the truth. I have a strong suspicion that if I tested you, the truth would be clouded with more lies. I needed something clear to condemn you and I have proof you lied.”

     A wry smile crossed Kellas’s face. “Where is this confirmation of where me and my men have lied.”

     “In the statements you and your men wrote. I knew you were lying based on a single fact. The time frame.”

     At that, Mien looked at the others and they looks just as baffled and intrigued as he felt. He then looked off to the side where Oeric stood. The man wore a slight smile on his face.

     “It’s the little details that get you in the end,” explained the enforcer. ”According to your statement, you went to the site of the attack on the merchant across the river. Crossings isn’t that far from that location. In fact, it’s less than a day. You claimed to have spent the night there and then came back.

      “Master Tyr had a chat with the towns’ folk to establish a time line. They spoke about the heavy rain that washed out their bridge. A number of witnesses stated you left days before it happened. If you didn’t pursue these young men and came back the following day, you should’ve crossed that bridge with no problem.”

      Kellas didn’t so much as blink.

     “If you count the days, it makes no sense why you took so long to return. If you read the statements written by this group of young men, theirs make sense why it took them so long. Did something else happened your not telling us?”

     The first warden said nothing. Icus went on.

     “Perhaps you thought no one would know what happened in the gorge. That no one would be alive or would be too frightened to tell. Maybe you thought these young men were traumatized enough that they would be too scared to return. Either way, you weren’t counting on this knife and Captain Mallard over there. Do you know why she is here?”

     Kellas glance in her direction.“I suspect to arrest someone.”

     “Indeed. Do you know why?”

     “Because there was a mass murder and now the Seat cares about the wretches of the world,” said Kellas darkly.

     “There were two non-wretches in the gorge, Kellas,” spoke the Arch Monk.

     Icus went on to explain. “Captain Mallard is from special operations. She had two of her warrant officers spying in the gorge. They were trying to capture a trafficker. She was station at the nearby fort when she received reports of explosions. Her scouts saw smoke in the distance towards the gorge. She decided to send in a messenger to her spies to see if everything was alright, instead they got news of their demise. One of her men was mauled to death by a bear, the other was shot in the back in the woods some distance away. He was clearly trying to flee. She had been very insistent that I hand over the wardens who murdered her men. The Seat wants justice and we have to oblige.”

     “You don’t,” said Kellas. “You have the right to intervene. To find us guilty of our sins and we submit ourselves to a penitence.”

     With that Cole, Pace, and Roy agreed with a nod.

     The Arch Monk’s mouth down-turned. “And I choose not to exercise that right. You have acted against this order.”

     Kellas’s expression darkened. “I acted for the sake of this order. The Brotherhood deals with their own and the Seat supports us in this right. I dealt with those Peaceguards.”
     The Arch Monk voice came down on him like a hammer. “They were outside of our province. With permission from the Seat, I would have allowed you to pursue. However, you took it upon yourself to deal what, justice? You should’ve brought them back here. More importantly, in the pursuit of three men, you didn’t need to kill an entire gorge of people.”

     “But their crimes were still committed in these walls. As for those in the gorge, it needed to be cleansed of the sin our order committed in there. Those peaceguards taught them our ways for wrongdoing. Our training is to be used to help the people, it’s part of the vows you take. I made sure that was still being upheld. Those spies were just unfortunate casualties. As for Valhart, he too was a sinner. He was unworthy given what he had done for Elnos. I found that out after we come home and dealt with both those problems.”

     Mien felt his stomach twist. The first time he met Kellas, he didn’t like him. He couldn’t put it in words. There were no words to describe the voice of the person he was listening too. A sense of wrongness also cascaded over him. He didn’t know it if it was the ringing of what, but something wasn’t right.

     He caught side of movement and saw Brother Hickory edging closer to them. He stopped, looked puzzled, and turn his ear towards them, and kept going until he was a few feet behind the peaceguard that was behind Kellas.

     “In fact, Lyndon’s death was the only one I’m not responsible for. That was Soletus’s incompetence. In fact, he should be thanking me for avenging the death of his cousin. Something he was too weak to do.”

     Mien automatically reached out for Soletus’s arm as he shifted in his chair. His jaws were tight with his entire body becoming just as tense. He clenched his fists but didn’t move. He didn’t have to speak for Mien to feel the brewing storm him.

     The Arch Monk looked the same. “You ask me to stay your arrest yet here you are talking about vengeance. Nothing in our rules allow us to be judge and executioner! There are only a few circumstances where killing would be forgiven by us and this isn’t one of those moments. You went too far.”

     “I went farther then you because your weak,” he retorted. “I’ve always done what others in this order wouldn’t do. Even yourself. Now you’re afraid.”

     The Patriarch cleared his throat before Solgard breathed out his return. The younger man pulled his glasses on his face, and said in a low but firm voice. “Enough! I heard enough that it’s making me sick. You came in here expecting that we would protect you. We won’t shield you, not from this.”

     Kellas then tried again, “The rules state—”

     “I am very familiar with the rules,” said Lord Kharis. “And I’m not going to debate them with you. I hereby remove you from the Brotherhood. You are no longer welcomed in our order or on its grounds. You are turn in your sash and turn yourself into Captain Mallard as she would like to have words with you.”

     “No,” said Kellas standing and pulled out something silver and round from his pocket. It was about the size of a small egg. It wasn’t solid as far as Mien could see as it had intricate lacing around something inside it. He couldn’t see what it was, but it was the source of the ringing as it had gotten louder the moment he took it out. And then an aged hand snatched his wrist.

     “Drop it,” ordered Brother Hickory.

     Kellas face twitched as his hand struggled to grip the object. The peaceguard beside of Hickory plucked it from his hands.

     “Be careful with that,” said Hickory, his teal eyes shifted to a hot bright blue.
     The peaceguard gulped and stepped away just as Cole jumped from his seat and tackled the man down. The object flew through the air and landed on the floor. It clicked and released a cacophony of jagged sounds. They slammed into Mien’s ears. He slapped his hands over his ears and fell out of his chair.

     Through the tears that welted in his eyes, he could see the device. It had rolled to the edge of the rise in the floor where the head’s chairs was. The problem was he couldn’t reach for it because of the dissonance coming from it was maddening. He didn’t know what it was but it was clear that he wasn’t the only one in the room effected by it. Everyone was struggling to stand and falling on their knees.

     The struggle that was Kellas, Hickory, the peaceguard, and Cole had gone to the floor with each of them having trouble fighting. Brother Hickory couldn’t keep hold of Kellas and was now curled on the floor with his fingers in his ears. Kellas was trying to untangle himself from him and was crawling away. Soletus was on his hands and knees and grabbed Kellas by his left ankle. Pace and Roy started kicking him to let go as they were trying to help Kellas to his feet. Doran crawled around and threw himself at Cole’s back and wraped his arms around his neck and wrestled him back down. Oeric who had been standing, stumbled, trying to make his way to the device and ended up getting down to his knees stuffing his fingers in his ears.

     The sound was now effecting Mien’s inner ear and all he felt was vertigo. He glared at the device and tried to utter out the phrase of silence at it. However, he didn’t think it would work. He wasn’t compelled to use it. He tried anyway and found he couldn’t silence objects. It just continued banging on his head.

     It was then Tyrus came into view. He was crawling towards the device with determination. When he was enough to it with, he raised his fist and slammed down on it. He struck it again and again growling at it. The sound from it waiver a little, but he needed a hammer to stop it.

     It was then the air by the object shimmered and a bear manifested into existence. Khodi snatched the device in his jaws and crunched it. The noise from it blinked and then it started up again this time in a nerve wracking squealing. It was comparative to fingernails on slate. Khodi’s chomped it again. The squealing stopped. It chimed once before it went silent and the bear spit it out.

     The consort then turned to help his summoner. His first swipe pulled Roy off of Soletus. The second swipe, batted Pace away. Soletus let go of Kellas and her tried to get up and Khodi pulled him down by the back of his sash and rolled him so the consort could plant a paw on his chest and roared in his face.

     Soletus stood to his feet and leaned against the backrest of the closest chair while all the peaceguards took hold of those loyal to Kellas.

     “What are you waiting for,” taunted Kellas. “You said that you would kill me if I ordered you again. Well I’m ordering you to do it!”

     Soletus’s eyes narrowed and Khodi adjusted himself so his jaws engulfed Kellas’s neck, but he didn’t bite down. Mien heard the sounds of unsheathing swords and saw that the soldiers had recovered themselves looking at Soletus, Khodi, and Kellas not knowing what to do.

     Mien stood up and shouted. “Soletus stop!”

     The young man looked coolly at him. “This man is a monster. I kill monsters.”
     “But can you become worse than him though,” said Mien.

     “Come on, I can feel his teeth. Or are you too much of a neth coward to do what is needed to be done,” said Kellas.

     “Soletus,” said Oeric walking behind his son and wrapped an arm across his chest. “It won’t being him back. Don’t lose control of Khodi again, call him back.”

     “He deserve to die,” rasped Soletus hoarsely.

     “You don’t belief that. You know it’s wrong,” he said softly. “I wanted to send a knife in his black heart long ago, but that’s not our way. The families of those he killed deserve answers. You don’t want to take away those answer like he took away those you wanted from Valhart.”

     Mien reached for his forearm and held it. “Please, you don’t want to walk down this path, my friend.”

     Soletus clasped his father’s hand and closed his eyes. Khodi lifted his head. “Get ready to take him so I can move Khodi,” he said to the soldiers.

     “Do as he says,” order Mallard.

     The soldier hesitated.

     “Just do it already!” she said with her sword in hand and glared at Soletus.
     He then ordered Khodi to get off of Kellas and they pulled the man up and shackled him as well as the others. The bear walked over to Soletus. The young monk got to his knees and buried his face in his fur.

     “And this is why I greatly dislike dealing Brotherhood,” she muttered and shouted to her men. “Take them out of here. We’re going to the fort. We stayed here long enough.” She lingered and said to the Arch Monk, looking at Soletus. “You harboring some dangerous men here.”

     Icus then said. “These men are trained to stop threats with a consort if they can. And an angry elf with a sword is just dangerous as a elf with a consort that can and will engage in combat.”

     Captain Mallard sheathed her sword. “Very well. I didn’t see anything then. For the record, the Brotherhood handed me who I wanted without much fuss.” She then turned to Icus. “I’ll send you a message in a few days. Keep your boys, I have no use for them.”
     With that, she strolled out with the rest of her soldiers trailing her.

     “I believe a break is in order,” said the Patriarch, flopping in his chair. “Also, what was that!”

     Hickory walked over looking very pale and disheveled. “Old Kanu technology. Likely a device to render a person and even chanters unable to move with sound. Vlory may be able to tell us more.”

     “I could feel it,” said Mien and he plopped himself down in a chair. The world still spun. “Days ago, I felt it. Why are all Kanu devices so noisy.”

     “I felt it too, I but didn’t know what it was,” he said and pointed to the floor. “Lie down, you look as if your going to be sick, Lad.”

     Mien laid stretched out using Khodi as a support. Soon, several priest arrived wondering what they heard. They were then sent to get water and help a few of the peaceguards to the infirmary. Mien wanted to go as well, however, Kiao appeared. He really wanted to lay his head in her lap. However, he sufficed with warm fur and a cool cloth laying across his eyes. Tyrus and Doran both lay on the other side of Khodi. He felt like a real bear and thankfully didn’t smell like one.

     Soletus settled down beside of Mien. The young chanter spoke when no one was paying attention to them. “I wish I could’ve stopped it,” he said.

     “Why couldn’t you silence it,” asked Soletus.

     “It’s an object. Apparently I can’t silence those,” he answered.

     Doran then asked. “How was Tyrus able to hit it?”

     Mien shrugged. “If I had to guess it because he’s an half-elf. Humans are said to be magic resistant.”

     Tyrus chuckled. “It still hurt my ears though. I just didn’t feel crippled.”

     “I still feel crippled,” said Mien.

     The Arch Monk then joined them sitting down in one of the chairs followed by Icus.
     “I may have to forgo a few more formalities as that racket has given me a terrible headache.”

     Kiao said from Oeric’s side. “If you like, I can get you something for that.”

     The Arch Monk held his palm forward. “I’ll have it later. Right now, I think I need to speak to these four young men. Clearly there has been a breech in conduct in Kellas part, however I still need to come to some kind of conclusion about yours.”

     Tyrus was the first to speak up. “Sir, what is there to conclude? Kellas showed right here why we decided disobeyed his orders and followed Soletus. He did nothing to Val-Val…I mean Second Warden Valhart for striking Mien down. Sure he got right pissed about it, but he didn’t do anything more than that. He just left him in the dirt. He was going to do the same to Lyndon as well. I know we focus on the living, but the living, wanted to do right by our fallen brothers and he didn’t respect that Soletus did.”

     “Agreed,” said Doran. “And Soletus had been trying to stop him. In the inn, we discussed what we were going to do. Kellas wanted us to go no matter what. However, Soletus convinced him to hold it to a vote because he wanted us to have a voice.”

     “So what were we supposed to do,” asked Tyrus. “Just follow orders?”

     Soletus then added his piece. “And there lies the issue because the rules state that we do. Junior wardens and warders need to listen to their superiors. And that’s fine, when our superiors are in the right. However, that clearly doesn’t work for every case. Your second warden will not always be a intermediary and help you.”

     “Yep,” said Tyrus with a nod. “Valhart would laugh at you in your face if you wanted something from him, especially if it met going against Kellas. None of the other senior wardens would help either.”

     “So without a second or any senior warden willing to help us, we were left with no choice we had to commit insubordination or did you expect us to just follow orders,” said Soletus.

     The Arch Monk then stated. “You did follow orders and you trespassed into the gorge.”

     “I followed orders under duress because Valhart never discussed things with you. He threatened you, he dismissed you, and he actively worked against you. As I said in my statement, I also followed Kellas because I thought he would reasonable and turn around.”

     The older monk severity didn’t lift up. “Yes you said a good many things in your statement. And as I found it all very interesting, something does jump out at me, you seem to take issue with authority.”

     Soletus pushed himself up right. “I take issue with authority when they aren’t held to a meaningful standard. First and second wardens aren’t held accountable for their actions. But there is a system in place that punishes junior wardens. They get blacklisted or in my case I got harassed because I wanted to leave Kellas’s band. If I spoke out, I would be blacklisted. So I had to put up with it with my words unheard. And that was what Kellas expected. For us to be without a voice and be blamed so he could get away with murder.”

     “And you nearly became a murderer just now,” snapped the Arch Monk. “I expect you to have self-control. No, you’re just like your father. Touched by some craziness.”

     It was then the Patriarch intervened. “Solgard, sometimes you can be completely obtuse. Your grandson has had the absolute worse thing happen to him.”

     “I know what it’s like to have someone die in your arms, Kharis,” he snapped. “I didn’t go out and kill those who killed my wife.”

     “But she wasn’t your first death. By that time you had enough experience for it not to leave you raw. And that feeling doesn’t go away if you aren’t allowed to mourn. When did he get a real chance to do that? He had to bury the dead and from their statement, it was a gory site to behold. Then he had to worry about the health of a friend, try to make good decisions about where to go and what to do. Come up with a plan to deal with a husk and figure out a way to aid a young chanter about to die a very horrid death. Before all of this, he was nearly killed. And you get on him for threatening the person responsible for that. You should commend him for the self-control to stop.”

     “Kharis, you aren’t a monk. You don’t fully understand what is and isn’t expected of our monks. I expect more from my grandson.”

     “What I expect is my monks not to commit mass murder,” he shouted, becoming the lord he was and stood tall. “What I expect is not to wake up and find the dead on these grounds and in my town! What I expect is for warders and junior warden to not be afraid to speak out against being treated poorly by their first and second was as well for it to be written off. In my opinion, this situation could’ve been avoided if Soletus wasn’t kept in Kellas’s band!”

     Soletus swayed his head. “I wouldn’t go as far to say that. This situation would’ve never happened if I weren’t so afraid of being called out.”

     “You shouldn’t be afraid in the first place,” said the Patriarch. “You shouldn’t have to hide.”

     “Agreed,” said Brother Hickory. “Punishing him will do him no good. Give him to me. This young man ragged.”

     “I’m fine,” exclaimed Soletus. He started breathing heavily and shakily.

     Brother Hickory lowered himself down to his side. “You know that isn’t true.”

     Soletus smashed his palms in his eyes. “No. I’m…fine,” he coughed out a sob and wiped his face. “I’m fine. I just… I want to go home. That’s all I want right now.”

     “And you will, regardless of what your grandfather might say,” said Hickory.

     The Arch Monk frowned and before he could argue the Patriarch cut him off.

     “Then do so. And I happen agree with what Soletus said in his statement. It’s time to review our rules. Kellas might seem like a rarity, but without a standard, they stay hidden too long until something like this happens and a poison spreads. It already has.”

     The Arch Monk massaged his forehead. “Fine, the only thing that’s left is you Junior Warden Doran’Shrike.”

     Doran bowed his head and stood. He unwound the sash around his waist and got on his knees in front of the Arch Monk. He held it out for him to take. “I think it’s fair for me to turn in my sash. I am unworthy as a monk. I’ve not acted responsibly according to the rules of the order and as well as Dias. Not just for what I currently did but my past actions.”

     The Arch Monk pushed his hands back. “I don’t accept. You showed humility when four adults failed do so today. However, I think a suspension and some sort of penitence is necessary in your case. We well talk about it later.”

     Icus then said. “There is one more thing here and that’s the Acolyte. He should be commended for his actions.”

     “Excuse me,” said Mien searching his face.

     “You seem to have this ability to act in dangerous situations and abandon all care yourself to save others. Bravery is a strong trait of yours,” said Icus. “In fact, your peers pushed for you be acquitted because of all you had done for their sake.”

     Mien looked at Tyrus, Doran, and Soletus stunned.

     Soletus then explained, “We decided on the road that since you were going in front of the Arbiter, this shouldn’t affect that. If one of us had to be free, it was you.”

     The Arch Monk cleared his throat. “Then I will call for an assembly tomorrow so everyone will know what he’s done. Farley, have you written all of this down?”

     Mien forgotten about the priest and saw him still seated at the small desk. His hair was a little out of place and his robe ruffled. However, he dutifully was writing and nodded. “Every bit, Sir.”

     “Good. I’m done here. I’m going to my chambers. My head can’t take anymore.”

     With that the Arch Monk rose to his feet and left them.

     Icus then stated. “You four are free to go about your business. I feel there is an apology in order on my part. I couldn’t proceed without taking certain steps. If Kellas found out anything, I wanted it to make it looked like you were my primary focus and not him. However, that gave him time to kill Valhart before he could answer for his own actions. I’m sorry for that too.”

     “Apology accepted,” said Soletus. Doran and Tyrus agreed verbally as well. Mien just nodded.

     Icus took that as a signal to leave and retreated. Soletus then fell back against his consort.

     Mien leaned back into position he started in and put the cloth back over his eyes.

     “So, the adventure is finally over,” said Soletus.

     Mien then muttered, “It better be. My head hurts too much to save anyone else.”

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