The Sun and Stars pt. 1

     The chill of death situated inside of Kiao’s chest and wrapped itself around her magical heart. She leaned on the windowsill of one of the infirmaries windows wishing the summer sunbeam’s heat penetrated her skin. Sweat slicked the back of her neck as she shivered. It wasn’t a sign of sickness within her body. It was a sign of impending death. Something she wouldn’t get used to. She was told that as she aged, a healing chanter such sensation would lessen as she aged. It would just be like any other indication a chanter might feel. However, it was just the same as it was when she was a girl, unbearable. She could focus on anything else. It didn’t help that it came from someone she cared for very much.
     She looked across the empty infirmary. No one rested in the beds. She sent the last young man back to his room the previous evening. Told him if he had anymore “stomach pain” to come to her and she’ll make him a spot. The warder was trying to avoid a bully for the day. Normally she would report such things to Brother Oli however, he needn’t worry about bullying or anything anymore. She would tell Soletus when he got back later in the day. He could deal with it.
     Lionel came from the basement fanning his smock. “It’s hot in here,” he said.
     He didn’t feel the chill of death. He wasn’t a healing chanter. He was different, but in his own way, he likely knew what was going on.
     “Crack a window,” she said.
     Lionel all but run towards the window and let in a fresh breath before he went to the opposite side of the room to open another one to make the breeze a flowing one. However, instead of turning around and looked relieved. The tod stared out and leaned against the window. He became quiet. Seeing something she couldn’t.
     Kiao stood at her podium falling back into silence. There was laughter outside coming in from the grounds. A group of young warders were being rowdy. She hadn’t the heart to shout out them to shut up.
     “You know, you should go upstairs,” said he said abruptly.
     The young woman had been avoiding it. She was letting Alder stay up there. He should be. He was with Brother Oli the longest. The old priest was the only family he had. For Kiao, the gentle dotting priest was like a grandfather.
     Without a word, Kiao left the podium. Her ledger was left wide open as she ascended the stairs. When she stepped into the sparse living space of the older priest, she found Alder on the old priest’s bed and Brother Oli in his rocker gently going back and forth. He didn’t even crack an eye.
     “Hello, Lad,” he said to her with a slight smile, calling her the name he had for years. The term of endearment stuck when even when she was revealed to be herself and not a young man she pretended to be to get into the order. “Come to fetch Alder?”
     The young man jaws were tight as he looked up at her. Alder was the closest thing she had to a brother. And it hurt her to see his eyes on the verge of tears and gripping the book of poems tight in his hands.
     “Oh no, I was just checking up on you,” she said forcing cheer in her voice. “It’s a slow day.” She walked to the window. “It’s also stuffy in here. Been hot the last couple of days and I’m opening all the windows up here to keeps it cool.”
     Her hand touched the glass. It was a golden day as she called them. Perfect, as if there was nothing but peace in the world.
     “You’re a good bunch of children,” he said. “But you need to be downstairs.”
     “After I finish this poem,” said Alder.
     “Yes, I will go down too and fetch you another cup of tea,” said Kiao absently. “Yours has gone cold.”
     It indeed had. There on the round end table beside the rocking chair undrunk.
     “That’ll be nice,” said Oli softly.
     Alder started up again reading the poem. His voice not portraying the sorrow displayed as tears. Warmth, or what little she had left, fled. It felt like she stepped out in the bleakest of winter with the soles of her feet on a cold slab of rock.
     Outside the window, a mockingbird landed on the branches on the tree in front of her. It started singing as loud as its little voice could project. She listened to it the rocking chair stopped. Alder’s voice cracked and he stumbled on his words before he kept going to complete the final verse of the poem. Then mockingbird then flew away. Kiao remained where she was shivering and taking in deep breath.
     “Who’s going to tell Brother Hickory,” she muttered. Then again, the priest would probably know before anyone stepped through the threshold of the chapel. They were two sides of the same coin. Both powerful, both healers; one for the body and the other for the soul. He would notice a timbre missing in the many that hummed around them.
     Behind her, she heard something fall to the floor followed by a gasp. She turned around to see Alder bent over. The book of poems that he had picked out to read to the older priest a week ago, lay on the floor. His shoulders shook and she walked over to him glancing once at Brother Oli. He sat in his rocking chair with his head slumped down. If he had been breathing, she would’ve thought he was sleeping.
     Instead, she dropped beside her brother and reached out. He pulled himself towards her sobbing into her shoulders. She held him squeezing him tight. Her own tears freed themselves. Apparently, she had more to spill for the dead. Everyone always said the priest was nearly as old as the hills, however he would never out live them.

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