Mien burst outside, searching for a dark quiet place to hide. While night had fallen, it wasn’t quiet at all. There were crickets all around him chirping. He slapped his hands over his sensitive ears to block out their grating song. That only controlled half of the influx of sound that hit him. It didn’t stop him from hearing Brother Hickory’s timbre in his mind. Neither did it stop him from sensing the ward that lay inside of the house the Sheldmartin’s as well as the house beside it. Nor from him picking up the faint timbre that Soletus had.
He started pacing from one end of the yard to the other to gain control over his senses. As he moved, his clothing went across his skin making it itchy and crawling. He pulled off his shirt without pause to his pacing and threw it to the side. If he had been in his room, he would’ve tore off his trousers and shorts as well. In doing so, he uncovered his ears making his head feel like it was going to explode. Mien doubled over clamping his ears on his head again. Then the worse of it came. The sound that that chanters described as the chorus of the world.
To weaker chanters, it was only white noise they could easily ignore or shut out. The Arch Priest described it as the most glorious sound in the world. To Mien, it was a collection of magical voices all trying to whisper to him at once. It wasn’t loud as much as it was overwhelming on top of everything else. He heard it first when he was a child. He was about twelve and was sitting through a lecture with his tutor and his mind drifted off daydreaming. For an instant, harmonious chatter cried out in his mind. It snapped him back awake and scared him so much that he jumped out of his chair surprising tutor and was jumpy for the rest of the day.
What he was experiencing in the present was much worse than that little scare. He couldn’t take the sensory overload. There was only one thing he could do in that situation and that was use the phrase of silence on himself. He shouted out the phrase and a blanket of hushed the racket in his mind. He knew no other chanters liked it. They didn’t like their enhanced senses taken away or disconnected from Dias’s quintessence. It induced anxiety and paranoia in them. To Mien, it was a great relief. He loved silence. He could think and recover now.
His feverishness started to let up. He was able to feel the chill in the night air with his fingertips. Heat still radiated from his magical heart though making his chest the only warm part of him. He stopped pacing to get his actual heart to slow down. It was beating rapidly as he had run around the field with Oeric barking at him to keep running. He dropped down on the ground, splaying his arms and legs out. He shut his eyes to take in the comfort of the quiet earth.
Mien laid there meditating thoughtlessly until he felt rough fur brush his hand. He jerked awake in time to feel Onyx sniff the crown of his head. It felt funny feeling her warm breath stirring his hair and not hear it or being able to see the obsidian hound. Her tongue started going over his cheek to see if he were okay. Mien pushed her head away and patted her on the neck. She often did that do Soletus and like him she flopped down beside him. Her bristly fur stabbed his skin, and he scooted over resting a hand on her shoulder.
He tried to rest again rather than sort through the embarrassing whirl of emotions and desires he felt earlier. He didn’t even want to move even when his hearing came back. He was mentally tired for fighting with himself as well as physically tired from running and walking.
Mien saw light at the corner of his eyelids followed by the sound of flapping robes as someone walked towards him. Onyx let out a warning growl from her chest. Mien patted her shoulders and she fell silent. Hickory didn’t settle down beside him. Instead, he sat on one of the stumps that Oeric had arranged around a fire pit in front of Cordea’s vegetable garden a few feet away.
“There is food on the inside. From what I was told, you need to eat,” said Hickory.
Mien opened his eyes and stared stars overhead in the inky darkness ahead. His hunger was the least of his worries.
“Well if you aren’t hungry, I need to speak with you.”
Mien opened his mouth and asked quietly, “About?”
“Well for one thing, I should’ve caught you days ago because I know how change affects you at times. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve adapted nicely since you’ve come here, but to have one’s friend to deceive you, well that’s not something easy to accept.”
“She’s still the exact same Kiao she was when I thought she was a he,” said Mien and shuddered at his lie. It was clear she was a cute fascination that was smart and something he clearly liked. He definitely couldn’t go back to the point of him thinking of her as that smart young man who he enjoyed being friends with. The one who gladly taught him everything he wanted to learn even though Brother Oli wanted Kiao to slow down.
“I’ve a hard time believing that given you’ve seen who she is.”
Mien didn’t respond. He wanted to be left alone, however gone were the days the priest would back off.
“Kiao was worried about you,” persisted the older priest. “She thought she might’ve hurt you.”
“She didn’t hurt me,” muttered Mien. He had hurt himself from being frightened and confused making him lose control.
“She did trigger something though. You don’t react like that, unless there is a trigger. She was it, I assume.”
How does he always know everything!
There was no way around not talking about it. So he asked as innocent sounding of a question that he could.
“Let’s say something did happen that makes me question my ability to interact with girls?”
“Well, as a chanter, you can’t be with just anyone,” stated Brother Hickory. “I was trying to tell your mother this. I supposed you’re old enough to know that no amount of cajoling, flattery, gifts, passage of time, or how beautiful a girl appears, is going to make you like them. It’s all in their voice. In your case, that weighs more because of your timbre sensitivity.”
“Hypothetically, what if I’m draw towards someone instead of repulsed?”
“Depends if it’s just their voice or magical timbre?”
“Is there a difference,” asked Mien softly hoping there wasn’t.
“Being draw into a voice is like being attracted to another’s personality or physical features. Being drawn into someone’s, timber, well in your case, that’s a complication.”
Mien groaned inwardly, A complication, I would’ve never guessed. He folded his arms hugging himself.
Hickory clasped his hands together, “Lad, if you need to tell me something, I am here to help.”
Mien never liked revealing things about him. Even if he couldn’t deal with them, he wanted to deal with them alone. As a boy, he was afraid of what people might think because he didn’t like being mocked. Everyone he knew currently wouldn’t, however, they would try to help. They’ll just make him do things he wasn’t good at or fond of or talk to him to work things out. Though, Mien had to admit talking to someone and getting assistance wasn’t too bad. He didn’t want to always be need of assistance though. He didn’t want to be a complication or an inconvenience.
Hickory sighed. “Would it help if I tell you I’m not going to get mad at you because it’s out of your control?”
Mien laughed. “Is there anything about being timbre sensitive that’s in my control? Can I have contact with someone or think they’re pretty without getting so fixated on them!”
Hickory rubbed his forehead. “Mien, we’ve a problem.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” he exclaimed sitting up. “Oh I know the phrase of silence, that’s a problem. I’m timbre sensitive, that’s a problem. I’m too excitable, that’s a problem. I can only burst heal, that’s a problem. I’m always a problem, always deficient and now I can’t even be around females because I magically l latch onto them because I’m attracted to their timbres.”
Brother Hickory swayed his head patient as ever. “Mien, you aren’t a problem. You have a few complexities about you that are problematic. Chanters are already drawn to other chanters. They’ll make friend with chanters or even those who are chanter gifted easier than a normal person; call it a preference. However, if you were drawn to Kiao’s magical timbre, then this isn’t a simple case of preference. It’s something of a quirk between two chanters. The only advantage of the separation between the sisterhood and the brotherhood is that chanters don’t end up bonding with one another. Once it’s established, the two usually end up being mates.”
Mien started laughing. There was no amusement in his chortling. It was the sort of laughter one let out when they knew their situation was too outrageous for anything else. However, Mien could hear that manic note in his voice he hated.
Hickory heard it too and stood to his feet. “It’s obvious you’ve overexcited yourself today. You can spend the night in the chapel and we can talk this out tomorrow.”
Mien sat up and regarded him directly. “No, no, no, you don’t’ get to say something like that and try to tuck me into bed.”
“I think with a clearer mind-,”
“No,” Mien exclaimed. “I want to know why my abilities control everything I do to the point I can’t choose who I want to spend the rest of my life with!”
“Calm down lad.”
Mien then shouted, “You don’t know what I felt!”
Brother Hickory looked at him thoughtfully. “I don’t, however, it had to be something strong if it terrified you.
Mien swallowed to soothe the rawness he felt from yelling, and stared at his hands. He spoke with more control. “It was wonderful as well as terrifying going from admiration to yearning after someone to the point you feel like a rutting stag. It’s like starting sitting by a warm fire to getting thrown in it. That’s not normal! Why can’t I be normal?”
Brother Hickory settled back down and told him gently, “You’re a chanter, we don’t get the luxury of being normal.”
Mien hung his head down. “And what about Kiao? She doesn’t feel this so what’s the point if it’s one-sided?”
“Overtime she will form an attachment towards you. However, you still have to earn her affection in the same way normal people do.”
Mien didn’t like the thought of doing any of that. Looking, appreciating, and admiring Kiao was fine. Purposely fostering a relationship with her was out of the question. The entire thought scared him. She would be the person who would know him the most. He didn’t have much to show anyone. Mien didn’t even try to hide his dismay on his face.
Brother Hickory sighed. “Clearly, you are still too young for this which makes this situation odd. I’m worried given your sensitivity effects your sense of touch, I fear getting physically close to someone will be difficult. Overtime, you can become desensitized, before then, I’m afraid it might cause you so much discomfort you’ll just avoid being with another altogether.”
Good, thought Mien. I don’t want to be near her if this is going to happen every time.
“Maybe if you were older I wouldn’t worry,” went on Hickory. “Generally a chanter makes this discovery when their older and control isn’t an issue. However, given that it is, you need to tell Kiao.”
All the blood drained from Mien’s face and a lump the size of a melon formed in the young tod’s throat. “Why would I do that,” he croaked.
“This isn’t some boyish fascination that’s going to go away.”
“She’ll hate me for it.”
Brother Hickory scratched the back of his neck. “She won’t hate you, but I can’t guarantee she’ll be happy with it. She’s independent and likes doing things her way. She will have to come to terms with it on her own.”
“I’m not her ideal!”
“Ideals are funny things. They often times aren’t what you need.”
“And how exactly am I what she needs or anyone for that matter,” asked Mien, though it wasn’t exactly a question the older priest could answer. He knew that.
“One day, you two will understand it, however, out of the two, you’re the one with a lot of growing to do. Besides, just because you formed this bond, doesn’t mean you do everything at once. You’re first course of action is to tell her.”
“And what’s that going to do?”
“Inform her that this entire affair scares you and that and you want her to have all the space that she wants-”
“I rather she like who she wants and not bother with me,” interrupted Mien. He didn’t want to stand against her wanting to be with Soletus. Brother Hickory, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care.
“I can see why you’re in a bit of conflict,” he said. “I might be neth, but I know when I see a young woman making the motions of trying to snag a young man. She might be subtle, can mislead Oli into believing all her heart is into working in the infirmary, and point Alder’s bad intuition in the wrong direction, however I know.”
Mien stared at the priest curious at the fact how he knew.
“The obvious is her age. And she’s never been interested in becoming close friends with someone outside of the infirmary until you arrived. I wasn’t sure until, there wasn’t a day she didn’t sit with Soletus during his training with Ealdred.”
“Well if you know she likes Soletus then what right do I have to stop her and stand in her way?”
“Well, you’re not. They aren’t going to work out and I’m not saying that because of what you just revealed.”
Mien tilted his head shocked he would say that with surety.
“You’re going to have to take my word for it,” said the older chanter priest. “Now, if you would like, Cordea warmed up a little something for you so you can head off to the monastery.”
Mien felt hesitant about returning inside. Kiao was still there.
“If you are worry about your reaction, I doubt it will happen again,” assured Hickory standing and guided his golden twinkling starlight ahead of him while picking up Mien’s shirt. The young tod however lingered on the ground.
“Is there anything else or are you exhausted,” questioned Hickory?
Mien rubbed his eyes. “Exhausted, he said.
He quietly hoped the following day was uneventful so he could hide in his room for most of it and avoid Kiao.