Kiao stepped out into the now fading light of the day to the empty monastery grounds. There were voices in the distance, likely straggling monks leaving the mess hall for bed. She wished one of them would come closer because she didn’t want to have the likely lecture that was coming. Maybe jump to conclusions. However, when he settled in front of her, he didn’t look like a man about berate a child in. Instead, he rested his hands on his hips and studied the ground for answers before he straightened up and spoke.
“I don’t really want to have a conversation like this. I don’t want to get in your way or tell you what to do regarding the two of you, but I’m concerned.”
“I know, seeing that is a little disconcerting,” said Kiao. “But it’s not something unusual for Mien.”
“I get that, but that doesn’t seem like something to ignore. A healer should always help a distressed patient. However, you blocked me from even looking at him or even reassured him that it was okay.”
“That wasn’t anything you could help with,” she explained. “He doesn’t want to be touched let alone being examined in that state. It’s better to leave him alone and let him calm down.”
“And what was the cause of it,” he inquired.
“You have to talk to Mien about it,” she replied.
Jaron uncertainty faded and he became stern. “You are always protective of everyone one of these lads, especially him. Don’t you think as a male, a young man that he’s going to grow up being, you think you should stop doing so?”
Kiao face tightened. “I’m probably the hardest on him.”
“I’ve not noticed. I hardly know any of you. And I get it, Brother Oliver raised Alder, gave you a chance, provided Mien with means to grow, and gave Lionel a home. And I’m the replacement you didn’t ask for.”
Kiao never thought he felt that way. He didn’t exactly go out of his way to learn about them either. They also never treated him like he was unwanted, but maybe, they didn’t exactly make him feel wanted. However, why did he have to pick that night of all nights to have this discussion with her and a subject that was difficult even for her to speak about.
Jaron exhaled and became even toned again. “There are going to be changes. I don’t know what, but Brother Lorthan is dead. And if Brother Oliver’s wishes weren’t respected, I’m certain the assembly may go against with the former arch priest deemed okay. Whatever may come, you’re going to have to learn to trust me.”
“And I’m telling you, ask Mien, but I’m warning you, he wouldn’t want to talk to you about it,” she pressed. “It’s embarrassing to him and only effects the two of us.”
“What am I going to do, judge him for it? I’m I going to tell everyone like some common gossiper. We are healers. We see all that is wrong, damaged, and deformed. Those who urinate, vomit, and defecate on themselves. I would think that two of you are mature enough to know that I’m not going to make him feel bad for what is out of his control.”
Kiao finally found the family resemblance. That annoying persistence to get answers wasn’t wholly an Icus thing. “Talk to Mien about this.”
Jaron sighed. “I’m not as empathic as say Mien or even Lionel, but I can feel distress. He was straining and fighting himself.”
“That’s because he trying to wrangle control of himself again,” she explained, wanting to leave it at that.
“And he lost control of himself how?”
“Me,” she said. “Because of me. That’s all I’m going to say. I feel terrible enough while having to watch it happen. And before you think it’s new, this happened before, and probably will happen again until he figures it out. He always figures these things out.”
Jaron didn’t look as if he was going to drop it. “So, this is something he needs to figure out alone?”
“Vlory is the best person to help him. If you desperately wish to have it explained, then ask her.”
Kiao hoped that was enough to end the crisis before her, however, the older chanter still wore his displeasure of the situation he witnessed.
“As much as I like Vlory, she has a unique way of explaining things,” he said. “Having a straight answer would be better.”
At this point, she didn’t know what would be worse, telling her father she kissed Mien or him.
Jaron then stated gently. “I don’t want to be your enemy. I really want to understand this. Is this connected with the fact to the assembly and Rastor constantly questioning me about you two.”
“That’s easy to explain despite the face it’s a combination of things. They didn’t like the fact Mien was brought here. They felt we were catering to a patron and tackling something that was better left to the Seat to deal with. Since he is a noble’s child, he’s undeserving of being a chanter. And like Vlory, he can tell truths and that makes them nervous.”
“I imagine he’s abilities as a combat chanter makes the chanters in the assembly nervous because what it means…well, traditionally.”
“Maybe if they didn’t languish around, that wouldn’t fear his ability to thwart them if they did anything. Or I think that’s what the Arch Priest was trying to tell me one day. Despite Vlory calling him Reckoner, he’s not here to bring doom on anyone here.”
Jaron bobbed his head. “Maybe it isn’t us he’s going to bring doom on. Anyway, Rastor told me to watch the two of you mostly to see if his aggressive protective tendencies of you have gotten stronger.”
“What they should worry about is if he is controlling, but they aren’t. That too logical. They don’t like him protecting me and use it as fuel to say he’s an uncontrollable threat. A single explanation from Vlory would clear up how the bond works. Also, they don’t like me because I’m just as undeserving. I lied to them, and nothing was done. So, this all about control and punishing us basically.”
Jaron raised his eyes to the sky and let out a sigh. “I didn’t come back here to play games. I’m not here to tell you what to do or be some authority over your personal life, just your duty in the infirmary. And as a healer, I really want to know why Mien was like that. That’s it. The reason why I keep pressing this because there was something I noted about his distress. He was trying not to hurt you.”
Kiao smashed her lips together as she stood there indecisive on what to say. They started to hurt and decided to relent. “All he did, was try to kiss me.”
She thought that was enough for him to put it all together. He didn’t think very long before his brow crinkled and spoke. “Oh.”
“There is a channel between the two of us and he was fighting to keep that closed on top of everything else. I can use it enter his dreams. He can use it to project his emotions.”
Jaron looked stunned. “Clearly I’ve not dealt enough with timbre sensitive chanters. I should talk to him.”
“I’ll be surprised to see his face again tonight and he’s going to avoid you for at least a week, maybe two,” she warned and wishing the crisis was over now.
“I’ll imagine he would, but he should know that even for use typical chanters there is always a little different somewhere. Anyway, you’ve gave me a bit to think about,” he said.
“And you should do it at home,” stated Kiao. “It’s my night to watch the infirmary. Go home, unless you still need to deal with anything about Brother Lorthan dying.”
“He passed away shortly after his wife came to see him. She’s at the Patriarch’s house and is taking it hard. I left Lionel there to soothe her. I returned here in hopes no one came here while we were gone. I had to send Alder out. I don’t know when he will be back.”
“Well then it’s all settled,” she said happy that everything was concluded. “Get rest, because I knew these last few weeks have been stressful.”
Kiao grabbed the latch of the door and Jaron touched her upper arm.
“One more thing, Lady Priestess. You and theses lads are very impressive children. And I can see reason why Brother Oliver wanted you in charge but…”
“But,” she prompted.
“You’re not there yet. There is plenty room left to learn and grow. There is an entirely different world outside of the town walls. Even Brother Oliver, didn’t live here all his life. And given as much work you do for the town, maybe one day, you should consider, and post outside.”
“A post?” She had never even considered such a thing. Her focus was always the infirmary.
He nodded. “I think you are fully capable of leaving and serving for a town or an orphanage if you like children. There are chapels occupied all over the providence and a few outside of it.”
“I’ve never thought about it,” she told him.
“If you get experience, and if something were to happen to me, the Assembly and Arch Priest Rastor would consider you more of a viable option of taking my place. I rather you would.”
Kiao froze. She never expected him to say that and all at once, that desire to lead the infirmary rose to her. However, she remembered the words of her guide. She was warned that sometimes she couldn’t get what she wanted.
“I’ll think about it,” she stated.
“That’s all I ask,” he said. “I’ll be here first thing in the morning unless there is an emergency.”
Kiao said her goodbyes and then walked into the infirmary. The first place she went to was upstairs to claim the book given to her to read. She walked into her room and pulled out the chair pushed under her desk and sat. She would go back down shortly. She just wanted to see what was it that Brother Lorthan had to give her at his death. She opened the book and read the introduction, absentmindedly skimming, until two sentences caught her attention.
I write this as historical reference of the three matron priestesses who like the priesthood of both priest and priestess. They were just as faithful and wise as all their arch priest counterparts.
Kiao stopped breathing. She blinked and read the words again. A matron priestess used to be equivalent to the arch priest. They were mother to the entire order. And the significance of what was told to her hit her. Brother Lorthan basically told her, that he chose her. Kiao jumped from her seat and backed away from the book and stood in the middle of her room. She didn’t know what to think.
Something white was in the corner of her eyes and in the corner of the dimly lit room, was the staff she found. The confusion she felt left her mind. The braided wood was infused with tao stone was a strange heirloom from an unknown past found in an ancient temple. She had not doubt that Dias gave her the staff as she was compelled to take it and keep it safe. She wasn’t as possessive of it like before. But she did have a habit of polishing it or randomly picking it up to hold it.
She walked over and picked up the staff and rubbed her finger to the top of the staff where she and Vlory placed new stones into the sockets that held them. There was one of healing, one of light, and the last slot was empty. She talked to Mien about if they could figure out how to do it, they should set the last stone with their song. He told her, he rather put a stone with a phrase of protection or one of his light stones. She told him she didn’t want to burn the staff.
Lenneth carried a staff. It was said to glowed and could blind anyone who dared to hurt her. They could heal any wound and could sing any song. She didn’t know what wasn’t true, but she was who priestess aspired to be or at least those in High Perch. Kiao never really did. She could only be who she was. No one could walk the path of one of the greatest priestesses of all time. The only thing she could become was matron priestess.
“A lofty goal,” she said.
What could she do? What could she change for it to happen.
Then she remembered what the Patriarch wanted and what Brother Lorthan had told them. The former Arch Priest said it would and he needed to have patience. That change wouldn’t come until after the Arch Monk died. That the new Arch Monk would open the way. The thought terrified Kiao. How could she become an authority that Icus would accept? He was who the Arch Monk chosen. But then again, who said it was him? Maybe he would only be a surrogate and what he saw could take decades. However, there could have to be a shift, a change.
There was only one monk that was old enough to take the Arch Monk’s place and that was his son, Oeric. However, he stated again and again, he wasn’t interested. He disliked leadership roles. In that, he might’ve been perfect. He wasn’t reaching for authority. He had a great respect for women. He saw value in the huntresses, and they were likely the start of the future shieldsisters. However, how did she know that it was Oeric? It could still be Icus. There was no way to know who the monk was, however, it was very interesting that he had told her to go alone with him to find Soletus and help save Vlory.
Kiao felt her stomach sour a little. She didn’t like having the knowledge that she did. Mostly because she was given a piece of a bigger picture that was still vague.
“Why did he tell me this,” she cried.
The outer door to the infirmary creaked open. Kiao then let go of her staff and placed it against the wall. It had to be Mien leaving. “Wait!” she cried as she jogged down the stairs. Mien couldn’t claim he didn’t hear her unless he silenced himself. He didn’t and stood at the door watching her. His jerkin folded over his arms and his shirt had been untucked signaling he had taken it off at some point. He waited though is face was drawn with exhaustion. Kiao stopped an arm length away from him.
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” she whispered.
He winced slightly and wore a saggy smile. He gestured with his eyes in the direction of the dorms.
“I know,” she said. “I just wanted to tell you goodnight.”
He looked away from her, his face blooming red again.
“You know I don’t care,” she assured him. “I don’t have expectations other than you will be you.”
He then leaned forward and kissed her on her nose before pulling back quickly. He managed that mischievous grin again. She gave him a half-hearted swat and sent him off. When he left, the smile on her face wanned.
“Matron Priestess,” she muttered. “That’s not just a goal, but a challenge.”
It was something to work towards and it would be long. But she was an elf, the more time she was given, the better chance she had to make it all work.