Kiao walked through the Priest’s wing to the room Brother Rastor had taken office. He had his own home in the town proper and needed somewhere to work out of. Brother Lorthan still occupied the arch priest’s quarters despite Rastor emergency take over. There was no reason to move him, so they didn’t. At least Rastor was on the far end of the priest’s wing and nowhere near the infirmary where he could become a pest.
When she came to his room, the door was open. He was still arranging things, placing books on a short wall shelf. She knocked on the door frame and he placed the last book in his hands on the shelf and regarded her with a warm smile. “Ah, there you are. I would offer you a seat, but I don’t think you will be in here long. Brother Lorthan wanted to speak with you. However, before you go to him, I wanted to talk to you about something.
“What is it,” she asked.
“I tried to talk to Brother Jaron about this and he directed me to you. We need Lionel as Brotherhood seer. Brother Lorthan is dying, and I can’t replace him in that role. However, Acolyte Lionel can.”
“He’s not ready for that,” said Kiao. “He’s having trouble with his edict still. He hasn’t come to terms with it.”
“He started his edict right after Brother Mien. They are the same age, and he got through with his quickly despite what he is,” argues Rastor.
Kiao took a deep breath and explained. “The length of an edicts depends on the chanter and the phrase. The phrase of insight is one of the more difficult ones. And Lionel hasn’t come to terms with what he was gifted,” she explained. “And comparing the two is unfair to Lionel. Mien’s is physical in his chanter abilities so to speak. Light, protection, and silence, the marks of a chanter who is equipped to deal a physical opponent. These aren’t things that taxes him mentally. Also, he received enough of monk style of training, so he has a stronger voice and will because of it.”
“It doesn’t change the fact order needs him as a seer,” he said. “I would like that role again to be renewed so we can have guidance.”
“The order then needs to wait,” she said. “Look, I’ve seen all sorts of dreams and vision from others. When I was younger, delving into them terrified me. I can’t imagine for someone who can experience such things sporadically during the day and when he sleeps with no breaks. Acceptance makes it easier. That’s the only way he can make a clear interpretation of something and be useful to the Brotherhood. ”
“What would be the best way to get him prepared?”
“Keep him in the infirmary for one thing,” she said. “He needs something to do that’s not just focusing on his visions. A haven so to speak with familiar people. The less he feels isolated, the better. Being an insight chanter is isolating enough. I can help him with a little, but this is his edict. He must figure it out. He’s likely going to have to be in Brother Hickory’s care if he doesn’t.”
Rastor laid a hand on the edge of his desk in contemplation . “I see. You seem to know everyone very well in the infirmary.”
“I work with them daily. Besides, they are all my friends,” she said. She wanted to say they were all her boys. She come to think of them as that. A bunch of brothers. They all worked together for a common cause, keep their fighting brother healthy and strong. That made her happy. The monastery was her home and her friends her family there. She didn’t want to leave another set of people behind. That contradicted with the unhappiness she felt. It was confusing.
“Interesting. Well, that all I wanted to talk to you about Sister Kiao.”
With that, Kiao left and walked down the hall where she had come from and entered the Arch Priest’s bedroom. His wife wasn’t there. In fact, these days, she wasn’t around a lot. She had family in town and spent her time with them. Kiao knew the reason why. The once bright elder was now nothing more than a gaunt white figure in bed. He aged so much in just a short period time. There was a odd progressive illness that would effect elves over the age of hundred. Their bodies would rapidly degenerate. There was no way to stop it, no way to cure it, however that wasn’t what was wrong with him. It just appeared that way. He wasn’t eating enough due to the fact, his mind wondered listening to the chorus of the world and visions.
However, when she entered the threshold of the dim room, she felt something familiar. There was a chill in the air. It was a warm late spring day just like the day a year ago when Brother Oli died. She stood paused in the room staring at the old wicker bed and the man in it.
“Don’t worry child,” he said, weakly. “All is happening as it should be happening.”
“You should rest,” she said.
“No,” he shook his head. “This is the time to talk.”
She sat on his bed. She ignored the chill. He likely knew what was coming.
“What do you think of Arch Priest Rastor? I want your honest opinion,” he said. His cloudy eyes had sharpened.
Kiao put her hands on her lap. “I think he means well. He wants the priesthood to be something more than it currently is and that good, but…”
“He’ll try and likely bridged a few gaps. However, there will always be a flaw. Those old priest who want things their way, are still on the assembly and he listens to them. There needs to be new voices, and none of them will allow it.”
The Arch Priest nodded sagely. “He is nothing more than a placeholder.”
“Excuse me,” she asked.
“A placeholder. A stand-in. A surrogate. Time isn’t the way I thought it would be. When I saw you sitting before me when I was introduced to you. It was strange,” he said. “You were flickering. One moment you were a girl, a young woman, and the Matron.”
Those words caught her attention. “The Matron? Like the matron Mother in the Sisterhood?”
The matron mother was just another name for the matriarch and that didn’t make sense. He of course didn’t answer her question.
“Then I would see you walking through the halls with a little one holding on to your skirt. Their hair, red as a fox’s,” he said he smiled. “That future has gotten so solid now. However, to get there, to what I’ve seen, steps must be taken. Some I didn’t see clearly and couldn’t lay plans. I see now, I have to trust Dias, pass it all off to another.” He then pointed to his bedstand. “I want you to have that book. It’s yours to keep. I found it in the bowels of the archives.”
Kiao picked up the volume. It felt fragile in her hands. The leather cover was dry. And as she opened the pages, the paper felt crispy. It was in poor shape. However, the writing in the book was still legible. And it was the label of the book that caught her surprise.
“The Brother and Sister of Dias, History of Matron Priestess,” she muttered and then her eyes widened. “This book is from High Perch!”
The Arch Monk nodded. “Yes, the orders ancient home. The it’s one of the few records written on the matrons who served before the great split. You will find answers there. That is my gift to you. Now I only ask you fetch my wife. She’s at the society house. Tell her to speak with me. I would like that.”
Kiao nodded, leaving the Arch Priest carrying her artifact with her. As that’s what if felt. It was such an old book on in need of conservation or just another copy made. For whatever reason, the archivist seemed to think the tome didn’t need another copy, however it was so time worn. She left and sat the book on the table in her room and then fetched his wife. She found her at the women’s society house sitting there looking out vaguely in front of her. She aged as well. The silver of her hair looked whiter and her skin translucent. She had no sharp words for Kiao, instead, took her news solemnly and left.
Kiao arrived at the Mossy Oak and was stunned at the sight she saw. Mien was stretched out on the couch against the wall with his head on her mother’s leg sleeping.
“Hello, Darling. He was tired that I took pity on him,” her mother whispered. “I feel like I’m Lady Tusu in the stories where Stag laid his head on her lap.”
Kiao attention then swung to her father sitting at the table reading a book with his feet propped up on the other chair.
He greeted his daughter with smile and then his attention fell back down on his book. “Personally, I would’ve let him go back to his own room. He doesn’t grant wishes.”
“You told him to rest too,” returned her mother.
“I said rest, not sleep. Acts like he’s one of us already,” muttered her father.
Kiao couldn’t shake her surprise. “He usually doesn’t do this sort of thing. He’s somewhat aloof with new people.”
“Well, he treated us to these delightful onion buns. Wished we had a stall like that in Summerset. He gobbled down two. I suppose, they made him sleepy I guess.”
Kiao looked down at Mien. His face twitched. He likely wasn’t asleep anymore.
Her mother then scolded her. “Why were you trying to hide him. He’s so sweet and delightful,” she said petting his hair. “Makes me wish we could’ve had a boy.”
His father grumbled. “Too sweet if you ask me. He’ll spoil you.”
Her mother looked over her shoulder. “That’s young ladies want, Love.”
Her father snorted and continued to pretend he was reading his book.
“What was I saying, ah yes, he’s so very sweet and polite. He’s also adorable, so lanky.”
“He’ll fill out eventually,” said Tad, turning back a page. “And what will you do then?”
Mien drew in a deep breath and muttered something in his sleep.
“He really is asleep,” said Kiao surprised. She bent down and touched his head.
Her mother picked at his hair. “And such red hair. I want to put a pair of fox ears and tail on him.”
“Don’t be silly, Hera,” said her father.
“Have some imagination, Tad,” said her mother. “Anyway,Darling, you know what they say about men with red hair.”
Kiao rolled her eyes.
“They’re filled with flames of burning passion,” said her mother giving her father a suggestive grin.
Tad looked dead at his wife with his brow raised. He was the red headed one. Mahogany like Kiao’s but there was a wavy to his hair. As well as his face and arms dotted with freckles. After seeing Vlory, Kiao started to wonder if there was some truth to the rumor that her grandfather wasn’t her father’s sire. Her grandparents denied it. However, he didn’t anything like him.
Her father cleared his throat. “Our daughter is sensible. She might not want burning passion.”
Hera sighed. “Why are you objecting so much. He doesn’t mind all our daughter’s quirks, laughs at you’re jokes, and has wonderful taste in food.”
Tad lowered his book. “I’ll tell you why I object, Fabian and Rooster will have a third to tease me,” he said pouting.
“He does have a point,” smiled Kiao. Her brother-in-laws would love Mien. She needed to warn him about them though. They were flamboyant and would whisk him away so they could make certain he was impressively fancy.
“Anyway, have you met his mother,” asked her mother.
“I have,” said Kiao, shifting to the edge of the armrest beside her mother. “She doesn’t like me.”
“Well why not,” demanded her mother getting upset. “Is it because our trade and our notoriety isn’t good enough? I can’t say that Cyan is high on the chain of minor houses. They just own holes in the ground. We have the Seats favor. Surely it’s not because of the way you are?”
Kiao shook her head. “I’ve never got that far to tell her about you two or me. She just decided I’m wrong for him.”
Her mother frowned. “Why?”
“Our ages for one.”
“It’s not that bad of a gap. You’re at the most acceptable line.”
“She also doesn’t know him very well. Thinks that I’m too much for him and doesn’t understand what being a chanter means. In fact, she doesn’t want to learn. If she had it her way, I would be sent out of the order while he was here.”
Hera face twisted in confusion. “You would think this close to the Brotherhood, she would understand. Well, she can visit us and see all the chanters we know.”
“We are a little different from the performing chanters. For one, he’s very timbre sensitive. Everything has its adjustment period and I thought he would need one with you two. Instead, he liked you from the start.”
“See I told you he liked us,” said Hera to Tad.
Tad replied with something incoherent.
“Anyway,” said Kiao softly. “Did he tell you about the bond.”
“He did. Such an odd thing,” said Hera.
“Magical types are always odd,” retorted her father.
Kiao then fiddled with her fingers. “So, you two don’t have an issue with him?”
“He’s a darling,” said her mother and the same time her father said. “He’ll be a terrible seamstress, but so are you.”
The two of them exchanged a glance. Her mother then continued.
“The real question is, does he truly not take issue with you?”
Mien had none. She didn’t understand why. She had a large nose, didn’t look feminine, was bossy to the point she was unrelenting at time, lack of a single romantic bone in her body, and either would have trouble to couldn’t give him a child. Surly that child the former Arch Priest saw was adopted. Yet it didn’t matter to him. She could probably be a full androgynous elf and he wouldn’t care.
“We all are allowed to have our quirks,’ that’s what he told me. Anyway, dinner. Can we get dinner?”
“Yes,” clapped Hera and then she looked down at her lap. “How do I wake him?”
Kiao slid off the armrest and knelled beside him. She patted his shoulder. She was certain with all the talking he would’ve been listening. He peered at her with drowsy eyes then smiled.
“About time you showed up.” He sat up and stretched. “I was about ready to pass out from hunger.”
Kiao’s mother looked at him incredulously. “You’re still hungry after stuffing down two buns?”
“Beastie slaying makes me hungry,” he said with that winning smile he used on women. He did that a lot in the society house. It let him get away with everything. Kiao found it completely unfair that he could make his face like that. She let him get away with too much as well. Her mother just ate it up.
“Oh, I don’t want him to starve,” said Hera, getting to her feet. “Let me make sure I don’t look dusty so we can get food.”
Kiao swatted him on shoulder. “Really, you’ve been acting adorable to win her,” she mouthed accusingly.
Mien winked at her. Her father saw it and he snorted. “You know, this is a good example why we are blessed to never have a boy.”
“You’ve bemoaned about have one for years because you’re surround by women,” said Hera in front of a mirror tidying her appearance. “What happened?”
“It just occurred to me they’re sly little buggers and will eat your larder empty,” he said staring directly at Mien.
Mien nodded. “His is correct, Lady Hera. I eat a lot,” he told her.
“You look a little underfed to me,” said Hera.
“Strong chanters tend to burn through food the more they use their abilities. Those weren’t the only drass beasts we dealt with today,” he said. “It would be nice eating a meal and it will be a lot more interesting with you and Tad.”
Her father leaned towards Kiao and whispered. “He’s been like this the whole time pouring on the charm. Sickening ain’t it.”
Hera finished straightening herself up. “I’m ready if you all are ready?”
Mien smoothed out his uniform and stood. “Certainly,” he offered his arm to her mother.
“Oh, thank you. You’re so lovely. My daughter is so lucky to have found you,” she said.
Father and daughter exchanged looks. And Kiao said. “You’re lying on again, Mien.”
He turned around giving her that full mischievous grin of his.
Her father bobbed his head. “I agree he needs a pair of fox ears and a tail.”