by Ruth Davis Hays 2016
After giving ‘Khiall the map of the countryside that would guide him home, Daviel finds it hard to contemplate life at the monastery without the changeling….
It was another sleepless night for Daviel. The frigid air seeping through the stones did nothing to assuage the heat of his young blood when his thoughts turned to the changeling, ‘Khiall. There was no remedy for his ailment that would not cost him his honor and his position in the priesthood.
He had never considered himself a devotee of Coreigan, or any of the other spirit guides, in fact. Daviel had always been rather practical, never given to flights of fancy or mystical leanings. His path to be a priest had been a strategic one. It was a career, a venerated profession as far as he was concerned, not a calling. Though, it did carry with it a ponderous amount of strict oaths and the penalties for breaking them were just as ponderous.
These restrictions never burdened him before. He had always been serious. Too serious to find much joy in the world. However, with ‘Khiall, he had nothing to rely on but his instincts and his passions. That changeling undid him completely. ‘Khiall would be his ruin, Daviel was sure of it.
It would be best just to let him go. Yes, let him go back home to his family and his ladylove. Daviel tossed onto his side and pulled his sheet tight to his chin, as if to block out the night with his final decision on this topic.
The thin bandage that was adhered to his injured neck scraped loudly on his pillow. The flesh was still delicate, angered by the touch of the cloth. From the look on the Blessed Fathers’ faces, they had not completely accepted Daviel’s excuse for his neck wound. They had cleaned it and dressed it, but questions remained. After all, it hardly looked like a scrape from falling against a door handle.
“Damn you to the Unseen Halls, ‘Khiall,” Daviel muttered as he shifted to lie on his other side. This position was no more comfortable than the last.
He was kicking at the tightly tucked bedcover when he spied a wavering in the light that peeked under his door. It blinked away to light again, the shadow gone. Rising from his cot, Daviel leapt at the door and pulled it open. The hall was empty… almost. He caught sight of a heel disappearing around the corner to his left. Forgetting to close his cell door, Daviel sprinted after the figure, only to find it one corridor ahead of him throughout the monastery. Until he reached the gate to the garden. It was unlocked.
Bursting into the frost-kissed night, Daviel saw ‘Khiall scaling the stone wall with ease.
“Not even going to say farewell?” the acolyte shouted, heedless of nearby listeners. His heart and nerves were drawn thin; the backs of his eyes stung at the sight of the fae departing without a word. “You’re the worst!”
“I won’t have to,” he said, stepping closer. “They will know you’re missing by morning meal.”
“By then, I’ll be far from here.”
“That won’t matter.” Daviel took a few more tentative steps, approaching the fae as he would a timid fossdeer. “They have an oath to keep. They will send out missionaries to find you and bring you back. By all laws, you belong to them until they release you.”
“I signed no oath to stay here.” Khiall’s eyes grew dark. “I never volunteered to come here. I’m not like you or any of the rest.”
A wind blew over the walls, a chill cyclone inside the garden to kick up their hair and rumple their garments. Daviel was within arm’s reach of ‘Khiall. Their words dampened by the rushing air.
“I know,” the young human said with a heavy breath. “But, you can’t leave. Not now.”
“You can’t stop me. Neither can the Blessed Fathers. I will leave the country if I must; I will not stay here.”
“Do you honestly think that you can go home to your sister?” Daviel’s voice was strained.
“I’ll take her with me,” Khiall turned to the wall again before glancing back to see the acolyte lunge for him. The human’s hand gripped his shoulder.
“Take me as well.” Daviel heard the pathetic plea tumble out of his mouth. He no longer cared if ‘Khiall would laugh at him. “I can’t stay in this dread hell without you.”
“I can’t,” ‘Khiall said. His words were not harsh, just insistent.
A jealous flare ignited Daviel, and he pulled ‘Khiall from the wall with a strength that surprised them both. The fae scrambled to his feet and dove towards his exit once more. He was blocked by Daviel.
“What are you doing?”
“Stopping you. You are not leaving without me. Not like this, not tonight.” The human shoved his friend back before they locked arms and grappled in earnest. Daviel knew the fight would not last long, for the fae was stronger, yet he wanted to at least….
He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but he knew it was not to let ‘Khiall slip away from his life.
The tussle was witnessed by one of their cohorts who had followed them through the darkened passages hoping for another midnight adventure. He watched from the shadow of the door, staying silent until he knew how to use this argument to his own advantage. Neither combatant saw Norin run back into the monastery, but when the bell began to toll, both struggled harder for their goals.
Candlelight and men spilled into the garden with shouts and sticks. ‘Khiall lashed at Daviel’s clinging form and shoved him with a force grown from panic. Leaping up the wall, he did not look back, but jumped and ran.
The outer doors of the monastery opened with a flood of searching lanterns crisscrossing the meadow to find the escaped fae. It was only when two monks on horseback cut him off and tossed a rope over his head that ‘Khiall noticed the preponderance of blood on his hands and clothes. Daviel’s blood.
The peels of the chapel bell clanged with an ominous echo in ‘Khiall’s soul.
In short order, the monks devised a way to contain the changeling using the Chastisement Chamber that was constructed with several physical obstacles for the weak-willed to overcome on their path to purity.
Standing knee-deep in a narrow hole with his neck weighed down by a rope attached to a rather large piece of masonry while his arms were bound behind his back, ‘Khiall could hear the voices of the Blessed Fathers filtering through the doorway. His nose was close to his chest and all he could smell was Daviel’s blood slowly soiling him.
The Blessed Fathers had been discussing his fate for close to an hour. Long enough for his back to ache from the bent position and lack of reprieve since there was a boarded wall preventing him from slumping onto the stone.
“He is too savage to remain. He is never going to become a priest or a monk. He must be removed.”
“What about the atonement through Coreigan’s teachings? If he humbles himself to the rectification…”
“No. That creature is not fit to live within our walls.”
“Beat the savagery out of him. It is the only way.”
“It’s not as though we haven’t tried that method. He is resistant. A thing such as him can never change.”
A new voice joined the discussion. D’harro’mar’rie’khiall listened with renewed curiosity.
“I have a witness that will testify of his sins. Sins great enough to warrant his dismissal.”
“Speak on, Father.”
“Yes,” ‘Khiall muttered to the disembodied voices. “Do speak.”
It seemed one of his former conspirators was ready to clear his conscience and it could either go badly or it could play right into ‘Khiall’s plans. He sensed that this confession had been premeditated and orchestrated by a greater mind than the one who was named. Norin was not one to turn easily.
This would be his way out. Albeit with an unfavorable mark on his reputation. But, that was something that ‘Khiall was willing to live with if it meant he could be sent home.
After hearing the Fathers’ discuss his expulsion from the monastery, ‘Khiall smirked in his dim prison. “Damn you, Daviel. If this was your idea, you’d better not die. At least give me the chance to even the score.”
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