When Brother Hickory came to speak with me, I wore the mask I created. I became the boy who was angry with his mother, hated uncle, and cousin, who was indifferent to what I had done. It was the easiest way to the end I thought I wanted. His compassion cracked it and he tossed it away. For the first time in a very long time, I cried. I begged for help. I didn’t want to die.
After Soletus left the chapel, he decided to go home rather than going back to the half-empty boy’s dormitory. He wanted to tell his mother that the spawn of Malicifer, who was going to infect all everyone with some inner demon, was nothing more than a shy awkward boy. Also, he hadn’t been home in a few days. His mother was probably worrying as she always did when he didn’t come home weekly. It was easier if he didn’t. Training was exhausting. When he was an initiate, he came over nearly every day because he was doing the schooling portions of his training that included Brotherhood specific history lessons, map reading, plant identification, and field medic training. When physical training began to require more of him, he rather spend time with his friends. They were right there, unlike home that was a bit of a walk.
Soletus was unsurprised that nothing changed along the narrow lane where his parents lived. Change wasn’t something that elves did often. He was guided by the same rock wall on either side of the road he grown up with. He passed by the same steep roofed houses with the same elves that lived in there for generations. Some worked in their gardens while others were out talking to their neighbors or watching the road. All of them waved to him as he passed. They knew who he was. They had seen him many times walking or running with his cousin at his side. Some of them had children that played with in the past. None of them joined the Brotherhood and he hadn’t spoken to them in some time.
His parent’s house was in the middle of the lane and at the corner of another road. It was raised on a low hill and was the only house that didn’t have a loft. Instead, the house was spread on a large lot with a tidy garden in the back and a huge lady oak in the front for shade. When Soletus got closer, he was greeted by his father’s dog, Onyx. The large obsidian hound galloped towards him with her ears flapping and planted her large paws on his chest to be petted.
“You miss me,” he said, massaging her behind her floppy ears. When he was certain she was satisfied, he grabbed her by her ruff and shook her head until she had both paws on the ground. The large dog snorted and snapped playfully at him. He chased her and she chased him back in tight circles until the two of them had enough play. She trotted back to her worn oval shaped spot in the ground where she watched the road and he walked inside the house.
He was greeted by the aroma of fresh bread and chopped wood. His older sister, Fern was there reading over their mother’s shoulder while holding their little sister. The two of them looked up surprised.
“What are you doing here,” questioned Fern, looking as if she just came home herself. She was wearing her brown and tan huntress clothing. She probably came back east dealing with a pack of wild dogs killing sheep.
“Visiting,” he said, taking one of the loaves of bread his mother left out to cool. He tore the oval loaf in half, balanced each piece in his hand, and took the bigger half. His mother’s face puckered.
“Don’t they feed you,” she asked with her gazed fixed on him as he rummaged for the jar of honey next. He found it behind a large tin can where his mother hid it. He could hear her exasperated sigh behind him as he grabbed a clean wooden saucer from another shelf.
“I was with Brother Hickory at midday,” he said.
“You were around that boy,” his mother said alarmed.
Soletus rolled his eyes towards the ceiling before he turned around and faced her.
“Yes and boy is he a crazy one,” he said in mock horror. “All that evil shyness and wicked silence he was doing. He couldn’t look at me so he settled on burning holes in the table with his evil gaze of awkwardness.”
His mother’s blue eyes became a thin line of annoyance. “Mock me all you want, but there are evil people out there. A boy has no right to try and kill his brother.”
“Mama, he isn’t like a dog once it had a taste of killing a yard bird,” said Soletus pour honey in the saucer and dipped his bread in it. “Also, it was attempted murder.”
“See Mama, he didn’t kill anyone. If he did, the Brotherhood wouldn’t’ve taken him.” said Fern.
His mother still looked uncertain. “You aren’t going to help are you?”
“Well, given that it’s either that or twiddling my thumbs alone in the dormitory. He’s not trouble,” he assured her. “He’s the shyest fellow I’ve ever met.”
The woman sighed. “I don’t think you should. I’m sure there is some kind of political mess involved in it as well so better leave well enough alone.”
“Now that’s very un-Fenndish of you,” said Soletus surprised. “Didn’t you just get through telling me a week ago that Dias wants us help all, not just those like us?”
He waited for his mother to argue that point, she couldn’t. She sniffed. “I’ve may have said something along those lines, but not for you to turn it back on me.”
Soletus grinned. “The only reason I’m going over there is because Brother Hickory wants him around someone his age to get him talking. How hard can that be?”
“Harder than you might assume it might be. You can’t change the nature of someone,” said his mother sagely. “You can encourage them not to be so much of a slave to it.”
Soletus kept that in mind. He took a few bites of his bread and gathered his thoughts together to ask her a question about his father. He would get either a good response or a bad one.
“Do you know why Papa made it impossible for me to go to the culling,” he asked.
Fern answered with a smiled and patted him on the head. “He’s being silly again.”
“He’s being silly,” said their mother.
“Well he’s something,” said Soletus. “He told me one thing and then did another.”
His mother heaved her shoulders. “He didn’t believe it was a good idea. There are many who are jealous and are convinced you had it rather easy making your way up. He’s trying to appear fair and unbiased.”
Easy? Really, thought Soletus. She obviously didn’t seem to realize he had it rather difficult being son of a master, not to mention the grandson of the Arch Monk. It gave him few privileges. If anything, it made it harder on him given his father would always go to the other masters making sure he worked for everything.
“So he couldn’t tell me and not go behind my back? That was my only way of getting into the trials after he told Master Marth to go to the Arch Monk and say I wasn’t ready. Now I’ll have to wait.”
His mother stood up from the table, took the jar of honey, and looked for a new place to hide it. “Well, obviously he wants you to wait a year,” she told him.
Soletus face twisted with confusion. He could’ve done the trials last year. It would’ve been a year earlier than his training clutch and Master Marth felt he could do it. However, his father held him back. His only explanation was that it was a bad idea. He wouldn’t go into details no matter how hard Soletus pried. That would make the whole jealousy thing make sense. However, it didn’t now.
His mother added as if to convince him. “He wants you to show him how far and hard you are willing to work through constraints, even those created unfairly.”
That sounded like a well-rehearsed excuse to him. Soletus knew he fought better and harder than everyone of warder rank did. He obeyed orders. He did extra assignments. If that wasn’t a show of dedication, he didn’t know what was. Soletus began to wonder if his father even wanted him to be a warden. However, there was no other job he wanted. Not a peaceguard to protect the town. He didn’t want to take one of the many trade jobs the Brotherhood provided. No, since a child, he wanted to be a warden and that was what he was going to be.
For now, he would do what he was told and bide his time while figuring something out. Until then, Mien would be a good distraction, but he didn’t know how long. It won’t be too hard to break the boy’s shell, he thought. Anything he had been put through physically was probably harder. I bet I can break the boy’s shell by the end of the week, no problem.