Chapter 5: The Offer

I care a lot about those whom I love, whether they are friend or family. And since I am empathic, it creates moments when I care too much and I find myself getting hurt. The pain of lessoned the older I got. When I was first brought to the Brotherhood, there were days I wanted to stop being able to feel so much because I was suffering. 


Soletus wasn’t in the best of moods when he came to the chapel the following day. He had all evening and night to dwell on what he wasn’t doing. It didn’t help he had to listen to all the other warders talk about all the opportunities they gained by going to the drass beast culling. It made him annoyed and he woke up aggravated. He honestly shouldn’t have come to the chapel day, but the alternatives were doing nothing or help Doran. He didn’t want to do that. The tod wasn’t easy to train with as he complained a lot.  Soletus knew being grumpy would give him more reason to complain.  So, he went to the chapel instead.

Brother Hickory was polishing one of the long brass candle holders at the side of the altar and greeted him with a joyous smile on his face. It faded as Soletus grew to concern. “You seem glum today. What’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” grunted Soletus. Only the fact that all my brothers are training for the trials or getting assignments elsewhere and I’m here babysitting.

“So your cheery disposition has nothing to do with all the warders training for the trials while you’re here,” asked the all-knowing priest.

Soletus didn’t deny it. “A little bit.”

“I’m sure you father kicked started your mood. He told me what he thought of our arrangement.”

“I’m sure that didn’t surprise you, seeing as he has an opinion for everything.”

“He means well as a lot of parents do with their children,” said Brother Hickory.

The old priest never had kids and never married. He was neth. However, he had enough experience from mediating problems between well-meaning parents and sons.

“My mother is tough on Fern at times but she doesn’t purposely hinder her and then expect her to do the impossible,” said Soletus.

Brother Hickory stopped his polishing and regarded him with a somber face. “Perhaps, you need to cut the leash your father has on you.”

Soletus was rendered speechless that the priest would say that to anyone. He was one of those who believed in obedience from children towards their parents.

The priest smiled at him amused. “You don’t realize you’re age yet. You aren’t a child anymore. There might be a little boy in you still, but you’re a young tod now. It’s time to show some independence and push Ol’ Oreic a little just to remind him.”

Soletus blinked at the priest in shock. Has the loss of sleep made him lose his mind?

Pushing his father wasn’t something he wanted to do just because he wanted to live a ripe old age. Soletus struggled for words for a second before he found his voice again and said, “I don’t think causing conflict with my father is the answer.”

Brother Hickory sighed and then tried again. “Don’t you feel that he comes off controlling at time?”

Soletus now gaped at him dumbfounded. He heard others say that before, that his father was controlling. He never expected those words from Brother Hickory.

“Oeric means well, but he thinks what is best rather than what is best. It obviously bothers you, but at the same time you accept it without question.”

“He’s strict.”

And that was a fact that everyone around him knew.

“Yes, but you’re at that age where you have to learn on you own. Decide your own way down the path and how to serve Dias. Not how your father wants you to serve.”

Soletus crossed his arms unsure about what to think of what was being said to him. Part of him didn’t like it.

The priest continued. “When he came here yesterday, he said he didn’t want you to come back here. Said it was a waste of your time. Do you intend to listen to him when you’ve done a lot of good?”

His father aside that was something he was struggling already with. He didn’t really want to be there but he did do Mien some good. He wanted to tell the priest about his personal uncertainty then however, it didn’t feel right.

“Well?”

“No,” said Soletus quickly.

“Do you have an idea why,” asked Hickory in a way that suggested there was a certain answer he was looking for.

The young monk tilted his head at the question. “What do you mean why? Why I said no? Well because you and the Arch Monk gave me the assignment.”

“Yes, this is an act of duty; a superior higher than your father gave you an order. If someone asks you to do something in the order, you do it regardless of what your father says.”

Soletus frowned. He felt insulted to be told that he wasn’t dumb. “I know.”

“I’m just reminding you. Sometimes it’s difficult to separate the man who is your father and the one who is you’re superior,” said the priest. “Perhaps today you should contemplate on what I told you. This isn’t exactly a good day for the lad.”

Soletus groaned. “He didn’t turtle up again,” groaned Soletus”.

“No, why would you think that,” said the priest and then he considered his statement. “Never mind, I can understand why you would, but that’s not the case. Mien didn’t sleep a wink last night. He had nightmares, but wouldn’t tell me about them. I’ve tried to give him some lavender and chamomile to calm him, but he refuses to drink anything. Eventually exhaustion will take him. He was still awake the last time I looked in on him. He told me he wanted to at least say hello to you today.”

All hopes of leaving this assignment fled the young monk. Instead, guilt racked him that he even thought about leaving. He didn’t want Mien to feel the sting of being abandon as Valan had done him without a word. He made his way to the back of the chapel going through the door to the side to the back of the chapel. The short hallway was dim as Mien’s room door was only cracked instead of open. Soletus pushed it open and found the boy stretched on his bed with his eyes shut. However, when he heard Soletus take a step into his room, he opened them. They were red.

“Hello,” he greeted after a long yawn. He didn’t move to sit up.

Soletus leaned against the door frame. “I was told to come and say hi.”

Mien looked grateful he was there. “I wanted to talk to you about something, but I can’t keep my eyes open right now. Maybe another day?”

”Sure, whenever you can.”

Mien then gathered his blanket and rolled over to the wall. Soletus left the chapel and did as Brother Hickory advised him to do, contemplate. He was certain the man meant for him to go into the garden and meditate on the rocks there. Instead, he went back to the dormitory for his pair of padded gloves before going behind the front buildings of the monastery. There the area opened up to the log buildings. They were for indoor training. He chose the smallest of the buildings that was dedicated to combat practice. His choose method of reflection was by slamming his fist into one of the training bags.

He fell in love with using one when he started his hand-to hand training. After that, he found it was good to pour his frustrations on the training device. Most of his training brothers knew when Soletus entered and walked straight to the bag, he wasn’t in a talking mood. They glanced in his direction but continued to spar with one another.

He went about pounding the bag and danced around it running conversations through his head. They ranged from what his father and Hickory stated. He came to no real conclusion other than he had to do what needed to be done in a way that wouldn’t bother his father too much. It would’ve been wonderful if he could participate in the trials coming up, but his life was what it was. If all went well, he would take the spring trials for those who couldn’t do it in the fall.  However, he had a sinking suspicion his father would somehow force him to wait that entire year.

“I would have loved some of the boys that went with me had shown your ferocity on a drass beast as you are with that bag,” said someone beside him.

Soletus stopped in mid punch and glared at the person who spoke. It was First Warden Kellas. The young monk quickly moved to properly salute him, but the warden held up his hand.

“Don’t be formal,” he said. “I just come over to sate my curiosity. I didn’t mean interrupt you killing that which is already dead, maybe later.”

The young monk wiped the sweat off his brow. “I’m not doing anything important, just thinking,” he said, wondering what Kellas wanted. The man never spoke to him before. He wasn’t liked among the other first wardens. Thought his grandfather favored him. He said that Kellas inspired action because he acted without hesitation when difficult situations arose. His father had a different opinion. He claimed the man was too reckless and too aggressive. Soletus though, liked action and that made him appealing. However, He didn’t, like was the way Kellas looked at everyone.

Kellas and his father shared the same eye color. Both had piercing gazes, however, his father eyes were expressive. Many though him to be very austere. He really wasn’t. Soletus had no trouble reading his father. His actions was a different story. Kellas’s eyes were insipid. Even then, he stood there smiling and looked friendly, but it never really reached his eyes. It looked fake,

“Those must be some intense thoughts,” remarked Kellas. “Maybe Oeric’s tall lad isn’t as placid as they say. Then again, a cool head is not something to snuff one’s nose at. I like cool heads. They see things I don’t.” The smile dropped from his face and he became serious.  “Why weren’t you at the culling?”

“My father made it impossible for me to join,” Soletus answered swinging at the bag again.

“You could have just run away and followed.”

Soletus gave him an exasperated look.

“Ah yes, Master Dour, harsh, strict, and likes to keep his son on a leash they say.”

Soletus’s brow became a flat line. “What’s with every adult telling me hat I already know,” he blurted out. He then looked at the bag he had been punching on and felt the need to hide behind it. “I’m sorry, First Warden.”

Warden Kellas regarded him with empathy. “I’ve seen my fair share of tods struggling with either being trapped in a shadow or their parent doesn’t know when it’s best to let go. It’s worse when a tod is letting their parent hold them back.”

“I’m not letting him,” exclaimed Soletus. He turned back to the bag and started slamming his fists into again. “Fighting against him wastes my time. He doesn’t let up.”

“Because he knows you will back down. That is something you need to learn not to do so easily,” returned Kellas solemnly, but his exuberance started to welt back up into his features. “However, that sort of thing can be learned by becoming my grappler.”

Soletus lowered his hands. He was stunned to hear an offer like that. He was unproven in battle.

Kellas took him by the shoulders and spun him around to face all the others practicing around him.

“I mean look at them. They are tall and lean like any elf, but I need someone with some bulk. You have that or as bulky as an elf can get. The other one, Dias bless him, pissed in his pants when I told him to jump on a back of a skulker.”

Soletus could understand that response. The job of a grappler was reserved for the most rowdy of men. Not many would wrestle with a drass beast for duty. The idea wasn’t something Soletus had given much thought. It certainly wouldn’t sit well with his father. He was above that sort of thing in his eyes. He was too smart. However, he was fairly certain one had to possess a certain amount of intelligence not to be killed doing something that came off as foolhardy. It wasn’t as if he were going to go out bare-chested in a lion cloth with only a javelin made from a cut sapling. He would have armor. The main thing was, it sounded challenging and he liked challenges.

“Do you really need a grappler that badly,” he asked.

“Yes. I need one as my band goes in very close to the Drass Wall and I see to the Trap throughout the year. No one has applied or tested in for the position for two trials now. Not that there are many who enlist into the Dias Brotherhood now and days. Most of these lads are from families who have been here for far too long. They don’t want their kin having such lowly duties. However, I need a grappler. I need someone large, collected, and smart. You fit the build.”

“But I can’t take the trial coming up.”

“There is one in the Spring and I will push your request in,” he promised.

That meant that he didn’t have to wait an entire year. He could train all winter for the spring and breeze through the trial. However, he wasn’t sure how he was going to train for a grappler position when there weren’t that many. He voiced his concerns and Warden Kellas slapped him on the back.

“Don’t worry about the training, I’ll arrange it. You can start tomorrow. You’ll be helping out everyone else training for the trials, but some training is better than none at all.”

Soletus’s excitement drained. “Tomorrow?  In the morning or afternoon?”

“Morning of course….ah yes, the one Brother Hickory’s been helping. Perhaps you should let someone else deal with that.”

The young monk felt as if Dias was testing him at that point and gave him another opportunity to back out. It would be easier on him if he did, however, his conscious screamed no.

Soletus shook his head. “No, I don’t want to just abandon him seeing how hard as it’s been for him.”

“Hmmm,” said Kellas considering something for a long moment. “Well maybe it’ll be worth it if I can get a combat chanter out of him. Do what you need to, just meet me bright an early after the daily prayer.”

“Alright.”

Soletus beamed brightly. He finally found a way in.

 

 

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