One of the things I like about Soletus is his honesty. It’s a mix of two things. One, he can’t really lie to me, and two, he’s the ability to tell others what they need to hear in a sincere manner or he attempts to.
According to First Warden Kellas, Soletus needed more building to be a grappler. To accomplish this, he was assigned to train with Master Tyr. Soletus didn’t think he was an ideal trainer though. Tyr was good friends with his father and his second warden. Like his father, he was one the instructor on rotation being a master and a field warden. However, the man never served as a grappler. Soletus assumed he would be placed with one of them. It was probably his father’s doing even though Kellas had come to him. He couldn’t say he was mad about it. He was used to it as his father was good at putting a hand into what he was doing. It was his way of keeping an eye on him and what better person to do it than Tyr.
Despite that, Soletus was happy to finally be doing something physical again. Master Tyr gave him the role of one of the combatant his fighting brothers would face in the trials. In the real trials, they had to face three wardens. They were of higher skilled for the purpose to show how the warder being assessed could adapt to fighting those more skilled and one not being gentle or fair. Soletus was acting as the one who wasn’t being gentle or fair.
The young monk was used to being matched with someone of his skill and strength level. Sometimes Master Marth liked to set him against those who were weaker to show them something and on the rare occasion remind him of restraint. He knew how to restrain himself and when he was given permission to use his hand-to-hand training as well as kick, punch, slam, and grapple anyone who was pitted against him, he was surprised, but enjoyed it. Some of his fighting brothers didn’t take to it well. There was a lot of whining and complaining about what he did and they purposely tried to get the best of him. As a result, even with padding, he got bruises on top of bruises.
Most days he ended up smarting so bad, he had no desire to see Mien. It was fine, as the boy wasn’t doing very well. His nightmares continued. He wouldn’t share what they were about to Brother Hickory. The priest became very concerned when Mien stopped eating. Then he became distant again saying very little and slowly locking back up. The young monk thought it was because he changed his visiting frequency. However, Brother Hickory assured him it wasn’t the case.
“There’s something else bothering him, and I’m going to try and see if he tells me without me having to prod it out of him,” he told him one day.
Soletus was certain he would be waiting for a few decades before that happened.
After a week of Soletus’s new training regime, he didn’t feel as sore as he did when he first started. He felt he could do something other than collapse on his cot and decided to go to the chapel. He was surprised to see Mien sitting out front steps of the chapel. He sat in a beam of late afternoon sun. It highlighted his copper hair with gold making him stand out against the dark stone of the chapel’s walls. The closer Soletus walked, the more apparent that all wasn’t well with him. The boy looked thinner and his hands that were clasped in front of him were held tight. Mien peered up at him through the strands of his hair that had grown longer to the point they obscured half his face. It didn’t stop the boy from watching Soletus from the arch gate up the crushed stone path until he sat beside him.
“I’ve not seen you out here before,” said Soletus.
Mien leaned forward again and rested his forehead on his fists.
“I’m sorry I’ve not been able to come over often,” Soletus said hoping that would be the boy’s issued.
Mien let out a long exhale and said, “Tonight there will be falling stars. They happen around this time every year.”
“I guess it’s a sign for something,” said Soletus unsure where he was going.
Mien stared up at the sky. “Yes. Every year my father would wake me up and take me outside to see them since I was a little. We would count them together.”
Mien voice started quaking. “Three years ago was the last time he did that with me. Three years ago, he stayed up all night with me and I went to bed. He left that morning and never came home. This day, three years ago, I died.”
Soletus didn’t know what to say to that. He didn’t expect that kind of admission. He glanced at the chapel door wishing Hickory would open the door and help him. Mien continued his confession without noticing the young monk’s discomfort.
“I cracked and broke apart. The world ended. Everything hurt. But, I thought if I did something to Dalaen, if I killed him, then the pain would stop. I thought if I could make my uncle feel pain, then he would understand and stop. Now I don’t even know why I believed that was a good idea.”
Soletus became immobilized by that statement. It was one thing for everyone to tell him what Mien did. It was another thing for him to say it and the reasons why.
“But that didn’t do anything, it just made everything worse. I still feel hollow and stuck at the bottom of a pit. I don’t want to feel this way anymore, but I can’t even feel anything else,” he said. He leaned forward folding is arms over his knees and buried his face.
Soletus sat wordless. His mind took a bit to free itself from it shock. When it began to work again, he realized that Mien just told him more than he ever had. The cracks in the shell were deep enough that he could break off pieces. However, he was a little afraid to say anything. He didn’t even understand why the boy suddenly told him what he did. Maybe it was what he wanted to tell him days ago, but never did. However, knowing that didn’t help. He could only guess what the best course of action was.
He reached a tentative hand out. He didn’t think it was smart touching Mien, but he rested his hand down anyway between Mien’s shoulder blades. The boy was shuttering again and he didn’t like seeing and then realized then he didn’t like feeling of it either.
How does an elf get to this state? No one should be made to be like this, he thought.
Soletus tried to soothe him. He lightly patted and said gently, “Mientheodric, calm down. If you don’t want to feel the way you do and you’re at rock bottom, then climb back up.”
Mien snapped his head up. “Why? My father’s dead. I messed everything up for my mother. I’m an embarrassment to my house. My sister doesn’t need me and is strong on her own. I’m going too…” he stopped and then looked away again and muttered, “No one needs me.”
“Well, what about you then,” said Soletus. “Don’t you think you’re worth enough to not be like this? Brother Hickory and I have been trying to help you, but you’re going to have to help yourself a little too and stop going into pity-patties!”
The young monk clamped his jaw after that spilled from his mouth. He didn’t mean for that to come out the way it did, but he felt frustrated. Mien continued down a path of what he saw as self-destruction. The boy was clearly not eating and not sleeping. Now he felt as if he wasn’t worth anything. However, he shouldn’t have said that and he started to apologize, but the boy became apologetic.
“I’m sorry,” he said earnestly. “I didn’t mean to be ungrateful.” He cast his gaze down at his feet. “I thought maybe I could just tell someone, say it all and it would come out right. It isn’t. I never know what to say.”
He then buried his face in his arms again.
I might as well be my dad, Soletus thought and then said aloud to Mien. “I’m sorry if I sounded mean. You just spoke what was on your mind and I did too. That’s how people talk to each other.”
Mien lifted his head showing a single eye. “But, you keep giving me this strange look.”
“Because of this,” Soletus gestured at him. “The way you act. I’ve not met anyone before who wasn’t normal.” The young monk then pressed his lips together. Well I’m an idiot dod. Where’s that hole to swallow me up?
Mien didn’t take offense to the statement and further explained. “I tried to be normal for three years. I tried to be all right. It was easy at first. My mother told my sister me to be strong for her. I didn’t want to show her that I wasn’t.”
Mien looked at Soletus as if the reason was obvious. “She’s my mother. She was devastated over father’s death and didn’t need problems from me. I would cry in my room at night so she wouldn’t see me sad. I never stopped though, I just cried over more and more things.”
Mien paused squeezing his eyes shut. Soletus thought he was done regaling his past however, he only swallowed hard once and took another deep breath so he could continue.
“Then my uncle came to live with us, shortly after my father died. She thought it was best politically if she married him. He inherited everything and she didn’t want him to lose what father worked so hard to build. My sister and I didn’t like him. We didn’t want to live in the house with him there. She won a scholarship to attend the university in Eroden. I didn’t want her to leave but, I pretended to be happy for her just so she wouldn’t worry about me.”
“Aren’t you smart enough to have gone without a scholarship?”
Mien face filled with shame. “I failed the entrance test. After my father died, I couldn’t think as I did before. Then Uncle and my cousin Dalaen came, I couldn’t focus. I knew then something was wrong with me, but I never said anything.”
Again, Soletus found it difficult to respond other than just listen and observe. There wasn’t a tear in Mien’s eye however, there was regret in his face and voice.
“Then Dalaen tossed the flute father gave me in the river. I was beyond angry with him and then I got fed up with my uncle for letting him do what he wanted to me. I thought both of needed to suffer,” said Mien.
“You feel really bad about it now don’t you?”
Mien nodded. “It seemed so logical to hurt them both. I planned it all out for about a week. I waited for him on the bridge between my house and town and I followed my plan to a point. I let him get in one insult before I pushed him against the rails of the bridge and we fought. I don’t how I managed it, but I flipped him over the rails and he fell into the water. That’s what I wanted. I wanted him to drown. He’s a horrible swimmer, but instead of sinking under like I thought, he managed to flay his way to the shore.”
That statement made Soletus’s stomach sour. Brother Hickory told him it was a pre-meditated attack. He just didn’t realize it was that much.
“I don’t remember much after that,” admitted Mien. “This red haze formed over my vision. Rage hit me all at once. I’ve never felt that angry before. I didn’t feel anything else. I was told what I did. Apparently, I jumped him when he got to shore and pushed his head into the mud. It took his friends and an adult to pull me off of him,” he said then paused and became anxious. “There’s that look again. You’re probably scared of me now.”
Soletus swayed his head. “No, I’m…” he searched for a word and settled on, “surprised not scared.”
“But I tried to murder someone because of a flute,” exclaimed Mien.
“If you didn’t see that as something wrong then I would be worried,” he returned.
“Well you probably think I’m weird now.”
Soletus gave the boy a consoling pat on the back. “No more than I already did.”
“Really? You’re still wearing that expression like I’m horrible.”
“Well you just explained to me how you went about trying to kill you’re cousin. What else am I supposed to be other than disturbed?”
Mien whimpered. “I’m sorry.”
Soleus winced. “No, don’t apologize for the way people think. For the record, I’m not scared of you, but at the same time, I’ve never met someone like you. You’re just going to have to take my thoughts about this as they come.”
Mien stared at his feet. “Because no one is crazy like me.”
“No, you’re not. You’re just…” Soletus stopped to think of a nicer word but then realized there wasn’t. Mien was crazy and he felt sorry for him.
“If you want to go, I understand,” said Mien, burying his head again.
Soletus put an arm around his shoulder. “I’m not. Why do you think I will?”
Mien pushed away from him. “Sometimes, I get the feeling your just here because you were told to be.”
“And how can you tell that?” He didn’t think he was that transparent.
Mien just blinked at him.
Soletus laid his hand on Mien’s forearm. “To be straight with you, this is hard for me. I did have the opportunity to get out of this more than once. But I didn’t. I think because I didn’t like the thought of abandoning you. I mean everyone needs at least one friend. I can handle being that one person.”
Mien peered up at him briefly before his eyes watered up. He buried his face again. Soletus bent down and heard him sniffling. “Are you crying? Why are you crying?”
Mien said something garbled.
He lifted his head up and said between sniffles, “I was afraid you were going to leave if I told you the truth.”
“Well, I didn’t. And just so you know, you shouldn’t be afraid to tell me anything. The worst thing you get from me is me putting my foot in my mouth.”
Mien scrubbed his eyes. Soletus noticed his shuttering abated.
“Are you okay now?”
Mien straightened up hugging himself and rubbing his arms. “I feel cold.”
“Do you want to go back in?”
“No, I want to feel the sun,” he said just as the door creaked behind them. Soletus twisted his head to peer over his shoulder. The wooden door closed instead of opened. Brother Hickory had been listening.