I’ve saved Soletus’s life a countless number of times without a second thought, but that first time scared me. Not because I was facing a drass beast. No, it was because I was provoked to jump down from safety to save someone. That was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t know I could do that. Being so insecure at the time, I thought it was a fluke.
Soletus thought he was dying. It felt as if fire was spreading through his veins. Elves died from venomous skulker bites if they weren’t treated in time. He heard the voices of those around him. He heard Lyndon’s voice about them all telling him to fight. However, it was hard fighting something he couldn’t see, but he knew one thing, he didn’t want to die.
He knew they left the woods and he knew that there were priests trying to help him. He could feel them trying to get him to swallow dried herbs and chew it. He still couldn’t move his jaw or his tongue to swallow them. That was the last he remembered. Everything else was a muddle of lights, voices, and sensations of hot and cold. It all soon faded into darkness and comfort.
He woke up to the painted image of Dias on the ceiling above him. The god’s arm were spread wide receiving those that were ill. Soletus always wondered how the image of the faceless god looked so comforting. He thanked Dias that he was alive aches and a bone deep exhaustion. He could feel the splint around his left arm that rested on his chest and the bandaged wrapped around his right leg. He couldn’t have been too bad off as he was placed in the open portion of the infirmary and not in one of the private rooms.
He listened to the footsteps of two priests milling around. Neither of them sounded like they were walking over to check on him. He didn’t know why until he heard the voice of his father.
“Sloppy! Completely sloppy!”
Soletus rolled his head to the right and saw his father sitting in a chair beside his bed sterile faced.
“I expect better of you,” he went on once Soletus gave him his attention. “You should have known better, done better than to fall victim to a drass beast. “ He picked up the tao stone hunting knife off his lap and laid it beside Soletus’s splinted arm. “What have I’ve always told you, always keep your knife with you. You wouldn’t have been torn up so bad if you had it.”
Soletus’s mind was sluggish, but he reasoned out his father berating him wasn’t what he was expecting.
“See this is why you aren’t ready for the trials. You make little careless mistakes! You should always, ALWAYS, be prepared and NEVER let fear fog your mind.”
Soletus rolled his head until he saw the ceiling again. He knew that, but he was as steady as one could be in that moment. It wasn’t as if he didn’t try. It wasn’t as if he panicked and cried. He did so when he realized he was unarmed and he was starting to be chewed on. He was too tired to say that and too tired to listen anymore. All he wanted to do was roll over and go to sleep.
“I think this idea about you being a grappler is folly right now. You don’t need to be doing that kind of training. You need to be instilling strength inside you.”.
“Oh so you think that someone who allows himself to get mauled only to be saved by some nobbling whelp can be a grappler?”
Soletus swallowed and opened his sticky mouth and said, “I think he would learn from the mistake.”
Soletus looked up at his father again. The man’s austere expression faltered. Some kind of emotion shone. The young monk didn’t know what it was because it his father switched back to his hard expression before he had time to register it.
“You shouldn’t make mistakes from all I taught you. You should know better. Lyndon should know better as well as Doran! Sloppy and careless, the lot of you,” said Master Oeric standing to his feet. “I talked to Master Kellas. You are to train your mind. No more of this grappler nonsense. You can’t handle it!”
With that, his father left leaving Soletus feeling as if he had been kicked in the gut. He squeezed his eye holding back tears and to his horror, one of the priest’s took his father’s place in the chair. He heard them chanting and felt the warmth of healing magic moved its way down his body stopping at his arm and then down to his leg. After he was done, the young monk opened bleary eyes to see the somber face of a young man with long-eye lashes.
“I know you aren’t much for talking, but how do you feel,” asked Brother Kiao.
“Weak,” answered Soletus.
“That’s to be expected,” said the chanter priest. “Your arm was fractured with some very deep laceration. Your leg wasn’t so badly torn but you’ve lost a bit of blood from both wounds. Despite all that, you should heal up nicely, but…”
Of course, there’s a but, Soletus thought.
“You’ve a low tolerance for drass beast venom. All your muscles nearly locked up including your heart. I’m not sure what will happen if you get bitten again. Your body will either form a resistance to it or it will do more damage.”
Soletus understood his father’s speech a little more. However, it wasn’t something unusual with those in the Brotherhood. He just had to be careful.
“However, given that this is your first exposure to it, your reaction to it maybe because of that,” said Brother Kiao with optimism and then he raised his head up with his gaze becoming fixed towards the door. He tilted his head. “It seems you’ve another visitor.”
Soletus struggled to see to his left. His neck was stiff, but he saw his fox-headed rescuer peering at him from around the door frame. When he caught sight of Kiao, he shrank back.
“What a weird little fellow,” muttered Kiao standing and smoothed out his white smock. “I’ll leave for now. Maybe after you wake some more, we’ll get some liquids into you.”
Soletus didn’t feel very thirsty or hungry. He was just tired. He closed his eyes and waited for Mien to make his way towards him. The boy kept his footsteps soft and sat in the chair as quiet as a feather falling. He didn’t say anything at first but then whispered, “I was worried about you.”
Soletus cracked one eye open. “I’m alright,” he answered.
Mien’s expression lightened with relief. He stayed with him for a long time. He watched Brother Kiao feed him some watered down broth without judgement. In the middle of it, the chanter priest questioned Mien if he knew how to heal. Soletus watched his nervous boy shake his head.
Kiao looked bit bewildered. “It’s usually one of the first phrases that a chanter learns if not the first. I am surprised the phrase didn’t come to you during this incident.”
“That’s because he’s more aligned to being a combat chanter,” said Warden Kellas making his presence known. He strolled to Soletus’s other side greeting warmly. “I’m glad to see you awake. Gave us all a scare being all torn up,” he said and then looked at Mien. “We’ve not met yet. That Hickory seems to want to hide you from everyone. I’m First Warden Kellas.”
The man held out his hand and Mien shook it a lot better than he did with Master Oeric. Soletus thought it was strange that Kellas seemed all too approving of him. Kiao vanished in that time getting on with his duties.
“I did manage to get a little bit of something out of Hickory though. He claims you’re a nervous little fellow.”
Mien averted his eyes as he face flushed.
“No need to be embarrassed not everyone starts out being as bold as a fox,” said the warden good-naturally. “You’ve obviously have a heart of mountain lion jumping down to help a friend like that.”
Mien face reddened even more.
“No need to be modest. I was amazed at your handy work on that monster. Tell me, how did you do that? I’ve never seen that sort of flesh melting burn before.”
Brother Hickory did say that his light was hot, but Soletus didn’t think it was as hot as fire until he saw what Mien had done. Not to mention the end explosion.
Mien swallowed and licked his lips speaking softly. “I don’t know. I just did it.”
Kellas tilted his head, his curiosity intensified. “I see. Weren’t you afraid?”
“Yet you helped him why?”
Mien ran his fingers through his hair and pulled the side part back over his eyes to obscure them. “I just did it. One second I was in the tower, next second I was on the ground.”
That alarmed Soletus a little. He did the same with his cousin. He just acted. In one instance, he nearly ended a life and then in the next, he saved one.
“You’ve some instincts there,” said Kellas.
Instincts indeed. If he isn’t careful, he could kill someone,” thought Soletus.
He like all the young men in the Brotherhood, were taught to think before acting. Instincts were libel to get a person in trouble. Mien seemed like that person.
“I can use…well, the Brotherhood could you someone with your talent to help stem the tide of drass beasts. Think about it, well after everything with you is settled,” said Kellas patting Mien on the head despite the fact the boy winced like he was injured.
“As for you young man,” he said to Soletus and then hesitated and stated what was probably not what he was thinking. “Do what you need to do to get well.”
The warden then left leaving Mien and him alone. The boy watched him leave looking uncomfortable.
“You don’t like Kellas do you,” guessed Soletus.
Mien bobbed his head. “He’s loud.”
“He did bring up something I wanted to ask you. Why did you do it really?”
Mien gave him a look as if he was caught doing something bad.
“Given you’re track record with adults, you just told him enough.”
The boy eyes dropped down to his hands. “You were in trouble. Lyndon and Doran were scared. Besides that…”
Mien lifted his gaze from his fingers to Soletus and said to him meaningfully. “You’ve helped me, so I helped you.”
Soletus was caught off guard as well as touched. “Thank you.”
The boy withdrew the openness offered and stood quickly to his feet. “I need to get back.”
Soletus waved with his good hand. Mien gestured back before vanishing. It looked as if he was escaping. Soletus relaxed in bed thinking about the boy’s actions. He wasn’t sure what to make of it.
It could’ve been the heat of the moment that made him act outside of his repressed and frightened state. But Soletus didn’t think so. If there was anything he learned, it was that the boy cared a great deal about those he liked. His family received the full extent of his appreciation no matter how misguided it was. He extended that out to Soletus and the young monk couldn’t help be feel kind of honored because of it.
It made him like Mien. It wasn’t that he hated him before, but he couldn’t say he cared past just feeling sorry for him. However, it was hard to ignore the fact that Mien didn’t seem to have that reservation with him and latched on to him like a puppy. However, given the amount of trust Mien showed Soletus, the boy cared a good bit. It was only fair that Soletus treated him with that same respect.
All right, you help me and I help you, he decided.