Ch. 15: Growing Pains

Growing up is hard, especially when you’ve parents like Soletus’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love them a great deal. They welcomed me as one of the own when I settled down into the Brotherhood. However, with regards to Soletus, they were strict. His parents knew he had the ability push his boundaries and made sure to nip all attempts to do so before it got too far. However, most of it was just him being a boy and with them overreacting to it. 

Soletus stood at the bottom of the path and looked at his childhood home. It loomed over him. The shade trees the hung over the home made it dark and foreboding. He wondered if any other tods were like him. Still afraid of what his parents might say and do after finding out they did something wrong. He was will to bet most of them, didn’t get set home by the masters directly to them.

Soletus took a deep breath and made his way up. He spotted Onyx to the side. She laid there on the ground watching with her head on her paws. It almost looked as if she had sympathy on her furry brow. The young tod paused at the door, said a pray, and then walked in. His father was at the head of the table waiting as well as his mother beside him. Fern and Saedee were nowhere to be seen or heard.

Were they just sitting there waiting for me the entire time? Soletus groaned inwardly at the thought. Hopefully they hadn’t been waiting for him too long. If they had, they’ve grown impatient, grumpy, and impossible to talk with.

“Sit,” ordered his father using that rough tone that meant he was in serious trouble. If he was just in trouble he would be looking at him with exasperation. Instead, he was austere faced using his no-nonsense voice.

Soletus closed the door so it hardly made a sound and pulled a chair from the table. He sat across from his father with graceful ease.

Oeric leaned forward planting his elbows on the table. “Son, please explain to me why is that I come home and had to listen to a tales of you fighting with others.”

It was only two people and he makes it sound like I fought an army.

“I mean a fight with you mother is one thing, but then Tyr tells me about you trying break the arm of another boy.”

“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again,” said Soletus foregoing any sort of explanation for his actions and went straight for his apology to appease him.

“It happened twice now, what’s keeping a third time from happening,” returned his father with that all too familiar critical glint in his pale eyes.

Nothing he could say would satisfy the man. It was irritating and belittling. He decided it was best just to remain silent. He wouldn’t like what he was going to say anyway. However, his father didn’t accept silence.

“What’s been your problem lately,” Oreic asked.

“Nothing,” said Soletus and slipped “I’m not my problem.”

“How are you not you’re problem,” his father challenged.  “Aren’t you the one who mouthed off to your mother? Aren’t you the one who attacked a training brother? Aren’t you the one who snipped at Tyr?”

Anger sprung up and gripped Soletus. “As I said, I’m not my problem,” he repeated slower and added, “You are.”

His father’s face let up a little to show disbelief before it transformed rapidly to a heavy scowl of disapproval. Soletus knew he walked into the danger zone. As a boy that would’ve gotten him to back down, but now he found himself not caring at all.  He didn’t want to sit there and fussed at as if he was a ten year old.

Oeric’s voice then rose with every word. “How exactly am I YOUR problem?”

Soletus wasn’t intimated and said, “You’re constant meddling and forcing everyone to do what you want. I had something going for me then you made everyone listen to you whim because of an incident that had nothing to do with it.”

“It had everything to do with it,” his father returned.

“It had nothing to do with it,” shouted Soletus.

Oeric pointed his finger at him and shouted back, “Don’t you use that voice on me or I will knock that attitude out of you.”

“Then do it.”

His father started to get up but his mother grabbed him by the arm and forced him back down. The entire table shook like the foundation of everything between his parents and him.

Cordea looked as if he looked his mind. “Don’t say things like that to your father and expect he won’t do it,” she said.

“But it’s the truth. You’ve always taught me to tell the truth. If he wants to threaten to hit me then needs to follow through.”

His mother’s eyes got wide. “Where has the good sense you were born with flown too?”

“I still have it,” answered Soletus forcing reason in his tone. “I’m just saying if he’s going to threaten me, then he better just do what he says.”

Oeric then appealed to his wife. “There he just told me to hit him again. I’ve full permission.”

“Don’t,” she barked.

He gave her a sharp look.

She returned it with her eyes becoming slits. “I mean it Oeric.”

His father inhaled through his nose and exhaled out of his mouth loudly before regarding him again. He spoke calmer, but the sharpness in his voice was still there. “Now listen here, I didn’t come home to hear about your nonsense and then have to hear you speak nonsense, is that clear?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Soletus stiffly.

“If you continue this and you’ll lose this arrangement with Master Tyr as well until you learn sense again.”

Soletus snorted and laughed. “You can’t even be creative. It’s the same thing with you all the time. Have me start something then take it away.”

His father scrutinized him for a short moment and worked his jaw until words came out. “You’re still upset about not going to the culling! With how mature you’re being now, you haven’t the mind to handle that.”

Soletus felt his lips curl.

Cordea touched his father’s arm. “Oreic, don’t goad him anymore.” Then she flicked her eyes at Soletus. “Leave, now,” she said pointing at the door.

“I’m not done speaking to him,” argued his father.

“Guess what, you are now,” she told him.

Soletus didn’t wait to hear anything else. He got out of his chair, slid it under the table roughly, and slammed the door to his parent’s house and stomped outside. He stood there fuming outside of his parent’s house listening to the rise in fall of their voices. He felt annoyed at being dismissed. It was like when he was a boy, shoved out of the room, and not taken seriously. He had the mind to walk back in there and make them listen.  Then his self-awareness made its presence known and asked him why? What good would it do?  He just told his father to hit him and he was going back in there to give them a piece of his mind for dismissing him.

Soletus had dropped from the door latch. He walked away and marched back to the dorm and walked into the small room. Lyndon was on his bunk resting. Soletus reached up and shook him. The young tod jolted into wakefulness. He stared down at his cousin. Soletus looked up at him wide eyed with panic.

“Did something happen,” asked Lyndon.

“Yeah, I did something stupid,” he said to his cousin and flung himself down on his bunk.

“You mean what happened on the field,” questioned Lyndon while he descended the ladder on the side of the bed.

Soletus sat down on his bed. “Why can’t you not know something for once?”

Lyndon found a spot on the floor. “I wasn’t nosing around, if that’s what you’re thinking. It was Tyrus whinnying in the infirmary. I just happen to be there and it was funny.”

Soletus massaged his forehead. “Glad to be of service.”

“I just find it nice to see you do something about it. You’re too lenient with people.”

“I don’t like fighting with people even though I got into a fight with Tyrus, then Mien, and then my father,” she said and described the events of his afternoon. Lyndon was completely flabbergasted.

“And you walked out alive saying that to your pa,” he said amazed from where he sat on the floor.

“I don’t even know why I even did that. I got annoyed and everything just came out.”

“I knew you were upset with him, but not to the point you had a death wish,” said Lyndon. “Why didn’t you just take it?”

“I don’t know,” said Soletus smashing his palm in his eyes.

“It would’ve been better.”

“I know,” he exasperated to his cousin.

There was a tap on the frame of the doorway. Both of them looked and saw Kiao standing there with a slip of paper between his fingers. “I hope you didn’t summon me here about revenge on Doran.”

“Forget that. Soletus is a dead man,” said Lyndon

The young man brow rose. “Why?”

“He got into a fight with his father!”

Kiao studied them before letting out a sigh and walked into the room. He made himself comfortable on the empty bunk that Valan used to occupy.

“So, tods fight with their father’s all the time. What’s the worse he can do?”

“What can’t he do is the better question,” said Soletus. “The one time I helped Lyn out with a prank and was caught, he had me clean out stable stalls.”

“A little hard labor, so what.”

“I had to use a hand trowel and a bucket.”

Kiao pressed his lips together and looked to struggling to keep a straight face.

“Then there was that time I tried to sneak out of the dorms past curfew with a bunch of other boys and got caught.”

“So, they do it all the time.”

“There was alcohol involved. I didn’t drink any. However, it landed me an entire month of working in the fields.”

“Then last time I did a punishable offense, I had to dig out the drain trench for the latrine. And that was because I accepted a dare to steal a horse, ride through town naked, and spook the guards.”

Kiao clamped his mouth of his mouth. His eyes were bright with laughter.

“And no he didn’t catch me in the act. He just caught us in the dorms on our way back.”

Kiao lowered his hand for a moment and said to “Lyndon, I know you were involved.”

“I’m the one to convince him to go through with it,” he said proudly. “His honor was at stake.”

“But to the maw with my dignity. While Lyn got everyone to keep silent that it was me, Papa knew. Didn’t even try and pressure it out of me. Just woke me up and told me to dig. Why are you trying not to laugh?”

Kiao still had his mouth covered up and let out a snort through his nose. He relaxed his facial muscles and said, “I’m not. I’m just surprised because you’re so restrained.”

“I’m restrained because I got sick of digging through fecal matter. You know what I did during my month in the fields, spread manure from the stables.”

Kiao burst out laughing.

“Uncle Oeric was trying to send him a message.”

“Yeah stop being a muckhead or that’s all you’re going to work with,” grumbled Soletus.

Kiao pulled in a deep breath that was a good impression of a donkey. “Okay, I get it. He’ll come down you for getting in trouble. But still, you did all of that?”

“I did it all during my first year because I thought I could get away with everything since I wasn’t living at home. I actually have less freedom. I can’t do anything that doesn’t go to my father. If it doesn’t go to him, then goes to my grandfather. I don’t mind because he never made me dig through muck.”

Kiao regained control and asked Lyndon, “And what did your father do for the things you were involved with?”

Soletus let out a short laugh. “Uncle Hart would’ve hand him a trophy for each of his deeds if he could.”

“I get lectured because Uncle Oeric lectures my pa on his lack of disciplinary skills,” said Lyndon as if it were the worst thing in the world. Soletus would love to get just lectured.

“Unfair isn’t it,” said Soletus to Kiao.

Kiao nodded. “Agreed. I would love to listen to more stories, but I need to get back so the infirmary. So Lyndon, why am I here,” he asked, standing to his feet.

Lyndon gave Soletus a look.

“Go,” he told his cousin. “If Papa come here, it’s not like he’s going to let you support me.”

Lyndon then joined Kiao and threw his arm around Kiao’s shoulders. He led him out the door saying, “My dear cloth Brother, I was wondering if there is a substance that you can make that’s sticky.”

The dorm room fell silent and for once Soletus didn’t mind that silence. He had a headache and decided it could be fixed by a quick nap. Instead of a dark quick sleep, he stated dreaming of the day of the attack. Everything happened as before. They were in water and Mien spotted the drass beasts. Their growling and snarls were replaced with them repeating, “sloppy, sloppy, sloppy” over and over again.

Even when he was pulled down from the rope ladder, the skulker, with its mouth full of his leg, still managed to repeat the words. When he was being chewed, Mien didn’t save him. All he felt was the burning and the arm but mainly what his father said to him in bed. That entire conversation was repeated to him as he tried to scream. No sound came out of his throat as if he were silenced. He was then consumed by teeth and venom.

The nightmare let up when he felt someone’s hands clamped tightly around his arms. He tried to fight them off.

“Stop! It’s me,” said his father.

His firm voice broke through Soletus half-woke mind. His nightmare broke back to the waking world. The young monk became still with only the movement his body made was the rapid expanding and contracting of his chest.  His father released him when the look of recognition was seen on his face. Soletus sunk down in his bunk gulping air until his hammering heart to crawl back down his throat. A shadow of the burning pain from his dream remained in his arm.

“So how many nightmares have you gone through since the attack,” his father implored.

“None,” answered Soletus.

His father studied him doubtfully.

“It’s the truth.”

“Oh yes, you like to tell the truth. Since you are being so honest, tell me what you honestly think I should do for your behavior towards your mother, peers, and me.”

Soletus heart jumped up again.

“Oh come on, you were so sure of yourself earlier,” baited his father.

The man was ready for a fight.

He swallowed the lump that replaced his heart. “I’m sorry about earlier,” he said and then, all at once, the burning he felt became more pronounced.  Soletus grabbed it as the pain increased to the point he felt like he was bitten again.

Oeric held on to him. “Breathe, the pain will pass.”

Soletus rolled on his side and curled up. He clenched his teeth to keep from crying out. He laid there for what seemed like forever for the burning sensation to let it. Left like it came all at with only a shade of it left before it vanished. He was left breathing heavily again. Soletus wiped the sweat that threatened to roll into his eyes. He felt sapped as he had weeks before.

“Do I need to get you to the infirmary?”

Soletus was uncertain. He felt fine, just clammy.

“Has that happened before?”

“No,” he said.

“Drass beast venom lingers even if you blood is purified,” his father said. “Your body has memory of it and nightmares bring that memory forward. Most desperately try not to get bitten again because of it.”

Soletus tried to sit up. His father pushed him back down.

“I’ve talked to a few people around here and heard you had a bit of a falling out with a friend of yours,” he said. “That he’s been saying things about you and according to Master Tyr, the boys been giving you a hard time about it. Friendly jesting as he put it. It must’ve not been too friendly if you ended up having to take care of it. I’ll let that outburst slide.” Soletus brow shot up in surprise. His father went on. “Your mother did tell me you apologized and you at least did so to me. You get a warning, but this is the only one you get. Don’t step out of line again.”

Soletus was stunned at his father’s leniency. He waited for another stipulation or something. However, the man had nothing else to add to his warning, instead patted his shoulder.

“Get rest,” he said standing up and left.

Soletus waiting until the man had gone through the curtain before he closed his eyes and exhaled. That could’ve been worse. He managed to dodge a single arrow. He didn’t know if he could keep do so with the remaining quiver full his father always had.

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