Ch. 17: Cause and Effect

Soletus is one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. However, when you cross that line with him, he’ll jump over it to. He became less prone when he was older mainly because he was a lot more mature, but at the same time, I wonder if it was because he showed a lot of people that he won’t be pushed around.

Kiao was right Doran did try to raise a fuss. His father supported and pushed the notion he was scored unfairly. This was nothing new. Soletus heard stories from his father about disgruntled Brotherhood parents who weren’t pleased about of their child’s assessment score. However, it was always fair.

The scoring was simple, a warder looking to become warden had to pass a field assessment through an obstacle course which most passed and then a practical assessment. That was the hard part. The warder has to fight three wardens at the same time. One was testing them on defense, one offense, and the other was a combination of the two to see their combined skill.  The warder also has to recognize who is who. They had to tap the one who was defending, block the offensive, and tap them, and disarm the one using both skills. Both assessments were timed. Skill was huge factor and clumsiness, and nervousness counted against the warder.

Doran told his father that Master Oreic was especially hard on him and was being biased because he didn’t get along with Soletus. It was a laughable accusation as his father was very objective when it came to assessing the trials. He had a good eye for fighters and knew a great deal about combat. He was the hardest of all of the hand-to-hand combat masters to please. In fact, no one ever got a perfect from him. Soletus heard from his father many times that he didn’t want an unprepared junior warden in a training band.

Soletus knew Doran was a bad fighter. He sparred with him plenty of times to know that. And even getting help from a bunch of junior wardens didn’t help at all according to his father at dinner the day Doran was finally told to shut up and train more.

“I’ve never seen a parent put up this much fuss about their child,” stated Oeric.  “You should’ve seen the way he was fighting. There was no finesse in his moves, he did a poor job planning, and had no patients. He was too nervous. If he can’t fight in front of those who trained him for an assessment, how will he do so on the road,” said his father.

Cordea nodded understandingly and just let him rant.  Fern, for some reason, was still interested in such things and listened. Soletus thought Saedee was lucky. She was too young to pay attention and took more joy in rolling her peas across the plate. Soletus absently poke at his food in silence. His vacantly focused on the wood grains of the table. He used to look forward eating with his family when he first started training. It was a sanctuary away from learning and lectures. Now it was something he had to suffer through. He didn’t want to be there. He only did it for his mother because it was something she liked. He didn’t want to be there mostly because of his father.

Despite his father’s leniency and the fact he hadn’t been on his back lately, he could still feel the resentment stirring low in his chest. He didn’t want to hear about Doran or the trials that he missed because of the man sitting at the head of the table complaining.

“Sloppy, completely sloppy,” his father ended. Soletus dropped his fork at the sound of his father’s condescending tone. He wanted to get up and leave.

His mother then caught sight of him. “Soletus, you haven’t touched a thing.”

“I’m not very hungry,” he said picking his fork up and chewed on a single slice of carrot.

Both his parents exchanged a brief glance before his father gave him and accusing stare. “Have you been having nightmares?”

“No. I just had that one,” Soletus answered and before the conversation of his sleeping habits began to be discussed, someone tapped on the door. “I’ll get it,” said Soletus scooting from the table. Thank you Dias for the distraction.

He flung the door opened and was greeted by the boney face of Mien.

“Lyndon said you might be here,” said the boy.  His eyes shifted behind him then to his face again. “I’m interrupting aren’t I?”

“Please tell me you need me,” pleaded Soletus.

Mien became confused. “Well yes and no. I just wanted to ask you something, but if you’re eating with your family, it can wait.”

“Is that Mien,” said his mother.

“Yes,” said Soletus shouting to her then whispered to him. “Be urgent like you need me I don’t want to be here.”

Mien’s eyes widened at being put on the spot the way he was and he began to fumble.

“Uhhh,” he said.

“Tell him to step in a moment,” she requested.

Soletus stepped aside and Mien tried his best not to be nervous. But he fiddled with his fingers and wore an expression that reminded Soletus of a frightened rabbit.

“Greetings Madame Sheldmartin,” he said and at the sight of Soletus’s father, he became stiff. “And to you as well Sir…uh Master Oeric.”

“What brings you here,” said Soletus’s mother.

“You’re son actually. I-I-I need to talk to him, it’s important,” he spilled out as fast as he could.

“Surely you can stay a moment. I can fix you a little something on your way back to the chapel.”

Mien swallowed and shook his head rapidly. “No…uh thanks. I’ve eaten.”

Soleus’s mother gave him a warm smile. “Oh yes, I guess you’ve been eating at the mess hall now.”

Mien nodded. “Yes, Lyndon’s been making sure that I do.”

Master Oeric raised his brow at Soletus. “You’ve Lyndon in on this now?”

“I didn’t ask him, he jumped right in,” said Soletus.

Fern laughed. “That sounds like Lyn.”

“Well I suppose you should hurry up and finish up. No need to waste food,” said Master Oeric.

Soletus had nearly a full plate to empty. He sat down and crammed it down in six bites to be freed from spending an entire evening with his parents. When he stepped outside he felt relieved. Though, his stomach ached a bit. Mien looked the same.

“Look at you being able to hold a polite conversation,” congratulated Soletus, punching him in the shoulder.

Mien rubbed his arm looking at the street. “It’s easier now. Brother Hickory taught me a trick so voices don’t bother me as much.”

“See, I was right about him helping,” said Soletus, he bent down to scratch Onyx behind her ears. “So what brings you here?”

“I’m worried about Doran.”

Onyx rolled on her stomach. Soletus began to scratch that. “Why?”

“Not for his wellbeing. I think he might do something.”

“What do you mean do something?”

Mien looked around him at the road as if someone was there then explained. “I was with Kiao today and he came to the infirmary to apologize to him off to the side”

“Well it took him long enough,” remarked Soletus.

“Well that’s not all he did. He was keeping his voice really low and I didn’t want to make everything so loud so I didn’t catch everything he was saying, but he doesn’t like me. In fact, I don’t think a lot of people do.”

Soletus thought on how to tell him the truth gently. He stood up and gestured for Mien to follow down the walk to the road.

“Well he doesn’t and I can’t speak for everyone else, but given how judgmental members here get with nobles, they would have some reservations about you,” he said at length.

Mien hung his head down. “I figured.”

“Doran thinks you’re evil though.”

Mien jolted as if he was struck in the face. “Why,” he exclaimed and then turned his head around at the road behind them.

“Because of what you did to the drass beast,” explained Soletus.

The boy stopped walking tilted his head. “That makes no sense. He how is killing something soulless and evil make me evil?”

“Plain stupidity that’s what. He thinks you like killing things aside from whatever else he has against you.”

Mien became distressed. “But I don’t! Just because I…I wasn’t even in my right mind. And that drass beast was different. I wanted it dead and Brother Hickory said it wasn’t a bad thing. He said it was a chanter thing.”

“A chanter thing?”

Mien bobbed his head. “He said that chanter can feel the wrongness that is a drass beast. Some become scared, but others like me don’t. We move to kill them.”

That was news to Soletus, then again, he didn’t know that many chanters personally. However, you would an honored priest, like Doran’s father, would know better.

Mien still looked stricken. “Everyone else doesn’t think I’m evil, do they?”

“No, their issue is because you’re the son of a noble house. They’ve seen their fair share of boys from a rich family that are thrown to us to fix and they mess up even more that be better.”

“But I am trying,” said Mien earnestly.

Soleus placed his hand on his shoulder patted it. “Don’t worry about those dods. They’ll get over themselves. Doran however, he’ll end up doing something dumb. I know it.”

Mien looked behind him again.

“Why do you keep doing that,” asked Soletus eyeing behind him as well and caught the tail end of a figure vanishing behind a house.

“That’s why,” whispered Mien. “A boy has been following me since I left the infirmary,” he said looking over his shoulder again. “I came straight here.”

“You should have gone to Brother Hickory.”

Mien shook his head. “It’s one of Doran’s new friends. I figured you might know something and that was much better than just saying someone is following me to Hickory who doesn’t know what’s going on.”

Soletus couldn’t argue with that logic even though he wanted too just for the fact he wasn’t telling the priest something again.

“So what do I tell Brother Hickory now that I know what’s going on?”

That was a good question. Soletus didn’t even know why Doran would bother having Mien followed. Make sure he wasn’t summoning some something dark from Malicifer’s maw, he guessed.

“I’ll walk you back to the chapel,” offered Soletus and then added. “For what to tell Brother Hickory, tell him that Doran has issue with you and thinks you’re evil and tell him about what he told Kiao and leave it at that.”

“Okay then what?”

“Just wait.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. There’s a good chance this will get the response I want.”

“And that is?”

“You’ll see,” promised Soletus giving Mien a toothy grin.

The next day, Doran was given a private lecture from the Arch Priest and Brother Hickory about his fears. And because nothing stays a secret very long in the priest’s hall, it spread around the Brotherhood just like Doran’s gossip on Soletus. Everyone was teasing him about him finding everything evil.

“Are you sure you want to use that staff, it might be possessed,” said a tod to him within earshot of Soletus. Everyone was laughing except Doran who stood there becoming as red as a ripe summer cherry. Lyndon started laughing when he heard it as well.

“Seriously that was genius,” said Lyndon.

“Completely unFenndish of me, but he deserved it,” said Soletus.

Doran however, the young monk knew that probably wouldn’t be the end of it. Doran was the kind of person who had to have final say. This time, Soletus hoped it wouldn’t involve Mien and be directed at him.

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