Sometimes the most direct action isn’t always the best. However, there is always someone who appreciates the effort.
Soletus sat on the edge of the infirmary bed mulling over what the best outcome for him in terms of punishment. Fighting with another brother was a punishable offense. It always led to a public lashing unless he wasn’t the attacker and was lying on the ground defenseless, taking the beating. That wasn’t the case. Doran may have provoked the attack, but Soletus has become the attacker. He messed up.
Dias, have some mercy on me because I’m not getting it from them, he thought as he watched Master Marth, the Arch Monk, and his father talking to each of the other tods. They spoke to Doran first and were now on the other tods there. Soletus heard the door to the infirmary open. He twisted behind him to see if it was Brother Hickory was returning with Mien. The older priest went search for him as well help sort everything out. Soletus wanted to be part of the group searching for Mien. However, he was made to stay there and feel the disapproving scowls his father was periodically giving him as he talked with Master Marth.
Mien looked roughed up. His head was down and he was hugging himself trying to be unnoticed. He was taken to one of the private rooms through the hall. After that, two peace guards filed in guarding the entrance of the standing stiff. Then Honored Priest Meric appeared. They held out their arms to stop him, but he wiggled by them so fast and erupted into a fuss.
“What is the nonsense about my son starting a fight?”
No sooner than he said that, the Arch Monk returned, “Shut-up, Meric! One more yap out of you and I’ll have one of these priests stitch your lips shut!”
Meric swallowed his tirade and silently stood beside Oeric to listen to what was being said.
Kiao slipped out of Mien’s room, followed by Brother Hickory. The older priest went towards the men. Kiao walked through them and ignored one of the request form the tods to look at a bruise he thought to be a fracture. The young man stopped in front of Soletus.
“You’ve been looked at?”
Soletus swayed his aching head.
“You managed to fight six boys and came out the better,” said the young man impressed.
“I can’t say I can celebrate,” said Soletus indicating to the Arch Monk with his head. He wore that familiar no nonsense expression on his aged face. “Hand me a shovel, so I can finish the grave I’ve dug.”
Kiao glanced over his shoulder before starting on Soletus giving him a physical inspection and pulled his eyes wide. “I’m sorry. I let Lyndon talk me into getting your grandfather.”
“Why would Lyndon do that,” he exclaimed.
Kiao then climbed on the bed behind him. “He thought you would just look for Mien. He swore up and down you wouldn’t fight anyone.”
“Oops.” It dawned on him how out of character his actions were. “Is Mien okay?”
Kiao started unbraiding his hair and said, “Now he is. Spent more time calming him down than looking,” he said. Soletus felt him part it to inspect his head. “I’m not sure how you’ve managed to calm him down from such a state. Did you know you were hit in the head?”
Soletus felt his finger brushed the edge of the bruise causing Soletus flinched.
“Yes, but they hit like little girls. I don’t think they wanted to hurt me.”
“Not too much as you keep favoring your right arm.”
“Shoulder,” he said. “I pulled a muscle during their initial rush I think. I was a bit busy to notice.”
“I’ll find something you can take to at least make it less sore,” offered Kiao.
Alder shouted out Kiao’s name for him to take a look at the one Soletus had thrown dirt at their eye.
Kiao bobbed his head. “First, let me see what he wants me to do with these babies.”
Soletus nodded and saw the tight pack of grownups coming toward him. He did his best to salute even though he felt the muscle in his shoulder pull.
“Arch Monk. Honored Priest, Masters,” he greeted.
“He’s the first one of these tods to remember themselves,” grumbled Master Marth. His hair wasn’t combed. His shirt was untucked. He was probably in bed when they got him up since he was part of the disciplinary board. He wasn’t happy at all so Soletus didn’t have the ability to appeal to him.
“We need clear a few things up,” said Brother Hickory.
He was the friendliest one there as usual of all the men poised around his bed. He expected to be escorted into a private meeting.
“I don’t think there is much to say,” interjected Honored Priest Meric. “We all know what happened.”
Soletus didn’t know why he was even allowed to stand there listening. He wasn’t even a monk, but given from what Soletus was told and had witnessed, he was going to be there to protect Doran regardless.
“The only question we have related to certain details, mainly about why this situation escalated the way it did,” said Master Marth.
Brother Hickory cleared his throat. “We need to know what is going on between you and Doran.”
Soletus shrugged. “You’ll be better off asking him. All I know he doesn’t like me anymore.”
“He claims you spread around rumors and caused people to tease him in an act of revenge,” said Brother Hickory.
Soletus arched his brow. “Revenge for what?”
“He didn’t say.”
“Of course he didn’t. He doesn’t want to admit to talking behind people’s backs. I don’t do that. I can’t help it if people eavesdrop and spread those rumors, especially if Doran wasn’t talking to in a private location.”
Meric narrowed his eyes at him. “Look at him. He doesn’t even care.”
“It wasn’t my problem,” replied Soletus apathetically. “What became my problem is when he used my friend to bait me into a fight.”
Master Marth rubbed the bags under his eyes. “The other boys mentioned a scuffle between you and Doran.”
“Oh, that. He came at me with a staff and ended up hitting Kiao when he tried to pull him away from Lyndon who was trying to help me.”
“Why didn’t you tell anyone about it?”
“Because it was Kiao he hurt and he believed it wasn’t worth the fuss. I respected his decision. I would’ve just left it there.”
The Honored Priest then appealed to Marth. “He obviously didn’t give what he did tonight.”
“He took Mien, who was left listening to the performers,” exclaimed Soletus. “Then tried to bully me with his friends trying to fight me at once.”
That caused a round of raised eyebrows.
“They all tried to fight you at once,” asked Marth.
Soleus let a wry smile lift his face. “You thought they lined themselves up politely and fought me one at a time?”
His father then spoke up. “Watch your tone.”
“My tone,” he said sharply. “What you don’t like me talking to everyone plainly? I think it would be much quicker than me being ashamed with my head hanging down and muttering.”
Master Marth hand fell on his father’s shoulder the moment he ended his statement. “Oeric, leave it. We’ve a few more things to cover,” he told him and then focused on Soletus again. “Soletus, to us, it seems you were looking for a fight given that you were armed with your heavy staff. You could’ve hurt one of them severely.”
“I didn’t now did I,” he said. “I’ve couldn’t done a lot worse.”
“That’s all Warder,” said Marth and the group followed him to the center isle of the infirmary and conferred amongst themselves in hushed voices. Soletus could still hear them though.
“What did I tell you, two different stories,” muttered Marth.
“If we hadn’t allowed that boy in, none of this would have happened,” said Honored Meric.
Brother Hickory whipped his head to him. “He wasn’t a problem until your son tried to make him a problem. For all I know weeks of hard work to steady him out have been lost.”
“When can we interview him,” asked Marth.
“I would rather wait until morning, but, whenever Soletus is ready” said Brother Hickory.
Soletus’s father swayed his head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hickory.”
“It’ll be easier if we just use the truth phrase on them,” suggested Master Marth. “Then we wouldn’t have to figure out who’s lying.”
“I will not subject my son to be treated like a delinquent,” erupted Honored Meric.
“He is a delinquent. All of them are and well within the rules for me to authorize such a method,” cut in the Arch Monk. Meric to clamp his mouth shut. Soletus hoped they wouldn’t do it. He heard it was a very uncomfortable thing for a chanter to do to another person.
Brother Hickory cleared his throat. “That’s a heavy-handed method for this instance, Arch Monk. I wouldn’t mind doing so for a dire offense, but this is a personal disagreement that’s gotten out of hand.”
Soletus grandfather scratched his chin. “You’re right; this is too petty even for me to be here.” Soletus grimaced inwardly from that statement. “We’ve one more boy we should go.”
“I still feel we should get someone else,” pressed Oreic.
“It’ll be better if Soletus comes,” said Brother Hickory. “He’s spent more time with him and as much as Kiao works well with him, he trusts your son more.”
Brother Hickory motioned Soletus. He slid off his bed and followed the group of grownups. He felt a lot more aches as he walked away from the adults. He felt the tods he fought with scrutiny on him as they made their way back there. Brother Hickory knocked on the door and opened the door at the same time. Soletus expected to see Mien curled up in a corner, but he was sitting in the middle of his bed with his legs drawn up and his head down. He looked up at them when the door opened. His eyes were clear, but became wide at the number of men standing there. He scooted back until his back was pressed against the headboard.
“Hey,” greeted Soletus.
Mien relaxed and tilted his head as if he didn’t recognize him. “Soletus?”
The young monk gathered his hair together and pulled it all back. He knew he looked completely different with his hair down. He had a lot of his mother in his face. Even with that Mien didn’t relax. His eyes were fixed on the adults.
Soletus leaned over to Brother Hickory and said into his ear. “I think maybe we should go someplace more open.”
“We’ll go to the foyer,” said Brother Hickory to the others, then to me. “Don’t worry. You’re not in any trouble.”
Mien crawled off the bed, tentatively and didn’t move until Hickory pushed Marth and Oeric away opening up the hall and the door more. Soletus gestured him forward and the boy glued himself to Soletus’s side. Once they were in the waiting area of the infirmary, Brother Hickory guided him to a comfortable chair. Soletus sat next to him.
“They just want to ask you some questions about what happened,” he told him.
Master Marth stepped up to question him. “We just want to know what happened after Kiao left you.”
Mien hung his head down. His cheeks reddened. “I don’t really remember,” he said with his voice sounded unusually hoarse.” I was listening to the music and lost myself. All I know someone was shaking me and then they took me away. I come to because they splashed water in my face. It was Doran.”
“See my son didn’t do anything wrong, but kept him from doing something to someone. Honestly Hickory you shouldn’t even allow him to leave your sight if he’s that timbre sensitive,” scolded Meric.
Mien whimpered softly.
Soletus gripped his forearm. “Ignore him,” said Soletus and heard the man huff. “It was your first time out alone. I shouldn’t’ve left your side. Go on.”
“I don’t think I was causing any trouble. Doran just wanted my attention or something and took me away to get it because after a tad came behind me and gagged me. Another put a sack over my head and carried me off.”
Soletus glanced at Meric whose face was now puckered and getting riper, but made no remark.
“I don’t know where they carried me, but they put me down and pushed me against a tree and yanked my arms up forcing me to hug it so they could tie me to it. Doran called me a kin killer and started going on about how elves who killed family were tied to a pole and beaten before they were hung.”
“Now my boy wouldn’t do anything like that,” exclaimed Meric. “Besides that, he’s right. That is an appropriate punishment for someone murdering another.”
“Above and below! For the last time, his step-brother is plenty alive,” said Soletus and then he looked down at one of Mien’s wrists. They were red and raw. “And these look a lot like rope burns for someone trying to get free.”
“This is why Soletus didn’t need to be here,” muttered Oeric.
Mien folded his arms and tucked his wrists so no one could see them.
“Meric, I will stitch your lips myself,” threatened the Arch Monk.
The man pressed his lips together nodding.
“And Soletus, I’ll have you removed if you say anything else to inflame the situation, is that clear?”
Mien flinched beside him at his words. He started shuttering.
“Grandfather, I mean no offense, but you need to keep your voice quiet,” said Soletus putting a comforting arm around Mien now.
The Arch Monk head swung to Hickory to explain.
“The boy is timbre sensitive and he responds poorly to loud critical voices,” explained Hickory.
The Arch Monk nodded, though he looked annoyed.
“That was directed at me Mien,” said Soletus.
Mien swallowed. “I know.”
“Focus on the now. No one is going to hurt you. They just need to know what happened. Did Doran hurt you any more than that?”
He swayed his head. “I escaped before they could do anything thing. They just made popping sounds with a belt to scare me. They never hit me with it. I burned the rope and tried to run off until one of them grabbed me by the hair.”
“They said you used the phrase of light on them,” stepped in Marth again.
Mien eyes dropped to the floor. “I didn’t mean to. I just reacted.”
“Why didn’t you find someone to get them after you were free,” asked Master Marth gentler.
Soletus patted his back. “Come on, you can look up, Master Marth is a good man. He taught my clutch. He’s fair and kind just like Brother Hickory.”
“They chased me and I ran and hid somewhere. I was too afraid to move,” he answered barely audible enough. Soleus was sure they would ask him to repeat I but no request came.
“He has anxious fits, but hasn’t had one in weeks until now,” informed Brother Hickory.
Marth then and got down on his knee in front of Mien. “May I see your wrists?”
Mien complied holding them out. The old master inspected them. “There isn’t much in the way of meat to you, lad. Talk about an unfair advantage those six boys had.” Marth stood. “I’ve seen enough, Solgard. You know what I’m going to say.”
The Arch Monk shook his head. “No, let the boy go. I’ve heard enough. Gather the other tods. Soletus come with me. We’ll settle this tonight.”
As they all filed out Mien quietly asked the young monk. “What happened to you?”
“I’ll tell you later,” Soletus promised.
They parted. Hickory took him back to the infirmary. Soletus followed the adults down the hall. They all gathered in what was the Head’s Room. There sat three tall chairs in the center of the room. In the middle was where the Patriarch would sit and to his right, the Arch Priest. Both were empty. The Arch Monk sat in the chair on the left and folded his arms across his stomach. The old elf wore a heavy disappointment frown.
“What in the name of all were you thinking in your handling of this situation? First and foremost, you should have gone to someone about all of this before this got out hand,” he said.
“I know, sir,” said Soletus.
“But you didn’t. Why?”
“He made me mad, that’s all.”
The Arch Monk narrowed his eyes. “That seems to be your reaction to a lot of things lately and it stops tonight.”
The door opened up again and the others filed in. Soon all seven of them were standing there up for display.
“I was having a very merry evening in town,” started the Arch Monk. “I had a nice tankard of freshly brewed autumn ale in my hand, listening to the festivities around me. However, I was dragged away to deal with the childish, petty behavior of those who will one day represent this order to the people.”
The Arch Monks brows were drawn close together as he gave them all a stern look, but Soletus felt he was directing it mostly at him.
“Warder Doran’Shrike, you will stand up in front of your brother and you’re infraction told to them and whipped for your spitefulness.”
“You can’t be serious,” exclaimed, Doran’s father.
The Arch Monk fixed his attention to him. “His behavior is unbecoming of a monk. Not only did he take someone by force, humiliated them, and then used them as bait and his friends lied about it.”
“That boy could’ve been lying about all of that,” exclaimed Meric.
The Arch Monk pulled out the note that Doran left for Soletus. Kiao must have given it to him. “You don’t have to wield the phrase of truth to know who is and isn’t lying.”
Meric took it and looked down at the paper.
“Whose handwriting is that? You should know better than I do.”
Meric gave his son the darkest glares.
“If Doran doesn’t learn how to work with his brothers, how can he work for Dias and spread his voice. The boy will be lashed four times.”
Doran face soured but he knew better than hold his head up.
Then his grandfather sharp gaze landed on Soletus. “As for you, my grandson, you know better out of all of these boys what you should and shouldn’t do. You will be lashed seven times.”
Soletus opened his mouth to protest, but the swallowed it. He balled his fist up and looked at the wall. And everyone thought being the Arch Monks grandson was easy. That it gave him all sorts of privileges. Sure, he had privileges, the privilege of having harsher punishments. He half listened to the other tods punishments. They weren’t going to be lashed, but would be serving extra duties. He felt even more insulted and then a heavy hand fall on his shoulder and held him tightly. His father’s voice hissed in his ear.
“I gave you a warning and you ignored it. You think your grandfather was hard on you. Master Tyr will be looking for another assistant. You’ll be spending this entire season being working in the kitchen. I’m I clear?”
The man started to leave when the Arch Monk stopped him.
“Oeric, don’t you take one more step. You too Soletus.”
Everyone else left leaving son, father, and grandfather alone.
The arch monk sat his attention on his grandson. “What did your father tell you,” he asked.
“That I will be serving the mess hall for the next season and that Master Tyr is to look for another assistant,” he answered.
The Arch Monk then gave his son a curious look. “What gives you the right to punish him further?”
Oeric squared his shoulders. “He’s my son. I warned him if he made another misstep, there will be consequences.”
The Arch Monk quirked a brow at him. “And you think the punishment I gave him isn’t sufficient?”
“He needs to be broken of acting out of anger,” he reasoned.
“The behavior needs to be curbed,” corrected the Arch Monk. “Taking things away is punishment for a child. This isn’t a child. This young tod came to a friend’s rescue. He also managed to fend off six boys from him and was the least injured of them. That is a display of skill. It needs to be honed and directed properly. That can’t happen with him washing dishes.”
Not that my skills are currently being honed right now, Soletus thought.
“Master Tyr’s position was a privilege,” argued his father.
“Privilege implies that this was the best option available to him,” retorted the Arch Monk. “He had a better one with Warden Kellas.”
Oeric’s shoulders slumped. He looked like any son arguing with his father. “It wasn’t a good idea. More so with what happened to him. He suffered a drass beast bite, Sir. He’s a severe intolerance to their venom.”
“You can’t protect him from everything, Oeric,” said the Arch Monk.
“He needs to face another drass beast again to make sure that is the only effect. Usually fear is instilled there.”
Even with that sound reasoning, the Arch Monk disagreed. “So you want to waste his talent until then?”
“He needs to train his mind. As you said, he isn’t a boy anymore. He displays this every day, especially with his current actions.”
Soletus waited patiently for one of them to notice him again. They never did when they started arguing.
His grandfather then began using his sage voice. “If a horse starts bucking and rearing do you try to wrestle control over it by hobbling it to make sure it doesn’t lose control again? No, you figure out why it lost control in the first place and try to fix it without fighting or antagonizing it further.”
Oeric pinched the bridge of his nose. “The horse analogy is getting old, Papa.”
The Arch Monk waved his arm in the air. “Well, maybe if you listened, I wouldn’t have to repeat it so much for it to get old. You’re making the same mistakes I made with you.”
“He’s my son and I will raise him how I see fit,” asserted his father.
Soletus stifled a groan. Here we go.
“I’m not telling you how to raise him, seeing as he’s raised, Oeric. He doesn’t need a disciplinary as now he needs guidance.”
Oeric wiped his face with his hands. “I am guiding him!”
“How? By blocking his way and pushing him down a narrow path of your creation and not one guided by Dias?”
“I pray for guidance every night when dealing with my children,” defended Oeric.
“And yet you act out of fear,” his grandfather returned.
Soletus then saw the cords in his father’s neck next tighten. “I just want him on the right path.”
“And he’s still on it,” said the older elf firmly. “He is to remain Master Tyr’s assistant. I don’t argue your logic of him needing to wait to see how he handles himself in front of another drass beast before he’s placed anywhere else. However, I do see what you mean, he’s starting to act….” his grandfather paused and finally took notice of him. “Warder, go back to your bunk. You need to get sleep for tomorrow.”
Soletus gladly left, shutting the two double doors behinds him.