I never liked being punished for anything. Soletus liked it even less. He wasn’t sorry for what he did and didn’t want to be made to feel sorry. It’s not that he didn’t like showing remorse. He didn’t want to be sorry for doing the right thing. He’s steadfast in his principles and that’s a good thing. However, sometimes, it makes him a bit of a self-righteous bastard.
Being whipped wasn’t an experience Soletus wanted to repeat. As, once again, he was left lying on an infirmary bed. He lay on his stomach trying to reflect on his action as they wanted, but he couldn’t. Doran was resting on the bed beside him moaning in an effort to make his father feel sorry for him. It worked, as the Honored Priest wanted someone to heal his back. However, that would defeat the entire purpose of being punished. The priest kept Alder and Kiao on the feet for other solutions and now they vanished to prepare some kind of ointment that was a lot stronger than the stuff they spread on their backs earlier. It cooled the pain down for a moment before the stinging came back full force again. The interruption at least it stopped Doran from crying beside him.
Doran started after the second strike and continued to cry out in pain afterwards. Watching it wasn’t that bad. It only made him flinch. Being tied to the whipping pole in the cool of the morning wasn’t that bad either. What was bad was hearing saturated birch canes whistle through the hair and strike him on the back. What was even worse was what happened to him during his flogging. The pain from the skulker bites came alive again. The burning sensation radiated in his arm and calf. He knew the venom had lasting effects he didn’t think it would haunt him like this.
Both Kiao and Alder walked back up the stairs from the basement of the infirmary. Alder was carrying a bowl what had a brown substance oozing from over the side.
“That took you long enough,” snapped the Honored Priest.
“It’s not something we keep on hand because it doesn’t preserve for very long,” answered Alder. Kiao stopped short by Soletus and watched Doran start kicking his leg on the bed.
“That burns,” he cried.
“Well, it’s going to,” said Kiao from where he stood. “It will eventually lessen the pain, but it is also keeps infection out as well.”
“Why not make the other ointment I told you about,” questioned the Honored Priest.
“That requires the use of unicorn hoof. That particular plant isn’t in season and what we have dried isn’t enough to spare. I reserve it for field medic kits,” reasoned Kiao. “Doran will be okay. Bed rest is best for this sort of thing.”
Brother Meric grumbled to himself and patted his son on the head. Soletus rolled his head followed by his eyes. Kiao mirrored the expression as well before setting down on the side of his bed.
“I’m a little worried. You’ve been very quiet,” he said.
Soletus swallowed, his throat was dry. “My arm and leg hurt.”
Kiao examined his face. “Your pupils are a bit dilated and glassy so you have a fever. I can get you a private room if you like.”
Soletus swayed his head. “I would rather go home.”
He pushed himself up. Kiao didn’t stop him, but gave him a warning. “I’m not sure if you want to walk that entire way.”
Soletus pointed to his shirt that was folded neatly on the chair. Kiao handed it to him.
“I would imagine your father might have words for you.”
“He can get over himself. Besides, he and Grandpa got into an argument last night. He never says anything to me after one of those.”
“What about your mother?”
“If I look terrible enough, she’ll just feel sorry for me.”
“You do look terrible,” admitted Kiao.
When Soletus pulled on the loose shirt, he felt his sore muscle in his shoulder pull again from his fight on top of the skin on his back protesting from the movement as well. He should’ve stayed there. He shouldn’t want to go home. He should go straight to the dorms, but he didn’t feel like Lyndon interrogating him on how being whipped felt.
Soletus slipped on his boots before sitting still on the edge of his bed and took a deep breath before standing. He didn’t feel terribly bad after taking a few tentative steps.
“I think I can make it.”
“All right, stay there, I’ll do a house visit later,” said Kiao and stood up just as Meric shouted for his attention. He covered his face with a hand and muttered, “Dias, preserve me from idiot dods.” He then forced a smile on his face. “It might be a bit though,”
Soletus gave him a sympathetic smile before making his way home. The more he moves the more better he felt earlier on. However, varies stings and aches started getting to him. It wasn’t a hot day, but the distance wasn’t very forgiving on his tired body. By the time he walked up the footpath, he was exhausted. Onyx didn’t see him and barked once thinking he was a stranger. When she saw him, she jumped on him and nearly toppled him.
“Down,” he shouted at her and pushed her. The dog dropped and looked ashamed. She sensed something wrong and gave him an apologetic lick on the hand.
“Sorry I can’t play with you,” said Soletus patting her head and walking in.
He knew his mother was at one of her women’s society events and despite being old enough to attend, Fern never did. She would be there with Saedee. However, she wasn’t in her usual spot watching their little sister play on the floor. Instead, he heard a scraping noise coming from her room down the short hall. She was sitting on her bed running a black steel dagger across a whetstone.
“Where did you get that,” he asked her.
His sister jumped with a start and held her dagger up at him. He leaned against the doorway unafraid.
“Above and below stop walking like a wraith,” she shouted.
“I opened and shut the door. You were too busy sharping that thing,” he pointed. “What do you need that for?”
“A girl needs a nice pointed object to protect herself,” she said proudly holding the dagger up for him to see and then sheathed it. Fern slid both it and the whetstone under her pillow. “What are you doing here anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be reflecting on your misconduct?”
“Yes and you’re in my spot to reflect,” he said.
His old room was converted to Saedee’s room. She slept in his old bed with a wooden bar that went across the edge. If he ever wanted to sleep over it was always Fern’s room and on the floor. She never gave up her bed unless she was out with the huntresses.
“Don’t you have a dorm room or the infirmary bed?”
Soletus entered her room and sat on the other end of her bed. “Doran’s there and his father is making everything worse.”
Her brow scrunched up. “So you walked here for what, peace? Mama and Papa are livid.”
He groaned at hearing that. His sister rested a hand on his arm.
“Sol, what’s wrong? What you did wasn’t you. I’m not going to be dumb and blame Mien like mama was last night.”
Soletus face twisted with disbelief. “Why?”
“It’s stupid, I know, but you know Mama,” she said. “Anyway, you’ve not been yourself since you started helping him and even more so after the drass beast attacked.”
Soletus stared at his sister debated with himself to tell her what their father said to him. They weren’t particularly close siblings. They were ten years apart. That was nothing unusual for an elf. It was more common for them to be nearly twenty years apart. However, she wasn’t someone he felt equal too because of it. Lyndon was more like a sibling. He practically lived with them some days and he with his aunt and uncle. It wasn’t until he was older that she paid a bit more attention to him. Before then, they just had little to do with each other. She went away for a few years before coming back two years ago when Saedee was born. When the girl got old enough, she would go away again.
“Come on, you can tell me. I won’t tell Mama or Papa.”
Soletus flexed his left hand while he spoke. “It’s Papa. He keeps getting in my way and when he isn’t doing that, I don’t know, he’s like purposely trying to make me annoyed or angry at him. This has been going on longer than just when Mien arrived. You just noticed I guessed.”
She looked at him apologetically. “Everyone annoyed me at your age. Especially Mama because she wanted me to be part of the women’s society. And I did, I just joined the huntresses instead. She thought it was dangerous. I mean it’s not like we’re killing drass beasts. We just patrol the farms and help them. And she didn’t like that. She liked it less when we went after a few petty thieves. Papa didn’t care. He might say he was proud of me.”
“Good for you, I can never tell if he like what I do anymore. Heck I don’t even know if he even likes me at this point. You should’ve heard what he said to me when I woke up after that attack. Sloppy, that what I did was sloppy.”
“He was upset. He cares. He’s just not very showy about it.”
“There’s a difference in being standoffish and being a bastard about everything.”
Fern laid a hand on his leg. “Have you ever thought of going. I mean, the last fight I had with Mama, I thought Papa was going to yell at me too. Instead, he took me for a walk and gave me a choice. He said I butt heads with mama or I can go to our aunts for a while. And maybe you should consider staying at Aunt Cyris. They’ll love to have you help out with the orchard.”
Soletus rather not given his last experience there was less than fun. They never wanted him to be a warden and spent his entire time there trying to force that desire out of him.
“No, I rather continue doing what I’m doing here,” he said as a chill coursed through him. The ache in his arm flared a moment.
“Because you’re doing sooo much here,” she said unaware of how much pain was getting to him. “Aside from Mien, what are you doing really?”
“A big fat lot of nothing,” he admitted. He gestured to his back. “Can I lie down now?”
Fern took her dagger and whetstone and placed them underneath the bed.
“How did you get that,” asked Soletus stretching out on his stomach.
“I’ve been saving coin” she said. “I’ve been thinking when I get to go back to Aunt Cyris and working for them. I would like to help with the delivery hence the knife. Better than following Mama’s footsteps. I mean, she does a lot for this town, and it wonderful and all, but we can’t be in the same room together very long,” Fern then lifted up the edge of her shirt and whistled through her teeth. “Ouch, it’s all swollen and raw looking.”
“It feels that way too,” muttered Soletus.
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Yeah, stay here and talk to me,” he said closing his eyes. He just wanted to hear something to relax too. Fern took his place at the end of the bed and started talking about what she did for the festival. It was all very mundane and not about him. In the middle of her ramble about something funny that happened during her dancing, their mother come home calling for Fern. She left for a brief period of silence before he heard her returning down the hall.
“Mama please, he just went off to sleep,” said Fern. “He has a fever and was all poor pitiful me when he walked in.”
His mother lifted his shirt and checked his back. “You should’ve sent him back the way he came.”
“You know he doesn’t like the infirmary given how much he complains about it. Please don’t wake him.”
His mother touched his forehead and then cheek. “He is a bit warm.”
The front door opened again and his father shouted to see if anyone was there. Soletus kept himself from flinching, but was sure his mother saw him tense a little. If she did, she didn’t say anything. She went to the doorway and let out a low whistle. That was followed by heavier footsteps stop at the doorway.
“What do you make of this,” asked his mother.
His father didn’t say anything. Maybe he shrugged. Soletus didn’t know. He didn’t care. He just wanted them gone.
Fern let out a groan. “Good grief! Can’t he come home if he wants? You know how tods his age are, they want space, but they’re still boys.”
Soletus wasn’t sure if he should send praises to Dias for what she said or feel a little insulted about her calling him a boy. However, that seemed to work in getting his mother and father to leave him alone. He felt his mother’s hand smooth out the back of his head and then she got up and all of them left him alone so he could attempt to sleep. The pain in his back dulled only because the ache in his arm and leg flared up again into him having a nasty nightmare.
It was another dream about him being attacked. This time all the skulkers had Doran’s face on them and they killed him, Lyndon, and Mien before he woke up with a start. Someone started knocking on the front door. He jump into a sitting position, clutching his chest. This time his heart felt like it was trying to beat itself out. The gloom of the room in late evening didn’t help. He didn’t know where he was until he heard familiar voice. The fear he felt died down. He focused on his breathing to calm down before anyone saw him. However, his sister arrived in the door way with Mien behind her with a sun globe that hung it in the air right above his head.
“Hey Sol, Mien’s here. He bought something for…are you okay?”
Soletus left hand was clutching his chest while his right one was clamped around his once bitten forearm.
“Should I get-”
He swayed his head, “Nothing, just a bad dream.”
Fern was about to turn around.
“No, I’m fine,” he said sharply. “Bad dream is all.”
His sister wore doubt on her face, but she went with it. “Anyway, Mien brought you something for you back.”
“If you need any help, I’ll be at the table,” she said and then retreated.
With light Mien provided, Soletus’s felt the anxiousness lift as he could see there was nothing out to get him.
“Are you okay,” asked Mien.
“Like I said, bad dream,” Soletus answered. He let go of his arm and sat up straighter. “What’s that?”
Mien face brightened and he held up the squat jar. “I’ve something for you.”
It smelled strongly of mint.
“What is it?”
“It’s an ointment I helped Kiao make. He wanted to come here be he never could get away from the infirmary so he told me to bring this with me as well as this,” said the boy lifting the lid of the jar and products a small brown packet for the underside of it. “This is something for the pain and it’ll help you sleep.”
“Tell him thank,” said Soletus noting that the boy was in a good mood. “You seem to be alright given what happened.”
“Eh, I had worse happened to me,” he said, looking a bit uncomfortable but then brightened up. “Could you take off your shirt so I can rub this in?”
Soletus pulled his shirt over his head and caught a glimpse of the boy’s face blanching looking appalled.
“What,” said Soletus.
“They don’t hold back with punishments,” he said softly.
“Yeah, it doesn’t happen often.”
“Because most aren’t stupid to be caught to be punished.”
Mien swallowed. “That looks really painful.”
“I don’t suppose you were ever…”
Mien became quiet.
“You don’t have to answer that.”
“No, this is too obvious,” he said then started applying the ointment.
Soletus didn’t press anymore information out of him. His back wasn’t hurting as much as it was before, but whatever Mien started to smear along the wounds the lashes had made, cooled the pain and heat from it as well. It was the most relaxed he felt all day.
“What is this stuff?”
“Unicorn hoof, mentha oil, clay, and a few other things I added in to help.”
Soletus looked over his shoulder. “Other things you added in?”
He couldn’t see Mien’s face, but he was sure it had that, “really” expression on it.
“I know what I’m doing,” assured the boy. “It was something for scarring. It was fun to make. I’ve not made anything in a long time. Not exciting as making burning power, but it’s something.”
The young flinched on time when Mien ran into one of the raw sore spots in the middle of his back.
“Sorry,” he said and continued on applying the mixture as gentle as he could.
Soletus mother then came right as he finished.
“I could’ve done that if you asked,” she said.
“I would interrupt your dinner more than I already had,” he said and handed her the jar. “Brother Kiao told me to you to tell him to stay put and give this to you. He someone needed to reapply it again when he wakes up.”
“I’ll see to it,” she said, taking the jar from his hand. “I take it you’ll be on your way now?”
He nodded. “It’s getting late.”
“Well before you go, I need to tell you something,” she said holding him back. When he regarded her, all her politeness dropped and she stated to him sternly. “I don’t need you getting my son in trouble.”
Soleus pushed himself into a sitting position. “Mama,” he cried.
Cordea ignored him. Her lapis eyes were fastened on Mien. “Now I’m not blaming you for what happened, but part of it could’ve been avoided if you did something more than let fear control you,” she said.
The boy hung his head down. She then put a hand under his chin, and lifted his head up. He averted his gaze to the side.
“I know something terrible happened to you seeing as you can’t look an adult in the eye. However, you have to learn how to protect yourself without hurting others.”
“Yes, Madame,” he said quietly.
“Look at me,” she ordered.
“Promise me that you won’t allow my son to get injured again because you are too afraid.”
Soletus tried to get to his feet, but his mother held a hand to stop him. He was worried because he didn’t know how the boy would respond to his mother’s firmness. He expected him to cry or at least become shaken up the way he did around Brother Hickory. However, he pushed her hand from his and gripped her hand between his. He spoke in a normal speaking voice.
“I promise on my blood and honor, that I won’t let it happen again,” he said and bowed his head.
It was clear, Mien took issue with men than women.
Cordea laid a hand on the crown of his head and stroked his hairs down. “I’ll hold you to that,” she said.
Mien brushed her hand off and tried to hurry out of there. “It’s late. I need to go now.”
“Well, at least let me make you something for to carry back. You’re still so thin.”
“I don’t…” he started and Soletus coughed “take it.” The boy cleared his throat and said, “Actually, I would like a little something.”
“Good,” said Cordea. She then said to her son. “Do you need anything? How about a bowl of something?”
He swayed his. “No, I would like something to drink though.”
She nodded and Mien followed and waved to Soletus goodbye. He waved back before settling down again on his stomach thinking about the promise that Mien had made. It was a bold one to make, but not impossible to keep especially if he didn’t get the chance to live.