Brother Hickory was an amazing man. My appreciation of him grew when I got older. One day, when I was older, I asked him, why he became the Brotherhood’s counsellor. He gave me a sad smile and told me, “I do it because when I was young man, I would’ve done anything for someone to help guild me.”
Soletus recovered from his whipping and as was expected, he was summoned to see Brother Hickory. He thought that he was going in for a mediator session to try and fix the issues with him and Doran. Instead, when he walked into the familiar back room of the chapel he found Brother Hickory alone. That was much worse. This was the reflection period talk about his punishment. The purpose was to see if he understood why he was punished and to assure that he wasn’t going to do it again.
He sat at the table while Brother Hickory was at his stove gathering two saucers preparing food of some kind and tea. The old priest didn’t start out talking about him however. He was too busy talking about Mien and the progress he was making. Soletus figured that was his attempt to keep him relaxed.
“I’m rather impressed with both Kiao and Mien. They seem to be getting along better with each other than I thought. Perhaps if everything goes well, I can shift you’re responsibilities of helping Mien to him.”
“It almost feels as if that what’s happening now,” commented Soletus right as Hickory placed a slice of apple pie that was most likely made by Widow Saffron in front of him. He then started pouring Soletus a cup of tea as well.
“Well good then. I don’t have to worry about an adjustment period. It will help me as well as I’ve been a little neglectful in tending to others.”
“I don’t think you have,” said Soletus know where that segue was leading.
The priest sat his tea pot down and pulled a chair out for himself. “Oh I have. We all have troubles sometimes, Soletus.”
Soletus leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I like to handle my own troubles myself thank you very much.”
Brother Hickory leaned forward on the table. “Sometimes it’s not wise to seeing as what occurred.”
Soleus took very small piece of crust off his pie with his fingers. “What do you want me to say that I’m ashamed of my actions? That it was the wrong thing to do?”
“It would be nice to hear that you are aware that wasn’t something you would normally do,” said Brother Hickory.
Soletus stared up at the Priest. “Yeah but it’s something I obviously will do when I’m pushed.”
Hickory’s brow became a line of concerned. “You’re lack of remorse is a little troubling.”
“I know what I did was bad seeing as I was whipped-,” said Soletus stopping in mid-sentence at the sound of water sloshing. Miens then come through the doorway with a sloshing bucket in hand. He looked strange with his hair capped with a headband but wore the familiar old cloths he had been wearing when Hickory had him clean the entire chapel. He dropped his cleaning bucket by the door and announced. “I’m done.”
The old priest studied him with heavy scrutiny. “You cleaned the window sills already?”
“It’s hard to clean something that’s already clean,” answered the boy.
“Did you at least wipe the windows down?”
Mien let out a long-suffering sigh. “Yes, I removed the dirty air from them.”
Hickory brows met and he stared directly at Soletus. “There are always consequences for one’s action good or bad. One reason I didn’t choose Kiao to help Mien as his sass is a little contagious.”
Soletus was pretty certain that Mien already had a little bit of sass in him.
“You gave me busy work,” said the boy lifting his hand and wiggling his fingers at his friend. “I think you just didn’t want me here so you could lecture Soletus.”
“He’s not stupid,” added the young monk.
Mien smiled a little.
Brother Hickory started to rub his forefinger and thumb over his lowered eyelids. “I’m swiftly regretting all the decisions I made over the last few months.”
“He’s being good and vocal like you wanted him to be,” said Soletus.
“Yes and thank you for that Soletus, but the sass and your recent behavior isn’t appreciated,” he said seriously. He motioned Mien to go out back. The boy did so without question. Soletus continued.
“I’m not acting any differently. Doran got under my skin, that’s it. And maybe I wouldn’t have done what I did if he had learned he can’t have everything he wants a long time ago.”
“But it wasn’t your right to teach him that.”
“Talking to you and getting lecture by the other priests didn’t stop him,” Soletus pointed out.
Brother Hickory rested his back against his chair. “So you made yourself an authority because of that fact.” Soletus nodded. The priest dwelled on that for an instance before leaning forward again. “Okay, I understand why you took action. That show of wanting to get what needs to be done. It’s a good trait coupled with thoughtfulness. You didn’t do that.”
Soletus knew he was right. He didn’t bother trying to make an excuse for it.
“Anyway, I’m a little concerned. Under that gentle, patient, dutiful exterior is someone who can be the exact opposite.”
Soletus sunk deeper in his chair. “Why can’t you people make up your mind?”
Brother Hickory raised his brow.
“I don’t act on my own people tell me I’m doing it wrong. I act on my own I’m also doing it wrong!”
“I’m looking at the situation and how you are reacting to them. Every situation requires different appropriate actions. That’s something you don’t do well when you’re frustrated.”
Soletus couldn’t deny he was frustrated and maybe it affected his decision making skills, but that didn’t mean he needed to lectured and treated as if he was problematic.
“Would it help if I say my concern isn’t that I think you’re walking down a dark rebellious path,” said Brother Hickory.
Soletus straightened up a little. That was usually the reason to be sent to Hickory.
“You want to make you own decision. I mean the purpose of having you here helping me is so you can get used to thoughtful independent thinking.”
Brother Hickory thought a moment. “It’s something that Master Marth felt you needed cultivate. He wanted to see how you handled it guiding someone. You’ve done well with it. You’ve the making of a master. However, you’re also strong-headed to the point you get a little brash while trying to assert yourself. Which I expect that. However, I don’t want you to push so hard that you’ll do something you’ll regret.”
“I don’t regret helping Mien.”
“I know you don’t; however, I’m saying you could have handled this situation smarter. We adults are here to help.”
Soletus let out a derisive snort.
“Okay we’ve the intention of helping, though we may lack understanding. However, if you have more insight in a future situation, make us understand and do so reasonably. Remember that okay?”
The young monk bobbed his head.
“Anyway, you’re free to go for now.”
Soletus sat up eager to leave. “Really?”
Hickory let out a short chuckled. “Yes. Also, take Mien with you. Despite what Meric said, the boy needs to be out as much as he can and I don’t want him to be afraid to go out.”
Soletus jumped from the table and got Mien from the back. The two of them went over the fence to town. It had been a bit since he gone. He didn’t go often as that ended up him spending money from what little he had. Most of his coin came from doing odd jobs. Once he was a warden, he would get a commission every month. He hadn’t worked in some time and was using up what he had saved up. Soletus decided just to spend it on food.
Mien was quiet as they walked. Soletus wanted to assume that nothing had happened when he was away and that the aged priest smoothed out anything Doran did. However, the boy stared absently as if he was in his head the entire time. He didn’t seem to notice the crowded market place to get distracted by anything. The only time he looked up was when Soletus stopped in front of the pastry stand where his father would buy sweet pastries when he was younger.
“What do you want,” he asked.
“Whatever you’re having.”
He requested two honey buns wrapped in sweet leaf. After that, they walked toward the large burning ash tree in the center of town to eat. Soletus stated picking off the honeyed walnuts from the top of his pastry. The boy took a single bit off of his before stating, “Do you think I’m a wimp?”
Soletus felt the walnut in his mouth turn into a tasteless pebble.
“I feel like a wimp,” muttered Mien.
That’s because you are, snapped the young monk’s mind and he kicked himself for the thought. At least it managed not to make its way out. However, there was truth to it and he wasn’t sure how to make it into a constructive remark.
“You’re taking a long time to answer.”
Soletus groaned. “Why are you asking this because of what happened?”
Mien picked at his pastry. “I should’ve done something instead of running and hiding. And then Kiao had to find me shaking. I scared him. I really don’t think he likes me.”
“Well, what would you have done differently?”
“Stopped you,” he said. “Then you wouldn’t’ve been whipped and your mother wouldn’t hate me.”
“She never said she hated you.”
“I know an angry mother when I see own,” affirmed Mien to the ground.
Soletus looked around for some place to sit and guided him to the base of the large burning ash tree in the center of town. Soletus picked a spot right near the base of a tree between two knobby roots that flared from the trees side. Mien seated down first and followed by Soletus.
“By the way, I would’ve gone after Doran anyway. He had it coming,” he told Mien.
The boy picked at his pastry. “But being whipped had to hurt.”
“It did but, it was worth it.”
“Because I put him in his place. Not to mention you’re an easy target now.”
“But wouldn’t it be better off if you didn’t care about someone like me.”
Soletus paused in taking a large bite of his pastry and lowered it from his lips. “No.
“Your mother thinks you’ll be better off or at least, that’s what it sounded like.”
Soletus let out a long growling sigh. “Look, I’ll be friends with who I want to be friends with. And I don’t blame you for what happened. I mean really did they tell you he was trying to bait me?”
“But nothing! Besides, Mama’s used to boys like me and Lyndon. She doesn’t know you at all. Also, she’s gets over-the-top about everything I do she doesn’t like. Anyway, I think maybe, I need to teach you at least some self-defense.”
Mien looked uncertain. “But I’m short and my wimpy arms.”
“You don’t have to be tall or strong to know how to fight someone. Hold out your arm.”
Soletus placed his fist on a spot in the center of Mien’s forearm. “This is a pressure point. If you hit this spot right here hard enough, it’ll cause your opponent’s arm to go numb. They’ll lose their grip on you.” He then sat up. And pointed below the center of his chest. “If someone grabs up from behinds, us you elbow and jam it right here. You’ll knock the wind out of them.”
“How do I remember that? If I panic, I’ll just forget.”
“Not if you practice enough until it all becomes muscle memory. That why monks train so much. We repeat things enough and learn when and where to use thing. But I guess you have to overcome fear first. Until you do, I don’t mind being that person who will defend you. I mean that my purpose as a monk, to defend those who can’t defends themselves and inspire them to get stronger.”
Mien frowned. “I rather you didn’t.”
Soletus was a little surprised by that answers, but then again, even though Mien wasn’t the strongest boy he ever met, he still had a sense of pride.
“How about this, I’ll start teaching you what I can after your trial.”
Mien’s face brightened. “You’ll do that…” And then his face sagged. “That only matters if they let me stay here.”
“Then work on speaking for yourself and you don’t have to worry about it. Like you were the other evening. You didn’t even stutter.”
“I was focused on helping you.”
“Then focus on helping yourself so you forget yourself.”
The boy opened his mouth and then shut it. He tilted his head and said, “I don’t know if that works.”
“Of course it does. You’re focused on a single goal and ignoring your shyness to meet that goal.”
“Yes, that works. However, in order for me to help myself, I still have to keep myself in mind.”
Soletus frowned. “Why are you being difficult?”
“Why aren’t you making sense?”
“I am making sense,” Soletus exclaimed and then realized Mien was wearing a smile as he took a bite of his pastry. “You’re giving me a hard time, aren’t you?”
“No,” he denied with an impish grin. “I wouldn’t dare.”