Ch.22: The Test

 

Drass beasts are one of the few thing Soletus is afraid of and I can’t blame him. However, he never fell victim to fear.  He usually cocks a grin on his face and starts fighting. I was envious of that for a long time until one day something happened and I was wearing that same over-confident smirk. 


Doran was no longer a problem. He avoided even looking at Soletus’s general direction on or off the training field. In fact, Soletus walked into the boy’s dorm and Doran was sitting in the common area. Soletus made very brief eye contact with him and walked over to the board to see what free days were coming up so he could plan a day with Mien. He looked through the two months posted on the board and could feel uncomfortable tension form between his shoulder blades. They hadn’t spoken to each other since the fight. Soletus felt that something should have been said. An apology on Doran part seeing as he never gave one. However, the young tod just squirmed in his chair. He then closed his book and stood. He walked right by him to the stairs to go to his room.

Soletus watched him from the corner of his eyes and fought himself to go up and follow him to speak to him. However, the moment he turned around, Lyndon stepped in.

“There you are,” he said then saw the perturbed look on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“Doran,” whispered Soletus.

Lyndon’s expression darkened. “What’s he doing now?”

“Nothing,” he told his cousin. “I just…never mind. Are you looking for me or something?”

“Yeah, the masters need you out in the training fields in the back,” he said.

“For?”

“A test they said.”

Soletus swallowed the melon sized lump that formed in his throat. He had an idea what that test was.

The two cousins made their way to the training fields out back. Soletus saw Kiao standing to the side give him some kind of expression he didn’t understand and then he looked in front of him. He saw his father standing behind a few of the other masters including Master Tyr with something being held by chains and under a black cloth growling. Lyndon collided into Soletus who had frozen in his tracks. Lyndon move around him and back away from the hidden drass beast beside where Kiao stood.

“It’s a young skulker,”said his father as he stepped forward and revealed the monster. “Not the same kind you encountered.”

It certainly wasn’t. It looked more like a giant rat than a boar. It had an armored head and body limiting any killing blow to the eyes or stomach if it could be flipped over. Its milky eyes were void of everything except fury. It snarled sending spittle through the muzzle it was wearing. Soletus took an involuntary step back. He could feel shadows of the burning in his arm and leg. Images and sensation he rather forgotten rushed to the forefront of his mind. He wanted to flee but found himself unable to move. He wanted to hide but there was nowhere to go. He could fell a tremor staring in his center as it tried to works its way out.

“Those are some very large pupils,” observed one of the masters. “I think we got our answer.”

Soletus focused on the voice of the one who spoke. He broke from the fear that was squeezing him and tore his eyes off the drass beast. He had to swallow before he spoke because he could feel his throat becoming tight but also discovered on how very dry it became also.

“And what answer is that,” he croaked.

He tried not to drop his eyes down as he waited for an answer. He didn’t need what was happening to happen. He fought the urge to run. To cry. He ignored the burning in his leg and arm.

The master eyes narrowed. “Warder, you were bitten by a drass beast. Anyone who does has to have this test to see how they react to one afterwards.”

The drass beast let out snarl through the muzzle it was wearing. Soletus found himself fixed on it again.

He swallowed again feeling his stomach twisting. “Okay, I’m afraid of what’s in front of me, but this is like any old fear right. It can be overcome.”

The master didn’t answer him and murmured to his fellow masters. “This isn’t what I was expecting.”

Soletus willed his legs to move again and took a tentative step forward back to his original position. He then took another step forward. He started speaking again and quoted one of the texts he had read and learn.

“It’s a drass beast, a profane creature not of Dias. It’s evil and we should fear the poison and sorrow they spread and because of that, they need to be destroyed.”

His father became alarmed. “Son, what are you doing?

Soletus snapped his eyes back up and saw that all of the masters were watching him with interest.

“Mind over body,” quoted Soletus taking another step over to the skulker. “Have say over your emotion. Learn when to listen to them or not. That is the way of monk.” He soon found himself within hand reach of the skulker. He stretched his quivering hand out. “Have faith in Dias, hear his voice and he’ll show you his love and offer his protection.” He laid a hand on top of the skulker’s head. It tried to bite at him through the muzzle to no avail. “Do these things and evil won’t harm you.”

All five of the masters jaws dropped in amazement. Soletus withdrew and took a side step back followed by one more and folded his arms behind his back. His entire body was shuttering. He felt sick. The burning was worse. He couldn’t tell if it was real or in his head at that point. He couldn’t speak for a moment and then cleared his throat.

“Is there anything else, Masters,” he asked.

They didn’t say anything they just started him. He didn’t know why until he realized that he was now clutching his left arm. He looked down and saw it covered in blood. He blinked and suddenly he was on the ground again with the drass beast over him trying to kill him. It then let go of his arm and went for his throat. Then in the corner of the horrific vision in front of him, he saw shimmering white light. He heard a chanter’s voice rise out from the light.

Si lei’so, it’s all in your mind.”

Warmth bath him and the pain receding to a low throb. His eyes flew open. He was on the ground. Kiao was at his side leaning over him. His eyes dimmed down, but remained violet in hue.

“Soletus,” he said.

The young monk toko a in a few deep breathes before touching his friend’s forearm and worked on sitting up. “Let me go,” he said sitting up and looked down at his right arm. There was no blood seeping through his sleeve. He flexed his left hand and stretched his leg out. The sensation was gone. He looked up to see the masters conversing to themselves.

Lyndon sat close to him placing a hand in the middle of his back to keep him steady. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he said. He noticed the drass beast was gone.

“Masters,” called Kiao.

Tyr was gone, but the others were still standing there looking surprised yet again. His father looked uncertain.

“Is he steady enough,” asked one of them. It was the one who spoke to him. Soletus worked on trying to remember his name was Master Ealdred. He never trained with him.

“I think I’m okay,” said Soletus but felt ill. The man walked over and squatted down in front of him.

“You held that off for a long time that’s impressive. Normally most just run away or fall to their knees in pain within laying eyes on a drass beast. Then getting out of that state takes a while.” The master placed his hands to the side of his head. “Look at me.”

Soletus did.

The man then took hold of his upper arms. “He’s not even shaking anymore, Oeric.”

“Eldred, we can’t have any of this in a warden,” his father argued.

“He was resisting it the entire time,” Ealdred spoke over his shoulders. “They are either afraid or they aren’t. They don’t talk. They don’t walk forward and pat drass beasts on the head. And then they are prone for hours and he was out of it in a few minutes!”

“He’s willed, point taken, but he can’t be a warden,” said Oeric.

“Or we can try the experiment. I’m tired of seeing promising lads taken out by fear,” he then turned to Soletus. “I mean if you are willing to do it.”

“Ealdred,” barked Oeric.

“I’m trying to give you’re boy a chance, we need him,” he said from over his shoulder.

His father shook his head. “There is no point in getting his hopes up.”

“You give up too easily Oeric,” said Master Ealdred to him and then to Soletus. “Tell me, have you been having nightmares?”

“Soletus, you need to do go the infirmary,” ordered his father.

Soletus ignored him and answered the question. “Yes but just two or three.”

“When were you bitten?”

“About three months ago.”

“With only three nightmares in that period and you’re intolerant of them,” the master looking at him incredulously. “I’ve never heard that before.”

“He could be easily lying about that,” argued Oeric.

Soletus looked around Master Ealdred to meet his father’s disapproving look with one of his own. “It’s the truth!”

His father frowned. “Why are you denying what is so?”

“Why are you denying me any opportunity to do want to do,” snapped Soletus. “I’m the one who is trying to be warden not you!”

Oeric’s dropped his voice. “Watch your tone.”

Soletus pushed himself up to his feet and started crossing the distance between them.  “Why do you always do this? You’re always being unfair telling me what to do when you’ve no right to tell me what I should and shouldn’t do in the Brotherhood!”

His father’s face became as red. “I’m the one who got you to this point where you can stand here and act ungrateful.”

“That has nothing to do with me getting sick of you lording over everything I do.”

His father stepped towards him so that they stood chest to chest. Soletus, for a brief instance, thought it was would be wise to back down seeing the fury that lit his father’s pale eyes. Instead he squared his shoulders waiting to take whatever he unleashed on himself. However his father relaxed a little.

“I’m not holding you back,” he said evenly. “I’m keeping you from making stupid mistakes. This is one of them.”

“Then let me make it,” pleaded Soletus.

“No, this is a waste of time and you don’t need to waste it.”

“And what you had me doing wasn’t,” he exclaimed.

“It was to keep you busy for this,” explained Oreic. “Now that we know, there is no point in pursuing being a grappler. You can’t do it.”

Soletus tightened his eyes and took a step back. “I’m going to see what the Arch Monk says.”

Oeric tried to reach for him, but Soletus slapped his hand away. His father started to say something, but Master Tyr had come back and shouted to them getting his father’s attention. He took that opportunity to quicken his steps as the marched off going through the archway he come from. His stride was fast at first before he slowed down. The rush he felt waned and he started feeling shaken from what happened. He kept onward though. The Arch Monk’s office was located in the outer halls of the monastery towards the front. It was a bit of a distance from where he started.

No one really had an instant ear to the Arch Monk. Normally one would have to see a master first and they would set the appointment. But, Soletus was family and he was always let in to the Arch Monk in his private chamber without an appointment. It was late so no one was speaking to him when he arrived. Farley, the man who helped keep up with the Arch Monk’s appointment, was seated at a small desk in a recess right outside his grandfather’s door as usual. The priest was reading and absently held out his hand for his appointment slip.

“I don’t have one, Brother Farley.”

The man looked up and then closed his book using his thumb as a marker.

“Oh, hello Soletus, your grandfather isn’t with anyone,” he said. “Might as well walk in.

“Thank you,” replied Soletus and went into his Arch Monks’ chamber. The place doubled as the old monks living quarters. It was a large open space minimalistic in decorations.  There were a few gifts proudly displaying from the people and for nobles.  Then there were the little things his grandmother had made. She liked to make little figurines out of tao stone. They were all lined up over a mantle, a cute little family of elves. It was his late uncle, his wife with the child at the time, his Aunt Cyris, and a little baby that was probably supposed to his father.

His grandfather shouted from his bedroom. “I’ll be out shortly.”

“Take your time,” Soletus yelled back walking over to where the family crest was hanging as a tapestry. It was two sheldmartins flying in a circle with ivy vines between their beaks. While he stared at the tapestry on the wall his grandfather stood in the door way of his bedroom.

“I’m surprised to see you. Has your father not tested you?”

Soletus turned his body around. “He did,” answered Soletus.

His grandfather’s eyes widened. “Well why aren’t you in the infirmary, lad,” he said rushing towards him.

“I’m fine. I just feel a little shaken is all, Grandpa.”

His grandfather guided him to the chair in front of his desk. “I’ve seen dying men with better parlor than you have right now. I’m not sure how you are standing.”

“Papa and I had a disagreement,” told him as soon as the old man took a seat.

“I’m not surprised,” he said giving him his full attention.

Soletus looked down at his hands. “I’m intolerant of not only the venom, but drass beast themselves.”

The Arch Monk winced.  “I was praying you weren’t, but you had such a violent reaction to it.”

“That’s the thing I fought the fear though. I even touched it before I blacked out and then I woke up sooner than everyone expected.”

“Then you walked here alone,” asked the Arch Monk with disbelief.

Soletus nodded. “I feel a bit sick like I ate something bad and dizzy. Master Ealdred thinks that with conditioning that maybe I can fight it enough to be alright with it.”

The Arch Monk brow shot up intrigued. “I’ve never hear such a thing. Master Ealdred wants to see if he can work on this? I have to say very few that are intolerant can even look at one from a distance let alone try to overcome it. Though your father rather you not attempt it I assume.”

“He doesn’t.”

“Well he’s right within reason. You realize that all your regular training will be coming to a halt because of this. This is how sick you are going feel to be every time you approach a drass beast unless the affect lessen.”

Soletus felt his grandfather was trying to discourage and he told him, “I didn’t join because I wanted to be a peaceguard. I want to be a field warden, just like you and papa.”

“I understand, but if this is all for nothing then you’ll have to stick with what you’ve been given,” said his grandfather grimly.

“But I have to try,” asserted Soletus.

A proud grin spread on the Arch Monk’s lips. “We monks do strive to overcome. I’m willing enough to see what happens. First, I’ll need a few details from Ealdred. However, your father won’t be happy.”

“I don’t really care what he thinks,” said Soletus.

His grandfather inhaled sharply at the bitter note in his voice. “Don’t start sinking to the mindset, lad. There is no reason to resent him. He is trying to think what’s best for you. In reality he’s comforting himself.”

Soletus crossed his arms. “Well he needs to stop.”

His grandfather’s chamber door swung open. “Papa, we need to talk,” said Oeric.

Soletus slumped down in his chair. Not only because his father’s presence but also, the fact the room started to tilt.

“I see Soletus made it,” said Oeric settling behind him. He felt his father examining the top of his head.

The Arch Monk leaned forward, ready for another argument his son would make. “He did. I was just telling him how I would like to give this crazy idea of his a chance.”

“What,” his father breathed out in shock.

“This is an opportunity that I can’t pass. I want to know if it can be done. I’ve seen many wardens fall to this. And if this were another warder, I would do the exact same thing.”

“This could ruin him,” said Oeric gripping Soletus’s chair.

“You’re son is fine. I mean he looks fine,” his grandfather paused scanning and then amended his statement.  “Well he’s been turning more and more green as we’ve been talking.”

Soletus stomach soured. He covered his mouth and tried the swallow the bile that rose up in his throat.

His grandfather leapt from his chair and gathered the paper off the front of his desk. “Not my desk,” he cried.

Soletus vomited to the side on the floor.

“This is why you should’ve gone to the infirmary,” scolded his father.

The tods stomach heaved again and he spewed out more of the contents of his stomach. When he was done, he actually felt better.

“The infirmary now,” ordered his father.

“No,” said Soletus. He didn’t have the strength to walk there at the moment.

“Then at least lie down in my bed,” offered the Arch Monk.

That was a lot more reasonable. Soletus stood to his shaky legs. “Sorry about that,” he said weakly.

His grandfather shooed him and he continued on to the bedroom and laid on the bed he often did as a child when he was given to his grandfather to watch. The door to the bed chamber was closed. He heard Farely being called in. After that everything was said in hushed tones. He didn’t bother trying to stretch his hearing into listening. He was tired. If that was all he had to worry about, then he was sure he was going to be able to do the experiment Ealdred wanted.

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