Ch.27: The Challenge

Soletus has gone over the heads of many in the Brotherhood as a low-ranking member. Many of the higher ranking and older members feared that tendency. They were afraid that he was acting against the Order and encouraging other to do so as well. Their ageist minds blinded them to the simple fact he had a voice than needed to be heard. However, he never acted in the manner unbecoming of a member of the Brotherhood. He was smart about it. He knew the rules.


Mien was officially taken into the Dias Brotherhood as a chanter priest and was given his initiate tan priest jerkin and a pale yellow priest cord. However, he wasn’t given to the priests as of yet to fully train. He was still under Brother Hickory’s wing until he could enter the priest hall. Until then, he was staying in his room in the chapel. Kiao became his senior and would be guiding him on all things about priesthood so his transition would be smooth. He wasn’t Soletus’s responsibility anymore, but the young monk wanted to remain close. He figured Mien would like someone to hang out with when he realized how boring their cloth brothers were. Then again, he wondered how much free time he would have with the training he would have to do.

Soletus reported to Ealdred to discuss the details of their experiment. The moment he stood in front of his desk, he knew something was wrong. The man gestured for him to sit down.

“Oeric wants to put it to a vote,” he said.

Soletus sunk down in his chair. He was gone for several days. Enough time for his father to act against him. He should’ve expected it.

“Why?”

“Nothing like this has been done before. He wants certain consideration to be put in place, criteria to follow because of your age.”

“It’s my choice,” pressed Soletus.

“I understand that, but you aren’t of age yet. Everything still is at the consent of your father and he’s brought that fact to the attention of the masters.”

“No, he’s just pushing his weight around.”

Ealdred didn’t respond to that.

Soletus let out a long groan and covered his face. “How long do I have to wait?”

“Until all the masters are here. Three of them are on rotation for patrol right now.”

“So how long?”

“Oeric wants to wait until the beginning of the year.”

Soletus gaped at the master in front of him. “But they’ll be back before then.”

“I would take that time waiting to get prepared. Gain some extra mass to burn through. Constantly submitting yourself to that will make you ill and weak. The quicker you recover from it, the better off you will be.”

Soletus want to leap out of his chair and hit him on the head. “That all good and well, but don’t you see, he’s trying to put this off!”

Master Ealdred looked at him sympathetically. “I know his interference is trying, but there is nothing he can do or say when this goes for a vote and everyone is going to say yes.”

Soletus went into fit and bitter laughter for a moment and then he dropped his amusement and stared grimly at Ealdred. “He’ll split the vote and then that path is dead to me. Then I’m stuck being a peaceguard.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being one,” said Ealdred.

Soletus leaned forward gripping the man’s desk. “I’m not broken, lazy, or unskilled. You need me as a field warden, not helping elder elves carry their provisions from the market to their homes.”

Ealdred remind patient with him and told him, even toned, “Your father is just afraid. Many are when they’ve sons who want to be wardens. It’s a dangerous job.”

“Then why not stop me years ago?”

“Because many fathers have enjoyed the idea of their sons joining until their lad gets closer to completing their training. They get cold feet. Oeric’s the exact same way given you could’ve been a warden last year. Your being bitten made his protectiveness worse as well.”

Soletus’s narrowed his eyes. “So he let me get this far and because he’s being a coward wants to stop me.”

Ealdred expression darkened. “Your father is not a coward. That man has braved many things that most would run from. You have to understand, you’re his only son. Many sons have been slain and many more will.”

“But it’s not his choice to make,” said Soleus. He was getting the feeling needed a sledgehammer to drive that drive that point home.

Ealdred sighed. “You’re getting older and I know you believe that you can-,”

“Just stop,” he interrupted with a shout and pushed himself from the chair. It rocket nearly falling to the floor.

“Soletus,” barked Ealdred.

He stopped.

“I know this frustrates you and I wish I could do more. But you have to be patient.”

Soletus rolled his eyes and stalked out of the master’s hall and down the. He was sick of being patient. He made his way outside going towards the collection of boulders on the momentary grounds. He wiped off the damp fallen leaves one of the rock and sat down in heavy thought. It was a chilly autumn day, but was warm in the sun though. The yard was empty, a perfect place to brood than in the dorms where people would be talking. He was so into his own thoughts that he didn’t notice Mien approaching until the boy settled down beside him.

“Why are you alone out here,” he asked.

Soletus gave the boy a slanted look, “Thinking.”

“Oh, so I’m interrupting?”

Soletus shook his head.

The two of them sat in silence. The young to tried to think, but he was beyond furious. He wanted to tear at something. Hit it, kick it, and maybe even scream. He locked hold of all those visceral urges though.

Mien gave him a tentative nudge of his elbow. “What’s wrong?”

Soletus’s voice gave out a hard, “Nothing.”

Mien scooted a hair away from him. “You’re angry.”

“It’s not you.”

“Obviously,” answered the boy. “You look like your about to hurt someone.”

He wasn’t that angry but the accumulation of his frustrations had built up to a mighty peak and tumble down in a landslide. Soletus kept a lock on his tongue. He would probably yell at Mien if he said another word.

He didn’t. He instead laid a hand between his shoulder blades and patted. Soletus would’ve ignored the gesture if not for the one doing the doing the gesture. When Soletus looked at him, Mien retracted his hand. “Sorry.”

“No, give me a moment,” he said.

He relaxed his shoulders and focused on breathing. He had no reason to be as angry as he was. After he calmed down enough to speak properly again, he said.

“My father is standing in my way, again.”

“Why?”

“I told you about the drass beast test, what they want to do, and that my father doesn’t want me to do it right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, now he’s block my way saying, I’m too young to make my own decisions. The only path that’s left open if he has is way is to become a peaceguard. I rather be a priest than a peaceguard.”

“You’re not a priest,” Mien stated. “You don’t sound like one.”

“I don’t sound like one?”

“I don’t know how to explain it so take my word for it. Anyway, I don’t understand why your father makes things difficult for you.”

Soletus shrugged. “I was told because he’s scared that I’ll get hurt or something. However, everyone wants me to try this, but they’re too afraid to offend him. They let him do whatever he wants.”

“So what can you do?”

Soletus tossed a small rock as far as he could.  “Wait six years until I’m at age.”

Mien watched where the rock landed. “Well, aren’t their boys here who are far away from their parents?”

“There are and they wouldn’t blink an eye if it was one of them.”

“So it’s just your father is being a father and using his position to stop you?”

“That’s sums it up perfectly,” said Soletus tossing another rock.

Mien watched it and asked, “Doesn’t the Brotherhood have rules against that?”

Soletus was about to say no but there was something. “Hy’ruh-ha,” he muttered. His grandfather had given him the solution. And he dismissed the entire notion of him fighting his father because he didn’t want to do it. It didn’t seem right. He was trying to be the good son. However, being good, obedient, and patient had failed him. Soletus slid off his rock and started towards the indoor training hall.

“Where are you going,” said Mien hurrying beside him.

“What I should’ve done in the first place,” said Soletus. He wasted a lot of time.

Soletus walked to the steps of the training hall, took a deep breath, and walked in. He entered the arena seeing that there were several groups training there including the new clutch that was given to his papa. Oeric was off to the side instructing them but heard the door swing open and saw his son standing there.

“Soletus what are you doing here,” he asked.

The young tod squared his shoulders and marched down the center of the room. Mien remained by the door. Everyone in front of him stopped their training and parted out of his way when they saw him coming. They watched mystified as he sauntered past them towards the back wall decorated with golden tipped quarter staves.

Soletus searched for his father’s name on the plaques resting below it. It was at the very end. He picked it up in his hand and held it. It was heavy. One day he knew he would have his own up there. To assure that, he walked over to his father who watched him bewildered until he spoke.

“I challenge you to hy’ruh-ha,” declared Soletus loudly holding out his staff in front of him.

The confusion didn’t life from Oeric face.  “What,” his father said as if he misheard.

Soletus gladly repeated. “I challenge you to hy’ruh-ha.”

His father blinked at him in disbelief. “No, you can’t do that.”

“Actually he can,” spoke Master Marth from where he stood. The older master made his way towards them all the while Oeric giving him a dirty look. “Rules are you accept or grant his terms for the challenge.”

The young monk took that as a prompt to lay out his. “I want to become a field warden without you hindering me at every step. That means leaving the option to do Master Ealdred experiment my choice to make. That also means that I get to make the choice of when I will take the trials. And when I become a warden, I get to choose what duty I will perform.  Those are my terms,” said Soletus.

His father’s face reddened. “You can’t be serious. In front of all these people,” he hissed.

“I’m standing here aren’t I?”

Oeric pushed his son’s arm down. “Why should I follow some archaic ritual that has no place in this order now?”

“Because this order still allows it because the Arch Monk says so,” said Soletus and then added. “If I lose, I’ll do what you want without question and without complaint. I’ll become a priest if you ask it of me.”

His father’s brow pulled close together. “You do realize you can’t win against me.”

Soletus knew that his chances were slim, but he had a point to be made and he was going to be his own sledgehammer to prove it.

“I’ll win,” he said confidently and raised the staff back up.

Oeric stared at the staff. Soletus expected him to snatch and deny the challenged again. However, his father rested his hand on top of it. “You know this is foolishness right?”

“You pushed me to do this,” said Soletus.

His father was struggling with himself. He hesitated and glanced at Master Marth.

“Don’t look at me. You’re the one who drove him down this path,” said Marth. “I warned you.”

His father’s pale gaze went back to Soletus. “I’m not backing down. You don’t realize what you’re doing. Hang the staff back up.”

“No.”

“Soletus!”

“I’ll fight you right here if I could,” he said not sure if he was supposed to fight him then and there.

“Dias help me,” his father muttered and grasped the staff. “I accept. A week from today, we meet in the arena. You fight me and prove to me your above my direction. I’ll give you the time later.”

Soletus gave his father a smirk. “Good, I’ll be there.” He spun on his heels and marched back towards Mien who stood there owl-eyed.

“Was that a smart thing to do,” asked the boy.

“No it was stupid, dumb, and reckless,” said Soletus feeling giddy. “It was perfect.”

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