Soletus didn’t feel like speaking to anyone, not even to Brother Hickory. The old priest tried to console him. He didn’t want consoling. He just wanted to be alone. After him, his mother came with Fern. He did what he did to Brother Hickory. He showed them his back, and pretended they weren’t there. He wanted to rest. He wanted to think. He wanted to speak to his father. Until that happened, he stayed silent. He replayed the entire fight again and again in his mind.
He thought about what he could have done differently other than not expecting a fair fight. He came to no real conclusion though. The fight was just unwinnable. He knew his chances were low from the start, but he wanted to prove a point. Apparently, his father was willing to go even further to show him his place. His place was obviously in a bed with everyone irritating him to talk with them. In the middle of his contemplation two days later, Lyndon came to visit. He made his way to his cousin’s side with hesitant steps and wore an uncomfortable smile on his face.
“I’m sorry, but Aunt Cordea and Hickory wanted me to come to talk to you,” he said. “But I have the good sense to know aren’t much for talking. So I won’t bother you with their questions. I just came because I wanted to see if you’re okay.
Soletus relinquished his silence for Lyndon. “Thank you,” he said softly.
Lyndon eased himself down on the bed wearing mask of cheerfulness. “You don’t look as bad as yesterday.”
“I don’t feel as bad,” he returned.
“Is there anything I can do?”
Soletus swayed his head. “You can’t make me feel less like a dod.”
“You aren’t a dod. Now Uncle Oeric on the other hand…”
A faint smile crossed the young tod’s face briefly before it faded.
“No need to be all brokenhearted,” said Lyndon.
“I’m not,” he said. It all just hurts.
“Would it make you feel better to know he was ordered to the chamber to mediate on his actions, and the Arch Monk took away his master status, and is going to send him to the swamp post for six months?”
Soletus snapped his attention on him. “When does he leave?”
“I don’t know,” shrugged Lyndon. “When he gets done reflecting and given how much of a dod he is, that might take up untold amounts of time.”
“And no one thought for a second to let me talk to him or even have a say in what happens.”
Lyndon scratched the back of his neck. “They ordered him not to have any contact with you.”
“Dods all of them,” growled Soletus, sitting up.
Lyndon clasped his shoulders and tried push him down. “Whoa, what are you doing?”
“I want to talk to him.”
Lyndon’s face twisted in bewilderment. “Why?”
“Because I need to talk to him!”
Lyndon’s eyes begging him to settle down, but Soletus met his gaze. His cousin lowered his hands and became solemn.
“Well, I think you need to speak to the about it first Arch Monk,” he said.
Soletus nodded. “Fine, I’ll speak to him. I need clothes.”
Lyndon stood to his feet. “I’ll run to the room.”
That was about the time that Kiao saw him sitting up and pushing back the blankets on the bed.
“What are you doing,” he said hurrying over there.
“Leaving,” he said curtly.
“No you’re not,” said Kiao.
Soletus his flashed his eyes at the young man. “You can either help me or tie me down to this bed.”
Kiao put the flat of his hand on his chest. “Just because you push me once, doesn’t mean you can push me again.”
The young monk took hold of his wrist gently and gave him pleading eyes. “Kiao, I need to talk with my father.”
The young chanter priest pursed his lips tightly and stared at him before rolling his eyes. “Fine, but you’re going to end up exhausting yourself.”
“I’m practically healed up,” said Soletus getting to his feet without issue.
When Lyndon came back, they both helped him get dressed. His arm still didn’t feel right. He walked with his arm wrapped around his chest, as breathing didn’t feel comfortable. Lyndon guiding him down the hall to his grandfather’s quarters was a struggle. He of course wasn’t there. He was in the meeting chamber with all the other masters. He didn’t care if it was rude or not. Soletus pushed passed the two guarding the room and swung the door open getting the attention of all the master sitting around the circular table. At the north end of it sat his grandfather with grown surprise on his face.
“Warder, what are you doing here,” he asked.
Soletus ignored eyes and the frowns that sat on him. “I need to speak to my father.”
The aged elf stood up from his seat slowly. “Excuse me,” he said to the masters who all looked offended by the impolite interruption. When the Arch Monk shut the door behind him he said to his grandson, “This couldn’t wait until your stronger?”
“No, given I heard you don’t want me to talk to him,” said Soletus. He also didn’t want to overthink everything and end up not saying what he wanted say.
“It might be better if you didn’t,” he said. “You or him might say something you might regret right now.”
“I would regret not talking to him.”
His grandfather examined him. “Alright, but don’t take very long, I need to get back to the meeting.”
“I don’t need you there, I prefer if no one was,” he said hoping he wasn’t pushing too far. Those who were sent to meditate were kept secluded as long as possible. They weren’t allowed many visitors and those visitors often were escorted and observed. Soletus was certain in his case it would be best if someone was there, but he didn’t intend to do anything that would cause trouble. He just wanted to talk.
The Arch Monk laid a hand on his shoulder. “Are you sure? I can tell you are upset. Dias teaches us that it’s unwise to speak to one another when we are upset.”
Soletus resolve didn’t wavered. “I need to talk to him alone.”
His grandfather nodded. “Very well.”
His grandfather led him through the dark corridor that led to the rooms for reflections. If something happened such as a member watched another brother die or if one of them killed another elf, they were ordered to reflect on what happened. His father was in the room at the very end. The room was very small and only had a rolled mat for meditation, a table to eat at, a flat bed, a lantern that burn brightly, and a copy of Dias’s Words. Oeric was on the floor on his back with his arms behind his head, contemplating the ceiling. When he saw Soletus standing in the doorway, his eyes became so round they looked as if they were going to roll to the floor.
“I’ll leave you two alone,” said the Arch Monk.
Soletus stepped in and closed the door behind him. His father stood to his feet quickly and took a step towards him.
“Don’t,” barked Soletus, holding up his good hand.
Oeric froze. His face became blank. “Fair enough.” He settled back down sitting. “I’m surprised to see you. You’re mother said you weren’t talking to anyone.”
“I didn’t want to talk to her. I wanted to talk to you.”
“That doesn’t give you the excuse to treat your mother-”
“Well I used it,” he shouted. His own anger took a hold of him and he didn’t care. He waited for his father to make a remark about his tone. The man didn’t. He stayed very still. The young tod continued. “I’ve words to say to you and only you!”
His father nodded his head. “I figured as much.”
Soletus took a deep breath and started on his tirade that had been building up. “Why? I can’t understand why you fought me like that. They only thing I come up with is that you hate me.”
Oeric’s face transformed into dismay. He shook his head rapidly. “Above and below, why would you even… I’m hard on you yes, but hate no.”
“So hard means beating me senseless?”
“You need to calm down.”
“So what you intended to come in here and think I would listen to your hollering.”
Soleus gestured his good arm in his direction. “And there you go, being condescending as usual.”
“When have I ever acted condescending towards you?”
“When have you not! I mean every time I talk to your like this. Even when I woke up after being bitten, the first thing you went on about was how sloppy I was. I though was going to die and you went on about how sloppy I fought. You even fought to demean me!”
Oeric’s lip trembled a little. The hardness in his voice vanished. “First off, I wasn’t angry at you. I was afraid that you being bitten ruined your future because of a careless act. As for our fight, hurting you wasn’t my intention, but it happened. You probably hate me right now given how you opened this discourse of ours.”
Soletus about said it then. That he hated him. He wanted to shout it to his face in his ear, and down his throat. However, the words caught and hung right below his tongue. Nothing good would come of it. He clenched his jaw and controlled his resentment.
“I know I crossed that line of being stupid father.”
“No, you’ve plowed through it,” retorted Soletus.
His father rarely apologized and seeing any emotion including guilt on his stolid face was even rarer. Hearing him do so allowed some of the bitterness to drop Soletus felt drop from his heart. However, pain still nestled there.
“Come sit down before you fall over,” said his father, gesturing beside him.
Soletus remained where he stood.
“Defiance is not good trait.”
“And begin controlling is?”
Oeric’s eyes became slender slits. Soletus braced himself for any sort of attack whether it was verbal or physical. Instead, his father relaxed again.
“I’ve been unreasonable and unnecessarily harsh towards you. Now you feel you must be that way towards me.”
“No, I’ve just very little respect for a man who hurts his own son all for the sake of putting him in his place.”
Soletus wanted that cut to hurt and it did. He wanted to get some reaction out of the man and he did. The man became troubled and baffled. He didn’t shout at him or say anything. When he didn’t, Soletus went on.
“What? You don’t want me to put you in my place now. Be that obedient child who questions nothing and just says ‘yes Sir’ and following your every whim even its wrong?”
“I had reasons for raising you the way I did,” he defended softly. “I felt it was for your own good because when I was you’re age I didn’t have much respect for my father. I feared you would turn out the same way.”
Soletus let out a humorous laugh. “And you ended up with the thought that beating me senseless would make me respect you more when I already did?”
“N-n-no, that wasn’t my intention,” his father exclaimed. His voice was now at a stuttering plea as he tried to speak faster than he could. That wasn’t all what Soletus was expecting. He expected him to go on the offensive.
Oeric ran hand through his hair. “Sit down anywhere. We need to discuss this civilly.”
Soletus took the offer to sit then and walked to the flat bed against the wall. He felt relieved being off his feet because as Kiao warned him, he was getting tired. He expended all his energy shouting. He leaned his back against the wall and waited for the man to speak. It took him a bit to gather his thoughts. When he regarded Soletus again, his pale eyes exchanged sharpness for vulnerability. It struck Soletus as odd seeing as it made his father look younger.
“I imagined having this conversation with you shortly after you were born. I kept avoiding it because I never could figure out what to tell you,” he said. “I suppose the best place to start would be with your grandmother death. She died when I was five. With her gone, Papa focused more on his work and was too busy for me so I lived with my brother and his wife. My sister would look after me when until I angered her. I only did it because I wanted to be with him and not them. He took interest in me when I was older, but by that time, I was resented him and the Brotherhood.
“He forced me into the order because he thought the discipline would do me good. It worked just as well as you thought it would and I ended up running away. I stumble out in the world wanting a life on my own, but I no working skills. So I did mercenary work for a while. It was hard to compete with well-known bands of mercenaries, and I got very little respect because I was so young. One day I came to a town with a man recruiting for blood sports. There was coin to be made there so I joined.”
Soletus gaped at his father in shock. He figured his father became some sort of mercenary. When the Arbiter said he met his father, he figured that what it was because some of them had issue staying within the law. His father becoming a blood fighter was unthinkable. It was very much illegal and his father stuck close with laws and rules. Though, the scars on his face and body made a lot more sense. He never asked because he thought they were from drass beasts. Then there was what looked like a brand on his chest, however mercenary bands had brands too.
“Is that so hard to believe,” his father asked.
Soletus bobbed his head.
“I probably wouldn’t like structure so much if it wasn’t for that. It was unstructured, chaotic sometimes. We never fought in the same stop and moved around constantly. The only two rules we had were simple, win and not die. It wasn’t unusual for a fighter to die if the stakes were high. After a bit, you would become a soulless beast.
“It wasn’t a life you could run away from easily either. The payment system kept you from running and if you had a handler like mine, he had a way of making you feel that the only thing you had to give to the world was your flesh in a fight. It was exploitation at its finest. Since I had no self-worth, I fought to win and rarely lost. I toppled older experienced fighters. I became undefeated and held that spot for a long time. Then one day, a tod no older than you, stepped in front of me except not a drop of kindness in him. He had something to prove and he proved it by thrashing me.”
“Was he why you come back?”
“No, it was your mother.”
Oeric nodded. “She and I met while trying to dodge angry members of our families. From that point on, we played pranks, stealing things, and over all being a nuisance to everyone in town. However, I left her behind. I didn’t even tell her I was running away. She would’ve stopped me and she was someone I wanted to forget. But she didn’t forget me. She never gave up on me and after fifteen years, she managed to track me down to a tavern before my last fight,” he said as a rueful smile cross his face. “To this day, I still believe she took flight and flew across the room because in a blink of an eye she was planting her fist in my jaw. I never heard a woman roar until that day. She called me ever name she could of and some that made the other men around me uncomfortable.”
Soletus heard his mother shout at his father before, but he couldn’t imagine her hitting him. She absolutely adored him.
“Her being there made it clear I wanted to go home like a lost little boy would. And she made it very clear I was worth a great deal to her. But there was no way. After I fought that, I couldn’t win fights consistently. My confidence was lost and I racked up a debt with my handler because of it. You mother tried to buy my contract. I wasn’t up for sale because that man would get more money from my death. And that’s what he did. I put me up against some brute I couldn’t win against and made a profit off my defeat. I barely made out of there alive. The fight left me blind so my contract was terminated. I left there being dragged behind your mother’s horse in a litter until she could find someone to look at me.”
Soletus never knew that. He never even knew how his parents met. They never told him. The most he knew was, unlike most elven marriages, theirs wasn’t arranged. It was choice. And that his mother’s parent detested Oeric. So much so half her family didn’t speak to her. He learned that from Fern but never questioned his parents about it.
“During my time away, I learned my brother was killed, my sister and sister-in-law left moved because of his death. They wanted to live a safer life away from the Brotherhood. Papa was alone and so I stayed and rejoined the order thinking I could just start my life where I left it. However, it once an elf loses all sense of what makes him elf, it’s hard to get it back.
“I spent too much time fighting like an animal. It was difficult for me to fight others just for practice because I would slip and go too far. I lost my control and was too unrestrained. Sometimes I would see that young tods face and the way he looked at me as if I were nothing more than just a step and I would end up hurting someone. I was able fix it with Brother Hickory’s assistance. And I was able to move pasted it or so I thought. When we fought, I saw that same look in your eyes. I was just a step. You had something to prove and I slipped right back into it.”
Soletus if he had known that little bit of information, he might have not challenged his father at all. Why didn’t he tell him?
“You could’ve told me this years ago,” he told him.
“It’s not something I’m proud of and not something you should entertain the thought of doing.”
Soletus rolled his eyes. “So you couldn’t trust me to know what is and isn’t stupid?”
“What’s does that have to do with it,” Soletus erupted.
“You think differently when you’re young. You don’t think about consequences as when you fought those boys. You were only thinking of saving a friend not about what happened afterwards. Not to mention you enjoy combat. You jump to a challenge. That sort of desire can easily become an obsession.”
Ire blossomed in Soletus chest. “But I’m not like you. I’m not even close to what you are!”
His father’s brow quirked up slightly. “Really? I’m fairly certain that you’re displaying a little bit of me right now.”
“Am I being controlling? Am I being harsh? Do I make assumptions? Do I influence everyone to my whim,” Soletus gestured wildly. “I don’t see anything of you in me!”
“Again, you’re not convincing me.”
“Of course you would say that. Everything is always my fault.”
“I didn’t say that and I am not your problem,” said his father sternly and then his expression softened. “But I’ve not done anything to help quell your moodiness. You’re getting older. That’s what it comes down to.”
Soletus started shaking his head, refusing to listen.
“No listen. At you’re age you get short with everyone. You start pushing to see how far you can do. That’s how it is and I see all the same motions I did with your grandfather.”
How dare his father claim they were alike. They didn’t act alike at all. If their places were switched, he wouldn’t have done what he did.
The young monk struggled to his feet and rose up too fast. The room spun violently. If not for the wall, he would’ve fallen flat on his back jarring his aching head even more. He stomach twisted, and he let out a few dry heave before his father grabbed hold of him and guided him down on his back.
Soletus swallowed hard and closed his eyes trying to force the sensation of whirling away.
His father clutched his arm. “Just because they healed you doesn’t mean you’re you can come charging in here. Yes, I know your upset at me, but you can’t do everything you want.”
Soletus pulled his arm away and glared at him. “I wouldn’t be here if you listened to me.”
“Soletus, I might be a stupid, but I do listen. There’s a difference between ignoring what you say and not giving into to a child’s demands. And that was my mistake think of you as a child. I’m sorry for that too.”
Soletus pushed him away and smashed his palms into his eyes. This wasn’t going the way he imagined. He prepared for another fight. His father wasn’t fighting at all. He was being reasonable and that made him even more upset. He felt tears coming and put more pressure on his eyes so he wouldn’t cry from all the turmoil he felt. He wanted to be mad at his father and at the same time he didn’t. He felt like a dod going in there.
His father shift away from him, but he stayed close. “I suppose you know I’m being sent away. I think it might be best if you had some time to independent of me.”
Soletus wiped his eyes, hoped they weren’t too red, and wet looking. He hated crying and hated it even more if he looked like he was. He pulled himself up and leaned against the wall.
“And when you get back,” said Soletus to the floor.
“I imagine after you take the make-up trial in the spring.”
Soletus stared at his father now confused. “But I lost and I told you if I lost-”
“For someone who understands it wasn’t a fair fight he should understand that the original agreement is void. Either we fight again or I can say lesson learned and point taken. You’re allowed to decide your future in this order. You no longer have to yield to me.”
Soletus felt his throat knot up. His vision blurred. That’s was all he wanted to hear and it didn’t make a thing better liked he hoped. Instead, it just made him conflicted. He scrubbed his eyes and mopped his face with his shirt sleeve. The man laid a gentle hand on the crown of his head. Soletus slapped it away.
“Don’t touch me,” he managed to snarl.
He didn’t want to be touched. Not by him.
Oeric leaned back. “With all my heart, I’m sorry.” He stood up and made his way back to the center of the room. “I do love you. You know that right?”
He never heard those words very often, that he loved him. It wasn’t something that Soletus could say he desired or even ever needed to hear. It was always so obvious and during the course of the last few months, he questioned it in the corner of his mind.
Soletus watched Oeric go back to the mat and laid flat on his back. He went back to contemplating the ceiling. His pale eyes looked haunted. The door to the room opened up. His grandfather stepped in. His eyes sweeping the room before settling on Soletus who was still misty eyed. A heavy frown caused his aged face to droop.
“It’s not what you think,” said Oeric.
Soletus stood up slowly using the wall to support himself. His grandfather went to his side to help him. Soletus waved him off.
“I can walk,” he said sniffing and rubbed his nose on his sleeve.
“I’m taking you back to the infirmary, there we can talk a little bit,” offered the Arch Monk.
Soletus cleared his throat. “You can walk me back, but I don’t need to be talked too.”
“I believe you need to hear a few things-”
Oeric cut him off. “Let him be, Papa.”
“And you of all people think you can advise me to do that,” the Arch Monk said sharply.
“As you always say, no need to stir the pot when it’s time to simmer,” retorted Oeric.
Soletus’s watched a vein on his grandfather’s forehead bulge, but he relented. “Aright then, if that’s what you want, Soletus,” said the Arch Monk.
Soletus gave him an appreciated bob of his head. He stopped halfway out the door feeling as if he had one more thing to say.
Oeric sat up and regarded his son.
“I’ll talk to you when you get back,” he said. It wasn’t what he wanted to say.