Oeric rose from bed early afternoon. He wasn’t sleeping as much as he was delaying the inevitable. He had to speak to the Arch Monk. He was dreading the conversation even though he had months to prepare for it. The act of speaking with his father was something he didn’t like regardless of his age.
He took his time getting dressed wishing there was someone home to slow him down just a little more. However, the house was empty. His family left him alone that day so not to disturb him. Cordea was kind enough to leave him three thick slices of mulberry bread to eat. He went to the shelf her pantry shelf to see if the jar of honey was there. It wasn’t. She moved it again. She always rotated it around to keep him and Soletus from it. He then walked into the kitchen and found the jar hidden where his wife thought he wouldn’t find it behind a sack of flour. He poured the amber substance over all the pieces and placed the jar back exactly as he found it.
Once he was done eating, he got his horse, and rode at a snail’s pace to the frustration of his horse. The creature sensed it was home and probably wanted nothing more to be in its stall. Oeric entered the monastery through the side entrance where the stable was to drop his horse. He couldn’t linger there and had nothing left to do except go inside. He took the long way going back around to the front of the building and cut across the grounds.
The monetary grounds were as busy that as always during the early summer. Men spoke to one another to the side, while the younger members were playing games with each other. Soon they would be gathered up to go to the culling. Oeric wouldn’t be attending. He had no desire to slay drass beast in an abandoned walled off town. A few young tods were talking about it and he listened to their conversation as he passed. However, his attention was pulled away as he walked toward the main entrance to the monastery. Behind a group of warders by the boy’s dormitories, he saw a flash of tawny fur. It looked to be a mountain lion.
Oeric veered off the stone walkway and went towards the bushes where the cat had jumped. It wasn’t very large. It was adolescent sized and still had spots on its legs. He wanted to be sure that it was someone’s consort before he raised some kind of alarm.
The creature then popped its head out of the shrubs. The fur around its green eyes was pure white with rays spreading from it like sunlight. They were sunspots meaning it was someone’s consort. The cat caught sight of him and vanished back in the shrubs. It ran along the side of the building to around a corner. He heard someone cry out and ran over to the side of the building. He found a fox-haired boy with cropped hair lying on his side scowling at the consort that was now crouched in the ground by his head it large peridot eyes trained on Oeric.
“What part of stay and watch the door did you not understand,” he fussed.
The mountain lion let out a yowl as Oeric’s shadow fell over the boy. Mien slowly turned around and looked up. All the color drained from his face. He sprung to his feet, and cleaned off his priest tunic. He followed it up by giving him a clumsy bowed to him.
“Um…uh…greetings Master Oeric,” he said audibly.
Oeric took stock of the nervous boy. In just seven months, he appeared to be healthier. There was more of him there than skin and bone. His skin, albeit naturally pale, had a color too it making the freckling around his nose. His eyes were still skittish as he wasn’t sure where he needed to look. Oeric looked around to see if his son was nearby. He didn’t see him between the two buildings, but was certain he could be hiding in any of the tall shrubs nearby. He regarded Mien again and saw the boy was now wringing his hands.
“Hello Mien,” he said.
The boy looked up through his lashes. “Hello, Sir. I see your home,” he said nervously.
“I’m pretty sure you already knew that. Fern probably told Lyndon and he then in turn told Soletus and you. And speaking of which, do you know where my son is?”
Mien looked over to the side taking far too long to come up with an answer.
Oeric let out a long exhale. “Have you talked to him today?”
Mien nodded giving him eye contact again.
“How is he?”
The question had an odd effect on the young chanter. He tilted his head and turned his head slightly as if he was listening for something. “He’s fine.”
It was then the consort had moved from its spot and was now sniffing Oeric’s boot. It took its paw and batted it then sprung back on all four legs.
“You recently learned to summon him haven’t you,” he guessed.
Mien shoulders dropped. “Yes Sir.”
“Well he’s responding to your uncertainty. He’s curious though. Even though consorts are an extension of us, they possess a little something in them give them a little personality. What’s his name?”
“Glen,” answered Mien.
Glen then approached again this time standing on his back legs so fit his head into Oeric’s Mien stared at his consort and looked embarrassed.
Oeric glanced at the boy and then back down at the consort. He petted it. “I think he’s trying to tell you something.”
The boy looked as if he heard that one before. Perhaps from a certain priest they both knew very well.
“Anyway, if you happen to see Soletus again, tell him hello for me.”
With that, Oeric headed back to the entrance of the monastery. Feeling relieved to be away from him. He didn’t like nervous people. They made him uncomfortable. It made him appreciate the joy he felt of being among the gray stone walls of the monastery. It wasn’t because he loved it because it was familiar and grown accustomed to it. It took him a long time to feel as if he belonged there. However, the question if he truly did rose in his mind while he was in the swamp.
He stopped in front of the statue of Dias in the center of the front foyer and looked up at the faceless god. Dias welcomed all who heard his voice. Sometimes Oeric wondered if he heard his voice correctly to become a monk. Not that he felt he needed to be something else, but in a way, he did it.
He let others far wiser guide him down that path. It seemed to work. He earned the right to become a first warden even though he had trouble giving orders when he first started. Then he agreed to become a master despite telling them no good would come from it. And it didn’t. He left with all of them looking down their noses at him and judged him for it.
“You don’t deserve to be one of us.”
That’s what they told him. And a question formed in his mind that day and remained there the entire time he was in the swamp. Who did he deserve to be? He couldn’t answer it. No answer was given to him. He turned away from the statue and made his way towards the Arch Monk’s quarters.
Oeric found Brother Farley was in his recess in the wall doing what he usually did, reading some book on history. Most of the priest’s seemed to care more about the history of their glory days than the present. Farley held out his hand for an appointment slip without looking up.
Oeric cleared his throat.
Farley glanced up and instead of greeting him warm, he expression became very cool. “Oh, you’re back. How was the swamp?”
“It was muddy. Is the Arch Monk free?”
“No, he’s in talks right now. Stand around, I’m sure he’ll be done soon,” said the priest dismissively. He went back to reading.
Oeric took his place in the reses across from Farley and waited. It took nearly an half an hour before the door to the Arch Monk’s office opened. To his surprise, Tyr and Ealdred walked out. They discussed things among themselves and Oeric was going to let them pass without calling attention to him. Tyr happened to glance to the right and saw him. The two of them stopped.
“Oeric,” he said with an ambiguous smile spreading on his face. “I didn’t know you come back.”
Tyr was friend. A good friend and father too so it was no surprise he was one of the masters that came down on him. The man thought he had more self-control. He didn’t make a single attempt at standing up to him when he faced the other masters as he had done for him in the past. He was just as harsh as they were towards him. If they could’ve, they would’ve kicked him out of the order that day. It wasn’t his first infraction and probably not his last. However, Tyr didn’t look so infuriated then. However, his violet eyes didn’t have that same understanding like to them as before. Oeric might as well been a stranger.
“I got back last night,” he said.
Ealdred eyed him with scrutiny. “You’re a month late.”
“You don’t look well,” added Tyr with a brisk note in his voice.
“Traveling for long distances will do that,” he returned just as curt. He was told many times he come off curt or condescending. However, he just wanted to get to the point of a conversation. At that point he did. He heard his voice wobble a little which made him want to end it quicker.
“Neither do you sound it.”
It was remorse he felt coming out mix in with embarrassment. He wanted to apologize to him for what he had done, but he stalled. He couldn’t form the words. Instead, he chose to run.
“I need to speak to the Arch Monk,” he said pushing himself off the wall. “It’s good to see you.”
He opened the door and walked in but not before hearing Tyr say to Ealdred, “Never thought there would be a day he would be loss for words. Maybe he’ll be less of an ass now.”
Friends come and go as they say, he thought.
Oeric shut the door and faced his father. The man sat at his desk with his pale eyes fixed on him. In his hands was his late brother’s blood stained sash. There talk would be just as bad as he thought it would be.
“Isn’t it about time that you bury that,” said Oeric as he strolled up to his desk.
“You’re a month late,” started the Arch Monk gruffly. “You were to strictly follow my order.”
“On arrival, Mobious got sick and couldn’t be in command.”
“There is always a Second Warden who can take over.”
“He was sick too like everyone else. I was luckily to have gotten away before I caught whatever nastiness was going around that time.”
The Arch Monk gestured for him to sit.
Oeric rather he stood far away from him and that golden cloth. However, he walked over and sank down in one of the chairs in front of the man’s desk anyway.
His father scrutinized him. “You look ragged, son.”
“You sent me to a swamp to command a bunch of grown children,” Oeric returned.
“You cut your hair?”
Oeric felt the back of his neck that his sandy hair barely covered. “I didn’t want to walk around with mold in my head.”
“You’ve lost a bit of weight I see.”
“Because I had the runs every other week because they didn’t know about basic hygiene like a bunch of barbarians.”
The old monk looked pleased. “I suppose you learned your lesson.”
Oeric did at least do that. He never wanted to find himself in the position again where he was sent to a place where he had pull back his bedsheets every night to make sure he didn’t have a snake coiled up under them. And it wasn’t due to the fact snakes slithered in there. One of the men would do it just to hear him scream.
“I’m holding this right now just to remind me of what your brother told me,” he said holding up the golden sash. “That just because you do wrong doesn’t make you my son any less.”
It surprised Oeric that his brother would say something like that. They never got along. Him his father got along even worse. By the time he was born, his father was advisor to the previous Arch Monk. He was on the road a lot. His mother, fought with him from time to time. She fought with him one time too many and died by the hands of half-elf raiders. Oeric was five. The old arch monk died and his father took over. He had been handed to his brother’s family often to look after. After her death, Oeric rarely saw his father. The man paid very little attention to him. At first Oeric did bad things to get his attention and then, he did them out of spite. His brother would be the one to yell and punish him. In Oeric’s view, at the time, his brother wasn’t his authority and neither was his father.
The Arch Monk scratched his chin. “Now my son is home again. What should I have him do?”
“You should love him and let him rest,” suggested Oeric.
“You can rest after you fix that chasm you wrought between you and Soletus,” said his father.
Oeric sank in his chair. “I will but I’m not going to force him.”
“Well fix everything in whatever fashion you like before you can even think about going back on duty.”
Oeric wondered if he failed to see the separation of father and superior officer because of the man in front of him. His father was both to him for so long that he barely was able to separate the two. He honestly couldn’t.
“Since we are on the topic of my going back on duty, Sir, I rather not any time soon. I want a six month leave.”
His father brow sunk low. “A six month leave? For what purpose?”
“Your master position has been filled. You’re First Warden spot has not. I rather not split your band up.”
Oeric barked out a laugh. “As if they will follow me now, I know how they think. I’m lucky they didn’t talk Cordea into tossing me out in the streets.”
“Six months is far too long and I won’t give you a new band. If you lost their respect earn it again.”
Oeric knew his father would argue so he spent many days rehearsing this conversation. “Then you risk their lives. If they decide not to listen to me out of spite and they get hurt, are you going to hold them responsible for their actions or are you going to blame me?”
His father looked at him solemnly. “Son, I need you on duty.”
“Let Tyr lead them. He’s an excellent second. Promote or move someone to be his.”
“He’s been leading. He came in here earlier to have Ealdred as his second. They’ve worked a lot together with Soletus these last few months and find each other easy to work with. I told them that I had no plans for Tyr’s position to be permanent and that I expected you to take over.”
“I want to start over and I need three month recovery time from this and another three for self-training. Before you tell me to train with everyone else, they’ll start a fight with me and it’ll be my fault no matter what.”
The Arch Monk shook his head. “You really don’t think highly of your brothers.”
“No, I just know how they are,” he reasoned. “I know what they do to someone who doesn’t fit in.”
“Perhaps if you didn’t feel the need to lash out like a wild wolf from time to time you would fit,” snapped his father.
Oeric was sure he had everything buried, under control, and forgotten. However, he knew it was forever engrained in him. Of all people, he never thought that his son would wake it up.
“You don’t have a snappy retort? You aren’t going to argue,” baited his father. “I’m surprised. You never miss a chance to defend yourself.”
Oeric bite his bottom lip and felt resentment bubbling up in him. He didn’t defend himself seven months ago. He took everyone’s harsh criticism. He deserved it then. He wasn’t so sure about the present. However, he took it as he done in the past.
“Oeric,” called his father for his attention.
He didn’t look at him.
His father had face relaxed. “I’m sorry, that was a kick below the belt.”
Oeric lifted his head. “May I have my request?”
His father didn’t look pleased. “I don’t think it’s the right course of action, but, very well,” he relented.
“Thank you, Sir. May I leave now if you don’t have anything else for me?”
“I’ve nothing else, but you’ve not asked a thing about your son.”
Oeric purposely didn’t. “I know he’s alive.” That’s all that mattered to him. His affairs in the Brotherhood was his own now.
“I was worried about him,” admitted the Arch Monk. “His first month was rough. I thought it was all a failure, but he insisted that we let him go on. The reactions peaked and then lessoned.”
“That’s good, so he can be around drass beasts?”
“For the most part. He’ll start his grappler training soon.”
Oeric sat on the edge of his seat. “For the most part?”
“He’s not cured. He gets a little, how you say, frenzied killing drass beast at times. Mostly with small skulkers that poisoned him. Most of his time with Ealdred was to keep that response under control. He’ll be under a lot of observation before I will let him join a band with him as the only grappler.”
Oeric couldn’t help but feel bothered by that. However, he had to let it go and be proud of his son.
“Now, that’s all I’ve to say to you, Oeric.”
Oeric stood to his feet as well as old elf. He walked around the desk to embrace his son.
“You know I love you, but next time you do something like this, I’m just going to tie you up and beat sense into you.”
Oeric patted his father’s back in return.
“I’m surprised you didn’t do that this time, Papa.”