Blood from Clinchers forearm filled Oeric’s mouth as he started shaking his head. The man cried out and screamed beating the wolf between his eyes with his fist. He then got a hold of a rock and started striking him in the side of his head. Oeric focused his attention on that hand and snapped at it. Clincher dropped the rock and cursed, thrashed, and kicked. Oeric kept snapping and clawing him going for a leg instead so he couldn’t get up and run.
It was then he felt a foot slammed into his ribs. The strike didn’t register him at all like the rock. A second did as whoever it was kicked him right in the stones. Oeric was stunned enough for them to grabbed him by the scruff and fling him to the side.
“Papa, stop,” cried Soletus.
Oeric didn’t hear him. He was still fixated on Clincher. He rolled from his side to his paws and charged at Clincher. The man was trying to crawl away. Soletus grabbed him by his tail and a hind leg and flipped him to his back. Oeric fought to right himself again. However, this time Soletus blocked him. The tod stood between him and Clincher with a hunting knife in his hand.
“I said stop,” he shouted.
Those words banged against Oeric’s skull and broke through the red haze of rage. Oeric became still and focused on the knife in Soletus’s hand. It was the hunting knife that he had gifted him. He had his initials were carved into the pommel and there he was about to use that gift on him.
“Uncle Oeric,” called Lyndon.
His nephew appeared and had a notched arrow pointed at him. Realization and shame hit Oeric. He took a couple of steps back, getting ready to bolt.
“No, no, no,” cried Soletus. “Lyndon lower your bow.”
Oeric watched his nephew and son lower their weapons. However, before they had a chance to work things out further, another wolf hurtled into Oeric’s side. The two rolled in the brush and Oeric fought it get upright. He saw teeth snap in his face. The large gray wolf was trying to get him by the scruff, but Oeric maneuvered away from his jaws. His mind raced as he scrambled for a way to escape. There was none as Tyr charged into the clearing with several peaceguards behind him. Three of them, headed straight toward him.
Oeric was in conflict. Animal instincts to him to run, the elf in him told him to stand down. He didn’t make a decision in time before one of the peaceguards got a lasso around his neck and pulled it tight.
Oeric sat on his haunches trying to lie down to show he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but the peaceguard dragged him forward and yanked hard to get him off his feet. The other two jumped on top of him. One tied a leather strip around his muzzle the other held him down and hobbled his legs. Through them he saw Soletus trying to force his way to them.
“What are you doing,” he cried.
Tyr shoved him back. “Don’t get near him.”
“He snapped out of it!”
Tyr grabbed him by the collar. “He doesn’t just snap out of that.”
When they were done, Oeric was yanked up. He was dug his paws into the ground refusing to be dragged like a dog.
Soletus pushed himself away from Tyr and grabbed the rope in the middle.
The peaceguard holding the rope become dazed and Soletus snatched the rope from him. Oeric rolled on his back. It was embarrassing, but it was a sign of submission they could understand. Soletus removed the hobble, the leather from around his muzzle and then tugged off the rope around his neck off. Oeric rolled to his feet.
Tyr made move to stop him. “He’s going to bite you.”
Soletus ignored him. He reached for his father’s face and held it. “Mama sent me to get you.”
Oeric let out a whine. He left the leather wrap on the bed. She probably knew he was about to do something stupid.
Soletus leaned his forehead against his. “You didn’t need to attack that man. I was fine.”
Oeric sat on his haunches and sniffed his son’s face. He took a beating. His right eye was starting to swell up and his nose was bleeding. He had scratches and bruised from what Oeric had to guess that gem studded ring that Clincher wore. He let out a whimper and started to lick Soletus’s face.
“No stop,” said Soletus moving his head away. “Papa, please. Ow, that’s a bruise. It’ll hurt less if you don’t touch it.”
Oeric’s mind then fixed itself back on the one who hurt him. He stared where the peace guards had surrounded Clincher bandaging him up. Oeric growled with disgust that the man was being treated like a victim. Soletus then struck him in the side of his muzzle.
Oeric flatten his ears. His mind was cleared, but he didn’t appreciate being slapped.
“This is why we had him tied,” said Tyr.
Oeric let out a growl and settled down on his stomach. Soletus’s strike rattled his aching head.
“I was dealing with him fine until you come,” said Soletus petting Oeric. “He’s not a beast you know.”
Tyr snorted. “I’ve told myself that many times while chasing him down or trying to pull him off of someone from mauling them.”
Soletus rolled his eyes. “And he’s he let me ride back like this when I was little. Not only that, we hunted together like this. And, Mama told me if her ever felt threatened enough to attack someone, like this, stop him. I stopped him.”
Oeric let out a growl. He wished that he regain his sentience fully so he could talk. That was possible as a wolf. In fact, he used to be more elf than wolf during his times in the borrowed form. However, that changed with his time spent with Clincher. His ability to switch from one to the other was no longer effortless. He couldn’t even change back at will anymore.
Soletus grabbed him by the muzzled and forced his head to his face so he wasn’t fixated on Tyr.
“Papa, look at me.”
He did and thought him to look awful. It was all his fault. Oeric started cleaning his face again.
“You’re not making it better,” Soletus protested trying to push him away, but Oeric place both his paws on his shoulder to keep him in place. His son stopped fighting and let Oeric get the dirt off his face.
Lyndon then crouched beside them wearing a huge amused grin. His consort, Nox, flew down from the tree to his shoulders. “How long is he going to be like this?”
“As soon as he regains control. I’ve seen it take minutes or even days,” said Tyr and muttered. “It the worse consort given ability he could have.”
Lyndon pointed to the back of his head. “I think he’s hurt. There’s blood on the back of his head.”
Glen appeared again and tackled Oeric’s tail like a kitten.
Tyr’s eyes looked as if they were going to roll out of his skull. “You brought Mien here?”
The boy finally stepped out from behind the trees. He stopped short of Oeric looking embarrassed. Oeric pointed his muzzle at Glen, then stared back at Mien hoping what he wanted was clear.
“Sorry,” said the boy standing beside Lyndon. He hissed at Glen to stop, but the consort continued to chew on Oeric tail tip.
“He wanted to come and help,” explained Soletus seeing nothing wrong with bringing the nervous boy along. To Oeric’s surprise, Mien explained himself.
“Soletus asked for my help, so I helped him.”
“See, he never does anything he doesn’t want to,” said Soletus given his friend a grateful look.
Glen bit into the flesh of Oeric’s tail. The elf wolf bared his teeth at the tawny panther. The consort stopped and scooted back.
Tyr didn’t lighten up on his criticism. “He isn’t trained to deal with a situation like this. He isn’t trained at all!”
Soletus grinned. “Well if he’s as good as he is now, imagine him with training.”
Oeric wagged his tail feeling proud that his son wasn’t going to be made to feel sorry for what he had done.
“Stop wagging your tail. I’ve had to put up with months of this behavior from Soletus. He doesn’t listen to me! You made him not only impatient, but pig-headed, and disrespectful.”
Oeric watched his son’s face storm over. Soletus jump up and shouted into Tyr’s face. “He didn’t make me into anything.”
Tyr tried to take hold of him. Soletus slapped his hand away. The tod stomped off in an angry huff. Lyndon hurried after him. Khodi then joined them from out of no-where and bumped against Tyr causing him to stagger. Oeric felt his mind become clear enough to speak.
“My, his mood swing fast,” he said.
Tyr fixed his attention on him. “And you just let him blow up at me.”
“You should be able to handle him being a better man than I,” he returned. After learning what he did from Cordea, he felt betrayed. It didn’t help that being a wolf made that emotion stronger.
Tyr gave him a disgusted look. “I see being in the swamp was time well spent.”
“It was, but since you’re a jackass I thought I would return the gesture.”
Tyr scrutinized him. “You’re upset at me aren’t you? Why do you think you have the right to be upset at me?”
“I can list my reasons alphabetically if you like,” said Oeric. Afterwards, the world began to tilt. He felt weak and it was that moment that he was able to forced him out of being a wolf. It was a jarring experience as all the extra senses were cut off. He was left in a dull yet too colorful world that hurt his eyes. He wobbled upright anyway.
Tyr reached out and steadied him. “I see getting clubbed in the head didn’t straighten you from being a stupid bastard.”
“I can’t argue with that,” said Oeric. “I doubt this means anything to you, but I apologize for what happened.”
He could feel Tyr’s hand tighten around his arm. “What are you apologizing for, today or the many other times I’ve put my neck on the line to get you out of trouble only for you to find it again?”
Oeric pried his hand off. “If you’re going to be like that, I might as well not have wasted my breath.”
He stumbled forward leaving the glade. And going towards the bridge, however, he didn’t even make onto the planks. His head got to him. He leaned against the frame of the bridge and waited for the ill sensation he felt go away. In that time, the peaceguard walked towards him carrying Clincher between them. He was still very much alive as he was aware enough to give Oeric stare. Ben was shackled with his head lowered as he walked passed Oeric. Tyr and Mien took the rear.
Tyr told him while passing, “The horses are across the bridge. I think your lad brought an extra one. Just wait here.” Oeric listened to his footsteps crunch and stopped. Then they got closer again stopping right behind him. “What bothers me is that you hide yourself from him. I agreed not to tell Soletus about everything because I was under the impression you were going to tell him when he was able to understand it all. And you waited until he was a tod and showed no signs of sharing the truth with him.”
“I thought it was for the best,” he replied.
“Why? Because it embarrasses you? You can’t even spare your feelings even in the slightest. Are your really just that selfish?”
Oeric rubbed his eyed with his index finger and thumb.
Tyr stepped around him to face him and said, “He’s smart unlike you. He at least had the decency not to come here alone! And really, you should thank the wife you don’t deserve. She noticed you taking this.”
Tyr pushed the black steel dagger on his chest.
Oeric’s aching head couldn’t take Tyr any longer. “You can tear me down later in front of a larger audience. Just get me a horse before I can’t even ride it.”
Tyr looked as if he had another round of insults ready however, he had enough grace to just walk off. Oeric shut his eyes leaning against the bridge felt something nudging his calf. He looked down and saw Glen who was rubbing his head on his legs purring.
Mien stood two arm lengths away staring at him again.
“Shouldn’t you be with Soletus,” asked Oeric
Mien shook his head. “He’s upset. Lyndon is better at making him feel better.”
Glen put his head in Oeric hand to be petted. He scratched it. “Your consort has an odd fixation on me.”
“He likes you.”
“I’m surprise given the circumstances,” he said, wondering why the boy lingered there.
Mien took a deep breath and said, “Lyndon told me to tell you that Soletus is being an idiot dod and doesn’t want to talk to you because he’s being moody gloomy jackass. It isn’t because he hates you; it’s because he doesn’t know what to say. Lyndon’s words, not mine, Sir. He said it would help.”
Those sounded like the words of his other son. “Thank you for the message. And thank you for today as well as for saving my son months ago,” said Oeric. “I never thanked you for that. That was a brave thing you did.”
Oeric watched the boy’s pale face look as if the red in his hair leeched down into his skin at the same time Glen purred louder.
“He really reacts very strong with what you’re feeling.”
Oeric could hear horse hooves striking wood behind him.
Mien looked down the bridge. “You’re welcome. I-I can get your horse if you want. I don’t think Tyr likes you very much.”
“That would be nice, thank you.”
Mien scampered away.
Oeric didn’t know what to think about the odd boy and even less about his son’s choice in befriending him. He could understand the pity friendship it started out being. However, one didn’t choose a pity friend for battle. Tyr was right. The boy was untrained, but also, disturbed, and timid. Yet, he didn’t feel the boy’s hand tremble once when he cut his hands free. That was a good thing. That was potential. He wondered if Soletus recognized that it, if so, that made their friendship make sense. It wouldn’t make Cordea happy. She was just going to have to get used to him being around. Mien was starting to grow on him.