From years of hunting and observing drass beasts, Soletus knew a thing or two about stalking. He learned how to blend into an environment with his target oblivious to his presence. He knew how to carry his weight across a forest floor littered with dry leaves. He knew how to breathe so not to call attention to himself. He knew how to observe the wind so he could position himself was downwind. And he even knew what he could smear on his skin and clothing to obscure his scent. However, none of that helped him with elves.
Fen elves were more complex than a drass beasts and creatures. Elves were unpredictable and predictable at the same time. They liked normalcy, stability, so day-to-day ran with ease. Change was sometimes a little difficult to bolster in, but once it was settled in, it was welcomed if you weren’t too old. Change had begun for him years ago and it was rough. He didn’t want it to be so rough with Espen. However, the former, “farm boy” lived a wraith like existence.
One moment, he would be seen and in the next instant, he would vanish. At first, the young monk thought it was a coincidence, but now he was convinced that he knew Soletus wanted to talk to him. The only option was stalking him until corner. But, that wasn’t the ideal way to approach someone. In fact, it was the good way to find oneself face-to-face with a fight. He decided he needed other minds on the matter and thus Soletus asked his friends for advice.
“You made him piss himself,” said Kiao to him while the ate dinner. She eating down a massive platter of food that she was sharing with Mien. She had healed a band who found themselves fact to face with a small rock slide in a ravine they were patrolling. Mien told him it was five men injured with lots of broken bones. And three several injured with head wounds. The young priestess looked tired. Her face pale, dark rings under her eyes, and her eyes had taken on a more violet hue.
“I did not,” said Soletus. Or at least he was certain he didn’t. “Maybe figuratively, but that was kind of the point. It’s not like I hurt him.”
She gave him a flat stare before stating, “Sol, if someone summoned a bear, that nearly ripped my face off, and then had it sit on me so he could get me in deep trouble, I would avoid him too.”
“I get that, but this is more than just avoiding looking at my direction, this is actively trying not to be around me. It’s like he’s avoiding being associated with me.”
Mien then cut in after chewing methodically on a piece of bread. “I think he doesn’t want to be associated with you. Not because he made an enemy out of you, but because he is like you. He’s hiding it, remember.”
“Talking to me once isn’t going to make people suspect anything. All I want to do is open the door for communication.”
“And what if he doesn’t want that,” injected Kiao.
Soletus shrugged. He didn’t have a good answer. “I don’t like the fact that he’s alone. I didn’t want to be alone. I wanted to at least appear to be customary so I wouldn’t be.”
“But that’s you not him. For all you know, he wants space to figure it out. Didn’t you need space?”
She stopped him with a shake of her head. “The issue here is you don’t want him to make a mistake. However, you forget that you feared the reactions of others when they learned the truth. Maybe he actually has something to fear. You’re parents didn’t care. Maybe his family does.”
Soletus was at a loss of words. He should’ve considered that.
Mien then added. “But you need to say something. I saw him walking with Yunus today. from the way he acted, I don’t think this is the first time they’ve spoken. If that’s true, Yunus may have told him to avoid you.”
That wasn’t good. Soletus couldn’t imagine what Yunus suggested to Espen. One thing he wondered about was the fact, he hadn’t taken the trials yet. Honestly, he should have. He was a skilled fighter and it would be a shame if Yunus recruited him for desk work because he wasn’t a instructor. From what he observed, Espen was too impatient with teaching or even just explaining something to another. Soletus feared if worse come to worse he would become a peaceguard. And he didn’t want that. He wanted to prove to all the men, that a neth male was worth his salt and having two prime examples would do a world of good.
Kiao then offered one piece of advise. “You know why, you might have to do what Hickory had to do. Wait until Espen comes to him. Then maybe you can talk to him. Believe me, Hickory wanted to talk to you badly. You just made it difficult for him to do that.”
The young monk didn’t like it. He didn’t want to wait, but it looked like he was going to have to keep a distant eye on Espen. He had friends. In fact, he hung around a group of lads that Tyrus often associated with. Ones who weren’t generational Brotherhood. It wasn’t a group that Soletus was very fond of himself. Often times they acted like anyone who was generational like him were full of themselves. And a few were, but many included him, weren’t. Some were troublemakers and pulled hard against the rules and such. If anyone actually payed any amount of attention, Soletus avoided both groups. Neither were better than the other, both could get him in trouble, and he liked a small group of friends not a large packs. Now that was all slightly going to shift since he was now a second warden and being didn’t allow him to hang out with the lads.
He was to be mature now. Most of his dealings would be with adults older than him. Though Soletus couldn’t say he felt like an adult. He couldn’t really compare himself to others as those younger than him did young elf things like mess around and talk to girls. Things he didn’t do. His free time was often spent working, training, or doing something for his mother, the women’s society, or the huntresses. Now his time would be spent being a second warden.
There were some benefits. He was now allowed in the master’s hall without question. He was able to get his own room and lived on the same floor as Mien. All masters, first and second wardens were given a workspace. He still shared it with his father, however it was very nice to get a desk to work off of.
His duties, well there wasn’t many. He was in charge of supply inventory. His band, small at the moment, was going out on daily short patrols and three day long patrols on the given section of road. On their three day long patrol was a regular route going far to the east and then back west again. They needed supplies for those three days as well a few daily ones. He had to keep up with how much they used and how much they would take and log it down. If there was someone extra coming he had to factor them into it so they would have enough food and emergency supplies. His father also had him write a daily log of anything that occurred while they were out. Not just on the countryside, but the men as well. Every week or two, the first and second field wardens would have a meeting with the Arch Monk about what they had seen on the road. Both of them could attend, but if his father couldn’t, then he could leave Soletus to take care of it.
Also, the men in their band could come to him if they wanted to talk about something. So Soletus had to spend a portion of his day in the master’s hall to be available. His father would be as well, but he wanted Soletus’s presence to be gotten used too, so he made himself scarce. The young mon, also figured, he didn’t want to appear as if he was hovering over him. He was still trying to create distance and let him learn on his own.
Soletus sat at his desk as routine demanded checking his logs and noted supplies used and lost during their last three day and calculating what they needed for their upcoming long patrol. When he got to the point where he was going to decide who was going, he realized he needed to ask Mien if he was going. Sometimes the young chanter didn’t. He may go on a daily patrol, but not a long patrol unless there was a drass beasts in the area. The only way he could determine that was reading the bulletin to see if there were any reports of drass beasts in the area. However, before he stood up, Second Warden Ealdred left the wardens he was speaking and strolled towards him.
Soletus braced himself and managed a light smile. “You need something?”
Ealdred sat on the corner of the desk. “Nothing, I wanted to check up on you before you left. You’ve been at this for a few months now. You come here do you’re work and leave.”
“That is the point is it not,” he said as he was somewhat avoiding confrontations between him and the senior wardens around him. Many of them didn’t like his promotion.
“Certainly, but it doesn’t hurt to be a little social. You’re getting to be a little to much like your father,” he said.
“I can’t imagine why,” he said, and then thought better of the sardonic tone he used. Part of him didn’t like how surly he was becoming.
Ealdred remained disarming. “I know why you’ve become so guarded. But you don’t have to bristle up around me. Would it help if I say from spending time with you, I’m not surprised that you are neth and that’s acceptable.”
The young mon sat back in his chair. He was a little surprised.
“We aren’t all made the same. We all have something different to give,” he said.
That eased Soletus a little, but then he wasn’t certain if he was sincere.
“I’ve always believed you had potential. And you could very well be what this order needs.”
Soletus knew Ealdred wasn’t a bad man. He gave him a chance when others wanted to give up. It was just him and Tyr treated him like he was an idiot. Though between him and Tyr, Ealdred was the least judgmental. He was always trying to help. He probably was then.
Soletus let down his guard and relaxed. “It isn’t deserved. My promotion, I mean. Everyone thinks that and I think it a little. I’m just an experiment.”
“You know I’m all for experiments,” said Ealdred. “You aren’t something new, but it’s been a long time since someone so young was able to hold any senior position. We all have to start somewhere, and this is something you can do.”
“I know it is,” he said. “Keep a log on everything, easy. Deal with people, well that’s easy as long as I don’t know who they are and are good by my standards. Everyone likes to point out how guarded I am, but it’s really hard when the grumblers grumble about. And I’m working on it. It probably doesn’t show or everyone would stop mentioning it by now.”
“No, it’s understandable, as I said. We, and by that I mean those who care, don’t want you sinking into it. You have particular traits we want to to show more of.”
“Like, being stubborn?”
Ealdred laughed. “You were a senior among the junior wardens for a reason. Kellas did a poor job of honing those skills for it. This might be a better way to get you where you should be. It could also improve your handwriting.”
Soletus looked down. His handwriting wasn’t bad. It was simple and lacked artistry. “It’s legible. That’s all it matters.”
“It’s could be better. Your father has excellent handwriting.”
Soletus sighed. “That’s because when he was a cur, he would practice lettering to pass the time and taught himself artisan calligraphy. As a boy, he tried to show me how to do it but, I could never do it.”
Ealdred chuckled. “We used to have a warden here who thought him to be uneducated because of his scars and speech. Oeric and him work together exchanging messages during a mission. Every time he wrote a message, it was in this elegant, but very readable script ” he said. “Not a wrong word spelled or missing punctuation. Even corrected errors in the messages he received to make a point. The warden never said anything about his ability to communicate after that.”
Soletus would have to ask his father about that just to hear his side of it. He knew it should be hilarious.
“Anyway, I just want to put it out there that I’m here to help you if you need it. Us second wardens need to stick together.”
He patted Soletus on the shoulder and stood up to leave.
“Ealdred. We’re equals.”
That lifted Soletus’s spirits and he gestured over to the bulletin. “Are the reports up from yesterday? I need to know for the eastern bound road.”
Ealdred walked over. “There is a bulletin. Three sheep were attacked by a drass beast. I suppose your father has something to look into on your long patrol, yes?”
Soletus nodded. “Good. Mien gets to go out with us. If not him, I’ll have to see about Nimbus,” he said standing to his feet and gathering his papers into a neat pile. He slid them into drawer at the top of the desk. “Thank you.”
“No problem,” said Ealdred.
Soletus then left to go to the infirmary. His second warden status allowed him to endlessly roam the grounds without a lot of questions. He could visit his friends without looking as if he was slacking off with ease as long as they weren’t busy. However, he heard terse raised voices between the gap between the main building and the boy’s dorm. It sounded like fighting. He made a u-turn and headed there. Behind the bushes, he saw a group of tods kicking at what appeared to be someone on the ground.
“Hey,” he shouted and charged at them.
Like a bunch of mice, they scattered. Soletus could’ve chased after them if not for the groaning form unfurling himself in the dirt. Soletus bent over them.
“Hey, you okay,” he asked. They sprawled out on their stomach and pushed their chest off the ground with only their right arm. Their left was curled around their torso. Soletus took hold of them and pulled them up right.
“Do you need the infirmary?”
They struggled and stumbled to get away from him. They whirled around. It was Espen.