It had been decades since both brother and sister spoke to each other. They hadn’t due to their last disagreement. Thought, to be fair, their relationship soured long ago. The catalyst for it all was the death of their mother. Cyrius was pressured to insert herself as an surrogate, to Oeric, however she was no mother. She was still too young, grieving for the patent she had lost. Oeric wasn’t able to. Their brother claimed he was too young for it to matter much. That he would forget her soon. Then it turned into him being a boy and because of that, he wasn’t allowed to be sad. That became his sister’s favorite thing to tell him. It didn’t help that his brother agreed with that sentiment. Oeric however disagreed.
And it ws less about disagreeing with the sentiment, it was the fact that things were different than what they were with his mother. She allowed him a bit more freedom. He was technically her forth child. His brother was on his first child, so everything had to be just for Alacai. Cyrius just mimicked him and his wife. Oeric thought that his father would know better, but then his father didn’t pay an attention to him except when he was in trouble. Oeric being the type who was too smart for his own good did things to get his father attention. His attention seeking had a affect on his sister because she couldn’t control him thus, everyone blamed her for it. The fact he was a bad child was her fault. One of the first things she told him when she saw him was that when he ran away, it was a relief because she didn’t have to watch him anymore.
That wasn’t the only thing she said to him when he came back. Cyrius marked him as the one responsible for their brother’s death. He had been looking for Oeric when he came across that pack of drass beast and elves. On top of that, she heavily scrutinized everything he did. She told him that he had ruined himself and would have been better off dead.
He telling him that hurt him, because he had ruined his life. For the first handful of years, he felt he was better off dead than having to look into everyone’s judging eyes. Yet he persisted and tried to be a productive member of society than burden. No matter the victory, she wielded his failures like a knife and cut him at a moment’s notice. It didn’t help that she extended her scrutiny to things had hadn’t done, but could do. And for many decades, he felt he was deserving of such harsh treatment. He didn’t put much effort in repairing their relationship. What she said was true. He messed up and nothing he could do would stop her from hating him.
Now, he had truly moved past the shame and he found peace. He wanted to attempt talking to her again. Maybe help her move forward. He never really planned the moment they he would try again. He never imagined it would be that day.
“This is a surprise. You’ve not visited here in decades. Why now,” said Cordea.
“Well, we have parts for a new fruit press stuck here and I came with Wes and Alacai to free it since no one wants to deliver it properly,” said Cyrius. She paused for a very long time before she spoke too softly for him to hear.
“Yes, but he’s sleeping,” answered Cordea.
“Oh,” she said sounding surprised and once again her voice became muddled.
“So, do you want to speak with him or not?”
Oeric wondered if he could step closer towards the bedroom window and hear her there.”
“You’re making, excuses. Oeric is easy to wake up. Get in here…” he then heard the door close and Cyrius speak again. She was louder.
“Wow, this place looks completely different than the last time I came here,” she said letting out a nervous laugh. “Then again the entire town looks different. Is Soletus here or are you alone with Oeric.
“Soletus is at the society house. We’ve an event going on and he’s helping. I need to be leaving soon to help as well.”
His sister scooted out a chair and sat. “Oh, he left before you. Doesn’t he stay here?”
“Why would he? He only comes here to eat, say hello to me, and spend time with Saedee.”
“My other daughter. You never met her. Stick around until she comes home from school. She looks exactly like Oeric. It only too took three tries.”
“I forgot,” she said awkwardly. “I always imagined just you having two children not three.”
Before Cordea could answer, there was a knock on the door. It sounded like one of his father’s messengers.
“You’re going to have to wait to talk to him,” said Cordea on the move and then come into their bedroom. “Oeric get up you’re ne–”
She saw him standing by the wall and shut the door. She looked unsurprised. “You’re needed at the monastery.”
“This is why I never take a week off. I’m always being dragged back in,” he said, reaching for his trousers.
She watched him a moment then stated. “What are you going to do about her? Are you going to talk to her or eavesdrop some more when you get back?”
He tidied his shirt and grabbed his sash, and said, “I was observing her mood. I’ll talk to her when I figure out what I want to say.”
He had a list of things he wanted to talk about. Some of it pertained to their mother. Some of it to their brother. He wanted to know how she was doing. What was her daily life like? How did she handle her children getting married? Why did he feel so old when he knew he wasn’t as old as she was? So many things. But he didn’t know how to get started with her. Soletus was simple to learn to talk too. Be honest was his requirement. Cyrius in the past always took much more convincing than being honest.
He exited the room and caught his sisters gaze. Years had treated her well still. Her stark blue eyes hadn’t lost their sharpness. Though at the moment they took him in with a uneasy glint to them. Though the red hints in her river sand colored hair made it easier to spot the grays hairs. Her golden olive complexion was just as sun touched as his. She worked in the orchard as well as managing it. He didn’t turn away from her as he was waiting for her to say something. She didn’t. She was accessing him as well.
“Cyrius,” he greeted and stated moving. He needed to be moving. “Sorry I can’t talk now. Later certainly. Maybe Cordea can take you to the society house and I’ll just meet you there?”
“Fine with me,” he wife said giving him an exasperated look. She had strong feelings on his situation with his family. She told him make things right, if they can’t manage that, just cut ties like she did. He didn’t like the thought of doing that. She was stronger than him in that aspect.
“Well, if you’re going to go to Papa, can you tell him I’m here,” Cyrius asked.
“I will,” he said and pull off a chuck of bread that Cordea had made the other day and kissed her on the head before stuffing it in his mouth on his way out. He closed the door and exhaled. He wasn’t certain what the discussion between him and his sister would be like. He was glad that wing of it didn’t include a fight. He wanted to limit his arguing that day. His father and him were disagreeing again.
It was like the two of them were cursed to forever disagree.
When he arrived to the grounds, he was greeted to the sight of soldiers lined up with a “prisoners chariot” as many like referred to the barred cart, on the drive. On approach, he could see a single lone prisoner hunched in a corner. His father stood with Brother Rastor waiting for him to the side.
“What is this,” asked Oeric.
“This is your experiment,” stated the Arch Monk.
“My experiment,” he muttered mystified and peered again into the cart at the elf. His face was scarred. Both old and fresh. Oeric assumed he raked his nails over his face over what appeared to be a facial tattoo he had. He wasn’t certain what it was. However, the bowed line across his forehead and a shorter line going along the length of his chin where his cur marks. He looked listless, but Oeric could see his eyes move watching them as he examined his head to see his ears. They were low. He was Dyne.
“The Queen sent him to us,” explained the Arch Monk and handed him the letter.
“Just one,” asked Oeric as he reached for it. He didn’t read it. He only held it.
“There was nothing left to do with this one,” answered the commanding office who was leading the escort. “All Dyne curs were dropped at the border. They took them all save this one. So we took him back with us planning to use him work in the yard. When the Queen wrote to our garrison asking if we had any peaceful curs. A bit of an oxymoron. They only stay peaceful when you give them something to do. Hard labor worked fine as well as hard training. Some of them will make great front line infantry as there are giant incursions around the border again. This one, didn’t care for our training and didn’t want to be a laborer. He just sat in his cell and took up space.”
Brother Rastor looked at Oeric for his opinion. The warden didn’t voice it. He never experienced that level of being so downtrodden not wanting to do anything. Oh he was close to just giving up. Some curs did. They had no hope or will left and would welcome death. Usually letting someone else kill them. Either in a fight or by other means.”
“I was told to deliver this flesh bag to a First Warden Oeric’Sheldmartin,” said the officer fixed on his face. “I assumed that’s you.”
“You would be correct,” he stated.
The soldier snorted. “And you’re marked.”
“I am. Let him out of the cage.”
Two soldiers opened the cart and the cur crawled out standing upright in chains and tattered clothing. He kept his head down but kept his searching. Either he was trying to find a way to run away or keeping an eye on those around him. Oeric could catch him before he got too far. He might’ve been tall and powerfully built, but he was weakened. Probably hadn’t have a meal that wasn’t flour and water for days. He hadn’t bathed other than getting a bucket of water tossed over his head given how rip the odor was off him. Oeric kept his nose from wrinkling and told the soldiers.
“Unshackle him as well. We don’t need those,” he told them.
“He’s a cur,” warned the soldier. “He’s tried to run before.”
“So was I and I run faster,” assured Oeric.
The officer gestured to his men to do so. “Once he’s in you’re hands, I’m not coming back for him.”
“That was the agreement.”
“Then you should keep him locked up at night. Like I said, he attempted to run away from us twice.”
“Noted,” said Oeric.
There was nothing else he needed from the soldiers. The Arch Monk thanked them for their time. He told them were there were stables and an inn if they wished to rest the night. However, they were moving along that day. Oeric took that time and started speaking to the cur who was rubbing his wrists. His skin was red from wear not struggle.
“What is your name,” he asked the taller elf.
He looked down at him and then forward “Rip.”
Oeric shook his head. “That’s a fighter’s name. Not your name.”
“I have no other name,” he returned.
“You do. It may have been beaten out or talked out of you from using it. But you were given a name by you’re mother when you were born. What was it?”
He only affirmed. “My name is Rip.”
“I’m not calling you Rip. You aren’t an animal,” said Oeric firmly. The elf in turn, bowed his head in shame. “Don’t think you deserve a real name or anything for that matter. Then I’m about to make you really uncomfortable. Brother Rastor, can you take him to the baths. They should be empty this time of the day. Then after that to the infirmary. I’ll fetch him there.”
“Certainly,” said Rastor. “Come along with me.”
The elf remained planted in place.
“Come on, you need to get the road off and cuts cleaned,” motioned Rastor.” Not to mention new cloths. You shouldn’t be in those rags. Then after that a meal.”
The elf didn’t budge.
“You aren’t a prisoner here,” said Oeric speaking as firmly as he could. It was a test to see how they would react to stubbornness. “You are a guest and you are to act like one. Surely you don’t want to die so much that you can’t take hospitality.”
“First Warden Oeric, I don’t think you need to be so harsh,” stated Rastor.
“I want him to understand what’s going on here,” said Oeric to him and then to the cur. “Again, you are a guest and as a guest you take what is offered to you. Understood?”
The cur nodded and he stepped forward, ready to follow Rastor. The priest moved and the made there way to the back building of the monastery.
Oeric sighed. He didn’t know if he felt good about him or not. He had a sinking suspicion why the Dyne refused to take him. That worried him a bit.
His father then stood to his side and stated. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking he can shapeshift. The Dyne have rules on how you use your consort given abilities. Anything that breaks them is an insult to Diva.”
The older elf shook his head. “Not that. I won’t your actual thoughts about what I purposed.”
Oeric knew this was coming eventually. Nothing had been settled about Soletus since their last discussion days ago. He put his hands on his hips and repeated himself. “I’m not matching him because that’s not what he wants. And I’m not helping you match him. ”
Solgard crossed his arm. “Soletus needs more in his life than training and work. He won’t be a good second warden let alone a future first warden if he solitary.”
Oeric crossed his arms. “Why are you being so obnoxious about this? You act as if he’s 50. He’s not even 30. Barely no more than a tod. Some his age can’t talk to a girl let alone pretend to be with them. He’s fine. Why does it bother you so much?”
“I want uniformity. No special treatment,” said his father.
“So having one less monk to worry about doing something stupid like fathering ten children from nine different women and all their families want us to support them.”
His father began getting frustrated. “Why do you grab the most far-fetch examples to support your argument.”
“Because the way you’re acting towards your grandson is far-fetch,” snapped Oeric. “Do you realize how much you hurt him? I haven’t heard him refer to you as Grandpa for weeks now. It’s always Arch Monk.”
“He needs to grow up. Marriage is in his future and he needs to prepare for it.”
“He doesn’t want to. Marriage needs sincerity. Doing it out of obligation is going to create problems if he doesn’t accept it fully. He’s very resistant to him and it will cause a problem. A wife and children need to be wanted. He understands that and he’s neth. Why does he get it and you don’t. Maybe because I do talk to him. You know, something you didn’t do to me.”
Solgard looked at this incredulously and confused. “Why are you bring that up. I did talk to you about it.”
“‘Oeric, you need to get married,’ is what you said. That’s not a discussion, that an order. No amount of trying to explain myself that I wasn’t ready would make you listen. And that stops. We are discussing this,” he said with finality. “Explain to me why you take issue with him. A grandson you have supported for years. Then suddenly with a snap of your fingers, he might as well be dirt.”
The older monk looked at him. “I don’t like it because he’s ruined his chances for a normal life.”
“No he ruined his chances an average life. And it doesn’t matter as he’s not average. Simple to understand.”
His father narrowed his eyes. “You don’t understand.”
“That’s an excuse,” he said with a sharp shake of his head. “Why do you have a problem with him?”
Solgard then said. “You’re grandfather told me, that the legacy of the Sheldmartin was very important. No matter what. That legacy has to go on.”
“And it will and has. No need to make everyone carry it onward the same way. More excuses. Tell me why you have a problem with him.”
His father stared hard at him with his lips quivering and nose flaring. “You’re pushing again.”
“Pressing, get it right,” he said with the wolf grin forming on his face. “You know me enough that I will stand here all day prodding you. I’m not walking away. Not from this. What changed from you treating him better than you ever treated me?”
His father held him by the shoulder. “Because he ruined himself like you did.”
“Ah yes, so many scars on that handsome face of his. Well there that tiny nick on his chin he calls a battle scar. It’s not ruined his life yet. Try again.”
Solgard gave him a shake and said sharply. “Would you shut that trap of yours! He could’ve been like me. Never let a soul know.”
Oeric stopped breathing. “What are you on about,” he breathed out, searching his father’s face.
“He could’ve lived a simple life, but no, he thinks he knows better. He doesn’t. I made a better place for those like us here. I thought Yunus would convince him, but he’s as stubborn as Hickory.”
Oeric could only stare at him as he tried to make sense of what he was told.
His father shook him again. “Oeric, don’t you start looking the way you are right now.”
He couldn’t help it. He was in shock. He worked his jaw and tongue until sound came out. “If you’re neth, why hide it all this time? Why couldn’t you tell me? All this time, you could have just told me. As many times as you got on me for harboring a secrets, here you are carrying one.”
“My secret hasn’t hurt anyone. Not even me. It helped me rise in the ranks. Choosing the way I have life has made me understand others around me much better. It’s about what the order needs. The order needed me to be a male that understands the vast majority here and not a small minority. It’s better for us that way. The world isn’t made for us. That you should understand. The world isn’t made for curs either. You had to become more than what you turned yourself into.”
Oeric shook his head. “N-n-no! How is being a cur remotely the s-same!”
“You’re stuttering. We can talk about this later. Go calm down somewhere and tend to your charge. I’ve things to do,” said Solgard and left Oeric confused.