After his adventure in the infirmary, Oeric rested in a room upstairs in thought. He wasn’t inflicted with unpleasant memories bubbling to the surface after witnessing what he did. What he churned on then was less about him and more about the elf he was given. It bothered him that he wasn’t that old. Older than Soletus by a fair four decades and should have established a life for himself. He should be married with thoughts of children in the future. Not living in Fen elf territory sucked into the most illegal and sordid of worlds. It was a lightless life and to see it again after being surrounded by darkness was difficult. It took awhile for Oeric to see it again.
It was touch and go for a bit as it was when he returned. Those closest to him quickly realized how much he changed. He was distrustful and nervous. People always had ulterior motives for their actions. Then there were moments when, he felt out of control and would hate himself for hurting people who had really done nothing to him. At one point, he started pushing as many people away from him as he could. Because he didn’t deserve kindness, friends, or anything really. He wanted to be left alone in the empty house that was once his brother’s. And that coming home felt like a mistake. He wanted to do what so many former curs wanted and that was to die.
Dying was preferred. If fighting damaged you, it was better than a life as a cripple or if you were well still, it was hard living as refuse to never be to be trusted. The scars protected you in the world of curs. They showed how tough you were, what you had done, how far you would be willing to go, and what you were willing to do. There were curs that had more extensive marks than him for all sorts of things. Brands and even tattoos on their faces. However, Oeric was simplistic and only made a few on his face because the longest one going down his face, was a warning. It met he was a murderer. It met that anyone who tangled with him would die trying. It wasn’t completely true that he had a pile of bodies behind him, but he had a reputation for fight anything and winning.
Out in the normal world, those scars marked you as being untrustworthy, a lawbreaker, dangerous, and a scapegoat. Grace’s Hope was the best town to live as most people there weren’t quick to condemn you. In smaller towns and villages, they might leave you alone if you left them alone until something happened. If some did, a cur would be the first and only suspect. Then there were the places where a former cur just didn’t live at. Usually cities and large towns. If they did, it was better not to show their face. Some would cover their faces with full facial covering. The excuse being burn scars. It wasn’t entirely a lie.
He had worn one for a handful of years when he became a field warden. It was just easier when dealing with people. They could deal with his often unfriendly stark gaze and quick to the point demure but not both. Cordea convinced him to stop. She didn’t think he needed to use a shield. People needed to understand that Dias didn’t choose people due to their flawless features. Their god was faceless why would a god with no features care? Furthermore, how was he supposed to show all the Dias could help an individual if he hid what he used to be. He wasn’t a cur to her anymore. He wasn’t fighting for entertainment, but to better the world. Not only that, she told him he was good-looking even with the scars.
He listened to her.
Not that he thought her right, but because she was Cordea. Even for just a friend, she had a strong influence over him. He had become her friend out of curiosity, but she held him at her side. That bond made her find him and attempt to save him from Clincher despite. When he was blind, he let her take him home despite the fact he wished she just let him wonder over a cliff. And when they got home, he listened to her constant nagged on getting better and not giving up. And then there was her greatest feat, convincing him to marry her.
Sadly for the Dyne elf, he didn’t have someone like that. Oeric didn’t know if he could even help him along a path that wouldn’t lead him to death. Though Dias made it very clear he was good enough for a wife, children, to be in command, have friends, and just live among normal happy elves, then he could help someone of his experience.
His mind quieted after that. He was at the edge of sleep when someone eased upstairs. He could tell who it was by the soft footstep and them sitting on the bed rather than the chair beside it. Not to mention they rubbed his chest. None of the infirmary staff would do that. Oeric cracked his eyes and his wife’s heart-shaped face framed by a head-scarf that protected her from the sun when it was too much for her skin.
He acknowledged her with a drowsy smile.
“Maelyra told me you were acting funny because of your new project as you call it and Kiao told me on entering you got into it with said project.”
“And I subdued him,” he said. “That mean’s I won.”
“Uh-huh,” she said and pushed the loose strands of hair up and held them back to give her a full view of his face. This time she spoke more slowly and meaningfully. “Are you okay?”
“You look very pretty in that scarf. Makes your eyes like sapphires.”
“You’re changing subjects,” she returned quickly.
“You’re distracting me,” he said and took her hand and kissed her knuckles.
“You’re trying to stop me from worrying about you,” she said, letting him hold her hand.
“Maybe,” he said with a weak smile and then sobered up. “There is nothing you need to worry about. I’m fine. What was bothering me then and was something Papa told me. I don’t know what to do about it.”
Cordea’s eyes narrowed into apprising slits. “What did he do?”
“He’s neth,” Oeric told her and wanted on her reaction. It was as he thought it would be. She became taken aback and stared at him as if she heard wrong. “Excuse me?”
“He told me this morning after I demanded he tell me why he was taking issue with our son.”
He sat up, and she sat still without an answer.
“See we’re on the same page. I don’t know what to think. But I do feel betrayed. Is that okay? I mean, I don’t tell him everything because they don’t affect him and this isn’t something that affects me, but it does our son. Imagine what he could’ve shared with him instead of what he has.”
Cordea sat in thought a moment and stated. “You assume that it would be different if he had told the truth. He could be the exact same. We would be in the same place.”
“You could be right,” he admitted. “My grandfather made sure he understood the need to continue our legacy no matter what,” said Oeric. “But, that doesn’t bother me. Why not tell me decades ago. I’ve never said anything untoward about neth males. One of the more tolerable fighters I knew was neth. I would call him a friend if he didn’t backstab me on more than one occasion.”
“You have things you don’t tell him because they hurt you,” she reminded him. “Maybe there is something there.”
“You would think that would make him less abrasive about it. The way he accused me of being neth started the most uncomfortable conversation I ever had in the known worlds.”
Cordea leaned forward and kissed him on the forehead. “To be fair, I was convinced you were too.”
“You never asked,” he said, returning the kiss with a light on her lips.
“Do you want to indulge me with might be partly why you are as you are,” she said, and he nodded. “Maybe your father’s influence. I know your mother died when you were a child, so you never got to see their interaction, but your brother did. And you saw how your brother would be around Fionna.”
“Or it could be my being accused, disowned, and beaten all in the same day over a friend who happened to be a pretty girl. You wouldn’t want to be near a female of any kind if you had that on you’re shoulders.”
“I said partly. I know it’s not simple with you.”
“No, it’s simple, women are bad. They get you in trouble,” he said kissing her check. “They lead you astray by making you fall in love with them,” he said kissing her nose and then he leaned his forehead against hers. “You’re an especially strong wily trickster. Somehow you wrapped a ribbon around my heart and pulled me along.”
“Many would call it a chain,” she said a hair’s breath against is lips.
“Fine a magic ribbon. It’s soft and gentle like a breeze but unbreakable like steel,” he said, and then he heard someone clearing their throat by the door. He knew that throat clear very well and met the face of his son. He leaned against the doorway wearing an opaque expression. Oeric then said to Cordea. “I thought after they fled the nest, they wouldn’t interrupt.”
His wife smiled a little and he said to their son, “Your aunt doesn’t need you anymore?”
“She wanted to talk to the Arch Monk, so I dropped her off there,” he said. “I was happy to obliged after our conversation that started with her believing I was repressed.”
Cordea slowly covered her face with her hands. Oeric just sighed. Of course, she would think that.
The young monk walked into the room remaining expressionless. “Clearly our teachings of being mindful of your actions, means you are ashamed of being male. I don’t follow that logic. I told her it isn’t very hard to understand that I’m not physically attracted to females and I have no desire for breeding.”
His son was clearly annoyed.
“You didn’t tell her that in those exact words,” asked Cordea.
Soletus nodded. “I found being blunt is the best answer. People don’t question me nearly as much. Of course, she fired back, but you’re too handsome to be neth and then proceeded to tell me about Fern’s betrothed’s sister.”
Cordea groaned. “I told her not to mention her too you. I’m sorry, your father’s family is hard of understanding.”
“We’ve rocks in our brain. It’s a family trait,” stated Oeric, and he scooted off the bead. “How about a pallet cleanser. I need your help with my project. He may have caused a scene in the infirmary earlier and I told them to throw him in a mediation chamber as a very scared and angry lynx.”
Soletus’s face lifted and he became intrigued. “A lynx?”
Oeric nodded. “And he’s Dyne too, so he’s closer to your build than mine. I don’t want to have to fight him alone if he gets riled up again. He’s a history of fleeing.”
Cordea then stated. “So the Queen brought you a Dyne cur who can shapeshift as you can?”
A worried scrunch formed on her brow. “Should you bring Soletus? He might take him being dual heritage as an insult.”
“I doubt that would be the problem,” said Oeric.
Soletus shrugged. “And he can just get right over himself.”
“It really isn’t going to be a problem. If anything, I hope it might help,” said Oeric.
After that, the two of them left the master’s hall and headed towards the achieves. The meditation chambers shared the same entrance. It wasn’t ideal to send something so hostile down to the archives. He was certain the priests who watched the archives were having a fit. However, upon entering the cool underground, it was quiet. In fact, the priests, both young and old, were all gathered around the counter. They were all mesmerized by something glowing brightly on the front counter. It was one of a pile of light stones that Vlory had perfected.
One of the glanced up and saw him. “He’s in the farthest chamber from the entrance,” said the priest.
Oeric nodded walked through the entrance down a long sconce lit hall. The mediation chambers consisted of 15 very small cells. There wasn’t a lot of room in them as they were designed for meditation, pray, and fasting. Not a place for an individual to live. Oeric would have to place him someplace else. He didn’t know where yet.
They came to the farthest room. There wasn’t a guard there. However, the door had been locked and the key hung from a hook by the door. Oeric took it and pointed for Soletus to take a lantern resting on the ground beside the room and lit it. When he opened the door it was dark inside the room. The lantern on the table hadn’t been lit. The cur was still shaped as a lynx on the ground listless.
Oeric motioned for the lantern than Soletus held and placed it beside the empty one.
“I’m going to untie you and you’re not going to hurt us. If you try, I’m going to fight you and leave you along again to reflect about your actions again.”
The cur rumbled.
“Has it not been long enough,” said Oeric walking towards him slowly and then knelling in front of him. “Or are you refusing to talk just to be refusing.”
The lynx looked away from him bitterly.
Oeric decided he calmed and started undoing the bandages on his forelegs. The lynx gaze shifted to his son.
“Don’t even think about trying to fight passed him. My son will have you on the ground in half the time it took me.”
“Son,” the lynx said shocked. “Who thought it was wise to give you a child and a son of Diva at that!”
Soletus rolled his eyes. “Are my ears the only thing people see?”
“It’s your hair color too. My facial scars throw others off that we are related as well,” said Oeric. “He’s my sired son.”
“Sired! Do your people not understand what you are! You are a danger not fit to breed,” he growled. He kicked the rest of the bandages off with his hackles raised. “There is no containing the wild once it’s let out. You are broken, Wolf!”
Soletus stepped forward and Oeric raise his hand stopping him. The monk then settled down in his knell. The lynx in front of him became wary in an instant.
“That isn’t true. They say that because it’s easier to cast you away than to help you. You can regain yourself.”
“Lies,” he retorted.
“Hard work,” Oeric returned.
That didn’t make him look hopeful. Instead, his ears sagged, and he sat his bulk down. “It doesn’t matter. I will never gain Diva’s favor again. I’ve cursed my self and nothing will be enough to see my home again. It seems as punishment, I find myself in the hands of a wolf monk. Who were you in the ring?”
“My name was Lykkon,” he said.
The amber eyes of the lynx widened. “No, you can be. He was a legend,” he muttered. “They said he would fight anyone and anything including the Scourges of Paradise. And you claim that you are him.” A wry look appeared on his furry face. “If it’s true, all this monk dressing will be ripped off. You still have the wild in you. You don’t have the eyes of an elf.”
A wolf’s grin appeared on Oeric’s face. “It doesn’t stop me from command a band of young men and then come home to help my little girl make toys for her friends.”
The lynx sneered. “A cur is always a cur.”
Oeric shook his head. “That’s what handlers like to spread around to keep you down. It’s told to townsfolk and spread to authorities so that you will always run back to a handler or be a tool for some other trash to use.”
“And these elves, do they see you as an elf or do they use that beast to get what they want from you? I bet they see you a threat.”
“I can’t control what people think of me. The only thing I can do is be mindful of myself. Actions speak very loudly.”
The lynx hung his head down and spoke in an angry snarl. “And who are to see my actions? I am forsaken by my people. I cannot go home! That is all I ever wanted. The reason I was a slave to a man. I was close, but I was removed from the entrance of Diva’s promise lands and thrust in the hand of a bunch of Dias worshipers.
“Then this is where you need to be,” said Oeric boldly. “Dias is the demigod of song and second chances by your beliefs”
The Dyne elf growled.
“In fact, the reason why Dias is thought of as Diva’s the demigod of second chances is because Dias had a habit of taking in those who Diva cast aside as punishment. One day, Dias took those she considered Fen, inferior. And Diva has been scornful towards her unruly child ever since.”
“That doesn’t mean I’ll follow Dias. I rather die.”
That answered any questions of conversion.
“And I’m not asking you to follow Dias. I’m asking you to take his second chance and live,” said Oeric. He glanced at Soletus and then said something he never liked talking about. “I’ve been where you are. I was angry at my stupidity for allowing myself to be manipulated. I felt more animal than elf, my mind wasn’t my own anymore. I felt cracked and broken and that I would always be that way. I went so far as to plan a way out, but never acted on it.”
“Because I had people who wouldn’t give up on me. More specifically, an all-knowing priest who wouldn’t leave me alone. He never gave up on me. So now, I’m that person to you.”
The Lynx changed back in a flash and got upright and backed up as if he was being cornered. “Just let me go. Let me be in the wild. I can live off the land.”
“And you can do that, but don’t you want to do so as an elf. To give yourself to being an animal cause problems. I met a former cur like you. I suppose he run away. A wolf like me, but none of my control. He killed a young lady he met. He wouldn’t let me help him and killed himself in front of me.”
Oeric never said anything about it to anyone aside form Cordea on how much that hurt. Kiao knew it made him upset. Former cur after former cur, he hadn’t been able to help. It started with the one he met all those decades ago. He lived by himself. Came to the village once a month. Bothered no one. He didn’t have a good grip and had a shake in one of his hands. He couldn’t harm anyone, yet they accused him of killing a man. All Oeric had to do was find solid proof pointing to the one who had done it and Kellas ruined it. He enabled the death of an innocent elf. Murdered by the villagers. None of them would point a finger who had strung him up the rafters of a barn. That failure bothered him til that day. It didn’t nag at him daily or even a monthly visitation. No, it was something that come forth when something similar presented itself. A cycle of helpless failure. He wanted it broken.
“So you won’t let me go,” asked the Dyne elf and when he wasn’t given an answer. “You are no better than my handler.”
“You don’t have to stay here. I won’t stop you. I can arrange for your escape and keep them from finding you. However, I want you to try to stay here. You aren’t obligated to do anything. You can sleep the entire time for all I care. Furthermore, you are essentially a guest. I will be getting you better accommodations, so don’t think this is your room.”
The Dyne elf almost looked relieved and considered his words a moment. His gaze wandered towards the door again.
Oeric glanced as well seeing his son stood unmoving and observing.
“I will stay. But I will leave. And I don’t want to be stopped.”
“That’s fine. I’ll arrange your departure. I will find you somewhere quiet and safe. This is drass beast country. Before I go, there is one more thing I want from you. You need a name. An elf name.”
The cur looked at his feet.
“I doubt you’ve truly forgotten the name you were born with. My handler tried to make me forget mine. Made me think that Lykkon was the only name I needed because Oeric was dead. The truth is, an elf can’t take that away from you. I was still Oeric. I may have fallen, changed, grew, and transformed. However, inside this flesh is a soul. And that soul was blessed by Dias with the name Oeric. So Oeric I will be.”
The elf in front of him then muttered a name too soft for Oeric to hear.
“Repeat it,” said Oeric.
“Gaelin,” said Soletus. “He said his name is Gaelin.”
“Greetings Gaelin, I am First Warden Oeric’Sheldmartin. My father is the Arch Monk, this is my son Soletus, he is a second warden. You may see a lot of him.”
Gaelin didn’t respond other than looking very uncomfortable.
“Give me a couple of hours. I’ll find you a place to rest and more food. This time, don’t make me waste it.”
Oeric then motioned for Soletus to step out and the left shutting the door, but not locking it.