Oeric, Soletus, and Clincher were brought straight to the infirmary as well as Soletus. The two sat at different examination tables across the room from each other with eight beds between them. Soletus was at the examination table closest to the door. Oeric sat on the table by the entrance to the private rooms. The room adjacent from him was where his old handler had been taken. The Arch Monk was speaking to Soletus gathering what happened while he was getting tended to.
There wasn’t much to be done to his son, thankfully. The chanter treating his son left and come to the right of where he sat. He dug in the cabinet for bottles before walking around and headed off to the private room where Clincher was deposited. The Arch Monk followed, but made a beeline towards him.
“What were you thinking,” said his father.
The chanter priest, Brother Kiao, put pressure on his head so Oeric had to speak to the floor.
“Hello, I’m fine, thank you for asking,” retorted Oeric and braced himself for the man’s tirade.
“So nothing not that I’m surprise. You never think! Why didn’t you call the guards or come to me or, I don’t know, do something sensible?”
“You don’t know Clincher. Calling the guard means nothing to a desperate dog with the intention of making someone’s life miserable”
“And I can make his equally so,” returned the Arch Monk with his voice rising.
“Again, you don’t know Clincher.”
“I know he had you tied to a tree. What were you planning to do while being lashed to a tree?”
Oeric didn’t know how long he could listen to his father loud voice. His head throbbed with every word. “I was handling the situation. I needed to know how desperate he was if he was willing to came here looking for me or someone like me.”
“So you walk in there alone? Why? You were armed with a black steel dagger. How were you going to deal with him? Kill him and bury the problem?”
“I thought about,” admitted Oeric. “He’s a threat to my family.”
“And you don’t think I’m capable of protecting my own,” shouted the Arch Monk. “I sent you away so you’ll learn a lesson. Not come back and repeat past mistakes! You never learn.”
Kiao backed away getting something. Oeric lifted his head and got the full view his father’s anger ripened face.
“Clincher lives by different codes than we do,” he explained. “You don’t chase him out of town with a stick.”
“I’m sending a message to Fort Fisher. They’re going to take him as soon as he’s well enough to travel. You might as well have ripped his arm off.”
“Then cut it off and sent him away. The faster he’s out of here the safer I would feel.”
His father’s eyes began to bulge.
“Get hot with me all you want, but he already knew who I was married, Fern’s name, as well that she was old enough to send to some human brothel.”
“You’re going back into a chamber and reflect on your actions!”
Oeric let out a short condescending laugh. “Oh so your sending me to my room. I’m glad nothing’s changed between us.”
“Oh I’m going to do a lot more than that,” said his father, but before the aged elf could add anything else. Soletus manifested behind him.
“Grandpa,” said Soletus. That sharpness in the tods voice made it clear to Oeric that his mood hadn’t improved from earlier.
“Let me handle this, go sit,” ordered the Arch Monk.
Soletus wouldn’t be ignored. “So you’re blaming him for everything and fueling the scheme to get him kicked out.”
Kiao had returned with tweezers in hand and Oeric raised his hand to hold him back. “What is he talking about?”
“Oh so he didn’t tell you,” said Soletus. “Master Tyr’s been going on for weeks after you left thinking of ideas on how to force you out of the order.”
“Soletus,” barked his grandfather.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts it up again and Grandpa wouldn’t stop him like before.”
Soletus then fixed a cool gaze on his grandfather. “Do I look like I’m on duty?”
“You will do as I say when you are on the grounds of this monastery!”
Oeric jaw hung loose watching the two. His past was playing out in front of him like a well-practiced performance.
“Maybe I would if you don’t allow everyone to do stupid things all the time!”
“Soletus,” Oeric shouted.
The tod flashed his eyes at him.
Oeric pointed to a chair against the wall. “Sit down over there!”
Oeric expected a clash. Instead, Soleus turned on his heels and marched over to the chair. He sat with his arms folded over his chest. That display worried him. The other day he was uncertain, now he was just as furious as the day he spoke to him in the chamber. However, that anger wasn’t directed at him.
A wry smile spread across Oeric’s lips. “Affronting him isn’t as rare of a ability as I thought. We finally have something in common.”
The Arch Monk’s face soured and he sat his attention on Kiao. “Brother, how bad is his head?”
“Head injuries are a little fickle,” stated the young man. “This injury worries me.”
“Does he need to stay in the infirmary?”
“Preferably overnight. But, would it be safe with having him and that man in the same building?”
“I’m not doing anything else,” assured Oeric.
The Arch Monk’s face turned grave. “Son, I’m not sure you understand the seriousness of this situation. If that man dies, what you did would be murder no matter how few people will miss him or how much he is the scum of the world, murder is murder!”
Oeric massage his forehead right as Kiao reached for his head again. The young man backed off again and waited.
“I didn’t attack him until after he attacked Soletus. That’s coming to the defense of another. I didn’t provoke the attack. I had him tie me to the tree.”
“Unbelievable! You were aware,” the Arch Monk shouted. “Aware of what you were doing and yet in the end you used that ability knowing very well how it affects you.”
Oeric slammed his fist on the table he sat on as he shouted, “You don’t know who that man is.”
The room became silent. The outburst came on quick even Oeric was surprised. He examined his aching fist and flexed. He heard soft sigh behind him. Kiao stepped around and took his hand.
The Arch Monk recovered himself and said a lot more composed. “Then tell me who he is?”
Oeric never told his father about Clincher specifically. It was always “a man” or “that man.” He never went into details about what happened to him and his father didn’t ask. He just saw what it did to him and it seemed to be enough. It was prudent for Oeric to tell him in that situation however, his tongue became stuck.
The Arch Monk turned around and stepped to the side of Oeric’s line of sight. The Patriarch was standing behind him. He was the main head in charge of the Dias Brotherhood. He saw to the town’s needs, finances, and acted as a liaison to the local nobles as well as dealing with the Seat.
“Greetings,” said the younger man with a pleasant smile across his wide mouth.
The Arch Monk eyes became wide. “Lord Kharis, I didn’t know you in town again.” Oeric was surprised that he was home, but not the fact he was there.
“I’ve not been home very long. I got an earful and come here directly,” said the Patriarch. “I heard you caught someone.”
The Arch Monk smoothed out his robe. “Ah yes, First Warden Oeric decided to take it upon himself to deal with a law-breaker. A Clincher, I doubt that’s his real name.”
“His real name is Castain’Finch. He’s a history of participating in unlawful acts including gambling, rings, blighter trade, elf trafficking, exploitation, and murder. The slim covered snake has been arrested but never found guilty. No witnesses left alive or witnesses willing to speak up.”
“And you learned this, how?”
“Personal reasons fueled my interest in finding who this scoundrel was,” said the Patriarch. The crinkles around his eyes vanished.
“Then Maelyra sent you here,” said Oeric softly.
The Patriarch regarded him. “You know how it is. They can get you to do anything.” He then said to the Arch Monk. “Solgard, you asked who that man is. I happen to a story about him. You see, Clincher pursued a man who had a debt with him. The man he pursued started living an honest life. Had a little house, he had married his love, and had a daughter. The met that there was something to take from the debtor so he killed the man’s wife, in from of him and his daughter. The man tried to fight him, failed, and his daughter had to watch him be disemboweled and burned along with her mother and their house.
“He had all the plans in the world to sell the daughter. Humans like elf girls. They’re a novelty to the unlawful. However, the border was being heavily watched and he couldn’t sell her. And claimed since she was too ugly for him, he dumped her in the possession of his youngest fighter. He claimed her to be perfect for him to take his frustrations out of.”
Oeric watched his father glance over at him and felt uncomfortable at the story being told.
“Turned out this sandy haired young man was one of ours. He became lost but not his all his senses of good. She was left on his floor naked and he gave her his shirt he was wearing and his extra pair of trouser. Later, he brought her clothing. Nothing fancy but a wonderful act of kindness. Funny thing is he never said a word to her. She didn’t think he could talk until she heard him threat and beat a man for leering at her. He would always look at her as if he wanted to talk to her; she figured he was too afraid too.
“One night months later, he told her to follow him and waiting for he was a horse, and he gave her a bag of coins. He told her to ride north, but she didn’t want to leave him. What did you tell her, Oeric?”
Oeric stared at the floor. “I told her you know better than I do that you don’t run from Clincher.”
The Arch Monk then asked. “If you had the ability to buy a horse, you didn’t think for a second that you could come back here and I would protect you.”
Oeric unbuttoned the top four buttons of his shirt. Right next to his sternum, was a brand of his chest. It had faded, but he could still remember the hot brand searing his skin. It was a heart being squeezed by a fist with “Clincher’s in curving text going around it.
“You get his brand after you’ve been taught to be nothing because you are nothing. Clincher raises you up from nothing, he owns you, and he’ll take care of you. You win fights for him and he will be generous. He’ll give you extra money, advancement in rank, weapons, an apartment to live in during the winter, and nice clothing. He is master and we are his dogs, eager to please, and loyal to the end. I was very eager to please. He would call me son and I would fight harder.”
The Arch Monk brow met becoming disturbed. He studied the brand. “Tell me you didn’t believe that?”
“Yes your son believed this because he was desperate, stupid, and scared. He was afraid to come home. He thought you hated him. He didn’t think he was worth anything.”
The Arch Monk was stilled by those words. He stared at the door that hid Clincher as if he could see through it. The old man clinched his fist.
The Patriarch laid a hand on his shoulder. “I feel exactly the same way. Perhaps some fresh air is in order and we can discuss how we are going to deal with him. Besides, young Brother Kiao is starting get beside himself being unable to treat his patient.”
“Thank you, Sir,” said Kiao from behind Oeric.
Solgard stared off and then stopped. “Oeric, instead of you going to the chamber, you speak to me tomorrow. Soletus, with me.”
Oeric watched the Arch Monk saunter off with Soletus trailing him before his head was forced down.
“Your head isn’t as bad as Soletus’s when you sent him here,” stated the young chanter priest matter-of-factly.
Oeric was too weary to feel offended by that statement though, he wasn’t sure if it was said to insult him given how sterile the young man’s voice was. Kiao was pulling something out of his wound before pouring on something that burned his wound. Oeric clinched his teeth to keep from yelping as he wiped his head.
“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t heal a dirty wound.”
Kiao then stood at Oeric’s side and placed his hand over his chest.
“I’m just knitting the skin back in place,” he explained. “I’m going to finish the healing process tomorrow when the swelling will naturally go down. What worries me is you’ve been struck in the head in that area before. There is damage there.”
“I already know about it.”
“The brain is a funny thing, First Warden. The damage stacks up. Who knows how many more untreated head injuries you can take before it triggers something that can’t be healed. You may lose your memory. You may lose the ability to control the movement of your limbs.”
“Or I go blind.”
“That as well.”
“It’s happened before,” he clarified. “It’s the reason I’m here today. Most fighters tend to die young. The few who grow old are they’re plagued with blindness, tremors, poor speech, and failing memory. I already speak slower than I used to.”
“And yet knowing that you still fought?”
“I still fought.” Oeric rubbed his eyes. The light was bothering him now.
Kiao let out another soft sigh. “First Warden?”
“I spent a lot of time with your son the last seven months. He was often in my care and I witnessed a lot of things when he was. Many members of this order said a lot of nasty things about you and they weren’t afraid to say them in front of Soletus.”
Oeric lifted his head. “Well, their words do have some truth to them.”
“According to Soletus they didn’t,” said Kiao folded his arms behind his back. “Your son doesn’t like hearing that you are a bad father. And he doesn’t like being thought as being thick and stupid because he refused to hear otherwise.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because he’s my friend and to help him, I want to help you. Point your head in the right direction because he doesn’t want to be ashamed of being your son. Make him be proud of you. Show him that’s he right. Talk to him, please,” he begged. “He’s been insufferable with his moodiness. Now, I bet you want a bed. I think you’ll be more comfortable in the bed closest to the door. Any objections?”
It was the farthest bed from Clincher’s door, in direct view of the podium where the priest often stood, and on the same side of the room so Oeric couldn’t even see the door. Oeric shook his head at the shrewd young chanter priest.
“Good,” said the young man.
Oeric was finally alone. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees and eyes closed. He then felt arms gather him up and rest his head on their shoulders. The smell of honeysuckle greeted him.
“You’re such a brilliant dod,” said Cordea in his ear.
“You married me.”
“I did. I see my mistake and demand an exchange,” she said rubbing his back. “Maybe something a bit older and remembers to get eggs. But then age tends to decrease passion and I don’t want that.”
“Then get someone younger,” he suggested hugging her.
“But then I have to teach them everything and that’s exhausting,” she said, kissing the top of his head.
“That means you’re stuck with me.”