There aren’t a lot of things I regret doing. “Live your days with no regrets,” I like living that. But, there is one thing. My youth got the better of me and I became the stupidest tod there ever was. It wasn’t because I fought my Papa. I don’t regret stepping out on that arena floor and facing him. Hickory was right. I needed to do that. However, I didn’t listen to my Mama. I should’ve asked Papa about his scars.
Mien let Lyndon find a place to sit. He was focused on trying to get a handle on the volume of people around him. He hated crowds packed in a confined area. It grated his nerves. There was nowhere for sound to disperse and it all seemed to bounce back to his ears. If they had sat down earlier, he could’ve adjusted to the sound better as well as find a seat. The risers were full. It looked as if they would be the few having to stand and watch to the side. Mien didn’t find the prospect of standing shoulder to shoulder enjoyable.
A whistle shrilled from his right above the din. He flinched and clamped his hands over his ears. He looked around and caught sight of where the Arch Monk sat in a box up front at floor level. He motioned with his hand for them to come to him.
“Well isn’t this our lucky day,” smiled Lyndon.
“What does he want,” said Mien.
“It’s an invitation.”
Lyndon was thrilled. Mien didn’t share his enthusiasm to sit with the Arch Monk. Not that there was anything wrong with him. He sounded friendly when he met him, however was intimidating like his son.
“Come sit with me. The Patriarch and Arch Priest don’t appreciate this sort of show,” he told them.
A door was opened for them and they sat on either side of the Arch Monk. It was an honor probably and one that Mien could do without. He tried to ignore the eyes on him by focusing on the Arch Monk’s voice. It was old. Its richness was starting to fade, but it was still full of wisdom from a life time of experience.
The Arch Monk wore an excited grin and said, “It’s been a while since we had a contest such as this.”
“You sound happy even though it’s your son and grandson fighting,” replied Lyndon.
“I see it as a student facing a teacher. The student is teaching the teacher which doesn’t happen very often. In this case, it’s a matter of learning how to let go. Even trees know when to release their seeds. My son isn’t that bright.”
The horn sounded and Mien jumped covering his ears. He was glad he did because the moment the long note ended, everyone around them started chanting.
Hy’ruh-ha, hy’ruh-ha, hy’ruh-ha
He could feel the noise in his head and chest. The intensity of the rhythmic chant caused him to wrestle with his impulse to use the phrase of silence. He took a few deeps breathes and calmed himself.
Lyndon then shouted, “What does that mean?”
“It means to ‘rise above.’ In this context, it means ‘to rise above the teacher’ to prove that he no longer needs to be held back,” answered Arch Monk as the combatants came out.
Mien sat his attention on Soletus as he walked out. His head was high. His placid face was now serious and showing no signs trepidation. However, Mien knew he was. It was just he had enough confidence to hide the fact he was scared. Mien was envious of his composure.
His father came to a stop beside him. Mien didn’t know much about fighting, but from the few things Kiao pointed out to him, Master Oeric had more muscle. Soletus was undeniably strong looking, but he didn’t have that mature body yet. He hadn’t had years of training and application so he was a little soft in places. Mien concluded that his friend was going to have a very hard time of it, if not outright lose. However, Soletus had determination so he would at least put up a good fight.
Another elf stepped into the arena with them and explained the fight.
“Winner is the last one standing or if one yields. Both fighters use all skills learned, however no killing blows or crippling blows will be used. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” nodded Soletus.
“Agreed,” said his father.
The elf back away. “Take you’re stances!”
Mien watched Soletus stand back and took hold of his staff in a typical hand hold. His father mirrored at same stance. The horn sounded again and the two stared circling each, but neither of them made the first move. They were calculating.
“Soletus is being cautious,” observed Lyndon.
“Well he should be,” said the Arch Monk.
Mien would be cautious too. He wouldn’t even dream of fighting someone like Oeric. He wasn’t sure how Soletus was able to do it. He didn’t understand why his father was willing to do it as well. Master Oeric’s voice didn’t sound like his uncle’s voice. He didn’t sound like someone who enjoyed the suffering of others for his amusement. However, there was something odd about the way he spoke.
Mien didn’t know what to think of it when they met. His abilities told him to watch him for whatever reason. He figured that maybe he was trying to conceal something or was afraid to show something. He didn’t know. People confused him. It was easier if they were like Soletus, easy to read.
He wanted to confront Soletus, but one couldn’t just go up to a boy and say, “I felt something weird about your father, but it’s terrible, I think.” And then he would have to explain the feeling he didn’t know how to express in words. Then again, he doubt Soletus would listen. For all his complaining about his father, the first time Mien saw Soletus greet the man, the affection in his voice made Mien want to love Oeric too. Mien felt wistfulness fill him then as well as when Soletus complained. He would do anything to have his father back. Yet here Soletus was fighting his and it troubled him.
In a blink of an eye, Master Oeric took a step and landed the first blow jabbing Soletus in the gut. Everyone in the crowd gasped. Mien was stunned.
“He left himself open,” muttered Lyndon.
“Hmmm” grunted the Arch Monk.
Soletus was still standing, but clearly smarting. His father didn’t take advantage of it, but instead stood back looking relaxed. The young monk was tense now. He backed away his jaws tight as if that were a mistake. Again, his father made another advance and Soletus moved to parry it, but his father maneuvered behind him to take hold of one of arms and twisted it behind him. At the same time, Soletus took one of his feet and hooked it behind his father’s ankle. They both went down. Soletus land on top of him rolled away to get back on his feet. He didn’t pick up his staff, but instead took a strange stand. He held head down arms up.
What’s was that, wondered Mien. He had seen Soletus practice before, but it was always with a staff. He looked over to Lyndon and the Arch Monk to see if they had something to say. Lyndon smiled. “He’s going to grappling now.”
The Arch Monk brow went flat.
Mien looked back to see what Master Oeric’s thought. He looked unfazed by the change in strategy. He didn’t modify his tactics either. He rushed in again this time his son dropped down and came back up. He flipped the man over his body and the master fell flat on his back. The older elf lay there for a long second before getting to his feet again. He hadn’t been expecting that. In that time, Soletus got his staff again and was circling his father again.
“Oeric hasn’t been taking this seriously,” relayed the Arch Monk. “He appears to be now.
And he showed it after that. He didn’t leave himself so easily taken off his feet. He came at Soletus full force. Mien watched his friend struggle at to keep strikes from his body. He was on the defensive the entire time. The young monk did get Oeric off his feet one more time. His father came in too closed and Soletus rolled him over him over his shoulder on the floor. However, this time, Oreic had a response to that and kicked him hard in the gut. Soletus doubled over. Mien winced. He thought he heard a crack. Soletus fell to his knees.
Oeric walked over to him shouting, “Are you ready to yield?”
Soletus’s reply was throwing himself at his father’s legs and bringing him down. They ended up wrestling. Soletus managed to get him in a chokehold. Oeric managed to land what seemed like a very effective blow to with his elbow to his son’s torso. Soletus yelped letting him go. The Arch Monk let out hiss. Mien watched his friend on a knee with an arm wrapped around his chest.
“Are you yielding now?”
Soletus rose to his feet again. He wasn’t yielding.
It was painful to watch after that. He wasn’t moving fast enough. He didn’t even seem to have full motion anymore. Oeric managed to hit him in the head and followed by a strike to his arm that held his staff and was another audible crack when he finished Soletus off with a strike to the knee. The young monk fell after that. Oeric kicked up his staff holding both of them now. Soletus rolled on his back gasping for air. Oeric backed away with distress clearly displayed on his face. Something was wrong, very wrong.
The count started giving Soletus to the count of ten to rise. He wasn’t moving. Mien jumped to his feet along with Lyndon. The both cast each other concerned looks.
“Get up, get up,” Lyndon muttered.
Mien repeated the same in his head. Soletus didn’t. By the count of one both of them vaulted over the wall and ran over to his side. Soletus’s breathing was labored and blood was bubbling in his mouth. Oeric was now over to the side of the arena backing away.
Mien put his hand on Soletus chest and an alien sensation of wrongness rolled through his body. He snatched his hand away and held it in his other hand. Lyndon wasn’t paying him any attention to notice him and was shouting for help. Mien heard whispers of singing in his ears. The voices were many and neither male or female nor adult or child. He heard it twice before and now a third time.
This isn’t the time to learn a phrase.
He squeezed his eyes shut closing his mind’s ears as Brother Hickory taught him like a door. The phrase went quiet. The odd sensation he felt in his body was gone. Again, he touched his friend again this time taking hold of Soletus’s hand. The young monk eyes cracked for a second before he sealed them again.
“Stay with us,” barked Lyndon.
Soon a litter was brought in and the placed him on it as gently as he could. He cried out in pain making phrase burst through the muted hold Mien had cast over it. It was much louder and insistent than it was before. Mien tried to ignore and focused on following Lyndon and the litter. They went straight to the infirmary were Kiao was there sitting on a stool leaning against the podium looking bored. His eyes became saucer sized when they came in with Soletus.
He and Alder rushed to his side. He and Lyndon stopped and stood in the doorway. Mien cradled his head and suddenly found his head full of the phrase. He felt hands on his upper arm.
“Whoa, what’s wrong,” said Lyndon.
The phrase wouldn’t let him go. It urged him to repeat it, to sing it. He started muttering it catching the attention of Alder.
“Are you serious,” he exclaimed running across the room to get supplies. “One problem at a time.
Kiao gestured to Lyndon. “Let him go! Mien, get over here.”
Mien walked over towards him hoping he could get it all to stop.
“You’re not going to teach him healing now,” said Alder staring at Kiao surprised.
“He needs to use the phrase or he’s going to suffer,” he said and took Mien’s hand and bringing him to Soletus’s side. The young monk started crying.
“He’s hurt pretty bad,” said Kiao placing Mien’s hand over Soletus’s heart. “You want to help? I can show you how.”
Mien’s unfocused mind understood what Kiao was telling him. His felt hot his body surging with power like the other times he learned a phrase, but he didn’t know how to release it.
“Repeat the first part of the phase you hear, Sa’rah so la, ‘see into the body,’” he instructed.
Mien did as he was told and his vision was taken out of the seeing world and then he saw red. He saw blood. He saw vessels. He saw flesh of something pulsing in front of him. He heard beating around him as well as Kiao’s voice through a sphere of white light in front of him.
“Will your mind to follow me,” he said with his voice coming from everywhere around him. It sounded strong and oppressive as Brother Hickory’s voice, but not like thunder. Something flowing, like a deluge of water. There was also something else about Kiao’s voice, it sounded different. A note that it hit but he couldn’t focus on it. There was too much going on around him and Kiao moved swiftly.
“Go down the veins, follow the blood,” the young man instructing showing him where to do. They rushed through his friend body and exited out of a vein. He saw bone cracked splintered. Soletus fractured arm.
“Now say the last part of the phrase, So te’la, ‘to heal’. I’ll help you mend it.”
Mien didn’t know how, but he willed the body to heal straightening the bone placing down fragments that broke away from the bone mending them. The phrase in his head that sung as loudly as a warning bell, died down leaving him drained. He came back to the world again and he slumped. Kiao caught him and held him.
“I’m going to slid you over to the bed behind us,” he said.
Mien didn’t object. He felt tired. Everything from his toes to the top of his head tingled. He dropped down on the bed hearing another cry from Soletus before they slid over a white cloth screen that separated them from each other.
That’s new, he thought staring at his hands and watching them pulse with a golden film of light. He observed the strange phenomenon until the warmth he felt that spread from the center of his chest died down. He curled up in the middle of the bed and slept.
When he woke up, the screen was down. The sun had moved casting long shadows making it late afternoon. He sat up slowly as his body felt heavy. He looked beside him. Soletus was still beside him. He looked as if he had been beat up with a bruise on his face and arm immobilized in a splint to keep it still. He wasn’t awake, but he didn’t look as if he was at peace as his brow was low as if he were wincing.
“He’s not comfortable. We can heal tissue and broken bones, but not the pain that lingers,” said Kiao from behind him.
Mien scrambled to whirl around and clutched his chest in surprise.
“I’m sorry,” said the young priest with a platter in his hands with food and a cup of water.
“It’s okay,” said Mien.
He liked Kiao. He was about as calm as Soletus but Mien couldn’t read him magically as he could occasionally like other people. It made it hard for Mien to figure him out.
“Here, don’t want you to go into shock after you’re first healing,” he said offering the platter too him.
Mien never felt hungrier in his life. The platter was full of food with three rolls, a couple of slices of cheese, dried fruit, roasted nuts, and a few slices of ham. He consumed it all, but if it were a regular meal, he doubted he would have eaten half of it. Kiao watched him with an expression that suggested he had a question. Mien kept his eyes down. He didn’t feel like answering questions.
“Three phrases, two learned within the same year. It isn’t unusual or amazing but silence, light, and healing is a strange combination,” said Kiao.
Mien looked over at Soletus.
“Don’t worry he’ll be okay physically, I’m not sure about his confidence as a fighter. Sometime defeats messes with the mind a little especially those who are young with very few defeating them.”
Mien didn’t think his friend would suffer much on that end. He was more concerned about him and his father.
“Now,” said Kiao folding his hands in his lap. “what did you think about it?”
Mien arched an eyebrow at him. He wasn’t sure what he meant.
“Healing for the first time,” he clarified.
“It was amazing,” he said without thinking about it.
A broad smile lit Kiao’s face. “That’s why I work in the infirmary. Of all the phrases given to a chanter to use, it’s one of the greatest. Of course I’m bias; it’s my most powerful, my edict phrase. Eventually you’ll get one too.”
Mien didn’t know if that was the greatest of all phrases
Why not stopping pain from happening in the first place, he thought. He would rather do that.
“You’re contemplating. Anything you wish to share,” asked Kiao.
“No,” answered Mien.
“You probably have question, don’t you?”
“Can I heal myself?”
“How long before I actually get to practice healing others?”
“Well, it’ll take a bit. You need to memorize the parts of the body and you’ll be given permission to heal minor wounds such as cuts and things. That way, we’ll learn what type of healer you are. I can give you a suggestion to learn quicker.”
“The first part of the phrase, see into the body. Practice that and observe your own. Maybe then you’ll see why being tense all the time is so bad.”
Soletus caught the young man’s attention. Mien heard him shift in bed a little and he turned around just in time to see his eyes creaked slightly. His head turned towards Kiao who stood to his feet and came to his side.
“Well, the combatant awakens,” he said patting Soletus’s good arm.
Mien watching the young monk looked away.
“Don’t be ashamed. We can’t all win our battles, but you took a lot of hard blows.”
Soletus eye’s tightened. So did Kiao’s. His disenchantment leeched in his voice.
“Oh so you knew how hard he was striking you.”
Mien saw the muscles in Soletus’s tensed obviously upset about it too.
“Well just so you know, I told the Arch Monk about your injuries. I told him that in my opinion that Master Oeric wasn’t there to teach you a lesson as much as he wanted to teach dominance.”
Mien watched as the young monk blue eye lock on Kiao’s becoming two piecing orbs of ice.
“He didn’t break your jaw you know. I suspect he would if he could’ve.”
“You didn’t have the right,” rasped Soletus. It had a note in it that Mien couldn’t place but he didn’t like it.
Kiao’s brow knitted together. “There is a line between fighting honorably and fighting like a barbarian. He crossed it and you went on hurting yourself like an idiot.”
Soletus’s looked away from the chanter priest’s face.
Kiao sighed. “I’m sorry. I know you aren’t thick, but you should have stopped the fight.”
“I needed to prove a point,” answered Soletus in a low voice.
“Above and below, no point is worth the injuries you received,” Kiao shouted.
“Then what should I have done,” snapped Soletus. His eyes suddenly took on a glassy sheen. “Talked to him? He doesn’t listen. My talk to my mama, she doesn’t say a word against him! This was the only path left to me.”
“Shhh calm down,” soothed Kiao. “I didn’t mean to shout, but-” Soletus gripped the young priest smock sleeve.
“No one listens. No one ever does. I did what I was told, the only thing I could do and I end up hurt. Dias above this hurts. It burns why does my arm burn?”
Mien took an involuntary step back.
“Don’t worry, it’s the pain talking,” said Kiao over his shoulder.
“Even you aren’t listening,” cried Soletus.
“I am,” said Kiao. He pried Soletus’s hand off his sleeve and stood. “Alder, stay here and watch him. I’m going to get Brother Hickory,” he said and darted out the room.
Soletus grimaced taking notice of Mien. “Why are you scared?”
Mien took tentative steps towards him keeping his movements limited until he eased himself down on his bed. He tried to hide trembling hands in his lap. However, even when driven by pain Soletus was still observant.
“Seriously why are you scared,” he asked looking a little like himself again.
“It’s just I’ve been this and I don’t like seeing you being this.”
Soletus squeezed his eyes shut. His face flushed.
Mien didn’t think he ever seen Soletus embarrassed like that. “I’m sorry,” he apologized.
“You’ve nothing to apologize for,” the young to said roughly.
“Yes I do. I never know what to say, but I know how this feels. You’re angry with yourself aren’t you? You didn’t expect this to happen. You trusted in yourself, but also in someone else too and that’s gone.”
Mien watched his friend’s eyes become wet and immediately regretted what he said. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Soletus sniffed. “You’re horrible at this you know that?”
“I’m not good at helping as you are.”
The young tod let out a whimper. “This hurt so much.” He was falling back down into the pain.
Mien was at a loss on what to do. He didn’t know what else to do. He then did the only thing a chanter knew how to do and that was sing. Kiao and the other priests singing was one of the best things he ever heard before their voices became too much for him to listen. It was soothing and that he was sure he could mimic. He picked out the most soothing song he knew and started to hum it at first. However, that didn’t feel natural or enough. He started sing very low at first, but the volume he sang at didn’t feel acceptable. He got louder until he could hear his voice reverberating in the room.
Soletus‘s eyelids lowered themselves and all his features began to relax. Mien was glad because he didn’t know when the last time he made the attempt of singing. He always sung to himself to learn how to play songs on his flute. He never once tried with someone else around. It felt right though.
It’s a good thing, he decided right as he realized that he had an audience. Brother Hickory and Kiao were paused at the doorway side-by-side and stared at him in awe. Mien clamped his mouth shut.
“You two ruined it,” said Alder. “Never knew the little fellow sounded like that.”
Mien forgot about him too. He felt his face began to radiate with heat.
Kiao recovered first and strolled over to his side. “Seriously learn how to take a compliment. Singing like that and everyone will be throwing them at you left and right.”
“He’s right, confidence my boy,” said Brother Hickory.
Mien moaned softly.
Kiao sighed. “He’s liable never sing ever again now.”
Brother Hickory crossed his arms. “My teaching you confidence worked out well.”
“Only because I got tired of you preaching it,” he retorted and took Mien by the shoulders. The boy jerked away from him a little. He wasn’t used to Kiao being touchy. He was kind enough to remove his hands when it was clear Mien was uncomfortable. “Sorry,” he said. “I think you can sing with us in the choral one day. It doesn’t have to be anytime soon, but you sound as if you’ll make a good tenor.
Mien didn’t know why he found those words pleasing, but it did. He smiled a little.
“See, he’s tasted what it’s like to sing as chanter and he’ll continue,” said Brother Hickory. The mirth on his face left as he eyes sat on Soletus. “I never imagined this situation escalating to this point.”
“You should lock Master Oeric in a cage for this,” said Kiao. “Having bruises is one thing but broken bones, organ trauma, and a concussion is another!”
“I already discussed this with the Arch Monk believe me. Oeric situation isn’t so easy to deal with. Like Mien and like you, Oeric was one of mine to help,” reveled Brother Hickory. “He was a decade older than you Kiao when I was told to help him.”
“Doesn’t seemed like it worked,” muttered Kiao. The sound of his displeasure as so thick Mien could almost taste it.
“It’s nothing you need to be so critical over,” returned the aged priest sharply.
“Why? So you can handle this situation like every other involving a member of a founding family by a whole lot of nothing!”
“The Arch Monk is taking care of it,” affirmed Brother Hickory keeping his voice low. “You’re only concern is treating Soletus and I don’t want to disturb him with the two of us arguing.”
Kiao frowned but gave a begrudging nod of his head.
“Lyndon is on his way here with Cordea. As for you, Mien.”
The boy regarded at him.
“Go back to the chapel. You still look warn.”
Mien glanced at Soletus.
“He’ll be fine,” said Kiao. “Plus Madame Sheldmartin is coming here. I don’t know how her mood is going to be. She was an enraged she-bear earlier, but she’s hardly calm. It might be best if you go.”
Mien didn’t know if the woman liked him or not. Something told him she didn’t and he didn’t want to deal with someone difficult who didn’t like him. He gave his friend uninjured hand a squeeze. To his surprise, Soletus squeezed it back.
Rest easy, my friend.