There was a reason why Oeric chose a wolf as a consort. Nobody challenged the teeth of a wolf. Respect was given to it. Its fierceness could protect them or it could fight them.
Clincher would never have that fierceness on his side ever again.
He dared to taint his life once more.
A blinding rage drove Oeric. Clitcher’s creams filled his ears. Oeric tightened his jaws and shook him like a dog would a rag.
The man beat him between his eyes with his fist. Oeric tore into him, rending as much flesh as he could. The handler’s desperate hand found a rock and started striking him in the side of his head. Oeric focused his attention on that hand and snapped at it. Clincher dropped the rock and cursed, thrashed, and kicked. Oeric decided to snap and claw at his legs to immobilize him and then he could rend him to pieces.
Then a foot slammed into his ribs.
The strike didn’t register him at all like the rock. A second kick struck him right in the stones. Oeric was stunned enough for them to grab him by the scruff and fling him to the side. He tumbled in the dirt, righted himself, and flung himself at Clincher yet again.
“Papa, stop,” cried Soletus.
Oeric’s mind was too fixated on his attack to notice it was his son trying to stop him. All he saw was his old handler trying to crawl away.
He never let Oeric crawl away when he was beaten. Mocking, insulting, and being a self-proclaimed god of greed. Now he was nothing. He could bleed and he could die. Before that, he could suffer like the many fighters he ruined. Crippled, afraid, homeless, jobless, and a pariah among their people. He would feel that Oeric would make him feel that.
However, his fury was interrupted again. This time Soletus grabbed him by his tail and a hind leg and yanked him back then flipped him over. Oeric fought to right himself again. Soletus jumped passed him and stood between him and Clincher with a hunting knife in his hand.
“I said stop,” he shouted.
Those words banged against Oeric’s skull. I sounded like someone had taken a hold of him and started shaking him. Those words carried power and broke through the red haze. The wolf receded. Oeric coved his fangs and focused on the knife in Soletus’s hand. It was the hunting knife he had gifted him. He had his initials carved into the pommel and there he was about to use that gift on him.
“Uncle Oeric,” called Lyndon.
His nephew appeared and had a notched arrow pointed at him. Realization and shame hit Oeric. What he had done? What his son had seen was far from what should be happening. He took a couple of steps back, getting ready to bolt.
“No, no, no,” cried Soletus. “Lyndon, lower your bow.”
Oeric watched his nephew and son lower their weapons. However, before they worked things out further, another wolf hurtled into Oeric’s side. The two rolled in the brush and Oeric fought it to get upright. He saw teeth snap at his nose. The large gray wolf was trying to get him by the scruff, but Oeric maneuvered away from his jaws. His mind raced. The wolf wanted to take over again, not to attack this time, but to flee. He scrambled for a way to escape. There was none as Tyr charged into the clearing with several peaceguards behind him. Three of them headed straight toward him.
Oeric was in conflict. The wolf told him to run. The elf in him told him to stand down. He didn’t decide which one to listen to in time before one of them flung a lasso around his neck and pulled it tight.
Oeric sat on his haunches trying to lie down to show he wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but the peaceguard dragged him forward and yanked hard to get him off his feet. The other two jumped on top of him. One tied a leather strip around his muzzle, the other held him down and hobbled his legs. Through them, he saw Soletus trying to force his way to them.
“What are you doing,” he cried.
Tyr shoved him back. “Don’t get near him.”
“He snapped out of it!”
Tyr grabbed him by the collar. “He doesn’t just snap out of that.”
When they were done, Oeric was yanked up. He was dug his paws into the ground refusing to be dragged like a dog.
Soletus pushed himself away from Tyr and grabbed the rope in the middle. “Stop!”
The peaceguard holding the rope become dazed and Soletus snatched the rope from him. Oeric rolled on his back. It was embarrassing, but it was a sign of submission they could understand. Soletus removed the hobble, the leather from around his muzzle and then tugged off the rope around his neck off. Oeric rolled to his feet and shook his fur out.
Tyr made a move to stop him. “He’s going to bite you.”
Soletus ignored him. He reached for his father’s face and held it. “Mama sent me to get you,” he said.
Oeric let out a whine. He left the leather wrap on the bed. She probably knew he was about to do something stupid. He was stupid. Always very, very stupid.
Soletus leaned his forehead against his. “You didn’t need to attack that man. I was fine.”
Oeric sat on his haunches and sniffed his son’s face. He took a beating. His right eye was swelling up and his nose was bleeding. He had scratches and bruised from what Oeric had to guess, that gem studded ring that Clincher wore. He let out a whimper and licked his son’s scratched cheek.
“No stop,” said Soletus, moving his head away. “Papa, please. Ow, that’s a bruise. It’ll hurt less if you don’t touch it.”
Oeric’s mind then fixed itself back on the one who hurt him. He stared at where the peaceguards had surrounded Clincher, bandaging him up. Oeric growled with disgust that the man was being treated like a victim.
Soletus then struck him in the side of his muzzle. “No!”
Oeric flattened his ears. His mind was cleared, but he didn’t appreciate being slapped.
“This is why we had him tied,” said Tyr.
Oeric let out a growl and settled down on his stomach. Soletus’s strike rattled his aching head.
“I was dealing with him fine until you come,” said Soletus as he rubbed Oeric’s shoulder. “He’s not a beast you know.”
Tyr snorted. “I’ve told myself that before while trying to pull him off from mauling someone. This isn’t something new or unsual.”
Soletus rolled his eyes. “And he let me ride back like this when I was little. Not only that, we hunted together like this. And Mama told me if he ever felt threatened enough to attack someone like this, stop him. I stopped him.”
Oeric let out a growl. He wished he had regained his sentience fully so he could talk. That was possible as a wolf. In fact, he used to be more elf than wolf during his times in the borrowed form. However, that changed with his time spent with Clincher. Now they mingled too much to the point he couldn’t even change back at will anymore if he was the least bit upset. The safer he felt, the easier it was.
Soletus grabbed him by the muzzle and forced his head to his face, so he wasn’t fixated on Tyr.
“Look at me.”
He did and thought him to look awful. It was all his fault. Oeric started cleaning his face again.
“You’re not making it better,” protested Soletus, trying to push him away, but Oeric placed both his paws on his shoulder to keep him in place. His son stopped fighting and let him get the dirt off.
Lyndon then crouched beside them wearing a huge grin. His consort, Nox, flew down from the tree to his shoulders. “How long is he going to be like this?”
“As soon as he regains control. I’ve seen it take minutes or even days,” said Tyr and muttered. “It’s the worse consort ability he could have.”
Lyndon pointed to his head. “I think he’s hurt. There’s blood on the back of his head.”
Glen appeared again and tackled Oeric’s tail like a kitten.
Tyr’s eyes looked as if they were going to roll out of his skull. “You brought Mien here!”
The boy finally stepped out from behind the trees. He stopped short of Oeric, looking embarrassed. Oeric pointed his muzzle at Glen, then stared back at Mien, hoping what he wanted was clear.
“Sorry,” said the boy standing beside Lyndon. He hissed at Glen to stop, but the consort continued to chew on Oeric’s tail tip.
“He wanted to come and help,” explained Soletus, seeing nothing wrong with bringing the nervous boy along. To Oeric’s surprise, Mien explained himself.
“Soletus asked for my help, so I came.”
“See, he never does anything he doesn’t want to,” said Soletus, giving his friend a grateful look.
Glen bit into the flesh of Oeric’s tail. The elf wolf bared his teeth at the tawny mountain lion. The consort stopped and scooted back.
Tyr didn’t lighten up on his criticism. “He isn’t trained at all!”
Soletus grinned. “Well, if he’s as good as he is now, imagine him with training.”
Oeric wagged his tail, feeling proud that his son wasn’t going to be made to feel sorry for what he had done.
“Stop wagging your tail. I’ve had to put up with this behavior for months. You made him not only impatient, but pig-headed, and disrespectful.”
Oeric watched the tod’s face storm over. Soletus jump up and shouted into Tyr’s face. “He didn’t make me into anything.”
Tyr tried to take hold of him. Soletus slapped his hand away. The tod stomped off in an angry huff. Lyndon hurried after him. Khodi then joined them from out of no-where and bumped against Tyr, causing him to stagger. Oeric felt his mind become clear enough to speak.
“My, his mood swings fast,” he said.
Tyr fixed his attention on him. “And you just let him blow up at me.”
“You should be able to handle him being a better man than I,” he returned. After learning what he did from Cordea, he felt betrayed. Being a wolf made that emotion stronger.
Tyr gave him a disgusted look. “I see being in the swamp was time well spent.”
“It was, but since you’re a jackass I thought I would return the gesture.”
Tyr scrutinized him. “You’re upset at me, aren’t you? Why do you think you’ve the right to be upset with me?”
“I can list my reasons alphabetically if you like,” said Oeric. Afterwards, the world tilted. He felt weak, and he was able to force him out of being a wolf. It was a jarring experience. All his extra senses were cut off. He was left in a dull yet too colorful world that hurt his eyes. He wobbled upright anyway.
Tyr reached out and steadied him. “I see getting clubbed in the head didn’t straighten you from being a stupid bastard.”
“I can’t argue with that,” said Oeric. “I doubt this means anything to you, but I apologize for what happened.”
He could feel Tyr’s hand tighten around his arm. “What are you apologizing for, today or the many other times I’ve put my neck on the line to get you out of trouble, only for you to find it again?”
Oeric pried his hand off. “If you’re going to act this way, I’ll stop wasting my breath.”
He stumbled forward, leaving the glade. And going towards the bridge, however, he didn’t even make onto the planks. His head got to him. He leaned against the frame of the bridge and waited for the ill sensation he felt go away. At that time, the peaceguard walked towards him carrying Clincher between them. He was still very much alive, as he was aware enough to give Oeric a terrified stare. Ben was shackled with his head lowered as he walked past Oeric. Tyr and Mien took the rear.
Tyr told him while passing, “The horses are across the bridge. I think your lad brought an extra one. Just wait here.” Oeric listened to his footsteps crunch and stopped. Then they got closer again, stopping right behind him. “What bothers me is that you hide yourself from him. I agreed not to tell Soletus about everything because I thought you were going to tell him when he was able to understand. Then he became a tod and you showed no signs of sharing the truth. You needed to. Had the opportunity to, but you didn’t.”
“I thought it was for the best,” he replied.
“Why? Because it embarrasses you? You can’t even spare your feelings even in the slightest. Are your really just that selfish?”
Oeric rubbed his eyes with his index finger and thumb.
Tyr stepped around him to face him and said, “He’s smart, unlike you. He at least had the decency not to come here alone! And really, you should thank the wife you don’t deserve. She noticed you taking this.”
Tyr pushed the black steel dagger to his chest.
Oeric’s aching head couldn’t take Tyr any longer. “You can tear me down later in front of a larger audience. Just get me a horse before I can’t ride it.”
Tyr looked as if he had another round of insults ready however, he had enough grace to just walk off. Oeric shut his eyes, leaning against the bridge. He then felt something nudging his calf. He looked down and saw Glen, rubbing his head on his legs purring.
Mien stood two arm's lengths away, with his uncanny bright green and gold gaze meeting his.
“Shouldn’t you be with Soletus,” asked Oeric
Mien shook his head and spoke. His voice soft like a breeze, “He’s upset. Lyndon is better at making him feel better.”
Glen put his head in Oeric hand to be petted. He scratched it. “Your consort has an odd fixation on me.”
“He likes you.”
“I’m surprise given the circumstances,” he said, wondering why the boy lingered there.
Mien took a deep breath and said, “Lyndon told me to tell you that Soletus is being an idiot dod and doesn’t want to talk to you because he’s being moody gloomy jackass. It isn’t because he hates you; it’s because he doesn’t know what to say. He said it would help, Sir.”
Those sounded like the words of his other son. “Thank you for the message. And thank you for today and for saving my son months ago,” said Oeric. “I never thanked you for that. That was a brave thing you did.”
Oeric watched the boy’s pale face look as if the red in his hair leeched down into his skin. At the same time, Glen purred louder but the sound was smothered by horse hooves striking wood behind him.
Mien looked down the bridge. “You’re welcome. I-I can get your horse, if you want. I don’t think Master Tyr likes you very much.”
“That would be nice, thank you.”
Mien scampered away.
Oeric didn’t know what to think about his son befriending him. He could understand the pity friendship it started out being. However, one didn’t choose a pity friend for battle. Tyr was right. The boy was untrained, disturbed, and timid. Yet, he didn’t feel the boy’s hand tremble once when he cut his hands free. He thought him saving Soletus was a fluke. No, that was an act of bravery, and one clearly could be repeated.
The boy had the potential of being a combat chanter.