I had a rough start as a chanter. I didn't know how to handle it. It didn't help that I didn't like the sound of my voice. I could tell there was something wrong with me. Also, one could say I had a little trouble with my perceived lack masculinity then. Especially around Soletus. He was what boys dreamed they could be tall and deep voice. And he was far more put together compared to me. At that point, I thought him better than me. Here I was small, lost in a dark place. I was scared. I felt alone with the entire world just bearing down on me. And I wanted it to stop. And while Soletus and Hickory help me out of the mind space, it was Oeric who showed me how to not go back to it.
Soletus wasn't in the best of moods when he returned to the chapel the following day. He thought he wanted to listen to all the other warders and junior wardens talk about their experiences. He had done so every year that he could, however, that year, no. It stung that he missed the experienced and lost the offers many other got to join beds. Not to mention training that would help them pass the trials. It annoyed him then, and he woke up aggravated. He honestly shouldn't have come to the chapel day, but the alternatives were doing nothing or help Doran and he wasn't easy to train with. He complained a lot. Soletus knew being grumpy would give him more reason to complain. So, he went to the chapel instead.
Brother Hickory was polishing one of the long brass candle holders at the side of the altar and greeted him with a joyous smile on his face. It faded as Soletus grew to concern. "You seem glum today. What's the matter?"
"Nothing," grunted Soletus. Only the fact that all my brothers are training for the trials or getting assignments elsewhere and I'm here babysitting.
"So, your cheery disposition has nothing to do with all the warders training for the trials while you're here," asked the all-knowing priest.
"A little bit," he admitted.
"I'm sure you father reinforced your mood. He told me what he thought of our arrangement yesterday."
"Of course, he’s an opinion about everything,” muttered Soletus and realized that was supposed to be a thought.
The priest stopped his polishing and regarded him thoughtfully. "He means well, as do a lot of parents. Part of a parent’s duty is to make sure a child knows how to navigate the world. I think of it as the age of listening. However, when a child gets old enough, the age of listening is over. The age of acting starts. It’s time for them to take knowledge learned so they can learn on their own. Some parents don't know when that time comes. That’s your father."
The old priest was a neth. A child of Lenneth. He didn’t live the life of a customary elf and lived a solitary life. No marriage and thus he raised no children. Soletus guessed it was years of looking from the outside int that made him insightful.
"That being said, maybe it's time for you to cut the leash your father has on you."
That rendered Soletus speechless. He never expected that would tell him that. He thought he would say something about sitting down and talking with him to build some sort of understanding. Be patient. Be understanding.
"You aren't a child anymore and I know you know that. Oeric doesn't see that. He doesn't see someone who is independent of him. Asserting yourself might be the only way for him to realize that."
Soletus only blinked. Pushing his father wasn't something he wanted to do just because he wanted to live a ripe old age. Soletus struggled for words for a second before he found his voice again and said, "I don't think causing conflict with him is the answer."
Brother Hickory raised an eyebrow at him. "I’m not taking about started a conflict. I’m talking about putting your foot down. Don't you feel he comes off controlling at times?"
Soletus now gaped at him, dumbfounded. He heard others say that before, that his father was controlling. He never expected those words from Brother Hickory. Truth was, Soletus didn’t feel controlled. His father rarely made him do anything he didn’t want to do. However, he wasn’t above holding him back. Sometimes it was good just to help him catch up. Other times, it was annoying when they didn’t let him do something most tods his age did.
The biggest was the bonfire held in the spring and fall. There was little to no adult supervision, and most would spend the entire night outside of the wall. The excuse was somewhere between not mature enough and wasn’t something a son of Dias should want to do. Yet a few young monks would attend. They didn’t have strict parents, or their parents weren’t present.
"He's strict," said Soletus.
"Yes, but you're at that age of action. You need to walk your own way down the path. You decide what you do along it, not your father."
Soletus crossed his arms. "I get that. But when he thinks he’s right, he doesn't listen."
The priest continued. "When he came here yesterday, he said he didn't want you to come back here. Said it was a waste of your time. Do you intend to listen to him when you've done a lot of good?"
"No," said Soletus despite the fact, he was uncertain about continuing but he couldn’t just leave. Something inside him really wanted to keep going if just to prove his father wrong. “This is my assignment."
The aged priest smiled. “Good, this is best for Mien. If you leave, it’ll hurt him. He’ll probably think it’s his fault and convince himself he’s undeserving of friend. Besides that, I don’t want another tod. Out of all of them, you were my choice.”
Soletus felt a twinge of guilt for even thinking about leaving. He didn’t know that Hickory specifically chose him.
"Anyway, refresh your mind today. This isn't exactly a good day for the lad."
Soletus groaned. "He didn't turtle up again," groaned Soletus.
"No, why would you think that," said the priest and then he reconsidered his statement. "Never mind. I can understand why you would, but that's not the case. Mien didn't sleep a wink last night. He had nightmares. Sadly, he didn’t share what they were about. I've tried to give him some lavender and chamomile to calm him, but he refused. Eventually, exhaustion will take him. He was still awake the last time I looked in on him. He told me he wanted to at least say hello to you today."
Soletus nodded walked to the back. It was dim in the foyer as Mien's room door was cracked instead of open. Soletus pushed it open and found the boy stretched on his bed with his eyes shut. The curtains over the window drawn. However, when he heard Soletus take a step into his room, he opened them. They were red.
"Hello," he greeted after a long yawn. He didn't move to sit up.
Soletus leaned against the door frame. "I come to say hi."
Mien looked grateful he was there. "I wanted to talk to you about something, but I can't keep my eyes open right now. Maybe another day?"
"Sure, whenever you can."
Mien then gathered his blanket and rolled over to the wall. Soletus left the chapel and did as Brother Hickory advised him to do. He was certain the man meant for him to meditate or something. Instead, he went back to the dormitory for his pair of padded leather gloves before going behind the front buildings of the monastery. There, the area opened to the log buildings. One was mess hall, the others were for indoor training. He chose the smallest of the buildings that was dedicated to combat practice. His choice method of reflection was by slamming his fist into one of the training stands.
He fell in love with using the wooded and leather sand filled stand when he started his hand-to hand training. After that, he found it was good to pour his frustrations on the training device. Most of his training brothers knew when Soletus entered and walked straight to the bag, he wasn't in a talking mood. They glanced in his direction but continued to spar with one another.
He went about punching with very few thoughts run through his head. He kept light on his toes and danced around it. Then thoughts leaked in his mind. Why he was even bothering. He had worked hard to get what he wanted and was unrewarded for his efforts. Did Dias even want him to be a monk at that point? He felt the was answer yes, but why was it hard still.
Soletus wasn’t an ideal candidate when he joined. He wasn’t like the lean boys or tod around him. He was chubby, according to his father. To others, he was fat. The only advantage he had was that he had fast reflexes and power behind his moments, but he was timid. He was shy. Everyone called him Oeric’s “little lad” in a patronizing tone that suggested they didn’t expect much from him. “Too much of a boy” was the phrase Marth like to use and others picked up on it.
His father was the one who encouraged him the most, saying it took time. That he needed to practice. And so, Soletus did. He practiced when other wouldn’t. A lot of his spare time at one point was him either with his father or Valen when he arrived. And things changed. He was never short but ended up being the tallest in his training clutch. He was also the most muscular. And then no one wanted to spar with him because he was the humbler. When a warder thought too much of himself, he sparred with them. He became the one they called out because of his extra effort and tell the initiates he was what hard work looked like.
Yet, somehow, his father held him back despite his achievements.
Soletus slammed his fist in a series of punches that caused the stand to bend. Everyone when sight, paused and stared at the nonverbal tirade and ended it all with a hard kick that could’ve broken a stand that wasn’t so well made.
"I would have loved some of the lads at the culling showed your ferocity on a drass beast," said someone behind him.
Soletus glared at the person who spoke to him coldly. First Warden Kellas stood there, unaffected by the chilled look. The young monk then straightened up quickly to greet him properly, but the warden held up his hand.
"No need for formalities," he said. "I just come over to sate my curiosity. I didn't mean to interrupt, maybe later."
The young monk wiped the sweat off his brow. "I'm not doing anything important, just thinking," he said, wondering what Kellas wanted. The man never spoke to him before. His father didn’t care for him. He told him he had shadows following him. He never went into details other than they were once friends and the man did something he didn’t like. Though his grandfather favored him because he was the warden, they sent out to deal with difficult situation and problems. His bands always saw a lot of actions. Soletus found him and his band kind of appealing. He didn’t know if he would like someone like his father’s brand of being a first warden. He was hard and cautious.
However, there was something about Kellas Soletus didn’t like. He and his father shared the same start iris color. However, his father eyes were expressive with depth. Kellas's eyes were insipid. Even then, as he stood there smiling, it never really reached his eyes.
"Those must be some intense thoughts," remarked Kellas. "Maybe Oeric's tall lad isn't as placid as they say. Then again, a cool head is not something to snuff one's nose at. I like cool heads. They see things I don't." The smile dropped from his face, and he became serious. "Why weren't you at the culling?"
"Papa kept me from joining," Soletus answered, swinging at the bag again.
"You could have just run away and followed."
Soletus gave him an exasperated look.
"Ah yes, Master Dour, harsh and strict. Likes to keep his son on a short leash, they say."
Soletus's brow became a flat line. “I’m not a dog. He just doesn’t think I’m ready.”
“Then you shouldn’t let him think that and act on keeping you held back.”
"I'm not letting him," exclaimed Soletus. He turned back to the bag and started slamming his fists into again. "Fighting against him wastes my time. He doesn't let up."
"Because he knows you will back down or walk away to avoid conflict with him. That is something you need to learn not to do so easily," returned Kellas solemnly, but his exuberance welted back up into his features. "However, that sort of thing can be learned by becoming my grappler."
Soletus lowered his hands and gaped a him. To receive an offer like that wasn’t for someone unproven.
Kellas took him by the shoulders and spun him around to face all the others practicing around him.
"Look at them. They are tall and lean like any elf, but I need someone with some bulk. You have that, or as bulky as an elf can get. The other one, Dias bless him, pissed in his pants when I told him to jump on a back of a skulker."
Soletus could understand that response. They reserved the job of a grappler for the rowdiest of men. Few would wrestle with a drass beast purposely. The idea wasn't something Soletus had given much thought. It certainly wouldn't sit well with his father. He was too smart in his eyes. However, he was certain one had to possess a certain amount of intelligence not to be killed doing something so dangerous. It wasn't as if he were going to go out bare-chested in a lion cloth and a javelin made from a cut sapling. He would have armor. The thing was, it sounded challenging, and he liked challenges.
"Do you really need a grappler that badly," he asked.
"Yes. I need one as my band goes in very close to the Drass Wall and I see to the Trap throughout the year. No one has applied or tested in for the position for this coming trial. Not that there are many who enlist in the Dias Brotherhood these days. Most of these lads are from families who have been here for far too long. They don't want their kin having such ‘lowly’ duties. However, I need a grappler. I need someone large, collected, and smart. You fit the build."
"But I can't take the trial coming up."
"There is one in the Spring, and I will push you in," he promised.
That meant that he didn't have to wait an entire year. He could train all winter for the spring and breeze through the trial. However, he wasn't sure how he was going to train for a grappler position when there weren't that many. He voiced his concerns and Warden Kellas slapped him on the back.
"Don't worry about the training. I'll arrange it. You can start tomorrow. You'll be helping everyone else training for the trials, but some training is better than none."
Soletus's excitement drained. "Tomorrow? In the morning or afternoon?"
"Morning of course….ah yes, the one Brother Hickory's been helping. Perhaps you should let someone else deal with that."
The young monk felt as if Dias was testing him at that point and gave him another opportunity to back out. It would be easier on him if he did, however, his conscious screamed no.
Soletus shook his head. "No, I don't want to just abandon him seeing how hard as it's been for him."
"Hmmm," said Kellas, rubbing his chin. "Well, maybe it'll be worth it if I can get a combat chanter out of him. Do what you need to, just meet me bright an early after the daily prayer."
Soletus beamed brightly. He finally found a way in.