I've saved Soletus's life a countless number of times without a second thought after that attack. However, that first time, was terrifying. It was a mix of facing a drass beast for the first time, what it was doing to Soletus. Hearing him scream cut me, seeing him fighting with that thing… I can't put into words how angry I was getting at it. I could feel how profane it was. Feeling a drass beast is grating and nasty. It's like thick oil mixed in with muck on your skin, but in my mind. And when they growl or make sounds, they sound like wrong notes in my mind. And there it was, trying to kill the most honest boy I met. That provoked me to jump down from safety and cast one of the hottest globes of light I could manifest. I thought myself a coward at that point. When the dust settled, I thought it was a fluke. Not a gift. Not a purpose.
The toxin burned through Soletus like fire through his veins. Elves died from venomous skulker bites. He thought he would. That his last moments would be the collection of different voices telling him to hang on. The loudest of them was Lyndon's voice telling him to fight. However, it was hard fighting something he couldn't see, but he knew one thing, he didn't want to die. He knew they left the woods and knew that there was a chanter trying to help him. Whomever it was, tried to get him to swallow dried herbs and chew it. He still couldn't move his jaw or his tongue to swallow them. Then he blacked out. He came into consciousness for an instant. He thought he was drowning because they pour something down his throat. After that, he faded again. Everything was a muddle of lights, voices, and sensations of hot and cold. It all soon faded into darkness and comfort.
He woke up to the painted image of Dias on the ceiling of the infirmary. The god's arms spread wide, receiving those that were ill. Soletus always wondered how the image of the faceless god looked so comforting. He thanked Dias that he was alive enough to feel bone deep exhaustion. He couldn’t see the severity of his wounds couldn’t be seen but felt. There was a tight bandage around his left arm that rested on his chest and the bandaged wrapped around his right leg. There was only a bandage around his calf where he assumed was where he was injected with the venom given how much it burned. Though he couldn't have been too bad off as they placed him in the open portion of the infirmary and not in one of the private rooms.
He listened to the footsteps of two priests milling around. Neither of them sounded like they were walking over to check on him. He didn't know why until he heard the voice of his father.
"What were you thinking?"
Soletus rolled his head to the right and saw his father sitting in a chair beside his bed, sterile faced.
He went on once, Soletus gave him his attention. "You should have known better, done better." He picked up the tao stone hunting knife off his lap and laid it beside Soletus's splinted arm. "What have I've always told you? Always keep your knife with you!"
Soletus's mind was sluggish, but he reasoned out his father berating him wasn't what he was expecting.
"See. This is why you aren't ready for the trials. You can’t be sloppy and make careless mistakes! You should always, ALWAYS, be prepared! And thinking in the moment not frantic."
Soletus rolled his head until he saw the ceiling again. He knew that, but he was as steady as one could be at that moment.
It wasn't as if he didn't try. It wasn't as if he panicked. He didn’t when he realized he was unarmed and was being chewed on. He was too tired to say that and too tired to listen anymore. All he wanted to do was roll over and go to sleep.
"I think this is proof enough that you aren't ready for the trials or being a grappler. You don't need to be doing that kind of training. You need to be instilling strength inside you."
Soletus swayed his head.
"Oh, so you think that someone who allows himself to get mauled only to be saved by some nobling whelp can be a grappler?"
Soletus swallowed and opened his sticky mouth and said, "I think he would learn from the mistake."
The man's austere expression faltered. Emotion shone. The young monk didn't know what it was because it his father switched back to his hard expression before he had time to register it.
"You shouldn't make mistakes from all I taught you. You should know better. Lyndon should know better, as well as Doran! Sloppy and careless, the lot of you," said Master Oeric, standing to his feet. "I talked to Master Kellas. No more of this grappler nonsense. You can't handle it!"
With that, his father left, leaving Soletus feeling as if his father kicked him in the gut. He squeezed his eye holding back tears, and to his horror, one of the infirmary priests took his father's place in the chair. He heard them chanting and felt the warmth of healing magic moved its way down his body, stopping at his arm and then down to his leg. After they finished, the young monk opened bleary eyes to see the somber face of a young man. It was Brother Kiao. His thick eyelashes were more noticeable when his iris glittered from the use of his abilities. They died from violet to blue and wore a kind smile and said, "I know you aren't much for talking, but how do you feel?"
"Weak," answered Soletus.
"That's to be expected," said the chanter priest. "Your arm was fractured with some deep laceration to your muscles. Your leg wasn't so badly torn, but you've lost a lot of blood from both wounds. Despite all that, you should heal up nicely, but—"
Of course, there's a but, Soletus thought.
"You've a low tolerance for drass beast venom. All your muscles nearly locked up, including your heart. I'm not sure what will happen if you get bitten again. Your body will either form a resistance to it or it will do more damage."
It wasn't something unusual for a warden. He just had to be careful. Though being a grappler still was questionable. It would be a matter of skill.
"However, given that this is your first exposure to it, your reaction to it maybe because of that," said Brother Kiao with optimism and then he raised his head up with his gaze becoming fixed towards the door. He tilted his head. "It seems you've another visitor."
Soletus struggled to see to his left. His neck was stiff, but he saw his fox-headed rescuer peering at him from around the door frame. When he caught sight of Kiao, he shrank back.
"What a weird little fellow," muttered Kiao, standing and smoothed out his white smock. "I'll leave for now. Maybe after you wake some more, we'll get some liquids into you."
Soletus didn't feel thirsty or hungry. He was just tired. He closed his eyes and waited for Mien to make his way towards him. The boy kept his footsteps soft and sat in the chair as quiet as a feather falling. He said nothing at first but then whispered, "I was worried."
Soletus cracked one eye open. "I'm alright," he answered.
Mien's expression lightened with relief. He stayed with him for a long time. He watched Brother Kiao feed him some watered-down broth without judgement. In the middle of it, the chanter priest questioned Mien if he knew how to heal. Soletus watched his nervous boy shake his head.
Kiao became bewildered. "It's usually one of the first phrases that a chanter learns, if not the first. I am surprised the phrase didn't come to you during this incident."
"That's because he's more aligned to being a combat chanter," said Warden Kellas, making his presence known. He strolled to Soletus's other side, greeting warmly. "I'm glad to see you awake. Gave us all a scare, being all torn up," he said and then looked at Mien. "We've not met yet. That Hickory seems to want to hide you from everyone. I'm First Warden Kellas."
The man held out his hand and Mien shook it a lot better than he did with Master Oeric. Soletus thought it was strange that Kellas seemed all too approving of him. Kiao vanished, getting on with his duties.
"I managed to get a little of something out of Hickory, though. He claims you're a nervous little fellow."
Mien averted his eyes and his face flushed.
"No need to be embarrassed. Not everyone starts out being as bold as a fox," said the warden good-naturally. "You've obviously have a heart of mountain lion jumping down to help a friend like that."
The redness in the boy’s checks went to his ears.
"No need to be modest. Your handy work on that monster was amazing. Tell me, how did you do that? I've never seen that sort of flesh melting burn before."
Brother Hickory did say that his light was hot, but Soletus didn't think it was as hot as fire until he saw what Mien had done. Not to mention the end explosion.
Mien swallowed and licked his lips, speaking softly. "I don't know. I just did it."
Kellas tilted his head. His curiosity intensified. "I see. Weren't you afraid?"
"Yet you helped him. Why?"
Mien ran his fingers through his hair and pulled the side part back over his eyes to obscure them. "I just did it. One second I was in the tower, next second I was on the ground."
That alarmed Soletus a little. He did the same with his cousin. He just acted. In one instance, he nearly ended a life and then in the next, he saved one.
"You've some instincts there," said Kellas.
Instincts indeed. If he isn't careful, he could kill someone," thought Soletus.
He, like all the initiates and warders in the Brotherhood, were taught instincts are only reliable with knowledge and would get you in trouble if used alone. Mien seemed like that person.
"I can use… well, the Brotherhood could you someone with your talent to help stem the tide of drass beasts. Think about it, well after everything with you settles," said Kellas, patting Mien. The boy winced the entire time without the first warden noticing.
"As for you, young man," he said to Soletus and then hesitated and stated what was probably not what he was thinking. "Do what you need to do to get well."
The warden then left. The boy watched him leave, looking uncomfortable.
"You don't like Kellas do you," guessed Soletus.
Mien continued to watch the door and breathed, "He's loud and muddled."
"He brought up something I wanted to ask you. Why did you do it, really?"
Mien looked as if he was caught doing something bad.
"It's not a bad thing. It’s I don't understand why you saved me.”
The boy's brow pulled together in confusion.
“I ask because, given your track record with adults, you just told him enough. It's more than just moving without thought, right? It was safer if you stayed up and the three of us are trained to handle drass beasts. "
The boy's gaze dropped to his hands. "You were in trouble. Lyndon and Doran were scared. Besides that—"
Mien’s gaze lifted and he gave him a meaningful direct stare. "You’re honest. I like that about you. So, I thought, you’ve helped me all this time, so I helped you."
Soletus was touched. "Thank you."
The boy withdrew the openness offered and stood quickly to his feet. "I need to get back."
Soletus waved with his good hand. Mien gestured back before vanishing. Soletus relaxed in bed, thinking about the boy's actions. If there was anything he learned, it was that the boy cared a great deal about those he liked. His family received the full extent of his appreciation, no matter how misguided it was. He extended that to him, and the young monk felt honored because of it. Also, it was hard not to admire someone who could do such a thing without training.
It dawned on his approach to Mien needed to change. Soletus felt his only motivation for helping the boy because he felt sorry for him. Mien appreciated his friendship. He hadn’t really respected that desire at all. Plus, Soletus didn’t know a lot of people who liked him for who he was.
Sometimes other tods offering friendships did so because he was the Arch Monk’s grandson. That knowing him would get them ahead and even grant them popularity. It didn’t. A few members of his training clutch and others thought him to be snooty. That might’ve been because Soletus was selective of his friends. He chose them due to what their potential, fitting in with his personality, and keeping up with him.
Mien wasn’t physically strong, nervous, and shy; however, he didn’t panic and make a stressful situation worse. And he had skill with no training. If he didn’t aim that light orb with precision, he would’ve been burned. That was impressive. Mien was more than what he had given credit for.
And maybe that's what his parents meant. That he wouldn’t be able to see Mien clearly. That he was a brave boy and more than just fear and anger. He didn’t give up on him when he was attacked. He didn’t retreat and hide. He helped and clearly was already loyal from Soletus being honest. It was clear now that it was only fair that Soletus treated him with that same respect.
All right, you help me, and I'll help you, he decided.
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