I put my life into his has a couple times after that little adventure of ours. Looking back on it, we were a bit like Lenneth and Stephren. Not alike because Stephren called Lenneth by name. I was forever “Sister” to him. He showed me so much of himself over the years. He was a husband, a father, and a monk. He was both stern and kind. Both bold and wise, well, wise after a while. Fearless and meek. He was a wonderful man clad in scars. The day before he passed, he called me Kiao and told me how much he appreciated all I had done for him. It was a little strange, as I came to him just to relay a message to Sol. I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. But he smiled at me, warmly. The day after… My heart ached for Sol. Oeric tried to hang on and it wasn’t until Soletus talked to him. He told him it was okay. That he could handle everything. That he would look after Cordea. That he was still his son, but he didn’t need him anymore. That he could go.
-From interview with Lady Matron Kiao’Cyan, written by Lord Patriarch Theris'Heron
Oeric knew what he did was stupid and risked his life, but it had to be done. He watched Kiao ride off, knowing that she would be a target, but he was what Xerius and his brainless bunch wanted.
He worked as a mercenary for just a handful of years and he had seen how they worked. And knew what method they were trying to employee. Kiao would be already. Mien wouldn’t let them take her.
Oeric felt bad for the entire ordeal. It all could’ve been avoided if he never stopped at that lodge. However, he felt he needed to stop for Kiao’s sake. Despite never traveling more than a couple hours outside of town, she did well. She never complained and took everything in stride. She would make a good warden. However, she was still a young woman, and stopping for just a night in a lodge shouldn’t have be a problem, but it was. Then it became a mess.
The story of his life.
He sighed and hoped she didn’t hate him too much for what was probably about to happen and for what had happened. He was planning to be a wolf, so he didn’t have to worry about being stopped for his scars. However, he was proven yet again not to hide.
At least Kiao, who had reservations for him, didn’t create unnecessary tension between them. He appreciated that. It made dealing with Xerius easier. She was gone, so he stepped into the path again and found a soft spot of ground and knelled. He rested on the tops of his legs and waited.
“Dias, let this not be a drop in the well of mistakes I’ve made,” he prayed. “You told the first monk that no matter what road they tread, you will be there for them. And so you are.”
It didn’t take that long for Xerius to glide over his head and landed behind him. The distinctive sound of a sword sliding out of a sheath disturbed the sound of the empty wilderness around him. Oeric didn’t know what to expect, but the man killing him wasn’t one of them. If he wanted to kill, he wouldn’t do so from behind. The blade rested on his shoulder. The edge of it pointed to his neck.
“Not running and unarmed,” said Xerius moving face to face with him. “Are you surrendering?”
“No. Our last chat was so riveting, I desired for one more,” said Oeric and smiled at him. “I think I’m growing fond of you.”
Xerius rolled his eyes. “You’ve not changed a bit.”
“This is my special talk for bastards who can’t say out of my life. Anyway, I concluded that my actions in our previous meeting created a barrier and inhibited proper communication. So, I decided to lay myself bare before you to show you my honest sincerity.”
Xerius rubbed his forehead. “So you’re being this way. Are you trying to guilt me into not killing you? I can just lie and say you come at me with a knife, and I had to cut off your head.”
“Clearly, I need to repeat what I told you before. However, I will give you the short of it. Killing me won’t end well for you. It is the quickest way to a hangman’s noose.”
“Curs commit most of the murder and rape in this country,” spoke Xerius undeterred. “They are usually the ones who steal and encourage more drug trade. That’s why the Seat is putting an end to blood sports.”
“And I want it to end too,” exclaimed Oeric. “I want paradise to burn in flames. The fighters freed from their handlers and all of them face an Arbiter like I have. I pray that some of them live and those that do, may they get the chance I have. I lived, Xerius. And I will continue living because that’s what I need to do. So, is ridding this world of curs no matter what, the hill you want to die on? I’m not joining the bodies you stand on.”
The dyne elf then slid the sword up against his neck. “So where are you sending that priestess of yours?”
“She’s a tree to visit,” answered Oeric enigmatically.
“Good, we can just wait here until they bring her back.”
Oeric wiped all expressions on his face. “So, you finally planned on ahead?”
“I figured you must have a destination. Stopping at Fenndish places and there was a very Fenndish place that is one of Diva great sacred trees nearby, a burning ash.”
Oeric smiled. “Impressive, you’re capable of thought, but it’s too little too late.”
“I don’t think so,” stated Roxlyn as she stepped out from the woods to in front of him. She had her head raise high so she could look down at him like he was a flea.
“I wouldn’t get any closer to him. He’s something up his sleeves. He just sat down on the road,” said Xerius.
She changed back into a woman. “He looks tired. Sick even.” She then bent down in front of his face. “Perhaps whatever illness that’s inflicted you has taken its toll on you. Weak mind, weak body.”
Oeric put a seal on his mouth. The last thing he need was to get assaulted by her because of his tongue.
“Once we get that priestess here. I will teach her a little something about mind control,” she said, wiggling a vial between her fingers.”
There were a lot of things that it could be. As far as he knew, no substance could allow a person to control another the way a chanter could. However, some substances could cut off inhibitions, hallucinate, and cause intoxication like effects. Some of those substances were very strong. If she possessed a combination of them, the substances would either make him do something to her or she would do something to him. Probably the former. They wanted an excuse to kill him and to make her see what he really was.
Oeric stayed there waiting with a sword against his neck for a bit. For all of her hate of him, he was surprised Roxlyn didn’t spit on him. Even more so that she listened to Xerius’s warning. It didn’t take long for the rustling of brush behind him to be heard. He didn’t bother seeing who it was with his head, but used his eyes. The larger of the two panthers stepped out.
“Grell, where is she,” demanded Xerius.
“Gone,” he answered. “We were attacked by two consorts. One was a very large bear. Poe got hurt.”
“No, I was attacked by two consorts. And the very large bear slammed me in the side,” grumbled Poe, limping into view. “I think he bruised one of my ribs.”
Roxlyn shouted at them. “Why didn’t you just attack it?”
“Because it was a very large bear,” stated Grell changing back. “A highland brown bearthat was some elf’s consort! Look, we’ve wasted all our time on a single cur and trying to rescue a girl who didn’t want to be rescued. Also, she’s a chanter! Could’ve left it there. But no, you got your ears in a knot. And we continued chasing them. Then they get to a Fenndish temple that is warded and pass on through no problem because they’re Brotherhood.”
“Any Fenndish could go in there,” returned Roxlyn.
“No, we were attacked by Brotherhood and that girl knew them,” snapped Grell.
Xerius eyed Oeric. “Are you certain?”
Poe shifted into a strong looking elf and held his side. “Fen elves don’t use their consort. The Brotherhood does. And the archer that came and shot the ground in front of us was wearing a brown jerkin, yellow sash, and a patch on his shirt. That’s Brotherhood!”
Oeric searched between them all. “Surely you didn’t think I was lying this entire time?”
“Shut up,” snapped Roxlyn and kicked him in the leg. “They could’ve been pretending to be Brotherhood.”
“The archer was very young, no scars on his face. Not a cur. His hair was nearly white, he could’ve been one of us.”
“Then he would be Fenndish Dyne. Another insult to Diva,” erupted Roxlyn. “You should have fought him!”
“We aren’t at home to seek retribution on every person who insults Diva,” exclaimed Grell. “Forget the girl and tie him up and drag him back. He’ll be alive for the Seat to deal with, and we tell them about the priestess. You can rough him up a little on the way.”
Roxlyn shook her head. “I don’t want to rough him up, I want him dead, and that chanter humiliated.
Xerius sighed and stated firmly. “We will not kill this one.”
The woman then poked an accusatory finger at his chest. “You’re being soft because you know this one.”
The man rubbed his temple with his hands. “I’m not.”
“Then just behead him already. He’s sitting there perfectly still!”
“Girl, you’ve should learn by now to be wary of a predator who doesn’t run.”
“Girl? I’m not some child anymore, brother,” snarled Roxlyn.
Oeric brow rose at hearing that. He wondered why Xerius would even bother with chasing them for so long. He was humoring his sister.
“You’ve never seen him fight. He’s fast and doesn’t need a weapon to disarm or kill a person. He doesn’t need to be a wolf to do it, either. We need to tie him up, since he is being accommodating.”
“Xerius, heads up,” shouted Poe. “There’s a rider coming towards us.”
Oeric wished he was facing the other way to see who it was. He didn’t have to wait long to find out. The galloping horse skid to a halt. Dust washed over him in a thin cloud.
“Who are you,” demanded Roxlyn.
“Doesn’t matter. I’m only asking you once to let him go,” ordered Soletus loud and firm. However, there was a threatening growl in his voice. Oeric grimaced. He was counting on his son to be coolheaded. That clearly wasn’t what he was getting, but he could still work with it.
“Soletus,” he said sharply. “Is that a way to speak to people?”
“Seriously Papa! You want me to be polite when you’ve got a sword to your neck?”
“I said nothing about being polite, just not be rude when I’ve got a sword to my neck,” he returned.
“Papa,” said Xerius looking between them both shocked. “This man is your father?”
“He is and so help me Dias if you do not let him go I will—”
“You can do nothing,” snapped Roxlyn stepping forward. “You’re the offspring of a cur. Dirty and vile blood runs through your veins. You are unworthy to even speak to us.”
Oeric could hear the eye-roll in his son’s voice. “Do you still want me to be polite?”
Xerius regard him. “Blessed Diva, he even speaks like you.”
Roxlyn cleared her throat getting their attention and continued. “Diva gave me a task to rid the world of curs, and I will kill them all. I don’t care if you call him father. You see this vial, half-breed,” she said. Soletus narrowed his eyes and the air behind her began to ripple. Oeric knew what was going to happen and he could work with that, too.
“It contains a mixture called madness. Skin contact along brings out the madness of the mind. Curs are especially susceptible to it. I say we see what sort of person your father really is.”
She popped the cork off the vial with her thumb at the same time Khodi burst into the world behind Roxlyn. He swiped one massive paw down Roxlyn’s back and she splashed the vial all over her face. The woman screamed. Oeric dropped to his side and rolled away from Xerius. The two other elves shifted quickly into panthers and throw themselves at Khodi who held Roxlyn on the ground with a single paw on her chest. He roared into her face. Grell and Poe shifted back and dug their claws and teeth into Khodi’s hide. He didn’t move.
Xerius charged with his sword and sent it through the consort’s ribs. With any other elf, Soletus who’ve been on the ground gasping. However, Khodi didn’t transfer his pain to Soletus. The bear snapped at the mercenary while Roxlyn thrashed crying.
“Get him off her now,” cried Xerius with his sword pointed at Soletus now.
Oeric rushed between them and said to Soletus, “Let her go.”
The young man’s gaze had gone cold and hard.
“What is the matter with you? Let her go!”
Khodi remained on top of her still, as if he were waiting for an order while his son watched and listened to Roxlyn start struggling and rasped. “Get it off! Get it off!”
“You’re hurting her,” said Oeric.
“She was going to hurt you and I’m not watching someone else I love get hurt or killed when I can stop them,” said Soletus. ”Tell him to lower his sword.
Oeric rushed to his side and grabbed his arm. “Look at me” he ordered.
The young man listened.
“Am I being threatened anymore? No. I’m right here at your side. Let her go.”
Soletus looked as if he was in conflict with himself.
Khodi bared his teeth at Roxlyn. She screamed again, covering her face like she was a scared girl.
Oeric grabbed the front of his son’s tunic. “Banish him!”
Soletus gritted his teeth, then shouted, “Banish!”
The consort burst into blue sparks. The spell that was over Soletus vanished and he looked horrified. Clearly, he lost control of himself. Xerius pulled Roxlyn up from the ground. The woman quivered in his arms.
“Is she alright,” asked Oeric.
“Stay back,” snapped Xerius.
Oeric saw that leather vest she wore was scratched with deep cuts and that was it. She was lucky.
Xerius clutched Roxlyn tighter. “I should kill that spawn of yours.”
Oeric crossed his arms. “I’m not excusing his actions, but you threatened me and she’s not dead.”
“Curse you, yours, and that stupid girl,” babbled Roxlyn.
Grell then asked. “Do you want us to grab him, Boss?”
“No, I want that boy out of my sight,” said Xerius and pointed down the road. “And you go with him, or I will stick you both with my sword.”
Oeric didn’t have to be told twice. He pulled the horse forward and walked away from them as fast as his legs allowed him. He led the horse into the wood rather than stay on the path, not to lose them but to find a quiet place to talk to his son. When they came to a small outcrop of rocks, he whirled and faced him.
“We need to talk, now,” he said, pointing to the ground.
Soletus dismounted his horse, found a rock, and sat on it.
Oeric remembered when the young man was barely as tall as the rocks. If he attempted to climb the ones on the monastery grounds, Oeric become a bundle of nerves. He would watch every foot and handhold as his son made to make sure he didn’t slip and bust his head open. Cordea would kill him if that happened.
Now his son just sat down, using his long legs to scoot him back so he could fold them in front of him. He did the same as a boy and would’ve looked proud of his accomplishment. At the moment, he looked anything but proud then. His face was drawn and with slumped shoulders.
He sat beside him, relieved at the sight of him. There were many times he imagined Soletus being hurt or maimed physically. However, what was hurt wasn’t the body, but the mind. And that sort of thing would make it hard for him to address what he really wanted to talk to him about. Lyndon and him being neth. He had a long time to think about what he was going to say. He walked a great deal in silence to figure out and prioritized what to talk about. Lyndon would be first. It was clear the young man wasn’t doing very well. He know his nephew was like a brother to his son. For Oeric, seeing the two boys together reminded him of the better parts of his boyhood with his nephew, Alacai.
“How you are holding up,” he asked.
Soletus’s gaze held to the distance. “Well enough.”
“Well enough,” Oeric grunted. “You don’t look well and certainly aren’t acting it. What was that back there? Honestly, I took a risk and counted on you know being competent, not–” He then stopped himself. Swallowed his fussing and tried again. “That’s not how you act. You know better. Is this because of Lyndon’s dying?”
Soletus stared at him, stunned.
“Yes, I know he’s dead. Him dying sent an icy knife through your heart, didn’t it?”
Soletus’ eyes glistened.
“Your first death is the hardest. Even worse, when it’s someone close. How he die?”
“Saving me,” whispered Soletus. “I held him until he died.”
It was as if he was going down the lists of the worse death situations. Being the one left alive always came with guilt. Oeric took a deep breath. And spoke.
“The first fighting brother who died on me was First Warden Talore. He was a good man, the best mentor a young man could ask for. And he died saving me from a torrent of water from a broken dam. I didn’t even have a body to get his sash. I was devastated.”
Soletus looked at his feet.
“But I had a bunch of men, families, orphans, and elderly to look after. I bottled up my sorrow and marched them to safety and us back home. I talked to Papa about what happened and then spoke to Talore wife and sons. When I came home and found your mother and spent the next hour sobbing in her lap.
“Afterwards, everyone commended me on my actions. It earned me a promotion. And I hated it. Talore saved an entire village from being swallowed by a breaking dam and it felt like I got all the credit. It wasn’t bittersweet, just bitter. It took a bit for me to find peace with it through with Dias’ and with Brother Hickory’s guidance. I learned from it all we should be thankful for the time spent with those we’ve lost and focus on the living.”
Oeric paused at his son’s face becoming embittered. “That does include you.” Soletus regarded him. There was a little spark of light in them. He was listening and not just hearing. “What happened? Why are you all the way out here, of all places?”
Soletus then told him what led them there. It was Kellas’s doing as he thought and wasn’t surprised by any of it. He had an experience with Kellas wanting to take justice in his own hands but never on the scale that Soletus described. It seemed outrageous.
“I don’t blame you for what happened. A first warden should never force his junior members into a situation they can’t handle.”
Soletus pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his head on his knees. “I should’ve left earlier. If I had stood my ground at the inn, then Lyndon wouldn’t be dead.”
Oeric patted his back. “There is very little in life you have control over. And when it comes to decision making, you have to do with what is best for yourself and everyone around you at the time.”
Soletus’ voice shook as he spoke. “I wasn’t thinking about everyone. I hesitated because of what Valhart threatened to say.”
“He threated to say something about me,” said Soletus.
It was about him being neth. How could Soletus be so stupid to let that be in his way? But then again, Oeric knew what fear could do. He swallowed the knee-jerk statement that almost made it out of his mouth and work with what he had thought out during his travels.
“I understand why you feel so guilty about this. I’m not going to lie and say you remain completely blameless here. What I am going to tell you is that being neth shouldn’t be something to be afraid of.”
Soletus went stiff. Oeric didn’t think he was even breathing as he became wide-eyed.
“Why are you shocked? If anyone of us should be, it’s me. Why would you think I would have a problem with it?”
Soletus ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know. I didn’t think you would like it.”
“Why,” Oeric demanded. He couldn’t understand why he didn’t tell him.
“I assumed with all the pushing to get me socialized, you wanted for me to be like everyone else.”
“We pushed to get you socialized because you weren’t acting your age,” he said.
“And I don’t mean that you were acting like a child,” amended Oeric. “I mean it in the way you were not doing something typical for a lad your age. Your mother suggested we introduce you to someone. Her pick was Briar. I thought it better if you worked with the huntresses and pick someone from there. Though both of our ways showed something. I’ve never seen a more oblivious young man in my entire life.”
Soletus’ grimace grew.
“Those girls flirted with you endlessly and you didn’t notice. Your only response was getting annoyed if they pushed too hard. Otherwise, it was all friendly with you. And then you pretend to be with Briar. Yes, I know because it’s obvious. She clashes in your personalities too much. Yet you mysteriously decided to call a truce and then want to be together. That was all the confirmation I needed.”
“Why didn’t you say something if you knew,” said Soletus, becoming agitated. “You could’ve said something instead of experimenting with me.”
“If we confronted you, would you have told the truth and don’t lie,” returned Oeric.
Soletus winced again. “Eventually. The reason I pretended to be with Briar was that I just needed time to figure it all out.”
“Or you could’ve talked to Brother Hickory, who suspected something since your were a baby or even come to me about it.”
“I did tell you,” he said quietly. “That I wasn’t interested in matching a couple years back.”
Oeric shook his head. “Ah yes, that. By the way, that single statement is what led us to do what we did. Next time, try being a little more straightforward.”
“I’m sorry,” said Soletus with his voice cracking. “I didn’t know. I was just afraid of being disowned!”
Oeric grabbed his shoulders and gave him a shake. “Above and below, why in the name of all would you think that I would disown you? I know firsthand how what wrecks a person down to their soul. So when you were born, I promised you I would always be here as long as you needed me. You’re my son. Nothing changes that.”
“But I got killed Lyndon,” said Soletus with a sob.
“You’re still my son.”
“But Mama and Uncle Hart are going to be mad at me,” he said with a gasp.
“Your mother loved Lyndon. He was her other son. But you are her son, no matter what. As for Hart, I can’t speak for him, but you’re not going anywhere. Not for what happened or for you being neth. We will work this out,” he told him. “You’re still my son.”
Soletus started back breathing more steadily. “And you really don’t care?”
Oeric then reached out and hugged him. “My weak heart can’t even stand knowing you’re missing. How am I supposed to disown you?”
He then let go of him quickly and he watched his son clean his face off.
“And you’re not going to try and fix me,” asked Soletus.
“Fix? Don’t tell me you got it in your head somethings wrong with you?”
A wisp of a wry smile appeared on Soletus’s face. “If I say yes, are you going to lecture me more?”
“There is nothing wrong with you,” Oeric exclaimed. It was like when he stared training and claimed he was fat all over again. He assured him then. He didn’t think he would have to do it again. “There is nothing to fix. I got a taste of that nonsense from your grandfather haranguing me about acting neth.”
Soletus stared at him, stunned.
“As unbelievable as it may sound, your mother thought I was neth for the longest time too. So did Maelyra for a bit.”
His son’s eyes narrowed assessing him. “But you’re not…are you?”
“No. There are a lot of beautiful women out there and that’s all they are. I found the only one who fascinated me was Cordea and my feelings for her formed over a lot of time. I was slow, as the say. Or as a more gracious warden I know told me, I needed a finished farm house, barn, and fenced in field with sheep to entice me.”
“But did you ever think that you were?”
Oeric shrugged. “By the time it mattered, I was a cur and trusted no one there. I barely felt anything for myself let alone anyone else. When I came back, I was a former cur. Whether I was neth or not didn’t matter. It mattered more in every aspect of my life. Besides, I still didn’t trust anyone. The only reason it came to the fore front of my life was your grandfather.”
“Because I steadied myself. He wanted people to see me as normal. And young men my age showed interest in women. Starting their own lives and families. I had no such interests. Papa, of course had something to say about it.” Oeric sighed and looked at the sky. “Then I had one of the most uncomfortable conversations I’ve had with him. And one I promised I never would do to you when we got to this point.”
“So, your talk with him was more awkward than this?”
“Sol, this,” gestured Oeric between them. “Isn’t an intrusive barrage of questions, assumptions, and accusations on your personal life. I just wanted you to tell me the truth and we go from there. You get to decide how to live your life. Not me.”
“So, I really didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Soletus and buried his face in his arms.
“No. And I didn’t tell you this just so you feel guiltier. All the guilt in the world isn’t going to change a thing.”
He then let out a muffled, “I’m stupid.”
Oeric putting an arm around him. “Doing stupid things is part of life. Regardless, you’re still my son. And I need you to be that son who is more than that person on the road today. I know you hurt and ache, but that doesn’t mean you need to make others feel your pain.”
“Okay,” said Soletus, unfolding himself.
“Though, if you need more time to sit and breath, now is the time to do it. Once we leave, it’s all duty from here.”
Soletus shook his head. “No, I want to see if Kiao was able to help Vlory. Mien really wanted to save her.”
“Speaking of which, how was she, Kiao I mean?”
Soletus chuckled. “She wasn’t happy with you at all.”
Oeric was certain that was an understatement. He stood up and Soletus reached out and held his wrist.
“Thank you for finding me,” he said.
Oeric’s face softened. “You’re my son. If anyone was going to find you, it was going to be me.”
I'm hoping that Kiao's quote there doesn't come as a shock to the fact that in the future when these stories are written, Oeric is dead. I mean, it's in Hy'Ruh-Ha's prologue. Which acts as a fictional preface to the entire series. Oeric's death and what he did before it, inspired Theris to work on this.
Spoiler: And if you must know how Oeric dies, he has a stroke.
I almost didn't publish this today because I was still working on it. The reason for this section being edited so much is because Oeric, has always said too much. In all the previous version of this chapter, he says a lot and I needed to cut it down. However, I had to have him say it all to figure out what he needs to say. And I had to cut out a section where he talks about him and Cordea and the circumstances of their marriage. It didn't seem relevant here, so, I'm going to have to save it for another story.
As for Oeric's sexuality. I don't like labels. I'll use them when I deem appropriate. And I never really wanted to label him. However, Kiao, back in The Priest and the Priestess, talked about how some elves needed to have an emotional bond established before they accept another. That's Oeric. Also, the warden that Oeric speaks of with needing to have the whole, Farm House, barn, and field with sheep in it, that's another character coming up. I have already written about him on RR. I just needed to establish his existence here.