Conal collapsed back onto his pallet and moaned, “How can I see her like this? I’ve nothing left, she deserves much better.”
“I can tell her that you can’t see her yet, but you know Niamh, she will be out to see for herself sooner than later and that’s nothing I can stop. She will.”
Conal lay still, he nodded to let Rhaury know he’d heard, but made no further move. Iamerge saw a tear run down Conal’s face, past his ear and onto his pallet. Rhaury reached out and patted Conal, a familiar and kind gesture that surprised Iamerge almost as much as learning that Conal was married.
“Well, the other fellows seem to be sleeping, I’ll have to see them another time it seems. You think about Niamh and get word to me when you’ll see her. But if it isn’t soon, expect to see her at your door.”
Rhuary turned and made for the door, his business finished apparently. Iamerge scrambled to follow, “Mr. UiBirlinn, a word.” UiBirlinn was already out the door, but he paused and turned back, holding the door. Iamerge followed him out and Rhaury closed the door behind them.
“It’s hard to see men you command so. . .” UiBirlinn shivered and glanced back at the closed portal, “I might not have come except for Niam always being at my door asking after Conal.” UiBirlinn kept his eyes on the door, looking away from where Iamerge stood.
The conversation had made another odd turn leaving Iamerge without an easy way to broach his subject, desperately wanting to bring the conversation around to his hold stake. The awkward pause widened, “uh, well none of that is your fault.”
“No? Perhaps not, but in the end they are my men. I did not anticipate these creatures, monsters, demons, whatever they are. That’s why I advise you, the monastery, to invest in strong doors. I doubt those monsters will be satisfied with raiding trade caravans. In fact, there are likely to be no more of those while this is at issue. Without caravans to attack they are likely to come looking for plunder, perhaps they but wait the day.” Rhaury turned back, looking at Iamerge with intensity, “What do you think?”
Iamerge wrestled with the question and how he might turn it back to his hold stake, “I hadn’t thought of that. . .” He began, but he didn’t get to add to that ambivalence before Gospels arrived and Rhuary turned away to greet him.
“Ah, master UiBirlinn,” called Gospels.
“Gospels,” greeted UiBirlinn, “You look well.”
“True, I’m not dead yet.” Gospels nodded to Iamerge before stepping closer and smiling up at Rhaury UiBirlinn
Iamerge cursed his stupidity, he’d waited too long and missed his chance, he stepped back into the periphery, wondering how best to make a graceful exit.
“Well, I came to see my men. As I was telling Iamerge here, I’m sure many men survived because of your care. I’m grateful, of course. Thank you.” Rhuary cleared his throat forestalling Gospel’s response and plunged on, “More to the point though, you’ve helped them, perhaps you should look to your own safety as well.”
Gospels looked puzzled, “In what way”
“Doors wouldn’t hurt, some sort of defensible position, what if the kind of monsters that tore up that caravan came against your monastery? I shudder to think of the carnage.” Rhaury glanced away toward the town, but the guesthouse and the hill too would have blocked his vision. “We are trying to make the town more defensible, beyond reinforcing the walls we are adding strong-points along it and closing and guarding the gates at night. Surely you need to make such preparations, abbot.”
Gospels smiled thinly, “Thankfully I do not carry that responsibility in these dark days. I do appreciate your concern, but we have protections that you do not know. Our God will supply all our needs, even if it is needful that we die martyrs for his cause.”
“That would be a very great waste and confirm much of what my mother has said of your order. She is not very complimentary I fear, but if you would not protect yourselves for your own sake, I would beg you to consider the good you could do the citizens of the town. If war comes, as I fear, we could use your healing hands much more than your martyred corpses gloriously scattered around this hill. There will be death enough, I think.”
Iamerge slipped through the doorway into the guest-house. Mostly he wanted to think, and think hard about how to speak to UiBirlinn about his hold-stake and further, from the conversation going on outside, it was clear that he ought to consider getting far gone from this place when he’d secured what was his. But when he looked up, Conal was sitting and looking to him. Iamerge knew that time to think was hard to come by and that Conal’s need would not allow it yet.