It was dark in the scrub tree grove that slowed Iamerge’s headlong plunge. This, this of death is not for me. I’ve died a dozen times and never felt the bite.
There was a breeze that ruffled the woody firs, Iamerge turned and looked. The Wanderer, tumbling as it went, fled away like he had. The darkness all around him felt oppressive despite the moon wind. He stopped to look up at a sky full of stars. Why should I flee what may never touch me?
In the night the chanting of the monks came to him out of darkness, “. . .God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure. My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. . .”
Was this destruction and death the expression of an angry God? And where? Where, out in all that dark, is a god. I see a little light, glittering points of beauty, but where is God?
” . . . He who is pregnant with evil and conceives trouble gives birth to disillusionment. He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.” Iamerge chuckled to himself. He sat among the needles and litter. I wonder if a pit might not be preferable to death, a safe place. I should dig a hidee-hole.
Iamerge sat breathlessly. The silence made him fidget and he would have rose and walked back to the fire if he’d been sure of the way.
Then low and slow the monks began again, building quickly, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” Iamerge turned to the sound. He could see nothing of the firelight. He clambered to his feet, feeling as he began to walk to the sound. “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. . .”
He shuffled forward, waving his hands before him in the blackness. A root seemed to grab his foot and he pitched headlong into a low bushy tree. He stumbled and tried to catch himself, but tangled in the branches he went down hard. Iamerge struck his head and saw stars of a sort. He rolled over, stunned, and saw above him the stars of the sky.
* * *
Conal lay in pain. His legs ached from well below where he knew they now ended, from phantom feet all the way into his belly. He wept, but not for the pain, he wept for joy at the sound of the monks chanting their prayers to the LORD.
“You have set your glory above the heavens.” Above even those stars? I wish I could sing like the brothers. “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
I’m ready to die, I could go now and happily. What use could I be, that the LORD wants me? “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”
In the dimness of the firelight, Conal seemed to hear a still small voice, or he simply knew in his soul, “You will live and you will serve me well. I have loved you, Conal, from everlasting.”
The brothers sang, “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”
Then I will serve you all my days. Conal’s spirit sang with his brothers, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
* * *
Iamerge’s mind whirled in chaos and fear, It was stupid to run out into the night. What was I thinking? Weren’t their corpses he’d seen, men who had fallen to those beasts? Why did he fear to see that man die with him sitting helpless beside? What was so hard about that?
Iamerge looked up and saw a shadow blocking the stars. He cringed, fearing the beast-men. The Stranger only, He thought, around its rim was the dim light of the three stars of Tir na Nua, but the Stranger kept most of that light sending only a little back out to be seen.
Iamerge got to his feet with care now. His senses were alive. Realistically, it was unlikely that those things would return. Then too, he was not far from the men. Conal’s death had un-nerved him and then stumbling in the dark had brought panic. He was fine and would be fine. Soon enough he would see his way clear.
Iamerge felt something on his forehead, he made to brush it away and his fingers came away wet. He was bleeding. “There now, I’ll not escape this foolishness without embarrassment,” He said in the night.
In the dimness he felt something at his feet. He reached down and his probing fingers found a long branch, like a staff. He grasped it and used it to return to standing. Iamerge’s head ached abominably, but the rough wood in his hands was a comfort. He felt less vulnerable. Now nothing left but to find my way back. then I’ll add myself to the wounded souls around the fire, he thought.
Again he heard the monks chanting, “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.” It was a matter of minutes fumbling in the dark and he saw the glow of the fire before him and the blue light of Spark lightening the horizon,