Iamerge found his way back to the warmth of the fire and the attentions of the monks. Hebrews saw him first and quickly saw to his cut. Iamerge was relieved there were no questions, but Hebrews’ curious glances built a need in him to confess.
When he could stand it no more he blurted out, “I couldn’t bear to see Conal die right there beside me, I don’t know why. I ran off and got tangled in the brush.” The heat on his neck wasn’t from the fire.
Hebrews’ brow furrowed in thought, “Is that the fellow who had his legs crushed by the ox cart? I think he is well as can be expected.”
“Surely not, he was all blood and bandages and slipping off to sleep, I thought forever.”
“Not so. God is good. He slept for a bit, but he woke as we sang office and I brought him some strong birch tea.”
Perhaps a god who would let a man so mauled live was not so kind as all that, Iamerge thought to himself but said, “That is good news.”
“Perhaps you can see him, if you like. He asked after you.” Hebrews’ smile was guileless and without reproach, but Iamerge wondered if he in fact intended to heap coals of guilt on his head for abandoning the man. Whether he meant it or not the effect was the same, Iamerge was guilty.
“I will,” Iamerge allowed. He began to rise and Hebrews was standing beside to help him up. “Thanks.” Iamerge turned away as he spoke so he wouldn’t have to see Hebrews or be seen by the man. His face was hot with embarrassment.
Fortunately, the blue light of Spark hid the color on his face. Gospels caught him to hand him two bowls of gruel and asked after the bandage on his head. He had to admit to his cowardice again. Gospels seemed unfazed and directed him to take the other bowl to Conal as if the monk hadn’t heard him say that he’d run off into the night to avoid the man.
The blue light made Conal look ghastly. His eyes closed, Iamerge couldn’t believe that the mangled man wasn’t dead, but after a pause to stare, Iamerge saw that Conal’s chest was rising and falling with quick shallow breath.
“Is that breakfast I smell?” said Conal in a weak voice.
Iamerge was pretty certain he jumped, but Conal’s eyes were closed and he rallied well enough, “Yes, I think Gospels made it for us both with his own hands.”
“Truly?” murmured Conal, blood shot eyes opening and a smile spreading across his haggard face, “Did Gospels really do that? That’s nice. Thanks for bring’n it Iamerge.”
Iamerge wasn’t sure what to do. He had never been a nurturer, not naturally. He sat down awkwardly near enough to feed the other man, he assumed he would have to and fretted about how one should do so. Before he could set his own bowl aside and take up the spoon, Conal reached for the nearest bowl and balanced it on his chest with practiced ease.
Conal winked, “I lost my other arm years ago. I’ve got pretty good with the one.” With not another word the one armed man began to eat eagerly.