When Rhaury Ui Birlinn arrived with fresh horses and men Gospels had already whipped the brothers, the wounded, and Ui Birlinn’s guard into an organized column ready to make their way home. It was much easier for Iamerge to turn off his mind and simply do as he was told.
None of the work was particularly strenuous, just lifting and carrying and moving this cart behind that. There were the wounded to load. Some of that was difficult, not for the work, but because so many of the men were sorely wounded, afraid, and in pain.
With ruthless efficiency and tender care, the monks prepared their charges and then stepped out on their way home. The brother’s chanted songs of praise seeming to be alter them into a work song that gave tired muscles strength in their need. Iamerge felt it himself but saw even more the effect on Conal.
Conal was one casualty who bore the pain and indignity with indomitable spirit and good cheer. Iamerge naturally gravitated to the man so that when the column pulled out of the camp it was Conal’s cart that Iamerge walked with, helping to push the ungainly thing up out of the valley. Once that difficult stretch was passed Iamerge could walk beside the cart and listen to the man chat about life and a future in the midst of a situation that Iamerge could never imagine having hope.
“. . . In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. . . ” the brothers sang.
Iamerge shook himself. Not for the first time he realized that his defenses had gotten sloppy. Walking along with the brothers he had forgotten completely about the threat that caused these men their injury in the first place. Yet he’d walked along not even aware to the degree that he followed the psalm singing of the monks much less look to the flanks for possible snipers bent on murder. glancing around and cursing his laxity he noted that Ui Birilinn’s men were cautious even if he was not. There were outriders he could see moving swiftly up and down the column as well as a few men in among the wounded as well.
“What is it Iamerge?” ask his charge.
Iamerge glanced over and saw that Conal looked distressed himself. He was flushed and obviously uncomfortable, “I could ask you the same.” Iamerge shook himself. “I’ve no complaints. My feet are a bit sore. . .” Iamerge realized his stupidity too late. He looked over at Conal and would have apologized profusely, but Conal only laughed.
“I only wish I didn’t have the same problem. I know they’re gone, but they hurt all the same.” Conal cleared his throat, “Fact is, I’d really like some of that birch tea.”
“I’ll see if I can get you some,” said Iamerge.
“I’d thank you for it Iamerge,” said Conal, laying back on his pallet.
“I’ll get you some.” said Iamerge as he left to find what he could along the column.