Iamerge didn’t want to feel like he was being imposed on, but he did. Six times a day, interminably it felt sometimes, all the monks of the community were at prayer. Only five men remained in the guesthouse-turned-hospital, but for all those hours of chanted obeisance to their god it was left to Iamerge to tend to the needs of that hand full of men.
And what needs. Iamerge had never felt particularly paternal. Of the children born to his wives it seemed likely that none were of his blood. Perhaps that was not an excuse for his indifference to them, but it might well be a reason. These men, in need of every sort of help, were not even known to him before a few days ago, and with the exception of Conal, he had no interest in continuing the association.
Conal, for his part, did what he could from his pallet. The good-hearted, one-limbed, man supplied a needed interface between Iamerge and the others. Iamerge had no sense of their need, nor desire to meet them, so as a team they managed, the cripple and malcontent. Still the best that Conal could do was identify more tasks for Iamerge to do and the only reward was a little less moaning and complaining.
Iamerge sighed, dealing with foul smelling dressings on the fellow who Iamerge felt certain would die next seemed more than he could bear. He stifled the wish that “whimpers in the night” (Iamerge’s name for the poor man) would succumb sooner rather than later.
Despite the best efforts of the monks, Gospels in particular, three of the eight severely wounded that had crowded the guesthouse had died soon after the long trudge from the disaster. Two of the fellows who had seemed fine and gone on to town, had grown worse and not died before Ui Birlinn could bring them out to Gospels. Only one man, first admitted to the makeshift hospital, had rallied and asked to go home instead of staying with the monks. Iamerge had some suspicion that at least one of men he was forced to tend was malingering, though this fellow, “whimpers in the night,” at least, was not one of them. And of course there was Conal, who was greviously wounded, but somehow didn’t seem like an inmate, but rather one of the monks now, just waiting to assume his duties.
Iamerge sighed again, the man whimpered, jabbering away in some strange dialect that Iamerge didn’t recognise at all. It made the man even less appealing, an alien.
“Steady there Jonesie,” said Conal, “You’re do’n fine. Iamerge’s fix’n you up good and noth’n to worry about now. You’re in the LORD’s house.”
The wounded man was delirious, Conal could talk himself blue and that wouldn’t do a thing for these infected wounds. So Jonesie was the man’s name then, not whimpers at all. Well, Jonesie, good luck to you, Lord’s house or no. Iamerge let out yet another self pitying sigh.
Conal mistook self-pity for concern, “Is it bad Iamerge?”
“Is it as bad as it smells, do you mean?” Iamerge barked and immediately repented of his harsh words, “It is bad enough to kill him if he doesn’t want to live, maybe even if he does.”
Conal considered the words, but found nothing further to say. Iamerge finished with the bandages and took the mess with him toward the door and fresh air outside. Leaving “whimpers in the night,” Jonesie rather, Iamerge reminded himself, as he walked by Conal who smiled at him encouragingly.
It was too much. Too much doing for men he didn’t care for. Too much laying awake while they moaned in the night. Iamerge looked out from the guesthouse down the hill and saw a rider coming toward the monastery.