Three men trudged up the hill and away from the small village. The large stone building of the council grew smaller, and less imposing, as they moved up the hill. Of the three, only one looked back from again and again. Cormag’s glance repeatedly returned to the village during the walk up the hill. His anger had abated when the complete support of the other two had become evident. At worst, he could now be described as grudging. At his best, though, he was a solid companion, who had shown himself to be dedicated to their task.
A cold, spring rain was just beginning to fall as they reached the top of the hill and the group paused. All three men turned to look down on the village they were leaving. In silence, their eyes fell on their former homes, already full with refugees from the most recent crusade. This small place in the country seemed a bastion of sanity in an ever less sane world, and good people were fleeing from the madness to settle here.
Barnaby was happy that they had a place to flee to, and grateful for the safety the Brotherhood could provide. A constant line of worry had become etched between his eyebrows of late. He watched the movement in the village as people arrived and were escorted to new houses. Builders worked steadily to add rooms to existing homes that had opened their doors to the refugees. Barnaby has been vocal about their duty to provide a haven for these people, and now, with it all in progress, he was glad to be leaving. The job of it was well underway, and these families would now be safe. He had more pressing things to attend to.
Diarmuid, far from his original home, was the least affected by this departure. He took it on with the same equanimity and grace that he met all challenges with. He had already left one home to journey to join the Brotherhood, and another when the Brotherhood had established this village, and leaving this home seemed, to him, merely another season in his life. He hoped someday that he would find a place that he wished to live and settle in, but for now, he was content to go where the wind of the Lords and Ladies blew him. He worried about this new wind he felt rising; this wind that carried crusades and inquisitions on its back. Diarmuid was relieved to be moving out of its reach.
Cormag stood, stony-faced, on the hill and stared at what was left of his home. During the Winter, he, Barnaby, and Diarmuid had performed the rituals for the dead. His two companions were the only ones who helped, giving him the true measure of them. They had burned the timbers of the house when they were finished, until all that stood was the stone foundation. He hoped that the spirits of his family could rest and that they, including his father, had found enough peace to move on. Burning the house had seemed the most complete way to release them, and even as he stood at the top of the hill, he could see workers moving the stones from the foundation and placing them, for a time, in a fire before moving them to a new home. The people of the village were not, by and large, a superstitious lot, but Lugh’s crime had been so severe and shocking that they were taking time to renew anything that had touched the tragedy. Cormag also had done more than was required to put their souls to rest. He would live until his dying day with the image of his family, bloodied and dead, while he held his dying father and asked why. All he could hope for now was that they were at peace and that he too may find a measure of it.
Cormag was still unsettled by the council’s decision to send him with Barnaby and Diarmuid. He had known Barnaby for many years and looked up to him. Barnaby had been a friend of his father’s despite being several years his junior, and had mentored Cormag when he first joined the Brotherhood. As a result, Barnaby has stepped into the role of Cormag’s father once the council had passed judgment. Cormag was at turns grateful and resentful over the attention. He was the youngest of the three by many years. Not quite young enough to be a son, but not quite old enough to be a brother. Now that they were held in time by their task, he would forever be this young man, in need of guidance and a father figure, and it chafed. He supposed it was better than having the task put on him when he was old and doddering, however.
At last, he turned away from the town and toward the start of their journey. The hills ahead became mountains, and nestled in those peaks was the place they were bound. He turned to ask the men if it was time to leave and found them in an attitude of prayer as they looked over the town. As quiet as the wind, came the sound of Diarmuid whispering.
“Benedicat et custodiat nos vicus absentis nomen reciperetur. Dimitte animas ad transigendum. Custodi in gratia perdita quaesisse atque confusa. Ordo Fratrum vepribus et sanitatem et pacem iis qui ad mensuram sanctuarii.”
(Bless and preserve this village in our absence. Let go the souls who are ready to move on. Keep in grace the lost and confused. Lords and Ladies, bring health and peace to the Brotherhood and all who turn to them for sanctuary.)
Cormag turned away from them, tears in his eyes as he listened.
“Nos tuendos susceperunt in prospero itinere pergerent. Laetetur cor cormag corrigendum. Tibi placeat facere simplex pro nobis. Permissum is negotium exsisto facile universa.”
(Keep us safe as we journey. Let your heart be mended, Cormag. Please let this task be easily completed. Let all in the Universe be at peace.)
Embarrassed, Cormag gruffly picked up his things and trudged a few steps further, out of hearing. He didn’t want them to be nice. He didn’t want them to pray for him. He didn’t even want to like them, these men he had been saddled with against his will. But he was grateful to them, and glad that of all the men that could have been with him, it had been these two who were kind and gentle. He looked at them once again, wearing the cloaks of the Brotherhood and saying gentle prayers at the top of this rainy hill, and felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment . In spite of being grateful, he had directed much anger their way over the last months. He began to quietly offer a prayer of his own.
“Tibi gratias ago pro munere fratribus. Tibi gratias ago, quod me in gratia. Gratias agimus tibi propter bonum mihi quia. Please Barnabae et Diarmuid bene in fide, tum in valetudini caveat, commodo in actiones.”
(Thank you for the gift of my brothers. Thank you for keeping me in grace. Thank you for seeing the good in my heart. Please keep Barnaby and Diarmuid well in faith, well in health, and well in actions.)
At the end of his prayer he rejoined the now silent men. Barnaby looked at him and smiled. In unison, the men moved off, turning their backs on the village for the final time and stepping on to the path that led into the mountains. They knew things would be different in the village if they were ever to return, and they knew it just as likely that they would never come back. As they descended the far side of the hill, they began to talk with one another. The talk was simple, but like the first steps on the path, it was a start.
Forgive any Latin translation liberties, as I am relying on several internet translators.
This is part four of a short story/novella. I will be posting parts every Tuesday until it is all here. It is by no means finished, so please share your questions/comments/suggestions.
You can find the previous parts here:
The story continues here: