OH my god, I poured a piece of my soul into this.
And thus, I am not satisfied with the ending. It's what a wanted, but... not. Odd. Still, this is easily the longest single thing I've written in the history of EVAR, so we have that.
I'm not saying it's complete (even though technically it is) because there are some little stories that grew out of this universe that I want to write out and put up with it.
Edit: At the suggestion of a friend, I have made some changes. The last few pages of this have been cut, and will be rewritten as later chapters with the other stories, and these will (hopefully) be in order, time-wise. So the story of Brendan leaving will be last.
"Brother Aidan? I'm going to get more berries for the ink. I'll be back soon." Brendan pulled his hood over his head and looked out at the slightly overcast sky.
"Are you sure?" Aidan asked, glancing up from Brendan's art worriedly. "What if the Abbot sees you?"
"He's in the chapel," Brendan assured his mentor. "He always is this time of the day. It'll be fine." With one last, wide grin, Brendan slipped out of the Scriptorium and headed towards the secret passage to the forest.
Aidan looked back to the richly colored illumination, holding the Eye and looking at it closely, marveling at the leaps and strides the boy had taken in his apprenticeship. Then, a thought occurred to him. He frowned, put the Eye down, and went to the window.
The fall was beginning to shift into Irish winter. The oak tree would be bare; no berries would be found there.
Aidan frowned slightly, knowing that Brendan would have known this, wondering why he would not only lie, but lie to venture into the forest in early winter.
His thoughts were broken by a sharp caw. He looked back out the window, and felt a chill grip his heart as his eyes fell on a crow, starkly black against the sky's gray backdrop.
The forest was bare and chilly. Brendan felt slightly guilty about lying to Aidan, but he'd promised Aisling that he'd visit. And he missed her. It'd been a long time since he'd seen her; a week at least.
He stood at the base of the oak tree as snow began to drift down from the sky.
"Aisling?" He called experimentally. He turned this way and that, oblivious to the fact that she was creeping, sneaky and spider-like, down the trunk behind him. She came up behind him and, giggling, tapped him on the shoulder. He jumped, startled, but turned and grinned at her.
"There's a river a little deeper into the forest. It's frozen over a little, but you can see the fish underneath. Wanna go see?" Aisling asked. Brendan nodded eagerly, and they went running into the woods, the snow falling down to cover their little tracks.
A man, weak, injured, and roughly clothed, limped into the Abbey and made desperately for the Chapel. There, he tearfully told Abbot Cellach of the village a mere few hours behind that had been ripped apart, about the group of Vikings that were cutting a path through the woods and making their way here.
The Abbot hurried to the tower and threw open the trap door. Confusion mixed with betrayal and rage in his stomach as he stalked across the courtyard to the Scriptorium. He threw the doors open, and took in the faces of the brothers of Kells. First shocked, then guilty, they seemed to shrink as he walked towards the brother of Iona, who stood behind the desk.
Aidan was there, but not Brendan. Cellach stopped, the rage in his heart stuttering and giving way to a small splinter of fear that wormed its way deeper and deeper. He looked about the room, listened in the guilty silence. Nothing. No Brendan.
"Where is he?" Cellach asked, his voice loud and, for the first time in a rather long time, afraid. Aidan swallowed and looked down at the desk, and at the intricate drawing the boy had finished. "Where is Brendan, Aidan?" Aidan honestly tried to speak, but fear, not of the Abbot but for Brendan, seized his throat and silenced him.
Crows were the signal. Crows were how it began…
"Aidan…" Brother Leonardo said, his voice small. "Where is Brendan? You never said…" Aidan looked up at Cellach.
"He went to the forest, Cellach. About an hour ago."
The color drained from the abbot's face so quickly that the brothers all took a step towards him, fearful that he would faint.
"The Vikings are coming," Cellach hissed, glaring at the older, smaller man. "And he's in the forest. He could be in their path right now. And for what, Aidan?"
"I don't know," Aidan admitted quietly.
"You don't know?" Cellach snapped, shaking.
"No. He said it was for berries to make ink. But there are no berries at this time of year." Aidan looked up at his old friend, pleading with him to understand. "I don't know why he went in the forest, Cellach."
Cellach started to reply, but a demented chorus of raw croaks cut him off. The brothers and the Abbot ran out into the courtyard and gazed up, horrified, as dozens of pitch black birds soared over the Abbey of Kells. The Abbot turned to the brothers.
"Brother Tang, tell the villagers to stay in their huts. You all take the refugees to the chapel. They can seek comfort there." The brothers nodded and hurried off, leaving Aidan standing on the steps, staring up at the sky.
Cellach pushed Aidan firmly into the Scriptorium. "You'll be safe here," he spat. "With your precious book."
The accusation was clear, and Aidan flinched as if he'd been slapped.
The Abbot shut the doors and turned the key in the lock. Then he turned towards the forest, a flicker of the worry he felt letting itself become visible on his face.
The children giggled, crouching by the river, watching the fish swim by under glass-like ice.
"I wonder if the ice could hold my weight?" Aisling mused aloud.
"Looks thin," the boy said skeptically. "I doubt it."
"I'm lighter than I look," Aisling said peevishly. "I'm a fairy. I was a salmon once."
"Oh, no you weren't!" Brendan said. Aisling nodded emphatically.
"It's true! I swam down this river before." She smiled dreamily. "It was wonderful. Late spring. The lilies were-" She stopped, the smile slipping from her features. "Do you hear that?"
Brendan tilted his head and listened hard. He shrugged. "I don't hear anything."
"Exactly," she whispered, standing. "The forest is too… still. Something's wrong." Brendan stood, his eyes on his fairy friend, as she peered into the forest. With a chill, he realized she was staring the direction of the Dark One's Cave.
His heart leapt in his chest as Aisling leapt back and shrieked. He reached for her and hugged her tightly, staring into the dark that she was staring into, fearful, but unclear as to why they were frightened.
"What's there, Aisling?" He asked, her arms painfully tight around his chest.
"She is," the fairy hissed. She broke the embrace and grabbed his wrist, dragging him back towards the Abbey. "We have to warn them!"
"Warn them about what?" Brendan gasped, trying to keep up.
"Who is she?" Brendan persisted.
Aisling didn't answer. She kept running, swift as a deer, her grip vice-like on Brendan's wrist, half-leading, half-dragging the boy through the forest, towards the Abbey.
The Vikings cut through the Abbey like the farmers of a wheat field, their swords and axes cutting down men, women and children. The Abbot pushed past the pain of the arrow piercing his shoulder and fought back desperately, the way he had for his and Brendan's life so many years ago.
The ground churned with bloody slush and mud, the sky above was red and black with smoke and flame. The scene was eerily similar to the fall of the village where his sister died. In the hazy heat, he half expected to look down and see her, if only out of a hallucination.
There was a crash, and Cellach looked to see the doors of the Scriptorium shattered, with Vikings stepping into it. Aidan… Cellach thought, his brain sluggish.
He turned and saw a Viking looming over him, its sword raised high. He wouldn't be able to block it; the sword he wielded was too heavy, his arm weak and shaking from blood loss. It growled, it eyes like burning coals, glaring down at him. The sword began to fall, and he thought, desperately, Brendan!
Then, suddenly and without warning, everything stopped. Silence fell like a blanket over the Abbey, and it was as if everyone had stopped breathing.
The Viking that loomed over Cellach lowered its sword and looked towards the wall opposite of the gate and stepped backwards. Then it roared, apparently yelling commands in its native tongue, and the group of Vikings fled, leaving the survivors breathless, stunned, and confused.
"Aisling! What's coming?" Brendan asked, his legs and lungs burning. The fairy ignored him as the wall loomed nearer and nearer. With a sick chill of horror, Brendan smelled smoke. "The Vikings? Is that what you're-"
"No." She said tensely, pushing Brendan into the secret passage and following him as he hurried through.
As he ran into the main courtyard, his eyes took in the horror and destruction. The Scriptorium was in ruins, the village still smoldering. People huddled in groups, their faces smudged with tears washing streaks down their cheeks, shivering. His uncle sat on the steps of the tower, wincing as Brother Tang attempted to carefully pull out an arrow that punctured his shoulder. Brother Aidan stood nearby, pale and silent, save for the occasional cough.
"Uncle! Brother Aidan!" Brendan cried, murmuring a soft prayer of thanks. Both men turned. Aidan beamed and ran to the boy.
"Brendan! Oh, thank the Lord you're safe!" He cried, looking at him as if he was scarcely believing his eyes. Brendan glanced at his uncle. The expression on the man's face was hard to read, but then, briefly, a smile managed to break through the exhaustion and ash. When his eyes landed on the fairy, however, he frowned.
"Brendan?" Aidan said quietly, also looking at the wild-looking child. "Who is this?"
"Everyone," Brendan said breathlessly, still trying to recover from the intense run he'd just experienced. "This is-"
"We have to run," the girl interrupted.
"Aisling…" Brendan finished slowly, turning to his friend. "Aisling, why? You haven't-"
"What are you?" Cellach stood, towering over them all. Only Aisling met his gaze unflinchingly.
"I am Aisling, of the Tuatha Dé Danann."
"A fairy." Cellach hissed, clearly not believing her. "Well, you can go back to your wood, Fairy. The threat has passed. The Vikings have fled."
"And still you stay!" Aisling snapped, disbelieving. "Why would the Vikings flee? Your mighty prowess in battle?"
The brothers and villagers watched the argument between Old Ireland and New Ireland with awe. The Abbot scowled, clearly stung by Aisling's mockery, but before he could say anything more, Brendan leapt between them.
The boy turned to Aisling. "Who's coming, Aisling?" He asked, his voice deceptively calm.
"What is coming has no name." Aisling replied, tense, like a deer a moment away from bounding into the trees. "She hasn't had one for ages. She is the Nameless Dark. The Forgotten Dark. The pagans of Ireland have forgotten her completely. My folk remember her existence, but not her name. But she is real, and she is connected to the Dark One. To Crom."
The villagers shifted uneasily at the name, but Cellach scoffed and muttered, "Pagan nonsense."
"It's true!" Aisling protested. She glanced back fearfully at the trees. "She's slow, though. Sluggish. She's been asleep for so long. If we run now-"
"And why should we trust you?" Cellach snapped.
"Why would I lie?" The fairy was clearly growing desperate. "Why would the Vikings flee Kells? Why wouldn't a being connected to the Dark One attack after Brendan defeated the Dark One?" Cellach stopped, dumbfounded.
"Brendan did what?" He said, turning to his nephew. The boy had the grace to look embarrassed as the villagers stared at him as if he was some sort of legendary hero.
Aidan stepped forward and drew out the Eye. "Brendan ventured into the Dark One's cave to retrieve this," he supplied, his voice quiet from the smoke. "He emerged victorious."
"He turned darkness into light." Aisling said, stepping forward, past Brendan and towards the Abbot. "He blinded the Dark One and trapped him in a cage." She stood, toe to toe with the man, and for a moment, in the filthy snow and hazy light, was just as intimidating and impressive as the Abbot. "The Nameless Dark is not coming for the Abbey. Not really," she whispered, her voice piercing. "She's coming for Brendan."
The phrase hung in the air, and Cellach stared down at the girl, his fists clenched and shaking.
"If we stay here, she will find him," Aisling continued. "She may kill him first, and then all of us. Or she may kill us all in front of him, out of spite. Or she may kill all but Brendan and the ones who love him, and kill him in front of us.
"The thing is, I don't know. Because she is not rational. She is lonely, and insane, and all she knows now is that a boy called Brendan killed Crom, and she will kill him for that. That much I'm sure of. She wouldn't wake up for anything less."
The coldly desperate speech left the abbey breathless. Brendan trembled violently, and Cellach looked from the girl to his nephew and back, his face pale. Aidan put his hand gently on his apprentice's shoulder and looked at Cellach pleadingly.
Cellach passed a hand over his face. "We've wasted time," he whispered, capitulating. Aisling nodded, her face awash with relief.
"But we can still run, and hope that we are fast enough," she assured him gently.
As the Abbot began to give out instructions on what to take and how much, Aisling turned to her young friend.
"I'm sorry I had to be so blunt," she said quietly, taking his hand in hers. "It seemed like the only way. Your uncle's so…"
"I get it," he said, clearly shaken, his smile more sickly than reassuring. "Really." Aisling opened her mouth to say something else, but froze and turned toward the far wall, a look of absolute horror on her face.
"It's too late…" she whispered. Then she turned to the people. "Get to higher ground! She's here!"
Everyone froze, despite Aisling's warning, and Brendan turned towards the passage to the forest as a slow, deep chill crept up his neck.
The words cut through his mind like a knife, and he clutched his head with a gasp. He felt Aisling's hands on his shoulders, but her words were muffled. The voice, cold and high, slithered back into his brain, clear and sharp as glass.
How've you been? I've been real busy looking for someone who was dead. You know… because you murdered him.
Brendan felt Aisling grab his wrist again, and he was pulled towards the scaffolding. Aisling screamed in his ear, "CLIMB! There's only so much of her. She can't climb high! CLIMB!" He looked up and saw Aidan and Pangur climbing up the scaffolding swiftly. His uncle was climbing as well, though far more slowly. Villagers were scrambling up other scaffoldings, and up the rickety stairs to the high rooms of the tower. He looked to the secret passage and figured out why.
Something sick, dark, and foul was seeping through the passage. The stone it touched became dark and stained; the scaffold it seeped through became weak and collapsed on itself. It bled quicker and quicker into the abbey, which acted almost as a bowl, catching the stuff and holding it.
Brendan began to climb. Aisling, convinced that he wasn't going to stop, slinked up the wall like a spider, and began to help people get up to the top.
I'll let you choose, Brendan. Who shall I kill in front of you first? Your uncle? Aidan? Aisling? The cat, perhaps?
Brendan gritted his teeth and kept climbing. A grinding snap echoed through the abbey, and the boy heard his uncle cry, "No! They aren't strong enough!" Brendan followed his uncle's gaze, and watched the stairs to the tower crumble beneath the feet of the desperate men, women and children. They fell into the muck, which couldn't have been that deep, but it swallowed them completely. Hands seemed to rise up and drag them down. It took moments for the terrified screams to be cut off.
The ooze seeped closer and closer to their scaffolding. "Hurry!" Aisling shrieked.
Scaffoldings crumbled like the staircase, and it happened all over again. Brendan found it impossible to look away, though his vision blurred and stung.
What you did wasn't brave, you know. It was murder. And now all these people are going to die. Because of you. Good job, Hero.
Aisling grabbed Cellach's wrist and helped him onto the wall as easily as she did a child. He blinked, startled at her strength, as the fairy reached down to Brendan, who climbed desperately, trying to block out the voice in his head.
No one's going to call you brother again. Or nephew. Or son. Once I swallow you up, they'll forget you ever existed. Everything you've ever done is meaningless; incorporeal; made of mist. Because you should have died twelve years ago, with your pretty mother. I'm just fixing what your uncle screwed up.
He reached up to Aisling, felt her hand grab his…
You're not getting away, silly.
The ladder crumbled beneath his fingers, the scaffold disintegrated beneath his feet, and suddenly all his weight was pulling on his shoulder. Before he could do anything, before Aisling could relieve the awful pull and get him onto the wall, cold hands wrapped around his ankles and tried to drag him down.
His cry was fear mixed with pain. Aisling grabbed his other wrist, having barely kept her grip on the one, and pulled back. Terrified, babbling prayers tumbled out of Brendan's mouth as a terrible tug-of-war began.
Aidan reached around Aisling and grabbed Brendan's wrists as well, adding his comparatively meager strength to the fight. Brendan heard a brother plead with Cellach to stay back.
If Cellach agreed or not, Brendan never knew, though in hindsight he doubted it. A moment after that, Aisling's grip faltered, and with one great pull, Brendan was falling.
"Remember the Light, Brendan!" Aisling screamed. And the last thing Brendan heard was that. The last thing he saw was the horrified faces of Aisling, Aidan, and his uncle.
And then, all was black.
Your life has been bought by blood, Brendan. By killing you, I'm doing the world a favor.
You're a burden on your uncle. He fought through a sea of Vikings to save you, and all you've done is disobey him and disappoint him, and for what? A book? You're ungrateful, and you know it. And he knows it.
You were burden on the monks of Kells. You brought this to them, you know. All of this. The destruction, the terror, even the Vikings. If Cellach hadn't saved you, they wouldn't even know the abbey existed. You should have died with your parents, in the smoke, under the flaming roof. All you've brought to this place is woe.
Aidan only cares because you can complete the Book. That package of pages is worth more in his eyes than you ever will. And really, what goodness has he brought to your life? He's destroyed any trust your uncle had in you. For his book. Is that a real friend? No. He's using you.
You're a leaf on the wind to Aisling. She's a fairy. You think she cares about you? You're a spark, a dust mote, a charming fool she happened to pass when she was feeling bored. She'll leave when she gets her fill, and you'll never see her again.
Face it. You have nothing. No one.
It's better if you just give up.
You won't be alone for long.
The people you thought cared will be here soon.
Brendan's thoughts were bloody, fiery, bitter things. His uncle's unsmiling face glaring down at him in disappointment, Aisling being poisoned by the Darkness and crushed by the statue, Aidan turning his back on Brendan after he realized the Eye was lost on Iona, the stairs beneath the villagers shattering, their bodies falling, screaming, into the darkness.
And a red haired, blue-eyed woman lying in blood, a sword in her hand, her eyes closed, the roof above them burning, a moment from caving in.
He covered his eyes as if they would make the images go away. The darkness seemed like a physical thing, but in his confused state, he couldn't tell if it really was physical or not. Either way, it pressed close to him, whispering unintelligibly and laughing cruelly.
Brendan sobbed and tried to focus on what Aisling's last words to him were. It took several flailing moments, but the words came back to him.
Remember the Light, Brendan!
The Light… The boy thought. What Light?
He thought desperately, reaching for some memory that was warm and bright. The darkness easily brought dark, cold memories to the forefront, swallowing any hope he had.
His uncle dragging him bodily into the tower and locking him in his room…
But why had he done that?
He was worried about me… Brendan thought, his thoughts clawing past the implications to the truth. Because…
With a blinding flash, Brendan seized on the Light, fierce and triumphant as the thought finished.
…Because he loves me.
The cruel thoughts were washed away so quickly that Brendan wondered how they'd even taken hold. A enraged screech echoed through the darkness and the silence.
His uncle had smiled with relief when Brendan stumbled out of the forest. Aidan had stayed with him through the nights, gently encouraging him to unlock his potential as an illuminator, not just for the Book, but for Brendan's own happiness. Aisling and Brendan ran through the forest, giggling and climbing trees and gazing at nature in reverent awe.
The voice flung curses at him in Latin, English, Scottish, every language under the sun it seemed. It was beyond talking in any coherent fashion.
And he had dreamed. He had dreamed about soft hands wrapping him in blankets and holding him close, and a pretty woman with blue eyes and red hair smiling down at him and humming a lullaby.
"We will make fun of your uncle's hair today, Brendan." The woman said with a roguish but gentle grin. "Because we are his family, and family does things like encourage haircuts. Especially when a grown man has hair like that. They may think it's fashionable, but it's not… Remember that."
The brothers of Kells had shown him their techniques in illumination and story telling. They'd given him rolls from underneath the table when his uncle insisted it was time for bed and not supper. They'd applauded his successes and nodded sympathetically at his downfalls.
His uncle had taught him how to walk and talk. In creating the wall, he had not only tried to protect Brendan in the only way he knew how. He also taught the boy math.
Aisling showed him plants that could be used to heal, and plants that could be eaten, and plants that should be avoided. Once, they'd stretched out on a grassy hill as the sun set and watched the stars appear. She'd taught him the ancient name of each star as it peeped out of the inky darkness.
Aidan had brought him to the Book. He opened his eyes to the world outside of Kells. In an indirect way, he'd introduced Brendan to Aisling. In entrusting the fate of the Book to Brendan, he'd made it clear in the greatest way he had to offer that he trusted Brendan.
I've climbed trees. Just… smaller ones.
Yeah. Like bushes!
There was a flash of light and a shriek. And then, Brendan fell to the ground with a solid, painful thunk.
The ooze shifted like a wave, eating at each scaffold and claiming those too slow to get to the top of the wall.
Cellach was too heartbroken to notice.
The chapel was overrun. The wooden doors yielded to the darkness almost instantly, and the refugees and brothers added their brief screams to the din before being claimed by the goddess.
Aidan sat, holding his head in his hands; Pangur was curled up next to him, the cat's mismatched eyes glazed with sorrow.
The ooze that had made its way to Kells had taken its awful toll on Aisling's forest. The once wood was gone, replaced by a layer of darkness. The trees had crumbled into nothing.
Aisling was still screaming into the dark that Brendan had fallen into, crying herself hoarse, desperate that her instructions were heard.
Then, abruptly, a high shriek cut through the sound. Everyone froze as the cry continued on and on.
Then, suddenly, the dark retreated. It fled back, out the passage and back into the husk of the forest, leaving stranded villagers and a great glob of harmless muck in its wake.
The change was so abrupt that all there was was startled silence for several long moments. Then, the glob in the courtyard moved.
"Brendan?" Aisling gasped, leaping from the wall and landing, catlike, on the ground. The survivors watched her as she ran to the feebly moving blob and reached in, plunging up the shoulders, and pulled out a thickly coated figure.
Cellach craned his head, his eyes terribly desperate, as Aisling scrapped the ooze off and revealed Brendan's unconscious face. Then she sloughed off what was on his chest and pressed her ear there, listening closely for a heartbeat.
Elated, she looked up and called, "He's alive!"
It was with some difficulty that the survivors managed to get down from the walls. The tower folk had their makeshift ladder, and when they'd all managed to get down, they gave it to Aisling. Brother Tang rushed over to the Abbot and asked, horrified, "What on earth happened?" Cellach laughed, laughed, quietly but clearly, and assured the elderly brother that he'd explain it all later.
Brother Tang stared at the younger man as if he'd lost his senses, probably because no one had heard the Abbot laugh in years.
Aisling had carried the ladder up to each of the groups of survivors, and they'd slowly made their way down to the courtyard. Children and adults alike hesitantly poked and prodded the muck, testing for aggression.
The Abbot, when he'd made his way to the courtyard, had stumbled to his nephew and held him tighter than he had in the boy's recent memory. After a startled moment, the boy returned the embrace, and they didn't move for a very long time. Aidan wiped away a tear and Aisling, in watery tones, chided onlookers to move along.
The Abbey was in ruins. Only the things made of stone survived, though they were dyed with a sickly purplish color. The survivors weren't many, but they certainly weren't few either.
"You may use my forest to rebuild," Aisling said, with the tone of one who was reluctantly granting a lesser some great boon. Everyone stared at her.
"What forest?" A villager cried. "There is no forest!"
"He has a point, Aisling…" Brendan said quietly. "The Darkness killed your forest. There's no wood there."
"There's plenty of stone here," the fairy said, gesturing to the wall. "You can use some of that to rebuild." The scandalized look on Cellach's face was ignored. "And besides…" She smiled at Brendan charmingly. "Nothing in nature stays dead. Watch."
The villagers and monks followed Aisling to the top of the wall, where she stood on the edge, facing her poor forest. She turned to them, grinning, and then simply fell backwards off the wall.
In retrospect, it was pointless theatricality, but it certainly startled the monks. Brendan cried out and ran to the edge, peering over.
Aisling was a fairy, but she was also far more than that. She was the guardian spirit of the forest of Kells, and so the earth yielded to her like water. And what rippled from the impact point was green.
Lush, out-of-season foliage burst from the ground. The earth swallowed the remaining mess, replacing it with wild flowers. From the former tree line onwards, mighty oaks, supple yew trees, alder, hawthorn, beech and holly burst out of the ground and reached for the sky. Heedless of the snow, grass peeped out of the earth.
And it spread away from the forest too. Ivy chased itself up the wall, and the green trickled through the secret passage and covered the dead ground in life. Snowdrop flowers, just a few, blossomed on the ledge in front of Brendan. He grinned and glanced at his uncle, who was understandably speechless.
"Believe her now, Uncle?" He asked. The man looked from Brendan to the forest that hadn't been there five minutes ago and let out a rather explosive breath.
"Yes," he said weakly.
"Miracles…" Aidan whispered, voicing the thought of every person in Kells. "We've witnessed a miracle."
"So I suppose you can cut what you need." They all jumped and turned, seeing Aisling standing next to them, grinning broadly. "Though I don't think you'll really need the wall anymore. Those Vikings aren't coming back. They think this place has been claimed by the Dark…"
"… And it very nearly was. How did you beat her, Brendan?" Aisling asked, sitting with the boy, his uncle, Aidan and Pangur in a small clearing in the forest, away from curious people and listening walls. Brendan squirmed, blushing a bit.
"I thought of Light," he muttered. Aisling rolled her eyes.
"Of course," she said impatiently. "But it's more than that. What did you think of?" Brendan looked at her pleadingly, but she clearly wasn't going to back off. So, glancing at the two curious, older monks awkwardly, Brendan explained.
"I thought of all of you. And everyone, really," he added hurriedly. "I thought of-"
"Love." Aisling finished softly. "You thought of Love." Brendan blushed furiously, nodding, but not meeting anyone's gaze. Aisling smiled, leaned over, and kissed him on the cheek.
Aidan chuckled indulgently, and Cellach frowned slightly as Brendan's ears turned redder than his hair, and Aisling wrapped her thin arms around him in a hug.