Fracture

Secret of Kells © Cartoon Saloon

Those who lost family or friends—everyone—visited the cemetary.

The Abbot was there the most, praying over Brendan's grave, though he could sometimes be seen standing over others—the monks', the children's.

He was always avoided.

Some did so because they hated him for his failure; some who pitied him for his loss, but were too intimidated to speak; some because they didn't care.

So he was extremely disoriented when a woman carefully made her way from the tiniest grave to him.

Bree, he recalled. She and her daughter, Fiona, were the only surviving members of the six-strong family that had come seeking shelter in the spring.

As she craned her neck to look at him, he felt a familiar wave of guilt and self-loathing. The grave held her infant son, the same age Brendan had been when Cellach rescued him, if not younger.

The child had perished, alone, in the razing flames. Because of his arrogance, his foolishness—

"Abbot…?" Her voice was soft, so soft that he had to bend slightly to even hear.

He put his calm façade back into place. "Yes?"

She had noticed his flickering expression, however. Her mouth thinned into a serious line.

"I'd like you to know that I don't…I don't blame you." She looked down at her feet, dragged her toe through the snow.

"I don't. I really don't. I actually…" trailing off, she motioned to the broken walls. "You tried to protect us. You gave us hope. Many of the others hate you, but that seems unfair." She paused and looked at his face. He was looking towards her, but avoiding her eyes. His continuing silence prompted her to go on.

"I actually…I want to thank you."

"…No."

She tilted her head.

"No. I don't need your thanks—why do you think—why—the wall failed!" he burst out. "I failed! I killed your family, for God's sake!" He squeezed his eyes shut. "I killed my own… I…" He turned away, ashamed. He didn't deserve her thanks.

Bree considered him carefully. It struck her how tired he looked—even before, she'd noticed how hard he worked, how little he seemed to sleep.

How long had he been praying over his nephew's empty grave?

She wordlessly wrapped her arms around him as best she could.

He froze.

She looked up and said, quietly, "You did your best."

And that broke him.

Cellach slid to his knees. His burning eyes finally overflowed.

"You did your best, Abbot," she repeated, gently rubbing circles on his back.

All he could do was shake under the sheer force of his grief. "I'm sorry," he tried to say.

"Shhh. You need this," she said in calm tones. "It's alright. It's alright."

Hesitantly, he returned her embrace. "…thank…thank you…"