Don't ask what depraved part of my mind this came from, okay? But it's been there for awhile (as MidnightDream can attest) and I FINALLY WROTE IT. There's going to be much, much more. But considering my past as far as updating, I wouldn't hold my breath.
By the way, that gold thing the Abbot wears? That's a lunula. A gold lunula. Just so you know.
You wants the Eye so badly, manfool? Take it!
The pain was horrific. It radiated from his left eye and spread throughout his head, throbbing crushingly with every beat of his heart. And his heart was pounding terribly fast.
He didn't know how long he floated through that dark, oppressive space, his screams being swallowed up by the emptiness. He didn't notice the transition from that strange world to the cave he'd been dragged into. He didn't know how long he spent curled up, bawling pathetically, feeling a puddle of warmth spread beneath the side of his head that was pressed against the stone.
He couldn't open his left eye. The right stung and blurred from tears, but the other was glued shut by…
He heaved himself weakly onto his hands and knees. The pool had dried into a sticky paste. His hand trembled violently as it reached up and prodded the left side of his face, then reached up and touched his hair.
It came away covered in half-dried blood.
He looked down and saw a horrendous pool of the stuff, and an imprint of the side of his face left there. His hand jerked back to his eye, covering it as he pushed himself away from the gory mess, confused and terrified.
Barely making it to his feet, he stumbled into the early morning light. A strange sort of exhausted calm fell over him as he glanced down and saw his cloak, neatly folded with a small flower placed in the center. A trail of snowdrops pushed through the forest, to lead him home.
Taking several hiccupy, stuttering breaths, he shoved himself forward and made his slow, dazed way back to the abbey.
Aidan stood before the fire as the mid-morning light made its way through the windows. He held his head in his hands, muttering darkly to himself.
"Old fools…" He sighed. "Old fools should learn to keep quiet." He turned and looked at the Book. It glittered on the desk, the outer beauty catching the light.
As beautiful as it was, anyone who peered inside knew that it paled in comparison to what was within. But that wouldn't be finished; not here, and probably not anywhere. Without Brendan, a boy bursting with his own light and color and imagination, paired with the Eye, there was no chance of progress.
He reached over and opened the Book, idly turning the pages and watching the hard work and dedication flicker past in whirl of color and careful strokes of quills.
All that, for nothing… Because of his clumsiness, his failure… Cellach's anger at his nephew, Brendan's almost certainly dangerous excursions into the forest… they were for nothing.
A soft sound came from the front of the Scriptorium. Aidan looked up, expecting to see Brother Tang, or perhaps another brother. What he saw made his stomach drop and his heart go cold.
Brendan stood in the doorway, leaning heavily on the door. His face was incredibly pale, and making that paleness even more startling was the fact that the left side of his face, from his neck up through his hair, was stained red with dried blood.
Aidan leapt across the room and grabbed Brendan's shoulders, horrified.
"Brendan?" He gasped, staring at the gore that surrounded the boy's left eye. It covered the lid, clearly making it impossible to open. Aidan wasn't sure if it was a good idea to open it anyway, considering the sheer amount of blood. "Brendan, what happened?"
The boy didn't answer. While his left eye was closed, his right was wide, and a bit wild. His face was practically bloodless, and he shook violently. With each moment that passed, Aidan was shocked he didn't collapse.
Aidan lead the child to a chair and ran to get water and rags. When he came back, Brendan was hunched over in the seat, hugging himself slightly. Aidan's heart broke as the lad's whimpers made their way over to him.
"Brendan?" He said gently. Brendan didn't make any indication that he'd heard. Aidan crept over and sat in front of his young friend. "Let me see." He turned Brendan's head so he could see the damage better. Brendan didn't protest, but his lips still trembled, and he still seemed terribly pale.
"I'm going to wash the blood off, alright?" Aidan asked. Brendan nodded jerkily. As Aidan washed away the dried blood, he kept talking to his apprentice quietly, about anything and everything he could think of. What the sea was like, what it was like to roam through the bigger cities of Ireland, stories of saints and myths from before the time of Christianity in Ireland. He just kept talking, and slowly the caked on blood was wiped away.
What was underneath made Aidan feel as if he was a moment away from vomiting.
Brendan's left eye was no longer something quite recognizable as an eye. A thin slit was all that remained, and it was slightly open. What was visible was a sort of aqua blue, a shade darker than Brendan's irises. Surrounding the slit was an ugly black that networked out like a spider web up to his eyebrow. Thin veins of the same aqua color branched out from what was left of the eye.
And… no. No, that isn't possible… Aidan shook his head, dismissing what he thought he saw.
It wasn't natural. Aidan had never seen a severely injured eye, but he was as certain as he could be that no part of the human body was supposed to have blue veins against black flesh.
Hesitantly, he reached out and touched it. The flesh surrounding the eye felt hard and lifeless.
"Oh, Brendan…" he whispered. "Oh, my boy, what happened?"
"I don't remember…" Brendan whispered, speaking for the first time. His voice was weak and painfully tired. It made Aidan's heart hurt to hear it. "I went into the forest to get the Eye-"
"What?" Aidan stared at him, scarcely believing his ears. "You entered one of the Dark One's caves?" Brendan nodded. "What happened?"
"I don't remember!" Brendan sobbed, dropping his head and holding it in is hands. "I remember going in, and then I woke up and, and-"
Aidan wrapped his arms around the nearly hysterical child, feeling close to tears himself. This is my fault… He thought as Brendan dissolved into tears, his face pressed against the older man's shoulder and making the robe damp.
They stayed that way for quite a while, until Brendan began to calm. Then Aidan reached over, took one of the longer rags, and wrapped it around Brendan's head so that it covered the crushed eye in a haphazard, but still effective way.
"There," he said, smiling in what he hoped was an encouraging way. "We'll get you into bed, alright? You need to get some rest." Brendan swallowed hard and nodded. He was still shaking quite violently, but he managed to stand, and followed Aidan meekly as he was led to his room. Cellach was already up and working on the wall. They managed to get to the Tower undetected, and Aidan tucked the boy in. He was dead to the world in moments.
Aidan glanced at the eye that was covered by the cloth and shuddered. He tried to convince himself that it was all a bad dream; that perhaps he'd find Brendan shaking him awake and the Eye tucked safely in some hidden fold of his satchel.
Aidan stood at the base of the ladder, trying to convince himself that it had been a trick of the light. His own exhaustion making him hallucinate.
With an uncharacteristic curse, he sat heavily on the stool by the bed and held his head in his hands.
There was no getting around it, terrible as it was.
Whatever was there, in the center of that black and blue remnant of Brendan's eye had been moving frantically underneath the lid, completely disconnected from the other eye.
Aidan covered his mouth with his hand and wept.
Brendan was trapped in a freakish fever-dream. Nothing stayed long enough for him to recognize it. Flashes of blood and gore, of slaughtered children and mad-eyed clergymen brandishing knives passed too quickly for them to truly sink in. They left no impression. Brendan felt strangely detached from it all, watching images that would have driven him to madness pass by without so much as blinking.
When I wake up, he thought. I'll remember. And then…
He blinked. The surroundings, whatever they'd been before, had changed. He stood in the center of the ruins of Kells. The stench of burned flesh clung to the air. The stone of the walls were shattered, cracks creeping up and down them like ivy. Nothing was left. No homes remained. There weren't even screams. It was painfully silent, and as feeling began to seep back into Brendan, he found that screams would have been far more preferable.
How does you do this, manfool?
Brendan whirled, and found himself face to face with… himself. Only his left eye wasn't his eye, it was the Eye of Crom. And both eyes were filled with frustration and, strangely, a hatred that seemed to be seeping away with every passing moment.
These thoughts... they hurt me. It was his voice, but not his voice. It was full of more experience and cynicism and indignation than he could produce in a lifetime. I shouldn't beis feeling horror at this image, manfool! What magics are yous using on me? The demand was full of desperation and confusion, and suddenly Brendan was full of those feelings as well.
"Crom Cruach?" The words echoed through the shattered ruins of the abbey. The god stared at the boy helplessly, then glanced to the side and recoiled. Brendan would have sworn that there were tears in His eyes.
Brendan followed his gaze and felt his breath catch.
He raised his hands to block the sight, and found that they were drenched in blood; that he was drenched in blood. The crushing, irrational realization that this was his fault brought him to his knees. He didn't know where it came from, but it came with deadly certainty.
The body was twisted and burned beyond recognition, but one thing remained inexplicably untouched. And it was all he needed to know whose body it was.
Only one person in the abbey wore a gold lunula.
I promise Crom Cruach's speech pattern is entirely temporary. It'll make more sense later, and it's inspired by the speech patterns of the Pagans and (as you'll see later) the Hammerites of the Thief games. Thief: Deadly Shadows, for instance.