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Alis Grave Nil

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Alis grave nil -- nothing is heavy with wings

He knows from experience, lots of experience, that while it hurts to move, it will hurt more not to move. Grimly he forces himself up from the bed to walk a circuit of the tiny cell for visiting priests that he and Diarmuid are sharing. He runs a hand along the wall to steady himself as he shuffle steps along the perimeter. He has accepted the fact he will come to know these stones intimately before he is through.

Diarmuid protested when he first started getting up, but Sister Agnes with the chipped front tooth, the one who knows the ways of herbs and healing, shushed him, saying, "He knows what he's on about, Brother Diarmuid. He needs to get moving, get the sap flowing to revitalize his limbs."

He laughs a little on the inside at her words, because, yes, he imagines he must look like a gnarled, winter scrawny tree. The fever that almost killed him took a lot of the flesh from his bones -- his legs seem like twigs compared to what they were before. And, no matter what he does, he knows his ribs and hip are going to ache for the rest of his life from where Sir Raymund struck him with the mace, too many days of not moving has set them up wrong. But still, he forces himself up at regular intervals to walk the room. Sister Agnes brings him a stool and he smiles his thanks at being able to sit up straight.

"You were sick more than a fortnight," Diarmuid tells him one night, as he brings a bowl of pease porridge and a little fish because it's Friday, the most substantial meal they've let him eat yet. (He only wishes he were well enough to eat it in the common room.)

He rolls his eyes inwardly and sighs. That he woke clean and dry says everything about Diarmuid's care during those days.

"You also didn't speak, even when you were raving with the fever and we had to swaddle you in wet sheets. You yelled, but you didn't speak ... but I know you can. That's ..." Diarmuid pauses as he searches for the word, "discipline isn't a strong enough word for it."

He smiles and shakes his head. It might be difficult for him to speak these days, but he still chooses silence. He had nothing to say worth hearing before, so it's better this way.

"Will you tell me your name?" Diarmuid asks, hesitantly.

"It's better if you don't know," and "That man is dead, leave him buried" spring to mind. He shakes his head no.

Diarmuid's brow furrows in thought and he drags his hand through his untamed mop of curls. "It's just ... I don't want to call you 'the Mute'. That's a thing, not a name. It's ... it's not right."

"It's as much as I deserve," he thinks. He spreads his hands and shrugs. "Pick something," he says with his eyes.

(Sinner.)

(Apostate.)

(Unclean.)

(Unworthy.)

"A chara."

He feels a hot flare of shame and rage in his cheeks, but Diarmuid's eyes catch his and won't let go. So ... this is who he is to Diarmuid, this is what Diarmuid sees in him.

A chara.

My friend.

He feels something shift deep inside, unclench, let go. He lets out a breath he doesn't realize he's been holding for the past several years.

Yes.

Friend.