‘Brother Ablenden.’ The old man was still bent at the manuscript, quill scratching in his cribbed hand.
Orvin waited, hoping Ablenden would come without him having to pull him away.
The rumours had first wound their way towards them along the coast path, through pilgrims toiling south to Lindisfarne and Durham. There had been tales of dragon ships breathing fire, steered by devils with horns and cloven hooves. But they had felt like myths until the first house fell, all the brothers slaughtered at their prayers, reliquaries melting in the fires that followed.
This morning Halwende had seen them first – spots on the horizon, sails flapping red against the blue dawn. Now the dragon ships were off the coast, the sound of their oars growing louder with every minute, water glinting at their wake as if the sea was on fire.
Father Abbot had sent the icons away days before, wrapped in linen, bundled in saddle bags. But the books … Orvin gazed around the scriptorium, at the shelves of leather bound manuscripts, gold bosses shining in the candlelight like bites of the sun captured. The brothers were too few and too frail to carry them away. Orvin’s heart ached for the hours of diligence and toil wasted.
The old man looked up from the vellum with squinting, mole like eyes. ‘Brother Orvin?’ He seemed surprised to see him, though his name had been spoken four times. With ink blackened fingers, Ablenden placed his quill in the inkwell. ‘Are they almost here?’
Orvin nodded, unable to speak.
‘Come,’ said the old monk. ‘Help me to my knees. We must pray.’
As Orvin gave him his arm, he saw the page Ablenden had been working on. It was an illumination of the beast with seven heads in gold and sapphire and jade, rising from the sea …
Written for Stephanie at Word Adventure’s #tuesdayuseitinasentence. This week’s word is ICON. Not it’s not Tuesday and I am very late, but in hope that Stephanie will forgive me. See here to read the other stories and to join in.