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Portraits part 4

March 28, 2012

The king was taken aback when his page whispered in his ear that the villagers had something of an oddity to show him.  He leaned back in his chair and propped his left elbow on the table edge in order to rest his head on his knuckles.  His lined eyes were now sparked with interest, and he ignored the rumblings of his stomach.  His nobles were sitting amongst him under a large yellow and red tent at long tables set in a rectangle, the silver feasting dishes set out and waiting for the small army of pages to fill them with food.  A small cross hung directly behind the king.  The nobles looked at their leader expectantly, sitting in ordinary clothes, though some were still in their armor.  Fortifying villages against the Vikings kept them on their toes, the strain showing in dark circles under eyes and slumped lines of shoulders.

“My page informs me we have a curiosity for the evening,” announced the king.  “Yesterday three monks dying of thirst washed up on the shore, speaking a tongue unknown to the persons who found them.  But let us see if we can crack it.”  The king smiled, leaned forward, and rubbed his hands together.

His page disappeared out the front tent flap and reappeared in a few minutes with three very thin looking young men trailing behind.  They peered about themselves nervously, their robes much too big for them and mended with course string in a few places.  Their skin looked like it had been scrubbed raw.  They came to a stop before the king in a line, heads bent but backs ramrod straight as if awaiting disciplining.  The noble with a goatee to the king’s left raised an eyebrow.  The king laughed, “By your red hair, I’d say you were from Ireland.”

This garnered no response except a fidget from the shortest man.  Another noble coughed.

The king’s smiled broadened.  “Who are you and where are you from?”  Still no response.  The king wavered but brightened and continued.  “Qui estis et qua venitis?”

One monk’s head snapped up and an eager smile replied, “O propitius Dominus laudabilis! Venimus ex Hibernia, domine rex. Nomen Caibre est et haec sunt socii Connall et Éanna.”

The nobles tittered and the king tried to look kind.  “Alas, I do not speak Latin as well as you. Repetere tardius placere.”

“Domine rex, venimus ex Hibernia. Nomen Caibre est et haec sunt socii Connall et Éanna.”


“Nos ex Hibernia–”

“Is é ár scríobhaí marbh.”

The king’s head turned sharply towards the smallest monk.  The silent third had placed a hand on his shoulder. “Is é ár scríobhaí marbh,” the smallest repeated as he trembled.  “Na Lochlannaigh dóite dó. Tá muid ó áit ar bith. Tá muid ar deoraíocht chun freastal ar ár Dia.”

All the nobles had gone still, waiting for an explanation of the anxiousness conveyed in the Gaelic.  King Alfred’s smile faded as he pieced the words together aloud, “‘Our scribe is dead.  The Vikings burned him. We are from nowhere.  We are in exile to serve our God.’”  The king looked at them again, surveying each one, taking in their threadbare habits and the grey hollowness of their cheeks.  “Tá fáilte romhat anseo, manaigh ó áit ar bith,” he said slowly and then added, “An enemy of the Vikings is a friend of mine.  Bring me a Gaelic translator and food for these men.  They shall stay with me at court until we can find them suitable employment. I’m sure they have much to teach us as well as Viking activity to report.”  He smiled at bit sadly, inclining his head to the side, “And that will be most useful indeed in our plans to kill these terrible heathens once and for all.”





Please note that I’m NOT fluent or even well versed in Latin or Gaelic.  There are grammatical errors, especially in the Gaelic sections where it was only me sticking things into Google translate.  Corrections would be appreciated.  In historical reality, King Alfred, Mary, and company would be speaking Old English while the Irish monks and lord would be speaking Old Gaelic.


Qui estis et qua venitis?–Who are you and where are you from?

O propitius Dominus laudabilis! Venimus ex Hibernia, domine rex. Nomen Caibre est et haec sunt socii Connall et Éanna.–O merciful Lord be praised!  We are from Ireland, my lord the king.  My name is Caibre and these are our allies Connall and Éanna.

Repetere tardius placere–Repeat more slowly please.

Nos ex Hibernia–We are from Ireland.

Irish (Modern Gaelic):

Is é ár scríobhaí marbh–Our scribe is dead.

Tá fáilte romhat anseo, manaigh ó áit ar bith–You are welcome here, monks from nowhere.


From → Fiction, Thesis

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