Historical setting: A Dark Age in La Coruña
The public stable is just where I supposed it. Nic assumed my memory had not failed.
“We will need two sturdy mounts.”
The dark-eyed child caring for the horse seems vacant. Perhaps he’s not used to the vernacular. I know this part of Hispania was recently overtaken by Suebi people from far north of Gaul. Of course, when I was here before those who didn’t use the vernacular were using the Suebi language. My memory does serve. I remember enough of that barbaric tongue to ask for horses. But still the youth seems vague. Nic steps forward and speaks to him in the language of the Goths – Nic’s own tribe. The boy understands and explains they have one horse, and it is only let for a day at a time. Two coins to take it, and one coin is returned when the horse is back. Gentle, she is, though she seems old, and probably a bit too worn for hauling the weight of the two of us.
Nic asks me why we need a horse at all. We are both fit for distances walking, and besides Nic says he isn’t accustomed to horses. He’s been at the oars all these years, and before that oxen were more common in his childhood village.
“Nic, this is a land of villas. We won’t find churches and monasteries spread by a day’s walk for travelers. But stables are available everywhere. Horses are most common here.”
“Then,” Nic uses his edge in language to tease, “I will ask the boy for the biggest, wildest horse for you and something closer to the earth for me, maybe wide and brown resembling an ox.”
“Sure, Nic. There is this one gentle horse here, though she may be a bit frail for all of you and your iron shirt too. Ask him how we will find the one who raises horses.”
Nic speaks to the boy again. The boy affirms, then mounts this elder mare and rides away.
Nic explains, “He told us to wait; he will fetch the horses for us to choose and will meet us on the beach before sunset.”
The beach is like huge blank tablet waiting to be marked with sturdy stick. This square is Hispania. I mark it with a dot for Bracara Augusta to gather perspective on the opened ends of our wandering.