Dog Latin

Okay, true believers, here is the scene as its stands.

Any Latin scholars out there, please correct any grammatical errors, except the one deliberate one.

The wolf speaking is actually a she-wolf, but the narrator, Ilya Muromets, does not yet know that.  So she should use the proper gender for any words referring to herself, but he should not. (NOTE: this is the only time you will hear this world ‘gender’ used correctly this year.)

A word of background: Ilya and Abby (a thin native girl in a monkey-faced breathing mask who rescued him) are traveling down the vertical highway system at the axis of the Tower of Babel. They are in a parallel timeline where construction was completed on the Tower, and it actually reaches to heaven, or, at least, geosynchronous orbit.  Astrology actually works in this universe, and correctly predicts the future. This scene takes place right after a melee fought clinging to the sheer vertical sides of freight-train sized elevator cars.

Since in Abby’s timeline the Tower builders were never scattered by the Confusion of tongues, she has the superpower of polyglossia, like Cypher of the X Men, and speaks and understands all languages.

Ilya is from Oregon on our version of Earth, but he has Wolverine power of regeneration, taken to the level of the Headless Horseman. He was dunked in the Ocean of Uncreation outside timespace,  and absorbed some of the unnatural pre-creation substance, ylem, into his cells. The chaos in his bloodstream reacts to his state of mind, and when he prays, he heals.

The dog-headed baboonish wolf-things (who can cling like Spiderman to sheer surfaces) are nigh invulnerable, like the Tick. (You can see where, as a serious and high-class writer, where I get my themes and ideas.) They are from a timeline where Romulus and Remus actually were suckled by a she-wolf, and fathered a werewolf race in Latium. (And, as a comic book fan, I also throw in these classical references, which people who, you know, read the dreary stuff assigned them in school rather than SANDMAN or THOR or Frank Miller’s 700 funnybooks will not catch.)

I could see above and behind me the glint of his nocturnal eyes like two coppery mirrors, or two burning matches, approaching.

He slid smoothly down the golden hullsurface toward me. I had some half-baked notion of grabbing the crossbow from him if he got closer, but he halted.

Twenty yards away. Fifteen. Ten. I tried to urge him within arm’s reach by radiating hypnotic waves from my brain, but that was not one of the superpowers I was given.

He stopped.

Does swearing count as blasphemy if you do it silently in your heart? I decided to ask Father Flannery next time I went to confession. If I were so lucky.

I sat there, playing possum and watched him hang head-downward and cock another bolt with three hands.

Cripes, but I wished I had something to throw at him during the moment when there was only one leg holding him to the surface.

This time, I heard the string go thwang before the bolt entered my back. He struck some major vein. I could see the blood pumping from my back. Even with my childhood acting skills of pretending to be a bear, I could not convincingly impersonate a man whose heart had stopped beating.

Lon Chaney spoke in a sonorous, delicate language, in the lofty accents of an aristocrat. I swear he sounded like a guy who would introduce Masterpiece Theatre on public TV.

Immortalis videtur.” He said, with a slight lilt of laughter to his voice. “Rationalis creatura sum: noli te versari in me fallendo. Si lubet.

Latin. It was one of the languages I had studied. I could translate it … that is, while sitting with my Lewis & Short Lexicon open at my elbow, or Harden’s Vulgate, a pencil with a good eraser for erasing plenty of mistakes, a bright lamp, a clean desk, and loads of time: hanging sideways over a sickening abyss while bloodied in combat while panicking about underfed little girls dressed in monkey-masks was a different matter. But I knew some of the words.

Deathless, you seem. I am a rational creature: do not busy yourself in deceiving me. If you please.

8.    Dog Latin

I raised my head. “Okay, dogbreath. You got me.”

This time I wiggled like a salmon, and managed to get out of the wedge without falling to my non-doom. I braced one foot against the gold and one against the blue glass.
I shook my broken arm, and said a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel. He was listening, or someone was, because there was a snap of noise, and my broken bone unbroke itself right then and there. I yanked the crossbow bolts out of my back and chest and flung them spinning away with a casual nonchalance. I flexed my fingers, smacked my fist into my palm, and beckoned the wolfie thing to come closer.

“Here, doggy, doggy! Good doggy! Come to papa!”

He removed the bolt from his crossbow and carefully returned it to his quiver. The mouth of the quiver was shaped like a fishtrap with inward-pointing teeth, to prevent the bolts from spilling. He pulled the trigger and twanged the empty string, and used his left hand and right foot to strap the weapon in place on his furry back.

Then he said something rapidly in Latin that I could not follow, but the tone of voice was clearly smirking.

I shouted to the Wolf-thing, “Out of many, one! He blesses our beginnings! A new order of the world! Uh … The thing speaks for itself! This for that! After this, therefore because of this! … Thus passes the glory of the world! She Flies With Her Own Wings!” That was about all the non-prayer Latin I could remember off the top of my head, and I hoped it would rile him up a bit, and lure him within reach.

He said something else in a very non-riled up tone of voice. I could not follow it, except I think the phrase Ratia sine ratione meant ‘speech without reason’ and O bacchabunde meant ‘O thou raving Maenad’. Queaso and Precer was ‘I beg you’ or ‘prithee’ and Venia tua was ‘pardon me’.

He was asking me very nicely to stop spouting nonsense.

I shook my fist at him. “I’ve spouted nonsense my whole life, and I ain’t stopping now! Come here and make me, dog breath!” I tried to remember the word for carrion-eater. “Cariosos voratore!

That must not have been right, because all he did was tilt his head, open his jaws slightly and let his tongue loll out. (I might have called him a frequently-turning ship-keel. Which is not much of an insult, really.)

I shouted up to Abby. “Little sister! I am alive!”

She called back, “I know that.” Her tone of voice one of motherly patience with a slowwitted child. “You are of the host that cannot die.”

Lon Chaney cocked his ear. I reminded myself that he could understand anything she said the same way I could. It was only my side of the conversation he did not get.

“Tell the wolfman here I challenge him to a wrestling match, no holds barred, first guy to be thrown looses!”

She repeated it. The wolfman answered in a stream of sonorous words that sounded like poetry, the dactylic hexameter of Virgil. This guy was really creeping me out. Werewolves were supposed to be ravenous mindless monsters, not the well-spoken reincarnation of Rupert of Hentzau or Don Juan.

She called down to me, “The Daughter of Wolf-Nursed Romulus, Birthed under the red War-star, and Triscurion of the Exarch Watch Oeolyca the Swift-running of the Host of the Cynocephali respectfully declines your offer of personal combat. She says that stars have not foretold her death this day; nor any victory.”

I squinted. Come to think of it, the dangling gonads Big Bad and Hellpoodle had been sporting were not in evidence here, nor were the monster’s flanks and hindquarters nude. I wondered if having more hair meant having a higher station.

The she-wolfman, or bitch-woman, or whatever you call a distaff-side werewolf spoke again, another stream of fluid Latin dactyls. Darn critter was beginning to make me feel uncivilized, and that made me want to bash her skull.

 

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