27. A Prophecy

WHEN THEY CAME to the next island, they were astonished to see that the sea rose up over it on every side, steep and high. It was as if the island lay at the bottom of a vast well, made somehow into the water, so that the crew looked down on the island from a great height, from the top of a great cliff of water that surrounded it.

When the people of the island saw the voyagers far above them, they rushed about in a panic, shouting, “They are here! They have come, to despoil us and destroy us, as it has been said!”

Then they saw great numbers of men and women, all shouting and in great consternation, driving vast herds of horses, cows, and sheep before them.

A woman began to pelt them from below with large nuts; she flung them so that they fell harmlessly onto the waves round the boat, where they remained floating. The crew gathered great quantities of them, and kept them for eating.

When they had finished gathering the nuts, they turned the curragh to the open sea and began to row away. When the islanders below saw this, the shouting ceased, and there was silence and an apprehensive calm.

Then they heard one man ask “What are they doing now?” and another answered him, “They are going away! They are leaving!”, and a third voice said “Thanks to God!”

From what Máel Dúin saw and heard at this island, it seemed to him that it had been prophesied among the people that their island should some day be spoiled and brought down by reavers; and that they thought that Máel Dúin and his men were the very enemies that they expected.


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