Gods and Fighting Men, by Lady Gregory

Book Two

Lugh of the Long Hand.

Chapter i. The Coming of Lugh

Now as to Nuada of the Silver Hand, he was holding a great feast at Teamhair one time, after he was back in the kingship. And there were two door-keepers at Teamhair, Gamal, son of Figal, and Camel, son of Riagall. And a young man came to the door where one of them was, and bade him bring him in to the king. “Who are you yourself?” said the door-keeper. “I am Lugh, son of Cian of the Tuatha de Danaan, and of Ethlinn, daughter of Balor, King of the Fomor,” he said; “and I am foster-son of Taillte, daughter of the King of the Great Plain, and of Echaid the Rough, son of Duach.” “What are you skilled in?” said the door-keeper; “for no one without an art comes into Teamhair.” “Question me,” said Lugh; “I am a carpenter.” “We do not want you; we have a carpenter ourselves, Luchtar, son of Luachaid.” “Then I am a smith.” “We have a smith ourselves, Colum Cuaillemech of the Three New Ways.” “Then I am a champion.” “That is no use to us; we have a champion before, Ogma, brother to the king.” “Question me again,” he said; “I am a harper.” “That is no use to us; we have a harper ourselves, Abhean, son of Bicelmos, that the Men of the Three Gods brought from the hills.” “I ama poet,” he said then, “and a teller of tales.” “That is no use to us; we have a teller of tales ourselves, Ere, son of Ethaman.” “And I am a magician.” “That is no use to us; we have plenty of magicians and people of power.” “I am a physician,” he said. “That is no use; we have Diancecht-for our physician.” “Let me be a cup-bearer,” he said. “We do not want you; we have nine cup-bearers ourselves.” “I am a good worker in brass.” “We have a worker in brass ourselves, that is Credne Cerd.”

Then Lugh said: “Go and ask the king if he has any one man that can do all these things, and if he has, I will not ask to come into Teamhair.” The door-keeper went into the king’s house then and told him all that. “There is a young man at the door,” he said, “and his name should be the Ildánach, the Master of all Arts, for all the things the people of your house can do, he himself is able to do every one of them.” “Try him with the chess-boards,” said Nuada. So the chess-boards were brought out, and every game that was played, Lugh won it. And when Nuada was told that, he said: “Let him in, for the like of him never came into Teamhair before.”

Then the door-keeper let him pass, and he came into the king’s house and sat down in the seat of knowledge. And there was a great flag-stone there that could hardly be moved by four times twenty yoke of oxen, and Ogma took it up and hurled it out through the house, so that it lay on the outside of Teamhair, as a challenge to Lugh. But Lugh hurled it back again that it lay in the middle of the king’s house. He played the harp for them then, and he had them laughing and crying, till he put them asleep at the end with a sleepy tune. And when Nuada saw all the things Lugh could do, he began to think that by his help the country might get free of the taxes and the tyranny put on it by the Fomor. And it is what he did, he came down from his throne, and he put Lugh on it in his place, for the length of thirteen days, the way they might all listen to the advice he would give.

This now is the story of the birth of Lugh. The time the Fomor used to be coming to Ireland, Balor of the Strong Blows, or, as some called him, of the Evil Eye, was living on the Island of the Tower of Glass. There was danger for ships that went near that island, for the Fomor would come out and take them. And some say the sons of Nemed in the old time, before the Firbolgs were in Ireland, passed near it in their ships, and what they saw was a tower of glass in the middle of the sea, and on the tower something that had the appearance of men, and they went against it with Druid spells to attack it. And the Fomor worked against them with Druid spells of their own; and the sons of Nemed attacked the tower, and it vanished, and they thought it was destroyed. But a great wave rose over them then, and all their ships went down and all that were in them.

And the tower was there as it was before, and Balor living in it. And it is the reason he was called “of the Evil Eye,” there was a power of death in one of his eyes, so that no person could look at it and live. It is the way it got that power, he was passing one time by a house where his father’s Druids were making spells of death, and the window being open he looked in, and the smoke of the poisonous spells was rising up, and it went into his eye. And from that time he had to keep it closed unless he wanted to be the death of some enemy, and then the men that were with him would lift the eyelid with a ring of ivory.

Now a Druid foretold one time that it was by his own grandson he would get his death. And he had at that time but one child, a daughter whose name was Ethlinn; and when he heard what the Druid said, he shut her up in the tower on the island. And he put twelve women with her to take charge of her and to guard her, and he bade them never to let her see a man or hear the name of a man.

So Ethlinn was brought up in the tower, and she grew to be very beautiful; and sometimes she would see men passing in the currachs, and sometimes she would see a man in her dreams. But when she would speak of that to the women, they would give her no answer.

So there was no fear on Balor, and he went on with war and robbery as he was used, seizing every ship that passed by, and sometimes going over to Ireland to do destruction there.

Now it chanced at that time there were three brothers of the Tuatha de Danaan living together in a place that was called Druim na Teine, the Ridge of the Fire, Goibniu and Samthainn and Cian. Cian was a lord of land, and Goibniu was the smith that had such a great name. Now Cian had a wonderful cow, the Glas Gaibhnenn, and her milk never failed. And every one that heard of her coveted her, and many had tried to steal her away, so that she had to be watched night and day.

And one time Cian was wanting some swords made, and he went to Goibniu’s forge, and he brought the Glas Gaibhnenn with him, holding her by a halter. When he came to the forge his two brothers were there together, for Samthainn had brought some steel to have weapons made for himself; and Cian bade Samthainn to hold the halter while he went into the forge to speak with Goibniu.

Now Balor had set his mind for a long time on the Glas Gaibhnenn, but he had never been able to get near her up to this time. And he was watching not far off, and when he saw Samthainn holding the cow, he put on the appearance of a little boy, having red hair, and came up to him and told him he heard his two brothers that were in the forge saying to one another that they would use all his steel for their own swords, and make his of iron. “By my word,” said Samthainn, “they will not deceive me so easily. Let you hold the cow, little lad,” he said, “and I will go in to them.” With that he rushed into the forge, and great anger on him. And no sooner did Balor get the halter in his hand than he set out, dragging the Glas along with him, to the strand, and across the sea to his own island.

When Cian saw his brother coming in he rushed out, and there he saw Balor and the Glas out in the sea. And he had nothing to do then but to reproach his brother, and to wander about as if his wits had left him, not knowing what way to get his cow back from Balor. At last he went to a Druid to ask an advice from him; and it is what the Druid told him, that so long as Balor lived, the cow would never be brought back, for no one would go within reach of his Evil Eye.

Cian went then to a woman-Druid, Birog of the Mountain, for her help. And she dressed him in a woman’s clothes, and brought him across the sea in a blast of wind, to the tower where Ethlinn was. Then she called to the women in the tower, and asked them for shelter for a high queen she was after saving from some hardship, and the women in the tower did not like to refuse a woman of the Tuatha de Danaan, and they let her and her comrade in. Then Birog by her enchantments put them all into a deep sleep, and Cian went to speak with Ethlinn. And when she saw him she said that was the face she had seen in her dreams. So she gave him her love; but after a while he was brought away again on a blast of wind.

And when her time came, Ethlinn gave birth to a son. And when Balor knew that, he bade his people put the child in a cloth and fasten it with a pin, and throw him into a current of the sea. And as they were carrying the child across an arm of the sea, the pin dropped out, and the child slipped from the cloth into the water, and they thought he was drowned. But he was brought away by Birog of the Mountain, and she brought him to his father Cian; and he gave him to be fostered by Taillte, daughter of the King of the Great Plain. It is thus Lugh was born and reared.

And some say Balor came and struck the head off Cian on a white stone, that has the blood marks on it to this day; but it is likely it was some other man he struck the head off, for it was by the sons of Tuireann that Cian came to his death.

And after Lugh had come to Teamhair, and made his mind up to join with his father’s people against the Fomor, he put his mind to the work; and he went to a quiet place in Grellach Dollaid, with Nuada and the Dagda, and with Ogma; and Goibniu and Diancecht were called to them there. A full year they stopped there, making their plans together in secret, the way the Fomor would not know they were going to rise against them till such time as all would be ready, and till they would know what their strength was. And it is from that council the place got the name afterwards of “The Whisper of the Men of Dea.”

And they broke up the council, and agreed to meet again that day three years, and every one of them went his own way, and Lugh went back to his own friends, the sons of Manannan.

And it was a good while after that, Nuada was holding a great assembly of the people on the Hill of Uisnech, on the west side of Teamhair. And they were not long there before they saw an armed troop coming towards them from the east, over the plain; and there was a young man in front of the troop, in command over the rest, and the brightness of his face was like the setting sun, so that they were not able to look at him because of its brightness.

And when he came nearer they knew it was Lugh Lamh–Fada, of the Long Hand, that had come back to them, and along with him were the Riders of the Sidhe from the Land of Promise, and his own foster-brothers, the sons of Manannan, Sgoith Gleigeil, the White Flower, and Goitne Gorm–Shuileach, the Blue-eyed Spear, and Sine Sindearg, of the Red Ring, and Donall Donn–Ruadh, of the Red-brown Hair. And it is the way Lugh was, he had Manannan’s horse, the Aonbharr, of the One Mane, under him, that was as swift as the naked cold wind of spring, and the sea was the same as dry land to her, and the rider was never killed off her back. And he had Manannan’s breast-plate on him, that kept whoever was wearing it from wounds, and a helmet on his head with two beautiful precious stones set in the front of it and one at the back, and when he took it off, his forehead was like the sun on a dry summer day. And he had Manannan’s sword, the Freagarthach, the Answerer, at his side, and no one that was wounded by it would ever get away alive; and when that sword was bared in a battle, no man that saw it coming against him had any more strength than a woman in child-birth.

And the troop came to where the King of Ireland was with the Tuatha de Danaan, and they welcomed one another.

And they were not long there till they saw a surly, slovenly troop coming towards them, nine times nine of the messengers of the Fomor, that were coming to ask rent and taxes from the men of Ireland; and the names of the four that were the hardest and the most cruel were Eine and Eathfaigh and Coron and Compar; and there was such great dread of these four on the Tuatha de Danaan, that not one of them would so much as punish his own son or his foster-son without leave from them.

They came up then to where the King of Ireland was with the Riders of the Sidhe, and the king and all the Tuatha de Danaan stood up before them. And Lugh of the Long Hand said: “Why do you rise up before that surly, slovenly troop, when you did not rise up before us?”

“It is needful for us to do it,” said the king; “for if there was but a child of us sitting before them, they would not think that too small a cause for killing him.” “By my word,” said Lugh, “there is a great desire coming on me to kill themselves.” “That is a thing would bring harm on us,” said the king, “for we would meet our own death and destruction through it.” “It is too long a time you have been under this oppression,” said Lugh. And with that he started up and made an attack on the Fomor, killing and wounding them, till he had made an end of eight nines of them, but he let the last nine go under the protection of Nuada the king. “And I would kill you along with the others,” he said, “but I would sooner see you go with messages to your own country than my own people, for fear they might get any ill-treatment.”

So the nine went back then till they came to Lochlann, where the men of the Fomor were, and they told them the story from beginning to end, and how a young well-featured lad had come into Ireland and had killed all the tax-gatherers but themselves, “and it is the reason he let us off,” they said, “that we might tell you the story ourselves.”

“Do you know who is the young man?” said Balor of the Evil Eye then.

“I know well,” said Ceithlenn, his wife; “he is the son of your daughter and mine. And it was foretold,” she said, “that from the time he would come into Ireland, we would never have power there again for ever.”

Then the chief men of the Fomor went into a council, Eab, son of Neid, and Seanchab, grandson of Neid, and Sital Salmhor, and Liath, son of Lobais, and the nine poets of the Fomor that had learning and the gift of foreknowledge, and Lobais the Druid, and Balor himself and his twelve white-mouthed sons, and Ceithlenn of the Crooked Teeth, his queen.

And it was just at that time Bres and his father Elathan were come to ask help of the Fomor, and Bres said: “I myself will go to Ireland, and seven great battalions of the Riders of the Fomor along with me, and I will give battle to this Ildánach, this master of all arts, and I will strike his head off and bring it here to you, to the green of Berbhe.” “It would be a fitting thing for you to do,” said they all. “Let my ships be made ready for me,” said Bres, “and let food and provisions be put in them.”

So they made no delay, but went and got the ships ready, and they put plenty of food and drink in them, and the two swift Luaths were sent out to gather the army to Bres. And when they were all gathered, they made ready their armour and their weapons, and they set out for Ireland.

And Balor the king followed them to the harbour, and he said: “Give battle to that Ildánach, and strike off his head; and tie that island that is called Ireland to the back of your ships, and let the destroying water take its place, and put it on the north side of Lochlann, and not one of the Men of Dea will follow it there to the end of life and time.”

Then they pushed out their ships and put up their painted sails, and went out from the harbour on the untilled country, on the ridges of the wide-lying sea, and they never turned from their course till they came to the harbour of Eas Dara. And from that they sent out an army through West Connacht and destroyed it altogether, through and through. And the King of Connacht at that time was Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda.

Chapter ii. The Sons of Tuireann

And Lugh of the Long Hand was at that time at Teamhair with the King of Ireland, and it was showed to him that the Fomor were after landing at Eas Dara. And when he knew that, he made ready Manannan’s horse, the Aonbharr, at the time of the battle of the day and night; and he went where Nuada the king was, and told him how the Fomor had landed at Eas Dara and had spoiled Bodb Dearg’s country; “and it is what I want,” he said, “to get help from you to give battle to them.” But Nuada was not minded to avenge the destruction that was done on Bodb Dearg and not on himself, and Lugh was not well pleased with his answer, and he went riding out of Teamhair westward. And presently he saw three armed men coming towards him, his own father Cian, with his brothers Cu and Ceithen, that were the three sons of Cainte, and they saluted him. “What is the cause of your early rising?” they said. “It is good cause I have for it,” said Lugh, “for the Fomor are come into Ireland and have robbed Bodb Dearg; and what help will you give me against them?” he said.

“Each one of us will keep off a hundred from you in the battle,” said they. “That is a good help,” said Lugh; “but there is a help I would sooner have from you than that: to gather the Riders of the Sidhe to me from every place where they are.”

So Cu and Ceithen went towards the south, and Cian set out northward, and he did not stop till he reached the Plain of Muirthemne. And as he was going across the plain he saw three armed men before him, that were the three sons of Tuireann, son of Ogma. And it is the way it was between the three sons of Tuireann and the three sons of Cainte, they were in hatred and enmity towards one another, so that whenever they met there was sure to be fighting among them.

Then Cian said: “If my two brothers had been here it is a brave fight we would make; but since they are not, it is best for me to fall back.” Then he saw a great herd of pigs near him, and he struck himself with a Druid rod that put on him the shape of a pig of the herd, and he began rooting up the ground like the rest.

Then Brian, one of the sons of Tuireann, said to his brothers: “Did you see that armed man that was walking the plain a while ago?” “We did see him,” said they. “Do you know what was it took him away?” said Brian. “We do not know that,” said they. “It is a pity you not to be keeping a better watch over the plains of the open country in time of war,” said Brian; “and I know well what happened him, for he struck himself with his Druid rod into the shape of a pig of these pigs, and he is rooting up the ground now like any one of them; and whoever he is, he is no friend to us.” “That is bad for us,” said the other two, “for the pigs belong to some one of the Tuatha de Danaan, and even if we kill them all, the Druid pig might chance to escape us in the end.”

“It is badly you got your learning in the city of learning,” said Brian, “when you cannot tell an enchanted beast from a natural beast.” And while he was saying that, he struck his two brothers with his Druid rod, and he turned them into two thin, fast hounds, and they began to yelp sharply on the track of the enchanted pig.

And it was not long before the pig fell out from among the others, and not one of the others made away but only itself, and it made for a wood, and at the edge of the wood Brian gave a cast of his spear that went through its body. And the pig cried out, and it said: “It is a bad thing you have done to have made a cast at me when you knew me.” “It seems to me you have the talk of a man,” said Brian. “I was a man indeed,” said he; “I am Cian, son of Cainte, and give me your protection now.” “I swear by the gods of the air,” said Brian, “that if the life came back seven times to you, I would take it from you every time.” “If that is so,” said Cian, “give me one request: let me go into my own shape again.” “We will do that,” said Brian, “for it is easier to me to kill a man than a pig.”

So Cian took his own shape then, and he said: “Give me mercy now.” “We will not give it,” said Brian. “Well, I have got the better of you for all that,” said Cian; “for if it was in the shape of a pig you had killed me there would only be the blood money for a pig on me; but as it is in my own shape you will kill me, there never was and never will be any person killed for whose sake a heavier fine will be paid than for myself. And the arms I am killed with,” he said, “it is they will tell the deed to my son.”

“It is not with weapons you will be killed, but with the stones lying on the ground,” said Brian. And with that they pelted him with stones, fiercely and roughly, till all that was left of him was a poor, miserable, broken heap; and they buried him the depth of a man’s body in the earth, and the earth would not receive that murder from them, but cast it up again. Brian said it should go into the earth again, and they put it in the second time, and the second time the earth would not take it. And six times the sons of Tuireann buried the body, and six times it was cast up again; but the seventh time it was put underground the earth kept it. And then they went on to join Lugh of the Long Hand for the battle.

Now as to Lugh; upon parting with his father he went forward from Teamhair westward, to the hills that were called afterwards Gairech and Ilgairech, and to the ford of the Shannon that is now called Athluain, and to Bearna nah-Eadargana, the Gap of Separation, and over Magh Luirg, the Plain of Following, and to Corr Slieve na Seaghsa, the Round Mountain of the Poet’s Spring, and to the head of Sean–Slieve, and through the place of the bright-faced Corann, and from that to Magh Mor an Aonaigh, the Great Plain of the Fair, where the Fomor were, and the spoils of Connacht with them.

It is then Bres, son of Elathan, rose up and said: “It is a wonder to me the sun to be rising in the west today, and it rising in the east every other day.” “It would be better for us it to be the sun,” said the Druids. “What else is it?” said he. “It is the shining of the face of Lugh, son of Ethlinn,” said they.

Lugh came up to them then and saluted them. “Why do you come like a friend to us?” said they. “There is good cause for that,” he said, “for there is but one half of me of the Tuatha de Danaan, and the other half of yourselves. And give me back now the milch cows of the men of Ireland,” he said. “May early good luck not come to you till you get either a dry or a milch cow here,” said a man of them, and anger on him.

But Lugh stopped near them for three days and three nights, and at the end of that time the Riders of the Sidhe came to him. And Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, came with twenty-nine hundred men, and he said:

“What is the cause of your delay in giving battle?”

“Waiting for you I was,” said Lugh.

Then the kings and chief men of the men of Ireland took their armour on them, and they raised the points of their spears over their heads, and they made close fences of their shields. And they attacked their enemies on Magh Mor an Aonaigh, and their enemies answered them, and they threw their whining spears at one another, and when their spears were broken they drew their swords from their blue-bordered sheaths and began to strike at one another, and thickets of brown flames rose above them from the bitterness of their many-edged weapons.

And Lugh saw the battle pen where Bres, son of Elathan, was, and he made a fierce attack on him and on the men that were guarding him, till he had made an end of two hundred of them.

When Bres saw that, he gave himself up to Lugh’s protection. “Give me my life this time,” he said, “and I will bring the whole race of the Fomor to fight it out with you in a great battle; and I bind myself to that, by the sun and the moon, the sea and the land,” he said.

On that Lugh gave him his life, and then the Druids that were with him asked his protection for themselves. “By my word,” said Lugh, “if the whole race of the Fomor went under my protection they would not be destroyed by me.” So then Bres and the Druids set out for their own country.

Now as to Lugh and the sons of Tuireann. After the battle of Magh Mor an Aonaigh, he met two of his kinsmen and asked them did they see his father in the fight. “We did not,” said they. “I am sure he is not living,” said Lugh; “and I give my word,” he said, “there will no food or drink go into my mouth till I get knowledge by what death my father died.”

Then he set out, and the Riders of the Sidhe after him, till they came to the place where he and his father parted from one another, and from that to the place where his father went into the shape of a pig when he saw the sons of Tuireann.

And when Lugh came to that place the earth spoke to him, and it said: “It is in great danger your father was here, Lugh, when he saw the sons of Tuireann before him, and it is into the shape of a pig he had to go, but it is in his own shape they killed him.”

Then Lugh told that to his people, and he found the spot where his father was buried, and he bade them dig there, the way he would know by what death the sons of Tuireann had made an end of him.

Then they raised the body out of the grave and looked at it, and it was all one bed of wounds. And Lugh said: “It was the death of an enemy the sons of Tuireann gave my dear father.” And he gave him three kisses, and it is what he said: “It is bad the way I am myself after this death, for I can hear nothing with my ears, and I can see nothing with my eyes, and there is not a living pulse in my heart, with grief after my father. And you gods I worship,” he said, “it is a pity I not to have come here the time this thing was done. And it is a great thing that has been done here,” he said, “the people of the gods of Dana to have done treachery on one another, and it is long they will be under loss by it and be weakened by it. And Ireland will never be free from trouble from this out, east and west,” he said.

Then they put Cian under the earth again, and after that there was keening made over his grave, and a stone was raised on it, and his name was written in Ogham, And Lugh said: “This hill will take its name from Cian, although he himself is stripped and broken. And it was the sons of Tuireann did this thing,” he said, “and there will grief and anguish fall on them from it, and on their children after them. And it is no lying story I am telling you,” he said; “and it is a pity the way I am, and my heart is broken in my breast since Cian, the brave man, is not living.”

Then he bade his people to go before him to Teamhair, “But do not tell the story till I tell it myself,” he said.

And when Lugh came to Teamhair he sat in the high seat of the king, and he looked about him and he saw the three sons of Tuireann. And those were the three that were beyond all others at Teamhair at that time for quickness and skill, for a good hand in battle, for beauty and an honourable name.

Then Lugh bade his people to shake the chain of silence, and they did so, and they all listened. And Lugh said: “What are your minds fixed on at this time, Men of Dea?” “On yourself indeed,” said they. “I have a question to ask of you,” he said. “What is the vengeance each one of you would take on the man that would kill your father?”

There was great wonder on them when they heard that, and one of the chief men among them said: “Tell us was it your own father that was killed?” “It was indeed,” said Lugh; “and I see now in this house,” he said, “the men that killed him, and they know themselves what way they killed him better than I know it.” Then the king said: “It is not a death of one day only I would give the man that had killed my father, if he was in my power, but to cut off one of his limbs from day to day till I would make an end of him.” All the chief men said the same, and the sons of Tuireann like the rest.

“There are making that answer,” said Lugh, “the three men that killed my father; and let them pay the fine for him now, since you are all together in the one place. And if they will not,” he said, “I will not break the protection of the king’s house, but they must make no attempt to quit this house till they have settled with me.”

“If it was I myself had killed your father,” said the king, “I would be well content you to take a fine from me for him.”

“It is at us Lugh is saying all this,” said the sons of Tuireann among themselves. “Let us acknowledge the killing of his father to him,” said Iuchar and Iucharba. “I am in dread,” said Brian, “that it is wanting an acknowledgment from us he is, in the presence of all the rest, and that he will not let us off with a fine afterwards.” “It is best to acknowledge it,” said the others; “and let you speak it out since you are the eldest.”

Then Brian, son of Tuireann, said: “It is at us you are speaking, Lugh, for you are thinking we went against the sons of Cainte before now; and we did not kill your father,” he said, “but we will pay the fine for him the same as if we did kill him.” “I will take a fine from you that you do not think of,” said Lugh, “and I will say here what it is, and if it is too much for you, I will let you off a share of it.” “Let us hear it from you,” said they. “Here it is,” said Lugh; “three apples, and the skin of a pig, and a spear, and two horses, and a chariot, and seven pigs, and a dog’s whelp, and a cooking-spit, and three shouts on a hill. That is the fine I am asking,” he said; “and if it is too much for you, a part of it will be taken off you presently, and if you do not think it too much, then pay it”

“It is not too much,” said Brian, “or a hundred times of it would not be too much. And we think it likely,” he said, “because of its smallness that you have some treachery towards us behind it.” “I do not think it too little of a fine,” said Lugh; “and I give you the guarantee of the Tuatha de Danaan I will ask no other thing, and I will be faithful to you, and let you give the same pledge to me.” “It is a pity you to ask that,” said Brian, “for our own pledge is as good as any pledge in the world.” “Your own pledge is not enough,” said Lugh, “for it is often the like of you promised to pay a fine in this way, and would try to back out of it after.”

So then the sons of Tuireann bound themselves by the King of Ireland, and by Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, and by the chief men of the Tuatha de Danaan, that they would pay that fine to Lugh.

“It would be well for me now,” said Lugh, “to give you better knowledge of the fine.” “It would be well indeed,” said they.

“This is the way of it then,” said Lugh. “The three apples I asked of you are the three apples from the Garden in the East of the World, and no other apples will do but these, for they are the most beautiful and have most virtue in them of the apples of the whole world. And it is what they are like, they are of the colour of burned gold, and they are the size of the head of a child a month old, and there is the taste of honey on them, and they do not leave the pain of wounds or the vexation of sickness on any one that eats them, and they do not lessen by being eaten for ever. And the skin I asked of you,” he said, “is the pig skin of Tuis, King of Greece, and it heals all the wounds and all the sickness of the world, and whatever danger a man may be in, if it can but overtake the life in him, it will cure him; and it is the way it was with that pig, every stream of water it would go through would be turned into wine to the end of nine days after, and every wound it touched was healed; and it is what the Druids of Greece said, that it is not in itself this virtue was, but in the skin, and they skinned it, and the skin is there ever since. And I think, too, it will not be easy for you to get it, with or without leave.”

“And do you know what is the spear I am asking of you?” he said. “We do not,” said they. “It is a very deadly spear belonging to the King of Persia, the Luin it is called, and every choice thing is done by it, and its head is kept steeped in a vessel of water, the way it will not burn down the place where it is, and it will be hard to get it. And do you know what two horses and what chariot I am asking of you? They are the chariot and the two wonderful horses of Dobar, King of Siogair, and the sea is the same as land to them, and there are no faster horses than themselves, and there is no chariot equal to that one in shape and in strength.

“And do you know what are the seven pigs I asked of you? They are the pigs of Easal, King of the Golden Pillars; and though they are killed every night, they are found alive again the next day, and there will be no disease or no sickness on any person that will eat a share of them.

“And the whelp I asked of you is Fail–Inis, the whelp belonging to the King of Ioruaidh, the Cold Country. And all the wild beasts of the world would fall down at the sight of her, and she is more beautiful than the sun in his fiery wheels, and it will be hard to get her.

“And the cooking-spit I asked of you is a spit of the spits of the women of Inis Cenn-fhinne, the Island of Caer of the Fair Hair. And the three shouts you are to give on a hill must be given on the Hill of Miochaoin in the north of Lochlann. And Miochaoin and his sons are under bonds not to allow any shouts to be given on that hill; and it was with them my father got his learning, and if I would forgive you his death, they would not forgive you. And if you get through all your other voyages before you reach to them, it is my opinion they themselves will avenge him on you. And that is the fine I have asked of you,” said Lugh.

There was silence and darkness on the sons of Tuireann when they heard that. And they went to where their father was, and told him the fine that had been put on them. “It is bad news that is,” said Tuireann; “and it is to your death and your destruction you will be going, looking for those things. But for all that, if Lugh himself had a mind to help you, you could work out the fine, and all the men of the world could not do it but by the power of Manannan or of Lugh. Go then and ask the loan of Manannan’s horse, the Aonbharr, from Lugh, and if he has any wish to get the fine, he will give it to you; but if he does not wish it he will say the horse is not his, and that he would not give the loan of a loan. Ask him then for the loan of Manannan’s curragh, the Scuabtuinne, the Sweeper of the Waves. And he will give that, for he is under bonds not to refuse a second request, and the curragh is better for you than the horse,” he said.

So the sons of Tuireann went to where Lugh was, and they saluted him, and they said they could not bring him the fine without his own help, and for that reason it would be well for them to get a loan of the Aonbharr. “I have that horse only on loan myself,” said Lugh, “and I will not give a loan of a loan.”

“If that is so, give us the loan of Manannan’s curragh,” said Brian. “I will give that,” said Lugh. “What place is it?” said they. “At Brugh na Boinn,” said Lugh.

Then they went back again to where Tuireann was, and his daughter Ethne, their sister, with him, and they told him they had got the curragh. “It is not much the better you will be for it,” said Tuireann, “although Lugh would like well to get every part of this fine he could make use of before the battle with the Fomor. But he would like yourselves to come to your death looking for it.”

Then they went away, and they left Tuireann sorrowful and lamenting, and Ethne went with them to where the curragh was. And Brian got into it, and he said: “There is place but for one other person along with me here.” And he began to find fault with its narrowness. “You ought not to be faulting the curragh,” said Ethne; “and O my dear brother,” she said, “it was a bad thing you did, to kill the father of Lugh of the Long Hand; and whatever harm may come to you from it, it is but just.” “Do not say that, Ethne,” they said, “for we are in good heart, and we will do brave deeds. And we would sooner be killed a hundred times over,” they said, “than to meet with the death of cowards.” “My grief,” said Ethne, “there is nothing more sorrowful than this, to see you driven out from your own country.”

Then the three pushed out their curragh from the beautiful clear-bayed shore of Ireland. “What course shall we take first?” said they. “We will go look for the apples,” said Brian, “as they were the first thing we were bade bring. And so we ask of you, curragh of Manannan that is under us, to sail to the Garden in the East of the World.”

And the curragh did not neglect that order, but it sailed forward over the green-sided waves and deep places till it came to its harbour in the east of the world.

And then Brian asked his brothers: “What way have you a mind to get into the garden? for I think,” he said, “the king’s champions and the fighting men of the country are always guarding it, and the king himself is chief over them.” “What should we do,” said his brothers, “but to make straight at them and attack them, and bring away the apples or fall ourselves, since we cannot escape from these dangers that are before us without meeting our death in some place.” “It would be better,” said Brian, “the story of our bravery and our craftiness to be told and to live after us, than folly and cowardice to be told of us. And what is best for us to do now,” he said, “is to go in the shape of swift hawks into the garden, and the watchers have but their light spears to throw at us, and let you take good care to keep out of their reach; and after they have thrown them all, make a quick flight to the apples and let each of you bring away an apple of them in your claws, and I will bring away the third.”

They said that was a good advice, and Brian struck himself and the others with his Druid rod, and changed them into beautiful hawks. And they flew towards the garden, and the watchers took notice of them and shouted on every side of them, and threw showers of spears and darts, but the hawks kept out of their reach as Brian had bade them, till all the spears were spent, and then they swept down bravely on the apples, and brought them away with them, without so much as a wound.

And the news went through the city and the whole district, and the king had three wise, crafty daughters, and they put themselves into the shape of three ospreys, and they followed the hawks to the sea, and sent flashes of lightning before them and after them, that scorched them greatly.

“It is a pity the way we are now,” said the sons of Tuireann, “for we will be burned through and through with this lightning if we do not get some relief.” “If I can give you relief I will do it,” said Brian. With that he struck himself and his brothers with the Druid rod, and they were turned into three swans, and they went down quickly into the sea, and the ospreys went away from them then, and the sons of Tuireann went into their boat.

After that they consulted together, and it is what they agreed, to go to Greece and to bring away the skin of the pig, with or without leave. So they went forward till they came near to the court of the King of Greece.

“What appearance should we put on us going in here?” said Brian. “What appearance should we go in with but our own?” said the others. “That is not what I think best,” said Brian; “but to go in with the appearance of poets from Ireland, the way the high people of Greece will hold us in respect and in honour.” “It would be hard for us to do that,” they said, “and we without a poem, and it is little we know how to make one.”

However, they put the poet’s tie on their hair, and they knocked at the door of the court, and the door-keeper asked who was in it. “We are poets of Ireland,” said Brian, “and we are come with a poem to the king.”

The door-keeper went in and told the king that there were poets from Ireland at the door. “Let them in,” said the king, “for it is in search of a good man they came so far from their own country.” And the king gave orders that everything should be well set out in the court, the way they would say they had seen no place so grand in all their travels.

The sons of Tuireann were let in then, having the appearance of poets, and they fell to drinking and pleasure without delay; and they thought they had never seen, and there was not in the world, a court so good as that or so large a household, or a place where they had met with better treatment.

Then the king’s poets got up to give out their poems and songs. And then Brian, son of Tuireann, bade his brothers to say a poem for the king. “We have no poem,” said they; “and do not ask any poem of us, but the one we know before, and that is to take what we want by the strength of our hand if we are the strongest, or to fall by those that are against us if they are the strongest.” “That is not a good way to make a poem,” said Brian. And with that he rose up himself and asked a hearing. And they all listened to him, and it is what he said:

“O Tuis, we do not hide your fame; we praise you as the oak among kings; the skin of a pig, bounty without hardness, this is the reward I ask for it.

“The war of a neighbour against an ear; the fair ear of his neighbour will be against him; he who gives us what he owns, his court will not be the scarcer for it.

“A raging army and a sudden sea are a danger to whoever goes against them. The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness, this is the reward I ask, O Tuis.”

“That is a good poem,” said the king; “but I do not know a word of its meaning.” “I will tell you its meaning,” said Brian. “‘O Tuis, we do not hide your fame; we praise you as the oak above the kings.’ That is, as the oak is beyond the kingly trees of the wood, so are you beyond the kings of the world for open-handedness and for grandeur.

“‘The skin of a pig, bounty without hardness.’ That is, the skin of a pig you own is what I would wish to get from you as a reward for my poem.

“‘The war of a neighbour against an ear, the fair ear of his neighbour will be against him.’ That is, you and I will be by the ears about the skin, unless I get it with your consent.

“And that is the meaning of the poem,” said Brian.

“I would praise your poem,” said the king, “if there was not so much about my pig-skin in it; and you have no good sense, man of poetry,” he said, “to be asking that thing of me, and I would not give it to all the poets and the learned men and the great men of the world, since they could not take it away without my consent. But I will give you three times the full of the skin of gold as the price of your poem,” he said.

“May good be with you, king,” said Brian, “and I know well it was no easy thing I was asking, but I knew I would get a good ransom for it. And I am that covetous,” he said, “I will not be satisfied without seeing the gold measured myself into the skin.”

The king sent his servants with them then to the treasure-house to measure the gold. “Measure out the full of it to my brothers first,” said Brian, “and then give good measure to myself, since it was I made the poem.”

But when the skin was brought out, Brian made a quick sudden snatch at it with his left hand, and drew his sword and made a stroke at the man nearest him, and made two halves of him. And then he kept a hold of the skin and put it about himself, and the three of them rushed out of the court, cutting down every armed man before them, so that not one escaped death or wounding. And then Brian went to where the king himself was, and the king made no delay in attacking him, and they made a hard fight of it, and at the end the King of Greece fell by the hand of Brian, son of Tuireann.

The three brothers rested for a while after that, and then they said they would go and look for some other part of the fine. “We will go to Pisear, King of Persia,” said Brian, “and ask him for the spear.”

So they went into their boat, and they left the blue streams of the coast of Greece, and they said: “We are well off when we have the apples and the skin.” And they stopped nowhere till they came to the borders of Persia.

“Let us go to the court with the appearance of poets,” said Brian, “the same as we went to the King of Greece.” “We are content to do that,” said the others, “as all turned out so well the last time we took to poetry; not that it is easy for us to take to a calling that does not belong to us.”

So they put the poet’s tie on their hair, and they were as well treated as they were at the other court; and when the time came for poems Brian rose up, and it is what he said:

“It is little any spear looks to Pisear; the battles of enemies are broken, it is not too much for Pisear to wound every one of them.

“A yew, the most beautiful of the wood, it is called a king, it is not bulky. May the spear drive on the whole crowd to their wounds of death.”

“That is a good poem,” said the king, “but I do not understand why my own spear is brought into it, O Man of Poetry from Ireland.”

“It is because it is that spear of your own I would wish to get as the reward of my poem,” said Brian. “It is little sense you have to be asking that of me,” said the king; “and the people of my court never showed greater respect for poetry than now, when they did not put you to death on the spot.”

When Brian heard that talk from the king, he thought of the apple that was in his hand, and he made a straight cast and hit him in the forehead, so that his brains were put out at the back of his head, and he bared the sword and made an attack on the people about him. And the other two did not fail to do the same, and they gave him their help bravely till they had made an end of all they met of the people of the court. And then they found the spear, and its head in a cauldron of water, the way it would not set fire to the place.

And after a while they said it was time for them to go and look for the rest of the great fine that was on them, and they asked one another what way should they go. “We will go to the King of the Island of Siogair,” said Brian, “for it is with him are the two horses and the chariot the Ildánach asked of us.”

They went forward then and brought the spear with them, and it is proud the three champions were after all they had done. And they went on till they were come to the court of the King of Siogair.

“It is what we will do this time,” said Brian, “we will go in with the appearance of paid soldiers from Ireland, and we will make friends with the king, the way we will get to know in what place the horses and the chariot are kept.” And when they had settled on that they went forward to the lawn before the king’s house.

The king and the chief men that were with him rose up and came through the fair that was going on there, and they saluted the king, and he asked who were they. “We are trained fighting men from Ireland,” they said, “and we are earning wages from the kings of the world.” “Is it your wish to stop with me for a while?” said the king. “That is what we are wanting,” said they. So then they made an agreement and took service with him.

They stopped in the court a fortnight and a month, and they never saw the horses through that time. Then Brian said: “This is a bad way we are in, to have no more news of the horses now than the first day we came to the place.” “What is best for us to do now?” said his brothers. “Let us do this,” said Brian, “let us take our arms and gather our things together, and go to the king and tell him we will leave the country and this part of the world unless he will show us those horses.”

So they went to the king that very day, and he asked them what did they mean by getting themselves ready for a journey. “You will hear that, high king,” said Brian; “it is because trained fighting men from Ireland, like ourselves, have always trust put in them by the kings they guard, and we are used to be told the secrets and the whispers of any person we are with, and that is not the way you have treated us since we came to you. For you have two horses and a chariot that are the best in the world, as we have been told, and we have not been given a sight of them yet.” “It would be a pity you to go on that account,” said the king, “when I would have showed them to you the first day, if I had known you had a wish to see them. And if you have a mind to see them now,” he said, “you may see them; for I think there never came soldiers from Ireland to this place that were thought more of by myself and by my people than yourselves.”

He sent for the horses then, and they were yoked to the chariot, and their going was as fast as the cold spring wind, and the sea was the same as the land to them.

And Brian was watching the horses closely, and on a sudden he took hold of the chariot and took the chariot driver out and dashed him against the nearest rock, and made a leap into his place himself, and made a cast of the Persian spear at the king, that went through his heart. And then he and his brothers scattered the people before them, and brought away the chariot.

“We will go now to Easal, the King of the Golden Pillars,” said Brian, “to look for the seven pigs the Ildánach bade us bring him.”

They sailed on then without delay or drawback to that high country. And it is the way the people of that country were, watching their harbours for fear of the sons of Tuireann, for the story of them had been told in all parts, how they had been sent out of Ireland by force, and how they were bringing away with them all the gifted treasures of the whole world.

Easal came to the edge of the harbour to meet them, and he asked was it true what he heard, that the king of every country they had gone to had fallen by them. Brian said it was true, whatever he might wish to do to them for it. “What was it made you do that?” said Easal. Brian told him then it was the oppression and the hard sentence of another had put them to it; and he told him all that had happened, and how they had put down all that offered to stand against them until that time.

“What did you come to this country now for?” said the king. “For the pigs belonging to yourself,” said Brian; “for to bring them away with us is a part of the fine.” “What way do you think to get them?” said the king. “If we get them with good-will,” said Brian, “we are ready to take them thankfully; and if we do not, we are ready to do battle with yourself and your people on the head of them, that you may fall by us, and we may bring away the pigs in spite of you.” “If that is to be the end of it,” said the king, “it would be a pity to bring my people into a battle.” “It would be a pity indeed,” said Brian.

Then the king whispered and took advice with his people about the matter, and it is what they agreed, to give up the pigs of their own free will to the sons of Tuireann, since they could not see that any one had been able to stand against them up to that time.

Then the sons of Tuireann gave their thanks to Easal, and there was wonder on them to have got the pigs like that, when they had to fight for every other part of the fine. And more than that, they had left a share of their blood in every other place till then.

Easal brought them to his own house that night, and they were served with food, and drink, and good beds, and all they could wish for. And they rose up on the morrow and came into the king’s presence, and the pigs were given to them. “It is well you have done by us, giving us these pigs,” said Brian, “for we did not get any share of the fine without fighting but these alone.” And he made a poem for the king then, praising him, and putting a great name on him for what he had done.

“What journey are you going to make now, sons of Tuireann?” said Easal. “We are going,” they said, “to the country of Ioruaidh, on account of a whelp that is there.” “Give me one request,” said Easal, “and that is to bring me with you to the King of Ioruaidh, for a daughter of mine is his wife, and I would wish to persuade him to give you the whelp without a battle.” “That will please us well,” they said.

So the king’s ship was made ready, and we have no knowledge of what happened till they came to the delightful, wonderful coast of Ioruaidh. The people and the armies were watching the harbours and landing-places before them, and they knew them at once and shouted at them.

Then Easal went on shore peaceably, and he went to where his son-inlaw, the king, was, and told him the story of the sons of Tuireann from beginning to end. “What has brought them to this country?” said the King of Ioruaidh. “To ask for the hound you have,” said Easal. “It was a bad thought you had coming with them to ask it,” said the king, “for the gods have not given that much luck to any three champions in the world, that they would get my hound by force or by good-will.” “It would be better for you to let them have the hound,” said Easal, “since they have put down so many of the kings of the world.”

But all he could say was only idleness to the king. So he went then to where the sons of Tuireann were, and gave them the whole account. And when they heard the king’s answer, they made no delay, but put quick hands on their arms, and offered to give battle to the army of Ioruaidh. And when they met, there was a brave battle fought on both sides. And as for the sons of Tuireann, they began to kill and to strike at the men of Ioruaidh till they parted from one another in the fight, so that Iuchar and Iucharba chanced to be on one side, and Brian by himself on the other side. It was a gap of danger and a breaking of ranks was before Brian in every path he took, till he came to the King of Ioruaidh in the battle pen where he was. And then the two brave champions began a fierce fight together, and they did not spare one another in it. And at the last Brian overcame the king, and bound him, and brought him through the middle of the army, till he came to the place where Easal was, and it is what he said: “There is your son-inlaw for you, and I swear by my hand of valour, I would think it easier to kill him three times than to bring him to you once like this.”

So then the whelp was given to the sons of Tuireann, and the king was unbound, and peace was made between them. And when they had brought all this to an end, they bade farewell to Easal and to all the rest.

Now as to Lugh of the Long Hand, it was showed to him that the sons of Tuireann had got all the things that were wanting to him against the battle with the Fomor; and on that he sent a Druid spell after them to put forgetfulness on them of the rest of the fine that they had not got. And he put a great desire and longing on them to go back to Ireland; so they forgot that a part of the fine was wanting to them, and they turned back again toward home.

And it is the place where Lugh was at the time, at a gathering of the people for a fair on the green outside Teamhair, and the King of Ireland along with him. And it was made known to Lugh that the sons of Tuireann were landed at Brugh na Boinn. And he went into the city of Teamhair, and shut the gate after him, and he put on Manannan’s smooth armour, and the cloak, of the daughters of Flidais, and he took his own arms in his hand.

And the sons of Tuireann came where the king was, and they were made welcome by him and by the Tuatha de Danaan. And the king asked them did they get the fine. “We did get it,” said they; “and where is Lugh till we give it to him?” “He was here a while ago,” said the king. And the whole fair was searched for him, but he was not found.

“I know the place where he is,” said Brian; “for it has been made known to him that we are come to Ireland, and these deadly arms with us, and he is gone into Teamhair to avoid us.”

Messengers were sent to him then, and it is the answer he gave them that he would not come, but that the fine should be given to the king.

So the sons of Tuireann did that, and when the king had taken the fine they all went to the palace in Teamhair; and Lugh came out on the lawn and the fine was given to him, and it is what he said: “There is a good payment here for any one that ever was killed or that ever will be killed. But there is something wanting to it yet that it is not lawful to leave out. And where is the cooking-spit?” he said; “and where are the three shouts on the hill that you did not give yet?”

And when the sons of Tuireann heard that there came clouds of weakness on them. And they left the place and went to their father’s house that night, and they told him all they had done, and the way Lugh had treated them.

There was grief and darkness on Tuireann then, and they spent the night together. And on the morrow they went to their ship, and Ethne, their sister, with them, and she was crying and lamenting, and it is what she said:

“It is a pity, Brian of my life, it is not to Teamhair your going is, after all the troubles you have had before this, even if I could not follow you.

“O Salmon of the dumb Boinn, O Salmon of the Lifé River, since I cannot keep you here I am loath to part from you.

“O Rider of the Wave of Tuaidh, the man that stands best in the fight, if you come back again, I think it will not be pleasing to your enemy.

“Is there pity with you for the sons of Tuireann leaning now on their green shields? Their going is a cause for pity, my mind is filled up with it.

“You to be to-night at Beinn Edair till the heavy coming of the morning, you who have taken forfeits from brave men, it is you have increased our grief.

“It is a pity your journey is from Teamhair, and from the pleasant plains, and from great Uisnech of Midhe; there is nothing so pitiful as this.”

After that complaint they went out on the rough waves of the green sea; and they were a quarter of a year on the sea without getting any news of the island.

Then Brian put on his water dress and he made a leap, and he was a long time walking in the sea looking for the Island of the Fair–Haired Women, and he found it in the end. And he went looking for the court, and when he came to it, all he found was a troop of women doing needlework and embroidering borders. And among all the other things they had with them, there was the cooking-spit.

And when Brian saw it, he took it up in his hand and he was going to bring it with him to the door. And all the women began laughing when they saw him doing that, and it is what they said: “It is a brave deed you put your hand to; for even if your brothers were along with you, the least of the three times fifty women of us would not let the spit go with you or with them. But for all that,” they said, “take a spit of the spits with you, since you had the daring to try and take it in spite of us.”

Brian bade them farewell then, and went to look for the boat. And his brothers thought it was too long he was away from them, and just as they were going to leave the place they were, they saw him coming towards them, and that raised their courage greatly.

And he went into the boat, and they went on to look for the Hill of Miochaoin. And when they came there, Miochaoin, that was the guardian of the hill, came towards them; and when Brian saw him he attacked him, and the fight of those two champions was like the fight of two lions, till Miochaoin fell at the last.

And after Miochaoin had fallen, his three sons came out to fight with the three sons of Tuireann. And if any one ever came from the east of the world to look at any fight, it is to see the fight of these champions he had a right to come, for the greatness of their blows and the courage of their minds. The names of the sons of Miochaoin were Core and Conn and Aedh, and they drove their three spears through the bodies of the sons of Tuireann, and that did not discourage them at all and they put their own three spears through the bodies of the sons of Miochaoin, so that they fell into the clouds and the faintness of death.

And then Brian said: “What way are you now, my dear brothers?” “We are near our death,” said they. “Let us rise up,” he said, “and give three shouts upon the hill, for I see the signs of death coming on us.” “We are not able to do that,” said they. Then Brian rose up and raised each of them with one hand, and he shedding blood heavily all the time, until they gave the three shouts.

After that Brian brought them with him to the boat, and they were travelling the sea for a long time, but at last Brian said: “I see Beinn Edair and our father’s dun, and Teamhair of the Kings.” “We would have our fill of health if we could see that,” said the others; “and for the love of your good name, brother,” they said, “raise up our heads on your breast till we see Ireland again, and life or death will be the same to us after that. And O Brian,” they said, “Flame of Valour without treachery, we would sooner death to bring ourselves away, than to see you with wounds upon your body, and with no physician to heal you.”

Then they came to Beinn Edair, and from that they went on to their father’s house, and Brian said to Tuireann: “Go, dear father, to Teamhair, and give this spit to Lugh, and bring the skin that has healing in it for our relief. Ask it from him for the sake of friendship,” he said, “for we are of the one blood, and let him not give hardness for hardness. And O dear father,” he said, “do not be long on your journey, or you will not find us alive before you.”

Then Tuireann went to Teamhair, and he found Lugh of the Long Hand before him, and he gave him the spit, and he asked the skin of him to heal his children, and Lugh said he would not give it And Tuireann came back to them and told them he had not got the skin. And Brian said: “Bring me with you to Lugh, to see would I get it from him.”

So they went to Lugh, and Brian asked the skin of him. And Lugh said he would not give it, and that if they would give him the breadth of the earth in gold for it, he would not take it from them, unless he was sure their death would come on them in satisfaction for the deed they had done.

When Brian heard that, he went to the place his two brothers were, and he lay down between them, and his life went out from him, and out from the other two at the same time.

And their father cried and lamented over his three beautiful sons, that had the making of a king of Ireland in each of them, and his strength left him and he died; and they were buried in the one grave.

Chapter iii. The Great Battle of Magh Tuireadh

And it was not long after Lugh had got the fine from the sons of Tuireann that the Fomor came and landed at Scetne.

The whole host of the Fomor were come this time, and their king, Balor, of the Strong Blows and of the Evil Eye, along with them; and Bres, and Indech, son of De Domnann, a king of the Fomor, and Elathan, son of Lobos, and Goll and Ingol, and Octriallach, son of Indech, and Elathan, son of Delbaeth.

Then Lugh sent the Dagda to spy out the Fomor, and to delay them till such time as the men of Ireland would come to the battle.

So the Dagda went to their camp, and he asked them for a delay, and they said he might have that. And then to make sport of him, the Fomor made broth for him, for he had a great love for broth. So they filled the king’s cauldron with four times twenty gallons of new milk, and the same of meal and fat, and they put in goats and sheep and pigs along with that, and boiled all together, and then they poured it all out into a great hole in the ground. And they called him to it then, and told him he should eat his fill, the way the Fomor would not be reproached for want of hospitality the way Bres was. “We will make an end of you if you leave any part of it after you,” said Indech, son of De Domnann.

So the Dagda took the ladle, and it big enough for a man and a woman to lie in the bowl of it, and he took out bits with it, the half of a salted pig, and a quarter of lard a bit would be. “If the broth tastes as well as the bits taste, this is good food,” he said. And he went on putting the full of the ladle into his mouth till the hole was empty; and when all was gone he put down his hand and scraped up all that was left among the earth and the gravel.

Sleep came on him then after eating the broth, and the Fomor were laughing at him, for his belly was the size of the cauldron of a great house. But he rose up after a while, and, heavy as he was, he made his way home; and indeed his dress was no way sightly, a cape to the hollow of the elbows, and a brown coat, long in the breast and short behind, and on his feet brogues of horse hide, with the hair outside, and in his hand a wheeled fork it would take eight men to carry, so that the track he left after him was deep enough for the boundary ditch of a province. And on his way he saw the Battle–Crow, the Morrigu, washing herself in the river Unius of Connacht, and one of her two feet at Ullad Echne, to the south of the water, and the other at Loscuinn, to the north of the water, and her hair hanging in nine loosened locks. And she said to the Dagda, that she would bring the heart’s blood of Indech, son of De Domnann, that had threatened him, to the men of Ireland.

And while he was away Lugh had called together the Druids, and smiths, and physicians, and law-makers, and chariot-drivers of Ireland, to make plans for the battle.

And he asked the great magician Mathgen what could he do to help them. “It is what I can do,” said Mathgen, “through my power I can throw down all the mountains of Ireland on the Fomor, until their tops will be rolling on the ground. And the twelve chief mountains of Ireland will bring you their help,” he said, “and will fight for you: Slieve Leag and Denda Ulad, and Bennai Boirche and Bri Ruri, and Slieve Bladma and Slieve Snechtae, and Slieve Mis and Blai–Slieve, and Nemthann and Slieve Macca Belgodon, and Segois and Cruachan Aigle.”

Then he asked the cup-bearers what help they could give. “We will put a strong thirst on the Fomor,” they said, “and then we will bring the twelve chief lochs of Ireland before them, and however great their thirst may be, they will find no water in them: Derc–Loch, Loch Luimnech, Loch Orbsen, Loch Righ, Loch Mescdhae, Loch Cuan, Loch Laeig, Loch Echach, Loch Febail, Loch Decket, Loch Riach, Mor–Loch. And we will go,” they said, “to the twelve chief rivers of Ireland: the Buas, the Boinn, the Banna, the Nem, the Laoi, the Sionnan, the Muaid, the Sligech, the Samair, the Fionn, the Ruirtech, the Siuir; and they will all be hidden away from the Fomor the way they will not find a drop in them. But as for the men of Ireland,” they said, “there will be drink for them if they were to be in the battle to the end of seven years.”

And Figol, son of Mamos, the Druid, was asked then what he would do, and he said: “It is what I will do, I will cause three showers of fire to pour on the faces of the army of the Fomor, and I will take from them two-thirds of their bravery and their strength, and I will put sickness on their bodies, and on the bodies of their horses. But as to the men of Ireland,” he said, “every breath they breathe will be an increase of strength and of bravery to them; and if they are seven years in the battle they will never be any way tired.”

Then Lugh asked his two witches, Bechulle and Dianan: “What power can you bring to the battle?” “It is easy to say that,” they said. “We will put enchantment on the trees and the stones and the sods of the earth, till they become an armed host against the Fomor, and put terror on them and put them to the rout.”

Then Lugh asked Carpre, the poet, son of Etain, what could he do. “It is not hard to say that,” said Carpre. “I will make a satire on them at sunrise, and the wind from the north, and I on a hill-top and my back to a thorn-tree, and a stone and a thorn in my hand. And with that satire,” he said, “I will put shame on them and enchantment, the way they will not be able to stand against fighting men.”

Then he asked Goibniu the Smith what would he be able to do. “I will do this,” he said. “If the men of Ireland stop in the battle to the end of seven years, for every sword that is broken and for every spear that is lost from its shaft, I will put a new one in its place. And no spear-point that will be made by my hand,” he said, “will ever miss its mark; and no man it touches will ever taste life again. And that is more than Dolb, the smith of the Fomor, can do,” he said.

“And you, Credne,” Lugh said then to his worker in brass, “what help can you give to our men in the battle?” “It is not hard to tell that,” said Credne, “rivets for their spears and hilts for their swords and bosses and rims for their shields, I will supply them all.”

“And you, Luchta,” he said then to his carpenter, “what will you do?” “I will give them all they want of shields and of spear shafts,” said Luchta.

Then he asked Diancecht, the physician, what would he do, and it is what he said: “Every man that will be wounded there, unless his head is struck off, or his brain or his marrow cut through, I will make him whole and sound again for the battle of the morrow.”

Then the Dagda said: “Those great things you are boasting you will do, I will do them all with only myself.” “It is you are the good god!” said they, and they all gave a great shout of laughter.

Then Lugh spoke to the whole army and put strength in them, so that each one had the spirit in him of a king or a great lord.

Then when the delay was at an end, the Fomor and the men of Ireland came on towards one another till they came to the plain of Magh Tuireadh. That now was not the same Magh Tuireadh where the first battle was fought, but it was to the north, near Ess Dara.

And then the two armies threatened one another. “The men of Ireland are daring enough to offer battle to us,” said Bres to Indech, son of De Domnann. “I give my word,” said Indech, “it is in small pieces their bones will be, if they do not give in to us and pay their tribute.”

Now the Men of Dea had determined not to let Lugh go into the battle, because of the loss his death would be to them; and they left nine of their men keeping a watch on him.

And on the first day none of the kings or princes went into the battle, but only the common fighting men, and they fierce and proud enough.

And the battle went on like that from day to day with no great advantage to one or the other side. But there was wonder on the Fomor on account of one thing. Such of their own weapons as were broken or blunted in the fight lay there as they were, and such of their own men as were killed showed no sign of life on the morrow; but it was not so with the Tuatha de Danaan, for if their men were killed or their weapons were broken today, they were as good as before on the morrow.

And this is the way that happened. The well of Slaine lay to the west of Magh Tuireadh to the east of Loch Arboch. And Diancecht and his son Octruil and his daughter Airmed used to be singing spells over the well and to be putting herbs in it; and the men that were wounded to death in the battle would be brought to the well and put into it as dead men, and they would come out of it whole and sound, through the power of the spells. And not only were they healed, but there was such fire put into them that they would be quicker in the fight than they were before.

And as to the arms, it is the way they were made new every day. Goibniu the Smith used to be in the forge making swords and spears, and he would make a spear-head by three turns, and then Luchta the Carpenter would make the shaft by three cuts, and the third cut was a finish, and would set it in the ring of the spear. And when the spear-heads were stuck in the side of the forge, he would throw the shaft and the rings the way they would go into the spear-head and want no more setting. And then Credne the Brazier would make the rivets by three turns and would cast the rings of the spears to them, and with that they were ready and were set together.

And all this went against the Fomor, and they sent one of their young men to spy about the camp and to see could he find out how these things were done. It was Ruadan, son of Bres and of Brigit daughter of the Dagda they sent, for he was a son and grandson of the Tuatha de Danaan. So he went and saw all that was done, and came back to the Fomor.

And when they heard his story it is what they thought, that Goibniu the Smith was the man that hindered them most. And they sent Ruadan back again, and bade him make an end of him.

So he went back again to the forge, and he asked Goibniu would he give him a spear-head. And then he asked rivets of Credne, and a shaft of the carpenter, and all was given to him as he asked. And there was a woman there, Cron, mother to Fianlug, grinding the spears.

And after the spear being given to Ruadan, he turned and threw it at Goibniu, that it wounded him. But Goibniu pulled it out and made a cast of it at Ruadan, that it went through him and he died; and Bres, his father, and the army of the Fomor, saw him die. And then Brigit came and keened her son with shrieking and with crying.

And as to Goibniu, he went into the well and was healed. But after that Octriallach, son of Indech, called to the Fomor and bade each man of them bring a stone of the stones of Drinnes and throw them into the well of Slane. And they did that till the well was dried up, and a cairn raised over it, that is called Octriallach’s Cairn.

And it was while Goibniu was making spear-heads for the battle of Magh Tuireadh, a charge was brought against his wife. And it was seen that it was heavy news to him, and that jealousy came on him. And it is what he did, there was a spear-shaft in his hand when he heard the story, Nes its name was; and he sang spells over the spear-shaft, and any one that was struck with that spear afterwards, it would burn him up like fire.

And at last the day of the great battle came, and the Fomor came out of their camp and stood in strong ranks. And there was not a leader or a fighting man of them was without good armour to his skin, and a helmet on his head, a broad spear in his right hand, a heavy sword in his belt, a strong shield on his shoulder. And to attack the army of the Fomor that day was to strike the head against a rock, or to go up fighting against a fire.

And the Men of Dea rose up and left Lugh and his nine comrades keeping him, and they went on to the battle; and Midhir was with them, and Bodb Dearg and Diancecht. And Badb and Macha and the Morrigu called out that they would go along with them.

And it was a hard battle was fought, and for a while it was going against the Tuatha de Danaan; and Nuada of the Silver Hand, their King, and Macha, daughter of Emmass, fell by Balor, King of the Fomor. And Cass-mail fell by Octriallach, and the Dagda got a dreadful wound from a casting spear that was thrown by Ceithlenn, wife of Balor.

But when the battle was going on, Lugh broke away from those that were keeping him, and rushed out to the front of the Men of Dea. And then there was a fierce battle fought, and Lugh was heartening the men of Ireland to fight well, the way they would not be in bonds any longer. For it was better for them, he said, to die protecting their own country than to live under bonds and under tribute any longer. And he sang a song of courage to them, and the hosts gave a great shout as they went into battle, and then they met together, and each of them began to attack the other.

And there was great slaughter, and laying low in graves, and many comely men fell there in the stall of death. Pride and shame were there side by side, and hardness and red anger, and there was red blood on the white skin of young fighting men. And the dashing of spear against shield, and sword against sword, and the shouting of the fighters, and the whistling of casting spears and the rattling of scabbards was like harsh thunder through the battle. And many slipped in the blood that was under their feet, and they fell, striking their heads one against another; and the river carried away bodies of friends and enemies together.

Then Lugh and Balor met in the battle, and Lugh called out reproaches to him; and there was anger on Balor, and he said to the men that were with him: “Lift up my eyelid till I see this chatterer that is talking to me.” Then they raised Balor’s eyelid, but Lugh made a cast of his red spear at him, that brought the eye out through the back of his head, so that it was towards his own army it fell, and three times nine of the Fomor died when they looked at it. And if Lugh had not put out that eye when he did, the whole of Ireland would have been burned in one flash. And after this, Lugh struck his head off.

And as for Indech, son of De Domnann, he fell and was crushed in the battle, and blood burst from his mouth, and he called out for Leat Glas, his poet, as he lay there, but he was not able to help him. And then the Morrigu came into the battle, and she was heartening the Tuatha de Danaan to fight the battle well; and, as she had promised the Dagda, she took the full of her two hands of Indech’s blood, and gave it to the armies that were waiting at the ford of Unius; and it was called the Ford of Destruction from that day.

And after that it was not a battle any more, but a rout, and the Fomor were beaten back to the sea. And Lugh and his comrades were following them, and they came up with Bres, son of Elathan, and no guard with him, and he said: “It is better for you to spare my life than to kill me. And if you spare me now,” he said, “the cows of Ireland will never go dry.” “I will ask an advice about that from our wise men,” said Lugh. So he told Maeltine Mor–Brethach, of the Great Judgments, what Bres was after saying. But Maeltine said: “Do not spare him for that, for he has no power over their offspring, though he has power so long as they are living.”

Then Bres said: “If you spare me, the men of Ireland will reap a harvest of corn every quarter.” But Maeltine said: “The spring is for ploughing and sowing, and the beginning of summer for the strength of corn, and the beginning of autumn for its ripeness, and the winter for using it.”

“That does not save you,” said Lugh then to Bres. But then to make an excuse for sparing him, Lugh said: “Tell us what is the best way for the men of Ireland to plough and to sow and to reap.”

“Let their ploughing be on a Tuesday, and their casting seed into the field on a Tuesday, and their reaping on a Tuesday,” said Bres. So Lugh said that would do, and he let him go free after that.

It was in this battle Ogma found Orna, the sword of Tethra, a king of the Fomor, and he took it from its sheath and cleaned it. And when the sword was taken out of the sheath, it told all the deeds that had been done by it, for there used to be that power in swords.

And Lugh and the Dagda and Ogma followed after the Fomor, for they had brought away the Dagda’s harp with them, that was called Uaitne. And they came to a feasting-house, and in it they found Bres and his father Elathan, and there was the harp hanging on the wall. And it was in that harp the Dagda had bound the music, so that it would not sound till he would call to it. And sometimes it was called Dur-da-Bla, the Oak of Two Blossoms, and sometimes Coir-cethar-chuin, the Four–Angled Music.

And when he saw it hanging on the wall it is what he said: “Come summer, come winter, from the mouth of harps and bags and pipes.” Then the harp sprang from the wall, and came to the Dagda, and it killed nine men on its way.

And then he played for them the three things harpers understand, the sleepy tune, and the laughing tune, and the crying tune. And when he played the crying tune, their tearful women cried, and then he played the laughing tune, till their women and children laughed; and then he played the sleepy tune, and all the hosts fell asleep. And through that sleep the three went away through the Fomor that would have been glad to harm them. And when all was over, the Dagda brought out the heifer he had got as wages from Bres at the time he was making his dun. And she called to her calf, and at the sound of her call all the cattle of Ireland the Fomor had brought away as tribute, were back in their fields again.

And Cé, the Druid of Nuada of the Silver Hand, was wounded in the battle, and he went southward till he came to Carn Corrslebe. And there he sat down to rest, tired with his wounds and with the fear that was on him, and the journey. And he saw a smooth plain before him, and it full of flowers, and a great desire came on him to reach to that plain, and he went on till he came to it, and there he died. And when his grave was made there, a lake burst out over it and over the whole plain, and it was given the name of Loch Cé. And there were but four men of the Fomor left in Ireland after the battle, and they used to be going through the country, spoiling corn and milk and fruit, and whatever came from the sea, till they were driven out one Samhain night by the Morrigu and by Angus Og, that the Fomor might never be over Ireland again.

And after the battle was won, and the bodies were cleared away, the Morrigu gave out the news of the great victory to the hosts and to the royal heights of Ireland and to its chief rivers and its invers, and it is what she said: “Peace up to the skies, the skies down to earth, the earth under the skies; strength to every one.”

And as to the number of men that fell in the battle, it will not be known till we number the stars of the sky, or flakes of snow, or the dew on the grass, or grass under the feet of cattle, or the horses of the Son of Lir in a stormy sea.

And Lugh was made king over the Men of Dea then, and it was at Nas he had his court.

And while he was king, his foster-mother Taillte, daughter of Magh Mor, the Great Plain, died. And before her death she bade her husband Duach the Dark, he that built the Fort of the Hostages in Teamhair, to clear away the wood of Cuan, the way there could be a gathering of the people around her grave. So he called to the men of Ireland to cut down the wood with their wide-bladed knives and bill-hooks and hatchets, and within a month the whole wood was cut down.

And Lugh buried her in the plain of Midhe, and raised a mound over her, that is to be seen to this day. And he ordered fires to be kindled, and keening to be made, and games and sports to be held in the summer of every year out of respect to her. And the place they were held got its name from her, that is Taillten.

And as to Lugh’s own mother, that was tall beautiful Ethlinn, she came to Teamhair after the battle of Magh Tuireadh, and he gave her in marriage to Tadg, son of Nuada. And the children that were born to them were Muirne, mother of Finn, the Head of the Fianna of Ireland, and Tuiren, that was mother of Bran.

Chapter iv. The Hidden House of Lugh

And after Lugh had held the kingship for a long time, the Dagda was made king in his place.

And Lugh went away out of Ireland, and some said he died at Uisnech, the place where the five provinces meet, and the first place there was ever a fire kindled in Ireland. It was by Mide, son of Brath, it was kindled, for the sons of Nemed, and it was burning through six years, and it was from that fire every chief fire was kindled in Ireland.

But Lugh was seen again in Ireland at the time Conchubar and the Men of the Red Branch went following white birds southward to the Boinn at the time of Cuchulain’s birth. And it was he came and kept watch over Cuchulain in his three days’ sleep at the time of the War for the Bull of Cuailgne.

And after that again he was seen by Conn of the Hundred Battles, and this is the way that happened.

Conn was in Teamhair one time, and he went up in the early morning to the Rath of the Kings at the rising of the sun, and his three Druids with him, Maol and Bloc and Bhuice; and his three poets, Ethain and Corb and Cesarn. And the reason he had for going up there with them every day, was to look about on every side, the way if any men of the Sidhe would come into Ireland they would not come unknown to him. And on this day he chanced to stand upon a stone that was in the rath, and the stone screamed under his feet, that it was heard all over Teamhair and as far as Bregia.

Then Conn asked his chief Druid how the stone came there, and what it screamed for. And the Druid said he would not answer that till the end of fifty-three days. And at the end of that time, Conn asked him again, and it is what the Druid said: “The Lia Fail is the name of the stone; it is out of Falias it was brought, and it is in Teamhair it was set up, and in Teamhair it will stay for ever. And as long as there is a king in Teamhair it is here will be the gathering place for games, and if there is no king to come to the last day of the gathering, there will be hardness in that year. And when the stone screamed under your feet,” he said, “the number of the screams it gave was a foretelling of the number of kings of your race that would come after you. But it is not I myself will name them for you,” he said.

And while they were in the same place, there came a great mist about them and a darkness, so that they could not know what way they were going, and they heard the noise of a rider coming towards them. “It would be a great grief to us,” said Conn, “to be brought away into a strange country.” Then the rider threw three spears at them, and every one came faster than the other. “It is the wounding of a king indeed,” said the Druids, “any one to cast at Conn of Teamhair.”

The rider stopped casting his spears on that, and he came to them and bade Conn welcome, and asked him to come to his house. They went on then till they came to a beautiful plain, and there they saw a king’s rath, and a golden tree at its door, and inside the rath a grand house with a roof of white bronze. So they went into the house, and the rider that had come to meet them was there before them, in his royal seat, and there had never been seen a man like him in Teamhair for comeliness or for beauty, or the wonder of his face.

And there was a young woman in the house, having a band of gold on her head, and a silver vessel with hoops of gold beside her, and it full of red ale, and a golden bowl on its edge, and a golden cup at its mouth. She said then to the master of the house: “Who am I to serve drink to?” “Serve it to Conn of the Hundred Battles,” he said, “for he will gain a hundred battles before he dies.” And after that he bade her to pour out the ale for Art of the Three Shouts, the son of Conn; and after that he went through the names of all the kings of Ireland that would come after Conn, and he told what would be the length of their lifetime. And the young woman left the vessel with Conn, and the cup and the bowl, and she gave him along with that the rib of an ox and of a hog; twenty-four feet was the length of the ox-rib.

And the master of the house told them the young woman was the Kingship of Ireland for ever. “And as for myself,” he said, “I am Lugh of the Long Hand, son of Ethlinn.”

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:14