Arthur, son of the King of Britain, came one time to take service with Finn, and three times nine men along with him. And they went hunting one day on Beinn Edair, and Finn took his place on the Cairn of the Fianna between the hill and the sea, and Arthur took his stand between the hunt and the sea, the way the deer would not escape by swimming.
And while Arthur was there he took notice of three of Finn’s hounds, Bran, and Sceolan and Adhnuall, and he made a plan in his mind to go away across the sea, himself and his three nines, bringing those three hounds along with him. So he did that, and he himself and his men brought away the hounds and crossed the sea, and the place where they landed was Inver Mara Gamiach on the coast of Britain. And after they landed, they went to the mountain of Lodan, son of Lir, to hunt on it.
And as to the Fianna, after their hunting was done they gathered together on the hill; and as the custom was, all Finn’s hounds were counted. Three hundred full-grown hounds he had, and two hundred whelps; and it is what the poets used to say, that to be counting them was like counting the branches on a tree.
Now on this day when they were counted, Bran and Sceolan and Adhnuall were missing; and that was told to Finn. He bade his people to search again through the three battalions of the Fianna, but search as they would, the hounds were not to be found.
Then Finn sent for a long-shaped basin of pale gold, and water in it, and he put his face in the water, and his hand over his face, and it was showed him what had happened, and he said: “The King of Britain’s son has brought away the hound. And let nine men be chosen out to follow after them,” he said. So nine men were chosen out, Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne; Goll, son of Morna; Oisin, son of Finn; Faolan, the friend of the hounds, son of a woman that had come over the sea to give her love to Finn; Ferdoman, son of Bodb Dearg; two sons of Finn, Raighne Wide Eye and Cainche the Crimson–Red; Glas, son of Enchered Bera, with Caoilte and Lugaidh’s Son. And their nine put their helmets on their heads, and took their long spears in their hands, and they felt sure they were a match for any four hundred men from the east to the west of the world.
They set out then, till they came to the mountain of Lodan, son of Lir; and they were not long there till they heard talk of men that were hunting in that place.
Arthur of Britain and his people were sitting on a hunting mound just at that time, and the nine men of the Fianna made an attack on them and killed all of them but Arthur, that Goll, son of Morna, put his two arms about and saved from death. Then they turned to go back to Ireland, bringing Arthur with them, and the three hounds. And as they were going, Goll chanced to look around him and he saw a dark-grey horse, having a bridle with fittings of worked gold. And then he looked to the left and saw a bay mare that was not easy to get hold of, and it having a bridle of silver rings and a golden bit. And Goll took hold of the two, and he gave them into Oisin’s hand, and he gave them on to Diarmuid.
They went back to Finn then, bringing his three hounds with them, and the King of Britain’s son as a prisoner; and Arthur made bonds with Finn, and was his follower till he died.
And as to the horse and the mare, they gave them to Finn; and the mare bred eight times, at every birth eight foals, and it is of that seed came all the horses of the fair Fianna of the Gael, for they had used no horses up to that time.
And that was not the only time Finn was robbed of some of his hounds. For there was a daughter of Roman was woman-Druid to the Tuatha de Danaan, and she set her love on Finn. But Finn said, so long as there was another woman to be found in the world, he would not marry a witch. And one time, three times fifty of Finn’s hounds passed by the hill where she was; and she breathed on the hounds and shut them up in the hill, and they never came out again. It was to spite Finn she did that, and the place got the name of Duma na Conn, the Mound of the Hounds.
And as to Adhnuall, one of the hounds Finn thought most of, and that was brought back from the King of Britain’s son, this is the way he came to his death afterwards.
There was a great fight one time between the Fianna and Macoon, son of Macnia, at some place in the province of Leinster, and a great many of the Fianna were killed. And the hound Adhnuall went wandering northward from the battle and went astray; and three times he went round the whole of Ireland, and then he came back to the place of the battle, and to a hill where three young men of the Fianna that had fallen there were buried after their death, and three daughters of a King of Alban that had died for love of them. And when Adhnuall came to that hill, he gave three loud howls and he stretched himself out and died.
Finn called for a great hunt one time on the plains of Magh Chonaill and in the forest parts of Cairbre of the Nuts. And he himself went up to the top of Ceiscoran, and his two dogs Bran and Sceolan with him.
And the Fianna were shouting through the whole country where they were hunting, the way the deer were roused in their wild places and the badgers in their holes, and foxes in their wanderings, and birds on the wing.
And Conaran, son of Imidd, of the Tuatha de Danaan, had the sway in Ceiscoran at that time, and when he heard the shouting and the cry of the hounds all around, he bade his three daughters that had a great share of enchantments, to do vengeance on Finn for his hunting.
The three women went then to the opening of a cave that was in the hills, and there they sat down together, and they put three strong enchanted hanks of yarn on crooked holly-sticks, and began to reel them off outside the cave.
They were not long there till Finn and Conan came towards them, and saw the three ugly old hags at their work, their coarse hair tossed, their eyes red and bleary, their teeth sharp and crooked, their arms very long, their nails like the tips of cows’ horns, and the three spindles in their hands.
Finn and Conan passed through the hanks of yarn to get a better look at the hags. And no sooner had they done that, than a deadly trembling came on them and a weakness, and the bold hags took hold of them and put them in tight bonds.
Two other men of the Fianna came up then, and the sons of Menhann along with them, and they went through the spindles to where Finn and Conan were, and their strength went from them in the same way, and the hags tied them fast and carried them into the cave.
They were not long there till Caoilte and Lugaidh’s Son came to the place, and along with them the best men of the sons of Baiscne. The sons of Morna came as well, and no sooner did they see the hanks than their strength and their bravery went out of them the same as it went from the others.
And in the end the whole number of them, gentle and simple, were put in bonds by the hags, and brought into the cave. And there began at the mouth of the cave a great outcry of hounds calling for their masters that had left them there. And there was lying on the hillside a great heap of deer, and wild pigs, and hares, and badgers, dead and torn, that were brought as far as that by the hunters that were tied up now in the cave.
Then the three women came in, having swords in their hands, to the place where they were lying, to make an end of them. But first they looked out to see was there ever another man of the Fianna to bring in and to make an end of with the rest.
And they saw coming towards them a very tall man that was Goll, son of Morna, the Flame of Battle. And when the three hags saw him they went to meet him, and they fought a hard battle with him. And great anger came on Goll, and he made great strokes at the witches, and at the last he raised up his sword, and with one blow he cut the two that were nearest him through and through.
And then the oldest of the three women wound her arms about Goll, and he beheading the two others, and he turned to face her and they wrestled together, till at last Goll gave her a great twist and threw her on the ground. He tied her fast then with the straps of a shield, and took his sword to make an end of her. But the hag said: “O champion that was never worsted, strong man that never went back in battle, I put my body and my life under the protection of your bravery. And it is better for you,” she said, “to get Finn and the Fianna safe and whole than to have my blood; and I swear by the gods my people swear by,” she said, “I will give them back to you again.”
With that Goll set her free, and they went together into the hill where the Fianna were lying. And Goll said: “Loose off the fastenings first from Fergus of the True Lips and from the other learned men of the Fianna; and after that from Finn, and Oisin, and the twenty-nine sons of Morna, and from all the rest.”
She took off the fastenings then, and the Fianna made no delay, but rose up and went out and sat down on the side of the hill. And Fergus of the Sweet Lips looked at Goll, son of Morna, and made great praises of him, and of all that he had done.
One time the Fianna were at their hunting at the island of Toraig to the north of Ireland, and they roused a fawn that was very wild and beautiful, and it made for the coast, and Finn and six of his men followed after it through the whole country, till they came to Slieve-nam-Ban. And there the fawn put down its head and vanished into the earth, and none of them knew where was it gone to.
A heavy snow began to fall then that bent down the tops of the trees like a willow-gad, and the courage and the strength went from the Fianna with the dint of the bad weather, and Finn said to Caoilte: “Is there any place we can find shelter to-night?” Caoilte made himself supple then, and went over the elbow of the hill southward.
And when he looked around him he saw a house full of light, with cups and horns and bowls of different sorts in it. He stood a good while before the door of the house, that he knew to be a house of the Sidhe, thinking would it be best go in and get news of it, or to go back to Finn and the few men that were with him. And he made up his mind to go into the house, and there he sat down on a shining chair in the middle of the floor; and he looked around him, and he saw, on the one side, eight-and-twenty armed men, each of them having a well-shaped woman beside him. And on the other side he saw six nice young girls, yellow-haired, having shaggy gowns from their shoulders. And in the middle there was another young girl sitting in a chair, and a harp in her hand, and she playing on it and singing. And every time she stopped, a man of them would give her a horn to drink from, and she would give it back to him again, and they were all making mirth around her.
She spoke to Caoilte then. “Caoilte, my life,” she said, “give us leave to attend on you now.” “Do not,” said Caoilte, “for there is a better man than myself outside, Finn, son of Cumhal, and he has a mind to eat in this house to-night.” “Rise up, Caoilte, and go for Finn,” said a man of the house then; “for he never refused any man in his own house, and he will get no refusal from us.”
Caoilte went back then to Finn, and when Finn saw him he said: “It is long you are away from us, Caoilte, for from the time I took arms in my hands I never had a night that put so much hardship on me as this one.”
The six of them went then into the lighted house and their shields and their arms with them. And they sat down on the edge of a seat, and a girl having yellow hair came and brought them to a shining seat in the middle of the house, and the newest of every food, and the oldest of every drink was put before them. And when the sharpness of their hunger and their thirst was lessened, Finn said: “Which of you can I question?” “Question whoever you have a mind to,” said the tallest of the men that was near him. “Who are you yourself then?” said Finn, “for I did not think there were so many champions in Ireland, and I not knowing them.”
“Those eight-and-twenty armed men you see beyond,” said the tall man, “had the one father and mother with myself; and we are the sons of Midhir of the Yellow Hair, and our mother is Fionnchaem, the fair, beautiful daughter of the King of the Sidhe of Monaid in the east. And at one time the Tuatha de Danaan had a gathering, and gave the kingship to Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, at his bright hospitable place, and he began to ask hostages of myself and of my brothers; but we said that till all the rest of the Men of Dea had given them, we would not give them. Bodb Dearg said then to our father: ‘Unless you will put away your sons, we will wall up your dwelling-place on you.’ So the eight-and-twenty brothers of us came out to look for a place for ourselves; and we searched all Ireland till we found this secret hidden place, and we are here ever since. And my own name,” he said, “is Donn, son of Midhir. And we had every one of us ten hundred armed men belonging to himself, but they are all worn away now, and only the eight-and-twenty of us left.” “What is it is wearing you away?” said Finn. “The Men of Dea,” said Donn, “that come three times in every year to give battle to us on the green outside.” “What is the long new grave we saw on the green outside?” said Finn. “It is the grave of Diangalach, a man of enchantments of the Men of Dea; and that is the greatest loss came on them yet,” said Donn; “and it was I myself killed him,” he said. “What loss came next to that?” said Finn. “All the Tuatha de Danaan had of jewels and riches and treasures, horns and vessels and cups of pale gold, we took from them at the one time.” “What was the third greatest loss they had?” said Finn. “It was Fethnaid, daughter of Feclach, the woman-harper of the Tuatha de Danaan, their music and the delight of their minds,” said Donn.
“And tomorrow,” he said, “they will be coming to make an attack on us, and there is no one but myself and my brothers left; and we knew we would be in danger, and that we could make no stand against them. And we sent that bare-headed girl beyond to Toraig in the North in the shape of a foolish fawn, and you followed her here. It is that girl washing herself, and having a green cloak about her, went looking for you.
“And the empty side of the house,” he said, “belonged to our people that the Men of Dea have killed.”
They spent that night in drinking and in pleasure. And when they rose up in the morning of the morrow, Donn, son of Midhir, said to Finn, “Come out with me now on the lawn till you see the place where we fight the battles every year.” They went out then and they looked at the graves and the flag-stones, and Donn said: “It is as far as this the Men of Dea come to meet us.” “Which of them come here?” said Finn.
“Bodb Dearg with his seven sons,” said Donn; “and Angus Og, son of the Dagda, with his seven sons; and Finnbharr of Cnoc Medha with his seventeen sons; Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh with his twenty-seven sons and their sons; Tadg, son of Nuada, out of the beautiful hill of Almhuin; Donn of the Island and Donn of the Vat; the two called Glas from the district of Osraige; Dobhran Dubthaire from the hill of Liamhain of the Smooth Shirt; Aedh of the Island of Rachrainn in the north; Ferai and Aillinn and Lir and Fainnle, sons of Eogobal, from Cnoc Aine in Munster; Cian and Coban and Conn, three sons of the King of Sidhe Monaid in Alban; Aedh Minbhreac of Ess Ruadh with his seven sons; the children of the Morrigu, the Great Queen, her six-and-twenty women warriors, the two Luaths from Magh Life; Derg and Drecan out of the hill of Beinn Edair in the east; Bodb Dearg himself with his great household, ten hundred ten score and ten. Those are the chief leaders of the Tuatha de Danaan that come to destroy our hill every year.”
Finn went back into the hill then, and told all that to his people.
“My people,” he said, “it is in great need and under great oppression the sons of Midhir are, and it is into great danger we are come ourselves. And unless we make a good fight now,” he said, “it is likely we will never see the Fianna again.”
“Good Finn,” every one of them said then, “did you ever see any drawing-back in any of us that you give us that warning?” “I give my word,” said Finn, “if I would go through the whole world having only this many of the Fianna of Ireland along with me, I would not know fear nor fright. And good Donn,” he said, “is it by day or by night the Men of Dea come against you?” “It is at the fall of night they come,” said Donn, “the way they can do us the most harm.”
So they waited till night came on, and then Finn said: “Let one of you go out now on the green to keep watch for us, the way the Men of Dea will not come on us without word or warning.”
And the man they set to watch was not gone far when he saw five strong battalions of the Men of Dea coming towards him. He went back then to the hill and he said: “It is what I think, that the troops that are come against us this time and are standing now around the grave of the Man of Enchantments are a match for any other fighting men.”
Finn called to his people then, and he said: “These are good fighters are come against you, having strong red spears. And let you all do well now in the battle. And it is what you have to do,” he said, “to keep the little troop of brothers, the sons of Midhir, safe in the fight; for it would be a treachery to friendship any harm to come on them, and we after joining them; and myself and Caoilte are the oldest among you, and leave the rest of the battle to us.”
Then from the covering time of evening to the edge of the morning they fought the battle. And the loss of the Tuatha de Danaan was no less a number than ten hundred ten score and ten men. Then Bodb Dearg and Midhir and Fionnbhar said to one another: “What are we to do with all these? And let Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh give us an advice,” they said, “since he is the oldest of us.” And Lir said: “It is what I advise, let every one carry away his friends and his fosterlings, his sons and his brothers, to his own place. And as for us that stop here,” he said, “let a wall of fire be made about us on the one side, and a wall of water on the other side.” Then the Men of Dea put up a great heap of stones, and brought away their dead; and of all the great slaughter that Finn and his men and the sons of Midhir had made, there was not left enough for a crow to perch upon.
And as to Finn and his men, they went back into the hill, hurt and wounded and worn-out.
And they stopped in the hill with the sons of Midhir through the whole length of a year, and three times in the year the Men of Dea made an attack on the hill, and a battle was fought.
And Conn, son of Midhir, was killed in one of the battles; and as to the Fianna, there were so many wounds on them that the clothing was held off from their bodies with bent hazel sticks, and they lying in their beds, and two of them were like to die. And Finn and Caoilte and Lugaidh’s Son went out on the green, and Caoilte said: “It was a bad journey we made coming to this hill, to leave two of our comrades after us.” “It is a pity for whoever will face the Fianna of Ireland,” said Lugaidh’s Son, “and he after leaving his comrades after him.” “Whoever will go back and leave them, it will not be myself,” said Finn. Then Bonn, son of Midhir, came to them. “Good Donn,” said Finn, “have you knowledge of any physician that can cure our men?” “I only know one physician could do that,” said Donn; “a physician the Tuatha de Danaan have with them. And unless a wounded man has the marrow of his back cut through, he will get relief from that physician, the way he will be sound at the end of nine days.” “How can we bring that man here,” said Finn, “for those he is with are no good friends to us?” “He goes out every morning at break of day,” said Donn, “to gather healing herbs while the dew is on them.” “Find some one, Donn,” said Caoilte, “that will show me that physician, and, living or dead, I will bring him with me.”
Then Aedh and Flann, two of the sons of Midhir, rose up. “Come with us, Caoilte,” they said, and they went on before him to a green lawn with the dew on it; and when they came to it they saw a strong young man armed and having a cloak of the wool of the seven sheep of the Land of Promise, and it full of herbs of healing he was after gathering for the Men of Dea that were wounded in the battle. “Who is that man?” said Caoilte. “That is the man we came looking for,” said Aedh. “And mind him well now,” he said, “that he will not make his escape from us back to his own people.”
They ran at him together then, and Caoilte took him by the shoulders and they brought him away with them to the ford of the Slaine in the great plain of Leinster, where the most of the Fianna were at that time; and a Druid mist rose up about them that they could not be seen.
And they went up on a little hill over the ford, and they saw before them four young men having crimson fringed cloaks and swords with gold hilts, and four good hunting hounds along with them. And the young man could not see them because of the mist, but Caoilte saw they were his own two sons, Colla and Faolan, and two other young men of the Fianna, and he could hear them talking together, and saying it was a year now that Finn, son of Cumhal, was gone from them. “And what will the Fianna of Ireland do from this out,” said one of them, “without their lord and their leader?” “There is nothing for them to do,” said another, “but to go to Teamhair and to break up there, or to find another leader for themselves.” And there was heavy sorrow on them for the loss of their lord; and it was grief to Caoilte to be looking at them.
And he and the two sons of Midhir went back then by the Lake of the Two Birds to Slieve-nam Ban, and they went into the hill.
And Finn and Donn gave a great welcome to Luibra, the physician, and they showed him their two comrades that were lying in their wounds. “Those men are brothers to me,” said Donn, “and tell me how can they be cured?” Luibra looked then at their wounds, and he said: “They can be cured if I get a good reward.” “You will get that indeed,” said Caoilte; “and tell me now,” he said, “how long will it take to cure them?” “It will take nine days,” said Luibra. “It is a good reward you will get,” said Caoilte, “and this is what it is, your own life to be left to you. But if these young men are not healed,” he said, “it is my own hand will strike off your head.”
And within nine days the physician had done a cure on them, and they were as well and as sound as before.
And it was after that time the High King sent a messenger to bring the Fianna to the Feast of Teamhair. And they all gathered to it, men and women, boys and heroes and musicians. And Goll, son of Morna, was sitting at the feast beside the king. “It is a great loss you have had, Fianna of Ireland,” said the king, “losing your lord and your leader, Finn, son of Cumhal.” “It is a great loss indeed,” said Goll.
“There has no greater loss fallen on Ireland since the loss of Lugh, son of Ethne,” said the king. “What orders will you give to the Fianna now, king?” said Goll. “To yourself, Goll,” said the king, “I will give the right of hunting over all Ireland till we know if the loss of Finn is lasting.” “I will not take Finn’s place,” said Goll, “till he has been wanting to us through the length of three years, and till no person in Ireland has any hope of seeing him again.”
Then Ailbe of the Freckled Face said to the king: “What should these seventeen queens belonging to Finn’s household do?” “Let a safe, secret sunny house be given to every one of them,” said the king; “and let her stop there and her women with her, and let provision be given to her for a month and a quarter and a year till we have knowledge if Finn is alive or dead.”
Then the king stood up, and a smooth drinking-horn in his hand, and he said: “It would be a good thing, men of Ireland, if any one among you could get us news of Finn in hills or in secret places, or in rivers or invers, or in any house of the Sidhe in Ireland or in Alban.”
With that Berngal, the cow-owner from the borders of Slieve Fuad, that was divider to the King of Ireland, said: “The day Finn came out from the north, following after a deer of the Sidhe, and his five comrades with him, he put a sharp spear having a shining head in my hand, and a hound’s collar along with it, and he bade me to keep them till he would meet me again in the same place.” Berngal showed the spear and the collar then to the king and to Goll, and they looked at them and the king said: “It is a great loss to the men of Ireland the man is that owned this collar and this spear. And were his hounds along with him?” he said. “They were,” said Berngal; “Bran and Sceolan were with Finn, and Breac and Lainbhui with Caoilte, and Conuall and Comrith with Lugaidh’s Son.”
The High King called then for Fergus of the True Lips, and he said: “Do you know how long is Finn away from us?” “I know that well,” said Fergus; “it is a month and a quarter and a year since we lost him. And indeed it is a great loss he is to the Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “himself and the men that were with him.” “It is a great loss indeed,” said the king, “and I have no hope at all of finding those six that were the best men of Ireland or of Alban.”
And then he called to Cithruadh, the Druid, and he said: “It is much riches and many treasures Finn gave you, and tell us now is he living or is he dead?” “He is living,” said Cithruadh then. “But as to where he is, I will give no news of that,” he said, “for he himself would not like me to give news of it.” There was great joy among them when they heard that, for everything Cithruadh had ever foretold had come true. “Tell us when will he come back?” said the king. “Before the Feast of Teamhair is over,” said the Druid, “you will see the Leader of the Fianna drinking at it.”
And as to Finn and his men, they stopped in the House of the Two Birds till they had taken hostages for Donn, son of Midhir, from the Tuatha de Danaan. And on the last day of the Feast of Teamhair they came back to their people again.
And from that time out the Fianna of Ireland had not more dealings with the people living in houses than they had with the People of the Gods of Dana.
It happened one day Finn and Oisin and Caoilte and Diarmuid and Lugaidh’s Son went up on the top of Cairn Feargall, and their five hounds with them, Bran and Sceolan, Sear Dubh, Luath Luachar and Adhnuall. And they were not long there till they saw a giant coming towards them, very tall and rough and having an iron fork on his back and a squealing pig between the prongs of the fork. And there was a beautiful eager young girl behind the giant, shoving him on before her. “Let some one go speak with those people,” said Finn. So Diarmuid went towards them, but they turned away before he came to them. Then Finn and the rest rose up and went after them, but before they came to the giant and the girl, a dark Druid mist rose up that hid the road. And when the mist cleared away, Finn and the rest looked about them, and they saw a good light-roofed house at the edge of a ford near at hand. They went on to the house, and there was a green lawn before it, and in the lawn two wells, and on the edge of one well there was a rough iron vessel, and on the edge of the other a copper vessel. They went into the house then, and they found there a very old white-haired man, standing to the right hand of the door, and the beautiful young girl they saw before, sitting near him, and the great rough giant beside the fire, and he boiling a pig. And on the other side of the fire there was an old countryman, having dark-grey hair and twelve eyes in his head, and his twelve eyes were twelve sons of battle. And there was a ram in the house having a white belly and a very black head, and dark-blue horns and green feet. And there was a hag in the end of the house and a worn grey gown on her, and there was no one in the house but those.
And the man at the door gave them a welcome, and then the five of them sat down on the floor of the house, and their hounds along with them.
“Let great respect be shown to Finn, son of Cumhal, and to his people,” said the man at the door. “It is the way I am,” said the giant, “to be asking always and getting nothing.” But for all that he rose up and showed respect to Finn.
Presently there came a great thirst on Finn, and no one took notice of it but Caoilte, and he began complaining greatly. “Why are you complaining, Caoilte?” said the man at the door; “you have but to go out and get a drink for Finn at whichever of the wells you will choose.” Caoilte went out then, and he brought the full of the copper vessel to Finn, and Finn took a drink from it, and there was the taste of honey on it while he was drinking, and the taste of gall on it after, so that fierce windy pains and signs of death came on him, and his appearance changed, that he would hardly be known. And Caoilte made greater complaints than he did before on account of the way he was, till the man at the door bade him to go out and to bring him a drink from the other well. So Caoilte did that, and brought in the full of the iron vessel. And Finn never went through such great hardship in any battle as he did drinking that draught, from the bitterness of it; but no sooner did he drink it than his own colour and appearance came back to him and he was as well as before, and his people were very glad when they saw that.
Then the man of the house asked was the pig ready that was in the cauldron. “It is ready,” said the giant; “and leave the dividing of it to me,” he said. “What way will you divide it?” said the man of the house. “I will give one hind quarter to Finn and his dogs,” said the giant, “and the other hind quarter to Finn’s four comrades; and the fore quarter to myself, and the chine and the rump to the old man there by the fire and the hag in the corner; and the entrails to yourself and to the young girl that is beside you.” “I give my word,” said the man of the house, “you have shared it well.” “I give my word,” said the ram, “it is a bad division to me, for you have forgotten my share in it.” With that he took hold of the quarter that was before the Fianna, and brought it into a corner and began to eat it. On that the four of them attacked him with their swords, but with all the hard strokes they gave they could not harm him at all, for the swords slipped from his back the same as they would from a rock. “On my word it is a pity for any one that has the like of you for comrades,” said the man with the twelve eyes, “and you letting a sheep bring away your food from you.” With that he went up to the ram and took him by the feet and threw him out from the door that he fell on his back, and they saw him no more.
It was not long after that, the hag rose up and threw her pale grey gown over Finn’s four comrades, and they turned to four old men, weak and withered, their heads hanging. When Finn saw that there came great dread on him, and the man at the door saw it, and he bade him to come over to him, and to put his head in his breast and to sleep. Finn did that, and the hag took her covering off the four men, the way that when Finn awoke they were in their own shape again, and it is well pleased he was to see that.
“Is there wonder on you, Finn?” said the man at the door, “at the ways of this house?” “I never wondered more at anything I ever saw,” said Finn. “I will tell you the meaning of them, so,” said the man. “As to the giant you saw first,” he said, “having the squealing pig in the prongs of his fork, Sluggishness is his name; and the girl here beside me that was shoving him along is Liveliness, for liveliness pushes on sluggishness, and liveliness goes farther in the winking of an eye than the foot can travel in a year. The old man there beyond with the twelve bright eyes betokens the World, and he is stronger than any other, and he showed that when he made nothing of the ram. The ram you saw betokens the Desires of Men. The hag is Old Age, and her gown withered up your four comrades. And the two wells you drank the two draughts out of,” he said, “betoken Lying and Truth; for it is sweet to people to be telling a lie, but it is bitter in the end. And as to myself,” he said, “Cuanna from Innistuil is my name, and it is not here I am used to be, but I took a very great love for you, Finn, because of your wisdom and your great name, and so I put these things in your way that I might see you. And the hospitality of Cuanna’s house to Finn will be the name of this story to the end of the world. And let you and your men come together now,” he said, “and sleep till morning.”
So they did that, and when they awoke in the morning, it is where they were, on the top of Cairn Feargall, and their dogs and their arms beside them.
Nine of the Fianna set out one time, looking for a pup they wanted, and they searched through many places before they found it. All through Magh Leine they searched, and through the Valley of the Swords, and through the storm of Druim Cleibh, and it is pleasant the Plain of the Life looked after it; but not a pup could they find. Then they went searching through Durlass of the generous men, and great Teamhair and Dun Dobhran and Ceanntsaile, men and dogs searching the whole of Ireland, but not a pup could they find.
And while they were going from place to place, and their people with them, they saw the three armies of the sons of the King of Ruadhleath coming towards them. Cat-headed one army was, and the one alongside of it was Dog-headed, and the men of the third army were White-backed.
And when the Fianna saw them coming, Finn held up his shining spear, and light-hearted Caoilte gave out a great shout that was heard in Almhuin, and in Magh Leine, and in Teamhair, and in Dun Reithlein. And that shout was answered by Goll, son of Morna, and by Faolan, Finn’s son that was with him, and by the Stutterers from Burren, and by the two sons of Maith Breac, and by Iolunn of the Sharp Edge, and by Cael of the Sharp Sword, that never gave his ear to tale-bearers.
It is pleasant the sound was then of the spears and the armies and of the silken banners that were raised up in the gusty wind of the morning. And as to the banners, Finn’s banner, the Dealb–Greine, the Sun–Shape, had the likeness of the sun on it; and Coil’s banner was the Fulang Duaraidh, that was the first and last to move in a battle; and Faolan’s banner was the Coinneal Catha, the Candle of Battle; and Oisin’s banner was the Donn Nimhe, the Dark Deadly One; and Caoilte’s was the Lamh Dearg, the Red Hand; and Osgar’s was the Sguab Gabhaidh that had a Broom of rowan branches on it, and the only thing asked when the fight was at the hottest was where that Broom was; and merry Diarmuid’s banner was the Liath Loinneach, the Shining Grey; and the Craobh Fuileach, the Bloody Branch, was the banner of Lugaidh’s Son. And as to Conan, it is a briar he had on his banner, because he was always for quarrels and for trouble. And it used to be said of him he never saw a man frown without striking him, or a door left open without going in through it.
And when the Fianna had raised their banners they attacked the three armies; and first of all they killed the whole of the Cat–Heads, and then they took the Dog–Heads in hand and made an end of them, and of the White–Backs along with them.
And after that they went to a little hill to the south, having a double dun on it, and it is there they found a hound they were able to get a pup from.
And by that time they had searched through the whole of Ireland, and they did not find in the whole of it a hundred men that could match their nine.
And as well as their banners, some of the Fianna had swords that had names to them, Mac an Luin, Son of the Waves, that belonged to Finn; and Ceard-nan Gallan, the Smith of the Branches, that was Oisin’s; and Caoilte’s Cruadh–Chosgarach, the Hard Destroying One; and Diarmuid’s Liomhadoir, the Burnisher; and Osgar’s Cosgarach Mhor, the Great Triumphant One.
And it is the way they got those swords: there came one time to where Finn and Caoilte and some others of the Fianna were, a young man, very big and ugly, having but one foot and one eye; a cloak of black skins he had over his shoulders, and in his hand a blunt ploughshare that was turning to red. And he told them he was Lon, son of Liobhan, one of the three smiths of the King of Lochlann. And whether he thought to go away from the Fianna, or to bring them to his smithy, he started running, and they followed after him all through Ireland, to Slieve-na-Righ, and to Luimnech, and to Ath Luain, and by the right side of Cruachan of Connacht, and to Ess Ruadh and to Beinn Edair, and so to the sea.
And wherever it was they found the smithy, they went into it, and there they found four smiths working, and every one of them having seven hands. And Finn and Caoilte and the rest stopped there watching them till the swords were made, and they brought them away with them then, and it is good use they made of them afterwards.
And besides his sword, Mac an Luin, Finn had a shield was called Sgiath Gailbhinn, the Storm Shield; and when it called out it could be heard all through Ireland.
And whether or not it was the Storm Shield, Finn had a wonderful shield that he did great deeds with, and the story of it is this:
At the time of the battle of the Great Battle of Magh Tuireadh, Lugh, after he had struck the head off Balor of the Evil Eye, hung it in the fork of a hazel-tree. And the tree split, and the leaves fell from it with the dint of the poison that dropped from the head. And through the length of fifty years that tree was a dwelling-place of crows and of ravens. And at the end of that time Manannan, son of Lir, was passing by, and he took notice of the tree that it was split and withered, and he bade his men to dig it up. And when they began to dig, a mist of poison rose up from the roots, and nine of the men got their death from it, and another nine after them, and the third nine were blinded. And Luchtaine the Carpenter made a shield of the wood of that hazel for Manannan. And after a while Manannan gave it, and a set of chessmen along with it, to Tadg, son of Nuada; and from him it came to his grandson, Finn, son of Muirne and of Cumhal.
FINN took a wife one time of the Luigne of Midhe. And at the same time there was in his household one Lomna, a fool.
Finn now went into Tethra, hunting with the Fianna, but Lomna stopped at the house. And after a while he saw Coirpre, a man of the Luigne, go in secretly to where Finn’s wife was.
And when the woman knew he had seen that, she begged and prayed of Lomna to hide it from Finn. And Lomna agreed to that, but it preyed on him to have a hand in doing treachery on Finn. And after a while he took a four-square rod and wrote an Ogham on it, and these were the words he wrote:—“An alder stake in a paling of silver; deadly night-shade in a bunch of cresses; a husband of a lewd woman; a fool among the well-taught Fianna; heather on bare Ualann of Luigne.”
Finn saw the message, and there was anger on him against the woman; and she knew well it was from Lomna he had heard the story, and she sent a message to Coirpre bidding him to come and kill the fool.
So Coirpre came and struck his head off, and brought it away with him.
And when Finn came back in the evening he saw the body, and it without a head. “Let us know whose body is this,” said the Fianna. And then Finn did the divination of rhymes, and it is what he said: “It is the body of Lomna; it is not by a wild boar he was killed; it is not by a fall he was killed; it is not in his bed he died; it is by his enemies he died; it is not a secret to the Luigne the way he died. And let out the hounds now on their track,” he said.
So they let out the hounds, and put them on the track of Coirpre, and Finn followed them, and they came to a house, and Coirpre in it, and three times nine of his men and he cooking fish on a spit; and Lomna’s head was on a spike beside the fire.
And the first of the fish that was cooked Coirpre divided between his men, but he put no bit into the mouth of the head. And then he made a second division in the same way. Now that was against the law of the Fianna, and the head spoke, and it said: “A speckled white-bellied salmon that grows from a small fish under the sea; you have shared a share that is not right; the Fianna will avenge it upon you, Coirpre.” “Put the head outside,” said Coirpre, “for that is an evil word for us.” Then the head said from outside: “It is in many pieces you will be; it is great fires will be lighted by Finn in Luigne.”
And as it said that, Finn came in, and he made an end of Coirpre, and of his men.
One time Caoilte was hunting on Beinn Gulbain, and he went on to Ess Ruadh. And when he came near the hill of the Sidhe that is there, he saw a young man waiting for him, having a crimson fringed cloak about him, and on his breast a silver brooch, and a white shield, ornamented with linked beasts of red gold, and his hair rolled in a ball at the back, and covered with a golden cup. And he had heavy green weapons, and he was holding two hounds in a silver chain.
And when Caoilte came up to him he gave him three loving kisses, and sat down beside him on the grass. “Who are you, young champion?” said Caoilte. “I am Derg, son of Eoghan of the people of Usnach,” he said, “and foster-brother of your own.” Caoilte knew him then, and he said: “And what is your life with your mother’s people, the Tuatha de Danaan in Sidhe Aedha?” “There is nothing wanting to us there of food or of clothing,” said the young man. “But for all that,” he said, “I would sooner live the life of the worst treated of the serving-boys of the Fianna than the life I am living in the hill of the Sidhe.” “Lonely as you are at your hunting today,” said Caoilte, “it is often I saw you coming to the Valley of the Three Waters in the south, where the Siuir and the Beoir and the Berba come together, with a great company about you; fifteen hundred young men, fifteen hundred serving-boys, and fifteen hundred women.” “That was so,” said Derg; “and although myself and my gentle hound are living in the hill of the Sidhe, my mind is always on the Fianna. And I remember well the time,” he said, “when you yourself won the race against Finn’s lasting black horse. And come now into the hill,” he said, “for the darkness of the night is coming on.”
So he brought Caoilte into the hill with him, and they were set down in their right places.
It was at that time, now, there was great war between Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh and Ilbrec of Ess Ruadh. There used a bird with an iron beak and a tail of fire to come every evening to a golden window of Ilbrec’s house, and there he would shake himself till he would not leave sword on pillow, or shield on peg, or spear in rack, but they would come down on the heads of the people of the house; and whatever they would throw at the bird, it is on the heads of some of themselves it would fall. And the night Caoilte came in, the hall was made ready for a feast, and the bird came in again, and did the same destruction as before, and nothing they threw at him would touch him at all. “Is it long the bird has been doing this?” said Caoilte. “Through the length of a year now,” said Derg, “since we went to war with Sidhe Fionnachaidh.”
Then Caoilte put his hand within the rim of his shield, and he took out of it a copper rod he had, and he made a cast of it at the bird, that brought it down on the floor of the hall. “Did any one ever make a better cast than that?” said Ilbrec. “By my word,” said Caoilte, “there is no one of us in the Fianna has any right to boast against another.” Then Ilbrec took down a sharp spear, having thirty rivets of gold in it, from its place, and he said: “That is the Spear of Fiacha, son of Congha, and it is with that Finn made an end of Aillen, son of Midhna, that used to burn Teamhair. And keep it beside you now, Caoilte,” he said, “till we see will Lir come to avenge his bird on us.”
Then they took up their horns and their cups, and they were at drinking and pleasure, and Ilbrec said: “Well, Caoilte,” he said, “if Lir comes to avenge his bird on us, who will you put in command of the battle?” “I will give the command to Derg there beyond,” said he. “Will you take it in hand, Derg?” said the people of the hill. “I will take it,” said Derg, “with its loss and its gain.”
So that is how they spent the night, and it was not long in the morning till they heard blowing of horns, and rattling of chariots, and clashing of shields, and the uproar of a great army that came all about the hill. They sent some of their people out then to see were there many in it, and they saw three brave armies of the one size. “It would be a great vexation to me,” said Aedh Nimbrec, the Speckled, then, “we to get our death and Lir’s people to take the hill.” “Did you never hear, Aedh,” said Caoilte, “that the wild boar escapes sometimes from both hounds and from wolves, and the stag in the same way goes away from the hounds with a sudden start; and what man is it you are most in dread of in the battle?” he said. “The man that is the best fighter of all the Men of Dea,” said they all, “and that is Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh.” “The thing I have done in every battle I will not give up today,” said Caoilte, “to meet the best man that is in it hand to hand.” “The two that are next to him in fighting,” they said then, “are Donn and Dubh.” “I will put down those two,” said Derg.
Then the host of the Sidhe went out to the battle, and the armies attacked one another with wide green spears and with little casting spears, and with great stones; and the fight went on from the rising of the day till midday. And then Caoilte and Lir met with one another, and they made a very fierce fight, and at the last Lir of Sidhe Fionnachaidh fell by the hand of Caoilte.
Then the two good champions Dubh and Donn, sons of Eirrge, determined to go on with the battle, and it is how they fought, Dubh in the front of the whole army, and Donn behind all, guarding the rear. But Derg saw that, and he put his finger into the thong of his spear and made a cast at the one that was nearest him, and it broke his back and went on into the body of the other, so that the one cast made an end of the two. And that ended the battle, and all that was left of the great army of Lir went wearing away to the north. And there was great rejoicing in the hill at Ess Ruadh, and Ilbrec took the spoils of the beaten army for his people, and to Caoilte he gave the enchanted spear of Fiacha, together with nine rich cloaks and nine long swords with hilts and guards of gold, and nine hounds for hunting. And they said farewell to one another, and Caoilte left his blessing to the people of the hill, and he brought their thanks with him. And as hard as the battle had been, it was harder again for Derg to part from his comrade, and the day he was parted from Finn and from all the Fianna was no sadder to him than this day.
It was a long time after that Caoilte went again to the hill of Ilbrec at Ess Ruadh, and this is the way it happened.
It was in a battle at Beinn Edair in the east that Mane, son of the King of Lochlann, made a cast at him in the middle of the battle with a deadly spear. And he heard the whistling of the spear, and it rushing to him; and he lifted his shield to protect his head and his body, but that did not save him, for it struck into his thigh, and left its poison in it, so that he had to go in search of healing. And it is where he went, to the hill of the Sidhe at Ess Ruadh, to ask help of Bebind, daughter of Elcmar of Brugh na Boinne, that had the drink of healing of the Tuatha de Danaan, and all that was left of the ale of Goibniu that she used to be giving out to them.
And Caoilte called to Cascorach the Musician, son of Caincenn, and bade him bring his harp and come along with him. And they stopped for a night in the hill of the Sidhe of Druim Nemed in Luigne of Connacht, and from that they went forward by Ess Dara, the Fall of the Oaks, and Druim Dearg na Feinne, the Red Ridge of the Fianna, and Ath Daim Glas, the Ford of the Grey Stag, and to Beinn Gulbain, and northward into the plain of Ceitne, where the Men of Dea used to pay their tribute to the Fomor; and up to the Footstep of Ess Ruadh, and the High Place of the Boys, where the boys of the Tuatha de Danaan used to be playing their hurling. And Aedh of Ess Ruadh and Ilbrec of Ess Ruadh were at the door of the hill, and they gave Caoilte a true welcome. “I am glad of that welcome,” said Caoilte. And then Bebind, daughter of Elcmar of Brugh na Boinne, came out, and three times fifty comely women about her, and she sat down on the green grass and gave three loving kisses to the three, to Caoilte and to Cascorach and to Fermaise, that had come with them out of the hill of the Sidhe in Luigne of Connacht. And all the people of the hill welcomed them, and they said: “It is little your friendship would be worth if you would not come to help us and we in need of help.” “It was not for bravery I was bade come,” said Cascorach; “but when the right time comes I will make music for you if you have a mind to hear it.” “It is not for deeds of bravery we are come,” said Fermaise, “but we will give you our help if you are in need of it.” Then Caoilte told them the cause of his journey. “We will heal you well,” said they. And then they all went into the hill and stayed there three days and three nights at drinking and pleasure.
And indeed it was good help Caoilte and Cascorach gave them after that. For there was a woman-warrior used to come every year with the ships of the men of Lochlann to make an attack on the Tuatha de Danaan. And she had been reared by a woman that knew all enchantments, and there was no precious thing in all the hills of the Sidhe but she had knowledge of it, and would bring it away. And just at this time there came a messenger to the door of the hill with news that the harbour was full of ships, and that a great army had landed, and the woman-warrior along with it.
And it was Cascorach the Musician went out against her, having a shield he got the loan of from Donn, son of Midhir; and she used high words when she saw so young a man coming to fight with her, and he alone. But he made an end of her for all her high talk, and left her lying on the strand with the sea foam washing up to her.
And as to Caoilte, he went out in a chariot belonging to Midhir of the Yellow Hair, son of the Dagda, and a spear was given him that was called Ben-badb, the War–Woman, and he made a cast of the spear that struck the King of Lochlann, that he fell in the middle of his army, and the life went from him. And Fermaise went looking for the king’s brother, Eolus, that was the comeliest of all the men of the world; and he knew him by the band of gold around his head, and his green armour, and his red shield, and he killed him with a cast of a five-pronged spear. And when the men of Lochlann saw their three leaders were gone, they went into their ships and back to their own country. And there was great joy through the whole country, both among the men of Ireland and the Tuatha de Danaan, the men of Lochlann to have been driven away by the deeds of Caoilte and Fermaise and Cascorach.
And that was not all they did, for it was at that time there came three flocks of beautiful red birds from Slieve Fuad in the north, and began eating the green grass before the hill of the Sidhe. “What birds are those?” said Caoilte. “Three flocks they are that come and destroy the green every year, eating it down to the bare flag-stones, till they leave us no place for our races,” said Ilbrec. Then Caoilte and his comrades took up three stones and threw them at the flocks and drove them away. “Power and blessings to you,” said the people of the Sidhe then, “that is a good work you have done. And there is another thing you can do for us,” they said, “for there are three ravens come to us every year out of the north, and the time the young lads of the hill are playing their hurling, each one of the ravens carries off a boy of them. And it is tomorrow the hurling will be,” they said.
So when the full light of day was come on the morrow, the whole of the Tuatha de Danaan went out to look at the hurling; and to every six men of them was given a chess-board, and a board for some other game to every five, and to every ten men a little harp, and a harp to every hundred men, and pipes that were sharp and powerful to every nine.
Then they saw the three ravens from the north coming over the sea, and they pitched on the great tree of power that was on the green, and they gave three gloomy screeches, that if such a thing could be, would have brought the dead out of the earth or the hair off the head of the listeners; and as it was, they took the courage out of the whole gathering.
Then Cascorach, son of Caincenn, took a man of the chessmen and made a cast at one of the ravens that struck his beak and his throat, and made an end of him; and Fermaise killed the second of them, and Caoilte the third of them in the same way.
“Let my cure be done now,” said Caoilte, “for I have paid my fee for it, and it is time.” “You have paid it indeed,” said Ilbrec. “And where is Bebind, daughter of Elcmar?” he said. “I am here,” said she.
“Bring Caoilte, son of Ronan, with you into some hidden place,” he said, “and do his cure, and let him be well served, for he has driven every danger from the Men of Dea and from the Sons of the Gael. And let Cascorach make music for him, and let Fermaise, son of Eogabil, be watching him and guarding him and attending him.”
So Elcmar’s daughter went to the House of Arms, and her two sons with her, and a bed of healing was made ready for Caoilte, and a bowl of pale gold was brought to her, and it full of water. And she took a crystal vessel and put herbs into it, and she bruised them and put them in the water, and gave the bowl to Caoilte, and he drank a great drink out of it, that made him cast up the poison of the spear that was in him. Five drinks of it he took, and after that she gave him new milk to drink; but with the dint of the reaching he was left without strength through the length of three days and three nights.
“Caoilte, my life,” she said then, “in my opinion you have got relief.” “I have got it indeed,” he said, “but that the weakness of my head is troubling me.” “The washing of Flann, daughter of Flidais, will be done for you now,” she said, “and the head that washing is done for will never be troubled with pain, or baldness, or weakness of sight.” So that cure was done to him for a while; and the people of the hill divided themselves into three parts; the one part of their best men and great nobles, and another of their young men, and another of their women and poets, to be visiting him and making mirth with him as long as he would be on his bed of healing. And everything that was best from their hunting, it was to him they would bring it.
And one day, when Elcmar’s daughter and her two sons and Cascorach and Fermaise were with Caoilte, there was heard a sound of music coming towards them from the waters of Ess Ruadh, and any one would leave the music of the whole world for that music. And they put their harps on the corners of the pillars and went out, and there was wonder on Caoilte that they left him. And he took notice that his strength and the strength of his hands was not come to him yet, and he said: “It is many a rough battle and many a hard fight I went into, and now there is not enough strength in me so much as to go out along with the rest,” and he cried tears down.
And the others came back to him then, and he asked news of them. “What was that sound of music we heard?” he said. “It was Uaine out of the hill of the Sidhe, at the Wave of Cliodna in the south,” said they; “and with her the birds of the Land of Promise; and she is musician to the whole of that country. And every year she goes to visit one of the hills of the Sidhe, and it is our turn this time.” Then the woman from the Land of Promise came into the house, and the birds came in along with her, and they pitched on the pillars and the beams, and thirty of them came in where Caoilte was, began singing together. And Cascorach took his harp, and whatever he would play, the birds would sing to it. “It is much music I have heard,” said Caoilte, “but music so good as that I never heard before.”
And after that Caoilte asked to have the healing of his thigh done, and the daughter of Elcmar gave herself to that, and all that was bad was sucked from the wound by her serving people till it was healed. And Caoilte stopped on where he was for three nights after that.
And then the people of the hill rose up and went into the stream to swim. And Caoilte said: “What ails me now not to go swim, since my health has come back to me?” And with that he went into the water. And afterwards they went back into the hill, and there was a great feast made that night.
And Caoilte bade them farewell after that, and Cascorach, but Fermaise stopped with them for a while. And the people of the hill gave good gifts to Caoilte; a fringed crimson cloak of wool from the seven sheep of the Land of Promise; and a fish-hook that was called Aicil mac Mogha, and that could not be set in any river or inver but it would take fish; and along with that they gave him a drink of remembrance, and after that drink there would be no place he ever saw, or no battle or fight he ever was in, but it would stay in his memory. “That is a good help from kinsmen and from friends,” said Caoilte.
Then Caoilte and Cascorach went out from the hill, and the people of it made a great lamentation after them.
CAOLITE was one time at Cruachan of Connacht, and Cascorach was with him, and there he saw sitting on a heap of stones a man with very rough grey hair, having a dark brown cloak fastened with a pin of bronze, and a long stick of white hazel in his hand; and there was a herd of cattle before him in a fenced field.
Caoilte asked news of him. “I am steward to the King of Ireland,” said the old man, “and it is from him I hold this land. And we have great troubles on us in this district,” he said. “What troubles are those?” said Caoilte. “I have many herds of cattle,” he said, “and every year at Samhain time, a woman comes out of the hill of the Sidhe of Cruachan and brings away nine of the best out of every herd. And as to my name, I am Bairnech, son of Carbh of Collamair of Bregia.”
“Who was the best man that ever came out of Collamair?” said Caoilte. “I know, and the men of Ireland and of Alban know,” said he, “it was Caoilte, son of Ronan. And do you know where is that man now?” he said. “I myself am that man and your own kinsman,” said Caoilte.
When Bairnech heard that, he gave him a great welcome, and Caoilte gave him three kisses. “It seems to me that to-night is Samhain night,” said Caoilte. “If that is so, it is to-night the woman will come to rob us,” said Bernech. “Let me go to-night to the door of the hill of the Sidhe,” said Cascorach. “You may do that, and bring your arms with you,” said Caoilte.
So Cascorach went then, and it was not long till he saw the girl going past him out of the hill of Cruachan, having a beautiful cloak of one colour about her; a gown of yellow silk tied up with a knot between her thighs, two spears in her hands, and she not in dread of anything before her or after her.
Then Cascorach blew a blast against her, and put his finger into the thong of his spear, and made a cast at the girl that went through her, and that is the way she was made an end of by Cascorach of the Music.
And then Bernech said to Caoilte: “Caoilte,” he said, “do you know the other oppression that is on me in this place?” “What oppression is that?” said Caoilte. “Three she-wolves that come out of the Cave of Cruachan every year and destroy our sheep and our wethers, and we can do nothing against them, and they go back into the cave again. And it will be a good friend that will rid us of them,” he said. “Well, Cascorach,” said Caoilte, “do you know what are the three wolves that are robbing this man?” “I know well,” said Cascorach, “they are the three daughters of Airetach, of the last of the people of oppression of the Cave of Cruachan, and it is easier for them to do their robbery as wolves than as women.” “And will they come near to any one?” said Caoilte. “They will only come near to one sort,” said Cascorach; “if they see the world’s men having harps for music, they will come near to them.” “And how would it be for me,” he said, “to go tomorrow to the cairn beyond, and to bring my harp with me?”
So in the morning he rose up and went to the cairn and stopped on it, playing his harp till the coming of the mists of the evening. And while he was there he saw the three wolves coming towards him, and they lay down before him, listening to the music. But Cascerach found no way to make an attack on them, and they went back into the cave at the end of the day.
Cascorach went back then to Caoilte and told him what had happened. “Go up tomorrow to the same place,” said Caoilte, “and say to them it would be better for them to be in the shape of women for listening to music than in the shape of wolves.”
So on the morrow Cascorach went out to the same cairn, and set his people about it, and the wolves came there and stretched themselves to listen to the music. And Cascorach was saying to them: “If you were ever women,” he said, “it would be better for you to be listening to the music as women than as wolves.” And they heard that, and they threw off the dark trailing coverings that were about them, for they liked well the sweet music of the Sidhe.
And when Caoilte saw them there side by side, and elbow by elbow, he made a cast of his spear, and it went through the three women, that they were like a skein of thread drawn together on the spear. And that is the way he made an end of the strange, unknown three. And that place got the name of the Valley of the Shapes of the Wolves.
Finn and the Fianna made a great hunting one time on the hill of Torc that is over Loch Lein and Feara Mor. And they went on with their hunting till they came to pleasant green Slieve Echtge, and from that it spread over other green-topped hills, and through thick tangled woods, and rough red-headed hills, and over the wide plains of the country. And every chief man among them chose the place that was to his liking, and the gap of danger he was used to before. And the shouts they gave in the turns of the hunt were heard in the woods all around, so that they started the deer in the wood, and sent the foxes wandering, and the little red beasts climbing rocks, and badgers from their holes, and birds flying, and fawns running their best. Then they let out their angry small-headed hounds and set them hunting. And it is red the hands of the Fianna were that day, and it is proud they were of their hounds that were torn and wounded before evening.
It happened that day no one stopped with Finn but only Diorraing, son of Domhar. “Well, Diorraing,” said Finn, “let you watch for me while I go asleep, for it is early I rose today, and it is an early rising a man makes when he cannot see the shadow of his five fingers between himself and the light of day, or know the leaves of the hazel from the leaves of the oak.” With that he fell into a quiet sleep that lasted till the yellow light of the evening. And the rest of the Fianna, not knowing where he was gone, gave over the hunt.
And the time was long to Diorraing while Finn was asleep, and he roused him and told him the Fianna must have given up the hunt, for he could not hear a cry or a whistle from them. “The end of day is come,” said Finn then, “and we will not follow them to-night. And go now to the wood,” he said, “and bring timber and dead branches for a shelter, and I will go looking for food for the night.” So Diorraing went to the wood, but he was not gone far till he saw a fine well-lighted house of the Sidhe before him on the edge of the wood near at hand, and he went back to Finn with the news. “Let us go to it,” said Finn, “for we ought not to be working in this place, and people living so near at hand.” They went then to the door of the house and knocked at it, and the door-keeper came to it. “Whose house is this?” said Diorraing. “It belongs to Conan of Ceann Slieve,” said the door-keeper. “Tell him,” said Diorraing, “there are two of the Fianna of the Gael at the door.”
The door-keeper went in then and told Conan there were two men of the Fianna at the door. “The one of them,” he said, “is young and strong, and quiet and fair-haired, and more beautiful than the rest of the men of the world, and he has in his hand a small-headed, white-breasted hound, having a collar of rubbed gold and a chain of old silver. And the other of them,” he said, “is brown and ruddy and white-toothed, and he is leading a yellow-spotted hound by a chain of bright bronze.” “It is well you have made your report of them,” said Conan, “and I know them by it; for the man you spoke of first is Finn, son of Cumhal, Head of the Fianna of Ireland, and Bran in his hand; and the other is Diorraing, and Sceolan in his hand. And go now quickly and let them in,” he said.
Finn and Diorraing were brought in then, and they got good attendance, and their arms were taken from them, and a grand feast was made ready that pleased them well. And the wife of Conan was at the one side of Finn, and his daughter, Finndealbh, of the Fair Shape, was at his other side. And they had a great deal of talk together, and at last, seeing her so beautiful, the colour of gold on her curled hair, and her eyes as blue as flowers, and a soft four-cornered cloak fastened at her breast with a silver pin, he asked her of Conan for his wife. “Leave asking that, Finn,” said Conan, “for your own courage is not greater than the courage of the man she is promised to.” “Who is that?” said Finn. “He is Fatha, son of the King of Ess Ruadh,” said Conan. “Your wounds and your danger on yourself,” said Diorraing; “and it would be right,” he said, “that stammering tongue that gave out those words to be tied and to be shortened for ever, and a drink of death to be given to you; for if the whole of the Men of Dea,” he said, “could be put into the one body, Finn would be better than them all.” “Leave off, Diorraing,” said Finn, “for it is not fighting I am here, but asking a wife, and I will get her whether the Men of Dea think good or bad of it.” “I will not be making a quarrel with you,” said Conan, “but I put you under bonds as a true hero to answer me everything I am going to ask you.” “I will do that,” said Finn.
With that Conan put questions to Finn as to his birth and his rearing, and the deeds he had done since he came to the Fianna, and Finn gave full answers to them all. And at last he said: “Let us go on with this no longer, but if you have musicians with you, let them be brought to us now; for it is not my custom,” he said, “to be for a single night without music.” “Tell me this first,” said Conan, “who was it made the Dord Fiann, the Mutterer of the Fianna, and when was it made?” “I will tell you the truth of that,” said Finn; “it was made in Ireland by the three sons of Cearmait Honey–Mouth; and nine men used to be sounding it, and since it came to me I have fifty men sounding it.” “And tell me this,” said Conan, “what is the music pleased you best of all you ever heard?” “I will tell you that,” said Finn; “the time the seven battalions of the Fianna are gathered in the one place and raise their spear-shafts over their heads, and the sharp whining of the clear, cold wind goes through them, that is very sweet to me. And when the drinking-hall is set out in Almhuin, and the cup-bearers give out the bright cups to the chief men of the Fianna, that is very sweet to me; and it is sweet to me to be listening to the voice of the sea-gull and the heron, and the noise of the waves of Traig Liath, the song of the three sons of Meardha, the whistle of Lugaidh’s Son, and the voice of the cuckoo in the beginning of summer, and the grunting of the pigs on the Plain of Eithne, and the shouting of laughter in Doire.” And it is what he said: “The Dord in the green-topped woods, the lasting wash of the waves against the shore, the noise of the waves at Traig Liath meeting with the river of the White Trout; the three men that came to the Fianna, a man of them gentle and a man of them rough, another man of them ploughing the clouds, they were sweeter than any other thing.
“The grey mane of the sea, the time a man cannot follow its track; the swell that brings the fish to the land, it is sleep-music, its sound is sweet.
“Feargall, son of Fionn, a man that was ready-handed, it is long his leap was, it is well marked his track is; he never gave a story that did not do away with secrets; it is his voice was music of sleep to me.”
And when Finn had answered all the questions so well, Conan said he would give him his daughter, and that he would have a wedding-feast ready at the end of a month.
They spent the rest of the night then in sleep; but Finn saw a dreadful vision through his sleep that made him start three times from his bed. “What makes you start from your bed, Finn?” said Diorraing. “It was the Tuatha de Danaan I saw,” said he, “taking up a quarrel against me, and making a great slaughter of the Fianna.”
Now as to the Fianna, they rested at Fotharladh of Moghna that night, and they were downhearted, having no tidings of Finn. And early on the morrow two of them, Bran Beag and Bran Mor, rose up and went to Mac-an-Reith, son of the Ram, that had the gift of true knowledge, and they asked him where did Finn spend the night. And Mac-an-Reith was someway unwilling to tell them, but at the last he said it was at the house of Conan of Ceann Slieve.
The two Brans went on then to Conan’s house, and Finn made them welcome; but they blamed him when they heard he was taking a wife, and none of his people with him. “Bid all the Fianna to come to the feast at the end of a month,” said Conan then. So Finn and Diorraing and the two Brans went back to where the Fianna were and told them all that had happened, and they went on to Almhuin.
And when they were in the drinking-hall at Almhuin that night, they saw the son of the King of Ireland coming to where they were. “It is a pity the king’s son to have come,” said Finn; “for he will not be satisfied without ordering everything in the hall in his own way.” “We will not take his orders,” said Oisin, “but we will leave the half of the hall to him, and keep the other half ourselves.”
So they did that; but it happened that in the half of the house that was given up to the King of Ireland’s son, there were sitting two of the Men of Dea, Failbhe Mor and Failbhe Beag; and it is what they said, that it is because they were in that side of the hall it was given up. “It is a pity,” said Failbhe Beag, “this shame and this great insult to have been put on us to-night; and it is likely Finn has a mind to do more than that again to us,” he said, “for he is going to bring away the woman that is promised to the third best man of the Tuatha de Danaan, and against the will of her father and mother.” And these two went away early in the morning to Fionnbhar of Magh Feabhail, and told him of the insults Finn and the Fianna of Ireland had a mind to put on the Tuatha de Danaan.
And when Fionnbhar that was king over the Tuatha de Danaan heard that, he sent out messengers through the length of Ireland to gather them all to him. And there came six good battalions to him on the edge of Loch Derg Dheirc at the end of a month; and it was the same day Conan had the wedding-feast made ready for Finn and his people.
And Finn was at Teamhair Luachra at that time, and when he heard the feast was ready, he set out to go to it. And it chanced that the most of the men he had with him at that time were of the sons of Morna. And when they were on their way, Finn said to Goll, “O Goll,” he said, “I never felt any fear till now going to a feast. And there are but few of my people with me,” he said; “and I know there is no good thing before me, but the Men of Dea are going to raise a quarrel against me and to kill my people.” “I will defend you against anything they may do,” said Goll.
They went on then to Conan’s house, and there was a welcome before them, and they were brought into the drinking-hall, and Finn was put in the place beside the door, and Goll on his right and Finndeilb, of the Fair Shape, on his left, and all the rest in the places they were used to.
And as to Fionnbhar of Magh Feabhail and the Tuatha de Danaan, they put a Druid mist about themselves and went on, hidden and armed, in sixteen battalions, to the lawn before Conan’s house. “It is little profit we have being here,” they said then, “and Goll being with Finn against us.” “Goll will not protect him this time,” said Ethne, the woman-Druid, “for I will entice Finn out of the house, however well he is watched.”
She went on to the house then, and took her stand before Finn outside. “Who is that before me?” she said then. “It is I myself,” said Finn. “I put you under the bonds a true hero never broke,” she said, “to come out to me here.” When Finn heard that, he made no delay and went out to her; and for all there were so many in the house, not one of them took notice of him going, only Caoilte, and he followed him out. And at the same time the Tuatha de Danaan let out a flock of blackbirds having fiery beaks, that pitched on the breasts of all the people in the house, and burned them and destroyed them, till the young lads and the women and children of the place ran out on all sides, and the woman of the house, Conan’s wife, was drowned in the river outside the dun.
But as to Ethne, the woman-Druid, she asked Finn would he run against her. “For it is to run a race against you I called you out,” she said. “What length of a race?” said Finn. “From Doire da Torc, the Wood of the Two Boars, to Ath Mor, the Great Ford,” she said. So they set out, but Finn got first over the ford. And Caoilte was following after them, and Finn was urging him, and he said: “It is ashamed of your running you should be, Caoilte, a woman to be going past you.” On that Caoilte made a leap forward, and when he was in front of the witch he turned about and gave a blow of his sword that made two equal halves of her.
“Power and good luck to you, Caoilte!” said Finn; “for though it is many a good blow you have struck, you never struck a better one than this.”
They went back then to the lawn before Conan’s dun, and there they found the whole company of the Tuatha de Danaan, that had put the Druid mist off them. “It seems to me, Caoilte,” said Finn, “that we are come into the middle of our enemies.”
With that they turned their backs to one another, and they were attacked on all sides till groans of weakness from the unequal fight were forced from Finn. And when Goll, that was in the house, heard that, he said: “It is a pity the Tuatha de Danaan to have enticed Finn and Caoilte away from us; and let us go to their help and make no delay,” he said.
Then he rushed out, and all that were there of the Fianna with him, and Conan of Ceann Slieve and his sons. And great anger came on Goll, that he looked like a tall mountain under his grey shield in the battle. And he broke through the Tuatha de Danaan till he reached to Fionnbhar their leader, and they attacked one another, cutting and wounding, till at the last Fionnbhar of Magh Feabhail fell by the strokes of Goll. And a great many others fell in that battle, and there never was a harder battle fought in Ireland, for there was no man on one side or the other had a mind to go back one step before whoever he was fighting against. For they were the two hardest fighting troops to be found in the four parts of the world, the strong, hardy Fianna of the Gael, and the beautiful Men of Dea; and they went near to being all destroyed in that battle.
But after a while they saw the rest of the Fianna that were not in the battle coming from all parts of Ireland. And when the Tuatha de Danaan saw them coming, they put the Druid mist about themselves again and made away. And clouds of weakness came on Finn himself, and on them that were with him, with the dint of the fight. And there were many men of the Fianna lost in that battle; and as to the rest, it is a long time they stopped in Almhuin of Leinster, till their wounds were entirely healed.
And indeed Finn had no great luck in going to look for a wife that time; and he had no better luck another time he asked a wife from among the Sidhe. And this is the way that happened.
It was on the mountain of Bearnas Mor he was hunting, and a great wild pig turned on the hounds of the Fianna and killed the most of them, but Bran made an attack on it then and got the best of it. And the pig began to scream, and with that a very tall man came out of the hill and he asked Finn to let the pig go free. And when he agreed to that, the man brought them into the hill of the Sidhe at Glandeirgdeis; and when they came to the door of the house he struck the pig with his Druid rod, and on the moment it changed into a beautiful young woman, and the name he called her by was Scathach, the Shadowy One.
And he made a great feast for the Fianna, and Finn asked the young girl in marriage, and the tall man, her father, said he would give her to him on that very night.
But when night came on, Scathach asked the loan of a harp, and it was brought to her. One string it had of iron, and one of bronze, and one of silver. And when the iron string would be played, it would set all the hosts of the world crying and ever crying; and when the bright bronze string would be played, it would set them all laughing from the one day to the same hour on the morrow; and when the silver string would be played, all the men of the whole world would fall into a long sleep.
And it is the sleepy silver string the Shadowy One played upon, till Finn and Bran and all his people were in their heavy sleep.
And when they awoke at the rising of the sun on the morrow, it is outside on the mountain of Bearnas they were, where they first saw the wild pig.
One time Finn and the Fianna were come to a ford of the Slaine, and they sat down for a while. And as they were sitting there they saw on the round rock up over the ford a young woman, having a dress of silk and a green cloak about her, and a golden brooch in the cloak, and the golden crown that is the sign of a queen on her head. “Fianna of Ireland,” she said, “let one of you come now and speak with me.”
Then Sciathbreac, of the Speckled Shield, went towards her. “Who is it you are wanting?” he said, “Finn, son of Cumhal,” said she. Finn went over then to talk with her. “Who are you?” he said, “and what is it you are wanting?” “I am Daireann, daughter of Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda,” she said; “and I am come to be your wife if you will give me the bride-gift I ask.” “What bride-gift is that?” said Finn. “It is your promise,” said she, “I to be your only wife through the length of a year, and to have the half of your time after that.” “I will not give that promise,” said Finn, “to any woman of the world, and I will not give it to you,” he said.
On that the young woman took a cup of white silver from under a covering, and filled it with strong drink, and she gave it to Finn. “What is this?” said Finn. “It is very strong mead,” said she. Now there were bonds on Finn not to refuse anything belonging to a feast, so he took the cup and drank what was in it, and on the moment he was like one gone mad. And he turned his face towards the Fianna, and every harm and every fault and every misfortune in battle that he knew against any one of them, he sprang it on them, through the mad drunkenness the young woman had put on him.
Then the chief men of the Fianna of Ireland rose up and left the place to him, every one of them setting out for his own country, till there was no one left upon the hill but Finn and Caoilte. And Caoilte rose up and followed after them, and he said: “Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “do not leave your lord and your leader through the arts and the tricks of a woman of the Sidhe.” Thirteen times he went after them, bringing them back to the hill in that way. And with the end of the day and the fall of night the bitterness went from Finn’s tongue; and by the time Caoilte had brought back the whole of the Fianna, his sense and his memory were come back to him, and he would sooner have fallen on his sword and got his death, than have stayed living.
And that was the hardest day’s work Caoilte ever did, unless the day he brought the flock of beasts and birds to Teamhair, to ransom Finn from the High King of Ireland.
Another time Maer, wife of Bersa of Berramain, fell in love with Finn, and she made nine nuts of Segair with love charms, and sent them to Finn, and bade him eat them. “I will not,” said Finn; “for they are not nuts of knowledge, but nuts of ignorance; and it is not known what they are, unless they might be an enchantment for drinking love.” So he buried them a foot deep in the earth.
One time the Fianna were in Almhuin with no great work to do, and there came a very misty morning, and Finn was in dread that sluggishness would come on his men, and he rose up, and he said: “Make yourselves ready, and we will go hunting to Gleann-na-Smol.”
They all said the day was too misty to go hunting; but there was no use in talking: they had to do as Finn bade them. So they made themselves ready and went on towards Gleann-na-Smol; and they were not gone far when the mist lifted and the sun came shining out.
And when they were on the edge of a little wood, they saw a strange beast coming towards them with the quickness of the wind, and a Red Woman on its track. Narrow feet the beast had, and a head like the head of a boar, and long horns on it; but the rest of it was like a deer, and there was a shining moon on each of its sides.
Finn stopped, and he said: “Fianna of Ireland,” he said, “did you ever see a beast like that one until now?” “We never did indeed,” said they; “and it would be right for us to let out the hounds after it.” “Wait a while,” said Finn, “till I speak with the Red Woman; but do not let the beast go past you,” he said. They thought to keep back the beast then, going before it; but they were hardly able to hinder it at all, and it went away through them.
And when the Red Woman was come up to them, Finn asked her what was the name of the beast she was following. “I do not know that,” she said, “though I am on its track since I left the borders of Loch Dearg a month ago, and I never lost sight of it since then; and the two moons that are on its two sides shine through the country all around in the night time. And I must follow it till it falls,” she said, “or I will lose my own life and the lives of my three sons that are the best fighting men in the whole world.” “We will take the beast for you if you have a mind,” said Finn. “Do not try to do that,” she said, “for I myself am swifter than you are, and I cannot come up with it.” “We will not let it go till we know what sort of a beast is it,” said Finn. “If you yourself or your share of men go after it, I will bind you hand and foot,” said she. “It is too stiff your talk is,” said Finn. “And do you not know,” he said, “I am Finn, son of Cumhal; and there are fourscore fighting men along with me that were never beaten yet.” “It is little heed I give to yourself or your share of men,” said the Red Woman; “and if my three sons were here, they would stand up against you.” “Indeed it will be a bad day,” said Finn, “when the threat of a woman will put fear on myself or on the Fianna of Ireland.” With that he sounded his horn, and he said: “Let us all follow now, men and dogs, after that beast that we saw.”
He had no sooner said that word than the woman made a great water-worm of herself, and made an attack on Finn, and she would have killed him then and there but for Bran being with him. Bran took a grip of the worm and shook it, and then it wound itself round Bran’s body, and would have crushed the life out of her, but Finn thrust his sharp sword into its throat. “Keep back your hand,” said the worm then, “and you will not have the curse of a lonely woman upon you.” “It is what I think,” said Finn, “that you would not leave me my life if you could take it from me; but go out of my sight now,” he said, “and that I may never see you again.”
Then she made herself into a Red Woman again, and went away into the wood.
All the Fianna were gone on the track of the beast while Finn was talking and fighting with the Red Woman; and he did not know in what place they were, but he went following after them, himself and Bran. It was late in the evening when he came up with a share of them, and they still on the track of the beast. The darkness of the night was coming on, but the two moons in the sides of the beast gave a bright light, and they never lost it from sight. They followed it on always; and about midnight they were pressing on it, and it began to scatter blood after it, and it was not long till Finn and his men were red from head to foot. But that did not hinder them, and they followed him on till they saw him going in at the foot of Cnoc-na-righ at the breaking of day.
When they came to the foot of the hill the Red Woman was standing there before them. “You did not take the beast,” she said. “We did not take it, but we know where it is,” said Finn.
She took a Druid rod then, and she struck a blow on the side of the hill, and on the moment a great door opened, and they heard sweet music coming from within. “Come in now,” said the Red Woman, “till you see the wonderful beast.” “Our clothing is not clean,” said Finn, “and we would not like to go in among a company the way we are,” he said.
She put a horn to her mouth and blew it, and on the moment there came ten young men to her. “Bring water for washing,” she said, “and four times twenty suits of clothes, and a beautiful suit and a crown of shining stones for Finn, son of Cumhal.” The young men went away then, and they came back at the end of a minute with water and with clothing.
When the Fianna were washed and dressed, the Red Woman brought them into a great hall, where there was the brightness of the sun and of the moon on every side. From that she brought them into another great room; and although Finn and his men had seen many grand things up to that time, they had never seen any sight so grand as what they saw in this place. There was a king sitting in a golden chair, having clothes of gold and of green, and his chief people were sitting around him, and his musicians were playing. And no one could know what colour were the dresses of the musicians, for every colour of the rainbow was in them. And there was a great table in the middle of the room, having every sort of thing on it, one better than another.
The king rose up and gave a welcome to Finn and to his men, and he bade them to sit down at the table; and they ate and drank their fill, and that was wanting to them after the hunt they had made. And then the Red Woman rose up, and she said: “King of the Hill, if it is your will, Finn and his men have a mind to see the wonderful beast, for they spent a long time following after it, and that is what brought them here.”
The king struck a blow then on his golden chair, and a door opened behind him, and the beast came through it and stood before the king. And it stooped down before him, and it said: “I am going on towards my own country now; and there is not in the world a runner so good as myself, and the sea is the same to me as the land. And let whoever can come up with me come now,” it said, “for I am going.”
With that the beast went out from the hill as quick as a blast of wind, and all the people that were in it went following after it. It was not long till Finn and his men were before the rest, in the front of the hunt, gaining on the beast.
And about midday Bran made the beast turn, and then she forced it to turn a second time, and it began to put out cries, and it was not long until its strength began to flag; and at last, just at the setting of the sun, it fell dead, and Bran was at its side when it fell.
Then Finn and his men came up, but in place of a beast it was a tall man they saw lying dead before them. And the Red Woman came up at the same time, and she said: “High King of the Fianna, that is the King of the Firbolgs you have killed; and his people will put great troubles on this country in the time to come, when you yourself, Finn, and your people will be under the sod. And I myself am going now to the Country of the Young,” she said, “and I will bring you with me if you have a mind to come.” “We give you our thanks for that,” said Finn, “but we would not give up our own country if we were to get the whole world as an estate, and the Country of the Young along with it.” “That is well,” said the Red Woman; “but you are going home empty after your hunt.” “It is likely we will find a deer in Gleann-na-Smol,” said Finn. “There is a fine deer at the foot of that tree beyond,” said the Red Woman, “and I will rouse it for you.” With that she gave a cry, and the deer started out and away, and Finn and his men after it, and it never stopped till it came to Gleann-na-Smol, but they could not come up with it. Then the Red Woman came to them, and she said: “I think you are tired now with following after the deer; and call your hounds off now,” she said, “and I will let out my own little dog after it.” So Finn sounded a little horn he had at his side, and on the moment the hounds came back to him. And then the Red Woman brought out a little hound as white as the snow of the mountains, and put it after the deer; and it was not long till it had come up with the deer and killed it, and then it came back and made a leap in under the cloak of the Red Woman. There was great wonder on Finn; but before he could ask a question of the Red Woman, she was gone out of sight. And as to the deer, Finn knew there was enchantment on it, and so he left it there after him. And it is tired and empty the Fianna were, going back to Almhuin that night.
Finn went to a gathering one time at Aonach Clochair, and a great many of the men of Munster crowded to it. And the horses of the Fianna were brought there, and the horses of the men of Munster, and they ran races against one another.
And Fiachu, son of Eoghan, was in it; and when the games were over he gave good presents to Finn, a lasting black horse that won the three prizes of the gathering, and a chariot, and a horse for the chariot-driver, and a spear, having a deadly spell, and weapons of silver, and three comely hounds, Feirne and Derchaem and Dialath, having collars of yellow gold and chains of white bronze.
And Finn rose up and gave his thanks to Fiachu, son of Eoghan, and he and his people set out to the house of Cacher at Cluain-da-loch. And they stopped three days feasting in Cacher’s house, and then Finn gave him the price of his feast and of his ale, fifty rings, and fifty horses and fifty cows.
And he himself and the Fianna went on from that over Luachair to the strand at Berramain. And Finn went trying his black horse on the strand, and Caoilte and Oisin went racing against him; but it was only folly for them to do that, for he gave a blow to his horse, and away with him to Traigh Liath and over the Plain of Health to the Old Yew of the Old Valley, and to the inver of the Flesc and the inver of the Lemain to Loch Lein, till he came to the hill of Bairnech, and Caoilte and Oisin after him.
“Night is coming on us,” said Finn then; “and go look for some place where we can sleep,” he said. He looked round then at the rocks on his left hand and he saw a house, and a fire shining out from it in the valley below. “I never knew of a house in this valley,” he said.
“It is best for us to go see it,” said Caoilte, “for there are many things we have no knowledge of.”
The three went on then to the house, and they heard screams and crying from it; and when they came to the house, the people of it were very fierce and rough; and a big grey man took hold of their horses and brought them in and shut the door of the house with iron hooks. “My welcome to you, Finn of the great name,” he said then; “it is a long time you were in coming here.”
They sat down then on the hard boards of a bed, and the grey man kindled a fire, and he threw logs of elder-wood on it, till they went near being smothered with the smoke. They saw a hag in the house then having three heads on her lean neck; and there was on the other side a man without a head, having one eye, and it in his breast. “Rise up, you that are in the house, and make music for the King of the Fianna,” said the grey man then.
With that nine bodies rose up out of the corner nearest the Fianna, and nine heads rose up on the other side of the bed, and they raised nine harsh screeches together, that no one would like to be listening to. And then the hag answered to them, and the headless man answered; and if all of that music was harsh, there was none of it that you would not wish to hear sooner than the music of the one-eyed man. And the music that was sung went near to breaking the bones of their heads; and indeed it is no sweet music that was.
Then the big grey man rose up and took the axe that was for cutting logs, and he began striking at the horses, flaying and destroying them. Then there were brought fifty pointed spits of the rowan-tree, and he put a piece of the horse’s flesh on each one of the spits, and settled them on the hearth. But when he took the spits from the fire and put them before Finn, it is raw the flesh was on them yet. “Take your food away,” said Finn then, “for I have never eaten meat that was raw, and I never will eat it because of being without food for one day.” “If you are come into our house to refuse our food,” said the grey man, “we will surely go against yourselves, Finn and Caoilte and Oisin.”
With that all in the house made an attack on the three; and they were driven back into the corner, and the fire was quenched, and the fight went on through the whole night in the darkness, and but for Finn and the way he fought, they would have been put down.
And when the sun rose and lighted up the house on the morrow, a mist came into the head of each of the three, so that they fell as if dead on the floor.
But after awhile they rose up again, and there was nothing to be seen of the house or of the people of the house, but they had all vanished. And their horses were there, and they took them and went on, very weak and tired, for a long way, till they came to the strand of Berramain.
And those three that fought against them were the three Shapes out of the Valley of the Yew Tree that came to avenge their sister, Cuillen of the Wide Mouth.
Now as to Cuillen, she was a daughter of the King of Munster, and her husband was the King of Ulster’s son. And they had a son that was called Fear Og, the Young Man; and there was hardly in Ireland a man so good as himself in shape and in courage and in casting a spear. And one time he joined in a game with the Fianna, and he did better than them all, and Finn gave him a great reward. And after that he went out to a hunt they made, and it was by him and by none of the Fianna the first blood was got of pig or of deer. And when they came back, a heavy sickness fell on the young man through the eyes and the envy of the Fianna, and it left him without life at the end of nine days. And he was buried under a green hill, and the shining stone he used to hold in his hand, and he doing his feats, was put over his head.
And his mother, Cuillen, came to his grave keening him every day through the length of a year. And one day she died there for grief after her son, and they put her into the same green hill.
But as to Finn, he was afraid of no earthly thing, and he killed many great serpents in Loch Cuilinn and Loch Neathach, and at Beinn Edair; and Shadow–Shapes at Loch Lein and Drom Cleib and Loch Liath, and a serpent and a cat in Ath Cliath.
Angus Og, son of the Dagda, made a feast one time at Brugh na Boinne for Finn and the Fianna of the Gael. Ten hundred of them were in it, and they wearing green clothing and crimson cloaks; and as to the people of Angus’ house, it is clothing of red silk they had.
And Finn was sitting beside Angus in the beautiful house, and it is long since the like of those two were seen in Ireland. And any stranger would wonder to see the way the golden cups were going from hand to hand.
And Angus said out in a loud voice that every one could hear: “It is a better life this is than to be hunting.” There was anger on Finn then, and he said: “It is a worse life than hunting to be here, without hounds, without horses, without battalions, without the shouting of armies.” “Why are you talking like that, Finn?” said Angus, “for as to the hounds you have,” he said, “they would not kill so much as one pig.” “You have not yourself,” said Finn, “and the whole host of the Tuatha de Danaan have not a pig that ever went on dry land that Bran and Sceolan would not kill.” “I will send you a pig,” said Angus, “that will go from you and your hounds, and that will kill them in the end.”
The steward of the house called out then in a loud voice: “Let every one go now to his bed, before the lightness of drunkenness comes on you.” But Finn said to his people: “Let us make ready and leave this; for we are but a few,” he said, “among the Men of Dea.” So they set out and went westward till they came to Slieve Fuad where the Fianna were at that time.
And through the whole length of a year after that, the Tuatha de Danaan were boasting how they would get the better of the Fianna, and the Fianna were thinking how they could do best in the hunt. And at the end of that time Angus sent messengers to Finn, asking him with great respect if he was ready to keep his word. And Finn said he was, and the hounds were brought out, and he himself was holding Bran and Sceolan, one in each hand, and Caoilte had Adhnuall, and Oisin had Ablach, and merry Bran Beag had Lonn, and Diarmuid was holding Eachtach, and Osgar was holding Mac an Truim, and Garraidh was held by Faolan, and Rith Fada, of the Long Run, by hungry Conan.
And they were not long there with their hounds till they saw on the plain to the east a terrible herd of great pigs, every one of them the height of a deer. And there was one pig out in front of the rest was blacker than a smith’s coal, and the bristles on its head were like a thicket of thorn-trees.
Then Caoilte let out Adhnuall, and she was the first to kill a pig of the herd. And then Bran made away from the leash that Finn was holding, and the pigs ran their best, but she came up with them, and took hold of a pig of them. And at that Angus said: “O Bran, fosterling of fair-haired Fergus, it is not a right thing you are doing, to kill my own son.” But when Bran heard that, her ways changed and it was like an enemy she took hold of the pig, and did not let it go, and held her breath back and kept it for the Fianna.
And it was over Slieve Cua the hunt went, and Slieve Crot, and from Magh Cobha to Cruachan, and to Fionnabraic and to Finnias. And at evening when the hunt was over, there was not one pig of the whole herd without a hurt, and there were but a hundred and ten pigs left living. But if the hunt brought destruction on Angus, it brought losses on the Fianna as well, for there were ten hundred of their men missing besides serving-lads and dogs.
“Let us go to Brugh na Boinne and get satisfaction for our people,” said Oisin then. “That is the advice of a man without sense,” said Finn; “for if we leave these pigs the way they are, they will come to life again. And let us burn them,” he said, “and throw their ashes in the sea.”
Then the seven battalions of the Fianna made seven fires to every battalion; but for all they could do, they could not set fire to one pig. Then Bran, that had great sense and knowledge, went away, and she came back bringing three logs along with her, but no one knows what wood it was they came from. And when the logs were put on the fire they lit up like a candle, and it is with them the pigs were burned; and after that their ashes were thrown into the sea.
Then Oisin said again: “Let us go now to Brugh na Boinne and avenge the death of our people.” So the whole of the Fianna set out for Brugh na Boinne, and every step they made could surely be heard through the whole of the skies.
And Angus sent out messengers to where Finn was, offering any one thing to him if he would spare his people. “I will take no gift at all from you, Angus of the slender body,” said Finn, “so long as there is a room left in your house, north or east, without being burned.” But Angus said: “Although you think bad of the loss of your fine people that you have the sway over, yet, O Finn, father of Oisin, it is sorrowful to me the loss of my own good son is. For as to the black pig that came before you on the plain,” he said, “it was no common pig was in it, but my own son. And there fell along with him,” he said, “the son of the King of the Narrow Sea, and the son of the King of the Sea of Gulls, and the son of Ilbhrec, son of Manannan, and seven score of the comely sons of kings and queens. And it is what destroyed my strength and my respect entirely, they to have been burned away from me in a far place. And it is a pity for you, sweet daring Bran,” he said, “fosterling of Fergus of the thirty woods and plains, that you did not do something worth praise before killing your own foster-brother. And I will put a curse on you, Bran,” he said, “beyond every hound in Ireland, that you will never see with your eyes any deer you may ever kill.”
There was anger on Finn when he heard that, and he said: “If you put a curse on Bran, Angus, there will not be a room left, east or west, in the whole of your great house without being burned.” “If you do that,” said Angus, “I will put trees and stones in front of you in every battle; and I will know what number of men you have in your armies,” he said, “looking at them through my ring.”
Then Oisin, that was wise, said: “It is best for you to agree between yourselves now; and let us be helpful to one another,” he said, “and pay whatever fines are due.”
So they agreed to that, and they made peace, and gave children to be fostered by one another: a son of Finn’s to Angus, and son of Angus Og to the Fianna.
But for all that, it is not very friendly to Finn Angus was afterwards, at the time he was following after Diarmuid and Grania through the whole length of Ireland.
Finn was one time out on the green of Almhuin, and he saw what had the appearance of a grey fawn running across the plain. He called and whistled to his hounds then, but neither hound nor man heard him or came to him, but only Bran and Sceolan. He set them after the fawn, and near as they kept to her, he himself kept nearer to them, till at last they reached to Slieve Cuilinn in the province of Ulster.
But they were no sooner at the hill than the fawn vanished from them, and they did not know where was she gone, and Finn went looking for her eastward, and the two hounds went towards the west.
It was not long till Finn came to a lake, and there was sitting on the brink of it a young girl, the most beautiful he had ever seen, having hair of the colour of gold, and a skin as white as lime, and eyes like the stars in time of frost; but she seemed to be some way sorrowful and downhearted. Finn asked her did she see his hounds pass that way. “I did not see them,” she said; “and it is little I am thinking of your hounds or your hunting, but of the cause of my own trouble.” “What is it ails you, woman of the white hands?” said Finn; “and is there any help I can give you?” he said. “It is what I am fretting after,” said she, “a ring of red gold I lost off my finger in the lake. And I put you under bonds, Finn of the Fianna,” she said, “to bring it back to me out of the lake.”
With that Finn stripped off his clothes and went into the lake at the bidding of the woman, and he went three times round the whole lake and did not leave any part of it without searching, till he brought back the ring. He handed it up to her then out of the water, and no sooner had he done that than she gave a leap into the water and vanished.
And when Finn came up on the bank of the lake, he could not so much as reach to where his clothes were; for on the moment he, the head and the leader of the Fianna of Ireland, was but a grey old man, weak and withered.
Bran and Sceolan came up to him then, but they did not know him, and they went on round the lake, searching after their master.
In Almhuin, now, when he was missed, Caoilte began asking after him. “Where is Finn,” he said, “of the gentle rule and of the spears?” But no one knew where was he gone, and there was grief on the Fianna when they could not find him. But it is what Conan said: “I never heard music pleased me better than to hear the son of Cumhal is missing. And that he may be so through the whole year,” he said, “and I myself will be king over you all.” And downhearted as they were, it is hardly they could keep from laughing when they heard Conan saying that.
Caoilte and the rest of the chief men of the Fianna set out then looking for Finn, and they got word of him; and at last they came to Slieve Cuilinn, and there they saw a withered old man sitting beside the lake, and they thought him to be a fisherman. “Tell us, old man,” said Caoilte, “did you see a fawn go by, and two hounds after her, and a tall fair-faced man along with them?” “I did see them,” he said, “and it is not long since they left me.” “Tell us where are they now?” said Caoilte. But Finn made no answer, for he had not the courage to say to them that he himself was Finn their leader, being as he was an ailing, downhearted old man, without leaping, without running, without walk, grey and sorrowful.
Caoilte took out his sword from the sheath then, and he said: “It is short till you will have knowledge of death unless you will tell us what happened those three.”
Then Finn told them the whole story; and when the seven battalions of the Fianna heard him, and knew it was Finn that was in it, they gave three loud sorrowful cries. And to the lake they gave the name of Loch Doghra, the Lake of Sorrow.
But Conan of the sharp tongue began abusing Finn and all the Fianna by turns. “You never gave me right praise for my deeds, Finn, son of Cumhal,” he said, “and you were always the enemy of the sons of Morna; but we are living in spite of you,” he said, “and I have but the one fault to find with your shape, and that is, that it was not put on the whole of the Fianna the same as on yourself.” Caoilte made at him then; “Bald, senseless Conan,” he said, “I will break your mouth to the bone.” But Conan ran in then among the rest of the Fianna and asked protection from them, and peace was made again.
And as to Finn, they asked him was there any cure to be found for him. “There is,” he said; “for I know well the enchantment was put on me by a woman of the Sidhe, Miluchradh, daughter of Cuilinn, through jealousy of her sister Aine. And bring me to the hill that belongs to Cuilinn of Cuailgne,” he said, “for he is the only one can give me my shape again.”
They came around him then, and raised him up gently on their shields, and brought him on their shoulders to the hill of the Sidhe in Cuailgne, but no one came out to meet them. Then the seven battalions began digging and rooting up the whole hill, and they went on digging through the length of three nights and three days. And at the end of that time Cuilinn of Cuailgne, that some say was Manannan, son of Lir, came out of the hill, holding in his hand a vessel of red gold, and he gave the vessel into Finn’s hand. And no sooner did Finn drink what was in the vessel than his own shape and his appearance came back to him. But only his hair, that used to be so fair and so beautiful, like the hair of a woman, never got its own colour again, for the lake that Cuilinn’s daughter had made for Finn would have turned all the men of the whole world grey if they had gone into it.
And when Finn had drunk all that was in the vessel it slipped from his hand into the earth, that was loosened with the digging, and he saw it no more. But in the place where it went into the earth, a tree grew up, and any one that would look at the branches of that tree in the morning, fasting, would have knowledge of all that was to happen on that day.
That, now, is the way Finn came by his grey hair, through the jealousy of Miluchradh of the Sidhe, because he had not given his love to her, but to her sister Aine.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50