The Túatha de Danand went into the hills - the regions of the Síde - then, and they submitted to the Síde under the ground. But they left behind, in each province of Eriu, five of their number to incite the sons of Mil to battle and combat and strife and slaughter. They were particularly careful to leave five men in the province of Ulaid: Brea son of Belgan in Drommanna Breg, Redg Rotbél in Slemna Mage Itha, Tindell son of Boclachtnae in Slíab Edlicon, Grici in Crúachu Aí and Gulban Glass in Bend Gulbain Guirt maicc Ungairb. These men aroused discontent among the Ulaíd over the province's division into three parts, and they did this when the province was at its best - at the time of Conchubur son of Fachtanae Fáthach. The two who shared the province with Conchubur were his own fosterlings: Cú Chulaind son of Súaltaim and Findtan son of Niall Níamglonnach at Dún Dá Bend. This is the division that was imposed upon the province: from Cnocc Uachtair Forcha, which is now called Uisnech mide, to the very centre of Tráig Baile was Cú Chulaind's share, while Conchubur's third extended from Tráig Baile to Tráig Tola and Findtan's from Tráig Tola to Rind Semni and Latharnai.
The province was thus divided into thirds for a year, or until Conchubur held the feis of Samuin at Emuin Machae. One hundred vats of every kind of drink were provided, and Conchubur's officers said that the excellence of the feast was such that all the chieftains of Ulaid would not be too many to attend. And this is the plan that Conchubur devised: to send Lebarcham to Cú Chulaind at Dún Delga and Findchad Fer Bend Uma son of Fróeglethan to Findtan son of Niall Níamglonnach at Dá Dá Bend.
Lebarcham arrived at Dún Delga and told Cú Chulaind to go and speak with his dear foster-father at Emuin Machae. At that time, Cú Chulaind was giving a great feast for the people of his own territory, and said that he would not go but would attend to his own people. But Emer Foltchain, the daughter of Forgall Manach and one of the six best women in Eriu, said that he should not stay but should rather go to speak with his foster-father Conchubur.
Cú Chulaind ordered his horses harnessed, then, and his chariot yoked. 'The horses are harnessed, and the chariot is yoked,' said Lóeg. 'Do not delay, or an evil hour may blot your valour. Step into the chariot when you please.' Cú Chulaind seized his war gear and leapt into the chariot: he took the straightest roads and the shortest ways to Emuin Machae, and there Senchae son of Ailill came to greet him, saying 'Always welcome your arrival, O chief of prosperity of the host of Ulaid, salmon of valourous weaponry of the Goídil, dear, many-hosted, crimson-fisted son of Deichtine.'
'The welcome of a man asking a present that,' said Cú Chulaind. 'It is, indeed,' said Senchae son of Ailill. 'Name the present,' said Cú Chulaind. 'I will provided that I have a proper guarantee,' answered Senchae. 'Then name your guarantors, in return for a counter-present for me,' said Cú Chulaind. 'The two Conalls and Lóegure,' said Senchae, 'that is, Conall Anglonnach son or Iriel Glúnmar and Conall Cernach son of Amorgen and Lóegure Londbúadach.' These guarantors sufficed to secure the present, in return for a counter-present for Cú Chulaind.
'What guarantors do you ask for your counter-present?' Senchae then asked. 'Three young, noble, valorous lads,' said Cú Chulaind. 'Cormac Cond Longes son of Conchubur, Mess Ded son of Amorgen and Echu Cendgarb son of Celtchair.' 'This is my request, then,' said Senchae, 'that you give the third of Ulaid that is in your possession to Conchubur for a year.' 'If the province were the better for being in his possession,' said Cú Chulaind, 'that would not be difficult, for he a well-spring of authority; there is no refuting or contradicting him, and he descends from the kings of Eriu and Albu. But if the province is not better, then we will have a skirmish of little boys, and he will be returned to his own third.'
After that, Findtan son of Níall Níamglonnach arrived. The most excellent druid Cathub took charge and greeted him, saying 'Welcome your arrival, fair, noble youth, chief warrior of the great province of Ulaid. Against you neither reavers nor raiders nor foreign plunderers strive, man who guards the borders of the province.'
'The wlcome of a man aksing a present that,' said Findtan. 'It is, indeed,' said Cathub. 'Name it, that you may have it,' said Findtan. 'I will provided that I have a proper guarantee,' replied Cathub. 'Then name your guarantors, in reutrn for a counter-present for me,' said Findtan. 'Celtchair son of Uthechar, Uma son of Remanfissech from Fecan Chúailnge and Errge Echbél from Brí Errgi,' said Cathub, and these guarantors sufficed. 'What guarantors do you ask for your counter-present?' asked Cathub. 'The three sons of Uilsiu of great deeds,' said Findtan, 'the three torches of valour of Europe: Noísiu and Aindle and Arddán.' These guarantors wer ratified by both parties.
After that, they went to An Téte Brecc, the house where Conchubur was. 'Conchubur is now king of Ulaid,' Cathub said, 'for Findtan has yielded his third.' 'So has Cú Chulaind,' said Senchae. 'In that case,' said Cú Chulaind, 'let Conchubur come to drink and make merry with me, for that is my counter-request.' 'What guarantees and assurances do I have when that is permitted to be said?' asked Findtan. Everyone's guarantors came forth savagely, then, and the fighting was so fierce that nine were wounded and nine bleeding and nine at the point of death between one side and the other. But Senchae son of Ailill rose and shook his peacemaking branch, and the Ulaid fell silent. 'Why such quarrelling?' he asked. 'Conchubur will not be king of Ulaid for a year yet.' 'We will do as you wish,' said Cú Chulaind, 'provided that you do not intervene at the end of the year.' 'That I will not,' said Senchae. Cú Chulaind held him to that promise. They remained three days and three nights, drinking up Conchubur's feast until they had finished it; then they returned to their own houses and strongholds and fine dwellings.
Anyone who arrived at the end of the following year would have found Conchubur's province a well-spring of justice and abundance, without a singe dwelling waste, empty or desolate, from Rind Semni and Latharnai to Cnocc Uachtair Forcha to Dub and drobais, and without a single son usurping the place of his father and grandfather - everyone served his proper lord. At this time, then, fair words passed between Cú Chulaind and Emer. 'It seems to me,' said Emer, 'that Conchubur is now High King of Eriu.' 'No harm if he is,' replied Cú Chulaind. 'You must prepare a king's feast for him, then, for he will be king always,' Emer said. 'That will be done,' said Cú Chulaind.
The feast was prepared, and there were one hundred vats of every kind of drink. At the same time, though, Findtan son of Niall Níamglonnahc decided to prepare a feast, with one hundred vats of every kind of drink. Work on both feasts began on the same day, and work on both concluded the same day. Both men harnessed their horses and yoked their chariots the same day, but Cú Chulaind was the first to arrive at Emuin. He was just unyoking his horses when Findtan arrived, so that he entered Emuin before Findtan; thus, he was already inviting Conchubur to his feast when Findtan entered. 'What guarantees and assurances do I have when that is permitted to be said?' Findtan asked. 'We are here,' said the sons of Uisliu, and they rose. 'I myself,' said Cú Chulaind, 'am not without guarantees.'
With that, the Ulaid rose savagely to take arms, and, since Senchae did not dare to intervene, they began to fight. Conchubur could do no more than leave the royal house to them, and he was followed out by a son of his whose name was Furbude and whom Cú Chulaind had fostered. Conchubur drew this lad aside and said 'Son, you have the power to make peace among the Ulaid.' 'How?' asked the lad. 'By weeping and lamenting before your foster-father, Cú Chulaind,' Conchubur answered, 'for never has he been in strife or combat that he did not think of you.'
Furbude returned, then, and he wept and lamented before Cú Chulaind until the latter asked him what was wrong. Furbude replied 'Just when the province is a well-spring of abundance, you are destroying it for the sake of a single night.' 'I have given my word,' said Cú Chulaind, 'and it will not be contravened.' 'I have sworn my oath,' said Findtan, 'and I will not leave until the Ulaid come with me tonight.' 'I have an excellent solution for you, if I be permitted to speak,' said Senchae son of Ailill. 'The first half of the night with Findtan, the second half with Cú Chulaind - that will alleviate the lad's sorrow.' 'I will permit that,' said Cú Chulaind. 'I also will accept it,' said Findtan.
The Ulaid rose about Conchubur, then, and eh sent mesengers out to invite the people of the province to Findtan's feast. Conchubur himself went, in the company of the Cráebrúad, to Dún Dá Bend and the house of Findtan son of Níall Níamglonnach. All the Ulaid assembled at the feast, so that there was not a man from the smallest hamlet who did not attend. Each king came with his queen, each lord with his lady, each musician with his proper mate, each hospitaller with his female companion; but they were attended to as well as if only a small company had arrived. Lovely, well built, finely appointed sleeping chambers were prepared. Beautiful, lofty balconies were strewn with rushed and fresh rushes, and there were long houses for the hosts, broad, capacious cooking houses, and a broad-entranced, multi-coloured hostel, wide and high and handsome, with four corners and four doors, where the chieftains of Ulaid, men and women, might assemble and drink and make merry. Choice portions of food and drink were served them, so that sustenance for one hundred men reached every nine guests. Conchubur ordered the drinking house by deeds and divisions and families, by greades and arts, and by gentle manners, all towards the fair holding of the feast, Servers came to serve, cupbearers to pour, doorkeepers to guard the doors. Musicians came to play and sing and amuse. Poems and tales and encomia were recited, and jewels and gems and treasures were distributed.
It was then that Cú Chulaind said to Lóeg son of Riangabur: 'Go outside, good Lóeg, and examine the stars, and examine if midnight has arrived, for you have often waite and watched for me at the boundaries of distant lands.' Lóeg went out, then, and he watched and waited until it was midnight; then he returned to the house and said 'Midnight now, O Cú of the feats.' When Cú Chulaind heard that, he told Conchubur, for he was sitting in the hero's seat beside the king. Conchubur rose with a bright, shining buffalo horn, and the Ulaid fell silent when they saw their king standing. They were so quiet, a needle falling from the ridge pole to the floor could have been heard. It was geiss for the Ulaidd to speak before their king did, but it was also geiss for the king to speak before his druids did. Thus, the most excellent druid Cathub siad 'What is it, Conchubur, noble high king of Ulaid?' 'Cú Chulaind here thinks it is time to go to his feast,' Conchubur replied. 'Does he wisht to earn the collective blessing of the Ulaid by leaving the young and the weak and the women behind?' asked Cathub. 'I do,' said Cú Chulaind, 'provided that our champions and warriors and fighters and singers and poets and musicians come with us.'
The Ulaid rose as one, then, and they went out on to the hard-turfed green. 'Good friend Lóeg,' Cú Chulaind then said, 'put the goad of battle to the horses', whereupon Cú Chulaind's horses broke into a warlike white leap. The horses of the Ulaid followed their example, and this is the road they took: on to the green of Dún Dá Bend, past Cathir Osrin, Lí Thúaga and Dún Rígáin to Ollarba in Mag Machae, past Slíab Fúait and Ath na Forare to Port Nóth Con Culaind, past Mag Muirthemni and Crích Saithni, acros Dubad, acrossthe rush of the Bóand and into Mag mBreg and Mide, into Senmag Léna in Mucceda, into Cláethar Cell, across the Brosnas of Bladma, with Brna Mera ingine Trega (today called Bernán Ele) on their left and Slíab nEblinni ingine Gúare on their right, across Findsruth (today called Aband Ua cathbad), into Machare Már na Muman, through Lár Martini and the territory of the Smertani, with the bright crags of Loch Gair on the right, across the rush of the Máig and into Clíu Máil maicc Ugaine, into Crích na Dési Bice, into the land of Cú Roi son of Dáre. Every hill over which they travelled was levelled, so that flat glens were left behind; in every wood throught which they passed the iron wheels of their chariots sliced through the roots of the great oaks, so that level plains were left behind; in every stream and ford and estuary they crossed, their horses' knees splashed the water out, so that for a great distance and for a long time afterwards the streams and fords and estuaries were left bare-stoned and bone dry.
At that time, Conchubur, King of Ulaid, siad 'Never before have we taken this route from Dún Dá Bend to Dún Delga.' 'Indeed not,' asid Bricriu. 'But a whisper is clearer to us than a shout is to anyone else: in fact, we seem not to be within the borders of Ulaid at all.' 'We give our word,' said Senchae son of Ailill, 'that we are not.' 'We give our word, as well,' said Conall. At that, the Ulaid charioteers tightened the bits in the mouths of their horses, from first chariot to last, and Conchubur said 'Who will find out for us what territory we are in?' 'Who but Cú Chulaind,' said Bricriu, 'for he has boasted that there is no distriect in which he has not slaughtered one hundred men.' 'I am responsible, Bricriu,' Cú Chulaind said, 'and I will go.'
Cú Chulaind thus went down to Druimm Collchailli, which is called Ane Chlíach, and he said 'Tell me, friend Lóeg, do you know what territory we are in?' 'Indeed, I do not,' said Lóeg. 'Well, I do,' replied Cú Chulaind. 'Cend Abrat and Slíab Caín to the south, there, and Slíab nEblinni to the north-east. The large, bright pond yonder is Lind Luimnig. Druimm Collchailli is where we are now - it is called Ane Chlíach and lies in Crích na Dési Bice. To the south of us is the host, in Cliu Máil maicc ugaine, in the territory of Cú Roí son of Dáre son of Dedad.'
While Cú Chulaind and Lóeg were talking, a tremendous, heavy show fell upon the Ulaid, and it was as high as the shoulders of the men and the shafts of their chariots. Extra work was performed by the Ulaid charioteers in erecting stone columns to shelter their horses from the snow, and theses 'Stables for the Horses of the Ulaid' survive still. And they prove the story.
After that, Cú Chulaind and Lóeg returened to the Ulaid, 'Well,' said Senchae son of Ailill, 'what territory are we in?' 'We are in Crích na Dési Bice, the land of Cú Ruí son of Dáre, in Cliu Máil maicc Ugaine,' replied Cú Chulaind. 'Woe to us, then,' said Bricriu, 'and woe to the Ulaid.' 'Not so, Bricriu,' said Cú Chulaind, 'for I will show the Ulaid how we can retrace our way and arrive in front of our enemies before dawn.' 'Woe to the Ulaid,' said Celtchair son of Uthechar,'that ever was born the sister's son who gives such advice.' 'We have never before known you to offfer the Ulaid a plan of weakness and cowardice, Cú Chulaind,' said Fergnae son of Findchóem, a royal hospitaller. 'Alas that a person who gives such adice should escape without our making him a place of points and the edges of weapons,' said Lugaid Lámderg son of Léti king of the Dál nArade. 'What would you prefer, then?' asked Cú Chulaind, and Celtchair answered 'This, that we spend a day and a night in this territory, for to leave it would signify defeat, and we have not left so much as a fox's track in land or desert or wilderness.' 'Then tell us, Cú Chulaind,' said Conchubur, 'where we ought to encamp for a day and a night.' 'Oenach Senclochar is here, andt this rough winter season is not fair-time,' said Cú Chulaind. 'And Temuir Lúachra lies on the slope of Irlúachair, and there are buildings and dwellings.' 'It would be right to go to Temuir Lúachra, then,' said Senchae.
So they went straight on to Temuir Lúachra, and Cú Chulaind showed them the way. But if Temuir Lúachra was uninhabited before or after, it was not uninhabited that night. No surprise this, for a son had been born to Ailill and Medb and given the name Mane Mó Epirt and sent out to be fostered by Cú Ruí son of Dáre; and that night Aililla nd Medb and the chieftains of Connachta had come to drink to the end of the boy's first month. They had all gathered there, and so had Echu son of Luchtae with his province and Cú Ruí son of Dáre with the Cland Dedad. Despite the presence of so many, the woman-warrior Medb, the daughter of Echu Feidlech high king of Eriu, was still cautious, and so there were two watchmen, both druids, guarding her. Their names were Cromm Deróil and Cromm Darail, two foster-sons of the most excellent druid Cathub.
It happened that these two druids were on the wall of Temuir Lúachra that night, looking and watching and waiting and guarding on all sides, when Cromm Deróil said 'Have you seen what I just saw?' 'What is that?' asked Cromm Darail. 'I seemed to see a red-armoured company and the thundering of a host on the slopes of Irlúachair from the east,' said Cromm Deróil. 'I would not think a mouthful of blood and gore too much for the person who said that,' said Cromm Darail. 'No host or multitude that, but the great oaks we passed yesterday.' 'If that is so, then why the great royal chariots under them?' asked Cromm Deróil. 'Not chariots they, but the royal strongholds we passed,' answered Cromm Darail. 'If that is so, then why are there beautiful, pure white shields in them?' asked Cromm Deróil. 'Not shields at all those, but the stone columns at the entrances to the royal strongholds,' answered Cromm Darail. 'If those are columns, they why all the red-pointed spears over the great dark breasts of the mighty host?' asked Cromm Deróil. 'Not spearpoints at all those, but the deer and wild beasts of the land with their horns and antlers overhead,' answered Cromm Darail. 'If those are deer and wild beasts, then why do the horses' hooves blacken the air overhead with the clods they send up?' asked Cromm Deróil. 'Not horses they, but the herds and flocks and cattle that have been let out of their stalls and pens - it is in their pastures that birds and other winged creatures alight in the snow,' answered Cromm Darail.
'My word, if those are birds and winged creatures, it is not a single flock,' Cromm Deróil said, and he recited this poem:
If that is a flock, with the colour of a flock,
they are not one kind of bird.
A multicoloured cloak with a golden brooch
seems to hang round the neck of each bird.
If these are flocks froma rugged glen,
their tips are very black:,
not scarce their bitter spears
with the warlike points.
They seemt o me not flurries of snow
but small men, in truth,
arriving in a multitude
with their straight spears,
a man behind each hard crimson shield.
That is a huge flock.
'And do not contradict me, either,' said Cromm Deróil, 'for it is I who am telling the truth. Why did they bend under the branches of the oaks of Irlúachair on their journey west if they were not men?' cromm Deróil reproved Cromm Darail thus, and he recited this poem:
Cromm Darail, what do I see
through the mist?
whose blood is pressaged
after the slaughter?
Not right for you to contend with me
on every point.
You are saying, hunchback, they are
If they are bushes they will remain
They will not rise unless there is need
for them to go.
If they were a grove of alder trees
over the wood of a cairn,
they would not follow a deceptive path,
they being dead.
Since they are not dead, fierce their slaughter,
rough their colour.
They traverse plains and wood hedges
for they are alive.
If they were trees on hilltops,
they would be without deeds of combat;
those mantles would not move
if they were speckled.
Since they are not trees, ugly their clamour,
without any lie;
men of triumphs these men of alder shields,
red their weapons.
Since they ride dark horses,
they form a row of hosts;
if they are rocks, they row swiftly,
red if they are stones.
Why is there a gleam on each point -
a contest dark and certain.
Men go past the tips -
why do they bend over?
Cú Ruí, the son of handsome Dáre, overheard the contention betweent he two druids outside on the wall of temuir Lúachra, and he said 'Not in harmony those druids outside.' Meanwhile, the sun rose over the earth's orb, whereupon Cromm Deróil said 'Now the host is evident.' The sun rose over the slopes of Irlúachair, and Cromm Deróil recited this poem:
I see many-hilled Lúachair,
the bright-fronted sun shining against its flanks;
they are youths who travel from afar,
betweent eh brown moor and the trees.
If that is a flock of ravens yonder in the east,
if it is a flock of fat landrails,
if it is a flock of noisy starlings,
if it is a flock of herons or barnacle geese,
if it is a flock of shrill barnacle geese,
if it is a flock of shrill swans,
they are still far from heaven,
they are still close to the earth.
Cú Ruí, son of dear Dáre,
man who traverses the streams of the ocean,
tell us, since you know best,
what crosses the ancient mountain.
Cú Ruí answered with this poem:
The two watchmen, the two druids,
great their perplexity.
What their eyes see terrifies them;
their resistance wavers.
If those are curly-horned cattle,
if they are hard-skinned rocks,
if it is a sparse, dark green wood,
if it is the roar of waves of Muir Miss,
if they are cattle, with the colour of cattle,
they are not one kind of cow;
there is a fierce man with a bloody spear
on the back of each cow.
There is a sword for each cow
and a shield on the left side;
hard standard against hard standard
above the cows that I see.
They had not been there long, the two druids, before a destructive white leap broke from the first troop across the glen. The men advanced with such ferocity that there was a not a shield on its peg or a sword or spear on its rack that did not fall down. Every thatched house in Temuir Lúachra had its thatching fall away in flakes the size of tablecloths. It was as if the ocean had washed over the walls and across the corners of the earth towards them. Faces fell and teeth chattered within Temuir Lúachra. The two druids grew dizzy and swooned and fainted; Cromm Darail fell outside the wall, and Cromm Deróil fell inside. Even so, it was Cromm Deróil who rose and cast his eye over the first troop to reach the green. This troop descended upon the green and sat there as one man, and the heat of the great valorous warriors was such that the snow softened and melted for thirty feet on every side.
Cromm Deróil then went inside to Medb and Ailill and Cú Ruí and Echu son of Luchtae, and Medb asked 'Whence has this loud clamour come: down tfrom the air, or across the sea from the west, or from the east across Eriu?' 'Indeed, across Eriu from the east, across the slopes of Irlúachair the march of this barbarous host,' said Cromm Deróil. 'I do not know if they are Eriu or foreigners. If they are Eriu and not foreigners, then they are Ulaid.' 'Would Cú Ruí not recognise the Ulaid by their description?' asked Medb. 'He has often accompanied them on raids and hostings and expeditions.' 'I would recognise them if they were described for me,' said Cú Ruí. 'Indeed, I can describe the first troop that descended on the green,' said Cromm Deróil. 'Do so, then.' said Medb.
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a great regal band, and each man was the equal of a king. Three men stood before the band; the middle man was a tall, regal, broad-eyed warrior, his face like the moon in its fifteenth day. His forked beard was fair and narrow: his hair was short and reddish yellow and bound at the back. A fringed, scarlet cloak round him; a brooch inlaid with gold fastening the mantle over his white shoulders; a tunic of kingly satin next to his white skin. A dark crimson shield with bosses of yellow gold he had, and a sword withan inlaid gold hilt. A spear witha glittering blade in his white. Illustrious right hand, and a smaller forked spear with it. On his right a true warrior with a face as bright as snow; on his left, a small, dark-browed man, but very resplendent. A very bright, fair man was performing the sword-edge feat overhead, his very sharp, ivory-hilted sword naked in one hand and his great warrior's sword in the other. These swords he juggled up and down so that they cast shadows against the hair and cheeks of the tall warrior in the middle, but, before the swords could strike the ground, he caught them by their points and edges.'
'Regal the description,' said Medb. 'Regal the people described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who are they , then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'The tall warrior in the middle is Conchubur son of Fachtnae Fáthach, the worthy, rightful king of Ulaid, descendant of the kings of Eriu and Albu. The man on his left, with face as white as snow, is Findtan son of Níall Níamglonnach, ruler of one third of Ulaid; the small, dark-browed man on Conchubur' left is Cú Chulaind son of Súaltaim. Ferchertnae son of Coirpre son of Iliu is the very bright, fair man performing weapon feats overhead. Chief poet of the chief poets of the Ulaid he is, and rearguard when Conchubur invades the territory of his enemies. Whoever wishes to speak with the king must speak with this man first.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Crom Deróil, 'I saw a swift, handsome trio, all fitted out like champions. Two of them were youthful; the third lad, however, had a forked, dark-shining beard. These three came so swiftly and so lightly that they did not remove the dew from the grass; no one in the great host sees them, and yet they see the entire host.'
'Gentle and light and peaceable the description,' said Medb. 'Gentle and peaceable the people described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who are they?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Three noble youths of the Túatha Dé Danand they: Delbáeth son of Eithliu and Oengus Oc son of the Dagdae and Cermait Milbél. They arruived at dawn today to stir up strife and contention , and they have mingled with the host, and it is true that the host cannot see them but that they can see the host.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a valorous warriorlike band led by a distinguished trio. One was dark and furious, and one was fair and truly handsome; but the third was strong and stout and mighty, with short, reddish yellow hair that shone like the crown of a birch tree at the end of autumn or like a brooch of plae gold. He had a forked, dark brown beard the length of a warrior's hand, and his face was like the shining foxglove or a fresh ember. The three bore dark red warrior's shields, great multipointed spears, and heavy, powerful swords, and their apparel was fair and glittering.'
'Warlike and heroic that description, indeed,' said Medb. 'warlike and heroic the people described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who are they, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'The three chief warriors of Ulaid they are, the two Conalls and Lóegure: Conall Anglonnach son of Iriel Glúnmár and Conall cernach son of Amorgen and Lóegure from Ráith Immel.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a frightful, unfamiliar trio standing before their band. Three linen tunics were next to their skin; three woolly, dun grey mantles covered the tunics; three iron stakes fastened the mantles at the breast. Their hair was dark and bristling, and they carried gleaming dun shields with hard, bronze bosses, spears with broad, flat heads, and swords with gold hilts. Like the cry of a strange hound on the scent the snorting and bellowing each of these men makes when he catches the sound of an enemy in the fort.'
'Savage and heroic that description,' said Medb. 'Savage and heroic the people described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who are they, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'The three battle-stays of Ulaid they: Uma son of Ermanfissech of Fedan Chúailnge, Errge Echbél of Brí Errgi and Celtchair Már son of Uthechar of Ráith Celtchair at Dún Dá Lethglas.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a large-eyed , broad-thighed, broad-shouldered, huge, tall man with a splendid tawny cloak about him. Seven smooth black hoods about him, each upper one shorter, each lower one longer. There were nine men on either side of him, and in his hand a dreadful iron club, one end violent, the other mild. This is his game and his feat: he lays the vilent end across the heads of the nine men so that they die in an instant: then he lays the gentle end across them so that they are brought back to life in an instant.'
'Wondrous that description,' said Medb. 'Many guises has the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'That is the Dagdae Már, son of Eithliu, the good god of the Túatha Dé Danand. He has mingled with the host this morning to stir up trouble and strife, but no one of the host has seen him.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a stout, broad-faced man, brawny and black-browed, broad-countenanced and white-toothed, with neither garment nor apparel nor weapon nor blade but only a well-kneaded dark leather apron that reached to his armpits. Each of his limbs was as stout as a large man. The entire Cland Dedad coulg not lift the stone pillar outside, but he raised it and performed the apple feat with it, from one finger to the other. Then he put it down as if it were a wisp of thistle, all fluff and lightness.'
'Sturdy, stout and strong that description,' said Medb. 'Mightly the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Triscatail Trénfer he, the strongman of Conchubur's house. He has slain three nines with no more than an angry look.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a young lad, almost a child, bound and fettered. Three chains round each leg and a chain round each arm; three chains round his neck, and seven men holding each chain, seventy-seven men in all. He turned strongly and poerfully and overthrew the seventy-seven men, dealing with them as lightly and swiftly as he would have dealt with puffballs. When he perceived the smell of his enemies, when he struck the head of a man againsta projecting clod or against a rock of stone, then that man would say "It is not for valour or glory that this trick is performed, but by reason of the food and drink in the fort." The lad blushed and fell silent and went about with thema while until the same wave of savagery overcame him.'
'Destructive and intractable that description, indeed,' said Medb. 'Destructive and intractable the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Whos is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'He is the son of the three champions of whom I spoke a short while ago: Uma son of Remanfissech, Errge Echbél and Celtchair son of Uthechar. That many of the host are needed to guard him and to restrain his valour when he goes to the land of his enemies. Uanchend Arritech he, and he is only eleven years old, and never has he consumed a portion of food that he did not offer to everyone in the house.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' siad Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a rabbly sort of band. One man among them was balding, with short, black hair, bulging, great eyes - one bright - in his head, and a smooth, blue, Ethiopian face. A dappled cloak wrapped round him, a brazen pin in the cloak at his breast and a long bronze crook in his hand. A sweet little bell he had, too. He plied his horsewhip upon the host and brought joy and merriment to the high king and to the entire host.'
'Comic and risible that description,' said Medb. 'Comic the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Rómit Rígóinmit, Conchubur's fool. No want or sorrow that has ever afflicted the ulaid has not departed when they saw Rómit Rígóinmit.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a bright, just-greying man in a hooded chariot over very tall horses. He had a huge multi-coloured cloak with golden threads about him, and a gold bracelet on each arm, and a gold ring on each finger, and weapons with gold ornamentation. Nine chariots preceded him, nine followed and nine were on either side.'
'Regal and dignified that description,' said Medb. 'Regal and dignified the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' Ailill asked. 'Not difficult that,' Cú Ruí said. 'Blaí Briugu son of Fiachnae from Temuir na hArdda, and he needs nine chariots about him everywhere he goes, and of the entrie host he listens to their speech alone. Seldom do they talk to anyone but him.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a vast, kingly troop, with one man standing before it. Bristling dark hair he had. A gentle blush in one cheek, a furious red blush in the other - a kind, civil answer on the one hand, an angry answer on the other. On his shoulders an open-mouthed leopard; in his hands a white-fronted shield, a bright-hilted sword anda great warrior's spear the height of his shoulder. When its ardour came upon the spear, he gbave the butt a blow against the palm of his hand, and a bushel full of fiery sparks broke out along the oint and the blade, Before him was a cauldron of dark blood, a dreadful pool of night made through druidry from the blood of dogs and cats and druids, and the head of the spear was submerged in the poisonous liquid whenever its ardour came upon it.'
'Poisonous that description, indeed,' said Medb. 'Poisonous the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Dubthach Dóeltenga, a man who has never earned the thanks of anyone. Whe the Ulaid go out together, he goes out alone. He has the death-dealing of Lúin of Celtchair on loan, and the cauldron of very red blood is before him since otherwise the spear would burn its shaft or the man carrying it, and it is prophesying battle.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw another band, with a sleek, ancient, hoary-white man standing before it. He had a bright cloak about him with fringes of pure white silver, a handsome pure white tunic next to his skin, a glittering white sword under his cloak and a bronze branch the height of his shoulder. As sweet as music was his voice; very loud and slow was his speech.'
'Judicial and wise that description, indeed,' said Medb. 'Judicial and wise the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Senchae Már son of Ailill son of Máelchlód from Carnmag Ulad, a good speaker among mortal men and a peacemaker among the Ulaid. A man of the world from sun to sun, a man who can make peace with three fair words.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw an ardent, very handsom band. A youthful lad with curly yellow hair stood before it, and the judgement that the man before him could not give he gave.'
'Wise and clever that description,' said Medb. 'Wise and clever the one described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who is it, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'Caín Caínrethach son of Senchae son of Ailill he, and the judgement that his father cannot give he gives.'
'Outside and to the east of the fort,' said Cromm Deróil, 'I saw a dreadful foreign trio with short bristling shaggy hair and foreign, dun-coloured clothing; they carried short brazen spears in their right hands and iron clubs in their left. None of them spoke to each other, and none of the host spoke to them.'
'Foreign and servile that description,' said Medb. 'Foreign and servile those described,' said Cú Ruí. 'Who are they, then?' asked Ailill. 'Not difficult that,' said Cú Ruí. 'They are the three doorkeepers of Conchubur's royal house: Nem and Dall and Dorcha.'
That was the description of the first troop to reach the green. The great druid had no more descriptions for Cú Ruí to interpret. 'The Ulaid are yonder, then,' said Medb. 'They are, indeed,' replied Cú Ruí. 'Was this predicted or prophesied that you know of?' asked Medb. 'I do not know that it was,' answered Cú Ruí. 'Is there anyone in the fort who might know?' Medb asked. 'There is the ancient of Cland Dedad,' said Cú Ruí, ' that is, Gabalglinde son of Dedad, who is blind and who has been attended in the fort for thirty years.' 'Let someone go to ask him was this prophesied and what provision was made for it,' said Medb. 'Who should go?' asked Cú Ruí. 'Let Cromm Deróil and Fóenglinde son of Dedad go,' Medb replied.
These two went out to the house where Gabalglinde was attended. 'Who is it?' he asked. 'Cromm Deróil and Fóenglinde son of Dedad,' they replied, 'to ask you if there is a prophecy or a prediction concernign the coming of the Ulaid, and whether any provision has been made.' ' There have long been prophecies and predictions, and there is a provision, and it is this: an iron house with two wooden houses about it, anda house of earth unerneath with a very sturdy iron stone on top. All the dead wood and fuel and tinder are to be packed into the house of earth until it is quite full, for it was prophesied to us that the chieftains of Ulaid would gather one night in the iron house. There are about the feet of the bed seven chains of fresh iron for binding and making fast; fasten them about the seven pillars on the green outside.'
Cromm Deróil and Fóenglinde son of Dedad returned to Ailill and Medb and the chieftains of the province, then, and told them what provision had been made for the Ulaid. 'Let one of my people and one of yours go to meet them, Cú Ruí,' said Medb. 'Who should go?' asked Cú Ruí. 'The same pair,' said Medb, 'that the Ulaid might be welcomed by me and the chieftains of the province of Connachta and by you and the chieftains of the province of Mumu.' 'I will be able to tell by the man who receives the welcome whether they have come for peace or war,' said Cú Ruí. 'If it is Dubthach Dóeltenga who answers, they have come to fight; but if it is Senchae son of Ailill, then they have come in peace'
Cromm Deróil and Fóenglinde son of Dedad went to greet the Ulaid on the green. 'Welcome, welcome, most noble and valorous high king of Ulaid, from Medb and Ailill and the chieftains of the province of Connachta,' said Cromm Deróil. 'Welcome, welcome, most valorous high king of Ulaid,' said Fóenglinde son of Dedad, 'from Cú Ruí son of Dáre and the chieftains of the two provinces of Mumu that are in the fort yonder.' 'We accept your welcome, as does the king,' said Senchae son of Ailill. 'It is not to fight or do evil that the Ulaid have come but on an intoxicated spree from Dún Dá Bend Cliu Máil maicc Ugaine; and we considered it dishonourable to leave the territory without spending a night in it.'
The messengers then returned to Medb and Ailill and Cú Ruí and Echu and the chieftains of the three provinces and related these words. Poets and musicians and entertainers were sent to the Ulaid until a house could be prepared for their entertainment and amusement. Messengers were also sent to the Ulaid, to aske their best warrior to choose a house. A this, a contention arose among the Ulaid: one hundred champions, all equally valorous, rose as one for their weapons, but Senchae son of Ailill pacified them, saying 'Let Cú Chulaind go, since it is for the sake of his house that you came, and accept his protection until he returns.' Cú Chulaind rose, then, and the Ulaid rose as one behind him. He examined the largest house in the place, and that was the iron house, about which the two wooden houses were.
After that, attendants came to look after the Ulaid; a huge bonfire was kindled, and their portions of food and drink were served. As night approached, the servants and attendants slipped away one by one, and, when the last servant left, he locked the door after him. The seven chains of fresh iron were wrapped round the house and fastened about the seven pillars on the green outside. Three fifties of smiths with their bellows were brought to fan the flames; three circles were made round the house, and the fire was kindled from above and below until its heat reached the iron house from below. At that, the host outside the house sent up a shout, and the Ulaid fell silent. Bricriu said 'Ulaid, what is this great heat that burns our feet? A whisper is clearer to me than a shout is to anyone else: it seems to me that we are being burned from above and below and that the house is locked.' 'This is how we will find out,' said Triscatail Trénfer, and he rose and kicked at the iron door, but it neither creaked nor groaned nor yielded. 'Not goo dthe feast you have prepared for the Ulaid, Cú Chulaind,' said Bricriu, 'for you have led us into the lair of the enemy.' 'Not so, Bricriu,' said Cú Chulaind, 'for I will performa feat with my Crúadin that will enable the Ulaid to leave.' Cú Chulaind thrust his sword up to the hilt into the iron house and the two wooden houses. 'There is an iron house here,' he said, 'between two houses of wood.' 'The worst of all tricks that,' siad Bricriu.
...should visit them, my club will slay them.' 'Let me go,' said Triscoth, 'for anyone that I gaze upon with my wrathful look will die.' 'Let me go,' said Réordae Drúth. 'Let me,' said Nía Natrebuin Chró. 'Let me,' said Dóeltenga. 'One of us will go,' said Dub and Rodub. Everyone rose against his fellow,t hen, but Senchae said 'Do not quarrel over this. The man the Ulaid choose should go, even if he is not the best warrior here.' 'Which of us is that?' asked the Ulaid. 'Cú Chulaind should go, even though he is not the best warrior here,' said Senchae.
They rose and went to the courtyard, then, and Cú Chulaind led them. 'Is this sprite the best warrior of the Ulaid?' Findtan asked. With that, Cú Chulaind leapt up to the top of the courtyard, and he leapt valorously upon the front bridge so that the weapons in the fort all fell from their racks. The Ulaid were then taken into a house of oak with a vaulted roof and a door of yew three feet thick and two iron hooks and an iron bolt. This house was strewn with quilts and coverlets. Cromm Deróil brought their weapons and bade them sit down, and Cú Chulaind's weapons hung overhead.
'Heat water so that they may wash,' said Ailill, and food and beer were brought to the Ulaid until they were intoxicated. Cromm Deróil visited them once more to see if there was anything else they might like. And when they were intoxicated, Senchae called for attention, and they all listened. 'Give now your blessing to the sovereign to whom you have come, for he has been munificent. No hand in a poor field here. He has provided an abundance of food and beer - no need to complain about the preparations.' 'That is true,' said Dóeltenga. 'I swear by what my people swear by, there will return to your land only what the birds might carry away in their claws - the men of Eriu and Alba will inhabit your land and take your women and goods and break the heads of your children against stones.'
During the cattle raid Cúailnege, Fergus said this about Dóeltenga:
Away with Dubthach Dóeltenga,
drag him behind the host.
Never has he done any good;
he has slain young women.
He has done a hideous, shameful deed;
the slaying of Fiachu son of Conchubur.
Neither is he any the more illustrious
for the slaying of Mane son of Fedilmid.
He does not contest the kingship of Ulaid
this son of Lugaid son of Casrubae.
Those people whom he cannot kill
he incites against each other.
'No lie that,' said Dubthach Dóeltenga. 'But note the strength of th house and how the door is closed. Do you not see that, though you might want to leave, you cannot? Shame on me if, outside, there is not some dispute about attacking us. Let whom the Ulaid consider their best warrior obtain news for us.'
With that, Cú Chulaind rose and did the hero's salmon leap upwards, so that he went from the ridgepole of the house to the ridge pole of another house; and he saw the host gathered below, forming a solid front for the attack. Ailill placed his back against the door to protect those inside, and his seven sons jined hands in the doorway; but the host broke into the middle of the courtyard.
Cú Chulaind returned to his people, then, and he kicked at the door so that his leg went through it up to the knee. 'If that blow had been delivered against a woman,' said Dubthach, 'she would be inbed.' Cú Chulaind kicked again, and the door frame fell into the hearth. 'Advice!' said Senchae. 'That is here,' answered Cú Chulaind. 'You will have whatever is fit from youths in combat. Your enemies approach.' 'What is your advice?' asked Senchae. 'Put your backs against the wall, and have your weapons before you, and charge one man to speak with them,' said Cú Chulaind. 'If that which comes is heavier to raise, then throw the house from you.' 'Who should speak with them?' asked Senchae. 'I will, for any of them whom I stare at will die,' said Triscoth.
Outside, their enemies were holding a council. 'Who should speak with them and be the first to go inside?' asked a youth. 'I will go,' said Lopán. Lopán went inside ten, taking nine men with him, and he said 'A warrior's deed, warriors.' 'Man against man - that is a warrior's deed,' said Triscoth. 'True enough. Triscoth as spokesman for the Ulaid? No other worthy spokesman?' said Lopán. But Triscoth looked balefully at him, and the soles of Lopán's feet turned deathly white.
After that, Fer Calliu came into the house with nine men. 'A warrior's deed, warriors!' he said. 'Man against man - that is a warrior's deed,' said Triscoth, and he looked balefully at Fer Calliu until the soles of the latter's feet turned deathly white.
After that, Míanach Anaidgned entered the house with nine men. 'Those on the flooor seem pale to us,' he siad. Triscoth looked at him, but Mían ach said ' Look at me and see if I die.' Triscoth seized him, then, and hurled him against the three nines that had entre the house, and not one of those men left alive.
After that, the host gathered about the house to take it from the Ulaid, and the Uladi overturned the house so that it fell upon three hundred of the host. The fighting broke out, then, an dit lasted until the middle of the following day; and the Ulaid were routed, for they were few in number. Ailill watched this from his dwelling in the fort, and he said 'The tales of the Ulaid were tales to be told until today. I was told that there were no youths in Eriu to equal them, but today I see int hem nothing but shame. It is an old proverb that no battle is fought without a king; a battle fought round me, however, would not long endure. But I may not fight them, for that would vilate my honour.'
With that, Cú Chulaind bounded through the troop and attacked them three times. Furbude Fer Bend son of Conchubur also assailed them, but his enemies would not strike at him because of his great beauty. 'Why do you not attack him?' said one man. 'Not pleasing the little games of this magnificent fellow. I swear by what my people swear by, if he had a head of gold, I would still slay the man who slew my brother.' But Furbude cast his spear at the man and killed him. Thereafter, the Erainn were routed, so that only three of them escaped; the Ulaid plundered the fort, but they spared Ailill and his seven sons, none of whom had fought. Since that time, Temuir Lúachra has not been inhabited.
Crumthand Níad Náir, of the Erainn, escaped. To the west, at the Lemuin, he encountered the female satirist, Riches, who was his foster-mother. 'Was my son left?' she asked. 'He was,' Crumthand replied. 'Come with me, and I will avenge him,' she said. 'How will you do that?' Crumthand asked. 'You will slay Cú Chulaind in return,' Riches said. 'How will I do that?' Crumthand asked. 'Not difficult that,' she said. 'If you can use your two hands you will need nothing else, for you will find him all ready for you.'
Riches went out after the host, then, and she found Cú Chulaind up ahead at a ford in Crích Uaithne. She took her clother off in front of Cú Chulaind, and he turned his face to the ground that he might not see her nakedness. 'Attack now, Crumthand,' she said. 'There is a man coming at you,' said Lóeg. 'Indeed not,' said Cú Chulaind, 'for, while the woman is in that state, I may not rise.' Lóeg took a stone from the chariot and hurled it at Riches so that it broke her back and slew her. Cú Chulaind rose, then, and met Crumthand; they fought, and Cú Chulaind took his head and his gear.
Cú Chulaind and Lóeg followed the host, then, until they reached Cú Chulaind's fort, and they slept there. Cú Chulaind entertained the Ulaid for forty nights with one feast; after that, they departed and left their blessing with him. Ailill, moreover, came north to Ulaid to visit. He was given the width of his face in gold and silver and seven cumals for each of his sons; then he returned to his own land, in peace and harmony with the Ulaid. Thereafter, Conchubur's kingship was unimpaired for as long as he lived.
Return to Contents page