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A Book of Myths

Page: 161

And Ainle also craved that death might be dealt to him the first. But Naoise held out his own sword, “The Retaliator,” to the executioner.

“Mannanan, the son of Lîr, gave me my good sword,” he said. “With it strike my dear brothers and me one blow only as we stand here like three trees planted in the soil. Then shall none of us know the grief and shame of seeing the other beheaded.” And because it was hard for any man to disobey the command of Naoise, a king of men, the Norseman reached out his hand for the sword. But Deirdrê sprang from the shoulder of Naoise and would have killed the man ere he struck. Roughly he threw her aside, and with one blow he shore off the heads of the three greatest heroes of Alba.

For a little while there was a great stillness there, like the silence before the coming of a storm. And then all who had beheld the end of the fair and noble Sons of Usna broke into great lamentation. Only Conor stood silent, gazing at the havoc he had wrought. To Cuchulainn, the mighty champion, a good man and a true, Deirdrê fled, and begged him to protect her for the little span of life that she knew yet remained to her.


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