Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 109

“I see a big stout man, with reddish gold hair and long forked beard, dressed in purple with gold adornments; and his shield is bronze edged with gold; he bears a javelin in his hand.”

“That man I know well,” answered her mother. [Pg 192] “He is mighty Laegaire, the Storm of War, the Knife of Victory; he will slay us all, unless he comes in peace.”

“I see another chariot,” quoth the princess, “bearing a fair man with long wavy hair, a man of clear red and white complexion, wearing a white vest and a cloak of blue and crimson. His shield is brown, with yellow bosses and a bronze edge.”

“That is valiant Conall the Victorious,” quoth Meave. “Small chance shall we have if he comes in anger.”

“Yet a third chariot comes, wherein stands a dark, sad youth, most handsome of all the men of Erin; he wears a crimson tunic, brooched with gold, a long white linen cloak, and a white, gold-embroidered hood. His hair is black, his look draws love, his glance shoots fire, and the hero-light gleams around him. His shield is crimson, with a silver rim, and images of beasts shine on it in gold.”

Terror in Connaught

“Alas! that is the hero Cuchulain,” said Meave. “He is more to be feared than all others. His voice in anger tells the doom of men; his wrath is fatal. Truly we are but dead if we have aroused Cuchulain’s wrath.” After a pause: “Tell me, daughter, are there yet other chariots?”

“The men of Ulster follow in chariots so numerous that the earth quakes beneath them, and their sound is as thunder, or the dashing waves of the sea.”

Now Queen Meave was terrified in good earnest, but hoped by a hearty welcome to turn aside the wrath of the heroes of Ulster; thus when they arrived at the dun of Cruachan they found the best of receptions, and all the Red Branch warriors were feasted for three days and nights.

[Pg 193]

Conor Explains the Matter

After three days Ailill of Connaught asked their business, and King Conor related to him everything as it had occurred—the feast, the dispute for the Champion’s Portion, the women’s quarrel, and the decision to be judged by King Ailill. This angered Ailill, who was a peaceable man.

“It was no friend of mine who referred you to me, for I shall surely incur the hatred of two heroes,” quoth he.

“You are the best judge of all,” replied King Conor.

“Then I must have time—three days and nights—to decide,” said Ailill.

“We can spare our heroes so long,” quoth Conor, and therewith the Ulster men returned to Armagh, leaving the three claimants to the Championship at Cruachan.