A Book of Myths

Page: 154

Then said Naoise: “Well I knew that Conor would set a spy on my tracks. Come with me now, Deirdrê, else may I lose thee forever.”

And with a glad heart Deirdrê went with him who was to be her lord, and Naoise took her to where his brothers awaited his coming. To Deirdrê, both Ainle and Ardan swiftly gave their lifelong allegiance and their love, but they were full of forebodings for her and for [Pg 317] Naoise because of the certain wrath of Conor, the king.

Then said Naoise: “Although harm should come, for her dear sake I am willing to live in disgrace for the rest of my days.”

And Ardan and Ainle made answer: “Of a certainty, evil will be of it, yet though there be, thou shalt not be under disgrace as long as we shall be alive. We will go with her to another country. There is not in Erin a king who will not bid us welcome.”

Then did the Sons of Usna decide to cross the Sea of Moyle, and in their own land of Alba to find a happy sanctuary. That night they fled, and with them took three times fifty men, three times fifty women, three times fifty horses, and three times fifty greyhounds. And when they looked back to where they had had their dwelling, they saw red flames against the deep blue sky of the night, and knew that the vengeance of Conor had already begun. And first they travelled round Erin from Essa to Beinn Etair,[16] and then in a great black galley they set sail, and Deirdrê had a heart light as the white-winged sea-birds as the men pulled at the long oars and sang together a rowing song, and she leaned on the strong arm of Naoise and saw the blue coast-line of Erin fading into nothingness.

In the bay of Aros, on the eastern shores of the island of Mull, they found their first resting-place, but there they feared treachery from a lord of Appin. For the starry eyes of Deirdrê were swift to discern evil [Pg 318] that the eyes of the Sons of Usna could not see. Thus they fared onward until they reached the great sea-loch of Etive, with hills around it, and Ben Cruachan, its head in mist, towering above it like a watchman placed there by Time, to wait and to watch over the people of those silent hills and lonely glens until Time should give place to his brother, Eternity.

Joy was in the hearts of the three Sons of Usna when they came back to the home of their fathers. Usna was dead, but beyond the Falls of Lora was still the great dun—the vitrified fort—which he had built for himself and for those who should follow him.

For Deirdrê then began a time of perfect happiness. Naoise was her heart, but very dear to her also were the brothers of Naoise, and each of the three vied with one another in their acts of tender and loving service. Their thrice fifty vassals had no love for Alba, and rejoiced when their lord, Naoise, allowed them to return to Erin, but the Sons of Usna were glad to have none to come between them and their serving of Deirdrê, the queen of their hearts. Soon she came to know well each little bay, each beach, and each little lonely glen of Loch Etive, for the Sons of Usna did not always stay at the dun which had been their father’s, but went a-hunting up the loch. At various spots on the shores of Etive they had camping places, and at Dail-an-eas[17] they built for Deirdrê a sunny bower.