Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 106

Bricriu’s Feast

It happened that at Conor’s court was one chief who delighted in making mischief, as Thersites among the Grecian leaders. This man, Bricriu of the Bitter Tongue, came to King Conor and invited him and all the heroes of the Red Branch, the royal bodyguard of Ulster, to a feast at his new dwelling, for he felt sure he could find some occasion to stir up strife at a feast. King Conor, however, and the Red Branch heroes, distrusted Bricriu so much that they refused to accept the invitation, unless Bricriu would give sureties that, having received his guests, he would leave the hall before the feasting began. Bricriu, who had expected [Pg 187] some such condition, readily agreed, and before going home to prepare his feast took measures for stirring up strife among the heroes of Ulster.

Bricriu’s Falsehood

Before Bricriu left Armagh he went to the mighty Laegaire and with many words of praise said: “All good be with you, O Laegaire, winner of battles! Why should you not be Champion of Ireland for ever?”

“I can be, if I will,” said Laegaire.

“Follow my advice, and you shall be head of all the champions of Ireland,” said cunning Bricriu.

“What is your counsel?” asked Laegaire.

“King Conor is coming to a feast in my house,” said Bricriu, “and the Champion’s Bit will be a splendid portion for any hero. That warrior who obtains it at this feast will be acclaimed Chief Champion of Erin. When the banquet begins do you bid your chariot-driver rise and claim the hero’s portion for you, for you are indeed worthy of it, and I hope that you may get what you so well deserve!”

“Some men shall die if my right is taken from me,” quoth Laegaire; but Bricriu only laughed and turned away.

Bricriu Meets Conall Cearnach

Bricriu next met Conall Cearnach, Cuchulain’s cousin, one of the chiefs of the Red Branch.

“May all good be with you, Conall the Victorious,” quoth he. “You are our defence and shield, and no foe dare face you in battle. Why should you not be Chief Champion of Ulster?”

“It only depends on my will,” said Conall; and then Bricriu continued his flattery and insidious suggestions until he had stirred up Conall to command his [Pg 188] charioteer to claim the Champion’s Portion at Bricriu’s feast. Very joyous was Bricriu, and very evilly he smiled as he turned away when he had roused the ambition of Conall Cearnach, for he revelled in the prospect of coming strife.

Bricriu Meets Cuchulain

“May all good be with you, Cuchulain,” said Bricriu, as he met the youthful hero. “You are the chief defence of Erin, our bulwark against the foe, our joy and darling, the hero of Ulster, the favourite of all the maidens of Ireland, the greatest warrior of our land! We all live in safety under the protection of your mighty hand, so why should you not be the Chief Champion of Ulster? Why will you leave the Hero’s Portion to some less worthy warrior?”