Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 107

“By the god of my people, I will have it, or slay any bold man who dares to deprive me of it,” said Cuchulain.

Thereupon Bricriu left Cuchulain and travelled to his home, where he made his preparations for receiving the king, as if nothing were further from his thoughts than mischief-making and guile.

The Feast and the Quarrel

When King Conor and his court had entered Bricriu’s house at Dundrum, and were sitting at the feast, Bricriu was forced by his sureties to leave the hall, for men feared his malicious tongue, and as he went to his watch-tower he turned and cried:

“The Champion’s Portion at my feast is worth having; let it be given to the best hero in Ulster.”

The carving and distribution of the viands began, and when the Champion’s Portion was brought forward it was claimed by three chariot-drivers, Laegaire’s, Conall’s, [Pg 189] and Cuchulain’s, each on behalf of his master; and when no decision was made by King Conor the three heroes claimed it, each for himself. But Laegaire and Conall united in defying Cuchulain and ridiculing his claim, and a great fight began in the hall, till all men shook for fear; and at last King Conor intervened, before any man had been wounded.

“Put up your swords,” he said. “The Champion’s Portion at this feast shall be divided among the three, and we will ask King Ailill and Queen Meave of Connaught to say who is the greatest champion.” This plan pleased every one but Bricriu, who saw his hopes of fomenting strife disappear.

The Women’s Quarrel

Just at that moment the women rose and quitted the hall to breathe the fresh air, and Bricriu spied his opportunity. Going down from his watch-tower, he met Fedelm, the wife of Laegaire, with her fifty maidens, and said to her:

“All good be with you to-night, Fedelm of the Fresh Heart! Truly in beauty, in birth, in dignity, no woman in Ulster is your equal. If you enter my hall first to-night, you will be queen of the Ulster women.”

Fedelm walked on merrily enough, but determined that she would soon re-enter the hall, and certainly before any other woman. Bricriu next met Lendabair the Favourite, Conall’s wife, and gave her similar flattery and a similar prophecy, and Lendabair also determined to be first back at the house and first to enter the hall.

Then Bricriu waited till he saw Emer, Cuchulain’s fair wife. “Health be with you, Emer, wife of the best man in Ireland! As the sun outshines the stars, so do you outshine all other women! You should [Pg 190] of right enter the house first, for whoever does so will be queen of the women of Ulster, and none has a better claim to be their queen than Cuchulain’s wife, Forgall’s fair daughter.”