Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 113

As he sighed heavily and wearily, Curoi’s wife said: “That is the sigh of a weary conqueror, not of a beaten man”; and Cuchulain went in and sat down to rest.

The Decision

The next morning Curoi’s wife asked the champions: “Are you content that the Championship should go to Cuchulain? I know by my magic skill what he has endured in the past night, and you must see that you are not equal to him.”

“Nay, that we will not allow,” quoth they. “It was one of Cuchulain’s friends among the People of [Pg 199] the Hills who came to conquer us and to give him the Championship. We are not content, and we will not give up our claim, for the fight was not fair.”

“Go home now to Armagh, is Curoi’s word, and wait there until he himself brings his decision,” said Curoi’s wife. So they bade her farewell, and went back to the Red Branch House in Armagh, with the dispute still unsettled; but they agreed to await peaceably Curoi’s decision, and abide by it when he should bring it.

Uath, the Stranger

Some time after this, when Curoi had made no sign of giving judgment, it happened that all the Ulster heroes were in their places in the Red Branch House, except Cuchulain and his cousin Conall. As they sat in order of rank in the hall they saw a terrible stranger coming into the room. He was gigantic in stature, hideous of aspect, with ravening yellow eyes. He wore a skin roughly sewn together, and a grey cloak over it, and he sheltered himself from the light with a spreading tree torn up by the roots. In his hand he bore an enormous axe, with keen and shining edge. This hideous apparition strode up the hall and leant against a carved pillar beside the fire.

“Who are you?” asked one chieftain in sport. “Are you come to be our candlestick, or would you burn the house down? Is this the place for such as you? Go farther down the hall!”

“My name is Uath, the Stranger, and for neither of those things am I come. I seek that which I cannot find in the whole world, and that is a man to keep the agreement he makes with me.”

The Agreement

“What is the agreement?” asked King Conor.

[Pg 200] “Behold my axe!” quoth the stranger. “The man who will grasp it to-day may cut my head off with it, provided that I may, in like manner, cut off his head to-morrow. Now you men of Ulster, heroes of the Red Branch, have won the palm through the wide world for courage, honour, strength, truth, and generosity; do you, therefore, find me a man to keep this agreement. King Conor is excepted, because of his royal dignity, but no other. And if you have no champion who dare face me, I will say that Ulster has lost her courage and is dishonoured.”