Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 99

A long passage then follows describing the appearance and equipment of each of the Ulster chiefs.

The Battle of Garach

The battle was joined on the Plain of Garach, in Meath. Fergus, wielding a two-handed sword, the [pg 224] sword which, it was said, when swung in battle made circles like the arch of a rainbow, swept down whole ranks of the Ulster men at each blow,157 and the fierce Maev charged thrice into the heart of the enemy.

Fergus met Conor the King, and smote him on his golden-bordered shield, but Cormac, the king's son, begged for his father's life. Fergus then turned on Conall of the Victories.

“Too hot art thou,” said Conall, “against thy people and thy race for a wanton.”158 Fergus then turned from slaying the Ulstermen, but in his battle-fury he smote among the hills with his rainbow-sword, and struck off the tops of the three Maela of Meath, so that they are flat-topped (mael) to this day.

Cuchulain in his stupor heard the crash of Fergus's blows, and coming slowly to himself he asked of Laeg what it meant. “It is the sword-play of Fergus,” said Laeg. Then he sprang up, and his body dilated so that the wrappings and swathings that had been bound on him flew off, and he armed himself and rushed into the battle. Here he met Fergus. “Turn hither, Fergus,” he shouted; “I will wash thee as foam in a pool, I will go over thee as the tail goes over a cat, I will smite thee as a mother smites her infant.” “Who speaks thus to me?” cried Fergus. “Cuchulain mac Sualtam; and now do thou avoid me as thou art pledged.”159

“I have promised even that,” said Fergus, and then went out of the battle, and with him the men of Leinster and the men of Munster, leaving Maev with her seven sons and the hosting of Connacht alone.

[pg 225]

It was midday when Cuchulain came into the fight; when the evening sun was shining through the leaves of the trees his war-chariot was but two wheels and a handful of shattered ribs, and the host of Connacht was in full flight towards the border. Cuchulain overtook Maev, who crouched under her chariot and entreated grace. “I am not wont to slay women,” said Cuchulain, and he protected her till she had crossed the Shannon at Athlone.

The Fight of the Bulls

But the Brown Bull of Quelgny, that Maev had sent into Connacht by a circuitous way, met the white-horned Bull of Ailell on the Plain of Aei, and the two beasts fought; but the Brown Bull quickly slew the other, and tossed his fragments about the land so that pieces of him were strewn from Rathcroghan to Tara; and then careered madly about till he fell dead, bellowing and vomiting black gore, at the Ridge of the Bull, between Ulster and Iveagh. Ailell and Maev made peace with Ulster for seven years, and the Ulster men returned home to Emain Macha with great glory.