Cuchulain of Muirthemne

XVI. Sons of Doel Dermait

   One time Cuchulain was gone west to Carraige, in the province of Connaught, and Lugaid of the Red Stripes with him, and Laeg. And one day they saw a young girl standing on the burial-bill of Tetach. "What is it you are wanting?" said Lugaid. "I want Cuchulain, son of Sualtim," she said, "for I have set my love on him on account of his great deeds that I have heard of." "There he is, beyond," said Lugaid. Then she went over to him, and put her arms about his neck, and kissed him; and she told him she was Finnchoem, daughter of Eocho Rond, king of Hy Maine.
   Then Cuchulain took her into his keeping, and they travelled northward through the night, towards Emain. And one time in the darkness of the night, towards Fid Manach, they saw three fires in a wood before them, and nine men at every fire; outlaws they were, that were robbing the country. And Cuchulain killed three of them at every fire.
   And in the morning they saw a troop of men coming towards them on the plain, and Finnchoem's father, the king of Hy Maine, leading them, and he having on him a four-folded crimson cloak, with four borders of gold, and a shield with eight borders of white bronze, and a gold-hilted sword at his side. And he had light yellow hair falling down on each side to the flanks of his grey-black horse; and there was a gold chain of the weight of seven ounces hanging from his hair, and it was from that he took his name, Eocho Rond, that is, Eocho of the gold chain. And as soon as he saw Cuchulain, he threw his spear at him. But Cuchulain caught the spear and threw it back again, and it struck the horse in the neck, so that he reared up and threw his master. And Cuchulain lifted Eocho in his arms, and carried him as far as Cruachan, that they were near at the time, to leave him with Ailell and with Macye. And there was great shame on the king of Hy Maine at what had happened.
   And when Cuchulain was leaving him he said. "May you never have rest in sitting, or in lying down, until you find out what it was brought away the three sons of Doel Dermait, the Beetle of Forgetfulness, out of their own country."
   And Cuchulain went on to Emain. But when he sat down in his place, it seemed to him the walls of the house and the ground under him to be on fire. Then he said to his people: "I think what Eocho Rond threatened me with is coming on me, and I will get my death if I do not do as he bade me."
   Then he went back to his own place, Dundealgan, and out westward to Baile's strand. And there he saw a boat coming, and the king of Alban's son in it, and his people, and they bringing presents for king Conchubar, of purple, and of golden drinking-cups. And when they saw the three men on the strand, Cuchulain and Lugaid and Laeg, they said to them: "It is likely if the king knew we were here, he would send us food and drink by you." "Is it a steward you would make of me?" said Cuchulain, and anger came on him, and he took the sword in his hand to strike them. "Give us our life, Cuchulain, for we did not know you," said the king's son.
   "Do you know what was it drove the three Sons of Doel Dermait from their own country?" said Cuchulain. "I do not know that," said the king's son. "But I have a sea charm, and I will set it for you, and I will give it to you, and you will find the knowledge you are looking for."
   Then Cuchulain gave him his little spear, and scratched an Ogham on it, and said to him: "Set out now, and go and take my seat at Emain Macha."
   Then they took the things out of the boat, and Cuchulain got in, and Lugaid of the Red Stripes, and Laeg; and they put up the sail, and went on for a day and a night until they came to an island. It was a fine, large, beautiful island, having a silver wall about it, and a paling of bronze.
   Then Cuchulain landed, and he saw a house with pillars of white bronze, and three times fifty beds in the house, and a chessboard, and a draughtboard, and a harp hanging over every bed. And he saw a grey king and queen in the house, with purple cloaks on them, worked with dark-coloured gold, and three young girls of the one age, having a dress worked with gold thread on each of them.
   And the king gave them a friendly welcome, and he said:
   "Cuchulain is welcome to us for Lugaid's sake, and Laeg is welcome for his father and his mother's sake."
   Then Cuchulain asked him did he know what was it drove the three sons of Doel Dermait out of their own country. "You will soon know that;" he said, "for their sister and their sister's husband are in that island there to the south."
   Then three pieces of iron were put in the fire, and when they were red-hot, the three young girls took them out, and put them in three vats, and Cuchulain and Lugaid and Laeg bathed in the vats. And they were brought cups of mead. And then they heard a noise of arms and of trumpets, and they saw fifty armed men coming to the house, and every two of them bringing a pig and an ox, and every one a cup of mead of hazel nuts. And then every man of them came again, and a load of firing on his back; and then the oxen and the pigs were cooked, and a feast for hundreds was given to Cuchulain and his comrades.
   And the next day they went on to the island where the daughter of Doel Dermait was, and the boat went on, steering itself, to the island. And Condla, son-in-law of Doel Dermait, was lying on the strand, and his head against a pillar at the east of the island, and his feet at the west of the island, and every time he breathed, he made a wave in the sea that turned the boat back. But then he called out to Cuchulain: "Come to land, for there is no fear of you on us; for however great your anger may be, it is not in the prophecy that it is by you this island will be destroyed." Then Cuchulain came to land, and Condla and his wife bade him welcome. And Cuchulain asked if they knew what it was had driven the three Sons of Doel Dermait from their own country. "I know it," said the woman, "and I will show you where they are, for it is foretold that their healing is to come by you; and it is glad my true, warm heart would be, they to be healed." And then she said:
   "Go to where that wall is, and you will find Cairpre Cundail, and he will bring you to the valley where they are kept by Eocho Glas, the strong man."
   So they went on to the wall, and they saw two women that were cutting rushes, and Cuchulain said to one of them: "What is the name of this country I have come to?" And the woman rose up, and it is what she said: "There are seven princes in this country, and every one of them has had seven victories; and there are seven women in this country, every one of them having a king under her feet. And every one of them has seven armies; and when a thief comes to this place, he does not go back again to tell the story of it."
   Then Cuchulain struck her down with his hand, and the other woman went away to tell Cairpre Cundail what had happened.
   Cairpre Cundail came out then, and he and Cuchulain fought through the day, and neither got the better of the other. But at night Cairpre said: "That is enough, Cuchulain." And they left off for the night. And next morning Cairpre brought Cuchulain to the valley where Eocho Glas was, that he himself was always at war with. And Eocho Glas called out: "Is any one there of your miserable fighters?" "There is some one here," said Cuchulain. At that Eocho said: "That is not a voice that pleases me, for it is the voice of the angry man from Muirthemne."
   Then he came out, and they fought together in the valley, and then they fought beside the sea. And in the end Cuchulain took the Gae Bulg and put it through him, and he fell, and Cuchulain struck his head off.
   Then the prisoners of Eocho Glas came running from the hills on every side, east and west, and bathed themselves in his blood, for be had been doing them every sort of hurt and harm, and they all got healing.
   And the three sons of Doel Dermait came with them, and were healed along with them, and they told their whole story to Cuchulain. And then they set out for their own country.
   And Cuchulain went back the same way as he came; and he brought wonderful presents with him from Cairpre Cundail.
   And when he got back to Ulster, he went on to Emain Macha, and his share of food and drink were waiting there for him yet. And he told his whole story to Conchubar and to the heroes of the Red Branch, and to Eocho Rond, king of Hy Maine; and that is the way he made his peace with him.


Cuchulain by John Duncan
Cuchulain by John Duncan