Gods and Fighting Men

Call to Connla

   And it is likely it was Manannan sent his messenger for Connla of the Red Hair the time he went away out of Ireland, for it is to his country Connla was brought; and this is the way he got the call.
   It chanced one day he was with his father Conn, King of Team-hair, on the Hill of Uisnach, and he saw a woman having wonderful clothing coming towards him. "Where is it you come from?" he asked her. "I come," she said, "from Tir-nam-Beo, the Land of the Ever-Living Ones, where no death comes. We use feasts that are lasting," she said, "and we do every kind thing without quarrelling, and we are called the people of the Sidhe." "Who are you speaking to, boy?" said Conn to him then, for no one saw the strange woman but only Connla. "He is speaking to a high woman that death or old age will never come to," she said. "I am asking him to come to Magh Mell, the Pleasant Plain where the triumphant king is living, and there he will be a king for ever without sorrow or fret. Come with me, Connla of the Red Hair," she said, "of the fair freckled neck and of the ruddy cheek; come with me, and your body will not wither from its youth and its comeliness for ever."
   They could all hear the woman's words then, though they could not see her, and it is what Conn said to Coran his Druid: "Help me, Coran, you that sing spells of the great arts. There is an attack made on me that is beyond my wisdom and beyond my power, I never knew so strong an attack since the first day I was a king. There is an unseen figure fighting with me; she is using her strength against me to bring away my beautiful son; the call of a woman is bringing him away from the hands of the king."
   Then Coran, the Druid, began singing spells against the woman of the Sidhe, the way no one would hear her voice, and Connla could not see her any more. But when she was being driven away by the spells of the Druid, she threw an apple to Connla.
   And through the length of a month from that time, Connla used no other food nor drink but that apple, for he thought no other food or drink worth the using. And for all he ate of it, the apple grew no smaller, but was whole all the while. And there was great trouble on Connla on account of the woman he had seen.
   And at the end of a month Connla was at his father's side in Magh Archomnim, and he saw the same woman coming towards him, and it is what she said: "It is a high place indeed Connla has among dying people, and death before him. But the Ever-Living Ones," she said, "are asking you to take the sway over the people of Tethra, for they are looking at you every day in the gatherings of your country among your dear friends."
   When Conn, the king, heard her voice, he said to his people: "Call Coran, the Druid to me, for I hear the sound of the woman's voice again." But on that she said: "O Conn, fighter of a hundred, it is little love and little respect the wonderful tribes of Traig Mor, the Great Strand, have for Druids; and where its law comes, it scatters the spells on their lips."
   Then Conn looked to his son Connla to see what he would say, and Connla said: "My own people are dearer to me than any other thing, yet sorrow has taken hold of me because of this woman." Then the woman spoke to him again, and it is what she said: "Come now into my shining ship, if you will come to the Plain of Victory. There is another country it would not be worse for you to look for; though the bright sun is going down, we shall reach to that country before night. That is the country that delights the mind of every one that turns to me. There is no living race in it but women and girls only."
   And when the woman had ended her song, Connla made a leap from his people into the shining boat, and they saw him sailing away from them far off and as if in a mist, as far as their eyes could see. It is away across the sea they went, and they have never come back again, and only the gods know where was it they went.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan