Gods and Fighting Men

Conn Crither

   Finn now, when he had turned from his road to go to Credhe's house, had sent out watchmen to every landing-place to give warning when the ships of the strangers would be in sight. And the man that was keeping watch at the White Strand was Conn Crither, son of Bran, from Teamhair Luachra,
   And after he had been a long time watching, he was one night west from the Round Hill of the Fianna that is called Cruachan Adrann, and there he fell asleep. And while he was in his sleep the ships came; and what roused him was the noise of the breaking of shields and the clashing of swords and of spears, and the cries of women and children and of dogs and horses that were under flames, and that the strangers were making an attack on.
   Conn Crither started up when he heard that, and he said: "It is great trouble has come on the people through my sleep; and I will not stay living after this," he said, "for Finn and the Fianna of Ireland to see me, but I will rush into the middle of the strangers," he said, and they will fall by me till I fall by them."
   He put on his suit of battle then and ran down towards the strand. And on the way he saw three women dressed in battle clothes before him, and fast as he ran he could not overtake them. He took his spear then to make a cast of it at the woman was nearest him, but she stopped on the moment, and she said: "Hold your hand and do not harm us, for we are not come to harm you but to help you." "Who are you yourselves?" said Conn Crither.
   "We are three sisters," she said, "and we are come from Tir nan Og, the Country of the Young, and we have all three given you our love, and no one of us loves you less than the other, and it is to give you our help we are come." "What way will you help me?" said Conn. "We will give you good help," she said, "for we will make Druid armies about you from stalks of grass and from the tops of the watercress, and they will cry out to the strangers and will strike their arms from their hands, and take from their strength and their eyesight. And we will put a Druid mist about you now," she said, "that will hide you from the armies of the strangers, and they will not see you when you make an attack on them. And we have a well of healing at the foot of the Slieve Iolair, the Eagle's Mountain," she said, "and its waters will cure every wound made in battle. And after bathing in that well you will be as whole and as sound as the day you were born. And bring whatever man you like best with you," she said, "and we will heal him along with you."
   Conn Crither gave them his thanks for that, and he hurried onto the strand. And it was at that time the armies of the King of the Great Plain were taking spoils from Traigh Moduirn in the north to Finntraighe in the south. And Conn Crither came on them, and the Druid army with him, and he took their spoils from them, and the Druid army took their sight and their strength from them, and they were routed, and they made away to where the King of the Great Plain was, and Conn Crither followed, killing and destroying. "Stop with me, king-hero," said the King of the Great Plain, "that I may fight with you on account of my people, since there is not one of them that turns to stand against you."
   So the two set their banners in the earth and attacked one another, and fought a good part of the day until Conn Crither struck off the king's head. And he lifted up his head, and he was boasting of what he had done. "By my word," he said, "I will not let myself be parted from this body till someof the Fianna, few or many, will come to me."


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan