Gods and Fighting Men
The King of Lochlann and his Sons
And the fighting went on from day to day, and at last Finn said to Fergus of
the Sweet Lips: "Go out, Fergus, and see how many of the Fianna are left for the
fight to-day." And Fergus counted them, and he said: "There is one battalion
only of the Fianna left in good order; but there are some of the men of it," he
said, "are able to fight against three, and some that are able to fight against
nine or thirty or a hundred." "If that is so," said Finn, "rise up and go to
where the King of the World is, and bid him to come out to the great battle."
So Fergus went to the King of the World, and it is the way he was, on his bed
listening to the music of harps and pipes. "King of the World," said Fergus, "it
is long you are in that sleep; and that is no shame for you," he said, "for it
will be your last sleep. And the whole of the Fianna are gone out to their place
of battle," he said, "and let you go out and answer them." "In my opinion," said
the King of the World, "there is not a man of them is able to fight against me;
and how many are there left of the Fianna of Ireland?" "One battalion only that
is in good order," said Fergus. "And how many of the armies of the World are
there left?" he said. "Thirty battalions came with me to Ireland; and there are
twenty of them fallen by the Fianna, and what is left of them is ten red
battalions in good order. And there are eight good fighters of them," he said,
"that would put down the men of the whole world if they were against me; that
is, myself, and Conmail my son, and Ogarmach, the daughter of the King of
Greece, that is the best hand in battle of the whole world after myself, and
Finnachta of the Teeth, the chief of my household, and the King of Lochlann,
Caisel Clumach of the Feathers, and his three sons, Tocha, and Forne of the
Broad Shoulders, and Mongach of the Sea."
"I swear by the oath of my people," said the King of Lochlann then, "if any
man of the armies goes out against the Fianna before myself and my three sons,
we will not go at all, for we would not get the satisfaction we are used to,
unless our swords get their fill of blood." "I will go out against them alone,"
said Forne, the youngest son of the King of Lochlann. With that he put on his
battle suit, and he went among the Fianna of Ireland, and a red-edged sword in
each of his hands. And he destroyed those of their young men that were sent
against him, and he made the strand narrow with their bodies.
And Finn saw that, and it was torment to his heart, and danger of death and
loss of wits to him, and he was encouraging the men of Ireland against Forne.
And Fergus of the True Lips stood up, and it is what he said: "Fianna of
Ireland," he said, "it is a pity the way you are under hardship and you
defending Ireland. And one man is taking her from you to-day," he said, "and you
are like no other thing but a flock of little birds looking for shelter in a
bush from a hawk that is after them. And it is going into the shelter of Finn
and Oisin and Caoilte you are," he said; "and not one of you is better than
another, and none of you sets his face against the foreigner." "By my oath,"
said Oisin, "all that is true, and no one of us tries to do better than another
keeping him off." "There is not one of you is better than another," said Fergus.
Then Oisin gave out a great shout against the King of Lochlann's son. "Stop here
with me, king's son," he said, "until I fight with you for the Fianna." "I give
my word it is short the delay will be," said Forne.
Then he himself and Oisin made an attack on one another, and it seemed for a
while that the battle was going against Oisin. "By my word, Man of Poetry," said
Finn then to Fergus of the True Lips, "It is a pity the way you sent my son
against the foreigner. And rise up and praise him and hearten him now," he said.
So Fergus went down to where the fight was, and he said: "There is great shame
on the Fianna, Oisin, seeing you so low in this fight; and there is many a foot
messenger and many a horseman from the daughters of the kings and princes of
Ireland looking at you now," he said. And great courage rose in Oisin then, and
he drove his spear through the body of Forne, the King of Lochlann's son. And be
himself came back to the Fianna of Ireland.
Then the armies of the World gave out a great cry, keening Forne; and there
was anger and not fear on his brothers, for they thought it no right thing he to
have fallen by a man of the Fianna. And Tocha, the second son of the King of
Lochlann, went on shore to avenge his brother. And he went straight into the
middle of the Fianna, and gave his sword good feeding on their bodies, till they
broke away before him and made no stand till Lugaidh's Son turned round against
him. And those two fought a great fight, till their swords were bent and their
spears crumbled away, and they lost their golden shields. And at the last
Lugaidh's Son made a stroke of his sword that cut through the foreigner's sword,
and then he made another stroke that cut his heart in two halves. And he came
back high and proud to the Fianna.
Then the third son of the King of Lochlann, Mongach of the Sea, rose up, and
all the armies rose up along with him. 'Stop here, Men of the World," he said,
"for it is not you but myself that has to go and ask satisfaction for the bodies
of my brothers." So he went on shore; and it is the way he was, with a strong
iron flail in his hand having seven balls of pure iron on it, and fifty iron
chains, and fifty apples on every chain, and fifty deadly thorns on every apple.
And he made a rush through the Fianna to break them up entirely and to tear them
into strings, and they gave way before him. And great shame came on Fidach, son
of the King of the Bretons, and he said: "Come here and praise me, Fergus of the
True Lips, till I go out and fight with the foreigner." "It is easy to praise
you, son," said Fergus, and he was praising him for a long time.
Then the two looked at one another and used fierce, proud words. And then
Mongach of the Sea raised his iron flail and made a great blow at the King of
the Bretons' son. But he made a quick leap to one side and gave him a blow of
his sword that cut off his two hands at the joint; and he did not stop at that,
but made a blow at his middle that cut him into two halves. But as he fell, an
apple of the flail with its deadly thorns went into Fidach's comely mouth and
through his brain, and it was foot to foot those two fell, and lip to lip.
And the next that came to fight on the strand was the King of Lochlann
himself, Caisel of the Feathers. And be came to the battle having his shield on
his arm; and it is the way the shield was, that was made for him by the smith of
the Fomor, there were red flames coming from it; and if it was put under the sea
itself, not one of its flames would stop blazing. And when he had that shield on
his arm no man could come near him.
And there was never such destruction done on the men of Ireland as on that
day, for the flames of fire that he sent from his shield went through the bodies
of men till they blazed up like a splinter of oak that was after hanging through
the length of a year in the smoke of a chimney; and any one that would touch the
man that was burning would catch fire himself. And every other harm that ever
came into Ireland before was small beside this.
Then Finn said: "Lift up your hands, Fianna of Ireland, and give thee shouts
of blessing to whoever will hinder this foreigner." And the Fianna gave those
three shouts; and the King of Lochlann gave a great laugh when he heath them.
And Druimderg, grandson of the Head of the Fianna of Ulster, was near him, and
he had with him a deadly spear, the Croderg, the Red-Socketed, that came down
from one to another of the sons of Rudraighe. And he looked at the King of
Lochlann, and he could see no part of him without armour but his mouth that was
opened wide, and he laughing at the Fianna. Then Druimderg made a cast with the
Croderg that hit him in the open mouth, and befell, and his shield fell along
with its master, and its flame went out. And Druimderg struck the head from his
body, and made great boasts of the things he had done.