Gods and Fighting Men

Labran's Journey

   It is then Fergus of the True Lips set out again and went through the length of Ireland till he came to the house of Tadg, son of Nuada, that was grandfather to Finn.
   And there was great grief on Muirne, Finn's mother, and on Labran of the Long Hand her brother, and on all her people, when they knew the great danger he was in. And Tadg asked his wife who did she think would escape with their lives from the great fighting at the White Strand. "It is a pity the way they are there," said she; "for if all the living men of the world were on one side, Daire Donn, the King of the World, would put them all down; for there are no weapons in the world that will ever be reddened on him. And on the night he was born, the smith of the Fomor made a shield and a sword, and it is in the prophecy that he will fall by no other arms but those. And it is to the King of the Country of the Fair Men he gave them to keep, and it is with him they are now." "If that is so," said Tadg, "you might be able to get help for Finn, son of Cumhal, the only son of your daughter. And bid Labran Lamfada to go and ask those weapons of him," he said. "Do not be asking me," said she, "to go against Daire Donn that was brought up in my father's house." But after they had talked for a while, they went out on the lawn, and they sent Labran looking for the weapons in the shape of a great eagle.
   And be went on from sea to sea, till at noon on the morrow he came to the dun of the King of the Country of the Fair Men; and he went in his own shape to the dun and saluted the king, and the king bade him welcome, and asked him to stop with him for a while. "There is a thing I want more than that," said Labran, "for the wife of a champion of the Fianna has given me her love, and I cannot get her without fighting for her, and it is the loan of that sword and that shield you have in your keeping I am come asking now," he said.
   There were seven rooms, now, in the king's house that opened into one another, and on the first door was one lock, and on the second two locks, and so on to the door of the last room that had seven locks; and it was in that the sword and the shield that were made by the smith of the Fomor were kept. And they were brought out and were given to Labran, and stalks of luck were put with them, and they were bound together with shield straps.
   Then Labran of the Long Hand went back across the seas again, and he reached his father's dun between the crowing of the cock and the full light of day; and the weakness of death came on him. "It is a good message you are after doing, my son," said Tadg, "and no one ever went that far in so short a time as yourself." "It is little profit that is to me," said Labran, "for I am not able to bring them to Finn in time for the fight to-morrow."
   But just at that time one of Tadg's people saw Aedh, son of Aebinn, that was as quick as the wind over a plain till the middle of every day, and after that, there was no man quicker than he was. "You are come at a good time," said Tadg. And with that he gave him the sword and the shield to bring to Finn for the battle.
   So Aedh, son of Aebinn, went with the swiftness of a hare or of a fawn or a swallow, till at the rising of the day on the morrow he came to the White Strand. And just at that time Fergus of the True Lips was rousing up the Fianna for the great fight, and it is what he said: "Fianna of Ireland," he said, "if there was the length of seven days in one day, you would have work to fill it now; for there never was and there never will be done in Ireland a day's work like the work of to-day."
   Then the Fianna of Ireland rose up, and they saw Aedh, son of Aebinn, coming towards them with his quick running, and Finn asked news from him. "It is from the dun of Tadg, son of Nuada, I am come," he said, "and it is to yourself I am sent, to ask how it is you did not redden your weapons yet upon the King of the World."
   "I swear by the oath of my people," said Finn, "if I do not redden my weapons on him, I will crush his body within his armour." "I have here for you, King of the Fianna," said Aedh then, "the deadly weapons that will bring him to his death; and it was Labran of the Long Hand got them for you through his Druid arts." He put them in Finn's hand then, and Finn took the coverings off them, and there rose from them flashes of fire and deadly bubbles; and not one of the Fianna could stay looking at them, but it put great courage into them to know they were with Finn. "Rise up now," said Finn to Fergus of the True Lips, "and go where the King of the World is, and bid him to come out to the place of the great fight."


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan