Gods and Fighting Men

The House of the Quicken Trees

   And it is often the Fianna would have been badly off without the help of Diarmuid. It was he came to their help the time Miodac, the son of the King of Lochlann, brought them into the enchanted House of the Quicken Trees.
   It was by treachery he brought them in, giving himself out to be a poet, and making poems for Finn to make out the meaning of. A verse he made about a great army that he saw riding over the plains to victory, and robbing all before it, and the riders of it having no horses but plants and branches. "I understand that," said Finn, "it was an army of bees you saw, that was gathering riches from the flowers as it went." And another verse Miodac made was about a woman in Ireland that was swifter than the swiftest horse. "I know that," said Finn, "that woman is the River Boinn; and if she goes slow itself, she is swifter in the end than the swiftest horse, for her going never stops." And other verses he made about Angus' house at Brugh na Boinn, but Finn made them all out.
   And after that he said he had a feast ready for them, and he bade them go into his House of the Quicken Trees till he would bring it. And they did that, and went in, and it was a beautiful house, having walls of every colour, and foreign coverings of every colour on the floor, and a fire that gave out a very pleasant smoke. And they sat down there, and after a while Finn said: "It is a wonder such a beautiful house to be here." "There is a greater wonder than that," said Goll; "that fire that was so pleasant when we came in is giving out now the worst stench in the world." "There is a greater wonder than that," said Glas; "the walls that were of all colours are now but rough boards joined together." "There is a greater wonder than that," said Fiacha; "where there were seven high doors to the house there is now but one little door, and it shut." "Indeed, there is a more wonderful thing than that," said Conan; "for we sat down on beautiful coverings, and now there is nothing between us and the bare ground, and it as cold as the snow of one night." And he tried to rise up, but he could not stir, or any of the rest of them, for there was enchantment that kept them where they were.
   And it was treachery of Miodac, and the spells of the Three Kings of the Island of the Floods that had brought them into that danger. And Finn knew by his divination that their enemies were gathering to make an end of them, and he said to his people there was no use in making complaints, but to sound the music of the Dord Fiann.
   And some of the Fianna that were waiting for him not far off heard that sorrowful music, and came fighting against Miodac and his armies, and they fought well, but they could not stand against them. And at the last it was Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne, that made an end of Miodac that was so treacherous, and of the Three Kings of the Island of the Floods, and took the enchantment off the floor of the House of the Rowan Trees with their blood.
   And when be was freeing the Fianna, Conan called out, asking him to bring him a share of the feast Miodac had made ready for his own friends, for there was hunger on him. And when Diarmuid took no heed of him, he said: "If it was a comely woman was speaking to you, Diarmuid, you would not refuse to listen."
   For if many women loved Diarmuid, there were many he himself gave his love to; and if he was often called Diarmuid the brave, or the hardy, or the comely, or the Hawk of Ess Ruadh, it is often he was called as well the friend and the coaxer of women, Diarmuid-na-man.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan