Gods and Fighting Men
The Wood of Dubhros
And as to Diarmuid and Grania and Muadhan, they went on through Ui Chonaill
Gabhra, and left-hand ways to Ros-da-Shoileach, and Diarmuid killed a wild deer
that night, and they had their fill of meat and of pure water, and they slept
till the morning of the morrow. And Muadhan rose up early, and spoke to Diarmuid,
and it is what he said, that he himself was going away. "It is not right for you
to do that," said Diarmuid, "for everything I promised you I fulfilled it,
without any dispute."
But he could not hinder him, and Muadhan said farewell to them and left them
there and then, and it is sorrowful and downhearted Diarmuid and Grania were
After that they travelled on straight to the north, to Slieve Echtge, and
from that to the hundred of Ui Fiachrach; and when they got there Grania was
tired out, but she took courage and went on walking beside Diarmuid till they
came to the wood of Dubhros.
Now, there was a wonderful quicken-tree in that wood, and the way it came to
be there is this:
There rose a dispute one time between two women of the Tuatha de Danaan, Aine
and Aoife, daughters of Manannan, son of Lir, for Aoife had given her love to
Lugaidh's Son, and Aine had given her love to a man of her own race, and each of
them said her own man was a better hurler than the other. And it came from that
dispute that there was a great hurling match settled between the Men of Dea and
the Fianna of Ireland, and the place it was to be played was on a beautiful
plain near Loch Lein.
They all came together there, and the highest men and the most daring of the
Tuatha de Danaan were there, the three Garbhs of Slieve Mis, and the three Mases
of Slieve Luachra, and the three yellow-haired Murchadhs, and the three
Eochaidhs of Aine, and the three Fionns of the White House, and the three Sgals
of Brugh na Boinne, and the three Ronans of Ath na Riogh, and the Suirgheath
Suaire, the Pleasant Wooer from Lionan, and the Man of Sweet Speech from the
Boinn, and Ilbrec, the Many-Coloured, son of Mannanan, and Neamhanach, son of
Angus Og, and Bodb Dearg, son of the Dagda, and Manannan, son of Lir.
They themselves and the Fianna were playing the match through the length of
three days and three nights, from Leamhain to the valley of the Fleisg, that is
called the Crooked Valley of the Fianna, and neither of them winning a goal. And
when the Tuatha de Danaan that were watching the game on each side of Leamhain
saw it was so hard for their hurlers to win a goal against the Fianna, they
thought it as well to go away again without playing out the game.
Now the provision the Men of Dea had brought with them from the Land of
Promise was crimson nuts, and apples, and sweet-smelling rowan berries. And as
they were passing through the district of Ui Fiachrath by the Muaidh, a berry of
the rowan berries fell from them, and a tree grew up from it. And there was
virtue in its berries, and no sickness or disease would ever come on any person
that would eat them, and those that would eat them would feel the liveliness of
wine and the satisfaction of mead in them, and any old person. of a hundred
years that would eat them would go back to be young again, and any young girl
that would eat them would grow to be a flower of beauty.
And it happened one time after the tree was grown, there were messengers of
the Tuatha de Danaan going through the wood of Dubhros. And they heard a great
noise of birds and of bees, and they went where the noise was, and they saw the
beautiful Druid tree. They went back then and told what they bad seen, and all
the chief men of the Tuatha de Danaan when they heard it knew the tree must have
grown from a berry of the Land of the Ever-Living Ones. And they enquired among
all their people, till they knew it was a young man of them, that was a musician
had dropped the berry.
And it is what they agreed, to send him in search of a man of Lochlann that
would guard the tree by day and sleep in it by night. And the women of the Sidhe
were very downhearted to see him going from them, for there was no harper could
play half so sweetly on his harp as he could play on an ivy leaf.
He went on then till he came to Lochlann, and he sat down on a bank and sleep
came on him. And he slept till the rising of the sun on the morrow; and when he
awoke he saw a very big man coming towards him, that asked him who was he. "I am
a messenger from the Men of Dea," he said; "and I am come looking for some very
strong man that would be willing to guard a Druid tree that is in the wood of
Dubhros. And here are some of the berries he will be eating from morning to
nigh;" he said.
And when the big man had tasted the berries, he said: "I will go and guard
all the trees of the wood to get those berries."
And his name was the Searbhan Lochlannach, the Surly One of Lochlann. Very
black and ugly he was, having crooked teeth, and one eye only in the middle of
his forehead. And he had a thick collar of iron around his body, and it was in
the prophecy that he would never die till there would be three strokes of the
iron club he had, struck upon himself. And he slept in the tree by night and
stopped near it in the daytime, and he made a wilderness of the whole district
about him, and none of the Fianna dared go hunt there because of the dread of
him that was on them.
But when Diarmuid came to the wood of Dubhros, he went into it to where the
Surly One was, and he made bonds of agreement with him, and got leave from him
to go hunting in the wood, so long as he would not touch the berries of the
tree. And he made a cabin then for himself and for Grania in the wood.
As for Finn and his people, they were not long at Almhuin till they saw fifty
armed men coming towards them, and two that were taller and handsomer than the
rest in the front of them. Finn asked did any of his people know them.
"We do not know them," they said, "but maybe you yourself know them, Finn." "I
do not" he said; "but it seems to be they are enemies to myself." The troop of
armed men came up to them then and they greeted him, and Finn asked news of
them, and from what county they came. "I am Aonghus, son of Art Og of the
children of Morna," one of them said, "and this is Aodh, son of Andela; and we
are enemies of your own, and our fathers were at the killing of your father, and
they themselves died for that deed. And it is to ask peace we are come now to
you" they said. "Where were you the time my father was killed?" "In our mothers'
wombs," said they; "and our mothers were two women of the Tuatha de Danaan, and
it is time for us now to get our father's place among the Fianna." "I will give
you that," said Finn, "but I must put a fine on you first in satisfaction for my
father's death." "We have neither gold or silver or goods or cattle to give you,
Finn," said they. "Do not put a fine on them, Finn," said Oisin, "beyond the
death of their fathers for your father." "It is what I think," said Finn, "if
any one killed myself, Oisin, it would be easy to pay the fine you would ask.
And there will no one come among the Fianna," he said, "without giving what I
ask in satisfaction for my father's death." "What is it you are asking of us?"
said Aonghus, son of Art Og. "I am asking but the head of a champion, or the
full of a fist of the berries of the quicken-tree at Dubhros." "I will give you
a good advice, children of Morna," said Oisin, "to go back to the place you were
reared, and not to ask peace of Finn through the length of your lives. For it is
not an easy thing Finn is asking of you; and do you know whose head he is asking
you to bring him?" "We do no;" said they. "The head of Diarmuid, grandson of
Duibhne, is the head he is asking of you. And if you were twenty hundred men in
their full strength, Diarmuid would not let you take that head." "And what are
the berries Finn is asking of us?" they said then. "There is nothing is harder
for you to get than those berries," said Oisin.
He told them then the whole story of the tree, and of the Searbhan, the Surly
One of Lochlann, that was put to mind it by the Tuatha de Danaan. But Aodh, son
of Andela, spoke then, and it is what he said, that he would sooner get his
death looking for those berries than to go home again to his mother's county.
And he said to Oisin to care his people till he would come back again, and if
anything should happen himself and his brother in their journey, to send them
back again to the Land of Promise. And the two said farewell then to Oisin and
to the chief men of the Fianna, and they went forward till they reached Dubhros.
And they went along the wood till they found a track, and they followed it to
the door of the hunting-cabin where Diarmuid and Grania were.
Diarmuid heard them coming, and he put his hand on his weapons and asked who
was at the door. "We are the children of Morna," they said, "Aodh, son of
Andela, and Aonghus, son of Art Og." "What brings you to this wood?" said
Diarmuid. "Finn, son of Cumhal, that put us looking for your head, if you are
Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne," said they. "I am indeed," said Diarmuid. "If
that is so," they said, "Finn will take nothing from us but your head, or a
fistful of the berries of the quicken-tree of Dubhros as satisfaction for the
death of his father." "It is not easy for you to get either of those things,"
said Diarmuid, "and it is a pity for any one to be under the power of that man.
And besides that," he said, "I know it was he himself made an end of your
fathers, and that was enough satisfaction for him to get; and if you do bring
him what he asks, it is likely he will not make peace with you in the end." "Is
it not enough for you," said Aodh, "to have brought his wife away from Finn
without speaking ill of him?" "It is not for the sake of speaking ill of him I
said that," said Diarmaid, "but to save yourselves from the danger he has sent
"What are those berries Finn is asking?" said Grania, "that they cannot be
got for him?"
Diarmuid told her then the whole story of the berry the Tuatha de Danaan had
lost, and of the tree that had sprung up from it, and of the man of Lochlann
that was keeping the tree. "And at the time Finn sent me hiding here and became
my enemy," he said, "I got leave from the Surly One to hunt, but he bade me
never to meddle with the berries. And now, sons of Morna," he said, "there is
your choice, to fight with me for my head, or to go asking the berries of the
Surly One." "I swear by the blood of my people," said each of them, "I will
fight you yourself first."
With that the two young men made ready for the fight. And it is what they
chose, to fight with the strength of their hands alone. And Diarmuid put them
down and bound the two of them there and then. "That is a good fight you made,"
said Grania. "But, by my word," she said, "although the children of Morna do not
go looking for those berries, I will not lie in a bed for ever till I get a
share of them; and I will not live if I do not get them," she said. "Do not make
me break my peace with the Surly One," said Diarmaid, "for he will not let me
take them." "Loose these tyings from us," said the two young men, "and we will
go with you, and we will give ourselves for your sake." "You must not come with
me," said Diarmuid; "for if you got the full of your eyes of that terrible one,
you would be more likely to die than to live." "Well, do us this kindness," they
said then; "loosen these bonds on us, and give us time to go by ourselves and
see the fight before you strike off our heads." So Diarmuid did that for them.
Then Diarmuid went to the Surly One, and he chanced to be asleep before him,
and he gave him a stroke of his foot the way he lifted his head and looked up at
him, and he said: "Have you a mind to break our peace, Grandson of Duibhne?"
"That is not what I want," said Diarmuid; "but it is Grania, daughter of the
High King," he said, "has a desire to taste those berries, and it is to ask a
handful of them I am come." "I give my word," said he, "if she is to die for it,
she will never taste a berry of those berries." "I would not do treachery on
you," said Diarmuid; "and so I tell you, willing or unwilling, I will take those
berries from you."
When the Surly One heard that, he rose up on his feet and lifted his club and
struck three great blows on Diarmuid, that gave him some little hurt in spite of
his shield. But when Diarmuid saw him not minding himself, he threw down his
weapons, and made a great leap and took hold of the club with his two hands. And
when he had a hold of the club he struck three great blows on him that put his
brains out through his head. And the two young men of the sons of Morna were
looking at the whole fight; and when they saw the Surly One was killed they came
out. And Diarmuid sat down, for he was spent with the dint of the fight, and be
bid the young men to bury the body under the thickets of the wood, the way
Grania would not see it. "And after that," he said, "let you go back to her and
bring her here." So they dragged away the body and buried it, and they went then
for Grania and brought her to Diarmuid.
"There are the berries you were asking, Grania," he said, "and you may take
what you like of them now." "I give my word," said Grania, "I will not taste a
berry of those berries but the one your own hand will pluck Diarmuid." Diarmuid
rose up then and plucked the berries for Grarna, and for the children of Morna,
and they ate their fill of them. And he said then to the young men: "Take all
you can of these berries, and bring them with you to Finn, and tell him it was
yourselves made an end of the Surly One of Lochlann." "We give you our word,"
said they, "we begrudge giving any of them to Finn."
But Diarmuid plucked a load of the berries for them, and they gave him great
thanks for all he had done; and they went back to where Finn was with the
Fianna. And Diarmuid and Grania went up into the top of the tree where the bed
of the Surly One was. And the berries below were but bitter berries beside the
ones above in the tree. And when the two young men came to Finn, he asked news
of them. "We have killed the Surly One of Lochlann," they said; "and we have
brought you berries from the quicken-tree of Dubhros, in satisfaction for your
father, that we may get peace from you." They gave the berries then into Finn's
hand, and he knew them, and be said to the young men: "I give you my word," he
said, "it was Diarmuid himself plucked those berries, for I know the smell of
his hand on them; and I know well it was he killed the Surly One, and I will go
now and see is he himself alive at the quicken-tree."
After that he called for the seven battalions of the Fianna, and he set out
and went forward to Dubhros. And they followed the track of Diarmuid to the foot
of the quicken-tree, and they found the berries without protection, so they ate
their fill of them. And the great heat of the day came on them, and Finn said
they would stop where they were till the heat would be past; "for I know well,"
he said, "Diarmuid is up in the quicken-tree." "It is a great sign of jealousy
in you, Finn," said Oisin, "to think that Diarmuid would stop there up in the
quicken-tree and he knowing you are wanting to kill him."
Finn asked for a chess-board after that, and he said to Oisin: "I will play a
game with you now on this." They sat down then, Oisin and Osgar and Lugaidh's
Son and Diorraing on the one side of the board, and Finn on the other side.
And they were playing that game with great skill and knowledge, and Finn
pressed Oisin so hard that he had no move to make but the one, and Finn said:
"There is one move would win the game for you, Oisin, and I defy all that are
with you to show you that move." Then Diarmuid said up in the tree where he was,
and no one heard him but Grania: "It is a pity you be in straits and without
myself to show you that move." "It is worse off you are yourself," said Grania,
"to be in the bed of the Surly One of Lochlann in the top of the quicken-tree,
and the seven battalions of the Fianna round about it to take your life."
But Diarmuid took a berry of the tree, and aimed at the one of the chessmen
that ought to be moved and Oisin moved it and turned the game against Finn by
that move. It was not long before the game was going against Oisin the second
time, and when Diarmuid saw that he threw another berry at the chessman it was
right to move, and Oisin moved it and turned the game against Finn in the same
way. And the third time Finn was getting the game from Oisin, and Diarmuid threw
the third berry on the man that would give the game to Oisin, and the Fianna
gave a great shout when the game was won. Finn spoke then, and it is what he
said: "It is no wonder you to win the game, Oisin, and you having the help of
Osgar, and the watchfulness of Diorraing, and the skill of Lugaidh's Son, and
the teaching of the grandson of Duibhne with you." "That is a great sign of
jealousy in you, Finn," said Osgar, "to think Diarmuid would stop in this tree,
and you so near him." "Which of us has the truth, Diarmuid, grandson of
Duibhne," Finn said out then, "myself or Osgar?" "You never lost
your good judgment, Finn," said Diarmuid then; "and I myself and Grania are
here, in the bed of the Surly One of Lochlann." Then Diarmuid rose up and gave
three kisses to Grania in the sight of Finn and the Fianna. And a scorching
jealousy and a weakness came on Finn when he saw that, and he said: "It was
worse to me, Diarmuid, the seven battalions of the Fianna to see what you did at
Teamhair, taking away Grania the night you were yourself my guard. But for all
that," he said, "you will give your head for the sake of those three kisses."
With that Finn called to the four hundred paid fighting men that were with
him that they might make an end of Diarmuid; and he put their hands into one
another's hands around that quicken-tree, and bade them, if they would not lose
their lives, not to let Diarmuid pass out through them. And he said that to
whatever man would take Diarmuid, he would give his arms and his armour, and a
place among the Fianna of Ireland.
Then one of the Fianna, Garbh of Slieve Cua, said it was Diarmuid had killed
his own father, and he would avenge him now, and he went up the
quicken-tree to make an end of him.
Now, about that time it was made known to Angus Og, in Brugh na Boinne, the
danger Diarmuid was in, and he came to his help, unknown to the Fianna. And when
Garbh of Slieve Cua was coming up the tree, Diarmuid gave him a kick of his
foot, and he fell down among the hiredmen, and they struck off his head, for
Angus Og had put the appearance of Diarmuid on him. But after he was killed, his
own shape came on him again, and the Fianna knew that it was Garbh was killed.
Then Garbh of Slieve Crot said it was Diarmuid had killed his father, and he
went up to avenge him, and the same thing happened. And in the end all the nine
Garbhs, of Slieve Guaire, and Slieve Muice, and Slieve Mor, and Slieve Lugha,
and Ath Fraoch, and Slieve Mis and Drom-mor, went trying to take Diarmuid's life
and lost their own lives, every one of them having the shape and appearance of
Diarmuid when he died. And Finn was very sorry and discouraged when he saw that
these nine men had come to their death.
Then Angus said he would bring away Grania with him. "Do so," said Diarmuid;
"and if I am living at evening I will follow you." Then Angus said farewell to
Diarmuid, and he put his Druid cloak about Grania and about himself, and they
went away in the safety of the cloak, unknown to Finn and the Fianna, till they
came to Brugh na Boinne.
Then Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne, spoke, and it is what he said: "I will
come down to you, Finn, and to the Fianna. And I will do death and destruction
on you and on your people, for I am certain your mind is made up to give me no
rest, but to bring me to my death in some place. And I have nowhere to go from
this danger," he said, "for I have no friend or comrade under whose protection I
could go in any far part of the great world, for it is often I fought against
the men of the great world for love of you. For there never came battle or
fight, danger or trouble on you, but I would go into it for your sake and the
sake of the Fianna; and not only that, but I would fight before you and after
you. And I give my word, Finn," he said, "you will pay hard for me, and you will
not get me as a free gift." "It is the truth Diarmuid is speaking," said Osgar,
"and give him forgiveness now, and peace." "I will not do that," said Finn, "to
the end of life and time; and he will not get peace or rest for ever till I get
satisfaction from him for every reproach he has put on me." "It is a great shame
and a great sign of jealousy you to say that," said Osgar. "And I give
the word of a true champion," he said, "that unless the skies come down upon me,
or the earth opens under my feet, I will not let you or any one of the Fianna of
Ireland give him cut or wound; and I take his body and his life under the
protection of my valour, and I will keep him safe against all the men of
Ireland." "Those are big words you have, Osgar," said Goll then, "to say you
would bring a man away in spite of all the men of Ireland." "It is not you will
raise them up against me, Goll," said Osgar, "for none of than would mind what
you would say." "If that is what you are saying, you champion of great fights,"
said Goll, "let us see now what you can do." "You will have to go through with
the fight you have taken on yourself," said Corrioll, son of Goll, in a loud
voice. And Osgar answered him fiercely: "If I do I will shorten your bones, and
your father's bones along with them. And come down now, Diarmuid," he said,
"since Finn has no mind to leave you in peace, and I promise on my body and my
life there will no harm be done to you to-day."
Then Diarmuid stood up on a high bough of the boughs of the tree, and he rose
with a light leap by the shaft of his spear, and lit on the grass far beyond
Finn and the Fianna. And he himself and Osgar went towards one another, in spite
of the Fianna that went between them, and Diarmuid struck down those that were
in his way; and as to Osgar, the throwing of his spears as he scattered the
Fianna was like the sound of the wind going through a valley, or water falling
over flag-stones. And Conan, that was always bitter, said: "Let the sons of
Baiscne go on killing one another." But Finn, when he saw Diarmuid was gone from
him, bade them put their weapons up, and turn back again to Almhuin.
And he sent those of his men that could be healed to places of healing, and
the nine Garbhs, and the others of his men that were killed, he put into wide-sodded
graves. And it is tired and downhearted and sorrowful he was after that, and he
made an oath he would take no great rest till he would have avenged on Diarmuid
all that he had done.