The Tain Bo Culaigne
The Slaying Of Orlam
The four grand provinces of Erin set
forth on the morrow eastwards over Cronn
('the Round'), which is a mountain. Cuchulain had gone out before them, till he
came upon the charioteer of Orlam son of Aililla and of Medb. This was at
Tamlacht Orlaim ('Orlam's Gravestone') a little to the north of Disert Lochaid
('Lochat's Hermitage'). The charioteer was engaged in cutting chariot-poles from
a holly-tree in the wood.
"Behold, O Laeg," cried Cuchulain; How bold are the ways of the Ulstermen, if
it be they that cut down the woods in this fashion in the face of the men of
Erin. Tarry thou here a little, till I know who cuts down the woods in this
manner." Then Cuchulain went on till he came up to Orlam's charioteer, to stop
him; he thought he was one of the men of Ulster. "What dost thou here, gilla?"
asked Cuchulain; "Indeed, then," answered the gilla, "I cut chariot poles from
this holm, because our chariots were broken yesterday in pursuit of that famous
wildling, namely Cuchulain. And for thy manhood's sake, young warrior, pray come
to my aid, so that that famous Cuchulain come not upon me." "Take thy choice,
gilla," said Cuchulain, "to gather or to trim them, either." "I will see to
gathering them, for it is easier," the gilla answered.
Cuchulain started to cut the poles and he drew them between the forks of his
feet and his hands against their bends and their knots, so that he made them
smooth and straight and slippery and trimmed; he polished them so that not even
a midge could find footing thereon when he had passed them away from him. Then
full sure the gilla gazed upon him. "Far then, meseems, from fitting is the task
I put on thee. And for love of thy valour, who art thou, say, O warrior?" the
gilla asked, for he was sore affrighted. "That same renowned Cuchulain am I of
whom thou spakest a while ago in the morning." "Woe is me then, by reason of
this," cried the gilla, "for this am I lost forever."
"Fear nothing; I will not slay thee at all, boy," said Cuchulain; "for I slay
nor charioteers nor horseboys nor persons unarmed. But, prithee, where is thy
master, gilla?" "Over yonder by the trench, with his back to the pillar-stone,"
answered the gilla. "Off with thee thither to him and bear him a warning that he
be on his guard. For if we meet he shall fall by my hand." Thereupon the
charioteer repaired by one way to his master, and Cuchulain went by another, and
fast as the gilla sped to Orlam, faster still Cuchulain did reach him and
offered him combat and he struck off his head, and raising it aloft displayed it
to the men of Erin.