12C. The Meeting of Cuchulain and Finnabair
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- Joseph Dunn
“Let a message be sent to him,” said Ailill, “that Finnabair my daughter will be bestowed on him, and for him to keep away from the hosts.” Manè Athramail (‘Fatherlike’) goes to him. But first he addresses himself to Laeg. “Whose man art thou?” spake Manè. Now Laeg made no answer. Thrice Manè addressed him in this same wise. “Cuchulain’s man,” Laeg answers, “and provoke me not, lest it happen I strike thy head off thee!” “This man is mad,” quoth Manè as he leaves him.
Then he goes to accost Cuchulain. It was there Cuchulain had doffed his tunic, and the deep snow was around him where he sat, up to his belt, and the snow had melted a cubit around him for the greatness of the heat of the hero. And Manè addressed him three times in like manner, whose man he was? “Conchobar’s man, and do not provoke me. For if thou provokest me any longer I will strike thy head off thee as one strikes off the head of a blackbird!” “No easy thing,” quoth Manè, “to speak to these two.” Thereupon Manè leaves them and tells his tale to Ailill and Medb.
“Let Lugaid go to him,” said Ailill, “and offer him the girl.” Thereupon Lugaid goes and repeats this to Cuchulain. “O master Lugaid,” quoth Cuchulain, “it is a snare!” “It is the word of a king; he hath said it,” Lugaid answered; “there can be no snare in it.” “So be it,” said Cuchulain. Forthwith Lugaid leaves him and takes that answer to Ailill and Medb. “Let the fool go forth in my form,” said Ailill, “and the king’s crown on his head, and let him stand some way off from Cuchulain lest he know him; and let the girl go with him and let the fool promise her to him, and let them depart quickly in this wise. And methinks ye will play a trick on him thus, so that he will not stop you any further till he comes with the Ulstermen to the battle.”
Then the fool goes to him and the girl along with him, and from afar he addresses Cuchulain. The Hound comes to meet him. It happened he knew by the man’s speech that he was a fool. A slingstone that was in his hand he threw at him so that it entered his head and bore out his brains. He comes up to the maiden, cuts off her two tresses and thrusts a stone through her cloak and her tunic, and plants a standing-stone through the middle of the fool. Their two pillar-stones are there, even the pillar-stone of Finnabair and the pillar-stone of the fool.
Cuchulain left them in this plight. A party was sent out from Ailill and Medb to search for their people, for it was long they thought they were gone, when they saw them in this wise. This thing was noised abroad by all the host in the camp. Thereafter there was no truce for them with Cuchulain.