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The King of Ireland's Son by  Padraic Colum

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THE TOWN OF THE RED CASTLE

I

[185]

F LANN was the name that the Old Woman of Beare gave to Gilly of the Goatskin when he came back to tell her that the Swan of Endless Tales had been hatched out of the Crystal Egg. He went from her house then and came to where the King of Ireland's Son waited for him. The two comrades went along a well-traveled road. As they went on they fell in with men driving herds of ponies, men carrying packs on their backs, men with tools for working gold and silver, bronze and iron. Every man whom they asked said, "We are going to the Town of the Red Castle, and to the great fair that will be held there." The King's Son and Flann thought they should go to the Town of the Red Castle too, for where so many people would be, there was a chance of hearing what went before and what came after the Unique Tale. So they went on.

And when they had come to a well that was under a great rock those whom they were with halted. They said it was the custom for the merchants and sellers to wait there for a day and to go into the Town of the Red Castle the day following. "On this day," they [186] said, "the people of the Town celebrate the Festival of Midsummer, and they do not like a great company of people to go into their Town until the Festival is over."

The King of Ireland's Son and Flann went on, and they were let into the town. The people had lighted great fires in their market-place and they were driving their cattle through the fires: "If there be evil on you, may it burn, may it burn," they were crying. They were afraid that witches and enchanters might come into the town with the merchants and the sellers, and that was the reason they did not permit a great company to enter.

The fires in all their houses had been quenched that day, and they might not be lighted except from the fires the cattle had gone through. The fires were left blazing high and the King's Son and Flann spent hours watching them, and watching the crowds that were around.

Then the time came to take fire to the houses. They who came for fire were all young maidens. Each came into the light of one of the great fires, took coals from a fire that had burnt low, placed them in a new earthen vessel and went away. Flann thought that all the maidens were beautiful and wonderful, although the King's Son told him that some were black-faced, and some crop-headed and some hunchbacked. Then a maiden came, who was so high above the rest that Flann had no words to speak of her.


[Illustration]

Then a maiden came.

[189] She had silver on her head and silver on her arms, and the people around the fires all bowed to her. She had black, black hair and she had a smiling face—not happily smiling, but proudly smiling. Flann thought that a star had bent down with her. And when she had taken the fire and had gone away, Flann said, "She is surely the King's daughter!"

"She is," said the King of Ireland's Son. "The people here have spoken her name." "What is her name?" asked Flann. "It is Lassarina," said the King's Son, "Flame-of-Wine."

"Shall we see her again?" said Flann.

"That I do not know," said the King's Son. "Come now, and let us ask the people here if they have knowledge of the Unique Tale."

"Wait," said Flann, "they are talking about Princess Flame-of-Wine." He did not move, but listened to what was said. All said that the King's daughter was proud. Some said she was beautiful, but others answered that her lips were thin, and her eyes were mocking. No other maidens came for fire. Flann stood before the one that still blazed, and thought and thought. The King's Son asked many if they had knowledge of the Unique Tale, but no one had heard of it. Some told him that there would be merchants and sellers from many parts of the world at the fair that would be held on the morrow, and that there would be a chance of meeting one who had knowledge of it. Then the [190] King's Son went with one who brought him to a Brufir's—that is, to a House of Hospitality maintained by the King for strangers. As for Flann, he sat looking into the fire until it died down, and then he slept before it.

II

F LANN was wakened by a gander and his flock of geese that stood round him, shook their wings and set up their goose-gabble. It was day then, although there was still a star in the sky. He threw furze-roots where there was a glow, and made a fire blaze up again. Then the dogs of the town came down to look at him, and then stole away.

Horns were blown outside, and the watchman opened the gates. Flann shook himself and stood up to see the folk that were coming in. First came the men who drove the mountain ponies that had lately fed with the deer in wild places. Then came men in leathern jerkins who led wide-horned bulls—a black bull and a white bull, and a white bull and a black bull, one after the other. Then there were men who brought in high, swift hounds, three to each leash they held. Women in brown cloaks carried cages of birds. Men carried on their shoulders and in their belts tools for working gold and silver, bronze and iron. And there were calves and [191] sheep, and great horses and weighty chariots, and colored cloths, and things closed in packs that merchants carried on their shoulders. The famous bards, and story-tellers and harpists would not come until noon-time when the business of the fair would have abated, but with the crowd of beggars came ballad-singers, and the tellers of the stories that were called "Go-by-the-Market-Stake," because they were told around the stake in the market place and were very common.

And at the tail of the comers whom did Flann see but Mogue, the Captain of the Robbers!

M OGUE wore a hare-skin cap, his left eye protruded as usual, and he walked limpingly. He had a pack on his back, and he led a small, swift looking horse of a reddish color. Flann called to him as he passed and Mogue gave a great start. He grinned when he saw it was Flann and walked up to him.

"Mogue," said Flann, "what are you doing in the Town of the Red Castle?"

"I'm here to sell a few things," said Mogue, "this little horse," said he, "and a few things I have in my pack."

"And where are your friends?" asked Flann.

"My band, do you mean?" said Mogue. "Sure, they all left me when you proved you were the better robber. What are you doing here?"

[192] "I have no business at all," said Flann.

"By the Hazel! that's what I like to hear you say. Join me then. You and me would do well together."

"I won't join you," said Flann.

"I'd rather have you with me than the whole of the band. What were they anyway? Cabbage-heads!" Mogue winked with his protruding eye. "Wait till you see me again," said he. "I've the grandest things in my pack." He went on leading the little horse. Then Flann set out to look for the King's Son.

He found him at the door of the Brufir's, and they drank bowls of milk and ate oaten bread together, and then went to the gate of the town to watch the notable people who were coming in.

And with the bards and harpers and Kings' envoys who came in, the King's Son saw his two half-brothers, Dermott and Downal. He hailed them and they knew him and came up to him gladly. The King's Son made Flann known to them, saying that he too was the son of a King.

They looked fine youths, Downal and Dermott, in their red cloaks, with their heads held high, and a brag in their walk and their words. They left their horses with the grooms and walked with Flann and the King's Son. They were tall and ruddy; the King's Son was more brown in the hair and more hawk-like in the face: the three were different from the dark- [193] haired, dark-eyed, red-lipped lad to whom the Old Woman of Beare had given the name of Flann.

No one had seen the King who lived in the Red Castle, Dermott and Downal told the other two. He was called the Wry-faced King, and, on account of his disfigurement, he let no one but his Councilors see him.

"We are to go to his Castle to-day," said Dermott and Downal. "You come too, brother," said he to the King's Son.

"And you too, comrade," said Downal to Flann. "Why should we not all go? By Ogma! Are we not all sons of Kings?"

Flann wondered if he would see the King's daughter, Flame-of-Wine. He would surely go to the Castle.

They drank ale, played chess and talked until it was afternoon. Then the grooms who were with Downal and Dermott brought the four youths new red cloaks. They put them on and went towards the King's Castle.

"Brother," said Dermott to the King's Son, "I want to tell you that we are not going back to our father's Castle nor to his Kingdom. We have taken the world for our pillow. We are going to leave the grooms asleep one fine morning, and go as the salmon goes down the river."

"Why do you want to leave our father's Kingdom?"

"Because we don't want to rule nor to learn to rule. We'll let you, brother, do all that. We're going to learn the trade of a sword-smith. We would make fine [194] swords. And with the King of Senlabor there is a famous sword-smith, and we are going to learn the trade from him."

T HE four went to the Red Castle, and they were brought in and they went and sat on the benches to wait for the King's Steward who would receive them. And while they waited they watched the play of a pet fox in the courtyard. Flann was wondering all the time if the Princess Flame-of-Wine would pass through the courtyard or come into the hall where they waited.

Then he saw her come up the courtyard. She saw the youths in the hall and she turned round to watch the pet fox for a while. Then she came into the chamber and stood near the door.

She wore a mask across her face, but her brow and mouth and chin were shown. The youths saluted her, and she bent her head to them. One of the women who had brought birds to the Fair followed her, bringing a cage. Flame-of-Wine talked to this woman in a strange language.

Although she talked to the woman, Flann saw that she watched his three companions. Him she did not notice, because the bench on which he sat was behind the others. Flame-of-Wine looked at the King's Son first, and then turned her eyes from him. She bent her head to listen to what Downal and Dermott were say- [195] ing. Flann she did not look at at all, and he became sick at heart of the Red Castle.

The King's Steward came into the Hall and when he announced who the youths were—three sons of the King of Ireland traveling with their foster-brother—Flame-of-Wine went over and spoke to them. "May we see you to-morrow, Kings' Sons," she said. "To-morrow is our feast of the Gathering of Apples. It might be pleasant for you to hear music in the King's garden." She smiled on Downal and Dermott and on the King's Son and went out of the Chamber.

The King's Steward feasted the four youths and afterwards made them presents. But Flann did not heed what he ate nor what he heard said, nor what present was given him.

III

T HE four youths left the Castle and Downal and Dermott took their own way when they came to the foot-bridge that was across the river. Then when they were crossing it the King's Son and Flann saw two figures—a middle-aged, sturdy man and an old, broken-looking woman—meet before the Bull's Field. "It is the Gobaun Saor," said the King's Son. "It is the Spae-Woman," said Flann. They went to them, each wishing to greet his friend and helper.

[196] There they saw a sturdy, middle-aged man and a broken-looking old woman. But the woman looking on the man saw one who had full wisdom to plan and full strength to build, whose wisdom and whose strength could neither grow nor diminish. And the man looking on the woman saw one whose brow had all quiet, whose heart had all benignity. "Hail, Gobaun, Builder for the Gods," said the woman. "Hail, Grania Oi, Reconciler for the Gods," said the man.

Then the two youths came swiftly up to them, and the King's Son greeted the middle-aged man, and Flann kissed the hands of the old woman.

"What of your search, King's Son?" said the Gobaun Saor.

"I have found the Unique Tale, but not what went before nor what comes after it," said the King's Son.

"I will clear the Sword of Light of its stain when you bring me the whole of the Unique Tale," said the Gobaun Saor.

"I would search the whole world for it," said the King's Son. "But now the time is becoming short for me."

"Be quick and active," said the Gobaun Saor. "I have set up my forge," said he, "outside the town between two high stones. When you bring the whole of the Tale to me I shall clear your sword."

"Will you not tell him, Gobaun Saor," said the [197] Spae-Woman, "where he may find the one who will tell him the rest of the story?"

"If he sees one he knows in this town," said the Gobaun Saor, "let him mount a horse he has mounted before and pursue that one and force him to tell what went before and what comes after the Unique Tale."

Saying this the Gobaun Saor turned away and walked along the road that went out of the town.

The Spae-Woman had brought besoms to the town to sell. She showed the two youths the little house she lived in while she was there. It was filled with the heather-stalks which she bound together for besoms.

They left the Spae-Woman and went through the town, the King of Ireland's Son searching every place for a man he knew or a horse he had mounted before, while Flann thought about the Princess Flame-of-Wine, and how little she considered him beside the King's Son and Dermott and Downal. They came to where a crowd was standing before a conjurer's booth. They halted and stood waiting for the conjurer to appear. He came out and put a ladder standing upright with nothing to lean against and began climbing up. Up, up, up, he went, and the ladder grew higher and higher as he climbed. Flann thought he would climb into the sky. Then the ladder got smaller and smaller and Flann saw the conjurer coming down on the other side. "He has come here to take that horse," said a voice behind the King of Ireland's Son.

[198] The King's Son looked round, and on the outskirts of the crowd he saw a man with a hare-skin cap and a protruding eye who was holding a reddish horse, while he watched the conjuror. The King of Ireland's Son knew the horse—it was the Slight Red Steed that had carried him and Fedelma from the Enchanter's house and had brought him to the Cave where he had found the Sword of Light. He looked at the conjuror again and he saw he was no other than the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. Then it crossed his mind what the Gobaun Saor had said to him.

He had seen a man he knew and a horse he had mounted before. He was to mount that horse, follow the man, and force him to tell the rest of the Unique Tale.

The King's Son drew back to the outskirts of the crowd. He snatched the bridle from the hands of Mogue, the man who held it, and jumped up on the back of the Slight Red Steed.

As soon as he did this the ladder that was standing upright fell on the ground. The people shouted and broke away. And then the King's Son saw the Enchanter jump across a house and make for the gate of the town.

But if he could jump across a house so could the Slight Red Steed. The King's Son turned its head, plucked at its rein, and over the same house it sprang too. The more he ran the more swift the Enchanter [199] became. He jumped over the gate of the town, the Slight Red Steed after him. He went swiftly across the country, making high springs over ditches and hedges. No other steed but the Slight Red Steed could have kept its rider in sight of him.

IV

U P hill and down dale the Enchanter went, but, mounted on the Slight Red Steed, the King of Ireland's Son was in hot pursuit. The Enchanter raced up the side of the seventh hill, and when the King's Son came to the top of it he found no one in sight.

He raced on, however, and he passed a dead man hanging from a tree. He raced on and on, but still the Enchanter was not to he seen. Then the thought came into his mind that the man who was hanging from the tree and who he thought was dead was the crafty old Enchanter. He turned the Slight Red Steed round and raced back. The man that had been hanging from the tree was there no longer.

The King's Son turned his horse amongst the trees and began to search for the Enchanter. He found no trace of him. "I have lost again," he said. Then he threw the bridle on the neck of the horse and he said, "Go your own way now, my Slight Red Steed."

[200] When he said that the Slight Red Steed twitched its ears and galloped towards the West. It went through woods and across streams, and when the crows were flying home and the kites were flying abroad it brought the King's Son to a stone house standing in the middle of a bog. "It may be the Enchanter is in this house," said the King's Son. He jumped off the Slight Red Steed, pushed the door of the house open, and there, seated on a chair in the middle of the floor with a woman sitting beside him, was the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. "So," said the Enchanter, "my Slight Red Steed has brought you to me."

"So," said the King's Son, "I have found you, my crafty old Enchanter."

"And now that you have found me, what do you want of me?" said the Enchanter.

"Your head," said the King's Son, drawing the tarnished Sword of Light.

"Will nothing less than my head content you?" said the Enchanter.

"Nothing less—unless it be what went before, and what comes after the Unique Tale."

"The Unique Tale," said the Enchanter. "I will tell you what I know of it." Thereupon he began—

[201]

I was a Druid and the Son of a Druid, and I had learned the language of the birds. And one morning, as I walked abroad, I heard a blackbird and a robin talking, and when I heard what they said I smiled to myself.

"Now the woman I had just married noticed that I kept smiling, and she questioned me. 'Why do you keep smiling to yourself?' I would not tell her. 'Is that not the truth?' " said the Enchanter to a woman who sat beside him. "It is the truth," said she.

"On the third day I was still smiling to myself, and my wife questioned me, and when I did not answer threw dish-water into my face. 'May blindness come upon you if you do not tell me why you are smiling,' said she. Then I told her why I smiled to myself. I had heard what the birds said. The blackbird said to the robin, 'Do you know that just under where we are sitting are three rods of enchantment, and if one were to take one of them and strike a man with it, he would be changed to any creature one named?' That is what I had heard the birds say and I smiled because I was the only creature who knew about the rods of enchantment.

"My wife made me show her where the rods were. She cut one of them when I went away. That evening she came behind me and struck me with a rod. ' Go out now and roam as a wolf,' she said, and there and then I was changed into a wolf. 'Is that not true?' " said he to the woman. "It is true," she said.

[202] "And being changed into a wolf, I went through the woods seeking wolf's meat. And now you must ask my wife to tell you more of the story."

The King of Ireland's Son turned to the woman who sat on the seat next the Enchanter, and asked her to tell him more of the story. And thereupon she began —


B EFORE all that happened I was known as the Maid of the Green Mantle. One day a King rode up a mountain with five score followers and a mist came on them as they rode. The King saw his followers no more. He called out after a while and four score answered him. And he called out again after another while and two score answered him. And after another while he called out again and only a score answered him through the mist, and when he called out again no one answered him at all.

"The King went up the mountain until he came to the place where I lived with the Druids who reared me. He stayed long in that place. The King loved me for a while and I loved the King, and when he went away I followed him.

"Because he would not come back to me I enchanted him so that there were times when he was left between life and death. Once when he was seemingly dead a girl watched by him, and she followed his spirit into many terrible places and so broke my enchantment."

[203] "Sheen was the girl's name," said the King of Ireland's Son.

"Sheen was her name," said the woman. "He brought her to his Kingdom, and made her his queen. After that I married the man who is here now—the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, the Son of the Druid of the Gray Rock. Ask him now to tell you the rest of the story."


W HEN she changed me into a gray wolf," said the Enchanter, "I went through the woods searching for what a wolf might eat, but could find nothing to stay my hunger. Then I came back and stood outside my house and the woman who had been called the Maid of the Green Mantle came to me. 'I will give you back your human form,' she said, 'if you do as I bid you.'

"I promised her I would do as she bade.

"She bade me go to a King's house where a child had been born. She bade me steal the child away. I went to the King's house. I went into the chamber and I stole the child from the mother's side. Then I ran through the woods. But in the end I fell into a trap that the Giant Crom Duv had set for the wolves that chased his stray cattle.

"For a night I lay in the trap with the child beside me. [204] Then Crom Duv came and lifted out wolf and child. Three Hags with Long Teeth were there when he took us out of the trap, and he gave the child to one of them, telling her to rear it so that the child might be a servant for him.

"He put me into a sack, promising himself that he would give me a good beating. He left me on the floor of his house. But while he was gone for his club I bit my way out of the sack and made my escape. I came back to my own house, and my wife struck me with the wand of enchantment, and changed me from a wolf into a man again. 'Is that not true?' " said he to the woman.

"It is true," said she.

"That is all of the Unique Tale that I know," said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, "and now that I have told it to you, put up your sword."

"I will put up no sword," said the King of Ireland's Son, "until you tell me what King and Queen were the father and mother of the child that was reared by the Hags of the Long Teeth."

"I made no promise to tell you that," said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. "You have got the story you asked for, and now let me see your back going through my door."

"Yes, you have got the story, and be off with you now," said the woman who sat by the fire.


[205]

H E put up his sword; he went to the door; he left the house of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. He mounted the Slight Red Steed and rode off. He knew now what went before and what came after the Unique Tale. The Gobaun Saor would clean the blemish of the blade of the Sword of Light and would show him how to come to the Land of Mist. Then he would win back his love Fedelma.

He thought too on the tidings he had for his comrade Flann—Flann was the Son of the King who was called the Hunter-King and of Sheen whose brothers had been changed into seven wild geese. He shook his horse's reins and went back towards the Town of the Red Castle.

V

F LANN thought upon the Princess Flame-of-Wine. He walked through the town after the King's Son had ridden after the Enchanter, without noticing anyone until he heard a call and saw Mogue standing beside a little tent that he had set up before the Bull's Field.

Flann went to Mogue and found him very disconsolate on account of the loss of the horse he had brought into the town. "This is a bad town to be in," said [206] Mogue, "and unless I persuade yourself to become partners with me I shall have done badly in it. Join with me now and we'll do some fine feats together."

"It would not become a King's Son to join with a robber-captain," said Flann.

"Fine talk, fine talk," said Mogue. He thought that Flann was jesting with him when he spoke of himself as a King's Son.

"I want to sell three treasures I have with me," said Mogue. "I have the most wonderful things that were ever brought into this town."

"Show them to me," said Flann.

Mogue opened one of his packs and took out a box. When he opened this box a fragrance came such as Flann had never felt before. "What is that that smells like a garden of sweet flowers?" said Flann.

"It is the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Mogue, and he took a little rose out of the box. "It never withers and its fragrance is never any less. It is a treasure for a King's daughter. But I will not show it in this town."

"And what is that shining thing in the box?"

"It is the Comb of Magnificence. That is another treasure for a King's daughter. The maiden who would wear it would look the most queenly woman in the Kingdom. But I won't show that either."

"What else have you, Mogue?"

"A girdle. The woman who wears it would have to speak the truth."

[207] Flann thought he would do much to get the Rose of Sweet Smells or the Comb of Magnificence and bring them as presents to the Princess Flame-of-Wine.

He slept in Mogue's tent, and at the peep of day, he rose up and went to the House of Hospitality where Dermott and Downal were. With them he would go to the King's orchard, and he would see, and perhaps he would speak to, Flame-of-Wine. But Dermott and Downal were not in the Brufir's. Flann wakened their grooms and he and they made search for the two youths. But there was no trace of Dermott and Downal. It seemed they had left before daybreak with their horses. Flann went with the grooms to the gate of the town. There they heard from the watchman that the two youths had gone through the gate and that they had told the watchman to tell the grooms that they had gone to take the world for their pillow.

The grooms were dismayed to hear this, and so indeed was Flann. Without the King's Son and without Downal and Dermott how would he go to the King's Garden? He went back to Mogue's tent to consider what he should do. And first he thought he would not go to the Festival of the Gathering of the Apples, as he knew that Flame-of-Wine had only asked him with his comrades. And then he thought that whatever else happened he would go to the King's orchard and see Flame-of-Wine.

If he had one of the wonderful things that Mogue [208] had shown him—the Rose of Sweet Smells or the Comb of Magnificence! These would show her that he was of some consequence. If he had either of these wonderful things and offered it to her she might be pleased with him!

He sat outside the tent and waited for Mogue to return. When he came Flann said to him, "I will go with you as a servant, and I will serve you well although I am a King's Son, if you will give me something now."

"What do you want from me?" said Mogue.

"Give me the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Flann.

"Sure that's the finest thing I have. I couldn't give you that."

"I will serve you for two years if you will give it to me," said Flann.

"No," said Mogue.

"I will serve you for three years if you will give it to me," said Flann.

"I will give it to you if you will serve me for three years." Thereupon Mogue opened his pack and took the box out. He opened it and put the Rose of Sweet Smells into Flann's hand.

At once Flann started off for the King's orchard. The Steward who had seen him the day before signed to the servants to let him pass through the gate. He went into the King's orchard.

Maidens were singing the "Song for the Time of the [209] Blossoming of the Apple-trees" and all that day and night Flann held their song in his mind—

The touch of hands that drew it down

Kindled to blossom all the bough—

O breathe the wonder of the branch,

And let it through the darkness go!


Y OUTHS were gathering apples, and the Princess Flame-of-Wine walked by herself on the orchard paths.

At last she came to where Flann stood and lifting her eyes she looked at him. "I had companions," said Flann, "but they have gone away."

"They are unmannerly," said Flame-of-Wine with anger, and she turned away.

Flann took the rose from under his cloak. Its fragrance came to Flame-of-Wine and she turned to him again.

"This is the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Flann. "Will you take it from me, Princess?"

She came back to him and took the rose in her hand, and there was wonder in her face.

"It will never wither, and its fragrance will never fail," said Flann. "It is the Rose of Sweet Smells. A King's daughter should have it."

Flame-of-Wine held the rose in her hand, and smiled on Flann. "What is your name, King's Son?" said she, with bright and friendly eyes.

[210] "Flann," he said.

"Walk with me, Flann," said she. They walked along the orchard paths, and the youths and maidens turned towards the fragrance that the Rose of Sweet Smells gave. Flame-of-Wine laughed, and said, "They all wonder at the treasure you have brought me, Flann. If you could hear what I shall tell them about you! I shall tell them that you are the son of a King of Arabia—no less. They will believe me because you have brought me such a treasure! I suppose there is nothing more wonderful than this rose!"

Then Flann told her about the other wonderful thing he had seen—the Comb of Magnificence. "A King's daughter should have such a treasure," said Flame-of-Wine. "Oh, how jealous I should be if someone brought the Comb of Magnificence to either of my two sisters—to Bloom-of-Youth or Breast-of-Light. I should think then that this rose was not such a treasure after all."

When he was leaving the orchard she plucked a flower and gave it to him. "Come and walk in the orchard with me to-morrow," she said.

"Surely I will come," said Flann.

"Bring the Comb of Magnificence to me too," said she. "I could not be proud of this rose, and I could not love you so well for bringing it to me if I thought that any other maiden had the Comb of Magnificence. Bring it to me, Flann."

"I will bring it to you," said Flann.

VI

[211]

H E was at the gate of the town when the King of Ireland's Son rode back on the Slight Red Steed. The King's Son dismounted, put his arm about Flann and told him that he now had the whole of the Unique Tale. They sat before Mogue's tent, and the King's Son told Flann the whole of the story he had searched for—how a King traveling through the mist had come to where Druids and the Maid of the Green Mantle lived, how the King was enchanted, and how the maiden Sheen released him from the enchantment. He told him, too, how the Enchanter was changed into a wolf, and how the wolf carried away Sheen's child. "And the Unique Tale is in part your own history, Flann," said the King of Ireland's Son, "for the child that was left with the Hags of the Long Teeth was no one else than yourself, for you, Flann, have on your breast the stars that denote the Son of a King."

"It is so, it is so," said Flann, "and I will find out what King and Queen were my father and my mother."

"Go to the Hags of the Long Teeth and force them to tell you," said the King's Son.

"I will do that," said Flann, but in his own mind he said, "I will first bring the Comb of Magnificence to [212] Flame-of-Wine, and I will tell her that I will have to be away for so many years with Mogue and I shall ask her to remember me until I come back to her. Then I shall go to the Hags of the Long Teeth and force them to tell me what King and Queen were my father and mother."

The King of Ireland's Son left Flann to his thoughts and went to find the Gobaun Saor who would clear for him the tarnished blade of the Sword of Light and would show him the way to where the King of the Land of Mist had his dominion.

Mogue spent his time with the ballad-singers and the story-tellers around the market-stake, and when he came back to his tent he wanted to drink ale and go to sleep, but Flann turned him from the ale-pot by saying to him, "I want the Comb of Magnificence from you, Mogue."

"By my skin," said Mogue, "it's my blood you'll want next, my lad."

"If you give me the Comb of Magnificence, Mogue, I shall serve you for six years—three years more than I said yesterday. I shall serve you well, even though I am the son of a King and can find out who my father and mother are."

"I won't give you the Comb of Magnificence."

"I'll serve you seven years if you do, Mogue."

Mogue drank and drank out of the ale-pot, frowning to himself. He put the ale-pot away and said, "I sup- [213] pose your life won't be any good to you unless I give you the Comb of Magnificence?"

"That is so, Mogue."

Mogue sighed heavily, but he went to his pack and took out the box that the treasures were in. He let Flann take out the Comb of Magnificence.

"Seven years you will have to serve me," said Mogue, "and you will have to begin your service now."

"I will begin it now," said Flann, but he stole out of the tent, put on his red cloak and went to the King's orchard.

VII

O H, Flann, my treasure-bringer," said Flame-of-Wine, when she came to him. "I have brought you the Comb of Magnificence," said he. Her hands went out and her eyes became large and shining. He put the Comb of Magnificence into her hands.

She put the comb into the back of her hair, and she became at once like the tower that is builded—what broke its height and turned the full sunlight from it has been taken away, and the tower stands, the pride of a King and the delight of a people. When she put the Comb of Magnificence into her hair she became of all Kings' daughters the most stately.

[214] She walked with Flann along the paths of the orchard, but always she was watching her shadow to see if it showed her added magnificence. Her shadow showed nothing. She took Flann to the well in the orchard, and looked down into it, but her image in the well did not show her added magnificence either. Soon she became tired of walking on the orchard paths, and when she came to the gate she walked no further but stood with Flann at the gate. "A kiss for you, Flann, my treasure-bringer," said she, and she kissed him and then went hurrying away. And as Flann watched her he thought that although she had kissed him he was not now in her mind.

He went out of the orchard disconsolate, thinking that when he was on his seven years' service with Mogue Princess Flame-of-Wine might forget him. As he walked on he passed the little house where the Spae-Woman had her besoms and heather-stalks. She ran to him when she saw him.

"Have you heard that the King's Son has found what went before, and what comes after the Unique Tale?" said she.

"That I have. And I have to go to the Hags of the Long Teeth to find out who my father and mother were, for surely I am the child who was taken from Sheen."

"And do you remember that Sheen's seven brothers were changed into seven wild geese?" said she.

"I remember that, mother."

[215] "And seven wild geese they will be until a maiden who loves you will give seven drops of her heart's blood to bring them back to their human shapes."

"I remember that, mother."

"Whatever maid you love, her you must ask if she would give seven drops of her heart's blood. It may be that she would. It may be that she would not and that you would still love her without thought of her giving one drop of blood of her little finger."

"I cannot ask the maiden I love to give seven drops of her heart's blood."

"Who is the maiden you love?"

"The King's daughter, Flame-of-Wine."

He told the Spae-Woman about the presents he had given her—he told the Spae-Woman too that he had bound himself to seven years' service to Mogue on account of these presents. The Spae-Woman said, "What other treasures are in Mogue's pack?"

"One treasure more—the Girdle of Truth. Whoever puts it on can speak nothing but the truth."

Said the Spae-Woman, "You are to take the Girdle of Truth and give it to Flame-of-Wine. Tell Mogue that I said he is to give it to you without adding one day to your years' service. When Flame-of-Wine has put the girdle around her waist ask her for the seven drops of heart's blood that will bring your mother's seven brothers back to their human shapes. She may love you and yet refuse to give you the seven drops from [216] her heart. But tell her of this, and hear what she will say."

Flann left the Spae-Woman's and went back to Mogue's tent. The loss of his treasures had overcome Mogue and he was drinking steadily and went from one bad temper to another.

"Begin your service now by watching the tent while I sleep," said he.

"There is one thing more I want from you, Mogue," said Flann.

"By the Eye of Balor! you're a cuckoo in my nest. What do you want now?"

"The Girdle of Truth."

"Is it my last treasure you'd be taking on me?"

"The Spae-Woman bid me tell you that you're to give me the Girdle of Truth."

"It's a pity of me, it's a pity of me," said Mogue. But he took the box out of his pack, and let Flann take the girdle.

VIII

F LAME-OF-WINE saw him. She walked slowly down the orchard path so that all might notice the stateliness of her appearance.

"I am glad to see you again, Flann," said she. "Have your comrades yet come back to my father's town?"

[219] Flann told her that one of them had returned.

"Bid him come see me," said Flame-of-Wine. Then she saw the girdle in his hands.

"What is it you have?" said she.

"Something that went with the other treasures—a girdle."

"Will you not let me have it, Flann?" She took the girdle in her hands. "Tell me, youth," she said, "how you got all these treasures?"

"I will have to give seven years' service for them," Flann said.

"Seven years," said she, "but you will remember—will you not—that I loved you for bringing them to me?"

"Will you remember me until I come back from my seven years' service?"

"Oh, yes," said Flame-of-Wine, and she put the girdle around her waist as she spoke.

"Someone said to me," said Flann, "that I should ask the maiden who loved me for seven drops of her heart's blood."

The girdle was now round Flame-of-Wine's waist. She laughed with mockery. "Seven drops of heart's blood," said she. "I would not give this fellow seven eggs out of my robin's nest. I tell him I love him for bringing me the three treasures for a King's daughter. I tell him that, but I should be ashamed of myself if I thought I could have any love for such a fellow."


[Illustration]

Flame-of-Wine laughed with mockery.

"Do you tell me the truth now," said Flann.

[220] "The truth, the truth," said she, "of course I tell you the truth. Oh, and there are other truths. I shall be ashamed forever if I tell them. Oh, oh. They are rising to my tongue, and every time I press them back this girdle tightens and tightens until I think it will kill me."

"Farewell, then, Flame-of-Wine."

"Take off the girdle, take off the girdle! What truths are in my mind! I shall speak them and I shall be ashamed. But I shall die in pain if I hold them back. Loosen the girdle, loosen the girdle! Take the rose you gave me and loosen the girdle." She let the rose fall on the ground.

"I will loosen the girdle for you," said Flann.

"But loosen it now. How I have to strive to keep truths back, and oh, what pain I am in! Take the Comb of Magnificence, and loosen the girdle." She threw the comb down on the ground.

He took up the Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence and he took the girdle off her waist. "Oh, what a terrible thing I put round my waist," said Flame-of-Wine. "Take it away, Flann, take it away. But give me back the Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence,—give them back to me and I shall love you always."

"You cannot love me. And why should I give seven years in service for your sake? I will leave these treasures back in Mogue's pack."

[221] "Oh, you are a peddler, a peddler. Go from me," said Flame-of-Wine. "And do not be in the Town of the Red Castle to-morrow, or I shall have my father's hunting dogs set upon you." She turned away angrily and went into the Castle.

Flann went back to Mogue's tent and left the Rose of Sweet Smells, the Comb of Magnificence and the Girdle of Truth upon Mogue's pack. He sat in the corner and cried bitterly. Then the King of Ireland's Son came and told him that his sword was bright once more—that the stains that had blemished its blade had been cleared away by the Gobaun Saor who had also shown him the way to the Land of the Mist. He put his arm about Flann and told him that he was starting now to rescue his love Fedelma from the Castle of the King of the Land of Mist.


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