HOW CUCHULAIN WENT TO FAIRY-LAND
 WHEN Cuchulain left Emer, he went forward to the
fairy-rath where he had seen Liban, and he found her
waiting for him to take him to Labra's Isle.
It seemed to him that the way they took was long, for
they passed over the Plain of Speech, and beyond the
Tree of Triumphs, and over the festal plain of Emain,
and the festal plain of Fidga, until they came to the
place where the bronze skiff awaited them, to take them
to the Isle of all Delights. A noble and right
hospitable welcome was prepared for Cuchulain in that
Isle, but he would not rest for that, but bade Labra
conduct him without delay to the Plain of Combat. So
Labra bade him mount his chariot and together they
passed on to the Plain of Combat, where the armies of
the phantom hosts were assembled for the fight upon the
morrow. On one side were the hosts of Labra, very few,
but picked and chosen men in splendid garb, with arms
of the best in their hands; but on the side of Senach
the Spectral, as far as eye could reach on every side,
rose lines of black and gloomy tents, with black
pennons flying from their poles. Gaunt heroes clothed
in black moved about amongst the tents, and all the
horses that they rode were red as blood with fiery
manes. And over the whole there hung a mist, heavy and
lowering, so that Cuchulain
 could not see how far the host extended for the gloom
of that heavy mist.
And sounds rose on the air, like the muttering of a
demon host, quarrelling and wrangling, so that a man
might well shiver before such a sound. But when he saw
the demon host, the spirit of Cuchulain revived within
him, and he felt his old force and courage and his
strength returning to him, and all his weakness passed
And he said to Labra, "I would fain drive round the
host and number them." In ever-widening circles he
began to drive round the tents. But, as he drove, on
every side they sprang up before him innumerable as the
blades of grass on a meadow-field, or as the stars on a
brilliant summer's night, or like the grains of sand
upon the ocean's shore. Black and gloomy they stood on
every hand, and grim and gaunt the warriors who moved
about amongst them, and terrible their blood-red
steeds. It seemed to Cuchulain that the smell of blood
was already in the air, and all the plain was dark and
dim with mist, so that he could not count or number
them, or see the end of them at all.
But the spirit of Cuchulain faltered not, and he
returned to Labra, and said to him, "Leave me now alone
with this great army and take away wiht you the
champions you have brought. This battle I will fight
So Labra and his men departed and Cuchulain remained
alone facing the phantom host. Then two ravens, the
birds of knowledge and destiny, with whom are the
secrets of the druids, came between Cuchulain and the
host, and all that night they made a dismal croaking,
so that the demon men grew sore afraid.
"One would think," they said, "that the Madman of Emain
Macha were close at hand, from the croaking of those
ravens;" for it was thus they spoke among themselves of
Cuchulain, because he changed his aspect in time of
combat, and a wild and strange appearance came upon
him. And they chased away the ravens, and left no
place of rest for them in all that land.
All that night Cuchulain stood with his hand upon his
spear, watching the demon host. Very early in the
morning, he saw one of their chief leaders going forth
out of his tent, to bathe his hands at the spring; and
his tunic fell back and left his shoulder bare. At
once, with a cast of his spear, Cuchulain transfixed
him through his shoulder to the earth.
When the demon host saw their captain fall, they arose,
and in swarms and close battalions they came down upon
Cuchulain. Then his war-fury came upon him, and wildly
and terribly he attacked them, scattering them to right
and left; and so furious was he and so deadly were his
blows, that they feared to come nigh him. It filled
them with awe to see one single man fighting with a
host; but as the shining of the sun drives the mist
before it on a dewy morn of early spring, so did the
radiance of the face of Cuchulain disperse and drive
away the army of the demons, for they could not stand
before the splendour and the shining of his
countenance. Then Senach the Spectral attacked him,
and furious was the contest fought between them, but in
the end Cuchulain prevailed and slew him; and all the
host, when they saw that, turned and fled.
At length Cuchulain returned, his sword dripping with
blood; and the heat of his body after the fight was
such that water had to be thrown over him, before he
 be touched; and the men of Labra feared that his wrath
would turn against themselves. They brought him into
the house and bathed him and changed his raiment, and
slowly his own appearance came back upon him; and after
that, they led him to Fand, who awaited his return with
her fifty maidens round her. Very beautiful was the
house in which Fand and Labra awaited Cuchulain.
Couches of copper with pillars of fine gold were ranged
around the hall, and soft pillows and cushions of
coloured silk were piled on each of them; the flashing
of the jewels from the golden pillars giving light to
all who were in the house. Noble youths in glossy
garments of smooth silk offered drink in golden
goblets, and as they drank, the harpers and musicians
gave forth sweet music, and the story-tellers, recited
their tales. Laughter and merriment were heard
throughout the house, while from the eaves the
fairy-birds warbled in harmony with the music of the
harps. Fifty youths of stately mien, and fifty maidens
with twisted hair bedecked with golden coronals waited
on Fand, on Labra and his spouse. Near the house to
westward, where the sun went down, stood dappled
steeds, pawing the ground and ready for their riders.
On the east of the house stood three bright
apple-trees, dropping ruddy fruit, and in front of the
door a tree that gave forth sweetest harmony, such as
would sooth wounded men to sleep, or bring health to
women in their sickness. Above the well another tree,
with silver leaves that reddened in the sunlight,
dropped fragrant food, pleasant to all who tasted it.
Ever on the gentle breeze the tops of the tree swayed
together, and ever they swung wide; and as they met
food fell down sufficient for thrice three hundred men.
A vat stood in the hall, full to the top
 of mead and sparkling ale, and all the porch, above its
silver posts, was thatched with wings of birds, in
stripes of brown and red.
Now Fand sat on a daïs, waiting for Cuchulain. And
when he came before her, clothed as a king, his noble
manly form bathed and refreshed, his golden hair
gathered above his brow round an apple of bright gold,
and all his face aflame with the vigour of the fight,
she thought that she had never looked upon a man so
brilliant as he.
And he, when he looked on her, knew that never in his
life had he seen woman half so fair as Fand. "Art thou
he, Cuchulain of Murthemne, the Hound of Ulster?" she
asked, and even as she spoke the whole band of youths
and maidens rose to their feet, and sang a chant of
welcome to Cuchulain.
Then Fand placed Cuchulain at her right hand, and happy
and gladsome were they together, and for a while
Cuchulain forgot Ulster, and his place at Conor's hand,
and all the cares and troubles of the other life; nay,
he forgot Emer his own wife and the feast she was
preparing for him, and the days passed quickly and
joyously in the company of Liban and Labra and Fand.
And it seemed to him as though Erin were but a dark
unquiet land beside the clearness of Moy Mell, the
Fairy-land of all Delights.
At length one night he could not sleep; not all the
warbling of the fairy-birds from the branches of the
tree and from the caves, nor yet the sound of
minstrel's strains could soothe him into slumber. For
he remembered Ulster and his duty to his king, and Emer
and the feast she was to make for him, and all his
warrior deeds which were departing from him, and he
 must needs forsake the Land of all Delights and go back
to his work in Erin once again.
In the morning he called Fand, and told her he must go
that day, for he knew not what troubles might be
happening to Ulster while he was away, or what was
become of Emer, his wife. But Labra and Fand besought
him to stay yet awhile, and they called the musicians
and bid them chase away the sudden gloom of Cuchulain,
and they brought out the playing-games, hurley and
chess, and raced the horses to please him, and they
harnessed the steeds of the chariots for his delight.
But even for all this Cuchulain would not stay. For he
said, "My warrior-strength is passing from me as I rest
in idleness, my vigour is decaying. Let me then go,
for I am not as the little dogs that play about their
mistresses' feet; I am a Hound of war and conflicts to
stand before the foe, and do battle for my country and
And Cuchulain sang this lay:
"No pup am I to play about the feet of ladies fair,
But where the hounds of war are loosed you'll find me ever there;
No mongrel whelp to watch the fire or crouch beside the hearth,
I stand beside the fords, I scare the champion from his path.
"My bark is not the yelp of curs cowed to the heels by fear,
But the deep bay of winded hounds chasing the leaping deer;
No swathes of wool shall bind my wounds, no cushioned couch have I,
Amidst the carnage of the slain I and my kind shall lie.
"No silky coat of well-combed hair, smooth 'neath the children's hand,
But a fierce mastiff, gaunt and grim, when strife invades the land;
Where fords are weak, where forts blaze red, where trumpets sound for war,
The 'Hound of Ulster' stands at guard, or drives the foe afar."
 Then when Fand saw that nothing would content him, she
bade him a gentle kind farewell; and all the youths and
maidens came about him, sorrowing that he was so soon
weary of their land. But Labra thanked him kindly and
heartily for his help against the demon host and he
bade Liban take Cuchulain safely back across the lake
to Erin once again.
But, before he went, Fand lifted up her lovely witching
face, and said, "Tell me some place where, at the end
of a year from now, I may see your face once more.
Never till now have I ventured forth from fairy-land;
but, for your sake, for one brief hour I will come to
the land of troubled mortal men. Give me a tryst."
Cuchulain was fain to deny her this, for he thought on
Emer, and he dreaded her anger against Fand, if she
should be aware of it. But when he saw the
crystal-fair, witching face of Fand, and her ruby lips
and eyes bright as stars on a summer's night, he could
not say her nay; and he made a tryst with her on the
Strand of the Yew-tree's Head, for a year and a day
from then. And after that, they bade one another
So Cuchulain came home again, and Emer and Laeg and his
friends greeted him right lovingly, and he told them
that he had been in fairy-land, and of all its
splendours and beauty he told them freely, but to Emer
he said not anything of Fand.
Now when a year and a day were past, Cuchulain came to
the place of tryst at the Strand of the Yew-tree's
Head, and he and Laeg sat beneath the ancient yew-tree
playing chess, while waiting for the coming of Fand.
It chanced that, as Emer walked that way with her fifty
maidens to take the air beside the shore, she beheld
approaching a dignified lady, radiant as the clearness
 of a day in June, who came with a troop of maidens
towards Cuchulain. Very swiftly and softly they moved
across the plain, as though they hardly touched the
sod, and all the land was filled with their brightness.
It appeared to Emer that they had come across the lake,
yet no sign of skiff or boat was to be seen, and the
unknown queen came where Cuchulain sat, and he rose up
and made a glad gentle greeting before her, and she sat
down by him, and they talked pleasantly and lovingly
When Emer saw this, she was filled with jealousy and
anger against the fairy-woman, and to herself she said,
"This, then, O Cuchulain, was the cause that kept thee
so long in fairy-land, when I made that feast to which
thou camest not."
EMER IS FILLED WITH JEALOUSY.
And anger and dark revernge filled Emer's heart, and
she turned to her maidens and said, "Bring me here
sharp-bladed knives, for I myself will go softly behind
them and I will kill the woman who talks with
Then they went and fetched thin gleaming knives, and
they hid them beneath their mantles, and went
stealthily behind the place where Cuchulain sat. Now
Cuchulain saw not what was going forward, but Fand
knew, for she sat over against Cuchulain, facing the
way that Emer came. She said to Cuchulain, "Emer thy
wife comes here, with fifty maidens, and there are
sharp knives hidden beneath their cloaks."
But he said, "Fear nothing, lady, I myself will speak
to Emer, my own wife, and do thou wait here till my
But Emer came close to Cuchulain and cried, "Why does
thou do me this dishonour, O Cuchulain, to leave me for
a fairy maid? The women of Ulster will contemn me if
they think that Cuchulain loves another
 woman better than his wife; and what have I done to
displease thee, that thou shouldst need to talk with
her? Never have I left thee for any other, and well
and truly have I loved thee from the day thou camest in
thy chariot to the fort of Forgall the Wily, my father,
till today; and for ever shall I love thee, and none
other but thee alone."
Then Cuchulain said, "You wrong me, Emer, and you wrong
this fairy-maid. No thought at all of harm have we,
nor can any other be to me what thou hast been. Fair
and pure is this maiden, and a worthy mate for any
monarch in the world. Her race is noble, her mind is
firm and gentle and full of lofty thoughts, no harm or
evil will be found in her or me. Moreover, she is
betrothed to a noble spouse, Manannan of the Ocean
"In very truth," said Emer, bitterly, for her heart was
sore within her on account of the greatness of the love
she bore Cuchulain, "it is ever so with men! All that
is new is fair, and all that is old is of little worth;
white is the last they see, and the others are but grey
or black. Sweet is the thing they have not, but sour
the fruit they hold within their hands! Once in peace
and love we dwelled together and no one came between
us, and in peace and honour we might dwell together
again, O Youth, if but I were as dear to thee as once I
was!" And great tears rolled down Emer's cheeks, and
her grief weighed heavily upon her.
"By my word and truly," cried Cuchulain, "never wast
thou more dear to me than thou art to-day, and dear
shalt thou be to me for all my life."
"I think," said Fand, "that I had better go away, and
return to my own country, for I am troubling you all
 here." "Nay, nay," cried Emer, smitten with reproach
when she saw the nobleness that was in the fairy woman,
"go not away, 'twere better I should go."
But Fand said, "Not so, indeed, from my own land they
call me to return. Take to thee thy man, O noble Emer,
no harm or hurt hath happened him with me. Though in
the Land of all Delights warriors and great men sought
my friendship, better to me than the affection of them
all was the friendship of thy glorious spouse. Need is
there, now, that I should go my way, and leave my
friend to thee; but though bright and dazzling is the
country of Moy Mell, some shadow hath fallen on it
since Cuchulain went away."
Then she lifted up her lovely face, and Emer saw that
tears like drops of crystal stood within her eyes.
Long years ago had Fand been betrothed to Manannan,
Lord of the Ocean and the Waves, a great and hoary god.
Ancient wa she, for no man knew his age, and wild and
grey his hair, and all his brow rugged and lined with
storms. Very kingly and majestic was his tread, but
men feared him, because of his strange, tempestuous
moods, and his shape-shifting, and his little care for
human life. For Manannan was ever restless, wandering
in distant lands, moving now this way, now that, and
visiting in turn all countries; and years ago, as
mortal men count time, he had gone away and returned
not, nor did Fand even know where he was to be found.
So she thought he had forsaken her, and, when Cuchulain
came to fairy-land and she saw his youth and beauty,
her mind went out to him, for never had she seen before
a noble human man.
But Manannan knew within himself that Fand was in sore
grief, and he arose in haste to go and help her.
 For, although he had tarried long in distant lands,
daily he had news of Fand, and he learned all she was
doing and when she needed him. So now he saw her
trouble, for he it was who sent Cuchulain to fairy-land
that he might test her love for himself; and swiftly
over the waves he sped to go and save her. Invisible
was he to mortal men, and he rode the white sea-foam as
though it were a horse, for no need had he of any
vessel, or of said or oar; and as he passed by Fand,
she felt his presence and looked up at him as he passed
by. But for a moment she knew not that this was
Manannan of the Waves, for his look of hoary age had
gone from him, and the man she saw was young and
strong, with a noble gentleness upon his face, like the
sea on a calm summer's day.
For Manannan was a shape-shifter, and at one time he
was terrible and cruel to behold, but at another he
showed a kindly face, for he looked in to the minds of
men, and as he saw them, even so his own face reflected
the thing he saw. Then Manannan said to Fand, "O Lady,
what wilt thou now do? Wilt thou depart with me or
abide here with Cuchulain, if he comes for thee?"
"By my troth," said Fand, "either of you two were a
fitting spouse for me, and a worthy friend to stay
with; and in neither of you do I see any one thing
greater or better than is in the other; yet, O thou
princely One, it is with thee that I will go, for I
have been promised to thee for a wife; thou hast no
consort of worth equal to thine own, while Cuchulain
has a noble spouse; therefore take me with thee, for
Cuchulain needs me not."
Then Manannan stretched his arms to Fand, and drew her
with him, and she followed him. And Cuchulain
 perceived her drawing away from him, but he knew not
whither she went, nor could he see who was talking to
her. And he cried out to Laeg, his charioteer, who had
knowledge of fairy-land, "What meaneth this, Laeg, that
I see? Whither goeth Fand?"
"She goeth with Manannan of the Sea," replied Laeg.
"He is drawing her back to the Land of all Delights,
but she is weeping as she goes."
The Cuchulain uttered three sharp cries of sorrow and
of grief, and he fled away from men into desert places,
and would take no meat or drink, and he slept in the
open rush-land beside the high-road to Tara.
Emer went then to Emain, and sought King Conor, and
told him all that had happened, and that Cuchulain was
out of his senses because Fand had gone away; and she
prayed him of his love for Cuchulain, and because of
her love for him, to send to him men of skill and
Druids who might bring him back to health. The king
did so willingly, but when they came, Cuchulain fled
from them, or sought to slay them, until at length he
felt within himself a terrible thirst, and he craved of
them a drink. In the drink they mingled herbs of
forgetfulness, so that the memory of Fand slowly faded
from him, and the rememberance of the time he had spent
in fairy-land, and he came to his own mind again.
They gave soothing drinks to Emer also, for she was
troubled, too, and stricken, and her natural joyousness
had gone from her. But when Manannan heard in
fairy-land of the trouble of Emer and Cuchulain, he
came unseen of any man, and shook his cloak of
forgetfulness between Fand and Cuchulain, so that from
both of them the memory passed away, as though it had
been a dream, and they thought of it no more.
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