THEN the King of the World came to the
strand, and all his armies with him; and all that were left of the Fianna
went out against them, and they were like thick woods meeting one another, and
they made great strokes, and there were swords crashing against bones, and
bodies that were hacked, and eyes that were blinded, and many a mother was
left without her son, and many a comely wife without her comrade.
Then the creatures
of the high air answered to the battle, foretelling the destruction that would
be done that day; and the sea chattered of the losses, and the waves gave
heavy shouts keening them, and the water-beasts
roared to one another, and the rough hills creaked with the danger of the
battle, and the woods trembled mourning the heroes, and the grey
stones cried out at their deeds, and the wind sobbed telling them, and the
earth shook, foretelling the slaughter; and the cries of the grey armies put a
cloak over the sun, and the clouds were dark; and the hounds and the whelps
and the crows, and the witches
of the valley, and the powers of the air, and the wolves of the forests,
howled from every quarter and on every side of the armies, urging them against
It was then Conan,
son of Morna, brought to mind that himself and his kindred had done great harm
to the sons of Baiscne, and he had a wish to do some good thing for them on
account of that, and he raised up his sword and did great deeds.
was over the battle, encouraging the Fianna; and the King of the World was on
the other side encouraging the foreigners. "Rise up now, Fergus,"
said Finn, "and praise Conan for me that his courage may be the greater,
for it is good work he is doing on my enemies." So Fergus went where
Conan was, and at that time he was heated with the dust of the fight, and he
was gone outside to let the wind go about him.
"It is well you remember the old
quarrel between the sons of Morna and the sons of Baiscne, Conan," said
Fergus; "and you would be ready to go to your own death if it would bring
harm on the sons of Baiscne," he said. "For the love of your good
name, Man of Poetry," said Conan, "do not be speaking against me
without cause, and I will do good work on the foreigners when I get to the
battle again." "By my word," said Fergus, "that would be a
good thing for you to do." He sang a verse of praise for him then, and
Conan went back into battle, and his deeds were not worse this time than they
were before. And Fergus went back to where Finn was.
"Who is best in the battle now?"
said Finn. "Duban, son of Cas, a champion of your own people," said
Fergus, "for he never gives but the one stroke to any man, and no man
escapes with his life from that stroke, and three times nine and eighty men
have fallen by him up to this time." And Duban Donn, great-grandson of
the King of Tuathmumhain, was there listening to him, and it is what he said:
"By my oath, Fergus," he said, "all you are saying is true, for
there is not a son of a king or of a lord is better in the battle than Duban,
son of Cas; and I will go to my own death if I do not go beyond him."
With that he went rushing through the battle like flames over a high hill that
is thick with furze.
Nine times he made a round of the battle,
and he killed nine times nine in every round. "Who is best in the battle
now?" said Finn, after a while. "It is Duban Donn that is after
going from us," said Fergus. "For there has been no one ahead of him
since he was in his seventh year, and there is no one ahead of him now."
"Rise up and praise him that his courage may be the greater," said
Finn. "It is right to praise him," said Fergus, "and the
foreigners running before him on every side as they would run from a heavy
drenching of the sea." So Fergus praised him for a while, and he went
back then to Finn.
"Who is best in the battle now?"
said Finn. "It is Osgar
is best in it now," said Fergus, "and he is fighting alone against
two hundred Franks and two hundred of the men of Gairian, and the King of the
Men of Gairian himself. And all these are beating at his shield," he
said, "and not one of them has given him a wound but he gave him a wound
back for it." "What way is Caoilte,
son of Ronan?" said Finn. "He is in no great strait after the red
slaughter he has made," said Fergus. "Go to him then," said
Finn, "and bid him to keep off a share of the foreigners from
Osgar." So Fergus went to him. "Caoilte," he said, ‘it is
great danger your friend Osgar is in under the blows of the foreigners, and
let you rise up and give him some help," he said.
Caoilte went then to the place where Osgar
was, and he gave a straight blow of his sword at the man who was nearest him,
that made two halves of him. Osgar raised his head then and looked at him.
"It is likely, Caoilte," he said, "you did not dare redden your
sword on any one till you struck down a man that was before my sword. And it
is a shame for you," he said, "all the men of the great world and
the Fianna of Ireland to be in the one battle, and you not able to make out a
fight for yourself without coming to take a share of my share of the battle.
And I give my oath," he said, "I would be glad to see you put down
in your bed of blood on account of that thing." Caoilte’s mind changed
when he heard that, and he turned again to the army of the foreigners with the
redness of anger on his white face; and eighty fighting men fell in that rout.
"What way is the battle now?"
said Finn. "It is a pity," said Fergus, "there never came and
there never will come any one that can tell the way it is now. For by my
word," he said, "the tree-tops of the thickest forest in the whole
of the western world are not closer together than the armies are now. For the
bosses of their shields are one another’s hands. And there is fire coming
from the edges of their swords," he said, "and blood is raining down
like a shower on a day of harvest; and there were never so many leaves torn by
the wind from a great forest as there are locks of long golden hair, and of
black curled hair, cut off by sharp weapons, blowing into the clouds at this
time. And there is no person could tell one man from another, now," he
said, "unless it might be by their voices." With that he went into
the very middle of the fight to praise and to hearten the men of the Fianna.
"Who is first in the battle now,
Fergus?" said Finn, when he came back to him. "By my oath, it is no
friend of your own is first in it," said Fergus, "for it is Daire
Donn, the King of the World; and it is for you he is searching through the
battle," he said, "and three times fifty of his own people were with
him. But two of the men of your Fianna fell on them," he said,
"Cairell the Battle Striker, and Aelchinn of Cruachan, and made an end of
them. But they were not able to wound the King of the World," he said,
"but the two of them fell together by him."
Then the King of the World came towards
Finn, and there was no one near him but Arcallach of the Black Axe, the first
that ever brought a wide axe into Ireland. "I give my word," said
Arcallach, "I would never let Finn go before me into any battle." He
rose up then and made a terrible great blow of his axe at the king, that went
through his royal crown to the hair of his head, but that did not take a drop
of blood out of him, for the edge of the axe turned and there went balls of
fire over the plain from that blow. And the King of the World struck back at
Arcallach, and made two halves of him.
Then Finn and the King of the World turned
on one another. And when the king saw the sword and the shield in Finn’s
hand, he knew those were the weapons that were to bring him to his death, and
great dread came on him, and his comeliness left him, and his fingers were
shaking, and his feet were unsteady, and the sight of his eyes was weakened.
And then the two fought a great fight,
striking at one another like two days of judgment for the possession of the
But the king, that had never met with a
wound before, began to be greatly weakened in the fight. And Finn gave great
strokes that broke his shield and his sword, and that cut off his left foot,
and at the last he struck off his head. But if he did, he himself fell into a
faint of weakness with the dint of the wounds he had got.
Then Finnachta of the Teeth, the first man
of the household of the King of the World, took hold of the royal crown of the
king, and brought it where Conmail his son was, and put it on his head.
"That this may bring you success in
many battles, my son," he said. And he gave him his father’s weapons
along with it; and the young man went through the battle looking for Finn, and
three fifties of the men of the Fianna fell by him. Then Goll Garbh the Rough,
son of the King of Alban, saw him and attacked him, and they fought a hard
fight. But the King of Alban’s son gave him a blow under the shelter of the
shield, in his left side, that made an end of him.
Finnachta of the Teeth saw that, and he
made another rush at the royal crown, and brought it to where Ogarmach was,
the daughter of the King of Greece. "Put on that crown, Ogarmach,"
he said, "as it is in the prophecy the world will be owned by a woman;
and it will never be owned by any woman higher than yourself," he said.
She went then to look for Finn in the
battle, and Fergus of the True Lips saw her, and he went where Finn was.
"O King of the Fianna," he said then, "bring to mind the good
fight you made against the King of the World and all your victories before
that; for it is a great danger is coming to you now," he said, "and
that is Ogarmach, daughter of the King of Greece."
With that the woman-fighter came towards
him. "O Finn," she said, "it is little satisfaction you are to
me for all the kings and lords that have fallen by you and by your people; but
for all that," she said, "there is nothing better for me to get than
your own self and whatever is left of your people." "You will not
get that," said Finn, "for I will lay your head in its bed of blood
the same as I did to every other one." Then those two attacked one
another like as if there had risen to smother one another the flooded
wave of Cliodna,
and the seeking wave of Tuaigh, and the big brave wave of Rudraighe. And
though the woman-warrior fought for a long time, a blow from Finn reached to
her at last and cut through the royal crown, and with a second blow he struck
her head off. And then he fell himself in his bed of blood, and was the same
as dead, but that he rose again.
And the armies of the World and the Fianna
of Ireland were fallen side by side there, and there were none left fit to
stand but Cael, son of Crimthan of the Harbours, and the chief man of the
household of the King of the World, Finnachta of the Teeth. And Finnachta went
among the dead bodies and lifted up the body of the King of the World and
brought it with him to his ship, and he said: "Fianna of Ireland,"
he said, "although it is bad this battle was for the armies of the World,
it was worse for yourselves; and I am going back to tell that in the
East of the World," he said.
Finn heard him saying that, and he lying
on the ground in his blood, and the best men of the Sons of Baiscne about him,
and he said: "It is a pity I not to have found death before I heard the
foreigner saying those words. And nothing I myself have done, or the Fianna of
Ireland, is worth anything since there is left a man of the foreigners alive
to go back into the great world again to tell that story. And is there any one
left living near me?" he said. "I am," said Fergus of the True
Lips. "What way is the battle now?" said Finn. "It is a pity
the way it is," said Fergus, "for, by my word," he said,
"since the armies met together to-day, no man of the foreigners or of the
men of Ireland took a step backward from one another till they all fell foot
to foot, and sole to sole.
And there is not so much as a blade of
grass or a grain of sand to be seen," he said, "with the bodies of
fighting men that are stretched on them; and there is no man of the two armies
that is not stretched in that bed of blood, but only the chief man of the
household of the King of the World, and your own foster-son, Cael, son of
Crimthan of the Harbours." ‘Rise up and go to him," said Finn. So
Fergus went where Cael was, and asked what way was he. "It is a pity the
way I am," said Cael, "for I swear by my word that if my helmet and
my armour were taken from me, there is no part of my body but would fall from
the other; and by my oath," he said, "it is worse to me to see that
man beyond going away alive than I myself to be the way I am. And I leave my
blessing to you, Fergus," he said; "and take me on your back to the
sea till I swim after the foreigner, and it is glad I would be the foreigner
to fall by me before the life goes out from my body."
Fergus lifted him up then and brought him
to the sea, and put him swimming after the foreigner. And Finnachta waited for
him to reach the ship, for he thought he was one of his own people. And Cael
raised himself up when he came beside the ship, and Finnachta stretched out
his hand to him. And Cael took hold of it at the wrist, and clasped his
fingers round it, and gave a very strong pull at him, that brought him over
the side. Then their hands shut across one another’s bodies, and they went
down to the sand and the gravel of the clear sea.