was one time at Cruachan of Connacht, and Cascorach was with him, and there he
saw sitting on a heap of stones a man with very rough grey hair, having a dark
brown cloak fastened with a pin of bronze, and a long stick of white hazel in
his hand; and there was a herd of cattle before him in a fenced field.
Caoilte asked news of him. "I am
steward to the King of Ireland," said the old man, "and it is from
him I hold this land. And we have great troubles on us in this district,"
he said. "What troubles are those?" said Caoilte. "I have many
herds of cattle," he said, "and every year at Samhain time, a woman
comes out of the hill of the Sidhe
of Cruachan and brings away nine of the best out of every herd. And as to my
name, I am Bairnech, son of Carbh of Collamair of Bregia."
"Who was the best man that ever came
out of Collamair?" said Caoilte. "I know, and the men of Ireland and
of Alban know," said he, "it was Caoilte, son of Ronan. And do you
know where is that man now?" he said. "I myself am that man and your
own kinsman," said Caoilte.
When Bairnech heard that, he gave him a
great welcome, and Caoilte gave him three kisses. "It seems to me that
to-night is Samhain night," said Caoilte. "If that is so, it is
to-night the woman will come to rob us," said Bernech. "Let me go
to-night to the door of the hill of the Sidhe," said Cascorach. "You
may do that, and bring your arms with you," said Caoilte.
So Cascorach went then, and it was not
long till he saw the girl going past him out of the hill of Cruachan, having a
beautiful cloak of one colour about her; a gown of yellow silk tied up with a
knot between her thighs, two spears in her hands, and she not in dread of
anything before her or after her.
Then Cascorach blew a blast against her,
and put his finger into the thong of his spear, and made a cast at the girl
that went through her, and that is the way she was made an end of by Cascorach
of the Music.
And then Bernech said to Caoilte:
"Caoilte," he said, "do you know the other oppression that is
on me in this place?" "What oppression is that?" said Caoilte.
"Three she-wolves that come out of the Cave
of Cruachan every year and destroy our sheep and our wethers, and we can
do nothing against them, and they go back into the cave again. And it will be
a good friend that will rid us of them," he said. "Well,
Cascorach," said Caoilte, "do you know what are the three wolves
that are robbing this man?"
"I know well," said Cascorach,
"they are the three daughters of Airetach, of the last of the people of
oppression of the Cave of Cruachan, and it is easier for them to do their
robbery as wolves than as women." "And will they come near to any
one?" said Caoilte. "They will only come near to one sort,"
said Cascorach; "if they see the world’s men having harps for music,
they will come near to them. And how would it be for me," he said,
"to go to-morrow to the cairn beyond, and to bring my harp to me?"
So in the morning he rose up and went to
the cairn and stopped on it, playing his harp till the coming of the mists of
the evening. And while he was there he saw the three wolves coming towards
him, and they lay down before him, listening to the music. But Cascorach found
no way to make an attack on them, and they went back into the cave at the end
of the day.
Cascorach went back then to Caoilte and
told him what had happened. "Go up to-morrow to the same place,"
said Caoilte, "and say to them it would be better for them to be in the
shape of women for listening to music than in the shape of wolves."
So on the morrow Cascorach went out to the
same cairn, and set his people about it, and the wolves came there and
stretched themselves to listen to the music. And Cascorach was saying to them:
"If you were ever women," he said, "it would be better for you
to be listening to the music as women than as wolves." And they heard
that, and they threw off the dark trailing coverings that were about them, for
they liked well the sweet music of the Sidhe.
And when Caoilte saw them there side by
side, and elbow by elbow, he made a cast of his spear, and it went through the
three women, that they were like a skein of thread drawn together on the
spear. And that is the way he made an end of the strange, unknown three. And
that place got the name of the Valley of the Shapes of the Wolves.