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Until the white moon went out in the sky; until the Secret People began to whisper in the woods--so long did the King of Ireland's Son remain in the dry water-tank that night.

And then, when it was neither dark nor light, he saw a crane flying towards him. It lighted on the edge of the tank. "Have you a message for me?" said the King of Ireland's Son. The crane tapped three times with its beak. Then the King's Son got out of the tank and prepared to follow the bird-messenger.

This was the way the crane went. It would fly a little way and then light on the ground until the Prince came up to it. Then it would fly again. Over marshes and across little streams the crane led him. And all the time the King of Ireland's Son thought he was being brought to the place where Fedelma was--to the place where he would get food and where he could rest until just before the sun rose.

They went on and on till they came to an old tower. The crane lighted upon it. The King's Son saw there was an iron door in the tower and he pulled a chain until it opened. Then he saw a little room lighted with candles, and he saw a young woman looking at herself in the glass. Her back was towards him and her hair was the same as Fedelma's.

But when the young woman turned round he saw she was not Fedelma. She was little, and she had a face that was brown and tight like a nut. She made herself very friendly to the King of Ireland's Son and went to him and took his hands and smiled into his face.

"You are welcome here," said she.

"Who are you?" he asked. "I am Gilveen," said she, "the second and the most loving of the three daughters of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands." She stroked his face and his hands when she spoke to him.

"And why did you send for me?"

"Because I know what great trouble you are in. My father is preparing a task for you, and it will he a terrible one. You will never be able to carry it out."

"And what should you advise me to do, King's daughter?"

"Let me help you. In this tower," said she, "there are the wisest books in the world. We'll surely find in one of them a way for you to get from this country. And then I'll go back with you to your own land."

"Why would you do that?" asked the King of Ire-land's Son.

"Because I wish to be your wife," Gilveen said.

"But," said he, "if I live at all Fedelma is the one I'll marry."

When he said that Gilveen drew her lips together and her chin became like a horn. Then she whistled through her teeth, and instantly everything in the room began to attack the King's Son. The looking glass on the wall flung itself at him and hit him on the back of the head. The leg of the table gave him a terrible blow at the back of the knees. He saw the two candles hopping across the floor to burn his legs. He ran out of the room, and when he got to the door it swung around and gave him a blow that flung him away from the tower. The crane that was waiting on the tower flew down, its neck and beak outstretched, and gave him a blow on the back.

So the King of Ireland's Son went back over the marshes and across the little streams, and he was glad when he saw the gable-end of the house again. He went into the tank. He knew that he had not long to wait before the sun would rise and the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands would come to him and give him the third and the most difficult of the three tasks. And he thought that Fedelma was surely shut away from him and that she would not be able to help him that day.

Next: Part VII