Up 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."
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--
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.
"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--
Before 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."
"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."
When 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. 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.
He 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.