The Queen's Foster-Son
THERE was a great man of the Eoganacht of the Arans, Ailill of the Edge of Battle his name was. And one time he went with the king making war he fell in with a woman of Kildare, and he forced her; and she bade him to tell her his race and his name. And it was not long after that, he was killed by robbers in his own place, and they burned his church over him. And at the end of nine months the woman gave birth to a son, and she gave him the name of Maeldune. And after a while she brought him in secret to the Queen, that was her friend, and it was by the Queen Maeldune was reared, and she gave out that she was his mother; and the one foster mother reared him and the King's three sons in the one cradle and on the one breast and the one knee. It is beautiful indeed Maeldune was, and it is likely there was never anyone so beautiful as himself, and he grew up to be a young man, fit to use weapons, and it is quiet he was and pleasant in his ways. And in his play he went beyond all his comrades, in throwing of balls and in running and leaping, and in racing of horses, for it is he took the sway in all these things. One day now a proud fighting man got to be jealous of him and he said in the dint of his anger "You" he said "whose race and kindred no one knows, and whose father and mother no one knows, to be getting the better of us in every game, whether by land or by water or on the draught board." Maeldune was silent when he heard that, for till that time he thought himself to be a son of the king and of the queen his foster mother. And he went to her and said to her "I will not eat and I will not drink" he said "till you tell me of my mother and my father." "Why are you asking after that?" said she. "Do not give heed to the words of the young men. It is I am your mother" she said "and the love of no person on earth for a son is greater than my love for you." "That may be so" he said "but for all that, it is right for you to make known my own parents to me."
So his foster mother went with him, and gave him into the hand of his mother, and on that he asked his mother to tell him who was his father. "It is foolishness to ask that" she said "for if you should know your father itself it would not serve you, and you would be no better off for it is long ago he died." "It is better for me to know it" said he "however it may be." His mother told him the truth then. 'Ailill of the Edge of Battle was your father" she said "of the Eoganacht of Aran." Then Maeldune went to his father's place and to his own inheritance, and his three foster brothers with him, and it is kind champions they were. And his kindred welcomed them, and they bade him keep good courage. It was some time after that, the graveyard of the Church of Duncluain was full of fighting men that were casting stones; and Maeldune's foot was on the burned wall of the church, and he casting the stone over it. And a bitter-tongued man of the people of the church said to Maeldune, "It would be better" he said "you to avenge the man that was burned there than to be casting stones over his bare burned bones." "What man was that?" said Maeldune. "It was Ailill" he said "your own father." "Who was it killed him?" said Maeldune. "It was outlaws of Laighis" he said "and it was here on this spot he was destroyed." Then Maeldune threw the stone from him, and took his cloak around him and his fighting-dress, and he was sorrowful doing it. And he asked what way could he go to Laighis, and those that knew it said he could not go there but by sea only. So he went into the country of Corcomruadh to ask a charm and good luck of a druid that was there, till he would begin building a boat. The druid told Maeldune what day he should begin his boat, and the number that should go in it, seventeen men, no more and no less; and he told him the day he should set out to sea. Then Maeldune made a boat having three skins on it, and those that were to go with him made ready; German was of them, and Diuran the half-poet. He set out on the sea the same day the druid had bade him, and when they were gone a little from the land after hoisting the sail, there came to the harbour his three fosterbrothers, and they called to him to let them go with him. "Go back home" said Maeldune "for if I was to go back itself I would not bring with me but the number that is here." "We will go into the sea after you and be drowned if you will not come back to us" they said. Then the three of them threw themselves into the sea and swam out from the land; and when Maeldune saw that, he turned back to them that they might not be drowned, and brought them into the currach to him.
The Little Bald Islands
They were rowing that day till vespers, and the night after till midnight, till they found two little bald islands have two duns in them; and they heard coming out from the dims the cries and the outcry of drunkenness and of the soldiers with their spoils. And it is what they heard one man saying to another "Keep off from me" he said "for I am a better champion than yourself, for it is I killed Ailill of the Edge of Battle, and burned Duncluain on him, and his kindred have done nothing against me; and you never did the like of that" he said. "We have the victory in our hands" said German and Diuran the half-poet. "It is God brought us here and that directed our boat. And let us go and make an attack on those dims" he said "since God has showed us our enemies." While they were saying those words a great wind came upon them, the way they were driven all that night until morning. And even after daybreak they did not see land or earth, and they did not know where they were going. Then Maeldune said "Leave the boat quiet without rowing, and wherever God has a mind to bring it, let it go." Then they came into the great ocean that has no ending, and it is what Maeldune said to his foster brothers. "It is you have done that on us, throwing yourselves upon us in the boat against the word of the druid that told us not to let come in the boat but the number we were before you came." And they had no answer to give, only to stay in their silence for a while.
The Island of Ants
Three days and three nights they were, and they did not find land nor ground. And on the morning of the third day they heard a sound from the north-east. "That is the sound of a wave against the shore" said German. And when the day was light, they went towards land, and as they were casting lots to know who should go on shore, there came a great swarm of ants, every one of them the size of a foal, down to the strand towards them and into the sea, as if to devour them and their boat. So Maeldune and his men made away and were going over the sea for three days and three nights, and they saw neither land nor ground.
The Island of Birds
The morning of the third day they heard the sound of waves against the strand, and they saw with the light of day an island, big and high, and ridges about it, every one of them lower than the other, and trees around it, and great birds on the trees. And they were consulting together who would go and search the island, and see what kind were the birds. "I will go," said Maeldune. So he went and he searched the island, and he found no harmful thing in it, and they ate their fill of the birds and brought more of them into the boat.
The Beast that was like a Horse
Three days and three nights they were on the sea after that, but on the morning of the fourth day they saw another great island having sandy soil. And when they came to the shore they saw a beast on it that was like a horse. Legs of a hound he had with rough sharp nails, and it is a great welcome he gave them, and he was moving about before them; for he was covetous to devour themselves and their boat. "It is not sorry he is to meet with us" said Maeldune; "and let us go out from the island." They did that, and when the beast saw them going from him, he went down to the strand, and be was digging it up with his sharp nails and pelting them, that they did not think to escape from him.
The Demon Riders
They rowed a long way after that, till they saw a great level island before them. And it was on German there fell a bad lot to go and to search that island. "The both of us will go" said Diuran the half-poet; "and you will come with me another time when I am to search out an island." So the two of them went into the island, and it is great its size was, and its length, and they saw in it a long green lawn, having hoof marks of horses on it, and every hoof mark was the size of the sail of a ship. And along with that they saw the shells of very large nuts and they saw what was like the leavings of food of many people, and they were in dread of what they saw, and they called to the rest of their people to come and see what they saw. There was fear on them all after that, and they made no delay and went back into their boat. And when they had gone out a little from the land they saw rushing over the sea to the island a great troop, that when they reached to the green on the island began racing their horses. And it is quicker than the wind every horse was, and it is great was the noise and the shouting. And Maeldune could hear the strokes of the rods on the horses, and he could hear what everyone of them was saying: "Bring the grey horse" "Drive the brown horse there beyond" "Bring the white one" "My horse is the quickest" "Mine is the best at the leaps!" And when they heard those words they made away with all their might, for they were sure it was a gathering of demons they were looking at.
A House of Plenty
Then they were going on through the length of a week in hunger and in thirst till they found an island very big and high, and a large house at the edge of the sea, and a door in the house towards the level plain of the island, and another door towards the sea, and against that door there was a weir of stone, and an opening in it, and the waves of the sea were throwing salmon through the opening into the middle of the house. The wanderers went into the house then, and they found no one in it, but what they saw was a very large bed for the head man of the house only, and a bed for every three of his people, and food for three before every bed, and a glass vessel with good drink in it before every bed, and a cup for every vessel. So they made a meal off that food and that drink, and they gave thanks to Almighty God that had given them relief from their hunger.
The Apple Rod
When they went from that island they were going for a long time hungry and without food, till they found another island, and a high cliff around it on every side, and a long narrow wood in it, very long and very narrow. When Maeldune reached to that wood he took a rod in his hand, and he passing by. Three days and three nights the rod was in his hand, and the currach under sail going along by the cliff. And on the third day he found a cluster of three apples at the end of the rod. And through forty nights they were satisfied with those apples.
The Whirling Beast
They came then to another island, and a wall of stone around it. And when they came near, a great beast leaped up and went racing about the island, and it seemed to Maeldune to be going quicker than the wind. And it went then to the high part of the island, and it did the straightening-of-the-body feat, that is, its head below and its feet above; and it is the way it used to be, it turned in its skin, the flesh and the bones going around but the skin outside without moving. And at another time the skin outside would turn like a mill, and the flesh and the bones not stirring. That now is the way it was, and it going around the island. Maeldune and his people made away then with all their might, and the beast saw them running, and it made for the strand to get hold of them and it began to strike at them, and it was casting stones at them, and one of the stones came into the currach and it broke through Maeldune's shield, and lodged in the keel of the currach.
The Wicked Horses
It was not long after that they found another high island, and it is delightful it was, and there were great beasts in it like horses. Everyone of them would take a piece out of the side of another and bring it away with its skin and its flesh, the way there were streams of red blood breaking out of their sides till the ground was full of it. So they left that island in haste and as if out of their wits, and they did not know where in the world were they going, or in what place they would find help or land or country.
The Fiery Pigs
Then they came to another island, and they worn out with hunger and thirst, sad and tired without hope of relief. And in that island there were a great many fruit trees, having large golden apples upon them. And there were beasts like pigs, short and fiery, under those trees, and they used to go to the trees and to strike them with their bind legs till the apples would fall from them, and then they would feed on them. And from morning to the setting of the sun those beasts did not show themselves at all, but they used to be stopping in caves of the ground. And round about that island there were a great many birds out on the waves; from matins to nones they used to be swimming away from the island, but from nones to vespers they used to come back towards the island and they would reach to it at the going down of the sun; and then they used to be stripping off the apples and to be eating them. "Let us go into the island where those birds are" said Maeldune, "for it is not harder for us to go there than for the birds." One of his men went to search the island then, and he called his comrade to him. It is hot the ground was under their feet, and they could not stop there because of the heat, for it was a fiery country, and the beasts used to throw out heat into the ground that was over them. They brought away a few of the apples with them that first day to be eating in the currach. And with the brightness of the morning the birds went from the island, swimming out to sea; and with that the fiery beasts began putting up their heads out of the caves, and they were eating the apples until the setting of the sun. And when they would go back into the caves, the birds used to come and to be eating the apples. And Maeldune went and his people and they gathered up all the apples that were in it that night. And those apples drove away both hunger and thirst from them, and they filled their boat with them, and put out again to sea.
The Little Cat
And when those apples failed them, and their hunger was great and their thirst, and when their mouths and their nostrils were full of the salt of the sea, they got sight of an island that was no great size, having a dun in it, and a high wall around the dun, as white as if it was built of burned lime, or as if it was all one rock of chalk, and it is great its height was from the sea and it all to reached to the clouds. The dun was wide open, and there were many new white houses around it. And then Maeldune and his men went into the best of the houses they saw no one in it but a little cat that was in the middle of the house, and it playing about on the four stone pillars that were there, and leaping from one to another. It booked~ at the men for a short space, but it did not stop from its play. After that they saw three rows on the wall of the house round about, from one doorpost to another; the first was a row of brooches of gold and silver, and their pins in the wall, and the second was a row of collars of gold and of silver, every one of them like the hoops of a vat; and the third row was of great swords having hilts of gold and of silver. And the rooms were full of white coverings and of shining clothes, and there was a roasted ox and a fire in the middle of the house, and large vessels with good fermented drink. "Is it for us this is left here?" said Maeldune to the cat. It looked at him for a minute and took to its playing again, and Maeldune knew then it was for them the feast had been left. So they eat and they drank and they slept, and they stored up what was left of the food and of the drink. And when they thought of going, Maeldune's third foster brother said to him "Might! bring away with me a necklace of these necklaces?" "Do not" said Maeldune, "for it is not without a guard this house is." But in spite of that he brought it with him as far as the middle of the dun. And the cat came after him and leaped through him like a fiery arrow and burned him till he was but ashes, and it made a leap back again to its pillar. Maeldune quieted the cat then with his words, and he put back the necklace in its place, and cleared away the ashes from the floor, and threw them on the shore of the sea. And then they went back into the currach, praising and making much of the Lord.
The War of Colours
Early on the morning of the third day after that, they saw another island having a wall of brass over the middle of it, that divided it in two parts; and they saw great flocks of sheep in it, a black flock on the near side of the fence and a white flock on the far side, and they saw a big man separating the flocks. When he used to throw a white sheep over the near side of the fence to the black sheep, it would turn to black on the moment; and when he used to throw a black sheep over the fence to the far side, it would turn to white in the same way. There was dread on the men when they saw that. "It is best for us" said Maeldune "to throw two rods into the island, and if they change their colour we will know that our own colour would change." So they threw a rod having black bark on the side where the white sheep were, and it turned to white there and then. Then they threw a peeled white rod on the side where the black sheep were, and it turned to black. "That is no good sign" said Maeldune; "and let us not land on the island. It is likely our own colour would have lasted no better than the colour of the rods." They went back from the island then with a great fear upon them.
The Weighty Calves
On the third day after that they took notice of another island, large and wide, and a herd in it of beautiful pigs, and they killed a young pig of them. But it was too weighty for them to lift it, so they all caine around it and washed it and brought it into their boat. Then they saw a great mountain on the island, and Diuran the half-poet and German had a mind to go and to view the island from it. And when they came to the mountain, they found before them a broad river that was not deep; and German dipped the handle of his spear in the river and it was spent on the moment, as if fire had burned it, and so they went no farther. They saw then on the other side of the river great hornless oxen lying down and a very big man sitting with them; and German struck his spear shaft against his shield to frighten the cattle. "Why would you frighten these foolish calves?" said the big herdsman. "Where are the dams of these calves?" said German. "They are on the other side of the mountain beyond" said he. The two of them went back then to their comrades, and told them that news, and they said they would not go into the island, and they all went away.
After that they found another island, and a great big ugly mill in it, and a miller, rough and ugly and withered, and they asked him what mill was this. "It is the mill of the Inver of Trecenand" said he "and everything that is begrudged is ground in it; and the half of the corn of this country is ground in this mill" he said. With that they saw heavy loads past all counting, and men and horses under them, coming to the mill and going from it again; and all that was brought from it was carried away westward. And when they heard and saw those things they blessed themselves with the sign of Christ's Cross and went again into their currach.
The Island of Keening
When they went now from the island of the mill, they found a very large island and a great host of people in it. Black they were, both in their bodies and their clothing, and they had bands around their heads, and they crying and ever-crying. And a lot fell by misfortune on one of the two foster brothers of Maeldune to land on the island. And no sooner did he reach to the people that were crying than he was as if one of them, and he began crying and lamenting the same as themselves. Then two of his comrades were sent to bring him out from the rest, and they could not make him out from the rest, and they bowed themselves down and cried along with them. Then Maeldune said "Let four of you go with your weapons and bring back our men by force; and do not look at the ground or in the air, and put your cloaks over your nostrils and over your mouths, and do not breathe the air of the place, and do not take your eyes off your own men." So the four went the way he told them and they brought back with them the other two. And when they were asked what had they seen in that country they would say "We 1 do not know that; but what we saw others doing, we did the same." And they made haste to go away from that island.
The Four-Fenced Island
They came after that to another high island, having four fences in it that divided it into four parts. It is of gold the first fence was, and another was of silver, and the third was brazen and the fourth of crystal. Kings there were in the one division, and queens in another; fighting men in another and young girls in the last. And one of the young girls went to meet them and brought them to land and gave them food that had the likeness of cheese, and whatever taste was pleasing to anyone, he would find that taste upon it. And she gave them drink from a little vessel, so that they slept in drunkenness for three days and three nights, and all that time the young girl was attending to them. And when they awoke on the third day they were in their boat at sea, and the island and the girl nowhere to be seen. And so they went on rowing.
The Woman with the Pail
Then they came to another little island, having a dun in it with a door of brass, and bolts of brass on the door. And there was a bridge of crystal to the door, and when they used to go upon that bridge they would fall down backwards. Then they saw a woman coming out from the dun, and a pail in her hand, and she lifted a slab of glass out from the bottom of the bridge, and she filled the pail from the well that was under the bridge, and went back again into the dun. "It is a housekeeper coming for Maeldune" said German. "Maeldune indeed!" said she and she shut the door after her. They began then striking the fastenings and the net of brass that was before them, and the sound of them made sweet quieting music that put them into their sleep until the morning of the morrow. When they awoke they saw the same woman coming out of the dun, and her pail in her hand, and she filled it under the same slab. "I tell you it is a housekeeper for Maeldune" said German. "it is much I think of Maeldune!" said she, shutting the door of the liss after her. And when they struck at the door, the same music put them lying in their sleep till the morrow. They were that way through the length of three days and three nights; and on the fourth day the woman came to them, and it is beautiful she was coming. A white cloak she had on her, and a band of gold about her hair that was golden; two sandals of silver on her white-purple feet; a brooch of silver with bosses of gold in her cloak, a fine silk shirt next her white skin. "My welcome to you Maeldune" said she, and she gave every man of them all his own name. "It is long we have had knowledge and understanding of your coming here" she said. Then she brought them with her into a great house that stood near the sea, and they drew up their currach on the strand. And they saw before them in the house a bed for Maeldune alone, and a bed for every three of his people. And she brought them in a basket food that was like curds, and she gave a share to every three, and whatever taste they wished to find on it they would find it; and as to Maeldune she served him by himself. And she filled her pail under the same slab and gave them out drink, the full of it for every three. And then she knew they had had their fill and she stopped from giving it out to them. "A fitting wife for Maeldune this woman would be" said every one of his people. She went away from them then, and her vessel and her pail with her; and Maeldune's people said to him "Will we ask her would she maybe be your wife?" "What harm would it do you" said he "to speak to her?" So when she came on the morrow they said to her "Will you give your friendship to Maeldune and be his wife? And why would you not stop here to-night?" they said. But she said she did not know and had never known what marriage was; and she went from them to her own house.
On the morrow at the same time she came to them; and when they had drunk and were satisfied they said the same words to her. "To-morrow" she said "you will get an answer to that." She went to her own house then, and they went asleep on their beds. And when they awoke they were in their currach on a rock, and they did not see the island or the woman or the place where they had been.
The Sound like Psalms
And as they went on they heard in the north-east a great shout and what was like the singing of psalms. And that night and the next day until nones, they were rowing till they could know what was that shout or that singing. Then they saw an island having high mountains full of birds, black and brown and speckled, calling and crying out very loud.
The Sod from Ireland
They went on a little from that island, and they found another island of no great size, and a great many trees in it, and on them many birds. And in the island they saw a man and he clothed with I his own hair, and they asked who was he and what was his race.
"It is of the men of Ireland I am" he said "and I went on my pilgrimage in a little currach, and my currach split under me when I was gone a little way from land; and I went back again to the land" he said "and I put under my feet a sod of my own country, and on it I went out to sea. And the Lord settled down that sod for me in this place" he said "and it is he adds a foot to its breadth every year from that time to this, and a tree every year to grow from it. And the birds you see in the trees" he said "are the souls of my children and my kindred, women and men, that are there waiting for the day of judgment. Half a cake, and a bit of a fish, and a drink from the well, God has given me; and that comes to me every day" he said "through the service of angels. And besides that" he said, "at the hour of nones another half a cake and a bit of fish come to every man and to every woman over there, and a drink out of the well that is enough for everyone." And when their three nights of feasting were at an end they bade that man farewell, and he said to them "You will all reach to your own country" he said "but one man only."
The Well of Nourishment
The third day after that they found another island, and a golden wall around it, and the middle of it as white as feathers; and a man in it, and it is what he was clothed in, the hair of his own body. They asked him then what nourishment he used. "I will tell you the truth" he said "there is a well in this island, and on a Friday and on a Wednesday whey or water is given out from it, and on Sunday and on the feasts of martyrs it is good milk is given out. But on the feasts of the apostles and of Mary and John Baptist, and on the high times of the year, it is beer and wine that it gives out." At nones then there came to every man of them a cake and a bit of a fish, and they drank their fill of what came to them out of the well. And it cast them into a sleep of sleeping from that time until the morrow. And at the end of three nights the clerk bade them to go on. So they went on their way and bade him farewell.
The Smiths at the Forge
And when they had been a long time on the waves they saw an island a long way off, and as they came near it they heard the noise of smiths striking iron on the anvil with hammers, like the striking of three or four it was. And when they came near they heard one man say to another "Are they near us?" "They are near us" said the other. "Who do you say are coming?" said another man. "Little lads they seem to be in a little trough beyond" said he. When Maeldune heard what the smiths were saying "Let us go back" he said; "and let us not turn the boat but let her stern be foremost, the way they will not know us to be making away from them." They rowed away then, and the stern of the boat foremost. And the same man said to the other in the forge "Are they near the harbour now?" "They are not stirring" said the man that was looking out. "They do not come here and they do not go there" he said. It was not long after that he asked again "What are they doing now?" "It is what I think" said the man that was looking out "that they are making away, for they are farther from the port now than they were a while ago." Then the smith came out from the forge and a great lump of red-hot iron in the tongs in his hand, and he threw it after the boat into the sea, and the whole of the sea boiled up; but the iron did not reach to the currach, for they made away with their whole strength quickly and with no delay into the great ocean.
The Very Clear Sea
They went on after that till they came to a sea that was like glass, and so clear it was that the gravel and the sand of the sea could be seen through it, and they saw no beasts or no monsters at all among the rocks, but only the clean gravel and the grey sand. And through a great part of the day they were going over that sea, and it is very grand it was and beautiful.
The Sea like a Mist
Then they put out into another sea that was like a cloud, and it seemed to them that it could not support themselves or the currach. And after that they saw below them walled duns and a beautiful country. And they saw a great terrible beast there, and he in a tree; and a herd of cattle round about the tree, and a man beside it, having shield and spear and sword; and when he saw the great beast that was in the tree he made away on the moment. And the beast stretched out its neck and stooped his head to the back of the ox that was biggest of the herd, and dragged it into the tree and had it eaten in the winking of an eye. On that the flocks and the herdsman made away; and when Maeldune and his people saw it there was greater dread again oh them, for they thought they would never cross that sea without slipping down through it, and it as thin as a mist. But they got away over it after great danger.
The Pelting with Nuts
After that they found another island, and the sea rose up around it making great cliffs of water on every side. And when the people of that country saw them, they began screaming at them and saying "It is they themselves! It is they themselves!" till they were out of breath. Then Maeldune and his men saw a great many people and great herds of cattle and of horses and a great many flocks of sheep. Then a woman began pelting them from below with great nuts that stopped floating on the waves about them, and they gathered up a good share of those nuts to bring away with them. And then they went back from the island, and with that the screams came to an end. "Where are they now?" they heard a man saying that was coming towards them at the time of the screams. "They are gone away" said another of them. "They are not" said another. It is likely now the people of that island had a prophecy there would some person come that would destroy their country and drive them away out of it.
The Salmon Stream
They went on then to another island where a strange thing was showed to them, a great stream that rose up out of the strand, and that went like a bow of heaven over the whole of the island, and came down into the strand on the other side. And they were going under the stream without getting any wet, and they were piercing the stream above, and very large salmon were falling from the stream above on to the ground of the island. And the whole of the island was full of the smell of the salmon, for there was no one could come to an end of taking them because of their number. And from the evening of Sunday until the full light of the Monday that stream did not move, but stopped in its silence where it was in the sea. Then they brought together the biggest of the salmon into one place, and they filled their currach with them and went away over the ocean.
The Silver-Meshed Net
They went on then till they found a great silver pillar; four sides it bad and the width of each of the sides was two strokes of an oar; and there was not one sod of earth about it, but only the endless ocean; and they could not see what way it was below, and they could not see what way the top of it was because of its height. There was a silver net from the top of it that spread out a long way on every side, and the currach went under sail through a mesh of that net. Then Diuran gave a blow of his spear at the mesh. "Do not destroy the net" said Maeldune "for we are looking at the work of great men." "It is for the praise of God's name I am doing it" said Diuran "the way my story will be the better believed; and it is to the altar of Ardmacha I will give this mesh of the net if I get back to Ireland." Two ounces and a half now was the weight of it when it was measured after in Ardmacha. They heard then a voice from the top of the pillar very loud and clear, but they did not know in what strange language it was speaking or what word it said.
The Door under Locks
They saw then another island having one foot supporting it. And they rowed around looking for a way to come into it and finding none; but they saw down at the bottom of the foot a closed door under locks, and they understood it was by that way the island was entered. And they saw a plough on the height of the island, but they spoke with no one and no one spoke with them and they went on their way.
The Ball of Thread
They came after that to an island having a great plain in it, without any heath but smooth and grassy. And they saw a great dun near the sea, high and strong, and a large house, roofed and having good beds in it, and seventeen girls were in it making ready a bath. They landed then on that island and sat down on a hill before the gate of the dun, and it is what Maeldune said: "We may be sure it is for us that bath is being made ready." At the hour of nones they saw a woman on a horse of 'victory coming to the dun. A well ornamented cloth she had under her, and a blue embroidered hood on her head; a fringed crimson cloak, gloves worked with gold on her hands and beautiful sandals on her feet. As she got down one of the young girls took her horse, and she went in to the dun and into the bath. And it was not long until a girl of the girls came to them. "Your coming is welcome" she said "and come now into the dun, it is the queen is asking you." So they' went into the dun and they all washed in the bath; and after that the queen was sitting on one side of the house and her seventeen girls around her; and Maeldune was sitting on the other side, near the queen, and his seventeen men around him Then a dish of good food was brought to Maeldune, and a vessel of glass that was full of good drink, and a dish and a vessel for every three of his people And they all stopped there that night in the seventeen covered rooms of the house and Maeldune slept with the queen. And when they rose up in the morning the queen said "Let you stop here" she said "and age will not fall on you beyond the age you are found in at this time, and you will have lasting life for ever" she said "and what you got last night you will get for ever without any labour, and give up this wandering from island to island of the sea" she said. "Tell us" said Maeldune "what way are, you here?" "It is not hard to say that" she said. "There was a good man in this place, the king of the island; and I bore him seventeen daughters; and I was their mother. And then he died and left no man to inherit after him, and I myself took the kingship of the island. And every day" she said "I go into the great plain there beyond to give out judgments and to settle the disputes of the people." "Why would you go from us to-day?" said Maeldune. "Unless I go" she said "what happened us last night will not happen us again. And you may stop in your house" she said, "and there is no need for you to work, and I will go judge the people on behalf of you." They stopped in that island through the three months of the winter, and they seemed to them to be three years. "It is long we are here" said a man of Maeldune's people to him then. "And why do we not go back to our own country?" he said. "What you are saying is not right" said Maeldune "for we will not find in our own country any better thing than what we are getting here." His people began to murmur greatly against him. then, and it is what they said: "It is great love he has for his wife. And let him stop with her if he has a mind" they said "and we will go to our own country." "I will not stop here after you" said Maeldune. One day now the queen went to the judging where she went every day, and no sooner was she gone than they went into their currach. But she came on her horse and she threw a ball of thread after them, and Maeldune caught it, and it held to his hand, and a thread of the ball was in her own hand, and she drew back the boat to the harbour and to herself with that thread. They stopped with her then for another three months, and then they made away and she brought them back with a thread the same as she did before, and three times that happened to them. And they consulted among themselves then and it is what they said: "It is certain" they said "it is great love Maeldune has for this woman; and it is by reason of that he catches the ball of thread the way it will hold to his hand, and the way we will be brought back to the dun." "Let some other one take the thread next time" said Maeldune; "and if it holds in his hand let the hand be cut off him" he said. So they went on then to their boat, and the queen came and she threw the ball after them, and some man in the currach caught it, and it held to his hand. Then Diuran struck his hand off, and it fell and the thread with it into the sea. And when the queen saw that she began to cry and to call out till the whole island was one loud cry and one lament. And in that way they made their escape from her out of the island.
The Salley Trees
For a long while after that they were driven about on the waves, till they found an island having trees on it like salley trees or hazel, and large wonderful berries on the trees. So they stripped a little tree and they cast lots who should try the berries, and the lot fell upon Maeldune. He squeezed some of the berries then into the vessel and drank, and it put him into a deep sleep from that hour to the same hour on the morrow; and they did not know was he alive or dead, and the red foam around his lips, till he awoke on the morrow. He said to them then "Let you gather" he said "this fruit, for it is great the good there is in it." So they gathered all there was of it, and they were squeezing it and filling all the vessels they had with them, and they mixed water with the juice to lessen the sleep of its drunkenness. And after that was done they rowed away from that island.
The Bird that got back its Youth
After that they stopped at another large island, the one side of it a wood having yews and great oaks in it, and the other side a plain having a little lake; and they saw great flocks of sheep on the plain. And they saw a little church and a dun and they went to the church, and there was an old grey priest in it, and he clothed entirely in his own hair. "Eat now your fill of the sheep" he said "and do not use more than is enough." So they stopped there for a while, and fed upon the flesh of the sheep. One day now as they were looking out from the island, they saw a cloud coming towards them from the south-west. And after a while as they were looking they knew it to be a bird, for they could see its wings moving. Then it came into the island and lit upon a hill near the lake, and it is what they thought, it would carry them in its claws out to sea. And it had with it a branch of a great tree, and the branch was bigger than one of the great oaks, and it had twigs on it, and a plenty of heavy fruit, and the top of it full of fresh leaves. And Maeldune and his men were in hiding watching what would the bird do. And by reason that it was tired it stopped quiet for a while, and then it began to eat the fruit of the tree. So Maeldune went on till he was at the edge of the hill where the bird was, to see would it do him any harm, and it did not meddle with him, and then all his people followed him to that place. "Let one of us go" said Maeldune "and gather some of the fruit that is before the bird." So a man of them went then and he gathered a share of the berries, and the bird made no complaint and did not look at him or make any stir at all. And then all of them went behind it, and their shields with them, and it did them no harm. And towards the hour of nones they saw two eagles in the south-west, in the same quarter the great bird had come from, and they pitched in front of the great bird. And when they had stopped quiet for a good while they began to take off the lice that were about the great bird's jaws and its eyes and its ears. They went on doing that till vespers, and the three of them began to eat the berries of the branch. And from the morning of the morrow till the middle of the day they were picking at the great bird in the same way, and stripping the old feathers from it and the scabs. But when midday came they began to strip the berries from the branch, and they were crushing them against the stones with their beaks and throwing them into the lake till the foam of it turned to be red. After that the great bird went into the lake and he was washing himself there till towards the end of the day. After that he went out of the lake and pitched in another place on the same hill, the way the lice that were picked out of him would not settle on him again. And on the morning of the morrow the same two eagles dressed and smoothed the feathers of the great bird as if it was done with a comb, and they kept at that until midday, and then they went away the same way as they had come. But the great bird stopped after them shaking out his wings and his feathers till the end of the third day. And at the hour of tierce on the third day he rose up and flew three times round the island, and then he pitched for a little rest on the same hill, and after that he rose and went away far off towards the south-west where he came from, and it is swifter and stronger his flight was that time than when he came. They all knew then that had been his renewing from old age to youth, after the word of the prophet that said "Thy youth shall be renewed like the eagle's." It is then Diuran said, seeing that great wonder, "Let us go" he said "into the lake to renew ourselves the same as the bird." "Do not" said another "for the bird has left his poison in it." "It is not right what you are saying" said Diuran "and I will go into it first myself" he said. He went in then and bathed himself there and put his lips into the water and he drank sups of it. It is young and strong his eyes were after that so long as he was living, and he never lost a tooth or a hair from his head, and he was never sick or sorry from that out. They bade farewell then to their old man and they took a share of the sheep with them for provision, and then they put out their boat and they went on over the ocean.
The Laughing People
Then they found another island, and a wide level plain in it, and a great crowd of people on that plain, and they playing and laughing without end. They cast lots then who would go and search out the island, and the lot fell on the head of the third of Maeldune's foster brothers. And no sooner did he land on the island than he began to play and to laugh along with the people that were on it, as if he had been one of them from the beginning. And his comrades stopped for a long time waiting for him and he never came back to them; so they left him there.
The Fire-Walled Island
After that they saw another island that was no great size, and a fiery wall round about it, and that wall used to move round and round the island; There was an open door, now, in the side of the wall, and whenever the door would come opposite them, they used to see the whole island and all that was in it, and all the people of it, that were beautiful and wearing embroidered clothes, and golden vessels in their hands. and they feasting. And they could hear the ale-music those people were making. And they were for a long time looking at that wonder, and it is delightful they thought It.
The Covetous Cook
They were not long gone from that island when they saw far off among the waves a shape like a white bird, and they turned the prow of the boat southward, till they would see what was it. And when they were come near they saw it was a man, and he clothed only with the white hair of his body, and he was throwing himself and stretching himself upon a wide rock. When they were come to him they asked a blessing of him, and they asked where he had come from to that rock. "It is from Toraig I am come surely" he said "and it is in Toraig I was reared. And it is what happened, I was a cook lit it, and it is a bad cook I was, for I used to be selling for means and for treasures for myself the food of the church where I was, so that my house grew to be full of quilts and of pillows and of clothes, both linen and I woollen, of every colour, and of pails of brass and of silver, and brooches of silver having pins of gold, the way there was nothing I wanting in my house of all that is thought much of by men, both of golden- books and of bags for books, that were ornamented with silver and gold. And I used to be digging under the houses of the church, and I brought many treasures out of them; and it is great was my pride and my boasting. One day, now, I was bade to dig a grave for the body of a countryman that had been brought into the island, and as I was at the grave I heard a voice that was coming up under my feet. "Do not dig in that place" it said; "Do not put the body of a sinner upon me, a holy, religious person." "I will put it between myself and God" said I in the greatness of my pride. "If that is so" said the voice "your mouth shall perish on the third day from this, and it is in hell you will be, and the body will not stop here." "What good will you give me if I do not lay the body upon you?" said I. "To have lasting life with God" said he. "How can I know that?" said I. "That is not hard for you" said he. "The grave you are digging now will be full of sand, and it will be showed to you by that you cannot lay the body upon me however much you may try;" and those words were hardly said when the grave was full of sand. So after that I buried the body in another place. One time, now, I put out a new currach, having red hide over it, on the sea. And I went into the currach and I was well pleased to be looking about me. And I left nothing in my house, small or great, without bringing it with me, of vats and of drinking vessels and of horns. And while I was looking at the sea, and it calm for me, great winds came upon me and brought me away in to the sea till I did not see land nor ground. And then my currach stayed still, and from that out it did not stir from the place where it was. And as I was looking about me on every side I saw to my right hand the man that had spoken from the grave, and he sitting on the waves, and it is what he said to me "Where are you going?" he said. "I like well" I said "the view I have over the sea." "You would not like it well" he said "if you could see the troop that is about you" "What troop is that?" said I. "There is nothing so far as your sight reaches over the sea and up to the clouds," he said, "but one troop of demons all around you, by reason of your covetousness and your vanity and your pride and your theft and your other bad deeds. And do you know why it is your boat is stopping where it is?" "I do not know that indeed" I said. "The currach will not go out of the place where it is," he said, "until such time as you will do my bidding." "Maybe I will not put up with it" said I. "You will give in to the pains of hell unless you give in to my will" said he. He came towards me then, and laid his hand upon me and I said I would do his bidding. "Put out" he said "into the sea all the riches you have stored in the boat." "It would be a pity" said I "that all should go to loss." "It will not go to loss" said he, "there is one will get profit by it." I threw out then into the sea all that was in the boat but one small wooden cup. "Go on now out of this" he said "and whatever place your currach stops let you stay in that place." And he gave me provision then, the full of the cup of whey water, and seven cakes. So I went on then" said the old man "where my currach and the wind brought me for I had let my oars and the rudder go from me. And as I was moving about upon the waves I was cast upon this rock, and I was in doubt if the boat had stopped for I saw neither land nor ground. And I brought to mind then what had been said to me, to stop in the place where my boat would stop. So I raised myself up and I saw a little rock and the waves laughing about it. Then I set my foot on the little rock, and the rock lifted me up and the waves went from it. Seven years I was here" he said "having but the seven cakes, and at the end of that time the cakes failed me and I had but the cup of whey water. And after I had fasted three days, at the hour of nones an otter brought a salmon to me out of the sea. And I said to myself in my mind I would never be satisfied to eat the salmon raw, and I put it out again into the sea; and I was fasting through the length of another three days. And at the third none I saw the otter bringing the salmon to me again out of the sea; and another otter brought kindled wood and put it down and blew it with his breath that the fire blazed up. So I roasted the salmon, and for another seven years I lived that way. And a salmon would come to me every day" he said "and with it firing, and the rock was increasing until now it is large. And at the end of the seven years" he said "my salmon was not given to me, and I was fasting through another three days. And at the third none there were put up to me the half a wheaten cake and a bit of a fish. Then my cup of whey water went from me, and there came to me a cup of the same size that was full of good drink, and it is here on the rock and it full every day. And neither wind nor wet nor heat nor cold vexes me in this place. And that is my story for you" said the old man. And when the hour of none was come the half of a cake and a bit of a fish came for every man of them, and in the cup that was on the rock with the old man there was their full of good drink. The old man said to them then "You will all reach to your country, -and the man that killed your father, Maeldune, you will find him before you in a dun; and do not kill him, but give forgiveness since God has saved you from many great dangers, and you yourselves are deserving of death the same as himself." They bade farewell then to the old man, and they went on as they used to do; And as to the commandment he had given, it is well Maeldune kept it in mind and obeyed it afterwards.
The Bird from Ireland
After they were gone from that now, they came to an island having in it a great many cattle, oxen and cows and sheep, but there were no houses in it or duns. They ate the flesh of the sheep, and one of them said then, and he looking at a large bird, "That bird is like the birds of Ireland." "That is true indeed" said some of the rest. "Keep a watch on it" said Maeldune "and see what way will it go from us." They saw then the bird flying from them to the south-east, and they rowed after it in that direction and they went on rowing until vespers, and at the fall of night they came in sight of land that was like the land of Ireland. And they rowed towards it, and they found a small island and it was from that island the wind had brought them into the ocean the time they first put to sea. They drew their boat on shore then and they went to the dun that was in the island, and they were listening to the people of the dun that were at their supper at that time. And it is what they heard some of them saying "It will be well for us if we never see Maeldune again." "It is drowned Maeldune was" said another man of them. "If he should come in now" said another "what should we do?" "It is not hard to say that" said the man of the house. "There would be a great welcome before him if he should come, for it is a long time he has been under great hardship." With that Maeldune struck the hand-wood against the door. "Who is there?" said the doorkeeper. "Maeldune is here." "Open the door then" said the man of the house "for it is welcome your coming is." They came into the house then, and there was a great welcome before them and new clothing was given to them. Then they bore witness to all the wonders God had showed to them, after the word of the holy hymn that said
Haec olim meminisse juvabit.
And then Maeldune went to his own district, and Diuran the half-poet took the five half ounces of silver he had taken from the net and laid them on the altar of Ardmacha in joy and in triumph at the miracles and great wonders God had done for them. And they told their journey from beginning to end, and all the troubles and dangers they had found by land and sea.
Aedh Finn, now, chief story teller of Ireland put down this story the way it is here; for gladdening the mind he did it and for the people of Ireland after him.