When no wind blows and the surface of the sea is clear as crystal, the beauties of Land-under-Waves are revealed to human eyes. It is a fair country with green vales through which flow silvern streams, and the pebbles in the beds of the streams are flashing gems of varied hues. There are deep forests that glitter in eternal sunshine, and bright flowers that never fade. Rocks are of gold, and the sand is dust of silver.
On a calm morning in May, the Feans, who were great warriors in ancient Scotland, being the offspring of gods and goddesses, were sitting beside the Red Cataract, below which salmon moved slowly, resting themselves ere they began to leap towards the higher waters of the stream. The sun was shining bright, and the sea was without a ripple. With eyes of wonder the Feans gazed on the beauties of Land-under-Waves. None spoke, so deeply were they absorbed. They saw the silver sands, the rocks of gold, the gleaming
forests, the beautiful flowers, and the bright streams that flow over beds covered with flashing gems.
As they gazed a boat was seen on the sea, and for a time the Feans were not sure whether it moved above the surface or below it. In time, however, as it drew near they saw that it was on the surface. The boat came towards the place where they sat, and they saw that a woman pulled the oars.
All the Feans rose to their feet. Finn, the King of the Feans, and Goll, his chief warrior, had keen sight, and when the boat was still afar off they saw that the woman had great beauty. She pulled two oars, which parted the sea, and the ripples seemed to set in motion all the trees and flowers of Land-under-Waves.
The boat came quickly, and when it grounded on the beach, the loveliest woman that ever eyes, gazed upon rose out of it. Her face was mild and touched with a soft sadness. She was a stranger to the Feans, who knew well that she had come from afar, and they wondered whence she came and what were the tidings she brought.
The young woman walked towards Finn and saluted him, and for a time Finn and all the Feans were made silent by her exceeding great beauty. At length Finn spoke to her. "You are welcome, fair young stranger," he said. "Tell
us what tribe you are from, and what is the purpose of your journey to the land of the Feans."
Softly spoke the young woman, saying: "I am the daughter of King Under-Waves, and I shall tell you why I have come here. There is not a land beneath the sun which I have not searched for Finn and his brave warriors."
"Beautiful maiden," Finn said, "will you not tell us why you have searched through the lands that are far and near, seeking to find us?"
"Then you are Finn and no other," spoke the maiden.
"I am indeed Finn, and these who stand near me are my warriors." It was thus that Finn made answer, speaking modestly, and yet not without pride.
"I have come to ask for your help," said the maiden, "and I shall have need of it very soon. Mine enemy pursues me even now."
"I promise to help you, fair princess," Finn assured her. "Tell me who it is that pursues you."
Said the maiden: "He who pursues me over the ocean is a mighty and fearless warrior. His name is Dark Prince-of-Storm, and he is the son of the White King of Red-Shields. He means to seize the kingdom of my father and make me his bride. I have defied him, saying: 'Finn shall take me to my home; he shall be my saviour.
[paragraph continues] Great as is your prowess, you cannot fight and beat Finn and his heroic band."'
Oscar, the young hero and the grandson of Finn, spoke forth and said: "Even if Finn were not here, the Dark Prince would not dare to seize you."
As he spoke a shadow fell athwart the sea, blotting out the vision of Land-under-Waves. The Feans looked up, and they saw on the skyline a mighty warrior mounted on a blue-grey steed of ocean; white was its mane and white its tail, and white the foam that was driven from its nostrils and its mouth.
The warrior came swiftly towards the shore, and as his steed rode forward with great fury, waves rose and broke around it. The breath from its panting nostrils came over the sea like gusts of tempest.
On the warrior's head was a flashing helmet, and on his left arm a ridged shield. In his right hand he grasped a large heavy sword, and when he waved it on high it flashed bright like lightning.
Faster than a mountain torrent galloped his horse. The Feans admired the Dark Prince. He was a great and mighty warrior who bore himself like a king.
The steed came to land, and when it did so, the Dark Prince leapt from its back and strode up the beach.
Finn spoke to the fair daughter of the King Under-Waves and said: "Is this the prince of whom you have spoken?"
Said the princess: "It is he and no other. Oh, protect me now, for great is his power!"
"Goll, the old warrior, and Oscar, the youthful hero, sprang forward and placed themselves between the Dark Prince and the fair princess. But the Dark Prince scorned to combat with him. He went towards Finn, who was unarmed. Goll was made angry at once. He seized a spear and flung it at the stranger. It did not touch his body, but it split the ridged shield right through the middle. Then Oscar raised his spear and flung it from his left hand. It struck the warrior's steed and slew it. This was accounted a mighty deed, and Ossian, 1 the bard of the Feans, and father of Oscar, celebrated it in a song which is still sung in Scotland.
When the steed perished, Dark Prince turned round with rage and fury, and called for fifty heroes to combat against him. Then he said that he would overcome all the Feans and take away the fair princess.
A great battle was waged on the beach. The Dark Prince sprang upon the Feans, and fought with fierceness and great strength.
At length Goll went against him. Both fought
with their swords alone, and never was seen before such a furious combat. Strong was the arm of Goll, and cunning the thrusts he gave. As he fought on, his battle power increased, and at length he struck down and slew the Dark Prince. Nor was ever such a hero overcome since the day when the Ocean Giant was slain.
When the Dark Prince was slain, the wind fell and the sea was hushed, and the sun at evening shone over the waters. Once again Land-under-Waves was revealed in all its beauty.
The princess bade farewell to all the Feans, and Finn went into a boat and went with her across the sea until they reached the gates of Land-under-Waves. The entrance to this wonderful land is a sea-cave on the Far Blue Isle of Ocean. When Finn took leave of the princess, she made him promise that if ever she had need of his help again, he would give it to her freely and quickly.
A year and a day went past, and then came a calm and beautiful morning. Once again the Feans sat on the shore below the Red Cataract, gazing on the beauties of Land-under-Waves. As they gazed, a boat came over the sea, and there was but one person in it.
Said Oscar: "Who comes hither? Is it the princess of Land-under-Waves once more?"
Finn looked seaward and said: "No, it is not the princess who comes hither, but a young man."
The boat drew swiftly towards the shore, and when the man was within call he hailed Finn with words of greeting and praise.
"Who are you, and whence come you?" Finn asked.
Said the man: "I am the messenger of the princess of Land-under-Waves. She is ill, and seems ready to die."
There was great sorrow among the Feans when they heard the sad tidings.
"What is your message from the fair princess?" Finn asked.
Said the man: "She bids you to remember your promise to help her in time of need."
"I have never forgotten my promise," Finn told him, "and am ready now to fulfil it."
Said the man: "Then ask Jeermit, the healer, to come with me so that he may give healing to the Princess Under-Waves."
Finn made a sign to Jeermit, and he rose up and went down the beach and entered the boat. Then the boat went out over the sea towards the Far Blue Isle, and it went swiftly until it reached the sea-cave through which one must pass to enter Land-under-Waves.
Now Jeermit was the fairest of all the members of the Fean band. His father was Angus-the-Ever-Young, who conferred upon him the power to give healing for wounds and sickness. Jeermit
had knowledge of curative herbs and life-giving waters, and he had the power, by touching a sufferer, to prolong life until he found the means to cure.
Jeermit was taken through the sea-cave of the Far Blue Isle, and for a time he saw naught, so thick was the darkness; but he heard the splashing of waves against the rocks. At length light broke forth, and the boat grounded. Jeermit stepped out, and found himself on a broad level plain. The boatman walked in front, and Jeermit followed him. They went on and on, and it seemed that their journey would never end. Jeermit saw a clump of red sphagnum moss, and plucked some and went on. Ere long he saw another clump, and plucked some more. A third time he came to a red moss clump, and from it too he plucked a portion. The boatman still led on and on, yet Jeermit never felt weary.
At length Jeermit saw before him a golden castle. He spoke to the boatman, saying: "Whose castle is that?"
Said the boatman: "It is the castle of King Under-Waves, and the princess lies within."
Jeermit entered the castle. He saw many courtiers with pale faces. None spoke: all were hushed to silence with grief. The queen came towards him, and she seized his right hand and led him towards the chamber in which the dying princess lay.
Jeermit knelt beside her, and when he touched her the power of his healing entered her veins, and she opened her eyes. As soon as she beheld Jeermit of the Feans she smiled a sweet smile, and all who were in the chamber smiled too.
"I feel stronger already," the princess told Jeermit. "Great is the joy I feel to behold you. But the sickness has not yet left me, and I fear I shall die."
"I have three portions of red moss," said Jeermit. "If you will take them in a drink they will heal you, because they are the three life drops of your heart."
"Alas!" the princess exclaimed, "I cannot drink of any water now except from the cup of the King of the Plain of Wonder."
Now, great as was Jeermit's knowledge, he had never heard before of this magic cup.
"A wise woman has told that if I get three draughts from this cup I shall be cured," said the princess. "She said also that when I drink I must swallow the three portions of red moss from the Wide-Bare-Plain. The moss of healing you have already found, O Jeermit. But no man shall ever gain possession of the magic cup of the King of the Plain-of-Wonder, and I shall not therefore get it, and must die."
Said Jeermit: "There is not in the world above the sea, or the world below the sea, a single man
who will keep the cup from me. Tell me where dwells the King of the Plain-of-Wonder. Is his palace far distant from here?"
"No, it is not far distant," the princess told him. "Plain-of-Wonder is the next kingdom to that of my father. The two kingdoms are divided by a river. You may reach that river, O Jeermit, but you may never be able to cross it."
Said Jeermit: "I now lay healing spells upon you, and you shall live until I return with the magic cup."
When he had spoken thus, he rose up and walked out of the castle. The courtiers who had been sad when he entered were merry as he went away, and those who had been silent spoke one to another words of comfort and hope, because Jeermit had laid healing spells upon the princess.
The King and the Queen of Land-under-Waves bade the healer of the Feans farewell, and wished him a safe and speedy journey.
Jeermit went on alone in the direction of the Plain-of-Wonder. He went on and on until he reached the river of which the princess had spoken. Then he walked up and down the river bank searching for a ford, but he could not find one.
"I cannot cross over," he said aloud. "The princess has spoken truly."
As he spoke a little brown man rose up out of
the river. "Jeermit," he said, "you are now in sore straits."
Said Jeermit: "Indeed I am. You have spoken wisely."
"What would you give to one who would help you in your trouble?"
"Whatever he may ask of me."
"All I ask for," said the brown man, "is your goodwill."
"That you get freely," said Jeermit to him.
"I shall carry you across the river," said the little man.
"You cannot do that."
"Yes, indeed I can."
He stretched forth his hands and took Jeermit on his back, and walked across the river with him, treading the surface as if it were hard ground.
As they crossed the river they passed an island over which hovered a dark mist.
"What island is that?" asked Jeermit.
"Its name," the brown man told him, "is Cold Isle-of-the-Dead. There is a well on the island, and the water of it is healing water."
They reached the opposite bank, and the brown man said: "You are going to the palace of King Ian of Wonder-Plain."
"You desire to obtain the Cup of Healing."
"That is true."
"May you get it," said the brown man, who thereupon entered the river.
Ere he disappeared he spoke again and said: "Know you where you now are?"
"In the Kingdom of Plain-of-Wonder," Jeermit said.
"That is true," said the little brown man. "It is also Land-under-Mountains. This river divides Land-under-Mountains from Land-under-Waves."
Jeermit was about to ask a question, but ere he could speak the little brown man vanished from before his eyes.
Jeermit went on and on. There was no sun above him and yet all the land was bright. No darkness ever comes to Land-under-Mountains, and there is no morning there and no evening, but always endless day.
Jeermit went on and on until he saw a silver castle with a roof of gleaming crystal. The doors were shut, and guarded by armed warriors.
Jeermit blew a blast on his horn, and called out,
"Open and let me in."
A warrior went towards him with drawn sword, Jeermit flung his spear and slew the warrior.
Then the doors of the castle were opened and King Ian came forth.
"Who are you, and whence come you?" he asked sternly.
"I am Jeermit," was the answer he received.
"Son of Angus-the-Ever-Young, you are welcome," exclaimed the king. "Why did you not send a message that you were coming? It is sorrowful to think you have slain my greatest warrior."
Said Jeermit: "Give him to drink of the water in the Cup of Healing."
"Bring forth the cup!" the king called.
The cup was brought forth, and the king gave it to Jeermit, saying: "There is no virtue in the cup unless it is placed in hands of either Angus or his son."
Jeermit touched the slain warrior's lips with the cup. He poured drops of the water into the man's mouth, and he sat up. Then he drank all the water in the cup, and rose to his feet strong and well again, for his wound had been healed.
Said Jeermit to the king: "I have come hither to obtain this cup, and will now take it with me and go away."
"So be it," answered the king. "I give you the cup freely. But remember that there is no longer any healing in it, for my mighty warrior has drunk the magic water."
Jeermit was not too well pleased when the King of Wonder-Plain spoke thus. "No matter," said he; "I shall take the cup with me."
"I will send a boat to take you across the river and past the Cold-Isle-of-the-Dead," the king said.
Said Jeermit: "I thank you, but I have no need of a boat."
"May you return soon," the King said with a. smile, for he believed that Jeermit would never be able to cross the river or pass the Cold- Isle-of-the-Dead.
Jeermit bade the king farewell and went away, as he had come, all alone. He went on and on until he reached the river. Then he sat down, and gloomy thoughts entered his mind. He had obtained the cup, but it was empty: he had returned to the river and could not cross it.
"Alas!" he exclaimed aloud, "my errand is fruitless. The cup is of no use to me, and I cannot cross the river, and must needs return in shame to the King of Wonder-Plain."
As he spoke the little brown man rose out of the river.
"You are again in sore straits, Jeermit," he said.
"Indeed, I am," answered the son of Angus.
"I got what I went for, but it is useless, and I cannot cross the river."
"I shall carry you," said the little brown man.
"So be it," Jeermit answered.
The little brown man walked over the river with Jeermit on his shoulders, and went towards the Cold-Isle-of-the-Dead.
"Whither are you carrying me now?" asked Jeermit with fear in his heart.
Said the little brown man: "You desire to heal the daughter of King Under-Waves."
"That is true."
"Your cup is empty, and you must fill it at the Well of Healing, on the Cold-Isle-of-the-Dead. That is why I am carrying you towards the isle. You must not get off my back or set foot on the shore, else you will never be able to leave it. But have no fear. I shall kneel down beside the well, and you can dip the cup in it, and carry off enough water to heal the princess."
Jeermit was well pleased to hear these words, for he knew that the little brown man was indeed his friend. He obtained the healing water in the manner that was promised. Then the little brown man carried him to the opposite bank of the river, and set him down on the border of Land-under-Waves.
"Now you are happy-hearted," said the little brown man.
"Happy-hearted indeed," Jeermit answered.
"Ere I bid you farewell I shall give you good advice," said the little brown man.
"Why have you helped me as you have done?" Jeermit asked.
"Because your heart is warm, and you desire to do good to others," said the little brown man. "Men who do good to others will ever find friends in the Land of the Living, in the Land of the
[paragraph continues] Dead, in Land-under-Waves, and in Land-under-Mountains."
"I thank you," Jeermit said. "Now I am ready for your good advice, knowing that your friendship is true and lasting."
Said the little brown man: "You may give the princess water from the Cup-of-Healing, but she will not be cured unless you drop into the water three portions of sphagnum moss."
"I have already found these portions on the broad level plain."
"That is well," said the other. "Now I have more advice to offer you. When the princess is healed the king will offer you choice of reward. Take no thing he offers, but ask for a boat to convey you home again."
"I will follow your advice," Jeermit promised.
Then the two parted, and Jeermit went on and on until he came to the golden palace of King Under-Waves. The princess welcomed him when he was brought into her room, and said: "No man ever before was given the cup you now carry."
Said Jeermit: "For your sake I should have got it, even if I had to fight an army."
"I feared greatly that you would never return," sighed the princess.
Jeermit put into the Cup-of-Healing the three portions of blood-red moss which he had found, and bade the princess to drink.
Click to enlarge
THE CUP OF HEALING
From a drawing by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
Thrice she drank, and each time she swallowed a portion of red moss. When she drank the last drop, having swallowed the third portion of red moss, she said: "Now I am healed. Let a feast be made ready, and I shall sit at the board with you."
There was great joy and merriment in the castle when the feast was held. Sorrow was put away, and music was sounded. When the feast was over, the king spoke to Jeermit and said: "I would fain reward you for healing my daughter, the princess. I shall give you as much silver and gold as you desire, and you shall marry my daughter and become the heir to my throne."
Said Jeermit: "If I marry your daughter I cannot again return to my own land."
"No, you cannot again return, except on rare and short visits. But here you will spend happy days, and everyone shall honour you."
Said Jeermit: "The only reward I ask for, O king, is a small one indeed."
"I promise to give you whatever you ask for."
Said Jeermit: "Give me a boat, so that I may return again to my own land, which is very dear to me, and to my friends and kinsmen, the Feans, whom I love, and to Finn mac Cool, the great chief of men."
"Your wish is granted," the king said.
Then Jeermit bade farewell to all who were in
the castle, and when he parted with the princess she said: "I shall never forget you, Jeermit. You found me in suffering and gave me relief; you found me dying and gave me back my life again. When you return to your own land remember me, for I shall never pass an hour of life without thinking of you with joy and thankfulness.
Jeermit crossed the level plain once again, and reached the place where the boat in which he had come lay safely moored. The boatman went into it and seized the oars, and Jeermit went in after him. Then the boat sped through the deep dark tunnel, where the waves splash unseen against the rocks, and passed out of the cave on the shore of Far-Blue-Isle. The boat then went speedily over the sea, and while it was yet afar off, Finn saw it coming. All the Feans gathered on the shore to bid Jeermit welcome.
"Long have we waited for you, son of Angus," Finn said.
"What time has passed since I went away?" asked Jeermit, for it seemed to him that he had been absent for no more than a day and a night.
"Seven long years have passed since we bade you farewell," Finn told him, "and we feared greatly that you would never again come back to us."
Said Jeermit: "In the lands I visited there is
no night, and no change in the year. Glad am I to return home once again."
Then they all went to Finn's house, and a great feast was held in honour of Jeermit, who brought back with him the Cup-of-Healing which he had received from the King of Wonder-Plain.
61:1 Pronounced Osh'yan in Scottish Gaelic.