22. Cethern's Strait Fight
Then said the men of Erin to macRoth the chief runner, to go watch and keep guard for them at Sliab Fuait, to the end that the Ulstermen might not come upon them without warning and unobserved. Thereupon macRoth went southwards as far as Sliab Fuait. MacRoth was not long there when he saw something: a lone chariot on Sliab Fuait making from the north straight towards him. A fierce man, stark-naked, in that chariot coming towards him, without arms, without armour at all save an iron spit in his hand. In equal manner he goaded his driver and his horses. And it seemed to him that he would never in his life come up to the hosts.
And macRoth hastened to tell this news at the fort where Ailill and Medb and Fergus were and the nobles of the men of Erin. Ailill asked tidings of him on his arrival. "Aye, macRoth," inquired Ailill; "hast thou seen any of the Ulstermen on the track of the host this day?" "That, truly, I know not," answered macRoth; "but I saw something: a lone chariot coming over Sliab Fuait straight towards us. A wild, stark-naked man in the chariot, without arms or armour at all, except for an iron spit in his hand. In equal manner he prodded his driver and his steeds. It seemed to him he would never in his life come up to the host."
"Who, thinkest thou, might it be, O Fergus?" asked Ailill. "Meseems," Fergus answered, "it is Cethern son of Fintan that came there. Fergus indeed spoke true, that it was Fintan's son Cethern that was come there. And so Cethern son of Fintan came on them, and the camp and the garrison were confounded and he wounded all around him in every direction and on all sides and they wounded him in every direction and on all sides.
And then he left them, and his entrails and vitals were outside of him. He came to the place where was Cuchulain, to be healed and cured, and he demanded a physician of Cuchulain to heal and to cure him. "Come, master Laeg!" cried Cuchulain. "Arise, away with thee to the garrison and camp of the men of Erin and summon the physicians to come out to cure Cethern macFintain. I give my word, e'en though it be under the ground or in a well-shut house they are, I myself will bring death and destruction and slaughter upon them before this hour to-morrow, if they come not to minister to Cethern."
Laeg went his way to the quarters and camp of the men of Erin, and he called upon the physicians of the men of Erin to go forth to cure Cethern son of Fintan. Truth to tell, the physicians of the men of Erin were unwilling to go cure their adversary, their enemy and their stranger-foe. But they feared Cuchulain would work death and destruction and slaughter upon them if they went not. And so they went. As one man of them after the other came to him, Cethern son of Fintan showed him his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds. Each man of them that said he would not live and could not be healed, Cethern son of Fintan struck him a blow with his right fist in the front of his forehead, so that he drove the brains out through the windows of his ears and the seams of his skull. Howbeit Cethern son of Fintan killed them till there had come fifteen physicians of the physicians of the men of Erin.
The historian hath declared in proof thereof:
"These the physicians of the Táin,
Who by Cethern--bane--did fall.
No light thing, in floods of tribes,
That their names are known to me:
"Littè, Luaidren, known o'er sea,
Lot and Luaimnech, 'White-hand' Lonn,
Latheirne skilful, also Lonn,
Laisrè, Slanoll 'That cures all.'
"Dubthach, Fintan's blameless son
Fintan, master Firfial, too,
Mainè, Boethan 'Gives not pain,'
Eke his pupil, Boethan's son.
"These the physicians, five and ten,
Struck to death by Cethern, true;
I recall them in my day;
They are in the physicians' roll!"
Yea, even the fifteenth physician, it was but the tip of a blow that reached him. Yet he fell lifeless of the great stun between the bodies of the other physicians and lay there for a long space and time. Ithall, physician of Ailill and Medb, was his name.
Thereafter Cethern son of Fintan asked another physician of Cuchulain to heal and to cure him. "Come, master Laeg," quoth Cuchulain, "go for me to Fingin the seer-physician, at 'Fingin's Grave-mound' at Leccan ('the Brow') of Sliab Fuait, him that is physician to Conchobar. Bid him come to heal Cethern son of Fintan."
Laeg hastened to Fingin the seer-physician at 'Fingin's Grave-mound' at Leccan of Sliab Fuait, to the physician of Conchobar. And he told him to go cure Cethern son of Fintan. Thereupon Fingin the prophet-physician came. As soon as he was come, Cethern son of Fintan showed him his stabs and his cuts, his sores and his bloody wounds.