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The next morning when he wakened the King's Son said, "That was a wonderful thing that happened last night in the supper-room. I must go off and play a third game with the gray old fellow who sits on a heap of stones at the turn of the road." So, in the morning early he mounted and rode away

His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist;
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
And the green ground under him,

and he rode on until he came to the turn in the road. Sure enough the old gray fellow was there. "So you've come to me again, King's Son," said he. "I have," said the King of Ireland's Son, "and I'll play a last game with you on the same understanding as before." He tied his horse to the branch and sat down on the heap of stones. They played. The King of Ireland's Son lost the game. Immediately the gray old fellow threw the cards down on the stones and a wind came up and carried them away. Standing up he was terribly tall.

"King's Son," said he, "I am your father's enemy and I have done him an injury. And to the Queen who is your father's wife I have done an injury too. You have lost the game and now you must take the penalty I put upon you. You must find out my dwelling-place and take three hairs out of my beard within a year and a day, or else lose your head."

With that he took the King of Ireland's Son by the shoulders and lifted him on his horse, turning the horse in the direction of the King's Castle. The King's Son rode on

His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist;
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
And the blue sky over him.

That evening the King noticed that his son was greatly troubled. And when he lay down to sleep everyone in the Castle heard his groans and his moans. The next day he told his father the story from beginning to end. The King sent for Maravaun his Councillor and asked him if he knew who the Enchanter was and where his son would be likely to find him.

"From what he said," said Maravaun, "we may guess who he is. He is the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands and his dwelling-place is hard to find. Nevertheless your son must seek for him and take the three hairs out of his beard or else lose his head. For if the heir to your kingdom does not honorably pay his forfeit, the ground of Ireland won't give crops and the cattle won't give milk." "And," said the Councillor, "as a year is little for his search, he should start off at once, although I'm bound to say, that I don't know what direction he should go in."

The next day the King's Son said good-by to his father and his foster-brothers and started off on his journey. His step-mother would not give him her blessing on account of his having brought in the brown bear that turned her from her chair in the supper-room. Nor would she let him have the good horse he always rode. Instead the Prince was given a horse that was lame in a leg and short in the tail. And neither hawk nor hound went with him this time.

All day the King's Son was going, traveling through wood and waste until the coming on of night. The little fluttering birds were going from the bush tops, from tuft to tuft, and to the briar-roots, going to rest; but if they were, he was not, till the night came on, blind and dark. Then the King's Son ate his bread and meat, put his satchel under his head and lay down to take his rest on the edge of a great waste.

In the morning he mounted his horse and rode on. And as he went across the waste he saw an extraordinary sight--everywhere were the bodies of dead creatures--a cock, a wren, a mouse, a weasel, a fox, a badger, a raven--all the birds and beasts that the King's Son had ever known. He went on, but he saw no living creature before him. And then, at the end of the waste he came upon two living creatures struggling. One was an eagle and the other was an eel. And the eel had twisted itself round the eagle, and the eagle had covered her eyes with the black films of death. The King's Son jumped off his horse and cut the eel in two with a sharp stroke of his sword.

The eagle drew the films from her eyes and looked full at the King's Son. "I am Laheen the Eagle," she said, "and I will pay you for this service, Son of King Connal. Know that there has been a battle of the creatures--a battle to decide which of the creatures will make laws for a year. All were killed except the eel and myself, and if you had not come I would have been killed and the eel would have made the laws. I am Laheen the Eagle and always I will be your friend. And now you must tell me how I can serve you."

"You can serve me," said the King's Son, "by showing me how I may come to the dominion of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands."

"I am the only creature who can show you, King's Son. And if I were not old now I would carry you there on my back. But I can tell you how you can get there. Ride forward for a day, first with the sun before you and then with the sun at your back, until you come to the shore of a lake. Stay there until you see three swans flying down. They are the three daughters of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. Mark the one who carries a green scarf in her mouth. She is the youngest daughter and the one who can help you. When the swans come to the ground they will transform themselves into maidens and bathe in the lake. Two will come out, put on their swanskins and transform themselves and fly away. But you must hide the swanskin that belongs to the youngest maiden. She will search and search and when she cannot find it she will cry out, 'I would do anything in the world for the creature who would find my swanskin for me.' Give the swanskin to her then, and tell her that the only thing she can do for you is to show you the way to her father's dominion. She will do that, and so you will come to the House of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. And now farewell to you, Son of King Connal."

Laheen the Eagle spread out her wings and flew away, and the King's Son journeyed on, first with the sun before him and then with the sun at his back, until he came to the shore of a wide lake. He turned his horse away, rested himself on the ground, and as soon as the clear day came he began to watch for the three swans.

Next: Part III