The Combat of Ferdiad and Cuchulain
Then the men of Erin took counsel who would be fit to send to the ford to fight and do battle with Cuchulain, to drive him off from them at the morning hour early on the morrow. With one accord they declared that it should be Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and valiant warrior of the men of Dornnann. And fitting it was for him to go thither, for well-matched and alike was their manner of fight and of combat. Under the same instructresses had they done skillful deeds of valour and arms, when learning the art with Scathach ('the Modest') and with Uathach ('the Dreadful') and with Aifè ('the Handsome'). And neither of them overmatched the other, save in the feat of the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed Spear') which Cuchulain possessed. Howbeit, against this, Ferdiad was horn-skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the ford.
Then were messengers and envoys sent to Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their will, and sent back the messengers, and he went not with them, for he knew wherefore they would have him, to fight and combat with his friend, with his comrade and foster-brother, Cuchulain. Then did Medb despatch the druids and the poets of the camp, the lampoonists and hard-attackers, for Ferdiad, to the end that they might make three satires to stay him and three scoffing speeches against him, that they might raise three blisters on his face, Blame, Blemish and Disgrace, if he came not with them.
Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honour, forasmuch as he deemed it better to fall by the shafts of valour and bravery and skill, than to fall by the shafts of satire, abuse and reproach. And when Ferdiad was come into the camp, he was honoured and waited on, and choice, well-flavoured strong liquor was poured out for him till he became drunken and merry. Great rewards were promised him if he would make the fight and combat, namely a chariot worth four times seven bondmaids, and the apparel of two men and ten men, of cloth of every colour, and the equivalent of the Plain of Murthemne of the rich Plain of Ai, free of tribute, without duress for his son, or for his grandson, or for his great-grandson, till the end of time and existence.
Such were the words of Medb, and she spake them here and Ferdiad responded:
Then said they, one and all, those gifts were great. "'Tis true, they are great. But though they are," said Ferdiad, "with Medb herself I will leave them, and I will not accept them if it be to do battle or combat with my foster-brother, the man of my alliance and affection, and my equal in skill of arms, namely, with Cuchulain." And he said:
"Ye men," spake Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up disunion and dissension, "true is the word Cuchulain speaks." "What word is that?" asked Ferdiad. "He said, then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much if thou shouldst fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in arms, in the land whereto he should come." "It was not just for him to speak so," quoth Ferdiad; "for it is not cowardice or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in me. And I swear by my arms of valour, if it be true that he spoke so, I will be the first man of the men of Erin to contend with him on the morrow!" "A blessing and victory upon thee for that!" said Medb; "it pleaseth me more than for thee to show fear and lack of boldness. For every man loves his own land, and how is it better for him to seek the welfare of Ulster, than for thee to seek the welfare of Connacht?"
Then it was that Medb obtained from Ferdiad the easy surety of a covenant to fight and contend on the morrow with six warriors of the champions of Erin, or to fight and contend with Cuchulain alone, if to him this last seemed lighter. Ferdiad obtained of Medb the easy surety, as he thought, to send the aforesaid six men for the fulfilment of the terms which had been promised him, should Cuchulain fall at his hands.
Then were Fergus' horses fetched for him and his chariot was yoked, and he came forward to the place of combat where Cuchulain was, to inform him of the challenge. Cuchulain bade him welcome. "Welcome is thy coming, O my master Fergus!" cried Cuchulain. "Truly intended, methinks, the welcome, O fosterling," said Fergus. "But, it is for this I am here, to inform thee who comes to fight and contend with thee at the morning hour early on the morrow." "E'en so will we hear it from thee," said Cuchulain. "Thine own friend and comrade and foster-brother, the man thine equal in feats and in skill of arms and in deeds, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè, the great and mighty warrior of the men of Domnann."
"As my soul liveth," replied Cuchulain, "it is not to an encounter we wish our friend to come." "It is even for that," answered Fergus, "thou shouldst be on thy guard and prepared. For unlike all to whom it fell to fight and contend with thee on the Cualnge Cattle-raid on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè." "Truly am I here," said Cuchulain, "checking and staying four of the five grand provinces of Erin from Monday at Summer's end till the beginning of spring. And in all this time, I have not put foot in retreat before any one man nor before a multitude, and methinks just as little will I turn foot in flight before him."
So spake Fergus, putting him on his guard, and he said these words and Cuchulain responded:
After that, Fergus returned to the camp and halting-place. As for Ferdiad, he betook himself to his tent and to his people, and imparted to them the easy surety which Medb had obtained from him to do combat and battle with six warriors on the morrow, or to do combat and battle with Cuchulain alone, if he thought it a lighter task. He made known to them also the fair terms he had obtained from Medb of sending the same six warriors for the fulfilment of the covenant she had made with him, should Cuchulain fall by his hands. The folk of Ferdiad were not joyful, blithe, cheerful or merry that night, but they were sad, sorrowful and downcast, for they knew that where the two champions and the two bulwarks in a gap for a hundred met in combat, one or other of them would fall there or both would fall, and if it should be one of them, they believed it would be their king and their own lord that would fall there, for it was not easy to contend and do battle with Cuchulain on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge.
Ferdiad slept right heavily the first part of the night, but when the end of the night was come, his sleep and his heaviness left him. And the anxiousness of the combat and the battle came upon him. And he charged his charioteer to take his horses and to yoke his chariot. The charioteer sought to dissuade him from that journey. "By our word," said the gilla, "'twould be better for thee to remain than to go thither," said he. And in this manner he spake, and he uttered these words, and the henchman responded:
Ferdiad's horses were now brought forth and his chariot was hitched, and he set out from the camp for the ford of battle when yet day with its full light had not come there for him. "Come, gilla," said Ferdiad, "spread for me the cushions and skins of my chariot under me here, so that I sleep off my heavy fit of sleep and slumber here, for I slept not the last part of the night with the anxiousness of the battle and combat." The gilla unharnessed the horses; he unfastened the chariot under him. He slept off the heavy fit of sleep that was on him.
Now how Cuchulain fared is related here: He arose not till the day with its bright light had come to him, lest the men of Erin might say it was fear or fright of the champion he had, if he should arise early. And when day with its full light had come, he passed his hand over his face and bade his charioteer take his horses and yoke them to his chariot. "Come, gilla," said Cuchulain, "take out our horses for us and harness our chariot, for an early riser is the warrior appointed to meet us, Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè. "The horses are taken out," said the gilla; "the chariot is harnessed. Mount, and be it no shame to thy valour to go thither!"
Then it was that the cutting, feat-performing, battle-winning, red-sworded hero, Cuchulain son of Sualtaim, mounted his chariot, so that there shrieked around him the goblins and fiends and the sprites of the glens and the demons of the air; for the Tuatha De Danann ('the Folk of the Goddess Danu') were wont to set up their cries around him, to the end that the dread and the fear and the fright and the terror of him might be so much the greater in every battle and on every field, in every fight and in every combat wherein he went.
Not long had Ferdiad's charioteer waited when he heard something: A rush and a crash and a hurtling sound, and a din and a thunder, and a clatter and a clash, namely, the shield-cry of feat-shields, and the jangle of javelins, and the deed-striking of swords, and the thud of the helmet, and the ring of spears, and the striking of arms, the fury of feats, the straining of ropes, and the whirr of wheels, and the creaking of the chariot, and the trampling of horses' hoofs, and the deep voice of the hero and battle-warrior on his way to the ford to attack his opponent. The servant came and touched his master with his hand. "Ferdiad, master," said the youth, "rise up! They are here to meet thee at the ford." And the gilla spake these words:
"Come, gilla," said Ferdiad; "for what reason laudest thou this man ever since I am come from my house? And it is almost a cause for strife with thee that thou hast praised him thus highly. But, Ailill and Medb have prophesied to me that this man will fall by my hand. And since it is for a reward, he shall quickly be torn asunder by me, but it is time to fetch help." And he spake these words, and the henchman responded:
Here followeth the Description of Cuchulain's chariot, one of the three chief Chariots of the Tale of the Foray of Cualnge.
It was not long that Ferdiad's charioteer remained there when he saw something: a beautiful, five-pointed chariot, approaching with swiftness, with speed, with perfect skill; with a green shade, with a thin-framed, dry-bodied (?) box surmounted with feats of cunning, straight-poled, as long as a warrior's sword. On this was room for a hero's seven arms, the fair seat for its lord; behind two fleet steeds, large-eared, gaily prancing, with inflated nostrils, broad-chested, quick-hearted, high-flanked, broad-hoofed, slender-limbed, overpowering and resolute. A grey, broad-hipped, small-stepping, long-maned horse was under one of the yokes of the chariot; a black, crisped-maned, swift-moving, broad-backed horse under the other. Like unto a hawk after its prey on a sharp tempestuous day, or to a tearing blast of wind of Spring on a March day over the back of a plain, or unto a startled stag when first roused by the hounds in the first of the chase, were Cuchulain's two horses before the chariot, as if they were on glowing, fiery flags, so that they shook the earth and made it tremble with the fleetness of their course.
And Cuchulain reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side of the ford; Cuchulain stood on the north side. Ferdiad bade welcome to Cuchulain. "Welcome is thy coming, O Cuchulain!" said Ferdiad. "Truly spoken meseemed thy welcome till now," answered Cuchulain; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than that thou should'st welcome me; for it is thou that art come to the land and province wherein I dwell, and it is not fitting for thee to come to contend and do battle with me but it were fitter for me to go to contend and do battle with thee. For before thee in flight are my women and my boys and my youths, my steeds and my troops of horses, my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle."
"Good, O Cuchulain," spake Ferdiad; "what has ever brought thee out to contend and do battle with me? For when we were together with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and dressing my bed." "That was indeed true," answered Cuchulain; "because of my youth and my littleness did I so much for thee, but this is by no means my mood this day. For there is not a warrior in the world I would not drive off this day."
And then it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other, renouncing his friendship. And Ferdiad spake these words there, and Cuchulain responded:
"Come now, O Ferdiad," cried Cuchulain, "not meet was it for thee to come to contend and do battle with me, because of the instigation and intermeddling of Ailill and Medb. And all that came because of those promises of deceit, neither profit nor success did it bring them, and they have fallen by me. And none the more, Ferdiad, shall it win victory or increase of fame for thee; and, shalt thou too fall by my hand!" Thus he spake, and he further uttered these words and Ferdiad hearkened to him:--
"Good, O Ferdiad!" cried Cuchulain. "It is not right for thee to come to fight and combat with me; for when we were with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè, and it was together we were used to seek out every battle and every battle-field, every combat and every contest, every wood and every desert, every covert and every recess." And thus he spake and he uttered these words:
"Too long are we now in this way," quoth Ferdiad; "and what arms shall we resort to to-day, O Cuchulain?" "With thee is thy choice of weapons this day," answered Cuchulain, "for thou art he that first didst reach the ford." "Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad "the choice deeds of arms we were wont to practise with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aifè?" "Indeed, and I do remember," answered Cuchulain. "If thou rememberest, let us begin with them."
They betook them to their choicest deeds of arms. They took upon them two equally-matched shields for feats, and their eight-edged targes for feats, and their eight small darts, and their eight straightswords with ornaments of walrus-tooth and their eight lesser, ivoried spears which flew from them and to them like bees on a day of fine weather. They cast no weapon that struck not. Each of them was busy casting at the other with those missiles from morning's early twilight till noon at mid-day, the while they overcame their various feats with the bosses and hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excellence of the defence, so that during all that time neither of them bled or reddened the other. "Let us cease now from this bout of arms, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad; "for it is not by such our decision will come." "Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from them into the hands of their charioteers.
"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cuchulain?" asked Ferdiad. "Thine is the choice of weapons till nightfall," replied Cuchulain; "for thou art he that didst first reach the ford." "Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, "with our straight-cut, smooth-hardened throwing-spears, with cords of full-hard flax on them." "Aye, let us begin then," assented Cuchulain. Then they took on them two hard shields, equally strong. They fell to their straight-cut, smooth-hardened spears with cords of full-hard flax on them. Each of them was engaged in casting at the other with the spears from the middle of noon till the hour of evening's sundown. However great the excellence of the defence, equally great was the excellence of the throwing on either side, so that each of them bled and reddened and wounded the other during that time. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain," said Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the time hath come," answered Cuchulain. So they ceased. They threw their arms from them into the hands of their charioteers.
Thereupon each of them went toward the other in the middle of the ford, and each of them put his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in one and the same paddock that night, and their charioteers at one and the same fire; and their charioteers made ready a litter-bed of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. Then came healing and curing folk to heal and to cure them, and they laid healing herbs and grasses and a curing charm on their cuts and stabs, their gashes and many wounds. Of every healing herb and grass and curing charm that was brought and was applied to the cuts and stabs, to the gashes and many wounds of Cuchulain, a like portion thereof he sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, so that the men of Erin should not have it to say, should Ferdiad fall at his hands, it was more than his share of care had been given to him.
Of every food and of every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a like portion thereof he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain; for the purveyors of Ferdiad were more numerous than the purveyors of Cuchulain. All the men of Erin were purveyors to Ferdiad, to the end that he might keep Cuchulain off from them. But only the inhabitants of Mag Breg ('the Plain of Breg') were purveyors to Cuchulain. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.
They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and went their ways to the ford of combat. "To what weapons shall we resort on this day, O Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "Thine is the choosing of weapons," Ferdiad made answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons on the day aforegone." "Let us take, then," said Cuchulain, "to our great, well-tempered lances to-day, for we think that the thrusting will bring nearer the decisive battle to-day than did the casting of yesterday. Let our horses be brought to us and our chariots yoked, to the end that we engage in combat over our horses and chariots on this day." "Aye, let us go so," Ferdiad assented.
Thereupon they girded two full-firm broadshields on them for that day. They took to their great, well-tempered lances on that day. Either of them began to pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the other, from early morning's twilight till the hour of evening's close. If it were the wont for birds in flight to fly through the bodies of men, they could have passed through their bodies on that day and carried away pieces of blood and flesh through their wounds and their sores into the clouds and the air all around. And when the hour of evening's close was come, their horses were spent and their drivers were wearied, and they themselves, the heroes and warriors of valour, were exhausted. "Let us give over now, O Ferdiad," said Cuchulain, "for our horses are spent and our drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, why should we too not be exhausted?" And in this wise he spake, and he uttered these words at that place:
"Yea, we will cease, if the time hath come," replied Ferdiad. They ceased then. They threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Each of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were in the one pen that night, and their charioteers at the one fire. Their charioteers prepared two litter-beds of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men on them. The curing and healing men came to attend and watch and mark them that night; for naught else could they do, because of the direfulness of their cuts and their stabs, their gashes and their numerous wounds, but apply to them philtres and spells and charms, to staunch their blood and their bleeding and their deadly pains. Of every magic potion and every spell and every charm that was applied to the cuts and stabs of Cuchulain, their like share he sent over the ford westwards to Ferdiad. Of every food and every savoury, soothing and strong drink that was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, an equal portion he sent over the ford northwards to Cuchulain, for the victuallers of Ferdiad were more numerous than the victuallers of Cuchulain. For all the men of Erin were Ferdiad's nourishers, to the end that he might ward off Cuchulain from them. But the indwellers of the Plain of Breg alone were Cuchulain's nourishers. They were wont to come daily, that is, every night, to converse with him.
They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and repaired to the ford of combat. Cuchulain marked an evil mien and a dark mood that day on Ferdiad. "It is evil thou appearest to-day, O Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain; "thy hair has become dark to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy, and thine upright form and thy features and thy gait have gone from thee!" "Truly not for fear nor for dread of thee is that happened to me to-day," answered Ferdiad; "for there is not in Erin this day a warrior I could not repel!" And Cuchulain lamented and moaned, and he spake these words and Ferdiad responded:
"How much soever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, "it will be as an offset to my prowess." And he said, "To what weapons shall we resort to-day?" "With thyself is the choice of weapons to-day," replied Cuchulain, "for it is I that chose on the day gone by." "Let us resort, then," said Ferdiad, "to our heavy, hard-smiting swords this day, for we trow that the smiting each other will bring us nearer to the decision of battle to-day than was our piercing each other on yesterday." "Let us go then, by all means," responded Cuchulain.
Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them for that day. They turned to their heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them fell to strike and to hew, to lay low and cut down, to slay and undo his fellow, till as large as the head of a month-old child was each lump and each cut, that each of them took from the shoulders and thighs and shoulder-blades of the other.
Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this way from the twilight of early morning till the hour of evening's close. "Let us leave off from this now, O Cuchulain!" cried Ferdiad. "Aye, let us leave off, if the hour has come," said Cuchulain. They parted then, and threw their arms away from them into the hands of their charioteers. Though it had been the meeting of two happy, blithe, cheerful, joyful men, their parting that night was of two that were sad, sorrowful and full of suffering. Their horses were not in the same paddock that night. Their charioteers were not at the same fire.
They passed there that night. It was then that Ferdiad arose early on the morrow and went alone to the ford of combat. For he knew that that would be the decisive day of the battle and combat; and he knew that one or other of them would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. It was then he donned his battle-weed of battle and fight and combat, or ever Cuchulain came to meet him. And thus was the manner of this harness of battle and fight and combat: He put his silken, glossy trews with its border of speckled gold, next to his white skin. Over this, outside, he put his brown-leathern, well-sewed kilt. Outside of this he put a huge, goodly flag, the size of a millstone. He put his solid, very deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron over the huge, goodly flag as large as a millstone, through fear and dread of the Gae Bulga on that day.
About his head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight and combat, whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully adorning it and studded with red-enamel and crystal and rubies and with shining stones of the Eastern world. His angry, fierce-striking spear he seized in his right hand. On his left side he hung his curved battle-falchion, with its golden pommel and its rounded hilt of red gold. On the arch-slope of his back he slung his massive, fine-buffalo shield of a warrior, whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown in each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of red gold. Ferdiad performed diverse, brilliant, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day, unlearned from any one before, neither from foster-mother nor from foster-father, neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aifè, but he found them of himself that day in the face of Cuchulain.
Cuchulain likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the various, brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad performed on high. "Thou seest yonder, O Laeg my master, the divers, bright, numerous, marvellous feats that Ferdiad performs on high, and I shall receive yon feats one after the other. And, therefore, if defeat be my lot this day, do thou prick me on and taunt me and speak evil to me, so that the more my spirit and anger shall rise in me. If, however, before me his defeat takes place, say thou so to me and praise me and speak me fair, to the end that the greater may be my courage!" "It shall surely be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Laeg answered.
Then Cuchulain, too, girded his war-harness of battle and fight and combat about him, and performed all kinds of splendid, manifold, marvellous feats on high that day which he had not learned from any one before, neither with Scathach nor with Uathach nor with Aifè.
Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be plied against him in turn. "To what weapons shall we resort to-day, Ferdiad?" asked Cuchulain. "With thee is thy choice of weapons," Ferdiad responded. "Let us go to the 'Feat of the Ford,' then," said Cuchulain. "Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit Ferdiad spoke that, he deemed it the most grievous thing whereto he could go, for he knew that in that sort Cuchulain used to destroy every hero and every battle-soldier who fought with him in the 'Feat of the Ford.'
Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford that day. The two heroes, the two champions, the two chariot-fighters of the west of Europe, the two bright torches of valour of the Gael, the two hands of dispensing favour and of giving rewards in the west of the northern world, the two veterans of skill and the two keys of bravery of the Gael, to be brought together in encounter as from afar, through the sowing of dissension and the incitement of Ailill and Medb. Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those deeds of arms from early morning's gloaming till the middle of noon. When mid-day came, the rage of the men became wild, and each drew nearer to the other.
Thereupon Cuchulain gave one spring once from the bank of the ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, seeking to reach his head and to strike it from above over the rim of the shield. Straightway Ferdiad gave the shield a blow with his left elbow, so that Cuchulain went from him like a bird onto the brink of the ford. Again Cuchulain sprang from the brink of the ford, so that he alighted upon the boss of Ferdiad macDaman's shield, that he might reach his head and strike it over the rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad gave the shield a thrust with his left knee, so that Cuchulain went from him like an infant onto the bank of the ford.
Laeg espied that. "Woe then, Cuchulain!" cried Laeg; "meseems the battle-warrior that is against thee hath shaken thee as a fond woman shakes her child. He hath washed thee as a cup is washed in a tub. He hath ground thee as a mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced thee as a tool bores through an oak. He hath bound thee as the bindweed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee as a hawk pounces on little birds, so that no more hast thou right or title or claim to valour or skill in arms till the very day of doom and of life, thou little imp of an elf-man!" cried Laeg.
Thereat for the third time, Cuchulain arose with the speed of the wind, and the swiftness of a swallow, and the dash of a dragon, and the strength (of a lion) into the clouds of the air, til he alighted on the boss of the shield of Ferdiad son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he might strike it from above over the rim of his shield. Then it was that the battle-warrior gave the shield a violent and powerful shake, so that Cuchulain flew from it into the middle of the ford, the same as if he had not sprung at all.
It was then the first twisting-fit of Cuchulain took place, so that a swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a bladder, until he made a dreadful, terrible, many-coloured, wonderful bow of himself, so that as big as a giant or a man of the sea was the hugely-brave warrior towering directly over Ferdiad.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their heads encountered above and their feet below and their hands in the middle over the rims and bosses of the shields. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their shields burst and split from their rims to their centres. Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their spears bent and turned and shivered from their tips to their rivets.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the boccanach and the bananach and the sprites of the glens and the eldritch beings of the air screamed from the rims of their shields and from the guards of their swords and from the tips of their spears.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that they forced the river out of its bed and out of its course, so that there might have been a reclining place for a king or a queen in the middle of the ford, and not a drop of water was in it but what fell there with the trampling and slipping which the two heroes and the two battle-warriors made in the middle of the ford.
Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the steeds of the Gael broke loose affrighted and plunging with madness and fury, so that their chains and their shackles, their traces and tethers snapped, and the women and children and pygmy-folk, the weak and the madmen among the men of Erin broke out through the camp southwestward.
At that time they were at the edge-feat of swords. It was then Ferdiad caught Cuchulain in an unguarded moment, and he gave him a thrust with his tusk-hilted blade, so that he buried it in his breast, and his blood fell into his belt, till the ford became crimsoned with the clotted blood from the battle-warrior's body. Cuchulain endured it not under Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing, heavy blows, and his long strokes and his mighty, middle slashes at him.
Then Cuchulain bethought him of his friends from the Faery land and of his mighty folk who would come to defend him and of his scholars to protect him, what time he would be hard pressed in the combat. It was then that Dolb and Indolb arrived to help and to succour their friend, namely Cuchulain. Then it was that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield against him, and he gave all his care and attention thereto, and thence he called to mind that, when they were with Scathach and with Uathach [learning together, Dolb and Indolb used to come to help Cuchulain out of every stress wherein he was.]
Ferdiad spake: "Not alike are our foster-brothership and our comradeship O Cuchulain," quoth he. "How so, then?" asked Cuchulain. "Thy friends of the Fairy-folk have succoured thee, and thou didst not disclose them to me before," said Ferdiad. "Not easy for me were that," answered Cuchulain; "for if the magic veil be once revealed to one of the sons of Mile, none of the Tuatha De Danann will have power to practise concealment or magic. And why complainest thou here, Ferdiad?" said Cuchulain. "Thou hast a horn skin whereby to multiply feats and deeds of arms on me, and thou hast not shown me how it is closed or how it is opened." Then it was they displayed all their skill and secret cunning to one another, so that there was not a secret of either of them kept from the other except the Gae Bulga, which was Cuchulain's.
Howbeit, when the Fairy friends found Cuchulain had been wounded, each of them inflicted three great, heavy wounds on him, on Ferdiad, to wit. It was then that Ferdiad made a cast to the right, so that he slew Dolb with that goodly cast. Then followed the two woundings and the two throws that overcame him, till Ferdiad made a second throw towards Cuchulain's left, and with that throw he stretched low and killed Indolb dead on the floor of the ford. Hence it is that the story-teller sang the rann:
When the devoted equally great sires and champions, and the hard, battle-victorious wild beasts that fought for Cuchulain had fallen, it greatly strengthened the courage of Ferdiad, so that he gave two blows for every blow of Cuchulain's. When Laeg son of Riangabair saw his lord being overcome by the crushing blows of the champion who oppressed him, Laeg began to stir up and rebuke Cuchulain, in such a way that a swelling and an inflation filled Cuchulain from top to ground, as the wind fills a spread, open banner, so that he made a dreadful, wonderful bow of himself like a skybow in a shower of rain, and he made for Ferdiad with the violence of a dragon or the strength of a blood-hound.
And Cuchulain called for the Gae Bulga from Laeg son of Riangabair. This was its nature: With the stream it was made ready, and from between the fork of the foot it was cast; the wound of a single spear it gave when entering the body, and thirty barbs had it when it opened and it could not be drawn out of a man's flesh till the flesh had been cut about it.
Thereupon Laeg came forward to the brink of the river and to the place where the fresh water was dammed, and the Gae Bulga was sharpened and set in position. He filled the pool and stopped the stream and checked the tide of the ford. Ferdiad's charioteer watched the work, for Ferdiad had said to him early in the morning: "Now gilla, do thou hold back Laeg from me to-day, and I will hold back Cuchulain from thee." "This is a pity," quoth the henchman; "no match for him am I; for a man to combat a hundred is he, and that am I not. Still; however slight his help, it shall not come to his lord past me."
He was then watching his brother thus making the dam till he filled the pools and went to set the Gae Bulga downwards. It was then that Id went up and released the stream and opened the dam and undid the fixing of the Gae Bulga. Cuchulain became deep purple and red all over when he saw the setting undone on the Gae Bulga. He sprang from the top of the ground so that he alighted light and quick on the rim of Ferdiad's shield. Ferdiad gave a strong shake to the shield, so that he hurled Cuchulain the measure of nine paces out to the westward over the ford.
Then Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg to set about preparing the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg hastened to the pool and began the work. Id ran and opened the dam and released it before the stream. Laeg sprang at his brother and they grappled on the spot. Laeg threw Id and handled him sorely, for he was loath to use weapons upon him. Ferdiad pursued Cuchulain westwards over the ford. Cuchulain sprang on the rim of the shield. Ferdiad shook the shield, so that he sent Cuchulain the space of nine paces eastwards over the ford.
Cuchulain called and shouted to Laeg. Laeg attempted to come, but Ferdiad's charioteer let him not, so that Laeg turned on him and left him on the sedgy bottom of the ford. He gave him many a heavy blow with clenched fist on the face and countenance, so that he broke his mouth and his nose and put out his eyes and his sight. And forthwith Laeg left him and filled the pool and checked the stream and stilled the noise of the river's voice, and set in position the Gae Bulga. After some time Ferdiad's charioteer arose from his death-cloud, and set his hand on his face and countenance, and he looked away towards the ford of combat and saw Laeg fixing the Gae Bulga. He ran again to the pool and made a breach in the dike quickly and speedily, so that the river burst out in its booming, bounding, bellying, bank-breaking billows making its own wild course. Cuchulain became purple and red all over when he saw the setting of the Gae Bulga had been disturbed, and for the third time he sprang from the top of the ground and alighted on the edge of Ferdiad's shield, so as to strike him over the shield from above. Ferdiad gave a blow with his left knee against the leather of the bare shield, so that Cuchulain was thrown into the waves of the ford.
Thereupon Ferdiad gave three severe woundings to Cuchulain. Cuchulain cried and shouted loudly to Laeg to make ready the Gae Bulga for him. Laeg attempted to get near it, but Ferdiad's charioteer prevented him. Then Laeg grew very wroth at his brother and he made a spring at him, and he closed his long, full-valiant hands over him, so that he quickly threw him to the ground and straightway bound him. And then he went from him quickly and courageously, so that he filled the pool and stayed the stream and set the Gae Bulga. And he cried out to Cuchulain that it was served, for it was not to be discharged without a quick word of warning before it. Hence it is that Laeg cried out:--
Then it was that Cuchulain let fly the white Gae Bulga from the fork of his irresistible right foot. Ferdiad prepared for the feat according to the testimony thereof. He lowered his shield, so that the spear went over its edge into the watery, water-cold river. And he looked at Cuchulain, and he saw all his various, venomous feats made ready, and he knew not to which of them he should first give answer, whether to the 'Fist's breast-spear,' or to the 'Wild shield's broad-spear,' or to the 'Short spear from the middle of the palm,' or to the white Gae Bulga over the fair, watery river.
Ferdiad heard the Gae Bulga called for. He thrust his shield down to protect the lower part of his body. Cuchulain gripped the short spear, cast it off the palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over the edge of the corselet and horn-skin, so that its farther half was visible after piercing his heart in his bosom. Ferdiad gave a thrust of his shield upwards to protect the upper part of his body, though it was help that came too late. The gilla set the Gae Bulga down the stream, and Cuchulain caught it in the fork of his foot, and threw the Gae Bulga as far as he could cast underneath at Ferdiad, so that it passed through the strong, thick, iron apron of wrought iron, and broke in three parts the huge, goodly stone the size of a millstone, so that it cut its way through the body's protection into him, till every joint and every limb was filled with its barbs.
"Ah, that now sufficeth," sighed Ferdiad: "I am fallen of that! But, yet one thing more: mightily didst thou drive with thy right foot. And 'twas not fair of thee for me to fall by thy hand." And he yet spake and uttered these words:
Thereupon Cuchulain hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his two arms about him, and bore him with all his arms and his armour and his dress northwards over the ford, that so it should be with his face to the north of the ford the triumph took place and not to the south of the ford with the men of Erin. Cuchulain laid Ferdiad there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over Cuchulain there by the head of Ferdiad. Laeg espied it, and the men of Erin all arose for the attack upon him. "Come, O Cucuc," cried Laeg; "arise now from thy trance, for the men of Erin will come to attack us, and it is not single combat they will allow us, now that Ferdiad son of Daman son of Darè is fallen by thee." "What availeth it me to arise, O gilla," moaned Cuchulain, "now that this one is fallen by my hand?" In this wise the gilla spake and he uttered these words and Cuchulain responded:
Cuchulain began to lament and bemoan Ferdiad, and he spake the words:
"Alas, O Ferdiad," spake he, "'twas thine ill fortune thou didst not take counsel with any of those that knew my real deeds of valour and arms, before we met in clash of battle! Unhappy for thee that Laeg son of Riangabair did not make thee blush in regard to our comradeship! Unhappy for thee that the truly faithful warning of Fergus thou didst not take! Unhappy for thee that dear, trophied, triumphant, battle-victorious Conall counselled thee not in regard to our comradeship! For those men would not have spoken in obedience to the messages or desires or orders or false words of promise of the fair-haired women of Connacht. For well do those men know that there will not be born a being that will perform deeds so tremendous and so great among the Connachtmen as I, till the very day of doom and of everlasting life, whether at plying of spear and sword, at playing at draughts and chess, at driving of steeds and chariots."
"There shall not be found the hand of a hero that will wound warrior's flesh, like cloud-coloured Ferdiad! There shall not be heard from the gap the cry of red-mouthed Badb to the winged, shade-speckled flocks! There shall not be one that will contend for Cruachan that will obtain covenants equal to thine, till the very day of doom and of life henceforward, O red-cheeked son of Daman!" said Cuchulain. Then it was that Cuchulain arose and stood over Ferdiad: "Ah, Ferdiad," spake Cuchulain, "greatly have the men of Erin deceived and abandoned thee, to bring thee to contend and do battle with me. For no easy thing is it to contend and do battle with me on the Raid for the Kine of Cualnge! Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:
Then Cuchulain turned to gaze on Ferdiad. "Ah, my master Laeg," cried Cuchulain, "now strip Ferdiad and take his armour and garments off him, that I may see the brooch for the sake of which he entered on the combat and fight with me." Laeg came up and stripped Ferdiad. He took his armour and garments off him and he saw the brooch and he began to lament and complain over Ferdiad, and he spake these words:
"Come, O Laeg my master," cried Cuchulain; "now cut open Ferdiad and take the Gae Bulga out, because I may not be without my weapons." Laeg came and cut open Ferdiad and he took the Gae Bulga out of him. And Cuchulain saw his weapons bloody and red-stained by the side of Ferdiad, and he uttered these words:--
"Good, O Cucuc," spake Laeg, "let us leave this ford now; too long are we here!" "Aye, let us leave it, O my master Laeg," replied Cuchulain. "But every combat and battle I have fought seems a game and a sport to me compared with the combat and battle of Ferdiad." Thus he spake, and he uttered these words:
Thus far the Death of Ferdiad.