Then Fergus went on this errand; Etarcomol, son of Edan1 and Lethrinne, foster-son of Ailill and Medb, followed.
'I do not want you to go,' said Fergus, 'and it is not for hatred of you; but I do not like combat between you and Cuchulainn. Your pride and insolence, and the fierceness and hatred, pride and madness of the other, Cuchulainn: there will be no good from your meeting.'
'Are you not able to protect me from him?' said Etarcomol.
'I can,' said Fergus, 'provided only that you do not treat his, sayings with disrespect.'
They go thence in two chariots to Delga. Cuchulainn was then playing chess2 with Loeg; the back of his head was towards them, and Loeg's face.
'I see two chariots coming towards us,' said Loeg; 'a great dark man in the first chariot, with dark and bushy hair; a purple cloak round him, and a golden pin therein; a hooded tunic with gold embroidery on him; and a round shield with an engraved edge of white metal, and a broad spear-head, with rings from point to haft(?), in his hand. A sword as long as the rudder of a boat on his two thighs.'
'It is empty, this great rudder that is brought by my friend Fergus,' said Cuchulainn; 'for there is no sword in its sheath except a sword of wood. It has been told to me,' said Cuchulainn; 'Ailill got a chance of them as they slept, he and Medb; and he took away his sword from Fergus, and gave it to his charioteer to take care of, and the sword of wood was put into its sheath.'
Then Fergus comes up.
'Welcome, O friend Fergus,' said Cuchulainn; 'if a fish comes into the estuary, you shall have it with half of another; if a flock comes into the plain, you shall have a duck with half of another; a spray of cress or seaweed, a spray of marshwort; a drink from the sand; you shall have a going to the ford to meet a man, if it should happen to be your watch, till you have slept.'
'I believe it,' said Fergus; 'it is not your provision that we have come for; we know your housekeeping here.'
Then Cuchulainn receives the message from Fergus; anti Fergus goes away. Etarcomol remains looking at Cuchulainn.
'What are you looking at?' said Cuchulainn.
'You,' said Etarcomol.
'The eye soon compasses it indeed,' said Cuchulainn.
'That is what I see,' said Etarcomol. 'I do not know at all why you should be feared by any one. I do not see terror or fearfulness, or overwhelming of a host, in you; you are merely a fair youth with arms of wood, and with fine feats.'
'Though you speak ill of me,' said Cuchulainn, 'I will not kill you for the sake of Fergus. But for your protection, it would have been your entrails drawn (?) and your quarters scattered, that would have gone from me to the camp behind your chariot.'
'Threaten me not thus,' said Etarcomol. 'The wonderful agreement that he has bound, that is, the single combat, it is I who will first meet you of the men of Ireland to-morrow.'
Then he goes away. He turned back from Methe and Cethe and said to his charioteer:
'I have boasted,' said he, 'before Fergus combat with Cuchulainn to-morrow. It is not possible for us3 to wait for it; turn the horses back again from the hill.'
Loeg sees this and says to Cuchulainn: 'There is the chariot back again, and it has put its left board4 towards us.'
'It is not a "debt of refusal,"' said Cuchulainn. 'I do not wish,' said Cuchulainn, 'what you demand of me.'
'This is obligatory to you,' said Etarcomol.
Cuchulainn strikes the sod under his feet, so that he fell prostrate, and the sod behind him.
'Go from me,' said Cuchulainn. 'I am loath to cleanse my hands in you. I would have divided you into many parts long since but for Fergus.'
'We will not part thus,' said Etarcomol, 'till I have taken your head, or left my head with you.'
'It is that indeed that will be there,' said Cuchulainn.
Cuchulainn strikes him with his sword in his two armpits, so that his clothes fell from him, and it did not wound his skin.
'Go then,' said Cuchulainn.
'No,' said Etarcomol.
Then Cuchulainn attacked him with the edge of his sword, and took his hair off as if it was shaved with a razor; he did not put even a scratch (?) on the surface. When the churl was troublesome then and stuck to him, he struck him on the hard part of his crown, so that he divided him down to the navel.
Fergus saw the chariot go past him, and the one man therein. He turned to quarrel with Cuchulainn.
'Ill done of you, O wild boy!' said he, 'to insult me. You would think my club5 short,' said he.
'Be not angry with me, O friend Fergus,' said Cuchulainn ...6 'Reproach me not, O friend Fergus.'
He stoops down, so that Fergus's chariot went past him thrice.
He asked his charioteer: 'Is it I who have caused it?'
'It is not you at all,' said his charioteer.
'He said,' said Cuchulainn, 'he would not go till he took my head, or till he left his head with me. Which would you think easier to bear, O friend Fergus?' said Cuchulainn.
'I think what has been done the easier truly,' said Fergus, 'for it is he who was insolent.'
Then Fergus put a spancel-withe through Etarcomol's two heels and took him behind his own chariot to the camp. When they went over rocks, one-half would separate from the other; when it was smooth, they came together again.
Medb saw him. 'Not pleasing is that treatment of a tender whelp, O Fergus,' said Medb.
'The dark churl should not have made fight,' said Fergus, 'against the great Hound whom he could not contend with (?).'
His grave is dug then and his stone planted; his name is written in ogam; his lament is celebrated. Cuchulainn did not molest them that night with his sling; and the women and maidens and half the cattle are taken to him; and provision continued to be brought to him by day.
The Death of Nadcrantail
'What man have you to meet Cuchulainn tomorrow?' said Lugaid.
'They will give it to you to-morrow,' said Mane, son of Ailill.
'We can find no one to meet him,' said Medb. 'Let us have peace with him till a man be sought for him.'
They get that then.
'Whither will you send,' said Ailill, 'to seek that man to meet Cuchulainn?'
'There is no one in Ireland who could be got for him,' said Medb, 'unless Curoi Mac Dare can be brought, or Nadcrantail the warrior.'
There was one of Curoi's followers in the tent. 'Curoi will not come,' said he; 'he thinks enough of his household has come. Let a message be sent to Nadcrantail.'
Mane Andoi goes to him, and they tell their tale to him.
'Come with us for the sake of the honour of Connaught.'
'I will not go,' said he, 'unless Findabair be given to me.'
He comes with them then. They bring his armour in a chariot, from the east of Connaught till it was in the camp.
'You shall have Findabair,' said Medb, 'for going against that man yonder.'
'I will do it,' said he.
Lugaid comes to Cuchulainn that night.
'Nadcrantail is coming to meet you to-morrow; it is unlucky for you: you will not withstand him.'
'That does not matter,' said Cuchulainn. ...7
Nadcrantail goes next morning from the camp, and he takes nine spits of holly, sharpened and burned. Now Cuchulainn was there catching birds, and his chariot near him. Nadcrantail throws a spear at Cuchulainn; Cuchulainn performed a feat on to the point of that spear, and it did not hinder him from catching the birds. The same with the eight other spears. When he throws the ninth spear, the flock flies from Cuchulainn, and he went after the flock. He goes on the points of the spears like a bird, from each spear to the next, pursuing the birds that they should not escape. It seemed to every one, however, that it was in flight that Cuchulainn went before Nadcrantail.
'Your Cuchulainn yonder,' said he, 'has gone in flight before me.'
'That is of course,' said Medb; 'if good warriors should come to him, the wild boy would not resist ----.'
This vexed Fergus and the Ulstermen; Fiacha Mac Fir-Febe comes from them to remonstrate with Cuchulainn.
'Tell him,' said Fergus, 'it was noble to be before the warriors while he did brave deeds. It is more noble for him,' said Fergus, 'to hide himself when he flees before one man, for it were not greater shame to him than to the rest of Ulster.'
'Who has boasted that?' said Cuchulainn.
'Nadcrantail,' said Fiacha.
'Though it were that that he should boast, the feat that I have done before him, it was no more shame to me,' (?) said Cuchulainn. 'He would by no means have boasted it had there been a weapon in his hand. You know full well that I kill no one unarmed. Let him come to-morrow,' said Cuchulainn, 'till he is between Ochaine and the sea, and however early he comes, he will find me there, and I shall not flee before him.'
Cuchulainn came then to his appointed meeting-place, and he threw the hem [of his cloak] round him after his night-watch, and he did not perceive the pillar that was near him, of equal size with himself. He embraced it under his cloak, and placed it near him.
Therewith Nadcrantail came; his arms were brought with him in a wagon.
'Where is Cuchulainn?' said he.
'There he is yonder,' said Fergus.
'It was not thus he appeared to me yesterday,' said Nadcrantail.
'Are you Cuchulainn?'
'And if I am then?' said Cuchulainn.
'If you are indeed,' said Nadcrantail, 'I cannot bring the head of a little lamb to camp; I will not take the head of a beardless boy.'
'It is not I at all,' said Cuchulainn. 'Go to him round the hill.'
Cuchulainn comes to Loeg: 'Smear a false beard on me,' said he; 'I cannot get the warrior to fight me without a beard.' It was done for him. He goes to meet him on the hill. 'I think that more fitting,' said he.
'Take the right way of fighting with me,' said Nadcrantail.
'You shall have it if only we know it,' said Cuchulainn.
'I will throw a cast at you,' said Nadcrantail, 'and do not avoid it.'
'I will not avoid it except on high,' said Cuchulainn.
Nadcrantail throws a cast at him; Cuchulainn leaps on high before it.
'You do ill to avoid my cast,' said Nadcrantail.
'Avoid my throw then on high,' said Cuchulainn.
Cuchulainn throws the spear at him, but it was on high, so that from above it alighted in his crown, and it went through him to the ground.
'Alas! it is you are the best warrior in Ireland!' said Nadcrantail. 'I have twenty-four sons in the camp. I will go and tell them what hidden treasures I have, and I will come that you may behead me, for I shall die if the spear is taken out of my head.'
'Good,' said Cuchulainn. 'You will come back.'
Nadcrantail goes to the camp then. Every one comes to meet him.
'Where is the madman's head?' said every one.
'Wait, O heroes, till I tell my tale to my sons, and go back that I may fight with Cuchulainn.'
He goes thence to seek Cuchulainn, and throws his sword at Cuchulainn. Cuchulainn leaps on high, so that it struck the pillar, and the sword broke in two. Then Cuchulainn went mad as he had done against the boys in Emain, and he springs on his shield therewith, and struck his head off. He strikes him again on the neck down to the navel. His four quarters fall to the ground. Then Cuchulainn said this:
'If Nadcrantail has fallen,
It will be an increase to the strife.
Alas! that I cannot fight at this time
With Medb with a third of the host.'
HERE IS THE FINDING OF THE BULL ACCORDING TO THIS VERSION:
It is then that Medb went with a third of the host with her to Cuib to seek the Bull; and Cuchulainn went after her. Now on the road of Midluachair she had gone to harry Ulster and Cruthne as far as Dun Sobairche. Cuchulainn saw something: Bude Mac Bain from Sliab Culinn with the Bull, and fifteen heifers round him; and his force was sixty men of Ailill's household, with a cloak folded round every man. Cuchulainn comes to them.
'Whence have you brought the cattle?' said Cuchulainn.
'From the mountain yonder,' said the man.'
'Where are their cow-herds?' said Cuchulainn.
'He is as we found him,' said the man.
Cuchulainn made three leaps after them to seek speech with them as far as the ford. It is there he said to the leader:
'What is your name?' said he.
'One who fears you not(?) and loves you not; Bude Mac Bain,' said he.
'This spear at Bude!' said Cuchulainn. He hurls at him the javelin, so that it went through his armpits, and one of the livers broke in two before the spear. He kills him on his ford; hence is Ath Bude. The Bull is brought into the camp then. They considered then that it would not be difficult to deal with Cuchulainn, provided his javelin were got from him.
1: Name uncertain. YBL has Eda, LL Feda. back
2: Buanfach, like fidchell, is apparently a game something like chess or draughts. back
3: YBL reading. back
4: An insult. back
5: Or 'track'? back
6: Rhetoric, five lines. back
7: Corrupt. back