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 Becuma Of The White Skin 
Page 5 of 6

ART THEN RAISED his head and stood up courteously, but he did not look at her. "Whatever the queen demands I will do," said he.
      "Am I not your mother also?" she replied mockingly, as she took the seat which the chief magician leaped from.
      The game was set then, and her play was so skilful that Art was hard put to counter her moves. But at a point of the game Becuma grew thoughtful, and, as by a lapse of memory, she made a move which gave the victory to her opponent. But she had intended that. She sat then, biting on her lip with her white small teeth and staring angrily at Art.
      "What do you demand from me?" she asked.
      "I bind you to eat no food in Ireland until you find the wand of Curoi, son of Dare'."
      Becuma then put a cloak about her and she went from Tara northward and eastward until she came to the dewy, sparkling Brugh of Angus mac an Og in Ulster, but she was not admitted there. She went thence to the Shi' ruled over by Eogabal, and although this lord would not admit her, his daughter Aine', who was her foster-sister, let her into Faery.
      She made inquiries and was informed where the dun of Curoi mac Dare' was, and when she had received this intelligence she set out for Sliev Mis. By what arts she coaxed Curoi to give up his wand it matters not, enough that she was able to return in triumph to Tara. When she handed the wand to Art, she said:
      "I claim my game of revenge."
      "It is due to you," said Art, and they sat on the lawn before the palace and played.
      A hard game that was, and at times each of the combatants sat for an hour staring on the board before the next move was made, and at times they looked from the board and for hours stared on the sky seeking as though in heaven for advice. But Becuma's foster-sister, Aine', came from the Shi', and, unseen by any, she interfered with Art's play, so that, suddenly, when he looked again on the board, his face went pale, for he saw that the game was lost.
      "I didn't move that piece," said he sternly.
      "Nor did I," Becuma replied, and she called on the onlookers to confirm that statement.
      She was smiling to herself secretly, for she had seen what the mortal eyes around could not see.
      "I think the game is mine," she insisted softly.
      "I think that your friends in Faery have cheated," he replied, "but the game is yours if you are content to win it that way."
      "I bind you," said Becuma, "to eat no food in Ireland until you have found Delvcaem, the daughter of Morgan."
      "Where do I look for her?" said Art in despair.
      "She is in one of the islands of the sea," Becuma replied, "that is all I will tell you," and she looked at him maliciously, joyously, contentedly, for she thought he would never return from that journey, and that Morgan would see to it.
      Art, as his father had done before him, set out for the Many-Coloured Land, but it was from Inver Colpa he embarked and not from Ben Edair.
      At a certain time he passed from the rough green ridges of the sea to enchanted waters, and he roamed from island to island asking all people how he might come to Delvcaem, the daughter of Morgan. But he got no news from any one, until he reached an island that was fragrant with wild apples, gay with flowers, and joyous with the song of birds and the deep mellow drumming of the bees. In this island he was met by a lady, Crede', the Truly Beautiful, and when they had exchanged kisses, he told her who he was and on what errand he was bent.
      "We have been expecting you," said Crede', "but alas, poor soul, it is a hard, and a long, bad way that you must go; for there is sea and land, danger and difficulty between you and the daughter of Morgan."
      "Yet I must go there," he answered.
      "There is a wild dark ocean to be crossed. There is a dense wood where every thorn on every tree is sharp as a spear-point and is curved and clutching. There is a deep gulf to be gone through," she said, "a place of silence and terror, full of dumb, venomous monsters. There is an immense oak forest--dark, dense, thorny, a place to be strayed in, a place to be utterly bewildered and lost in. There is a vast dark wilderness, and therein is a dark house, lonely and full of echoes, and in it there are seven gloomy hags, who are warned already of your coming and are waiting to plunge you in a bath of molten lead."
      "It is not a choice journey," said Art, "but I have no choice and must go."
      "Should you pass those hags," she continued, "and no one has yet passed them, you must meet Ailill of the Black Teeth, the son of Mongan Tender Blossom, and who could pass that gigantic and terrible fighter?"
      "It is not easy to find the daughter of Morgan," said Art in a melancholy voice.
      "It is not easy," Crede' replied eagerly, "and if you will take my advice-- "
      "Advise me," he broke in, "for in truth there is no man standing in such need of counsel as I do."
      "I would advise you," said Crede' in a low voice, "to seek no more for the sweet daughter of Morgan, but to stay in this place where all that is lovely is at your service."
      "But, but-- "cried Art in astonishment.
      "Am I not as sweet as the daughter of Morgan?" she demanded, and she stood before him queenly and pleadingly, and her eyes took his with imperious tenderness.
      "By my hand," he answered, "you are sweeter and lovelier than any being under the sun, but-- "
      "And with me," she said, "you will forget Ireland."
      "I am under bonds," cried Art, "I have passed my word, and I would not forget Ireland or cut myself from it for all the kingdoms of the Many-Coloured Land."

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