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 Mongan's Frenzy 
Page 2 of 10

THERE WAS NO storm behind them. The sunlight drowsed there as it did in front, a peaceful flooding of living gold. They saw the shapes of the country to which their eyes were accustomed, and recognised the well-known landmarks, but it seemed that the distant hills were a trifle higher, and the grass which clothed them and stretched between was greener, was more velvety: that the trees were better clothed and had more of peace as they hung over the quiet ground.
      But Mongan knew what had happened, and he smiled with glee as he watched his astonished companions, and he sniffed that balmy air as one whose nostrils remembered it.
      "You had better come with me," he said.
      "Where are we?" his wife asked. "Why, we are here," cried Mongan; "where else should we be?"
      He set off then, and the others followed, staring about them cautiously, and each man keeping a hand on the hilt of his sword.
      "Are we in Faery?" the Flame Lady asked.
      "We are," said Mongan.
      When they had gone a little distance they came to a grove of ancient trees. Mightily tail and well grown these trees were, and the trunk of each could not have been spanned by ten broad men. As they went among these quiet giants into the dappled obscurity and silence, their thoughts became grave, and all the motions of their minds elevated as though they must equal in greatness and dignity those ancient and glorious trees. When they passed through the grove they saw a lovely house before them, built of mellow wood and with a roof of bronze--it was like the dwelling of a king, and over the windows of the Sunny Room there was a balcony. There were ladies on this balcony, and when they saw the travellers approaching they sent messengers to welcome them.
      Mongan and his companions were then brought into the house, and all was done for them that could be done for honoured guests. Everything within the house was as excellent as all without, and it was inhabited by seven men and seven women, and it was evident that Mongan and these people were well acquainted.
      In the evening a feast was prepared, and when they had eaten well there was a banquet. There were seven vats of wine, and as Mongan loved wine he was very happy, and he drank more on that occasion than any one had ever noticed him to drink before.
      It was while he was in this condition of glee and expansion that the Flame Lady put her arms about his neck and begged he would tell her the story of Duv Laca, and, being boisterous then and full of good spirits, he agreed to her request, and he prepared to tell the tale.
      The seven men and seven women of tile Fairy Palace then took their places about him in a half-circle; his own seven guards sat behind them; his wife, the Flame Lady, sat by his side; and at the back of all Cairid~ his story-teller sat, listening with all his ears, and remembering every word that was uttered.
      Said Mongan:
      In the days of long ago and the times that have disappeared for ever, there was one Fiachna Finn the son of Baltan, the son of Murchertach, the son of Muredach, the son of Eogan, the son of Neill. He went from his own country when he was young, for he wished to see the land of Lochlann, and he knew that he would be welcomed by the king of that country, for Fiachna's father and Eolgarg's father had done deeds in common and were obliged to each other.
      He was welcomed, and he stayed at the Court of Lochlann in great ease and in the midst of pleasures.
      It then happened that Eolgarg Mor fell sick and the doctors could not cure him. They sent for other doctors, but they could not cure him, nor could any one say what he was suffering from, beyond that he was wasting visibly before their eyes, and would certainly become a shadow and disappear in air unless he was healed and fattened and made visible.
      They sent for more distant doctors, and then for others more distant still, and at last they found a man who claimed that he could make a cure if the king were supplied with the medicine which he would order.
      "What medicine is that?" said they all.
      "This is the medicine," said the doctor. "Find a per-fectly white cow with red ears, and boil it down in the lump, and if the king drinks that rendering he will recover."
      Before he had well said it messengers were going from the palace in all directions looking for such a cow. They found lots of cows which were nearly like what they wanted, but it was only by chance they came on the cow which would do the work, and that beast belonged to the most notorious and malicious and cantankerous female in Lochlann, the Black Hag. Now the Black Hag was not only those things that have been said; she was also whiskered and warty and one-eyed and obstreperous, and she was notorious and ill-favoured in many other ways also.
      They offered her a cow in the place of her own cow, but she refused to give it. Then they offered a cow for each leg of her cow, but she would not accept that offer unless Fiachna went bail for the payment. He agreed to do so, and they drove the beast away.
      On the return journey he was met by messengers who brought news from Ireland. They said that the King of Ulster was dead, and that he, Fiachna Finn, had been elected king in the dead king's place. He at once took ship for Ireland, and found that all he had been told was true, and he took up the government of Ulster.
      A year passed, and one day as he was sitting at judgement there came a great noise from without, and this noise was so persistent that the people and suitors were scandalised, and Fiachna at last ordered that the noisy person should be brought before him to be judged.
      It was done, and to his surprise the person turned out to be the Black Hag.
      She blamed him in the court before his people, and complained that he had taken away her cow, and that she had not been paid the four cows he had gone bail for, and she demanded judgement from him and justice.
      "If you will consider it to be justice, I will give you twenty cows myself," said Fiachna.
      "I would not take all the cows in Ulster," she screamed.
      "Pronounce judgement yourself," said the king, "and if I can do what you demand I will do it." For he did not like to be in the wrong, and he did not wish that any person should have an unsatisfied claim upon him.
      The Black Hag then pronounced judgement, and the king had to fulfil it.
      "I have come," said she, "from the east to the west; you must come from the west to the east and make war for me, and revenge me on the King of Lochlann."
      Fiachna had to do as she demanded, and, although it was with a heavy heart, he set out in three days' time for Lochlann, and he brought with him ten battalions.
      He sent messengers before him to Big Eolgarg warning him of his coming, of his intention, and of the number of troops he was bringing; and when he landed Eolgarg met him with an equal force, and they fought together.
      In the first battle three hundred of the men of Lochlann were killed, but in the next battle Eolgarg Mor did not fight fair, for he let some venomous sheep out of a tent, and these attacked the men of Ulster and killed nine hundred of them.
      So vast was the slaughter made by these sheep and so great the terror they caused, that no one could stand before them, but by great good luck there was a wood at hand, and the men of Ulster, warriors and princes and charioteers, were forced to climb up the trees, and they roosted among the branches like great birds, while the venomous sheep ranged below bleating terribly and tearing up the ground.
      Fiachna Fi,m was also sitting in a tree, very high up, and he was disconsolate.
      "We are disgraced{" said he.
      "It is very lucky," said the man in the branch below, "that a sheep cannot climb a tree."
      "We are disgraced for ever{" said the King of Ulster.
      "If those sheep learn how to climb, we are undone surely," said the man below.
      "I will go down and fight the sheep," said Fiachna. But the others would not let the king go.
      "It is not right," they said, "that you should fight sheep."
      "Some one must fight them," said Fiachna Finn, "but no more of my men shall die until I fight myself; for if I am fated to die, I will die and I cannot escape it, and if it is the sheep's fate to die, then die they will; for there is no man can avoid destiny, and there is no sheep can dodge it either."
      "Praise be to god!" said the warrior that was higher up.
      "Amen!' said the man who was higher than he, and the rest of the warriors wished good luck to the king.

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