ITHIN THE DUN there was disorder. Servants were shouting to one another, and women were running to and fro aimlessly, wringing their hands and screaming; and, when they saw the Champion, those nearest to him ran away, and there was a general effort on the part of every person to get behind every other person. But Fionn caught the eye of his butler, Gariv Crona'n, the Rough Buzzer, and held it.
"Come you here," he said.
And the Rough Buzzer came to him without a single buzz in his body.
"Where is the Flower of Allen?" his master demanded.
"I do not know, master," the terrified servant replied.
"You do not know!" said Fionn. "Tell what you do know."
And the man told him this story.
"When you had been away for a day the guards were surprised. They were looking from the heights of the Dun, and the Flower of Allen was with them. She, for she had a quest's eye, called out that the master of the Fianna was coming over the ridges to the Dun, and she ran from the keep to meet you."
"It was not I," said Fionn.
"It bore your shape," replied Gariv Cronan. "It had your armour and your face, and the dogs, Bran and Sceo'lan, were with it."
"They were with me," said Fionn.
"They seemed to be with it," said the servant humbly
"Tell us this tale," cried Fionn.
"We were distrustful," the servant continued. "We had never known Fionn to return from a combat before it had been fought, and we knew you could not have reached Ben Edar or encountered the Lochlannachs. So we urged our lady to let us go out to meet you, but to remain herself in the Dun."
"It was good urging," Fionn assented.
"She would not be advised," the servant wailed. "She cried to us, 'Let me go to meet my love'."
"Alas!" said Fionn.
"She cried on us, 'Let me go to meet my husband, the father of the child that is not born.'"
"Alas!" groaned deep-wounded Fionn. "She ran towards your appearance that had your arms stretched out to her."
At that wise Fionn put his hand before his eyes, seeing all that happened.
"Tell on your tale," said he.
"She ran to those arms, and when she reached them the figure lifted its hand. It touched her with a hazel rod, and, while we looked, she disappeared, and where she had been there was a fawn standing and shivering. The fawn turned and bounded towards the gate of the Dun, but the hounds that were by flew after her."
Fionn stared on him like a lost man.
"They took her by the throat--"the shivering servant whispered.
"Ah!" cried Fionn in a terrible voice.
"And they dragged her back to the figure that seemed to be Fionn. Three times she broke away and came bounding to us, and three times the dogs took her by the throat and dragged her back."
"You stood to look!" the Chief snarled.
"No, master, we ran, but she vanished as we got to her; the great hounds vanished away, and that being that seemed to be Fionn disappeared with them. We were left in the rough grass, staring about us and at each other, and listening to the moan of the wind and the terror of our hearts."
"Forgive us, dear master," the servant cried. But the great captain made him no answer. He stood as though he were dumb and blind, and now and again he beat terribly on his breast with his closed fist, as though he would kill that within him which should be dead and could not die. He went so, beating on his breast, to his inner room in the Dun, and he was not seen again for the rest of that day, nor until the sun rose over Moy Life' in the morning.
For many years after that time, when he was not fighting against the enemies of Ireland, Fionn was searching and hunting through the length and breadth of the country in the hope that he might again chance on his lovely lady from the Shi'. Through all that time he slept in misery each night and he rose each day to grief. Whenever he hunted he brought only the hounds that he trusted, Bran and Sceo'lan, Lomaire, Brod, and Lomlu; for if a fawn was chased each of these five great dogs would know if that was a fawn to be killed or one to be protected, and so there was small danger to Saeve and a small hope of finding her.
Once, when seven years had passed in fruitless search, Fionn and the chief nobles of the Fianna were hunting Ben Gulbain. All the hounds of the Fianna were out, for Fionn had now given up hope of encountering the Flower of Allen. As the hunt swept along the sides of the hill there arose a great outcry of hounds from a narrow place high on the slope and, over all that uproar there came the savage baying of Fionn's own dogs.
"What is this for?" said Fionn, and with his companions he pressed to the spot whence the noise came.
"They are fighting all the hounds of the Fianna," cried a champion.
And they were. The five wise hounds were in a circle and were giving battle to an hundred dogs at once. They were bristling and terrible, and each bite from those great, keen jaws was woe to the beast that received it. Nor did they fight in silence as was their custom and training, but between each onslaught the great heads were uplifted, and they pealed loudly, mournfully, urgently, for their master.
"They are calling on me," he roared.