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 Cú Chulainn. Your pride and insolence, and the fierceness and hatred, pride and madness of the other, Cú Chulainn: 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. Cú Chulainn 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 Cú Chulainn; ‘for there is no sword in its sheath except a sword of wood. It has been told to me,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘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 Cú Chulainn; ‘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 Cú Chulainn receives the message from Fergus; and Fergus goes away. Etarcomol remains looking at Cú Chulainn.
‘What are you looking at?’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘You,’ said Etarcomol.
‘The eye soon compasses it indeed,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘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 Cú Chulainn, ‘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 tomorrow.’
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 Cú Chulainn tomorrow. It is not possible for us3 to wait for it; turn the horses back again from the hill.’
Loeg sees this and says to Cú Chulainn: ‘There is the chariot back again, and it has put its left board4 towards us.’
‘It is not a “debt of refusal,”’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘I do not wish,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘what you demand of me.’
‘This is obligatory to you,’ said Etarcomol.
Cú Chulainn strikes the sod under his feet, so that he fell prostrate, and the sod behind him.
‘Go from me,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘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 Cú Chulainn.
Cú Chulainn 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 Cú Chulainn.
‘No,’ said Etarcomol.
Then Cú Chulainn 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 Cú Chulainn.
‘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 Cú Chulainn …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 Cú Chulainn, ‘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 Cú Chulainn.
‘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. Cú Chulainn 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.
1 Name uncertain. YBL has Eda, LL Feda.
2 Buanfach, like fidchell, is apparently a game something like chess or draughts.
3 YBL reading.
4 An insult.
5 Or ‘track’?
6 Rhetoric, five lines.