(Other authors and books make it that another way was taken on their journeyings from Findabair to Conaille, as follows:
Medb said after every one had come with their booty, so that they were all in Findabair Cuailnge: ‘Let the host be divided,’ said Medb; ‘it will be impossible to bring this expedition by one way. Let Ailill go with half the expedition by Midluachair; Fergus and I will go by Bernas Ulad.’1
‘It is not fine,’ said Fergus, ‘the half of the expedition that has fallen to us. It will be impossible to bring the cattle over the mountain without dividing it.’
That was done then, so that it is from that there is Bernas Bo n-Ulad.)
It is there then that Ailill said to his charioteer Cuillius: ‘Find out for me today Medb and Fergus. I know not what has brought them to this union. I shall be pleased that a token should come to me by you.’
Cuillius came when they were in Cluichre. The pair remained behind, and the warriors went on. Cuillius came to them, and they heard not the spy. Fergus’ sword happened to be beside him. Cuillius drew it out of its sheath, and left the sheath empty. Cuillius came to Ailill.
‘So?’ said Ailill.
‘So indeed,’ said Cuillius; ‘there is a token for you.’
‘It is well,’ said Ailill.
Each of them smiles at the other.
‘As you thought,’ said Cuillius, ‘it is thus that I found them in one another’s arms.’
‘It is right for her,’ said Ailill; ‘it is for help on the Foray that she has done it. See that the sword is kept in good condition,’ said Ailill. ‘Put it under your seat in the chariot, and a cloth of linen around it.’
Fergus got up for his sword after that.
‘Alas!’ said he.
‘What is the matter with you?’ said Medb.
‘An ill deed have I done to Ailill,’ said he. ‘Wait here, while I go into the wood,’ said Fergus; ‘and do not wonder though it be long till I come.’
It happened that Medb knew not the loss of the sword. He goes thence, and takes the sword of his charioteer with him in his hand. He makes a wooden sword in the wood. Hence there is Fid Mor Drualle in Ulster.
‘Let us go on after our comrades,’ said Fergus. All their hosts meet in the plain. They pitch their tents. Fergus is summoned to Ailill to play chess. When Fergus went to the tent, Ailill began to laugh at him.2
Cú Chulainn came so that he was at Ath Cruinn before them.
‘O friend Loeg,’ said he to his charioteer, ‘the hosts are at hand to us.’
‘I swear by the gods,’ said the charioteer, ‘I will do a mighty feat before warriors … on slender steeds with yokes of silver, with golden wheels …’
‘Take heed, O Loeg,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘hold the reins for great victory of Macha … I beseech,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘the waters to help me. I beseech heaven and earth, and the Cronn in particular.’
The (river) Cronn takes to fighting against them; it will not let them into Murthemne until the work of heroes be finished in Sliab Tuath Ochaine.
Therewith the water rose up till it was in the tops of the trees.
Mane, son of Ailill and Medb, went before the rest. Cú Chulainn smites them on the ford, and thirty horsemen of Mane’s retinue were drowned in the water. Cú Chulainn overthrew two sixteens of warriors of them again by the water.
They pitch their tents at that ford. Lugaid Mac Nois, descendant of Lomarc Allchomach, came to speak to Cú Chulainn, with thirty horsemen.
‘Welcome, O Lugaid,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘If a flock of birds graze upon Mag Murthemne, you shall have a duck with half of another; if fish come to the estuaries, you shall have a salmon with half of another. You shall have the three sprigs, the sprig of watercress, and the sprig of marshwort, and the sprig of seaweed. You shall have a man in the ford in your place.’3
‘I believe it,’ said Lugaid. ‘Excellence of people to the boy whom I desire.’
‘Your hosts are fine,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘It would not be sad for you alone before them,’ said Lugaid.
‘Fair-play and valour will support me,’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘O friend Lugaid, do the hosts fear me?’
‘I swear by God,’ said Lugaid, ‘one man nor two dare not go out of the camp, unless it be in twenties or thirties.’
‘It will be something extra for them,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘if I take to throwing from the sling. Fitting for you will be this fellow-vassal, O Lugaid, that you have among the Ulstermen, if there come to me the force of every man. Say what you would have,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘That I may have a truce with you towards my host.’
‘You shall have it, provided there be a token on it. And tell my friend Fergus that there be a token on his host. Tell the physicians, let there be a token on their host. And let them swear preservation of life to me, and let there come to me provision every night from them.’
Then Lugaid goes from him. Fergus happened to be in the tent with Ailill. Lugaid called him out, and told him this. Something was heard, namely Ailill …4
‘I swear by God I cannot do it,’ said Lugaid, ‘unless I ask the boy again.’
‘Help me,5 O Lugaid, go to him to see whether Ailill may come with a cantred into my troop. Take an ox with bacon to him and a jar of wine.’
He goes to Cú Chulainn then and tells him this.
‘I do not mind though he go,’ said Cú Chulainn.
Then their two troops join. They are there till night. Cú Chulainn kills thirty men of them with the sling. (Or they would be twenty nights there, as some books say.)
‘Your journeyings are bad,’ said Fergus. ‘The Ulstermen will come to you out of their weakness, and they will grind you to earth and gravel. “The corner of battle” in which we are is bad.’
He goes thence to Cul Airthir. It happened that Cú Chulainn had gone that night to speak to the Ulstermen.6
‘Have you news?’ said Conchobar.
‘Women are captured,’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘cattle are driven away, men are slain.’
‘Who carries them off? who drives them away? who kills them?’
‘…Ailill Mac Matae carries them off, and Fergus Mac Roich very bold…’7
‘It is not great profit to you,’ said Conchobar, ‘today, our smiting has come to us all the same.’
Cú Chulainn goes thence from them he saw the hosts going forth.
‘Alas,’ said Ailill, ‘I see chariots’ …, etc.8
Cú Chulainn kills thirty men of them on Ath Duirn. They could not reach Cul Airthir then till night. He slays thirty of them there, and they pitch their tents there. Ailill’s charioteer, Cuillius, was washing the chariot tyres9 in the ford in the morning; Cú Chulainn struck him with a stone and killed him. Hence is Ath Cuillne in Cul Airthir. They reach Druim Feine in Conaille and spent the night there, as we have said before.
Cú Chulainn attacked them there; he slays a hundred men of them every night of the three nights that they were there; he took a sling to them from Ochaine near them.
‘Our host will be short-lived through Cú Chulainn in this way,’ said Ailill. ‘Let an agreement be carried from us to him: that he shall have the equal of Mag Murthemne from Mag Ai, and the best chariot that is in Ai, and the equipment of twelve men. Offer, if it pleases him better, the plain in which he was brought up, and three sevens of cumals;10 and everything that has been destroyed of his household (?) and cattle shall be made good, and he shall have full compensation (?), and let him go into my service; it is better for him than the service of a sub-king.’
‘Who shall go for that?’
‘Mac Roth yonder.’
Mac Roth, the messenger of Ailill and Medb, went on that errand to Delga: it is he who encircles Ireland in one day. It is there that Fergus thought that Cú Chulainn was, in Delga.
‘I see a man coming towards us,’ said Loeg to Cú Chulainn. ‘He has a yellow head of hair, and a linen emblem round it; a club of fury(?) in his hand, an ivory-hilted sword at his waist; a hooded tunic with red ornamentation on him.’
‘Which of the warriors of the king is that?’ said Cú Chulainn.
Mac Roth asked Loeg whose man he was.
‘Vassal to the man down yonder,’ said Loeg.
Cú Chulainn was there in the snow up to his two thighs, without anything at all on him, examining his shirt.
Then Mac Roth asked Cú Chulainn whose man he was.
‘Vassal of Conchobar Mac Nessa,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘Is there no clearer description?’
‘That is enough,’ said Cú Chulainn.
‘Where then is Cú Chulainn?’ said Mac Roth.
‘What would you say to him?’ said Cú Chulainn.
Mac Roth tells him then all the message, as we have told it.
‘Though Cú Chulainn were near, he would not do this; he will not barter the brother of his mother for another king.’
He came to him again, and it was said to Cú Chulainn that there should be given over to him the noblest of the women and the cows that were without milk, on condition that he should not ply his sling on them at night, even if he should kill them by day.
‘I will not do it,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘if our slave-women are taken from us, our noble women will be at the querns; and we shall be without milk if our milch-cows are taken from us.’
He came to him again, and he was told that he should have the slave-women and the milch-cows.
‘I will not do it,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘the Ulstermen will take their slave-women to their beds, and there will be born to them a servile offspring, and they will use their milch-cows for meat in the winter.’
‘Is there anything else then?’ said the messenger.
‘There is,’ said Cú Chulainn; ‘and I will not tell it you. It shall be agreed to, if any one tell it you.’
‘I know it,’ said Fergus; ‘I know what the man tried to suggest; and it is no advantage to you. And this is the agreement,’ said Fergus: ‘that the ford on which takes place (?) his battle and combat with one man, the cattle shall not be taken thence a day and a night; if perchance there come to him the help of the Ulstermen. And it is a marvel to me,’ said Fergus, ‘that it is so long till they come out of their sufferings.’
‘It is indeed easier for us,’ said Ailill, ‘a man every day than a hundred every night.
1 YBL. Bernas Bo n-Ulad
2 Here follows about two columns of rhetoric, consisting of a taunting dialogue between Ailill, Fergus and Medb.
3 This and the following speech are apparently forms of greeting. Cú Chulainn offers Lugaid such hospitality as lies in his power. See a similar speech later to Fergus.
4 Rhetoric, six lines, the substance of which is, apparently, that Ailill asks protection also.
5 Spoken by Fergus?
6 In LL and YBL this incident occurs later, and the messenger is Sualtaim, not Cú Chulainn. LU is clearly wrong here.
8 Rhetoric, five lines.
9 The fonnod was some part of the rim of the wheel apparently.
10 The cumal (bondmaid) was a standard of value.