And that was the last story that Fedelma told, for they had crossed the Meadows of Brightness and had come to a nameless place--a stretch of broken ground where there were black rocks and dead grass and bare roots of trees with here and there a hawthorn tree in blossom. "I fear this place. We must not halt here," Fedelma said.
And then a flock of ravens came from the rocks, and flying straight at them attacked Fedelma and the King of Ireland's Son. The King's Son sprang from the steed and taking his sword in his hand he fought the ravens until he drove them away. They rode on again. But now the ravens flew back and attacked them again and the King of Ireland's Son fought them until his hands were wearied.
He mounted the steed again, and they rode swiftly on. And the ravens came the third time and attacked them more fiercely than before. The King's Son fought them until he had killed all but three and until he was covered with their blood and feathers.
The three that had escaped flew away. "Oh, mount the Slight Red Steed and let us ride fast," said Fedelma to the King's Son.
"I am filled with weariness," he said. "Bid the steed stay by the rock, lay my sword at my side, and let me sleep with my head on your lap."
"I fear for us both if you slumber here," said Fedelma.
"I must sleep, and I pray that you let me lay my head on your lap."
"I know not what would awaken you if you slumber here."
"I will awaken," said the King's Son, "but now I must sleep, and I would slumber with my head on your lap."
She got down from the Slight Red Steed and she bade it stay by a rock; she put his sword by the place he would sleep and she took his head upon her lap. The King's Son slept.
As she watched over him a great fear grew in Fedelma. Every hour she would say to him, "Are you near waking, my dear, my dear?" But no flush of waking appeared on the face of the King of Ireland's Son.
Then she saw a man coming across the nameless place, across the broken ground, with its dead grass and black rocks and with its roots and stumps of trees. The man who came near them was taller than any man she had seen before--he was tall as a tree. Fedelma knew him from what she had heard told about him--she knew him to be the King of the Land of Mist.
The King of the Land of Mist came straight to them. He stood before Fedelma and he said, "I seek Fedelma, the daughter of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands and the fairest woman within the seas of Eirinn."
"Then go to her father's house and seek Fedelma there," said she to him.
"I have sought her there," said the King of the Land of Mist, "but she left her father's house to go with the King of Ireland's Son."
"Then seek her in the Castle of the King of Ireland," said Fedelma.
"That I will not. Fedelma is here, and Fedelma will come with me," said the King of the Land of Mist.
"I will not leave him with whom I am plighted," said Fedelma.
Then the King of the Land of Mist took up the King of Ireland's Son. High he held him--higher than a tree grows. "I will dash him down on the rocks and break the life within him," said he.
"Do not so," said Fedelma. "Tell me. If I go with you what would win me back?"
"Nothing but the sword whose stroke would slay me--the Sword of Light," said the King of the Land of Mist. He held up the King of Ireland's Son again, and again he was about to dash him against the rocks. The blue falcon that was overhead flew down and settled on the rock behind her. Fedelma knew that what she and the King of the Land of Mist would say now would be carried some place and told to someone. "Leave my love, the King's Son, to his rest," she said.
"If I do not break the life in him will you come with me, Fedelma?"
"I will go with you if you tell again what will win me back from you."
"The Sword of Light whose stroke will slay me."
"I will go with you if you swear by all your vows and promises not to make me your wife nor your sweetheart for a year and a day."
"I swear by all my vows and promises not to make you my wife nor my sweetheart for a year and a day."
"I will go with you if you let it be that I fall into a slumber that will last for a year and a day."
"I will let that be, fairest maid within the seas of Eirinn."
"I will go with you if you will tell me what will take me out of that slumber."
"If one cuts a tress of your hair with a stroke of the Sword of Light it will take you out of that slumber."
The blue falcon that was behind heard what the King of the Land of Mist said. She rose up and remained overhead with her wings outspread. Fedelma took the ring off her own finger and put it on the finger of the King of Ireland's Son, and she wrote upon the ground in Ogham letters, "The King of the Land of Mist."
"If it be not you who wakens me, love," she said, "may it be that I never waken."
"Come, daughter of the Enchanter," said the King of the Land of Mist.
"Pluck the branch of hawthorn and give it to me that I may fall into my slumber here," said Fedelma.
The King of the Land of Mist plucked a flowering branch of hawthorn and gave it to her. She held the flowers against her face and fell into slumber. For a while she and the King of Ireland's Son were side by side in sleep.
Then the King of the Land of Mist took Fedelma in his arms and strode along that nameless place, over the broken ground with its dead grass and its black rocks and its stumps and roots of trees and the three ravens that had escaped the sword of the King of Ire-land's Son followed where he went.