15. The Slaying of Loch Son of Mofemis
It was then that Loch Mor son of Mofemis was summoned to the pavilion of Ailill and Medb. "What would ye of me?" asked Loch. "To have fight with Cuchulain," replied Medb. "I will not go on that errand, for I esteem it no honour nor becoming to attack a tender, young, smooth-chinned, beardless boy. And not to belittle him do I say it, but I have a doughty brother, the match of himself," said Loch, "a man to confront him, Long macEmonis, to wit, and he will rejoice to accept an offer from you."
Thereupon Long was summoned to the tent of Ailill and Medb, and Medb promised him great gifts, even livery for twelve men of cloth of every colour, and a chariot worth four a times seven bondmaids, and Finnabair to wife for him alone, and at all times entertainment in Cruachan, and that wine would be poured out for him. Long went to seek Cuchulain, and Cuchulain slew him.
Then Medb called upon her woman-bands to go speak with Cuchulain and to charge him to put a false beard on. The woman-troop went their way to Cuchulain and told him to put a false beard on: "For no brave warrior in the camp thinks it seemly to come fight with thee, and thou beardless," said they. Thereupon Cuchulain bedaubed himself a beard. And he came onto the knoll overlooking the men of Erin and made that beard manifest to them all.
Loch son of Mofemis saw it, and what he said was, "Why, that is a beard on Cuchulain!" "It is what I perceive," Medb answered. Medb promised the same great terms to Loch to put a check to Cuchulain.
"I will go forth and attack him," cried Loch. Loch went to attack Cuchulain; so they met on the ford where Long had fallen. "Let us move to the upper ford," said Loch, "for I will not fight on this ford," since he held it defiled, cursed and unclean, the ford whereon his brother had fallen. Thereafter they fought on the upper ford.
Then it was that the Morrigan daughter of Aed Ernmas came from the fairy dwellings to destroy Cuchulain. For she had threatened on the Cattle-raid of Regomaina that she would come to undo Cuchulain what time he would be in sore distress when engaged in battle and combat with a goodly warrior, with Loch, in the course of the Cattle-spoil of Cualnge. Thither then the Morrigan came in the shape of a white, hornless, red-eared heifer, with fifty heifers about her and a chain of silvered bronze between each two of the heifers. The women came with their strange sorcery, and constrained Cuchulain by geasa and by inviolable bonds to check the heifer for them lest she should escape from him without harm. Cuchulain made an unerring cast from his sling-stick at her, so that he shattered one of the Morrigan's eyes.
Then the Morrigan came thither in the shape of a slippery, black eel down the stream. Then she came on the linn and she coiled around the two feet of Cuchulain. While Cuchulain was busied freeing himself, Loch wounded him crosswise through the breast. [Then at this incitation Cuchulain arose, and with his left heel he smote the eel on the head, so that its ribs broke within it and he destroyed one half of its brains after smashing half of its head.]
The Morrigan next came in the form of a rough, grey-red bitch-wolf [and she bit Cuchulain in the arm and drove the cattle against him westwards, and Cuchulain made a cast of his little javelin at her, strongly, vehemently, so that it shattered one eye in her head.] During this space of time, whether long or short, while Cuchulain was engaged in freeing himself, Loch wounded him through the loins. Thereupon Cuchulain's anger arose within him and he wounded Loch with the Gae Bulga ('the Barbed-spear'), so that it passed through his heart in his breast.
"Grant me a boon now, O Cuchulain," said Loch. "What boon askest thou?" "'Tis no boon of quarter nor a prayer of cowardice that I make of thee," said Loch. "But fall back a step from me and permit me to rise, that it be on my face to the east I fall and not on my back to the west toward the warriors of Erin, to the end that no man of them shall say, if I fall on my back, it was in retreat or in flight I was before thee, for fallen I have by the Gae Bulga!" "That will I do," answered Cuchulain, "for 'tis a true warrior's prayer that thou makest." And Cuchulain stepped back. Hence cometh the name the ford bears ever since, namely Ath Traged (' Foot-ford ') in Cenn Tire Moir (' Great Headland').
And deep distress possessed Cuchulain that day more than any other day for his being all alone on the Táin. Thereupon Cuchulain enjoined upon Laeg his charioteer to go to the men of Ulster, that they should come to defend their drove. And weariness of heart and weakness overcame him, and he gave utterance to a lay:--
Rise, O Laeg, arouse the hosts,
Say for me in Emain strong:
I am worn each day in fight,
Full of wounds, and bathed in gore!
My right side and eke my left:
Hard to say which suffers worse;
Fingin's hand hath touched them not,
Stanching blood with strips of wood!
Bring this word to Conchobar dear,
I am weak, with wounded sides.
Greatly has he changed in mien,
Dechtirè's fond, rich-trooped son!
I alone these cattle guard,
Leave them not, yet hold them not.
Ill my plight, no hope for me,
Thus alone on many fords!
Showers of blood rain on my arms,
Full of hateful wounds am I.
No friend comes to help me here
Save my charioteer alone!
Few make music here for me,
Joy I've none in single horn.
When the mingled trumpets sound,
This is sweetest from the drone!
This old saying, ages old:--
Single log gives forth no flame;
Let there be a two or three,
Up the firebrands all will blaze!
One sole log burns not so well
As when one burns by its side.
Guile can be employed on one;
Single mill-stone doth not grind!
Hast not heard at every time,
One is duped?-- 'tis true of me.
That is why I cannot last
These long battles of the hosts!
However small a host may be,
It receives some thought and pains;
Take but this: its daily meat
On one fork is never cooked!
Thus alone I've faced the host
By the ford in broad Cantire;
Many came, both Loch and Badb,
As foretold in 'Regomain!'
Loch has mangled my two thighs;
Me the grey-red wolf hath bit;
Loch my sides has wounded sore
And the eel has dragged me down!
With my spear I kept her off;
I put out the she-wolf's eye;
and I broke her lower leg,
At the outset of the strife!
Then when Laeg sent Aifè's spear,
Down the stream-- like swarm of bees--
That sharp deadly spear I hurled,
Loch, Mobebuis' son, fell there!
Will not Ulster battle give
To Ailill and Eocho's lass,
While I linger here in pain,
Full of wounds and bathed in blood?
Tell the splendid Ulster chiefs
They shall come to guard their drove.
Maga's sons have seized their kine
And have portioned them all out!
Fight on fight-- though much I vowed,
I have kept my word in all.
For pure honour's sake I fight;
'Tis too much to fight alone!
Vultures joyful at the breach
In Ailill's and in Medb's camp.
Mournful cries of woe are heard;
On Murthemne's plain is grief!
Conchobar comes not out with help;
In the fight, no troops of his.
Should one leave him thus alone,
Hard 'twould be his rage to tell
Men have almost worn me out
In these single-handed fights;
Warrior's deeds I cannot do,
Now that I must fight alone!
This then is the Combat of Loch Mor ('the Great') son of Mofemis against Cuchulain on the Driving of the Kine of Cualnge.