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PART ONE- THE INVASION OF ULSTER

Deirdre and the Sons of Usna were no more and the prophecy of the king's druid Cathbad had been fulfilled. Now in some time after this incident Fergus MacRoy one of King Conor's finest warriors and second in arms perhaps only to Cuchulain came home to Emain Macha and once he was told at the feast of Baruch all that had transpired with his son dead and the Sons of Usna branded traitors he broke loyalty with Ulster and swore revenge on Conor he then went straightway to Connacht to take service with King Ailell and Queen Maev.

Once he arrived at Castle Rathcrogan in Roscommon the Queen Maev took him in and seduced him as she had done to many a warrior. Queen Maev was the true ruler in Connacht and her will ,not the kings will, was law and her passion was as unbridled as her greed was limitless. Maev did as she wanted, went where she wanted and took who she wanted. Queen Maev was tall with pale skin, a face that hypnotized men holding them in her sky blue eyes, her hair was as yellow as wheat and smooth as silk it hung long down to her hips.

The time came one fateful day while counting up their possessions Ailell and Maev broke into one of many arguments. This argument centered around one of Maev's bulls a mighty creature named Finnbenach who would abide with Ailell's herd and would not allow itself to be led or controlled by any of Maev's farm servants. Maev became angry and felt that although she had many possessions if she could not possess a bull as mighty as Finnbenach who would obey her will then she owned nothing.

Maev consulted Fergus and asked him if there any bulls mightier than Finnbenach and Fergus told her there was only one. The Bull of Quelgny owned by Dara son of Fachtna in Ulster the land of her rivals. Maev pondered this and at once summoned Fergus for she knew that the Ulstermen would not give up this sacred bull without a fight for the fate of the bull was tied to the fate of the land of Ulster for as long as the bull stayed in Ulster then the land would prosper and if the bull was separated from the land of Ulster then their crops would wither away to dust within a fortnight.

Maev offered Dara a tempting offer for the loan of the Bull of Quelgny for a year he would receive 50 heifers and if he chose to settle in Connacht he would be given as much land there as he had in Ulster and a chariot worth 21 female servants however Dara had learned that if he did not comply with the offer then Maev would steal the bull from him anyway. Dara was a patriot of Ulster and in a fit of anger refused the offer daring her to invade and Maev as promised began her plans for an invasion. First arranging an untimely demise for Dara so that he could not warn the king.
 
 


 

Ulster was home to the finest warriors in all Ireland so Maev needed an advantage although she had cunning and the best sorcerors at her disposal she wanted something that would insure victory and soon she got it through an old curse for some years ago in Ulster there was a man named Crundchu a farmer who was a widower. Now one day upon arriving home he found a woman of great beauty doing the household chores by day and by night laying with him as his wife her name was Macha and she was no ordinary woman she was of the fairy folk from the land of Tir Na Nog and as long as Crundchu told no one about her she would stay with him forever.

One day Crundchu was invited to a feast in the castle of his king. When the feast was over someone had boasted that there was nothing in Ireland as fast as the king's horses but Crundchu who had much to drink forgot himself and boasted that his wife could run faster than these horses. The insulted king ordered that Crundchu be held prisoner and unless his wife did as he boasted she could do he would be slain before the next sunset.

Macha was brought before the king but was heavy with child and her time was soon approaching. Macha asked that the king and his spectators wait until after she had given birth but the king was interested only in spectacle and his own bruised ego and ordered her to race all his horses. Macha did so and outran the horses but as she came to the finish line she was seized with birth pangs and gave birth to twins on the spot and as she did so all the men of Ulster felt her pain and so began The Curse of Macha that when Ulster was in time of it's greatest need there would be no man born of mortal man or woman in all of Ulster who would be strong enough to lift a dirk much less take arms for they would be seized with the agony of childbirth for a full month.

Maev had summoned the mightiest warriors in Connacht together with her allies in Leinster who were so skilled in combat they were broken up to merge with the armies of Connacht just to make the full host even in skill. This mighty force consisted of the best warriors in that part of Ireland such as the Seven Maines, Ket, Anluan, Ferdia and his army of the Firbolgs and giants and mercenaries from all around along with exiles from Ulster , former soldiers of Ulster who had joined Fergus after the death of Deirdre and the Sons of Usna.

Before entering combat Maev sent spies and consulted her druids on the state of Ulster they all gave her news that the Curse of Macha had taken hold of all the men of Ulster the time was ripe to attack.


 
 

 

One thing that Maev's druids and spies did not know however was that Cuchulain who was Ulster's finest warrior was not under the Curse of Macha for he was born of a mortal woman and the god Lugh. Maev just before the attack saw a young woman with hair as yellow as her own that came down to her knees weaving gold on a loom. Maev asked her who she was and the woman responded that she was Fedelma a fairy from Croghan and she told Maev that there was one in Ulster who could yet stop her and he was Cuchulain for she saw many of the Host of Connacht dead by his hand. Fedelma urged Maev to call off her invasion for Cuchulain could spell her downfall.

Maev pondered the prophesy of the fairy woman and sent Fergus to lead her vast army into Ulster. Cuchulain knew that the armies of Maev were coming for he had been warned by Fergusí servants the day before for he and Fergus were friends. Cuchulain was absent during the tragic events that led to the deaths of the sons of Usna and had sworn unswerving loyalty to Ulster rather than the king. Cuchulain had plans but fighting in a war wasn't one of them although Cuchulain was a patriot he was a man and men can be given into their lusts.

The custom in those times allowed married men who were warriors to take many lovers providing the mistress herself was unmarried so that men had other ways to sate their passions rather than war and Cuchulain had a tryst to keep with a handmaid of the wife of Laery so Cuchulain went to the forest and there he stood on one leg with one eye closed and one hand behind his back. He then cut an oak sapling and twisted it into a circular wreath and he carved in Ogham (the writing method of the time) how the wreath was made with him standing on one leg, using one eye and one arm. He presented a challenge to the armies of Maev that before they went any further they had to try to accomplish the exact same feat as he did. This was the custom then and it would be geise (an act forbidden by code of honor) not to do as challenged. This act allowed Cuchulain time to keep his tryst.

No one in the army of Maev could accomplish the task Cuchulain set before them so they had to encamp in the forest that night and at day they set off again once Fergus himself managed to complete the task.

Cuchulain came back to the forest after the army had left and by looking upon their tracks estimated the number of soldiers at 54,000 men. Cuchulain knew the land better for he and his human father Sualtam were the guardians of this area of Ulster. He took a shorter route and soon he was way ahead of the army of Maev.

Cuchulain , who had now advanced far ahead of his foes waited by a ford for Maev's scouts ,who rode ahead of the main body of the army, and once he saw them he sprang on them killing them all. Cuchulain then found a tree and fashioned it into a four pronged pole and on each prong he placed a head of the men he had just slain and then ran off. Soon enough Fergus and his forces came upon the pole and none of them could remove the pole from the ground until Fergus did so himself. The sun was setting and it was here that they once again made camp but it was winter and a long storm came. It was an omen of things to come.
 

END PART ONE

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PART TWO:MAEV TRIUMPHANT