Just then they heard the baying of the dog sounding terribly in the hollow night, and every face was blanched throughout the vast chamber. Then without was heard a noise of trampling feet and short furious yells and sibilant gaspings, as of one who exerts all his strength, after which a dull sound at which the earth seemed to shake, mingled with a noise of breaking bones, and after that silence. Ere the people in the dun could do more than look at each other speechless, they heard a clear but not clamorous knocking at the doors of the dun. Some of the smith’s young men back-shot the bolt and opened the doors, and the boy Setanta stepped in out of the night. He was very pale. His scarlet mantle was in rags and trailing, and his linen tunic beneath and his white knees red with blood, which ran down his legs and over his bare feet. He made a reverence, as he had been taught, to the man of the house and to his people, and went backwards to the upper end of the chamber. The Ultonians ran to meet him, but Fergus Mac Roy was the first, and he took Setanta upon his mighty shoulder and bore him along and set him down at the table between himself and the King.
“Did the dog come against thee?” said Culain.
“Truly he came against me,” answered the boy.
“And art thou hurt?” cried the smith.
“No, indeed,” answered Setanta, “but I think he is.”
At that moment a party of the smith’s people entered the dun bearing between them the carcass of the dog from whose mouth and white crooked fangs the blood was gushing in red torrents; and they showed Culain how the skull of the dog and his ribs had been broken in pieces by some mighty blow, and his backbone also in divers places. Also they said: “One of the great brazen pillars which stand at the bridge head is bent awry, and the clean bronze denied with blood, and it was at the foot of that pillar we found the dog.” So saying, they laid the body upon the heather in front of Culain’s high seat, that it might be full in his eye, and when they did so and again sat down, there was a great silence in the chamber.
SETANTA, THE PEACE-MAKER
[Footnote: One of the minor gods. He resembles Mars
Sylvanus of the Romans to whom swine were sacrificed.]
of Bove Derg, son of the Dagda,
The feasts to which he came used to end in blood.”
Culain sat silent for a long time looking out before him with eyes like iron, and when at last he spoke his voice was charged with wrath and sorrow.
“O Concobar,” he said, “and you, the rest, nobles of the children of Rury. You are my guests to-night, wherefore it is not lawful that I should take vengeance upon you for the killing of my brave and faithful hound, who was a better keeper of my treasures than a company of hired warriors. Truly he cost me nothing but his daily allowance of meat, and there was not his equal as a watcher and warder in the world. An eric, therefore, I must have. Consult now together concerning its amount and let the eric be great and conspicuous, for, by Orchil [Footnote: The queen of the infernal regions.] and all the gods who rule beneath the earth, a small eric I will not accept.”