Marvellous and terrible was the battle which then ensued between these champions. For the spray and the froth and the flying spume of the convulsed and agitated waters around that warring twain, rose in white clouds, and owing to the fierceness of the combat and the displacement of the waters around them, the Boyne on either hand beat her green margin with sudden and unusual billows, for the divine river was taken with a great surprise on that occasion. Amid the roar of the waters ever sounded the dry clash of the meeting swords and the clang of the smitten shields and the ringing of helmets. Sometimes one champion would dive seeking an advantage, and the other would dive too, in order to elude or meet the assault. Then the frothing surface of the stream would clear itself, and the Boyne run dark as before, though the mounted water showed that the combat still raged in its depths. The swallows, too, had been scared away, returning, skimmed the surface, and the bird which is the most beautiful of all darted a bright streak low across the dark water. Anon the submerged champions, coming to the surface for breath, renewed their deadly combat amid foaming waters and clouds of spray. The full particulars of this combat are not related, only that the wizard-champion grew weaker, while his vigour and strength continued unabated with the son of Sualtam, and that in the end he slew the other, and in the sight of all he cut off his head and flung it from the middle Boyne to the shore, and that the headless trunk of Fenla, son of Nectan, floated down-stream to the sea. When the people of the dun saw that, they brake forth west-ward and fled. Then Cuculain and Laeg invaded the dun, and they burst open the doors of the strong chambers, and of the dungeons beneath the earth, and let loose the prisoners and the hostages and the prepared victims, and they broke the idols and the instruments of sorcery, and filled in the well. After that they replenished the vacant places of the war-car with things the most precious and such as were portable, and gave all the rest to the liberated captives for a prey. Last of all they applied fire to the vast dun, and quickly the devouring flames shot heavenward, fed with pine and red yew, and rolled forth a mighty pillar of black smoke, reddened with rushing sparks and flaming embers. The men of Tara saw it, and the men of Tlatga, and of Tailteen, and of Ben-Eadar, and they consulted their prophets and wizards as to what this portent might mean, for it was not a little smoke that the burning of Dun-Mic-Nectan sent forth that day.
THE RETURN OF CUCULAIN
“The golden gates of sleep unbar
When strength and beauty met together
Kindle their image like a star
In a sea of glassy weather.”