Mac Roth's Mission to Cuailnge
Mac Roth and nine others with him set out for the peninsula of Cuailnge the following morning and soon arrived at the house of Daire mac Fiachna, and all were made welcome. At that evening's feast, when all their bellies were bursting with fine food and heads a-buzz with the taste of wines and ales Daire asked Mac Roth the reason for his visit.
'Those two at home have had a ferocious row,' said Mac Roth, 'and Medb came out the worst: Ailill has that fine White-horned bull and herself nothing to match the like. She asks of you the loan of the Donn for twelve months and will pay you well. Along with fifty yearling heifers she offers you a portion of her kingdom the equal of your own lands; a chariot worth thrice seven bond maids; and best of all she will go to your bed gratefully.'
The smile that split Daire's face threatened to topple the top half of his head, so happy was he. He leapt to his feet and shouted for all to hear.
'Truth be told I'll care naught what the Ulster men will think ! I'll be off with my treasured Donn Cuailnge to Medb in Connacht by morning's first light. '
And that was that. Mac Roth was happy and Daire overjoyed. All settled back and ate a little more, and drank a bit more than that. In the banquet hall the old rushes and straw were replaced with fresh, and the fire stoked, and a mellow haze fell over those inside. Two of the men that had accompanied Mac Roth were talking together.
'Your man here, Daire, is a good man, most certainly, and a host of hosts', said one of them. 'I say there's no better man in all of Ulster. '
'But there is indeed,' said the second messenger, 'And that would be King Conchobor himself. And if all of Ulster were to kneel to that man it would be no shame to them. Tell you more: it would take four strong provinces united to take by force what Conchobor refused to give.'
Just then a third man from Connacht, who was considered a slackjaw and a bit of a dribbler, joined with them and asked of their discussion. His two comrades repeated what they had just said, and the slackjawed one threw his ale to the floor.
'I'd like to see the mouth that said that spill blood ! We men of Connacht would have taken that bull anyway, with or without Daire's leave!'
At that moment a man of Cuailnge was passing by, having just entered the hall, and overheard those words. Furious, he approached Daire and took him aside.
'Have you just given our Donn Cuailnge to those men of Medb?' he asked, seething. When he heard the answer he told Daire what he had heard, and watched his master's face turn cold and white.
'By the gods that I worship! If that was their intention I'll spite them! Nothing leaves here unless I choose to let it !' And Daire spun on his heel and left the hall. Nothing was said.
The next morning Mac Roth called on Daire, intending to collect the Donn.
'You shall not have him. ' said Daire. 'And only I follow the laws of courtesy none of you would leave this place alive. '
'Why is this? What has happened?' asked Mac Roth. When Daire told him of the overheard conversation, Mac Roth remonstrated.
'What messengers say in their cups does not deserve your notice, Daire! You cannot possibly hold Medb responsible for someone else's drunken tongue!'
'Regardless. It was a cruel and disrespectful outburst, and I will have nothing more to do with you. You will not have the Donn Cuailnge now, under any circumstances. Away with you all!' Daire shouted, and ordered Mac Roth and his company off his lands.
And so the troupe returned empty-handed to Connacht, Mac Roth reporting all to Medb on his arrival. Medb sat in her chair in her private quarters, silent for awhile, and then she declared:
'There's no need to polish the knots and knobs in this matter. Those idiots in Cuailnge should have been well aware that what would not be given freely shall be taken by force. And that bull will be taken'.
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