Domion of Dreams, by Fiona Macleod


On the day when Firbis of the Seven Dns, called Firbis the White, from the long white hair which fell upon his shoulders, and also because of his pale face, pale as a leper's, with scarlet lips, told Cathba, the son of Cathba Mr, that he might have his daughter to wife, Enya of the Dark Eyes was not to be found.
At first Firbis laughed. Then when he saw Cathba frowning and muttering, he waxed wroth, and bade a search be made for the girl.
It was Culain of the Trails who found her. She was in the depth of the great forest beyond D
n-Fhirbis, and was with Aodh , the Singer. No man in that region knew who Aodh was, save that he was a hillman out of the north. This was because he was under geas to wear a fawnskin covering over his face, with slits in it for his eyes and mouth and nostrils: nor might he break that vow. His songs were the sweetest that man or woman had heard: there were none in Alba sweeter. And when he played they called him the Green Harper, for a spell was upon them in that playing. He had no name among them but "The Harper." Once Cathba taunted him, and said openly he did not believe it was a true geas, and that the man was a spy. Amid the lifting of spears and the sudden tremulous movement of swords, as though a wind were there, Aodh stood unmoved. He took his harp and played; and in the silence thereafter he touched the strings again, and chanted an old ancestral song, passing sweet. When he ceased, every weapon slept.
Aodlt is pronounced as the letter Y.
But now Culain of the Trails saw the Harper, with the fawnskin masque away from his face and lying at his feet on the green moss.
On a branch of a fallen oak Enya of the Dark Eyes lay, idly swaying. Her eyes were filled with light while she watched Aodh.
"My lord and my king," she cried in a low voice, so thrilling sweet that Culain trembled, being only a youth and a dreamer of dreams. It was when Aodh had ceased singing a song to her.
Culain turned and sank among the bracken. But Aodh had heard. The arrow flew, whistling a thin song, and went in between the white shoulders of the youth, till it thrust its head into the oak-root underneath his breast.
Aodh came forward and looked at him.
"That arrow-flight is my grief," he said gravely, "for you are young and comely."
"It is Culain," whispered Enya, who had come swiftly to where the slain man lay; "it is Culain of the Trails."
"Yes," answered Culain, when he had spat the blood and foam from his mouth, but without turning his head, for that he could not do, being arrow-pinned: "yes, it is Culain, and it is my last trail."
"Let him be," Enya whispered, when she saw the Harper raise his spear; "let him be, O Aodh, my lord. He may yet live."
"It was to make the end less hard. But as you will, Enya." Then the two moved deeper into the wood.
Later, the runners found Culain. But he was dead. At sundown Firbis heard Enya singing in the grianan over the great Hall of the Horns. He called to her, and told her that on the morrow she was to be the wife of Cathba. Enya said no word; but at the rising of the moon she went to the forest-edge and gave three hoots of the white owl.
"Who will make a song for this marriage? " said Firbis after the ale-feast in the morning. "Where is the Harper?"
But none had seen him. An old man said he had met him at moonrise, and that he was on a white stallion and riding against the stars of the north.
At noon, Cathba took Enya to wife. So great was her beauty, that men looked askance at him, and old men sat silent, heavy with fear.
"Sing to me," he said.
She sang. It was a song of love. He laughed when she set down the little goldbossed clrsach, and put back the hair from his eyes.
"Why do you laugh, Cathba Fleetfoot?"
"Because that you know not what you sang when you sang that song; yet, even as you sang, so shall it be."
Enya stooped and lifted the clrsach again; and as she put back her head from that stooping, her eyes filled with fire. Suddenly she laughed.
"Why do you laugh, Enya of the Dark Eyes?"
"Because Aodh the Singer, Aodh the King, is here, and he comes for me, who am his wife."
Cathba sprang to his feet. But the wolfthong was round him, and he was bound hand and foot before he could draw the long gold-hilted knife that he wore.
Aodh stooped and lifted him; then he threw him upon the deerskins where Enya had lain.
"The bride-bed for you, Cathba," said Aodh mockingly; "for me the bride."
Outside the noise of spears and swords, and lamentation of men and women, and fierce cries, ceased. The hillman were few, or they would have burned the dn. But Firbis called for a truce, and bade Aodh take Enya of the Dark Eyes and go.
Thus was it that Aodh the Hill-King, Aodh the Singer, Aodh the Proud, won Enya whom he loved.
Yet he loved overmuch. It is not the way of kings, but Aodh was a poet, and he had the dream of dreams.
On the day when the Ardrigh of the Hill-Lands died, runners came to Aodh the Proud. He was to be Ardrigh. He sought Enya to tell her this thing; but she was in the woods, or upon the hills. So he fared eastward without seeing her whom he loved.
It was in the dn of the High King that he heard Cathba had laid waste his rath and carried captive away with him Enya of the Dark Eyes.
In a night and a day he was in his own lands again. At the call of Aodh the Proud the hillclans gathered, and he came up with the warriors and prisoners of Cathba, where the mountains break. Then was fought the Battle of the Sloping Hill.
At the setting of the sun there were crowns lying there, idle gold in the yellow sand, and no man heeded them. And where the long grass waved there were women's breasts, so still in the brown silence, that the flittering moths, which shake with the breaths of daisies, motionlessly poised their wings above where so many sighs once were, and where no more was any pulse of joy.
The noise of spears was silent. The wildhawk, and not the javelin, hissed in the stillness. Ravens flew where the arrows had fallen into bloody pools.
The man who had made this slaughter stood alone in that place. The warriors were in the dark glens, beyond the stream below the hill-slope, thrusting spears into pale fugitives, and laughing as they tied white women by their long hair to the boles of the pines.
This was the man called Aodh the Proud.
Aodh searched the dead. First, he looked at all those who lay fallen head forward or with upturned face. Then, disdainfully, he turned over the bodies of those speared, or slain by arrow or javelin, from behind.
He found nowhere the body of Cathba.
That night they brought him a captive woman. She was old, but bought her life with what she had to tell: for that telling was of Enya.
Cathba had not been in the Battle of the Hill-Slope. He was now in the nearest of the forest-dUns of Enya's father.
Firbis the White had ever hated Aodh, and the old man's laughter was now as loud and as long as the baying of his wolf-hound. When she had left, the woman said, Enya was lying on the deerskins, playing with the long hair of Cathba.
"She was singing a song," added the woman.
"What song did, she sing?" asked Aodh.
"It was a song of meeting winds, meeting waves, of day and night, of life and death; and at the end of each singing she sang:

'I, Enya of the Dark Eye, love but thee, and thee only, O dear one,
Man of my heart art thou, thee most do I love, thee only, O Dear one!'"

Then Aodh the King knew what song Enya of the Dark Eyes had sung while she lay on the deerskins and played with the dark hair of Cathba, son of Cathba Mr. It was a song he had heard when Enya of the Dark Eyes lay on the deerskins in the hill-dn of him, Aodh the King, while she played with his long yellow hair.
Aodh the Proud turned and fared back alone through the field of the dead. But when the king came to his dn, the women would not let him enter; for he was baying like a' wolf and shaking a bloody spear, and laughing wild, and calling to a star that was hanging low in the west, "Enya, Enya, Enya! Enya, Einya, Enya!"
And so he was king no longer. He was called the Laughing Man, for he could throw a spear no more, but often laughed idly, with a little foam ever upon his mouth. And at the last he ate roots, and went naked, and in the end was trampled to death by the wild swine.
That is the story of Aodh the Proud, who made deathless beauty out of the beauty and love of Enya of the Dark Eyes, who sang the same song to two men.