Bricrius Feast

There was a man at Connor's court called Bricriu of the Poisoned Tongue who delighted in stirring up trouble. He arranged a feast and told Cuchulain, Connal Cearnach, and Leary Budach individually beforehand that they should each claim the hero's portion. They all did so, and had it not been for the intervention and judgment of the druid Sencha the matter might have ended in blood. Sencha's judgment was that the three men should go to the court of Maeve and Aillel at Cruachan in Connachta and let the decision be made there.

Then the time came for the women to enter the hall, and Bricriu had provoked the wives of the three champions so that they would not give way to each other, and fought a word battle as to which of iheir husbands was the greatest. At last Conall and Leary tore down pillars of the dun to let their wives in, and Cuchulain lifted up the side of the building to admit Emer. When he dropped it again the building fell to bits.

Now Maeve was queen of Connachta in her own right, and although Aillel was called the king it was clear to everyone who was the more important. She was a vain woman, both about her importance and her beauty. And she hated Connor and all of Ulaid.

Bricriu Feast

34 The TftL.es

When the Ulaid warriors came before her she tested them with an Otherworldly cat from the cave of Cruachan which only Cuchulain was able to vanquish. After the fight Maeve tried to seduce each man in turn, failing only with Cuchulain. Instead of awarding him the title fairly. Maeve decided to give each man a cup in secret, Leary was given a bronze cup set with jewels, Conall a similar silver cup, and Cuchulain a gold one. When they got home and showed their cups, the other two accused Cuchulain of having bribed or seduced Maeve into giving him the prize.

Sencha now judged that Cu Roi, king of Mumu should decide. The three set out for Tara Leucra, but Cu Roi was absent. His wife asked them to take turns guarding the fortress at night. Cu Roi, who was a powerful druid, transformed himself into different shapes and attacked them in turn. Leary and Conall ran away; only Cuchulain stayed and fought the monsters. In the morning Cu Roi returned and said that Cuchulain was the winner. Again on the return to Emain Macha the other two refused to accept the judgment. Cuchulain said he did not want any more argument on the subject, and so there was no hero's portion awarded for a time.

Then one night a giant appeared in the hall at Emain Macha and proposed a bargain - any man could strike off his head if he could do the same in return the next night. Leary accepted the challenge, but after he severed the giant's head the giant picked up his head and walked away, horrifying Leary. The next night Leary was missing, but Conall was there. Conall also accepted the challenge, but when the giant returned on the third night neither Conall nor Leary was there to fulfill their part of the bargain. Cuchulain was there however, and he struck off the giant's head. The next night he was still there at the giant's return, and he knelt and bowed his head for the giant's blow. The giant then transformed himself back into Cu Roi and proclaimed Cuchulain the Champion of Ulaid before the assembled people.

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