The Coming of Lug

Camall mac Riagail stood at the door of Teamhair as the sun settled down in the latter part of the day. The king and his company were already within and no one else expected. The feast would begin at sunset and the planning for war soon after, for Nuada was king again and the Tuath Déa meant to throw off the yoke of the Fomoire.

Movement, on the western horizon, and the flash of metal, drew Camall’s eyes. A host of armed riders swept up to the foot of Teamhair’s hill carrying no sign or device of the expected company and at their head was a warrior whose helm shone so bright it seemed a second sun rising out of the sun’s setting. Their horses were surely of the plains of Tethra, foam-bright and swift as wind on waves. The leader dismounted and walked up to the door, removing his helm to reveal a rosy, youthful face, not the mature warlord Camall expected.

“Who comes?” Camall asked.

“Lug Larmansclech, called Samildánach, is here, the son of Cian son of Dian Cécht and of Ethne daughter of Balor. He is the foster son of Tailtiu, the daughter of Magmor, the king of Spain, and of Goibniu the Smith, and of Manannán son of Alloth.”

“And whence came you?” Camall asked, not at all sure that a grandson of the Fomoire war-chief was welcome in the hall.

“From where the yew trees shadow the gliding swans of Ethan Ablach,” he said.

“And what art do you practice? For the first geas of Teamhair is that none enter without an art.”

“I am a builder,” the youth said, showing his calloused hand.

“We have a builder already, Luchta, fair brother of one you claim as fosterer. We do not need you.”

“Well do I know him, for he taught me. I am a smith,” he said.

“We do not need you. We have a smith already, Colum Cualeinech of the three new techniques.”

The youth frowned a little, but said, “I am a champion.”

“We do not need you, champion, for we have one already in Ogma mac Ethlenn.”

“I am a harper,” he said, showing his hard nails cut to catch the strings.

“We do not need you,” Camall said, “for we have a harper already, Abcan mac Bicelmois, who was chosen in the sidhe-mounds.”

The youth gave a small smile, as if he expected no different answer. “I am a warrior.” He waved to the host behind him. “And my foster brothers come with me to join your people.”

Camall shook his head. “We do not need you. We have a warrior already, Breasal Etarlam mac Echdach Baethlaim.”

“I am a poet and a historian,” Lug said.

“We do not need you. We already have a poet and historian, En mac Ethamain.”

A small frown barely touched his lips, but he smiled again. “I am a sorcerer, trained in the magics of three peoples.”

“We do not need you,” Camall said. “We have sorcerers already. Our druids and our people of power are many.”

“I am a physician.”

“We do not need you, for we have Dian Cécht, whom you claim as kinsman.”

“I am a cupbearer,” he said, with a graceful turn of his hand.

“We do not need you. We have cupbearers already: Delt and Drucht and Daithe, Tae and Talom and Trog, Gle and Glan and Glesse.”

“I am a good brazier.”

“We do not need you. We have a brazier already, Credne Cerd.”

The youth smiled, as if this were a game and he saw the winning move turns back but had played out the gambit anyway. “Ask the king whether any here possess all these arts: if they do, I will not enter Teamhair.”

Camall nodded and turned from the door and into the hall to stand before Nuadu on the king’s seat, with Ogam and the Dagda beside him. He told them who and what stood at the door and they listened intently.

“Three challenges to test this Samildánach,” Nuadu said, “and the first is mine before he may enter. Bring out my fidchell boards to the door and we will play.”

The boards were set out in the doorway and Nuada sat to play against the newcomer. Nuadu played the first game to lose, to understand the youth’s strategy, but even so did not win the other two games, learning only that the lad had surely fostered with Manannán of the Seven Gambits, for he knew each one of them.

“You may enter Teamhair,” Nuadu said. “My challenge is answered.”

Before Lug could pass the doorway, Ogma issued his challenge, throwing a flagstone of the great hall, so large twenty own had put it in its place, out through the wall of the hall. Lug took up both the flagstone and the stone of the wall and threw them both, each landing in their places as if a master builder had laid them. And so he passed the challenge of Ogma.

Camall stood aside to let him enter, but as he did the sun dipped below the horizon and Lug shook his head, saying, “I shall not enter through the door for I know the second geas of Teamhair: that none may enter through the door past the sun’s setting and before the sun’s rising. I will not break it.” Instead, he took a few steps back and leapt over the wall, landing on the stones of the court as light as the seed of a thistle settling on the surface of water.

As he stepped into the gathering, Nuadu offered him the seat of the sage, which he accepted. Finally, the Dagda offered his challenge in the body of a harp. “Play for us, oh son of Tailtiu of the sweet voice.”

Lug took the harp and touched its strings to test the tuning, then settled it in the crook of his arm. He played for them the first strain of music, the sleep strain, that he had learned at his foster-mother’s knee and all in the hall slipped into rest. He played for them the second strain, the strain of sorrow, and all woke to cry and lament every sadness in their hearts. Then he played the final strain, the strain of joy, and all their sadness was forgotten in the brightness of his tune.

The Dagda nodded, and caught Nuadu’s eye. “He has passed the third test.”

And Nuadu, having seen him pass the challenges, wondered if this youth might b the one to release them from the Fomoire’s bondage. Nuadu spoke with Ogma and the Dagda and they all agreed that this was the leader they had waited for. So Nuadu and the Samildánach exchanged their seats, and soon after Lug called the council of the two brothers, the Dagda and Ogma, and his two kinsmen, Goibniu and Dian Cécht, and they held council on Grellach Dollaid to plan the path to their victory.


Prayer to the Third Queen

O Etan who sings the heart of Ogma,
who carried the first Cairpre under her heart,
O poet-daughter of the swift-cutting healer,
Bless us with your sweet tongue,
Bless us with your clear vision,
Bless us with the gift of your presence.
May we, like the poets of old, recall what was once forgotten,
Praise what is beautiful and true,
Speak truth to both evil and good.
A blessing of blessings upon you,
O lady of the red yew,
A blessing of blessings.