Friday, September 26, 2014


          “Go, if the need is so strong in you,” his wife had told him (I trust she was his wife though I’m not sure who it was who would have married them in the barrowlands. Still, my tales have a moral tendency, so we’ll assume the two of them lived in a state of matrimony, though I’ll not go so far as to call it holy, lest you start down the way to not believing me). “But remember one thing: ride as far as you like in the sunlight or beneath the moon, but do not dismount among the mortals. If your foot touches earth, you’ll not return here.”

          He promised to just take a quick look, and to let his friends and family know where he might be found, for they might by now have noticed he was gone and be worried (though only mildly; a hero and the son of a hero makes a great noise when he dies and they’d be sure they’d have heard the echo of his mighty going). Then, off and away back to her, with perhaps a few shawls and an engraved drinking-horn tucked in his saddlebag as souvenirs.

          By now you should know me well enough to have some confidence that I’ll not lie to you, so I must confess that I don’t know how long it was until he found himself trotting along under an open sky with the sun shining mightily on him. Deep breaths he took as he rode, and the smell of trees in sunlight, he realized, was something he had been missing. He took out his horn and blew a long blast which changed note in the middle; the call he alone ever used, to announce that he was back. No answer came. He blew his call again, but there was only the echo of it to hear, and some angry bird cries. “So late in the morning and no one risen? I have missed a night of mighty drinking!”

          He was about to blow his horn again when a man came over the horizon. Oisin had never seen the man before, but knew at once he was no hero. His thews did not bulge; it seemed an open question as to whether he had thews at all. He was so thin and meagre that, with a knife subtle enough you could have spent a rainy day making three of him out of Oisin, and had enough left over to make a scrappy dog. He had an odd flat hat on his head, with a button it, and he rode a thing of two wheels with a basket at the front (Surely, since there are just the two of us here, I need not be so coy and circumspect? Very well then; the man was on a bicycle).

          “A good morning to you, man, and can you tell me where the Fianna Fail are this day?”

          “And good morning to you,” came the reply. “What a beautiful horse! Your Old Irish is really good, though your agglutinates are a trifle sketchy. With whom did you study?”

          Oisin blinked, as would almost any man who has just found that his agglutinates are not all they might be.

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