Excerpt from Cuchulain of Muirthemne: “Cruachan”
One night at Samhain, Ailell and Maeve were in Cruachan with their whole household, andthe food was being made ready. Two prisoners had been hanged by them the day before, and Ailell said: "Whoever will put agad round the foot of either of the two men on the gallows, will get a prize from me."It was a very dark night, and bad things would always appear on that night of Samhain, andevery man that went out to try came back very quickly into the house. "I will go if I will get a prize,"said Nera, then. "I will give you this gold-hilted sword," said Ailell.So Nera went out and he put a gad round the foot of one of the men that had been hanged. Then the man spoke to him. "It is good courage you have," he said, "and bring me with you where Ican get a drink, for I was very thirsty when I was hanged." So Nera brought him where he would geta drink, and then he put him on the gallows again, and went back to Cruachan.But what he saw was the whole of the palace as if on fire before him, and the heads of thepeople of it lying on the ground, and then he thought he saw an army going into the Hill of Cruachan, and he followed after the army. "There is a man on our track," the last man said. "Thetrack is the heavier," said the next to him, and each said that word to the other from the last to thefirst. Then they went into the Hill of Cruachan. And they said to their king: "What shall be done tothe man that is come in?" "Let him come here till I speak with him," said the king. So Nera came,and the king asked him who it was had brought him in. "I came in with your army," said Nera. "Goto that house beyond," said the king: "there is a woman there will make you welcome. Tell her it is Imyself sent you to her. And come every day," he said, "to this house with a load of firing."So Nera went where he was told, and the woman said: "A welcome before you, if it is theking sent you." So he stopped there, and took the woman for his wife. And every day for three dayshe brought a load of firing to the king's house, and on each day he saw a blind man, and a lame manon his back, coming out of the house before him. They would go on till they were at the brink of a well before the Hill. "Is it there?" the blind man would say. "It is, indeed," the lame man would say."Let us go away," the lame man would say then. And at the end of three days, as he thought, Nera asked the Woman about this. "Why do theblind man and the lame man go every day to the well?" he said. "They go to know is the crown safethat is in the well. It is there the king's crown is kept." "Why do these two go?" said Nera. "It is easy to tell that," she said; "they are trusted by the king to visit the crown, and one of them was blindedby him, and the other was lamed. And another thing," she said, "go now and give a warning to yourpeople to mind themselves next Samhain night, unless they will come to attack the hill, for it is only at Samhain," she said, "the army of the Sidhe can go out, for it is at that time all the hills of the Sidheof Ireland are opened. But if they will come, I will promise them this, the crown of Briun to becarried off by Ailell and by Maeve.""How can I give them that message," said Nera, "when I saw the whole dun of Cruachanburned and destroyed, and all the people destroyed with it?" "You did not see that, indeed," she said"It was the host of the Sidhe came and put that appearance before your eyes. And go back to themnow," she said, "and you will find them sitting round the same great pot, and the meat has not yetbeen taken off the fire.""How will it be believed that I have gone into the Hill?" said Nera. "Bring flowers of summer with you," said the woman. So he brought wild garlic with him, and primroses and goldenfern.