The Army Heads North
As Medb and Ailill took their army to Cuailnge to forcibly take the Brown Bull, they stopped awhile at Carrcin Lake and set up camp. Medb took her chariot to see to the preparations, and, after inspecting the troops, she returned to Ailill. His tent was already pitched; beside his, away from Medb's tent, were set up the camps of Fergus mac Ríoch; Cormac Connlongas who was Conchobor's son; Conall Cernach; and Fergus mac Fir Febe who was the son of Conchobor's daughter. These were the exiles of Ulster, comprising three thousand in all. By Medb's tent were arranged the tent of Finnabair, her daughter; and beside that Flidas' tent was complete.
Medb went to Ailill and declared 'We must not take the Ulstermen with us.'
'What are you saying,' demanded Ailill. 'What is wrong with them?'
'There is nothing wrong with them: that is the problem. While the rest of our army was making space for their tents they had theirs roofed and were preparing their meal. While our men were cooking their meal the Ulstermen had finished theirs and had their harpers playing. It would be stupid to take them with us: they will take all the credit for our triumph.'
'They are on our side, woman, what harm to have to have such warriors alongside us?' Ailill asked incredulously.
'They cannot come,' she said with a firm note of finality about her.
'Very well then,' replied Ailill, resigned to the inevitable. 'We'll send them back.'
'No we most definitely will not! The likes of them will take our lands when we're absent and we'll have nothing to return to! Are you stupid, man?' Medb shouted.
'Well, woman, what do you want to do with them then? Answer me that, if they can't stay nor come!' Ailill raged back at her.
'We'll kill them,' she said, to which remark Ailill stood dumb-founded, staring at her, until he choked out:
'Now that is a woman's answer and no mistake about it! That is an evil and dishonourable thing to say, and I'll allow it over my dead body. '
And so they argued back and forth, until they decided to split up the Ulster contingent and spread them throughout the entire army.
'Do that then,' said Medb. 'And make sure their numbers are properly dispersed.'
This being done, when the army set out again for Moin Colta. There they found a herd of eight score wild deer, which they encircled and slaughtered. But of the eight score Medb's men killed only five; the rest were caught by the Ulstermen, no matter where they had been relocated. Then they came to Trego Plain and it is here that Dubtach declaimed a vision of the battle ahead, foreseeing a youth guarding Muirheimhne's Plain and bodies strewn across the battlefield. That night the host of Medb slept fitfully disturbed by Dubtach's vision. The war-spirit Nemain entered the encampment and the men suffered nightmares, rousing in groups and ill-at ease until Medb came and rallied them. Regardless, the men were disturbed even as they approached Granaird near Tethba the next day, where they again set up camp. It was from here that Fergus sent a warning to the men at Ulster, but they were still under the influence of the Pangs and could not arise and prepare themselves. Only Cúchulainn and his father Sualdam were not affected, and these two went together to Iraid Cuillenn where they set up a watch.
'I can feel they are not too distant. ' said Cúchulainn to his father. 'I want you to return to Ulster and strive to prepare them. I made a promise to spend the night with Fedelm Noichride.' (Although others have it said that his meeting was with her bondmaid, who was set aside for his use). After Sualdam had gone Cuchulainn made a spancel-hoop of challenge and inscribed an ogham message onto the peg fastening it, leaving it on a standing-stone for the army to discover.
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