8. The Demonic Horse Race


AFTER SAILING for several more days, a broad, flat island came into view. The crew cast lots, and it fell to Germane to go and examine it, but he did not think the task a pleasant one, for thoughts of the gigantic ants and the taloned monster they had met on the other islands were still in his mind.
Then his friend Diuran said to him:

“I will go with you this time, and the next time it falls to my lot to visit an island, you shall come with me.” So both of them went together.

They found the island to be very large, and some distance from the shore they came to a broad green race-course, in which they saw immense hoof-marks, the size of a ship’s sail, or a large dining-table. There were nut shells as large as helmets scattered about, and the remains of the huge nuts that had been partially eaten.

Although they could see no one, they found all the marks and signs that showed that people of huge size had been employed there at all kinds of work. There were remains of all kinds, vast and monstrous in size, as though giants had gone plundering, and left their scattered spoil lying about.

Seeing these strange signs, they became alarmed, and they returned to the shore, and called their companions to come and view them. The others, when they had seen the race course and the signs of the giants, were also struck with fear, and all quickly left the place, and returned to their curragh, and set sail.

They had got only a little way from the island, when they saw dimly, as if through a mist, a vast multitude of people on the sea, of gigantic size and demonic look, rushing along the crests of the waves, all with a great outcry.
As soon as this shadowy host had landed, they went to the green, where they began a horse-race.

The monstrous horses were swifter than the wind; and as they pressed forward in the race, the demonic multitudes raised a mighty shout like thunder, which reached the crew as if it were beside them.

Máel Dúin and his men, as they sat in their curragh, heard the strokes of the whips and the cries of the riders; and though the race was far off, they could easily understand the eager words of the spectators:

“Observe the grey horse!”

“See that chestnut horse!”

“Watch the horse with the white spots!”

“My horse leaps better than yours!”

After seeing and hearing these things, the crew sailed away from the island as quickly as they were able, into the open ocean, for they felt sure that they had just witnessed a gathering of demons.

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