3. Mael Duin builds a boat and sets sail


BEFORE HE DID ANYTHING ELSE, Máel Dúin went to the country of Corcomroe, to see Nuca the druid, to ask him for charms and blessings for the boat he had decided to build.

The druid gave Máel Dúin the charms and blessings he asked for, and told him on what day he should begin to build his boat, on what day to put out to sea, and how many men he should take with him; Máel Dúin was to take seventeen companions on his voyage, no more and no less — and there would be a curse upon him if this instruction was disobeyed.

On the appointed day, Máel Dúin set to building a large triple-hide curragh. It was made of wicker work, with eight thwarts and a strong mast, and it was covered with three layers of hard red ox-hide, and he decorated it with the charms that Nuca had given him.

Then Máel Dúin gathered together the seventeen companions who would accompany him on his voyage. Among them were his good friends Germane and Diuran the rhymer.

Everything was ready by the time the day appointed by Nuca for their departure arrived.

They hoisted the many-coloured sail to the mast, and put forth to sea. But they had gone only a little way when they heard the cries of Máel Dúin’s three foster-brothers, who had come running down to the beach, and were standing in the shallows, calling them back.

“You must go home!” Máel Dúin called over the waves. “I may not carry a larger number than are already in the boat!”

“If you do not come back for us, we will follow you into the sea, even if we drown!” the foster-brothers replied. And the three of them plunged into the water, and swam towards the curragh.

When Máel Dúin saw this, he turned his vessel towards them, and took them on board, rather than let them be drowned. But his heart was heavy, for he could not forget the druid’s curse.

They could not turn back. The current was strong and took them away from the shore. They rowed all day, until the evening settled, and then turned into the dark night.

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