34. The Laughing Folk

THEY SAILED UNTIL they came to an island which had a great level plain extending over its whole surface, and on this plain a vast multitude of people were playing at games and laughing, without any pause.

The voyagers cast lots to decide who should go to examine the island, and the lot fell upon Máel Dúin’s third foster brother.

So he left the boat, but no sooner had he set foot to ground when he, too, began to play and laugh without ceasing. His comrades called him back, but in vain; he would not listen. He leaped and laughed and sang as though all his life he had been one of the islanders.

He never once deviated from his merry play and joyous laughter, and seemed to have no awareness at all of his crewmates.

So after waiting for a long time, and being afraid to venture onto the island themselves, they put forth again, and they were sorrowful to leave him.

And so was fulfilled the prophesy of Nuca the wizard — that only Máel Dúin and the seventeen appointed comrades would return in safety to the land of their birth.

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