4. The Island of the Murderers


AND THEY ROWED into the night, until at about midnight they came to two small and barren islands, on each of which was a fort. Coming from the forts was the sound of a gathering, the outcry of intoxication, the commotion of warriors boasting of spoils won, and the cries of prisoners and hostages.

Máel Dúin and his crew set aside their oars and listened, and soon heard a loud voice, speaking proudly:

“Stand away from me, for I am a better man than you! It was I who slew the Eoganacht chief and burned the church of Dooclone over his head, and his kin have never dared to avenge it on me! Have you ever done the like of such a deed?”

The joy that now seized Máel Dúin and his companions was fierce. “Now surely,” exulted Germane and Diuran, “Heaven has guided us to this place! Here is an easy victory. Let us land and utterly destroy these forts, since God has revealed our enemies to us so quickly, and delivered them into our hands!”

But even as they spoke, a wind arose, and a great tempest suddenly broke upon them. And they were driven violently before the storm, all that night and for a part of the following day.

When the storm abated and the sky cleared, they found that they were floating in the midst of a great and boundless ocean. They saw neither the islands they had left, nor any other land. They had no way of knowing where they were. or where they were going. They were lost.

“Take down the sail, and lay your oars aside, and let the curragh drift before the wind, in whatsoever direction it pleases God to take us,” Máel Dúin said to the crew. So the crew lowered the sail and ceased their rowing.
Máel Dúin then turned to his foster brothers.

“This is your doing,” he said. “This evil has befallen us because we took the three of you into the curragh. Because of you, we have violated the commands given by the druid Nuca. There are too many of us. We are cursed. Without doubt, more evil will come of this.”

His foster brothers made no reply, but sat in silence.


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