The Wooing of Emer: Part 8

Last week, Cuchulainn arrived at Scathach’s fort and faced the magical bridge…

Before he left, Cuchulainn bid me look out for Emer, and visit her now and again. Now I get to her house to find Forgall, Emer’s father, has gone to Tara, to visit the High King. They say that a lord from Munster, Lugaid, son of Nos, son of Alamac, has come to visit the High King, along with other lords.

Emer serves me with wine and she tells me she is alright, in our brief chat before I set off northward once again. But gradually, the drumming of hooves on the plain assaults our ears. Emer looks out of the window.

“It’s my father,” she says. “And he’s brought guests. Excuse me, Loeg, I must leave you.” She whirls out the door and I hear her crying orders to the servants, who are sent scurrying in all directions. I look out of the window.

Leading the cavalcade is a heavy-browed man in dark green. Forgall. Riding next to him is a young warrior, open-faced, ruddy-haired, with the eagerness and mild pride of youth in his countenance. He dismounts gracefully, and waits patiently for Forgall to welcome and show him in. Perhaps this is that lord from Munster?

Emer and Fiall emerge from the house and are presented, with much affection from their father. He seems to be pushing Emer forward.

Later, Emer slips back into the room where I am.

“Loeg!” she cries breathlessly. “You’ll never believe what my traitor of a father has gone and done!”

I could perhaps guess.

“He’s betrothed me to that lord he’s brought home!” she continued, eyes sparking. “And tonight is our wedding feast.”

“What would you have me do, my lady?” I ask at once.

She draws a deep breath and shakes her head, composed. “Nothing. I know what to do.”

She proceeds to invite me to the feast, before I leave tomorrow morning.

At the feast I’m squashed onto one of the benches on the main floor, so that Forgall won’t notice me. There is pandemonium as the men yell, women chatter, and dogs fight for scraps of meat. Finally, Emer is brought to sit by Lugaid’s side, a pale beauty in her best dress. Forgall is all over the room, being a good host, so he doesn’t notice what happens next.

Lugaid turns to her, a beaming, eager smile on his face, but Emer solemnly reaches up and takes his cheeks in her hands. He can not look away.

“On the truth of honour and life for me, I love Cuchulainn,” she announces. “My father is against it, but we are pledged. It would be a loss of honour for anyone else to try and take me for his wife.”

Lugaid starts back. “Y-y-you are p-p-pledged to Cuchulainn? Then I would never dare take you. My lady, I take my leave!”