Cathbad’s Caution

Fergus and the King, Concubar, were at a game of Ard Fidchell when the chief druid of the Ulster came upon them, “It is not my wish to anger you, my lord, but there are matters to discuss relating to the games of Macha and too, the taking of arms of some of our young warriors, most notably sons of your Red Branch warriors.”

Concubar frowned, “Though you say it is not your wish to anger me, why is it that you are so adept at doing so? 

“It is just that last time we spoke there was tension. . .”

“Tension?  I remember it differently.  As I recall it, I threw you out.  I do not wish to hear you on the subject of Fand or of the boy.  Now, if you can avoid those topics, then there need not be any fear or you, Cathbad, saying, ‘I do not wish to BUTs’.  So, bring me news or council and let there be no buts about it.”

“As you say, my lord.” Cathbad began again, “The celestial bodies are in particularily good alignment for the games of Macha and always this has been an opportune time for our young men to take up arms.  As part of the latter we druids expect to read augures of a sacrificed bull. That is I will read the entrails . . .”

“This is not news.  You do this each year.” said Fergus.

“Even so, yes, and usually a bull has already been provided . . .”

Concubar nudged Fergus, “Did you know it isn’t the Druid’s bull that pays the blood price each year for their augures.  Cathbad begs a bull of me.”

“Oh!” supplied Fergus.  Cathbad reddened.

“Well then, chief druid, you know where my kine are, pick the one you want.”  Concubar made a show of turning back to the game board and ignoring his druid.  He winked at Fergus and then seemed to notice that Cathbad hadn’t left, “Is there anything else?”

Cathbad gathered his dignity, “I have seen the boy at arms practice.  I do not think it wise, but it is not my place to say so.  It has only been a very few days, but . . .”  Concubar was preparing to interrupt, but Cathbad plunged on, “He was a boy the day he came, but the little fellow he was he is no more.  Curuada, Son, is as near to a man now as makes no difference.”

Concubar glanced at Fergus, “Is that so? It has only been a few days.”

Fergus looked confused, “He is no taller.  Not even a hint of a beard. . .”

“He is a man.  Surely the way he swings the prince’s sword tells you that.  What child could hold it at all?”

“As I told you, CuRuada is unrivaled among your warriors. . .”

Cathbad saw his opening, “He will take up arms this year unless you do something.  Surely you see how dangerous it would be for him to do so.”

Fergus looked confused, Concubar vexed said, “If he is a man then why not?”

Cathbad gaped, “Have you forgotten?  He is not human . . .”

“HE is my son!”

“And if he dies who’s son will he be?” yelled Cathbad, “Who can pay the price for that death?  Who will ask it?  I say we will all pay for such a death,” and without asking leave Cathbad strode away.