“I will take up my arms today,” shouted CuRuada. He pushed through the press of his boy’s troop brothers. Man and boy alike stepped aside as he charged to the fore. There was a heat on him, a heroe’s light that many would remember, CuRuada was not tall, nor thickly muscled, nor had he any beard, but he was, that day, a man, and none could stand in his way.
King Concubar drew himself up proudly, “Do you know the words of the Chief Druid’s vision? The one who takes up arms today will die young.”
“I heard the words, not that they mean anything to me,” said CuRuada, “If I had planned not to take up my arms before hearing them they would lead me to this same decision. I am a warrior, I am a man, better to be remembered for great deeds than to live a long life. Better fame and a name then to die in bed with no teeth. I will take up my arms today.”
Concubar beamed with pride, “So speaks a man.”
“Then you are a fool,” hissed the old druid. he turned his back on king and assembly and walked off with the other druids.
Concubar embraced his son, any who saw might have guessed it, but he was the king facing a war with dire consequences, CuRuada had showed the bravery all his men would need. Perhaps they all were looking to their own courage, they did not know it save Fergus. Concubar called to the assembly, “Let us go to the armory of the Red Branch Warriors, there are men here who would take up their arms!” So saying they all went up to the great hall of the Red Branch.
CuRuada took from the many assembled death dealing spears one thick and strong, too heavy for him, one might have thought, but as he plied it in a most spectacular, hero-like, wonderously martial way it shattered in his hands. “Here, have a go with this spear,” Said Fergus, as he passed his massive, sharp bladed, wound-gouging, monsterous, five pronged spear. So the lad plied it and found it fit for him.
Next CuRuada took in hand one of the fine swords among those that awaited a warrior in the great armory of Ulster. Then he worked his feats, his strikings and his thrustings upon the training butts of the Red Branch and too soon the sword was warped and its hilt crumbling in the fist of CuRuada until it was destroyed. Then King Concubar offered his own long slashing, high hilted, razor sharp, magnificently glittering sword to the boy. CuRuada took it in hand and with brilliance, his hero light plain for all to see, he showed his great skill and found that the great sword of the King of Ulster was fit for his hand.
Then CuRuada made to take down one of the shields from the wall of the great hall of the Red Branch Warriors, but the King, Concubar, cried, “Leave off lad, none of these will stand your rough use, I think.” With a wave he had brought out a strong, bronze banded and painted sheild of ash and oak wood, strong was the boss of iron in the midst of the shield and also it was studded with iron as well. Upon the face of it was emblazoned a red hound chasing a great red deer stag with red branching antlers. “This I had in mind to give you soon, but today it is proper, you are the hound of Ulster now and not the little fellow we called you when first you came.”
Indeed he was not the same boy. Though he was shorter than his fellows, CuRuada had grown from the boy he was into a man of strength at least. With thoughts of war, perhaps there was no-one who remembered that he’d been with them less than a month.
CuRuada moved to the chariots that sat outside the feasting hall of the Red Branch. Before he could test them, Concubar said, “Please CuRuada, will you leave us with but one chariot? Leave off those others. You shall have my chariot and my favorite team as well.”
Several of the other lads of the Boys Troop including Conall, the son of the champion, took up their arms that day. Even Felmid, the lad who’s arm had not fully mended, though he could not hold a sword was swept up in the furvor, “I may not be able to hold a sword, but I can drive as well as any of you with just one arm. I’ll be the Hound’s charioteer. The king’s horses don’t much need the goad anyhow.”
And so it was that Felmid proved his worth to drive Concubar’s own chariot with his best team and with him went CuRuada who astounded the assembly with his feats as Felmid drove magnificently in sweeping turns and slashing dashes with CuRuada howling his warcry running up and down on the tongue of the chariot and casting spears with deadly accuracy.
As so often happens, folk would remember this day as a bright shining, vigorous, heroic, magnificent, and awe-inspiringly brilliant day that all later days paled in comparison too, and its brilliance would make the dark days that fatefully followed from it all the more bleak by comparison.