This is how the first ranging of the hero, CuRuada, came to be. After CuRuada and several of the Boy’s Troop of the Red Branch warriors took up their arms, these were exhibiting their skill at arms before the hosting of the Red Branch and before the king, Concubar. The Boy’s Troop lads were all sons of the Red Branch warriors for none was admitted to the Boy’s Troop unless he was a son of one of the Red Branch knights. Indeed this was true of everyone, proud fathers looked on as their sons showed their prowess, and none was so proud as Concubar, for though he was not married, CuRuada was indeed his son, though secretly to most, by the faerie woman, Fand.
These lads were in very high spirits, and with their martial display they were a danger to themselves and to others. Perceiving the potential for disaster, Fergus, who was the commander and main instructor in arms of the Boy’s Troop, advised the king to send CuRuada and the rest out on a ranging where their high spirits would do no harm and likely some good. This seemed wise to the King, for though a king is the leader of his warriors, he is established and maintained by the peace and prosperity that he brings for his people.
Now the King, Concubar, had a great shield that would roar when the king was in danger, and too Concubar could wield it so that its roaring could gain the attention of warriors even in the noise of combat. So Concubar took his great shield and made the roaring that brought the king to the attention of the lads and brought them immediately to heal, even the hound, CuRuada.
When they were all gathered, the King, Concubar said, “Welcome all you new warriors to the knights of the Red Branch, and you have arrived at a fortunate time for Ulster. You may all have heard the words of our chief druid, Cathbad. Though harvests are plentiful, though calving will bring wealth, there may be war too, in fact we know that one almost always brings the other from jealous neighbors. For this reason we must be vigilant and we must expect danger from places where we do not expect it, and threat where there has never been before. So my lads, it is important that we send you, young heroes, on an urgent quest to range our borders to the North and the West where we do not expect trouble and, having seen to their security, return to report their condition.”
So saying the king gave their war-like, rambunctious, pugilistic, contentious, battle anxiousness a direction where he thought it would do no damage, for in the West of Ulster were the great mountains of the West and true, there were hill men there in the foothills below, but none below the White Dash, the violent stream of water that fell rapidly from the foothills.
To the North the King had still more confidence, for there beyond the ridge that later fell down to the great lake of the north, was no neighbor at all save the deer. Perhaps too might be the folk of Fand the faerie woman, but who knew if they even inhabited the same world as Concubar and his Gaels, for Fand seemed born of the mist where he found her and to which she later returned after their trysting.
So, while the other fathers were advising their sons on what the proper manner of a warrior on a ranging should be, Concubar took under his arm, Son, named by his mother, Fand, and sent to Concubar, and known by all as CuRuada, the Hound of Ulster. Concubar gave some martial advice and he advised CuRuada to go West from Emain Macha and to the White Dash but no further. Then, said the King, turn along that stream and go northward to the ridge above the forest that falls to the great inland sea, but no further, said he. Then go you and your mates along that ridge’s base, and not the heights, until you come to the forester’s road, and so by that way back to Emain Macha. This do you, for yours will be the command and when you return we will all go a’hunting in the South.
This then was good to CuRuada’s hearing because, having taken up his arms, his would be the command of the expedition. Then too, he was not unaware that South along the way was the Ford across the Red Branch river where lived Emer. This too seemed very good to him as he meant to have her as his wife.
Thus CuRuada began his border ranging, but he did not know that Concubar had met with Wil McCullen, Emer’s father, and they had spoken of a marriage and made sureties. For this reason Concubar meant for this hunting trip to lead to a feast at that same hostelry where Concubar would see his bride to be, the daughter of McCullen, Emer, who CuRuada loved.
In the first section of this story, we are introduced to Ulster (in this world, Tir na Nua, a young country in the North and West by the Western mountains), the king, Concubar, and of course, CuRuada and Emer. This post begins the heroic deeds of CuRuada and what leads, finally, to tragedy.