Conn the Hundred Fighter, Ard-Ri' of Ireland, was in the lowest spirits that can be imagined, for his wife was dead. He had been Ard-Ri for nine years, and during his term the corn used to be reaped three times in each year, and there was full and plenty of everything. There are few kings who can boast of more kingly results than he can, but there was sore trouble in store for him.
He had been married to Eithne, the daughter of Brisland Binn, King of Norway, and, next to his subjects, he loved his wife more than all that was lovable in the world. But the term of man and woman, of king or queen, is set in the stars, and there is no escaping Doom for any one; so, when her time came, Eithne died.
Now there were three great burying-places in Ireland--the Brugh of the Boyne in Ulster, over which Angus Og is chief and god; the Shi' mound of Cruachan Ahi, where Ethal Anbual presides over the underworld of Connacht, and Tailltin, in Royal Meath. It was in this last, the sacred place of his own lordship, that Conn laid his wife to rest.
Her funeral games were played during nine days. Her keen was sung by poets and harpers, and a cairn ten acres wide was heaved over her clay. Then the keening ceased and the games drew to an end; the princes of the Five Prov-inces returned by horse or by chariot to their own places; the concourse of mourners melted away, and there was nothing left by the great cairn but the sun that dozed upon it in the daytime, the heavy clouds that brooded on it in the night, and the desolate, memoried king.
For the dead queen had been so lovely that Conn could not forget her; she had been so kind at every moment that he could not but miss her at every moment; but it was in the Council Chamber and the Judgement Hall that he most pondered her memory. For she had also been wise, and lack-ing her guidance, all grave affairs seemed graver, shadowing each day and going with him to the pillow at night.
The trouble of the king becomes the trouble of the subject, for how shall we live if judgement is withheld, or if faulty decisions are promulgated? Therefore, with the sorrow of the king, all Ireland was in grief, and it was the wish of every person that he should marry again.
Such an idea, however, did not occur to him, for he could not conceive how any woman should fill the place his queen had vacated. He grew more and more despondent, and less and less fitted to cope with affairs of state, and one day he instructed his son Art to take the rule during his absence, and he set out for Ben Edair.
For a great wish had come upon him to walk beside the sea; to listen to the roll and boom of long, grey breakers; to gaze on an unfruitful, desolate wilderness of waters; and to forget in those sights all that he could forget, and if he could not forget then to remember all that he should remember.
He was thus gazing and brooding when one day he observed a coracle drawing to the shore. A young girl stepped from it and walked to him among black boulders and patches of yellow sand.