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The Young Cuchulainn

Four things must be remembered about the appearance of the Eirish warriors: many of them are women, all of them have swirly blue tattooing, all of them speak with Scottish accents, and red hair predominates. The music that accompanies their action is Gaelic, characterized by the high pitched wails of Uillean pipes or violins –either solo or else heard above the relentless beating of bodhrans. These are the sounds the ancestors of the Gaels brought from Caucasia.

There is much crashing through the undergrowth, with many high pitched 'Ayayayayayes' as the riders snap into action. A burly red haired man turns his horse away from the lake. His name is Bricria. He is preparing to move farther into the forest.

Bricria (calls): "Usna! Laery! To your right! Fergus and I will search the thicket!"

Bricria is the brother of the princess they are looking for. Usna is a strikingly handsome man with white teeth, blue eyes and jet black hair. Laery is a powerful and handsome young man with vivid red hair. Fergus is another burly redhead with a beard –unusual, for most Gaelic men shave the beard, either leaving the mustache or going clean shaven. Usna and Laery head away from the camera. Bricria rolls his eyes vaguely in the camera's direction, and mutters with his head up, not down.

Bricria: "Eyes in the forest. They're watching us, I know it."

He heads off as the others spur on their horses and crash through the undergrowth. Soon we see a peaceful clearing and hear the quiet, thin notes of a 'low whistle' to harp accompaniment. Rays of sunlight pierce through thick branches and between huge trunks. This is a holy place, a cathedral of nature.

The riders are overwhelmed by this hushed, dark place. Gradually, tiny points of light appear amid the trees until the glade is surrounded by them. They seem like a myriad of stars. The sounds of the forest are heard very lightly. A man's voice speaks unexpectedly. Disembodied and unnaturally resonant, it is the voice of Light from The Ancient Ones. Like all the Faery folk, he has what we would call an Irish accent.

Light's voice (calmly): "We are not Pookha rebels."

Four figures fade magically into view, the invisible made visible. They are translucent and pale grey against the dark green of the trees, and are about four feet tall. Three of them are characters from The Ancient Ones, and they are dressed in the manner of the Faery folk.

At the far right of the screen is Blodeuwedd. To her right is Rhiannon, in a brimless conical hat and robe. Next is Light.

Last is a woman at the far left of the frame who will turn away from the camera, unmoving and ignoring everything that happens throughout this scene. Her name is Morigan. Before she turns away, she surveys the Gaels with hatred. Like Blodeuwedd, she wears regular Faery clothing, for Rhiannon is the only wizard among the four. Except for being translucent and pale grey, the other three are exactly as we remember them, with one difference –Light seems happy at last.

The music stops, and we hear only the quiet sounds of the forest. Light steps forward. The other two facing the camera are benevolent and reassuring. We see them from the warriors' point of view. When Light speaks, it is in a supernaturally resonant voice, kind and serene.

Light: "You are searching for your sister, the princess Dechtera."

Bricria: "You have broken the agreement between our people. Give her back, or we drench this island in blood."

There is a pause. From the depths of the forest behind, the Gaelic princess emerges surrounded by a retinue of Faery women. All are the same translucent pale grey. Dechtera is much taller than her retinue, whose members reach only to her ribs. Despite her transformation, she is still dressed in the Caucasian style. She stands beside Light and takes his hand with a smile. Then she steps forward.

Dechtera: "Bricria. I am here of my own free will." She turns to Light, and we briefly see him in closeup. "This is Light. He is my husband."

Bricria: "He might just reach up to your ribs."

Dechtera: "I love him."

Bricria: "Conor will not believe it. He'll massacre them."

Dechtera: "Tell our brother that I have found happiness with the little people. I'm staying with them, and you need not fear for my safety. In three days of your time I'll come back to this place, and I will bring a gift to the Gaels from the Fae Rhy."

We see Bricria from the side, his warriors around him. He moves his horse forward slightly, and looks toward the right of the frame.

Bricria (hoarsely): "What will you bring?"

Dechtera: "A gift born of the love between our people and theirs, a love that will never die." Her voice falters as she says the next words. "A gift that breaks my heart. I have been told it is the only way there can be peace."

She walks back to Light and takes his hand. Both of them turn from translucent pale grey to opaque gold as the scene fades to black.

Next we fade in to Bricria, flanked by his soldiers, walking past the rough longhouses of the Gaels toward the camera, looking very serious. Although houses in the countryside are round, the area which we see is reserved for Red Branch warriors and their families, who live in rectangular longhouses. One is for the male warriors, one for boys in training, and the largest is for the young children and females of all ages.

All Bricria's men have dismounted, and one of them is leading Bricria's horse as well as his own. Children run beside the horses, looking admiringly at them. Three geese wander around the clearing. The camera tracks backward to remain focussed on the bundle Bricria is carrying. A tiny baby in swaddling clothes inside a little rabbit fur bunting is cradled in his large brawny arm.

An establishing shot shows the interior of a swordsmith's workshop. It is dark, lit by the beehive shaped furnace with bellows by the far wall. The swordsmith has just finished making a sword, and is removing it from his anvil with large tongs to place it in a large rectangular vat of water. The water sizzles and steam rises from the vat. The swordsmith is a burly, red faced man with a smith's apron. His name is Cullen. The camera pans across the room to land on Fergus, who has his arm around a young boy with dark brown hair. This is Cuchulainn.

Cullen: "Fergus, I've got to hand it to you. Ever since Bricria brought this boy from the forest you've been like a father to him."

Fergus: "My thanks to you, Cullen." He gives the boy a hug, which is more like a stranglehold. "But he's Conor's nephew, and by my reckoning he was sent to be our ruler some day."

Cuchulainn (looking up at Fergus): "No. I was sent to serve you, not to rule you."

Fergus: "And who told you that?"

Cuchulainn: "I don't know."

Fergus lets the boy go and puts his hands on the back of his hips, bouncing on the balls of his feet and thrusting his bottom lip out as he changes the subject.

Fergus: "I've brought him to learn from you." He turns to Cuchulainn. "Why don't you go and play while we discuss your education? It's going to be pretty boring."

He looks down kindly at the boy, who gives him a bright look and runs out. Cullen motions to Fergus.

Cullen: "Here, take a seat." He looks up "Now what's that?"

A dreadful snarling comes from outside. Cullen leaps up out of the right side of the frame, alarmed, and Fergus follows. As Cullen leaves the frame, we hear his voice, which carries over into the next shot of the two men's backs going out the door.

Cullen (dismayed): "The hound.... I thought it was tied up!"

Fergus: "He'll be all right."

Cullen: "Admit it, Fergus, the boy's a bit of a runt."

Fergus: "Don't be fooled."

We look down at a shaggy Irish wolfhound lying dead on the ground outside. There is no blood on it, but instead its neck has been twisted. The camera pans upward from the wolfhound, up the length of Cuchulainn's small body to his face.

Cuchulainn (clearly and calmly): "I'm truly sorry that I had to kill your hound. But if I had not, it would have killed me. I don't know whether I can get you another."

There is silence. The two men are speechless with astonishment. Cuchulainn continues.

"If it can make amends, I'll be your guard hound in its place, and none shall dare enter without your bidding."

Cullen's voice (out of frame, a bit taken aback): "From the strength of you, young one, you'll be the guard hound of all Uillaid, never mind my forge."

Cuchulainn (without altering his pose or facial expression): "I was sent for that –to be the guardian of Uillaid. So I was told. And while I'm alive none may invade this land, though I be one against five thousand."

Cullen's voice (filled with wonder): "Eyes in the forest. They're watching us, I know it."

From behind, we see a teenaged Cuchulainn outside the Boys' House. He is sitting at the edge of a clearing dotted with stumps, along with twelve other boys, as in the background two of their classmates spar with swords and shields under the watchful eye of their teacher. Cuchulainn is the only one with dark brown hair. The other boys have red hair, except for the three sons of Usna, who are black haired. The redheaded boy sitting at Cuchulainn's right is named Laeg. We see a closeup of the two boys as Laeg speaks to Cuchulainn, and we notice that Cuchulainn has piercing grey eyes.

Laeg: "Do you know when you'll be Taking Valour?"

Cuchulainn: "Not yet. I can hardly wait to join Fergus." He looks ahead of him as if seeing his future in the air. "To be a true Red Branch warrior...."

Laeg (looking at Cuchulainn very seriously): "When the time comes, I want to be your charioteer."

Cuchulainn (grinning): "I wouldn't consider anyone else."

A man's voice cuts through the air, stopping further conversation.

Man's voice (from out of frame): "Laeg and Cuchulainn!"

The two boys get up, moving out of frame to the right side of the camera, very close. It is their turn for sparring.

We are in the torchlit dining hall of Conor, king of Uillaid. The wall behind is made entirely of red cedar logs. The floor has been cleared for a dance that is performed by separate groups of men and women in lines side by side, each dancer with arms across his or her neighbours' shoulders. We start with the line of men, whom we see from across the floor, coming at us in an alarming manner. The camera is right at floor level. The style of dancing is very eastern European, with much stamping.

By the time the line of women comes in, the men have moved forward enough that we see them only from the waist down. When the women come in front we see only their legs, doing the same rhythmical stamping. The camera tracks along to the last dancer. Where they are stamping, she is lightly jumping. The camera tilts upward to show her face. She is beautiful, with dark brown hair, and she is laughing.

To the strains of 'Mna na Eireaan' we see a boar roasting on an iron spit over the open fireplace in Conor's dining hall. Our view widens to take in the whole room. There is plenty of ambient sound, and very rough it is too, but the noise level is lowered to make the Uillean pipes clear. Shields and weapons hang on the log walls looking downright menacing, the swords, spears and battle axes crossed. The torches are set in plain cast iron cones on the walls.

We see people milling about after the dancing. The dark haired young woman we have seen before walks up to one of the men, who is conversing with another woman. Her tread is catlike and silent, but with small modest steps, and she patiently waits for a break in the conversation to be noticed. In the middle of a broad gesture the man suddenly sees her and starts. Hypersensitive, she throws her hands up in alarm at his unexpected reaction, and he breathes a huge sigh of exasperation.

Then we see all the same people, in the same room, eating at a large unfinished trestle table while sitting on bales of hay. Conor sits at the head of the table. Irish wolfhounds fight over bones which the diners throw to them, and children run around wildly.

The camera pans across the table. We see diners cut slabs of meat from carcasses, tear at bones with their teeth, and slap each other on the shoulders. The camera passes assorted meat dishes with the heads on and long bronze daggers sticking out of them. These contrast with fine gold platters and delicately wrought golden flagons and goblets in the La Tene style.

The camera stops on the dark haired young woman again. She is arrestingly beautiful, with sultry grey eyes fringed by black lashes. She is the only one not sinking her teeth into the food with ferocious glee. Instead she gazes directly into the camera lens from across the table, and the camera stops to scrutinize. Her name is Emer.

Cuchulainn's voice (out of frame): "Who is that woman?"

Laeg's voice (also out of frame): "Emer, daughter of Forgall the Wily. But Forgall will wed her to none but a king, or else Champion of Eireaan."

Cuchulainn's voice (laughing): "Well, I'm not a king."

Laeg's voice: "But you know what it means to vie for Champion. You must learn from Skatha, greatest of all warriors, on the Isle of Skye."

Cuchulainn's voice: "I'll see you when I'm Champion of Eireaan."

illustration courtesy of Jeanne Rynhart

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