Grieving for Culann’s hound
Conall hurried back home. Scáthach had sent word that Lugaid and Erc had triumphed. If that was the case then Ulster was no longer a safe place for his wife. He had to get her to safety before he could avenge his sworn brother.
He hoped it was not true, that somehow the emissary had heard wrongly. There was no way anybody could kill Cú Chulainn! Though it was possible that his geis could have been broken and hence his enemies had triumphed. NO! He will not worry about such things yet! What had happened was in the past, he had to ensure his wife was safe before he could do what he had to. His heart thumped in fear as his mind wandered to the possible scenarios that might greet him at his home. He pushed it to the side as he hurried.
Alas he was too late.
Lugaid and Erc’s forces greeted him at the entrance to his village. Before them lay the mutilated corpse of his wife. He felt as though he had been struck by lighting. He slowly shuffled and collapsed in front of her body. He whimpered as he cradled her in his arms. Poor sweet little Aoibheann, she had wronged no one! Why did she have to die! Why!?
He paid no heed to those gathered around him as he lamented her death. The tears kept rolling and he clutched her tightly as he cried.
Something landed beside him. He reached out and grabbed it. It was the severed head of Cú Chulainn.
“See the fate of your friend fool! I told you! We would strike when you least expected, and we would take everything that you held dear! Your ‘brother’ is gone! And so is your wife! You have nothing left to live for! But worry not! We would not kill you, for killing you is akin to squashing a dead lizard, and death would be too easy a fate for you. Lament their passing and die slowly!”, Lugaid cried out.
With that Erc stabbed him with Gáe Bulg in his torso. He barely made a whimper as Cú Chulainn’s barbed spear penetrated his flesh. They dragged him to the outskirts of Ulster and chained him to a tree. Leaving him to die as they went off to celebrate their victory.
He broke through the chains with ease. He lay slumped against the tree, repeatedly removing the spear and stabbing himself once again. He grimaced and winced each time the barbs shredded his flesh. For three days he did this. Stabbing himself till he passed out, waking up once he had healed and repeating.
On the third day he rose, Gáe Bulg in hand. He strode back towards Ulster. Mourning was over, there were other things to be done.
He found Erc first. He tied him to a tree as he slowly sawed his head of with the spear. Relishing the warm blood spilling on his hands and the screams echoing in his head. He took his time, taking care to not rush his handiwork. Calmly severing the tendons one by one.
Once that was done, he went in search of Lugaid. He rode towards his camp, Erc’s head carefully tied to his saddle. Since Lugaid had lost a hand, he fought him with one hand tucked in his belt, and yet the bastard put on a fierce fight. Even his horse was eager to kill him, it took a bite out of Lugaid, when he got too close. Using that as a distraction, he cleaved Lugaid’s head in one fell swoop. Cleansing himself in the blood that spurted out of that vermin’s body.
He laid their heads at Cú Chulainn’s grave, and planted Gáe Bulg there as well.
“Rest in peace my brother. Your life may have been short, but the world will always speak about your valour. Farewell”, Conall said.
He laid the bronze torq at Aoibheann’s grave. It was her gift to him, and it was only right that he left it there.
“I am sorry that I dragged you into this my love. I should have known better, but who can resist the charms of love? You deserved better and yet here you are, under the earth. While I still live”, Conall said.
Blinking back his tears, the Walker turned and lumbered away.