Randy Lee Eickhoff continues the Celtic Ulster Cycle; following up his highly acclaimed retelling of The Three Sorrows, with The Destruction of the Inn. Part impacted myth, part heroic saga, and part literary tour de force; this is the tale of a king who dares to ignore the prophecy that foretells his fate.
Conaire Mór's reign has ushered in a period of great happiness and good fortune, but his three foster brothers take advantage of his position and plunder the countryside. Conaire refuses to put them to death, however, and out of brotherly love banishes them to Scotland. Where they fall in with merciless sea pirates who raid the coasts of England and Ireland, brutally slaying all whom stands against them, until finally the three brothers come back to the land of Conaire Mór.
Filled with the adventure and tragedy, and told in the style that Randy Lee Eickhoff has made his own, The Destruction of the Inn is a story of Ireland's past, and one of her most enduring tales.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
Randy Lee Eickhoff holds several graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in Classics. He lives in El Paso, Texas where he works on translations in several languages, poetry, plays, and novels of which two have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His translation of Ireland's national epic is now a text in not only schools in the United States, but countries overseas as well. His nonfiction work on the Tigua Indians, Exiled, won the Southwest History Award. He has been inducted into the Paso Del Norte Writers Hall of Fame, the local chapter of the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters. He spends his time in El Paso, Ireland, and Italy, lecturing on Dante and The Ulster Cycle.
Randy Lee Eickhoff holds several graduate degrees, including a Ph.D. in Classics. He lives in El Paso, Texas where he works on novels, plays, poetry and translations in several languages. His translation of Ireland's national epic, the Ulster Cycle, is now a text used in schools in the United States and overseas. His novel And Not to Yield, based on the life of Wild Bill Hickok, was selected as the Best Novel of 2004 by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage. His nonfiction work on the Tigua Indians, Exiled, won the Southwest Book Award. He is also the author of Return to Ithaca, Then Came Christmas and The Quick and the Dead. He has been inducted into the Paso Del Norte Writers Hall of Fame, the local chapter of the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters. Eickhoff served with distinction in the early phases of the Vietnam War, and was awarded the Purple Heart, Silver Star and Bronze Star. He spends his time in El Paso, Ireland, and Italy, lecturing on Dante and The Ulster Cycle.
Read an Excerpt
The Destruction of the Inn
By Randy Lee Eickhoff
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2001 Randy Lee Eickhoff
All rights reserved.
[0NCE UPON A VERY LONG time ago when the world was filled with magic and kings fought against kings in a violent land, a famous and noble king of Erin named Eochaid Feidlechambled aimlessly in his chariot over the fair green of Brí Léith, cooling his horses after a hard gallop. Suddenly he saw a beautiful woman sitting beside a silver basin at the edge of a well. He pulled hard on the reins, bringing his twin black stallions to a halt, tweaking on the reins as they angrily mouthed their bits in iron jaws, snorting with impatience. Eochaid stared hard at the picture before him. Tiny lights glinted from four golden birds and bright purple carbuncles enlaid upon the rim of the basin. A bright comb of silver delicately adorned with gold filigree anchored the four plaits of her red-gold hair. Around her waist lay a purple cloak with silver fringes in loose folds. A large golden brooch lay on the cloak. She wore a long, hooded kirtle of green silk anchored with clasps of gold and silver at her large breasts. The hot golden rays of the summer sun shone from the green silk of her kirtle and made the purple irises growing up by the side of the well seem pale and washed-out.
Slowly she raised her arms and took the comb from her hair and laid it upon the rough, gray stones of the well. She pulled a long braid of her hair around and carefully worked free the black wooden bead holding the braid in place. Her hands were delicate, soft and as white as a one-night's snow, her fingers long and slender. Her skin was clear with two spots of red like foxglove in her cheeks. Her eyebrows were as black as the back of a stag-beetle and a shower of pearls glistened from her smile as her full lips, red like rowan-berries, curved back into deep dimples below eyes as blue as hyacinths.
She stood and stepped aside — a queenly gait — and unclasped the kirtle and let it fall to the ground. She shrugged and her smock slipped from her high, white shoulders. Eochaid's mouth suddenly felt dry as he feasted on breasts as plump as pears. Her soft stomach tucked neatly in above hips as white as the foam of a wave, slender, long, tender, smooth, as soft as wool. Her sleek thighs were two shapely ivory columns polished and smooth, her knees round and small, her calves short and rounded, her feet highly arched and dainty, not broad and spatulate like a peasant's feet. A soft white moonglow shone from her face and the light of wooing glowed softly from her eyes.
He blinked, believing the vision to be a tease thrown upon him by one of the Sídhe, but when he looked again, there she sat.
"Surely this is a woman from the elf-mounds," he said to himself. A fine flicker-thought floated freely through his mind:
Shapely are all until Étaín.
Dear are all until Étaín.
Then, he started as her regal voice lifted in song, the notes floating over the thick swath of green grass on the winds of butterflies.
"A wise young man came riding
without a thought of briding ..."
"Who is this woman?" he wondered — Étaín whispered across his thoughts — and frowned, beetling his brows, pondering. Then he swallowed his thoughts as she turned and smiled at him, her breasts lifting proudly, the nipples large rosebuds. Twin pleasure dimples of delight appeared in her cheeks, dappled red like a calf's blood among the snowy whiteness.
"You know who I am," she said throatily. — Étaín whispered again across his thoughts — She smiled as his mouth dropped wide. A shower of pearls seemed to cascade from her mouth. She lifted her arms, quickly removing the last three beads. Her hair fell across her shoulders and breasts like a soft curtain.
He felt his bod surge painfully, his thigh muscles tightening. Her generous lips curved in a deep smile. A wave of dizziness washed over him. A thought materialized and he groaned. If only I could have an hour with you.
"That's why I have come," she said. She laughed and tiny crystal notes tinkled in the golden air.
"What? What?" he asked stupidly.
"That's why we have come," she said again, patiently. "To place ourselves under your protection, silly," she said archly.
Eochaid's face warmed from her gentle teasing. He rested one hip against the chariot's wicker railing, firmly holding the dancing horses in check, the reins woven through his first two fingers.
"Hm. Yes. Well ... that is," he stammered, catching himself. He drew a deep breath, calming himself, thinking: God's balls! But she disturbs me greatly!
His bod pressed hard and painfully against his warrior's harness. She arched an eyebrow prettily and he swallowed heavily against the sudden dryness of his throat.
"Who are you anyway? And from where do you come? That is," he added hastily, "where is your home?"
Musical notes glittered like crystal in the fall air between them as she laughed. (There is high magic here, he thought.) High spots of color glowed prettily from her cheeks above her dimples.
"Playing fox-and-hound, are we?" she murmured. "Well, I'm for you, Eochaid."
He started and sneaked a quick look around, but they were alone. Twin frown lines creased deeply between his puzzled eyes. "How did you know my name?" he demanded. "I have never met you before."
"You have seen me, Eochaid." She smiled at the bewilderment creeping over his face. "Don't you remember the night and your dreams?"
He drew erect. The horses danced nervously from the sudden tension on the reins. "Easy!" he snapped softly. The horses obeyed, tossing their heads and jerking against their bridles, mouths nervously working iron bits.
"You are of the Sidhe," he said. He swallowed, then asked again, "Who are you?"
She laughed, tiny bits of light sparkling in her eyes. She ran her fingers through her hair, casting it back over her shoulders, and again his bod hammered painfully against his warrior's harness as she raised a dipper of water from the basin beside her and poured it over her head. The water ran down her hair onto her shoulders, then runneled down her breasts. Her nipples hardened like thick raspberries. Eochaid's lips suddenly dried as he watched her stomach muscles contract away from the water's coldness.
"Easy to say," she said teasingly. "I am Étaín, the daughter of Etar, the king of the Echrad from the Sídhe."
Magic, he thought; then her words filtered through memory and he recalled the songs of the bards and their warnings:
Shapely are all until Étaín,
and dear are all until Étaín.
Warning twinges twanged at his senses, but then a great longing seized him, his bod throbbing wetly, his mouth drying like sand.
"Étaín," he whispered.
She nodded. "Oh, yes. As I said: the daughter of Etar, king of the people from the elf-mounds. I have been waiting for this day since before I left the Otherworld."
"Have you been waiting long?" he asked, racking his brain, searching for conversation.
"Nearly twenty years," she replied. "I was born in an elf-mound. But there are those who have been waiting far longer." She laughed. "Some have been waiting for hundreds of years."
"I don't understand," he said, baffled. She laughed again, dimples of delight rising redly in her cheeks, her twin bumps of temptation bubbling tantalizingly.
"Some things you are not given to understand," she teased. "There are things under the earth and the heavens that belong only to the Sídhe." Her eyes darkened with memory. "Some things have belonged only to the Tuatha since the Fomorians came to their land. And those are things that you do not want to know."
He shuddered, his bod suddenly withering like an old stalk of wheat. He remembered those stories sung by the bards about the Tuatha Dé Danann, about how their souls and spirits crept into the ground when the Fomorians, brutal conquerors, replying to the request of the Tuatha to share the country instead of warring over it, had arrogantly said that they would take the half above the ground. But once their red slaughter had begun, they found the Tuatha became phantoms, wispy spirits disappearing into darkness like brief bursts of swamp gas. He cringed as he recalled the anxious stories of mothers who wondered if the child in the cradle was theirs or if their human child had been taken by the fairies and a fairy's child laid in its place.
Come away human child
From the waters and the wild
And walk the lanes of shadowland
With a faery, hand in hand.
And often, he had stared from the window of his sleeping room to the mountains shining silver under the watery waves of moonlight. Often he dreamed of riding through the gap where the rocky highland dipped down to the waters of the silver sea in the far distance away from Brí Léith. There, he dreamed of dancing with Étaín, who sat across from him, now, loosening the four plaits of her red-gold hair, seeing it as he saw it now, cascading in red-gold waves over her creamy shoulders, falling to her waist and gathering there in delicate coils of gold. There, in the moonlight, he danced with her as they chased the fleeting silver shadows of moonlight.
Come away human child
And he heard the chant, the litany, in his fever-ridden brain while visions danced dimly in front of him: Lughnasa, the gathering of bilberries, the reddest stolen cherries from a bough he had clipped from a cheery tree above where the wandering water gushed from the hills above Glen Car down into star-filled pools among the rushes, there making love to her on the soft ferns of the banks above the pools.
And strangely, he felt, despite his fever-ridden brain, a strange peace singing in his breast:
Come away human child
Swallowing, he forced the visions away, focusing upon her near-naked self sitting, waiting, in front of him.
"And," he said. His voice cracked and she handed him a dipper of water she took from the oaken bucket beside her. He drank thirstily before trying again.
"And, why have you come here? I mean, that is, will there be time? Will we have time for me to bed you?"
"I have been here in the shadows nearly twenty years, watching, waiting," she said.
"For the time," she said.
"Oh, stuff and nonsense," she said, pouting prettily. "I have never seen a man so given with 'why.'" She sighed. "I was born in the Sídhe and the kings and nobles as well as others of the Sídhe sought to bring me to their bed. But there, the choice is mine, not theirs, and their beds went empty of me."
"Was it not hard to refuse a king?" he asked, suddenly conscious of his own rank.
She shook her head. "The Sídhe are not like your kind, Eochaid. One does not collaborate in order to live in the Sídhe. A king is only a man like any other in the night. A mere illusion of greatness. Cabbages are more valuable. You need to destroy that illusion of yourself," she said admonishingly.
"I have loved you with the love of a child for the tales I heard about you and demanded since I was able to speak," she said. "I listened eagerly to the tales of your noble bearing and splendid dealings with your people. And I have loved you through the tales long before I saw you. But I knew you from what the others said about you." She closed her eyes and leaned her head back, tilting her face to the sun's rays, exposing the white column of her throat, Parian marble.
(His heart hammered wildly in his chest.)
"Bold is the good king Eochaid,
Whose raven-winged locks laid
Back from his broad forehead
Gleam in the sunlight on his head.
Broad are his shoulders, a beam
Across their span. A blue stream
Flows in his eyes. Broad-chested,
Boldly he faces warriors breasted
In hammered armor. Listen! I'll tell
How he meets his love by a well
And he'll take her as his wife.
Long will they live without strife."
She opened her eyes and gazed streadily at him. Gray smoke seemed to curl and swirl in their depths. The twin blacks danced impatiently. He held the reins tautly in his hand, keeping their heads up and back.
"Tell me, Eochaid," she said huskily. "Have I found the right man?"
"Ah, now, there's no finding a far-flung friend ill-suited for you," he said. "Welcome! Welcome! Come with me and be my love and I'll forsake all other women for you. With you alone I'll live and stay in your bed long — as long as you keep your honor and mine from the maundering meddlings of courtly fools and japes with jackstraw fingers and moldy manners!"
She laughed. "Prettily spoken," she said. "I think there's a poet-singer lurking beneath that" — her breath caught for an instant in her throat — "brawny chest," she breathed.
Hastily, Eochaid wrapped the reins around a small bollard in a cat's paw, pulling the bight tightly, then leaped from his chariot and stumbled towards her, arms outstretched like a wrestler. She held up her hand, stopping him a scant step away.
"What —" he began, brow bettling boldly.
"A small matter, a touchling, only," she said musically — again he heard crystal notes tinkling in the air — "the matter of my bride's price, and then, well" — she smiled impishly — "then we'll see if you can grant my wish, my desire."
"Anything!" he croaked, then coughed and cleared his throat, drawing himself up fully. "You'll have both! I'll give seven cumals."
She smiled and happily spread her arms for him.
And they lived happily and lustfully for years and between them, they created a child who grew into a lovely woman fit to be the wife of a king herself. They named her Étaín.
But then Eochaid Feidlech died.
When Étaín wed, her bridal price was the same as her mother's. She was wedded to Cormac, king of Ulster, who was known as "the man of three gifts." And for a long time Cormac and Étaín lived happily together.CHAPTER 2
BUT UNLIKE HER MOTHER SHE proved to be barren. Cormac left her bed for that of another wife, leaving Étaín distraught and unhappy. One day, she went to her mother, Étaín, and told her what had happened with her husband.
"Ah, but I miss him," she wept sadly. Tears trickled down her face, past the darling dimples that were like her mother's, soaking into the neckline of her gown drawn modestly up over her cone-shaped breasts. "Now, Cormac beds that Fann, the one with breasts like air-filled bladders."
"Ah, now, dry your tears," Étaín said. She leaned back on her elbows on the grassy hummock where they sat, watching the sun enter its gloaming. "There are things that can be done to help you, you know."
"What things?" Étaín used the sleeve of her gown to mop the tears from her eyes.
"Oh, a pinch of this, a pinch of that — you know," Étaín said, waving her fingers languidly in the air.
"You mean magic?" her daughter asked. Her face began to glow lightly with excitement.
"Sh." Étaín looked carefully around. "We must be careful ofbandying that word about. There are those who still wish to do the Tuatha Dé Danann harm. Not all is as it was years ago." She sighed, remembering. "Now, those were the times when men —"
"Yes, yes," her daughter said, interrupting her. "I don't mean to be rude" — she added hastily as her mother frowned — "but I've heard that story before. That was then and —"
"Yes, I know: this is now," Étaín said, sighing. "But there was a lot to be said for the old days when we had a fair romping on the green and the fairies danced in the moonlight and there wasn't a shadow across the land. But now, well, 'tis a sad state we've fallen to when a husband leaves his wife for another for the sake of —"
"— big breasts," her daughter said hastily to keep Étaín from mentioning a child lest she become mallatach. "You were saying?"
"Hm." Étaín wrinkled her brow. "It's coming back to me now.
"Cochineal and gentian root,
Saffron and snakeroot;
Salt and wormwood
Stir with a hazelwood.
Clover to make you meet
Honey to keep it sweet."
She frowned. "I think that's it."
"Think?" Étaín wailed. She covered her face with her hands.
"It's been quite a while," her mother said defensively. "As times change, spells change. Magic is temporal, you know. But you don't, do you? Tch. Tch. A lack in your education! I blame myself for that."
"Mother, can we just please get on with it?" Étaín asked.
Excerpted from The Destruction of the Inn by Randy Lee Eickhoff. Copyright © 2001 Randy Lee Eickhoff. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
|A Note on the Translation||9|
|Conaire's Last Supper at Da Dearga's Hostel||19|
|The Destruction of the Inn||23|
|Appendix||The Destruction of Dind Rig||205|