“Dia Dhuit, my prince.” Niamh cooed to Oisin as he entered their sleeping quarters.
Oisin beamed a smile and spoke, “My Niamh… How is the newest?” He looked toward their newborn in Niamh’s arms. It had been 3 years since he returned to Tír na nÓg with her, and this pale, wispy-haired boy was now their third child.
“Have you thought of his name yet?” She inquired.
“I have: Fionn.”
“Fionn? After your father?”
“No… and yes.” Oisin said, as he gave a playful half smile.
“Really?! Who may I ask?” Niamh responded coyly.
“My father’s mentor… an honorable man.”
“Is this the Druid you told me about near the river?”
“Yes. But I have never told you the entire story… I suppose it will explain how my father became King as well…” At this moment, Oisin sat at a stool near the canopied bed that Niamh was sitting in. He then leaned back against the wall behind him, settling in to speak:
“His first name was not Fionn; it was Deimne, and he spent his childhood on the run — hunted by Goll mac Morna. Goll had taken the throne after he killed my grandfather. My father was too young at the time to mount any resistance, so he was sent to live with Fionn Eces, the Druidic poet near the river I told you about before… Fionn kept him safe and trained him in many fields; but the way that he gave the most knowledge was completely by accident… You see, Fionn had a life obsession: he sought out An Bradán Feasa, or ‘The Salmon of Knowledge.’ A fish from the Well of Segais that ate a hazelnut from the 9 hazel trees which surrounded the well. When this happened, the salmon was imbued with all the wisdom of the world. After 7 years of searching, he had finally caught it in the Pool of Fés… He knew it instantly — by the salmon’s luminous sheen.
Elated, Finn quickly had my father cook the fish with the warning not to eat the tiniest piece. My father assented and dutifully did so with great care. As it baked over the fire, he nervously watched, hoping to please his master and having no intention to do anything against Fionn’s wishes. When it seemed to be done, he touched the skin to check if it was cooked. When he did, a small heat blister on the skin popped, expelling hot fish oil onto his thumb… When this happened, my father reflexively pulled his hand back into his mouth to cool it… It hit his tooth. The instant he did, a rush of energy coursed through his being. His eyes dilated, as all the wisdom of the fish rushed into him… When Fionn returned, he immediately saw that my father had changed. He was incensed and demanded answers… Fionn sat down and calmed himself. This goal that consumed 7 years of his life was now lost forever… Yet, he looked at my father and told him that he believed him. Fionn consented that this must be fate and told him he would continue to prepare him for life…
From this moment, my father’s wisdom and understanding far outweighed Fionn’s. All he would have to do is put his finger back to his tooth, and he would gain the wisdom to resolve any situation. Fionn eventually just assisted my father… I always admired the fact that he did this, and when my father’s hair turned white early with the advent of his wisdom, he also gave him his name: Fionn (fair). Since our newest child is so fair-haired, I’d like for him to take this name.”
“Your father retook the throne shortly after?
“Well, not ‘shortly after,’ but certainly, it was with this wisdom that he eventually recaptured it… and became the great ruler he is — the great man that he is…”
There was a moment of heavy silence. Niamh’s eyes rounded in acknowledgement of how her husband was feeling and after a soft sigh, spoke: “You miss him…”
“I do. I miss them all, but none more than him. Are you certain I cannot return? I know you told me that before… And I know that I agreed to come regardless… And it has been a dream here. But— just one time?” This last part was said imploringly, and Niamh softened her opposition that until now she had tried to retain so adamantly. She sighed before speaking:
“There is a way. But… You could go the same way I went three years ago… Take Aonbharr. But promise me something Oisin: You will not get off the horse… You must promise me! … ahhh…I have sworn to not speak of this, but simply trust me, you MUST stay in the saddle!”
Oisin gently nodded before he embraced Niamh.
The next morning, she and Oisin saddled up Aonbharr; Niamh then directed her husband to the same place that she crossed over so long ago.
“I will not get off. I will go directly to my father and – directly – come back.”
“Do not falter… I should tie you in.” She let out a small laugh as she spontaneously teared up. Niamh then looked into the eye of Aonbharr, and the horse immediately tossed his head and whinnied. Niamh smiled and caressed Aonbharr’s head and kissed his muzzle. She then looked up at her husband. She couldn’t muster another word; she only concentrated on maintaining her composure. With this, Oisin, eyes gentle, nodded and turned to leave, crossing the ocean atop of the enchanted horse.
After he crossed through, Oisin landed on the beach and breathed in the same sea air he had 3 years ago. The air now felt “dirty” to him, and the whole place was missing the luminance of Tír na nÓg. Despite this, he still loved it. It was his first home, and even though it was not lovely as where he had just left, it was beautiful to him. He had a feeling of immense excitement as he directed the horse towards his father’s home.
As Oisin rode past a small hamlet, he was seen by some very keen eyes. The Goddess Morrigan had been observing him… She quickly understood the situation. This was the missing prince that had left for Tír na nÓg long ago. She had heard of this incident, and she knew why he refused to leave the saddle… Fionn mac Cumhaill, his father, had disrespected her long ago. However, she had sworn an oath not to harm Fionn, but his son was fair quarry… It was time for her revenge.
She took the form of a young fair-haired woman and approached him.
“Dia Dhuit, my noble sir.”
“Dia Dhuit,” he nodded his head but was simply being friendly. After all, these were his subjects — or at least they would have been if he had not left with Niamh.
“Would you like some mead?” Morrigan said glowingly, trying to maintain eye contact with him, so she could allure him.
“No, thank you. I have an important message to convey.” He politely spoke.
“It is free.” Morrigan revealed a little more skin off her shoulder as her words drew his eyes to her.
“I cannot.” He said this slightly more sternly, hoping this would deter her.
Morrigan was undeterred, but changed her approach, saying: “Help me to save my mother, and then you can go on your way.”
“Your mother has my blessing, but I cannot stop.” Oisin was confused but concerned by the immediate personality switch by the beautiful woman.
Morrigan decided on another tactic as his apprehension grew. She began screaming, “Help! That man attacked me.” Some of the other people heard this… They did not know this woman though, so they just looked on, confused by something so atypical in their sleepy, little village. Oisin sharply knocked his heel into the side of Aonbharr to quicken their pace away from the woman…
Morrigan had failed but now followed him in her raven form. When she saw him approach two men, she had a bright flash in her mind. She saw the image of him trying to help two men. This is how the images of fated moments sometimes came to her, a random flash of an image at a random time that would help direct her. She immediately went to the top of the tree near two workers and gave a loud caw. Oisin snapped his head in that direction and immediately saw the men. He was eager to speak to someone else, as his interaction with the woman had slightly rattled him.
“Dia Dhuit, Gentlemen.”
“Aye, welcome to you, gentle sir. That is a fine beast you have there.”
Oisin nodded and smiled, “Is it too heavy?” Here… maybe if I just lift it with my foot.”
He brought the horse next to the stone, leaning to the side and helping them lift, careful to stay in the saddle. With the great strength of Oisin, it was moving but just barely…. He leaned a little more and shifted a little more of his weight to that side. Almost… the rock was about to flip. Suddenly, the saddle’s girth around the horse broke and Oisin slammed to the ground. Instantly, he felt the change. When he looked up at the two men, their eyes were large with utter shock. He looked down and his hands were completely withered. As he turned his head, there was a glimpse of white, frail strands whip across his eyes. He immediately grabbed them, only to learn that they were his hair. When he stood up, his legs were shaky and weak. He didn’t understand but immediately wanted to run away — disoriented. “Which… way to King Fionn’s …castle?” His words were weak and broken.
“What devilry is this?! You… You look 100 years old now… — King Fionn? Fionn mac Cumhaill? …He hasn’t ruled for three centuries… Even my grandfather barely spoke of him… as a legend.” Morrigan gleefully cawed a laugh, knowing that time moved 100 times faster here than in Tír na nÓg — when Oisin hit the land of the Fianna it all caught up to him at once.
Oisin did not make it far, although he headed back in the direction of his Niamh. Aonbharr had run away in the commotion back to his home. Niamh greeted him back at the shore when the great horse returned without Oisin on its back… Even today, in Tír na nÓg a mere 20 years there — and their children now grown–, Niamh can sometimes be seen in the morning sea-fog off the coast of the former homeland of the Fianna, looking for her husband… quietly consoling herself with one statement, Fite fuaite.