The Roofs of Tara
by Iain Muir
The samhain feast was at its height.
The trenchers passed, the mead flowed free.
The cheer was forced this samhain night:
The laughter rang with strain, not glee,
Beneath the roofs of Tara.
For each of twenty samhains past
As midnights' old day meets its death,
Forth from the Faerie Hill at last
Came Aillen, with its fiery breath
To burn the roofs of Tara.
Forth stood the King, Cormac Mac Art.
Silence filled the hall. "Is there a one,"
He asked "among you, who by art,
Or dint of arms till comes the sun,
Can keep the roofs on Tara?"
Then stood bold Finn, the youngest there,
But that night joined the host. "What might
Ye give, O King? What wage call fair?
If when tomorrow's dawn breaks bright
I've kept the roofs on Tara?"
"What would ye have?" the High King said,
"I've given ye a royal guard's post."
"I'd have his place in my Father's stead!
I'll captain Erin's great War Host,
If I keep the roofs on Tara!"
"Done!" cried the King. "I give my oath
Before these lords assembled all.
Do as you claim, and by my troth
Finn the Fianna's Captain call!
Just keep the roofs on Tara!"
Then Finn strode out from Tara's Hall,
To await the Faerie's coming.
With cloak and spear he'd mount the wall
To list for an aelf-harp's strumming
Atop the walls of Tara.
Soft on the wind stole the Aelfen song
Of summer, sun, and humming bees,
Of Maying parties all day long,
And soft leaves whisp'ring on the trees.
Sleep filled the halls of Tara.
Then Finn's enchanted spear did scream
Its loud alarm and call for blood.
And starting from his pleasant dream
Finn alone of that brotherhood
Woke on the walls of Tara.
Green was the flame of Aillen's breath
That set the mead-hall's roofs to flame.
Saffron Finn's cloak that was the death
Of flames in thatch to end it's game,
Atop the roofs of Tara.
Screeching, the Aelf-thing turned to flee
- it's lair with-in the hills Hollow.
The flames defeated, Finn did see
Him run. So now must Finn follow
Far from the roofs of Tara
Then far and far the Aelf-thing ran,
And swiftly Finn followed its flight,
Till to stir on their perches cocks began
And dawn began the sky to light
And gild the roofs of Tara.
The door to Hollow Hills gaped near.
Swift for its solace Aillen dove.
Yet swifter still flew Finn's broad spear,
Which Aillen's head from body clove
The sun rose over Tara.
Triumphant Finn the head bore back
As proof that sure the deed was done.
Behind him lay beside the track
The Faerie melting in the sun
Which shone on roofs of Tara.
The court from spell-bound slumber woke
And marveled that the roofs were whole.
Now twenty years of terror broke.
Finn Mac Cool'd achieved his goal.
He'd kept the roofs on Tara!
Cormac High King his oaths then kept.
The Fianna's captain Finn he made.
As he took the oath young Finn wept
Remembering a sylvan glade,
Far from the roofs of Tara.
© 2000 Iain Muir
Iain Muir lives in Central Europe, having gotten the
heck out of Africa. He tries to write science fiction, fantasy, and
poetry in between catching flights. He's sure that the time spent in
airports will cut decades off his time in purgatory.
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