…“How should these mighty men of war be greeted?” said Very-White…
Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve, “women to meet them, bonnie, full-breasted and bare, with strong ale, well malted, their food, not scanty but fare.”
So the heroes of Albion were bathed, fed and entertained, each in their separate compartments.
When sated and fully rested, Very-White went to each of them in turn in order to discover the reason for their visit.
She returned to Maeve and said, “The men of Albion are contending over the Champion’s Portion, in the mead house of King Grim-Gaze the slug-man. They have agreed to abide by your judgement in the matter.”
Maeve’s honeyed lips curved into an inscrutable smile, “Have them perform the wheel feat of the youths in the morning,” she said.
The following morning the men of Albion were woken early and taken to a hall in which youths were performing the wheel feat.
First Long-Horn O’Leary seized the wheel, he threw it in the air and it reached in height the ridge pole of the hall; the youths in the hall laughed and jeered at his effort but O’Leary heard their reaction as cheers and was elated.
Then Connor Cruel-Crest seized the wheel, he threw it in the air and it reached in height the ridge pole of the hall; the youths in the hall cheered and applauded his effort but Connor heard their reaction as jeers and was dejected.
Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve to Very-White, “to whom should we award the Champion’s Portion of Albion?”
“It is difficult for me to decide,” said Very-White, “for there is nothing to choose between the two of them.”
Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve, “O my child, there is no difficulty, for in truth, Long-Horn O’Leary, and Connor of the Cruel-Crest are different as white and red gold.”…