As the men and King (Conchobar mac Nessa) of Ulster were feasting at the home of the royal storyteller, Fedelimid mac Daill, the storyteller’s wife gave birth to a daughter. Conchobar's chief druid, Cathbad, prophesied that the child Deirdre (Gaelic Der for daughter and duer meaning tear) would grow to be so beautiful kings would war to possess her and bring about the destruction of Ulster. Every warrior attending the feast drew their swords and demanded the newborn put to death for the sake of the kingdom, but the King commanded that she be taken away to Alba, where she was to be raised by servants until she became a woman.
One winter day, when Deirdre was a young woman, she observed her foster father as he cleaned a deer he had slain, and watched as a raven landed to feast upon the fresh blood pool in the snow. In this, she saw the three colors sacred to the Celts, the black raven, the red blood, and the white snow. Her foster father asked her what she saw and she said,
“Fair upon the man to whom I shall be; hair like the raven, his cheek like the blood, and his body like the snow.”
Her foster father pitying her fate to be wed to the old king told Deirdre that the man she sought lived nearby. His name was Noise and the two fell in love at their first meeting. Although Deirdre knew she was promised to Conchobar, she chose Noise over the old king and sent word she refused to marry Conchobar.
Deirdre and Noise eloped soon after and fled across Eire with Conchobar in pursuit. They ended back at Alba where they found protection on the shores of Loch Etive with the Gaelic goddess, the little horrid one. Conchobar attempted to get to his betrothed, but failed. Finally he sent Fergus mac Roich, a friend of Noise and a valiant warrior. Conchobar claimed he would forgive all and give her and Noise safe passage if she would join him. Noise agreed, but Deirdre tried to convince her husband that Conchobar should not be trusted. Noise had faith Fergus would nevert betray him so she returned to Eire with Fergus.
Once Deirdre was in Conchobar’s realm, he summoned her old nurse and asked if she was as beautiful as the prophesy had foretold. The nurse told him Deirdre had been changed by her years in Alba. Not trusting the woman, Conchobar ordered a male servant to measure Deirdre’s beauty. Once the servant beheld Deirdre, he could not turn away. When Noise discovered the servant spying on Deirdre through a window, he threw a chess piece that put the servant’s eye out. The servant returned to Conchobar and reported Deirdre was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and would be gazing at her still if her husband, Noise had not put out his eye.
Satisfied, Conchobar summoned his chief Druid and commanded he cast a spell on Noise and then beheaded him in front of Deirdre. Unable to live without Noise, she never smiled again. Conchobar longed to see the beautiful woman’s smile and one day forced her to ride in his chariot hoping to see her happy. As Conchobar whipped his horsed into a gallop, Deirdre’s hair fanned out behind her. She turned to stare into his eyes, and the King thought he finally found a way into her heart. But, as he reached to touch her cheek, she shrank back from him and threw herself over the chariot's side and died instantly when she struck the rocky ground. Later that afternoon, Deirdre was laid to rest next to Noise and months later out of their graves grew two yew trees that intertwined at the top. Enraged, Conchobar ordered the trees destroyed, but they grew back each time. Disgusted with the king’s jealousy, Ulster’s best warriors deserted the kingdom leading to its ruin.
The Druid’s prophesy was complete.
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