Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Táin Bó Cúalnge from the Book of Leinster (Author: [unknown])

section 26

The four great provinces of Ireland encamped at the pillar- stone in Crích Roiss that night. Then Medb asked the men of Ireland for one of them to fight and do battle with Cú Chulainn on the morrow. Every man of them kept saying: ‘It will not be I who go’. ‘It will not be I who leave my place. No captive is owing from my people’.

Then Medb asked Fergus to go to fight with and encounter Cú Chulainn, since she was unable to get the men of Ireland to do so. ‘It would not be fitting for me’ said Fergus. ‘to encounter a young and beardless lad, my own fosterling’. However when Medb begged Fergus so urgently, he was unable not to undertake the fight. They remained there that night. Fergus rose early on the morrow and came forward to the ford of combat where Cú Chulainn was. Cú Chulainn saw him coming towards him.


{line 2486-2516} ‘With weak security does my master Fergus come to me. He has no sword in the sheath of the great scabbard’. Cú Chulainn spoke truly.—A year before these event Ailill had come upon Fergus together with Medb on the hillside in Crúachu with his sword on the hill beside him, and Ailill had snatched the sword from its sheath and put a wooden sword in its place, and he swore that he would not give him back the sword until he gave it on the day of the great battle.—‘I care not at all, my fosterling’ said Fergus, ‘for even if there were a sword in it, it would not reach you and would not be wielded against you. But for the sake of the honour and nurture I and the Ulstermen and Conchobor gave you, flee before me to-day in the presence of the men of Ireland’. ‘I am loath to do that’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘to flee before one man on the Foray of Cúailnge’. ‘You need not shrink from doing so’ said Fergus, ‘for I shall flee before you when you shall be covered with wounds and blood and pierced with stabs in the battle of the Táin, and when I alone shall flee, then all the men of Ireland will flee’. So eager was Cú Chulainn to do whatever was for Ulster's weal that his chariot was brought to him and he mounted it and fled in rout from the men of Ireland. The men of Ireland saw that. ‘He has fled from you! He has fled from you, Fergus!’ said all. ‘Pursue him, pursue him, Fergus’ said Medb, ‘let him not escape from you’. ‘Not so indeed’, said Fergus, ‘I shall not pursue him any farther, for though ye may belittle that flight I put him to, yet of all who encountered him on the Foray of Cúailnge not one man of the men of Ireland did as much. So I shall not meet that man again until the men of Ireland meet him in turn in single combat’.

That is called the Encounter of Fergus.