The Journey of the Leanaí i Ndán
II. Lámhghala Splits The Earth
TWO days and two nights had the Leanaí i Ndán traveled through the Middle Lands. Great gales tore at their hair and the crow warriors’ feathers, lashed at their flesh, stole the very moisture from their bodies, bowed all but staunch Lámhghala, and sent the fields of grass a-roil like the waves of a stormy golden ocean.
An Sharmh pressed onward against these winds at a steady pace, though it was slowed as surely as if it were tunneling through mud. With each dragging gust came a screech as if the wind were metal dragged across the hull. Not even Samhraidh’s pained cries could cut through the howl of the wind, and nor could she hear her mother’s soothing tones. Clever Mársélu eventually bound her child’s tormented ears and, upon seeing that this indeed granted relief, she bade the others do the same.
Though her ears were bound, Meadhbhín soon felt something akin to the pounding of a hundred distant drums in her breast. She followed the feeling to the rearmost of An Sharmh and peered out of the window. There she spied what appeared to be a hundred tumbling roots bouncing and rolling across the landscape.
“Strange,” quoth she. “These tumbling roots are so heavy as to drum the earth.”
She drew Fearghal’s attention to these roots.
“Strange,” quoth he. “These tumbling roots look as if they will quickly overcome us.”
Not satisfied, Fearghal drew Mársélu’s attention to the roots.
“Strange,” quoth she. “These tumbling roots are traveling against the wind.”
Growing alarmed, Mársélu drew Lámhghala’s attention to the roots.
Lámhghala glanced at these roots and turned at once to Braonán, who was piloting the vessel, and urged him to go faster. Without question he coaxed greater speeds from the vessel, but it groaned and protested against the force of the wind.
As the tumbling roots drew closer, the Leanaí i Ndán quickly saw that the tangle of weed was not roots but rather clumps of hair, and, in the center of each tangle was a massive head with leering, hungry eyes and gleaming teeth.
The first of the Rolling Heads quickly caught up to them and with its gleaming teeth bit a screeching hole in the hull, and the gale caught and dragged the vessel off course so sharply that it listed to one side, and the vessel filled with winds that whipped violently at the Leanaí i Ndán. Before they could be overcome, Lámhghala slipped out of the hole in the hull and dug her white hand into the ground, calling forth stone to become her flesh. Then, with her incredible strength, she lifted the vessel out of reach of the ravenous Rolling Heads.
However, little by little they began to chip away her rock armor with their wicked teeth, and, while the winds did not bow her, she could only take careful, slow steps. Lámhghala realized that she could not continue the journey in such a fashion indefinitely; and while she could fight off a few Rolling heads at a time, there was no way she could drive off the hundred of them while the vessel was held above her thus.
Thinking quickly, Lámhghala threw An Sharmh with a mighty heave, letting the wind speed its passage to safety. Then she brought her white fist down upon the very earth itself. It cracked a half a league across and she and the hundred Rolling Heads sank five paces. But still, ever hungry, they began to roll out of the crack.
Lámhghala brought her white fist down upon the earth again. The crack widened a league and deepened twenty-five paces. Undeterred, the Rolling Heads continued their swarm outwards.
Lámhghala brought her white fist down upon the earth a third time. It gave under the mighty blow with a sound that cut through the howl of the wind, splitting three leagues wide and a half-a-league across. At once, she and the hundred Rolling Heads tumbled into the newly made chasm.
Upon hearing Lámhghala’s final blow, the others called upon the blessings of the gods, drew their weapons, and journeyed back through the winds to aid their friend. But, as they beheld Lámhghala’s canyon, deeper than the eye could see, and the broken Rolling Heads that had fallen still on the jagged cliffs, they knew that she was lost. Still, at Mársélu’s urging, they agreed to wait four days for her before continuing on their journey.
On the first day, they endured the howling wind and watched the still-crumbling cliffside with keen eyes. As the wind stole their calls, they waited in the sort of hungry silence that makes the passing of time unbearable. Still, with hope filling their hearts, they occupied themselves; every hole was mended and every wound tended. Lámhghala did not appear.
On the second day, the winds stilled. They called Lámhghala’s name into the canyon and strained their ringing ears for a response, but none came. The crow warriors flew into the canyon to search for her. When night fell and the crow warriors returned empty-handed, Fearghal besought the others to start moving while the winds were calm. They forestalled him, for they had not yet waited four days.
On the third day, great beasts took to the skies. Once more, Fearghal besought the others to start moving, lest they capture the attention of the predators circling above. Still, Mársélu held them fast to their promise. A second time the crow warriors dove into the canyon to find her; a second time they returned empty-handed.
On the fourth day there was still no sign of Lámhghala. With heavy hearts, the Leanaí i Ndán built a cairn and left.