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Authors: Holly Bennett

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Warrior's Daughter



Copyright © 2007 Holly Bennett

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now
known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Bennett, Holly, 1957-

The warrior’s daughter / written by Holly Bennett.

ISBN 978-1-55143-607-4

I. Title.

PS8603.E62W37 2007    jC813’.6    C2006-906671-X

: The daughter of Ulster’s mightiest warrior must
find her own path through grief, pain and wonder.

First published in the United States 2007
Library of Congress Control Number:

Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its pub-
lishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of
Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and
the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia
through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.

Cover artwork, cover design, interior map: Cathy Maclean
Typesetting: Christine Toller
Author photo: Wayne Eardley

The author is grateful for the support of the Canada Council
for the Arts which enabled the research for this book.

In Canada:                     In the United States:
PO Box 5626, Stn. B                PO Box 468
Victoria, BC Canada            Custer, WA USA
V8R 6S4                                98240-0468
Printed and bound in Canada.

010  09  08  07   •   5  4  3  2  1


My special thanks are due first and foremost to storyteller, author, scholar and “legendary tour guide,” Richard Marsh of Dublin, for showing me the locations where this story takes place, suggesting useful research sources, clarifying areas of confusion, proofreading my manuscript for technical errors and being an all-around goldmine of information. Any remaining errors are, of course, mine and not his.

Thanks also to:

Joanne Findon, Associate Professor of English Literature at Trent University and Ulster Cycle scholar, for advising me on the pronunciation and phonetic spelling of old Irish names;

Lady Augusta Gregory, for seeing the beauty and value of these ancient stories and first bringing them to the English-speaking public;

My editor, Sarah Harvey, for helping me find the right balance of modern and traditional narrative and holding my hand through the hard parts;

Cover illustrator, Cathy Maclean, for the three gorgeous covers she has designed for my stories;

My agent, Lynn Bennett;

And finally, thanks to my family for their whole-hearted support and above all to my husband, John, who bravely drove me all over Ireland in a standard-transmission car.



A Note on Names




Chapter 1 The Warrior’s Wrath

Chapter 2 Hound of the Forge

Chapter 3 The Lone Defender

Chapter 4 The Weakness of Ulster

Chapter 5 Ulster Rises

Chapter 6 The Queen of Sorrow

Chapter 7 Caught Between Worlds

Chapter 8 The Woman of the Sidhe

Chapter 9 Dun Dealgan

Chapter 10 The Making of a Maiden

Chapter 11 The Stranger on the Strand

Chapter 12 The Champion Falls

Chapter 13 Emer’s Grief


Chapter 14 Lost on the Wind

Chapter 15 The Poet’s Curse

Chapter 16 The Dance of Death

Chapter 17 Cathbad’s Son

Chapter 18 Friends and Helpers

Chapter 19 The Hidden Road

Chapter 20 Treasures Found

Chapter 21 The Isle of Women

Chapter 22 Samhain on the Island

Chapter 23 The White Blossom

Chapter 24 The Hill of Tlachta

Chapter 25 Cuchulainn’s Daughter


Fiction and Myth

Who’s Who—And How To Say It


When I first stumbled across the ancient Irish sagas of Cuchulainn and his wife Emer, I fell instantly in love. Never had I read a traditional tale so full of emotional resonance, or peopled with such wonderful characters. And presumptuous though I knew it was to attempt an interpretation of another culture’s myth, Cuchulainn and Emer preyed on my mind until it was useless to resist. Bolstering my nerve with the thought of my Irish great-grandparents, I plunged in.

These stories, dating from about the time of Christ, were first written down in Medieval Irish script in various versions and fragments starting from about the eighth century AD. Without the scholarship and dedication of the people who pieced them together and translated them into a coherent English narrative, they would have been forever beyond my reach. My heartfelt thanks, then, go to the two translators I relied on most heavily: Lady Augusta Gregory, who wrote her
Cuchulain of Muirthemne
in 1902, and Thomas Kinsella, who published
The Táin
in 1969.

Although Lady Gregory omitted some passages she thought her squeamish Victorian audience “would not be interested in,” and has been accused of being over-flowery, her translation has a charming idiomatic voice that brought the characters of the Tain alive to me. I have borrowed her words for the dialogue in several places, and I hope she would take this as I intend it: as a tribute to the beauty of her speech and a way of bringing some feel of the “original” to the modern reader. Kinsella’s more spare and muscular narrative has a classic epic tone and was a constant reminder to me that the Iron Age Celts (1000 BC–43 AD) did not inhabit the dreamy landscape of medieval chivalry that is familiar to most readers, but a tougher and lustier place altogether.

The characters in the
Cattle Raid of Cooley
Táin Bó Cuailnge
—hurl themselves through life at a kind of fever pitch: no challenge unmet, no love denied, no risk too daunting, no oath refused. And then, having embraced their lives with such blazing passion, they give them up with the same reckless abandon, to the spear or the sword, to broken hearts or unbearable shame, even to the humiliation of a satirist’s caustic tongue. They must have been short enough, those lives, and perhaps the final blaze of glory was after all a better way to end than the slow, painful onslaught of disease that was the likely alternative.

I loved these people, with their pride and their courage, their determination to burn bright rather than burn long. I hope you like them too.


What to do with all these Irish names? Too beautiful to replace with English versions, they are nevertheless a daunting mouthful for an Anglo reader and nearly impossible to pronounce correctly without coaching. I’ve settled on this solution: I’ve kept most names as I found them (usually the simplest of the available variants), and provided a pronunciation guide (Who’s Who—and How to Say It, p. 224) that is no more than a rough approximation. But you know what? It’s a story, and whatever pronunciation you hear in your own head will do just fine. Loo-ayn does not, to my ear, sound as pretty as Loo-in-ya, but my heroine, Luaine, will answer to either one.

In a couple of cases, I’ve replaced an Irish place name with a simpler spelling currently in use. If you go to Ireland today, you can visit the Cooley Hills, so I saw no need to puzzle the reader with “Cuailnge.”

And finally, I have omitted the fadas, or accents, from all Irish words, since they are no help to a North American reader.

I am a raven that has no home; I am a boat going from wave to wave; I am a ship that has lost its rudder; I am the apple left on the tree; it is little I thought of falling from it; grief and sorrow will be with me from this time.

—Lady Augusta Gregory
, Cuchulain of Muirthemne


It’s true my father was a mighty man altogether.

Not all the stories they tell about him are true, of course, or not entirely. We are, after all, a people who love a good tale even better than a good fight, and I do not blame the bards for adding their own improvements to the history of the great Cuchulainn. Indeed, I am grateful, for in even the most fantastic details I find a true memory of the living man.

There are no stories about me, however—nor will there be, if Cathbad has his way. When those who knew me pass from this earth, the memory of my name will pass with them. Doubtless he is correct; Cathbad is counted wise among the druids, though like any man he has his own reasons for his advice.

And so I seek obscurity, at least for my old name. But there is enough of my father in me—and my mother too, for Emer was hardly one to shrink into the shadows!—to want my own story told, at least one time.

Will you listen and keep silent? It is my life I am trusting you with.

My name was Luaine.


The old white horse, usually so slow and patient, was frisky as a colt that day, and I was having a hard time to make him mind. Perhaps it was the rich breath of spring gone to his head; if truth be told, my own attention wandered away on the breeze more than once.

I was kicking him up from a trot to a canter when a sudden jolt catapulted me forward and my view was suddenly of muddy ground rather than blue sky and wattle fencing. Clutching with hands and knees, I managed to hang on to his neck—just. Completely unconcerned with the small person clinging upside down to his mane, the evil old nag cropped contentedly at the clump of vetch that had caught his eye.

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