AT the end of a fortnight Fionn and Goll and the chief men of the Fianna attended at Tara. The king, his son and daughter, with Flahri, Feehal, and Fintan mac Bocna sat in the place of judgement, and Cormac called on the witnesses for evidence.
Fionn stood up, but the moment he did so Goll mac Morna arose also.
"I object to Fionn giving evidence," said he.
"Why so?" the king asked.
"Because in any matter that concerned me Fionn would turn a lie into truth and the truth into a lie."
"I do not think that is so," said Fionn.
"You see, he has already commenced it," cried Goll.
"If you object to the testimony of the chief person present, in what way are we to obtain evidence?" the king demanded.
"I," said Goll, "will trust to the evidence of Fergus True-Lips. He is Fionn's poet, and will tell no lie against his master; he is a poet, and will tell no lie against any one."
"I agree to that," said Fionn.
"I require, nevertheless," Goll continued, "that Fergus should swear before the Court, by his gods, that he will do justice between us."
Fergus was accordingly sworn, and gave his evidence. He stated that Fionn's brother Cairell struck Cona'n mac Morna, that Goll's two sons came to help Cona'n, that Oscar went to help Cairell, and with that Fionn's people and the clann-Morna rose at each other, and what had started as a brawl ended as a battle with eleven hundred of Fionn's people and sixty-one of Goll's people dead.
"I marvel," said the king in a discontented voice, "that, considering the numbers against them, the losses of clann-Morna should be so small."
Fionn blushed when he heard that.
"Goll mac Morna covered his people with his shield. All that slaughter was done by him."
"The press was too great," Fionn grumbled. "I could not get at him in time or—"
"Or what?" said Goll with a great laugh.
Fionn shook his head sternly and said no more.
"What is your judgement?" Cormac demanded of his fellow-judges.
Flahri pronounced first.
"I give damages to clann-Morna."
"Why?" said Cormac.
"Because they were attacked first."
Cormac looked at him stubbornly.
"I do not agree with your judgement," he said.
"What is there faulty in it?" Flahri asked.
"You have not considered," the king replied, "that a soldier owes obedience to his captain, and that, given the time and the place, Fionn was the captain and Goll was only a simple soldier."
Flahri considered the king's suggestion.
"That," he said, "would hold good for the white-striking or blows of fists, but not for the red-striking or sword-strokes."
"What is your judgement?" the king asked Feehal. Feehal then pronounced:
"I hold that clann-Morna were attacked first, and that they are to be free from payment of damages."
"And as regards Fionn?" said Cormac.
"I hold that on account of his great losses Fionn is to be exempt from payment of damages, and that his losses are to be considered as damages."
"I agree in that judgement," said Fintan.
The king and his son also agreed, and the decision was imparted to the Fianna.
"One must abide by a judgement," said Fionn.
"Do you abide by it?" Goll demanded.
"I do," said Fionn.
Goll and Fionn then kissed each other, and thus peace was made. For, notwithstanding the endless bicker of these two heroes, they loved each other well.
Yet, now that the years have gone by, I think the fault lay with Goll and not with Fionn, and that the judgement given did not consider everything. For at that table Goll should not have given greater gifts than his master and host did. And it was not right of Goll to take by force the position of greatest gift-giver of the Fianna, for there was never in the world one greater at giving gifts, or giving battle, or making poems than Fionn was.
That side of the affair was not brought before the Court. But perhaps it was suppressed out of delicacy for Fionn, for if Goll could be accused of ostentation, Fionn was open to the uglier charge of jealousy. It was, nevertheless, Goll's forward and impish temper which commenced the brawl, and the verdict of time must be to exonerate Fionn and to let the blame go where it is merited.
There is, however, this to be added and remembered, that whenever Fionn was in a tight corner it was Goll that plucked him out of it; and, later on, when time did his worst on them all and the Fianna were sent to hell as unbelievers, it was Goll mac Morna who assaulted hell, with a chain in his great fist and three iron balls swinging from it, and it was he who attacked the hosts of great devils and brought Fionn and the Fianna-Finn out with him.