This section is from the book "Edmund Dulac's Fairy Book", by Edmund Dulac. Also available from Amazon: Edmund Dulac's Fairy-Book: Fairy Tales of the Allied Nations (Illustrated Edition).
One day in the long ago, the sun shone down upon a green wood whose mightiest trees have since rotted at the bottom of the ocean, where the best masts find a grave. While the sunlight slept on the bosom of the foliage, a horseman galloped in the shade beneath. The great chief Fion, son of Cumhail, was looking for his knights, whom he had outstripped in the hunt.
He reined in his steed in a broad glade, and blew his bugle loud and clear. Beside the echoes repeated among the hillsides, there was no answering call. He rode on, pausing now and again to blow another and another bugle-blast, but always with the same result.
At length the wood grew more scattered, and presently he came out upon a stretch of plain where the grass was so green that it looked like emerald; and beyond it in the distance, at the end of the sloping plain, he could see the seashore, and the ocean rising like a wall of sapphire up to the farthest horizon.
Down by the shore he could see figures moving, and, thinking that his knights had found their way thither, he rode like the wind down the long, gentle slope towards them. As he drew nearer and nearer, he saw that there were twelve of them, and they were playing at ball. By the mighty strokes they gave with the coman he guessed that these were the twelve sons of Bawr Sculloge, for none but them could drive the ball so high and far. Tremendous were their strokes, and, when they ran after the ball, they outstripped the wind.
As Fion drew rein and dismounted, they stopped their play; and, drawing near, welcomed him loudly as the helper of the weak, and the protector of the green island against the white-faced stranger.
When he had returned their greeting, they invited him to join them in their game - if such an amusement was agreeable to him.
'Fion, son of Cumhail,' said one, 'here, take my coman and wipe away the vanity and conceit of all comers, for we are practising for a great contest.'
Fion took the coman and looked at it, holding it up between his finger and thumb.
'I doubt if I could do much good with this plaything,' said Fion; 'it would break at first blow if I were to strike at all hard.'
'Never let that stand in the way,' returned the other. 'Wait!'
He then searched upon the ground among the blades of grass, and at length found a nettle, which he pulled up by the roots. Having breathed a charm over it, he passed it three times from one hand to the other, and lo, it was changed into a mighty coman, fit for the hand of Fion, son of Cumhail.
Then they were amazed at his terrific blows. The ball, struck by Fion, soared almost out of sight in the sky, and fell to earth far off. But, each time, the fleet-footed sons of Bawr Sculloge retrieved it.
At last Fion bared his arm to the shoulder, and, with a final blow, sent the ball out of sight. None saw it go; none saw it fall. They all stood and looked at each other.
'My hand on it,' said the eldest son of Bawr, advancing to Fion. 'I live to admit that I never saw the game played till to-day.'
As they were speaking, a voice hailed them; and, turning seawards, they saw a small boat approaching. As soon as it touched the beach, a man sprang ashore, and hastened towards them.
'Hail! Fion, son of Cumhail!' he cried. 'You are known to me, though not I to you. My lady, the Queen of Sciana Breaca, lays a knight's task upon you. Hasten forthwith, and have speech with her on her island. The hand of Flat Ear the Witch is upon her, and her chiefs have advised her to summon you to her aid.'
'I know it,' replied Fion. 'The Salmon of Wisdom, which comes up from the sea, breeds knowledge in my brain. I know what is passing in all the islands, but I fear that my efforts against witchcraft would be unavailing. Nevertheless, I will try. I will choose, from the twelve sons of Bawr Sculloge, three that I need, and together we will follow you to the island.'
'But, noble chief, you have no boat here, and mine will hold only one other beside myself.'
'Let not that trouble you,' replied Fion. 'I will provide a boat for us four, and we will follow you.'
With this he selected from the twelve sons the three that he needed. They were Chluas, Grunne, and Bechunach. Then he plucked two twigs of a witch hazel that grew near by, and they all proceeded to the beach. There he held the two twigs out over the water, and, in a moment, the one became a boat and the other a mast with sail set. He sprang in and the three followed, and presently they were speeding over the sea, setting their course by that of the stranger in his boat.
They sailed for many hours before they came to the island of the Queen of the Many-coloured Bedchamber. There they passed between high rocks, and entered a quiet harbour, where they moored their boat to a stout pillar and set a seal upon the fastening, forbidding any but themselves to loose it for the space of one year, for they knew not how long their quest would last. Then they went up into the palace of the Queen.
They were gladly welcomed and treated with the most generous hospitality. When they had eaten and drank, the Queen led them into a vast bedchamber decorated in the form and manner of the rainbow. Over the ceiling were the seven colours in their natural order. Round the walls they ranged themselves in the same fashion, and even the carpet itself was formed of seven hues to correspond. If the rainbow itself had been caught and tied up in a room, the effect could not have been more remarkable. It was indeed a many-coloured bedchamber!
Taking Fion by the hand, the Queen led them all into a corner of the bedchamber, where she pointed to a little cot in which a child lay sleeping.
'I had three children,' she said as she stood at the head of the cot, while Fion and the others gathered round. 'When the eldest was a year old it was carried off by that wicked witch, Flat Ear. The next year, when the second one was twelve months old, it suffered the same fate. And now my youngest here, who is twelve months old to-day, has fallen sick, and I fear to lose him in the same manner. This very night the witch will surely come and snatch my child away unless you can prevent her.'