"Is there a story about the beginning of Rahonain Castle?" asked I.
"There is," said Maurice Fitzgerald, "and though I am not good at stories, I'll do the best I can and tell it to you."
Long ago, when the knights of Kerry were in Dingle and wished to build a castle in the neighbourhood, they went to a place above Ventry, and the chief knight set men to work there. When the men began work a voice came up through the earth, telling them to go home and not mind that place. They put their spades on their shoulders and walked away.
They went back to work on the following day, but if they did they heard the same voice telling them to leave that.
The men looked at one another, put their spades on their shoulders, and went back to Dingle.
On the third morning the chief knight put all the men to work in the same place, and stood watching them. The voice came through the earth and spoke to the knight, saying that if he wished to keep a fair name, to go away and leave the good people in peace.
"Where am I to build my castle?" asked the knight.
"Beyond there at Rahonain," said the voice.
Work was begun at Rahonain, and as no place was provided for the workmen they went to people's houses in spite of them. If the man of a house wouldn't give what they wanted they would kill his cow or his pig, if he'd have the like, or they'd be vexing him in some way. If he had neither cow nor pig they'd give him a blow in the face, so the first other time he'd have something good for them.
Trant lived in Cahir a Trant at that time, and his nurse lived in Kil Vicadowny. The knight's men came across Trant's nurse, and the poor woman couldn't do well for them, for there was no one in the house but herself - she hadn't in the world but one cow and one pig. When the men were not getting what they wanted they killed the cow on the poor woman. As soon as she saw that she went over to Trant and told him her story.
"I can do nothing for you now," said he, "but the next other day they come send me word."
Some evenings after they came and she sent word. Trant came quickly. The men were inside, laughing and joking, making sport of the old woman.
"Were you not here a night before with my nurse?" asked Trant. "Why did you not conduct yourselves like men - take what she could give, and not kill her little cow?"
"We killed the cow," said one of them, "and 'tis the pig we'll take on her this turn."
Trant did nothing then but close the door and face the men. He took the ears off each one of them. He went out after that and took the tail and ears off each horse and let them all loose.
The men and the horses went home to the knight, who was raging when he saw them.
There was only a small chapel at Ventry, in the graveyard.
The knights were so proud they must enter the chapel before others. Common people had to wait outside till the knights went in, and when mass was over the people had to go first. The knights were the first to go in and the last to come out, and they stood always near the altar.
The Sunday after he cut the ears off the men, Trant went to mass on horseback and the wife behind him on a pillion. When he was riding along the strand and not far from the graveyard the horse stumbled and knocked himself and the wife.
"Come away home now," said the wife, "something will happen."
"I will not," said Trant, "and I don't care for the horse or what will happen."
After mass Trant was outside the chapel, the knights came out, caught him and killed him in the graveyard.
Trant's wife was at home; she turned back after the horse fell, but when she heard that her husband was dead in the churchyard she came to him, crying, and left her little son, nine months old, to another woman to nurse. While Trant's wife was keening over her husband the nurse hadn't patience to stay in the house, but ran out to the strand and left the child in a cradle alone. A banshee came then and took the child to a fairy fort half a mile beyond the church. When the nurse hurried back from the strand she found no sign of the child and was terrified. She searched through the whole house and around it, and as she didn't find the child anywhere she went running towards Kil Vicadowny to know did Trant's nurse take the little boy, but while she was going a voice called to her:
"Stop awhile and don't face that way: I'll tell you where the child is. It is not where you are going that he is, but in the fairy fort. If you do what I tell you and hurry you'll have him back; if not you'll lose him for ever. Run to that fort there beyond the graveyard, stop at the first house on the way, you'll find a skein of black flax thread inside in the house; put it around your left hand. You'll find a black-handled knife in the dresser, take that in your right hand and run; when you come to the fairy fort tie the end of the skein to a briar in the door of the fort; let the thread be unwinding from you till you are inside in the fairy kitchen. The child is there with a brown-haired woman, and she rocking him in a cradle.
He has drunk twice of enchanted breast milk, and if he has the third drink you will never bring him home with you."
The nurse did all this, and did it quickly. She went into the house without saying a word. She caught the skein of flax thread and took the black-handled knife with her. She faced the fairy fort, tied the end of the skein to a briar, and let it unwind as she went till she came to the place where the woman was rocking the child in a cradle of gold. She raised the child and put the skein around him.
"A short life to the woman who gave you directions," said the brown-haired woman.
"I'll cross her," said the nurse, "and your curse will not fall on her."
When she was taking the child from the cradle the brown-haired woman gave him one blow on the cheek and said: "Take that and may it live long with you!"
After that blow some of the Trants used always to go out of their minds. The child was brought home and grew up in good health. His grandfather was alive, but blind. When the boy was fifteen years of age the grandfather had three yearling stallions, and he told his men to put the best of the three in a stable for seven years and not to let him out for one moment.
At the end of seven years the grandfather sent for young Trant to come till he'd feel his bones to know were they hard enough.
"Mount the horse now," said the old man, when he had passed his hands over the grandson.
The horse was brought, and the young man mounted.
"Give him his head," said the grandfather, "but not too much of it when he's going towards the sea or the mountain."
Young Trant took his course back to Kil Vicadowny, and around the foot of Mount Eagle; from that he rode to Rahonain Mountain. He held on through high places, went far to the east, where he turned at last, and was making for home by the way of Ballymore.
One part of the cliff west of Ballymore goes farther toward the north than the rest of it. He was trying to turn the horse with the ridge, but he could not, so he gave him rein, and he jumped from the cliff, a distance of 220 feet, and the place is known as Trant's Leap to this day.
The grandfather had a watch out to know when the young man would be coming, and the stable doors were barred; he was in dread the horse would rush into the stable and kill the grandson. When the horse was home he ran to the stable, but the door to his own part was closed. He went from door to door then, but when all doors were closed he came back to his own place and stopped there.
The grandfather was led up, and put his hands on the young man to know in what way was he after the journey.
"Oh, you are able now," said he, "to knock satisfaction out of the knights for the death of your father. Come with me to the chapel next Sunday. When all the poor people go out I will stand in the door and you will work away inside on the knights with what strength there is in you."
When all the people were out on the following Sunday young Trant put his grandfather in the door and told him for God's sake to hold it. He went in and worked with his sword till he stretched sixty knights, all that were in it that day but one, who forced his way out between the legs of the old man and killed him.
Young Trant brought the grandfather home on his back, and that day was the last for the Knights of Dingle. The one knight who escaped through the door died of fright at the first place where he stopped, the place where the chief knight began to build the castle, and from that day the place is called Downall's Bed after him.