GEMMA GRANT continues her series on the myths and legends of Ireland


The king and his court were on high alert, following the discovery that his sister, Dectera and fifty other girls were missing. Conor Mac Nessa ordered his guards to search every inch of his domain. By nightfall the royal guards returned empty handed; the women were gone.

The king knew that no mortal could breech the fort at Emain Macha; but for the Faery folk, it was possible. Often, they would abduct people and they would never be seen again. Conor knew, that Dectera and the women were gone for good.

Years later, Fergus Mac Roy was out hunting when he saw light emanating from a Fairy hill. Approaching with caution, he unsheathed his sword and glimpsed into the world of Faery. Standing near the entrance was one of the kings of the Dé Danann, Lugh of the Long Arm.

Beside the Dé Dannan king stood Dectera, sister of King Conor. She was regally dressed and her appearance was that of a young woman in the bloom of youth. Dectera had not aged one day.

Fergus bowed to the great King, for the power of Lugh was legend. He asked if Dectera could return with him as her brother missed her greatly. It was Dectera who spoke, when she told Fergus of her happiness with Lugh and her desire to remain as his queen. She then presented their son to Fergus.

“I know my brother is heart-broken,” she said. “That is why I want to give my son to him. My child will grow to be the greatest warrior Ireland will ever see.” With that, Fergus reached for the boy and found himself alone with a boy, no more than six years of age. Dectera and Lugh of the Long Arm were gone.

Fergus returned with the child to Emain Macha where they were warmly greeted. Everyone wanted to care for this most beautiful child of Faery. He seemed to cast a spell on all who beheld him. His skills were unmatched and he showed promise of becoming a great warrior.

The boy was named Setanta and his uncle, King Conor, had him train with the warriors of the Red Branch Knights. On the hurling field, Setanta hit the sliotar with such force that it flew up into the air and out of sight. When older boys tried to tackle him, he managed to knock them over, several at a time. King Conor was proud of his sister’s son, his nephew from the realm of Faery.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own