version 1.0, 5/99
This story comes from the Finn cycle as recorded by MacPherson in the nineteenth century. It is a classic story of desire and betrayal. Morna loves Angus, but Mark (the King) desires her, so he arranges Angus' death. He had not counted, however on the strength of Morna MicCormac.
There are three primary characters in this story: Morna, Angus and Mark. This should appeal to Junior High and High School aged students.
Morna MicCormac was a huntress, the finest in the kingdom. Her arms were white and strong like the pillars in Finn's Heroes Hall. Whenever she drew her bow, her arrow found its mark without fail.
Angus was her betrothed. He was the finest warrior in the kingdom. No man in the land could stand against him single combat.
Had they been the rulers of the kingdom (or had the fates been more kind) they would have had a happy life and produced many fine warriors for Finn's Company.
But there is a third figure in our story, the ruler of the kingdom, King Mark. Mark loved Morna passionately and intended to have her as his queen. He gave her every proper attention, making his desire very clear to her.
Morna would have none of it. She loved Angus with all her heart so she politely declined all of the King's attentions. As a free woman, she thought that this would be the end of the matter.
King Mark was not one to be defeated, however. He devised a clever plan to eliminate his competition while not exposing himself to even in the shadow of blame.
He summoned Angus before him and with great ceremony bestowed upon him a fine cloak of deerskin and a mighty helmet crowned with antlers. Calling Angus the best of his warriors, he charged him to wear this fine raiment and seek the Great Boar of the Forest which had been terrorizing the kingdom.
Angus accepted the favor of the King and departed that evening on his quest. He had no chance to say farewell to Morna, for the King had arranged her absence on the day of the ceremony.
The next morning, Morna returned to court. The King requested her presence on a hunt. He challenged her with a wager; a circlet of gold if she could bring down her prey from a hundred paces with one shot. Morna accepted the challenge willingly.
The mist was just lifting as they rode out of the Mark's Hall together. Into the forest they rode, Morna with her bow slung across her shoulder. As the sun rose high into the sky, the King led Morna into the wood; closer and closer to where he had sent Angus.
The sun stood high at noon when across a broad field the King spied Angus, cloaked in his deerskin, tracking the boar along the edge of the wood. The King pointed to what appeared to be a fine buck deer and said to the huntress, "Will you settle our bet?"
Morna drew back an arrow in her bow. Taking careful aim at the form creeping along the edge of the forest, she let the arrow fly. The antlered creature fell to the ground, pierced through the heart. She turned to the King saying, "I believe I have won."
They crossed the field. The King knelt beside the fallen Angus and pulled away the helmet crying, "Alas! It is my fine warrior, Angus, felled by your arrow."
Morna let out a terrible cry. "How can this be!"
The King replied, "Such a tragedy. Only yesterday I presented this helmet to him as a mark of honor. If only I had known..."
As with so many clever people, the King spoke too much. Had he said nothing, his strategy might have worked. Stricken as she was with grief, Morna was no fool. She saw through the King's transparent lie and her heart cried out for vengeance.
"Bring me the arrow," she said, "that I may kiss his sweet life's blood."
The King pulled the arrow free with his bare hands and brought it ceremoniously to Morna. "There was no way you could have known," he said, trying to move her with his soft words of comfort.
"No," she replied taking the arrow. "For you made it so." Locked onto his eyes with a gaze of steel, she stabbed the arrow through King Mark's vile, black heart.
He fell to the ground, dead before he landed.
Morna turned her back on the corpse and never thought of the King again. She went to her beloved, cradling his head. She stripped the hateful deerskin cloak from his shoulders and summoned her horse.
With Angus draped across the back of here saddle, she rode back to the Hall. "Woe is the day!" she exclaimed, riding into the courtyard. "Behold the best of our warriors is fallen."
"And what of the King?" called one of the courtiers.
"Lost." That was the only reply Morna ever made to any question about King Mark. Search though they might, no trace was ever found of Mark's body (it was assumed that the beasts of the forest had taken him and that Morna's cryptic reply was the only way she could express her horror at that loss).
"Let a tomb be built by the river for Angus," she directed. It was completed quickly. And every day for the rest of her life, Morna walked, veiled in white, along the river to the door of the tomb.
Finally, one day many years later, she did not return from her daily pilgrimage. Although there are those who say they still see a woman veiled in white who walks the bank of the river, weeping for her long lost love.
So ends the sad tale of Morna MicCormac.