From all its branches, high and low, water was falling in little streams. This was the Fountain Tree indeed. He did not dismount, the King of Ireland's Son, but pulled the branches and he gave them to the Slight Red Steed to eat.
He ate no more than three mouthfuls. Then he stamped on the ground with his hooves, lifted his head high and neighed three times. With that he plunged into the water of the Lake and swam and swam as if he had the strength of a dragon. He swam while there was light on the water and he swam while there was night on the water, and when the sun of the next day was a hand's breadth above the lake he came to the Black Island.
All on that Island was black and burnt, and there were black ashes up to the horse's knees. And no sooner had the Slight Red Steed put his hooves on the Island than he galloped straight to the middle of it. He galloped through an opening in the black rock and went through a hundred passages, each going lower than the other, and at last he came into the wide space of a hall.
The hall was lighted. When the King's Son looked to see where the light came from he saw a sword hanging from the roof. And the brightness of the Sword was such that the hall was well lighted. The King of Ireland's Son galloped the Slight Red Steed forward and made it rear up. His hand grasped the hilt of the Sword. As he pulled it down the Sword screeched in his hand.
He flashed it about and saw what other things were in the Cave. He saw one woman, and two women and three women. He came to them and he saw they were sleeping. And as he flashed the Sword about he saw other women sleeping too. There were twelve women in the Cave where the Sword of Light had been hanging and the women were sleeping.
And in the hands of each of the sleeping women was a great gemmed cup. The spirit of the King's Son had grown haughty since he felt the Sword in his hands. "You have the sword, why should you not have the cup?" something within him said. He took a cup from the hands of one of the sleeping women and drank the bubbling water that it held. His spirit grew more haughty with that draught. From the hands of each of the twelve sleeping women he took the cup and he drank the draught of bubbling water that it held. And when he had drunk the twelve draughts of bubbling water he felt that with the Sword of Light in his hands he could cut his way through the earth.
He mounted the Slight Red Steed and rode it through the Cave and swam it across the Lake with No Name. He held the Sword of Light across his saddle. The Steed went as the current drew him, for it was long since he had eaten the leaves of the Fountain Tree, and the spirit that had made him vigorous coming was feeble now. The current brought them to the shore below where the Fountain Tree grew.
And there on the shore he saw a bunch of little men, little women and littler children, all with smoke-colored skins, all with but one eye in their heads, all crying and screaming at each other like sea-birds, and all sitting round a fire of dried water weeds, cooking and eating eels and crab-apples.
The King of Ireland's Son put his hands on the bridle-rein and drew the Slight Red Steed out of the water. The women with one right eye and the men with one left eye, and the children in their bare smoky skins screamed at him, "What do you want, what do you want, man with the horse?"
"Feed and water my steed for me," said the King of Ireland's Son.
"We are the Swallow People, and no one commands us to do things," said an old fellow with a beard like knots of ropes.
"Feed my steed with red wheat and water it with pure spring water," said the King's Son fiercely. "I am the King of Ireland's Son and the Sword of Light is in my hands, and what I command must be done."
"We are the Swallow People and we are accounted a harmless people," said the old fellow.
"Why are ye harmless?" said the King's Son, and he flourished the sword at them.
"Come into our cave, King's Son," said the old fellow, "we will give you refreshment there, and the children will attend to your steed."
He went into the cave with certain of the Swallow People. They were all unmannerly. They kept screaming and crying to each other; they pulled at the clothes of the King's Son and pinched him. One of them bit his hands. When they came into the cave they all sat down on black stones. One pulled in a black ass loaded with nets. They took the nets off its back, and before the King's Son knew that anything was about to happen they threw the nets around him. The meshes of the nets were sticky. He felt himself caught. He ran at the Swallow People and fell over a stone. Then they drew more nets around his legs.
The old fellow whom he had commanded took up the Sword of Light. Then the Swallow People pulled up the ass that had carried the nets and rubbed its hard hoof on the Sword. The King's Son did not know what happened to it. Then he heard them cry, "The brightness is gone off the thing now." They left the Sword on a black rock, and now no light came from it. Then all the Swallow People scrambled out of the cave.
They came back eating eels and crab-apples out of their hands. They paid no attention to the King of Ireland's Son, but climbed into a cave above where he was lying.
He broke the nets that were round him. He found the Sword on the black stones, with the brightness all gone from it because of the rubbing with the ass's hoof. He climbed up the wall of the other cave to punish the Swallow People. They saw him before he could see them in the darkness, and they all went into holes and hid themselves as if they were rats and mice.
With the blackened sword in his hands the King of Ireland's Son went out of the Cave, and the horse he had left behind, the Slight Red Steed, was not to be found.