Youth & Rise to Power
In the first battle between the fomorians and the Tuatha de Danaan, a mighty warlord named Balor was chosen to lead the fomorians in battle. In his youth, Balor, who had but one eye, had spied on a solemn rite he was forbidden to witness. As punishment, the Dreaming cursed him so that his eye became a thing of terror. Whenever it was opened, a terrible red light issued from it, slaying all it gazed on. Thus, he could not open his eye without destroying whatever he looked upon and was effectively made blind. Even without his sight, however, he was a great warrior: quick, clever, strong, and wily. He led the fomorian army against the Tuatha. Great was the slaughter on both sides, but in the end, the Tuathan king, Nuada, lost his arm and the Children of Danu fled before the power of Balor's eye.
The fomorians graciously granted the Tuatha their lives and demanded tribute. By their own laws, Nuada could no longer rule the Tuatha because he was no longer perfect. In his stead, they chose Bres the Beautiful, the most beautiful among them. The Tuatha did not realize that, though Bres' mother might be Tuathan, his father was fomorian. Bres agreed to give the fomorians one third of all the Beaker People and the Tuatha produced, be it milk, crops, animals, or people. The fomorians took the goods because their barren islands could produce little. The people they took to replenish their decimated ranks. Both the fomorians and their Fir-bholg vassals had lost most of their people from the war with the Tuatha. These Tuathans became fomorian wives and husbands, children and children's children. And so the fomorians mingled their blood with that of the Tuath de Danaan for the first time on a large scale.
Marriage & Prophesy
Balor was made king of the fomorians and married a women taken in tribute. Though he did not know it, Caitellin was considered one of the great beauties of the age. He never saw his wife, though, for to do so would be to destroy her. By all accounts, the marriage was a good one and soon produced a daughter whom they named Eithlinn. Not a day after her birth, though, Balor's soothsayers came to him with dire news.
"Great king," they said, "though you rejoice at the birth of your daughter, we have foreseen that you will be slain by your grandson. Therefore, we counsel you to slay your newborn child and have no more. We will continue prosperously under your rule and you will never die."
At this, Balor and Caitellin wailed with anguish and tore their hair. His wife pleaded with him not to slay her only child and Balor himself was loathe to do so. Finally, he thought of a plan. He would not slay his daughter, for already she was dear to him and truth to tell, the fomorian people dwindled after their wars with the Tuatha. Instead, he determined to build her a tower made of glass and shut her inside it. Twelve bondswomen would care for her. She would never look upon a man or hear one's name spoken. She would live her life pampered, but away from people. Having no contact with any others, she would never bear the child who would cause Balor's death. Thus could the prophecy be averted. And so it was done as he commanded.
The Coming of Cian
Now, in |Hibernia, Bres made many enemies. Aside from the tax levied on them to pay tribute to the fomorians, the Tuatha also had to pay Bres, who took a tithe for himself. He gave no favors to the other Tuathans, instead requiring them to do menial work in his hall and on his lands. Many were ready to revolt against him, yet there only other choice for king was Nuada who could not rule. It was al this time that the tribute came due for the fomorians and one among the Tuatha refused to part with his best cow. She was called the Glas Gaibhleann and her milk never ran dry. She belonged to a Tuathan noble called Cian. Balor's tax collectors returned to him and spoke of the Glas Gaibhleann and Cian's pride. Rather than call war upon the Tuatha, Balor and a companion disguised themselves and took the cow when Cian's younger brother failed to keep an eye on it.
Cian went to a soothsayer to discover what had happened to his prize cow. The seeress Birog told him Balor had taken the cow and advised him to use guile to retrieve it, for if he came against Balor directly, the fearsome king would open his dreadful eye and slay him on the spot. (If only Balor had slain Cian for from this deception came great sorrow and trouble for the fomorians.)
Cian disguised himself as a woman and he and Birog sailed to the island where Eithlinn dwelt in her glass tower. Birog had counseled Cian to steal away that which Balor most treasured and, perhaps, the fearsome warlord would ransom it with the cow. No warrior could have assailed such an edifice, but Cian and Birog called out to the women within, saying they were queens of the Tuatha who had been shipwrecked, and begged their help. Not wanting to leave other women in distress, the guardians opened the tower and admitted Cian and Birog. Birog used her Arts on the women and all fell asleep, while Cian climbed the stairs to the tower where Birog told him the treasure awaited.
When Cian looked upon Eithlinn, he was struck dumb by her beauty, grace, and sadness. For her part, she recognized him as someone whose face she had often seen in dreams. They fell in love at a glance and she took him to her bed willingly. Knowing that if he stole Eithlinn away, Balor and the fomorians would rise in the greatest wrath and wage war upon the Tuatha, Cian was persuaded to leave her, promising to come again when he could.
Eithlinn stayed with her guardians, and in due time give birth to triplets. The first was golden-haired like his sire, while the others were dark like their mother. Word was brought to Balor of their birth and he flew into a rage. Descending on the tower, he ripped the children from their mother's breast. Still, he could hardly bear the thought of slaying his own kin. Wrapping each in a blanket, he flung them into the sea, crying, "Let the sea decide the fate of my grandchildren! If they be drowned, then none shall survive to be my doom. If fate depress otherwise, let them be borne up upon waves and saved."
The waves rolled in and each child seems to be swept under the water. Unknown to Balor, however, Manannan Mac Lir, Tuathan overlord of the sea, saw all that transpired and heard Balor's speech. He took pity on the children. The golden-haired boy he swept in a wave to Cian and made known to him that this was his son. The second, a dark girl, he changed into a seal, giving her the power to shift her shape and become the first of the selkie. The last, a dark boy, he made into a fishtailed man, creating thereby the mer-folk. So, by Balor's rash act, two faerie kith came into existence, and his doom was sealed. That he also set the stage for the doom of all fae, he did not yet know.
(For more on Cian's son, see the article Lugh of the Long Arm.)
Trouble in Hibernia
During the years that followed, the fomorians forbore to wage war against the Tuatha, for they realized they were cousins in the Dreaming however much the gave them insult. Eithlinn was again locked in her tower and forbidden to see anyone but her guardians. More and more, the Tuatha tired of Bres' demands and greed and now they had a way to rid themselves of him. Diancecht, a great healer, fashioned a silver arm that moved as a normal one for Nuada and Diancecht's son even managed to restore Nuada's real arm to him. Now the old king was no longer blemished and the Tuatha went to Bres and demanded that he give up the throne to Nuada once again. Fearing their wrath if he refused, Bres abdicated.
Bres fled to his fomorian father and complained against the Tuatha, saying they has ousted him illegally. His father appealed to Balor. Knowing he would get no tribute from the arrogant Tuatha without Bres on the, and foreseeing that there would be war, Balor gathered his forces, determining to rid himself once and for all of the troublesome Children of Danu. He commanded his warriors to slay all they met and tie a rope around Hibernia when the battle was done so that the island could be brought back to Balor's Isle as the greatest tribute ever collected.
The Death of Balor
The Tuatha heard that Balor was coming, bringing with him enough ships to bridge the gap between his own island and Hibernia, and warriors to fill all those ships. Quickly, they assembled their own hosts and went to meet his armies. At the head of their hosts rode Lugh of the Long Arm, their new king. When they came into range, Balor opened his eye and the red light played across the hosts of the Tuatha and their lesser children, the sidhe. Everywhere that light fell, warriors writhed and fell dead, poisoned by the evil of Balor's eye... all except Lugh. He clutched to him a great spear that protected whoever held it from all harm. The red light played all about him, yet he did not fall. Kicking his horse into a gallop, he headed straight for Balor, whose eye had closed again. His grandfather never saw him coming.
With a great cry, Lugh rushed up to Balor, who stood alone before his own troops lest he slay them, and drove the spear into the eye just as it began to open once again. The great spear passed through the eye and into Balor's brain, killing him instantly. Given new heart, the Tuatha attacked and drove the fomorians from the land. Nor did the fomorians ever come again with warfare to Hibernia. They took up Balor's body and returned to their isles, where they made him a great funeral pyre. It is said that the wisest among them took his shattered eye and encased it in crystal bathed in the fluids of a well of healing, hoping someday to use it again as a weapon against those who had driven forth their dreamers and displaced the from their land.