The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(The Epic of Kings)
THE STORY ROSTAM-e DASTÂN
NOW the son of Zal was born, Rudabeh was sore afflicted, and neither by day nor night could she find rest. Then Zal in his trouble bethought him of the Simorgh, his nurse, and how she had given unto him a feather that he might use it in the hour of his need. And he cast the feather into the fire as she had commanded, and straightway a sound of rushing wings filled the air, and the sky was darkened and the bird of God stood before Zal. And she said unto him-
"O my son, wherefore art thou troubled, and why are the eyes of this lion wet with tears?"
Then he told her of his sorrow, and she bade him be of good cheer,
"For verily thy nurse who shielded thee, and reared thee when thy father cast thee out, is come yet again to succour thee."
And she told him how he should act, and when she had done speaking she Turned her once more towards her nest. But Zal did as she had commanded, and there was born to him a son comely of limb. And when Rudabeh beheld the babe, she smiled and said-
"Verily he shall be called Rostam (which, being interpreted, meaneth delivered), for I am delivered of my pains."
And all the land was glad that a son was come unto Zal the hero, and the sounds of feasting and joy were heard throughout its breadth.
Then fleet messengers brought the sweet tidings unto Saam. And they bare with them an image of Rostam sewn of silk, whereon were traced the feaTures of this lion's whelp, and a club was put into its hands, and it was mounted upon a dromedary. Now when Saam beheld the image his heart leaped up within him. He poured mountains of gold before the messengers, and gave thanks unto Urmazd that he had suffered his eyes to look upon this child.
And when eight summers had rolled above their heads, Saam learned that Rostam was mighty of staTure and fair of mien, and his heart yearned towards him. He therefore made ready a mighty host and passed unto Zabolestan, that he might look upon his son. And Rostam rode forth to meet his sire, mounted upon an elephant of war, and when he beheld Saam he fell upon his face and craved his blessing. And Saam blessed Rostam, the son of Zal.
Then Rostam spake unto Saam and said,
"O Pahlewan, I rejoice in that I am sprung from thee, for my desires are not after the feast, neither do I covet sleep or rest. My heart is fixed upon valour, a horse do I crave and a saddle, a coat of mail and a helmet, and my delight is in the arrow. Thine enemies will I vanquish, and may my courage be like unto thine."
And Saam, when he had heard these words, was astonished, and blessed Rostam yet again. And his eyes could not cease from gazing upon the face of the boy, and he lingered in the land until a moon had run her course.
Now it befell that when yet two springs had passed, Rostam was awakened from his slumber by a mighty roaring that shook the walls of the house, even unto the foundation, and a cry went forth that the white elephant of the King had broken its chain in fury, and that the housemates were in danger. And Rostam, when he learned it, sprang from his bed, and desired of the guards that they should suffer him to pass into the court that he might conquer the beast. But the guards barred the way from him, saying-
"How can we answer for it before the King if thou run into danger?"
But Rostam would not listen to their voice. He forced a passage for himself with his mighty arms, with his strong fists he broke down the barriers of the door. And when he was without he beheld how that all the warriors were sore afraid of the elephant, because that he was mad with rage. And Rostam was ashamed for them in his soul, and he ran towards the beast with a loud cry. Then the elephant, when he saw him, raised his trunk to strike him, but Rostam beat him upon the head with his club, and smote him that he died. And when he had done this deed, he returned unto his bed and slept until the morning. But the news of his prowess spread throughout the house of the King and far into the land, even unto the realms of Saam. And Zal, and all men with him, rejoiced because a hero was arisen in Iran.
Now, while these things were passing in the house of Zal, in the land of Zabolestan, Manouchehr made him ready to pass from the world, for he had reached twice sixty years. He called before him Nauder his son, and gave him wise counsels, and exhorted him that he should ever walk in the paths of wisdom. And he bade him rest his throne upon the strength of Saam and Zal, and the child that was sprung from their loins. Then when he had spoken, Manouchehr closed his eyes and sighed, and there remained of him only a memory in the world.
But Nauder forgot the counsels of his father. He vexed the land and reigned in anger, and cruel deeds were committed in his name, so that the people rose up and cried against the King. And men of might came unto Saam and laid before him their plaints, and the petitions of the people, and they prayed that he would wrest the crown from the head of Nauder, and place it upon his own. But Saam was sore grieved when he had heard these words, and he spake, saying-
"Not so, for it beseemeth me not to put out my hand after the crown, for Nauder is of the race of the Key’ianides, and unto them is given majesty and might."
Then he girt his sword about his loins, and took with him a host, and rode before the face of the King. And when he was come unto him, Saam exhorted him with prayers and tears that he would Turn him from the paths of evil. And Nauder listened unto the voice of Saam the Pahlewan, and joy was abroad once more.
But the tidings spread, even into Turan, that Manouchehr the just was departed, and that the hand of Nauder was heavy upon the land. And Pashang, who was of the race of Tur, heard the news thereof with gladness, for he deemed that the time was ripe to remember the vengeance that was due unto the blood of his sire. Therefore he called about him his warriors, and bade them go forth to war against Iran, saying the time was come to avenge his father and draw unto himself the heritage. And while his son Afrasiyab made ready the host to fulfil the desire of his father, there spread the news that Saam the Pahlewan had been gathered unto the dust, and that Zal tarried in his house to build him a tomb. And the news gave courage unto Afrasiyab and his men, and they made haste to gain the frontier.
But the grandson of Freydoun had learned of their coming, and he prepared him to meet the foes of his land. Then he sent forth an army that overshadowed the earth in its progress. But the army of Afrasiyab was great also, and it covered the ground like unto ants and locusts. And both hosts pitched their tents in the plains of Dehstan, and made them ready for the fight. And the horses neighed loud, and the pawing of their hoofs shook the deep places of the earth, and the dust of their trampling uprose even unto heaven. Then when they had put their men into array, they fell upon each other, and for two days did they rage in fierce combat, neither did the victory lean to either side. And the clamour and confusion were mighty, and earth and sky seemed blended into one. And the carnage was great, and blood flowed like water, and heads fell from their trunks like unto autumn leaves that are withered. But on the third day it came about that the upper hand was given unto the men of Turan, and Nauder the King, and the flower of his army with him, fell into the hands of the foe.
Then Afrasiyab cut off the head of Nauder the King, and sat himself down upon the throne of light. And he proclaimed himself lord of Iran, and required of all men that they should do him homage, and pour gifts before his face. But the people would not listen unto his voice, and they sent messengers into Sistan, and craved counsel of the Pahlewan in their distress. And Zal, when he heard their tidings, cast aside the sorrow for Saam his father, and girded his loins in enmity against the son of Tur. And he bade the Iranians choose out Zew, the son of Tahmasp, of the blood of Freydoun, of wisdom in speech, that he should rule over them on the throne of the Key’ianides. And the people did as Zal commanded.
Now the throne of Freydoun grew young again under the sway of Zew. With power did he beat back the host of Turan, a covenant of peace did he wring from their hands. And it was written that the Jihun should divide the lands, and that the power of Zal the Pahlewan should end where men take up their abode in tents. And Zew ruled rightly in the sight of Urmazd, and God gave unto the land the Kay of abundance. Yet few were the years that he commanded with equity, and Garshasp his son reigned in his stead. But neither to him was it given to reign long with glory, and bitter fruit sprouted yet again from the tree of misfortune. For the throne of the Key’ianides was empty, and Afrasiyab, when he learned thereof, followed the counsels of Pashang his father, and hurried him unto the land of Iran, that he might place himself upon the seat of power. And all the men of Iran, when they learned thereof, were sore afraid, and they Turned them once again unto the son of Saam. And they spake unto him hard words, and heaped reproaches upon him that he had not averted these dangers from their heads. And Zal in his heart smiled at their ingratitude and lipwisdom, but he also sorrowed with them and with his land. And he spake, saying-
"I have ever done for you what was fitting and right, and all my life have I feared no enemy save only old age. But that enemy is now upon me, therefore I charge you that ye look unto Rostam to deliver you. Howbeit he shall be backed by the counsels of his father."
Then he called before him his son, who was yet of tender age, and he said unto him-
"O my son, thy lips still smell of milk, and thy heart should go out to pleasure. But the days are grave, and Iran looketh unto thee in its danger. I must send thee forth to cope with heroes."
And Rostam answered and said,
"Thou knowest, O my father, that my desires are rather after war than pleasures. Give unto me, therefore, a steed of strength and the mace of Saam thy father, and suffer that I go out to meet the hosts of Ahriman."
Then Zal's heart laughed within him when he heard these words of manhood. And he commanded that all the flocks of horses, both from Zabolestan and Cabul, be brought before his son, that he might choose from their midst his steed of battle. And they were passed in order before Rostam, and he laid upon the backs of each his hand of might to test them if they could bear his weight of valour. And the horses shuddered as they bent beneath his grasp, and sank upon their haunches in weakness. And thus did he do with them all in Turn, until he came unto the flocks of Cabul. Then he perceived in their midst a mare mighty and strong, and there followed after her a colt like to its mother, with the chest and shoulders of a lion. And in strength it seemed like an elephant, and in colour it was as rose leaves that have been scattered upon a saffron ground. Now Rostam, when he had tested the colt with his eyes, made a running knot in his cord and threw it about the beast. And he caught the colt in the snare, though the mare defended it mightily. Then the keeper of the flock came before Rostam and said-
"O youth puissant and tall, take not, I counsel thee, the horse of another."
And Rostam answered him and asked,
"To whom then pertaineth this steed? I see no mark upon its flanks."
And the keeper said,
"We know not its master, but rumours are rife anent it throughout the land, and men name it the Rakhsh of Rostam. And I warn thee, the mother will never permit thee to ride on it. Three years has it been ready for the saddle, but none would she suffer to mount thereon."
Then Rostam, when he heard these words, swung himself upon the colt with a great bound. And the mare, when she saw it, ran at him and would have pulled him down, but when she had heard his voice she suffered it. And the rose-coloured steed bore Rostam along the plains like unto the wind. Then when he was returned, the son of Zal spake and said to the keeper-
"I pray thee, tell unto me what is the price of this dragon?"
But the keeper replied,
"If thou be Rostam, mount him, and retrieve the sorrows of Iran. For his price is the land of Iran, and seated upon him thou wilt save the world."
And Rostam rejoiced in Rakhsh (whose name, being interpreted, meaneth the lightning), and Zal rejoiced with him, and they made them ready to stand against Afrasiyab.
Now it was in the time of roses, and the meadows smiled with verdure, when Zal led forth his hosts against the offspring of Tur. And the standard of Kaaveh streamed upon the breeze, and Mehrab marched on the left, and Gostaham marched on the right, and Zal went in the midst of the men, but Rostam went at the head of all. And there followed after him a number like to the sands of the sea, and the sounds of cymbals and bells made a noise throughout the land like unto the day of judgment, when the earth shall cry unto the dead,
And they marched in order even unto the shores of the river Rai, and the two armies were but some farsangs apart.
Albeit, when Afrasiyab heard that Rostam and Zal were come out against him, he was in nowise dismayed, for he said, "The son is but a boy, and the father is old; it will not, therefore, be hard for me to keep my power in Iran." And he made ready his warriors with gladness of heart.
But Zal, when he had drawn up his army in battle array, spake unto them, saying-
"O men valiant in fight, we
are great in number, but there is
to us a chief, for we are without the counsels of a King,
verily no labour succeedeth when the head is lacking. But rejoice,
be not downcast in your hearts, for a Mubid hath revealed unto
that there yet liveth one of the race of Freydoun to whom
pertaineth the throne, and that he is a youth wise and brave."
And when he had thus spoken, he Turned him to Rostam and said-
"I charge thee, O my son, depart in haste for the Mount Alborz, neither tarry by the way. And wend thee unto Kay-Ghobad, and say unto him that his army awaiteth him, and that the throne of the Key’ianides is empty."
And Rostam, when he had heard his father's command, touched with his eyelashes the ground before his feet, and straightway departed. In his hand he bare a mace of might, and under him was Rakhsh the swift of foot. And he rode till he came within sight of the Mount Alborz, whereon had stood the cradle of his father. Then he beheld at its foot a house beauteous like unto that of a king. And around it was spread a garden whence came the sounds of running waters, and trees of tall staTure uprose therein, and under their shade, by a gurgling rill, there stood a throne, and a youth, fair like to the moon, was seated thereon. And round about him leaned knights girt with red sashes of power, and you would have said it was a paradise for perfume and beauty.
Now when those within the garden beheld the son of Zal ride by, they came out unto him and said-
"O Pahlewan, it behoveth us not to let thee go farther before thou hast permitted us to greet thee as our guest. We pray thee, therefore, descend from off thy horse and drink the cup of friendship in our house."
But Rostam said, "
“Not so, I thank you, but suffer that I may pass unto the mountain with an errand that brooketh no delay. For the borders of Iran are encircled by the enemy, and the throne is empty of a king. Wherefore I may not stay to taste of wine."
Then they answered him,
"If thou goest unto the mount, tell us, we pray thee, thy mission, for unto us is it given to guard its sides."
And Rostam replied,
"I seek there a king of the seed of Freydoun, who cleansed the world of the abominations of Zohhak, a youth who reareth high his head. I pray ye, therefore, if ye know aught of Kay-Ghobad, that ye give me tidings where I may find him."
Then the youth that sat upon the throne opened his mouth and said,
"Kay-Ghobad is known unto me, and if thou wilt enter this garden and rejoice my soul with thy presence I will give thee tidings concerning him."
When Rostam heard these words he sprang from off his horse and came within the gates. And the youth took his hand and led him unto the steps of the throne. Then he mounted it yet again, and when he had filled a cup with wine, he pledged the guest within his gates. Then he gave a cup unto Rostam, and questioned him wherefore he sought for Kay Ghobad, and at whose desire he was come forth to find him. And Rostam told him of the Mobeds, and how that his father had sent him with all speed to pray the young King that he would be their King, and lead the host against the enemies of Iran. Then the youth, when he had listened to an end, smiled and said-
"O Pahlewan, behold me, for verily I am Kay-Ghobad of the race of Freydoun!"
And Rostam, when he had heard these words, fell on the ground before his feet, and saluted him King. Then the King raised him, and commanded that the slaves should give him yet another cup of wine, and he bore it to his lips in honour of Rostam, the son of Zal, the son of Saam, the son of Narymann. And they gave a cup also unto Rostam, and he cried-
"May the King live for ever!"
Then instruments of music rent the air, and joy spread over all the assembly. But when silence was fallen yet again, Kay-Ghobad opened his mouth and said-
O my knights, unto the dream that I had dreamed, and ye will know wherefore I
called upon you this day to stand in majesty about my throne. For in my sleep I
beheld two falcons white of wing, and they came out unto me from Iran, and in
their beaks they bare a sunny crown. And the crown they placed upon my head. And
behold now is Rostam come out unto me like to a white bird, and his father,
the nursling of a bird, hath sent him, and they have given unto me the crown of Iran."
And Rostam, when he had heard this dream, said,
"Surely thy vision was given unto thee of God! But now, I pray thee, up and tarry no longer, for the land of Iran groaneth sore and awaiteth thee with much travail."
So Kay-Ghobad listened to the desires of Rostam, and swung him upon his steed of war; and they rode day and night, until they came down from the hills unto the green plains that are watered by murmuring streams. And Rostam brought the King safely through the outposts of the enemy; and when the night was fallen, he led him within the tents of Zal, and none knew that he was come save only the Mobeds. For seven days did they hold counsel together, and on the eighth the message of the stars was received with joy. And Zal made ready a throne of ivory and a banquet, and the crown of Iran was placed upon the head of the young King. Then the nobles came and did homage before him, and they revelled in wine till the night was far spent. And they prayed him that he would make him ready to lead them against the Turks. And Kay-Ghobad mustered the army and did as they desired. And soon the battle raged hot and strong many days, and deeds of valour were done on either side; but the men of Turan could not stand against the men of Iran, neither could the strength of Rostam be broken. For he put forth the power of a lion, and his shadow extended for miles. And from that day men named him Tehemten (which being interpreted, meaneth the strong-limbed), for he did deeds of prowess in the sight of men. And Afrasiyab was discomfited, and fled before him, and his army followed after, and their hearts were bruised and full of care.
But the Iranians, when they beheld that their foes had vanished before them, Turned them unto Kay-Ghobad and did homage before his throne. And Kay-Ghobad celebrated the victory with much pomp, as is the manner of kings; and he placed Rostam upon his right hand and Zal upon his left, and they feasted and made them merry with wine.
In the meantime Afrasiyab returned him unto Pashang his father, who was of the race of Tur. And he came before him right sorrowful and spake, saying-
King, whose name is glorious, thou didst evil to provoke this war. The land
which Freydoun the great did give in ancient time unto Tur the valiant, it hath
been delivered unto thee, and the partition was just. Why, therefore, seekest
thou to enlarge thy border? Verily I say, if thou haste not to make peace with
Iran, Kay-Ghobad will send out against us an army from the four quarters of the
earth, and they
will subdue us, and by our own act we shall make the land too narrow for us. For the world is not delivered of the race of Iraj, and the noxious poison hath not been converted into honey. For when one dieth another taketh his place, and never do they leave the world without a master. And there is arisen of the race of Saam a warrior called Rostam, and none can withstand him. He hath broken the power of thine host, and the world hath not seen his like for stoutness; and withal he is but little more than a weanling. Ponder therefore, O King, how shall it be when he may be come to years of vigour. Surely I am a man who desireth to possess the world, the stay of thine army, and thy refuge in danger, but before this boy my power fadeth like unto the mists that rise above the hills."
When the King of Turan had listened to these words, the tears of bitterness fell from his eyes. Then he called before him a scribe and he bade him write a letter unto Kay-Ghobad, the King. And the scribe adorned it with many colours and fair designs. And the scribe wrote-
"In the name of Urmazd, the ruler of the sun and moon, greeting and salutation unto Kay-Ghobad the gracious from the meanest of his servants. Listen unto me, O valiant King, and ponder the words that I shall write. May grace fall upon the soul of Freydoun, who wove the woof of our race! Why should we any longer hold the world in confusion? That which he fixed, surely it was right, for he parted the world with equity, and we do wrong before him when we depart from the grooves that he hath shaped. I pray thee, therefore, let us no longer speak of Tur and his evil acts unto Iraj, for if Iraj was the cause of our hates, surely by Manouchehr hath he been avenged. Let us reTurn, then, within the bounds that Freydoun hath blest, and let us part the world anew, as it was parted for Tur, and Selim, and Iraj. For wherefore should we seek the land of another, since in the end each will receive in heritage a spot no larger than his body? If then Kay-Ghobad will listen unto my prayer, let the Jihun be the boundary between us, and none of my people shall behold its waters, nay, not even in a dream, neither shall any Iranian cross its floods, save only in amity."
And the King put his seal upon the letter and sent it unto Kay Ghobad, and the messenger bare with him rich gifts of jewels and steeds of Araby. And when Kay-Ghobad had read the letter he smiled in his spirit and said-
"Verily not my people sought out this war but Afrasiyab, who deemed that he could wrest unto himself the crown of Iran, and could subdue the masterless land unto his will. And he hath but followed in the footsteps of Tur his father, for even as he robbed the throne of Iraj, so did Afrasiyab take from it Nauder the King. And I say to you that I need not make peace with you because of any fear, but I will do it because war is not pleasing unto me. I will give unto you, therefore, the farther side of the river, and it shall be a boundary between us, and I pray that Afrasiyab may find rest within his borders."
And Kay-Ghobad did according to his word. He drew up a fresh covenant between them, and planted a new tree in the garden of power. And the messenger took the writing unto Pashang, King of Turan, and Kay-Ghobad proclaimed that there was peace throughout the land.
Now for the space of an hundred years did Kay-Ghobad rule over Iran, and he administered his realm with clemency, and the earth was quiet before him, and he gat his people great honour, and I ask of you what king can be likened unto him? But when this time had passed, his strength waned, and he knew that a green leaf was about to fade. So he called before him Kay-Kavous his son, and gave unto him counsels many and wise. And when he had done speaking he bade them make ready his grave, and he exchanged the palace for the tomb. And thus endeth the history of Kay-Ghobad the glorious. It behoveth us now to speak of his son.
THE MARCH INTO MAZANDARAN
KAY-KAVOUS seated him on the crystal throne, and the world was obedient to his will. But Ahriman was angry that his power was so long broken in Iran, and he sware unto himself that happiness should no longer smile upon the land. And he imagined guile in his black heart.
Now it came about one day that the King sat in his trellised bower in the garden of roses, drinking wine and making merry with his court. Then Ahriman, when he beheld that they were thus forgetful of care, saw that the time served him. So he sent forth a Deev clad as a singer, and bade him ask for audience before the King. And the Deev did as he was bidden. And he came before the servants of the King, and begged for entrance into the arbour of flowers.
"For verily," he said, "I am a singer of sweet songs, and I come from Mazandaran, and desire to pour my homage at the throne of my lord."
Now when Kay-Kavous learned that a singer waited without, he commanded that he should be brought in. Then he gave him wine and permitted him to open his mouth before him. Now the Deev, when he had done homage before the King, warbled unto his lyre words of deep cunning. And he sang how that no land was like unto his own for beauty and riches, and he inflamed the desires of the King after Mazandaran. And Ahriman fanned the flame within the mind of the King, and when the Deev had ended, Kay-Kavous was become uplifted in his heart, like unto Jamsheed. So he Turned him unto his warriors and said-
"O my friends, mighty and brave, we have abandoned ourselves unto feasting, we have revelled in the arms of peace. But it behoveth not men to live long in this wise, lest they grow idle and weak. And above all it behoveth not me that am a King, for the King is called to be a hero among men, and the world should be his footstool. Now verily the power and splendour of Jamsheed was lower than mine, and my wealth surpasseth that of Zohhak and Kay-Ghobad. It beseemeth me therefore to be greater also than they in prowess, and to be master of Mazandaran, which ever resisted their might. I bid you therefore make ready for combat, and I will lead you into the land whereof this singer hath sung so sweetly."
Now the nobles, when they had heard these words, grew pale with fear, for there was not one among them who listed to combat with Deevs. But none durst open their lips in answer, yet their hearts were full of fear and their mouths of sighs. But at last, when they could keep silence no longer, some spake and said-
"Lord, we are thy servants, and that which thou biddest surely we must do."
But among themselves they took counsel how they should act if the King held firm by his desire. And they recalled how not even Jamsheed in his pride had thought to conquer the Deevs of Mazandaran, before whom the sword hath no power and wisdom no avail, neither had Freydoun, learned in magic, or Manouchehr the mighty, venTured on this emprise. Then they bethought them of Zal the son of Saam, and they sent forth a wind-footed dromedary and a messenger. And they said unto Zal-
"Haste, we pray thee, neither tarry to cleanse thine head though it be covered with dust; for Ahriman hath strown evil seed in the heart of Kay-Kavous, and it ripeneth to fruit already, and already it hath borne fruit, and Iran is threatened with danger. But we look to thee that thou speak words of good counsel unto the King, and avert these sorrows from our heads."
Now Zal was sore distressed when he learned that a leaf on the tree of the Key’ianides was thus faded. And he said-
"Kay-Kavous is void of knowledge, and the sun must revolve yet oft above his head before he learneth the wisdom of the great. For unto true wisdom alone is it given to know when to strike and when to tarry. But he is like unto a child who deemeth the world will tremble if it but upraiseth its sword. And but for my duty unto God and unto Iran, I would abandon him to his folly."
Then Zal revolved in his mind this trouble even until the sun was set. But when the glory of the world was arisen yet again, he girt his sash about his loins, and took in his hand the mace of might and set forth unto the throne of the King. And he craved for audience, and prostrated himself before the King. And when Kay-Kavous permitted it, Zal opened his mouth and spake words of wisdom. And he said-
"O King powerful and great, word is come unto me, even unto Sistan, of thy device. But it seemeth unto me that mine ears have not heard aright. For Mazandaran is the abode of Deevs, and no man can overcome their skill. Give not, therefore, unto the wind thy men and thy treasures. Turn, I pray thee, from this scheme, neither plant in the garden of Iran the tree of folly, whose leaves are curses and whose fruits are evil, for thus did not the kings before thee."
Then Kay-Kavous, when he had listened, said,
"I despise not thy counsel, nor do I bid thee hold thy peace, for thou art a pillar unto Iran. But neither shall thy words divert me from my desire, and Mazandaran shall pay tribute to my hands. For thou considerest not how that my heart is bolder and my might more great than that of my fathers before me. I go, therefore, and the kingdom will I leave between thy hands and those of Rostam thy son."
When Zal heard these words, and beheld that Kay-Kavous was firm in his purpose, he ceased from opposing. Then he bowed him unto the dust, and spake, saying-
"O King, it is thine to command, and whether it be just or unjust, thy servants serve thee even unto death. I have spoken the words that weighed upon my heart. Three things it is not given to do, even unto a king: to elude death, to bind up the eye of destiny, to live without nurTure. Mayst thou never repent thee of thy resolve, mayst thou never regret my counsels in the hour of danger, may the might of the King shine for ever!"
And when he had ended, Zal went out of the presence of the King, and he was right sorrowful, and the nobles mourned with him when they learned how nought had been accomplished. Then, ere the day succeeded unto the night, Kay-Kavous set forth with his horsemen unto Mazandaran.
Now when they were come within its borders, Kay-Kavous commanded Giwe that he should choose forth a strong band from out their midst, and go before the city with mighty clubs. And he bade him destroy the dwellers of the town, neither should they spare the women nor the young, because that they too were the children of Deevs. And Giwe did as the King commanded. Then clubs rained down upon the people like to hail, and the city that resembled a garden was changed into a desert, and all the inmates thereof Parished at the hands of the enemy, neither did they find any mercy in their eyes. But when the men of Iran had ceased from killing, they sent news thereof unto the King, and told him of the riches that were hidden within the palaces.
And Kay-Kavous said,
"Blessed be he who sang to me of the glories of this realm."
And he marched after Giwe with the rest of his host, and seven days did they never cease from plundering, neither could they be sated with the gold and jewels that they found. But on the eighth the tidings of their deeds pierced unto the King of Mazandaran, and his heart was heavy with care. He therefore sent a messenger unto the mountains where dwelt the White Deev, who was powerful and strong, and he entreated him that he would come unto his succour, or verily the land would Parish under the feet of Iran.
The White Deev, when he heard the message, uprose like to a mountain in his strength, and he said-
"Let not the King of Mazandaran be troubled, for surely the hosts of Iran shall vanish at my approach."
Then, when the night was fallen, he spread a dark cloud, heavy and thick, over the land, and no light could pierce it, neither could fires be seen across its midst, and you would have said the world was steeped in pitch. And the army of Iran was wrapt in a tent of blackness. Then the Deev caused it to rain stones and javelins, and the Iranians could not behold their source, neither could they defend themselves or stand against the arts of magic. And they wandered astray in their distress, and no man could find his fellow, and their hearts were angered against the King for this emprise. But when the morning was come, and glory was arisen upon the world, they could not see it, for the light of their eyes was gone out. And Kay Kavous too was blinded, and he wept sore, and the whole army wept with him in their anguish. And the King cried in his distress-
"O Zal, O my Pahlewan wise and great, wherefore did I shut mine ear unto thy voice!"
And the army echoed his words in their hearts, but their lips were silent for boundless sorrow. Then the White Deev spake unto Kay-Kavous with a voice of thunder, and he said-
"O King, thou hast been struck like to a rotten trunk, on thine own head alone resteth this destruction, for thou hast attained unto Mazandaran, and entered the land after which thy heart desired."
And he bade his legion guard the King and all his army, and he withheld from them wine and good cheer, and gave unto them but enough for sustenance, for he desired not that they should die, but gloried in their wretchedness. Then when he had so done he sent tidings thereof unto the King of Mazandaran. And he bade the King take back the booty and rejoice in the defeat of Iran. And he counselled him that he suffer not Kay-Kavous to Parish, that he might learn to know good fortune from ill. And the White Deev bade the King sing praises unto Ahriman the mighty, who had sent him unto his aid. And having spoken thus he returned him unto his home in the mountains, but the King of Mazandaran rejoiced in his spoils.
Now Kay-Kavous remained in the land after which he had yearned, and his heart was heavy with bitterness. And the eyes of his soul were opened, and he cried continually, "This fault is mine;" and he cast about in his spirit how he might release his host from the hands of the Deevs. But the Deevs guarded him straitly, and he could send no messenger into Iran. Howbeit it came about that a messenger escaped their borders, and bore unto Zal the writing of Kay-Kavous the afflicted. And Kay-Kavous bowed himself in his spirit unto the dust before Zal, and he wrote to him all that was come about, and how that he and his host were blind and captive, and he poured forth his repentance, and he said-
"I have sought what the foolish seek, and found what they find. And if thou wilt not gird thy loins to succour me, I Parish indeed."
When Zal heard this message he gnawed his hands in vexation. Then he called before him Rostam, and said-
"The hour is come to saddle Rakhsh and to avenge the world with thy sword. As for me, I number two hundred years, and have no longer the strength to fight with Deevs. But thou art young and mighty. Cast about thee, therefore, thy leopard-skin and deliver Iran from bondage."
And Rostam said,
"My sword is ready, and I will go hence as thou dost bid. Yet of old, O my father, the mighty did not go forth of their own will to fight the powers of hell, neither doth one who is not weary of this world go into the mouth of a hungry lion. But if God be with me I shall overcome the Deevs and gird our army anew with the sashes of might. And I pray that His blessing rest upon me."
Then Zal, when he heard these noble words, blessed his son, and prayed that Urmazd too would give him his blessing. And he bestowed on him wise counsel, and told him how he could come unto the land of Mazandaran. And he said-
"Two roads lead unto this kingdom, and both are hard and fraught with danger. The one taken of Kay-Kavous is the safest, but it is long, and it behoveth vengeance to be fleet. Choose therefore, I charge thee, the shorter road, though it be beset with baleful things, and may Urmazd reTurn thee safe unto mine arms."
When Rostam had drunk in the counsels of his father he seated him on Rakhsh the fleet of foot. But when he would have departed, his mother came out before him, and she made great wailing that Rostam should go before the evil Deevs. And she would have hindered him, but Rostam suffered her not. He comforted her with his voice, and bade her be of good cheer. He showed unto her how that he had not of his own choice chosen this advenTure. And he bade her rest her hopes in God. And when he had done speaking she let him depart, but the heart of Rudabeh yearned after her son, and her eyes were red with weeping many days.
In the meanwhile the young hero of the world sped forth to do his duty unto the King. And Rakhsh caused the ground to vanish under his feet, and in twelve hours was a two days' journey accomplished. Then when eve was fallen, Rostam ensnared a wild ass, and made a fire and roasted it for his meal. And when he had done he released Rakhsh from the bonds of his saddle and prepared for himself a couch among the reeds, neither was he afraid of wild beasts or of Deevs. But in the reeds was hidden the lair of a fierce lion, and the lion when he returned unto his haunt beheld the tall man and the horse that watched beside him. And he rejoiced at the fat meal that he held was in store. And he thought within his mind,
"I will first subdue the steed, then the rider will be an easy prey."
And he fell upon Rakhsh. But Rakhsh defended himself mightily. With his hoofs did he trample upon the forehead of the lion, with his sharp teeth did he tear his skin, and he trampled upon him till he died. But the noise of the struggle had wakened Rostam, and when he beheld the body of the lion, and Rakhsh standing beside it, he knew what had been done. Then he opened his mouth in reproof, and said-
"O thoughtless steed, who bade thee combat lions? Wherefore didst thou not wake me? for if thou hadst been overcome, who, I pray thee, could have borne my weight into Mazandaran, whither I must hie me to deliver the King?”
When he had thus spoken he Turned again to sleep, but Rakhsh was sorrowful and downcast in his spirit.
Now when morn was come they set forth once again upon their travels. And all day long they passed through a desert, and the pitiless sun burned down upon their heads, and the sand was living fire, and the steed and rider were like to Parish of thirst, and nowhere could Rostam find the traces of water. So he made him ready to die, and commended his soul unto God, and prayed Him to remember Kay Kavous, His servant, nor abandon him in his distress. Then he laid him down to await the end. But lo! when he thought it was come, there passed before him a ram, well nourished and fat. And Rostam said unto himself-
"Surely the watering-place of this beast cannot be distant."
Then he roused him and led Rakhsh and followed in the footsteps of the ram, and behold, it led him unto a spring of water, cool and clear. And Rostam drank thereof with greed, and he gave unto Rakhsh, and bathed him in the waters, and when they were both refreshed he sought for the traces of the ram. And they were nowhere to be found. Then Rostam knew that Urmazd had wrought a wonder for his sake, and he fell upon the ground and lifted up his soul in thankfulness. Then when he had caught and eaten a wild ass, he laid him down to slumber. And he spake and said unto Rakhsh-
"I charge thee, O my steed, that thou seek no strife during my slumbers. If an enemy cometh before thee, come unto me and neigh beside mine ear, and verily I will waken and come to thine aid."
And Rakhsh listened, and when he saw that Rostam slumbered, he gambolled and grazed beside him. But when some watches of the night were spent, there came forth an angry dragon whose home was in this spot, a dragon fierce and fiery, whom even the Deevs dared not encounter. And when he beheld Rakhsh and Rostam he was astonished that a man should slumber softly beside his lair. And he came towards them with his breath of poison. Then Rakhsh, when he saw it, stamped his hoofs upon the ground and beat the air with his tail, so that the noise thereof resounded wide, and Rostam was awakened with the din. And he was angry with Rakhsh that he had wakened him, for the dragon had vanished, and he could see no cause for fear. And he said-
"It is thy fault, O unkind steed, that slumber is fled from me."
Then he Turned him to sleep once again. But when the dragon saw it he came forth once more, and once more did Rakhsh wake Rostam, and once more did the dragon vanish ere the eyes of Rostam were opened. And when Rakhsh had thus awakened the hero yet three times, Rostam was beside him with anger, and wisdom departed from its dwelling. He piled reproaches upon the horse, and hurled bitter words upon his head, and he sware that if he acted thus again he would slay him with his arm of power, and would wander on foot unto Mazandaran. And he said-
"I bade thee call upon me if dangers menaced, but thou sufferest me not to slumber when all is well."
Then Rostam drew his leopard-skin about him and laid him down again to sleep. But Rakhsh was pained in his spirit, and pawed the ground in his vexation. Then the dragon came forth yet again, and was about to fall upon Rakhsh, and the steed was sore distressed how he should act. But he took courage and came beside Rostam once more, and stamped upon the ground and neighed and woke him. And Rostam sprang up in fury, but this time it was given unto him to behold the dragon, and he knew that Rakhsh had done that which was right. And he drew his armour about him and unsheathed his sword, and came forth to meet the fiery beast. Then the dragon said-
"What is thy name, and who art thou that dost venTure against me? for verily the woman that bore thee shall weep."
And the Pahlewan answered,
"I am Rostam, of the seed of Zal, and in myself I am an host, and none can withstand my might."
But the dragon laughed at his words, and held them to be vain boasting. Then he fell upon Rostam, the son of Zal, and he wound himself about his body, and would have crushed him with his writhings, and you would have said that the end of this hero was come. But Rakhsh, when he beheld the straits of his master, sprang upon the dragon from the rear, and he tore him as he had torn the lion, and Rostam pierced the beast with his sword, and between them the world was delivered of this scourge. Then Rostam was glad, and he praised Rakhsh, and washed him at the fountain, and gave thanks to God who had given unto him the victory. And when he had so done he sprang into his saddle, and rode until they were come unto the land of the magicians.
Now when evening was fallen over the land they came unto a green and shady vale, and a brook ran through it, and cool woods clothed its sides. And beside a spring there was spread a table, and wine and all manner of good cheer stood thereon. And Rostam, when he saw it, loosened his saddle and bade Rakhsh graze and drink, and he seated him beside the table and enjoyed its fare. And his spirit laughed with pleasure that he had found a table ready dressed within the desert, for he knew not that it was the table of the magicians, who were fled on his approach. And he ate and drank, and when he had stilled his hunger he took up a lyre that lay beside him, and he lilted to it in his ease of heart. And he sang-
"Rostam is the scourge of the
Not for him were pleasures meant;
Rare are his feasts and holidays,
His garden is the desert place,
The battlefield his Turnament.
"There the sword of Rostam cleaves
Not the armour of jousting knights,
But the skulls of dragons and Deevs;
Nor shall Rostam, as he believes,
Ever be quit of the foes he fights.
"Cups of wine and wreaths of rose,
Gardens where cool arbours stand,
Fortune gave such gifts as those
Not to Rostam, but hurtling foes,
Strife, and a warrior's heart and hand."
Now the song of Rostam was come to the ears of one of the witches, and she changed herself into a damsel with a face of spring. And she came before Rostam and asked him his name, and toyed with him, and he was pleased with her company. And he poured out wine and handed it unto her, and bade her drink unto Urmazd. But the magician, when she heard the name of God, fell into a tremble and her visage changed, and Rostam beheld her in all her vileness. Then his quick spirit knew her for what she was, and he made a noose and caught her in his snare, and severed her in twain. And all the magicians, when they saw it, were afraid, and none durst come forth to meet the hero. But Rostam straightway departed from this spot.
And Rostam rode till that he was come unto a land where the sun never shineth, neither stars lighten the blackness, and he could not see his path. So he suffered Rakhsh to lead him at his will. And they stumbled along amid the blackness, but at the end they came out again into the light. And Rostam beheld a land that was swathed in verdure, and fields wherein the crops were sprouting. Then he loosened
Rakhsh and bade him graze, and laid himself down to slumber awhile.
Now Rakhsh went forth to graze in a field that had been sown, and the guardian thereof, when he saw it, was angry, and ran unto the spot where Rostam was couched, and beat the soles of his feet with a stick and woke him. And he flung reproaches and evil words upon him for that his horse was broken into the pasTures. Then Rostam was angry, and fell upon the man, and took him by the ears and tore them from his body. And the man fled, howling in his agony, and came before Aulad, the ruler of the land, and laid his plaints before him. And Aulad also was angry, and went forth to seek Rostam, and demand his name and mission, and wherefore he had thus disTurbed their peace. And Aulad sware that he would destroy him for this deed.
Then Rostam answered,
"I am the thunder-cloud that sendeth forth lightnings, and none can stand before my strength. But if thou shouldest hear my name, the blood would stand still within thy veins. Thou art come against me with an host, see therefore how I shall scatter them like the wind."
And when he had thus spoken, Rostam fell upon the warriors of Aulad, and he beat them down before him, and their heads fell under the blows of his sword of death. And the army was routed at the hands of one man. Now Aulad, when he saw it, wept and fled; but Rostam pursued him, and threw his noose about him, and caught him in the snare. And the world became dark unto Aulad. Then Rostam bound him, and threw him on the ground, and said-
"If thou speak unto me that which is true, verily I will release thee; and when I shall have overcome the Deevs, I will give the land of Mazandaran into thy hands. Tell me, therefore, where dwelleth the White Deev, and where may I find the King and his men, and how can I deliver them from bondage?"
Then Aulad answered and told Rostam how it was an hundred farsangs unto the spot where Kay-Kavous groaned in his bondage, and how it was yet another hundred unto the mountain pass where dwelt the Deev. And he told him how the passes were guarded by lions and magicians and mighty men, and how none had ever pierced thereunto. And he counselled him to desist from this quest.
But Rostam smiled, and said,
"Be thou my guide, and thou wilt behold an elephant overcome the might of evil."
And when he had thus spoken he sprang upon Rakhsh, and Aulad in his bonds ran after him, and they sped like the wind, neither did they halt by night or day till they were come unto the spot where Kay-Kavous had been smitten by the Deevs. And when they were come there they could behold the watch-fires of Mazandaran. Then Rostam laid him down to sleep, and he tied Aulad unto a tree that he should not escape him. But when the sun was risen he laid the mace of Saam before his saddle, and rode with gladness towards the city of the Deevs.
Now when Rostam was come nigh unto the tents of Arzang, that led the army of Mazandaran, he uttered a cry that rent the mountains. And the cry brought forth Arzang from out his tent, and when he perceived Rostam he ran at him, and would have thrown him down. But Rostam sprang upon Arzang, and he seemed an insect in his grasp. And he overcame him, and parted his head from his body, and hung it upon his saddlebow in triumph. And fear came upon the army of Mazandaran when they saw it, and they fled in faintness of spirit, and so great was the confusion that none beheld whither he bent his steps. And fathers fell upon sons, and brothers upon brothers, and dismay was spread throughout the land.
Then Rostam loosened the bonds of Aulad, and bade him lead him into the city where Kay-Kavous pined in his bondage. And Aulad led him. Now when they neared the city, Rakhsh neighed so loud that the sound pierced even unto the spot where Kay-Kavous was hidden. And the King, when he heard it, rejoiced, for he knew that succour was come. And he told it unto his comrades. But they refused to listen unto these words, and deemed that grief had distraught his wits. In vain therefore did Kay-Kavous insist unto them that his ears had heard the voice of Rakhsh. But not long did he combat their unbelief, for presently there came before him Tehemten, the stout of limb, and when the nobles heard his voice and his step they repented them of their doubts. And Kay-Kavous embraced Rostam and blessed him, and questioned him of his journey and of Zal. Then he said-
"O my Pahlewan, we may no longer waste the moments with sweet words. I must send thee forth yet again to battle. For when the White Deev shall learn that Arzang is defeated, he will come forth from out his mountain fastness, and bring with him the whole multitude of evil ones, and even thy might will not stand before them. Go therefore unto the Seven Mountains, and conquer the White Deev ere the tidings reach him of thy coming. Unto thee alone can Iran look for her succour, for I cannot aid thee, neither can my warriors assist thee with their arms, for our eyes are filled with darkness, and their light is gone out. Yet I grieve to send thee into this emprise alone, for I have heard it spoken that the dwelling of the Deevs is a spot of fear and terror, but alas! my grief is of no avail. And I conjure thee, slay the Deev, and bring unto me the blood of his heart, for a Mubid hath revealed unto me that only by this blood can oursight be restored. And go forth now, my son, and may Urmazd be gracious unto thee, and may the tree of gladness sprout again for Iran!”
Then Rostam did as Kay-Kavous commanded, and he rode forth, and Aulad went beside him to lead him in the way. And when they had passed the Seven Mountains and were come unto the gates of hell, Rostam spake unto Aulad, and said-
"Thou hast ever led me aright, and all that thou hast spoken I have surely found it true. Tell me, therefore, now how I shall vanquish the Deevs."
And Aulad said,
"Tarry, I counsel thee, till that the sun be high in the heavens. For when it beateth fierce upon the earth the Deevs are wont to lay them down to slumber, and when they are drunk with sleep they shall fall an easy prey into thine hands."
Then Rostam did as Aulad bade him, and he halted by the roadside, and he bound Aulad from head to foot in his snare, and he seated himself upon the ends. But when the sun was high he drew forth his sword from out its sheath, and shouted loud his name, and flung it among the Deevs like to a thunderbolt. Then before they were well awakened from their sleep, he threw himself upon them, and none could resist him, and he scattered their heads with his sword. And when he had dispersed the guards he came unto the lair of the White Deev.
Then Rostam stepped within the rocky tomb wherein the Deev was hidden, and the air was murky and heavy with evil odours, and the Pahlewan could not see his path. But he went on void of fear, though the spot was fearful and dangers lurked in its sides. And when he was come unto the end of the cave he found a great mass like to a mountain, and it was the Deev in his midday slumber. Then Rostam woke him, and the Deev was astonished at his daring, and sprang at the hero, and threw a great stone like a small mountain upon him. And Rostam's heart trembled, and he said unto himself,
"If I escape to-day, I shall live for ever."
And he fell on the Deev, and they struggled hot and sore, and the Deev tore Rostam, but Rostam defended himself, and they wrestled with force till that the blood and sweat ran down in rivers from their bodies. Then Rostam prayed to God, and God heard him and gave him strength, and in the end Rostam overcame the White Deev and slew him. And he severed his head from his trunk, and cut his heart from out his midst.
Then Rostam returned him unto Aulad and told him what he had done. And Aulad said-
"O brave lion, who hast vanquished the world with thy sword, release now, I pray thee, this thy servant, for thy snare is entered into my flesh. And suffer that I recall to thee how that thou hast promised to me a recompense, and surely thou wilt fulfil thy word."
And Rostam answered and said,
"Ay, verily; but I have yet much to do ere that my mission be ended. For I have still to conquer the King of Mazandaran; but when these things shall be accomplished, in truth I will fulfil my words unto thee."
Then he bade Aulad follow him, and they retraced their steps until they were come unto the spot where Kay-Kavous was held in bondage. And when Kay-Kavous learned that Rostam was returned with victory upon his brow he shouted for joy, and all the host shouted with him, and they could not contain themselves for happiness. And they called down the blessings of Heaven upon the head of Rostam. But when the hero came before them, he took of the blood of the White Deev and poured it into their eyes, and the eyes of Kay-Kavous and his men were opened, and they once again beheld the glory of the day. Then they swept the ground around them with fire, with swords they overcame their gaolers. But when they had finished, Kay-Kavous bade them desist from further bloodshed.
Then Kay-Kavous wrote a letter unto the King of Mazandaran, and he counselled him that he should conclude a peace. And he related to him how that his mainstay was broken, for Rostam had overcome Arzang and slain the White Deev. And he said that Rostam would slay him also if he should not submit unto Iran and pay tribute to its King. Then Kay-Kavous sent a messenger with this writing unto the King of Mazandaran.
Now the King, when he had read the letter, and learned how that Arzang and the White Deev and all his train were slain, was sore troubled, and he paled in his spirit, and it seemed to him that the sun of his glory was about to set. Howbeit he suffered not the messenger to behold his distress, but wrote haughty words unto Kay Kavous, and dared him to come forth to meet him. And he boasted of his might and reproached Kay-Kavous with his folly. And he threatened that he would raze Iran unto the dust.
When Kay-Kavous had read this answer he was wroth, and his nobles with him. And Rostam spake and said-
"Permit me, O my King, that I go forth before the King of Mazandaran, and intrust unto me yet another writing."
Then Kay-Kavous sent for a scribe, and the scribe cut a reed like to the point of an arrow, and he wrote with it the words that Kay Kavous dictated. And Kay-Kavous made not many words. He bade the King lay aside his arrogance, and he warned him of the fate that would await his disobedience, and he said unto him that if he listened not he might hang his severed head on the walls of his own city. Then he signed the letter with his royal seal, and Rostam bore it forth from the camp.
Now when the King of Mazandaran learned that Kay-Kavous sent him yet another messenger, he bade the flower of his army go forth to meet him. And Rostam, when he saw them come near, laid hold upon a tree of great staTure and spreading branches that grew by the wayside. And he uprooted the tree from the earth, and brandished it in his hands like to a javelin. And those that saw it were amazed at his strength. Then Rostam, when he beheld their awe, flung the tree among them, and many a brave man was dismounted by this mace. Then there stepped forth from the midst of the host one of the giants of Mazandaran, and he begged that he might grasp Rostam by the hand. And when he had hold of the hand of the Pahlewan he pressed it with all his might, for he thought that he could wring off this hand of valour. But Rostam smiled at the feebleness of his grasp, and he grasped him in reTurn, and the giant grew pale, and the veins started forth upon his hands.
Then one set off to tell the King what he had seen. And the King sent forth his doughtiest knight, and bade him retrieve the honour of their strength. And Kalahour the knight said-
"Verily so will I do, and I will force the tears of pain from the eyes of this messenger."
And he came towards Rostam and wrung his hand, and his gripe was like to a vise, and Rostam felt the pang thereof, and he winced in his suffering. But he would not let the men of Mazandaran glory in his triumph. He took the hand of Kalahour in his own, and grasped it and crushed it till that the blood issued from its veins and the nails fell from off its fingers. Then Kalahour Turned him and went before the King and showed unto him his hand. And he counselled him to make peace with the land that could send forth such messengers whose might none could withstand. But the King was loath to sue for peace, and he commanded that the messenger be brought before him.
Then the elephant-bodied stood before the King of Mazandaran. And the King questioned him of his journey, and of Kay-Kavous, and of the road that he was come. And while he questioned he took muster of him with his eyes, and when he had done speaking he cried-
"Surely thou art Rostam, for thou hast the arms and breast of a Pahlewan."
But Rostam replied,
"Not so, I am but a slave who is not held worthy to serve even in his train; for he is a Pahlewan great and strong, whose like the earth hath not seen."
Then he handed unto the King the writing of his master. But when the King had read it he was wild with anger, and he said to Rostam-
"Surely he that hath sent thee is mad that he addresseth such words unto me. For if he be master in Iran, I am lord of Mazandaran, and never shall he call me his vassal. And verily it was his own overweening that let him fall between my hands, yet hath he learned no lesson from his disasters, but deemeth he can crush me with haughty words. Go, say unto him that the King of Mazandaran will meet him in battle, and verily his pride shall learn to know humility."
And when the King had thus spoken he dismissed Rostam from his presence, but he would have had him bear forth rich gifts. But Rostam would not take them, for he too was angered, and he spurred him unto Kay-Kavous with a heart hungry for vengeance.
And Kay-Kavous made ready his army, and the King of Mazandaran did likewise. And they marched forth unto the meeting-place, and the earth groaned under the feet of the war-elephants. And for seven days did the battle rage fast and furious, and all the earth was darkened with the black dust; and the fire of swords and maces flashed through the blackness like to lightning from a thundercloud. And the screams of the Deevs, and the shouts of the warriors, and the clanging of the trumpets, and the beating of drums, and the neighing of horses, and the groans of the dying made the earth hideous with noise. And the blood of the brave Turned the plain into a lake, and it was a combat such as none hath seen the like. But victory leaned to neither side. Then on the eighth day Kay-Kavous took from his head the crown of the Key’ianides and bowed him in the dust before Urmazd. And he prayed and
"O Lord of earth, incline thine ear unto my voice, and grant that I may overcome these Deevs who rest not their faith in Thee. And I pray Thee do this not for my sake, who am unworthy of Thy benefits, but for the sake of Iran, Thy kingdom."
Then he put the crown once more upon his head, and went out again before the army.
And all that day the hosts fought like lions, and pity and mercy were vanished from the world, and heaven itself seemed to rain maces. But Urmazd had heard the prayer of His servant, and when evening was come the army of Mazandaran was faded like a flower. Then Rostam, perceiving the King of Mazandaran, challenged him to single combat. And the King consented, and Rostam overcame him, and raised his lance to strike him, saying-
"Parish, O evil Deev! for thy name is struck out of the lists of those who carry high their heads."
But when he was about to strike him, the King put forth his arts of magic, and he was changed into a rock within sight of all the army. And Rostam was confounded thereat, and he knew not what he should do. But Kay-Kavous commanded that the rock should be brought before his throne. So those among the army who were strong of limb meshed it with cords and tried to raise it from the earth. But the rock resisted all their efforts and none could move it a jot. Then Rostam, the elephant-limbed, came forward to test his power, and he grasped the rock in his mighty fist, and he bore it in his hands across the hills, even unto the spot that Kay-Kavous had named, and all the army shouted with amazement when they saw it.
Now when Rostam had laid down the stone at the feet of the King, he spake and said unto it-
"Issue forth, I command thee, O King of Mazandaran, or I will break thee into atoms with my mace."
When the King heard this threat he was afraid, and came out of the stone, and stood before Rostam in all his vileness. And Rostam took his hand and smiled and led him before Kay-Kavous, and said-
"I bring thee this piece of rock, whom fear of my blows hath brought into subjection."
Then Kay-Kavous reproached the King with all the evil he had done him, and when he had spoken he bade that the head of this wicked man should be severed from its trunk. And it was done as Kay-Kavous commanded. Then Kay-Kavous gave thanks unto God, and distributed rich gifts unto his army, to each man according to his deserts. And he prepared a feast, and bade them rejoice and make merry with wine. And at last he called before him Rostam, his Pahlewan, and gave to him thanks, and said that but for his aid he would not have sat again upon his throne. But Rostam said-
"Not so, O King, thy thanks are due unto Aulad, for he it was who led me aright, and instructed me how I could vanquish the Deevs. Grant, therefore, now that I may fulfil my promise unto him, and bestow on him the crown of Mazandaran."
When Kay-Kavous heard these words he did as Rostam desired, and Aulad received the crown and the land, and there was peace yet again in Iran. And the land rejoiced thereat, and Kay-Kavous opened the doors of his treasures, and all was well within his borders. Then Rostam came before the King and prayed that he might be permitted to reTurn unto his father. And Kay-Kavous listened to the just desires of his Pahlewan, and he sent him forth laden with rich gifts, and he could not cease from pouring treasure before him. And he blessed him, and said-
"Mayst thou live as long as the sun and moon, and may thy heart continue steadfast, mayst thou ever be the joy of Iran!"
Then when Rostam was departed, Kay-Kavous gave himself up unto delights and to wine, but he governed his land right gloriously. He struck the neck of care with the sword of justice, he caused the earth to be clad with verdure, and God granted unto him His countenance, and the hand of Ahriman could do no hurt.
Thus endeth the history of the march into Mazandaran.
KAY-KAVOUS COMMITTETH MORE FOLLIES
WHILOM the fancy seized upon the King of Iran that he would visit his empire, and look face to face upon his vassals, and exact their tribute. So he passed from Turan into China, and from Mikran into Berberistan. And wheresoever he passed men did homage before him, for the bull cannot wage battle with the lion. But it could not remain thus for ever, and already there sprang forth thorns in the garden of roses. For while the fortunes of the world thus prospered, a chieftain raised the standard of revolt in Egypt, and the people of the land Turned them from the gates of submission unto Iran. And there was joined unto them the King of Hamavaran, who desired to throw off the yoke of Iran. But Kay-Kavous, when the tidings thereof came unto him, got ready his army and marched against the rebels. And when he came before them, their army, that had seemed invincible, was routed, and the King of Hamavaran was foremost to lay down his arms and ask pardon of his King. And Kay-Kavous granted his petition, and the King departed joyously from out his presence. Then one of those who stood about the King said unto him-
"Is it known to thee, O King, that this King hideth behind his curtains a daughter of beauty? It would beseem my lord that he should take this moon unto himself for wife."
And Kay-Kavous answered,
"Thy counsel is good, and I will therefore send messengers unto her father, and demand of him that he give me his daughter as tribute, and to cement the peace that hath been made between us."
When the King of Hamavaran heard this message his heart was filled with gall, and his head was heavy with sorrow, and he murmured in his spirit that Kay-Kavous, who owned the world, should desire to take from him his chiefest treasure. And he hid not his grief from the King in his answer, but he wrote also that he knew it behoved him to do the thing that Kay-Kavous desired. Then in his distress he called before him Soudabeh his daughter, whom he loved, and he told her all his troubles, and bade her counsel him how he should act. For he said-
"If I lose thee, the light of my life is gone out. Yet how may I stand against the King?"
And Soudabeh replied,
"If there be no remedy, I counsel thee to rejoice at that which cannot be changed."
Now when her father heard these words he knew that she was not afflicted concerning that which was come about. So he sent for the envoy of Kay-Kavous and assented unto his demands, and they concluded an alliance according to the forms of the land. Then when the King had poured gifts before the messenger, and feasted him with wine, he sent forth an escort to bear his daughter unto the tents of the King. And the young moon went forth in a litter, and she was robed in garbs of splendour, and when Kay-Kavous beheld her loveliness he was struck dumb for very joy. Then he raised Soudabeh unto the throne beside him, and named her worthy to be his spouse. And they were glad in each other, and rejoiced; but all was not to be well thus quickly.
For the King of Hamavaran was sore in his heart that the light of his life was gone from him, and he cast about in his spirit how he should regain her unto himself. And when she had been gone but seven days, he sent forth a messenger unto Kay-Kavous and entreated him that he would come and feast within his gates, so that all the land might rejoice in their alliance.
When Soudabeh heard this message her mind misgave her, and she feared evil. Wherefore she counselled the King that he should abstain from this feast. But Kay-Kavous would not listen unto the fears of Soudabeh, he would not give ear unto her warning. Wherefore he went forth unto the city of the King of Hamavaran, and made merry with him many days. And the King caused gifts to be rained down upon Kay Kavous, and he flattered him, and cozened his vanity, and he made much of his men, and he darkened their wits with fair words and sweet wine. Then when he had lulled their fears, and caused them to forget wherefore and why and all knowledge of misfortune, he fell upon them and bound them with strong chains, and overthrew their glories and their thrones. And Kay-Kavous did he send unto a fortress whose head touched the sky and whose foot was planted in the ocean. Then he sent forth a strong band into the camp of Iran, and veiled women went with them, and he charged them that they bring back Soudabeh unto his arms.
Now when Soudabeh saw the men and the women that went with them she guessed what was come about, and she cried aloud and tore her robes in anguish. And when they had brought her before her father she reproved him for his treachery, and she sware that none should part her from Kay-Kavous, even though he were hidden in a tomb. Then the King was angered when he saw that her heart was taken from him and given to the King, and he bade that she be flung into the Saame prison as her lord. And Soudabeh was glad at his resolve, and she went into the dungeon with a light heart, and she seated herself beside the King, and served him and comforted him, and they bore the weight of captivity together.
After these things were come about, the Iranians, because that their King was held captive, returned unto Iran much discomfited. And when the news spread that the throne was empty many would have seized thereon. And Afrasiyab, when he learned it, straightway forgot hunger and sleep, and marched a strong army across the
border. And he laid waste the land of Iran, and men, women, and children fell into bondage at his hands, and the world was darkened unto the kingdom of light. Then some arose and went before the son of Zal to crave his help in this sore need, saying unto him-
"Be thou our shield against misfortune, and deliver us from affliction, for the glory of the Key’ianides is vanished, and the land which was a paradise is one no more."
Now Rostam, when he heard the news, was grieved for the land, but he was angered also against the King that he had thus once again run into danger. Yet he told the messengers that he would seek to deliver Kay-Kavous, and that when he had done so he would remember the land of Iran. And forthwith he sent a secret messenger unto Kay Kavous, a man subtle and wise, and caused him to say unto the King-
"An army cometh forth from Iran to redeem thee. Rejoice, therefore, and cast aside thy fears."
And he also sent a writing unto the King of Hamavaran, and the writing was filled with threats, and spake only of maces and swords and combat. And Rostam loaded the King with reproaches because o his treachery, and he bade him prepare to meet Rostam the mighty.
When the King of Hamavaran had read this letter his head was troubled, and he defied Rostam, and threatened him that if he came forth against him he should meet at his hands the fate of the King. But Rostam only smiled when he heard this answer, and he said-
"Surely this man is foolish, or Ahriman hath filled his mind with smoke."
Then he mounted Rakhsh, and made ready to go into Hamavaran, and a vast train of warriors went after him. And the King of Hamavaran, when he saw it sent forth his army against him. But the army were afraid when they beheld Rostam and his might of mien, his mace, and his strong arms and lion chest, and their hearts departed from out their bodies, and they fled from before his sight, and returned them unto the King of Hamavaran.
Now the King was seated in the midst of his counsellors, and when he saw the army thus scattered before they had struck a blow, his heart misgave him, and he craved counsel of his chiefs. Then they counselled him that he should cast about him for allies. So the King of Hamavaran sent messengers of entreaty unto the Kings of Egypt and Barbarestan, and they listened to his prayers, and sent out a great army unto his aid. And they drew them up against Rostam, and the armies stretched for two leagues in length, and you would have said the handful of Rostam could not withstand their force. Yet Rostam bade his men be not discomfited, and rest their hopes on God. Then he fell upon the armies of the Kings like to a flame that darteth forth, and the ground was drenched with gore, and on all sides rolled heads that were severed from their bodies; and wheresoever Rakhsh and Rostam showed themselves, there was great havoc made in the ranks. And ere the evening was come, the Kings of Egypt and Barbarestan were his captives; and when the sun was set, the King of Hamavaran knew that a day of ill fortune was ended. So he sent forth to crave mercy at the hands of the Pahlewan. And Rostam listened to his voice, and said that he would stay his hand if the King would restore unto him Kay-Kavous, and the men and treasures that were his. Then the King of Hamavaran granted the just requests of Rostam. So Kay Kavous was led forth from his prison, and Soudabeh came with him. And when they beheld him, the King of Hamavaran and his allies declared their allegiance unto him, and they marched with him into Iran to go out against Afrasiyab. And Soudabeh went with the army in a litter clothed with fair stuffs, and encrusted with wood of aloes. And she was veiled that none might behold her beauty, and she went with the men like to the sun when he marcheth behind a cloud.
Now when Kay-Kavous was come home again unto his land, he sent a writing unto Afrasiyab. And he said-
"Quit, I command thee, the land of Iran, nor seek to enlarge thyself at my cost. For knowest thou not that Iran is mine, and that the world pertaineth unto me?"
But Afrasiyab answered,
"The words which thou dost write are not becoming unto a man such as thou, who didst covet Mazandaran and the countries round about. If thou wert satisfied with Iran, wherefore didst thou venTure afield? And I say unto thee, Iran is mine, because of Tur my forefather, and because I subdued it under my hand."
When Kay-Kavous had heard these words he knew that Afrasiyab would not yield save unto force. So he drew up his army into array, and they marched out to meet the King of Turan. And Afrasiyab met them with a great host, and the sound of drums and cymbals filled the air. And great was the strife and bloody, but Rostam broke the force of Turan, and the fortunes of its army were laid to rest upon the
field of battle. And Afrasiyab, when he beheld it, was discomfited, and his spirit boiled over like to new wine that fermenteth. And he mourned over his army and the warriors that he had trained, and he conjured those that remained to make yet another onslaught, and he spake fair promises unto them if they would deliver unto his hands Rostam, the Pahlewan. And he said-
"Whoever shall bring him alive before me, I will give unto him a kingdom and an umbrella, and the hand of my daughter in marriage."
And the Turks, when they heard these words, girded them yet again for resistance. But it availed them nought, for the Iranians were mightier than they, and they watered the earth with their blood until the ground was like a rose. And the fortunes of the Turks were as a light put out, and Afrasiyab fled before the face of Rostam, and the remnant of his army went after him.
Then Kay-Kavous seated himself once more upon his throne, and men were glad that there was peace. And the King opened the doors of justice and splendour, and all men did that which was right, and the wolf Turned him away from the lamb, and there was gladness through all the length of Iran. And the King gave thanks unto Rostam that he had aided him yet again, and he named him Jahani Pahlewan, which being interpreted meaneth the champion of the world, and he called him the source of his happiness. Then he busied himself with building mighty towers and palaces, and the land of Iran was made fair at his hands, and all was well once more within its midst.
But Ahriman the wakeful was not pleased thereat, and he pondered how he could once again arouse the ambition of the King. So he held counsel with his Deevs how they might Turn the heart of Kay-Kavous from the right path. And one among them said-
"Suffer that I go before the King, and I will do thy behest."
And Ahriman suffered it. Then the Deev took upon him the form of a youth, and in his hand he held a cluster of roses, and he presented them unto the King, and he kissed the ground before his feet. And when Kay-Kavous had given him leave to speak he opened his mouth and said-
"O King, live for ever! though such is thy might and majesty that the vault of heaven alone should be thy throne. All the world is submissive before thee, and I can bethink me but of one thing that is lacking unto thy glory."
Then Kay-Kavous questioned him of this one thing, and the Deev said-
"It is that thou knowest not the nature of the sun and moon, nor wherefore theplanets roll, neither the secret causes that set them in motion. Thou art master of all the earth, therefore shouldst thou not make the heavens also obedient to thy will?"
When Kay-Kavous heard these words of guile his mind was dimmed, and he forgot that man cannot mount unto the skies, and he pondered without ceasing how he could fly unto the stars and inquire into their secrets. And he consulted many wise men in his trouble, but none could aid him. But at last it came about that a certain man taught him how he could perchance accomplish his designs. And Kay-Kavous did according to his instructions. He built him a framework of aloe-wood, and at the four corners thereof he placed javelins upright, and on their points he put the flesh of goats. Then he chose out four eagles strong of wing, and bound them unto the corners of this chariot. And when it was done, Kay-Kavous seated himself in the midst thereof with much pomp. And the eagles, when they smelt the flesh, desired after it, and they flapped their wings and raised themselves, and raised the framework with them. And they struggled sore, but they could not attain unto the meat; but ever as they struggled they bore aloft with them Kay-Kavous and the throne whereon he sat. And so long as their hunger lasted, they strove after the prey. But at length their strength would hold no longer, and they desisted from the attempt. And behold! as they desisted the fabric fell back to earth, and the shock thereof was great. And but for Urmazd Kay-Kavous would have Parished in the presumption of his spirit.
Now the eagles had borne the King even unto the desert of Cathay, and there was no man to succour him, and he suffered from the pangs of hunger, and there was nothing to assuage his longing, neither could his thirst be stilled. And he was alone, and sorrowful and shamed in his soul that he had yet again brought derision upon Iran. And he prayed to God in his trouble, and entreated pardon for his sins.
While Kay-Kavous thus strove with repentance, Rostam learned tidings of him, and he set out with an army to seek him. And when he had found him he gave rein unto his anger, and he rebuked him for his follies, and he said-
"Hath the world seen the like of this man? Hath a more foolish head sat upon the throne of Iran? Ye would say there were no brains within this skull, or that not one of its thoughts was good. Kay-Kavous is like a thing that is possessed, and every wind beareth him away. Thrice hast thou now fallen into mishap, and who can tell whether thy spirit hath yet learned wisdom? And it will be a reproach unto Iran all her days that a king puffed up with idle pride was seated upon her throne, a man who deemed in his folly that he could mount unto the skies, and visit the sun and moon, and count the stars one by one. I entreat of thee to bethink thee of thy forefathers, and follow in their steps, and rule the land in equity, neither rush after these mad advenTures."
When Kay-Kavous had listened to the bitter words spoken by Rostam, he was bowed down in his spirit and ashamed before him in his soul. And when at last he opened his mouth it was to utter words of humility. And he said unto Rostam-
"Surely that which thou speakest, it is true."
Then he suffered himself to be led back unto his palace, and many days and nights did he lie in the dust before God, and it was long before he held him worthy to mount again upon his throne. But when he deemed that God had forgiven him, he seated him upon it once again. In humility did he mount it, and he filled it in wisdom. And henceforth he ruled the land with justice, and he did that which was right in the sight of God, and bathed his face with the waters of sincerity. And kings and rulers did homage before him, and forgot the follies that he had done, and Kay-Kavous grew worthy of the throne of light. And Iran was exalted at his hands, and power and prosParity increased within its borders.
[ Continue: Rostam & Sohrab Tragedy ]
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