The tidings of Khosráu's accession to the throne were received at Sístán by Zál and Rustem with heartfelt pleasure, and they forthwith hastened to court with rich presents, to pay him their homage, and congratulate him on the occasion of his elevation. The heroes were met on the road with suitable honors, and Khosráu embracing Rustem affectionately, lost no time in asking for his assistance in taking vengeance for the death of Saiáwush. The request was no sooner made than granted, and the champion having delivered his presents, then proceeded with his father Zál to wait upon Káús, who prepared a royal banquet, and entertained Khosráu and them in the most sumptuous manner. It was there agreed to march a large army against Afrásiyáb; and all the warriors zealously came forward with their best services, except Zál, who on account of his age requested to remain tranquilly in his own province. Khosráu said to Káús:
"The throne can yield no happiness for me,
Nor can I sleep the sleep of health and joy
Till I have been revenged on that destroyer.
The tyrant of Túrán; to please the spirit
Of my poor butchered father."
Káús, on delivering over to him the imperial army, made him acquainted with the character and merits of every individual of importance. He appointed Fríburz, and a hundred warriors, who were the prince's friends and relatives, to situations of trust and command, and Tús was among them. Gúdarz and his seventy-eight sons and grandsons were placed on the right, and Gustahem, the brother of Tús, with an immense levy on the left. There were also close to Khosráu's person, in the centre of the hosts, thirty-three warriors of the race of Poshang, and a separate guard under Byzun.
In their progress Khosráu said to Fríburz and Tús, "Ferúd, who is my brother, has built a strong fort in Bokhára, called Kulláb, which stands on the way to the enemy, and there he resides with his mother, Gúlshaher. Let him not be molested, for he is also the son of Saiáwush, but pass on one side of his possessions." Fríburz did pass on one side as requested; but Tús, not liking to proceed by the way of the desert, and preferring a cultivated and pleasant country, went directly on through the places which led to the very fort in question. When Ferúd was informed of the approach of Tús with an armed force, he naturally concluded that he was coming to fight him, and consequently determined to oppose his progress. Tús, however, sent Ríú, his son-in-law, to explain to Ferúd that he had no quarrel or business with him, and only wished to pass peaceably through his province; but Ferúd thought this was merely an idle pretext, and proceeding to hostilities, Ríú was killed by him in the conflict that ensued. Tús, upon being informed of this result, drew up his army, and besieged the fort into which Ferúd had precipitately retired. When Ferúd, however, found that Tús himself was in the field, he sallied forth from his fastness, and assailed him with his bow and arrows. One of the darts struck and killed the horse of Tús, and tumbled his rider to the ground. Upon this occurrence Gíw rushed forward in the hopes of capturing the prince; but it so happened that he was unhorsed in the same way. Byzun, the son of Gíw, seeing with great indignation this signal overthrow, wished to be revenged on the victor; and though his father endeavored to restrain him, nothing could control his wrath. He sprung speedily forward to fulfil his menace, but by the bravery and expertness of Ferúd, his horse was killed, and he too was thrown headlong from his saddle. Unsubdued, however, he rose upon his feet, and invited his antagonist to single combat. In consequence of this challenge, they fought a short time with spears till Ferúd deemed it advisable to retire into his fort, from the lofty walls of which he cast down so many stones, that Byzun was desperately wounded, and compelled to leave the place. When he informed Tús of the misfortune which had befallen him, that warrior vowed that on the following day not a man should remain alive in the fort. The mother of Ferúd, who was the daughter of Wísah, had at this period a dream which informed her that the fortress had taken fire, and that the whole of the inhabitants had been consumed to death. This dream she communicated to Ferúd, who said in reply:--
"Mother! I have no dread of death;
What is there in this vital breath?
My sire was wounded, and he died;
And fate may lay me by his side!
Was ever man immortal?--never!
We cannot, mother, live for ever.
Mine be the task in life to claim
In war a bright and spotless name.
What boots it to be pale with fear,
And dread each grief that waits us here?
Protected by the power divine,
Our lot is written--why repine?"
Tús, according to his threat, attacked the fort, and burst open the gates. Ferúd defended himself with great valor against Byzun; and whilst they were engaged in deadly battle, Báhrám, the hero, sprang up from his ambuscade, and striking furiously upon the head of Ferúd, killed that unfortunate youth on the spot. The mother, the beautiful Gúlshaher, seeing what had befallen her son, rushed out of the fort in a state of frenzy, and flying to him, clasped him in her arms in an agony of grief. Unable to survive his loss, she plunged a dagger in her own breast, and died at his feet. The Persians then burst open the gates, and plundered the city. Báhrám, when he saw what had been done, reproached Tús with being the cause of this melancholy tragedy, and asked him what account he would give of his conduct to Kai-khosráu. Tús was extremely concerned, and remaining three days at that place, erected a lofty monument to the memory of the unfortunate youth, and scented it with musk and camphor. He then pushed forward his army to attack another fort. That fort gave way, the commandant being killed in the attack; and he then hastened on toward Afrásiyáb, who had ordered Nizád with thirty thousand horsemen to meet him. Byzun distinguished himself in the contest which followed, but would have fallen into the hands of the enemy if he had not been rescued by his men, and conveyed from the field of battle. Afrásiyáb pushed forward another force of forty thousand horsemen under Pírán-wísah, who suffered considerable loss in an engagement with Gíw; and in consequence fell back for the purpose of retrieving himself by a shubkhún, or night attack. The resolution proved to be a good one; for when night came on, the Persians were found off their guard, many of them being intoxicated, and the havoc and destruction committed among them by the Tartars was dreadful. The survivors were in a miserable state of despondency, but it was not till morning dawned that Tús beheld the full extent of his defeat and the ruin that surrounded him. When Kai-khosráu heard of this heavy reverse, he wrote to Fríburz, saying, "I warned Tús not to proceed by the way of Kulláb, because my brother and his mother dwelt in that place, and their residence ought to have been kept sacred. He has not only despised my orders, but he has cruelly occasioned the untimely death of both. Let him be bound, and sent to me a prisoner, and do thou assume the command of the army." Fríburz accordingly placed Tús in confinement, and sent him to Khosráu, who received and treated him with reproaches and wrath, and consigned him to a dungeon. He then wrote to Pírán, reproaching him for resorting to a night attack so unworthy of a brave man, and challenging him to resume the battle with him. Pírán said that he would meet him after the lapse of a month, and at the expiration of that period both armies were opposed to each other. The contest commenced with arrows, then swords, and then with javelins; and Gíw and Byzun were the foremost in bearing down the warriors of the enemy, who suffered so severely that they turned aside to attack Fríburz, against whom they hoped to be more successful. The assault which they made was overwhelming, and vast numbers were slain, so that Fríburz, finding himself driven to extremity, was obliged to shelter himself and his remaining troops on the skirts of a mountain. In the meantime Gúdarz and Gíw determined to keep their ground or perish, and sent Byzun to Fríburz to desire him to join them, or if that was impracticable, to save the imperial banner by despatching it to their care. To this message, Fríburz replied: "The traitors are triumphant over me on every side, and I cannot go, nor will I give up the imperial banner, but tell Gúdarz to come to my aid." Upon receiving this answer, Byzun struck the standard-bearer dead, and snatching up the Derafsh Gávahní, conveyed it to Gúdarz, who, raising it on high, directed his troops against the enemy; and so impetuous was the charge, that the carnage on both sides was prodigious. Only eight of the sons of Gúdarz remained alive, seventy of his kindred having been slain on that day, and many of the family of Káús were also killed. Nor did the relations of Afrásiyáb and Pírán suffer in a less degree, nine hundred of them, warriors and cavaliers, were sent out of the world; yet victory remained with the Túránians.
When Afrásiyáb was informed of the result of this battle, he sent presents and honorary dresses to his officers, saying, "We must not be contented with this triumph; you have yet to obscure the martial glory of Rustem and Khosráu." Pírán replied, "No doubt that object will be accomplished with equal facility."
After the defeat of the Persian army, Fríburz retired under the cover of night, and at length arrived at the court of Khosráu, who was afflicted with the deepest sorrow, both on account of his loss in battle and the death of his brother Ferúd. Rustem was now as usual applied to for the purpose of consoling the king, and extricating the empire from its present misfortunes. Khosráu was induced to liberate Tús from his confinement, and requested Rustem to head the army against Pírán, but Tús offered his services, and the champion observed, "He is fully competent to oppose the arms of Pírán; but if Afrásiyáb takes the field, I will myself instantly follow to the war." Khosráu accordingly deputed Tús and Gúdarz with a large army, and the two hostile powers were soon placed in opposition to each other. It is said that they were engaged seven days and nights, and that on the eighth Húmán came forward, and challenged several warriors to fight singly, all of whom he successively slew. He then called upon Tús, but Gúdarz not permitting him to accept the challenge, sent Gíw in his stead. The combatants met; and after being wounded and exhausted by their struggles for mastery, each returned to his own post. The armies again engaged with arrows, and again the carnage was great, but the battle remained undecided.
Pírán had now recourse to supernatural agency, and sent Barú, a renowned magician, perfect in his art, upon the neighboring mountains, to involve them in darkness, and produce by his conjuration tempestuous showers of snow and hail. He ordered him to direct all their intense severity against the enemy, and to avoid giving any annoyance to the Túránian army. Accordingly when Húmán and Pírán-wísah made their attack, they had the co-operation of the elements, and the consequence was a desperate overthrow of the Persian army.
So dreadful was the carnage, that the plain
Was crimsoned with the blood of warriors slain.
In this extremity, Tús and Gúdarz piously put up a prayer to God, earnestly soliciting protection from the horrors with which they were surrounded.
O Thou! the clement, the compassionate,
We are thy servants, succor our distress,
And save us from the sorcery that now
Yields triumph to the foe. In thee alone
We place our trust; graciously hear our prayer!
Scarcely had this petition been uttered, when a mysterious person appeared to Rehám from the invisible world, and pointed to the mountain from whence the tempest descended. Rehám immediately attended to the sign, and galloped forward to the mountain, where he discovered the magician upon its summit, deeply engaged in incantations and witchcraft. Forthwith he drew his sword and cut off this wizard's arms. Suddenly a whirlwind arose, which dissipated the utter darkness that prevailed; and then nothing remained of the preternatural gloom, not a particle of the hail or snow was to be seen: Rehám, however, brought him down from the mountain and after presenting him before Tús, put an end to his wicked existence. The armies were now on a more equal footing: they beheld more clearly the ravages that had been committed by each, and each had great need of rest. They accordingly retired till the following day, and then again opposed each other with renewed vigor and animosity. But fortune would not smile on the exertions of the Persian hosts, they being obliged to fall back upon the mountain Hamáwun, and in the fortress situated there Tús deposited all his sick and wounded, continuing himself in advance to ensure their protection. Pírán seeing this, ordered his troops to besiege the place where Tús had posted himself. This was objected to by Húmán, but Pírán was resolved upon the measure, and had several conflicts with the enemy without obtaining any advantage over them. In the mountain-fortress there happened to be wells of water and abundance of grain and provisions, so that the Persians were in no danger of being reduced by starvation. Khosráu, however, being informed of their situation, sent Rustem, accompanied by Fríburz, to their assistance, and they were both welcomed, and received with rejoicing, and cordial satisfaction. The fortress gates were thrown open, and Rustem was presently seen seated upon a throne in the public hall, deliberating on the state of affairs, surrounded by the most distinguished leaders of the army.
In the meanwhile Pírán-wísah had written to Afrásiyáb, informing him that he had reduced the Persian army to great distress, had forced them to take refuge in a mountain fort, and requested a further reinforcement to complete the victory, and make them all prisoners. Afrásiyáb in consequence despatched three illustrious confederates from different regions. There was Shinkul of Sugsar, the Khakán of Chín, whose crown was the starry heavens, and Kámús of Kushán, a hero of high renown and wondrous in every deed.
For when he frowned, the air grew freezing cold;
And when he smiled, the genial spring showered down
Roses and hyacinths, and all was brightness!
Pírán went first to pay a visit to Kámús, to whom he, almost trembling, described the amazing strength and courage of Rustem: but Kámús was too powerful to express alarm; on the contrary, he said:
"Is praise like this to Rustem due?
And what, if all thou say'st be true?
Are his large limbs of iron made?
Will they resist my trenchant blade?
His head may now his shoulders grace,
But will it long retain its place?
Let me but meet him in the fight,
And thou shalt see Kamus's might!"
Pírán's spirits rose at this bold speech, and encouraged by its effects, he repaired to the Khakán of Chín, with whom he settled the necessary arrangements for commencing battle on the following day. Early in the morning the different armies under Kámús, the Khakán, and Pírán-wísah, were drawn out, and Rustem was also prepared with the troops under his command for the impending conflict. He saw that the force arrayed against him was prodigious, and most tremendous in aspect; and offering a prayer to the Creator, he plunged into the battle.
'Twas at mid-day the strife began,
With steed to steed and man to man;
The clouds of dust which rolled on high,
Threw darkness o'er the earth and sky.
Each soldier on the other rushed,
And every blade with crimson blushed;
And valiant hearts were trod upon,
Like sand beneath the horse's feet,
And when the warrior's life was gone,
His mail became his winding sheet.
The first leader who advanced conspicuously from among the Tartar army was Ushkabús, against whom Rehám boldly opposed himself; but after a short conflict, in which he had some difficulty in defending his life from the assaults of his antagonist, he thought it prudent to retire. When Ushkabús saw this he turned round with the intention of rejoining his own troops; but Rustem having witnessed the triumph over his friend, sallied forth on foot, taking up his bow, and placing a few arrows in his girdle, and asked him whither he was going.
Astonished, Ushkabús cried, "Who art thou?
What kindred hast thou to lament thy fall?"
Rustem replied:--"Why madly seek to know
That which can never yield thee benefit?
My name is death to thee, thy hour is come!"
"Indeed! and thou on foot, mid mounted warriors,
To talk so bravely!"--"Yes," the champion said;
"And hast thou never heard of men on foot,
Who conquered horsemen? I am sent by Tús,
To take for him the horse of Ushkabús."
"What! and unarmed?" inquired the Tartar chief;
"No!" cried the champion, "Mark, my bow and arrow!
Mark, too, with what effect they may be used!"
So saying, Rustem drew the string, and straight
The arrow flew, and faithful to its aim,
Struck dead the foeman's horse. This done, he laughed,
But Ushkabús was wroth, and showered upon
His bold antagonist his quivered store--
Then Rustem raised his bow, with eager eye
Choosing a dart, and placed it on the string,
A thong of elk-skin; to his ear he drew
The feathered notch, and when the point had touched
The other hand, the bended horn recoiled,
And twang the arrow sped, piercing the breast
Of Ushkabús, who fell a lifeless corse,
As if he never had been born! Erect,
And firm, the champion stood upon the plain,
Towering like mount Alberz, immovable,
The gaze and wonder of the adverse host!
When Rustem, still unknown to the Túránian forces, returned to his own army, the Tartars carried away the body of Ushkabús, and took it to the Khakán of Chin, who ordered the arrow to be drawn out before him; and when he and Kámús saw how deeply it had penetrated, and that the feathered end was wet with blood, they were amazed at the immense power which had driven it from the bow; they had never witnessed or heard of anything so astonishing. The fight was, in consequence, suspended till the following day. The Khakán of Chin then inquired who was disposed or ready to be revenged on the enemy for the death of Ushkabús, when Kámús advanced, and, soliciting permission, urged forward his horse to the middle of the plain. He then called aloud for Rustem, but a Kábul hero, named Alwund, a pupil of Rustem's, asked his master's permission to oppose the challenger, which being granted, he rushed headlong to the combat. Luckless however were his efforts, for he was soon overthrown and slain, and then Rustem appeared in arms before the conqueror, who hearing his voice, cried: "Why this arrogance and clamor! I am not like Ushkabús, a trembler in thy presence." Rustem replied:
"When the lion sees his prey,
Sees the elk-deer cross his way,
Roars he not? The very ground
Trembles at the dreadful sound.
And art thou from terror free,
When opposed in fight to me?"
Kámús now examined him with a stern eye, and was satisfied that he had to contend against a powerful warrior: he therefore with the utmost alacrity threw his kamund, which Rustem avoided, but it fell over the head of his horse Rakush. Anxious to extricate himself from this dilemma, Rustem dexterously caught hold of one end of the kamund, whilst Kámús dragged and strained at the other; and so much strength was applied that the line broke in the middle, and Kámús in consequence tumbled backwards to the ground. The boaster had almost succeeded in remounting his horse, when he was secured round the neck by Rustem's own kamund, and conveyed a prisoner to the Persian army, where he was put to death!
The fate of Kámús produced a deep sensation among the Túránians, and Pírán-wísah, partaking of the general alarm, and thinking it impossible to resist the power of Rustem, proposed to retire from the contest, but the Khakán of Chín was of a different opinion, and offered himself to remedy the evil which threatened them all. Moreover the warrior, Chingush, volunteered to fight with Rustem; and having obtained the Khakán's permission, he took the field, and boldly challenged the champion. Rustem received the foe with a smiling countenance, and the struggle began with arrows. After a smart attack on both sides, Chingush thought it prudent to fly from the overwhelming force of Rustem, who, however, steadily pursued him, and adroitly seizing the horse by the tail, hurled him from his saddle.
He grasped the charger's flowing tail,
And all were struck with terror pale,
To see a sight so strange; the foe,
Dismounted by one desperate blow;
The captive asked for life in vain,
His recreant blood bedewed the plain.
His head was from his shoulders wrung,
His body to the vultures flung.
Rustem, after this exploit, invited some other hero to single combat; but at the moment not one replied to his challenge. At last Húmán came forward, not however to fight, but to remonstrate, and make an effort to put an end to the war which threatened total destruction to his country. "Why such bitter enmity? why such a whirlwind of resentment?" said he; "to this I ascribe the calamities under which we suffer; but is there no way by which this sanguinary career of vengeance can be checked or moderated?" Rustem, in answer, enumerated the aggressions and the crimes of Afrásiyáb, and especially dwelt on the atrocious murder of Saiáwush, which he declared could never be pardoned. Húmán wished to know his name; but Rustem refused to tell him, and requested Pírán-wísah might be sent to him, to whom he would communicate his thoughts, and the secrets of his heart freely. Húmán accordingly returned, and informed Pírán of the champion's wishes.
"This must be Rustem, stronger than the pard,
The lion, or the Egyptian crocodile,
Or fell Iblís; dreams never painted hero
Half so tremendous on the battle plain."
The old man said to him:
"If this be Rustem, then the time has come,
Dreaded so long--for what but fire and sword,
Can now await us? Every town laid waste,
Soldier and peasant, husband, wife, and child,
Sharing the miseries of a ravaged land!"
With tears in his eyes and a heavy heart, Pírán repaired to the Khakán, who, after some discussion, permitted him in these terms to go and confer with Rustem.
"Depart then speedful on thy embassy,
And if he seeks for peace, adjust the terms,
And presents to be sent us. If he talks
Of war and vengeance, and is clothed in mail,
No sign of peace, why we must trust in Heaven
For strength to crush his hopes of victory.
He is not formed of iron, nor of brass,
But flesh and blood, with human nerves and hair,
He does not in the battle tread the clouds,
Nor can he vanish, like the demon race--
Then why this sorrow, why these marks of grief?
He is not stronger than an elephant;
Not he, but I will show him what it is
To fight or gambol with an elephant!
Besides, for every man his army boasts,
We have three hundred--wherefore then be sad?"
Notwithstanding these expressions of confidence, Pírán's heart was full of alarm and terror; but he hastened to the Persian camp, and made himself known to the champion of the host, who frankly said, after he had heard Pírán's name, "I am Rustem of Zábul, armed as thou seest for battle!" Upon which Pírán respectfully dismounted, and paid the usual homage to his illustrious rank and distinction. Rustem said to him, "I bring thee the blessings of Kai-khosráu and Ferangís, his mother, who nightly see thy face in their dreams."
"Blessings from me, upon that royal youth!"
Exclaimed the good old man. "Blessings on her,
The daughter of Afrásiyáb, his mother,
Who saved my life--and blessings upon thee,
Thou matchless hero! Thou hast come for vengeance,
In the dear name of gallant Saiáwush,
Of Saiáwush, the husband of my child,
(The beautiful Gúlshaher), of him who loved me
As I had been his father. His brave son,
Ferúd, was slaughtered, and his mother too,
And Khosráu was his brother, now the king,
By whom he fell, or if not by his sword,
Whose was the guilty hand? Has punishment
Been meted to the offender? I protected,
In mine own house, the princess Ferangís;
And when her son was born, Kai-khosráu, still
I, at the risk of my existence, kept them
Safe from the fury of Afrásiyáb,
Who would have sacrificed the child, or both!
And night and day I watched them, till the hour
When they escaped and crossed the boundary-stream.
Enough of this! Now let us speak of peace,
Since the confederates in this mighty war
Are guiltless of the blood of Saiáwush!"
Rustem, in answer to Pírán, observed, that in negotiating the terms of pacification, several important points were to be considered, and several indispensable matters to be attended to. No peace could be made unless the principal actors in the bloody tragedy of Saiáwush's death were first given up, particularly Gersíwaz; vast sums of money were also required to be presented to the king of kings; and, moreover, Rustem said he would disdain making peace at all, but that it enabled Pírán to do service to Kai-khosráu. Pírán saw the difficulty of acceding to these demands, but he speedily laid them before the Khakán, who consulted his confederates on the subject, and after due consideration, their pride and shame resisted the overtures, which they thought ignominious. Shinkul, a king of Ind, was a violent opposer of the terms, and declared against peace on any such conditions. Several other warriors expressed their readiness to contend against Rustem, and they flattered themselves that by a rapid succession of attacks, one after the other, they would easily overpower him. The Khakán was pleased with this conceit and permitted Shinkul to begin the struggle. Accordingly he entered the plain, and summoned Rustem to renew the fight. The champion came and struck him with a spear, which, penetrating his breast, threw him off his horse to the ground. The dagger was already raised to finish his career, but he sprang on his feet, and quickly ran away to tell his misfortune to the Khakán of Chín.
And thus he cried, in look forlorn,
"This foe is not of mortal born;
A furious elephant in fight,
A very mountain to the sight;
No warrior of the human race,
That ever wielded spear or mace,
Alone this dragon could withstand,
Or live beneath his conquering brand!"
The Khakán reminded him how different were his feelings and sentiments in the morning, and having asked him what he now proposed to do, he said that without a considerable force it would be useless to return to the field; five thousand men were therefore assigned to him, and with them he proceeded to engage the champion. Rustem had also been joined by his valiant companions, and a general battle ensued. The heavens were obscured by the dust which ascended from the tramp of the horses, and the plain was crimsoned with the blood of the slain. In the midst of the contest, Sáwa, a relation of Kámús, burst forward and sought to be revenged on Rustem for the fate of his friend. The champion raised his battle-axe, and giving Rakush the rein, with one blow of his mace removed him to the other world. No sooner had he killed this assailant than he was attacked by another of the kindred of Kámús, named Kahár, whom he also slew, and thus humbled the pride of the Kushanians. Elated with his success, and having further displayed his valor among the enemy's troops, he vowed that he would now encounter the Khakán himself, and despoil him of all his pomp and treasure. For this purpose he selected a thousand horsemen, and thus supported, approached the kulub-gah, or headquarters of the monarch of Chín. The clamor of the cavalry, and the clash of spears and swords, resounded afar. The air became as dark as the visage of an Ethiopian, and the field was covered with several heads, broken armor, and the bodies of the slain. Amidst the conflict Rustem called aloud to the Khakán:--
"Surrender to my arms those elephants,
That ivory throne, that crown, and chain of gold;
Fit trophies for Kai-khosráu, Persia's king;
For what hast thou to do with diadem
And sovereign power! My noose shall soon secure thee,
And I will send thee living to his presence;
Since, looking on my valour and my strength,
Life is enough to grant thee. If thou wilt not
Resign thy crown and throne--thy doom is sealed."
The Khakán, filled with indignation at these haughty words, cautioned Rustem to parry off his own danger, and then commanded his troops to assail the enemy with a shower of arrows. The attack was so tremendous and terrifying, even beyond the picturings of a dream, that Gúdarz was alarmed for the safety of Rustem, and sent Rehám and Gíw to his aid. Rustem said to Rehám:--"I fear that my horse Rakush is becoming weary of exertion, in which case what shall I do in this conflict with the enemy? I must attack on foot the Khakán of Chín, though he has an army here as countless as legions of ants or locusts; but if Heaven continues my friend, I shall stretch many of them in the dust, and take many prisoners. The captives I will send to Khosráu, and all the spoils of Chín." Saying this he pushed forward, roaring like a tiger, towards the Khakán, and exclaiming with a stern voice:--"The Turks are allied to the devil, and the wicked are always unprosperous. Thou hast not yet fallen in with Rustem, or thy brain would have been bewildered. He is a never-dying dragon, always seeking the strongest in battle. But thou hast not yet had enough of even me!" He then drew his kamund from the saddle-strap, and praying to God to grant him victory over his foes, urged on Rakush, and wherever he threw the noose, his aim was successful. Great was the slaughter, and the Khakán, seeing from the back of his white elephant the extent of his loss, and beginning to be apprehensive about his own safety, ordered one of his warriors, well acquainted with the language of Irán, to solicit from the enemy a cessation of hostilities.
"Say whence this wrath on us, this keen revenge?
We never injured Saiáwush; the kings
Of Ind and Chín are guiltless of his blood;
Then why this wrath on strangers? Spells and charms,
Used by Afrásiyáb--the cause of all--
Have brought us hither to contend against
The champion Rustem; and since peace is better
Than war and bloodshed, let us part in peace."
The messenger having delivered his message, Rustem replied:--
"My words are few. Let him give up his crown,
His golden collar, throne, and elephants;
These are the terms I grant. He came for plunder,
And now he asks for peace. Tell him again,
Till all his treasure and his crown are mine,
His throne and elephants, he seeks in vain
For peace with Rustem, or the Persian king!"
When the Khakán was informed of these reiterated conditions, he burst out into bitter reproaches and abuse; and with so loud a voice, that the wind conveyed them distinctly to Rustem's ear. The champion immediately prepared for the attack; and approaching the enemy, flung his kamund, by which he at once dragged the Khakán from his white elephant. The hands of the captured monarch were straightway bound behind his back. Degraded and helpless he stood, and a single stroke deprived him of his crown, and throne, and life.
Such are, since time began, the ways of Heaven;
Such the decrees of fate! Sometimes raised up,
And sometimes hunted down by enemies,
Men, struggling, pass through this precarious life,
Exalted now to sovereign power; and now
Steeped in the gulf of poverty and sorrow.
To one is given the affluence of Kárun;
Another dies in want. How little know we
What form our future fortune may assume!
The world is all deceit, deception all!
Pírán-wísah beheld the disasters of the day, he saw the Khakán of Chín delivered over to Tús, his death, and the banners of the confederates overthrown; and sorrowing said:--"This day is the day of flight, not of victory to us! This is no time for son to protect father, nor father son--we must fly!" In the meanwhile Rustem, animated by feelings of a very different kind, gave a banquet to his warrior friends, in celebration of the triumph.
When the intelligence of the overthrow and death of Kámús and the Khakán of Chín, and the dispersion of their armies, reached Afrásiyáb, he was overwhelmed with distress and consternation, and expressed his determination to be revenged on the conquerors. Not an Iránian, he said, should remain alive; and the doors of his treasury were thrown open to equip and reward the new army, which was to consist of a hundred thousand men.
Rustem having communicated to Kai-khosráu, through Fríburz, the account of his success, received the most satisfactory marks of his sovereign's applause; but still anxious to promote the glory of his country, he engaged in new exploits. He went against Kafúr, the king of the city of Bidád, a cannibal, who feasted on human flesh, especially on the young women of his country, and those of the greatest beauty, being the richest morsels, were first destroyed. He soon overpowered and slew the monster, and having given his body to be devoured by dogs, plundered and razed his castle to the ground. After this he invaded and ravaged the province of Khoten, one of the dependencies of Túrán, and recently the possession of Saiáwush, which was a new affliction to Afrásiyáb, who, alarmed about his own empire, dispatched a trusty person secretly to Rustem's camp, to obtain private intelligence of his hostile movements. The answer of the spy added considerably to his distress, and in the dilemma he consulted with Pírán-wísah, that he might have the benefit of the old man's experience and wisdom. Pírán told him that he had failed to make an impression upon the Persians, even assisted by Kámús the Kashánian, and the Khakán of Chin; both had been slain in battle, and therefore it would be in vain to attempt further offensive measures without the most powerful aid. There was, he added, a neighboring king, named Púladwund, who alone seemed equal to contend with Rustem. He was of immense stature, and of prodigious strength, and might by the favor of heaven, be able to subdue him. Afrásiyáb was pleased with this information, and immediately invited Púladwund, by letter, to assist him in exterminating the champion of Persia. Púladwund was proud of the honor conferred upon him, and readily complied; hastening the preparation of his own army to cooperate with that of Afrásiyáb. He presently joined him, and the whole of the combined forces rapidly marched against the enemy. The first warrior he encountered was Gíw, whom he caught with his kamund. Rehám and Byzun seeing this, instantly rushed forward to extricate their brother and champion in arms; but they too were also secured in the same manner! In the struggle, however, the kamunds gave way, and then Púladwund drew his sword, and by several strokes wounded them all. The father, Gúdarz, apprised of this disaster, which had unfortunately happened to three of his sons, applied to Rustem for succor. The champion, the refuge, the protector of all, was, as usual, ready to repel the enemy. He forthwith advanced, liberated his friends, and dreadful was the conflict which followed. The club was used with great dexterity on both sides; but at length Púladwund struck his antagonist such a blow that the sound of it was heard by the troops at a distance, and Rustem, stunned by its severity, thought himself opposed with so much vigor, that he prayed to the Almighty for a prosperous issue to the engagement.
"Should I be in this struggle slain,
What stay for Persia will be left?
None to defend Kai-khosráu's reign,
Of me, his warrior-chief, bereft.
Then village, town, and city gay,
Will feel the cruel Tartar's sway!"
Púladwund wishing to follow up the blow by a final stroke of his sword, found to his amazement that it recoiled from the armor of Rustem, and thence he proposed another mode of fighting, which he hoped would be more successful. He wished to try his power in wrestling. The challenge was accepted. By agreement both armies retired, and left the space of a farsang between them, and no one was allowed to afford assistance to either combatant. Afrásiyáb was present, and sent word to Púladwund, the moment he got Rustem under him, to plunge a sword in his heart. The contest began, but Púladwund had no opportunity of fulfilling the wishes of Afrásiyáb. Rustem grasped him with such vigor, lifted him up in his arms, and dashed him so furiously on the plain, that the boaster seemed to be killed on the spot. Rustem indeed thought he had put a period to his life; and with that impression left him, and remounted Rakush: but the crafty Púladwund only pretended to be dead: and as soon as he found himself released, sprang up and escaped, flying like an arrow to his own side. He then told Afrásiyáb how he had saved his life by counterfeiting death, and assured him that it was useless to contend against Rustem. The champion having witnessed this subterfuge, turned round in pursuit, and the Tartars received him with a shower of arrows; but the attack was well answered, Púladwund being so alarmed that, without saying a word to Afrásiyáb, he fled from the field. Pírán now counselled Afrásiyáb to escape also to the remotest part of Tartary. As the flight of Púladwund had disheartened the Túránian troops, and there was no chance of profiting by further resistance, Afrásiyáb took his advice, and so precipitate was his retreat, that he entirely abandoned his standards, tents, horses, arms, and treasure to an immense amount. The most valuable booty was sent by Rustem to the king of Irán, and a considerable portion of it was divided among the chiefs and the soldiers of the army. He then mounted Rakush, and proceeded to the court of Kai-khosráu, where he was received with the highest honors and with unbounded rejoicings. The king opened his jewel chamber, and gave him the richest rubies, and vessels of gold filled with musk and aloes, and also splendid garments; a hundred beautiful damsels wearing crowns and ear-rings, a hundred horses, and a hundred camels. Having thus terminated triumphantly the campaign, Rustem carried with him to Zábul the blessings and admiration of his country.