Shah Nameh/Akwán Díw

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  And now we come to Akwán Díw,
  Whom Rustem next in combat slew.

One day as Kai-khosráu was sitting in his beautiful garden, abounding in roses and the balmy luxuriance of spring, surrounded by his warriors, and enjoying the pleasures of the banquet with music and singing, a peasant approached, and informed him of a most mysterious apparition. A wild ass, he said, had come in from the neighboring forest; it had at least the external appearance of a wild ass, but possessed such supernatural strength, that it had rushed among the horses in the royal stables with the ferocity of a lion or a demon, doing extensive injury, and in fact appeared to be an evil spirit! Kai-khosráu felt assured that it was something more than it seemed to be, and looked round among his warriors to know what should be done. It was soon found that Rustem was the only person capable of giving effectual assistance in this emergency, and accordingly a message was forwarded to request his services. The champion instantly complied, and it was not long before he occupied himself upon the important enterprise. Guided by the peasant, he proceeded in the first place towards the spot where the mysterious animal had been seen; but it was not till the fourth day of his search that he fell in with him, and then, being anxious to secure him alive, and send him as a trophy to Kai-khosráu, he threw his kamund; but it was in vain: the wild ass in a moment vanished out of sight! From this circumstance Rustem observed, "This can be no other than Akwán Díw, and my weapon must now be either dagger or sword." The next time the wild ass appeared he pursued him with his drawn sword: but on lifting it up to strike, nothing was to be seen. He tried again, when he came near him, both spear and arrow: still the animal vanished, disappointing his blow; and thus three days and nights he continued fighting, as it were against a shadow. Wearied at length with his exertions, he dismounted, and leading Rakush to a green spot near a limpid fountain or rivulet of spring water, allowed him to graze, and then went to sleep. Akwán Díw seeing from a distance that Rustem had fallen asleep, rushed towards him like a whirlwind, and rapidly digging up the ground on every side of him, took up the plot of ground and the champion together, placed them upon his head, and walked away with them. Rustem being awakened with the motion, he was thus addressed by the giant-demon:--

  "Warrior! now no longer free!
  Tell me what thy wish may be;
  Shall I plunge thee in the sea,
    Or leave thee on the mountain drear,
    None to give thee succour, near?
  Tell thy wish to me!"

Rustem, thus deplorably in the power of the demon, began to consider what was best to be done, and recollecting that it was customary with that supernatural race to act by the rule of contraries, in opposition to an expressed desire, said in reply, for he knew that if he was thrown into the sea there would be a good chance of escape:--

  "O, plunge me not in the roaring sea,
  The maw of a fish is no home for me;
  But cast me forth on the mountain; there
  Is the lion's haunt and the tiger's lair;
  And for them I shall be a morsel of food,
  They will eat my flesh and drink my blood;
  But my bones will be left, to show the place
  Where this form was devoured by the feline race;
  Yes, something will then remain of me,
  Whilst nothing escapes from the roaring sea!"

Akwán Díw having heard this particular desire of Rustem, determined at once to thwart him, and for this purpose he raised him up with his hands, and flung him from his lofty position headlong into the deep and roaring ocean. Down he fell, and a crocodile speedily darted upon him with the eager intention of devouring him alive; but Rustem drew his sword with alacrity, and severed the monster's head from his body. Another came, and was put to death in the same manner, and the water was crimsoned with blood. At last he succeeded in swimming safely on shore, and instantly returned thanks to Heaven for the signal protection he had experienced.

  Breasting the wave, with fearless skill
    He used his glittering brand;
  And glorious and triumphant still,
    He quickly reached the strand.

He then moved towards the fountain where he had left Rakush; but, to his great alarm and vexation his matchless horse was not there. He wandered about for some time, and in the end found him among a herd of horses belonging to Afrásiyáb. Having first caught him, and resumed his seat in the saddle, he resolved upon capturing and driving away the whole herd, and conveying them to Kai-khosráu. He was carrying into effect this resolution when the noise awoke the keepers specially employed by Afrásiyáb, and they, indignant at this outrageous proceeding, called together a strong party to pursue the aggressor. When they had nearly reached him, he turned boldly round, and said aloud:--"I am Rustem, the descendant of Sám. I have conquered Afrásiyáb in battle, and after that dost thou presume to oppose me?" Hearing this, the keepers of the Tartar stud instantly turned their backs, and ran away.

It so happened that at this period Afrásiyáb paid his annual visit to his nursery of horses, and on his coming to the meadows in which they were kept, neither horses nor keepers were to be seen. In a short time, however, he was informed by those who had returned from the pursuit, that Rustem was the person who had carried off the herd, and upon hearing of this outrage, he proceeded with his troops at once to attack him. Impatient at the indignity, he approached Rustem with great fury, but was presently compelled to fly to save his life, and thus allow his herd of favorite steeds, together with four elephants, to be placed in the possession of Kai-khosráu. Rustem then returned to the meadows and the fountain near the habitation of Akwán Díw; and there he again met the demon, who thus accosted him:--

  "What! art thou then aroused from death's dark sleep?
  Hast thou escaped the monsters of the deep?
  And dost thou seek upon the dusty plain
  To struggle with a demon's power again?
  Of flint, or brass, or iron is thy form?
  Or canst thou, like the demons, raise the dreadful battle storm?"

Rustem, hearing this taunt from the tongue of Akwán Díw, prepared for fight, and threw his kamund with such precision and force, that the demon was entangled in it, and then he struck him such a mighty blow with his sword, that it severed the head from the body. The severed head of the unclean monster he transmitted as a trophy to Kai-khosráu, by whom it was regarded with amazement, on account of its hideous expression and its vast size. After this extraordinary feat, Rustem paid his respects to the king, and was received as usual with distinguished honor and affection; and having enjoyed the magnificent hospitality of the court for some time, he returned to Zábulistán, accompanied part of the way by Kai-khosráu himself and a crowd of valiant warriors, ever anxious to acknowledge his superior worth and prodigious strength.