King Keïkobad died, and his son Kaoüs sat upon his throne. At first he was a moderate and prudent prince; but finding his riches increase, and his armies grow more and more numerous, he began to believe that there was no one equal to him in the whole world, and that he could do what he would. One day as he sat drinking in one of the chambers of his palace, and boasting after his custom, a Genius, disguised as a minstrel, came to the King's chamberlain, and desired to be admitted to the royal presence. "I came," he said, "from the country of the Genii, and I am a sweet singer. Maybe the King, if he were to hear me, would give me a post in his court."
The chamberlain went to the King, and said, "There is a minstrel at the gate; he has a harp in his hand, and his voice is marvelously sweet."
"Bring him up," said the King.
So they brought him in, and gave him a place among the musicians, and commanded that he should give them a trial of his powers. So the minstrel, after playing a prelude on his harp, sang a song of the land of the Genii.
"There is no land in all the world" this was the substance of his song—"like Mazanderan, the land of the Genii. All the year round the rose blooms in its gardens and the hyacinth on its hills. It knows no heat nor cold, only an eternal spring. The nightingales sing in its thicket, and through its valleys wander the deer, and the water of its stream is as the water of roses, delighting the soul with its perfume. Of its treasures there is no end; the whole country is covered with gold and embroidery and jewels. No man can say that he is happy unless he has seen Mazanderan."
When the King heard this song, he immediately conceived the thought of marching against this wonderful country. Turning, therefore, to his warriors, he said: "We are given over to feasting; but the brave must not suffer himself to rest in idleness. I am wealthier and, I doubt not, stronger than all the kings that have gone before me; it becomes me also to surpass them in my achievements. We will conquer the land of Genii."
The warriors of the King were little pleased to hear such talk from his lips. No one ventured to speak, but their hearts were full of trouble and fear, for they had no desire to fight against the Genii.
"We are your subjects, O King," they said, "and will do as you desire." But when they were by themselves, and could speak openly, they said one to another, "What a trouble is this that has come of our prosperous fortune! Unless by good fortune the King forgets this purpose of his, we and the whole country are lost. Jemshid, whom the Genii and the Peris and the very birds of the air used to obey, never ventured to talk in this fashion of Mazanderan, or to seek war against the Genii; and Feridun, though he was the wisest of kings, and skilful in all magical arts, never cherished such a plan." So they sat, overwhelmed with anxiety.
At last one of them said, "My friends, there is only one way of escaping from this danger. Let us send a swift dromedary to Zal of the white hair, with this message: 'Though your head be covered with dust, do not stay to wash it, but come.' Perhaps Zal will give the King wise advice, and, telling him that this plan of his is nothing but a counsel of Satan, will persuade him to change his purpose. Otherwise we are lost, small and great."
The nobles listened to this advice, and sent a messenger to Zal, mounted on a swift dromedary.
When Zal heard what had happened, he said:
"The King is self-willed. He has not yet felt either the cold or the heat of the world. He thinks that all men, great and small, tremble at his sword, and it must needs be that he learn better by experience. However, I will go; I will give him the best advice that I can. If he will be persuaded by me, it will be well; but if not, the way is open, and Rustem shall go with his army." All night long he revolved these matters in his heart. The next morning he went his way, and arrived at the court of the King.
The King received him with all honor, bade him sit by his side, and inquired how he had borne the fatigue of his journey, and of the welfare of Rustem, his son. Then Zal spoke:
"I have heard, my lord, that you are forming plans against the land of the Genii. Will it please you to listen to me? There have been mighty kings before you, but never during all my years, which now are many, has any one of them conceived in his heart such a design as this. This land is inhabited by Genii that are skilful in all magical arts. They can lay such bonds upon men that no one is able to hurt them. No sword is keen enough to cut them through; riches and wisdom and valor are alike powerless against them. I implore you, therefore, not to waste your riches, and the riches of your country and the blood of your warriors, on so hopeless an enterprise."
The King answered, "Doubtless it is true that the kings my predecessors never ventured to entertain such a plan. But am I not superior to them in courage, in power and wealth? Had they such warriors as you, and Rustem your son? Do not think to turn me from my purpose. I will go against the country of these accursed magicians, and verily I will not leave one single soul alive in it, for they are an evil race. If you do not care to come with me, at least refrain from advising me to sit idle upon my throne."
When Zal heard this answer, he said: "You are the King, and we are your slaves. Whatever you ordain is right and just, and it is only by thy good pleasure that we breathe and move. I have said what was in my heart. All that remains now is to obey, and to pray that the Ruler of the world may prosper your counsels."
When he had thus spoken, Zal took leave of the King, and departed for his own country.
The very next day the King set out with his army for the land of the Genii, and, after marching for several days, pitched his tent at the foot of Mount Asprus, and held a great revel all the night long with his chiefs. The next morning he said, "Choose me two thousand men who will break down the gates of Mazanderan with their clubs. And take care that when you have taken the city you spare neither young nor old, for I will rid the world of these magicians." They did as the King commanded, and in a short space of time the city, which was before the richest and most beautiful in the whole world, was made into a desert.
When the King of Mazanderan heard of these things he called a messenger, and said: "Go to the White Genius and say to him, 'The Persians have come with a great army and are destroying everything. Make haste and help me, or there will be nothing left to preserve.'"
The White Genius said, "Tell the King not to be troubled; I will see to these Persians."
That same night the whole army of King Kaoüs was covered with a wonderful cloud. The sky was dark as pitch, and there fell from it such a terrible storm of hailstones that no one could stand against them. When the next morning came, lo! the King and all that had not fled—for many fled to their own country—or been killed by the hailstones, were blind. Seven days they remained terrified and helpless. On the eighth day they heard the voice, loud as a clap of thunder, of the White Genius.
"King," said he, "you coveted the land of Mazanderan, you entered the city, you slew and took prisoners many of the people; but you did not know what I could do. And now, see, you have your desire. Your lot is of your own contriving."
The White Genius then gave over the King and his companions to the charge of an army of twelve thousand Genii, and commanded that they should be kept in prison, and have just so much food given them as should keep them alive from day to day. Kaoüs, however, contrived to send by one of his warriors a message to Zal the White-haired, telling him of all the troubles that had come upon him. When Zal heard the news he was cut to the heart, and sent without delay for Rustem. "Rustem," said he, "this is no time for a man to eat and drink and take his pleasure. The King is in the hands of Satan, and we must deliver him. As for me, I am old and feeble; but you are of the age for war. Saddle Raksh, your horse, and set forth without a moment's delay. The White Genius must not escape the punishment of his misdeeds at your hands."
"The way is long," said Rustem; "how shall I go?"
"There are two ways," answered Zal, "and both are difficult and dangerous. The King went by the longer way. The other is by far the shorter, a two-weeks' march and no more; but it is full of lions and evil Genii, and it is surrounded by darkness. Still, I would have you go by it. God will be your helper; and difficult as the way may be, it will have an end, and your good horse Raksh will accomplish it. And if it be the will of Heaven that you should fall by the hand of the White Genius, who can change the ordering of destiny? Sooner or later we must all depart, and death should be no trouble to him who has filled the earth with his glory."
"My father, I am ready to do your bidding," said Rustem. "Nevertheless, the heroes of old cared not to go of their own accord into the land of death; and it is only he who is weary of life that throws himself in the way of a roaring lion. Still I go, and I ask for no help but from the justice of God. With that on my side I will break the charm of the magicians. The White Genius himself shall not escape me."
Rustem armed himself, and went on his way.
Rustem made such speed that he accomplished two days' journey in one. But at last, finding himself hungry and weary, and seeing that there were herds of wild asses in the plain which he was traversing, he thought that he would catch one of them for his meal, and rest for the night. So pressing his knees into his horse's side, he pursued one of them. There was no escape for the swiftest beast when Rustem was mounted on Raksh, and in a very short time a wild ass was caught with the lasso. Rustem struck a light with a flintstone, and making a fire with brambles and branches of trees, roasted the ass and ate it for his meal. This done he took the bridle from his horse, let him loose to graze upon the plain, and prepared himself to sleep in a bed of rushes. Now in the middle of this bed of rushes was a lion's lair, and at the end of the first watch the lion came back, and was astonished to see lying asleep on the rushes a man as tall as an elephant, with a horse standing near him. The lion said to himself, "I must first tear the horse, and then the rider will be mine whenever I please." So he leaped at Raksh; but the horse darted at him like a flash of fire, and struck him on the head with his fore feet. Then he seized him by the back with his teeth, and battered him to pieces on the earth. When Rustem awoke and saw the dead lion, which indeed was of a monstrous size, he said to Raksh, "Wise beast, who bade you fight with a lion? If you had fallen under his claws, how should I have carried to Mazanderan this cuirass and helmet, this lasso, my bow and my sword?" Then he went to sleep again; but awaking at sunrise, saddled Raksh and went on his way.
He had now to accomplish the most difficult part of his journey, across a waterless desert, so hot that the very birds could not live in it. Horse and rider were both dying of thirst, and Rustem, dismounting, could scarcely struggle along while he supported his steps by his spear. When he had almost given up all hope, he saw a well-nourished ram pass by. "Where," said he to himself, "is the reservoir from which this creature drinks?" Accordingly he followed the ram's footsteps, holding his horse's bridle in one hand and his sword in the other, and the ram led him to a spring. Then Rustem lifted up his eyes to heaven and thanked God for his mercies; afterwards he blessed the ram, saying, "No harm come to thee forever! May the grass of the valleys and the desert be always green for thee, and may the bow of him that would hunt thee be broken, for thou hast saved Rustem; verily, without thee he would have been torn to pieces by the wild beasts of the desert."
After this he caught another wild ass, and roasted him for his meal. Then having bathed in the spring, he lay down to sleep; but before he lay down, he said to Raksh, his horse: "Do not seek quarrel or friendship with any. If an enemy come, run to me; and do not fight either with Genius or lion."
After this he slept; and Raksh now grazed, and now galloped over the plain.
Now it so happened that there was a great dragon that had its bed in this part of the desert. So mighty a beast was it, that not even a Genius had dared to pass by that way. The dragon was astonished to see a man asleep and a horse by his side, and began to make its way to the horse. Raksh did as he had been bidden, and running towards his master, stamped with his feet upon the ground. Rustem awoke, and seeing nothing when he looked about him—for the dragon meanwhile had disappeared—was not a little angry. He rebuked Raksh, and went to sleep again. Then the dragon came once more out of the darkness, and the horse ran with all speed to his master, tearing up the ground and kicking. A second time the sleeper awoke, but as he saw nothing but darkness round him, he was greatly enraged, and said to his faithful horse:
"Why do you disturb me? If it wearies you to see me asleep, yet you cannot bring the night to an end. I said that if a lion came to attack you, I would protect you; but I did not tell you to trouble me in this way. Verily, if you make such a noise again, I will cut off your head and go on foot, carrying all my arms and armor with me to Mazanderan."
A third time Rustem slept, and a third time the dragon came. This time Raksh, who did not venture to come near his master, fled over the plain; he was equally afraid of the dragon and of Rustem. Still his love for his master did not suffer him to rest. He neighed and tore up the earth, till Rustem woke up again in a rage. But this time God would not suffer the dragon to hide himself, and Rustem saw him through the darkness, and, drawing his sword, rushed at him.
But first he said, "Tell me your name; my hand must not tear your soul from your body before I know your name."
The dragon said, "No man can ever save himself from my claws; I have dwelt in this desert for ages, and the very eagles have not dared to fly across. Tell me then your name, bold man. Unhappy is the mother that bore you."
"I am Rustem, son of Zal of the white hair," said the hero, "and there is nothing on earth that I fear."
Then the dragon threw itself upon Rustem. But the horse Raksh laid back his ears, and began to tear the dragon's back with his teeth, just as a lion might have torn it.
The hero stood astonished for a while; then, drawing his sword, severed the monster's head from his body. Then, having first bathed, he returned thanks to God, and mounting on Raksh, went his way.
All that day he traveled across the plain, and came at sunset to the land of the magicians. Just as the daylight was disappearing, he spied a delightful spot for his night's encampment. There were trees and grass, and a spring of water. And beside the spring there was a flagon of red wine, and a roast kid, with bread and salt and confectionery neatly arranged. Rustem dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and looked with astonishment at the provisions thus prepared. It was the meal of certain magicians, who had vanished when they saw him approach.
Of this he knew nothing, but sitting down without question, filled a cup with wine, and taking a harp which he found lying by the side of the flagon, sang:
"The scourge of the wicked am I,
And my days still in battle go by;
Not for me is the red wine that glows
In the reveler's cup, nor the rose
That blooms in the land of delight;
But with monsters and demons to fight."
The music and the voice of the singer reached the ears of a witch that was in those parts. Forthwith, by her art, she made her face as fair as spring, and, approaching Rustem, asked him how he fared, and sat down by his side. The hero thanked Heaven that he had thus found in the desert such good fare and excellent company; for he did not know that the lovely visitor was a witch. He welcomed her, and handed her a cup of wine; but, as he handed it, he named the name of God, and at the sound her color changed, and she became as black as charcoal.
When Rustem saw this, quick as the wind he threw his lasso over her head.
"Confess who you are," he cried; "show yourself in your true shape."
Then the witch was changed into a decrepit, wrinkled old woman. Rustem cut her in halves with a blow of his sword.
The next day he continued his journey with all the speed that he could use, and came to a place where it was utterly dark. Neither sun, nor moon, nor stars could be seen; and all that the hero could do was to let the reins fall on his horse's neck, and ride on as chance might direct.
In time he came to a most delightful country, where the sun was shining brightly, and where the ground was covered with green. Rustem took off his cuirass of leopard-skin, and his helmet, and let Raksh find pasture where he could in the fertile fields, and lay down to sleep. When the keeper of the fields saw the horse straying among them and feeding, he was filled with rage; and running up to the hero, dealt him with his stick a great blow upon the feet.
"Son of Satan," said the keeper, "why do you let your horse stray in the cornfields?"
Rustem leaped upon the man, and without uttering a word good or bad, wrenched his ears from his head.
Now the owner of this fertile country was a young warrior of renown named Aulad. The keeper ran up to him with his ears in his hand, and said:
"There has come to this place a son of Satan, clad in a cuirass of leopard-skin, with an iron helmet. I was going to drive his horse out of the cornfields, when he leaped upon me, tore my ears from my head without saying a single word, and then lay down to sleep again."
Aulad was about to go hunting with his chiefs; but when he heard the keeper's story he altered his plan, and set out to the place where he heard that Rustem had been seen. Rustem, as soon as he saw him approach, and a great company with him, ran to Raksh, leaped on his back, and rode forward. Aulad said to him, "Who are you? What are you doing here? Why did you pluck off my keeper's ears and let your horse feed in the cornfields?"
"If you were to hear my name," said Rustem, "it would freeze the blood in your heart."
So saying he drew his sword, and fastening his lasso to the bow of his saddle, rushed as a lion rushes into the midst of a herd of oxen. With every blow of his sword he cut off a warrior's head, till the whole of Aulad's company was either slain or scattered. Aulad himself he did not kill, but throwing his lasso, caught him by the neck, dragged him from his horse, and bound his hands. "Now," said he, "if you will tell me the truth, and, without attempting to deceive, will show me where the White Genius dwells, and will guide me to where King Kaoüs is kept prisoner, then I will make you king of Mazanderan. But if you speak a word of falsehood you die."
"It is well," said Aulad; "I will do what you desire. I will show you where the King is imprisoned. It is four hundred miles from this place; and four hundred miles farther, a difficult and dangerous way, is the dwelling of the White Genius. It is a cavern so deep that no man has ever sounded it, and it lies between two mountains. Twelve thousand Genii watch it during the night, for the White Genius is the chief and master of all his tribe. You will find him a terrible enemy, and, for all your strong arms and hands, your keen sword, your lance and your club, you will scarcely be able to conquer him; and when you have conquered him, there will still be much to be done. In the city of the King of Mazanderan there are thousands of warriors, and not a coward among them; and besides these, there are two hundred war-elephants. Were you made of iron, could you venture to deal alone with these sons of Satan?"
Rustem smiled when he heard this, and said, "Come with me, and you will see what a single man, who puts his trust in God, can do. And now show me first the way to the King's prison."
Rustem mounted on Raksh, and rode gaily forward, and Aulad ran in front of him. For a whole day and night he ran, nor ever grew tired, till they reached the foot of Mount Asprus, where King Kaoüs had fallen into the power of the Genii. About midnight they heard a great beating of drums, and saw many fires blaze up.
Rustem said to Aulad, "What mean these fires that are blazing up to right and left of us?"
Aulad answered, "This is the way into Mazanderan. The great Genius Arzeng must be there."
Then Rustem went to sleep; and when he woke in the morning he took his lasso and fastened Aulad to the trunk of a tree. Then hanging his grandfather's club to his saddlebow, he rode on.
His conflict with Arzeng, the chief of the army of the Genii, was soon finished. As he approached the camp he raised his battle-cry. His shout was loud enough, one would have said, to split the very mountains; and Arzeng, when he heard it, rushed out of his tent. Rustem set spurs to his horse, and galloping up to the Genius, caught him by the head, tore it from the body, and threw it into the midst of the army. When the Genii saw it, and caught sight also of the great club, they fled in the wildest confusion, fathers trampling upon their sons in their eagerness to escape. The hero put the whole herd of them to the sword, and then returned as fast as he could to the place where he had left Aulad bound to the tree. He unloosed the knots of the lasso, and bidding him lead the way to the prison-house of the King, set spurs to Raksh, Aulad running in front as before.
When they entered the town, Raksh neighed. His voice was as loud as thunder, and the King heard it, and in a moment understood all that had happened. "That is the voice of Raksh," he said to the Persians that were with him; "our evil days are over. This was the way in which he neighed in King Kobad's time, when he made war on the Scythians."
The Persians said to themselves, "Our poor King has lost his senses, or he is dreaming. There is no help for us." But they had hardly finished speaking when the hero appeared, and did homage to the King. Kaoüs embraced him, and then said: "If you are to help me, you must go before the Genii know of your coming. So soon as the White Genius shall hear of the fall of Arzeng, he will assemble such an army of his fellows as shall make all your pains and labor lost. But you must know that you have great difficulties to overcome. First, you must cross seven mountains, all of them occupied by troops of Genii; then you will see before you a terrible cavern—more terrible, I have heard say, than any other place in the world. The entrance to it is guarded by warrior Genii, and in it dwells the White Genius himself. He is both the terror and the hope of his army. Conquer him, and all will be well. A wise physician tells me that the only remedy for my blindness is to drop into my eyes three drops of the White Genius's blood. Go and conquer, if you would save your King."
Without any delay Rustem set forth, Raksh carrying him like the wind. When he reached the great cavern, he said to Aulad, who had guided him on his way as before, "The time of conflict is come. Show me the way."
Aulad answered, "When the sun shall grow hot, the Genii will go to sleep. That will be your time to conquer them."
Rustem waited till the sun was at its highest, and then went forth to battle. The Genii that were on guard fled at the sound of his voice, and he went on without finding any to resist him till he came to the great cavern of which the King had spoken. It was a terrible place to see, and he stood for a while with his sword in his hand, doubting what he should do. No one would choose such a spot for battle; and as for escaping from it, that was beyond all hope. Long he looked into the darkness, and at last he saw a monstrous shape, which seemed to reach across the whole breadth of the cave. It was the White Genius that was lying asleep. Rustem did not attempt to surprise him in his sleep, but woke him by shouting his battle-cry. When the White Genius saw him, he rushed at once to do battle with him. First he caught up from the ground a stone as big as a millstone and hurled it at him. For the first time Rustem felt a thrill of fear, so terrible was his enemy. Nevertheless, gathering all his strength, he struck at him a great blow with his sword and cut off one of his feet. The monster, though having but one foot, leaped upon him like a wild elephant, and seized him by the breast and arms, hoping to throw him to the ground, and tore from his body great pieces of flesh, so that the whole place was covered with blood. Rustem said to himself, "If I escape to-day I shall live forever;" and the White Genius thought, "Even if I do deliver myself from the claws of this dragon, I shall never see Mazanderan again." Still he did not lose courage, but continued to struggle against the hero with all his might.
So the two fought together, the blood and sweat running from them in great streams. At last Rustem caught the Genius round the body, and, putting out all his strength, hurled him to the ground with such force that his soul was driven out of his body. Then he plunged his poinard into the creature's heart, and tore the liver out of his body. This done he returned to Aulad, whom he had left bound with his lasso, loosed him, and set out for the place where he had left the King. But first Aulad said to him, "I have the marks of your bonds upon me; my body is bruised with the knots of your lasso; I beseech you to respect the promise which you made me of a reward. A hero is bound to keep his word."
Rustem said: "I promised that you should be King of Mazanderan, and King you shall be. But I have much to do before my word can be kept. I have a great battle to fight, in which I may be conquered, and I must rid this country of the magicians with whom it is encumbered. But be sure that, when all is done, I will not fail of the promises which I have made."
So Rustem returned to King Kaoüs, and, dropping the blood of the White Genius into his eyes, gave him back his sight. Seven days the King and his nobles feasted together, Rustem having the chief place. On the eighth day they set out to clear the country of the accursed race of magicians. When they had done this, the King said, "The guilty have now been punished. Let no others suffer. And now I will send a letter to the King of Mazanderan."
So the King wrote a letter in these words: "You see how God has punished the wrong-doers—how he has brought to naught the Genii and the magicians. Quit then your town, and come here to pay homage and tribute to me. If you will not, then your life shall be as the life of Arzeng and the White Genius."
This letter was carried to the King by a certain chief named Ferbad. When the King had read it, he was greatly troubled. Three days he kept Ferbad as his guest, and then sent back by him this answer: "Shall the water of the sea be equal to wine? Am I one to whom you can say, 'Come down from your throne, and present yourself before me?' Make ready to do battle with me, for verily I will bring upon the land of Persia such destruction that no man shall be able to say what is high and what is low."
Ferbad hastened back to the King of Persia. "The man," he said, "is resolved not to yield." Then the King sent to Rustem. And Rustem said, "Send me with a letter that shall be as keen as a sword and a message like a thunder-cloud." So the King sent for a scribe, who, making the point of his reed as fine as an arrowhead, wrote thus: "These are foolish words, and do not become a man of sense. Put away your arrogance, and be obedient to my words. If you refuse, I will bring such an army against you as shall cover your land from one sea to the other; and the ghost of the White Genius shall call the vultures to feast on your brains."
The King set his seal to this letter, and Rustem departed with it, with his club hanging to his saddlebow. When the King of Mazanderan heard of his coming, he sent some of his nobles to meet him. When Rustem saw them, he caught a huge tree that was by the wayside in his hands, twisted it with all his might, and tore it up, roots and all. Then he poised it in his hand as if it were a javelin. One of the nobles, the strongest of them all, rode up to him, caught one of his hands, and pressed it with all his might. Rustem only smiled; but when in his turn he caught the noble's hand in his, he crushed all the veins and bones, so that the man fell fainting from his horse.
When the King heard what had been done, he called one of his warriors, Kalahour by name, the strongest man in his dominions, and said to him, "Go and meet this messenger; show him your prowess, and cover his face with shame." So Kalahour rode to meet Rustem, and, taking him by the hand, wrung it with all the strength of an elephant. The hand turned blue with the pain, but the hero did not flinch or give any sign of pain. But when in his turn he wrung the hand of Kalahour, the nails dropped from it as the leaves drop from a tree. Kalahour rode back, his hand hanging down, and said to the King, "It will be better for you to make peace than to fight with this lion, whose strength is such that no man can stand against him. Pay this tribute, and we will make it good to you. Otherwise we are lost."
At this moment Rustem rode up. The King gave him a place at his right hand, and asked him of his welfare. Rustem, for answer, gave him the letter of Kei-Kaöus. When the King had read the letter, his face became black as thunder. Then he said, "Carry back this answer to your master: 'You are lord of Persia, and I of Mazanderan. Be content; seek not that which is not yours. Otherwise your pride will lead you to your fall.'"
The King would have given Rustem royal gifts, robes of honor, and horses, and gold. But the hero would have none of them, but went away in anger. When he had returned to the King of Persia, he said to him, "Fear nothing, but make ready for battle. As for the warriors of this land of Mazanderan, they are nothing; I count them no better than a grain of dust."
Meanwhile the king of the magicians prepared for war. He gathered an army, horsemen and foot-soldiers and elephants, that covered the face of the earth, and approached the borders of Persia; and, on the other hand, King Kaoüs marshaled his men of war and went out to encounter him. The King himself took his place in the center of the line of battle, and in front of all stood the great Rustem.
One of the nobles of Mazanderan came out of their line, with a great club in his hands, and approaching the Persian army, cried in a loud voice, "Who is ready to fight with me? He should be one who is able to change water into dust."
None of the Persian nobles answered him, and King Kaoüs said, "Why is it, ye men of war, that your faces are troubled, and your tongues silent before this Genius?"
But still the nobles made no answer. Then Rustem caught the rein of his horse, and, putting the point of his lance over his shoulder, rode up to the King, and said, "Will the King give me permission to fight with this Genius?"
The King said, "The task is worthy of you, for none of the Persians dare to meet this warrior. Go and prosper!"
So Rustem set spurs to Raksh, and rode against the warrior who had challenged the Persians.
"Hear," he said, as soon as he came near, "your name is blotted out of the list of the living; for the moment is come when you shall suffer the recompense of all your misdeeds."
The warrior answered, "Boast not yourself so proudly. My sword makes mothers childless."
When Rustem heard this, he cried with a voice of thunder, "I am Rustem!" and the warrior, who had no desire to fight the champion of the world, turned his back and fled. But Rustem pursued him, and thrust at him with his lance where the belt joins the coat of mail, and pierced him through, for the armor could not turn the point of the great spear. Then he lifted him out of his saddle, and raised him up in the air, as if he were a bird which a man had run through with a spit. This done, he dashed him down dead upon the ground, and all the nobles of Mazanderan stood astonished at the sight.
After this the two armies joined battle. The air grew dark, and the flashing of the swords and clubs flew like the lightning out of a thunder-cloud, and the mountains trembled with the cries of the combatants. Never had any living man seen so fierce a fight before.
For seven days the battle raged, and neither the one side nor the other could claim the victory. On the eighth day King Kaoüs bowed himself before God, taking his crown from his head, and prayed with his face to the ground, saying, "O Lord God, give me, I beseech thee, the victory over the Genii who fear thee not."
Then he set his helmet on his head, and put himself at the head of his army. First of all Rustem began the attack, charging the center of the enemy's army. He directed his course straight to the place where the King of Mazanderan stood, surrounded with his chiefs and a great host of elephants. When the King saw the shine of his lance, he lost courage, and would have fled. But Rustem, with a cry like a lion's roar, charged him, and struck him on the girdle with his spear. The spear pierced the steel, and would have slain the King, but that by his magic art he changed himself, before the eyes of all the Persian army, into a mass of rock. Rustem stood astonished to see such a marvel.
When King Kaoüs came up with his warriors, he said to Rustem, "What is it? What ails you that you tarry here, doing no thing?"
"My lord," answered Rustem, "I charged the King of Mazanderan, spear in hand; I struck him on the girdle, but when I thought to see him fall from his saddle, he changed himself into a rock before my eyes, and now he feels nothing that I can do."
Then King Kaoüs commanded that they should take up the rock and put it before his throne. But when the strongest men in the army came to handle the rock, or sought to draw it with cords, they could do nothing; it remained immovable. Rustem, however, without any one to help him, lifted it from the earth, and carrying it into the camp, threw it down before the King's tent, and said, "Give up these cowardly tricks and the art of magic, else I will break this rock into pieces."
When the King of Mazanderan heard this, he made himself visible, black as a thunder-cloud, with a helmet of steel upon his head and a coat of mail upon his breast. Rustem laughed, and caught him by the hand, and brought him before the King.
"See," said he, "this lump of rock, who, for fear of the hatchet has given himself up to me!"
When Kaoüs looked at him and observed how savage of aspect he was, with the neck and tusks of a wild boar, he saw that he was not worthy to sit upon a throne, and bade the executioner take him away and cut him in pieces. This done, he sent to the enemies' camp, and commanded that all the spoil, the King's throne, and his crown and girdle, the horses and the armor, the swords and jewels, should be gathered together. Then he called up his army, and distributed to them rewards in proportion to what they had done and suffered. After this he spent seven days in prayer, humbling himself before God, and offering up thanksgiving. On the eighth day he seated himself on his throne, and opened his treasures, and gave to all that had need. Thus he spent another seven days. On the fifteenth day, he called for wine and cups of amber and rubies, and sat for seven days on his throne, with the wine-cup in his hand.
He sent for Rustem, and said, "It is of your doing, by your strength and courage, that I have recovered my throne."
Rustem answered, "A man must do his duty. As for the honors that you would give me, I owe them all to Aulad, who has always guided me on the right way. He hopes to be made king of Mazanderan. Let the King, therefore, if it please him, invest him with the crown."
And this the King did.
The next day Kaoüs and his army set out to return to the land of Persia. When he had reached his palace, he seated himself upon his throne, and sending for Rustem, put him at his side.
Rustem said, "My lord, permit me to go back to the old man Zal, my father."
The King commanded that they should bring splendid presents for the hero. The presents were these: A throne of turquoise, adorned with rams' heads; a royal crown set about with jewels; a robe of brocade of gold, such as is worn by the King of kings; a bracelet and a chain of gold; a hundred maidens, with faces fair as the full moon, and girdles of gold; a hundred youths, whose hair was fragrant with musk; a hundred horses, harnessed with gold and silver; a hundred mules with black hair, with loads of brocade that came from the land of Room and from Persia. After these they brought and laid at the hero's feet a hundred purses filled with gold pieces; a cup of rubies, filled with pure musk; another cup of turquoise, filled with attar of roses; and, last of all, a letter written on pages of silk, in ink made of wine and aloes and amber and the black of lamps. By this letter the King of kings gave anew to Rustem the kingdom of the south. Then Kaoüs blessed him, and said: "May you live as long as men shall see the sun and the moon in heaven! May the great of the earth join themselves to you! May your own soul be full of modesty and tenderness!"
Rustem prostrated himself on the earth, and kissed the throne; and so took his departure.
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