FIFTEEN -- [The Amir and Landhaur return to Naushervan’s court, where Landhaur narrowly escapes execution.]
        The journey back to Ctesiphon was long and dangerous.  Gustahm had Hamzah poisoned with drugged wine purporting to come from Mihr Nigar, and ‘Amar was hard put to cure him.  (After many vain attempts, the actual cure was wrought by a special amulet Buzurchmihr had secretly inserted under Hamzah’s skin.)  Believing that Hamzah was dead, Naushervan and Bakhtak gleefully arranged for Mihr Nigar to marry another suitor.  But ‘Amar in the guise of an astrologer managed to reach Mihr Nigar and reassure her of Hamzah’s safety; he found that she had planned to kill herself rather than accept the proposed marriage.  Landhaur and ‘Adi then overcame and captured the new suitor for her hand.
        When Naushervan heard the unexpected news of Hamzah’s survival and return to Ctesiphon, he was very much at a loss.  Bakhtak saw his chance to play on the king’s fears.
The ill-starred Bakhtak petitioned Naushervan, “When Hamzah was alone, everyone felt oppressed and intimidated by him, everyone was frightened to death of him.  And now that Landhaur and Bahram are his allies, who can dare to look him in the eye?  Who can face up to those people?  I’m afraid he might wrest the throne from you, and overthrow you outright.”  The king flinched at this speech of Bakhtak’s, and asked fearfully, “Then what should be done about it?”  Bakhtak said, “Get rid of them one by one, turn by turn; gradually over time you will clean them all out.  Tomorrow when Hamzah presents himself before you, please tell him, ‘I told you to bring Landhaur’s head, not to bring him alive and disregard my wishes!’”  Naushervan said, “All right, I give you full authority.  Speak to Hamzah in whatever way you yourself think is proper.”  At that point Bakhtak went home in great happiness.  After enduring a thousand agitations in the night, the moment dawn broke he went to the court.

In the morning, when the Amir came to the court, before anyone else had spoken Bakhtak said to the Amir in a loud voice, “His Majesty says, ‘Did I ask you to bring Landhaur’s head, or to bring him down on my head, and to introduce a disaster into my city?’”  The Amir disliked this speech of Bakhtak’s; he replied, “Was the idea to subjugate him, or to cut off his head to no purpose?  He has presented himself here, with his army, in submission.  He is not rebellious in any way;  with his army he places himself at the king’s service.”  Bakhtak said, “We don’t need his submission!  He is up to no good.  Today he puts his head on the king’s feet, and tomorrow he gets high-headed again, and then what will happen?”

The Amir said, “While I am alive, how could he presume to defy the king, or show any kind of rebellion or disobedience?  But if this is the king’s wish, his head is as good as cut off; my desire is to please His Majesty.”  Bakhtak said, “The king will be satisfied only with his head!  When did the king ever even wish to look at his face?  And how can I believe that Landhaur will give up his head on your say-so, and will never be high-handed or high-headed?”  The Amir said, “Why this is a trifle!  If I give the order, Landhaur will at once bow his head beneath the harsh sword--or rather, he will cut off his head with his own hands.”  Bakhtak said, “Then why the delay, what are we waiting for?  Please send for Landhaur, and tell him what you have just said.”

The Sahib-qiran directed ‘Amar, “Bring Landhaur here.”  ‘Amar came to Landhaur and said, “Come along, the king has ordered your death.  The Amir has sent for you in order to cut your head off as the king has commanded.”  Landhaur rose promptly and said [in Persian],
        “I’m drunk with the wine of love, to my own self I am dead
        Following love’s path, I don’t care at all about my head.
My object is to please the Sahib-qiran.  Here, tie my hands with a kerchief, and take me before the king.”

 ‘Amar, hearing Landhaur’s words, threw his arms around his neck, and gallantly said, “Oh King Landhaur, who would dare even to give you an evil glance, or to look askance at you?  Come with me.  Along with your head, first of all there’s Hamzah’s head.  And after that, there are the heads of all the champions, and my head.  Gird on your weapons confidently, mount your elephant *Maimunah, and come with me.”  Landhaur, girding on his weapons and carrying his mace on his shoulder, mounted his elephant Maimunah and went to the front courtyard of the palace and dismounted.

‘Amar, entering the court pavilion, informed the Amir, “Landhaur, whose head is to be cut off, has presented himself.  He seeks the Amir’s pleasure, no matter what it may involve.”  Outside, Landhaur began throwing his mace up into the air and catching it in his hand.  All around a tumult arose:  “If the mace should slip from his hand, ten or twenty innocent people will die, hundreds will have the bones of their hands and feet broken and be crippled!”  The king, hearing the tumult, said, “Is everything all right?  What’s all that noise?  What kind of fuss is going on?”  People told him the state of affairs.  The king fell silent.

The Amir said, “Bring Landhaur in.”  ‘Amar went and brought him.  Landhaur, with folded hands, asked the Amir, “What is your command?  Why did Your Excellency call me to mind?”  The Amir said, “The king wants your head; he has misgivings about you.”  Landhaur said, “I am your servant, I am ready to do whatever you wish.  I hold myself in submission to you.”  The Amir commanded, “All right, take leave of His Majesty, and go and sit in the front courtyard with your head bowed.  Whoever receives the royal command will come and cut off your head.”  Landhaur, after paying his respects, went into the front courtyard and sat down, using his mace as a backrest.

The Amir ordered ‘Adi, “Cut off Landhaur’s head and bring it here.”  ‘Adi told Landhaur the order.  Landhaur bowed his head and said, “Thanks be to the Lord, that my head is being cut off at the Amir’s order, and I have not fallen short in any way, by even a hair’s breadth, in my submission to him.”  ‘Adi was overcome by Landhaur’s submission, and went and sat beside him, saying, “They’ll have to cut my head off first, before they can so much as give Landhaur an evil look!”

The Amir, hearing how matters stood, ordered Bahram, “Go and cut off Landhaur’s head with your own hands and bring it here.”  Bahram too was deeply affected by Landhaur’s words, and went and sat at Landhaur’s other side:  “My head also is with Landhaur’s head.  If the Amir cuts off our heads with his own hand--well, the necks are ours and the hand is his!”  The Amir, when he heard what Bahram had said, sent Sultan Bakht of Maghrib.  He too came and sat down by Landhaur, and said, “This is a fine kind of bloodshed that the Amir has undertaken!  If this is really what he wants, then my head too is with all theirs.”

All these people’s words came to the ear of the king, and the news-bearers reported directly to him, in detail, everything that had been said.  Bakhtak said, “Why shouldn’t the royal executioner be ordered to cut off and bring the heads of whichever ones the king should please, and finish off the whole business in a moment?”  The Amir said, “You have the authority--send whomever you want.”  Bakhtak instantly made a sign to an executioner.

The executioner went and stood by Landhaur’s head and called out, “Whose life-star is growing dim, whose life-sun is setting?”  ‘Amar saw that the executioner, wearing a tiger-skin vest, with a bloody towel thrust into his belt, and clutching a Burdwani sword, was advancing on Landhaur.  ‘Amar had just hastily slipped behind the executioner’s back--when the sound of an elaborate royal retinue, the calls of outriders, the cries of heralds, respectful and clear, were heard, and gradually reached the palace gate.  When they looked, Queen Mihr Angez and Princess Mihr Nigar were arriving in a palanquin from somewhere or other, and going toward their own palace.

Mihr Angez, looking out through the lattice, asked Mihr Nigar, “What’s this?  Some kind of turmoil and confusion is going on.”  Mihr Nigar said, “Why, it’s Landhaur.”  The queen ordered the eunuchs, “Just go and ask what all this confusion is, and why there is such a crowd at the palace gate.”  The palanquin moved onward very slowly.  The eunuchs inquired, and reported the whole situation.  The queen said, “It’s apparent that the king is bent on bloodshed--he’s set out to murder innocent people for nothing!  Go, bring Landhaur to my palace.”

The eunuchs went to bring Landhaur.  The executioner opposed them.  The queen, hearing of this, said, “Cut off this executioner’s nose and ears, and remove him from the courtyard, and disembowel him and throw his body outside the city walls.”  When the executioner heard this order he lost his nerve, and stayed silent.  Landhaur was freed from this mortal peril and taken to the queen’s palace.  The queen, giving Landhaur a robe of honor, permitted him to depart.  Landhaur, with Bahram and ‘Adi and Sultan Bakht, set out with the greatest joy for Tal Shad Kam.

The news-bearers reported to the king, “Queen Mihr Angez sent for Landhaur, gave him a robe of honor, and permitted him to depart; she gave him back his life.”  Naushervan said, “The queen would not have done this deed thoughtlessly or heedlessly--she must have had some reason for it.  Well, it will come to light; the mystery will eventually be cleared up.”  With these words, he dismissed the court and entered his palace.

== on to Chapter 16 ==

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