SEVENTEEN -- [The Amir is tricked into setting out to conquer the kings of the Seven Lands.]

Please hear about Bakhtak:  When he heard that the king had written Hamzah a formal agreement, promising to celebrate the marriage in twenty days, and to remain true to his word and vow, five of those days had already passed, and fifteen days remained till the marriage.  On both sides arrangements were being made for the marriage; these nuptials were being eagerly discussed in every house in the city.  Then Bakhtak was consumed by the fire of envy, his whole body burned to black ashes in the fire of despair.  Even though the wounds on his burned body were not yet crusted over, he went feverishly to burst his burn-blisters in the king’s service.

In order to inflame the king afresh he came, fuming, into the king’s presence.  In private he said, “I have heard that Your Majesty has written Hamzah a promise to hold the marriage in twenty days, and that preparations for the marriage are under way.  Everyone in the whole city is agog over it.  It is a thousand pities that Your Majesty does not respect his own word!  In addition to the fact that it’s in no way proper to marry the princess to Hamzah, it’s become well known in all lands that the King of Kings of the Seven Realms has decided not to accept Hamzah as a son-in-law!  And everyone who has heard it has said, ‘In truth, why should the King of Kings give his daughter to an outsider, one who worships an invisible god?  And how could he marry his daughter to a foreigner, one who is alien to religion and to the community?’  And now Your Majesty has readily agreed to this marriage!  What will all these people say?  How will everybody and his brother regard Your Majesty’s word?”

Naushervan said, “Then what shall I do?  I’m seriously worried.  I can’t find any way out--no plan has been any good!”  Bakhtak said, “Let Your Majesty not have misgivings.  I have decided on an appropriate plan--I have thought of a rare thing.”  Naushervan asked, “What is it you’ve thought of?”  Bakhtak said, “Tomorrow when small and great present themselves at court, and Hamzah comes as usual, bringing his friends and companions along with him, I will send two or three men with their ears and noses lopped off.  They will swing the #Chain of Justice.  Your Majesty, according to custom, will send for them and ask what is the matter.

“They will petition, ‘We are Your Majesty’s longtime servants; we have collected the tax of the Seven Lands every year, and sent it to Your Majesty.  This year no one has given even a penny!  Rather, they have degraded and humiliated us further.  They say, ‘The King of the Seven Realms is not worthy of receiving tribute!  For he, a fire-worshiper, gave his daughter to a Muslim named Hamzah, and showed no respect or honor or esteem for his ancestors’ reputation.  Now let the king’s son-in-law come and just try to take tribute from us!’  When your slaves insisted, they disfigured us as you see and expelled us from their borders.’  When Hamzah hears this speech, he will, in the heat of pride, undoubtedly ask you for leave to go.”  Naushervan was very pleased by this advice of Bakhtak’s.  That day black-fortuned Bakhtak took his leave and went home.

The next day when the king, seated on his throne, brightened the court with his radiant presence, and wise men learned in the faith of Nimrod, and champions of powerful aspect, presented themselves, and the Amir too came and sat in the Seat of Rustam, someone swung the Chain of Justice.  When the sound of the chain came to Naushervan’s ears, he sent for the petitioners, and summoned the suppliants into his presence.  He saw that some people with their ears and noses lopped off were seeking justice:  they were distressed and distraught and in a wretched condition.  All those present in court began to regard them, wondering, “Who has done this to them, and slashed off their ears and noses at the root?”  The petitioners said, in a very effective way, all the things that Bakhtak had told them to say.

Every hair on the Amir’s body stood on end with fury, his #Hashimite vein pulsed with rage.  Irrepressibly he spoke up, “By the Lord of the Ka’bah, until I extract tribute from those rebels I will absolutely, absolutely not marry!”  He ordered ‘Adi, “Have the vanguard start out this very day for the Seven Lands, and have the army take no more food or drink in this city.”  Naushervan said, “Oh Father of Greatness, if this is your wish, then first get this marriage out of the way, and afterwards go and box their ears.”  The Amir said, “Your humble servant has sworn an oath:  until I extract tribute from the rebels in that land, I won’t even think of marrying!  Let Your Majesty not insist on this, but cheerfully and gladly permit me to depart.”

The king said, “If this is your wish, then leave Landhaur or Bahram behind for the princess’s protection.”  The Amir was very pleased with this idea, and ordered Bahram, “Remain in attendance upon the princess.”  The king gave the Amir a robe of honor, and writing seven letters addressed to the kings of the Seven Lands, he gave them to the Amir and permitted him to depart:  “Please send these to all the kings, and insofar as possible, conciliate them.”  And he sent *Qarin the Dev-taker, and twelve thousand Sasanians, along with the Amir, with orders to do whatever the Amir commanded, and never to fail in obedience to the Amir in any way.

The Amir petitioned, “Instead of Qarin please send some other officer with me, and keep him in Your Majesty’s service, because he is the son of a venerable elder among the Sasanians, and related to the royal family.  Besides this, on a number of occasions he and I have already disagreed/1/; if on the journey too he should quarrel with me, it won’t be good.  Even if I overlook it, my companions will never allow him to remain alive.”  Qarin wrote a letter of allegiance containing this oath:  “If I commit any fault, the Amir has the right to kill me, and I will have no claim to pardon.”  The Amir said, “I will pardon up to two faults; at the third fault I will punish you.”

The Amir took his leave and returned to Tal Shad Kam.  The king wrote seven letters addressed to the seven kings, and confided them to Qarin.  The contents of those letters was this:  “We have sent Hamzah this way for good cause.  Not to speak of tribute, don’t let him even enter your presence.  Cut off his head and send it to us.”  And giving seven drams of deadly poison to Qarin, he commanded, “When you get the chance, feed this to Hamzah.”  Honoring him with a robe of honor, he permitted him to depart.  Qarin presented himself at the Amir’s camp.

The Amir had the departure-drum sounded, and with his victorious-appearing army, set out for his intended destination.  ‘Amar said to the Amir, “You are in love with the battle-lines--your love for Mihr Nigar is only lip service!  However, it’s your privilege:  go wherever you want, spend your life conquering countries, travel on through new lands and cities, fight on battlefields, organize combats, make your troops and champions fight so you can enjoy the show!  This humble servant has wandered with you for a long time, and what disasters has he not narrowly escaped!  Now he goes to Mecca; there he will pray for you.  If you want to give me any letter for your revered father, please give it, and I will present it in his service.”  The Amir wrote a letter and entrusted it to him.  ‘Amar set out for Mecca the Noble.

/1/ No such occasions have been described in the text.

== on to Chapter 18 ==

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