TWENTY -- ‘Amar sets out for Egypt after the pigeon and kills it by the city gates and frees the Amir from captivity, after grief and despair.

When the morning drum sounded, ‘Amar, wearing his ‘ayyari equipment on his body, settled down beneath the royal pigeon-house.  When Bakhtak tied the letter around the pigeon’s neck, drew the pigeon out of the net, and sent it flying off toward Egypt, ‘Amar looked Bakhtak in the eye and threatened him, “Remember!  If, God forbid, even a hair of Hamzah’s head, or of any of his companions’ heads, is harmed, then--not to speak of a worthless piece of goods like you!--the bird of even Naushervan’s soul will have its wings and feathers torn out!  As for those who took part in this scheme--not to speak of them, even their children won’t escape!  Now I’m going to hunt down your pigeon.  You just wait and see what disasters I visit on you when I return!”  The bird of Bakhtak’s soul was almost ready to take flight from the cage of his body--but since shameless ones are tenacious of life, how could his soul take wing?  People picked him up and brought him down from the roof; he remained in a faint for a long time.

Please hear about the Father of the Runners of the World:  calling on the Eternal Creator, he flew along without pausing, in the wing-shadow of the pigeon flying overhead.  Wherever a river, a mound, an embankment blocked his way, he crossed it with a bound, and disregarded every obstacle.  And with every step he kept his eyes fixed on the pigeon, as if he were a hawk pursuing it.

Now I will tell a little about Muqbil the Faithful, and explain to the eager listeners.  When Muqbil mounted the female camel and set out, for one hundred forty miles he went at full gallop.  Then, seeing a canal with clear water more sparkling than a pearl, he got down from the camel, took out the food that had been tied up at his waist, and began to eat breakfast.  He released the camel to graze in the forest, and he himself at once lay down for a rest.  It happened that a good deal of poison-grass grew in the forest.  When the camel ate the poison-grass, she instantly died.  Muqbil, distraught, arose and set out on foot.  After he had gone a number of miles, his feet grew swollen, and he began to stagger and stumble.  Having no choice, he sat down under a tree, and wept and wept until he fainted.

‘Amar, following the pigeon, went along, and on the way he saw the camel lying dead.  He realized, “This is the very camel which Muqbil was riding.”  Going on a little further, he saw Muqbil lying unconscious under a tree, with his feet swollen and his strength exhausted.  ‘Amar at once dripped water into his mouth.  Muqbil opened his eyes and began to weep.  ‘Amar said, “This is not the time for weeping!  Climb on my back quickly, and somehow shoot down that pigeon!”  Muqbil, placing the notch of an arrow on his bowstring, prepared himself, and climbed onto ‘Amar’s back.

‘Amar raced on from there with fiery speed, like a blazing meteor.  ‘Amar’s own words are, “Sometimes I was a bow-shot ahead of the pigeon, and sometimes the pigeon drew near me.”  The Bird which points toward Mecca had not yet settled in its western nest, and the pigeon was just on the verge of reaching the fortress-gates of Egypt and flying over the battlements, when Muqbil released the hawk of his arrow from the nest of his bow.  Instantly the pigeon was seized by the talons of the hawk of Death.  Even when it writhed itself free, wheeling in circles like a falcon, it fell wounded into the moat before it.
‘Amar, picking the pigeon up, opened and read the letter; in order to show the letter to the Amir, he placed it carefully in Zanbil.

Slaughtering the pigeon, he prepared kabobs and gave them to Muqbil to eat.  And with Muqbil he entered the Muslim camp on the bank of the river Nile.  Sultan Bakht of Maghrib, seeing ‘Amar, began to weep and wail.  ‘Amar, wiping his tears with the handkerchief of consolation, said, “It’s hardly the time for anxiety and doubt, for grief and sorrow!  If God wills, I’ll soon free the Amir and bring him here.  If God Most High wills, I’ll rescue you all from this disaster, and then just you watch how I straighten out that hypocritical king!”

== on to Chapter 21 ==

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