TWENTY-SEVEN -- [Akhzar Elephant-ears besieges the fort, falls victim to ‘Amar’s trickery, and is driven to suicide.]

Finally the next day, taking with him seventy thousand of his own horsemen and thirty thousand from Hurmuz’s army, Akhzar Elephant-ears besieged the fort, and made his soldiers pledge to show courage and dedication.

‘Amar, at that time, pulled Hurmuz out of Zanbil, and saw that he was unconscious.  He let fall a few drops of hot vinegar on his lips, and caused him to swallow them.  Hurmuz opened his eyes.  He saw ‘Amar resplendent on a jewel-adorned chair; at his left and right were officers and kings of Yemen and Tang Ravahil and the Seven Cities, every one attentive in his service.  Muqbil the Faithful, accompanied by twelve thousand unerring archers, and champions with powerful bodies drawn up in companies here and there, and musketeers and cannoneers and gasoline-bottle-throwers and stone-slingers, was standing alert on the battlements.

Seeing himself caught in the enemy’s grip, Hurmuz despaired of life, and burst into tears; he trembled with anxiety, full of fear and dread.  ‘Amar, seeing that Hurmuz wept, comforted him, and offered him much reassurance:  “Oh Prince, don’t be afraid.  I won’t mistreat you in any way or cause you any suffering.  But I’ll make you three proposals.  If you’ll accept even one of the three, you will do yourself and me a favor, and can be entirely at ease.”  Hurmuz asked, “What are the three proposals?  State them, so I can listen and then reply.”
‘Amar said, “The first proposal is that you become a Muslim and rule over the Muslims.  Renounce idolatry, and do good to yourself!”  Hurmuz said, “I cannot do this.  I cannot leave the faith of my fathers, and turn my face from the religion of my ancestors.”  ‘Amar said, “To become a Muslim would have been better for you.  It would have been good for you in religion and in the world, and after death you would have slept peacefully in the grave.  But you cannot accept it; I am helpless.  It is your fate to remain far from edification.

“The second proposal is, that you persuade Naushervan not to fight with me until the Sahib-qiran comes:  not to obstruct me, not to undertake anything against me.  When the Sahib-qiran returns from Qaf, let Naushervan deal with him as he pleases.  The Sahib-qiran has left Mihr Nigar with me as a trust.  Until he returns, I will not fail to be trustworthy, and will not do anything to jeopardize his interests in his absence.  If Naushervan keeps pursuing me, there’s no telling what disrespect I might be guilty of, and Hamzah might be displeased.  You must understand that now I can treat you however I please, without any fear.”  Hurmuz said, “Perhaps Naushervan might accept your second proposal.”

‘Amar said, “Oh Hurmuz, I know that Naushervan will not agree.  Even if he does, Bakhtak and Bakhtyarak will never give up their vile ways, or cease to meddle in the matter!  However, I overlook even this, and pass over this proposal too.  My third proposal is that from now on you should never fight against me.  If you do so, then I am not at fault, and you will have no complaint against me.”  Hurmuz said, “I make you a firm promise that from now on I will never fight against you--I won’t even mention the word ‘fight’!”

As this conversation was taking place, Akhzar Elephant-ears with his army arrived before the fort.  ‘Amar saw that Akhzar was advancing on the fort with a huge army, and had brought his troops prepared for battle.  Standing Hurmuz up on the battlements, he called, “Oh Akhzar, believe me, know for sure that if even one of you takes a step forward, I will sever Hurmuz’s head from his body and throw it into the moat!  Afterwards, whatever is to happen will happen.”  Bakhtyarak said to Akhzar, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that son of a camel-driver does exactly what he says, and Hurmuz dies at his hands!  So it will be better if we sound the retiring-drum and go back; otherwise Hurmuz’s life may be lost.”  Akhzar Elephant-ears, ordering the retiring-drum sounded, turned back toward his tent.

‘Amar, dressing Hurmuz in a princely robe of honor, mounting him on a horse, and holding the saddle-thongs, conducted him to his own camp.  Then he himself, going to Mihr Nigar, told her the whole story, and fully described all his own actions and Hurmuz’s discomfiture.  Mihr Nigar was very pleased and said, “Oh Father, I pray night and day for your victory, for I am very fearful of those people’s huge army and prowess in war, compared to yours.”

Please hear about Hurmuz.  Entering the camp, he said to Bakhtyarak  and Akhzar Elephant-ears, “I’ve made a promise to ‘Amar, and he has made me swear and give my word, that from today on I will not seek to fight against him, and will absolutely not set foot in the battlefield; and I will persuade the king as well not to fight, and will most urgently forbid him to show enmity to ‘Amar.  So you also, oh Bakhtyarak, renounce your trickery and deceit and scheming, and turn away from malice and mischief, treachery and enmity.”

Bakhtyarak said, “I’m your servant, and with all my heart and soul seek to please you.  As this servant is commanded, he will obey.”  But Akhzar said, “I have come to destroy the fort and kill the Muslims and carry off Mihr Nigar.  I was given this order by the king, and until I carry out the king’s order, and bring these matters to a conclusion, I will stay here as fixedly as the Pole Star.  I won’t move a step away from here until I have fulfilled my purpose.”

Hurmuz was not pleased by this speech, and did not accept his argument, and said, “I have proved by thorough experience that a man whose body is puffed up with excess phlegm/1/ cannot perform tasks involving courage and bravery!  Such a man is worsted in whatever he tries to do.”  Akhzar, hearing these words of Hurmuz’s, was enraged, and said, “Oh Prince, the war-cry of heroes which would deafen the ears of the thunder itself, and the lightning-flash of their swords which dazzle the enemy’s eye--these you have not seen; thus this idea has settled in your mind.  Princes and kings ought not to bandy words with soldiers!”  Hurmuz frowned at his words, and at once had the departure-drum sounded, and set out with his army toward Ctesiphon.

But Akhzar had the war-drum sounded; he did not cease from his vile behavior.  ‘Amar, hearing the sound of the war-drum, was startled:  “Hurmuz just now promised me that as long as he lived he would not fight against me, and would not embroil himself in this business.  Now he has gone to his camp and had the war-drum sounded, and completely forgotten his promise!  Let me go and find out how things stand, and what’s going on.”  When ‘Amar left the fort and went towards Hurmuz’s camp, he discovered that Hurmuz, with his army, had set out for Ctesiphon, but that Akhzar had quarreled with Hurmuz and remained:  he had ordered the war-drum sounded and prepared to fight, and had made his soldiers swear that the next day they would conquer the fort or die.

‘Amar, having heard all this, spent the day doing one thing and another.  When night came, he took on the guise of a foot-soldier.  And when he entered Akhzar Elephant-ears’ camp, he saw that every officer was engrossed in preparing for battle.  ‘Amar, stealing along quietly, keeping out of sight, arrived near Akhzar’s tent.  He saw that a number of torches had been lit near the door, but the watchmen were all asleep, and were unconscious and oblivious.  Pulling up one of the tent-pegs, he entered the tent.  He found Akhzar Elephant-ears snoring like a trumpet.

‘Amar waved his ‘ayyari-cloak and extinguished the lamp, and darkened the tent.  But he kept a candle-wick burning for his ‘ayyari.  Sitting beside the bed, he assembled his seven-part blow-pipe, and put in it two pinches of knockout powder.  When he applied it to Akhzar’s nostrils and blew, all the knockout powder entered his brain.  With one quick sneeze he lost consciousness, and fell senseless from the effects of the knockout drug.  ‘Amar rose and made the servants unconscious also.  Whatever goods were in the tent he bundled up and confided to Zanbil.

Tying Akhzar Elephant-ears himself into a bundle, he lifted him to his shoulders and, taking one of the tent-poles, went outside.  He dug a hole and set up the tent-pole at a crossroads in the camp.  Cutting off one of Akhzar’s ears, he blackened his whole body, put dots of seven colors here and there, showed off fresh inventions of his ‘ayyari, tied him upside down to the pole, and attached a small pennant to him like a tail.  He inflicted this great disgrace on his enemy, and in place of a banner he wrote something in seven colors on a sheet of paper and stuck it atop the pole, and paid no further heed to Akhzar’s enmity or his armed might.

At the gate of his own fort he saw some people and was worried; he had misgivings about this.  Then, when he leaped across the moat, a voice came from the wall, “Who is it?”  ‘Amar said, “I’m ‘Amar, but tell me, why is there such a crowd by the moat?”  Mahtar ‘Aqiq said, “Sarhang the Egyptian has come with seventy thousand golden tumans of bright gold, and seven ranks of camels from #Barda’ and Baghdad, and some ranks of mules laden with gifts, and a company of three hundred ‘ayyars--he has brought all this for you!”  ‘Amar, hearing this news, was very joyful, and was relieved of his misgivings.  Sending for Sarhang the Egyptian, he embraced him, and, with the wealth and the loads of goods, entered the fort.  ‘Amar was extremely delighted at his arrival, and at his bringing so much wealth and property and so many ‘ayyars.

When morning came, he bestowed on Sarhang the Egyptian a gold-embroidered waistcoat and an ornamented turban in which two kingly pearls were set, along with a decorated dagger and a sword and shield, and said, “Take all that you have brought with you to Zuhrah of Egypt; convey all these goods to her.”  Sarhang the Egyptian obeyed ‘Amar’s order, and hastened to do his bidding.  Zuhrah of Egypt presented the goods in Princess Mihr Nigar’s service; she showed each item to her one by one.

Mihr Nigar, sending for ‘Amar, confided those goods to his keeping; and removing the robe and jewelry she was wearing, she gave them to Zuhrah of Egypt.  When ‘Amar told the princess the story of Akhzar Elephant-ears, the princess laughed and said, “Khvajah, God has made you the King of Islam, and given you a high rank!  The protection of forty saints is around your head.  You will always be triumphant and victorious, you will never be overcome or humiliated by anybody.”  ‘Amar, very pleased with these words, began to call down blessings on Mihr Nigar, and with utter joy made the gesture of warding off evil from her onto himself.

He said to Mihr Nigar, “Out of these seventy thousand tumans, I intend to spend thirty thousand to buy provisions and supply the fort, and remove everyone’s worries about food and drink.  And I’ll give forty thousand tumans to Sarhang the Egyptian, and send him to buy twelve thousand slaves from Abyssinia and Zanzibar.  Those people will be very very useful, and will bring great projects to fulfillment.  I will teach them naphtha-throwing, bottle-throwing, musket-shooting, brick-throwing, and stone-slinging.  Then you’ll see what a disaster I bring down upon that army!”  The princess said, “Father, your idea is exactly right.  Who is wiser than you?”

Now please listen to a few sentences of the dastan of Akhzar Elephant-ears.  The whole night he hung tied to the tent-pole with his pennant tail, and the tent-pole just stood there in the same way, and in the camp the war-drum kept sounding.  When morning came, the army prepared itself and came to the threshhold.  When they looked straight ahead, on a tent-pole at the crossroads of the camp they saw a man hanging upside down, not even moving a hand or foot.  When they went near, they saw that he was black with soot from head to foot, he was in a most wretched condition.  And yellow, white, blue, red--dots of all colors had been put on him; a remarkable kind of jest had been practiced on that fool.  One ear had been cut off too.  Although they looked carefully, to see if they knew his face, no one could recognize him, no one could understand that extraordinary trick.

When they noticed the words of the message, they saw written, “Oh fire-worshiper, you quarreled with Hurmuz and stayed behind in order to kill me, destroy the fort, and take away Mihr Nigar!  For this reason I’ve twisted your ears a bit, I’ve given you this treatment:  I’ve cut off one of your ears and flown this pennant, I’ve made you look so frightful.  Be warned--remove the cotton-wool of heedlessness from your ears, come to your senses even now, and rescue your life from my hands!  Otherwise...people call me the *’Ayyar and King of ‘Ayyars, shaver of infidels’ beards, head-chopper of the high-headed, ear-twister of those deaf to counsel, the belly-splitter, beyond the law--Khvajah ‘Amar ‘Ayyar!  People go about in fear of my ‘ayyari.  Now I’ve done only this much to you; a smallish disaster has come down on your head.  If you are insolent in the future, you’ll see what things I’ll do to you, how I’ll humble and humiliate you!”

From reading this paper, people realized that this was Akhzar Elephant-ears.  Instantly they freed him and brought him into his tent.  They removed all those black marks from his body and rescued him from this repulsive appearance, and dressed him.  Akhzar said, weeping, “How can I go to Ctesiphon and show my face to anyone?  I’ve been so disgraced and humiliated that I’ll never go there while I live!”  With these words, he drove a dagger into his side with such force that it emerged from the other side.  Then with another thrust of his dagger at his neck, he slashed his throat; writhing in helpless agony, in this dire way he went straight to Hell.  Leaderless armies never fight, they never stand firm on the battlefield again.  All seventy thousand out of the seventy thousand, taking Akhzar’s body with them, set out toward Ctesiphon, and every trace of them vanished.

The news reached ‘Amar that Akhzar had killed himself in this way, and had with his own hands ripped open the collar of his life; and the army, taking his body, had gone to Ctesiphon.  Very happy, ‘Amar went at once to the Ka’bah and performed the prayer of thanksgiving.  He had the gate of the fort opened, and told Mihr Nigar the good news.  Mihr Nigar prostrated herself in a prayer of gratitude; she congratulated ‘Amar on his triumph and victory.

‘Amar invited the nobles of Mecca to a feast, and begged them, “You must help me collect thirty thousand tumans worth of food; you must do me this favor.”  They said, “Oh Khvajah, may God the Mighty and Glorious keep you ever triumphant and victorious!  The food can be procured, but we feel great fear and anxiety.  We are very much afraid that when Naushervan sees the body of Akhzar Elephant-ears, he will be in a furious rage.  There’s no telling how huge an army he will send, or whether he himself will advance upon us--and if that happens, we cannot do anything but die.  Who in the world can fight against him?  A better idea would be for you to arrange some other strong, convenient fort for the present, and fill it up with food, and thus provide a way to save the city.  And we all, from the least to the greatest, will bless you:  we will sit in the Ka’bah and continually pray for your triumph and victory, and will secretly look after you.”

‘Amar told Khvajah ‘Abdul Muttalib that the nobles of Mecca had said this.  The Khvajah said, “In truth the poor things have spoken rightly, and they are quite justified in their fear and anxiety.”  ‘Amar felt that the Khvajah too wanted him to go away to some other place, so that the people of Mecca might escape from Naushervan’s hands.  ‘Amar, telling his officers the real situation, asked them for advice:  “Where should we go?”  ‘Adi said, “For the time being we should go and camp at the fort of Tang Ravahil and rest a bit there.  Then we can locate some other strong fort, and take it, and acquire supplies.”

‘Amar at once had the army leave the fort, and when two watches of the night had passed, he placed Mihr Nigar in a palanquin, and ordered the chiefs of Yemen and Tang Ravahil and the Seven Cities to ride with her palanquin to protect her.  The caravan traveled throughout the night.  When morning came, ‘Amar halted the army in the wilderness and issued grass and grain for the animals and food for the troops, and stayed to rest a bit in the wilderness.  Early in the afternoon, he instructed Muqbil and all the officers to protect Mihr Nigar, and himself took on the appearance of a powerful holy *darvesh and set out for the fort of Tang Ravahil.

/1/ Indo-Muslim medical theory followed the classic Greek school that postulated four bodily humors:  blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile.  The dominant humor determined not only the physical constitution, but the temperament as well.

== on to Chapter 28 ==

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