TWENTY-EIGHT -- Qarin Elephant-neck sets out to chastise ‘Amar, and dies at the hands of the Veiled One.
        By a combination of trickery and force of arms, ‘Amar took the fort of Tang Ravahil and moved his followers into it.  But Zhopin and Bakhtyarak then besieged the fort, intending to starve him out.  So ‘Amar slipped through their lines and located another fort called Wolfland.  Through his incomparable ruses and ‘ayyari skills, he secured possession of it.  Not without one or two narrow escapes, he managed to bring Mihr Nigar and the whole army into this new fort.  In the old fort he left paper figures propped up, to fool the besiegers and gain time.  His tactics succeeded brilliantly.
        By now Naushervan had sent out so many expeditions against ‘Amar--all of them failures--that he actually contemplated taking personal command on the battlefield.  Buzurchmihr persuaded him not to go in person, but instead to send a huge fresh army, under *Qarin Elephant-neck, to augment Hurmuz’s forces.
The narrator writes that when Qarin Elephant-neck entered Hurmuz’s camp, after completing the stages of the journey, he was delighted to see Hurmuz.  That night all the officers of the army, from the greatest to the least, gathered to welcome him, and the wine-flask began to make the rounds, and cups were poured out for everyone.  In this state of elevation, Qarin said to Hurmuz, “You’ve been sitting here for so many days with your army, you’ve planted yourself on the ground like a mountain!  You haven’t been able to kill one contemptible worthless little ‘ayyar, or even to capture him--you haven’t gotten at him at all, he hasn’t fallen for any of your tricks!  When people hear this, what will they say?  When they hear about it, they’ll be astonished!”

Hurmuz said, “Now you’ve come with a body of a hundred thousand horsemen and foot-soldiers--you’ve brought great warriors with you, and your own prowess too is clearer than the radiant sun itself.  Who is your equal in courage?  When you kill him, or capture him, then will be the time to talk like this, and pride yourself on your prowess!  As yet you’ve just arrived.  Rest for a few days, see how things are around here, then you and I will both see what happens.  When you kill ‘Amar, or capture him, then I’ll commend you.”

Qarin grew angry and said, “I am a soldier; what need do I have of rest?  What does a soldier have to do with such things?  Only let the night pass--give me only that much time.  In the morning, mount and watch the show from a distance.  See whether I take over the fort with ease or not, whether I give a nasty shock to ‘Amar and his friends or not!”  With these words, he ordered the war-drum sounded in his own camp, and arranged everything in proper array for the battle.  At once the sound of trumpets and elephant-trumpets, of cow-tail and tiger-tail horns/1/ and war-drums, grew very loud.  The extreme tumult and commotion began to shake the earth.

The ‘ayyars presented themselves before ‘Amar with folded hands and said, “May the Protector of the City, the most exalted one, live long!  Qarin Elephant-neck, who has been sent by Naushervan with a body of a hundred thousand horsemen and foot-soldiers, has arrived this evening in Hurmuz’s camp.  He has had the war-drum sounded.”  ‘Amar said, “In our camp too let the Drum of Alexandar be sounded:  we ought to show him the power of this army too, so he’ll tremble in his heart.”  In short, through the whole night the war-drums were sounded in both camps.  All night the patrols made their rounds.

When morning came, Hurmuz, Faramarz and Zhopin, who had already tasted the experience of battle with ‘Amar, went and arrayed their ranks well out of range of the fort, so that no disaster would befall them and their army, and Qarin would taste the fruit of his rashness.  But Qarin, dividing his army into four parts, had his horsemen lead their mounts to all four sides of the fort; with great pomp and grandeur he led his army up to the fort, and brought all four gates of the fort within his reach.

‘Amar saw that a countless army was approaching the fort on all four sides, and was showing extreme pomp and martial spirit.  He told the officers of his army, “Today the fort is under attack:  the hostile army is creating a great commotion.  It’s a test of your dexterity and cleverness; the man who stands firm today is a real hero.  Anyone who sets foot within our range must not be allowed to escape alive--he must die where he stands!”

The moment the order was given, from one side Muqbil the Faithful and his twelve thousand archers, fitting their bowstrings into the notches of their arrows, making the arch of their bows bend to their ear-lobes, released the birds of their arrows.  Every arrowhead pierced the breasts of four or five infidels.  In one attack some thousands of men began writhing like slaughtered birds:  the birds of their spirits, slaughtered, began convulsively fluttering.  Those cowards whose breasts had not been the nest of any bird screamed and turned backwards like defective bows, and shunned the very thought of battle.

And from the second side, when the stone-slingers, placing carved and chased elephant-killing stones in the pockets of their slings, whirled them three times and hurled them at the infidels’ foreheads, they sent rank upon rank of the infidels forcibly to Hell.  Some thousands of fire-worshipers bowed their heads as if in prostration, outcastes from both true religion and the world.  The rest turned tail and fled, heedless of everything; they fell to the ground in panic.

From the third side the musketeers kept up such a fire that in one round the lightning of death fell on eighty thousand men, the knife of death was passed over all their necks.  The survivors, roaring like thunder, fled back the way they had come.

From the fourth side, when the fire-fight started with its fire-bottles and naphtha-vessels, then such a rain of fire poured down that along with each fire-devoured victim, three or four rescuers and helpers too became morsels for the mouth of Hell-fire, and in one moment set out for the realm of Eternity.  As they ran hot-footed away, at a blistering pace, their hearts were seared by the loss of their comrades.

Although Qarin’s army was in such a state, and his whole army was laid waste like this, Qarin Elephant-neck, protecting his face with his shield, advanced like a maddened elephant to the gate of the fort, and in his passion and fury never thought of the risk to his life.  He prepared to break down the gate with his mace.

When ‘Amar saw this situation, he grew very anxious and extremely fearful.  He took counsel with himself.  Then he ordered the officers of the army, “Now no plan is possible except this, no other scheme can have effect except this:  Go and cling to the gate of the fort and wait until that infidel strikes his blow, smashes his mace against the gate, and breaks it down.  At that moment take your weapons, strike, and die; give your lives without hesitation.  But this is a time for prayer--we trust in God, and in fact all of you should pray to the Most High with your whole heart and soul!  If He helps us from the realm of the #Unseen, and takes care of us helpless ones, then we will certainly be saved from the hands of this infidel, our hopes will be in bloom.  And if not, then there’s no recourse except for killing and dying; intellect will not be able to devise any way out.”

The army of Islam had lifted their hands in prayer, when before them a dark black cloud of dust appeared, the extent of which covered the whole earth with dust.  The shears of the wind had not yet torn open the collar of the dust when ‘Amar joyously said to the Muslims, “Congratulations, friends!  The Granter of Prayers has heard you, your prayer has had effect.  Look, help from the Unseen has come!  Now you’re all saved from the hands of this infidel.”  Leaning down, he said to Qarin Elephant-neck, “Oh you dead-drunk one, take heed--prepare to die!  Someone has come with an elephant-goad to send you to Hell!  When Qarin turned to look, in truth he saw forty banners emerging from the curtain of dust, and this astonishing sight almost stupefied him.

And a *Veiled One Dressed in Orange, spurring his horse, flashed ahead like lightning until he reached the ditch, so that his awesomeness spread fear in every heart.  He said to Qarin Elephant-neck, “Oh fire-worshiper, who is in this fort, and why are you standing at the gate of the fort?  Why have you planted yourself here like a demon?”  Qarin said, “In this fort are the Muslims, offenders against the King of Kings of the Seven Realms.  They have rebelled against the king--they have no fear of him at all!  I want to break down the gate of the fort and slay them.  Now you tell me who you are, and whom you seek.”

The Veiled One replied, “I have come to help the Muslims; I have brought this army to help them.  First fight with me, then plan to break down the gate of the fort!  When I am dead, then take vengeance on them.”  Qarin said, “First of all, you are a mere boy!  How can I attack you, when the wind caused by my attack will blow you away like a leaf?  How in the world could you withstand my blow?”  The Veiled One said angrily, “Come on, you reprobate, what nonsense are you jabbering?  Come to this side of the moat, so I can claim your soul, and can answer these foolish words of yours!”

Then Qarin grew furious; hearing these words made him wild with rage.  With a leap, he stood beside the Veiled One.  The Veiled One said, “Come on, what kind of attack can you make?  Now you’ll taste the fruit of your indecent jabbering!”  Qarin struck at him with his heavy mace.  The Veiled One evaded the blow, and pulling his lightning-forged sword from his belt, he struck with it at Qarin’s head, so that darkness spread over Qarin’s eyes.

Although Qarin protected his head with his steel shield, that sword, behaving like lightning, didn’t let him take a breath.  Cutting through his steel shield as though it were a ball of soft cheese, cutting through his helmet and head, descending with marvelous sharpness through the vessel of his neck, the sword did not pause even at his breast, but, slicing through his backbone, came down through his horse’s back and out beneath the saddle-girth.  Cutting every part of him into two halves, it emerged with remarkable grace and force, like lightning.  Qarin, with his horse, fell lifeless in four fragments to the ground; in one moment he was obliterated.

The army, seeing what had happened to their general, fell on the Veiled One from all four sides.  The Veiled One’s army too grasped their swords, they drew their tempered swords from their scabbards.  ‘Amar saw that the Veiled One’s army was very small, forty thousand horsemen in all.  Although every one was brave, the difference between the lesser and the greater was incalculable--that is, on the other side were one hundred seventy-five thousand horsemen and foot-soldiers, the other army was that much bigger.  Instantly emerging from the fort with his army, ‘Amar joined forces with the Veiled One for the battle, and prepared to slay Qarin’s army.  That day such a battle took place that seventy thousand horsemen of Qarin’s army were finished off, and on this side no one was even lightly wounded.  The infidel army fled at full speed; there was turmoil in their whole army.

‘Amar said to the Veiled One, “Please tell me your name and rank, and inform me all about yourself, so that when Hamzah comes back from Qaf, he can be told of your generosity and chivalry!  In truth, it would have been no time at all until the fort was looted and we were killed!  But you graciously arrived and saved our lives, as though you had given us life afresh.”  The Veiled One replied, “When the Sahib-qiran comes, then he will himself become aware of my name and rank.  There’s no need for me to tell it now; I don’t wish to show myself off.  Attend to your fort in peace, don’t let any anxiety trouble your heart.  When it is necessary, if God Most High wills, I’ll arrive at once and help you again.”

With these words, the Veiled One returned in the direction from which he had come.  ‘Amar, taking with him all the tents, pavilions, cash, and property of the defeated army, entered the fort.  Through God’s blessing, he became entirely tranquil and carefree.

/1/ A cow-tail [gaa))o dum] horn is a slightly tapering kind of trumpet.  The “elephant trumpet” and “tiger-tail horn” are unknown, and may be dastan inventions.

== on to Chapter 29 ==

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