TWENTY-NINE -- [‘Amar persuades Zhopin that the Amir is dead.]

Now please hear about Hurmuz and Faramarz.  When they were defeated by the Veiled One and fled, they ran twenty-four miles before they stopped to take a breath, they didn’t pause to rest even a moment.  On Bakhtyarak’s advice, they wrote telling the whole matter to the king:  “The #revolving of the heavens has brought down such a calamity upon us--the whole army was caught in a great disaster!”

Naushervan sent off, with a renowned champion, treasure and tents and pavilions for his sons.  He wrote to them in a note, “This treasure and these tents are being sent off to you, and very soon a fierce army will be reaching you.  Be careful, and don’t by any means cease to pursue ‘Amar; don’t turn aside from encountering him.”  Hurmuz and Faramarz, seeing the contents of the note, were reassured.  Collecting the looted, beaten, runaway soldiers, they again camped before the fort with a body of forty thousand horsemen.

Now please hear about the army of Islam.  When no more provisions remained in the fort, everyone said to ‘Adi, “The food is all gone, it’s as if we too are finished!  What remains won’t feed us for more than four days--then everyone will die of hunger!  It’s proper to inform Khvajah ‘Amar right now; some solution for this problem is very urgently necessary.”  ‘Adi said, “All of you come with me, and tell him all about it.  If I go alone to tell him, he won’t believe me:  he’ll think me a liar and suspect that I have some personal interest in the matter!  This idea will enter his heart, and there will be ill-will between him and me for no reason.”

The whole army together went with ‘Adi to ‘Amar, and informed him that the food was finished, and told him that the inhabitants of the fort were worried, and said, “Please either have the gate of the fort opened, so that we can attack the enemy and die fighting, or arrange for food, so that we won’t die clawing the earth with hunger, and waste our lives for nothing.”  ‘Amar said,  “My children, there is still food here for four days.  All of you calmly remain in your proper places; keep your hearts firm with trust in God’s grace.  I have sown the seeds, I’ve spent a lot of wealth in cultivating them--the harvest is about to be ready, in a few days there will be a storehouse full of grain.”  The soldiers returned to their places full of confidence; they trusted ‘Amar’s word and rejoiced in their hearts.

But ‘Amar dived into the ocean of thought.  After a moment such a satisfactory piece of ‘ayyari occurred to him that he happily lifted his head; the scheme that had entered his heart caused him to rejoice greatly.  So putting his troops on the alert, he left the fort and went into a mountain valley.  Placing his hand on Zanbil, he requested a miracle.  From it he received this strange phenomenon:  he immediately became forty yards in stature, and a lustrous white beard a foot long appeared around his face--this kind of extraordinary appearance became manifest.  Walking along on high wooden sandals, with a tiger-skin sack tucked under his arm, he began looking around like a stranger at Hurmuz’s camp and fort, and mumbling extraordinary things.

By chance, *Katarah of Kabul the ‘ayyar, who was Zhopin’s nephew, came by that way.  Seeing ‘Amar’s appearance and stature, he was petrified with astonishment--he turned pale with extreme fear and awe, for he had never seen a man of such an appearance.  Trembling and fearful, he approached and courteously saluted him and showed him great reverence and respect; with folded hands he asked, “Where have you come from, sir, for what purpose have you come this way, and why do you stare repeatedly at the camp and fort?  You are staring wildly and furiously!”

‘Amar said, “Who are you to ask, and what do you mean by asking?  What is your name?”  He replied, “I am the chief of Hurmuz’s ‘ayyars, and the nephew of Naushervan’s son-in-law/1/; I’m known as Katarah of Kabul, and I’m greatly honored by Naushervan’s favor.”  ‘Amar said, “Sa’d of the #Dark Regions is my name, and I have an important task to perform.  I’m the younger brother of Alexander of the Dark Regions, King of the Dark Regions.  A man named Hamzah had gone to the aid of Shahpal, King of Kings of the Realm of Qaf.  This man showed great hardihood, but when he confronted a Dev named ‘Ifrit--well, one was a Dev and the other a son of Adam!  With just one blow his bones were shattered.

“Shahpal, putting his bones in a leather bag, sent them to my brother, saying ‘Your border is nearer the border of the sons of Adam--you can easily accomplish this task.  Send this bag through somebody to Naushervan, so he can have these bones buried in a cemetery of the sons of Adam.  Lift this burden from my neck.’  For a time my brother waited, thinking that if any son of Adam passed by that way, he could send the bag through him to Naushervan, and complete this good deed.  When for some time no son of Adam passed by that way, my brother ordered, ‘You go yourself, deliver the bag, and earn the religious merit for it.’  So I’m looking to see if this is the fort of Ctesiphon, and the camp of Hamzah, or not.  I’m perplexed, and I’ve been wandering around for many days.”

Katarah, hearing this, was overjoyed:  it was as if the light of his desire had been lit.  He said, “Your Honor, this is the camp of Naushervan’s son-in-law and sons.  Please come along, I’ll take you to them, and introduce you to them.”  He replied, “What could be better?  ‘What does a blind man want?  Two eyes!’”  Katarah, with great happiness, brought him to Zhopin, and told Zhopin the whole story.  Zhopin, seating ‘Amar with great reverence and respect in a jewel-adorned chair, inquired about his well-being, and pleased him with his courtesy and graciousness.  ‘Amar repeated all that he had said to Katarah.
Zhopin, showing him great hospitality, said, “Where is that bag?  Please give it to me, and accept a receipt for it from me.  I’ll send the bag very securely to the king, and write all the circumstances in detail and submit them in the king’s service.”  ‘Amar took a serpent-skin bag from his sack, confided it to Zhopin, and thus passed on the burden of his trust to him.  ‘Amar said, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind!  I’m very grateful, and have been extremely pleased to meet you.  Well, may the Lord protect you; now I’ll take my leave.”

Zhopin urged him very much, “Please remain for some days as a guest, rest yourself from the fatigue of the road, and be gracious to us!  You must certainly delight the princes too with your radiant beauty!  We wish to show you every respect.”  Nevertheless, ‘Amar did not agree.  Returning to his own fort, he took on his true form, and became his real self again.  The officers of the army asked about food.  He gave them this answer:  “Brothers, today I have just returned from scattering the seeds.  In two or three days you can all go and reap the harvest, and take your ease in comfort.”

Please hear about Zhopin.  Taking that bag, he showed it to Hurmuz and Faramarz, told them all about Sa’d of Zulmat’s visit and his strange aspect, and informed them of his appearance and the whole situation.  Hurmuz and Faramarz, hearing of Hamzah’s fate, were so overjoyed that they could hardly contain themselves.  But Bakhtyarak laughed and replied, “I see ‘Amar’s ‘ayyari in this; this trickery strikes me as just in his style!  May Lat and Manat not make me speak falsely, may they make my judgment correct.  The people in the fort have no food, and ‘Amar is distracted with worry.  So he has invented this scheme for stocking the fort with food; he has taken advantage of your gullibility.  Because if in truth Hamzah had been killed, the Parizads would have come and informed ‘Amar, they would certainly have told him about Hamzah’s fate.  And this creature was forty yards tall.  If ‘Amar wants, he can miraculously become a thousand yards in stature.  Whatever kind of appearance he wants, he can assume.”

Zhopin said, “On this bag are the seals of four hundred kings of Qaf--why should we consider them unreliable, and accept your foolish opinion without proof?”  Bakhtyarak answered, “It’s up to you, but I don’t believe that his information is accurate or his words trustworthy.”  Zhopin said, “In any case we should keep silent, and say nothing about this matter.  I’ll send for news of the fort, and verify how things are there.”  With these words, he urged the ‘ayyars to bring word about the fort, and to make great efforts to discover how ‘Amar and the officers of the army were behaving:  whether they were cheerful, or had heard the news of Hamzah’s death and were absorbed in grief and lamentation.

Please hear about ‘Amar.  From that same day he had stopped the sounding of the drum, and had maintained a kind of silence in the fort.  Zhopin’s ‘ayyars prowled around the fort for three days, and found absolutely none of the former hustle and bustle, they didn’t see the people of the fort showing good cheer.  On the fourth day they went and said to Zhopin, “There’s complete silence in the fort:  in three days and nights we didn’t hear the drum beaten even once, we didn’t see that anyone was cheerful.  Formerly, the drum used to be beaten in the fort at all five prayer-times, everyone was cheerful and looked entirely carefree.”  Bakhtyarak, when he heard this, said, “If this is the situation, then it’s surely not without cause:  one or another bad event has happened, without a doubt Hamzah has died in Qaf.”  Hurmuz and Faramarz and Bakhtyarak and Zhopin and the officers of the army were delighted; all anxiety vanished from their hearts.

And as for what ‘Amar did, that night at midnight he told his whole army, “All of you call out the Amir’s name, weep and lament loudly, express grief.”  Cries of ‘Alas, Sahib-qiran!’ and ‘Oh woe, Sahib-qiran!’ were raised.  Hurmuz and Faramarz and Zhopin and Bakhtyarak had their ears open.  When they heard this they all were filled with joy.  When they heard the fort-dwellers’ wailing and lamentation, they were so happy they couldn’t contain themselves.  They had the drum of celebration sounded, and from the least to the greatest, all were convinced of the Amir’s death.

/1/ Zhopin is presumably given this title by Katarah in anticipation of his expected marriage with Mihr Nigar.

== on to Chapter 30 ==

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