THIRTY-SIX -- The dastan of the King of the ‘Ayyars of the Age, the renowned Khvajah ‘Amar, and Hurmuz and Faramarz.
        Eight years passed, and ‘Amar’s successes against the enemy continued.  When provisions ran low, he was always able to find another fort, penetrate it by trickery, seize it somehow, and move his army there under cover of night.  Naushervan’s army could do no more than follow his tracks, and settle in to besiege each new fort in turn.
        Once, while moving from one fort to another, Mihr Nigar tired of her palanquin and traveled for a time on horseback.  Zhopin somehow managed to approach her, seize her horse’s bridle, and protest his love.  She refused to listen, but he persisted.  Finally she drew her dagger and wounded him badly in the head, so that he was forced to run off.
        ‘Amar then disguised himself as a doctor, slipped into the enemy camp, and visited the wounded Zhopin.  In the guise of “treating” the patient, he tied him down, deepened the wound with a razor, and rubbed lime and ratsbane into it.  Zhopin screamed with pain and fainted.  ‘Amar stole everything in the room and slipped away.  Forays like this made ‘Amar a source of terror to the enemy army.
But for fear of ‘Amar, in the infidels’ camp people slept only by turns, in the daytime, and at night they all stayed quite awake; they were very much on the alert for fear ‘Amar would launch a surprise night-attack.  One day, in the evening, Hurmuz, Faramarz and Bakhtyarak, with their officers, were sitting drinking wine, when Katarah, making his rounds as watchman, came by that way, and happened to pass near them.

Bakhtyarak said to Katarah, “How about it, Katarah--’Amar is an ‘ayyar, and you’re an ‘ayyar too!  But he is famous in every city and country.  Just look at what ‘ayyaris he performs, and how cleverly he gets himself out of trouble!  And you aren’t even capable of tying him up and bringing him here, or getting him into your clutches through some trick!”  Katarah was very much ashamed at heart, he was thoroughly abashed at Bakhtyarak’s reproach.  He said, “If I don’t tie ‘Amar up and bring him here today, then I don’t deserve to be called Katarah!”

With these words, he went to the fort and walked all around its walls.  He didn’t find a way anywhere to get in; he couldn’t think of any strategem for gaining entrance to the fort.  But from one tower no voices came, and no human forms could be seen in it.  He realized that the guards in this tower were asleep, all the watchmen and sentries were asleep.  Flinging up his noose, he climbed the tower.  When he looked, in fact they were all sleeping like their own sleeping fortune; they were drunken and heedless with the wine of slumber.  Katarah, cutting off all their heads, ascended to the Royal Tower.

At that time ‘Amar had gone to the ladies’ apartments, to have dinner with Mihr Nigar and help her pass the time.  Katarah went and lay down beneath ‘Amar’s bed; he silently pressed himself against the footboard.  ‘Amar, having eaten dinner, came back from the ladies’ apartments; when he reached the Royal Tower, he lay down on his bed, since it was late at night.  The moment he lay down he went to sleep, he fell into unconscious slumber.

When Katarah heard the sound of ‘Amar’s snoring, he came out from under the bed.  Joining together the sections of his seven-part blowpipe, he put knockout powder in it, brought it near ‘Amar’s nostrils, and blew the knockout powder into ‘Amar’s nose; he managed to do all this!  Even as ‘Amar sneezed, he fell unconscious; he no longer knew what was happening to him.  He was helpless, and was caught in the clutches of his enemy.

Katarah, wrapping four loops of his noose around ‘Amar’s neck, tied his ankles together and carried him slung head-downwards; he held ‘Amar completely in his power.  Wrapping ‘Amar up in his ‘ayyari-cloak, he found a way out through the same tower by which he had come in.  Climbing down from it, he swam across the moat.  He was very happy that ‘Amar had been entrapped by his ‘ayyari.  Taking up the bundle, he went and placed it before Hurmuz and Faramarz, and submitted, “Take ‘Amar, and at least praise me now!”

Hurmuz, Faramarz, Zhopin and Bakhtyarak felt an extraordinary kind of happiness; they were so overjoyed that they could hardly keep control over themselves.  They began flinging their crowns in the air and crying “Bravo!  Bravo!”  They clutched Katarah to their bosoms and praised him very much, and gave him a resplendent robe of honor, and honored him beyond all bounds.  Calling a blacksmith at once, they had ‘Amar loaded down with iron fetters; his every limb was confined by chains.  And all night long, out of sheer happiness, no one went to sleep.

As it happened, toward morning ‘Amar came to his senses, and found himself bound in iron fetters.  Seeing this he said, “’There is no strength or power but in God!’/1/  What a bad dream I’m having, what a dire situation I’m imagining!”  Hurmuz said, “Oh son of a camel-driver, this is no dream--you’re awake!  This captivity is a punishment for your deeds.  You held your head very high, you caused grief to thousands of men--look what retribution you’re receiving now!  Now you’ll never be rescued from our hands.”

‘Amar replied, “You know I’m a pious person, under divine protection.  I’ve been trained in mystical knowledge by Hazrat ‘Ali the Chosen.  I’m not in the habit of being confined:  no one has the strength to keep me imprisoned!  But you have sown thorns in your own fortune, you have lost all your comfort and luxury.  When I get out of here, if I don’t punish every one of you, then I don’t deserve the name ‘Amar, and I’ve disgraced the name of ‘ayyari!”

Hurmuz said, “Even now you hope to live, and to be freed!  Who can free you, now that you’re our prisoner?”  ‘Amar replied, “My Lord is merciful, His holy Essence is forgiving and munificent.  I won’t remain in prison like this.  I’m not afraid of you people at all.  Go ahead and do as much as you can--don’t do me any favors!”  Hurmuz was very much enraged at ‘Amar’s speech.  Giving ‘Amar at once into the executioner’s custody, he commanded, “Take him away and cut off his head--relieve his body of the burden of his head with your harsh sword!”

The narrator writes that the executioner, taking ‘Amar, sat him down on a platform of heaped sand.  Drawing his sword, the executioner came up close to ‘Amar’s head.  ‘Amar saw that no hope of rescue remained, that in a few moments his soul would leave his body for the realm of Nothingness.  He began to remember God and the Prophet.  Silently he said, “Oh Hazrat Khizr, help me!  Rescue me from this hopeless situation!  If I escape alive, then somehow or other I’ll go to the riverbank and offer a fivepenny portion of gruel in your name,/2/ and say the Fatihah/3/ without fail.”

Bakhtyarak, when he saw ‘Amar’s lips moving, said to Hurmuz, “Please order the executioner to kill him without any delay at all--he should finish him off quickly, and turn the morning of his life into night.  Otherwise, before long he’ll escape!  If ‘Amar gets free, he’ll bring down a great calamity on us.  Look, he’s reciting incantations!  His spells are very potent--after saying them, he can’t be harmed in any way.”  Hurmuz gave the executioner a second order.

The executioner told ‘Amar, “If you want to eat or drink anything, do so.  In a few minutes you will die:  the Angel of Death is coming to seize your soul.”  ‘Amar said, “Instead of eating, I’ve swallowed many bitter pills, and I’ve tasted all the world’s pleasures.  I don’t crave anything more. Do your work quickly, and don’t say anything further.”  The executioner, receiving a third order, went up to ‘Amar, and raised his hand to strike.

‘Amar, who was kneeling, looked at the executioner and told him, “My friend, strike with a sharp sword, so that one blow will separate my head from my body, and my soul will not be left writhing in torment.  The cutting edge of your sword is broken--you can’t possibly kill me!”  The executioner began to examine his sword.  ‘Amar, finding his chance, braced both hands against the ground and launched a kick so forcefully against the executioner’s breast, and the kick was so effective, that the sword fell from the executioner’s hand, and he himself began writhing like a ground-tumbler pigeon; he was injured by the blow, and could not get up.

Suddenly voices rose on every side:  “He got him!”  Hurmuz thought that the executioner had killed ‘Amar, that Death had reduced him to nonexistence.  Bakhtyarak told him, “No, Your Excellency--’Amar struck down the executioner, the executioner was overthrown by him.”  Hurmuz said, “In truth, this ‘ayyar is a terror!  He’s so tricky and full of gall--even when he’s dying, he takes someone with him.  Look what he’s done to the executioner!”  Hurmuz sent a second executioner.  That executioner, drawing his sword, came forward to kill ‘Amar, and raised his sword for the stroke.

Then ‘Amar’s eyes filled with tears, and he despaired of his life; his face turned pale with utter hopelessness--when just then a young ‘ayyar, wearing ‘ayyari costume, entered the court, respectfully made obeisance to Hurmuz, and said, “I am an ‘ayyar of the Great Khan Sultan Salsal bin Zal Shamamah the Magician, King of Turkestan; I am chief of all his ‘ayyars.  Naushervan has sent me to announce that the King of Turkestan, with the armies of Turkestan and #Khavar, is coming to your aid; he will soon make his appearance and join you.”  Hurmuz and Faramarz were very much delighted, all sorrow was banished from their hearts.

Having said this, the young ‘ayyar looked toward ‘Amar and asked, “Who is this who is sitting with his head bowed beneath the sword, who has abandoned all hope of life?”  Hurmuz replied, “’Amar ‘Ayyar, whom you must have heard of--it’s he himself!  His deeds left us all helpless and distracted, we were extremely worried and anxious.  Last night Katarah of Kabul, the chief of our ‘ayyars, seized and bound him and brought him here.  Through Katarah’s ‘ayyari and trickery, after all this time ‘Amar has fallen into our clutches!  Even in this condition he’s taken the life of an executioner, he kicked him so hard!  Now we’ve sent a second executioner, to deal him a sword-blow, and send him to the realm of Nothingness.”

The young ‘ayyar said, “As though it would be difficult to kill him!  He has no weapon, and no hope of saving his life.  At the Great Khan’s command I have killed many proud champions so fearsome that even looking at their faces would send a man into panic, so mighty that thousands of men couldn’t stand against one of them.  If you command me, I’ll send his head flying with a single blow, I’ll show you the action of my finely-honed sword and powerful arm.”  Hurmuz said, “Very good.”  He called the executioner back, and sent the young ‘ayyar instead.

The young ‘ayyar, approaching ‘Amar, said to him, “Bow your head and bring your neck before me.”  ‘Amar replied, “I’m sitting here with my head bowed!  Come near me, and wield your sword.”  The young ‘ayyar replied, “I’m not so crazy as to come near you!  I too would be tricked like that executioner.  If you used your peacock-trick/4/ and launched a kick at me too, what could I do against you, how could I deal with you?”  ‘Amar said to himself,  “This one seems very sharp and clever, this young ‘ayyar seems like a real mischief-maker.  He’ll surely kill me!”  ‘Amar grew tearful, his eyes filled with tears; and he despaired of his life.

The young ‘ayyar said in the Greek language, “Oh Khvajah, don’t be tearful, don’t be sorrowful at heart.  I am the ‘ayyar of the Veiled One Dressed in Orange; I’ve come to rescue you, I’ve used a thousand tricks and wiles to get to you.  First spread out your legs so I can cut the shackles on your feet, and free you from this distress.  Then I’ll seat you on my back and get out of here, with some trickery and courage I’ll at once take you away from this place.”

When ‘Amar heard these words, he felt life and hope returning; really it was as if he had been restored to life again.  He spread out his legs, and gave thanks for this kindness.  The young ‘ayyar struck such a blow with his sword that he sent the fetters flying off from both ‘Amar’s feet with a single stroke.  Then, seating ‘Amar on his back, he ran off so swiftly that no one could follow his trail.

Tumult broke out in the courtyard; people came running from all directions, drawing their swords.  Many foot-soldiers and horsemen rushed to seize him.  The young ‘ayyar drew his sword from the scabbard.  Any infidel he struck with it never raised his head again.  ‘Amar, who was seated on his back, began to pull off everyone’s turban, and kick out with his feet.  At length the young ‘ayyar fought his way out with ‘Amar from the infidel camp, and nobody was even able to get close to him.

Finally he reached the forest.  Letting ‘Amar down from his back, he told him, “Well, goodbye.  Now you go to your fort, and I’ll go to my home, I’ll take my leave now.”  ‘Amar said, “Please wait a minute--let me go with you, let me accompany you.”  The young ‘ayyar replied, “I’m not such a fool as to stand here, or stay near you now for even a moment!  If you seized and bound me and asked me the Veiled One’s name, how could I answer you, how could I get rid of you?”  With these words he set out toward the wilderness, and took leave of ‘Amar from a distance.

‘Amar entered his fort, relieved from anxiety.  He saw that everyone, great and small, was weeping and praying, “Oh God, let us see ‘Amar alive, let him return to us healthy and well!”  When their gaze fell on ‘Amar, they prostrated themselves in gratitude, and each one fulfilled the vows he had made for ‘Amar’s safety.  Mihr Nigar had made herself distraught with worry about ‘Amar.  When she heard the news of ‘Amar’s arrival, it was as though life had been restored to a dead person, she was as happy as if she had won sovereignty over the Seven Realms.  Sending for ‘Amar, she embraced him and began to weep, and at once, out of gratitude for his safety, gave a number of trays full of jewels to the poor and needy.  And she spent a week in joyful festivities, full of merriment and mirth.

Hurmuz asked Bakhtyarak, “Who was that who carried off ‘Amar, who played such a trick on us?”  Bakhtyarak said, “’Amar was telling the truth:  the Lord’s special servants cannot be killed, and cannot be imprisoned by anyone.  Help constantly comes for them from the heavens; surely the Creator of all the world sends them aid.  No one can torment them or gain any power over them at all.”  Hurmuz remained silent.

/1/ This Arabic expression, [laa;haul v))al quvvat], is commonly used in Urdu to express disgust.
/2/ To float a bowl of the finest halvah down the river for the poor to find was a common Indo-Muslim custom during Shab-e Barat.  Gruel [daliyaa] is a poor substitute indeed, and the amount ‘Amar promises is extremely minute.  A cowrie [ko;Rii] was a tiny shell used as the smallest unit of money; twenty cowries equalled a penny.
/3/ The Fatihah is the brief opening chapter (1:1-5) of the Qur’an.
/4/ The peacock-trick [mor chaal] consists of walking on the hands.

== on to Chapter 37 ==

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