FORTY-TWO -- [‘Amar’s fort
is treacherously attacked through a tunnel, but the plot is discovered
and the invaders defeated.]
Naushervan reproached Bakhtak for failing to arrange ‘Amar’s capture
throughout nine full years. Bakhtak wrote to his son Bakhtyarak,
who was in the field with Hurmuz and the army, urging immediate action.
Bakhtyarak forged a letter from Naushervan to the son of the newly converted
king ‘Antar of Devdad, urging him to let the army into the fort of Devdad,
and promising all manner of rewards if he did so. The son, *Khvajah
Arbab, agreed, and contrived a suitable plan. He slipped out of the
fort to tell it to Hurmuz.
Khvajah Arbab said, “Inside your tent
will be one end of the tunnel; please have it dug out. The other
end will be in my mansion; I will go and have it dug. During the
rest of the night, and all of tomorrow, the heat will go out of it, and
the breeze will blow through it. Please come early tomorrow evening,
through the tunnel, to my humble home, and honor it with your presence;
by means of your inherently auspicious footsteps, please provide me with
a resplendent and impressive robe of honor. Be pleased to eat dinner,
and enjoy the sights of the place. And when two watches of the night
have passed, kill the Muslims and seize ‘Amar as well; when you have him
in your power, then do as you wish with him. Please take away Mihr
Nigar also, and enjoy the pleasure of her company. But choose many
great champions to bring with you, and please enjoin them to show courage
and bravery.” Hurmuz and Faramarz, giving Khvajah Arbab a robe of
honor, allowed him to depart, and ordered their people to perform those
Khvajah Arbab went back into the fort the
same way he had come out of it, and at once brought the diggers to his
house and had them start digging the end of the tunnel. Thus as morning
dawned, the tunnel was opened up, and Khvajah Arbab made preparations for
the princes’ dinner; he ordered the requisites for the feast to be collected.
It chanced that his daughter, named Dilavez, asked him, “What is all this
hustle and bustle today? Please tell me what kind of preparations
are going on.” Khvajah Arbab, trusting his daughter, told her in
detail about his plans for the night; since he had confidence in her, he
revealed his deep secret to her.
Dilavez was inwardly very downcast:
“That wretch with his futile greed is going to take the blood of so many
Muslims onto his head!” Immediately she wrote an account of the whole
thing, and sent it by the hand of her old nurse to ‘Amar. She enjoined
the nurse, “Go quickly and put this letter into ‘Amar’s hands, and return.
He’ll give you a great reward; with cash and valuables he’ll make you very
happy.” The nurse at once went and gave the letter into ‘Amar’s hands,
and told him something orally as well. ‘Amar gave the nurse a great
reward, and sent congratulations to Dilavez and praised her sympathetic
feelings very highly.
Seating himself on his throne, ‘Amar summoned
the officers of his army. First he said to ‘Adi, “There’s a religious
feast somewhere, and I’ll have you fed a great deal of food, I’ll take
all of you with me. But you’ll have to do some work as well, and
if you whine or shirk, I’ll pull every grain you’ve eaten right out your
nose!” ‘Adi replied, “I’m ready to obey you in everything.
Look, since the Amir went away I get only twenty-one maunds of flour and
rice per day--and in one single meal I eat this much, while at dinnertime
I suffer the pangs of hunger, and not even half my stomach is filled!
But this servant, out of respect for you, patiently endures everything;
nevertheless, until the Amir comes back I’m somehow keeping myself alive
on a starvation diet! If you’ll feed me until my stomach is filled,
then why would I object to working? When you see my industry you’ll
be delighted. The saying is well known, ‘Fill the stomach, then get
what you want.’”
When four hours were left in the day, ‘Amar,
taking the officers with him, set out for Khvajah Arbab’s house.
Khvajah Arbab heard that King ‘Amar and his entourage were coming toward
his house. The color fled from his face, and he was very anxious
and fearful; his face grew dead pale and his helpers began to lose their
nerve. In the meantime, ‘Amar’s entourage arrived, with the whole
party from the fort. Khvajah Arbab, coming out of his house, saluted
‘Amar; in outward appearance, he treated him with great respect and honor,
and presented formal gifts.
‘Amar, taking the gifts, said, “I’ve heard
that today, in honor of Hazrat Abraham, you’ve had food cooked, and have
made arrangements for feasting the Muslims./1/
Accordingly, I’ve come to your house, and I’ve brought a lot of Muslims
along with me, so they can have some of the consecrated food to eat.”
Khvajah Arbab, when he heard this, was even more stupefied; when he heard
all this he was very much worried. But what could he do? He
couldn’t even deny it, for all the preparations were right there.
He replied, “In truth, Your Excellency is
a holy man, a knower of secrets both small and large! It’s true that
I’ve been busy since this morning arranging to have the food cooked, and
for this reason I haven’t been able to present myself to inform you--I
just haven’t had a moment free from all the arrangements! I had intended
to go and inform Your Excellency after everything was prepared, and have
the honor of falling at Your Excellency’s feet at my ease. It’s very
fine that you yourself have come along--I haven’t even had to make the
With these words, he led them into the hall
where an elegant dining-cloth had been spread, and thrones had been placed
for the princes; he had had that hall decorated most elaborately.
He led ‘Amar in and seated him on a throne, and behaved with great warmth
and fellow-feeling. He gave the officers chairs and wrought-iron
seats to sit on, and treated them all properly in accordance with their
rank. ‘Amar, sending for the food, first served the champion ‘Adi
until he was stuffed to the throat; afterwards, he had the other champions
eat. In short, they all ate their fill of the dinner, in style.
When evening drew near, and the sun’s setting
left the world in darkness, ‘Amar ordered, “Bind Khvajah Arbab hand and
foot; confine him quickly.” The moment he gave the order, Khvajah
Arbab was bound. Khvajah Arbab said, “What sin have I committed,
that you’ve bound me? Is this the recompense for my courtesy and
hospitality, that you make me a captive?” Khvajah ‘Amar said, “You
haven’t committed any sin--but we’re just discharging our debt for the
food you’ve given us. Whatever we’ve done, we’ve done prudently and
rightly.” In short, ‘Amar shut him up like this in a small room,
and ordered that no one should be admitted to it.
And he said to ‘Adi, “The time has come for
work--and let there be no fault to be found with your work!” ‘Adi
replied, “I’m here in attendance upon you, with all my heart, to work.
Whatever orders you give, I’ll carry out.” ‘Amar, searching out the
opening of the tunnel, sat ‘Adi down beside it and said, “Whoever sticks
his head out, squeeze his throat with both hands and pull him out, so that
not a sound escapes from his lips, and he is absolutely unable to speak.
All the other champions will be standing near you, they won’t budge from
this spot. You keep on seizing the men and passing them on to the
others; they’ll keep their mouths covered as you have done, and will keep
sending them along into confinement; they’ll do just as I have said.
And be warned--if anyone should slip through your fingers, then just the
way I’ve fed you, I’ll rip open your stomach!” ‘Adi squatted down
by the hole like a bread-baker, on his haunches, so that when anybody stuck
a head through, he could pull it out deftly, all light and puffy like a
fluffy roll, and do just as ‘Amar had ordered.
Now please hear a bit about Hurmuz and Faramarz.
When two hours remained in the day, Hurmuz and Faramarz, taking with them
ten thousand horsemen and four hundred renowned champions, casually entered
the tunnel, just the way someone enters his own house, or the house of
his host; they were quite unaware of ‘Amar’s cleverness and adroitness.
When they came near, ‘Adi said to ‘Amar, “I hear the sound of men’s footsteps.”
‘Amar replied, “Be warned--let no one escape, absolutely no one must go
In the meantime, someone stuck his head out
of the hole. ‘Adi was sitting like the Angel of Death to cut off
his breath: he seized his throat and pulled him upward, and passed
him on to the other officers. They took him in this choked condition
and locked him up. When the second man stuck his head out, the same
thing happened to him. In short, in no time at all ‘Adi seized four
hundred champions and passed them on to the officers. All those captured
were given over to the warders to be confined in prison; with their feet
in iron shackles, they were kept under the closest guard.
Zhopin was the last of them all. He
thought to himself, “Four hundred champions have gone out of the tunnel,
and not even one has come back to report. Why is this? It’s
a strange thing!” He had just stuck his head slightly out of the
tunnel and begun to look around, when ‘Adi seized his head. Since
he hadn’t put his neck out, ‘Adi couldn’t grab it, nor could he get his
hands around his head; he couldn’t get a good grip on Zhopin to capture
him. ‘Adi couldn’t pull him out. Zhopin thought, “What kind
of disaster is this--is it a friendly dinner, or a hostile encounter?
Khvajah Arbab has cooked up a scheme: he’s offered us food, but the
hope of eating it has almost cost us our lives!”
Bracing his feet inside the tunnel, Zhopin
began to call out to his friends, exhorting each one by name, “Run, brother,
run! Somebody has gripped my head and is pulling me upward--who can
this demon be?” Bechun Kamran,/2/
seizing both Zhopin’s feet, pulled them down forcefully, so that Zhopin’s
head was jerked out of ‘Adi’s grasp. But Zhopin’s ears were ripped
off, and remained in ‘Adi’s hands, while Zhopin himself escaped.
All those waiting to enter the tunnel realized what had happened, and turned
back and ran away. ‘Adi gave the ears to ‘Amar. ‘Amar saw that
the enemy had been alerted, and had realized what was going on. He
began to throw explosive bottles into the tunnel. Ten thousand soldiers
who had entered with Zhopin were scorched and trapped there; none of them
were saved. Hurmuz and Faramarz, along with some of their men, escaped
and ran away.
In the morning, ‘Amar had the four hundred
chiefs of the enemy army who had been seized, together with Khvajah Arbab,
hanged on a scaffold; he didn’t leave even one alive. And he closed
up the end of the tunnel with lead, so that there was absolutely no way
to come or go. Hurmuz and Faramarz wrote down all these events too
in a letter, and sent it off to Naushervan by the hand of Sabir the Felt-robed;
they entered the whole story in their petition.
this common Muslim ceremony, food is cooked, then the Fatihah and other
Qur’anic verses are recited over it, then the donor prays that the merit
of the food and verses may go to such-and-such a recipient. Then
the food is distributed in the recipient’s name. This is often done
in the Prophet’s name; the dastan treats Abraham as the forerunner and
surrogate of the Prophet.
Kamran [bechun kaamraan] is Zhopin’s brother.
== on to Chapter