FORTY-FOUR -- Asman Pari goes with a powerful army to the fort of Sabz-nigar, lays waste the city, takes captive Sabz-qaba the Jinn and Raihan Pari, punishes Sabz-qaba the Jinn, and imprisons Raihan Pari in the Dungeon of Solomon. 

The narrator writes that Asman Pari arrived near the fort of Sabz-nigar.  Sabz-qaba the Jinn, taking some gifts with him, went to welcome Asman Pari, and escorted her into the city with perfect honor and respect, and behaved toward her with the greatest love and courtesy.  Asman Pari, arriving in his court, ordered, and commanded her people, “Bind Sabz-qaba the Jinn and Raihan Pari hand and foot--don’t delay even a moment in carrying out my order!”  Her followers bound them both and presented them.  Asman Pari, having laid waste the city, went back to Garden of Iram.  For a number of days she had a thousand lashes each given daily to Sabz-qaba the Jinn and Raihan Pari; then she confined Raihan Pari in the Dungeon of Solomon.

News reached Shahpal that Asman Pari had dishonored Sabz-qaba the Jinn in this way.  Rending his garments, bareheaded and barefooted, weeping uncontrollably, Shahpal ran there.  Asman Pari had already gone to her home.  Shahpal took Sabz-qaba the Jinn away to his own home, and showed him extreme kindness.  He fell at Sabz-qaba’s feet and wept bitterly; with many apologies, he washed the dust of displeasure and unhappiness from Sabz-qaba’s heart.  And he said, “That shameless wretch has really insulted not you but me--she has in fact caused pain not to you, but to me!”

Although King Shahpal said all this, Sabz-qaba was not consoled; the resentment didn’t leave his heart.  Like a madman he rose and struck the fortress gate of Garden of Iram hard with his hand, and spoke; he opened his mouth to petition in utter submission and desolation before God, “Oh Divine Presence, as Asman Pari has so behaved toward me, and has without right or reason caused me grief, in return for it send down Your wrath upon her!”  With these words, weeping, he went off to his city; he went off calling down curses upon her.

Please hear about the effect of that curse.  In the seventh region of Qaf a Dev named *Ra’d the Deceitful, who in Hazrat Solomon’s time had acted as a messenger, was said by everyone to be peerless in courage and hardihood. Hazrat Solomon’s seven magic rivers were famous, for no Dev or Jinn could cross them--in fact, no one could even bear the sound of their noise and tumult.  Anyway, Hazrat Solomon departed this world, and went on the final journey.  Ra’d the Deceitful, who was the nephew of ‘Ifrit Dev, built two forts beyond those seven rivers:  one he named Black Land, and the other White Land.  And he prepared a tilism, and adorned and strengthened them in every way.

He had recently heard of the killing of ‘Ifrit Dev:  that King Shahpal had sent for a son of Adam, whose name was Earthquake of Qaf, Younger Solomon, from the Realm of the World, and had had him kill ‘Ifrit and Ahriman and Mal’unah Jadu.  Killing many mighty Devs of Qaf, this son of Adam had destroyed the garden of Qaf--in short, he had raised a great turmoil in the land of the Paris.  The moment Ra’d the Deceitful heard the news, he burned like fire.  At once taking Hazrat Solomon’s net--which had fallen into his hands after Solomon’s death, and which he had obtained by some means--he flew up from the fort of Black Land, seized everyone in Garden of Iram, imprisoned them, and ordered the prison guards to torment them.

‘Abdur Rahman, who had taken leave and gone to his own house, was saved.  Of all the nobles and courtiers who habitually attended upon the king, no one else escaped Ra’d’s grasp, everyone was caught in this disaster.  This news reached ‘Abdur Rahman the Jinn.  He was extremely sorrowful and grieved, and very upset when he heard of it.  Throwing the divining-dice, he discovered that the Amir was to the north of his city.  Mounting a throne, he went to search for him; he set out to find him.

Please hear about the Sahib-qiran.  After leaving the city of Sabz-nigar, he wandered in the wilderness for a number of days, until he reached the foothills of a mountain near ‘Abdur Rahman’s house, and sat down.  Not much time had passed, when he saw ‘Abdur Rahman mounted on a throne.  The moment their eyes met, ‘Abdur Rahman, dismounting from the throne, fell at the Amir’s feet.  The Amir lifted his head and pressed it to his breast.  The Sahib-qiran asked, “How is it that you are here without King Shahpal?”  ‘Abdur Rahman told him all about his taking leave, and about the capture of King Shahpal and Asman Pari and Quraishah and other chiefs of the Dev and Jinn races, and about their imprisonment in the fort of White Land; he described all the wretched things that had happened to them.

The Amir said, “King Shahpal and Asman Pari have reaped their reward for swearing false oaths and tormenting me--the wrath of the Lord suddenly fell upon them!”  ‘Abdur Rahman, with folded hands, said, “Everything that Your Excellency says is quite true.  It is all the result of their false oaths and broken vows.  But Asman Pari is your own wife--if she remains there in captivity, won’t the shame of it fall on you?  Furthermore, if anyone is guilty, it is Asman Pari--Quraishah is innocent!  Please free them all in charity for her sake; please think of some way to rescue them all from this torment.”

At first, the Amir refused.  Eventually, compelled by his pleading and humility, the Amir asked, “Then where is this fort of White Land, and how does one get there?  In what way can I reach it, and how will I subdue the fort?”  ‘Abdur Rahman said, “The fort of White Land is beyond the seven magic rivers, and to swim across those rivers is almost impossible.  Except for King *Simurgh, no one else will be able to take you there; it is such a forbidding place that no one else can convey you.”  The Amir asked, “Where does the Simurgh live--where is his house, and in what wilderness does he dwell?”  ‘Abdur Rahman said, “I can take you to King Simurgh, I can tell you where to find his house.”

At length he somehow or other made the Amir agree.  Bringing him into his own fort, he arranged a festive gathering, and decorated the house most elegantly.  For a number of days and nights he held parties in the Amir’s honor.  The Amir, seeing the fort, said, “I was in this fort once before, and it gave me great joy to see it.  In those days this fort belonged to Lahut Shah, Lanisah’s father.”  ‘Abdur Rahman said, “That’s true.  He was my lieutenant, and was a man of very good judgment.”

Finally, after the festivities were over, ‘Abdur Rahman seated the Amir on a throne, and said to four Jinns, “Take the Amir to King Simurgh’s house; carry out this errand most carefully.”  The four Jinns, taking up the throne, rose into the sky like stars, to such a height that no dark land masses could be seen, only the bright water.  For seven days and nights they bore the throne.  On the eighth day, after about four hours had passed they put the Amir’s throne down on a riverbank; constant traveling had made them very tired, and they rested a bit.

The Amir looked at the river.  Its every wave reached as high as the blue river of the sky--not to speak of a man, even a bird would gasp at the sight of it.  All along the riverbank such huge trees were growing that their branches reached up as high as the Tree of Paradise, and every tree shaded an area of five leagues.  And atop those trees was a wooden fort, extremely strong and elegant, provided with everything necessary for luxury and enjoyment.  The Amir asked those Jinns, “Who has built this fort, which rivals the garden of Paradise?”  They said, “Oh Amir, this is not a fort, this is the nest of King Simurgh.”  The Amir, hearing this, was very much surprised.  The throne-bearers took their leave, and went to their homes.

The Amir, sitting down in the shade of a tree, began to enjoy the forest surroundings.  Hardly any time at all had passed, when noise and commotion began in one tree.  The Amir went under this tree, and began to look attentively upward.  He discovered that the Simurgh’s chicks were making the noise and commotion.  When he looked at the Simurgh’s chicks, he saw that although they were little naked balls of flesh, every one was larger than an elephant, every one had a body the size of a mountain, and they were screeching frantically.  The Amir began to look around, to see what they had seen that had made them recoil in fear.

As he looked, the Amir’s eye fell on a serpent which was climbing steadily up that tree, with its flaming breath setting all the foliage on fire.  The Amir killed the serpent with arrows, cut it into pieces, and fed it to the Simurgh chicks on the point of a spear; he saved them from that serpent.  When the chicks’ stomachs were filled, they settled down in their nest and went to sleep, free from the pangs of hunger.

Two hours later, when the Simurgh pair came back, bringing food for the chicks, they didn’t find the chicks on the edge of the nest.  Usually the chicks, hearing their parents arriving, lifted their heads out of the nest and expressed their hunger in their own language.  When this time the chicks didn’t lift their heads from the nest, and the Simurghs saw the Amir asleep beneath the tree, they concluded that this individual sleeping under the tree must be the one who often devoured their chicks, and had devoured them again this time, and that was why the chicks were silent--so they ought to kill him.  When their voices fell on the chicks’ ears, the chicks came fluttering out of the nest, very anxious over this proposal, and in their language reported the true state of affairs, and told their parents about the serpent and its being killed.

The Simurgh was very pleased with the Amir.  Since the sun was falling on the Amir, he shaded him with one wing, and protected him from the intense heat of the sun.  With the other wing, he began to fan him, so he would feel refreshed and restored.  When the Amir felt the comfort, his eyes opened.  When the Amir saw the Simurgh, he brought out his bow and arrows, and pulled an arrow from the quiver, in order to kill him.  The Simurgh addressed him, “Oh Earthquake of Qaf, you have made me indebted to your kindness, and now you wish to kill me!  These are my own chicks whom you saved from the serpent; you had compassion on their plight.”

The Amir said, “How do you know my name, and what do you know about me?”  The Simurgh said, “I had heard from Hazrat Solomon that in some era a human would come here and save my chicks from the serpent; he would be called the Earthquake of Qaf, and his task would be to kill Devs.  In the whole of Qaf, whoever tested his strength against him would be defeated.  People would call him the Earthquake of Qaf, and would remain forever in fear of his hardihood.”  The Amir, hearing this speech, was very glad at heart, and asked, “What is the name of this forest, what place is this?”  The Simurgh said, “They call this the forest of #Fate and Destiny; it is outside the boundaries of Qaf, and is not under the rule of the king of #Paristan like Qaf itself.”

The Amir said, “I have come to you in need of help.”  The Simurgh said submissively, “I am your obedient follower and servant.  Whatever order you give, I will carry out.”  The Amir said, “The Dev Ra’d the Deceitful has imprisoned King Shahpal and Asman Pari, together with their officers, in the fort of White Land, and oppressed them grievously.  Take me to where they are imprisoned, and show me that house.”  The Simurgh said, “Although the Devs of Qaf will be my enemies for this, and will harbor a grudge against me, still I’ll take you there; I will certainly do this much for you.  Please take with you seven morsels of food, and seven sips of water, on my back; do not fail to carry out this plan.  When I feel hungry, please give me one morsel of meat and one sip of water.”

The Amir went hunting in the wilderness and killed seven nilgai, skinned them, and made water-skins.  Filling them with sweet water, he took the water-skins and all seven nilgai with him as well, and mounted the Simurgh’s back.  He set out for the fort of White Land with the greatest urgency.  The Simurgh petitioned, “Oh Sahib-qiran, please don’t carry any iron weapons with you, because on our road lies a magnetic mountain, right in the middle of a river.  It might grab us and pull us down, it might attract your weapons and finish us off.”  The Amir said, “Then what shall I do--where shall I leave them?”  The Simurgh said, “Please leave them right here.  If any of your weapons can be hidden in your socks, you may keep it, but please conceal it very carefully.”  The Amir hid the dagger of Suhrab the Champion in his sock, and entrusted the rest of his weapons to the Simurgh.  The Simurgh placed them in his nest.

The Simurgh, bearing the Amir, traveled to the heights of the skies.  When the Amir looked carefully downward, the earth looked like the stone of a tiny ring.  As far as the eye could see and the imagination could reach, there was only water to be seen.  The Amir asked the Simurgh, “What is the name of this river?”  He replied, “This is the first of the seven magic rivers; there are still six more that we have to cross.”  In short, the Simurgh, flying swiftly, traveled on; he labored hard to cross that river.  When he reached the middle of the river, the Simurgh felt hungry.  He said to the Amir, “Oh Amir, hurry and put a morsel of food in my mouth, for my strength is waning; hunger has overcome me.”  The Amir put a skinful of water and a nilgai into the Simurgh’s mouth; he ate quickly.  Somehow, in one day and night he crossed the first river.

On the second day, he went over the second river.  The Amir, seeing darkness in that river, asked the Simurgh, “Where does this blackness come from?  I can’t see anything, I feel very anxious at heart!”  The Simurgh replied, “This river is made of dust.”  When he reached the middle of the river, he asked the Amir for a morsel of food.  The Amir put it in his mouth.  In short, he crossed this river too.  On the third and fourth days, eating morsels of food in the same way, he crossed the River of Mercury and the River of Blood as well; he never stopped even for breath.

To make a long story short, when he flew over the Magnetic River, the magnetism began to pull the Simurgh toward itself, because of the dagger which the Amir had placed in his sock.  The Simurgh saw that although he was putting his full strength into flying high, he was sinking downwards, and couldn’t gain enough height.  He recalled, “This is because of that dagger which the Amir placed in his sock.  That dagger must be impeding my flight.”  He begged the Amir, “Oh Sahib-qiran, please hurry and pull the dagger out of your sock and throw it away, do this at once--otherwise, in a few moments the Magnetic Mountain will pull me down!”  The Amir pulled the dagger out of his sock and threw it away.  But he very much regretted losing the dagger.

When the Simurgh passed over that river and flew over the seventh river, which was of fire, even though he flew very high the flames of that River of Fire--which rivaled the sphere of fire--caused the Simurgh to suffer very much.  Although the Simurgh tried to control himself, his senses almost left him.  At length the Simurgh, enduring all the fierce heat, reached the middle of the River of Fire and said to the Amir, “Oh Earthquake of Qaf, hurry and give me the morsel of food, for this is the time for hardihood and swift flying, the time for extreme struggle and courage.”

When the Amir put the nilgai into his mouth, he pulled his hand back quickly because of the heat of the fire, and the nilgai didn’t go into the Simurgh’s mouth--it fell into the River of Fire and burned up, in a single moment its bones collapsed and it melted away.  After flying a little further, the Simurgh asked for food.  The Amir answered, “The seventh morsel that was left, I’ve just given you!  Now where can I get food for you, and manage to feed you?”  The Simurgh said, “I didn’t get that morsel, it didn’t enter my stomach.”  And his strength began to wane.  The Amir saw that it was a dire peril:  in a few moments the Simurgh would fall with him into the River of Fire.  At once he put the bread-bun given by Khizr into the Simurgh’s mouth, and freed him from any worry about food.  Thanks to the virtue of that bread-bun, the Simurgh crossed the river with his full force intact; all his helplessness was removed.

The Simurgh, descending on dry land, congratulated the Amir, and delighted him with the good news of their safe arrival.  But the Amir was greatly worried at his lack of weapons--when from his right side Hazrat Khizr said, “Peace be upon you,” and reassured him, and gave the Amir all the weapons he had left behind in the Simurgh’s house, together with that dagger he had thrown into the Magnetic River.  The Amir was very happy to receive the weapons, and kissed Hazrat Khizr’s feet and thanked him for this kindness.  Hazrat Khizr, who had been right there, disappeared.

When the Amir, equipping himself with the weapons, looked around the area, he saw two hillocks:  one was white like the true dawn, and the other black like the nights of strangers.  He found that they were of a strange aspect.  He asked the Simurgh, “Are these white and black mountains, or something else?  They are mountains of some novel kind!”  The Simurgh replied, “These are the forts of White Land and Black Land.”  The Amir said to the Simurgh, “Well, farewell, and may God protect you.  You’ve done me a great favor in bringing me this far.”

The Simurgh, plucking out three feathers from his wing, gave them to the Amir and said, “If somehow, God forbid, you should encounter some difficulty, please put this feather on the fire.  I will instantly appear and present myself; whatever you command, I will do.  And after you reach the World, please put this second feather in your horse’s plume, and make him beautiful.  And please give the third feather to Khvajah ‘Amar ‘Ayyar as a gift from me; please do as I have said.”  With these words, the Simurgh took his leave and flew off toward his nest.

The Amir set out toward those forts.  When he had gone a little way, a lion came at the Amir and attacked him, and blocked his way.  The Amir, striking a blow with the Scorpion of Solomon, cut the lion in two; removing its skin, he placed it on his shoulders.  And he reflected, “When I reach the World, I’ll have a long coat made from this, for my use.  I’ve heard somehow that a lion-skin coat was worn by Rustam the son of Zal, and due to its fearsome and awesome aspect he was infinitely successful in every venture.”

In short, when the Amir reached the gate of the fort of Black Land, he saw that the gate was open:  there was neither any trace of a guard, nor any sign of a sentry.  But four hundred Devs were sitting at the gate, so that no one would be able to enter.  Suddenly the eye of the Devs’ chief fell on the Amir; he groaned and said, “Friends, a terrible calamity has happened--the Earthquake of Qaf, the Younger Solomon, has come here as well!”  Running impetuously at the Amir, he struck a blow with his cypress-tree staff at his head, so forcefully that the earth called out for mercy at the shock.  The Amir, parrying the blow, struck so hard a sword-blow to his side, and he received such a shock from the blow, that he was cut in half and fell to the ground.

The Devs, when they saw their chief die like a dog, and saw this unexpected disaster come down on his head, ran off like riderless camels; they realized that they were lucky to be able to save their lives by flight.  They ran away in such panic that they couldn’t tell their heads from their feet.  At that time Ra’d the Deceitful was off hunting.  The fleeing Devs ran off toward the hunting grounds, to tell Ra’d the Deceitful about this incident, and inform him of the deteriorating state of affairs.

The Amir, standing by the gate, began to reflect, “I wonder whether King Shahpal, Asman Pari, etc., are in the fort of Black Land, or the fort of White Land.”  From the Unseen a voice came, “Oh Amir, King Shahpal and Asman Pari are imprisoned in the fort of White Land.”  The Amir went toward that fort.  When he reached the gate, he saw that the fort had a hundred battlements, and on every battlement was a Dev--one with a tiger’s head, one with a horse’s head, one with a snake’s head, one with a crow’s head, one with a wolf’s head, all fully armed and busy reciting magic spells, each of them in his own form keeping watch over the fort.  And at the gate was a fire-breathing serpent, shooting out flames from his mouth in a manner beyond description.  His mouth was so wide that it filled up the whole gate, as though his jaws were a noose around the neck of the gate.

The Amir was troubled:  “How can I get in, by what means can I enter the fort?”--when again a voice came from the Unseen:  “Hamzah, it is not for you to conquer this tilism, it is not your task to break it.  A grandson of yours, who will be named Rustam the Second,/1/ will conquer it; he alone will step with manly hardihood into this encounter.”  The Amir said to himself, “I myself am still a mere boy--God knows best when a son of mine will be born, and when a grandson will come into the world!  And as for the people who are prisoners in here, how long will they have to stay in captivity like this, how will they endure the misery of confinement for their whole lives?”  For the second time a voice came, “You must think only of freeing the captives, not of breaking the tilism!  Breathe the Great Name on this serpent; he will go away, you will have power over him.”

The Sahib-qiran breathed the Great Name over the Serpent; the serpent went away from the gate.  When the Sahib-qiran went and looked in, he saw that there was a garden inside the fort, and in that garden sat Shahpal, together with his companions, weeping, and making himself ill lamenting his misfortune.  Seeing the Sahib-qiran, he hung his head in shame.  The Sahib-qiran removed the bonds from everyone’s hands and feet, he gave all of them the joy of being free.  He asked King Shahpal, “Where is Asman Pari?”  King Shahpal said, “She is imprisoned in that dome ahead of you.”

When the Amir entered the dome, he saw that Asman Pari was suspended with her head below and her feet above, and had scarcely any life left in her.  And Quraishah sat weeping, half-dead like her mother.  The Sahib-qiran, cutting Asman Pari’s bonds, took her, along with Quraishah, and seated her near King Shahpal; he collected them all in one place.  Asman Pari was thoroughly repentant; falling at the Amir’s feet, she began to say, “Oh Amir, at least now please pardon my sin--in six months I will certainly send you to the World, I swear that this time I won’t be treacherous!”  The Amir gave her no answer, and paid no attention to her words.  Taking everyone along, he came out of the fort.

He saw that Ra’d the Deceitful, accompanied by many thousands of Devs, was coming near, so fearsome in aspect that the whole fort trembled.  Approaching the Amir, he said, “Oh son of Adam, you’ve destroyed the whole garden of Qaf, and now you’ve come here too and released my prisoners and taken them away!  But now I won’t leave you alive--you’ll never escape from my clutches!”  With these words, he threw a very large boulder at the Amir’s head.  The Amir, warding it off, struck a sword-blow so forceful that he was cut down like a worm-eaten chinar tree; with one single blow he was laid lifeless.  The Devs who were with him, picking up his corpse, took it to Samandun Dev the Thousand-armed.  The Amir, taking Shahpal, etc., went to Garden of Iram.  Reaching their homeland, they all were at peace.

When six months had passed, the Amir once again had a painful dream.  Waking with a start from sleep, he began to weep, he began to string the pearls of tears.  Asman Pari, awakened by the sound, began to ask, “Is everything all right?  Oh Amir, why do you weep, why are you so grieved?”  The Amir said, “Oh Asman Pari, fear the Lord, and send me to my country!  For I’m distraught with grief at the separation from my near and dear ones.”  Asman Pari replied, “Oh Sahib-qiran, in a year I’ll send you to your country; this time I won’t break my vow!”  The Sahib-qiran, displeased with this speech of Asman Pari’s, went to the king, and began to complain of Asman Pari and to describe her heartlessness.  Shahpal, comforting the Amir, at once seated him on a throne, and ordered the Devs, “Take the Sahib-qiran to the World; do as I command you.”

When the Sahib-qiran set out, Asman Pari said to a Parizad, “Go and tell the throne-bearing Devs to abandon the Amir in the Hunting-grounds of Solomon and not--absolutely not--to take him to the World.”  When that Parizad met the Amir on the way, the Amir, seeing him, guessed that he had come to dissuade the Devs, and was bringing the same message from Asman Pari as before.  The Amir went back to Shahpal, and complained of all this.  Asman Pari too was in attendance then.  Shahpal said angrily, “Oh Asman Pari, you are never through with your devilish tricks!”  Asman Pari replied, “Don’t meddle in this matter!  Am I to break up my well-settled home on your say-so?”  The Amir, hearing this speech, stood up.  Cursing Asman Pari, he set out for the wilderness; in the grief of separation he wept blood instead of tears.

Some write that the Amir divorced Asman Pari that day, and some do not accept this version, but hold this story to be false.  The narrator writes that after the Amir’s departure Shahpal too, because of Asman Pari’s unworthy speech, became a faqir and withdrew to a mountain; he washed his hands of the kingship.  And Asman Pari, assuming the throne, began to rule, and had the proclamation made throughout Qaf, that anyone who took the Sahib-qiran to the World would be treated with great harshness; he would be severely punished for his deed.  After that, she said to Khvajah ‘Abdur Rahman, “Look and see what that woman’s like whom Hamzah dotes on, and where she is.  I hear that she’s renowned among great and small for her beauty and radiance.”  ‘Abdur Rahman, after practicing geomancy, said, “In truth, Hamzah’s claim was correct.  Even her maidservants are more beautiful than you; every one has a face like the moon and a brow like Venus.  And she is in the fort of Devdad, in that country.”

Asman Pari, having a map drawn of that fort, gave it to a number of Parizads, and ordered them, “Go to the World, to the fort that looks like this.  Snatch up Mihr Nigar from it, and bring her here; bring her before me quickly.”  The Parizads, the moment they received the order, took the map of the fort and set off, to bring Mihr Nigar before Asman Pari.

/1/ Rustam the Second [rustam-e ;saanii], actually Hamzah’s great-grandson, figures in the Long Version of the dastan, especially in the volumes of Aftab-e shuja’at.

== on to Chapter 45 ==

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