Dire was the wailing among the army of Iran at their sore defeat,
and they turned them back discomfited. And they came before the Shah,
their hearts torn with anguish. And their hands were crossed upon
their breasts, and they were humble as slaves. And Kai Khosrau was
angry when he beheld them, and he remembered Firoud, and he railed
against Tus, from whom was sprung this evil. And he said-

“Cursed be he and his elephants and his cymbals.” And the Shah withdrew
from his courts, and he withheld his countenance from the land. So
the nobles went out unto Rustem, and entreated of him that he would
intercede for them with the Shah. And Rustem did as they desired,
and he pleaded for the army and its leaders, and he spake good even
of Tus. And Kai Khosrau inclined his ear unto his Pehliva, and he
let the light of his countenance shine again upon his army, and he
confided unto Tus once more the standard of Kawah, but he made Gew
march beside him and restrain his haste.

So they set forth again unto Turan, and Afrasiyab, when he learned
of their approach, made ready his army also. And there were joined
unto him the hosts of the Khakan of China, and of the Kamous of Kushan,
men mighty in the battlefield. And from Ind and all the highlands
of Asia there came forth troops unto the aid of Afrasiyab, King of
Turan. And he rejoiced thereat, for he was assured that if Rustem
came not forth to aid them, the men of Iran could not stand against
his host.

Now when the two armies met, many and fierce were the combats waged
between them, and blows were given and received, and swords flashed
and showers of arrows descended on all sides. And the blood of brave
men was shed like unto the shedding of rain from a black cloud. And
day by day were the Iranians weakened, for they were smitten with
great slaughter, and the number of their dead was past the counting.
But Afrasiyab rejoiced in his victory, and his heart shouted within
him when he learned after many days that the Iranians were drawn back
into the mountains. But Kai Khosrau, when he learned it, was afflicted,
and wept sore. Then he sent greeting unto Rustem, his Pehliva, and
he craved of him that he would come forth to aid the army, for in
him alone could he put his trust. And Rustem said-

“O Shah, since the day that mine arm could wield a mace, I have ever
fought the battles of Iran, and it would seem that rest may never
come nigh unto me. Yet since I am thy slave, it behoveth me to obey.
I am ready to do thy desires.”

So he made ready an host to go unto the succour of Iran. And while
he did so the army was defeated yet again, and all heart went from
the Iranians, and they would have given them over unto their foes.
But while they pondered it, there came tidings unto Gudarz that Rustem
was drawing nigh. Yet they feared to give way unto belief. But Piran
when he heard it was sore discomfited, for he remembered of old the
might of Rustem, and he knew that none could stand before it. But
the Khakan and the Kamous scoffed at his fears, and they made loud
boastings that Rustem should fall by their hands.

Now when some days had passed in this disquietude, it came about one
night that, when the moon showed her face above the mountains, like
unto a victorious king seated upon a throne of turquoise, a watchman
of Iran set up a great cry. And he said-

“The plain is filled with dust, and the night resoundeth with noise.
And I behold a mighty army drawing nigh, and they bear torches, and
in their midst rideth Rustem the mighty.”

When the men of Iran heard this, they set up a great shout, and their
hearts seemed to come back into their bodies, and their courage, that
had been as dead, returned. And glad was the greeting that they gave
unto Rustem the Pehliva. And Rustem mustered them and put them into
battle order, and when the sun had wearied of the black veil, and
had torn the night asunder, and reappeared unto the world, the men
of Iran called upon the host of Turan to come forth in combat. And
they defied them unto battle, and they fought with new valour, and
they made great havoc in their ranks. And when the evening was come,
the day belonged unto Iran.

Then Piran called before him Human the brave, and said unto him-

“The nobles of Iran have found again their courage, since an army
is come to their aid. Yet I would know if Rustem be their leader,
for him alone do I fear.”

And when he learned it his spirit was troubled. But the Kamous mocked
him, and sware a great oath that, ere the sun should be set once more,
he would have broken the might of Rustem. For he said-

“There is none, not even a mad elephant, that is mine equal in the

So when the day was come, the Kamous challenged Rustem unto single
combat. And Rustem strode forth from the camp, and the Kamous met
him upon the plain. Then they struggled sore, and wrestled one with
another, but in the end Rustem caught the Kamous in the meshes of
his cord. And he showed him unto the army, and he asked of them, saying-

“What death desire ye that the Kamous should die, for his hour is

Then he threw him among the nobles, and they made an end of him with
their spears, and they flung his body to the vultures.

Now when the Khakan heard of the death of the Kamous, he sware that
he would avenge him, and he sent forth a messenger to defy Rustem.
But Rustem said unto the messenger-

“I seek no quarrel with the Khakan, and in all your army I desire
only to look upon the face of Piran. And I beg of him that he will
come forth to greet me, for my heart burneth towards him, because
he was afflicted for the death of Saiawush, my foster-son, and because
of the good he did unto Kai Khosrau and unto his mother.”

So the messenger bare these words unto Piran. And Piran, when he had
taken counsel, listened unto the desires of Rustem, and came into
his tents. And he said-

“I am Piran, leader of the hosts of Turan. Speak unto me thy name.”

And Rustem said, “I am Rustem of Zaboulistan, and I am armed with
a mace and a sword of Cabul.”

Then he gave him greeting from Kai Khosrau, and he lauded him for
the good deeds that he had done unto Saiawush and to his son, and
he entreated him that he would turn away from Afrasiyab, and go with
him unto Kai Khosrau. And he said-

“Iran desireth not to destroy the innocent. Therefore deliver over
unto me the men upon whose head resteth the blood of Saiawush, and
we will withdraw our hosts, and there shall be peace in the land.”

Then Piran said, “That which thou askest, verily it can never be,
for the slayers of Saiawush are near kinsfolk unto Afrasiyab. And
because he hath named me the leader of his hosts, it may not be that
I abandon them. But I say unto thee, that it would be sweeter unto
me to die than to conduct this warfare, and that my heart is torn
because I must lift up the sword of enmity against Kai Khosrau, my

And Rustem saw that the words that Piran spake were true, and he sorrowed
for him. And when they parted it was in friendship, although they
knew that battle must rage between them. Then they drew up their armies,
and for forty days there was waged a battle, mighty and terrible.
And great ravages were committed, and Rustem did deeds of valour,
and the strong and the weak were alike impotent before him. And the
plains were strewn with the bodies of the slain, until that an ant
could not have found a road to pass between them, and the blood of
the wounded streamed on all sides, and heads without bodies and bodies
without heads covered the ground. For neither the claw of the leopard
nor the trunk of the elephant, neither the high mountains nor the
waters of the earth, could prevail against Rustem when he fought at
the head of his hosts. And he slew the mightiest among the Turanians,
and only Piran was he mindful to spare. And the Khakan of China was
enmeshed in his cord, and he sent him bound unto Kai Khosrau with
news of the victory. And when the Turanians fled before his face,
he followed after them and pursued them unto the mountains.

Then Piran made haste to come before Afrasiyab, and he spake to him
and said-

“The land is changed into a sea of blood, for Rustem is come forth,
and who can stand against him? And he followeth after me close. Wherefore
I counsel thee, flee; for how canst thou stand alone against him?
Alas for the woe that thou hast brought upon Turan! Thou hast wounded
our hearts with the iron of the arrow wherewith thou didst slay Saiawush
the noble.”

Then he urged upon him that he tarry not. So Afrasiyab fled from before
the face of Rustem and hid himself in the mountains. And when Rustem
came into his courts and found that the King was fled, he seized upon
much booty and divided it among his men, and he feasted them many
days in the house of Afrasiyab, and he suffered them to enjoy repose.
Then he destroyed with fire the palace, and when he had done so he
turned him to go back unto Kai Khosrau.

Now when he was come within the city of the Shah, glad cries rang
through all the air, and the sound of drums filled the land of Iran,
and there was joy throughout its breadth because the destroyer of
Turan was returned. And the heart of Kai Khosrau rejoiced like a paradise,
and he came out to meet his Pehliva mounted upon an elephant gaily
caparisoned, and music and singers went before him. And he invited
him to a great feast, and he poured rich gifts upon him. And for a
month Rustem abode in the presence of his Shah, making merry with
wine. And the singers chanted of his great deeds, and the sounds of
flutes and stringed instruments went with their words. But when that
time was over Rustem asked of Kai Khosrau that he would suffer him
to return unto Zal his father, for his heart yearned to look upon
his face. And Kai Khosrau suffered it.

Now Rustem was not returned long unto Zaboulistan before there came
into the courts of the Shah a shepherd who desired to speak with Kai
Khosrau. And the Shah granted his request, and the man opened his
mouth before him, and he said-

“A wild ass is broken in among my horses, and he doeth great mischief,
for his breath is like unto a lion. Send forth, therefore, I entreat
of thee, O King of Kings, a warrior of thine host that he may slay

Now Kai Khosrau, when he had listened, knew that this was not a wild
ass but the Deev Akwan, who had taken this disguise upon him. So he
cast about whom he should send forth to meet him, and he knew there
was none other but Rustem, the son of Zal, to whom he could turn in
this strait. So he sent a messenger swift as a cloud before a storm
to summon him forth yet again. And Rustem obeyed the voice of his
Shah, and he set forth in search of the Deev, and he was mounted upon
Rakush his steed. And in his hand was a mighty mace, and round his
wrist was rolled a cord of length. And he went in search of the wild
ass, and when he had found him he threw his cord about him. But the
ass vanished under his hands. Then Rustem knew that it was a Deev,
and that he fought against the arts of magic. Yet was he not dismayed.
And after a while the ass came forth again, and Rustem threw his cord
once more about him. And yet again the Deev vanished under his hand.
And thus did the Deev three days and three nights without ceasing,
so that weariness came upon Rustem and he was heavy with slumber.
So he sought out a spot of safety and he laid him down to rest, and
he bade Rakush browse beside him.

Now when the Deev saw that Rustem was sleeping, he drew nigh and loosened
the earth whereon he lay, and lifted it and placed it upon his head,
that he might cast it away and destroy Rustem. But as he carried him
Rustem awoke, and when he saw what was come to pass he feared that
his hour was come. And the Deev, when he beheld that Rustem was awakened,
spake, and said unto him-

“O hero, which death dost thou covet? Shall I fling thee down upon
the mountain or cast thee into the sea?”

Now Rustem knew that the Deev questioned him in wile, and he bethought
him that he would of a surety do that which Rustem desired not, so
he said-

“I have heard it said that it is not given to those that perish in
the waters to look upon the face of the Serosch or to find rest in
the life that is beyond.”

Then the Deev said, “I desire that thou know not repose.”

And he flung him into the sea at a spot where hungry crocodiles would
devour him.

Now Rustem, when he felt the water beneath him, forthwith drew out
his sword and combated the crocodiles with his right hand, and with
his left he swam towards the shore. And long did he struggle and sore,
but when the night was fallen he put his foot upon the dry land. Then,
when he had given thanks unto God and rested him, he returned unto
the spot where he had found the Deev. And he sought after Rakush his
steed, and his eye beheld him not. Then fear filled his spirit, and
he roamed around to seek him. And he found him at last among the horses
of Afrasiyab, that grazed in a spot hard by, for the keepers had ensnared
him. But when Rakush heard the voice of Rustem he neighed aloud, and
brake from the keepers and ran towards his master. And Rustem put
the saddle upon him and mounted him. Then he slew the keepers and
took their herds unto himself.

Now while he was so doing Afrasiyab came forth from his hiding-place,
for his heart yearned to look upon his horses. And when he beheld
Rustem in their midst he was dismayed, and knew not whither he should
turn, for he deemed that the Pehliva had discovered his hiding-place
and was come forth against him. So he offered battle unto him with
the men that were with him. And Rustem accepted the challenge, although
he was alone; and he fought with might and overcame the men, and slew
sixty of them with his sword and forty with his mace. And Afrasiyab
fled once more from before him.

Now when it was done the Deev came forth again, for he thought he
could quell Rustem now that he was weary. But Rustem sprang on him
and crushed him, and he was slain at his hands. Then the Pehliva returned
unto Kai Khosrau. And when the Shah had learned of all his deeds,
and beheld the booty that he had brought back, his mouth could not
cease from praising the prowess of Rustem, and he would have kept
his Pehliva beside him for ever. But Rustem said-

“Suffer thy servant to go forth. For I would make ready an host, since
it behoveth us not to cease from the vengeance that is due unto Saiawush,
for his murderers yet cumber the ground.”

Wherefore Rustem departed yet again from out the courts of the Shah.

The Epic of Kings By ABUL QASEM FERDOWSI TUSI, Translated by Helen Zimmern [1883]


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