Alfred John Church.

Stories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries online

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from the saddle, but neither could prevail. So


they fought till both they and their horses were
worn-out with weariness.

In the meanwhile, the lieutenants of Rustem
had provoked a battle between the two armies,
and in this battle two valiant youths, sons of
Prince Isfendiar, were killed. When Isfendiar
heard this bad news he was transported with

" Is this the way," he cried to Rustem, " that
nobles keep treaties ? Do you hear this, that
your chiefs have killed my two sons ? "

Rustem said: "I swear by the head of the
King, and by the sun, and by my sword, that
this is no doing of mine. Whoever has been
in fault, though it were my own brother, I will
bind him hand and foot and carry him before
the King, and you shall have vengeance for the
blood of your sons."

" It is idle," answered the Prince, " to kill
the snake to avenge the peacock's death. No
save yourself, for your last hour has come."

Thus saying, he seized his bow and arrows,
and rained a shower of arrows on Rustem and
Raksh. Sixty arrows there were in all, and
there was not one of them but what wounded


the hero or his horse. But Rustem, with his
arrows, did not inflict so much as a single
wound upon his adversary. The hero felt all
his strength passing from him, and said :

" It is enough for to-day; night is at hand,
and no one can fight in the darkness. Go to
your tent, and I will return to my palace, and
rest awhile, and heal my wounds. And I will
call my best counsellors togethers, and we will
consider whether we will not obey your com-

Isfendiar said : " Old man, you know many
stratagems and devices. Do not think that
you deceive me. But go I spare your life
for to-night."

So Rustem departed. And Isfendiar went to
his tent and lamented over the death of his two
sons. Their bodies he sent to the King in coffins
of gold on biers of ebony, with this message :

" See the firstfruits of your devices ! Isfen-
diar is yet alive, but I know not what fate is in
store for him. He is consumed with sorrow,
and you enjoy the pleasures of the throne ; but
remember that these pleasures do not last for



Meanwhile Rustem held council with Zal his
father, and with the chiefs.

" I am in despair," he said. " Never before
have I met a warrior who could resist me ; but
now I am helpless against this Isfendiar. My
arrows could no more pierce his cuirass than a
thorn can pierce a rock. If it had not been
for the darkness, he had certainly slain me.
Nothing remains for me but to mount on
Raksh and ride away to some distant country
where this terrible enemy shall not be able to
find me."

Zal said : " My son,, listen to me. There is
yet one hope of safety. We will call the
Simorg to our help."

Immediately Zal climbed a high mountain,
taking with him three censers filled with fire,
and being accompanied by three magicians.
When he reached the crest of the mountain, he
took out a feather which was wrapped in a
piece of brocade, and stirring the fire in one
of the censers, burnt the feather. . At the end
of the first watch, the night suddenly became
darker than before : it was the Simorg, which
had spied the glimmer of the fire. The bird


approached in great circles, and Zal rose from
the ground with the magicians, who all the while
were burning incense, and did homage to it.

The Simorg said, " Prince, why have you
called me by burning this feather ? "

" Because my house is in danger," answered
Zal. " Rustem is so grievously wounded that
I fear for his life ; and Raksh, his horse, is
nearly dead."

The Simorg said, " Let me see the warrior
and his horse."

So Zal sent for Rustem and Raksh ; and
they came, though they had scarcely strength
to move.

The Simorg examined their wounds, and first
drew from the hero's body four arrow-heads.
Then he sucked the blood from the wounds
with his beak ; lastly he rubbed them with his
wings. Rustem, in a moment, felt all his
strength return to him.

"Dress the wounds," said the Bird, "and

take care for seven days not to hurt yourself.

If you will dip one of my feathers in milk,

and pass it over the places, they will soon be



Then he did the same service to Raksh,
drawing from his body six arrow-heads. The
horse's strength came back, and he neighed, to
his master's great joy."

" Why," said the Simorg, " did you seek to
do battle with Isfendiar ? "

" He would have chained me," answered
Rustem, "and my soul could not endure such

" Listen to me," said the Simorg again.
" Offer your homage to this son of a king,
Surrender yourself to him. If his hour is
come, he will refuse your submission ; if that be
so, I know a way of delivering you." ,

The Bird then led the way to a tamarisk-

" Choose," said he to the hero, " the
straightest, longest, and finest branch that you
can find. To this branch is bound the fate of
Isfendiar. Make it straight before the fire;
look out a well-tempered arrow-head for it ;
.feather it well; and if it is Isfendiar's hour
to die, this is the weapon by which he will

Rustem did exactly as the Bird had com-


manded him. When the time was come, he
presented himself before Isfendiar, and offered
-his submission. " Only," he said, " spare me
the chains ; they will disgrace me for ever."

"This is idle talk," said the Prince; " choose
between chains and battle."

Then Rustem, seeing that his submission
was not accepted, bent his bow, and laid the
arrow of tamarisk-wood in rest, and so held it,
while he prayed in secret to God. The Prince,
seeing him delay, thought that he did it from
fear, and taunted him. Then Rustem hesitated
no longer, but let the arrow fly, aiming at the
Prince's eye. The arrow flew straight at its
mark, and Isfendiar's strength left him in a
moment ; his bow dropped from his hand, and
he seized his horse's mane.

" You have reaped as you have sown," cried
.Rustem ; " you thought yourself an invincible
hero, and now a single arrow has robbed you of
all your strength."

As he spoke, the Prince dropped from his
horse upon the ground. There he lay sense-
less for a while ; then, sitting up on the ground,
he drew the arrow from his eye, covered as


it was with blood from the steel to the

Two of his nobles, seeing what had hap-
pened, ran up and lifted him from the ground,
uttering loud cries of grief and despair. The
white-haired Zal also hastened to the place,
and lamented over this misfortune.

" The wise men have told me," he cried, "that
the man who slays Isfendiar, will have no peace
either in this world or in the next."

Isfendiar said : " Trouble not yourselves. It
is not Rustem that has slain me, nor the
Simorg, nor the magical arrow. It is my father
who sent me to my death. But do you,
Rustem, take my son Bahman in your charge ;
teach him the ways of a king, for it has been
foretold to me that he will sit upon the throne
that has been denied to me."

Rustem laid his right hand upon his heart,
and swore that he would do as Isfendiar had

Then the soul of Isfendiar was satisfied.

This was the last victory of Rustem.



ZAL of the white hair had born to him in his
old age a son of singular beauty. But when
the astrologers came to cast his horoscope, they
were perplexed and terrified at what they found.
They said to Zal, "We have learnt the secret
of the heavens ; but it is of evil import for you
and yours. This beautiful son will be the ruin
of your house ; he will confound the land of
Persia ; few and bitter will be his own days,
and there will be few of his kindred that will
survive him."

Zal gave the lad the name of Sheghad, and
sent him, when he was grown up, to the King
of Cabul. When the King saw that he was
tall and handsome, and fit in all respects to sit
upon a throne, he showed him great kindness,


provided for him bountifully, and finally gave
him his daughter in marriage.

Rustem was accustomed to receive every
year from the King of Cabul a bull's hide, as
a token of sovereignty ; and the King hoped
that, now that Sheghad was become his son-in-
law, this tribute would be remitted. But when
the proper time came, Rustem sent his mes-
senger as usual, and demanded the bull's hide.

The King, and still more Sheghad, were
greatly offended at this conduct.

" Why should I respect my elder brother,'*
said he, " when he is not ashamed to behave to
me so unkindly ? I care for him no more than
if he were a stranger."

One night the King and his son-in-law could
not sleep for thinking of this affair, but sat
talking of how they might rid the world of
Rustem. At last Sheghad said to the King :

" Listen to my scheme. Make a great feast,
and invite all the nobles to it ; while we are
drinking wine, say something insulting to me.
I will leave the table, as if in anger, and, going
to Zabulistan, will complain to my father and my
brother of the King of Cabul. Then Rustem


will come to redress my wrongs. You must
find a hunting-ground, and cause a number of
pits to be dug in it ; they must be dug large
enough for Rustem and Raksh, his horse.
The bottom of the pits must be filled with
swords and lances and hunting spears, with
their handles in the earth and their points
upwards. Let a great number of them be dug,
a hundred rather than five ; and take care
that you say nothing of the matter no, not
even to the sun."

So the King made a feast, and invited to it
all the nobles of the land. When their heads
were full of the fumes of wine, Sheghad began
to boast of his parentage.

" There is no one equal to me in this com-
pany," he cried. " Zal is my father, and
Rustem my brother."

The King said: "You are no brother of
Rustem. You are the son of a slave ! "

Then Sheghad started up in a rage, and left
the banqueting hall, and set out for Zabulistan.
When he came to the palace, his brother asked
him : " How do you fare in Cabul ? "

Sheghad said: /'Do not speak to me of


Cabul. The King has insulted me beyond
bearing ; yes, and you too. ' You are no son
of Zal,' he said, ' and, though you were, it
would be nothing to your honour.' Then I
came away in a rage."

Rustem said : " My brother, do not trouble
yourself about this fellow. I will humble him
in the dust, and give his crown to you."

Then Rustem commanded his lieutenants to
assemble an army ; but Sheghad said : " Do
not trouble yourself to lead an army against
Cabul. The mere sound of your name will be
enough. Already, I am sure, the King repents
of his folly, and he will send his chiefs to
entreat your pardon."

" You are right," said Rustem, " I have no
need to take an army against Cabul. A hun-
dred horsemen will be sufficient."

Meanwhile the King of Cabul had caused
the pits to be made according to Sheghad's
advice. They were so skilfully hidden, that
neither man nor horse could possibly discover

As soon as Rustem had set out, Sheghad
sent a message to the King. " Rustem has set

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out without an army. Come and make a pre-
tence of entreating his pardon."

So the King came to meet Rustem, his
tongue covered with honey, his heart full of
poison. And as soon as he spied him in the
distance, he dismounted, uncovered his head,
drew his shoes from his feet, and, throwing
himself on the ground, begged pardon for the
injurious words that he had used to Sheg-
had. So Rustem pardoned him, and accom-
panied him on his return to his capital.

Near the city the King had had a feast
prepared in a beautiful garden ; and, as they
sat at the wine, he said : "If you have any
wish to hunt, I have a park where the plains
and hills abound with wild beasts. There are
lions among the hills, and in the plain roe-deer
and wild asses."

Rustem heard this with delight, for his fate
had come upon him. He bade Raksh be
saddled, took his falcons, and put his bow in its
case, and set out. As they were following the
chase, all his companions left him, and he for
so fate would have it approached the place
where the pits had been dug. Raksh, how-


ever, smelt the newly-turned earth, and reared,
and would not advance. But Rustem was
d etermined to go on, and, blinded by his fate,
lifted his whip in a rage, and touched Raksh,
though but lightly, with it. The horse bounded
at the stroke, and fell with two of his feet
in one of the pits. His sides were terribly
wounded, and Rustem's breast and legs were
also pierced. Nevertheless, such was his
strength, he disentangled himself from the trap,
and recovered his footing on the side of the pit.

When he opened his eyes he saw Sheghad,
and knew from his face that he had contrived
this treachery. " You will repent of this," he

But Sheghad said : " You have deserved
your end for all the blood that you have shed.''

At this moment the King arrived, and when
he saw how seriously Rustem was wounded, he
pretended to be grieved, and said : " How has
this misfortune happened ? I will go at once
and fetch physicians to heal your wounds."

" The time is past," answered Rustem,
" when physicians can help me. I am passing
away, as better men before me have passed.


But be sure that my son will avenge my

Then he turned to Sheghad and said :
" Grant me this one favour. Give me my
bow and two arrows. I would not be torn in
pieces by a lion, as I lie helpless here."

Sheghad drew the bow from its case, and
put it into Rustem's hand, smiling, as he did so,
with joy that his brother was dying. Rustem
griped it with a mighty grasp, weakened though
he was with the pain of his wounds. When
Sheghad saw how strong he was, he was struck
with terror, and tried to hide himself. There
was a plane-tree close at hand, and behind this
he sheltered himself. But Rustem laid an arrow
in rest, and drew his bow with such strength
that the arrow passed right through both the
tree and Sheghad. The hero rejoiced and
said : " Thanks be to God that I have been
able to revenge myself on this traitor." And
as he spoke his spirit left him.

This was the end of Rustem.





IT was midnight in Kehama's city, and yet
there was not a man, or woman, or child, that
slept from one end of it to the other ; it was
midnight, and yet the streets were bright as
at noonday. For Kehama, the great Rajah,
made a splendid funeral for his dead son: First
in the procession came the priests, the Brah-
mins, and after them the dead man, seated
upright in his palankeen. There is a glow on his
cheek, but it is only from the curtains of crirh-
on silk ; he nods his heads, but it is only from
the motion of the bearers' steps. Close behind
his son came the great Rajah himself, and next
to him, each in her gilded palankeen, the dead


man's wives, who are doomed to die with their
lord ; and after these again, closely guarded
by a company of bowmen, a man and a girl.
The man is Ladurlad ; it was he who dealt
Arvalan his death-blow ; the girl is Kailyal, his
daughter ; it was in defending her that Ladur-
lad did the deed.

And now the funeral rites are finished ;
nothing but ashes remains of the dead man's
body ; and Kehama, approaching the great
slab of stone on which it had been laid for the
burning, spreads on it honey and rice, and calls
on the spirit of his son. The spirit comes,
though none but Kehama could perceive the
thin unsubstantial form. "Is this all that you
can do for me," said Arvalan, " this funeral
pomp and show, you who are mightier than the
gods ? "

Kehama' s grief was changed to anger at this
reproach. " Fool," he cried, " fool that you
were, when I had secured you against fire, and
sword, and the common accidents of man, to
perish by a stake in a peasant's hand ! In a
little time I could have made you safe against
death itself."


"It is useless to reproach me/' answered
Arvalan ; " it was my hour of folly, and my fate
was too strong for me. But is there nothing
that you can do for me ? The elements, fire
and air and water, torture my naked soul."

" They shall do so no more," said Kehama.
" Is there anything else that you desire."

" Yes," cried the spirit, " vengeance ! "

Then Kehama turned, and raising his hand
to silence the crowd, said : " Bring forth the

Ladurlad stepped forward at the word, but
Kailyal hung back, looking round for help,
though indeed she knew that help there was
none. Now it so chanced that on the brink of
the river was a wooden image, roughly carved,
of Marriataly, the goddess of the poor. When
Kailyal saw it, she sprang to it, and clasped it
tightly with her arms. The guards seized her,
and would have dragged her away ; but as they
dragged she clung still closer and closer. And
now, as the image rocks and bends with the
strain, they fancy that the girl is slackening her
hold, and drag with redoubled effort, when, of
a sudden, the image yields to their force ; and


as it yields, the bank crumbles, and gives way
under their feet, and all, the guards and the
girl alike, are plunged headlong into the

" She has escaped me," said the Rajah, " but
the more guilty criminal is left." And he looked
with a dreadful frown at Ladurlad.

" Mercy ! " cried the wretched man, " mercy !
It was only to save my child that I slew the
Prince. Mercy!"

Kehama said not a word, but stood buried in
meditation. He had no thought of mercy ; he
made no account of right and justice ; he con-
sidered only how his vengeance might be most
complete. At last he spoke.

" Ladurlad," he said, " I charm thy life from
steel and stone and wood, from the bite of the
serpent, from the tooth of the wild beast, from
sickness, and from time. Earth is mine, and
it shall deny thee its fruits ; water is mine, and
it shall fly from thy approach ; the winds are
mine, and they shall pass by thee. Thou shalt
seek death, but shalt seek it in vain. Thou
shalt live with an unquenched fire in thy heart
and thy brain as long as my power shall last."


And he turned away to the crowd ; and
Ladurlad wandered away, overwhelmed with
his misery. His feet took him, not knowing or
caring whither he went, to the river bank ; and
there he spied something floating down the
stream. It seemed like the trunk of a tree;
but as he was turning away, he caught a
glimpse of a woman's robe. " Ah ! " he thought
to himself, " the goddess has saved her," and he
plunged into the river. The water knew the
spell that Kehama had laid upon it, and shrunk
before him, and almost in a moment he had
caught his daughter in his arms, and drawn her
to the shore. There he laid her on the sand,
and chafed her heart and her feet, laying
them bare to the warmth of the sun. Long
he laboured with scarcely a hope ; at last her
eyelids began to tremble, and then her lips, and
after her bosom to heave. She lived again.

When she opened her eyes, and saw her
father, a thrill of hope shot through her. " He
has spared us, then," she cried.

He shook his head. "He has laid a curse
upon me, a curse which will cling to me for
ever. No wind may breathe on me ; no water


touch me. Sleep may never light on me ; and
even death itself is denied to me."

The girl looked at him incredulously ; but
when she put her hand on his garments, and
found them still dry, though he had brought
her from the depths of the river, she knew that
he had spoken the truth.



ALL that day the unhappy Ladurlad and his
daughter wandered across the plain and through
the jungle. They had no care or thought
of the way, except, indeed, to be as far as
possible from Kehama's city. When darkness
overtook them they were at a place where a
white flag marked the spot where some poor
victim had been seized by a tiger. At other
times they would have fled from the neighbour-
hood as from a pestilence. Now Ladurlad was
beyond all fear, as he was beyond all hope, and
Kailyal had no thought except for her father.
There, then, they lay down to rest, though
there was no rest for the unhappy Ladurlad.
Still, for his daughter's sake, he feigned to
be asleep, and she, listening to his regular


breathing, and hoping against hope, began to
believe that the gods might have had pity upon
him, and given him a respite from the pain
of the curse. So she sat and listened, till at
last, wearied as she was with her day's wan-
dering, sleep overtook her, and she ceased her

Then Ladurlad thought to himself : " Why
should I cumber this innocent girl with my
unhappy company ? Why should she bear the
burden of a woe which she cannot relieve ? "
He lifted his head from her lap. She did not
wake. He stood up, and still she slept. Silently
he stole away ; then she felt that he was gone.
For a moment she stood, listening to his steps
and not knowing what to do. Then, with a
shriek, she rushed after him ; but the night and
the thickness of the jungle hindered her, and
he quickened his steps when he was aware of
her pursuit.

While she stood utterly perplexed, she heard
the howl of a tiger in the distance. But when
she turned, something more dreadful encoun-
tered her a human form, a shape of lurid light,
dimly seen in the darkness. Nearer and nearer


* 1



H ^


it came, as she stood spell-bound with horror ;
and she knew the face of Arvalan ! The
spectre stretched out its hands to clasp her.
Then the spell was broken, and she fled. It so
chanced that by the wayside was a temple, the
temple of Pollear, the elephant-headed god to
whom travellers pray, standing with doors wide
open. The maiden rushed headlong into the
shrine, and clasped the altar. Even, at the
altar the pursuing spectre seized her. But the
insulted god caught him with his elephant-
trunk, and hurled him,, as a stone is hurled by a
catapult, into the depths of the forest.

Kailyal did not stay to see how she had
been saved, but, rushing on wildly through the
jungle, struck her foot on the root of a man
chineel-tree, and there lay, like one dead, undjer
the poisonous shade.

It so chanced that one of the Glendoveers,
the winged children of Casyapa, the Father
of the gods, was abroad that night, disport-
ing himself in the air. He chanced to see
Kailyal as she lay, and pitying one so beauti-
ful and so unhappy, bore her to his father's


Said Casyapa to his son Ereenia was the
name of the Glendoveer : " Do you know what
you have done, bringing a mortal into this holy
place ? "

" I found her," said Ereenia, "under the
shade of a poison-tree, lying lifeless as you see

" But what if she is a sinful mortal, one
doomed to death ? "

" Sinful, my father ! surely she cannot be
with that sweet, innocent face. But, my father,
why do you ask questions of me, you who
know all things ? "

" Do you know Kehama ? "

" The Almighty Man ! Who does not know
him and his fearful power ? Who does not
know the tyrant of earth, and the enemy of

" Do you fear him ? "

" I know that he is terrible."

" Terrible indeed ! He has such power that
there is hope even in hell ; yes, and fear in
heaven. The spirits of the condemned are
glad ; the souls of the blessed suspend their
joy. Nay, the very gods are afraid. Brahma


fears, and Veshnoo turns his face in doubt to
Seeva's throne."

" I have seen Indra tremble at his prayers
and dreadful penances, prayers and penances
which claim from Seeva a power so vast that
even he cannot grant it and be safe."

" Ereenia, will you dare this Almighty Man ? "

" I, my father ? I dare him ? "

" If not, take the maid again to earth ; drop
her before the tiger, as he prowls for his prey,
or under the poison-tree, that they may work
Kehama's will."

" Never never will I do it."

" Then meet his wrath."

" But why not shelter her here, my father ? "

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Online LibraryAlfred John ChurchStories of the magicians; Thalaba and the magicians of the Domdaniel, Rustem and the genii, Kehama and his sorceries → online text (page 11 of 13)