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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have a single thought of harming you ! "

And now they came to the place where the
Guardian stood. It was an image of iron,
with every vein and limb and muscle true to


life. The knee was bent forward ; the other
stood firm and upright. The right hand was
lifted ready to throw the thunder-bolt. When
Thalaba approached, the Image knew the
Destroyer, and hurled the thunder-bolt. But
again the Ring, which Mohareb had restored
to him, saved him. So blindly do the wicked
work the will of Heaven ! The lightning was
turned back harmless. He started and looked
round on the girl. He leant pale and breath-
less against a tree ; the next moment she
started with a scream of joy, " Save me, save
me, Okba ; the Enemy is here ! "

" Okba ! " said the youth, for he had never
forgotten the name of his father's murderer
since the Spirit had told it to him at midnight
in Moath's tent. " Okba ! " and he seized an
arrow in his hand, and rushed at him.

" Son of Hodeirah ! " said the old man, " my
hour is not yet come. But my Leila, my in-
nocent daughter, you may slay ; this vengeance
God allows."

Leila stood with her hands clasped round
her father's neck, her eyes wide open with


" It is not upon her that the blood of
Hodeirah cries for vengeance." And again
he threatened the Sorcerer, and again he felt
his hand held by some mysterious power.

" You do riot aim the blow more eagerly,"
said Okba, " than I would rush to meet it.
But that would be but a poor revenge. No,
I must suffer in my innocent child. Strike
her, why do you delay ? God permits, nay,
commands, the deed."

" Liar ! " cried Thalaba, and Leila looked up
wondering in her father's face.

"Nay!" said he, "'tis the truth. Long
ago I saw this danger. I saw it in the
stars at her birth, and when I called up a
Spirit, and asked him, he said, ' One must die,
Leila or Thalaba/ Yes ; and I mounted to
the seventh heaven, and read the death table
in which ' are written all the names of them
that are for death, and her name was among
them. . Be merciful, young man ; and do not
keep her any longer in her agony."

Then the rush of wings was heard, and
Azrael, the Angel of Death, stood before


" Son of Hodeirah," said he, " the Magician
speaks truth. I am come to receive the
maiden's life at your hands."

" Hear me, angel," said Thalaba. " I have
dared every danger, I have lost all that my
soul holds dear. I have cut off every tie of
life to avenge my father's death, and to root
out of the earth the accursed sorcerer here.
And I am willing to endure whatever still
remains. But this innocent girl I will not
slay. No, angel, I dare not do it ! "

" Remember," said the angel, " every word
of thine is written down, and thou must be
judged for all."

" Be it so. He that reads the secrets of
the hearts will judge me ; I will not harm
the innocent."

Then a voice came out of the darkness.
" Think again, son of Hodeirah ! One must
die, Leila or Thalaba. She dies for thee, or
thou for her. Think again, and weigh it well."

He did not hesitate a moment ; but reach-
ing out his hand cried, " Oneiza, receive thy
Thalaba unstained by crime."

" Thou hast disobeyed. The hour is mine,"


cried Okba, and shaking his daughter off, drew
the dagger from his side, and aimed a deadly

He aimed it, but Leila rushed between to
save the youth, and sank into Thalaba's arms,
and Azrael from his hands received her parting



WHEN Okba saw that his daughter was dead,
he threw himself on her dead body in a passion
of grief, now crying out to the powers of Hell
to help him, and then to Heaven to strike him
dead, and then again cursing Thalaba. But
the youth stood by in silent pity. As he stood,
he felt his cheek suddenly fanned by a motion
of the air, and looking round saw that it came
from the wings of a green bird that was hover-
ing near him. And now the bird perched on
his hand, and turned a gentle eye to him, as if
to win his confidence. Then it sprang up and
flew forward, and then returned and perched
as before, manifestly inviting him to follow.
Thalaba obeyed the call, and under the moon-
light pursued his way across the river. And


now the morning sun came out, and the bird
still flew before him ; all the day long it was
his guide, but when the evening came, leaving
a purple light on the range of hills to which his
steps were bent, it vanished out of his sight.
For a while Thalaba thought that it had left
him. But when he had made his evening
prayer, and lifted his head from the ground, he
saw a speck in the air ; nearer it came, and
nearer, till he saw that it was his guide. The
bird hung hovering before the traveller, and
in her foot she clasped a cluster of fruit that
she had brought from the woods of Paradise.
Thalaba took and ate, and felt all his powers
renewed. In his fresh strength he climbed
with untired feet the steep ascent of the hills,
and the bird still guided him, till in the very
heart of the mountains a valley opened before
his eyes. It was the Simorg's Valley, the
dwelling of the Bird of Ages.

On a green mossy bank beside a rivulet the
Bird of Ages stood. Thalaba approached, and
crossing his arms upon his breast, thus spoke :
" Earliest and wisest of all things that are,
guide me, I beseech thee, on my way. I am


bound for the Caverns under the rocks of the
ocean, where the Sorcerers have their dwell-
ings. How may I reach them ? "

The Simorg opened his eyes, and said,
" Go northward by the stream. In the foun-
tain of the Rock wash away thy stains. Then
fortify thy soul with prayer. Thus prepared,
climb on the sledge. Be bold ; be cautious.
Seek and find, for God has appointed all"

Then he was silent, and returned to his

Thalaba went northward along the rivulet's
side, tracing it to its source, and the green
bird went with him till they reached the
Fountain of the Rock. There the youth
washed away his stains, and fortified his soul
with prayer, and the bird stood meanwhile
near the youth, thinking of all the perils
through which he must pass.

When he had finished ablution and prayer,
he saw a sledge under a pine-tree, and the
dogs harnessed to it, and the dogs were watch-
ing him with their ears erect and their eyes
wide open. They were as lean as dogs could
be, and black but for one white line like the


new moon upon their breasts. Thalaba took
his place in the sledge, and the bird perched
on his knees, and when the dogs, turning their
heads, saw that he was seated, they started.
Up the icy path they hastened, and when they
reached the top, they stood still and panted,
and looked back to the youth, as if pleading
for pity, and moaned and whined with fear.

And now they start again on the downward
path. It was narrow and steep, with a wall of
rock on one side, and a precipice on the other.
One sway of the sledge will send the traveller
headlong on to the rocks below. And still the
dogs barked and whined, and though Thalaba
sat with his arms folded, and had neither
scourge nor goad, the blood flowed fast from
their skin and tracked the way with red. And
now on a height above the path a giant fiend
stands ready to thrust down an avalanche. If
Thalaba looks back, he dies. But he is brave,
and the dogs are swift, and the thunder of the
falling avalanche echoes far behind. So they
reach the plain.

It was a desolate expanse with neither grass
nor bush nof tree. The dogs went quickly on


their way ; but when the sun went down, they
stopped and looked at Thalaba. He knelt on
the ground, and said his prayer, and they knelt
beside him, the tears running down their cheeks.
This done they lay close together, as close as
they could lie, and slept ; and Thalaba slept,
lying backward in the sledge, and the green bird
slept, nestling in his breast.

At dawn the dogs woke him, and knelt again
with him while, he prayed. And all that
day and many days afterwards they travelled
across the plain, halting at the hour of
prayer, and the bird was a companion to
Thalaba by day, and rested in his breast at

And now the signs of life begin to appear.
First is seen the fir, then the laurel with down-
curving arms, then the quivering leaves of the
aspen, then the poplar, and the light and peace-
ful birch. Now, too, Thalaba can see the track
of the deer, and the ermine running over the
snow, and hear the whirr of the grouse's wings
among the pines ; now, too, the owl follows his
sledge, and soon he hears the song of the
thrush, till at last he comes to bushes and grass,


and thickets bright with red berries, and to

Now was the last morning of their journey,
and the green bird fixed on Thalaba an en-
treating eye. At that moment speech was
given her.

" Servant of God," she said, "if I have
guided you right, give me what I ask."

" Ask what you will, I shall still be your

" Son of Hodeirah, when you shall see an
old man bent under the burden of his punish-
ment, forgive him, yea, and pray for him."

Thalaba's cheek flushed, and he looked to
the bird as if half repenting his promise, for he
thought of Okba, and remembered his father's
dying groan.

The bird saw his doubt, and spoke again.
" O Thalaba, if she who received the blow of
the dagger to save you deserves one kind re-
membrance, save the father whom she loves
from endless death."

" What, Leila, is it you ? What is it I dare
refuse to you ? This is no time to harbour
thoughts of revenge in my heart. Here I put


them off for ever. God pardon me as I pardon
him. But who am I that I should save a
sinful soul ? "

" Enough 1 When the hour is come, re-
member me ! " And she spread her wings and
soared to Paradise.

And now the dogs start forward on their
journey. It was still early morning when they
reached the well-head of a rock. The little
pool was clear and deep. It was stirred
strangely below, but its surface was calm ; and
on it there lay a little boat. It had neither oar
nor sail, only a rudder, and by the rudder stood
a Damsel,

The dogs looked wistfully at her, and their
tongues were loosed. " Have we done well,
dear Mistress ? " they asked.

The Damsel answered " Poor servants of
God, when all this witchery is destroyed, your
woes and mine will end. This new adventurer
gives us a new hope. God forbid that he like
you should perish for his fears ! But now sleep,
and wait the end in peace."

As she spoke a deep sleep fell upon them.
Then the Damsel said to Thalaba, " Will you


come with me ? The way is strange and
dangerous ; but the wretched ask your help.
Will you come ? "

" I will come in the name of God/' said
Thalaba, and stepped into the boat.

The stream ran on through pleasant fields,
with flowers blooming at the side, and willows
dipping their boughs into its waters, and the
dragon-flies, bright with green and gold, skim-
ming over its surface. And now it was swollen
by many a rivulet and rill, and grew into a
great river, with banks that widened as they

" Will you come with me ? " asked the
Damsel again.

" Go on, in the name of God," answered

And now they are come to the sea ; and the
Damsel asked him a third time, "Will you
come ? " and Thalaba answered as before.

And now they see the land, and the caverns
frowning on the rocks. The Damsel said
" See that cavern, our path is under its arch.
But now it is the ebb, and before the flood we
cannot pass over the rocks. Go and perform


your last ablutions on the rocks and strengthen
your heart with prayer. I too have need of

And she guided the boat with a firm hand
through the breakers, and Thalaba leapt out
upon the shore.




THALABA drew Abdaldar's Ring from his finger,
and threw it into the sea. " I will trust in
nothing but in Thee, O God," he cried. This
done he lay down on the beach to rest, for his
heart was not yet calm enough for prayer. And
now he felt that there was some spiritual
presence near him.

Then there came a voice, " Thalaba," and
the youth knew the voice of Moath ; and after
this a second and a dearer voice that said,
" Thalaba, go on, and finish your work. Let
me no longer suffer hope."

Thalaba looked eagerly to the sea, and as he
looked the Damsel drove the little boat to the
land, saying, "Come."

He leapt on board.


" Have you had comfort in your prayer?"
she asked.

" Yes," said he, " a heavenly visitation.' 1

"God be praised," she answered, "then I
have not hoped in vain," and her voice trembled,
and the tears ran down her cheeks. She went
on : " Stranger, in years long past there was
one who vowed himself as you have done, the
Champion of the Lord against the Sorcerer
race. He was young and gentle and brave,
a lion-hearted man. He loved me, and I kept
him from his calling, till the hour was past, and
the angel who should have crowned him smote
him in anger. Years and years have passed,
and in his place of penance he waits for the
Deliverer. Surely you are he ! "

As she spoke, they came to the entrance of
the cave, and passed beneath the arch. The
sea-birds were screaming from their nests, and
yet not in fear, for they did not know the shape
of man. As they went on, the light grew dimmer
and more dim till they came to where the
waters lapped on the rock that bounded them.
There two doors of adamant closed up the
passage. On the rock beside sat a hoary-headed
man, watching an hour-glass.


"Is it the hour appointed?" asked the

The old man neither answered her nor lifted
his eyes, but the sands were now running low in
the glass. When the last were gone, he lifted
up his hand and struck the gates. The gates
opened at the stroke, and the Damsel said, " Go
on ; I wait you here."

Not for a moment did he tarry, not one look
did he cast behind him, but hastened on. There
was a yellow light in the cavern such as may be
seen upon the hills at sunset when the sun shines
through the mist upon the hills ; the path still
was downward till it ended in a precipice.
Black as night was the abyss, and over the
depth was a little car supported by four wings,
living wings, but without body or head and un
feathered, springing from one stem. And on
the brink, fastened with fiery fetters to the
rocks, lay a young man. It was he who had
lingered over the appointed hour, neglectful in
the arms of love.

Thalaba exclaimed, " Servant of God, can 1
help you ? "

" I have sinned," said he, " and I endure my


punishment with patience. The hour that sees
the destruction of the Sorcerer race will set me

" Is it not come? Verily it has by this
token," and with fearless hand he grasped the
burning fetters, tore them from the rock, and
threw them blazing into the pit. Then for a
moment the vapours kindled by the fire flamed
up, then all was dark again.

" Deliverer ! " cried the youth, " and where is
she ? "

" Lo ! she waits for you at the gates."

" And you will join us in your triumph ? "

" Wait not for me ; my path has been

" But your name ? that we may spread it
abroad in the world and bless thee."

" Bless the Merciful ; " so saying, Thalaba
murmured the name of God, and leapt into the
car. Down it sailed a measureless depth, till
at last it struck upon the rock.

Thalaba stood dazed and giddy for a time
with the shock ; then looking round he saw a
distant light, small as a speck, but most intense.
Beyond all was darkness. u It is no friend,"


thought he to himself, " that the darkness
hides." And indeed it was true. For a rebel
Afreet, largest of his kind, lay on the ground at
the gate of the Sorcerers' cave. He scented
the approach of human food, and the lust of
hunger burned fiercely in his eye. Thalaba
went on, shading his eyes with his hand, and
when he came within due distance laid an arrow
in the rest, and fixing his gaze resolutely on the
light, loosed the bow. It pierced the Afreet
where he lay ; and he sent up a cry so hideous
and so loud that no human voice could equal it.
Thalaba stepped across the monster as he lay
in the agonies of death, and smote on the doors
of stone, bidding them in the name of God give
way. The rocks shuddered at the sound, and
the doors were rent asunder, and in a moment
he saw the Teraph, and the Fire, and Khawla,
and Mohareb armed, ready for conflict.
Thalaba struck his raised arm with numbing
force, and rushed by, for he saw amongst the
flames Hodeirah's holy sword. Then Khawla
met the youth, and leapt upon him, and clasped
him with close clinging arms, while she bade
Mohareb smite the deadly blow. He spurned




her to the ground, and when she rose again and
clung about his knees, he seized her leathery
neck with a throttling grasp, and thrust her
aside, and sprang forward to the sword. The
flames knew the Destroyer, and curled around
him, and coiled up his robe, and made a crown
on his head.

The moment that Thalaba had laid his hand
upon his father's sword the Living Image in
the inner cave smote the round altar. Then
all the Domdaniel Cavern rocked to its
foundations, and the earth felt the shock. All
the Sorcerer race, wherever dispersed, felt and
obeyed the summons ; such was the compulsion
laid upon them by the Covenant of Hell. They
were sworn to meet the common danger and
to share the common doom. And now they
crowded round the Destroyer, vainly en-
deavouring to crush the single foe. First of all
was Mohareb, for the witch had foretold that
-one blow would be fatal to Thalaba and to him ;
and now, despairing of his own safety, he
.sought to uphold the cause of Eblis.

But none can withstand the Destroyer armed
as he is with the fated sword. Mohareb lifts



his shield to parry the stroke, and it is shorn in
two. He lifts his scymetar, and the broken
hilt hangs from his hand, and now he bleeds,
he flies, he strives to hide himself in the crowd.
They too feel the sword ; they fly to the inner
cave, and fall fearfully about the Giant Idol's

It was a Living Image made by magic art
of flesh and bone and human blood. It had
the shape of Eblis, in strength and stature
such as he was of old when he stood among the'
Sons of God pre-eminent, Lucifer, Son of the
Morning. In one hand he grasped a sceptre,
with which he had power to shake the earth,
and raise the sea in storms, and lay cities in
ruins, with the other he sustained the weight
of the sea, for the cavern was roofed with the

Now the Sorcerers lay trembling round his
feet ; and Mohareb clung about his knees. The
Idol was pale and calm with excess of fear, for
he knew the Destroyer. Sure of his stroke
and without haste Thalaba advanced. Okba
met him on his way, the only fearless man of
all that miserable company.


" Strike me," he cried, " I am he that stole at
midnight into thy father's tent. This is the
hand that pierced Hodeirah's heart. This is
the hand that was red with the blood of thy
brothers and sisters. Let the vengeance fall
on me," and he spread his bosom to the stroke.

" Old man," said Thalaba, " I strike thee not.
The harm that thou hast done to me and mine
has brought its own bitter punishment. I
pardon thee for thy daughter's sake. For her
sake repent while it is yet time."

Okba stood astonished, and his heart was
softened, and his tears gushed out. Then was
heard a voice.

" Thou hast done well, my Servant. Ask
and receive thy reward."

Thalaba said, " I have but wished to do my
duty. But look on this Sorcerer, many are his
crimes, but mercy is infinite. If I have found
favour, let his soul be saved from utter death."

The Voice replied, "The prayers of peni-
tence never arise unheard. Ask for thyself."

" I am alone on earth," said Thalaba, " do
with me as thou wilt."

Then came no answering voice. But the


spirit of Hodeirah came to see the work of
vengeance accomplished, and by the side of
Hodeirah, a pure form clothed with rosy light,
was Zeinab. Then Thalaba knew that his
hour was come. He leapt forward and plunged
his sword hilt-deep into the Idol's heart. The
domed vault fell in, and all the tribe of the
Sorcerers perished together, but Oneiza received
her husband into the bowers of Paradise.





A CERTAIN great Persian hero, San by name,
after being childless for many years, had a son
born to him. The child was as fair as the sun,
but, by a strange misfortune, his hair was
white. For seven days no one dared to tell
the father what had happened that his beau-
tiful wife had brought into the world an infant
like an old man. At last the child's nurse, who
was as bold as a lioness, went bravely to him,
and said, " Sire, I bring you good news. May
your days be happy ! May the heart of your
enemies be torn asunder ! God has granted
you the desire of your heart. You have a son,
who, small as he is, yet shows the heart of a
lion. A beautiful child he is, and you will see


nothing amiss in him, except that by some ill-
luck his naif is white. Fate would have it so.
Be content, my lord, with what God has given

On this the hero came down from his throne,
and went to the apartments of the women.
There he saw a child, of a singular beauty, but
with the head of an old man, such as he had
never seen or even heard tell of before. The
sight struck him with despair. He lifted his
eyes to heaven, and said, " O God. all that
Thou ordainest is for good. If I have done
any evil if I have departed from the faith,
accept my repentance, and pardon my sin.
Truly my soul is overwhelmed with shame that
I have had a son born to me who seems to be
of the race of Satan, with his black eyes and
his hair white as a lily. What shall I say
when the nobles come to me ? What shall I
say about this child of a demon ? Verily I
shall be compelled to leave Persia for very

Thus cursing his lot he ordered them to
take the child and carry it to a mountain which
they call Alburz, or the White Mountain, a


lonely place which was never trodden by the
foot of man. But, though his father cast off
the innocent child, God did not forget him. A
great bird, the Simorg by name, had its nest on
the mountain, and, going out to look for food
for its young, saw the child lying on the
ground ; the thorns were his cradle, the hard
earth his nurse. A day and a night he had lain
there crying for hunger. God touched the
heart of the Simorg with pity, so that it did
not think of devouring the child, but, catching
him up in its claws, carried him to its nest
upon the mountain. The young of the great
bird were not less kind to him ; indeed they
showed him a marvellous pity, so astonished
were they at his beauty. As for the Simorg, it
chose out for its guest the tenderest part of its
prey ; and the poor child, for want of milk,
was nourished on blood. Thus he grew up,
sometimes remaining in the nest, and some-
times wandering in the forests on the mountain
side. He was straight and tall as a cypress-
tree, and the report of his beauty and strength
was carried far and wide.

After a while San had a dream. He thought


that he saw a rider mounted on an Arab steed,
and that this rider came to him and gave him
news of his son. When he woke, he called his
nobles to him, and told them his dream.

" Do you think it possible," said he, " that
the child survives the cold of winter and the
heat of summer ? "

Old and young answered him with one voice
" You were ungrateful to God for His gift.
The sight of the child's white hair threw you
into despair, but what was that in a body so
fair ? And now prepare to look for him. Do
not fancy that he is dead. He whom God
regards with favour will not perish either of
cold or heat."

So San went to Mount Alburz with a great
company of followers to look for his son.
When he came to the mountain side he saw
a great rock which seemed to pierce the very
skies, so high was it. On this was a great

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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 5 of 13)