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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union because we have no king. There is such
a one as we want, the wise men tell me, at
Mount Alburz ; he is tall and strong, a lover of
justice and truth, and he is of the royal race."

All the chiefs approved. Then Zal said to

" Go at once to Mount Alburz ; do homage
to Prince Keikobad, but do not stay with him ;
you must be back in fourteen days and tell
him that the army is asking for its king."


Rustem, in great joy, leapt upon the back of
Raksh, and rode off at full speed. A number
of Tartars had posted themselves upon the
road, and attacked him. Club in hand, he fell
upon, them, and struck many to the ground, and
drove the rest before him, so that they returned
to Afrasiab full of terror.

Rustem meanwhile went on his way. When
he was now about a mile from Mount Alburz,
he saw a splendid palace standing in a beautiful
garden. Near a fountain was placed a throne,
on which sat a young man of singular beauty,
with a circle of nobles round him. They invited
Rustem to alight from his horse, and drink a
cup of wine with them.

Rustem thanked them courteously, but said

" I am bound for Mount Alburz on an errand
of great importance, nor must I delay for an
hour. All the borders of Persia are overrun
with enemies ; in every house there is mourning,
for the throne is without a king."

" If you are on your way to Mount Alburz,"
they said to him, " tell us who it is whom you
want, and we will take you to him."

" There is there a king of the pure royal


race," answered Rustem ; " his name is Keiko-
bad. Tell me, if any one of you know, where
I can find him."

" I know him," cried one of the young men ;
" come in, and I will tell you his character."

When Rustem learnt that he was to hear
tidings about Keikobad, he leapt from his horse,
and went to where the nobles were sitting
under the shade of the trees by the fountain.

The young man who had spoken to him
seated himself on a chair, and holding Rustem's
hand in one of his hands, filled with the other
a cup of wine. He drank it to his guests, and
gave another cup to Rustem.

" You ask me," he said, " about Keikobad.
How do you know his name ? "

" Prince," said he, " I bring good tidings.
The nobles of Persia have chosen Keikobad to
be their king ; and my father, Zal, who is the
chief among them, said to me ' Ride to Mount
Alburz, find Keikobad, and pay him homage on
our behalf.' Tell me, then, where I can find

The young man smiled and said, " I am


Rustem bowed his head, and coming down
from his seat did homage to the King. The
King called for a cup of wine, and touched it
with his lips in Rustem's honour and Rustem
drained a cup in honour of the King.

The King said " See, my dream has come
true ; last night I dreamed that two falcons came
to me by way of Persia, carrying a sjhining
crown, and put it on my head. This is the
reason why I assembled these nobles to meet
you to-day."

The very same hour the two set out for
Persia with a troop of horsemen. But when
they came near the advanced posts of the
Tartars, Kaloun, the great Tartar chief, came
out to attack them.

When the King saw him and his followers,
he was for giving him battle. But Rustem

" My lord, it does not become your greatness
to fight in such a battle. My horse and my
club, with God to help me, will be enough to
deal with these enemies."

So saying he gave the rein to Raksh, and
charged the Tartars. He caught one trooper


from his horse, and striking another with the
man as if he were a club dashed out his brains.
He tore the riders out of their saddles, one
after another, and dashed them upon the
ground with such force as to break their skulls
and necks and backs. Kaloun thought that
it was a demon who had broken his chains,
and was riding about with a club in his hand
and a lasso fastened to his saddle. He charged
him, struck him with his spear, and cut the
fastenings of his cuirass. But Rustem, reach-
ing out his hand, caught hold of Kaloun's
spear, tore it from him, and struck him out
of his saddle with it. Then as he lay upon
the ground, he made Raksh trample on him
till his brains were trodden out of his skull.
When the Tartars saw their chief treated in
this fashion, they turned their backs and fled.

Rustem and the King rode on till they came
to Zal. Seven days they feasted and took
counsel with the nobles, and on the eighth
day Keikobad was crowned King of Persia.

A few days afterwards the Persian army
marched against the Tartars, and joined battle
with them. When the conflict had lasted for


some time, Rustem said to his father, "Tell
me, my father, where is that villainous Prince,
Afrasiab ? What dress does he wear ? Where
does he set up his standard ? Yonder I see
a bright violet flag ; is it his ? "

" My son," said Zal, " listen to me. This
Tartar Afrasiab is as strong and as fierce as
a dragon. Beware of him. His flag is black;
his coat of mail is black, and he has an iron
badge on his arm. His armour is of iron
embossed with gold ; and he has a black plume
on his helmet."

Rustem answered, " Have no fear on my
account. I will catch him by the girdle, and
drag him hither with his face upon the earth."

So saying he set spurs to Raksh. Afrasiab
saw him scouring the plain, and, astonished at
his youth, said to his nobles, " Who is this
dragon that has broken its chain ? I do not
know his name."

" It is the son of Zal, the son of San," said
they. " Do you not see that he has the club
of San in his hand ? "

Afrasiab galloped in front of his army
When Rustem saw him, he pulled up his


horse and put his club over his shoulder ; but
when Afrasiab came near him, he let it hang
down from his saddle, and caught the Prince
by the girdle ; he wished to drag him out of
his saddle, and carry him off as the prize of
his day's fighting. But, what with the weight
of the King and Rustem's strong arm, the
leather of the girdle broke. Afrasiab fell
head foremost to the ground, and his nobles
made a ring round him. When Rustem saw
that the King had escaped him in this fashion,
he bit the back of his hand, and said, "Why
did I not lay hold under the armpits and carry
him off, girdle and all ? "

Meanwhile Afrasiab had been mounted by
his attendants on a swift horse, and had es-
caped by way of the desert, leaving his army
to shift for itself. And indeed it fared ill that
day. Zal and Mihrab, the Prince of Cabul,
and all the Persians and their allies, did won-
ders of valour. Many they killed, and many
they took prisoners. But there was no one
who could be compared to Rustem, who slew
with his own hand as many as a whole army
might have slain.


Meanwhile Afrasiab rode with all speed to
the court of the King his father.

" My father," he said, " there is among the
Persian warriors a youth such as cannot be
matched elsewhere. He saw my standard,
and rushing upon me caught me from my
saddle you would have said that I weighed
no more than a fly. By good fortune the
buckle of my girdle broke, and I escaped by
the help of my nobles. But I am as nothing
in his hands, and yet you know that I have
some courage and strength. I say then make
peace with the Persians ; for this man there is
no resisting. You thought that the war was
nothing more than a game ; but it is a game
of which your army has had enough."

The King was astonished to hear the fierce
Afrasiab speak words of wisdom. Forthwith
he wrote a letter to Keikobad. " There has
been war enough," he said, " let us have peace.
Let the Tartars keep to their borders and the
Persians to theirs. Then the two nations shall
have rest and happiness." This letter he sealed,
and sent by a messenger to Keikobad.

When the King had read it, he said : " It is


not I who was the first to raise my hand against
the Tartars. Afrasiab came across our border,
and killed Newder our king. Nevertheless, if
you repent of your misdeeds and desire peace,
I will not refuse it."

So peace was made between the Persians
and the Tartars.



KING KEIKOBAD died, and his son Kaous sat
upon his throne. At first he was a moderate
and prudent prince ; but finding his riches
increase, and his armies grow more and more
numerous, he began to believe that there was
no one equal to him in the whole world, and
that he could do what he would. One day as
he sat drinking in one of the chambers of his
palace, and boasting after his custom, a Genius,
disguised as a minstrel, came to the King's
Chamberlain, and desired to be admitted to the
Royal presence. " I came," he said, " from the
country of the Genii, and I am a sweet singer.
Maybe the King, if he was to hear me, would
give me a post in his court."


The Chamberlain went to the King, and said,
" There is a minstrel at the gate ; he has a harp
in his hand, and his voice is marvellously sweet."

" Bring him up," said the King.

So they brought him in, and gave him a place
among the musicians, and commanded that he
should give them a trial of his powers. So the
minstrel, after playing a prelude on his harp,
sang a song of the land of the Genii.

" There is no land in all the world " this was
the substance of his song " like Mazanderan,
the land of the Genii. All the year round the
rose blooms in its gardens and the hyacinth on
its hills. It knows no heat nor cold, only an
eternal spring. The nightingales sing in its
thicket, and through its valleys wander the deer,
and the water of its stream is as the water of
roses, delighting the soul with its perfume. Of
its treasures there is no end ; the whole country
is covered with gold and embroidery and jewels.
No man can say that he is happy unless he has
seen Mazanderan."

When the King heard this song, he im-
mediately conceived the thought of marching
against this wonderful country. Turning, there-


fore, to his warriors, he said : " We are given
over to feasting ; but the brave must not suffer
himself to rest in idleness. I am wealthier
and, I doubt not, stronger than all the kings
that have gone before me ; it becomes me also
to surpass them in my achievements. We will
conquer the Land of Genii."

The warriors of the King were little pleased
to hear such talk from his lips. No one
ventured to speak, but their hearts were full of
trouble and fear, for they had no desire to fight
against the Genii.

" We are your subjects, O King," they said,
" and will do as you desire." But when they
were by themselves, and could speak openly,
they said one to another, " What a trouble is
this that has come of our prosperous fortune !
Unless by good fortune the King forgets in
his cups this purpose of his, we and the whole
country are lost. Jemshid, whom the Genii
and the Peris and the very birds of the air
used to obey, never ventured to talk in this
fashion of Mazanderan, or to seek war against
the Genii ; and Feridun, though he was the
wisest of kings, and skilful in all magical arts,


never cherished such a plan." So they sat,
overwhelmed with anxiety.

At last one of them said, " My friends; there
is only one way of escaping from this danger.
Let us send a swift dromedary to Zal of the
white hair, with this message : ' Though your
head be covered with dust, do not stay to wash
it, but come/ Perhaps Zal will give the King
wise advice, and, telling him that this plan of
his is nothing but a counsel of Satan, will per-
suade him to change his purpose. Otherwise
we are lost, small and great."

The nobles listened to this advice, and sent a
messenger to Zal, mounted on a swift dromedary.

When Zal heard what had happened, he said :
" The King is self-willed. He has not yet felt
either the cold or the heat of the world. He
thinks that all men, great and small, tremble at
his sword, and it must needs be that he learn
better by experience. However, I will go ; I
will give him the best advice that I can. If he
will be persuaded by me, it will be well ; but if
not, the way is open, and Rustem shall go with
his army." All night long he revolved these
matters in his heart. The next morning he


went his way, and arrived at the court of the

The King received him with all honour,
bade him sit by his side, and inquired how he
had borne the fatigue of his journey, and of the
welfare of Rustem, his son. Then Zal spoke

" I have heard, my lord, that you are forming
plans against the Land of the Genii. Will it
please you to listen to me ? There have been
mighty kings before you, but never during all
my years, which now are many, has any one of
them conceived in his heart such a design as
this. This land is inhabited by Genii that are
skilful in all magical arts. They can lay such
bonds upon men that no one is able to hurt
them. No sword is keen enough to cut them
through ; riches and wisdom and valour are
alike powerless against them. I implore you,
therefore, not to waste your riches, and the
riches of your country and the blood of your
warriors, on so hopeless an enterprise."

The King answered, " Doubtless it is true
that the kings my predecessors never ventured
to entertain such a plan. But am I not superior
to them in courage, in power, and wealth ?


Had they such warriors as you, and Rustem
your son ? Do not think to turn me from my
purpose. I will go against the country of these
accursed magicians, and verily I will not leave
one single soul alive in it, for they are an evil
race. If you do not care to come with me, at
least refrain from advising me to sit idle upon
my throne."

When Zal heard this answer, he said : " You
are the King, and we are your slaves. What-
ever you ordain is right and just, and it is
only by thy good pleasure that we breathe and
move. I have said what was in my heart. All
that remains now is to obey, and to pray that
the Ruler of the world may prosper your

When he had thus spoken, Zal took leave of
the King, and departed for his own country.

The very next day the King set out with
his army for the Land of the Genii, and, after
marching for several days, pitched his tent at
the foot of Mount Asprus, and held a great
revel all the night long with his chiefs. The
next morning he said, " Choose me two thousand
men who will break down the gates of Mazan- "


derail with their clubs. And take care that
when you have taken the city you spare neither
young nor old, for I will rid the world of these
magicians." They did as the King commanded,
and in a short space of time the city, which was
before the richest and most beautiful in the
whole world, was made into a desert.

When the King of Mazanderan heard of
these things he called a messenger, and said :
" Go to the White Genius and say to him,
* The Persians have come with a great army
and are destroying everything. Make haste
and help me, or there will be nothing left to
preserve.' '

The White Genius said, " Tell the King not
to be troubled; I will see to these Persians."

That same night the whole army of King
Kaolis was covered with a wonderful cloud.
The sky was dark as pitch, and there fell from
it such a terrible storm of hailstones that
no one could stand against them. When the
next morning came, lo ! the King and all that
had not fled for many fled to their own coun
try or been killed by the hailstones, were-
blind. Seven days they remained terrified



and helpless. On the eighth day they heard
the voice, loud as a clap of thunder, of the
White Genius.

" King," said he, " you coveted the land of
Mazanderan, you entered the city, you slew
and took prisoners many of the people ; but
you did not know what I could do. And now,
see, you have your desire. Your lot is of your
own contriving."

The White Genius then gave over the King
and his companions to the charge of an army
of twelve thousand Genii, and commanded that
they should be kept in prison, and have just
so much food given them as should keep them
alive from day to day. Kaoiis, however, con-
trived to send by one of his warriors a message
to Zal the White-haired, telling him of all the
troubles that had come upon him. When Zal
heard the news he was cut to the heart, and
sent without delay for Rustem. " Rustem,"
said he, " this is no time for a man to eat and
drink and take his pleasure. The King is
in the hands of Satan, and we must deliver him.
As for me, I am old and feeble ; but you are
of the age for war. Saddle Raksh, your


horse, and set forth without a moment's delay.
The White Genius must not escape the punish-
ment of his misdeeds at your hands."

" The way is long," said Rustem ; "how shall
I go?"

" There are two ways," answered Zal, " and
both are difficult and dangerous. The King
went by the longer way. The other is by far
the shorter, a two weeks' march and no more ;
but it is full of lions and evil Genii, and it is
surrounded by darkness. Still, I would have
you go by it. God will be your helper ; and
difficult as the way may be, it will have an end,
and your good horse Raksh will accomplish it.
And if it be the will of Heaven that you should
fall by the hand of the White Genius, who can
change the ordering of destiny ? Sooner or
later, we must all depart, and death should be
no trouble to him who has filled the earth with
his glory."

" My father, I am ready to do your bidding,"
said Rustem. " Nevertheless, the heroes of
old cared not to go of their own accord into
the land of death ; and it is only he who is
weary of life that throws himself in the way


of a roaring lion. Still I go, and I ask for no
nelp but from the justice of God. With that
on my side I will break the charm of the
magicians. The White Genius himself shall
not escape me."

Rustem armed himself, and went on his way.



RUSTEM made such speed that he accomplished
two days' journey in one. But at last, finding
himself hungry and weary, and seeing that
there were herds of wild asses in the plain
which he was traversing, he thought that he
would catch one of them for his meal, and rest
for the night. So pressing his knees into his
horse's side he pursued one of them. There
was no escape for the swiftest beast when
Rustem was mounted on Raksh, and in a
very short time a wild ass was caught with the
lasso. Rustem struck a light with a flint
stone, and making a fire with brambles and
branches of trees, roasted the ass and ate it for
his meal. This done he took the bridle from
his horse, let him loose to graze upon the plain,
and prepared to sleep himself in a bed of


rushes. Now in the middle of this bed of
rushes was a lion's lair, and at the end of the
first watch the lion came back, and was as-
tonished to see lying asleep on the rushes a
man as tall as an elephant, with a horse stand-
ing near him. The lion said to himself, " I
must first tear the horse, and then the rider will
be mine whenever I please." So he leapt at
Raksh ; but the horse darted at him like a
flash of fire, and struck him on the head with
his fore-feet. Then he seized him by the back
with his teeth, and battered him to pieces on
the earth. When Rustem awoke and saw the
dead lion, which indeed was of a monstrous
size, he said to Raksh, " Wise beast, who bade
you fight with a lion ? If you had fallen under
his claws, how should I have carried to Maz-
anderan this cuirass and helmet, this lasso, my
bow and my sword ? " Then he went to sleep
again ; but awaking at sunrise, saddled Raksh
and went on his way.

He had now to accomplish the most difficult
part of his journey across a waterless desert, so hot
that the very birds could not live in it. Horse
and rider were both dying of thirst, and Rustem,


dismounting, could scarcely struggle along while
he supported his steps by his spear. When he
had almost given up all hope, he saw a well-
nourished ram pass by. " Where," said he to
himself, " is the reservoir from which this crea-
ture drinks ? " Accordingly he followed the
ram's footsteps, holding his horse's bridle in
one hand and his sword in the other, and the
ram led him to a spring. Then Rustem lifted
up his eyes to heaven and thanked God for
His mercies ; afterwards he blessed the ram,
saying, " No harm come to thee for ever !
May the grass of the valleys and the desert be
always green for thee, and may the bow of him
that would hunt thee be broken, for thou hast
saved Rustem ; verily without thee he would
have been torn to pieces by the wild beasts of
the desert."

After this he caught another wild ass, and
roasted him for his meal. Then having- bathed


in the spring, he lay down to sleep ; but before
he lay down, he said to Raksh, his horse :
11 Do not seek quarrel or friendship with any.
If an enemy come, run to me ; and do not fight
either with Genius or lion."


After this he slept ; and Raksh now grazed,
and now galloped about over the plain.

Now it so happened that there was a great
dragon that had its bed in this part of the
desert. So mighty a beast was it, that not
even a Genius had dared to pass by that way.
The dragon was astonished to see a man asleep
and a horse by his side, and began to make
its way to the horse. Raksh did as he had
been bidden, and running towards his master,
stamped with his feet upon the ground. Rustem
awoke, and seeing nothing when he looked about
him for the dragon meanwhile had disappeared
was not a little angry. He rebuked Raksh,
and went to sleep again. Then the dragon
came once more out of the darkness, and the
horse ran with all speed to his master, tearing
up the ground and kicking. A second time the
sleeper awoke, but as he saw nothing but
darkness round him, he was greatly enraged,
and said to his faithful horse

" Why do you disturb me ? If it wearies you
to see me asleep, yet you cannot bring the night
to an end. I said that if a lion came to attack
you, I would protect you ; but I did not tell


you to trouble me in this way. Verily, if you
make such a noise again, I will cut off your
head and go on foot, carrying all my arms and
armour with me to Mazanderan."

A third time Rustem slept, and a third time
the dragon came. This time Raksh, who did
not venture to come near his master, fled over
the plain ; he was equally afraid of the dragon
and of Rustem. Still his love for his master
did not suffer him to rest. He neighed and
tore up the earth, till Rustem woke up again in
a rage. But this time God would not suffer the
dragon to hide himself, and Rustem saw him
through the darkness, and, drawing his sword,
rushed at him.

But first he said " Tell me your name ; my
hand must not tear your soul from your body
before I know your name."

The dragon said " No man can ever save
himself from my claws ; I have dwelt in this
desert for ages, and the very eagles have not
dared to fly across. Tell me then your name,
bold man. Unhappy is the mother that bare

" I am Rustem, son of Zal of the white hair,"


said the hero, " and there is nothing on earth
that I fear."

Then the dragon threw itself upon Rustem.
But the horse Raksh laid back his ears, and
began to tear the dragon's back with his teeth,
just as a lion might have torn it.

The hero stood astonished for a while ; then,
drawing his sword, severed the monster's head
from its body. Then, having first performed
his ablutions, he returned thanks to God, and
mounting on Raksh, went his way.

All that day he travelled across the plain, and
came at sunset to the land of the magicians.
Just as the daylight was disappearing, he spied
a delightful spot for his night's encampment.
There were trees and grass, and a spring of
water. And beside the spring there was a
flagon of red wine, and a roast kid, with bread
and salt and confectionery neatly arranged.
Rustem dismounted, unsaddled his horse, and
looked with astonishment at the provisions thus
prepared. It was the meal of certain magicians,
who had vanished when they saw him approach.

Of this he knew nothing, but sitting down

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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 7 of 13)