The Shahname of Firdowsi

Iraj Bashiri

copyright, Bashiri 1993 and 2003


The central figure in the myths that Firdowsi collected and versified is Yazdan, the Lord of the life force and of discernment:

Firdowsi praises Yazdan as the most sublime ruler, waging an eternal, cosmic war against evil. As the embodiment of the good and of discernment, the omniscient Yazdan created a world. Ahriman, the embodiment of evil, following a long-standing stratagem, lurked in the shadows waiting for an opportunity to destroy that world. Yazdan, Firdowsi says, created the world out of nothingness:

At the center of Yazdan's creation is truth, symbolized as a ball of fire from which everything else emanates. The existence of the earth, Firdowsi says, is a consequence of the cooling of that ball of fire, the existence of water is a result of the further cooling of the earth, and the growth of plants is a consequence of the intermingling of elements on earth. Animals and humanity complete Yazdan's creation.

Firdowsi distinguishes humanity as the crown of Yazdan's creation. It is to human beings, Firdowsi declares, that Yazdan has passed His abilities and discernment. To help humanity in its pursuit of truth, Yazdan has created the sun to light the world and, more importantly, to serve as a visible symbol of an unswerving quest for truth. Yazdan created the moon so that its waxing and waning would indicate that both kingdoms--light as well as darkness--might prevail. Humanity's aim, however, must be to identify itself with the full moon.

To pass His wisdom down to mankind, Firdowsi insists, Yazdan created a "chain" of command, a hierarchy beginning at His own level, leading into the domain of the Yazatas (lesser deities responsible for the spiritual and the physical well-being of creation) and the Farahvashis (souls of the believers). Through this chain, Yazdan assured His personal supervision of the spiritual affairs of the individual believer, as well as control of all activities within His kingdom. This control was vital for Yazdan's scheme because, in the final analysis, the prevalence of good over evil depends entirely on the degree of good and evil exercised by human beings on earth.

The members of the assembly of Yazadan contributed to the enhancement of Yazdan's creation by meeting the needs of the physical world. This assembly assessed the abilities of all the individuals on earth, and recognized one to be supreme. This recognition, translated into farr (i.e., recognition of a mortal endowed with the principles of just rulership) allowed Yazdan to confer upon that unique individual the divine right to rule.

The farr, upon its creation, was tested in the intermediary world, a universe inhabited by cosmic beings, where each individual is the equivalent of a later physical world. In that universe, the farr fell on Kayumars4 who, soon after, gathered all other beings around him on top of a mountain and apprised them of his kingly status:

The assembly led by Yazdan's first deputy on earth, Kayumars, worried Ahriman. He decided to frustrate Kayumars' efforts and destroy his will to serve, but even the murder of Kayumars' son, Siyamak, did not effectively seal Yazdan's plans for the propagation of truth. Kayumars had already taught the secret of just rulership to Hushang, another son of Siyamak.7 Kayumars, who ruled for thirty years, provided his people with their first code of laws.

Defeated, Ahriman retreated, while Yazdan continued to perfect His cosmic kingdom by allowing the new king to discover fire. This discovery led to the discovery of metals and of weapons with which to combat evil. Hushang also harnessed the rivers and produced lush fields and meadows. He domesticated animals and used their products as a source of untold prosperity for Yazdan's kingdom.

Tahmuras, who succeeded Hushang, as the third king of the Pishdadiyan dynasty, chose wisdom as his weapon against Ahriman:

Under Tahmuras, the domestication of animals was perfected, weaving was introduced, and plans were devised to eradicate the race of the divs. These plans called for an extraordinary king. Could Tahmuras be that king?

Ahriman did not give up easily. Once it became apparent that he could not withstand the full impact of Tahmuras' assault, he took refuge in a ruse. He offered to teach Tahmuras the thirty common languages of man and beasts, including Latin (rumi), Arabic (tazi), Old Persian (parsi), Soghdian (soqdi), Chinese (chini), and Middle Persian (Pahlavi). Using the knowledge thus gained, Tahmuras elevated the level of prosperity of his kingdom. Under Jamshid, the next king who ruled for seven hundred years, the farr encompassed both the secular and the spiritual domains:

In administration, Jamshid followed tradition. He introduced the finer approaches to weaving and the production of elegant and luxurious objects. He also launched a number of innovations, among them the division of people into four distinct castes and guilds.11 Under Jamshid, artisans, merchants, priests, warriors, and tillers of the land knew their place in society:

Jamshid brought the full import of the farr within his control and used it to improve both his own status as king and the living conditions of his subjects. Using knowledge placed at his disposal by the divs, he built magnificent palaces and embellished them with precious gems. To immortalize his efforts at good government, which had resulted in the eradication of death from the face of the earth, and to welcome the arrival of a new epoch, he inaugurated a magnificent celebration. Called the Now Ruz (new year), the celebration of the event continues to the present day. Jamshid's actions seemed to have sealed the fate of Ahriman, but not for long:

While preoccupied with the rearrangement of the visible aspects of his kingdom, Jamshid allowed his domain to fall victim to Ahriman, whose agents, by introducing writing and geometry, had led the king away from his mission. Jamshid was now obsessed with the idea that he should reach the stars:

The excessively opulent world of Jamshid now became the source of his arrogance. The deputy of Yazdan on earth summoned his chiefs and mu'bads to aggrandize himself. "Who among the kings of the past," he asked, "eradicated death from the face of the earth?" But he did not stop there. Feeling that he was in full control of the physical aspect of the world, Jamshid reached to supplant Yazdan. "You owe me your life and your repose," he proclaimed to his chiefs and mu'bads," and that makes me your God," Jamshid concluded.

Jamshid's conceit cost him his farr:

Victorious at last, Ahriman assumed the rulership of the world. But everywhere he turned, vestiges of Yazdan confronted him. The land was prosperous, and death no longer existed. Drawing on Ahriman's knowledge of geometry and writing, Jamshid had perfected the physical aspect of Yazdan's creation.

Puzzled, Ahriman cast a demonic scheme. Assuming the form of a human-consuming dragon, he ascended the throne and demanded daily sacrifice to appease his voracious appetite. In droves, people were killed and fed to the beast to keep him happy. Could Ahriman depopulate Yazdan's world?

But lengthy as Zahhak's rule was, it came to an end before he could devour the last human being, that is, before he could eradicate the seed of Kayumars, Fereydun.17 Fereydunconfronted the evil Zahhak and imprisoned him in a cave in Mount Damavand.

Kayumars was the first human being and the first monarch of the cosmic age. Fereydun, son of Abtin, is the first king of the mythic age.18 He ruled for five hundred years; his long rule affords us a better look at his administration and time. We learn, for instance, that he inspired unity and might in the early stages of his rule but that, in the end, his kingdom was fraught with discord and division.

Fereydun divided his world into three kingdoms. He assigned Rum and the west to his eldest son, Salm. He then assigned him an army and charged him with the defense of the western borders.19 He assigned Turan and China to Tur, his second born. Similarly, he assigned an army to Tur and dispatched him to the eastern marches of the empire.20 To Iraj, his youngest and favorite son, he bestowed the rest of his domain, which included Iran. This division appeared equitable to Fereydun but not to his elder son, Salm, or to his second born, Tur.

When Iraj ascended the throne in the heartland, Fereydun stayed in residence with him. Salm and Tur conspired and, before mounting an assault on the heartland with their combined forces, informed Fereydun of their intentions. Knowing his sons well, Fereydun ignored their threat; he did not ask Iraj to step down. But Iraj, good at heart, decided to visit his brothers and bring them joy even at the expense of giving up his crown.

When Iraj arrived in Turan, Tur assaulted him and, fearing that the combined forces of Turan and Iran might proclaim Iraj their sole king, with the help of Salm, slew him. The brothers then sent Iraj's head to Fereydun as proof of the seriousness of their threat. They were certain that the old man's only alternative would be to choose one of them as his successor. Like Kayumars before him, however, the aged Fereydun had taught Manuchehr, Iraj's grandson (from Iraj's daughter through his wife, the slave girl, Mahafarid) the secret of divine rulership.

For the first time in Iranian history, Fereydun marshalled the priests, the nobles, and the other classes of society to aid the throne in achieving its goal. When the preparations for mobilizing the army were complete, Fereydun asked Manuchehr to take the center. He assigned the left wing to Garshasp and the right to Saam and Qubad.

Even though Manuchehr's army displayed the Kaviyan flag, the banner forged from the blacksmith Kaveh's leather apron, Salm and Tur refused to recognize the legitimacy of his claim to kingship:

Fereydun, also referred to as the Dragon king, ruled for 500 years. When he stepepd down, he was succeeded by Manuchehr.

Manuchehr ascribed his legitimacy to King Fereydun rather than to Iraj. He then attacked the combined forces of Turan and Rum and routed them. Tur and Salm retreated and pondered their plight. They decided to ambush Manuchehr and kill him. Their plot, however, was discovered and both were eventually eliminated. Their heads were sent to Fereydun to bury at the side of Iraj's head.

A major event of the time of Manuchehr is his elevation of Saam and the House of Nariman to rulership. To show his gratitude, Manuchehr bestowed Sistan and Zabulistan to the great hero and supported him in making major decisions. As for Saam, he had lived a long life but was still childless. Furthermore, when one was granted, he was an albino child, one about whom Saam's courtiers were afraid to talk, let alone show him. Once he did see his son, Saam was devastated. He took the child to the mountains and left him there to die. The child's lot, however, was set elsewhere. He was picked up by the fabulous bird, the Simurgh, who raised him alongside her own brood.

Years later, when Saam realized his mistake and returned to the mountain for his son, Simurgh returned his son, Zal, to him. When leaving them, Simurgh left one of her scarlet feathers with Zal and instructed him to set it on fire whenever he felt he might need her help. Shortly after they returned home, Saam put Zal in charge of his kingdom and went to Mazandaran.

At the time, the kingdom of Kabul paid tribute to Zabulistan. The ruler of Kabul was called Mihrab. He was a descendant of Zahhak and, therefore, distrusted by the Iranian Shah. In the course of becoming acquainted with his neighbors, Zal visited Kabul. While there, he fell in love with Rudabeh, the daughter of Mihrab and Sindukht. Zal then wrote Saam, his father, about his situation. Saam took the matter to king Manuchehr. The king became furious and ordered Saam to storm Kabul, destroy Mihrab's palace and kill him and his family. Sindukht, Mihrab's wife and Rudabeh's mother, however, paid a personal visit to Saam and convinced the warrior that he should support the wedding. Zal, too, talked to his father and reminded him of the cruel life to which he had subjected him as a child.

Convinced that the couple should get married, Saam traveled to the palace of the king of Iran and talked to him in person, thus receiving the king's approval. Zal and Rudabeh got married. The wedding took place in Kabul. Afterward, Saam, Mihrab, Sindukht, and the bride and groom went to Zabul. At the end of the festivities, Mihrab returned to Kabul, Sindukht remained with her daughter, and Saam returned to Mazandaran.

Hardly a year passed before Rudabeh became pregnant. The unusual size of the baby forced Zal to ask the wise Simurgh for assistance during the birth. Simurgh directed the physician to cut a section in Rudabeh's side and take the child out. They called the child Rustam.

After a long reign of 120 years, Manuchehr entrusted his throne to his son, Nawzar, and died. During Nawzar's rule Saam, too, died of old age in Zabulistan. Saam's death signalled an opportunity to Pashang, the king of Turan, to attack Iran which he did. In this war, Pashang's son, Afrasiyab, came to the fore and was given the command of the armies of Arjasp, Garsivaz, Barman, Kulbad, and Huzhabr against Iran's new and oppressive king, Nawzar. In the end, the Turanian king captured Nowzar, imprisoned him for a while and, eventually, killed him. Iran became a land without a sovereign.

To restore Iran's territorial integrity, Zal and Mihrab combined their forces and defeated Afrasiyab. The throne of Iran was then offered to Zal; but, since he was not of royal blood, he refused. Instead, he supported the kingship of Zav-Tahmasp, an aged prince who ruled for five years.

The last Pishdadian king, Garshasp, ruled for nine years. He died at exactly the time when Afrasiyab was preparing his army to invade Iran. Many Iranian champions and others blamed Zal for the situation they found themselves in. If Zal had accepted the throne or, at least, if he had killed Afrasiyab when he had the opportunity, the situation in Iran would have been different. But all that was now water under the bridge. A solution had to be found to revitalize the Iranian kingship.

The only known survivor with royal blood was a man who lived somewhere to the north of the great salt desert. His name was Qubad. If he were to be found and placed on the Iranian throne as Kayqubad, Zal thought, tranquility would return to Iran. He thus equipped young Rustam with the mace of Saam and a special steed, Rakhsh. Rustam and Rakhsh were then commissioned to cross the great salt desert, find Qubad, and bring him back to the capital.

In the wars that followed the ascention of Kayqubad, Pashang did not do well. His son, Afrasiyab, was defeated by Kayqubad and his assembly of knights. Forced to evacuate all the lands south of the Oxus, Pashang sued for peace, asking that the border originally demarcated by Fereydun be accepted as the boundary between Iran and Turan:

After a hundred years, the glorious rule of Kayqubad, too, came to an end. His son, Kayka'us ascended the throne. Under young Kayka'us, Iran continued to be tranquil. Rustam had dealt such a major blow to Afrasiyab that, as long as Rustam and Zal served the court, he did not have the slightest desire to attack Iran any more.

It was amid this prosperity that Kayka'us decided to invade Mazandaran and annex the abode of the demons to Iran. Zal opposed the king's decision vehemently, but to no avail. Kayka'us and his knights marched into Mazandaran only to be captured by the demon king's warriors. Kayka'us and his champions were blinded and imprisoned in a cave guarded by the White Demon.

Before long, Kayka'us managed to send a messager to Zal and apprise him of his situation. Zal dispatched Rustam to rescue the king. After passing what has come to be known as his Haft Khan (seven labors), Rustam reached the cave guarded by the White Demon. There, he killed the White Demon, used three drops of his blood to restore the prisoners' eyesight, and brought all of them back, safe and sound, to Iran.

After he was rescued from Mazandaran, Kayka'us went to Sistan and spent a month in that region as a guest of Zal. Then he invaded Hamavaran (Yemen) and defeated its king. Kayka'us then married Sudabeh, the king's daughter, and brought her to Iran. A while later, the king of Hamavaran invited Kayka'us and Sudabeh to visit Hamavaran. This, the king explained, would give us an opportunity to know each other better and enjoy each other's company. Sensing that a ruse was at work, Zal opposed the king's trip to Hamavaran. But, as usual, Kayka'us did not agree. Zal, however, was right, and upon entering Hamavaran, Kayka'us was captured and imprisond. Seeing her husband's situation, Sudabeh asked to be imprisoned with him so that she can take care of him in captivity. Again Kayka'us asked Zal to rescue them.

The situation was not simple, however. At the same time Afrasiyab, hearing about Kayka'us's plight, prepared his army to invade Iran. Rustam had to choose between rescuing his king and facing Afrasiyab. He decided to rescue his king first. After returning victorious from Hamavaran, he thought, he would route the army of Afrasiyab once and for all.

Even though the king of Hamavaran had allied himself with the rulers of Berberistan, and Egypt, Rustam defeated him and set Kayka'us and Sudabeh free. Then, he confronted Afrasiyab and restored the kingship that had been usurped due to the king's absence. When the paladin returned from the war, Kayka'us, in a magnificient ceremony, conferred the coveted title of Jahan Pahlavan (world champion) upon him.

One spring day, tired of war and of Zabulistan, Rustam rode out of the court and retired to the countryside to enjoy nature and refresh himself. He did not return to the palace that night or the night after that. Rather, he spent his time hunting, cooking, resting and traveling. Unknowingly, he was getting closer and closer to the kingdom of Turan.

One morning, upon waking up, Rustam found that his horse, Rakhsh, was not where he had left him. He searched all around his camp site, there was no sign of Rakhsh. He continued his search until he came to the kingdom of Samangan, a vassal state of Turan. It turned out that some Samangani warriors, while rounding up their king's horses, had brought Rakhsh to Samangan as well.

The king of Samangan received Rustam, apologized for what his warriors had done, and returned Rakhsh to him. Then, since it was late in the day, he invited Rustam to spend the night in Samangan and leave early the next morning. That night, the king entertained Rustam until late into the night. He praised the young champion, and wished him a prosperous life. Rustam then retired to his bedchamber to rest.

Sometime during the night, a noise awakened the paladin. It was Tahmineh, the daughter of the king of Samangan. She had heard much about Rustam and had paid him a visit to see him for herself. The two talked for a while and fell in love. Within a few days, before Rustam had to return to his duties at the court, they got married.

Before he left Tahmineh, Rustam gave her an amulet for the child to be born. The child, after he was of age, was to wear this amulet, come to the court of Persia, and seek his father. Before that time, however, he was to be kept hidden from Afrasiyab, and his father's identity was not to be divulged to anyone. When the child was born, Tahmineh called him Suhrab. She followed Rustam's instructions and, until he was fifteen, kept Rustam's identity a secret from him.

Afrasiyab, the king of Turan, however, knew the child's identity. Thus, when young Suhrab decided to find his father and join him, so that together, father and son, could depose Kayka'us, Afrasiyab sent for the young warrior. He entertained Suhrab, placed 12,000 warriors at his command, and ordered him to invade Iran. Furthermore, Afrasiyab appointed two of his own trusted commanders, Human and Barman, to accompany Suhrab. Afrasiyab also gave Human strict orders not to identify Rustam for Suhrab. Afrasiyab explained his strategy to Human in this way. If Suhrab kills Rustam, then Human should kill Suhrab. In that way, he argued, two enemies are eliminated at one blow. If, on the other hand, Rustam kills Suhrab, Rustam should be left alone. The immensity of his own act would be sufficient to paralize him for the rest of his life. Under these circumstances, Suhrab marched on Iran.

As a result of an altercation between Hazhir and Suhrab, Kayka'us learned about the coming of Suhrab to Iran. The altercation was first between Hazhir, the custodian of the White Fortress on the boundary between Iran and Turan. As a result of this altercation, Suhrab captured Hazhir and later used him to identify Rustam for him. Then there was an altercation between Suhrab and Gordafarid fled into the White Fortress. From there, she and her father escaped during the night and informed Kayka'us about the Turanian assault.

Upon hearing the news, Kayka'us dispatched Giv to summon Rustam to the capital. Rustam, however, being in a jolly mood, ignored the king's behest and took his time reaching the capital. Furious at Rustam's insubordination, Kayka'us ordered both Rustam and Giv to be hanged. When Tusmoved to execute the order, Rustam pushed him aside and left the palace.

In an effort to soften the king's stance, Gudarzgave a full account of Rustam's contributions to the crown. His account made Kayka'us realize Rustam's worth to his kingdom and apologized to Rustam. Rustam then accepted the command of Kayka'us's army and moved east to confront Suhrab.

The night before the actual combat, the champions tried to learn more about each other. Rustam visited Suhrab's camp and saw the youthful warrior who resembled Saam, but did not recognize him as his own son. Suhrab, who hoped to become united with Rustam and help him ascend the throne of Iran also did not recognize his father. Hazhir, the Iranian warrior whom he trusted to identify Rustam lied to him. When identifying the pavillions of the champions, Hazhir described Rustam's pavillion as the pavillion of a recent Chiese arrival on the scene.

On the day of battle, unbeknownst to each other, father and son exchange spears, swords, maces, and arrows. But neither is victorious. Unable to finish their fight, they arrange to return the next day.

That night, Suhrab describes Rustam to Human asking if Rustam could be his father. Human assures him that that is not the case. The two champions wrestle again the next day. Suhrab throws Rustam to the ground and is about to cut his throat. Rustam decevies the youth by resorting to a ruse. two out of three falls, he says, is the Iranian rule of the game. Suhrab agrees and lets him live. The next time, however, as soon as he has the opportunity, Rustam stabs Suhrab with his poisoned dagger wounding him mortally.

While dying, Suhrab assures his murderer that his father, Rustam, will avenge his death. Confused, Rustam asks for proof of what he says. Suhrab shows him the armband which only Tahmineh could have given him. Quickly, Rustam sends Gudarz to Kayka'us to procure some of the king's special antidote. Kayka'us procrastinated because he was as worried about the union of the father and the son as was his enemy, Afrasiyab. Eventually Rustam came for the antidote himself, and received some. But it was already too late. Suhrab had died moments earlier.

The Life and Martyrdom of Prince Siyavosh

The wars between the neighboring kingdoms of Iran and Turan become secondary to the story of the birth, childhood, and youth of Prince Siyavosh, especially his exile and martyrdom in Turan. This life story tells of how princes were brought up, groomed, and taught responsibility; of how seriously children felt about keeping a covenant with their father and their Creator and of the feelings of Iran's first man to go into exile among Iran's enemies.

Son of Kayka'us and the grandson of Kayqubad, Siyavosh was born to the king of Iran by the daughter of a noble Turanian whose lineage included both Fereydun and Garsivaz, son of Pashang. She was found by Tus 23 and Giv 24 while hunting.25 Their quarrel over her ownership brought the girl to the court of Kayka'us where the king asked the girl about her lineage:

The champions' quarrel was settled by the king who gave the girl to neither. Instead, he placed her in his own harem where she gave birth to Siyavosh.

At the age of about seven, Siyavosh was entrusted to Rustam to be taught chivalry and the ethic of kings. Rustam took the child to Zabulistan and treated him as if he were his own son.29 In Zabulistan, Siyavosh learned riding, archery, and wrestling. He was also instructed in the fine arts of conversation, drinking, and merry-making.

When Siyavosh was about twenty years of age, he returned to the court and was assigned his own quarters. For the next seven years, Kayka'us honored the youth, tested him, and in time bestowed the governorship of Quhistan upon him. Siyavosh remained in Quhistan until his mother died. He then returned to the court to mourn her death.

Learning about the return of Siyavosh, the ladies of the harem--sisters of the prince and wives of the king--asked their sire to send Siyavosh to them. The king obliged:30

Siyavosh asked Kayka'us to exempt him from the visit, but Kayka'us persisted. When Siyavosh entered the harem, he met Sudabeh, his step-mother, who held him tightly in her arms for an unusually long period. Her close embrace disturbed the prince:

Joseph-like in mien, Siyavosh was endowed with outward as well as inner beauty. Recognizing Siyavosh's merit as a future king, Sudabeh, who had married Kayka'us for his power rather than for himself, tried to attract the prince to herself and marry him to her daughter. The prince refused:

Failing, the frustrated Sudabeh impudently offered herself to the prince. She apparently thought that by engaging the youth in an act for which he could be blackmailed, she would reach her goal:

The prince, refusing to soil his covenant with his father, resisted Sudabeh's temptations. Frustrated, Sudabeh accused him of having made lustful advances. She informed her husband that the prince had assaulted her with the intention of raping her:


The prince, of course, denied the allegations, which placed Kayka'us in a quandary. Sudabeh who continued to accuse the prince of rape finally produced a stillborn child as proof of her accusations. Kayka'us took the matter to the assembly of the mu'bads for advice. The assembly advised the king to ask both Siyavosh and Sudabeh to undergo the trial by fire.

Sudabeh refused. Siyavosh, on the other hand, accepted. On the next day, he rode his horse through a mountain of burning wood and emerged, unblemished:

Wounded, Sudabeh recoiled and worked other magic to make life at the court difficult for the prince. The unwise Kayka'us, too, unwittingly stoked the feud, by taking the case to the mu'bads for a decision and by forcing Siyavosh to undergo trial by fire. This allowed Sudabeh to torment the innocent youth even more.

An opportunity for escape appeared when Afrasiyab, Iran's enemy to the east, threatened to cross the Oxus with a hundred thousand warriors. As Kayka'us prepared to retaliate, the prince saw his chance to distance himself from the court. He volunteered to lead Kayka'us' army against Turan:

Kayka'us accepted Siyavosh's proposal and put an army together for him. Rustam was summoned to assist Siyavosh, and an army of 12,000 men from Pahlav, Pars, Kuch, Baluch, Gilan, and the plain of Saruch was assembled. Accompanied by his champions and five mu'bads, Siyavosh headed for Zabulistan.

After a month in Zabulistan, Siyavosh and Rustam continued their march, having added armies from Zabulistan, Kabulistan, and India to the host. As the army advanced toward the plain of Herat (Hari), other notables joined the assembled force. Siyavosh assigned Zange-i Shavaran to command the newly formed army and himself set out for Marvrud38 and Taliqan.39

At Balkh, Siyavosh stormed all the gates with mighty armies. In spite of Garsivaz' efforts to defend Balkh, the city fell after three days of fighting. Sipahram crossed the Oxus and returned to his king, Afrasiyab.

Siyavosh wrote a silken letter to Kayka'us and apprised him of his efforts to date. "In the course of a three-day battle," he wrote, "I conquered Balkh. Sipahram fled to the city of Tirmidh, and Barman, like an arrow shot, disappeared from sight."40 He then reported that the lands to the south of the Oxus were now his, and he asked the King's permission to conclude the war by crossing the river to Sughdia where Afrasiyab ruled and kept his army.

Kayka'us cautioned Siyavosh against haste. He reminded the prince of Afrasiyab's vile and cunning nature: "You have won a battle against Afrasiyab," the king wrote in reply, "haste might well cause you to lose the war. Rather than rushing into a war, you must keep your army together and wait where you are. Let temptation work on Afrasiyab and make him cross the Oxus and meet you." Siyavosh remained on the southern shore of the Oxus.

On the other side of the Oxus, Afrasiyab was informed by Garsivaz that Siyavosh, Rustam, and a mighty host from Iran had stormed Balkh and captured the city. Their champions, Garsivaz explained, wielded maces with heads as large as the head of a buffalo, and they numbered fifty for each man Garsivaz could field.

Garsivaz' glorification of the enemy host provoked Afrasiyab's anger. He had Garsivaz removed from his presence, ordered a thousand of his lords to transform Sughd into a Chinese dreamland, and prepare a banquet for him.

After the banquet, Afrasiyab retired to his quarters where the reality of the day's news descended upon him as a frightening dream in which he found his entourage and pavilion stranded in a desert teaming with vipers while vultures circled overhead. A violent wind blew his banner away, and streams of blood washed away his pavilion. He saw thousands of his warriors decapitated and strewn about the battlefield. Each warrior in the attacking Iranian army carried a spear with a head on it and carried a severed head on his lap. A thousand warriors wearing black robes assailed and captured him, tied his hands, and took him to Kayka'us who, flanked by his very young son, mocked him. Upon seeing him, Siyavosh sprang up and sliced Afrasiyab into two. The intensity of the dream woke Afrasiyab. His screams brought his courtiers, including Garsivaz, to his side.

Following Garsivaz' advice, Afrasiyab assembled his mu'bads, swore them to secrecy, and paid them handsomely. Then he discussed the contents of his dream with them. Trembling, the mu'bads agreed to interpret Afrasiyab's dream on the condition that the result of their interpretation not be taken personally. Afrasiyab agreed. The mu'bads then disclosed that the prince in Afrasiyab's dream was Siyavosh and that he would rout Turan if Afrasiyab were to continue his war with Iran. They further disclosed that, were Afrasiyab to kill Siyavosh, matters would become even worse: his death would lead to the annihilation of Turan.

The interpretation affected Afrasiyab greatly. To avoid further cause for vengeance, he assembled his champions, lords, and nobles the next morning to discuss the war with them. After much praise of his own past triumphs, he suggested that Turan should opt for peace. "After all," he said, "two-thirds of the world still belongs to us. Why not make it a tranquil one?"

The problem thus settled, Afrasiyab stayed in Sughd and sent a delegation, with appropriate gifts, to the Iranian prince. The delegation, headed by Garsivaz, offered to sign a peace treaty:

A day's journey down the Oxus brought Garsivaz to Balkh where he was royally received by Siyavosh. Garsivaz presented his gifts to the prince and Rustam and disclosed the terms of the treaty.

Siyavosh presented the treaty to the war council which, after weighing the pros and cons of Afrasiyab's offer, decided to accept the terms provided that Afrasiyab offer a token of his goodwill as well.

Siyavosh's terms were stringent they specified that the Turanian army withdraw from previously held Iranian territory in the Oxus region and that a hundred of Afrasiyab's relatives, named by Rustam, be sent as hostages to Iran.

Afrasiyab frowned at the idea of sending his close relatives as hostages but, in the end, accepted the terms:

Elated with this easy victory, Siyavosh reciprocated Afrasiyab's kind gesture by sending the Turanian king many precious gifts. He also dispatched Rustam with a letter to Kayka'us:

Kayka'us rejected the peace treaty, informing Rustam that he wanted Afrasiyab dead. He further rebuked the national champion for having been duped by the guileful Afrasiyab. To the prince he wrote: "Prepare a huge bonfire and burn all the gifts sent by Afrasiyab. Send the hostages to Iran to be beheaded, ignore the treaty, and cross the Oxus immediately."

Rustam pleaded with Kayka'us to reconsider his order. He hoped that the king would not force the young prince to break his promise to the enemy. He reminded Kayka'us that Siyavosh had followed the king's orders and remained on the south shore of the Oxus. Besides, Rustam argued, breaking one's covenant was an unmanly act, an act against all the rules of chivalry that he had taught the prince. Nevertheless, Kayka'us did not heed Rustam's advice.

Kayka'us did not trust Afrasiyab. He felt that the demonic king had used magic to convince the gullible youth. "Would Afrasiyab care one bit," asked the king, "for the safety of his people in bondage?"

Kayka'us then ordered Siyavosh to relinquish his command to Tus and return from Balkh. Siyavosh refused:

By openly defying his father and his king, Siyavosh placed himself in a precarious situation. His position was further aggravated by his farr (i.e., the wisdom, intelligence, personal fortitude and the foresight of a man who would be king). Was it not his farr that had frightened Afrasiyab and brought him to the negotiation table? What was he to do?

The night of decision, dark as the face of Ahriman, was before him. It refused to divulge what the next day would bring. But could it conceal the future from a man who carried the farr? Using his divine foresight, Siyavosh looked into his future and saw the final outcome, an outcome that, in the final analysis, spoke well for his decision to defect.

The next morning, Siyavosh summoned Bahram and Zange-i Shavaran and discussed the matter of relinquishing his command with them. "I am not happy at court," he said to the champions, "this was the reason I accepted this command in the first place. And I am not happy with my father's grandiose schemes to elevate himself at my expense":

"I have a covenant with the Creator," Siyavosh continued, "a covenant compared to which my father's wishes pale.49 All my experiences in this world have been painful ones. What the future brings cannot be different":

"I have come to the conclusion," Siyavosh said to the Iranian champions, "that I have no alternative but to defect to the enemy. I am, therefore, relinquishing the command of this host to Bahram until the arrival of Tus. He is to put everything in order and hand the command down to Tus when the champion arrives. I also want Bahram to apprise Tus of the numbers, thrones, and treasures that are kept under the auspices of this command." The warriors were overwhelmed:

"And as for you, Zange," the prince continued, "I would like you to accompany the gifts and hostages from Turan back to Afrasiyab. While there, I would like you to represent me and ask Afrasiyab to allow me safe passage through Turan to a place where I can stay hidden from Kayka'us":

Afrasiyab listened to Siyavosh's message carefully. He then summoned his commander-in-chief, Piran, and discussed Siyavosh's proposal with him in private. After considering Kayka'us' future plans and Siyavosh's claim to the future rulership of Iran, Piran advised the king to admit the prince into Turan:

Convinced of the possibility of a great future, Afrasiyab invited Siyavosh to Turan and assured him of his own support as well as the support of his people:

Encouraged by Afrasiyab's kind words, Siyavosh addressed his army, asking the commanders to heed Bahram. He then set forth to meet the envoys who had crossed the Oxus to conduct him and his private army into exile:

The Turanians, especially Piran and his entourage of a thousand noblemen, welcomed the prince:

On the way to Afrasiyab's court, Piran talked to the prince about his own feelings toward Afrasiyab and about the prince's future with him. "Afrasiyab," Piran said, "is like a father to you; he loves you dearly and although all the world might see him differently, Afrasiyab is wise, intelligent, and God fearing. I am one of his relatives, and I alone have a host of a hundred thousand warriors in these parts."

Siyavosh's heart, however, was elsewhere. The farther they rode into Turan, the heavier his heart became:

If Siyavosh had any reservations, the welcome that Afrasiyab gave the party erased them from his heart. The two hugged each other affectionately and kissed. They became great friends:

Afrasiyab, however, continued to regard Siyavosh as his only sure avenue to the domination of the lands of the Kayanian:

Siyavosh accepted his fate as an exile in enemy territory. He accompanied the king on his hunting expeditions and, within a year, gained the respect of the Turanian army:

During this time, Siyavosh married Jarirah, Piran's daughter and settled down. A son, Farud, was born to them. Dictated by circumstances and encouraged by Piran, he also proposed to marry Farangis, Afrasiyab's daughter. His proposal tested Afrasiyab's trust in Siyavosh:

Patiently arguing, Piran convinced Afrasiyab that a union between his family and the seed of Fereydun and of Kayka'us would ultimately heal the wounds of both war-torn lands. Afrasiyab finally agreed. Piran then involved Gulshahr, his consort wife, in the matter:

When the marriage between Siyavosh and Farangis was over and the festivities were at an end, Afrasiyab gave Siyavosh the rulership of the eastern provinces of Turan and invited him to settle wherever he pleased. Siyavosh chose Khutan, Piran's land and, accompanied by the old warrior, moved to the city of Gang Dezh:

In the seclusion of Khutan, Siyavosh reviewed the past and thought about the events that had catapulted him into Turan. Guided by the farr, he arrived at a frightening conclusion. He foresaw that a war between Iran and Turan was inevitable and that Afrasiyab would murder him. He apprised Piran of his findings and concluded his ominous look into the future by telling Piran that after his death, Afrasiyab would become extremely remorseful.

Piran did not believe Siyavosh. Within a week, however, a letter arrived. In it Afrasiyab commanded Piran, the commander of the Turanian army, to take his army and rush to the confines of the empire:

Siyavosh's premonitions proved correct. Gradually Afrasiyab became concerned about Siyavosh's quick ascent to prosperity. To obtain more information about the events in Gang Dezh, he sent his brother, Garsivaz, there for a visit. He asked Garsivaz to spy on Siyavosh and report anything that struck him as unusual.

Garsivaz was jealous of Siyavosh and Farangis, and of Siyavosh's newborn son, Farud, by the daughter of Piran. Hoping that one day he would rule the beautiful Gang Dezh himself, upon his return to Afrasiyab, he gave a damaging report on Siyavosh and his activities:

Court intrigue reached new heights when Garsivaz was made the liaison between the palaces. He concocted events on either side and sowed discord far and wide. He frightened both kings, especially Afrasiyab who was already in awe of Siyavosh. About his visits to the court of Siyavosh, he responded:

Infuriated, Afrasiyab mobilized his army and headed for Khutan. Upon hearing of this move, Siyavosh prepared his pregnant wife, Farangis, to face the future without him:

Siyavosh informed Farangis of his own imminent death and foretold that sometime soon an Iranian champion would come and secretly take her and the child she carried to the Oxus river and to Iran. He even foresaw that their son would become king:

At the end, he instructed his steed, Bihzad, to allow no one but the avenging Kaykhusrau to ride him:

Having completed his will and testament, Siyavosh killed all his other horses, burned his palaces with their untold riches, and rode Bihzad to meet Afrasiyab. In the field, as his thousand Iranian warriors faced the army of Afrasiyab, Siyavosh ordered his commanders to refrain from fighting. He was captured by Afrasiyab who turned him over to Garu-ye Zereh to be slain on the roadside:

Afrasiyab refused to comment on the sin for which Siyavosh was being executed. All he recalled were the words of Garsivaz:

Garu-ye Zereh and Damur also added their voices to that of Garsivaz, urging Afrasiyab to kill Siyavosh and save his realm from all future threats. Afrasiyab remained hesitant. He could not justify Siyavosh's death to himself:

And Farangis asked for mercy:

Despite her efforts, Farangis could not reach her father. Afrasiyab ordered Garu-ye Zereh to transfer Siyavosh to a fort high in the mountains and, away from Farangis, behead him.74 Garu-ye Zereh followed his master's orders:

Gathering a Host

Upon his ascension to the throne of Iran, Kaykhusrau launched a program of reforms. With the assistance of the nobles and potentates, he rebuilt the cities devastated by the many assaults of the Turanian armies, destroyed the haunts of demons by expanding cultivation into the wastelands, and ushered in good will and trust. Before long, Iran regained the glory it had enjoyed under Jamshid and Fereydun:

Zal-the son of Saam and grandson of Nariman77 -his son, Rustam, and the nobles of Kabulistan arrived in Iran and were welcomed by Giv, Gudarz, and Tus. The sight of Rustam, his father's mentor, moved Kaykhusrau and brought tears to his eyes. Rustam paid homage by kissing the ground before the king. The king praised Rustam profusely and called him the wise and serene mentor of Siyavosh:

After a few days of rest and getting acquainted with all the visitors who had come to pay their respect and announce their support, the king set out on a hunting expedition. He requested that Rustam accompany him:

The hunt, however, served as a cover for the king's real intentions-a full-fledged survey of the Iranian marches and of the devastated land. After this assessment, Kaykhusrau went on a spending spree. He ordered cities that had fallen on bad times to be refurbished and citizens who had lost their property to be reimbursed. The town-by-town inspection finally brought Kaykhusrau to Azerbaijan.80

On his way from Azerbaijan, Kaykhusrau visited Kayka'us. The two kings, each flanked by his champions, met and talked about the political situation at hand:

Kaykhusrau swore by the Fire that he would be steadfast in his resolve and that nothing would distract him from avenging the death of his father, not even Afrasiyab's kinship to him.83 As a token of his truthfulness, he made a solemn pledge to that effect and had it recorded in the Pahlavi language and witnessed by Rustam, Zal, and the other Iranian warriors:84

On the eve of his departure, Kaykhusrau visited the fire temple again and sought the Creator's support:

Finally, he addressed the champions of Nimruz, Kabulistan, and Iran who had all pledged to fight Afrasiyab at his side. "I have traveled," he said, "from Azergashasp to this place, and I have not seen one person who is happy or who is well off. I have not seen any cultivated lands. This will have to change. And if you are truthful about your pledge to me, it will change!"

The list is impressive. It reveals the structure of the military and shows how the various principalities in the kingdom contributed to the defense of Iran against Turan. Furthermore, reviewing the list, titles like king of kings, kings, and satraps find meaning in the intricate tapestry of ranks and numbers, revealing the hierarchy according to which society was organized and ruled.

The house of the king of kings, Kayka'us, contributed a hundred and ten commanders. Fariburz, son of Kayka'us, led these champions and their warriors the house of Nowzar, led by Zarasp (son of Tus), contributed eighty champions; the house of Kishwad, led by Gudarz, contributed seventy-eight mountaineers and horsemen of the plains; the house of Gazhdaham, led by Gustaham, contributed sixty-three fighters. Other houses offered similar numbers of champions, horsemen, and fighters. Each house carried a distinctive banner. The house of Gudarz, for instance, carried the Kaviyan banner, representing the royal house. So numerous were the contributions that the mu'bad lost count:

Rather than mobilizing the army at once, the king gave a feast and bestowed wealth and titles on the prospective heroes. The defeat of Palashan, Afrasiyab's commander-in-chief, embodied the top prize.89 Bizhan, the son of Giv, accepted the challenge. He also pledged to bring the crown of Afrasiyab to Kaykhusrau.

As the ceremonies continued, other champions entered the bidding. Giv accepted to set fire to a huge pile of wood that had been placed strategically in a gorge on the Kasseh Rud90 to impede any assault on Afrasiyab's domain. The most difficult mission, however, was Gurgin's. He was to deliver Kaykhusrau's challenge to Afrasiyab and bring back the Turanian's reply:

After all tasks were assigned and rewards bestowed, the king and Rustam talked further about the future, especially about the Turanians and their hegemony over the lands in Zabulistan:

Since that land had much to offer in the way of elephants and precious stones, and since the people did not like the overlordship of the Turanians, Rustam suggested to the king to liberate that realm and annex it to Iran. This, Rustam thought, would be a considerable blow to the Turanians.

The king, recognizing the merit of the champion's strategy, suggested that since the land under discussion was contiguous to Zabulistan, the seat of Rustam, an army could be sent under the leadership of Faramarz, Rustam's son, to reduce that domain. Rustam accepted to send his son to annex the region.

Tus Marches on Turan

Equipped and ready for battle, the great army, presented itself to the king. The king appointed Tus, a kindred of Nowzar, as the commander-in-chief. He advised the lower ranks to follow the commands of Tus, and he advised the aged warrior not to forsake his loyalty to his sovereign, to observe the law of the Creator, and to aid the farmer, the craftsman, and the businessman. Finally, he made it clear to the commander that the army should not go by way of Kalat, the seat of Siyavosh's other son, Farud: 93

Tus' army arrived at a fork in the road where one way led to the waterless desert and the other, passing Charam, provided good pastures and provision for the army at Mayam. Against Kaykhusrau's advice, Tus chose the latter road. Gudarz reminded the general of the shah's desire that the army should follow the desert road and not approach Kalat, but Tus did not pay any attention to him. The army chiefs directed the host on the road to Charam.

Hearing about the approaching army, Farud brought his horses and livestock in his fort and shut the gate. 96 Then, following the advice of his mother, Jarirah, he rode with Takhar to the crest of the mountain to view the army, recognize its paladins, and introduce himself to them.

At the same time that Takhar was identifying the Iranian commanders for Farud at the top of the mountain, Tus spotted Farud and Takhar from the base of the mountain. He asked for a volunteer who could climb to the peak and deal with the two:

Bahram, from the house of Gudarz, volunteered to perform the task and, at the peak, asked the two to identify themselves. Farud identified himself as the son of Siyavosh and the brother of the king. Then, showing Bahram his royal birth mark, Farud added that he wished to meet Bahram and some of the other Iranian commanders so that he could bestow gifts upon them. "It is my wish," Farud added further, "to ride with the army of Iran and participate in the revenge of the death of my father."

Bahram, in turn, introduced himself and paid homage to the prince. In response to Farud's request to join the Iranian army to seek revenge for his father, Bahram was skeptical, given the political situation of that obtained in Iran at the time:

When, at the end of their meeting, Bahram was ready to leave the peak to take Farud's message to Tus, he gave the prince some advice. "My prince," he said, "if Tus sends anyone other than myself to this peak, it means that he intends to wage war against you. Retire to your stronghold and fortify it as best as you can."

Back in the Iranian camp, Bahram apprised Tus of the identity of the warriors and of the youth's royal lineage. Tus became angry and denounced Bahram:

Thus discrediting Bahram by attributing his loyalty to the farr to egoism, Tus asked for another volunteer who would climb the mountain and decapitate the bold "Turk." Rivniz, Tus' son-in-law, accepted the challenge. On the mountain, Farud tried to discourage the Iranian warrior by shooting at his horse, but Riv continued to climb on foot, Farud then shot him dead with one arrow. Tus sent Zarasp, his own son, and Riv's brother-in-law. Farud killed him as well.

Seeing how his warriors fell before Farud, Tus took to the saddle himself and headed for the peak. Takhar advised Farud not to stay and fight. "My prince," he said, "you are not a match for the mighty Tus. We must return to the fortification and find a way to defend ourselves." Farud, however, remained on the peak to battle Tus. "If you do not wish to return to the fort," Takhar pleaded, "then kill Tus' horse. Princes are not likely to fight when they lose their steed." Farud followed Takhar's direction and killed Tus' horse. As predicted, the loss of his horse stopped Tus' advance up the mountain. Tus returned to the army disheveled and confused. Giv then accepted the challenge. Takhar identified him as Iran's strongest and most astute warrior in the field:

Farud treated Giv in the same way that he had others. He forced the warrior to return to the Iranian camp, as Tus had, to be ridiculed. In the case of Giv, the return was painful. He had to confront not only the other warriors, but also his own son, Bizhan. The latter was now determined to take on the "Turk" at all costs. He would not listen to anyone, not even to Gustaham:

Recognizing the invincibility of Bizhan, Farud decided to return and shut himself up in the fort. Bizhan pursued him. Before Farud reached the fort, Bizhan killed Farud's horse, injured Farud's back and incapacitated his arm. Farud ordered his warriors to stay in the fort and keep the gate securely shut.

Bizhan's feat had opened the pass to the Iranian army. Tus then swore to kill the "Turk" and revenge the death of his son, the valiant Zarasp:

That night Jarirah, Farud's mother, had a terrifying dream. In her dream she saw a blaze engulf the entire Sepid Kuh, consuming the fort and its inhabitants. When she awoke from this nightmare, she went to the window of her apartment to view the mountain and the surrounding countryside. The whole place was filled with Iranian troops. This further discouraged her. She knew that the end had come and that the wounded Farud and his warriors were no match for the Iranian army. Taking matters into her own hands, she made sure that none of the fort's wealth passed into the hands of the Iranian looters.

To carry out this plan, she mutilated and killed all the Arabian horses in the stables and set the fort ablaze. This done, she went to her mortally wounded son's apartment and killed him in his sleep. She then killed herself.

Three days after the capture of Farud's fort on Sepid Kuh, the Iranian army resumed its march on Turan. On their way they slew all the Turanians they met and left their bodies on the road as examples. Finally they reached the Oxus (Kasseh Rud).

On the Turanian side, Afrasiyab re-appointed Piran his commander-in-chief and asked him to immediately gather troops from all over Turan to fight the Iranians who were, at the time, impeded by a snow storm.

The Iranians were baffled by the intensity of the cold and the amount of the snow. Bahram attributed the storm to the wrath of the Creator for the death of Farud:

On the eighth day, Tus assembled his warriors. He asked Giv to make good on his promise, for which he had received a generous reward from the king, and set fire to the pile of wood placed strategically in a gorge by the Turanians to obstruct the movement of the Iranian army into Turan. In spite of Bizhan's offer to carry out the task for him, the aged Giv rode past Kasseh Rud and set the obstacle ablaze. The wall of wood burned for three weeks. On the fourth week, the Iranian army continued its march to Garugard, sending contingents out to scout the countryside.

Garugard was the seat of the Iranian Tazhav, who had defected to Turan. He held the territory to the north of the Oxus, the grazing ground for Afrasiyab's livestock.

Tazhav dispatched Afrasiyab's shepherd, Kabudah, to assess the strength of the Iranian army and bring him news of the Iranian host. When Kabudah failed to return, Tazhav decided to approach the Iranian camp personally and secure the necessary information. His small detachment was ridiculed by the Iranians:

Giv tried to persuade the traitor to go to Tus and beg forgiveness, but Tazhav refused to denounce Afrasiyab and pay allegiance to the king of Iran. Instead he fled from Giv taking his beautiful slave girl, Spanvi with him. When the girl proved to be too heavy for his horse, he abandoned her on the road and continued his trek to Afrasiyab:

After Afrasiyab received Tazhav and heard him out, he rebuked Piran for having ignored his orders to mobilize an army. He commanded the aged warrior to stop procrastinating and assemble the border guards and meet Tus with a mighty army. Piran obeyed his king's behest and mobilized a mighty force. He planned to reach the Iranians by taking a shortcut through uncharted territories:

Piran's decision was based on intelligence from Tazhav to the effect that the Iranian army spent most of its time drinking and that it did not expect to be attacked any time soon. This correct assessment gave Piran the edge. And in the battle that followed many Iranian warriors fell:

Having inflicted yet another misfortune on Iran, Tus' ability to command the army came into question. The Iranian generals at once asked for his ouster and dispatched a messenger to Kaykhusrau to apprise him of the state of things between Iran and Turan.

Tus' treatment of Farud and the news of the army's defeat at the hand of Afrasiyab infuriated the king. Summoning the scribe, Kaykhusrau dictated a letter to be delivered to Fariburz. In the letter, he removed Tus from command and appointed Fariburz in his place.

Upon his return to the court, Tus was further humiliated by Kaykhusrau in front of his peers. Pronounced unfit for royal service and for royal company, Tus was banished to his estate, where he was to spend the rest of his days.

Upon assuming command of the army, Prince Fariburz dispatched Ruhhamto Piran with a message and a complaint:

Ruhham was well received by the Turanians. After listening carefully to Fariburz' views on the war, Piran said that it was the Iranians who had started the aggression against the Turanians and not the other way around. And he made it clear that he understood the dilemma that Tus' unwise decisions had created for the Iranians. To the new commander of the Iranian army, therefore, Piran offered one month respite to decide whether he wished to continue the hostilities or sign a peace treaty with Turan:

Fariburz decided to continue the war and the two armies fought a number of battles. In the decisive battle, the Turanians succeeded in cornering Fariburz, the mainstay of the Iranian army; they even killed Riv, Kayka'us's son. Only the bravery of Bahram, who snatched the fallen prince's crown, saved Iran from even more shame:

In the course of the day, the Iranian army was greatly reduced in number, and by the day's end it began a retreat. The Turanians rejoiced:

To celebrate Piran's victory, Afrasiyab summoned the old warrior to his capital and entertained him and his men for two weeks. Then he presented Piran with some of the most precious pieces in his treasury and advised him to keep a lookout in the direction of Iran. Although gone for now, Afrasiyab warned, the Iranians are not gone forever. Kaykhusrau, he said, is wealthy and can change the minds of his champions easily. He advised Piran, therefore, to appoint spies who can apprise Turan of activities in Iran.

Piran listened attentively, and when the king's words were finished, he and his champions left for China to seek assistance from the Chinese against the invader from the west.

The Alliance

The defeat of the Iranians in Turan brought Rustam, Iran's national champion, into the war. At the beginning of the "Story of Kamus the Kushan," Firdowsi, Hakim Abu al-Qasim sings the praises of Rustam:

Firdowsi also describes the mood of the defeated forces returning to Iran. As they approached Kalat, they ruminated on the events that had taken place there not long ago. They wondered how to deal with a king whose brother they had slain and the revenge for whose father's death they had compromised.

Upon arrival, the king did not admit the champions; even though, in private, he attributed the entire calamity to the will of God. "If it were not Your will," he implored to Yazdan, "I would have a thousand of the greats of the army sent to the gallows":

But more than Tus, Kaykhusrau blamed himself. Why did he bestow lavish gifts upon Tus? Why had he equipped Tus with a mighty army to fight his own brother? Farud, too, he lamented was a victim of circumstances like his father. Tus merely followed the dictates of Ahriman:

The Iranian champions were dismayed. They shared Kaykhusrau's grief, but they were unhappy that the shah should not admit them to the court. Distressed, they approached Rustam and apologized to him for what had happened. They explained that the events had been preordained and that they had had no intention of fighting Farud, the king's brother:

Besides, they justified Tus' act as the act of a father whose son and son-in-law had been killed in the course of the same day. Tus simply lost control, they said.
Rustam agreed to mediate their case and make the army's difficult situation clear to the king. That evening, Rustam visited the court. He kissed the threshold then pleaded with the king to reconsider his decision regarding the army and Tus. He enumerated the reasons that the champions had provided and added, out of personal experience, that the death of a son is hard to bear.
The king welcomed Rustam's interpretation of the event and praised the national champion for his wisdom and counsel. He then allowed Tus to enter. Tus kissed the threshold and paid homage to Rustam. From the champion, he turned to the king and praised him profusely, expressing regret for his actions. The king accepted Tus' expression of regret but did not allow the impact of the defeat to remain hidden:

"The amount of anger and the zeal for revenge-which rest at the heart of Iran's attack on Turan-have in no way been diminished," said the king, addressing the champions. "How can we as Iranians live," he asked, "with the shame of a defeat of that magnitude?"

The champions individually paid their respects and swore to fight to the bitter end for him. The king praised his paladins:

The king said that Tus should not have made the difficult decisions alone. In matters such as going to Kalat, fighting Farud, and facing the Turanian army, he should have drawn on the knowledge and expertise of capable warriors like Giv. In the end, however, Tus was appointed the task of returning the Iranian army to Turan. In this way, the shah thought, the commander could not only redeem himself but also avenge the murder of Siyavosh, the task for which he had originally been commissioned. Soon after this meeting, Tus mobilized a huge army and met the Turanian forces at the Shahd River, somewhere in the Pamirs. 119

Upon arriving at Shahd, Piran sent an express messenger to Tus, hoping to win the Iranian commander over. Tus interpreted Piran's conciliatory language as a signal that the Turanian warrior, often sympathetic to Iran's cause, intended to defect to Iran. He invited Piran to defect:

Upon hearing Tus' message, Piran sent another express messenger. This one, however, to Afrasiyab. In his message, Piran apprised his king of how he had duped the Iranian commander with illusions of his defection and asked Afrasiyab to assemble a large army:

The struggle for supremacy between Iran and Turan began with a single combat between Tus and Arzhang. When Arzhang was killed, Human, Piran's brother, challenged Tus:

Human chided Tus for having ignored his own central role in the Iranian army and for having responded to a challenge for single combat. He asked Tus to return to his army and send warriors who had been praised by the shah, young warriors who sought recognition. He asked for Bizhan and Giv of the Azadegan House. Furthermore, he told Tus that it would not be right for the Iranian army to lose its commander-in-chief. What would become of its organization?

But no amount of praise, not even placing him among such champions as Zal and Rustam, could persuade Tus to give up the fight. On the contrary, he tried to bring Piran's brothers to his side and possibly stop the war:

Since the outcome of these combats almost invariably meant death for one of the combatants, they usually spent a long time, sometimes too long, trying to convince each other to call the fight off. As in this case, other paladins entered the field and encouraged the combatants to stop the talk and proceed with the fight. Interestingly enough often the mediators, too, became a party to furthering the haggling:

Tus did not relent and the fight continued for the rest of the day. When at that time the outcome remained inconclusive, the combatants decided to return in the morning and finish their fight. That night, however, Piran talked to Bazur, a man well versed in magic and the occult.

"In the morning," Piran told Bazur, "I intend to attack the Iranian position and settle this account. I want you to ascend the nearby mountain and, as soon as the Turanian army attacks, call down a snow storm upon the Iranians."

The next day, before Tus and Human resumed their fight, the Iranian army was afflicted with unspeakable cold; the intensity of the cold was such that the troops could not hold on to their weapons. 125 While responding to that unprecedented calamity, Turanian contingents arrived and killed as many of their numbers as they could. Tus, finding his beleaguered troops surrounded by a mighty Turanian host, ordered his commanders to gather the Iranian army and head for the mountain where they would have a better chance of defence against the numerically superior forces of the enemy:

When the army reached the Hamavan mountain, Tus asked Giv to assign those of the troops who had had a respite to Bizhan and to take the rest of the army to the highlands himself. 127 On the Turanian side, Piran sent scouts to the Iranian camp to estimate the strength of the remaining forces. The scouts returned, reporting that the Iranian army had left, leaving all its baggage in the field. Piran consulted his commanders. The Turanian army, they advised, must use Tus' defeat and annihilate the foe. Piran did not agree. It would be prudent for the Turanian army to wait, he said, until Afrasiyab's enormous army arrives. The combined forces of Turan, he argued, can then be brought to bear on Iran:

Human disagreed with Piran's strategy of delay. He contended that Tus' relatively large army, were it to escape the Turanians, would eventually join up with the forces of Kaykhusrau. The leadership of Kaykhusrau's army would undoubtedly be given to Rustam. Since a large portion of that future foe was trapped in a distressful predicament, why allow it to escape? We must find Tus' army and annihilate it, Human argued:

Piran gave in. He told Human to use his own judgment and treat the defeated Iranian army as he saw fit. In time, Human found Tus' army and led Piran's forces to it.

When the combined forces of Human and Piran faced the numerically inferior troops of Tus, Piran tried to convince Tus of the futility of his resistance, especially since the house of Gudarz had lost all its warriors. "The enmity between Iran and Turan," Tus responded, "would not have existed if Siyavosh had not been brutally murdered in Turan. The end of this war is nowhere in sight." He informed Piran that he had sent word to the shah of Iran. And that an army has already been assembled, commanded by Rustam. "When it arrives," Tus bluffed, "nothing will remain of Turan but its name."

Tus' predicament, however, was unique. His troops had been forced up a mountain, while the surrounding countryside teamed with enemy troops. It was only a matter of days, according to Piran, before shortages would force them to either surrender or die. Tus, however, mounted a two-pronged strategy to dislodge his forces. First he attacked the Turanians at night and refurbished his army's dwindling supplies. Secondly, he sent a letter to the shah and asked for reinforcements:

When the news of Tus' second defeat reached Kaykhusrau and he was informed that the army had been forced to move to the Hamavan mountains for protection, he dispatched a delegation of Iranian nobles to Kabulistan to summon the mighty Rustam to the court. When Rustam arrived, the shah praised him as the protector of the Iranian crown, the killer of the White Demon, and the Rider of Rakhsh. He then mentioned Tus' defeat and the great loss that the demise of the Gudarz warriors meant to the Iranian army. He asked for the champion's help.

Rustam returned the shah's kind words with similar praises. He told the shah that he, Rustam, had always been a protector of Iranian lands and that he had proved his allegiance to Iran by fighting in numerous wars against the enemies of Iran in both Turan and Mazandaran:

Rustam's words pleased the shah greatly. He asked the royal treasurer to open the treasury to the champion so that he could take as much money as he needed. He then asked Rustam to lead the warriors of Zabulistan and Kabulistan along with 30,000 Iranian troops and reach Tus at the Hamavan range as soon as possible. He further asked Rustam to assign the command of the army to Fariburz, Kayka'us' son, so that the prince could avenge the wrong that had been done to the house of Kayka'us by the Turanians.

On the Turanian side, Piran mobilized his army and brought them to the foot of the mountain. Rather than following Human's advice and attack the Iranian army, however, he continued his own strategy of delay. The experienced commander thought that time was on his side and that the Iranians would not last long on the mountain without provisions:

The Hamavan encounter was Iran's first confrontation with an "international" force. The Turanian army besieging the Iranian troops consisted of warriors from China (Chin), India, and the Kushan lands (Transoxania), as well as from Rum and Saqlab (Slavic lands). People from all the countries bordering on Turan had come to the aid of Afrasiyab :

Piran is one of the most interesting characters of the Shahname. He is a Turanian whose loyalty to Afrasiyab cannot be questioned. He has his own sphere of influence, Khutan, and his own army. Despite all he had received from Afrasiyab, however, Piran is partial towards the Iranians. He married his daughter to Siyavosh, and aided Kaykhusrau, the enemy of Turan to escape.

As the numbers of Afrasiyab's allies swelled and other commanders, mostly monarchs, came to the front, Piran's role became less and less prominent. But still the combined forces followed his behests. The experienced warrior effectively held the various participating armies at arm's length. He discussed other commanders strategies at the assemblies but, in his heart, he was devoted to the strategy of delay. "The Iranians would either give up and surrender or die of starvation," he thought. "And, in either case, the greater army, while necessary to frighten the Iranians and confine them to the mountain heights, will not have to fight directly. The thought of winning a victory without a fight pleased him:

Furthermore, Piran knew well that the war with Iran was not to be confused with the battle with Tus. As soon as he had settled the matter of Tus' surrender or demise, Piran intended to proceed with the greater war. Toward this end, he had planned to divide the combined forces into three divisions, each with a specific mission. The first contingent should go to Balkh and capture that region. The next should go to Kabulistan and Zabulistan, the kingdom of Rustam, and reduce that domain to submission to Afrasiyab. The third contingent, led by Piran himself, he thought, should head for the heartland of Iran. This contingent would include the best Turanian warriors.

The division of the army and the deployment of three or four major armies, each with a particular aim, was practiced by both Iran and Turan. Through their many spies, both kings were informed of each other's gains and losses. Periodically, they even informed their commanders in the field of such gains. This kind of information, they thought, encouraged the commanders to enhance their own prestige by adding to the king's domain. ,p> Having thus resolved the problem of the lesser and greater encounters with Iran, Piran visited each of the kings who had accompanied their forces to Hamavan. He explained his strategies for resolving the war and answered their questions about the strength of the Iranian host, the number and identity of its paladins, and so forth.

In ancient times, armies did not have the entertainment facilities of the medieval and contemporary armies. They spent their free time celebrating a victory or, in the case of a defeat, licking their wounds while ruminating about the future. They were greatly concerned with their destiny, especially when they were placed between a rock and a hard place, as was Tus' army at this time. The morale of every force, therefore, depended on the strength of character of its commander-in-chief and of the paladins who served him. If the commander-in-chief was weak, the champions chided him in private. ,p> Religion played a pivotal role in these wars and the Creator, the One on Whose behalf the war was being waged, was repeatedly asked for aid. Indeed, it was part of the duty of the mu'bads to remind the troops of the Creator's good will and to dispel pessimism propagated by Ahriman.

The Iranian army was gradually plagued by pessimism. Tus, the commander-in-chief, sank into depression. He thought that the Iranian army was doomed. Only Rustam, he admitted, could save Iran. Giv, on the other hand, was not as pessimistic. He argued that Iran worshiped Yazdan and enjoyed the full protection of the king. "Rustam will arrive," Giv said, "and with the help of God, evil will be chased away":

As the forces from the surrounding kingdoms converged around the mountain, the Iranian commanders began to despair. It was obvious that, given their strategic situation and their numbers, there was little hope of leaving the mountain stronghold alive. One night, Tus assembled his warriors and gave his last speech. "We shall attack the Turanian army tonight," he concluded, "and we shall fight to the death."

Their gloom, however, was soon transformed to joy; news came from the scouts that an Iranian army, headed by Fariburz, Kayka'us' son, had just come into view and would reach Hamavan early the next day. With this addition, the ranks of the Iranian army swelled. Piran remained in the Chinese camp until the Khaqan of China's army was ready to move in the direction of the Hamavan range. Then, accompanied by Kamus and the other kings, Piran came to the battlefield. The Iranian army faced them in full strength.

The Khaqan of China did not mask his displeasure upon seeing the Iranians. He rebuked Piran for having underestimated the strength of the enemy. "The Iranian army before us," he said to Piran, "is not the miserable bunch of which you spoke. It is a force to be reckoned with":

The command structure of the Turanian army was more complex than that of Tus. This was due to the participation of the many kings that Afrasiyab had summoned from the surrounding domains to assist Piran in battle.

Afrasiyab, the supreme ruler, occupied the highest level of the structure. He was not to be seen. The supreme commander of the fighting forces in the field was the Khaqan of China of China, who commanded the largest army. Following the Khaqan of China in strength was Kamus the Kushan. He commanded the Kushani or Transoxanian army. He was a paladin himself and sought to gain fame by fighting the strongest paladin Iran could field. Below Kamus was Shangol, the king of India and commander of the Indian forces. He wished to recapture the lands that had recently been lost to his west.

Below the supreme command were the national champions. Piran ranked first among this group. He not only commanded his own forces (the forces of Khutan), but also assigned Afrasiyab's champions to positions of responsibility.

In order for the Iranians to win this war, they had to defeat Piran and the forces of Afrasiyab. Before that, however, at least in Piran's stratagem, they had to eliminate Shangol, Kamus, and the Khaqan of China of China. Only the defeat of Piran would force Afrasiyab to emerge as the supreme leader of Turan and the adversary to be annihilated.

Piran, although overtly identified as the commander-in-chief of Turan, was actually a relatively low-ranking official. His status and lack of authority in the expanded army is revealed gradually. Indeed, were it not due to his close relationship with Afrasiyab, he would not have enjoyed the assignments he received or attend to the important, and sometimes difficult, tasks that he managed.

When the combined forces of Turan and the reinforced army of Iran faced each other, the Khaqan of China asked Piran to disclose his plan of attack. "I intend," said Piran, "to give the soldiers a three-day respite to ward off the fatigue of the long march to Hamavan. Then I intend to divide them into three divisions and field one division at a time, giving the other two rest, until the enemy falls. With this tactic, I shall have the Iranians surrender in a day and a half."

The Khaqan of China did not approve of this plan. Kamus then suggested an alternate plan. He proposed to assemble all the armies in one place and unleash their full power upon the Iranian army. He further proposed the attack to be undertaken immediately so that the Iranians would not have a chance to integrate their reinforcements into their ranks before deployment. "This strategy," Kamus claimed, "would take the Iranians by surprise and defeat them within a day." Kamus' plan was accepted and the Turanian commanders prepared for their final assault on Mount Hamavan.

Firdowsi, Hakim Abu al-Qasim is very keen on etiquette and protocol. Often he spends many bayts, putting a dialogue in its proper perspective so that all the requirements of the culture are met. A good example of Firdowsi, Hakim Abu al-Qasim's care occurs here, when Gudarz welcomes Fariburz, the king's son, and a paladin sent with the fast-moving reinforcement contingent in advance of Rustam's slower-paced army. The burning question is whether Rustam is on the way or whether the army that Fariburz has brought is the entire reinforcement army. Were Gudarz to ask the question straight out, it would be an insult to the person and the army of the prince. So Gudarz improvised. He enumerated the large number of divisions and the mighty men that commanded the Turanian army. The prince consoled the aged warrior by enumerating those who would fight on the side of Iran-among them, Rustam.

It became known only gradually that Rustam had been assigned the supreme command, making him the counterpart to the Khaqan of China of China, and that he had issued directives to the effect that all fighting must stop until he reached Hamavan:

A new assessment of the Iranian forces threw more doubt on Piran's capabilities. His esteem at the Khaqan of China's court reached a low ebb, and his strategy of delay came under heavy criticism by Kamus the Kushan. Once Piran's duties were relegated to Kamus, the latter openly rebuked Piran for having procrastinated and thereby jeopardized the lives of many kings, commanders, and people. "For five months," said Kamus, "you had the mighty army of Afrasiyab at your command to subdue a rag-tag band of Iranians. What happened? I personally am not afraid of either the large army of Kabul, Zabul, May, India, or that of Rustam," Kamus continued. "Indeed, Rustam is the first on my list of champions to annihilate":

Piran thanked Kamus for his graciousness and wished him well. Only then the Khaqan of China of China, who had thus far ignored Piran, addressed the aged warrior. "You should not have praised the enemy," he said to Piran in protest. "Nevertheless," the Khaqan of China continued, "I reaffirm Kamus' pledge to defeat Iran and send all the captured Iranian nobles to Afrasiyab for punishment." Piran thanked the Khaqan of China as well and returned to his own camp.

Piran was obsessed with the idea that the Turanian army, irrespective of its size and of the might of the monarchs and commanders that contributed to its strength, was a match for the Iranian army only if Rustam were not a part of the latter army. Whenever he expressed happiness at Rustam's absence, however, he was ridiculed. The appearance of Fariburz instead of Rustam elated Piran, a pleasure that he could not hide. Others in the Turanian camp did not share his opinion:

Piran, however, did not learn his lesson. Hearing that Rustam's black pavilion was pitched among the tents of the Iranian army and that Tus and Gudarz had been entertained by the national champion, he despaired. Ignoring the many paladins surrounding the Khaqan of China, he made his paranoia about Rustam apparent. The assembly, especially Kamus, was not impressed. "I shall not despair," said Kamus, "even if Kaykhusrau himself entered the battlefield. I am a mighty warrior. Neither Rustam nor his Zabuli warriors frighten me. As for you, Piran," Kamus concluded, "you must control yourself. Return to your camp and prepare your men for war":

In the Iranian epic, the horse plays a major part. At times the very life of a paladin depends on the intelligence of his steed. For instance, Farud saved himself a confrontation with Tus, a confrontation that might have ended his life sooner, by obliging the champion to fight on foot-an act forbidden by monarchic tradition. Similarly, Siyavosh, when he was convinced that his death was near, talked to Shabdiz and instructed the horse to obey only Kaykhusrau and lead him to the kingship of Iran.

Rakhsh, Rustam's famous mount, figures prominently in many episodes of the Shahname. At this juncture, Rustam used him as part of his strategy to surprise the enemy. Concealing Rakhsh and, thereby, his own identity, Rustam persuaded paladins like Kamus and Shangol to enter the battle on their own to be killed. This is how Rustam's ruse was set up.

Rustam told Tus and other champions that he intended to rest Rakhsh for a day-the first day of battle-so that the animal could ward off the fatigue of having run twice his usual distance. Since it would be impossible to command without a horse, Tus was appointed commander at center. Fariburz and Gudarz were placed on Tus' right and left respectively. The Turanian army had a similar arrangement with the Khaqan of China at center and Kamus and Piran on the right and the left wings, respectively.

Rustam's strategy worked. The war began with the customary challenges and counter challenges. Finally, a Turanian champion, Ashkabus, challenged the Iranians. Rustam gained Tus' permission to respond to the challenge and walked into the center. His appearance confused the enemy. Without Rakhsh, no one knew who he was or where he hailed from. Seeing Rustam on foot before him, Ashkabus laughed and asked the champion's name. Rustam did not identify himself. He merely said that Tus had sent him to the battlefield to take Ashkabus' horse and to teach him a lesson in fighting on foot. The Kushani was not at all convinced that Rustam could defeat him with only a bow and arrows. He sped his horse to run Rustam down. Rustam shot Ashkabus' horse dead with his first arrow. The Kushani then realized the power of Rustam's arm. He got up quickly and showered Rustam with arrows. Rustam shot through Ashkabus' coat of mail and killed him instantly.

Kamus and the Khaqan of China watched the combat closely and, as soon as Rustam left the field, inspected Rustam's arrow, which was larger than any they had seen. It resembled a spear. Once again Khaqan of China rebuked Piran for having given him false information on the strength of the Iranian fighting men:

Piran expressed his astonishment. He said that he did not know of anyone in the Iranian army who could pass an arrow through a tree. Giv and Tus are indeed great warriors, Piran admitted, but they are nowhere near the warrior who had just left the field. In spite of Piran's equivocation, Kamus knew well that the mysterious warrior was Rustam. "Could this mysterious paladin be the same Sagzi 142 of whom you have frightened us to death?" Kamus asked Piran, sarcastically:

"Who is this Sagzi?" Kamus wanted to know. "What does he look like? What words does he use in his opening statement on the day of battle? What tactics must I know were I to face this Rustam?"

"For your sake," said Piran, "I hope you will never have to face the Sagzi. On many occasions, even Afrasiyab has had difficulty coping with him. 144 He is Iran's national hero, devoted entirely to Kaykhusrau. He is quick in reaching for the sword and fights to revenge Siyavosh whom he had brought up like a son and whom Afrasiyab had killed." Piran then described Rakhsh, Rustam's famous steed, and detailed the arsenal of weapons that the paladin uses in combat. After hearing this, Kamus swore before the Khaqan of China and the rest of the champions that he would not take the saddle off Bur, his steed, until Rustam was dead.

Late in the day, a meeting was held in the Khaqan of China's pavilion. All the warriors including Kamus, Manshur, Fartus, Shamiran from Shoghn, and Shangol from India, as well as the commander of the Slavic domains and the king of Sind were in attendance. They talked until late into the night about Iran and about the forthcoming battle. They decided that they had no option but to fight to the last man.

In the morning, before the armies faced each other, the Khaqan of China advised the other commanders to ignore Piran and overwhelm the Iranians. The warriors paid homage to the Khaqan of China and proclaimed him the ruler of China and of Turan.

On the Iranian side, Rustam assembled his warriors and told them that despite their previous losses under Tus, the Iranian army was still a major fighting force. He reminded them that they were fighting for Kaykhusrau and that, at the end of the war, much fame and fortune awaited them.

The two armies then put their commands in order. On the Turanian side the Khaqan of China assumed the command at the center. Kamus led the right and Hind the left wings. On the Iranian side, Fariburz assumed the command of the left and Pur-i Kishwad the command of the right wing. Tus remained in the center as the commander of the whole army.

Rustam's strategy for singling out the major leaders and killing them off one by one worked. He expected the major challenge to come from Turan. It did. Kamus rode out the next day and challenged the mysterious paladin. Rustam walked out into the open carrying a heavy mace and a noose.

The two exchanged routine opening statements and engaged each other in single combat. Kamus reached for his sword to decapitate Rustam but failed. Rustam, on the other hand, caught the Turanian's midsection in his noose. Kamus struggled to free himself but, after a while, he lost consciousness and fell off his horse. Rustam then tied Kamus' hands up and brought him to the Iranian camp. He threw Kamus at the feet of the Iranian warriors and told them they could do with him anything they pleased. "What I wish you not to forget when dealing with this man," said Rustam, "is that he had intended to destroy not only Iran but also Kabulistan and Zabulistan." He intended to kill Rustam.

The Iranians tore Kamus' body to pieces.

The Khaqan of China

With the death of Kamus, the Turanian army was plunged into disarray. No one believed that the Kushani champion could be eliminated so easily. Questions regarding the identity of the mysterious paladin were on every tongue. The Khaqan of China was warned that the Turanians would refuse to fight as long as the Iranian paladin's identity was not known.

As Rustam's strategy continued to work for Iran, chaos plagued the Turanian ranks. The Khaqan of China took it upon himself to learn the identity of the paladin by sending his best champion, Changosh, to the battlefield. But Changosh faced the same fate as Kamus, and the identity of the Iranian champion remained a mystery.

When direct action failed, the Turanians used other tactics. Human visited Rustam in disguise and tried to identify the mysterious paladin by leading him through a maze of questions, the answers to some of which could reveal the identity of the champion. But this, too, did not help. The conversation, however, was not totally fruitless. Human learned the reasons for the Iranian champion's crusade. "The murder of Siyavosh," Rustam said, "is the main reason for the war between Iran and Turan. I seek the instigators of the death of Siyavosh and the perpetrators who have dragged others, especially the house of Gudarz, into this bloodbath. Give up the murderers of Siyavosh and the men and property that he brought to Turan and I shall cease hostility against Turan. I will even go so far as to convince the king, Kaykhusrau, to forgive and forget his vengeance against Turan."

When Rustam named those whom he wanted the Turanians to turn over to the Iranians, Human paled. They were Garsivaz, the main cause of the bloodshed; Garu-ye Zereh and his son; the house of Viseh, which included Human, Lahhak, Farshidvard, Kulbad, and Nastihan. "If you deliver these individuals to me," Rustam said, "I shall cease hostility against your people and your nation; you will no longer need to wear your armor. But if you refuse, you will receive more of the same treatment."

Rustam's words shook Human who recognized his own family identified as the cause of the hostilities between the two peoples. "With such power and greatness," Human asked Rustam, "why are you a mere champion? You could easily be the king of Iran." But neither such praises, nor Human's false identity as a king tired of battle, convinced Rustam to identify himself.

"Forget about my identity," Rustam replied firmly. "Inform the Turanians about my demands. More than anyone else, Piran carries the burden of the death of Siyavosh," Rustam continued. "Send Piran to me. Together, we might find a solution."

"I have no doubt," said Human when he met Piran and the Turanian champions, "that the Iranian champion is Rustam of Zabul. He spoke eloquently about his grievances and listed his complaints. I was first on the list of those whom he recognized as the contributors to the downfall and death of Siyavosh. He also mentioned Piran, the Viseh champions, and all those who have, at one point or another, harmed Iran. However," Human concluded, "Piran is the only one of whom he did not speak ill. Indeed, he asked that Piran go to him and, possibly, bring this battle to an end. It behooves Piran to ride there and talk to him. He will stay in the field until they meet. "When there," Human addressed Piran directly, "do not anger him. Speak quietly and stay on the side of caution."

Piran regarded the appearance of Rustam in the war as a bad omen and warned Human of the calamity that Rustam could bring on Turanian lands. Then, rather than going to Rustam forthwith, he went to the Khaqan of China of China to apprise him of this new development.

The Khaqan of China knew little about Rustam, so Piran told him how Rustam, the Lord of Zabul, had nurtured Siyavosh, how he regarded Siyavosh as a son for whose revenge he was ready to sacrifice all. "I am going to talk to him," said Piran, "and see what the future brings."

The Khaqan of China encouraged Piran to face up to Rustam. "If the champion is willing to forego the war," the Khaqan of China said, "ask for plenty of war damages. If, on the other hand, he seeks revenge, we shall give battle and we shall make his life miserable. After all, he is a mortal, and all mortals die. Besides, for every man in the Iranian army, we have three hundred," said the Khaqan of China with pride. "I will fight him personally and show him what a warrior upon an elephant can do."

When they met, Rustam introduced himself as Rustam of Zabul. He then saluted Piran both in the name of Kaykhusrau (xorshid-i rowshan ravan) and of the king's mother, the daughter of Afrasiyab (dokht-i Afrasiyab).

Piran returned the salutations with appropriate mentions of Zavareh, Faramarz, and Zal. "I know," said Piran, "that you loved Siyavosh like a son. I loved him the same way. He was my son-in-law. I hid Kaykhusrau and his mother in my house against the will of my king. I made their escape to Iran possible. But I am an unfortunate man, trapped between two mighty lords. I cannot abandon Afrasiyab. He has given me gold, land, and animals. I have a son and many daughters to consider. When Afrasiyab orders me to fight, I have no alternative but to follow his orders. As for myself," Piran continued, "I would rather see the war end. I do not say this because I like to safeguard my wealth, but because I do not wish to see the army of Iran killed atop that mountain by the tremendous force that awaits it. We have gathered warriors from Kushan and the Slavic lands as well as from Shoghn and India. Our ranks cover the land from where we stand all the way to the Great Sea [Indian Ocean]. I advise you to think the matter over and do what is in the best interest of yourself, your king, and your warriors."

Piran's words did not strike Rustam favorably. "I considered you an upright Turanian," Rustam said. "Besides, I thought you would appreciate my solution for ceasing hostilities. We are talking about a murdered king. If you wish the hostility to be settled with bows and arrows, so be it! Before that, however, let me reiterate my solution. I request that the Turanian leadership deliver to Iran all those who plotted the murder of Siyavosh and who were responsible for the subsequent bloodshed. Furthermore, I request that you yourself sever your ties with Turan and accompany me to the court of Kaykhusrau. I am sure that my king will give you ten times the treasure, land and animals that you leave behind in Turan."

Piran pondered his situation for a while. He then responded that he needed to consult with Manshur, Shangol, and the Khaqan of China of China before he could give an answer. "Besides," Piran said, "I should send a messenger to Afrasiyab and apprise him of your demands."

When Piran returned, he assembled the warriors of the house of Viseh and briefed them. "What Rustam wants," Piran said, "is those who were responsible for the death of Siyavosh. Looking around me here, I don't see anyone who, in one way or another, is not involved in the war and the reasons for it. The Iranians might just as well ask for us all."

In the camp of the Khaqan of China, Piran was met by the armies of Kushan, seeking revenge for the death of Kamus. They demanded that Afrasiyab, the perpetrator of the calamity, show himself and fight like a man in the war he had created, rather than hide in his palace and issue orders. "We shall gather an army," they said, "of Kushanis, Chinese Buzgush, Sagsar, and Mazandaran we shall set fire to Sistan; we shall hang Rustam of Zabul and see his family mourn for him as we mourn our fallen warrior. We shall burn Rustam's body and scatter his ashes to the wind. But first give us Afrasiyab!"

Once again, Piran lamented that his army should face a paladin like Rustam. He despaired. Shangol, the king of India, saw things differently: "We have traversed long distances," he said, "to help Afrasiyab, and we have benefited greatly as a result. It is not becoming that we should fear a Sagzi. We should not confuse the lot of Kamus with the outcome of the war. Kamus' days ended not because of the prowess of this Sagzi, but because God had allowed him only that much life. I suggest that we invade and surprise the Iranians. We have one hundred thousand more troops than they do. How can one man contend with a force of that magnitude? I shall fight Rustam personally."

In the Iranian camp, Rustam gathered his warriors (Tus, Ruhham, Gudarz, Giv, Fariburz, Gustaham, Kharrad, Gurgin, and Bizhan), along with his learned men and mu'bads. He briefed the gathering about his meeting with Piran and praised the aged warrior for his upright stance in all affairs. Rustam further detailed the help that Piran had extended to the king and his mother when they were in Turan and hoped that he would not have to kill the aged warrior with his own hands. "As long as they deliver the individuals involved and the treasures that were taken to Turan, we shall be satisfied," he said.

Gudarz disagreed. He explained how, on a different occasion Piran had worn the same disguise and promised to return to his army and bring an end to hostilities. "Instead," Gudarz said, "Piran sent word to Afrasiyab and asked for reinforcements. Piran is as much a friend of Iran today as he was when he told us that he was planning to abandon Afrasiyab and come to live at the court of Kaykhusrau. Isn't Piran the one who entombed the house of Gudarz?"

Rustam agreed with Gudarz that Piran would never be a friend of Iran, but could not disregard Piran's services for the king. "However," Rustam concluded, "were he to double cross us this time, he will receive his due. I shall not hesitate to cut him down myself":

In the morning, the drums sounded in front of Tus' tent, and the army was mobilized. Rustam appeared in full armour. The son of Kishwad took the right wing, Fariburz the left, and Tus stood at the center. Rustam took the leading position.

The Turanians took up a similar arrangement: the Khaqan of China with his elephants provided a solid center; Kundor with thirty thousand warriors carrying javelins took the right, and Gahhar with another thirty thousand troops carrying bows, arrows, and Chinese shields took the left. Piran, leading the army, reminded Shangol of his vow to fight Rustam and avenge the death of Kamus. The war began.

Piran's main concern was Human, his brother, whom he did not wish to be seen by the Iranian champion. With two thousand warriors, he assigned Human the rear center, behind the Khaqan of China and his elephants. He then rode to Rustam, praised the champion and wished him well. "I apprised my chiefs of your proposal," he said, "and am sorry to say that I found compromise difficult. Treasures and valuables they could give up. But they would not discuss delivering people. Those you name are the relatives of the king; there is no way that relatives of the king could be delivered to the enemy. Furthermore, matters are no longer in Turanian hands. People from all confines of the earth (China, the Slavic lands, and Khuttalan) have assembled here to aid Afrasiyab. War with Afrasiyab, I have come to tell you, is imminent. Shangol, the king of India, offers the first challenge."

Rustam listened patiently. He expressed his disappointment at Piran, adding that Kaykhusrau, the king of the world, had warned him of such a ruse. Explaining that he had tried to give Piran the benefit of the doubt, he told how the aged Gudarz had also spoken against him. "I see now that they both were right," Rustam said. "You are a liar. You have lived a miserable life, and more is yet to befall you. I invited you to splendor and to a meaningful life at the court of the young king. You chose to remain in the plains among the lowly. You deserve what you have." Piran paid his respects to Rustam and left. Rustam then addressed his commanders:

Shangol moved to position in front of the Turanian army and challenged Rustam. Rustam felt relieved that a stranger had challenged him. "I shall," Rustam said, "route the armies of India and the Slavic lands, and I shall destroy the might of Turan." He then rode Rakhsh close to Shangol and identified himself to the Indian king as Rustam of Zabul. He reproached Shangol for referring to him as the Sagzi and not calling him by his given name. He then attacked Shangol with his javelin, lifting the king from his horse and throwing him to the ground. Shangol was stunned for a moment, but quickly reached for his horse and escaped.

The brief encounter with Rustam changed Shangol's attitude. He advised the Khaqan of China that the Iranian paladin was too strong to be faced alone. "A whole contingent must surround him and do away with him," he said.

"Do I recall a speech very different from what I hear?" said the Khaqan of China sarcastically. He then ordered the full force under his command to attack Rustam and kill him.

Swarms of enemy troops surrounded Rustam who was, in turn, surrounded by the Iranian troops for protection. Urging his cohorts to fight bravely, the struggling champion attacked and killed Savah, a relative of Kamus who carried the Turanian banner. The banner of the Kushans fell into the hands of the Iranians. Rustam then headed for Gahhar on the left wing. Gahhar fled to the center to take refuge with the Khaqan of China. Rustam pursued him relentlessly and killed him. The Turanian black banner, too, fell into the hands of the Iranians.

With both wings of the enemy's army destroyed, Rustam took a hundred experienced warriors and headed for the center. He cut his way through until he reached the Khaqan of China's white elephant. The Khaqan of China, realizing that defeat was imminent and that he had lost both of his wings, sued for peace. Rustam refused. The Khaqan of China agreed to withdraw to China and leave all that he commanded outside the borders of China to the Iranians. Still, Rustam refused and continued the fight. Finally, Rustam put his noose around the Khaqan of China's neck and dragged him off his white elephant. The fall of the Khaqan of China was the beginning of the end for the army of Chin. The troops dropped their weapons and surrendered. Deprived of all his might and glory, the Khaqan of China was forced to walk among the prisoners as the army marched to Tus' headquarters on the Shahd River:

After the defeat of Kamus, Manshur, Shangol, and the Khaqan of China of China, Piran whisked his champions off the battlefield into uncharted territory known only to him. Rustam, unhappy about the flight of the very instigators of the murder of Siyavosh, chided Tus for allowing the enemy to flee. He sent search parties in pursuit of the Turanians, but the searchers returned empty-handed. "With the house of Viseh still standing," Rustam told his champions, "Afrasiyab remains a mighty force. He has the army of Khutan to aid him. We must apprise the king of our progress and ask for direction."

Rustam chose Fariburz, Kayka'us' son, to accompany a letter and the booty they had won back to Iran. In the letter, Rustam explained the situation in which he found Tus' command at Hamavan and the forty days of war that had ensued.

The king received the news with delight. He praised the Creator and cautioned Rustam against the ruses of the enemy. "Before long," Kaykhusrau warned, "the Turanians will regroup and reappear on the battlefield. Be forewarned, therefore. As long as Afrasiyab lives, Iran cannot be altogether tranquil."

On the Turanian side, Afrasiyab was informed of the defeat of Kamus, Manshur, and the Khaqan of China of China. He assembled his council of ministers and his warriors, and spoke, as Piran would, about Rustam and the ominous future that awaited Turan. The council did not agree. It argued that only the Slavs and the Chinese had fielded their men and had lost. "Turan," they said, "had remained as invincible as it had ever been. Afrasiyab the council decreed, should open his treasures to the army and recruit as many troops as possible for a final encounter with the Iranians." Afrasiyab agreed.

Meanwhile, Fariburz returned from Iran and presented Rustam with a diadem and a decree for the rulership of the new lands. Rustam, the Lord of Khutan and Chin, decamped and traveled to Sughd where he stayed for two weeks. From there he sent Giv and ten thousand warriors to scout the border of Khutan and insure that the Turanians would not reassemble there.

The battle at Hamavan is one of the decisive battles in the Shahname. In the course of this battle, Afrasiyab lost the greater part of his army, especially the international force that he had forged. He lost the highlands of the Pamirs, his most trusted natural barrier against Iranian assault, and became even more vulnerable in the southwest where he had lost his stockade at the Iron Gate.

Rustam seized the opportunity to continue his march into Turan and face the combined armies of Afrasiyab and his new allies. Despite Afrasiyab's supernatural skills and the "powers" of his new allies, Rustam was not defeated. Fleeing before the Iranian national champion, Afrasiyab sent all his treasures to Almas Rud, crossed the China Sea, and left Turan for Rustam.

When the Iranian army finally returned from Turan, the champions were met by the king at Pahlav. Seeing the king's crown, Rustam dismounted and paid his respects. The king embraced the paladin, praised his valor, and led him to his pavilion. The other champions followed. In the pavilion, the king placed himself on the throne with Rustam at his right. The other champions assumed their places according to protocol. Throughout the night they talked about the war and about Rustam's defeat of the various foes.

Rustam spent the next month at court. He then asked permission to travel to Zabul and visit the aged Zal. The king gave his permission. And when the champion's entourage headed for Zabulistan, he showered Rustam with precious gifts.

Piran of Viseh

After his flight before Rustam, Afrasiyab traveled to Khallukh country. There he assembled his counsellors, commanders, and champions-Piran, Garsivaz, Qarakhan, Garsiyun, Human, Kulbad, and Ru'in-and complained:

"What must be done is clear," Afrasiyab said. "We must place the combined forces of Turan and China on the marches of Iran and Turan. This army will assure the security of the East." The assembly agreed and further decided that the Turanian army should cross the Oxus and fight Rustam and Giv in Iran.

Happy of the outcome, Afrasiyab sent letters to the Faghfur, to the king of Khutan, and to other rulers sympathetic to his cause. Within two weeks, a large army assembled in Khallukh. Afrasiyab opened the treasures of Turan, accumulated since the time of Tur, and gave out untold sums for arms for a mighty army. He even allowed his wild horses to be tamed and trained for service in battle. When all was ready, he divided his forces as follows:

1. 5,000 warriors were assigned to Shideh, Afrasiyab's son, to guard the marches of Khwarazm.

2. 5,000 Chinese troops were assigned to Piran to cross the Oxus and establish a Turanian kingdom in Iran, a kingdom superior to that of the young shah. Piran was warned against any conciliation with Iran.

3. The rest of the army he kept with himself in Khallukh country.

When news reached Kaykhusrau that the Turanian armies had occupied the upper and the lower Oxus he too assembled his champions-Zal, Rustam, Gudarz, Giv, Shidush, Farhad, Ruhham, Bizhan, Ashkash, Gustaham, Gurgin, Zange, Gazhdaham, Tus, and Fariburz-and directed them to select 300,000 warriors from India, Rum and Arabia and to prepare to march on Turan within the next forty days:

Hardly two weeks after the announcement, the whole country had responded. Large numbers of commanders and nobles flooded the capital. Like Afrasiyab, Kaykhusrau opened his treasury to the army and equipped it well. And when ready, he divided his forces as follows:

1. Rustam, with 30,000 choice warriors, was commissioned to capture India, Kashmir and Kabulistan:

2. Luhrasp, of the Kayanian line, was assigned the marches of Alan[an] and Ghuz Dizh on the Caspian to check the movement of the Slav and Rus who might aid Shideh in Khwarazm.

3. Ashkash, with 30,000 troops, was commissioned to engage Shideh and capture Khwarazm.

4. Gudarz, son of Kishwad, was assigned the main army and was asked to march on Turan by way of the ford at Tirmidh. Gudarz' army included the troops of Zange, Gustaham, Shidush, Farhad, Kharrad, Giv, Guraza, and Ruhham.

When the main army was ready to pull out of Pahlav, the king said goodbye to the aged Gudarz. "Fight only when necessary," the king advised. "Rather than thinking of yourself, as was the case with Tus, think about the outcome of your deeds; respect the rights of people whose lands you cross; send a wise man to Piran, reason with him, see if he can be brought within the fold, and pray to the Creator for victory."

When he arrived at Zibad, Gudarz summoned Giv and, with ten thousand warriors, sent him to Piran. Gudarz instructed Giv to tell Piran that his past sympathy in the matter of Siyavosh would enable he and his family to defect to Iran without facing the wrath of the Iranian army. "If he were inclined to defect," Gudarz went on, "have him send to me all those involved in the murder of Siyavosh, with their hands tied to their backs. I will dispatch the lot to the shah for consideration of reward or punishment. Additionally, Piran must relinquish all his own possessions to you. As the commander of the Iranian army, I will decide later what needs to be sent to Iran for the king and what could be divided among the troops. Further, I expect from Piran, as a gesture of good will that he send his brothers and his son to me as hostages. As for Piran himself, he can choose. He can take his clan and go to the shah where he will be honored profusely, or he can move to Chach and rule that region for the shah. Barring these two options, tell Piran, he has to fight Gudarz and the Iranian army."

Having received Gudarz' instructions and command, Giv traveled from Zibad to Balkh. There he left most of his company and traveled on with a select few of his men to Visegird to negotiate with Piran.

Piran prolonged the negotiations for two weeks so that he could send word to Afrasiyab about the arrival of Gudarz and about his need for reinforcements. Afrasiyab sent thirty thousand men, asking Piran to engage and exterminate the Iranians so that they would never again entertain the thought of ruling Turan.

The daily arrival of fresh troops gave Piran confidence. He told Giv to tell Gudarz that his request was not acceptable. "I do not wish," said Piran, "to swap my lordship for slavery, and I find it hard to believe that anyone would want me to pledge my family as hostages. In addition, word has come from King Afrasiyab ordering me to fight. I have no option but to obey."

Giv apprised his father of Piran's rejection of the terms and about the daily flow of reinforcements into the Turanian camp. Soon after, Piran crossed the Oxus and initiated the fight. "It was wrong," said Gudarz to his champions, "to plead with the old warrior, but the plea was not my idea. It was the wish of the king to parley. I argued as well as I could before the king but, in the end, had no option but to carry out his orders":

Before long, Gudarz left his Zibad headquarters in the highlands and headed for the plain. Piran met him at Kanabad. The battlefield was arranged so that the Iranian army had the mountain to its right and a river to its left. The troops were arrayed so that no enemy could penetrate the ranks:

1. On the right wing stood Fariburz, aided by Guraza and Zawara Hazhir protected the baggage at the rear of the right wing, and 10,000 warriors guarded the right flank.

2. Giv, aided by Gurgin and Zange and 10,000 warriors protected the rear.

3. On the left wing stood Ruhham, aided by Gustaham, Guzhdaham, and Furuhil the archer. 10,000 warriors protected this flank.

Gudarz placed watchmen on the mountain-top to survey the territory and apprise him of the movements of the enemy. He himself remained in the center front; before him was Fariburz and behind him Shidush. The Darafsh-i Kaviyan banner accompanied him closely.

Gudarz' arrangement worried Piran as he surveyed the battlefield. He found that all the avenues for mounting a successful attack against the Iranian host were closed. Following his usual inclination, he resorted to a ruse. He sent his son, Ru'in, into a thicket to approach the enemy troops from the side and force them out so that he [Piran] could pounce on them. But this strategy did not work. The Iranians stayed put, and a stalemate of three days and three nights followed, with both armies remaining under full armor. Frustration mounted.

On the fourth day, Bizhan tried to persuade his father, Giv, to attack the Turanians in spite of his grandfather Gudarz. But Giv, veteran of the war with the Pechenegs and of Lavan, was not moved. He rejected Bizhan's request for a thousand warriors and advised the youth to muster more faith in the judgment of the aged:

On the Turanian side, Piran was facing a similar situation. After a week of inaction, Human, Piran's brother, wanted him to attack. Piran gave four reasons why he should not. The most important of these was that the Iranian position was impregnable. They must be dislodged before they can be destroyed, Piran argued.

Human disagreed and, accompanied by an interpreter, 153 went to the Iranian camp. The Iranians asked the interpreter about Human's identity and about the purpose of his call. They were told that he was Piran's brother and that he had come to fight the best champion that Iran could field.

Through the interpreter, the Iranians told Human that they had strict orders from Gudarz not to engage in single combat. Having been refused by the underlings, Human worked his way into the heart of the army camp and challenged the champions, even Gudarz himself. The commander reiterated the policy of not fighting until it was time. "This should not prevent you, however," Gudarz said to Human, "from going to Piran and bragging that all Iranian champions feared you and dared not fight you!"

Infuriated, Human headed back for the Turanian camp. On his way he shot down four heralds to provoke the Iranians. No one moved. Bizhan, however, could not tolerate witnessing a single enemy warrior challenge an entire army and be allowed to return unharmed. Ignoring his father's advice, he went to his grandfather, Gudarz, and asked permission to fight Human. He also asked for the armour and the helmet of Siyavosh so that he could wear them when he fought to revenge the fallen king's murder.

Gudarz suggested that a more experienced person than his grandson should fight Human. This further annoyed Bizhan. "You did not see me fight the Pechenegs," Bizhan said, "and you were not there when I fought against Farud. I want to prove myself. If you deprive me of the honor of this fight," Bizhan threatened, "I shall take my case to the king himself. I shall renounce chivalry." Filled with admiration for his grandson, Gudarz agreed. "You will fight Human, and I shall ask your father to hand you Siyavosh's helmet and armor," he said.

Gudarz convinced Giv that he should hand Siyavosh's helmet and armour to Bizhan and allow the youth to fight. Kinship, Gudarz said to his son, is a family matter. It cannot interfere with the correct conduct of the order of the king. The order is to revenge the murder of Siyavosh, and that is what the youth wants to do. We have no right to prevent him and destine him to a life of misery and self-doubt.

In the field, through the interpreter, Bizhan challenged Human to return and fight. Human accepted the challenge, provided they delay the fight till the next day, which Bizhan accepted.

The next morning, to keep the armies away from the scene, Bizhan suggested that they put some distance between themselves and the mountains of Kanabad. A place near Zibad was chosen for their battle ground. Interpreters were to apprise the respective kings of the details of the fight.

The struggle went on for a whole day before both champions agreed to rest and refresh themselves. When resumed, Bizhan finally succeeded in unseating and immediately decapitating Human. Bizhan then thanked God that he had been able to revenge Siyavosh. He tied the decapitated head to his saddle and headed for camp:

When Human's interpreter paid his respects to Bizhan, Bizhan asked the Turanian to apprise his countrymen of the outcome of the fight. Bizhan himself returned to the Iranian camp where Gudarz ordered a celebration and lavished great treasures upon him.

Upon hearing of the death of his brother, Piran ordered Nastihan, another brother, to take ten thousand warriors and ambush the revelling Iranians. This battle, too, went badly for Turan. Bizhan, whom Gudarz chose to lead the Iranian host, killed Nastihan and brought yet another victory for Iran.

These events did not discourage Piran. On the contrary, he prepared for a major offensive. On the Iranian side, Gudarz withdrew from Kanabad to Zibad. Fearing that Piran might receive further reinforcements, he wrote a letter to King Kaykhusrau. In the letter, Gudarz explained his negotiations with Piran through Giv, and told of the battles in which Human and Nastihan had been killed by Bizhan. "There is a great possibility," wrote Gudarz, "that Piran might bring Afrasiyab, who is already near the Oxus, into the war. If the king himself does not enter the war," Gudarz concluded his letter, "it is possible that the Iranian army might not be able to withstand Afrasiyab." At the end of the letter, Gudarz asked for information on the progress of the campaigns of Rustam, Luhrasp, and Ashkash:

Gudarz gave the letter to Hazhir, who spent the next week on the road to Pahlav, where he handed his father's letter to the king. Kaykhusrau entertained the messenger, bestowed great gifts upon him, and, when he was ready to return to the front, sent a reply to Gudarz in which he explained his decision to parley with Piran: "I felt obliged to consider Piran's past and give him a chance to save himself. But it is apparent that Piran's heart is with Turan. From now on you are free to fight him. As far as the appearance of Afrasiyab near the Oxus is concerned, he is not there so much to aid Piran as he is to escape the pursuit of the Khaqan of China of China. In fact, our intelligence indicates that Afrasiyab is being pressed from all sides":

"As regards your query about Rustam and the other champions," the king continued, "Rustam has captured Kabul and Kashmir, Ashkash has reduced Khwarazm, and Luhrasp has captured Alanan and Ghuz. Were Afrasiyab to cross the Oxus, he would lose all his possessions to the warriors I described above. They will move in from behind him to fill the vacuum. Nevertheless I am not relying on this strategy. Rather, I am commissioning Tus to capture Dehistan, Gurgan, and its environs. I shall bring up the rear of his army and will join you for a great war with Afrasiyab. Until then do not fear Piran. The loss of his most trustworthy warriors has weakened him. Fight him, if he challenges you. I am sure that by the time I join you, Piran and his kinsmen will be nothing but names. Kayka'us and Tus send their regards."

As soon as Hazhir left Pahlav, Kaykhusrau opened his treasures to recruit the largest army ever assembled to meet not only the Turanians but the Chinese as well. Witnessing the increasing army and activity in the Iranian camp, Piran felt that he should dissuade Gudarz from fighting him. He wrote a letter to the Iranian commander: "If your intention was revenge, you have already killed enough of my people. If it is revenge for the murder of Siyavosh that fuels your hatred against Turan, he was only one man. How many should be sacrificed for one? If you seek to expand Iran to this side of the Oxus, I can discuss the matter with my king and negotiate with you. We recognize Iran to begin in the foothills of the great mountain and the land of the Gharcheh (qarchigan) at Bust. It then extends to Taliqan and Fariyab. From there it continues to Balkh and to the Oxus. On the other side of Bust, we recognize Panjshir and Bamiyan to belong to Iran. Going north from there we recognize Guzganan, Muliyan, all the way to Badakhshan to belong to Iran. On this side of the great mountain we recognize the Amu plain, Zam, and Khuttalan as well as Tirmidh, Visegird, and Bukhara all the way to Sughd to belong to Iran. In addition, we recognize all the territories that Rustam had (Nimruz) and has conquered (Kashmir, Kabulistan, and Qandahar); all that Luhrasp has (Alanan and Ghuz); and the lands that Ashkash has reduced, to belong to Iran. I shall send word to all my men to leave these regions and return to me with our livestock. I shall do all of this for you, if you accept my friendship and cease hostilities. I shall even go so far as to send you all the treasures of Turan and, if necessary, even hostages. I make these concessions," Piran concluded, "not out of fear of you or of your king, but because God does not like innocent people killed. A war of this magnitude would annihilate the better part of both armies. It is prudent, therefore, that the champions of the armies fight to decide the fate of the rest. I want a pledge, however, that if in this 'battle royal' you kill me, you allow my army to return to Turan unharmed, and I will do the same for you. I will allow the Iranian army to return to Iran unharmed."

When the letter was complete, Piran chose Ru'in, his son, to take it to Gudarz. Gudarz received Ru'in affectionately and entertained him for a week while the Iranians decided the right course of action and an appropriate reply to Piran. At the end, Ru'in took Gudarz' reply to Piran. It read: "Your past activities fail to support the good will that your letter communicates. I extended a hand of friendship to you by sending my son with a request to cease hostility. You opted for war. You have consistently sided with Salm, Tur, and Afrasiyab. How can you change? Doesn't this very war rage because of you? How can you talk about the destruction of innocent lives? Didn't you allow the murder of an innocent king? I see no harm in sending your family to Iran to assure their safety, but I don't think that should, in any way, interfere with the war. Besides, I should tell you that we no longer consider the lands you have agreed to evacuate as Turanian land. Luhrasp has reduced Bakhtar all the way to the Caspian Sea, and Rustam already has everything from Nimruz to Sind. The leader of the Hindus and their banner arrived before the king just recently. The Dehistan region and Khwarazm, which you thought were Turanian territory, have now been captured by Iranians. The only battle that remains undecided is the one between us. The day has come for this aged warrior to reduce Turan. Your actions must be punished, and I am responsible before God to avenge not only Siyavosh, but the seventy warriors from my house as well. You have sowed the seed of evil, and you must accept the bitter fruit. I could have accepted your terms, if I were still following my old orders. They specified that I should not wage war with you or kill you. But those orders have changed. My new orders specify to avenge the murder of Siyavosh. I shall give you time to send for reinforcements, organize your army, attend to your wounded, and do whatever needs doing. I do not wish you to accuse me of ambushing you. Even if it takes a hundred years, I shall wait until I have fulfilled my king's orders. Finally," Gudarz concluded, "I agree to the 'battle royal' that you have proposed, provided that the armies have a chance to engage in an all-out war to rid themselves of the pent-up frustration of the past few days. Who knows? This all-out battle may itself end in a victory."

When the letter was written, Gudarz assembled his learned council and his warriors and read the letter to them. They all approved his course of action. He then dispatched Ru'in with the letter.

Seeing all avenues to compromise closed, Piran decided to fight, if not for victory, then to avenge the deaths of Human, Nastihan, and the nine hundred warriors who had been killed in the recent wars. He opened his treasures to the army and sent a messenger to Afrasiyab. He apologized for past differences on account of Kaykhusrau, and informed Afrasiyab that an army, as large as the army that Manuchehr had mobilized against Turan, waited at Zibad to attack Turan.

Piran then detailed the battles of Bizhan with Nastihan and Human, as well as his own war in which nine hundred of the king's men had been killed. "The bad news," Piran warned Afrasiyab, "is that Kaykhusrau himself is coming to the aid of Gudarz. Without my king here, in person, my army will not withstand the Iranian force."

Afrasiyab, himself harried by armies from surrounding lands, responded with praise for the aged warrior. He blamed himself for allowing Kaykhusrau to reach Iran and begin the war. He then disavowed his blood ties with Kaykhusrau. "This was the will of God," he said, "and it has been accomplished." He told Piran, however, not to suppress his urge to avenge Human and Nastihan. With regard to Kaykhusrau's personal involvement in the war, he assured Piran that he would come personally and rout the Iranians. "After I am done with them," he said, "neither Gudarz, nor Tus, nor Kaykhusrau will remain in this world. I have dispatched ten thousand men to aid you. Urge your warriors to keep on fighting until I arrive."

Upon the arrival of the messenger, Piran assembled his lieutenants to hear the message of their king. He gave them courage, but in his own heart he knew that Afrasiyab could not win the war. He wondered at the workings of Time, the way it had pitted a grandfather and a grandson-two kings-against each other. But war was war, and he had to fight.

On the day of the battle, Giv dispatched his warriors to defend the wings and the rear. To Bizhan, however, he gave a special mission. "Head for the heart of the enemy and challenge Piran. I am sure that, on account of his brothers, Piran will not resist your challenge. If you kill Piran," Giv concluded, "Afrasiyab will lose his main support and his kingdom will collapse. If that happens, his army will be spared certain annihilation."

Giv's psychological assessment of Piran was not on target. Piran did not engage Bizhan in battle. Rather, he reached Giv and battled with him. Neither Giv nor Piran succeeded in destroying the other, and the outcome of the battle remained uncertain.

At night, the war effort was reassessed. Gudarz and Piran talked to their respective warriors and made arrangements in case they did not return from the field the next day. Gudarz appointed his able commander, Gustaham, to lead his army if he were to be killed. He told Gustaham not to continue the war, but to wait further orders from the king. Piran made similar arrangements, informing his remaining relatives that if he were killed, they should leave the battlefield and head for Turan immediately.

The next day, Piran suggested a new arrangement for the war. He proposed that ten Iranian fighters and ten Turanian warriors engage in mortal combat and that the heads of the two armies do the same. The winner of the mortal combat would be accepted as the commander of both armies. Gudarz, who had always wanted to have the opportunity to fight Piran in exactly such a situation, accepted the terms. The following warriors faced each other in mortal combat. The result of the combat appears in the rightmost column:

Turan Iran result Garu-ye Zereh Giv Garu-ye Zereh was captured Kulbad Fariburz Kulbad (Piran's brother) killed Barman Ruhham Barman (Piran's brother) killed Siyamak Gorazeh Siyamak killed Andariman Gurgin Andariman killed Ru'in Bizhan Ru'in (Piran's only son) killed Zangaleh Faruhal Zangaleh killed Ukhast Zange Ukhast killed Kahram Bartah Kahram killed Sepahram Hazhir Sepahram killed

The two commanders, Piran and Gudarz, also fought. Having lost all his men, however, Piran was alone and insecure, while Gudarz boasted of an army supporting him. "Give up the fight and let me take you to Kaykhusrau alive," Gudarz advised Piran after the latter received his first decisive blow. The wounded Piran refused. Instead, he tried to kill the Iranian commander with his javelin but succeeded only in injuring him. Gudarz in turn threw his spear at Piran and killed him.

As promised, Gudarz allowed Piran's army to return to Turan. Farshidvard and Lahhak left the battlefield as their brother had instructed and headed for Turan. They were apprehended in the desert by Gustaham and were killed.

When Kaykhusrau finally arrived at Gudarz' camp and his pavilion was erected, he saw Piran's body among the Turanian dead. He instructed that Piran, to whom he owed a great deal, be given a royal funeral. He further instructed that Garu-ye Zereh, the murderer of Siyavosh, be cut up, limb by limb. "Decapitate him like a sheep when no more limbs remain," the king ordered. "As for the army of Turan," Kaykhusrau said, "I forgive them all as long as they swear to follow my decrees and fight for Iran."

Finally, the moribund Gustaham, wounded by Piran's brothers and returned to camp by Bizhan, was presented to the King, who viewed the dying man and wished that he should not die. He then untied a sacred bracelet from his arm, a bracelet that had the blessing of the farr and that had come down to him from Jamshid, Hushang, and Tahmuras. He tied the bracelet around Gustahm's arm. He also ordered physicians from Rum, India, China, Greece, and Iran to hold a vigil over the warrior. Gustaham was cured. Then the great war between Iran and Turan flared up.

The Great War of Kaykhusrau

With Piran dead and his house overthrown, Kaykhusrau moved his army into the field. He held court, summoned his victorious commanders from the marches, and sent letters to the rulers of the world for assistance:

After the commanders arrived and innumerable nobles responded to his call, Kaykhusrau praised Rustam, Tus, and Gudarz. Opening his treasure chests to the army, he arrayed his host:

On the left wing, Gudarz, of the house of Kishwad, was aided by Hazhir, Shidush, and Farhad. The nobles of Barda' and Ardabil were assigned to Gudarz.

On the left hand of the king, Dilafruz, was aided by such descendants of Kayqubad as Sammakh, king of Sur and Giveh, king of Dawar. Bizhan, Ruhham, Gurgin, and the warriors of Ray were assigned as backup.

At the center was Kaykhusrau, aided by 30,000 select warriors. The warriors of Zarasp and Azargashasp protected the rear.

Tus was on the right hand of the king, aided by Manushan and Khuzan--kings of Fars. Arash, king of Kirman Sabbak, king of Yemen and Iraj, king of Kabul, also assisted Tus.

Rustam, aided by the warriors of Zabulistan, took the right wing.

Kaykhusrau formed a moving wall of elephants carrying towers in the center front to protect the marching troops. The towers were manned by bowmen from Balkh. Three hundred Baghdadi guards protected each elephant. They were instructed to march before the animals and shoot at the approaching enemy. A similar contingent protected the rear of the wall. They carried shields and fifteen-foot Gilani spears. This was followed by a row of infantry and cavalry, carrying bows and arrows.

Arraying a host of this size entailed not only the elaborate right, left, and center, but many auxiliary contingents as well. To meet the needs of the host, Kaykhusrau placed troops under his lesser commanders. These commanders oversaw the rule of justice, rounded up cattle for slaughter, and spied for the king. They reported directly to the king and apprised him of enemy positions.

Meanwhile, the Turanian monarch resided beyond Chach at Baikant. 157 He enjoyed life on his ivory throne, while his myriad of warriors devastated the fields of Khallukh all the way to the Krushan 158 lands, where his relatives held sway. He intended to strike camp and join Piran in the battlefield.

One night, about midnight, a swift messenger arrived with a report about Piran. The wounded soldier informed Afrasiyab of the sad fate of Piran and of the death of Lahhak and Farshidvard. The sight of the army of Kaykhusrau, the messenger said, shook the confidence of the Turanians.

Upon hearing this, the shah dismissed all but his closest advisors. He stepped down from his throne in a rage, threw his crown to the floor, and cried openly:

When news came that Kaykhusrau had reached the Oxus, Afrasiyab addressed his army. Extolling the late Piran and praising Farshidvard, Ru'in, and Lahhak, he said, "It is time to seek vengeance and fight Giv and Gudarz. I know that this war with my grandson will not be easy, but I shall fight alongside you with all my might."

The Turanians cried as he spoke. "We recognize no king but you," they said. "We share your grief for the fallen warriors and pledge to fight Kaykhusrau with all our might."

The army's pledge pleased Afrasiyab. He opened his treasury and made the warriors masters of his flocks of wild steeds. Then he dispatched thirty thousand warriors to Balkh and Bamiyan (Balkh-Bami) and another thirty thousand to cross the Oxus and ward off possible attacks from Iran. His advisors not only lauded his decision, but encouraged Afrasiyab to cross the Oxus himself and meet the Iranians on their own territory.

Afrasiyab summoned his eldest son, Qarakhan, gave him half of his army, and commanded him to march on Bukhara. "Remain at Bukhara," Afrasiyab told Qarakhan, "as my reinforcement. Keep sending troops and provisions for my fighting force in Iran." Then, heading the Turanian army, Afrasiyab left Baikant for the Oxus.

It took the army a week to cross the river on the thousand boats furnished for the passage. On the other side, the army reassembled on the Amu plain. Upon setting foot on the shore, Afrasiyab who had brought up the rear, ordered his heralds to report on the positions of all troops. The army, they reported, is situated between the Caspian Sea and the Oxus. The former provides good pasture for the animals, the latter satisfies the provision demands of the host.

Having assessed the situation, Afrasiyab organized his army before it set up camp. To the rear left he placed Jahn with 100,000 Chigils; on the left wing, Shideh with 30,000 troops; as the rear central core he placed Garsivaz with 40,000 troops; on the right wing, Qarakhan (governor of Balkh) with 30,000 Chigil Turks; and on the rear right, Giv with 30,000 troops from Taraz, Ghuz, and Khallukh. In addition, a contingent of ten thousand cavalrymen was given the task of attacking the Iranian army at various places to create confusion in the enemy ranks. Thus organized, he ordered the army to face the southwest (Nimruz), from which direction an attack was expected. A wall of elephants protected the army from attack.

Similarly, Kaykhusrau assembled his commanders and planned his strategy. He assigned Gustaham the protection of Balkh and Ashkash of Zam, a precaution lest a force arrive from the rear to rout the army. When all was in order, Kaykhusrau set off to meet Afrasiyab in the desert. As he traveled in the direction of Khwarazm and the army of Afrasiyab, he had Dehistan (present-day republic of Turkmenistan) to his left and the Oxus to his right. He was within sight of the Turanian army:

Upon spotting the Iranian army, Afrasiyab ordered the drums sounded and the army mobilized, while the thought of fighting his grandfather saddened Kaykhusrau.

Accompanied by Rustam, Tus, Gudarz, Giv, and other notables, Kaykhusrau surveyed the Iranian position, assessed his forces, ordered a moat to be dug around the army, and sent scouts out to survey the enemy positions. At night, he ordered the section of the moat between the armies to be filled with water. The armies remained in their places for two days and nights; as the stalemate continued, star-gazers went hastily about assessing the heavens with their astrolabes to determine which king would be the victor.

On the fourth day, when there was still no movement on either side, Shideh addressed his father. "No king," he said, "except that fatherless brigand (i.e., Kaykhusrau), would have the audacity to challenge you, especially since Siyavosh was killed for a just cause":

"Why has he come with a large army to fight his own grandfather? Why does he refuse money, the throne, and the crown? Why is he not seeking horses, swords, and treasures? Because he lusts for a relative's blood," said Shideh. "You are my father and, beyond that, my king. Do not disappoint the army. Astrology is not the answer to our problem. The Iranians recognize the sword, and it is with the sword that we must respond to their intrusion. Allow me to move my army and rout them."

Afrasiyab disagreed. "Piran and many others were killed near this very spot. The hearts of the Turanians ache for them. This army must remain in this spot and look at the Iranians long enough to develop a formidable desire for revenge. Once that peak is achieved, then it is appropriate to attack haphazardly, killing off their warriors at random." Shideh volunteered to be the first to fight:

"Kaykhusrau is not likely to fight you," responded Afrasiyab. "He will want to fight me, his grandfather, if he fights at all. And that would be good only if the armies are spared a great struggle":

In order to give his son an opportunity to face Kaykhusrau in a less hostile setting, Afrasiyab sent Shideh to Kaykhusrau with a plea to cease hostilities. "Apprise Kaykhusrau of my feelings," said Afrasiyab. "Tell the young king that it is not proper for a grandson to rise against his grandfather. It was the Creator's wish that the world should be filled with anger and revenge. That is why Siyavosh was killed. Siyavosh was not innocent. He ignored tradition. Furthermore, if I were to blame, ask the young king, why Piran? What had Ru'in, Lahhak, and Farshidvard done that they should be tied on the backs of rogue elephants? Grandson, it is not my line that is at fault. You must blame Gudarz and Kayka'us. That is where the lie rests. They invaded my land. Tell him I have an army that numbers the same as the sands of this desert. At my behest, it becomes a raging sea and moves mountains. Yet, the fear of the Creator bids me to guide you so that you do not bring shame upon yourself. If you accept my terms, sign a treaty and promise to keep your word, I shall become your guide. I shall aid you in every way. I shall order whatever lands you name as belonging to Iran to be immediately evacuated. I shall send you money, crown, throne, horses, and armour. Accept my son as your champion and myself as a relative. In this way, the armies will not have to fight and our war will turn into a feast. But if you choose to follow Ahriman and ignore my words," Afrasiyab impressed upon Shideh to warn Kaykhusrau, "let there be a combat between the two of us in a spot away from the armies. If you kill me, my army will follow your command and my son will remain your relative. And if I kill you, I promise to give your champions prominent positions in my army. Finally, if you do not wish to fight an experienced fighter, I propose that you take on my son, Shideh. Let the Firmament choose whom to protect. In the event that you do not wish to fight Shideh either, in the morning, let our chosen warriors fight."

At the Iranian camp, a herald announced Shideh. The king became melancholy. He asked Qaran, standing nearby, to receive the message. When Qaran reported Afrasiyab's admonition against war, Kaykhusrau laughed. "My grandfather has second thoughts about a battle for which he has already crossed the Oxus," the king said. "He wants to influence me by bringing up kinship, and he wants to intimidate me by citing the numbers that he commands. We accept the challenge and we shall fight Shideh," he announced.

Kaykhusrau's decision saddened his commanders and advisors. They expressed their dismay at Afrasiyab's intention to annihilate the king's supporters. It is advisable for the king not to make this judgment hastily, they advised Kaykhusrau. We hoped that the king would reject the challenge to single combat against Shideh:

"In addition," they argued, "Afrasiyab is an experienced man, favored in Turan and China. He has recognized his mistake and, apologizing, is giving up horses, the treasures of Zadsham, and the lands that you claim. Wouldn't it be advantageous to return to Iran victorious, with these concessions?"

Rustam, on whom the murder of Siyavosh weighed heavily, thought differently. "The king should not give in easily," he said. Nervous, the king chewed on his lip. Finally, he agreed with Rustam: "It is not proper for us to return to Iran under these conditions. We have a tradition to uphold, an initial resolve to bring to fruition and our investment in the war. How can we counsel our subjects on the merits of struggle for the Right? Afrasiyab's return to the throne of Turan would spell disaster for Iran. Besides, what excuse shall we present to Kayka'us? What of Tur's treatment of Iraj, and what of Siyavosh? Suppose a well-spoken Turanian appears and apologizes; does that right all those wrongs? He challenged me; why did your faces pale? I never thought that Iranians would ever forget this vendetta. Yet, none of you accepted the challenge to fight Afrasiyab."

Recognizing their guilt, the Iranians praised the king and declared their support. "But," said the king, "we must be realistic. Shideh will not fight a fair fight. Afrasiyab, a magician, is bound to equip him with an impregnable armour. Whoever fights him must be protected by the farr":

Kaykhusrau appointed Qaran to accompany Shideh and carry his message. "Tell my grandfather," he said, "that although our affair has become complex, it is my duty as a warrior to make swift decisions. Let the god of the sun and the moon decide. I reject your offer of horses, money, treasures, and land. Who did ever live to enjoy eternity? By the grace of God and by the farr of Kayka'us, I shall not allow you the possession of what you enumerated past this fall season. Wealth accumulated by injustice does not interest me. Yazdan is my support; He keeps me happy and content."

"Finally," Kaykhusrau concluded, "all you own, including Shideh who just signed his own death by challenging me, belongs to me. I shall fight him in the morning and I shall show him a glimpse of Doom. When I return from that combat, let us carry on with your plan and allow our champions to decide the outcome of the war."

His message for Afrasiyab at an end, Kaykhusrau told Qaran to apprise Shideh of his mistake and of what Fate had in store for him:

Kaykhusrau's response reinforced Afrasiyab's apprehension arising from a recent dream. But Afrasiyab could not dissuade his son from entering the battlefield. In the morning, Shideh donned his armor and faced Kaykhusrau. The terms of the fight were spelled out: neither army should enter the field under any conditions. Further, the rights of the auxiliaries must be respected. The warriors then headed for the plains of Khwarazm:

The king, aware of the ruse, accepted the challenge. Shideh, after all, was from the line of Fereydun. Once the combatants met and struggled to bring each other down, Shideh found himself at a disadvantage. When he became certain that Kaykhusrau had the stronger farr and that his own end was not much farther than the day's, he decided to run. Kaykhusrau stopped him, lifted him up above his head and threw him down, breaking his back. He then went quickly for his sabre and stabbed Shideh in the heart.

In the Turanian camp, everyone expected Shideh to emerge and fill them with pride. Instead Shideh's page, with disheveled hair, brought the ominous news. Afrasiyab pulled his white hair and cried profusely. He swore to continue the fight until Kaykhusrau was no longer. His warriors supported him.

The next day, Jahn with 30,000 warriors attacked Qaran and Gustaham. He was defeated. Afrasiyab withdrew his army and, under cover of night, crossed the Oxus to the Turanian bank, leaving behind his tents, treasures, and heavy weaponry.

In the morning, when Kaykhusrau was informed that the enemy had fled, he knelt before God and thanked Him for His support. The army did the same. For the next five days the Iranian army rested while bodies were found, cleaned and laid to rest. Finally, a letter was dispatched to Kayka'us, detailing Kaykhusrau's arrival at Fariyab, his victory over Afrasiyab in the battle on the Khwarazm plain, and his intention to continue the animosity. "Three hundred heads," the letter went on to inform Kayka'us, "have been sent to you. These include the heads of Afrasiyab's brother, his son, and relatives. Two hundred of Afrasiyab's best warriors are also sent to you in chains."

On the other side of the river, Afrasiyab joined the forces of Qarakhan. He stayed a short while at Bukhara and assessed his army's strength. It became apparent that only twenty out of every hundred men who had accompanied Afrasiyab beyond the Oxus had survived. It was decided that Afrasiyab should relinquish Chach and Gulzarriyun 168 and make his stand at the fort of Bihisht Gang. Afrasiyab then headed for Gulzarriyun, where he stayed for three days and from where he sent for reinforcement. The armies gathered:

Pursuing Afrasiyab, Kaykhusrau crossed the Oxus and took control of the area. He lavished gifts on the people and brought them to his side. The city of Sughd welcomed his arrival and received a handsome gift in return. As other cities and peoples learned about the king's largesse they, too, came to his court and paid their allegiance.

The first Turanian resistance occurred near Chach where Golgola, a descendant of Tur, took it upon himself to fight. Kaykhusrau did not dignify the battle by going there himself. He stayed in Sughd for the next month, sending Gustaham with the Ardabil and Barda' contingents to put down the rebellion. The Nimruz contingent under Rustam was also dispatched as reinforcement.

In Sughd, the king opened the treasury and invited experts in opening fortifications and infiltrating enemy defenses to add their technological expertise to his efforts against Afrasiyab. This accomplished, he moved in the direction of Gang Gang Dezh. Strict instructions were given to the army to fight only those who did not accept the suzerainty of Kaykhusrau.

As the Iranian army marched on Gulzarriyun, Turanian forts fell one after another. Their inhabitants joined Kaykhusrau. At the end of the one hundred farsangs that separated Sughd and Gulzarriyun, the Iranian army had swelled into a mighty host. Kaykhusrau rested and waited at this beautiful paradise for Afrasiyab to make his move.

In Gang Gang Dezh, Afrasiyab constantly consulted with his commanders and champions, seeking a solution to the war with Kaykhusrau. Everyone, however, felt that further war with the Iranians was inevitable and that arrangements had to be made to meet the challenge. Consequently, a massive Turanian force left Gang Gang Dezh for Gulzarriyun.

Initially the battle did not go well for the Iranians. Kaykhusrau felt that if he did not seek help he would lose the battle to Afrasiyab. In private, therefore, he faced his Maker and pleaded for assistance:

Kaykhusrau's prayers were heard. The next day, Gustaham routed a contingent of sleeping Turanians and Rustam eliminated the survivors, including their leader, Qarakhan.

Alerted to the role of Rustam's army, Afrasiyab decided to eliminate Rustam before facing Kaykhusrau. He abandoned Gang Gang Dezh and rode ceaselessly to head off Rustam. Kaykhusrau, who was staying away from the battlefield grooming his army, sent a message to Rustam. He apprised the champion of Afrasiyab's intention to ambush him.

In time, Kaykhusrau moved closer to Gang Gang Dezh. Afrasiyab, too, realized the futility of trying to ambush Rustam, especially since the champion had been alerted by Kaykhusrau. He dispatched a messenger to the Khaqan of China of China for help before he returned to Gang Gang Dezh. There he saw to the fortification of the Gang Dezh and sent Jahn to mediate with Kaykhusrau.

"Afrasiyab repents," said Jahn. "He accepts that he has been an instrument of Evil. He wants the king to know that the slaying of Siyavosh had not been his doing. He does not want his grandson to become an instrument of the devil and eliminate people whose lives had been spared. He also wants his grandson to know that winter is near and that this whole plain turns into an ice-box. Since the might of the adversaries is equal," Jahn said, implying that Afrasiyab also carried the farr, "would it not be better to cease hostility and sign a peace treaty?":

"He offered to leave his kingdom to you," said Jahn to Kaykhusrau, "and cross the Kaymak River, if you allow him to keep Gang Gang Dezh as a resting place. He will recognize your suzerainty and bestow upon you the very treasure that Tur denied Iraj."

Kaykhusrau listened carefully and then responded. "Although I find your speech very convincing on the face of it," he told Jahn, "your eloquent speech remains just that, eloquence. There is not a grain of truth in either your statement or in the words of your father. How can I rule the whole world while my father no longer lives? Has Afrasiyab forgotten his crime? Has he forgotten that after my father's death, he had my mother whipped so that she would lose the child she was carrying? Which shah, lord, or champion has treated his kin with such contempt? He dragged my mother, a noble woman, his own daughter, out of her quarters and handed her to common criminals to dispose of. Thanks to the intervention of wise Piran, we were saved. Tell Afrasiyab," said Kaykhusrau firmly, "that I am here and that I have the grace of God on my side."

"Afrasiyab could not change Destiny then," Kaykhusrau continued, "and he cannot change Destiny now. He put me with the shepherds. I was denied rest and sleep throughout my childhood. When I grew to a young man, he had Piran bring me to his presence. He questioned me to find out if I would be a threat to his throne and crown. But the Almighty put a seal on my lips; I appeared like a dumb mute in his eyes. He felt he could spare me. Could not truthfulness have cost me my life? What sin had Siyavosh committed? Didn't he recognize Afrasiyab's sovereignty? Didn't he set up a whole kingdom in Afrasiyab's name? Wasn't he a most loyal servant? He was all this, but Afrasiyab's evil nature could not tolerate him. Afrasiyab is heir to Tur, who treated his father in exactly the same way that Afrasiyab treats his family. Didn't Afrasiyab kill Nowzar the valiant king? Didn't he kill his own brother, Aghriras? Are not these actions provoked by Ahriman? Is he not producing the very excuse that Zahhak and Jamshid produced to justify their evil deeds? Even in the war of the Pechenegs, where Piran decimated the house of Gudarz, Afrasiyab was the main evil force. Did he not bring a major force to the Oxus and did he not send Shideh to kill me and bring him my head? The Almighty is on my side. He has bestowed upon me the throne and the crown. He keeps my memory of the crimes of Afrasiyab fresh. Henceforth, the sword will speak for us and we shall not meet until the Day of Judgment. Tell my grandfather," Kaykhusrau concluded, "that I have come to eradicate evil wherever it dwells."

Kaykhusrau's response infuriated Afrasiyab, who ordered his army to prepare for war. Kaykhusrau, too, arrayed his host, placing Rustam's forces on the river side of the fort. Gustaham and Gudarz were placed on the adjoining two sides, while the king himself occupied the remaining side.

Kaykhusrau had a moat two spear-lengths deep dug around the fort to prevent the Turanians from mounting a surprise attack. He placed two hundred war machines, equipped with catapults and naphtha throwers, in front of each gate. Other catapults were positioned along the wall. Finally, a tunnel was dug into the massive wall of the fort. In this tunnel, Kaykhusrau ordered wood, soaked in naphtha, to be placed and set on fire:

Having checked Afrasiyab's attacks from all sides, once again, Kaykhusrau, sought the Almighty's aid:

At Kaykhusrau's behest, Afrasiyab's impregnable fort was set aflame and simultaneous assaults were mounted on its four walls. Afrasiyab's troops found themselves hit from both within the fort and without. From the outside they were hit by rocks thrown by catapults and by arrows; from the inside they were assaulted by the ever increasing flames.

Smoke forced the Turanians to make a choice. They could either give themselves up or throw themselves off the high walls. Before long, the main wall, too, was penetrated, and Iranian troops entered the fort. Turanians, incited by Afrasiyab, fought on the broken walls, but to no avail. Rustam carved his way through the Turanian forces with ease and led his champions to the middle of the fort. There he captured Garsivaz and Jahn, pulled down the black banner of Turan, and hoisted Iran's purple flag above the fort.

Defeated, Afrasiyab looked at Gang Gang Dezh he was filled with disappointment. On the one side stood his captured brother and son, on the other the Turanians who had trusted him and who were being put to the sword or thrown under the feet of formidable elephants.

When building Gang Gang Dezh, Afrasiyab had foreseen the possibility of a day when he might need to lead his elite force out of the fort unseen. For that purpose, he had built an underground tunnel from the center of the fort to the desert. Leaving his people in consternation, now he used that tunnel and, with his elite force, fled to the safety of the desert.

In due time, Kaykhusrau entered Gang Gang Dezh, placed himself on his grandfather's golden throne, and ordered his men to bring Afrasiyab to his presence. But Afrasiyab was nowhere to be found. He had vanished. Even Garsivaz and Jahn did not know his whereabouts.

Kaykhusrau took charge of the Gang Dezh. He opened Afrasiyab's treasures to the Iranians. He gave strict orders, however, that no commoner should enter the harem and none of Afrasiyab's women should be seen in the city. Turanians were given amnesty so that they could live their lives as they had before their defeat.

This benevolence was not welcomed by the Iranians, especially those inclined to enter the enemy's home and grab whatever booty they could. Kaykhusrau, they said, had forgotten his mother's and his own misfortunes at the hand of the Turanians. "Rather than its conqueror and master," they complained, "he treats the Gang Dezh like an invited guest."

Kaykhusrau summoned the mu'bads and explained his reasons for leniency. "As pleasing as revenge upon the defeated enemy is," he explained, "I have decided to side with justice. It is your duty, therefore, to preach to the multitude that revenge must be tempered with justice and that justice was served when Afrasiyab was overthrown. Tell them they should go about their lives and, rather than creating grief for others, be sources of joy and benevolence themselves. After all," he concluded, "it is benevolence that remains when all else perishes."

To this assembly of champions and learned men, Kaykhusrau ordered the women of the court to be brought. Everyone thought that he intended to have them all beheaded. Instead, he listened very carefully as the women, led by Afrasiyab's chief wife, pleaded their case. The latter swore that she had been a pawn in the hand of Ahriman and that wherever possible she had tried to dissuade Afrasiyab from inflicting harm:

With regard to Siyavosh, Afrasiyab's consort wife was sympathetic. "I tried," she said, "to dissuade my husband from harming the innocent prince, but I was not able to prevent his murder. I did what I could. I cried tears of blood. It is, however, not worthy of a king such as yourself," she pleaded, "to treat us in the manner that Afrasiyab treated your father. We are innocent":

After listening to both the women and their accusers, the king forgave the women and sent them back to their quarters. "It is true," he said, "that Afrasiyab did not treat my mother as a royal lady deserved. But it would be wrong to correct a wrong with another wrong":

To appease the Iranians, Kaykhusrau gave up to them all the treasures of Turan, except Afrasiyab's personal treasure. "Use this money," he said, "and rule the lands that I bestow upon you as God pleases." Seeing his benevolence, the Turanians flooded the new king's court, each seeking to contribute to his vision of a unified Iran and Turan.

As was the custom after every victory, Kaykhusrau wrote a silken letter to Kayka'us. "I have captured Gang Gang Dezh," he wrote, "but I have not been able to capture Afrasiyab. He has vanished. I shall inform you about his whereabouts as soon as I hear from my scouts."

Kaykhusrau spent the winter and most of the following spring in that beautiful paradise, hunting while waiting for intelligence on Afrasiyab. Finally he received word from Khutan and China that, as a result of an alliance between Afrasiyab and the Faghfur, a formidable force led by the Khaqan of China had reached Gulzarriyun:

The news of Afrasiyab's return caused the newly rehabilitated Turanians to revolt against Iran and seek revenge. Afrasiyab's ranks grew daily. When the armies met, Afrasiyab, against the wishes of his allies, champions, and wisemen, challenged Kaykhusrau to single combat. Advised by Rustam, Kaykhusrau refused. "Were the kings to settle the affairs of war by single combat," he responded through the messenger, "why was it necessary to assemble such formidable armies? Supporting me are champions like Rustam and Giv. If your master wishes, he is welcome to challenge them. The chapter on personal enmities between us is henceforth closed."

That day the war raged on and many were killed. At dusk, Kaykhusrau, exhausted, returned to his headquarters to discuss the day's events with his champions. "Afrasiyab did not fight today as I had expected," said the king. "He has reserved his energy, I believe, to mount a surprise night attack. To prevent disaster, therefore, have a ditch dug between the armies and, before the army rests, extinguish all fires." He assigned a major force to Rustam and sent him to the adjacent plain and another to Tus and sent him to the side of the mountain. "Now," said Kaykhusrau, "the army can rest. If Afrasiyab implements his plan, as I think he will, he will face a ditch in front of him with two major forces attacking his rear."

Kaykhusrau was right. As soon as the scouts brought news that the Iranians were sleeping and that they had neglected to assign guards, Afrasiyab ordered his warriors to mount the attack. And he fell squarely in Kaykhusrau's trap. His troops, mostly killed in the ditch, were decimated by Tus and Rustam as they retreated. Exhausted, Afrasiyab dragged himself to his headquarters with difficulty.

Once again, Kaykhusrau sought his grandfather but, as soon as the sixty-year old man saw Iran's purple flag replace his black banner, he disappeared. Kaykhusrau then gave an audience and, after entertaining his champions, went into seclusion to pray. This done, he granted his army all that they had captured and left for Bihisht Gang.

When news arrived that the Turanians had lost the war, the Faghfur and Khaqan of China regretted having allied themselves with Afrasiyab. To mend fences, they decided to shift their allegiance towards Iran and, to that effect, prepared a treasure trove for Kaykhusrau. The Iranian king accepted the gifts and sent encouraging words to Khutan and China. The import of his reply was that the rulers of those regions must make their enmity against Afrasiyab explicit.

The departure of his allies worried Afrasiyab who now felt totally insecure. For days he led his men across the desert. He climbed Asparuz, built ships, and crossed the Zereh to reach Gang Gang Dezh.

Once again Kaykhusrau had to worry about his grandfather. "This is my last battle with my grandfather," he said. "And to bring this episode to a close, I intend to capture Chin and Maha Chin, cross the Kaymak River, and make Makran submit to my rule. I shall then cross the Zereh waters and annihilate Afrasiyab."

Crossing the waters of Zereh did not sit well with the army, but Rustam, convinced that Kaykhusrau was right, supported the king's plan. Following Rustam, the army too gave its support to the king.

Kaykhusrau then sent Giv with a letter and many gifts and beautiful damsels to the court of Kayka'us. Garsivaz and Jahn were sent along in chains for punishment.

Kayka'us received Giv with great honor and read Kaykhusrau's letter. After listening to Giv, he ordered Garsivaz to be thrown into a dungeon for his part in the murder of Siyavosh, and he put Jahn under house arrest. Kaykhusrau then set out in the direction of China. He stopped first at Khutan, where he was met at a distance of about fifteen miles before the city walls by the Faghfur and the Khaqan of China of China. His hosts had spent lavishly in decorating his camping quarters and had revitalized the country for him to enjoy. The Faghfur, especially, opened his treasury and gave handsome gifts to all those who accompanied the king, including the border guards.

After a three-month stay, the king forged ahead in the direction of Makran. He marched on Makran, leaving Rustam behind. The ruler of Makran was the only king to refuse to provide provision for the king's army. He was slain, but accorded proper burial:

The treasures of the king of Makran were divided among the Iranian nobles and the army. Orders were issued to allow the defeated Makranis to live as they had in the past.

Kaykhusrau stayed the next year in Makran until spring brought new life to the region. He then moved in the direction of the desert and of Zereh, leaving Ashkash in charge of the conquered region. For seven months his ships traveled on the water. The bewildered troops saw strange scenes played in the deep. Finally, when they disembarked on the edge of the desert, Kaykhusrau was informed that Afrasiyab had again appeared in Gang Gang Dezh. From where they had landed to the Gang Dezh was a distance of about five hundred miles. Kaykhusrau installed Giv here and himself set out in the direction of the Gang Dezh.

Upon his entrance to Gang Gang Dezh, Kaykhusrau ordered his warriors to find Afrasiyab and bring him to his presence. Again, the Turanian ruler was nowhere to be found. Kaykhusrau spent the rest of the year in the Gang Dezh. He enjoyed himself so much that he did not wish to be bothered by travel any more. The Iranians, however, especially those who wished to return to their homes and families, convinced the king that if Kayka'us were left alone in Iran without protection he might fall victim to Afrasiyab. In that case, they warned, there was the possibility that while Kaykhusrau held the Gang Dezh, Afrasiyab could proclaim himself the ruler of Iran.

The king, sympathizing with the concerns of his advisors, summoned all those who ruled the provinces and discussed his plans with them. He installed the most capable of these governors as the commanders of the marches and left the Gang Dezh. On the way, he was met by myriads of his subjects who brought provisions from all regions of the country. Each received gifts from the king's treasury in return.

On the way Kaykhusrau was welcomed by Giv who, along with his sailors, so facilitated the king's voyage across the sea that a one-year journey was completed in seven months. When on land, Kaykhusrau showered gifts upon the sailors and headed for the desert. Hearing about the arrival of the king in those parts, Ashkash hastened to welcome the king to Makran. The nobles of Makran, too, brought gifts and received the king's blessings. The king then appointed a prominent Makrani ruler of Makran and went to China.

The ruler of China, Rustam, welcomed the king. Kaykhusrau talked to Rustam about the strange things he had witnessed and heard in the course of his voyage. He also apprised Rustam of the disappearance of their common foe, Afrasiyab. After a week of rest, Kaykhusrau continued his journey to Maha Chin to visit Siyavoshgird (the city of Siyavosh). Here both Kaykhusrau and Rustam mourned for Siyavosh. They recalled his untimely death and renewed their vows. Before leaving the city, Kaykhusrau, following his mother's directions, found his father's buried treasure and opened it to the public. He gave large amounts of gold and valuables to Rustam and Giv.

In Siyavoshgird, Gustaham welcomed the king, and, after the sovereign's visit to the new territories was completed, accompanied him to Gang Gang Dezh. The king stayed one more year at Gang Gang Dezh before he returned to Pahlav to see Kayka'us.

Upon his departure from Gang Gang Dezh, Kaykhusrau gave Gustaham a large army and installed him as the ruler of the territory between Qachqar and the China Sea. Furthermore, he advised Gustaham to keep an eye on China and Makran and to send scouts to seek out Afrasiyab.

Kaykhusrau then collected all the valuables, animals, and slaves that he had acquired as a result of his victories and headed for Iran. His army was so large that it took ten days and nights to cross each pass between the Gang Dezh and Balkh:

After this rest, it was Kaykhusrau's plan to tour Iran, town by town, until he reached Ray, Pars, and Baghdad. But Kayka'us could not wait. Upon receiving Kaykhusrau's message that he was in Balkh, the aged king rode to Taliqan and Marvrud to welcome him. They met on the way to Nishapur.

After ceremonies, assignment of kingdoms, and dispatching of new rulers, the kings met and discussed the affairs of the kingdom. Kaykhusrau was worried that Afrasiyab might return to Gang Gang Dezh and reduce his own efforts--crossing the desert and a year-long voyage in strange waters--to naught. Kayka'us proposed a solution.

"Were we to don appropriate robes and plead with the Almighty in the temple of fire to direct us to Afrasiyab's hideout," Kayka'us suggested, "it is possible that we might prevail upon him before he can restore his rule." Kaykhusrau agreed. The kings then sped to Azerbaijan where they stayed a week, addressing the sacred fire and pleading their case.

On the other side Afrasiyab, deprived of a place wherein to stay, came to Barda'. There he took up residence at the Hang-i Afrasiyab. 181 This was a cave on the summit of a mountain which even eagles could not reach. For days on end he ruminated on his past deeds. He contemplated with such intensity that his dreams could be heard in the adjacent cave where Hum, a benevolent supporter of the Kayanian, stayed. 182

Hum, upon recognizing Afrasiyab, invaded the Hang -i Afrasiyab and captured the aged king. Using his kusti belt as a rope, he tied Afrasiyab's hands and dragged him out of the cave. Afrasiyab's eloquence had little effect on Hum. He could not convince Hum that evil was innate in him and that he followed the bidding of Ahriman. Failing this, Afrasiyab tried a different strategy. He complained that the tight rope hurt his wrists. Hum, pitying the fallen king, loosened the knot. Afrasiyab then broke away from Hum, dove into the bosom of the waters below, and disappeared.

It so happened that at the same time when Hum sought Afrasiyab in the deep waters, Gudarz and Giv passed by. They inquired of the old man the reason for his consternation. Hum told them about his discovery of the Hang-i Afrasiyab, his capture of Afrasiyab, and the disappearance of the aged Turanian king into those waters. The warriors quickly apprised the kings of what they had heard. The kings rode to where Hum had last seen Afrasiyab, listened to his story, and welcomed his wise solution for bringing Afrasiyab back to the surface. They ordered Garsivaz, Afrasiyab's brother, to be brought out of the dungeon and tortured beside the water.

Hum's solution worked. Garsivaz' cries brought Afrasiyab to the surface. Hum approached him from the side, threw his noose around Afrasiyab's neck, dragged him out, handed him to Kaykhusrau, and left the scene.

For the last time, Afrasiyab admitted that he had made a mistake and wished that his mistake be overlooked. The kings did not agree with him. Instead, Kaykhusrau drew his sword and severed Afrasiyab's head, putting an end to a feud that had consumed all the energies of Iran and Turan. Garsivaz' end was no better. He was sliced in half. Both bodies were left by the water as the kings returned to the temple of fire to thank the Almighty for His guidance. A treasure was bestowed on the temple to help carry out its mission.      

Letters were soon dispatched to all confines of the empire that the dragon-fiend Afrasiyab was dead, Siyavosh's soul revived, and justice restored. For forty days thereafter people took to the meadows to celebrate the new day inaugurated by the new king. At the end of the celebrations, the kings left Azerbaijan for Pars.

In Pars, thankful to have had as a grandson the wise Kaykhusrau who had revenged Siyavosh and restored justice among the kings and nobles of all lands, Kayka'us died at the age of one hundred and fifty. And Kaykhusrau retired into seclusion not to be seen for the next forty days.

When the wake for Kayka'us was over, Kaykhusrau sat upon his throne and addressed his people. "I have conquered all the corners of the known earth," he said, "and have expanded the kingdom of the Almighty as far as one is able. There is nothing more for me to do":

Having concluded his speech, he ordered the chamberlain to lock the door and turn away those who sought his audience. For the next week, Kaykhusrau remained in seclusion, praying to Yazdan, pleading with Him to keep evil away from him so that he would not follow the way of the fallen: Zahhak, Jamshid, and Kayka'us.

A week later, amid the consternation of his champions and nobles, Kaykhusrau returned to the throne room only to announce that he intended to continue his prayers and seclusion. He asked all present to do the same and left strict orders not to be disturbed either by the royal court or by the general public.

A week after that, the Iranian champions, greatly dismayed, assembled at court to decide on a course of action for the future of Iran. It was decided that Giv should go to Rustam in Zabulistan and that another messenger should be dispatched to Kabulistan for aid. The nobles of these lands must be told, the champions concluded, that Kaykhusrau has chosen the company of Ahriman. "We are afraid," said the champions in their message, "that Ahriman may lead our great king astray in the same way that he led Kayka'us away from the right path. We urge you," the message concluded, "to bring with you the astrologers of Kabulistan, the wisemen of Zabulistan, and all the savants of Qinnauj, Danbar, Murq, and May."

Rustam and Zal received the messenger graciously and complied with the order of the assembly. As soon as the astrologers, the wisemen, and the savants reached Zabul, the entire body set out for Iran.

Having concluded another week in seclusion, Kaykhusrau appeared before the assembly to discuss his situation. Refusing to sit in their places as protocol required, the champions addressed the king from where they stood. They wondered if their actions had triggered the stance that the king had chosen for dealing with matters of state.

"It is not that I do not need your help," said the king, "but that at present I cannot involve myself in matters of state. Our land is secure. Our troops need not be mobilized. My problem is personal. I have set myself a task that requires my undivided attention. As soon as I have reached my goal, I shall discuss everything with you. For the present, however, I wish you well and bid you to return to your homes."

When the champions were gone, Kaykhusrau ordered the chamberlain to resume the seclusion procedures and returned to his chambers to pray. "You have created the universe," he prayed, "and You have kindled the light of benevolence, justice, and love in this world. What benefit would I draw from this kingship, if You are not pleased with me? Assess my good and evil and, if worthy, accept me to paradise."

For the next five weeks, Kaykhusrau remained in prayer. His body could no longer tolerate lack of sleep. His mental abilities, however, kept the vigil until he met Surush. Surush's message was simple. If you wish to reach heaven, you must abandon all involvement with your terrestrial existence. Appoint a just overseer for your kingdom and depart: Surush's departure woke the king. He praised God and, soon after, met with his champions to discuss the future:

Zal praised the king and pledged his allegiance. "This," Zal said, "is not my pledge alone, but the pledge of the peoples of kingdoms as far as Qinnauj, Danbar, Murq, and May. We all feel that throughout history, no king has ruled Iran as well as you or has possessed your benevolence and eminence."

Kaykhusrau thanked Zal and others for their support and concern. "As I told you earlier," said the king, "my problem was personal. It took me five weeks of constant vigil and supplication until, last night, Surush finally blessed me with an answer. There is an end to everything, including kingship. And there is a time when the concerns of a kingdom become secondary to the greater good. For this reason, I have decided to step aside and allow a new king to continue the rulership of Iran."

The king's decision came upon the Iranians like a bolt from the sky. Zal questioned the king's wisdom. "The king is not himself," he said. "Is this the king speaking," he asked, "or is this Ahriman? Fereydun and Hushang were great kings; they did not abandon their kingdom and seek seclusion!"

"Great king," said Zal, addressing Kaykhusrau, "my conviction requires that I relate some history that might not be pleasant. But so far as the telling of this history might bring about a change in your decision I feel compelled to tell it. You are a Turanian by birth and you grew up in Turan. The involvement in magic of your maternal grandfather, Afrasiyab, is well-known. Your other grandfather, Kayka'us, is not any different. A kingdom stretching the face of the earth from east to west could not content him. He had to travel in the sky so he could count the stars. Ancestry, however, is not the only measure of a man's status. As king, you have contributed greatly to the well-being of this land. In the war with the Pechenegs, you showed great chivalry before Khwarazm was reduced. And had Afrasiyab defeated you, Iran would have been naught but a bowl of dust. No one could have prevented him from enslaving all Iranians, men, women, and children. God helped you defeat that fiend and erase evil from the face of this earth."

"You might deem," continued Zal, "that the problems of Iran are solved. But that is a false impression. Leaving kingship to others at this crucial juncture will deprive Iran of its most reliable pillar of strength, and you of the farr. My advice is that you break away from Ahriman and allow wisdom to guide you to the Creator":

Kaykhusrau responded with reserve. "I have listened carefully to the aged Zal," he said, "and I do not wish to dismay either him or Rustam who has many times saved my life in battle. Yet I, too, must say what needs to be said. I praise Zal for being forthright in assessing the situation. His allegation that I have abandoned the Creator, however, is not correct. My very life flows from the Creator. My decision is based on my experience and wisdom. I have not, as Zal intimates, turned away from the path of wisdom. Now, let me put Zal straight in his understanding of who I am. First, regarding his assertion about my Turanian ancestry and his claim that no wise men were ever born in Turan. I am the son of Siyavosh, from the seed of Kayan. My grandfather is Kayka'us, whose wisdom and benevolence is recognized worldwide. True, my mother is the daughter of Afrasiyab. But we should not forget that Pashang sired Afrasiyab and that Pashang's grandfather was Fereydun. I am not at all ashamed to be reminded of my genealogy. A whole world trembled at the feet of Afrasiyab. Second, Kayka'us' attempt to reach the stars should be evaluated in the context of kingship. Kings are required to deal with the extraordinary. I challenged Shideh for exactly the same reason. Besides, Shideh was not a commoner":

"Third, when I became king," Kaykhusrau went on, "there was only one black spot on my ancestry. I erased that black spot. And with that, I have expended my raison d'Étre. Remaining as your king, I feel, will give me cause to indulge in extravagance and traverse the route that Zahhak and Tur took--the road to Hell. I have been in prayer for five weeks. The Creator has accepted me. Where I intend to go, I have no need for an army, a crown or a throne. I have to travel light." Then addressing Zal, he added, "interpret my intentions as you wish; nothing changes my course in the direction of the Creator."

Kaykhusrau's words affected Zal greatly. The old man blamed himself for his lack of insight and begged the king's forgiveness. "Perhaps," he said, "it is I who am being misled by Ahriman. I looked to the past for guidance; no king, to my knowledge, has chosen the path you are about to walk. I spoke out because I could not bear parting with my king."

Zal's words pleased Kaykhusrau. He held the aged warrior by the hand and placed him next to himself on the throne. "I know," said the king, "that your intentions were good. Now, I would like all champions to move their armies out of the city and set themselves up in pavilions in the country. Provide a palace for me as well."

When the camp was in order, the champions assembled and took their places before the king, according to protocol. Kaykhusrau addressed the assembly: "Great champions of Iran! You well know that only good and evil are eternal and that everything else is ephemeral. We try hard, we gather riches and fame only to leave them for our enemy. For our struggle, however, there is a reward and a punishment. Of the kings of the past all that remains today is a name. We know Hushang, Jamshid, and Kayka'us. They did some good, but in the end they are remembered for their oppression and evil deeds."

"I am an individual like them," Kaykhusrau continued. "I devoted my life to my people. Now I have reached a point where this world no longer sustains my interest. I have been given access to a domain that is greater than the crown of the Kayanian. I am ready to leave this kingdom. But before I go, I intend to bestow my lands, weapons, and treasures to the people of Iran. While I make a count of my properties, slaves, and animals and divide them equitably among you, I want you to stay in this camp for the next week, eat, drink, and have a good time."

While some warriors and nobles questioned the king's sanity, others followed his decree and spent the week as he wished. On the eighth day, the king ascended his throne in full regalia. The main treasure of the khusraus, known as the Abad chest, was open and waiting his decree.

Kaykhusrau called Gudarz of the House of Kishwad. "Gudarz," he said, "there is a time for hoarding and a time for spending. I want you to travel the length and breadth of Iran and refurbish any house that has come to ruin and any water course that has been neglected or destroyed by Afrasiyab. I want you to find the orphans, the widows, the homeless, and the needy and invite them to share this treasure among themselves. If you find a city that has come to a disastrous end, or a temple of fire that needs repair and attendants, or old men who can no longer sustain themselves, I want you to dip into this Bad Avard treasure and help refurbish and rejuvenate them. A third, the Arus treasure, founded and enriched by Kayka'us, is now in the city of Tus. I want you to take charge of that treasure and divide it among Zal, Giv, and Rustam."

Having divested himself of the world, Kaykhusrau addressed the people of Iran. "My time has come," he said. "Ask me for what you want and I shall grant your wishes."

The champions were distressed. They did not know whom to follow in time of war. Zal, the most loyal of the champions, took the floor. "Your Majesty," he said, "it is appropriate that I speak frankly about Rustam and his contribution to the well-being of the royal house. He is the champion who rescued Kayka'us when he was in fetters in Mazandaran, along with Gudarz and Tus. He killed the White Demon and he decapitated Sanjah. He sacrificed his son, Suhrab, to revenge Kayka'us and eliminated Kamus the Kushan. Now that the king has decided to leave the throne, what reward does he have for the hero?"

"The Creator," said the king, "more than anyone else will reward Rustam for his good deeds. For my part, I shall bestow upon Rustam the rulership of the territory of Nimruz." A proclamation was written, signed, and handed to Rustam. Along with this, he rewarded all those who were known to Rustam and who had contributed to his realm with silk garments, gold, silver, and a cup full of jewels. This, however, was not sufficient. Zal had expected more. Yet he knew that his own marriage to Rudabeh, the daughter of Sindukht and Mihrab, the ruler of Kabul, as well as Rustam's marriage to Tahmineh played a role in the king's decision. For this reason, the House of Nsriman severed its association with the power center of Iran.

It was then Gudarz' turn to defend his son, Giv. "Your Majesty," Gudarz said. "Since the time of Manuchehr to Kayqubad and from the latter's time until the Auspicious Rule, I have served this crown and throne. Of my total of seventy-eight sons and grandsons, only eight live. The rest have been martyred for the king and crown. My son Giv combed Turan for seven years, eating nothing but zebra's flesh and wearing deer's hide, until he accomplished his mission and brought the shah back to Iran. Now that the king intends to leave the kingdom, what reward will this champion receive?"

The king praised Giv, whom he called his own double. "You underestimate the contributions of your warrior son," said Kaykhusrau. "I bestow on Giv the rulership of Isfahan and Qum." Addressing the Iranians, he then praised the deeds of Gudarz. He reminded all present of the sacrifices that the family of the warrior had made and asked everyone to respect and heed Gudarz.

After Gudarz, Tus stood up and addressed the king. "Your Majesty," he said, "from among the champions assembled here, I am the only one from the line of Fereydun. I have served the throne since the time of Kayqubad. I commanded the army that was mandated to pursue the revenge of Siyavosh in the mountains of Hamavan, I did not abandon my command in the battle of Lavan, and I had the honor of being fettered with Kayka'us in Mazandaran. Now that His Majesty intends to leave the kingdom, what will become of me?"

The king told Tus that he would remain the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the ruler of Khurasan. An order to that effect was written up, signed, and handed to Tus with golden bracelets and belts.

Although the affairs of the realm were now in capable hands, Luhrasp had not yet been among those rewarded. The king asked Bizhan to summon Luhrasp. When Luhrasp arrived, Kaykhusrau stepped down from the throne, took the crown from his own head and placed it on Luhrasp's head. "Luhrasp," he said to the consternation of all present, "you are now the shah!"

Zal contested the ascension of Luhrasp. "Your Majesty," he said, "we will accept dirt as king, were you to wish such. But how can a lowly man, who arrived in Iran upon one horse, become the king of the land? Had you not commissioned him to the battle of AlA NAn and had you not bestowed upon him an army and a banner, where would he be today? Who is this man? What is his ancestry? Did Your Majesty not see anyone among the present company better suited for the rulership of Iran?"

The Iranian army, too, echoed the sentiments of Zal and refused to carry out the mandate of a king whose rule was not sanctioned by the Creator. But Kaykhusrau continued to support Luhrasp. "Luhrasp," he said, "is not who you think he is. He is the grandson of Hushang he is wise and, more importantly, he carries the farr. Like me, he will fight evil and will inaugurate a just rule. Furthermore, Luhrasp's son, Gushtasp, will bring a new day and a new age to the world. Heed my advice and follow his decrees":

Convinced of his mistake once again, Zal dipped his finger into the dust, passed it across his lips and proclaimed Luhrasp the shah of Iran. "We are ignorant, Your Majesty," he apologized to the new king. "It takes a king to know the true genealogy of another king." The new king accepted Zal's apology.

When the time for his departure arrived, Kaykhusrau spoke to his wives. He asked them to regard him as one who is already dead. The women did not wish to let him go. They cried as they pulled their hair, beseeching the king to take them along with him. Kaykhusrau calmed them. He then addressed Luhrasp: "These are the women of the court of the Kayanian," he said. "They are the mothers, daughters, and wives of kings. I trust their well-being to you, and I wish to receive a good report on the day that you meet Siyavosh and me."

Luhrasp accepted the responsibility. Kaykhusrau's last advice to Luhrasp was one of humility and acceptance: "Rule justly and keep the interest of your subjects in mind. As soon as you feel that kingship no longer interests you, rather than trying to make it interesting, leave it and save your soul." Luhrasp kissed the ground before Kaykhusrau.

Zal, Rustam, Gudarz, Giv, Bizhan, Gustaham, Fariburz, and Tus accompanied Kaykhusrau on the first leg of his journey. The army followed. At every station, attempts were made to persuade the king to give up his intention and return to his kingdom. But Kaykhusrau was determined to leave. He assembled the mu'bads and asked them to work for the final reunion. "I have a long way before me," he said, "a way which yields neither water nor grass. Only those endowed with the farr can walk this road and reach its end. For this reason, I feel it is in your best interest to return. Let me pass into my other realm alone."

Zal, Rustam, and the aged Gudarz heeded Kaykhusrau's admonition and returned. Tus, Giv, Bizhan, and Fariburz continued on the way. They went for a day and a night into the desert, until Kaykhusrau stopped at a fountain. "We shall stay here for the night," he said, "and we shall talk about the past. We will not be together much longer. As soon as the sun rises, Surush will meet me and my journey will come to an end."

In the evening, the king washed in the fountain and said goodbye to the champions. "You must return now," he said, "before the sun rises from behind the mountain. At that time, a wind will blow the intensity of which would uproot trees, a black cloud will cover the sky and blanket the ground with deep snow. You will not find your way back to Iran." The champions were not convinced. They stayed.


When the sun rose the next morning, the king disappeared into thin air. The search of the champions for Kaykhusrau took them deep into the desert, but they could not find a trace of their king anywhere there. Disappointed, they returned to the fountain. "This is a pleasant place," Fariburz said. "Why not stay here for the night and take the news to the army tomorrow? It will, of course, be difficult to convince people of what we have seen--a living being walking to meet the Creator. On the other hand, who would doubt that Kaykhusrau was an extraordinary being!"


They hardly had finished their supper when the wind picked up and snow covered the ground. Soon the snow became intense, overwhelming the champions. One by one, they perished.

For three days, Rustam, Zal, and Gudarz waited on the mountain to meet the returning champions. No one came. "If the king has gone," Gudarz wondered, "what could have happened to the rest?" Nobody had an answer. The stay was prolonged a week, until Gudarz was convinced that, once again, members of his house have been sacrificed for the house of Kayan and that he would never see Giv and Bizhan again.

Succumbing to the rule of the Creator, an unwilling Gudarz allowed himself to be brought down from the summit. He cried for the departure of his son, his king, and his companions while, along with the surviving champions, he pledged to spend the rest of his life at the threshold of King Luhrasp.

The Wars of Religion

After Kaykhusrau disappears in the White Light, Luhrasp, grandson of Kaypishin from the seed of Kayqubad, ascends the throne. His promotion from the governorship of Alanon and as the overseer of the Ghuzz Fortress to the rulership of a United Iran and Turan creates a great deal of discord. We can see this both during the last days of Kaykhusrau's rule and the early stages of his own rule. For instance Zal, and indeed, the whole House of Nariman that stems from the two royal houses of Jamshid and Zahhak, are slighted so that Zal, Rustam, and their champions leave the capital and remain disinterested in the affairs of the kingdom.

On the other hand, after Afrasiyab is killed by Kaykhusrau, Arjasp ascends the throne of Turan. He not only refuses to pay tribute to the new rulers in Iran, but states that Iranian monarchs should pay him tribute. He can say that simply because Iran no longer enjoys the presence and support of a circle of champions and the armies that that they led. In way, the wars between Iran and Turn have changed from the wars between two independent nations to the battles between a center of authority and a rebellious group, led by a formidable leader. This state of affairs continues to the end of the kingship of Luhrasp.

Luhrasp has two sons: Zarir and Gushtasp. Of the two, Zarir is obedient and helpful to his father while Gushtasp is valiant but wayward. In fact, Zarir plays a major role in keeping Luhrasp and Gushtasp together, both when Gushtasp goes to India and when he travels to far off Rum. In both cases, Zarir visits his brother and convinces him to return to Iran to attend to the affairs of the country, especially with regards to the activities of the Turanian leader, Arjasp.

Towards the end of his life, Luhrasp passes the kingship to Gushtasp and becomes a recluse at the Nowbahar Firetemple. After the appearance of the Prophet Zoroaster, he accepts the good religion; he is killed during the second invasion of Arjasp.

The ascension of Gushtasp to the throne is foretold by Kaykhusrau. Kaykhusrau also foresaw that a prophet will come to the court of Gushtasp and bring a new order. At the time of the advent of the Prophet Zoroaster, Gushtasp is in a relatively weak position. He pays tribute to Arjasp to keep the Turanians away from his center of power. Additionally, while kings in the past had the support of a circle of champions, he has to rely mostly on his armorclad son, Isfandiyar. The difficulty is that his son is very much like himself. He seeks to force his father off the throne so that he himself can rule the realm.

The advent of the Prophet Zoroaster, especially after he accepts the good religion, changes Gushtasp's attitude towards Turan, Arjasp in particular. Feeling empowered by the faith, Gushtasp ceases to pay tribute to Arjasp and persuades Isfandiyar to confront Arjasp and defeat or kill him. Helped by Jamasp, Gushtasp's court Minister and the husband of Puruchista, the daughter of Zoroaster, Isfandiyar defeats Arjasp and expands the domain of the Zoroastrian faith into western Iranian lands. At the end, however, Isfandiyar does not attain his wish to become the king of Iran. The last hurdle he must clear is to capture Rustam and bring him to Gushtasp's court with his hands tied behind his back. This is a difficult hurdle to surpass as no one had been able to defeat Rustam, let alone bring him to Gushtasp's court with his hands tied. A mortal combat ensues in the course of which, helped by the Simurgh, Rustam defeats and kills Isfandiyar. At the time of Isfandiyar's death, Simurgh predicts a short life for Isfandiyar's killer as well. Simurgh's prediction comes true when victorious Rustam falls victim to the ruses of Mihrab and his own half-brother, Shaghad, and is killed.

Traditionally, Gushtasp is regarded as the last king of the Kayanian dynasty. In the wars of religion, however, especially with regard to the treatment that the house of Nairam receives at the hand of the Kayanian dynasty, the line of kings that they had literally created, promoted and sustained, the rulership of Isfandiyar's son, Bahman, becomes important. After Bahman, his sister-wife Humay Chihrzad rules for 32 years. Thereafter, especially during the rulership of Darab and Dara, the line between the advent of the Median dynasty and the post-Bahman era of the Kayanian line becomes blurred.

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