The Epic of Kings
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The Epic of Kings.
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The Epic of Kings
Written 1010 A.C.E.
Translated by Helen Zimmern
Mourning and sorrow filled the heart of Afrasiyab because of his defeat,
and he pondered in his spirit how the fortunes of Iran might be retrieved.
So he sent messengers unto all his vassals that they should unsheathe the
sword of strife and make ready an army. And the nobles did as Afrasiyab
bade them, and they got together an host that covered the ground, and sent
it forth before the King. And the King placed Schideh his son at the head
thereof, and he said unto him-
"Open not the door of peace, neither treat Kai Khosrau other than
as an enemy."
Now when the Shah heard tidings of the army that Afrasiyab had
made ready against him, he commanded that no man who could use the bridle
and the stirrup should stay within the borders of Iran. And when the army
was ready he placed at its head Gudarz the wise. But Kai Khosrau bade yet
again that Gudarz should seek to win Piran the Pehliva unto Iran ere the
hosts met in battle. For the Shah remembered the benefits he had received
at his hands, and it grieved him sore to go out against him in enmity.
And Gudarz did as the Shah desired, and when he had crossed the Jihun he
sent Gew, his son, unto Piran that he might speak with him. But Piran shut
ear unto the voice of Gew, and he said that he had led forth his army to
battle, and that it behoved him to do that which was commanded of
So the two armies were drawn up in order of battle, and each desired
that the other should fall upon them the first. And for three days and
three nights they faced each other, and you would have said that no man
so much as moved his lips. And Gudarz was posted before his men, and day
and night he searched the stars and the sun and moon for augury. And he
demanded of them whether he should advance or whether he should stay. And
Piran also waited that he might behold what the Iranians would
But Byzun was angry thereat, and he went before his father and
entreated him to urge his grandsire unto action. "For surely," he said,
"Gudarz hath lost his wits that he thus regardeth the sun and stars, and
thinketh not of the enemy." And Gew strove in vain to quiet
And in the ranks of Turan also Human grew impatient, and he asked
permission of his brother to challenge the nobles of Iran to single fight.
And Piran sought to dissuade him in vain. So he got ready his steed of
battle, and rode until he came within the lines of Iran. And when he was
come thither he sought out Rehham, the son of Gudarz, and challenged him
to measure his strength. But Rehham said-
"My soul thirsteth after the combat, yet since my father hath commanded
that the army advance not, it beseemeth me not to forget his behests. And
remember, O valiant Turk, that he who ventureth first upon the battlefield
hath no need to seek the pathway to return."
Then Human said, "Men had told unto me that Rehham was a knight
of courage, but now I know that he is afraid." And he turned away his steed
and rode until he came nigh unto Friburz, and he challenged him also in
words of pride, and he said-
"Thou art brother unto Saiawush, show now if there live within
thee aught of valour."
But Friburz answered, "Go forth before Gudarz and demand of him
that I may fight, and verily if he listen unto thy voice, it will be a
joy unto my soul."
Then Human said, "I see that thou art a hero only in words." And
he turned his back upon him also, and he rode till that he came before
Gudarz the Pehliva. And he raised his voice and spake unto him words of
insolence, and he defied him to lead forth his army. But Gudarz would not
listen unto his voice. Then Human turned him back unto the camp of Turan,
and he said unto the army how that the men of Iran were craven. And when
the army heard it they raised shouts of great joy.
Now the shouting of the men of Turan pierced even unto the cars
of the Iranians, and they were sore hurt thereat; and the nobles came before
Gudarz and laid before him their complaints, and they entreated of him
that he would lead them forth that they might prove their valour. And Byzun,
when he heard what had been done, came before his grandsire like to a lion
in his fury, and he craved that he would grant unto him that he might reply
unto the challenge of Human. Now when Gudarz beheld that all the nobles
were against him, he listened unto the ardour of Byzun, and he gave to
him leave to go forth, and he accorded to him the armour of Saiawush, and
he blessed him and bade him be victorious. Then Byzun sent a messenger
unto Human, and the place of combat was chosen. And when the sun was risen
they met upon the field, and Human cried unto his adversary, and he
"O Byzun, thine hour is come, for I will send thee back unto Gew
in such guise that his heart shall be torn with anguish."
But Byzun answered and said, "Why waste we our time in words, let
us fall upon one another."
Then they did as Byzun desired. And they fought with swords and
with arrows, with maces also and with fists, and sore was the struggle
and weary, and the victory leaned unto neither side. And they strove thus
from the time of dawn until the sun had lengthened the shadows, and Byzun
was afraid lest the day should end in doubt. Then he sent up a prayer unto
Ormuzd that He would lend unto him strength. And Ormuzd listened unto the
petition of His servant. Then Byzun caught Human in his arms and flung
him upon the ground, and he beat out his brains, and he severed his head
from off his trunk, that the murder of Saiawush might be avenged. Then
he gave thanks unto God, and turned him back unto the camp, and he bore
aloft the head of Human. And the army of Iran, when they beheld it, set
up a great shout, but from the ranks of Turan there came the noise of wailing.
And Piran was bowed down with grief and anger, and he commanded the army
should go forth and fall upon the Iranians.
Now there was fought a battle such as men have not seen the like.
And the earth was covered with steel, and arrows fell from the clouds like
hail, and the ground was torn with hoofs, and blood flowed like water upon
the plains. And the dead lay around in masses, and the feet of the horses
could not stir because of them. Then the chiefs of the army said among
"If we part not these heroes upon the field of vengeance, there
will remain nought when the night is come save only the earth that turns,
and God, the Master of the world."
Yet they withdrew not from the combat until the darkness had thrown
a mantle over the earth, and they could no longer look upon their
Now when the earth was become like unto ebony, the leaders of the
hosts met in conference. And it was decided between them that they should
choose forth valiant men from their midst, and that on the morrow the fate
of the lands should be decided by them. For they grieved for the blood
that had been spilled, and they desired that the hand of destruction be
stayed. So when the morning was come they chose forth their champions,
and ten men of valour were picked from each host, and Piran and Gudarz
led them out unto the plain. Now on each side of the plain uprose a mountain.
So Gudarz said unto his comrades-
"Whosoever among you hath laid low his adversary, let him mount
this hill and plant the flag that he hath won upon its crest, that the
army may learn whom we have vanquished."
And Piran spake unto his men in like manner. Then the ten drew
up and faced one another, and each man stood opposed to the adversary that
he had chosen. Now Friburz was the first to begin combat, and he was opposed
unto Kelbad, the kinsman of Piran. And he rode at him with fury, and he
laid him low with his bow, and he galloped with joy unto the mountain and
planted the standard of Kelbad upon its crest. Then when it was done, Gew
came forward to meet his adversary, and he was placed over against Zereh,
the man whom Kai Khosrau hated because he had severed the head of Saiawush
from its trunk. And Gew was careful not to slay him, but he threw his cord
about him and caught him in the snares and bound him. Then he took from
him his standard, and led him bound unto the mountain. And there followed
after him Gourazeh, and he too laid low his foe and planted his flag upon
the crest of the hill. And likewise did all the champions of Iran; and
when the ninth hour was ended there waved nine standards from off the hill,
and none remained to fight save only Piran and Gudarz the aged. Then Gudarz
girded him for the combat, and for a mighty space they wrestled sore, but
in the end Gudarz laid low the power of Piran.
Now when the Iranians beheld the standard of Piran planted aloft
amid those of his champions, they were beside themselves for joy, and they
called down the blessings of Heaven upon the knight. Then a messenger was
sent to bear the tidings unto Kai Khosrau, and he took with him Zereh that
the Shah might with his own hand sever that vile head from off its trunk.
And Kai Khosrau rejoiced at the news, and he rode forth that he might visit
his army. But when he beheld the body of Piran he wept sore, and he remembered
his kindness of old, and he grieved for the man that had been to him a
father. Then he commanded that a royal tomb be raised unto Piran, and he
seated him therein upon a throne of gold, and he did unto him all reverence.
But when it was done he aided his army to beat back the men of Turan yet
again, and he caused them to sue for peace. And when they had brought forth
their armour and piled it at the feet of Kai Khosrau, he bade them depart
in peace. Then he returned with joy unto his own land, and he gave thanks
unto God for the victory that was his. But he knew also that the time of
peace could not be long, and that Afrasiyab would dream of