The brazen drums on the elephants were sounded as the signal of departure, and the army proceeded rapidly to its destination, overshadowing the earth in its progress. Afrásiyáb had penetrated as far as the Jihún before Nauder was aware of his approach. Upon receiving this intelligence of the activity of the enemy, the warriors of the Persian army immediately moved in that direction, and on their arrival at Dehstán, prepared for battle.
Afrásiyáb despatched thirty thousand of his troops under the command of Shimasás and Khazerván to Zábulistán, to act against Zál, having heard on his march of the death of the illustrious Sám, and advanced himself upon Dehstán with four hundred thousand soldiers, covering the ground like swarms of ants and locusts. He soon discovered that Nauder's forces did not exceed one hundred and forty thousand men, and wrote to Poshang, his father, in high spirits, especially on account of not having to contend against Sám, the warrior, and informed him that he had detached Shimasás against Zábulistán. When the armies had approached to within two leagues of each other, Bármán, one of the Túránian chiefs, offered to challenge any one of the enemy to single combat: but Aghríras objected to it, not wishing that so valuable a hero should run the hazard of discomfiture. At this Afrásiyáb was very indignant and directed Bármán to follow the bent of his own inclinations.
"'Tis not for us to shrink from Persian foe,
Put on thy armour, and prepare thy bow."
Accordingly the challenge was given. Kárun looked round, and the only person who answered the call was the aged Kobád, his brother. Kárun and Kobád were both sons of Kavah, the blacksmith, and both leaders in the Persian army. No persuasion could restrain Kobád from the unequal conflict. He resisted all the entreaties of Kárun, who said to him--
"O, should thy hoary locks be stained with blood,
Thy legions will be overwhelmed with grief,
And, in despair, decline the coming battle."
But what was the reply of brave Kobád?
"Brother, this body, this frail tenement,
Belongs to death. No living man has ever
Gone up to Heaven--for all are doomed to die.--
Some by the sword, the dagger, or the spear,
And some, devoured by roaring beasts of prey;
Some peacefully upon their beds, and others
Snatched suddenly from life, endure the lot
Ordained by the Creator. If I perish,
Does not my brother live, my noble brother,
To bury me beneath a warrior's tomb,
And bless my memory?"
Saying this, he rushed forward, and the two warriors met in desperate conflict. The struggle lasted all day; at last Bármán threw a stone at his antagonist with such force, that Kobád in receiving the blow fell lifeless from his horse. When Kárun saw that his brother was slain, he brought forward his whole army to be revenged for the death of Kobád. Afrásiyáb himself advanced to the charge, and the encounter was dreadful. The soldiers who fell among the Túránians could not be numbered, but the Persians lost fifty thousand men.
Loud neighed the steeds, and their resounding hoofs.
Shook the deep caverns of the earth; the dust
Rose up in clouds and hid the azure heavens--
Bright beamed the swords, and in that carnage wide,
Blood flowed like water. Night alone divided
The hostile armies.
When the battle ceased Kárun fell back upon Dehstán, and communicated his misfortune to Nauder, who lamented the loss of Kobád, even more than that of Sám. In the morning Kárun again took the field against Afrásiyáb, and the conflict was again terrible. Nauder boldly opposed himself to the enemy, and singling out Afrásiyáb, the two heroes fought with great bravery till night again put an end to the engagement. The Persian army had suffered most, and Nauder retired to his tent disappointed, fatigued, and sorrowful. He then called to mind the words of Minúchihr, and called for his two sons, Tús and Gustahem. With melancholy forebodings he directed them to return to Irán, with his shubistán, or domestic establishment, and take refuge on the mountain Alberz, in the hope that some one of the race of Feridún might survive the general ruin which seemed to be approaching.
The armies rested two days. On the third the reverberating noise of drums and trumpets announced the recommencement of the battle. On the Persian side Shahpúr had been appointed in the room of Kobád, and Bármán and Shíwáz led the right and left of the Túránians under Afrásiyáb.
From dawn to sunset, mountain, plain, and stream,
Were hid from view; the earth, beneath the tread
Of myriads, groaned; and when the javelins cast
Long shadows on the plain at even-tide,
The Tartar host had won the victory;
And many a Persian chief fell on that day:--
Shahpúr himself was slain.
When Nauder and Kárun saw the unfortunate result of the battle, they again fell back upon Dehstán, and secured themselves in the fort. Afrásiyáb in the meantime despatched Karúkhán to Irán, through the desert, with a body of horsemen, for the purpose of intercepting and capturing the shubistán of Nauder. As soon as Kárun heard of this expedition he was all on fire, and proposed to pursue the squadron under Karúkhán, and frustrate at once the object which the enemy had in view; and though Nauder was unfavorable to this movement, Kárun, supported by several of the chiefs and a strong volunteer force, set off at midnight, without permission, on this important enterprise. It was not long before they reached the Duz-i-Supêd, or white fort, of which Gustahem was the governor, and falling in with Bármán, who was also pushing forward to Persia, Kárun, in revenge for his brother Kobád, sought him out, and dared him to single combat. He threw his javelin with such might, that his antagonist was driven furiously from his horse; and then, dismounting, he cut off his head, and hung it at his saddle-bow. After this he attacked and defeated the Tartar troops, and continued his march towards Irán.
Nauder having found that Kárun had departed, immediately followed, and Afrásiyáb was not long in pursuing him. The Túránians at length came up with Nauder, and attacked him with great vigor. The unfortunate king, unable to parry the onset, fell into the hands of his enemies, together with upwards of one thousand of his famous warriors.
Long fought they, Nauder and the Tartar-chief,
And the thick dust which rose from either host,
Darkened the rolling Heavens. Afrásiyáb
Seized by the girdle-belt the Persian king,
And furious, dragged him from his foaming horse.
With him a thousand warriors, high in name,
Were taken on the field; and every legion,
Captured whilst flying from the victor's brand.
Such are the freaks of Fortune: friend and foe
Alternate wear the crown. The world itself
Is an ingenious juggler--every moment
Playing some novel trick; exalting one
In pomp and splendour, crushing down another,
As if in sport,--and death the end of all!
After the achievement of this victory Afrásiyáb directed that Kárun should be pursued and attacked wherever he might be found; but when he heard that he had hurried on for the protection of the shubistán, and had conquered and slain Bármán, he gnawed his hands with rage. The reign of Nauder lasted only seven years. After him Afrásiyáb was the master of Persia.