Shah Nameh/The Expedition of Gúdarz against Afrásiyáb

The overthrow of the sovereign of Túrán had only a temporary effect, as it was not long before he was enabled to collect further supplies, and another army for the defence of his kingdom; and Kai-khosráu's ambition to reduce the power of his rival being animated by new hopes of success, another expedition was entrusted to the command of Gúdarz. Rustem, he said, had done his duty in repeated campaigns against Afrásiyáb, and the extraordinary gallantry and wisdom with which they were conducted, entitled him to the highest applause. "It is now, Gúdarz, thy turn to vanquish the enemy." Accordingly Gúdarz, accompanied by Gíw, and Tús, and Byzun, and an immense army, proceeded towards Túrán. Ferámurz was directed previously to invade and conquer Hindústán, and from thence to march to the borders of Chín and Má-chín, for the purpose of uniting and co-operating with the army under Gúdarz, and, finally, to capture Afrásiyáb.

As soon as it was known in Túrán that Gúdarz was in motion to resume hostilities against the king, Húmán was appointed with a large force to resist his progress, and a second army of reserve was gathered together under the command of Pírán. The first conflict which occurred was between the troops of Gúdarz and Húmán. Gúdarz directed Byzun to attack Húmán. The two chiefs joined in battle, when Húmán fell under the sword of his adversary, and his army, being defeated, retired, and united in the rear with the legions of Pírán. The enemy thus became of formidable strength, and in consequence it was thought proper to communicate the inequality to Kai-khosráu, that reinforcements might be sent without loss of time. The king immediately complied, and also wrote to Sístán to request the aid of Rustem. The war lasted two years, the army on each side being continually recruited as necessity required, so that the numbers were regularly kept up, till a great battle took place, in which the venerable Pírán was killed, and nearly the whole of his army destroyed. This victory was obtained without the assistance of Rustem, who, notwithstanding the message of the king, had still remained in Sístán. The loss of Pírán, the counsellor and warrior, proved to be a great affliction to Afrásiyáb: he felt as if his whole support was taken away, and deemed it the signal of approaching ruin to his cause.

  "Thou wert my refuge, thou my friend and brother;
  Wise in thy counsel, gallant in the field,
  My monitor and guide--and thou art gone!
  The glory of my kingdom is eclipsed,
  Since thou hast vanished from this world, and left me
  All wretched to myself. But food, nor sleep
  Nor rest will I indulge in, till just vengeance
  Has been inflicted on the cruel foe."

When the news of Pírán's death reached Kai-khosráu, he rapidly marched forward, crossed the Jihún without delay, and passed through Samerkánd and Bokhára, to encounter the Túránians. Afrásiyáb, in the meantime, had not been neglectful. He had all his hidden treasure dug up, with which he assembled a prodigious army, and appointed his son Shydah-Poshang to the command of a hundred thousand horsemen. To oppose this force, Khosráu appointed his young relative, Lohurásp, with eight thousand horsemen, and passing through Sístán, desired Rustem, on account of Lohurásp's tender age and inexperience, to afford him such good counsel as he required. When Afrásiyáb heard this, he added to the force of Shydah another hundred thousand men, but first sent his son to Kai-khosráu in the character of an ambassador to offer terms of peace. "Tell him," said he, "that to secure this object, I will deliver to him one of my sons as a hostage, and a number of troops for his service, with the sacred promise never to depart from my engagements again.--But, a word in thy ear, Shydah; if Khosráu is not disposed to accept these terms, say, to prevent unnecessary bloodshed, he and I must personally decide the day by single combat. If he refuses to fight with me, say that thou wilt meet him; and shouldst thou be slain in the strife, I will surrender to him the kingdom of Túrán, and retire myself from the world." He further commanded him to propound these terms with a gallant and fearless bearing, and not to betray the least apprehension. Shydah entered fully into the spirit of his father's instructions, and declared that he would devote his life to the cause, that he would boldly before the whole assembly dare Kai-khosráu to battle; so that Afrásiyáb was delighted with the valorous disposition he displayed.

Kai-khosráu smiled when he heard of what Afrásiyáb intended, and viewed the proposal as a proof of his weakness. "But never," said he, "will I consent to a peace till I have inflicted on him the death which Saiáwush was made to suffer." When Shydah arrived, and with proper ceremony and respect had delivered his message, Kai-khosráu invited him to retire to his chamber and go to rest, and he would send an answer by one of his people. Shydah accordingly retired, and the king proceeded to consult his warrior-friends on the offers that had been made. "Afrásiyáb tells me," said he, "that if I do not wish for peace, I must fight either him or his son. I have seen Shydah--his eyes are red and blood-shot, and he has a fierce expression of feature; if I do not accept his terms, I shall probably soon have a dagger lodged in my breast." Saying this, he ordered his mail to be got ready; but Rustem and all the great men about him exclaimed, unanimously: "This must not be allowed; Afrásiyáb is full of fraud, artifice, and sorcery, and notoriously faithless to his engagements. The sending of Shydah is all a trick, and his letter of proposal all deceit: his object is simply to induce thee to fight him alone.

 "If them shouldst kill this Shydah--what of that!
  There would be one Túránian warrior less,
  To vex the world withal; would that be triumph?
  And to a Persian king? But if it chanced,
  That thou shouldst meet with an untimely death,
  By dart or javelin, at the stripling's hands,
  What scathe and ruin would this realm befall!"

By the advice of Rustem, Kai-khosráu gave Shydah permission to depart, and said that he would send his answer to Afrásiyáb by Kárun. "But," observed the youth, "I have come to fight thee!" which touched the honor of the king, and he replied: "Be it so, let us then meet to-morrow."

In the meantime Khosráu prepared his letter to Afrásiyáb, in which he said:--

  "Our quarrel now is dark to view,
  It bears the fiercest, gloomiest hue;
  And vain have speech and promise been
  To change for peace the battle scene;
  For thou art still to treachery prone,
  Though gentle now in word and tone;
  But that imperial crown thou wearest,
  That mace which thou in battle bearest,
  Thy kingdom, all, thou must resign;
  Thy army too--for all are mine!
  Thou talk'st of strength, and might, and power,
  When revelling in a prosperous hour;
  But know, that strength of nerve and limb
  We owe to God--it comes from Him!
  And victory's palm, and regal sway,
  Alike the will of Heaven obey.
  Hence thy lost throne, no longer thine,
  Will soon, perfidious king! be mine!"

In giving this letter to Kárun, Kai-khosráu directed him, in the first place, to deliver a message from him to Shydah, to the following effect:--

  "Driven art thou out from home and life,
  Doomed to engage in mortal strife,
  For deeply lours misfortune's cloud;
  That gay attire will be thy shroud;
  Blood from thy father's eyes will gush,
  As Káús wept for Saiáwush."

In the morning Khosráu went to the appointed place, and when he approached Shydah, the latter said, "Thou hast come on foot, let our trial be in wrestling;" and the proposal being agreed to, both applied themselves fiercely to the encounter, at a distance from the troops.

  The youth appeared with joyous mien,
    And bounding heart, for life was new;
  By either host the strife was seen,
    And strong and fierce the combat grew.

Shydah exerted his utmost might, but was unable to move his antagonist from the ground; whilst Khosráu lifted him up without difficulty, and, dashing him on the plain,

  He sprang upon him as the lion fierce
  Springs on the nimble gor, then quickly drew
  His deadly dagger, and with cruel aim,
  Thrust the keen weapon through the stripling's heart.

Khosráu, immediately after slaying him, ordered the body to be washed with musk and rose-water, and, after burial, a tomb to be raised to his memory.

When Kárun reached the court of Afrásiyáb with the answer to the offer of peace, intelligence had previously arrived that Shydah had fallen in the combat, which produced in the mind of the father the greatest anguish. He gave no reply to Kárun, but ordered the drums and trumpets to be sounded, and instantly marched with a large army against the enemy. The two hosts were soon engaged, the anger of the Túránians being so much roused and sharpened by the death of the prince, that they were utterly regardless of their lives. The battle, therefore, was fought with unusual fury.

  Two sovereigns in the field, in desperate strife,
  Each by a grievous cause of wrath, urged on
  To glut revenge; this, for a father's life
  Wantonly sacrificed; that for a son
  Slain in his prime.--The carnage has begun,
  And blood is seen to flow on every side;
  Thousands are slaughtered ere the day is done,
  And weltering swell the sanguinary tide;
  And why? To soothe man's hate, his cruelty, and pride.

The battle terminated in the discomfiture and defeat of the Túránians, who fled from the conquerors in the utmost confusion. The people seized hold of the bridle of Afrásiyáb's horse, and obliged him to follow his scattered army.

Kai-khosráu having despatched an account of his victory to Káús, went in pursuit of Afrásiyáb, traversing various countries and provinces, till he arrived on the borders of Chín. The Khakán, or sovereign of that state, became in consequence greatly alarmed, and presented to him large presents to gain his favor, but the only object of Khosráu was to secure Afrásiyáb, and he told the ambassador that if his master dared to afford him protection, he would lay waste the whole kingdom. The Khakán therefore withdrew his hospitable services, and the abandoned king was compelled to seek another place of refuge.