On a certain day it came about that Tus, Gew, Gudarz, and other brave knights of Iran went forth to chase wild asses in the forests of Daghoui. Now when they were come into the wood, they found therein a woman of surpassing beauty, and the hearts of Tus and Gew burned towards her in love. And when they had questioned her of her lineage, and learned that she was of the race of Feridoun, each desired to take her to wife. But none would give way unto the other, and hot words were bandied, and they were like to come unto blows. Then one spake, and said – “I counsel you, let Kai Kaous decide between you.” And they listened to the voice of the counsellor, and they took with them the Peri-faced, and led her before Kai Kaous, and recounted to him all that was come about. But Kai Kaous, when he beheld the beauty of the maid, longed after her for himself, and he said that she was worthy of the throne; and he took her and led her into the house of his women.
Now after many days there was born to her a son, and he was of goodly mien, tall and strong, and the name that was given to him was Saiawush. And Kai Kaous rejoiced in this son of his race, but he was grieved also because of the message of the stars concerning him. For it was written that the heavens were hostile unto this infant; neither would his virtues avail him aught, for these above all would lead him into destruction. In the meantime the news that a son had been born unto the Shah spread even unto the land of Rustem. And the Pehliva, when he learned thereof, aroused him from his sorrow for Sohrab, and he came forth out of Zaboulistan, and asked for the babe at the hands of its father, that he might rear it unto Iran. And Kai Kaous suffered it, and Rustem bare the child unto his kingdom, and trained him in the arts of war and of the banquet. And Saiawush increased in might and beauty, and you would have said that the world held not his like.
Now when Saiawush was become strong (so that he could ensnare a lion), he came before Rustem, bearing high his head. And he spake, saying – “I desire to go before the Shah, that my father may behold me, and see what manner of man thou hast made of me.” And Rustem deemed that he spake well. So he made great preparations, and marched unto Iran with a mighty host, and Saiawush rode with him at their head. And the land rejoiced when it looked on the face of Saiawush, and there was great joy in the courts of the King, and jewels and gold and precious things past the telling rained upon Rustem and Saiawush his charge. And Kai Kaous was glad when he beheld the boy, and gave rich rewards unto Rustem; but Saiawush did he place beside him on the throne. And all men spake his praises, and there was a feast given, such as the world hath not seen the like.
Then Saiawush stayed in the courts of his father, and seven years did he prove his spirit; but in the eighth, when he had found him worthy, he gave unto him a throne and a crown. And all was well, and men had forgotten the evil message of the stars. But that which is written in the heavens, it is surely accomplished, and the day of ill fortune drew nigh. For it came about that Sudaveh beheld the youth of Saiawush, and her eyes were filled with his beauty, and her soul burned after him. So she sent unto him a messenger, and invited him to enter the house of the women. But he sent in answer words of excuse, for he trusted her not. Then Sudaveh made complaint before Kai Kaous that Saiawush had deafened his ear unto her request, and she bade the Shah send him behind the curtains of the women’s house, that his son might become acquainted with his sisters. And Kai Kaous did that which Sudaveh asked of him, and Saiawush obeyed his commands.
But Sudaveh, when she had so far accomplished her longing that she had gotten him within the house, desired that he should speak with her alone. But Saiawush resisted her wish. And three times did Sudaveh entice him behind the curtains of the house, and three times was Saiawush cold unto her yearning. Then Sudaveh was wroth, and she made complaint unto the Shah, and she slandered the fair fame of Saiawush, and she spread evil reports of him throughout the land, and she inflamed the heart of Kai Kaous against his son. Now the Shah was angered beyond measure, and it availed nought unto Saiawush to defend himself, for Kai Kaous was filled with the love of Sudaveh, and he listened only unto her voice.
And he remembered how she had borne his captivity in Hamaveran, and he knew not of her evil deceits. And when she said that Saiawush had done her great wrong, Kai Kaous was troubled in his spirit, and he resolved how he should act, for his heart went out also unto his son, and he feared that guile lurked in these things. And he could not decide between them. So he caused dromedaries to be sent forth, even unto the borders of the land, and bring forth wood from the forests. And they did so, and there was reared a mighty heap of logs, so that the eye could behold it at a distance of two farsangs. And it was piled so that a path ran through its midst such as a mounted knight could traverse. And the Shah commanded that naphtha be poured upon the wood; and when it was done he bade that it be lighted, and there were needed two hundred men to light the pyre, so great was its width and height. And the flames and smoke overspread the heavens, and men shouted for fear when they beheld the tongues of fire, and the heat thereof was felt in the far corners of the land.
Now when all was ready, Kai Kaous bade Saiawush his son ride into the midst of the burning mount, that he might prove his innocence. And Saiawush did as the King commanded, and he came before Kai Kaous, and saluted him, and made him ready for the ordeal. And when he came nigh unto the burning wood, he commended his soul unto God, and prayed that He would make him pure before his father. And when he had done so, he gave rein unto his horse, and entered into the flame. And a great cry of sorrow arose from all men in the plains and in the city, for they held that no man could come forth alive from this furnace. And Sudaveh heard the cry, and came forth upon the roof of her house that she might behold the sight, and she prayed that ill might befall unto Saiawush, and she held her eyes fastened upon the pyre. But the nobles gazed on the face of Kai Kaous, and their mouths were filled with execrations, and their lips trembled with wrath at this deed.
And Saiawush rode on undaunted, and his white robes and ebon steed shone forth between the flames, and their anger was reflected upon his helmet of gold. And he rode until he was come unto the end of the pathway, and when he came forth there was not singed a hair of his head, neither had the smoke blackened his garments. Now when the people beheld that he was come forth alive, they rent the welkin with their shouting. And the nobles came forth to greet him, and, save only Sudaveh, there was joy in all hearts. Now Saiawush rode till he came before the Shah, and then he got him off his horse, and did homage before his father. And when Kai Kaous beheld him, and saw that there were no signs of fire about him, he knew that he was innocent. So he raised his son from off the ground, and placed Saiawush beside him on the throne, and asked his forgiveness for that which was come to pass. And Saiawush granted it. Then Kai Kaous feasted his son with wine and song, and three days did they spend in revels, and the door of the King’s treasury was opened.
But on the fourth day Kai Kaous mounted the throne of the Kaianides. He took in his hand the ox-headed mace, and he commanded that Sudaveh be led before him. Then he reproached her with her evil deeds, and he bade her make ready to depart the world, for verily death was decreed unto her. And in vain did Sudaveh ask for pardon at the hands of the King, for she continued to speak ill of Saiawush, and she said that by the arts of magic alone had he escaped the fire, and she ceased not to cry against him. So the King gave orders that she be led forth unto death, and the nobles approved his resolve, and invoked the blessings of Heaven upon the head of the Shah. But Saiawush, when he learned it, was grieved, for he knew that the woman was beloved of his father. And he went before Kai Kaous, and craved her pardon. And Kai Kaous granted it with gladness, for his heart yearned after Sudaveh. So Saiawush led her back, and the curtains of the house of the women hid her once more behind them, and the Shah was glad again in her sight.
Then it came about that the love of Kai Kaous for Sudaveh grew yet mightier, and he was as wax under her hands. And when she saw that her empire over him was strengthened, she filled his ear with plaints of Saiawush, and she darkened the mind of the Shah till that his spirit was troubled, and he knew not where he should turn for truth. Now while Kai Kaous thus dallied behind the curtains of his house, Afrasiyab made him ready with three thousand chosen men to fall upon the land of Iran. And Kai Kaous, when he learned it, was sad, for he knew that he must exchange the banquet for the battle; and he was angered also with Afrasiyab, and he poured out words of reproof against him because he had broken his covenant and had once more attacked his land. Yet he made him ready to lead forth his army. Then a Mubid prayed him that he would not go forth himself, and he recalled unto Kai Kaous how twice already he had endangered his kingdom. But Kai Kaous was wroth when he heard these words, and he bade the Mubid depart from his presence, and he sware that he alone could turn the army unto good issue.
But Saiawush, when he heard it, took heart of grace, for he thought within his spirit, “If the King grant unto me to lead forth his army, perchance I may win unto myself a name of valour, and be delivered from the wiles of Sudaveh.” So he girded himself with the armour of battle and came before the King his father, and made known to him his request. And he recalled unto Kai Kaous how that he was his son, and how he was sprung from a worthy race, and how his rank permitted him to lead forth a host; and Kai Kaous listened to his words with gladness, and assented to his desires. Then messengers were sent unto Rustem to bid him go forth to battle with his charge and guard him. And Kai Kaous said unto his Pehliva – “If thou watchest over him, I can slumber; but if thou reposest, then doth it beseem me to act.” And Rustem answered and said, “O King, I am thy servant, and it behoveth me to do thy will. As for Saiawush, he is the light of my heart and the joy of my soul; I rejoice to lead him forth before his enemies.”
So the trumpets of war were sounded, and the clang of armour and the tramp of horsemen and of foot filled the air. And five Mubids bare aloft the standard of Kawah, and the army followed after them. And they passed in order before Kai Kaous, and he blessed the troops and his son, who rode at their head. And he spake, saying – “May thy good star shine down upon thee, and mayst thou come back to me victorious and glad.” Then Kai Kaous returned him unto his house, and Saiawush gave the signal to depart. And they marched until they came unto the land of Zaboulistan.
Now when they were come there they rested them a while, and feasted in the house of Zal. And while they revelled there came out to join them riders from Cabul and from Ind, and wherever there was a king of might he sent over his army to aid them. Then when a month had rolled above their heads they took their leave of Zal and of Zaboulistan, and went forward till they came unto Balkh. And at Balkh the men of Turan met them, and Gersiwaz, the brother of Afrasiyab, was at their head. Now when he saw the hosts of Iran, he knew that the hour to fight was come. So the two armies made them in order, and they waged battle hot and sore, and for three days the fighting raged without ceasing, but on the fourth victory passed over to Iran. Then Saiawush called before him a scribe, and wrote a letter, perfumed with musk, unto Kai Kaous his father. And when he had invoked the blessings of Heaven upon his head, he told him all that was come to pass, and how he had conquered the foes of Iran. And Kai Kaous, when he had read the letter, rejoiced, and wrote an answer unto his son, and his gladness shone in his words, and you would have said it was a letter like to the tender green of spring.
But Afrasiyab, when he learned the news, was discomfited, and that which Gersiwaz told unto him was bitter to his taste, and he was beside himself for anger. Now when he had heard his brother to an end, Afrasiyab laid him down to slumber. Yet ere the night was spent there came out one to the house of Gersiwaz and told unto him that Afrasiyab was shouting like to a man bereft of reason. Then Gersiwaz went in unto the King, and he beheld him lying upon the floor of his chamber roaring in agony of spirit. Then he raised him, and questioned him wherefore he cried out thus. But Afrasiyab said – “Question me not until I have recovered my wits, for I am like to one possessed.” Then he desired that torches be brought within to light up the darkness, and he gathered his robes about him and mounted upon his throne. And when he had done so he called for the Mubids, and he recounted to them the dream that had visited his slumber. And he told how that he had seen the earth filled with serpents, and the Iranians were fallen upon him, and evil was come to him from Kai Kaous and a boy that stood beside him on the throne. And he trembled as he related his dream, and he would take no comfort from the words of Gersiwaz.
Now the Mubids as they listened were afraid, and when Afrasiyab bade them open their lips, they dared not for fear. Then the King said that he would cleave open their heads if they spake not, and he sware unto them a great oath that he would spare them, even though the words they should utter be evil. Then they revealed to him how it was written that Saiawush would bring destruction upon Turan, and how he would be victorious over the Turks, and how, even though he should fall by the hands of Afrasiyab, this evil could not be stayed. And they counselled Afrasiyab to contend no longer against the son of Kai Kaous, for surely if he stayed not his hand this evil could not be turned aside. When Afrasiyab heard this message, he took counsel with Gersiwaz, and he said – “If I cease from warring against Saiawush surely none of these things can come about. It beseemeth me to seek after peace. I will send therefore silver and jewels and rich gifts unto Saiawush, and will bind up with gold the eye of war.”
So he bade Gersiwaz take from his treasures rich brocades of Roum, and jewels of price, and bear them across the Jihun to the camp of Saiawush. And he sent a message unto him, saying – “The world is disturbed since the days of Silim and Tur, the valiant, since the times of Irij, who was killed unjustly. But now, let us forget these things, let us conclude an alliance together, and let peace reign in our borders. And Gersiwaz did as Afrasiyab bade, and he went forth, and a train of camels bearing rich presents followed after him. And he marched till he came within the tents of Saiawush.
Now when he had delivered his message unto Saiawush, the young King marvelled thereat; and he took counsel with Rustem how they should act, for he trusted not in the words of Afrasiyab, and he deemed that poison was hidden under these flowers. And Rustem counselled him that they should entertain Gersiwaz the space of seven days, and that joy and feasting should resound throughout the camp, and in the mean season they would ponder their deeds. And it was done as Rustem said, and the sounds of revelry were abroad, and Gersiwaz rejoiced in the presence of Saiawush. But on the eighth day Gersiwaz presented himself before Saiawush in audience, and demanded a reply. And Saiawush said – “We have pondered thy message, and we yield to thy request, for we desire not bloodshed but peace. Yet since it behoveth us to know that poison be not hidden under thy words, we desire of thee that thou send over to us as hostages an hundred chosen men of Turan, allied unto Afrasiyab by blood, that we may guard them as a pledge of thy words.”
When Gersiwaz heard this answer, he sent it unto Afrasiyab by a messenger quick as the wind. And Afrasiyab, when he heard it, was troubled, for he said – “If I give way to this demand I bereave the land of its choicest warriors; yet if I refuse, Saiawush will deny belief unto my words, and the evils foretold will fall upon me.” So he chose out from among his army men allied to him by blood, and he sent them forth unto Saiawush. Then he caused the trumpets to sound, and retreated with his army unto Turan, and restored unto Iran the lands he had seized. Now when Rustem beheld the warriors, and that Afrasiyab had spoken that which was true, he suffered Gersiwaz to depart; and he held counsel with Saiawush how they should acquaint Kai Kaous with that which was come to pass, for Saiawush said – “If Kai Kaous desire vengeance rather than peace, he will be angered and commit a deed of folly. Who shall bear unto him these tidings?” And Rustem said, “Suffer that I go forth to tell them unto Kai Kaous, for verily he will listen unto that which I shall speak, and honour will fall upon Saiawush for this adventure.”
Wherefore Rustem went before the King, and told him they had conquered Afrasiyab, and how he was become afraid, and how there was concluded a peace between them. And he vaunted the wisdom of Saiawush that was quick to act and quick to refrain, and he craved the Shah to confirm what they had done. But Kai Kaous was angered when he heard it, and he said that Saiawush had done like to an infant. And he loaded reproaches upon Rustem, and said that his counsels were vile, and he sware that he would be avenged upon Turan. Then he recalled all they had suffered in the days that were past at the hands of Afrasiyab, and he said the tree of vengeance could not be uprooted. And he desired Rustem that he turn him back unto Balkh, and say unto Saiawush that he should destroy these hostages of Turan, and that he should fall again upon Afrasiyab, nor cease from fighting. But Rustem, when he had heard him to an end, opened his mouth and said unto the Shah – “O King, listen to my voice, and do not that which is evil! Verily I say unto thee that Saiawush will not break his oath unto Afrasiyab, neither will he destroy these men of Turan that were delivered into his hands.”
When Kai Kaous heard his speech his anger was kindled, and he upbraided Rustem, and said that his evil counsels had caused Saiawush to swerve from the straight path; and he taunted him and bade him go back unto Seistan, and he said that Tus should go forth as Pehliva unto his son. Then Rustem too was angered, and he gave back the reproaches of the Shah, and he turned him and quitted the courts and sped him back unto his kingdom. But Kai Kaous sent Tus unto the army at his borders, and he bade him speak his desires unto Saiawush his son. Now Saiawush, when he learned what was come about, was sore discomfited, and he pondered how he should act. For he said, “How can I come before Ormuzd if I depart from mine oath? Yet, however I shall act, I see around me but perdition.” Then he called for Bahram and Zengueh, and confided to them his troubles. And he said how that Kai Kaous was a king who knew not good from evil, and how he had accomplished that wherefore the army went forth, yet how the Shah desired that vengeance should not cease. And he said – “If I listen to the commands of the King, I do that which is evil; yet if I listen not, surely he will destroy me. Wherefore I will send back unto Afrasiyab the men he hath placed within my hands, and then hide me from sight.”
Then he sent Zengueh before Afrasiyab with a writing. And he told therein all that was come about, and how that discord was sprouted out of their peace. And he recalled unto Afrasiyab how he had not broken their treaty though Kai Kaous had bidden him do it, and he said how he could not return unto the King his father. Then he prayed Afrasiyab that he would make a passage for him through his dominions, that he might hide him wheresoever God desired. For he said – “I seek a spot where my name shall be lost unto Kai Kaous, and where I may not know of his woeful deeds.” And Zengueh set forth and did as Saiawush desired, and he took with him the hundred men of Turan, and all the gold and jewels that Afrasiyab had sent. And when he was come within the gates Afrasiyab received him right kindly, but when he had heard his message he was downcast in his spirit.
Then he called for Piran, the leader of his hosts, and he took counsel with him how he should act. And Piran said – “O King, live for ever! There is but one road open unto thee. For this Prince is noble, and he hath done that which is right, for he would not give ear unto the evil designs of Kai Kaous, his father. Wherefore I counsel thee, receive him within thy courts, and give unto him a daughter in marriage, and let him be to thee a son; for verily, when Kai Kaous shall die, he will mount upon the throne of Iran, and thus may the hate of old be quenched in love.” Now Afrasiyab, when he had listened to the words of Piran, knew that they were good. So he sent for a scribe, and dictated a writing unto Saiawush. And he said unto him how the land was open to receive him, and how he would be to him a father, and how he should find in Turan the love that was denied of Kai Kaous. And he said – “I will demand of thee nought but what is good, neither will I suffer suspicion against thee to enter my soul.”
Then he sealed the letter with his royal seal, and gave it unto Zengueh the messenger, and bade him depart there with speed. And Saiawush, when he had read it, was glad, and yet he was also troubled in his spirit, for his heart was sore because he was forced to make a friend of the foe of his land. Yet he saw that it could in nowise be altered. So he wrote a letter to Kai Kaous, and he told him therein how it seemed that he could not do that which was right in his eyes, and he recalled unto him the troubles that were come upon him from Sudaveh, and he said how he could not break an oath he had made. Then he confided this writing unto Bahram, and he bade him take the lead of the army till that Tus should be come forth from Iran. And when he had chosen out an hundred warriors of renown from out the host, he departed with them across the border. Now when Tus arrived and learned what was come to pass, he was confounded; and when tidings thereof reached Kai Kaous, he was struck down with dismay. He cried out against Afrasiyab, and against Saiawush his son, and his anger was kindled. Yet he refrained from combat, and his mouth was silent of war.
In the meantime Saiawush was come into Turan, and all the land had decked itself to do him honour. And Piran came forth to greet him, and there followed after him elephants, white of hue, richly caparisoned, laden with gifts. And these he poured before Saiawush, and gave him welcome. And he told him how Afrasiyab yearned to look upon his face, and he said – “Turn thee in amity unto the King, and let not thy mind be troubled concerning that which thou hast heard about him. For Afrasiyab hath an ill fame, but he deserveth it not, for he is good.” Then Piran led Saiawush before Afrasiyab. And when Afrasiyab saw him, he rejoiced at his strength and his beauty, and his heart went out towards him, and he embraced him, and spake, saying – “The evil that hath disturbed the world is quieted, and the lamb and the leopard can feed together, for now is there friendship between our lands.”
Then he called down blessings upon the head of Saiawush, and he took him by the hand and seated him beside him on the throne. And he turned to Piran, and said – “Kai Kaous is a man void of sense, or surely he would not suffer a son like unto this to depart from out his sight.” And Afrasiyab could not cease from gazing upon Saiawush, and all that he had he placed it at his command. He gave to him a palace, and rich brocades, and jewels and gold past the counting; and he prepared for him a feast, and there were played the games of skill, and Saiawush showed his prowess before Afrasiyab. And the sight of Saiawush became a light to the eyes of the King of Turan and a joy unto his heart, and he loved him like to a father. And Saiawush abode within his courts many days, and in gladness and in sorrow, in gaiety or in sadness, Afrasiyab would have none other about him. And the name of Saiawush abode ever upon his lips. And in this wise there rolled twelve moons over their heads, and in the end Saiawush took unto himself to wife the daughter of Piran the Pehliva. And yet again the heavens revolved above his head, and he continued to abide within the house of Afrasiyab. Then Piran gave counsel unto Saiawush that he should ask of Afrasiyab the hand of his daughter to wife. For he said – “Thy home is now in Turan, wherefore it behoveth thee to establish thy might; and if Afrasiyab be thy father indeed, there can no hurt come near to thee. And peradventure, if a son be born unto thee of the daughter of Afrasiyab, he will bind up for ever the enmity of the lands.”
And Saiawush listened to the counsel of Piran, for he knew that it was good, and he asked the hand of Ferangis of her father, and Afrasiyab gave it to him with great joy. Then a mighty feast was made for the bridal, and Afrasiyab poured gifts upon Saiawush past the telling, and he bestowed on him a kingdom and a throne, and he blessed him as his son; and when at length he suffered him to go forth unto his realm, he sorrowed sore at his loss. Now the space of one year did Saiawush abide in his province, and at the end thereof, when he had visited its breadth, he builded for himself a city in the midst. And he named it Gangdis, and it was a place of beauty, such as the world hath not seen the like. And Saiawush built houses and planted trees without number, and he also caused an open space to be made wherein men could rejoice in the game of ball. And he was glad in the possession of this city, and all men around him rejoiced, and the earth was the happier for his presence, and there was no cloud upon the heaven of his life. Yet the Mubids told unto him that Gangdis would lead to his ill-fortune, and Saiawush was afflicted thereat. But when a little time was sped and he beheld no evil, he put from him their words, and he rejoiced in the time that was; and he was glad in the house of his women, and he put his trust in Afrasiyab.
But that which is written in the stars, surely it must be accomplished! So it came about after many years that Gersiwaz was jealous of the love which Afrasiyab his brother bare unto Saiawush, and of the power that was his; and he pondered in his heart how he might destroy him. Then he came before Afrasiyab, and prayed the King that he would suffer him to go forth and visit the city that Saiawush had builded, whereof the mouths of men ran over in praises. And Afrasiyab granted his request, and bade him bear words of love unto Saiawush his son. So Gersiwaz sped forth unto the city of Gangdis, and the master thereof received him kindly, and asked him tidings of the King. And he feasted him many days within his house, and he showed freely unto him all that was his; and when he departed he heaped gifts upon his head, for he knew not that Gersiwaz came in enmity unto him, and that these things but fanned his envy.
Now when Gersiwaz returned unto Afrasiyab, the King questioned him concerning his darling. Then Gersiwaz answered and said – “O King, he is no longer the man whom thou knewest. His spirit is uplifted in pride of might, and his heart goeth out towards Iran. And but that I should make my name to be infamous unto the nations, I would have hidden from thee this grief. But it behoveth me to tell unto thee that which I have seen and which mine ears have heard. For it hath been made known unto me that Saiawush is in treaty with his father, and that they seek to destroy thee utterly.” When Afrasiyab heard these words he would not let them take root in his spirit, yet he could not refuse countenance to the testimony of his brother. And he was sad, and spake not, and Gersiwaz knew not whether the seeds he had strewn had taken root. So when a few days were gone by he came again before the King and repeated unto him the charges that he had made, and he urged him to act, and suffer not Turan to be disgraced. Then Afrasiyab was caught in the meshes of the net that Gersiwaz had spread. And he bade Gersiwaz go forth and summon Saiawush unto his courts, and invite him to bring the daughter of Afrasiyab to feast with her father. And Gersiwaz sped forth with gladness, and delivered the message of Afrasiyab unto the young King. Then Saiawush said – “I am ready to do the will of Afrasiyab, and the bridle of my horse is tied unto thy charger.”
Then Gersiwaz thought within him, “If Saiawush come into the presence of Afrasiyab, his courage and open spirit will give the lie unto my words.” So he feigned before Saiawush a great sorrow, and when the King questioned him thereof he consented to pour out before him the griefs of his spirit. And he said to him how that he loved him tenderly, and how he was in sorrow for his sake, because that the ear of Afrasiyab had been poisoned against him, and he counselled him that he should not seek the courts of the King. And he said – “Suffer me to return alone, and I will soften the heart of Afrasiyab towards thee; and when he shall be returned unto a right spirit, I will summon thee forth unto his house.”
Now Saiawush, who was true and void of guile, listened unto these words, for he knew not that they were false. So he sent words of greeting and of excuse unto Afrasiyab, and he said that he could not quit the chamber of Ferangis, for she was sick and chained unto her couch. And Gersiwaz rode forth bearing the letter, and he sware unto Saiawush that he would cement the peace that was broken. But when he came unto Afrasiyab he delivered not the writing, but spake evil things of Saiawush, and maligned him. And he fed the anger of Afrasiyab, until the King commanded that the army be led forth to go against Saiawush his friend, and he took the lead thereof himself. Now when the men of Turan came nigh unto the city that Saiawush had builded, Gersiwaz sent an envoy unto Saiawush, saying – “Flee, I counsel thee, for my words have availed nought, and Afrasiyab cometh forth in enmity against thee.”
When Saiawush learned this he was sore downcast in his spirit, and he went unto Ferangis and charged her how she should act when he should be fallen by the hands of Afrasiyab, for he held it vile to go forth in combat with one who had been to him a father. So he made ready his house for death. Now when he came to his steed of battle he pressed its head unto his breast, and he wept over it and spake into its ear. And he said – “Listen, O my horse, and be brave and prudent; neither attach thyself unto any man until the day that Kai Khosrau, my son, shall arise to avenge me. From him alone receive the saddle and the rein.”
Then he bade the men of Iran that were about him go back unto their land, and when all was ready he went forth beyond the gates. But even yet he hoped to turn from him the suspicions of Afrasiyab, and he would not suffer his men to offer combat unto the men of Turan. So he went before Afrasiyab, and questioned him wherefore he was come out in anger against him. Now Gersiwaz suffered not Afrasiyab to reply, but heaped reproaches upon Saiawush, and said that he had received him vilely, and that he had slandered his benefactor. And Saiawush, when he had listened, was confounded, and in vain did he strive to bear down the upbraiding of his foe. For the heart of Afrasiyab was angered yet the more, now that his eyes rested yet again upon the face of Saiawush, whom he loved, because he deemed that he must give credit unto the words of his brother, and because distrust of Iran was graven in his soul.
So he hardened himself against the speech of Saiawush, and he bade the army fall upon his beloved. But Saiawush remembered his oath, and he stretched not forth his hand against Afrasiyab, neither did he defend himself from the assaults of his men, and he bade the warriors that were with him that they unsheathe not the sword. So speedily were they mown down, and their bodies lay round about Saiawush their King. And when all were slain a knight stretched out his hand against Saiawush, yet he slew him not, but bound him with cords, and led him before Afrasiyab the King. And Afrasiyab commanded that Saiawush be led forth into a desert place, and that his head be severed from off his trunk. Now the army murmured when they heard this command, and beheld the beauty of Saiawush and his face of truth, and there stepped forth one from among the nobles to plead for him. But Gersiwaz would not suffer the heart of Afrasiyab to be softened.
Now while Gersiwaz yet spake evil of the young King, there came forth from the house of the women Ferangis, the daughter of Afrasiyab, and she demanded audience of her father. And when he would have denied it, she forced herself into his presence, and she pleaded for her lord, and she sware that evil tongues had maligned him, and she entreated of her father that he would not destroy the joy he had given to her. And she said – “Listen, O King! if thou destroyest Saiawush, thou becomest a foe unto thyself. Deliver not by thy folly the land of Turan unto the winds, and remember the deeds that have been done of Iran in the days that are gone by. An avenger will arise from out the midst of the Kaianides. Mayest thou never recall my counsel too late.” But the world grew dark before the eyes of Afrasiyab with anger. And he spake, and said – “Go hence, and trouble not again my face; for how canst thou judge of that which is right?” Then he commanded that she should be bound, and cast into a dungeon.
Now Gersiwaz, when he beheld the anger of the King, deemed that the time was ripe. He therefore gave a sign unto the men that held Saiawush in bondage, and desired that they should slay him. And by the hairs of his head they dragged him unto a desert place, and the sword of Gersiwaz was planted in the breast of the royal cedar. But when it was done, and they had severed the head from the trunk, a mighty storm arose over the earth, and the heavens were darkened. Then they trembled and were sore afraid, and repented them of their deed. And clamour arose in the house of Saiawush, and the cries of Ferangis reached even unto Afrasiyab her father. Then the King commanded that she should be killed also. But Piran spake, and said – “Not so, wicked and foolish man. Wouldst thou lift thine hand against thine offspring, and hast thou not done enough that is evil? Shed not, I counsel thee, the blood of yet another innocent. But if thou desire to look no more upon Ferangis, I pray thee confide her unto me, that she may be to me a daughter in my house, and I will guard her from sorrow.” Then Afrasiyab said, “Do that which seemeth best in thy sight.” And he was glad in his heart, for he desired not to look upon the face that should recall to him the friend that he had loved. So Piran took Ferangis unto his house beyond the mountains, and Afrasiyab returned unto his courts. But the King was sorrowful in his spirit and unquiet in his heart, and he could not cease from thinking of Saiawush, and he repented of that which he had done.
(from ‘The Epic of Kings’ by Ferdowsi, translated by Helen Zimmern)
Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is a painting from a 16th century copy of the Shahnameh. It shows Saiawush (Siyavash) being slayed on the orders of his father-in-law, Afrasiyab. The painting was recovered from a manuscript from Shiraz, Iran.