Chapter 6 – Gustahm arrives in the city of Ctesiphon, bringing Bahram Gurd the Emperor of China
SIX — Gustahm arrives in the city of Ctesiphon, bringing Bahram Gurd the Emperor of China, with supreme grandeur and glory and splendor.
Naushervan showed Hamzah much honor, allowing him to choose his own seat at court. Hamzah chose the magnificent Seat of Rustam, which was located next to the throne itself.
When Amar kissed the kings feet, the king extended a hand to bless him. Amar deftly stole the kings superb ring from his finger. When the king later realized that it was gone, he had everyone present searched; Amar slipped the ring into Bakhtaks robe, where it was in due course discovered. The king, outraged, banished Bakhtak from court. But Hamzah generously interceded on his behalf, revealing that the trick had been of Amars doing. Naushervan pardoned Bakhtak, praised Amars skill in ayyari, and rewarded Amar with the very ring he had stolen.
When the Amir arrived at Tal Shad Kam, he had just laid aside his court robes, removed his weapons, and prepared to take his ease, when a note from Bakhtak arrived in a letter to Khvajah Amar to this effect: “I have sent five hundred tumans in cash, and a promissory note for five hundred more, as an offering. This money is for your pleasure. Very soon Ill send the money pledged in the promissory note, and ask you to send the note back; from time to time Ill make other offerings also. I hope that in the future you will not be quite so intimate with me, and will not humiliate me so deeply before the whole court, so that I wont be made light of and treated with contempt and disdain. Thanks to your grace, I too have my honor among the Sasanians, and am highly esteemed by them.” Taking the cash and the promissory note, Amar was very happy, and said to himself, “Praise be to God, I have seen the face of my first coin, what a huge capital has fallen into my hands! Its an auspicious start; Ive done nothing but sit at home, and the Lord has sent it.” And in his reply to the letter he apologized, and wrote out a receipt for the cash and the promissory note.
The next day the Amir again went with his companions to the royal court, and as usual sat down in the same seat. When the Sasanian lords saw this, they writhed on beds of hot coals, and brooded: “Somehow we must demean and devalue Amir Hamzah in the kings eyes. This upstart who comes and puts himself forward must be shown the fruit of his deeds!” One day the Amir was in court, sitting as usual in that seat, when a young man as tall as a tower, with a coat of chain mail, a helmet, a steel corselet, foot-socks and thigh-guards, weapons slung on his body, his robe tied up at the waist, sleeves long enough to use for handkerchiefs, iron gauntlets on his hands, and holding his sword-hilt, presented himself in court, and made obeisance to the king with the greatest dignity and respect. When he had sat down, he looked askance at the Amir, and petitioned the king, “Your Majesty has sent my father on the expedition to Kabul and allowed an Arab to sit in his place! What sort of esteem and justice is this? And is it the honor and respect due to retainers loyal to the death? Soon my father will present himself before you, victorious. Then well see whether an Arab can sit in this seat so expansively!”
When the Amir heard this speech, he could not restrain himself. He asked the king, “Who is this, and where does he come from, that he behaves so rebelliously and insolently? And what is he saying?” Naushervan said, “His name is Faulad bin Gustahm. When Bahram Gurd the Emperor of China rebelled, I sent this ones father to chastise him. Accordingly, Gustahm has captured him and is bringing him along; hell arrive soon, hell return successful. This seat in which you are sitting is his, this seat was bestowed on him. Thus your sitting in it displeases Faulad, it is a heavy weight on his neck, and he says the seat is his fathers and asks why I have allowed you to sit in it.” The Amir said, “I too want his father to encounter me, so that the vanquished may be subservient to the victor.”
When Faulad heard this he grew angry, frowned, and said, “Oh Arab, fight with my father afterwards; first test your grip against mine, and try your strength to your hearts content.” The Amir said, “In the name of God, begin.” Faulad sat down next to the Amir and engaged him in arm-wrestling. The Amir gave Faulads hand a jerk, and he fell down from the seat. In impotent rage, he drew his dagger and fell on the Amir. The Amir snatched his dagger away. Hurmuz said to Faulad, “Oh Faulad, do you want to turn the whole court upside down? You have already been humiliated so much, and you still arent through being intransigent! Come here, sit down and keep quiet, dont make such a fuss. Otherwise in the future you may be exposed to even more humiliation, you may be dishonored and insulted before the whole court.” Hanging his head, Faulad went and sat down near Hurmuz. The king, making excuses to the Amir, dismissed the court. In short, every day the Amir, with his companions, came to court; and when the court was dismissed, he went to Tal Shad Kam and took his ease.
After ten or twelve days, the king was informed that Gustahm was bringing Bahram Gurd the Emperor of China and four thousand Uzbek champions whom he had captured, and had halted eight miles away, and was waiting for a command; whenever he was ordered, he would present himself and have the honor of kissing the kings feet. Since Bakhtaks heart was full of malice toward the Amir, he was always thinking of ways to discredit the Amir and somehow diminish his dignity and honor. The king had gone out to welcome the Amir, and this was being talked about in many lands. Bakhtak, because of his rivalry, wanted to take the king along to welcome Gustahm, and to put the idea in peoples heads that if the king had gone to welcome the Amir, then it was no cause for pride: whenever any servant of the kings returns victorious from some expedition, the king goes out to welcome him, and his prosperous and victorious majesty augments the servants esteem and honor. In short, by urging such arguments, Bakhtak took the king out to welcome Gustahm, and he himself rode along with him. On the way, Buzurchmihr said to the king, “Amir Hamzah must ride along as well. Such lordly and courageous and celebrated companions are the glory of Your Majestys army.” Then the king sent to tell the Amir, “We are going to welcome Gustahm; you come too, and bring your army and companions.”
The king had gone about two miles out of the city when he saw Gustahm bin Ashk, wearing golden slippers and a coat of chain mail with shoulder-guards, riding on a rhinoceros, twirling his moustaches, coming along under the shade of his wolf-shaped banner; and from his looks it appeared that having captured and brought Emperor Gurd of China, he didnt consider anybody elses courage and bravery and prowess except his own worth anything at all. Seeing him, the Sasanians were delighted: “Now he has come, he will subdue the Amir! Our hearts desire has been obtained.” Gustahm, dismounting from his horse, kissed the foot of the kings throne, and told the whole story of his bravery, and of the capture of Bahram, the Emperor of China, and of the battle, with the most perfect eloquence. The king prostrated himself in gratitude before his one hundred seventy-five gods, and turned back toward the fort. At a sign from Bakhtak, Gustahm remained behind, and did not go with the king. On their way back, the kings party met the Amir on the road. The king said to the Amir, “Come and meet Gustahm, listen to his conversation and be entertained for a little while.” The Amir said, “Very good, what cause could I have to hesitate? To obey you is my honor and good fortune.”
Now please hear about Bakhtak. Complaining to Gustahm about the Amir, he said, “On top of everything else, this Arab is so vain of his valor that he rudely sat down in your seat. And defeating Faulad in arm-wrestling, he abased and humiliated him in front of the whole court. Thank heavens youve arrived! Come quickly, and when you embrace him, squeeze him so tightly that you soften up his bones! That way he will be warned, and in the future such deeds of vanity and arrogance will not occur in your presence.” Gustahm said, “It will be just as you say.”
In the meantime the Amir and his retinue arrived and entered Gustahms pavilion. When Gustahm saw the Amir, he dismounted and came forward to welcome him. The Amir too got down from his horse; both drew near to embrace each other. When they embraced, first Gustahm squeezed the Amir with his whole strength, and uttered words of warmth and enthusiasm. Then the Amir too expressed his enthusiasm, and then squeezed him so hard that several times wind came out of Gustahms asshole. Embarrassed, he said in the Amirs ear, “Oh Amir, you are chivalrous. Dont tell anybody about this, dont make me ashamed and embarrassed; let it remain a secret just between us.” The Amir said, “It will be just as you say.” Gustahm set out toward the fort, and his army too went with him.
The Amir began to stroll in the meadow, and his companions, following him, were exchanging anecdotes and pleasantries, when they chanced to notice a coffin tightly bound in chains, and four thousand fierce horsemen following behind it. The Amir asked the guards, “What is in this coffin?” They said, “Bahram Gurd the Emperor of China is shut up in it, he whose chivalry and courage are of high renown in the world.” The Amir said, “Does anyone shut up champions and kings and transport them like this? Does anyone capture chivalrous warriors and torment them like this?” He had the box put down on the ground, and at once caused his servants to open it. In it he saw a handsome young man, in iron fetters, lying unconscious.
The Amir, removing him from the box, released him from captivity, and sprinkled rose-water and restoratives on his face, and gently dropped apple and pomegranate sherbets (which the Amirs porters had been carrying with them) into his mouth. When he regained consciousness, the Amir asked, “Who are you, oh champion?” He said, “On reaching your noble mansion Ill tell you about my life, Ill tell you the whole story. Right now its not in me. I dont have the strength, I cant even shape the words.” At once the Amir ordered a horse and mounted him on it, and freed all the prisoners who were with him. With the fullest respect he brought them along, and quickly arrived at his camp. He placed Bahram Gurd, the Emperor of China, on his own bed, and ordered smelling salts to be administered, and had a delicate sweet porridge of almonds and raisins given to him to drink. He had various kinds of the most elegant foods cooked for his companions, and fed them wonderfully well.
When Emperor Gurd of China was fully restored to consciousness and recovered, the Amir said, “Although it is inappropriate and inhumane and disrespectful to ask you about your own circumstances, and the signs of kingship and glorious lineage appear very clearly in your noble face, still there is no one else worthy to be asked about you, and I dont have the patience to wait, so I ask you yourself to graciously tell me all about your lineage, and inform me of your name and rank without delay.” Bahram said, “You have saved me, you have restored me to life! Otherwise in the space of a few more breaths my breath would have left me, I would have set out for the land of Nothingness. For many days I was shut up in that coffin without food or water. I constantly longed for death, but the Lord sent me to you, He has shown me this auspicious day. It seems that I still somehow have a little more life in my destiny, and a few more days to spend.”
The Amir said, “Oh Bahram, how did Gustahm conquer you, and how were you overpowered and trapped by him?” He reported, “On the battlefield I had overthrown and conquered him, and killed and destroyed his army, and captured him. For four years he eagerly served and obeyed me. One day while hunting I had gone off quite a distance, and my army was far from me. When I grew thirsty, I asked him for water. He, finding his opportunity, put knockout drops in the water and gave it to me. When I lost consciousness, he called his companions, who were outwardly pretending to be part of my army, and chained me and shut me up in a coffin, and inflicted various kinds of pain and suffering on me.” The Amir spoke comforting words to him. Pleased, Bahram said, “Thank heavens I am indebted to the one who has no equal in the Seven Realms.”
When Gustahm heard that the Amir had taken Bahram Gurd, the Emperor of China, along with the captives from his army, to his own camp, and released both Bahram Gurd and the other captives, and pleased and comforted Bahrams heart very much with hospitality and attention, he burned with anger. At once he went and told the whole story in detail to the king. The king too was greatly displeased by this mischief of the Amirs, and entirely disapproved of it. At once he sent for the Amir and said, “Oh Father of Greatness, do you know that I have no enemy like Bahram in the Seven Realms? You gave no thought to me! What did you mean by freeing him?”
The Amir said, “You are the Center of the World, you are the King of Kings of the Seven Realms. If you overpower champions and heroes by deceit like this, people will speak of you without respect. It will be written in the histories, it will be discussed in royal courts for all eternity: Naushervan was the kind of ruler in whose reign champions were captured by treachery and imprisoned, and his servants and chief lords and champions, etc., were always ready for trickery and deceit. Bahram is hardly so invincible that he cant be overcome in open battle, and victoriously overthrown by some stalwart warrior!” Naushervan said, “Where is Bahram? Send for him, and bring him quickly to the court. I want to ask him about the circumstances of his capture, and hear his story with my own ears.”
The Amir had left Bahram in the antechamber; he called him at once. Addressing Bahram, the king said, “Did Gustahm capture you through heroism, or enslave and imprison you through unmanly means?” Bahram petitioned, “Let Your Majesty just consider this, and look with the eye of justice: for four months I was starved, without even a taste of food or water. And on top of this, I was shut up in a coffin in iron shackles, longing for even a glimpse of the world outside. If the Amir had left me in the coffin for even a little longer, I would have died, and set out for the world of eternity. Thus you can see that I am very weak! But even in this condition, if Gustahm comes before me Ill wrest his sword away from him; and if I do not do so, then I deserve to be punished with death.” Gustahm, with the Sasanian army, was present in court. The king said, “What do you say? Are you listening to him?” Gustahm hung his head, and made no answer at all.
Then the king asked Bahram, “Will you try your strength on Amir Hamzah?” Bahram said, “I am at your service; once I have made a claim I should not back down from it.” The Amir said, “Oh Center of the World, he is still extremely weak; there is no strength or stamina at all in him. Let him be well nourished and cared for for forty days, then hell regain his usual strength. At that time, you will certainly enjoy seeing his powerful grips and our prowess in a trial of strength.” These words of the Amir pleased the king very much. Bestowing robes of honor on the Amir and Bahram both, he showed much royal favor, and commanded, “Very well, Hamzah, let Bahram remain in your custody; you must personally supervise his care and training. After forty days, well have a wrestling match between you two, well see your prowess, well see how you both shape up.” Gladly the Amir took Bahram safe and sound to his own camp, and began to care for him.
When forty days had passed, on the forty-first day the Amir, with Bahram, presented himself before the king and said, “Let me now wrestle with Bahram, he has been fed very well and gotten into condition. Please watch the wrestling.” The king asked Bahram, “What is your wish, how do you feel in your heart?” Bahram said, “I am here to serve you, how could I refuse Your Majestys order?” The king said, “Very well, I will watch the show, and see what you two can do.” He ordered the wrestling arena to be prepared, and it was at once made ready. The Amir and Bahram, putting on drawers and caps of tiger-skin, girded their loins and, slapping their thighs in challenge, began to struggle with each other. Both, seizing each other by the neck, crashed their foreheads together with a force that would have pulverized a chunk of iron into coal-dust. Neither ones forehead was at all affected. For a full three hours they tried their grips and holds on each other, but neither could force the other to give way at all, much less throw him down.
Finally the Amir called out, “God is great!” and lifted Bahram high above his head. Bahram said, “Oh Amir, I see that your strength is God-given. No one in the world is stronger than you; indeed you have no equal. I submit to you. Dont hurl me to the ground, dont disgrace me in front of thousands of champions!” The Amir lowered him lightly to the ground; from all sides voices were raised in admiration and praise. The king complimented the Amir. The Amir bowed deeply and said, “Bahram, now you must remain in the kings service, and earn honor at this court.” Bahram said, “I am your worthless slave, I cannot stay with anyone but you. How can I leave your service?” The king said, “If he stays with you, then he stays with me.” And sending for robes of honor, he bestowed them on the Amir and Bahram.
The Amir took Bahram to his own camp, and treated him with favor and generosity: he set aside a kitchen and a stable for him, and forty of his own special horses with gold and silver saddles, and seven rows of humped camels loaded with equipment, and forty donkey-loads of gold and silver coins, and a quarter of the annual tribute of the lands of Yemen, and the entire booty seized from Hisham. And he wrote everything that had happened so far in a letter, and sent it through Amar to Khvajah Abdul Muttalib.SUGGESTED FOR YOU