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- The Brown Fairy Book - 5/54 -


till dawn, when the king lion said good-bye, and gave him a few of his own hairs and said: 'When you are in any difficulty, burn one of these and I will be there.' Then it went off into the jungle.

Prince Almas immediately started; he rode till he came to the parting of the ways. He remembered quite well that the right-hand way was short and dangerous, but he bethought himself too that whatever was written on his forehead would happen, and took the forbidden road. By-and-by he saw a castle, and knew from what Jamila had told him that it was the Place of Clashing Swords. He would have liked to go back by the way ho had come, but courage forbade, and he said, 'What has been preordained from eternity will happen to me,' and went on towards the castle. He was thinking of tying his horse to a tree which grew near the gate when a negro came out and spied him. ' Ha!' said the wretch to himself, 'this is good; Taram-taq has not eaten man-meat for a long time, and is craving for some. I will take this creature to him.' He took hold of the prince's reins, and said: 'Dismount, man-child! Come to my master. He has wanted to eat man-meat this long time back.' 'What nonsense are you saying?' said the prince, and other such words. When the negro understood that he was being abused, he cried: 'Come along! I will put you into such a state that the birds of the air will weep for you.' Then the prince drew the Scorpion of So]omon and struck him--struck him on the leathern belt and shore him through so that the sword came out on the other side. He stood upright for a little while, muttered some words, put out his hand to seize the prince, then fell in two and surrendered his life.

There was water close at hand, and the prince made his ablution, and then said: 'O my heart! a wonderful task lies upon you.' A second negro came out of the fort, and seeing what had been done, went back and told his chief. Others wished to be doubled, and went out, and of every one the Scorpion of Solomon made two. Then Taram-taq sent for a giant negro named Chil-maq, who in the day of battle was worth three hundred, and said to him: 'I shall thank you to fetch me that man.'

Chil-maq went out, tall as a tower, and bearing a shield of eight millstones, and as he walked he shouted: 'Ho! blunder- head! by what right do you come to our country and kill our people? Come! make two of me.' As the prince was despicable in his eyes, he tossed aside his club and rushed to grip him with his hands. He caught him by the collar, tucked him under his arm and set off with him to Taram-taq. But the prince drew the dagger of Timus and thrust it upwards through the giant's armpit, for its full length. This made Chil-maq drop him and try to pick up his club; but when he stooped the mighty sword shore him through at the waist.

When news of his champion's death reached Taram-taq he put himself at the head of an army of his negroes and led them forth. Many fell before the magic sword, and the prince laboured on in spite of weakness and fatigue till he was almost worn out. In a moment of respite from attack he struck his fire-steel and burned a hair of the king-lion; and he had just succeeded in this when the negroes charged again and all but took him prisoner. Suddenly from behind the distant veil of the desert appeared an army of lions led by their king. 'What brings these scourges of heaven here?' cried the negroes. They came roaring up, and put fresh life into the prince. He fought on, and when he struck on a belt the wearer fell in two, and when on a head he cleft to the waist. Then the ten thousand mighty lions joined the fray and tore in pieces man and horse.

Taram-taq was left alone; he would have retired into his fort, but the prince shouted: 'Whither away, accursed one? Are you fleeing before me?' At these defiant words the chief shouted back, 'Welcome, man! Come here and I will soften you to wax beneath my club.' Then he hurled his club at the prince's head, but it fell harmless because the prince had quickly spurred his horse forward. The chief, believing he had hit him, was looking down for him, when all at once he came up behind and cleft him to the waist and sent him straight to hell.

The king-lion greatly praised the dashing courage of Prince Almas. They went together into the Castle of Clashing Swords and found it adorned and fitted in princely fashion. In it was a daughter of Taram taq, still a child She sent a message to Prince Almas saying, 'O king of the world! choose this slave to be your handmaid. Keep her with you; where you go, there she will go! ' He sent for her and she kissed his feet and received the Mussulman faith at his hands. He told her he was going a long journey on important business, and that when he came back he would take her and her possessions to his own country, but that for the present she must stay in the castle. Then he made over the fort and all that was in it to the care of the lion, saying: 'Guard them, brother! let no one lay a hand on them.' He said goodbye, chose a fresh horse from the chief's stable and once again took the road.

After travelling many stages and for many days, he reached a plain of marvellous beauty and refreshment. It was carpeted with flowers--roses, tulips, and clover; it had lovely lawns, and amongst them running water. This choicest place of earth filled him with wonder. There was a tree such as he had never seen before; its branches were alike, but it bore flowers and fruit of a thousand kinds. Near it a reservoir had been fashioned of four sorts of stone--touchstone, pure stone, marble, and loadstone. In and out of it flowed water like attar. The prince felt sure this must be the place of the Simurgh.' he dismounted, turned his horse loose to graze, ate some of the food Jamila had given him, drank of the stream and lay down to sleep.

He was still dozing when he was aroused by the neighing and pawing of his horse. When he could see clearly he made out a mountain-like dragon whose heavy breast crushed the stones beneath it into putty. He remembered the Thousand Names of God and took the bow of Salih from its case and three arrows from their quiver. He bound the dagger of Tlmus firmly to his waist and hung the scorpion of Solomon round his neck. Then he set an arrow on the string and released it with such force that it went in at the monster's eye right up to the notch. The dragon writhed on itself, and belched forth an evil vapour, and beat the ground with its head till the earth quaked. Then the prince took a second arrow and shot into its throat. It drew in its breath and would have sucked the prince into its maw, but when he was within striking distance he drew his sword and, having committed himself to God, struck a mighty blow which cut the creature's neck down to the gullet. The foul vapour of the beast and horror at its strangeness now overcame the prince, and he fainted. When he came to himself he found that he was drenched in the gore of the dead monster. He rose and thanked God for his deliverance.

The nest of the Simurgh was in the wonderful tree above him, and in it were young birds; the parents were away searching for food. They always told the children, before they left them, not to put their heads out of the nest; but, to-day, at the noise of the fight below, they looked down and so saw the whole affair. By the time the dragon had been killed they were very hungry and set up a clamour for food. The prince therefore cut up the dragon and fed them with it, bit by bit, till they had eaten the whole. He then washed himself and lay down to rest, and he was still asleep when the Simurgh came home. As a rule, the young birds raised a clamour of welcome when their parents came near, but on this day they were so full of dragon-meat that they had no choice, they had to go to sleep.

As they flew nearer, the old birds saw the prince lying under the tree and no sign of life in the nest. They thought that the misfortune which for so many earlier years had befallen them had again happened and that their nestlings had disappeared. They had never been able to find out the murderer, and now suspected the prince. ' He has eaten our children and sleeps after it; he must die,' said the father-bird, and flew back to the hills and clawed up a huge stone which he meant to let fall on the prince's head. But his mate said, 'Let us look into the nest first for to kill an innocent person would condemn us at the Day of Resurrection.' They flew nearer, and presently the young birds woke and cried, 'Mother, what have you brought for us?' and they told the whole story of the fight, and of how they were alive only by the favour of the young man under the tree, and of his cutting up the dragon and of their eating it. The mother-bird then remarked, 'Truly, father! you were about to do a strange thing, and a terrible sin has been averted from you.' Then the Simurgh flew off to a distance with the great stone and dropped it. It sank down to the very middle of the earth.

Coming back, the Simurgh saw that a little sunshine fell upon the prince through the leaves, and it spread its wings and shaded him till he woke. When he got up he salaamed to it, who returned his greeting with joy and gratitude, and caressed him and said: 'O youth, tell me true! who are you, and where are you going? And how did you cross that pitiless desert where never yet foot of man had trod?' The prince told his story from beginning to end, and finished by saying: 'Now it is my heart's wish that you should help me to get to Waq of the Caucasus. Perhaps, by your favour, I shall accomplish my task and avenge my brothers.' In reply the Simurgh.' first blessed the deliverer of his children, and then went on: ' What you have done no child of man has ever done before; you assuredly have a claim on all my help, for every year up till now that dragon has come here and has destroyed my nestlings, and I have never been able to find who was the murderer and to avenge myself. By God's grace you have removed my children's powerful foe. I regard you as a child of my own. Stay with me; I will give you everything you desire, and I will establish a city here for you, and will furnish it with every requisite; I will give you the land of the Caucasus, and will make its princes subject to you. Give up the journey to Waq, it is full of risk, and the jins there will certainly kill you.' But nothing could move the prince, and seeing this the bird went on: 'Well, so be it! When you wish to set forth you must go into the plain and take seven head of deer, and must make water-tight bags of their hides and keep their flesh in seven portions. Seven seas lie on our way-- I will carry you over them; but if I have not food and drink we shall fall into the sea and be drowned. When I ask for it you must put food and water into my mouth. So we shall make the journey safely.'

The prince did all as he was told, then they took flight; they crossed the seven seas, and at each one the prince fed the Simurgh When they alighted on the shore of the last sea, it said: 'O my son! there lies your road; follow it to the city. Take thee three feathers of mine, and, if you are in a difficulty, burn one and I will be with you in the twinkling of an eye.'

The prince walked on in solitude till he reached the city. He went in and wandered about through all quarters, and through bazaars and lanes and squares, in the least knowing from whom he


The Brown Fairy Book - 5/54

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