The Seven Stages of Roostem
Persia was at peace, and prosperous; but its king, Ky-Kâoos, could never remain at rest. A favourite singer gave him one day an animated account of the beauties of the neighbouring kingdom of Mazenderan: its ever-blooming roses, its melodious nightingales, its verdant plains, its mountains shaded with lofty trees, and adorned to their summits with flowers which perfumed the air, its clear murmuring rivulets, and, above all, its lovely damsels and valiant warriors.
All these were described to the sovereign in such glowing colours that he quite lost his reason, and declared he should never be happy till his power extended over a country so favoured by Nature. It was in vain that his wisest ministers and most attached nobles dissuaded him from so hazardous an enterprise as that of invading a region which had, besides other defenders, a number of Deevs, or demons, who, acting under their renowned chief, Deev-e-Seffeed, or the White Demon, had hitherto defeated all enemies.
Ky-Kâoos would not listen to his nobles, who in despair sent for old Zâl, the father of Roostem, and prince of Seestan. Zâl came, and used all his efforts, but in vain; the monarch was involved in clouds of pride, and closed a discussion he had with Zâl by exclaiming, “The Creator of the world is my friend; the chief of the Deevs is my prey.” This impious boasting satisfied Zâl he could do no good; and he even refused to become regent of Persia in the absence of Ky-Kâoos, but promised to aid with his counsel.
The king departed to anticipated conquest; but the prince of Mazenderan summoned his forces, and, above all, the Deev-e-Seffeed and his band. They came at his call: a great battle ensued, in which the Persians were completely defeated. Ky-Kâoos was made prisoner, and confined in a strong fortress under the guard of a hundred Deevs, commanded by Arjeng, who was instructed to ask the Persian monarch every morning how he liked the roses, nightingales, flowers, trees, verdant meadows, shady mountains, clear streams, beautiful damsels, and valiant warriors of Mazenderan.