King Rostevan and Avt'handil Go Hunting
72
EARLY in the morning Avt'handil came forth like a
well-grown lily; he was clad in crimson, his face was of
crystal and ruby, over his face was a golden veil, he was
fair in huntsman's apparel. He rode upon a white steed; he
invited the king to come forth.
73
THE king was arrayed, he mounted, they set out for the
chase. The people surrounded the field, they made a ring
round about it; there was much mirth and excitement; the
armies kept the ground. For their wager were they hooting
and striving together.
74
THE king commanded the twelve slaves: "Come,
accompany us, bring us the swift bows, prepare the arrows,
compare what is struck and keep count of the shots.
" Game began to come in from every corner of the plain.
75
HERDS of game, innumerable, flocked in: stags, goats,
wild-asses, high-leaping chamois. Lord and vassal pursued
them; what sight could be fairer! Behold the bow, the
arrow, and the untiring arm!
76
THE dust from their horses' tracks cut off the sun's rays.
They slew, their arrows sped, blood flowed through the
field; as the shafts were shot away the slaves brought
more of them. The beasts wounded by them could not take
another step.
77
THEY ran through that field; they drove the herd before
them. They slew and exterminated, they made wroth the
God of the heavens, the fields were dyed crimson with
the blood they shed from the beasts. Those who watched
Avt'handil said: "He is like an aloe-tree planted in Eden."
78
THEY coursed over the whole of that plain only they had
travelled over. There on the farther edge of the plain
flows a stream; on the bank of the stream are rocks. The
game fled into the wood, where horse could not follow.
They were tired in spite of their strength.
79
EACH laughingly said to the other: "'Tis I that have won!"
Merry were they; they sported, hither and thither they
frolicked. Then came the slaves who had tarried, and
the king said; "Tell the truth; we seek not flattery from
you."
80
THE slaves said: "We shall speak the truth; think not we
shall deceive you, 0 king; we may by no means liken you
to him. Slay us at once if you will, it matters not; we
cannot help you in any way. We observed the beasts
stricken by him; they could not move forward a step.
81
"TOGETHER ye have slain in all a hundred score, but
Avt'handil killed more by a score; he missed not even one
at which he aimed his bow, but we cleaned up many of
your arrows which left blots on the earth."
82
THE king heard this with as little concern as the result
of a game of backgammon, he rejoiced so at the victory
of his foster-son; he loved him as the rose loves the
nightingale; smiling he made merry, all grief was gone
from his heart.
83
THERE they both sat to cool themselves at the foot of
the trees; the soldiers assembled and stood round them,
countless as chaff; near them were the twelve slaves, bravest
of the brave. As they sported they gazed at the stream
and the edge of the glens.