Innocent old woman and insidious Siranush1
By Gulzar Ibrahimova
In the ancient times there lived mighty Nadir Shah. He was known for his strength and wealth among the world’s rulers. Wars broke out very often in those times and the strong states seized the weaker ones. Nadir Shah ruled in such times and for fear of Nadir Shah’s might, none of the other countries’ rulers even dared to dream of directing his eyes to his lands.
He sent for a woman, an awfully cunning satan by the name of Siranush. He gave her detailed instructions, outlined her tasks and together with a large suite of servants, sent her to Nadir Shah’s country. Her servants walked about all busy markets every day telling everyone about the unsurpassed skills of their mistress Siranush as a doctor and a healer.
Soon the news reached Nadir Shah’s palace. When he learnt about the magic healer, he ordered immediately:
- We should not let such a healer go, bring her to the palace, I want her to stay here until my successor is born and then supervise the health of the future ruler of my country. Give her as much gold as she will ask.
Shah’s word was law and his people immediately went to search for Siranush.
Acting up and playing hard to get, insidious Siranush asked the desired price and sticking out her nose, crooked as a result of her devilish acts, agreed and went to the Shah’s wife to the palace. Despite her ugliness, Siranush, with her insidiousness, in a short time gained great confidence of Shah, his khanum and the entire palace, so that soon all doctors and healers were expelled from Shah’s palace.
With spells and cunning, that insidious woman sometimes poured poison into the food of Shah’s wife and after several days of suffering, gave her an antidote curing her and relieving her of suffering. The Shah and his close people started to believe in Siranush’s healing talents even more.Several months passed, the time came and the charming shahzade3 was born – after nine months, nine days and nine nights. Nadir Shah was so happy that he showered the country’s nationals with unprecedented favors. Sacrifices were made, there were feasts and celebrations in every corner in honor of the prince’s birth.
Even though Siranush praised to everyone the beauty of the baby, she inly hated him and looked for a chance to harm him. But the prince’s nanny was always by his side, so she could not do anything. Besides, she feared that Nadir Shah would find it out and execute her.
Also, Siranush had an important mission given by her country’s ruler – to bring his man into the Shah’s palace and make him a grand vizier in order to destroy Nadir’s mighty state. Bearing this in mind, Siranush calmed down and started acting cautiously and coolly. The goal was to abduct the prince and she secretly prepared for it, insidiously telling lies about the nanny from time to time and whispering in the ear of Shah’s wife that she is gravely ill and can harm the child.
One day Nadir Shah, his wife and Siranush went to a feast on the occasion of the prince’s birth and left the baby with the nanny. At the peak of the celebration, bad news came that the nanny was killed and the prince was abducted.
Nadir was angry beyond measure, his poor khanum fainted, Siranush also pretended to lose consciousness.
“Regaining consciousness,” Siranush sobbed violently, but those were tears of joy and she inly praised herself for the successful implementation of her plan. It should be noted that before each evil deed, the insidious witch considered everything carefully and always looked before leaping.
This time also she did her job successfully. Before leaving, she poured poison into the sherbet for the nanny and told her, loudly, in advance, that her face has a bad color and that she can infect the baby with the disease.
The nanny believed her and drank the sherbet. The Shah’s wife remembered that Siranush indeed warned about the nanny’s sickness and thought that probably the malefactors – Shah’s enemies – made use of the moment and abducted the prince when no one was looking after him.
Nadir Shah searched everywhere and issued a decree offering a good reward to anyone who will find the prince, but it was in vain. Insidious Siranush hid the baby so well that he would not be found even after years of search.
Ten days passed, the Shah’s messengers did not find the prince. Nadir Shah was in his palace, in deep sorrow, when he learnt that a wise dervish appeared in the town and he could answer all questions and solve all mysteries. The Shah ordered to bring him to the palace.
After some mysterious manipulations and fortune telling rites, the dervish told how the prince was abducted.
Amazed by the talent of the prophet-dervish, the Shah praised him and asked:
- If you have a prophetic gift, then tell me if my son is alive and where he is now. I live dreaming about his salvation.
The dervish said, after much thought:
- May the Shah be in good health! It is a very difficult task. Your enemies are powerful and have magical powers. To learn their secrets, I have to send my soul to theirs. If they find out, they may capture my soul and I will die. Tell me, great Shah, what you will do for me if I take that risk.
The Shah offered him gold and jewels and promised to give him towns and lands if he tells the whereabouts of the prince.
The dervish, however, accepted none of the offers and said:
– Make me your vizier.
The Shah agreed immediately and the dervish again proceeded to bizarre divinations and spells. At last, he said:
– Your son is safe and sound. He is kept underground, in a wheat field, and is guarded by an old witch.
The dervish pointed to the exact place.Shah’s people went to that place to see the old witch
That old dumb woman, 80-85 of age, was once found by associates – Siranush and dervish. When the guard came to the old woman, she did not understand what was going on, thinking that the Shah sent people to help her as the wheat remained unharvested in the field because of her weakness. The guards seized the old woman and ordered her to show the field and soon, exactly in the place which the dervish indicated, they found an entrance to the dungeon. It was there, deep below, where they found the crying prince. The dumb old woman was thunderstruck by what she saw and tried to explain something, but her gestures were not understood. For she was dumb. The child was immediately taken to the palace and the old woman was thrown into the dungeon.
The Shah was very happy and he fulfilled the dervish’s condition and appointed him grand vizier. He ordered to execute the dumb old woman as her interrogations gave no result at all. But Shah’s tenderhearted wife asked him to show mercy to the poor woman, reminding him that mercy will only increase respect for the Shah.
– Her face shines with kindness and such people are incapable of committing evil deeds, besides, if she stays alive in the dungeon, maybe we will find out the secret some day – she said.
The Shah heeded to his wife’s words and gave an order to the guard.
Meanwhile, the innocent old woman languished in the dungeon and did not even know the cause of her misfortune. She got so excited that she began to speak. The old woman begged the guard to bring to Shah’s notice that she wants to tell everything she knows.
The guard informed the vizier about it and the vizier ordered very strictly not to bother the Shah and said that he himself will deal with the old woman. He prepared a hellish mix from various herbs and ordered the guard to give the potion to the old woman for her to drink the potion, lose the power of speech again and not be able to tell anything to the Shah.
But the old woman knew those herbs, so she took off the old gold bracelet from her wrist and held it out to the guard, saying:
- If the vizier asks you, tell him that I drank the potion.
The guard was a merciful person and he did not take the gold, but fulfilled the old woman’s request. The next morning the vizier himself visited the old woman and left satisfied after making sure that she “lost the power of speech” again.
Siranush carried out all her tasks “worthily” and the only task that remained was to kill the prince. However, the vizier told Siranush to wait a little:
- It’s not the time yet, I will give notice in due time.
At the same time, the vizier acquired a good reputation and the Shah trusted him completely, regarded him as the cleverest and wisest person in the palace and as he spent all his time with his son, he gave the reins of government to the vizier.Spring came and everything was in blossom. People prepared for Nowruz Bayram4, in every corner of the country, everyone congratulated each other and there was festive mood everywhere. Gorgeous mutual congratulations were traditional among the rulers as well and the Shah ordered the vizier to send gifts to Arabistan’s ruler. The vizier had long been waiting for such an opportunity and he got down to his business. It was time to muddle water and sow hatred.
The vizier prepared a caravan of gifts composed of ten parts. One big tray contained countless jewels and precious stones and the others were filled with various sweets and baked goods, with green cereal sprouts in each bunch. The vizier secretly added worm larvae to each of the trays, into the piles of dried fruit and nuts.
They were completely lost among the seeds and dried fruit and could not be distinguished from the general mass. The dungeon guard also participated in the preparation of the caravan of camels and unable to restrain himself, he took a handful of nuts and dried fruit and put them into his pocket.
The vizier showed the caravan to Nadir Shah and he was satisfied with the work done. When the Shah left, the vizier took back the tray with the jewels from the camel and sent off the caravan. In a month and a half, the gifts reached Arabistan’s ruler. Seeing the abundant gifts, the great ruler gathered all people near the palace and personally met the caravan. The entire people of Arabistan looked at the gifts with admiration and joy and could not wait until the gifts would be unpacked. At last, the great ruler ordered to unpack the gifts and … the people were horrified. All the trays swarmed with big, fat worms. Everyone was stupefied, the great ruler was angry, he considered it an unprecedented insult and immediately sent a messenger to Nadir Shah to say that he declared war.
Let us return to the dungeon guard who visited the prisoners, eating the nuts and dried fruit stolen from the caravan. Seeing a bent, crying old woman, he pitied her and offered her some nuts. Seeing the dainty in the guard’s palm, the old woman looked up in surprise:
- Tell me honestly, who gave you this dainty?- Just take it, why do you care? You poke your nose where you shouldn’t.
- Together with nuts, you offer me larvae of poisonous worms. If you have eaten it, then drink onion water immediately to cleanse your stomach.
The guard thanked the old woman and did as she told him. Clearing himself from the poison, he told the old woman honestly about the gifts and the stolen dainty.
The old woman asked him:
- May I be your sacrifice, do so that the Shah hears me out, but the vizier does not know about it. Arabistan’s ruler will declare war, there will be enmity and bloodshed. Nadir Shah and his country will be razed to the ground.
Late at night, waiting until the villain vizier falls asleep, the guard went to the Shah and told him everything. The Shah thought and decided not to hurry with the decision. First of all, he sent a messenger to Arabistan’s ruler with a letter explaining in detail the reason why the gifts were spoiled and telling about the real motives of the villains. Reading the letter, Arabistan’s great ruler was satisfied and ordered his troops to turn back. So, bloodshed between the two powerful countries was stopped.
Meanwhile, Nadir Shah decided to test the vizier. He called the vizier and told him that he will not get up from bed all day and told him to take his throne for a short time and be ruler.
On the second day, he secretly got into the throne room and hid in a chest to watch the vizier’s actions.
Early in the morning the vizier called the messenger and sent him to his country with a letter to an Armenian priest and then sent for Siranush:
- I fulfilled all the tasks. One of these days, the Arabs will attack this country and destroy it. Go and prepare yourself, we will leave the country at night, but prior to it, I will get into Shah’s bedroom and kill him with dagger while he is asleep. You will thrust the dagger into the chest of the Shah’s wife and take the baby. As we promised, we must take him to our ruler, may God give him long life.
Siranush giggled insidiously:
- Why don’t you tell me to take the jewels of the Shah’s wife?
The vizier became angry:- It’s not the time now, we must hurry up, if the Arabs catch us, they will take us for them and kill.
The messenger was the vizier’s man, but he had not yet got onto the horse when the dungeon guard blocked his way, struck with a club on his head and threw him into the dungeon. He opened and read the vizier’s letter with a report to the priest. The letter said that the whole job is accomplished and asked to convey to the ruler that Nadir Shah’s country will be torn to pieces and he and Siranush will return to the homeland one of these days.
The night came, the vizier and Siranush were ready and the Shah decided to spend the night in the open air with his wife and left his son in the palace.
The situation was most favorable for the vizier and Siranush. A young maid was looking after the child. Making use of the fact that she distracted her attention from the child, they entered the room, took the child and fled.
Horses were waiting for them outside. They got onto the horses, whipped them, the horses started with a jerk, and with a crash and together with the saddle, they fell on the canes that covered the deep pit dug by the Shah’s people earlier.
They fell to the bottom of the pit. The vizier noticed that the child did not utter a single sound and he looked and saw that it was not the child, but a doll. They wept bitterly.
Nadir Shah ordered to hang both betrayers, then he gathered troops, attacked the country of the betrayers and destroyed it.
The betrayers received the deserved punishment, they were ruined by their own envy and malice.
The Shah freed the old woman, left her in the palace and organized a luxurious feast in her honor, I myself attended it and feasted until I lost consciousness.
Everybody waited for me to come to myself and say, “And the tale ends.”