Account of the Caliph’s treachery towards
the Ispahbad.

At the command of his father the Caliph, al-Mahdí sent as ambassador to the Ispahbad a certain Persian (<Arabic>) with the request suggested by al-Manṣúr. The Ispahbad was at Isfahbadán, and when the ambassador had conveyed to him the message with which he was charged, he shewed him all honour, and answered that his country was the property of the Commander of the Faithful, who could do whatever seemed good in his eyes. When the ambassador had left the audience-chamber, his Persian pro­clivities (<Arabic>) impelled him to declare to the Ispahbad the treachery meditated by the Caliph. So he called the Ispahbad’s chamberlain, and said, “I have an important communication for the Ispahbad’s private ear.” When this request was communicated to the Ispahbad, he said, “It is but this moment that he left me (f. 86b); what matter of importance can have arisen so soon?” “Perhaps,” said the chamberlain, “he cherishes some vain hope, and desires to crave some boon of you.” “Tell him,” said the Ispahbad, “that the ladies of the Royal Household are with me in the Palace, and that consequently you could not convey my message.” When the ambassador heard this message, he knew that Fate could not be averted, and said to him­self, “Alas for all this pomp and circumstance and sovereignty which is to be cast to the winds! When Decline sets its face towards a house, no scheme or plan of its chiefs goes right. This man, for all his talents, can send me so flimsy an excuse! Fate and Destiny have, for the Caliph’s satisfaction, let down the veil of ignorance before the face of the Ispahbad’s discernment, so that he cannot see a fact which is as plain as daylight!”


So the ambassador came back to al-Mahdí at Ray, and conveyed to him the Ispahbad’s answer; and al-Mahdí despatched Abu`l-Khuḍayb Marzúq as-Sa'dí, the client of al-Muthanná b. al-Ḥajjáj, by way of Zárim and Sháh-kúh, while he sent Abú 'Awn b. 'Abdu`lláh by way of Gurgán to effect a junction with him. And the Ispahbad had trans­ferred the dwellers in the plain to the highlands, lest any collision should take place between them and the Caliph’s troops: not knowing that the intention of the latter was to destroy and dispossess him.