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The Badguerd Bath (Part 2)

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In the town souk he bought new clothes, had his wounds washed and perfumed himself. Thus refreshed, he presented himself at King Harith’s palace as a merchant from Shahabad, and made known that he wished to deliver to the prince from Queen Housan Banou two diamonds, two rubies, and two pearls in his purse. King Harith received him very cordially and invited him to spend some time with him. The first day had not yet passed, yet the king, seduced by the nobility and spirit of Hatim, regarded him as a close relative. Shortly thereafter, they were already so connected by friendship that one day King Harith said to his new brother:

“Why never ask me anything when I feel a great desire to please you?” Please make a vow, and by Allah I swear to serve you at once.

“With your permission and your help,” Hatim replied, “I want to go to Badguerd’s bath.”

Harith paled and her face was creased with torment. “You’re crazy,” I told him. – Nobody ever came back from there. What an imprudent oath to you! Now I am forced to satisfy you to my and your unhappiness.

“I’ll be back alive,” Hatim Täi replied.

Seeing the king disgusted and indecisive, he revealed his name and told him eloquently why he had set out on a noble cause. Then King Harith kissed him, entrusted him with a letter to the chief of the bath guards, whose name was Saman Idrak, and offered him the best horse of his stalls.

After seven new days of riding, Hatim reached the border where Saman Idrak and his guards were. Saman led him to a door planted in the middle of the plain between two walls of fog. It was so high that the summit was lost in the mists.

“Here’s the entrance to the Badguerd bath,” I told him. – If you cross it, you will die. Are you tired of living? By Allah, I beseech you that turning around is still time.

Hatim advanced. On the door was this inscription, almost obliterated by the winds and sands: “This abode, built by order of King Gayomar, is enchanted. Whoever falls on his spell here will be forever imprisoned.” Hatim read it and said to himself: “This is Badguerd’s secret then. Queen Housan Banou wanted to know nothing more. I therefore have no reasonable reason to go further. However, I feel I will not have unraveled the true mystery of this place and that its dangerous spells were not made known to me. ” He bravely crossed the entrance, thinking of entering any palace, but before him was nothing but an endless desert. He turned around. The door was gone. To the bottom of the four horizons, waves of sand rippled.

It was random. After a day of walking, he caught a glimpse of a young man coming toward him, bringing a mirror that he held out to the traveler as soon as he reached him. Hatim looked into his face and then asked the stranger if it was the bath barber.

“I am,” answered the other.

Hatim then asked him what he was doing in the desert. He said he had come forward to guide and serve him. So they set out together and walked until a huge building that ended in a resplendent dome appeared around a large dune.

“Here’s the Badguerd bath,” said the barber.

They entered through a low door. In the center of the room was a hot-water pool. Hatim, looking around, realized that the door, once closed, had disappeared. He undressed and went down to the water. At that moment an eerie rumble echoed. The lights went out. Hatim felt a bubbling wave rise around him. It struggled furiously and the darkness gradually faded away. The angry waves seemed to come from the walls, where, however, there was no opening. The water quickly reached the top of the dome. Hatim, swaying like a fetus, tried to cling to the key to the vault. Just as his hand came to her, a terrible rumble of thunder deafened him. He thought he was dying, but found himself almost instantly surrounded by the breeze and the sun. I was back in the middle of the desert.

He resumed his perilous path and, after three days and three nights of walking, came before a half-open portal.

He entered and found himself in an orchard of tender foliage and fruit-laden branches. In the heart of this orchard, in the flowering greenery, was a fountain. He ate and drank with pleasure, but was not dissedent or satiated, on the contrary: each fruit sharpened his hunger and the water made him thirsty. He knew then that this place was, in fact, the cruelest hell in the world, and he left it, his heart gnawing with anger and pain.

Beyond the trees, he saw a palace. He approached him and found him populated by stone statues. Above the door were inscribed these words: “A servant of God who has come this far, you now know why this abode is bewitched. King Gayomar discovered in the old days a diamond such that no one had ever seen anything so resplendent before. not even so prodigious, so that this perfect stone would be sheltered from the covetousness of the world, he created around him the Badguerd bath and its enchantments. In the center of this palace is a parrot and, on a golden throne, a bow and three arrows. . If you want to get out of here alive, kill the bird. If you don’t hit it, you will be turned into a stone statue. ” Hatim Täi stepped through the entrance, advanced toward the golden throne through a bright pavement room and grasped the offered weapon and arrows. The parrot fluttered under the vault. He held out his bow and fired promptly. The parrot, with a living flap of wings, avoided death. Hatim suddenly felt like a foot-to-knee stone. “Any hope from now on is forbidden to me,” he said, tears in his eyes. “I will never hit this infernal animal.” He took the second arrow, applied the bowstring to the arrow’s notch, and pointed it at the bird with extreme caution. The dart lightly touched one of the feathers and was lost. Her body felt even heavier. Even the trunk was now stone. He bowed his head and murmured in a dying breath:

– Allah is great, may He protect me!

He closed his eyes and shot, by God’s grace, the last arrow.

With a clap of thunder the vault opened. The pierced parrot fell, spinning like a dead leaf. A cloud of blinding dust rose from the ground, erased the bird, the bow and arrows, the golden throne, the palace. Then the mist swirled and retreated to the sky. Peace restored, Hatim discovered at his feet a wonderful diamond. He fell to his knees and clutched him in the shell of his hands together, while the petrified heroes who had attempted the prodigious conquest before him resumed their lives, came around him and blessed him for their deliverance.

At the bottom of the plain where they stood, suddenly there came a noise of horse-riding and exalted shouting. They recognized Saman Idrak and his guards. After kissing, Hatim Täi told them of their adventure and returned to the city together. [(*) Arabic word meaning market. Henri Gougaud The Treasure Tree Lisbon, Gradiva, 1998

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