23.HOW RAJA RASALU KILLED THE GIANTS

Now, after a time, Raja Rasalu arrived at Nila city, and as he entered the town he saw an old woman making cakes, and as she made it she sometimes wept, and sometimes laughed. Rasalu asked her why she wept and laughed, but she answered sadly, as she worked, ‘Why do you ask? What will you gain by it?’

‘Nothing!’ replied Rasalu, ‘if you tell me the truth, one of us must benefit by it.’

When the old woman looked in Rasalu’s face she saw that it was kind, so she opened her heart to him, saying, with tears, ‘Oh stranger, I had seven fair sons, and now I have just one left, for six of them have been killed by a dreadful giant who comes every day to this city to receive tribute from us,—every day a fair young man, a buffalo, and a basket of cakes! Six of my sons have gone, and now today it is my turn to provide the tribute; and my boy, my darling, my youngest, must meet the fate of his brothers. Therefore I weep!’

Then Rasalu was moved to pity, and said   ‘Stop these tears, you can keep your son. I fear neither death nor life. I seek my fortune everywhere there is strife, so calm your fears.’

Still the old woman shook her head doubtfully, saying, ‘Fair words, fair words! But who will really risk his life for another?’

Then Rasalu smiled at her, and dismounting from his horse, Bhaunr Irâqi, he sat down to rest, as if indeed he were a son of the house, and said, ‘Fear not! I give you my word of honour that I will risk my life to save your son.’

Just then the high officials of the city, whose duty it was to claim the giant’s tribute, appeared, and the old woman began crying once more

Then Raja Rasalu rose in his shining armour, and told the guards to stand aside.

‘Fair words!’ replied the chief officer; ‘but if this woman does not send the tribute at once, the giants will come and disturb the whole city. Her son must go!’

‘I go in his place!’ said Rasalu. ‘Stand back, and let me pass!’

Then, despite their protests, he mounted his horse, and taking the basket of cakes and the buffalo, he set off to find the giant, telling the buffalo to show him the shortest road.

Now, as he came near the giants’ house, he met one of them carrying a huge container of water. No sooner did the water-carrier giant see Raja Rasalu riding along on his horse Bhaunr Irâqi and leading the buffalo, than he said to himself, ‘Oho! We have a horse extra today! I think I will eat it myself, before my brothers see it!’

Then he reached out his hand, but Rasalu drew his sharp sword and cut the giant’s hand with a single blow, so that he fled from him in great fear.

Now, as he fled, he met his sister the giantess, who called out to him, ‘Brother, where are you going so fast?’

The giant answered quickly, ‘Raja Rasalu has come at last, and see!—he has cut off my hand with one blow of his sword!’

Then the giantess, overcome with fear, fled with her brother, and as they fled they called aloud—­

  ‘Flee, brothers, flee!
  Then all the giants turned and fled to their astrologer brother, and told him look in his books to see if Raja Rasalu had really been born into the world. When they heard that he was, they prepared to flee east and west. But even as they turned, Raja Rasalu rode up on Bhaunr Irâqi, and challenged them to fight, saying, ‘Come out, for I am Rasalu, son of Raja Sâlbâhan, and born enemy of the giants!’

Then one of the giants tried to brazen it out, saying, ‘I have eaten many Rasalus like you! When the real man comes, his horse’s heel-ropes will bind us and his sword cut us up of their own accord!’

Then Raja Rasalu loosed his heel-ropes, and dropped his sword upon the ground, and, the heel-ropes bound the giants, and the sword cut them in pieces.

Still, seven giants who were left tried to brazen it out, saying, ‘Aha! We have eaten many Rasalus like you! When the real man comes, his arrow will pierce seven plates placed one behind the other.’

So they took seven iron plates for baking bread, and placed them one behind the other, as a shield, and behind them stood the seven giants, who were brothers, and, when Raja Rasalu twanged his mighty bow, the arrow pierced through the seven girdles, and split the seven giants in a row!

But the giantess, their sister, escaped, and fled to a cave in the Gandgari mountains. Then Raja Rasalu had a statue made in his likeness, and clad it in shining armour, with sword and spear and shield. And he placed it as a guard at the entrance of the cave, so that the giantess dared not come out, and starved to death inside.

So this is how he killed the giants.