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The Owl

Page Introductory

I’m not a Persian mythology scholar or expert. But we Iranians cherish our poets and one of our most revered poets is Ferdowsi, who is known as Iran’s Homer. Even before Iranian children start school, they are exposed to his verses and stories.

Though I grew up with this culture, I was more interested in prose than poetry—Western literature specifically. I gobbled up Dumas, Twain, Carrol, and Grimm as a kid and lots of faery tales. Then I graduated into reading heavy-duty authors like Balzac, Dostoyevsky, Kafka, and a few contemporary Iranian Novelists like Hedayat and Dowlatabadi. No mythology books for me—not Persian, not Indian, nor Western, except in the movies. To me, Hollywood was the best myth teller—Biblical, Greek, Indian, Sci -Fi. I knew that myths should be told only on the silver screen. However, in 2005, I decided to write myths of my own.

 In 2011, I published my first myth based on the life and teachings of Rumi, the 13th Century Sofi Poet in prose. In 2014, I published a surreal faery tale-like short story based on stories of djinns, in a long poem. Now I’m creating a new myth based on pre-Zoroastrian and Zoroastrian mythology, with a female character as the main protagonist.

 As I said before, I’m not a Persian mythology scholar and expert. But I had help from writings of Persian scholars like Mr. Hashem Razi, Ms. Fatemeh Tavasoul Panahi, and what I learned from the great Hakim Abul-Ghasem Ferdowsi-e-Toosi.


    In the beginning there was nothing but consciousness, curled onto itself in the equilibrium state, like a womb-less fetus. There was neither darkness nor light for there was no spacetime. There was neither learning nor bewilderment for there was no wanting. There was neither love nor hate for there was no possession. There was only a vacuous bliss, but it only lasted an instant, for the consciousness grew weary and discontent of the blissful state and it uncurled itself into the ever stretching spacetime and became the Universe. A pregnant Universe, which in an instant gave birth to a set of twin brothers. Uhurumoezd, the lord of knowledge and eternal light, blessed with the memory of the primordial bliss, and Angra Mainyu, the prince of darkness and deceit, touched by the residual of the initial discontent. And from the get-go, both brothers went against each other. A war between darkness and light. As two brothers wrestled and thrashed each other about they created cosmos. They rolled and unrolled, entangled and untangled, gripped and ungripped, and in the expanse of ever stretching spacetime, nebulae, galaxies, and stars and the orbiting planets sprang into the existence. Until the Universe got weary of the brothers’ constant warring and designated planet Earth for their battleground. The Universe gave both forces equal time and a level playing field, while deep down waging for Uhurumoezd’s victory, for it remembered and longed for the ecstasy of the state of the equilibrium.

    Then, conscious Universe gave the brothers limited time to settle their disputes and divided the Earth’s periods to four nine-thousand years eons. And at the end of the fourth and the last eon, the Universe would either become pure awareness and return to its equilibrium state or stay bewildered and discontent for eternity depending which brother prevailed.

    As soon as the feuding twins descended on Earth, they started their one-on-one battle and on the first day Angra Mainyu defeated Uhurumoezd and the darkness ruled the first eon. The second eon belonged to Uhurumoezd. As the result of this win, the eternal luminous lord extended himself and seven more luminous creative spirits emerged out of him. Together, they were named Amesha Spentas. Together they created water, fire, air, and earth, not to mention iron and precious ores, and together they created water bond creatures and plants and everything green and lush, growing vertical and horizontal, and the Universe was pleased.

    On the third eon, neither forces gained victory, and both weakened, for there was no other forces on Earth to assist either of them. And the Universe saw the futility of the war, for it still lacked creativity and knowledge despite what was created by Uhurumoezd and his seven luminous spirits in the previous eon, for the water bond creatures and plants were happy go lucky and weren’t interested in the fight between darkness and light. Therefore, in the fourth eon the Universe went behind Angra Mainyu and allowed Uhurumoezd and the seven Amesha Spentas to create Earth-bond creatures and everything crawling, buzzing and flying, and four legged creatures and beasts, and above all the first Man and Woman. And the benevolent Lord of Light and Knowledge found a fine land which later was called Iranvage and created the first Man and Woman out of the four elements of water, earth, fire, and air and called them Mashi and Mashiana and settled them in the land’s most prolific meadow in the northwest. They were tall, fair, and flawless, and became adapted to their land fast and maintained their livelihood by fishing, hunting, eating fruits and nuts off the trees, and felt blissful and blessed.

    But Angra Mainyu was always spying on his brother Uhurumoezd and found out about his creations and saw the disadvantage. Upon the realization, he roared a fierce roar and the Earth crust cracked open deep and wide. He took with him two deadliest snakes, a king cobra and a black mamba, and descended into the gash. In the depth of the darkness of Earth, he squeezed the necks of the snakes and extracted their venoms to the last drop and mixed it with Earth’s boiling lava. “Behold, the end of the dawn of mankind.” Angra Mainyu snarled and threw the limp bodies of the snakes into the poisoned lava, blew his evil spirits from depth of his belly into the mixture and molded a two-headed, black-scaled, and foul-breathed non-flying dragon and named it Ajdidahak, the first Daeva-Zaata, and sent it to the meadows.

    Ajdidahak crawled out of the depth of the Earth and slithered fast and furious throughout the land towards the northwestern meadows. It found the fine pair playing on the bank of a stream, chasing each other, splashing water and fore playing, for they were to procreate and multiply in order to become agents of eternal light and enforcers of truth. Preoccupied and oblivious, Mashi and Mashiana didn’t see the dragon closing on them, for it was slithering as fast as lightning through the shrubberies.

    “Did you hear that?” Mashiana, the first woman, stopped kissing her mate midway, and before Mashi, the first man, responded the Ajdidahak was upon them. He breathed out its foul and gaseous breath and killed them both in an instant and the sun eclipsed, and the Earth froze. Angra Mainyu roared and this time in triumph, and Uhurumoezd ran into a cave in the Iranvage northwestern mountains. He despaired for three days hidden in the crevasse of the fortress from the prying eyes of the prince of darkness and his agent Ajdidahak, wondering what went wrong. “Why his creature is successful, not mine?” He thought, then he remembered the dragon’s foul breath and realized his mistake. His creatures lacked his spirit, whereas Angra-Mainyu’s agent, Ajdidahak, was filled with Daeva’s spirit, his creator’s dark essence.

    The lord of the eternal light decided to give it another try, and this time he went to a meadow in the northeast, he unfroze Earth with his warmth and created the Man and the Woman anew, tall, fair, and flawless, out of the four elements. But this time he breathed his luminous Farrahs, his sacred spirits of truth, courage, and power into the second first Man and called him Yama. Then he breathed luminous Farrahs of peace, prosperity, and fertility into the second first Woman and called her Yami. And when Ajdidahak came for them, Yama and Yami held each other in a tight embrace and evoked their Farrahs.

    “Behold the power of unity and oneness. Behold the power of love and courage. Behold the power of Uhurumoezd Zaata, the essence of eternal light and knowledge.” They roared in unison and charged the dragon. The beautiful northeast meadow turned into a battlefield. For three days and nights Yama and Yami fought Ajdidahak. As the battle went on the trees and the pastures pulverized, the streams and springs vaporized, and the meadow’s creatures got torn apart. The dust of war rose and eclipsed the Sun, and earth and the sky became one. For three days Yama and Yami inflicted deep wounds on their opponent and received many more themselves from it. But their Farrahs healed their wounds, strengthened their limbs, kept them on their feet, and renewed their hope and resolve after each blow they received. At last, on the third day, at dusk, Yama and Yami rose above Ajdidahak, and inflicted the last blow on its head with their fists and sent it back into the depth of the Earth where it was spawn. This time Angra Mainyu ran away and following the dragon, hid himself in Earth’s crack. Uhurumoezd was pleased and asked Yama to become his messenger for the future generations yet to come.

    “I’m not worthy of being a prophet, albeit to my own future children.” Yama said to his creator, “But I can plow and plant. I can herd cattle and tame wild horses. I can lay bricks and build. I can forge iron into swords and blades and fight. I can judge and be fair. Me and my mate can rule but cannot preach.”

    Hence Uhurumoezd granted Yama and Yami a kingdom instead of the sainthood of prophets and gave Yama a golden sword and a silver ring, for he knew he would make a wise, fair, and brave king and his wife a loving and merciful queen. And to help Yama and Yami rule in fairness and to stay just, Uhurumoezd and the seven Amesha Spentas created Izads and Izad-Banoos, subordinate god and goddesses, to guard the land, water, sky, and the sacred fire.

    After defeat of Ajdidahak, Yami evoked her Farrahs and copulated with her mate Yama. With the help of Izad-Banoo Ashi Vanguhi the goddess of riotousness and prosperity, second first Man and Woman procreated and multiplied. They and their offspring plowed and planted seeds. Herd and tamed cattle and horses. They built fine houses and forged iron swords. And with the help of Varaharam, the god of victory and conquest, they kept the land safe from evil, and they judged in fairness and they were merciful. Under their rule the land prospered and populated for three hundred years until there was no more space for the growing population.

    “There is no more land to plow, plant, and build. There is no pasture for the herds,” the lord said to Yama. “There is no more iron to forge and oil to extract for the fire and you can’t be a fair judge considering the scarcity.” Yama agreed. He took his golden sword and silver ring, and with the sunlight guidance, he went to the direction of the South and put the ring on the ground and thrust the sword into the soil and asked the Earth to give way and expand. The Earth granted Yama his request and expanded.

    Throughout his first nine hundred years rule, Yama had to ask the Earth to expand two more times, and both times the Earth accommodated him. At the end of the nine hundred years, Uhurumoezd summoned him to his gathering with Izads and Izad-Banoos and warned him of coming of a lengthy winter which would bring constant fierce blizzards and heavy snow storms which upon melting would cause a great flood which would destroy the world he helped to build. Then he directed Yama to build a multilevel cave in the highlands of Hara Barazaiti mountains in the North and to gather the finest unblemished human beings and animals in pairs, and aromatic and beneficial plants, and house them in it until the flood subsided. Since Yama was a great builder, he made the mortar and laid the bricks and built a strong flawless cave with windows in the right places to let the sunlight in. He helped Uhurumoezd save the light and the knowledge, and countless species and Earth prospered and once again teemed with life and Yama ruled for three thousand five hundred more years.

    The world was halfway through with the fourth eon and it seemed that the Universe’s favorite son, Uhurumoezd, had won. But Yama grew arrogant and lustful after thousands of years of prosperity and abundance and forgot the Lord and his underling gods and goddesses who he appointed to look over Iranvage and its ruler. Yama allowed lies in his heart and became proud. He started to accumulate gold. He took the virgin daughters of the land on their wedding night. He taxed the farmers, the welders, the builders. And because he knew his action would cause uprising, he built a ruthless army along many dungeons to enforce his deviant desires. His atrocities went on for a century. Anyone who objected to them he silenced. Anyone who resisted he quashed. Anyone who fought back he killed. At first, people forgave him for he had done so much for them in the past, and they attribute these injustices to Angra-Mainyu’s foul play and prayed for their king’s soul. Little they knew that humans have inherited the Universe’s initial discontent, and that by itself could turn into a monster if one is become too comfortable.

    The people burnt aromatic herbs as offering to Uhurumoezd day in and day out with no avail. For Yama concealed his wrongdoing from his creator which was all his and none from Angra-Mainyu, for he was trapped in the Earth’s core, guarded by Zam the Earth’s goddess.

    “This is Angra-Mainyo’s doing,” he told Uhurumoezd whenever he confronted him. “He’s planting the seed of hatred for me in the people’s heart. He wants to discredit me. Izad Banoo Zam is failing us. His lies are scraping past her and influencing the people.” And Uhurumoezd believed his beloved creature, and let it go each time, and told Zam to be more diligent in guarding the evil spirits.

    When people saw their prayers were not answered, they decided to appeal to Queen Yami, for she was blessed with kindness. They sent their most outspoken envoys to her. She listened to them and her Farrahs believed them, for they were also saw their king turn malevolent. In fact, it was quite sometimes that her significant other treated her with ill temper.

    “I will talk to him.” Yami promised the envoys. And when she did, Yama exiled her to the Salt Desert, in the center of Iranvage, where there was no water, no vegetation, and no love. Yama killed the envoys, enslaved the people, children, and old people alike, and whomever dared him, and took another wife.

    Not long after arrival Yami died in the desolate desert and her Farrahs left her body in the shapes of a dove, a nightingale, and a sparrow. Yami’s luminous spirits flew towards the sky and joined the Sun-god, Mithra, and rendered him warmer and more loving and more loyal to Uhurumoezd. Upon Yami’s Farrahs’ ascended, Yama’s spirits also flew out of his body in the shape of three birds of prey—an eagle, an osprey and a falcon—and scattered throughout the land and rendered him hapless and mute. Angra Mainyu who was witnessing the flight of the Farrahs, summoned Ajdidahak and twenty-four thousand Daevas he created during the last thousands of years in the depth of the Earth. One by one, they swarmed out of their places of hiding. Together, they took over the Earth. With Yama’s Farrahs gone, even Izad Banoo Zam couldn’t keep evil forces at bay.  Ajdidahak was unleashed from his prison and killed Yama, and Daeva-Zaatas ravaged his birthplace, the sacred land of Iranvage, while Uhurumoezd watched in dismay. Then the evil spirits went after Yama’s three Farrahs. But, the lord of eternal light, Uhurumoezd, asked Izad Mithra, the god of love and friendship to send his female Farrah, Seemorgh and her mate Seerang, to take them to Damavand the highest peak of Hara Barazaiti and hid them in its crater. When the lord of darkness couldn’t reach the three birds of prey, he took the revenge on the land and its creatures. He made Ajdidahak king, sat him on the city of Anshan’s throne, to the south of the land of Maads. And breathed draught from west to east, and north to south, throughout the land. And to prevent Indra, the mightiest god, the god of thunder to undo his handy work, he turned himself into a voluptuous woman and seduced him. Indra fell from Uhurumoezd grace as he fell for Angra Mainyu deceit and became his right hand Daeva. A few other deities and angels succumbed to the evil forces and turned into Daevas. Darkness and lies encompassed the Earth. Greed made men vicious and heartless. They killed their brothers and ravished their mates. They sodomized their own sons and raped their own daughters. They stole from their neighbors and set their houses on fire. They slaughtered sacred bulls in the thousands and ate their calves alive. They sought and found Seerang, Seemorgh’s mate, in the last battle ground, defending the last fortress in the north, caught him in a net made of twelve thousand Horned Vipers, took him into Ajdidahak’s palace’s dungeon in the city of Anshan, tortured him, ravished him, and savaged him, and threw his body into a ditch in the lowest point of the Salt Desert next to Yami’s corpse. They broke their promises and besmirched the memory of Mithra. They ran rivers of blood into the oceans and defiled orders of Anahita, and above all they sacrificed newborn infants in the altar of disgraced Indra. The darkness and the carnage that came with it went on for one thousand years and the conscious Universe saw no end to Man’s rage and malcontent and for a second regretted its own uncurling discontent.

    All seemed lost for the forces of truth and light. But, Uhurumoezd had only lost the battle not the war. At last, he gathered his allies, men and deities alike and consulted with them. It was time to choose and groom the first Soshiant, a savior, from ilk of mankind. And to achieve that, Uhurumoezd needed the help of all of them. He needed to instill the exiled Farrah’s of slain Yama who were under protection of grieving Seemorgh in the shape of three birds of prey—the eagle, the osprey, and the falcon in the future savior. As well as the Farrahs of Yami who were hiding inside Mithra, the sun god in the shape of three birds of peace and prosperity—the dove, the nightingale, and the sparrow.

    From then on, Uhurumoezd and his allies, men and deities alike, went to work. Together, they were the holder of truth, courage, and love. Together, they were to bless the first Prophet, the first savior, the first Soshiant from ilk of man with goodness and knowing. Together they named him Zarathustra.

    Then, Uhurumoezd summoned Homa, the never resting firebird, who possessed the secrets of death and the rebirth to find a suitable womb. “You must search the world,” the Lord of Eternal Light said. “You must find a sacred place not yet defiled by evil spirits, and you’ll find an unadulterated womb. And you will bless that womb with your Farrah, for it is the carrier of the mother of our first savior. The womb needs to know the secrets of death and the rebirth.”

    And in a village on the south of Daetia river in the northeast of Iranvage, Homa found a pious clan by the name of Spitama. A perfect family and a perfect birthplace for a perfect savior. For three days, Homa hovered over the village and Spitama clan. On the fourth day, a nobleman’s daughter by the name of Frini consummated her vows on her wedding day. Homa heard Frini’s ecstatic cries and rushed to her wedding bed and breathed his Farrah into her womb and blessed the fast dividing zygote with his secrets.

    “It’s a girl.” Frini laid next to her young groom panting and sweating. She put his hand on her quivering belly and said, “I’ll call her Doghdo.”

    And Doghdo grew up fast and she was getting close to marrying age. This time Uhurumoezd sent for Seemorgh which carried the Soshiant Farrah within and asked her to lend her Farrah to Doghdo. And Seemorgh, who was closest bird to the sun god Mithra, lent her Farrah to her. The Seemorgh’s Soshiant Farrah grew in Doghdo intense and fiery, for she needed Mithra’s strength and truth for her future son. And before the age of fifteen her aura was illuminating the entire village.

    Uhurumoezd was alerted. Doghdo was attracting too much attention. Pretty soon Angra Mainyu would find out about her and the upcoming marriage and the birth of Zarathustra. He needed to create a divergence, for the spying eyes of Angra Mainyu were relentless and everywhere.

    This time Uhurumoezd summoned Izad-Banoo Chista, the goddess of wisdom and possessor of the Sacred Owl Farrah. “We need to diverge Angra Mainyu attention from upcoming birth of Zarathustra,”

    Uhurumoezd said. “Do what you can do.” And Chista did what she could do.

Chapter One


    Ashvazvasht learned about her childhood, here and there and in increments, from Saen-Dokht the village seer. According to her, thirty years ago, the whole village had adopted her as their own. It was the month of Haurvatato, the third month of spring. A Karpan, a holy man from the holy tribe of Mogh in the land of Maad to the west, brought the infant Ashvazvasht to a tiny village lodged within the dark depths of Anzali’s dense jungles on the foothills of the Hara Barazaiti mountain range, in the land of Verena. The last standing village of the Fsuyant tribe, the land’s mighty hunters, had once dominated an expansive region from Verena to Hyrcania and beyond. And according to Saen-Dokht the seer, was the best hiding place for the land’s future savior. For the Farrah of the Sacred Saena Tree hid the village and its surrounding dense woods from forty-eight thousand evil eyes of Daeva- Zaatas.

    “And that future savior is you,” Saen-Dokht said to then six-year-old Ashvazvasht for the first time in her hut.

    “I don’t want to be a savior.” Ashvazvasht frowned.

    “It’s not up to you child,” Saen-Dokht said patting the child’s top of her head.

    Indeed, it wasn’t up to Ashvazvasht. Her fate was decided in the heavens by Uhurumoezd and his accolades, the ever faithful Izads and Izad-Banoos. As the story went, as soon as Doghdo started to glow with the Soshiant’s Farrah right before her upcoming wedding and drew attention to her, Uhurumoezd summoned Chista the goddess of knowledge and illuminator of the righteous paths and asked for her advice and a solution.

     “In the darkness lays the solution,” Chista said after a long silence on the floating court of Uhurumoezd over an underground river in the northwest of Iranvage.

    Known to the people of the region as the No End in Sight River, some believed the river flowed in an unending loop around the globe, deep in the underground caves. Luminated by Uhurumoezd light, the hanging crystalline shards of the primordial minerals played a festival of thousands of shades of colors in the never-ending caves far away from evil eyes of Angra-Mainyu. Since the first day of Yama’s demise, most of the divine gatherings were done on Uhurumoezd’s floating vessel made of billions of light particles over this underground river. The deep caves, though close to Earth’s core where Angra-Mainyu was nesting, were perfect hiding in the plain sight places for the followers of light.

    “Explain,” Uhurumoezd said.

    The court of the divine and deities went silent. The only sound came from water droplets falling into the calm river echoing their way out into the eternity.

    “To distract evil from the over glowing Soshiant’s light in the far northeast, one must attract its attention close to the new throne of Ajdidahak in the city of Anshan. He’s built a new temple for Angra-Mainyu and spreading the darkness westward. He’s devouring the world. “

    In an instant, Uhurumoezd saw Chista’s vision. Anshan was a city in southwestern region of Iranvage called Elam. One of the darkest places of the land. Then he saw how courageous Chista was to lend her Farrah for such an endeavor. Then he saw the Owl’s green eyes. Brave and in earnest. Ready to save the light. A glimmer of hope shone through and tore the Angra-Mainyu’s seven thousand veils of lies and deceit. Uhurumoezd saw how Chista sowed the seeds fifteen years ago, in the temple of Indra.

    “Clever girl,” Uhurumoezd said out loud. “What other seeds did you sow behind my back?”

    “I’ve trained the great Karpan of Moghi tribe to take away our savior as soon as she’s born,” Chista said.

    “She, the savior?” Uhurumoezd knew well what Chista meant.

    “Yes, without her Zarathustra will be exposed.” Chista continued, “She and her mother will have my luminous Farrah of the Great Grey Owl—the only Farrah who can compete with Seemorgh’s Soshiant Farrah in luminosity. After all, our Farrahs were close friends since time immemorial. Izad-Mithra the god of warmth and love, and protector of Seemorgh—and I—are both are seekers of truth and knowledge. Our paths are well lit and wise, winding through the Universe. My Farrah can be a quite a distraction. Beside Zarathustra needs eyes which can see through darkness. And who better than an owl to hunt for the rodents and creatures of the darkness and clear the way for the divine prophecy?”

The court stayed quiet.

    “Well, shall I call upon the Karpan?” Chista said as she looked around, the vessel made of billions and billions of light particles—then stopped and looked into Uhurumoezd eyes. With a divine nod of Uhurumoezd approval, Izad-Banoo Chista sent her Farrah of knowledge and courage, the Great Grey Owl Farrah, to search for the solution in the slums of the city of Anshan. Meanwhile Uhurumoezd’s vessel sailed towards northeast to receive Doghdo and her future mate, Pourusaspa, the owner of grey horses, on board. They were to wed and consummate their vows in those caves, sailing in the divine’s vessel, away from evil eyes. But, since the Seemorgh’s Farrah could not help but to eminent intense light as the wedding day got closer, it needed a distraction while the couple and their entourage moved from their village—located not far from Daeti river in the northeast—to the entrance of the underground caves of One Thousand Shades of Colors to board the Uhurumoezd’s ship.

    It would take three days for Izad-Banoo Chista and her Farrah the Great Grey Owl to prepare for distracting Angra-Mainyu’s eyes from their direction. But timing was of the essence. The whole distraction operation had to start right at the moment the couple left the village. For they would be no longer under the Izad-Banoo Haoma, the sacred plant, protection which her spirit surrounded the village and contained Doghdo’s light within. But as fortune had it, both Farrahs, the Owl’s and Seemorgh’s, were interconnected through a long-life friendship. Besides, light always defies the long distances. The exchange of information between the two sacred birds were almost instantaneous.

    Right under Ajdidahak’s snouts. Right where it’s the darkest, the Farrah of Great Grey Owl flew over the city of Anshan. The stench of the decaying people’s corpses, beasts’ carcasses, and fallen angels’ cadavers, laying everywhere throughout the city, filled the whole region. A familiar stench for the Sacred Owl. From time to time, in the last fifteen years she visited the filth to check on her asset and give her some of her owl oomph all along the years. Day in and day out, a cold fog encompassed this once vibrant city. The screams of tortured men and beasts alike echoed within ancient crevasses and the alleyways. They were the only music the occupants knew for the centuries. A paralyzing reminder of the power of evil. That by itself, kept the population in check.

    The Great Grey Owl, Farrah of Chista, hovered over this ancient misery for three days and three nights and deepened the darkness. On the fourth day, she headed towards the city’s slums in the south side. In the heart of the slums, a fifteen-year-old virgin was sold to an old slave merchant for a piece of bronze. On the eighth day of her birth, her prostitute mother ripped her infant’s clitoris with her chipped blackened teeth and called her Lilith, naming her after the desert dwellers first daughter, on the altar of Indra.

    “O’ mighty Indra, I name my daughter after the first princess of darkness.” The prostitute lay her under the feet of Indra’s statue in the city’s temple and offered her to him.

    As she uttered those words, a giant shadow of a bird loomed over the infant. Thinking she’d awoken the evil Indra, she wrapped the infant Lilith in her rag and took her into her hole dug into the walls of a whorehouse next to the city’s sewage. Hoping Lilith wouldn’t last long and die from the infection. For four nights, the infant cried. For four nights, Lilith’s mother denied her breast milk. For four nights, she prayed for her daughter’s death.

    “Please, Indra. Take her away. She’s yours. Add her to your Harem.” She would plea.

    But Indra knew why the mother wanted her infant dead. She didn’t want the same life for Lilith. Long before her time, before the darkness took over the land, for a millennia women ruled over the region since the birth of the desert dweller’s first daughter Lilith. Ajdidahak conquered Elam, destroyed her temples throughout the land, and called her a whore. Since then women like Lilith and her mother were slaves to the wants of the wanting men. Death was mercy and Indra felt none and let the infant live. On the fifth day, infant Lilith stopped crying. Her fever broke and her genital healed. Her fate was written for her by Indra. She was to be a prostitute like her mother. She was to pleasure men. She was to please Indra with her cries of agony anytime a client paid a visit to her. And that was what Indra hoped for the little Lilith.

    But as always, plans are never perfect, even the evilest ones. When Lilith was six years old, a new client visited their hole. A giant of a man. Hairy, tall, and masculine. Like a beast he was. A slave merchant passing through the town on his way to the Land of Canaan, where there were tribal wars ongoing and the conquerors cashed out fast and sold whatever they couldn’t consume. Conquered men, women, children, and beasts alike were sold in the middle of the desert to merchants like him, until the next tribal war. That was one of the Angra-Mainyu beautiful torturous plan in that part of the world, for the darkness stretched beyond the gods and goddesses’ vision, let alone the humankind.

    Lilith sat in her corner and watched the merchant stroke her mother and made her scream in pain, like many men did to her before. All of sudden, a sharp pain went through Lilith’s genital. Right where her clitoris was ripped apart. A few strokes and the merchant was done. His ecstatic cries were muffled by the mother and the daughter’s painful screams. He rolled his body off her mother and sat up as he put his instrument of torture back into his pantaloons. Sweat beads on his balding forehead caught some of a single candlelight flickering in the opposite corner and shone back from Lilith’s amber gaze into the merchant’s dark eyes. The hoot of an owl echoed in the room. Something broke inside him. He stared down at the little girl. She was tiny and dirty. She was pale. She was frail. She was a little mouse dressed in filthy rags. Tears and snout’s slime glistened her gaunt cheeks. Her big amber eyes promised revenge. While her sniffles begged for mercy. Another hoot vibrated and bounced around the little hole the mother and daughter called home. All of a sudden, through all the filth and insignificance, the merchant saw a beauty emerging and rising. Emerging and rising, like a pleasant ghost from where the little Lilith sat and cried. The emerging and rising Lilith was nothing like the scrawny six-year-old girl witnessing her mother’s slow death, seeing her own future unfolding as vivid as a nightly nightmare. The plump and as red as blood lips of emerging and rising Lilith, voluptuous and fertile, with rounded hips, perked breasts, and supple olive skin told of a different future, not to mention her luring large amber eyes. And the merchant fell in love.

    “Keep her hidden from the sights. She’s mine.” The merchant threw a piece of bronze on Lilith’s mother’s lap and pointed to her as he left their hole, “I’ll claim her in nine years.”

    “People will ask about her if I don’t let her out,” the mother said, “as it is, they are waiting for her to get a bit bigger to start working her out.”

    “Tell them she ran away,” the merchant said. “You take a good care of her, you hear me. I’ll send money.” Then he bent down and brought his nose to hers, breathing heavy and lustful and said, “Consider your daughter your Golden Goose. Don’t kill it.”

    The hoot of an owl vibrated around. The merchant looked around puzzled by the sound. Never heard before, the owls’ hooting from nearby ruins resonate so close in such a tiny hole. He shrugged and left the room.

    “The ungrateful girl. The miserable witch of a daughter. The damn of the damnation, the little monster.”

    The next day the mother ran out of her hole screaming, pulling on her hair, tearing at her threadbare cloths claimed her daughter ran away. And everyone believed her. For the next nine years Lilith’s mother fed her, clothed her, sheltered her, and kept her away from prying eyes. All along pretending that she was still whoring to be able to stay in that hole.

    Now it was nine years later, and the sacred Farrah of Great Grey Owl was perching on the whorehouse’s roof waiting for the merchant to arrive. All those nine years, the merchant sent money for Lilith’s safe keeping, and her mother took good care of her.

    She didn’t dare to kill the Golden Goose after all. And Lilith had turned into a beauty, still emerging and rising.

    The merchant was coming from the direction of the western desert. His tall and muscular body was clad in the desert dwellers’ garb, long robe, loose sleeves, and a long scarf was wrapped around his head and face showing only his eyes. He was covered in the residues of the recent sandstorm. He looked like a sand ghost gliding through alley ways of the slum. He was a talented ghost. That’s how he survived way past his natural age of thirty in those harsh and evil environments. It was the last night that Lilith was spending in the hole. The full moon was approaching the mid-sky, faint as it was, considering the ever-present cold fog. But at the same time, its gravity raised the Great Tigris water and the fishermen boats ebbed and flowed on its surface. Amongst them, a slave boat ready to take away its owner and his new bride to a little island in the warm seas of the south.

    The Owl hovered over the whorehouse. Her stretched wings dimmed already fuzzy moonlight and darkened the slum even more, and the air became colder even though it was the second month of summer. She was to protect light from the darkness by creating more darkness—though risking detection by those evil forces whose eyesight’s enhanced by the deep dark. But this time, the Owl was hoping she could overcome the like with alike. And what do you know, it worked, for the faintest light always shines brighter in the dark. Her light could not, in a million years outshine the Seemorgh’s Soshiant Farrah, but in the darkest of dark it was a quite distraction alright.

    The Owl’s eyes pinpointed the dusty ghost of the merchant bending and squeezing his big body through the whorehouse’s low entrance. When she was sure the merchant was inside the courtyard and approaching Lilith’s hole, the Sacred Owl turned her head hundred-eighty degrees away the whorehouse’s direction and shined two green rays of light northward as far it went and as bright it shone, into the Zagros mountains where they held and hid the Izad-Trita’s Temple of Eternal Fire in one of their caves. Signaling to its grand priest, the great Karpan from Moghi tribe of the land of Maad, that the destiny was in the making and he should prepare for the birth of his future ward, to keep her and her mother safe from evil forces of Ajdidahak from the time of conception and on. Then she extinguished the green light and spread her wings even further.

    This short-lived display of green light was enough to distract and confuse the evil eyes. All the forty-eight thousand evil eyes diverted their gazes from the Spitama clan in the tiny village south of Daeti river in the northeast of Iranvage and followed the Owl’s green rays into the northwest and gave the clan enough time to hide their glowing bride to be, Doghdo. And by golly, the Owl’s trick worked. She was taken into the northeastern side of the underground cave of One Thousand Shades of Colors alongside her mate Pourusaspa Spitama, the owner of grey horses, and their company and boarded on Uhurumoezd’s vessel without evil’s detection, safe and sound.

    But for every saving, a sacrifice must be given. And the sacred Farrah of the Great Grey Owl was ready to just to do that. If she were successful, of course with the help of Izads and Izad-Banoos, especially Chista the goddess of knowledge and wisdom, the whole Universe would become a step closer to defeat Ajdidahak and overcome the darkness.

    And to do that she needed the help of many. For the evil power was getting desperate to get its hand on the savior and quash him. And a desperate power can get blindsided by a wise power.

    To unearth the first Soshiant, Angra-Mainyu’s spies, and Ajdidahak’s operative throughout Iranvage and beyond, suggested to look towards the northeast. But a flash of Grey Owl’s green rays, was enough to confuse the evil forces.

    “He’s getting conceived under our noses.” Ajdidahak snarl shook the city.

    When the Great Grey Owl heard the two-headed serpent, she knew her hypothesis worked. By then the merchant was exiting the whorehouse pulling his new bride’s bound wrist behind him by a short rope through its narrow corridors and out into the narrow alleys of the slum. It was time for the Farrah of sacred owl to possess Lilith.

    “Ouch.” Lilith screamed and stopped as the Farrah of the Great Grey Owl took over her soul.

    “There’s no time to stop, bitch,” the merchant said as he turned, and saw Lilith emerging and ascending out of a consuming leaping glowing golden fire.

    “Run.” Lilith screamed at the merchant as she emerged unbounded out of the fire glowing with golden rays. “Run.” She urged her slave driver again, for she knew if they don’t run, the game would be over. Forty-eight thousand eyes were on her right now. And if she had to, she would make them chase her into the eternity to save the savior.

    And they ran through the dark and slimy alleys. And as they ran, the cobble stones under their feet came to life. One by one they popped high up with an explosion and rained on the fleeing couple. Lilith raised her arm over her head and the merchant. And all the cobble stones suspended in the mid- air. The merchant frightened eyes caught Lilith’s amber eyes. There was a deadly silence in them. A cold, deadly silence.

    “Who are you?” the merchant asked.

    “I’m your future bride.” Lilith stared back with her cold, deadly gaze.

    “I don’t want you as my bride anymore,” the merchant said, not being able to take his eyes away from her.

    “Why?” Lilith said.

    “Now I can see you are nothing but bad news,” the merchant said.

    “Funny, one man’s bad news is another man’s gospel,” Lilith uttered.

    The cobble stones found the gravity as the couple passed the alleyways. A thick dust arose as the cobble stones hit the ground and dimmed Lilith’s fleeing golden light. They passed the city limits and got closer to the Tigris’s river banks. The merchant ship was expecting them. But the demon forces caught up with them before they get to the river and tried to stop them by unleashing boiling black lava made of carcasses and cadavers and corpses of primordial evil entities slayed in the twin’s—Uhurumoezd and Angra-Mainyu—earlier battles throughout the past three and a half eons. The riverbank started to rise up and crack. An undercurrent wave moved the decks and the ships. A symphony of the colliding woods thudded and echoed through the thick fog. Hot steams exploded from the earth cracks with loud hisses. Making ways for the black lava to the surface. But before the deadly black lava had a chance to percolate upward and take over the land and drown our fleeing couple, the priests of Izad-Trita’s temple redirected the eternal fire into a web of conduits and tunnels which were dug deep in the Zagros mountain and all the way down into the low lands of the ancient Sumer. Less than a few minutes, the sacred fire reached into the bottom of the percolating black lava and exploded. The violent wave sucked all the evil energy from the lava and sent it into the earth core. That angered Angra-Mainyu and blindsided his evil vision.

    The road to the port was released from the hands of the Daeva-Zaatas and the couple reached the ship, climbed the plank and dropped on the deck, breathless and shaken. Catching her breath, Lilith looked at the merchant laying next to her , fainted. Before she was ushered down into the merchant’s cabin, she looked up the sail. A white owl flew from nowhere and perched on the top of the sail where a sailor in rags, holding a torch, was waiting for the ship captain’s order to release the sail.

    Captain barked the orders as soon as the couple were ushered down their cabin. Anchors were pulled in and Sails went up. With the help of Izad -Vayu the god of wind, the slave ship speeded out of the port and into the fog. After an hour of a frantic flight, the ship reached the deep part of the south warm sea. This part was protected by Izad- Banoo Anahita, despite the spread of the darkness.

    Lilith was washed and groomed by the merchant’s personal slave girl. She was a defeated tribal chief’s daughter from the western desert, she told Lilith as she brushed her hair.  And she said that she  worshipped Lilith the goddess of darkness in the privacy of her heart. When the slave girl was done with her, she went towards her rags and picked them up.

    “Leave them.” Lilith looked at the girl through a handheld looking glass.

    The slave girl bowed and left the cabin. Lilith came out of the merchant’s cabin wearing a seductive golden thread silk robe the merchant had bought it for her. Her long auburn hair was tied with a golden ribbon. She turned and looked at her green-faced future husband, moaning in his sleep, sick from the earlier fright and the swift flight. He’d retched his guts out before he passed out. Before she left the cabin, she turned around and took another look at the merchant.

    “Dear Chista, Why him? I still don’t see the wisdom.” Lilith smiled and said, “Oh well, time to play hide and seek.”

Chapter Two


    “Uhurumoezd was right.” Saen-Dokht started to reveal another secret surrounding Ashvazvasht’s birth.  “That Izad-Banoo Chista, for sure sowed many seeds to distract Angra-Mainyu’s agents.” She said and paused for a length of time.  

    “Please do tell Saen-Dokht. Don’t keep me in suspense.”  The little Ashvazvasht pleaded, despite of knowing sooner than later the seer would unveil another secret about her birth. Because she’d promised her the truth not long ago in her hut, on the hilltop, looking over the entire village. Because Saen-Dokht was true to her words through and through. Because the truth was the only thing that protected the last village of the Fsuyant tribe, the great hunters, in the heart of Anzali’s dense woods.  


    And truth had it that Izad-Banoo Chista started to plant her seeds long before Uhurumoezd summoned her on his vessel on the river of the No End In Sight in the One Thousands Shade of Colors caves prior to Doghdo and Pourusaspa’s wedding.

    The same day Uhurumoezd asked Homa-the never resting firebird, the possessor of secrets of death and the rebirth- to breath his Farrah into the womb of Frini, the grandmother of the future Soshiant, Chista also asked for Homa’s help.

    “You must breath in your Farrah into one more womb.” Izad-Banoo Chista asked Homa before he left for Spitama village by Daeti river in the northeast of Iranvage.

    “Does Uhurumoezd know?” Homa asked.

    “No one knows but me and you.” Izad-Banoo Chista said, “And it must stay this way. Angra-Mainyu has many spies and some of them can penetrate Uhurumoezd circle. Even the holiest amongst us can be fooled. As you know, my Farrahs and I work in a tight net. We collect knowledge incognito. We plant the seeds of possibilities incognito. We disrupt evil plans incognito. Are you with me or not?” And Homa, the never resting firebird, the possessor of secrets of death and the rebirth was with Chista.

    After Homa went to the northeast, to the village of Spitama, and found an unadulterated womb-Frini’s womb-and breathed his Farrah into it, he flew towards west and the land of Maad upon Chista’s request. A vast land darkened by the evil forces for millennia. A land once home to the largest and the holiest tribe, the Mogh tribe. A land, which held the future of Iranvage in her womb in a village by the name of Rhagae on the foothills of Hara Barazaiti, right on the other side of Anzali jungles. When the land was conquered by Ajdidahak most of its population were perished or fell into the corruption. The darkness rose from the high desert and crept into the mountains. But at the last moment, before evil took over every nook and crannies of the land, Izad Tishtrya, the god of rain, hid the village from Angra-Mainyu’s wrath under heavy clouds. After a couple of decades people forgot there was a village by the name of Rhagae in the foothills, so did Ajdidahak’s evil agents. Only Seemorgh, who lived in Damavand’s crater, the highest peak of Hara Barazaiti, and few deities knew of its existence, and one of them was Chista.


    Homa reached Rhagae village in half a day, and in no time found the unadulterated bride he was looking for. She was hiking the foothills and picking wild poppies for her wedding night. “Wait for me Roxana.” Her nanny yelled, huffing, and puffing climbing after her.

    Roxana the fifteen years old daughter of the great priest of the Temple of Mithra was to marry a direct descendent of Moghi kings, the seventeen years old Kamboodgieh, that very day. He was a fair looking, fair minded, and fair suited king with a pair of piercing green eyes. A potent vigorous man ready to please Izad- Banoo Ashi the goddess of fertility.


    “Look nanny, there is a strange bird coming in and out of the clouds.” Roxana stopped and pointed to the sky, and before she knew it Homa the never resting firebird, and possessor of the secrets of death and the rebirth, came out of the cloud, and spread his multicolor wings over the bride to be and breathed his Farrah into her womb.

“Oh, My,” was the last word Roxana uttered before she fainted in the wild poppy field. Nanny ran for help.

    Roxana came about as her nanny and her mother ran up the hills to help her. “I’m all right.” She yelled. She got up, straightened her turquoise robe, comb her finger through her raven bangs removing tweaks and dried leaves from her hair.

    “Oh, dear almighty Mithra.” Roxana’s mother touched her forehead as soon as she reached her. “How many times I tell you not to linger in the poppy field for too long.”

    “I’m fine,” Roxana giggled and brushed her mother’s hand away, “I’ve never been better in my life.”

    “You’ve been bewitched by the poppy’s Farrah. Haoma Farrah will be displeased.” Her mother cautioned her of the wrath of Mithra’s favorite sacred plant.

    “I’m bewitched alright but not by poppies.” Roxana bent and collected the fallen poppies and said, “By the way poppy’s Farrah, Kokenar, is as sacred as Haoma’s, at least to Izad-Banoo Mah.” And indeed, poppies were the Moon goddess’s favorite flower.  

    “Then who if not the poppies?” The mother’s voice quivered, like any concern mother’s voices would do.

    “I don’t know.” She shrugged and paused for a second then said, “But I know I can’t wait ‘til tonight to lay beside my beloved mate, in our nest tonight.” Her mother’s jaws dropped and before she could say anything, Roxana bunched the poppies, released the turquoise silk ribbon, which was holding up her black curls, tied the flowers with it, and sprang down the hill, “Common mother, common nanny, hurry up.  We have a royal wedding to go to.”



   A few hours later, Roxana, the daughter of the Temple of Mithra’s great Karpan, and Kamboodgieh, the direct descendent of the last Moghi king consummated their wedding vows.

    Roxana put her hand on her quivering belly and said, “It’s a boy.” Laying on her back next to her young groom after a night long of rolling, wrestling, and intertwining with love on a bed of ten thousand poppy’s red petals.

    “What if it’s a girl.” Kamboodgieh said nibbling on her ear, showing signs that he could go for another round of love making. After all, it was the first time for both to experience love making and the ecstasy came with it. An event which when one starts, one would be in wanting forever.

    “It’s a boy, I’m certain,” She looked into Kamboodgieh’s laughing green eyes and said, “never been so certain in my life.” Roxana’s warm brown eyes glistened. “We will call him Bardia, after my beloved father. May he become a great Karpan like him.”

    “Not a king like me?” Kamboodgieh rolled over his bride and pinned her under his lieth body.

    “I wished he could become a king,” Roxana brushed off her mate’s soft golden curls from his face with both hands and said, “but, soon Mogh’s kingdom will come to an end. You’re going to be the last king.”

    “Who told you that?” Anger brew in Kamboodgieh. He pressed Roxana’s body harder.

    “A bird told me. A sacred bird.” Roxana labored out the word.

    “What bird told you?” He pressed harder against her. All of a sudden, Roxana felt an unfamiliar strength entering her body and rising up into her arms and into her palms. With no effort she pushed her mate off her body with such might that Kamboodgieh flew across the room and hit his head on the opposite wall.

    “If you stop bullying me, I’ll tell you which bird.” She got up and put on her linen night gown and stood over him. She looked into his eyes and saw a hurt pride swimming in them. After all, Kamboodgieh was a mighty fighter. She looked at his body and saw him vulnerable and naked. His instrument of pleasure was no longer erect. She slipped out of her gown and knelt beside him. She nestled his head between cleavage of her ample and hardened breasts. She combed her fingers through his chest’s golden hair.

    “I didn’t know its name at first,” Roxana whispered, “I’ve never seen such a bird in my life before. But when I described him to my father, he told me that it was Homa the sacred firebird. It seems the Farrah of Homa has possessed me yesterday in the poppy field.”

    As Roxana unfolded the event of the previous day, Kamboodgieh soften his angry body and sank into his bride’s storytelling lure.

    “Homa showed me the future when I laid unconscious.” Roxana continued, “It’s true that our kingdom will come to an end and you’ll be the last king. But I also saw our son in a halo of bright white light. And I felt its warmth.” Roxana paused for a moment, “Our son might not rule the land of the people. But he’ll strengthen their faith. And Homa showed me the people’s faith will grow beyond our hideaway and will drive away the evil of Angra-Mainyu from beloved Iranvage.”

   “Are you sure about the revelation?” Kamboodgieh asked in the softest voice. Not a defeated voice, just the softest.

   “Umm, Homa’s breath is still within me.” Roxana assured her lover

   “But until then I’m still the king.” Kamboodgieh stirred in Roxana’s soft embrace and laughed.

    “I can see your love for me has been renewed.” Roxana said pointing to Kamboodgieh’s erect gentile. And as he started to sit up, she slid herself away from his upper body, and with a swift move she pushed him back on the floor and saddled on top of him. As Roxana invited his love between her loins, she looked into his eyes and said, “Now you know why our son should become our nation’s head priest my love.” Kamboodgieh nodded, not being sure what to make of his bride’s bold move. “Maybe it was Homa’s Farrah doing.” He thought.  It didn’t take long that he cared about the future no more while making the future.

    Homa the never resting firebird flew into the cloud and out of the village’s sky as soon as cries of ecstasy of the newlyweds rang through and through. Chista was pleased.

Nine months later cries of giving birth shook two villages of Spitama and Rhagae-Former in the northeast and the latter in the north-on the same day and the same time in the month of Athur, the third month of autumn.

    But only the village of Spitama in the northeast by the river Daeti celebrated their newborn, for Frini delivered the perfect Doghdo, the future mother to Zarathustra with ease and comfort. Whereas the village of Rhagae went deep into the mourning for the birth of not so perfect baby boy Bardia.

    “It’s a ghost baby.” The midwife gasped in horror when the baby boy slid out of his mother’s womb after a difficult and painful birth. Though covered in blood there was no denial that the baby boy was an albino. And albino babies were to be sacrificed. From time immemorial the Moghs left their imperfect offspring on the foothills of Hara Barazaiti, in the wild and offered them to Mithra.

    “Let me at least name him.” Roxana said, as Kamboodgieh yank the baby.

   “Let Angra-Mainyu name his own demon.” Kamboodgieh said, as he wrapped him in a rough black woolen rag. The baby cried in pain, his cord still dangling from his bellybutton.

   “He is no demon,” Roxana pleaded, “he’s Homa’s promise. I saw the light. Look at him. He’s a blessed baby.” Baby screamed and freed one of his arms. Roxana reached out for it before Kamboodgieh took the baby away and said in rush, “By the grace of Homa the sacred firebird, the holder of the secret of death and rebirth, I call you Bardia.”

    “It wasn’t Homa who you saw. It was the poppies dreams which misguided you. Everyone knows they invite demons. This is your doing.” Kamboodgieh rushed out of the room and left Roxana crying in the bed of blood and pain. She struggled against the midwife and her mother, keeping her from bolting out of her bed after her stolen son. Her exhausted body stopped fighting not long after Kambodgieh left the room, but her cries lasted longer.

    Four Karpans, including his father in law Bardia, the great priest, were waiting for Kamboodgieh outside his house to carry out the infanticide ritual. All five of them headed towards the snow -covered foothills. Away from the village towards the altar of Mithra, where The Eternal Crib for imperfect newborns was set.

But desponded Roxana could not let go of her baby that easy. All of a sudden, she stopped her screeching cries. Took three deep breath and invited the memory of Homa’s first breath within her on the poppy field. The remembrance helped and she gained strength. She freed herself from her wards and rushed out of the house into the dead of the cold night- barefoot, bare head, clad only in a blood-soaked white linen night gown. She followed the footsteps of the five executioners in the fresh snow, leaving a trail of blood behind, not believing her own father’s betrayal.

    “How could you father?” She screamed into the night at one point and just before she saw the silhouette of five human figure in the horizon, ascending towards hell.

    At the same time, the baby Bardia smelled his mother near him. The distinct aroma of the breast milk is the most intoxicating for the newborn. It’s the matter of life and death, that mother’s milk. A milk which starts as blood and ends as blood.

    Smelling his mother, Bardia freed one arm to reach her breast, not knowing his mother was way out of reach. By doing so he released a beam of white light. Like a beacon. And Roxana saw that. And hope flickered a heartbeat. And Roxana summoned the firebird’s Farrah from within and climbed up. When she got to the altar of Mithra, the Karpans and Kambodgieh were on their last verses of their chants of Yasht Mithra-yet to be written.

    They all were in trance and didn’t hear Roxana’s presence. She hid behind a snow-covered rock. She saw her baby boy Bardia laid naked on the Eternal Crib. He was to be left there to die from freeze. Her heart wanted to run towards him and hold him in her bosom’s heat, but her brain told her to wait. “Yes, yes. I’ll wait. As soon as they leave, I’ll take you my boy in my warm bosom.” She tried to telepathize.

    It took forever for the Karpan to finish the ritual. By the time they finished, the baby stopped crying and that worried Roxana more. She thought he was dead and all her efforts to get to him was for naught. She risked being found and peaked her head out behind the rock and let a long silent sigh of relief. The baby was beaming white light, still. She ducked her head, sat on the ground and leaned on the rock, thinking, “how could you father?” as the convoy of death and injustice left the altar and passed by her.

    When the last sounds of footsteps, crunching the fresh snow, faded, Roxana rushed towards the Eternal Crib. She bent over her child and scooped him up and slid him into her Lenin gown. Not sure what to do next to rescue him from death. She was looking around like a crazed woman. Panicky, desperate, and hopeless.

    “Who’s there?” Roxana hears approach of footsteps, crunching the snow, “Oh father, how could you?” she collapsed on her knees, holding tight to her precious boy.

    Her father the Great Karpan kneeled by his daughter and said, “let go my child. I promise you everything will be fine. Trust me my daughter.”

    “Trust you,” Roxana pounced at her father, “after what you’ve done?”

    “What I’ve done was to save our future savior. And your son is an integral part of the divine plan to bring the prophecy into fruition.” Then the great Karpan kissed his daughter’s forehead and whispered in her ears, “I promise you he’ll live. And he’ll live in glory into an old age of 120. Let go of your son and let me take you back home.”

    Somehow the hypnotic voice of her father whispering hope into her ears convinced Roxana to hand back her baby to her father. She sat on her knees defeated sobbing awaiting her father. The Karpan put back the baby on the Eternal Crib and went back to his daughter’s side.

    “Just wait and see.” The Karpan said, “Look up my daughter look.”

    And Roxana looked up and saw a giant of a bird descending like a lightening from the highest peak, the Damavand peak, tearing away the thick clouds targeting the Crib.

    “He’s going after my baby,” Roxana tried to free herself from her father’s grip, “He’s going to eat him. Or worse. He’s you going to feed him to his chicks.”

    “No, my daughter, that’s no ordinary, hungry bird. That’s Seemorgh. Mithra’s Sacred bird Farrah.” The Karpan held on Roxana’s shoulders. “Just look.”

    And what Roxana saw was short of a miracle. She saw how Seemorgh perched by her baby’s side, gentle and loving. She saw Seemorgh scooped her boy off the altar and flew into the thick clouds above. And before she could react, a white owl, emerged out of the snow from the rock above the altar. A dust of snow sprinkled down and covered the stony cradle of death as the owl flapped his wings and flew up, following Seemorgh and the baby.

    “There they go.” The Karpan said, “She’ll make a man out of him.” Then he scooped her daughter off the frozen ground.

    “Put me down my father. Let me die at the feet of my son.” Roxana pleaded with no avail.

    The Great Karpan Bardia, hulled his daughter downhill, fighting the depth of the fresh snow fallen in the last hour.

    “My daughter, it’s not the time for you to go.” The Karpan said, from time to time, along the way to keep his daughter interested in life. “you yet to make more sacrifices for our savior. You yet to bring many more sons, and yes daughters too. Your first born needs an army to protect Zarathustra.

    “And I have to have that army with that jack ass husband of mine?” Roxana asked.

    “I’m afraid so.” The Karpan said.

    Roxana’s body went limp and no longer fought her father’s. “That’s the ultimate sacrifice.” She said, “at least he does wonders in bed.”

    “Roxana!” The Karpan exclaimed.

Chapter Three

Bardia and Lilith

    “What did Roxana’s father mean by ‘Seemorgh will make a man out of the baby Bardia?’” Ashvazvasht said, when Saen-Dokht got to this part of the story.

    “Oh, he meant what he meant,” Saen-Dokht said, while stirring the boiling content of a large, blackened kettle sitting on top of a charcoal burning brazier. The herbal brew released its spirit into the hut through the water vapors and rid it from the evil eyes.

    “But how a bird can bring up a man?” Ashvazvasht said, following her guardian around the hut. The old hag seldom rested.

    “Oh, but Seemorgh is not just a bird,” Saen-Dokht stopped and tapped Ashvazvasht’s nose with a wooden spoon and said, “she’s Mithra’s highest Farrah.”

    “But he was imperfect.” Ashvazvasht dropped her head and voice and said, “just like me.”

    “How else Seemorgh could get to raise him?” Saen-Dokht poured a ladle full of the brew in a clay bowl, handed to Ashvazvasht and said, “It was all meant to be.”

    “So it was planned all along.”

    “Something like that.” Saen- Dokht poured some of the brew for herself and sat on a short stool and sniffed the steam before taking a sip and said, “Finish up your tea, we have a lot to do.”

    “But what about the rest of the story?”

    “Patience, you’ll hear the rest in its righteous time. When is meant to be.” Saen-Dokht said as she slurped the last drops of the brew, “By the way, you’re not imperfect. You’re more than perfect.”

    And the righteous time came three months later, on the 15th of the month of Haurvatato, the last month of spring, Ashvazvasht’s 8th birthday.

    “And now it’s time for you to hear the rest of it.” Saen-Dokht said to Ashvazvasht after a day of celebrating her birthday. “You must stay at my hut tonight.”

    “Rest of what?” Ashvazvasht following Saen-Dokht up hills.

    “The rest of your story,” Saen- Dokht said as she sped up towards her hut. “How you came about, how you came here, and where you must go from here and what is expected of you from now on.”

    “Everything Nana? You’re going to tell me everything?” It was the first time that Ashvazvasht called her mentor that. Nana was the name Saen-Dokht’s grand and great grandchildren called her.

    “Did you just call me Nana.” Saen -Dokht took Ashvazvasht hand in hers and said, “Now I’m sure it’s a just time for you to hear story of you.”

    “In full and panoramic?” Ashvazvasht eyes sparkled million sparkles.

    “In full and panoramic.”

    As legends had it, Seemorgh took baby Bardia from his imminent death bed on the freezing foothills of Hara Barazaiti to her home deep into Damavand’s crater, the mountain range’s highest peak.

    “You rest little one,” Seemorgh said as she lay the baby on a bed of feathers of all colors, “you’ll be warm and safe here.”

    And keeping albino baby Bardia warm and safe wasn’t an easy task for the Farrah of the Sun god Mithra. His delicate skin was prone to sever burn if it was exposed to too much sun, and he could go blind for the same reason. But, Seemorgh had a bigger task. She’d not only had to keep the baby safe, but she was also to raise him as a warrior and a Karpan at the same time. So, during the day she kept Bardia inside the crater and taught him the written words and the numbers and medicine and magic. And at nighttime, Seemorgh taught him the stars and the meaning of their place in the sky. She also trained him to be a warrior under the night sky. Though Bardia was made with Homa’s spirit, he also possessed the White Owl spirit, one of many Chista’s Farrah’s, and the night training was a delight for him.

    But night-time wasn’t the only time he left the crater. On the cloudy and rainy days, Seemorgh would give her little ward a ride on her back and flew him over the pastures and farms of his birthplace the land of Rhagae.

    “Hop on my back,” Seemorgh would say to the young Bardia after a day of study, exercises, and experiments, “let’s fly over your homeland and see what your folks up to.”

    And while flying over Bardia’s ancestral land, Seemorgh told him of his family and his roots. Making him ready and knowledgeable about every aspect of a life he was missing because it was meant to be.

    “You know I don’t mind living with you up here,” Bardia told Seemorgh when he was eight years old after a flight over Rhagae. By then he knew all his five siblings—three girls and a twin boy, perfect as perfect can be. “It’s fun to have a bird’s eye view of the people, without them knowing you even exist.”

    “Not all of them are ignorant of your existence,” Seemorgh said, as she caressed Bardia’s long white hair while he laid his head on her chest after a day of hard study and hard training. “At least two people know.”

    “Yes, you’re right.” Bardia pressed his head on Seemorgh’s chest and got closer to her heart. “Today, my mother looked up while we were flying over the city. As if she knew we were there.” Bardia moved his head off Seemorgh chest and looked into her eyes and after a pause said, “Come to think of it, she’s been doing it every time we flew over the land in the last three months.”

    “Yes, my dear,” Seemorgh sighed, “you’ve observed it right. She knows. And it’s time for you two to meet for the second time.”

    “You mean it?” Bardia jumped up and said, “When?”

    “Patience my dear. Your impatience is not becoming of a Karpan to be.” Seemorgh laughed.

    “What do you mean by that?” Bardia was even more confused.

    “You’re eight years old now, and you know everything there is for a Karpan to know.” Seemorgh softened her gaze and said, “My job is done. As of tomorrow, you are to start your journey to the Mount Dena.”

    Mount Dena was the highest peak of Zagros mountains to the southwest of where Bardia perched most nights after a vigorous physical training by the war god, Izad-Varaharam, and stargazed ‘til dawn. Some of those exercises included climbing up and down the mountain’s steepest path. He had to become an expert mountaineer before he could traverse all the way to the Trita’s temple of Eternal Light deep into the Mount Dena crevices, when the time came.

    “Why the long face?” Seemorgh looked into Bardia’s green eyes. “You knew this day would come.”

    Bardia nodded and said, “Have you arranged for our meeting?” He dropped his head, “You must have otherwise there is no time if I’m to start my journey.”

    “Oh, yes. I’ve arranged for you and your mother to meet each other at the altar of Eternal Cradle where you were left to die.”

    “What about my grandfather?”

    “Oh no,” Seemorgh caressed Bardia’s hair and said, “He’s too old to make the journey up. After all, he’s climbed those hills more than his fair share.”

    “Oh yes, you always told me how he brought my mother’s milk to the altar for you to take to feed me.” Bardia said.

    “Yes, every day for two years. Your mother got pregnant right after she let you go, and nobody questioned as to why she was still producing milk not having a suckling babe.” Seemorgh laughed, “You got fed thanks to your grandfather and not to leave out, thanks to your sister.”

    “Yeah, siblings are not useless after all.” Bardia laughed. “And my father?”

    “What about your father?”

    “I don’t know,” Bardia put his head on Seemorgh’s chest and said, “I guess, I was hoping somehow he knew about me. Or at least had a feeling that I was still alive.”

    “Oh, the feeling,” Seemorgh sighed, thinking she should tell a white lie to keep Bardia’s hope up. But she was Mithra’s spirit. Lies, white or dark, never were spoken by her. “No, he can’t feel your existence. And it’s for his own good.”

    “Will he ever know?” Bardia said.

    “Oh he will, but not anytime soon,” Seemorgh said.

    “I’d love to see his face when he does.”

    “Your father might not feel your existence, but from time to time he feels regret for what he has done to you. Don’t be unkind to him in your thoughts.”

    “Oh well, I didn’t mean to sound vengeful.” Bardia got up and left the comfort of Seemorgh’s embrace and said, “I have to get my gear put together for tomorrow’s journey. Are you going to accompany me down to the altar of Eternal Cradle?”

    “No, from tomorrow on you’ll be on your own.” Then Seemorgh got up and went to the center of the crater where she conjured her magics. Unlike humans, she didn’t need material tools to work her power. She perched on the ground and closed her eyes. The Great White Owl Farrah, one of the many Chista’s spirits flew in and sat by her all night.

    The next day at dawn, the eight-year-old Bardia, with the help of Seemorgh, washed up in a pool of hot spring, oiled his entire body with Haoma’s seed oil and dressed in fresh linen tunic and pantaloons. Seemorgh took her time with the grooming all the while giving him the last advises. At last, the time came for Seemorgh to let go of her ward.

    “You wait here,” Seemorgh said after she finished brushing Bardia’s hair.

    Bardia didn’t have to wait long. Seemorgh came back carrying a hooded robe made of feathers, and not just any feathers. It was made of Seerang’s feathers.

    When Seerang was martyred on the battlefield on the foothills of Hara Barazaiti by Ajdidahak and Daeva Zaatas centuries ago, Seemorgh, his long-life mate, made sure to recover every and each of his feathers strewn during the battle. Unlike hers, which were grey, Seerang’s feathers came in thirty shades of vibrant colors and Seemorgh couldn’t bear it if the Daeva Zaatas got their hands on them.

    The enemy’s soldiers were long gone when Seemorgh flew down the Damavand and reached the macabre scene of carnage and hate.

    “Oh my lovely mate, what have they done to you?” Seemorgh held the blood-soaked body of her mate and shielded it from the vultures.

    “I wish it was me instead of you,” Seemorgh rocked the body as she sobbed. Then she looked up and into the dark sky and screamed, “Why him? Why not me? Why did you keep me away from the battle?”

    But she knew why? It was meant to be. On that dark day she was commissioned by Mithra to stay in the crater and conjure a shield around the land of Rhagae to keep the Daeva Zaata’s army out. And while she was summoning the Izad Tishtrya to come to her aid and veiled the land by creating a thick cloud, Seerang’s feathers were getting plucked by wrath of war.

    Seemorgh flew her mate’s body to Damavand’s peak. She summoned a flock of thirty birds of thirty shades of color to fly all over the battlefield and gather all of Seerang’s strewn feathers to take them up to his home, into the crater. Together they made a bed out of all the shed feathers and laid Seerang’s body on it. They mourned his death for forty days, and as they mourned, thousands and thousands of poppy flowers grew out of the blood of the righteous men and women, who fought the evil on the foothills of Hara Barazaiti. Until Mithra the Sun god came down, ended the mourning period, and took Seerang’s body away.

    “If there is any consolation,” Mithra said as he was carrying out the body. “His Farrah is with me. Now we are going to leave you.”

    After they all left the crater, Seemorgh went to the bed of feathers and collected them and made a robe out of them. A blood-soaked robe. The very robe which she helped Bardia to put on before he left the nest.

    “The robe will give you speed, also the feathers can adjust their colors and become one with the nature and cloak you from the evil eyes.” Seemorgh smoothed the feathers. “You’ll also have the guidance of the Great White Owl.”

    Bardia picked up his bow and a quiver filled with arrows and a bundle of nourishment. “Remember, when you get to the temple of Eternal Light burn the robe in its brazier, for my beloved Seerang has done his job and he’s truly going to be with our beloved Mithra. Now, follow the White Owl.”

    Seemorgh was right, the robe helped him to get to the foothills in no time. As if he almost flew down. When he got close to the altar of Eternal Cradle he stopped and perched on a rock which gave him a good view of the altar, with the White Owl perching next to him.

    Her mother Roxana was there. She was pacing back and forth. Her white linen cloak swept the ground. Couple of times she went to the altar and touched the stony cradle and shivered. The thought of forgoing of the meeting popped more than once in his mind as he was getting closer to the meeting place. But now that he saw his mother down there, filled with angst he decided not to delay the meeting any further. “No more bird’s eye view,” and he climbed down the path.

    “Hello Mother.” Bardia deepened his voice.

    Roxana let out a sigh. She was expecting a little eight-years-old boy. But instead, she found

a feathered creature almost as tall as her husband Kambodgieh, standing a few steps away.

    “Who are you?” Roxana whispered.

    “It’s me Bardia, your son.” And at this he removed his feathery hood and let his white hair spill on his shoulders. As soon as he did that the Great White Owl flew over from the rocks above and perched on his shoulder.

    Roxana melted down, sat on the ground, and said to the owl, “I know you.”

    Bardia rushed to his mother and helped her to rise up. “You have his eyes.” Roxana said as she looked into her son’s green eyes.

    “Who’s eyes?” Bardia asked.

    “Your father’s.” Roxana held onto her son’s arms and kept gazing into Bardia’s eyes and said, “It is you.” She started to sob and stayed close to him for a little longer before she pulled away, for she was a wise woman and didn’t want to waste time crying. 

    Though Bardia had a hard time to warm up to his mother, they still managed to talk for a long while about the past, present, and the future.

    “It seems you’re ready for your new home.” Roxana braved a touch on Bardia’s pale face with the tip of her right-hand fingers, expecting him to recoil. But he let her. They both knew they’ll never be this close to each other. 

    “Just remember what is asked from you. The Universe’s wellbeing depends on it.” After those words Roxana bowed out and left her feathered son in haste.

    And Bardia savored the warmth of his mother’s touch throughout his journey to Mount Dena.

    What was asked from Bardia all his young life was that he would go under a vigorous emotional, mental, intellectual, physical, and above all spiritual training to become grand Karpan of Trita’s temple of Eternal Light by the age of fourteen. As a grand Karpan, he would get access to Moghi library filled with forbidden knowledge from generations past.

    “For a temple called Eternal Light, for sure it holds a lot of dark secrets.” Bardia told himself as he went through the words some written on deer hides and some etched into the clay tablets in hundred different dialects which of course he was fluent in. “But all these darkness will go away very soon, and a new knowledge will lighten the world. And when the time comes, I’ll do my part to bring the light about.”

    And the time came the second year into his priesthood. In the summer of that year the temple received the green signal from the city of Anshan from the Great Grey Owl as Bardia was told many times by Seemorgh they would. His real journey had started right then and there at the age of fifteen, as it was meant to be.

    As soon as the green light reached the Eternal Light temple, Bardia wrapped himself in threadbare woolen rags and cloaks, exchanged his warm kid hide boots with worn out sandals, and left the temple.

    After passing a rocky and narrow labyrinth he stopped at the entrance of the cave which hid the Temple in its depths from the world. He drew in the tin air of the mountain and looked up at the stary night. Then he got close to the edge of the mountain and looked down. The ever-present thick fog which arose from the flatlands below and their cities ever since Ajdidahak chose to settle in the region stopped short of reaching the peak.

    “Like a death itself you are waiting for me.” Bardia told the menacing fog a few leagues down below. “But I’m not afraid of you.”

    Indeed, he wasn’t afraid to descent into the fog and into the wetlands. He’s been navigating the mountain passes since he came to the Temple. For seven years, he studied the esoteric of the priesthood in daytime and practiced art of war at nighttime and built up his physical strength. Above all, he frequented the wetlands and Tigris riverbanks, hundreds of leagues below. All the while learning different trades in maritime industries and perfected the art of sailing, especially under care of Bilal the master sailor. Though he was cloaked from head to toes at all times, people still had a peek or two of his long white hair and long white limbs. He became known as the albino who perfected the art of the sailing. And while he was perfecting his sailing skills and making acquaintances with people who could help him when the time came, he gathered as much as information he could about the evils of Ajdidahak and passed it onto Seemorgh, for Seemorgh was the closest Farrah to Uhurumoezd and Amesha Spentas. And more the divine forces knew about their enemies’ intentions sooner they could bring about the light.

    Now, time had come for him to put into the test all his mental, physical, and magical training. And as always, he summoned the Farrah of the Great White Owl to be his guide.

    “Oh, mighty owl, please be my guide once more.” Bardia wished out loud as soon as he stepped onto the path. And the Farrah of the Great White Owl lightened his path as he flew before him. “We just need to get to the port as fast as we can. There is no time to waste. Lilith and the slave merchant are on their way to the port.”

    And like a lightning Bardia, descended hundreds of leagues into the thick fog and in no time, he found himself on the deck of a slave ship, ready to undock, a good hour before its owner and Lilith, his bride to be, reached the dock. Now it was the time for the great Karpan of Moghi tribe to put all his knowledge and trainings, and above all, his faith to the test.

    “You’re lucky to get the job,” the ship captain said, holding a lantern in one hand and examining and squeezing Bardia’s arms muscles with the other. “You have impressive muscles.”

    “You have an impressive ship.” Bardia didn’t even flinch when the captain grabbed one of his thighs and squeezed it in his strong grip.

    “Yea, one of its kind, a ship with three masts. Slave trade pays well.” Captain stopped examining Bardia’s strength and said, “I hope you can handle the job. My best sailor was a no show and at this time of the night a good sailor doesn’t come by often.”

    “What do you think happened to him?” Bardia said.

    “How do I know? Maybe he found a hidden treasure.” Captain kept on examining Bardia.

    “Maybe he was snatched by Ajdidahak agents and was fed to him.” Bardia laughed. Which there was a truth behind the statement. The poor sailor was taken by the evil forces on his way to the port that night and never was seen. It was one of the last efforts of Ajdidahak, conjured up in haste, to stop the ship from sailing into the south sea and preventing the couple to wed and consummate their nuptial.

    “You talk too much. You want the job or not?” The captain raised the lantern up and close to Bardia’s face.

    “Of course.” Bardia lowered his head and pulled his face deeper into his hood.

    “Now take your cloak off.” Captain braved a wag of a finger at Bardia who was two-and-a-half heads taller than him and said, “And know that no matter what, I only pay you one silver coin, and only when we get to our destination. Do you understand.”

    “Yes, I understand.” Bardia took his cloak off and revealed his long white hair and fair skin under the deck’s torches light.

    “You are the albino.” The captain sighed, “I always thought you weren’t real. how could it be? The sun can kill you.”

    “I can see my reputation proceeds me.” Bardia laughed and turned around and said, “Look at me, I am as strong as five men.”

    “But I can’t hire an albino. How can you work in those rags? How old are you anyway?” As captain uttered those words a big wave following a loud hiss shook the ship. Captain lost his footing. But before he fell Bardia caught him with the lantern dangling in his hand.

    “Look,” Bardia pointed to the riverbank and the hissing explosions along it and said, “You don’t have time to hire another sailor.” Then he saw a glowing golden light in the shape of a woman followed by a man in the horizon running towards the deck.

    “What do you say?” Bardia urged.

    “All right get up the pole and wait for the wind.” Captain released himself from Bardia’s hold, “But I’ll pay you half. And I don’t care if your Bilal’s protege.”

    “Fine.” Bardia grabbed a torch and walked toward the main sail and climbed its pole. As he reached the top, he looked down the deck and saw one of the sailors is pulling in the ship’s plank in a hurry after Lilith and the merchant climbed up and dropped themselves onto the deck.

    By this time the lava-spewing explosions and hissing had stopped. All of a sudden a swift wind picked up, and fog was cleared.

    “Sails up,” the captain yelled from down below, taking the hold of the mast. But before Bardia released the sail his eyes caught Lilith’s eyes as she looked up from where she laid panting with fright. He pointed the torch down where she was landed to take a better look. Her disheveled red curls looked like fire and her torn rags had no choice but to reveal a golden aura, encompassing her milky skin ready to be sparked into a full-blown fire.

    “My lady, please come with me to your cabin.” A female voice brought her attention down to the deck.

    “What?” She looked into her eyes.

    “Your cabin my lady.” The girl said, as two men came and threw water on the merchant who was lying next to Lilith and brought him about.

    Lilith looked at the merchant who was still in daze. Then she looked at the girl and said, “Oh, yes. My cabin.”

    As Lilith got up, she looked up and saw a white owl perching on the top of the main sail pole, turning his head around, as a sailor in rags, trapesed from the main sail to the others and untied the ropes from all three sails and released them with a speed and precision which no other sailor could match, while his long white hair gave itself to the wind’s whim.

    “Oh my.” Lilith said out loud without taking her eyes off the sailor as she was ushered down to her cabin.

    Two hours into their voyage, having the ship on its course, and seeing Bardia’s skill with the sails, the captain had him take over the mainmast and went to his cabin to get some food. He had barely started, when all of a sudden, a bright light shone through the cracks of the cabin’s door followed by the sound of commotion and unrest from the deck above.

    Thinking the ship was attacked and set on fire by the pirates of the South Seas, he picked up his blade and rushed up to the deck. But there was no attack neither a fire. The vessel was sailing on its course. Instead, he saw the gathering of his sailors around the source of the light murmuring and pointing. He ran towards the crowd and pushed his way through. Then he saw Lilith standing by her cabin’s, dressed in a golden gown, luminating and shining like a beacon. She was turning her head around and up and down as if she was looking for something or someone. Then she fixed her gaze on the middle of the ship and started to move towards the mainmast ignoring the encircling crowd. There were nothing threatening about her moves and the light that she was emanating. In fact, her presence was quite calming.

    As she took her first step towards the mainmast, the crowd broke the circle and made way for her. The captain looked at the mast and saw Bardia was navigating as if there was nothing amiss on that ship. He stood there with his back to the crowd. As Lilith got closer to the mainmast, little by little, her luminosity dissolved Bardia’s image into a mere silhouette.

    Captain pushed the sailors and broke their crowding and yelled, “Alright, you lazy maggots back to your work.” All the while cursing the merchant for bringing not only one woman but two on board. And one of them was a witch. After everyone felt no threat from Lilith and her golden aura, and fright and confusion subsided, the captain headed back to his cabin to finish his supper. A hooting sound made him to stop and turn toward it, and saw a white owl perched on the top of the mainmast, where Bardia and Lilith were standing shoulder to shoulder.

    “What the…” but before he could finish his thought, a second owl, this time a grey one flew down and sat next to the white one. At first, he thought his senses were fooling him. Then he looked up again. The aura of Lilith gave him enough light to verify his observation. The grey owl turned her head towards him. She let out a hoot and ended his trans fixation. Captain turned around and rushed back to his cabin and unfinished dinner which he had no appetite for anymore.

    Up on the deck, Lilith stood by Bardia like a beacon teasing the forty-eight-thousand eyes of Daeva-Zaatas into following the ship as they sailed in the protected waters of South Seas. So far, the divergence plan was working, and Angra-Mainyu and his Daeva-Zaatas were blindsided. The trick was to keep Lilith alive. For now, they were in the safe waters and Daeva-Zaatas felt impotent. But as always, evil had contingency plans.