About all four walls of the chamber coiled a damp, heavy darkness…
Notes under the cut:
On the epigraph:
1. I suck at poetry, so didn’t bother with rhyme or meter.
2. Ruknabad is a river IRL, famed for its beauty and clear waters. Also spelled Rocnabad.
3. Rakhsh is actually “Rakhshna” in the text, but that consonant cluster looks horrible in English. (My guess is that Tanaka rendered it this way to make it easier to pronounce in Japanese. Rakush does seem to be a valid variant of the name, but Rakushna looks pretty bad too. Could be Rakshna I guess, but eh, I’m sticking with Rakhsh to keep the reference obvious.)
4. Chronicles is my best attempt at localizing the actual term used, “chanson de geste“. Ballad is tempting but too folksy — from the language/style this is a pretty formal epic, not a popular ballad. Cycle was my main alternative (to be super precise, the Japanese has it as the “anthologized songs of heroic deeds”), but in the end Chronicles just has the better flow.
On the short but note-packed update:
1. The only reference to “dimas” I can find is presumably Arabic: Ad Dimas, the name of a historical building (supposedly a Sassanian Fire Temple) in Antioch. (The man responsible for this source is himself a pretty interesting person: Guy Le Strange.)
2. Almost all the names of the elder’s minions are the names of demons in the Shahnameh. Gurgin (a treacherous figure) and Gazhdaham (an aged warrior) are exceptions, but are also from the Shahnameh. Arzhang also shows up in contexts outside of the Shahnameh though. And yes, I did make an exception to my usual linguistic rules when it came to the name of Beed (usually spelled Bid). Since “Bid” is an actual and relatively common English word, I was forced to compromise.
3. ghadaq (ガーダック, gaa-da-kku): No clue. Looked into some sources about magic and demon powers but nothing came to light. The in-text translation is 地行の術 which is literally how I translated it (earthly movement magic). In fact I suspect this isn’t even Persian/Farsi, but Urdu, and that it’s from the (19th century) Tilism-e-Hoshruba, which in turn seems to be a literary hoax of a “sequel” to the (16th century) Hamzanama (ref: Arzhang [a sorcerer here and not a demon] making a magical earth-diving slave) — but seriously have no idea what source Tanaka used because there certainly isn’t much academic info out there on the former in English (relevant: this XKCD strip), and a quick search in Japanese didn’t unearth anything either. For more translations of the Hamza cycle/extra info see Frances W. Pritchett’s page. I’m guessing though that most of the info that does exist hasn’t been digitized yet and/or was never formally published.
But it annoys me that this breaks my current track record of successful identification. 😛 (Sadly, there’s a lot more puzzling stuff coming up…) Of course, if anyone has better ideas or is in a position to do some more research on this, I would be very grateful!
4. nonbelievers and evil cultists: “nonbelievers” uses the exact same term I usually translate as “heathen” (and occasionally “infidel”). “Evil cultists” is a pretty literal translation, although the more accurate emphasis is “followers of evil religions.” Given the context, I assume the former refers to the Lusitanians and their foreign religion, while the latter refers to the native Parsian beliefs (since they overthrew Zahhak and all).
5. Yes, they really do all speak extremely formally. (If you remember the brief scene from the first book, the elder blatantly switches his speaking style when addressing Silver Mask, and also loosens up a bit when he’s one on one with Gurgin.) As before with Tahmineh, forgive me for abusing thou/thee/thy to get that across.