King Shahrayar
Leila Rae
I t is Day Five Hundred-Eleven, and Scheherazade still lives. No one is more surprised than me. When we married, I thought that she would end like all of the others before her: dead after the first night. And, you may wonder why she has not. Oh, I know the rumors that circulate Bagdad. They say that I am a fool for her beauty or that I am enchanted by her stories. They say that I no longer rule, and that I'm lead around by a woman. They say that I have lost my edge, and that I have lost my taste for blood.
Although she is known as a great beauty, she is a blur in these old eyes. And, as for her stories, they are old, passed down from times long passed. I'm lead nowhere that I do not wish to go. As for a bloodthirst, you may examine my Scimitar. No, the rumors are not true.
What is the truth then, you ask? She is useful to me. Always, the story she tells is true; the information confirmed by my spies. Her knowledge of my officials and their intrigue is uncanny. She, too, must have agents everywhere. She is better than ten spies; I shall miss her when she is joins my other wives. But she will not die by the sword. No, for her, it will be by a sacred black stone.
This evening, I celebrated the end of Ramaden with a sumptuous banquet. My guests--Maluk the Police Chief, Badr the Cadi, Abu the Vizier, --all honorable and trustworthy men--have retired with me to my private quarters.
"My most honored guests, I implore you, sit, sit! Remove your outer garments. Relax! Sip wine!" To encourage relaxation, I remove my outer robe and place my Scimitar near at hand on a table. "Mas'ud bring coffee. Make music for my guests." It fills my heart with joy to hear them laugh, but it is near dawn. It is time to end out celebration.
"It is time for entertainment," I shout. "Scheherazade, my Prescious One, I understand that you have news from Bagdad. Tell us."
"I have heard, O happy king, that when Muhsin the Merchant returned to Bagdad, he found Genies in his house and was most afraid."
"Can this be true, Maluk? Genies? Tell us the story, Scheherazade." Old Maluk shakes his head in disbelief; Abu twitches with pleasure.
"And, if it pleases my lord, I will weave the names of your guests into my story."
"Yes! Yes! Very clever. Now, tell us what you know."
"With the greatest of pleasure. This is what I have heard."

First published: Tatoo Highway, Spring 1998