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Beside the Pearl Fountains

by Bill West

There once was a maid. She was the daughter of a rich merchant who loved her above all other things. So much so that he turned away every suitor who asked for her hand in marriage.

The Prince of that land caught sight of the maid as she fed peacocks beside the pearl fountains. He gazed upon her beauty, the luster of her hair, the shapeliness of her limbs, the delicacy of her movements and lost his heart entirely.

The Sultan became concerned that his son grew pale, would not eat, could not sleep. He asked his physicians what ailed him.

When the Sultan learned that the problem was trivial, he summoned the merchant and told him what was required of him. He must surrender his daughter to the Prince. No doubt, once satiated with the charms of a merchant’s daughter he would see the wisdom of marriage to a Princess who came with a dowry and rich fertile land.

“O great Sultan,” the merchant babbled, “forgive me but I must warn against your plan. Your son is in great danger and you must keep him away from my daughter for the sake of his immortal soul.

“My daughter is but a plain and simple girl of great virtue. Indeed her virtue is so great that Shaitan himself has determined to pervert her, make her an instrument of his enmity against mankind. He has cast an allure over my daughter. Your son is not in love with her but is the victim of Shaitan’s dark magic. Even now he whispers into your son’s chest and sickens him with desire for my daughter.”

The Sultan turned pale, fearing for his beloved son. “I cannot act against Shaitan, but I must protect my family.”

The Sultan summoned wise men who conferred for seven days and nights. They concluded that the matter should be placed in the hands of Allah. The maid must be exposed on sacred Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains.

The merchant was alarmed that his plan had backfired so disastrously. He approached the Prince, threw himself on his knees, confessed his duplicity, begging him to save his daughter. Between them they hatched a plan.

The merchant equipped the Prince for the journey to Mount Elbrus. He gave him a magic ring and a sword of truth. He provided a caravan and servants.

The Prince followed the merchant’s daughter and her captors into the bleak north where rivers froze and the mountains were crowned with ice. After many months of travel and hardship, the Prince found his beloved, naked and blue with cold, chained to a rock on the mountain’s summit. He called for servants to cover her nakedness with furs. He summoned a blacksmith to strike off her chains.

But the wind was so cold and fierce that the blacksmith could not make a fire to heat the iron, and the links were so hard with hoarfrost that his hammers shattered at the first blow.

The Prince rubbed his magic ring and summoned a genie to do his bidding. The genie appeared in the form of a white goat that stood upright on its back legs.

“Foolish mortal. Do not pit yourself against my Lord Shaitan, the most powerful, the most beautiful being in all creation. Rather throw yourself off this mountain top. You are not fit to look upon him.”

With that the genie disappeared and the magic ring melted into a wreath of smoke.

The maiden said, “Leave me, my Lord. This folly is not of your making, and if I must die, as I surely will, I would not drag you down with me.”

“Such nobility, such virtue,” said a deep and sonorous voice. Shaitan appeared in their midst, his armour glittering in the pale light, his red wings outspread so that they fell beneath his shadow.

The Prince was struck dumb by his beauty. He fell to his knees in adoration.

“Throw down your sword, ignoble son of Adam,” Shaitan demanded.

The Prince hefted his sword from his belt and cast it onto the rocks.

Shaitan’s heels struck sparks as he strode towards the Prince. His wings blocked out the sun as he bent down to seize the Prince by this throat. He shook him, feet kicking over the void. “What is this toy of clay that I crush between my talons?”

The Prince said nothing, just twitched and choked, his eyes twisting up into his eye sockets till they showed only white. “Bow down to such as this? It is not fit to kiss my arse.”

“If it would please you,” the maiden said meekly, “I would kiss your arse if you would only let the Prince live.”

Shaitan laughed and hitched up his girdle over his buttocks. “A fitting tribute. Make it quick, daughter of Eve, my arm wearies, and I tire of this game.” Shaitan bent his legs and proffered his arse to the maiden.

The chains were long, the sword was at her feet.

The scream shook the mountain and shattered the sky. The maiden plunged the sword of truth into Shaitan’s fundament. His bowels spilt fiery coils of magma that sparked and melted the manacles that bound the maiden.

The Prince and the maiden clung to a rock as the summit shattered. Flames like blood erupted from the fractured mountain as molten rock spewed into the sky. They saw Shaitan fall like a star trailing darkness into the fiery pit.

They traveled home in silence, not meeting each other’s gaze, not speaking of what had happened.

On their return the Prince married a Princess and had many children. The maiden stayed with her father until his death. She managed his estates with skill, and they flourished. She became rich beyond anything her father had achieved. She bought many peacocks and loved to feed them in the tranquillity of her gardens, beside the pearl fountains.

Copyright © 2009 by Bill West

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