Read a Different Fairy Tale Everyday!
(From the "The Arabian Nights - Their Best-Known Tales" collection.)
There was, in olden time, in Damascus of Syria, a king, named Abd-El-Melik the son of Marwan; and he was sitting, one day, having with him the great men of his empire, consisting of kings and sultans, when a discussion took place among them, respecting the traditions of former nations. They called to mind the stories of Solomon, son of David, and the dominion which God had bestowed upon him over mankind, and the genies, and the birds, and the wild beasts, and they said: "We have heard from those who were before us, that God bestowed not upon any one the power which He bestowed upon Solomon, so that he used to imprison the genies and the devils in bottles of brass, and pour molten lead over them, and seal a cover over them with his signet."
Then Talib, one of the sultans, related, that a man once embarked in a ship with a company of others, and they voyaged to the island of Sicily and ceased not in their course until there arose against them a wind which bore them away to an unknown land. This happened during the black darkness of night, and when the day shone forth, there came out to them, from caves in that land, people of black complexion and with naked bodies, like wild beasts, not understanding speech. They had a king of their own race, and none of them knew Arabic save their king. So when they saw the ship and those who were in her, he came forth to them attended by a party of his companions, and saluted them and welcomed them: They acquainted him with their state; and he said to them, "No harm shall befall you; there hath not come to us any one of the sons of Adam before you." And he entertained them with a banquet of the flesh of birds and of wild beasts and of fish. And after this, the people of the ship went down to divert themselves in the city, and they found one of the fishermen who had cast his net in the sea to catch fish, and he drew it up, and, lo, in it was a bottle of brass stopped with lead, which was sealed with the signet of Solomon the son of David. And the fisherman came forth and broke it; whereupon there proceeded from it a blue smoke, which united with the clouds of heaven; and they heard a horrible voice, saying: "Repentance! repentance! O Prophet of God!" Then, of that smoke there was formed a person of terrible aspect, of terrific make, whose head would reach as high as a mountain; and he disappeared from before their eyes. As to the people of the ship, their hearts were almost eradicated; but the blacks thought nothing of the event. And a man returned to the king, and asked him respecting this; and the king answered him: "Know that this is one of the genies whom Solomon, the son of David, when he was incensed against them, imprisoned in these bottles, and he poured lead over them, and threw them into the sea. When the fisherman casteth his net, it generally bringeth up these bottles; and when they are broken, there cometh forth from them a genie, who imagineth that Solomon is still living; wherefore he repenteth, and saith: 'Repentance! O Prophet of God!'"
And the Prince of the Faithful, Abd-El-Melik, wondered at these words, and said: "By Allah, I desire to see some of these bottles!" So Talib replied: "O Prince of the Faithful, thou art able to do so, and yet remain in thy country. Send to thy brother Abd-El-Azeez, that he may write orders to the Emeer Moosa to journey from the Western Country to this mountain which we have mentioned, and to bring thee what thou desirest of these bottles; for the furthest tract of his province is adjacent to this mountain." And the Prince of the Faithful approved of his advice, and said: "O Talib, thou hast spoken truth and I desire that thou be my messenger to Moosa for this purpose." To this, Talib replied: "Most willingly, O Prince of the Faithful." And the king said to him: "Go in dependence on the blessing of God, and his aid." Then he gave orders that they should write for him a letter to his brother Abd-El-Azeez, his viceroy in Egypt, and another letter to Moosa, his viceroy in the Western Country, commanding him to journey, himself, in search of the bottles of Solomon. He sealed the two letters, and delivered them to Talib, commanding him to hasten, and he gave him riches and riders and footmen to aid him in his way.
So Talib went forth on his way to Egypt, and when the Emeer Moosa knew of his approach, he went forth to him and met him, and rejoiced at his arrival; and Talib handed to him the letter. So he took it and read it, and understood its meaning; and he put it upon his head, saying: "I hear and obey the command of the Prince of the Faithful." He determined to summon his great men; and they presented themselves; and he inquired of them respecting that which had been made known to him by the letter; whereupon they said: "O Emeer, if thou desire him who will guide thee to that place, have recourse to the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad; for he is a knowing man, and hath travelled much, and he is acquainted with the deserts and wastes and the seas, and their inhabitants and their wonders, and the countries and their districts. Have recourse therefore to him, and he will direct thee to the object of thy desire." Accordingly he gave orders to bring him, and he came before him; and, lo, he was a very old man, whom the vicissitudes of years and times had rendered decrepit. The Emeer Moosa saluted him, and said to him: "O Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad, our lord, the Prince of the Faithful, hath commanded us thus and thus, and I possess little knowledge of that land, and it hath been told me that thou art acquainted with that country and the routes. Hast thou then a wish to accomplish the affair of the Prince of the Faithful?" The sheikh replied: "Know, O Emeer, that this route is difficult, far extending, with few tracks." The emeer said to him: "How long a period doth it require?" He answered: "It is a journey of two years and some months going, and the like returning; and on the way are difficulties and horrors, and extraordinary and wonderful things. But," he said, "God will assuredly make this affair easy to us through the blessing attendant upon thee, O Viceroy of the Prince of the Faithful."
After this they departed, and they continued their journey until they arrived at a palace; whereupon the sheikh said: "Advance with us to this palace, which presenteth a lesson to him who will be admonished." So the Emeer Moosa advanced thither, together with the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad and his chief companions, till they came to its entrance. And they found it open, and having lofty angles, and steps, among which were two wide steps of coloured marbles, the like of which hath not been seen: the ceilings and walls were decorated with gold and silver and minerals, and over the entrance was a slab, whereon was an inscription in ancient Greek; and the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad said: "Shall I read it, O Emeer?" The emeer answered; "Advance and read." So he read it; and, lo, it was poetry; and it was this:
Here was a people whom, after their works, thou shalt see wept over for their lost dominion;
And in this palace is the last information respecting lords collected in the dust.
Death hath destroyed them and disunited them, and in the dust they have lost what they amassed;
As though they had only put down their loads to rest a while: quickly have they departed!
And the Emeer Moosa wept and said: "There is no deity but God, the Living, the Enduring without failure!"
Then they attentively viewed the palace; and, lo, it was devoid of inhabitants, destitute of household and occupants: its courts were desolate, and its apartments were deserted; and in the midst of it was a chamber covered with a lofty dome, rising high into the air, around which were four hundred tombs.
And the Emeer Moosa drew near to the dome-crowned chamber, and, lo, it had eight doors of sandalwood, with nails of gold, ornamented with stars of silver set with various jewels, and he beheld in it a long tomb, of terrible appearance, whereon was a tablet of iron of China; and the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad drew near to it, and read its inscription; and, lo, on it was written:
Shouldst thou think upon me after the length of my age, and the vicissitudes of days and circumstances,
I am the son of Sheddad, who held dominion over mankind and each tract of the whole earth.
All the stubborn troops became abject unto me, and Esh-Sham from Misr unto Adnan.
In glory I reigned, abasing their kings, the people of the earth fearing my dominion;
And I beheld the tribes and armies in my power, and saw the countries and their inhabitants dread me.
When I mounted, I beheld my army comprising a million bridles upon neighing steeds;
And I possessed wealth that could not be calculated, which I treasured up against misfortunes,
Determining to devote the whole of my property for the purpose of extending the term of my life.
But the Deity would nought save the execution of his purpose; and thus I became separated from my brethren.
Death, the disuniter of mankind, came to me, and I was removed from grandeur to the mansion of contempt;
And I found the recompense of all my past actions, for which I am pledged: for I was sinful!
Then raise thyself, lest thou be upon a brink; and beware of calamities! Mayest thou be led aright!
And again the Emeer Moosa wept, in considering the fates of the people; after which, as they were going about through the different apartments of the palace, and viewing attentively its chambers and its places of diversion, they came to a table upon four legs of alabaster, whereon was inscribed:
Upon this table have eaten a thousand one-eyed kings, and a thousand kings each sound in both eyes. All of them have quitted the world, and taken up their abode in the burial-grounds and the graves.
And the Emeer Moosa wrote down all this. Then he went forth, and took not with him from the palace aught save the table.
The soldiers proceeded, with the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad before them shewing them the way, until all the first day had passed, and the second, and the third. They then came to a high hill, at which they looked, and, lo, upon it was a horseman of brass, on the top of whose spear was a wide and glistening head that almost deprived the beholder of sight, and on it was inscribed:
O thou who comest unto me, if thou know not the way that leadeth to the City of Brass, rub the hand of the horseman, and he will turn, and then will stop, and in whatsoever direction he stoppeth, thither proceed, without fear and without difficulty; for it will lead thee to the City of Brass.
And when the Emeer Moosa had rubbed the hand of the horseman, it turned like the blinding lightning, and faced a different direction from that in which they were travelling.
The party therefore turned thither and journeyed on, and it was the right way. They took that route, and continued their course the same day and the next night until they had traversed a wide tract of country. And as they were proceeding, one day, they came to a pillar of black stone, wherein was a person sunk to his arm-pits, and he had two huge wings, and four arms; two of them like those of the sons of Adam, and two like the fore-legs of lions, with claws. He had hair upon his head like the tails of horses, and two eyes like two burning coals, and he had a third eye, in his forehead, like the eye of the lynx, from which there appeared sparks of fire. He was black and tall; and he was crying out: "Extolled be the perfection of my Lord, who hath appointed me this severe affliction and painful torture until the day of resurrection!" When the party beheld him, their reason fled from them, and they were stupefied at the sight of his form, and retreated in flight; and the Emeer Moosa said to the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad: "What is this?" He answered: "I know not what he is." And the emeer said: "Draw near to him, and investigate his case: perhaps he will discover it, and perhaps thou wilt learn his history." So the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad drew near to him, and said to him: "O thou person, what is thy name, and what is thy nature, and what hath placed thee here in this manner?" And the person answered him: "As to me, I am an efreet of the genies, and my name is Dahish, and I am restrained here by the majesty of God." Then the Emeer Moosa said: "O Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad, ask him what is the cause of his confinement in this pillar." He therefore asked respecting that, and the efreet answered him: "Verily my story is wonderful; and it is this:
"There belonged to one of the sons of Iblees an idol of red carnelian, of which I was made guardian; and there used to worship it one of the Kings of the Sea, of great glory, leading, among his troops of the genies, a million warriors who smote with swords before him, and who answered his prayer in cases of difficulty. These genies who obeyed him were under my command and authority, following my words when I ordered them: all of them were in rebellion against Solomon, the son of David; and I used to enter the body of the idol, and command them and forbid them. Now the daughter of that king was a frequent adorer of the idol, assiduous in the worship of it, and she was the handsomest of the people of her age, endowed with beauty and loveliness, and elegance and perfection; and I described her to Solomon, on whom be peace! So he sent to her father, saying to him: 'Marry to me thy daughter, and break thy carnelian-idol, and bear witness that there is no deity but God, and that Solomon is the Prophet of God. But if thou refuse, I will come to thee with forces that shall leave thee like yesterday that hath passed.' And when the messenger of Solomon came to him, the King of the Sea was insolent, and magnified himself and was proud. Then he said to his viziers: 'What say ye respecting the affair of Solomon? For he hath sent demanding my daughter, and commanding me to break my carnelian-idol, and to adopt his faith.' And they replied: 'O great King, can Solomon do aught unto thee, when thou art in the midst of this vast sea? He cannot prevail against thee; since the genies will fight on thy side; and thou shalt seek aid against him of thine idol that thou worshippest. The right opinion is, that thou consult thy red carnelian-idol, and hear what will be his reply: if he counsel thee to fight him, fight him; but otherwise, do not.' And upon this the king went immediately, and, going in to his idol, after he had offered a sacrifice and slain victims, fell down before it prostrate, and began to weep, and to seek counsel.
"Thereupon I entered the body of the idol, by reason of my ignorance, and my solicitude respecting the affair of Solomon, and recited this couplet:
'As for me, I am not in fear of him; for I am acquainted with everything.
If he wish to wage war with me, I will go forth, and I will snatch his soul from him.'
So when the king heard my reply to him, his heart was strengthened, and he determined to wage war with Solomon the Prophet of God and to fight against him. Accordingly, when the messenger of Solomon came, he inflicted upon him a painful beating, and returned him a shameful reply; and he sent to threaten Solomon, saying to him, by the messenger: 'Dost thou threaten me with false words? Either come thou to me, or I will go to thee.'
"Then the messenger returned to Solomon, and acquainted him with all that had occurred. And when the Prophet of God heard that, his resolution was roused, and he prepared his forces, consisting of genies and men, and wild beasts, and birds and reptiles. He commanded his vizier, Ed-Dimiryat, the king of the genies, to collect them from every place: so he collected for him, of the devils, six hundred millions. He also commanded Asaf, his vizier of men, to collect his soldiers of mankind; and their number was one million, or more. He made ready the accoutrements and weapons, and mounted, with his forces, upon the magic carpet, with the birds flying over his head, and the wild beasts beneath the carpet marching, until he alighted upon his enemy's coast, and surrounded his island, having filled the land with the forces. He then sent to our king, saying to him: 'Behold, I have arrived: therefore submit thyself to my authority, and acknowledge my mission, and break thine idol, and worship the One, the Adored God, and marry to me thy daughter according to law, and say thou, and those who are with thee, I testify that there is no deity but God, and I testify that Solomon is the Prophet of God. If thou say that, peace and safety shall be thy lot. But if thou refuse, thy defending thyself from me in this island shall not prevent thee: for God hath commanded the wind to obey me, and I will order it to convey me unto thee on the carpet, and will make thee an example to restrain others.' So the messenger came to him, and communicated to him the message of the Prophet! But the king said to him: 'There is no way for the accomplishment of this thing that he requireth: therefore inform him that I am coming forth unto him.' Accordingly the messenger returned to Solomon, and gave him the reply. The king then sent to the people of his country, and collected for himself, of the genies that were under his authority, a million; and to these he added others, of the devils that were in the islands and on the mountains; after which he made ready his forces, and opened the armouries, and distributed to them the weapons. And as to the Prophet of God, he disposed his troops, commanding the wild beasts to form themselves into two divisions, on the right of the people and on their left, and commanding the birds to be upon the islands. He ordered them also when the assault should be made, to tear out the eyes of their antagonists with their beaks, and to beat their faces with their wings; and he ordered the wild beasts to tear in pieces their horses; and they replied: 'We hear and obey God and thee, O Prophet of God!' Then Solomon set for himself a couch of alabaster adorned with jewels, and plated with plates of red gold, and he placed his vizier Asaf on the right side, and his vizier, Ed-Dimiryat, on the left side, and the kings of mankind on his right, and the kings of the genies on his left, and the wild beasts and the vipers and serpents before him.
"After this, they came upon us all together, and we contended with him in a wide tract for a period of two days; and calamity befell us on the third day, and the decree of God was executed among us. The first who charged upon Solomon were I and my troops; and I said to my companions: 'Keep in your places in the battle-field while I go forth to them and challenge Ed-Dimiryat.' And, lo, he came forth, like a great mountain, his fires flaming, and his smoke ascending; and he approached, and smote me with a flaming fire; and his arrow prevailed over my fire. He cried out at me with a prodigious cry, so that I imagined the heaven had fallen, and the mountains shook at his voice. Then he commanded his companions, and they charged upon us all together: we also charged upon them: the fires rose and the smoke ascended, the hearts of the combatants were almost cleft asunder, and the battle raged. The birds fought in the air; and the wild beasts in the dust; and I contended with Ed-Dimiryat until he wearied me and I wearied him; after which my companions and troops were enervated, and my tribes were routed. I flew from before Ed-Dimiryat; but he followed me a journey of three months, until he overtook me. I had fallen down through fatigue, and he rushed upon me, and made me a prisoner. So I said to him: 'By Him who hath exalted thee and abased me, pity me, and take me before Solomon.' But when I came before Solomon, he met me in a most evil manner: he caused this pillar to be brought, and hollowed it, and put me in it, and sealed me with his signet; after which, he chained me, and Ed-Dimiryat conveyed me to this place, where he set me down as thou seest me; and this pillar is my prison until the day of resurrection."
The party therefore wondered at him, and at the horrible nature of his form; and the Emeer Moosa said: "There is no deity but God!" And the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad said to the efreet: "O thou, I ask thee concerning a thing of which do thou inform us." The efreet replied: "Ask concerning what thou wilt." And the sheikh said: "Are there in this place any of the efreets confined in bottles of brass from the time of Solomon?" He answered: "Yes, in the Sea of El-Karkar, where are a people of the descendants of Noah, whose country the deluge reached not, and they are separated there from the rest of the sons of Adam." "And where," said the sheikh, "is the way to the City of Brass, and the place wherein are the bottles? What distance is there between us and it?" The efreet answered: "It is near." So the party left him, and proceeded; and there appeared to them in the distance a great black object, with two fires corresponding with each other in position; whereupon the Emeer Moosa said to the sheikh: "What is this great black object, and these two corresponding fires?" The guide answered him: "Be rejoiced, O Emeer; for this is the City of Brass, and this is the appearance of it that I find described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that its wall is of black stones, and it hath two towers of brass, which the beholder seeth resembling two corresponding fires; and thence it is named the City of Brass." They ceased not to proceed until they arrived at it; and, lo, it was lofty, strongly fortified, rising high into the air, impenetrable: the height of its walls was eighty cubits, and it had five and twenty gates, none of which would open but by means of some artifice. They stopped before it, and endeavoured to discover one of its gates; but they could not; and the Emeer Moosa said to the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad: "O sheikh, I see not to this city any gate." The sheikh replied: "O Emeer, thus do I find it described in the Book of Hidden Treasures; that it hath five and twenty gates, and that none of its gates may be opened but from within the city." "And how," said the emeer, "can we contrive to enter it, and divert ourselves with a view of its wonders?"
Then the Emeer Moosa ordered one of his young men to mount a camel, and ride round the city, in the hope that he might discover a trace of a gate. So one of his young men mounted, and proceeded around it for two days with their nights, prosecuting his journey with diligence, and not resting; and when the third day arrived, he came in sight of his companions, and he was astounded at that which he beheld of the extent of the city, and its height. Then he said: "O Emeer, the easiest place in it is this place at which ye have alighted." And thereupon the Emeer Moosa took Talib and the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad, and they ascended a mountain opposite the city, and overlooking it; and when they had ascended that mountain, they saw a city than which eyes had not beheld any greater. Its pavilions were lofty, and its domes were shining; its rivers were running, its trees were fruitful, and its gardens bore ripe produce. It was a city with impenetrable gates, empty, still, without a voice but the owl hooting in its quarters, and the raven croaking in its thoroughfare-streets, and bewailing those who had been in it.
And when they had ascended that mountain they saw a city than which eyes had not beheld any greater.
And the Emeer Moosa fainted with sorrow; his tears ran down upon his cheeks, and he said: "By Allah, indifference to the world is the most appropriate and the most sure course!"
And when they came back to the troops, they passed the day devising means of entering the city; and the Emeer Moosa said to those of his chief officers who were around him: "How shall we contrive to enter the city, that we may see its wonders? Perhaps we shall find in it something by which we may ingratiate ourselves with the Prince of the Faithful." Talib replied: "Let us make a ladder, and mount upon it, and perhaps we shall gain access to the gate from within." And the emeer said: "This is what occurred to my mind, and excellent is the advice." Then he called to the carpenters and blacksmiths, and ordered them to make straight some pieces of wood, and to construct a ladder covered with plates of iron. And they did so, and made it strong. They employed themselves in constructing it a whole month, and many men were occupied in making it. And they set it up and fixed it against the wall, and it proved to be equal to the wall in height, as though it had been made for it before that day. So the Emeer Moosa wondered at it, and said: "God bless you! It seemeth, from the excellence of your work, as though ye had adapted it by measurement to the wall." He then said to the people: "Which of you will ascend this ladder, and mount upon the wall, and walk along it, and contrive means of descending into the city, that he may see how the case is, and then inform us of the mode of opening the gate?" And one of them answered: "I will ascend it, O Emeer, and descend and open the gate." The emeer therefore replied: "Mount. God bless thee!" Accordingly, the man ascended the ladder until he reached the top of it; when he stood, and fixed his eyes toward the city, clapped his hands, and cried out with his loudest voice, saying: "Thou art beautiful!" Then he cast himself down into the city, and was destroyed. So the Emeer Moosa said: "If we do thus with all our companions, there will not remain of them one; and we shall be unable to accomplish our affair, and the affair of the Prince of the Faithful. Depart ye; for we have no concern with this city." But one of them said: "Perhaps another than this may be more steady than he." And a second ascended, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth; and they ceased not to ascend by that ladder to the top of the wall, one after another, until twelve men of them had gone, acting as acted the first. Therefore the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad said: "There is none for this affair but myself, and the experienced is not like the inexperienced." But the Emeer Moosa said to him: "Thou shalt not do that, nor will I allow thee to ascend to the top of this wall; for shouldst thou die, thou wouldst be the cause of the death of us all, and there would not remain of us one; since thou art the guide of the party." The sheikh, however, replied: "Perhaps the object will be accomplished by my means, through the will of God, whose name be exalted!" And thereupon all the people agreed to his ascending.
Then Abd-Es-Samad arose, and, having said: "In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful!"—he ascended the ladder, repeating the praises of God, and reciting the Verses of Safety, until he reached the top of the wall; when he clapped his hands, and fixed his eyes. The people therefore all called out to him, and said: "O Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad, do not cast thyself down! If Abd-Es-Samad fall, we all perish!" Then Abd-Es-Samad sat a long time repeating the praises of God, and reciting the Verses of Safety; after which he rose with energy, and called out with his loudest voice: "O Emeer, no harm shall befall you; for God hath averted from me the effect of the artifice of the Devil." So the emeer said to him: "What hast thou seen, O Sheikh?" He answered: "When I reached the top of the wall I beheld ten damsels, like moons, who made a sign with their hands, as though they would say: 'Come to us!' And it seemed to me that beneath me was a sea of water; whereupon I desired to cast myself down, as our companions did: but I beheld them dead; so I withheld myself from them, and recited some words of the book of God, whereupon He averted from me the influence of those damsels, and they departed; therefore I cast not myself down. There is no doubt that this is an enchantment which the people of this city contrived in order to repel from it every one who should wish to obtain access to it."
He then walked along the wall till he came to the two towers of brass, when he saw that they had gates of gold, without any sign of the means of opening them. Therefore the sheikh, looking attentively, saw in the middle of one of the gates a figure of a horseman of brass, having one hand extended, as though he were pointing with it, and on it was an inscription, which the sheikh read, and, lo, it contained these words:
Turn the pin that is in the middle of the front of the horseman's body twelve times, and then the gate will open.
So he turned the pin twelve times; whereupon the gate opened immediately, with a noise like thunder; and the sheikh entered. He was a learned man, acquainted with all languages and characters. And he walked on until he entered a long passage, whence he descended some steps, and he found a place with handsome wooden benches, on which were people dead, and over their heads were elegant shields, and keen swords, and strung bows, and notched arrows. And behind the next gate were a bar of iron, and barricades of wood, and locks of delicate fabric, and strong apparatus. Upon this, the sheikh said within himself: "Perhaps the keys are with these people." Then he looked, and, lo, there was a sheikh who appeared to be the oldest of them, and he was upon a high wooden bench among the dead men. So Abd-Es-Samad said: "May not the keys of the city be with this sheikh! Perhaps he was the gate-keeper of the city, and these were under his authority." He therefore drew near to him, and lifted up his garments, and, lo, the keys were hung to his waist. At the sight of them, Abd-Es-Samad rejoiced exceedingly; and he took the keys, opened the locks, and pulled the gate and the barricades and other apparatus, which opened and the gate also opened, with a noise like thunder. Upon this the sheikh exclaimed: "God is most great!" and the people made the same exclamation with him, rejoicing at the event. The Emeer Moosa also rejoiced at the safety of Abd-Es-Samad, and at the opening of the gate of the city; the people thanked him for that which he had done, and all the troops hastened to enter the gate. But the Emeer Moosa cried out to them, saying to them: "O people, if all of us enter, we shall not be secure from accident. Half shall enter, and half shall remain behind."
The Emeer Moosa then entered the gate, and with him half of the people, who bore their weapons of war. And the party saw their companions lying dead: so they buried them. They saw also the gate-keepers and servants and chamberlains and lieutenants lying upon beds of silk, all of them dead. And they entered the market of the city, and beheld that the shops were open, and the scales hung up, and the utensils of brass ranged in order, and the stores were full of all kinds of goods. And they saw the merchants dead in their shops: their skins were dried, and they had become examples to him who would be admonished. And they left this place, and passed on to the silk-market, in which were silks and brocades interwoven with red gold and white silver upon various colours, and the owners were dead, lying upon skins, and appearing almost as though they would speak. Leaving these, they went on to the market of jewels and pearls and jacinths; and they left it, and passed on to the market of the money-changers, whom they found dead, with varieties of silks beneath them, and their shops were filled with gold and silver. These they left, and they proceeded to the markets of the perfumers; and, lo, their shops were filled with varieties of perfumes, and bags of musk, and ambergris, and aloes-wood, and camphor; and the owners were all dead, not having with them any food. And when they went forth from the market of the perfumers, they found near unto it a palace, decorated, and strongly constructed; and they entered it, and found banners unfurled, and drawn swords, and strung bows and shields hung up by chains of gold and silver, and helmets gilded with red gold. And in the passages of that palace were benches of ivory, ornamented with plates of brilliant gold, and with silk, on which were men whose skins had dried upon the bones; the ignorant would imagine them to be sleeping; but, from the want of food, they had died, and tasted mortality.
And the Emeer Moosa went on into the interior of the palace. There he beheld a great hall, and four large and lofty chambers, each one fronting another, wide, decorated with gold and silver and with various colours. In the midst of the hall was a great fountain of alabaster, over which was a canopy of brocade; and in those chambers were fountains lined with marble; and channels of water flowed along the floors of those chambers, the four streams meeting in a great tank lined with marbles of various colours. The Emeer Moosa then said to the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad: "Enter these chambers with us." So they entered the first chamber; and they found it filled with gold and with white silver, and pearls and jewels, and jacinths and precious minerals. They found in it also chests full of red and yellow and white brocades. And they went thence to the second chamber, and opened a closet in it, and, lo, it was filled with arms and weapons of war, consisting of gilded helmets, and coats of mail, and swords, and lances, and maces, and other instruments of war and battle. Then they passed thence to the third chamber, in which they found closets having upon their doors closed locks, and over them were curtains worked with various kinds of embroidery. They opened one of these closets, and found it filled with weapons decorated with varieties of gold and silver and jewels. And they went thence to the fourth chamber, where also they found closets, one of which they opened, and they found it full of utensils for food and drink, consisting of various vessels of gold and silver, and saucers of crystal, and cups set with brilliant pearls and cups of carnelian, and other things. So they began to take what suited them of those things, and each of the soldiers carried off what he could. And when they determined to go forth from those chambers, they saw there a door inlaid with ivory and ebony, and adorned with plates of brilliant gold. Over it was hung a curtain of silk worked with various kinds of embroidery, and upon it were locks of white silver, to be opened by artifice, without a key. The Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad therefore advanced to those locks, and he opened them by his knowledge and excellent skill. And the party entered a passage paved with marble, upon the sides of which were curtains whereon were figured various wild beasts and birds, all these being worked with red gold and white silver, and their eyes were of pearls and jacinths: whosoever beheld them was confounded.
They then passed on, and found a saloon constructed of polished marble adorned with jewels. The beholder imagined that upon its floor was running water, and if any one walked upon it he would slip. The Emeer Moosa therefore ordered the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad to throw upon it something that they might be enabled to walk on it; and he did this, and contrived so that they passed on. And they found in it a great dome constructed of stones gilded with red gold. The party had not beheld, in all that they had seen, anything more beautiful than it. And in the midst of that dome was a great dome-crowned structure of alabaster, around which were lattice windows, decorated, and adorned with oblong emeralds, such as none of the kings could procure. In it was a pavilion of brocade, raised upon columns of red gold, and within this were birds, the feet of which were of emeralds; beneath each bird was a net of brilliant pearls, spread over a fountain; and by the brink of the fountain was placed a couch adorned with pearls and jewels and jacinths, whereon was a damsel resembling the shining sun. Eyes had not beheld one more beautiful. Upon her was a garment of brilliant pearls, on her head was a crown of red gold, with a fillet of jewels, on her neck was a necklace of jewels in the middle of which were refulgent gems, and upon her forehead were two jewels the light of which was like that of the sun; and she seemed as though she were looking at the people, and observing them to the right and left. When the Emeer Moosa beheld this damsel, he wondered extremely at her loveliness, and was confounded by her beauty and the redness of her cheeks and the blackness of her hair. Any beholder would imagine that she was alive, and not dead. And they said to her: "Peace be on thee, O damsel!" But Talib said to the emeer: "May God amend thy state! Know that this damsel is dead. There is no life in her. How then can she return the salutation?" And he added: "O Emeer, she is skilfully embalmed; and her eyes have been taken out after her death, and quicksilver hath been put beneath them, after which they have been restored to their places; so they gleam; and whenever the air putteth them in motion, the beholder imagineth that she twinkleth her eyes, though she is dead."
And as to the couch upon which was the damsel, it had steps, and upon the steps were two slaves, one of them white and the other black; and in the hand of one of them was a weapon of steel, and in the hand of the other a jewelled sword that blinded the eyes; and before the two slaves was a tablet of gold, whereon was read an inscription, which was this:
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Praise be to God, the Creator of Man; and He is the Lord of lords, and the Cause of causes. O thou, if thou know me not, I will acquaint thee with my name and my descent. I am Tedmur, the daughter of the King of the Amalekites. I possessed what none of the kings possessed, and ruled with justice, and acted impartially toward my subjects: I gave and bestowed, and I lived a long time in the enjoyment of happiness and an easy life, and possessing emancipated female and male slaves. Thus I did until the summoner of death came to my abode, and disasters occurred before me. And the case was this: Seven years in succession came upon us, during which no water descended on us from heaven, nor did any grass grow for us on the face of the earth. So we ate what food we had in our dwellings, and after that, we fell upon the beasts and ate them, and there remained nothing. Upon this, therefore, I caused the wealth to be brought, and meted it with a measure, and sent it by trusty men, who went about with it through all the districts, not leaving unvisited a single large city, to seek for some food. But they found it not; and they returned to us with the wealth, after a long absence. So thereupon we exposed to view our riches and our treasures, locked the gates of the fortresses in our city, and submitted ourselves to the decree of our Lord, committing our case to our Master; and thus we all died, as thou beholdest, and left what we had built and what we had treasured. This is our story: Whoso arriveth at our city, and entereth it, let him take of the wealth what he can, but not touch anything that is on my body; for it is the covering of my person. Therefore let him fear God, and not seize aught of it; for he would destroy himself. Peace be on you! I beg God, moreover, to save you from the evil of trials and sickness.
The Emeer Moosa, when he heard these words, again wept and was admonished by what he witnessed. He then said to his companions: "Bring the sacks, and fill them with part of these riches and these vessels and rarities and jewels." And thereupon, Talib, the son of Sahl, said to the Emeer Moosa: "O Emeer, shall we leave this damsel with the things that are upon her? They are things that have no equal, nor is the like of them at any time found, and they are more than the riches thou hast taken, and will be the best present by which thou mayest ingratiate thyself with the Prince of the Faithful." But the emeer replied: "Heardest thou not that which the damsel hath given as a charge, in the inscription upon this tablet? Moreover, and especially, she hath given it as a charge offered in confidence, and we are not of the people of treachery." The Vizier Talib, however, said: "And on account of these words wilt thou leave these riches and these jewels, when she is dead? What then should she do with these things, which are the ornaments of the world, and the decoration of the living? With a garment of cotton might this damsel be covered, and we are more worthy of the things than she." Then he drew near to the steps, and ascended them until he reached the spot between the two slaves, when, lo, one of these two smote him upon his back, and the other smote him with the sword that was in his hand, and struck off his head, and he fell down dead. So the Emeer Moosa said: "May God not regard with mercy thy resting-place! There was, in these riches, a sufficiency; and covetousness doth dishonour the person in whom it existeth!" He thereupon gave orders for the entry of the troops, who accordingly entered, and they loaded the camels with part of those riches and minerals; after which the Emeer Moosa commanded them to close the gate as it was before.
They then proceeded along the sea-coast until they came in sight of a high mountain overlooking the sea. In it were many caves, and, lo, in these was a people of the blacks, clad in hides, and with burnouses of hides upon their heads, whose language was not known. And when they saw the troops, they ran away from them, and fled, while their women and their children stood at the entrances of the caves. So the Emeer Moosa said: "O Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad, what are these people?" And he answered: "These are the objects of the inquiry of the Prince of the Faithful." They therefore alighted, and the tents were pitched, and the riches were put down; and they had not rested when the king of the blacks came down from the mountain, and drew near to the troops. He was acquainted with the Arabic language; wherefore, when he came to the Emeer Moosa, he saluted him; and the emeer returned his salutation, and treated him with honour. Then the king of the blacks said to the emeer: "Are ye of mankind, or of the genies?" The emeer answered: "As to us, we are of mankind; and as to you, there is no doubt but that ye are of the genies, because of your seclusion in this mountain that is separated from the world, and because of the greatness of your make." But the king of the blacks replied: "Nay, we are a people of the race of Adam, of the sons of Ham, the son of Noah, on whom be peace! And as to this sea, it is known by the name of El-Karkar."
The Emeer Moosa then said to him: "We are the associates of the King of El-Islam, Abd-El-Melik the son of Marwan; and we have come on account of the bottles of brass that are here in your sea, and wherein are the devils imprisoned from the time of Solomon, the son of David. He hath commanded us to bring him some of them, that he may see them, and divert himself by the view of them." And the king of the blacks replied: "Most willingly." Then he feasted him with fish, and ordered the divers to bring up from the sea some of the bottles of Solomon; and they brought up for them twelve bottles; wherewith the Emeer Moosa was delighted, and the Sheikh Abd-Es-Samad also, and the soldiers, on account of the accomplishment of the affair of the Prince of the Faithful. The Emeer Moosa thereupon presented to the king of the blacks many presents, and gave him large gifts. In like manner, too, the king of the blacks gave to the Emeer Moosa a present consisting of wonders of the sea.
Then they bade him farewell, and they journeyed back until they came to the land of Syria, and went in to the Prince of the Faithful; whereupon the Emeer Moosa acquainted him with all that he had seen, and all that had occurred to him with respect to the verses and histories and admonitions, and told him of the case of Talib the son of Sahl. And the Prince of the Faithful said to him: "Would that I had been with you, that I might have beheld what ye beheld!" He then took the bottles, and proceeded to open one after another, and the devils came forth from them, saying: "Repentance, O Prophet of God! We will not return to the like conduct ever!" And Abd-El-Melik the son of Marwan wondered at this. After this, the Prince of the Faithful caused the riches to be brought before him, and divided them among the people. And he said: "God hath not bestowed upon any one the like of what He bestowed upon Solomon the son of David."
This is the end of that which hath come down to us, of the history of the City of Brass, entire. And God is all-knowing.